Book Reviews: Tokyo Kill by Barry Lancet and The Care and Management of Lies by Jacqueline Winspear

Tokyo KillTokyo Kill
Barry Lancet
Simon & Schuster, September 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4516-9172-6
Hardcover

Jim Brodie made his initial appearance in Japantown, an action-packed thriller and the series debut.  He now returns in a novel which is no less filled with derring-do and lots of exotic descriptions of Japanese culture and history.  Brodie inherited a half-interest in Brodie Security, founded by his late father and headquartered in Tokyo, and also operates an art dealership, which he claims is his main profession, in San Francisco.

In Tokyo seeking a rare painting, Brodie is approached by a 90-year-old veteran of World War II asking for protection because members of his military detachment in Manchuria during the war-time occupation by Japan were being murdered.  After he supplies a security detail, events take over the course of the rest of the novel, as Brodie investigates the possibility of Triads, Chinese spies and others as the culprits.  And that takes on a life of its own.

The author has lived and worked in Japan for more than a quarter century, and the flavor and information about the country permeates with authenticity throughout the novel.  His description of various types of martial arts practiced in Japan is a further exhibit of his expertise.  Powerfully written, Tokyo Kill is a very enjoyable read, and this reader is looking forward to additions to the series.
Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, November 2014.

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The Care and Management of LiesThe Care and Management of Lies
A Novel of the Great War
Jacqueline Winspear
Harper, July 2014
ISBN: 978-0-06-222050-9
Hardcover

The old adage that an army travels on its stomach certainly is an apt description for this standalone by the author of the terrific Maisie Dobbs series.  Like those novels, it is sent in and around World War I and captures the horrors of the Great War, the muddy trenches, the deaths and its effect on the folks back home.

The plot centers on Kezia Marchant who marries Tom, the younger brother of her good friend, Thea Brisenden, with whom she went to school, both becoming teachers.  Then upon marrying Tom, Kezia becomes a farm wife.  All this takes place shortly before the outbreak of hostilities, and when the war breaks out, Tom feels imperiled to enlist, leaving Kezia to manage the farm.

In the brief time before Tom leaves for France, a ritual develops, as Kezia learns to cook with a flourish, using ingenuity and good sense to set a table unlike anything her husband had ever experienced.  And when he receives letters in the trenches they are filled with glowing accounts of dinners Kezia has prepared for him, filling his drudgery with lightness.  And the rest of the soldiers in his unit take to the descriptions as well, adding to their joy in the face of the poor rations they have to endure.  This is a novel demonstrating the ability of people to withstand all sorts of horrible experiences and survive, and it is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, January 2015.

Book Reviews: The Perfect Coed by Judy Alter and Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey

The Perfect CoedThe Perfect Coed
Judy Alter
Alter Ego Publishing, May 2014
ISBN 978-0-9960131-0-9
Trade Paperback

A coed, one of Professor Susan Hogan’s American Lit students has gone missing, and a few days later, her body is finally discovered in the trunk of Susan’s car. Why was this particular coed,who seemed the perfect student, daughter, girlfriend, murdered? Why was Missy Jackson’s body hidden in her car? That’s what Susan and her boyfriend Jake, a security officer at the university, wants to know. However, they’d better work fast because she may be fated to be the killer’s next victim. Unless the cops hurry up and arrest her for the murder.

Lots of suspects are introduced for the reader to choose among in the quest to deduce the murderer. Lots of twists and turns and red herrings to either help or to hinder. Lots of threats and scary, tension filled scenes thrust the story along, and the ending is a satisfactory conclusion with just the right amount of final explanation.

The only thing that bothered me–and I’m not sure that’s the right word–is why Susan is so “prickly,” (a word used in the back cover blurb to describe her) especially with her loved ones and her supporters. I found her reluctance to accept help or to even discuss measures to preserve her own life distracting at times.

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

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Elizabeth Is MissingElizabeth is Missing
Emma Healey
Harper, June 10 2014
ISBN 978-0-0623-0966-2
Hardcover

“Elizabeth is missing” is the sole notation made on most of the innumerable notes that Maud Horsham constantly makes and puts in any available pocket, as a hoped-for aid to her increasingly failing memory.  Maud is in an advancing state of dementia, and more often than not cannot remember where she is, or with whom, even when the latter is her daughter, or her granddaughter (sometimes mistaking the latter for the former).  But she knows that her best friend – – indeed, just about her only remaining friend, as she remembers “The others are in homes or in graves” – –  appears to be missing.  She takes any path she can conjure up to try to solve the mystery, resorting to putting an ad in the local newspaper for any information anyone may have as to her whereabouts.

And her friend Elizabeth is not the only ‘disappeared’ person Maud is trying to track down.  Even 70 years later (which doesn’t matter so much when one has no idea of time frames), Maud is still trying to find her sister, Sukey, missing since the time after the London blitz, when Maud was 15 years old and England was still trying to recover from the war, enduring rationed food and bombed-out homes.  The narrative, such as it is, jumps back and forth in time, from looking for her sister to searching for her friend, sometimes for both at seemingly the same time.  It is often difficult just to follow where Maud is, both for Maud herself as well as for the reader.

This book is unlike any I have ever read.  Maud is the first-person narrator, and that narrative is as disjointed as Maud’s mind, conveying, quite convincingly, that state of being.  I must admit to a feeling of ‘there but for the grace of G-d go . . .’ well, I, or indeed any of us.  The novel is one that literally haunted me well after I had finished reading it, and I suspect it may do that for many readers.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, January 2015.

Book Review: Under a Silent Moon by Elizabeth Haynes—and a Giveaway!

Under a Silent MoonUnder a Silent Moon
Elizabeth Haynes
Harper, April 2014
ISBN 978-0-06-227602-5
Hardcover
Also available in trade paperback and ebook

From the publisher—

In the crisp, early hours of an autumn morning, the police are called to investigate two cases . . .

A beautiful young woman has been found dead, her cottage drenched with blood.

A car with a woman’s body inside has been found at the bottom of a quarry pit, an apparent suicide.

As DCI Louisa Smith and her team gather evidence over the course of the next six days, they discover a shocking link between the two cases—a bond that sealed these women’s terrible fates one cold night, under a silent moon.

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Recently, and still today, I’ve been dealing with some personal issues that have made reading difficult so I had trouble connecting with Under a Silent Moon at first. I’m glad I kept on, though, because I ended up enjoying it for the most part, enough that I plan to re-read it when I’m in a more receptive state of mind.

Multiple points of view can be confusing sometimes and I do think there were too many characters, some quite unnecessary to the story, but the author gave us a cast of characters that helped a good deal. The multiple POVs offered a broader look at things and I did like that; this style allows the reader to know more than any individual character and, while I wouldn’t want it in all books, it’s a nice change now and then.

Lou Smith has all the earmarks of a detective with some experience but thrust into her first major crime as a DCI. Some mistakes are made but she shows herself to be a contender and that her promotion was well-deserved. Her investigative techniques are valid and mostly successful; less successful are various personal relationships but the ending of this book leads me to think some of those issues will be resolved in the next one. Hopefully, those relationships will have more depth to them then.

On the whole, I did enjoy Under a Silent Moon and, as I mentioned before, I’ll be reading it again when I’m in a better frame of mind. I like Lou and want to spend more time with her.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2015.

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About the Author

Elizabeth HaynesElizabeth Haynes is a police intelligence analyst, a civilian role that involves determining patterns in offending and criminal behavior. Dark Tide is her second novel; rights to her first, Into the Darkest Corner, have been sold in twenty-five territories. Haynes lives in England in a village near Maidstone, Kent, with her husband and son.

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Wednesday, February 25th: I Wish I Lived in a Library

Thursday, February 26th: Dreams, Etc.

Monday, March 2nd: Wont to be Quilter

Tuesday, March 3rd: From the TBR Pile

Wednesday, March 4th: Vivacious Hobo

Thursday, March 5th: Buried Under Books

Tuesday, March 10th: Olduvai Reads

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Leave a comment below to enter the drawing
for a very gently read hardcover
copy of
Under a Silent Moon. The winning name will be

drawn on Sunday evening, March 8th.
Open to residents of the US and Canada.

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Book Review: Made For You by Melissa Marr

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Title: Made for You
Author: Melissa Marr 
Published by: HarperCollins
Publication date: September 16th 2014
Genres: Southern Gothic, Young Adult

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Made for YouMade for You
Melissa Marr
Harper, September 2014
ISBN 978-0-06-201119-0
Hardcover

From the publisher—

When Eva Tilling wakes up in the hospital, she’s confused—who in her sleepy little North Carolina town could have hit her with their car? And why?

It seems impossible that anyone would have it out for the town darling. Thanks to her family’s distinguished history and her own unassailable reputation in old-money Jessup, Eva is universally liked. But she has little time to consider the question when she finds that she’s awoken with a strange new skill: the ability to foresee people’s deaths when they touch her.

Eva is struggling to understand just what these visions mean when a slew of murders takes place back home. The victims, all classmates, are discovered alongside eerie messages that tie the incidents to her. There is a killer on the loose, and he is after Eva.

While she is recovering from the hit-and-run, Nate, an old friend, reappears. The two traverse their rocky past as they figure out how to use Eva’s power to keep her friends—and themselves—alive. But while Eva and Nate grow closer, the determined killer grows increasingly frantic in his attempt to get to Eva.

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I met Melissa Marr years ago back in the days when my bookstore was open. She had come to the store for a signing event with her debut book, Wicked Lovely, the first in a young adult dark faerie series. The event itself wasn’t overwhelmingly successful—few signings are, especially for debut authors and more especially in my town—but we had a chance to talk and, although we couldn’t have been much more different from each other, we shared a love of books and a desire to encourage teens to read. I fell in love with her work that day and I’ve done my best since then to keep up with her books. When I heard she was branching out with a young adult mystery thriller, I was completely intrigued with the thoughts of what she could do with it.

Ms. Marr has always had an equally adept hand at plot and character development and Made for You is no exception. Leaving aside the element of Eva becoming a sort of psychic, this is a strong piece of crime fiction. Having been a mystery reader for many, many years, I picked up on a few minor problems with the overall plot but the author really has pulled together a complex story that kept me guessing nearly the whole way through while it also caused a couple of sleepless nights. The town of Jessup is “the sort of place where name and money matter too much” and that atmosphere is an integral part of the nightmare that has begun but how could anyone predict such horror?

Spending much of the time in Judge’s head was both disturbing and energizing and certainly increased the creep factor. He—or she—is a nebulous sort of evil and each chapter with him is more unnerving than the last. From the very beginning, I felt the hollowness in Eva, a girl who has lost someone who meant the world to her but who also just doesn’t seem to fit into her surroundings or among her life-long friends anymore. After being run down, she has a whole new set of questions and, as she begins to learn some painful truths, it’s easy to see in her intelligence and determination, as well as her curiosity, the woman she is about to become.

When it comes to best friends, few can beat Grace, a girl who truly wants Eva to be well and happy. It’s Nate, though, who captured my heart with his prickliness and vulnerability. Once he allows himself to open up a little, he morphs into a boy who has reasons to be standoffish but yet is willing to take chances. I really, really liked this kid.

As far as I can tell, Made for You truly is a standalone but I hope Ms. Marr will continue writing crime fiction—she does it too well to let this be her only foray into the genre.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2014.

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About the Author

 

Melissa MarrHmm, I’m never good at the bio bit. I used to teach college & bartend, now I write novels. I love to meet new people, to hear their stories, to walk through new streets and see new vistas. I enjoy art in all its guises–graffiti, surrealist paintings, classic sculptures, tattoos, interesting buildings, Renoir, photography . . . Art & nature, they feed my soul & thus my muse.

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Giveaway

Tour-wide giveaway (US & Canada)

All 5 of Melissa’s Wicked Lovely books (paperback)
The Desert Tale – Wicked Lovely companion book (paperback)
A hardcover copy of Made For You

Enter the drawing here.

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Book Review: Dead Men’s Harvest by Matt Hilton

Dead Men's HarvestDead Men’s Harvest
Matt Hilton
Harper, November 2013
ISBN 978-0-06-222530-6
Mass Market Paperback

Martin Maxwell, former Secret Service Agent, was nicknamed the Harvestman. Joe Hunter along with his best friend Jared Rington made Maxwell pay for his crimes but the government covered up his identity and buried him under the name Tubal Cain. The government, thinking he could be rehabilitated put him in prison as Prisoner 1854 thinking that the Harvestman could never escape but the government was wrong. Now Prisoner 1854-Tubal Cain-the Harvestman is loose and out to get even.

Joe Hunter is staying with Imogen, Kate Piers’ sister. Joe was in love with Kate but Kate died trying to protect her sister. Two men, Ray Hartlaub and Charles Brigham, CIA agents, show up unexpectedly to take Joe to the cabin of Walter Conrad. Joe is informed that Conrad is dead. He had been killed at the cabin. Someone had been killed at the cabin but Joe wasn’t buying the story that it was Walter and Joe insisted on seeing Walter and was taken to him.

Tubal Cain was looking for Joe’s brother, John, who had been injured in the original fight where Tubal Cain was captured. Walter had already sent a party out to find Jared Rington to work with Joe but Rington was not to be found. Joe was able to find him but Tubal Cain had reached Rington first. When Joe located Jared he was in no condition to chase down a killer. Joe took Jared to a safe place to recuperate and went about the business of stopping the monster Tubal Cain.

Dead Men’s Harvest is action packed. The reader is in for more than one surprise before the monster Tubal Cain is put to rest.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, March 2014.

Book Reviews: The Golden Egg by Donna Leon and Lineup by Liad Shoham

The Golden EggThe Golden Egg
Donna Leon
Atlantic Monthly Press, March 2014
ISBN: 978-0-8021-2242-1
Trade Paperback

It is no mean feat to sustain a mystery series at this high a level through 18 novels. Of course, that is just what Donna Leon has accomplished, and more (this is the 19th Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery). Of course, The Golden Egg features that charming and erudite Venetian detective in a tale that begins with the death of a mentally challenged deaf mute who works in a tailor shop frequented by Brunetti’s wife, Paola. She goads Brunetti into looking into the death, which appears to be natural.

At the same time, Brunetti’s boss timidly asks him to look into whether or not the mayor’s son’s fiancée, part owner of a store, is evading taxes or paying bribes to tax officials. The mayor, of course, is running for reelection and could do without any embarrassing revelations. The Commissario solves this one quickly and smoothly, but spends the entire novel on the other investigation, which becomes more complicated with every interview, no part of which is an official inquiry.

The charm of Brunetti’s home life, his relationship with his wife, daughter and son are always plusses in the books that make up this series. Unlike most others, the central theme of this novel is not a serious issue, but a personal, subtle one. Written with the usual depth of knowledge about Venice, its allure and atmosphere, the novel is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, March 2014.

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LineupLineup
Liad Shoham
Translated from the Hebrew by Sara Kitai
Harper, September 2013
ISBN 978-0-06-223744-6
Hardcover

This novel is the first to be published in the US by Liad Shoham, an Israeli attorney and the author of five best-selling novels in his native country, apparently considered “the Israeli John Grisham.” I was immediately intrigued by the setting, and by the protagonists, for the book presents wonderful character studies of three men: Amit Giladi, a would-be investigative journalist who’d been covering crime and education for the local Tel Aviv paper for 7-1/2 months; Police Inspector Eli Nachum; and Ziv Nevo, a man who in the last eighteen months had lost his job and his wife.

A brutal rape in a quiet Tel Aviv neighborhood leads to the arrest of Nevo by Inspector Eli Nachum and Giladi is sent by his editor, in the most urgent terms, to cover the story and get a scoop for the paper. There is no evidence, forensic or otherwise, and the girl couldn’t see the face of her attacker, but Nachum is led to Nevo when the victim’s father, who had been haunting the street where the daughter lived in the firm belief that the attacker would be back looking for another victim, sees him on the same street, acting suspiciously, a stalker, and becomes convinced that he is the one they are seeking; he soon convinces Nachum as well. The problem arises when that certainty leads to a fatally contaminated lineup: The father had followed and taken photos of Nevo after spotting him on the scene, and shown his daughter the photos, and Nachum knows this. Nevo, guilty of something totally unrelated to the rape, shows clear signs of having done something about which he is keeping silent, and does not divulge what he was doing on that street that night. With the best of intentions and determined to prevent another young woman from suffering the same fate, Nachum sees to it that the man is convicted of the crime, determined to “do whatever it took to put the rapist behind bars.”

The tale is well written (despite the fact that the first half felt as it needed some judicious editing). It is a compelling plot, and the characters are ones that this reader came to care about. I will be certain to watch for the next book from this author, and the book is recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, April 2014.

Book Reviews: Desolation Row by Kay Kendall and The Money Kill by Katia Lief

Desolation RowDesolation Row
An Austin Starr Mystery
Kay Kendall
Stairway Press, March 2013
ISBN 978-0-9859942-1-1
Trade Paperback

Late 1968. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy have been assassinated. Nixon is about to become President. And of course, the war in Vietnam tops the news reports. However, this murder mystery is not set in wild San Francisco or Washington, D.C. Rather, we head to Toronto to view the lives of two young people caught up in trying to attend graduate school, stay involved in the anti-war effort, and save themselves from a killer.

Only four months into her move to Canada with her husband who is hoping to avoid being drafted, Austin Starr literally trips over a dead body in a church. The victim was also part of the anti-war contingent and there were plenty of people who didn’t like him. He was also the son of a powerful U.S. Senator. Unfortunately for Starr, her husband, David, becomes the main suspect. When Starr finds no assistance from authority, and with the assistance of her Russian professor and his daughter, she determines to solve the case herself. And of course, the closer she gets to the killer, the more dangerous life becomes for her.

Starr is a fascinating character. Texas raised with a very short stint in training for the CIA, loves to accumulate data and solve puzzles. She’s not the stereotypical ‘hippie’ expected in a story set in the sixties. There’s a pretty good feel of Canada and the culture of the time. Starr can stick around and hopefully star in a few more mysteries from the sixties. Looking forward to going back.

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

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The Money KillThe Money Kill
Katia Lief
Harper, April 2013
ISBN No. 978-0-06-209697-5
Mass Market Paperback

Karin Schaeffer and her husband, Mac MacLeary, are just beginning to feel like a normal, married couple.  The terrors that invaded their lives on more than one occasion have now been put behind them.  Mac is running a private investigation agency and Karin is working with him.  The children are happy and life is good.

When Cathy Millerhausen hires Mac to investigate her husband billionaire,  Godfrey Millerhousen, Mac agrees.  Cathy fears that Godfrey is unfaithful and if a divorce is in the future, she is afraid that her income will not be sufficient to cover the cost for their son’s special needs treatments.

Mac has become convinced that Mary’s fears of Godfrey’s unfaithfulness are unfounded and so when he is offered a job in London with a large paycheck he puts the Millerhausen case on hold.  The offer of a family vacation on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia is part of the deal making it extra hard to pass up.  Mac and Karin agree to swap houses with the Sardinia family.

Mac’s assistant Mary and her son Fremont take the children and go ahead to Sardinia to wait for Mac and Karin.  Although at first it seems like paradise, strange things begin to happen.  Mac and Karin lose contact with Mary and the children.  They have disappeared and Mac and Karin risk everything to locate their family. Once again, their family is in turmoil.

Katia Lief‘s books are always full of suspense so be ready to keep the pages turning swiftly once you pick up a Lief book.  Previous books are You Are Next, Next Time You See Me and Vanishing Girls.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, April 2013.