The above illustration, "Blowing Bubbles," has been adapted for use here by generous permission from the artist, Cyril Rolando.

September 16, 2012


The game of catch-up is like the Energizer Bunny, it just goes on and on...

David King's DEATH IN THE CITY OF LIGHT is the meticulously researched story of Marcel Petiot, a serial killer who hid his crimes behind the more overt crimes of the Nazis who occupied Paris in the early 1940s. Petiot is a fascinating figure: a medical doctor, a politician, a con man (is that redundant?), and a highly organized killer. Unfortunately the construction of the book does not aid the story, and the pace lags. Still, once Petiot's trial begins, the pace picks up again for the trial is as mesmerizing as the killer, thanks to an inept prosecutor and the unusual method of French justice which incorporates civil and criminal cases into one trial. The book would benefit from diagrams of the house where the murders occurred and perhaps also a map of Paris with key locations noted. Recommended only for true crime fans or for those interested in conditions in Nazi-occupied Paris.

At least four members of my book club were raving about Rosamund Lupton's SISTER last month, and it seems certain to be included in next year's list of reading for the club. I decided to check it out ahead of time. SISTER is about Beatrice, a young professional, who leaves New York and heads to London when she learns her only sister is missing. But of course her sister is dead. The police think her sister committed suicide, so Beatrice makes it her mission to find the killer. If this sounds familiar, then you've probably already read Hilary Davidson's excellent THE DAMAGE DONE. I didn't come down on the side of the book club angels this time. The characters held no appeal for me and the book seemed tedious and overlong as a result. It didn't help that the revelation of the villain was anti-climactic; it was too easy to figure him out.

For fans of thrillers á la Marcus Sakey and Sean Doolittle, it would pay you to keep an eye out for Mark Rubenstein's MAD DOG HOUSE, set for release on Oct 23. This is the story of successful surgeon Roddy Dolan, who pulled himself out of juvenile delinquency and into the good life. So good that he has a little money to spare when a friend approaches him about investing in an upscale New York steak house. Too bad the friend never shed his own delinquency roots. Too bad every other customer at the restaurant looks like he's mobbed up. Too bad when the mob comes calling for a cool half-million that Roddy doesn't have. But Roddy's not going to be pulled back into the old life. Not even if it's takes all of his old "mad dog" ways to get out of this mess. Rubenstein's prose and construction are not quite as polished as that of Sakey and Doolittle, but the potential is there. What I particularly liked about the character of Roddy is that, unlike so many backed-in-a-corner heroes found in thrillers, he doesn't spend a lot of time moaning about "if only." No, he knows when he's in a corner and he knows what he had to do to survive. And he knows that, if he succeeds, he's still going to have to live with himself. He's prepared to pay the price, let the angst fall where it may.

In Lee Child's 17th outing with protagonist Jack Reacher, A WANTED MAN, Reacher hitches a ride with a trio looking to use him as cover in order to pass police road blocks. Reacher seems a bit more lighthearted than usual and that's a good thing. Because the humor helped me wade through the last fourth of an overly complex tale that managed to have a whopping hole appear in that plot just when things were going so well. Not my favorite adventure with Jack, but not my least favorite either. The best scenes are just Reacher being who he is: observant, calculating, and good-natured. I was at a reading point where this was exactly what I needed and wanted, so tip of the hat to Mr. Child for obliging.

What to say about Jussi Adler-Olsen's THE KEEPER OF LOST CAUSES? How about: Just read it. Oh, you want to know why? Wonderful characterization. A truly thrilling thriller. Dialogue that will make you smile. Yes, you will figure out ahead of the reveal why the baddies are doing what they are doing, but you will not stop caring about their victim or the two men, police detective Carl Mörck, and Syrian immigrant and janitor (yes, you read that right) Hafez el Assad, who are determined to solve the case of a politician who disappeared five years earlier. Mörck and Assad are a wonderful new detective team and I have no doubt I'll be seeing the author's name at the top of the bestseller lists in the near future. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.


  1. Just read AFTERWARDS by Lupton and felt much the same despite great reviews. Just terribly repetitive to me. Have the THE KEEPER OF LOST CAUSES from the library after this review.

  2. I was wondering whether I should try another of her books. Thanks.