Book Reviews: Hurt Machine by Reed Farrel Coleman, The Confession by Charles Todd, The Border Lords by T. Jefferson Parker, Beneath the Shadows by Sara Foster, and White Lies by Jeremy Bates

Hurt Machine
Reed Farrel Coleman
Tyrus Books, December 2011
ISBN No. 978-1440531996
Trade Paperback

When Carmella Melendez, Moe Prager’s ex-wife and former PI partner, shows up at Moe’s daughter Sarah’s pre-wedding party he finds himself reliving the past while trying to keep the future at bay.  Carmella needs a favor from Moe.  Her sister has been murdered but the police don’t seem concerned about finding her killer.  Unable to resist Carmella’s plea, Moe decides to try to find out who killed Alta.  This decision does not sit well with Pam, a PI from Vermont and a woman that currently holds a special place in Moe’s life.

Carmella took her son Israel, a child close to Moe’s heart, and went to Canada to live leaving Moe behind.  She had also cut her family out of her life with the exception of her grandmother so it was a puzzle to Moe why she was so concerned with her older sister’s murder.  Alta and her partner Mayna Watson were EMTs who had refused to give assistance to a dying man at a downtown restaurant. The man’s family were furious and the public had no sympathy for Alta or her partner as evidenced by the ton of hate mail Mayna turned over to Moe to help his investigation.

Moe moves forward in his investigation taking him to places that have held a lot of meaning to him in the past.  Moe also renews old acquaintances while making his inquiries.  However, his thoughts are always touching on his own future or even if he will have a future.  Moe has recently discovered that he is suffering from stomach cancer. This is a fact that he hasn’t shared with his family so he is carrying the burden alone. Carmella has left town and gone back to Canada without saying good-bye.  Mayna, Alta’s partner, is uncooperative and only wants to be left alone.  It seems no one really cares what actually happened but Moe is determined to find the answer.

It is as if finding Alta’s killer is keeping the cancer at bay in Moe’s mind although his body continually reminds him that the cancer is there and demanding more of his strength daily.  He finds all the answers he is seeking and learns why Alta was murdered.

I am hoping that the fact that Moe has cancer is not an indication that the series will be ending.  The author’s website states that Hurt Machine is “reportedly the next-to-last Moe Prager book.”  If this statement is true, it is a disappointment to me but it looks as though I will have one more book to read in the series.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, January 2012.


The Confession
(An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery)

Charles Todd
William Morrow, January 2012
ISBN No. 978-0062015662

A man walks into Rutledge’s office at Scotland Yard and identifies himself as Wyatt Russell.  From Russell’s appearance, it is obvious that the man is very ill.  Russell admits to Rutledge that he is suffering from cancer and does not have long to live.  His purpose for visiting Scotland Yard is to confess that he killed a man in 1915 and was never apprehended.  Russell states that confessing is the only way to clear his conscience.  He names his victim as his cousin, Justin Fowler.

Rutledge is curious but confused.  Although Russell admits to the murder, he is not willing to offer many details and eventually states that his confusion is due to the morphine that he is taking.  Without enough evidence to open a murder inquiry Rutledge still cannot just let the matter go.  His curiosity will not allow it.  When a body is found floating in the Thames with a bullet in the back of the head, it turns out that the body is that of Rutledge’s confessor to murder of a few weeks ago. There is a gold locket around the man’s neck containing a picture of a young woman.

Rutledge takes the locket and travels to Essex and the village of Furnham, the home of Wyatt Russell.  Although the community of Furnham does not welcome strangers, Rutledge is able to speak to the minister who informs Rutledge that the picture of the dead man is not that of Wyatt Russell.

It turns out the dead man who passed himself off, as Wyatt Russell is actual Ben Willet, the son of a fisherman, who grew up in the town of Furnham.  Wyatt Russell resided at River’s Edge, an estate near the town.  Wyatt’s mother took in a cousin Justin Fowler to raise after Fowler’s parents died. Cynthia Farraday also came to live at River’s Edge after the death of her parents.  Wyatt’s mother disappeared from River’s Edge and her body was never found. Servants attested to the fact that the gold locket found around the neck of Ben Willet was actually owned by Mrs. Russell and there was a picture inside of Mr. and Mrs. Russell.  Mrs. Russell was known to wear the locket daily.

Rutledge is left with a puzzle of so many pieces it seems impossible to put together but he is determined.  It seems that there are many mysteries surrounding River’s Edge to say nothing of the town of Furnham. The residents have good reason to keep strangers away.  Rutledge has at least three deaths to puzzle out.  Mrs. Russell who disappeared and is believed dead in 1914, Justin Fowler’s reported death in 1915 and now Ben Willet, who confessed to the killing of Justin Fowler when passing himself off as Wyatt Russell.

The story is intriguing and the outcome is not one that I expected.  Hamish McLeod, the ghost that rides shotgun with Rutledge, is present in The Confession but his presence is not as predominant as it has been in past Rutledge novels.  I found this novel to be a great addition to the Ian Rutledge series but can be read as a stand-alone.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, January 2012.


The Border Lords
A Charlie Hood Novel

T. Jefferson Parker
New American Library, January 2012
ISBN No. 978-0-451-23556-5
Trade Paperback

Sean Ozburn (Gravas) is undercover for Operation Blowdown.  Sean is one of the best undercover operators but Charlie Hood is taken by surprise when Sean begins acting totally out of character.  Sean operates a “safe house” in Buena Vista, California, a border town.  The house has been wired for sound and video.  The current occupants of the house are four gunmen who are members of the North Baja Cartel, the organization Sean and ATF are hoping to put out of business.  Sean was in the habit of checking in with Operation Blowdown on a daily basis but he hasn’t checked in for a few days and Hood is concerned that Sean’s undercover identity might have been blown.

Charlie Hood, still on loan from the L.A. Sheriff’s Department, was monitoring the live feeds from the “safe house” when the monitors and audio went dark.  After the team requested an unmarked police car to drive by the house, it was decided it would be best to check out the house on their own.  All of the occupants of the “safe house” had been killed.  Hood found a “Love 32” in one of the bedrooms.  The machine gun was the same as ones he had seen being packed for shipment at the Pace Arms factory in Costa Mesa.  He suspected many of the guns had been sent to Mexico and were now being used by the Cartel.  After an inspection of the house, it was found that someone had shut off the video/audio system with a key.    When the team viewed the tape from one of the cameras, they were stunned to see Sean smiling into the camera as he reached up to cover the lens.

So begins the bizarre story of Sean Ozburn and his wife Seliah.  Hood works with Seliah to try to get Sean to come in.  Hood hopes that he can trust Seliah but is unsure that she is being honest with him.  As the story develops, the reader becomes aware that Sean is suffering from a disease that he has been infected with and soon his wife is a victim.  Bradley Jones and his wife Erin play small but important parts in this novel.

The Jaguar is the next Charlie Hood novel and there is a brief introduction to the book at the end of The Border LordsThe Border Lords can be read as a stand-alone.  L. A. Outlaws, The Renegades and Iron River are the first three books in this series.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, May 2012.


Beneath the Shadows
Sara Foster
Minotaur Books, June 2012
ISBN No. 978-0312643362

Adam, Grace and baby Millie leave the hustle and bustle of London to settle in a cottage in North Yorkshire that Adam inherited from his grandparents.  The area is beautiful but isolated.  The cottage seems to have its own personality and is filled with the possessions of Adam’s grandparents.  Grace is confident the family can adjust and be happy there.

One day, Adam leaves a note for Grace that he has something to discuss with her when he returns from walking Millie.  Grace is curious, but as the old grandfather clock ticks away the minutes she begins to get nervous.  It seems that Adam has been gone a long time for a little walk.  When Grace hears a noise at the door, she opens it to find her daughter, Millie, in her carriage but Adam is nowhere near.  Grace calls the police and a search is immediately conducted but with no success.  It appears that Adam has disappeared without a trace.

Grace’s parents take her away from the cottage because they feel that it is not a healthy environment for their daughter or their grandchild.  A year goes by with no news of Adam and Grace cannot let go of her memories, or the hope that he will come in the door at any time.  Grace decides to return to Yorkshire with Millie.  She hopes that living in the cottage and sorting through all the many boxes stored in the attic and the basement will help her come to terms with her situation and help her decide what to do with the cottage.

Grace’s neighbor, Meredith Blakeney, invites Grace to visit her.  Annabel, Grace’s sister, comes from London to visit and help Grace sort things out.  She also meets Ben, a man staying in the area to housesit, and he agrees to come to the cottage and do some renovations.

Grace spends the nights alone letting her thoughts wander to the many tales of ghosts and demons that locals tell about the area.  She is also worried about the grandfather clock that seems to have a mind of its own, slowing down and starting up again without warning.

As Grace unpacks boxes she finds letters written by Adam’s deceased mother as well as other items that make Grace feel more and more that Adam did not just leave, but met with a tragic ending.

Beneath the Shadows is a gripping story that keeps the reader interested every step of the way.  Grace has many bad moments and times when she wanted to just run away but in spite of her fears she is able to stay in Yorkshire and eventually solve the mystery of Adam.  The conclusion comes as a surprise but was a brilliant ending.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, May 2012.


White Lies
Jeremy Bates
Oceanview Publishing, May 2012
ISBN No. 978-1-60809-043-3

Katrina Burton is traveling to a new job teaching high school English at Cascade High School in Leavenworth, Washington.  The last thing that ever occurred to Katrina was that this new life would start out with a white lie leading to another lie and another lie up to the point where Katrina finds herself lying to protect a murderer.

It all starts innocently enough when Katrina picks up a strange man on her way to Leavenworth.  Katrina was well aware of the dangers of picking up strangers but the weather was bad and there wasn’t any traffic and Katrina felt guilty passing up the man.  Once he got in the car with her and her dog, Bandit, Katrina began to have second thoughts.  When she spotted a sign leading to a turnoff to Lake Wenatchee she told her first lie and said she had a place at the lake and dropped the man off at the turn.  Katrina was relieved to be rid of the hitchhiker named Zach and felt sure she had seen the end of him.

Katrina and Bandit settled in the place that Katrina had rented and Katrina prepared for the first day of school.  It turns out Zach Marshall not only lives in town but teaches in the high school where Katrina is going to begin her new career.  To Katrina’s horror, Zach announces to the other teachers that Katrina owns a cottage at the Lake and suggest she host a party for her new coworkers.  Katrina is beside herself trying to figure out how to get out of the one little lie she told.

Jack Reeves is a man Katrina met at the local hardware store and she confides in Jack the problem about the party and the lake house.  Jack comes up with a solution for Katrina to save face with her fellow workers.  Though Katrina realizes it is not the best solution, she goes along with his suggestion.

Zach is a strange character.  I disliked Zach at times but other times felt sympathy for him.  Jack Reeves also has many sides to his personality.  Katrina soon begins to realize that Jack may not be the person that originally caught her eye.

As the pages turn the reader soon realizes that with Reeves influence Katrina is digging herself a hole with half-truths and new lies.  The characters in White Lies are strong and the suspense builds and builds.  This is a book that leaves the reader wanting more.  I will be looking for future books by this author.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, May 2012.