Thriller round-up for January
This winter, four female authors step up to deliver plot twists that will leave you scratching your head and locking your door. We start the journey in England and work west to Savannah, California and finally to the Big Island town of Hilo, Hawaii.
Believing The Lie
by Elizabeth George
The 17th installation in the Thomas "Tommy" Lynley detective series of noble English birth requires no prior reading to jump in with both feet. George is a master of interweaving character perspectives to reveal her mysteries. Believing The Lie is the investigation into the seemingly accidental drowning of Ian Cresswell, the head of finance to the family toilet empire.
As the family tree becomes untangled by Lyndley, hired by Lord Fairclough, Ian's uncle, secrets, betrayal and lies all shake out on the ground including Ian leaving his family in the middle of his son's birthday for his male lover, Kaveh. As the story unfolds, different characters' perspectives drive forward the intrigue so that the doubts of the accident as a murder are almost secondary to the after effects on family members. This is where George shows her skills and ability to create realistic, distinct characters.
The layers George creates within the novel only grow deeper as Inspector Lynley tries to keep his investigation confidential, and his close friends Deborah and Simon St. James aid him in his undercover work. The emotional issues of the couple are so intense that they naturally spill over into the investigation with Deborah becoming entangled in the secrets held close by Lord Fairclough's addict son Nicholas and his wife Altea. The result is unsettling and will keep readers on edge.
Believing The Lie is not a light read coming in at over 600 pages. It will take time to get through but the ending is worth the effort.
by Patricia Cornwell
Red Mist continues to follow the career of the no-nonsense medical examiner, Dr. Kay Scarpetta as she tries to puzzle through the death of her temperamental former associate Jack Fielding's death at the hands of his daughter, Dawn Kincaid. Kay Scarpetta finds herself in Savannah by a manipulative former lover of her niece, Jamie, who has moved from the NY Prosecutor's office to private practice.
Old wounds are opened up as by-the-book Dr. Scarpetta unravels the connections between multiple brutal murders and inmates at Georgia's Women Prison. A Kay Scarpetta book is an education about evidence and forensics in a fascinating, riveting way. The transportation to Savannah will have you feeling sweat on the back of your neck as Cornwell sets the scene so well that it is easy to envision every detail through her words.
Cornwell is great at puzzling through the logic and getting answers to questions that drive the momentum of the story forward even though it's really taking place over a few days. The only drawback was the ending, while riveting, was over too quickly for my taste. The resolution could have added some more dialogue and action, but it went along with Scarpetta's personality and logic.
Down the Darkest Road
by Tami Hoag
Hoag wastes no time drawing readers in to a very disturbing family of four, the Lawton's tragedy. One daughter, bright and fearless, was snatched by a neighborhood man without proper evidence to prove it and then the tragic death of the father two years later off the side of a road going 80 miles per hour leaves a mother Lauren and one daughter, Leah, to fend for themselves.
Tragedy can affect people in different ways; there's a grieving period that some choose never to get over but to embrace and alienate all around them, even those trying to help. Hoag builds a very emotional world for her characters' grief, the complete opposite of Elizabeth George's detached, analytical Dr. Scarpetta. Down The Darkest Road brings to the surface the raw frustration and anger, fear and passion for justice lurking under the skin of victims, criminals and the police.
The emotional journey turns over every side of how the system can work against victims and protect savvy criminals. It takes the torment of survivors of a tragedy and how they choose to either deal with it or get swallowed up by it. Hoag chose to set her story in the early '90s when DNA forensic blood work was not as advanced as it is now. The one blood sample authorities were able to find cannot be tested because it is too small and that would have potentially been inconclusive, so they destroyed the sample altogether.
Down the Darkest Road is a very easy and engaging read.
by Toby Neal
This thriller is the first from debut author Toby Neal and the first for Lei Texiera, a determined young cop trying to overcome her abusive childhood to right wrongs for others. It takes just a few chapters to become absorbed in Blood Orchids, and once it opens up to the reader, it is difficult to put down again.
Neal introduces the underbelly of Paradise in the Hawaiian Islands when Lei and her partner Pono stumble across two drowned teenage girls. The twisted tale establishes the complexities of Lei's upbringing and her issues which drive her to be both impulsive and have great gut feelings with varying outcomes.
This is a great first effort from Neal, who has three other titles forthcoming in the Lei Crime series planned already. She also introduces the Chang crime family, who, while not the main focus, are sure to make things difficult for Lei in the future. Their ties are deeper than she knows and shockingly close with the man who molested her as part of a revenge plot against her father.