Book Review: Before the Frost

I rate this book a 4 out of 5

I rate this book a 4 out of 5

Originally Published in Spruce Grove Examiner on December 28, 2012

I read this book like my youngest daughter enjoys an unexpected treat – savoring each bit with delight and gratitude, proceeding ever more slowly and with a growing regret that the experience will soon end.
The first Linda Wallander Mystery, (and Mankell’s tenth novel featuring Inspector Kurt Wallander) ‘Before the Frost’ joins Linda as she endures the waiting period required before she may begin her career at the same police station as her father. In forced stasis, she kills time, hangs out with her girlfriends and quarrels with her father… all quite boring, until her friend Anna disappears.
Since no one else believes it atypical of Anna to have vanished, Linda investigates the disappearance on her own. Linda’s concern, inexperience and persistence generate a few rookie mistakes, placing her in danger—and exposing a connection between her investigation and her father’s current case. When another of Linda’s friends disappears, father and daughter join forces, racing against time to stop a tragedy, the seeds of which were planted decades before.
I recommend this book to those who enjoy crime novels. The plot is intricate without fussiness, there is enough police procedure and not so much that one becomes mired in red tape, and Mankell’s characters are incredibly compelling.
Henning Mankell has written over thirty-five novels and many plays. Published in thirty-five countries, he consistently tops Europe’s bestseller lists. His work has been adapted for numerous television and film productions. He also won the German Book Prize and the Crime Writers’ Association’s Macallan Gold Dagger.

Book Review: Money to Burn

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Review originally written for Spruce Grove Public Library and published in The Spruce Grove Examiner, December 7, 2012

Money to Burn by James Grippando, HarperCollinsPublishers, 2010, ISBN 978-0-06-155630-2, Reviewed by R.D. Girvan

When successful Wall Street banker Michael Cantella turns thirty-five years old, he is on top of the World. Celebrating at a deluxe birthday bash thrown by his beautiful wife at a five-star hotel overlooking Central Park, Michael feels pretty darn lucky. Unfortunately, someone is making sure that his luck is about to change.

The first inkling that all is not right in Paradise comes when he accesses his investment portfolio on line and discovers the money is all gone. Checking every other account, he finds the same shocking news: zero balance. He has been wiped out financially. The next clue is an odd email that reads: Just as planned. Xo xo.

That plan seems to involve more than Michael’s mere financial ruin; with each passing day, the stakes are raised, and the pressure is ratcheted up as his career, reputation, marriage and even the venerable Investment Bank he works for are threatened. Cantella has undercover FBI agents hovering, spyware tracking him and weird messages arriving. Details indicate links to his first wife who disappeared four years previously…could it be Ivy at the bottom of all this, back from the dead?

This book is an entertaining, rollicking roller-coaster ride that will wind you right up. James Grippando, New York Times Bestselling Author of Intent to Kill and 15 other novels, captures the cockiness, resourcefulness, vulnerability and ultimately, the survival instincts, of a man put to such an extreme test. I recommend this book to those who love suspense novels such as The Firm.

Book Review: The Wrong Man

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The Wrong Man by David Ellis

Originally written for Spruce Grove Public Library and published in Spruce Grove Examiner on November 30, 2012.

Today, I am reviewing The Wrong Man by David Ellis, published by the Penguin Group under G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2012, ISBN: 978-0-399-15828-5.

OK, it’s corny to say this, but The Wrong Man was definitely written by the RIGHT man:  I loved this book.  David Ellis has written eight thrillers, several with James Patterson, and his first novel, Line of Vision, won the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best First Novel by an American Author.  The third in his ‘Jason Kolarich’ series, The Wrong Man is a fast-paced, twisty-turny novel full of action and suspense.

Criminal defense attorney Jason Kolarich accepts the case of an Iraq War veteran, now homeless and suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, who is charged with the murder of a young paralegal.  While preparing an insanity defense, however, Kolarich discovers that the paralegal was killed as part of a cover up—and his client is actually innocent.

As Jason Kolarich works to exonerate his client, he runs afoul of a Mob assassin aliased “Gin Rummy”; the Mob itself; and a conglomerate of corporate conspirators who have put an explosive plan into motion.  They are not about to let one lawyer and his team get in their way. Of course, Jason Kolarich is not your average lawyer.

If you enjoy a good thriller, I recommend that you read this book. Ellis’ work is similar to John Grisham, but different enough to command respect in its own right. I will be reading his other books A. S. A. P.

Book Review: Call Me Princess

‘Call Me Princess’ by Sara Blædel, published by Pegasus Crime in 2011, ISBN: 978-1-60598-251-9.

Review originally published in The Spruce Grove Examiner on November 16, 2012.

Sara Blædel’s first effort, ‘Grønt Støv’ (‘Green Dust’) won the Danish Crime Academy’s debut prize.  Voted the most popular novelist in Denmark in 2007, 2010 and 2011, Blædel has been dubbed that Country’s “Queen of Crime.”

‘Call Me Princess’ is the second book in the Louise Rick series and the first to be released in North America.  It follows Detective Inspector Louise Rick as she puts the pieces together to solve a brutal rape.  The victim and rapist met online and corresponded using false names long enough to decide to take things to the next level.  The couple enjoys a nice dinner out and then “Mr. Noble” takes “Snow Wite without the h” back to her place…where the formerly perfect evening takes a terrible and terrifying turn.

Rick discovers that this horrific incident is not Mr. Noble’s first rape—and it won’t be his last.  One of his victims dies from the attack and still he continues.  He web crawls through dating sites with impunity, using and then shedding a string of online profiles faster than Rick can decode them.  Finally, Detective Inspector Rick explodes into impulsive action, endangering her own safety as she desperately tries to catch the serial rapist.

Sara Blædel joins the recent ranks of Nordic mystery writers landing upon the figurative shores of our minds, taking our imaginations captive.  I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys writers such as Roslund & Hellström and Jo Nesbo.

Book Review: 13

13, Alexis Kienlen, Frontenac House Ltd., 2011, ISBN: 978-1-897181-53-9

Reviewed by:  R.D. Girvan

Originally Published in The Spruce Grove Examiner, October 2012

I was introduced to Alexis Kienlen, poet, fiction writer, editor and journalist, when she appeared as one of the panel members at the 2012 LitFest Event, “Author Promotion in a Digital Age”.  I was impressed with the way she expressed herself verbally, in terms of both speed and clarity.  I bought her latest book, 13, a follow up to She Dreams in Red.

I am very glad I did.  13 addresses issues such as childhood depression and the loss of love openly, truthfully and without self-pity.  Even given the often dark subject matter, Kienlen managed to produce a book that is also playful; there is a whimsical yet compelling section on the inner musings of a queen bee.  My favorite poem is called “clue”, one of the pieces that use children’s board games to speak to adult issues, laying the teen/grown-up transition bare upon the page.

I recommend this book because of Kienlen’s searing honesty.  Her work is deceptively simple; it is a quick read, and drops like a pebble into the waters of one’s mind.  Yet, much later, its ripples continue to spread.

Book Review: Two of the Deadliest

Two of the Deadliest; Edited by Elizabeth George; Harper An Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers;2009; ISBN:978-0-06-135033-7

Reviewed by:  R.D. Girvan

Originally Published by The Spruce Grove Examiner, November 9, 2012

I don’t know how I missed this book when it was published, reviewed and praised in 2009, but this collection of twenty-three short stories edited by Elizabeth George deserves revived recognition.

Subtitled “New Tales of Lust, Greed and Murder from Outstanding Women of Mystery,” Two of the Deadliest explores what men and women are willing to do in the name of two deadly sins:  Lust and Greed.  It’s an interesting premise, but what really caught my eye was the “Women of Mystery” part.  I wanted to find out: would female writers have a slightly different approach to the same subject than male writers?  My answer was a delightfully horrified, “In these stories? Yes!”

For example, “Cougar”, written by Laura Lippman, is told squarely from a woman’s point of view. It addresses uniquely feminine vulnerabilities and fears such as aging and becoming a bag lady.  In it, a 42-year-old mother, treated by most as though she were invisible, obsolete and redundant, sees that she must do something to protect herself from her adult son, and uses decidedly female techniques to do it.

“The Runaway Camel” by Barbara Fryer is about a lady lawyer on the fast track, derailed by lust.  In a highly effective technique, we are never told her name; she’s just “a beautiful woman” or “magnificently unyielding” or “baby.”  Fryer tells the story unflinchingly, yet I could not read it without wincing for “baby” as she matches wits with a devastatingly handsome basketball player.

My favorite is “Dark Chocolate” by Nancy Pickard. She writes a riveting tale of a stay-at-home-mother and her family.  As the protagonist bakes in her quiet kitchen, the story is slowly revealed, piece by piece, like the design on the bottom of a cake plate.

George gathered these and twenty other stories from both legendary and novice writers.  They take many stereotypes and turn them on their heads, giving us a suspenseful, shocking and entertaining collection.  The dichotomy between the stereotype of a female writer—her approach, area of expertise and comfort zone—and their actual subject matter is wonderful. It’s as if one met June Cleaver at the library, smiling sweetly, dressed beautifully, wearing her ever-present pearls—wielding a stained cleaver with skill and precision.