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The Blood Strand by Chris Ould

British screen writer and author, Chris Ould, just published “The Blood Strand,” a Foroyar Novel, in February 2016.  This police procedural is set in the Faroe Islands.  Administratively, the Faroe Islands are a part of Denmark.  When there is a police matter too complex for the local officers a team is often called in from Denmark to help solve the case.  It is quite close to the British Isles and gets a fair number of British tourists, and in this case, it is a Faroese native who has lived most of his life in Great Britain and is a British detective, Jan Reyna, who helps the local police detective, Hjalti Hentze, and his team to solve a couple murders that might be tied to members of his family in the Faroe Islands.  Jan is on the Islands to visit his ailing estranged father, Signar Ravensfjall.  Signar is not expected to recover from a massive stroke and the family is being gathered.

The police determine that there is something suspicious about Signar being found in his car in a remote part of the islands.  When Jan and Hjalti make the connection and start questioning possible witnesses or criminals, the people they contact start to die, and Jan begins to  wonder if some of his relatives are involved in something illegal.

Like so many Police procedurals this book is slow at times because the process of discovery for all the details that must be unraveled in this case is slow and repetitive. Sometimes Jan and Hjalti walk away with no new information during visits to possible witnesses and suspects, sometimes they get a small sliver of information, and increasingly toward the end of the book, the pieces start coming together.  A reader must have a certain amount of patience to get through this 435 page book, but increasingly the reader is rewarded by this complex and tightly woven plot.  It is amazing that so many secrets can be kept on this small and sparsely populated set of islands.  In respect to the remote island setting, the circumspect Scandinavian population, and the dark family secrets, “The Blood Strand” reminds me of the first in the Steig Larsson trilogy.

I give “The Blood Strand” at lease one thumb up.  I just wish the investigation had been a little shorter or a little more exciting in the first two thirds of the book.

Liz Nichols

(Reviewed from a provided proof copy.)

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Dying to Know by TJ OConnor

Dying to Know” is the first installment in a brand new mystery series “A Gumshoe Ghost Mystery.”  It was published by Midnight Ink in January.  Using a ghost as a detective is not new to the cosy subgenre.  Carolyn Hart’s Bailey Ruth also offers ghostly investigations, but is a very different ghost than O’Connor’s version.

O’Connor’s Oliver “Tuck” Tucker is unique.  He has been a police detective for 15 years and is suddenly murdered in the middle of the night by an intruder who does not also kill Tuck’s wife, Angel, or the family dog, Hercule.  Is Angel somehow part of a plot to get rid of Tuck?  Is his best friend, and detective partner, Theodore “Bear” Braddock the perpetrator of the crime?  Bear’s attentive interest in Angel may not just be the natural desire to comfort and protect the grieving widow.  Then again, there are plenty of other suspects that range from a retired mob killer, to a local businessman who wants to buy a farm where Angel’s archeological dig team is unearthing Civil War relics.  Even fellow academics from Angel’s university are suspects.  Plenty of potential perps for a recently deceased detective to investigate.

Tuck the ghost does not experience the stereotypical ghostly hijinx.  He can’t just flit around appearing and disappearing at will.  He must find an electrical source regularly to power up or he will be unable to do anything.  He must rely on Angel, the only person who is able to sense his presence, for transportation and to voice his questions to suspects and witnesses.  The interesting new relationship that Angel and Tuck develop after his death is a complex co-dependence that inevitably will hold both back and at the same time empower both in new and unique ways.  I am looking forward to seeing how that relationship develops.

Dying to Know” is a fast-paced, humorous exploration of the netherworld and how life goes on after death.  Inevitably crimes will be committed and, fortunately, Tuck will be on the job ready to investigate through the Gumshoe Ghost series.

Liz Nichols

 

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Eyes Closed Tight by Peter Leonard

As the son of master thriller writer, Elmore Leonard, Peter Leonard was born with mystery writing in his blood.  “Eyes Closed Tight” is his fifth novel.  It is a very satisfying read for those who like hard-bitten, no non-sense detective thrillers and Police procedurals.

Former Detroit police detective, O’Clair has retired to run a small motel on Pompano Beach with his twenty-something girl friend, Virginia.  He is hoping to get away from the daily grind of solving murders, but the murders just seem to follow him.  He discovers a dead woman arranged on a lounge chair on the beach in front of his motel.  The way the woman is left with her eyes excised with an x-acto knife reminds him of a couple murders he thought had been solved in the Detroit area.  If a similar murder is brought to his doorstep a thousand miles away from Detroit, then they either convicted the wrong guy of the crime, or there is a copy-cat killer running around Florida now.

Because of his knowledge of the old crime, his expertise, and the location of the latest case, O’Clair is quickly recruited by the local police to work on the case.  He also takes a trip to Detroit to work with his old police detective pals to determine whether they locked up the right guy in Detroit, or whether this is a new pattern of crimes with a similar MO.  It becomes apparent that whoever is perpetrating the murders in Pompano Beach is now interested in attacking O’Clair’s girl friend, Virginia, and the local PD need to keep a police bodyguard with her at least during the night while O’Clair is in Detroit.  Some of the murder and stalking scenes are real nail-bitters.

Eyes Closed Tight” is a very well-written and engaging detective thriller.  It’s an absorbing crime story that has enough twists and turns to keep the attention of even the most jaded detective thriller reader.  Chapters written in the voice of the killer add to the tension without really revealing who this cold-blooded killer really is until very close to the end.  Even though the primary reader of Leonard’s novel will be middle-aged men, the book is a little more sensitive to women than the typical hard-bitten detective story.  Virginia comes across as a very capable gal-pal who is equipped with her own toolbox and her own ability to get herself out of a fix.  Women readers will particularly appreciate Virginia.

Recommended.

Reviewed from a supplied copy.

Liz Nichols

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