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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Kearsley, Susanna. The Shadowy Horses.

NY: Bantam, 1997.

I read a great deal, in nearly every genre and flavor of fiction, and I strongly disagree with the elitists who insist that certain entire categories of books simply aren’t worth their time. That’s pure snobbery, and it’s generally based on prejudice, not experience. Because a book is either well-written or it isn’t, and while there are plenty of books that I haven’t bothered to finish, and certain authors whose repeated lame attempts I have learned (usually) to avoid, the occasional losers are spread across the whole of literature. There are almost always books in any niche that are worth your time. And this one, a romance novel with a strong psychic flavor, is one of them.

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Gruen, Sara. At the Water’s Edge.

NY: Random House, 2015.

Gruen is best known for Water for Elephants, but this novel, her fifth, is rather different. It’s January 1945 and Maddie Hyde is a wild child in New York society. She’s been married to Ellis for a couple of years now, but she’s really more of a mascot for him and his best buddy, Hank, than she is a wife. Also, her in-laws hate her, her own father ignores her, and she feels guilty for her scandal-ridden mother’s suicide a decade before.

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Rankin, Ian. Even Dogs in the Wild.

NY: Little, Brown, 2015.

John Rebus, homicide specialist with the Edinburgh police, has retired twice already but he just can’t stop being a cop. This time, he’s called in to act as a consultant by DI Siobhan Clarke, once his protégé, now an accomplished detective in her own right. The thing is, he was for decades the nemesis of Gerald Morris Cafferty, local crime lord, and the two men, while never friends, have reached a sort of rapprochement in retirement.

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Published in: on 30 July 2016 at 3:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Cleeves, Ann. Thin Air.

NY: St. Martin, 2014.

It’s been a year now since Fran Hunter died, and while Inspector Jimmy Perez will never, ever forget her, he has at least returned to the world of the living and resumed his duties running the Shetland Islands’ small police force. This time, the story involves a party of six young professionals from London, three couples, who are visiting Unst, the northernmost island of the Shetlands — the most northerly community in the UK, in fact, a place where the sun never sets in midsummer.

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Cleeves, Ann. Blue Lightning.

NY: St. Martin, 2010.

This is the fourth in the author’s series of police procedural murder mysteries set in the Shetland Islands off the coast of Scotland, between the Atlantic and the North Sea, and I think it’s the best yet. Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez, head of the small Shetlands police force, hails from Fair Isle, the most distant of the islands — in fact, the most remote inhabited spot in the entire United Kingdom.

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Published in: on 11 June 2016 at 3:38 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Cleeves, Ann. Red Bones.

NY: St. Martin, 2009.

I’ve become a real fan of this author’s police procedural murder mysteries set in the Shetland Islands, out in the North Atlantic between Scotland and Norway. Even with the Internet, and with shopping and vacation trips to the mainland paid for by oil money, it’s still a very isolated place to live. In many ways, this means everyone knows everyone else’s business, especially at the local neighborhood level, where nearly all the families are each other’s cousins. But it also means family secrets are kept even tighter than they would be in London or Edinburgh.

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Rankin, Ian. The Beat Goes On: The Complete Rebus Stories.

NY: Little Brown, 2015.

Rankin has published (so far) twenty-two novels featuring Detective Inspector John Rebus of Edinburgh, and they’ve mostly been quite good. But the author has also produced some thirty short stories about Rebus, most of them published originally in magazines and newspapers, often in the Christmas issue.

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Cleeves, Ann. White Nights.

NY: St. Martin, 2008.

This is the second in the “Shetland” detective series and it’s just as good as Raven Black, the first book, which is something of a relief. (One always anticipates Second Novel Syndrome.) It’s a few months after those events and DI Jimmy Perez, senior cop in the islands, has found himself in a slowly but steadily growing relationship with Fran Hunter, a semi-recent incomer from London and an artist of talent whose very young daughter was peripherally involved in the earlier murder.

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Cleeves, Ann. Raven Black.

NY: St. Martin, 2006.

I happened to see the first episode of BBC Scotland’s “Shetland” on TV recently and was taken with the setting — the Shetland Islands, in the subarctic Atlantic northeast of Scotland. The story and the characters got my attention, in addition to the Islands themselves, so I picked up this first volume in the series of books on which the drama was based.

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