Archive for the ‘mystery’ Category

\Mystery and unsettling revelations keep up the suspense in this page-turning novel.

The last time I saw Sophie A, she was kissing James Bacon. She could have any guy she wanted, but she was kissing an English teacher who was eight years older than her.

Right back when Sophie MacKenzie started primary school, she was befriended by Sophie Twiggs and Sophie Abercrombie. Although they developed different interests, the threesome have stuck together through high school. But now Sophie Abercrombie is not just The prettiest Sophie, she is also The missing Sophie. As Sophie MacKenzie confides to her diary, Sophie A went missing sixty-four days ago and, despite police investigation, she has not been found.

The Trio of Sophies is no more.

A Trio Of Sophies

Eileen Merriman

Penguin NZ

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan Butterworth

The Sophies have always been friends.  All different – Sophie A is the pretty one, Sophie M is the brainy one, Sophie Twigg (Twiggy) is the sporty one – but they have a close friendship, bonded by having the same name in a Year 7 class.  Now in their final year of school, Sophie A has disappeared without a trace and the remaining Sophies bond is quickly unravelling.  The police can’t find her  and there’s just questions and anguish for everyone.

The story is told in by Sophie M diary form, starting from the 64th day that Sophie A has been missing and working backwards to the day she disappeared.  Then it chronicles day 65 and jumps forward to various dates from then on.  This was a new way of telling a story for me but it was so clever.  You quickly figure out the who, but the how and why are slowly revealed and as new details emerge, everything makes sense.  It’s only at the end that you realise how manipulative Sophie is and the very last page – wow!

This is a great story, full of tension and drama while featuring situations teens might face – abusive relationships being one.  The writing is just fantastic and draws you into the story.  I just couldn’t stop reading and devoured the book in a few hours.  Read from front to back, don’t give in top the temptation to skip ahead to day 0 or you’ll miss vital bits of the story.

I highly recommend this book to teens and anyone who wants  a great read that will keep you enthralled and on the edge of your seat.

It is twenty years since the events of La Belle Sauvage: The Book of Dust Volume One unfolded and saw the baby Lyra Belacqua begin her life-changing journey.

It is almost ten years since readers left Lyra and the love of her young life, Will Parry, on a park bench in Oxford’s Botanic Gardens at the end of the ground-breaking, bestselling His Dark Materials sequence.

The Secret Commonwealth: The Book of Dust #2

Philip Pullman

David Fickling Books and Penguin

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Stephen Litten

Pantalaimon witnesses a murder. The father of one of Lyra’s fellow students is going bankrupt due to a lack of quality rose oil. A web of intrigue connects these two seemingly random events with a shadowy religious order. And thus, begins The Secret Commonwealth, the second volume of Pullman’s The Book of Dust series. I want to say trilogy, but authors are tricky beasts.

The events of La Belle Sauvage are about 20 years in the past. But Oakley Street is still present, keeping a watchful eye on Lyra. So too is Malcolm Polstead, now a lecturer at Oxford, though at a different college to the one Lyra attends. Lyra and Pantalaimon have a difficult relationship, in part due to her forced abandonment of him in a previous adventure and also due to her reaction to a couple of books popular for their philosophy. So Pantalaimon sets off to find Lyra’s imagination. This event, early in the story, sets Lyra on a course both dangerous and lifesaving. The web of intrigue is closing around her. In her quest to find Pantalaimon she heads for the Blue Hotel, a legendary building said to be home to separated daemons. Where the plot takes an even bigger twist.

Pullman tells a deft tale. The Secret Commonwealth is at times a whodunnit, a spy-fi, a thriller and a bit of a travelogue through his alternate world. And at almost 700 pages there is plenty of plot and character development. Villains display elaborate backstories that make their motivations and actions sensible. I liked that Pullman retained his heroes from the previous volume and trilogy, as well as his gentle nod to events that happened in reality.

This is a great read, not only for the young adult market it supposedly is aimed at. Any fan of modern fantasy should have Pullman and this series on their shelves. I thank Penguin Random House for the review copy. Nice one.

Jacob just wanted to have a good time with his friend Samantha and fellow geeks at the fan convention. But when dead bodies start turning up, Jacob has to start a little early on his hoped-for detective career. After all, the police are out of their depth in a world where nearly everyone wears a costume or uses an alias. But Jacob has a secret of his own, and it looks like someone is bent on revealing him to the entire con. If Jacob’s history comes out, his police career will end before it begins, even if he can find the killer. And if he can’t, more fans will die.

Con Job

Laura Vanarendonk Baugh

AEclipse Press

Purchased at Geysercon

Reviewed by Jacqui Smith

I’ve played the Con Game. By which I mean that convention simulation game where pretty much anything that can go wrong, does go wrong. But none of the scenarios I’ve come across ever included a series of dead bodies… Which is what is going down at Con Job. Yes, the name of the book is indeed a pun on multiple levels. Honestly, I’m not sure what I’d do, beyond the obvious – like call the police.

The murder mystery is interesting enough, though not terribly complex. An experienced reader of murder mysteries will figure out who done it reasonably easily. But it’s the characters, in several senses of the word, that make this book entertaining. It’s about the people who make the story, many of whom are ‘characters’ in the own right, and the characters that they cosplay as.

It’s a very American book, full of US geek culture references, and I’m quite sure I missed a number of them, partly because of the different background, and partly because I’m not that immersed in anime. And there’s plainly a lot involved in US SF conventions that I’ve never had to deal with. Consequently, I suspect this book may have a somewhat limited audience – but if you happen to be part of that audience, I think you’d enjoy it a lot.

 Spring, 1919. James ‘Max’ Maxted, former Great War flying ace, returns to the trail of murder, treachery and half-buried secrets he set out on in The Ways of the World. He left Paris after avenging the murder of his father, Sir Henry Maxted, a senior member of the British delegation to the post-war peace conference. But he was convinced there was more — much more — to be discovered about what Sir Henry had been trying to accomplish. And he suspected elusive German spymaster Fritz Lemmer knew the truth of it.
Now, enlisted under false colours in Lemmer’s service but with his loyalty pledged to the British Secret Service, Max sets out on his first — and possibly last — mission for Lemmer. It takes him to the far north of Scotland — to the Orkney Isles, where the German High Seas Fleet has been impounded in Scapa Flow, its fate to be decided at the conference-table in Paris. Max has been sent to recover a document held aboard one of the German ships. What that document contains forces him to break cover sooner than he would have wished and to embark on a desperate race south, towards London, with information that could destroy Lemmer — if Max, as seems unlikely, lives to deliver it.

The Corners of the Globe: The Wide World Trilogy #2

Robert Goddard

Bantam Press

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Stephen Litten

Spring, 1919, and former RAF pilot James “Max” Maxted is on the trail of the German spymaster Fritz Lemmer. But Max is playing a dangerous game, that of double agent. He wants to avenge the murder of his father, Sir James Maxted, killed recently in Paris and to take down the spy ring that Lemmer has constructed before, during and after WWI. His first task is to recover the Grey File, held by a German Captain aboard one of the battleships interned at Scapa Flow. Max knows this is a test and that Lemmer doesn’t entirely trust him.

Thus opens the second of Goddard’s The Wide World trilogy. The story flits between Max, his associates in Paris, and his family. All must face threats from hostile parties as they attempt to get to the crux of their own mystery. Naturally, a lot of this was foreshadowed in the first volume, The Ways of the World.

Goddard has a generally breezy style well suited to the political thriller/whodunnit and I found this novel to be a satisfactory page-turner. The characters are fairly well rounded and not complete stereotypes. The plot moves at an acceptable pace, and the mystery stays mysterious – kind of important as this is the middle book of a trilogy.

I liked The Corners of the Globe and want to read the finale, The Ends of the Earth in which I expect the main protagonists to have a Japanese vacation.

Suburban New Jersey Detective Napoleon “Nap” Dumas hasn’t been the same since senior year of high school, when his twin brother Leo and Leo’s girlfriend Diana were found dead on the railroad tracks—and Maura, the girl Nap considered the love of his life, broke up with him and disappeared without explanation. For fifteen years, Nap has been searching, both for Maura and for the real reason behind his brother’s death. And now, it looks as though he may finally find what he’s been looking for.

When Maura’s fingerprints turn up in the rental car of a suspected murderer, Nap embarks on a quest for answers that only leads to more questions—about the woman he loved, about the childhood friends he thought he knew, about the abandoned military base near where he grew up, and mostly about Leo and Diana—whose deaths are darker and far more sinister than Nap ever dared imagine.

Century

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan

Napoleon “Nap” Dumas is a detective in a small New Jersey town.  He’s been searching for answers for the last fifteen years, since his senior year in high school.  Nap’s twin brother Leo and his girlfriend Diana were found dead on the railroad tracks in their hometown and the exact cause of death was never determined.  At the same time, Nap’s high school girlfriend, Maura, disappeared.  He never got over losing all three of them at once and has never been the same.

Fifteen years later, Maura’s finger prints are found at the scene of a crime in a nearby town.  Nap is sure this is linked to what happened to his brother and is determined to uncover the truth.  The journey is dangerous, twisted and full of surprises.

Based on true events, the story is a wild rollercoaster ride that leaves you breathless and is unputdownable.  The story is full of intrigue and suspense with some humour and romance added in, not formulatic in any way, and the writing flows well.  An excellent stand-alone thriller; if you’/’re a Coben fan, you’ll love this.  If you haven’t read his books before, you’ll become a huge fan. Highly recommended.

cross my heart

Alex Cross will do anything to protect his family.

Thierry Mulch is a psychopathic serial killer who committed murders he got away with and now thinks he is “the perfect criminal”.

Marcus Sunday is a writer who theorizes the philosophical world-view of a perfect killer in his book The Perfect Criminal.

Alex, Bree, and the FBI have been involved in an investigation of a recent spate of murders. Alex writes about the murders in a publication, drawing the wrath of the killer who decides to tear his family apart and make him suffer.

His conviction and his love is about to be put to the test. With a madman fanatical with being the perfect criminal on the stalk, can Alex Cross crack the most important case of his career and protect his family?

I liked the start; we see Alex in a desperate situation and then we go back several days and see the events leading up to that moment. The plot has several stories cleverly interweaved; a psycho is after Alex and his family, a killer that attacks massage parlours is on the loose, someone is kidnapping babies, Alex and Bree’s missing foster daughter Ava; and moves along quickly.

The ending was abrupt and had no resolution, it was a cliff-hanger and you’ll have to read the next book in the series to resolve it. Very annoying when you’ve invested time in a story and it feels a bit moneygrabberish to me. I doubt I’d buy the next if this book was one I’d bought, not sent to review.

Century

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan

A Treacherous Paradise

Hanna Lundmark escapes the terrible poverty of her life in rural Sweden by marrying a sailor and joining the crew of his Australia-bound steamship as a cook. Unfortunately he dies soon after and is buried at sea, leaving Hanna with the freedom to start her life afresh. When the steamer docks at the African port of Lourenco Marques she jumps ship.

Hanna reserves a room in a run-down hotel and settles back to observe the intrigues of a small African town and the dynamics between the white settler and the native population. Embroiled in a series of events which lead to her inheriting the most successful brothel in town, Hanna is determined to befriend the prostitutes working for her and change life in the town for the better but the distrust between blacks and whites, and the shadow of colonialism, lead to tragedy and murder.

Based on the true story of a Swedish woman who ran the most famous brothel in Mozambique, this is an interesting historical fiction that has a crime angle to it. It didn’t grip me, though the true story it’s based on sounds interesting. Try it for yourself.

Harvill Secker

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan

nypd red 2

Detective Zach Jordan and his partner Kylie MacDonald are part of the elite NYPD Red squad that solves crimes committed against the elite citizens of New York. A vigilante serial killer is on the loose, tracking down and murdering people whose crimes have not been punished. After taping a confession of past crimes, victims are murdered and left in a HAZMAT suit in a public place. When his latest victim is a woman of vast wealth who had many influential connections, Zach and Kylie are assigned the task of tracking down HAZMAT killer.

With four seemingly unconnected victims they are stumped, recruiting more help from a pair of beat cops. After a potential fifth victim is identified, they are in a race against time to find her and stop the killer.

Zach is worried about more than the case though – Kylie has been acting strange recently and her secrets might implode on the case. Will they catch the bad guy in time to save the victim?

A very well plotted mystery with a lot of action, there are many ‘a-ha!” moments occurring with titbits of info I hadn’t seen coming. This can be read as a standalone book; I hadn’t read the first but quickly figured out who as who without being flooded with back-story. I was caught up in this book and eagerly await the next.

Century

Supplied by Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan

the paris mysteries

Tandoori Angel and her siblings are living in Paris, recovering from the hectic events after her parents murders and reeling from the contents of their grandmother’s will. Though reunited with James in Paris when they arrive, he leaves to protect Tandy from his father. The Angel’s are further rocked when Harry is accused of murder and the media descend on them again. Tandy is discovering more about the death of her sister Katherine, and discovers a shocking truth she must keep secret.

A fast paced plot full of twists and mysteries, where nothing is as it seems. I was hooked by this book and quickly finished it. The Angel family is so close and weather any blows while coming back stronger than ever. I’m dying to read the next and find out more about the immense secret Tandy uncovered and the message she received as the book finished. Will the Angel’s uncle be exposed as the repulsive creature he is?

Young Arrow

Supplied by Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan

See #2 review here

the forever watch

On a generation ship, hundreds of years into a thousand year voyage, people are dying, in a very messy fashion. And Hana Dempsey, office worker in City Planning, wants to find the killer… That’s how it starts. But that’s by no means the only mystery aboard the Noah, and as Hana delves deeper, there are more and more secrets.

This book has a plot layered like an onion with enigma upon enigma… There is plenty of action, a healthy dose of noir, and a frisson of horror, but this is primarily science fiction, and would count as hard SF if it wasn’t for the heavy dose of psi. Unusually, it is written in the first person present tense, which did take a bit of getting used to. Ramirez writes skilfully and in the main, believably. A few times he pushes the psi powers a bit too far, and I’m not entirely sure about his biology, but I’m not that much of an expert in the field so I’ll let it go.

I suspect that most readers will find “The Forever Watch” an engaging, but disturbing read… the questions it asks about the balance between freedom and survival will stay with me for quite a while.

Hodder & Stoughton

Supplied by Hatchette New Zealand

Reviewed by Jacqui