by Bruce TierneyMay, 2008
A devilish killer
Kjell Eriksson's The Demon of Dakar is set in Sweden, a far remove from the exotic African locale suggested by the title. Indeed, there is little of the whimsy of, say, Alexander McCall Smith to be found in these pages. Rather, Eriksson offers up a hard-driving police procedural in the mode of Henning Mankell or Ian Rankin, replete with sociopathic bad guys, doggedly determined police officers and a ragtag cast of hangers-on of every persuasion. The murder victim, the first one anyway, is a shady character by the name of Armas. The cops have no idea who killed him; the suspect pool is larger than normal, as virtually everyone at the restaurant where Armas worked intensely disliked or feared him. The reader, however, has a built-in advantage: We know who the killer is from the get-go. All things considered, said killer had a pretty good reason for taking the law into his own hands, but he still has to work overtime to stay ahead of detective Ann Lindell and her somewhat motley crew of associates. There are a couple of unexpected twists, and a truly exceptional (albeit chilling) resolution. The Demon of Dakar is the third in the Ann Lindell series, after The Cruel Stars of the Night and The Princess of Burundi.
ON THE BRINK OF WAR
About this time last year, David Downing's Zoo Station hit the stands, introducing Anglo-American journalist John Russell, a longtime resident of Berlin in the days immediately preceding World War II. He is trying desperately to stay on the fence regarding German aggressions and intentions, as he wants to be close to his girlfriend and his son, both of whom have strong ties to Berlin. If he gets too strident in his reporting, he might well be "invited" to leave, raising the question of when (or if) he might ever see either of them again. This month, readers are treated to the sequel, Silesian Station, which picks up where Zoo Station left off. A close friend enlists Russell's aid in locating a missing Jewish girl who apparently never arrived at the train station as expected. In those days, no one on the police force could be bothered by one more missing Jew; indeed, Jews were going missing with alarming regularity. If anyone is to succeed in finding her, it will have to be in an unofficial capacity, somebody with a journalist's network of connections. Russell is a canny and likable protagonist, a good guy caught up in a bad situation. If there are any fans of Nevil Shute still left out there, Silesian Station should be right up your alley.
HUNTING THE HUNTERS
It's no secret that I am a huge C.J. Box fan. I have reviewed virtually everything he has ever written except his daily to-do lists, and I had the pleasure of interviewing him for BookPage in 2002, at which time I quoted author Tony Hillerman's praise for Box's first book: "Buy two copies of Open Season, and save one in mint condition to sell to first-edition collectors." Six years and a similar number of books later, Box is back with another Joe Pickett adventure, Blood Trail. For those unfamiliar with Pickett, he started out as a game warden, a job he was good at and quite happy with, until he ran afoul of some powerful politicos and got unceremoniously sacked. Now the political winds have shifted, and Joe is back on board with the new administration, as something of a roving troubleshooter. In Blood Trail, Pickett has some serious trouble to shoot - it seems hunters are being targeted by a serial killer who leaves a poker chip strategically placed at the scene of each of the kills. Publicity about something like this would put a major damper on big-game hunting in Wyoming, one of the state's primary sources of revenue, so the governor and Pickett are on the same page about bringing the killer to justice, albeit for strikingly different reasons. I said it before; I'll say it again: C.J. Box was great out of the gate, and he just keeps getting better.
MYSTERY OF THE MONTH
It seems reasonable that Roberta Kray would have some good insights into the British mob mentality: She was married for just over three years to one of the real-life kingpins of London crime, Reggie Kray. After Reggie Kray's death in 2000, Roberta Kray made quite a name for herself in literary circles, crafting some of the finest mob mysteries on offer, peppered with the depth and breadth of detail that only an insider could lay claim to. Her latest, our Tip of the Ice Pick winner, The Lost, tells the tale of little Grace Harper, who disappeared from her suburban London home some 20 years ago.
Fast-forward to the present. A hard-drinking newspaper reporter thinks he has seen a ghost; he had covered the little girl's disappearance all those years ago, and just now he has seen a girl who could be Grace Harper, all grown up. Or is it just the alcohol? For PI Harry Lind, the case is a dead end, stalled before it even started. Then something happens to change his mind: His reporter acquaintance is murdered in broad daylight. Perhaps it was a random mugging gone awry, but the man was en route to a meeting with the woman he believed to be Grace Harper, which pegs the needle on Lind's internal coincidence meter. As he gets more deeply involved, Lind realizes that the Harper disappearance has ties to the London underworld that he can scarcely begin to guess at, and his life is quickly put in grave danger as he inadvertently begins to uncover secrets that the mob desperately wants to remain buried.
If you are a fan of Martina Cole, or if you enjoyed the diabolically quirky English mob movie The Long Good Friday, run (don't walk) to your nearest bookstore, pick up a copy of The Lost, and then block out several hours to read it - you will not want to put it down!