Posts Tagged: mckenna

Mystery review: Awash by Dawn Lee McKenna

August 15, 2016 Review 0

Book 6 of the Forgotten Coast series already, and still more to come. Anyone who’s read this far will know what to expect — fascinating characters, lots of drama, plenty of humour and McKenna’s trademark brilliant dialogue, where the subtext beneath the words stretches halfway to the earth’s core. Never have characters said so much with so few words. I don’t always fully understand exactly what it is they’re saying (or not saying) but trying to work that out is part of the fun.

For anyone whose interest is in the crime-of-the-moment, with the personal lives of the characters a minor note, this isn’t the series for you. Here the characters are what it’s all about, and again in this book the crime to be solved is deeply connected to Maggie, the female cop who is the heart of the series. Maggie was raped as a teenager, and when she’s called to investigate a very similar case to her own, she becomes deeply involved.

While the case is absorbing and heart-rending, it’s the slow progression of Maggie’s own emotional life that’s the most riveting part of this series. As Maggie and Wyatt inch towards a proper relationship, and possibly marriage, her fascination with the local crime lord, Bennett Boudreaux, threatens to derail everything. I love both her two men. Boudreaux epitomises southern courtliness, even while he has a history of ruthlessly dispatching anyone who falls foul of him. And Wyatt is just beyond-words awesome, with his dry humour and not-totally-relaxed-about-it tolerance of Maggie’s relationship with Boudreaux. The oh-so-polite macho posturing between the two men at the oyster bar is just superb, capped only by Maggie’s meeting with Boudreaux at the end, with its multiple layers of meaning. Did I mention how much I love McKenna’s dialogue? Brilliant stuff.

Another cracking read in this series. Five stars.

Divider

Mystery review: ‘Dead Wake’ by Dawn Lee McKenna

April 25, 2016 Review 0

This is the fifth book in the Forgotten Coast suspense series, and the author is nicely into her stride now. Although there’s a crime-of-the-week element, there’s also a depth of backstory developing in the history of main character Maggie and her family. Fortunately, these aspects are woven elegantly and seamlessly into the story, and never overwhelm it.

The plot is a straightforward one: a long-dead body turns up in a wall during renovations. The local crime lord is implicated, and Maggie and almost-boyfriend Wyatt are the two cops investigating, and finding themselves with differing opinions on the case. Complications ensue, and there are all sorts of murky shenanigans to dig up before the case is resolved.

The characters are a huge attraction of this series, being eccentric without veering into too much silliness, and McKenna’s deft hand with dialogue is always a joy to read. Wyatt is my favourite, but Boudreaux isn’t far behind. And then there’s the glorious atmosphere of the location (the Florida panhandle). I’ve never been there, but I feel I know the place intimately. Reading this book, I can almost smell the salt in the air, and taste the oysters as they slide down. Mmm, oysters. And I don’t even like oysters.

Another excellent chapter in the series, as Maggie and Wyatt inch towards a proper relationship. Five stars. Can’t wait for the next installment – please write faster, Ms McKenna.

Divider

Mystery review: ‘Landfall’ by Dawn Lee McKenna

October 16, 2015 Review 0

Another dramatic story in the Forgotten Coast series. This time there’s a hurricane on the horizon, and the Florida coastline is vulnerable. I’m going to be honest, I’m not usually a big fan of the kind of high-octane thrill-ride expected of this kind of premise. It tends to be too frenetic for my taste. I like to have time to smell the roses along the way, so to speak, which is probably why my preferred genre is epic fantasy.

I needn’t have worried, though. Yes, there’s a lot of dramatic action, and the hurricane is no small part of that, but the author’s main focus has alway been firmly fixed on the characters and their wonderful interactions. So in the midst of all the drama, there’s also time for the characters to find out about each other, and for the reader to find out more about them, too. These are people with lots of secrets. And there’s plenty of humour too. For anyone who’s a fan of Stoopid the rooster or Coco the dog, you’ll be pleased to know that they have starring roles in this book. Four stars.

Divider

Mystery review: ‘What Washes Up’ by Dawn Lee McKenna

August 24, 2015 Review 0

This is the third book in the sequence that started with Low Tide, and the author is really getting into her stride now. Florida cop Maggie Redmond, a divorced single mum getting by and tentatively inching towards a new relationship with fellow cop Wyatt, is a sympathetic heroine. But her life is quietly unravelling, with secrets emerging that draw her into the orbit of local crime-lord Bennett Boudreaux.

As in all these books, there’s a crime-of-the-week, but the main feature is the intricate personal life of Maggie herself and the developments arising from the death of Gregory Boudreaux in Low Tide, which get murkier and more complicated than ever in this installment. The characters are so real, you feel you know them personally.

However, the star attraction is McKenna’s glorious writing style, which is brilliant at the sort of superficial dialogue that hides an ocean of hidden meaning, and also recreates the atmospheric setting so effectively, you’ll feel the sweat trickling down your back, and smell the salty tang of the sea. These are short books, so a good, fast read. Four stars.

Divider

Mystery Review: ‘Riptide’ by Dawn Lee McKenna

July 31, 2015 Review 0

McKenna’s literary love story, ‘See You’, is one of the finest books I’ve read in recent years, so I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to enjoy her inimitable writing style applied to a series of cop thrillers set in the Florida panhandle. The first of the series, ‘Low Tide’, was a good starter, tidying up the immediate problems, while opening up enough intriguing backstory to fill the rest of the series.

Maggie Redmond is a cop getting by as a single parent after divorcing her childhood sweetheart, David, when he got involved in drugs. Now she’s tiptoeing around a new relationship with fellow cop, Wyatt, while also finding herself inexplicably drawn into the orbit of the town’s resident bad guy, Bennett Boudreaux. And all the while, she’s trying to forget traumatic events in her past. But when a severed leg turns up in a shrimp net, Maggie has to try to work out what happened. And then things get really bad. The past, it seems, just won’t stay buried.

This seems like a light, quick read, but be warned: the author doesn’t shy away from heart-wrenching moments, so have a hanky to hand if you’re prone to tears. In between times, enjoy the sweat-drenched atmosphere of the panhandle, and McKenna’s glorious way with understated, humorous dialogue. The relationship between Maggie and Wyatt, in particular, is brilliantly drawn. I highly recommend the whole series. Start with ‘Low Tide’ for maximum enjoyment. A very good four stars.

Divider

Mystery/thriller review: ‘Low Tide’ by Dawn Lee McKenna

June 7, 2015 Review 0

LowTideI loved the author’s debut work, ‘See You’, regarding it as one of the finest books I’ve read in recent years. So this opener for a new series was a must for me. The author very kindly sent me a copy in advance of release day, so I could be one of the first to read it – thank you very much!

This is a very different book, a thriller built around thirty-something police lieutenant Maggie Redmond, divorced with two children. Maggie’s a very likable, very normal person, doing her job, raising her kids, not exactly struggling to get by but (like most of us) stuck in a bit of a rut. But Maggie has a secret in her past, and when ne’er-do-well Gregory Boudreaux turns up dead in an apparent suicide, her life threatens to unravel. She’s thrown into the path of Gregory’s uncle, the town’s rather charming chief crook. And then there’s the teenage girl ensnared by a local drug dealer, trying to look after his kids and her own baby, whom Maggie takes under her wing.

None of this is particularly unusual, but the background takes it out of the ordinary. Set on the Florida panhandle coast, every page oozes local colour and (even to a Brit like me) southern charm. There were quite a few references I didn’t get, but who could resist a town with a single traffic light, and a grocery story called a Piggly-Wiggly? I could almost small the salty tang of the air, hear the slap of waves against the side of the boat, and feel the sweat trickling between my shoulder blades. Although… oysters? Nah, you can keep the oysters.

The plot develops at a stately, Southern pace most of the time, with much of the tension arising from fabulous, subtext-laden conversations where nothing is said explicitly, but boy, are there undercurrents swirling beneath the surface. But, being a thriller, the pace ramps up dramatically at the end, with far less contrivance than is often found in books of this type. And I liked that no one takes such dramatic events lightly.

If I have a complaint, it’s that many of the characters seemed to be a little too nice to be inhabiting a thriller. Not just Maggie herself, but her normal, well-adjusted kids, her loving parents, and her almost-love-interest, fellow cop Wyatt (especially Wyatt, who can woo me any time). Even her ex-husband, divorced for very sound reasons, comes across in his few appearances as a pleasant, sensible and reliable man. In addition, the two plots are not well connected, so sometimes things seemed a little disjointed.

But overall an absorbing, enjoyable read. This is a great start to the series, with the author’s trademark wonderfully drawn characters, southern charm and plenty of humour. But there’s a darker tone in there as well. This is not the weepy-fest that ‘See You’ was, but I shed a few tears all the same. Looking forward to the rest of the series. A good four stars.

Divider

Fiction Review: ‘See You’ by Dawn Lee McKenna

January 22, 2015 Review 2

I hardly know what to say about this book. I cried almost all the way through, yet I couldn’t put it down. Actually, I laughed almost as much as I cried. So be warned – unless you’re made of much sterner stuff than I am, you’ll need a good supply of hankies nearby while you read.

This is an extraordinary book. It’s a love story, and no, that’s not a euphemism for romance, this really is a story about love. And not your conventional couple, either. Jack was raised by his best friend’s mother, Miss Margret, and returned every year to visit her and her granddaughter, Emma Lee. When Miss Margret died, the visits stopped but now Jack’s back, and finds Emma Lee still living in the same house, and raising her own daughter. Jack has some secrets to share, but Emma has a secret of her own – she’s been in love with him since she was a child.

Now if you thought a love story between a fifty-something man and a thirty-something women might feel a little odd, don’t worry, it all feels totally natural and beautifully real. Jack and Emma are not extraordinary people, they don’t have unusual talents or great wealth or outstanding beauty. They’re just ordinary folks who live ordinary lives in an ordinary town, yet their story is anything but ordinary.

This is the author’s debut publication, but it’s as fine a piece of writing as I’ve seen anywhere. This is the south, and the dialogue and the tiny nuances of southern life are a pleasure to read, so evocative you could almost be there. Even for me, a Brit, that slow way of life wrapped itself around like a warm blanket. Here’s Jack telling the preacher there’s going to be a wedding:

Jack found Brother Fillmore out back, shooing two half-grown hogs back into their pen. He was the only man Jack had ever seen who could work outside all day and have his overalls as pressed and clean as when he’d put them on.

He was a slim man, just a bit shorter than Jack, but his dignity and bearing always made him seem larger to Jack. He had to be over eighty, though he looked much younger, and he’d lived alone since his wife had passed, back in the nineties.

He didn’t seem all that surprised at Jack’s news, but Jack didn’t recall ever seeing him surprised.

“Well, Emma’s needed a good man to give her some direction for some time,” Brother Fillmore said. “She’s not meant to go it alone.”

“Yes sir,” Jack said.

“How long have you been home, son?”

“Just a little while,” Jack said.

“You’ve not been living in sin ‘til this time, have you?”

“No sir,” Jack said. “No sinning at all.”

“Well, I’ll be pleased to join you in celebrating,” Brother Fillmore said. “I’ll need to come up with an appropriate gift.”

“No gift necessary, sir,” Jack said. “Just bring yourself; bring a dish if you like.”

Brother Fillmore pointed his cane at the smaller of the hogs he’d just penned. “That one just tore up all my Black Krim tomatoes,” he said. “I’ll bring him.”

How can you resist? Highly recommended. Five stars.

Divider