So here we are a few months after the events of <b><a href="https://wp.me/p3z9AH-3nh" rel="noopener" target="_blank">The TV Detective</a></b>, and while Dan Groves, TV reporter, and DCI Adam Breen aren't working together any more, their friendship has grown and both of the careers are improving from their collaboration. So when there's a serial rapist on the loose -- one who made a point of leaving a calling card at the crime scenes to get public attention -- both of their bosses are interested in them renewing their partnership (even if no one ever gets to hear about his calling card).
Around the same time, there's a famous artist dying of cancer who is using his impending death as a launching pad for a contest of sorts -- it raises money for charity, and raises his public profile a bit, too (not that it needed much). Dan has been tapped by his producer and the artist's wife to help with the final part of the contest, and to do his final interview -- most to be aired upon his death. This is so far from the rape case that it seems odd to spend time on it -- until the artist dies under mysterious circumstances. A murder inquiry into a celebrity's death obviously gets the police's and public's attention -- although it's really seen as more of a distraction from protecting women who are prospective targets of the rapist by Adam and his team. For the most part at this point, Adam and Dan tackle the murder investigation and his team handle the rapes, and Dan pretty much only covers the case as a reporter (with an inside track, of course), but not as an investigator.
Arrests are made pretty early on in both cases -- it's in the aftermath of the murder investigation and the contest that the latter part of the novel focuses on. The puzzle's solution is clever, but the reader can see it coming (we do have a little more information than all the characters), but that only adds to the sense of drama leading up to the Reveal. I thoroughly enjoyed watching Dan through this story -- both his official work as a reporter or with the police and his unofficial personal obsession with the puzzle.
As for the rape story? I don't mean to sound cold, but there was something very cookie-cutter about the motivation and perpetrator. Horrible, yes; disturbing, yes, but nothing that hasn't been on <strong>Law & Order: SVU</strong> an estimated 3,709 times -- I'm not saying badly written or boring, just something I've seen before. But when Adam gets him in the interview room and he starts laying out his defense? That was utterly chilling. As I write this, I imagine the accused's approach is not completely novel in Crime Fiction, but man . . . the way that Hall depicts this guy? Chilling.
Dan's frequent work on the contest is reminiscent of his search for the Ted Hughes Memorial in <b>The TV Detective</b>, but is obviously tied more closely to the plot of this novel. I don't recall another series doing something like this in book after book -- I hope Hall continues it.
There's something that happened to Dan in the past that was alluded to in the previous book and is talked around a good deal here. We're not going to get more details on that in Book 3 (I bet), but I expect to see it wreak havoc on Dan's life and various relationships soon. Similarly, there's something that happens in this book to Adam -- that will possibly do worse pretty soon. Both of these guys are ticking psychological bombs.
I have one gripe: the formatting. There are occasional -- maybe even rare -- white space breaks between sections of the story, but by and large they are conspicuously absent. Which is problematic when the perspective changes from character to character -- what's worse is when the perspective change introduces an entirely new character and you don't know how this new name connects with anything. It honestly only caused a real problem for me once, but was frequently annoying.
I should stress when your complaint about a book has to do with Kindle layout (who knows what the paperback looks like), there's a lot that's working pretty well.
<B>The Death Pictures</B> is a solidly entertaining mystery novel that recaptures a lot of the high points of its predecessor, but isn't just a repeat of it. This series has legs, that's obvious, and I look forward to returning to it to see what happens next.
This book is the second one by David Lagencrantz, continuing Stieg Larsson's series. At its start, Lisbeth Salander is serving a two-month sentence in a high-security women's prison, for certain actions that she took to protect a vulnerable character in Lagencrantz's first installment, The Girl in the Spider's Web. Lisbeth's protective instincts are in high gear because of Faria Kazi, a young Bangladeshi woman being terrorized by a brutal inmate who calls herself Benito (yest, after Mussolini). Salander doesn't particularly mind being in prison, but she minds very much that Benito's reign of terror is going unchecked. She takes matters into her own hands in her own Lisbeth way, of course.
Meanwhile, there is another mystery to relates to Salander's childhood. Of course, it involves an intricate conspiracy, and Mikhael Blomkvist, famous journalist and Salander ally, is pulled into an investigation. Naturally, there is a ruthless villain who is willing to go to extreme measures to keep the conspiracy covered up.
I'd say this is a solid installment in the series, though I can't shake the feeling that I'm reading officially sanctioned "Lisbeth Salander" fanfic. I will keep reading the books as they come out, so I find out what happens next--and I hope that Lisbeth herself will play a more central role in the next book.
This appeared at my main blog page as part of a Blog Tour Stop -- that included a sure-win Giveaway, check it out!
I'll be upfront with you -- at the core here, there's one decent person in this book (at least among the core eight characters), and we don't spend that much time them. The best you can say about some of the others is that one is an almost-competent professional, a couple of others are a short course of self-improvement away from being decent people -- and the rest are just horrible people. I'm not talking serial killers, stalkers, or dog abusers -- not vile, evil people; just the kind of people we all would like to pretend don't really exist. The book blurb describes some of them as "A human rights’ lawyer, an IT geek, a businessman, a waitress, a phone guy and a physiotherapist." You could also describe them (I've shuffled the order to protect the identities of the guilty) as "A creep, a gold-digger, a busy-body, a drunken philanderer, an unscrupulous businessman who ignores international law, and a more successful gold-digger."
These six people find themselves on a vacation together, all carrying their own histories and circumstances and concerns -- on the whole, enjoying themselves -- until some sort of calamity occurs bringing them into contact with France's least-capable police officer, desperate to make his mark on law enforcement. Meanwhile, that one decent person is off living their life, unaware that they're on the verge of being plunged into all the drama ensuing off the coast of France and in the mountains near Switzerland.
As I'm reading this, I get the impression I'm being awfully judgemental when it comes to these characters -- and maybe I am. But that's only in retrospect (and occasionally while reading, but that was a passing thing). While reading it, they were just "Charlie," "Ana," "Scott," "Mia," etc. Sure, you'd cringe while Scott makes another poor choice, or something, but you're not sitting there looking down your nose at them the whole novel.
Beyond the experience of enjoying a story well told there are different things that will attract a reader to a novel. For me, usually, it's character; frequently it's voice or style. But sometimes -- like, <b>Dead in the Water</b> it'll be something else -- the way the novel is put together. This story is told in a very careful, complex way -- weaving multiple Point of View characters (frequently narrating the same events) and time-jumps together to tell this story. I'd accuse Bower of cheating once (and I'd be right, too) having a character show up i the middle of a sequence without any warning/indication that the character was even on the right continent. Still, it made utter sense that X would be with Y in the middle of Y's plan, so it still worked -- and the suddenness of Y's appearance in the middle of the action was a well-timed and well-executed surprise, that guaranteed the success of story telling.
This doesn't mean that there's not a strong voice (or several, in this case), or that the characters were wanting -- they weren't. We have 8 well-drawn characters here, but man, you can tell this was a well-planned and (I'm guessing here) carefully finessed and re-written book to get these dominoes set up just "so." There is a good deal of setting up -- you spend the first 27% or so of the novel waiting for the crime part of this Crime Fiction to get going. Until that point, this could be a General Fiction kind of read. But then the dominoes start to fall, and initially you think that you've got a nice little puzzle before you (made more difficult by <i>every</i>one lying about something), but then a few more fall and you realize that the novel you're about halfway through is not at all what you thought it was.
The core of the crime part of this novel comes from a few characters trying to cut corners here and there -- and then more than corners -- to get ahead. Not because they feel life owes it to them, but the opportunities present themselves and these people are too weak/too opportunistic to let them slip by. There are no criminal masterminds at work here (or investigative geniuses on the other side, I should stress), just everyday folk -- people you likely work, live and shop with -- that decide to take the easy way.
This almost-Everyman nature of the criminals/would-be criminals in this nature leads me to my last point. I do think this novel could've been more effective -- but not much more. The entire time, it's never more than a couple of inches away from being a wonderful dark comedy. If Bower had just leaned into the humor just a little bit further, every twist and turn would've worked a little better and the novel as a whole would have been better for it. It almost succeeds as one now, it wouldn't take much. But that's not the direction Bower went, so we're left with a pretty good straight crime novel.
This is a wonderfully constructed novel full of characters that are all-too believable in circumstances it'd be easy to see yourself in (assuming you had a pretty wealthy uncle and/or college friend who invited you along) in some fantastic locations throughout the world. This is a fun read that will keep you thinking through all the different things that could be happening next. Give this one a shot folks, I think you'll be entertained.
If you've come here hoping for your next read of the summer then I'm afraid I have to disappoint you (unless this sounds up your street for some reason). The Royal Rabbits of London by Santa Montefiore & Simon Sebag Montefiore caught my eye because of the fantastic cover illustration of rabbits in various outfits. This is the story of Shylo, an extremely small bunny that is ridiculed and bullied by his peers (and siblings). He gets roped into a bit of intrigue and derring-do which takes him away from all that he has ever known and into the very heart of the Royal Rabbits of London. Much shenanigans ensue especially when they are confronted by Ratzis. I feel like this book was given very little thought or care (except for the illustrations which were really great and liberally padded the story) so it shocked me to learn that this is the first in a series. (Spoiler alert: I won't be reading the others.) It wasn't particularly well-written but would probably appeal to 2nd or 3rd graders who really like rabbits. For me, it was disappointing to say the least. 1/10 only because of those excellent drawings.
The back. [Source: Amazon.com]
I mean this is really great stuff. [Source: katehindley.com]
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