Book Review: Oregon Hill by Howard Owen

Reblogging from Kevin Tipple’s site.
Why? Because I’m a fan of Howard Owen
and he once visited my book club in
Richmond, VA. Lucky for me, I’ll be
going to
Richmond in August and
he’ll be the guest again 😉

From Kevin’s Corner, June 14, 2019    

FFB Friday’s Forgotten Books) Review: Oregon Hill by Howard Owen

As Oregon Hill by Howard Owen begins, Will is back on the night cop’s beat. He is luck he still has a job at the Richmond newspaper where he has worked for many years. Lucky to have a job and not just because of the status of the newspaper industry as a whole. He is lucky to have a job because his own personal behavior has been pretty rocky in recent years on and off the job. Mixed race with a serious drinking problem, a history of divorce, and a daughter, Andi, who is at the local college with little direction in her life, Willie Black, is a newspaper reporter trying to keep a job in a dying industry. He is very much on old school reporter knowing he is one corporate mandated layoff away from being homeless and without a job. In short, he is as close to rock bottom as he can get, without actually hitting rock bottom.

Isabel Ducharme also attended classes at Virginia Commonwealth University. Andi did not know her directly, but she sort of knew of her through friends. She went to school there until somebody killed her and put her headless body into the South Anna River. It might have gone away with no one the wiser if not for the body getting snagged on a tree branch in the river.

It takes the cops two days to identify the killer who also confesses very quickly. Martin Fell is in police custody and he very well may have done the horrible crime. He is known to have spent time with Isabel in prior weeks and there are witnesses that state they were together and arguing the night she was murdered. He also confessed.

Willie Black thinks it is all wrapped up, but then an ex-wife of his, Kate, who is a successful attorney about to make partner at her firm takes on Mr. Fell’s case. He begins to learn things that indicate Mr. Fell may not have done it. He begins to pursue the idea that Mr. Fell is innocent and that puts him at odds with his newspaper bosses, the police, and just about everyone he knows.

Oregon Hill by Howard Owen is a very good and complicated start to this series featuring Willie Black. Along with the main complicated mystery, there are several secondary storylines featuring the complicated relationships he has with his mother and the current man in her life, his daughter, and various other folks. These secondary storylines are in as much rich detail as the primary storyline, making the nearly 240 page read a meaty one with plenty to work through as the pages pass. Through it all, the main mystery remains in focus to power much of the action forward.

Willie Black is a bit cynical, a bit sarcastic, and at all times a realist regarding everything around him. He sees the windmills, tilts at one or two anyway while being very self aware as to what he is doing, and keeps going forward through his days and nights as best as he can. You can’t ask for much more than that.

Oregon Hill by Howard Owen is highly recommended.

Oregon Hill
Howard Owen
http://www.howardowenbooks.com
The Permanent Press
http://www.thepermanentpress.com
ISBN# 978-1-57962-208-4
Hardback (also available in audio, digital, and paper formats)
241 Pages

Material was received and read by way of the Interlibrary Loan Program where a copy owned by the Houston Public Library System was shared with the Dallas Public Library System.

Book Reviews: Nantucket Five-Spot by Steven Axelrod and Every Boat Turns South by J.P. White

nantucket-five-spotNantucket Five-Spot
A Henry Kennis Mystery #2
Steven Axelrod
Poisoned Pen Press, January 2015
ISBN 978-1-4642-0342-8
Hardcover

Nantucket Island is the setting for this full speed ahead thriller and it stars. Axelrod is adept at inserting appropriate attractive descriptive language in his manuscript and the location of his stories about the adventures of poetry writing police chief Henry Kennis trying to maintain law and order on a restless, tourist-driven island off the Massachusetts coast.

His characters, and there are many, are weird, strange, excellent, upstanding, careful, bright, thoughtful and good-looking specimens. Some of them are patient, evil, criminal and inept. When this author feels the need to bump up the action, he just inserts a new character who may or may not have anything significant to do with the central. So there are small side plots dealing with immigration, smuggling, fighting in the Middle East and so on.

The Chief of Police, a central character in the novel, is beset on all sides by criminal elements and by law enforcement who are often portrayed as rigid and impatient. A possible terrorist bomb attack on a holiday concert by the Boston Pops Orchestra is the apparent target. Law enforcement agencies from every level descend on the poor police chief who must struggle against their incompetence, short-sightedness, and his personal romantic feelings about one of the federal agents.

Plots within counter-plots and world-wide maneuvering infest the pages of this novel. What saves it is the almost relentless action and there is plenty of that, however unlikely in a few places. There’s even an occasional funny bit.

If I was vacationing in a place like Nantucket and wanted some relaxing light-weight down time, this novel would definitely fill the bill.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, December 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.

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every-boat-turns-southEvery Boat Turns South
J.P.White
The Permanent Press, September 2009
ISBN 978-1-57962-188-9
Hardcover

For a great many people the incalcuable persistent rhythms of the seas that surround us, the tides, the fog, crashing surging waves, all serve to remind us of the vast unknown. Water has no permanent shape, it cannot drive a nail. It can form long-enduring shapes on the shores of our continents and drive islands into clusters we label archipelego but no island lasts forever. In the north, when winter comes and water in the ponds freezes into temporary hardness, something often urges us to look to warmer circumstances closer to the equator. We revel in the snow and crave the sun-baked climes of the tropical island.

There are a thousand stories of sailing voyages, likened to the human voyage of life and like life, those voyages are, in turn, filled with storm and peace, ecstasy and sorrow. Here is one such filled with rich images, turbulent emotions, sadness, joy and death. After years separated from his family, second son Matt returns to his home on a journey of expiation. The family torn apart by the death of the favored first-born, needs to heal, at least a little and Matt tries to make that happen. Of course he fails and in the process weaves a tale of life in the islands off our southern coast, replete with passion, drugs, storms, smuggling, love and mixed results. For the sailor there’s great and kindly detail, for the rest, the relentless drive of the author’s poetical structure and language carries us alongside Matt to an uncertain conclusion.

At times the exalted language and structure may bother some readers, just as other readers may find the quantity of technical detail confusing and off-putting. For those, I suggest trying to relax with the story, enjoy the scenery and the passion, but stay with Matt through his adventure in this fine poetical novel.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, June 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: Herbie’s Game by Timothy Hallinan and Dakota by Gwen Florio

Herbie's GameHerbie’s Game
A Junior Bender Mystery
Timothy Hallinan
Soho Crime, July 2014
ISBN: 978-1-6169-5429-1
Hardcover

In an Afterword to his newest book, the author discloses that he was asked by the publisher to write a 30,000-word Junior Bender novella, which started out being a tale of a burglary which netted our protagonist some interesting pieces of jewelry. Instead he ended up writing a novel three times as long in which those brooches merely serve as sort of end pieces to an entirely different theme. Junior, a kind of detective to the underworld, is retained by a mastermind criminal to find out who broke into his office and stole a piece of paper. And to recover that list.

The identity of the culprit is obvious to Junior, since he left his “calling card” by leaving everything open. So, Junior heads for his mentor’s home only to find Herbie Mott (who not only taught Junior everything he knows about his “profession,” but was a surrogate father as well) beaten and dead. It’s obvious his attackers were after that same piece of paper, which was a list of intermediaries who served to eventually pass along instructions to a hit man. Thus begins a long trek, as Junior follows the chain in an attempt to discover who was the intended target of the hit.

In reviewing the prior novel in the series, I pointed out that Junior was less amusing than he had been in the first two installments. Unfortunately, I felt that he was even less so in this, the fourth. While Herbie’s Game is a serious attempt to look at Junior more meaningfully, and we do gain a deeper insight into his personality and character, it is not the Junior we have come to love. Nevertheless, as it stands, it is a novel that keeps one’s interest, and it is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, September 2014.

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DakotaDakota
Gwen Florio
The Permanent Press, March 2014
ISBN: 978-1-57962-3362-3
Hardcover

Lola Wicks, introduced to readers in Montana, returns in the second entry in the series. In her mid-30’s, she is now working at a small daily newspaper in Magpie, Montana, a far cry from the years she spent as a foreign correspondent in Kabul and other war zones before being downsized from her job at a newspaper in Baltimore.

After three months, Lola is still dealing with the aftermath of the death of Mary Alice, her best friend, when first arriving in Magpie, “trying to figure out what to do with the rest of her life. At present, she is living with Sheriff Charlie Laurendeau in his small ranch just outside of town, problematical on two counts: For one thing, Charlie is half Blackfeet (and the town’s first Indian Sheriff), added to the unethical complication of sleeping with a source, since her assignment is to cover events on the Blackfeet reservation. This being just the start of winter, it is twenty degrees below zero when Lola arrives at a crime scene, where the body of a beautiful young Indian girl is found in the snow.

Lola, of course, and despite the fact that her frenemy, Jan, with the paper for 3 years, has the crime beat, feels compelled to investigate the death of the girl, Judith Calf Looking, who had probably frozen to death, especially when she discovers that she was just the first of a series of young girls who had gone missing from the reservation, many of whom had been drug abusers, over the last year, and only the first to have been seen since they had left. Her relationship with Charlie was a tenuous one, made only more so when Lola leaves Magpie for Burnt Creek, over the border in North Dakota, a town of 700 souls which had experienced a boom when fracking had taken over the area: people hoping to find jobs on the oil patch. Her only company on the trip is Bub, a three-legged hound with one brown eye and one blue, who had been Mary Alice’s before Lola took him in. The author captures the Indian culture as well as the brutality of the prairie, especially in winter, where Burnt Creek “made her look fondly upon Magpie’s ten-below, no-wind days . . .In Montana, the wind slammed snow against earth frozen hard as iron and then packed it tight enough to hold cattle on a surface so glazed and brittle that when the occasional steer broke through, it emerged with legs sliced and bloodied by the sharp edges.”

As was Montana, Dakota is a beautifully written, suspenseful and fast read, one I devoured in about 36 hours, and it is highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, September 2014.

Book Reviews: Cold Coast by Jenifer LeClair, Bottom Line by Marc Davis, and Nemesis by Bill Pronzini

Cold CoastCold Coast
A Brie Beaumont Mystery Thriller
The Windjammer Mystery Series, Book Three
Jenifer LeClair
Conquill Press, July 2013
ISBN 978-0-9800017-6-1
Trade Paperback
*****

Brie Beaumont is a homicide detective on leave from the Minneapolis Police Department and decided to take a cruise aboard The Maine Wind, an old-fashioned sailing ship. The ship is owned by Captain John deLuc. When an incident left Captain deLuc’s crew short one person he asked Brie to be second mate and she accepted. Brie and John have become close during their time together on the ship and it is now nearing the time for Brie to decide if she is going to return to Minneapolis and her duties as a detective.

The Maine Wind docks at Tucker Harbor, Maine after a storm. Tucker Harbor is a small lobster fishing village. Brie and another crew member decided to take the longboat ashore and several passengers expressed interest in going ashore and hiking along a trail that led to the village. The group set out on the trail but suddenly Brie heard a terrified cry from Hurley, one of the ship’s passengers, that was followed by one from another passenger. The group had come across a body on the trail. It turned out that the body was that of Jake Maloney, one of the residents of Tucker Harbor. The police were summoned and Dent Fenton of the Maine State Police started the investigation. When he realized Brie was an experienced detective he asked that she assist him in the investigation. Brie agreed to help and soon found that another murder had occurred earlier in the village.

This is the third Windjammer book with Brie Beaumont. It seems wherever The Maine Wind takes her Brie winds up in the midst of a mystery. Previous books are Danger Sector and Rigged for Murder. It is not necessary to read the books in order but they are all full of wonderful descriptions of life on a sailing vessel and the mysteries are tense and keep the reader guessing until the final outcome.

 
Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, February 2014.

 

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Bottom LineBottom Line
Marc Davis
The Permanent Press, June 2013
ISBN: 978-1-57962-316-6
Hardcover
*****

In wake of the Bernie Madoff massive fraud upon the world, a novel (or novels) on questionable business practices could be expected. Bottom Line tells a slightly different story of a similar large-scale fraud on a different level: Fraudulent accounting, a violation of securities laws. It is the story of Martell & Co., a top consulting/auditing firm based in Chicago with some of the country’s top companies as clients. With the downturn in the economy, with lower earnings in prospect, the numbers are “massaged” so the stocks of the public companies wouldn’t suffer.

The plot involves the study of the principal behind the firm, Adrian Martell, and his son, who perpetrate the shenanigans, and Nick Blake, the number two behind them, who plays a vital role in uncovering the scheme. It is an interesting idea, and, for the most part, well executed, except for some minor points about which the author or editor should have known better. Several times, SEC forms are misnamed (K-8 instead of 8K, or K-10 for 10K), and a statement that corporate information would not be released for several months, despite the legal requirement for immediate disclosure of significant news, raising the question as to how expert the author is on the subject. All in all, it is an interesting and fairly good read, despite these misgivings.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, November 2013.

 

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Nemesis 2Nemesis
A Nameless Detective Novel
Bill Pronzini
Forge/Tom Doherty Books, July 2013
ISBN: 978-0-7653-2566-2
Hardcover
*****

Nemesis, the newest in the Nameless Detective series, in which this is number 38, is told from three points of view: that of each of the three private detectives who work together out of their office in the South Park area of San Francisco, Jake Runyon, Tamara Corbin, and the “nameless detective” of the title of this series, in which this is number 38. (He is not “nameless” to his colleagues, btw; to them he is “Bill.”) Their newest client hires them to find out who is trying to blackmail them, the case goes to Jake. (Bill, an ex-cop now 60 years old, is working minimum hours, still trying to help his wife heal after she was held prisoner by a psychotic before being rescued, and Tamara mans the office, aided by a couple of part-time detectives.)

The woman, voluptuous Verity Daniels, who lives in a sumptuous high-rise just off the Embarcadero, turns out to be much more, and much less, than she at first appears. The investigation takes Jake across a wide swath of San Francisco, checking out the family of a man to whom Verity was engaged but who drowned just before he ostensibly was going to break off the engagement; a married ex-employer with whom she appears to have been having an affair; and a former husband. Jake’s instincts, after 14 years with the Seattle police and nearly 8 as a p.i., tell him he should drop the case. When her truthfulness becomes a serious issue and he tries to do just that, the result is not a pretty one. And the volatile Verity soon after charges him with rape. Things get rapidly worse, soon the detective agency is itself sued for serious money, and Jake is thrown in jail. The next portion of the book belongs to Tamara and her end of the investigation, and the final section is Bill’s as he picks up the case.

As with all of this author’s books, the latest Nameless Detective novel is a very well-plotted tale with the author’s trademark wonderfully drawn characters. Each section goes into the lives of each of the three detectives, their own past life-threatening episodes, and the ongoing investigation. There are several twists and turns, and at the end a prologue tying up all loose ends in the three detectives’ current lives. All terrifically well done, and the book is highly recommended. Besides, how could one not love a guy called “Nameless” who owns a cat called “Shameless?!”

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, January 2014.