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End of summer is good time to read a mystery

By Staff | Sep 3, 2009

I love a good mystery and summer is the time to read them. Warning: Not one of these mysteries is a traditional whodunit.

“Die For You” by Lisa Unger, published by Shaye Areheart Books, starts with the premise of a happily married novelist, Isabel Connelly, whose husband of five years, Marcus Raine, wakes up one morning in their New York apartment, goes to work and disappears. When she goes to his office to try to find out what happened, she discovers that the “FBI” is searching the place. She is knocked out and when she wakes up in the hospital, she is told that her husband has taken the name of another man and that nothing she believed about him was real, that all their joint accounts have been emptied and that her sister and brother-in-law had invested and lost money to him as well. She can’t sit back and wait for the police to figure out what happened and her own pursuit leads her to Prague where her husband was born. There is an underlying theme involving the suicide of her father when she and her sister were young which adds to the sense of betrayal and vulnerability of the sisters. The novel is fast moving and the theme of things not being what they seem is well done.

“Blame”, written by Michelle Huneven, published by Sarah Crichton Books (Farrar, Strauss & Giroux) is an unusual mystery. A young woman, Patsy MacLemoore, has everything going for her. She has a new Ph.D. in history and a job as a professor at a local college. Unfortunately, she is an alcoholic as well and when she wakes up in jail, she is told that she has killed a young mother and child in her own driveway while driving home from a binge. While in prison, she reforms through AA and when released she remarries and spends her life trying to make up for her huge mistake. She even establishes a relationship with the family of her victims. Many years later, she discovers what really happened the day of the accident and she must then reconsider the blame she has taken upon herself.

“Crime”, written by Irvine Welsh and published by WW Norton is gritty and raw and about a most unpleasant subject a pedophile crime ring in South Florida. Ray Lennox is an Edinburgh cop on psychological leave after solving a brutal child murder. He still blames himself for not saving the young victim. He and his fianc come to Miami for a wedding planning respite. She is obsessed with the perfect wedding while he is wondering if he can ever lead a normal life after what he is seen. Soon he is on a drinking and drugging tear and hooks up with two women. One has a young daughter and at a party he sees that she is endangered too. He is asked by her mother to deliver her to her “Uncle Chet” in a fictional town based on Naples/Fort Myers/Punta Gorda/Venice. Meanwhile his fianc is having a fling on her own. These are all damaged characters and the sex ring Ray runs into is awful, but the story is well-written and the ending is good.

I listened to the audio version of “Blood and Ice”, written by Robert Masello and published by Bantam Dell Publishing Group as a Brilliance Audio. If I had known what it was about, I probably wouldn’t have read it, but I got hooked. This novel is set in the South Pole at a scientific station today and in England and Europe during the Crimean War. Despite the time and space disparity, the stories converge and the author tries to explain the science behind the fantastic events of the story.

The novel begins on a ship crossing between South America and Antarctica around 1860. A young Army lieutenant and the sick woman he is with are thrown overboard into the icy waters, chained together.

Flash ahead to the present time.

A young eco-travel photographer is recovering from a terrible accident which has left his girlfriend in a coma. He is asked by his editor to go to the South Pole to photograph and write a story about the scientific outpost. While there, he goes for an ice dive and discovers the body of a beautiful woman frozen in the ice with a chain wrapped around her body. She is brought up and defrosted.

Rewind back to England where the handsome and aristocratic lieutenant meets a beautiful young nurse who works for Florence Nightingale. He courts her and prepares to go to the Crimean War battlefields as part of the Light Brigade. At this point the listener should pause and prepare to suspend his/her disbelief in order to fully enjoy the suspense and action of the rest of the story which is preposterous and yet brilliantly worked out in fine detail by the author. The narrator does a remarkable job as well, reading the parts of the modern American characters and the British time travelers with equal aplomb. This story is chilling in more than one way with a plot that will repeatedly surprise you.

As I said, none of these mysteries exactly fit the mold, but all had me on the literal edge of my seat at some point.