What I'm Reading Now: 12 August 27

Kill you twice-- Chelsea Cain
Down the darkest road-- Tami Hoag
The gallows bird-- Camilla Lackberg
English fairy tales-- Joseph Jacobs

Kill you twice: I find myself wondering how long Chelsea Cain can spin out the entanglement between Gretchen Lowell, the serial killer, and Archie Sheridan, her victim/arresting officer, especially since Archie arrested her at the end of the first book. Kill you twice demonstrates that Cain can continue this story for some time without diminishing the suspense or the believability. Now, there's another serial killer out there, and Gretchen claims not only that she knows who he is, but that he is responsible for the child murders that she is accused of. Archie can't let his only lead evaporate, but that may be only a coverup for the strange and twisted connections between Gretchen and Archie. Add in a reporter who has a fixation on Archie, and a mysterious new neighbor, plus a few plot bombshells, and there's plenty of material for another book or six. I say: bring 'em on.

Down the darkest road: Tami Hoag returns to Oak Knoll with Down the darkest road. Lauren Lawton is hiding in the small college town, hoping to keep her younger daughter from being abducted by the same man who Lauren believes is responsible for the disappearance of her older daughter.  Lauren slides deeper into fear as it becomes clear that Roland Ballancoa is also in Oak Knoll and that someone has a definite interest in Lauren and her daughter. Officer Tony Mendez takes on Lauren's cause, to try to find something that links Ballancoa to a crime so he can be taken off the streets. I found the story interesting, although it seemed to me that Hoag, who is deliberately setting the Oak Knoll stories in the 1980's and 90s, is a little too aware that she is writing in the past, and has her characters indulge in technological foreshadowing. It's a minor quibble, though, and although I've liked other of her books more than this, it was still a decent way to spend a couple of hours.

The gallows bird: A small Swedish town is about to host a reality TV show. The locals are not necessarily appreciative, especially the police force, who have to deal with public drunkenness and disorderly conduct. When one of the contestants is murdered, public pressure nudges Detective Patrick Hedstrom and his colleagues to focus all their efforts there, all but forgetting about an apparent drunk-driving fatality with just a few anomalies... This was the first mystery I'd read by Lackberg, and it was quite impressive. She juggles multiple characters, managing to make most of them quite real and nuanced, and brings several storylines into play, each at the appropriate moment. Although I had my suspicions about a few characters and motivations, the ending was still surprising. Definitely recommended; in fact, I've already requested the first in this series.

English fairy tales: And now for something completely different... I've been looking around for a plot for this year's National Novel-Writing Month, and I thought perhaps that I could use a fairy tale as a jumping-off point, as I did in 2006 with Waltz for a soldier. I found a collection of English Fairy Tales, collected by Joseph Jacobs, at the library book sale this year, and finally took the time to browse through it. There are some poems and cumulative stories (like The house that Jack built), and an assortment of stories. There are variations on Cinderella (Catskin and Rushen Coatie), and there are all kinds of giant-killing stories. Jacob's style is interesting, but it's really not a book for reading straight through; it's more of a browsing book. Still, I enjoyed it, and I may have found a plot or two I can use.