November 28, 2014

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Investigative reporter Merrick McKnight is back in this sequel to Thunder Beach, set in his hometown of Wewathitchka, called “Wewa” by the locals, in Northern Florida.

Somehow recovered from losing his wife and son, he runs into Reggie Summers, a beautiful young woman that McKnight had a crush on in high school, but now seems to be lacking in self-esteem. She’s a single mom and thinks herself somehow inadequate and beneath the notice of the reporter whom she admires.

The police department in this small town is corrupt, and McKnight is there investigating when a cop is killed, apparently with his own gun.

This is a gristly tale of cop killers and small town corruption, but also a romance between McKnight and Summers, and to complicate things even further, author Michael Lister makes an appearance as himself; a mystery writer much admired in this small town. This book is advertised as a twentieth anniversary celebration of Lister as a novelist, so there are several nods to twenty years of history here. The setting is atypical for Florida novels and is interesting in of itself, and lots of dialogue helps move the story along.

Copyright ©2014 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association.

11/14 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

A CERTAIN RETRIBUTION by Michael Lister. Pulpwood Press (November 28, 2014). ISBN 978-1888146462. 232p.

BED OF NAILS by Antonin Varenne

November 3, 2014

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Translated by Siân Reynolds

Police lieutenant Richard Guérin works suicides in Paris, a thankless job that has led his predecessors down a rocky road, but he thrives on it. Guérin is a cop with scruples, working in a very dirty division. He has to determine whether it was suicide or murder when an oncoming truck kills a smiling young man running naked down a major thoroughfare.

Another strange suicide case lands on his desk when Alan Musgrave, a junkie, supposedly killed himself on stage in a private S&M club. Musgrave’s friend, American John Nichols, is living off the grid in southern France, but is forced to return to Paris to identify the body. Nichols finds the suicide call suspicious, and ends up working with Guérin on the investigation.

As more bizarre suicide cases land on his desk, Guérin puts his extraordinary puzzle solving skills to the test, finding the common thread that confirms his philosophy that “everything is connected.”

There are lots of interesting characters here, including Guérin’s dim-witted assistant, a Parisian park keeper who also happens to be an ex-con, and a beautiful German artist who covers her naked body in paint and flings herself at canvas.  Guérin’s foul-mouthed parrot, inherited from his deceased mother, a former prostitute, adds an occasional lighter moment to this dark police procedural, winner of the Prix Quai du Polar crime fiction award in France.

For readers who enjoy Fred Vargas, the same translator does fine work here.

Copyright ©2014 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association.

11/14 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

BED OF NAILS by Antonin Varenne. MacLehose Press (November 4, 2014). ISBN 978-1623651251. 256p.

ONLY THE DEAD by Vidar Sundstol

September 8, 2014

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Minnesota Trilogy (Book 2)

Translated by Tiina Nunnally

U.S. Forest Service officer Lance Hansen returns in book two of the Minnesota Trilogy. Don’t even attempt this unless you’ve read The Land of Dreams, which made my best books of the year list in 2013. This one will not.

Hansen was investigating the murder of a young Norwegian tourist in The Land of Dreams. A suspect is in custody, but Lance believes in his heart that the murderer is really Andy, his brother, but he can’t bring himself to pursue that avenue. Instead, he and Andy go on their annual November hunting trip along Lake Superior, exchanging few words but a lot of suspicion between them.

Hansen’s ancestor, missionary Thormod Olson, journaled his travails in trying to get to America a hundred years earlier, and excerpts of his journal – and his hallucinations – are interwoven throughout.

This is a very short book, more novella than novel, and unfortunately, there just isn’t a whole lot of plot but it still flows nonetheless. It is dark and beautifully written with spectacular descriptions of the Minnesota forest and the weather, particularly an ice storm, and despite all the description the story moves because the writing is also quite suspenseful.

Readers who enjoy their suspense on the literary side should appreciate this sequel.

Copyright ©2014 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association.

9/14 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

ONLY THE DEAD by Vidar Sundstol. Univ Of Minnesota Press (September 1, 2014). ISBN 978-0816689422.  256p.