Book Review: Sulfur Springs by William Kent Krueger

Sulfur Springs
Cork O’Connor Mystery Series #16
William Kent Krueger
Atria Books, August 2017
ISBN: 978-1-5011-4734-0
Hardcover

Krueger has become a spectacular writer. You can see his development if you read his entire output. His observational skills have always been first rate and his ability to refine and shape those skills to serve the story only get better. And unlike a few writers today, he hasn’t resorted to the use of formulaic plots and characters or settings, merely to meet another deadline.

Sulfur Springs also demonstrates the author’s willingness to explore new horizons for Corcoran O’Conner, ex-sheriff of Tamarack County in northern Minnesota. Now married to Native American Rainy Bisonette, and retired from regular law enforcement, Cork and Rainy’s life is upturned when Rainy’s son, Peter, leaves a garbled telephone message that provides only a sense of deep trouble in the hot Arizona desert.

Cork and Rainy travel immediately to southern Arizona where they discover Peter’s whereabouts are a mystery and the people of Sulfur Springs and surrounding towns are either lying or not talking at all. The story is complex and heavily peopled by many players, none of whom seem to be what they are on the surface. As they traverse the many layers of relationships, Cork is disturbed to learn there are parts of the life of his new wife of which he is completely ignorant. It disturbs him and part of the fabric of the story deals with his efforts and needs to resolve the questions arising in Rainy’s background.

As the couple persists in tracing her son, more and danger pivots to focus on them and the people around them. The novel works on several levels, as has become common in Krueger novels. The resolutions, legal, psychological and personal, while many and varied, are carefully handled. This is an eminently satisfying novel with a penetrating mystery at its heart.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, June 2018.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

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Book Review: A Heritage of Death by Alexa Padgett

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Title: A Heritage of Death
Series: A Reverend Cici Gurule Mystery #2
Author: Alexa Padgett
Publication Date: October 23, 2018
Genres: Mystery, Thriller

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // iBooks // Amazon // Indiebound

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A Heritage of Death
A Reverend Cici Gurule Mystery #2
Alexa Padgett
Sidecar Press, October 2018
ISBN 978-1945090233
Trade Paperback

From the author—

An unconventional pastor. A brutal murder. To solve the case, one reverend will look for help from beyond the grave…

Reverend Cecelia “Cici” Gurule dreams of a bruised and bloodied woman who looks alarmingly like Cici. She’d like to pretend the dream is a nightmare and nothing more, but there are too many coincidences in her waking life to write it off. Like the baby that turns up on her porch–a baby that disappeared weeks before.

Cici and Detective Sam Chastain race to find the woman, but the killer finds her first. As the trail grows cold, Cici’s only chance to solve the mystery before she becomes the next target may be a clue left by her ghostly twin.

A Heritage of Death is the second novel in a compelling female sleuth mystery series for fans of Ruth Ware and Gilly MacMillan. If you like convention-shattering heroines, vivid Southwest settings, and a touch of the paranormal, then you’ll love Alexa Padgett’s twisty mystery.

A Heritage of Death is billed as a paranormal mystery and that element is certainly here but Cici’s dreams are not the only thing to consider. Her deceased sister was her identical twin and there’s just no doubt that the link between twins, especially identicals, is preternatural and can’t be fully understood by the rest of us. At any rate, Cici’s sister, Aci, is an integral part of the story.

Although Cici is an ordained minister, not a profession that you might expect would be involved with murderous events, but here she is with dreams of a  battered woman who looks an awful lot like herself and then a baby is abandoned on her doorstep. She’s a very likeable protagonist as is her close friend, Santa Fe police detective Sam Chastain, who appreciates and accepts the dreams and visions Cici has, making good use of them in his official investigation. Cici and Sam set out to find a missing woman and answers about the baby’s abduction but are soon drawn into a much deeper and very dangerous case involving the deaths of Native American women.

I have not read the first book in the series but never felt anything was lacking so I think potential readers can enjoy this second book even though it’s out of order. Fans of the Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne series by Julia Spencer-Fleming will be glad to find a similar pair of main characters.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2018.

About the Author

With a degree in international marketing and a varied career path that includes content management for a web firm, marketing direction for a high-profile sports agency, and a two-year stint with a renowned literary agency, award-winning author Alexa Padgett has returned to her first love: writing fiction.

Alexa spent a good part of her youth traveling. From Budapest to Belize, Calgary to Coober Pedy, she soaked in the myriad smells, sounds, and feels of these gorgeous places, wishing she could live in them all—at least for a while. And she does in her books.

She lives in New Mexico with her husband, children, and Great Pyrenees pup, Ash. When not writing, schlepping, or volunteering, she can be found in her tiny kitchen, channeling her inner Barefoot Contessa.

Author links:

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Book Review: The Black Kachina by Jack Getze

The Black Kachina
Jack Getze
Down & Out Books, August 2017
ISBN 978-1-943402-69-4
Trade Paperback

San Diego Reporter Jordon Scott finds himself on the trail of a hot story involving a missing bomb, a terrorist and falling in love with a tough military officer at the same time. These are the interesting plot lines in this unusual novel. Author Getze is a former LA Times reporter so he knows the territory and if the activities of this fictional reporter at times get a little questionable, well, this is realistic fiction, after all. Scott is a bright, good-looking, aggressive reporter who, while pushing leads on the loss of an aging USAF bomber in the mountains of southern California, encounters Colonel Maggie Black, USAF.

Black is an intriguing character. A former combat pilot—unusual in itself—she can no longer fly due to loss of one arm, but she’s actively working with a secret unit of the service on special weapons. She’s bright, good-looking, aggressive and dedicated to her assignment. While monitoring a test flight carrying her experimental weapon, she discovers the flight has crashed and her weapon is missing.

Then we have the third character in this novel, he of the title. Kachina’s are an intimate part, along with their influences, of the lives and lore of southwestern native tribes and bands. Whether or not they, like other religious icons, were real, their influence is wide and important. Asdrubal Torres believes in Kachina and he comes to believe, aided by his hatred for the white man, that he is destined to return the Salton Sea and surrounding area to its original state as the huge Lake Cahuilla in the Santa Rosa Mountains. Asdrubal Torres will become a modern Kachina.

How these forces maneuver their complicated way through the limitations and dangers of modern technology and personal relationships forms the texture, structure and movement of this interesting and intriguing thriller. I recommend it.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, November 2017.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Review: Song of the Lion by Anne Hillerman

Song of the Lion
A Leaphorn, Chee & Manuelito Novel #2
Anne Hillerman
Harper, April 2017
ISBN 978-0-062-39190-2
Hardcover

Anne Hillerman continues to demonstrate she is a solid author in her own right, albeit using the characters developed by her late father, Tony, in the series featuring Jim Chee, Bernadette Manuelito and Joe Leaphorn.  And by expanding Bernie’s role, she has added her own stamp on the series, which began in 1970, and in which this is her third novel.

The action begins when a bomb explodes, destroying a BMW belonging to a local hero who is mediating a hearing on a proposed resort on Navajo land adjacent to the Grand Canyon.  A young man is killed while sitting in the car.  The owner is playing in an alumni-student basketball game, and Jim Chee is assigned to be his bodyguard, driving him to the hearing and watching over him.  The plot develops in unexpected ways and as it unfolds, Bernie gets to play a deeper role than that of a bystander.  She takes over uncovering the real reason for the explosion, enlisting the assistance of Leaphorn, who still suffers from a bullet wound in his brain, but recalls an earlier incident, which helps Bernie resolve the case.

Common to the series are the descriptions of the arid Navajo country, the rituals, myths and customs of the people so well-done by Tony Hillerman and now continued on an equal footing by his daughter.  Her plotting is similarly on a par with the series’ founder.  And by introducing an environmental issue in the plot, she has brought the series up to date, while maintaining the integrity of the basic story and its characters.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, June 2017.

Book Reviews: The Highwayman by Craig Johnson and Fallout by Sara Paretsky

The Highwayman
A Longmire Story
Craig Johnson
Penguin  Books, May 2017
ISBN: 978-0-7352-2090-4
Trade Paperback

The author prefaces this Longmire novel by stating he always wanted to write a ghost story.  And now he has, thrusting Walt Longmire and his friend, Henry Standing Bear, into the middle of an enigma.  At the request of the head of the Highway Patrol, Walt and the Bear seek to determine what is happening to Rosie Wayman, who patrols a stretch of highway in the Wind River Canyon, an area where radio communication is almost nonexistent.

On the other hand, Rosie begins receiving calls from Bobby Womack saying “officer needs assistance.”  The problem is that Womack, a respected highwayman who patrolled the same route, died 35 years previously.  Walt and the Bear have to determine whether Rosie really is hearing the signal, or is in need of psychiatric evaluation.  What follows during the investigation is a series of events which might be ethereal, or explained by logic in the real world.  It is up to the two men (along with the reader) to determine which.

It is a clever plot and, while it is a deviation from the 11 prior entries in the series, The Highwayman is a welcome addition to the earlier books, and it is recommended.

The 13th novel in the series, The Western Star, will be published by Penguin on September 5th!

Reviewed by Ted Feit, May 2017.

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Fallout
A V.I. Warshawski Novel
Sara Paretsky
William Morrow, April 2017
ISBN: 978-0-0662-584-2
Hardcover

It all begins in Chicago, and ends up in Kansas, but VI Warhawski needs more than ruby read slippers to return home.  Apparently, a black retired movie star decided on a moment’s notice to leave the Windy City, ostensibly to visit the town where she grew up, dragging a young man man along to film her reminiscences with stops along the way to Lawrence, KS.  When the two seem to disappear, VI is retained by the woman’s concerned neighbors to find them.  The young man also is a person of interest in a drug theft at his place of employment, and Vicky becomes more wary when she discovers his apartment ransacked.

So off goes VI on the long drive to Kansas, tracing the woman’s journey and attempting to pick up a trace of the pair.  She visits Fort Riley, where she learns they stopped, but little else.  So Vicky continues on to Lawrence, where she encounters all kinds of obstructions, and becomes involved in all kinds of side issues, other than her original purpose to locate the actress and her photographer.

The reader has to plow through a rather dry start to the novel, about one-third the length of the book, before the plot begins to develop.  Then it turns into a complicated story that probably could have served as the basis for one or more novels.    All in all, Fallout is an interesting work and can be recommended despite these reservations because the author and the series are so deservedly popular.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, June 2017.

Book Review (Audio): Double Duplicity by Paty Jager

Double Duplicity
Shandra Higheagle Mystery, Book One
Paty Jager
Narrated by Ann M. Thompson
Patricia Jager, February 2017
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

On the eve of the biggest art event at Huckleberry Mountain Resort, potter Shandra Higheagle finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation. She’s ruled out as a suspect, but now it’s up to her to prove the friend she witnessed fleeing the scene is just as innocent. With help from her recently deceased Nez Perce grandmother, Shandra becomes more confused than ever, but just as determined to discover the truth.

Detective Ryan Greer prides himself on solving crimes and refuses to ignore a single clue, including Shandra Higheagle’s visions. While Shandra is hesitant to trust her dreams, Ryan believes in them and believes in her.

Can the pair uncover enough clues for Ryan to make an arrest before one of them becomes the next victim?

Shandra Higheagle literally comes across a dead body accidentally and things begin to happen with meteoric speed for this small town. Actually, the name Huckleberry Mountain Resort is a bit misleading because while “Huckleberry” implies very rural and homespun, this is a ski resort with tourists and money to spare, not to mention multiple art galleries, and the upcoming art show is a premier happening. It’s in Detective Ryan Greer’s best interest to solve this murder quickly and he’s not averse to a little assistance.

Shandra and Ryan are both intelligent, attractive people and the almost instantaneous spark between them is perhaps not surprising. It’s more apparent at first to Ryan than to Shandra but, once she gets it, she’s not entirely above using her “influence” to get away with a bit of investigating on the side. Unfortunately for her, she doesn’t always make the brightest decisions and can be accused of a tiny bit of TSTL behavior. Never mind, I still like her and I also like Ryan, especially because he gives credence to the visions Shandra has apparently inherited from her Nez Perce grandmother.

A fair amount of comic relief comes from the very young and very untried police officer, Blane. As so often happens with someone new to any position of authority, poor Blane is overeager and way out of his element with Shandra who can pretty much put him in his place, especially when he’s determined to treat her as a suspect. Blane is a likeable overgrown kid and his enthusiasm helps make up for a lot. The other secondary character who got my attention (in a good way) is Shandra’s hired ranch hand, Lil, who you might say is the female version of the crusty oldtimer.

Ann M. Thompson is a good narrator, giving warm, earthy tones to Shandra and handling other voices with noticeable differences from one character to the next. In particular, I immediately picked up on Blane’s immaturity and brashness just from Ms. Thompson‘s interpretation.

Double Duplicity is the first of eight books in the series but, so far, only this one and the second are in audiobook format. That will not stop me from continuing on with this entertaining series but I do hope more audio editions will become available before too long. Not only do I like Ms. Jager‘s stories but I also enjoy Ms. Thompson‘s narration and that’s a pleasant combination.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2017.

Book Review: Seldom Traveled by Marilyn Meredith

seldom-traveledSeldom Traveled
Tempe Crabtree Mystery Series #15
Marilyn Meredith
Mundania Press, August 2016
ISBN 978-1-59426-433-7
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

The tranquility of the mountain community of Bear Creek is disrupted by a runaway fugitive, a vicious murderer, and a raging forest fire. Deputy Tempe Crabtree is threatened by all three.

One of the things that makes the Tempe Crabtree series by Marilyn Meredith so appealing is its setting in a mountain community where the issues facing law enforcement that can be common in urban areas are rather unique in a more rural environment. Certainly the fugitive seen near Bear Creek could have just as easily headed for a big city but he didn’t do so, meaning Tempe will have to deal with the situation along with…or, rather, in spite of…the dismissive Marshal Gallegos. Unfortunately, that isn’t all she has on her plate; a woman, Mariah Konstanzer, has gone missing from her family’s remote vacation home and is found murdered.

Detectives Morrison and Richards take control of the murder investigation but it isn’t long before Tempe is pulled in to assist and is soon interviewing a lengthy list of potential suspects. Before she can shorten the list, a third crisis erupts, a wildfire high on the mountain. Tempe races to warn residents to evacuate and it isn’t long before all three issues intersect.

Tempe is a deputy I’ve followed for years and, once again, she’s the diligent, thoughtful investigator I’ve come to expect as well as a caring wife and member of the Bear Creek community. For some reason, Tempe always gives me a sense of confidence that all will be right with the world when it’s all said and done and she pulls it off once again. I hope we won’t have to wait long for the next adventure.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2017.