23.5.19

UNTO US A SON IS GIVEN, by Donna Leon

#28 in the Commisario Guido Brunetti mystery series
Over the years, Donna Leon has given the world a marvelus series of murders set in Venice, Italy, and its surrounding area. Brunetti, the police inspector, is a deeply-drawn character, as is his wife Paola and their two children, Rafi and Ciara. Brunetti's colleagues run the range from brilliant to seriously challenged, but all are handled by the inspector with care and respect. In each book, Leon has managed to bring Brunetti to new realizations and new insights. The reader gets to enjoy the ride, too.
Venice, of course, plays an important part in the tales, as does the Italian system of justice and - in this particular story - the Italian inheritance laws. In Italy, your relations get your estate. None of this cat shelter givewaway decisions.
When Brunetti's father-in-law, Count Falier, asks him to check out a young man the Count's oldest friend plans to adopt, Guido is uneasy. It's a family matter. He knows the man, an accomplished art dealer with a large fortune. A homosexual, the older man has found a new companion after his partner of many years left him. If the young man a fortune hunter? Does it matter? Once he's adopted, the entire estate of the elderly art dealer devolves to the young man.
It not only matters to the art dealer, it matters to his long-time friends. Including a delightful woman who shows up in Venice. Brunetti meets her, is impressed. And then...
Read the book. It's one of Leon's better books, multi-layered and thought-provoking.

17.5.19

BLACK RABBIT HALL, by Eve Chase

Set in Cornwall, at the edge of the sea, Black Rabbit Hall is the crumbling ancestral home of the Altons, a down-at-heels family whose scion. Hugo, and his American wife Nancy bring their four children for a springtime visit. Tragedy strikes, ending one life and upending all the others.
Billed as women's fiction, the story is told in part by the oldest Alton child, Amber, and is loaded with raw emotion. I'm not a crier, but this was a two-hanky read (in a good way).
The other part of the story is told from the point of view of a young couple from London who, forty years later, come to the house to plan their wedding festivities. Fallen on harder times than before, it is either rent out the rooms for events or face selling everything. Lorna is mesmerized by the old house, which she thinks she remembers from childhood caravan trips to the area. Jon, a carpenter by trade and able to clearly see the house's perilous condition, is less than thrilled.
The lady of the house, Caroline, invites Lorna to stay as well as gives the couple a deal on their celebration. Caroline knows that one happy client will encourage others to book. Lorna, despite her intended's reservations, does come to Black Rabbit Hall.
In the spirit of our No Spoiler policy here at Nuts4Books, I can tell you no more. Sadly, you will have to actually read the book to find out what happened to Hugo and Nancy Alton, the four Alton children, how Caroline arrived on the scene, and what happened the fateful night that changed all their lives forever.
It's a 4, a no-rush book of unfolding cross-purposes, desires, bereavements, and bad decisions.

12.5.19

RADIANT ANGEL, by Nelson DeMille

Book seven in series. Further adventures of John Corey, feisty former New York City detective and now part of a task force monitoring the activities of the Russian espionage agents working in New York.
Corey, whose short fuse is legendary as well as the despair of his FBI wife, tracks
When Russian colonel Vasily Petrov of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service and a dozen beautiful escorts walk down the beach and disappear from view at the height of a party Corey has infiltrated, alarms go off in the detective's head but nobody else is disturbed.  Rejecting the conservative approach of asking his superiors for direction, Corey and a reluctant counterpart with mysterious connections follow the fast-vanishing trail.
If you enjoy edge-of-the-seat, high body count tales, DeMille is the author for you, and John Corey is the character, in every sense of the word. Confrontational, confident, smart-ass Corey will keep you entertained as well as terrified.
It's a 5. The series is best read in order as there's quite a bit of carry-over.

WHO SLAYS THE WICKED, by C. S. Harris

Further adventures of Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, Regency-era not-exacty-nobleman sleuth and upsetter of applecarts. Devlin,  acknowledged heir to the Earl of Hendon, is asked to investigate the grisly murder of a sadistic nobleman who happens to be his own niece's dissolute husband. Found slashed to death in his bed, limbs tied with scarlet silk cords,  there is not a single person who mourns the end of Lord Ashworth. But St. Cyr, as always, will try to find the killer. It quickly is evident the murderer well could be a woman. Which leads St. Cyr reluctantly down a path to his beloved neice.
As always, Hero Jarvis plays an important part in the story, as do St. Cyr's physician friend Dr. Gibson. For evil pomposity, we get St. Cyr's father-in-law Charles, Lord Jarvis, and the bloated Prince Regent, Prinny. The great and good are contrasted through Hero's research with the mass of unwashed, uneducated, tragic humans upon whose backs the entire system rode.
I am totally hooked on this series.  They should be read in order if only to keep track of the twists and turns Devlin takes in his search for the truth about his own heritage. The first book will grab you, and the rest is gripping reading and a series of crimes that illuminate the glittering, glamorous, grisly, gruesome era. As always, the rich and connected had it good and the rest did not. Harris brings it to vivid life. A 5+, what else?

WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING, by Delia Owens

Most serious readers know about this book. Many, many others have reviewed it so there's little to say in that regard. It's beautifully written, with a nice easy-flowing style that will draw you in. For a debut novel, it is extraordinary. Owens has published award-winning non-fiction, but writers know that fiction is a whole other language. Which Owens has mastered on her first shot. Not many writers are that fortunate.
The main characters are finely drawn and compelling, the story likewise. Even minor characters get their hundred words of description. Nobody is a throwaway in this tale. Except, perhaps, Kya.
BUT...if you are the type of reader who compulsively sneaks to the last page of the book and reads it, you may as well not read the book at all. The pacing in this big story is complete, right down to that last paragraph. I urge you to resist that sneak-peek urge.
This is a 5 for me.