Book Reviews: Cold Coast by Jenifer LeClair, Bottom Line by Marc Davis, and Nemesis by Bill Pronzini

Cold CoastCold Coast
A Brie Beaumont Mystery Thriller
The Windjammer Mystery Series, Book Three
Jenifer LeClair
Conquill Press, July 2013
ISBN 978-0-9800017-6-1
Trade Paperback
*****

Brie Beaumont is a homicide detective on leave from the Minneapolis Police Department and decided to take a cruise aboard The Maine Wind, an old-fashioned sailing ship. The ship is owned by Captain John deLuc. When an incident left Captain deLuc’s crew short one person he asked Brie to be second mate and she accepted. Brie and John have become close during their time together on the ship and it is now nearing the time for Brie to decide if she is going to return to Minneapolis and her duties as a detective.

The Maine Wind docks at Tucker Harbor, Maine after a storm. Tucker Harbor is a small lobster fishing village. Brie and another crew member decided to take the longboat ashore and several passengers expressed interest in going ashore and hiking along a trail that led to the village. The group set out on the trail but suddenly Brie heard a terrified cry from Hurley, one of the ship’s passengers, that was followed by one from another passenger. The group had come across a body on the trail. It turned out that the body was that of Jake Maloney, one of the residents of Tucker Harbor. The police were summoned and Dent Fenton of the Maine State Police started the investigation. When he realized Brie was an experienced detective he asked that she assist him in the investigation. Brie agreed to help and soon found that another murder had occurred earlier in the village.

This is the third Windjammer book with Brie Beaumont. It seems wherever The Maine Wind takes her Brie winds up in the midst of a mystery. Previous books are Danger Sector and Rigged for Murder. It is not necessary to read the books in order but they are all full of wonderful descriptions of life on a sailing vessel and the mysteries are tense and keep the reader guessing until the final outcome.

 
Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, February 2014.

 

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Bottom LineBottom Line
Marc Davis
The Permanent Press, June 2013
ISBN: 978-1-57962-316-6
Hardcover
*****

In wake of the Bernie Madoff massive fraud upon the world, a novel (or novels) on questionable business practices could be expected. Bottom Line tells a slightly different story of a similar large-scale fraud on a different level: Fraudulent accounting, a violation of securities laws. It is the story of Martell & Co., a top consulting/auditing firm based in Chicago with some of the country’s top companies as clients. With the downturn in the economy, with lower earnings in prospect, the numbers are “massaged” so the stocks of the public companies wouldn’t suffer.

The plot involves the study of the principal behind the firm, Adrian Martell, and his son, who perpetrate the shenanigans, and Nick Blake, the number two behind them, who plays a vital role in uncovering the scheme. It is an interesting idea, and, for the most part, well executed, except for some minor points about which the author or editor should have known better. Several times, SEC forms are misnamed (K-8 instead of 8K, or K-10 for 10K), and a statement that corporate information would not be released for several months, despite the legal requirement for immediate disclosure of significant news, raising the question as to how expert the author is on the subject. All in all, it is an interesting and fairly good read, despite these misgivings.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, November 2013.

 

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Nemesis 2Nemesis
A Nameless Detective Novel
Bill Pronzini
Forge/Tom Doherty Books, July 2013
ISBN: 978-0-7653-2566-2
Hardcover
*****

Nemesis, the newest in the Nameless Detective series, in which this is number 38, is told from three points of view: that of each of the three private detectives who work together out of their office in the South Park area of San Francisco, Jake Runyon, Tamara Corbin, and the “nameless detective” of the title of this series, in which this is number 38. (He is not “nameless” to his colleagues, btw; to them he is “Bill.”) Their newest client hires them to find out who is trying to blackmail them, the case goes to Jake. (Bill, an ex-cop now 60 years old, is working minimum hours, still trying to help his wife heal after she was held prisoner by a psychotic before being rescued, and Tamara mans the office, aided by a couple of part-time detectives.)

The woman, voluptuous Verity Daniels, who lives in a sumptuous high-rise just off the Embarcadero, turns out to be much more, and much less, than she at first appears. The investigation takes Jake across a wide swath of San Francisco, checking out the family of a man to whom Verity was engaged but who drowned just before he ostensibly was going to break off the engagement; a married ex-employer with whom she appears to have been having an affair; and a former husband. Jake’s instincts, after 14 years with the Seattle police and nearly 8 as a p.i., tell him he should drop the case. When her truthfulness becomes a serious issue and he tries to do just that, the result is not a pretty one. And the volatile Verity soon after charges him with rape. Things get rapidly worse, soon the detective agency is itself sued for serious money, and Jake is thrown in jail. The next portion of the book belongs to Tamara and her end of the investigation, and the final section is Bill’s as he picks up the case.

As with all of this author’s books, the latest Nameless Detective novel is a very well-plotted tale with the author’s trademark wonderfully drawn characters. Each section goes into the lives of each of the three detectives, their own past life-threatening episodes, and the ongoing investigation. There are several twists and turns, and at the end a prologue tying up all loose ends in the three detectives’ current lives. All terrifically well done, and the book is highly recommended. Besides, how could one not love a guy called “Nameless” who owns a cat called “Shameless?!”

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, January 2014.

Book Reviews: The Famous and the Dead by T. Jefferson Parker, The Wrath of Angels by John Connolly, Ratlines by Stuart Neville, and The Disciple of Las Vegas by Ian Hamilton

The Famous and the DeadThe Famous and the Dead
T. Jefferson Parker
Dutton, April 2013
ISBN 978-0-525-95317-3
Hardcover

This sixth novel in the Charlie Hood series brings it to a conclusion, sort of.  A lot of loose ends are wrapped up as the story meanders back and forth, recounting various topics from the illegal flow of guns and drugs along the U.S.-Mexican border to the accompanying cartel violence.  And, of course, there is a final confrontation between and among Charlie, Bradley Jones and Mike Finnegan.

The plot, such as it is, follows Charlie’s work as an ATF agent working undercover to nab the men who buy and sell the illegal firearms which enable the escalating violence on both sides of the border.  Meanwhile, Jones awaits the birth of his son and hopes to recapture the affection of his wife Erin.  And Charlie, who knows all of Bradley’s secrets, has to decide what to do with this information.  And his obsession with Mike Finnegan consumes him and can cost him his love, Beth.

Written with the author’s straightforward, but somewhat dry, style, this concluding novel in the series is not a particularly easy or enjoyable read.  It is slow, often repetitious, especially when past events are recounted.  The characters, of course, have been and continue to be memorable.  However, this reader, at least, had to struggle through the 371 pages and was not particularly enthralled by the conclusion.  Probably the only reason to recommend the novel would because it brings a noteworthy series to a final end, by an author who is a craftsman.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, May 2013.

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The Wrath of AngelsThe Wrath of Angels
A Charlie Parker Thriller

John Connolly
Emily Bestler Books/Atria, January 2013
ISBN: 978-1-4767-0302-2
Hardcover

This 11th novel in the Charlie Parker series carries the reader deep into the surrealistic world the author once again creates.  And brings back two of the Maine detective’s betes noir:  the Collector and Brightman, the latter coming back in the form of a child after Charlie shot him to death in a different form. Of course, Angel and Louis, as well as Rabbi Epstein, get to play roles as well.

It all begins when two hunters discover a plane which had crashed in the Maine northern woods, in which are found lots of cash and a satchel containing lists of names.  And a race begins among various opposing forces to discover the lists with Charlie in the middle, prompted by the story the daughter of one of the hunters tells him which she had learned from her dying father.

The author’s ability to make the supernatural aspects of his tales almost believable defies the imagination.  The lists contain the names of people who have made a deal with the devil.  The woods are inhabited by a spectral young girl seeking to lure other bodies to keep her company.  The forces of evil are represented by fallen angels.  There is the Collector, who sits in judgment of those he would take out of circulation.  And there is always Charlie, supposedly on the side of justice.  Quite a tale, and recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, May 2013.

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RatlinesRatlines
Stuart Neville
Soho Crime, January 2013
ISBN: 978-1-616-95204-4
Hardcover

Starting with the historical fact that many Nazi war criminals escaped after World War II with fortunes stolen from their victims and became ensconced in various countries like Franco’s Spain, Peron’s Argentina and anti-British Ireland, Stuart Neville has created a first-rate mystery.  The protagonist is a Lieutenant in the Directorate of Intelligence, Albert Ryan, who lied about his age to enlist in the British army and fought in the European theater, Egypt and Korea before returning home.

Ryan is asked at the behest of the Minister of Justice to investigate the murder of a German national, weeks before a pending visit by Pres. John F. Kennedy because he fears the publicity might force cancellation of the trip.  The authorities are desirous of hiding the fact that the country is providing sanctuary to a bunch of Nazis.  Ryan’s efforts become more complicated than a mere murder investigation, and thereby hangs one helluva tale.

The title refers to escape routes by which Nazis were able to travel, avoiding detection, and the methods used to finance their travels to and establishment in new locations.  While based on historical fact, more important is the plot, which twists and turns in wholly unexpected directions.  And the character study of Ryan is deep and penetrating.  Another top-notch novel from this author, and highly recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, June 2013.

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The Disciple of Las VegasThe Disciple of Las Vegas
Ian Hamilton
Picador, February 2013
ISBN: 978-0-250-03193-8
Trade Paperback

Many years ago, around the time of the dot-com boom, an idea occurred to me for a different type of protagonist:  a security analyst who applied his/her talents to solving financial crimes.  So it was with great anticipation that I approached this novel, in which Ava Lee, a forensic accountant, works to recover funds fraudulently stolen from her clients.  After all, there isn’t too much difference between what an accountant and a security analyst does:  Both study the books of companies and work with numbers.

Unfortunately, Ms. Lee not once in this novel performs such duties.  Instead she works to recover funds by cajoling perpetrators or using strong-arm tactics or other types of pressure.  The plot is relatively simple:  The younger brother of a Filipino billionaire loses more than $60 million of company funds playing poker on the internet, having been cheated by the two men running the site.

Despite my disappointment that my vision of a more technically oriented approach to the subject does not come to pass, this novel moves along at a brisk pace and is enjoyable on its own level.  Ava is resourceful, shrewd, and capable in more ways than one.  Perhaps questionable is why the author chose to make her gay, but that is relatively unimportant unless it comes to play a role in succeeding books following this debut.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, July 2013.

Book Reviews: The Hanging by Wendy Hornsby and The Past Never Ends by Jackson Burnett

The HangingThe Hanging
Wendy Hornsby
Perseverance Press, September 2012
ISBN 978-1-56474-526-2
Trade Paperback

Who knew film making could be so deadly? A camera rolls, interviews taken, edits done afterward. But what happens if you capture a death on film? It’s another snap-action case for Maggie McGowan.We catch up with the investigative filmmaker on a stint at a local community college when death enters the hallowed halls, it’s shutter speed to the final cut.

Who killed Park Holloway, president of Anacapa Community College? Maggie MacGowan, investigative filmmaker on a short-term contract teaching film production is on the case. And she has plenty of suspects: The art student whose award winning project Holloway wanted scuttled? The college’s fund raising chairperson who discovered Holloway’s illegal financial shenanigans? The interim vice president of the college? A donor who was duped by Holloway? While Maggie deals with a new love in her life and seeking background information for one of her students, she steps closer each day to exposing the killer. Will her final film project end in her death?

This one was full of subplots that were tendrils away from the main mystery, but they rounded out the characters to keep them interesting. Hornsby does a good job of bringing in pertinent background information about Maggie so that new readers to the series aren’t left with questions. I think those tidbits entice and urge readers to pick up previous mysteries to find out the whole story.

Reviewed by Stephen L. Brayton, February 2013.
Author of Night Shadows, Beta and Alpha.

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The Past Never EndsThe Past Never Ends
Jackson Burnett
Deadly Niche Press, July/2012
ISBN 978-1-62016-003-9
Trade Paperback

What does a man do when haunted by a death? What does he do when another man wants the death of a woman investigated? How does he cope with an ailing mother, pesky clients, a no nonsense judge, and a new romance? Well, if you’re Chester Morgan, you do the best you can and hope the best will out.

In a bustling Oklahoma city, attorney Chester Morgan enjoys his law practice, treats his clients better than other attorneys would, and just wants to see justice done. Weeks after finding the corpse of a prosperous and honest-as-the-day-is-long oilman in the YMCA pool, Morgan is caught up in another enigmatic case, the death of a stripper/hooker in the desperate side of town. The problem: nobody in authority will tell him anything about the death. So, Morgan starts investigating and discovers the sleazy side of life, from dirty cops to a mother who pimps her daughter. And what do the tenuous connections to the oilman’s death mean?

Compelling characters, intriguing mystery with well scattered evidence. I must admit, there are punctuation/grammar/spelling/phrasing errors and Burnett tends to wax nostalgic or philosophical at times, however, the basic plot kept me turning the pages. Like Morgan, I longed to see the puzzle solved and justice done

Reviewed by Stephen L. Brayton, March 2013.
Author of Night Shadows, Beta and Alpha.