First off, let me just say… Wow, what an ending to Magistrates of Hell! I really, really hope Barbara Hambly keeps writing these!
From there, I picked up the latest “Charlie Moon” mystery by James Doss, The Old Gray Wolf. This series, set in and around Granite Creek, Colorado, follows the adventures of a former police officer and tribal investigator, now occasional deputy to the local police chief. These aren’t quite up to the level of the “Jim Chee/Joe Leaphorn” series by the sadly deceased Tony Hillerman, but they’re an ok read. This one in particular was a bit casual and chatty for me – lots of points where the author “speaks” directly to the reader. We get the usual cast of characters – Charlie Moon, his aunt Daisy (native shaman), his buddy Scott Parris (Granite Creek Police Chief) – as well as a variety of peripherals involved in a convoluted story about an accidentally-killed petty thief, his wealthy but unscrupulous mother, and a nationally-wanted assassin. So-so at best.
On a trip to the library to pick up some DVDs, I also grabbed Patricia Cornwell’s latest, The Bone Bed, from the Express shelf. I think I’ve mentioned that I’ve been a bit disappointed with the last couple of books from Ms. Cornwell and, unfortunately, this one was no exception. 400+ pages of another story where someone in Scarpetta’s office is working to betray her, she’s doubting her relationships, being ambushed on the courtroom stand, and trying to piece together the strands of a mystery that in this case is so tenuously connected it’s hard to even imagine how it will all work. Ultimately, the whole thing only came together in about the last 25 pages in an entirely too “convenient” way. I really wish Ms. Cornwell would go back to the style and the stories of her earlier books – they were much more intense and intelligent.
What saved the day was Die a Stranger by Steve Hamilton. In the Upper Peninsula town of Paradise, Michigan, ex-cop and onetime private investigator Alex McKnight has to solve the mystery of the disappearance of his best friend Vinnie, just after the death of Vinnie’s mother. The story covers drug smuggling, competing cartels, and many trips back and forth between Paradise and Sault Ste. Marie and down to Mount Pleasant. As always, Mr. Hamilton’s work is tautly written and well structured – since I’m somewhat familiar with most of the locations in the book, it’s always easy for me to picture the settings and smell the wind off the lake.