Review: Unholy City (A Claire Codella Mystery #3) by Carrie Smith

Review: Unholy City (A Claire Codella Mystery #3) by Carrie Smith
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Crooked Lane Books. Thank you!
Expected publication: November 7, 2017 by Crooked Lane Books
Book Description:

Despite their rocky history, Detective Claire Codella and Precinct Detective Brian Haggerty come together when senior churchwarden Philip Graves’s bloody body is found lying in the herb garden of historic St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Manhattan’s Upper West Side just two days before Good Friday. Upon first glance, it looks like a random act of big city violence, but it soon becomes clear churchwarden Philip’s death was the result of a meticulously calculated ploy by someone who knew him.

There are five vestry members and a choir director in addition to the ten homeless men asleep in the church basement. Any one of them could have done it, but what did Philip Graves do to warrant such a merciless death? Struggling to share the case and salvage their personal relationship, Claire, Brian and trusted Detective Eduardo Muñoz work around the clock to uncloak the desires, secrets, and resentments that find home through the iron gates and into the hidden beauty of one historic Romanesque church in Unholy City, the haunting third installment in Carrie Smith’s Claire Codella mysteries.

Unholy City is the third entry into Carrie Smith’s Claire Codella Mystery series, behind the debut Silent City and sophomore entry Forgotten City. As with the previous two series entries, Unholy City is a sharply written, highly engaging mystery with another unique criminal investigation at its core.

The focus in Unholy City is somewhat of a departure from the homicide investigations that occurred over the course of books one and two. While the crime itself is no less shocking in terms violence, there is an altogether unusual, perplexing mystery that meets Claire and fellow Detectives Brian Haggerty and Eduardo Muñoz. Their investigation into the death of a churchwarden at an Upper West Side church explodes into an exceedingly thorny examination into the supposedly quieter lives of multiple vestry members and their increasingly convoluted recollections of their time and relationship with the deceased. Unlike the first two Claire Codella novels, it seems as though Unholy City is more primarily focused on the crime and scene at hand; slightly less time is given to Claire and her partnership (professional and now personal) with Detective Haggerty in favour of concentration and detail on the strangely hushed, almost locked-room nature of the church homicide. Smith is meticulous in how the particular details of the major crime(s) committed are studied, examined and played out; more so than the previous series entries, Unholy City‘s major investigation is a case that involves logistics, deductive reasoning, and exhaustive suspect interviews. The third-person narrative also continues to rotate between that of Claire and her team’s work, to that of parties involved on the other side of the police investigation. This alternating viewpoint structure really works in this series to sustain reader’s attention and in this entry especially, works so well in layering and adding surprising character reveals, as well as in smoothly propelling the story toward the climax and reveal.

Overall, another very strong, well-written, well-plotted and well-paced entry into what has become a favourite new mystery/crime series. Now three books into Carrie Smith’s Claire Codella Mystery series and I continue to be hooked: not only by the titular protagonist who continues to engage and evolve, but also by the changing nature and scope of the investigations at the heart of the novels. I have likely mentioned this about the series, but will say it again: I do hope to read and explore many further titles in Carrie Smith’s terrific crime series.

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Crooked Lane Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.


Review: Forgotten City (A Claire Codella Mystery #2) by Carrie Smith

Review: Forgotten City (A Claire Codella Mystery #2) by Carrie Smith
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Crooked Lane Books. Thank you!
Publication: December 13, 2016 by Crooked Lane Books
Book Description:

NYPD Detective Claire Codella is chomping at the bit for a new case. Lieutenant McGowan is determined to keep her out of the news, but she’s about to be back in the public eye in a big way. Broadway legend Lucy Merchant has tragically succumbed to early onset Alzheimer’s. At age fifty-six, she’s tucked away in the dementia care unit of the ultra-exclusive Manhattan care facility Park Manor. When she falls asleep and doesn’t wake up, her billionaire husband is ready for the funeral, but her daughter demands an investigation.

Only three months back on the job after cancer treatment, Codella finds herself at the center of a high profile case nearly everyone–especially her lieutenant–wants to shut down. But the forensic evidence raises alarming questions and Codella needs answers. To find them, she will have to crack the defenses of slippery administrators, frightened caregivers, and unobliging family members, all while unlocking some of her own dark memories.

Forgotten City, Carrie Smith’s gripping follow-up to Silent City, pits the unrelenting detective against a cast of diverse New Yorkers driven by their desires and ambitions and haunted by their pasts. But can she piece together the truth before the murderer kills again?

Forgotten City is the very strong sophomore novel in Carrie Smith’s Claire Codella mystery series that began with Silent City. Tailor made for readers who enjoy their procedurals and detective-centred mysteries brisk and intelligent, Forgotten City is tightly plotted, thoroughly engaging mystery, with a terrifically formidable female detective.

The central mystery in Forgotten City is an intriguing and unusual one: Broadway legend Lucy Merchant, who had been suffering from a rare, genetic early-onset form of Alzheimer’s disease, is found dead in a premier care facility in New York. As moves are made to declare that Lucy died of natural causes, Lucy’s daughter voices her shock and disbelief to Detective Codella and claims that her mother has been murdered- possibly poisoned. Codella is just coming off successful- and well-publicized- cases; her immediate (and bigoted) superior, Dennis McGowan, jealous of Codella’s success, will do anything to keep Codella down and away from any potentially big case. Codella, rather wonderfully, navigates her way around McGowan and begins a thorough investigation into the possibility that Lucy Merchant was somehow murdered in her suite at one of the most exclusive care homes known to man. As Codella slowly but surely unfolds convoluted layers, lies from main suspects, and strange ties between the list of suspects, we gain further insight into Codella’s brutal childhood and her tentative relationship with fellow detective Brian Haggerty. Smith has done a terrific job with Forgotten City: smart, twisty, winding, and compelling from start to finish. While not absolutely essential to have read Silent City before diving into Forgotten City, I would suggest starting with the debut; not only gripping and solidly written, but Silent City also provides a firm introduction to Codella, her cancer treatment and recovery, her past and present police team members, as well as a basis of her history with Haggerty.

Overall, Forgotten City is a very well done mystery novel, with the Claire Codella mystery series being one I would absolutely recommend to fans of detective novels, or those who enjoy their reading to align with shows like The Good Wife, Law & Order, or NYPD Blue. Forgotten City does not fall into any kind of sophomore slump here, with this novel being even stronger, sharper and more evenly teased out than the (already solid) first outing.

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Crooked Lane Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

Best Books of 2015, Part 3: Adult Fiction

I hope everyone is having a lovely holiday!

Welcome to Part 3 of my Best Books of 2015 round-up!

Another year of reading is inching its way to an end! All around, I would say that it has been a pretty solid year of reads: from brilliant and moving picture books, to gems in young adult, children’s and adult fiction, there have been a number of winners.

Alas, I did not make it as deeply into reading adult fiction this past year as I had hoped. I started off 2015 very optimistically in my goals- as outlined in my Adult Fiction reading challenge– and…well, I’m not so thrilled to report that I didn’t make it very far! But here’s hoping that I can make more of a dent in adult fiction for 2016!


In no particular order, here are my picks for best adult fiction:

The Fair Fight by Anna Freeman
The Lake House by Kate Morton
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews
A Complicated kindness by Miriam Toews
Royal Wedding (Princess Diaries #11) by Meg Cabot
Silent City (A Claire Codella Mystery) by Carrie Smith
Maternity Leave by Julie Halpern
The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs by Matthew Dicks
How to Write A Novel by Melanie Sumner

*Some titles may not have been published in 2015; the books are titles I read over the last year. Some titles may have been gifted from publishers in exchange for honest reviews; this had no impact on placing in this list.

Review: Silent City (A Claire Codella Mystery) by Carrie Smith

Silent-City_r1_c1Review: Silent City (A Claire Codella Mystery) by Carrie Smith
Source: ARC courtesy of Crooked Lane Books. Thank you!
Publication: October 13, 2015
Verdict: Very Good
Book Description:

NYPD Detective Claire Codella has just won a tough battle with cancer. Now she has to regain her rightful place on the force. she hasn’t even been back a day when Hector Sanchez, a maverick public school principal, is found murdered. The school is on high alert. The media is howling for answers. And Codella catches the high-profile case at the worst possible time.

As she races to track down the killer, she uncovers dirty politics, questionable contracts, and dark secrets. Each discovery she makes brings her closer to the truth, but the truth may cost Codella her life.

Silent City, the strong crime fiction debut from Carrie Smith is a title that is ripe for fans of Law & Order, NYPD Blue and other character-filled procedurals. As a reader and viewer who enjoys reading thrillers and watching taut legal dramas, I found Smith’s debut to be a satisfying read, teeming with scandal and character revelations.

Back to work with the NYPD after being diagnosed with and beating cancer, Detective Claire Codella is immediately assigned to work on a case involving the gruesome death of a publicly-lauded high school principle. Without much preamble or introduction, readers are introduced to Codella by way of her foray into the crime scene of Hector Sanchez’s murder. Over the detailed course of Sanchez’s murder investigation, we’re treated to a intricate look into the lives of a multitude of characters- including some major disclosures about Sanchez himself. In a third-person narrative that shifts between Codella, her police cohorts, teachers, school administrators and parents, readers are treated to a story filled with deception, affairs, cover-up attempts, and power-hungry individuals…and more murder.

Claire Codella is another protagonist in a crime fiction series that I found myself a firm fan of; I do hope that we get to read more investigations featuring her and her colleagues. The chapters detailing Codella’s cancer treatments as well as the sections revealing her relationship with her former partner were, in particular, raw and compelling, and offered an added dimension to a character that might have been too simply written-off as a ‘tough female cop’. I think Smith also excelled in what I will call the ‘behind closed doors’ of characters: when glossier facades of characters fade and the gritty realities of the lives and secrets of characters are slowly revealed. I will note that I found there to be an overabundance of characters- including many undefined or formulaic ones- that led to some difficulty in keeping track of everyone mentioned, but I do appreciate how the focus on the overarching story remained.

Overall, I found Silent City to be an enjoyable crime fiction title. There are a few detractors including a congestion of characters, and the use of stereotype to define some characters, but all in all, Smith has crafted a solid suspense novel. Readers who tend toward police-focused and character-filled (and character-driven) thrillers, will find a compelling protagonist in Codella and likely relish how Smith maintains a carefully plotted and intricately woven story.

I received a copy of this book courtesy of Crooked Lane Books in exchange for an honest review.