Review: Multiple Exposure: A Sophie Medina Mystery by Ellen Crosby

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (August 6, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 1451659288
  • Source: Publisher

Photojournalist Sophie Medina has just returned to London after an assignment to find her husband missing.  A geologist and undercover CIA operative, Nick’s disappearance opens up a host of implications.  A few months later, Sophie is trying to come to terms with the fact that Nick may be dead.  Instead, she is shocked to learn that he has been spotted in Moscow and is now a suspect in his boss’s death and potentially involved in some pretty devious behavior.  Now, even more so than before, Sophie is under the watchful eye of many interested in locating Nick.  Sophie decides that the only way she can even begin to come to terms with the new news – that Nick is alive, yet hasn’t contacted her- is to leave London and return to Washington, D.C. where she can be surrounded by family and close friends.

Her contacts in London help her land a job photographing an exhibit  at the National Gallery of Art.  Two never-before-seen Fabergé imperial eggs have been unveiled with much attention from many. There, Sophie is confronted by the owner of the eggs, Artaky Vasiliev, a Russian oil tycoon who alleges that Nick is involved in an international oil scheme.  Still unable to evade those out to hunt down her husband, Sophie is left not knowing who to trust.  She struggles with doing what is right and doing what she can to protect her husband’s integrity…and her own life.

Multiple Exposure is the first in a new series by Ellen Crosby, known for her highly popular Wine Country Mysteries.   As a DC-area resident, I appreciated the setting and the wealth of historical back story Crosby shared about some of the monuments in the District, including some that are not as well known.  In my eyes, this setting is perfect for a novel rich with mystery and political intrigue.  While the complexities and many angles of the storyline take quite a bit of focus to embrace, its clearly worth it in the end.  Crosby so brilliantly combines politics, art history, and murder into one brilliantly executed novel. I found myself reading this novel during any spare moment I could find.  I rooted for Sophie, a brilliant and incredibly strong female protagonist,  who was quite used to evading danger but never so close to home.  The intensity began one the first few pages and didn’t decline until the last pages.  Forgive the cliches, but Multiple Exposure is an intense, heart-pounding, whirlwind of a read!

If you are looking for an intelligent, fast-paced mystery, Multiple Exposure is the book for you. I cannot wait to see more in this series. Highly, highly recommended.

I was thrilled to be able to attend the launch of Multiple Exposure at my favorite independent bookstore, One More Page Books!  This area has quite a rich mystery/thriller author network and it was a treat to witness that in person!

Review: Death of the Demon by Anne Holt

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; Reprint edition (June 18, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 1451634803
  • Source: Publisher

Twelve-year-old Olav is the newest ward in a foster home outside of Oslo. It isn’t long before the staff realizes something isn’t quite right with Olav, the sheer hatred that shines in his eyes is quite evident. Removed from his mother’s care, Olav makes it apparent that he isn’t pleased with his new home, shouting curses and threats to the staff.

When the director of the foster home, Agnes Vestavik, is found dead at her desk, a kitchen knife plunged through her back and into her heart, Olav becomes the most obvious suspect. Yet he has disappeared from the walls of the foster home, roaming the streets of Oslo alone.

Hanne Wilhelmsen, recently promoted to chief inspector of the Oslo police, is assigned to the case. Working along detective Billy T., Hanne begins to not only investigate the murder but the disappearance of Olav as well. Immediately, she orders an investigation of the foster home and its staff.  Headstrong and independent, Hanne has a difficult time delegating her work and sharing her findings with others assigned to the case.  Her inability to trust others is not only a hindrance at the workplace but at home as well.   When the evidence begins mounting up, suggesting that one of the staff at the foster home is responsible for the director’s death, Hanne can’t shake the feeling that young Olav is somehow responsible. The investigation unveils a wealth of corruption within the fost home, including sordid affairs, fraud and larceny, just to name a few.

Meanwhile, Olav roams the streets alone, struggling to get back home to the mother. As the reader follows the investigation and Olav’s trek, his mother shares insight into his past and the mental illness that causes him to act with such malice and hatred. Starting at his birth, she knew something was wrong with her son.  It took her months to form any sort of bond with him, only when he was bordering on life and death did she have any feeling of love or nurturing toward him. Olav’s inappropriate behavior and poor social skills started when he was quite young, before entering school. This added detail about Olav’s character has the reader guessing, alongside Hanne, if this young boy is evil enough to have committed this horrendous crime.

While this is the third book in the Hanne Wilhelmsen series, Death of the Demon is well-suited as a stand-alone novel. Holt does a tremendous job of building up the characters, providing back-story as necessary. Her ability to build up and define each of the characters is so skilled that readers will find the most evil of characters sympathetic.

Holt’s critique and examination of the foster care system is quite enlightening. While she details a wide range of issues and faults with the foster home’s staff, she diminishes it by also noting the sheer amount of love and fondness they have for those in their care. The question remains, however: how much of what happens to those in the governments care can be blamed on inadequacies in the system and not on the individuals themselves?

What I found most remarkable about this novel was the twists and turns Holt takes her reader on, keeping one guessing until quite literally the last several pages of the book. While I can typically deduce the identity of the guilty party early on in a thriller, I found myself grasping at straw with this one. When all is revealed, I still found myself exclaiming “I KNEW IT” even though in fact I did not.

I have a feeling many may have issues with the ending but it is my opinion that it is one of the few plausible ways Holt could have conveyed the truth, without making it obviously apparent. It is Holt’s intent to keep her reader’s guessing, never trusting what is portrayed as the truth, even after the final pages have been turned.

Anne Holt is an Edgar Award nominated author and this novel just adds validity and proof of her sheer talent and skill. While her work is often compared to other Norwegian crime fiction greats, Holt can easily stand on her own as the queen of this subsection of crime fiction. Highly, highly recommended!

11/22/63 by Stephen King

  • Hardcover: 849 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; 1ST edition (November 8, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 1451627289
  • Source: Purchased eBook

November 22, 1963 is a day that forever changed our country, the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. If you could go back and time & change this monumental day in our history?  Jake Epping was provided this very opportunity, to step through a portal to the past, with the promise that he would stop JFK’s assassination.  Each time he steps through the portal, he’s only missing from the current world for a matter of minutes. He could spend years in the past, but will return to the present the same day he left.

Before he decides to test the power of the portal by altering the events that took place on 11/22/63, he attempts to change the past of individuals who have made an impact on his life. He does so and learns that while he may have altered the past, the future that subsequently transpires isn’t necessarily a better outcome than the original. Fate and destiny play a key role in this epic novel.

I think I’ve made my fondness of Stephen King’s writing well-known. I admit, when I learned about the premise of this book I was a bit nervous. King, the master of classic horror, taking on time-travel and the Kennedy assassination? I can’t believe I ever doubted the man.

Fans of King’s previous works will appreciate the “Easter eggs” that appear in this novel. A good portion takes place in the town of Derry, Maine.  Fans will recognize this as the setting of a number of King’s novels.  Those new to King’s work won’t be confused by these “flashbacks” of sorts, however.

Additionally, 11/22/63 isn’t your typical horror, actually there isn’t a single element of horror in this book. There is a bit of violence (hello, Kennedy assassination) but nothing overtly gory at all. Most surprising were the emotions I wasn’t expecting to experience while reading this book: sadness, sympathy, and grief. The characters are rich in this novel; it’s nearly impossible to not form a connection with them.

A note on the book’s length: Yes, it is nearly 900 pages. But, with King’s other books, while there may be a few lulls here and there, I really can’t think of any part of the book I’d eliminate.

A note on the book’s cover: It’s gorgeous! The front depicts what transpired that fateful day in Dallas. The back shows the newspaper headline from the “altered” past.

Bottom line: Read it. It’s worth it. I promise!