A Handful of Teeny Reviews

The Fourth SecretThe Fourth Secret
An Inspector Montalbano Mystery
Andrea Camilleri
Mondadori/Open Road Integrated Media, November 2014
ISBN 978-1-4976-8646-5
Ebook

From the publisher—

In the latest mystery featuring Inspector Montalbano, a deadly accident at a building site prompts a search with shocking revelations 

“Yesterday morning around seven thirty, an Albanian construction worker, age thirty-eight, Pashko Puka, a legal resident with a work permit, hired by the Santa Maria construction company owned by Alfredo Corso, fell from a scaffold that had been erected during the construction of an apartment building in Tonnarello, between Vigata and Montelusa. His coworkers, who immediately rushed to his aid, unfortunately discovered he had died.

There have been six events euphemistically called “tragedies in the workplace” in the past month. Six deaths caused by an inexplicable disregard for safety regulations. When the local magistrate opens an investigation, Inspector Montalbano is on the case. But Montalbano soon discovers that these seemingly unrelated incidents are only part of a larger network of crimes.

Over the years, I have enjoyed the Inspector Montalbano books but this novella really doesn’t stand up to the rest of the series. I found that puzzling because, while Montalbano doesn’t have the pleasing personality of, say, Commissario Guido Brunetti (Donna Leon’s protagonist) or Chief of Police Bruno (Martin Walker), he has never struck me as inept or unpleasant. This time he did.

I had an interest in the investigation from the beginning because of the questions surrounding a warning letter and, of all things, a pedicure, but the story was marred for me by two things, the overuse of profanity and the introduction of characters without any sort of explanation as to who they are or why most of them are surly and almost irrational. It felt as though this plotline was lifted from the middle of a full-length novel.

Then, the lightbulb went off. As it turns out, this was actually written years ago so the characters have not enjoyed the growth and evolution that they have when reading the series in order. The second and far more important problem is the translation from the original Italian. Most of the books are quite well done but the same can not be said of this and it is, in fact, a different translator. Sentences are choppy and sometimes make little sense and the translator did not have a thorough understanding of English. It’s just not a top-notch translation and there’s no doubt that hurts the reader’s reception of the characters and the plot.

In the end, while this is certainly not the worst thing I ever read, it’s not a good representation of the enjoyment to be found in the series as a whole. I’d suggest that anyone meeting Inspector Montalbano with this novella ignore it and start over with the first full-length book, The Shape of Water.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2014.

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The Iggy ChroniclesThe Iggy Chronicles, Volume One
A Chet and Bernie Mystery eShort Story
Spencer Quinn
Atria Unbound/Atria Books, August 2013
ISBN 978-1-4767-0360-2
Ebook

From the publisher—

Iggy is a dog who doesn’t get out much, so it’s big news when elderly Mr. Parsons knocks on Bernie’s door to say that Iggy has vanished. In the search for Iggy, Chet and Bernie find Mrs. Parsons unconscious on her bedroom floor, in need of urgent medical care. But it’s only when they arrive at the hospital that things get really interesting.

With a jewel thief making short work of hospital patients’ valuables, it seems that Iggy is not alone in disappearing right out from under somebody’s nose. Suspects are plentiful and witnesses are few. But when little Iggy reappears, tail wagging, it turns out he holds the key to solving the entire affair.

There’s a pet food commercial on TV that features a number of dogs running and leaping. I don’t remember the name of the product but I love to watch the dogs and, every time I see it, I just naturally think of Chet because he takes such joy in life, the way those dogs look like they’re doing. Chet—and, of course, Bernie—are two of my favorite detectives and it’s always a treat to see them again.

This time, their neighbor dog (and Chet’s pal), Iggy, has disappeared and his owner is desperate to find him for his very ill wife. Bernie and Chet take on the job and soon find a second mystery to look into. Our heroes make short work of all this (after all, this IS a short story) and I was quite satisfied with this little visit with the guys.

Fair warning to those who count pages—this story takes up 24 0f the 45 pages and the rest is a blurb and excerpt of the following novel, The Sound and the Furry, along with a few other things.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2014.

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AmbitionAmbition
A Perception Series Prequel
Lee Strauss
Elle Strauss, November 2012
Ebook

From the author—

AMBITION is a short story (5k) prequel to PERCEPTION, capturing the beginning of Noah and Zoe’s story from Noah’s POV.

Eighteen year old Noah Brody doesn’t like GAPs—Genetically Altered Persons. He’s taken up his dead father’s cause, speaking out and protesting against unfair GAP policies that are responsible for the massive social divide between wealthy GAPs and poorer naturals.

If only he could keep his mind off of perfect Zoe Vanderveen, daughter of the GAP family his mother works for.

And can he really fill his father’s shoes?

About a year and a half ago, I read and reviewed a book called Perception, first in a trilogy. It was a young adult dystopian but not at all typical of the subgenre. Usually, these stories revolve around a repressive society and an underlying resistance from the people being downtrodden. In this case, though, the tale centers on class division brought about be genetic alteration that gives a small portion of the populace distinct advantages in appearance, wealth, lifespan, etc. The two primary characters are Zoe, a GAP, and Noah, a natural. The two are worlds apart in status and privilege.

Ambition offers us a brief look at what Noah is all about and his ambivalence about the cause.  He has a near-hatred of the GAPs but how much of his feeling is “inherited” from his father who spoke out for justice and how much due to his beginning attraction to Zoe who doesn’t even remember his name? It reminded me of what I liked about this young man when I read Perception and these few pages have enticed me to get back to the trilogy as soon as I can.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2014.

 

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The Chapel PerilousThe Chapel Perilous
A Tale of the Iron Druid Chronicles
Kevin Hearne
Kevin Hearne, January 2014
Previously published in Unfettered, 2013
ISBN 978-0-9914238-0-4
Ebook

From the author—

Ancient Druid Atticus O’Sullivan has had plenty of adventures during his long life, and in “The Chapel Perilous” he shares one of them with his apprentice, Granuaile. He lays out the true story of the quest for the Holy Grail, in which he was personally involved—and the events of which are quite different from the Christian tale most people know today.

While on an errand for Ogma to recover the Dagda’s Cauldron, Atticus confronts evil at a mysterious chapel, takes the first steps to becoming the Iron Druid, and learns the shocking truth about goblin fashion choices.

He was, of course, in terrible peril.

The adventures of Atticus and his faithful hound, Oberon, have entertained me mightily since the very first book, Hounded (although I’m a little less enthused with the most recent one, Shattered) and the accompanying novellas and short stories are always fun, too. The Chapel Perilous continues the tradition.

The whole idea of a Holy Grail that isn’t quite the same Holy Grail we all know about is wonderful, made even more so because it’s set way back before Atticus became the Iron Druid with so much power. There’s not a lot of Oberon in this story and, since I adore him, that made me a little sad at first but then this other critter shows up that had me laughing out loud.  Apple Jack is worth the story all by himself and, even if you’ve never read any of the chronicles, you can still enjoy this fellow.

Is this short story as engaging as the novels? No, of course not, as it’s not possible to have much depth in such a few pages but it’s a nice fill-in between books.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2014.

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Honor CodeHonor Code
Cathy Perkins
Cathy Perkins, December 2012
ISBN 978-1481035897
Trade Paperback

From the author—

In a small southern town where everyone knows each other’s business, veteran detective Larry Robbins must solve the disappearance of eighty-year-old widower George Beason.

When evidence arises that Beason may have left town on his own, it would be easy for Robbins to close the case, but his gut instinct tells him more’s at stake. As he uncovers clues about Beason’s deceased wife and his estranged daughter, Robbins must untangle conflicting motives and hidden agendas to bring Beason home alive.

A missing man, a murdered pet, a cop’s family issues, retribution—they’re all here in this novella, a standalone. When George Beason disappears and his home seems to have been ransacked, Detective Larry Robbins and his young partner, Jerry Jordan, are puzzled as to whether a crime has occurred or a slovenly old man has simply wandered off but there are enough unresolved questions to keep Robbins looking for answers. The daughter that should be concerned is much less than helpful and it’s hints that older crimes may come into play that draw Robbins and Jordan further into the investigation, even after Beason is caught on a security camera, apparently unharmed.

Reaching back into the past, to events in Baghdad, the author reminds us of how the past is never completely done and can have far-reaching effects many years later. At the same time, family honor sometimes takes precedence over all else but a not quite completely jaded cop can still make a difference in his community. It’s this aspect of Larry Robbins that drew me into the story more than the crimes themselves and I hope we’ll see more of him some day.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2014.

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