Book Review: The Quiet Child by John Burley

The Quiet Child
John Burley
William Morrow Paperbacks, August 2017
ISBN: 978-0-06-243185-1
Trade Paperback

This is not a novel for the faint of heart. Dark, moving, at times excruciating, the pain author Burley evokes from his characters is a palpable presence through the entire novel. One wonders how many readers have ever been faced with the community disdain and rejection based, not on race, but on more common attributes. And a reader wonders what the response might have been.

In Cottonwood, California, multiple unexpected deaths are occurring. The family of Michael and Kate McCray are beginning to feel isolation as it grows, the odd looks, the loss of friendly interactions, the murmurs behind their backs. McCray is a valued teacher at the local high school. He and Kate have two sons, Danny and Sean. Danny, the youngest, is the focus of the growing community concern. He doesn’t speak. At all.

Kate is becoming ill and the doctors are worried but non-committal. The novel moves smoothly back and forth in time which can at times confuse a reader, but the technique works extremely well to heighten the tension and overall feeling of dread.

One evening, Michael drives the boys to a nearby convenience store and with a startling suddenness the tension rises. The boys are kidnapped. The rest of the story concerns the police attempts to find the boys and rescue them, Kate’s accelerating deterioration, and the rising suspicions from the community.

Ultimately, of course, there are resolutions, nearly all of which are unforeseen and startling in their placement and evolution. Enthralling, mesmerizing and surprising, a dark, moving thought-provoking experience.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, April 2018.
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 Passel of Teeny Reviews, Part 5

Once again, big surprise, I find myself with
an overload of books read but not yet reviewed
so I think it’s time for a roundup or two…

Peachy Flippin’ Keen
Southern Eclectic #3
Molly Harper
Pocket Star, April 2018
ISBN 978-1-5011-7894-8
Ebook

Molly Harper has a ton of books but I had never “met” her until I came across the first book in this 4-book series and fell deeply, madly in love with Lake Sackett, Georgia, and the McCready clan, not to mention the folks in their town. These books are Southern fiction at it’s best and this novella is no exception. Nothing earthshattering happens here as it’s pretty much a set-up for the book coming out in June, Ain’t She a Peach (and I can hardly wait to start that one).

Frankie McCready has to be the cutest, most unusual county coroner and embalmer you ever did see but she fits right in with the family and the McCready Family Funeral Home and Bait Shop which is exactly what the name says. One day, there’s a new lawman in town, Sheriff Eric Linden, fresh from Atlanta, and he apparently never read the Southern charm book. Pranks are being perpetrated on the McCready premises but it’s questionable whether the sheriff will help solve the case or drive Frankie to murder (of him) first. Then again, they did have a previous encounter so keeping that secret is one thing they have in common, probably the only thing. Can you guess where this is headed?

These books can be read out of order because each one focuses on different members of the family but, for a real treat, read these in order.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2018.

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Death Promise
Jacqueline Seewald
Encircle Publications, May 2018
ISBN 978-1-893035-94-2
Trade Paperback

On the surface, this sequel is a thriller involving human trafficking and organized crime as well as maybe Russians and international intrigue but, for me, the core story is that of Daniel Reiner and the family dysfunction that suddenly mushrooms when he learns he has a much younger teenaged sister, daughter of the father who abandoned him as a child. Who is Beth and is she truly his half-sister? International consultant Michelle Hallam agrees to help Daniel look into the situation but what they learn in Las Vegas sends them into a tornado of more and more questions with frightening answers. This is a nice blend of suspense and romance with lots of action to keep the pages turning.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2018.

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The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place
A Flavia de Luce Novel #9
Alan Bradley
Delacorte Press, January 2018
ISBN 978-0-345539991
Hardcover
Random House Audio
Narrated by Jayne Entwistle
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

Great sadness and a near-cliffhanger enveloped our cheeky pre-teen detective at the end of the previous book and fans had to wait, with huge anticipation, for this newest book to find out what would become of the de Luce family and its faithful servants, Dogger and Mrs. Mullet. When Aunt Felicity becomes overbearing and a bit of a bully, Flavia decides to do away with herself but Fate intervenes when Dogger suggests an outing, a boat trip on a nearby river. Is anyone surprised when Flavia quite literally catches a corpse, setting her off on another investigation?

Rumor has it the next book, The Golden Tresses of the Dead (January 2019), will be the last we see of Flavia but, oh my goodness, I hope not and the surprise at the end of The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place gives me a little bit of hope for her future. Who knew, back in 2009 when the series began, that so many mystery readers would fall in love with this kid?

As always, narrator Jayne Entwistle kept me entranced and, at times, sitting in the car in my driveway or a parking lot so I could continue to listen. I’ve said it before and it bears repeating: Jayne Entwistle brings Flavia to life and I highly, highly recommend the audiobooks and/or the print books (I do both so I won’t miss anything) but reading in order is a must.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2018.

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The Library Ghost of Tanglewood Inn
A Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery Short Story
Gigi Pandian
Henery Press, November 2017
ISBN 978-1-63511-314-3
Ebook

“Jaya, for the love of all that’s good and holy, please remember that not everything is a murderous plot.”

With that, Jaya and Tamarind (the latter wearing stylish purple combat boots) are rescued from the Denver airport in a snowstorm by a pair of friendly guys and are soon ensconced at a Victorian hotel, the Tanglewood Inn. Did Jaya really see someone at the window of the turret room she’s been assigned? Kenny thinks the hotel is perfect but it puts Jaya more in mind of a spooky haunted house. Sure enough, the owner, Rosalyn, shares the tale of her hotel library’s “avenging ghost”.  A former guest, a Mr. Underhill, died there in the 1930’s and an Agatha Christie book had something to do with it in a classic locked room mystery.

And then they hear a scream in the night…

I’m already a devotee of Jaya’s historic treasure hunting adventures and this little story is a perfect interlude before the next novel. Besides, who could ask for more than a locked room mystery?

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2018.

Book Review: First Contact by Kat Green

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Title: First Contact
Series: Haunts for Sale #1
Author: Kat Green
Narrator: Kate Tyler
Publication Date: November 9, 2017

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Purchase Links:

Audible // iTunes // Amazon

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First Contact
Haunts for Sale #1
Kat Green
Narrated by Kate Tyler
The Wild Rose Press, November 2017
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the publisher—

Sloane Osborne is a paranormal real estate agent in the business of selling haunted houses, but, in truth, she’s only searching for one ghost. And her time is running out.

It’s the 366th day after her fiancé’s death. Michael used to like putting things off for “a year and a day” – so tonight’s the night. Sloane will do anything to make contact with him before the clock strikes midnight. When she gets a call to check out a home in Waukesha, Wisconsin, it’s the last place she thinks Michael would contact her.

Sloane is dead wrong.

This is one of those books that you just have to throw disbelief and credulity to the wind and enjoy the story for what it is. The good thing is it’s well-told and fun enough to keep me going.

Yes, it’s sadly true that the protagonist, Sloane, is TSTL and also driven by an obsesssion to see her fiance one last time before he leaves this dimension for the next because, you see, he died a year ago. To be more specific, he died 365 days, 21 hours and 36 minutes ago so she only has 2 hours and some minutes before his “year and a day” is up. This was my first hint that I was going to have some trouble with this book as obsession of any kind is a red flag for me. Add to that the location; Michael and Sloane didn’t live and he didn’t die in Wisconsin so why would his ghostly presence be there?

Sloane also is blind to all sorts of hints and clues that maybe, just maybe, she shouldn’t do certain things but, hey, that’s what TSTL is all about, right? Anyway, she stumbles into what could be a very dangerous situation when she discovers a house overflowing with ghosts and, at last, her obsession takes second place to trying to help these ghosts escape this mortal plane, hopefully before she becomes one of them. Oh, and there’s a potential romance in her future if her and Michael’s best friend, Jonah, can find her before it’s too late.

Seriously, I did enjoy this story (although I didn’t care for the graphic and unnecessary sex scene) and I especially liked the narrator, Kate Tyler. Her tone and cadence are really pleasing and she does different voices, male and female, quite well. The next book in the series, Second Sight, isn’t out in audio yet but I’ll be looking for it.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2018.

About the Author

Kat Green is really the alias of authors KAT de Falla and Rachel GREEN.

Rachel Green has always believed in ghosts but saw her first full body apparition while working at an old movie theater in college. When she met Kat de Falla at a writer’s workshop, she knew she’d met a kindred spirit – one who was also sensitive to the hereafter. And after bonding on a few ghost adventures, Kat Green was born.

Kat lived in a haunted house for too long. When things really heated up, she had several paranormal teams investigate, but things only got worse. When her mother suggested they contact a shaman, she agreed to come, saying she had been waiting for Kat’s call. The home was cleansed and sold. When she paired up with Rachel Green, the idea of co-writing a book with a paranormal real estate agent seemed perfect.

With their combined paranormal “experiences”, they decided to combine their creative mojo. That’s when Sloane Osborne, Paranormal Real Estate agent, and the HAUNTS FOR SALE series was born.

Website // Twitter // Facebook

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About the Narrator

Kate Tyler is an audiobook narrator and producer with several published audiobooks available on Audible, iTunes and Amazon.  A background in drama and a successful career in voiceover, Kate lives with her family in San Diego and enjoys swimming, running, cycling and stand up paddleboard.

Website

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Play an excerpt here.

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Follow the tour here.

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Book Reviews: The Lost Ones by Ace Atkins, Good Bait by John Harvey, Watching the Dark by Peter Robinson, A Cup Full of Midnight by Jaden Terrell, and Chance of a Ghost by E.J. Copperman

The Lost OnesThe Lost Ones
Ace Atkins
Putnam, June 2012
ISBN: 978-0-399-15876-6
Hardcover

Quinn Colson first appeared in The Ranger, and now, in this follow-up novel, faces a couple of situations that really put him to the test.  As sheriff in a northern Mississippi county, he has to apply not only the skills he learned in the army, but a lot of common sense and a certain amount of diplomatic talent.

First, a high school friend recently returned from Iraq and Afghanistan now runs a local gun shop and shooting range.  Colson suspects him to be the source of U.S. Army rifles which turn up in the hands of a Mexican gang.  Meanwhile, a case involving an abused child leads Colson to discovering a bootleg baby racket.  While raiding the place where the babies are being kept before they’re sold, Colson and his deputy, Lillie Virgil, discover that the two cases somehow converge.

As the investigation progresses, lots of action takes place, sometimes reminding the reader of an actual military operation, led by General Colson, rather than sheriff Colson.  The characters are colorfully drawn, and the dialogue is vibrant.  The novel is sort of a cross between an old-fashioned western and a modern day crime novel and reads well, and is recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, November 2012.

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Good BaitGood Bait
John Harvey
Pegasus, January 2013
ISBN 978-1-605-98378-3
Hardcover

There are two main story lines, and two cases for the cops to pursue, in this newest novel from John Harvey.  The first is the murder in Hampstead Heath of a 17-year-old Moldovan boy, assigned to DCI Karen Shields and the Homicide & Serious Crime team.  The second falls to DI Trevor Cordon of the Devon and Cornwall Police in Exeter, when a woman he’d known is killed under the wheels of an oncoming train, whether suicide, accident or murder is unknown.  Though not strictly his problem, he takes time off the job to investigate it, as the woman in question was known to him from years back and is the mother of a girl who, though many years his junior, he knew and by whom he was intrigued all those years before. There is the tantalizing question of whether or not these two events are connected.

This is, of course, at least nominally, a police procedural, and quite a good one, although the multitude of characters, both ‘bad guys’ and good, were often difficult for me to keep track of.  But of course, being a John Harvey novel, it is much more than that.  That title, for one instance, is, typically of a Harvey protagonist, the title of a jazz tune of which Cordon collects every known recording, from Miles Davis to Nina Simone to Dexter Gordon.  It is also a character study of the lead cops, entirely different from one another:  Karen, a black woman from Jamaica, and Trevor, fifty-ish, with an ex-wife and a grown son from whom he’s been estranged but who he believes is now living somewhere in Australia.  The author philosophizes about what makes these cops tick:  if it’s “the mystery, the need to see things through to their conclusion, find out how they’d been put together, how they ticked.  Wasn’t that one of the reasons people became detectives?” and about “missed chances.  Roads not taken. Relationships allowed to drift.  Always that nagging question, what if, what if?”  Another terrific Harvey novel, and recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, December 2012.

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Watching the DarkWatching the Dark
Peter Robinson
Morrow, January 2013
ISBN: 978-0-06-200480-2
Hardcover

The 20th entry in the wonderful Inspector Banks series by Peter Robinson opens with the shocking killing of one of Banks’ colleagues, a decorated detective inspector, on the grounds of St. Peter’s Police Convalescence and Treatment Center, where he was a patient.  The Major Crimes Unit, or Homicide and Major Inquiry Team, as it was now known, operating out of Eastvale, is assigned, the investigative team once again including DS Winsome Jackman (“all six feet something of her”), DC Gerry Masterson, and DI Annie Cabbot, Banks’ close friend, who is just returning from a convalescence after having survived her own brutal wounds and subsequent convalescence in events described in a prior entry in the series.

Because there had recently been a hint of police corruption, Inspector Joanna Passero, of Professional Standards [the equivalent of the American IAB], is assigned to work with Banks.  Their working relationship, perhaps understandably, is an ambivalent one, at least initially.  Very shortly, another murder takes place, and there are indications that the two killings may be related.  Another angle that comes into play is a six-year-old cold case involving Rachel Hewitt, a 19-year-old English girl who seemingly “disappeared off the face of the earth” in Tallinn, Estonia, a case that had haunted the dead inspector for the intervening years, having been involved in the investigation at its inception in Tallinn.

The author expertly juxtaposes the lines of investigation, with Annie and her colleagues handling the Eastvale aspect of the case, and Banks the second killing, which appears to involve illegal migrant labor activities, ultimately taking him to Estonia, though he is warned not to get diverted by the Hewitt case.  Following his instincts, as always, Banks is determined to do his best to bring closure to the girl’s parents if at all possible.  A complex plot, carried off in smooth fashion, in a book that is highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, December 2012.

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A Cup Full of M idnightA Cup Full of Midnight
Jaden Terrell
Permanent Press, August 2012
ISBN: 978-1-57962-225-1
Hardcover

Jared McKean, 36 years of age and now a private detective after seven years with the Nashville Metro Police Department, has gone, as he describes it, from “uniformed patrol officer to undercover vice officer to homicide detective to outsider.”  Now he has his most important client ever:  his nephew, Josh.  Josh and his sister, 14-year-old Caitlin, are as close to him as anyone in his life, the boy feeling closer to him than to his own father. Lately Josh’s life has been in a state of upheaval, having not long ago come out of the closet and left home to live with Sebastian Parker, known as “Razor,” the sociopath who’d seduced him [a man in his late 20’s to Josh’s 16]. After the latter’s murder a few days before, Josh had attempted suicide, and now ‘hires’ Jared to find out who killed Razor.  No simple task, since he seems to have engendered hatred in most everyone whose path he crossed.  In what appears to be a ritual killing, he had been slashed to death, emasculated, eviscerated, and his body placed on a pentagram, surrounded by occult symbols.

The novel is a cautionary tale of disenchanted youth and the Goth sub-culture, “vampire wannabees.”  I was initially – but only initially – unsure whether this was a book for me, agreeing with the protagonist when he says “I didn’t believe in magic spells or voodoo curses.  I didn’t believe in vampires or witches or things that go bump in the night.  The only monsters I had ever seen were human.”

This is the second in the Jared McKean series, following the terrific Racing the Devil, and it doesn’t disappoint.  Jared’s “ex” hits the nail on the head in explaining why she couldn’t stay married to him, citing his career choice:  “It’s not what you do; it’s who you are. You’re a hero waiting for something to die for.”  Jared is a fascinating protagonist.  Still on good terms with his ex-wife [now re-married and in her ninth month of pregnancy], they are both devoted to their eight-year-old Down Syndrome son, Paulie.  He shares a ranch with his best childhood friend, Jay, now battling AIDS, and his three horses:  Dakota, the rescued Arabian; Crockett, the Tennessee Walker; and Tex, the palomino gelding Quarter Horse. As the investigation continues, several suspects emerge, and Jared’s investigation puts his life, and that of his nephew, at risk, and he becomes even more relentless.  Well-plotted, the book has more than one heart-stopping moment.  It was a very good read, and is recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, January 2013.

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Chance of a GhostChance of a Ghost
E.J. Copperman
Berkley Prime Crime, February 2013
ISBN: 978-0-425-25168-3
Mass Market Paperback

Alison Kerby returns in the fourth Haunted Guesthouse Mystery series by E.J. Copperman.  Alison, a single mother in her late thirties, runs a guesthouse in her childhood hometown of Harbor Haven, on the Jersey Shore, inhabited by her and her precocious ten-year-old daughter, as well as Maxie Malone, Alison’s resident Internet expert, and Paul, an English/Canadian professor turned detective, both of whom have lived there since before their deaths.  It would seem that Alison and her daughter, as well as her mother, are the only ones who can see the ghosts.

At Paul’s urging, Alison had obtained a private-investigator’s license, and her services as such are sought by her mother’s own ghostly friend, who wants Alison to find out who killed him.  While his death six months previously was deemed to have been of natural causes, he is convinced he was murdered.  The investigation morphs into a search for the ghost of Alison’s father, who died five years ago, but whose ghost has been strangely absent of late.  She is aided in her efforts by her mother, her daughter, her best friend Jeannie, and her present [living] houseguest, who is a retired cop and delighted at the opportunity to do what he did best, and misses a lot, as well as by Paul and Maxie [who Alison refers to as her  two “non-breathing squatters”].

As with every book in the series, this newest entry contains the same unbeatable combination:  a terrific plot and great if quirky humor [if you like that sort of thing – and I do!!].  I particularly loved the line about the heating system in Alison’s ancient Volvo, which was “roughly as efficient as the United States Congress, which is to say it made a lot of noise but got very little done.”  The protagonist’s slightly bemused attitude toward the apparent fact that ghosts actually exist, and that some people could see/hear them, seems perfectly reasonable.  This book, as were the earlier entries in the series, is thoroughly delightful, and highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, February 2013.

Book Review: The Alpine Xanadu by Mary Daheim

The Alpine XanaduThe Alpine Xanadu
An Emma Lord Mystery
Mary Daheim
Ballantine Books, February 2013
ISBN 978-0-345-53531-3
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Winter in the small mountain aerie of Alpine should be as quiet as new-fallen snow on the Cascades, but from the Grocery Basket to the Venison Inn, the town is humming. At the Alpine Advocate, editor Emma Lord and her staff are on deadline with a feature about the opening of RestHaven, a new rehab and mental health facility. Front Street is buzzing with gossip about Emma’s recent engagement to Sheriff Milo Dodge. And now that fool Wayne Eriks has climbed an electric pole in the middle of a storm and got himself electrocuted.
 
Sheriff Dodge doesn’t buy the idea that Wayne’s death is an accident. But how—and, more important, why—he died is only one of the conundrums that keep the sheriff and Emma working overtime. Why is RestHaven giving Alpine so many restless nights? What to make of allegations that someone’s trying to kill the richest man in town . . . or whispers of a rash of indecent behavior at the local high school? After Vida Runkel, the Advocate’s stalwart House & Home editor, disappears into thin air, Milo and Emma suddenly have too many loose ends to solve before they can even think about tying the knot.

It’s February 2005 and small town newspaper publisher Emma Lord is engaged to the local sheriff Milo Dodge but life keeps getting in the way of their finally getting married. Murder, assault, mental patients who go missing, porn in the local high school, former husbands and wives who apparently can’t stay away from each other, convicts released on bond, the wrath of a miffed Vida Runkel, a reporter who thinks he’s still in a big city, endless rain that would dampen the spirits of anybody who’s not used to such weather…sounds like a depressing soap opera, doesn’t it?

Not in the least—this is just life in the small mountain town of Alpine, WA, and its citizens would hardly know what to do with themselves if there wasn’t so much scandalous and criminal behavior going on. Think of it as the West Coast version of Cabot Cove where there’s a body on every corner. Weekly newspaper publisher Emma Lord and Sheriff Milo Dodge might be the only really sane people in town but life is certainly never dull. The big question might be what is Vida up to and why is she in such a snit?

This is (obviously) the 24th in Ms. Daheim‘s series and is a return for me to a series I have loved in the past but had drifted away from. The Alpine Xanadu is every bit as entertaining as the earlier books I’ve read and reminds me of why I loved Alpine and its denizens at the time. Now I think I’ll have to go back and catch up on the ones I’ve missed while I await #25, The Alpine Y…?. I’m also very happy to note that the author hints on her website that the series will continue beyond the completion of the alphabet.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2013.

Book Reviews: Kind of Blue by Miles Corwin, Junkyard Dogs by Craig Johnson and Blowback by Peter May

Kind of Blue
Miles Corwin
Oceanview Publishing, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-60809-007-5
Hardcover

The author, a former crime reporter for the L.A. Times, has published three non-fiction books prior to this, his first novel.  It certainly reflects his deep knowledge of crime and police procedure, and certainly reflects all the past works that have preceded this effort, including such established authors as Michael Connelly, Robert Crais, James Ellroy, Jonathan Kellerman et al.

The protagonist, Asher (“Ash”) Levine, has an unusual background:  son of a holocaust survivor whose relatives all perished in the gas chambers, he volunteered to serve in the Israeli Defense Force.  Upon returning to Los Angeles, he became a cop and eventually a top homicide detective with an elite felony squad. When a witness to a murder he was investigating and whom he was trying to protect was murdered, he was blamed and suspended for a week.  Instead he quit.  A year later he is lured back on the recommendation of his former superiors when an ex-cop is murdered.

Tenacity is the only word that can be used to describe Ash.  His dogged determination and the haunting memory of the murdered witness keep him on a straight path to solving murders. In many ways, the novel is excessive:  over-plotted and with much violence, making Ash a violent and over-zealous character, sort of a Jewish Rambo.  But on the whole, the novel is well-written, smooth but complex, riveting to say the least.  Let’s hope this is the start of another interesting series.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, February 2011.

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Junkyard Dogs
Craig Johnson
Penguin, June 2011
ISBN: 978-0-14-311953-1
Trade Paperback

The Walt Longmire series reaches its sixth entry, and judging by the various physical damage the Absaroka County, WY, sheriff absorbs during this episode, one wonders if he can last much longer.  He is bitten by a vicious dog in the rear end, suffers from a torn retina, is almost run over by a tow truck and almost shot, among other dangers to his body.  Not to mention other injuries, from events in prior series books, some of which have yet to heal.

Common to a Longmire mystery are a series of incidents, which by themselves may not seem important or are just plain hilarious, but usually add up to be interrelated clues to a baffling case to be solved.  Junkyard Dogs is no different.  First Walt is called to the scene of a bizarre accident in which the owner of a junkyard, George “Geo” Stewart, has been dragged two and one-quarter miles tied behind a car driven by his daughter-in-law.  After which Geo tells Walt he has found a severed thumb in a Styrofoam cooler.

Then there is the rest of the Stewart clan, son Duane, the aforementioned daughter-in-law Gina, and the Stewart “mansion” with its secret tunnel. Not to mention the developer, Ozzie Dobbs, who would like to have the Stewart junkyard and the adjacent town dump moved far away from his nearby real estate development.  And the owner of the severed thumb.  All inter-related and keeping Walt and his deputies hopping.

Typical of a Longmire novel are the well-drawn descriptions of the mountains, frigid Wyoming temperatures, and the snow.  And more snow. The novel is well-drawn and eminently readable, with the regular cast of characters, undersheriff Vic Moretti, long-time buddy Henry Standing Bear, and, of course, Dog, companion and savior.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, May 2011.

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Blowback
Peter May
Poisoned Pen Press, March 2011
ISBN: 978-1-59058-841-3
Hardcover

The reader of an Enzo Macleod mystery faces a formidable task: Confronted by the deviousness of the unsolved crime Enzo seeks to solve, the magnificent descriptions of the area in France in which he works to complete the task, and the culinary delights of le haute cuisine Francaise, the reader has to overcome the temptation to weigh one element against the other.  Fortunately, in this novel, the fifth of seven unsolved cases on which Enzo has wagered he can bring to a successful conclusion, all three aspects are on such a high level, that the reader shouldn’t even try.

The case is a seven-year-old murder involving a world renowned chef of a three-star Michelin restaurant in the central French plateau, Chez Fraysse, named after its chef and half-owner, Marc.  There are no clues or forensic evidence, making Enzo’s task harder.  He places his daughter on the kitchen staff to give him an inside view.  Working with a young, female, gendarme, Enzo plows ahead, gastronomically as well as on the case.  As a side issue, some deep insight into Enzo’s personal life and past is provided, giving a more rounded view of the protagonist.

A well-written novel which only gives rise to the desire to read about the sixth unsolved mystery (much less the seventh!) yet to come, and recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, July 2011.

Book Review: In Harm’s Way by Ridley Pearson

In Harm’s Way
Ridley Pearson
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-399-15654-0
Hardcover

This is a very complex novel, with the plot criss-crossing along with the unfathomable emotions of the various characters, much of them unexplained and merely put forward in exposition.  Also unusual are the almost non-existent descriptions of beautiful Sun Valley and its environment, expected in a Sheriff Walt Fleming story, as this is.

The first puzzler to arise is at the start of the novel, when Fiona, Walt’s part-time crime photographer and newfound love interest, rescues a child from a frigid river, becoming a hero.  She begs Walt to prevent publication of her picture, offering no explanation.  It’s obvious she has something to hide, but we do not learn what it is until it really no longer matters.  Also, she doesn’t seem to be an interesting person, and as a deeper relationship develops between the two, one scratches one’s head:  Am I missing something here?  Other than pure sex, where’s the attraction?  [Or is that naïve?]

Then there is the introduction of Lou Boldt, Seattle detective and a favorite protagonist from other novels, into the plot.  Other than to flaunt a past “beloved” series character, it really adds nothing to a mystery which seems to be wrapped in several enigmas, and serves little purpose.  The mystery itself involves a few murders and break-ins which, of course, must be solved.

While a Ridley Pearson novel is always well-written, it would appear that this one could have used some pruning, simplification and less obfuscation.  This reader, at least, found it slow reading. Nonetheless, it is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, November 2010.