For this really and absolute
final Friday in May 2019, I remind you of The Splintered Paddle by Mark Troy.
I first told you about this one five years ago in the review below. I remind
you of this excellent book today. I also suggest you check out the full list of
reading suggestions over at Todd Mason’s blog.
Private Investigator Ava
Rome has no idea in the beginning that she is being hunted. She has no idea at
all a man from her distant past is in the islands watching her every move.
Fantasizing over and over again what he is going to do to her once he finally
gets her alone. His name is Norman Traxler and he is coming for her--- after he
eliminates whatever she cares about a chess piece at a time.
Ava's latest client, sent by
Moon Ito, is a young woman named Jenny Mordan. Battered an assaulted by a
corrupt cop named Ron Nevez she wants and needs Ava's help. The fact that Jenny
is a freelancer in the world's oldest profession is not a factor for Ava Rome.
Jenny is defenseless and Ava's business is to protect the defenseless as it was
under Kamehameha the Great before the annexation of the islands by the United
States in 1898. That first law of King Kamehameha,
the law of the splintered paddle, is still ingrained in the islands and its
people and serves as the very personal mandate of what Ava Rome does each and
every day. The defenseless will be guaranteed from harm--period. Using your badge as a weapon is considered
official suppression and Ava's isn't about to put up with that.
That issue isn't the only
thing she isn't about to put up with
in this complicated mystery featuring multiple story lines. Written by Texas
author Mark Troy who spent a number of years in Hawaii before moving to Texas,
this new series features an intense take no prisoners heroine committed to
solving mysteries from the past and present despite the many complications
involved with both. Ethical and principled, willing to go it alone if and when
she has to, Ava Rome always advances and never retreats. That might be
something that comes from her family and the way she was raised.
Featuring a strong and
interesting cast of supporting characters, this complex read features four separate
and distinct story lines that gradually interweave as readers are slowly filled
in on Ava's often difficult past. A past that has driven many of her choices
through her life. Choices that have created at least some of the increasingly
dangerous situations she now finds herself in today.
Second place finisher at the
2012 Claymore Awards at Killer Nashville, The Splintered Paddle: An Ava Rome Mystery is
one of those rare books that pulls you deep inside a world far from home right from
the beginning. It isn't all sundrenched beaches, cool waters, and happy days in
paradise. Ava, also seen in the very good novella The Rules, knows
something about the dark undercurrents at work in the 50th state in
the union and is more than ready to protect the defenseless.
The United States Marshals went to pick up Clayton Deese after he
failed to show up for trial. Everyone knows Clayton Deese did the crime he is
wanted for and if it was not for bureaucratic issues they would not already be
at least three days behind me.His ankle
monitor went dark at about the same time that he failed to show up for court.
No doubt he has left his home in a rural area of Louisiana. Still, Marshals Rae
Givens and Bob Matees and F. B. I. Agent Tremanty have to raid the house Deese
was living in to make sure he really left. If he is gone, a manhunt will begin
as they need to apprehend this guy, not only for what they know he did, but
because he is a link to a far bigger target.
law enforcement hits the house, it is clear that Deese is long gone and is
never coming back. The house sits on a large piece of land that has a swamp
like area outback that is thickly wooded with at least one trail back into the
woods. A trail that clearly gets frequent use. A trail that goes quite a
distance back in where there is thick ground cover and clearly more open areas
that could be more than one shallow grave. Maybe many graves.
What is found means US Marshal Lucas Davenport is soon on the way
to help track down the missing Clayton Deese. A hunt for a contract killer who
occasionally indulges in a taste for human flesh. A contract killer who happens
to be in close contact with some other folks in another part of the country that
also need to be stopped as soon as possible.
The latest in a long line of thrillers by John Sandford, Neon
Prey, is another good one. As true with earlier books in the Lucas
Davenport series in recent years, the bad guys and girls are known to
the reader from their first introduction. Unlike the way it was when this
series started when there was a complexity to the reads and there was a solid
mystery, there is no mystery at all here expect for the fact Law Enforcement
does not know from the start just how bad Clayton Deese is or the identities of
some other folks who also need to be stopped. This book is a straight action
read where the pace is fast, chapters are short, descriptions of locations are
kept to a minimum, and the clock to prevent more carnage is always ticking. For
writers, this read, as has the last several in the series, fits the old adage ascribed
to Elmore Leonard about leaving out the parts that readers tend to skip.
Pure escapism, Neon Prey, is another good one in
the Lucas Davenport Series.
After her mother’s death and the end of her
engagement, Valentine Harris’ dream of opening her own pie shop is the only
thing keeping her going.Her retro-look
shop and delicious pies are starting to draw customers, but when one of the
regulars keels over it looks as if Pie Town may have to close before Grand Opening balloons
deflate. Joe, the late customer in question, owned the nearby comic book store
but, as it turns out, was a member of a group of amateur sleuths who tried to
solve local mysteries.Could one of the
investigations have gotten him killed?
That’s the set-up in The Quiche and the Dead,
the first in the Pie Town series. Val
is a newbie business owner, but has a pretty sound head on her shoulders—which
is more than can be said for Charlene, her 70-something crust maker who has an
allegedly deaf emotional support cat and who lives and breathes conspiracy
theories.I’ll admit at first I found
her annoying but since there’s a hint or two that Charlene may not believe in
theories as much as she believes in yanking people’s chains, I not only warmed
up to her, but she became my favorite character.
And it’s a good thing too because there’s already
Heidi who owns the new health and fitness studio near Pie Town and promotes
healthy living.Really healthy living, as in putting up a huge sign that says
“SUGAR KILLS” right after Joe drops dead.She’s also dating Val’s former fiancé (who of course is a total
slimebag) and exists mainly to cause Val trouble. It’s a character type I have
little patience with, honestly, but they show up often in modern cozies.
The tone is gently over the top, with Charlene
dragging a reluctant Val into all sorts of improbable situations, and can be
very funny.As the series progresses,
more supporting characters are added, including the standard issue cop love
interest, but there’s enough that’s fun and fresh to make this an enjoyable
series.Recipes are included.
In fact, I am going to check out some of Weiss’ other
series, particularly the Paranormal
Museum Mystery book.
The titles in the Pie Town series are: The Quiche and the Dead, Bleeding
Tarts, and Pie Hard.
Risky Undertaking for Loretta Singletary is the eighth book in this long
running and very good series. This time Chief of Police for Jarret, Texas,
Samuel Craddock becomes increasingly concerned about the disappearance of his
neighbor and friend, Loretta Singletary. Until he really sat back and thought
about it, he hadn’t paid much attention to the fact that in recent weeks
Loretta started dressing different and had a new hair style. Loretta Samuel
Craddock was used to how she was, her routines such as the one that included
her walking over from her house early in the morning bringing home made cinnamon
rolls warm from her oven, and the fact that she kept her life fairly private.
She is not one to talk about her personal business or share a lot of
confidences so he wasn’t paying much attention to the changes she was doing in
she upset the routine by going missing and can’t be found anywhere. The easy
explanations of Loretta taking a trip to visit family, shopping with a friend,
don’t fit. Loretta is gone and no one has a clue where she has gone. By poking
around a bit in her home and asking a lot of questions of everyone in her life,
Samuel Craddock begins to piece together the idea that she has signed up for
one of those dating sites. In her case, one that caters to seniors and folks
that live in small towns. A little research also convinces him that such sites
are dangerous for anyone and that is especially true for the older folks.
another woman in a nearby town is killed, Chief of Police Samuel Craddock’s
fear almost becomes flat out panic. The other woman’s personal circumstances
mirrored Loretta’s and she used the same dating site. If the local church going
folks would quit arguing over the long tradition of the goat rodeo, Chief
Craddock would sure appreciate it as there is far more important matters at
Risky Undertaking for Loretta Singletary by Terry Shames is another excellent
entry in the long running series. The author skillfully weaves together a
complicated tale of increasing suspense and mystery as the pages go by. Along
the way there is plenty of background detail in two secondary storylines
regarding life in Small Town Texas and how everyone knows your business. Those
secondary storylines work to relieve the suspense a bit and provide a dash of
humor here and there while not slowing down the overall pace of the book.
sure you take the time to return to the world of Samuel Craddock and Jarrett,
Texas. You will be glad you did.
A Risky Undertaking for Loretta Singletary: A Samuel Craddock
Joe Ide (Mulholland Books, 2018) is the third book in the private investigator
series featuring Isaiah Quintabe, known as IQ to his friends. I am just now
getting around to reading these books and I understand why everyone raves about
them. Early in the book IQ is bemoaning his lack of social connections, and it
is more than interest in the case that causes him to accept the request of
Grace Monarova, a young artist, to look for her mother who vanished 10 years
earlier. He quickly learns that a dangerous paramilitary crew who committed
some of the atrocities at Abu Ghraib is also looking for Grace’s mother,
because she holds incriminating photos of them. These men are violent and
amoral and will kill anyone at any time for any reason at all. The descriptions
of their interrogations are sickening to read. It appears to be typical of
Ide’s sense of humor to bring this psychotic group to The Burning Man arts
festival in Nevada.
There are subplots aplenty, almost too many to
keep track of. Dodson, IQ’s sidekick, is now his partner and wants to
regularize the firm, collect past due accounts, set up a website, and establish
a social media presence. IQ who accepts badly knitted Christmas sweaters as
payment for services, is not on board with this approach, and their
conversations on this subject are hilarious. Then there’s the creepy knife
designer who is in danger of eviction from his store. He decides the only way
out is to blackmail Dodson and IQ into stealing a drug kingpin’s bankroll on
his behalf, which goes about as well as the reader has come to expect.
The characters are fresh and lively, down to
the bickering middle schoolers IQ hires for a small surveillance task. IQ in
particular is a likable individual, with his formidable brain, his MacGyver
tendency to improvise weapons, and his total lack of business acumen. The
dialog veers between snickeringly comic and deadly vicious, often with little
transition. The action is relentless in its pacing, making for an exhausting
but enjoyable read. Highly recommended.
starred review. One of CrimeReads
Best Books of the Year.
Earlier this week, Scott and I watched COLD PURSUIT. A movie
that did not do that well when it hit theaters due to some controversy about
various comments Liam Neeson had made while doing promotion work for the movie.
Then there was the fact that critics did not much care for it.
Liam Neeson plays the classic traumatized father who seeks
out those responsible, one by one, after his son is murdered. Because of
toxicology results, the local police believe the kid is just another junkie
that predictable overdosed. He wasn’t. Liam Neeson eventually begins to cope with
his grief by going after those involved in a bloody and violent pursuit of the
kingpin that caused the death of his son. He does so despite being vastly outnumbered
and out gunned.
Think a less stylish done version of any John Wick movie and
do it in the ice and snow and not the rain. There are also no dogs, no partial
or frontal nudity, and no neon. Massive amounts of snow. There is plenty of violence and a bunch of
folks get shot and die. Not nearly the body count of a John Wick movie, but
they do make a run at it.
The bottom line is that Scott and I liked it. COLD PURSUIT
is certainly not the greatest in action films, but after a slow start, it does
get going generating plenty of action and a high body count. There is also the occasional
dead pan humor which we both enjoyed. One of those films that must not and
should not be taken seriously and yet some will anyway because they do that.
If we are doing the old star rating system, the number of
guns rating system, the dead body count system, or any other clichéd system
where 0 is utter crap and 5 is epically good, call this a 4 and move on. Fun,
violent as hell, and easily forgettable.
The quiet family life
of Nels Coxman, a snowplow driver, is upended after his son's murder. Nels
begins a vengeful hunt for Viking, the drug lord he holds responsible for the
killing, eliminating Viking's associates one by one. As Nels draws closer to Viking,
his actions bring even more unexpected and violent consequences, as he proves
that revenge is all in the execution.
Up in KRL
this morning an end of May catch-up of mystery reviews and
giveaways-"Murder on Trinity Place" A Gaslight Mystery by Victoria
Thompson, "The Loch Ness Papers" A Scottish Bookshop Mystery
by Paige Shelton, "Murder in Midtown" A Louise Faulk series by Liz
Freeland, and "Wed, Read & Dead" A Mystery Bookshop Mystery
by VM Burns
Gotham City Garage: Volume 1 by Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing
is an “Elseworlds” DC Comics graphic novel. An Elseworlds is a comic book that
takes place outside of the prime or main Earth storylines which means that things
are very different from the usual various versions of characters found in the
main universe. “Elseworlds” series there is the “Red Son” storyline that goes
off the idea that Superman was raised in communist Russia. In that storyline,
Lex Luther won and took over the world and subsequently turned the planet into
a Mad max style wasteland. Humanity is mostly controlled by “ridealongs” that are
sort of memory chip implanted in the brains of people to keep people happy and
placated. This brutal new world order is enforced by an evil fascist version of
Batman that works for Lex Luthor.
City Garage: Volume 1 depicts a different version of things where all the heroes and
villains are bikers. This graphic novel is a tie in to a line of statutes put
out by DC Collectibles. This book collects the first six issues by various
artists depicting an America in a distant future where the entire country is a wasteland.
That is for a special place, a utopia of sorts, named “The Garden.” An action
there results in Kara Gordon being forced to flee to the “freescape” that is a
desert area fought over by various motorcycle clubs including one known as the “Gotham
heroes of this story are Big Barda, Zatanna, Harley Quinn, Wonder Woman, and
our main protagonist, Kara Gordon aka Supergirl. This version of Supergirl has
Kara raised by Jim Gordon who also had his own daughter, Barbara Gordon. While
Jim Gordon knew she was an alien and sought to hide her from Lex Luthor, Kara
and Barbara had no idea Kara was an alien. Kara begin to figure out something
was up when her powers started to manifest during her teen years.
powers continue to build while she is on the run in the freescape where she
joins the resistance led by various heroes working out of the Gotham City
Garage. The heroes use motorcycles as their chief mode of transportation as they
wage war against the forces of Lex Luthor who are firmly in control of the last
city on the planet.
this Elseworlds tale despite the inconsistent art throughout. Gotham
City Garage: Volume 1 is a great place for people to start reading
comics or are already reading comics and looking for something different than
the norm. Those interested in women as strong characters or heroes will find a
lot to like in this book. The read features a solidly good story as well. Gotham
City Garage: Volume 1 is a good book.
City Garage: Volume 1
Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing
Paperback (also available as an eBook)
Material supplied by the staff of the
Dallas Public Library System. The copy I received came from the Bachman Lake
we enter the final weekend of May 2019, I offer you a review from over a year
ago on a book first published in 2013. I have the rest of the series here from
the library and have yet to read them so they auto renew. Don’t be like me. Get
on them after you check out the full list over at Sweet Freedom.
It is late January of 1960 as Styx & Stone: An Ellie Stone Mystery begins and Ellie Stone gets some bad news
from the local sheriff. Her father was
found unconscious in his New York City apartment and is now in the hospital in
critical condition. Eleonora “Ellie” Stone, a reporter and the only living
child of Professor Abraham Stone, is going to have to take some time off from
her job in New Holland and go back home to see about her dad. Their
relationship is not a good one as they are estranged and now she is faced with
dealing with their past issues as well as the current crisis.
Upon arrival she soon learns that it
was not a stroke or a heart attack that put her father in the hospital. He was
violently assaulted and his home office and library was ransacked. This
occurred just days after her brother’s grave was severely vandalized. While the
police believe the events are not related and the assault on her father, a
renowned Dante scholar and esteemed professor, was nothing more than a random
burglary, Ellie has her doubts. Especially since another professor, well known
to her father and a colleague, died in somewhat mystery circumstances in close
proximity time wise to the assault on her father.
That fact, what happened to her
brother’s grave, the very specific damage in her father’s apartment, and more
makes Ellie question the police investigation from the start. Ellie considers
herself a “modern woman” and has no problem with asking questions and pushing
for answers when she isn’t thinking about the past or enjoying the pleasures of
the present. She drinks, she smokes, she likes a good time with a man who
strikes her fancy, and Ellie won’t put up with nonsense from others.
Styx & Stone: An Ellie Stone
is the start of a series and a good one. While all the characters are
complicated in this tale to some degree (no cookie cutter cardboard cutouts
need apply), Ellie Stone is exceedingly complicated. There is depth and nuance
to this character that is rarely found in the first novel of a series. She also
has a subtle sarcastic streak that appealed very much to this reader.
While historical mysteries are not my usual
reading material, I thoroughly enjoyed Styx & Stone: An Ellie Stone Mystery.
A complicated tale with characters of depth and nuance, the mystery itself was
a difficult one to solve kept this reader engaged, and the read was flat out
very entertaining on all levels. Styx & Stone: An Ellie Stone Mystery
was a very good book and is strongly recommended.
For those handful of folks who missed my having a FFB Review on the blog last Friday, I do have one set up for tomorrow. It is a repeat review as I am having a hard time reading or writing reviews. The last couple of weeks the grief is back with a vengeance. That fact, warmer weather which makes things way harder for me, and various issues here have meant that I am having a hard time getting much of anything done. My mind is mush these days.
Pajalic's memoir, Things Nobody Knows But Me, is an unflinching
look at the formative years of the author's life. As a Bosnian Muslim who spent
time living in both Australia and Bosnia before the war, Pajalic looks at the
clash of cultures and customs between the homeland of her parents and their adopted
country, and how her own experiences shaped her.
writes with brutal honesty about growing up with a parent with mental illness,
and how this was handled and mishandled by family, friends, and the
authorities. The view in Bosnia was harsh and there was little sympathy or real
support for those who had mental health issues, while even case workers and
medical professionals in Australia failed to effectively diagnose Pajalic's
until Pajalic was a teenager that a school counselor introduced her to the term
manic depression, otherwise known as bipolar disorder.
doesn't shy away from the sense of impending upheaval from each of her mother's
episodes and hospitalizations. She is transparent about her own frustrations
and how this shaped her experiences as a young child, often burdened with
household responsibilities that should have fallen to parents.
incidents of sexual abuse to her first sexual exploits, Pajalic chronicles her
life growing up with cultural and religious conflict, as well as the unending
cycle of family problems that shaped her life. I had been looking forward to
reading this book for a year, since I first heard it was contracted, because I
also grew up with a mom who was undiagnosed bipolar until my late teens. I
found that, although the geographic location may have been different, there
were so many aspects of Pajalic's experiences with her mother than were similar
to mine; namely, that sense of waiting for the shoe to drop as you watched a
parent spiral towards another breakdown and the inevitable fallout that would
stem from it.
also fascinated by the chance to reach across cultural lines and gain insight
into the perspectives of both Bosnian Muslims in their homeland, and how things
evolved once many were transplanted in Australia. Pajalic's tales of courtship
with her husband highlight the realities of an older generation holding on to
customs that have evolved in the world they left behind, ultimately creating a
generation of immigrants who are out of step with their own homeland because they
were extracted from that natural cultural evolution.
narrative flows through Pajalic's childhood and her journey to adulthood and is
at time engrossing, entertaining, and shocking. Pajalic is relatable, and
whether she's talking about skipping school, shoplifting candy from a story,
making out with a boy for the first time, or the fear of telling a parent you
dropped the milk, readers will connect with the story of her journey. I was
riveted and squeezed in minutes at all hours of the day and night to finish
this book, which I highly recommend.
Sandi loved fireflies though we rarely saw them at our creekside apartment. When they did appear, she was so happy to see them. One evening after we had moved here to the house I grew up in while she had spent almost the entire summer in the hospital, she had a rare evening when she could go outside for a little while. Scott and I managed to get her outside in the yard where she sat for a few minutes as four or five fireflies danced in the grass. Within a day, she was back in the hospital and I never saw them out here again.
Last summer, there were a few though days would often pass before I saw any of them again. There was one evening when several showed up and I thought for sure I heard her say my name, but it must have been a trick of the wind.
This year there have been quite a few, especially in the last week. As I write this while sitting out in the backyard, more than a dozen of them are flitting around flashing their lights.
I know it is silly, but I like to think of this as her way to say hello and that she is still here in some way. I am looking for signs and I know it is silly. I miss her so much and it is still so very hard.
Big time thanks to the voters as well all the folks here like my son, Scott, Aubrey, Barry, and the many guests and other folks who have k...
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 medical supplies for me. Some of it goes to the purchase of various short story anthologies and collections which eventually are read and reviewed here.