Book Review: Reservations by Gwen Florio

Reservations
A Lola Wicks Mystery #4
Gwen Florio
Midnight Ink, March 2017
ISBN 978-0-7387-5042-2
Trade Paperback

Journalist Lola Wicks is finally on a honeymoon/vacation with her husband Charlie Laurendeau and their daughter. It will be her first meeting with Charlie’s brother and his wife, who are big wheels on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona. Charlie and his brother Edgar are Blackfoot; Lola is white, which provides a lot of tension.

No welcome awaits them in Arizona. There’s been a bombing outside a large coal mine on the reservation, and an elderly Navajo man killed. Tribal members are protesting the taking and exploitation of the their land. Their water is poisoned, and alcoholism runs rampant. Edgar and his wife, Naomi, a high-powered tribal lawyer, are busy trying to sort out the murder.

But Lola’s journalist tendencies come to the fore, as do Charlie’s, as he’s the top cop on the Blackfoot Reservation. Trouble between them looms, raising an ugly racist head. As rivals, they investigate the bombings and murder, and death lays in wait.

Ms. Florio’s depiction of the waterless heat in desert country is very real. I enjoyed the care the family had for Bub, their three-legged dog. I believe there are previous books and I want to know what happened to the pooch. The little girls in the story, who in less able hands might be overlooked, are also amazingly well-done characters.

All in all, an enjoyable story with a realistic, if sad premise. It might just turn a reader into an Indian Rights activist.

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

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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.

Book Reviews: Secret Sisters by Jayne Ann Krentz and Focused on Murder by Linda Townsdin

Secret SistersSecret Sisters
Jayne Ann Krentz
Berkley, December 2015
ISBN 978-0-399-17448-3
Hardcover

I’m a JAK/AQ/JC fan so I pre-ordered this book at my local independent bookstore and, yay, got it early. Read it, read it again. As in all her books, the mystery is well plotted, the characters are fun to be with and the settings–this one an island off the coast of Washington state, are beautifully described. Yes, I am a fan. But only because she is so good.

Almost two decades after a terrible crime, hotel owner Madeline returns to its scene, the derelict hotel in which she grew up. There she finds Tim, the old friend who summoned her, dying on the lobby floor, his head bashed in. Madeline barely escapes the killer. Frightened and angry, determined to find answers, she calls Jack, her hotel chain’s head of security, and Daphne, her secret sister who saved her life long ago, to help.

The old crime, which seemed over and done, turns out to be connected to the new crime and to several influential people in the island community. Madeline and Daphne know only part of their own story. The two who knew the whole, Madeline’s grandmother and Tim, are dead. A mysterious briefcase is missing. Are the answers buried so deeply that no one can find them? If so, why is someone trying to kill Madeline and her friends?

I know I’ll read this book again, happy to keep company with the characters and explore the island and its complex secrets.

Reviewed by Marilyn Nulman, December 2015.

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Focused on MurderFocused on Murder
A Spirit Lake Mystery #1
Linda Townsdin
CreateSpace, February 2014
ISBN 978-1495403088
Trade Paperback

Britt Johanssen has moved home to Spirit Lake after a disastrous sojourn on the west coast where she fell in love, was abused cheated on, and divorced her husband and became an alcoholic. Now she’s home again in tiny Spirit Lake, a little resentful and still a sharp reporter photographer. Skiing in Northern Minnesota, she stumbles across the body of a local woman named Isabel Maelstrom, daughter of a local big-wig resort owner.

Britt, now employed at the small local news bureau, seizes on the murder as a way to get wider attention for the bureau and her skill. But the more she delves into the murky relationships of the aptly named Maelstrom family and resort, the more dark undercurrents and questions appear. Meanwhile the sheriff, Dave Wilcox,seems to be moving the case at a glacial rate. Temperatures fall and the snow piles up as Britt pursues leads that inevitably trap her in ever broadening danger.

The story broadens and broadens into a very nasty world-encompassing plot that gradually touches nearly everybody in Britt’s Spirit Lake family. Well-written in a straight-forward style, this novel will satisfy suspense thriller readers of a wide range of interests.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, February 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.

Book Reviews: The Handless Maiden by Dorothy Black Crow and night night, sleep tight by Hallie Ephron

The Handless MaidenThe Handless Maiden
A Lakota Mystery #1
Dorothy Black Crow
Lucky Bat Books, October 2014
ISBN: 978-1-939051-88-2
Trade Paperback

Crime novels take many forms; historical, thriller, futuristic, realistic, and range from cozy nearly non-violent to the darkest hard-boiled tradition. Rarely does one find a novel combining the best elements of mystical spirituality, vicious racism and intelligent amateur detection. Here, in this multi-level novel, readers will have not only a disturbing journey into native peoples belief system, but a real experience of the modern realities of life on a South Dakota Lakota Indian reservation.

The scene of the novel is Pine Ridge Reservation and the time is 1977. It is worth noting that the cover subtitles the novel A Lakota Mystery. That is significant in that the author’s young protagonists, Alex Turning Hawk and his wife Tate are both Oglala Lakota and they are careful to respect the traditions while facing rampant racism and racing to find the murderer of a prominent AIM fighter, the maiden of the title.

Behind this author’s maiden are centuries-old traditions of pain, suffering and redemption. The common thread is the traditional strength of the damaged girl/woman and her struggles to regain her hands and thus her ability to care for herself and her family. In this modern tale, two representatives of society, native peoples, follow separate paths to help restore the maiden back to whole. Author Dorothy Black Crow has produced an intense, moving, illuminating story of the reality that was Pine Ridge during that turbulent time, a story that explains much but leaves much to the faith and imagination of the reader. A thoughtful, caring and enthralling experience.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, October 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.

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night night, sleep tightnight night, sleep tight
Hallie Ephron
William Morrow Paperbacks, February 2016
ISBN 978-0-06-211764-9
Trade Paperback

Hallie Ephron has the reputation of infusing her novels with the glamour of the Golden Age of Hollywood.  But this novel reads more like a cancelled TV soap opera, despite the liberal sprinkling of names, from Marilyn to Ava and Frank.  It’s too bad, because there is a gem of a mystery in the story, which is ultimately lost in a mushy finale.

The action takes place in 1985 in Beverly Hills.  Deidre Unger drives from her San Diego home to her screenwriter father’s domicile, at his behest, to assist him in preparing the house for sale, only to find him floating face down in the swimming pool.  Initially an accident is suspected, but then the police detective determines that it was murder.  Flashback to 1963, when Deidre’s girlhood friend confessed to stabbing to death her movie star mother’s lover.  The rest of the book dwells on the possibility that the two murders are related.

To give credit, the plot is crafty, but the execution is cumbersome.  Some suspense is built up but is dissipated by an unjustified conclusion.  For readers who like this sort of thing, it could well be enjoyable.  But this reader would have preferred a more traditional crime story without the gushiness of soap.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, December 2015.

Book Review: Death Along the Spirit Road by C. M. Wendelboe

Death Along the Spirit Road
C. M. Wendelboe
Berkley Prime Crime, March 2011
ISBN 978-0-425-24002-1
Trade Paperback

FBI agent Manny Tanno has been called to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to solve the murder of Jason Red Cloud, a Lakota Sioux land developer. The investigation puts him right back where he began his career in law enforcement as a tribal officer. One of his fellow officers is now in charge, and the competition between them has only intensified over the years as Manny’s stellar reputation has grown. During this investigation, it’s hard to tell if Lt. Lumpy Looks Twice is trying to help or if he’s out to spoil Manny’s success. Manny will need to consider Lakota history as well as sift through old rivalries to solve this murder. Worse, he’s apt to lose his cushy FBI teaching job if he can’t bring the case to a swift conclusion.

I enjoyed this story, more for the well-described setting and characters than for the mystery, which I figured out pretty fast. The writing is excellent and carries the story along at a good pace. I liked the connection of 1890s to 1970s  (AIM) history of the Lakota tribe that carries us forward to the present day. Manny’s preoccupation with his weight and smoking sometimes bugged me, but not enough to become an issue.

Reviewed by C.K. Crigger, November 2011.