“Personal drama handled, my heart found its regular pace, and I
shoved the phone back into my bag. I muttered another “thank you,” then jammed
up the hill, following a dank river of water and ashes that would end in blood.”
(Skies of Ash, Rachel Howzell Hall, Chapter Two, Page 20)
almost mid-December and six months after Land of Shadows when Detective Elouise
“Lou” Norton is called out to a house fire in Baldwin Hills. There are bodies
in what is left of the house ravaged by a horrific fire most likely caused by
an arsonist. As it happens, the scene is a short three miles away from her home.
While she has directions, she could have just followed the smoke plume over the
the house at 6381 Don Mateo Drive is gone. What remains and still barely stands
hides the bodies of Juliet Chatman and her kids, Chloe and Cody. All three were
found dead. The smoke got to them before the flames worked their way to them.
But, there are troubling aspects that indicate Juliet Chatman knew they were in
serious danger. One is the fact that while she clearly was holding on to her
daughter, Juliet Chatman died while clutching a gun in the other. Then there is
the 911 call Juliet made where she said somebody was trying to kill her. The name
of that person is not discernable on the tape.
person or persons unknown, did kill the mom and her kids. Somebody did it.
While law enforcement always starts from the proposition that the spouse did it
in this case that initially seems unlikely. Christopher Chatman, a commodities broker,
arrived as the fire was blazing and was injured fighting firefighters in attempt to go into the inferno
after his family. His alibi for why he was not home stands up to scrutiny.
didn’t do it, then who did? And why are the neighbors being so weird about the
Chatmans? Two of the many questions for Detective Norton and her partner Colin
Taggert to answer in Skies of Ash.
the second book in a series is weaker than the first. That is certainly not
remotely the case here. Skies of Ash builds on Land
of Shadowsand adds further depth to the Norton character as well
as most of the other characters.
lot of really good series, this second book continues everything regarding
personal relationships while offering a brand new intriguing case to solve.
Such is the case here with what is definitely a horrific tragedy in the deaths of
two children as well as their mother. Author Rachel Howzell Hall does not focus
on the gruesome details of what happens to a body in a fire and instead keeps the
focus on the reason why things like this happen.
Skies of Ash is a very good book. Interested potential readers are strongly
encouraged to read Land of Shadows as major plot points from the first book carry
over here amongst the new case and that investigation. There are a lot of
things going on in this second book that tie directly into the first making
both books well worth your time and effort. Good stuff and very much
Winter Garden Mystery by Carola Dunn (St. Martins,
1995) is the second historical mystery featuring the Honorable Daisy Dalrymple,
who decides to earn her living by writing feature articles about some of
England’s old homes, using her social connections to gain access to them. In
1923 this was a radical step for one of her social position but one she felt
she had to take after the death of her father during the flu pandemic of 1919
sent the title to a distant cousin. Her brother and her fiancé both died during
World War I, leaving Daisy with no close family beyond her mother.
On her second adventure she visits Occles Hall in
Cheshire, home of a school acquaintance whose confrontational mother terrifies
everyone. Lady Valeria disdains Daisy’s bid for independence and secretly fears
her children might choose to follow her to escape their mother’s tight hold.
However, she cannot resist the idea of seeing her model home and village
featured in the latest issue of Town and
Country magazine. So Daisy is allowed to visit but must listen to Lady
Valeria’s endless strictures while she takes notes on the hall’s history and
photographs its exterior and gardens.
Daisy is in the winter garden, a sheltered corner
of the property where flowers bloom even in January, when the body of the
housemaid who disappeared two months earlier is discovered. Grace Moss was
supposed to have run off with a travelling salesman she’d been seen talking to
at the local pub. No one in the village was particularly surprised at the time:
her mother did the same thing to escape Grace’s abusive father. But the
discovery of her body was a surprise and a shock to everyone, even more so when
the autopsy reveals her pregnancy.
Lady Valeria bulldozes the local police into a
quick arrest and she is well on her way to railroading an innocent man when
Daisy quietly calls Detective Chief Inspector Alec Fletcher of Scotland Yard, whom
Daisy met on her first adventure. Fletcher is a widowed policeman well below Daisy’s
social status and some ten years her senior, but they have stayed in touch.
Fletcher finds a way to insert Scotland Yard into the investigation and
promptly destroys the flimsy case against the arrested man while discovering
the true culprit.
This is one of my favorite historical series. Dunn
touches on the hardships of the post-war years without dwelling on them, giving
the books authenticity via sideways looks at the war’s aftermath rather than a full
bore spotlight on the misery and social upheaval caused by the loss of an
entire generation of young men. The mystery is well written and definitely cozy,
not a lot of gore, pleasant characters mostly, and happy endings for nearly
everyone. A nice choice for winter reading by the fire with a cup of tea and a
·Hardcover: 226 pages
·Publisher: St Martins Pr; 1st edition (May 1, 1995)
The weather here in North Texas this time of year can be quite the roller coaster. We can have cold mornings and afternoons so warm one can be in shorts and t-shirts. Such was the case yesterday afternoon when Scott and I were hanging out in the yard reading.
We spent part of Friday morning over at Lucky Dog Books on Garland Road. We have been there about a half dozen times since late last August when we had moved back to the house I grew up so many years ago. My latest purchases adding to the pile I have here to read.
Up in KRL
this week reviews and giveaways of a fun group of food and craft mysteries
perfect for your holiday reading-"A Crafter Knits a Clue:" A
Handcrafted Mystery by Holly Quinn, "How to Knit a Murder":
Seaside Knitters Society Mystery by Sally Goldenbaum, "Purls and
Poison": Black Sheep Knit Mystery by Anne Canadeo, "Forever
Fudge!" A Candy-Coated Mystery with Recipes by Nancy J Coco, "In
Cold Chocolate": A Southern Chocolate Shop Mystery by Dorothy St.
James, and "The Walking Bread": A Bread Shop Mystery by Winnie
The President Is Missing by Bill Clinton and James
The reader will be able to detect both personalities in this
novel. I believe it should be classified as a techno-thriller. There aren’t any
standard thriller passages, except for a brief shooting scene, and most of the
tense action consists of meetings between high-level global powers, and frantic
computer coding taking place in a secret room.
The story is told in first person, present tense, mostly by
President Duncan. It’s not as edgy as most books written that way. That said, however,
it’s a great glimpse into what it’s like to work in the White House; surrounded
by so many people, it’s hard to keep track of them all at first. The president
is spinning a lot of plates. His wife recently died of cancer, he is being
afflicted by a rare disease that flares up under stress, and he doesn’t trust
his Vice President or the Speaker of the House—both of whom want him gone.
Plus, he recently committed a public blunder that may force him out of office.
Outside enemies, forcing the crisis, are unknown expert computer
hackers, a mysterious hired assassin, a mole living somewhere among his six
most trusted advisors, and the overall threat of “Dark Ages.” That’s the code
name for what will happen if the computer virus isn’t stopped. The result will
be the failure of every system connected to a computer: water, power, defense, transportation,
hospitals, etc., resulting in a return to primitive living, and likely, humans
turning to bloody competition in order to attain basic needs.
Once the threat has been issued and the clock begins ticking,
President Duncan thinks it best that he comply with the orders from the unknown
terrorists, and meet them alone. Hence, he dismisses his bodyguards and goes
“missing” without informing anyone but his most trusted and loyal assistants.
Or…so he thinks. A long read, but it’s also a fun
Reviewed by Kaye George, Editor
of the Dark: Eclipse Stories, for Suspense Magazine
This has been a very tough day......a year ago today Sandi came home her final time just after six in the evening. It was the beginning of hospice ... and the beginning of the end. I did not want her here as I was very afraid of what was coming and not being able to care for her as she needed and deserved. That turned out to be the reality as after about a week they lost pain control and she suffered horribly before lapsing into unconsciousness those last few days. It was hell for her and for us too.
Sandi, on the other hand, did not want to die in the hospital. She desperately wanted to be at home in the quiet here with us. I agreed as that was what she wanted and tehre was no way I could tell her no. In a sense she is still here as her ashes sit in her urn on the bedroom bureau in my room. At some point I will join her and the boys can decide what to do with us.
In the meantime, we grind closer to Thanksgiving. A day we spent more often than not in the hospital since she was first diagnosed on Thanksgiving Day 2011. I still remeber the doctors and how they made a ring around her bed and then slowly broke the news. In a few minutes our future toegther exploded and fragmented in a thousand different ways. I don't rember much about what they said, but I do remeber her swearing that she was not done and that she would beat it. She did everything she could to do so. Sandi fought and made it a lot longer than anyone had ever though possible since that day she was diagnosed. She beat the odds again and again and made it for six years.
I wish she had made a seventh. I wish for so much that can't be......and I miss her so much. Every day is hard....some are worse than others....and then there are days like today when it is so incredibly soul crushingly brutal. It built on last night when I sat in Green Hall at UTD and thought about how often Sandi, pregnant with Scott, sat there waiting for me back in that final semester of 93 and how proud she would be of him now and everything. Before I knew it, I had started crying in front of a dozen or so 20 somethings who had no idea what to do with the blubbering fat man. Today I have managed to keep from crying in public today as we ran errands. But, the water works have poured out here at home several times including as I try to write this post.
How I am going to get through the next two weeks, let alone another Christmas and all, I have no idea. Somehow, I will. But, as I said on Facebook the other day, if I could take a pill and sleep through the next three months and skip all of it, I would. I would swallow that pill in a heartbeat and the side effects be damned.
Friday means Friday’s Forgotten Books hosted by Patti Abbott. Make
sure you check out the full list over at Patti’s blog.
When the Killing Starts is the sixth installment in the Reid
Bennett series by Ted Wood. Police Chief Reid Bennett was looking
forward to his vacation time from Murphy’s Harbour. He is back down in Toronto
with his girlfriend Freda and they have plans. At least he thought they did.
Instead, an acting gig has come up for her and he isn’t about to get in the way
or ask her to turn it down. She is going to be gone for at least a month and he
isn’t at all happy about it.
Not only is
he not at all happy about her going away, he isn’t sure what their future
holds. He isn’t sure about his old job either as he thinks it might be time to
move on from being in charge at Murphy’s Harbour. Doing what next is a question
as all he knows is police work and serving in the military.
knowledge of the military service and what it really means is about to come in
handy as he will also be spared boredom while Freda is gone. Thanks to the
mention of his name by a guy who is a big shot with a private security firm, Bennett
is offered a job by a woman named Norma Michaels. Her adult son, Jason, has run
off and joined one of those private mercenary outfits. This one is called “Freedom for Hire.” Mom is sure
her son has no clue what he is getting into and for 25k she wants her boy
brought home alive and in peace.
the kid is twenty and comes from a wealthy family, Bennett is sure the young
Jason does not have a clue. Not that Bennett really wants the job, but the
payday is the same as what Freda is going to get from her acting gig and he
most definitely wants to pony up his share in the relationship. He also thinks
his client is lying, but just isn’t sure about what or how exactly.
and soon learns that those in charge of Freedom for Hire are bad guys with little
in mind but taking money from others. Good thing Bennett has skills for dealing
with guys like that as he learned his lessons well while serving in the jungles
of Vietnam. The Canadian wilderness might have little to do with the steamy
jungles of Vietnam, but men are men anywhere and skills do matter. It also does
not hurt to have the police dog, Sam, at his side.
When the Killing Starts is another solidly good installment in
the series. Mercenaries are old hat now, but for the time the book was
published back in 1989, they were still relatively new in the mainstream consciousness.
Little is done to further deepen the Bennett character though at this point one
does not really expect that to happen. Deep in the series, When the Killing Starts
is just one of those books where you sit back and settle in for the ride.
When the Killing Starts
Charles Scribner’s Sons
Hardback (also available in paperback and digital formats)
Material supplied by way of an Interlibrary Loan filled by the
staff of the Paris Public Library in Paris, Texas, and sent to the good folks of
the Dallas Public Library. My sincere and appreciative thanks to all
The plan was simple and should have saved Wheatfield,
Minnesota. A town of 700 people,
Wheatfield was suffering the slow death that many small towns all across
America are facing every day. That was until the floating image of the Virgin
Mary appeared at a local church. Unlike many such apparitions, this one was
recorded by numerous cellphones and shared on social media giving it immediate
legitimacy. The tourist industry boomed as word spread and locals cashed in on
Until the shootings started.
The faithful are still coming, but that will
change if the shootings continue. And the shooter just might kill somebody. Late
spring in Minnesota and Virgil has the case down in Wheatfield, an hour away
from his home in Mankato, Minnesota. Virgil knows the sniper is probably some
sort of nut case and has had a long history of dealing with nut cases in his
career as an agent of the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
While everyone in town knows Virgil is a cop
investigating the sniper case, the sniper is undeterred. Throw in a murder, which
may or may not be separate from the sniper shootings, and things just get
interesting in a hurry.
Ghost: A Virgil Flowers Novel is a fairly
straightforward action novel. The book is mainly about the hunt for the sniper
with a couple of interesting minor plot threads thrown in for fun. Like all
series, it would have been a good idea to read the earlier books in this series
to get all the inside jokes. However, if you have not read the others, Holy
Ghost: A Virgil Flowers Novel is a pretty good one to start with if you
are new to the series about “that fuc*ing Flowers.”
welcome author J. J. Hensley to the blog today. He has a new book out, Record
Scratch, which is the second book in his Trevor Galloway Series. The new book
picks up a few months after Bolt Action
Remedy ended. I have been reading a lot of positive reviews for the new
book and that includes this recent review
by David Nemeth over at his site, Unlawful Acts.
Reading, Promoting, And More with J. J. Hensley
Trevor Galloway Series #2
Like most writers, I read. Actually,
I read a lot. To be more accurate, I read and listen a lot. I always have one
book waiting for me on my bed stand and an audiobook loaded on my cell phone.
So, at night I might be reading an old Jonathan Kellerman paperback and during
my commute I could be listening to Jennifer Hillier’s Jar of Hearts. I’m pretty
much hooked on mysteries and thrillers, so the odds are a soft romance isn’t
playing through my headphones when I’m in the gym and I usually don’t have anything
dealing with killer robots on my Kindle. Well… I do have a seven-year-old, so
there is a Transformers game on there and I hear a lot of explosions coming
from the ol’ e-reader. So, I suppose there are actually killer robots on my
Thus far, 2018 has been a great year
for mysteries and thrillers. Admittedly, I’m not awesome at keeping up with the
latest and greatest and I’ll often ignore the hype surrounding new books,
especially those published by one of the Big Five publishers. But several books,
both big and small press, hyped and non-hyped, have stuck with me in a positive
way over the past few months. I’m just as excited about what’s on my “to be
read” list for the remainder of this year and the first part of 2019!
To recap some of my
recent adventures in fiction:
you just have to read The Force, by
Don Winslow. It’s so good.”
Winslow’s latest book is the bomb!”
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Whatever.
I put this one off for a quite a while.
It’s a big press book that gets lots of media attention which means marketing
money gets tossed into the ring. If you’re like me and you go through a book
every week or two, you learn marking buzz doesn’t always equate to quality. I
also wasn’t excited about this book because I’m typically not blown away by
police procedurals and I end up picking them apart because of my background in
law enforcement. Then, a writer friend of mine whose opinion I trust told me I
really need to check it out. Reluctantly, I did. Of course, then I was mad at
myself for not reading it sooner. It’s gripping. And I’m completely aware when
any author uses the word “gripping” it sounds like a lame attempt at a cool
blurb, but that’s the word that comes to mind. The Force was certainly one of
the better books I read this year.
Earlier, I hinted I’m not much of a
science fiction guy. Well, if anyone could convert me it’s Tom Sweterlitsch. I
liked his first novel Tomorrow and Tomorrow. But, I LOVEDThe
Gone World when I read it a few months ago. It’s got everything I don’t
want in a novel. Time travel, futuristic inventions, other worlds—but, THIS…
BOOK…IS… AWESOME. I thought about this book long after I turned the last page.
In the interest of full disclosure, I know Tom. In fact, Tom helped drive the
direction of my novel Record Scratch and I named a
character in the book after him. However, if his book was mediocre then I would
have plugged something else into this post and that would have been the end of
it. Believe me. You’ll want to check out this book.
An author whose work I’d wanted to
read, and finally did, is Joe Clifford. I picked up his novel Lamentationand it didn’t disappoint. I’m already
anxious to read more of Joe’s work because I can tell it’s going to have a lot
of the elements I like in mysteries.
Lamentation had an imperfect protagonist, a slew of shady characters, and
there is something authentic about Joe’s work. If you’re a reader who needs a
knight in shining armor as the main character, then this book may not be for
you. However, if you want something that lends itself more toward gritty
reality than fantasy, then give this one a shot.
Trevor Galloway Series #1
My To-Do List:
My list of books to be read is
extensive, but I have some highlights. I’m crazy excited for E.A. Aymar’s The
Unrepentant. This book isn’t out until March 2019, but promises to have
a dark side and work in a little comedy. I know Aymar, so I would expect
A while back, I read Shannon Kirk’s
15/33 and was blown away. She has a sequel coming out and the English
edition doesn’t have a title yet so I’ll just call it Shannon’s Psychotic Sequel. I had gone into Method 15/33 thinking the book was going to be the typical girl gets abducted and either struggles to
escape or waits to be rescued type thriller. It was something much, much
more devious and it was wonderful. The sequel promises to be unpredictable in
all the right ways.
I’m so far behind on my list and I’m
kicking myself because I still haven’t read Silent Hearts by Gwen
Florio. I absolutely loved Florio’s Lola Wick’s series, and I know this
deviation into a tale of two women caught up in the Afghan War. Florio is a
journalist and has spent time in that region and she brings realism to all of
her novels. Silent Hearts will be no different.
In between reading these great
books, I’m out promoting my new novel Record Scratchand working feverishly on my next Trevor Galloway mystery, Forgiveness
Dies on the Vine. The best part of having a great reading list is it
sets the bar high for what an author wants to achieve in one’s own work. With
this list, the bar is set pretty damn high.
J.J. Hensley is a former police officer and
former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service. Hensley is the author of the
crime novels RESOLVE, MEASURE TWICE, CHALK'S OUTLINE, BOLT
ACTION REMEDY, RECORD SCRATCH, and several short
stories. He is originally from Huntington, WV and currently resides near
Savannah, Georgia. You can learn more about the author and his books by
visiting his website http://www.hensley-books.com/
Thank you for your prayers, thoughts, and support for the past six years plus as Sandi did everything she could to be here with all of us. She is now free and not hurting anymore. I am still trying to pay off her past treatments at Medical City Dallas Hospital as well as at Texas Oncology. While the hospital can't handle direct donations, if you can help and would prefer to donate directly, please contact Debra, the financial counselor at TEXAS ONCOLOGY in SUITE 220 of Building D at Medical City Dallas Hospital in Dallas, Texas. We thank you for your prayers, thoughts, and support for the past six years plus as Sandi did everything she could to be here with all of us.