Book Review: Killing Silence by Peg Herring

Killing SilenceKilling Silence
The Loser Mysteries: Book One
Peg Herring
LL-Publications, November 2012
ISBN 978-0-9571527-9-3
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Is It Possible to Be a Rescuer When You Live Among the Lost?

Loser, who sleeps on the streets of Richmond, Virginia, washes up in gas station bathrooms, eats when an opportunity comes along, and spends her waking hours in front of the local drug store, watching the world pass by and speaking less than thirty words per day.

When a child is murdered and Loser finds herself in the company of the prime suspect, can she pull herself out of her own pain to help catch a killer? Her investigation is hampered by her inability to hold a normal conversation and her inner demons.

Why should anyone believe her anyway? She is Loser. A nobody. A freak who can barely speak.

Every street person has a story, and Loser is no different. Her past haunts her present.

Besides, Loser has good reason to avoid the police…and it goes way beyond loitering.

Once in a while, I come across a book that can only be called an unexpected gem. Killing Silence is one of those wonderful surprises. In many ways, it’s a standard mystery but Peg Herring has crafted a novel that is much more than just “standard”.

Tucked in with the mystery of what happened to this child that Loser barely knows is her more personal mystery of who committed a terrible crime in her past, a crime that drove her from a normal life into the streets, and here is where this author’s work takes a step up. I’ve always felt badly about all the people who are homeless but I don’t think I’ve ever felt quite so much understanding of how some of them come to such a pass. It is Ms. Herring‘s own compassionate writing of Loser’s existence that made that possible .

“Loser” is, of course, a nickname, one that she bestowed upon herself, and she had some very painful reasons for doing so. One trait that really sets her apart from you and me is that she allows herself only a very limited amount of speech and yet she manages to communicate quite effectively. When she decides she has to ferret out the truth about this death because she simply doesn’t believe the logical suspect could have done it, her quick mind comes to the fore and the reader learns that there is much more to this homeless derelict than you might expect. Her mission is full of twists and misleading behaviors but Loser is determined to get to the bottom of what has gone on in a very dysfunctional family.

The author has a quite effective way of telling the story of this current crime as well as the one that has had such an impact on Loser. The storyline easily drifts from one to the other and back and the reader can see how the earlier crime preys on Loser’s very being and, yet, we also see how she is perhaps coming back to life because of her need to do what is right. What’s even better is watching the her develop the beginnings of connections with people like Verle and the adorable Bryn despite her best efforts to keep others at arm’s length.

Plot and character development are both masterfully handled by this author but setting also was in the forefront for me. The book is set in Richmond, VA, and having an author choose one’s hometown has two primary effects on the resident reader. One is a sense of coolness, a tiny bit of pride that others will get a taste of my town. The other is a quite natural inclination to look for the mistakes the author has surely made and, in fact, I did find one that’s fairly significant but, let’s face it, only to Richmonders or those who have lived here in the past, perhaps for college. There were also a few very minor slips, such as calling a particular street a boulevard rather than an avenue but I bring that up only because I want to point out that this author has done a fine job with her setting with remarkably few errors. A reader who doesn’t know this area can rest assured that the visual pictures created by their imaginations based on Ms. Herring‘s words are quite accurate.

Note: If you have a strong aversion to reading about bad things happening to a child, you may want to skip this book but you should know that the crime is treated with full consideration for readers’ sensibilities. The murder is handled quietly and largely off-page and I was not overly distressed beyond the great compassion I felt for the innocence lost.

It’s pure serendipity that I just finished this book in time to have it be my last review for 2012 but I’m delighted to say it will be on my list of best books read in 2012. I can hardly wait for Loser’s next book, Killing Memories, due out in April 2013. I’m so glad there won’t be an endless wait ;)

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2012.

My New Year’s Inclinations—and a Giveaway!

C.J. GravesC.J. Graves is the author of three novels, including Crossed: A Jayden Morrow Mystery–featuring former Army soldier turned private investigator, Jayden Morrow. 

After growing up in NW Pennsylvania in the cold and snow, C.J. Graves moved to Japan to live in…more cold and snow, but she now resides in sunny North Carolina with her wonderful husband and swimming pool. 

Having graduated from UNCG with a degree in Interior Architecture and Design, she soon realized she wasn’t cut out for the project management side of the business and turned to another creative love—writing.  When she’s not pounding the keys or running a critique group, she enjoys beating up teenagers in her mixed martial arts class.

Website:  http://www.cjgraves.net

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/authorcjgraves?ref=tn_tnmn

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/authorCJGraves

So, here it is again.  The final days of another year, come and almost gone.  The older I get, the faster they speed on by.  Presuming you’re reading these words, the end of the Mayan calendar did NOT mark the end of our existence but just a convenient place for those ancients to say, “Hey, guys.  I think we’ve planned far enough ahead.”

And on the subject of planning ahead, I don’t know about you, but my list of New Year’s resolution failures rivals the length and breadth of the Grand Canyon.  Unlike the Grand Canyon though, it ain’t pretty.  Perhaps it’s more like the Grand Canyon at night–a dark gash with the raging Colorado River at the bottom ready to whisk away any promises I made to myself in the light of day.

Becoming a writer doesn’t make any of this easier.  Now, instead of resolving to hit the gym more, clean my house more, give up chocolate (who are we kidding?) and stop buying useless hair care products, I have to add things like, outline my new idea, contact bloggers to review my books, post to my Facebook everyday, and horror of all horrors, finish my most recent mystery novel.  All this makes me ponder the end of the world with a certain morbid nostalgia.

CrossedNot that this writing gig is bad.  On the contrary, it can be a wonderfully creative and exciting ride.  But it’s also hard and stuff gets in the way.  Stuff like work, family, and never-ending loads of dirty laundry.  I won’t even mention that pesky problem called writer’s block.  So adding New Year’s resolutions on top of this teetering pile can be asking for trouble–the kind of demoralizing, soul crushing trouble that writers already love to torture themselves with on a daily basis.  Yes, it seems ANY resolution I make quickly dissolves under the pressure of so much stuff.  I’m afraid my resolutions are really more like inclinations.

But what’s wrong with that?  We’re all striving to be better.  As writers, we saddle our characters with overwhelming baggage just to watch them strive to be better.  In my mystery novel, Crossed, the protagonist, Jayden Morrow, did two tours in Iraq in the Army.  She lost her fiancé there and saw some pretty horrible things.  It left her with post-traumatic stress disorder, a fear of commitment, and a bit of an anger issue.  She’s aware of these problems.  She’s trying to improve.  Most of her efforts end in a crash and burn, but she keeps trying, and we keep rooting for her.  Why not give ourselves the same latitude?

So, in 2013, instead of feeling angry and ashamed for not keeping every New Year’s promise I made, I’m taking the pressure off and embracing my good intentions.  It may be the road to Hell, but I’ll have more fun getting there.  Even if it means eating another cookie, ignoring that messy closet, and writing eight hundred words that day instead of a thousand, so what?

It’s not the end of the world.

That shiny new ereader of yours—or your old faithful device—needs some

books, doesn’t it? Leave a comment below and you’ll be entered to win an

ebook copy of Crossed by C.J. Graves! This giveaway is open to everyone and

the winning name will be drawn on the evening of New Year’s Eve.

Book Reviews: Safe Harbor by Rosemary McCracken, Revenge from Beyond by Dennis Wong, and Mannheim Rex by Robert Pobi

Safe HarborSafe Harbor
Rosemary McCracken
Imajin Books, April 2012
ISBN 9781926997452
Trade Paperback

Family is very important. Rosemary McCracken‘s suspense filled mystery shows us the value of family ties, especially when the unexpected happens. Set in around the New Year in frozen Canada, this book brings in various issues of family life with the overlying mystery of murder and killers on the loose.

Pat Tierney’s world is full of her two daughters, a new boyfriend, her dog Maxie, and her Toronto based financial investment career. Her world gets turned upside down when a strange woman leaves a five year old boy at her office claiming he is Pat’s late husband’s son. When the woman is murdered and the boy’s family is apathetic about the boy’s plight, Pat ends up caring for the child. The police suspect the killer is also out to get the boy and wouldn’t hesitate to remove any other obstacles. Digging into the case, Pat finds a connection with a refuge for immigrants seeking citizenship. Against the advice from her new boyfriend and the police to stay out of the case, she can’t help but be involved, especially when danger seeks her out.

There doesn’t seem to be any Safe Harbor in this book for the main character. It’s a tale where the average person delves into being an amateur private investigator. I liked the links with Pat’s investment firm, the clients, her coworkers, and the influential people in her life such as her daughters and boyfriend. McCracken does a good job with showing family values in some of the subplots. It’s a fast but enjoyable read.

Reviewed by Stephen L. Brayton, July 2012.
Author of Night Shadows, Beta and Alpha.

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Revenge from BeyondRevenge from Beyond
Dennis Wong
Proverse Hong Kong, January 2012
ISBN 978-988-19935-1-9
Ebook
Also available in trade paperback

Take a trip back to ancient China’s Tang Dynasty. Where the Emperor rules and those under him speak in his name. Lawlessness is still common and murder abounds, for all the usual reasons. The same holds true for politics and corruption.

Quan Wu-Meng is just beginning his leadership in the Sui-chou District’s court. Almost immediately, the young judge encounters a murder. A struggling painter is found dead in his bed and Quan, along with the Coroner, begins the investigation. Quan must connect the following evidence: missing paintings, a political candidate with a shady background, and most intriguing, a dream begging for interpretation. The situation intensifies when the body of a rice merchant is discovered after an arson. However, there are more surprises ahead. Can Quan figure out the clues before those in power remove him from office?

Although I’m wary of mysteries set in foreign locales, this one was a quick and enjoyable read. The Chinese culture is explored, but I felt very in tune with the characters. This is a simple story with the culprits fairly easy to deduce. However, there are some very interesting bits of deduction, including a fascinating experiment to determine how a corpse didn’t die from a fire. The punishment for guilty parties is very extreme, but we’re talking about Imperial China. I’d love to read more Quan.

Reviewed by Stephen L. Brayton, September 2012.
Author of Night Shadows, Beta and Alpha.

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Mannheim RexMannheim Rex
Robert Pobi
Thomas & Mercer, November 2012
ISBN 9781612184487
Trade Paperback
Also available in Kindle format

A monster fish. A depressed writer. A boy with a dream of becoming famous. A sheriff with some serious sociopath issues. These all combine to make for an excellent thriller by Robert Pobi. Don’t expect this to be some cheap Jaws knock-off. This goes so much, uh, deeper.

Gavin Whitaker Corlie, horror novelist, is a widower who can’t seem to get over his wife’s death. Contemplating suicide, he decides to move out of the crazy city. Buying a house in upstate New York on the shore of Lake Caldasac, he settles in to get his life together. Within a few days he encounters Finn Horn, a teenage fishing enthusiast who is slowly dying of cancer. All is not serene in the community lost in time. There have been strange disappearances on the lake and the local sheriff is not a big fan of rich city slickers. With more people missing and dying, danger lurking from local law enforcement, and winter approaching, Corlie and Finn make plans to capture the monster in the lake.

Pobi is a magician with words. His vivid descriptions took me lakeside and alongside with Corlie and Finn as they trolled on the water. This is a novel to display in any collection. Pobi is an author other authors need to read to learn how to write. The only disappointment about the book is that it had to end…or does it? Don’t think it’s over because the last chapter will shock your senses.

Reviewed by Stephen L. Brayton, December 2012.
Author of Night Shadows, Beta and Alpha.

I Spy and the Fallback Plan—and a Giveaway!

Robin BurcellRobin Burcell worked as a police officer, detective, hostage negotiator, and forensic artist. The Dark Hour is her latest international thriller about an FBI forensic artist. The Black List will debut in January 2013. Visit her at www.RobinBurcell.comhttps://twitter.com/RobinBurcell, and http://www.facebook.com/robin.burcell

Leave a comment below and you might win your

choice of either The Dark Hour or The Black List.

Ah, the time of year when we make our resolutions—and break them shortly thereafter. Don’t worry, I’m not going there. (But if you’re really into that sort of thing, Google “Robin Burcell+dust bunnies+zombies”.) I’m here to discuss my twisted path to becoming a writer, and it all started from a TV show when I was a kid, one that some of you born after I was—somewhere between the invention of color TV and cell phones—might have to Google to understand.

I had one clear career goal starting around the age of six or so, after becoming a fan of the Man from U.N.C.L.E., and later the Girl from U.N.C.L.E. I was going to be a spy. Unfortunately, spy jobs for schoolgirls back then were few and far between, so I had to settle on a fallback plan: elementary school. But there comes a point when a girl ages out—which meant no more playing spies at recess. I wandered a bit after that, trying to find myself throughout junior high and high school, where the kids I used to play spies with suddenly pretended they were too old for such games. It was during those formative years, however, where I found out that I was really good at something they were not. Daydreaming.

The Dark HourI could stare out the window and in ten seconds be on a different continent, even a different world. This is not the best trait to have should one fall into a career such as the one I fell into, that of a police officer. I quickly learned that I could be on a call, come across someone unusual or interesting, and in the space of time that it takes to read that person his rights, I was casting him as a character in a story. Unfortunately I had to tamp that desire, because it turns out that fiction in police writing is frowned upon. Severely. Especially when testifying in court.

It was, however, a problem I could solve. I decided to write about a fictional police officer, who got to say and do all the cool things I always wanted to—except that if I said them or did them, I’d get fired. I eventually retired that series, primarily because all the cases took place in San Francisco, and I really, really wanted to go to Europe and be able to legally write it off on my taxes. So I created a new series, and switched agencies, moving from San Francisco PD to the FBI, introducing a new protagonist, Sydney Fitzpatrick, a forensic artist/FBI agent.

The Black ListWhile I’ve never been an FBI agent, nor played one on TV, I have worked as a forensic artist trained by the FBI, so I figured that counted for a partial credit, at least in the fictional arena. And since the FBI had a much bigger chance of picking up a case that might take them abroad, I could realistically create a story that is set in Europe, go there to research it, and get about 3 cents to the dollar back on the cost of my trip courtesy Uncle Sam. (Oh, and in case any IRS agents are mystery fans and reading this blog, that research trip resulted in The Bone Chamber in Rome, The Dark Hour in Amsterdam, and The Black List in England.)

Unfortunately, the closest I got to being a spy and fulfilling my childhood dream was working undercover as a cop. And while you might think that pretending to be a hooker doesn’t have the same cachet as being an international spy—well, you’d be right. Being an undercover hooker certainly had its moments (more acerbic than exciting), but it’s hardly something that looks good on a résumé. Hence my need to write fiction to fulfill that dream. Because the closest I’m going to get to becoming an international spy is to write about one.

Being a writer, however, is much safer. I get shot at a lot less than my protagonist.

How about you? What was your childhood dream?

Leave a comment below and you’ll be entered in the drawing for a copy of

either The Dark Hour or The Black List by Robin Burcell, your choice.

The winning name will be drawn on the evening of New Year’s Eve.

Book Review: Dangerous Deception by Cindy McDonald—and a Giveaway!

Cindy McDonald Dangerous Deception Tour Banner

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Dangerous DeceptionDangerous Deception
Cindy McDonald
Acorn Book Services, November 2012
ISBN 978-0-9857267-4-4
Trade Paperback

From the author—

Vic Deveaux’s glory days as a winning jockey have ended, but he refuses to accept that pile of horse hockey! When the West family asks Vic to take an easier position at their horse farm Westwood, he becomes enraged and teams up with two greedy stable hands in a scheme to kidnap the West’s younger son Shane. When Vic discovers that his new-found friends have murder on their minds, things turn ugly. Suddenly, Vic finds himself between the rock and the hard place. . He has betrayed his good friend, Eric West, but will he participate in his son’s murder as well? Not content to sit and wait for her men to bring her brother home, Kate West convinces homicide detective Carl Lugowski to check out a hunch at an old abandoned mansion. Soon, they’re trapped in a hornet’s nest of a notorious biker gang. Oh yeah, Vic’s deception has placed the West family in more danger than they know what to do with!

 

Dangerous Deception is one of those books that can be just a little annoying and quite entertaining at the same time and that’s not necessarily a bad thing in my opinion. While a few issues were distracting to me, they also made me pay attention and keeping the reader’s attention is one of any author’s goals, isn’t it?

This book is the third in the Unbridled Series and, although reading out of order is usually not an issue with me, it was a bit disconcerting this time just in the beginning of the novel. By the time I finished the brief prologue and the first chapter, my mind was reeling from the many, many characters that were introduced, 17 plus 2 horses if my count is correct. As it turned out, most of them played significant roles in the story so it was important to keep them all straight (along with additional characters who showed up later). I suspect many of them are in the earlier books so this would not be so daunting to readers who started at the beginning but it distracted me enough to keep me out of the story for a while. I did eventually settle in, largely because the author does a nice job with characterization so they all stand out in the crowd, so to speak, but a cast of characters would have been helpful.

Two other issues got a little in the way of my enjoyment of this book. One was the overemphasis on sexual attractions between a variety of couples—I especially found most of the storyline featuring Ava to be unnecessary, kind of annoying and largely getting in the way of the core story. The other was the usage of words and phrases that I’ve never come across before such as “lugged” which was used in connection with a horse pushing another horse against a rail but also in connection with vision as in “lugged his gaze to meet Eric’s”. A third usage of the word had to do with carrying heavy objects and that’s the only use I’m familiar with. Another word used oddly was “molested” as in “his eyes were molested with dark blue smudges of fatigue” but also in “more stony rubble molested him”. I have never encountered either such usage of this word before. I wonder if perhaps the author’s definitions of such words may come from a regional influence.

There were a couple of times when I thought a character’s behavior was puzzling and inconsistent with how real people would react in a similar situation but, on the whole, I found Dangerous Deception to be an enjoyable read. Besides Ms. McDonald‘s ability with character development, she has also crafted a very intense tale, one that was hard to put down. The suspense level would be high, then fall to a touch of calm and then suddenly ratchet right back up again. This author likes multitudes of characters, quite obviously, but she also likes multiple storylines and she makes it work. I found myself weaving in and out amongst a variety of unhealthy situations, frequently with that delicious sense of trepidation and, just when I thought a crisis had been averted, something else would come along to shake things up. If you like mayhem, interesting characters, tense plotlines and spending some time in the world of Thoroughbred horses, you’ll enjoy Dangerous Deception.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2012.

Goodreads

Keep reading to find out how you might win a copy of the first book in the series.

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Cindy McDonaldAuthor Bio

For twenty-six years my life whirled around a song and a dance: I was a professional dancer/choreographer for most of my adult life and never gave much thought to a writing career until 2005. Don’t ask me what happened, but suddenly I felt drawn to my computer to write about things I have experienced (greatly exaggerated upon of course) with my husband’s Thoroughbreds and the happenings at the racetrack.

Surprised? Why didn’t I write about my experiences with dance? Eh, believe it or not life at the racetrack is more…racy. The drama is outrageous—not that dancers don’t know how to create drama, believe me, they do but race trackers just seem to get more down and dirty with it which makes great story telling—great fiction.

I didn’t start out writing books, The Unbridled Series started out as a TV drama, and the Hollywood readers loved the show. The problem was we just couldn’t sell it. So one of the readers said to me, “Cindy, don’t be stupid. Turn your scripts into a book series.” and so I did!

In May of 2011 I took the big leap and exchanged my dancin’ shoes for a lap top—I retired from dance. It was a scary proposition, I was terrified, but I had the full support of my husband, Saint Bill. It has been a huge change for me. I went from dancing hard five hours a night to sitting in front of a computer. I still work-out and I take my dog, Harvey, for a daily run. I have to or I’d be as big as a house. Do I miss dance? Sometimes I do. I miss my students. I miss choreographing musicals, but I love my books and I love sharing them with you.

Connect with Cindy:

Website:  www.cindymcwriter.com/

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/THE-UNBRIDLED-SERIES/234151313271418

Twitter: @cindymcdonald7

Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=69379662&trk=tab_pro

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5264796.Cindy_McDonald

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Do you like starting at the beginning of a series? Leave a comment

below and you might win an ebook copy of Deadly.com, first in

The Unbridled Series. Open internationally, all formats are available and

the winning name will be drawn on the evening of New Year’s Eve.

I can’t think of a better way to start off the New Year ;)

Partners in Crime Book Tours

Book Reviews: Start Shooting by Charlie Newton, Driven by James Sallis, Dead and Buried by Stephen Booth, and Die a Stranger by Steve Hamilton

Start ShootingStart Shooting
Charlie Newton
Doubleday, January 2012
ISBN: 978-0-385-53469-7
Hardcover

The one-page prologue of sorts, headed “Chicago,” opens with the words, “The girl was thirteen and Irish, and fashioned out of sunlight so bright she made you believe in angels,” and ends with these: “Nineteen years I’ve been a ghetto cop and thought I’d worked every heartbreaking, horror combination possible.  But I hadn’t.  I wasn’t marginally prepared for how bad six days could get.  And neither was anyone else.”  And then the author details those six days, the p.o.v. alternating between that of Arleen Brennan and Bobby Vargas, the cop. The writer’s style is such that there was a smile on my face at page 1 [following the single page containing that prologue], which describes the Four Corners neighborhood in the South Side of Chicago, and its multi-cultural inhabitants.

The tale begins in the winter of 1982, filling in a lot of the history of Chicago over the last 50+ years, even for those who think they remember all the stories of corruption and race riots.  Chicago is hopeful of hosting the 2016 Olympics and the “salvation” it would surely mean for the city, with the ensuing influx of revenue for a cash-strapped town.  All very entertaining, with just an undercurrent of danger – – until the shooting starts, that is.  At that point, things take a different turn, becoming dark and edgy, with a fair amount of violence.  The craziness gets a bit hard to follow at times, but that didn’t slow the turning of pages at all.

At its heart this is a novel about two pairs of siblings, Arleen and Coleen Brennan, beautiful blond twin sisters, the latter not surviving past the age of 13, when she was raped to death, Arleen escaping the city and not seen again for 29 years, when she appears in the book’s opening pages. Bobby and Reuben Vargas are brothers, Bobby 42 as the story starts, Reuben, a cop and “a street legend in Chicago,” the older brother who was Bobby’s hero for half his life, their parents born in Mexico but the boys having grown up in Four Corners. Ambition is just one thing Arleen and Bobby have in common, for a future, and fame, as an actress and a guitar-playing musician, respectively.  But Arleen is waiting tables, and Bobby is a cop who plays “in the band, weekends around town;” one other thing they have in common is a deep love for their siblings.

Start Shooting is one of the most original novels I’ve read in a while, and though I can’t say I held my breath as it headed towards its denouement, I was white-knuckled from gripping the book so tightly in my hands.  Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, June 2012.

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DrivenDriven
James Sallis
Poisoned Pen Press, April 2012
ISBN: 978-1-4642-0010-6
Hardcover

He is called, simply, Driver, because that’s what he is, that’s what he does and, he feels, that’s what he will always do.  Once one of the best stunt drivers in film, his life has taken different turns, most of them illegal.  But he gave up that life over six years ago, became a successful businessman named Paul West, a man with a ‘normal’ life and a fiancée he dearly loved.  Until one day when his old life catches up to him, and he has to kill the two men who have suddenly appeared and attacked him, but not before his fiancée has been killed. So back he must go, to his old life in Phoenix.  But soon two other men find and attempt to kill him, and he has no choice but to kill again.

As his friend Manny succinctly puts it, “you have to decide what you want, else you just keep spinning around, circling the drain.  You want to get away from the guys?  Or you want to put them down?  Well, there it is, then.  We ponder and weigh and debate.  While in silence, somewhere back in the darkness behind words, our decisions are made.” Now 32 years old, he goes where life, and his attempts to track down whoever is behind the continuing attempts on his life, take him, theorizing that “you moved faster with the current than against.”

The author’s descriptions, in his typical [and typically wonderful] spare prose, conjure up immediate mental images:  Of a tattooist, he says, “His Rasta hair looked like something pulled down from attic storage, first thing you’d want to do is thwack out the dusts.”  Of a young crowd in a mall food court “wagging their iPods and cellphones behind them, fatally connected.”  The book is filled with the author’s – – and his protagonist’s – – philosophizing:  “We all struggle to leave markers behind, signs that we were here, that we passed through . . . urban equivalents of cave paintings.”

The sequel to the excellent Drive, published in 2005, I devoured the book in a single day.  This was a short but memorable visit into the world created by Mr. Sallis, and it is highly recommended.  [The book is also available in a trade paperback edition, ISBN #978-1-4642-0011-3.]

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, August 2012.

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Dead and BuriedDead and Buried
Stephen Booth
Sphere, June 2012
ISBN: 978-1-84744-481-3
Hardcover

[This book is at present only available in/through the UK/Canada; it will be published in the US in April, 2013 by Little, Brown]

As this book opens, firefighters in the Peak District of England are fighting what seems to be a losing battle, trying to contain the flames engulfing this part of Derbyshire, with smoke covering acres and acres of the moors from the catastrophic wildfires that have been springing up, the worst seen in the area in decades, many undoubtedly the result of arson.  But to D.S. Ben Cooper, his more immediate problem are the buried items found by the crew working one of the sites, and which appear to be clothing and other items – including a wallet and credit cards – which had belonged to a young couple who had seemingly disappeared over two years ago, in the middle of a snowstorm.  They had last been seen in a local pub, with no trace found since, and the case, while no longer active, is as cold as it could be.

The Major Crime Unit is called in, and DS Diane Fry, Ben’s old nemesis, is put in charge.  [Diane had been his immediate supervisor before his promotion to detective sergeant.]  Diane, for her part, couldn’t be happier that she had, as she thought, put Derbyshire behind her, her career taking her on an upward path – – she has been with the East Midlands Special Operations Unit for six months, and is less than thrilled to be back again.  In a bit of one-upsmanship, she soon discovers a dead body in the old abandoned pub – – Ben’s office had received a call about a break-in there, but had yet to investigate.

With Ben’s upcoming marriage to Liz Petty, a civilian crime scene examiner, coming up in a few months, the distraction of the wedding plans in which his fiancée is immersed causes him not a little irritation.  Ben and the rest of his CID team at Derbyshire Constabulary E Division have their hands full, with the two investigations proceeding simultaneously, although Diane makes clear that the old case is her jurisdiction.  Behind everything, the raging fires continue, a constant backdrop underlying everything which follows.  The author’s meticulous descriptions of the landscape make for a visceral sense of place.

Mr. Booth has once again created a suspenseful scenario, with many a twist and turn.  This elegantly written novel is the 12th entry in the Cooper and Fry series, and at the end this reader reluctantly closed the book, fervently hoping it won’t be the last.  Recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, October 2012.

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Die a StrangerDie a Stranger
Steve Hamilton
Minotaur Books, July 2012
ISBN: 978-0-312-64021-7
Hardcover

The newest novel in the wonderful Alex McKnight series by Steve Hamilton starts out, as do most of them, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The residents of the area, referred to as the “land of the Yoopers,” consist heavily of Native Americans, most of them living in the reservations in that part of the country.  As the book opens, Vinnie Red Sky LeBlanc, an Ojibwa Indian who is probably Alex’ best friend, is mourning the death of his mother, a legend on the “rez.”  Alex, a former cop from Detroit, has been living for years in the town of Paradise, where his father had built several cabins for rental to hunters and winter recreationers, lives in one of those cabins, just down the road from Vinnie, who had moved off the rez years before.  Much is made of the clannish nature of the folks on the rez, and how difficult it is for ‘outsiders’ to be trusted.  Vinnie has never been allowed to forget that he is now an outsider, just as he has never forgotten that his father had left thirty years before, the same father apparently still in prison for a vehicular manslaughter/drunk driving incident many years ago, the reason Vinnie himself never drinks.

At the same time, at a little airport three hundred miles away, an event occurs that will effect their lives and those of several others when a small plane holding large quantities of high-grade marijuana lands, precipitating a hijacking which ends with several dead bodies left on the field, only one man making it out alive.  Both Alex and Vinnie become deeply involved in the aftermath:  Vinnie disappears, and Alex is determined to find him and to discover how he what part, if any, he played in this.

The Upper Peninsula is again brought vividly to life by this author who, along with fellow Yooper William Kent Krueger, seems to completely “own” this part of the United States, just below the Canadian border, in their fictional endeavors.  Mr. Hamilton’s description, in part:  “It may be July, and it may feel like summer just got here, but the end is already on its way.  The cold, the snow, the ice, the natural basic state of this place, it is right around the corner. . . It was another goddamned beautiful useless day in Paradise.”  The book veers south to perhaps a lesser-known part of the State apparently called Michigan’s Gold Coast, with towns such as Petoskey and Charlevoix where one soon feels “like you’re in the middle of Times Square,” also beautifully evoked.

This is another terrific entry in the series, beautifully written, as usual, with a somewhat intricate, suspenseful plot and wonderfully drawn characters, and it is highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, December 2012.

A Smiley Christmas For You And Yours

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May Your Days Be Merry and Bright!!