true-detective

One of the most talked about new TV shows of 2013 had to be True Detective, HBO’s crime/buddy drama set in backwater Louisiana.

One reason it was so popular is that HBO has the magic touch when it comes to dramas (The Sopranos, Game of Thrones, etc.). Another reason is the cast – two actors (Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson) star in it, both of whom have normally stuck to feature film roles, especially McConaughey, who in 2013 was having a year actors only dream of, culminating in a Best Actor Oscar for his role in Dallas Buyers Club.

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bitterriver

Keller’s second mystery set in Acker’s Gap, West Virginia and featuring prosecutor Bell Elkins is ALMOST as strong as the first, A Killing in the Hills (2012).

I loved Keller’s first Elkins outing (it was one of the most compelling American mysteries I had read in a while), so I was very excited by the prospect of another harrowing suspense tale. Although it’s not as strong as the first, this story is still intense – a real page-turner. This time, just as Elkins is put in charge of prosecuting the case of a murdered teenager found in the river, two more devastating events happen in Acker’s Gap…a sniper shoots up the courthouse and there is an explosion at the popular diner in town. Elkins pursues the case in her usual persistent way, but this time, her life comes under threat and the case has issues hitting too close to home, literally.

The best part of this book, as it was with A Killing in the Hills, is the well-constructed plot, fully-realized characters and excellent, top-notch writing. Keller, a journalist by trade who earned a well-deserved Pulitzer Prize for her feature writing in the Chicago Tribune, has found a second trade: crime novelist. I cannot wait for the next Elkins book!

The book is available for check out at the Niles Public Library.

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Even though I am a sucker for British TV series, I had somehow skipped this one because I thought it would be too much like CSI for me. But, it most definitely is not…it’s a must see for anyone who likes crime shows. If anything, it’s unlike most crime shows because it focuses on cold cases…cases no one cares about anymore. And, yes, there is a certain CSI and Bones aspect to it…since one of the team members is an forensic pathologist. But, the show is much more than that. It’s about a people and the relationships between all of the team. They have to battle themselves and the past when looking into these past cases. All in all, a great, fascinating show that will keep you glued to your TV.

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Following the overwhelming success of The Millennium Trilogy (The Girl….series) by Stieg Larsson and the recent success of The Snowman by Jo Nesbo, it’s no wonder American publishers are clamoring to get new Scandinavian authors out on the crime fiction shelves.  Sometimes, this leads to less than stellar works…published just for the sake of being published.  That is NOT the case with this book by Kepler, a Swedish husband and wife writing team.  The Hypnotist is one of the strongest thrillers I’ve read in ages…since The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo…and even gives that first book of Larsson’s trilogy a run for its money.  Most of the way through (up until the very end — maybe the last 50 pages) was some of the best suspense ever!  Kepler knows just how to reel the audience in and how much or how little to give away…letting the chills mount until they just HAVE to be released.  The ending was a bit of a disappointment, which is why it was not able to surpass The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo as my favorite crime story in a decade.  Unlike Girl, which has a very strong ending, The Hypnotist’s story and writing seems to drag on unnecessarily at the end, which is a shame since most of the book was so taut and fine-tuned.  But, the ending should not keep you from reading this one.  The first 450 pages are superb and need to be savored and remembered as you read to the end.  I’m sure you will not be disappointed with this one!  A MUST for all crime readers!

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If you ever are tempted to commit a crime, watch this. I say this, because this British mini-series is, I would say, the strongest piece of material I’ve ever seen or heard of that covers each aspect of the criminal justice system…from police station to trial. But, the accused here, Ben Coulter, does NOT commit a crime. He, which you know from the beginning so I’m not ruining anything, is an innocent victim. Yes, he had a one-night-stand with a strange lady he had just met. Yes, he drank WAY too much. And yes, passed out in her kitchen after having consensual sex with her. After he wakes up and finds her stabbed to death, he panics and flees the scene, has a car accident, where the police are called and eventually find out Ben was the one in the dead girls’ house. We (the audience) know he did not do this. But, the police, lawyers, judges, fellow inmates, and even his parents are not so sure. The evidence is overwhelming. The coincidences are just too insurmountable. He just HAD to have done it, right? Well, step-by-step, each of the pieces is chipped away as the wheels of Lady Justice roll on. Even though the story is set in England, the same principles apply…justice, for all its merits, moves slowly and is not above imperfection.

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An excellent thriller — my first read from Fielding. It was a true page-turner. I could hardly put it down — even for sleep! About a journalist who gets suckered in to write the memoirs of a sadistic child killer, Fielding really has a way of increasing the suspense as the story progresses. Strong characters and a good, trick ending make it a must read for any thriller fan. Not exactly the most intellectual read ever, but for thriller fans, I would say it’s a must! I’m going to try another Fielding soon and see if she’s always this good!

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Created by author Henning Mankell, Kurt Wallander is not your typical police detective. He’s dirty, he smells, he’s a bad family man, he’s practically suicidal at times…and he looks awful all the time. But, he is good at what he does…it is by far what he does best…solve crimes. The crimes nag at him, infest his person, enter his soul and will not leave until they are solved. To say he takes things personally is a true understatement. Sure, Frost and Morse are both grumpy, unkempt at times and lacking in social skills, but compared to Wallander, Morse/Frost would be your favorite cuddly grandpa. And, these BBC/PBS productions are so skillfully done, they really get into the mind of Wallander. We can almost feel his pain and his angst. We are right along with this daughter as she pleads with him to eat and sleep. Branagh is perfectly cast as Wallander…he is not afraid, here, to let anything show…he is completely exposed. Most actors wouldn’t be able to do this…even if they could. The stories are your average crime fare. What makes the series as great as it is is the character Wallander and Branagh’s portrayal.

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GREAT series with a stodgy superior detective who’s assistant seems always to be wrong and/or one step behind. Yes, it’s similar to Morse and Lynley, but the rural setting and the clever dialogue make this one stand-out among the others. I really like the rapport between the senior detective Barnaby and his always second-fiddle Sergeant Troy. For those who love British detective shows, this one is a MUST SEE!

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Taking over the role of “mentor” detective, Lewis returns sans Morse after being widowed and taking a long holiday to drink a lot and forget. Once back in Oxford, he is partnered with a new sergeant (a little less naive than Lewis used to be with Morse, but still pretty green) and they begin protecting Oxford from all things nefarious. The one major difference here between this show and Morse is that the new assistant, Hathaway, is the more cultured, educated one…taking those reins from Morse. Lewis is once again, usually a step behind. So, even though he is Hathaway’s mentor, once could also say Hathaway teaches Lewis a lot too. Excellent stories and wonderful acting really round out this series as a winner. I thought for sure I would be lost without Morse. Yes, Oxford is different without the old guy, but Lewis is a more than capable replacement.

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Dr. Tony Hill is a psychologist. A pretty dang quirky one. He talks to himself. He tries to work out his cases by posing as both the criminal and the doctor. He’s a little strange…but boy is he clever. He plods and thinks and analyzes and examines and will not stop until he has solved the puzzle…always one step ahead of both the criminal and the police. Working with him is Detective Chief Inspector Carol Jordan who has a pretty major crush on Dr. Hill (and vice-versa) but neither will ever let anything happen. They are both too professional for that. But, as a crime-solving duo, they work together flawlessly. DCI Jordan calls Dr. Hill in on special cases…stumpers — mostly multiple murder cases or serial killings. Hill can almost “get inside” or see inside the brain of the killer. In the first case, Dr. Hill gets more than he bargains for when he helps DCI Jordan on a serial killing case and he gets targeted by the killer and captured and tortured. Does Jordan save him in time? Well, let’s just say that the series goes on.

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