Five Aces

BoucherCon2017PanelBooksRoger Johns, reporting for blog duty, on the day before the eclipse.

As part of my preparations for Bouchercon 2017, in Toronto, on October 11-15, I’m reading books by my five fellow panelists. The title of the Panel is “Duos: Two Lead Characters are Better than One”, so all of the books involve crime-solving duos of one sort or another. I’ve finished books by three of the authors (four, if you count the book I’ve written), and I’m in the middle of reading the last two. Yes, I’m one of those people who read several books at once.

I had hoped to finish all of them before I needed to write this post, but I’m a slow reader. Maybe ‘deliberate’ might be a more accurate description. I find that I no longer read books like I used to. There’s always something to learn from the way other writers accomplish certain tasks. Proceeding on the assumption that there is a certain kind of magic that takes place between our ears when we read (how else do you explain what happens when the little symbols on the page evoke entire worlds peopled with real-seeming characters living real-seeming lives), I’m always interested to know another writer gets things done. So, whenever I get a chance to peek into their bag of tricks (i.e. read their books) I take my time and I take the endeavor very seriously.

And every time I open a new book, it’s always begins the same way––my hopes rise as my eyes find the first word of the first sentence on the first page. It could go either way, fromt here. It could be a thrill ride, a disappointment . . . or it could something in between. Always, I’m prepared for (hoping for) the thrill ride––the chance to watch someone pull off a clever trick or accomplish a seemingly impossible bit of literary sorcery by conjuring an intense emotional response, fooling me with a clever bit of misdirection, surprising me with an interesting turn of phrase, or putting a character on the page that I wish I could get to know in real life.

So, back to the books written by my fellow panelists. In the immortal words of Bob Dylan, the great songwriter and recent Nobel laureate: I can’t help it if I’m lucky. Five books, by five authors I’ve not read before, and all of them fall into the thrill ride category. It’s like being dealt a royal flush. Actually, more like five aces (which I know is not actually possible, but it still feels that way).

Among practitioners of criminal law, there’s an old saying: ‘Justice delayed is justice denied.’ In Justice Delayed, we learn just how heartbreakingly true this bit of lawyerly wisdom can be, when author Marti Green, takes on the unreliability of eye-witness accounts and the legal and social issues raised by death-penalty cases.

Heather Gudenkauf, in Not a Sound, chronicles the tribulations of a woman who lost her husband and her profession when the emotional toll of being rendered deaf by an accident spins her down into the depths of alcoholism. As she tries to reassemble her life, the murder of a former colleague spins her life in a new direction where she must contend with a lurking danger that inches closer as she digs deeper into facts of the death.

In Murderabilia, Craig Robertson gives us a look inside the utterly disturbing obsession some ‘collectors’ have––yes, it’s just what you think it is, people who collect souvenirs and memorabilia relating to killers and their victims. And, apparently, this really does go on. The police detective, sidelined for medical reasons, and her partner, a journalist who used to be a police crime scene photographer bend the rules to work a high profile murder that just isn’t what it seems.

James Hayman (a Portland, Mainer, just like my fellow MurderBook blogster Bruce Coffin) shows us the hard face of revenge in The Girl on the Bridge. The notion of justice delayed takes on a whole new meaning in this book. And just when you think you know what’s happening . . . you don’t.

And, in Physical Forces: A K-9 Rescue Novel, by D.D. Ayres, we get a good look into the world of animal theft and discover that crime-fighting is not a purely human endeavor.

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