31.8.19

DEATH IN THE DORDOGNE: Bruno, Chief of Police 1, by Martin Walker

First in the enchanting series starring Bruno Courreges, a police officer in St. Denis, a small town in the fabled French Department of the Dordogne. Policing the small-town French way, Bruno knows every soul in St. Denis and has his fingers firmly on its pulse. Officials from Brussels here to make life miserable for the vendors at the local market? Bruno's on it, keeping track of the wily officials, and stopping local hotheads from making a bad situation explosive.
When a local man of North African descent is found brutally murdered, the first impulse it to tie it to the "Gestapo" from Brussels. But Gestapo has a harsh connotation in this part of France, which was occupied by the Nazis and resisted by two still-competing factions. The second inpulse is to tie the crime to past events that involved the real Gestapo. When a young man is found tied up in a sexually compromising position in a bedroom with Nazi paraphernalia, he's immediately thought the killer. But Bruno knows the boy, he'd coached him at rugby and tennis, and thinks he's not killer material. But who is?
Bruno must delve into the past to find out. But some secrets are better off unspoken and he has his work cut out for him. Will the Chief of Polcie be able to get to the bottom of this crime?
Much of the charm of this series is that Bruno is a man of the local area, and he loves living there. Ne has a home in the hills, and a hunting dog. He is part of local clubs, and the coach for many of them with the younger generation. In addition, he has a mentor/mentee relationship with the older city mayor. Every female with a pulse flirts with him. And one in particular catches his eye...
Keeping with my rule of no spoilers, that's all I'll write. But this is a series worth spending time savoring. I'm loving every one I've read so far, and the local knowledge has made me want to move to the Dordogne.
It's a five and then some.


19.8.19

BLOOD ORANGE, by Susan Wittig Albert

This is #24 in the China Bayles/Pecan Springs cozy mystery series.

In all series (the ever-wacky Stephanie Plum instantly springs to mind) there comes a time for the author (even a highly successful one like Ms. Albert) to take a step back and look at what's happening. This is the feeling with this book. To start with, the exhaustive information about various plants was distracting. It's a thick book, and maybe could've used some pruning? And then a few over-familiar plot devices and one particularly egregious moment of mind-boggling stupidity on our plucky heroine's part really loused up what could've been a good read.
China Bayles' new tenant, Kelly Kaufman, employed as a nurse, has a couple of serious problems, one of which she wants to ask China about. But the nurse, going through a nasty separation from her husband, is killed when her car goes off the road en route to China's. Back up a bit. She is injured, but takes several days to die. While her tenant is on life-support, China's relationship with her absent husband may be the same. He's out of town but not where he told China he'd be.
China's being lied to on all fronts, as she discovers Kelly's employment was misrepresented. Then Kelly's paperwork surfaces and things get even murkier. I was on a cruise ship, with limited reading options, so I finished this. But I do hope it is not representative of Albert's writing and plotting. I thought there was too much evidence of hasty writing and not-so-hot editing. But it's #24 in the series so Albert's doing something right!

I'll give this a 3. It should've been more, but that scene in the garage was just too, too TSTL (Too Stupid To Live).

17.8.19

THE FOURTH MONKEY, by J. D. Barker

A taut psychological thriller with a forty-eight hour timeline. Also a police procedural and a murder mystery. The Four Monkey Killer has terrorized Chicago until the anonymous body of a man is identified as the actual killer. Hit by a bus as he crossed a street, the victim's identification leads police to believe he is indeed the Four Monkey Killer. Detective Sam Porter, assigned to the case, begins to follow the trail prvcided by a diary in the dead man's pocket. Then it turns out that the man was pushed.
The story switches between the present day and the creepy, horrible diary entries. At first one feels some compassion for the young writer in his bizarre situation, then as the entire story unfolds it becomes clear that motives and actions aren't as they had seemed. Porter, reading the entries while trying to figure out not only the killer's motivation but why the killer made his fatal stumble, realizes he has only hours to figure it out before another death may happen. Too late, Porter realizes that the web he has followed is as much a trap as a trail.
A 4 for me. The diary entries were a bit too pat. But the story, particularly the very tense and dramatic denouement, was worth reading.