Valyruh’s #CBR5 Review #103: A Conspiracy of Faith by Jussi Adler-Olsen

Another great novel in the Department Q crime thriller series of this Danish author, with Detective Carl Morck and his side-kicks Assad and Rose up against a kidnapper and murderer. Adler-Olsen manages to convey the somewhat gloomy quality of the classic Nordic police procedural, but leavens it with unexpectedly quirky humor and personal side stories which capture the humanity of the victims as much as that of the dogged cops assigned to protect them.

This is not a classic who-done-it, as we are introduced to the scary psycho who has been operating with impunity for decades right at the beginning, but the author takes care to take us backwards in time and then forward to better understand the nature of the victims being chosen and the unique mania of the killer himself, as we follow the edge-of-our-seats hunt to catch him before he kills yet again. A victim himself of horrible abuse as a child, our villain is now preying on the fanatic religious sects to which his own horror of a father belonged. He infiltrates these sects, targets large families of means, seizes two of their children, and then demands a ransom, after which he kills one child and releases the other with the threat that he can take more of their children at any time if they pursue him. The families quickly hush up the incident, and due to the isolated nature of these sects, no one outside the family is alerted to the murderous deeds.

That is, until a bottle washes ashore with a barely legible note written in the blood of one of the children, begging for help. However, the bottle goes unheeded in the police station to which it has been brought for a decade, and when it is finally discovered, it falls to the Department Q of cold cases, headed by Morck, to pursue the almost non-existent clues.

The author uses multiple sub-plots to fill in the backstories on our characters, including that of the mysterious Assad and Rose who appear to have secret lives and which carry forward from one novel to the next. But one sub-plot surrounds that of the killer himself and, in fact, contains the key to his undoing (not really a spoiler: you didn’t think he got away with it, did you?). The climax is as dramatic as it should be, and the ending leaves just enough of a butterfly in the stomach to earn it an extra star.

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Owlcat’s CBR V review #19 of Countdown City (Last Policeman #2) by Ben H. Winters

Having read the first book in this trilogy of a pre-apocalyptic world, I was so eager to read the second book, Countdown City, I pre-ordered it and was thrilled when it arrived in July to my Kindle.

The story picks up from the previous book, now with only 77 days remaining before the asteroid’s impact in Southeast Asia. The main character, Hank Palace, has lost his job as a police detective with the Concord, NH, Police Department, the result of federalization throughout the country of security venues. The story begins when a former babysitter, who sat for him and his sister when they were little, asks his help to find her husband, who may or may not have gone “bucket list” like a lot of other people and has disappeared without telling her or anyone anything.  This is so out of character for him that his wife is absolutely sure there is much more to his leaving. With the loss of phones, cars, and other normal modern amenities, this is a task almost impossible to accomplish but he relies on his own intuition, as well as his sister, who in the previous book had joined a band of rebels who believe in true conspiracy mode that the U.S. government is not telling people everything and which is generally anarchist. He knows she may have a solution to finding this man through her various contacts, particularly the community that has taken over what used to be the University of New Hampshire. He and she travel there, he finds some answers, and pursues his quest to find the man who apparently is not the person his wife believed he was.

Consequently, he is thrown into several murderous scenarios, almost losing his own life in the process.  Throughout the book, however, because he is such a decent man with a high degree of integrity and determination, despite the world and society around him falling apart, he plows forth with finding answers, whether they are ones he or the wife want to hear.  He has his moments of doubt and many moments of fear and confusion when what had seemed black and white turns out to be grey.  He also discovers some of what his sister and others have told him about the government’s deceptions appear to be true, particularly regarding the “boat people” who travel in horrific conditions from the South Asian countries to the shores of this country, hoping for at least a minimal chance of survival when the asteroid hits by being as far away as they can be from its epicenter and within a country that has boundaries and morals.  He is dismayed and frustrated and angry but these emotions also feed his determination to accomplish the nearly impossible so he can bring some answers and “closure” to his former baby sitter.

In the process he nearly dies, though obviously the reader is aware that isn’t going to happen because there is a third book due within this trilogy.  As in the first book, the Hank’s character is intriguing and admirable, but has enough flaws of his own to make him believable.  Other characters within the story are well developed, likeable in some ways, dislikeable in others, just as in real life.  Winters has woven the story well, though to be honest, although I’ve seen from other reviews that many thought this book was better than the first, I preferred the first.  The plot in this story was slow to develop and the multitude of characters a little difficult to keep sorted.  The ending, however, was quite believable and again, throughout, the book makes the reader wonder how he or she would react under these circumstances, with the impending doom of an asteroid strike that will undoubtedly kill of most human beings throughout the world and which has already affected society in many unpleasant, negative ways.  It is a book worth reading for those questions alone, and now I truly look forward to the third book in the trilogy, though am not certain when it will be available.  When I finished this second book, I had wished I could just keep on reading to the end event!

Teresaelectro’s #CBR5 Review #3: Thicker Than Water by Mike Carey

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Thicker than Water is the fourth tale of Felix Castor’s trials and tribulations in modern day London. Fix as his friends call him is a freelance exorcist with a problem with authority and penchant for chaos. Demons, ghosts, zombies and werewolves are very real and aren’t hiding in the shadows these days. Nevertheless, Fix can barely make enough money to pay his eccentric landlady and confidant Pen.

This time, the case is personal – a bully from his past named Kenny Seddon has written “F..Castor” on a bloody car window where said bully had a party with a couple of straight razors. Fix is already on the Met’s radar for past indescretions and is promptly dragged into the case. One cop in particular really hates Castor, which thrusts him upon an unwanted walk down memory lane to clear his name. And if that wasn’t enough, his estranged brother who is Catholic Priest striving for sainthood is somehow mixed up with the case and refuses to show his cards.

Read the rest of the review on my blog.

Angela Baldwin, #CBR5, Review # 10, Laying Ghosts by James Buchanan

 

Laying of Ghosts

Another adventure into the world of Deputy Joe and Kabe, and this one had all the makings of a gut wrenching tale from the very beginning. This story picks up a few months after the end of Spin Out where we left Deputy Joe with serious injuries from a car accident that occurred while chasing a suspect. We find Joe on desk duty logging in old cases and cold cases trying to close out as many as possible for his new commander. One of the cases that he comes across hits close to home, very close to home, and with the introduction of Joe’s parents who have just returned from their mission trip to Russia the drama and angst level of this novel are high.

This novel really digs into Joe’s family and the intricacies of losing a child and the effects it has on the family as a whole. I think of the 3 Deputy Joe stories I have read, this one was by far my favorite. There were times I wanted to reach into the pages and just give both Joe and Kabe a big hug. One of the things I really enjoyed about this book was that Joe’s family, with the exception of one brother and his wife, accept him and Kabe for who they are. The fact that they are gay doesn’t define them as people, it’s just a part of the person as a whole, which is something Joe has had to learn over the course of this series. I like that the family was not one dimensional and that his coming out to his parents was not glossed over and made to be an easy thing, because sadly that is just not the case in most people’s reality.

This was another very well written book that I truly enjoyed. I hope that this is not the end of this series and that we will see more Deputy Joe stories soon.

Angela Baldwin, #CBR5, Review # 9, Spin Out by James Buchanan

Spin Out

 

My second foray into the world of Deputy Joe and Kabe was a much faster pick up than the first. Having become more familiar with the writing style made this a much easier read.

Spin Out is set a few months after the ending of the original book in the series, Hard Fall, and we see Deputy Joe continuing to struggle with himself over the decision he made to not only come out of the closet but to engage in a relationship with Kabe who is an ex-con on parole in Joe’s jurisdiction. A new murder that needs to be solved lays the ground work for this tale, along with the repercussions of Joe’s revelation that he is involved with Kabe.

I felt as though the secondary characters in this book were more fleshed out than in Hard Fall and I truly enjoyed their interaction with the main characters. Learning to trust in others isn’t an easy thing, especially when your entire world was just turned upside down and the growing pains of any new relationship are well done in this book. Joe and Kabe have quickly become two of my favorite characters and its like sitting around listening to old friends talk about their day. I look forward to the next book in this series and seeing how Joe continues to deal with his coming out of the closet.

Angela Baldwin, #CBRV, Review #8, The Pain Scale by Tyler Dilts

The Pain Scale

 

This was my first experience with this author and I didn’t realize when I picked this book up that it was the 2nd book in a series, luckily for me I didn’t have to read the first in order to enjoy the second.

Anyone who has ever spent any amount of time in a hospital knows about the pain scale and most of us like Detective Danny Beckett would like to rip it off the wall at times because really a number can’t possibly describe the pain. Recovering from a devastating injury Detective Beckett is back on the job but learning how to deal with the near constant pain from an injury that nearly cost him his hand. The mix of hard work and humor that is infused into this character makes him a really likable guy and his partner Jen sees right through the tough guy facade that Danny throws up.

A gruesome murder of a congressman’s daughter in law and grandchildren lay the background for this tale. Lots of twists and turns make this story one that kept me turning the pages long after I should have been asleep. I love a good whodunit that keeps me guessing and this one did for most of the book. Now I need to go back and read the first book in this series so I will be ready for the next installment.

Angela Baldwin, #CBR5, Review #6, Hard Fall by James Buchanan

Hard Fall

 

This book got off to a very slow start for me but after the initial few chapters it picked up fairly well. I think my biggest issue was the colloquial language that it is written in. Deputy Joe is a likable fellow whose relationship with Kabe, an ex-con, causes him to have a falling out with not only the LDS Church, but also members of the law enforcement community. Kabe is an ex-con with a thrill seeking side. He comes to the small community while on probation and finds himself in the middle of a murder investigation.

Joe and Kabe find themselves trying to solve a murder, fighting the church and in the end figuring out just how much they mean to each other and what it means to sacrifice for love. As with the other James Buchanan books I have read the descriptions of the locale and scenery are excellent and you feel as though you are standing on the top of the rock face as Joe and Kabe are climbing. For me the wonderful descriptions of the places are part of the charm of this book. I look forward to picking up my next Deputy Joe novel very soon.