Book Review: Deceptive Cadence by Kathryn Guare

Continue reading

Book Review: The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle

The Accident SeasonThe Accident Season
Moira Fowley-Doyle
Kathy Dawson Books, August 2015
ISBN 978-0-552-57130-2
Trade Paperback

For eleven months of the year, Cara, older sister Alice, her ex-step brother Sam and her mother don’t worry about anything unusual, but come the first of October, everything changes. That’s when the Accident Season begins. Cara’s not exactly sure what started this evil situation, but eight years ago, her father was killed, her favorite uncle died under mysterious circumstances four years later and every year there have been broken bones, scrapes, cuts, gouges and sprains.

This time around, Cara is edgier than usual for reasons she can’t quite explain. Things begin to escalate when she realizes that a strange and ghostly girl in her year (the story is set in the United Kingdom) named Elise appears in every single picture she has. Sometimes she’s fully visible, in others, she’s represented by an arm, a bit of her blouse, etc. When Cara realizes this and shows her siblings as well as her witchy tarot-card reading best friend Bea, they try to rationalize it, so Cara becomes determined to confront Elise at school. Easy to decide to do so, but when she tries to find Elise who has been responsible for the secret box in the library, typing up other students’ deepest, darkest secrets on an ancient typewriter for as long as Cara can remember, the girl cannot be found. Odder still, nobody, not even the teachers seems to remember her.

As Cara becomes more determined to solve this mystery, she’s also wrestling with how she feels about her ex-step brother, what’s happening with her best friend who seems to be slipping away and worried about Alice’s relationship with a musician who is four years older. Most of all, she wonders just exactly how real is the accident season.

This book unfolds like someone might be reading it in an old house by candlelight while a full moon hovers outside the window. There’s an extremely surrealistic and poetic quality to it and these, coupled with the ever-shifting convolutions as Cara and the others try to find Elise, survive the Accident Season as well as throw one of the oddest Halloween parties ever described in a book, will grab not only teens, but many adults as well. Granted there is a bit of profanity, drinking and references to sex, but those pale in comparison to the way this debut novel was written. It would be a perfect one to read on Halloween Night.

Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS

Book Reviews: Sons of Sparta by Jeffrey Siger and The Likeness by Tana French

Sons of SpartaSons of Sparta
A Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis Mystery
Jeffrey Siger
Poisoned Pen Press, October 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4642-0314-5
Hardcover

Author Jeffrey Siger and Poisoned Pen Press continue their winning collaboration with this sixth entry in the excellent Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis series. Set in turbulent, often corrupt, politically chancy, modern Greece, the novel enticingly exploits a full range of Mediterranean attractions. The history of Greece from Athens to Corinth to Sparta, and beyond is filled with thrilling exploits, good wine, fine food, smuggling, piracy and fierce familial ties. So too, this novel. No mistake, the author is very sympathetic to the passions and cultural attitudes, but he observes with a keen and balanced eye.

Yiannis Kouros is a young special crimes division detective. He’s also a member of an old and still powerful family descendent from ancient Spartan warriors. A family with ties to the full range of past illegal activities. When the head of the family, his uncle, calls, he must appear, worrying that he will be compromised in his loyalty to his boss and mentor, Chief Inspector Kaldis. It is the beginning of a long and complicated case of murder, old wrongs and new chicanery.

Kouros, Kaldis and the other member of the successful police triad, Tassos Stamatos, an aging, exceedingly competent homicide investigator buddy of Kaldis, combine their experience to protect Kouros from family pressure and simultaneously help solve the murder of Kouros’s uncle. The case involves a range of interesting criminals, crimes and members of Kouros’s family. It explores Greek culture in illuminating ways but the author is careful to maintain the focus of this novel on the interesting police procedures and the deductive processes of the cops in a government environment as corrupt and dysfunctional as one might ever encounter.

The plot is complicated, intriguing and well-considered. Occasional excursions into sexual dalliances are appropriately included to add interest and rhythm to the fabric of the novel. Pace almost never lags and the conclusion is satisfying.

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

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The LikenessThe Likeness
Dublin Murder Squad Series #2
Tana French
Viking, July 2008
ISBN: 978-0-670-01886-4
Hardcover

First she wrote a best-seller, In The Woods. Now comes a second novel following the activities of a mythical Murder Squad in Ireland. The principal is again, Cassie Maddox, a fine detective, but one who seems doomed to tread the perilous paths of psychological involvement at very high levels.

After working murder and as an undercover operative, Cassie has moved on. Physically and still mentally damaged, she needs something with less stress. She finds it in what amounts to a desk job in the Domestic Violence unit. But her past will not let her alone.

When the novel opens, Cassie’s current boyfriend , Sam, a detective still on the murder squad, importunes her to visit a crime scene. A young woman has been found dead in an abandoned cottage in a small town outside Dublin. Cassie goes to the scene where she is mightily shocked to discover that the dead woman appears to be almost her twin. What is even more unsettling is that the dead woman is identified as Alexandra Madison, a name and persona used years ago by Detective Maddox in an undercover operation.

Unsettling as all that is, Cassie’s former boss of undercover operations sees the situation as ideal to help them solve the murder—by hiding the fact of Madison’s death for as long as possible and infiltrating Cassie into the dead woman’s life in order to solve her death. This situation is not without problems, several of which the author has left un-resolved. Moreover, the convoluted plot, including the question of who Alexandra Madison really is and who killed her does not lend itself to simple answers. Like her debut novel, which also leaves important questions in limbo, the narrative is handled in a stately and protracted manner. The novel is a good deal longer than it needs to be, but French’s style and high level of skill with language mitigates many of those problems.

In spite of my reservations, at least for traditional mystery fans who thrive on psychological tension, this is a mesmerizing novel with compelling characters, logical and precise progress, and an outstanding evocative sense of place. A real winner for serious fans of the psychological thriller.

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

Book Review: Kilmoon by Lisa Alber—and a Giveaway!

KilmoonKilmoon
A County Clare Mystery
Lisa Alber
Muskrat Press, March 2014
ISBN 9780989544603
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Kilmoon is a gripping mystery set in an Irish village famous for its matchmaking festival. Californian Merrit Chase travels to Ireland to meet her father, a celebrated matchmaker, in hopes that she can mend her troubled past. Instead, her arrival triggers a rising tide of violence, and Merrit finds herself both suspect and victim, accomplice and pawn, in a manipulative game that began thirty years previously. When she discovers that the matchmaker’s treacherous past is at the heart of the chaos, she must decide how far she will go to save him from himself-and to get what she wants, a family.

 

Two things first attracted me to Kilmoon—(1) I love Ireland and hope very much to go back some day but books will have to do until then and (2) I’m fond of the Janeane Garofalo movie, “The Matchmaker” which just happens to be about a matchmaking festival in Ireland. Kilmoon was going to give me both so how could I go wrong?

LOL, we don’t always get what we wish for, do we? I knew, of course, that this wasn’t going to be a lighthearted romance but, really, the only points of comparison are the setting in Ireland and the matchmaking festival. Ah, well, I’m still glad I took a chance on this book. It wasn’t easy in the beginning but I pushed on and was soon engaged in the story.

To be honest, I came close to putting this down in the early chapters because the characters just weren’t appealing to me. They were mostly self-absorbed unpleasant people, all with their own agendas that cared little for the effect their actions would have on others. I pushed on, though, and I’m glad I did. At the end, I still didn’t care much for the main players, including Merrit, but the look into how secrets and choices can have such profound consequences even many years later was well worth the read and, in fact, some of the residents of Lisfenora grew on me after all.

Kirkus refers to this book as a “moody debut” and that’s a perfect description. Ms. Alber has crafted a story that is neither plot-driven nor character-driven but, rather, builds on atmosphere and makes good use of the melancholy that can be found in Ireland beneath the happy-go-lucky charm we also expect. Along the way, the reader is also served a good bit of murder and mayhem and now I wonder, what lies in store for us next in County Clare? I can only hope Ms. Alber won’t make us wait too long to find out.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2014.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

One lucky reader will win a signed print copy of
Kilmoon by Lisa Alber and you have two chances

to enter the drawing. For the first entry, leave a
comment here on today’s review. For the second
entry, come back Sunday, April 20th, and
leave a comment on Lisa’s guest post. The
winning name will be chosen at random on the
evening of Tuesday, April 22nd. This drawing
is open to residents of the US and Canada.

Book Review: Little Girl Lost by Brian McGilloway

Little Girl LostLittle Girl Lost
A Lucy Black Thriller
Brian McGilloway
Witness Impulse, February 2014
ISBN 9780062336583
Ebook

From the publisher—

During a winter blizzard a small girl is found wandering half-naked at the edge of an ancient woodland. Her hands are covered in blood, but it is not her own. Unwilling or unable to speak, the only person she seems to trust is the young officer who rescued her, DS Lucy Black.

DS Black is baffled to find herself suddenly transferred from a high-profile case involving the kidnapping of a prominent businessman’s teenage daughter, to the newly formed Public Protection Unit. Meanwhile, she has her own problems—caring for her Alzheimer’s-stricken father; and avoiding conflict with her surly Assistant Chief Constable – who also happens to be her mother. As she struggles to identify the unclaimed child, Lucy begins to realize that this case and the kidnapping may be linked by events that occurred during the blackest days of the country’s recent history, events that also defined her own childhood.

LITTLE GIRL LOST is a devastating page-turner about corruption, greed and vengeance, and a father’s endless love for his daughter.

When a little girl is seen barefoot in a snowy woods, Detective Sergeant Lucy Black is the one to find her and the child immediately bonds to Lucy, leading her superiors to re-assign her to the unit that deals with children in trouble, much to Lucy’s dismay. Newly transferred to Derry, she had been assigned to the unit that was working the case of a missing teenager and had wanted to be part of that case.

Lucy is also trying to cope with her father’s mental deterioration and, in some ways, that home situation becomes intertwined with Lucy’s police work. At the same time, she is working with medical and social work professionals trying to break through the little girl’s unwillingness to speak. They think her name might be Alice but no one has reported her missing and there is no response to a public appeal.

A crime from years ago, her father’s own past, this seemingly abandoned child and the teenager who may or may not have been kidnapped all seem to be random elements demanding Lucy’s attention. Making sense of it all without being part of the primary investigative unit proves to be problematic and it soon becomes apparent that she may be at risk herself.

Little Girl Lost is an interesting police procedural, partly because of the lingering effects of The Troubles but also because of the odd circumstances surrounding Lucy. She has recently been promoted to Detective Sergeant which would imply some experience and success on the job and, yet, she frequently behaves like a rookie straight out of training. On more than one occasion, she puts herself in harm’s way, and she blatantly ignores instructions from higher-ups. On the positive side, the author weaves a good tale without letting all the diverse parts get confusing and I liked learning a little more about The Troubles.

In the end, I did enjoy this first in a series and will look forward to reading the second book, Hurt.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2014.

An Excerpt from Little Girl Lost

There was definitely something moving between the trees. He’d been aware of it for a few moments now, a flitting movement he’d catch in the corner of his eye, weaving through the black tree trunks set vertical against the snow. At first he had dismissed it as the result of snow hypnosis from staring too long through the windscreen into the unrelenting downdraught of snowflakes.

Michael Mahon shunted the gearstick back into first as he approached the hill leading into Prehen. He knew almost as soon as he had shifted down that it was the wrong thing to do. He felt the wheels of the milk float begin to spin beneath him, could see the nose of the vehicle drift towards the kerb. He eased back on the accelerator, pumped the brakes in an attempt to halt the inexorable movement sideways but to no avail. He knew the wheels had locked and yet still the float shifted sideways, sliding backwards across the road, coming to rest finally against the far kerb.

Cursing, he shut off the engine and dropped down from the cab onto the road. Just behind him lay the edge of the ancient woodland stretching for several miles from Prehen all the way up to Gobnascale. Light from street lamps reflected off the snow, illuminating further into the woods than normal at this time of night. Black branches of the trees sagged in places under the increased weight of snow.

Shivering involuntarily, Michael turned his attention to the milk float again. He picked up the spade he’d left on the back for just such an emergency. As he was bending to clear the snow from the wheels he became aware once more of a movement in the woods, on the periphery of his vision.

It was cold, yet the goosebumps that sprang up along his arms and down his spine caused him to start. Brandishing the spade in both hands, he turned again to face the woods, dread already settling itself in the pit of his stomach.

A child came into the open at the edge of the trees. Her hair, long and black against the white background of the forest floor, looked soaked through, hanging lank onto her shoulders. Her face was rounded and pale. She wore a pair of pyjamas. On the chest of the jacket something was written. Her feet were bare.

When the girl saw him she stopped, staring at the spade he was holding, then looking at him, challengingly, her gaze never leaving his face, her skin almost blue from the luminescence of the snow. It was only as he stepped closer to her, crouching cautiously, his hand outstretched as one might approach an animal, that she turned and ran back into the trees.

About the Author

Brian McGillowayBrian McGilloway is the bestselling author of the critically acclaimed Inspector Benedict Devlin series. He was born in Derry, Northern Ireland in 1974. After studying English at Queen’s University, Belfast, he took up a teaching position in St Columb’s College in Derry, where he is currently Head of English. His first novel, Borderlands, published by Macmillan New Writing, was shortlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger 2007 and was hailed by The Times as ‘one of (2007’s) most impressive debuts.’ The second novel in the series, Gallows Lane, was shortlisted for both the 2009 Irish Book Awards/Ireland AM Crime Novel of the Year and the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2010. Bleed A River Deep, the third Devlin novel, was selected by Publishers Weekly as one of their Best Books of 2010. Brian’s fifth novel, Little Girl Lost, which introduced a new series featuring DS Lucy Black, won the University of Ulster’s McCrea Literary Award in 2011 and is a No.1 UK Kindle Bestseller. The follow-up novel, Hurt, was published in late 2013 by Constable and Robinson. Brian lives near the Irish borderlands with his wife, daughter and three sons.

Catch Up With the Author:

Website Button        Twitter Button        Facebook Button        Goodreads Button 2

************

Follow the tour here.

 

************

Goodreads

Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble Buy Button        Kobo Buy Button        Amazon Buy Button

************

Partners in Crime Book Tours

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.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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 Review: In Dublin’s Fair City by Rhys Bowen

In Dublin’s Fair City
Rhys Bowen
St. Martin’s Press, 2007
ISBN 13: 978-0-312-32819-1
Hardcover
Also available as a mass market paperback
ISBN 978-0-312-99702-1

A lady P.I. in 1903 New York is not something that you read about everyday.  Molly Murphy has left Ireland and made a life for herself in New York.  She has friends and a man in her life.  But business is slow right now and when she is offered a job involving a trip to Ireland to locate the sister of a very rich New York citizen she jumps at the chance.

The minute she gets on the ship to Ireland she begins to experience things she never dreamed would happen.  First a famous actress talks her into switching places with her on the ship.  By the time the ship reaches Ireland the actress’ maid is murdered and Molly undergoes intensive questioning and feels herself under suspicion for the murder.

Once on shore she finds herself even deeper in the mystery that involves the actress that she impersonated, the murder victim and even Molly’s own family.

To go further into the story would reveal facts that are better for the readers to discover on their own.  I totally enjoyed the descriptions of the ship Molly sailed on and the conditions of life in Ireland during that time period.

This is my first Molly Murphy adventure and won’t be my last.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, February 2007.