Novels still a mystery

Castlegar News bi-weekly columnist covers some of the reading he's done of late

Gord Turner

I was looking through the opening pages to the detective writer Robert Crais’s novel, Suspect. In a brief note, he spoke about his admiration for fellow detective writer Gregg Hurwitz.

Gregg Hurwitz? Why didn’t I know about this writer? I soon discovered our library has several copies of his books, and I’ve now read five of them—including his most recent, The Survivor.

The Hurwitz mystery I liked the best was a novel called They’re Watching. At first I thought the protagonist, an English teacher, was simply extremely paranoid, but as I read deeper into the novel I realized he and his wife had been targeted for some reason.

This English teacher has been involved in a movie production from a screenplay he wrote. He believed this movie would be his first step toward great acclaim.  Unfortunately, he is fired from the set, accused of attacking the star actor, and the focus of a huge lawsuit.

What follows is a weird sequence of events where his home is bugged, he receives CDs giving him tasks to do (or else), and he scrambles throughout the city doing some unknown group’s bidding. And then the star actor in this film is killed—and the writer becomes the number one suspect. The unraveling of this mystery is quite complex.

At the same time, I came upon a new mystery-noir novelist after she had been suggested to me by master reader, LCF. The author in question is a female British writer, S.J. Bolton, whose work compares favourably with the Nordic-noir novels of Mankell, Lackberg, and Nesbo. She’s a disciplined, intelligent writer who tackles difficult scenarios and character psychology.

Again, I’ve read most of her novels, but I had to get a few of them through Kootenay Connect, our regional library exchange system. Bolton came into prominence with three disparate novels, Sacrifice, Blood Harvest, and Awakening, particularly frightening because the bad guys use snakes to scare and kill people with. This book is true to its dark experience, but it’s not an easy read.

In her more recent mysteries, S.J. Bolton has created a female British detective who manages to get involved in bizarre situations and ultimately survive. Her character is named Lacey Flint. As the detective tells it she is, “Lacey, which is soft and pretty” and “Flint, which is sharp and hard as nails.”

These novels, including her most recent, A Dark and Twisted Tide, are police procedure mysteries of a sort.  They don’t, however, go beyond ordinary police work to worlds beneath the streets of London and into bleak landscapes. A Dark and Twisted Tide focuses on a new role for Lacey as she takes on the role of a regular policewoman on the Thames River patrols.

Lacey has decided to live on the river and enjoys swimming after dark in the murky Thames. Initially, her life is much more pleasant than when she was a detective trying to catch the evil criminals in various areas of England. But, one night while swimming she comes upon a female body wrapped in a shroud—and her life changes again. Other similar murders are discovered, and we follow Lacey as she pursues the perpetrators and justice.

I had one other novelist I wanted to tell you about—Christopher Reich. My friend L from Slocan Junction referred Reich’s works to me. Here is a master of the financial thriller. I can’t say enough about his first three books—Numbered Account, The Runner, and The First Billion. Read any of these, and you’ll marvel at the intrigue and the way his plots work.

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