It’s January and absolutely frigid in Fox’s world. Her little town of Hodgekiss really exists with one bar/restaurant, a new vet but no doctor, and eccentric, white characters who either work for the railroad or are ranchers. A few refer to ‘yotes, which intrigued me as I’ve never heard it before. It’s the dimunitive version of coyotes.
Spann skillfully navigates us through a large cast and new setting with multiple pivotal locations, as well as Hiro’s hidden emotional landscape. As the investigation goes on, tensions between Iga and Koga escalate. The flashpoint is coming; daggers and katana swords are drawn, Hiro and Neko grapple, and when it finally happens, the book’s title takes on more than one meaning.
Spann effortlessly brings us into Hiro’s world of both violence and grace where katana swords and ritual burial armor coexist with the intricate art of flower arranging. The details reflect rigorous research, down to the measure of a room based on the number of tatami mats and the cadence of the characters’ speech. You can almost smell the cherry blossoms.
Lazar is the master of the extended series, building his characters over years, slowly and richly so they become real to the reader. Little by little the characters backstories are revealed, even as we move forward in time and meet children and grandchildren. For readers coming back to the stories, there are plenty of ‘easter eggs’ or references to pick up on.
The plot moves fast, the narrative driving the reading towards its final unnerving twist. It all happens almost too quickly. James’ writing is so smooth, and the story so powerfully plotted, that its easy to miss how neatly the shifts are between the individual voices, the many delicate links between cause and effect and the parallels between adults and children as we move from one character to another, the way the reader is unwittingly drawn into the toxic culture of privilege that underpins these characters, or how subtle the thematics.
Ralles offers sources including books, maps, plats and photos, articles and websites she used as part of the research for this book. I enjoyed meeting Alex, Julieann and their friends and acquaintances, formed nice mental pictures of the situations and settings as I read, and thoroughly enjoyed the fast paced narrative woven around an old story regarding the particular setting of San Luis Treasure Island, Texas.
Someone Must Die is suspenseful and fast-paced. The mystery of what went wrong with the Lynd marriage intrigues us throughout the novel, and relates to the kidnapping. Plot twists are what keep us on the edges of our chairs, but the characters and the human story stick in our minds. Award-winning author Sharon Potts, who is prominent in the Mystery Writers of America organization, has created rounded characters whom we will remember after we close the book.
Rebecca Scherm’s Unbecoming is a heist tale, a bildungsroman, a love story, and above all, a compelling psychological study of a likeable young woman with strong anti-social tendencies. As the novel progresses, Grace, the protagonist, not only behaves in “unbecoming” ways, but “unbecomes” the promising girl she once was. She grows in independence, strength and daring, but it is impossible to approve of her.
You could say, tongue in cheek, that it is the diverting story of how a man loses one wife and finds another. There are lots of twists and turns to the story, the characters are well-defined (if anything, they behave a little too straightforwardly – no melancholy moping as in some novels I’ve read recently) and Williams’s prose is plenty good enough.
Besides being a very fine mystery, Stout’s novel is as well a provocative meditation on contemporary history. He reminds us that the primary source for the recent past lies in the memories of the living. Such memories, fragile as they are, may indeed be the only resource, if you want to challenge the written record.