Comfort Crime

Three crime novels from the ever-growing ranks of unreviewed books around here:

Lisa Gardner – The Survivors Club

lisa gardnerThis was a scary one. It opens with a sniper taking out Eddie Como – the College Hill Rapist – as he is taken from the transport vehicle to the courthouse on the day of his trial. The obvious suspects for the professional hit are the three women whose lives he affected and who worked together to achieve his arrest. Jillian, Carol and Meg have come together as survivors rather than victims, though the effect of this positive choice on their lives is wafer thin. All three are one the verge of collapse one way or another and still living with the traumatic consequences of what happened to them. Detective Roan Griffin is back on the job after 18 months out tending to his own demons, and he’s not entirely sure he’s got the better of them. The case becomes even more complicated when another young woman is attacked, and the one witness who might have the key to the crimes is Roan’s personal nemesis. This was very well written, sharply plotted and only to be read during daylight hours. It would have been a top recommendation from me only the epilogue let it down. Heavens, I love a happy ending myself, but I couldn’t quite swallow the way three women, now violently traumatised twice, found love, laughter and happiness in the blink of an eye. Particularly since the rest of the book presses heavily on the pedal of damage done to them. And shouldn’t there be an apostrophe in the title? But the rest of it was great.

Sara Paretsky – Breakdown

breakdownI know old school feminism is out of fashion at the moment, but I still like Sara Paretsky nevertheless. It’s a dark and stormy night in Chicago when V. I. Warshawski finds herself in a city graveyard, tracking down a bunch of teenage girls acting out vampire rituals in honour of their favourite series of novels. Of course, these things never end well, and in this case the girls stumble over the body of a man impaled on one of the gravestones. Luckily V. I. is on hand to tamper with the evidence, make a complete nuisance of herself with the police and give false testimony in order to protect the young. But trying to help the girls out gets her embroiled in trouble of a different kind. A couple of the girls come from important Chicago families: one is the granddaughter of a wealthy Jewish business magnate, another the daughter of a Democratic candidate for the state, and both are caught up in the anti-Semitic smear campaign of a television journalist. You can rely on Paretsky for a great twisted web of intrigue, infuriating but well-drawn characters, and corruption in high places. You can also rely on her detective to rush into situations enraged by her half-baked assumptions until she steps on enough toes to provoke attempted murder and a red-handed resolution. For feisty women everywhere: how not to do it and yet still somehow get the job done.

Stella Rimington – The Geneva Trap

geneva trapI was a little uncertain about Stella Rimington as I feared she might be just another celebrity author. But in fact, the former head of MI5 puts together a cracking tale here with the resounding ring of authenticity, something that definitely lifts her spy thriller above the average. The novel opens with two somehow-to-be-related events: a Swiss spy seeing his daughter off at Geneva airport recognises a face in the crowd. It’s a man who has recently been kept under surveillance, and out of professional curiosity, our spy decides to tail him and, for his trouble, gets run off the road to his death. Then a British spy based also in Geneva is approached by a Russian with important information that he says he will hand over to only one person: Liz Carlyle of MI5. The information concerns a cyber attack on a top-secret drone project in which the British and the American are collaborating. The project has been infiltrated by a mole from a third country, and our Russian fears that his country is being framed in a way that might stir the embers of the cold war. As Liz Carlyle and her team investigates, a complex web of connections is gradually revealed stretching from London to Geneva to Marseilles. I thought the plotting was excellent as the story is revealed in a series of brief chapters coming from a variety of locations and a variety of storylines without ever losing its clarity. There’s an extra pleasure in reading about the way the different international bureaus interact with one another, essentially, professionalism tinged with prejudice and mistrust, and no one is more ruthless than those Russians. Very slick, very enjoyable.

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24 thoughts on “Comfort Crime

  1. I always turn to crime fiction when in need of something to relax me. Quite what that says about me I’m not sure! I love Paretsky and have the new one,’Critical Mass’ already on order from the library even though I’m not sure it’s actually published yet. I haven’t read Gardner but might now give her a try. Is this part of a series, do I get to find out why the detective has had eighteen months out by reading earlier books? I do like detective series. The one I’m most interested in here, however, is the Rimington. I tried to read her first book when it was published but put it down because of what I felt was very poor writing and clichéd situations. I’ve never gone back, but you make me think I might have missed something. I’m assuming that Liz Carlyle is an on-going character, but you don’t seem to have had any difficulty jumping in in the middle of a series so perhaps I should try this, which I’m fairly sure is her latest, and see if it changes my opinion.

    • I’m exactly the same! I find it so much more relaxing to read about people killing each other than falling in love! ;) I will be the queue for the new Paretsky, without doubt. The Gardner is actually a standalone, although she does have a couple of series to her name. And as for Stella Rimington, my feeling is that she has had a great deal of editorial support and instruction over the years. I picked this one up especially because the reviews said it was the best yet, and it’s her sixth, I think, or fifth. I’m dreadful and hardly ever start at the beginning of a series although I know I should, and there’s no reference at all to earlier novels in this one, although I daresay some of the characters reappear. I enjoyed this particular book very much and think it’s worth a try!

  2. Nice post title! They all look interesting reads. I’m especially interested in the Stella Rimington, from the point of view of authenticity, and also because I had no idea she’d written a fiction book.

    • It really does make a difference when it comes to crime and thrillers, that whiff of authenticity! Stella Rimington has written quite a few now, but I picked this one up having read reviews that said it was the best so far. I do like to trial run a new author on a book that seems to be a good one!

    • I didn’t find it at all difficult to come in on the sixth, so I’d say start here if you’re interested. I’d rather read a new author’s best book than a dodgy one that might put me off them forever more!

  3. Fun reading. You know I’m not a crime reader but I enjoy reading about your reading nonetheless. My mom is a big fan of Paretsky. Maybe I should read one of hers sometime just to find out why my mom likes her so much, plus we could actually talk about a book!

    • Heh! Sometimes it’s fun to see how the other half lives! I’ve actually got a straight novel that Sara Paretsky wrote called Bleeding Kansas, so you could always compromise! :)

  4. Hmm Geneva airport? I know it well (over 100 flights to it) and have often spotted people I know in the crowds – sometimes I’ve kissed them, sometimes I’ve turned away.

    The mysterious Professor

    • So long, mysterious professor, as you haven’t driven any of them off the road subsequently, you’re doing fine! ;) I had forgotten that you had such detailed knowledge of Geneva airport, though. I always assume Geneva itself to be lovely; you will have to tell me all about it.

  5. I seldom read crime / mystery / spy except Michael Connelly and Daniel Silva… but these look interesting. Especially the third one here, sounds like someone I should explore. Celebrity novelist? Honestly, that wouldn’t have a bearing on me since I haven’t heard of Stella Remington. But thanks, litlove, for introducing me to her. ;)

    • Ah yes, one person’s celebrity is another’s total stranger! :) Stella Rimington is not particularly starry, but she is known in the UK because she was head of MI5, an unusual job for a woman (though echoed by Judi Dench as M in the Bond films!).

      • Yes… and with some Googling I know I must read her novels one of these days. ;) And you’re right to mention Judi Dench. Alas, not any more though, for in Skyfall, we know who’s taking over now… Ralph Fiennes.

  6. I’m definitely going to read Sara Paretsky one of these days. I think this isn’t the first you reviewed and the other one sounded good too. Ha the apostrophe. Maybe without is the new with?

    • Your memory is excellent! I have indeed reviewed Paretsky before, because she’s an author who includes a lot of social and political commentary in her novels, which makes them interesting to write about. Plus, she’s a very good crime novelist! As for the apostrophe, your solution made me laugh. :)

  7. I haven’t read any of these. I’m all in favor of Paretsky’s “old school feminism”, though. And this sounds like a good one. And I’m on the alert for good spy thrillers, having just been to see a spy exhibit at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, so the last one sounds like it must go in the TBR tome, too.

    • The spy exhibit sounds fascinating too! I’ve been lucky enough to read a lot of good crime lately, and both Paretsky and Rimington are great authors (well, particularly Paretsky). Would love to know what you think of them!

  8. I’m trying to remember if I’ve read Breakdown yet – I don’t think I have. I’ve read most of the series, and really enjoy her. I like how the books take on topical ideas and stories, and the author isn’t afraid to have VI voice some of her opinions. It makes the books have a social view that I find inline with her being a detective.

    The Stella Rimington looks interesting as well. I do like the occasional spy novel now.

    Good thoughtful reviews, Litlove.

  9. Last night I finished reading a great thriller, “No One Can Know” by Adrienne LaCava- a great book with an interesting cast providing various perspectives on 1960’s issues- including the JFK assassination http://adriennelacava.com/. I was so sad to see it end, so have been looking around for a new book to read. I am excited to check out all of these books! Thank you!

  10. I always pick up the newest Paretsky novel when I’m at the public library. Bleeding Kansas is quite a departure for her, though. (I reviewed it in light of the presidential inauguration on Jan. 20, 2009.)

  11. Pingback: Tales from the Reading Room

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