Book Review: Bears With Us by Marilyn Meredith, Murder in the Dojo by Sue Star, and Blind Goddess by Anne Holt

Bears With Us
Marilyn Meredith
Mundania Press, 2011
ISBN 978-1606592649
Trade Paperback

I’m tempted to make puns in regards to the latest Tempe Crabtree mystery by Marilyn Meredith. However, I’ll fight the urge and just be amazed at how much story can be put into 218 pages. Meredith knows how to deliver the fun into reading a mystery. There’s never a dull moment, but how could there be with bears in the mix?

In this latest story, Deputy Crabtree has a full platter. A teenager commits suicide and Tempe cannot quite understand the reaction from his enigmatic family. Another woman wants, nay demands, Tempe do something to keep a young man away from her daughter. A family’s life is repeatedly disrupted by the mother’s dementia. These incidents are on top of the usual drunks and speeders Tempe handles. However, topping the list of problems is an increase of bears rummaging through garbage, breaking into homes and attacking people. When a woman goes missing and later is discovered dead, it is at first thought to be the result of another bear attack. Tempe is on the case, however, and will uncover the truth.

I really enjoyed these characters. Each is so well defined. The action is swift and the writing is tight. Meredith packed so much story into one book I kept turning pages to learn what happened next. She knows how to provide just enough tension and action to move the story. I’m an instant fan. This book is loaded for bear. (Yeah, sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

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

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Murder in the Dojo
Sue Star
D.M. Kreg Publishing
Ebook
Also available in trade paperback

It’s kicking karate action with the first in a new series from Sue Star. Murder in the Dojo brings in the finest of martial arts, betrayal, and of course, a dead body. Karate instructor Nell Letterly is forced to turn detective when faced with the threat of arrest. With a fine cast of characters, this one is sure to get the heart pumping and the punches flying.

On the day Nell Letterly is supposed to meet her new employer, Arlo Callahan, and start as an instructor in his Boulder, Colorado karate studio, she finds the dead body of the former instructor. Within days, evidence and suspicions fall directly upon Nell. With no help from the police, she decides to find the killer herself. There is no shortage of suspects: Callahan’s wife, a jealous instructor, a disruptive student, an ex girlfriend, an enigmatic janitor. With obstacles on all sides, Nell has to use not just her deductive reasoning to fathom out the killer, but her martial arts experience to save her own life.

As a martial artist myself, I must favor anything related to this sport. Weapons, self defense, tournaments, instruction, and philosophy. I think Star delivers a fine tale with all the necessary elements of martial arts to whet the appetite for another round…or would that be round house kick? Either way, Murder in the Dojo is the right combination of mystery and martial arts.

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

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Blind Goddess
Anne Holt
Scribner, June 2012
ISBN
Trade Paperback

Anne Holt shows that corruption can run deep in places other than Washington and Moscow. With Blind Goddess, the viewfinder is focused on Oslo where lawyer and police are, once again, at odds with each other and nobody is sure how high up the chain crime will climb.

Investigators Hanne Wilhelmsen and Hakon Sand  take on the case of a murdered drug dealer. They even have the killer in custody and a lawyer as a witness. A few days later, the body of a shady attorney is discovered and evidence quickly connects the two killings. Wilhelmsen and Sand must wade through the murky clues, contend with disappearing files, and endure personal attacks only to discover the conspiracy is more wide spread than expected. After they arrest a suspect, they find themselves in a race against time to put their ducks in order.

No real surprises in this book as it seems nearly every lawyer is dirty. It’s the putting together of the puzzle pieces which keeps the story moving and interesting. Holt holds back on the revelations of a pesky reporter and a series of number codes until the very end. Still, Blind Goddess is excellent escapism fun for mystery readers. I highly recommend the Hanne Wilhelmsen series.

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

Book Review: The Toughest Indian in the World by Sherman Alexie

The Toughest Indian in the World
Sherman Alexie
Grove Press, 2001
ISBN 0802138004
Trade Paperback

“Are you an Indian?” he asked me.

Of course I was. (Jesus, my black hair hung down past my ass and I was dark as a pecan!) I’d grown up on my reservation with my tribe. I understood most of the Spokane language, though I’d always spoken it like a Jesuit priest. Hell, I’d been in three car wrecks! And most important, every member of the Spokane Tribe of Indians could tell you the exact place and time where I’d lost my virginity. Why? Because I’d told each and every one of them. I mean, I knew the real names, nicknames, and secret names of every dog that had lived on my reservation during the last twenty years.

“Yeah, I’m Indian,” I said.

—   from “One Good Man”

The Toughest Indian in the World is a collection of short stories by acclaimed author Sherman Alexie. A Spokane/Coeur d’Alene Indian, Alexie writes almost exclusively about Indians (Indians, not Native Americans), particularly those who are also all or part Spokane or Coeur d’Alene.

The stories in The Toughest Indian in the World are about identity and how it informs and guides relationships: about what it means to be an Indian, a man, a woman, a person, a Coeur d’Alene, a Spokane, a wife, a husband, a lover, a son, and many other labels people either find themselves tagged with or claim for themselves. “Assimilation,” the story that opens the collection, makes this examination of identity and its role in forming relationships explicit in its opening paragraph:

For the first time in her life, [Mary Lynn] wanted to go to bed with an Indian man only because he was Indian. She was a Coeur d’Alene Indian married to a white man; she was a wife who wanted to have sex with an indigenous stranger. She didn’t care about the stranger’s job or his hobbies…. She didn’t care if he was handsome or ugly, mostly because she wasn’t sure exactly what those terms meant anymore and how much relevance they truly had when it came to choosing sexual partners.

The narrator of the title story informs the reader that, because he is a Spokane Indian, he only picks up Indian hitchhikers, a habit he acquired from his father. “Dear John Wayne” records an interview between a white anthropologist and an elderly Indian woman who claims to have had an affair with John Wayne during filming of “The Searchers.” When the interviewer attempts to assert his erudition and authority she retorts:

For the last one hundred and eighteen years, I have lived in your world, your white world. In order to survive, to thrive, I have to be white for fifty-seven minutes of every hour.

Q: How about the other three minutes?

A: That, sir, is when I get to be Indian, and you have no idea, no concept, no possible way of knowing what happens in those three minutes.

Q: Then tell me. That’s what I’m here for.

A: Oh, no, no, no. Those three minutes belong to us. They are very secret. You’ve colonized Indian land but I am not about to let you colonize my heart and mind.

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