Book Review: Death Stalks Door County by Patricia Skalka

Death Stalks Door CountyDeath Stalks Door County
A Dave Cubiak Door County Mystery #1
Patricia Skalka
Uni. of Wisconsin Press, March 2016
ISBN: 978-0-299-29944-6
Trade Paperback

Dave Cubiak, a former Chicago homicide detective, goes off the rails after his wife and daughter are killed in a freakish accident with a drunk driver. Guilt is eating him alive as he’d blown off a family outing because he’d argued with his wife. Taking refuge in drink himself, the day comes when he can no longer function at his job. Forced to quit, his Chicago partner persuades him to take a job as a park ranger on the Door Peninsula on Lake Michigan. After about three months, the summer season arrives. Hordes of tourists and vacationers arrive to crowd the area.

And so does murder, one right after another. The perpetrator could be anybody and the county sheriff seems, at the behest of the local bigwig, more interested in covering up the crimes than solving them. Cubiak must use all his former talents to work through and find the one with the most lethal motive.

I don’t enjoy reading about alcoholics and their disease. In this case, just as I about got fed up with Cubiak and his problems, he finally broke through, with the aid of a lost child. I found that a nice touch. From this point, the action moved swiftly. I loved the north woods setting and atmosphere. The writing is good, the list of suspects interesting, the environmental aspects well done. I didn’t fall in love with any of the characters, but found them all integral to the story, adding to the entertainment value. I do recommend the book.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, July 2016.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder and Four Furlongs.

Book Review: Cry Wolf by Michael Gregorio

Cry WolfCry Wolf      
A Sebastiano Cangio Thriller #1
Michael Gregorio
Severn House Publishers, Ltd., April 2015
ISBN: 978-1-78010-617-5
Ebook
Also available in hardcover and trade paperback

Wolf as symbol. Wolf as metaphor. Wolves in Umbria, a relatively unpopulated region of Italy, as motivating presence. In this wide-ranging novel of Mafia and murder, the author challenges readers to maintain attention and patience as he directs us through years in the life of a young man from Calabria in the south of Italy, to his abrupt decampment to England, to his return to Italy and a new life as a park ranger in Umbria. It’s a lot to take in but those who stick with it will be richly rewarded.

The man, Sebastiano Cangio, is obsessed with wolves. They are the subject of his Phd. thesis at a local university. But a murder on the beach, execution style, changes all that. He hides, unhappily, in London. But then an opportunity to return to Italy and become a Park Ranger in Umbria, with his beloved wolves, occurs.

Unfortunately, new commercial development after earthquakes in Umbria is bringing crime of the worst sort, a rising Mafia cell. There are many players in this churning story, some who fall in and out of the narrative so readers must pay attention. Most are interesting and even unusual. The plot is vastly complicated and enthralling at the same time. This author is a very good writer and while the plot seems to move ponderously for a time, once all the important characters are in place, things get hot exceedingly fast. Yet there are no missteps and the last third of the novel is as fast and intense as any fan of thrillers could ask.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, February 2015.
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: The Shadow Broker by Trace Conger and Destroyer Angel by Nevada Barr

The Shadow BrokerThe Shadow Broker
A Mr. Finn Novel
Trace Conger
CreateSpace, August 2014
ISBN: 978-1-500-96697-3
Trade Paperback

This novel serves to introduce Finn Harding, who lost his PI license and is reduced to scrounging for a living, dealing with less than savory persons to make ends meet.  He lives on a houseboat on the Ohio River in Cincinnati, has an ex-wife and six-year-old daughter.  Obviously, this book is the beginning of a series.  Finn supposedly specializes in finding people who don’t want to be found, since doing so doesn’t require a license from the state.

One such assignment comes from a man named Bishop who operates an internet site that offers purloined data illegally obtained by his criminal partners.  It involves identifying a blackmailer, who is demanding $50,000 per month of Bishop to not disclose how he hacked into the site and is able to give the FBI all the background needed to prosecute.  Finn is able to name the blackmailer, but as a result finds himself in a more complicated situation, facing possible death at the hands of his clients.

Finn is an interesting protagonist, resourceful, energetic and calculating, although less than an upright citizen as events turn out.  He knows the difference between right and wrong, but circumstances make it hard to be ethical when you have to cut corners to survive.  It will be interesting to see what develops in the next novel in the series, Scar Tissue.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, March 2015.

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

Destroyer AngelDestroyer Angel
An Anna Pigeon Novel #18
Nevada Barr
St. Martin’s Paperbacks, February 2015
ISBN: 978-0-2500-5847-8
Mass Market Paperback

Novels in the Anna Pigeon series usually take place in national parks featuring the wilderness as she grapples with the likes of forest fires and the like.  This time, as she braves a Minnesota forest, it is four gunmen who have kidnapped two friends and their daughters while she was out canoeing, thus missing out on the party at the beginning:  The five women originally planned to enjoy a long weekend camping at a park ranger site.

Thus begins a long trek of undue hardship as the captives are forced to travel toward a landing strip miles away where the kidnappers hoped to be picked up by a plane to wait for the eventual payoff.  Instead, as they slowly head to their destination, trailed by Anna whose purpose obviously is somehow to rescue her friends, the reader is treated to a gruesome blow-by-blow account of the rough treatment the women receive and lessons in how to survive in the wilderness, courtesy of Anna the park ranger, as well as how to stalk prey.

The descriptions are graphic and powerful, brutal and mesmerizing.  Unfortunately, from time to time, the author interjects opinions on a variety of side issues which detract from the forward thrust of the plot. Otherwise, this is a forceful tale, and is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, January 2015.