Hell with the Lid Blown Off
An Alafair Tucker Mystery #7
Poisoned Pen Press, June 2014
Also available in trade paperback
The farming community of Boynton, Oklahoma, in 1916 is like most of small town America, with parents wondering of their sons will be going off to fight in the War. Alafair and Shaw Tucker have ten children and have additional worries—two of their older daughters are about to deliver babies, and daughter Ruth is living in town with the piano teacher, Mrs. MacKenzie.
During a terrifying tornado, the Tucker homestead is damaged. Their son-in-law is seriously hurt, and some of their neighbors are killed, including local troublemaker Jubal Beldon. It’s when the undertaker is preparing Beldon’s body for burial that he discovers that Beldon was dead before the twister hit. Beldon had plenty of enemies, including his own brother. The question is: who didn’t want him dead?
It’s easy to get caught up on the lives of the Tucker family members—Ruth has a budding romance with the deputy sheriff, the Tucker’s take in a young cousin, and they find a baby amidst the debris of the tornado. Seventh in the series, the appeal of a close knit and loving family draws the reader in. If you loved the “Little House” books as a child, you’ll find much to like in this appealing series.
Reviewed by Susan Belsky, October 2014.
Battle Not with Monsters
Good Heart Press, March 2014
This author has come up with an interesting and fresh protagonist. Justine Ford, commonly called Neen, comes into the story while going through her lower middle class life as an underpaid security guard working for a Dallas, Texas firm. One discovers she is firmly committed to a healthy body and a rigorous athletic routine. She also teaches children at a local dojo.
When she observes her partner being bludgeoned to death in the garage of the building they are supposed to be guarding, her first reaction is to run to his aid. It’s an important clue to her view of the world, but her reaction is still deficient, something she recognizes and which plays an important part in the rest of the novel. Because she arrives on the scene too late to save her partner’s life.
The novel develops a clear pro-gun, pro-state’s rights, libertarian stance, when a man shows up to lead Justine away from her roadway of ordinary existence. He is her savior in a number of important ways, but Justine does retain her innate sense of independence and self-awareness. As the story progresses, through several rambling and overly-detailed segments, Justine develops a plan to visit retribution on the killer who has murdered her partner and attacked Justine.
The novel is wordy, rambling and desperately needs a firm editorial hand. I confess I do not make the connection to the title. At the same time, it is an exciting and credible novel to read, beyond a typical frothy beach read, but the pace is uneven while we repeatedly learn about aspects of her physical training. The action scenes are excellent, each time ratcheting up the tension and feeding Justine’s uncertainties as she walks step by step into new and dark violent confrontations.
Reviewed by Carl Brookins, September 2014.
Author of Red Sky, Devils Island, Hard Cheese, Reunion.