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12 / 30 books. 40% done!

2024 Literary Escapes Challenge

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64 / 104 books. 62% done!

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43 / 52 books. 83% done!

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69 / 165 books. 42% done!
Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Second Old San Francisco Mystery Not (Quite) As Compelling As First

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

(Note:  While this review will not contain spoilers for No Pity for the Dead, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from its predecessor, No Comfort for the Lost.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)

When 14-year-old orphan Owen Cassidy discovers a corpse in the basement of the real estate office where he's been working, he turns to the one person he knows will help—not condemn—him.  Celia Davies, a British-born nurse who runs a free clinic for the women of San Francisco, has always been his advocate.  After seeing the body for herself, Celia knows the police must be alerted to the situation.  Detective Nick Greaves is soon on the scene.

The dead man is identified as Virgil Nash.  Plenty of people had motive for offing the importation merchant, who loved to show off his wealth and status.  Greaves' suspicion lands on Frank Hutchinson, one of the real estate partners, who also happens to be his old war buddy.  Although he'd be delighted to arrest Frank, Greaves has plenty of other suspects to interrogate.  Celia, of course, can't stop herself from launching her own investigation.  The more she pokes around, the more she discovers—and the more dangerous her life becomes.  Someone is desperate to stop Greaves and Celia from solving the murder.  How far will they go to prohibit the duo from getting too close to the truth?

I enjoyed No Comfort for the Lost, the first book in Nancy Herriman's Old San Francisco mystery series, so I was excited to pick up the next installment, No Pity for the Dead.  Although I wasn't quite as engrossed in Celia's second adventure, it still made for a good read.  The story gets a bit confusing as there are a few too many characters to keep straight—I had trouble differentiating them all.  Still, the plot moves along at a nice clip.  Celia's a compelling heroine.  Her compassion and fearlessness make her admirable and exciting to follow.  The Old San Francisco setting adds a fun historical element to the novel as well.  Overall, then, I enjoyed No Pity for the Dead.  Not as much as its predecessor, true, but enough.  I'll keep an eye out for the next book in the series.

(Readalikes: No Comfort for the Lost by Nancy Herriman; also reminds me a little of the Veronica Speedwell series [A Curious Beginning; A Perilous Undertaking] by Deanna Raybourn)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for brief, mild language (no F-bombs), violence, and non-graphic references to prostitution, drug addiction, etc. 

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of No Pity for the Dead from Barnes & Noble with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.

Coffin Road Another Twisty, Atmospheric Mystery From May

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

A dazed, hypothermic man walks out of the sea on the Outer Hebrides' Isle of Harris with no recollection of his name, address, or occupation.  Gradually, he learns that he's Ian McLean, he lives in a seaside cottage in Luskentyre, and he's a writer working on a book about something called the Coffin Road.  According to his neighbors, Ian moved to the island 18 months ago to write.  It's curious, then, that he can find no evidence of a manuscript-in-progress anywhere in his house.  Has he been suffering from a massive case of writer's block?  Or is something else going on here?  Nothing that Ian has learned about himself feels right.  Who is he, really?  And what's he been doing in the Outer Hebrides?

George Gunn, a detective sergeant from Stornoway, also has a mystery on his hands.  The body of an unidentified man has been found on a tiny, sea-soaked island where a century ago a trio of lighthouse keepers disappeared without a trace.  George doesn't recognize the corpse, but Ian thinks he does.  The details are very murky in Ian's mind, but he believes he might have been the one to kill the man.

Karen Fleming, a 17-year-old Goth girl living in Edinburgh, is also trying to piece together a mysterious puzzle.  Her father, a scientist, vanished two years ago.  His apparent suicide doesn't sit well with her.  The more Karen finds out about the work her dad was doing before he disappeared, the more convinced she is that he didn't kill himself.  But if he didn't, who did?

As these three mysteries unfurl, it's up to the principal characters to figure out what in the world is going on.  When the different threads become tangled together, it's apparent that something very sinister is happening on the Isle of Harris.  Can Ian and George weave it all together in time to save themselves?  Or will they, too, become victims in the dangerous game being played out before their eyes?

Like Peter May's other Outer Hebridean mysteries, Coffin Road is a tense, intriguing mystery set against a broody backdrop that lends an otherworldly eeriness to the story at hand.  This one gets maybe a little far-fetched, but who cares?  It's a twisty, compelling tale that kept me turning pages well into the night.  If you're a fan of intriguing mysteries set in remote, atmospheric locales (which I am), definitely give Peter May a go.  I've read a number of his books over the last year or so and I've enjoyed them all.  Coffin Road is no exception.

(Readalikes:  other mysteries by Peter May, including the Lewis Trilogy [The Blackhouse; The Lewis Man; The Chessmen] and Entry Island)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language, violence, blood/gore, sexual content, and references to illegal drug use

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Coffin Road from the generous folks at Quercus (a division of Hachette Book Group).  Thank you!
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