Book Review: The Ville Rat by Martin Limon

the-ville-ratThe Ville Rat
A Sergeants Sueno and Bascom Mystery #10
Martin Limon
Soho Crime, June 2016
ISBN: 978-1-61695-391-1
Trade Paperback

When the body of a beautiful Korean woman washes up on the shore of a frozen river, it sets off an investigation that carries Ernie Vascom and George Sueno, two irreverent 8th Army CID agents, into areas far afield from just a murder inquiry.  The event takes place during 1974 in South Korea, not far from the DMZ.  Not only do they have to fight higher-ups in the chain of command, but must determine the motive for the killing.

Despite the fact that Pres. Harry S Truman “desegregated” the armed forces years before, the novel graphically portrays how black and white soldiers maintained their separate ways when off duty, convening in all Black or all-White bars for recreation. And in the midst of this enters the Ville Rat, the so-called nickname of a former GI who caters to the Black bars by supplying Colt 45 favored by the Blacks because of its higher alcohol content.  The Ville Rat holds a key clue to the investigation and Ernie and George desperately try to find the illusive person to solve the case.

As a police procedural, the novel is juxtaposed between a detailed investigation and the seamier side of Army politics and Korean night life.  The Ville Rat is the 10th novel in the series, each reflecting the author’s deep knowledge of the Korean people and culture, much less of the army and its officers.  This newest entry is no exception, and is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, November 2016.

Book Review: Close Call by Laura DiSilverio

close-callClose Call
Laura DiSilverio
Midnight Ink Books, September 2016
ISBN:978-0-7387-4920-4
Trade Paperback

Not quite non-stop suspense as some reviewers have suggested, but mostly. The author has firm handles on the story line, the characters and the setting. She manipulates all with a deft hand. If things are a little more complicated than is the usual case in thrillers of this kind, well. It’s up to we readers to pay more than casual attention, right?

The title of the book might have effectively been pluralized. We are with the main character, Sydney Ellison, through most of the book and while she weeps gallons of tears, her determination to see the mystery and the crimes to their righteous conclusions is laudable. That she perseveres in the face of repeated set-backs is testament to her core grit. Sydney’s reconciliation with her sister, Reese, her handling of their slightly insane mother, all play important parts in what is essentially a family drama. The novel is intense, compels persistent page-turning, and introduces us to a multi-dimensioned professional assassin.

In an overcrowded deli, located in Washington, D.C., Sydney encounters her nemesis and main adversary in the story, although she doesn’t know it at the time. Nor does her adversary-to-be, a professional hit man who doesn’t appear to be quite as put-together as he should be, given apparent longevity. Their brief interaction sends both on a long and winding path through mistaken identities, murder, family rollercoaster rides and both keen and fatuous observations on D.C. politicians. Also, lots of tears.

Given the current situation in our nation’s capital, the confirmation hearings going on, the story has exciting real-life resonance. Readers seeking a tension-filled story with real characters should enjoy this novel.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, January 2017.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Review: Hidden Like Anne Frank by Marcel Prins and Peter Henk Steenhuis

hidden-like-anne-frankHidden Like Anne Frank
14 True Stories of Survival
Marcel Prins and Peter Henk Steenhuis
Arthur A. Levine Books, March 2014
ISBN: 978-0-545-54362-0
Hardcover

Anne Frank was the most memorable child of the Holocaust, but there were many, many others. In this extremely vivid and moving collection of fourteen personal narratives by survivors of Nazi occupation in the Netherlands, readers will find themselves experiencing a range of emotions.

These survivors were separated from parents, siblings, cousins and other relatives, found themselves moved more times that they could count, experienced despair the day after hope and came out of the experience forever changed. They had to adopt new names, new religions, learn different customs and even undergo eyebrow shaping and a change of hair color. Readers will discover how entire communities were herded like cattle, lost everything they had accumulated, were forced to ignore siblings in public, live under inhumane conditions, endure beatings by people who had supposedly befriended them, go hungry for extended periods of time and often had to remain in unlit cold and cramped places for hours while being terrified that the knock on the door meant exposure and a trip to a concentration camp.

Each story is different, each survivor knew great loss and deprivation, but all endured. What comes across clearly in each story is how the experience forever changed not only the narrator, but their relationships with surviving family members. Each reader will have unique reactions to every story. There are some that inspire admiration, some that evoke pity, sympathy or empathy and even one that might strike one as annoying, but none of us were there to live the terror and fear, so who’s to say how our story might come across under similar circumstances.

This is a book that should be read by as many people as possible, particularly in a time (like now) where ethnocentricity and racial intolerance are once more on the rise. It’s well worth having in any school or public library.

Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS, February 2017.

Book Reviews: Carl Brookins: The Case of the Purloined Painting and The Case of the Yellow Diamond

The Case of the Purloined PaintingThe Case of the Purloined Painting
A Sean Sean Mystery #1
Carl Brookins
North Star Press of St. Cloud, June 2013
ISBN 978-0-8783-9708-2
Trade Paperback

From the publisher:  When an American Army unit arrived at the end of World War II, some soldiers appropriated items in what appeared to be an abandoned building.  A small painting by a mid-level Polish painter is used by an ex-GI to float a bank loan which results in the founding of a manufacturing firm in Minneapolis.  Now the painting and the ledger become the center of murderous attempts by the descendants of the veteran to conceal the painting’s journey.  World-wide efforts at repatriation of stolen art from World War II is a major ongoing effort and the story links to that effort as international operatives descend on the Twin Cities.  Enter private detective Sean Sean.  He is a short but effective operative who, unlike many PIs of the modern era, doesn’t sleep around, doesn’t shoot people unnecessarily, and has many friends among various local law enforcement agencies.

The title of this novel puts one in mind of the great Erle Stanley Gardner, most if not all of his Perry Masons novels bearing titles which begin “The Case of . . .” But this book borrows nothing from great writers of the past; it is entirely Mr. Brookins’ own.  And that is a good, no, a terrific, thing.  Not entirely surprising, since I’d read many of this author’s reviews, and his writing is simply great.

The publisher’s notes quoted above reference the protagonist’s short stature.  He is, in fact, just over five feet tall, to the six foot tall Catherine Mckerney, massage therapist with her own school, variously described as his lover, his apartment-mate, friend and sometime partner.  Sean has been an active private investigator for a couple of decades.  He describes himself as a “tracer of lost persons, collector of evidence of malfeasance, revealer of fraudsters and thieves. . . not only am I very good at my job,I’m also persistent.”  Three days after the discovery of a body in the Mississippi River, on which body was found a “faint series of numbers tattooed on one forearm,” indicating that the man had been in a Nazi concentration camp during WWII, Sean finds himself with two different new clients, each of whom relates a tale that his instincts soon tell him are related.  The first of these is a woman who tells him she witnessed the scene on the bridge which culminated in the body of a man being thrown to his death.  The second is a man who hires him to find a woman he’s been dating who seems to have disappeared.  This latter client soon neither returns calls nor shows up at Sean’s office.

The tale is one that touches upon art work and other stolen property taken during or just after the war in Europe, whose descendants are still searching for them, a search that is ongoing.

Mr. Brookins makes the reader very palpably feel the brutal weather of February in Minneapolis.  I loved the author paying homage to both Raymond Chandler, a wonderful mystery writer of days of yore, and the very current [and also wonderful] author named Michael Connelly, and acknowledges a beloved mystery novel discussion group named after Dorothy L. Sayers, appropriately named DorothyL.  I also loved his note, after an evening at a blues bar:  “Blues music is a label not given to precise definitions.  It bears some similarities to crime or mystery fiction in that regard.”  A sentiment with which I must agree.

Highly recommended.

Next up for this reader is Mr. BrookinsThe Case of the Yellow Diamond – I can’t wait!!

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, November 2016.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Case of the Yellow DiamondThe Case of the Yellow Diamond
A Sean Sean Mystery #2
Carl Brookins
North Star Press of St. Cloud, September 2015
ISBN 978-0-8783-9816-4
Trade Paperback

The title of this novel, as was the case with Mr. Brookins‘ last book, The Case of the Purloined Painting, puts one in mind of the great Erle Stanley Gardner, most if not all of his Perry Masons novels bearing titles which begin “The Case of . . .”   And this book, as was the last one, is also absolutely delightful, with the author’s trademark sly sense of humor much in evidence throughout.

This book deals, as did the last one, with events which took place in the waning days of WWII.  In this book, those events began in the Pacific Theater, and involve “thefts, smuggling, and the acquisition of wealth and influence through illegal means.”  The tale opens with the protagonist, Sean Sean, entering his office and finding a dead body lying on the floor.  He immediately calls his good friend, Minneapolis Police Detective Ricardo Simon. What follows is a flashback to Sean being hired a few weeks before by Josie and Tod Bartelme to assist in their efforts to locate the wreckage of a B-24 bomber that had taken Josie’s granduncle to his death near Yap Island, “a speck of coral in the Pacific Ocean.”  In the ensuing investigation, the dead man had been the principal suspect.

Members of both families and even Josie’s college buddies had offered their assistance, and financed their efforts as well.  Josie and Tod were planning to embark on a trip to the Pacific to continue their search for the wreckage, and hire Sean to assist in their efforts, notwithstanding that it had taken place nearly 70 years ago.

The protagonist, just over five feet tall, lives with the self-proclaimed love of his life, the six foot tall Catherine Mckerney, a successful massage therapist with her own school, with whom he shares her apartment in  Kenwood, Minnesota as well as his home and ranch in Roseville.  Sean has been an active private investigator for a couple of decades, the sign on his door reading “Sean Sean, Private Investigator, Ltd.”  He describes himself as a “tracer of lost persons, collector of evidence of malfeasance, revealer of fraudsters and thieves. . . not only am I very good at my job, I’m also persistent.”  Sean says of himself “Family dynamics were always convoluted and frequently hard to sort out, which was one reason I didn’t do divorces.  Give me a nice clean street robbery or random serial killer any time.”  In this instance, that is an understatement

The cast of characters is large, mostly consisting of family and friends of Sean’s clients [including one particularly oversexed and buxom female], some of whom try to dissuade him from continuing his investigation, even going so far as to bad-mouth him in the industry, putting them at the top of Sean’s list of suspects, which grows exponentially with incidents of murder, attempted murder, and vandalism taking place.

In his last book, the author paid homage to fellow mystery writer Michael Connelly; this time around the references are to Carl Hiaasen, Bill Crider, James Lee Burke, and Wilkie Collins. I love it!

As was the earlier book, this one as well is highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, November 2016.

Book Review: And Then He Was Gone by Joan Hall Hovey

and-then-he-was-goneAnd Then He Was Gone
Joan Hall Hovey
Books We Love, December 2016
ISBN 978-1-77299-304-2
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Where is Adam? Julie Raynes’ husband has been missing for six months. Devastated and confused, she refuses to believe that he would leave her voluntarily, though her best friend thinks differently. However, her Aunt Alice, a psychic, tells her Adam has been murdered, and when she reveals how she knows this, any hope that Adam is still alive, dissipates.

The police are also beginning to believe that Adam Raynes was murdered. And Julie is their prime suspect. Her life in ruins, Julie vows to hunt down whoever is responsible for Adam’s murder and make them pay for their crime.

In the meantime, David Gray, a young man who was pulled from a lake by a fisherman when he was 9 years old, wakens from a coma after nearly two decades. Unknown to Julie, Adam and David share a dark connection, a darkness that threatens to devour both of them, in a terrifying race with death.

There are very few authors who do suspense as well as Joan Hall Hovey and, oh boy, she’s right on target with And Then He Was Gone. The title gives you a pretty good idea of what this book is about but that person who’s missing is only the core of the story.

The very first pages were enough to make chills go down my spine and, although it’s clear in that early scene what kind of person we might be dealing with later in the tale, Ms. Hovey weaves a tangle of story lines that, on the surface, have nothing to do with each other…and, yet, perhaps they do. The two characters who have lost the most, Julie and David, know nothing of each other beyond what they see and hear on the news and to tie a missing, probably dead, man with a young man awakening from a 19-year coma seems the height of speculation.

Julie and David each have their own crosses to bear and accompanying them on their respective journeys cemented my interest in this book. Julie, of course, is trying to cope with the disappearance of her husband and the knowledge that some are sure she had something to do with it. David, on the other hand, is slowly learning to live again as well as trying to remember things that matter a great deal.

Then there’s that darkness that connects the two and watching a man’s psychosis descend into even deeper evil is what drives the tension and it’s what kept me reading long past bedtime. What that man is capable of is not beyond belief—we’ve seen and heard of it in real life much too often—but observing how a person’s mind can begin to crumble at a very early age and then he can maintain an aura of respectability for years before the evil begins to control him is creepy at its darkest level. And this is why I love Joan Hall Hovey‘s books—she makes me love her characters while I shiver in the night 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2017.

When Dedications Leave Something to Be Desired

Reblogging from the lovely
Kristen Twardowski‘s site.
Why? Because there are times
when we all need a chuckle 😉

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

February 16, 2017

How authors dedicate books tells us a lot about them as writers and as people. Often books are dedicated to children, loved ones, or dogs. On rarer occasions, however, authors use the dedication section of books to make a wry joke, sneer at someone who doubted them, or twist a knife. Because these comments can be darkly humorous, I had to share a few of them.

—     —     —

Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

“Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot. BY ORDER OF THE AUTHOR.”

Chris Colfer, The Land of Stories

“To grandma, for being my first editor and giving me the best writing advice I’ve ever received: “Christopher, I think you should wait until you’re done with elementary school before worrying about being a failed writer.””

Tad Williams, Otherland, Vol. 1-5

otherlandVol 1: “This Book is dedicated to my father Joseph Hill Evans with love. Actually Dad doesn’t read fiction, so if someone doesn’t tell him about this, he’ll never know.”

Vol. 2: “This Book is dedicated to my father Joseph Hill Evans with love. As I said before, Dad doesn’t read fiction. He still hasn’t noticed that this thing is dedicated to him. This is Volume Two – let’s see how many more until he catches on.”

Vol. 3: “This is still dedicated to you-know-who, even if he doesn’t. Maybe we can keep this a secret all the way to the final volume.”

Vol. 4: “My father still hasn’t actually cracked any of the books – so, no, he still hasn’t noticed. I think I’m just going to have to tell him. Maybe I should break it to him gently.

Vol. 5: “Everyone here who hasn’t had a book dedicated to them, take three steps forward. Whoops, Dad, hang on there for a second…”

Continue reading

Why Homosassa?

sarah-e-glennSarah E. Glenn has a B.S. in Journalism, which is a great degree for the dilettante she is. Later on, she did a stint as a graduate student in classical languages. She didn’t get the degree, but she’s great with crosswords. Her most interesting job was working the reports desk for the police department in Lexington, Kentucky, where she learned that criminals really are dumb.

Her great-great aunt served as a nurse in WWI, and was injured by poison gas during the fighting. A hundred years later, this would inspire Sarah to write stories Aunt Dess would probably not approve of.

Website // Blog // Facebook // Twitter 1 // Twitter 2
LinkedIn // Skype // Goodreads // Amazon  Author Page

In Murder on the Mullet Express, our three snowbirds head to Homosassa, Florida as their first stop. The characters’ motives for this destination become clear (to the detriment of Uncle Percival), but someone unfamiliar with Homosassa might wonder why we set a story there in the first place, especially in the 1920s.

Homosassa and Homosassa Springs are two communities divided by U.S. 19 in Citrus County, a fairly rural area. Today, it’s best known for its manatees and Monkey Island. We visited Ellie Schiller Park a few years ago, which has a timeline of Homosassa’s history. The Yulee Sugar Mill and Tiger Tail Island were interesting, but we found ourselves drawn to the tale of a Florida Land Boom project.

In the 1920s, the West Coast Development Company bought up a large amount of property in the area around Old Homosassa on the cheap, with an eye to reselling it as a planned community. I read the brochure from the newly-formed Chamber of Commerce, and they essentially said they were building the Biblical shining city on a hill (in a place with very few hills and fewer people). Eden might be a more accurate term; the area was overflowing with fish, game, and waterfowl.

The proposal generated a lot of interest, but getting the customers to the property was a challenge: due to the enormous number of would-be entrepreneurs, Florida railroads had put an embargo on passengers. Not to be daunted, West Coast arranged for potential investors to arrive in Jacksonville, where they would be driven across the state in the luxurious new Cadillacs. Immediately, our minds went into gear: imagine the locked-room mystery one could set in a private car during a lengthy ride!

Unfortunately, that sort of puzzle works best in short form, not a novel. Plus, it wouldn’t really involve Homosassa. A deadly ride might turn up in a future story, though.

murder-on-the-mullet-expressSo, back to the proposed city. Sales of premeasured lots began in early 1926. The speculators who arrived first were, for the most part, not interested in living there themselves. They were there to buy property that they could then resell at a higher price. Eventually, it would pass into the hands of someone who did want a Florida home and was willing to pay through the nose for it. That sort of mindset leads to skullduggery, and where there’s skullduggery, there’s often murder.

The planned city included an arcade and casino. In those days, a ‘casino’ could refer to a place where people gathered for social affairs, but gambling was always a possibility. Tampa, only a few hours’ drive to the south, had a thriving gambling enterprise run by organized crime in the 1920s. To make things even better, the homegrown gang, Charlie Wall’s boys, were butting heads with mobsters who had come down from Chicago. Oh look, there’s murder again.

We drew from these elements to create our characters. Once that was done, the plot began to write itself. We hope you’ll find the results colorful and enjoyable.

“Homosassa: A City in the Building”
http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00005126/00001/1j

“Charlie Wall: Tampa’s Kingpin”
http://cigarcitymagazine.com/charlie-wall-tampas-organized-crime-kingpin/

Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park:
https://www.floridastateparks.org/park/Homosassa-Springs

Monkey Island:
http://www.homosassaflorida.com/tag/monkey-island

Sarah’s Partner in Crime

gwen-mayoGwen Mayo is passionate about blending her loves of history and mystery fiction. She currently lives and writes in Safety Harbor, Florida, but grew up in a large Irish family in the hills of Eastern Kentucky. She is the author of the Nessa Donnelly Mysteries and co-author of the Old Crows stories with Sarah Glenn.

Her stories have appeared in A Whodunit Halloween, Decades of Dirt, Halloween Frights (Volume I), and several flash fiction collections. She belongs to Sisters in Crime, SinC Guppies, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, the Historical Novel Society, and the Florida Authors and Publishers Association.

Gwen has a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Kentucky. Her most interesting job, though, was as a brakeman and railroad engineer from 1983 – 1987. She was one of the last engineers to be certified on steam locomotives.

Website // Blog // Facebook // Twitter
LinkedIn // Skype // Goodreads // Amazon Author Page