TWO KINDS OF TRUTH BY MICHAEL CONNELLY

I don’t know how it’s possible, but this series just keeps getting better and better, so much so, I need more than five stars to rate it. The only downside of this latest adventure with former LAPD detective and now cold case worker, Harry Bosch is, because I virtually inhale the book the moment I start it, it’s over far too soon.

In Two Kinds of Truth, Bosch is faced with present and past dilemmas. He might be working on cold cases, but when one of his from 30 years earlier is resurrected, one which not only put a psychopath on death row, but which, if the killer’s appeal to have his sentence overturned and massive compensation paid succeeds, throws every case Harry has ever worked on, every criminal he ever helped convict, into doubt.

Claiming Harry framed him and he has the evidence to prove it, the killer’s case appears tight, so much so, Harry’s former partner is persuaded to help those assigned to investigate the matter. Things look grim for Harry, particularly since he left LAPD under less than salubrious circumstances. Determined to clear his name, he commences his own investigation.

In the meantime, he’s asked to help in a brutal double-murder. Keen to be back on the streets and working “hot”, Harry and his team uncover the corruption and cruelty of big pharma, those who benefit from its nefarious dealings, and the toll this takes on the most vulnerable in society.

Older, most definitely wiser, with the cunning of a fox and instincts of a seasoned hunter, and yet willingness to share his knowledge and experiences, if there’s one thing Harry will not stand for, it’s having his honour – as an officer of the law and man – questioned. Nor will he tolerate the motives of a good person being trashed, especially when they’re no longer there to defend themselves or explain their actions and motives. This means Harry will take terrible risks in order that the truth outs and that those who seek to bury it pay the consequences of their deception.

But Harry is dealing with those who don’t share his values and don’t care about truth – unless its silencing the man who seeks to find and expose it.

Taut, fast-paced, but without sacrificing tension or emotional integrity, this is a magnificent read that is impossible to put down. Characters from previous books such as Lucy Soto, Jerry Edgar, Mickey Haller, Harry’s daughter and others appear, their desire to help the man who has always had their back admirable, though not always successful.

Like all the Bosch books, it can be read as a standalone, but the rewards for following Harry’s career and personal life are so much richer when you have the whole context.

Highly recommended – nah, bugger that. Read it! You won’t be disappointed.

 

 

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Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty

26247008I couldn’t wait to read Liane Moriarty’s latest novel, Truly, Madly, Guilty as I’m a huge fan of her work and have been really happy to see her finally getting the media attention she deserves here in Australia (even though readers of her books have known for years what a huge talent she is). The moment it downloaded on my Kindle, I put the other book I was reading on hiatus and commenced.

Did I regret doing that? To be frank, yes, and more than a little. Truly, Madly Guilty, though good, was not the smack you in the face with recognition and wonder that her other novels have been. While in many ways it starts (as Moriarty’s books often do) with a close-knit cast of characters bound by either familial ties, personal history, neighbourhoods or professional bonds and, like Big Little Lies, has these people share a crisis, that’s where the comparison ends.

The crisis that unites these people isn’t made evident until halfway through the book. Until then, the reader is treated to both prolepses (flash forwards) and flashbacks to the day of the BBQ when IT all happened. We’re privy to both the innocence and naivety of people coming together with all their oh-so-important anxieties and foibles and then the impact the crisis has upon them personally, as couples, families and friends and the differing perspectives it gives them: on life, themselves and each other.

In some ways, this novel is Big Little Lies Lite. There’s no doubt Moriarty has a huge gift for pluming the depths of personal neuroses and what makes people and families tick or implode, but for some reason, for at least two-thirds of the novel, I didn’t actually connect with or care much about the characters. Such an alien feeling with one of her novels, where I’m usually heavily invested in at least the characters and entwined in the plot as well. The book dragged in parts and I almost gave up on it, but this was a Moriarty and you don’t put her aside for anything!

So, I didn’t. I persevered. But, I wanted the book to hurry up and finish so I could get back the one I’d abandoned. However, the last third of the book goes a long way for compensating for the plodding and rather bland pace of the first part. Suddenly, the tempo quickens, characters’ motivations are both exposed and explored and actions make sense. Most importantly, I felt empathy for the characters, even those I didn’t much like. Finally, I understood them.

In some ways, this was just the right conclusion, if a little too late, to make up for what was a slow starting novel. But I did end up feeling really satisfied and not nearly as disappointed as I feared I would be.

The writing is still lovely and there are some real laugh out loud and poignant moments, but overall, I have to say, this was an OK read, not like her other books, a sensational one.

 

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Snowblind by Ragnar Jónasson

25067569Though I haven’t read the first book the Dark Iceland series, it wasn’t difficult to pick up the plot of characters in Snowblind, the second book. Set in a quiet fishing village in northern Iceland, the novel centres on the arrival of a new policeman, Ari, who is new in every sense of the word. A recent police academy graduate, this remote posting is also Ari’s very first. Leaving behind the big city and his girlfriend, Ari views the job in this sleepy outpost where no-one locks their doors and everyone knows your business, as a stepping stone to better job prospects in the future. Winter has arrived and with the village being plunged into darkness and snow bound for months, Ari is certain it’s just a matter of passing time and revaluating his life and relationship.

When a prominent author is found dead and it’s assumed he fell in what was a tragic accident in the local theatre, and on the eve of a production, the regular police seem prepared to accept that verdict. When Ari and his colleagues start to interview those present, their stories, the relationships shared and denied as well as the alibis given, don’t always add up.

The more Ari plunges into the investigation, the more history and connections he uncovers. As snowstorms wreak havoc over the town, closing it off from the wider world and darkness reigns, Ari starts to feel trapped. This is a small place where not only are secrets and lies currency, but there’s a murderer on the loose as well.

Well written and featuring every thing I love about Nordic noir: atmosphere, remoteness, cold and a complex investigation, this book didn’t quite grab me the way other writers in this genre have. I found the plot a bit pedestrian and some “ah ha” moments too contrived. I also thought the characters were a little two-dimensional at times even the lead, Ari. I also think the author tried to do too much. Nonetheless, I am glad I read it and will likely track down the rest of the series.

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Fool Me Once by Harlen Coben

27308377I don’t recall reading a Harlen Coben book before, but after consuming his latest, Fool Me Once, in practically one sitting as I was unable to tear myself away, this will not be my last.

This stand-alone novel (that is set to be a movie starring Julia Roberts) is a rollicking read of loss, grief, mistakes, deception, betrayal, secrets, lies, and the consequences of these upon members of a particular family and those they trap in their web.

The main protagonist, Maya Stern, is a retired and admired war veteran who flew missions in Iraq and has come home not only with a cloud over her head and the loss of her beloved sister to face, but now also the brutal murder of her husband, who virtually died in her arms.

Suffering from PTSD and facing the reality of single motherhood, Maya is just coping with the ongoing investigation into her husband’s death and his domineering family that is, until her closest girlfriend persuades her to use a nanny-cam while she’s at work. When, one day, she spots her dead husband nursing their young daughter on the cam’s footage (this isn’t a spoiler – it’s in the blurb and was the hook that convinced me I had to read the book), reality as she knows it begins to disintegrate and Maya, using all the skills and intelligence that held her in good stead in the military, must uncover what’s going on, why and who’s behind it before someone else close to her dies.

Economically written but without sacrificing character development or tension, this is a cracker of a read. At times, I found myself holding my breath or letting it out in relief as the plot built, unfolded and them twisted in a direction I never saw coming.

Suspense grows, the shadows around Maya darken as more and more people are drawn into both her search for the truth and the impossible answers that are emerging.

The complexity of the plot is brought together in a gruesome yet Poirot-inspired finale that I didn’t see coming.

Terrific read that was worth losing most of a night’s sleep over. Bring on the next Coben, please.

 

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A Banquet of Consequences by Elizabeth George

Having adored the Inspector Lynley series since I first stumbled upon it years ago, and always enjoying the beauty and detail of George’s sublime writing, I’d found a few of the more recent Lynley books a little disappointing in terms of the main character, so much so, in one of my reviews I actually filed a Missing Persons Report on the Eighth Earl of Asherton, one Inspector Thomas Lynley.

22571556When I picked up this nineteenth instalment in the series, A Banquet of Consequences, I first though, oh no! Tommy and Barbara Havers, his prickly side-kick with a propensity for pop tarts and trakky daks, have gone AWOL. So much so, they don’t really appear, except in some readily forgettable scenes till almost a third of the way through the book. Having said that, the narrative that commences the book, a tale of many threads that take a while to join and then unravel, is engrossing. It’s so good, in fact, that Havers and Lynely feel like intrusions or even unnecessary – goodness! Did I write that? Yet, before long, Lynley and Havers step up and become an intrinsic part of this fascinating tale of families, love, loss, huge dysfunction and a betrayal of trust like no other.

So, while I almost gave up on the book early, believing that George had abandoned her dynamic duo in favour of another story, relegating them to almost laughable secondary roles as Havers undergoes an attempted make-over to please her irrational and demanding boss and presage a return to form, and Lynley languishes in love, I am so glad I didn’t. George doesn’t let the reader or fans of Thomas Lynely and Barbara Havers down. Though they don’t burst onto the scene until well into the book, with her accustomed mastery, George allows us peeps of them while introducing the reader to a multitude of complex, rich and deep characters, from a feminist scholar and author, Clare Abbott, to her anxiety-ridden publisher, a young man, Will, suffering from Tourettes Syndrome and crippling doubts, and his heavily tattooed and pierced girlfriend, Lily. There’s Will’s psychologist brother, Charlie, and his unhappy wife, India, and the pushy, narcissistic mother of the two men, Caroline, who is married to the down to earth baker, Alistair – just to name a few.

At first, you think, what have these people to do with anything? Then, a tragedy occurs and you find yourself thinking, that’s simply awful but what role does it play in this mystery, especially when there seems to be no mystery and no relationship between all these characters in the unfolding tale? Please explain!

Well, explain George does… and how.

It turns out the least likeable and most magnificently drawn of these characters, the hugely disordered Caroline, is the bridge uniting what at first appears to be two disparate groups of people as Caroline works for Clare Abbott. Authoritarian and prone to organising those who don’t wish to be, Caroline is an unpleasant and entirely selfish force to be reckoned with, something Barbara Havers experiences first hand.

When a death occurs that on the surface appears like suicide but upon further investigation turns out to be murder, Havers is contacted by one fot he characters for her help. Begging Lynley to intervene with Superintendent Isabelle Ardery (who, unfortunately, is still at the helm of the Met) and grant her the case, Havers has her wishes (against great odds) fuflilled. Sent to a small town, Havers, along with Winston Nkata, begins to examine the lives of all these people to whom the reader has already been introduced, uncovering a hotbed of secrets, lies, deceptions and betrayals. Relying on her boss, Lynley, in London to pursue other leads, when another person involved with the case is almost killed, both Havers and Lynley uncover more than they ever bargained for…

I don’t want to give away any of this plot as it is a cracker. The characters are amazingly well drawn, so much so, I can forgive George the faffing around at the beginning with Havers and Dorothea (which almost had me putting down the book) and the fact the lead roles, Tommy and Barb don’t really take centre stage for pages and pages.

This is a terrific crime novel and a great story, full of twists, turns, excellent writing, forensic but fascinating (in the real sense of the word – unable to turn away from because it is both awful and thrilling) exploration of families – the roles each member plays, the masks they wear, how behaviours impact upon others, how we bury truths and live lies.

The conclusion is so horrendous and though you see it coming in some senses, you do not want it to arrive. It’s like watching a crash you cannot stop or change, you just have to witness the impact, but already know the damage that’s been done.

It’s not only the characters about whom the crime revolves who are wonderfully crafted, Tommy and Barb as well as Winston are also fully rounded and eminently satisfying to read and champion. Though Tommy still grieves and is forever changed by the terrible loss he’s suffered, he is sharp, kind and loyal – the old Inspector hewn afresh; a little careworn and vulnerable, but no less noble in every sense of the word. And Barb, well she too has been hurt and yet gained from the experiences she endured in the last novel (which was wonderful). Ardery, however, is an unreasonable and quite vindictive woman whom I hope George transfers soon. She is predictable as well – which makes her boring. Just like Haver’s career, this series does not need her.

Overall, a fabulous and gripping read I found hard to put down.

 

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