Book Review: A Veil Removed by Michelle Cox

A Veil Removed
A Henrietta and Inspector Howard Novel #4
Michelle Cox
She Writes Press, April 2019
ISBN 978-1-63152-503-2
Trade Paperback

Short intro: Clive and Henrietta Howard return to Chicago after his father’s unexpected death; whether or not Alcott’s death is the accident it seems is unclear.

Clive Howard was an Inspector for the police before his return to Chicago.  When his father dies in an apparent accident, Clive is called home from his honeymoon to manage the family business.  Clive and Henrietta had made other plans, plans which are tossed by the wayside in light of this recent death.  The Howard Detective Agency is not, at least for now, an option.  This does not, however, mean that Clive and Henrietta are done with detecting.  Based on discoveries made by Clive as he takes over the business, the two decide that Alcott’s tragic demise was no accident.  Finding out who killed him will answer a myriad of other questions.   Why?  Why now?  Where’s the money?  Who can Clive trust?  How much does his mother know, if anything?  What does Alcott’s partner, Bennet, know?  Who is Susan?  The list goes on.  Every stone the pair turns over leads to another rock or another hard place. Trying to deal with all of this, and the business, and his grieving mother . . . Clive is under considerable pressure.  As tenuous connections to Henrietta are solidified, the pressure only gets more intense.

Henrietta has problems of her own to confront.  Her younger sister Elsie is “a fallen woman”, having succumbed to the charms of a ne’er-do-well.  The family, meaning Clive’s mother and Elsie’s grandfather, believe her best option is to make the best marriage she possibly can under the circumstances; a love match is out of the question, given her poor taste so far.  Elsie is not enthused about this option; she is also not truly in a position to do what she wants, even if she knows what that is, which is pretty much not the case.  She knows she does NOT want to marry the men who are interested in her, no matter how honest they are about their motives, which are not all that pure.  Henrietta thinks Elsie should go to college – a local, Catholic college run by nuns and affiliated with Loyola.  Elsie is smart, although she doesn’t think her self-taught knowledge is good enough to get her into any college.  She is wrong, and Mundelein College proves to be a wonderful place for Elsie.  She does have some delightfully collegiate interactions with the boys from Loyola.   The German custodian brings some adventure into her life, although certainly nothing that anyone would have thought of, given the chance.  Elsie, of all the characters, probably makes the greatest leap in personal knowledge and growth over the course of the novel.  It’s a pleasure to read.

There are other sub-plots and story lines, some of which connect previous books in the series to this one.  There is ample room for at least one or two more books about Clive and Henrietta, given some of the loose ends left lying around.  Chicago in the 1930s has so much to offer a historical novelist: gangs, high society, the changes in technology, societal mores shifting, the immigration landscape changing.  Cox mines what she needs for her story, and makes it all work very nicely.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Clive and Henrietta, although the sex scene in the middle did seem VERY gratuitous, considering the general tone of the book around that scene.  Other than that, I’m inclined to go start reading this series from the beginning.

Reviewed by P.J. Coldren, May 2019.

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Book Reviews: Infamy by Robert K. Tanenbaum and Robert B. Parker’s The Hangman’s Sonnet by Reed Farrel Coleman

Infamy
A Butch Karp-Marlene Ciampi Thriller #28
Robert K. Tanenbaum
Pocket Books, March 2017
ISBN 978-1-4767-9321-4
Mass Market Paperback

This novel is not up to the usual standards of the author.  Usually, the first half of the book recounts a situation which sets the stage for the other half, which, ordinarily, few do better than Mr. Tanenbaum: a dramatic courtroom scene.  So it is with Infamy.  Unfortunately, however otherwise well-written the novel is, the courtroom scene is flat and perfunctory.

The novel opens with an intelligence raid by a secret U.S. Army unit in Syria which was supposed to capture at least one suspect.  Instead, they find the suspect had shot and murdered other important enemy subjects and obtained important documents which point to a conspiracy to evade sanctions on ISIS and Iraqi oil.  Butch Karp, the New York DA and protagonist of the series, enters the plot when a U.S. Army Colonel is shot and killed in Central Park, and slowly a conspiracy begins to unfold.

There are all sorts of subplots and side issues which add little to the tale, except to make it more complicated than it really is.  This reader was clearly disappointed, especially when the author decided to vent his own political views, sometimes crudely or bluntly chastising those holding conservative views.  It’s too bad, because basically Infamy began with a solid idea, but lost its way along the way from front cover to back cover.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, December 2017.

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Robert B. Parker’s The Hangman’s Sonnet
A Jesse Stone Novel #16
Reed Farrel Coleman
G. P. Putnam’s Sons, September 2017
ISBN 978-0-3991-7144-4
Hardcover

This is the fourth Jesse Stone novel Reed Farrel Coleman has written in the series begun by the late Robert B. Parker.  And he has kept the faith.  Moreover, he has done something the master never did.  He brings in Spenser to play a minor role in solving the mystery which begins with the death of an old woman, a member of the founding family of Paradise, and the ransacking of her home.

Jesse, still reeling from the death of his beloved Diana in his presence, is slowly drinking himself into oblivion.  But that doesn’t stop him from performing his duty as Police Chief, despite the hindrance of the Mayor and her hatchet woman.  The plot basically revolves around the recovery of a supposedly long lost tape made by a now has-been rock star in time for his 70th birthday party.

Coleman performs up to the standards of the late master, while offering a clever plot of his own, written in a slightly different style (few can duplicate the pithy sentences of a Parker novel).  He gives us a deeper insight into Jesse’s personality and presumably shows the force of his iron will.  Well at least let’s hope so.  Presumably we’ll find out in the next volume in the series.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, December 2017.

Book Reviews: American Static by Tom Pitts and A Case of Vineyard Poison by Philip R. Craig

American Static
Tom Pitts
Down & Out Books, June 2017
ISBN: 978-1-943402-84-7
Trade Paperback

This novel is a long, detailed, twisting trail of a plot. Along the way two small-town cops, and readers, encounter many characters, nearly all of whom are consummate criminals in that vibrant, unusual city, Bagdad by the Bay, San Francisco. It follows the unwanted adventure of a rural California student, carrying weed from Humboldt County for friends to deliver to recipients in the city. Robbed and beaten at bus stop, Steven is collected and succored by one of the most relentlessly evil personalities one is ever likely to meet in a single story.

The student, Steven, left penniless and beaten in a small northern California town, is carrying a load of marijuana to people in San Francisco when he is set upon, viciously beaten and robbed. An interested bystander offers Steven a ride to` San Francisco with a stop or two along the way. There is a brief suggestion of connection between the young men who robbed and beat Steven, and Quinn, driving a stolen vehicle, who dispatches a prominent winery owner.

Two policemen from Calisto set out to find Quinn who has disappeared into San Francisco and begins a horrifying series of vendettas against the employees of a major crime figure in the city. His primary motive is to find the daughter of the crime figure, a strung-out teenager living on dope and the streets.

Somehow, Steven, now terrified of Quinn, connects with the girl, Teresa, and they flee together. The chase is on. Quinn after the teens, a corrupt cop chasing Quinn, followed by two Calisto cops and everybody under threat from the crime boss and his killer crew.

Complicated, slick maneuvering and sudden brutal murder is the hallmark of this well-designed novel. I lost count of the number of murders, shootings, knifings, beatings and car chase events. Suffice it to write, the novel is excellently conceived, full of abrupt violent action. I give it a strong recommendation of type.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, December 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.

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A Case of Vineyard Poison
A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery #6
Philip R. Craig
Avon, July 1996
ISBN: 978-0-380-72679-0
Mass Market Paperback

This novel is part of an extensive series of mysteries set on Martha’s Vineyard.

Vineyard wedding bells are about to chime for J.W. Jackson and Zee Madieras. Zee’s bank account is suddenly one hundred thousand unexplained dollars richer. The bank calls it a glitch, and two days later the money has disappeared. Coincidentally, the college student lying dead in J.W.’s driveway, done in by a dose of locally grown poisonous herbs, recently withdrew a hundred grand from her own account.

Ex-cop J. W. Jackson is intrigued. Intrigue deepens when he is suddenly attacked by a local paramedic. The path he follows introduces readers to a number of interesting characters on the island and a scheme to parlay computer expertise into a massive swindle.

This novel is not as violent nor as action filled as are earlier books in this series. There are several lengthy passages about the island and about fishing. However, the cerebral gymnastics around the solution to the murder are presented in an interesting way and the vividly descriptive passages touring Martha’s Vineyard and fishing, cooking and eating are interesting and judiciously blended with the murder mystery. Craig is a good writer and the dialogue is expertly used to further the plot and provide a pleasant experience for any reader.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, August 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 Reviews: Every Night I Dream of Hell by Malcolm Mackay and The Long Drop by Denise Mina

Every Night I Dream of Hell
Malcolm Mackay
Mulholland Books, April 2017
ISBN: 978-0-316-27177-6
Hardcover

From the publisher:  Nate Colgan would be the first to admit that his violent reputation makes him very good at his job – and bad at everything else. After eighteen years spent working on the sidelines of Glasgow’s criminal underworld, there’s no question he’ll accept the central position that Peter Jamieson’s crime organization offers him, despite his better judgment.  The organization isn’t as strong as it once was:  its most powerful members are either dead or behind bars, including Jamieson himself, and the time is ripe for change.  Change begins with an execution – – a message for Jamieson’s supporters – – which promptly sets the various factions within the organization against one another.  Colgan’s position as “security consultant” means his duty is clear:  identify the killer and find out who’s wiling to seize power at any cost – – even if it means igniting a war.  Meanwhile, on the other side of the law, DI Michael Fisher conducts his own investigation into the murder. Both men can’t help but wonder: Why do these events coincide with the return of the mother of Colgan’s child, Zara Cope, a disreputable woman who seems to have an uncanny ability to attract trouble and troublemakers?  A dark and thrilling crime drama, Every Night I Dream of Hell takes us deeper into a world of violence, fear, and double crosses.

Early on we meet Kevin Currie, a major part of “The Organization,” a guy “in his late forties getting slowly fat and jowly.”  Colgan, a member thereof since he was 18, is now replacing the man formerly Jamieson’s hitman, a line Colgan himself “had never crossed.”  Actually and directly causing the death of another was against his principles, as odd as that may sound, as Colgan is and can be as brutal as necessary.  An insomniac, Colgan thinks “the only world darker than the one I lived in was the one I slept in. . . I was always waking up growling at the darkness, scared of the things I was yet to do.”  He says of himself “I’m not an ugly man, a little weathered and starting to grey at the side of my dark hair, but not wholly unattractive and certainly well built. I’m smarter than most in this business, but not exactly a bundle of laughs.”

To call Colgan “morally complex,” as some readers have done, is an understatement.  The novel is hard-boiled, filled with dark humor, and Colgan is a fascinating protagonist, if one wants to so characterize him.  This is the fifth book written by Malcolm Mackay, the 2nd standalone after The Glasgow Trilogy, and is, as the earlier ones, highly recommended.

Not to detract from that sentiment, it should perhaps be noted that there is a five-page long list of characters provided at the beginning of the novel, and that is a good thing, although I must admit I did not refer to it as often as I needed to – the plethora of characters at times [many!] making it difficult to keep them straight in my mind.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, June 2017.

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The Long Drop
Denise Mina
Little, Brown, May 2017
ISBN 978-0-316-38057-7
Hardcover

From the publisher: William Watt’s wife, daughter, and sister-in-law are dead, slaughtered in their own home in a brutal crime that scandalized Glasgow.  Despite an ironclad alibi, police zero in on Watt as the primary suspect, but he maintains his innocence.  Distraught and desperate to clear his name, Watts puts out a bounty for information that will lead him to the real killer.  Peter Manuel claims he knows the truth that will absolve Watt and has information that only the killer would know.  It won’t come cheap.  Manuel is an infamous career criminal, a degenerate liar who can’t be trusted and will say or do anything to make a buck.  But Manuel has something that Watts wants, which makes him the perfect target for Manuel’s consummate con.  Watts agrees to sit down with Manuel, and before they know it, one drink has turned into an epic, forgotten night of carousing across the city’s bars and clubs that exposes the thin line between a yarn and the truth.  The next time the unlikely pair meet is across the witness stand in court – – where Manuel is on trial for the murder of Watt’s family. Manuel calls Watt to the stand to testify about the long, shady night they shared.  And the shocking testimony that Manuel coaxes out of Watt threatens to expose the dark hearts of the guilty and the innocent.  Based on true events, The Long Drop is an explosive, unsettling novel about guilt, innocence, and the power of a good story to hide the difference.

It won’t be a spoiler to state that the eponymous “long drop” is a reference to the method of the hanging process which was still the sentence of choice in murder cases when this case occurred, although capital punishment has since been abolished.  I am probably among the majority, at least in the U.S., when I confess ignorance of this crime, trial and the outcome thereof, so this True Crime novel was my first awareness of the apparent scandal that surrounded the case in the country where it took place.  Manuel, 31 years old at the time, and his trial, become a sensation.  The killer sought here “attacks women in the dark, hides in dusty attics, waiting for people to leave their homes so he can steal their mother’s engagement ring, lies on pristine linen bedclothes with dirty boots on or drops food on precious rugs and grinds it in with the heel of his shoe, spoiling a modest home for spite; he drags women down embankments, scattering their shopping in puddles, telling their three-year-old son to shut the f*** up or he’ll kill their mum.”  A rape charge against Manuel ends in a unanimous decision of Not Proven.  But there are still 8 murder charges against him, including that of two 17-year-old girls.  The trial is recounted in very convincing form by the author, whose previous books I have found extraordinarily good.  The chapters alternate between early December of 1957,and January of 1958, when the crimes occurred and May of 1958, when the trial takes place.  The characters are very well-drawn, especially that of Manuel and his parents, as well is Laurence Dowdall, “Glasgow’s foremost criminal lawyer”.   Another terrific novel from this author, and it is recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, September 2017.

Book Review: A Face to Die For by Andrea Kane

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Title: A Face to Die For
Series: A Forensics Instincts Novel #6
Author: Andrea Kane
Publisher: Bonnie Meadow Publishing
Publication Date: September 19, 2017
Genres: Mystery, Psychological Thriller

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Purchase Links:

         

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A Face to Die For
A Forensics Instincts Novel #6
Andrea Kane
Bonnie Meadow Publishing, September 2017
ISBN 978-1-68232-010-5
Hardcover

From the author—

Urban legend says that everyone has a double, or exact look-alike. Would you search for yours? And if you found them, would you risk your life for theirs?

When a chance encounter outside the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan results in mistaken identity, wedding planner Gia Russo is curious to find the person whose cell phone picture has been shown her—veterinarian Dr. Danielle Murano, her exact look-alike. A Facebook private message blossoms into a budding, long-distance friendship, and the two women agree to meet in New York and see the truth for their own eyes.

Shocked at the sight of one another, they quickly bond over drinks, childhood pictures and an uncanny feeling that they share more than just a visual resemblance. Together they decide to end the speculation and undergo DNA testing for siblingship. But when the tests confirm they’re identical twins, more questions are raised than answered.

And with good reason. The same mysterious forces that separated the sisters years ago are still at large, frantic to keep the two women apart. Their attempts to do so become more violent once it becomes clear that the two sisters have found each other. But when the danger escalates and the sisters fear for their lives, Gia turns to a former client of her wedding planning company, Marc Devereraux of Forensic Instincts, for help.

Despite being embroiled in another case, Forensic Instincts agrees to help Gia and Danielle discover who has been threatening them. And when Forensic Instincts discovers that this case is linked to the Mafia, Organized Crime, they must dig up skeletons better left buried, and get at the frightening truth without destroying the sisters and the families they have grown to love.

Based on the prologue (shown below as the excerpt), it’s easy to conclude that this is a case involving separated twins who have discovered each other and so it is but, in a coincidence to top them all, these twins are about to learn some things that will really rock their world. First and foremost, Gia and Dani need to know who seems to want to keep them separated and why. For that, they enlist the aid of the Forensics Instincts crew.

The FI company is an interesting hodgepodge of people who have individual strengths they bring to bear in solving crimes, sort of private investigators on steroids. I like these people (although they’re not all people and I like the non-people even more) and the way they interact with each other. At the time we first encounter them, they’re working a stalking case in which a college student is being relentlessly pursued by a professor and, once they resolve this situation, the team is ready to take on the investigation into what’s happening to Gia and Dani and, just as importantly, what happened in the past. Surprises at nearly every turn and questions leading to more questions take the team and the young women down a twisty road and what develops is alarming and malevolent past comprehension.

This is my first encounter with the Forensics Instincts group and I found them credible with just a touch of wow-ness to their individual strengths. Clearly, they’re closeknit, a kind of family, and they rely on each other unreservedly. In some ways, they remind me of the geniuses in the TV show, “Scorpion”, and, with all their strong points, they’re also touchingly vulnerable. I’m eager to spend more time with Casey, Hutch and all the rest; fortunately, I have five previous books to keep me going till the next one comes out.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2017.

An Excerpt from A Face to Die For

Prologue

Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, New York

March 1990

Anthony slid behind the wheel of his Ford Taurus and started it up, cranking up the heat the instant the engine turned over. It was friggin’ freezing outside. Even in the five minutes it had taken him to walk the babysitter to her front door, the temperature outside felt like it had dropped ten degrees, and his car was an icebox.

Shivering, he zipped his parka up as far as it would go and gripped the steering wheel, maneuvering the car away from the curb. He’d finally shared an evening out with his wife. It should have eased the knot in his gut. After all, it had been the first time that he and Carla had left their infants with a sitter since the babies had been born a month ago. And Judy was the perfect babysitter—a good girl from a good family, one who studied rather than doing drugs and screwing horny guys.

Still, dinner had been strained.

Anthony had only picked at his manicotti, his favorite dish at Raimo’s. His mind was far away, and acid kept building up in his stomach.

Carla couldn’t stop worrying and talking about the babies. She’d checked her watch a dozen times, intermittently giving Anthony puzzled looks and asking if he was okay.

Each time she asked, he’d assure her that he was fine, just exhausted from work and midnight feedings.

As if to contradict his words, some new waiter had dropped a tray of dishes on the floor, and Anthony had nearly jumped out of his skin at the crash.

Carla rose, asking him to order her another drink and to get one for himself to calm his nerves. Giving in to her new-mother concerns, she went to the pay phone in the back to call Judy for an update. So far, so good, Judy had reported. But that didn’t totally erase Carla’s fretting. She tried her best to be bright and chatty, but the truth was that, as this point, she was ready to go. She’d fiddled with her napkin and sipped at her drink, making small talk and glancing at the door.

Getting the hell out of there had worked for Anthony. He was more than ready to be home with his family and not out in the open. He’d use his fatigue as an excuse. He had to continue keeping the inevitable from Carla, until he had no choice but to tell her. He’d soften the blow as best he could. But the important thing was that his family would be protected at all costs.

Now, the heat in his car roared to life, warming his body but doing nothing to extinguish his inner chill. He knew the rules. No transgression went unpunished.

Why the hell had he been so preoccupied with new fatherhood that he’d forgotten to make his collections from the designated list of construction foremen these past two weeks? That in itself was a huge black mark against him—one he’d be punished for. But the outcome of his stupidity opened the door to a far more lethal punishment. Someone else had been sent to handle his route, and his money. They would have collected and turned over twice the amount he’d been handing over. And that meant he’d better be able to explain the discrepancy—assuming he’d even be asked before he was killed.

Please God, let him have that chance. He was just on the verge of buying that gas station he’d been single-mindedly building his bank account for, just about to provide for his family’s future.

And now this.

With shaking hands, Anthony switched on the radio, gritting his teeth as Madonna’s voice blasted off the windows, followed by Michael Jackson’s. He turned the dial until finally the soothing tones of Frank Sinatra’s voice filled the car. Sinatra. Perfect. The Chairman of the Board’s crooning was just the right medicine to ease his clawing anxiety.

He reached his street and turned down the line of small brick row houses, all identical in their flat lines, gated fronts, and tiny gardens. There was a certain comfort and peace about the sameness of it all; it made it feel like a neighborhood.

Would he ever feel that sense of comfort and peace again?

He pulled into his narrow driveway and spotted Carla standing at the front door with a broad smile, giving him a thumbs-up. That meant the infants had come through their first babysitting experience with flying colors.

He forced himself to smile back, but even as he did, his gaze swept the area around the house to see if he was alone. It appeared so. Quickly, he turned off the car and then made the frigid dash to his house.

He couldn’t shut and lock the door behind him fast enough.

The soothing warmth from the heating system enveloped him when he stepped inside. Comfort in yet another form. He was home. Carla and the babies were safe. And for the moment, so was he.

With a wave of relief—however temporary—he let the tension in his body ease. He shrugged out of his jacket and hung it on the coatrack.

“You look happy,” he teased Carla. “What’s the final report?”

Carla’s eyes twinkled. “They were perfect. Judy said they’d only woken up once for their bottles and a diaper change. Now they’re sleeping like little angels.”

“Good.” Anthony looped an arm around his wife’s shoulders and led her toward the living room. “How about a nightcap before bed—to celebrate the success of our first night out?”

“That sounds wonderful.” Carla walked beside him, making a left into their comfortable living room.

They’d barely taken half a dozen steps when a tall masked man dressed in black rose from behind the large armchair, his .22 caliber pistol raised.

“Hello, Anthony.”

Anthony knew that voice only too well, and it elicited the chilling knowledge that there was no way out. No threats. Just death. “Welcome home.”

The man’s finger tightened around the trigger.

“No!” Carla screamed.

She threw herself in front of her husband just as the pistol fired.

The bullet pierced her skull, and with a shattering cry, she crumpled to the floor.

“Carla… no… Carla!” Anthony shouted. He dropped to his knees beside his wife’s lifeless body, grabbing her into his arms and openly weeping. “God forgive me. Oh, God forgive me.”

He looked up in dazed anguish, just as a second shot was fired.

The bullet struck Anthony between the eyes. His head jerked backward, and he fell over his wife, dead.

Upstairs, the babies started to cry.

The gunman shoved his pistol back in his waistband. He knew the mob code like he knew his own name. No women. No children. Omertà.

A woman lay dead before him, the taunting evidence of a fuckup.

He took the steps two at a time.

Tucked in their cribs, the babies were still crying as their parents’ killer entered the nursery and hovered over them.

Not even the nightlight could eradicate the darkness.

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Excerpt from A Face to Die For by Andrea Kane. Copyright © 2017 by Andrea Kane. Reproduced with permission from Bonnie Meadow Publishing LLC. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

Andrea Kane is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of twenty-eight novels, including fourteen psychological thrillers and fourteen historical romantic suspense titles. With her signature style, Kane creates unforgettable characters and confronts them with life-threatening danger. As a master of suspense, she weaves them into exciting, carefully-researched stories, pushing them to the edge—and keeping her readers up all night.

Kane’s first contemporary suspense thriller, Run for Your Life, became an instant New York Times bestseller. She followed with a string of bestselling psychological thrillers including No Way Out, Twisted, and Drawn in Blood.

Her latest storytelling triumph, A Face To Die For, extends the Forensic Instincts legacy where a dynamic, eclectic team of maverick investigators continue to solve seemingly impossible cases while walking a fine line between assisting and enraging law enforcement. The first showcase of their talents came with the New York Times bestseller, The Girl Who Disappeared Twice, followed by The Line Between Here and Gone, The Stranger You Know, The Silence that Speaks and The Murder That Never Was.

Kane’s beloved historical romantic suspense novels include My Heart’s Desire, Samantha, The Last Duke, and Wishes in the Wind.

With a worldwide following of passionate readers, her books have been published in more than twenty languages.

Kane lives in New Jersey with her husband and family. She’s an avid crossword puzzle solver and a diehard Yankees fan. Otherwise, she’s either writing or playing with her Pomeranian, Mischief, who does his best to keep her from writing.

              

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A Face to Die For, leave a comment
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Book Reviews: Keep Your Friends Close by Paula Daly and Sorrow Bound by David Mark

Keep Your Friends CloseKeep Your Friends Close
Paula Daly
Grove Press, September 2014
ISBN: 978-0-8021-2320-6
Hardcover

This novel from Paula Daly (whose last book, Just What Kind of Mother Are You I absolutely loved!) brings back D.C. Joanne Aspinall of the CID.  The protagonist who crosses paths with Aspinall is Natasha (“Natty”) Wainwright, who with her husband, Sean, run a successful hotel in Windermere in  England’s Lake District, and has an enviable life with him and their two daughters, 16 and 14 years old, when their younger daughter becomes ill while on a school trip, and Eve must fly off to southern Normandy where the girl must have an appendectomy.  As fate would have it, Eve Dalladay, Natty’s best friend from college, has just come on a visit from the States and offers to stay at the house until Natty can return home.

As things transpire, it would appear that Eve is not who she seems, by any definition, and is a more devious woman than anyone could have guessed. The plot twists follow closely upon one another, but suffice it to say that Natty comes to the attention of the police, and D.C. Aspinall, when she rams her Porsche into the back of a Maserati where Eve is sitting in the driver’s seat.  And it is no accident.

Sean and Natty met at a sixteenth-birthday party when they were in school, deciding upon graduation that he would study law, and she would study biology.  After sixteen years of marriage, things did not work as they had hoped or planned.  But this turn of events is something far, far different.  The suspense mounts, and lives are altered, literally and figuratively.  The question arises, “Would you ever kill another person out of jealousy or hatred?”

The author has written another gripping novel, one that is recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, March 2015.

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Sorrow BoundSorrow Bound
David Mark
Blue Rider Press, July 2014
ISBN: 978-0-399-16820-8
Hardcover

This is the third entry in the series featuring Detective Sergeant Aector McAvoy, and is every bit as terrific as the first two. McAvoy is with the Yorkshire Serious and Organized Crime Unit, in the small English city of Hull, still working on a series of crimes committed by a vicious group seeking to take over the drug trade previously run by Vietnamese, something they had not been able to do in Original Skin, the predecessor novel. England has been going through a prolonged and oppressive hot spell, although the sky holds promise of a saturating rain storm at any moment.

The Scottish McAvoy, described as “a humble, shy giant of a man” at 6’ 5”, passionately in love with his much younger Romany wife, his young son and baby daughter and preparing to move into their new home, has been directed to attend sessions with a police-approved counselor because of perceived emotional problems. In a separate plot line, McAvoy is assigned the investigation into two killings which take place within 24 hours. McAvoy is second-guessing himself, and his career choice: “He has done this too many times. Sat in too many rooms with too much grief; felt too many eyes upon him as he made his promises to the dead . . . insists that he does his job as a police officer before he allows himself to become a human being.” Despite being written mostly with a light touch, the murders are quite sadistic, and it is speculated that a serial, probably deranged, killer is on the loose. The only connection between the victims seems to relate to events almost 15 years in the past, an even more horrific series of crimes perpetrated by a man who was incarcerated but sentenced to treatment in a psychiatric facility, and is now mostly incapacitated by a stroke.

The supporting cast of characters/police colleagues is very well-drawn, as usual: D.S. Trish Pharoah (with “four kids and a crippled husband” and a drinking problem, DIs Helen Tremberg and Shaz Archer et al, and McAvoy’s wife, Roisin. The novel is wonderfully well written, and gradually the suspense mounts until, with less than a hundred pages to go, I became actually fearful of reading further, not wanting to find out what is about to happen next, as I nonetheless started turning pages more and more quickly. The only certain thing about the plot is that one must expect the unexpected.

Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, January 2015.

Book Reviews: Herbie’s Game by Timothy Hallinan and Dakota by Gwen Florio

Herbie's GameHerbie’s Game
A Junior Bender Mystery
Timothy Hallinan
Soho Crime, July 2014
ISBN: 978-1-6169-5429-1
Hardcover

In an Afterword to his newest book, the author discloses that he was asked by the publisher to write a 30,000-word Junior Bender novella, which started out being a tale of a burglary which netted our protagonist some interesting pieces of jewelry. Instead he ended up writing a novel three times as long in which those brooches merely serve as sort of end pieces to an entirely different theme. Junior, a kind of detective to the underworld, is retained by a mastermind criminal to find out who broke into his office and stole a piece of paper. And to recover that list.

The identity of the culprit is obvious to Junior, since he left his “calling card” by leaving everything open. So, Junior heads for his mentor’s home only to find Herbie Mott (who not only taught Junior everything he knows about his “profession,” but was a surrogate father as well) beaten and dead. It’s obvious his attackers were after that same piece of paper, which was a list of intermediaries who served to eventually pass along instructions to a hit man. Thus begins a long trek, as Junior follows the chain in an attempt to discover who was the intended target of the hit.

In reviewing the prior novel in the series, I pointed out that Junior was less amusing than he had been in the first two installments. Unfortunately, I felt that he was even less so in this, the fourth. While Herbie’s Game is a serious attempt to look at Junior more meaningfully, and we do gain a deeper insight into his personality and character, it is not the Junior we have come to love. Nevertheless, as it stands, it is a novel that keeps one’s interest, and it is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, September 2014.

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DakotaDakota
Gwen Florio
The Permanent Press, March 2014
ISBN: 978-1-57962-3362-3
Hardcover

Lola Wicks, introduced to readers in Montana, returns in the second entry in the series. In her mid-30’s, she is now working at a small daily newspaper in Magpie, Montana, a far cry from the years she spent as a foreign correspondent in Kabul and other war zones before being downsized from her job at a newspaper in Baltimore.

After three months, Lola is still dealing with the aftermath of the death of Mary Alice, her best friend, when first arriving in Magpie, “trying to figure out what to do with the rest of her life. At present, she is living with Sheriff Charlie Laurendeau in his small ranch just outside of town, problematical on two counts: For one thing, Charlie is half Blackfeet (and the town’s first Indian Sheriff), added to the unethical complication of sleeping with a source, since her assignment is to cover events on the Blackfeet reservation. This being just the start of winter, it is twenty degrees below zero when Lola arrives at a crime scene, where the body of a beautiful young Indian girl is found in the snow.

Lola, of course, and despite the fact that her frenemy, Jan, with the paper for 3 years, has the crime beat, feels compelled to investigate the death of the girl, Judith Calf Looking, who had probably frozen to death, especially when she discovers that she was just the first of a series of young girls who had gone missing from the reservation, many of whom had been drug abusers, over the last year, and only the first to have been seen since they had left. Her relationship with Charlie was a tenuous one, made only more so when Lola leaves Magpie for Burnt Creek, over the border in North Dakota, a town of 700 souls which had experienced a boom when fracking had taken over the area: people hoping to find jobs on the oil patch. Her only company on the trip is Bub, a three-legged hound with one brown eye and one blue, who had been Mary Alice’s before Lola took him in. The author captures the Indian culture as well as the brutality of the prairie, especially in winter, where Burnt Creek “made her look fondly upon Magpie’s ten-below, no-wind days . . .In Montana, the wind slammed snow against earth frozen hard as iron and then packed it tight enough to hold cattle on a surface so glazed and brittle that when the occasional steer broke through, it emerged with legs sliced and bloodied by the sharp edges.”

As was Montana, Dakota is a beautifully written, suspenseful and fast read, one I devoured in about 36 hours, and it is highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, September 2014.