Book Review: The Devil’s Wind by Steve Goble—and a Giveaway!

The Devil’s Wind
A Spider John Mystery #2
Steve Goble
Seventh Street Books, September 2018
ISBN 978-1-63388-484-7
Trade Paperback

A second helping of pirate noir is served up by author Steve Goble. Former pirate Spider John signs on to an honest job on the ship “Redemption, ” but shortly after the ship puts out to sea, Captain Brentwood is murdered in his locked cabin. Spider John is joined on this ship by his ex-pirate friends, 15 year old Hob and one eyed Odin, who brags of sailing with Blackbeard, wrestling giant squid and screwing mermaids. The crew must avoid the Royal navy ships, who are pursuing Spider John and his friends for piracy and espionage, and evade the ruthless pirate Ned Low, on the prowl in these waters.

There are suspects aplenty in the other crew members and passengers: Sam Smoke, a pirate suspected of being a spy for Ned Low; Abigail, the captain’s beautiful daughter, who has caught the interest of Nicholas Wright, another sailor; Rufus Fox, an educated man and tinkerer; and Hadley, a former slave.

These are not the Disney-fied pirates of the theme park, but pirates who are scarred, filthy, and curse with a vengeance, ie “bubble headed lobcocks.” At one point Spider John muses, “He suddenly wished he owned all his fingers and all his teeth, and perhaps a razor and some soap.” No swashbuckling to be found in these pages, only a cast of interesting characters, lots of seaworthy action, and a right smart plot.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, October 2018.

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

To enter the drawing for a print copy of
The Devil’s Wind by Steve Goble,
leave a comment below. The winning
name will be drawn on Thursday evening,
December 6th. This drawing is open
to residents of the US & Canada.

Advertisements

Book Reviews: Run by Kody Keplinger and Death in the Tunnel by Miles Burton

Run
Kody Keplinger
Scholastic Press, July 2016
ISBN 978-0-545-83113-0
Hardcover

To say that Agnes and Bo are polar opposites would be grossly overstating their similarities….at least at first glance.  It is difficult to imagine what the serene, docile blind girl would discuss with the most promiscuous wild-child in the small southern town.  It is initially inconceivable that the two would form a bond built on trust and whole-hearted acceptance.  Run isn’t a SnapChat view of two teenagers’ lives.  Ms. Keplinger uses a wide lens to clearly capture the vast and complicated contributing factors that affect not only how other people see the girls; but also their own perceptions of themselves.

That is not to say, however, that this is a dark and heavy tome.  Contrarily, I found this to be immediately irresistible and I ended up reading the book in one day.   It is so easy to become immersed, then invested in a story that is told from two points of view.  Ms. Keplinger spins the tale in that fashion, with a fantastic little tense twist.  True to her very core, Bo’s side of the story is happening right now, present tense, in your face—exactly the way she lives her life.  Agnes takes us back—remembering, yes….but also, considering and contemplating.

While I hesitate to use comparisons in reviews, I genuinely feel that I would be remiss if I did not say: this story, to me, feels important in an Eleanor and Park kind of way.  Although it is undeniably Bo and Agnes’ story; their parents do play a key role.  Just like the teens; adults can be guilty of making and sticking to snap judgments.  Also alongside adolescents; adults have plenty of room to grow.  I’ve no doubt Run will have mass appeal in the YA world and I’m pretty confident that there are plenty of Not-So-Young Adults that will dig it, too.

Reviewed by jv poore, November 2016.

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

Death in the Tunnel
A British Library Crime Classic
Miles Burton
Poisoned Pen Press, May 2016
ISBN 978-1-4642-0581-1
Trade Paperback

First of all, a short synopsis: Sir Wilfred Saxonby dies as he takes the five o’clock train home. He’s in a locked compartment, shot through the heart by one bullet, the pistol that fired it under his own seat. His death seems straightforward enough, the only odd thing being the fact the train was traveling through a long tunnel at the time. A very noisy, very dark tunnel. And there were the mysterious lights the engineer and fireman saw on the tracks, changing from red, which slowed the train, to green again, when the train sped up.

Was Sir Wilfred’s death suicide, or was it murder?

That is the question posed to Inspector Arnold of Scotland Yard. Terribly puzzled himself, Arnold calls in Desmond Merrion, an amateur expert on criminology. Together they set out to discover the truth in this convoluted plot.

See. No spoilers.

Death in the Tunnel was first published in 1936, the author contemporaneous with Agatha Christie. The plot plods, in my most humble opinion, although the premise is classically intriguing. The characters never really come alive, composed, for the most part, of talking heads. I never really see them. The action, what there is of it, seems constrained. Nobody, even the dead man’s children, seems to care all that much.

Writing styles come and go. Perhaps the British version of that day was more stilted, although Christie, Sayers, Creasey, among others, always struck me a writers of good stories. American author Mabel Seeley, from the same era, brought the reader into her characters’ world, always with a sense of danger involved.

As a puzzle concept, Death in the Tunnel, delivers. As a rousing good story, I can only say, “Not for me.”

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, March 2017.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder and Four Furlongs.

Book Review: Rain Dogs by Adrian McKinty—and a Giveaway!

Rain DogsRain Dogs
A Detective Sean Duffy Novel #5
Adrian McKinty
Seventh Street Books, March 2016
ISBN: 978-1-63388-130-3
Trade Paperback

Detective Sean Duffy of the RUC is back. In this dour, gritty novel of late Twentieth Century Northern Ireland, frustrations run high. A visiting British journalist, Lilly Bigelow, has apparently gone for the high jump off the castle keep at an ancient fortress near Carrick in Northern Ireland. It is your classic locked room mystery.

The place was locked up tight and all visitors gone. Only one man, the 60+ aged caretaker is on premises and his inspections revealed no other living human. Yet early on a frosty morning said caretaker discovers the suicided body of the young woman.

Ready to close the case as a legitimate suicide, Duffy and his team learn the coroner is adamant that she was killed-murdered-the night before. It becomes clear that the caretaker didn’t murder the woman so who did, why, and how did the murderer get in and out of the place, called Carrickfergus Castle? The fascinating solutions to these questions and attempts to arrest the perpetrator form the central plot of this firmly constructed novel. And there is no sagging in the middle.

The pace of the story is neither plodding nor racing about. There is time for several textural and atmospheric contemplations. It is the talent of the author showing in that these occasional asides enhance and enrich the novel and provide readers with a deeper sense of the principals. Well—researched, Rain Dogs is a witty, dark and thoughtful experience. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, April 2016.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

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

To enter the drawing for
a paperback copy of Rain Dogs
by Adrian McKinty, just leave
a comment below. The winning
name will be drawn on Monday
night, May 16th. This drawing
is open to the US and Canada.

Book Reviews: Jesus Jackson by James Ryan Daley and The Thrill of the Haunt by E.J. Copperman

Jesus JacksonJesus Jackson
James Ryan Daley
The Poisoned Pencil, October 2014
ISBN: 978-1929345069
Trade Paperback

On page one, Jonathan Stiles, the youthful narrator of this fine novel, meets the nicely dressed title character on the football field of fervently Catholic Saint Sorens Academy. He’s holding a football. On page two Jonathan explains that he does not and has never believed in God or in Jesus Christ. He has, he believes, absolutely no faith. And there readers have the core of the dilemma this novel presents.

This is a novel about the ultimate mystery of the human condition. If God exists in any form, why? And why do certain things happen, or not, when and the way they do? Yet this is not a religious text per se, any more than it is a YA or an adult novel. It is all of those things. Ryan, a professed sceptic, had had numerous discussions with his younger brother about God and Faith. Jonathan, just about to enter ninth grade at Saint Sorens Academy, a conservative Catholic school, is devastated by his brother’s death, as is the entire school. Circumstances lead Jonathan to wonder about his brother’s death, further complicating his mental state.

Jesus Jackson explains to Jonathan that he, JJ, is present to help Jonathan sort out his faith. But it costs something. This is a contract, not a casual operation, and Jonathan pays twelve dollars to Jesus Jackson for the service. Thereafter we follow Jonathan through various adventures and interactions with fellow students, teachers, the school administrators and his sorrowing family.

Occasionally, Jesus Jackson shows up, sometimes in confrontation, sometimes to give direction, but always to encourage and energize Jonathan to persevere in his quest.

This is a fine novel that is a lot of fun to read. It is punchy, emotional, turbulent and insightful. To discover how and whether Jonathan solves the mystery of his brother’s death, read the novel, and watch for your own Jesus Jackson.

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

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

The Thrill of the HauntThe Thrill of the Haunt
A Haunted Guesthouse Mystery #5
E.J. Copperman
Berkley Prime Crime, November 2013
ISBN: 978-0-425-25239-0
Mass Market Paperback

If you haven’t yet read the earlier entries in this terrific series, of which this is number 5, I urge you to correct that as soon as possible! And to catch you up, I take the perhaps dubious liberty of repeating from my review of the last one, Chance of a Ghost, as follows: Allison Kerby is a single mother in her late thirties who runs a guesthouse in her childhood hometown of Harbor Haven, on the Jersey Shore, inhabited by her and her precocious eleven-year-old daughter, Melissa, as well as Maxie Malone, Alison’s resident Internet expert and former interior designer (during the time she was alive), and Paul, an English/Canadian professor turned detective, both of whom have lived there since before their deaths, and, more recently, Allison’s father. It would seem that Alison and her daughter, as well as her mother, are the only ones who can see, and hear, the ghosts.

At Paul’s urging, about two and a half years ago Allison got a private investigator’s license, and as this new book opens, she reluctantly finds herself hired by not one but two people, the first being a woman who wants Allison to follow her husband to obtain proof that he is cheating on her, and the second, with even more reluctance, by a local woman who relationship with Allison is less than friendly, who demands that Allison find out who killed a local homeless man found murdered inside a locked room (shades of Agatha Christie!). In keeping with that theme, Allison ultimately gathers together all the suspects who have been unearthed in one room in hopes of uncovering identity of the killer(s).

What makes this book as outstanding as it is (and it is that!),besides the very real mysteries underlying the plot, is the humor and dry wit of the author, which makes the novel a distinct pleasure to read. Added to the mysteries is the book’s more personal aspect, with Allison filled with ambivalence at her budding romance with a man who she has been seeing for a record-setting four months, added to her ambivalence about her detective business, or should I say sideline, with her main source of income coming from the paying clientele at her guesthouse (most definitely NOT a bed-and-breakfast, btw, as Allison makes clear).

(I must add that I loved the ‘tip of the hat’ which the author gives to Sea Haven Officer Daniel Boyle, the protagonist of his fellow Jersey Shore mystery author, Chris Grabenstein.)

In sum, The Thrill of the Haunt is an absolutely perfect beach read, and it is recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, July 2014.

Book Reviews: Dangerous Women & Desperate Men by Rick Mofina, The Blonde in the Lotus Elite by Robert Baty, The Herring in the Library by L. C. Tyler, and Under the Dog Star by Sandra Parshall

Dangerous Women & Desperate MenDangerous Women & Desperate Men
Rick Mofina
Carrick Publishing, June 2011
ISBN No. 978-0-9877080-0-7
Ebook

The introduction to this book gives you a lot of  information about the author, his writing and some of his experiences that have helped develop background for his books.

“Blood Red Rings” is the story of Frank Harper, a police officer as well as a family man.  Harper is tired of his job, tired of dealing with his problems at home and ready to end his evening.   His thoughts go back over the years and the good times in his life as he cruises his beat.  However, the evening ends in a very tragic way.  A story that will stay with the reader long after the last page.

“Lightning Rider” is the story of Jessie Scout who is employed as the driver of an armored car.  Jesse along with her crew members, Gask and Perez, haul a lot of money from the Las Vegas casinos.  The last drive that she made to pick up money is one that will not soon be forgotten by Jessie, her crew members, or readers of this story.

“Three Bullets to Queensland” takes Ike Decker on a chase for the suspect in a deadly armored car hit.  One where Paco Sanchez got away with all the cash.  A great story with a twisted ending.

“As Long As We Both Shall Live” is a short story written in the form of a statement in court and is very effective as well as shocking.

Mofina also adds exerpts of several of his novels as well as some background on the books and where he got his ideas.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, August 2011.

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

Vintage Connor The Blonde in the Lotus EliteVintage Connor: The Blonde in the Lotus Elite
Robert Baty
R. J. Buckley Publishing, June 2011
ISBN No. 978-0981965475
Trade Paperback

Ray Connor is a former police officer living in Oakland, California and dealing in vintage cars.  He drives an Alfa Romeo and is an expert in classic cars.  He is the person to look to if you are a collector wanting to buy a classic car.

When a cab pulls up and Evie steps out, he is immediately drawn back into the past.  Evie is a woman that Connor was in love with twenty years ago and he has never gotten over the fact that she walked out on him.  Now she is back in his life and seeking his help.  Evie’s daughter Janey is dead.  Connor didn’t even know that Evie had a daughter and now he is to investigate her death.  Janey’s death has been ruled a suicide but Evie refuses to believe that her daughter would kill herself.

Janey died in Monterey so that is where Connor begins.  Connor calls on his ex-partner Vince Hendrix for assistance in tracking down some information.  When Connor begins his investigation, he finds that Janey’s death is looking more like murder than suicide.   It not only appears that there has been a big cover-up in the facts surrounding Janey’s death,  Connor also begins to feel that Evie may be covering up some facts about the case – facts that he needs to know.

Connor’s investigation takes him into dangerous territory and there are some close calls before he actually uncovers the truth.  Connor is never sure that Evie will even be around when he finally breaks the case.

Robert Baty has written an exciting mystery novel that I hope will just be the first one in a series of Connor stories.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, August 2011.

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

The Herring in the LibraryThe Herring In the Library
L. C. Tyler
Felony & Mayhem Press, 2011
ISBN No. 978-1934609767
Trade Paperback

Ethelred Tressider is a mystery writer although not first rate.  His agent, Elsie Thirkettle, is visiting Ethelred and while occupying their time with a game of Clue (Cludeo) Elsie is attempting to get Ethelred busy on his next book.  The game that occupies their time is one that they will soon be playing with a real life mystery.

Ethelred reminds Elsie that they are soon due at the estate of Sir Robert and Lady Muntham of Muntham Court for dinner.  Sir Robert is an old friend of Ethelred’s who was known in earlier days as Shagger.  Although Elsie was not a bit excited about having to dress up to meet the hosts she certainly wasn’t about to be left at home.

The dinner party turns into a disaster when Sir Robert is found dead in the locked library.  Lady Muntham prevails upon Ethelred to act as detective and locate the murderer.  Elsie does not have a lot of faith in Ethelred’s detective talents and proceeds to uncover her own clues.

The story is told in turns from the point of view of Ethelred and from Elsie’s point of view.  Both views are quite different.

A very entertaining story and the third in the Elsie and Ethelred series.  If you enjoy this book, you are sure to enjoy The Herring Seller’s Apprentice and Ten Little Herrings.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, August 2011.

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

Under the Dog StarUnder the Dog Star
Sandra Parshall
Poisoned Pen Press, September 2011
ISBN No. 978-1590588802
Trade Paperback

Family pets are disappearing in Mason County and veterinarian Rachel Goddard is stumped as to why the dogs are missing and attempting to devise some method to locate the dogs.  Rachel has moved in with Tom Bridger, Mason County Sheriff’s Deputy.  Rachel and Tom are rapidly adapting to the new living arrangement.  Tom worries that Rachel is spending too much time worrying about the missing dogs. Notices have been posted every place and he is sure the mystery will be solved before long.

Tom has another dog-related problem to occupy his mind.  There is a pack of feral dogs running around killing livestock.  Rachel is determined to help Tom and the local animal authorities capture the dogs and be able to get the dogs to a point where they would once again be the faithful dog of a family in need of a pet.  The feral pack is believed to have been brought about by the fact that people who have lost their jobs and their homes have taken to dumping their pets in Mason County in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.  The pack had been formed by the group of dogs just struggling for survival.

Suddenly the case of the lost pets and the feral dogs take a back seat to a gruesome murder.  Dr. Gordon Hall, head of Tri-County General Hospital is found dead on his property.   When Tom arrives on the scene, he finds Dr. Hall’s body along the edge of the woods near his house.  Dr. Hall’s throat had been ripped open by a savage animal.

Dr Hall’s wife Vicky is in very bad health.  Vicky is in advanced kidney failure.    The Hall’s have one natural son, Ethan, and three adopted children.   As the investigation proceeds, it appears that Dr. Hall was not a very popular person in the community and the Hall family was far from a close-knit family.

As Tom proceeds with the murder investigation as well as trying to capture the feral dog pack, Rachel is determined to save the lives of the pack of dogs.  The investigation brings out hints of a dog-fighting ring in the community that further complicates the situation.

Rachel’s feeling that all is not well with the younger members of the Hall family makes her determined to get to the bottom of the problem with the children as well as the ongoing problem with the feral dogs, the missing pets and a killer dog.

Dog lovers will shudder at some of the details of the search for the feral dogs and the attempts to find and shut down the dog-fighting group but the author has done a great job of handling touchy subjects.  This is a great addition to the Rachel Goddard series.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, August 2011.