Book Reviews: The Long Drop, The Birdwatcher, Persons Unknown, Take Out, Celine

By | October 31, 2017

Now some mystery novels if you’d rather read that for Halloween. Since I didn’t truly love any of these books, the reviews will be fairly brief…

The Long Drop by Denise Mina…This outrageous true story involves a man whose family is murdered, and even though he’s the prime suspect, he asks for the public’s help in solving it. A possibly psychotic con man contacts him for a drink, eventually confessing to the murders after a disturbing night on the town. The book is framed by a murder trial, and that undercuts the tension somewhat. Grade: B

The Birdwatcher by William Shaw…Your typical shell-shocked, taciturn detective (this one in Ireland) is haunted by an IRA-linked killing he committed in his youth while investigating a new murder that’s somehow linked to it. Cliches abound in yet another European-set mystery where the detective is hard-nosed, hard-living, and has a personal connection to a killer. Grade: C+

Persons Unknown by Susie Steiner…A very pregnant detective investigates the stabbing death of a wealthy British banker. I feel there may be too many subplots, “downtime” moments that have nothing to do with the murder, and a credibility-straining connection between the murder and the detective’s adopted foster son, but the detective herself is unique, no question. Grade: B

Take Out by Margaret Maron…I had no idea this book was actually the close of a series. I was just intrigued by the plot—a pair of homeless men are found poisoned to death by bad food thrown out by a neighborhood restaurant—but the book is a lot higher-end than I was expecting (it winds up being less about homeless men or a mass poisoned food company conspiracy than retired opera singers with mob ties) or, to be honest, hoping for. Grade: B-

Celine by Peter Heller…I was looking forward to this detective story set in Yellowstone National Park where a legendary nature photograph may or may not have been mauled to death. His relatives suspect foul play so they contact Celine, a blue-blood, elderly private detective that is a little bit like Joan Didion in the world of crimefighting. But the plot doesn’t pick up steam as it keeps going, and too much of the book has nothing to do with the central mystery, which feels almost like an afterthought for too much of the first 9/10ths or so. Grade: C+

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