Saturday, September 9, 2017


Deborah Crombie

            Who killed Reagan Keating, a young nanny whose body was found in a garden in Notting Hill? This is the central question arising in Deborah Crombie’s seventeenth Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James novel, Garden of Lamentations. Nonetheless, it does not quite feel like Crombie’s heart is in this murder – and perhaps it is my heart that is not in it – but, that is okay.

            Because Denis Childs is back.

            And, the most interesting thing about Garden of Lamentations is Childs’ return. We finally get some answers to questions left hanging in a few of the previous books in the series. Crombie had left pieces in these prior books, and, in Garden of Lamentations, she begins pulling those pieces together for us.

            Deborah Crombie is a wonderful author – one of my all time favorites. I have been through her Kincaid/James series numerous times, and each time, I marvel at how she continues to evolve and improve as a writer. Her ability to weave complex plotlines and to develop interesting, complex characters has grown. Crombie began as a good mystery writer, but has evolved into a first-rate novelist.

            And, in my opinion, Garden of Lamentations is her best one yet!

Saturday, September 2, 2017


J.K. Rowling

            Barry Fairbrother – a 40 something member of the Pagford parish council – is dead. Casual Vacancy, J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults, is a character study of at least nine families, using reactions to Barry Fairbrother’s death as its genesis.

            J.K. Rowling is a master at character development. I always admired the development of her characters in Harry Potter, and I have fallen in love with Cormoran Strike, the hero of the mystery series that she writes as Robert Galbraith. As I was experiencing Cormoran Strike withdraw, after finishing the last book published in that series, I decided to try Casual Vacancy, even though my recollection was that it had received a tepid reception when it was published.

            Although Rowling’s trademark character development runs through Casual Vacancy, it differs from her other novels in that there is no mystery or adventure directing the plot. Perhaps because of this, at first I found Casual Vacancy to be slow – so slow, in fact, that it seemed exaggerated. But, it was not long before these characters hooked me and dragged me into their world.

            Casual Vacancy is so dark – at first I wondered if Rowling exaggerated the darkness, intending it as a metaphor. But, I think instead that she has captured the true, dark side of humanity. In this book, we are confronted with Rowling’s insight into the side of people at which most of us do not want to look.

Casual Vacancy is a very interesting book involving small town living with big time issues. I came to admire these people. I loved the growth some characters showed and was saddened by the tragic events that unfolded. This is not an escapist book – but, it is a well written, fascinating character study.


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

DEADFALL by Linda Fairstein

Linda Fairstein

            A little more than ten months ago, I reviewed the then latest Linda Fairstein novel, Killer Look (see review dated August 31, 2016). Although I love Fairstein’s Alexandra Cooper series, I was ambivalent about Killer Look. But, Fairstein pulled the rug out from under her readers in a stunning move at the end of that book. Despite any misgivings I might have had about the book, I could not wait to read more of Alex’s story. Thankfully, I did not have to wait too long, and it was well worth any amount of waiting.

            Deadfall, the next installment in the series, will be released on July 25, 2017. The book essentially picks up where Killer Look ended, right after the Fairstein bombshell that rocked our world. Alex is a witness on this occasion; but, is she also a suspect? Or, a target? Or, is she the deadfall? What is going on? Whatever it is, the investigation is moving too slowly for Alex, so, with the help of Mike and Mercer, she is determined to get to the truth. Her inquiries take us into the world of endangered species, big game hunters (what really happened to Justice Scalia at that Texas ranch resort?), and the illegal trade of animal parts. Along the way, we learn about the history of the zoos in New York, although the investigation has national and international aspects as well.

            I absolutely loved Deadfall, from start to finish. It is an unrelenting fast-paced, gripping adventure. The plot is complex and convoluted. I do not feel like I was able to follow the reasoning that Alex used to reach the conclusion, but I attribute that to reading too quickly. I plan to go back and reread the book and hope to be able to fill in these gaps.

            It has been awhile since a book took hold of me at the get-go and did not let go until the end (actually, this one didn’t even let go at the end). Deadfall is one of Fairstein’s best.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

THE ONE-EYED JUDGE by Michael Ponsor

Michael Ponsor

            The One-Eyed Judge is the second novel written by Michael Ponsor, a U.S. District Court judge for the District of Massachusetts, about Judge David Norcross, also a Massachusetts federal judge. As I loved Ponsor’s first novel, The Hanging Judge (see review dated October 28, 2014), I jumped at the opportunity to read The One-Eyed Judge. And once again, Ponsor does not disappoint.

            Child pornography. That is the gruesome crime with which Professor Stanley Cranmer is charged. Ironic, as Cranmer is an English professor at Amherst College, specializing in Lewis Carroll. After the case is assigned to Judge Norcross, his life is thrown into turmoil – and not just because his girlfriend is a colleague and friend of Cranmer’s.

            While reading The One-Eyed Judge, I was reminded of what I wrote while reviewing The Hanging Judge: as a lawyer and former federal judicial law clerk, Ponsor’s fiction is just the sort of book that I usually avoid. But, Ponsor masterfully incorporates his many years of experience on the federal bench, and The One-Eyed Judge is a realistic and gripping legal thriller.

            I thoroughly enjoyed The One-Eyed Judge, and I cannot wait to read the next Judge Norcross novel.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

GOLDEN PREY by John Sandford

John Sandford

Lucas Davenport, U.S. Marshal.

            Interesting development in John Sandford’s Prey series. And, as Golden Prey is Marshal Davenport’s first “adventure” as a member of the U.S. Marshal Service, it, too, is very interesting.

            Garvin Poole is a really bad guy. But, when he steals money from the Honduran drug cartel – killing 5 people, including a 6 year old girl, in the process – he crosses some guys who are, perhaps, even “badder”. And, they want their money back. Marshal Davenport just wants Poole.

            We accompany Lucas as he tracks Poole across the south. Although some of his previous cases involved some inter-state elements, they were nothing like the jurisdictional freedom Lucas has as a federal marshal. And in Golden Prey, Lucas ends up in my home state, the great State of Texas, making it even more fun for me to tag along. But, can he find Poole before the very nasty cartel assassins?

            I am a long time Sandford fan. A few years ago, I became disenchanted, as he seemed to have forgotten, or confused, the backstory of a character. I continued to follow his Davenport and Flowers series, however, and was very pleasantly surprised to find that the last few books released in both series reflect the John Sandford of old – Sandford is back and on top of his game. Golden Prey, however, seems to fall somewhere in the middle. The book feels a little rushed and chaotic. Although it might not demonstrate Davenport’s meticulous logic, as he progresses step by step through the plot, it still includes typical Sandford humor.

            Overall, Golden Prey is an enjoyable experience. I look forward to future adventures with Lucas Davenport, U.S. Marshal.