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review 2018-01-20 22:39
Agent Bayne (PsyCop #9)
Agent Bayne (PsyCop Book 9) - Jordan Castillo Price

*happy sigh*

 

I didn't read Skin After Skin, so the last new PsyCop book I read was Spook Squad which was FOREVER ago. To say that I've been impatiently awaiting this book is not an exaggeration, and it did not disappoint.

 

This is around the time in most long-running series where the author runs out of steam (if they hadn't already) and just start phoning in their books. Not JCP though. She keeps this series fresh, keeps finding new ways to challenge her characters and push their boundaries, and keeps delivering hilarious commentary on the absurdities of life. (Vic vs smartphone is my new favorite.)

 

I loved seeing Vic in this new environment at the FPMP. He finally starts to realize just how toxic things were at the precinct when his new coworkers are not only nice to him but actually excited to work with him, and some are genuinely in awe of him. It's a lot for him to adjust to. Along with that, he has a new assignment unlike anything he did when working homicide and he has to figure out how to work with Darla.

 

Darla is a great addition to the cast, and her history with Vic has a lot of possibilities for exploring not just their shared pasts but their ever-changing understanding of what it means to be a medium. Jacob also does some growing here, though not quite to the degree as Vic. He is not okay after the events in Spook Squad and has some anxiety to deal with. It's the first chink in his armor that we've seen and it brings him more down to Earth in his view of psychic abilities. 

 

As for the mystery, the perp was pretty obvious from the get-go, and while we expect Vic to be clueless and obtuse, I was rather bemused that Jacob didn't start asking the necessary questions sooner. Thankfully, the mystery isn't the sole focus here. Vic's got his mediumship project and he's also starting to unearth some memories of his childhood and realizing that his fuzzy memories don't mean what he always expected they did. But they all tie together and it opens this whole new realm for exploration in future books.

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review 2018-01-20 21:56
Enough twists to make your head spin
TALION: a Scandinavian noir murder mystery set in Scotland (Detective Inspector Munro murder mysteries Book 6) - Pete Brassett

You don't get rid of an old stalwart that easily, so DI Munro is back in this murder mystery by Pete Brassett. No swearing, no children locked in dark rooms, no hidden agenda - its all intricate plot, devilish dialogue, and enough twists to make your head spin.

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review 2018-01-20 19:35
The Kneebone Boy by Ellen Potter
The Kneebone Boy - Ellen Potter

The three Hardscrabble children, Otto, Lucia, and Max, live in the town of Little Trunks. For most of their lives they've been the "weird" children that everyone whispers about and no one wants to be friends with. Otto, the eldest Hardscrabble kid, began wearing a scarf on a daily basis after their mother disappeared. He also hasn't spoken a word aloud since then - instead, he invented a personal sign language that only Lucia knows fluently, Max can puzzle out, and their father can't hardly understand.

Lucia, the middle child, acts confident but is actually very lonely. Otto is her best and closest friend. Max, the youngest, is the most outgoing of the Hardscrabble children, but even his best efforts aren't enough to overcome the family's reputation and earn him a non-Hardscrabble friend. He's the most observant of the children, always carefully noting everything going on around him and thinking through what it all means.

The kids' father, Casper, paints deposed royalty. When he's suddenly called out to paint another portrait, he sends the children to stay with his cousin Angela in London. Unfortunately, Angela turns out to actually be on vacation elsewhere. The children really don't want to go back to Little Trunks, so they decide to go visit their Great-Aunt Haddie, who they've never met before. And so begins their adventure.

I had been wanting to read this for ages, almost entirely because I loved the cover artwork. I'm easily drawn in by illustrated covers. I knew very little about the story but assumed that it would have at least a few fantasy elements. This assumption was supported by the Goodreads users who tagged it as "Fantasy" and Potter's own writing, which kept hinting that fantastical things would happen. At the very least, there was supposed to be a ghost.

I'll just get this out of the way right now: I don't consider this to be a fantasy novel, and my expectation that it was probably hurt my opinion of the overall story. It's really more of a mixture of mystery and adventure.

The kids' desire to avoid going back to Little Trunks resulted in them accidentally investigating the mystery of their mother's disappearance. The way Potter wrote about Otto's quirks as being defense mechanisms was very intriguing and part of what kept me reading, even though the book's pacing and efforts at foreshadowing annoyed me. I also felt for Lucia, who both protected and depended upon Otto, and was grateful for Max, whose observations and deductions kept the story from lurching to a standstill.

The pacing, as I said, really didn't work for me. I was also a bit impatient with Potter's choice of narrator. The book was written as though it was a story being told by one of the Hardscrabble kids. The narrator never revealed their name, but various clues made it clear who it was. It was never clear to me why the author did things this way, and there were a few moments when I was distracted by thoughts of how surprisingly good this child seemed to be at guessing adults' ages. I don't know about you, but when I was as young as the Hardscrabble kids, my knowledge of adult ages was limited to "as old as my parents," "probably younger than my parents," and various levels of "pretty old."

It didn't take me too long to decide that I wasn't going to love this book, but, as the pieces of the Hardscrabble children's past started to come together, I did at least want to know how things would turn out. My first impression of the ending was that it was okay, but a bit dissatisfying. As I thought about it some more, however, I began to get angry.

First, what is up with stories in which parents

lie to and essentially betray their children for years and who are then forgiven by their children after a few minutes of explanations and apologies? Casper let his kids think that their mother had abandoned them, or had maybe even been killed. Heck, what about the rumors that Otto had killed his own mother? By not telling the truth, Casper let those flourish. I wouldn't have blamed a single one of the Hardscrabble kids for crying and screaming at him, or refusing to talk to him ever again.

Second, the way Potter wrote about mental illness was crap. Casper told his children that he'd taken their mother to multiple places to try to get her some help "but she was miserable at all of them. They pumped her body full of medication." (272) So she was miserable at all these places, but supposedly not miserable while held captive in a castle-turned-mental-hospital, kept from her children, who even Casper admitted she probably still loved even if she didn't know who they were? And then there was Potter's way of writing about medication. There was no mention of side-effects or issues with finding the correct dosage. Instead, Potter made it seem like it was the very act of trying to medicate Tessa that was bad. So what did Casper do instead? He took her to a place where no apparent effort was made to treat Tessa at all.

(spoiler show)


The Kneebone Boy had some good points. I liked the Hardscrabble children, and I thought the castle Haddie was staying at was pretty cool, even though the people who built it were awful. However, it took way too long for the book's focus to become apparent, and the more I think about the ending the more awful it feels.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2018-01-20 07:19
Speedy Death
Speedy Death - Gladys Mitchell

I'm not sure what I think of this.  It dragged a bit in the middle, mostly as the plot was so odd.  So much was crammed in that by the time I got to the end, I barely remembered the beginning.  It seems like another book entirely that started with a dead man – who was really a woman –  in the guest room bathtub.

 

But Mitchell's writing is strong and very readable.  She painted a very compelling country house setting with characters that really worked well in the plot, even if they're rather 2 dimensional in that way I find all third person, golden age crime characters to be.  My biggest gripe is that there is an awful lot of unspoken truths throughout the dialog.  Two people talking about the murder, sharing information and one starts to reveal Something Important when the other gasps "You don't mean..." and the other cuts him off and exclaims "Exactly!".  And the reader is left saying "what?  what do you mean?  what the hell did I miss?!"

 

Of them all, I liked Carstairs best; I am conflicted about Mrs. Lestrange Bradley though.  I like her intelligence and her strength and I'm offended on her behalf of the way she keeps getting referred to as an ugly old lady.  Mitchell gives us her age via formula, by stating that her son is 39 and she was 18 when he was born.  With a bias that grows stronger every day, I hardly think 57 is an age that warrants 'ugly old lady' status.  But Mitchell sacrifices a great deal of Bradley's humanity for the sake of her intelligence and strength.

 

This led me to an interesting personal quandary because the character she most reminded me of is my personal ideal of literary perfection: Shelock Holmes.  He too is cold, calculating, analytical to the extreme, and designed to be unpleasing to the eye, so why do I find him to be the acme of literary perfection, but am left unsure, at best, about Lestrange Bradley?  I was set to face some hard truths about my own gender bias, but thankfully that can be saved for another day, as the answer really is much simpler: Holmes' analytical genius is grounded in facts and hard science; Lestrange Bradley's on psycho-analysis.  That is my bias; I don't condemn psychoanalysis, but neither do I trust it, and I do not find it all that interesting. 

 

So, long story short, this is a book with merit and definitely worth reading, especially for anyone who enjoys classic crime, and Mitchell's writing is worth seeking out.  I just don't know if I enjoyed it enough to pursue other books in this series.

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review 2018-01-20 02:48
MERRY MURDER by C. S. McDonald
Merry Murder: A Fiona Quinn Mystery (Vol... Merry Murder: A Fiona Quinn Mystery (Volume 2) - C.S. McDonald

Set at Christmas, Fiona's Uncle Wilbur, who plays Santa at the mall, is murdered.  Why?

 

I enjoyed this book more than the first one in the series.  I had a better sense of the characters and liked the dynamics between Fiona and Nathan.  I liked Uncle Wilbur.  The short time he was in the book, I could see him as Santa.  I also enjoyed her kindergarten class, especially Lincoln.  Don't know if I wanted him around much but he is the kid who enjoys ruining things for others.  I figured out the why but not the who until the end when it was going down.  The mystery was good and made sense.  There was humor in it.  It was fun and I look forward to more Fiona.

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