The Falls by Ian Rankin

The FallsThe Falls

by Ian Rankin
Series: John Rebus, #12

Hardcover, 395 pg.
Minotaur Books, 2001

Read: January 15 – 16, 2018

If anyone can do it, John, you can. I’ve always had confidence in your sheer pig-headedness and inability to listen to your senior officers.

After the last few novels which were characterized by several interlocking stories, The Falls centers on the disappearance of a young woman — Philippa Balfour. Flip is the daughter of an important banker, a student of sorts, and frequently the girlfriend of one of the least appealing young men you’ve met lately. She never showed up for a night of drinking with friends and her father’s influence got the police involved much more quickly than they would have otherwise. There are few that hold out much hope for a happy resolution to this case, but until a body shows up, that’s how they have to proceed.

Now, just because I said there’s only one case at the core of this book, that doesn’t mean it’s just one story. There’s the typical investigation, undertaken by a large number of detectives and under media scrutiny. Then there’s something that catches Rebus’ eye, which leads him on one path. Siobhan Clarke finds another loose strand to pull at, and uses much of her off-the-clock time following that. The two are aware of what the other is doing, but neither is all that interested in it. Readers, of course, know that one or both of them are going to make more progress than the rest of the Force and can just enjoy watching them.

That’s the strength of this book — Rebus finds some evidence that might tie this crime to others throughout Scotland over the past few decades. He clearly specializes in historical investigations, and it’s clearly a good idea for him to go down that path. Siobhan’s got a more tech-savvy take on it (and she doesn’t have all the skills necessary for that kind of work, but she’s able to stumble along with some help. Watching both of these two mavericks at work was such a blast (Siobhan once again is confronted with her colleagues pointing out her methods and focus approximating Rebus’). The actual solution to the mystery of Flip’s appearance was very satisfying and well-executed.

I spent a good deal of time missing Brian Holmes during the early pages — the DS that Siobhan is partnered up with just stressed how much isn’t Brian. And it goes downhill from there. Brian might not have been my favorite supporting character, but wow — he’s so much better than everyone else Siobhan has worked with (other than DI Rebus, of course). Maybe it helps that he was involved with that librarian, so he wasn’t trying to start something with her (minor spoiler, sorry).

The book starts with Watson’s retirement (not the last we see of him, which is nice), and newly-minted DCS Gill Templar has her work cut out for her. Not only does she need to lead the search for the missing daughter of an important Edinburgh banker, but she has to establish her authority. The way she goes about it rubs some the wrong way, and you have to wonder how long she can maintain things. Siobhan’s take on her new boss shows a good amount of discernment. One thing’s for sure, Rebus is going to miss Farmer Watson (but not his coffee).

Speaking of Gill, Rebus has a new romantic interest in The Falls, Jean Burchill. I liked Jean more than I ever liked Gill, Patience (low bar, there) or any of the others that have graced these pages. Her husband had been an alcoholic (of a different sort than Rebus), and sees Rebus’ vices in a very different light than other have. She doesn’t approve, but she can approach them more realistically than Patience ever did. I fear she won’t be around long, but that’s hopefully just cynicism on my part. (feel free to leave me in the dark on that front down in the comment box, folks).

Not just Farmer’s retirement, but Rebus has to deal with loss and a greater sense of mortality at points here. He and his contemporaries can’t help but sense their own retirement days approaching/looming. Also, Rebus may not add to his enemies list within the Police, but he’s deepened the antagonism a few have toward him. At one point, he goes out of his way to cultivate that — for a good reason, in his mind at least. But I’m not sure if he’s ever come closer to losing his job. Who knows what’d happen to him if that day comes.

This is one of those covers that makes you wish cover designers had to read the book — an inconsequential point, but when Rebus actually got to the titular location, I had to shake my head. (Other cover images I’ve seen for this aren’t as misleading).

This might not be as powerfully told, or as sweeping as some of the recent books have been. But I’m not sure I’ve enjoyed reading a Rebus novel more than this one — and could’ve easily read it in one sitting. This will be sure to please Rebus fans and could easily make some, too.

—–

4 Stars

2018 Library Love Challenge

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Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire

Beneath the Sugar SkyBeneath the Sugar Sky

by Seanan McGuire
Series: Wayward Children, #3

Hardcover, 174 pg.
Tor Books, 2018

Read: January 11, 2018

Children have always tumbled down rabbit holes, fallen through mirrors, been swept away by unseasonal floods or carried off by tornadoes. Children have always traveled, and because they are young and bright and full of contradictions, they haven’t always restricted their travel to the possible. Adulthood brings limitations like gravity and linear space and the idea that bedtime is a real thing, and not an artificially imposed curfew. Adults can still tumble down rabbit holes and into enchanted wardrobes, but it happens less and less with every year they live. Maybe this is a natural consequence of living in a world where being careful is a necessary survival trait, where logic wears away the potential for something bigger and better than the obvious. Childhood melts, and flights of fancy are replaced by rules. Tornados kill people: they don’t carry them off to magical worlds. Talking foxes are a sign of fever, not guides sent to start some grand adventure.

But children, ah, children. Children follow the foxes, and open the wardrobes, and peek beneath the bridge. Children climb the walls and fall down the wells and run the razor’s edge of possibility until sometimes, just sometimes, the possible surrenders and shows them the way to go home.

So begins Beneath the Sugar Sky, the third installment of McGuire’s Wayward Children series. If you’d asked me why I was excited about this book before reading it, I could’ve given you a list of reasons — but I’d forgotten just how magical the books are. By the time I got to “ah, children” not only did I remember the magic, I was under its spell.

Sometime after the events of Every Heart a Doorway, two residents of Eleanor West’s Home are down at the pond (they returned from water-worlds, and this is the best they can get), when a naked girl lands in the pond (falling from apparently nowhere), demanding to see her mother, or at the very least, someone in charge. It turns out that this girl is Sumi’s daughter — the problem there is that Sumi died during Every Heart, so she didn’t get to mature a bit, go back to her world, defeat the evil Queen, get married and have Rini. Now, the Timeline is catching up to her, and faster than you can say Marty McFly, Rini is starting to disappear, finger by finger, limb by limb. This doesn’t sit well with her, as you can imagine.

I like existing. I’m not ready to unexist just because of stupid causality. I didn’t invite stupid causality to my birthday party, it doesn’t get to give me any presents.

So, four of the residents set off on a quest to bring Sumi back to life. This takes them across the U. S., into one of the worlds of the dead, and all around Sumi/Rini’s nonsense world. There’s heroism, mystery, sacrifice, triumph and cleverness all around, without which none of this would work, but with it all — and a healthy dose of magic — it’s a plan so crazy that it just might work.

I don’t want to talk too much about the characters apart from what I’ve already said (which is essentially nothing). In addition to Rini — we have a nice mix of new to us and returning friends — with one character that’s new to the Home as well as to us. I absolutely enjoyed getting the bonus time with the returning characters, the new (to us) characters were exactly the kind of kids you hope to find in these books. Also, some of the revelations about some secondary characters serve to explain a lot about the way this particular multiverse came to be and it’s pretty cool. So, basically, the character material in this novella is almost perfect.

I wasn’t as taken with Down Among the Sticks and Bones as I was with Every HeartEvery Heart was a wonderful mix of tragedy and violence with a sense of play (especially in the ideas and words) — there was hope throughout the book, even when it was dark for everyone and there was little reason for it. Down Among was about dashed hope and tragedy in a world of tragedy, dashed hopes and violence; yes, there as a little play with the language, and some moments of triumph, but they were all overshadowed. Which was fine, it was the story that needed to be told, and I’m not complaining, but Beneath the Sugar Sky was more of a return to the tone of Every Heart, so I liked it more than Down Among — I think it was a better book, too, but I could be wrong about it. I just know it was easier to like. There’s definitely tragedy, there are hard choices to be made — and I did say something about sacrifice — but there’s a strand of hope throughout that makes it so much easier to carry on.

One thing that has been on display throughout this series is a sense of play, a sense of fair tale worlds and logic reflected in the language McGuire uses — you’ve seen bits of it already above, just one more and I’ll call it good:

There was a door there, tall and imposing, the sort of door that belonged on a cathedral or a palace; the sort of door that said “keep out” far more loudly than it would ever dream of saying “come in.”

You know exactly what that door looks like, and you have a great sense of the environment around it, too. Just from that one sentence. McGuire has a great sense of style on display in the Toby Daye and InCryptid books, which is turned up in the Indexed serials, but is probably best seen in these books — capturing the feel of preternatural worlds has pushed her to unleash all of her pent-up linguistic magic. Even if I disliked the characters and stories she’s telling in this series, I think the language would bring me back.

I’m obviously a pretty big Seanan McGuire fan — just a quick glance at the archives will tell you that. But I’m willing to bet that even if I wasn’t predisposed to like her work, this series would’ve made me one — Beneath the Sugar Sky is a slice of literary perfection and I can’t encourage you enough to try it.

—–

5 Stars

Love Story, With Murders by Harry Bingham

Love Story, With MurdersLove Story, With Murders

by Harry Bingham
Series: Fiona Griffiths, #2

Kindle Edition, 449 pg.
Sheep Street Books, 2016

Read: January 4 – 8, 2018

For me, these things aren’t only about finding the killers, but about giving peace to the dead. It’s not primarily a question of justice. The dead don’t care about that. The murder investigation, arrest and conviction are just part of the funeral rite, the final acts of completion. Gifts I bring the dead in exchange for the peace they bring me.

The peace of the dead, which passeth all understanding.

DC Fiona Griffiths continues her efforts to act normal, maybe even feel normal, getting along with her boyfriend and staying out of trouble with her superiors. Basically, things are going as well as they possibly can following the events of Talking to the Dead. But we know that’s going to come to an end, otherwise, this would be a really dull series. It comes to an end when Fiona and a colleague stop off on their way home to look at a case of illegal rubbish. In this particular case, the rubbish is a body part in a chest freezer. It’s a significant enough body part to make the detectives sure they’re looking for something more serious than illegal rubbish.

Over the next few days, the police are able to find some more of the woman, as well as start to understand how long ago she was killed and dismembered — which leads to an identification. Shortly thereafter, the police find pieces of a fresher corpse in the same area. While most detectives look for connections between the victims and hunt for clues to identify the killer, Fi begins learning more about the victims as individuals (not that she’s alone in this, it’s just she’s alone in her approach), what their lives were like, and what would lead someone to kill them. Fi investigates things in a way no other fictional detective — private or police — does. I’m not sure I can express it clearly, but when you read it, you’ll notice. When she starts to put the pieces together about what was going on the whole time, I was flummoxed — it’s nothing like where I expected things to go.

Aside from that are the relationships with her boyfriend, family and fellow police officers. The romance between Buzz and Fi is very strange, but sweet. She’s dealing with a different superior for these investigations. It’s not just Fi up to the same antics with a different boss — similar antics, yes, but Fi understands herself better now, and is able to do what she does in a way that her superiors are able to accept and use. As for her family? I’m not even going to try to talk about it.

Some people are better as corpses. They’re easier to like.

On the one hand, I really like watching Fi’s subconscious at work, making the connections, deductions, and guesses she needs to be making to solve the crime/find what she’s looking for, while she interprets it as “the dead” talking to her. Well, that’s one way to read it, anyway. It really could be that there’s something on the verge of supernatural going on. I like the hint of ambiguity that Bingham has given this world and Fi’s understanding of what’s going on.

I was, I don’t want to say surprised, but it was something like it by the ending. Maybe I’ve just been reading too many Mysteries lately with pretty ambiguous endings, but this one had a very satisfying ending with most of the loose ends tied up. This doesn’t mean that everything ended happily (for want of a better term), but that Fi’s fully able to satisfy her curiosity and need to know (at least about those things that came up in her professional life — her personal life is only slightly more settled by the book’s end than it was when it started).

A murder mystery — with, yes, a love story — that had some fantastic character moments, a really strong puzzle, all very well told. Fiona Griffiths impresses again. This is the best kind of sequel — the same kind of things that filled the first book in the series, but seen differently by everyone (including the protagonist) and with different results — Fi’s grown a bit (I want to stress “a bit,” she’s still basically the same person, which is good, I don’t want everything to be “normal” for this character), and is building on the events from the previous novel, not just repeating them. I’m truly annoyed with myself for waiting so long to get back to this series, and will not make the same mistake.

—–

4 Stars

My Favorite Fiction of 2017

Is he ever going to stop with these 2017 Wrap Up posts? I know, I know…I’m sick of them. But I’ve already done most of the work on this one, I might as well finish…Also, it was supposed to go up Friday, but formatting problems . . .

Most people do this in mid-December or so, but a few years ago (before this blog), the best novel I read that year was also the last. Ever since then, I just can’t pull the trigger until January 1. Also, none of these are re-reads, I can’t have everyone losing to my re-reading books that I’ve loved for 2 decades.

I truly enjoyed all but a couple of books this year (at least a little bit), but narrowing the list down to those in this post was a little easier than I expected (‘tho there’s a couple of books I do feel bad about ignoring). I stand by my initial ratings, there are some in the 5-Star group that aren’t as good as some of the 4 and 4½-Star books, although for whatever reason, I ranked them higher (entertainment value, sentimental value…liked the ending better…etc.). Anyway, I came up with a list I think I can live with.

(in alphabetical order by author)

In The StillIn The Still

by Jacqueline Chadwick
My original post

Chadwick’s first novel is probably the most entertaining serial killer novel I’ve ever read. Without sacrificing creepiness, suspense, horror, blood, guts, general nastiness, and so on — she gives us a story with heart, humor and humanity. The second novel, Briefly Maiden is arguably better, but I liked this one a teensy bit more — and I’m genuinely nervous about what’s going to happen in book 3 (not that I won’t read it as soon as I possibly can).

4 1/2 Stars

The Hangman's Sonnet Robert B. Parker’s The Hangman’s Sonnet

My original post

How do you possibly follow-up 2016’s Debt to Pay, especially with that ending, without dramatically altering the Jesse Stone flavor? I’m still not sure how Coleman did it, but he did — Jesse’s dealing with Debt to Pay in a typically self-destructive way, but is keeping his head mostly above water so he can get his job done, mostly by inertia rather than by force of will. Reflexes kick in however, and while haunted, Jesse can carry out his duties in a reasonable fashion until some friends and a case can push him into something more.

Coleman’s balancing of long-term story arcs and character development with the classic Jesse Stone-type story is what makes this novel a winner and puts this one on my list.

4 1/2 Stars

A Plague of GiantsA Plague of Giants

by Kevin Hearne

This sweeping — yet intimately told — epic fantasy about a continent/several civilizations being invaded by a race nobody knew existed is almost impossible to put into a few words. It’s about people stepping up to do more than they thought possible,more than they thought necessary, just so they and those they love can survive. It’s about heroes being heroic, leaders leading, non-heroes being more heroic, leaders conniving and failing, and regular people finding enough reason to keep going. It’s everything you want in an epic fantasy, and a bunch you didn’t realize you wanted, too (but probably should have).

5 Stars

Cold ReignCold Reign

by Faith Hunter

My original post
Hunter continues to raise the stakes (yeah, sorry, couldn’t resist) for Jane and her crew as the European Vamps’ visit/invasion gets closer. Am not sure what’s more intriguing, the evolution in Jane’s powers or the evolution of the character — eh, why bother choosing? Both are great. The growth in the Younger brothers might be more entertaining — I appreciate the way they’ve become nearly as central to the overall story as Jane. I’m not sure this is the book for new readers to the series, but there are plenty before it to hook someone.

5 Stars

Once Broken FaithOnce Broken Faith

by Seanan McGuire
My original post

Poor planning on my part (in 2016) resulted in me reading two Toby Daye books this year, both just excellent, but this one worked a little bit better for me. Oodles and oodles of Fae royalty and nobility in one spot to decide what they’re going to do with this elf-shot cure leading to a sort-of closed room mystery (it’s just a really big, magical room) with peril on all side for Toby and her found family.

5 Stars

A Monster CallsA Monster Calls

by Patrick Ness
My original post

There were so many ways this could’ve been hacky, overly-sentimentalized, brow-beating, or after-school special-y and Ness avoids them all to deliver a heart-wrenching story about grief, death, love, and the power of stories — at once horrifying, creepy and hopeful.

4 1/2 Stars

Black and BlueBlack and Blue

by Ian Rankin
My original post

Rankin kicked everything into a higher gear here — there are so many intricately intertwining stories here it’s hard to describe the book in brief. But you have Rebus running from himself into mystery after mystery, drink after drink, career-endangering move after career-endangering move. Unrelenting is the best word I can come up with for this book/character/plot — which makes for a terrific read.

5 Stars

SourdoughSourdough

by Robin Sloan
My original post

This delightful story of a programmer turned baker turned . . . who knows what, in a Bay Area Underground of creative, artisanal types who will reshape the world one day. Or not. It’s magical realism, but more like magical science. However you want to describe it, there’s something about Sloan’s prose that makes you want to live in his books.

Do not read if you’re on a low carb/carb-free diet. Stick with Sloan’s other novel in that case.

4 1/2 Stars

The Hate U Give (Audiobook)The Hate U Give

by Angie Thomas, Bahni Turpin (Narrator)

My original post

This was a great audiobook –and I can’t imagine that the text version was as great, I just didn’t have time for it. It’s the story about the aftermath — socially, personally, locally, nationally — of a police shooting of an unarmed black male as seen through the eyes of a close friend who was inches away from him at the time.

I think I’d have read a book about Starr Carter at any point in her life, honestly, she’s a great character. Her family feels real — it’s not perfect, but it’s not the kind of dysfunctional that we normally see instead of perfect, it’s healthy and loving and as supportive as it can be. The book will make you smile, weep, chuckle and get angry. It’s political, and it’s not. It’s fun and horrifying. It’s . . . just read the thing. Whatever you might think of it based on what you’ve read (including what I’ve posted) isn’t the whole package, just read the thing (or, listen to it, Turpin’s a good narrator).

5 Stars

The ForceThe Force

by Don Winslow
My original post

There may be better Crime Fiction writers at the moment than Don Winslow, but that number is small, and I can’t think of anyone in it. In this fantastic book, Winslow tells the story of the last days of a corrupt, but effective (in their own corrupt and horrible way), NYPD Task Force. Denny Malone is a cop’s cop, on The Wire he’s be “real police” — but at some point he started cutting corners, lining his pockets (and justifying it to himself), eventually crossing the line so that he’s more “robber” than “cop.” Mostly. And though you know from page 1 that he’s dirty and going down, you can’t help get wrapped up in his story, hoping he finds redemption, and maybe even gets away with it.

But the book is more than that. In my original post I said: “This book feels like the love child of Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of the Vanities and Nicholas Pileggi’s Wiseguy. You really feel like you understand how the city of New York is run — at least parts of it: the police, elements of the criminal world, and parts of the criminal justice system. Not how they’re supposed to run, but the way it really is. [Winslow] achieves this through a series of set pieces and didactic pericopes.”

A police story, a crime thriller, a book about New York — oh, yeah, possibly the best thing I read last year.

5 Stars

There were a few that almost made the list — almost all of them did make the Top 10 for at least a minute, actually. But I stuck with the arbitrary 10 — these were all close, and arguably better than some of those on my list. Anyway, those tied for 11th place are: <

Skyfarer by Joseph Brassey (my original post), Deep Down Dead by Steph Broadribb (my original post), Briefly Maiden by Jacqueline Chadwick (yes, again) (my original post), The Twisted Path by Harry Connolly (my original post), Bound by Benedict Jacka (my original post), The Western Star by Craig Johnson (my original post), The Brightest Fell by Seanan McGuire (see? Another Toby Daye) (my original post), The Blinds by Adam Sternbergh (my original post), Hunger Makes the Wolf by Alex Wells(my original post).

My Favorite 2017 New (to me) Characters

A few weeks ago, I started to describe someone as one of the best characters I met this year. Which got me to thinking about and honing this list. I’m limiting myself to characters I met this year, otherwise I don’t think there’s be much room for anyone — Spenser, Hawk, Scout, Harry Dresden, Toby Daye, Ford Prefect etc. wouldn’t really allow anyone else to be talked about. These might not be my favorite people in their respective books (although most are), but they’re the best characters in terms of complexity, depth and story potential I doubt I’d like most of them in real life (and can’t imagine that any of them would enjoy me), but in novels? I can’t get enough of them.

(in alphabetical order by author)

  • Aimee de Laurent from Skyfarer by Joseph Brassey (my post about the book)– she’s smart, she’s driven, she’s compassionate, she’s powerful, she’s fallible. She also flies around in a spaceship and does magic.
  • Lori Anderson from Deep Down Dead by Steph Broadribb (my post about the book)– She’s more than Stephanie Plum without the Lucy Ricardo DNA. She’s a tough lady, a dedicated mom, and more. This bounty hunter will impress you with her guts, get your sympathy with her plight, and make you cheer as she bests her opponents (I should probably add “make you wince as she takes some brutal beatings).
  • Ali Dalglish from In the Still by Jacqueline Chadwick (my post about the book)– Ali is a certified (and possibly certifiable) genius. She’s a criminal profiler working in Vancouver, BC after nearly a couple of decades away to raise her kids. But when a serial killer’s victim is found near her home, she’s drug back into the professional world she left with the investigation. She has the most creative swearing this side of Malcom Tucker, a fantastic and fast mind, a jaded look at life, and a sense of humor that’s sure to please. Early in In the Still, she asks questions of a police officer in a public forum and pretty much ruins the poor guy — it’s one of the best scenes I read all year. If you can read that far in the book and not become a Ali fan at that point, there’s something wrong with you. If I was ranking these, I’m pretty sure she’d be #1.
  • Nick Mason from The Second Life of Nick Mason by Steve Hamilton (https://wp.me/p3z9AH-2NI)– A convicted non-violent criminal gets released early from an Illinois prison only to find himself in a different type of prison to work off his debt for being released, making him lose the “non-” in front of violent. He’s a great character, on the verge (always on the verge) of redemption and falling further.
  • Dervan du Alöbar from A Plague of Giants by Kevin Hearne (my post about the book is forthcoming) — I could’ve named about half of the point-of-view characters from this book, but Dervan eked out a win. He’s a widower in mourning. A former soldier, wounded in duty, turned scholar, turned . . . well — that’s a long story. There’s something about his coming to grips with the new reality, his new vocation, his self-awareness and growth in his personal life just really clicked with me. He’s basically an unqualified fantasy hero, forced to step up and play a role in saving civilization (which actually describes many people in this book, but that’s for another day).
  • Isaiah Quintabe from IQ by Joe Ide (my post about the book)– South-Central LA’s answer to Sherlock Holmes. We meet IQ early in his career and, via flashbacks, see him begin to develop the gifts that will make him the super-detective he’s destined to become. He’s such a great take on this character, I can’t believe no one beat Ide to the punch.
  • Anci from Down Don’t Bother Me by Jason Miller (my post about the book) — yeah, her dad, Slim, is the series start and protagonist. He’s the one that goes trough all the hardship, the beatings, the investigative moves, not his 12-year-old daughter (who isn’t a young Veronica Mars clone, or Rae Spellman). But Anci is the heart and soul of the books — she’s why Slim goes to work in this field, and why he comes back. She’s smarter and wittier than any 12-year-old has any right to be (but believably so), she’s Slim’s conscience, and his reason for doing what he does.
  • LeAnne Hogan from The Right Side by Spencer Quinn (my post about the book)– comes back from Afghanistan after near-fatal injuries, and isn’t fit for the civilian life she’s thrown back into. She begins to deal with her grief and anger while hunting for the child of a dead friend with the help of a stray dog. She’ll break your heart.
  • John Rebus from Knots & Crosses by Ian Rankin (my post about the book)– Wow. How do I sum up Rebus? 2017 was the 30th anniversary of Rebus’ creation and the first year I read him. He’s a wonderful, complex character. He smokes too much, he drinks too much, he ignores the rules and regulations (and maybe even the laws) in his ongoing effort to forget about himself and his life by pouring himself into his work. Tenacious with a capital “T”, he may not be the smartest police detective you ever read, but he makes up for it through not giving up (although he’s pretty smart — especially when not drinking).
  • Hob Ravani from Hunger Makes the Wolf by Alex Wells (my post about the book)– Tough does not begin to describe this biker. She’s all about surviving on this planet that’s not at all conducive to survival — from the environment, to the economics, to the politics — there’s just nothing on the planet that wants her or her fellow Ghost Wolves to survive. But somehow she does.

The Wanted by Robert Crais

The WantedThe Wanted

by Robert Crais
Series: Elvis Cole, #15

Hardcover, 322 pg.
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2017

Read: December 27 – 28, 2017


A single mom has worries about the way that her teen-aged son is behaving — and when you add in flashy clothes, a Rolex, and more money in his pocket than most book bloggers have in their checking account. So, she hires Elvis to figure out what the bad news is.

It takes The World’s Fastest Detective just a couple of hours to figure out what Tyson has been up to, and it’s not good: Tyson and a couple of friends have been breaking into empty homes and making off with all sorts of high-end merchandise. Think The Bling Ring, but without anything for Emma Watson to do. Multiple security companies, insurance investigators as well as the police have been hunting for them, and Elvis has stumbled onto the trail.

Of all those on the hunt for this crew, one team is closer to finding them than Elvis is — and these two seem to be leaving a lot of bodies in their wake. They’re identified right from the get-go, so I don’t mind talking about them too much. They’ve clearly been partners for a long time — the give and take between the pair is enough to almost make you forget they’re horrible people. At one point, the two get into a discussion about the appropriateness of the word “retard” in conversation, another conversation is about the depiction of women in moves/fiction, and they get into a big argument about annoying ringtones that one of them is using. If they weren’t going around killing people for mysterious, yet clearly nefarious, reasons, I could really like them (or, if Crais was going for a Tarantino/Leonard thing with them).

The pacing on this is relentless — well, it’s obvious to the reader right off that the clock is ticking, but once Elvis catches up to what we know, things are almost non-stop. It’s similar to Taken, but without the jumping around in time, Crais knows how to handle the tension and momentum just right so the suspense is genuine. It also reminded me of The Watchman, in that you have Elvis and Cole trying to protect a self-involved teen (or two) on the run from some very determined killers.

In so many ways this is classic Elvis Cole: Joe Pike doesn’t do much — it’s almost like the early books, he shows up does his Batman kind of thing, and vanishes. It was a nice way to deal with him — we don’t want to get too chummy with Pike, he looses a bit of the mystique that way. When he does act — we get our money’s worth. John Chen is very John Chen-y, which is always fun (as long as we don’t get too much of him). We get some quick visits with some other old friends, too. Elvis cooks like hosts on Food Network aspire to. All the mainstays are there.

Slipping in every now and then between the adrenaline from the chase and the fan service is a solid emotional grounding that was as effective as it was unexpected.

Time with a couple of old favorites, an almost perfectly constructed thriller, and some solid emotional moments — who could ask for more? From the hitting-the-ground-running beginning through to the very touching ending, this is a heckuva read that should please fans new and old.

—–

4 1/2 Stars

The Crossing by Michael Connelly

The CrossingThe Crossing

by Michael Connelly
Series: Harry Bosch, #18

Mass Market Paperback, 384 pg.
Vision, 2016

Read: December 23 – 25, 2017


Harry Bosch has been forced into retirement, but he hasn’t lost sense of his mission — to find killers and make sure they are brought to justice. But he’s trying to fill his day with rebuilding and restoring an old Harley-Davidson. Which basically means that his half-brother, Mickey Haller, doesn’t have much work to do when he tries to convince Bosch to do some investigative work for his defense of an innocent man.

There is one huge hurdle — Bosch feels it’s a betrayal of everything he spent his career doing. Haller assures him that anything that hurts his case that they find they’ll turn over to the prosecution, which helps. But what really gets Bosch on board is his mission — if Haller is correct and his client is innocent, that means the guilty are going free and that just doesn’t sit well with him. So after meeting with client and reading through the file, Bosch jumps to the other side, something he knows he’ll never be able to live down, and that will burn some bridges with his former colleagues.

Bosch has to learn to work without the badge — how to access people, places and information (and parking!) without the LAPD standing behind him. But the essence is still the same, follow the evidence, make sure there are no loose ends, and adapt quickly — but now there’s less bureaucracy, and less of a need to justify following a hunch.

I loved seeing Bosch fighting his instincts to open up to the police, to want to hand things over to them whenever he can, rather than to keep information for Haller to use at trial. Bosch just can’t think of defending someone, his focus is all offense. I had a little trouble believing how little communication there was between the two during Bosch’s work — and, really, I wanted to see more of Haller — but I think a lot of that had to do with Bosch’s guilt over working for the accused and his different perspective about what to do with his suspicions about someone else.

There’s some great stuff with Maddie — Bosch is trying so hard to be a good father, but just doesn’t understand everything his daughter’s going through on the verge of high school graduation. He knows exactly how to get a witness (however reluctant) or a suspect to talk, he understands just what makes them tick, but his daughter is so frequently a mystery to him. I know some didn’t like Maddie’s addition to the series, but I love the interaction between the two.

At this point, I don’t need to talk about Connelly’s skill — that’s more than evident to anyone who’s read more than 20 pages of one of his 30-ish books. What we have here is the latest way he’s found to keep Bosch fresh, to keep the series from repeating itself. And it works so well — crisp writing, perfectly paced, not a word wasted, and a resolution that’ll satisfy fans of Bosch and Haller. I’ve been kicking myself for not getting to The Crossing when it was first released, and I’m more than happy I’ve found the time to read it — it’s so good to spend time with Bosch again. This will work for readers new or old — as long as they’re looking for a strong detective story.

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4 Stars