Tag Archives: lesbian mystery

A Quiet Death – Cari Hunter (Bold Strokes Books)

a-quiet-deathBuy from Bold Strokes Books

You may well ask what I’ve been reading since the blog’s been on hiatus, and I can tell you it’s been mostly non-fiction. I have read little LGBT fiction other than what I’ve edited. Thus, I’ve fallen behind on some of my favorite authors–including Cari Hunter, whose Desolation Point and Tumbledown I thoroughly enjoyed. So, when I saw her latest release, A Quiet Death, coincided with the reopening of the blog, I was (as they say) “chuffed” and immediately put it on my TBR pile. And it should be on yours as well.

Lifelong pals Detective Sanne Jensen and Dr. Meg Fielding, are now officially dating, but that’s the least of their worries. Meg is mystified by what appears to be a case of domestic abuse while Sanne is investigating the death of a Pakistani girl on the moors. As the two mysteries move inexorably toward each other, Sanne also deals with the hospitalization of her father and uncovers a slave trade ring in the Pakistani community.

Post-CSI and its various anacronym-ridden spinoffs, police procedurals can  be a bit of a slog–almost as routine as their real-life counterparts–but Hunter is savvy enough to use that as a springboard on which she can launch some wonderful characters. Sanne is spunky but vulnerable, and Meg is professional yet not. Together, their banter is witty and believable. Sanne’s relationship with her work partner, Nelson, is also interesting to watch play out.

But all this is beside the point. Hunter moves these people through the plot with a confident joy that really comes through on the page. She revels in the details, works in the peaks and valleys, and maintains the balance between explanation and action like a true pro. And those action scenes are incomparable. They move so well, so effortlessly that it’s past your bedtime before you know it, and you’ll still want another chapter. She also has a way with a twist, keeping you off balance until she reveals the true connection between Sanne and the case at hand.

But this cracking good mystery also has a thorough respect for the various ethnic subcultures it explores. I learned things, which is never bad for a reader. Moreover, it has a distinctly British flavour, not pandering to American tastes. Personally, I love British slang, and the more the better for me. Of course, I watch Scottish dramas without the subtitle function. Still, any reader worth his salt can comprehend the context clues.

Of the three of Hunter’s books I’ve read and reviewed for this blog, this has got to be my favorite. Interesting plot, great characters, muscular prose–I’m more than chuffed. I’m potty about it.

And that’s no bollocks.

JW

© 2017, Jerry L. Wheeler

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The Shoal of Time – J.M. Redmann (Bold Strokes Books)

BSB-ShoalOfTimeBuy from Bold Strokes Books

I love authors who surprise me, especially when I’m expecting one kind of book and am delivered quite another. Not that the award-winning J.M. Redmann has written a bad Micky Knight mystery. Somehow, I think that outcome would be quite impossible. It’s just that this one didn’t take one of the subplots the way I thought it would. And I enjoyed it all the more for the surprise.

Micky Knight, fearless New Orleans private investigtator, gets involved with an FBI agent (or is she?) and her case involving human trafficking (or is it?), all of which is complicated by her relationship with another government official also working the case (or is she?). To add to the layers, she finds herself involved with Madame Celeste, the owner of a high-class prostitution outfit. Who is the real agent and who is the phony? The answer may surprise you.

In fact, many surprises await the long time reader of Micky Knight mysteries. Perhaps the most painful, or so the Amazon reviews might lead you to believe, is the fate of Knight’s partner Cordelia. As fans of the series will remember, Cordelia was diagnosed with cancer during the last installment. I don’t want to introduce a spoiler here, so I have to remain purposely vague. This issue , however, is central to any critique of the book and series, and you can easily find any number of fans writing reviews at Amazon who were upset by the choices Redmann made about Cordelia. But data will be lost with any reboot. Readers will be angry because the author did not take the paths they envisioned. And I must admit, I was rather shocked at what happened. But the outcome frees Redmann to take the entire series in other directions which may prove more exciting. Authors don’t grow without taking chances, and I don’t blame Redmann for not wanting to write the same book over and over. In that respect, The Shoal of Time is a transitional move.

That said, Knight is left adrift in ways she hasn’t been in a long time and must rely on some skills she hasn’t used in a while. Which brings me to the second major Amazonian criticism–that of Knight’s so-called lapses in judgment that put her in some awkward positions. The “Cordelia Outcome” has left Knight confused, vulnerable, and off her game so, of course, is going to make mistakes she ordinarily wouldn’t. What I find particularly brilliant about this is that the mistakes Redmann has Knight making are so amateurish, so obvious, that we know even without being told they’re related to the tattered state of her relationship.

For a character who never makes an appearance in the entire installment (oh, shit–there’s a spoiler), Cordelia’s fingerprints are all over this book from the aforementioned mistakes to Knight’s infatuations, willing and unwilling, with all three major female characters–the two agents and Madame Celeste. Her presence looms like a shadow over the narrative. The human trafficking mystery as well as the mystery over which government agent is real and which is bogus are obvious enough to be secondary, though interesting.

The real story here is the trashing of Micky Knight’s world and how she attempts to cope with the wreckage crashing around her. As far as that goes, this is fascinating reading that will upset fans yet provide a clean slate for Redmann to build something new and entirely different. As the saying goes, “Go big or go home.” Thankfully, Redmann has gone big.

And I can’t wait to see where she goes from here.

©  2014  Jerry L. Wheeler

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The Cruel Ever After – Ellen Hart (Bywater Books)

cache_280_427_3__80_Cruel Ever After front CoverBuy from Bywater Books

Buy from Giovanni’s Room

One of the most wonderful parts of doing a blog like this is finding out about books you never knew existed. I’ve known of Ellen Hart for a long time now and met her more than a few times, but until Bywater Books recently re-released two of her Jane Lawless mysteries, I’d never read her. After diving into The Cruel Ever After, however, I’ve become a fan who can’t wait for the next one.

Jane’s life as restauranteur and occasional detective is disrupted by her long-gone ex-husband Chester (Chess) who shows up in town “between fortunes.” But Chess and his somewhat unhinged girlfriend Irina have a get-rich-quick scheme involving antiquities looted from the Baghdad Museum. When antiquities dealers and buyers start showing up dead, Chess becomes the prime suspect.

Even though it’s part of a series, it’s definitely a standalone book. Some initial confusion regarding the ancillary characters is quickly resolved with a bit of explanation, then it’s on to the action. And action abounds here. The body count isn’t obscenely high, but the revelations and twists come thick and fast. However, nothing will prepare you for the rather shocking scene featuring Irina near the end. The blurb on the back of the book indicates it’s an Alfred Hitchcock moment, and that’s a very apt characterization. I can almost see Hitch’s camera dollying back as we see who (or what) is in the…ah, never mind. I couldn’t possibly spoil such a wonderful frisson of discovery.

Instead, I’ll talk about the characters. Jane and her friend Cordelia are absolutely marvelous–fully-developed and three-dimensional. However, Hart seems to be most interested in the quirky flaws of Chess and Irina, who threaten to steal the book away from Jane.  Hart is clearly having fun with Chess as she creates a delightful rogue with a twisted sense of priorities and an inexhaustible supply of falsehoods and half-truths. Obsessive Irina is also well-drawn and attracts your full attention when she’s on stage. You never know what she’ll do next.

As this is the first and, so far, only Hart book I’ve read, I don’t know whether or not this is a common occurance, but she keeps the tension ratcheted up until the very last page. Most mysteries will resolve themselves, then have a bit of a rest where people go back to a somewhat normal existence and mull over what they’ve learned or gotten from the case, but not this one. A central plot point isn’t resolved until the second to last page. And I loved that. No boring last chapter, no words of wisdom from the detective…just delicious tension and an unrelenting urge to read the next one. Right now.

But until it comes out, I have some catching up to do.

©  2013  Jerry L. Wheeler

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