Mystery

“T is for Trespass” by Sue Grafton

 

Book Cover - T is for Trespass

 

Kinsey Millhone, the prickly star of Sue Grafton’s California based alphabet series, is no slouch detective. She follows the details, writes notes on 3×5 cards as she gathers information, and is great at ferreting out the facts. In “T is for Trespass,” she still eats way too much fast food, cuts her own hair, takes morning runs near the beach when she’s in the mood, but now drives a ’70 Mustang instead of the beat up ‘74 VW that was totaled in the last book.

 

Along with other legal detail work, Kinsey is a process server to take care of the bills in between the big cases, and is conscientious about everything she does in her professional life. So, when Kinsey does a cursory background check on a home health aide as a favor, and unwittingly places an elderly neighbor in harm’s way, she feels obligated to undo the damage. The problem is that no one, especially not the neighbor’s reluctant niece who hired Kinsey, wants to be bothered with the inconvenient truth.

 

The villain in “T is for Trespass,” an evil psychopath, is one of the best that Grafton has written. Grafton has placed us inside the mind of the twisted caregiver and created a chilling character study. I was alarmed, gripping the pages and worried that Kinsey might not survive this one – and we were only up to “T.”

 

The search for a missing witness to a car accident (with surprising results) unexpectedly overlaps the search for the primary villain. Grafton has set the scenes in the two stories in such a way as to make the overlap seamless and absolutely believable.

 

Grafton has taken on two issues that affect enormous segments of the 2013 American population – identity theft and health care for senior citizens. She handles the senior care concerns with ripped-from-the-headlines accuracy as she reveals the stark reality of what can happen when our parents/relatives become the victims of elder abuse. Sobering – and it reads like fact, not fiction.

 

Not too much changes in Kinsey’s personal behavior through the series – the twenty books take place over a five year span in the ‘80s, before cellphones. This way, Kinsey gets shot at, arrested, threatened and harassed, all without backup coming anytime soon.

 

What a life just to avoid a 9 to 5 schedule. What a ride!

 

Grafton received the Ross Macdonald Literary Award in 2004 and was named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America in 2009.

 

For more about Sue Grafton and her most recent work, please visit www.suegrafton.com

 

 

 

 

 

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“Innocent” By Scott Turow

Book cover - Innocent

 

When a bestselling author returns to a book he wrote twenty years ago (“Presumed Innocent”) and writes a sequel to it (“Innocent”), we wonder whether he might just have run out of new ideas. In Scott Turow’s case, that wondering would be dead wrong.  What Turow has done is lift the art of the sequel to new heights.

 

Rusty Sabich, now a sitting appellate court chief judge, has been accused of murdering a second woman in his life and Tommy Molto, prosecuting attorney, is out to get him again, this time with a bigger grudge and bigger stakes.

 

Both men are at the top of their careers and neither wants to lose the case, because the loser’s life achievements would be forgotten in the media bloodbath that follows. But, Molto knows in his heart that Sabich was guilty the first time and got away with it. Sabich has secrets to hide and Sandy Stern is back as Rusty’s lawyer, trying to keep his client from tossing away everything.

 

Nat, Rusty’s son, plays a pivotal role in this courtroom drama – no plot spoiler here, but it’s a good one! Can a family ever recover from the fallout of a criminal case? Do the rifts caused by affairs ever heal? Do the children caught in the middle ever forget? Are people doomed to hold onto their flaws throughout life?

 

As I lay awake through the night reading “Innocent,” I was gripped with the questions: Did Sabich do it this time or didn’t he? And…my mind began to doubt whether he really did do it in “Presumed Innocent” after all.

 

Enough information is given about the case in “Presumed Innocent” to inform the reader, so "Innocent" can be a stand alone, but don’t let it be. The first book was a genre breaker and a great read as well. If you can’t find “Presumed Innocent” on the shelves anywhere, pick up a DVD of the Harrison Ford movie of the same name to catch the dynamics that drove the old rivalry between the major players.

 

For more information about Scott Turow and his body of work, visit www.scottturow.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Pictures of You” by Caroline Leavitt

Book-Cover-Pictures-of-You-LG

 

We all have certain expectations of our spouses. In the best scenarios, we picture loving each other robustly, tenderly and forever. In those pictures we raise marvelous children, and journey through life’s adventures with our best friends. ‘When we are not so busy’ or ‘when the children are grown’ we’ll have time to sort out all the nagging relationship issues. Unless the sand in the hourglass runs out before we get that chance.

 

In “Pictures of You,” two women’s lives intersect in a tragic auto accident. April dies when Isabelle swerves into her on an unfamiliar road in the fog. Isabelle, a photographer, is haunted by what she has done, even though she is cleared of any wrongdoing. She can’t forgive herself, so she doesn’t really blame anyone else in the community for ostracizing her; even welcomes being left alone. The fact of her husband’s infidelity has taken a back seat to her guilt.

 

The little boy, Sam, who survived the accident, has lost his mother and a grieving husband, Charlie, doesn’t understand why his wife, April, would have been on that road with their son at that time of day. Secrets are revealed about April that astound her husband. He no longer knows the woman with whom he shared his life. Charlie is helpless to comfort his son, ineffective in dealing with so many ‘after death’ issues. How many of us would be any better at it?

 

What follows is the tragic tale of three people aching for love; raw emotions and devastating truths revealed as they find a way to heal. No plot spoiler here, but photography plays an important role in the storyline.

 

Sam is so well written, with always age appropriate vocabulary, that the reader completely understands when he feels responsible for his mother’s death. Sam mistakes Isabelle for an angel and with his nine-year-old logic, mixes reality with his desperate wish to see his mother again. Leavitt creates a world in which the reader wants to hold this little boy, take away his heartache.

 

In an effective subplot, Isabelle suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which Leavitt depicts with insightful clarity. Isabelle shakes uncontrollably, sweats and feels nauseous when she sets foot in a car after the accident and for months afterward, must walk or ride a bike to go anywhere. Having been in a terrible car accident myself many years ago, I sympathized with the realistically intense stress the woman was going through, cringed at the nightmares she experienced. Leavitt herself, has an acute fear of being in cars, so brings considerable, painful  authenticity to the reading experience.

 

We tend to dismiss the importance of the small choices we make in life – not kissing a loved one goodbye or taking the time to listen when we’re running behind schedule – until it’s too late to get a do-over. We look back after a disaster and think: if only I had been a better dad, a better son, a better wife. If only I had stayed, or been there, or did what she/he asked. Everything would have been different. If only.

 

Beautifully written, exquisitely shared.

 

Caroline Leavitt’s latest novel, “Is This Tomorrow?” was published in May, 2013. Read the review here.

For more information about Ms. Leavitt and her books, visit www.carolineleavitt.com

 

 

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“The Alibi Man” by Tami Hoag

Book Cover - The Alibi Man

 

Bestselling suspense author, Tami Hoag, began her professional writing career in the romance genre, but stretched that framework to include everything from comedy to suspense. Her strong female characters were savvy, contemporary types and readers connected.

 

As Hoag’s work shifted into the thriller/suspense realm, it reflected the rising audience interest in forensics and began to include more of the graphic details of the crime scenes and the violence visited upon the victims. Today, her bad guys are darker, more depraved, and her heroines more likely to engage in the kind of retribution that would raise the eyebrows of the faint-hearted. 

 

“The Alibi Man” returns former undercover cop, Elena Estes, to the hard, fast world of Palm Beach society and the nasty secrets lying beneath the surface. When a fellow horse groom and marginal friend is found murdered, Elena is drawn back into the life she’d like to forget and must deal with buried emotions she thought she had hidden from the world. Elena is grippingly portrayed as a deeply tortured soul, and we feel her pain as her personal life is laid before us chapter, by aching chapter.

 

The action in “The Alibi Man” is fast-paced, filling the pages with cold-blooded crime figures snipping off body parts, drug/sex parties, handsome polo stars, and a cop boyfriend.

 

The plot weaving the colorful characters together is less successful, only because I don’t quite buy that the rich and powerful would be dumb enough to get themselves into such stupid personal messes. One at a time, yes, but collectively? However, the name of the book may tell it all. Supreme arrogance probably dictates the need for an Alibi Man. Great read for Hoag fans, with graphic language and adult situations.

 

Written in 2007, “The Alibi Man” was followed by “Deeper than the Dead,” “Secrets of the Grave,” and “Down the Darkest Road.” “The 9th Girl” will be published in June, 2013. Hoag has written over thirty books, with fifteen consecutive titles hitting the NYT bestseller lists. “Night Sins” was made into a memorably chilling TV movie in the late 90s and is still shown in re-runs.

 

For more information about Tami Hoag and her books, visit www.tamihoag.com

 

 

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“Dead Cat Bounce” by Sarah Graves

Book Cover - Dead Cat Bounce

The ‘Home Repair is Homicide’ series gets off to a hammering start with this first installment, “Dead Cat Bounce.” Jacobia Tiptree has purchased a fixer-upper on an island in Maine and while handy with a wrench and other assorted tools, she is not prepared for the corpse she discovers in her storeroom one murky morning.

 

When the body is revealed to be that of a local billionaire and Tiptree (the newcomer in town) begins to investigate why he wound up in her house, her safety and that of her son is threatened. Family trust is tested, an ex-husband proves to be a forever jerk, and Tiptree relies on her Wall Street savvy to uncover the truth behind the murder. Graves reveals that ‘dead cat bounce’ refers to stock market jargon for a temporary rise in a stock’s trading price after a sharp drop…“even a dead cat will bounce if dropped.”

 

Along the way, we learn handy home repair tips for old houses. I now know why sagging floors have to be jacked up slowly and that if repairs turn out to be extensive, “you might as well stick your checkbook on the back door and let people fill out their own.” “Dead Cat Bounce” is a witty take on murder in a small town, with home repair as the source for many of the plot twists. A gal with a tool belt cannot be underestimated.

 

This mystery is completely guilty of solid character development and deeply felt relationships, and because of that, Tiptree is someone we’d like to help, invite over for coffee, get financial advice from, and especially have her on our side if we were ever accused of murder. I’ve read several of Graves’ fifteen books in the series and the people surrounding Tiptree are so real, they could be my own neighbors. Except for the killers, I hope.

 

The most recent in the series, “Dead Level,” was published in 2012, and “A Bat in the Belfry” is coming out in April, 2013.

 

For more information, visit www.sarahgraves.net

 

 

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