Monday, July 30, 2007

"Dance On His Grave" by Sylvia Dickey Smith

Among other authors I had the pleasure of meeting at HHCC last June in Dallas was Sylvia Dickey Smith. I had a pretty good mental image of her from online items and in person she was even better. Then, I read her book. Apparently there are very dark things lurking in her mind and I never had any idea.

Dance On His Grave
By Sylvia Dickey Smith
L & L Dreamspell
ISBN # 978-1-60318-006-1
Large Trade Paperback
250 Pages

After the sudden death of her brother Warren due to a traffic accident, Sidra Smart comes to the small southeast Texas town of Orange to permanently close his private investigator business. Recently divorced after thirty years of a mind numbing marriage, Sidra knows absolutely nothing about private investigations or running her brothers business with the intriguing moniker of “the Third Eye: Intuitive Investigations.” While she isn’t sure what she is going to do with her life she knows that she isn't going to take over and run Warren’s business and she isn’t going back to her old life as a preacher’s wife.

Somewhere during the course of that thirty year marriage that started when she was so very young, she lost her identity. It is something she wants back and just isn’t sure how to get it back. She isn’t alone with that problem as the visibly agitated blonde woman makes clear by showing up while Sidra is paying bills and clearing mail in Warren’s old storefront office. The woman’s name is Jewell Stone and Warren had just barely opened a file for her. With Warren dead, Jewell expects Sidra to take over and help her. Jewell is haunted by nightmares of a naked woman who she thinks might have been killed by her father, Roy Manly back when Jewell was a child. If the memories that come out of Jewel and her emotional pain aren’t disturbing enough, while Jewell cries and talks, Sidra sees a small blue flame appear in the air over Jewell’s head for a few seconds. Despite all the reasons not to get involved, Sidra eventually begins to investigate a sinister world of child abuse and possible murder far different than her experiences of bake sales and back stabbing church politics as a preacher’s wife.

This is an intense read with frequent and very graphic recounts of horrible child abuse and molestation. Such scenes are intense and very disturbing and will no doubt upset a number of readers. Author Sylvia Dickey Smith details the horrific abuse over and over again to various parties throughout the entire novel while occasionally adding a little new information at the various tellings. After awhile, the graphic abuse and molestations become a bit much and could distract readers from a compelling story.

This is a shame because the main story is quite strong and would move the story along very well if allowed to do so instead of being stopped by the detailed abuse materials. The novel revolves around a thirty year old murder case and accompanying arson in the small town of Orange as well as Sidra's efforts to find herself. During the course of investigating the case, we learn quite a lot about Sidra, her relationship with her former Pastor and husband as well as the congregation, a fellow private investigator George Leger, Sidra’s rather eccentric Aunt Annie, and numerous other characters along with a strong slice of life in that shadowy land full of mystique and mystery where Texas and Louisiana meet.

Evil walks in many forms in this intense novel. Full of suspense, interesting characters and a heroine trying to find herself once again, the novel delivers on all levels while disturbing repeatedly with the constant scenes of abuse and molestation. Few readers will find this a relaxing read but all will certainly find it suspenseful, intense, and not easily put down.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2007

Friday, July 27, 2007

Colorado Rockies Crime And Death In "Antler Dust"

I’m not able to get out to various places anymore but have great childhood memories of the Colorado Rockies among other western places. Since I can’t get there physically, I now take the trips in my mind as corny as that sounds. Mark Stevens brought it alive for me and ranks up there with C. J. Box, Steven Havill and others who showcase a clear love for the great outdoors and can write a really good book.

Antler Dust: A Novel
By Mark Stevens
Paandaa Entertainment
March, 2007
ISBN # 978-0-9774188-1-7
287 Pages

Allison Coil came out to Colorado’s Flat Top wilderness to leave memories of death and destruction behind. Which is somewhat ironic since her new chosen profession was to be a hunting guide where she would routinely see death. The concept of death and what death means has become an almost constant companion while she seeks solace in the beautiful Colorado Mountains and in the local area known as Ripplecreek. Hunting guides aren’t a rarity in the mountains but being a woman she stands out and once again has to prove herself—especially to the good old boy network. Of course, if the protest group “Fighting Animal Torture Everywhere” otherwise known as “FATE” has its way, nobody will be hunting in the mountains anymore.

As a snowstorm descends on the area, Alison Coil hears a gunshot. Certainly not unusual but the actions of who she thinks is the shooter when she catches a glimpse of him through the swirling snow make her wonder. She watches him or her over on the next ridge dragging something and then the snow thickens and she loses sight of what was happening. Something didn’t look right and she thinks about it as she works to guide herself and her horse, Bear, safely off the mountain. Her suspicions are further encouraged when she learns that a local hunting guide is missing as is one of the protestors. She knows something funny is going on and after being shoved aside once too many times when she spoke up, begins to investigate in her own way.

In a novel that shifts point of view through numerous characters, Author Mark Stevens weaves a compelling tale of greed a d murder with the majestic beauty of the Colorado Rockies as his backdrop. Allison Coil is a strong complex character who quickly comes to life despite some of the other characters who seem to be little more than stock stereotype figures. A first novel from the author, it shows most tellingly in that a significant portion of the character depth is reserved for Coil. However, it is also clear that at least two of the secondary characters have definite possibilities should this work become part of a series.

Where the author showcases real talent is in the weaving of the various storylines as well as bringing alive the beauty of the setting. A theme within the work is the fact that responsible hunting is a necessary part of wildlife management today. That theme coupled with the concept of what it means to be a female guide in an area dominated by men could have become a series of information dumps that would preach to readers. Instead, showing real skill, the information is occasionally presented in the course of doing other things and never becomes the reason for anything.

Add in the scenic beauty and the at times harsh elements, good old fashioned greed with a thoroughly modern twist, along with several plot surprises in the last fifty pages and the result is a very good book. Author Mark Stevens has created a very good read that quickly becomes a real page turner and one well worth your reading investment.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2007

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Where is my bookmark?

Currently it is about halfway through THE CONCRETE MAZE by Steven Torres. A cousin is missing in 1992 in New York and the novel chronicles the family's desperate search.

Kevin R. Tipple (c) 2007

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Learning the rules in the "47 Rules Of Highly Effective Bank Robbers" by Troy Cook

This is the third book I have read from Capital Crime Press, the other two are novels from the excellent "Baby Shark" series written by Robert Fate. This book reminded me a lot of those books with dysfunctional parenting, strong daughters with a penchant for violence, and the majority of men being idiots. And yet, their tales go about things in very different ways with humor being a major character in this novel.

47 Rules Of Highly Effective Bank Robbers
By Troy Cook
Capital Crime Press
ISBN # 978-0-9776276-6-0
Large Trade Paperback
282 Pages

Tara Evans didn't mean to shoot her father Wyatt in the foot during a bank robbery. Dubbed the "Crying Bandit" in the media she still wasn't too sure of herself. Of course, being nine years old might have had something to do with it. Truth be told, its just too bad she didn't shoot a bit higher and save everyone some grief.

Something she has regretted a lot by the time she turned twenty-two and was robbing banks in Texas with him. Along with developing the 47 rules for bank robbing, Wyatt has developed a serious like for unnecessarily killing folks. The latest incident has happened in Del Rio. Over the years he has also developed an interest in slapping her around whenever he felt like it, which is pretty often. Tara has also gradually come to the scary realization that he wants more from her than any daughter should ever give her own father.

Thanks to the fiasco in Del Rio, now they are on the run to Arizona as Wyatt works another plan to ensure their continuing freedom while a federal task force is in pursuit. Their cause of freedom is helped by the fact that the task force leader, Special Agent Stratton, aka Agent Blowhard, is an idiot. Much like Wyatt, he likes the violent outcomes of their actions a bit too much. Being the son of a powerful Senator keeps him in his job despite his incredible stupidity and where the highlight of his day, after screaming at the far superior agents below him, is to sit somewhere and watch the playback of the latest incident from the security tapes.

Then, there is Max, the son of a well meaning Arizona Sheriff who loves self help books. While he pushes one book after another on his wayward son in an effort to turn his life around, Max keeps stumbling into trouble. His Sheriff Daddy gets him out of it each and every time and before long Max is right back into it. Tara represents trouble in the worst way and before long, he runs right into her arms.

What follows is a comedic crime novel full of eccentric characters, major does of humor and action, and seriously odd behavior with twisted results. One can't help laughing out loud frequently throughout the book as this roller coaster style read plunges along shifting constantly in point of view through quite a number of characters. Most of the men have serious mental issues and a good portion of the women aren't exactly sane either. For the most part, these are the kind of folks that wouldn't make it on the lowest of the talk shows because the producers would worry about these folks being too out there.

And yet, in Troy Cook's world it works and works well. They grow on you and do so quickly before a couple of chapters have passed. The result is a violent and entertaining read that will keep you guessing until the end.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2007

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

"Touched By Darkness" and a lot more

For my Senior News book review column that runs every month, I try to get a cross section of a lot of different Texas type books for consideration. Back in March or so, I put out a call to one of the local writing groups and was flooded with responses. Because I get so many books anyway for other projects, I am always a bit behind. As such, I'm just now getting to some of these books such as the one today.

Touched By Darkness
By Catherine Spangler
Berkley Sensation
January 2007
ISBN # 978-0-425-21400-8
292 Pages

Atlantis existed thousands of years ago before being destroyed and sinking into the North Atlantic. Its legacy lives on today through reincarnated beings that walk among us mere mortals. Some of them are the sons of Belial who relish chaos and violence. They are opposed by other reincarnated Atlantian souls known as the Sentinels. Just like the Belians, they are mortals that have superhuman powers. They attempt to track and eliminate Belians on behalf of the Sanctioned which are the aides to the priest of Atlantis. Last but not least are the conductors—those rare humans that are genetically capable of linking with a Sentinel. Such is the world envisioned by Richardson, Texas Author Catherine Spangler in the start of her new series.

Seven years ago, Kara's Sentinel lover Richard Wayman was killed in a violent confrontation with a Belian. His legacy for her is two fold---an all encompassing love for him intertwined with the painful memeories of his violent death which she witnessed and their son, Alex. While she can't do much of anything to get rid of the terror filled memories, she can and will do anything in her power to protect their son, Alex. She moved and moved again, each time working to hide their son who gradually showed signs that he has his father's abilities. Eventually they settled in the small Texas town of Zorro where she resumed her medical practice.

All was peaceful and tranquil until one morning she arrives in town with Alex and she senses the power. She hasn't sensed power that strong since Richard and it is clear that the tall man in the duster staring hard at her is the source. He is Damien Morgan; ostensibly a writer for a nationwide magazine and who, in reality is a Sentinel on the trail of a Belian killing in the area. A death, dismissed as natural causes was the work of a Belian and there will be more. The fact that Alex is, an untrained Sentinel and as such broadcasting his own presence, is sure to lure the Belian to them. To protect Alex, Damien must convince Kara of what is happening now and what is to come if he doesn't become part of their lives. For Kara, she is torn between her desire to run yet again, the memories of a man she once loved, the lure Damien represents as he is the first to make her feel this way since Richard, and the danger her young son faces. Gradually, she realizes that running away won't work this time and she has to stand and fight with Damien.

What follows in an entertaining paranormal romance. Simplified greatly, the novel is the age old battle between good and evil. In Catherine Spangler's hands, it becomes something more with rich complex characters full of emotion. Evil threatens in the form of a Belian and yet Kara is one of us all who fears facing again what she has dealt with before. Besides, Damien is clearly a hunk!

It is mildly graphic in a couple of points and some reviewers have complained about that aspect of it arguing that the relationship between Damien and Kara is cheapened by Kara's actions. It would appear that such reviewers are being overly critical of a clear character development issue, though obviously there is a point to their position in that the novel will be read differently by each gender in addition to the personal background of the reviewer. With interesting characters, the occasional plot twist, and plenty of romance this is a novel that delivers a strong read within the genre and is well worth your time.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2007

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Titans Are At It Still In "The Titan's Curse" by Rick Riordan

Marketed for young teen readers, this series works well for adults as well. However, as is the case in most series, you really need to have read the earlier books in the series. That certainly is the case here so begin with "Percy Jackson And The Olympians, Book One: The Lightning thief." And by the way, this San Antonio, Texas author is also the writer of the Tres Navarre mystery series for adults. Those books are well worth the read too.

Percy Jackson And The Olympians, Book Three: The Titan's Curse
By Rick Riordan
Hyperion Books For Children
ISBN # 978-142310145-1
312 Pages

Percy Jackson knows from personal experience that it is hard to be a demigod. Especially one that has to be driven to where he is needed by his Mom. That is exactly what had to be done when Grover called for his help. Percy rounded up a couple of his fellow demigods, Annabeth and Thalia, and went on the eight hour drive from New York City to Bar Harbor, Maine in the sleet and snow. Their mission is to get to Westover Hall and help Grover who has discovered two half bloods at the isolated private school.

Grover has also found a monster on Campus operating in human form. At least it is for now and there is concern that more could be on the way or already present. Grover wants their help to safely rescue the two students, a boy and girl, ages ten and twelve. That rescue of the brother and sister goes horribly wrong and ultimately causes Percy to join another quest against the Titans.

This is the third adventure in the series and another entertaining read for young teens and up. Texas author Rick Riordan does little with regards to character development with Percy or changing the formulaic flow within the novel. Instead, he focuses on action and delivers plenty of it while also explaining how another set of the myths relate to modern times. He also uses the novel as a setup for the coming novel regarding Percy's fate which has been ordained by the oracle to happen once Percy reaches sixteen. With some of the Gods wishing him dead, the fourteen year old Percy continues to try and prove himself through word and deed that he isn't the type of person the Gods should fear.

As such, readers know from the fast moving start that questing will be involved, Percy and friends will battle monsters as they head to the West Coast in another race against time, and that along the way when things appear bleakest, Percy and friends will receive help in unexpected ways. That formula isn't changed here. Adult readers may notice, along with some of the humor that may not be as clear to young teen readers, that after two books in the series it is very obvious when catastrophe will strike. As usual, it strikes often and since it is clearly expected there is less suspense or need to turn the page to find out what is going to happen. While it wouldn't be fair to characterize this book or the series as being in a rut, the author might wish to consider shaking things up, especially in regards to sequencing so that the next works don't follow the exact same formula.

Still, while it does have that stylistic flaw, the novel does provide another entertaining read. Not only is it nice to know where Atlas is living these days and holding up the world, it is also nice to know that the Golden Fleece is still working well at Camp Half Blood. As a parent who really was into mythology while in school, it is really good to see a series such as this bringing mythology up to current times.

I just wish the writer in me had thought of it first!

Kevin R. Tipple © 2007

Monday, July 16, 2007

"A Welcome Grave" by Michael Kortya is a great read

This latest novel featuring P. I. Lincoln Perry is the third book in the series which began with "Tonight I said Goodbye." Some may advocate this novel could be read as a stand alone. I would totally disagree. It would be well worth your time to start in the beginning and work your way forward.

A Welcome Grave
By Michael Kortya
Thomas Dunne Books
July 2007
ISBN # 978-0-312-34011-7
294 Pages

This latest read in the series is another noirish style read with Lincoln Perry dealing with his own past during a current case. Alex Jefferson was tortured and killed in a field near Bedford, south of Cleveland. With no suspects immediately apparent in the field standing over the body or running away from it, Detectives start looking into folks who knew Jefferson and might have held a grudge. People like Lincoln Perry.

Lincoln's grudge as the Detectives see it, would go back a few years ago when Lincoln was engaged to Karen who ended up working in Alex Jefferson's law firm. The boss started noticing her and gradually his efforts at seduction paid off. Lincoln found out they were sleeping together and after consuming a twelve pack of beer, went to Jefferson's country club and beat the living tar out of him. Lincoln left the man alive and was later stopped for drunk driving and eventually charged with assault. Jefferson recovered and married Karen and everyone went on with their lives. Despite keeping mementos from their relationship in a small box, Lincoln doesn't think about what happened much anymore.

That is until now when a few days later Karen calls wanting his help. While sitting in a leather chair in her mansion, Karen tells him that she wants to find Alex's son. The son, Matthew Jefferson, is due to inherit eight million dollars and no one knows where he is. Karen says she wants someone she can trust to find him and tell Matthew what has happened and for that, she is willing to pay Lincoln one percent or eighty thousand dollars. The amount is far in excess what should be paid which does bother Lincoln.

Still eight thousand dollars for a couple of days work would come in very handy right now. Cases haven't been coming in lately. The business is barely afloat and then there is the whole deal with Joe's medical expenses and rehabilitation after he was shot. Guilt is a powerful motivator and Lincoln feels plenty of it so he agrees.

Something that he will soon regret in a case that quickly becomes personal with his very life at stake. Author Michael Kortya once again pulls readers deep into the cynical world of Lincoln Perry in an intense mystery. Part hardboiled and part noir, the read is compelling and intense as it dwells in the shady land in between where Lincoln is at the brink.

While the novel continues character development especially in regards to Lincoln and seems to foreshadow a massive change in his relationship with Joe, it also works heavily with various items from previous novels. As such it is not only hard to discuss the book in great detail, it also strongly behooves those interested in reading the book to start from the beginning with "Tonight I Said Goodbye." In doing so, readers will be introduced to a majority of the characters in Lincoln's world as well as to plot threads that are dealt with in this intense novel by the Edgar nominated author.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2007

Bosch is back in "The Overlook" by Michael Connelly

I have been a big fan of the author, especially in regards to this series, for quite some time. "The Black Echo" and "The Black Ice" which were his first two books in the series were, in my opinion, incredible reads. This latest read in the series can be read as a stand alone if you are new to Michael Connelly's work. If you are new, please go get the first two books. They are well worth it.

The Overlook
By Michael Connelly
Little, Brown and Company
May 2007
ISBN # 978-0-316-01895-1
225 Pages

Detective Harry Bosch has moved to the "Homicide Special" unit of the Los Angeles Police Department. Gone are his days, at least for now, of working old cases. Operating out of Parker Center, the unit deals with cases that have political, celebrity, or media connections or cases that look very tough from the start. Lt. Larry Gandle, his new boss, calls in the middle of the night regarding such a case. Dr. Stanley Kent has been found dead at the overlook above the Mulholland Dam. Matter of death was execution by impact of two bullets into the back of the head.

Bosch and his new partner, Ignacio Ferras are assigned to the case. Not only are their cultural differences and a massive gap in ages, Ferras has a young family to support. New to working with each other, when the case quickly turns into fears of terrorism, Ferras doesn't trust that Bosch is handling things correctly. Dr. Kent was a medical physicist who worked with and had access to radioactive materials that are usually used to treat cancer patients. Since such materials could be used for other things, his name among many others from across the country was on a list maintained by the FBI. Reports of his death and the circumstances surrounding it have reached the FBI. As the federal government ramps up operations, Special Agent Rachel Walling from the Tactical Intelligence Unit returns to assist.

As has been made clear many times in this series, when the FBI arrives to assist, they usually mean to take over. Such events happen here and Bosch has to deal not only with conflict with his own command structure and the FBI, but with his partner as well who doesn't approve of Bosch's methods. Ferras has a lot to think about with his family and his career and Bosch's bulldozer style is not appreciated.

Originally serialized for the "New York Times Magazine" and then expanded for this 225 page novel, this isn't Bosch at his best. I never read the serialization which, according to the note about the author at the end of the book, was "considerably expanded" for this novel. Therefore, I can't address what changes were made.

With regards to the actual novel, there is a certain flatness to the read. A certain lack of humanity, of human feeling in Bosch though he tells readers he is feeling things. That lack of human feeling extends to the discussions of the recent shared past between Walling and Bosch and where they left things, Bosch's relationship with Ferras, Bosch's new job and in many other areas. While readers are constantly told that Bosch is feeling this or that, it is never shown through character action or showed any other way, resulting in an emotionally distant read.

At the same time, the case itself is a decent one that will keep a fair amount of readers guessing to the end. Those with a cynical bent or widely read in the mystery genre will pick up on clues hinted at early in the novel which will be borne out on the end with one final twist in regards to a suspect. While a less than stellar read, Bosch not at his best is still entertaining and readers familiar with the series won't want to let this one get by unread.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2007

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Interesting Reading

Authors should take a look at the article at While written for the non fiction folks, most of the information applies to fiction authors as well.

Food for thought.

Kevin R. Tipple (c) 2007

Thursday, July 12, 2007


While I have seen reports over the last month of several different markets folding, I have also seen reports that some are starting up. One of those coming to life is THE BACK ALLEY which is billing itself as a new short story site for hardboiled, PI, and noir mysteries.

The opening issue which is set to appear tomorrow has names that should be familiar to you if you read mysteries or lurk on any of several lists. In addition to works from G. Miki Hayden, Stephen D. Rogers, and Jack Bludis there is going to be a tale from Carroll Jon Daly and other things. Run by Richard Helms, the venture can be found starting tomorrow at

Sounds interesting and I am looking forward to reading it. Now, if I can find to do that as well as all the other online reading I want and need to do.....

Kevin R. Tipple (c) 2007

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Lee Henry Works Again In "Crosshairs" by Harry Hunsicker

I find myself in the role of having to confess another full and fair disclosure here. I first met Harry Hunsicker at the recent HHCC conference where I found him to be eminently approachable. Actually, he found me first as he reads my work. Just how cool is that? He graciously offered an ARC of his soon to be released novel and like the salivating dog that I am, I happily said yes. I'm glad I did though I do wish I had been a bit more witty and intelligent in his presence.

Crosshairs: A Lee Henry Oswald Mystery
By Harry Hunsicker
Thomas Dunne Books
ISBN #978-0-312-34851-9

This third novel in the series (Still River and The Next Time You Die) finds Lee Henry Oswald and Dallas at the dawn of the new millennium. Lee Henry Oswald is no longer a private investigator; his home is gone, as is his street radar and his moral compass. He's basically just sliding by and trying to avoid everything on every level. Now he tends bar and chases airline stewardess. One in particular, after sleeping with him a second time assumes that they have a relationship. With Lee Henry Oswald living at an extended stay motel near Dallas Love Field she is making a mistake.

So too does Olson shows up at the local bar expecting Lee Henry to come running to help. Also is one of the few living reminders of what went horribly wrong a few months ago. Olson and Lee Henry both were in a Ranger Unit during the first gulf war. Olson brings news that Mike Baxter, another member of their unit, is dying at the Dallas VA Hospital. He needs to see Lee Henry and thanks to Lee Henry's obnoxious boss, Lee Henry is suddenly free.

Ultimately, with his days numbered to a precious few, Mike wants Lee Henry to find his estranged missing daughter, Susan Baxter, and bring her to him. He wants to talk to her one last time. The last thing Lee Henry wants to do is work again as a P.I. but he owes Mike who very well might be dying because of what happened long ago in the desert. He agrees and then moments later gets handed another case by Anita Nazari, a research doctor in the hospital who desperately wants to protect her daughter and keep the police out of it for reasons of her own.

The result is Lee Henry, who wanted no part of the life again is forced back in via two cases that seem to have nothing in common. As the point of view shifts from the doctor, to the trained assassin known only as The Professor, and to Lee Henry author Harry Hunsicker begins to weave two separate tales that have readers knowing much more than Lee Henry. Even though readers do, as the pages pass, it becomes clear that the readers don't have much of an advantage if any at all.

While another enjoyable read in the series, once again one this reader feels like he has been dropped into the latest situation and somehow has missed a novel in the series. Much is hinted in regards to earlier events which seem to rise to the level of being a complete book in their own right. As such with so much change for Lee Henry as well as the stylistic changes such as use of less humor shifting POV, etc. it takes some time before it begins to feel like a Lee Henry Oswald novel.

And yet, after all the shifts, the rather clich├ęd idea of the assassins code name being "The Professor" the novel begins to churn along with the expected violence and dark outlook on life one expects from Lee Henry Oswald. Crosshairs,  as the others do in this series, rolls towards a violent confrontation where finally all the players are all identified. The novel delivers on its promise and once again author Harry Hunsicker delivers another dark and engrossing read regarding the man with the less than helpful name.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2007

Monday, July 09, 2007

Ace is on the case in "Jasmine's Fate" by Randy Rawls

In the interests of fair disclosure, I first met Randy Rawls at the recent HHCC convention in Dallas. A friendly human being and a neat guy was my initial assessment and that never changed. I went away from the conference wishing I had been able to sit and talk to him about writing as well as life in general more than I was able to over those short two days. That same feeling held true while I read his latest novel which was the first book I had ever read by him. Reading his book was one of the few times in my life that it felt like the author was speaking directly to me and telling the story.

Jasmine's Fate
By Randy Rawls
Hilliard and Harris
ISBN #1-59133-215-X
Large Trade Paperback
223 Pages

Dallas, home of the fictional Lee Henry Oswald written by Harry Hunsicker is also home to the fictional Arthur Conan Edwards, Ace to his friends and his writer friend, Randy Rawls. Stylistically opposite in extremes, both are always open to helping damsels in distress especially if it is a redhead as Ace has a weakness for redheads. Summoned by his good friend Clint Ravel, lead detective on a homicide case, Ace leaves his two cats, Sweeper and Striker, home alone to tear up the place while he drives over to meet his latest potential client, Jasmine Loverly.

Ace is divorced, drives a convertible Chrysler Sebring, has a good friend and neighbor, Mr. Harbinger (who keeps an eye out for him), knows a very good lawyer by the name of Candi Maladay, and the fore mentioned two cats and weakness for redheads. Jasmine Loverly is definitely a redhead and definitely beautiful. She is also definitely, a suspect in the murder of Doug Isendorf, III. He died from a kitchen knife being shoved deep into his chest and the beautiful Jasmine, who cries almost continuously, has his blood on her hands. His father is convinced she did it and wants her buried under the jail. When she isn't crying, she's gorgeous and before long, Ace is trying to clear her name while following a trail that leads from Dallas/ Ft. Worth to East Texas and back again.

Released through Hilliard and Harris, this latest novel in the series was a first for me and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Having met and talked with Randy Rawls at the recent HHCC convention in Dallas, I found his book to read just like Randy talks. It’s a cozy style novel told from Ace's viewpoint with a cast of solid recurring characters and an intriguing mystery. Much like Randy, the work carries a quiet confidence that everything will turn out in the end. The result is a comfortable page turning read where the bad guys get theirs in the end, Ace has his girl and his cats, and all is right with the world. Pop a Killian, Ace's drink of choice, and sit back and enjoy.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2007

Friday, July 06, 2007

Reacher returns in "Bad Luck And Trouble" by Lee Child

If you haven't picked up a novel from this series before, you can start here. While it does refer to a couple of things in earlier books, it won't hurt those reads if you read this one first. If you haven't read him—why not?

Bad Luck And Trouble: A Jack Reacher Novel
By Lee Child
Delacorte Press
May 2007
ISBN #978-0-385-34055-9
377 Pages

"So, what's the plan, boss?" Dixon asked, and the question sent Reacher spinning nine years into the past, to the last time he had heard anyone ask it.
"Same as ever," he said. "We investigate, we prepare, we execute. We find them, we take them down, and then we piss on their ancestors' graves."(Page 110)

This has always summed up Reacher's attitude towards his enemies—foreign and domestic. That attitude isn't about to change in the eleventh novel of the series which does find him occasionally questioning some of the financial choices he has made since he left the service. Reacher is still a drifter with very little to his name and for the most part is content with his free floating lifestyle. Frances Neagley from his old CID team knows how he thinks and gets a message to him through his bank balance on his latest ATM receipt. Reacher makes his way to Los Angeles and knowing how she thinks, and knowing that she knows how he thinks, etc. quickly is able to find her and meet.

At least one of their old team has been brutally killed by being dumped from a helicopter at three thousand feet without a parachute and other members are not answering her messages. Frances and Reacher could be the only survivors as it appears that the entire team is being hunted and systematically eliminated. They don't know why or what they are up against and the clock is ticking against them. Their first stumbling forays into the investigation lead them into a maze of death and deceit, military weapons contracts, and plenty of action that always characterize a Jack Reacher novel.

With this being the eleventh novel in the series there is little new insight into the Jack Reacher character. Long time readers know most of the back story briefly covered in the novel and as such there are no real surprises just a couple of confirmations of previously implied events. Instead the focus is on the action as Reacher leads a mission that honors the old CID motto.

"You do not mess with the special investigators."

The result is a revenge and retaliation read that rockets along and focuses on action. Action becomes a secondary character always a page or two away and Reacher, never known for having patience or subtly, reacts hard at every turn. This isn't a deep thinking book as the brief moments that Reacher contemplates his financial situation are always short and resolved by him punching someone, driving cars through fences, or some other violent act that ultimately gets the job done. The job always gets done with Reacher on the case and one wouldn't want it any other way.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2007

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Men Are Often Bad in "Fringe Benefits" by F. M. Meredith

Sometimes one can't help joining a series after the first couple of books have come out. Such is the case here with Meredith's "Rocky Bluff Police Department" series.

Fringe Benefits
By F. M. Meredith
Tigress Press, LLC
ISBN # 0-9771601-9-X
Large Trade Paperback
184 Pages

The third novel in the Rocky Bluff Police Department series opens with base behaviors depicting bad men. A young mother is raped in her apartment building's laundry room on a Wednesday morning. Cal Sylvester is a training officer for the rookie Gordon Butler and he hates it though he admits that Gordon's wife makes it somewhat worthwhile. He fully intends to get intimately acquainted with her despite his own marriage and hers. Elsewhere in the small town, an out of control teenager plots his escape.

Those are just a few of the storylines in the slice of life police procedural style novel by F. M. Marilyn known to most as Marilyn Meredith. As the days pass and the cases intermingle, so do the lives of numerous officers depicted in this novel. Some will do the right thing as they serve and protect their community and each other. Others will dishonor the badge they wear and the oaths they took and slide downhill morally bankrupt. Stress is a common theme throughout all their lives and the way the characters cope with the demands of the job at work and off duty tells readers everything they need to know in this ongoing series.

The result is an entertaining read that holds reader interest with several twist and turns. While not as gritty or intense as other reads in this genre niche, this novel is interesting and enjoyably depicts police life in a fictional small town. The concepts covered are universal and apply not only to members of law enforcement but for any readers who work in high stress jobs. The book, though short on length, delivers a good tale told well and one that for the most part is completely resolved by the end of the book.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2007

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

No one really is in "Gun Shy" by Ben Rehder

Humor is a delicate thing and certainly that is true in mysteries. The author runs the risk of alienating readers in an attempt to be funny. Humor is subjective and those that swim happily in the politically correct ocean don't appreciate humor. I'm not one of those and if you still read my columns and reviews, I suspect you aren't one either. Neither is Texas author Ben Rehder and the book is funny as well as being very good.

Gun Shy
By Ben Rehder
St. Martin's Minotaur
ISBN# 978-0-312-35752-8
May 2007

John Marlin has been a game warden in Blanco County, Texas for more than twenty years. He has stories to tell about the amazingly stupid things he has seen folks do and the things they have said to him. Like the day when a woman who had just recently moved down from Dallas called to complain about the wild deer in her yard eating her plants. She thought that if the deer crossing sign was removed from the street in front of her house the deer wouldn't show up in her yard anymore.

So when Ken Bell who has been around since just after World War II calls, he isn't too worried. That is until Ken explains that in an effort to run off the latest poacher on his land he left fly with some birdshot. Except his shotgun was loaded instead with buckshot and the man fell over and isn't moving. Ken is afraid to go take a look and thinks the man is dead. John Marlin quickly confirms that the young Hispanic man is dead. But, he wasn't killed by Ken Bell.

He's been dead for a couple of days and the scene was staged to make it look like a hunting accident. Ironic as in just a few days the National Weapons Alliance is set to rally in support of the right to carry guns for every American at the nearby ranch of current country and western superstar Mitch Campbell. A man that seems to have more in common with the late Elvis than anyone else and is a rolling freight train of disaster.

What follows is a cozy style mystery read packed with multiple secondary storylines, numerous characters, and plenty of pointed humor directed at both sides of the gun debate as well as other targets. Author Ben Rehder pulls no punches and by the end of the book, it isn't clear which side received more plates of heaping scorn. Along the way, he takes shots at the media, misguided celebrity worship, modern day marketing of music, and numerous other groups and individuals. It becomes tempting to try to link various characters and groups with their real life counterparts as often the fictional veil is very thin indeed.

However, the book is fiction and as such, the read is often laugh out loud funny. While the main storyline of the original killing involving game warden John Marlin is obvious, almost nothing else is which serves the overall purpose for keeping the reader interested and entertained. The result is a funny, occasionally coarse read, that works on every level and does so without the author drawing attention to himself.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2007