Why We Die  —  A Strong British Mystery Featuring a Tough Female Detective and a Very Noir Atmosphere 

Mick Herron’s Why We Die is a strong mystery with quite a lot happening.  It’s a shame Lauren Bacall isn’t around to play the vamp, but Jennifer Lawrence would make a powerful Zoe Bohm, a down on her luck private eye who stumbles into the highly perilous inner workings of a crime family.  Arkle, one of three brothers, is seriously the scariest thug I’ve seen.  Sociopath doesn’t begin to describe him.  The interplay among Arkle and his two seemingly less scary brothers provides unifying substance to the careening violence, where nothing seems to go quite right.   The plot is spectacular, but so too are the characters and their troubles.  It’s a page turner with depth, supported by a grungy Oxford setting.    I highly recommend this book, particularly to people who like female detectives, British mysteries and a lot of noir. 

Beyond the Spellmans, Lisa Lutz Gets More Serious

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There is something particularly anxiety producing about 0n-run-mysteries.  Lisa Lutz, the author of the weird and hilarious Spellman mysteries, continues to favor an off-kilter attack, but she tries a more serious approach in The Passenger.  Tanya Dubois is on the run from the get-go in this oddly deranged and absorbing tale.  It’s a challenge to make a wrong-doing character sympathetic, but Lutz pulls it off.   Tanya isn’t nice or law-abiding, but you are anxious to know her backstory.  As Tanya’s troubles compound and she wreaks more and more mayhem, you still pull for her even as you shake your head. Logic isn’t much in play here.

On the plus side, every reader ought keep this book, in case he or she ever finds herself on the run, because Lutz provides an abundant education on  how to disappear and take on new identities.  Hopefully this this will never prove useful

The Passenger is one of those books where each escape proves fleeting, and the constant onslaught of threats is dark and ugly.  Without spoiling the story, the book succeeds because the careening plot is balanced by a continuing thread of human contact that suggests better times.