Mystery is my favorite genre of fiction. Crime mysteries populate my night table, and occasionally my nightmares. Each year, my favorite authors publish new books, which makes autumn such a special time of the year. I’ll be sharing books I’ve just finished, and my thoughts, but I won’t be giving away any clues. I’m even going to be revisiting some authors I no longer read, for different reasons, and compiling a list of mystery writers through the years.
Hell and Back (2022), Craig Johnson. Walt Longmire. In case you are familiar with the Longmire television show, but haven’t read the books, you are missing a treat.
Hell and Back is a trip into a different dimension. Walt is missing in a snowstorm, and he’s in danger of entering the hereafter. He’s stuck as a specter trying to rescue Native American boys sent to an abusive industrial school. Vic and Henry are in the present, trying to find Walt. It’s a dizzying read, but within the mystical folklore of indigenous people, the spiritualism makes sense.
Johnson’s method of telling these stories takes paying attention or you’ll miss important information, he’s subtle, and his descriptive imagery is fun. Sometimes I mistake what’s happening because he will substitute other names or refer to something previously used. The Longmire stories are as much about the history and culture of the people as they are crime mysteries.
Walt is a humorous, affable character in the books, not the serious, sullen one on the TV show. I definitely recommend this book and others in the series.
No Plan B (2022), Lee Child and Andrew Child. Jack Reacher stumbles onto a grisly crime, a woman pushed in front of a city bus. Other witnesses seem to believe she jumped. Thus begins a tangled set of stories that converge on a private prison in Mississippi.
Of the mysteries I read, the Reacher series tends to be the most fantastic. Although the research seems passable, one has to suspend a certain level of believability to engage each story. You root for Reacher, who is always up to his neck in trouble and deep within the criminal organizations he falls into. The Reacher books are like the old television series, The Fugitive or Route 66, traveling the country, stumbling upon problems and leaving on his way after a resolution. Miraculously, he doesn’t age and there is not a lot of carry-forward from book to book.
This time, the story is a bit more believable, there’s still the evil corporation and for-hire professionals operating successfully outside of view. Perhaps this is the reality and it just sounds like high-concept fiction. It could be that Lee Child is transitioning the Reacher books to his younger brother Andrew, who starting writing with his brother several books ago. According to an interview on CBS Saturday Morning, Andrew wrote the majority of No Plan B. Andrew said it is important that Reacher evolve in some ways, which I feel is important to keep reader interest.
When I first started reading the Reacher books I loved them like most everyone else. I enjoy them, but I gravitate more to other series. Perhaps under Andrew Child’s pen, that love will return.
Movieland (2022), Lee Goldberg. My first Goldberg mystery and I liked it. If you have read Michael Connelly’s Bosch or Mickey Haller books, Goldberg’s books will fit like a glove. Goldberg has worked in television, and also co-writes a series of mystery books with Janet Evanovich. He is the originator of Monk and Diagnosis Murder, both television series.
Movieland is an L.A. cop mystery, one of the Det. Eve Ronin series. She’s with the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department investigating a murder in a state park that appears to be part of a series of shootings, although there is no evidence linking them. Ronin and her partner face all kinds of internal and external challenges and roadblocks in their investigation.
Goldberg does not resort to absurd storylines or unbelievable characters. The realism is appreciated, as is the occasional humor. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will be reading others.
Speaking of which, I went back to the first book in the Det. Eve Ronin series, Lost Hills (2019). While it is not new fiction, I was interested in delving deeper into Goldberg’s writing.
Lost Hills centers on a grisly triple homicide. Although the crime scene is described in detail, the crime being committed is not. The book centers on this case and unfolds over a few days, so the investigation moves quickly and in different directions. The pace is one of the things that keeps a reader glued to the story.
Lost Hills is one of the best cop mysteries I’ve ever read. It was exciting to the very end. The writing is believable with outstanding characters. I love authors that entertain but also give you some history and geographical context, which Goldberg does.
I found the first book in the Ronin series, Bone Canyon (2021) and have just cracked it open.