dinsdag 15 september 2009

Dead Write (Claudia Rose) by Sheila Lowe

Forensic handwriting analyst Claudia Rose is hired by N.Y. matchmaker Grusha Olinetsky to analyse the writing of several of her clients. She discovers several clients died mysterious deaths, though the police writes them off as accidents. Compelled to investigate she finds herself in grave danger.
The forensics are fascinating... I wasn't very familiar with handwriting analysts and the details Sheila serves up are very interesting. The mystery itself is satisfying, although a bit slow at times. Luckily enough surprises turn up at just the right times to keep your interest.
Claudia Rose is a likable, 'real' protagonist with as is revealed tragic past. I'm looking forward to meeting her again.

dinsdag 8 september 2009

The Keepsake (Maura Isles & Jane Rizolli) by Tess Gerritsen

When a perfectly preserved mummy turns out to have a bullet inside Boston Medical Examiner Maura Isles turns to Homicide detective Jane Rizolli. When other dead bodies turn up that have also been mummified in several ways it soon becomes clear there's a sinister serial killer at work. A great deal of the story is told from the viewpoint of a young archeologist with a stunning secret. Her story ensures the plot stays fresh and different from earlier Isles & Rizolli tales. Series regular Barry Frost also get spotlighted a bit more than usual. Unfortunately it seems that, aside from the beginning, Maura Isles has little to do this time around and the inclusion of one of the Mephisto Club characters from the novel with the same name doesn't really go anywhere. Also the mummification M.O. of the killer doesn't add much to the conclusion of the story and seems to be added just to spice up the tale a bit. What is interesting is the Ross McDonald-like web of family secrets Jane manages to expose.
Thrilling as every novel by Tess Gerritsen, but maybe not up to her usual high standards.

vrijdag 14 augustus 2009

Scattered Graves (Diane Fallon) by Beverly Connor

There's a lot going on in this novel, almost too much it seems at times. Still Beverly Connor manages to keep your attention enough to follow the plot.
Diane Fallon, leading lady of the Rosewood forensics lab has to deal with a new mayor and a coup on her lab. There's also a body to identify and some murders to solve, a big conspiracy and some thrilling attempts to kill off Diane.
Probably a bit less gruesome than Cornwell, Beverly tells a good crime story with an enjoyable, realistic but powerful forensic investigator. It was also nice to read a thriller without a serial killer for once. It's a shame the ending takes us a bit into the world of SF but maybe there's more possible with computers these days than I thought.

zaterdag 30 mei 2009

Q & A with Chris Mooney

Q: What makes Darby McCormick different from other fictional forensic detectives?
A: The most obvious thing is that Darby is a woman. And while she’s working in a predominately male atmosphere, what makes her different is that she’s someone who is as physically tough and strong as a man. She can handle herself in any situation. I think of her as a cross between Kay Scarpetta and someone like Jack Reacher or Dirty Harry – brilliant with forensics, but don’t you dare try to push her or cross her.

Q: What are your thoughts on the popularity of the forensic detectives these days?
A: In the old days, you had a detective who would work clues, interview witnesses, etc. Now you have the benefit of all this fantastic cutting-edge forensic equipment. And more often than not, the evidence always leads back to the culprit. There’s a comfort in knowing that the killer will be caught. Take the BTK killer for example. He eluded police for years. How did the find him? Through evidence left on a computer disk – evidence that only a computer expert could detect. With all of this technology, it’s almost impossible to hide.

Q: What made you switch from standalones to a series?
A: The Missing was going to be a standalone book, and given the international reception to the book and Darby, I thought it would be a new challenge. How can I make a series character exciting from book to book? I’m a big fan of series. I love reading the series done by John Connolly, Lee Child, and James Lee Burke.

Q: Has your writing changed much since the first novel?
A: I hope so. My first novel is Deviant Ways. I still love the story, but sometimes when I look at the writing, I cringe. A lot of profanity, a lot of what I call “over-description.” What I’ve learned over the years is to let the reader’s imagination do the work.

Q: Is it hard for you to write about a female protagonist? I personally think you're doing a great job at it.
A: Thanks for the compliment. I wouldn’t say it’s hard, but I’d say it’s different. For example, since Darby is a woman, I’ve got to try and look through the world through her eyes. She’s attracted to men. Being a married man, I’m not, so those sorts of things are somewhat, ah, challenging.

Q: Do you do a lot of research?
A: Yes and no. The problem with writing books that include forensics is that I’m looking for something that hasn’t been done yet – technology that hasn’t made its way into the field. What I’ve learned to do is to write the book first, then add in the forensics information afterwards. Why? Because you can waste a lot of time in the beginning researching something that may not make its way into the book.

Q: What's next for you and Darby?
A: I wrote The Secret Friend, which was published last year, and I just delivered the next Darby book called The Dead Room. That comes out in the UK this August and in Europe next year. There’s a lot of excitement about it – a twist that will blow you away and a new direction for Darby.

Q: Which crime writers do you like?
A: I’m huge fans of Dennis Lehane, John Connolly and Gregg Hurwitz. They keep surprising me.
I really don’t read that much in the genre. I’m a huge fan of Stephen King – he’s the reason I became a writer – and I think guys like Lehane, John Connolly and Gregg Hurwitz are fantastic.

Q: What does the future of forensic science / law enforcement look like in your opinion?
A: Personally – and this is just my opinion – I think the two fields of forensic science and law enforcement will merge into one. I have Darby as both a forensic technician and a detective. It’s an unusual combination.

Q: Meg Gardner came up with the following question: What's the best thing about writing novels?
A: Delivering a book that you can’t put down. I love hearing from readers who say they missed sleep or missed their bus stop because they were engrossed in one of my books. That makes all those days at the computer worth it.

Q: What question should be asked every writer we interview and what would be your answer to it?
A: I’ve always liked this question: What one thing would a reader be surprised to learn about you? My answer is that I’m a huge fan of any movie or TV show having to do with high school. I’m a fan of watching 90210. Yeah, I know, that’s embarrassing – I’m almost 40 – but the reason why I think I enjoy these things so much is that I went to an all-male Catholic high school. I don’t recommend that to anyone.

Scarpetta (Kay Scarpetta) by Patricia Cornwell

This novel starts out maybe a bit slow as a result of the soap opera mess the Scarpetta-series has become. When the forensic murder mystery starts to be the focus it becomes another enjoyable entry in this long running series.
A little person is murdered while another little person asks Kay Scarpetta for help. Meanwhile there's someone putting nasty messages about Kay on the internet, now a famous media figure, dubbed Dr. CNN. Marino tries to come to grips with the near rape of Kay while Benton Wesley tries to come to grips with being a married man.
As always with Cornwell's novels the forensic details are fantastic and the last 100 pages are very thrilling.
You can see a bit where Cornwell's going with this one, setting the stage for the future Scarpetta novels, hopefully going back to the quality of the first five novels.

donderdag 30 april 2009

The Missing (CSI Darby McCormick) by Chris Mooney

This novel welcomes CSI Darby McCormick to the new breed of forensic detectives. Struggling with the traumatic clash with a psycho killer she's now a Boston CSI investigating the case of some missing women. What she encounters is a sadistic bunch of killers right out of SAW. Darby feels like a real person as does her partner Coop.
We are treated to a great number of twists and turns, a very readable writing style and nailbiting suspense. Although the real importance of forensic investigation is minimal it's a very satisfying thriller and will appeal to fans of Tess Gerritsen and Meg Gardner in particular.

vrijdag 6 maart 2009

Bones (Alex Delaware) by Jonathan Kellerman

Psychologist Alex Delaware and gay cop Milo Sturgis return in this by the numbers thriller. When people end up dead in a swamp they set out to investigate, dealing with an environmental activist and a rich family. As always the duo follow several clues, talk to a lot of suspects and discuss their theories with each other.
There are a number of twists and surprises but no jaw-dropping ones. I did enjoy the characters of Moses Reed and Aaron Fox, two unlikely brothers who will be appearing again in True Detectives, the newest by Kellerman.
I always enjoy Kellerman’s books because of the banter between Alex and Milo. I’ve been reading about them for years they feel like old friends. It can not be denied however this series has turned into a standard police procedural instead of a psychological thriller. Just a bit too much like Law & Order to stand out. It seems Stephen White’s Alan Gregory offers the better plots these days.

The Final Days (Karen Wiley) by Alex Chance

Psychologist Karen Wiley gets some threatening letters in San Francisco. In Utah a child his abducted and people are killed by Jon Peterson, a strange serial killer with a very strange motive for killing. Coming into contact with ex-FBI agents who now run an independent crimesolving operation she sets out to track down Peterson and reveal the truth about him.
Although I enjoyed the plot of the book and the characters it seems to me it could have been told in less words. Sometimes too little seems to happen in too few pages as the writer loses himself in too lengthy descriptions. I am looking forward to the next book, eager to find out what happens to Karen Wiley.

donderdag 19 februari 2009

Precious Blood (Edward Jenner) by Jonathan Hayes

Jonathan Hayes serves up one hell of a debut!
Edward Jenner, semi-retired medical examiner returns to his former duties as a private consultant when a young woman is crucified. When her roommate, Ana, shows up in his apartment, looking for help Jenner is drawn further and further into the investigation of this and related murder. He faces not only a sinister serial killer but also his growing attraction to Ana and his post-traumatic stress as a result of 9/11.
This novel has the same problems most novels featuring forensic investigators have, that is that they act like regular detectives a lot, riding along with the cops during the regular tactical investigations. In fact, there is a lot less technical forensic detail in this one than in the work of for instance Kathy Reichs. It makes the novel easier to read but also I found myself a bit disappointed, because the writer is a real-life forensic pathologist, so the technical detail would act a special feel of realism to it.
As a ‘regular’ thriller this one works perfectly though. I couldn’t put the book away, eager to see what happens next. The pacing was perfect, just enough action to balance the more emotional parts of the story. I felt myself feeling for Jenner and the way his growing attracton to Ana is described was wonderful. Also, good use is made of the NYC settings, making me eager to visit again… As longs as I don’t meet any serial killers that is…

woensdag 7 januari 2009

Q & A with Meg Gardiner

We interview Meg Gardiner, author of the new Jo Beckett series.

Q: What makes Jo Beckett different from other fictional forensic detectives?
Jo is a forensic psychiatrist. She performs psychological autopsies in cases of equivocal death. When the authorities can't determine why somebody has died, Jo investigates to determine whether the death was natural, accidental, suicide, or homicide. Her work begins when the work of police, criminalists, and medical examiners ends.

And as far as I know, she's the only fictional forensic detective who's a rock climber. And the only one who has chased a monkey around her house with a samurai sword.

Q: What are your thoughts on the popularity of the forensic detectives these days?
I think it's great. I'm pleased that readers are so interested in the ways science and medicine intersect with the law. (I'm a former lawyer.) But forensic detectives are only as compelling as the stories they're part of -- authors have to be able to tell thrilling tales.

Q: What would a soundtrack to your novels sound like?
When you asked me this question, I put it to my readers. They suggested a lot of tunes that jibe with my own choices: Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Springsteen, the Dixie Chicks, and Patsy Cline, along with REM and Sheryl Crow. My stories move fast, and the soundtrack would have to have an edge. I'd add some country tunes to choke people up (Patty Loveless comes to mind) and some thundering Rachmaninoff and Beethoven to round it out. And the Foo Fighters. Lots of Foo Fighters.

Q: Has your writing changed much since the first novel?
It's become leaner -- more stripped down, so the plot can move faster without sacrificing emotion or complexity.

Q: Do you do a lot of research?
Writing about a forensic psychiatrist whose love interest is an Air National Guard pararescueman -- yes, lots. The only way to get the characters and the story right is to talk to real shrinks and PJs about their jobs and lives. But that kind of research is both enlightening and rewarding. It's fascinating to find out how a forensic psychiatrist conducts a psychological autopsy, or how the Air National Guard prepares for a mountain rescue. And it makes me grateful to know there are professionals out there doing these jobs.

Q: What's next for you and Jo?
Jo will be back in the summer of 2009, in a story about a soldier of fortune who disappears after suffering short term memory loss. Jo must find and stop him before he goes on a killing spree.

Q: Which crime writers do you like?
Wow, it's tough to choose from so many wonderful authors. Elmore Leonard, James Lee Burke, Carl Hiaasen, Tess Gerritsen, Jeffery Deaver, Sue Grafton, Janet Evanovich, Barry Eisler, Lee Child... and of course, Raymond Chandler.

Q: What does the future of forensic science / law enforcement look like in your opinion?
There will be ever-present tension between the desire of the authorities to collect DNA, data, and other "identity" evidence about all of us, and the need to protect privacy and civil liberties.

Q: What question should be asked every writer we interview and what would be your answer to it?
What's the best thing about writing novels? I'd say it's the thrill of creating entire worlds and knowing that readers willingly enter and stay there, spellbound, until the end of the story.