The Stranger

Although another enjoyable Camilla Lackberg novel, in The Stranger I figured out who’d “done” it very early on and every additional clue just confirmed my guess. I don’t know if I’ve just read too many mysteries that I’m now more observant, and probably more jaded, or if this novel gave away too much too early.

Aside from the mysterious murders with the use of excessive alcohol and a cast of a reality show, I really enjoyed Erica diving into her childhood and how her mother’s history may have affected her parenting style. This doesn’t resolve itself by the end of this novel but Erica has determined to use her researching skills on her own family and I hope there’s another novel that continues that story thread.

Read September 2015

The Secret of the Nightingale Palace

What happens when a young Jewish girls falls in love with a Japanese boy at the beginning of WWII? How does this brief love affair tear apart the girl and how can she ever recover? What happens when a gay Jewish man needs to marry and produce an heir for his department store empire? What happens if a wife hated her husband as he died from cancer?

These are some of the questions that Anna and Goldie, an estranged granddaughter and grandmother, will learn about each other as they cross the country from New York City to San Francisco. Goldie is an overbearing, stylish, wealthy grandmother who had some harsh criticism for her granddaughter’s soon to be husband causing a rift that lasted beyond the life of the husband. Anna, only 35, hasn’t recovered from the death of her husband and hasn’t talked to her grandmother in almost 5 years when she’s summoned to NYC to help. Turns out, Goldie needs to return an item that she’s held in safe keeping to her Japanese friend from her life in San Francisco over 60 years ago.

The story feels a little tired. This isn’t the first time that we’ve had the skipped generation story, whether they’re related like this novel or not. But this is a great story. The grandmother has lived a great and filling life while silently bucking the social norms. The granddaughters story doesn’t feel as full as the grandmothers but she’s also many decades younger. They both learn from each other, but the younger of the two has less history to bring. Its mostly the older, wiser, more stylish grandma leading the way when it comes to figuring out life and love, even if she’s kept it secrets for years. Which should be expected that someone who’s older should understand life better. And while I enjoyed this novel, its something I feel like I’ve read before, and not as original as many of the reviews give it.

Overall, it was an enjoyable read, even if a bit trite.

Read June 2015

Echo Park

Echo Park is another of Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch novels. This time, Bosch is back in the police department in their Open-Unsolved Unit. Bosch reviews a case that he worked back in 1993 when a young woman named Marie Gesto went missing. Back then Bosch settled on a suspect but could never find evidence. Over the years, the suspect, who had no evidence against him, felt so harassed by Bosch that he was able to take out a restraining order against Bosch so that he could not be interviewed without his lawyer present.

Today (2006), an arrested serial killer has claimed that he committed the Gesto murder and as part of a plea arrangement, he would lead the detectives to the body. As always, Bosch is emotionally invested in this case and tags along with the other investigations and district attorneys to try to close this case. Of course, nothing turns out to go smoothly and soon Bosch determines that there is much more to the serial killer than the Gesto murder. While trying to uncover the truth about the 13 year old case, he uncovers a conspiracy involving murderers, politicians, and policemen.

A great, easy read with many twists and turns.

Read May 2015.

The Thirteenth Tale

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield brings together a bookworm spinster and a famous novelist to write the novelist’s memoir before she dies. Vida Winter wrote a best seller a year for over 20 years, but has never let the truth about her personal history ever be written. Margaret Lea works and lives in her father’s book shop, not a popular spot but well regarded in the right book circles. Vida Winter hires Margaret to write her story but on her own terms and her own timeline, which is partially determined by her ailing health.

The story that Vida tells is filled with a gothic haunted house, twins left to raise themselves, a dysfunctional mother, deceased father, recluse uncle, and a pair of aging staffers that are trying their best to maintain a sane household filled with insanity. Before accepting the assignment, Margaret asks for provable facts that she can research since Vida Winter is a known storyteller who has told multiple versions of her ‘life story’ over the years. In order to help prove these facts, Margaret travels to Angelfield, where Vida Winter was born and lived for the first part of her life. The whole of her life according to her, since after the fire, her life was in essence over and she began writing her stories. Both woman’s lives are consumed with books and stories and there’s a nice bibliophile aspect of reading this story. Both for the lovers of old books and the stories within those books. Between the visuals we gain from Vida’s story and Margaret’s recent descriptions of the dilapated house, Setterfield brings the reader home to Angelfield. Running between the garden topiary’s or hiding behind the curtains, the reader knows Angelfield and is drawn to its morbid story.

This was a great mystery about what can go wrong in a sheltered home with absentee parents. I loved the past story as well as the relationship between the subject and biographer. Setterfield captured two different time periods and environments and brought the reader inside these closeted worlds.

Read July 2014.

Sharp Objects

Sharp Objects is Gillian Flynn’s first novel, but the third I read. In Dark Places, Flynn deals with a family torn apart by murder. In Sharp Objects, its murder that brings Camille Preaker back to her small Missouri town. Her tiny Chicago paper sends her to her hometown to investigate the disappearance and death of two young girls. Camille Preaker uses alcohol to get herself ready to face the family she has not seem in years, but will it be enough? Camille, recently discarded from a psych ward for the cutting she does to herself, immerses herself in the crime investigation while dealing with her mother, a hypochondriac and the town heiress of sorts, and her dual-personalitied, much younger sister.

The town of Wind Gap is terrified that someone is after their children and suspect an out of towner, but Camille’s gut tells her this small town keeps its secrets and murderers close. This is an intense novel with all the main characters having very deep psychological conditions worthy of commitment.

Flynn shows the relationship between the residents of Wind Gap and how the rich function in a different world that the workers of her family’s pig processing plant. I loved the detail that the local bars always served chicken, not pork and after the description of the pig processing plant, I can understand why.

If I had read this novel first, I might feel different about Flynn’s debut novel, but I did not think this demonstrated the same level of authorship as her other novels. The characterization was great, but the story felt a little transparent or forced near the end, unlike how I felt about the other novels. But Gillian Flynn has only written 3 novels and I’ve loved every single one, so even with that, I think she’s a phenomenal crime/horror writer.

Read March 2014