Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Best Mystery and Crime Novels of 2011

The last year was a good one for new mystery novels. Here are the ones that this Blog liked best:

The Snowman by Jo Nesbo - Oslo, Norway police detective Harry Hole tracks a sadistic serial killer, dubbed The Snowman, because he leaves a snowman in the yard of each new victim. The killer somehow has inside personal information that he uses to manipulate Hole, leading up to a horrific crisis situation involving someone close to Harry.

Readers should be warned that this novel deals with violent sexual aberration and contains much adult material and language.

For fans of the late Stieg Larsson's "Dragon Tattoo" series, Jo Nesbo's chilling Nordic crime novels are a worthy successor.

An outstanding mystery read.

The Drop by Michael Connelly - LAPD detective Harry Bosch investigates an apparent suicide jump, but "the drop" begins to look more like murder. The case pulls Bosch into a minefield of high level city political corruption. Meanwhile, he's digging into an old unsolved murder case that points to a long term serial predator still at work.

Bosch is his usual cynical self, but with his hard nosed ethical code still intact. Without that, he couldn't be a cop anymore.

Crisply written, with a hard-driving plot. A first rate police procedural.

The Troubled Man by Henning Mankell - The last of the Kurt Wallander novels. As Wallander nears retirement, he looks into the disappearance of a former Swedish naval officer that may be linked to Cold War espionage.

But the real center of the novel is Wallander's bleak struggle with his own health and personal problems that leads him toward a frightening answer that he fears to find.

A melancholy, introspective goodbye for Wallander.

The Complaints by Ian Rankin - Internal Affairs is called The Complaints in the Edinburgh, Scotland police department. That's where Inspector Malcolm Fox investigates other cops for misconduct.

A new case has Fox quietly probing whether a young detective is part of a secret Internet porno ring. But Fox is distracted when his sister's abusive partner is found beaten to death. Fox makes the mistake of getting improperly involved in the murder case. That leads to Fox himself becoming a target of investigation as his enemies on the force get their revenge back on the hated Complaints officer.

An unusual, steadily building plot and a thoroughly enjoyable police mystery.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Stephen King Battles Time in 11/22/63

Stephen King's new novel 11/22/63 isn't a horror novel, but there's still a monster in it.

The monster is past history and the past doesn't want to be changed. The past is capable of many vicious tricks to keep anyone from ever altering it.

The book's main character, Jake Epping, tries to do just that when he uses a freak time portal anomaly to go back into the past to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy. But the huge, implacable machine that is Time itself repeatedly throws up roadblocks to stop Jake. The constant fatalistic theme of the story is that Time is a relentless and often cruel thing that humans have futile power to affect.

Although it's not a horror novel, the usual eerie King touches are still there. A clown-faced killer in the town of Derry, Maine that echoes King's earlier novel It. A sinister two-tone Plymouth Fury in Dallas that recalls the malevolent auto in Christine. Then there's something that guards the time portal that's called the Yellow Card Man.

11/22/63 is an enormous, disturbing novel that deals with the unpredictable and dangerous consequences of trying to alter history. Each small change in the past can have unforeseen results in the future. We've all had the desire to be able to go back and change something in the past that we wish had never happened.

Just don't ever try to go back to do it. Because the past will get you for it.

BEACH RATING : 4  Palm Trees

Friday, August 12, 2011

London Riots Predicted in HARRY BROWN

The ugly violence of the recent riots in London was literally predicted in last year's bleak, angry crime drama "Harry Brown."

The movie, now on DVD, stars Michael Caine as a retired senior who lives locked inside his apartment like a frightened rabbit in an urban neighborhood under siege by vicious young thugs.

When the old man's best friend is brutally beaten to death by the gangs, Harry Brown gets a gun and goes on a rampage of his own.

The frustrated English police go in force against the territory of the thugs in what turns into an all-out urban war. The street battles are graphic, leading to the shocking deaths of police officers themselves.

There are no answers in the movie, only ugly questions about the breakdown of the rule of law and social order in a confrontation with an amoral, violent underclass.

"Harry Brown" is a disturbing, nightmarish movie. Unfortunately, it is now the face of reality on the streets of England.