Book Reviews

Don’t Let Go by Harlan Coben

Dont Let Go

Title: Don’t Let Go
Author: Harlan Coben
Rating: ★★★★

This was my September 2018 Mystery Book Discussion group read at my local library.

The mystery starts out with a girl named Daisy and an Officer Rex who con people into getting drunk and arrested for DUIs, Daisy being the sleazy flirt and Rex being the cop to catch them. However, things turn south when the victim really conned them, and Officer Rex is found dead.

Detective Dumas is approached by two police officers asking him for help in the murder case. However, Detective Dumas quickly finds himself with a new investigation on his hands, involving ex-girlfriend Maura Wells, who disappeared fifteen years ago. Other people are starting to die. Will Dumas catch the murderer or forever wonder what the link between the deaths really is?

I really liked that this was a standalone book. I feel like most of the books we have been reading for the group have been parts in a series, and while they could be read as a standalone, there was always some aspect missing that the earlier books filled in (so I was left out). One thing I found was odd was how Dumas would talk to himself, but he was actually “talking” to his brother, Leo. I get it, a sign of grieving, but still weird.

And poor Hank! I just feel so bad for him 😦

What I loved about this mystery was the reader saw all of the different aspects of the story. We found out little, almost separate stories along the journey. But of course, nothing is ever not deliberate…and they actually helped piece the puzzle together. The pace was constant, capturing, and almost wish you asked for a follow-up novel (What?! Who said that?! Not someone who wishes every novel was a standalone). I loved how everything fit together and I wouldn’t change a thing!

BONUS: If you donate to some charities sponsored by Harlan Coben, you can have your name included in one of his novels! How cool is that?!

SEPTEMBER 2018 MYSTERY BOOK DISCUSSION

Book Reviews

Black Widow (Doc Ford Mystery, #15) by Randy Wayne White

Black Widow

Title: Black Widow (Doc Ford Mystery, #15)
Author: Randy Wayne White
Rating: ★★★

This was my August 2018 Mystery Book Discussion group read at my local library.

Doc Ford…marine biologist, detective, and occasional assassin. While living in the beautiful Sanibel / Captiva Island region of Florida, Doc is approached by his goddaughter (and former lover…weird) after being blackmailed during their drunken bachelorette party. The girls were videotaped doing things they wouldn’t want their fiances / husbands ever finding out. What happens in Saint Arc, stays in Saint Arc…or does it?

While investigating the person behind blackmail video, Doc finds out that this is not just happening to his friend, but to many other wealthy women looking to vacation to St. Arc. Sex, drugs, and scandal run St. Arc. Will justice come to those who deserve it? Who is behind the blackmailings?

I’m not exactly sure how I feel right now. I really enjoyed the beginning of the novel with the whales. Knowing who was behind the scandal from the beginning didn’t leave much to the imagination. Also, every character seemed so immature that it was hard to relate to any of them. There was so much more potential for the reader to figure things out, but it just didn’t seem like a mystery to me. I’m slightly disappointed because the premise and potential were there.

AUGUST 2018 MYSTERY BOOK DISCUSSION

Book Reviews

Death of a Bore (Hamish Macbeth, #21) by M.C. Beaton

Death of a Bore

Title: Death of a Bore (Hamish Macbeth, #21)
Author: M.C. Beaton
Rating: ★★★

This was my July 2018 Mystery Book Discussion group read at my local library.

John Heppel is a new guy in town, a published writer and newly-inducted screenwriter for a television series. He is the Gilderoy Lockhart of Lochdubh, Scotland: makeup-ready anytime production crews could be near and never one to pass by a chance to toot his own horn. After providing writing classes to the locals (who all somehow wish to be writers), he is mysteriously found dead…a supposed suicide. 

Lockhart

Hamish MacBeth is the local constable, redhead, and typical young male afraid of losing his bachelorship (not sure if that is a word?). 

MacBeth is one of those guys who goes with his gut even though it might get him into some trouble. And that is exactly what he does… convinced one of his beloved townsfolk isn’t the murderer, he sets his eyes on those of the production cast. But everyone seems to be lying…at least a little! After being provided with a “fake” screenplay, he is convinced that someone from the television crew is behind the murder, and possibly the murder of another woman. 

When Hamish’s ex-girlfriend and reporter shows up, things are bound to get more complicated. And of course, all of the ladies in town think it is time Hamish finds a wife. However, after a near death and the resolution of the murder, MacBeth misses his opportunity to tell Elspeth (his ex-girlfriend) how he really feels and instead, is left with the comfort of his new cat and dog (which he seems to care about more than anything). 

One big thing that bothered me was Hamish is so poor, but he’s cooking lamb chops for dinner. What?! Also, the ending was unnecessary. The cat brought no relevance to the story whatsoever. 

JULY 2018 MYSTERY BOOK DISCUSSION

Book Reviews

The Victoria Vanishes: A Peculiar Crimes Unit Mystery (Bryant and May #6) by Christopher Fowler

Victoria VanishesTitle: The Victoria Vanishes: A Peculiar Crimes Unit Mystery (Bryant and May #6)
Author: Christopher Fowler
Rating: ★★★★

Arthur Bryant And John May (similar to Holmes and Watson) are senior detectives at the Peculiar Crimes Unit (PCU), on their way to retirement. We find our two detectives on a new case: four woman (similarly aged) have been killed publicly in pubs.

During this investigation, the PCU is facing closing by headquarters due to the detectives straying from the beaten paths. Jack Renfield, former nemesis, has been promoted as their senior and is a strict law-abider, forcing the detectives to try to be on their best behavior.

After a shocking twist, the murderer is apprehended. The detectives are getting older, and with that, their health is deteriorating, which has caused some issues along the way. 

But seeing as you’re here too, tell me, how long would it take a man to build a Victorian pub from scratch and then dismantle it again? Could he do it in a single night?

One night while Bryant is walking home, he notices a middle-aged woman entering the Victoria Cross pub. Later, he finds out that the same lady was murdered. However, later going back to the scene of the crime, Victoria Cross no longer exists. Is it his memory issues or is there something more?

I thought this was a great read for those who are choosing to read the novel as a standalone. Never having read a Bryant and May novel in the past, I didn’t feel like I was missing out on much. It was easy to distinguish and get a feel for who the characters really were, which is definitely something I look for in a novel.

Who is behind all of the murders and what was the motive? What is the connection between the women?

MAY 2018 MYSTERY BOOK DISCUSSION

Book Reviews

Tamarack County (Cork O’Connor #13) by William Kent Krueger

Tamarack CountyTitle: Tamarack County (Cork O’Connor #13)
Author: William Kent Krueger
Rating: ★★★★

Evelyn Carter, wife of a retired judge goes missing. Cork O’Connor, a retired sheriff, is called to help on the investigation. Due to a massive snow storm, traces are Evelyn are next to none. Is she already dead or will they able to find her before it is too late?

Conveniently, Anne, O’Connor’s daughter, comes home around the same time all of this is happening. Is there a connection? Why is she acting so strange? 

You are the light. The darkness will always try to snuff you out.

Bad things are happening in Tamarack County. A friend’s dog is beheaded and O’Connor’s own son’s life is threatened not once, but twice! Over twenty years ago, an innocent man may have been sent to prison on account of O’Connor. Is there a coincidence between these murders and the ones twenty years ago? 

Remember when we used to sleep out in the backyard in the summer, hoping we’d see the northern lights? We’d stay awake as long as we could and nothing would happen. Then we’d finally fall asleep, and sometimes we’d wake up and there they’d be. I think happiness is like that. If you spend your life looking for it, you’ll probably be disappointed. It comes on its own.

I found it really cool to learn more about the Native American culture. It was my first experience of this lifestyle and a good one at that! Being the first time I’ve read a novel that included a shaman, it was an interesting twist on a murder mystery.

What did bug me, though, was that O’Connor started seeing his son’s girlfriend’s mom. Like what?! Come on, dude, nothing good can come out of that! And then you end things with her to go back to a girl that ditched you. You’re old, you should know better than that! She only told you she loved you because she knew she was losing you to someone else. Ugh! I don’t even want to talk about it anymore.

Who is behind all of these murders? Will justice ever come to Evelyn and Dexter (the dog)? Is there a connection between these murders and the case from twenty years ago?

MAY 2018 MYSTERY BOOK DISCUSSION

Book Reviews

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective by Kate Summerscale

The Suspicions of Mr WhicherTitle: The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective
Author: Kate Summerscale
Rating: ★

When three-year-old Saville Kent is murdered, everyone is quick to point their fingers at each other. Speculation shows that the child saw two people fornicating who shouldn’t have been, or was it jealousy? What was the exact motive?

The word ‘clue’ derives from ‘clew’, meaning a ball of thread or yarn. It had come to mean ‘that which points the way’ because of the Greek myth in which Theseus uses a ball of yarn, given to him by Ariadne, to find his way out of the Minotaur’s labyrinth

The above quote is about the only useful piece of knowledge in the entire novel. I know I am being extremely harsh, but I absolutely hated this book and I think it is the only one that I have ever not completely finished. This was also the general consensus of my monthly book discussion group. 

If you like history books, then this is the book for you. It is actually considered nonfiction (not bad, but not for me for this genre), which I didn’t know initially. The novel is based on the Road Hill murder case. What bothered me was that there almost was a distinction of two stories instead of the one. While used for comparison, I didn’t feel like it added anything to the story. If anything, to me, it took away from the novel. And honestly, kind of being in a reading slump, a history book was not good for it. Some things I did find interesting, however, the summation of the novel could be cut in half without the alternating of history and the “present” (story, not this time period).

Nothing can be more slightly defined than the line of demarcation between sanity and insanity … Make the definition too narrow, it becomes meaningless; make it too wide, and the whole human race becomes involved in the dragnet. In strictness we are all mad when we give way to passion, to prejudice, to vice, to vanity; but if all the passionate, prejudiced and vain people were to be locked up as lunatics, who is to keep the key to the asylum?

What I found annoying (and this was popular in that time period) was that if a woman disagreed about anything, she was considered insane. I’m not a feminist, but why women? It was typical for guys to cheat in that time, yet we are the ones “insane” for not being tolerable of those actions. It is sad that just gossip alone could distinguish someone as “mad” or “insane” and everyone would believe it and convict someone for that. It ruined a lot of people’s lives.

Perhaps this is the purpose of detective investigations, real and fictional — to transform sensation, horror and grief into a puzzle, and then to solve the puzzle, to make it go away. ‘The detective story,’ observed Raymond Chandler in 1949, ‘is a tragedy with a happy ending.’ A storybook detective starts by confronting us with a murder and ends by absolving us of it. He clears us of guilt. He relieves us of uncertainty. He removes us from the presence of death

The one historical element that I found to be beneficial was that this case, with Mr. Whicher, set the tone for all murder mysteries to come. Honestly, this story was kind of sad. There was so much ridicule for the family. Not only them, but it destroyed Whicher’s career, when he was right all along. What is interesting is that in order to put someone on trial very little actual evidence, if not just suspicion, is needed. All of the media makes it much worse for those people. Talk about gossip!

Personally, I wouldn’t recommend this novel to anyone. It felt like torture the whole time I was reading it. The potential was there, but the execution was not for me. If you like historical nonfiction, you may enjoy this. It just wasn’t the book for me.

 

Will the murderer ever reveal him/herself? What will happen to him/her? Was the person who confessed the true murderer? Did s/he have help? What really happened to little Saville?

APRIL 2018 MYSTERY BOOK DISCUSSION

Book Reviews

All the Little Liars (Aurora Teagarden #9) by Charlaine Harris

All the Little LiarsTitle: All the Little Liars (Aurora Teagarden #9)
Author: Charlaine Harris
Rating: ★★★

So all of you may know Charlaine Harris from the popular TV show, True Blood. While the characters are horrendous and the books aren’t all that thrilling, All the Little Liars was a new approach from Harris’s typical fanfare. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m not thrilled with her writing style or plot line. It’s predictable and I found it annoying.

That’s not the only thing I found annoying. Another was our beloved protagonist. She can’t seem to keep her nose out of anything and is a little condescending towards law enforcement, which is a big “no no” for me. 

Anyways…the story begins in a small Southern town. Our protagonist, Aurora Teagarden, works my dream job as a librarian. Due to an unexpected pregnancy, her wedding is rushed. An unexpected surprise comes when her step-brother, Phillip, runs away from their shared father and comes to live with her and her new husband. One afternoon after school, three children go missing and Phillip is one of them. As we soon come to find out, a body is found at the last known destination of the teenagers.

The cruelty of children is more shocking than the cruelty of adults. Not only was I shocked, I was angry. But it felt somehow wrong, unhealthy, to be so furious with a child.

Is the recent bullying of an eleven-year-old girl the source of the childrens’ disappearances? Is Phillip responsible since she had a crush on him? Did one of the bully’s older brother kidnap them for standing up for his sister’s victim? Are they still alive?

It must be one of the worst things in the world, to see your child revealed as a selfish little sadist.

Phillip, the new guy in town, is one suspect in the case against the missing teenagers. Did he kidnap the eleven-year-old who has a crush on him after embarrassing him? Aurora decides to take on the investigation by herself. I felt like the author was trying to fit too many of today’s issues in one book. It just felt pushed and I didn’t really think that most issues added anything to the story. Aurora seems unrealistic in her approach and would be in extreme trouble with the law in real life. I just didn’t find the story believable.

Could Phillip’s dad’s gambling be the cause of his disappearance? Did the new guy, Phillip, hold his peers hostage? Did bullying go too far? Will the teenagers be found alive?

MARCH 2018 MYSTERY BOOK DISCUSSION