Book Review: Not As We Knew It by F. M. Meredith @MarilynMeredith

Not As We Knew It
Rocky Bluff P. D. Mystery #16
F. M. Meredith
ISBN 979-8564552684
Trade Paperback

From the author—

The challenges come one after another for the Rocky Bluff P.D. to handle―from a missing woman to a fatal house fire.Detective Doug Milligan is faced with new and unusual problems to solve, some on the job and others related to his family.Gordon Butler isn’t too happy that his wife was chosen to train the latest new-hire.With the department shorthanded, Chief Chandra Taylor must make some hard decisions in order to protect the town of Rocky Bluff. Her romance with the mayor, which had been put on hold, is refreshed when she seeks his help.

One of the real pitfalls (for me) of accepting review requests from authors is the potential danger of having a request fall into a black hole because of backlogs that get worse and worse due to illness and life conditions in general (specifically the weird funk that has come with the pandemic, leading to a major reading slump and inability to focus). I have several books that have been wallowing in this pit, including this one, and I can only abjectly apologize for slacking off much too long. What’s really sad is that Not As We Knew It is a good book and it deserved better treatment from me.

Although some readers have said they don’t want the pandemic to play a role in the books they choose, Ms. Meredith opted to make it a part of her story and I’m glad she did. One of the hallmarks of police procedural is that they’re rooted in reality and this awful scourge is as real as it gets.

Ms. Meredith has a good hand with building characters we longtime fans love to spend time with and, besides the personal and societal complications of life brought about by Covid, our favorite detectives, such as Abel Navarro and Doug Milligan, are confronted by the crimes we might expect while Chief Taylor does everything she can to keep Rocky Bluff on an even keel, safe from criminals and overstressed, irrational citizens alike. You could say that Not As We Knew It is a police procedural very reflective of this odd world we’re struggling with. Well done!

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2021.

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Giveaway

To enter the drawing for a print copy of
Not As We Knew It, leave a comment
below. The winning name will be drawn
on the evening of Thursday, September 2nd.
US and Canada entrants only.

Book Reviews: Fatal Score by John Baird Rogers and Tell Me Lies by Carola Lovering @Gotuit @carolatlovering @AtriaBooks

Fatal Score
Mayfield-Napolitani #1         
John Baird Rogers
Gotuit Publishing LLC, November 2018
ISBN 978-1-7322262-0-3
Trade Paperback

Here’s a novel for late-night reading. Or, depending on your belief, daytime/sunshine reading. The author has grasped both the marvelous advances and future of technology, big medicine big government and the insidious dark and dangerous aspects of human greed. Human greed, when exposed to opportunities to corrupt and steal, is almost a foregone conclusion, and in the author’s vision, fraught with hosts of bright accomplished people on the dark side as well as standing in the light.

Joe Mayfield, an accountant, happily married, does his job efficiently, and life is good. Then his wife is diagnosed with a cancer, her medical records are altered so her insurance is minimal and Mayfield’s life takes a nosedive. Why was her medical coverage designation altered? Was the national medical database hacked? Why this one woman?

Mayfield sets out to find some answers and that involves some penetration of a huge national database nicknamed YAK. He runs up against a highly intelligent security agent named Louise Napolitani. Her job is to protect the YAK against hackers. The author has set up the novel to follow these two separate but linked protagonists.

The pace of the writing is fast, persistent and occasionally furious. It is a well-written and cleanly resolved story, peopled with interesting characters. Through it all readers will learn in the most positive and comfortable way, a good deal about potential future developments in big data, data processing, government and the unchanging venality of people when confronted with opportunities to steal. I recommend this debut novel without reservation and look forward to the continuing adventures of Joe Mayfield and Weezy Napolitani.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, January 2021.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
Traces, Grand Lac, Reunion, Red Sky.

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Tell Me Lies
Carola Lovering
Atria Books, June 2018
ISBN 978-1-5011-6964-9
Hardcover

A long, conflicting narrative of a young woman who goes away to college, meets and falls for a flawed fellow, and as a result suffers some emotional mountain peaks and deep valleys. Lucy Albright is the woman. Bright, good-looking, energetic, positive of outlook, she has the instincts to recognize and resist the questionable charms of Stephen DeMarco. But she doesn’t.

DeMarco is charming, handsome, confident and a little slimy. The two form a relationship, not a bond, that carries them through college experiences and into adulthood.

The novel is well-written, well-paced, lengthy, sexy and ultimately unsatisfying. Its tension and angst rise through the first half of the story and then levels off so there are fewer and fewer surprises and readers suspect an unsatisfactory and unhappy conclusion looms closer on the horizon.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, May 2019.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
Traces, Grand Lac, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Review: The Body in Bodega Bay by Betsy Draine and Michael Hinden @UWiscPress

The Body in Bodega Bay
A Nora Barnes and Toby Sandler Mystery #2
Betsy Draine and Michael Hinden
Terrace Books/University of Wisconsin Press, September 2020
ISBN 978-0-299-29794-7

Trade paperback

When the body of a murdered man is found in a boat floating in Bodega Bay, married couple Nora Barnes and Toby Sandler are astonished to discover it is Charlie Halloran, Toby’s new partner in his art and antiques gallery. Charlie had been the most personable of men. Who would want to kill him? The answer, they soon discover, lies within the antique business, an auction Charlie had just attended, and his purchase of an old Russian icon—which has now disappeared.
Nora is an art history teacher at Sonoma College, and with Toby’s expertise in antiques, they are called upon to help the resident deputy, Dan Ellis, with the investigation. Clues mount up. People who may have had a connection to the missing icon are contacted and investigated, but the case moves slowly without the icon. When at last the icon is found, the chase intensifies.

There’s nothing I like more than a treasure hunt, and this one is particularly interesting. I love hidden recesses in old furniture. Buried treasure is a hoot. And most intriguing is the way that in an age when used items were not discarded (and thank goodness for that or we’d be lacking in humankind’s history) but reused. Old canvases were painted over. You’d guessed that, hadn’t you?

I love reading about the processes involved in reclamation projects. Specifically, in this case I loved the chase not only of a murderer, but the solving of an even older mystery. The Body in Bodega Bay is a fine way to spend a few hours.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, November 2020.
http://www.ckcrigger.com
Author of The Woman Who Built A Bridge (Spur Award Winner), Yester’s Ride,
Hometown Burning and Five Days, Five Dead: A China Bohannon Novel

Book Review: Of Mutts and Men by Spencer Quinn @ChetTheDog @ForgeReads

Of Mutts and Men
A Chet & Bernie Mystery #10   
Spencer Quinn
Forge Books, July 2020
ISBN: 978-1-250-29769-3
Hardcover

The story opens with Chet and his partner, Bernie Little of the Little Detective Agency, in hot pursuit of an art thief. Across rooftops, no less, and when the thief jumps from one roof to another, he drops the painting. But Chet, superb partner that he is, catches the painting in mid-air. He saves the thief also, whose leap has fallen short, almost by himself. Except Bernie is there and hauls them both in. All in a day’s work, which lands them a new client.

Unfortunately, when the partners show up at the client’s place of business, they find him dead. Since Bernie—and Chet, that goes without saying—distrusts the inept sheriff in charge, they take on the job of finding the killer. It’s what they do best, and as you’ll see, though investigating is not without peril, they’re very good at it. Pay or no pay, something Chet always worries about, Bernie not so much. Just like Bernie always worries about the aquifer in the dry California desert country, but Chet not so much.

From this, if you haven’t read any of Spencer Quinn’s Chet and Bernie novels, you might not realize that Chet (the jet) is a police-schooled dog who failed his final test, and Bernie is, indeed, a private eye. If you haven’t read the novels, why not? You’re missing out, especially as each novel just seems to get stronger. I think Of Mutts and Men is arguably the best one yet. The reader can always count on an excellent mystery/adventure, always the very best of characterizations with lots of action, and stories rife with humor. In other words, riveting page turners.

Chet is the narrator, and believe me, he’s a great one. Yes, Chet is the dog. But he’s not a humanized dog. Not at all. He thinks how a dog thinks and acts like a dog acts. Love, loyalty, and a healthy appetite all wrapped up into one package. The story gets my highest recommendation.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, May 2020.
http://www.ckcrigger.com
Author of The Woman Who Built A Bridge (Spur Award Winner), Yester’s Ride,
Hometown Burning and Five Days, Five Dead: A China Bohannon Novel

Book Reviews: That Left Turn at Albuquerque by Scott Phillips and Where Privacy Dies by Priscilla Paton @soho_press @priscilla_paton @CoffeetownPress

That Left Turn at Albuquerque
Scott Phillips
Soho Crime, March 2020
ISBN 978-1-64129-109-5
Hardcover

The author has assembled here an engaging and substantial cast of characters. That he is able to keep track of their criminal activities and their attitudes toward their fellow humans, as well as their active lives is quite impressive.

Most of the characters engage in illegal and scurrilous acts without apparent concern for the morality or humanity of their lives. Or for the impact their actions have on others, often innocent others. That most of their criminality is directed at other criminals may be seen by many readers as a mitigating factor. A significant number of the characters are imbued with some level of humor and see their fellow humans as actually funny at times.

Central to the story is down and out attorney, Douglas Rigby. His small, now solo practice is falling to pieces and he engages in several illegal enterprises in his attempts to stave off bankruptcy and total ruin.

Readers will be treated to bare-knuckle humor, tongue in cheek satire, up-tempo action, murder, mayhem, and a good deal of action. A somewhat peculiar, jaundiced look at society, propels the book from start to finish.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, May 2020.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
Traces, Grand Lac, Reunion, Red Sky.

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Where Privacy Dies
A Twin Cities Mystery #1
Priscilla Paton
Coffeetown Press, May 2018
ISBN 978-1-60381-665-6
Trade Paperback

From the striking cover to the final resolution of murky death and the corruption by power and money of numerous characters, this rich and at times difficult novel will attract, enthrall and sometimes irk readers. Central to the story is the gradual growth of understanding and appreciation of two detectives in a Twin Cities law enforcement force titled G-Met. It’s an intriguing amalgam of special cops whose franchise covers multiple jurisdictions in the metropolitan region of East Central Minnesota. It’s an authorial creation with much interesting and intriguing potential.

Lead detective is tall lanky Erik Jansson, divorced father of a young son. He is not a typical cop one frequently finds in this genre. He’s paired with a new hire from a small city in southern Minnesota, Deb Metzger, a six-foot plus lesbian, who could competently handle the physical requirements of a corporate bodyguard. The two are not instantly simpatico and thereby inhabit a running source of minor conflict and mutual support which adds a fine level of benign conflict to the novel.

Although the title of the novel is a quickly understood clue to an important dimension of the mystery, this story turns on the deviousness and sometimes nasty inclinations of human beings who have enjoyed a high degree of success without the leavening factor of ethics and moral suasion. The narrative is tight, solid and delves neatly into ego, intrusion of technology, moral failure and the entanglement of those who would ignore their childhood schooling. A multiplicity of characters, crisp dialogue and an absence of unnecessary description adds to the richness of the novel. The novel competently reveals a fresh voice and a thoughtful look into the modern world of computer crime and our almost universal entanglement therein. I recommend this fine novel.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, March 2019.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
Traces, Grand Lac, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Reviews: Solving Cadence Moore by Gregory Sterner and 19 Souls by J.D. Allen @SternerGregory @aperturepress @JDAllenBooks @midnightinkbook

Solving Cadence Moore
Gregory Sterner
Aperture Press, November 2017
ISBN 978-0-9973020-8-0
Trade Paperback

An intense novel fashioned in a very creative and unusual way, Solving Cadence Moore struggles to match its creative vision. It is rooted in the modern radio podcast phenomenon. Charlie Marx, successful radio podcast creator and star has a fine and lasting career in a fairly volatile professional area. He’s progressed through solid talent and the support of a major broadcasting executive, but he wants more. He thinks he’s found a vehicle, a ten-year old mystery.

Young talented and striking-looking (cliché?) Candace Moore is at the beginning of her career as a star vocalist and song creator. When she disappears and no trace has ever been found of her, the mystery endures and grows. Marx believes he can solve the murder and he exaggerates his proof to his boss in order to gain permission to create a star series of podcasts.

Things begin to fall apart when production time is squeezed down and witnesses become reluctant. Marx endures long and tense confrontations with his boss, with members of his production team and with some witnesses he turned up.

The novel, frequently written as a radio script, is long, tedious at times and is shot full of disagreeable language, confrontation after confrontation, and little consideration for the reader. Nine chapters divide a 362-page story. Long involved arguments detailing strengths and weaknesses of character’s positions, often with little or no descriptive language tend to give the narrative a slow and steady progression. Readers will assume, perhaps correctly, that the profession of radio broadcasting, especially when focused on the dramatization of true events, is replete with the kind of competition and repetitive tests of wills fostered by strongly opinionated, testosterone supplied males.

In sum an excellent idea burdened by a limited exposition, resulting in relief that the novel is done, rather than disappointment for the final period.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, May 2020.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
Traces, Grand Lac, Reunion, Red Sky.

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19 Souls
A Sin City Investigation #1
J.D. Allen
Midnight Ink Books, February 2018
ISBN 978-0-7387-5403-1
Trade Paperback

An interesting if troublesome book about the search for a deteriorating psychopathic serial killer. The story has several things going for it, an unusual killer, a raft of police and FBI characters, and at least three sort-of-legal private searchers. The least likeable of the three, a shambling, bumbling private investigator named Jim Bean works alone, except when he needs help, which is frequently. The other two, O, a bounty-hunter, and Bean’s obligatory cyber/research expert add a little to the narrative, although O adds the least.

The setup is excellent and would have been even better if Bean wasn’t portrayed as so constantly second-guessing himself. A woman hires him to find her long-lost brother. She promptly drugs and seduces Bean which interferes with Bean’s thoughts and emotions, often at crucial junctures.

The story takes place in Texas, Nevada, California and Indiana. As the target descends gradually, logically, and cleverly into madness, the tension rises and more bodies litter the ground. Largely well-written and edited there are a few point-of-view shifts that are momentarily confusing but taking it all together, the novel is worth its price.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, March 2019.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
Traces, Grand Lac, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Review: Spirit Wind by Marilyn Meredith—and a Giveaway! ‎@MarilynMeredith

Spirit Wind
Tempe Crabtree Mystery Series #18
Marilyn Meredith
Marilyn Meredith, March 2019
ISBN 978-1092112086
Trade Paperback

From the author—

A call from a ghost hunter changes Deputy Tempe Crabtree’s vacation plans. Instead of going to the coast, she and her husband are headed to Tehachapi to investigate a haunted house and are confronted by voices on the wind, a murder, and someone out to get them.

Marilyn Meredith has been writing the Tempe Crabtree series for a long time and this one is every bit as good as those that preceded it and just as fresh. Tempe herself is an appealing police officer but the Native American elements add a special touch, not to mention Tempe’s ability to communicate with ghosts. Not only do we get an entertaining police procedural, we also actually have the chance to learn something about tribal life and customs in today’s world.

This time, a haunted house adds to the allure and spirits play an integral part in the search for a murderer as well as the truth about what happened to a woman who walked out of an earthquake-damaged prison into oblivion. Tempe and her husband, Hutch, intend to help the local police without stepping on toes but soon become potential victims themselves; perhaps the biggest puzzle is figuring out why a spirit is in the house and what it really wants.

Spiritual beliefs often play a part in Tempe’s investigations but they’re particularly important in Spirit Wind and blending them with modern police work, always tempered with the culture of the surrounding area and people, makes for an especially intriguing case and, once again, I was drawn in to a story that’s compelling in many ways. The next Tempe Crabtree mystery can’t come soon enough for me 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2019.

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Giveaway

To enter the drawing for a very gently
used print copy
of Spirit Wind,

leave a comment below. The winning
name will be drawn on Friday evening,
December 20th. Open to residents
of the US and Canada.