Book Reviews: County Line by Bill Cameron, The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes by Marcus Sakey, Camouflage by Bill Pronzini, Tigerlily’s Orchids by Ruth Rendell, and Hell Is Empty by Craig Johnson

County Line
Bill Cameron
Tyrus Books, June 2011
ISBN: 978-1-935562-52-8
Trade Paperback

Before even attempting to evaluate this novel, it must be pointed out that at the beginning and end of the book as well as in between segments there are QR barcodes, purportedly featuring bonus material and extras.  To do so, of course, one must own a smartphone and download an app to view the material.  Since I have no need or desire to own such an instrument (what’s wrong, am I anti-American?), I don’t know how much, if anything, I am missing, especially what the barcode at the end of and within the novel provides.   Since I had a feeling of incompleteness after finishing the book, I wonder.  And if that is information I need to judge the novel, then it not only is a disservice to the reader who chooses not to utilize it, but a poor gimmick to sell smartphones and cellular service.  As it is, I found it only a distraction, as well as questioning whether it was necessary for a full appreciation of the book.

As far as the novel is concerned, it is incisively written, with good character development.  It begins when go-getter Ruby Jane Whittaker, founder and owner of a three-store chain of coffee shops in Portland, Oregon, goes off on what is to be a two-week trip.  When she doesn’t return, two of her boyfriends take heed, and undertake to find her. The effort takes them to San Francisco to see her brother (who becomes a hit-and-run victim before their eyes), then to a small Ohio town where Ruby Jane grew up and then back to Oregon.  The effort raises more questions than it does answers.

Another section of the novel retraces Ruby Jane’s earlier life in Ohio, and provides some background to the mystery, which is finally brought to a violent finish, albeit leaving this reader wondering whether or not that really is the conclusion, or just laying the groundwork for the next book in this series.  If you own a smartphone, OK, you can take this as a recommendation.  If not – – well, the choice is yours.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, October 2011.

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

The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes
Marcus Sakey
Dutton, June 2011
ISBN: 978-0-525-95211-4
Hardcover

Daniel Hayes wakes up on a beach in Maine, half drowned and with a loss of memory.  This sets the stage for a slow, dramatic tale as he attempts to reconstruct his life.  He finds a car nearby which is apparently owned by someone named Daniel Hayes from Malibu, CA.  Is that him?

Then he decides to cross the country in an effort to find out who he is, after fleeing a cop attempting to arrest him in Maine. Dan is a scriptwriter, and his efforts are like episodes on a TV show.  When he gets to Malibu, he sneaks in to what turns out is his home.  So he has a name.  And a home.  Then he finds out a female character on a television show is his wife who apparently was killed when her car went over a cliff.  While he searches for answers, the plot thickens.

And quite a plot it is.  Interspersed with fairly crisp prose are simulated scripts, sometimes fantasy, others integral to the story line.  The reader is kept off-balance with the question of whether Dan fled to Maine because he killed his wife.  And when that question is answered, a whole new mystery arises to keep one turning pages.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, October 2011.

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

Camouflage
Bill Pronzini
Forge, June 2011
ISBN: 978-0-7653-2564-8
Hardcover

The Nameless Detective in this long-running series is supposed to have semi-retired.  It just isn’t so.  He’s still working four or five days a week, and it’s a good thing, because it makes for good reading.  In the first of two cases described in this novel, he takes on a new client with what at first appears to be a simple ‘trace’ case.  The oft-married client asks Nameless to locate his ex-wife so he can get her to sign a Catholic Church form to pave the way for an annulment, so he can marry the next, an apparently well-to-do prospect.  Tamara, who is now running the agency in wake of Nameless’ “semi-retirement,” locates the ex-wiife, and after she refuses to sign the papers the client visits her, after which he storms into the office saying that it’s the wrong person.  This leads to the ensuing mystery to be solved.

The second plot line involves Jake Runyon, Nameless’ partner, who has finally developed a relationship with a woman, Bryn, who has a nine-year-old son who is in her ex-husband’s custody.  It appears that the boy is being abused, but by whom?  The father, or his fiancée, who is living with him and the child?  The complication of the girl’s murder and the subsequent admission by Bryn of having committed the deed lays the groundwork for some detective work by Jake to find the real culprit.

As in the previous more than two score books in the series, the tightly written novel, accompanied by terse dialogue and seamless transitions, take the reader forward effortlessly.  The author’s eye for detail is penetrating, and the novel is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, October 2011.

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

Tigerlily’s Orchids
Ruth Rendell
Scribner, June 2011
ISBN: 978-4391-5034-4
Hardcover

Ruth Rendell novels are a study in human relationships, and this book is no exception.  It takes a look at an assortment of tenants living in an apartment house block in London, particularly one building, but also a couple of homes across the way.

An inordinate amount of space is devoted to one tenant, a young, handsome youth, Stuart Font, who recently inherited some money and bought his apartment.  He decides to have a housewarming and invite all the other tenants.  His married lover forces him to invite her, setting the stage for her husband to invade the apartment and harm Stuart, who is later found murdered in a nearby park.

The mystery, of course, is who the murderer is.  But it is almost superfluous since the interaction of the various characters is the prime focus of the novel:  One woman who is determined to drink herself to death; three young girls, students of a sort, one of whom falls in love with Stuart, who in turn is obsessed with a beautiful young Asian in the house across the street after discarding his married lover; an elderly couple who once had a one-night stand in their youth and find each other again; the caretaker couple, the husband of which enjoys spying on young girls and watching pornography on his computer.  Among others.

The author’s eye for detail is sharp, and the personality descriptions vivid.  For a crime novel, the mystery is virtually irrelevant, but certainly the character studies are vital.  For that reason alone, the book is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, October 2011.

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

Hell Is Empty
Craig Johnson
Viking, June 2011
ISBN: 978-0-670-02277-9
Hardcover

This, the seventh novel in the Walt Longmire series, is perhaps the most harrowing.  It starts out simply enough, with Walt, the Sheriff of a Wyoming county, and his deputies transporting three murderers to a rendezvous with two other local Sheriffs and Federal officials.  One of the felons, a psychopath who says he hears supernatural voices, has indicated he killed a young Indian boy years before, and offers to locate the bones for the officials.  There is a rumor, also, that he has secreted $1.4 million, perhaps in the grave.

This sets the stage for a harrowing experience for Walt, as the convicts escape, killing FBI agents and taking two hostages with them as they climbed Bighorn Mountain.  A determined Walt follows under blizzard conditions, which almost kills him.

As in previous entries in the series, the geographical and environmental descriptions are awesome.  The reader can feel the cold and ice as they penetrate Walt’s body and inundate the mountain peak in glasslike cover and snow-filled mounds.  Another excellent book, full of Indian lore and supernatural phenomena.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, October 2011.

Book Reviews: County Line by Bill Cameron, The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes by Marcus Sakey, Camouflage by Bill Pronzini, Tigerlily's Orchids by Ruth Rendell, and Hell Is Empty by Craig Johnson

County Line
Bill Cameron
Tyrus Books, June 2011
ISBN: 978-1-935562-52-8
Trade Paperback

Before even attempting to evaluate this novel, it must be pointed out that at the beginning and end of the book as well as in between segments there are QR barcodes, purportedly featuring bonus material and extras.  To do so, of course, one must own a smartphone and download an app to view the material.  Since I have no need or desire to own such an instrument (what’s wrong, am I anti-American?), I don’t know how much, if anything, I am missing, especially what the barcode at the end of and within the novel provides.   Since I had a feeling of incompleteness after finishing the book, I wonder.  And if that is information I need to judge the novel, then it not only is a disservice to the reader who chooses not to utilize it, but a poor gimmick to sell smartphones and cellular service.  As it is, I found it only a distraction, as well as questioning whether it was necessary for a full appreciation of the book.

As far as the novel is concerned, it is incisively written, with good character development.  It begins when go-getter Ruby Jane Whittaker, founder and owner of a three-store chain of coffee shops in Portland, Oregon, goes off on what is to be a two-week trip.  When she doesn’t return, two of her boyfriends take heed, and undertake to find her. The effort takes them to San Francisco to see her brother (who becomes a hit-and-run victim before their eyes), then to a small Ohio town where Ruby Jane grew up and then back to Oregon.  The effort raises more questions than it does answers.

Another section of the novel retraces Ruby Jane’s earlier life in Ohio, and provides some background to the mystery, which is finally brought to a violent finish, albeit leaving this reader wondering whether or not that really is the conclusion, or just laying the groundwork for the next book in this series.  If you own a smartphone, OK, you can take this as a recommendation.  If not – – well, the choice is yours.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, October 2011.

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

The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes
Marcus Sakey
Dutton, June 2011
ISBN: 978-0-525-95211-4
Hardcover

Daniel Hayes wakes up on a beach in Maine, half drowned and with a loss of memory.  This sets the stage for a slow, dramatic tale as he attempts to reconstruct his life.  He finds a car nearby which is apparently owned by someone named Daniel Hayes from Malibu, CA.  Is that him?

Then he decides to cross the country in an effort to find out who he is, after fleeing a cop attempting to arrest him in Maine. Dan is a scriptwriter, and his efforts are like episodes on a TV show.  When he gets to Malibu, he sneaks in to what turns out is his home.  So he has a name.  And a home.  Then he finds out a female character on a television show is his wife who apparently was killed when her car went over a cliff.  While he searches for answers, the plot thickens.

And quite a plot it is.  Interspersed with fairly crisp prose are simulated scripts, sometimes fantasy, others integral to the story line.  The reader is kept off-balance with the question of whether Dan fled to Maine because he killed his wife.  And when that question is answered, a whole new mystery arises to keep one turning pages.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, October 2011.

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

Camouflage
Bill Pronzini
Forge, June 2011
ISBN: 978-0-7653-2564-8
Hardcover

The Nameless Detective in this long-running series is supposed to have semi-retired.  It just isn’t so.  He’s still working four or five days a week, and it’s a good thing, because it makes for good reading.  In the first of two cases described in this novel, he takes on a new client with what at first appears to be a simple ‘trace’ case.  The oft-married client asks Nameless to locate his ex-wife so he can get her to sign a Catholic Church form to pave the way for an annulment, so he can marry the next, an apparently well-to-do prospect.  Tamara, who is now running the agency in wake of Nameless’ “semi-retirement,” locates the ex-wiife, and after she refuses to sign the papers the client visits her, after which he storms into the office saying that it’s the wrong person.  This leads to the ensuing mystery to be solved.

The second plot line involves Jake Runyon, Nameless’ partner, who has finally developed a relationship with a woman, Bryn, who has a nine-year-old son who is in her ex-husband’s custody.  It appears that the boy is being abused, but by whom?  The father, or his fiancée, who is living with him and the child?  The complication of the girl’s murder and the subsequent admission by Bryn of having committed the deed lays the groundwork for some detective work by Jake to find the real culprit.

As in the previous more than two score books in the series, the tightly written novel, accompanied by terse dialogue and seamless transitions, take the reader forward effortlessly.  The author’s eye for detail is penetrating, and the novel is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, October 2011.

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

Tigerlily’s Orchids
Ruth Rendell
Scribner, June 2011
ISBN: 978-4391-5034-4
Hardcover

Ruth Rendell novels are a study in human relationships, and this book is no exception.  It takes a look at an assortment of tenants living in an apartment house block in London, particularly one building, but also a couple of homes across the way.

An inordinate amount of space is devoted to one tenant, a young, handsome youth, Stuart Font, who recently inherited some money and bought his apartment.  He decides to have a housewarming and invite all the other tenants.  His married lover forces him to invite her, setting the stage for her husband to invade the apartment and harm Stuart, who is later found murdered in a nearby park.

The mystery, of course, is who the murderer is.  But it is almost superfluous since the interaction of the various characters is the prime focus of the novel:  One woman who is determined to drink herself to death; three young girls, students of a sort, one of whom falls in love with Stuart, who in turn is obsessed with a beautiful young Asian in the house across the street after discarding his married lover; an elderly couple who once had a one-night stand in their youth and find each other again; the caretaker couple, the husband of which enjoys spying on young girls and watching pornography on his computer.  Among others.

The author’s eye for detail is sharp, and the personality descriptions vivid.  For a crime novel, the mystery is virtually irrelevant, but certainly the character studies are vital.  For that reason alone, the book is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, October 2011.

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

Hell Is Empty
Craig Johnson
Viking, June 2011
ISBN: 978-0-670-02277-9
Hardcover

This, the seventh novel in the Walt Longmire series, is perhaps the most harrowing.  It starts out simply enough, with Walt, the Sheriff of a Wyoming county, and his deputies transporting three murderers to a rendezvous with two other local Sheriffs and Federal officials.  One of the felons, a psychopath who says he hears supernatural voices, has indicated he killed a young Indian boy years before, and offers to locate the bones for the officials.  There is a rumor, also, that he has secreted $1.4 million, perhaps in the grave.

This sets the stage for a harrowing experience for Walt, as the convicts escape, killing FBI agents and taking two hostages with them as they climbed Bighorn Mountain.  A determined Walt follows under blizzard conditions, which almost kills him.

As in previous entries in the series, the geographical and environmental descriptions are awesome.  The reader can feel the cold and ice as they penetrate Walt’s body and inundate the mountain peak in glasslike cover and snow-filled mounds.  Another excellent book, full of Indian lore and supernatural phenomena.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, October 2011.

Book Reviews: Dangerous Women & Desperate Men by Rick Mofina, The Blonde in the Lotus Elite by Robert Baty, The Herring in the Library by L. C. Tyler, and Under the Dog Star by Sandra Parshall

Dangerous Women & Desperate MenDangerous Women & Desperate Men
Rick Mofina
Carrick Publishing, June 2011
ISBN No. 978-0-9877080-0-7
Ebook

The introduction to this book gives you a lot of  information about the author, his writing and some of his experiences that have helped develop background for his books.

“Blood Red Rings” is the story of Frank Harper, a police officer as well as a family man.  Harper is tired of his job, tired of dealing with his problems at home and ready to end his evening.   His thoughts go back over the years and the good times in his life as he cruises his beat.  However, the evening ends in a very tragic way.  A story that will stay with the reader long after the last page.

“Lightning Rider” is the story of Jessie Scout who is employed as the driver of an armored car.  Jesse along with her crew members, Gask and Perez, haul a lot of money from the Las Vegas casinos.  The last drive that she made to pick up money is one that will not soon be forgotten by Jessie, her crew members, or readers of this story.

“Three Bullets to Queensland” takes Ike Decker on a chase for the suspect in a deadly armored car hit.  One where Paco Sanchez got away with all the cash.  A great story with a twisted ending.

“As Long As We Both Shall Live” is a short story written in the form of a statement in court and is very effective as well as shocking.

Mofina also adds exerpts of several of his novels as well as some background on the books and where he got his ideas.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, August 2011.

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

Vintage Connor The Blonde in the Lotus EliteVintage Connor: The Blonde in the Lotus Elite
Robert Baty
R. J. Buckley Publishing, June 2011
ISBN No. 978-0981965475
Trade Paperback

Ray Connor is a former police officer living in Oakland, California and dealing in vintage cars.  He drives an Alfa Romeo and is an expert in classic cars.  He is the person to look to if you are a collector wanting to buy a classic car.

When a cab pulls up and Evie steps out, he is immediately drawn back into the past.  Evie is a woman that Connor was in love with twenty years ago and he has never gotten over the fact that she walked out on him.  Now she is back in his life and seeking his help.  Evie’s daughter Janey is dead.  Connor didn’t even know that Evie had a daughter and now he is to investigate her death.  Janey’s death has been ruled a suicide but Evie refuses to believe that her daughter would kill herself.

Janey died in Monterey so that is where Connor begins.  Connor calls on his ex-partner Vince Hendrix for assistance in tracking down some information.  When Connor begins his investigation, he finds that Janey’s death is looking more like murder than suicide.   It not only appears that there has been a big cover-up in the facts surrounding Janey’s death,  Connor also begins to feel that Evie may be covering up some facts about the case – facts that he needs to know.

Connor’s investigation takes him into dangerous territory and there are some close calls before he actually uncovers the truth.  Connor is never sure that Evie will even be around when he finally breaks the case.

Robert Baty has written an exciting mystery novel that I hope will just be the first one in a series of Connor stories.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, August 2011.

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

The Herring in the LibraryThe Herring In the Library
L. C. Tyler
Felony & Mayhem Press, 2011
ISBN No. 978-1934609767
Trade Paperback

Ethelred Tressider is a mystery writer although not first rate.  His agent, Elsie Thirkettle, is visiting Ethelred and while occupying their time with a game of Clue (Cludeo) Elsie is attempting to get Ethelred busy on his next book.  The game that occupies their time is one that they will soon be playing with a real life mystery.

Ethelred reminds Elsie that they are soon due at the estate of Sir Robert and Lady Muntham of Muntham Court for dinner.  Sir Robert is an old friend of Ethelred’s who was known in earlier days as Shagger.  Although Elsie was not a bit excited about having to dress up to meet the hosts she certainly wasn’t about to be left at home.

The dinner party turns into a disaster when Sir Robert is found dead in the locked library.  Lady Muntham prevails upon Ethelred to act as detective and locate the murderer.  Elsie does not have a lot of faith in Ethelred’s detective talents and proceeds to uncover her own clues.

The story is told in turns from the point of view of Ethelred and from Elsie’s point of view.  Both views are quite different.

A very entertaining story and the third in the Elsie and Ethelred series.  If you enjoy this book, you are sure to enjoy The Herring Seller’s Apprentice and Ten Little Herrings.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, August 2011.

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

Under the Dog StarUnder the Dog Star
Sandra Parshall
Poisoned Pen Press, September 2011
ISBN No. 978-1590588802
Trade Paperback

Family pets are disappearing in Mason County and veterinarian Rachel Goddard is stumped as to why the dogs are missing and attempting to devise some method to locate the dogs.  Rachel has moved in with Tom Bridger, Mason County Sheriff’s Deputy.  Rachel and Tom are rapidly adapting to the new living arrangement.  Tom worries that Rachel is spending too much time worrying about the missing dogs. Notices have been posted every place and he is sure the mystery will be solved before long.

Tom has another dog-related problem to occupy his mind.  There is a pack of feral dogs running around killing livestock.  Rachel is determined to help Tom and the local animal authorities capture the dogs and be able to get the dogs to a point where they would once again be the faithful dog of a family in need of a pet.  The feral pack is believed to have been brought about by the fact that people who have lost their jobs and their homes have taken to dumping their pets in Mason County in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.  The pack had been formed by the group of dogs just struggling for survival.

Suddenly the case of the lost pets and the feral dogs take a back seat to a gruesome murder.  Dr. Gordon Hall, head of Tri-County General Hospital is found dead on his property.   When Tom arrives on the scene, he finds Dr. Hall’s body along the edge of the woods near his house.  Dr. Hall’s throat had been ripped open by a savage animal.

Dr Hall’s wife Vicky is in very bad health.  Vicky is in advanced kidney failure.    The Hall’s have one natural son, Ethan, and three adopted children.   As the investigation proceeds, it appears that Dr. Hall was not a very popular person in the community and the Hall family was far from a close-knit family.

As Tom proceeds with the murder investigation as well as trying to capture the feral dog pack, Rachel is determined to save the lives of the pack of dogs.  The investigation brings out hints of a dog-fighting ring in the community that further complicates the situation.

Rachel’s feeling that all is not well with the younger members of the Hall family makes her determined to get to the bottom of the problem with the children as well as the ongoing problem with the feral dogs, the missing pets and a killer dog.

Dog lovers will shudder at some of the details of the search for the feral dogs and the attempts to find and shut down the dog-fighting group but the author has done a great job of handling touchy subjects.  This is a great addition to the Rachel Goddard series.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, August 2011.

Book Reviews: The Twisted Thread by Charlotte Bacon, Bears With Us by Marilyn Meredith, Triple Shot by Sandra Balzo, and A Perilous Conception by Larry Karp

The Twisted Thread
Charlotte Bacon
Hyperion/Voice, June 2011
ISBN 978-1401341503
Trade Paperback

Madeline Christopher has landed a job at Armitage Academy.  Armitage is a prestigious school with many traditions but some of the traditions are not common knowledge among the faculty.  When Claire Harkness is found dead in her dorm room, the investigation brings some of these secret traditions to light.

Madeline is one of the first to view Claire’s body and was shocked that it appeared that Claire might have just given birth.   Madeline’s intuitions turn out to be accurate but the baby has disappeared. Not only is Armitage faced with the death of a very popular student but a student who has managed to keep her pregnancy hidden from the faculty.  Only a few trusted friends were aware that Claire was pregnant.

The only student deaths that Armitage had experienced were that of three other students.  One student died in a car accident, one died of leukemia and another in a climbing accident.  Now the police were out on the campus in full force.  Both the students and the faculty were in turmoil.

Three of the students came to Madeline’s room frightened and unsure what to do.  The students confided in Madeline about a secret society that Claire and her friends were involved in.  As soon as they confided they were sorry that they had revealed their secret and pressed Madeline not to report their conversation to the police.

The detective in charge of the investigation was a former Armitage student now employed by the police department.  Madeline was quick to fill in the police on the information that had been revealed to her in spite of the warnings she received.

This is a book that takes a good long look at college life and the teachers committed to educating children.  The end was a surprise for this reader.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, July 2011.

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

Bears With Us
Tempe Crabtree Mystery Series
Marilyn Meredith
Mundania Press, LLC, August 2011
ISBN 978-1606592649
Trade Paperback

Bears are all over Bear Creek, the small mountain community in the southern Sierra where Tempe Crabtree lives with her husband Hutch.   Hutch is a pastor in the local church.  Tempe is a deputy in the small community and it seems she is being called out so much that she hardly has time to eat or sleep.  The bears are preparing for their period of hibernation but are having a hard time finding sufficient food so a few have decided that they will forage for food wherever they can.   Tempe has been called when a bear is tearing up a Bear Creek resident’s kitchen and helping itself to whatever is available in the refrigerator and creating quite a mess.   A local apple orchard attracts a bear that is dead set on eating the entire crop before the owner of the orchard can get the apples picked and sent to market.  Some new residents of the community find a bear on their deck enjoying a nice big roast.  A bear even tries to get into the local school.

But it isn’t all about bears.   Tempe is called to the home of a new family who has moved into the community.  Their son has committed suicide.  Although Hutch, serving in his capacity as a minister, tries to offer comfort and help to the family he is not very well received.  The family is acting very strangely and seems to want the death of their son kept very quiet.

The mother of a young girl calls upon Tempe to investigate the young man her daughter wants to date.  That isn’t exactly in the line of duty for Tempe but she tries to reassure the mother that the boy is a nice young man and well liked in the community.  When Hutch invites the daughter to attend his youth group and the young man is in the group the girl’s mother decides to file a complaint with Tempe’s boss.

The most tragic of the episodes that Tempe becomes involved in is that of an older woman who is suffering from dementia.  The woman keeps wandering away from home.  The first few incidents turn out okay but finally the woman wanders too far and Tempe has to try to figure out what has happened to the woman.

This new Tempe Crabtree novel brings Hutch into the action.  If you want a few tips on how to keep a bear away from your residence and your food this is the book for you.  A very entertaining way to learn bear habits and understand what it is like to work in a small community as a Deputy.  When a hitman attempts to harm a local resident, it is even more dangerous than trying to scare away a big bear.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, September 2011.

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

Triple Shot
A Maggy Thorsen Mystery
Sandra Balzo
Severn House Publishers, LTD, December 2011
ISBN 978-0727880796
Hardcover

There is story after story written about the Mafia.  Many of the stories are fact and have been proven true.  Others are tales that have been passed around by word of mouth and might have some basis in fact but are mostly legends.

Maggy Thorsen and her partner Sarah Kingston have Uncommon Grounds, their Brookhills coffee house up and running in the town’s historic train station.  The current specialty at Uncommon Grounds is the store’s autumn drink, Triple Shot, a drink full of caffeine and sugar. Customers coming into the coffee house are complaining about the odor.  Although Maggy and Tien Romano, a coffee house employee, have investigated the source of the odor remains a mystery until Sarah remembers the waiting room underneath the coffee house. This is a special waiting room designed for members of the Mafia to wait for the trains to Chicago without having to associate with any of the other travelers.

When Ward Chitown, a faded Chicago television personality, arrives in town to film a show,   He joins Sarah and Maggy in the investigation of the waiting room.   The group discovers the corpse of Brigid Ferndale, a sales apprentice for Sarah’s Kingston Realty.  Jake Pavlik, Maggy’s boyfriend, is not at all surprised to find that Maggy has found a corpse. She seems to have an uncanny ability to stumble into situations that other people would run from.  Pavlik has been investigating the deaths of a couple of real estate brokers who have met their death while showing homes and he feels that this victim is another to add to the list.

Ward Chitown is quite excited about finding Brigid’s corpse since he thinks it will add something to his show on “The Brookhills Massacre”.   He plans to televise the incident that occurred years ago at a local restaurant where the FBI broke up a Mafia meeting and lots of money disappeared.

Maggy can’t help sticking her nose in the investigation and although she finds facts that will help Pavlick, she puts herself in a lot of danger.  Her maneuvers make for good reading.  This is a good addition to the Maggy Thorsen series.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, December 2011.

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

A Perilous Conception
Larry Karp
Poisoned Pen Press, December 2011
ISBN No. 978-1590589731
Hardcover
Also available in trade paperback

In vitro fertilization is a common occurrence now but in 1975, the subject was very controversial.  Dr. Colin Sanford, an obstetrician in Emerald, Washington, is determined to be the first doctor to produce a baby by this method.  He has recruited Dr. Giselle Hearn, a laboratory geneticist-embryologist to work with him.  Because of Hearn’s department chair, their work must remain a secret.  Joyce Kennett, a patient of Dr. Sanford, is determined to have a baby.  With the help of Sanford and Hearn, Kennett gives birth to a healthy baby boy.

Dr. Sanford has assured Kennett that when he is in a position to make a public announcement about the baby’s birth, there will be no end to the publicity and Kennett will gain financially through the publicity.

However, before any announcement can be made, James Kennett, Joyce’s husband and the baby’s father, goes on a shooting spree, kills Dr. Hearn, and then kills himself.  This is where Detective Ernie Baumgartner steps in and determines to discover what motivated James Kennett to murder a doctor and then commit suicide.

The reader hears the story from the viewpoint of Dr. Colin Sanford as well as from the viewpoint of Detective Baumgartner.  Detective Baumgartner’s superiors keep pressing him to close the case since they feel it is obvious that James Kennett is simply a man who suffered a mental breakdown but Baumgartner is sure there is much, much more to the story.  Not only risking the wrath of his superiors Baumgartner neglects his wife to the point where she leaves him and he has to beg a place to sleep from an old acquaintance.

Larry Karp, in my opinion, has written an outstanding and intriguing book.  A Perilous Conception is a mystery I am very glad I read and would recommend the book as an exciting read.  The conclusion is a surprising and satisfying end to this excellent book.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, January 2012.

Book Review: Quietly Dead by Laura Belgrave

Quietly Dead
Laura Belgrave
Overmountain Press, 2001
ISBN 1570721726
Hardcover
Also published in trade paperback

An old woman is dead and Detective Claudia Hershey suspects this is not just an accidental death. The problem is she can’t really explain to Chief Suggs why an investigation is needed. On top of that, she’s been saddled with the chief’s nephew, a bouncy, aggravating teen with the outlandish name of Booey who wants to try police work for a couple of weeks. As if that weren’t enough, her love life leaves a lot to be desired and her ex-husband has showed up and wants to take their daughter off to DC for the summer. Then there’s a second death and now Chief Suggs is really on her back for causing trouble.

Claudia Hershey, who relocated from Cleveland to the backwoods of Florida and can’t figure out why on earth she did such a thing, returns to delight fans of the detective who’s too tall, dresses badly, can’t control her personal life and sticks out like a sore thumb in the good-old-boy police department. Author Laura Belgrave has delivered another well-crafted mystery with marvelous character and plot development and a quality of writing that makes Quietly Dead a real pleasure to read.

Quietly Dead is a winner and a welcome addition to any mystery reader’s bookshelf.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, 2002.  Slightly revised 2010.
Review first published on murderexpress.net in 2002.

Book Review: The Kingdom Where Nobody Dies by Kathleen Hills

The Kingdom Where Nobody Dies
by Kathleen Hills
Poisoned Pen Press, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-59058-476-7
Hardcover

The author of this novel has a strong background in rural America, particularly in the Upper Midwest.  It shows in many of the nuances that affect the progress of this story.  The novel is replete with icons of small towns, some of which are isolated from the mainstream.

The book is set in the tiny Upper Peninsula Michigan town of St. Adele where once again we ride along with one of the most reluctant and phlegmatic lawmen we are likely ever to encounter.  His name is John McIntyre and he is the town constable.  He didn’t want the job in the first place and he can think of a hundred things he’d rather be doing and places he’d rather be than the sun-blasted hay field of former conscientious objector, Ruben Hofer.

Hofer has been murdered, that’s plain to see.  His head was blasted open by a rifle shot while he sat on his tractor raking hay.  It is almost immediately clear that the man’s family is one likely source of murderous intent.  Hofer was not a nice man.  He drove his two teen-aged sons in cruel and oppressive ways; and his eleven-year-old daughter, Claire, has already been pushed to warped and dangerous attitudes about life.  His wife is morbidly over-weight and only the youngster, Joey, constantly playing with his make-believe farm in the yard outside the kitchen of the school-house-turned-family-home, seems almost normal.

Author Hills continues to invest her stories with an array of intriguing characters although I got a little tired of the sheriff’s on-again-off-again almost incompetent investigation.  Moreover, the two teen-agers do not become distinct characters in this book until very late, which I found to be a weakness.

Nevertheless, the story is informed by very real human emotions and conflicts and the author’s handling of the religious, political and historical elements of the book tell us she has done careful research.  The book is, as is true of all her books, well-written.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins.