I am reading lots, but am finding it hard to get into reviewing whilst I’m preoccupied with rebuilding Shiny (which is going well). Thus, I’ve turned once more to my trusty spreadsheet to bring you a selection of my capsule reviews from my pre-blog days. This time, five crime/psycho thrillers that I read in 2006 from the late 1980s and 1990s…
Death Du Jour by Kathy Reichs
The comparisons of Kathy Reichs’ first novel Deja Dead with Patricia Cornwell’s Scarpetta series were inevitable. With her second outing for Temperance Brennan, the forensic anthropologist, Reichs has managed to pull away from Cornwell a little and delivers a gripping plot involving new-age cults. I like Tempe – she has more interesting friends and colleagues than Scarpetta, and the sections set in Montreal give a different feel to the novel. Perhaps inevitably(?) a member of Tempe’s family gets involved to raise the stakes, but I thoroughly enjoyed Death du Jour and can’t wait for more.
Toxic Shock by Sara Paretsky
Vic delves back into her childhood in Chicago’s South Side when family friend Caroline Djiak asks her to find her father, as Louisa, Caroline’s mother is dying and staying stumm on the subject. Little does Vic know that her enquiries will start a landslide of connected events happening and they’re out for her blood. V.I. Warshawski is such a tough cookie, that it’s comforting to see brief moments of vulnerability come through the assertive front she always puts on. Skeletons in cupboards really rattle in this one – good stuff.
Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon
I always get the feeling that life in Italy’s cities is full of bureaucracy and petty battles between all involved in government. You either embrace it or try to ignore it – Leon’s detective Inspector Brunetti does the latter and it is his ambivalence and refusal to join in office politics rather than kicking against the system that makes him a more refreshing kind of maverick detective! Having read this after visiting Venice, I found it more interesting as I could picture the locations, which along with Brunetti added to this better than average crime novel.
The Memory Game by Nicci French
The Memory Game combines several genres seamlessly – the psychological thriller and British crime novel and also the family drama. The tale’s main character Jane, marries into the large Martello family, after having been brought up as virtually one of them, seen as a surrogate daughter by the Martello clan’s king and queen, Alan and Martha, after the tragic disappearance of their only daughter, and Jane’s best friend, Natalie. At the start of the novel 25 years later, Jane is having a mid-life crisis, and although in the midst of divorcing Claud, still joins in the Martello extended family grand rituals. Later as the foundations of a new cottage are dug on the Martello land, bones are found which turn out to be Natalie’s. Jane feels she has to find out whodunnit, but can’t cope and turns to therapy to help her through it. This is where the real psychological element kicks in as Alex, her therapist, is an expert in recovered memory. I won’t give the plot away, but the genuine twist in the tail really comes as a surprise. Very accomplished. This was the first joint novel by husband and wife team Nicci Gerrard and Sean French.
Blood Work by Michael Connelly
Michael Connelly goes from strength to strength, and in Blood Work, he really racks up the suspense and gets your emotions going. Retired FBI agent and recent transplant patient Terry McCaleb is on the search for the killer of his heart donor and is not getting any help from the LAPD, until he makes a link to a previous murder that they’d missed. McCaleb’s specialty was ‘Table work’ rather than ‘Field work’ – ie: working all the documents to crack a case. It is a tribute to Connelly’s skill as a writer that he manages to make the still-healing McCaleb’s sifting of the evidence just as exciting as any chase scene. As a long-term Connelly fan, I’d love to see more of McCaleb.
I thoroughly enjoyed all of these authors, and have read more by most of them – although I realise now I haven’t read any by them for some years. Who is your favourite from this bunch?