Maddy Van Hertbruggen is what we call a mystery addict. She is the owner of a mystery book discussion group with the appropriate name 4 Mystery Addicts. For her contributions to the mystery genre, Maddy has received both Lefty and Anthony Special Services Award nominations.
In 2010, Maddy was Fan Guest of Honor at Bouchercon in San Francisco.
For information on how to join Maddy's merry band
E-mail Maddy: maddy van @ sc. rr. com.
POSTED DECEMBER 30, 2012
Henning Juul is an investigative reporter who has been living his life in a state of lethargy ever since the death of his son, Jonas, in a fire at his apartment. Juul has always believed that the fire was set by someone, although the investigators didn't find any evidence to support that theory. Thus, when a prisoner named Tore Pulli offers to provide him with information about who caused the death of his son in exchange for Juul proving his innocence in the murder of Jocke Brolenius, Henning immediately agrees.
And then the unthinkable happens - Pulli commits suicide before he can give Juul the facts about the fire. By that point in time, Juul has begun to believe that Pulli really is innocent of Brolenius' death and that continuing the investigation could very well lead to identifying the killer of his son. He partners with a colleague, Iver Gundersen, who is an excellent researcher and also, unfortunately, the lover of Henning's ex-wife. Their endeavors result in opening a huge Pandora's Box, with more killings uncovered and Gundersen attacked and put into a coma.
In what appears to be an unrelated narrative thread, we follow the travails of a TV news cameraman, Thorleif Brenden, who is seemingly picked at random by a leading crime figure to be bullied into committing an unnamed crime. It is truly frightening to see how he can be forced to go against everything he believes in under the threat of a horrible death for his live-in girlfriend and their children. The suspense mounts as Thorleif outwits the criminals only to find them closing in on him.
The plot was complex and didn't rely on any easy answers for our protagonist. I found myself especially engaged in the Thorleif thread. He is a common man whose occupation has put him in an untenable situation. I read with bated breath as he managed to escape his pursuers, only to have them work out his location. I did find some of his behavior rather unlikely, e.g., trying to communicate with others knowing what the stakes were if he were found.
PIERCED is the second in the Juul series. I gather that the situation around the death of Juul's son was set up in the first book, BURNED. I would imagine that readers of that book would not be happy with the conclusion of this one as it doesn't provide a definitive answer for what transpired. I didn't find the fact that I haven't read BURNED diminished my enjoyment of this book. I especially liked seeing how Juul began to move beyond his overwhelming grief and take on life again. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
- Maddy VanHertbruggen
When Ylva Zetterberg doesn't come home from work one evening, her husband, Mike, assumes that she went out with some coworkers, had too much to drink and decided to stay with a friend. When she still doesn't return the next day, he suspects that she may be involved in an affair - after all, that wouldn't be the first time that it happened. Although Ylva's work friend, Nour, tells Mike that Ylva left the get-together early to take the bus home, he doesn't really believe that. It isn't until several days have elapsed that he really begins to worry, although he keeps reassuring their daughter, Sanna, that she will be returning soon.
The truth of what happened to Ylva is horrifying. Seeking revenge for an atrocity that Ylva and three of her friends (the "Gang of Four") committed to their daughter over twenty years ago, a couple who moved across the street from Ylva and Mike abducted her. They built a special cellar as her prison and set up a camera for her to watch the exterior of her home. They are intent on debasing her, with the husband using her as his own sexual vessel, with the ultimate plan to demoralize Ylva so thoroughly that she will commit suicide.
The sections of the book dealing with Ylva's captivity are organized around a list of nine methods used by perpetrators to subjugate their victims, each chapter demonstrating how the method is applied against her, e.g., removal and social isolation, deprecation and so on. The narrative for these sections was quite titillating with a strong emphasis on sexual degradation. It beggered belief that the couple would have built a special cellar for the purpose of humiliating Ylva and, more especially, that they would have kept her there for over a year. Wouldn't you think that once they had her completely under control, they would have finished their mission of vengeance? And why did they wait over twenty years to take action?
Although the book was a fast read, it was rife with problems. For example, Mike sought therapy from the very man who had taken his wife, far too much of a coincidence to be believable. The characters didn't have a lot of depth. Despite the horror of losing a wife and mother to something unknown, there isn't a lot of emotion expressed about the loss. The police investigation ends quickly; later, as more information comes in about what happened, the detective in charge completely blows it off. And the final chapter, which details what happened to the abductors' daughter at the hands of the Gang of Four, is written in a gimmicky kind of prose, one long sentence going on for pages.
Reading NEVER COMING BACK is like eating cotton candy; although it goes quickly, it has no substance.
- Maddy Van Hertbruggen
POSTED FEBRUARY 28, 2013
Reynolds "Pack" Packard has a very low-key kind of life. He lives in a run-down house in the woods of a small town in New York State. He supports himself by driving a limo, but that is by no means any kind of full-time endeavor. He only has one friend, his cousin Mitch/Millie, who is an ex-state trooper who is now living as a woman. Little does Pack know how much his world is about to change when his 20-year-old daughter, Vida, shows up on his doorstep. He left his family when Vida was about six and doesn't give her much sympathy when she explains her reasons for the visit.
Vida was a driver in Iraq who was involved in an IED explosion that injured her best friend. Haley Flynn actually survived the accident but was then killed by a fellow soldier. Vida was hurt but witnessed the murder, although she did not see who killed Haley. Now she's gone AWOL, believing that the murderer is coming after her. After Pack turns her away, he starts to feel bad about his decision and decides to try to help her out. Assisted by Millie, Pack finds Vida and the three work together to nail down the murderer, who has killed yet again in order to evade the authorities. The situation is such that it appears that Vida was the murderer, which makes her situation even more precarious.
Pack and Millie are a formidable team. Millie is a sympathetic character, although there is some humor in picturing a macho state trooper donning a wig and living as a female. Pack grew on me as the book progressed. Vida was strong and complicated. The killer was rather over the top, but overall the characters were believable and sympathetic. The murderer is identified early on, so the story becomes more about trying to thwart this monster before he is able to silence Vida rather than identifying him.
NO SAFE GROUND was fast-paced and suspenseful, and I found it an entertaining read.
- Maddy Van Hertbruggen