EMPTY EVER AFTER by Reed Farrel Coleman

This is the fifth and final book of the Moe Prager detective series.

“For over twenty years, retired NYPD officer and PI Moe Prager, has been haunted by the secret that would eventually destroy his family. Now, two years after the fallout from the truth, more that secrets are haunting the Prager family. Moe Prager follows a trail of grave robbers from cemetery to cemetery, from ashes to ashes and back again in order to finally solve the enigma of his dead brother-in-law, Patrick. He plunges deeper into the dark recesses of his past than ever before, revisiting all of his old cases, in order to uncover the twisted alchemy of vengeance and resurrection. Will Moe, at last, put his past to rest? Will he find the man who belongs in that vacant grave or will it remain empty, empty ever after?”

Most of this book is an examination of Moe’s past cases and who among those former characters would like to make Moe suffer. A good refresher if it’s been a long time since you’ve read the first four books…..but this complicated level of revenge seemed implausible.  This book is very dark, yet somehow it works.  That’s because of Moe – the mensch who tries to do the right thing, frequently with disastrous consequences. There’s always hope of redemption for Moe, who never surrenders.    It is not a book that would really stand alone well but it does a good job of tying up all the loose ends and revisiting the characters from the previous books.

In an Afterword,  the author gives us some final notes and thoughts after the series  end: it explains a lot about the core of the story, its meaning, his struggles and his opinions. They are almost exactly the answers to the kind of questions I would have asked him after reading his books.

If you are interested in what I have to say about his other books, just enter the author’s name in the search window of this blog.

 

 

WHEN WILL THERE BE GOOD NEWS? by Kate Atkinson

This is the third in a series featuring a burned out detective, Jackson Brodie.

Three lives come together in unexpected and thrilling ways.  In Scotland, on a hot summer day, Joanna Mason’s family slowly wanders home along a country lane. A moment later, Joanna’s life is changed forever when a random killer assassinates three of the four children and the mother.  Joanna, told to run run by her mother, runs and hides in the cornfield, where she is later found by the police.  She is the only survivor of the attack.

On a dark night thirty years later, ex-detective Jackson Brodie finds himself on a train that is both crowded and late. Lost in his thoughts, he suddenly hears a shocking sound.  The train hurtles down the side of the mountain, having crashed into a car that was on the tracks.

At the end of a long day, 16-year-old Reggie is looking forward to watching a little TV at the home of her teacher and mentor, who has cancer, but is privately tutoring Reggie so she can get into college.  Her tutor has gone to (I think) a Bingo game, but as we learn later, has had a bit of a mind episode and driven onto the tracks of that fated train.

Reggie, rushes to the nearby scene of the accident and saves Brodie.  OK, there is so much more to this story, that I find myself hard pressed to condense it all into something brief and coherent, so all I can say is read the book.  It is great!

If you enter the author’s name in the search window of this blog, you will get the reviews of the other three books of the series that I have read.

 

DON’T LOOK BACK by Karin Fossum, (Felicity David Translator)

So, anyhow, when was the last time you read a novel by a Norwegian author?  Never, I bet.  haha.  Well, Karin Fossum is a Norwegian author of crime fiction,often known there as the “Norwegian queen of crime”. She lives in Oslo. She is the author of the internationally successful Inspector Konrad Sejer series of crime novels, which have been translated into over 16 languages. She won the Glass key award for her novel “Don’t Look Back”, which also won the Riverton Prize, and she was shortlisted for the Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger in 2005 for “Calling Out For You”.

This was my first Fossum novel, because I never heard of her.  But I am definitely going to search out more from this Inspector Sejer series.

A five year-old girl goes missing in a small Norwegian village and witnesses report seeing her get into a car with Raymond, a local recluse who has Down’s syndrome. Just when the police are about to publicly concede that she has been murdered, she walks out of the woods into her back yard. She is unharmed.

Later that same day, her mother calls the police with a strange story. Little Ragnhild says that when she and Raymond were up at a mountaintop lake near the village, they saw a woman with nothing on but a windbreaker, sleeping in the water near shore. The police are  baffled and flummoxed. The victim is a 15 year old girl whom everyone knows and loves, and Inspector Sejer persists in spite of no leads and no clues,  and by huge amounts of slog work and even more inordinately determined patience,  solves the case.  Of course.

 

REDEMPTION STREET by Reed Farrel Coleman

Walking the Perfect Square introduced Moe Prager—retired New York City cop-turned-wine shop owner—to much acclaim and an enthusiastic readership. Still possessed of his vintage police savvy, and perhaps the only Jewish licensed PI in the five boroughs, Moe wonders if he’s really meant to be a merchant and not a cop. Redemption Street finds him in 1981, lured into the mystery of a 1966 hotel fire—one that killed seventeen people, including his first love—by a long-grieving brother and Moe’s own restless determination to set things right.

Reed Farrel Coleman’s crisp, page-turning narrative has Moe trudging through his childhood summer vacation stomping grounds, the now-decaying Catskill resort scene. The borscht belt’s near-forgotten landscape of scarred lives, ambitious politicians, and corrupt cops is the minefield Moe must brave to find the truth. Was the fire really sparked by a negligent smoker or was it murder?”

This is the second Moe Prager novel I have read, because I started with the sixth volume in the series.  Oh well.  This was very interesting, dealing with the old Catskills resort area after its sad decline.

Good mystery, but I pretty much figured it out, which is a rarity for me.  But it is basically about cultural assimilation, Jewish self-hatred, anti-Semitism, and the idea that the past is never really past, and it is always personal.

 

CARVED IN BONE by Jefferson Bass

A body farm is not nearly so uggy as you might think.  Well, ok, yes it is.  It is a scientific area where donated bodies are left to rot out in the open, or partially covered by brush, or are buried and dug up occasionally to see the rate of decomposition, etc.  It is a way to learn how and why and when decomposition happens, which helps forensic teams determine time and manner of death.

Jefferson Bass is the pen name of Jon Jefferson, writer, and Dr. Bill Bass, renowned forensic anthropologist. Jefferson and Bass have collaborated on 2 nonfiction books and 6 crime novels.  Dr. Bass, founder of the University of Tennessee’s “Body Farm,” is an author on more than 200 scientific publications. Jefferson is a veteran journalist and documentary filmmaker; his two National Geographic documentaries on the Body Farm were seen around the world.

So this is based on some real life stuff, and what an interesting read it was, too.  It is a bit of “Deliverance” meets Forensics, and the story line is thus:  Renowned anthropologist Dr. Bill Brockton has spent his career surrounded by death at the Body Farm. Now he’s being called upon to help solve a baffling puzzle in a remote mountain community. The mummified corpse of a young woman dead for thirty years has been discovered in a cave, the body bizarrely preserved and transformed by the environment’s unique chemistry. But Brockton’s investigation is threatening to open old wounds among an insular people who won’t forget or forgive. And a long-buried secret prematurely exposed could inflame Brockton’s own guilt.

This composite author has five more books in this series, so off I go to get some of the others.

THE WHEEL SPINS by Ethel White

This book, written in 1936, was the basis for Alfred Hitchcock’s classic film The Lady Vanishes.  

It is set on a continental train traveling back from some European holiday destination spot, and on it are our protagonist, a young flighty woman, and several of the vacationers from the resort where she had been staying.

In a first class carriage, she meets a middle-aged spinster, who has been traveling her whole life, off and on, and has just finished a stint as a governess for a wealthly family in some area which may have been Bavaria or Prussia or someplace.  The two hit it off, go for a meal in the dining car, and pass and say hello to a few others.  Back in the carriage, the girl falls asleep, and when she awakes, the companion is gone, and after several hours, still has not returned.

When the girl asks about the woman, everyone claims there was no such person, and for reasons of their own, the various pèople they had encountered on their way to the dining car also claim never to have seen her.

She, together with a couple of men she had met at the station awaiting the train, go about trying to find the women, while the men really do not believe her and think she is hallucinating.

Clever story, locked room (or locked train in this case haha) mysteries are always fun.

CURSES! by Aaron Elkins

I have read two others in the series about forensic anthropologist Gideon Oliver—the ‘skeleton detective.  Just enter the author’s name in the search window here on the blog to see which ones.

Mayan ruins in the Yucatan…a secret room in a tomb…an ancient skeleton. To Gideon Oliver, anthropologist, this archaeological find is paradise on earth. He and his wife, Julie, have joined his old mentor, Abe Goldstein, at Tlaloc, Mexico, to make sure there are no dirty doings at the dig. Five years before scandal rocked the site when a colleague ran off with a priceless relic. Now Abe suspects something illegal is again going on. The discovery of a Mayan curse protecting the ruins suddenly make Tlaloc seem closer to hell than heaven. But the mysteries waiting inside the stone temples are too tempting to let mere words scare away the famous “skeleton detective.” Only when the curse seems to be coming true and Gideon has a modern murder to solve does evil stop being academic…and death in the Yucatan seems imminently real.

An eerie new element has cast a spell over the dig. Shortly before Gideon’s arrival, a set of Mayan hieroglyphs was discovered by the scientific team. Once translated, they reveal a series of ancient curses which threaten the destroy all desecraters of the site.

One of the curses, that ‘the one called Xecotcavach will pierce their skulls so that their brains will spill onto the earth,’ comes fatally true when an annoying reporter, searching for a sensational scoop, is shot through the head.

The steamy jungles of the Yucatan weigh down upon the band of eccentric amateur anthropologists as one by one the curses materialize among their party. Gideon’s special talents for deduction are brought into play to decipher mysteries of the present … of five years past … and those much more ancient.

That official plot summary of this fifth offering in the series is pretty good, except that it doesn’t tell us that the good scientist has been married for a couple of years now to the sort of annoying Julie, and the book has an occasional smoochy-woochy scene which doesn’t really fit in well with the rest of the storytelling, but the mystery was definitely good enough for me to overlook this slide into romantic mush. It even has an ancient curse, and who doesn’t like an ancient curse to liven things up, right?