Tuesday, August 05, 2014

What we're reading: Mystery / Gothic

Louise (Aunt Agatha, from the Death in the Stacks blog) recently turned me on to the books of mystery writer S. J. Bolton. But Louise started with the latest two of her books, whereas I decided (being a little OCD about my reading) to go back to the beginning and read Bolton's books from her debut, which is called Sacrifice. Now I have read three, and definitely plan to keep going.

Her protagonists in the first two are women in unusual professions and offbeat settings, and the books cross that line from mystery to thriller, almost to full-on gothic. They reminded me a bit of Elly Griffiths' books, with her strong, independent, loner (Ruth Galloway) taking things into her own hands because she's never become used to doing anything else.

Sacrifice is set on the Shetland islands. Its protagonist, Tora Hamilton, is an ob/gyn doctor, and the surrounding tale arises from the very nature of the islands, with their in-turned culture that excludes the outsider and keeps its secrets. There's one secret that's about to be found out...it's murder. But not your garden variety murder (although the body is found in the garden)--it's weird, ritualistic, and the tip of a very big iceberg.

The second book, Awakening, stars a wildlife veterinarian with major personal issues who lives in a small town in Dorset, and who gets the chance to act as resident herpetologist when a plague of snakes starts taking down the villagers. There is a perverse tale from the past that eventually explains everything, and the twists and turns taken to get to that explanation are as mesmerizing as the snakes.

Number three is Blood Harvest, and wow! Very Children of the Corn. Super creepy, great characters, and I especially loved the children's participation in the story. This one has a couple of protagonists/points of view, one being the new (young, handsome) vicar in an old parish, the other a psychologist treating one of his parishioners. I did speculate about who the "bad guy" had to be rather early in the story, simply because of a suspicious lack of explanation about certain people, but Bolton did enough with red herrings to make me doubt myself later on, so it was still thoroughly enjoyable.

This one has a nice start on a romance as part of the plot, but the end of it is a little odd--I'm waiting to see if she takes up these characters again in a future book in another town.

And...all of the rest of her books were tragically checked out at Central when I went looking on Friday for another, so I'm interrupting this reading streak to go explore teen fiction for a while. But I'll be back to Bolton!

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