Review: Who Watcheth by Helene Tursten

Review: Who Watcheth by Helene TurstenWho Watcheth by Helene Tursten, Marlaine Delargey
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, ebook
Genres: mystery, suspense, thriller
Series: Inspector Huss #9
Pages: 304
Published by Soho Crime on December 6th 2016
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He watches the women from the shadows. He has an understanding with them; as long as they follow his rules, they are safe. But when they sin, he sentences them to death. A woman is found dead in a cemetery, strangled and covered in plastic. Just a few days before her death, the victim had received a flower, an unintelligible note, and a photograph of herself. Detective Inspector Irene Huss and her colleagues on the Goteborg police force have neither clue nor motive to track in the case, and when similar murders follow, their search for the killer becomes increasingly desperate. Meanwhile, strange things have been going on at home for Irene: first the rose bush in her garden is mangled, then she receives a threatening package with no return address . . .

My Review:

The title of this suspense thriller is a play on a very old Latin quotation: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?, literally translated as “Who will guard the guards themselves?” That meaning is only part of the story in Who Watcheth. In this case it also carries the connotation of watching from the shadows. In other words, stalking.

And while the stalker from the shadows forms the bulk of this case, in the end, the question of “who guards the guards?” is the one that is left hanging in the reader’s mind, quivering with possibility. And tragedy.

The story here is one that has been told before, in multiple suspense thrillers. There’s a serial killer on the loose. At first the police, in the person of Detective Inspector Irene Huss, don’t know that the murders of women in their 40s are connected. But as the bodies begin to stack up, the investigators hunt both backwards and forwards, to see if they can determine where the crime spree began, and try to zero in on the man the newspapers are calling “the Package Killer” for the way he leaves his victims neatly bundled up.

The conundrum for the investigators is that the killings appear random. The victims are roughly the same age, and are all unmarried, but otherwise they don’t seem to have much in common. It’s begins to seem as if they all work or at least shop at the same mall, but then, so do thousands of other people. It’s not much of a link.

And it doesn’t help them even when they zero in on a possible suspect. Daniel Borjesson is seriously creepy, but creepiness alone is not a crime. Unfortunately. He gives everyone who deals with him a serious case of the heebie-jeebies, and with good reason. But as much as the man touches off every single investigator’s gut instincts, no one can find a real connection between Borjesson and any of the victims, nor can they find any evidence that the man has access to either the car necessary for transporting his victims or the secure and out-of-the-way premises required to prepare his “packages” so meticulously.

Cop shop politics and the bureaucratic obsession with finances force the detectives to let him go. Their mistake is going to be extremely costly in the end. But for whom?

Escape Rating B+: This is a chilling thriller. It is also a very compelling read. I kept going long after the lights were out, which is a mistake. While this isn’t gory, the atmosphere of creeping menace makes for a tough read when the only light in the house is your iPad. But I absolutely had to finish.

This is the 9th book in the Inspector Huss series and is also part of the current wave of Scandinavian crime fiction. My exposure to that particular wave consists of seeing a few Wallander episodes, and this was my first introduction to Huss, but I still enjoyed the book a great deal, and didn’t feel like I was missing anything by not having read the rest of the series.

On that other hand, the atmosphere of the cop shop and Huss’ relationship with her family reminded me surprisingly of the J.D. Robb In Death series. The investigator’s personal life does find echoes and resonances in her cases, and there are bits about the cop shop and the group dynamics that felt similar across time, place and culture.

In the end, whodunnit is not a surprise to the reader. Much of the compulsion in the narrative revolves around putting the pieces together, and whether the detectives will manage to do so in time. Before the killer strikes again.

And the ending is a stunner.

Review: Autumn in Oxford by Alex Rosenberg + Giveaway

Review: Autumn in Oxford by Alex Rosenberg + GiveawayAutumn in Oxford: A Novel by Alex Rosenberg
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical fiction, suspense, thriller
Pages: 426
Published by Lake Union Publishing on August 30th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleBook Depository
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After being blacklisted for having communist sympathies as a student twenty years before, Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Tom Wrought escapes America’s Cold War climate to teach at Oxford. There, he falls in love with Liz Spencer, a beautiful married woman. When Liz’s husband is pushed in front of a train in the London Underground, Tom is immediately arrested for the murder. Scotland Yard is convinced it has its man, as he had means, motive, and opportunity.
Certain of his innocence, Liz hires a young solicitor, Alice Silverstone, to defend Tom. But they discover that Tom’s former secret work as an American spy made him a number of powerful enemies. Russian intelligence, British counterespionage, and even the FBI all may have reason to frame him. If Liz and Alice can find out who is behind the murder, they stand a chance of freeing Tom, but doing so puts all their lives at risk.

My Review:

Autumn in Oxford is a conspiracy theorist’s dream of a novel, set during the period of one of the craziest conspiracies of all – the Red Scare of the late 1950s. It’s even presided over, in a rather perverse way, by the queen conspiracy theorist of all, J. Edgar Hoover.

And once the story gets going, it doesn’t let the reader go.

At first, this seems like a simple thriller. A man is pushed into an oncoming train by a mysterious assailant and is instantly killed. But of course it isn’t nearly that simple.

Tom Wrought witnesses Trevor Spencer being shoved off that train platform and knows that he is in deep, deep trouble. Tom was on his way to a rendezvous with Spencer’s wife. He knows that he has the obvious motive for killing the man, and that witnesses will eventually place him at the scene, especially since the real killer bears at least a passing resemblance to himself.

So Wrought pretty much does everything an innocent man shouldn’t do. He runs out of the station, chasing the real killer. He leaves the scene of the crime in a way that draws attention to himself. He stops to phone his lover to tell her that she should go home to meet the cops, who will inevitably come to give her the “bad” news.

He knows that he didn’t do it. So who did? And why?

And that’s where the fascinating part of this book begins. Not with the recitation of the beginning of Tom’s affair with Liz Spencer, but with what happens next. And with what happened in Tom’s life long before this little mess. All the events and chances that dropped Tom into the soup at this point in time, and why they have all come to a head now and not earlier. Or later.

And all the things that people in high places will do to get Tom both locked up and discredited. The collateral damage of a little murder isn’t even the worst act they commit. But watching Tom, Liz and their attorney unravel the conspiracy, piece by ugly piece, is one hell of a story.

Escape Rating A-: In the end, I absolutely loved this book. But it needs an editor. The affair between Tom and Liz is the least interesting part of the entire story. It’s only purpose is to provide the means and method for what follows. And frankly, the reader knows enough about their affair when Tom witnesses the murder that we don’t need the complete rehash. It’s what happens after the murder, and the story that Tom tells of his life before Oxford, that give this story its punch.

And what a punch it is. The Red Scare of the 1950s in the U.S. makes for very bizarre reading from the 21st century. Except where it resonates all too clearly.

Tom flirted with the Communist Party while he was in college. A lot of people did in the 1930s. Tom was also extremely anti-segregation long before integration became remotely accepted. And an awful lot of very important people in the 1930s believed that any challenge to the American status quo, including calls for integration, were automatically part of a Communist plot.

All of this makes Tom an obvious target for the powers-that-be. He’s had the fortune, or misfortune, to be in the right place at the right time to be a witness to history, and to be able to expose the lies and deceits of powerful people. J. Edgar Hoover, in particular, was not known for being merciful to those he perceived as his enemies – whether they saw themselves as his enemy or not.

The story of Tom’s life before the murder is what draws the reader in. And also what provides the motive for the murder. The ways in which Tom ran afoul of people in high places, and the underhanded means they used to strike at him without regard for either collateral damage or irreparable harm to U.S. relations with their post-war allies piles conspiracy on top of conspiracy into an unstable but absolutely compelling house of dirty little cards.

The thrill-a-minute chase at the end provides the perfect conclusion.

Reviewer’s note: I was born in 1957, two years before this book begins. While I obviously don’t remember the historical events that form the backdrop of this story, they were still very much “present” and part of the cultural zeitgeist as I was growing up. It is really weird to see times that I lived through portrayed as “historical” fiction.

~~~~~~ GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

I’m very pleased to say that I am giving away a copy of Autumn in Oxford to one lucky US or Canadian commenter. I really enjoyed this book, so I am very happy to be able to share it!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Review: The Lafayette Sword by Eric Giacometti and Jacques Ravenne

Review: The Lafayette Sword by Eric Giacometti and Jacques RavenneThe Lafayette Sword by Eric Giacometti, Jacques Ravenne, Anne Trager
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: mystery, suspense, thriller
Series: Antoine Marcas #2
Pages: 266
Published by Le French Book (NY) on June 7th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleBook Depository
Goodreads

Gold. Obsession. Secrets. Following the murder of a Freemason brother, Antoine Marcas uncovers unsettling truths about gold and its power to fascinate and corrupt. A priceless sword is stolen and deaths ensue setting the Freemason detective on a case of Masons turned bad. A clue points to mysteries and conspiracy about elusive pure gold, launching a frantic, deadly race between two symbolic places the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower. A captivating plot weaves alchemy and the Middle Ages into a modern-day thriller. Part of an international, best-selling series that has sold 2 million copies worldwide, with vivid characters, an evocative international setting, and history darker than midnight. For readers who love ancient myths, secret societies, chilling narrative and modern speed."

My Review:

shadow ritual by eric giacometti and jacque ravenneJust like the first book in this series, Shadow Ritual, The Lafayette Sword reads very much like a thinking person’s DaVinci Code. Only better, because the story in the end is much more firmly grounded in reality and makes much more sense, while still taking the reader on a thrill-a-minute ride.

In this book, we actually begin with three stories. In the 21st century, our hero, Paris Police Detective Antoine Marcas attends a regular meeting of his Freemason Lodge, only to discover not one, but two dead bodies inside the sanctuary. One is an initiate, and one is an old and dear friend. His chase of the killer nearly ends in his own death, but the killer, spares his life at the last moment for reasons unknown to Marcas. He’s heard his assailant’s voice, but the face was masked.

Also in the 21st century, we read the emails of a mysterious cartel code-named Aurora. Aurora’s purpose is to manipulate the price of gold, for the benefit of its members, of course. Aurora buys up the gold uncovered in Shadow Ritual, but it isn’t necessary to have read that book to enjoy Sword.

But if you love thrillers, these are marvelous.

There is also a plot thread in the 14th century. We follow Nicolas Flamel as he is forced to record the confession under extreme torture of a young woman. She accompanied Isaac Benserade to Paris, and her late master was burned to death by the Crown for plotting against the king. In truth, it was all a plot to find Isaac’s book of alchemical formulas. The Crown is broke, and desperately needs a miracle. Turning base metals into gold would certainly qualify as that miracle.

For those wondering why the name Nicolas Flamel sounds familiar, Flamel was a real historical figure, but he is better known to 21st century readers as the creator of the “Philosopher’s Stone” or “Sorcerer’s Stone” that was sought by Voldemort in the first Harry Potter book.

Back to The Lafayette Sword, and, the search for it.

As the story progresses, at first the reader is left wondering why these three threads are bound together in this book. They do not seem connected. All very interesting, but not necessarily converging.

But as Antoine chases the killer, and the secret that the man is searching for, these disparate trails come together. And when they do, the action, and the danger, heat up to boiling point. Or to the temperature of gold fever.

Escape Rating A-/B+: For the first half of the book, the reader is wondering how and why the various disparate plot threads are finally going to come together. At the halfway point, they start to braid together in a way that will keep the reader turning pages furiously until the end.

For those who enjoy complex riddle stories like The DaVinci Code and National Treasure, there is plenty of meat to chew on. The quest for the killer and what is driving him delve deeply into Masonic history, and also into the history of both the American and the French Revolutions.

But like so many good thrillers, we also get a fight to the death both at the base of the Statue of Liberty and among the metal lattice of the Eiffel Tower. Both tourist destinations are linked by a surprising secret.

In the end, however, the mystery comes down to very human motives, and very human reason. Or unreason. One man has gone off the rails, pursuing a secret that for once, really does exist – but can’t be revealed.

We see the chase through the eyes of Antoine Marcas. He is both Freemason and cop, and in this case must parse his divided loyalties in order to reach justice without revealing secrets he is sworn to keep. And we see his internal conflict, not just about the almost opposing calls on his loyalty, but also his doubts and fears. And his abiding concern that his devotion to his duty has taken him away from his son. Marcas is both a dogged investigator, and a deeply troubled man.

And that makes him fascinating to watch. I am looking forward to hopefully next year, or whenever the next of his adventures will be translated into English.

Review: Wilde Lake by Laura Lippman

Review: Wilde Lake by Laura LippmanWilde Lake by Laura Lippman
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, large print, audiobook
Genres: mystery, suspense, thriller
Pages: 368
Published by William Morrow on May 3rd 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
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The bestselling author of the acclaimed standalones After I’m Gone, I’d Know You Anywhere, and What the Dead Know, challenges our notions of memory, loyalty, responsibility, and justice in this evocative and psychologically complex story about a long-ago death that still haunts a family.
Luisa “Lu” Brant is the newly elected—and first female—state’s attorney of Howard County, Maryland, a job in which her widower father famously served. Fiercely intelligent and ambitious, she sees an opportunity to make her name by trying a mentally disturbed drifter accused of beating a woman to death in her home. It’s not the kind of case that makes headlines, but peaceful Howard county doesn’t see many homicides.
As Lu prepares for the trial, the case dredges up painful memories, reminding her small but tight-knit family of the night when her brother, AJ, saved his best friend at the cost of another man’s life. Only eighteen, AJ was cleared by a grand jury. Now, Lu wonders if the events of 1980 happened as she remembers them. What details might have been withheld from her when she was a child?
The more she learns about the case, the more questions arise. What does it mean to be a man or woman of one’s times? Why do we ask our heroes of the past to conform to the present’s standards? Is that fair? Is it right? Propelled into the past, she discovers that the legal system, the bedrock of her entire life, does not have all the answers. Lu realizes that even if she could learn the whole truth, she probably wouldn’t want to.

My Review:

Wilde Lake is a book about stories. The ones that last. The stories that we tell each other. The stories that we tell ourselves.

And what happens when someone finally unravels all of the stories that people have told her about her life.

This is, after all, Lu’s story. Lu is Luisa Frida Brant, and at first it seems like she lives a mostly charmed life. She’s just been elected the first female State’s Attorney for Howard County Maryland.

Howard County is a real place, as is Columbia, the planned community that Lu grew up. Even the history of Columbia is pretty much as described in the book. Even Wilde Lake is a real feature of the town. I’ll admit to being completely surprised that Columbia and Wilde Lake exist. They are so planned that I thought they must be fictional, but they are not.

But hopefully not the events that unfold in this story. Even though, or perhaps especially because, they feel typical of suburban life in the 1960s and 1970s.

But the story is Lu’s story. While it begins at the point of Lu’s greatest triumph, it also begins at the point where her whole life begins to unravel. As she relates the story of her childhood, while dealing with her life in the present, we see where all the stories that Lu has been told, and all the stories that Lu has told herself, converge and rewrite the past as she once knew it.

At first we see an almost typical American family. Lu, her brother AJ, and their father, AJ Senior. Lu’s mom isn’t in the picture – she died a week after Lu was born. And AJ Senior is the State’s Attorney, instilling in Lu both her competitiveness and her desire to practice law.

AJ Junior is the one who seems to have the truly charmed life. AJ is charismatic, and everyone seems to love him. At least until he and his charmed circle of friends are violently attacked at their high school graduation party, leaving one young man dead and another paralyzed from the waist down.

In the aftermath, the world goes on. AJ and his friends go their separate ways. But when Lu herself becomes State’s Attorney, the truth about that long ago night, and the events that led up to it, all explode into the light.

And in the end, Lu discovers that nothing that she believed, about herself, about her family, about her life, was remotely true.

Escape Rating A-: I will say that this story builds slowly over much of its length. We are mostly inside of Lu’s head as her version of events travels back and forth from the here-and-now to her memories of her childhood and adolescence and all the stories that she was told. Also, because it is entirely Lu’s perspective, the other characters in the story feel a bit one-dimensional. We don’t really get to know them. Which in its own way makes sense in this story, as Lu discovers that all the things and all the people she thought she knew are not what she believed them to be.

All families tell stories. Sometimes because a child is too young to understand the truth, and sometimes because there is a guilty secret to be hidden. Sometimes both. And sometimes the one morphs into the other as the child becomes an adult and no one wants to air the proverbial dirty laundry now that it has finally been washed, folded and put away.

There was one such story in my own family, not nearly as explosive as what Lu uncovers. But I remember my own sense of shock and the shifting and sifting of memories in light of the new and surprising information. For her, in this story, the revelations she uncovers would have been infinitely more profound, unnerving and identity-rattling.

In the end, the truths that Lu uncovers are like the ending of the movie The Sixth Sense. Once you know that the boy truly sees dead people, you are forced to re-evaluate everything you thought you saw in the film. Once Lu finds out the truth about her family and her past, she is forced to re-examine all of her own memories to see where the truth was hidden from her, and where she hid it from herself.

They say that the truth will set you free. This is a moving story of a woman who finds the truth, and it nearly destroys her.

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Review: The Silence That Speaks by Andrea Kane

Review: The Silence That Speaks by Andrea KaneThe Silence That Speaks (Forensic Instincts, #4) by Andrea Kane
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: mystery, suspense, thriller
Series: Forensic Instincts #4
Pages: 336
Published by Mira on April 28th 2015
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

WHO WANTS MADELINE WESTFIELD DEAD? AND WHY?
Forensic Instincts' first order of business is to find out who's targeting their client. Under the leadership of Casey Woods, the investigative team has the resources to do just that, working inside the law—and outside it. FI's strength is its members, among them Casey's associate Marc Devereaux, former navy SEAL and a man who's equal to any situation.
Except maybe this one…
Madeline's case hits too close to home for Marc. She's the only woman he ever loved, and she's his only weakness. Now a nurse at Manhattan Memorial, she's terrified because someone is trying to kill her. So she turns, reluctantly, to Marc and FI for help and protection.
Meanwhile, Manhattan Memorial is in turmoil. With a merger in the works, the staff is still haunted by their hospital administrator's sudden death—during heart surgery performed by Madeline's ex-husband, Conrad. A surgery at which Madeline was present. The killer seems to blame both Madeline and Conrad…
With a growing list of suspects—including the grieving widow and a string of scorned lovers—Forensic Instincts will have to figure out who has the greatest incentive to get rid of Madeline. And FI has to work fast to save her…before she's permanently silenced.

My Review:

While every book in this series is a taut, gripping thriller, it’s the team dynamic at Forensic Institute that makes these books so much fun to read – even while you are choking the pages in terror for one or more of the protagonists.

stranger you know by andrea kaneThe team was introduced in The Girl Who Disappeared Twice. In that first story, behavioral profiler Casey Woods puts together the core of the FI team – ex-SEAL Marc, tech genius Ryan, psychic sensitive Claire, and scent-evidence dog Hero – who find both the girl and the woman she became. In later stories, The Line Between Here and Gone (reviewed here) and The Stranger You Know (reviewed here), FI adds retired FBI Agent Patrick to the mix.

In The Silence That Speaks, a part of the story is the addition of a new member to the troupe. Now that the office has grown to six principals and their fame has increased, there is way more business and business detritus, than one highly sophisticated artificial intelligence. Even the real Yoda, with the Force, would have had problems managing this office, let alone one without opposable thumbs.

So the gang recruits Emma to be their new receptionist, file clerk, occasional undercover operative and resident pick-pocket. She acts like everyone’s know-it-all little sister and she fits right in. The team is going to need her.

Because the normally Spock-like Marc is completely off his game with this case. Their new client is Madeline Westfield, who once upon a time and in a galaxy fairly far away, back when Marc was still a SEAL and not an ex-SEAL, Maddy was the love of his life. And he let her go. Ten years and one divorce later, she is still the only woman he’s ever loved. And this time he’s never letting her go.

Providing he can get through the thick wall he’s built around his heart – and providing that FI can save Maddy’s much-threatened life.

Someone is out to kill Madeline Westfield, and she has no idea why. It’s only when the killer starts targeting Maddy’s ex-husband as well that the team turns its focus from whether her ex can’t let her go to who the star surgeon and the E.R. nurse might have pissed off so much that murdering them both is the only answer.

As the team investigates both Conrad and Madeline Westfield, and peers into the lives of every person at Manhattan Memorial Hospital who is even remotely near Conrad’s and Maddy’s orbit. While the team looks into the hospital’s potential merger and the family of a surgical patient Conrad lost on the table, the motive and the killer turns out to be hiding in plain sight.

Escape Rating A: The Silence That Speaks was exactly the book I was looking for over the weekend. As much as I usually find romances marvelously distracting, this was a weekend where I wanted a book I could really sink my teeth into, and this series always fills the bill. And there’s a bit of romance just for fun.

This series works for me because I like the team so much. All of the team members have very distinctive personalities (including the dog Hero!) and they mesh well. They are also very good at challenging each other when they need it, and that gives their interactions much more depth.

A lot of that challenge at the beginning is between Marc and Casey. Casey needs Marc to be his stoic and unemotional self. His very Spock-like detachment, as well as his abilities to knock out their adversaries, are a big part of what he brings to the team. Marc’s detachment is gone when it comes to Maddy, but it takes him a while to admit it. Once he does, he and Casey have some very tense moments around whether he can be emotionally involved and still do his job and protect the client. And be smart about it.

Emma is a tremendous asset to the team. Not just because she is still unknown and able to go undercover into the hospital as a candy-striper, but because she has the skills to pull off the kind of con they need while she’s there. And swipe a security badge. She’d be a terrible foe if she were on the side of evil, but on the side of the usually righteous, she’s a hoot.

The case itself is deliciously convoluted. The potential scenario is constantly changing, as the team goes from the extremely obvious (it’s usually the spouse or ex-spouse) to follow the money to the one they missed until almost the very end, cherchez la femme. What adds to the number of red herrings in the barrel is that there are so many femmes to cherchez. The original victim liked chasing women, and then paying them off at the end of his affairs. When the team finally focuses on the dead surgical patient and not the surgery itself, things start racing towards the finish.

And as they race, the readers are desperately following along, hoping that the team will figure out the final pieces before the killer claims a final victim. I couldn’t put this book down all day. I just had to see it through to the end.

If you enjoy fast-paced thrillers with real people dealing with interesting relationships while chasing complicated baddies, the Forensic Institute team is an absolutely fantastic way to lose a weekend. Start with The Girl Who Disappeared Twice and enjoy!

Review: Devoted in Death by J.D. Robb

Review: Devoted in Death by J.D. RobbDevoted in Death (In Death, #41) by J.D. Robb
Format: ebook
Source: purchased from Amazon
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: mystery, romantic suspense, suspense
Series: In Death #41
Pages: 384
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons on September 15th 2015
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Eve Dallas tracks a couple whose passion is fueled by cold brutality in the newest crime thriller from the #1 New York Times–bestselling author of Obsession in Death and Festive in Death.
When Lieutenant Eve Dallas examines a body in a downtown Manhattan alleyway, the victim’s injuries are so extensive that she almost misses the clue. Carved into the skin is the shape of a heart—and initials inside reading E and D . . .
Ella-Loo and her boyfriend, Darryl, had been separated while Darryl was a guest of the state of Oklahoma, and now that his sentence has been served they don’t ever intend to part again. Ella-Loo’s got dreams. And Darryl believes there are better ways to achieve your dreams than working for them. So they hit the road, and when their car breaks down in Arkansas, they make plans to take someone else’s. Then things get messy and they wind up killing someone—an experience that stokes a fierce, wild desire in Ella-Loo. A desire for Darryl. And a desire to kill again.
As they cross state lines on their way to New York to find the life they think they deserve, they will leave a trail of evil behind them. But now they’ve landed in the jurisdiction of Lieutenant Dallas and her team at the New York Police and Security Department. And with her husband, Roarke, at her side, she has every intention of hunting them down and giving them what they truly deserve . . .

My Review:

I read this in the car while we were coming back from Cincinnati. It had me so completely absorbed that I zoned out and left my poor but wonderful husband to do all the driving with no good radio stations for a large chunk of the way. I was bad but the book was good.

The story here is always two-fold. On the one hand, we have a case of a spree-killing Bonnie and Clyde who make the mistake of coming to New York City and continuing their spree on Eve Dallas’ turf.

The second story is, as always, the continuing adventures of the family that Eve and Roarke have created – their friends and and Eve’s colleagues and cops at NYPSD Central. The line between friends, colleagues and subordinates has blurred so far that it is usually hard for Eve to figure out which is which, especially since she never thought she would have anything other than colleagues kept at arm’s reach.

The case is a particularly nasty one. A couple of spree-killers have discovered that torturing and murdering a victim sends their sex life into overdrive. They aren’t really all that smart, but they really are scary. They are also very, very lucky, and they’ve found a formula that works for them all too well. Pick a lonely spot. Entice a victim. Knock them out, throw them in the trunk, and carry them off to whatever flop they have secured for two days of fun and torture, until they kill their prey and dump the body far from wherever the crime took place. Then they move on down the road, heading for New York.

And that’s where Eve gets involved. Ella-Loo and Darryl decide to take up residence in New York City, where Eve and her merry band of murder cops have all the latest equipment and a whole lot of savvy about what makes people kill, and how to catch the ones that do.

A clock ticks during this story. Ella-Loo and Darryl have picked up what looks like their first NYC victim, and everyone involved in the case knows that Eve has at most 48 hours to find the lover/killers before they dump this body and grab another one.

So as Eve hunts down her prey, she tracks back through all the places that Ella-Loo and Darryl have struck, and in the process discovers a couple of places where small-town law enforcement preferred to hope that there was no murder, in spite of the evidence, rather than bring down a whole lot of federal oversight. There were too many times when these two killers could have been caught, long before their spree stretched to 24 bodies and counting.

A lot of heads will roll in a lot of places, but first Eve has to catch the killers before they rack up more bodies on her watch.

Escape Rating A-: This was one of the good ones in this series, because the race to find the killers remained front and center during the entire story. Long time fans do get some marvelous moments with the crew, and we do get to see how everyone is doing and what’s happening in their lives. But the focus of this story is always on finding Ella-Loo and Darryl before they finish their grisly business.

We also see how much police work has changed between our now and Eve’s 2060. In NYC, there is a lot of technology, a ton of resources, and a tremendous number of places where the killers can slip up just because they don’t know how much of live in NYC is observed by cameras. Which doesn’t help a whole lot until Eve has a clue of who they are looking for and where to look. Basic investigative work is still basic.

At the same time, we get a glimpse at police life outside NYC, where it doesn’t seem like things have changed all that much. One of the local law enforcement officers along Ella-Loo and Darryl’s route to questionable glory has never been satisfied with the accidental death verdict on a couple of their early victims. Deputy William Banner arrives from Oklahoma to tell Eve everything he knows, and everything he suspects, in the hopes that she can finally get justice for all the victims. He’s able to help the team deal with a lot of law enforcement agencies back home that don’t want to expose their mistakes to big city cops like Eve.

The FBI is going to be digging itself out of its part in this screw up for months, and that’s a good thing. As this case progresses, and we see who failed whom, we want them to eat their share of crow in this mess.

In the end, good triumphs, evil gets its just desserts and Eve and her crew go home to fight crime another day. The ending of the story is marvelously cathartic, as one of the regulars gets a much deserved boost just in time to let the accumulated tension out of the reader and the story.

Review: The Dead Key by D.M. Pulley + Giveaway

Review: The Dead Key by D.M. Pulley + GiveawayThe Dead Key by D.M. Pulley
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: mystery, suspense, thriller
Pages: 470
Published by Thomas & Mercer on March 1st 2015
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleBook Depository
Goodreads


2014 Winner — Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award — Grand Prize and Mystery & Thriller Fiction Winner

It’s 1998, and for years the old First Bank of Cleveland has sat abandoned, perfectly preserved, its secrets only speculated on by the outside world.
Twenty years before, amid strange staff disappearances and allegations of fraud, panicked investors sold Cleveland’s largest bank in the middle of the night, locking out customers and employees, and thwarting a looming federal investigation. In the confusion that followed, the keys to the vault’s safe-deposit boxes were lost.
In the years since, Cleveland’s wealthy businessmen kept the truth buried in the abandoned high-rise. The ransacked offices and forgotten safe-deposit boxes remain locked in time, until young engineer Iris Latch stumbles upon them during a renovation survey. What begins as a welcome break from her cubicle becomes an obsession as Iris unravels the bank’s sordid past. With each haunting revelation, Iris follows the looming shadow of the past deeper into the vault—and soon realizes that the key to the mystery comes at an astonishing price.

My Review:

This is one wild story. It’s even wilder because the background is based on real events, specifically the events in 1977-1978 that resulted in the city of Cleveland defaulting on its debts in 1978, plunging the city into a downward spiral that took decades to recover from.

When I grew up in Cincinnati (the two cities are rivals), Cleveland was referred to as “the mistake on the Lake”, after the Cuyahoga River caught fire. During the default era, the joke was to ask the last person leaving Cleveland “to please turn out the lights”.

Cleveland defaulted because the Cleveland Trust Bank refused to extend its loans after the new Mayor refused to let some of their sweetheart deals go through. There was a LOT of corruption between the bank and City Hall.

In the book, Cleveland Trust becomes the First Bank of Cleveland. I suspect that the real skullduggery wasn’t quite as colorful as the fictional version. I’m also certain that the names of the players were changed to protect the guilty. Or at least the author. In real life, this situation was a big hot mess.

In fiction, the story is about a whole bunch of young women who were used and taken advantage of by a powerful man. And how they managed to get revenge on him and the other bankers who facilitated a whole bunch of fraud. Last but not least, one more young woman who they severely underestimated brings them all down. It only takes about 40 years to bring everyone left alive to the justice they so richly deserve.

This one is a mystery and a thriller all wrapped into one big package.

In the story, the bankers were defrauding their customers by stealing from safe deposit boxes. People put a lot of interesting things into the boxes, because they are supposed to be, well, safe. As long as you make your payments, that is.

So the bankers were going through the deposit records and looking for dead boxes, ones where the payments had stopped. Instead of turning the contents over to the State of Ohio, they were robbing the boxes, at least the ones containing valuables, and moving the contents into boxes under the names of people who had no idea this was happening. Usually the names of female employees that one of the bank directors was screwing. And also screwing over, since owning the boxes containing the loot would have made the women look like the perpetrators – no one would ever believe that the bank officers, all members of prominent and wealthy families, could possible have anything to do with theft.

One young woman kept her own records of what happened. Twenty years later, she planted her niece in the bank as an employee, so that the investigation could continue. Unfortunately for both of them, this was in December 1978 just as the bank was about to close, not that they knew that.

Poor Beatrice Baker found herself in the middle of a very amateur investigation, trying to figure out what was going on. Not that she started the investigation, but that her best friend Maxie started poking her nose where the bankers didn’t think it belonged.

In 1998, Iris Larch is working as a structural engineer, drawing plans of the old Cleveland Trust Building. The building has been locked up since 1978, and feels like a time capsule. Unlike most of the empty buildings in downtown Cleveland, someone is paying for around-the-clock security and the building is completely intact.

Possibly too intact. The desks still contain the employees’ stuff, and all the paper files are still intact. The longer she works in the creepy, empty building, the more weirded out Iris gets. Especially after she finds records of Beatrice and Maxie’s 20-year-old investigation. And Beatrice’s suitcase.

Iris seems to be disturbing old ghosts that wanted to remain hidden. Nothing that is happening is anything like it appears to be. Except the dead body in the blocked up bathroom. When Iris finds that, she discovers that none of the dead of the old bank are resting in peace. Except for the body she finds, they aren’t even dead.

But they want her to be.

Escape Rating B: This is a big book, and it’s a long story. While it felt a bit saggy in the middle, the final third is an absolute race to the finish. Once Iris finds the body, the book goes at a breakneck, edge of your seat pace until the wild finish.

If money is the root of all evil, then all the bankers at this place had their roots sunk in some very nasty places.

The story is told from two perspectives. We see Beatrice in 1978, trying to uncover what is going on. She is not an investigator, she is a very young woman who sees and hears too much. She finds out a lot, bit by excruciating bit, not just about what’s going on at the bank, but also about her own identity. Her world is much more dangerous than she imagined, and it was no bed of roses to begin with.

So we see Beatrice get herself in deeper and deeper hot water, but we don’t know for certain if she ever got out.

In 1998, we follow Iris as she creates the structural diagrams of the building. Along the way, Iris can’t resist poking into all those files and desk drawers, and discovers much too much about the events of 1978, and especially about Beatrice and her investigation. Her world gets creepier and creepier the more she discovers – especially when she starts asking questions of her own.

The difficulty that I had with the story is that Iris is not a sympathetic character. She gets in way over her head, and she’s being used, and she’s in terrible danger, but I just didn’t like her. I was fascinated by what she discovered, but I didn’t enjoy seeing the world through her eyes. It’s not that she is young and stupid about her future, because we were all there once. It’s her self-destructive attitude. She’s not merely a bored slacker, but she also seems to be a functioning alcoholic without being aware of it. All she does before she discovers Beatrice’s stuff, is to drink every night and go to work late every morning with a hangover and a blackout. And she always thinks she was entitled to get drunk for whatever reason.

She’s being set up to be fired, but doesn’t ever realize that she’s let herself fall into a trap that makes it a reasonable idea. Your mileage may vary, of course. I sympathized way more with Beatrice.

The mystery that surrounds the bank and its ending is teased out in way that keeps the reader on tenterhooks through the entire book. As Iris and Beatrice get deeper into the mystery, it becomes impossible to let go of their story.

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~~~~~~GIVEAWAY~~~~~~

D.M. Pulley is giving away a copy of The Dead Key to one lucky U.S. or Canadian winner.

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