by Theodore Feit
Instead of a movie review this week, how about some mystery reading suggestions? These are perfect books to read while sitting by a warm fire with a great cup of coffee or hot chocolate! All of these were released in October and November of 2012. We have The House at Sea’s End by Elly Griffiths, The Confession by Charles Todd, Dick Francis’s Bloodline by Felix Francis, and Phantom by Jo Nesbo. Purchase these from Amazon as you do your Christmas shopping and a portion goes to help support KRL!
The House at Sea’s End by Elly Griffiths
As the book opens Kate, the baby born to Ruth Galloway, the forensics expert, as a result of a one-night stand with Detective Inspector Harry Nelson in the prior entry in the series, is now four months old and the mother is still juggling her maternal and professional duties, sometimes to much criticism from friends. But the baby seems to survive.
In any event, her motherly demands don’t seem to prevent Ruth from getting involved with more forensics investigations and police investigations. Especially when six skeletons are discovered on a beach and her examination indicates that they are probably from Germany, perhaps dating back to an invasion during the early days of World War II on a lonely Norfolk beach. Indications are that each was shot in the back of the head. The question arises: Did the various persons in the Home Guard play any role in their deaths?
As in the previous two novels featuring Ruth and D.I. Nelson, they combine to discover the facts surrounding the mystery of past and present. The prose is lean and the plot moves apace with agility. The characters remain immensely human and intriguing, and the novel lives up to the standards of the predecessor novels.
The Confession by Charles Todd
This latest in the long-running Inspector Ian Rutledge series finds him in his office shortly after the end of World War I listening to a man calling himself Wyatt Russell confess to murdering his cousin years before.. The man tells Rutledge he has stomach cancer and just a very short time to live but wanted to “clear his conscience.” Little did he know that he would be shot in the head and left in the Thames in just a matter of days. Now the Inspector has more than one murder to solve, and embarks on a quest that takes him to a little fishing village north of London in Essex where he encounters many more mysteries.
Rutledge learns that the man was not who he claimed to be, and that was but the first thing he had to unravel. Then to discover the meaning of the only clue he had: a gold woman’s locket with the picture of a young girl, found around the man’s neck. Without the sanction of an official inquiry, the Inspector proceeds to develop the facts, despite the uncooperative and even hostile reception he receives in the village where additional murders and deaths occur. A novel written by the mother-and-son team writing under the nom de plume Charles Todd, Confession is up to the high level of its predecessors: the plot is tightly woven, the characters well-drawn and the reader is drawn forward anxiously waiting to find out what comes next. Highly recommended.
Dick Francis’s Bloodline by Felix Francis
The second standalone written by Dick Francis’ son follows the same formula that served the father so well: A mystery set in the English racing world, populated by the trainers, jockeys and track officials. In this case, the plot involves the Shillingford family, especially race-caller Mark and his twin sister, jockey Clare. When Clare rode a
horse that came in second when it should have won, he believed Clare lost on purpose and over dinner they had a heated argument.
Later that night, Clare fell 15 stories from a London hotel to her death, an apparent suicide. Bereft, Mark starts asking questions, seeking a reason for her death. What was the meaning of a short written message which the police believed to be a suicide note, but really is ambiguous? What, if anything, does the discovery of several blackmail victims in the racing world have to do with her death?
The author shows the same talent as Dick Francis for creating suspense, pitting danger and personal jeopardy for his protagonist on the way of solving the mystery. And the reader will be hard put to tell the difference in the writing between father and son. It is virtually indistinguishable.
Phantom by Jo Nesbo
Translated by Don Bartlett
In the three years since the conclusion of The Leopard, Harry Hole has been serving contentedly as a non-violent enforcer based in Hong Kong, collecting money owed to his employer. Then one day, he ups and returns to Oslo when he learns that Oleg, the drug-using son of the love of his life, has been arrested for the murder of a fellow junkie.
And along the way he finds himself immersed in the midst of Norway’s large drug problem. Hole uncovers a trail of violence and disappearances, police and political corruption, and Harry himself becomes a target of the mysterious drug lord Dubai. The novel is a bleak story of damaged individuals hooked on drugs, and the sleaziness inherent in the activity.
The prior novels were forceful, clearly showing Harry’s tortured soul, and his unswerving ability to dig, dig, dig to the heart of a case, honestly and insightfully. Phantom accomplishes these ends, but to some extent is confusing at the end; whether the author did this purposely or not yet remains to be seen. As usual, the novel is translated faithfully and excellently, and the book is recommended.