Gwendy’s Button Box, by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar (2017)

Mystery
15-Adult
Gwendy's Button Box, by Stephen King and Richard ChizmarI approach Stephen King with great trepidation. As a teen I devoured Carrie and moved rapidly through his backlist, until Salem’s Lot, which so terrified me I made my younger brother accompany me upstairs at bedtime. No lie. Didn’t touch King again for years! But this one, co-written with his longtime friend Richard Chizmar, looked so intriguing I gave it to my spouse to read. He passed it back, assuring me it was in the vein of King novels I’ve loved like Hearts in Atlantis and The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. It’s 1974, and we are back in Castle Rock, a favourite King setting. Gwendy is 12, about to enter middle school in the fall. Determined to shed her detested nickname Goodyear, she spends the summer pounding up Suicide Stairs, ignoring the stranger in a hat reading on a bench. Probably a perv, she figures. Read more of this post

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The Expansion, by Christoph Martin (2017)

Thriller
Adult
The Expansion, by Christoph MartinPutting in a bid to engineer the expansion of the Panama Canal is an opportunity hydrogeologist and engineer Max Burns simply cannot pass up. If they win, it will be an amazing career achievement. Even the bid is a lengthy commitment, so when Max jumps on board, his fiancée calls off the engagement. But there’s plenty of positives for the good-looking engineer, including catch-up time with his boarding school buddy Godfredo Roco, who, along with his father Paco Roco, is heading the bid submission. Fredo hasn’t changed much – sure, he’s a smart-ass womanizer who lives the high life, but he is fiercely loyal, including to the father whom he hates. Paco is an astute and unscrupulous businessman, determined to beat the competition at any cost. Read more of this post

Murderous Mistral, by Cay Rademacher (2015, 2017)

Mystery
Adult
Murderous Mistral, by Cay RademacherParisian gendarme Capitaine Roger Blanc has just completed a sweeping corruption investigation that resulted in several high-profile arrests, but also led to his being banished to Provence. It’s a punishment for being a bit too successful in a society where political lives are built on back-scratching and favours. To make matters worse for our hero, his wife announces she is staying in Paris. With her lover. Newly single, Roger heads to Sainte-Françoise-la-Vallée, nearly 1000 kms south of Paris. His new commandant is a rising star who is not happy to have a corruption expert sent to his stable of officers, and he assigns the Capitaine to a corner space with an ancient computer and a lethargic partner who enjoys long lunches with bottles of rosé. Read more of this post

Invisible Dead, by Sam Wiebe (2017)

Mystery
Adult
Invisible Dead, by Sam WiebeVancouver is known for its sky-high real estate, spectacular setting, multicultural population and a generally laid-back and accepting attitude. Also pretty good soccer team, a football team that would be better if they hadn’t traded Andrew Harris, and a hockey team that is quite likely, to be kind, in a rebuilding year. It also has a significant drug problem, homeless numbers that are climbing every year, and a shameful history of an uncaring attitude toward missing and murdered prostitutes who are often Indigenous women. So it’s a real story that fuels the plot of this mystery that is the first in a new series starring the flawed but deeply principled private investigator Dave Wakeland. Read more of this post

The Chalk Pit, by Elly Griffiths (2017)

Mystery
Adult
The Chalk Pit by Elly GriffithsThis is the ninth installment in this mystery series set in Norfolk England, in which archaeologist Dr. Ruth Galloway teams up with Detective Chief Inspector Harry Nelson to solve crimes, quite similar to Kathy Reich’s Temperance Brennan series. When bones are found in an ancient tunnel by a restaurateur planning to open an upscale underground eatery, Galloway attends and soon determines the bones are not as ancient as first thought. Additionally, she finds evidence the bones were boiled, suggesting a possible crime. Meanwhile, Nelson’s team is also investigating a missing homeless woman (“rough sleeper in England-speak), and the urgency of the matter intensifies when someone stabs and kills the person who reported her missing. Read more of this post

Still Life, by Louise Penny (2005, 2015)

Mystery
Adult
Still Life by Louise PennyMy good friend John has been recommending this series for two years. When I spotted Still Life, the first entry in the Inspector Gamache series, on the shelves at my local Grand Forks Public Library, I decided to give it a try. This is an anniversary edition, and included a foreword by the author and an informative profile of the author and this debut mystery by James Kidd as an afterword. There are now 12 titles in the series, I believe,and each has won several awards. Still Life introduces Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surete de Quebec. He is a thoughtful, kind, and astute homicide investigator who mentors his team and has earned the high respect of underlings, colleagues and boss, though we learn he seems to be stuck career-wise. Read more of this post

Cold Girl, by R. M. Greenaway (2016)

Mystery
Adult
Cold Girl, by R.M. GreenawayI feel a bit ashamed that my interest in this debut Canadian mystery was first piqued by the fact its plot is loosely based on the real-life tragedy of missing and murdered indigenous women on the Yellowhead Highway west of Prince George known as the Highway of Tears. Additionally, the author is from Nelson, a nearby West Kootenay town, which is still in B.C. but a good 1500 kms from where she has set this mystery. (That’s how big our gorgeous province is.) Anyway, the “local” setting intrigued me and I picked up a copy from my library. This is the first in a series, and number 2 has just been issued, under the title Undertow. In the series debut, several very different cops are investigating the disappearance of a popular singer, Kiera Rilkoff. Read more of this post

On Turpentine Lane, by Elinor Lipman (2017)

Romance
Adult
On Turpentine Lane by Elinor LipmanI’ve read only one other book by Elinor Lipman, The Inn at Lake Devine, years before I started this blog, but I’ve never forgotten it. That says a lot about her writing, and I happily dove into this new offering. It doesn’t quite measure up to Lake Devine, in my view, but it’s a lovely choice for a bit of escapism in a winter that is sticking around longer than it should! The book opens with 30-something Faith Frankel deciding to buy a little house on, you guessed it, Turpentine Lane. Smitten by the two-storey home complete with a delightful pineapple newel post, Faith soon negotiates the buy from the owner’s distant daughter, as the actual owner, Mrs. Lavoie, is in hospital, having tried to commit suicide. Faith then finds out the woman’s first, second, and third husbands all died in the house. Read more of this post

The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett, by Chelsea Sedoti (2017)

Mystery
15-21
The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett, by Chelsea SedotiWhen the beautiful Lizzie Lovett disappears after a reportedly happy evening of camping with her boyfriend, Hawthorn Creely’s high school is buzzing with excitement. Not much happens in Griffin Mills, and Hawthorn is quick to join the locals in speculating on the cause of Lizzie’s disappearance, even while the search parties are frantically combing the woods around the campsite where she was last seen. Hawthorn’s older brother Rush, who dated Lizzie when they were seniors in high school, is apparently devastated, which strikes Hawthorn as odd since they haven’t spoken in years. Now a senior herself, Hawthorn recalls the kindness Lizzie once showed her, followed by a mortifying snub that still hurts. Read more of this post

Murder Underground, by Mavis Doriel Hay (1934, 2016)

Mystery
Adult
Murder Underground by Mavis Doriel HayFans of Agatha Christie may be familiar with this British author who published three mysteries in the 1930s, this being the first one. The British Library has now released all three, leaving this one till last, and perhaps that says something. It’s a classic British whodunit from the era of Miss Marple, though this lacks a central character to nose out the clues. Instead, clues are slowly unveiled by the victim’s neighbours, family, and other connections, giving it an original approach that makes for a lively if somewhat convoluted read. It all begins when Miss Pongleton is found murdered on the deserted stairs of the North London underground station, strangled with her own dog’s leash. Read more of this post

The Boy Who Knew Too Much, by Commander S.T. Bolivar, III (2016)

Mystery
9-13
The Boy Who Knew Too Much, Munchem Academy 1, by Commander S.T. Bolivar, IIIWhen Mattie Larimore accidentally steals a train (the only time he is caught in his entire criminal career), his father decides the 11-year-old is following too closely in his brother Carter’s footsteps, and sends him to the same reform school, Munchem Academy. As soon as he arrives, Mattie makes it his mission to get back home. He tries being good, but fails miserably when he reacts to a bully who is also his dorm-mate. Carter ignores his pleas for guidance. Mattie finds help in a pair of squabbling siblings, Caroline and Eliot. The three discover that beneath Munchem Academy is a lab that is taking the school’s reform mission to a whole new level. Read more of this post

Rum Luck, by Ryan Aldred (2016)

Mystery
Adult
Rum Luck, by Ryan AldredCanadian Ben Cooper is in Costa Rica for his honeymoon. But the wedding is off, and instead of waking up with a smile, he comes to in jail with only a fuzzy memory of what happened the night before. Lots, it turns out. In a single booze-fueled evening, Ben developed a wobbly business plan and bought a beach bar with the money he and his bride had saved for a downpayment on a home, locked himself out of his account, lost his phone, and is now charged with the murder of the owner of the bar he just bought. His pal Victoria, a high-priced Toronto lawyer, flies in to bail him out, and with best man Miguel, the three try to determine what exactly happened that night. Read more of this post

Mammoth, by Douglas Perry (2016)

Mystery
Adult
Mammoth, by Douglas PerryA summer morning earthquake in a ski resort town in the California mountains rattles residents. It’s California so they are used to it, but when explosions follow, a sense of disaster causes people to flee, creating a traffic jam that just increases the panic. Even the DJ takes off in the middle of his radio show. No one really knows what’s going on, including the reader. Billy Lane and his two cronies take advantage of the mayhem to knock off the small-town bank. No one was supposed to be hurt, but the bank manager is shot and a teller is left unconscious and bleeding. The crooks take off up a mountain road to hide out, where Billy’s daughter is at a running camp. But when Tori returns from her morning run, the camp is deserted. Read more of this post

The Woman in Cabin 10, by Ruth Ware (2016)

Mystery
Adult
The Woman in Cabin 10, by Ruth WareTravel journalist Laura Blacklock gets a great assignment that could give her the career push she needs – an inaugural cruise aboard a luxury ship – more of a yacht, really, with just 10 cabins. Just before she sets sail, a burglar breaks into her apartment, leaving Laura feeling rattled and deeply anxious. She embarks on the trip anyway, and spends the first night drinking too much. So when she hears a scream and a splash in the middle of the night, no one believes her, especially since the cabin is supposed to be empty. But Laura knows that’s not the case, having borrowed mascara from a woman in the cabin. Determined to prove her story, she persists in asking questions, though it means risking attracting the killer’s attention. If there is one. Read more of this post

Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch (2016)

Science Fiction
Adult
Dark Matter, by Blake CrouchThis will be a short review because too much information will spoil the story, and it’s a terrific one. First of all, let’s start with Schrodinger’s Cat – the philosophical puzzle that attempts to explain the idea of quantum superpositions – the cat in the box is BOTH dead and alive until the observer opens the box. One reality results and the other collapses. (That’s the best I can do. I’m a BA in History.) Or, think of a tree. From a single trunk grow branches, spawning more branches and on every branch are twigs and on each twig are leaves. Each leaf is the result of branching off the original trunk. Still with me? So in this story, Jason Dessen is a physics professor at a Chicago-area college who set aside his dreams of a Nobel Prize in Physics to marry Daniela and become a father to Charlie. Read more of this post