Monday, August 22, 2016

Mysteries for the Last Days of Summer

We’ve officially made it through the “dog days” of summer, those days when it’s so sultry that even remembering the word lethargy seems to take too much effort. On a few of those steamy days, I read mysteries especially when the humidity level in our non-air-conditioned cottage threatened to exceed the temperature. The last few days have brought cool weather and gentle rains that beg for a good book and a screened-in porch. If you’re going on vacation, getting away for a weekend, or just placing a folding chaise longue in your back yard, these titles will be sure to please.

*Brighton by Michael Harvey follows Kevin, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter for the Boston Globe, who returns to Brighton, the violent Boston suburb where he grew up, when several murders seem connected to his past. Kevin hasn’t been back since he unexpectedly left at age fifteen and his colorful family including his sister Bridget and his murdered grandmother haunt his return. It seems almost certain that Kevin’s childhood best friend, Bobby is involved in the deaths, yet his viewpoint is captivating. Each character in this exceptional novel brings a perspective that makes the reader unsure not just about how the book will end, but also about whether to root for probable villains. The language is clear, precise, and spine-tinglingly honest. Fans of Dennis Lehane’s Mystic River or the movie The Departed will love this. It’s fabulous! GPR

*A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny doesn’t come out until next Tuesday, August 31, but it’s so good that you must buy it so you can enjoy it over Labor Day weekend. This is Penny’s twelfth Inspector Gamache novel and as always it offers suspense, evil, and a shimmering glimpse of hope. Gamache has taken the job as commander of the Sureté Academy where he hopes to root out police corruption from the beginning through the minds of trainees. However, he inexplicably keeps on Leduc, the most corrupt faculty member, and brings in his nemesis, Michel Brébeuf, hoping to teach the cadets to think for themselves. When Leduc is murdered and a map from Gamache’s village is an integral clue, Gamache realizes that the rot from within is even stronger than expected. GPR/SF

*The Whites by Richard Price writing as Harry Brandt is a book I’d avoided until author Anne Patchett and a friend recommended it. I found Price’s earlier Clockers and Lush Life exceptional yet so gritty and harsh that I wasn’t sure I was ready for more. His first attempt at writing as Harry Brandt is a surefire winner and is both intelligent and accessible. Since policeman Billy Graves mistakenly killed a kid, he’s been on the graveyard shift where he patrols in relative obscurity. Once a vigilante threatens the city, Billy and other cops try to figure out who’s terrorizing the city. Revealing the subsequent twists and turns might spoil the intrigue. If you’re looking for a compelling thriller, this is it. GPR (2015)

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris is a British psychological thriller that readers may want to finish in one sitting. Grace and Jack Angel seem like the perfect couple, but Jack, the ostensibly compassionate defender of battered wives, is really a psychopath who trapped Grace in their home and is using threats against her sister Millie who has Down syndrome to keep Grace in line. As readers ponder whether Grace will escape, the pacing isn’t consistent, but the plot and ending are clever and engaging. Gone Girl fans should relish this one. CC

The Cold Dish by Craig Johnson is the first book in the Walt Longmire series now also seen as Longmire on Netflix. Set in a quiet Wyoming town that resembles the settings of Kent Haruf’s novels, Sheriff Longmire has only a short time left until he retires, when two of the four “boys” who brutally raped a mentally disabled Cheyenne girl are murdered. Longmire and his best friend and fellow Viet Nam veteran, Henry Standing Bear, uncover clues that may lead to things they’d rather not discover. Exceptional minor characters and the complexities of living in a unique community make this reader happy that there are several more books in the series. This debut offers entertainment, intrigue, and wry humor. GPR (2005) 

Baby Doll by Hollie Overton has a similar plot to Emma Donoghue’s brilliant novel, The Room, but Baby Doll opens when Lilly Riser escapes captivity with Sky, her child born during the eight years her captor, Rick, held her in an isolated cabin. Kidnapped when she was sixteen, Lilly now confronts the impact of the crime on her family and what she must do to make a life for herself and her daughter and reconnect with her twin sister. The evil teacher who kidnapped her is somewhat stereotypical as are other characters, but this debut page-turner is made for the beach, pool, or long plane ride. CC