Since I'm shortly to embark on a trip to Dubai (which will include long plane rides, 3 days on the beach in Oman, and a stack of books), I thought I'd get the first 7 books for March out of the way.
HARDSCRABBLE ROAD by Jane Haddam: a Gregor Demarkian mystery. The retired FBI agent is struggling in his personal life and can't quite wrap his head around the oddities of his newest case--a missing homeless man who was accused by a radio personality of procuring drugs for him. Haddam's politics have moved into her books over the years, but they never overtake the story. Her plotting is superb, with corpses turning up where they shouldn't and surprise identifications of said corpses. Recommended series.
MISERY by Stephen King: I picked this up after watching the movie on TV one night. Paul is the popular writer of Misery Chastain, a 19th-century heroine who gets into one romantic scrape after another. Annie Wilkes is Paul's "Number One Fan." When Paul is seriously injured in a car accident in the Colorado mountains, Annie discovers him and takes him to her isolated farm. Crippled by the injuries to his legs, with no phone in the house, trapped with a woman he quickly realizes is insane, Paul must literally write for his life.
WATER LIKE A STONE by Deborah Crombie: Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James series. When Duncan brings Gemma and their boys to spend Christmas with his family in Cheshire, he doesn't expect to walk straight into murder. But his sister, Juliet, has discovered the body of a baby, walled up inside an old barn. Juliet's marriage is falling apart, her daughter is increasingly secretive, and another body is found by Kincaid's son. I love this series, and I loved this entry with its mix of family troubles and outside violence. Crombie is brilliant at getting inside people's heads and I love that about her writing.
RED LEAVES/INTERROGATION by Thomas H. Cook: I'm a fan of Cook, who writes psychological standalone novels. RED LEAVES was on many award lists last year and I agree. When an 8-year-old girl goes missing from her home, her teenage babysitter is suspected. The boy is not easy to love, withdrawn and moody and unmotivated. But could he really have hurt a little girl? The story is told through the father's viewpoint, and he comes to see that not only does he not know his son but he doesn't know all the secrets of his own past. Not an easy read and not an easy ending, but beautiful and compelling and the last chapter is very satisfying. INTERROGATION I read immediately after and didn't like as much. A girl has been killed in the 1950s. A suspect has been arrested. But there's no evidence and they can only hold him twelve more hours. So the police give one more try in interrogating the suspect. The story is complex in spite of that simple set-up, but I found it too relentlessly sad for me. Somehow, even with its dark subject, RED LEAVES left me satisfied. INTERROGATION didn't.
DEATH COMES FOR THE FAT MAN by Reginald Hill: Andy Dalziel is the heart and soul of Mid-Yorkshire. When he's severely injured in a terrorist bombing, Peter Pascoe is on a mission to find out what happened and why. While Dalziel floats above his world in a coma, Pascoe puts himself in harm's way by joining up with the British anti-terrorist officers, one of whom may be the enemy. Behind the complicated cover of a new group of Knights Templar who believe in an eye for an eye (or a head for a head), lies the true mystery which is, of course, personal. An excellent addition to the series and one I'll have to read again soon to savor--I was too busy the first time wondering about the outcome for Dalziel.
PAPER WOMAN by Suzanne Adair: in 1780, Sophie Barton is tired of the continuing war. Courted by a British officer and weary of her life working her father's printing press, the twice-widowed Sophie longs for escape. When her father, a patriot, is killed, Sophie determines to find the killer. From Georgia to Florida to Cuba, from spies to assassins to Creek warriors to mysterious emeralds, the book is an interesting look at the south during the Revolutionary War. At times the setting and history overwhelm the story, and I'm still not sure I entirely understand the wrap-up of the plot.