Three crime novels from the ever-growing ranks of unreviewed books around here:
Lisa Gardner – The Survivors Club
This 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
I 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
I 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.