Book Reviews: That Left Turn at Albuquerque by Scott Phillips and Where Privacy Dies by Priscilla Paton @soho_press @priscilla_paton @CoffeetownPress

That Left Turn at Albuquerque
Scott Phillips
Soho Crime, March 2020
ISBN 978-1-64129-109-5
Hardcover

The author has assembled here an engaging and substantial cast of characters. That he is able to keep track of their criminal activities and their attitudes toward their fellow humans, as well as their active lives is quite impressive.

Most of the characters engage in illegal and scurrilous acts without apparent concern for the morality or humanity of their lives. Or for the impact their actions have on others, often innocent others. That most of their criminality is directed at other criminals may be seen by many readers as a mitigating factor. A significant number of the characters are imbued with some level of humor and see their fellow humans as actually funny at times.

Central to the story is down and out attorney, Douglas Rigby. His small, now solo practice is falling to pieces and he engages in several illegal enterprises in his attempts to stave off bankruptcy and total ruin.

Readers will be treated to bare-knuckle humor, tongue in cheek satire, up-tempo action, murder, mayhem, and a good deal of action. A somewhat peculiar, jaundiced look at society, propels the book from start to finish.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, May 2020.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
Traces, Grand Lac, Reunion, Red Sky.

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Where Privacy Dies
A Twin Cities Mystery #1
Priscilla Paton
Coffeetown Press, May 2018
ISBN 978-1-60381-665-6
Trade Paperback

From the striking cover to the final resolution of murky death and the corruption by power and money of numerous characters, this rich and at times difficult novel will attract, enthrall and sometimes irk readers. Central to the story is the gradual growth of understanding and appreciation of two detectives in a Twin Cities law enforcement force titled G-Met. It’s an intriguing amalgam of special cops whose franchise covers multiple jurisdictions in the metropolitan region of East Central Minnesota. It’s an authorial creation with much interesting and intriguing potential.

Lead detective is tall lanky Erik Jansson, divorced father of a young son. He is not a typical cop one frequently finds in this genre. He’s paired with a new hire from a small city in southern Minnesota, Deb Metzger, a six-foot plus lesbian, who could competently handle the physical requirements of a corporate bodyguard. The two are not instantly simpatico and thereby inhabit a running source of minor conflict and mutual support which adds a fine level of benign conflict to the novel.

Although the title of the novel is a quickly understood clue to an important dimension of the mystery, this story turns on the deviousness and sometimes nasty inclinations of human beings who have enjoyed a high degree of success without the leavening factor of ethics and moral suasion. The narrative is tight, solid and delves neatly into ego, intrusion of technology, moral failure and the entanglement of those who would ignore their childhood schooling. A multiplicity of characters, crisp dialogue and an absence of unnecessary description adds to the richness of the novel. The novel competently reveals a fresh voice and a thoughtful look into the modern world of computer crime and our almost universal entanglement therein. I recommend this fine novel.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, March 2019.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
Traces, Grand Lac, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Review: Invitation to Die by Barbara Cleverly @soho_press

Invitation to Die
A Detective Inspector Redefyre Investigation Book 2
Barbara Cleverly
Soho Crime, August 2019
ISBN: 978-1-64129-027-2
Hardcover

Set in Cambridge in 1924 after the Great War has decimated the ranks of able-bodied English men, nearly every man is a former soldier. This includes Detective Inspector John Redefyre, a former rifleman who is young for his position. When veterans of the earlier Boer war begin showing up dead, their bodies left in conspicuous places with nothing to identify them, he is on the hunt. A keen investigator, even the smallest clues soon help him uncover who the victims are, and he means to bring justice to his fellows. Certain things stand out. The dead men were all members of the same squad. They all were cashiered and faced the death penalty for looting. And they all have received, though some were little more than beggars, an invitation to dine with members of an exclusive Cambridge University club. Finally, just one of the six man squad remains alive, while one other is dying. But which one is the killer? Keen eyes and sharp wits help Redefyre and his sergeant, Thoday, ferret out the truth behind the deaths.

I liked the historical ambiance of the story. Though written in 2019, the method and writing could be pure 1920s, with the “smart” people and their witty conversations. Lots of conversations, as this isn’t a particularly action-packed story and relies on dialogue. At times it was difficult to keep track of who was speaking. As a reader, I didn’t really know who was driving the story for several chapters as the participants were often nameless. I must say, however, the parts detailing the Boer War held my complete interest.

Outside of the mystery, the actions, life style, and living conditions of the era are fascinating. Just don’t try to feed me jellied eels, although I’d love to learn to tango.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, January 2020.
http://www.ckcrigger.com
Author of The Woman Who Built A Bridge (Spur Award Winner), Yester’s Ride,
Hometown Burning and Five Days, Five Dead: A China Bohannon Novel

Book Review: Death on Nantucket by Francine Mathews @FMathewsAuthor @soho_press

Death on Nantucket
A Merry Folger Nantucket Mystery #5
Francine Mathews
Soho Crime, June 2017
ISBN 978-1-61695-737-7
Hardcover

Spencer Murphy is a Pulitzer prize winning foreign correspondent. The book that won him his fame tells of his escape from captivity in Laos during the Vietnam war. He made millions on his books and television appearances in subsequent years. But he is sinking into dementia, and is reported missing by his family.

He lives alone is a big house in Nantucket with only a housekeeper who comes in during the day. His adopted daughter Nora, who has been living in Asia, turns up for a visit and is discovered dead a month later on the rooftop deck. Spencer’s two sons, David and Elliot, haven’t heard from their sister in years, David is a recently divorced lawyer who continually criticizes his twenty-something daughter Laney.

Elliot and his partner Andre are the target of homophobic barbs from David and occasionally even from Spencer when his dementia tightens
its grip.

When Nora’s body is discovered, police detective Merry Folger investigates. It’s either suicide or an accident, the preliminary investigation shows. Nora has ingested enough apricot seeds in a cup of coffee that she died of cyanide poisoning. Merry’s boss is still convinced that it’s not murder, and he seems to have it in for her—after all, his predecessors as chief of police were Merry’s father and grandfather. Also, It’s high tourist season Nantucket with thousands of drunken college students invading the island and the police force is spread thin. But before the investigation concludes, there’s another death in the family and there’s no doubt that this time it’s murder.

Not quite a locked room mystery but a traditional mystery with a limited pool of suspects. There’s an abundance of description and backstory, sometimes too much, and it slows down the plot. While the culprit is discovered, there are enough red herrings and smart plotting to make it a surprise. It’s the fifth book in the series.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, January 2020.

Book Review: The Satapur Moonstone by Sujata Massey @sujatamassey @soho_press

The Satapur Moonstone
A mystery of 1920s India
A Perveen Mistry Novel, Book 2
Sujata Massey
Soho Crime, May 2019
ISBN 978-1-61695-909-8
Hardcover

Lawyer Perveen Mistry, Esquire, an employee of the British Raj, has been sent from Bombay to the princely state of Satapur to settle a dispute over the education of the ruling family’s children. The male succession line has been interrupted by the deaths of both the maharaja and his eldest heir and now the dowager maharani, (grandmother) and the younger maharani (the mother) can’t agree. But just how intense is their disagreement? This is what Perveen, India’s only female lawyer, must discover. She is the only one who can negotiate as the two maharanis live in purdah.

When Perveen arrives, she finds turmoil and even fear as the dowager maharani has assumed all power. But is she also a murderess? From the oddities surrounding the young maharaja’s death, supposedly killed by a tiger, Perveen’s suspicion grows. As she guards the young crown prince’s life, she’s on the edge of death herself as someone makes repeated attempts on her life and on the young prince’s.

The rather slow pacing in the beginning will fool you into thinking there’s no action, but as the pomp and ceremony of the state unfolds, you’ll find something different. Jealousies large and small, the wielding of power, the strictness of the caste system become intense. The character of the countryside is fascinating, as is the political aspect of the British Raj. Then there is the matter of women’s place in this closed world, and Perveen’s growing response to the white British agent Colin Sandringham. As events wind down to an exciting conclusion, you’re sure to be riveted.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, July 2019.
https://carolcriggercom.sitelio.me/
Author of Five Days, Five Dead, Hereafter and Hometown Homicide.

Book Review: Diary of a Dead Man on Leave by David Downing @soho_press

Diary of a Dead Man on Leave
David Downing
Soho Crime, April 2019
ISBN 978-1-61695-843-5
Hardcover

Josef Hoffman isn’t his real name. He’s a German who has recently returned to his native country, to the town of Hamm. It’s April, 1938. Adolf Hitler is in power.

Josef has a mission. He works for the International Liaison Section of the Communist International and with a list of members of the Comintern his orders are to locate the men on his list and confirm they are still members of the Party. The Soviet Union’s leaders, sure that another war in Europe is imminent, want to find out whether there are enough Communists in Germany to form an underground group willing to undermine and disrupt the Third Reich.

Josef manages to get a room in a boarding house near the railway yards, where he has landed a job. The boarding house is run by Frau Anna Gersdorff, her father Erich who is blind and bedridden, and Walter her eleven year old son. There are also three other lodgers staying at the boarding house, Askel Ruchay, Jakob Barufka and Rolf Gerritzen.

Josef knows he shouldn’t get too friendly with the people around him. He is there to observe and report, and track down the men on his list. But he finds himself drawn to Anna and her son Walter, especially when he discovers Walter, an intelligent boy, is being bullied at school and not just by other children. A teacher is determined Walter is too clever by far and makes it his mission to degrade and diminish him at every turn. Walter’s only friend is Marco a younger black boy, the son of Verena who works as the cook at the boarding house and this does not sit well with the current regime.

Every six weeks Josef is instructed to meet with a colleague to report his progress. He has decided to keep a journal detailing his day to day efforts to track down these men…and it is through his journaling he reveals the characters of the lodgers, as well as the men he works with at the Railway Yard. We also see his growing attachment to the Gersdorff family.

As the days unfold, Josef slowly becomes ever more entangled with the lives of the people in the boarding house. HIs progress in finding his Communist brothers is slow. His need to be careful approaching these men intensifies, fearful at any moment he will be reported to the authorities or arrested and questioned by the Gestapo. Tension is rising throughout the country as Hitler and his Third Reich grow more brutal and violent.

I found this book engrossing. Written in journal form makes for an easy read, but throughout, the author is adept at keeping the stakes high.
Check this one out…and find out what becomes of Josef and the people he has grown to love.

Respectfully submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, September 2019.

Book Review: The Line by Martin Limón

The Line
A Sueño and Bascom Investigation #13
Martin Limón
Soho Crime, October 2018
ISBN: 978-1-616-95966-1
Hardcover

There are two series of mysteries by Martin Limón that take place during or after wars in which the United States has participated.  One is the wonderful Billy Boyle series, which takes place just before and during World War II.  The other is the Sueño and Bascom investigations set in South Korea after the armistice.  This, the 13th in the series, is the most dangerous one yet for the irreverent pair, taking them directly into conflict with the North Koreans at the DMZ.

They are tasked with going right up to the line dividing North and South because of the murder of a South Korean corporal assigned to U.S. troops.  The body lies across the line and they drag it back to the south, nearly causing a new war on the peninsula.  An American private eventually is blamed, to assuage the North Koreans, but neither Bascom nor Sueño believes him guilty.  However, they are taken off the case (but that doesn’t stop them from pursuing it).  Meanwhile, they have another case involving a bored wife of a Corps of Engineers Captain who goes missing.

The author, who served a decade in the Army in Korea, applies his intimate knowledge to the fullest extent with detailed knowledge not only of Army life, but the conditions of the South Korean population.  Written plainly with clever plotting, the story will keep the reader turning pages until he/she reaches the extremely unexpected conclusion.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, October 2018.

Book Review: Flowers over the Inferno by Ilaria Tuti

Flowers over the Inferno
A Teresa Battaglia Novel #1
Ilaria Tuti
Translated from the Italian by Ekin Oklap
Soho Crime, April 2019
ISBN 978-1-64129-068-5
Hardcover

Set in a quiet village in a small community in Northern Italy, the naked body of a man has been found with his eyes gouged out. Detective Superintendent Teresa Battaglia is sent to investigate. A woman in her mid sixties, Teresa has earned a reputation as a highly experienced detective and profiler. But Teresa is beginning to feel the pressures of ailing health. She has Diabetes, and of late she has been dealing with periods of mental fatigue, and wonders if this is a portent of worse things to come.

A new assistant has been assigned to Teresa and she’s not sure whether to trust him or not. The local police try to downplay the death of one of the locals, but she is sure there is something sinister lurking beneath the surface and she intends to pursue the case.

Several children in the village have been aware of sinister happenings as well as experiencing strong feelings of being watched. More victims have the authorities wondering if a serial killer is on the loose. And when an infant is kidnapped the urgency to find the child escalates.

I found Detective Battaglia interesting and very human. Her concern for the victims is uppermost in her thoughts as she digs into the strange history of the area. And while finding the infant alive is her priority, she is also questioning her own state of mind and whether she will succeed. I thought at times the plot wandered somewhat without focus and direction. But the climax and ending worked well as the secrets of the past were revealed.

Detective Battaglia may possibly return in another tale as this is possibly the first in a proposed series.

Meanwhile…check it out….

Respectfully submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, May 2019.