25 February 2006

Bibliophile reviews If ever I return, pretty Peggy-O



Author: Sharyn McCrumb
Year published: 1990
Setting & time: Tennessee, 1980's
Genre: Mystery
Type of investigator: police
Where got: BookCrossing

The Story: When folksinger Peggy Muryan moves to the small Tennessee town of Hamelin, she expects to have complete peace and quiet while she writes new songs that will hopefully relaunch her career (this time as a country singer). Then she receives a postcard with a message that could only be threatening to someone who knows the next line in the folk song it quotes. Sheriff Spencer Arrowood thinks it’s a prank until someone butchers Peggy’s dog, leaving hints that suggest the killer could be a Vietnam veteran. From there on the suspense builds until Peggy finally stands face to face with her stalker.

Review: I first discovered McCrumb when I came across her satirical novel Zombies of the Gene Pool. I then went on to read the previous book of that duology, Bimbos of the Death Sun and one of her comic Elizabeth MacPherson stories, Missing Susan. I enjoyed all three books for the deft characterisations and the humour, but as mysteries they are nothing special. In fact, Missing Susan isn’t even a mystery, just a very, very funny book about a sympathetic would-be murderer trying repeatedly to off his annoying would-be victim.

This book is so different from the three I had already read, that had I read it without knowing who the author was, I never would have guessed.

The characters are, as is McCrumb’s wont, well drawn and real, and so are the descriptions of their surroundings. Although it is obvious that she is preparing the soil for a sequel by doing some of the necessary introductions of characters and environment, it is done in such a way as not to bog down the story, but rather serves to create atmosphere. The backdrop of the story is the Appalachian mountains and the small town, complete with town eccentric and other colourful characters. You quickly realise that the killer definitely has more than a few screws loose, and McCrumb gives you four possible suspects to choose from, at least three of whom are equally plausible. I figured him out simply because I didn’t want the others to be guilty, but was still kept in considerable doubt throughout the story.
The ending has a twist in the tail that took me completely by surprise.

Rating: A classy, thrilling mystery. Looking forward to reading more in the series. 4 stars.

23 February 2006

Mystery writer # 8: Georgette Heyer

I have been a fan of Heyer’s historical novels ever since I discovered her some years ago. When I found out that she also wrote mysteries, I decided I had to read those as well. As this is a change of both genre and era, I think I’m justified in including her in the challenge. I read two of her mysteries back to back and have started reading a third. I will review the books separately, because they are so different that they could have been written by two different authors.


Titles: Death in the Stocks (alternative title: Merely Murder) and Footsteps in the Dark
No. in series: 1, non-series
Published: 1935 & 1932
Settings & time: London (mostly), 1930's; country manor and small village, 1930's.
Type of mystery: Murder; pseudo-supernatural + murder
Type of investigators: police and amateur sleuths


Death in the Stocks begins when a village constable on his way home from making his night time rounds finds the corpse of a well-dressed man in the stocks that are on display in the village square. The man has been murdered. Scotland Yard are called in on the case, and Heyer’s series detective, Superintendent Hannasyde, makes his first appearance. Suspicion soon falls on the dead man’s half-siblings, especially his brother who is heir to his considerable fortune. What follows is a black comedy, almost a satire, that pokes fun at the mystery genre, as well as the characters themselves.

The mystery itself is - I can’t call it weak because it does keep you in some doubt to the end, but I did suspect one person right from the moment they appeared, and I turned out to be right. I guess unexceptional is the word I want. There is nothing that makes it a great mystery. Mostly, this is a black comedy, very much character driven. The Verenders, the dead man’s siblings, are prime examples of the completely self-absorbed characters Heyer writes so well in her historical novels. They are selfish, rude and childish, don’t give a hoot about any social conventions, and present a considerable puzzle to Hannasyde. The only normal member of the family is their cousin, the family attorney, who is instrumental in solving the case. The book is mostly dialogue, something Heyer does very well, and you are rarely in any doubt as to who is speaking, since she carefully gives each character their own speech patterns and way of expressing themselves. Here is a flippant conversation that is typical for the dialogue in the book. Kenneth and Antonia are the selfish siblings, Giles their normal cousin, and Rudolph Mesurier is Antonia’s boyfriend.


Footsteps in the Dark, Heyer’s first published detective novel, is a country house mystery. Three siblings inherit a rambling old country house, once a priory. Accompanied by one sister’s husband and an old aunt, they go there to spend their summer holidays. Before long, the unmarried sister has made the acquaintance of a young man whom she rather fancies, but whom her brother and brother-in-law think is more than a little mysterious. Stories are told in the nearby village of a monk that supposedly haunts the place, and mysterious noises are heard at night. The men are reluctant to believe in the ghost, and come to the conclusion that someone wants them out of the house. But why?

Unlike Death in the Stocks, the characters in this story are perfectly normal, respectable people, and although there is considerable dialogue, it does not dominate the story. The story itself is plot driven, and could just as well be called a thriller as a mystery. The possibility that the ghost could be real is never strictly denied, and much of the action takes place after dark, which is why it reminded me of Mary Roberts Rinehart’s The Circular Staircase. It has the same kind of spooky, claustrophobic atmosphere, and like in Rinehart’s story, we know that if the ghost isn’t real, then he is a flesh and blood person trying to hide something.
My main complaint about the plot is mostly that there are so few people to suspect that it was quite easy to decide who the villains were, and had I bothered to sit down and ponder the plot about half-way through, I am sure I could have worked out their motives as well. From this it may be seen that Heyer plays perfectly by the “equal opportunity” rule of mystery writing, laying every fact known to the focus characters before the reader. The joy is mostly in the unfolding of the plot, the how rather than the why of it.
I must mention one scene that perfectly shows Heyer’s genius for comedy: the old aunt, convinced that the ghost is real, brings out a planchette (a board on casters used for unconscious writing and messages from the dead), and conducts a séance in the living room, with very funny results.
Here is a short excerpt from early in the story when the villains are still trying to use scare tactics to drive the protagonists off.


Being a romance writer, Heyer obviously couldn’t resist writing romance into both stories, which is strictly speaking a breach of one of the rules of detective story writing as set out by S.S. van Dine (I may write a bit about this later on), but much less heinous than the one committed by Arthur Upfield in the Bony books I reviewed earlier (keeping clues from the reader). While I agree with van Dine that a mystery is a mystery and a romance is a romance, I have seen authors break this “rule” with impunity and still produce good mysteries. R. Austin Freeman does it very well, often with one partner in the place of key witness, potential victim, or accused, and the other as secondary investigator.

The book I’m reading now is the second in the Hannasyde series, Behold, Here’s Poison, and while it is also a country house mystery, it promises to be more in the style of Agatha Christie.

Rating: Two very different but equally enjoyable mysteries. 3 stars.

Here's a link to my reviews of several of Heyer's historical novels. I apologise for the weird symbols scattered throughout the text - apparently Geocities doesn't like apostrophes.

22 February 2006

Bibliophile reviews Prince Joe

I like reading thrillers and I like reading romances, so when I had Suzanne Brockmann’s books, which combine both genres, heartily recommended to me some time ago, I decided they sounded like something I might like reading. Add to this that the books in this series (Tall, dark and dangerous) have raked in awards and consistently get good reviews on the All About Romance website where I have discovered some of my favourite romance authors, I took the chance and requested this one, the first in the series, through TitleTrader.



Summary:
If you don’t like SPOILERS, skip this part.
Navy SEAL Joe Catalanotto has a strong resemblance to Prince Tedric, a visiting dignitary trying to get American aid to develop the oil industry in his country. The resemblance is strong enough that when an attempt is made on the prince’s life, Joe is called in to double for him. The prince’s PR woman, Veronica St. John, gets the job of teaching Joe to play the prince to perfection. It is a case of instant dislike and Joe gets immense pleasure out of annoying the prim and highly strung Veronica. But in the end they reach an understanding and it turns out Joe really didn’t need much help to play the prince. As the press tour continues, Joe and Ronnie become more and more attracted to each other, which is a problem because she can not imagine being with a man whose life is always on the line, and he is worried that the high class lady may just be slumming. It takes a near-death experience before Ronnie will admit to herself that she loves Joe too much to let his profession get in the way of their happiness.


Review:
I have to say that after the anticipation that had been built up by my online reading buddies and the All About Romance reviews of Brockmann’s books, this book was a let down. Perhaps it is the subject – an American Navy SEAL, a hero of the first Gulf War, being hero worshipped by the author – and I simply picked the wrong time to read it, what with the situation in Iraq and all the barbarism shown by the U.S. military there. I will say that although Joe and co. are heroic and brave, Brockmann is careful not to be either supportive or critical of US military policies, and the prince is from an imaginary country while the terrorist’s nationality is never mentioned, so there is no-one to offend.
Her SEALS are fantasy heroes who don’t seem to have any bad habits or faults, which is not surprising considering this is romance and they each get a book of their own. But the story? Between the build-up and the climax, the story is a series of slightly altering scenes of Joe and Veronica hardly being able to keep their eyes (and hands) off each other in public, and her being more and more afraid with Joe’s every public appearance, interspersed with monotonous sex scenes that I soon started skimming over. Even the build up, the “instant dislike” angle, is not played out to its fullest comic potential, except for one funny scene where Joe fools not only Veronica, but even people close to Tedric into thinking he is the prince. The best passages are the action sequences that describe the SEALs in action, and even then Brockmann lets Joe have a stupid moment when he stops to kiss Veronica in the middle of a gunfight.

I think I will try to get my hands on the second and third books in the series, as the setting for those is much less of a fantasy one, and they have interesting storylines.

Rating: I am inclined to think if Brockmann ever decides to write pure thrillers, she could do it very well, but unfortunately I can not give this romance-thriller hybrid more than 2 stars.

17 February 2006

Mystery author #7: Arthur Upfield

Titles: The Battling Prophet & Bony and the Mouse (American title: Journey to the Hangman).
No. in series:19 & 24
Published: 1956 & 1959
Setting & time: Australia, 1950's (but has a timeless feel)
Availability: Both seem to be out of print, but are readily available second hand
Type of mystery: Murder
Type of investigator: Police detective

This time I read two books by the chosen author. Both books come from the same series, about Detective-Inspector Napoleon “Bony” Bonaparte, an Australian half-aborigine, half-white police detective who uses his instincts as much as he does his police training and his clever mind to solve crimes, usually “cold” murders that other policemen have failed to solve. In fact, he specialises in cold cases. Bony, as he is known, is popular and there have been at least two television series, one based on the books, the other on the name and occupation.

Upfield writes with dry humour and is capable of letting the reader see the funny side of quite serious situations like murder. His character descriptions are rounded and realistic and human nature plays a big part in both books. The two books are totally different in set-up, but Bony’s work methods are similar in both: he quietly and unobtrusively becomes acquainted with the people around him, forms ideas and follows his instincts.

In The Battling Prophet, Bony is on holiday and goes to investigate the death of a man famous for his infallible weather predictions, at the behest of the man’s best friend. The friend claims that the man was murdered, while everyone else believes he died of alcohol poisoning. As the body has been cremated, there seems to be no way of proving it was murder, but the friend convinces Bony, who sets out to look for the murderer. There are plenty of suspects. Heirs, relatives, foreign agents and Australian secret service men are on the prowl, trying to locate the dead man’s notebook where he wrote down his weather prediction formulas. Any of them could have done the deed, and it all comes together in an interesting dance, sometimes funny, sometimes macabre. The solution is so obvious when Bony finally reveals it that you think “of course! Why didn’t I think of that?”. But you don’t, because Upfield breaks one of the cardinal rules of detective fiction – he keeps information that is known to the detective from the reader.

Upfield does the same thing in the other book, Bony and the Mouse. In that one, Bony goes undercover as a drifter to try to solve a series of murders in a small town. In that one, it is well-nigh impossible to guess who the killer is, although the motive can easily be guessed. The “siege” at the end of the book is a brilliant piece of psychological warfare, orchestrated by Bony, who is as much a psychologist as he is a policeman.

I suppose Upfield keeps these clues secret because Bony works intuitively, but it is still a bit annoying and suggests that he can't quite explain how Bony arrives at his conclusions.

Rating: Each book gets 3 stars and so does the author. Would have been 3+ and 4 but for the author giving the detective an unfair advantage over the reader. Am on the lookout for more, especially the beginning books in the series.

15 February 2006

Bibliophile recommends Perfume: the story of a murderer by Patrick Süskind

I recently re-read this brilliant story for the umpteenth time, and I have to say that I still love it however often I read it.

Synopsis:
In pre-revolutionary 18th century France, Grenouille, pathetic and decidedly unpleasant, is born with a handicap: his body has no smell of it’s own; and a genius: he has a perfect sense of smell. These two remarkable characteristics combine to make him an outcast from human society. Consequently, he grows up a sociopath with no respect for human life. His genius opens him up to exploitation by those who recognise the possibilities of such a brilliant sense of smell, and he becomes a perfumer’s “assistant”, making the perfumes while his master takes the credit for them. Finally, when he has learned all he can about the perfumer’s art and experimented with the different methods of extracting smell from all kinds of things, living and dead, he sets out to produce the most perfect and delectable smell of all: the scent that produces love, and which he will kill to obtain.

Review:
This is a great novel, definitely one of the 10 best historical novels I have read, and I have read many. The writing is brilliant, and Süskind draws up an image of France that seems realistic to the point where you can imagine the smells, the dirt and the brutality of life in that era. And even though Grenouille is thoroughly unpleasant and totally without conscience, you still can’t help rooting for him because of the way other people treat him. That is, right up to the point when the murders begin…

The story revels in descriptions of the world of smells, ranging from the delightful scent of freshly opened roses to the grossness of a plague graveyard, and it is one of the rare books that I have read where it really is quite alright for the author to turn away from the story and go into in-depth descriptions. In this case, although those passages do not move the story onwards, they do make Grenouille and the time in which he lived come all the more alive.

My only complaint about the story is that Grenouille’s execution (and I use that word for good reason) of his final project, which he has spent most of the story preparing for, is described in haste that is surprising considering how slowly and lovingly his other activities are described, and the ending, while grotesquely in synch with Grenouille’s life up to then, is too abrupt to be satisfying.

Rating: Brilliantly told story about a genius whose talent leads him to crime. Slightly flawed, but good none the less. 5 stars.

Here is an excerpt from the opening passages of the book.

14 February 2006

Travel literature, part 2, Updated 24 January 2014


Honourable mentions:

I reviewed several of these book on the original 52 Books blog. Unfortunately tBlog seems to have disabled the static links, so I can not link directly to the reviews. I’m working on a solution to this problem.

Polly Evans: It's Not About the Tapas.
Around Spain on a bicycle. Previously reviewed.

Christopher Sale Wren: The cat who covered the world: the adventures of Henrietta and her foreign correspondent.
The biography of Henrietta, who lived with her owners in such diverse places as Russia, Egypt and South-Africa. An unusual and beautifully told story which qualifies as “travel” because of all the different countries they lived in.

Rita Golden Gelman: Tales of a female nomad: living at large in the world.
A story about two journeys: of self-discovery and of seeing the world. After her divorce, middle-aged children’s book author Gelman set off to travel the world and stay in different places to get to know the people and cultures intimately.

Talia Zapatos: A Journey of one’s own.
Part travel story collection, mostly travel guide and therefore not eligible for the main list.

Bill Bryson: Down Under.
Bryson in Australia. I didn’t much care for the other Bryson books I’ve read, but I liked this one.

Chris England: Balham to Bollywood.
Memoir of filming the epic, Oscar-winning movie Lagaan, where the author played one of the bad guys. Would not have enjoyed it half as much had I not seen the movie, and would have enjoyed it more if I knew anything about cricket.

Bad Trips (alternative title: Worst Journeys).
A collection of essays by professional writers about their worst travel experiences. Most have some humour in them, but a couple of them are really harrowing.

Traveller’s Tales from Heaven and Hell and More Traveller’s Tales from Heaven and Hell.
Two collections of short travel stories by various travellers from all over the world who participated in a competition on this subject.

William Dalrymple: The Road to Xanadu.
Tracing the route supposedly taken by Marco Polo on his epic journey to China.


I am currently reading Bill Holm´s Eccentric Islands, which I will probably not finish, finding Holm a bit too preachy; and Laurens van der Post’s First catch your eland, which is about my two favourite non-fiction subjects: food and travel.


TBR
*Rosemary Mahoney: The Early Arrival of Dreams: A Year in China.
*Theresa Maggio: The Stone Boudoir: In Search of the Hidden Villages of Sicily.
*Peter Matthiassen: African Silences. I am treating this one for cigarette smoke poisoning and will read it when I no longer need to put on a gas mask to open it.
*Mark Twain’s travel books (and those of a couple of modern followers in his footsteps).
*Robert Lois Stevenson’s classic Travels with a donkey in the Cévennes
*Isabella Bird’s books.

*Marco Polo’s "Travels".

 Originally in the TBR, now read:
*Rosie Thomas: Border crossing: on the road from Peking to Paris. Not a favourite, but had some interesting points.
*Eric Newby: A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush.One of my favourites.
*Thomas Stevens: Around the World on a Penny-farthing. Another interesting book that eventually did not make it onto either the favourites or honourable mentions list.
*Mark Twain: The Innocents Abroad, Roughing It, A Tramp Abroad. Liked them all, honourable mentions list.
*Isabella Bird: The Englishwoman in America. Liked parts of it but found other parts too dry.
*Alexandra David-Neel’s My Journey to Lhasa. Loved it. Favourites list.
*Mary Morris: Nothing to Declare
*Freya Stark: The Southern Gates of Arabia. Honourable mentions list.


The “Most Wanted” list:
*Anne Mustoe: Lone Traveller: One Woman, Two Wheels and the World

*Books by Freya Stark, Dervla Murphy, Jan Morris, Polly Evans

13 February 2006

Bibliophile reviews Kathy Reichs' Death du Jour



No. in series: 2
Year of publication: 1999
Availability: In print
Pages: 379 (hardcover)
Settings and time: Montreal, Canada, Carolina, USA, winter of 1998.
Type of mystery: Murder, thriller
Type of investigator: Forensic anthropologist/amateur detective, police
Some themes: Murder, religion, cults

OK, I know said in a comment that I was going to wait a month, but I couldn’t resist this when I spotted it at the library.

It’s the middle of winter and Tempe Brennan is called in to help identify the burnt remains of people found on the site of an arson. Soon, more bodies begin stacking up. Tempe returns to her hometown in Carolina where she is teaching physical anthropology at a university. While visiting an island nature “reserve” with her daughter she finds more bodies. Clues suggest that the deaths in both Canada and the USA may be connected to the same cult, and Tempe’s sister may be in danger.

Review:
I had been told that the Tempe Brennan books get better as the series continues, but if this book is anything to go by, I am not sure I agree. Reichs has - annoyingly - joined the “had I but known” school of mystery writers. The writing style has improved somewhat from the first book, although she is still prone to redundancies, like telling the reader what day it is today when she has already told them a few paragraphs ago what day it was yesterday, and inserting comments or quips that have absolutely nothing to do with the story or character interaction. She also sometimes inserts dramatic statements into the story, like this example:

What he told be next sent an icy wind rocketing through my soul (p. 272).

While I appreciate the effort to avoid the cliché "my blood ran cold", this is over the top.
Tempe is not as recklessly stupid as before, which is an improvement, but the story, although thrilling, is highly unlikely and so fraught with coincidence that it soon stops being even remotely realistic. The side story would have been more interesting if I had not been able to guess right away what the twist would be.

Rating: The writing style has improved while the story is not on par with the previous one. 3 stars.

10 February 2006

Travel literature, part 1

I love to read about travel, foreign cultures and geography, and always have. My favourite non-fiction books when I was growing up were accounts of travel to such far away places as South America, India and China.

Here are some of my favourite travel books that are available in English. I’m leaving out the expatriate memoirs, i.e. Peter Mayle and co., and may post on those later. The honourable mentions and TBR will come later.

Antony Bourdain: A cook’s tour. Irreverent and funny warts’n’all account of Bourdain’s journey of discovery around the world in search of good food and extreme eating, with camera crew in tow.

Karen Connelly: Touch the Dragon: a Thai journal. Connelly spent a year in Thailand as an exchange student and the book is about her experiences of seeing Thai culture from the inside.

Edith Durham: High Albania. Durham travelled for her health, and made a special study of the Balkans at the beginning of the 20th century. Part travel memoir, part anthropology, this book clarified to me some of the ancient feuds underlying the hatred the ethnic groups of the Balkans have for each other. Read it online: High Albania

Gerald Durrell: All of his travel books. My favourites are probably The Bafut Beagles, The Whispering Land and The Drunken Forest. (My favourite Durrell book ever is My Family and other Animals, which, as it is about living abroad rather than travelling, falls under the heading of expatriate memoir).

Bill Holm: Coming home crazy: an alphabet of China essays. Holm spent a year teaching English in China. This essay collection describes various aspects of his life in China. The jumping back and forth can be a bit confusing if the book is read as a story and not as an essay collection.

Frank Kusy: Kevin and I in India. I picked this book up second hand in Nepal and found it fascinating. It is in the form of diary entries by the author, about his and his travel companion’s experiences in India. I always recall my own journey when I read it.

Michael Palin:
*Around the World in 80 Days. Palin and camera crew follow in the footsteps of Phineas Fogg around the world, using ground and sea transport only.
*Pole to Pole. Palin and co. travel from the North Pole to the South Pole, through Europe, Africa and S-America, mostly on land and sea.
*Full Circle. This time it’s the Pacific Rim, starting and ending in Alaska.
*Sahara. Palin travels around the Saharan countries.
*Himalaya. And the Himalaya mountains.
Although you know that much of what you see in the TV series is faked to some extent – Palin is, after all, travelling with a camera crew but “pretending” to travel alone, and the journeys are not all unbroken - the journals give glimpses of what he experienced when the cameras were off. The journals make a fascinating read, and a good supplement to the TV series.

Jane Robinson, ed.:Unsuitable for Ladies. An anthology that I highly recommend. It has excerpts from travel literature by women over the ages.

Tim Severin: Crusader. Severin, a professional adventurer, set off with two horses to retrace the route taken by the crusaders from France to Jerusalem. Rich in historical detail, and it’s interesting to read about his relationship with the horses.

Mark Shand:
*Travels on my Elephant. Shand bought himself an elephant, named her Tara, and travelled with her around India.
*Queen of the Elephants. The sequel to Travels on my Elephant. Shand sought out Parbati Barua, the queen in the title, and trained as a mahout under her tutelage and the watchful eyes of a camera crew. The resulting TV series was not only entertaining, but also helped bring to the spotlight the plight of the Asian elephant.

John Steinbeck. Travels with Charley: In search of America. Steinbeck’s classic travel story.

Colin Thubron:
*Among the Russians, driving through the European parts of the Soviet Union.
*Behind the Wall: a journey through China, travelling around China, alone and unable to speak the language.
*The Lost Heart of Asia, travelling through the “-stans” that once were part of the Soviet Union, shortly after its fall.

03 February 2006

Mystery author # 6: Kathy Reichs



Title: Déjà Dead
No. in series: 1
Year of publication: 1997
Availability: In print
Pages: 544
Setting and time: Montreal, Canada, summer of 1996 or 1997
Type of mystery: Murder, thriller
Type of investigator: Forensic anthropologist/amateur detective
Some themes: Serial murder, friendship, stalking.

Dr. Temperance Brennan, forensic anthropologist for the Laboratoire de Medecine Legale in Montreal, handles mostly cases where bodies need to be identified by means of forensic examination or the cause of death needs to be established for remains that are too decomposed or otherwise messed up for a regular autopsy. When she notices suspicious similarities between the dismembered remains of women found in various places around the city, she begins to suspect that there is a serial killer on the loose. Working on that suspicion, Tempe (as she is called) begins an amateur investigation of her own, and unearths yet another body, thus catching the attention of the killer. She has difficulties convincing the police there really is a serial killer in the city until an expert from the FBI backs her up and a full-fledged investigation is set in motion. But Tempe is not willing to sit on the sidelines and just provide forensic evidence – she wants to be in the thick of things. But the killer wants to silence her, and her best friend, frightened witless by a stalker, has disappeared.

Review: This is a mystery that could not by any stretch be called a cosy like my previous reads. It is visceral, bloody and dark. I used to enjoy reading Patricia Cornwell’s stories about Dr. Kay Scarpetta (until they started going downhill) and am a regular watcher of CSI, so this is a subject I enjoy and know something about.
The story is good, quite thrilling in parts, and the red herring is well done. Reichs writes from first hand knowledge about forensic anthropology (her profession) and about the city of Montreal (where she works), and it shows in the writing. While other reviewers have complained about the autopsies and examinations of bodies being too long and too graphic, I have no such complaints.
The style of the story is uneven, and for such an intelligent woman, the heroine is surprisingly stupid at times. I admit that her going out alone in the dark and rain to search for clues on the site of an abandoned monastery was a heart-thumping device worthy of a gothic thriller (which I guess this is, to a point), but is anyone that stupid except innocent heroines in gothic romances? And her handling of her friend didn’t make sense at all – I mean, if you had someone staying in your spare bedroom and had not seen them for days, wouldn’t you take a look to see if they were still there? And if you suspected that you were being stalked, wouldn’t you be a bit more careful? I guess Reichs is trying to show Tempe as being a very careful person when it comes to her job but a bit reckless outside it, but all she manages to show is that Tempe is liable to lapse into gross stupidity.

Apart from these inconsistencies and a further touch of firstbookitis in the writing style (repetitious wording and long descriptive passages about things that don’t matter to the story), this is a thrilling mystery. I should know – it is over 500 pages long and I had planned to read it over three days, but instead I finished it in one sitting. I have been told the books get better as the series advances, so I will definitely be reading more of them.

Rating: Needs a little bit of work on the writing style, but the story is good. Looking forward to reading the next one. 3+ stars.

Here is a link to Reich’s website and an excerpt from the book. Also excerpts from her other books and information about her.