Showing posts with label detective story. Show all posts
Showing posts with label detective story. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Case Histories Book Reviewed

Cold Case Mystery

Today, I want to review an older mystery book for you Case Histories by Kate Atkinson. It was first published in 2004 but is still considered in the top 20 of best mysteries in 2019. One of the reasons I decided to read it was because Stephen King was quoted that he thought it was the best mystery of the decade. Okay, I don't care who you are...for Mr. King to give it that kind of accolade, it has to be pretty danged good. Am I right?

case histories
Looking for clues in cold cases
image courtesy of pixabay.com
The recommendation by King was actually secondary as to why I decided to begin reading this book. I'm beginning a new Cozy Mystery Series that will introduce Babbs Bennett, a senior amateur sleuth who in the first book will be trying to solve a cold case from her past. The Mystery Book Club that Babbs just joined needs to meet in this first story. So, I began a search to find a book that the club could discuss that would also be about a cold case. (Hint, the book gives them the idea to look into the unsolved case of their youth). That is probably more information than you wanted but it is why I even looked at the book in the first place. Anyway, what started as a resource for my own book has turned out to be a real enjoyable reading experience! Mr. King isn't wrong in his estimation.


Case Histories Isn't A Cozy Mystery


Jackson Brodie is the Private Detective who is looking into three cold cases that span about thirty years. The cases he has been hired to look into seem totally unrelated until Brodie begins to discover connections in the crimes. Jackson Brodie works with determined resolve on the cases that he honestly would have rather not taken. His findings lead him to reassess his own painful history as an ex-cop, ex-husband, and a father on weekends only.  

First of all, kudos to Kate Atkinson for her writing style! Oh my goodness, she describes the dysfunction in families so accurately. The families are different but similar if that makes sense. I found myself relating to the children but also to the mothers in the families. I think we all have felt at least a little of their pain. 

Case Histories doesn't fall in the Cozy sub-genre of mystery books. I say that because it is slightly more graphic in the crimes but not so graphic that you will find it disturbing. At least, I didn't. It is more accurately placed in Private Investigators or Detective stories. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book! I will probably have to read the other Jackson Brodie mysteries in the near future. Oh, another sign that the novel is worth reading is that it along with the other books in the series was made into a television series by the BBC. A pretty big vote of confidence, I'd say. 

This is a great book for anyone who loves to read detective type mysteries. I think both men and women will enjoy the plot and the way Atkinson tells it. For me it started out as something I could refer to in my own book and ended up grabbing my attention in an unexpected way.



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Thursday, March 16, 2017

Reviewing the Detective Jack Stratton Mystery Series

7 reasons I recommend the Detective Jack Stratton series by Christopher Greyson. A mystery-suspense-romance series review.

Before I came across the best-selling Jack Stratton mystery series, if you would have told me that a series exists that consists of killer plots, characters that I'd care about, murder and mystery, action and adventure, all while maintaining a moral high ground (i.e. a "clean" read), I'd say you must be dreaming. Of course I'd love that combination, but what writer could possibly pull it off?

Author Christopher Greyson did.

In fact, the author pulled off the combination in stellar fashion with the Detective Jack Stratton Mystery series. I've read all six of the current books and look forward to the seventh which is coming soon.

7 Reasons I Recommend the Jack Stratton Series by Christopher Greyson


If you're a reader but are not yet sure that the books will appeal to you, let me explain further why I believe they should be on your "must read" list. Here's my review including the top seven attributes that I appreciate about the Detective Jack Stratton mysteries and why I highly recommend this series to fans of mystery, suspense and, yes, even romance. (Looking for spoilers? You won't find them here.)

1. I care about the characters. I love series books and the key to holding my interest throughout any series is the characters. It took very few chapters of the first book for me to know that I'd be reading the entire series beginning to end. That early assessment definitely proved to be true and now I can hardly wait for the next installment to learn exactly what Jack and Alice have been up to and what comes next.

2. The story lines hold me captive and keep me reading into the night. Gotta love a book that's hard to put down.

3. The military and police connections. I can relate to both as law enforcement and military experience play a major role in my own family. Plus, Jack is around the age of my own sons, so my maternal instincts didn't take long to kick in, even in the first book.

4. Continuity through the series, yet each book stands alone. Read the books in any order that you wish, though if you prefer good chronological order start by reading the most recently published book (And Then She Was Gone) first. Referring to this book as a "prequel" would be accurate and though I read this one first, in some ways I wish I would have saved it for last. I'm currently considering re-reading it while I'm waiting for book seven in the series. (Who says you can't have it both ways?)

5. I like the action scenes. There is plenty of action throughout these books and the author does not spare the details. In fact, many of the fight scenes are described move by move. Frankly, I'm surprised that I liked the descriptive detail, but I did. It didn't bog me down as I read and it offered a clear perspective on the situations and scenes that followed.

6. The venues vary greatly by book. Although most of the stories center around Jack's hometown, you'll find action occurring in Aunt Haddie's foster home, in the dark recesses of a city park, in the bowels of a sophisticated college data and research center, among conflicting crime families crawling with assassins and hit men, in a wealthy jet-setter tycoon's amazing mansion, and even across the battlefields of Iraq.

7. The moral high ground. I prefer "clean" books that avoid profanity and sexual scenes that make me want to look away (or close the book forever). At first I wasn't sure that would be possible with this series, given the murder plots, the seriously-bad bad guys, and the police involvement and military flashback scenes. Let's face it, those topics in real life are usually accompanied by bad language and, in books and movies at least, scenes that involve descriptive sexual exploits. Not so in the Jack Stratton series and I thank the author for that and for the sweet romance that grows with the characters.

Did I mention I can hardly wait for book seven to be released? It's called Jack of Hearts. Watch for pre-order information or choose which book (Kindle or paperback edition) you want to read first from author Christopher Greyson's Amazon page.

If you've read books from the Detective Jack Stratton series, I'd love to read your impressions in a comment below.

~Susan
Read more of my reviews.


Reviewing the Detective Jack Stratton Mystery Series by Christopher Greyson
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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Hank Mossberg Private Ogre Series Reviewed

Detective Series With A Twist

ogre illustration
Ogre Illustration from Pixabay.com
Do you enjoy a good detective story? How about reading fantasy stories involving the fae? If you happen to be like me and enjoy both then I think you will enjoy the series Hank Mossberg Private Ogre by Jamie Sedgwick. You might already be familiar with Mr. Sedgwick from my previous review of another of his works.  

Imagine the present day world only with a difference. In this world we humans are also living with creatures once only found in fairy tales. In this series of books there is an entire civilization of elves, dwarfs, hobgoblins, fairies and a variety of other non-human creatures that we don't even notice. Kind of cool, right? 

The books take place in modern day San Francisco with the main character being Hank Mossberg. In the world of the fae, Hank is unique. You see he is the last of his kind. As far as he can tell he is the last living ogre. For centuries an ogre has always been selected as the Steward. A steward in the world of fae is basically the law enforcement. Since Hank is the only ogre the job has fallen upon him. One might say he was born into his position.

One of the reasons that the Steward needs to be an ogre is that the magic of the other creatures does not work on ogres. They can see through any spells, they are not stopped by enchanted weapons nor does a security shield of magic block them from entering an area. If you remember your fairy tales, ogres are huge and powerful. That is another reason that they are good for keeping the others in line.

Hank, who in my opinion, is a lovable ogre, has opted to work in both the fae community and the human community as a private detective. Humans can see Hank. Because we humans typically only see what we want to see, we see him as a large man with a slight skin condition. Remember ogres usually have a green tint to their skin.

This series involves cases where Hank needs to solve a case or two in each book. He might be working simultaneously with a fae case and a human case. I find the stories easy to read with just the right amount of mystery and a welcome touch of humor. There is a little bit of violence scattered within the stories but not so much that it is off-putting. Overall the books are an enjoyable reading experience.

I like the mingling of fantasy and reality and the creativity of the author in the fae community. As in any culture there are good people and bad people. There are rules to follow or disobey. Jamie Sedgwick has created an engaging world of plots and mysteries for us to solve as we turn the pages of the books in this series. I have certainly enjoyed following Hank, the last living ogre, as he solves the crimes presented to him. I think you might, too.



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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Book Review of The Only Witness by Pamela Beason

The Only Witness


An infant is abducted in broad daylight. The only witness is a gorilla. Can you imagine how a detective would feel when about to ask a judge for a warrant on the basis of the testimony of a gorilla? Of course, he wouldn't tell the judge anymore than he'd first been told himself -- that the the only witness was a twelve-year-old with the IQ of a five-year-old. As expected, the judge had the same reaction he himself had had -- he wanted to  meet the witness. That's why Detective Matthew Finn had brought the video tape to show the judge if necessary.

Book Review of The Only Witness by Pamela Beason
Photo Courtesy of Pixabayxabay


                                                                                                                               

The Kidnapping                 


Seventeen-year-old single unwed mother Brittany Morgan stops at a convenience store because because she's out of diapers. Her two-month old baby, Ivy Rose, is asleep in her car seat. She doesn't want to wake Ivy, so she carefully locks her car after opening the windows just far enough for the air to flow, but not far enough to reach in. She whispers through the passenger window to Ivy, 'Mama will be right back, Ivy Rose.'

Brittany  notices a tall gray van parked next to her on the right, the kind with mirrored windows that prevent people from looking in. The words "Talking Hands Ranch" were painted on the side. Then she went into the store and bought a few groceries. When she got back to the car, the doors were still locked, but the baby was gone. So was the gray van, but Brittany didn't remember the van at that moment because she was still in shock. She thought some boys standing around smoking might have taken the baby as a joke but they denied it and hadn't seen anyone else with a baby. A woman called  911. Soon Detective Finn was on the scene with  his crew gathering evidence. Brittany was frantic.

Inside the Van


Grace, a research professor at he University of Washington, returned to her van and to Neema, one of the gorillas in her project to whom she was teaching sign language. Unbeknownst to Grace, Neema had seen the kidnapping of the baby. She had signed to herself what was happening as it happened.

When Grace had returned, Neema signs "baby" to her, and then "car." Grace has no idea what Neema is talking about. In intervals Neema signs "Snake make baby cry." Grace thought Neema was calling her a snake, a word Neema hated. Neema continued to sign: "Baby cry, bad blue snake". But then Neema remembered she wanted a banana and the conversation took a different turn.

Later, Grace found out about the abduction, but still did not make the connection. It took her days and repeated signs from Neema before she made an anonymous call to the police. She remembered she had been at the Food Mart about that time.

The Investigation


Before Grace finally called Finn was not getting far in the investigation.  He'd learned that Brittany had been in a program for unwed mothers at her high school, the Sister Mothers Trust program. They had a support website for the girls in the class called YoMama where the girls could communicate. Brittany's computer had been taken in to custody, since she was the first one the police suspected, along with the baby's father Charlie, who was the son of the County Executive. The police certainly did not want to get Travis Wakefield's name into the news over this.

So far, the police had not learned much that helped. It was only after Grace called with the anonymous tip that Finn began to make progress. Brittany, had, meanwhile, remembered seeing the van and  described it to the police. By tracing Grace's call from a pay phone and tracking down the van, he was finally able to find  Grace's compound and discover that his only witness was Neema. In the phone call Grace had only said her ward told her that a man with a snake bracelet took the baby to a green car. Grace had said her ward was twelve and had the mentality of a five-year-old. Finn still thought Grace was passing on the words of a mentally retarded child witness. Finn had been  crushed when Grace said he could not contact Neema and then hung up.



Finn Meets Neema


Finn finally tracks down Grace's location just after she has received a letter from the University of Washington that the project is closing and the gorillas will be sold at auction. When Finn unexpectedly appears, Grace is crying. He still has no idea Neema is a gorilla. When Grace finally allows him to meet her, he still believes he is meeting a child. He has even brought a flower to try to win her over. When he first lays eyes on Neema,  you can just imagine what went through his mind.

You'll have to read the book to see that rather humorous scene. It is the first of many interviews Grace tapes. Neema's testimony,  though not presented formally in court, does help solve the case and the cases of two other missing children of mothers who were in the Sister Mothers Trust classes. I'm not going to spoil the book for you by telling you any more. I'm anxious to read the sequel. The best deal is the Kindle box set for the two books.

I would recommend this book to those interested in inter-species communication, gorillas, and police procedural mysteries. One thing I appreciated about this book in addition to the story itself was that no one got killed -- no gory scenes. The emphasis was on the police work and the human-gorilla interaction.

Book Review of The Only Witness by Pamela Beason
Gorilla Photo Courtesy of Pixabay


 Could this Really Happen?


It is plausible.  I think the author may have been influenced by the work of Dr. Francine Penny Patterson at the Gorilla Foundation. She is best known as the mentor of the famous Koko the gorilla, to whom she has been teaching American Sign Language, as part of her gorilla research. The project began in 1972 at the San Francisco Zoo. Since then it has progressed and moved to larger spaces, and finally to a large compound in Hawaii, but it appears the foundation is losing its lease and will have to raise enough money to buy the land if they are to stay there.  Koko will turn  45 on July 4, 2016.

Here is some insight into the relationship between Koko and Dr. Patterson. One can easily see how Pamela Beason might see Dr. Patterson and Koko as models for Grace and Neema in The Only Witness.

In this video, you will meet Koko.

   
In this video you  will watch a conversation between Koko and Dr. Patterson.



What do you think? Would you consider a signing gorilla like Neema a capable of being a credible witness?

For more information about  Koko, try one of these. You will see more options when you click through, both in books and DVD's. Koko A Talking Gorilla is a DVD.




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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Reviewing the Bill Hodges Trilogy by Stephen King

A Detective Tale

If you have read any of my earlier posts here on Review This, you know that I am both an avid reader and a fan of  the author Stephen King. He has published 2 out of 3 books in a series known as the Bill Hodges trilogy and that is what I want to review for you today. This series of three books is King's first hard-boiled detective story but I hope it is not his last because I am truly captivated with his ability to take us through a mysterious plot of an evil villain. 

The first book in the series or trilogy is Mr. Mercedes where we meet some of the characters that will be in all three books along with a pretty evil and twisted villain. Bill Hodges is our main protagonist. We first meet him after he has retired as a detective of a midwestern city's police force. He had worked on a case a few years ago where an unknown person drove a car into a crowd of people who were in line waiting for a job fair to open. The police began calling the perpetrator Mr. Mercedes because he was driving a Mercedes when he plowed into the crowd, killing 8 and injuring another 15 more people. Not solving the case, haunts Bill.

Jerome Robinson is another main character in the books. He starts out in the story as Bill Hodges' hired help for mowing the lawn. We see the two become friends as Jerome helps Hodges with some computer knowledge and later with the investigation. Jerome is in the first two books and I would assume will be in the unpublished third book.

The other part of the detective team is Holly Gibney. She is the niece to Olivia Trelawney (Mr. Mercedes stole her car to run the people down). I love Holly's character! She suffers from Asperger's Syndrome and seems lacking in social skills but not at all in deducing what is going on around her. Holly is also in the first two books and I would assume she will be in the third.

In this first book, we learn about the real Mr. Mercedes. In fact, we as readers know his identity before Bill, Jerome and Holly do. We learn all sorts of twisted things about this psycho. I don't want to give away too much of the plot, just suffice it to say Mr. King sure knows how to twist things around so that you can't seem to make yourself put the book down.

Finders Keepers

I just finished reading the second book of the trilogy a few days ago and I thought it was even better than the first one. We have a new villain and a new crime for Bill, Jerome and Holly to become involved with. Our psychotic perpetrator in this story is an obsessed fan of a famous author who doesn't like how he developed a character in one of his books. What this sick man does is almost inconceivable but believable in the way Mr. King tells the tale. What happens over the course of the next thirty years is yet another tale I couldn't put down until the end! Oh, and just so you know the story does keep the original crime of Mr. Mercedes very much in play throughout the second story. 

Right now the working title of the last book in the trilogy is End of Watch. It is scheduled to be released in June of 2016 and I can hardly wait to find out how Stephen King ends this story line. I am assuming that Bill, Jerome and Holly will be involved and maybe even Peter from the second book but I can't be sure. I can see where Mr. Mercedes story will probably continue, also. 

Pretty much at this stage, I am sitting here thinking, "Well done, Stephen King, well done!" Yet again he has taken me into an adventure that I can't stop thinking about. 

You can read both of the first books in hardcover, paperback or digitally by going to Amazon.com with link above or you can choose to shop at Barnes & Noble for the books. If you love a good detective story along with a thriller of a tale, you will really like this new set of books by Stephen King. 



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