False Flag in Autumn
Josie Kendall Washington Crime Stories #2
Farragut Square Publications, October 2019
When reading detective/thriller/political fiction, one likes to believe that the author did adequate serious research or has reasonable experience or understanding of the primary field. Here is a novel that demonstrates such deep dives into political research, and apparent extensive knowledge of the political scene in the United States, it is just a little scary.
Josey Kendall is political spinmeister working for a small agency in Washington, D.C. She’s young, experienced and possessed of sometimes amazing and practical understanding of the way politics work in the modern republic. Ms Kendall not only understands how connected to media campaigns must be, but often how to manipulate that same media to achieve desired results. Kendall’s problem, if she has one, is her basic honesty sometimes gets in the way of the objectives her company’s clients desire.
Louisiana has one Congressman who is beholden to no one more than himself and is willing to do almost anything to stay atop the money machine. The novel begins with a contract for Josie’s company to frighten the aforesaid Congressman Bilbo into line with certain corporate interests by establishing a viable opponent for his re-election. Josie accomplishes the goal with alacrity and moves on but the untimely death of a local hood at Bilbo’s hand and the apparently botched investigation of the shooting bothers her. Circumstances draw Josie and her husband Raf more and more into the dim world of alternative and dark politics where they gradually discover not just the event referred to in the title, but something far more dangerous. The swamp was never deeper nor slimier.
The writing is crisp, fast moving, and frequently acerbic with well-placed caustic observations. The narrative is a fine commentary on modern politics and it moves with ever growing tension. The characters are many and varied and carefully drawn. Never do they step outside their roles.
In sum this novel will appeal to fans of the author, to political junkies, and to readers of detective fiction everywhere.
Footprints in the Butter
An Ingrid Beaumont Mystery #1
Delphi Books, 1998
Re-issued by Worldwide Library, October 2004
Mass Market Paperback
I think you have to come at this book with the right frame of mind and stay in it until you are finished. Ingrid Beaumont and her ganglionic mutt are all over the murder of Wylie Jameston, who is anything but—wily. Remember that phrase, ganglionic mutt. The author uses it a couple of times and it appears on the jacket as well.
A wisecracking artist who constantly tells riddles and elephant jokes is murdered at a reunion of his high school class, of which the amateur sleuth, Ingrid, is also a member. With little discernible reason, Ingrid decides to charge in with Hitchcock, the mutt of reference above, and solve the murder, since it appears to her the cops are never going to manage that task.
There are lots of characters in this book and several scenes which by turns will make you laugh and shake your head or grind your teeth in frustration. The solution is complicated and there are lots of characters to keep track of. At times an unfocused sub-plot involving Ingrid’s ex, who may or may not be her ex, threatens to obscure the main theme which is that high school reunions can be hell.
I laughed some, ground my teeth a good deal, and wished the author had had an editor with a firmer hand at times. There’ll be more adventures with Ingrid and her ganglionic mutt. In spite of its problems, this is the kind of mystery and engaging writing which will attract a large and loyal following.