The Child by Fiona Barton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This British mystery involves a body, but it’s not clear whether or not it’s a murder. The body is that of a child buried many years earlier that is unearthed during construction. The lead investigator is Kate Waters, a reporter, which makes this a bit different from the usual police procedural. We are introduced to two different women each of whom thinks the baby must be hers. The DNA matches the first one who comes forward, but the date and location match the timeline of the other woman’s experience. She buried her baby in that exact location, but is not connected to the women whose DNA matches. Neither knows of the other. It becomes Kate’s job to put it all together.
I liked Kate’s character and the plot is cleverly written. This is book 2 in what is a fairly lengthy series, I believe. I can recommend this book, but I do have one warning. Do NOT get the audiobook. There are five different readers, and this turned out to be a bad decision on the part of the producers. For starters, the actress who played one of the younger characters sounded much older than her character and another character who was supposed to be older, sounded younger. Since timelines are important in this story, this became very confusing right up to the end. Secondly, there is a lot of dialogue, which means the actress who is portraying character A is doing the voice of character B and C as well as A, but then it switches to another scene where another actress is doing the voices of A and C but sounds very different. The personality of a character changes, or seems to, based on who is reading that character’s lines in that chapter. One minute a character sounds posh, then a minute later sounds almost Cockney, feminine, then masculine, etc. It really became difficult to keep track of who was who, a complaint I’ve seen in other reviews, even those who read the book.
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Don’t Let Go by Michel Bussi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
My wife read the French version, but my French isn’t that good, so I followed her recommendation and got the English version. The translation is excellent. Martial and Liane Bellion are lying about the pool at a resort on Réunion Island, a department of France. Liane goes up to the room and is not seen again. Martial has a friend watch his young daughter while he goes looking for her. He reports her missing to the police. When the police arrive, they find signs of a struggle and blood in the Bellions’ room. Martial confesses to having borrowed a laundry cart from a maid and having wheeled it down to the car park. A knife is missing from his barbecue kit, a knife that shows up in another body nearby. Then he flees with his daughter. Open and shut case, right? Well, maybe.
Aja, a mixed race Creole captain and Christos, a lusty, pot-smoking forensic-trained second lieutenant are on the case. The setting is exotic, the characters interesting, the mystery deep. There is the suspense of the chase as the police try to find Martial and Sopha and a plot you won’t figure out. The twists fooled me almost to the end. The people who die and those who live aren’t who you expect. I spent more than a little time looking up Réunion, Mauritius, and the Seychelles, which were mere names I’d heard before this, as well as dodo birds and papangues. This is the most entertaining book I’ve read in quite some time.
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I like to have a beer after a long run on a hot day. Not counterproductive.
I’ve created an interactive adventure/puzzle game for cryptography/cryptogram fans. You can make your way through it by trial and error, but it is intended to provide an opportunity to work several cipher problems in order to progress to the end. Click on the link to get started.
Freefall by Jessica Barry
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Freefall is so much like The Wife Between Us and The Last Mrs. Parrish that I can’t give it a higher rating, although it is slightly better than either one. The author has a knack with words and I think she could write something worth reading if she would just apply her talents to something with a decent plot. This is not such a book. The plot is hackneyed, and, as I said, a familiar formula.
The main character, Allison, is a beautiful young woman in a bad place emotionally and financially. A rich, handsome man “saves” her, but a vacuous life of Prada dresses and supercilious “friends” who look down their noses at her turns out not to be the salvation she had hoped for. Prince Charming isn’t what she thought, either. The story begins with a plane crash. Allison survives a crash in the Rocky Mountains. We don’t know the back story at that point, but it slowly unfolds, largely through the narration of Ally’s mother. Mother and daughter have been estranged for years. Each blames herself for the estrangement. From there it becomes sappier and soapier than a week’s worth of daytime TV. One of my chief gripes is present here, too, and that is the totally inaccurate portrayal of law enforcement. Police ignore and dismiss every piece of compelling evidence and they, and their coroners, are all incapable of determining that someone was murdered. The author at least has a mastery of grammar and a good vocabulary, one that appeals to the reader’s intelligence, even though the plot does not. The language descends into the gutter toward the end, too, making the main characters unlikable.
I listened to this on audiobook, and that was a mistake. The multiple readers all overact terribly. The director should be fired. The good people and bad people are instantly recognizable by their venom-dripping sneers and sarcasm or kind words and friendly voices, so there is no suspense. They are all the most implausible stereotypes imaginable.
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