A Trio of Teeny Reviews

Ain’t She a Peach
Southern Eclectic #4
Molly Harper
Gallery Books, June 2018
ISBN 978-1-5011-5133-0
Trade Paperback

Once again, the McCready family of Lake Sackett, Georgia, is back in fine fettle with their McCready Family Funeral Home and Bait Shop and, also once again, they’ve captured my heart. This time the focus is on Frankie, the youngish coroner/embalmer who considers herself well past the age of independence but her parents don’t know how to even begin to think of letting their precious only child spread her wings, so to speak. Sure, she sneaks off to Atlanta occasionally for a night of satisfying rowdiness but she can’t make herself move out (although she has disabled the location service they use to track her). There are very good reasons for this helicopter parenting but, really, she needs to grow a pair!

There’s a new Sheriff in town, Erik Linden, and while Frankie has a few, or a lot, of philosophical differences with Erik, including his queasiness around her dead customers, she’s finding it very hard to resist the man. Meanwhile, the rest of the McCready bunch are around and about and the town’s Halloween Trunk-R-Treat festival is coming up while a teenaged desperado has it in for Frankie for some reason.

The whole rambunctious McCready clan is a family I’d love to be part of and this fourth book in Molly Harper‘s series is just as much fun as all the others. Oh, I do hope there will be more!

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2018.

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Jurassic, Florida
Hunter Shea: One Size Eats All #1
Hunter Shea
Lyrical Press/Kensington, June 2018
ISBN 978-1-5161-0793-3
Ebook

LOL, I’m still chuckling over this book and I have only myself to blame for not having indulged in Hunter Shea‘s work before. Polo Springs, Florida, is a quiet little place but people are starting to notice that the lizard population, specifically small iguanas, seems to be popping up everywhere. Not just popping up—slithering and scampering and the little beasts apparently have lost all fear. Not so the humans in this town, folks like Frank who’s running from the mob and Ann Hickok, the very unlikely mayor who’s only 18 years old. Everyone in Polo Springs has stepped into their own Godzilla movie and the future’s looking very, very dim.

Polo Springs is about to get a rude awakening and they’ll wish they had those little iguanas back. In scenes that are alternately grisly and scream-inducing but also high camp, we learn the answer to the question: can anyone save this town from the invasion of giant people-eating critters?

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2018.

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In His Kiss
Neil Plakcy
Featherweight Publishing, March 2018
ISBN 978-1-64122-112-2
Trade Paperback

There’s nothing easy about high school, as most of us know, but senior Michael has it worse than some. First of all, he’s gay. No big secret there but he’s almost painfully shy and definitely insecure when it comes to actually finding “the right one” or even one who will do for right now. He’s also saddled with his younger brother, Robbie, aka the Big Mistake and family life pretty much revolves around Robbie with his multitudes of allergies and other issues. On the positive side, he has an awesome best friend, Brie, and she makes life in Stewart’s Crossing, Pennsylvania, tolerable although Michael is way past ready to get out of Dodge.

And then along comes Daniel Florez and life for Michael will never be the same again. Luckily for him, Daniel has a little more self-confidence—really, he’s almost oblivious to what’s not supposed to work or maybe his home life has just given him a thicker skin so he’s not quite as vulnerable. Whatever it is, Daniel is not afraid to make the first move and the second and the third… Suddenly, things are looking up for these two really nice kids and the future might be bright but there are some side effects, including resentment from Brie, but why are strange things happening to Michael, like awesome SAT scores? And, minor detail, why is the FBI hanging around spying on Daniel?

With a bit of fantasy and a lot of high school angst, not to mention lots of humor and love of all sorts, Neil Plakcy has created a story that had me smiling a lot and cringing just a little (in a good way) and I definitely want to know what Michael and Daniel are going to be up to next 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2018.

Book Review: Sweet Tea and Sympathy by Molly Harper

Sweet Tea and Sympathy
A Southern Eclectic Novel #2
Molly Harper
Gallery Books, November 2017
ISBN 978-1-5011-5122-4
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Nestled on the shore of Lake Sackett, Georgia is the McCready Family Funeral Home and Bait Shop. (What, you have a problem with one-stop shopping?) Two McCready brothers started two separate businesses in the same building back in 1928, and now it’s become one big family affair. And true to form in small Southern towns, family business becomes everybody’s business.

Margot Cary has spent her life immersed in everything Lake Sackett is not. As an elite event planner, Margot’s rubbed elbows with the cream of Chicago society, and made elegance and glamour her business. She’s riding high until one event goes tragically, spectacularly wrong. Now she’s blackballed by the gala set and in dire need of a fresh start—and apparently the McCreadys are in need of an event planner with a tarnished reputation.

As Margot finds her footing in a town where everybody knows not only your name, but what you had for dinner last Saturday night and what you’ll wear to church on Sunday morning, she grudgingly has to admit that there are some things Lake Sackett does better than Chicago—including the dating prospects. Elementary school principal Kyle Archer is a fellow fish-out-of-water who volunteers to show Margot the picture-postcard side of Southern living. The two of them hit it off, but not everybody is happy to see an outsider snapping up one of the town’s most eligible gentleman. Will Margot reel in her handsome fish, or will she have to release her latest catch?

I don’t even know where to begin with this review but let me just say this is one of the funniest, most charming, heartwarming novels I’ve ever read…and it’s Southern fiction and comfort fiction at its best. The whole idea of a high-powered event planner from the big city having to relocate to a backwater town in Georgia is great enough but what really makes it perfect is that Margot doesn’t complain about her misfortune. She knows she has to escape the public relations nightmare from her last event and the McCready Family Funeral Home and Bait Shop comes to her rescue at just the right moment.

So here she is in Lake Sackett learning the family business and, unbeknownst to Margot, running a bait shop and comforting the bereaved are just the tip of the iceberg. Her sprawling family (that she hasn’t seen or heard from since she was tiny) are determined to show the prodigal daughter what she’s been missing all these years including the chance to reconnect with her estranged father. Margot is also going to find that the possibility of love can come from the most unlikely places and she’ll even get a chance to use her event planning talents with the Founders’ Festival.

I love this book so much that I’ve rushed right out to get the introductory novella, Save a Truck, Ride a Redneck. I mean, how can I go wrong with a title like that? And do I need to say that Sweet Tea and Sympathy is going on my list of best books read in 2018?

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2018.

Book Review: Teaching the Cat to Sit by Michelle Theall

Teaching the Cat to SitTeaching the Cat to Sit
A Memoir
Michelle Theall
Gallery Books, September 2014
ISBN 978-1-4516-9730-8
Trade Paperback

Ms. Theall bares her heart and soul honestly, yet delicately, in this magnetic memoir; and I am forever grateful to her for doing so. I won’t pretend to possess the capability to clearly articulate how reading this book made me feel; or even how just one little line has stuck with me, becoming my mantra, holding me up, allowing me to cling to hope while releasing those nagging questions that will never have satisfying answers.

My gratitude extends to Ms. Gail Storey, an accomplished author, kind soul and just all-around awesome person, for writing such a captivating review and recommending this gem to me. Despite an almost insurmountable stack of To-Read and To-Review books that beckon to me from every room in my home; I purchased Teaching the Cat to Sit immediately after reading Ms. Storey’s review. Upon arrival, it settled into a Some Day Stack, patiently. The waiting period was brief.

Recently, feeling emotionally raw and shattered, in need of a maternal parental unit that I no longer have, I desperately turned to Ms. Theall, and my healing began. I don’t have real problems. Ms. Theall did, and continues to; yet these issues that could bury the average person do not define her, nor does she allow them to limit her. As I read about the brutality, harassment and persecution that she has been subjected to, I felt deep sadness, empathy and an over-all disappointment with the many humans that treated her this way. Then I became angry. No, furious is more accurate. Ignorance should no longer be “bliss”, it should not even be acceptable, and the “everyone’s entitled to his opinion” should be amended to “everyone’s entitled to his informed opinion.”

While I feel bitter, nasty and downright hateful towards those that caused Ms. Theall, her partner, and their son grief and suffering; Ms. Theall is clearly the better person, cruising right along on the High Road. That, to me, is true inspiration.

With a soft, but strong voice, Ms. Theall becomes that girlfriend that you immediately and completely relax with. She possess that unique and enviable trait of seeing herself honestly. With a strong sense of humor, compassion that can’t be hidden or even understated, and the simple, sure sense of always doing the right thing, Ms. Theall’s story is captivating, charming, honest and hopeful; catapulting her to the top of the list of awe-inspiring, formidable women that I admire…..think Cheryl Strayed, Gail Storey, Maggie Stiefvater and Marie Manilla to name a few. These women would deny the accolades, maybe blush, and say that they are no different than anyone else, and they do believe that; but I know better. They are courageous, strong, resilient and tenacious. I will go right on admiring them, singing their praises, and attempting to emulate their outstanding, admirable traits.

Reviewed by jv poore, July 2014.

Book Review: the s-word by Chelsea Pitcher

the s-wordthe s-word
Chelsea Pitcher
Gallery Books, May 2013
ISBN 978-1-4516-9516-8
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Lizzie wasn’t the first student at Verity High School to kill herself this year. But the difference is, she didn’t go quietly.

First it was SLUT scribbled all over the school’s lockers. But one week after Lizzie Hart takes her own life, SUICIDE SLUT replaces it—in Lizzie’s own looping scrawl. Photocopies of her diary show up in the hands of her classmates. And her best friend, Angie, is enraged.

Angie had stopped talking to Lizzie on prom night, when she caught Lizzie in bed with her boyfriend. Too heartbroken to let Lizzie explain the hookup or to intervene when Lizzie gets branded Queen of the Sluts and is cruelly bullied by her classmates, Angie left her best friend to the mercy of the school, with tragic results.

But with this new slur, Angie’s guilt transforms into anger that someone is still targeting Lizzie even after her death. Using clues from Lizzie’s diary and aided by the magnetic, mysterious Jesse, Angie begins relentlessly investigating who, exactly, made Lizzie feel life was no longer worth living. And while she might claim she simply wants to punish Lizzie’s tormentors, her anguish over abandoning and then losing her best friend drives Angie deeper into the dark, twisted side of Verity High—and she might not be able to pull herself back out.

Sometimes it seems to be just a little thing that leads to a teen deciding to end her life but those little things loom very large in the minds of young people who are already awash in emotions just from life in general. In the s-word, we experience the journey of a girl who thought she was terribly wronged and another who truly was. The question is which is which or is it both?

I had an awful lot of affection and empathy for both Lizzie and Angie and their stories, which are really just two parts of the same story, pierced me to the heart. So much love, so much history, so much pain, , so much regret. In the final analysis, that little thing was not so little after all and it is at the center of at least one truth that could not be revealed lest it lead to disaster. How sad is it that not revealing it led to disaster anyway? In a powerful tale of heartbreak, it’s easy to understand Angie’s anguish about her best friend’s death and about the part she played in Lizzie’s decision.

Besides the two major players, I also really liked Jesse and, surprisingly, Kennedy. I do have to say, though, that I was a little put off by the rampant sex and alcohol. I’m not blind to teen behavior but this seemed a tad overboard, at least in the complete obliviousness of all the adults. Surely today’s parents and teachers are not all so divorced from reality and willing to abdicate their duty to look after the kids, at least not most of the ones I know.

Chelsea Pitcher is a good writer and there is very little about this book that I see in a negative light. I do wish some of the secondary characters had been a little more developed—I would have loved to know Kennedy better—and I found Angie to be a bit too devious and single-minded, not to mention being kind of a ridiculous “investigator”. Still, I believe the sleuthing activity was intended by the author to lighten the mood just a little and it was, in truth, a welcome distraction from the sadness. This is a worthwhile entry in the class of books about teen bullying and suicide and I’ll look forward to reading more by this author.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2013.

Book Review: The Silence of the Llamas by Anne Canadeo

The Silence of the LlamasThe Silence of the Llamas
A Black Sheep Knitting Mystery
Anne Canadeo
Gallery Books, January 2013
ISBN 978-1-4516-4479-1
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Llama Drama!

Ellie and Ben Krueger arrived in Plum Harbor eager to live out their dream—tending a herd of gentle, friendly llamas for fun and profit, on a farm just beyond the village. Their grand opening fiber festival kicks off on a bright note but abruptly ends in malicious mayhem. Knitting shop owner Maggie Messina and her friends soon learn that this is not the first time a vicious visitor has called.

The Kruegers suspect that Justin Ridley, their eccentric neighbor, is the troublemaker. A misfit and loner, he’s known to roam the woods all night, though no one knows for sure what he’s hunting. Then there’s Angelica Rossi—the lovely owner of a rival fiber farm—who’s been as busy as a spider, spinning spiteful lies about the Kruegers’ yarns. Or, are the naïve newcomers merely caught in the tangle of Plum Harbor politics, and an intense land protection debate?

Suddenly, vandalism turns to murder—and the Kruegers’ dream descends into a nightmare. The Black Sheep knitters must pull the threads together and uncover this crafty menace . . . before more lives—and more llamas— are lost.

First, a warning for those readers who can’t abide any harm done to animals—there is some of that in this book. The attacks on the animals are not overdone and they mean something in the story, i.e., they’re not gratuitous, but they exist.

On the whole, this is a good mystery but there are aspects to the construction that I think detract from the story. For a traditional, semi-cozy mystery, the murder is much too long in coming, a bit more than half way in, and then it’s approximately two thirds in before the ladies of the knitting club start snooping. In other words, this is a s-l-o-w story.

Speaking of snooping, Maggie Messina, owner of the Black Sheep Knitting Shop, is theoretically the leader of the club and thus the sleuths but she has remarkably little to do with the investigation. In fact, these ladies really don’t do much detecting at all when compared to their counterparts in other craft-related mysteries.

My final negative comment is that, in the electronic ARC I read, there were numerous instances of multiple POVs in the same paragraph. That’s one of the cardinal construction sins for me but I don’t know if this was a typical error found in ARCs or even just one of those glitches found in ebooks sometimes. It’s entirely possible that the finished products, electronic and print, are done correctly. (I will say that I don’t remember any overload of other grammatical or spelling mistakes and I appreciate that.)

The end result is a book that I found lacking in several ways but there are some positive points. The mystery itself is engaging and many of the characters are quite likeable. I also enjoyed learning a little about llamas and alpacas and creating yarn and knitting afficionados will be glad of the craft tips they’ll find. This is the fifth in the series—I haven’t read the earlier books but they’ve been well-regarded by many and I think I’ll just call this one a bit of a stumble.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2013.

Book Reviews: The Right Guard by Alexandra Hamlet, City of the Dead by Daniel Blake, and Eyes of Justice by Lis Wiehl with April Henry

The Right GuardThe Right Guard
Alexandra Hamlet
Foxboro Press, January 2012
ISBN 9780984649303
Hardcover

The year: 1978. No cell phones, no widely used Internet, no laptop computers, no SUVs. Alexandra Hamlet must rely on news items prevalent at the time and creates a fairly realistic story explaining actual events from that period. With unique characters, she creates a tale that is timely, even if set over thirty years ago…

In 1978, the military has discovered a rash of thefts from several bases around the country. The government has several suspects. CIA operative Eric Brent is assigned to infiltrate a secret group operating almost in plain sight. They are called The Right Guard and are tired of the government’s wasteful spending, increased tendency toward the nanny-state and disobedience to the Constitution. Their goal: take over the government and put things back on track. The deeper Brent goes, the more he uncovers, including a link to his family’s past in Nazi Germany near the end of World War II.

I enjoy the reasons for the Right Guard’s actions because it can be argued that the government is misbehaving in the same ways today. Each point can be seen in modern day bureaucracy. This book kept me thinking about how long had the thefts been occurring, when did they start, and when (or if) did they end. Or at least, why they no longer made the news. It’s a slow moving tale as it encompasses several months with tension building near the end as Eric is put in a tenuous position and must ultimately decide on which side is correct.

Reviewed by Stephen L. Brayton, July 2012.
Author of Night Shadows, Beta and Alpha.

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City of the DeadCity of the Dead
Daniel Blake
Gallery Books, July 2012
ISBN 9781439197622
Hardcover

Summer, 2005. New Orleans. When you’re in New Orleans you know what to expect. Bourbon Street, debauchery, voodoo, corruption, and of course, murder. And not just an ordinary murder. The Big Easy just brings out something in people, something strange, perhaps surreal, a little scary, and Blake knows how to write a murder thriller with more twists than a voodoo priestess’s snake.

After suffering the consequences of a case gone bad, Pittsburgh homicide detective Franco Patrese wants a complete change of scenery. Calling on a buddy in the FBI, he secures a position with the new Orleans field office. Not too far into his time, he is approached by the personal assistant of one of New Orleans’ wealthiest men. Before she has a chance to pass along important information, she is murdered. Poisoned from a rattlesnake and her leg amputated. Soon, two more corpses in the same condition are discovered. Teaming up with a spirited New Orleans homicide detective, they are faced with several avenues of leads: the governor, a drug dealer, even a supposed descendant of Marie Leveau. Just when they think they have everything wrapped up, something niggles Patrese to keep searching for the truth. However, the summer is moving on and unbeknownst to anybody, a new enemy is soon to overwhelm the city and her name is Katrina.

I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed a couple other novels by Blake when he wrote under another name, so I knew City of the Dead was going to be a winner. I was not disappointed. He weaves a tale that is complex but not confusing, bringing a personal connection of characters to the action and the setting. This novel just pulled me along. Every chapter kept showing me more layers and the solution was why I devour this man’s novels.

Reviewed by Stephen L. Brayton, August 2012.
Author of Night Shadows, Beta and Alpha.

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Eyes of JusticeEyes of Justice
Lis Wiehl with April Henry
Thomas Nelson, April 2012
ISBN 9781595547088
Hardcover

The Triple Threat trio is back for another hard hitting murder mystery. Well…at least most of them are. Yep,this time Wiehl and Henry decide to, uh, dispense with one member of the team. Never fear, another prospective member steps up to fill the gap and becomes an intricate part of the story. The Eyes of Justice are upon you so watch out, because murder is about to happen.

The trio of Cassidy (crime reporter), Nicole (FBI agent), and Allison (federal prosecutor), have been friends for awhile, helping each other with their specialized abilities to put away the bad guys. When one of their group is killed, the others bend the rules and interfere with the investigation. Almost immediately, an abusive ex-boyfriend is arrested but at the funeral a mentally disturbed man relates a different set of eye witness clues that puts the spotlight on someone else. Ophelia, a private investigator, is hired to assist. The initial investigation is that the murder was random, but when another death occurs, the women wonder if the murders have turned personal, with themselves as specific targets.

This is a quick read of a logical, well laid out story with just the right amount of twists and surprises. Quirky enough characters kept me wanting to learn more about them and the authors do a fine job of keeping all of the main protagonists in the spotlight. Although I didn’t get to enjoy one of the trio too long I enjoyed her replacement and hope to read more of Wiehl in the future. I am a new fan of Triple Threat.

Reviewed by Stephen L. Brayton, October 2012.
Author of Night Shadows, Beta and Alpha.

Book Reviews: The Killing Song by P.J. Parrish, Buried By the Roan by Mark Stevens, Iron House by John Hart, The Woodcutter by Reginald Hill, and Robert B. Parker’s Killing the Blues by Michael Brandman

The Killing Song
P.J. Parrish
Gallery Books, August 2011
ISBN: 978-1-4516-5135-5
Trade Paperback

A diversion from the long-standing Louis Kincaid series for which this sister-writing-team is well known, this standalone features a hard-drinking investigative reporter headquartered in Miami, Matt Owen, who is confronted with his younger sister’s sudden disappearance and subsequent murder.  When he suddenly discovers her Ipod with a Stone’s song on it, he realizes he may have found something of a clue, and flies to Paris.

In the City of Light, aided by an old newspaper friend and a female French Inspector, he begins to track the murderer, first in Paris and then London and Scotland and back to Paris again, developing, step by step, a picture of the culprit and his past crimes, leading to an interesting chase.

It is quite a story, with well-developed characters, especially that of the villain, and an intensive investigation to find him.  Whether or not the reader can accept Matt as an alcoholic ne’er-do-well or a talented, tenacious reporter attempting to redeem himself, is a question that can only be answered by the reader.  But, then, we’ll always have Paris.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, December 2011.

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Buried By the Roan
Mark Stevens
People’s Press, August 2011
ISBN: 978-0-9817810-9-9
Trade Paperback

The second Allison Coil Mystery begins with a hunting party Allison and her guides are heading in Colorado.  Among the participants is the owner of a ranch who supposedly is in the forefront in the community of “striking it rich” by collecting gas royalties as the controversy swirls about ruining the environment by fracturing underground sources of hydrocarbons.  Unfortunately he dies up on the mountain, apparently in an accident.  But was it?

From that point, the convoluted plot progresses and the reader has to work doubly hard to reach the end.  The writing is uneven, with spurts of excellent descriptive material, especially with regard to elk-hunting and the environment in which the activity takes place. But it is confusion that greets the reader on the topic, pro or con, concerning environmentalism.

The mystery surrounding this novel is why the first 100 pages were not cut before publication.  It is only when the reader plows through one-third of the book that a plot of a sort begins to emerge.  And then, it is just frequently confusing.  Apparently, the theme is supposed to be pro-environmental in nature, a controversy similar to the protests against the proposed pipeline from Canada south.  Or the natural gas fracturing taking place throughout the country.  But it is hard to tell.  That said, fans of western mysteries should be pleased.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, December 2011.

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Iron House
John Hart
St. Martin’s Press/Thomas Dunne Books, August 2011
ISBN: 978-0-312-38034-2
Hardcover

Iron House was originally built in the Western North Carolina mountains as a psychiatric facility for Civil War veterans, later to be converted into an orphan asylum, one that was poorly supervised and maintained.  Into the home came Michael and Julian as babies.  Through the next decade Michael, the stronger brother, sought to protect his younger sibling who was continually victimized by five bullies.  Then Julian reached the breaking point, stabbing the leader of his tormenters.  Knowing his brother couldn’t hack it, Michael removed the knife from the dead boy’s neck and ran away, “accepting” blame for the murder.

Ironically on that same day, a young woman, wife of a very rich and powerful U.S. Senator, arrived at Iron House specifically to adopt Michael and Julian.  And so it came to be that the weaker brother grew up in luxury, developing into a gifted author of children’s books, while the stronger one arrived in New York, drifting to Harlem as the leader of a gang of boys, soon to be “adopted” by a notorious mob leader and developed into an enforcer and killer.  Then Michael falls in love and wants out of the mob life so he can lead a “normal” life.

That is the background from which the book develops.  The remainder is the chase of Michael and his woman by the mobsters who fear he would betray them, and his attempts to protect his brother and his lover from them.  At the same time, other complications develop to keep the reader’s interest at a peak.  While on the whole this is a gripping tale, one could view it as a potboiler, full of cliché-ish overtones. Nevertheless, it is a very well-plotted, interesting read and is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, December 2011.

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The Woodcutter
Reginald Hill
Harper, August 2011
ISBN: 978-0-06-206074-7
Hardcover

The son of a woodcutter on an estate where a young girl has attracted his attention, Wilfred (“Wolf”) Hadda sets his sights on marrying her. She challenges him to refine himself and become rich.  He goes away for seven years and performs many mysterious functions, eventually returning with the necessary social graces and a small fortune.  So they get married, and Wolf leads a charmed life in the City, amassing more money and a title.  Then the fairy tale ends.

A police raid one early morning results in the discovery that Wolf’s computer contains porn.  He’s arrested and charged, and it goes downhill from there.  Of course, the current financial crisis forces the collapse of his empire, and the loss of his fortune.  Financial fraud is added to the original charges.  He spends the next seven years in prison, gaining parole only when he acknowledges his crime to a psychiatrist, convincing her of his repentance.

Then comes the twist.

The intricate plot is a study of double-crosses and the uncovering of the plot which sent him to jail, evolving into a quiet study of revenge and retribution.  The characters are well-drawn, and the writing tight.  A well-told tale, and one that is highly recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, January 2012.

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Robert B. Parker’s Killing the Blues
Michael Brandman
Putnam, September 2011
ISBN: 978-0-3991-5784-4
Hardcover

It is quite a challenge to be asked to pick up where a master like Robert B. Parker left off.  But that is exactly the dare the author faced when the publisher asked him to continue writing the popular Jesse Stone series.  Mr. Brandman was no stranger to Parker:  they were friends for many years and collaborated on several Spenser and Stone movies on television.   Still it was a formidable task.

So let us begin by noting that we will not compare this work with any of Parker’s oeuvre, simply because it would not be fair to either. Instead, let us judge the work on its own merits.  To begin with, it is constructed like a Jesse Stone novel, with many of the elements that have made them so popular, with good plotting and short dialogue and witty Stone comments.

It involves three separate story lines, both of which affect Jesse as a Chief of Police and as an individual.  They take place just as the summer tourist season is about to begin in Paradise, MA.  One involves carjackings, another something out of Jesse’s past, and the last a serious situation involving a young girl holding a school principal at gunpoint.  Each requires Jesse to solve it in his own inimitable fashion.

With that, the conclusion is that an assessment lets us accept the book, as it is presented, favorably.  It is possibly unfortunate that the publisher chose the title to ride the coattails of the late, esteemed Grand Master, somewhat like the producers of the current “Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess” renamed an opera that has stood the test of time for eight or more decades.  A book should stand on its own, and this one does.

Enough with comparisons already:  Just read it and you’ll recommend it, as I do.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, January 2012.