Tag Archives: Soho Press

Two Of A Kind

Two British Authors With Different Approaches to Crime

The Stone Wife (nook book)

The Stone Wife: A Chief Superintendent Peter Diamond Investigation by Peter Lovesey (Soho Press, $26.95, 368 pages)

Witty British mystery stories can be addicting. The reader knows that a satisfying one is like an escape from the mundane, an opportunity to spend time with detectives who are able to cut through the confusion and trick the villains into revealing their responsibility for evil deeds. Peter Lovesey has added a 14th Peter Diamond tale to his long list of publishing credits. The Stone Wife is most certainly a member of this charming and addictive genre. The opening pages are reminiscent of the Lovejoy television series wherein the main character is an antiques dealer who susses out the real from the fake, often at auctions.

The Stone Wife begins at an auction where masked gunmen interrupt contentious bidding for a slab of carved stone. The current high bidder boldly intervenes as the masked men are poised to whisk away the stone slab. Alas, the bidder’s actions result in a nasty abdominal wound that is quickly followed by his demise. Of course, the local police are summoned and Peter Diamond, head of the Bath Criminal Investigation Division (CID), and his team begin their search for the masked men.

Lovesey fills the story with easy dialogue and a good balance of description and action. The reader is provided background regarding Chaucer’s life and writings. This information ties to the carving on the stone slab, which becomes a nagging reminder of the unsolved case in Inspector Diamond’s office. The CID team members, including Ingeborg Smith and Paul Gilbert, put themselves in harms’ way to assist in untangling a rather convoluted interplay among some really nasty criminals.

Infidelity and envy are motivating factors for the crime. The twisting and turning of the plot can be a bit off-putting. By comparison, Skeleton Hill, an earlier book in the series, is more like a well-crafted game of Clue.

Recommended.

Under a Silent Moon: A Novel by Elizabeth Haynes (Harper, $25.99, 359 pages)

Under a Silent Moon

Every little thing felt like flirting where Hamilton was concerned. Did he do it to everyone, or just to Lou? And how did you stamp your authority on the working relationship when there was this sort of history between you? Two months ago she had been a DI, and his ranking equal… Her swift rise to DCI was all due to her grim determination to get her head down and concentrate on work rather than let herself be distracted by men, or one man in particular – Andy Hamilton.

A deliberate timeline, memos from the detective chief superintendent, illustrations of reports throughout and elaborate charts at the back pages of Under a Silent Moon set this police procedural apart from others of its genre. Author Elizabeth Haynes prefaces the book with an explanation of her use of IBM computer software to simulate an actual murder investigation. She assures the reader that the characters are pure fiction.

The suspicious death of a very pretty young woman kicks off this tale. Detective Chief Inspector Louisa (Lou) Smith catches the case, her first major crime as a senior investigating officer. Smith is anxious to get it right, not mess up on the case. She needs to assert her leadership role with the members of her team, including Andy Hamilton, who is both brash and intimidating. By contrast, Smith favors a calm and warm approach to policing. Her style may not suit the promotion she has recently won.

The scene of the crime is the upscale neighborhood of Briarstone. The victim, Polly Leuchars, is not just beautiful; she is also known for her promiscuity with both men and women. Her brutal murder touches many residents, both current and past, of the country town. A second murder adds to the urgency and pressures that DCI Smith feels from the upper echelons of the police department.

Haynes provides a large cast of characters, many of whom seem to be deliberately confusing. These characters include Taryn and Flora, their fathers and several police officers – both male and female. Thankfully, there’s a roster at the front of the book to assist the reader when the names become overwhelming. Timing plays an important role in the solution of both of the crimes.

under-silent-moon

Despite the in-your-face presentation, readers of thrillers will most likely enjoy the specificity and details that make this more than just another procedural. Clearly, this is not your tame Miss Marple-style of British mystery. Under a Silent Moon is promoted as the first in a new series from Haynes. It will be interesting to see whether she is able to maintain the tight format and specificity of this compellingly tense novel.

Well recommended.

Ruta Arellano

Review copies were provided by the publishers.

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Coming Up Next…

A review of Requiem for a Gypsy: A Commander Jana Matinova Investigation by Michael Genelin.

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On Skeleton Hill

Skeleton Hill: An Inspector Peter Diamond Investigation by Peter Lovesey

Peter Diamond, head of the criminal investigations division (CID) for the city of Bath, England stars in this, the tenth book in the British detective series written by Peter Lovesey.   The first few chapters are devoted to setting the stage for a most enjoyable hunt for the facts needed to solve two mysterious murders.   There are two deaths to be investigated – which initially seemed to be unrelated – that were separated by about twenty years.   The first involves a skeleton found in the roots of a landmark tree and the other turns up in a nearby graveyard in a pool of blood.

The mystery opens with a reenactment of a 1643 battle during the Civil War (not ours, theirs) at Lansdown above the city of Bath.   Although the story develops methodically, the reader would be wise to take notes and prepare for what accelerates into a mad dash for the finish line.   Along the way we’re treated to some strictly English terms and eccentricities with a generous side order of correct local history.   All of this serves to make the book feel like a vacation/field trip combined with a really good game of Clue. 

Author Lovesey provides the reader with a full array of suspects, red herrings and human foibles that add up to a very enjoyable read.   This reviewer looks forward to reading the nine other books by Lovesey that preceded Skeleton Hill.

Highly recommended.

Review by Ruta Arellano.   A review copy of Skeleton Hill was provided by Soho Press.   This book is also available as a Kindle Edition download from Amazon.

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Dark Dreams

An eastern European detective finds that someone’s left an almost-priceless diamond in her home.   Is she being set up?   Is this connected to her best friend’s role in the current national election, or to a wave of murders?   Author Michael Genelin provides an intriguing setup for this Commander Jane Matinova investigation that has some of the feel of Gorky Park.

Genelin (a friend of this reviewer) is a former prosecutor for Los Angeles County and his knowledge of criminal syndicates is obvious.   In this second in a series of Martinova stories, he makes much of the theme that criminal and political corruption often run parallel to each other, and are sometimes directly related.   Although Jana is a senior police officer and her friend Sofia is a member of the Parliament, almost no one can be trusted in Slovakia.

Matinova is a well-rounded character, perhaps missing a few flaws to make her more real.   Dark Dreams makes for a fast and engaging read with one flaw:  the villain could be identified too early on.   This reader would love to see Mr. Genelin’s knowledge applied to a “Mike Genaro” detective novel set in the sunny and mean streets of L.A.   (Yes, Mike Genaro might serve as the fictional alter ego of the author.) Soho Press, $24.00, 368 pages; Reprinted courtesy of Sacramento Book Review.

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