Archive | June 2016

Review: The Silkworm (Cormoran Strike #2) by Robert Galbraith

18214414

JK Rowling is a master.  She is the Yoda of writing – creating Harry Potter and now Cormoran Strike.

Strike gained some notoriety and was able to build his PI business after he solved the case in book one.  While he can now make a living following cheating spouses and ferreting out corporate spies, it doesn’t quench his investigative thirst.  Even though the prospect of payment doesn’t look great, Strike decides to help a wife find her missing husband.  On top of that he has to deal with his assistant’s fiance (who doesn’t care for Strike very much) and a prosthesis that is becoming more painful.

The Silkworm is a 5-star mystery that is smoothly paced and tightly written.  There aren’t enough superlatives to explain my love for this book.  Instead I’ve decided the best way to pay homage is to flip to a random page and give you a quote.  You see, I know that there are gems on every single page.  So, here we go…page 96.

“Exhaustion was lapping at the edges of Strike’s consciousness.  He wanted passionately to go home, to begin the tiresome process of putting his leg to sleep (as he described it to himself), to close his eyes and attempt eight straight hours’ slumber until he had to rise and place himself again in the vicinity of another unfaithful husband.”

Not purple.  Not overdone.  Just simple, good writing that sucked this reader right inside the pages.

Review: The Hidden Child (Patrik Hedstrom #5) by Camilla Lackberg

18476759-2

Have you ever read a book or a series that you like but you know that it’s missing something?  If so, this is that book and that series for me.

Set in Sweden, the Patrik Hedstrom series is not bad.  But there were things about this installment specifically that were weak and some that were just plain irritating.

Well, to be fair, let’s start with the good first.  Lackberg’s writing is easy to read.  While there are a few passages where the wording is a little clunky, that could be attributed to the translation.  The overall story is interesting and well-plotted.

I would like to say the pacing was also a positive.  Unfortunately, as soon as she would hit her stride telling the story, Lackberg would revert to recapping events that the reader already knew about.  When reading a mystery, I expect the author to recap towards the end when it’s close to being solved.  But these recaps were done at the halfway point which was unnecessary and slowed the pace.

Character development is one of the most important factors in my enjoyment of a book.  This is where it actually got irritating.  Or shall we say annoying.  Or maybe even infuriating.  I could choose several things to focus on here but I’ll stick to Patrik since he is considered the main character (more on that in a minute.)  Patrick and Erica had a child about a year ago.  She took a year off writing to care for Maja and now it’s his turn to take paternity leave for several months so that Erica can begin writing her next book.  He acted like an idiotic douchebag if you want the truth.  I can’t go into too many details as it would be spoiler-ish but, yeah, douchebag.  Interrupting Erica, inappropriate walks, acting like a big baby himself.  I lost all respect for him as a character.

So, this must mean I liked Erica even more, right?  WRONG!  She put up with his shenanigans and would forgive him for things at the drop of the hat with no remorse from him.  Ummmm…no.  Not okay.

And, while we’re talking about Erica, why the heck isn’t she considered the main character.  I’ve now read three of this series and SHE is the MC, not Patrik.  The only reason I could see for this is that a male dominated series might be considered to be a better seller.  I say again, not okay.

Unfortunately I think I am done with this series.  2/5 stars.

Mini-Review: Five Little Pigs (Hercule Poirot #24) by Agatha Christie

310231

This is Poirot at his best. Investigating a cold case – a wife was convicted of murdering her philandering husband. Everyone believes she did it except for their child who was only 5 at the time. She comes to Poirot to find the truth. He interviews each suspect, or little piggy, and discovers what really happened on that day.

Interesting, complicated characters. Perfect pacing. Classic misdirection. Probably one of my favorite Christie mysteries.

5/5 stars.

Myrtle Mysteries: BBQ, Sweet Tea and Murder – Chapter 9

For the next week, Myrt and Vera had very little time to work on the investigation.  The insurance office was unusually busy.  With Vera also working overtime, the friends had a lot of catching up to do.

“Myrt, this chicken pot pie is to die for.  Did you make the crust yourself?” Vera asked as she took another large bite.

“No, I actually got several pre-made crusts from Mrs. Freeman.  You know she started selling them frozen in addition to all the homemade cakes and pies?”

“She needs to franchise.  Amazing!”

The two friends spent the next several minutes eating, catching up on trivial things and just generally enjoying each other’s company.  After the dishes were done and they had moved into the comfortable den chairs, they got down to business.

“I went to check on Shelby yesterday.  She seemed to be a little better.  I hope she is able to keep herself healthy.”  Myrtle knew that it would take time for Shelby to fully trust her but she felt they had a good chance of becoming real friends.  “The more I’ve thought about it, I just can’t see her hurting anyone other than herself.  We have to eliminate her as a suspect.”

“People do things out of character all the time, Myrt.  But, I am inclined to agree with you.  Maybe if Pop had been poisoned or killed in his sleep, I could consider Shelby a suspect.  But, shooting someone is too direct, too forceful.  She doesn’t have it in her.”

“Well, that’s one off the list for now.  Who should we talk to next?”

“It’s got to be Rhonda.”  Vera shook her head as she remembered Rhonda’s actions at the graveside service.

“Why her?” Myrt trusted Vera’s instincts but wasn’t sure of her reasons.

“She’s hot-headed.  If Pop was killed in a fit of passion, my money would be on Rhonda.”

“OK, we will go see her next but I have to say, Vera, that I don’t see why she would kill him.  She got a lump sum payout from the divorce, they hated each other by that point and she gained nothing with his death.”

Vera nodded and thought for a second. “You might be right, Myrt, but either way we have to talk to her and we might as well get it over with.”

Rhonda lived in a house off Oak Street that she purchased from the local dentist when he moved.  It had always been an understated,  nice home but she was doing her best to make her mark.  The bright new paint, ornate masonry work and wrought iron fencing might have fit for a Los Angeles mansion but for a Pageland home it was just plain tacky.   When Myrtle and Vera pulled into the driveway, both had to stifle the urge to roll their eyes as they took in all the details.

Answering the door in a  pair of yoga pants and tank top, Rhonda looked good, Myrtle had to give her that.

“What do you two want?” This wasn’t quite the greeting they had hoped for but was also not unexpected.

“Hi, Rhonda.  We were hoping we could talk to you for a few minutes.”  Myrtle, being slightly less abrasive than her beloved friend Vera, decided she should be the one to respond.

“You want to talk.  To me.  Why in the hell would you want to do that?”

The snide tone was more than Vera could take.  “You know, I’m asking myself the same thing.  Why in the hell would we want to talk to you?”

“Vera!”  Myrtle knew that if there was any chance for this to not blow up in their faces, she had to act quickly.  “Rhonda, I’m sorry.  We should have called ahead.  I didn’t think and I’m sorry.”  Myrtle could feel Vera priming for another attack but she wanted to avoid more conflict.  “Vera and I were both friends with Pop for a long time and have been shaken by his death.  Please forgive us but we just wanted to talk to people that had been close to him.  That’s all.”

Rhonda seemed surprised by Myrtle’s conciliatory tone but still was on guard.  “That’s all well and good but why me?  Pop and I were only married for a hot second and he hated me.”

“I doubt he hated you.  All anyone could talk about was how much you two loved each other when you were married.  I’d just like to hear more about his life with you.”  Myrtle read a lot of mysteries and especially loved Agatha Christie.  She decided to pull a Poirot and tailor her investigative tactics to the suspect.  For Rhonda, that meant playing to her vanity.  “You are so different from his other wives and, frankly, from most of the other women around town.  I know that’s why he chose you.”

Seeing her wall coming down, Myrtle made her final move.  “You know, this house used to be so plain and boring.  The updates you’ve made are spectacular.  Even if you don’t want to talk, can we at least get a peek inside?  I’m dying to see what you’ve done.”

“Well, I can’t let everyone in but I guess it wouldn’t hurt for you to come in for a second.”  Opening the door further, she allowed the two women inside.  When she turned her back to close the door, Myrtle winked at Vera and got a scowl in return.

The house tour was enlightening.  The front rooms and Rhonda’s bedroom were lavishly furnished with things made to look expensive.  But, most of the rooms were bare.  Rhonda talked quickly of taking her time with decorating and trying to find just the right things but Myrtle had a sneaking suspicion that most of the money was gone and these rooms would be empty for a while.  Rhonda grudgingly led them into the living room and offered tea.  When she went to the kitchen, Myrtle took the opportunity to pay attention to the details.  The room showed no signs of a life lived.  Everything was immaculate and in its’ place but there were no personal photos, no magazines, no books.  It was a room meant to impress but instead left you feeling sad.

While Myrtle wasn’t a fan of Rhonda’s decorating, she did have to give her credit for one thing.  She knew how to make a pitcher of sweet tea.  It was fresh, strong and just sweet enough.  In a word, it was heaven.

“Thank you for showing us around.  You must enjoy living here.”  Myrtle decided to try to engage their reluctant host.

“The house is just what I wanted but the neighbors are a pain in the butt.  Always complaining about noise, the color I chose for the shed outside and anything else they can think of.  Plus, the dirty looks the wife is always giving me are crazy.”

“The Austins were good friends of Pop, so there is that.” Vera chose that moment to enter the conversation and seemed oblivious to the glare Myrtle turned on her.

Luckily, Rhonda was also a little oblivious.  “Yeah, well, they were his friends but who cares?  All of that was water under the bridge.  The divorce was done a million years ago and I left him alone after that.  They didn’t need to be giving me stare downs when I walked to the mailbox.  You know, I didn’t mind the husband looking at me.  I recognized that look in his eyes when I was sunbathing and he came outside.  That’s probably why the wife hates me and I saw her talking to her landscaper about adding a hedge.  Whatever.  Let your man look.  If I get his motor running, who cares as long as he comes home to your pit stop.”  With a laugh, Rhonda made it clear that she enjoyed any attention she could get even if it caused problems for other people.

“Gotta love a racing metaphor.”  Vera muttered.

Trying to get the conversation on track and the visual of Rhonda in a tiny bikini out of her mind, Myrtle decided to cut to the chase.  “You know, Rhonda, Vera and I were at Pop’s graveside service.  There seemed to be some words between you and Laura.  What was that all about?”

“Oh, that hussy.  I simply said that I wouldn’t be surprised if I got a little something in the will.  She went ballistic, calling me names and saying that if he left any of us anything it would be her.  She, after all, was ‘the mother of his children.’  I almost smacked her.  She’s such an idiot.  If he hated anyone most in this world, it was her.  He told me some stories.  But I shouldn’t talk about that, should I?”  Rhonda sat back with the look at a cat eyeing a mouse.  Myrtle was loath to play her game but wanted the information.  Her mind worked quickly looking for a way in.

Vera knew Myrtle had a hard time being truly devious so she decided to do her part.  Swallowing her distaste, she entered the fray.  “Now, Rhonda, you know you can tell us.  We hate Laura as much as the next woman – I mean, who doesn’t?  Give us what you’ve got.”

“I guess, if you can keep a secret?”  Rhonda gave both women a bright-eyed look and they each nodded to her.  “Laura threatened to kill Pop when he left her.  Something about revenge being a dish best served cold.”

Review: End of Watch (Bill Hodges Trilogy #3) by Stephen King

25526965

End of Watch is a satisfying conclusion to the Bill Hodges trilogy.  In some respects this series is a departure but in others it is classic King.

Of course, this story focuses on Bill Hodges and his now business partner, Holly, as they continue to fight Brady Hartsfield who has gained new mind-control talents. His obsession with suicide culminates with an attempt to kill many teenagers and young adults through hypnotic suggestion.

When I read established authors, it’s hard not to judge them against themselves.  While I enjoyed End of Watch (and the series as a whole), it’s not on par with King’s strongest works.  The truth is that there are passages that drag a little.  However, overall, King does a wonderful job of balancing the action and character development.  Bill Hodges will become one of his classic creations, I am sure.  He is an imperfect man who you cannot help but pull for.  And, the ending is just right.

4/5 stars.

Review: The Long Way Home (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #10) by Louise Penny

19561922

The tenth installment of the Armand Gamache series is probably not for everyone.  The primary storyline isn’t the typical Surete murder investigation.  Instead, with Gamache now retired in Three Pines, we focus on him helping a friend.  Some might call it boring but I found the in-depth look into the characters and their motivations to be just right.

Penny has done a masterful job of creating this group of people that are complicated and intriguing.  I felt at home spending 373 pages with Armand, Beauvoir, Clara and Myrna.  Add in several scenes with Rene-Marie, Ruth and Rosa and you have another 5-star read.

I can’t divulge much about the story as it would be too hard to avoid spoilers.  However, I do want to say that the ending was both expected and unexpected.  Does that make any sense at all?  Penny has given breadcrumbs throughout the series about one of the characters and the trail led to this.  It brought me to tears but was a satisfying end to this storyline.

Overall, I loved The Long Way Home and cannot wait to get to book 11.  Luckily book 12 is also scheduled to come out in August so I will be able to continue this love affair for the next few months.

Mini-Review: Sad Cypress (Hercule Poirot #21) by Agatha Christie

433035

Another good, 4-star, mystery from Agatha Christie.  Blah, blah, blah.

I feel like I write the same review for most Christie books and specifically for the Poirot mysteries.  So, instead of reviewing, I’m going to talk about the title itself.

Most of the time there is an aha moment when you’re like “that’s what the title means.”  For Sad Cypress, I didn’t reach that moment and unless I fell asleep I cannot, for the life of me, figure out the title.  It really has nothing to do with the story, the characters or the outcome.  Maybe that’s the mystery here…hmmm….

Has anyone else read this and, if so, can you enlighten me on the meaning of the title?  Thanks!