Friday, May 28, 2010

Computer Gremlins

have struck the family desktop again. While I have restored some things, I remain unable to get the wireless keyboard from Dell working. Frustrating and annoying. Especially since I can't sit for very long thanks to ongoing medical stuff and recent events.

But, I can say, without equivocation, that ice packs are wonderful things.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Reviewing: "Impact" by Douglas Preston

It is never good when the cover is far better than the actual book.

the book begins with a brilliant flash of light and an immense sonic boom as something crosses the sky above the small coastal town of Round Pond, Maine one evening. For Abby Straw, college drop out and waitress, the falling meteor means treasure and money. She knows it didn’t crash into the ocean but must have impacted on one of the five nearby islands. All she and her friend, Jackie, have to do is find it, recover the meteorite, and sell it for a lot of money. A plan far easier said than done.

Half a world away in Cambodia, villagers are being forced to dig out gemstones from a new mine. Known as “honeys” the orange gemstones are radioactive and possibly created by illicit nuclear activity. Sent by Stanton Lockwood III, science advisor to the President of the United States, Wyman Ford is sent to asses what is going on, document it and bring the info home so that the U. S. government can decide what to do. A plan that is far easier said than done.

Mark Corso is moving up at the NPF (National Propulsion Facility) located in Pasadena, California. His promotion is partly because he is very good at his job, partly because of his old professor and mentor, Jason Freeman, was murdered in what appears to be a botched home invasion and robbery. Now part of the Mars Mapping Orbiter Mission, Corso has his old professor’s job but zero guidance on how to deal with the political aspects of the job. A small part of his job is to consider an anomaly in the Gamma Ray data from a recent orbital pass of Mars. Something that Jason Freeman was working on right before his death and something the political bureaucrats at NPF seem determined to cover up. The Gamma Ray data anomaly becomes an obsession for Corso and jeopardizes everything he holds dear. Corso comes up with a plan publicly expose what he knows. A plan easier said than done.

When reading Douglas Preston, one always has to suspend disbelief a bit. Whether he is writing solo or with Lincoln Child, the books always push the boundaries a bit both in terms of science as well as realistic characters. While the science does work here, the same can’t be said for some of the characters. The biggest offender is Abbey Straw whom we meet in the opening pages. Twenty years old, college dropout, back home waitressing and trying to help her father survive financially and yet she is smarter than the entire scientist community at NPF, NASA, etc. together. That is the issue. Not the fact that a college dropout can’t be smart. I have known quite a few over the years who were far smarter that what they got credit for just like I have known folks who had doctoral degrees and yet could not figure out what to do with a paper bag. The problem here is, beyond a certain two dimensionality she is portrayed with through the book that manages to frequently bring up her race, she is so smart she figures out thing long before those who study space every day do. This creates an almost a laugh out loud moment on more than one occasion. To say more would ruin the point of reading the book.

This same basic issue extends to the character of Wyman Ford who is portrayed as some sort of super agent, gun for hire. After far exceeding his mandate in Cambodia and aware that something is going on far more than what he has been told, he begins searching the Maine coast trying to find anyone who saw the meteor come in that night. He finds Abbey and they quickly form a team, with occasional support from Jackie, against all odds to save the world from sure destruction. Destruction that nobody else has figured out is about to happen with in hours.

The result is a fast paced novel full of real science and two dimensional characters at best. If you can suspend your disbelief long enough to get by the clich├ęd stereotypes, the book is fairly decent. But, if you take this thriller seriously as a work of fiction, you may find yourself laughing out loud way too often.

This is why you shouldn’t come over and sit on my apartment porch and read it. The neighbors are already concerned about me. Let’s not give them somebody else to worry about. This complex already has its resident weirdo. I just need to get the t-shirt made…..

Douglas Preston
Tom Doherty Associates, LLC (Forge)
January 2010
ISBN# 978-0-7653-1768-1
364 Pages

Material supplied by the good folks of the Plano, Texas Public Library System. If it wasn’t for libraries and librarians, my TBR pile would be much smaller.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2010

Monday, May 24, 2010

Reviewing: "Pray For Silence: A Thriller" by Linda Castillo

It isn’t too often that the second novel in a series is better than the first book. Texas author Linda Castillo wrote an incredibly good first book with her Sworn to Silence. The sequel, Pray For Silence: A Thriller coming out next month is better.

It has been ten months since the killings known as the “Slaughterhouse Killer” case rocked the small town of Painters Mill, Ohio. Amish and those that aren’t, often referred to as the “English” (by the Amish), once again live in mostly peaceful harmony. Police Chief Kate Burkholder, raised as Amish until she was excommunicated, understands both worlds and doesn’t easily fit into either world. The “Slaughterhouse Killer” case brought back to the surface painful memories that she is dealing with daily. The case took a tremendous toll physically, mentally, and emotionally.

The one bright spot was that the case ten months ago brought Detective John Tomassetti into her life. Tomassetti has his own horrible baggage and despite that found a romantic connection with Chief Burkholder while solving the case. Ten moths later, they are still seeing each other, the sex is great, and neither one is sure what is happening between them.

In fact, they haven’t talked in a couple of months. That soon changes when Burkholder calls and requests his help. She needs all the help she can get because there has been a massacre at the Plank family farm. The Plank family is Amish and recently moved to the area. Now, in a bloodbath in the house, yard and barn, all seven are dead. The brutal deaths are bad enough, but at first glance it appears that Amos Plank snapped and killed the family before killing himself which would be an unforgibale sin.

A closer look reveals that he didn’t. The discovery of the teenage daughters in the barn who were tortured and then finally killed makes it clear that another psychopath is at work. Based on what the killer did to Mary, age fifteen, Police Chief Burkholder sees parallels in her own life and begins to crack under the strain of this latest case.

This incredible novel ratchets up the tension throughout leading to a final and violent confrontation at the Plank family farm. Author Linda Castillo continues to add depth and nuance to her primary characters of Burkholder and Tomasseti while also adding to the numerous secondary characters. Each character has become a real person that the reader cares about thanks to her wonderful story telling ability and her ability to take what some would consider stereotypes and twist them inside out.

Like the first book, readers are cautioned that some sections are very graphic in terms of violence and detail. The violence is very descriptive, especially in terms of what was done to Mary prior to her death. Further more, because of the continuing character development of several characters as well as numerous detailed references, it is best to have read the first book Sworn to Silence.

If you have already read that one, Pray For Silence: A Thriller comes out next month marking simply a great way to start summer reading.

Pray For Silence: A Thriller
Linda Castillo
Minotaur Books
June 2010
ISBN# 978-0-312-37498-3
320 Pages

ARC provided by the Amazon Vine Program in exchange for my objective review.

Kevin R. Tipple (c) 2010

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Reviewing: "Shot To Death: 31 Stories of Nefarious New England" by Stephen D. Rogers

Reviewing anthologies and collections is always tough. A novel can lag in spots providing an uneven and yet enjoyable read. That same effect can happen in an anthology or collection where not every story is going to work well for a particular person. Then there is the fact that space limitations often prevent the reviewer from ever going into any depth on all the stories. These situations and others make reviewing such books problematic.

At the same time, readers are asking more and more for anthologies and collections. Subsequently, the last couple of years there has been a surge in publication of anthologies and collections. Most collections and anthologies pass pass right on by due to time constraints. However, when this was made available for review by Stephen D. Rogers it seemed like one that should be a good book.

My expectations were met with a few personal favorites being:

“C.O.D.” points out that damaging a mailbox is both a federal crime and a personal offense with repercussions for all in the area.

“Fill It with the Cheapest” isn’t just about the gas, the road trip, or the unnamed driver in a story that isn’t clear until the very end.

Twists are guaranteed in this book and that certainly is also the case in “Last Call.” Training the new employee can come back to get you in not so obvious ways.

“One-Eyed Jacks” blends a unique drinking game, several friends with secrets, and a need for final justice.

Justice along with making things right are the twin themes of “Smoking Gun” where a mother simply has no more choices.

While the New England settings of these tales is often vague or not defined at all, meaning the tales could be located anywhere, the sense of desperation comes through clearly in each one. Whether told from the perspective of the good cop, the bad cop, the petty thief, the hard working parent, or the many other character choices the author uses in each story, the sense of immense desperation comes through in every single case. Often the reader is left with the feeling that characters involved never had a chance because everything always had been and always would be stacked against him or her.

While bodies and crimes abound in the collection, that sense of desperation makes this a good book that is not easy reading. These are stories that nestle under your skin like chiggers and don’t go away easily. The fact that they linger is a basic part of what makes a good writer and a good book.

Shot To Death: 31 Stories of Nefarious New England
Stephen D. Rogers
Mainly Murder Press
February 2010
ISBN# 978-0-9825899-0-8

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

Kevin R. Tipple © 2010

Thursday, May 20, 2010



A wide selection of books, hardcover and softcover, from the collection of a private seller is available via the Internet. Some have been read, some haven’t.



for titles, cover scans, and ordering information.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Reviewing: "Rolling Thunder: A John Ceepak Novel" by Chris Grabenstein

Memorial Day weekend is in place again at Sea Haven, New Jersey. The eighteen mile long barrier island is the vacation spot for thousands of tourists and the year around home for residents such as Officers John Ceepak and Danny Boyle. Both are working crowd control duty at “Big Paddy’s Rolling Thunder,” a brand new and all wood roller coaster at the end of the newly rebuilt Pier Four. It should have been the usual type of day with minor issues and a great kickoff to the coming summer.

It wasn’t.

Within minutes of the first train making the debut circuit of the track to celebrate the opening of the roller coaster, the train is locked down with very important people on board as well as a local disc jockey live on the air screaming for help. Big Paddy is the loudest because his wife has slumped in her seat due to an apparent heart attack. His money and political connections are worthless right now as the money won’t save her.

Despite the efforts of Boyle and Ceepak, Mrs. O’ Malley, can’t be saved. Tragedy has struck the family and the children don’t seem to be that broken up about it. In fact, there seems to be out and out joy among some in the family. That makes Ceepak and Boyle suspicious and it doesn’t take long before a second death happens that is not only a bit gruesome but more in line with some of the whacky deaths have happened before. With fresh motivation and a disregard for public relations and superiors, Ceepak and Boyle work to identify suspects and solve the cases before more die.

This sixth novel in a very enjoyable series marks a new publisher as well as a return to what made the series so good. Not just the fact that Michal Fusco is once again designing the colorful covers. The humor that started this series was always so strong that it became its own character. The last two books have sorely missed the humor angle and while the reads were good in their own way, they suffered from not being funny. Obviously the subject matter in those two books didn’t easily lend itself to wise cracks and attempts at humor. Finally, in this book, Boyle’s private and public wise cracks are back as they should be. His realistic cynicism about tourists, high profile local people and others, along with a number of other topics provide are a reader treat in this book and the series.

The chase is on again and for those of us who really liked the first several books, this read is the return of an old and trusted good friend. If you haven’t read this series, you better get with it because you are really missing out.

Rolling Thunder: A John Ceepak Mystery
Chris Grabenstein
Pegasus Books
May 2010
ISBN# 978-1-60598-089-8
304 Pages

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

If you have not read this series, you need to start with "Tilt A Whirl."

Kevin R. Tipple © 2010

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Special Day

Today is graduation day for my wife as she will be receiving her Bachelor's Degree this morning. Getting to this point wasn't easy and there have been huge struggles along the way. Especially the last two months. The job market is uncertain. But, for now, all that is forgotten in the moment as she will receive her diploma today proving that hard work and persistence truly does pay off.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Reviewing: "and on the surface DIE: A Holly Martin Mystery" by Lou Allin

Author Lou Allin takes readers to the tiny town of Fossil Bay, British Columbia, which at one time was Holly Martin’s home. It hasn’t been for a number of years and she can see how some things have changed and yet other things are exactly as they were when she left. Now she is back as a corporal in the RCMP and in charge of the small three person force. Assisted by Corporal Ann Ivory who has been forced into a desk job instead of taking over the detachment as she should have and Constable Chirakumar “Chipper” Knox Singh the three are expected to deal with tourists, petty crimes, drunk drivers, speeders and the like along with the occasional storm that will cut off the area from outside help.

They aren’t supposed to have to deal with death especially on Holly’s first day in charge. But, that is exactly what they have. A local teenager has been found and pulled from the water. Not only was the victim an accomplished swimmer, as it happens, the victim was from a local private school. The same school Holly Martin attended and the memories aren’t good.

In addition to dealing with the death investigation, Holly must deal with her past. Progress is coming to the area changing the pristine views and creating some ugly present day truths. There are some ugly past truths which have to be uncovered and dealt with as well.

Lou Allin has crafted a strong novel full of scenic imagery, misdirection and plenty of atmospheric suspense to kick off her new mystery series. The book contains quite a few major characters that are realistically portrayed as real people with good things and bad about them. They come to life quickly and shepherd readers through their daily lives and through a steadily deepening mystery with few clues and plenty of misdirection. The result is a very good novel that ends all too soon.

And on the surface DIE: A Holly Martin Mystery
Lou Allin
RendezVous Crime (Napoleon & Company)
ISBN# 978-1-894917-74-2
272 Pages

Material supplied by the author in exchange for my objective review.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2010

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Reviewing: "Fragment: A Novel" by Warren Fahy

Remember how, on the original Star Trek, the away team would land somewhere and you just knew that with a few minutes a certain member of the team was going to die? It wasn’t because of the cheesy music, the yellow uniform, or the fact that the dude in the lizard costume needed a little more air time to meet his union contract deal. The away team member almost always died because of sheer arrogance. The person didn’t listen, disobeyed protocols, soon died.

The same character flaw gets you killed here. So does greed, stupidity, and the fact that everything on the island eats everything else. The place isn’t survivable. Fittingly ironic when you think about it, since the parasitic reality television plays such a huge role in the story.

A cable TV show titled “Sea Life” is underway and through the use of the state of the art ship “Trident” scientists and others are on a year long trip around the world visting the most remote places on the planet. Unfortunately, the show is losing viewers in droves thanks to a fickle audience that isn’t getting what it wants. The on the scene producer, Cynthia Leeds, has made decisions that have backfired such as selecting which cast members will get together romantically. Desperate to save the show and her career, Cynthia has changed plans. By her orders, instead of going to the one island that Botanist Nell Duckworth has always wanted to go to, the ship is heading west to Pitcairn Island, made famous as the refuge of the Bounty mutineers and descendents.

Why this is going to help the show with ratings is never really explained. One would think since the place has been covered extensively in book, film and other media such a landing wouldn’t help ratings. Already, as a reader, you have to suspend disbelief and go with the idea. Believe me, this is the start of your jettisoning any logic or rational thinking analysis of the plot because this is pretty much escapist reading.

The landing at Pitcairn Island is a desperate attempt in raising the ratings for a show that is drama first and science second. The show is still operating off of that format when the signal from an electronic distress beacon is received from Hellers Island. That signal, which just lasts a few seconds and just long enough for the crew to get a fix on it, provides the drama angle and motivation for Cynthia to allow “Trident” and crew to set sail for the island. There might be survivors of whatever happened and it gives Cynthia a mystery to solve with potential danger and human interest. Nell Duckworth doesn’t care about any of that. Finally, Nell Duckworth gets to realize her life long dream of landing there and exploring the island while hopefully putting to rest a nightmare that has haunted her since she was a child.

She will be lucky to escape with her life.

What follows is an adventure novel heavily grounded in science. It is fitting that the author acknowledges Michal Crichton and his novel “Jurassic Park.” Clive Cussler and a couple of others I can think of off the top of my head should have been mentioned as well. He definitely should have also acknowledged the numerous stereotypes that created characters that you know are destined to die. The original Star Trek and the away teams come to mind, but there are numerous other examples that fit the point.

Despite, or maybe in spite of, the stereotyped characters dying one by one, as well as the noblest among them always surviving every encounter with the dangerous life forms on the island, the novel works. The science is well done, despite the fact it causes the book to lag in spots, and is very relevant to what is actually happening in the world regarding invasive species. There is plenty of action, conflict within and outside the crew, and a sense of extreme urgency due to several different agendas driving the work. It does keep you turning the pages.

Even though there are two absolutely laughable plot twists at the end, by that time, you won’t be taking the book seriously anymore despite the background subject matter. This is a book that will quickly get you to suspend disbelief and just go with it. On that score, if you do, you will enjoy it as it is a pretty good book.

One gets the feeling "Fragment: A Novel" is setup nicely for a movie. If it is, the killings will be gruesome, the violence and gore at incredible levels and, no doubt, box office sales will be incredible.

Fragment: A Novel
Warren Fahy
Delacorte Press (Bantam Dell/Random House)
June 2009
ISBN# 978-0-553-80753-0
384 Pages

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

Kevin R. Tipple © 2010

Saturday, May 01, 2010

2010 Derringers Winners Announced

The Short Mystery Fiction Society, of which I am a member, announced this morning the winners of the 2010 Derringers competition. Derringer Coordinator Suzanne Rorhus stated that the winners are:

In the category of flash fiction, 1,000 words or less, the winner is:
"And Here's to You, Mrs.Edwardson," by Hamilton Waymire. This appeared in Big Pulp.

In the category of short fiction, 1,001 to 4,000 words, the winner is:
"Twas the Night" by Anita Page. This appeared in the Gift of Murder anthology.

In the category of long fiction, 4,001 to 8,000 words, the winner is:
"Famous Last Words" by Doug Allyn. This appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.

In the category of novelette, 8,001+ words, the winner is:
"Julius Katz" by Dave Zeltserman. This appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.

The Golden Derringer committee would like to announce the awarding of this prize to Lawrence Block in recognition of his contributions to the field of short mystery fiction.

A list of the nominees in each category can be found on the SMFS blog located at

My personal congratulations to the nominees, finalists, and winners in each category.