I didn't have quite as productive a month of reading in July as in June (10 books!), but here is what I read and what I thought of it:

Michael Connelly. The Overlook.

I enjoyed the book, though it was certainly lesser Connelly, befitting its original status as a serial novella in the New York Times (or wherever). It's always nice to spend some time in the company of Harry Bosch and friends, though this really was a rather slight book. Looking forward to a Bosch novel with a bit more meat on it.

Thomas Perry. Silence.

Perry takes the theme of the relocated person that he used in his Jane Whitfield novels and turns it around somewhat. Here, the detective has to try to find a woman he helped to vanish many years before, when her former partner is charged with her murder. Our detective knows she's still alive, but doesn't know where, and he's done almost too good a job of teaching her how to disappear. Throw in a husband/wife team of assassins who are still looking for the woman and couple it with Perry's usual fast-paced style and the ingredients for an appealing novel would seem to be present. Unfortunately, this was a book that relied a bit too much on coincidence and characters making poor decisions, and the fact that it started to drag a bit didn't help matters either. Perry's usually a better writer than this, but his usually lean style gets a bit bloated here.

Timothy Hallinan. A Nail Through the Heart.

One of the best books I've read so far this year. I was a fan of Hallinan's Simeon Grist novels and thought this might be a long-delayed addition to that series, but it introduces us to Poke Rafferty, a former travel writer who has settled down in Bangkok, with a makeshift family of a former go-go dancer/prostitute and a young girl he rescued from the streets. Due to his intimate knowledge of the seamier side of town, he's been making a living doing favors for people, acting as an unofficial private detective. When he's called on to look into the disappearance of an Australian woman's beloved uncle and simultaneously hired to retrieve something stolen from an imperious old Chinese woman, Rafferty never imagines the two cases might somehow connect. While at the same time trying to officially adopt the young girl, Miaow, Rafferty must dodge a pair of corrupt policemen and try to put all the pieces of this puzzling mystery together. Rafferty is a character with a big heart and Hallinan's own knowledge of Thailand is put to good use here. This is a very satisfying novel and, hopefully, only the start of a new series. The book had me looking for John Burdett's novels, also Bangkok-based. Highly recommended.

William Kent Krueger. Thunder Bay.

Another really satisfying book from Krueger. I've read and liked all of his novels, though couldn't help but feel he'd made some missteps with the last few books in his Cork O'Connor series. Here, he's back to what he does best, describing the north woods, especially in the story of Cork's friend, Henry Meloux, which takes up much of the novel. Meloux comes to Cork for help in finding his son, a man who would be in his seventies now, and who is the head of a thriving industrial empire in Canada. Cork's innocent investigations uncover events that someone wants kept hidden, going so far as to target the old Indian's life, and prompting a return trip to Thunder Bay. This series works best when it is based in the north woods of Minnesota and this is one of the better books in what has long been one of my favorite series. Strongly recommended.

Brian W. Aldiss. HARM.

A side trip into science fiction. Aldiss here takes on the near future and the continuing effects of the war on terror and of our attempts, so far, to battle it. His hero is a British Muslim, imprisoned because one line in his satirical novel appears to advocate assassinating the prime minister. As the man is tortured and pushed to his limits, he begins to escape to an imagined reality where he is part of a colonization party on a harsh planet, Stygia, characterized by advanced insects. Stygia is a place where humanity is trying to start over, free from the theological and political disagreements which have plagued Earth, yet everything seems to be going wrong, not least the systematic extermination of the planet's native intelligences. Interesting and thought-provoking science fiction.

Jeffery Deaver. The Sleeping Doll.

Follows the exploits of kinesics expert Kathryn Dance, introduced in Deaver's last Lincoln Rhyme novel, The Cold Moon. Dance is a human lie detector, trained to look for signs of stress in those she interviews. When she is called in to interview Daniel Pell, a killer nicknamed the "Son of Manson," something about him doesn't seem quite right, but she's just a few moments to late to intervene in a successful escape attempt. When it appears that Pell is remaining in the area (Monterey, California) rather than attempting to put some distance behind him, Dance and her team must figure out what is prompting him to do so. Could it be the "sleeping doll" of the title, the only survivor of a family massacre that put Pell into prison originally? This is another good example of Deaver's gift at creating a plot full of twists and turns. Just when you think you know where it's going, he surprises you. The only problem is, when the plot is seemingly wrapped up and there are still 50 pages to go, you know there are still a couple more twists. Deaver's work makes for a great summer read.

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