What I'm Reading Now: 12 August 06

Dead run-- P.J. Tracy
Beautiful sacrifice-- Elizabeth Lowell
Let the devil sleep-- John Verdon

Two weeks ago on Wednesday, I ended up having some time to spend in the Millenium Library in Winnipeg. I will save the rant about the botch they made when they updated Centennial to Millenium, as I find I hate it infinitesimally less every time I visit there. However, with said time on my hands, I browsed the mystery section, taking notes of interesting names and authors whose latest book I needed to request. Then I found PJ Tracy. I'd read two of hers before (Monkeewrench and Live Bait), and here were some more. I abandoned all browsing and began reading Dead Run immediately. Sadly, I only read about four chapters before I ran out of time, and I didn't get my hands on another copy for over a week. Once I did, though, I read like the hounds of Baskerville were on my heels... Monkeewrench is an odd group of software developers-turned-amateur-crime-fighters. They all have murky pasts that are going to stay past. Grace and Annie, two of the crew, plus their friend Sharon, are headed to Green Bay to consult with the local PD, when they vanish. All enquiries, official and unoffical, go nowhere. Meanwhile, three bodies cut apart by machine-gun fire are pulled out of a quarry, and reservists are blocking access to the entire county where Grace, Annie, and Sharon were last seen. Co-incidence? What do you think? PJ Tracy is an excellent thriller/mystery writer, and her characters are fascinating. I would recommend starting with Monkeewrench and reading your way through the series. (I myself have already ordered the next on the list, doing so roughly five minutes after finishing Dead Run.)

If you believe the story about the Maya calendar predicting the end of the world in 2012, you have something in common with a lot of Lina Taylor's students. In Beautiful Sacrifice, Lina is an archaelogist with a specialty in Maya artifacts, and more than a little Maya blood in her veins. She's beginning to get tired of end-of-the-world queries in her college lectures, and the question Hunter Johnson brings to her office one day is both fascinating and deadly: what do these pictured Maya artifacts have to do with the death of several men? Lina and Hunter join forces to find the artifacts, and Lina's structured world shatters into chaos. 2012 may just be the end of the world... for her. I enjoyed the story, although it took me a while to get into it. Lowell does a good job of a relatively nuanced picture of the world of archaeologists and collectors, as well as the relationship between the rich landowners and the poor peons (a topic about which I, admittedly, don't know very much). Warning: the pages drip with sexual tension, which I found a little annoying after a while, and there are a couple of extensive sex scenes.

Dave Guerney is trying to recover from being shot, and failing. He's in pain, depressed, hostile, and over-reacting. An old acquaintance asks him to act as a consultant for her daughter Kim, who is doing a story on "the Orphans of Murder," life for the family of murder victims. In Let the Devil Sleep, Dave reluctantly agrees to a single day's consulting for Kim, which leads to another and another as he gets entangled in both  Kim's project and Kim's ex-boyfriend/current stalker. The more he looks at the case, the more he believes the official story is wrong, and the more certain he is that someone wants to be very sure that the official story is never questioned... no matter who else dies, especially Dave. Verdon is in great form in Let the Devil Sleep. Dave is thoroughly believable as an ex-cop trying to find out who can be trusted, and if he can trust himself, and the final confrontation has an explosive ending. My only quibble is that I came to the same conclusion Dave came to, but a good hundred pages before he or anyone else did. I'll grant you that I read a lot of mysteries, but I would have thought that if you were to reject the possibility that victim selection was random (or based on a single factor), you wouldn't just go around saying "coincidence" a lot. (Not exactly the case here, but I don't want to give anything away.) Still, Let the devil sleep gets a strong recommendation from me.

I would have read more, but some of my reading time this week was on the beach, and I have an ironclad rule that I do not take hardcover library books to the beach. There's too much possibility of getting sand inside the protective cover, and when that happens, the book has to be taken out of circulation, the sleeve stripped off, and a new sleeve put on. So, as all of my must-reads were hardcover library books, I re-read Sunshine instead. (What can I say? I have my favorites.)