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Archive for the tag “detective stories”

Dark Hollow

Dark Hollow (Charlie Parker, #2)Dark Hollow by John Connolly
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I recently read The Wrath of Angels by John Connolly, and realised that I had forgotten much of the plot of this one,which was on our shelves, and which I had read 18 years earlier. So I reread it to get an idea of where it had started. Both books feature Connolly’s private detective character, Charlie “Bird” Parker but the books are very different.

What struck me on re-reading this one is that Connolly seems to be going in the opposite direction to Phil Rickman. Rickman started writing spooky supernatural stories, but his exorcist character, Merrily Watkins, is gradually reinventing herself as an amateur detective. Connolly’s Charlie Parker seems to be going the other way, from private detective to exorcist, but the weapons of his warfare are very carnal indeed, doing his exorcisms with a Smith & Wesson rather than with holy water. I’m not sure that it works too well.

But there is little of that in Dark Hollow, which is a straightforward whodunit in which the police and a crime syndicate are looking for the same man, Billy Purdue, Purdue is a suspect in the murder of his wife and son, and the mob believe he stole their money, so both the police and the crime bosses are after him..Only Charlie Parker thinks that there could be someone else, but more and more people who are connected with Billy Purdue are getting killed.

There is barely a hint of the spooky stuff that features so prominently in The Wrath of Angels however, so I’m left wondering where it started to come in to the Charlie Parker series. In the library I found a book midway between the two I have now read, The Black Angel. Perhaps that will give me a clue to the change.

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Blood on the Tongue — an above-average whodunit

Blood On The Tongue (Ben Cooper & Diane Fry, #3)Blood On The Tongue by Stephen Booth

An above-average whodunit.

Set in the Peak District of Derbyshire in England (which I have never been to), I kept thinking of the setting as similar to that of the detective novels of Peter Robinson with his detective Alan Banks, set just a bit further north in Yorkshire.

But unlike the Alan Manks series, and most other crimy mystery novels nowadays, the protagonis in this one is a junior officer, a mere Detective Constable, and not an inspector or chief inspector. He also is peculiar in not having lots of hangups and problems. He isn’t an alcoholic, nor is he going though a messy divorce. His biggest decision is whether to move to town to be closer to his work.

The novel also poses some interesting questions about life in general, I rather liked this one on “community”, in the mouth of one of the characters:

(Community) isn’t something real, though. Is it? It’s a word that we use in the titles of reports. Community liaison. Working with the community. Understanding the ethnic community. It’s a word, Ben. It’s not something you actually live in, not these days.

So if you enjoy crime fiction, this one is worth a look.

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Bury your dead (book review)

Bury Your Dead (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #6)Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the sixth detective novel about Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, and the third I have read, and also the best I have read so far, It was the one we bought first, because of the blurb, and only after getting it did we discover that there is a metastory that runs through the series, with the same characters popping up again and again.

Chief Inspector Gamache is on leave in Quebec, recovering from injuries received in an earlier shoot-out, and is asked ny the local police to help with a case — an amateur archaeologist, notorious for his obsession with finding the grave of the founder of Quebec, Samuel de Champlain, is murdered in the basement of the Literary and Historical Society, an English-speaking institution. The murder could increase tensions between the French and English-speaking communities of the city, and Gamache is asked to help because he speaks better English. He has also been doing some historical research of his own in the library.

I suppose one of the reasons I like books like this is my own interest in historical research, and so mysteries of the past that have repercussions in the present are the kind of thing I like reading about. Added to that is that my wife Val’s great great grandfather, William John Green, was born in Quebec in 1790, so the city is the setting of a historical mystery that has exercised many members of the Green family for more than a century. The period is entirely different to that of the story in this book, but the setting is the same, and the book gives a feel for the city and its present inhabitants.

In addition there are some more historical threads in this book. Gamache keeps having flashbacks to an earlier case, where he feels he failed, and he sends his second-in-command, Jean Guy Beauvoir, to have another look at yet another case, which he thinks may have gone wrong, in the village of Three Pines, which seems to crop up in all these novels. These cases may have been covered in a couple of the books that we haven’t read, so mentioning too many details may be spoilers for the books we haven’t read yet.

There are a couple of things about the series that become slightly annoying — Louise Penny seems to be more given to detailed descriptions of every meal the characters eat than Enid Blyton and I, for one, get a bit tired of reading yet another description of maple-cured bacon and other Canadian delicacies. But it is generally a good read.

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