Three-Star Books Read in 2016: Mystery


The Long Way Home by Louise Penny: Happily retired in the village of Three Pines, Armand Gamache, former Chief Inspector of Homicide with the Sûreté du Québec, has found a peace he’d only imagined possible. On warm summer mornings he sits on a bench holding a small book, The Balm in Gilead, in his large hands. "There is a balm in Gilead," his neighbor Clara Morrow reads from the dust jacket, "to make the wounded whole."
While Gamache doesn’t talk about his wounds and his balm, Clara tells him about hers. Peter, her artist husband, has failed to come home. Failed to show up as promised on the first anniversary of their separation. She wants Gamache’s help to find him. Having finally found sanctuary, Gamache feels a near revulsion at the thought of leaving Three Pines. "There’s power enough in Heaven," he finishes the quote as he contemplates the quiet village, "to cure a sin-sick soul." And then he gets up. And joins her.
Together with his former second-in-command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, and Myrna Landers, they journey deeper and deeper into Québec. And deeper and deeper into the soul of Peter Morrow. A man so desperate to recapture his fame as an artist, he would sell that soul. And may have. The journey takes them further and further from Three Pines, to the very mouth of the great St. Lawrence river. To an area so desolate, so damned, the first mariners called it The land God gave to Cain. And there they discover the terrible damage done by a sin-sick soul.

Profoundly disappointing, especially considering that I had thought "okay, for my next read I'm going to pick a sure bet". I don't know if it's this book or my mood, but everything that I once found charming and comforting about this series suddenly seemed way too precious. Gamache 'sits quietly'. Everyone 'sits quietly'. The term 'sits quietly' is used six times in the first two chapters. Yes, we get it, he is a quiet man, especially while sitting, he never sits loudly. Also, there's a difference between Gamache (and numerous others, for that matter) being insightful and perceptive and suddenly seeming to become psychic. Do you remember the words used to describe Peter's paintings? I do! 'Clashing', 'repulsive', 'chaotic' - yes, they are splendid adjectives, but also they were repeated to a nauseating degree; nevertheless, Gamache intuited something magical among the clashing, repulsive chaotic forms and colours, because he is a being of uncommon insight, and also maybe Louise Penny ran out of ways to get him there with legitimate clues. Things picked up marginally then for a bit, and then that ending? Really, with that ending? I still can't bring myself to give it less than three stars, and obviously I'll still read the next book, but please let it be better. Now on to the next Adamsberg - if Fred Vargas lets me down I'm going to be SERIOUSLY cranky. 

The Promise by Robert Crais: Elvis Cole and Joe Pike are joined by Suspect heroes LAPD K-9 Officer Scott James and his German shepherd, Maggie, in the new heart-stopping thriller from #1 New York Times-bestselling author Robert Crais. 
Loyalty, commitment, and the fight for justice have always driven Elvis Cole and Joe Pike. If they make a promise, they keep it. Even if it could get them killed.
When Elvis Cole is secretly hired to find a grief-stricken mother, he’s led to an ordinary house on a rainy night in Echo Park. Only the house isn’t ordinary, and the people hiding inside are a desperate fugitive and a murderous criminal with his own dangerous secrets.
As helicopters swirl overhead, Scott and Maggie track the fugitive to this same house, coming face-to-face with Mr. Rollins, a killer who leaves behind a brutally murdered body and enough explosives to destroy the neighborhood. Scott is now the only person who can identify him, but Mr. Rollins has a rule: Never leave a witness alive.
For all of them, the night is only beginning.
Sworn to secrecy by his client, Elvis finds himself targeted by the police even as Mr. Rollins targets Maggie and Scott. As Mr. Rollins closes in for the kill, Elvis and Joe join forces with Scott and Maggie to follow a trail of lies where no one is who they claim — and the very woman they promised to save might get them all killed.

Not gonna lie, folks - my heart did not stop. But that's okay. This wasn't an explosive entry in the canon or anything, but it was quite satisfying. I like Scott James, I adore Maggie - some readers understandably found the sections from the dog's point of view cheesy, but I really liked them. No, that's not a sentence I think I've ever entered into a book review before, but let's accept it and move on. Truthfully, this series is kind of like the Spencer series - devouring it all at once would feel a bit like a junk food binge, but I go back to it when I want something entertaining with a light touch, with enjoyable characters, some of whom could break your neck with their thighs, and a clever plot. 

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh: In a split second, Jenna Gray's world descends into a nightmare. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh. Desperate to escape, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of a cruel November night that changed her life forever.
Slowly, Jenna begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating . . .

DEVASTATING, DOT DOT DOT. Sorry, that's unnecessarily snide. I requested this as a library ebook, then sort of dismissed it as another Gone Girl clone and was afraid it would be like The Widow, then decided to give it a shot just before it expired. My friend Marilyn (HI MARILYN) advised me to read it without reading a single review, which was very beneficial, so I'll try not to say too much, other than if you're going to read it you should read it without reading any other reviews. It didn't blow my mind, but it was much better than any other "just like Gone Girl" offerings I've come across. 

A Game for All the Family by Sophie Hannah: Justine thought she knew who she was, until an anonymous caller seemed to know better...
After fleeing London and a career that nearly destroyed her, Justine Merrison plans to spend her days doing as little as possible. But soon after the move, her daughter Ellen starts to seem strangely withdrawn. Checking Ellen's homework one day, Justine finds herself reading a chillingly articulate story about a series of sinister murders committed at the family's new house. Can Ellen really have made all this up, as she claims? Why would she invent something so grotesque, set it in her own home and name one of the characters after herself? When Justine discovers that Ellen has probably also invented her best friend at school, who appears not to be known to any of the teachers, Justine's alarm turns to panic.
Then the anonymous phone calls start: a stranger, making accusations and threats that suggest she and Justine share a traumatic past - yet Justine doesn't recognise her voice. When the caller starts to talk about three graves - two big ones and a smaller one for a child - Justine fears for her family's safety. If the police can't help, she'll have to confront the danger herself, but first she must work out who she's supposed to be.

There's really nothing like reading your first Sophie Hannah book - the way she spins a seemingly unresolvable plot and, well, resolves it, with a gymnastic effortlessness (well no, that's a lie, it's often quite effortful, but she makes it work and I admire that). After your second or third Sophie Hannah book you start to wonder if that's enough. I've read at least four, and there's only one where I can actually remember what happened now that a few months have passed. No, wait, two. Anyway, this might be the one that finally loses me (ha ha, not really, but I'll be more circumspect). The interleaved story of the other family was actually completely captivating, but the plot overall was too convoluted to have that same airy brilliance, and there were too many loose ends. I can suspend my disbelief like nobody's business for most things, but this was a page too far. 

A Wanted Man (Jack Reacher #17) by Lee Child: Reacher is back! A Wanted Man is a new masterpiece of suspense—from #1 New York Times bestselling author Lee Child.
Four people in a car, hoping to make Chicago by morning. One man driving, eyes on the road. Another man next to him, telling stories that don’t add up. A woman in the back, silent and worried. And next to her, a huge man with a broken nose, hitching a ride east to Virginia.An hour behind them, a man lies stabbed to death in an old pumping station. He was seen going in with two others, but he never came out. He has been executed, the knife work professional, the killers vanished. Within minutes, the police are notified. Within hours, the FBI descends, laying claim to the victim without ever saying who he was or why he was there.All Reacher wanted was a ride to Virginia. All he did was stick out his thumb. But he soon discovers he has hitched more than a ride. He has tied himself to a massive conspiracy that makes him a threat—to both sides at once.In Lee Child’s white-hot thriller, nothing is what it seems, and nobody is telling the truth. As the tension rises, the twists come fast and furious, keeping readers guessing and gasping until the explosive finale.

"Masterpiece of suspense"? Hmmm, perhaps not. The first few Reacher books I read seemed utterly delightful and different. I guess reading seventeen of them is sort of asking for the magic to wash off. This worked perfectly as a literary palate-cleanser when I couldn't decide what to read a couple of Sundays ago, the story and the characters were interesting enough, but a main character who doesn't change or evolve at all can only go so far. And this is petty, but the constant throwing out of clothing is getting really irritating to me. Fine, buy new clothes every few days, travel light, but throw them in a donation box or something, man, it's wasteful! Also, shoving a toothbrush in your pocket has to be a little bit uncomfortable. It strains credulity. Is anyone sensing a theme? I know, I know, fool me seventeen times, shame on me.
Little Black Lies by Sharon Bolton: In such a small community as the Falkland Islands, a missing child is unheard of. In such a dangerous landscape it can only be a terrible tragedy, surely...
When another child goes missing, and then a third, it’s no longer possible to believe that their deaths were accidental, and the villagers must admit that there is a murderer among them. Even Catrin Quinn, a damaged woman living a reclusive life after the accidental deaths of her own two sons a few years ago, gets involved in the searches and the speculation.
And suddenly, in this wild and beautiful place that generations have called home, no one feels safe and the hysteria begins to rise.
But three islanders—Catrin, her childhood best friend, Rachel, and her ex-lover Callum—are hiding terrible secrets. And they have two things in common: all three of them are grieving, and none of them trust anyone, not even themselves.

Truthfully, I can't remember why I only gave this three stars. I really like this author, and I can't think of anything that was disappointing here. I always like the way she describes remote, different landscapes, and the way the troubled characters seem very of that landscape. This was a well-written, well-plotted, enjoyable mystery. If you like mysteries I can't think of a single reason you shouldn't read it. 


Nicole said…
I don't read many mysteries, maybe I should start? I guess I'm an unmysterious type of person.

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