Some dark tales for some dark times
I'm still having trouble with the time change, and the lack of evening light is making everything seem somehow slightly sinister.
Part of that also could be the books I've been reading. Every year from December to January, every journal, newspaper, retail outlet and blog wants to list for us their opinion of the "Best Books of the Year." I've taken it upon myself to peruse these lists, and for the next several articles, I will mention a few of the titles in the various genres.
— "The Other Child" was written by Charlotte Link, a popular German author, so maybe it's time to give this a look and take a break from the trendy Scandinavian thrillers. This starts out in 2008 with an engagement party for a sweet and quiet girl named Gwen Beckett but turns negative after an outburst from her father's old friend Fiona. Apparently there is a lot of history between Fiona, the Becketts and the fiance's family.
Later, Fiona is found murdered, and the police try to determine if it's a random act of violence or if it is connected to another recent murder nearby. The story toggles back and forth to 1940, when a young Fiona was evacuated to the London countryside during the London Blitz.
The author has a great sense of the menacing nuances in a great psychological thriller, and the reader begins looking at every character with a suspicious eye. This one was listed on one of the "Best of 2013" lists for mystery and thriller novels released this year.
— In "The Stranger You Know" by Andrea Kane, the Forensic Instincts Team is a group of professionals dedicated to investigating crime. Sometimes they're asked to help the local police, and sometimes they're a thorn in their side. They have the best technological equipment and the most experienced detectives from all areas of government and civilian life.
But this time, the case is getting personal. Soon after Casey Woods gets a mysterious phone call, the team — and the police — are led to a murder scene. This happens repeatedly, and each time the victim has some connection to Casey and her past.
The team is doing all it can to find the killer while still protecting Casey, but once again, another college-aged redhead is tortured and killed. The psychopath responsible seems to know a lot about Casey — and the behaviors of her team.
This kept me on the edge of my seat, and I'm eager to read more books featuring the Forensics Instincts Team. The employees are all young, smart and beautiful, so it does start feeling like a TV show in the making, but the story lines are still gripping.
— In "Human Remains" by Elizabeth Haynes, Annabel is a police analyst living a lonely and disappointing life. Unmarried and without prospects, she lives alone and trudges into work each day, where she works hard but gets little recognition. Her co-workers think she's a bit odd, and she's annoyed by their laughter and camaraderie.
On her way home in the evenings, she goes to the market and buys her mother's groceries, then stops off to fix her dinner and do some dishes and laundry. After an hour or two of criticism or sometimes complete silence, Annabel goes home to let her cat out and sit alone.
One evening, she sees a light on at the abandoned house next door, and while investigating, she finds the rotting corpse of what once was her neighbor. The police come and don't find any signs of foul play, but something just doesn't seem right to Annabel.
Once back at work, she uses her analyst's skills to investigate further and finds that there have been an inordinate number of decayed bodies found in the area in the last year. They've all been attributed to natural causes, so they haven't appeared on any crime lists. Once Annabel sends her findings out, the investigators and journalists start looking more closely at the epidemic.
The story is told in alternate points of view: Annabel, "creepy Colin" and first-hand accounts from the deceased.
After her mother unexpectedly dies, Annabel sinks into a confused fog of loneliness and depression. In this vulnerable state, she is greeted by someone who says he can help. He encourages her to just go home and shut out the world. All those bodies, alone and withdrawn from society. Did Annabel's "dark angel" help them shut everyone out as well?
In this day of more technology and social networking, are people actually more connected or isolated? The author is quite good at identifying psychological challenges and resulting actions. This was another good dark tale for a dark evening.
Kelly Strom is the collection manager at the Champaign Public Library. She orders books, magazines, newspapers, audiobooks and CDs.