Archive | August, 2011

Book Review: The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen

29 Aug

Genre: Crime fiction

Series: Series Q #1

Publisher: Penguin Group USA (Dutton)

Pub date: 18 Aug 2011

Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Synopsis

Carl Mørck was one of the top homicide detectives in Copenhagen. But when he loses two colleagues and is almost killed on a case, Mørck loses his edge and is guilt ridden at not having been able to protect them. So when he comes back to work, a promotion is the last thing he expects. Mørck is asked to head a new Department Q and solve cold cases. But when he sees his new basemnet office, it becomes clear that all this promotion is supposed to do is keep Mørck out of the way and out of trouble. But when he starts looking into a 5-year old case of a missing politician Merete Lyngaard, Mørck might just have stumbled onto something important.

Review

The Department Q series is another brilliant crime thriller in the Scandinavian thriller genre. When Carl Mørck is relegated to the basement with a bunch of cold cases that no one cares about, he is quite happy to do nothing. But his assistant, Hafez el-Assad, is enthusiastic enough for the both of them. Mørck starts looking into the Merete Lyngaard disappearance case just to keep Assad busy, but soon gets interested in this cold case.

Five years ago Merete Lyngaard was traveling to Germany on holiday with her brother Uffe. She disappeared from the boat and Uffe was later found in Germany. The investigation revealed the Uffe was mentally challenged and was a suspect in her disappearance. When the case was abandoned, questions about her disappearance remained unanswered – did she fall overboard, did she commit suicide, did her brother kill her? Is she still alive?

The page turning and tension in The Keeper of Lost Causes (UK title Mercy) comes from the Lyngaard case and the need to find out what happened/will happen to Merete. But it is the interaction between Mørck and Assad that gives it a brilliantly humorous twist and will keep the reader invested.

Verdict

Highly recommended for all fans of crime fiction. I’m looking forward to the next book in the Department Q series.

Rating: 4*

*See my Rating policy

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© Stargazerpuj and Stargazerpuj’s Book Blog, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Book Review: Wildflower Hill by Kimberley Freeman

23 Aug

Genre: Literary fiction

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Pub date: 23 Aug 2011

Source: Simon & Schuster Galley Grab

Synopsis

1920s, Glasgow – Beattie Blaxland is in love with Henry, a married man.When she becomes pregnant with his child, her family abandons her. Beattie and Henry, very much in love, run away to Australia to start a new life. But Beattie’s life doesn’t turn out the way she had hoped it would.

2009, London – Emma Blaxland-Hunter is prima ballerina who has hurt her knee and finds out that she may never be able to dance again. When she goes home to Australia to heal and figure out what to do with her life, she finds out that her grandmother Beattie has left her Tasmanian sheep farm to Emma.

Review

Emma’s life was all about dancing. Now that she can’t dance anymore, she finds it impossible to picture her life or her future. When she goes to the sheep farm that her grandmother had left her, she finds out something about Beattie that no one in her family knows.

Beattie is of course a character who is easy to root for. As Emma finds out more about her grandmother’s secret life before she married her grandfather, we also find out about Beattie’s story. From an unmarried pregnant women to a single mother, Beattie uses her smarts and tenacity and becomes the owner of a sheep farm. But prejudices of the time threaten not only her farm but also her happiness.

Emma has to now figure out what she wants to do with her life. When she first came to Wildflower Hill, all she wanted to do was fix up the place, get rid of the stuff that had been collected over the years and sell the property. But having time to heal and think, and getting more curious about her grandmother, she also becomes more involved in the community. Discovering the story of her grandmother and helping the people around her makes Emma shake out her self-involved shell and come into her own.

Beattie knew that the lessons that she learnt through her life would be lessons that Emma would some day need. In learning about her grandmother’s life, Emma learns to overcome bad luck and make her life what she wants it to be.

There is something about a story that centres around a fight for a home that immediately calls to me. I could have done without some of the romantic parts in Emma’s story, but overall, I loved this inspirational story about finding oneself and figuring out what is important in life.

Verdict

Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys stories about overcoming odds and finding true happiness. Fans of women’s fiction will also enjoy this story about strong women.

Rating: 4.5*

*See my Rating policy

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© Stargazerpuj and Stargazerpuj’s Book Blog, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Book Review: Bad Intentions by Karim Fossum

8 Aug

Bad IntentionsGenre: Mystery&Detective

Series: Inspector Sejer #9

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Pub date: 9 August 2011

Source: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley

This is first Inspector Sejer mystery I’ve read. Ever since I read Steig Larsson, I’ve been  meaning to get better acquainted with more Swedish writers, especially the crime fiction writers. This story had a sort of creepy horror and psychological elements which met some of my expectations of Swedish crime fiction.

Synopsis (From GoodReads)

Early one September, three friends spend the weekend at a remote cabin by Dead Water Lake. With only a pale moon to light their way, they row across the water in the middle of the night. But only two of them return, and they make a pact not to call for help until the following morning.

Inspector Sejer leads the investigation when the body is discovered. He is troubled by the apparent suicide and has an overwhelming sense that the surviving pair has something to hide. Weeks pass without further clues, and then in a nearby lake the body of a teenage boy floats to the surface.

Review

More than a detective novel, Bad Intentions is one that examines the human psyche. It attempts to get into the minds of very different people and explains how each of them react to certain situations.

The three men in this story, Alex, Reilley and Jon are very different from each other. They’ve been best friends since school, but something has happened recently that has changed their relationship with each other. Guilt overwhelms everyone – but each one of them deals with it very differently. While Jon has a full break down and was getting in-patient treatment, Reilley is increasingly dependent on drugs to get him through. The cocky ego-centric Alex exerts a sort of power over the other two and appears to be unfazed by this incident that has obviously upset his friends.

When Jon goes missing while on a trip with Alex and Reilly, Inspector Sejer has this niggling feeling that this is not a suicide. Jon’s mother, therapist and his girlfriend all agree that he was getting better, why then would he suddenly decide to kill himself?

Inspector Sejer goes in search of answers and uncovers some chilling secrets.

There was not as much of Inspector Sejer in this story – I see from reviews that this was not the case with the other books in the series. I would have liked to see a lot more of him. There isn’t much action either, but more psychological depths that are explored and explained.

The plot itself was  no great mystery, but what made this story good was the chilling atmosphere. The journeys into the minds of all the characters were also beautifully handled.

All the characters are wonderfully drawn out and I got invested in each of their stories.

Verdict

While this story turned out to be rather different from what I expected, it was still a good read. A great chilling psychological thriller.

Rating: 3.5*

*Read my Rating policy

Book Review: This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman

5 Aug

Genre: Contemporary fiction

Publisher: Harper Collins (Harper)

Pub date: 2 August 2011

Source: Publisher

Synopsis

The Bergamots have moved from Ithaca, New York to Manhattan so that Richard can pursue a brilliant job opportunity. His wife Liz and their son Jake miss their old life and are struggling a little to fit in and stay happy. Liz has not only given up her career as an art historian, she is running herself ragged driving their 5-year old daughter Coco from school to classes to parties.  Jake receives a sexually explicit video from a 13-year old girl  and forwards it to a friend. Soon the video goes viral – Jake, his family and the girls are caught in the middle of a horrible scandal.

Review

Liz and Richard spare no effort to make sure that their children Jake and Coco get everything they never had. While Richard is completely focused on succeeding, Liz is trying hard to be there for both her children. Liz has a PhD and she’s frustrated about having to give up her career so that she can support Richard in his. 

While they are all struggling to come to terms with this new city life, something happens that blows their lives completely out of the water.

This Beautiful Life is a short book packs a punch and gets you thinking about how a small thoughtless moment can have such terrible consequences. From laughing at some unfortunate youngster who’s designed an aesthetic horror of a website to a much more serious sexting, our lives today have made it all too easy to share private communication.

Jake is a good person and immediately realizes that what he’s done is wrong. He’s both the victim and the perpetrator in this drama and this moment of bad decision-making will plague him throughout his life.

Told from the point of view of Liz, Jake and Richard, this is a ripped-from-the-headlines story and a cautionary tale.

Verdict

Highly recommended for anyone who likes realistic contemporary tales.

Rating: 4*

*See my Rating policy

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© Stargazerpuj and Stargazerpuj’s Book Blog, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.