The Devil in Montmartre

The Devil in Montmartre by Gary Inbinder was an interesting read. Having just read and enjoyed The Yard, there were so many similarities. A young and upcoming detective with a young wife, newly discovered fingerprinting evidence, post-Jack the Ripper world, prostitutes, separate sub plots. It felt like the author read The Yard and decided to reinvent it in Montmartre with a lot more name dropping of artists of the time.

I can’t say if I would have enjoyed the book on its own, but when compared to Alex Grecian’s work, The Devil in Montmartre couldn’t match up. It felt like trudging through mud while reading. The book never compelled me to sit down and read it, so it took forever to get through.

Anyway, maybe this book would be more enjoyable for any one interested in some art from the period since Inbinder included many artists. Overall, i just didn’t enjoy this novel very much.

Read April 2015

Orphan Train

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline tells the story of two young girls abandoned in childhood and suffer through the abuse of the welfare system set up to save them. Vivian Daly was orphaned as a young girl and put on a train from New York City to the mid-west in an attempt to find her a home during the Depression. Vivian’s story is told as a mirror to modern day Molly Ayer, who entered the foster care system as a young girl and is months away from aging out.

Neither girl’s childhood was warm and cuddly, but they each have their talisman as a reminder to whom they are and where they came from. A Claddagh necklace for Vivian given by her grandmother in Ireland and a necklace with a fish, a raven, a bear charm given to Molly by her father. Vivian and Molly find each other when Molly needs to perform a community service after getting caught stealing a book from the library. Although a victimless crime, she almost loses her foster placement until her boyfriend’s mom works out a deal with her elderly employer, Vivian. Kline weaves the two stories together as each girl struggles with the life they’ve been forced to lead. Neither had much love in their young lives and do not let people into their heart easily.

In Vivian’s life, the orphan train changed her entire life, but in real life it had to have changed so many more. I don’t know who would have thought to take orphaned or street kids from New York and ship them off to such a different world. The options laid out for older children like Vivian (really Niamh at this point) and Dutchy are bleak and dangerous. The smaller children, like Carmine, have better chances, but they’re still open to potential horrors since there is little oversight or follow-up for any of the children.

This was a great young, adult novel. There were very complex ideas of family and survival that would resonate with many angst filled teenagers as well as adults.

Read April 2015

The Yard

The Yard takes place in London just after the Ripper has stopped killing and Jack was never found. The opening line “Nobody noticed when Inspector Christian Little of Scotland Yard disappeared, and nobody was looking for him when he was found,” fits for the time period and sets the scene. Alex Grecian captures the loneliness and messiness of Victorian London perfectly from the beginning to the end. The underbelly of London, where danger lurks around every corner, is where Little’s murderer should be found, and DI Walter Day has to search through the refuse to try to find a killer.

I really enjoyed this novel for two reasons. The first being that this was a captivating crime story where the reader knows more than the detectives. Grecian uses this to heighten the fear and anxiety surrounding the detectives and other characters every time they encounter each of the criminals. The fact that there were so many criminals and crimes happening concurrently made the story breeze by. You just never knew who was going to kill next and if it would be a strangely justified murder or if an innocent would be hurt.

The second reason for loving this novel are all the period details that Grecian includes. The fear the prostitutes have (remember Jack the Ripper was never caught) and the way they prevent further crimes against them while exacting their revenge against bearded Johns. Or when the detectives have to dive into a work house and the horrors that they encounter were a real part of Victorian London, not in a pretty carriage ride kind of historical story. Also, Grecian details the beginning of Forensics science with Dr Bernard Kingsley’s fingerprinting and new morgue.

Overall this was a great read for both the crime story and historical details.

Read March 2015

The Black Echo

Michael Connelly’s The Black Echo was a bit of a let down after The Poet, but only because the other one was so dynamic and captivating. This is an earlier work of Connelly’s and he definitely improved his storytelling ability with The Poet. The start of The Black Echo is a murder that no one should have figured out. A druggie found dead in a drain pipe, his body pumped of drugs. The only problem with this quickly packed away crime is that Detective Harry Bosch knew the deceased from his service in Vietnam. Seeing the dead body brings back memories and Bosch looks for clues harder than another detective would have.

In tracking down the murderer, Bosch needs to dive back down to the tunnels, the underbelly of most cities, which connect everything to everything. Back in Vietnam, Bosch blew up tunnels to prevent Americans from getting killed and in the process killed many. Now, its the tunnels, lead by a former friend that are used to steal huge amounts of money smuggled to the US during the Vietnam War.

Michael Connelly is a  captivating writer and this novel drew me in. It was a solid, quick read.

Read March 2015

The Poet

Again, I fell behind in my documenting what I’ve read. Which translates to me being almost a month behind on this one. My brain only retains so much after that long, which is actually the point of this blog so that I can keep some memories of the books. And yet again, i failed.

So instead of a detailed write-up of Michael Connelly’s The Poet, I’ll tell you the main points that I remembered.

The main point is that the FBI agents screw over the main guy, Jack McEvoy and everyone else really, by hiding most information about a killing spree across the country. Sometimes its a dead kid or teacher, but that killing is always followed by another. It takes a journalist, who’s own brother was a victim, to put the pieces together.

This book was a great thriller and I can’t put together a cohesive synopsis. That’s my failure, not the book. I happened to read 3 additional thrillers immediately following this and I’m confusing some of the events. (Which, by the way, doesn’t predict great synopsis of the next couple of books either.)

I received this book from my dear aunt-in-law and put it aside for whatever reason until I noticed that the intro was written by Stephen King. This alone made me pick up the book, but the crazy literary references and double killing spree kept my attention. I devoured this book and will probably read again since it was so great and my memory so poor.

Read March 2015

The Silent Sister

Early on Diane Chamberlain warns her character Riley Macpherson that “When someone dies unexpectedly the way your father did, they don’t have the chance to clean everything up. You know, erase sites he’s Googled or whatever. So don’t dig too deeply into his personal things. Don’t upset yourself.” The The Silent Sister wouldn’t be very interesting if Riley had listened to that advice. Instead Riley moves into her father’s home to help clear it out to sell. Her brother lives close to her dad’s house, but he’s messed up on alcohol and memories from childhood and wartime, so its up to Riley to deal with her father’s estate.

Quickly, Riley learns of a secret girlfriend her father had, her mom’s best friend. Apparently, after her mom’s death, her dad and Jeannie became good friends and then more. This is the first of many secrets that her dad kept, including that her dead sister was really alive and hiding. Lisa was a child prodigy who’s schedule ruled her family. She travelled, practiced, committed murder, and then drowned herself, supposedly. Riley believed that story her entire life and its only upon her father’s death that the story starts to unravel.

Riley is alone. No longer in a relationship, there’s no one in her life that she can confide in and she’s unsure who she can trust in her father’s world. Jeannie is intrusive. The Kyle’s, who live at her father’s RV park, seem nice and confide more about her father than they probably should, like that Riley’s adopted. Another blow to RIley’s world. Her sister died or disappeared more than 20 years ago. Her mother died 7 years ago. Now her dad is gone and her brother’s lost. And it might be true that this wasn’t even her biological family.

Riley is determined to uncover the truth in her family. Why would her sister murder her violin teacher? How did she fake her own death and then escape? She was only 17 when she left. In Riley’s lonely world, the search for her sister becomes the link that holds her together. Diane Chamberlain shows how crazy family ties can be, but at the same time they’re all someone has.

This was a great read! Thoroughly engaging with so many twists along the way.

Read February 2015

afterparty

When I picked up Ann Redisch Stampler’s afterparty, I didn’t realize that it was a young adult novel. I’m not opposed to reading YA and many times I really enjoy the book, but this book really was meant for a young reader. Emma is the good girl built by her father’s idealism and overprotectiveness. She has an interesting past, having moved around every couple of years following her father as a traveling professor. She changes her name with the moves, but isn’t allowed to grow into the teen that she is. Her skirt length is regulated as are her after school activities and friendships. Her father supposedly is a Psychology professor who can’t see how ridiculous his helicoptering is.

After moving to LA for her father’s job, somehow Emma is enrolled in a super exclusive private school where the uber wealthy children attend. Of course Emma meets the bad-girl Siobhan on her first day and starts breaking all her fathers super restrictive rules. She’s mildly bullied, nothing compared to what I think would’ve happened, and her and Siobhan create a pact to make Emma cool. They create a French boyfriend and excuses to get Emma out of the house to attend crazy high school parties with the goal of checking off a teenage activity to-do list before the big Afterparty.

There are some interesting aspects of this book and I was surprised by the twist at the end, but this was a simple read. I think most teenagers are capable of more complexity that what Stampler gives them. At the end, I didn’t look back favorable on this book. There are many flaws in the storyline that I couldn’t get over, even with the twist at the end.

Read February 2015