From the Booking Desk:
Continuing my new plan to post mini-reviews together in the hopes of creating cross-over readers in a selection of sub-genres, this week we have 4 short reviews – three historicals and a contemporary police procedural. But these books have links that may not be immediately apparent and could mean readers will find interests they didn’t expect.
Charles Todd – A Divided Loyalty
With over twenty books in the Ian Rutledge series, the incomparable mother and son duo who make up Charles Todd show no signs of letting this popular character rest. This time out, Rutledge travels to Avebury, a unique town build within a Stonehenge-like stone circle. The body of an unidentified woman has been found, but it quickly become clear that Rutledge may have been set up for failure. Charles Todd inevitably provides unexpected but well-reasoned solutions to their cases, but this one was particularly shocking. As Rutledge marches ever forward in his investigation, reader’s suspicions also elevate until the unthinkable seems possible. Readers know they are in the hands of true legends when after more than twenty books, a series can still surprise.
The novel, set in 1936, is an unusual spin-off from Maureen Jennings highly-successful Murdoch series. Unlike the Murdoch novels, Jennings this time focuses on a female point of view – that of Charlotte Frayne, a junior private investigator working on Toronto. Charlotte is certainly not lacking in challenges: her boss is dealing with some potential legal troubles, the staff at the nearby Paradise Café believe there is a thief among them, and the city is suffering through a horrendous heat wave. This is a pleasant traditional mystery that comforts more than it revolutionizes, but in PI Charlotte Frayne and Detective Jack Murdoch, Maureen Jennings has once again crafted characters readers will become invested in for the long-haul.
This is an author who knows how to grab a reader right at the start. Once again, there is no slow build at the beginning of a John Byron novel. Readers are thrust into a complex case with a killing which echoes that of a known killer, the Horseman. Is it the same perpetrator or potentially a copycat? The strength of this series has always been the authenticity Bruce Robert Coffin brings to the police work and the humanity he imbues into all his characters. This is never truer than as readers watch Detective Byron work with the disenfranchised population in an effort to investigate this gruesome case. Juxtapose that with the wealthy family who become prime suspects and the several unexpected twists and complications in plotting and readers are gifted with a thoroughly-entertaining book, sure to keep readers invested until the final reveal(s).
This ninth book in Susan Elia MacNeal’s Maggie Hope series finds Maggie struggling. While PTSD wasn’t yet a diagnosis, Maggie is certainly showing signs that the stress of her career and history are affecting her daily life. Readers can’t help but feel for her as they watch her slowly self-destruct, until a new case ignites a fire once again. There are so many storyline threads running through this novel that just about any reader will find something to latch on to: serial killers, missing violins, ticking bombs, emotional upheaval, and complicated justice. This historical series has always presented its issues in modern ways, reflecting on how our current society views the given topic, but nowhere is that more evident than as Maggie begins to question appropriate punishments and their long-term effects on society. As always Maggie Hope is a feminist heroine readers – both women and men – can feel confident in revering.