All Fall Down (Embassy Row #1) by Ally Carter
(YA Mystery; 320 pages; pubbed Jan. 20, 2015; Scholastic Press)
This exciting new series from NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Ally Carter focuses on Grace, who can best be described as a daredevil, an Army brat, and a rebel. She is also the only granddaughter of perhaps the most powerful ambassador in the world, and Grace has spent every summer of her childhood running across the roofs of Embassy Row.
Now, at age sixteen, she’s come back to stay–in order to solve the mystery of her mother’s death. In the process, she uncovers an international conspiracy of unsettling proportions, and must choose her friends and watch her foes carefully if she and the world are to be saved.
The first in a new series, this mystery features a multi-cultural, multi-dimensional cast set in a quaint yet powerful faux country. Grace, our main character, is pretty damaged and, though she’s attempting to put herself back together after the death and probable murder of her mother (though no one believes her about the murder aspect), she’s struggling to find her footing again. There’s plenty of action and accusations in this story, along with a somewhat twisty ending. The story itself reads a little younger than I was expecting (more like 12-15 rather than 16-17. It wasn’t off-putting, just not what I expected), which provides a good transition for progressing readers. A fast pace, witty banter and intriguing characters makes this story worth reading.
Die Again (Rizzoli and Isles #11) by Tess Gerritson
(Mystery/Thriller; 352 pages; pubbed Dec. 30, 2014; Ballantine Books)
Boston Detective Jane Rizzoli is on the case of a big game hunter found dead in his apartment, alone with a the body of a beautiful white snow leopard he had recently been commissioned to procure and stuff for a high-profile museum in the area. Medical examiner Maura Isles connects the case to a number of seemingly unrelated deaths where the victims have all been found hanging upside down, the hallmark of a leopard’s kill. Rizzoli follows the puzzling trail of clues all the way to Botswana, where she uncovers the unsolved mystery of a deadly camping safari four years prior. When she realizes the two cases are connected, Rizzoli must track down the sole survivor of the tragic trip to discover who – or what – is behind these gruesome deaths.
I don’t know about you but I love the Rizzoli and Isles TV show. The two female leads are fantastic and they’re supported by some great secondary characters. That being said, I’ve only read a couple of the actual novels the TV series is based upon, though I enjoyed them. Though this is book 11, it reads well as a standalone mystery. If you do start with this one and have only watched the show, you’re going to miss out on some of the different personal, outside-the-job connections and chang (ie, Jane is married and has a kid!) but it’s not difficult to get caught up in the strong writing and mystery of who killed whom and why of it all. (I think you’d be fine if you haven’t watched the show, too. The mystery itself is definitely standalone, with the interpersonal relationships the arc that binds the series together.) A very enjoyable read.
Mr. Kiss and Tell (Veronica Mars #2) by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham
(Mystery; 330 pages; pubbed Jan. 20, 2015; Vintage)
The Neptune Grand has always been the seaside town’s ritziest hotel, despite the shady dealings and high-profile scandals that seem to follow its elite guests. When a woman claims that she was brutally assaulted in one of its rooms and left for dead by a staff member, the owners know that they have a potential powder keg on their hands. They turn to Veronica to disprove—or prove—the woman’s story.
The case is a complicated mix of hard facts, mysterious occurrences, and uncooperative witnesses. The hotel refuses to turn over its reservation list and the victim won’t divulge who she was meeting that night. Add in the facts that the attack happened months ago, the victim’s memory is fuzzy, and there are holes in the hotel’s surveillance system, and Veronica has a convoluted mess on her hands. As she works to fill in the missing pieces, it becomes clear that someone is lying—but who? And why?
I love Veronica Mars. That being said, this wasn’t my favorite plotline. Dad is still recovering from his horrendous accident-that-wasn’t-an-accident. Lamb is still a dick. Dick is still a dick (hey, did you know he has a show? I haven’t seen it yet but really want to!). Most of the residents of Neptune are dicks. The “little people” are constantly getting screwed over by the One Percenters who “own” that town. It’s a hot mess. Still, part of the charm of this series is that Veronica is so very Veronica — dogged in her pursuit of justice, unwilling to let people suffer, bitchy and witty all at once. It’s hard to read the story without her narration echoing through my head. (One request — can we get more Mac next time?? I love that sassy chick!)