Book Preview – The Forgotten Girls by Owen Laukkanen

forgotten girls - book coverThis is the second time I’ve inadvertently read a book from the middle of an ongoing series rather than started from the beginning. Incidentally, both series happen to be in the crime/thriller genre and—due in part to the nature of the genre—both worked well enough as standalone novels (the first more so than this one). The Forgotten Girls by Owen Laukkanen will be the sixth book in his Stevens & Windermere series when it is released on March 14.

If you’ve ever seen a crime procedural on television, you’re probably familiar with the facts: that many victims of violent crime are women, that women of color are disproportionately victims of violent crime, and that transients, drug addicts, and sex workers are likely to wind up as victims of violent crime. These are the very demographics that make up the target victims of a dangerous serial killer train hopping around the northern Midwest. It’s a case that falls into Stevens and Windermere’s laps and quickly proves larger and—thanks to the winter weather—tricky hunt for the killer. Continue reading

Book Review – The Black Country by Alex Grecian

book cover - black countryAfter finishing The Yard a few months ago, I quickly put the rest of the books in Alex Grecian’s Scotland Yard Murder Squad series on my To Read list with the intent that I pace myself rather than read them all at once. It will be easier to wait before moving on from The Black Country, the second book in the series. Though the characters that helped make the series’ first installment so thrilling are still present, something of the magic is missing in book two.

Inspector Walter Day and Sergeant Nevil Hammersmith have been called away from London to assist the constable in Blackhampton—a coalmining town—with the search for two parents and their missing son. The inclement weather (a late season snowstorm) promises to be the least of the obstacles impeding the investigation. The people of Blackhampton are falling ill left and right and those who are well want little to do with the out-of-town law enforcement. Everyone seems to know more than they are willing to share leaving Day and Hammersmith with no one to trust but each other. Continue reading

Book Review – Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)

career of evil - book cover I’ve been waiting for the release of the latest Cormoran Strike novel, Career of Evil, since finishing The Silkworm. Written by J.K. Rowling under her pseudonym of Robert Galbraith, I have not been alone and was soon as she announces when the next one will be released, I’ll be preordering that one as well. This third novel in the Cormoran Strike series provides an intriguing introspective character study of the series’ two main characters as well as delivering a seductive and deliberate game of cat and mouse.

Like the previous installment in the Cormoran Strike series, Career of Evil picks up several months after The Silkworm’s conclusion. Cormoran’s business is in decent shape thanks to the high profile successes with the Lula Landry and Owen Quine murders. His secretary-assistant-deputy-detective Robin Ellacot is approaching the rescheduled date for her wedding and is taking a more active role in the agency after having completed a number of courses in everything from counter-surveillance to self-defense. But none of those courses could prepare her for receiving a package containing the dismembered leg of an unknown woman upon arriving to work one morning. Cormoran has a few ideas of men from his past as far as possible suspects go—yes, he can think of at least three men who he believes are capable and willing to send body parts to his office. Continue reading

Book Preview – MacDeath by Cindy Brown

UnknownHaving started on my mystery kick, I decided to continue with a preview of the first book in Cindy Brown’s upcoming Ivy Meadows mystery series, MacDeath. Lighthearted and fun compared to most mystery thrillers, MacDeath makes a decent introduction for amateur sleuth, Ivy Meadows and her author, Cindy Brown.

Ivy Meadows is an actress, and a stage name for Olive Ziegwart. Eager to break into the Phoenix acting scene, she auditions and gets a part in a circus themed production of Macbeth. But not all of the would-be cast are familiar with the famous curse on the Scottish play and soon it begins to wreak havoc on the production when the actor playing the doomed Duncan dies on opening night. Only Ivy finds the death suspicious and she begins a haphazard investigation into her fellow actors that threatens most of the relationships in her life as well as her career as an actor. Continue reading

Book Review – Naked Heat by Richard Castle

The overlap between the fictional world of ABC’s Castle and the world-within-a-world created by the second tie-in novel, Naked Heat, takes the viewer’s enjoyment to another level while leaving those who are not fans of the show with a solid follow-up to Heat Wave. With plenty of inside jokes just for the fans, Naked Heat leaves readers (and Castle fans) with confidence that the series will continue to entertain (both on the screen and on the page).

Though Heat Wave left things on a positive note between Nikki Heat and Jameson Rook, in the interim between novels, their fledgling romance hit a bump and they were thrown in separate directions. Of course, as is the case in every piece of fiction set in one of the world’s largest cities, life tosses them back together in the form of another murder investigation. Rook trades tagging along with gossip columnist Cassidy Towne for another ride-along with an irritated Detective Heat.

You would think that it would be easier to keep up with a corpse, however Towne’s body is two steps ahead of them just as her columns and sources were always two steps ahead of her subjects. Chasing down a body and a long list of celebrities shows both Heat and Rook that there’s a lot of unfinished business between them but they will have to wait for the case to be over before they will have a chance to deal with their own issues.

It surprised me that it still took a while for the parallels between the characters of book and the show to fade given that I had previously read Heat Wave (although that was several months ago now). There were also quite a few more instances where the book called to mind scenes in the show where elements of the novel, then “in progress,” were mentioned (specifically a scene involving how to escape a chair to which someone is duct taped).

Even with all of the references between the show and novel, after a certain point, they do fade into the background as the action-packed story takes over. There may be a few too many elements twisting around in the plot and getting tangled together, but that is what can make this genre so much fun. It is a weird combination of hoaky one-liners and a predictable, albeit complicated, plot that turn this into an enjoyable novel. The reader is not too concerned with figuring out the plot (and there are times when it twists around on itself so hard it could pull a muscle), so they are free to relax and experience the well-plotted pace that comes with the experience of writing for television.

The character development within the novel is hardly worth mentioning. But then, the characters of the novel are not the only characters at hand. The character of Richard Castle is given more depth as the novel shows insight into the “author’s” mind. It may not register for those who are not fans, but it wouldn’t distract from their enjoyment either. Overall, the novel was just as much fun as watching an episode and actually feels like it could have been pieced together from passed-over scripts.

 

Heat Wave

Book Review – Heat Wave by Richard Castle

Just as books have been the inspiration for film and television, there have been instances where movies or television series have spawned related book series. In my opinion, the toughest of these transitions to pull off are the novels from a television series. As a fan of ABC’s Castle from the first episodes, I was reluctant to pick up Heat Wave but now I’m glad that I did.

On the show, bestselling murder mystery novelist Richard “Rick” Castle crosses paths with New York Police Detective Kate Beckett and inspiration strikes. He tags along on the cases that cross her desk in the name of research and development for his new book, Heat Wave, throwing in his two cents worth and exchanging quips with the initially annoyed and begrudging detective.

I didn’t realize until I finally caved and read Heat Wave how much the characters and plot would mirror those of the show. The Beckett inspired Nikki Heat is forced to put up with journalist Jameson Rook while he tags along to research an article about New York’s finest. The case at hand involves a real-estate big-wig whose falling financial situation is eerily mirrored when he’s tossed from his sixth story balcony.

The names are different but in so many ways the characters are exactly the same as those of the television show that it can be distracting. Of course, if the reader isn’t familiar with the show and has no frame of reference, the premise is only as confusing as it usually is at the beginning of a novel when you’re still figuring out who’s who.

Despite a choppy beginning that jumps in ways that would make more sense visually edited together, Heat Wave finally develops a pace that works to reveal a complex set of circumstances that take time to carefully piece together. I was a little surprised at how short the novel was, mostly because so much story was crammed into only about two hundred pages. There’s something to be said for being concise, but Heat Wave could have taken its time a little more, built up to major events and revelations, worked to even out the chapters and have them flow better.

As a veteran of the Murder, She Wrote inspired novels, there’s something about Heat Wave that works better, that makes more sense. The Murder, She Wrote books follow the show’s main character of Jessica Fletcher as bodies drop around her (a phenomenon that has never really made sense). The books do not make reference to the events of the show and the show makes no reference to the books; the books are just another vehicle to capitalize on and continue the success of the show.

With Castle and Heat Wave however, the book is a part of the show. The show makes reference to the novel’s characters and even to specific scenes, and with the novel being adapted into a film within the show, the psychology behind the novel’s creation is playing a larger role on the show.

Heat Wave has a story and characters that allow it to stand without Castle’s support but it is at its best when supplementing the slightly campy ABC dramedy. The sequel, Naked Heat, was even released to coincide with the show’s season three premier episode.

 

Naked Heat