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Books Two: Nightmare Roundup:

Night FallNelson DeMilleWarner Vision BooksThe Black AngelJohn ConnollyAtria BooksThe Smell of the NightAndrea CamilleriPenguin BooksHeather HoffmanMirror book criticThree new paperback mysteries continue the adventures of three very different detectives. John Corley, trying to come off as seasoned and hard-boiled, alternates between boring and annoying in his quest to discover the truth about TWA flight 800. Charlie Parker, a more complex, tortured private eye, crusades for the forces of Good against an otherworldly Evil. Last but certainly not least, across the ocean in beautiful Sicily, Inspector Montalbano pursues the perfect lunch with the same tenacity he invests in his pursuit of a town’s stolen fortunes.Night Fall is a fictional investigation of the crash of TWA flight 800 off the coast of Long Island in 1996. Nelson DeMille’s latest novel is narrated by John Corley, a retired NYPD detective featured in many previous DeMille novels. John’s narration sadly flops on the page in a pile of standard New York cop clichés. He tells readers all about his personal life with such a mean New York attitude that readers will have a hard time identifying with him, and without a main link into the book, all the characters John describes feel thinly drawn and shallow.The novel takes place five years after the crash. John’s gorgeous, talented FBI agent wife privately re-opens the case she couldn’t solve the first time around. She enlists John’s help, and he methodically re-interviews eyewitnesses, and carefully re-examines all the evidence. Although readers with an interest in TWA 800 will find what John relates to be fairly interesting, he spends so much time “uncovering” information that is already publicly available that his fight to find the truth quickly becomes a repetitive, almost television newsmagazine-style rehashing of TWA 800’s wreckage fragments and eyewitness accounts. John’s frustration with the FBI and CIA’s attempts to cover up the truth is felt by readers as well, as DeMille chooses to end the book in a void of unanswered questions rather than offering any provocative speculation as to the real answers behind this tragedy. The Black Angel is the latest Charlie Parker mystery by John Connolly. As in Night Fall, Parker narrates the book, but unlike John Corey, Charlie Parker is a brooding, thoughtful man in the throes of a difficult emotional conflict. Literally haunted by the ghosts of his murdered wife and child, Parker is now remarried with a new baby girl. At the beginning of The Black Angel, Charlie weighs a dangerous new private investigation assignment against a safe job offer as an insurance investigator. Readers are immediately drawn into Parker’s world, thanks to Connolly’s even, engaging prose. Connolly is a gifted mystery writer. He carefully presents readers with small parts of the puzzle as the book goes along, creating such an engrossing tale that readers will hardly notice the pages turning.The mystery begins with the murder of a New York prostitute /drug addict who is also related to Parker’s partner. Connolly describes her murder with a chilling blend of the supernatural and the real. The prostitute’s killer is Brightwell, an overweight, sadistic man who inhales his victim’s soul essence before they die. He leads a sect of fallen angel worshippers, and Parker’s quest to find him is invigorating and satisfying to the very end.The Smell of the Night is the latest Inspector Montalbano mystery from Andrea Camilleri. In Vigata, a small town in Sicily, a financier swindles half the townspeople out of billions of lire and then disappears without a trace. Montalbano, a gruff yet loveable gumshoe with a passion for spicy pasta and gorgeous women, happily lumbers through his investigation with a wonderful sense of complete assurance that is quintessentially Italian. As he goes about interviewing witnesses and eating the kind of life-altering lunch one only finds in Sicily, his disregard for rules and protocol quickly angers his superiors. One of the great twists in The Smell of the Night is that instead of the customary Inspector-versus-commissioner scene wherein Montalbano says he is going to play by his own rules while the commissioner wants him to turn in his gun and badge, Montalbano simply avoids the commissioner’s office. His short, sarcastic notes to the commissioner are some of the book’s funniest moments. The Smell of the Night also features insights into Montalbano’s hilarious personal life, as he spars with his girlfriend via telephone in one scene, and then clumsily falls under the spell of a literature-obsessed femme fatale a few pages later. Camilleri, in a light, exuberant narrative voice, creates many memorable Southern Italian characters. Readers will quickly feel immersed in the unpredictable and hilarious world of Vigata as much as they will enjoy unraveling the mystery of the stolen lire.

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