Book Reviews: Desert Rage by Betty Webb, Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch, and Me on the Floor, Bleeding by Jenny Jagerfeld

Desert RageDesert Rage
A Lena Jones Mystery
Betty Webb
Poisoned Pen Press, October 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4642-0310-7
Hardcover

Betty Webb‘s powerful series is based in part on the knowledge gained during the author’s work as an active reporter in Arizona. That information infuses her novels with a strong feeling of authenticity. Teen aged angst, misunderstandings and over-reaction lead Scottsdale private investigator Lena into a dark place where she must pit her analytical skills and persistence against both official stubbornness and a nearly diabolical adversary.

As readers of this series have come to expect, the writing is excellent, the characters are well-delineated and the story is complicated and real. Two teens, Alison and Kyle, plan to run away to Hollywood and in idle exchanges threaten to murder Alison’s family. When the family is indeed brutally murdered, the teens believe each has separately done the deed and each confesses to authorities.

Arizona Senator Julia Thorsson, with secrets of her own, hires Lena Jones to clear the teens and find the real murderer or murderers. The task leads Lena and her partner, Pima Indian computer expert Jimmy Sisawan, into a difficult case with many surprising layers.

The action is mostly intense and persistent although there are chapters in which the author seems to lose focus and the action slows considerably. However, when Lena is focused on the case at hand and not arguing with her partner the action is brisk and logical. There are indications that her journalistic zeal for the story—surrogacy, law enforcement assumptions, public attitudes toward politics gets in the way of the story. Nevertheless, the quality of the work shines through, the story is compelling and well worth any reader’s time.

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

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Midnight RiotMidnight Riot
Peter Grant Series #1
Ben Aaronovitch
Del Rey, February 2011
ISBN 978-0-345-52425-6
Mass Market Paperback

Oh, boy, I’ve discovered a most entertaining new (to me, at least) author! Ben Aaronovitch is writing an urban fantasy series set in present day London that’ll knock your socks off. It’s ultra amusing, featuring well-developed characters along with an imaginative take on magic.

Constable Peter Grant’s ambition is to become a detective in the London Metropolitan Police. With the weird flashes of insight that appear to him, he’s soon apprenticed to Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, who is in charge of crimes involving magic and otherworldly manifestations. Peter sees and speaks to ghosts, you see. Who knew the London Police had a whole department devoted to magical mayhem? Who knew Peter would have such a learning curve to surmount in his advancing his career?

Peter, along with his partner, Leslie, is soon plunged into the investigation of some awful and outlandish murders, where the killers are as damaged as the dead. And then Leslie becomes a victim as well, as she is taken over by a brutal ghost, and Peter is in a harrowing race to save not only her, but her potential victims.

Aaronovitch not only provides the reader with a unique magical world set alongside the mundane, but he peoples it with all kinds of characters. You’ll find just regular folks, those with magic coursing through their veins, and even gods and goddesses walking this mortal world side-by-side. Good stuff and highly recommended.

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

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Me on the Floor, BleedingMe on the Floor, Bleeding
Jenny Jagerfeld
Stockholm Text, July 2014
ISBN 978-91-7547-011-5
Trade Paperback

Maja saws off the end of her thumb in sculpture class. What surprises her is that everyone—her friend Enzo, her teacher, even her father—believes she did it on purpose. Maja lives with her father, a music journalist, but spends every other weekend with her mother.

This weekend, when she gets off the train, her mother isn’t there to meet her. Nor is she at home. Bored sitting by herself in the apartment, thumb throbbing, Maja crashes a party next door. It’s here she meets a young woman she calls Debbie (because she looks like singer Debbie Harry) and a sexy young man in faded pink jeans, who tells her his name is “Justin Case.”

Maja resolves to find out why her mother was not at the apartment, but doesn’t tell her father what happened when she returns home. This young adult novel, a prize winner in Sweden, will appeal to readers who enjoy tales of alienated youth, although the Swedish locations and references may turn away some readers. It’s a well-crafted novel, with a thoughtful, articulate main character.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, October 2014.

Book Review: Trapped by Kevin Hearne

TrappedTrapped
The Iron Druid Chronicles, Book Five
Kevin Hearne
Del Rey, November 2012
ISBN 978-0-345-53364-7
Mass Market Paperback
Random House Audio, November 2012
Narrated by Luke Daniels
Downloaded Unabridged Audio Book

From the publisher—

After twelve years of secret training, Atticus O’Sullivan is finally ready to bind his apprentice, Granuaile, to the earth and double the number of Druids in the world. But on the eve of the ritual, the world that thought he was dead abruptly discovers that he’s still alive, and they would much rather he return to the grave.
 
Having no other choice, Atticus, his trusted Irish wolfhound, Oberon, and Granuaile travel to the base of Mount Olympus, where the Roman god Bacchus is anxious to take his sworn revenge—but he’ll have to get in line behind an ancient vampire, a band of dark elves, and an old god of mischief, who all seem to have KILL THE DRUID at the top of their to-do lists.

Sometimes, nothing will suit my reading mood except a fun story and Kevin Hearne is one of my favorite go-to authors for that. The whole idea of Atticus being a 2000-year-old druid, the last remaining, is wonderful but it’s even better that he passes for 21 (in the first book), he’s never short of funds, he swings a mean sword, he has a fabulous Irish wolfhound named Oberon and he’s just plain awesome. I love this line from a Publishers Weekly review of an earlier book—

“Hearne, a self-professed comic-book nerd, has turned his love of awesome dudes whacking mightily at evil villains into a superb urban fantasy debut.”

That pretty much sums up how I feel about The Iron Druid Chronicles and I dread to think of it’s inevitable end (as of right now, it seems there will be nine novels). No need to worry about that right now, though, because I have Trapped to savor and at least one more novel and novella and a handful of short stories to go later this year. As for this installment, I love it just a teensy bit less than the first four books and the novella preceding this one. Why do I say that when I’m such a fan of Atticus, Granuaile and Oberon? There are two issues that detracted from the pure joy I usually find in Hearne‘s writing.

First, there are too many characters. As for actual count, I didn’t bother with being THAT obsessive about it and there may be no more than in Hammered with all its Norse gods, frost giants, demon hunters, etc., but Trapped somehow seems more populated and I found it a bit difficult to keep them all straight. The second thing is there were a few passages of an educational bent that reminded me too much of a classroom seminar.

Oh, one other thing—not enough Oberon! OK, his amount of page time may have been appropriate for the story but there’s just no such thing as too much Oberon if you ask me. You’d have to have the humor of a rock not to laugh out loud when Oberon gives Atticus the sex talk or when he claims he should be knighted Sir Oberon for his literary achievements  😉 By the way, if you’re new to the series, Oberon and Atticus have quite lively conversations but it’s all between the two of them, made possible by the fact that…duh…Atticus is a druid and he can do cool stuff like that.

Still and all, I love that the supernatural world has discovered the big secret, that Atticus is alive, and now there are a whole lot of supes out to get him. You can’t help thinking he’s ticked off an awful lot of these guys over the centuries and you also can’t help thinking that his band of himself, a dog and a sort of girlfriend are a very small army. How is he going to get himself out of this colossal mess?

Despite the few shortcomings I’ve mentioned, I still love Trapped, so much that I read it twice, once in egalley form and then the audio book edition. Why? It’s quite simple, really—Luke Daniels is one of the best narrators in the business and he’s just plain brilliant with The Iron Druid Chronicles. I always know which character is speaking and, quite honestly, all he has to do is say one word in Oberon’s voice and I’m in hysterics.

So, looking for a fun read? You can’t do better than this but, if you haven’t read the earlier books, you really should start at the beginning with Hounded and get caught up in time for Hunted this June. By the way, if you want a little taste, head on over to Mr. Hearne‘s website and you’ll find a couple of free short stories (but no promises they’ll be there forever).

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2013.

Sir Oberon Getting His Knighthood

Sir Oberon Getting His Knighthood