Book Review: Mink Eyes by Dan Flanigan @_DanFlanigan

Mink Eyes
A Peter O’Keefe Novel #1
Dan Flanigan
Arjuna Books, February 2019
ISBN 978-1-7336103-0-8
Trade Paperback

Fraud, scams, a Ponzi scheme, magnificent scenery, murder, sex, drinking, drugs and assorted violence form the structure and content of this novel, a morass of failed relationships and get rich quick efforts.

Pete O’Keefe is a former marine, veteran of the war in Viet Nam. He drinks too much, avoids drugs, and struggles to maintain a relationship with his young daughter after being divorced. He runs a PI agency that works mostly in non-violence contexts, but things are not going all that smoothly.

When two investors in a down-country mink farm develop suspicions about the operation they turn to O’Keefe’s long-time buddy, a successful attorney who frequently hires O’Keefe’s detective agency and its cadre of part and full-time operatives.

O’Keefe agrees to look into the mink farm operation and the game is on. Apart from periodic discursions into philosophical ruminations, the author moves the story along at a good pace, but this is not high-tension thriller territory until we get to the last quarter of the novel. O’Keefe is an adept, mostly careful, ethical detective. He does his homework, listens to classical music, and ruminates on the ills and evils of the world.

There are a few bumps in the narrative, point of view shifts and some questionable grammatical constructions. Still, the novel is an interesting take on the somewhat troubled life of this vet and his efforts to get things right, maintain a positive relationship with his daughter, while solving crimes and presenting an interesting look at life.

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

Book Review: Murder in the Dog Days by P.M. Carlson—and a Giveaway!

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Title: Murder in the Dog Days
Series: Maggie Ryan Series #6
Author: P.M. Carlson
Publisher: The Mystery Company/
Crum Creek Press

Publication Date: May 15, 2014
Genres: Mystery

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Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Smashwords
Amazon // Indiebound

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Murder in the Dog Days
Maggie Ryan #6
P.M. Carlson
The Mystery Company/Crum Creek Press, May 2014
ISBN 978-1-932325-37-9
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

On a sweltering Virginia day in 1975, reporter Olivia Kerr, her husband Jerry Ryan, his very pregnant sister Maggie and her family decide to have a beach picnic. Olivia invites her colleague Dale Colby and his family to join them. At the last minute, Dale decides to stay home to pursue an important story. But when the beach-goers return, they find Dale lifeless in a pool of blood inside his locked office.

Police detective Holly Schreiner leads the investigation, battling Maggie—and demons of her own.

A funny thing happened (to me) on the way to my reading this book. Originally published in January 1991 (but copyrighted in 1990), Murder in the Dog Days came into existence a scant 15 or so years after its setting in 1975 and would not have been considered historical in nature. Returned Vietnam vets were to be seen everywhere, PTSD was in evidence but didn’t really have a name quite yet in the public lexicon, overuse/abuse of prescribed medications was probably not especially common yet but, at the least, very well hidden, and people were still split on the validity of our having been at war in a tiny country so far away. In 1990 or 1991, we didn’t yet have any real perspective on those times but it was beginning to become clearer and any reader’s personal experience and/or knowledge would have affected how he or she felt about this story.

Today, enough years have passed to consider the setting of Ms. Carlson’s novel to be historical or very close to it. As so often happens, our sensibilities about that period have softened somewhat and, although we now feel strongly that vets need the respect and assistance they so valiantly earn, we also have largely put the war itself into the past, shunted aside, I suppose, by the conflicts that have arisen since then. I bring up all this because the violence and repercussions of that particular war affected me in very different ways then and now and thus affects my reaction to certain people and storylines. I also confess that I had a less enlightened attitude towards some social issues then than I do now.

Anyway, getting to the actual mystery, this one is a keeper. There’s nothing I like more than a locked room puzzle and the author crafts her story with finesse and nicely developed plot points and characterizations, especially Maggie, Detective Holly Schreiner and Josie, the young daughter of the murdered man, Dale. A reporter who’s driven, Dale has been digging into a particular story with political implications but there are also other reasons someone might have had for killing him. The immediate question, though, is how since his study door was bolted and there seemed to be no way the killer could have gotten out. That one piece of the puzzle kept me going hither and yon until a most surprising denouement. My introduction to Maggie Ryan was a great success and I’ll be looking for the other books.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2017.

An Excerpt from Murder in the Dog Days

“I don’t understand!” Donna Colby cried out. Her self-control cracked. She reached toward Holly in appeal, tears starting. “It was bolted! How could anyone—even if Dale let them in, they couldn’t bolt it again after they—”

“Yes, Mrs. Colby.” Holly broke in, firm and reassuring, to deflect the outburst. “We’ll check into it. You can depend on it.”

‘Thank you,” said Donna with a little choking sound.

“Now, what did you do when you realized the door was bolted?”

“Well, he usually takes a nap. I thought maybe he was asleep.” Donna Colby was trying to revert to her numbed monotone again, but a tremor underlay her words. “Then Maggie went to look in the window and came running back in and said hurry up, we had to get the door open. So she did, and—” She stopped. The next part was the unspeakable, Holly knew. Donna Colby turned her face back to the pink flower on the back of the sofa, tracing the outline with a forefinger. “All that blood,” she murmured. “I just don’t… Why?”

“I know, Mrs. Colby.” Holly tried to keep her voice soothing in the face of the incomprehensible. A husband and father lay twisted in the den. Why? Tell me why. And the others, so many others. A flash of reds at the back of her eyes. A blue-green stench. A tiny whispered beat, ten, eleven. Twelve. No more. Hey, cut the bullshit, Schreiner. Just get the details. Ain’t no time to wonder why, whoopee we’re all gonna die. Holly flipped to a new page, keeping her voice colorless. “What did you do when you got the door open?”

“We all ran in—I don’t remember, it was so—I couldn’t—the blood. Maggie went to him. Sent Olivia to call an ambulance. Told me to keep the kids out, take them to the kitchen.”

Holly noted it down. This Maggie sounded like a real take-charge type. “Okay. And then what?”

“I don’t remember much. She made me leave, take care of the kids.”

“What was she doing?”

“I don’t know. There was so much…” The word escaped Donna and she stared at Holly in mute terror before finding it again, with an almost pitiful triumph. “Confusion. The men came back. Maggie will tell you,” she added hopefully, trying to be helpful. All her life, probably, being nice had kept her out of trouble. But now she’d hit the big trouble, and Holly knew that no weapons, even niceness, could help now.

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Excerpt from Murder in the Dog Days by P.M. Carlson. Copyright © 2017 by P.M. Carlson. Reproduced with permission from P.M. Carlson. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

P.M. Carlson taught psychology and statistics at Cornell University before deciding that mystery writing was more fun. She has published twelve mystery novels and over a dozen short stories. Her novels have been nominated for an Edgar Award, a Macavity Award, and twice for Anthony Awards. Two short stories were finalists for Agatha Awards. She edited the Mystery Writers Annual for Mystery Writers of America for several years, and served as president of Sisters in Crime.

Catch Up With Our Author:

Website // Twitter // Smashwords // Goodreads

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Follow the tour:

09/01 Interview @ BooksChatter
09/01 Review @ Rockin Book Reviews
09/02 Review @ Book Reviews From an Avid Reader
09/03 Showcase @ A Bookworms Journal
09/04 Review @ Cabin Goddess
09/05 Interview/Showcase @ CMash Reads
09/06 Showcase @ Bound 2 Escape
09/07 Review @ Reviews From The Heart
09/11 Showcase @ The Bookworm Lodge
09/12 Interview @ Mythical Books
09/13 Showcase @ Suspense Magazine
09/15 Review @ Just Reviews
09/18 Review @ Buried Under Books – GIVEAWAY
09/19 Showcase @ Teresa Trent Author Blog
10/05 Review @ Cheryls Book Nook

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To enter the drawing for an ebook
copy of Murder Is Academic, 2nd in the
series,
leave a comment below. The
winning
name will be drawn Thursday
evening,
September 21st, and the book
will be
sent out after the tour ends.

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Book Review: Deviant Acts by J.J. White

Deviant ActsDeviant Acts
J.J. White
Black Opal Books, November 2015
ISBN: 978-1-626942-85-1
Trade Paperback

A road novel, a saga that takes readers from Charlotte, North Carolina to Vermont, New York, Mexico, Albany and many points between. We follow an inept former marine who was booted from the service for various illegal acts. Now a civilian, Jackson Hurst has become a destitute low-level criminal, doing and selling drugs, burgling his neighbors and driving his mother slightly mad.

But Jackson Hurst has a singular asset, a very wealthy aunt who needs his help to locate her adopted daughter, Cheryl. She’s willing to pay Jackson a lot of money, finance the search and even set Jackson up as a private investigator, a job for which he appears to have no particular talent, if he will just find Cheryl Ebert and bring her home.

Naturally with his troubles and knowing he’s hunted by several law enforcement agencies, he agrees to find Cheryl and bring her back to the Vermont mansion. And so the story begins. And now we start to learn that Cheryl is not merely a runaway. She’s been a member of the Weather Underground. The novel begins in 1973 and ends in 1977. The road trip is long and littered with nearly every deviant act one can imagine one human perpetrating against another, mostly violent and costly.

The plot is convoluted and clever, the author’s writing style is sometimes puzzling and shifty, but it’s fair to observe that his style serves the novel well and once readers become comfortable, it should prove not to be a problem. The novel raises some troubling questions and because of that and Hurst’s sometimes cavalier approach to certain deviant acts like killing, some readers may be uncomfortable. That said, I found Deviant Acts to be a worthwhile reading experience and do recommend it.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, March 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 Review: Proof Positive by Archer Mayor

Proof PositiveProof Positive
A Joe Gunther Novel #25
Archer Mayor
Minotaur Books, September 2014
ISBN:  978-1-250-07473-7
Hardcover

A typical Joe Gunther novel has him and his team slogging along attempting to put a picture together to solve whatever crime they’re investigating.  In this novel, the Vermont Bureau of Investigation team Joe heads is involved in looking deeply into the death of a semi-recluse, Ben Kendall, who served as a photographer in Vietnam.  Joe is asked to look into the death, which does not appear to be suspicious, by his girlfriend, Beverly Hillstrom, the state’s medical examiner, who is a cousin to the dead man, who was a hoarder very much like the storied Collyer brothers who gained fame many decades earlier in New York City.

Almost as soon as Joe starts looking into the situation, Ben’s ex-wife is murdered in Philadelphia, where Ben originally came from.  From that point, a full investigation proceeds, complicated by additional deaths and kidnappings and the fact that Beverly’s daughter is cataloguing and photographing Ben’s photos and junk and might be the next victim.  The problem is that no one knows what Ben may have brought back from Vietnam or what the instigator of all the crimes is looking for.

Like the previous novels in the series, the police procedural descriptions are straightforward and logical, and the characters play their accustomed roles, especially Joe’s colleague, Willy.  One quibble:  The conclusion strikes a manufactured false note affecting the usual high quality of a novel in this series.  ‘Tis a pity, because the Joe Gunther novels are as good a series as there is today.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, April 2015.

Book Reviews: The Twenty-Year Death by Ariel S. Winter and Redemption by Kate Flora

The Twenty-Year DeathThe Twenty-Year Death
Ariel S. Winter
Hard Case Crime, August 2012
ISBN 978-0-85768-581-0
Hardcover

It’s a three in one deal and when I see something like that I can’t pass it up. Yep, three books in one giant-sized novel. Three murder mysteries that bring back the genre of early hard-boiled detectives, of desperate people taking desperate measures to save themselves or their loved ones. Winter has written a novel worthy enough to be included as part of the Hard Case Crime series.

The Twenty-Year Death is actually three separate murder mysteries tied together by two characters. The first story, “Malvineau Prison”, is set in 1931. Chief Inspector Pelleter is only visiting the small French town of Verargent to speak to a prisoner concerning violence against other inmates. However, when a corpse is found within the town limits, Pelleter is drawn into a complex murder mystery involving not only the prison, but Shem Rosenkrantz, a famous American writer and his wife Clothilde.

Jump ahead ten years to Hollywood and “The Falling Star”. Clothilde-now Chloe Rose-is an actress who is paranoid thinking someone is following her. Her husband, Shem, who is writing not only for the movies, but for a smut producer, has become an alcoholic. The movie studio’s head of security hires private detective Dennis Foster to discover if Chloe’s fears are justified. What he discovers is the dead body of Chloe’s costar and very important people willing to go to great lengths to keep secrets buried.

Move to 1951 and “Police At The Funeral”. Shem Rozencrantz, has-been writer, is struggling to recover from his alcoholism and hoping for an inheritance from his first wife to keep Clothilde safe in her asylum. When he gets into an argument with his son, the young man ends up dead. Shem is hounded by the police after he and his girlfriend try to cover up the accidental death.

At first I wasn’t sure what I was getting into with this massive tome. Three stories that could just as well have been three separate novels instead of grouped together under one cover. Winter writes each with a different tone and voice. The first ends up being a straight mystery while the second is in the vein of the first person hard-boiled private eye looking at a world gone dirty. The third reminds me of the fifties and sixties short novelettes of one man with his back against the wall, trying to save himself from a circumstance gone out of his control. I ended up enjoying each story even though it took me awhile to finish the entire novel. This is something different but definitely worth reading.

Reviewed by Stephen L. Brayton, August 2012.
Author of Night Shadows, Beta and Alpha.

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RedemptionRedemption
Kate Flora
Five Star, February 2012
ISBN 9781594153792
Hardcover

A homicide detective’s life is never pretty or easy. There are always pressures from home and family and bean counters at work. There are even pressures within the ranks from other colleagues’ lives. Thus is the story of Joe Burgess of the Portland, Maine PD. A solid murder mystery with plenty of character driven action to keep you turning the pages.

Burgess just wants to spend time with his girlfriend and two kids they are thinking of fostering. However, his job keeps getting in the way. A weekend with the kids is interrupted by the murder of Burgess’ long time friend and war buddy Reggie Libby. Libby, never quite the same after the war, turned to alcohol and the street. So who would kill him? Suspects abound. His son, a shyster realtor, his ex-wife. Burgess’s struggles to find evidence in the case are another obstacle. A superior is urging him to cut out the extra manpower for what looks like an accidental drowning of a wino. Nobody seems to know Reggie’s mysterious new employment. Burgess’s friends on the street are too addled-minded to be of but scant assistance. Reggie’s son, Joey is nowhere to be found and the ex wife is a witch. The situation grows more tense as the days pass and the clues start to add up.

One of the things about homicide mysteries that keep them interesting are the subplots. Redemption has a couple of good ones, even though the latter is brought in late in the story. The story isn’t just focused on Burgess and the murder or his friend. His colleague has an ongoing problem with a woman and just doesn’t quite know how to handle the situation. Flora does a nice job of keeping me interested in the main plot, but also allowed me a breather by bringing in other action to enjoy.

Reviewed by Stephen L. Brayton, September 2012.
Author of Night Shadows, Beta and Alpha.