To Read or Not to Read — Archives

The Abomination by Jonathan Holt4st
Strong women characters, set in Venice. I wanted to like this book more than I actually did, but it is so different, its worth the read.

All Cry Chaos by Leonard Rosen 5st
An intelligent person’s mystery with an ingenious plot. Great new detective in Interpol agent Henri Poincare.

All the Old Knives by Olen Steinhauer 5st
Two ex-lovers together for dinner seems like a simple enough topic for a spy novel. But the dinner topic of a CIA mole brings the reader into the book to help discover the mole’s identity. Well crafted and fascinating to set the entire book at one dinner conversation. I love Steinhauer, and this is one of his best.

The Art Forger by BA Shapiro3st
A fictionalized account of the 1990 Gardner Museum heist. I love art mysteries, but unfortunately, the plot drug and the characters were somewhat wooden.

The Attack by Yasmina Khadra 2st
Arab-Israeli surgeon at a hospital in Tel Aviv. Dialogue preachy; prose clichéd. Too bad as setting great.

Bad Debts by Peter Temple4st
First Australian Jack Irish thriller. Complex tale with first-rate prose. Won Ned Kelly Award “Best First Novel.”

Bent Road by Lori Roy 2st
1960’s rural Kansas; dark and depressing. Too much mood. Plain writing and awkward plot.billyboyle1-680

Billy Boyle by James Benn 4st
WWII cozy! Seriously. Hero is ex-cop who works as investigator for General Eisenhower — easy read but charming.

Blackhouse by Peter May 4st
First book in the Lewis, Scotland, Trilogy. Would have given a 5 rating except for excessive flowery descriptions of heather. Great tale.

blessedBlessed Are Those Who Thirst by Anne Holt 5st
Great Norwegian novel with police investigator Hanne Wilhelmsen looking into bloody numbers found all around Oslo. This is a police procedural at its best.

Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead by Sara Gran 1st
This marijuana-smoking private eye is billed as whacky on the book jacket, but I think she is just silly. DeWitt’s detective skills are aided by mind-expanding herbs, the I Ching and outrageous guessing. A sit-com, not a mystery.

The Constable’s Tale by Donald Smith 4st
Good depiction of life in colonial America. Overall the book is slow, though there are some good twists. Unlikely encounters with poorly drawn characters. But the setting/ time frame and good writing outweigh a lot of problems.

The Crossing by Michael Connelly 4st      Poor Harry Bosch (number 20 in the series) is no longer with the LAPD but he does not want to help out his half-brother, defense attorney Mickey Haller. As you can guess, Harry does help out and per usual, we love to go along for the ride. Connelly keeps turning out winners.

dayaftertommorowThe Day After Tomorrow by Allan Folsom 5st
Lots of great thriller action. Plot twists, engaging characters – plan to read all weekend about Nazis and characters who race across Europe.

Dead Rapunzel by Victoria Houston 4st     Wisconsin and fishing! This whole semi-cozy series is about fishing and murder. A nice troupe of characters but an obvious whodunit. Still enjoyable.

Deadly Web by Christine Green 2st
English Female P.I. runs around small villages doing silly things — at least that’s how it seems! Don’t bother unless you literally have nothing else to read.

Death in Breslau by Marek Krajewski 2st
German city on the border of Czechoslovakia in 1933. Sounds interesting, but the characters are unlikable and the book sexist.

Don’t Ever Get Old by Daniel Friedman 2st     87 year old hero comes out of retirement to solve a crime no one else can. Ridiculous and too witless to finish. Lots of gratuitous violence. Maybe someone likes this concept – but not me.

An Enigmatic Disappearance by Roderic Jeffries 5st       A cozy set on Mallorca and an inspector who is shrewd and charming. Inspector Alvarez worries about the expatriate British community of eccentrics and his beautiful island fighting its losing battle with over development and tourist hordes. You cannot help but love these short but sweet mysteries. Book 22 of 26 in the

Eye of the gator by EC Ayers 1st
Key West, FL. I usually can take a lot of bad writing if the location is Florida! But this was just one cliché after another.

Faded Coat of Blue by Owen Parry 4st
Good Civil War historical about a quiet Welsh immigrant who is ordered to investigate the murder of a Union officer known for his abolitionist views. Lots of accurate history and good writing.

Falling in Love by Donna Leon 4st  Book 24 in the Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery Series is as good as the rest. This one features an opera singer who is being stalked. Love the Venice setting.

The Farm by Tom Roy Smith 5st
Multilayered original novel about a son whose parents in Sweden are at odds. Is Mom insane or should she be listened to when she says: don’t believe anything Dad says. Lots of twists in the plot.51k+ZhgzVGL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

The Fear Index by Robert Harris 5st
Maybe not my favorite Harris mystery but this one about artificial intelligence is an intense thriller set in high finance and really brings home what it means to be human. You will read it in one sitting!

Forty Days without Shadow by Oliver Truc 3st
Setting in Lapland, Northern Norway so lots to learn and Truc does a great job of creating a believable scene. But the mystery is simple and obvious – so much potential and worth the read just for the setting. I cared more about the Raindeer than I did about the people in the story.

A French Country Murder by Peter Steiner 3st
Ex-spy living in France after some disaster in the US. Now someone wants to kill him…. Not really a mystery as you know who it is for most of the book. But again the setting was most of the story. A passable character study, too, but I had a hard time finishing the book; never a good sign.

The Genesis Key by James Barney 1st
Interesting tale of genetic possibilities with Bible connection. Think Dan Brown but without pulling it all together. Needed editing and better prose..

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins 3st
High drama about a character we don’t like, but enough there to finish the book.

Grandad, There’s a Head on the Beach by Colin Cotterill3st
Good enough series about a Thai crime reporter. But I prefer Cotterill’s other series about a doctor in 1970’s Thailand. Both Cozy mysteries, but this one is just too flippant for my taste.

The Green Line by E.C.Diskin 3st
A Chicago lawyer who takes the wrong train one night and ends up involved in murder, kidnapping and her life turned upside down. Not a lot of surprises in the plot but a good first book by Diskin. Slightly boring – I recommend you get the audio version of the book which is done quite well. And slower plot lines in audio are not as troublesome.

Hawk Channel Chase by Tom Corcoran 4st
An old fashion type mystery set in Key West with a reluctant PI and lots of misinformation for the reader to work through. I love all Corcoran’s books and reread them from time to time for a brief visit to Key West. The hero is a sometime police photographer with a sharp wit and enough cleverness for the entire police department (who he seems to date).

Havana Bay by Martin Cruz Smith 4st
When the corpse of a Russian is hauled from the oily waters of Havana Bay, Arkady Renko (Gorky Park) comes to Cuba to identify the body. Great to learn about Cuba and Santeria in such an relaxing, fun read.

Havana Red by Leonardo Padura 1st
Perhaps some of the problem is with the translation from Spanish to English, but this Cuban story is not the first in the series and leaves the reader confused too often. An over-abundance of cussing and machismo posturing with very little actual mystery.

The Hot Country by Robert Olen Butler 2st
An historical novel like Pearl’s other books with some real and some fictional characters. This one is set in 1860’s Boston at MIT. Sounds like a winner for setting and it IS fascinating to learn how early science and technology developed in the US. But the mystery and the characters are no where near believable. I had to force myself to finish the book.

I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes 5st
Intelligent, unique and clever espionage thriller/murder mystery. I loved this book.I_Am_Pilgrim_-_hardback_UK_jacket

Immoral by Brian Freeman 1st
Duluth, MN, cop; far-fetched and mundane “airport” fiction. Blah….

Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln by Stephen Carter 5st
What if Abraham Lincoln had not been killed by John Wilkes Booth? Fascinating! Heroine a young, educated black woman working as a clerk in a law firm defending Lincoln against impeachment.

The Informationist by Taylor Stevens 4st
Though somewhat violent, gripping plot with strong female lead character. African setting. I want more!

Lamentation by CJ Sansom 5st
Historical during King Henry VIII era. Shrewd lawyer has to think fast to solve crimes and stay alive. Read in order. Dissolution first novel (2003).

The Last good Man by AJ Kazinski 3st                          Danish “thriller” about 34 related deaths around the world wasn’t really thrilling. International detectives make the book more interesting, but still the implausible plot made it hard to finish. But the point of the novel- what is the meaning of “good” in society- gives the book a 3 and not a 2.

The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters3st
Sometimes simple mysteries are packaged in fascinating settings or times to make the novel readable. This book about a cop waiting for a meteorite to destroy the Earth in 6 months is only readable for that predicament. This is the first in the trilogy—enjoyable not for the mystery which is weak, but for the place and time (or lack thereof).

Make Me by Lee Child 5st
Back to the Child formula this time with Reacher (number 20 in the series) traveling into Oklahoma and finding a troubled woman to help. This time the story is darker than usual though. But after waiting an entire year for the next Reacher story and then taking 2 days to read it through, I am happy the formula remains. Another Reacher story you will love.

Missing File by D.A. Mishani 5st  Set in a suburb of Tel Aviv. Brilliant character study of a cop deeply troubled by issues of innocence and guilt.

Old Flames by John Lawton 3st         The book is too long, too slow. The beginning and end were good; it’s the middle that drags. Interesting time frame of England in the middle 1950s, dealing with the loss of Empire and the destruction to their infrastructure in WWII.

Once a Spy by Keith Thomson 1st    Ex-CIA agent now suffering from Alzheimer’s whose son thinks his father was a humdrum appliance salesman – suddenly his house explodes. The book starts out with an interesting premise, but after way too many gun fights and explanatory sessions, I was bored into skipping pages.

The Pegasus Secret by Gregg Loomis4st      A Dan Brown sort of thriller about Knights Templar chasing after a lawyer who gets too close to their secrets. You know the story, of course, but it is a fun read for the beach.

A Quiet Belief in Angels by R.J. Ellroy 2st      Self-absorbed drivel! Ellroy gets praise from some who like his over-written style, which includes lots of repetition and verbosity. A struggle to finish. I won’t be reading him again.

Restless by William Boyd 5st
This historical novel is one of my favorite mysteries of all time. Set in the 1970’s with flashbacks to WWII, this story of a daughter, who finds out her mother’s life is a well-constructed lie, is superbly done. Now someone is trying to kill her mother and it all has to do with mom’s activities during the war.


Rock Paper Tiger by Lisa Brackmann3st
Modern day China. The atmosphere of the novel is compelling, but the plot line is confusing and stilted. I hate to wonder what is going on for most of a novel. I did finish the book to find out, but to no avail! First of several novels by Brackmann, but I will be skipping them unless she learns to focus as much on plot as she does on setting.

Rubbernecker by Belinda Bauer 5st
I loved “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time” by Mark Haddon, and this book reminds me why. A young man hindered by Asperger syndrome is our medical student hero who discovers a murder no one else will acknowledge. A very intelligent read. The author skillfully puts us in young Patrick’s shoes as he stumbles along.

Sacred Cows by Karen Olson 2st        This debut novel about a thirty-something crime reporter is just OK…. Not a bad plot; characters were so-so interesting; the setting is sort of interesting. Read something else.

The Spanish Game by Charles Cumming 4st
Certainly not Cumming’s best – this one is a sequel to his first novel “A Spy by Nature” which was wonderful. But all the Cumming spy novels are first rate. Here a spy drummed out of MI6, living in exile in Madrid, finds himself embroiled in another international conspiracy. Read “A Spy by Nature” first if you want to get the whole picture.

The Strangler Vine by MJ Carter 3st
I think finalists for the Edgar Award should be better than this, though it was an OK historical set in 19th Century colonial India. Too much implausible nonsense and silly heroics for my taste, though a good read if setting is to your liking.

Sommertime All the Cats Are Bored Philippe Georget 2st
It’s the middle of a long hot summer along the French Mediterranean. The murder of a Dutch tourist should be interesting, but like most French mysteries, the aimless wondering of the plot and lack of a definitive ending leaves me bored along with the cats.

The Technologists by Matthew Pearl2st
An historical novel like Pearl’s other books with some real and some fictional characters. This one is set in 1860’s Boston at MIT. Sounds like a winner for setting and it IS fascinating to learn how early science and technology developed in the US. But the mystery and the characters are no where near believable. I had to force myself to finish the book.think_of_a_number

Think of a Number by John Verdon 4st
Reminds me of a traditional mystery from the 30’s with clever plot tricks. Though slow in places and perhaps implausible, a fun read. Don’t expect anything but a short uncomplicated ride with an ace serial killer hunter.

The Titled World by Tom Franklin 2st
Frankly, I was disappointed after reading Franklin’s first book “Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter,” which I loved. This one is about the 1927 Mississippi River flood, an interesting topic, but the characters are thin and the plot lines fractured. I had a hard time finishing this one.

Tokyo Year Zero by David Peace1st
I really wanted this historical mystery set in Japan after WWII to work, but the protagonist’s tortured inner dialogue drove me crazy! Peace repeats phrases over and over and over– and then repeats them again! If you can get through the first 100 pages of this book, you probably need therapy! This is an awful novel.

Unmanned by Dan Fesperman4st
Fesperman’s books always grab me and this one about Drones and the implications for domestic surveillance is another winner. Great novel. Worth reading to learn about the technology and the implications for our future. Though not his best read, it is riviting throughout.unquiet-dead

Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan 4st
Canadian special police unit for minority sensitive cases, especially Muslim cases. Great hopes for series as it progresses.

The Waters of Eternal Youth by Donna Leon 4st
Not the best of the 25 Brunetti books but not nearly as disappointing as the one before (Falling in Love). I love the Venice atmosphere of these books and will read them all. You should, too.

Windigo Island by William Kent Krueger 4st
The Cork O’Connor series set in Northern MN is a joy to read. Krueger combines good characters with a tight mystery and insight into the Native American culture. In this one PI O’Connor looks for a missing Ojibwe girl that locals say was the work of the mythical beast, the Windigo.

The Witness by Simon Kernick4stQuite a fun and quick thriller full of surprises and action. A witness to a murder goes into protective custody and a terrorist plot is unfolding while the reader tries to keep calm through it all! One of England’s best thriller writers.



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