Book Review: Where the Bones are Buried by Jeanne Matthews—and a Giveaway!

Where the Bones are BuriedWhere the Bones are Buried
A Dinah Pelerin Mystery #5
Jeanne Matthews
Poisoned Pen Press, January 2015
ISBN 978-1-4642-0346-6
Hardcover
Also available in trade paperback and ebook

From the publisher—

Dinah Pelerin has finally put her life in order. Living in Berlin with her boyfriend Thor, she has landed a job teaching Native American cultures at the university. She’s never felt happier. And then her Seminole mother Swan shows up with a crazy scheme to blackmail a German tax dodger and dredges up a secret Dinah has kept hidden from the IRS and from straight-arrow Norwegian Thor, a former cop now with hush-hush international duties.

Germans harbor a century-long fascination with the American Wild West and American Indians. Some enthusiasts dress up as Indians and adopt Indian names. Like Der Indianer Club which has invited Swan to a powwow where she plans to meet her blackmail victim. Dinah tries to head her off, but arrives at the scene too late. A man has been killed and scalped and Swan quickly becomes the prime suspect. Torn between love for her mother and dismay at her incessant lies, Dinah sets out to find the killer—hoping the killer doesn’t turn out to share her DNA.

But Swan isn’t the only liar. Everyone is lying about something. Margaret,Swan’s dead ex-husband’s former wife, come to the city with Swan. Dinah’s teen-age “ward.” Thor. Especially Dinah. Ghosts of Germany’s terrible history haunt Berlin while she faces exorcising a hateful ghost of her own.

I haven’t read all of the Dinah Pelerin books, not because I haven’t wanted to but because I can’t keep up with any of the series I like so much. One of these days, I’ll stop hosting blog tours because it’s those books that keep me from reading more of my personal choices; on the other hand, it’s this blog tour that has given me the nudge I needed to read Where the Bones are Buried and I’m grateful for that.

When Dinah’s mother and Margaret—who’s not, precisely speaking, her friend—make an unexpected visit to Berlin, it’s just the first of a number of surprises Dinah will be faced with, at least one of them life-changing. The two older ladies are in hot pursuit of a German who seems ripe for blackmailing, never mind the fact that will be quite illegal. That’s small potatoes, though, when Swan lands herself in the midst of a murder investigation and Dinah, with considerable help from her boyfriend, Thor, has to try to save her very sketchy mother.

I adore Dinah and Thor and must say I have warm fuzzies for Margaret and Swan, reprehensible though they might be. Dinah and Thor, in particular, are people I’d like to hang around with because they’re, well, so normal despite Thor’s rather exciting occupation. I also thoroughly enjoyed learning about the love Germans have for the Wild West. I’d heard of it in passing but Ms. Matthews has taught me quite a lot about it.

As with the earlier books, Where the Bones are Buried is indeed part of a series but is also self-contained and can be read as a standalone. Readers new to Ms. Matthews should feel comfortable trying this one first and I can promise you a truly engaging story 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2015.

An Excerpt from Where the Bones are Buried

Chapter 1

Dinah Pelerin wasn’t used to waking up happy and it scared the daylights out of her. She pulled the blanket to her chin and snuggled close under Thor’s arm. They had known each other for almost ayear, but had moved in together just three weeks ago. With every passing day, her confidence grew that she’d made the right decision. She cared about him more than she’d cared about anyone in a very long time, but the people she cared about had a habit of turning into liars or dying. Thor was too honest to lie.

She said, “I wish you didn’t have to go. It’s not fair. I haven’t learned my way around the city yet and the only person I know besides you is the wacko across the hall.”

“You have a dozen Berlin guide books and street maps and Geert isn’t a wacko. He’s the resident caretaker. If the lights go off or the furnace dies, tell him and he’ll take care of the problem. Anyway, I’ll only be away for five days. Norwegian Intelligence can’t function without my unerring wisdom.”

“Can’t you send your unerring wisdom to them in an email?”

“I’m glad you’ll miss me, kjære, but I have my orders.” He looked at his watch and sat up. “I need to be at the Embassy in an hour. I’m picking up two diplomats who will join me on the flight to Oslo.”

“Just my luck to fall for alatterday James Bond, forever charging off to save the nation.” She placed a hand over her heart. “I could not love thee dear so much loved I not honor more.”

He kissed her in a particularly melting way, then rolled out of bed abruptly and headed for the shower. “Hold that thought.”

“You’re a tease, Thor Ramberg.”

“Like Bond, I leave them begging for more.”

“Them?”

He didn’t hear. The bathroom door snicked shut and she slipped on her robe and padded into the kitchen to make coffee. Rain pelted against the windowpanes and the pedestrians on the Niederwallstrasse down below carried umbrellas and wore their collars turned up like KGB operatives. Until the Wall fell in 1989, this street and the area for miles around was Soviet-dominated East Berlin. Since that time, the Germanys had reunified and Berlin had reinvented itself as the cultural and financial hub of Europe. The only thing that hadn’t changed was the KGB weather.

She shivered. If September was this cold and dreary, she didn’t want to think what winter would bring. But in spite of the gloom, she’d never felt so happy. It seemed that the stars had aligned and for the first time in living memory, every aspect of her life clicked perfectly. Thor was wonderful, her new job asguest lecturer on Native American cultures at Humboldt University was a plum, and the weather aside, Berlin was one of the most exciting cities she’d ever visited. She tried to put the thought of all this happy synchronicity out of her mind lest the gods grow jealous and snatch it away.

She brought in the International Herald Tribune, poured herself a mug of the local Einsteinbrew, and sat down at the kitchen table to read about the turmoil in Greece and Pakistan and Kenya. The world seemed fragmented, a jigsaw of violent factions that refused to fit together and fanatics willing to do anything in furtherance of their cause. She worried about Thor’s work carrying out counterterrorism missions on behalf of his native Norway. He’d almost been killed in Greece last June while investigating a ring of arms traffickers. She had encouraged him to go to law school or return to a less hazardous police job in Norway. But he was a patriot and he craved adventure. She had learned not to try and argue him out of his dream job as an international sleuth.

He breezed into the room in a dark suit and tie, bringing with him the ferny scent of Fitjar soap. With his deep brown eyes and almost black hair, he did look a bit Bond-like – a cross between Sean Connery and Genghis Khan. He was descended from the Sami people of Arctic Scandinavia and he loved cold weather as much as she hated it. He poured himself a cup of coffee and glanced out the window. “Museum weather. You should go to the Pergamon this afternoon. The Gates of Ishtar will start your anthropologist’s juices flowing.”

“It’s on my list.”

“And there’s a market in the platz with local fruits and vegetables and flowers.”

“I’ll check it out.” His tie didn’t need straightening, but she pretended it did, standing ready for a kiss that would have to last her for five days. “I’ll probably spend the day preparing for my first class. I know that most Germans speak English and the ones who sign up for my class will be fluent, but I don’t want to use too many Americanisms or too much jargon.”

“Most Germans under the age of fifty have studied English in school. Even those who say they speak ‘only a little English,’ can talk politics like a senator, which by the way is the German word for senator.”

He was so relaxed and reassuring. Too relaxed? She felt a frisson of superstitious fear. “You will be careful, won’t you? Don’t let the bad guys sneak up on you.”

“I’m off to Oslo, not Kabul.”

Her iPhone erupted in a concatenation of percussive plinking.

Thor took a quick swallow of coffee and set down his mug. “Answer your xylophone. I’ve got to run.”

“No, wait…” she turned toward the phone.

“I’ll call you.” His kiss landed in her hair somewhere in the vicinity of her left ear and he hurried out the door.

Frustrated, she picked up the phone. “Hello.”

“Dinah, is that you? It’s your mother. Your friend Margaret and I are in the Hartsfield Airport in Atlanta waitin’ for our flight. What’s that number, Margaret? Here it is, Air France, seven seven-oh. Don’t we change planes somewhere, Margaret?”

“You’re coming here? To Berlin?”

“What? Good heavens, that’s too little for me to read, Margaret. Anyhow, we’ll be arriving this evenin’ at…what? Can that be right? All right, tomorrow evenin’ at eight-thirty at TXL, which we think is the name of the airport. If you can come get us and put us up for a few days, that’ll be just lovely.”

Dinah fought back a groan. “How long do you plan to be here?”

“That depends, baby. We have a little detective job we need you to help us with.”

************

Goodreads

Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble Buy Button     Kobo Buy Button     Amazon Buy Button     Indiebound Button 2

************

About the Author

Jeanne Matthews 2Jeanne Matthews was born and raised in Georgia. She graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in Journalism and has worked as a copywriter, a high school English and Drama teacher, and a paralegal. She currently lives in Renton, Washington with her husband, who is a law professor.

Catch Up:

 

Website Button        Twitter Button        Facebook Button

************

Follow the tour here.

************

Two Giveaways:

(1) There will be one winner of 1 Box of Poisoned Pen Press books
including Where the Bones Are Buried. The giveaway begins on
February 28th, 2015 and runs through April 3rd, 2015.

Enter the Rafflecopter drawing here.

(2) Leave a comment below to enter the drawing for an ebook
copy of Where the Bones are Buried. The winning name will be
drawn on Wednesday evening, March 4th, and the book
will be sent out after April 4th.

************

Partners in Crime Book Tours

Book Reviews: Panthers Play for Keeps by Clea Simon and His Majesty’s Hope by Susan Elia MacNeal

Panthers Play for KeepsPanthers Play for Keeps
A Pru Marlowe Pet Noir
Clea Simon
Poisoned Pen Press, April 2014
ISBN No. 978-1-59058-870-3
Hardcover

Pru Marlowe is walking Spot, a dog she is training. In the woods outside of town Spot suddenly begins whining and Pru decides to give him a break and let him run after whatever he is thinks is up ahead. Pru has an ability to communicate with animals and can normally understand what the animal is attempting to communicate but not this time. Pru gives Spot the Danger signal and he responds by stopping in front of Pru as he should but Spot continues whining. Pru finds herself gazing in front of Spot at the body of a woman that has been attacked by something that has shredded her clothing and left her head split open. It would seem the woman had been mauled by a large cat.

Pru is training the dog to be a companion to a man who is facing blindness. Laurel, Pru’s romantic rival for the affection of Detective Jim, is fostering the dog until Spot is completely trained and ready to be turned over to his new master. Pru’s cat believes that there is a big cat on the loose and Spot believes that there is more to the problem than just the big cat. When Pru finds out that the deceased is an employee of the man she is training Spot for she decides to do some investigating on her own.

This is an interesting mystery and one that any animal lover would enjoy.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, June 2014.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

His Majesty's HopeHis Majesty’s Hope       
A Maggie Hope Mystery
Susan Elia MacNeal
Bantam, May 2013
ISBN: 978-0-345-53673-0
Trade Paperback.

This excellent historical novel is, of course, fiction all the way, although it is set during one of the world’s greatest real upheavals. It should appeal to readers interested in World War II, in spy and espionage stories, and those who like solid thrillers. It also provides some interesting insight into how the great evil that was Adolph Hitler and the Nazi empire, evolved in the early years of the European war before the entry of the United States.

The novel owes a good deal of its strength and interest to the closely personal stories of Maggie Hope, the central character and her colleagues, her loves and those around her at greater distance. On one level readers are treated to a well-researched look at the maneuverings of intelligence gathering efforts on both sides of the English Channel, and the way in which British spymasters recruited and ruthlessly used any human resources to help them win the war. And even though these people have the reader sympathies, being on the side of the angels, their attitudes and actions were not much different from those of the enemy.

Maggie Hope, an American, recruited for and working in British Secret Service, is dropped into Berlin to deliver communications devices. And because she’s an independent sort, opportunities arise that keep her in-country far beyond the scope of the original mission. As a character, Maggie is exactly the kind of heroic figure we want in these stories, yet she is far from perfect, beset by doubts, and ineptitude from colleagues, she manages with appropriate derring-do and a lot of help from family, to get out of Germany just ahead of the Gestapo.

There are coincidences in life. That’s a recognizable fact. There are multiplicities of events going on in the lives of those around us. Another accepted fact. Too much activity and too many coincidental happenings might cause an undercover agent to become seriously paranoid. If this novel were not so well written, so replete with high emotion, if the main character was other than a bright, independent accomplished woman of the nineteen forties, I might have set the novel down unfinished. As it is, His Majesty’s Hope is better than three, but doesn’t rate a four star review.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, March 2014.
Author of Red Sky, Devils Island, Hard Cheese, Reunion.

Book Reviews: Line of Fire by Stephen White, Lehrter Station by David Downing, and Don’t Cry, Tai Lake by Qiu Xiaolong

Line of FireLine of Fire
Stephen White
Dutton, August 2012
ISBN: 978-0-525-95252-7
Hardcover

In a note the author informs the reader that this is the next-to-the-last novel in the long-running series featuring psychotherapist Alan Gregory.  He intends to complete the series on his own terms because of the changing nature of the book industry with number 20.  Not many authors reach such a conclusion.  Even Ian Rankin had to bring back his popular Rebus protagonist.

And this book definitely sets the stage for that scenario.  The novel introduces a new patient, giving Alan some insights not only into that patient, but himself.  She also complicates his life in unexpected ways, especially as to Diane, his friend and partner.  And as usual, Boulder, CO, plays an important part in the story with brush fires raging and destroying homes.  Lastly, his friend, Detective Sam Purdy and he are exposed to unwanted risk as an old secret surfaces.

The novel slowly builds up as the various characters are brought into focus.  It is an insightful look at Alan Gregory and provides plenty of factors to consider looking forward to how the series will end.  I can’t wait to find out.  (Just an aside: the author says this is the right time to conclude the Gregory story.  Some readers may disagree. But, after all, it’s his decision alone.)

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, February 2013.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Lehrter StationLehrter Station
David Downing
Soho Crime, March 2013
ISBN: 978-1-61695-220-4
Trade Paperback

Five months after the fall of Berlin, this chronicle of the adventures of John Russell, the Anglo-American journalist, and his paramour, Effi Koene, the actress, continues.  Four previous “Station” novels carried them through the pre-war years in Berlin to Russell’s escape to England.  Now, his former Russian spymaster sort of blackmails him into returning to Berlin as a spy for both the Reds and the Americans. To sugarcoat the request, Effi is offered a starring role in a soon-to-be-made motion picture.

The couple returns to a devastated city, where the only rate of exchange seems to be cigarettes and sex.  No food, housing or other essentials, but a thriving black market.  The story continues with the history of the immediate post-war, including the beginnings of the Cold War and the plight of surviving Jews, with the British reluctance to allow emigration to Palestine and the Zionists’ attempt to get around the roadblocks.

The series is more than just run-of-the-mill espionage stories, but a reflection of the time and people in an era of mass murder and terrible war and its aftermath.  The descriptions of the rubble that was Berlin after the Allied bombings and the Russian rape (it is said that there were as many as 80,000) is terrifying.   And the depiction of the duplicity of the U.S. and Soviet intelligence agencies is despicable, especially when they overlooked Nazi backgrounds when they served a purpose.  Presumably, there is room for a new effort in the series, and we look forward to it.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, March 2013.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Don't Cry, Tai LakeDon’t Cry, Tai Lake
An Inspector Chen Novel
Qiu Xiaolong
Minotaur Books, April 2013
ISBN: 978-1-250-02158-8
Trade Paperback

While ostensibly a murder mystery, this latest Inspector Chen novel is more a polemic concerning excessive pollution, economic growth at any cost and the political and social system in China today.  Still, it is so well-written, filled with poetic references as an integral part of the whole, that it is a worthy addition to the series.

Initially, Chen is invited to spend some vacation time at an exclusive resort for upper cadre (of which he isn’t one) by his mentor in Beijing who was scheduled to use a villa there.  So, right off the bat, the author offers observations on how the upper layers of officials benefit, while the rest of the population doesn’t have such luxuries.  Then Chen learns that the once pure waters of Tai Lake have become so polluted that fish are destroyed, the water can’t be drunk and even causes illness to inhabitants.  The pollution is caused by industrial waste, unimpeded in the interest of profits and “progress.”

No sooner does Chen arrive than the general manager of a large chemical company is found murdered and Chen becomes involved, without disclosing himself as a Chief Inspector, in an unofficial investigation.  He learns about the pollution from a young female engineer, and works behind the façade of a local policeman, observing, questioning and deducting in typical Chen fashion, including a long T.S. Elliot-type poem about the lake.  Other than the murder solution, the criticism of societal and economic conditions in China is anything but subtle.  [I wonder if the novel will ever be translated into Chinese.]  Here, it is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, April 2013.

Review: A Trace of Smoke by Rebecca Cantrell

A Trace of Smoke

A Trace of Smoke
Rebecca Cantrell
Forge, 2009
ISBN 0765320444
Hardcover
Trade Paperback to be released 1/19/10 by Forge

Few novels that I pick up hold my attention beyond the first several chapters.  What a pleasure to read A TRACE OF SMOKE by Rebecca Cantrell during the holiday hiatus.  Cantrell sets her historical suspense/mystery in Berlin on the eve of Germany’s descent into control by the Nazis.  Journalist Hannah Vogel discovers that her brother, Ernst, has been murdered.  Circumstances prevent her seeking the help of law enforcement officials.  She becomes the sleuth to  uncover the identity of her brother’s killer, endangering her own life.

Cantrell’s craft at creating atmosphere is amazing.  I could smell the sauerkraut and fear.  But what I found particularly memorable about this book was its three-dimensional treatment of Nazis (and gays, and gay Nazis <g>).  How easily Nazis have been depicted as faceless monsters in fiction and film. Far more difficult to show the human being beneath the brown shirt.  Cantrell’s Nazis won’t sit easily with you.  They’ll challenge you to admit that *anyone* can get caught up in the glitter of an idea that promises a better life, then sucked into hell when the idea disentegrates.  That’s humanity.

I figured out early who offed Ernst.  That didn’t bother me.  The main payoff was watching Hannah stick to her principles and navigate around the land mines of everyone’s treachery and trashed dreams.  Hannah Vogel v. the Nazis. A hero without a cape or karate.  Hmm, maybe each of us has such courage buried inside.

Bring on the sequel in June.

Reviewed by Suzanne Williams and reprinted with her permission.  Under the pen name Suzanne Adair, she is the author of several historical suspense novels set during the War for American Independence, including the award-winning Paper Woman.