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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THE STAFF OF THE ADULT FICTION DEPARTMENT AT NILES PUBLIC LIBRARY HAS CREATED ITS LIST OF THE “BEST NOVELS OF 2009.”

STAFF PICKS—BEST OF 2009

A GATE AT THE STAIRS—MOORE, LORRIE
A SMALL TOWN GIRL WORKS AS A NANNY IN A MIDWEST COLLEGE TOWN

A TRACE OF SMOKE—CANTRELL, REBECCA
SET IN 1931 BERLIN, A CRIME REPORTER SEEKS OUT THE STORY BEHIND HER BROTHER’S DEATH

BEAT THE REAPER—BAZELL, JOSH
A YOUNG HITMAN ENTERS THE WITNESS PROTECTION PROGRAM AS A MEDICAL INTERN

BEST FRIENDS FOREVER—WEINER, JENNIFER
TWO GIRLHHOD PALS RECONNECT FOLLOWING THEIR HIGH SCHOOL REUNION

BLACK FRIDAY– KAVA, ALEX
FBI PROFILER MUST PREVENT A TERRORIST PLOT TO ATTACK THE MALL OF AMERICA ON BLACK FRIDAY

BORDER SONGS–LYNCH, JIM
QUIRKY BORDER PATROL AGENT’S SUCCESSFUL BUSTS ON THE CANADIAN/US BORDER

FEAR THE WORST—BARCLAY, LYNWOOD
CONNECTICUT CAR SALESMAN IN SEARCH FOR HIS DAUGHTER WHO MYSTERIOUSLY DISAPPEARED FROM HER SUMMER JOB

THE HELP—STOCKETT, KATHERINE
A SOCIAL ACTIVIST COLLECTS THE STORIES OF BLACK WOMEN IN JACKSON, MS. RAISING THE CHILDREN OF WHITE FAMILIES

HEROIC MEASURES—CIMENT, JILL
A WEEKEND IN THE LIFE OF AN ELDERLY COUPLE AND THEIR DACHSHUND HOPING TO SELL THEIR EAST VILLAGE APARTMENT AFTER 45 YEARS

HOME SAFE–BERG, ELIZABETH
A POPULAR AND PROLIFIC WRITER HAS LOST THE ABILITY TO WRITE FOLLOWING THE DEATH OF HER HUSBAND

HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET—FORD, JAMIE
A CHINESE AMERICAN IN SEATTLE IN 1986, HAVING LOST HIS WIFE TO CANCER, REFLECTS ON HIS LIFE IN AMERICA DURING WWII

ICE LAND—TOBIN, BETSY
SET IN ICELAND IN A.D. 1000, THE STORY IS A FLIGHT THROUGH SCANDINAVIAN MYTHS

NEW TRICKS—ROSENFELT, DAVID
DEFENSE ATTORNEY ANDY CARPENTER TAKES ON A CANINE CLIENT WHO IS CONNECTED TO THE MURDER OF AN EXEC. IN THE PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY

STARDUST–KANON, JOSEPH
A RECENTLY RETURNED WWII CORPSMAN TRAVELS TO HOLLYWOOD TO INVESTIGATE THE UNEXPLAINED DEATH OF HIS BROTHER

STILL ALICE—GENOVA, LISA
AN ESTEEMED HARVARD PSYCHOLOGIST COPES WITH THE ONSET OF ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE

SWEETNESS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PIE–BRADLEY, C. ALLEN
IN A SLEEPY ENGLISH VILLAGE IN 1950 AN 11-YEAR OLD SCIENCE PRODIGY DISCOVERS A MURDER AND SEEKS TO SOLVE THE CRIME

TWENTIES GIRL—KINSELLA, SOPHIE
A MODERN STORY ABOUT THE FRIENDSHIP BETWEEN TWO GIRLS. HOWEVER, ONE OF THEM IS A GHOST FROM THE 1920’S

VANISHED—FINDER, JOSEPH
A CORPORATE INTELLIGENCE SPECIALIST INVESTIGATES THE DISAPPEARANCE OF HIS OLDER BROTHER

THE VINTAGE CAPER—MAYLE, PETER
A LAWYER INVESTIGATES THE THEFT OF A FAMOUS HOLLYWOOD LAWYER’S TREASURED AND EXPENSIVE WINE COLLECTION

WOLF HALL—MANTEL, HILARY
THE STORY OF HENRY VIII AND HIS CHALLENGE TO THE CHURCH IN HIS DESIRE TO DIVORCE HIS QUEEN AND MARRY ANNE BOLEYN IS TOLD THROUGH THE PERSPECTIVE OF HIS CLOSEST ADVISOR

WORST NIGHTMARES—BRIANT, SHANE
A SUCCESSFUL WRITER FINDS AN UNSOLICITED MANUSCRIPT THAT TELLS THE STORY OF THE HOMICIDAL ‘DREAM HEALER’ WHO SNARES HIS VICTIMS VIA HIS WEBSITE

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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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I’m assuming this is how police work really is…sometimes it’s just waiting around, and sometimes it’s busier than can be. This HBO series goes into the inner-workings of a special task force of police detectives who work on complicated, complex cases…cases that require more time than most police would be willing to give. Season one deals with the tracking down of a drug kingpin in the Baltimore (where the show is set) projects. The entire season of shows is based on this one case…which is also how subsequent seasons are as well. No, it’s not boring…they catch small members of the drug gang and then they just keep working up the food chain until the catch some big fish. It’s intense and riveting and as exciting as any cop show I’ve seen (maybe even more exciting) even though the cast of criminals stays the same. If you like crime stories on TV, this one is a must!

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