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Archive for the ‘mysteries’ Tag

At Sea Without a Clue   Leave a comment

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Not all mysteries are thrillers; I like those that make me want to sleep with the light on – lots of lights. I expected to be kept awake by Ruth Ware’s The Woman in Cabin 10. I wasn’t. I enjoyed it as a mystery, but it fell short as a thriller.

The story is intriguing enough: a small group of passengers aboard a boutique luxury cruise liner bound from England to Norway’s fjords. The 10-cabin ship is owned by an exceptionally wealthy man who has invited a few friends and members of the media for the maiden voyage. Part of the problem is the main character: Laura “Lo” Blacklock, a travel magazine low-level journalist who lucked into the assignment. Ware doesn’t imbue Lo with many attributes that evoke much empathy or interest.

The mystery begins when, after drinking too much on the first night of the cruise, Lo is convinced that the woman in the cabin next door (#10) was thrown overboard. It’s the same woman who had earlier lent mascara to Lo. The problem is, according to the ship’s manifest, the cabin is unoccupied.

Lo knows the woman existed; she had proof. The narrative follows her efforts to determine what became of the woman in the face of incredulity from others. In this, Ware is successful. However, the lack of intensity as Lo strives to prove the reality of what she saw, keeps the novel from reaching the level of thriller. It was easy enough to turn off the lights.

The Woman in Cabin 10
3.5 Bookmarks
Scout Press, 2017
340 pages

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Nordic Intrigue and Drug Cartels   Leave a comment

phantom

Like other Harry Hole mysteries by Norwegian author Jo Nesbo, Phantom accelerates from zero to 120 in no time flat. The quick-pace, heart-thumping action alternates voices between a third-person omniscient narrator and a recently-murdered drug dealer. The latter isn’t as disturbing as it sounds. In fact, it’s a powerful device, identified by italics, having the deceased Gusto reveal a lot about his wasted life and elements of his demise, without divulging who dunnit.

Harry returns to Oslo from his self-imposed exile in Bangkok to help exonerate Oleg, the son of the woman he’s never stopped loving. Although they are not flesh and blood, Harry has strong paternal feelings for Oleg. Consequently, Harry finds it unlikely the young man could be guilty. Harry relies on former connections within the police force to help in his unofficial investigation, as well as employing his own brand of whatever-it-takes approach to solve a crime.

Russian drug lords, crooked politicians and policemen, and Harry’s own demons help propel the story beyond drug deals gone bad. Nesbo is impressive in his ability to create black and white characters with nuance; that is, even the bad guys have a few redeeming qualities, while the good ones can’t help but disappoint from time to time. In the process, it’s difficult to determine the guilty person before Nesbo spells it out.

It is not necessary to have read any of the previous Harry Hole mysteries before jumping into Phantom, the only question is why would you not want to?

Phantom
Four-and-a-half  Bookmarks
Alfred A. Knopf, 2012
378 pages
http://jonesbo.com/

Posted May 20, 2013 by bluepagespecial in Books, Reviews

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Frozen Days, Nights and Hearts   Leave a comment

The images of a very pregnant police investigator and the frozen tundra evoked the movie Fargo. However, these are the only similarities with Asa Larsson’s Sun Storm. Larsson, no relation to Steig of the Dragon Tattoo mysteries, has crafted a novel rich with imagery but lacking in true suspense.

Rebecka Martinsson is a tax attorney in Stockholm called home to Kiruna, in northernmost Sweden, to help a friend suspected of murder. The gruesome, ritualistic crime takes place in a church run by the pastors who long ago banished Rebecka from their community. The back story, including the strained relationship between Rebecka and Sanna, more a former friend than a true one, fill most of the pages. What’s noteworthy is how compelling this is. In fact, at several points it’s easy to forget a murder investigation is underway, or that a threat has been made against Rebecka.

Larsson’s writing is stark, like the landscape of which she writes. Yet, it is easy to imagine the corrupt church leaders, their disappointed wives, the aggrieved Sanna, and a friendly neighbor. Rebecka is both insecure and confident. She tries hard to maintain an emotional distance from the area she was forced to leave. These very efforts make her interesting, but not altogether warm and engaging.

The only completely likeable character in the bunch is Anna-Maria Mella, the female investigator. It turns out, she actually is somewhat like the Frances McDormand role in the Coen Brothers’ film: intelligent, caring and ready to give birth.

Sun Storm

Three-and-a-half Bookmarks
Delta Trade Paperbacks, 2007
310 pages

Chilling Thrills   Leave a comment

I’m not a fan of blood and gore thrillers in film, but put the stuff in a book
and I’m hooked. Jo Nesbo’s latest in the genre begins with terror and rare-
ly allows the reader time to breathe a sigh of relief. The Leopard starts
roughly where The Snowman left off, with Harry Hole now living in Hong
Kong where gambling and opium dictate his life – but not for long since
the Norwegian police need help solving another murder spree back on his
home tundra.

Hole doesn’t take long to determine the murders are related. Just as he
did in the previous novel, Nesbo takes readers on a hold-onto-your hats,
whiplash-inducing ride from one possibility to another, then back again,
and again. Additionally, he throws in several subplots just to keep things
really moving. The lure that actually brings Hole back to Norway is not
the challenge of the chase, it’s his near-death, elderly father. As Hole
unpacks the emotional baggage this creates, he establishes the connect-
ion of the murders, pines for his ex-wife and stepson, is attracted to a
female investigator, and is entangled in a turf war between the Oslo crime
unit and state police. This may sound like standard mystery ingredients, but
they’re not. And, it may make Hole seem like a superhero, but no way.

The beauty of Nesbo’s writing is the attention to detail, the depth of his
characters, and the thrill he creates as they battle to thwart or uphold
justice in very human ways.

The Leopard
Four Bookmarks
Adolph A. Knopf, 2012
517 pages

Posted March 15, 2012 by bluepagespecial in Books, Reviews

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