Joe Pickett series by C.J. Box

Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett is a fascinating character and the central focus of the 12 book mystery series by C.J. Box, beginning with Open Season. A man who loves his job and family, Pickett fights everything from bureaucracy to environmental terrorists in the series,  all the while he remaining true to himself and his sense of justice. Pickett is a happily married man, in love with his wife and daughters, and works hard to protect his family and the land and animals that he loves and respects. These are stories of an honorable man trying to do the right thing in every circumstance, and not always getting it right–a very likeable, human and flawed character. Game Wardens are unique in that nearly every encounter in their capacity as law enforcement officers is one that involves another person that is armed, often in an isolated area, making it a dangerous profession, and Pickett finds himself in many dangerous situations throughout the series. This is a series that should be read in order–the character interactions continue through the series as Pickett’s family changes and grows and the local community changes as well. Box has won several awards for his mystery writing and lives in Wyoming, making the locations in this series realistic and believable. This is a series to read start to finish–check on Novelist to find the order of the titles. You will find Joe Pickett a memorable character and this an outstanding mystery series!

Defending Jacob

Defending Jacob is the third legal thriller by Dagger Award winner William Landay and it is well worth the read. In the picturesque town of Newton, Massachusetts, a well-to-do suburb of Boston, a murder has just been committed. Fourteen year old Ben Rifkin’s body is found in a popular park with three stab wounds to his chest. Assistant District Attorney Andy Barber takes the case in spite of a potential conflict of interest. His son Jacob attended the same school as Ben and is in the same grade. At first, the investigation points to a pedophile who lives near the park. Soon, however, based on physical evidence and comments on Facebook, Jacob becomes the primary suspect. Andy is taken off the case, and instead of prosecutor he is now helping to defend his own son. To do that he must face up to his own secrets that he has kept from his wife Laurie and his son, that he is descended from a line of murderers. He worries that the prosecutor may argue that Jacob has the “murder gene” because of his family history. Andy is convinced that his son is not possibly capable of committing such a horrific crime, although his actions at times speak differently. Laurie, on the other hand, seems to waver back and forth on Jacob’s  guilt or innocence. Each character is well developed and the family drama is just as compelling as the legal drama. Combine this with a couple of twists at the end, and it makes for a great read!

The Man From Beijing

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by Henning Mankell

Swedish author Henning Mankell starts off this adventure with a furious ride! When a journalist arrives to photograph one of Sweden’s dwindling villages, he finds a mass murder has occurred and the bodies are still warm. Traumatized by fear that the murderer may still be in the village, he escapes the scene to find help. Alas, so strong was his fear that he succumbs to a heart attack causing him to swerve in front of a semi. With his last breath, he is able to utter the name of the village. When authorities investigate, they find the village that had consisted of 21 people, now filled with 19 corpses as well as their slaughtered pets. Who would do such a heinous crime and why?

When this horrific news is broadcast, Birgitta Roslin, one of Sweden’s Supreme Court judges, realizes she has seen the village somewhere before. Searching through he mother’s papers, she finds a photo of her mother’s childhood home that matches one of the homes on the news. Curious and wanting connection with her mother’s family she sets off to find out if it is indeed the home of her mother’s foster parents. She finds clues that she thinks are important, but the local authorities are not interested.

This journey will have you traveling across the world and back in time to solve the mystery. While the title gives a clue to the involvement of China, you’ll also make a track to mid 1860’s America, and also a side adventure to Africa. The perpetrator is known midway through the story, but the “what will he do next” will keep you reading. Have a fun ride while reading The Man from Beijing.

Double Indemnity

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1. (law) A clause in an insurance policy in which the insurance company agrees to pay out double the normal coverage in certain specified circumstances, most often in case of accidental death. Courtesy of en.wiktionary.org
A classic crime novel, Double Indemnity was written by James M. Cain in an eight-part serial for Liberty magazine in 1936. The plot came from a real murder that made headlines while Cain was a journalist in New York. The story is of an insurance agent who goes to the home of a client in hopes of renewing an automobile policy. He meets the beautiful wife of the client and a flirtation turns into a romance which results in a plot to do away with the husband after taking out a policy on his life. The agent who has seen enough fishy claims to know what works and what doesn’t believes he has the perfect murder scheme. The wife has her own agenda which involves much scheming on her part. I enjoyed this detailed, fast moving classic. It is a well-crafted mystery with twists and turns on every page and a surprise ending, of course.

> The most interesting character in Stranger In Paradise is not the “hero” of the series, Jesse Stone. Instead, it’s Stone’s counterpart on the other side of the law, hitman Wilson “Crow” Cromartie. “Crow” appeared as a hired gun in an earlier Jesse Stone novel, then vanished with the stolen loot at the end of the novel. Presumably never to be heard from again. But Crow and Stone cross paths again in Paradise, when Crow accepts a job to kidnap a drug dealer’s daughter from her mother. Of course, there’s a hitch–the daughter has good reasons to resist returning to dad’s care.

The dialogue is classic Robert Parker–terse and funny. Although Stone’s character needs some deeper development, there’s plenty of action. Stone’s fellow cops are stronger players in this plot, with some interesting subplots of their own. The local women find Crow irresistible, despite knowing he is a cold-blooded killer.