Amazon discontinued the ability to create images using their SiteStripe feature and in their infinite wisdom broke all previously created images on 12/31/23. Many blogs used this feature, including this one. Expect my archives to be a hot mess of broken book cover images until I can slowly comb through 20 years of archives to make corrections.

Friday, May 24, 2024

Mini-Reviews: Yet More Suspense

My project to clean out suspense ARCs from my Kindle continues, with a fairly new release in a long-running series and the first book of what has turned into a series that was published in 2019 😬.

Circle in the Water by Marcia Muller is the 35th book in her series about San Francisco PI Sharon McCone. Some people read fluffy Regency romances for comfort, I read female PI suspense novels, in large part because I discovered both Muller and Sue Grafton as a teenager. One thing that I thought Sharon always had over Grafton's Kinsey Millhone is that while Grafton kept Kinsey stuck in the late 1980s, Muller has moved Sharon through time, allowing her to change and grow. We've read about her as she's had a series of boyfriends, gotten married, left her job, started her own business etc.

This latest book feels like it might be the end with a rather telling "where are they now" style epilogue.  The premise here is rather interesting, San Francisco is apparently home to over 200 privately owned streets (who knew?) and Sharon is hired by a group of concerned homeowners as several of those streets have experienced a series of pranks and vandalism. However when a meth lab blows up and a dead body is discovered things take a sinister turn.

Being the 35th book in a long-running series, this reads like the latest episode of a TV series. There's zero character development here so if you're not clued into the characters already, do not start here.  Also while the premise is interesting the story felt very light in the pants. It feels a bit much ado about nothing and for such a slim book (221 pages!) there's various character asides that felt distracting and pointless (Did I need a scene with Sharon and Rae lamenting about current events in the city? Not really).  

But as a visit with old friends? To scratch a nostalgic itch? This worked. But while I will occasionally revisit random books in the series, this isn't likely to be one of them.  Strictly for fans.

Final Grade = C

Good Girl, Bad Girl by Michael Robotham is the first book in a now four book series featuring police psychologist Cyrus Haven. A young girl is discovered hiding in a secret room at the scene of a horrible crime, living with the rotting body of her dead captor, who was tortured to death. She's not listed in any missing persons files, can't or won't tell anyone her name, and her DNA can't be matched to an identity.  She could be 12, she could be 15 - nobody knows.  Now, some 6 years later, still unidentified, the courts have given her the name Evie Cormac and she's living in a secure children's home.  She's fighting in court to be released, claiming she's 18, which is where Cyrus Haven comes in.  He's brought in to talk to Evie, to determine if she should be released or, if like the staff at the children's home insist, she's too much a danger to herself and others.

Running parallel to this thread is a case Cyrus is working on with the police.  Jodie Sheehan, a pretty, popular local girl, a Olympic figure skating hopeful, is found murdered on a foot path near her home. 

The author has certainly laid interesting groundwork with this book and it's easy to see how these characters have sustained momentum into a 4 book (to date) series.  Besides her mysterious and tragic past, Evie is a bit of a human lie detector - knowing instinctively when someone is lying or telling the truth. Cyrus has his own tragic past, his older brother murdered their parents and younger sister while Cyrus was at football (soccer) practice and is now locked up in a psychiatric facility. If anyone is equipped to help Evie, it's Cyrus - but she's a girl with a lot of secrets.

I realize this makes me a terrible person, but Evie did have a tendency to get on my nerves at times. However things smooth out by the end and the author does a good job of throwing in some twists and turns. It's a book that's a bit lurid in parts (description of torture, drug use, sexual assault....) but the author doesn't wallow in the gory details (he doesn't have to - just mentioning brief descriptions is more than enough). Yet this ended up being a curious read for me. I should have liked it more than I did and as I sit here typing this up I'm trying to decide if I'm intrigued enough to continue on with the series.  Because while the Jodie Sheehan matter is put to bed, Evie's past most certainly is not and is fodder for later installments.  Perhaps once I'm through some of my backlog...

Final Grade = B-


azteclady said...

Oh that "I should have liked it more than I did, and I don't quite know why" feeling! Isn't it annoying? Like an itch one can't quite locate.

Wendy said...

AL: Yeah, it is annoying - and I'm wondering if it has something to do with the audiobook narrator (which is how I read it). But also, Evie did annoy me at times - although now I'm curious about her backstory so 🤷‍♀️. If I continue on with the series it probably won't be soon. I'm still trying to catch up with suspense ARCs - although that's starting to feel futile 😂

azteclady said...

The good news is that the books are out there for you if and when you feel like it.