Book Reviews: No Substitute for Mimes by Carolyn J. Rose and Mental State by M. Todd Henderson @CarolynJRose @DownAndOutBooks

No Substitute for Mimes
Subbing Isn’t for Sissies #12
Carolyn J. Rose
Carolyn J. Rose, November 2019
ISBN 978-1-7342412-0-4
Trade Paperback

Set in the fictional town of Reckless River, Washington, residents are by turns, bemused, irked, and barely tolerant as their quiet town is besieged by a group of mimes.

Suddenly, they seem to be everywhere. And they are stealing things; small things, useless trinkets. But then, the stolen items reappear. Residents become increasingly bewildered and irritated, but that fails to suppress the turbulent life of substitute teacher, Barbara Reed. Her principal seems bent on handing her the most problematic assignments at the local school where she is a long-time fixture.

Reed’s life is crowded with a large number  of idiosyncratic individuals from a couple of cops, a wealthy retiree, some relatives and a host of friends. And there is a dog with few manners.

The novel is awash with incidents frequently involving several of Reed’s friends, especially local crime news reporter, Stan. People who like this kind of story in which the mystery or crime often takes a back seat to various social activities, will likely be enthralled.

The book is well-written, moves through town at a measured pace and arrives at a surprise ending that engages most of the town.

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

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

Mental State
M. Todd Henderson
Down and Out Books, May 2018
ISBN 978-1-948235-33-4
Trade Paperback

Royce Anderson, rogue FBI agent is on a personal crusade. He’s trying to nail the man who killed his brother Alex, a prominent professor of law at a prestigious law school in Chicago. Local police have tentatively ruled Alex’s death as a suicide. Royce is unbelieving, unimpressed, sure his brother would never have done such a thing.

But if Alex’s death wasn’t suicide, what was it? With almost no additional help, except that he sometimes receives along his troubled, occasionally stumbling way, the narrative wanders across the Eastern Seaboard. Indeed, because part of the story involves prior activities by the law professor, there are some undeveloped international elements as well.

The story follows a conflicted and disturbed agent, Royce Anderson, as he uses all his considerable skills and experience to confront and best some very evil and very well-connected people. There are some serious problems, not the least of which are interesting elements of the story which are undeveloped and some major jumps in points of view which may unnerve readers. The occasional political asides add little to what could have been a serious gripping thriller.

Nevertheless, readers with patience will be drawn to Royce’s side as he struggles to avenge his brother and save an innocent man, although at the price of several other lives hugely disrupted.

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

Book Reviews: Grandad, There’s a Head on the Beach by Colin Cotterill and Tales from My Closet by Jennifer Anne Moses

Grandad, There's a Head on the BeachGrandad, There’s a Head on the Beach
A Jimm Juree Mystery #2
Colin Cotterill
Minotaur Books, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-312-56454-4
Hardcover

Author Colin Cotterill appears to have a somewhat skewed view of the world, especially as applied to world politics. Sardonic to a fault, his skill as a writer is prominently on display here. His characters are unusual, almost all off-beat and so they tend to act in unexpected ways. That may be the influence of the setting, somewhere along the coast of southern Thailand, the influence of drugs imbibed by several in the story, or the speculative motives of nearly all the participants.

If there is a problem with this novel, it may be that none of the principals are people you’d like to spend a whole lot of time with—or go to bed with.

Jimm Juree established a career as a crime reporter in Thailand and life was progressing. Then, for obscure reasons, her mother sells the family home and buys a run-down failing motel-holiday resort near a disappearing beach on the ocean shore. Unfortunately, the beach is also the location where streams deposit various unwanted trash and other detritus. And that’s how, presumably, it is that early one morning Jimm Juree comes upon a human head in the sand.

Thereafter, the plot devolves into political and illegal shenanigans of concealment, fraud and other assorted crimes. Treatment of Burmese refugees is prominent throughout the novel. A mysterious woman and her presumed daughter, apparently on the run, insist on staying at the resort and getting under foot. Local political gangsters cross dangerous and violent paths with Jimm Juree and her friends and the story, a bit long for my taste, lurches along to a most satisfying and somewhat amusing conclusion.

The humorous and occasionally wacky happenings are, in fact, background and leavening for a much more serious illumination of a problem, that of Burmese refugees and their treatment in Myanmar and Thailand. I am just not sure that the excruciating difficulties faced by the displaced Burmese are effectively handled by their juxtaposition with the unusual family of Jimm Juree.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, March 2015.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

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

Tales from My ClosetTales from My Closet
Jennifer Anne Moses
Scholastic Press, February 2014
ISBN 978-0-545-51608-2
Hardcover

In Tales from My Closet, Ms. Moses so aptly captures the venom that spews from the mouths of teens, that I find myself fantasizing about a trip back in time to punch Teen-Aged Me in the face and to hug my mom very tightly. The unlikely union of five teen-age fashionistas, each experiencing unrelated, yet equally concerning issues at home, immediately pulled me into the fascinating, eerily familiar tales.

Uniquely unapologetic, the unabashed, free-flung, nastiness of Spoiled-Rich-Fashionista feels down-right insulting. And also, terribly sad and desperate. Vintage-Fashionista, the initial and most frequent narrator, is the quintessential-know-it-all-dramatically-impatient-daughter that I was. And, of course, all of my girlfriends were.

Fabulous-in-Lingerie brings a harsh, yet crucial reminder that even if it seems like a person’s problems are frivolous, there could be more behind the scenes. Ann, Fantastic-in-Fifties, reluctantly realizes that moms were daughters once, too, and that moms, grandmas, and “perfect” sisters make mistakes and have secrets. Huge Smile All-Varsity Girl rounds out the cast, providing a perfect example of things not being at all as they appear.

Fabulously, each fashionista presents her own version of the tumultuous year together. This enriches the story as it provides not only a deeper and more thorough understanding of each character; but also because the reader “sees” more about the family unit and the individual parents and siblings.

I believe Tales provides a rare and welcome opportunity for a mom and her daughter(s) to read the same book, at the same time. Not just because it packs a powerful punch, but because it is also bitingly witty, sweet, funny and captivating.

“I tried not to hold his hyper-funk-nihilist-grunge-
gender-blended-macho look against him…..”

“Of course she’s lonely: She’s a freak! No one
wants to be friends with her, not just me.”

“….saw you looking so punk-cool-fifties-awesome-fab, I’d be
so blinded by your sublime radiance of fabulosity
that I’d get on the next train back to college!”

“…how can Robot Girl erase someone as
out-there and funktabulous as you are?”

“…but he was famous for looking like a person
who was planning to grow up to be a drug
addict, or maybe a serial killer.”

NEW WORDS!
“funktabulous”
“fabulosity”

Reviewed by jv poore, June 2015.

Book Reviews: Agent X by Noah Boyd, Little Girl Lost by Brian McGilloway, The Devil’s Edge by Stephen Booth, Call Me Princess by Sara Blaedel, and Where All the Dead Lie by J.T. Ellison

Agent X
Noah Boyd
Harper, August 2011
ISBN: 978-0-06-182703-7
Mass Market Paperback

Kate Bannon, the Assistant Director of the FBI who readers, and ex-FBI Agent Steve Vail, first met in this author’s The Bricklayer, returns, in fact, in the first sentence on the first page of this, the second in the series.  And a most welcome return it is, of those protags and the series itself. I am delighted to report that all the taut writing, suspense and wonderful characters of the initial book in the series are abundantly present in Agent X as well.

Vail, a maverick who can’t/won’t confirm to rules, was fired by the FBI five years previously.  He has since then been working at least nominally as a bricklayer [thus the title of the first book] and had met Kate in LA when they worked together on a case which had a successful conclusion, mostly due to his efforts.  [He was an ‘independent contractor’ of sorts in that instance for the FBI.]  They had dated for a while, until Kate broke it off.  Beyond the delightful banter, the two make for a terrific team as the FBI persuades Vail to head up their investigation into finding a number of agents to whom vital US secrets are just a commodity to be bartered.  As if that weren’t enough, Steve is asked by an agent who had been Vail’s partner several years back to assist with a case involving the disappearance of a female intelligence analyst.  As the tale unfolds, one thing becomes clear:  Very little is as it seems.

The Vail/Bannon relationship is an ambivalent one.  As is the Vail/FBI deal.  Bannon tells Vail:  “You have advanced degrees.  The director has offered you complete autonomy if you’ll come back to the Bureau, but instead you choose physical labor just so you won’t have to take orders. . . Not everyone who takes orders for a living is a mortal enemy of Steven Vail.”  The cleverly constructed sleuthing [which was a challenge at times for this reader, I must admit], and the occasional philosophical ruminations, make for a fascinating read.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, July 2011.

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

Little Girl Lost
Brian McGilloway
Macmillan, May 2011
ISBN: 978-0-230-75336-5
Trade Paperback

[This title is presently only available in/through the UK,  not yet available in the US or Canada]

D.S. Lucy Black, of the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the daughter of police officers, in the midst of a search for a young girl, Kate McLaughlin, whose father is a prominent businessman, stumbles [almost literally] upon another young girl, wandering in what is termed an ‘ancient woodland,’ suffering severe hypothermia among other things due to her prolonged exposure to the elements in the brutal winter cold and snow.   The latter child is unidentified, and remains so despite pleas to the public and circulation through print media and televised press conferences of her information and photograph.  The only one to achieve any response from the girl, and that very limited, is Lucy.

Chief Superintendent Travers, of the CID, transfers Lucy, despite her desire for a post in the CID, to the Public Protection Unit “for the foreseeable future,” and assigns her to the case of the unidentified child.  Her position is made more complex than it otherwise might be by virtue of the fact that her mother is the Assistant Chief Constable.  Only in the division a month, Lucy has taken pains to keep that information hidden, made easier by the fact that her mother reverted to her own name when her parents divorced 14 years earlier.  The two investigations proceed side by side, the lines at times crossing from one to the other.  As the tale goes one, the heart-tugging stories of more than one other Little Girls Lost arise.

Lucy’s personal life intrudes on her work:  She had requested her present assignment because her father, an ex-cop for over twenty years, is now increasingly suffering from dementia, if not actually Alzheimer’s, and she has moved back to Derry after many years away.  Her relationship with both her parents is strained, to say the least, and becomes more so as the novel proceeds.  Derry is cited as “the birthplace of The Troubles,” and however long ago that era was, perhaps inevitably its presence is still very much a force in the lives of those who lived through it.  A fascinating novel, and recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, July 2011.

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

The Devil’s Edge
Stephen Booth
Sphere, April 2011
ISBN: 978-1-84744-479-0
Hardcover

[This book is presently available only in/through the UK/CA, not yet available in the US]

Devil’s Edge is a fairly insular world, defined, geographically at least, by the cliff edges which surround it.  This book is, in a similar way, equally circumscribed.  As the reader is told on the opening page, “It was one of the drawbacks of living in the countryside.  Too much of the outside world intruding.  Too many things it was impossible to keep out.”  In this novel, the outside world, and the aspects of it one would most like to keep out, intrudes in the worst way.  On the eastern fringe of the Peak District, in the village of Riddings, in rural Derbyshire, there has been a rash of break-ins.  The burglars have been dubbed The Savages by the press. The newest incidents escalate the anxiety when they suddenly turn deadly.  The author speaks of the residents having sought sanctuary in the rural haven, noting, however, that “everyone had monsters in their lives.”  Suspicion turns from looking for an outside group of burglars to someone from within the community, targeting the victims, for reasons far more personal. Recently promoted D.S. Ben Cooper is assigned the investigation.  He, particularly, believes it is not the work of The Savages, being much more meticulously planned and leaving no trace of the culprit[s].

D.S. Diane Fry, formerly with the West Midlands Police “in the days before she transferred to yokel land,” is brought back into the squad to take over the investigation after an almost unimaginable turn of events changes Ben Cooper’s life forever.  Despite the past ambivalence of their relationship, where they were both vying for the same promotion, their usually well-concealed respect for each other is here on display.

The author’s descriptions bring the land to palpable life, e.g., “the distant rocky outcrops seemed to change shape.  They slid slowly sideways, merged and divided, their outlines shifting from smooth to jagged to a distinctive silhouette.  It was all the effect of altering angle and perspective.  With each step, a transformation took place inthe landscape, a gradual reveal like the slow drawing aside of a curtain.  At a point halfway across the flats, a split rock he hadn’t noticed before came into view.  As it emerged from behind a larger boulder, its two halves slowly parted and turned, like the hands of a clock creeping past noon.”  Simply gorgeous.  [The landscape, and the writing, that is.]

Recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, October 2011.

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

Call Me Princess
Sara Blaedel
Pegasus Crime, August 2011
ISBN: 978-1-60598-251-9
Hardcover

Though Sara Blaedel is the author of several books, and her novels are apparently consistently on the bestseller lists in her native Denmark and elsewhere, this book represents her American debut.  And an auspicious one it is.

Assistant Detective Louise Rick, of the Copenhagen Police Department, is assigned the case of a 32-year-old woman who was raped and brutally attacked.  When the body of another young woman is found, having been similarly brutalized but hadn’t escaped with her life, the police believe they have a serial criminal on the loose.  Other women with similar stories of brutal rapes over the past couple of years are soon linked to the same man.  The only common thread is that the women all apparently met their attackers online.

Louise has been with the homicide division for the past four years. Her best friend, Camilla Lind, is a reporter who has the Copenhagen crime beat at a local newspaper, and that turns out to be both a blessing and a curse, because the help of the newspaper in getting the description of the man the police are hunting out to the public can be a good thing, but too close an involvement with the latest victim by a reporter not so much, and Louise finds it hard to keep a professional distance.

Louise ultimately needs to familiarize herself with the world of online dating.  Her six-year-long relationship with the man she’s been living with has become rocky, and she is ambivalent about the research she needs to do.  The suspense mounts as she tries to identify the rapist.  The author explores the devastating effects on his victims, and I found it hard to keep reading at times, but harder to put the book down.  The author’s next book, Only One Life, is due out in July of 2012 from Pegasus, and I for one can’t wait.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, December 2011.

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

Where All the Dead Lie
J.T. Ellison
MIRA Books, October 2011
ISBN: 978-0-7783-1268-0
Trade Paperback

As this newest entry in the Taylor Jackson series opens, although the serial killer whose death ended the last book, So Close the Hand of Death, is no longer around to continue his terror campaign, his legacy is very much alive:  Both Nashville homicide lieutenant Taylor Jackson and her closest friend, medical examiner Dr. Samantha Owens Loughley [“Sam”] are still traumatized by the events which led to his death at Taylor’s hand, one month earlier.  [The two women’s jobs are described by the author thusly:  “Taylor protected the living inhabitants of Nashville; Sam uncovered the secrets of its dead.”] Taylor suffers from a combination of PTSD and guilt, in addition to the aftermath of the gunshot to the head which she sustained, following which she was put in a medically induced coma and then didn’t waken for another week; Sam had been horribly tormented and brutalized.

The series should probably be read in order, as there are a lot of backstory references and characters: The mysterious man known as Atlantic, the whole history of The Pretender [the aforementioned serial killer], etc.  This book has an unexpected change of venue, from Taylor’s native city to the UK, when her erstwhile suitor, James “Memphis” Highsmythe, the Viscount Dulsie, invites her to spend the holidays in his castle [yes, ‘castle!’], to help her recover from her emotional, physical and psychic wounds.  Since she is experiencing some unexpected ambivalence in her relationship with Dr. John Baldwin, to whom she is now engaged – –  some friction has developed over an issue having to do with his son, another part of that backstory – – she decides to accept his invitation.

Once Taylor arrives in Edinburgh, she finds that Memphis, a Detective Inspector with the Metropolitan Police, is in the midst of investigating a series of disappearances:  three teenage girls have gone missing in London, and he is in charge of the case.  Much of the rest of the tale deals with that investigation, as well as Taylor’s attempts at recovery and the complications caused by her relationship with Memphis, a recently widowed man equally mired in grief over his wife’s somewhat mysterious death as with his passion for Taylor.

Another well-written and engrossing entry in a terrific series, this one is also recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, February 2012.

Book Reviews: Agent X by Noah Boyd, Little Girl Lost by Brian McGilloway, The Devil's Edge by Stephen Booth, Call Me Princess by Sara Blaedel, and Where All the Dead Lie by J.T. Ellison

Agent X
Noah Boyd
Harper, August 2011
ISBN: 978-0-06-182703-7
Mass Market Paperback

Kate Bannon, the Assistant Director of the FBI who readers, and ex-FBI Agent Steve Vail, first met in this author’s The Bricklayer, returns, in fact, in the first sentence on the first page of this, the second in the series.  And a most welcome return it is, of those protags and the series itself. I am delighted to report that all the taut writing, suspense and wonderful characters of the initial book in the series are abundantly present in Agent X as well.

Vail, a maverick who can’t/won’t confirm to rules, was fired by the FBI five years previously.  He has since then been working at least nominally as a bricklayer [thus the title of the first book] and had met Kate in LA when they worked together on a case which had a successful conclusion, mostly due to his efforts.  [He was an ‘independent contractor’ of sorts in that instance for the FBI.]  They had dated for a while, until Kate broke it off.  Beyond the delightful banter, the two make for a terrific team as the FBI persuades Vail to head up their investigation into finding a number of agents to whom vital US secrets are just a commodity to be bartered.  As if that weren’t enough, Steve is asked by an agent who had been Vail’s partner several years back to assist with a case involving the disappearance of a female intelligence analyst.  As the tale unfolds, one thing becomes clear:  Very little is as it seems.

The Vail/Bannon relationship is an ambivalent one.  As is the Vail/FBI deal.  Bannon tells Vail:  “You have advanced degrees.  The director has offered you complete autonomy if you’ll come back to the Bureau, but instead you choose physical labor just so you won’t have to take orders. . . Not everyone who takes orders for a living is a mortal enemy of Steven Vail.”  The cleverly constructed sleuthing [which was a challenge at times for this reader, I must admit], and the occasional philosophical ruminations, make for a fascinating read.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, July 2011.

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

Little Girl Lost
Brian McGilloway
Macmillan, May 2011
ISBN: 978-0-230-75336-5
Trade Paperback

[This title is presently only available in/through the UK,  not yet available in the US or Canada]

D.S. Lucy Black, of the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the daughter of police officers, in the midst of a search for a young girl, Kate McLaughlin, whose father is a prominent businessman, stumbles [almost literally] upon another young girl, wandering in what is termed an ‘ancient woodland,’ suffering severe hypothermia among other things due to her prolonged exposure to the elements in the brutal winter cold and snow.   The latter child is unidentified, and remains so despite pleas to the public and circulation through print media and televised press conferences of her information and photograph.  The only one to achieve any response from the girl, and that very limited, is Lucy.

Chief Superintendent Travers, of the CID, transfers Lucy, despite her desire for a post in the CID, to the Public Protection Unit “for the foreseeable future,” and assigns her to the case of the unidentified child.  Her position is made more complex than it otherwise might be by virtue of the fact that her mother is the Assistant Chief Constable.  Only in the division a month, Lucy has taken pains to keep that information hidden, made easier by the fact that her mother reverted to her own name when her parents divorced 14 years earlier.  The two investigations proceed side by side, the lines at times crossing from one to the other.  As the tale goes one, the heart-tugging stories of more than one other Little Girls Lost arise.

Lucy’s personal life intrudes on her work:  She had requested her present assignment because her father, an ex-cop for over twenty years, is now increasingly suffering from dementia, if not actually Alzheimer’s, and she has moved back to Derry after many years away.  Her relationship with both her parents is strained, to say the least, and becomes more so as the novel proceeds.  Derry is cited as “the birthplace of The Troubles,” and however long ago that era was, perhaps inevitably its presence is still very much a force in the lives of those who lived through it.  A fascinating novel, and recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, July 2011.

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

The Devil’s Edge
Stephen Booth
Sphere, April 2011
ISBN: 978-1-84744-479-0
Hardcover

[This book is presently available only in/through the UK/CA, not yet available in the US]

Devil’s Edge is a fairly insular world, defined, geographically at least, by the cliff edges which surround it.  This book is, in a similar way, equally circumscribed.  As the reader is told on the opening page, “It was one of the drawbacks of living in the countryside.  Too much of the outside world intruding.  Too many things it was impossible to keep out.”  In this novel, the outside world, and the aspects of it one would most like to keep out, intrudes in the worst way.  On the eastern fringe of the Peak District, in the village of Riddings, in rural Derbyshire, there has been a rash of break-ins.  The burglars have been dubbed The Savages by the press. The newest incidents escalate the anxiety when they suddenly turn deadly.  The author speaks of the residents having sought sanctuary in the rural haven, noting, however, that “everyone had monsters in their lives.”  Suspicion turns from looking for an outside group of burglars to someone from within the community, targeting the victims, for reasons far more personal. Recently promoted D.S. Ben Cooper is assigned the investigation.  He, particularly, believes it is not the work of The Savages, being much more meticulously planned and leaving no trace of the culprit[s].

D.S. Diane Fry, formerly with the West Midlands Police “in the days before she transferred to yokel land,” is brought back into the squad to take over the investigation after an almost unimaginable turn of events changes Ben Cooper’s life forever.  Despite the past ambivalence of their relationship, where they were both vying for the same promotion, their usually well-concealed respect for each other is here on display.

The author’s descriptions bring the land to palpable life, e.g., “the distant rocky outcrops seemed to change shape.  They slid slowly sideways, merged and divided, their outlines shifting from smooth to jagged to a distinctive silhouette.  It was all the effect of altering angle and perspective.  With each step, a transformation took place inthe landscape, a gradual reveal like the slow drawing aside of a curtain.  At a point halfway across the flats, a split rock he hadn’t noticed before came into view.  As it emerged from behind a larger boulder, its two halves slowly parted and turned, like the hands of a clock creeping past noon.”  Simply gorgeous.  [The landscape, and the writing, that is.]

Recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, October 2011.

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

Call Me Princess
Sara Blaedel
Pegasus Crime, August 2011
ISBN: 978-1-60598-251-9
Hardcover

Though Sara Blaedel is the author of several books, and her novels are apparently consistently on the bestseller lists in her native Denmark and elsewhere, this book represents her American debut.  And an auspicious one it is.

Assistant Detective Louise Rick, of the Copenhagen Police Department, is assigned the case of a 32-year-old woman who was raped and brutally attacked.  When the body of another young woman is found, having been similarly brutalized but hadn’t escaped with her life, the police believe they have a serial criminal on the loose.  Other women with similar stories of brutal rapes over the past couple of years are soon linked to the same man.  The only common thread is that the women all apparently met their attackers online.

Louise has been with the homicide division for the past four years. Her best friend, Camilla Lind, is a reporter who has the Copenhagen crime beat at a local newspaper, and that turns out to be both a blessing and a curse, because the help of the newspaper in getting the description of the man the police are hunting out to the public can be a good thing, but too close an involvement with the latest victim by a reporter not so much, and Louise finds it hard to keep a professional distance.

Louise ultimately needs to familiarize herself with the world of online dating.  Her six-year-long relationship with the man she’s been living with has become rocky, and she is ambivalent about the research she needs to do.  The suspense mounts as she tries to identify the rapist.  The author explores the devastating effects on his victims, and I found it hard to keep reading at times, but harder to put the book down.  The author’s next book, Only One Life, is due out in July of 2012 from Pegasus, and I for one can’t wait.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, December 2011.

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

Where All the Dead Lie
J.T. Ellison
MIRA Books, October 2011
ISBN: 978-0-7783-1268-0
Trade Paperback

As this newest entry in the Taylor Jackson series opens, although the serial killer whose death ended the last book, So Close the Hand of Death, is no longer around to continue his terror campaign, his legacy is very much alive:  Both Nashville homicide lieutenant Taylor Jackson and her closest friend, medical examiner Dr. Samantha Owens Loughley [“Sam”] are still traumatized by the events which led to his death at Taylor’s hand, one month earlier.  [The two women’s jobs are described by the author thusly:  “Taylor protected the living inhabitants of Nashville; Sam uncovered the secrets of its dead.”] Taylor suffers from a combination of PTSD and guilt, in addition to the aftermath of the gunshot to the head which she sustained, following which she was put in a medically induced coma and then didn’t waken for another week; Sam had been horribly tormented and brutalized.

The series should probably be read in order, as there are a lot of backstory references and characters: The mysterious man known as Atlantic, the whole history of The Pretender [the aforementioned serial killer], etc.  This book has an unexpected change of venue, from Taylor’s native city to the UK, when her erstwhile suitor, James “Memphis” Highsmythe, the Viscount Dulsie, invites her to spend the holidays in his castle [yes, ‘castle!’], to help her recover from her emotional, physical and psychic wounds.  Since she is experiencing some unexpected ambivalence in her relationship with Dr. John Baldwin, to whom she is now engaged – –  some friction has developed over an issue having to do with his son, another part of that backstory – – she decides to accept his invitation.

Once Taylor arrives in Edinburgh, she finds that Memphis, a Detective Inspector with the Metropolitan Police, is in the midst of investigating a series of disappearances:  three teenage girls have gone missing in London, and he is in charge of the case.  Much of the rest of the tale deals with that investigation, as well as Taylor’s attempts at recovery and the complications caused by her relationship with Memphis, a recently widowed man equally mired in grief over his wife’s somewhat mysterious death as with his passion for Taylor.

Another well-written and engrossing entry in a terrific series, this one is also recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, February 2012.

Book Review Trio by Patricia E. Reid

The Ridge
Michael Koryta
Little, Brown and Company, June 2011
ISBN No. 978-0316053662
Hardcover

Chief Deputy Kevin Kimble is making an early morning drive when he receives a very strange and disturbing phone call. The call is from Wyatt French one of the stranger residents of Kimble’s county.  Wyatt lives on a hilltop known as Blade Ridge.  Wyatt is famous for his heavy drinking and his residence.  Wyatt lives in a lighthouse that lights up the hills surrounding his home.  Wyatt’s call is to ask just one question of Kimble and  that is if Kimble would rather have a homicide to investigate or a suicide.  Kimble finally responds with the answer of suicide.

Kimble’s early drive is a strange one.  He makes a monthly visit to prison to visit Jacqueline Mathis.  Mathis is serving time for the murder of her husband.  Jacqueline also severely injured Kimble although she claims not to remember that she shot him.  Kimble thinks that his visits are not common knowledge but his telephone conversation with French reveals that French is well aware of these trips.

Audrey Clark is the owner of a big-cat sanctuary and is in the process of moving the animals to her new location on Blade Ridge.  The cats are restless and seem to be dissatisfied with the new sanctuary.

Kimble’s return home after his prison visit finds him faced with the discovery of Wyatt French’s body.  French’s death appears to be a suicide but Kimble keeps going over the statements made by French in his phone call and the strange items revealed in the search of French’s lighthouse home.

Between the investigation of French’s death and the trouble stirring at the cat sanctuary it seems that Blade Ridge is a dangerous place to be. Roy Darmus is a newspaper reporter whose newspaper has just closed down but Roy also becomes interested in French’s death and Blade Ridge.  Kimble and Darmus work together to uncover the mystery that surrounds the Ridge.

Digging into the past finally reveals the history of Blade Ridge and the very real dangers that lurk there – dangers that Wyatt French attempted to fight.

I enjoyed this author’s The Cypress House and So Cold the River. This one is even better than the first two.  The three books are all stand-alones.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, June 2011.

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

Dead Man’s Switch
Tammy Kaehler
Poisoned Pen Press, 2011
ISBN No. 978-1590588819
Hardcover

Tammy Kaehler’s debut novel Dead Man’s Switch introduces Kate Reilly.  Kate loves racing and although she has had some experience, she is looking for a full-time position with a racing crew.  When she pulls into the track at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Connecticut where the American LeMans Series is racing on the 4th of July weekend she pulls into a dead man.  Or maybe a better phrase would be that she pulls over a dead man.

The corpse under Kate’s car turns out to be Wade Becker, a corvette driver for ALMS.  The driver’s death was a shock to everyone but not necessarily counted as a loss since Wade seemed to have a number of enemies in the racing world.

When Kate is offered the position of filling in for Wade, she is thrilled but uncertain how she will be accepted.  She finds that the detective in charge of the investigation is suspicious of Kate since she not only discovered the body but also has taken over Wade’s driving position.

The author takes the readers behind the scenes of racing and puts you behind the wheel with Kate.  Kate is trying to concentrate on her driving as well as attempting to clear her name and prove that she is innocent.

Strong characters and a lot of excitement make this book a great read and you don’t have to be interested in racing to enjoy the book and learn a lot about the sport.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, August 2011.

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The Burning Edge
Rick Mofina
Mira, December 2011
ISBN No. 978-0778313014
Mass Market Paperback

“Jennifer, I love you.”  No, this is not a love story.   These four words are the last words spoken by a young FBI agent as he lay dying next to Lisa Palmer, recently widowed, single mother. At the request of the agent, Lisa had tried to reach his gun so that he would have a chance at the robbers but the gun slipped and attracted the attention of one of the robbers who immediately shot the FBI agent and held a gun to Lisa’s head.   Lisa escaped death but didn’t escape the terror of living through the robbery and the fear that the robbers would somehow find her.

Although Lisa has two small children to protect, she does agree to do everything she can to cooperate with the FBI in their search for the criminals. For FBI agent Frank Morrow this case is extremely important.  Morrow is facing his own death sentence and is determined to conclude the case and allow him time to spend with is family before his health problems take their final toll.

Jack Gannon, a reporter for World Press Alliance, is given the assignment and pressured to land an exclusive.  Gannon’s current boss, Dolf Lisker, is nothing like Melody Lane, his former boss, who has taken a one-year leave of absence.  Lisker had never worked the streets or followed a lead and had no patience whatsoever.  Lisker demanded immediate results and had no patience with Gannon who had an anonymous tipster he was attempting to catch up with and obtain further information about the robbery and its purpose.  Gannon feels  that the robbery had been carried out by well-trained men and the purpose of the robbery was more than just a chance to grab some fast money.

The story jumps back and forth from Gannon’s quest for more information, Lisa Palmer’s fears and her determination to keep her family safe and be sure the robbers are captured, and the point of view of the robbers and their reasons for needing a large amount of cash in a short amount of time.

Jack Gannon is a professional and the inside story of how a reporter chases down leads keeps the pages turning rapidly.  If you have not read the previous Jack Gannon novels this fast-paced book will be sure to make you want to read each book in the Gannon series.

Rick Mofina is a former crime reporter and writes from his own experience.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, November 2011.