Monday, March 28, 2005

Turning the Page.....

Kevin’s Corner

Welcome back to Kevin’s Corner. It’s been a few weeks since the last update and I am sorry about that. It has been one thing after another, some good and some bad. Actually, more bad than good but enough of that.

As you may have read elsewhere, the Blue Iris Journal has gone on hiatus. This was a surprise for me especially as I had been accepting books for review for BIJ. Obviously, until I am informed exactly what is going on and what the timetable is, I won’t be accepting any more books for the site. I apologize again to those writers who were counting on a review there. I am truly sorry and I certainly would not have been accepting your book for review if I had known. All I can say is that I am sorry and will do everything I can to place the reviews elsewhere.

Below are two reviews I had written for BIJ that after two weeks still have not appeared and I have no idea when or even if they will. Obviously, here isn’t as visible as BIJ, but they are still fine books and should be visible for your consideration. They are somewhat opposite ends of the spectrum: a cozy style novel and a noir style novel. Both are very good in their own way and I hope you enjoy them.

First up, the noir style novel and a very good book.

By Donald E. Westlake
Hard Case Crime
ISBN # 0-8439-5357-8
208 Pages
$6.99 US

It is a hot July in the early sixties and 23-year-old Ray Kelly is coming home from his stint in the Air Force. He reunites in New York City with his dad, Willard Kelly, Sr. who seems a little nervous and off with him but Ray just puts it down to Ray being gone several years. Both have changed thanks to the passage of time as well as Ray’s military service. He isn’t the boy who went off to serve any longer and comes home a man. After a few hours sightseeing and spending the night in the City, they start the long drive home. Thirty-eight miles outside of NYC, a tan-and cream Chrysler pulls alongside of them and the passenger starts shooting. His dad tries to tell Ray something and then dies sending the car straight into a bridge support.

Ray barely survives and days later, reunites with his brother Bill in the hospital. The family soon suffers a second devastating loss when Bill’s wife, a woman Ray had only spoken to on the phone a couple of times and never met, is killed in a car accident. Or could it be something else entirely? Before long, the brothers find out that Willard Kelly, Sr., their dad, had a very shady past that may have gotten him as well as Bill’s wife killed and the killers may not be through until the entire family is wiped out. While Bill clearly from the start fluctuates on the idea of paying the killers back in kind, Ray wants vengeance. Not just for his Dad, Bill’s wife, and to protect Bill’s young daughter. He wants it for himself and to ease the pain just a little of two broken ankles, the loss of his right eye, and the pain that grips his very soul. Ray considers himself adrift without a home or reason for being other than vengeance.

What follows is a dark incredibly twisting tale of double cross and revenge as the brothers go after those responsible. In this re-release of a classic noir novel by Donald E. Westlake by Hard Case Crime, Ray is a complex character driven by his primal need for vengeance, yet not liking the idea or himself too much. He attempts to quell his inner demons through repeated bouts of drinking as he tries to not only ignore and repress doubts as to what he must do, but how he will go on once his mission is finished. It is a harsh world he lives in with limited choices which is clearly reflected in the limited prose.

Unlike a James Lee Burke novel, which can tend towards the noirish and often contains elaborate prose descriptions; this novel features a stark, clipped writing style that steadily moves the action forward. Scene descriptions are limited to the bare essentials and what is described is only done so in terms of story content. Every word used is used to carry the minimum hard-hitting impact for the reader.

This is a dark and violent novel and very good stuff. Much like their recent release of “Kiss Her Goodbye” by Allan Guthrie which could also be labeled by some as nothing more than a vengeance novel, this read features a hero deeply troubled yet following his own code of honor to finish off what others have started. Family means a lot and respect has to be earned—own way or another.

And the cozy is below and this was/is also very good:

Now You See Her
By Cecelia Tishy
Mysterious Press
ISBN # 0-89296-796-X
$23.95 US
$34.95 Canada

Regina Cutter had it all and then it was gone. Her wealthy husband dumped her in favor of a trophy wife and suddenly her years of effort, sacrifice and support for his career and their marriage didn’t matter. Gone were the club memberships, the private plane, and all the other perks and trappings of wealth and power. But, she still had her paranormal ability.

She went back to Boston and moved into her recently departed Aunt’s home. She shares custody of her Aunt Jo’s dog, affectionately known as “Biscuit,” with a rough character that rides a Harley and goes by the name Stark. And just like her Aunt did for years, she unofficially consults with the Boston Police Department in the form of Detective Frank Devaney. As the novel begins, he has a strange case for her.

Devaney, pressured for a quick arrest and conviction, may have sent an innocent man to prison for a murder he did not commit. The victim was Peter Wald, the son of a very prominent politician. The accused killer was Henry Fraiser; a man with no connections and who still to this day claims to be innocent. He may very well have been nothing more than the wrong man in the wrong place at the time. The crime happened years ago during the cocaine years when crime was out of control, the police were overworked and stressed, and everything no matter how small turned into deadly violence. Initially, Regina does not pick up anything and then as he goes to leave, she gets a sensation that is almost to the point of an image for her which gives Devaney an idea to pursue.

But, Regina isn’t content to just tell the good detective what she sees and feels. Before long, she is actively sticking her nose into the case, asking questions of everyone and walking the old neighborhood where the crime took place. At the same time, she is also assisting a good friend of hers that sold a house that may or may not be haunted. The buyers are not happy and are very well connected and the outcome of their unsatisfaction could be a financial disaster for all involved. And then, what about the weird scuffling sound Regina heard in the thick fog the other night? Was a man attacked?

Author Cecelia Tishy (also the author of the Kate Banning mystery series) pulls the various threads all together in a Sue Grafton style work and creates an atmospheric read that is very enjoyable. Despite lots of self-doubt, Regina Cutter is an enjoyable character realistically drawn and full of promise. The secondary characters, in particular Stark and Devaney, seem at times a bit stereotypical, but clearly they have the possibility to become realistically drawn individuals. If this becomes a series, the pieces are certainly there to more fully develop these characters and others.

Coincidence does seem to play a strong role in the book whether in the form of the paranormal at just the right time or in the main story where something happens at just the exact right moment. However, that fact along with the fact that the paranormal plays a very small roll, much less than one would expect from reading the jacket copy, are minor quibbles and nothing to really weaken the overall enjoyable read. The result of the work is an interesting and enjoyable novel that may have too little paranormal content for those very interested in the sub-genre while having too much for those readers who simply aren’t interested in anything paranormal.

So there they are. A big thank you to Hardcase Crime for sending 361 and a big thank you to author Cecelia Tishy for sending her book, Now You See Her. A big thank you goes out as well to Del T. for all the help in getting books to review. All is appreciated.

More next time and as always feel free to drop me a note at with your comments, observations, and suggestions.

Thanks for reading!

Kevin R. Tipple © 2005