Tuesday, December 27, 2011

New Mysteries for 2011

Before the year closes out, I wanted to share some short thoughts on four recent mystery novels.

The Drop by Michael Connelly is part of the Harry Bosch series.  This is a must read for mystery fans.  Bosch is an LAPD detective, with three years left until retirement.  He takes up a twenty year old murder case in which a DNA match was just found to a convicted rapist.  The problem is that when the murder was committed the killer was only eight years old.  Meanwhile, Bosch is called on to investigate the suspicious death of the son of a powerful city councilman, who, not coincidentally, is a nemesis of Bosch.  In this fast-paced, page turner, Bosch hunts down two mysteries, is enmeshed in the dark depths of political conspiracy and even finds time for a romantic relationship.  I simply could not put this book down. The book was one of Connelly's better ones and was one of my favorites of the year.  Highly recommended.

A Drop of the Hard Stuff is Lawrence Block's most recent mystery involving his detective Matthew Scudder.  Scudder tells this tale from his younger years after he was forced out of the NYPD.  Like so many fictional detectives, Scudder faces his problems of alcoholism.    Scudder enrolls in Alcoholics Anonymous.  As he approaches is one year anniversary of staying on the wagon, Scudder reconnects with a childhood friend who followed a route into a life of crime.  Based on the AA 12-step program, the friend has tried to "make amends" for the harms he caused to others.  Along the way, he is murdered.  Without the resources of the police department, Scudder hunts down a killer.  This was a very well crafted mystery set in a grittier New York City than we live in today.  The use of AA as a backdrop worked very well.  This is a worthwhile read.

I Am Half-Sick of Shadows: A Flavia de Luce Novel is the fourth Flavia de Luce mystery by Alan Bradley.  As Christmas arrives at Buckshaw, the de Luce family estate, the cash strapped Colonial (Flavia's father) has rented out the mansion to a movie company to generate cash.  In the middle of a charity performance for the local church by the movie stars, a blizzard hits, and the characters are trapped in the mansion.  Suddenly, there is a murder.  Classic British cozy murder set up.  Flavia sets out to solve the murder.  While I have enjoyed this series immensely and love Flavia, this one came up short.  After the murder, the plot stalled out.  The characters were not particularly well developed.  I am afraid that Bradley is responding to the success of his series by pushing out product.  Also, while I love the setting, there have been a lot of murders in the house in a very short period of time.  Bradley needs to move his detective out of the mansion to other locations if this series is going to hold together.  Pass on this mystery but read any of the previous ones for a unique and wonderful character and mystery.  Sorry, Flavia.

The Leopard by Jo Nesbo is the second Nesbo mystery I read and reviewed this year (Snowman was the first; review here).  While intricate, well written and well plotted, I found this novel less compelling than Snowman, even more gruesome (seemingly for shock value only, and a bit too long.  Two women are brutally murdered by an apple like device which is jammed in their mouths and shoots out 24 knives.  Gruesome.  From there, Nesbo's broken detective, Harry Hole, is running across the globe to solve a murder.  The ending was overly dramatic (a long confession explaining everything).  Everyone is looking to be the next Stieg Larsson.  This novel even employs a mildly crazed hacker.  This isn't it.  I'd give Nesbo another chance but I would recommend passing on this one.

Happy reading!

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