Spotlight on The Ashtabula Hat Trick by Les Roberts—and a Giveaway!

The Ashtabula Hat Trick

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Title: The Ashtabula Hat Trick
Series: A Milan Jacovich Mystery #18
Author: Les Roberts
Publisher: Gray & Company
Release Date: August 14, 2015
Genres: Mystery, Private Investigator, Police Procedural

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Synopsis

The people of Queenstown, Ohio, don’t take kindly to
strangers. But they have no choice in the matter after a
man’s body is found in a local park, pants unzipped and
stabbed through the heart—and a second man’s body turns
up days later, his head bashed in. Local law enforcement
needs help with the town’s first-ever murder investigation.

Private investigator Milan Jacovich (pronounced
MY-lan YOCK-ovitch) tags along when his main squeeze,
Cleveland homicide detective Tobe Blaine, is dispatched
to rural Ashtabula County to handle the case.

Word travels fast in the small town, and the mixed-race
couple receives a cold welcome. The motel manager
doesn’t like their looks, the coroner conveniently forgets
key details, and patrons at the local watering hole flaunt their
disrespect for Tobe’s out-of-town badge and her skin color.

Milan enlists his young assistant, Kevin “K.O.” O’Bannion,
to glean information from the town’s teens, who tell tales
of their parents’ fervent devotion to their local pastor, an
outspoken bigot. Did homophobia factor in the murders?

Looming over the case is nearby Conneaut prison—privately
run, overcrowded, and rumored to employ some questionable
methods (as well as many local residents). Inside its walls, a
powerful convict known as “The Prophet” just might have the
information Tobe and Milan need to solve the
case—if they can get him to talk.

Queenstown might only be an hour’s drive from Cleveland, but
Milan, Tobe, and K.O. find themselves strangers in a strange
land. They also soon find themselves neck-deep in serious trouble.

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An Excerpt from The Ashtabula Hat Trick

“This was Number One,” the chief said.

The photograph was of a middle-aged white male wearing a gray suit, dark blue tie, glasses, and one of those comb-over haircuts ineffectively hiding a bald spot, smiling into the camera while sitting at a table in a restaurant. “Paul J. Fontaine. He has a ranch, right on the Queenstown-Conneaut border. Raised and sold horses—not good horses, but he unloaded lots of them to the Amish. Also sold scrub veggies. He made a good living, but no millionaire.” Koskinen puffed up his chest, or was he sticking out his gut? “I liked him.”

“You knew him?” I said.

“It’s a small town. Everybody knows everybody.”

“Married or single?” Tobe asked.

“Me or him?”

Tobe sighed and pointed to Paul J. Fontaine’s photograph. “Married to Maude Fontaine for twenty-one years,” the chief explained. “Two teen kids, a boy and a girl. Paul was born in Queenstown; Maude went to Conneaut High School, down the road.”

Tobe looked at me. “Locals. How did he die?”

Chief Koskinen moved the top photograph aside. The second had been taken at the crime scene—Fontaine at the wheel of his pickup truck, wearing a lightweight windbreaker over a white shirt, lying back against the seat, head back and mouth wide open. The left side of his chest was soaked with blood.

“Bullet wounds?”

“Knife wound—right through the heart.”

“Where’s the knife?”

Koskinen shrugged.

I asked, “Who did the autopsy?”

He looked annoyed. “The coroner. Who you think did it?”

“Where was the car?” Tobe wanted to know.

“In Sunset Park.” He extracted another photograph—taken about ten feet away from the car with Fontaine’s body still in it, in a small parking area next to a stretch of grass and trees on a ridge overlooking Lake Erie and an ancient beach that had been traveled by seventeenth-century Native Americans so often that it formed a natural road. “My officer Joe Platko found him. He was on his usual shift, just driving around, when he—uh—found Paul Fontaine.”

“Was this near Mr. Fontaine’s ranch?”

“About four or five miles away—between here and Conneaut.”

“Why did Officer Platko investigate a car in a parking lot?”

Koskinen fussily neatened the report pages on the table. “Sunset Park is—the kind of place people visit in order to—uh, meet other people, if you know what I mean.”

“I’m not sure I do know what you mean,” Tobe said.

He sighed. “Aw, hell. You go up there if you’re horny—hoping you’ll meet somebody else as horny as you are.”

“You mean prostitutes hang out in Sunset Park?”

Now the chief looked shocked and offended. “We have no prostitutes around here, Detective. This is a straitlaced town.”

She nodded. “So townies go up to Sunset Park when they want to get un-laced. Is that it?”

“Mostly kids, doggone it. Teenagers deal with raging hormones.”

Tobe’s eyes locked with mine and she silently mouthed “Doggone it” and tried not to smile. “Doggone it” isn’t an expression heard often in Cleveland.

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About the Author

Photo (c) Holly Albin

Photo (c) Holly Albin

Les Roberts is the author of 18 mystery novels featuring Cleveland private eye Milan Jacovich, as well as 11 other books of fiction. The past president of both the Private Eye Writers of America and the American Crime Writers League, he came to mystery writing after a 24-year career in Hollywood writing and producing television shows. He has been a professional actor, a singer, a jazz musician, and a teacher. A native of Chicago, he now lives in Northeast Ohio.

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To enter the drawing for a print copy of
The Ashtabula Hat Trick by Les Roberts,
leave a comment below. *Four* winning
names will be drawn Wednesday evening,
September 2nd. This drawing is open to
residents of the US and Canada.

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This is an engrossing and well-written, powerful story —
taken from the front pages of newspapers everywhere
these days.— Kelly Ferjutz, CoolCleveland

Favorites . . . The Little Bookstore

Linda ThorneLinda Thorne has published numerous short stories in the genres of mystery, thriller, and romance. Like her lead character, she is a career human resources manager who has worked in the HR profession in Arizona, Colorado, Mississippi, California, and now, Tennessee. She currently lives in a suburb of Nashville, with her husband, Dave, and two border collies (fur people), Abby and Mo. Visit her at http://www.lindathorne.com

I had always lived in the western part of the United States, Arizona, California, Colorado, until 1994. My husband was unemployed and my job at the time, a nightmare. He found a career opportunity on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and we made the move.

Looking back on all that happened in that beautiful part of the South, I see the entire eight years we lived there as a major life changing event for us both. We could afford to live within a mile of the Mississippi Sound in a little town called Ocean Springs. Almost daily, we drove over the Ocean Springs Bridge into the neighboring city of Biloxi, always awed by the panoramic view of the Gulf of Mexico. The road turned into Beach Boulevard and ran along a 26-mile manmade beach with more views of the water. This seemed more like a place for people to travel to for vacations or pay to see, but for us, it was our home.

I worked in Gulfport and most of my purchases came from stores there, either on my lunch break or on the way home from work. I didn’t buy a lot in Ocean Springs, but one day I passed a colorful little bookstore in a small Victorian cottage and turned around to go back for a look. I remember walking in the first time in 1999 and finding myself astonished by how many books they had available, crammed together and piled on top of each other. Every crevice filled.

There were the old greats like Silas Marner, books by Ayn Rand, but they had local authors too. Martin Hegwood had signed copies of Big Easy Backroad and The Green-Eyed Hurricane. I bought both and still have them. I bought Carolyn Haines’ book Touched and the first in her Bones series, Them Bones. Maybe the second. On my first trip to Favorites, I spent $175.00 on books.

I made other trips. I loved perusing the stacks, seeing the title on the book spine and feeling the book headband as I pulled it out to see the cover, read the blurb on the inside flap or the book back. So much nicer than book shopping online. The same two women normally worked the counter and they’d tell me fascinating stories about the authors and their books. I spent more money and remember my husband asking at one point if I’d consider curtailing the expense. I wish my expenditures could’ve kept Favorites afloat, but alas, it closed its doors. My husband and I saw the report on WLOX TV news with anchor, Jeff Lawson, sadly referring to Favorites as the little bookstore that was closing its doors.

Just Another TerminationMaybe I had a book bubbling inside of me before the move to Mississippi. I don’t know. I do give my surroundings, along with the books I bought and read from Favorites, a great deal of credit for my initiation into the world of writing. We had to leave Mississippi in 2002 when my husband’s job went away and he found another one in California.

I wrote the first draft of Just Another Termination not long before Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, and after it did, I left the book’s setting in pre-Katrina time. When both of our jobs ended in California in 2007, my husband’s due to an end to a contract and mine because of a plant closure, we chose to live in the greater Nashville area.

Why didn’t we move back to the beautiful place we hadn’t wanted to leave? The answer is simple. We wanted the Mississippi Gulf Coast back the way it was before Hurricane Katrina and that was not to be. Casinos no longer had to on the water (on barges) and we feared the area would become a clone of Atlantic City. The structures we’d come to know and love were gone, being rebuilt with a different look. But we were sold on the South and knew that’s where our final stop would have to be.

Spotlight on Just Another Termination by Linda Thorne

Just Another Termination

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Title: Just Another Termination
Series: Judy Kenagy Mysteries Book 1
Author: Linda Thorne
Publisher: Black Opal Books
Publication Date: August 29, 2015
Genre: Mystery

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Synopsis

Just Another Termination tells the story of Judy Kenagy,
the first human resources manager to turn sleuth or, at
least, the first to admit it. The story begins on the Mississippi
Gulf Coast pre-Katrina when Judy finds a young female
employee, a no-call-no-show, shot to death.

Small town police chief Carl Bombardier takes charge of the
investigation, soliciting Judy’s help in her role as HR manager
for the victim’s employer. Then another murder occurs and
there’s a connection. Both are linked to a double homicide
twenty-five years earlier. Knee-deep in the investigation, Judy
finds information that draws her back into the life of one evil,
prior employer. Then she stumbles upon a piece of evidence.
Can she solve all of the murders with this single find?

Or . . . are things not as they seem?

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An Excerpt from Just Another Termination

I knew I had no business here, but was it going to cost me more than I’d thought?

Closer in, I could see the yellow tape was broken or missing in places, but still cordoned off a circular area of dirt and mud, about twelve feet in diameter. The tape had been stapled to stakes pounded into the ground, but many of them had fallen over. This crime scene had already been worked. Two dirty latex gloves and a staple gun had been left outside the perimeter, and multiple footprints marred the mud. The absence of a patrol officer protecting the scene implied the clean-up crew was on their way.

Inside the partially taped-off area, someone had outlined where Jimmie Lee’s body had been. Instead of the typical chalk line, plastic pegs were pressed into the mud about six inches apart, marking where the body had fallen.

I stepped high over the tape and into the mud, grateful I’d worn jeans and flat shoes for that dress-down Friday. Trees towered behind me, the interminable water before me. I caught a whiff of mildew.

I was no sooner inside than a rustling sound came from the tangle of maples and I twisted around. The noise disappeared and I turned back, catching a glitter in the mud. It came from the waterline where the soft waves of the Mississippi Sound licked against the cryptic outline of the corpse. That noise again.

I spun around to the whooshing sounds in the maples, my heart palpitating, but I still didn’t see anything. When I turned back, the glitter had disappeared. I stooped. I was in a race with the sun, not to mention wanting to be long gone before the clean-up crew appeared. With one hand, I frantically ran my fingers through the muck. Then a final spray of sunlight illuminated the spot and the sparkle reappeared. This time, I kept my eyes fixed on it, bending, reaching, touching. Gently, I lifted a metal object, close to an inch long and about half that in width. Heavy for its size. Twilight had deepened into dusk. I stood up and whirled round to the same rustling noise, but this time a crackling blast followed. A gun?

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About the Author

Linda ThorneLinda Thorne began pursuing her true passion, writing, in 2005. Since then, she has published numerous short stories in the genres of mystery, thriller, and romance. Like her lead character, Thorne is a career human resources manager who has worked in the HR profession in Arizona, Colorado, Mississippi, California, and now, Tennessee. Her HR positions have ranged in title from vice-president (a small savings and loan), director, manager, specialist to generalist. She is working on a sequel to her debut novel, A Promotion to Die For, where her main character earns a promotion and encounters an unsolved murder all while Hurricane Katrina is bearing down on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. She currently lives in Hermitage, Tennessee, a suburb of Nashville, with her husband, Dave, and two border collies (fur people), Abby and Mo.

Visit Linda:

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Book Reviews: Under Your Skin by Sabine Durrant and Windigo Island by William Kent Krueger

Under Your SkinUnder Your Skin
Sabine Durrant
Emily Bestler Books/Atria Books, April 2015
ISBN 978-1-4767-1628-2
Trade Paperback

In the pre-dawn hours, Gaby Mortimer, a successful 42-year-old “presenter” on a popular mid-morning current affairs tv show, is taking her usual run through the woods near her home near London when she comes upon the dead body of a young woman.  And her life will never be the same.  (I should add here that the author had my rapt attention within those first few pages.)

Gaby immediately calls the police, and they soon arrive at the scene:  PC Morrow, a woman who “looks about twelve . . . small and freckly,” and DI Perivale, of the CID.  Till now, Gaby has led what many would call a charmed life: a successful career, married to a man she loves (although the marriage has fallen into a somewhat imperfect state of late) and an eight-year-old daughter she adores.  But all of that is threatened as Perivale seems to focus on Gaby when some evidence seems to point to her not as the horrified witness to a gruesome murder, but as a suspect, and her nightmare begins.

The book is wonderful well-written and –plotted, and I can say no more for fear of giving anything away.  Suffice it to say that the conclusion is totally unexpected, and the twists and turns of plot are nothing less than stunning.  I must admit that I had to put the book down briefly when I came within about 20 pages of the ending:  An instance of delayed gratification, as I couldn’t imagine what was coming next, and didn’t want the book to end.

Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, April 2015.

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Windigo IslandWindigo Island
William Kent Krueger
Atria Books, May 2015
ISBN: 978-1-476-74924-2
Trade Paperback

When the body of a 14-year-old Ojibwe girl washes up on Windigo Island, a rocky outcrop on Lake Superior, Cork O’Connor and his daughter, Jenny, embark on a crusade to rescue another teenager, Mariah, who had run away from home with her, ending up as prostitutes in Duluth, pimped by a man known, strangely enough, as Windigo.  The windigo is a mythical beast thought to rip hearts out of bodies and eat them, or a vengeful spirit called Michi Peshu, according to Ojibwe lore.

With the help of Mariah’s cousin, a game warden, her mother, and Henry Meloux, Cork and Jenny follow a thin trail to find the girl with little help from other victims of the pimps who are virtually brainwashed and refuse to talk, or a very few others.  What follows is an exciting investigation that leads to the uncovering of an extensive sex trafficking ring, many of whose victims are Native Americans steeped in poverty and abuse, especially in the Duluth and Twin Cities areas.

The novel graphically portrays the squalid cycle of poverty, abuse, alcoholism and runaway children on the reservations and the men who prey on them.    Once again, the author has the opportunity to demonstrate a deep empathy for the Ojibwe, their values and traditions, as well as describing his love of the North Woods.  All this and one of the most exciting finishes recently read by this reviewer.

Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, May 2015.

Book Review: The Vampire, the Hunter, and the Girl by Martin Lastrapes

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Title: The Vampire, the Hunter, and the Girl
Series: The Vampire and the Hunter Trilogy, Book One
Author: Martin Lastrapes
Publisher: Cannibal Press
Publication Date: March 18, 2015
Genres: Horror, Paranormal

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The Vampire, the Hunter, and the GirlThe Vampire, the Hunter, and the Girl
The Vampire and the Hunter Trilogy, Book One
Martin Lastrapes
Cannibal Press, March 2015
ISBN 978-0-9857043-2-2
Trade Paperback

From the author—

Adam and Jesus (the vampire and the hunter) have an innate antagonism, which is only heightened once they discover they’re competing for the affections of the same girl. Olivia (the girl) is an aspiring author struggling to write a vampire novel. What none of them yet know is there’s a menacing force looming that will change the course of their lives forever.

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If ever a book had me coming and going, this one is it. It’s most certainly not your usual kind of vampire book if there even is such a thing as a usual vampire book. Here we have the dark side, a good bit of romance, more than a dash of humor but, thank heavens, no sparkly. From one moment to the next, I wasn’t sure which of these temperaments I was going to get. Then there’s a multitude of characters which was okay but, as much as I like character development, it was really overdone here. I knew more about the most obscure player than I would ever hope to and I suspect all the backstory could have been pared down by at least 15% of the book. And I could have done without the discussion of bodily functions and the overabundance of sexual activity and descriptions.

The pacing of what could be an exciting plot was almost glacial for much of the book with various chapters harking back to earlier situations but largely because so much of it is Adam telling Olivia how the vampire world works so she can write a book about vampires. Telling is just not as much fun as showing, you know? I also didn’t care much for the frequent re-telling of scenes from various characters’ points of view. I like multiple POV but not when it’s used to repeat scenes over and over.

BUT…I truly enjoyed this book in spite of all that. I mean, how can you not love a vampire who goes bowling? Throw in a bunch of wrestling, some stripping, illegal immigration, a barbershop for vampires, an exceedingly odd love triangle and a mean, nasty vampire named Victus (my favorite kind) and you’ve got a mishmash of fun and ick and horror and all the things that come with a good vampire novel. Dracula makes an appearance and it turns out he’s into superheroes 😉

And then there’s Frank who makes Victus look like a Sunday school teacher. When Adam, Olivia and Jesus find out what has to be done about this very peculiar vampire, life is not so rosy anymore. I’m really looking forward to finding out what happens next in The Vampire, the Hunter, and the Witch.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2015.

About the Author

Martin Lastrapes 2MARTIN LASTRAPES won the GRAND PRIZE at the 2012 PARIS BOOK FESTIVAL for his debut novel INSIDE THE OUTSIDE.

He grew up in the Inland Empire, has a Bachelor’s Degree in English and a Master’s Degree in Composition from Cal State San Bernardino, watches his favorite movies over and over again, learned many a lesson from professional wrestling, wonders if he’ll ever be famous enough to be on “Dancing With the Stars,” thinks good stand-up comedy is rare and under appreciated, is scared of Vladimir Putin, wonders if it’s too late to learn how to play the guitar, gets depressed when he hears the theme song from “M*A*S*H,” wonders why Teen Wolf never made it to the NBA, and wants Morgan Freeman to narrate his life.

He is also the host of THE MARTIN LASTRAPES SHOW PODCAST HOUR. Subscribe on iTunes or listen on the official website MartinLastrapesShow.com. New episodes every week.

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Book Review: Confessions of a Fat Girl by Holly Dae

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Title: Confessions of a Fat Girl
Author: Holly Dae
Publication Date: July 24, 2015
Genre: General Fiction

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Confessions of a Fat GirlConfessions of a Fat Girl
Holly Dae
CreateSpace, July 2015
ISBN 978-1515204053
Trade Paperback

From the author—

Smart and ambitious Season Minett was homeschooled, got accepted into college at 16, graduated with a B.A. in English at 20, got a job at a prestigious magazine at 21, and isn’t afraid to go after what she wants. Twenty-two-year-old Season has it made and everyone knows it. Except Season herself.

People can gush over her all day long, but Season knows they’re just being nice. In reality, she’s accomplished nothing. She doesn’t work hard enough, can’t get her book published, and worst of all at 5’6, 180 pounds with a thirty-two inch waist, a forty-four inch hip, and arms too big for her body, she’s fat and ugly. She’s such a disappointment that after her mother divorced Season’s dad, she went to live with her new, younger boyfriend and left Season to mother the rest of her siblings. So Season is quite bewildered when the guy she sees every weekend at the bookstore shows serious interest in her. And she ends up liking him. A lot.

Season’s not naive enough to think love will solve all her problems though. In fact, love seems to be making everything worse because her food obsession is growing more and more out of her control. But that’s impossible. There’s nothing wrong with counting calories and wanting to be thin. There’s nothing wrong with trying to be as perfect as everyone thinks she is. A fat girl can’t develop an eating disorder, let alone have one. Right?

Much is made of eating disorders these days and, fortunately, it seems as though at least some people are fighting back against the drive to be ultra-thin. Still, there are far too many, mostly girls and young women, who are compelled to reach for what they think is the perfect body image. Such a young woman is Season.

Season is a prickly sort and, once you know her story, it’s easy to understand why she has so much trouble letting other people into her life. She has learned that she doesn’t have a lot of reason to trust and she also feels very inadequate. On the whole, Season is a woman with very little self-esteem so it’s not surprising that, at first, she doesn’t respond well when a man named Victor approaches her in a cafe.

Victor is the kind of guy you wish every insecure woman could meet, genuinely nice and not afraid to stand for what he believes in (although he was way too chill during a certain gun incident). Unfortunately, Season is not so likeable and I found it hard to connect with her. She’s so inconsistent, for one thing, blowing hot and cold about nearly everything including her own image of herself. I find it really hard to believe that any woman who’s so hung up on what and how much she eats would be ready, willing and able to expose her body to a man she’s known for about five minutes. Also, Season is really rude to everyone, to the point of being tiresome. Still, she has her good moments and an important part of her story is watching her mellow just a bit.

Despite my reservations, especially about Season’s personality, this is an interesting story, unlike any I’ve read before, and I’m interested in trying some of Ms. Dae’s other work. After all, just because one book doesn’t resonate with me doesn’t mean another one won’t and I’m sure many readers will like Confessions of a Fat Girl 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2015.

Holly Dae Confessions Teaser

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About the Author

Stuck in the transition between graduating from college and starting a life called no job, Holly Dae spends most of her free time writing raw and edgy Young Adult and New Adult contemporary novels that deal with rape, drugs, sex, and general psychological ills. When she isn’t doing that, she’s writing fanfiction for fun and obsessively playing Mario Kart Eight and Pokemon Games.

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Book Review: Love is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson

Love Is the DrugLove is the Drug
Alaya Dawn Johnson
Arthur A. Levine Books, October 2014
ISBN 978-0-545-41781-5
Hardcover

Love is the Drug is one of those YA books that doesn’t feel like one. It just centers on some people who happen to be in high school.

And, oh yeah, it is a fun and engrossing book to read. The book opens with a scenario that is quickly becoming a favorite, one where the reader and the main character, Emily Bird, are asking themselves “Just what is going on here?” We will spend much of the book figuring that out.

Each chapter’s title is named for a chemical and if you’re unfamiliar with any of them, I’d recommend looking them up, as each one bears on the upcoming chapter. The writer has a great vocabulary and she isn’t afraid to use it which really adds to the story. There’s a great expression and a spelled out understanding of love in the book as well as lots of social references sprinkled throughout the text.

The only complaint I had was the author’s tendency to end chapters with a change in style, often switching to a first person point of view or at least once, a numbered list. It pulled me out of the story every time and I began wondering if it was meant to foretell some sort of surprise finish. Since it doesn’t, I would have been happier without the distraction. While I generally like the inventiveness behind it, there should have been a point to it.

An enjoyable book with only a minor flaw. Read it. Good stuff.

Reviewed by Constance Reader, July 2015.