Review by New York Times Review
INSTEAD OF DREADING the day Sue Grafton reaches the end of the alphabet, her faithful readers should be concerned about her plans for a new decade. It's still the materialistic 1980s in W IS FOR WASTED (Marian Wood/Putnam, $28.95), so Kinsey Millhone, the well-nigh immortal sleuth in this enduring series, still has time to play her rebel role simply by living a spartan existence in a world of greedy narcissists. How sweet it is to see the California private eye back in her garage apartment, hanging out with her 88-year-old landlord, wearing jeans and boots and pulling out a single dress to get her through formal occasions. It's also fun to watch her at work, taking notes on index cards, typing reports on a Smith-Corona and - here's what really matters - communicating with people face to face. More than her casual style, it's really Kinsey's code of ethics that's out of sync with the values of the period. "I'm a person of order and regulation, discipline and routine," she says, explaining why "the anarchy of the disenfranchised is worrisome." But when a homeless man is found dead on the beach, a scrap of paper bearing her name in his pocket, she joins three of his friends, also homeless, in an effort to find out why he needed a private eye. Once it's revealed that the dead man left a legacy of almost $600,000 to a total stranger - namely Kinsey - the focus shifts from a group of people without any worldly possessions to three grown children, disinherited by the father they despised but fighting tooth and nail for his money. Expanding this theme of rampant greed is another narrative that also begins with a dead man, a "morally shabby" but appealingly human P.I. who tried to blackmail a shady scientist desperate to hold on to his lucrative grant. A painstaking plot wrangler, Grafton carefully merges both narratives in a sad but satisfying conclusion. The problems arise from her efforts to work Kinsey's personal history into the story. Although orphaned as a child, Kinsey has acquired quite a few relatives over the years and picks up more here. But while this supports her never-ending quest for "what I longed for most - stability, closeness, belonging," it's an awkward plot stretch. Kinsey will probably do better bonding with Ed, the Japanese bobtail cat who's come into her life. JOHN LAWTON'S stylish spy thriller THEN WE TAKE BERLIN (Atlantic Monthly, $26) is a splendid introduction to John Wilfrid (Wilderness) Holderness, born a Cockney guttersnipe, trained in various criminal enterprises by his grandfather and transformed into a British intelligence operative during World War II. Wilderness is a free agent ("What you would probably call a gumshoe") in 1963 when he's summoned to New York by Frank Spoleto, an ex-C.I.A. agent who was his accomplice in the black-market trade back in Berlin - and who now asks him to pull off one last smuggling job, this time involving human merchandise. Nell Burkhardt, a Berliner who's an aide to Willy Brandt in 1963 but was Wilderness's lover during the war, is also drawn into the plot. This adds a certain frisson, as does President Kennedy's scheduled speech at the Berlin Wall. But that narrative pales beside the enthralling story of Wilderness's adventures in espionage ("It was just a game, a game of manners and illusions and deceptions ... a game he could play") and Lawton's harrowing descriptions of life in the battered nations of Europe in 1945, when the war was officially over but never seemed to end. NEW YORK must have been a helluva town in 1846, just after the newly established Police Department sent out its first "copper stars" to impose law and order. Timothy Wilde, who rescued child prostitutes in Lyndsay Faye's rip-roaring novel "The Gods of Gotham," returns in SEVEN FOR A SECRET (Amy Einhorn/Putnam, $26.95) as the protector of lovely Lucy Adams, who lost her family to slave catchers. Although kidnapping free people of color and selling them into slavery is a crime, capturing runaway slaves and returning them to their Southern masters is both legal and profitable. So a staunch abolitionist like Timothy may have to flout the law he has sworn to protect, a matter of conscience that eludes his brother, a ward boss whose personal life is devoted to "narcotics, alcohol, bribery, violence, whoring, gambling, theft, cheating, extortion, sodomy, spying and forgery." Clearly, a man for his unruly times. NORDIC AUTHORS aren't usually a barrel of laughs, but the Icelandic crime novelist Arnaldur Indridason seems to be having a quiet joke in BLACK SKIES (Thomas Dunne/Minotaur, $25.99). The topic raised here - the venality of leaders of industry and their cynical bankers - is a serious political matter to a nation recovering from an economic meltdown. And the conclusion reached - that most of us, given half a chance, would sell our souls for a buck - is properly depressing. But because the lead detective in this series, the reliably dour Inspector Erlendur Sveinsson, seems to be off contemplating the flawed nature of humanity, the case goes to Sigurdur Oli, a less introspective and, frankly, rather thick colleague. Indridason seems to find something touching in Oli's blunt manner and crude tastes, but he's as decent a detective as they come. And in the end, let's hand it to him, he does catch his man.
Copyright (c) The New York Times Company [October 6, 2013]
Review by Booklist Review
With series favorite Detective Erlendur away on leave (as in Outrage, 2012), Indridason again spotlights Erlendur's Reykjavik police colleagues, offering a strong series entry infused with his trademark emotional turmoil and psychological insight. Detective Sigurdur Oli is questioning his life's direction after learning that Iceland's recent prosperity (soon to disappear following the debt-crisis-fueled collapse) has made several of his schoolmates wealthy, and his long-term relationship becomes a casualty of the emotional distance his job requires. When his friend Patrekur asks him to unofficially discourage a blackmailer, he's uncomfortable with violating regulations but reluctantly agrees. Unfortunately, when his visit interrupts a murder attempt on the extortionist, there's no chance of hiding his involvement from the department. Suspicion falls on Patrekur, and Sigurdur scrambles to restore his unblemished record by proving he's not an unwitting alibi. At the same time, a lost soul from a past case claims he has found his childhood abuser, hinting to Sigurdur that he's ended his preying on children. Black Skies continues the series' exploration of Iceland's social ills, this time exploring how national prosperity has brought with it a different kind trickle-down effect: greed and malignant power working their way throughout society.--Tran, Christine Copyright 2010 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Insp. Sigurdur Oli takes center stage in Indridason's solid eighth Inspector Erlendur novel (after 2012's Outrage), providing all the Nordic bleakness and moral ambiguity of Reykjavik police colleague Erlendur Sveinsson, with a trace of stolid conservatism added to sour the mix. Sigurdur Oli's great talent is to doggedly follow a trail, even at the expense of the relationships in his life and his own ethics. When someone fatally bludgeons Lina Thorgrimsdottir with a baseball bat in her apartment, Lina, like most Indridason victims, turns out to be far from innocent; she has tried to blackmail friends of Sigurdur Oli with photos of group sex. Meanwhile, a Reykjavik bum with a shattered and nearly incoherent personality tries to tell the inspector about a terrible crime. Indridason may be guilty of gratuitous characterization in a search for nuance, but the pathos is often moving, and Sigurdur Oli proves a worthy detective, if not so great a human being. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review
Indridason's usual main character, Inspector Erlendur, is away, so his colleague Sigurdur Oli is running the show. A best friend asks Oli to help someone who is being blackmailed. Oli agrees to assist-but as a favor and not as a police matter. It quickly becomes a criminal case, however, as Oli walks in seconds after a vicious attack on the blackmailer. His police cohorts wonder why Oli was there, yet he convinces them that he should continue working on what has now become a murder case. He unravels a trail that involves Icelandic politics and banking prior to the financial crash that devastated the country's economy. Another case, involving a disturbing kidnapping, is also being investigated. VERDICT Oli is an intricate character plodding through life and his cases. He's an average guy, someone whom the reader can identify with, and will become a favorite. Readers who enjoy Henning Mankell and Ian Rankin will be intrigued by this character. Although this is the eighth novel (after Outrage) in this series, it's fine for newcomers to start here. [Library marketing.]-Frances Thorsen, Chronicles of Crime Bookshop, -Victoria, BC (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
No good deed goes unpunished, and sometimes they entangle you in murder. Reykjavk detective Sigurdur li agrees reluctantly to help Hermann, a colleague of his old friend Patrekur and a victim of blackmail. Hermann and his wife, an aspiring politician, have until recently been swingers. Lna and Ebbi, another participating couple in their group, have filmed them and now demand money. Sigurdur agrees to talk to them sternly but regrets his decision almost immediately. Having recently split from his wife, Bergthra, he's often out of sorts and preoccupied. His boss and mentor, Erlendur (Outrage, 2012, etc.), is still away on an unspecified leave of absence, and Sigurdur finds himself tangling regularly with his abrasive colleague Finnur. Visiting the home of the blackmailers, Sigurdur interrupts a masked intruder beating Lna. He chases the man for blocks but can't catch him. Lna is taken to the hospital, where she lingers for days before passing away. With virtually no leads, Sigurdur returns to Hermann and Patrekur in a fruitless attempt to gain traction as Finnur relentlessly needles him. Also in the mix is Andrs, a disturbed young man whose past involves scarring abuse at the hands of his stepfather and whose stream-of-consciousness chapters alternate with the main narrative. Ironically, Sigurdur also finds a need to revisit his parents for answers. Dogged police work leads inevitably to a surprising ripped-from-the-headlines solution. Series fans may miss the soulful, empathetic Erlendur, but Sigurdur, who could be a younger version of his boss, is at the center of a sophisticated and complex thriller.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.