Mayan Mendacity by L.J.M. Owen

Having really enjoyed the first book in the Dr Pimms, Intermillennial Sleuth series, Olmec Obiturary, I was looking forward to seeing where the second instalment, Mayan Mendacity took the reader. I was not disappointed.

In this book, Dr Elizabeth Pimms, now a librarian, is once more asked to help catalogue bones from an ancient site – this time, from the Mayan civilisation. As her fiancé was present at the dig, the invitation to be involved holds a special place in Elizabeth’s heart, a heart that’s about to be tested in all manner of ways as her emotions, her beloved family, and so much more are soon threatened.

Segueing between the present and Elizabeth’s (sabotaged) attempts to find the answers the head of the research team requests and the Mayan period, the novel is fast-paced and filled with fascinating facts – about the Mayans as well as the steps undertaken to record and discover the secrets the bones contain.

The more answers Elizabeth discovers, it seems the more questions she needs to ask – and not only about her professional life, but her increasingly complicated personal one as well.

What I really enjoy about these books is the light touch of the writer. Despite dealing with some heavy themes, the novel is not weighed down by them, but cruises along at a good pace, keeping you turning the pages. Exposition is well-balanced with more descriptive prose and character and plot building. There is, however, one story-line exception (which was frankly, a weakly executed and featured two characters that were more caricatures than fleshed out – but I can forgive it because the rest is very well done). Mostly, the storyline is tight and the people populating the story utterly endearing. I particularly like the Pimms family. In this book, Owen has fleshed them out even more, and it’s hard not to envy Elizabeth such a supportive and madcap family, with such rich and complicated cultural roots. Any chapter involving them was always a pleasure and their meals were the stuff of foodie dreams. It’s not surprising then that at the back of the book are pages of recipes – all of which sound both delicious and very complicated!

This is proving to be a delightful series, and I am very much looking forward to stepping out with Dr Pimms on her next very cold case.



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Mercy by Jussi Adler-Olson

11316562-1While this is the first book by Jussi Adler-Olson I have read, the inaugural novel in the Department Q series, titled Mercy of The Keeper of Lost Causes, won’t be the last.

Deputy Detective Superintendent, Carl Mork, returns to work after surviving a situation that kills one colleague and permanently paralyses another. Unpopular, argumentative and prone to alienating his peers, Carl is nonetheless an excellent cop, something his reasonable boss recognises and, in a sense, rewards when he places him in charge of a new department, called Q that’s responsible for cold cases. Given an inexperienced non-law enforcement but canny assistant who is quirky and intelligent, Carl isn’t keen on his new assignment, but when he starts to look into the circumstances surrounding the mysterious disappearance and assumed death of a successful and beautiful politician five years earlier, Carl discovers discrepancies in the case; discrepancies and oversights that lead him and his accidental new partner down unexpected and ultimately very dangerous paths…

Slow to start, but never boring, Mercy is a fabulous novel with marvellous characters and a plot that draws you in. The writing is clever and contained, the atmosphere that’s created, whether it’s in the basement to which Carl is assigned, to those of the alternate chapters, is suffocating. You find yourself longing to escape, not from the book, which is difficult to tear yourself away from, but the unfolding events and the inevitable consequences.

This is a masterful novel, at once suspenseful but also authentic. Highly recommended for lovers of good crime, with well-drawn characters and tight plotting.

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Book Review: The Burning Room by Michael Connelly

Ever since I started reading Michael Connelly books a few years ago, I’ve always looked forward to the next instalment in the series and especially a new Harry Bosch – a character of whom I’ve grown very fond over the years. The Burning Room is the nineteenth book with Bosch as the protagonist and those who have been following the series know that not only is he past retirement age now but he’s been redeployeThe Burning Room (Harry Bosch, #19)d on a special contract – the appropriately named “DROP” plan, working cold cases.

In this one, Bosch has a new partner, the medal-awarded young officer and public hero, Lucia Soto, who has her own skeletons in the closet and axe to grind with justice.

The story opens with Bosch attending the autopsy of a man who was shot years earlier in a case that was never solved. Bosch and Soto are given the responsibility of trying to track down the shooter. Retrieving old files and looking at a case that other detectives failed to solve, re-interviewing suspects and walking ground that has been well-trod is sensitive at the best of times, but when political figures appear to be involved, the stakes suddenly become much, much higher. As Bosch warns the young Soto, you should never open the door on a burning room…

Woven through this story are the usual departmental politics, the unsupportive hierarchy more worried about meeting budget than catching the right criminals, and Bosch’s personal and professional life. This is given an additional frisson as Bosch tries to pass on good policing to Soto, demonstrating there is a still a time and place for the gum-shoe approach to detective work, the hard, pedantic slog and essential hands-on and foot-work  as opposed to sitting at a desk all day and surfing the web or relying on the phone.

Back on the home front, his daughter is thinking of becoming a cop. At seventeen, she not only does work-experience with a specific arm of the force, but is also slowly developing into an adult and the inevitable distance between parent and child (as the child’s priorities and need for autonomy assert themselves) develops. This is subtly and well handled, the daughter being a minor character in this novel just as Bosch is now becoming (for the time being at least) in hers.

Added to all this is the sense that Bosch is approaching the end of a long and wonderful career. I thoroughly enjoyed this book  – found it difficult to put down – and certainly, regular fans of the series have the reward of knowing Bosch’s back story, delighting in his triumphs and seething when he is unfairly treated. We also understand why he acts in particular ways or says certain things. But new readers (and old) would derive pleasure from the great pacing, good dialogue and the humanity that underpins the central characters and their determination to solve the crime.

I sincerely hope we get to read a great deal more about Bosch and that he has the opportunity to continue to put his formidable experience, knack for solving crimes and sense of social justice to good use for a long time yet.

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