Griffiths, Elly. The Janus Stone.

NY: Houghton Mifflin, 2011.

This is the second in the series featuring English archaeologist Ruth Galloway of northern Norfolk, and it’s even better than the first-rate first volume. Ruth is turning forty and she’s overweight, but she had a one-night stand with homicide DCI Harry Nelson — it was a combination of stress and special circumstances during the last case — and that’s complicating her life. Being a bone specialist, she’s been doing some forensics work for the police and this time, three months since the previous case, that brings her to investigate the skeleton of an infant found under the doorstep of an old house being torn down to make way for a block of luxury flats.

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Lehane, Dennis. The Drop.

NY: HarperCollins, 2014.

This rather short novel was based on the film of the same name, which itself was based on the short story “Animal Rescue,” which Lehane had written a few years before. It sort of epitomizes his recurring theme of working-class life and problems in the fading industrial Northeast. Bob Saginowski runs the bar in the place owned by his cousin, Marvin, who used to be a big-time fence but who now knuckles under to the Chechen mafia, which uses the bar as a conduit for their other criminal revenues.

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Published in: on 18 December 2017 at 5:32 am  Leave a Comment  
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Griffiths, Elly. The Crossing Places.

NY: Houghton Mifflin, 2010.

This is the first entry in a lengthening series featuring English archaeologist Ruth Galloway of northern Norfolk and it’s a first-rate piece of work. Ruth is not unattractive, but she’s pushing forty and weighs in at 180 pounds. She concentrates mostly on her career, both teaching at the local university and excavating in the nearby coastal marshes, which she has come to love, and where she lives in a small wind-and-rain-swept cottage.

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Tey, Josephine. The Daughter of Time.

NY: Simon & Schuster, 1951.

I first read this marvelous sort-of historical novel in high school around 1960, and it cemented my determination to become an historian of some kind. I’ve reread it several times in the years since and it never fails to absorb me. “Josephine Tey” was one of the pen names used by Elizabeth MacKintosh, a mystery writer greatly appreciated by her professional peers but who is largely forgotten today — except for this book, which was always her most popular.

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Perry, Thomas. Strip.

NY: Houghton Mifflin, 2010.

Manco Kapak is a middle-aged, relatively low-ranking gangster in Los Angeles and he takes it poorly when he’s robbed while personally making a late-night deposit of the receipts from one of his dance clubs. If people in his gray world begin thinking he’s an easy mark, it will damage his reputation badly. Especially since he’s also laundering drug money for the Colombians, and they can smell weakness.

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Connelly, Michael. The Late Show.

NY: Little, Brown, 2017.

Okay, so LAPD Detective Harry Bosch has been in retirement for the last several volumes of this long-running series (though it doesn’t seem to be slowing him down much), and Harry’s half-brother, Mickey Haller (the “Lincoln lawyer”), never really bloomed as a character the way the author presumably hoped he would. So Connelly decided to come up with a new cop, one young enough to last awhile but senior enough to have interesting cases. Enter Renée Ballard of Hollywood Division (the same place Harry started), now in her mid-30s and a pretty good detective.

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Crombie, Deborah. Garden of Lamentations.

NY: William Morrow, 2017.

This is the seventeenth entry (over nearly a quarter-century) in what has been a pretty good semi-cozy though literate police procedural series set mostly in London — especially considering the author is a native Texan living near Dallas. The protagonists are Duncan Kincaid, a Detective Superintendent with the Met, and Gemma James, who was originally his sergeant, became his girlfriend, and then his wife, and is now a Detective Inspector herself.

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Harris, Robert. An Officer and a Spy.

NY: Knopf, 2013.

Harris is very good at thoughtful, carefully researched historical novels, whether they’re set in ancient Rome or in the 20th century. This time, he undertakes to tell the story of Alfred Dreyfus, Alsatian Jew and captain in the French army in the 1890s, who was accused and convicted of treason — spying for the Germans — and who was packed off to Devil’s Island (reopened especially for him) as an object lesson to everyone else.

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Rankin, Ian. Rather Be the Devil.

NY: Little, Brown, 2016.

John Rebus, master homicide investigator of the Lothian and Borders police, has been semi-retired for awhile now, but he just can’t let go. Being a detective is not only what he does, it’s what he is. But now all his options have expired and he spends his time walking his dog, having dinner with his sort-of girlfriend (the medical examiner), and wondering what the villains are up to. And worrying about coughing up blood and the shadow the doctor found on his lung, the result of a lifetime of smoking and drinking.

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Hammett, Dashiell. The Thin Man.

NY: Knopf, 1934.

Hammett, one of the fathers of the modern detective story, only wrote five novels, of which this was his last, about the wealthy and sophisticated Nick and Nora Charles. It’s difficult to read about Hammett’s other famous detective, Sam Spade, without imagining Bogie, who made the character his own but who also played the hardboiled Spade pretty much the way the author wrote him. When Nick and Nora came to the silver screen, though, William Powell and Myrna Loy mostly just played themselves, and they mostly played the Charleses for laughs. And that’s not at all fair to the book, which certainly wasn’t written as light comedy.

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