Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Reviewing: "Eden Palms Murder: A Key West Mystery" by Dorthy Francis

Bailey Green has returned to Key West to help her elderly friend, Francine Shipton. She will live in a guest cottage at the Eden Palms estate while working as her secretary and gofer on a project to help the homeless on the island. It also gives Bailey a chance to at least work on her music part time while she escapes the Iowa winter and recent painful memories. A good plan for both Bailey and Francine and one that both are very much looking forward to as the novel begins.

Too bad Francine Shipton is dead.

While Bailey was waiting at the airport for Francine to pick her up, neighbor Winton Gravely discovered Francine lying dead at the bottom of the stairs in her house. Of course it could have just been a freak accident that resulted in an accidental death. If it was an accident, how would one explain the fact that a dead black snake was wrapped around her neck twice with the head shoved through Francine’s mouth and deep into her throat?

Clearly, it was murder though the police don’t seem to want to accept the obvious in the beginning. The question is who did it? The suspects are many, the clues few, and before long Bailey Green has set her music aside in favor of sleuthing.

Featuring the same quirky characters as her other books set in Key West, author Dorothy Francis once again brings Key West to life for readers. Along with plenty of historical trivia and cultural nuggets, eccentric characters and a hint of romance, there is greed, deceit and murder in this latest cozy style novel. Homage is paid to the mystery masters as well with an early scene depicting all the suspects and the police detective gathered together in the solarium.

An enjoyable novel from start to finish, one wonders if this is the first novel in a planned new series. If so, this book is a rock solid foundation to build from. If not, this latest cozy style novel from the author is another very enjoyable read and one worthy of your attention.

Eden Palms Murder: A Key West Mystery
Dorothy Francis
Five Star (Gale/Cengage Learning)
October 17, 2008
ISBN# 1-59414-702-7
273 Pages

ARC provided by the author in exchange for my objective review.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2009

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Reviewing: "Vogue Knitting: Cables-Mittens, Hats & Scarves (On The Go Series)"

“Classic, deceptively easy to make, and with unisex appeal, cables are considered by many to embody the essence of knitting. The beautiful twists, turns and sways of a cable can be accomplished using just a few simple techniques, and the mittens, hats, and scarves in this book provide the perfect small-scale projects for letting your imagination take flight” (Introduction)

This small compact hard back book delivers on that concept from start to finish. The opening section provides a detailed look at the basics which include yarn, yarn substitutions, how to read a chart, how to gauge correctly and many other useful things.
Then there are the diagrams showing how to front cable, back cable, work a yarn over, deal with fringe, joining rounds. Also included in this section are a glossary of terms and a small chart explaining the skill levels in the book.

Starting on page 24 with the “Cabled Cap” it is on to the projects. Each project has a color picture of the finished deal, detailed instructions, and a representation of the skill level needed. Primarily focused on hats/caps and scarfs, there are also a couple of patterns for sets of mittens/cap or scarf/mittens.

Of the twenty-one projects in the book, not a single one is classified as “beginner.” Only a couple are classified as “Very Easy” which is defined in this book as “basic stitches, minimal shaping, and simple finishing.” Most are either classified as “Intermediate” or “Experienced “which is for knitters “able to work patterns with complicated shaping and finishing” So this isn’t a book for beginners.

Part of the “On The Go” series from Vogue this small colorful book is designed for those who have a lot of experience knitting. Knitter’s that may find the lack of a variety in the projects a bit limiting as well as the fact that many of the projects are found easily on the web or in other books of more depth and variety.

Vogue Knitting: Cables-Mittens, Hats & Scarves (On The Go Series)
Vogue Editors
Sixth & Spring Books
ISBN # 1-933027-39-8
96 Pages

Review copy provided by the good folks of the Plano, Texas Public Library System.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2009

Friday, June 26, 2009

Barry's Reviews: "Son Of A Wanted Man" by Louis L'Amour

By Louis L’Amour

During the course of the past year and a half or thereabouts, I’ve become happily reacquainted with one of the joys of my childhood, the western. It began when Turner Classic Movies ran a Roy Rogers movie marathon. This in turn prompted me to rent Hopalong Cassidy films from Netflix, and to buy some from Amazon.com. I also rented movies, primarily the kind of B-westerns I grew up watching on TV in the early 1950s, featuring other cowboy stars: Buck Jones, Bob Steele, Allan “Rocky” Lane, Lash LaRue, “Wild Bill” Elliott, Tim Holt, Dick Foran, Charles Starrett as the Durango Kid, and Bob Livingston, Ray “Crash” Corrigan, and Max Terhune as the Three Mesquiteers. My Netflix queue is loaded with others yet to come.

For all that I enjoyed watching westerns, I’d read very few. Except for a handful of short stories (mostly found at the Online Pulps website), the only novel I’d read was Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses. I remembered Louis L’Amour from his instant best-sellerdom years ago. When a neighbor’s yard sale made his Son of a Wanted Man available, I bought it.

In it we meet Mike Bastian, who has been raised from childhood by his adoptive father, Ben Curry, for the life of a successful outlaw. As one of his “trainers,” a man named Roundy, says:

“…You can track like an Apache. In the woods you’re a ghost, and I doubt if old Ben Curry himself can throw a gun as fast and accurate as you. You can ride anything that wears hair, an’ what you don’t know about cards, dice, roulette, and all the rest of it, nobody knows. You can handle a knife, fight with your fists, and open anything made in the way of safes and locks.

“Along with that he’s seen you got a good education, so’s you can handle yourself in any kind of company. I doubt if any boy ever got the education and training you’ve had, and now Ben is ready to step back an’ let you take over.”

Ben Curry has never been caught because he’s smart, he’s a careful planner, and unlike other outlaws, he doesn’t want a “reputation.” His wife and daughters, who live back east, don’t know anything about this aspect of his life. They think he’s a rancher named Ben Ragan whose business transactions keep him traveling a great deal of the time. Curry has been highly selective about the men he uses to pull off the robberies he plans. He wants men who also don’t seek to advertise themselves as tough criminals.

What he doesn’t know is that two tough lawmen, Borden Chantry and Tyrel Sackett, have begun to detect a pattern in his modus operandi, and are closing in.

Mike Bastian’s problem? Deciding whether he wants to lead an outlaw’s life or stick to the straight path.

As events unfold, the matter is largely decided when Curry’s life and the life of one of his daughters, Juliana, is threatened by a band of men Curry recruited and who have, for years, benefited by his recruitment. Harrowing circumstances compel Bastian and others loyal to Curry to try to hunt down these renegades. Among the hunters is Curry’s other daughter, Drusilla, to whom Bastian is strongly attracted—and vice versa.

Since this is the first novel I’ve read by the late Louis L’Amour, I can only assume it’s representative of the way he wrote his many other novels. He was clearly a storyteller, and a man who wrote in a style free of any verbal furbelows and flourishes. The story itself is compelling, even if there are passages here and there that are repetitious, and despite the intimacy between Mike Bastian and Drusilla Ragan that strikes me as abrupt and false as the almost instant, unlikely connections seen in many B-western films.

L’Amour has one mannerism—in this book, at least—that’s annoying in its misuse. He’s fond of sentences that open with participial phrases, sentences meant to describe simultaneous actions. All too often, the simultaneities he describes are impossible. If I write, for example, “Striding across the floor of the bunkhouse, he unbuckled his holster,” the reader can picture someone walking and unbuckling at the same time. Now consider a line from L’Amour. After telling us that Borden Chantry “went to the stove for the coffeepot,” implying that he had to rise from his seat, move across the room, and then fill his and Sackett’s cups, he writes, “Returning the pot to the stovetop, he sat down, straddling his chair,” suggesting that Chantry is the Old West’s equivalent of Plastic Man. Here’s a “twofer”: “Walking back to the table Dru took the chimney from the lamp, struck a match, and touched it to the wick. Replacing the lamp globe she drew back a chair.” This is a flexible, multi-talented multi-tasker!

In both examples, the addition of the word “after” at the beginning of each sentence would have corrected the errors.

You may have also noted that the second L’Amour example could stand some commas. Which is to say that Bantam Books, the publisher, could have used a good copy editor. Then again, considering the general quality of book editing for years now, along with the way English is taught, I’m not sure the majority of readers will notice the grammatical nits I’ve picked.

Nits notwithstanding, Son of a Wanted Man is a fast-paced, exciting piece of entertainment. It may not be a masterpiece, but it’s a lot better than a Tex Ritter movie.

Barry Ergang (c) 2009

Former Managing Editor of Futures Mystery Anthology Magazine and current First Senior Editor of Mysterical-E, Barry Ergang's work has appeared in numerous publications, print and electronic. He was a 2007 Derringer Award winner.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Reviewing: "Terminal Freeze" by Lincoln Child

Fear Glacier is located in the Artic area known as the “Zone.” A stretch of northeastern Alaska bounded by the Artic Ocean, Artic National Wildlife Refuge and the Yukon’s Ivvavik National Park is labeled as the “Zone” and home to the “Mount Fear Remote Sensing Installation.” A former military base that was part of the early warning system stretching across the Artic and site of a disaster approximately fifty years ago. It is here where a team of researchers funded by a broadcast entertainment company is studying the effects of global warming. The effects are widespread and demonstrably obvious as the Fear Glacier is calving apart rapidly.

The continuing collapse of the front of Fear Glacier reveals the yawning mouth of a cave. Deep inside the cave, members of the team soon make a unique discovery. A creature is frozen in the ice floor with its yellow eyes staring out at them. While some express caution regarding the idea of cutting the creature out of the ice and thawing it others are gung ho about doing so.

Of course, despite repeated warnings from various parties, the creature is cut from the ice and the warming process is started. Before long, disaster strikes as the creature disappears, folks start dying various horrible deaths, and the weather makes escape impossible.

This is not a unique premise by any stretch of the imagination. So, the story better be mighty good to carry the book forward. Unfortunately and rather surprisingly, Author Lincoln Child fails on this in almost every instance. Who will die next is very obvious as is the failure of various strategies to save lives. As the battle for survival continues, the group psychologically fractures upon totally predictable lines, the weather continues to deteriorate and one is reminded of the classic “The Thing” over and over again.

This one from Lincoln Child totally fails in all aspects and isn’t worth any of your time at the beach or pool. Skip it and do yourself a favor.

Terminal Freeze
Lincoln Child
Random House Large Print
ISBN# 978-0-7393-2826-2
443 Pages

Book provided by the good folks of the Plano, Texas Public Library System.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2009

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Myron Bolitar returns in "Long Lost" By Harlan Coben

Myron Bolitar returns in a dark and disturbing tale that is as much social commentary as it is a mystery. The last time Myron Bolitar was with Terese Collins was nearly ten years ago on a tropical island. She might have been the one for him and then she disappeared. Now, all this time later and out of the blue she calls and asks him to drop everything and join her in Paris. There is something more to her request than she is letting on, but Milton isn’t just going to jump on a plane for her. Too much time has passed and he has a new relationship now.

At least, he thought he did. But, Ali has plans for her and her son Jack and the plans don’t involve Myron. That fact, along with the possibility of facing charges in an assault case, quickly pushes Myron to take the trip to Paris. After a strange incident with immigration and others at the airport, he meets Terese. That meeting soon leads to upheaval, pain, numerous deaths and an appalling discovery.

Part of what always made this series entertaining was the humor angle. Puns and jokes in the dialogue between Win (his good friend and back up) and Myron always seemed natural and spontaneous. So too was the sarcasm expressed by Myron towards other characters and himself. That enjoyable humor is missing in this book. The puns, jokes and sarcasm are all there but in virtually every case the effort comes across as forced and flat. They simply aren’t funny and often reflect more of an elementary school level humor that just doesn’t work. The humor and sarcasm might have also failed because of the dark and horrifying nature of the mystery which provides the backdrop of the book. Beyond the fact that Terese needs help and the horrible secrets in her history, there is an overall darkness to the book that provides a considerable amount of social commentary.

It could also be the fact that since there have been several stand alone novels from author Harlan Coben since the last Myron Bolitar book he might now be incapable of writing the same type of enjoyable Bolitar book. Authors evolve and change (at least the good ones who aren’t writing cookie cutter books that are the same book after book) and writing styles change as do the tastes of readers. But, that quality of humor described above is clearly missing and sorely lacking.

The return of Myron Bolitar, Win and occasionally Esperanza is bittersweet at best. The case is interesting and there are plenty of twists to keep one interested to the horrifying conclusion. But, the read is reminiscent of losing touch with a good friend for years and then getting back in contact only to discover that the other person has radically changed.

And maybe you have too.

Long Lost
Harlan Coben
Thorndike Press
ISBN #1-4104-1250-4
Hardback—Large Print
461 Pages

Book provided by the good folks of the Plano, Texas Public Library System.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2009

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Reviewing: "Dining with Devils: A Tasmanian Thriller" by Gordon Aalborg

Riding the wave of publicity generated by his true crime thriller the “Specialist” writer Teague Kendall is in Tasmania. The small island off the coast of Australia was home to the serial killer who layed a trail of death from Tasmania to a cave system close to Kendall’s home on Vancover Island, Canada. Luckily, both Kendall and his girlfriend, Kristen Knelsen escaped his evil clutches and everyone believes the killer who liked to feast on his victims is dead.

While Teague and Kristen are trying to date, many things are interfering with any possible relationship. She has made the trip with him and while he is at a gundog trial, she is deep underground in a nearby cave system. Both were traumatized by the events and both are dealing with it in very different ways. Their relationship has huge issues and not just because Teague will never step foot in a cave again despite Kristen’s love of caving.

Neither knows that Dr. Ralph Stafford, the man now known as the “Specialist” is very much alive and well. Reconstructive surgery has altered his face, but nothing changed his voice. He has made major plans now that the both have come to his home of Tasmania. It is a toss up whether he likes the chase and capture more than the killing and eating. Recent events have caused a big appetite and he has plenty to savor and the time to do it as his various victims stumble into his trap.

Often the second book in a series does not meet the standards of the first. That is not true here in a tale that avoids the main hallmarks of the first book: coincidence and the gross out factor. Coincidence does not drive this book unlike the first one. Instead, believability rules the day with events happening for all characters in a logical progression and without coincidence. The gross out factor is limited in this book while it often seemed to exist in the first book just to make one ill while reading. This time most of the descriptive parts relating to a butchered human body are found primarily in the last forty pages or so though there is one scene earlier in the book that will bother some readers. As with the first book it is not recommended to read while eating. Based on the condition of many library books I get eating while reading seems to be a favorite pastime of many book borrowers.

This novel works more on the psychological aspects of who people are and why they do what they do. In so doing, the major and most of the minor questions involving the first book and the time preceding this novel are answered. This is done while taking readers through multiple storylines converging on a series of dark events in the countryside of Tasmania. An exotic locale, dialogue that flows well and is natural, and a host of returning characters in a breakneck mystery/thriller make this a good book worth reading.

Dining with Devils: A Tasmanian Thriller
Gordon Aalborg
Five Star Mysteries (Gale/Cengage)
April 2009
ISBN# 978-1-59414-749-4
211 Pages

E-Book review copy provided by the author in exchange for my objective review.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2009

Friday, June 19, 2009

Reviewing: "Jade’s Photos: Blackmail in Grand Saline (An Ace Edwards Mystery)" by Randy Rawls

For Dallas Private Investigator Arthur Conan Edwards (Ace) three in the morning is usually not a good time. His sleep is frequently interrupted by the ringing of the phone. Usually it is Jake about a case, but occasionally, it is a client in need that Jake has referred. Of course the call will make Ace grumpy, but in the end he will agree to meet the client or Jake somewhere in a few hours.

In this case, it is Johnny Nicholas who calls and he is being blackmailed over an affair he had with a beautiful woman. While his wife might look the other way, his rich and powerful mother-in-law won’t. A mother-in-law who has controlled everything in his life for years and isn’t going to take well seeing pictures of her son-in-law cheating on her daughter.

Before long Ace is in the middle of a blackmail case in Grand Saline, Texas. He has Kit along for backup and assistance in a case that quickly goes nasty with many suspects and several murders. Along the way in a story told primarily from the viewpoints of Ace and Kit, their relationship and his past are used to continue an ongoing secondary storyline regarding Ace’s fallen love.

The result is a story that frequently alludes to earlier books in the series while constantly moving forward in a twisting case on many different paths. Relationships are a theme throughout the book both in terms of dysfunctional love and the choices one makes in loving others. This interesting twisting tale further develops Ace’s character along with Kit’s while providing plenty of mystery, action and a bit of Texas folklore and culture to keep readers highly entertained. Once again Randy Rawls has another strong novel in his series worth reading.

Jade’s Photos: Blackmail in Grand Saline (An Ace Edwards Mystery)
Randy Rawls
ISBN# 0-595-26381-X
Trade Paperback
215 Pages

Review copy provided by the author in exchange for my objective review.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2009

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Reviewing: "The Good-To-Go Cookbook" by Kathleen Cannata Hanna

Designed for working families busy with school and after school activities this book encourages folks to bypass the fast food places and frozen foods section of the grocery store. Instead of paying for convienice, plan ahead for a week, shop once, and make your meals at home. The usual advice seen in many such books and stuff we have all heard many times before. In our case, much easier said than done.

After an introduction that is filled with tips on meal and menu planning, getting your teens involved in the kitchen beyond doing dishes and instead actually cooking, (which should also serve as reminder to check those smoke detector batteries and the expiration dates on the fire extinguishers) organizing your kitchen and pantry and other basic matters, the book in a chapter by chapter format covers all meal times and snacks.

Fittingly, the first chapter “Fast Break for Breakfast” covers the meal which is still the most important of the day. Mom was right and didn’t need a government study to confirm it. After a brief commentary on encouraging teens to eat right and what breakfast foods to eat and what to avoid, the recipes finally begin on page 17. Leading off is “Fresh Fruit Cups” consisting of strawberries, bananas, apples, cherries, grapes, kiwi, etc, sliced and diced before being placed into waffle cones. If that doesn’t work for you, the “Breakfast Pizza” (p.22-23), Waffle Sandwich (p. 26), “Muffins Made Easy” (p.31) or any of the others might work for you.

Chapter Two is about “Super Snacks” which are teen friendly and teens are encouraged to make. Smoothies and floats of various types start off the chapter before moving into such things as “Fruit Kabobs With Yogurt Dip” (P.45), “Aunt Mary’s Cheese Ball” (p. 53), “Macho Nachos” (P.57), “Great Granola Crumble” (p. 69) and many others. Like the opening chapter, the recipes here are relatively easy to make with some a little more complex than others. Ingredients and easy to follow directions are the mainstay of these recipes along with the occasional tip.

“Grab and Go” is the theme of Chapter Three aimed for that rushing period when you have to get everyone ready right after you get home to get to the game, mandatory band practice or other after school activity. Not only things that you can eat in the car, but anytime foods and stuff that is good for you is the focus here. After some more generalized helpful tips, this chapter opens with “Tom’s Turkey Roll” (p. 78) moves on to “Ham Pockets” (p. 81) and “Southwest- Style Cheesy Bread” (p. 89) among many others.

Working off of “Soups, Salads, and Sandwiches” is Chapter Four titled “The Lunch Crunch.” Ease of preparation, speed and nutrition remain the key factors in a chapter that opens with “Texas Corn Chowder (p. 94). Many recipes follow including “Blue Cheese and Walnut Salad” (p.101), “Simple Stew “(p. 109), “Ultimate Travel Sandwich” (p. 125) which uses French bread to serve as a basis for a sub, and “Open Faced Pizza Hoagies” (p. 126).

The next several chapters work on the problem of dinner from a time angle. Chapter Five starts this part of the book with the idea of “15-Minute Dishes.” These recipes work for a main course and can easily be doubled for company. Or doubled because you have a teenager that doubles as a human vacuum cleaner sucking up anything edible in sight. “Salmon Burgers” ( p. 130) starts things off before giving way to “Hamburger Crumble” (p. 136), “Quick Tuna-Noodle Casserole” (p. 139), “15-Mminute Chicken and Rice” (p. 182) and others.

“Thirty-Minute Dishes “comes in the next chapter for those with just a little more time. Whether it is “Grilled Spicy Chicken Stix” (p. 151), “Quickest Meatloaf In The West” (p. 163), “Savory San Antonio Pork Cutlets” (p.167), “Red Bean Burgers” (p. 175) or many others you are sure to find several that will work for you and your family.

Chapter Seven is aimed at “Family Meals and One-Pot Deals.” Recipes designed for the family meal that involves everyone these include such recipes as “Chili-Baked Chicken” (p. 185), “Pizza Steak” (p.195) and “Classic Williams Pot Roast” (p.201) among many others. Cooking times (which does not include preparation time) run from thirty minutes to a couple of hours with each recipe having a number of preparation steps. While these are all easily done (like the others in this book) the preparation and cooking times are longer and they are aimed for that time when you have more time to eat with the family. Also included in this chapter are several marinades and dry rubs that can be used for other recipes.

“Pasta please “is the theme of chapter eight which revolves around make things everyone will eat. The trick here is to get the pasta cooking while mixing other ingredients in a way to efficiently use your time. Surprisingly, an obvious choice of “Spaghetti” isn’t in this chapter or in the book for that matter. Instead, recipes for “Caesar Pasta Salad” (p. 233) “Rotini Mexicalli” (p. 237), “Kids-Love-This-Pasta Pasta” (p. 240) which includes Broccoli (something my sons feel that having to eat is a part of the Spanish Inquisition) and “Sausage and Mozzarella Lasagna” (p. 249) among others.

“Simple Side Dishes” follows with things like “Greens and Cheese” (p. 256), “Cheddar Onion Pudding Pie” (p. 261), “Quick Potato Bake” (p. 267) and others. Forget just sticking a potato in the oven to cook like Mom used to do and the garnish was butter. No, here the garnish is sour cream, butter, cheese, chives, etc along with feta cheesy bread crumbs, green peppers and other things.

If, somehow, you have any room left there are the recipes in “Desert On A Dime.” This final chapter covers things like “Chewy Chip Cookies” (p. 282), “Fool’s Strawberry Cheesecake” (p. 237), "White Jersey Pizza” (p. 295) and many others.

A metric conversion chart and a seven page index bring this 327 page cookbook to a close. A cookbook filled with plenty of easy to follow recipes that will consistently create good food for any time of the day and schedule.

However, there are two drawbacks. The less serious one is the fact that unlike many cookbooks, this one has zero pictures. There are not any pictures of the finished dishes or of any step in the cooking process so that one can know if he or she is on the right track. With the book promoting heavily the involvement of teens, pictures would have been a nice touch to help them especially since they don’t have the cooking background and experience many adults have.

The other issue is more serious. While each recipe does tell you how many it will make, it doesn’t tell you the fat count, salt, etc. Considering that the entire book is guided by the idea of providing nutritional meals and avoiding high in fat/salt, etc. frozen dinners, and fast food, the omission of such information is surprising. One would expect such information to be included automatically in any cookbook these days and the fact that it isn’t hurts the overall usefulness of the book. It should be noted that many of the recipes call for adding prepackaged sauces and the like which usually will be heavy in salt, fat, etc. The use of such items does seem contrary to the idea of nutrition being so important in the book but the use of such items will give you a starting point in gauging the recipe from a fat, salt, etc content.

Despite that huge and glaring flaw, the overall cookbook is a good one. Filled with plenty of simple practical recipes for good food, easy to understand tips, and other useful info, the book works well and is a good one to have in your kitchen. Unfortunately, because of the omission of actual nutritional numbers and pictures, the book isn’t as good as it could have been.

The Good-to-Go Cookbook: Take-Along Food, Quick Suppers, and Satisfying Snacks for On-the-Go Families
Kathleen Cannata Hanna
Storey Publishing
ISBN# 978-1-60342-076-1
327 Pages

Material provided by the good folks of the Plano, Texas Public Library System.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2009

Monday, June 15, 2009

Reviewing: "The Surest Poison: A Sid Chance Mystery" by Chester D. Campbell

Private Investigator Sid Chance prefers the solitary life at his rustic cabin located somewhere fifty miles east of Nashville. He’d spent three years there after his career as a small town police chief abruptly ended. Before that, he was a park ranger and that career abruptly ended. He has a history of not playing well with others and not being very good at the game of politics at work. Being a private investigator is a good fit and he has his friend Jasmine Le Mieux to thank for that.

Jasmine Le Mieux, ex cop and chairman of the board of Welcome Traveler Stores (a chain of truck stops) also referred his latest client, Arnie Bailey of the law firm Bailey, Riddle and Smith. It seems Arnie Bailey’s client, Wade Harrington, owns and operates a small company just outside Ashland City that makes specialty shipping boxes. Residents in the area are dealing with the results of an environmental disaster. State investigators have found that trichloroethylene also known as TCE was dumped at his plant at some point in the past. The chemical was probably dumped onto the ground many times and has contaminated local well water and the public water supply. As the current landowner, Wade Harrington is being blamed and will have to pay claims and damages along with clean up costs. It could financially ruin him and his small company Harr Co.

Wade Harrington isn’t responsible as TCE isn’t anything they have ever used and isn’t part of any manufacturing process for his company. But, as current owner of the property he is going to be held accountable unless the previous ownership can be found. The lawyer, Annie Bailey, wants the people actually responsible to be identified and tracked down so that if they are still alive, they can be held accountable. It won’t be easy and it will mean dealing with some of the people responsible for Sid’s previous problems.

Author Chester D. Campbell has crafted the first novel of no doubt a new series far different in style and tone from his very enjoyable Greg McKenzie mysteries. While this book and that series share the commonality of being cozies where history does play a role, this book features a much murkier central character that strongly prefers to go it alone. He certainly isn’t Greg McKenzie in style or tone and not just because McKenzie is married and Sid isn’t. There is a hard edge to Sid Chance that is always present and not just in situations that call for it.

Pacing is different as well as this novel takes far longer to get going in a meaningful way as compared to the Greg McKenzie novels. Fans that really enjoy that character may be slow to appreciate Sid as the book does not read anything like what one is used to from the pen of Chester D. Campbell. Which is not to say the book is not good. It most certainly is. However, the contrasts between the two different series are obvious and it does take time to accept the viewpoint of Sid Chance when one is very used to old friend Greg McKenzie.

The Surest Poison: A Sid Chance Mystery
Chester D. Campbell
Night Shadows Press, LLC
April 10, 2009
ISBN# 978-0-9799167-9-3
272 Pages

ARC provided by the author in exchange for my objective review.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2009

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Reviewing: "The eBay Business Answer Book" by Cliff Ennico

Written by lawyer and faculty member of eBay University, Cliff Ennico, this book aims to answer “The 350 Most Frequently Asked Questions About Making Big Money On eBay.” Written in a question and answer format through twenty one chapters the book is designed for those who want to move beyond selling as a hobby to selling as a business. And, of course, make a lot of money.

Using a team of certified eBay instructors, established marketing gurus, and others the author address various topics as to how to sell stuff at a higher rate, acquiring goods to sell, what not to sell or even think about trying to sell, shipping, various legal issues and how to handle many different difficult and time consuming problems. Each chapter is written in clear and concise language in a question and answer format with answers provided by many different experts. The questions depict various realistic scenarios and the answers are comprehensive and practical. Unlike many such books, the answers are helpful and do not serve as infomercials for the particular person answering the question.

Along with the questions/answers format of each chapter, there are a number of helpful appendices at the back of the book. Several of the appendices will take readers through the various ways of finding business answers on the eBay site. Other appendices list examples of things that can and can’t be deducted for taxes, types of businesses, etc. Also included is a six page index bringing this 310 page well written and comprehensive book to a close.

While Cliff Ennico is clearly bullish on eBay, unlike many books on the subject that are little more than opportunistic propaganda for certain selected sellers, there is a practicality and fair amount of objectivity to this book. Comprehensive and detailed, the book points out the pros and cons with eBay and various issues related to having a business on the site. While eBay is promoted, it is done calmly and rationally as a business opportunity that will work for some people and might not work for others. Along the way to making it big from a money standpoint, he points out the traps on the eBay financial superhighway. There are many books on eBay and this is one you most definitely should have in your personal library.

The eBay Business Answer Book
Cliff Ennico
American Management Association
ISBN# 0-8144-0045-0
310 Pages

Book provided by the good folks of the Plano, Texas Public Library System.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2009

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Reviewing: "Pariah" by Dave Zeltserman

After eight long years, Kyle Nevin is finally out of prison. One of three men who basically controlled Boston before he wound up in prison the last eight years was hard. But, unlike others faced with long stretches of prison time, he never talked about anyone else. This South Boston Irish mobster kept silent about everyone which included his former boss Red Mahoney who set him up to take the fall. Red deserves special treatment and the plans for that allowed Kyle to stay strong no matter what prison he was in.

The welcome home is far different than he expected. The passing of the last eight years has had repercussions far and wide and nobody is what he or she was when he stepped inside. His brother Danny has fallen far economically and can’t go back to the Southie neighborhood as he made his own plea deal with restrictions for life. Danny has gone legit, much to Kyle’s disgust, and isn’t looking to go back to a life of crime. Ma is dead too and Kyle’s prison time and all the stress most likely caused that. His old girlfriend dumped him pretty quick after he went inside. Nobody messed with Kyle before he went in and got away with it. Now that he is back out, he intends to reassert control, get the money flowing again, and find Red Mahoney. He’s going to need some competent and silent help and that is easier said than done.

Heavily reminiscent of his earlier novel “Small Crimes” also released from Serpent Tail,

this novel also follows a con and his return to civilization. Unlike the previous book where the con was trying to follow the straight and narrow path, Kyle Nevin is all about getting back in charge and living large. Being legit is never part of Kyle’s thinking. Revenge regarding Red Mahoney is the theme of the book from start to finish with Kyle trying various ways of accomplishing that ultimate task all the way through to the final twist at the end. An end that seems both a surprise and yet obvious when one considers the entire work.

Along the way there is plenty of dark humor, violence, and social commentary about what it means to be a celebrity these days. This is especially true in terms of publishing and media hype in these days of celebrity no talent writers and their ghost writer counterparts. An unseemly side of publishing and yet such tomes prove to be one of the most popular with the book buying public.

A heavily atmospheric noir style novel much like “Small Crimes” the book takes you deep into the world of Boston and its suburbs. Dave Zeltserman manages the rare feat of making a locale become a living breathing character. A locale often just as dark and twisted in its own way as the characters that populate it. In short, “Pariah” is another good book from Dave Zeltserman. Another good and depraved tale that is filled with plenty of atmosphere, dark individuals, and scathing social commentary all the way to the twisted and violent end.

Dave Zeltserman
Serpent’s Tale
October, 2009
ISBN# 978-1846686436

Review copy provided by Meryl Zegarek in exchange for my objective review.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2009

Friday, June 12, 2009

Lucas Davenport returns in "Wicked Prey" by John Sandford

With so many of the “Prey” series novels written, it isn’t surprising that John Sandford has been focusing more on family in each book and less on his signature character Lucas Davenport. Beyond the fact that Lucas has been married for many novels now with children, there is his work family of the folks at the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. They always play many roles in the books and that is not an exception here. The last several novels have also featured the criminal family-- united by blood, a need to get even with Lucas, or some other circumstance.

The latest in the series “Wicked Prey” opens as many have lately in the criminal family arena. Brutus Cohen and Rosie Cruz, both aliases, are in St. Paul looking to link up with other members of their gang in the days before a big score. The Republican convention is also in town and the gang has big plans to take advantage of all that money. The fact that the political money men really can’t let out to the police what happened to them or how much money they lost just makes the job easier and very lucrative. And ripping off the money men is just the start on a much larger plan.

Naturally, Lucas and his people are called in to work the case. It isn’t the first time Lucas has handled a sensitive political situation and the illegality of what the money men are doing is without question. But, the world of politics is what it is and the bigger issue is that Brutus Cohen and Rosie Cruz and other members of the gang have a history of killing law enforcement and civilians. A nasty pattern that quickly repeats itself making Lucas and his team frantic trying to find these killers before others get hurt or killed. Naturally, things go sideways and then very bad with events becoming increasingly violent and harder to deal with from a media and publicity angle while the death and injury count climbs.

If that isn’t enough, there is the secondary story line of his adopted daughter, Letty, who at a very sophisticated fourteen, is messing with a psycho. A psycho who wants Lucas Davenport to suffer before he kills everyone in the family. Yet another storyline involves a shooter who wants to take a shot at McCain.

Once again, John Sandford tells us virtually all the bad guys and bad gals in the opening chapter. So there is little mystery to figure out. Instead, this book is all about the chases and the hunts for the various suspects. Unfortunately those various chases are less than riveting which leads to a lack of suspense or thrills for the reader.

The various chases also lead to major ethical questions regarding the Letty storyline. Not only is there a major plot point hole regarding her age and her internship for a local media outlet, the actions she takes in this novel go far beyond what Lucas has done in the past. She really does seem to believe and live the concept that the ends justify the means and doesn’t care who she sacrifices to achieve her goal. By the end of the book one begins to wonder if she is a budding psychopath headed to be in direct and violent conflict with Lucas. The fact that he becomes aware of her actions and says absolutely nothing about the matter raises serious questions as to his responsibilities as a father.

The main case, the search for Cohen and Cruz, holds some interest even though the chase is disjointed, scattered, and is not totally resolved leaving open and guaranteed a sequel with some of these villains. A lot of authors seem to be doing that these days by bringing back the same criminals for return engagement after return engagement. Biggest case in point for that are recent books by Robert B. Parker.

However, the biggest issue by far is the read itself in that the book doesn’t read like a John Sandford novel normally does. Language is almost always unnecessarily graphic lately and that continues in this novel with Lucas and others using the f-word in every situation regardless of event, audience, or suitability. Beyond that fact, there is the feeling that the novel just flat out doesn’t read like a Lucas Davenport novel. The voice, style, whatever that elusive quality was that made a Lucas Davenport novel read like one is gone from this book.

Ultimately, that is our loss as readers. One hopes that John Sandford can get that quality back—and soon.

Wicked Prey
John Sandford
G. P. Putnam’s Sons (part of Penguin Group)
ISBN# 978-0-399-15567-3
402 Pages

Book provided by the good folks of the Plano, Texas Public Library System.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2009

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Sidra Smart returns in "Dead Wreckoning" by Sylvia Dickey Smith

Sidra Smart has finally received what she wanted---her private investigator license. Approved and fully licensed by the state of Texas, she is now free to investigate anything she wants at anytime and without supervision. The last part is especially important to her as she continues to move on from her former life as a pastor’s wife. At 52, she is relishing her new life and now with her license she has extra incentive to get her office rebuilt. After all, “The Third Eye: Intuitive Investigations” can’t be run out of Annie’s house forever – no matter what Annie thinks.

It’s early June in Southeast Texas and Durwood, one of her first clients back when she was being mentored by George Le’ger comes to see her. Durwood’s friend, Boo Murphy needs help and Durwood wants Sidra’s professional expertise. According to Durwood, Boo goes squirrel hunting in the swamp every day. Supposedly, one day she saw a pirate ship out there in the swamp somewhere. But, that isn’t why the Sheriff is going after her. No, the investigation is for murder.

Boo’s second cousin, twice removed, and neighbor is Sasha. Sasha had a husband named Zeke who recently made Boo so mad, she fired her gun over his head. She was plenty angry, wanted to scare him, and let loose with her gun. She didn’t think any more about it as it wasn’t that big a deal. That was until Boo took Sasha out where she said saw the pirate ship and instead they found a very dead Zeke with a shirt of Boo’s wrapped around his neck. Obviously, somebody else killed him. Boo is convinced that what she saw out there was the schooner “Hot Spur” one of Jean Lafitte’s pirate ships. If she wanted to kill Zeke, she would have, but she didn’t and that is all there is to it as far as she is concerned.

But, others don’t see it that way. Not only do some think Boo killed Zeke, some folks also think that she found the treasure that legend says was on board the pirate ship. Not only does Sidra need to find that elusive schooner, she also needs to find evidence to clear her client despite the various forces against her. Especially since somebody has taken offense to her interest and keeps trying to kill Sidra.

This third novel in the series picks up quickly after the last one left off with the engaging Sidra Smart. A little more graphic in terms of language and description with each book, Sidra Smart is evolving and shedding more and more of her pastor wife past. While aware of her past mistakes, she is also fully aware of her effect on her new boyfriend and uses all her assets when she wants to. Along with enjoying all the possibilities of her new life, she is a pretty good investigator.

Creating a modern day mystery tale with elements from the colorful history of Texas, recurring characters, plenty of local flavor, Author Sylvia Dickey Smith has penned another very good book in the series. As this is a series with evolving characters, those inclined to read the book should begin with the first novel, “Dance On His Grave” before moving on to the previous book, ‘Deadly Sins-Deadly Secrets.”

Dead Wreckoning
Sylvia Dickey Smith
L & L Dreamspell
ISBN# 978-1-60318-138-9
Trade Paperback
247 Pages

ARC provided by the author in exchange for my objective review.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2009

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

David Farland Comes to Dallas!

The below comes from David Farland.....

I will be teaching a "Write that Novel!" Seminar in Dallas/Ft. Worth on Saturday October 10, and Sunday October 11 from 9am to 5pm.

The price will be $125, same as the Salt Lake Seminar. The number of people who can register is limited to 100.

Also, the venue will be at:

Doubletree Hotel Dallas, Near the Galleria
4099 Valley View Lane, Dallas, Texas, 75244
Tel: 1-972-385-9000
Fax: 1-972-788-1174

To learn more about the seminar or to register for it, go tohttp://davidfarland.net/writingworkshops/

Please forward this email to your friends who might be interested in the Daily Kick and direct them to sign up at http://davidfarland.net/members


Not something I can afford to do these days. Wish I could, but it isn't possible. If you go, drop me a line and let me know what you thought of it.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Missing the final episode of Wallender?

If you live in the range of PBS station KERA 13 in the Dallas Fort Worth area and were counting on them to run the final episode of Wallender as scheduled you didn't get what you expected. Without any notice or explanation they didn't show it and instead went with some deal where pledging viewers got to play program director and vote on some British comedies.

I knew they were pledge driving but I thought they would honor PBS scheduling. Silly me. I should have know better as they have been known for years for ignoring what has been advertised in favor of doing whatever.

I finally heard back today from somebody over there who wrote and advised that they aired the third episode at 3am on Sunday, May 24rth. Of course, they never bothered to advertise the fact they were going to do this so that those of us who were interested could set our VCRs or DVRs. Nope, they just did it.

According to the rep, they will run it again on August 7th at 9pm.

Assuming they haven't started another pledge drive by then.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Reviewing: "Old City Hall" by Robert Rotenberg

“Mr. Singh opened his mouth to speak. But before he could say a word, Mr. Kevin leaned closer. ‘I killed her, Mr. Singh,’ he whispered, ‘I killed her.’” (Page 6)

For newspaper delivery person Mr. Singh, formerly the chief engineer for Indian Railways and a very precise man in word and deed, the idea that Mr. Brace killed his wife is a bit of a shock. So too it will be for all of Canada when word spreads. That shocking confession that December morning at the door of condo 12A located in the Market Place Tower in downtown Toronto will have repercussions all across Canada.

The confession, arrest and eventual first degree murder charge for the host of “The Dawn Treader” a nationally syndicated radio show is huge. Lost in the media hysteria and the investigation by the Police is one key fact that only his defense attorney knows. Her client, after uttering the statement above, totally clammed up. It isn’t surprising he won’t talk to the Police as he is a very smart man. But, he won’t talk to her either. It is hard to defend a client who will only communicate in writing and barely wants to do that.

For Crown Attorney Albert Fernandez, who is also very precise in his word and deed, the case should be a slam dunk. Brace confessed with his wife’s blood literally on his hands and the detail oriented Mr. Singh will make an excellent witness. The only thing left to do is document the investigation and prepare for the other side to offer a plea deal. Too bad his bosses will refuse any deal and want the case to go all the way to send a message to the voting public.

This debut novel by Robert Rotenberg, a criminal lawyer living in Toronto, is incredibly good. Along with the complex characters noted above there are many more as the actions and life of Mr. Kevin Brace touch many characters. The city and culture of Toronto, Canada also quickly becomes a real breathing character as the various fully formed personalities in this gripping novel introduce you to a Toronto very different from the city you see on television occasionally.

The result is a complex and powerfully good book that is difficult to give justice to in a review. With guidance from author Douglas Preston and many others, Robert Rotenberg has crafted a complex mystery with plenty of courtroom drama and twists that take readers on a grand adventure.

Old City Hall: A Novel
Robert Rotenberg
Sarah Crichton Books (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux)
ISBN# 0-374-22542-7
372 Pages

Review copy provided by the good folks of the Plano, Texas Public Library System.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2009