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Posts Tagged ‘Police procedurals’

Cop to Corpse by Peter Lovesey

Cop to Corpse” is the 12th police procedural novel in Peter Lovesey’s Peter Diamond Investigation Series.  Diamond is a Bath, England Police chief superintendent, and runs a detective unit within the police force.  In this case Diamond is trying to determine whether three cop killings of regular uniformed patrol officers in three different communities in and near Bath are related.  When the team determines that there are similarities, they look for whether the killer is someone with a deep grudge against cops, someone who specifically knows and had something against all three of these specific cops, or is possibly an internal killing by another cop.  That last theory does not win Diamond any friends among his fellow officers!

Lovesey is is very descriptive in painting the picture of each location so it is easy for the reader to imagine the overgrown garden in a group of row houses that served as the setting for the last sniper attack on a cop.  We can understand the motivations of the first investigator on the scene who wants to play hero and be the first to arrest and question the killer when he thinks that he has the killer cornered in that garden.  That cop gets hurt because he is too greedy for glory.  Likewise, Diamond gets a little cocky about his thinking on the whereabouts and identity of the killer and he nearly loses his life as well as the confidence of his team.  The solution to this mystery is certainly not what everyone will expect.

Cop to Corpse” moves a little slowly, but those who enjoy British Police procedurals will find this one just their cup of tea.

Liz Nichols

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The Leopard by Jo Nesbo

The Leopard”  is the sequel to Norwegian author, Jo Nesbo’s psychological thriller, “The Snowman.”  “The Leopard” is equally gruesome in the way murders are committed and equally suspenseful as former detective Harry Hole tries to find a serial killer before he murders everyone who spent an evening in a mountain cabin with him and everyone who gets close enough to the truth to become a threat.

Just when the reader thinks they know who the killer is, the author throws another twist into the plot.  There are also many subplots that create their own sets of intrigue.  Most importantly, Harry and his former colleagues at the Oslo police crime squad are pitted against the national crime fighters of Kripos to see which team can get to the serial killer first.  The internal politics keeps turning from one team to the other all to the detriment of catching the killer.  Only Harry seems completely focused on solving the crime while all his colleagues and political enemies spend their time posturing and trying to outdo each other.

There is also a personal subtext to this complex thriller.  Harry has his own demons to fight.  The book starts out with one of his crime squad coworkers finding him in a drunken and doped up state in Hong Kong.  He has never forgotten what the Snowman did to break up his family and to unsettle his own psyche.  He suffers from post traumatic stress syndrome among other problems.  He never is able to go cold turkey on his addictions and they serve to hinder his investigations as well as his personal life and threaten his career.  In the end, Harry must go back to Asia to try to find himself.

This book took some patience to get through.  There is such a complicated plot that it was easy to get confused, but in the end it turned out just as it should considering the personalities and weaknesses of the characters.

This book is not for mystery fans with weak stomachs.  The death scenes are horrific.  Those who enjoy sophisticated and complex psychological thrillers and Police procedurals and can stand gruesome murder scenes will love “The Leopard“.

Liz Nichols



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Pray for Silence by Linda Castillo

“Pray for Silence” is the second in Linda Castillo’s “Silence” mystery series set in Amish Ohio. The protagonist is Police Chief, Kate Burkholder, who was born into the Amish community and left after a rape as a teenage girl where she found no support among her family and Amish friends.

While her past has made Burkholder a fearsome crime fighter, it has also left her with bouts of physical and mental anguish, as well as a mean streak that can cause her to lash out without thinking about the consequences. While it is easy to be sympathetic with Burkholder, it is not easy to read some of the passages where she has lost her objectivity as a police officer because of her personal history. It is scary to contemplate what might eventually happen to Burkholder’s career and to her personally if she does not get her personal demons under control.

Her sometime boyfriend and colleague from the state crime lab, John Tomasetti, has his own demons to deal with. He fights a case of traumatic stress syndrome that leaves him depressed and unable to do his job objectively as well. His past trauma relates to the brutal murder of his wife and two daughters. Tomasetti and Burkholder make quite a pair.

In this case an Amish teenage girl falls for an Englisher (a non-Amish person) who ends up brutalizing her, drugging her and using her for porn flicks. She ends of pregnant and she tells her parents, who plan on telling the police and the bishop of their church. When the boyfriend gets wind of the fact that he may be discovered he brutally murders the girl and her family. Burkholder and Tomasetti set out to discover which of several possible suspects was involved in the killings.

This is not an easy book to read. It is extremely graphic and the description of all that was done to the girl and her family, as well as to people who could rat out the murderer, are nauseating. This is one case where I think the author may have gone a little over the top to get across her points about rape and child pornography.

For those who like the ugliness of rape and murder to be out there for everyone to see, this is the book to get. For those who prefer to leave some details left unspoken, this is not the book to read.

Liz Nichols

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Review of Miles Corwin’s Kind of Blue

Miles Corwin’s “Kind of Blue” is a classic police procedural with a complex, lone wolf detective, Ash Levine, as the protagonist assigned to LAPD’s Felony Special unit.

Levine is hired back on the force after a suspension and his subsequent resignation. Despite Levine’s ascerbic personality and a tendency to do his own thing, he has long had the best record for solving crimes in the LAPD. The police brass need his ability to solve crimes quickly to boost their positive PR. They particularly want him to solve the murder of a retired cop. Levine’s own agenda is to go back to solving the robbery and murder of a Korean market owner and the witness he had lined up prior to his suspension.

The title of the book refers to Miles Davis’ jazz album, “Kind of Blue,” one of Levine’s favorites, that he plays during a romantic interlude with a Lebanese-American art dealer. There are some pretty funny sequences between Levine and his Jewish relatives on their opinion about his having a Lebanese girlfriend.

Corwin is a former LA Times crime reporter and a creative non-fiction writer. Corwin obviously has a lot of insight into the workings of the LAPD and other large police departments.

Corwin uses a journalistic style that packs a lot of meaning into each short sentence. He has a way with words that can describe a scene, a feeling or event both descriptively and economically. For example, at the end of the chapter where he has gone to see his would-be girlfriend, Nicole, on a whim it ends: “Now an offshore breeze carried the stench of society garlic–wispy purple flowers that grew in a corner of her yard. The scent of a moldering affair.” Nice.

Levine is not a particularly likeable cop. But you feel for the guy. You recognize that in a very flawed police department he is one of the good guys who worries about protecting his witnesses and is relentless in the pursuit of truth and justice. He’s complex and interesting.

Another good read from Oceanview Publishing which supplied a review copy. This book is due to be released Nov. 1, 2010.

Liz Nichols

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Fire and Ice by J.A. Jance

I am a great fan of J.A. Jance, largely because of her very three-dimensional Joanna Brady character.  The sheriff of Cochise County, Arizona, Joanna Brady, almost seems like a real person, and not the figment of a very fertile imagination.  I like how Jance has explored Brady’s life and work in a holistic way so that we get to know how she is feeling and what she is thinking in all aspects of her life.  We also get to know her family, friends, work mates and community very, very well. 

By contrast, I have never really gotten in to Jance’s J.P. Beaumont character, Beaumont is a detective with the Seattle Homicide Investigative Team (unfortunately abbreviated SHIT) working for a lead investigator named Harry I. Ball. That, I have to admit, raised my interest in J.P. and his wife-partner Mel. There is a sense of humor in Beaumont and his escapades that often eludes the very serious Joanna Brady and her crew at the Cochise County Justice Center.

This book is different from the other combined Beaumont-Brady mysteries.  This time it is not just a visitor hanging out in the other character’s book.  The book is fully integrated with chapters that relate to each character.  When the storyteller is Beaumont, then the story is told from his perspective in the first person. When the storyline takes us to Arizona, the viewpoint is from a third person narrator.  I was surprised at how well these two perspectives meshed and helped to keep the context straight for the reader.

Basically, the story follows a series of murders in Washington of women who are burned beyond recognition in tarps.  A mistake on the part of the killer of the latest victim leads to her identification as the sister of Cochise County detective, Jaime Carbajol and the crime eventually encompasses a drug cartel that extends throughout the western U.S. and northern Mexico.

While it took me awhile to warm up to the characters and the style that makes up the J.P. Beaumont series, I soon began to appreciate the contrast in style and viewpoint in following up on the same story from two locations and with two different investigative teams.  In the end the plot comes together in a well executed whole and the book very nicely marries two different sets of characters and scenes very deftly as only J.A. Jance could do.

Liz Nichols

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