Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Mystery Monday!

Oops, I'm a bit late for Mystery Monday, but I have two reviews to post.

The Witch's Grave by Shirley Damsgaard: This is the sixth entry in the Abby & Ophelia mysteries. I'd had it pre-ordered months ago, and I was not disappointed. Ophelia is a complex, interesting heroine, and her acceptance of her psychic ability hasn't taken he edge. This entry caught my full attention immediately. Ophelia meets Stephen Larsen, a crime writer, and literally the man of her dreams. When he is shot almost immediately and Ophelia herself is nearly killed, she becomes embroiled in an investigation with the help of Darci and Abby. (Note: I always picture Abby as Tyne Daly...anyone else?) Every book has shown Ophelia dealing with some component of her powers, and this one explores reincarnation through Ophelia's dreams in which she's a Parisian model during World War II. All these threads come together nicely, as usual, and Ophelia's growth is gratifying. I love that in six books, Damsgaard hasn't stuck Ophelia with a steady relationship. She's still working on finding herself, and while she dates, she's not engaged by book 3, as she would be in many series. Another stellar entry in a great series.

My reviews of #3-5, with links to my reviews of the first two

Whiskey Sour by J.A. Konrath: I picked this, the first Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels mystery, after seeing Dirty Martini (#4, I think) in the bookstore. I wanted to try the series from the start. I usually go more cozy on my mystery reading, but the fluorescent cover and cocktail title grabbed me. Jack (and Konrath mercifully avoids too-cute constant references to her name) is a forty-something Lieutenant in Violent Crimes for the Chicago PD. She's funny, flawed, and smart, and she's been around the block personally and professionally. She catches a brutal serial killer case at about the same time as her boyfriend moves out, tired of her long hours. It takes a long time to get to know Jack, even though the book is written mostly in the first person. I checked the author bio, and sure enough, Konrath is a man. I think that accounts for the distance between the reader and Jack, but we gradually learn more about her, and she's a great character. What I didn't like: chapters interspersed with Jack's narrative from the serial killer's point of view. I had two issues with this that really interfered with my enjoyment of the book. First, he's a total stereotype. If you've seen Silence of the Lambs or read any book with a serial killer, there is nothing new to be learned here. The FBI agents Jack is forced to work with are cookie cutter characters, I think deliberately, but the Gingerbread Man is, too, so his parts of the book are boring when they're not disgusting and disturbing. The second problem is the graphic, horrifying, stomach-turning fantasies, memories, and crime scenes that I skimmed past whenever possible. From the excerpt at the back of the book for Bloody Martini, it looks like "Killer Cam" is a part of that book, too, which makes me think twice about picking it up. But I really, really liked Jack, and I sort of want to see what she's up to.

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