Knife: Jo Nesbo

The problem with most popular successful police/detective/suspense series is that readers and publishers demand the exact same things in the next in the series, making the series a quick parody and mockery of itself.

Nesbo seems to avoid this. Harry Hole seems just as compelling and flawed and genius as he always has.

Run Away: Harlan Coben

Coben’s recurring Myron Bolitar series remains my favourite of the Coben books, but each of his standalone novels contains the kernel of what makes all of his characters so compelling: unrelenting, pure, unresentful, selfless love for the others in their lives, be it child, parents, siblings, husband, wife or partner.

I love them all.

Kingdom of the Blind: Louise Penny

Armand Gamache “IS” Penny’s detective series. He is what makes it, his uncompromising character, decency and actions.

In that sense, this book stays on track. Gamache still carries the series.

Penny reliably provides us with delicious writing, full of symbolism, metaphor and foreshadowing.

Unfortunately, the rest is slipping. It’s too full of easy plot twists, relying on sketchy MacGufffins, and loose editing. You could see the plot twist over who would discover the Carfentil right from the early chapters. There is really little reason for minor characters from Three Pines to even be mentioned, and some new characters are unrealistic.

Not her best, but by very definition not every book can be.

The Reckoning: John Grisham

Reading Grisham at this stage of his writing career is like going home to visit relatives at Thanksgiving for roast beef, Yorkshire pudding and roast potato dinner. You’ve sat down to eat it for the past 25 years just because that’s what everyone does, no matter if you even like or enjoy it.

This isn’t even really a novel; as Grisham himself states, it’s just a half-remembered, rumoured anecdote from the limited time he spent in public service. The entire middle section is entirely superfluous and we care nothing for the characters in a story that has no rising action, tension or climax.

It’s not a novel. It’s not even decently prepared roast beef.

Glass Houses: Louise Penny

Long time readers of these book reviews will know that Penny and I have long enjoyed an intensely deep romance, starting with delight at finding someone interesting and new, progressing through growing interest, moving to infatuation, and climaxing in her best work so far, THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY. Since then, our relationship has moved on, grown, less passionate, only making it stronger, more like understanding and cuddling now, spooning, accepting when she forgets to shave her legs or steals the blankets in the middle of the night. By Book #20, we’ll be checking each other’s backs for suspicious moles.

It’s because of this, that I know too much about her, that I feel comfortable giving Penny some advice, because of how much she’s exposed to me. Exposition. Explaining. There’s too much of it here. Show. Stop telling.That’ll re-kindle the romance, then.

In a House of Lies: Ian Rankin

Unlike many top-quality police/mystery writers whose amazing early work gets tired and self-derivative at some point, Rankin’s Rebus series never does. John Rebus may be superannuated, but Rankin’s writing never is.

Go back to his first (non-Rebus) novel and the growth and progression ever since is amazing to see.

Rebus’ Scottish mafia crime boss Big Ger Cafferty isn’t quite as good as the crazed New York Irish mafia butcher in Lawrence Block’s Matthew Scudder series, but it’s not for want of trying.