Footsteps by Peter James (Pan Macmillan,
2014) is the fourth book in the Detective Superintendent Roy Grace contemporary
police procedural series. Based in Brighton, significant parts of the book take
place in New York and in Australia.
The story opens
with Ronnie Wilson in New York City on 11 September 2001, preparing for an
important business meeting in the World Trade Center at 10:00 A.M. A meeting
that does not take place for reasons we all know. Wilson is up to his ears in
debt and uses the terrorist attacks and subsequent chaos to shed those debts
along with his identity. The graphic descriptions of the bombings and their
impact on New York City and its residents continue to chill, despite the
Then the story
focuses on Abby Dawson and her terrifying experience locked in a failed elevator
for more than 24 hours. Anyone with the slightest bit of claustrophobia will
find this part hard to read.
The story flips to
DS Grace on a late Friday afternoon in October 2007, in a foul mood over poker
losses the night before and made worse by a call about the skeletal remains
found at a building site. The subsequent investigation will consume his weekend
along with that of many of his colleagues.
The book moves
back and forth in time and in place among Wilson, Dawson, and Grace, disorienting
and without clear connection for many chapters until the skeleton is identified
as Wilson’s first wife, who was believed to have gone to Los Angeles years
before. It’s this lack of clear momentum I think that makes the book slow going
for about the first third. It seems to pick up steam about then, as Abby’s role
begins to take shape and as Grace’s comprehensively explained detective work
comes to the fore.
of the detailed police procedures is a hallmark of this series, I gather from
many reviews. The portrayal of internal department politics, complete with hateful
managers and backstabbing peers, is recognizable to anyone who has worked in a
large organization. The socially inept detective whom everyone avoids but just
happens to be brilliant at his job is also a character familiar to me in real
A fine police
procedural, after its slow start, that unfortunately requires a more than
normal investment of reading time for its 566 pages. It may well be hard to
find as this appears to be another series that is not published in the United
States. This review is based on the UK trade paperback released in 2014. The
original hardback was published by Macmillan UK in 2008.
·Trade Paperback: 592 pages
Macmillan; New edition (October 9, 2014)
Again this year, Kevin’s Corner, is up for consideration as
Favorite Review Site. As always, we are up against many sites most of which have
teams of reviewers and are active in many genres across multiple forms of
media. If you think we are worthy of your vote, please go cast your vote today.
Remember, you have to respond to the confirmation email for your vote to count.
On behalf of Barry Ergang, Jeanne of the BPL, Kaye George,
and the numerous guests that have visited the blog during 2018, and myself, thank you for
And an end of the year catch up of reviews and
giveaways of "City of Secrets": Counterfeit Lady series
by Victoria Thompson, "Cut to the Chaise": Caprice De Luca Home
Staging Mystery by Karen Rose Smith, "Harvest of Secrets": Wine
Country Mystery by Ellen Crosby, "Just Plain Murder": An Amish
Mystery by Laura Bradford, "Murder, She Wrote": Manuscript for Murder
by Jessica Fletcher and Jon Land, and "Death and Daisies": A Magic
Garden Mystery by Amanda Flower
For this final Friday of 2018 Barry Ergang is here to put a wrap on it. Make sure you check out the full FFB list over at Patti’s blog.
FEAR AND TREMBLING
(1989) by Robert Bloch
Reviewed by Barry
I was 13 or14 when I
discovered Robert Bloch, which was when Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” based on
Bloch’s novelistic and—to my mind—Hitchcock’s cinematic masterpiece, was
released. There’s no need to detail the circumstances here, but I read the
entire second half of Bloch’s novel (prior to seeing the movie) in a room
nearly pitch-black save for the lamp in the corner alongside the couch on which
I sat. I became a fan from that point on, and over many years have read my
share of Bloch’s novels and, especially, short fiction. Fear and Trembling is among the many collections of his latter
works. To begin:—
The narrator, visiting
Paris, is not there in search of adventure. But an evening’s stroll results in
his being accosted by a bunch of young boys. When they finally leave him alone
and run off, he discovers they’ve lifted his wallet. He subsequently learns
they’re known as “The Yougoslaves,” victims of human trafficking who have been
trained by adult masters to commit these kinds of crimes. The wallet contains an
item far more valuable to its owner than money or credit cards, so when it
becomes apparent the police will do nothing, he sets out on his own to recover
it—but with drastic results for whom?
Hilary Kane knows London
intimately. “Over the years he strolled the pavements, reading the city
sentence by sentence until every line was familiar; he’d learned London by
heart.” On this particular day when he, strolling with his friend Lester Woods,
comes upon an antique store that shouldn’t be where it is, he’s compelled to
enter and examine its wares, among them an apparent medical kit Kane is
determined to have regardless of cost. Woods subsequently learns that Kane is a
student of the crimes of Jack the Ripper, and that the original owner of the
kit might have been the Whitechapel slayer. Neither can foresee what becomes “A
Most Unusual Murder.”
“What unnatural life had
festered and flourished here in the black bosom of earth?” Such is the question
that disturbs the nameless narrator, who has sailed from New York to Cornwall,
England, to visit his old friend Malcolm Kent. Both men are fascinated by
legends and folklore. Malcolm tells him of a discovery he’s made that proves
ancient Egyptians visited England. Soon both men make the descent deep into the
earth where they encounter “The Brood of Bubastis.”
Only a few minutes after starting his writing
job at the film studio, Joe Considine finds himself unemployed thanks to script
prohibitions from the Anti-Amusement League. At the unemployment office he
meets the lovely Sandy Simpson, to whom he offers a ride to what will soon
become his new home. On the way, an accident that luckily isn’t fatal results
in them meeting the friendly alien Drool, whose mission is to conquer Earth. Considine,
once he discovers Drool’s extraordinary talent, has a much better way for him
to realize his conquest. Far from the kind of story that aptly suits the title
of this collection, “Groovyland”—which was first published in 1969—is a comical
sci-fi tale loaded with punning and cultural prescience.
A film fan since childhood,
Dale ultimately comes to teach film history at the university level. When he
decides to lease an out-of-the-way cottage in the Hollywood Hills the realtor
refers to as “the Chaney house,” he and his girlfriend Debbie have a
falling-out, Debbie wanting to share a more fashionable new condo with him. But
the idea of living in a home possibly
once occupied by silent film star Lon Chaney, whom Dale reveres and intends to
write about, is irresistible. The nightmarish aspects of the move begin when he
comes upon “The Chaney Legacy,” a makeup kit that’s much more than it first
More poignant than horrifying
is “Floral Tribute.” Until he was six, when he was taken away from Grandma and
placed in an orphanage until he went into military service, Ed previously lived
with her in the house directly behind the cemetery. It’s now twenty years later
and Ed, hospitalized with a war wound, is desperately trying to recall this nearly
forgotten time of his childhood when he receives a letter from Grandma. Once
he’s received his medical discharge, it’s time to go home to find out if
so-called figments are indeed figments or realities.
Lifelong loner and writer
of fantasy fiction of the darker variety, Ross is somewhat obsessed by Death with
a capital D. His sixty-fifth birthday only serves to reinforce the obsession.
When he meets Death in what may or may not be a dream, in which the sands in the
hourglass of his existence are about to run out, he reluctantly assents to a
bargain that will keep him alive: for every person that he kills—for whom he’s the “Reaper”— he’ll gain an
additional year of life. With the passage of a few years and some unintended
lives resulting in emotional setbacks, Ross seems able not only to defy but
also to destroy Death.
psychiatrist Dr. Degradian is almost instantly smitten by twenty-year-old
Angela when she enters his office for her first appointment. Her problem? She
can’t get any sleep because of the incubus who visits her nightly and has his
way with her all night long. She insists she’s not dreaming. Degradian’s
initial efforts to help this lovely young woman who, he’s certain, is hallucinating,
do not succeed. She then consults her priest, but his exorcistic efforts lead
to other difficulties, so she returns to Degradian for help. I’ll say no more
about “The Shrink and the Mink” other than that it is, far from horrific, hilariously risqué, Bloch indulging his love
of wordplay to a degree that might have you laughing out loud as it had me more
than a few times.
Albert Kessler is a man
driven to make “A Killing in the Market.” Formerly a clerk in a Wall Street
brokerage house, he has carefully followed the successes of Lon Mariner, a man
who has made millions from shrewd investments rather than from slapdash
gambles. Kessler quits his job and, having tracked Mariner’s movements, goes to
Chicago to try to meet him “in hopes that I’d get him to cut me in on his big
deal.” He checks into the same hotel Mariner is staying in, discreetly inquires
about him to various personnel, and eventually meets him in the hotel bar. But
after Mariner leaves the bar with a tall blonde, he disappears, and suddenly
nobody Kessler has previously spoken to remembers him, nor is his name in the
Late-night TV talk show
host Harry Hoaker came up the hard way, but has had a very successful career
competing against the likes of Johnny Carson. What the public doesn’t know
about his secret issues needn’t be aired and, besides, it’s “The New Season.” But
as he once again faces the lights, camera and audience, and as untoward things
begin to happen he begins to glean the nature of, Harry must decide whether to
say anything about them to his viewers.
In “ETFF,” an alien who has
adopted human form promotes a ride to the World Science Fiction Convention,
thanks in part to the titular Extra-Terrestrial Fan Fund, where he/she/it
(gender never specified) creates undesired and unexpected chaos in another
comical story that proves the title of this collection is a misnomer.
The placard, which has been
posted by the bearded man named Fall on every telephone pole in Goober City,
reads Carnival of Life. The Greatest Show
on Earth. Adults Only—Fairgrounds, Tonight. When the local citizenry
arrives in droves that night, they find only one tent—and that not terribly
large. First they’re treated to verbal teases about the visuals on banners hung
on the tent’s outer canvas walls. But then they’re allowed to go inside for the
actual “Freak Show.”
The unnamed narrator is a
retired professor of criminology and sometime consultant to the police
department. When he begins to study the natures of the grisly murders, each of
which involves the severance of a victim’s body part and a key aspect of each
victim’s history, he’s certain astrology plays a part in the serial killer’s
twisted motive. His ultimate confrontation does and does not fit into the chart
of a “Horror Scope.”
Despite what I wrote in the
first paragraph and several story descriptions, it’s been a long time since
I’ve read much in the way of what Tor Books, in its cover classification of Fear and Trembling, rates as horror
fiction. I’d personally call it a collection of horror, science fiction,
fantasy, and crime fiction. Debate designations as you will—or won’t—I can
easily recommend this as good entertainment.
The past has always been a major part of the Kevin Kerney series and is a major piece if not the main theme of
the latest, Residue. A novel that serves to tie up several different story arcs
that have been present most of the series.
As the thirteenth novel in
the series begins, after twenty-eight years of distinguished service Brigadier
General Sara Brannon is finally retiring from the U. S. Army. After her latest
posting as Commandant of the U. S Army Military Police School and commander of
the MP regiment, Sara is finally coming home to Santa Fe and her husband, Kevin
Kerrey, and their son, Patrick. Patrick is already on the way back with his
grandparents. Once the last formal dinner honoring her is done, Sara and Kevin plan
on a few days of fun across the Deep South. The highlight of the trip will be
some time in New Orleans before returning to their ranch outside of Santa Fe,
New Mexico. For the former Santa Fe Police Chief and Sara it is to be a second
That is until seconds
after a warning call from Clayton’s mother, Isabel Istee, when Kevin Kerney is arrested.
Placed into custody by military police and local sheriff deputies he faces a
charge of murder in the death of Kimberly Ann Ward.
A cold case from 45 years
ago, back in the days of Vietnam, Kimberly Anna Ward was a very special woman
and a major part of Kevin’s Kerney’s life. College lovers, Kerry had gone to
war in Vietnam and come home damaged and self-medicating by way of alcohol.
Ward had her own war at home and eventually reconnected with Kerney. That is
until one night she ran out from the place he was renting and vanished never to
be seen again.
Not only has her body been
found, the probable murder weapon was found near her body. A gun that was Kevin
Kerney’s long ago and one that he had reported missing at the time. Why the gun
he reported missing was found with her is just one of many things he can’t
explain all these years later.
While Kerney’s estranged son, Clayton Istee, a Lieutenant on the
New Mexico State Police force leads an investigation into the past, everything
he turns up seems to indicate Kerney is a killer. Once social media gets ahold
of the case, things get worse for all involved rapidly as the 24 hour news
cycle unleashes a fury that has Kevin Kerney at the center.
Building off of various
plot points and story arcs of previous books, Residue: A Kevin Kerney Novel
is a book that not only ties up the past, it implies a way forward as the
series will again evolve in a new direction While there are a couple of hints
as to what that might be, long time readers know that author Michael McGarrity
always comes up with more than a few surprises in his books. Such was the aim
A Kevin Kerney Novel and the result was a complex and multi-layered
read that was also very good.
Barry has asked me to pass along the message below.....
Smashwords.com is holding its year-end sale, which began at 1 minute after midnight Pacific time on December 25th, and ends at midnight Pacific time on January 1st. Along with many other writers, I'm participating.
Three of my e-books, "Criminalities," "Slow and Quiet, Drift Away," and "A Flash of Fear," are year-round freebies. For the duration of the sale I've also made "Funeral for a Flightless Phoenix" and "No Candles for Antiochus" freebies. "The Vole Eater," "The Boy Who Ate Rainbows," "Stuffed Shirt," "PUN-ishing Tales," and "The Play of Light and Shadow," which were never pricey to begin with, have all been marked down until the sale ends.
Smashwords allows authors to decide how long samplers of individual works can be, and I've been pretty generous in that regard. As to what each work is all about, have a look at https://www.smashwords.com/books/search?query=Barry+Ergang where you can read some brief descriptions and access the works themselves.
Please post "reviews" of anything you decide to read--and be honest. If you don't like a given work, feel free to say so. I won't be insulted; I know not everyone will like everything I (or anyone else) writes.
Thank you for your consideration, and have a terrific New Year.
Airport Books II:Hope Never Dies by Andrew Shaffer
book has one of those covers that catches the eye:there is former president Barack Obama
standing up in a convertible pointing ahead while Joe Biden is behind the
wheel.My first thought was, What the heck is this?Even reading the jacket copy wasn’t quite
enough to convince me.As a rule, I’m
not fond of mysteries (or other fiction, for that matter) which use celebrities
or other notables as characters; I find myself regarding every action with
suspicion.Would Grover Cleveland really
have done that?
opens with Biden at loose ends.His job
has ended, Barak is off wind-surfing with Bradley Cooper, Jill has her own work
schedule—and so Joe is trying to figure out what to do next.Truth to tell, he’s also feeling more than a
little left out.He thought he and Barack
were buddies and now, well, it appears that Obama has moved on and left Joe
behind. Then, Obama shows up with his Secret Service agent, Steve, to tell Joe
that Finn Donnelly, his favorite Amtrak
conductor back from the days when Joe used to commute from Delaware to
Washington has been found dead,
presumably by suicide.The worrisome
thing is that he had a map with Joe’s house marked on it.Could it be part of some sort of plot?
a hard time with the information, mostly because he doesn’t believe that Finn
would have committed suicide.With
nothing else on his agenda, Joe decides to investigate, despite Barack’s
injunctions to leave it to the police.
not an airport book.It was way too fun.
Shaffer did capture the public personas of these two and made a buddy
picture—er, book—out of it.Joe is
impulsive and big-hearted, an everyman. Barack is serious and prone to lapse into
lecture mode at the drop of a hat. Steve is stoic, which is good because he
bears the brunt of most of the shenanigans.Funny, breezy, and cheerful, Hope Never Dies doesn’t take itself
too seriously.Oh, and there is indeed a
mystery with an interesting solution.
to be a sequel, Hope Rides Again.I’m ready for another road trip!
In the spirit of the season, up for
consideration today isA Stillness in Bethlehem by Orania Papazoglou writing as
Jane Haddam (Bantam, 1992). This is the seventh book in the Gregor Demarkian
contemporary mystery series. Demarkian is a retired FBI agent, one who
established and led the agency’s profiling department. In his retirement he began
consulting with police departments on a volunteer basis but has no official
standing or credentials. He has however a significant reputation as an
investigator; the references to him in the more sensational news outlets as “the
Armenian Hercule Poirot” cause him much angst.
After a high-profile case Demarkian comes home
to Cavanaugh Street in Philadelphia to find his friend Father Tibor Kasparian dangerously
exhausted from his work on behalf of Armenian refugees. Their mutual friend
Bennis Hannaford arranges for the three of them to travel to Bethlehem,
Vermont, to see the town’s long-running Nativity play and to give Tibor a
much-needed break. The tiny rural town has found a way to generate revenue and
to lift itself out of genteel poverty, similar to the college students in Rest You Merry by Charlotte MacLeod,
who created a profitable Yule celebration. The Christmas pageant is a tourist
destination and produces most of the income in Bethlehem, so when Tisha Verek, a
recent transplant to the area, decides to file a civil liberties lawsuit
against the town to stop the play, nearly everyone is upset. Who was upset
enough to shoot her in front of her house, however, is not clear, and the State
police wrote the death off as a hunting accident. The fact that a second town
resident was killed in much the same manner about the same time and not far
away did not rouse the State police’s curiosity, who labelled it another
The town police chief was not so confident and,
when he discovers Gregor Demarkian in his village, he begs Demarkian to review
the evidence. When a third victim is claimed during the first night of the
pageant under Demarkian’s nose, he feels he has no choice but to find and stop
In a lifetime of reading mysteries, the
Demarkian series is among my greatest favorites. The plots are often downright devious
in the Water, for instance), and the people on the pages are powerfully
developed and finely nuanced. Father Tibor Kasparian is quite possibly the
fictional character I would most like to meet; his apartment stacked high with
books of all kinds on every surface inspires equal parts hilarity and envy every
time I read about it. The structure of the stories is intriguing: Characters
are sketched in a prologue to set the stage for the murders, there’s always
more than one, and then their back story unfolds as the book progresses. My
only quibble with the series is Demarkian’s astonishing obtuseness in his dealings
with Bennis Hannaford, a successful writer of fantasy sagas whom he meets on
his first case. Nonetheless, these books are simply not to be missed by any
mystery reader, and this title is a fine place to start reading them.
The last of Sandi's craft supplies--two pickup truck fulls--went to a new home today where they will be used and appreciated. They had to go and the yarn, fabrics, and more will be turned into glorious stuff for others. But, it makes me cry. Sandi was always her happiest when she was crafting and it is like another piece of her is now gone.
Friday means Friday’s Forgotten Books
hosted by Patti Abbott. Make sure you check out the full list over at Patti’s blog.
Bennett has been police chief of Murphy’s Harbour in Canada for three years
now. That means he knows the locals pretty well and is very much aware of all
the young people in the area. He knows that the kids he sees down Main Street
are not local. They also seem to be the kind of kids waiting for trouble to
are and they will be more than once. The bigger issue is the body in the lake.
More accurately, the body in the trunk of the car that was found submerged out
in the lake. The car was recovered and towed to a nearby garage where the body
was later found in the trunk. Moira Waites is the deceased and she had just
left her husband, quite possibly for good, the day before.
future she had has now been destroyed with her death. The spouse is always a
suspect and husband, John Waites, is definitely a suspect. Not only because he
is the spouse and part of the argument they were having before she supposedly
left, his behavior now is a bit off as he seems far more worried about the
status of the car, his wife’s friends, and a host of other issues instead of
the shocking loss of his wife.
isn’t all that is going on either in Murphy’s Harbour as a bank robber who
promised to get even with Bennett is on the way, and more. The tale is
complicated and this installment is a good one. Flashback is part of a
series that should be read in order starting with Dead In The Water. People
come and go in this series and the books interconnect making reading in order a
good idea. As always, multiple mysteries are at work and there is plenty of
action keeping things moving and the pages turning.
sure you check out Aubrey Nye Hamilton’s review of Flashback that she did back
in August. You can read that review here.
Because of her review, I went to the beginning and read the first book, Dead
In The Water. That became an FFB review back
in September and I have kept going. The last book in the series, A
Clean Kill, is only available to me at Amazon where I can get it in
eBook form for $6.15. That price is just not in my budget right now. So, things
may end here. We shall see.
Charles Scribner’s Sons
Hardback (also available
in paperback and digital formats)
Material supplied by the
good folks of the Dallas Public Library.
A Posadas County Mystery is always a special treat and the latest, Lies
Come Easy, is no exception. It is late on a snowy Friday night and just
three days before Christmas. Undersheriff Estelle Reyes-Guzman is looking
forward to the end of her swing shift. That is until she gets a call from
Deputy Pasquale who just found two and half year old Derry Fisher out on the
side of a local highway. The little boy’s father, driving his red truck, had
been seen minutes earlier by the same deputy who then spotted the son clad only
in a T-shirt and diaper, socks, and sneakers trying to ride his Scamper down
the side of the New Mexico highway in a snowstorm.
Dad put him out, the first matter of business is to get the child warmed up and checked out at the area hospital. Despite the
weather and lack of clothing, the little boy seems relatively okay though final
word will come from the oncoming EMTs and later hospital staff. Dad can and will
be dealt with later.
Also of immediate
concern is a missing persons alert from the US Forest Service. One of their
range techs is missing as is his truck. Myron Fitzwater was supposed to be
headed for nearby Stinkin’ Springs, but he has not been seen there or anywhere
else in recent days. Not only is he missing, but his girlfriend, Constance
Suarez, has been found deceased by way of a gunshot. What happened and why are
two questions that need to be answered as is the question of whether Myron did
it. He needs to be found immediately.
If all this is not enough, it is the holidays and the now grown kids are headed
home for a very short visit. Undersheriff Estelle Reyes-Guzman needs to spend
at least some time at home with the family. She is a cop and a good one, but
she is also a wife and mother and time with the entire family is an increasing
rarity. Something she has been well aware of for quite some time and the recent
loss of her own mother brings that concept front and center. Her ability to find uninterrupted time at home with her family seems to be increasingly
elusive as crisis after crisis rocks Posadas County.
Family has always been a major theme of this series. Family by blood as well as
by friendship. Family in terms of the loss of a parent and the grief that comes
from that even when that death is caused by nothing more than old age. That
theme is certainly, present here as those undercurrents occupy a large part of
the ongoing background in Lies Come Easy. The years pass and
the inevitable and, for those left behind the unthinkable, finally happens.
old William Gastner, the former sheriff and key component of so many of these
books over the years, is well aware that time waits for no one. He too has
plans for the coming future and uses this moment to make some suggestions that
will fundamentally change the future for everyone he loves and cares about.
Despite the bittersweet and at times all too painful tone this reviewer perceived
in the book, Lies Come Easy: A Posadas County Mystery is a mighty good read.
A procedural that powers along at a steady clip as a number of mysteries are slowly unraveled.There are plenty of clues, a lot of action, and
the cases are not easily solved. In short, Lies Come Easy: A Posadas County Mystery is
very good and well worth your time.
Hardcover Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon (HarperCollins, 1992) is the first in the police procedural mystery series with Guido Brun...
Supporting The Blog
In my wife's memory and honoring a promise I made to Sandi, the blog continues...at least for now. If you would like to make a donation of support, you can do so at the links below. Most of the donated funds go to the purchase of various short story anthologies and collections which eventually are read and reviewed here.