Book Reviews: Innocent Blood by Michael Lister and The Good Liar by Nicholas Searle

Innocent BloodInnocent Blood
Michael Lister
Pulpwood Press, May 2015
ISBN:  978-1-8881-4649-3
March 2015
ISBN 978-1-8881-4650-9
Trade Paperback

The sub-title of this novel by Michael Lister is Book #7 and A John Jordan Mystery, to which description is added The Atlanta Years, Volume One.  It is basically a prequel to the six earlier books in the series, and a fascinating look into what made the protagonist into the man he became, to wit: an ex-cop turned prison chaplain.

From the publisher:  When he was twelve years old he came face to face with the man who would be convicted of the Atlanta Child Murders.  Six years later, John returned to Atlanta determined to discover who was truly responsible for all the slaughtered innocents.  But first he must ascertain whether or not LaMarcus Williams belongs on the infamous list of missing and murdered children.  The questions in the case are many, the answers few.  Who killed LaMarcus Williams?  How was he abducted from his own backyard, while his mom and sister watched him?  Is he a victim of the Atlanta Child Murderer that didn’t make the list or is his killer still out there, still operating with impunity?

Opening with a brief Introduction by Michael Connelly, whose own iconic creation, Harry Bosch, assists John and gives him all the impetus he needs to devote the next several years of his life to becoming a cop like Bosch [whose telephone conversation has the background of jazz saxophone that Bosch fans will immediately recognize].  Although Bertram Williams was found guilty of both of the murders with which he was charged, one of them of a 27-year-old and the second a 21-year-old, John is not convinced that he committed all or any of the other murders mostly of young black children who had been victims of the Atlanta Child Murderer, not all of whom were young or black.  His commitment is made at age 17; as he is told, “the empathy you feel with the victims, the unquenchable thirst burning inside you for justice . . . for restoring some kind of order . . . the rage you feel at the murderer . . . your obsession with knowing, with uncovering, with finding the truth . . . they are the very things that make you perfect for this kind of work.”  And John himself feels “That’s what I’m called to do – – help people damaged by violent crime, salve the suffering of the living while searching for some kind of justice for the dead.  As both a minister and an investigator I’d be in a unique position to do both.”

John Jordan’s dedication to the task he has set for himself results in a well-plotted, well-written mystery, the resolution of which is stunning, and one which I for one did not see coming, and the novel is recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, May 2016.


The Good LiarThe Good Liar
Nicholas Searle
Harper, February 2016
ISBN: 978-0-0624-0749-8

In the early pages of this debut novel by Nicholas Searle, we met Roy, who, we are told, could “pass for seventy, sixty at a pinch,” but he is a decade older than that.  He is meeting a woman on a blind date, each initially giving the other a “nom de guerre,” but they quickly admit the truth and re-introduce themselves to the other.  He tells her “I can promise you that was the last time I will lie to you, Betty, everything I say to you from now on will be the truth.  Total honesty.  I can promise you, Betty.  Total honesty.”  As the title suggests, however, this in itself is as far from honesty as one can get.  Instead, he sees in her little more than a mark, a very vulnerable woman.  But once the bloom is off the rose, so to speak, she still things it can work, “for the sake of the satisfaction and security she craves.”

The book is replete with flashbacks, each one rather lengthy, harking back decades earlier, first to mid-1998, then early 1963, mid-1946, and finally back to December of 1938 and a time of war.

The writing is beautiful.  One early scene in particular I would like to cite as an example:

“Boys of secondary school age are mere blustering rhinos, carried on a wave of hormonal surges of which they are the helpless victims and to which they are utterly oblivious.  Their female peers have gained an awareness.  And with awareness comes uncertainty, expressed in various ways.  The plain and studious invest in their faith that diligence and intelligence may help them navigate the horrors, away from loneliness and failure.  The fresh-faced, pretty girls of the class – – pretty vacuous too, most of them – – sense inchoately that their attractiveness may be ephemeral and dependent on the vagaries of their coming physical development.”

Roy turns out to be surprisingly likeable, this reader found, to her surprise.  But be assured, please, that this novel is nothing at all what one expects, whatever that may be.

From the publisher:  “Roy’s entire life is a masterfully woven web of lies, secrets, and betrayals that will blindside you.”  If anything, that understates the case.  This is a book that stayed with me long after the cover had been closed and the last page read.  And it is highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, March 2016.

Book Reviews: The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen, Requiem for a Gypsy by Michael Genelin, The Big Goodbye by Michael Lister, and Midnight Alley by Miles Corwin

The Keeper of Lost Causes
Jussi Adler-Olsen
Dutton, August 2011
ISBN No. 978-0525952480

Carl Morck was an exceptional homicide detective in Copenhagen until a bullet struck him down.  He lived but two of his colleagues weren’t so lucky.  Carl suffers from guilt since he didn’t even get his gun drawn during the battle.  Fellow workers have begun to complain about Carl.  He arrives late to work, rides the staff, interferes with other cases and will not return phone calls.  Marcus Jacobsen, Chief of Homicide, decided that he could kill two birds with one stone.  The Denmark Party is making speeches and complaining about cases that have not been solved.  Marcus makes a decision to create a new department called Department Q.  With outside pressure to create such a department for unsolved cases and with adequate funds to fund the department Carl Morck is put in charge of Department Q.  What appears to be a promotion is actually a demotion.  Carl is given a small office in the basement of headquarters and a ton of unsolved cases.

Carl is not one to be outsmarted though.  Realizing that money is coming in to fund his department but that none is drifting his way he makes demands for equipment and an assistant.  His assistant is very unusual.  His name is Assad and he is from Syria.  Carl realized immediately that he had made a mistake in asking for an assistant.  With an assistant nearby he could no longer sleep in his chair or work Sudoku puzzles to pass away the time.  The more chores he found for Assad the faster Assad accomplished the tasks.  Soon they both begin to sift through some of the cold case files and the case of the disappearance of Merete Lynggaard caught their interest.

Merete Lynggaard is a very attractive woman who served as Vice-President of the Social Democrats.  Merete had a beautiful home but her private life she kept secret from the people she worked with.  At night, she hurries home to spend the evening with her special needs brother.

Carl and Assad are sure that Merete is dead but determine to find out exactly what happened to her.  Merete is not dead but has been held captive for years.  She has almost given up hope of anyone locating her and setting her free.

The book skips back and forth between Carl’s actions and Merete’s struggles as told by Merete. Although the search for Merete is very serious, there are many humorous incidents between Carl and his assistant.  Carl also has a way of getting what he wants from his superiors from the large budget allotted to Department Q.

The Keeper of Lost Causes is a long book but I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough and I didn’t want the book to end.  The cover of the book states that this is the first installment in the Department Q series and I cannot wait for the next installment.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, July 2011.


Requiem for a Gypsy
Michael Genelin
Soho Crime, July 2011
ISBN  No. 978-1569479575

When Commander Jana Matinova of the Slovakia Police witnesses the assassination of Klara Bogan at a party honoring Oto Bogan, Klara’s husband, Jana immediately begins to wonder if Klara’s death was the fault of a stray bullet or if she was actually the intended victim.  Jana’s Colonel gives her permission to proceed with the investigation even though as a witness to the shooting she is told that she cannot be actively involved.

The department in charge of the main investigation refuses to share all of their information with Jana.  It is not long before Jana is on the trail of the pieces of information that she has no doubt will eventually lead to the reason behind the death of Klara Brogan.  Jana has access to the Murder Book but knows that the contents are incomplete. Jana finds that Oto Bogan as well as his son has disappeared.

A girl whose name is Em Mrvova shows up at Jana’s door, cold and hungry.  Jana takes pity on the girl but soon finds out that there is more to Em than meets the eye.  Em seems to appear and disappear with frequency.  Much wiser than her years Em is able to give Jana a few tips that help in her investigation.

Klara Bogan’s is not the first death that happens in this novel and Jana’s trail eventually takes her to Paris where she learns the real identity of an anonymous man that is run down on the streets of the city.

Jana is a brilliant police officer with a talent for interrogation that eventually gets her the answers she needs to put the puzzle pieces together that eventually tell the story behind the death of Klara as well as a long kept secret that goes back to a dark time in Slovak history.

The author has worked as an international consultant in government reform.  I hope to see Jana Matinova in many future novels.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, July 2011.


The Big Goodbye
Michael Lister
Pulpwood Press
Kindle Edition
ISBN No. 978-1-888146-80-6
Also available in hardcover and trade paperback from Pottersville Press

Jimmy “Soldier” Riley is a one-armed Private Investigator in Panama City, Florida and the time is 1943.  Jimmy is in a partnership with Ray Parker, a former Pinkerton detective.  July is a cute little gal that works for the agency.

Ray and Jimmy have a lot going on and things are jumping in Panama City.  When Lauren Lewis walks into the office Jimmy isn’t sure how to handle it.  July wanted to send her in to see Ray but Jimmy insisted he could handle it.  Lauren was married to Harry Lewis who was a leader in the city and getting ready to run for office.  Jimmy and Lauren had an affair that was over now but just seeing Lauren made Jimmy remember every moment of the affair.

Lauren thinks someone is following her and wants to know if it is Jimmy.  Jimmy denies that he is following her but senses that she is in danger.  Jimmy decides whether Lauren likes it or not he is determined to protect her.

Protecting Lauren is easier said than done.  Part of the time, he can’t even find her.  Soon bodies start turning up and Jimmy is facing danger every step of the way.  Jimmy has to call in help from his friends before he eventually is able to locate Lauren and attempt to get her to safety.

The story is puzzling as well as exciting.   I figured out exactly what was going on with Lauren about half a dozen times.  None of my ideas were correct.   The ending was a shocker and I went back and reread some of the book and even though I knew what was going to happen I still couldn’t see it coming.  A great book.

If you like exciting detective novels don’t miss this one.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, August 2011.


Midnight Alley
Miles Corwin
Oceanview Publishing, April 2012
ISBN No. 978-1-6080-038-9

When I reviewed Kind of Blue I commented that Miles Corwin had written a book full of danger, excitement and secrets and Midnight Alley is more of the same.  The reader learns more about Ash Levine, top detective in the LAPD’s Felony Special squad.  Ash is not an ordinary detective.  He served as a paratrooper in the Israel Defense Forces and this experience gives him a little different outlook.

This second in the Ash Levine series puts Ash in charge of solving the murder of two young black men found shot to death in a Venice alley. The timing could not be worse.  Ash has just left for a weekend with his ex-wife Robin.  When he received the call ordering him back to work, Robin understood, but Ash was very disappointed.

Raymond Pinkney, one of the victims, was the son of City Councilman Isaac Pinkney.  Isaac has been a frequent critic of the LAPD.  Ash is under heavy pressure to find the killer but the case is puzzling.  Teshay Winfield, the other victim, had just returned from serving in the armed forces.  The two victims had known each other when they were younger but had gone separate ways.  What brought them together to be found dead in an alley?  And what was the strange marking on Pinkney’s bicep?  And what does it mean?  These are just a few of the many questions that leave Ash searching for answers.

Ash discovers that Teshay had returned to the States with a mask he discovered while serving overseas.  Teshay had high hopes that the mask would bring him a lot of money.  The more answers that Ash finds the more danger he is placing himself in.

This is a complicated story that reveals itself little by little until the surprising conclusion.  It  leaves the reader waiting  for more about Ash Levine, his life, and the cases he investigates in a manner that is totally devoted to solving the puzzles presented to him.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, April 2012.