Books Read in 2019: Four-Star Mystery
|It's really interesting seeing everyone's perspective on the five-star rating, which I think we can all agree is arbitrary and imperfect. I would say I don't give one-star ratings lightly, but I do sometimes give them petulantly so I guess that's not really true - sometimes I'm reading something and I feel like it's objectively lazy and terrible and I'm enraged that it got published. I guess I could be a bigger person and just not rate it, but I haven't been so far, not in every case.|
And good lord, don't feel embarrassed or illiterate if you haven't read a lot. I read a weird amount, for a variety of reasons - I was a neurotic insecure child and it was a security blanket, I did a degree that was basically in reading (and blathering about it, which I enjoyed less), and I don't cross-stitch or play sports or exercise enough. I read plenty of books that are fully as escapist as reality tv or whatever other people do to relax. I understand fully how hard it is to make time for reading as a mother who works (other mothers who work more, I mean), and the only reason I manage it is because it's a habit that I've never been able to give up. I often feel guilty for reading when I should be doing other stuff, so why would you feel guilty about doing the other stuff instead of reading?
I don't read as much mystery as I used to, although it's still my go-to when I want something more relaxing. I'm quite a bit more discriminating in what I want in a good mystery read, and it can be hard to tell what you're getting if it's not a familiar author. The best mysteries are just really good books that happen to have a murder or a loss in the mix. When you've read a fuckton of books, it can sometimes seem like everything is old or unfresh or derivative - the tortured detective, the dysfunctional family, the dead person with secrets. Then you realize that there is almost nothing that's entirely new, and you're just looking for something done well, even if it's familiar.
This is Our Story by Ashley Elston. Synopsis from Goodreads: Five went in. Four came out.
No one knows what happened that morning at River Point. Five boys went hunting. Four came back. The boys won’t say who fired the shot that killed their friend; the evidence shows it could have been any one of them.
Kate Marino’s senior year internship at the district attorney’s office isn’t exactly glamorous—more like an excuse to leave school early that looks good on college applications. Then the DA hands her boss, Mr. Stone, the biggest case her small town of Belle Terre has ever seen. The River Point Boys are all anyone can talk about. Despite their damning toxicology reports the morning of the accident, the DA wants the boys’ case swept under the rug. He owes his political office to their powerful families.
Kate won’t let that happen. Digging up secrets without revealing her own is a dangerous line to walk; Kate has her own reasons for seeking justice for Grant. As she investigates with Stone, the aging prosecutor relying on Kate to see and hear what he cannot, she realizes that nothing about the case—or the boys—is what it seems. Grant wasn’t who she thought he was, and neither is Stone’s prime suspect. As Kate gets dangerously close to the truth, it becomes clear that the early morning accident might not have been an accident at all—and if Kate doesn’t uncover the true killer, more than one life could be on the line…including her own.
Zero Sum Game (Russell's Attic #1) by S.L. Huang. Synopsis from Goodreads: Cas Russell is the geek's Jack Reacher... ZERO SUM GAME is a smart, accessible sf thriller with blockbuster appeal.
Cas Russell is good at math. Scary good. The vector calculus blazing through her head lets her smash through armed men twice her size and dodge every bullet in a gunfight, and she'll take any job for the right price.
As far as Cas knows, she’s the only person around with a superpower...until she discovers someone with a power even more dangerous than her own. Someone who can reach directly into people’s minds and twist their brains into Moebius strips. Someone intent on becoming the world’s puppet master.
Cas should run, like she usually does, but for once she's involved. There’s only one problem...
She doesn’t know which of her thoughts are her own anymore.
He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly. Synopsis from Goodreads: In the summer of 1999, Kit and Laura travel to a festival in Cornwall to see a total eclipse of the sun. Kit is an eclipse chaser; Laura has never seen one before. Young and in love, they are certain this will be the first of many they’ll share.
But in the hushed moments after the shadow passes, Laura interrupts a man and a woman. She knows that she saw something terrible. The man denies it. It is her word against his.
The victim seems grateful. Months later, she turns up on their doorstep like a lonely stray. But as her gratitude takes a twisted turn, Laura begins to wonder—did she trust the wrong person?
15 years later, Kit and Laura are living under assumed names and completely off the digital grid: no Facebook, only rudimentary cell phones, not in any directories. But as the truth catches up to them, they realize they can no longer keep the past in the past.
|In the end, probably more like three and a half stars. The mystery fell apart slightly near the end, but the build and tension was really well done, and as an autopsy of a young relationship and a character study of people deciding how much they can compromise their values and live with the consequences it is fairly masterful.|
A Time to Scatter Stones (Matt Scudder #17.5) by Lawrence Block. Synopsis from Goodreads: MATT SCUDDER RETURNS. More than 40 years after his debut and nearly a decade since his last appearance, one of the most renowned characters in all of crime fiction is back on the case in this major new novella by Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Lawrence Block. Well past retirement age and feeling his years—but still staying sober one day at a time—Matthew Scudder learns that alcoholics aren't the only ones who count the days since their last slip. Matt's longtime partner, Elaine, tells him of a group of former sex workers who do something similar, helping each other stay out of the life. But when one young woman describes an abusive client who's refusing to let her quit, Elaine encourages her to get help of a different sort. The sort only Scudder can deliver. A Time to Scatter Stones offers not just a gripping crime story but also a richly drawn portrait of Block's most famous character as he grapples with his own mortality while proving to the younger generation that he's still got what it takes. For Scudder's millions of fans around the world (including the many who met the character through Liam Neeson's portrayal in the film version of A Walk Among the Tombstones), A Time to Scatter Stones is an unexpected gift—a valedictory appearance that will remind readers why Scudder is simply the best there is.
Their new case looks like yet another by-the-numbers lovers’ quarrel gone bad. Aislinn Murray is blond, pretty, groomed-to-a-shine, and dead in her catalog-perfect living room, next to a table set for a romantic dinner. There’s nothing unusual about her—except that Antoinette’s seen her somewhere before.
And that her death won’t stay in its neat by-numbers box. Other detectives are trying to push Antoinette and Steve into arresting Aislinn’s boyfriend, fast. There’s a shadowy figure at the end of Antoinetteʼs road. Aislinnʼs friend is hinting that she knew Aislinn was in danger. And everything they find out about Aislinn takes her further from the glossy, passive doll she seemed to be.
Antoinette knows the harassment has turned her paranoid, but she can’t tell just how far gone she is. Is this case another step in the campaign to force her off the squad, or are there darker currents flowing beneath its polished surface?
Tana French writes the most amazing mysteries - sprawling character studies and illustrations of family dynamics or other relationships, class issues, a vivid sense of place sometimes a hint of the supernatural, sometimes not. Characters who are often their own worst enemies, for good or less good reasons. They are often unbearably sad, and sometimes leave seemingly main characters behind ruthlessly. I sometimes think I can't possibly read another one, and then I always do.
Big Sky (Jackson Brodie #5) by Kate Atkinson. Synopsis from Goodreads: Jackson Brodie, ex-military police, ex-Cambridge Constabulary, currently working as a private investigator, makes a highly anticipated return, nine years after the last Brodie, Started Early, Took My Dog.
Jackson Brodie has relocated to a quiet seaside village, in the occasional company of his recalcitrant teenage son and an aging Labrador, both at the discretion of his ex-partner Julia. It’s picturesque, but there’s something darker lurking behind the scenes.
Jackson’s current job, gathering proof of an unfaithful husband for his suspicious wife, is fairly standard-issue, but a chance encounter with a desperate man on a crumbling cliff leads him into a sinister network—and back across the path of his old friend Reggie. Old secrets and new lies intersect in this breathtaking novel by one of the most dazzling and surprising writers at work today.
On the hottest day of the year, Assistant Commissioner Florence Lovelady attends the funeral of Larry Glassbrook, the convicted murderer she arrested thirty years earlier. A master carpenter and funeral director, Larry imprisoned his victims, alive, in the caskets he made himself. Clay effigies found entombed with their bodies suggested a motive beyond the worst human depravity.
13-year- old Patsy Wood has been missing for two days, the third teenager to disappear in as many months. New to the Lancashire police force and struggling to fit in, WPC Lovelady is sent to investigate an unlikely report from school children claiming to have heard a voice calling for help. A voice from deep within a recent grave.
As she tries to lay her ghosts to rest, Florence is drawn back to the Glassbrooks' old house, in the shadow of Pendle Hill, where she once lodged with the family. She is chilled by the discovery of another effigy - one bearing a remarkable resemblance to herself. Is the killer still at large? Is Florence once again in terrible danger? Or, this time, could the fate in store be worse than even her darkest imaginings?
I love Sharon Bolton. I started reading her when she was S.J. Bolton, because sometimes publishers make female authors use their initials because male thriller writers sell more books. I'm so happy that she gets to use her first name now - I like to imagine her saying fuck you to her publishers when she sold enough books to gain that right, based on nothing but a total fed-upness with systemic misogyny. She's written standalones and the Lacey Flint series - I preferred the standalones, which is kind of unusual for me. This is another one with a very evocatively rendered setting and again a hint of the supernatural, so again I maybe shouldn't have classified this as a straight mystery and again I'm not changing it, sorry. This is atmospheric and I enjoyed the contrast between young Florence finding her footing as a young police officer (systemic misogyny, hello again) and the older, assured version. She writes dark and this is a disturbing read.