Book Review: Outsider by Linda Castillo @LindaCastillo11 @MinotaurBooks

Outsider
A Kate Burkholder Mystery #12
Linda Castillo
Minotaur Books, July 2020
ISBN 978-1-250-14289-4
Hard Cover

This is the 12th Kate Burkholder mystery novel and it’s another winner.

On a snowy winter’s night, Gina Colorosa, a police officer from Columbus, is on the run, pursued by some of her fellow officers.  Gina knew they’d be coming for her and she’d made plans, but she barely escapes with her life.  After several hours of driving she turns off the highway, and soon realizes she isn’t far from Painters Mill where her one time friend Kate Burkholder is Chief of Police.  But the storm intensifies making her quest to reach Kate impossible.  She loses control of her truck and lands in a ditch.

She is rescued by an Amish widower, Adam Lengacher, out for a sleigh ride with his three children. He takes her to his farm and contacts the Police Chief.  Kate arrives and is surprised to see Gina Colorosa, fellow police officer and once her best friend. They had attended the police academy together and after graduating had both been rookie cops in Columbus. They’d parted ways and hadn’t seen each other since.

Kate is more than a little wary at Gina’s unexpected appearance. While Gina explains that some fellow officers are taking bribes, and tampering with evidence, and it is this knowledge that  has put her in danger, Kate isn’t sure Gina is telling her everything.The blizzard rages on dumping more snow and Kate, her own vehicle now stuck in a snowdrift, has no choice but to accept Adam’s hospitality and stay at his farm.

Kate calls her lover and partner, State Agent Tomasetti, and explains what has happened and asks if he can somehow make discreet inquiries and find out whether Gina is telling the truth.

Meanwhile several police officers are indeed searching for Gina.  As they expand their search and ask questions of the locals in Painters Mill they are soon on Gina’s trail.

Kate has a dilemma. She and Gina had been through a lot together, supporting each other during those early days as police rookies. But their friendship had ended on a sour note.  While seeing Gina brings back some good memories, Kate is also aware that, if Gina is in danger, her presence at the Lengacher farm is putting Adam Lengacher and his children at risk.

Kate, with Tomasetti’s help, uncovers more information about the corruption involving the police in Columbus. The storm and snow add another dimension to the tension rising as Gina’s pursuers set in motion their plan to deal with her.

You’ll have to check out this novel if you want to find out just how it ends.  It’s worth the effort.  A great read!

Respectfully submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, August 2020.

Book Reviews: Cop Town by Karin Slaughter, The Thieves of Legend by Richard Doetsch, and Cabin Fever by James M. Jackson

Cop TownCop Town
Karin Slaughter
Delacorte Press, June 2014
ISBN No. 978-0-345-54749-1
Hardcover

Kate Murphy is a young widow from a well-to-do family. Her husband was killed in the service and Kate has made the decision to join the Atlanta Police Force. Her first day on the job leaves her wondering if she has made an error in judgment and needs to rethink her decision.

Nothing is easy on the first day. The legs on her uniform are too long; her cap is too big and falls down in her face and her shoes fall off with every step. It seems the Atlanta PD could care less if the uniform fits the female officers. The male officers enjoy painting a penis on the women’s bathrooms and the colored women police officers have a separate dressing room divided by a curtain.

The Atlanta PD is full of racism and very few new officers, particularly women, meet the criteria necessary to gain respect. Kate is partnered with Maggie Lawson. Maggie has a brother and an uncle on the force, neither of which treat Maggie with much respect. Maggie tries to give Kate a few tips as far as work is concerned but neither woman feel their partnership will be a success.

Immediately the pair are thrown into the investigation of the death of another police officer. Maggie’s brother, Jimmy Lawson, was partnered with the officer killed and managed to carry him all the way to the hospital even though he was also hurt.

It is suspected that a criminal called “The Shooter” is the one killing the officers. Each time a cop is killed the situation seems to have been set up in the same way. Maggie and Kate hook up with a black police officer, Gail Patterson, who agrees to help them locate a pimp that Maggie feels has some information they can use. The three get the information but more trouble than they signed up for.

Cop Town is an exciting book that is difficult to put down. I’ve read all of Karin Slaughter‘s novels and she has long been one of my favorite authors. This novel is a standalone but I am hoping that I might be reading more about Maggie and Kate in the future.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, July 2014.

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The Thieves of LegendThe Thieves of Legend
Richard Doetsch
Atria Books, November 2012

ISBN978-1-4165-9898-5
Hardcover

Master thief Michael St. Pierre is blackmailed into stealing an ancient artifact hidden several stories beneath the royal palace in the heart of the Forbidden City. His ex-girlfriend, KC Ryan, also a master thief, is under the same duress to steal a second part of the artifact located in a different area of China.

Michael has five days before the U.S. Army Colonel behind the blackmail says he’ll kill KC.  KC has the same kind of deal with the female assassin set to guard her. Michael’s and KC’s lives depend on each being successful. Meanwhile they’ll need to contend not only with Chinese Triads, but with more than one madman. Fortunately, Michael has a couple good friends willing to do almost anything the help protect him and KC, and prevent the artifact from falling into the wrong hands.

Lots of violence here, and just when you think one of the bad guys has been eliminated, he pops up again like an unkillable weed.

The well-developed characters are brilliant, as Michael and his friends, Simon and Busch, as well as KC prove as they work through a convoluted puzzle. They’re also goodlooking, and tremendously athletic.

The action is non-stop, the plotting clever with a delicious mystery at the center. The setting moves from country to country, from land to sea, and the tension never ceases to ramp up.

Mr. Doetsch, who states he loves research, has included a historical character, a certain Zheng He, in the story, which adds a nice touch and whets one’s appetite to learn more about him.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, May 2014.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.

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Cabin FeverCabin Fever 
A Seamus McCree Mystery
James M. Jackson
Barking Rain Press, April 2014
ISBN:978-1-935460-90-9
Trade Paperback

Several terrific and unusual characters. An unusual and intriguing plot line. A not-so-popular worthwhile setting. Smart dialogue. Those are all the good elements of this novel which features one of the most cranky and short-tempered protagonists this reviewer has ever encountered. Seamus McCree is a brilliant financial forensic analyst. He works for a non-profit that offers security and financial crimes examinations to banks and similar institutions.

He’s spending time recuperating from his last violent encounter in the cold winter woods of the Michigan Upper Peninsula. It gets really cold up there. It’s about -40 when he discovers a naked woman half-frozen on the unheated porch of his cabin. Nursing her away from death begins to reveal an intriguing plot.

Now we get to the questionable and not-so-good parts. Everybody in the book speaks sometimes from their personal point of view. That includes the author-narrator. That can be confusing at times. And it sometimes takes the narrative off on wandering paths through tangled underbrush and that slows the pace when we need a little more push, not less.

Then there is the formatting. Traditional rules of formatting say you either indent paragraphs or you insert a blank line between them, but not both. Moreover, in fiction, readers expect indents, not spaces. I suggest, if readers let that and some other formatting anomalies bother them, they’ll miss an enjoyable reading experience. Generally well-written, there are some logical lapses that made me grind my teeth. In the aggregate however, in spite of a lot of murders, I found that my time reading Cabin Fever was worthwhile.

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

Book Reviews: County Line by Bill Cameron, The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes by Marcus Sakey, Camouflage by Bill Pronzini, Tigerlily’s Orchids by Ruth Rendell, and Hell Is Empty by Craig Johnson

County Line
Bill Cameron
Tyrus Books, June 2011
ISBN: 978-1-935562-52-8
Trade Paperback

Before even attempting to evaluate this novel, it must be pointed out that at the beginning and end of the book as well as in between segments there are QR barcodes, purportedly featuring bonus material and extras.  To do so, of course, one must own a smartphone and download an app to view the material.  Since I have no need or desire to own such an instrument (what’s wrong, am I anti-American?), I don’t know how much, if anything, I am missing, especially what the barcode at the end of and within the novel provides.   Since I had a feeling of incompleteness after finishing the book, I wonder.  And if that is information I need to judge the novel, then it not only is a disservice to the reader who chooses not to utilize it, but a poor gimmick to sell smartphones and cellular service.  As it is, I found it only a distraction, as well as questioning whether it was necessary for a full appreciation of the book.

As far as the novel is concerned, it is incisively written, with good character development.  It begins when go-getter Ruby Jane Whittaker, founder and owner of a three-store chain of coffee shops in Portland, Oregon, goes off on what is to be a two-week trip.  When she doesn’t return, two of her boyfriends take heed, and undertake to find her. The effort takes them to San Francisco to see her brother (who becomes a hit-and-run victim before their eyes), then to a small Ohio town where Ruby Jane grew up and then back to Oregon.  The effort raises more questions than it does answers.

Another section of the novel retraces Ruby Jane’s earlier life in Ohio, and provides some background to the mystery, which is finally brought to a violent finish, albeit leaving this reader wondering whether or not that really is the conclusion, or just laying the groundwork for the next book in this series.  If you own a smartphone, OK, you can take this as a recommendation.  If not – – well, the choice is yours.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, October 2011.

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

The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes
Marcus Sakey
Dutton, June 2011
ISBN: 978-0-525-95211-4
Hardcover

Daniel Hayes wakes up on a beach in Maine, half drowned and with a loss of memory.  This sets the stage for a slow, dramatic tale as he attempts to reconstruct his life.  He finds a car nearby which is apparently owned by someone named Daniel Hayes from Malibu, CA.  Is that him?

Then he decides to cross the country in an effort to find out who he is, after fleeing a cop attempting to arrest him in Maine. Dan is a scriptwriter, and his efforts are like episodes on a TV show.  When he gets to Malibu, he sneaks in to what turns out is his home.  So he has a name.  And a home.  Then he finds out a female character on a television show is his wife who apparently was killed when her car went over a cliff.  While he searches for answers, the plot thickens.

And quite a plot it is.  Interspersed with fairly crisp prose are simulated scripts, sometimes fantasy, others integral to the story line.  The reader is kept off-balance with the question of whether Dan fled to Maine because he killed his wife.  And when that question is answered, a whole new mystery arises to keep one turning pages.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, October 2011.

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

Camouflage
Bill Pronzini
Forge, June 2011
ISBN: 978-0-7653-2564-8
Hardcover

The Nameless Detective in this long-running series is supposed to have semi-retired.  It just isn’t so.  He’s still working four or five days a week, and it’s a good thing, because it makes for good reading.  In the first of two cases described in this novel, he takes on a new client with what at first appears to be a simple ‘trace’ case.  The oft-married client asks Nameless to locate his ex-wife so he can get her to sign a Catholic Church form to pave the way for an annulment, so he can marry the next, an apparently well-to-do prospect.  Tamara, who is now running the agency in wake of Nameless’ “semi-retirement,” locates the ex-wiife, and after she refuses to sign the papers the client visits her, after which he storms into the office saying that it’s the wrong person.  This leads to the ensuing mystery to be solved.

The second plot line involves Jake Runyon, Nameless’ partner, who has finally developed a relationship with a woman, Bryn, who has a nine-year-old son who is in her ex-husband’s custody.  It appears that the boy is being abused, but by whom?  The father, or his fiancée, who is living with him and the child?  The complication of the girl’s murder and the subsequent admission by Bryn of having committed the deed lays the groundwork for some detective work by Jake to find the real culprit.

As in the previous more than two score books in the series, the tightly written novel, accompanied by terse dialogue and seamless transitions, take the reader forward effortlessly.  The author’s eye for detail is penetrating, and the novel is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, October 2011.

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

Tigerlily’s Orchids
Ruth Rendell
Scribner, June 2011
ISBN: 978-4391-5034-4
Hardcover

Ruth Rendell novels are a study in human relationships, and this book is no exception.  It takes a look at an assortment of tenants living in an apartment house block in London, particularly one building, but also a couple of homes across the way.

An inordinate amount of space is devoted to one tenant, a young, handsome youth, Stuart Font, who recently inherited some money and bought his apartment.  He decides to have a housewarming and invite all the other tenants.  His married lover forces him to invite her, setting the stage for her husband to invade the apartment and harm Stuart, who is later found murdered in a nearby park.

The mystery, of course, is who the murderer is.  But it is almost superfluous since the interaction of the various characters is the prime focus of the novel:  One woman who is determined to drink herself to death; three young girls, students of a sort, one of whom falls in love with Stuart, who in turn is obsessed with a beautiful young Asian in the house across the street after discarding his married lover; an elderly couple who once had a one-night stand in their youth and find each other again; the caretaker couple, the husband of which enjoys spying on young girls and watching pornography on his computer.  Among others.

The author’s eye for detail is sharp, and the personality descriptions vivid.  For a crime novel, the mystery is virtually irrelevant, but certainly the character studies are vital.  For that reason alone, the book is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, October 2011.

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

Hell Is Empty
Craig Johnson
Viking, June 2011
ISBN: 978-0-670-02277-9
Hardcover

This, the seventh novel in the Walt Longmire series, is perhaps the most harrowing.  It starts out simply enough, with Walt, the Sheriff of a Wyoming county, and his deputies transporting three murderers to a rendezvous with two other local Sheriffs and Federal officials.  One of the felons, a psychopath who says he hears supernatural voices, has indicated he killed a young Indian boy years before, and offers to locate the bones for the officials.  There is a rumor, also, that he has secreted $1.4 million, perhaps in the grave.

This sets the stage for a harrowing experience for Walt, as the convicts escape, killing FBI agents and taking two hostages with them as they climbed Bighorn Mountain.  A determined Walt follows under blizzard conditions, which almost kills him.

As in previous entries in the series, the geographical and environmental descriptions are awesome.  The reader can feel the cold and ice as they penetrate Walt’s body and inundate the mountain peak in glasslike cover and snow-filled mounds.  Another excellent book, full of Indian lore and supernatural phenomena.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, October 2011.

Book Reviews: County Line by Bill Cameron, The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes by Marcus Sakey, Camouflage by Bill Pronzini, Tigerlily's Orchids by Ruth Rendell, and Hell Is Empty by Craig Johnson

County Line
Bill Cameron
Tyrus Books, June 2011
ISBN: 978-1-935562-52-8
Trade Paperback

Before even attempting to evaluate this novel, it must be pointed out that at the beginning and end of the book as well as in between segments there are QR barcodes, purportedly featuring bonus material and extras.  To do so, of course, one must own a smartphone and download an app to view the material.  Since I have no need or desire to own such an instrument (what’s wrong, am I anti-American?), I don’t know how much, if anything, I am missing, especially what the barcode at the end of and within the novel provides.   Since I had a feeling of incompleteness after finishing the book, I wonder.  And if that is information I need to judge the novel, then it not only is a disservice to the reader who chooses not to utilize it, but a poor gimmick to sell smartphones and cellular service.  As it is, I found it only a distraction, as well as questioning whether it was necessary for a full appreciation of the book.

As far as the novel is concerned, it is incisively written, with good character development.  It begins when go-getter Ruby Jane Whittaker, founder and owner of a three-store chain of coffee shops in Portland, Oregon, goes off on what is to be a two-week trip.  When she doesn’t return, two of her boyfriends take heed, and undertake to find her. The effort takes them to San Francisco to see her brother (who becomes a hit-and-run victim before their eyes), then to a small Ohio town where Ruby Jane grew up and then back to Oregon.  The effort raises more questions than it does answers.

Another section of the novel retraces Ruby Jane’s earlier life in Ohio, and provides some background to the mystery, which is finally brought to a violent finish, albeit leaving this reader wondering whether or not that really is the conclusion, or just laying the groundwork for the next book in this series.  If you own a smartphone, OK, you can take this as a recommendation.  If not – – well, the choice is yours.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, October 2011.

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

The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes
Marcus Sakey
Dutton, June 2011
ISBN: 978-0-525-95211-4
Hardcover

Daniel Hayes wakes up on a beach in Maine, half drowned and with a loss of memory.  This sets the stage for a slow, dramatic tale as he attempts to reconstruct his life.  He finds a car nearby which is apparently owned by someone named Daniel Hayes from Malibu, CA.  Is that him?

Then he decides to cross the country in an effort to find out who he is, after fleeing a cop attempting to arrest him in Maine. Dan is a scriptwriter, and his efforts are like episodes on a TV show.  When he gets to Malibu, he sneaks in to what turns out is his home.  So he has a name.  And a home.  Then he finds out a female character on a television show is his wife who apparently was killed when her car went over a cliff.  While he searches for answers, the plot thickens.

And quite a plot it is.  Interspersed with fairly crisp prose are simulated scripts, sometimes fantasy, others integral to the story line.  The reader is kept off-balance with the question of whether Dan fled to Maine because he killed his wife.  And when that question is answered, a whole new mystery arises to keep one turning pages.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, October 2011.

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

Camouflage
Bill Pronzini
Forge, June 2011
ISBN: 978-0-7653-2564-8
Hardcover

The Nameless Detective in this long-running series is supposed to have semi-retired.  It just isn’t so.  He’s still working four or five days a week, and it’s a good thing, because it makes for good reading.  In the first of two cases described in this novel, he takes on a new client with what at first appears to be a simple ‘trace’ case.  The oft-married client asks Nameless to locate his ex-wife so he can get her to sign a Catholic Church form to pave the way for an annulment, so he can marry the next, an apparently well-to-do prospect.  Tamara, who is now running the agency in wake of Nameless’ “semi-retirement,” locates the ex-wiife, and after she refuses to sign the papers the client visits her, after which he storms into the office saying that it’s the wrong person.  This leads to the ensuing mystery to be solved.

The second plot line involves Jake Runyon, Nameless’ partner, who has finally developed a relationship with a woman, Bryn, who has a nine-year-old son who is in her ex-husband’s custody.  It appears that the boy is being abused, but by whom?  The father, or his fiancée, who is living with him and the child?  The complication of the girl’s murder and the subsequent admission by Bryn of having committed the deed lays the groundwork for some detective work by Jake to find the real culprit.

As in the previous more than two score books in the series, the tightly written novel, accompanied by terse dialogue and seamless transitions, take the reader forward effortlessly.  The author’s eye for detail is penetrating, and the novel is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, October 2011.

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

Tigerlily’s Orchids
Ruth Rendell
Scribner, June 2011
ISBN: 978-4391-5034-4
Hardcover

Ruth Rendell novels are a study in human relationships, and this book is no exception.  It takes a look at an assortment of tenants living in an apartment house block in London, particularly one building, but also a couple of homes across the way.

An inordinate amount of space is devoted to one tenant, a young, handsome youth, Stuart Font, who recently inherited some money and bought his apartment.  He decides to have a housewarming and invite all the other tenants.  His married lover forces him to invite her, setting the stage for her husband to invade the apartment and harm Stuart, who is later found murdered in a nearby park.

The mystery, of course, is who the murderer is.  But it is almost superfluous since the interaction of the various characters is the prime focus of the novel:  One woman who is determined to drink herself to death; three young girls, students of a sort, one of whom falls in love with Stuart, who in turn is obsessed with a beautiful young Asian in the house across the street after discarding his married lover; an elderly couple who once had a one-night stand in their youth and find each other again; the caretaker couple, the husband of which enjoys spying on young girls and watching pornography on his computer.  Among others.

The author’s eye for detail is sharp, and the personality descriptions vivid.  For a crime novel, the mystery is virtually irrelevant, but certainly the character studies are vital.  For that reason alone, the book is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, October 2011.

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

Hell Is Empty
Craig Johnson
Viking, June 2011
ISBN: 978-0-670-02277-9
Hardcover

This, the seventh novel in the Walt Longmire series, is perhaps the most harrowing.  It starts out simply enough, with Walt, the Sheriff of a Wyoming county, and his deputies transporting three murderers to a rendezvous with two other local Sheriffs and Federal officials.  One of the felons, a psychopath who says he hears supernatural voices, has indicated he killed a young Indian boy years before, and offers to locate the bones for the officials.  There is a rumor, also, that he has secreted $1.4 million, perhaps in the grave.

This sets the stage for a harrowing experience for Walt, as the convicts escape, killing FBI agents and taking two hostages with them as they climbed Bighorn Mountain.  A determined Walt follows under blizzard conditions, which almost kills him.

As in previous entries in the series, the geographical and environmental descriptions are awesome.  The reader can feel the cold and ice as they penetrate Walt’s body and inundate the mountain peak in glasslike cover and snow-filled mounds.  Another excellent book, full of Indian lore and supernatural phenomena.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, October 2011.