Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Book Review: The Three Evangelists by Fred Vargas

The opera singer Sophia Siméonidis wakes up one morning to discover that a tree has appeared overnight in the garden of her Paris house. Intrigued and unnerved, she turns to her neighbours: Vandoosler, an ex-cop, and three impecunious historians, Mathias, Marc and Lucien - the three evangelists. They agree to dig around the tree and see if something has been buried there. They find nothing but soil.

A few weeks later, Sophia disappears and her body is found burned to ashes in a car. Who killed the opera singer? Her husband, her ex-lover, her best friend, her niece? They all seem to have a motive.

Vandoosler and the three evangelists set out to find the truth.

I was looking for French crime authors for my #InternationalCrime meme, and I stumbled upon Fred Vargas. Winner of International Dagger Award for three times, she (Fred is shortened from Frédérique) is not just a writer, but also historian and archaeologist. I assumed that I would love her books, and I wasn't wrong.

The Three Evangelists is her first book which won International Dagger Award and it is written in 1995, translated in English in 2006. The story starts with an opera singer, Sophia Siméonidis, who wakes up one morning just to notice a big tree in her backyard, a tree that wasn't there the day before. She is a famous person and she considers this as a personal threat from a lunatic fan. The house next door is a home of four extraordinary people. Armand Vandoosler, a former police commissaire, his god-son Marc, Lucien and Matthias. The old Vandoosler names the three young men the three evangelists, Saint-Mark, Saint-Luke and Saint-Matthew. The three evangelists are historians, for different time of history and they are all live in their own world, in the time they study. Sophia asks their help for the tree, they dig it and find nothing. But soon after that, Sophia disappears. Later, her body is found burned in what suppose to be a car accident.

The three young historians with the help of the old former detective are in the search of their neighbour's killers. Who would think that the knowledge of history can help solving a murder?

Saint-Marc, Saint-Luke and Saint-Matthew are so original characters. Each one of them lives in his own world, each one of them is some kind of knight in shining armour. Some people might consider them lunatic, but they are all very intelligent and perfectly stand on their own feet. Their conversations are even more interesting than the plot itself. Their medieval knowledge is perfectly incorporated in not just the plot itself, but also in their every day fights and talks and their own very unique view of the world.

There are other characters in the story, characters that might be involved in the murder. The husband, the neighbour, the niece, they are all suspects. They all seem like nice people, all of them concerned for Sophia's death. But nothing can trick the old commissaire's eye. And with the help of his three house mates, Sophia can finally rest in piece.

It is my very first book of Fred Vargas, but certainly it won't be the last. I am hooked on her crime noir writing and I'll be definitely in the search of her other books. And they are so many.

My opinion: 4,5 / 5.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Book Review: The Collector by Anne-Laure Thiéblemont

*ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. *

Publication date: August 11-th, 2015.

In the merciless microcosm of Paris art auctions and galleries, some people collect pre-Colombian statuettes, while others, like Marion Spicer, collect trouble. When she inherits a prestigious art collection from the father she never knew, her problems start. In order to come into possession of her inheritance, she must first find three priceless works of art, a quest that draws her into a world where people will kill for a love of beauty.

Edmond Magni is one of the greatest collectors of eighteenth-century art and an owner of a very imposant collection of pre-Columbian art. He is so obsessed with it, those figures are more important to him than actual human beings. But when he dies of an unexpected death, his only relative is a long lost daughter who never met him. The entire collection is her inheritance now, but there are conditions: she must find three missing statues. It might be a hard work for someone else, but not for Marion Spicer. She is also into the world of art, working as a private investigator and looking for stolen art. The collection of her long lost father is not a source of income for her, but a treasure of beautiful pieces of art that have to be preserved for future generations. But the world of art is not a safe place at all. Marion throws herself into the world of thieves, fake auctions, grave diggers, smuggling and making perfect replicas. In order to find the three missing statues, she stamps on something bigger: a murder!

This is my very first book from this author and from the very first page I was captivated by the plot. A very prestigious collector of art dies and his daughter who works also in the world of art inherits the most wanted collection of pre-Columbian statues. There are some very fine pieces of art here and also a detective story. It's like Indiana Jones meeting Lara Croft. The story takes you from the most prestigious museums of Paris to the old tombs in Colombia and Peru.

But what started very enthusiastic and fully-packed with adrenaline, ended somehow diluted. Maybe it was just me, but the ending left me very disappointed. After that kind of rush, I was expecting a real BAM at the end. The end didn't surprise me nor left me with my mouth open. But, that's just my opinion.

I liked Marion as a character. I liked her hunger for justice, her hunger to finish whatever she started. I liked her passion for art, her admire of pieces of history. She sees the things as evidence of existence of the people that lived on this planet before us, not as a source of money.

Overall, The Collector is a beautiful piece of art full of mystery and action. It is an interesting and fast-paced read perfect for the fans of Indiana Jones. And everyone else, of course.

My opinion: 3,5 / 5.

You can pre-order the book on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk

Friday, July 17, 2015

Book review: Dead Money Run by J.Frank James

Dead Money Run is the first book in the Lou Malloy Crime Series.

Lou Malloy learns of his sister's death right before he is released from prison, having served 15 years for the theft of $15 million from an Indian casino. He wants two things: to keep the $15 million, which no one has been able to find, and to track down and punish whoever killed his sister.

Lou Malloy teams up with Hilary Kelly, a private investigator. In no time, Lou has found the hidden $15 million, recovered guns and ammunition hidden with the money, and murdered two low-level mobsters and fed them to the crocodiles.

As the body count rises, the story grows more complex and his sister's death becomes more mysterious.

*Copy provided by Book Publicity Services in exchange for an honest review. *

Fifteen years ago, Lou Malloy robbed a casino on Indian territory. A casino involved in money laundering. Fifteen million bucks. He is caught by the police and serves fifteen years in prison. Money never found. Just before he comes out of prison, Lou finds out that his sister is murdered. He is thirsty for vengeance. Is she murdered because of him and his fifteen million bucks? Those bastards have to be punished!

Many people are interested in those money. Dirty money that were already included in the laundering process. Hilary Kelly, a PI, tails the former prisoner for the same reason. Very soon, they start to work together as a couple. She wants a revenge too. Lou's sister was her friend, at least she says so.

No one is safe. There are many people after Lou and Hilary. Lou and Hilary are after the people who killed his sister. Everyone wants the money. No one can be trusted. The run for the dead money starts.

Lou Malloy is a classic anti-hero as a main character. He kills people almost everywhere, he doesn't choose the place or time. There is too much blood where ever he goes. But there is some decency in his character. He doesn't kill innocent people. He loves his sister very much, he is doing whatever it takes to find her murderers. He has been hurt in life and he is not afraid to hurt others. An eye for an eye. He is smart and brave, but also too much impulsive.

With a character like Lou Malloy, the action scenes are so tensed and hard-boiled. The author visualized the killing scenes very well, included many bullets and blood all over the places. Described to the tiniest details, the killing scenes are so vivid and adrenaline-fulfilled. Some of them happen so fast, you've turned the page and BAM, three people dead! In the same time, the author added Hilary, as a balance, a person who can restore Lou's faith in humanity. The characters are so unpredictable, it is very hard to separate the good guys from the bad guys. There is no single character that can be described as just good or just bad. Even Hilary is like a wolf in a sheep's clothing. You don't know who to trust.

Overall, I enjoyed in this very bloody run for the fifteen million bucks. Full of action, blood and bullets, it is a fast-paced thriller that will keep you on alert-mode till the very last page.

My opinion: 4,5 / 5.

You can buy the book on Amazon.com

About the Author:

J. Frank James has a passion for writing, and he certainly has the knowledge and experience to write realistic crime thrillers, thanks to his extensive background in law. Jim attended law school, where he was a member of the law review. He even went on to pass the state bar and started his own law practice that specialized in complex litigation. Jim's experience in law helps lend credibility to his crime fiction books. He has also traveled extensively and gains inspiration for his crime thrillers from his travels. From observing other cultures and gaining new experiences, Jim is able to infuse new life into his books and develop believable characters that readers can identify with.

J. Frank James writes crime thriller novels that are gripping and suspenseful. He is the author of the Lou Malloy Crime Series and the Indigo Marsh Detective Series.

J. Frank James is also an artist and he creates all of his own book covers.

To learn more, go to http://www.jfrankjamesbooks.com/

Connect with J. Frank James on Twitter, Goodreads, and Facebook.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Book review: Flambé in Armagnac by Jean-Pierre Alaux & Noël Balen

* ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. *

Publication date: August 6, 2015.

In the heart of Gascony, a fire ravages the warehouse of one of Armagnac s top estates, killing the master distiller. Wine expert Benjamin Cooker is called in to estimate the value of the losses. But Cooker and his assistant Virgile want to know more. Did the old alembic explode? Was it really an accident? Why is the estate owner Baron de Castayrac penniless? How legal are his dealings?"

I recently started the new meme „International Crime“, starting with French crime authors this month. I really think that there is no better start for this meme than a book about wine, mystery and a French castle.

I met Benjamin and his assistant Virgile previously in „Mayhem in Margaux“ and joined them solving the mystery of the car accident. This time they are back with another brand of wine and mystery to solve. There has been a fire in a castle where the best wine Armagnac is produced and the master distiller is dead. Benjamin Cooker is called to estimate the losses and find out more about the fire. Was is an accident or was it all about the insurance? Was the death of master distiller an accident or an attempted murder? Benjamin Cooker has to leave his wife alone on New Year and with his assistant Virgile drive on thin ice to the Chateau Blanzac to find out. But the Chateau doesn't reveal its secrets that easy. The winemaker duo has to use the detective skills to solve the mystery behind the sweetness of the Armagnac.

The character that I absolutely adore here is Virgile, Benjamin's assistant. He is smart, young, clumsy, everything. He is very educated about wine, but he is also a great detective himself. With every other mystery his observation skills are more and more expressed. He is also Virgo, like me, and I can see many of my Virgo habits in his character. It is very easy for me to connect with him as a character.

I also love the writing style of the authors. There are many expressions and old sayings that are used in my country and it is easy for me to understand the whole story. I fell in love with the characters and the plot and I felt like almost tasting the Armagnac.

So, wine lovers, and book lovers also, if you love a perfect break in the shadows of your garden or under the sun on the beach, get a glass of the tasteful Armagnac, and enjoy this cozy mystery perfect for relaxation. Even your gray cells will enjoy!

My opinion: 4,5 / 5.

Preorder the book on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Book Review: The Fisherman's Lily by Suzanne Spiegoski

When Lily Dietz, an ambitious yet short-tempered Asian-American NYC homicide detective, and longtime partner John Fremont begin to work a unique but gruesome murder case, cryptic clues in the evidence start to link with Lily’s dark and troubling past—one deeply imprinted with many psychological and emotional issues.

Borderline manic-depressive and a self-destructive alcoholic, Lily is strikingly beautiful and spoiled by her younger brother, CJ, a NBA All-Star basketball Knicks player, due to guilt uprooting from their own family history; separations of heart-wrenching losses and disappointments. The hunt for the killer escalates when the detectives discover more than one murder. Someone with cruel and twisted intentions motivated by a taste for sophistication yet also depravity is targeting and brutally mutilating Asian-American women. And somehow, the murderer knows Lily far too well.
Soon the game of cat-and-mouse becomes a thrilling chase from beginning to end, where Lily’s reality and the people in it begin to doubt her, not only as a detective but as a person. Who will be able to save this damaged soul? Or who will be the one to destroy it ?

*Copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review. *

A woman's body has been found in the park, mutilated, wrapped in a rug. It is Lily's case. She and her partner John are working on this very disturbing case. Is there a serial killer on sight?

Lily works for the police department her entire life. Solving murders is her priority in life and often comes before anything else. Her best friend is a dog named Cuffs and sometimes it seems that the German Shepherd is the only friend she has. From the very first page we can see her relationship with her brother CJ, who plays basketball for the NBA. That relationship is the strongest she has, her brother and his daughter are the only family she has chosen to have. Her love life is a mess, she even involves herself into a sexual relationship with her partner John, knowing that he is married and his wife is her friend and a colleague. No saint at all, Lily is devoted to her work, and this case triggers something familiar, something deeply hidden in the past.

Almost in the same time with finding the first body, we meet the killer. Too soon, according to me. Page after page, we can get into his mind and see how he chooses his victims and what is his final goal. We can see his obsessions and be there when he hurts and kills his victims. They all have one thing in common.

The murder cases are solid and creepy enough, and the main character is a real anti-hero. What bothers me, is the pace of the story. Sometimes goes too fast, sometimes too slow. Sometimes is very detailed, sometimes is skipping months. Also, the killer is introduced very early in the story, the purpose of his murders is revealed too soon, not at the end. But I must say that the end did surprise me. I wasn't expecting that kind of outcome. There is a big plus for the surprise effect, but still not sure how I feel for that kind of ending.

Overall, The Fisherman's Lily is an adrenaline rushed thriller. The characters are Asian-American, but you won't see much of the Asian-American culture. There are moments when your blood freezes in your veins, and others that make you literally burst into tears. The whole story brings mixed emotions. It is an interesting story with serial killer vs. detective and definitely deserves a try. 

My opinion: 3,5 / 5.

Buy "Fisherman's Lily on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk

Find Suzanne Spiegoski on twitter and facebook