Remain Silent
by Susie Steiner

This is the third book in the Manon Bradshaw trilogy.  I’m saddened by this fact because I’ve grown to love the characters that have been brought to life on the pages of these books. 

Manon is trying to juggle her family life with her husband and two kids while working part-time on cold cases.  While on a walk with her two year old son, Teddy, she comes across a young migrant found hanging from a tree.  She quickly heads home to report it, knowing somehow that she’ll be the one to investigate the case.  What she doesn’t know is that she’ll soon be dealing with the issues of illegal immigrants, racism, and xenophobia. As SIO on this case now, Manon has even less time to deal with issues at home until her husband, Mark becomes seriously ill.  

At times dark and disturbing, this novel reflects what is happening in so many countries today, showing to what ends people will go to in order to try for a better life.  

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this book is that while Steiner was writing it, unbeknownst to her, a tumor was growing in her brain.  How interesting that part of this story-line reflects what was happening to Steiner, personally.

A highly recommended series: 5 Bloody Daggers for each: Missing, Presumed; Persons Unknown; Remain Silent.

Joanne gives this book 5 stars out of 5!
         Joanne gives this book 5 daggers out of 5!

Blue Lightning
by Ann Cleeves

Blue Lightning falls midway in the series of Shetland mysteries featuring Jimmy Perez.  It really shows Cleeves at her best in both storytelling and creating atmosphere.  Fair Isle becomes as strong a character as do Jimmy and the people who inhabit the island.  Jimmy accompanied by his new fiancé Fran, returns to his home with much trepidation, knowing that strangers are not readily accepted.  With the weather turning cold and stormy the feeling of isolation for many of the residents reaches a fever pitch.  And then a body is discovered.  A woman has been murdered.

Cut off from the mainland, Jimmy is forced to use what resources he can to conduct an investigation.  As he begins interviewing the people who were part of the victim’s circle of friends, family, and acquaintances, he realizes that everyone is hiding something.  Whether it’s pertinent to the murder or not – they all have secrets.

But no one, least of all Jimmy, could ever know that the tragic circumstances of this case would determine the direction of Perez’s future for some years to come.

Joanne gives this book 4 daggers out of 5!

The Lost Ones
by Sheena Kamal

It is debatable if one can find a more emotionally and physically scarred character than Nora Watts, the protagonist in Kamal’s first book in this new series.  A five a.m. phone call from a man whose name means nothing to her, sets Nora off on a journey that she’d hoped she’d never have to go on.  A girl is missing – one whom Nora is intimately familiar with yet has neither spoken to nor seen – Nora’s fifteen year old daughter whom she gave up for adoption upon her birth.

With only her mutt, Whisper, as a companion, Nora begins her search, relying on her uncanny ability to detect a lie from the truth, and instincts honed by the years that she lived on the streets.  She trusts no one – for placing her trust in others has so often backfired in the past.  

Kamal’s atmospheric description of Nora’s journey from the rain-soaked streets of Vancouver to the snowy Canadian interior and ultimately to a beautiful island had me shivering from the damp and cold. And Nora, too, is shivering as she faces the demon who has monopolized her nightmares for so many years. 

An auspicious beginning to a new series!

  Joanne gives this book 4 daggers out of 5!

Snow
by John Banville

It is 1957 in County Wexford, Ireland.  The Catholic Church rules every facet of the country.  Detective Inspector St. John Strafford is called to the aristocratic home of the Osborne family where a parish priest has been found dead.  Strafford meets obstruction to his investigation at every turn as the “powers that be” attempt to sweep this murder under the carpet.

The manner of the priest’s death immediately had me determine the “why” of the murder, and the “who” followed shortly thereafter.  I expected much more than the story that has played out so many times before in both real life and in fiction than what Banville hands us here.

The graphic and deeply disturbing description of certain events was, to me, completely unnecessary to the plot development.  There were enough hints as to what had taken place without the need for such vivid descriptions.

I found Strafford a rather ambivalent character and as a result just did not find him believable.  He was as disappointing as a DI as was the novel as a mystery.  I expected more from this Booker Prize winning author.

Joanne gives this book 2 daggers out of 5!

The Unlocking Season
By Gail Bowen

Family has always been at the heart of Bowen’s series featuring Joanne Kilbourn (now Kilbourn-Shreve).  Now at the age of 60 Joanne is going back to her adolescence when she and Sally Love were the best of friends.  Sisters and Strangers, a new six-part TV series, is being produced by her good friend Roy Brodnitz who has asked her to work on the script.  It captures the tumultuous time between two men – Joanne’s biological father and the man she called father throughout her youth and the relationships that were made and broken during those years.

Before production even begins, Roy Brodnitz disappears and is later found in a state of severe hysteria and fear.  Nothing prepares Joanne and the production crew for his horrible death and Joanne is determined to find out the circumstances leading up to it.  Supported by family and close friends, Joanne is forced to make some serious decisions about what she should reveal in order to preserve Roy’s legacy.  Which skeletons should remain in the closet?

Joanne gives this book 3 daggers out of 5!

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

The Wrong Hands and Other Stories
By Peter Robinson

There’s no doubt that much has changed during the last nine months and the way we do things, from grocery shopping to visiting the library, can be stressful and not the most enjoyable experience that we’ve been used to having (assuming that one finds grocery shopping an enjoyable experience).  In talking to friends and family, and from reading blogs and forums, I’ve come across many who have experienced a profound restlessness that has interfered with one of their greatest pleasures – that of reading.  They’re ok to read the gas bill or catch the headlines in the newspaper, but when it comes to sitting down to read a “book” – well they just cannot concentrate for more than a few pages at a time.  And I was one of these people, during the first few months of Covid-19.   Not being able to read is akin to not being able to breathe for me.  So I took to reading short stories – and they filled the need as I waited for my long-term concentration to return.  Now I feel like I’ve come out of my cocoon, ready to read almost any book that’s put into my hands.

Robinson’s collection of thirty-one short stories (4 of which are Inspector Banks’ stories) and two novellas (both being Inspector Banks’ stories) might just be the ticket for you if you’re still struggling with problems of concentration.  Here you’ll find psychological suspense, police procedurals, family tension, love (lost and found) and an ongoing examination of human nature.  Robinson’s characters are colorful, fully-fleshed, and bring these well-told stories to life.  There’s something here for every reader and every level of concentration.

Joanne gives this book 4 daggers out of 5!

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

Joanne is revisiting one of her favourite holiday reads with a revised review of one of Agatha Christie’s best.

hpcHercule Poirot’s Christmas
By Agatha Christie

Also published as A Holiday for Murder and Murder for Christmas. 

Simeon Lee, a cantankerous old and shrivelled man has sent word to his children scattered hither and yon, that he wants them all home for Christmas at Gorston Hall.  None of them are under any illusion that the reunion is going to be a “let bygones be bygones” gathering or a celebration of “happy families”.  No sooner have they set foot inside the stately home than Lee baits them with his announcement that he has made preparations after Christmas to change his will.   The die is cast and it’s later that evening, Christmas Eve, that Simeon Lee is found murdered in his locked room.

When Colonel Johnson, Chief Constable of Middleshire, is notified of the murder, he’s entertaining his good friend, Hercule Poirot.  Poirot gladly agrees to accompany Johnson to Gorston Hall when Johnson admits that Superintendent Sugden who has answered the first call, though a “good man”, is not “an imaginative chap”.

Upon viewing the crime scene and talking to the household, Poirot decides that the way to the truth is through the victim himself.  He must understand the psychology of Simeon Lee – “the character of the dead man”.

And in saying that, Poirot conducts a detailed and comprehensive psychological examination of Simeon Lee, leading to a solution that is just short of brilliant.

No wonder Agatha Christie is considered the Queen of Crime!

5 Daggers
Joanne gives this book 5 daggers out of 5!

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

The Lonely Hour
By Christopher Fowler

When a baffling set of murders takes place across London, the Peculiar Crimes Unit works the late shift to try and find the culprit.  For the murders take place during the lonely hour – 4 a.m.  Headed up by the always pragmatic John May and the oh-so-eccentric Arthur Bryant, the unit struggles to find the common denominator between the murders in the hopes that they can put a stop to the bloodshed.

The often-times irreverent Bryant is at the top of his game again now that he’s recovered from what was ailing him and quickly recruits his usual odd personages and misfits to help him.  May, on the other hand seems distant and pre-occupied with something other than the case at hand, causing friction between him and Bryant.

Like all of the books in this series, Fowler’s latest is character-driven with setting following a close second.  And oh, what fun these characters are.  In fact, in the Acknowledgements page at the end of this book, Fowler says that this was the most fun he’s had with a Bryant & May novel.  And it shows.  Be prepared to laugh out loud and chuckle under your breath.  Reading this book was an absolute delight from the first page to the very last.

Joanne gives this book 5 daggers out of 5!
         Joanne gives this book 5 daggers out of 5!

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

The Flood
By Kristina Ohlsson

This is the sixth book in Ohlsson’s series featuring detectives Fredrika Bergman and Alex Recht.  Not having read the previous novels, I knew nothing about the back story of these characters so I was often left wondering what had prompted certain behaviours or actions.  The detectives are faced with a series of very gruesome murders , questioning how someone could devise such horrible ways of killing.  I questioned this, too, but in reference to how Ohlsson came up with the ideas to begin with.  It made me reflect on a conversation I had with Michael Redhill, (writing as Inger Ash Wolfe) author of the Hazel Micallef series, at Starfest one year.  I asked him this very question about where he comes up with such bizarre ways of killing his characters.  He said that the answer is as close as the internet!  

Recht and Bergman eventually realize that there is a common denominator to the murders and that they are looking for a serial killer.  Their investigation is hampered by doubt and sabotage by other members of their division as they scramble to find the next clue that will help them stop the carnage.

The most puzzling thing about this book is its title and its description: The Flood: The water is rising.  And the bodies are too.  There is no flood in the story and water plays no part in it whatsoever.  If the title is a metaphor for something, then I’m baffled as to what it could be.

Joanne gives this book 3 daggers out of 5!

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

Obsidian
By Thomas King

Thumps Dreadfulwater is at a cross-roads in his life: he cannot move forward until he reconciles himself with his past.  And this means solving the case known as the Obsidian Murders.  He’s just returned to Chinook from a month in Eureka, CA, where the murders took place, hoping to find the answers to this crime that left ten people, including his partner and her daughter, brutally murdered.  

When he gets home he finds that someone has been leaving reminders of the murders everywhere he frequents, as if taunting him to solve the case.  Has the murderer followed him to Chinook and is his life now in danger?  As Thumps goes over everything he knows and remembers about the case, he realizes that the answers have to be in the past, in fact, right at the very start of the whole case.

Again we are entertained by King’s wit and wordplay, with his quirky and colorful  characters and his subtle commentary on social issues.  You can’t help laughing out  loud as you follow Thumps’ investigation, often hampered by one or more of Chinook’s residents, however good their intentions are at the beginning.  But Thumps perseveres and everyone is better off because he does.

Joanne gives this book 5 daggers out of 5!