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I was aware of Meg Gardiner's crime-writing calibre before I read this book but have never reader her before. It wasn't until Stephen King recommended this book that I felt the need to pick her up. Caitlin Hendrix is a detective in San Francisco. She follows in her father's footsteps, he was a Homicide detective whose life fell apart during the investigation of the infamous Prophet case. The Prophet was never caught and Mack Hendrix was left broken, retired and ill - yet still always obsessed with catching the Prophet. Now, The Prophet has returned, and Caitlin, a somewhat, forced upon expert is invited to help the investigation. This rakes up bad memories as her father abandoned her and her mother for the Prophet investigation the first time round. And she risks her father's mental state now. On the other hand she does have an internet, amateur sleuth come mother of three and housewife, Deralynn helping her out. This was a solid crime read, keeps you turning the pages and the crimes are gruesome. The characters are even pretty well realised, but, and this is a big but, it feels like crime by numbers. Inexperienced cop with traumatic background? Check. Serial killer with a cool nickname? Check. Inventive MO? Check. Literary allusion? Check. I know most crime novels are formuliac, painfully so, but each successful one finds the elusive X, something that just grabs you and drags you in. Unsub doesn't have X. It was enjoyable but I fear I will forgotten it by the middle of my next read.
Rachel Jenner is a recently-abandoned wife who has primary custody of her 8-year old son. One day, she takes him for a walk in the woods and, with much trepidation, allows him to run ahead of her to an area where there is a swing. When she gets there, he has disappeared. The police are brought in and so we follow the course of their investigation and Rachel's horrible emotional strain, made worse by being publicly blamed for being a bad mother for letting him run ahead. The book was compulsively readable and the plot twists in the investigation were logical and convincing. There's a moment when Rachel realizes something very important and so did I. Some of the other plot twists were less convincing, but not so irritating that I threw the book away in disgust. I didn't much care for the depiction of the ex-husband and his new wife--I thought Rachel was a lot nicer and more involved with them than I would have been. She does express frustration with the fact that she's perceived as the bad mother, while her husband, who broke up the family to marry another woman, leaving Rachel in charge of child protection, is never blamed for anything. In his defense, so does her ex-husband, so that was a good bit of self-awareness. If you like this kind of thing, it was very engrossing. It keeps getting touted as the next "Gone Girl" or "Girl on the Train," but it has very little in common with either of those books except that Rachel tells her story in the first person, which doesn't seem sufficient to me.
I read this book on vacation and then came back to a whirlwind of work and taking our son to college, so am just now posting a review. The book follows the police efforts of Woodrow Cain, a young policeman from North Carolina who has relocated to New York City in 1942 with the help of his father-in-law after his wife leaves him. Cain is clearly an outsider--others in the department mock his accent and his small-town experience. What they are missing, though, is that Cain is a tenacious and intuitive police officer. They should have been paying closer attention because almost immediately Cain is sent to investigate the first death in a case that has significant repercussions in the police department and other parts of New York officialdom. It appears that no one expected him to be successful and are unhappily surprised when he makes progress. He's helped in his progress by an old man who calls himself Danziger. Danziger makes his living reading and writing letters between immigrants in New York and their family and friends back home. Many of them are Jewish and so more and more frequently, the letters from the people in New York to Europe go unanswered. It is very touching to hear him describe the services he provides and the sadness of not knowing, but strongly suspecting, what has happened to the recipients of the letters. "Their relations in Prague have fallen silent. It has been that way across the whole of the east of Europe for some time now. Candles flickering to darkness." Although the main "mystery" is Cain's police case, Danziger is "The Letter Writer" and to me, he seemed to be the hero of the story. You end up with a great deal of affection for both of them and are particularly pleased at the piece of information that gives Danziger hope at the end, although it's a little too neat. Interestingly, the resolution of Cain's mystery is based on events that really occurred at the time, so I can't accuse that part of the story of being too neat. I enjoyed this book very much and have recommended it to others who also enjoyed it.
Northern Ireland has long needed a really good police procedural writer. Until now, all those who have aspired have tripped themselves up with high body counts, high shock factor, obsession with paramilitaries or poor geography. Or a combination of the above. But Brian McGilloway has created a pretty regular detective - DS Lucy Black - operating in a post Good Friday Agreement PSNI. In Little Girl Lost, a local businessman's daughter has gone missing and DS Black answers a call about a girl found in an ancient woodland on the outskirts of Derry. Of course, the case is not as straightforward as DS Black would hope and brings her into contact with all the local pond life and causes her to confront demons of her past. The plotting is taut and for the most part credible - although as in so many NI based crime/thriller novels the bodies do start to mount up. The depiction of modern Derry (and Strabane) feels authentic; the dialogue feels real; and the geography is right. The characterisation does - as is so often the case in crime/thrillers - tend towards cliches and stereotypes although it is possible that DS Black and her family might get fleshed out more in future novels in what will obviously become a series. One suspects there may also be a love interest waiting in the wings. I do wish, as a small point, that Brian McGilloway had not chosen to refer to DS Black as Lucy throughout the novel. Most crime writers stick to surnames for the police as it helps to remind the reader of their official capacity. Lucy sounds a bit "almost". I look forward to seeing where Brian McGilloway takes this series - and may well read his previous series. Perhaps Northern Ireland had a good crime writer in our midst all along and just never knew. ****0