And reviews and
giveaways of 3 more fun mysteries-"Claw Enforcement": A Second Chance
Cat Mystery by Sofie Ryan, "Last Licks": A Lickety Splits Ice Cream
Shoppe Mystery by Cynthia Baxter, and "Poppy Harmon and the Hung Jury":
A Desert Flowers Mystery by Lee Hollis
For those who prefer to
listen to Mysteryrat's Maze Podcast directly on KRL, the player is now up here
for the latest episode featuring the first chapter of "Five Manners of
Death" by Darden North, read by local actor Ariel Linn
Book of Sith: Secrets From The Dark
Side by Daniel Wallace is an expanded universe novel from before
Disney purchased the Star Wars
franchise and threw the canon into the trash. This book collects various
pictures, documents, journals and more by various Sith members throughout their
history. If one would like to read the original history of the Sith or would
like to see how things were before Disney blew it all up, this is a good read
Book of Sith: Secrets From The Dark
Side answers questions like how did the rule of two begin? How were
the Sith originally formed? How did the Sith go from being thousands to two?
How did Palpatine plan the clone wars? What was the first war between the Sith
and the Jedi like?
This book answers those questions
and more. There is also commentary provided by Mace Windu, Luke Skywalker, Yoda,
and more, in the margins of the page refuting the points the Sith writers
argue. It is just a fun varied read that covers various points in Sith History.
I recommended it for Star Wars fans, especially ones who
would like to know more about the Sith and their history. At hundred fifty nine
Book of Sith: Secrets From The Dark Side is not a very long read, but
it is an interesting one.
My reading copy came from the
Downtown Branch of the Dallas Public Library.
For this final Friday in
February 2020, it seemed like a good time to blow the dust off of this review
which first ran back in 2014. After you read his review of Drum Beat-Madrid by Stephen Marlowe. Make
sure to head over to Todd Mason’s Sweet Freedom Blog
where he will have the roundup of the FFB reviews for this week posted as soon
DRUM BEAT--MADRID (1966) by Stephen Marlowe
Reviewed by Barry Ergang
His primary office is in Washington, D.C.,
but private detective Chester Drum has also opened one in Geneva, Switzerland
because his cases so frequently take him out of the United States. One of his most
prominent clients, and a recurrent character in several books in this series,
is Axel Spade. As Drum explains, “Axel Spade gives professional advice to black
marketeers and smugglers. His going rates for an interview are a hundred bucks
a half hour, and if you need the kind of advice Spade gives, a half hour of his
time is the best investment you can make.” Spade has homes in New York City and Geneva, but must be careful about traveling
elsewhere. He’s wanted in more than twenty countries.
When Drum Beat--Madrid opens, Spade
and Drum are driving to Navarre,
specifically to the ranch of Captain General Don Santiago Sotomayor, retired
commander of the Guardia Civil. The purpose of the trip? Spade is going to
marry Sotomayor’s niece, Luz Robles. Drum is to be his best man and, because he
has a fair number of enemies, his bodyguard.
The Sotomayor family, the
reader soon learns, is as dysfunctional as any outside of a Ross Macdonald
novel. Don Santiago’s brother Hernando was a Loyalist during the Spanish Civil
War. Don Santiago turned him in, and Hernando was executed. His son José was
raised by Don Santiago. His wife and daughter went to Caracas, Venezuela.
The wife died there, and Luz was raised by the Robles family. Son Ramón was
adopted and raised in Baltimore,
Maryland by Hernando’s closest
friend. He’s now in the American Army, stationed in Spain, and calls himself Ray
Moyers. He clearly has more than a platonic interest in his sister.
The schedule calls for José,
who hasn’t seen his sister since they were children, to fly Luz from Madrid to Don Santiago’s
ranch. When he lands and Luz is not with him, he explains: “We met in Madrid in the Ritz bar
at . She had some
shopping to do, she said. We were to meet later at the airport. I waited. She
did not come. Still I waited. And then, at last, she sent a note saying she was
afraid to fly with her señorito of a brother and had decided to take the train
A ransom note arrives at the
ranch the next morning demanding fifty thousand dollars for Luz‘s return,
leaving Drum and Spade to wonder why the ransom amount is so low, since Don
Santiago can afford a great deal more. Drum spent two years with the FBI before
going private, and has more experience handling kidnappings than the Guardia
Civil. But Spade is initially unable to persuade Don Santiago to keep the two
of them in the loop, let alone to permit Drum to investigate. It’s only after
the kidnappers fail to appear at the designated ransom site they send Don
Santiago to that the old man grudgingly agrees to let Drum take over. Take over
he does, heading immediately to Madrid
to try to retrace Luz’s steps and get a line on her current whereabouts--and
those of her kidnappers. In doing so he encounters his share of colorful and
well-delineated characters; surprises and revelations, not the least of which
is the secret of the Sotomayor family treasure; some moral and ethical issues;
and plenty of action, especially in Pamplona
during the running of the bulls.
According to Marlowe’s
obituaries in The New York Times
and The Boston Globe,
he was well-traveled and lived in France, Spain and Switzerland. To anyone who has read
any of the Chester Drum novels, this will come as no surprise: Marlowe’s sense
of place and its culture was always meticulously and vividly rendered. Drum
is no exception.
other works, Derringer Award-winner Barry Ergang's own impossible crime
novelette, The Play of Light and Shadow, is available
at Amazon and Smashwords as is his recently released book
of poetry, Farrago, and other entertaining reads. For more
on Barry’s books as well as his editing services, check out Barry’s
Maddie James’ life seems to be well on track.Her cat café, JJ’s House of Purrs (named for
her beloved cat JJ) is doing well, as is her love life.She’s been building up a steady clientele,
folks who enjoy a treat while communing with adoptable kittens and cats.Recently, a man has been coming in with his
laptop who seems more intent on working than interacting—which is fine, of
course, but just a little unusual. After all, he’s paying $15 an hour when he
could be going somewhere else (his local library, to use a totally random
example) for free. As it turns out, he probably has a reason for avoiding
libraries full of alert readers: the man is Jason Holt, a best-selling author
of thrillers whose books have been turned into blockbuster movies.Rumor
has it that he’s trying something new, a non-fiction book about an unsolved
case.Maddie’s mother, an aspiring
writer, is an avid fan and anxious to meet Holt and get tips.
But while Maddie can already envision the marketing
campaign she can spin out of Holt’s patronage, she has something even more
important on her mind: the strange woman who showed up and announced that JJ
was her cat, and she wants him back.
As if that isn’t enough to worry about, a body turns
up in a canal and Maddie finds herself in the middle of murder investigation.
This is the third in the Cat Café Mystery series.The
characters and setting are in place, though readers who pick up this one first
shouldn’t have any problem keeping up.I
felt the plot was more complex than in the first two books, which I like; one
of the supporting characters played a more prominent role and readers learned
about his past.This is a light,
enjoyable series with an adorable cat, and offers enough entertainment to keep
me walking (and don’t underestimate the importance of that!)
Stewartville is a “vortex of weird”.
It is a place where urban legends overlap with the very real fear that comes
from the town’s isolation and the fact that there are prisons nearby. Blaring
sirens indicating a prisoner is on the loose overshadow people’s daily lives.
It seems like everyone in town is headed towards those prisons. They’ll either
work there or be sent there. That is, perhaps, the closest one will get to the
real truth of the town.
Or is it? When a group of teens dare
to visit the site where several children died, one spots muddy fingerprints on
the back of the car, and yet the road had been empty. Then a strange car
follows them and fear sets in.
Two of the boys also find a tunnel
connected to a basement. Their easy friendship starts to sour as Denny’s
obsession with the tunnel grows. His mom has changed since their move to
Stewartville, and tensions are rising in his home.
His friend is being raised by his
brother—their mom is locked up —is surrounded by people who aren’t acting
normally. His brother fixates on keeping him straight and clean so that he can
make something of his life, but that same brother now seems to be using drugs.
The house is messier, the food supplies dwindle.
Then people snap. One shocking murder
is only the beginning. Is it the ley lines? The tunnels? Something crawling out
from beneath the town to wreak vengeance for prior wrongs?
Author Shannon Felton does a great job
of creating and building tension throughout this story. She provides just
enough info to keep you guessing about what’s really going on, and then still
manages to pull the rug out from under your feet with unexpected developments.
The town feels all too real, with a lot of people lacking direction and
succumbing to their unwelcome fate. There’s a hopelessness that permeates every
page, and has you feeling like the characters are under constant pressure to
surrender to the pull of the prisons. Whether the curse is real, whether some
other evil force is at work, is for you to decide.
by Joe Flanagan (Europa Editions, 2016) is an astonishing piece of noir fiction.
Bill Warren, its protagonist, is surrounded by corruption in his small Cape Cod
town of 1957, yet he remains convinced of the need to be an honest, fair, and upright
human being. Bill is the acting police chief in Barnstable while the police
chief is on medical leave. He is the sole support of a disabled son since his
alcoholic wife wandered away years ago; he’s trying hard to care for young Mike
while doing his best on the job. His rectitude backfires on him sometimes, as
when he discovered the antique store owned by a gay couple is being robbed but
no one on his force responds to the reports. He investigates himself and finds
the thief to be the son of one of the selectmen, who threatens him with his job
if he doesn’t close the case. While he damages his standing with the very
people who can give him the chief of police position permanently, he is able to
return the latest stolen items to the store owners, much to their surprise and
Someone is killing young boys on Bill’s turf.
His team turns out in full force only to have a publicity-hungry State Police
captain sweep the case out from under them. Another family disappears after
they reported violent treatment by a local group of gamblers in an attempt to
collect money. An investigation of the bar that fronts the gambling den links
the group to organized crime in Boston. Bill organizes a raid on the place,
only to find it cleaned out and the pigeons flown – someone within his own team
is feeding them information.
There are some great characters here. The local
politicians are deliciously seedy. The pedophiles pulled in for interviews are
skin-crawlingly creepy. A doctor trolling for patients to try his new drug on
betrayed every ethic of his job. A prominent subplot involves Father Boyle, a
sad priest who believes he’s lost his faith and his calling but he continues to
carry out his duties at the local hospital and the school for disabled children
run by a group of nuns. Father Boyle has a confused past; his grasp on reality
doesn’t seem to be firmly in place. He’s deeply committed to the children in
the school, where they are delighted to see him on his visits. I held my breath
waiting for him to be accused of the murders. Like Bill Warren, he would have
been unable to defend himself. Instead the subplot resolves unexpectedly in
possibly the most unusual way I can remember in crime fiction.
This book is deeply dark and violent, showing
humanity at its absolute worst at moments. I nearly stopped reading midway. The
writing and the story became so compelling I was driven to learn how it all
ended and a wonderful ending full of optimism it is. Publishers Weekly starred
Europa Editions; First Edition (March 1, 2016)
House of X, Powers
of X by Jonathan Hickman collects two miniseries that set up the
current status quo for the new X-Men titles under the umbrella title of Dawn
of X. This book collects twelve issues- six for each miniseries.
Professor X no longer believes in
coexistence with humanity. He no longer believes that the X-men should fight
for a world where humans and mutants live in peace side by side. Someone has
changed his mind and he no longer thinks the human race is worth saving or can
be saved. Professor X is no longer the man X-men fans have known. His idealism
is gone. He is now a cold cynic when it comes to the human race. Professor X
will protect mutants and his X-men at all costs and is not at all concerned
about the fate of humanity. Alongside Magneto and the X-Men, Professor X has
set out to create his own nation for all mutants. This book features nearly
everyone in the mutant realm along with cameos by the Avengers and the Fantastic
This book is mostly about Professor X,
Magneto, and one other character that can not be named here without spoiling
some of the book. Wolverine, Cyclops, Emma Frost, Nightcrawler, Jean Grey and many
more have their moments in this book. This book features nearly everyone in the
mutant realm along with cameos by the Avengers and the Fantastic Four.
As should be clear from the initial
premise, there are lots of radical changes made in this tale to do something
original that has not been done before. If you are a long term reader of the X-Men
comics, you know that for the last ten or so years the writers have been
playing with the same themes and utilizing mostly the same set of ideas. While
some of that has generated great writing, there has been a ton of mediocre writing
because it is hard to do something different when everyone is doing the same
sort of themes.
House of X, Powers of X by Jonathan
Hickman is a radical change in the X-men status quo which may or may not work
for you. Personally, I enjoyed because it was something different and I am a
fan of Hickman’s writing. For the most part I like his stuff even though it
often seems that he makes things so complicated that it can be hard to keep
If you are familiar with Hickman’s
previous work you know he loves to utilize time travel or multiple timelines,
alien civilizations, flawed heroes with huge plans, complicated world building,
and more. Hickman loves to write heavy sci-fi. He loves to write how the
decision made by one or more prominent leaders on a team can change everything
in a world. All of his usual elements are very apparent here.
Hickman has written the Avengers, the Fantastic
Four and is now doing the X-Men. That means that thing, the normal status quo,
is over for the foreseeable future for the X-Men. These X-men are similar to
the ones most fans know but the change to Professor X has rippled across the X-Men
group and they all look at the world far differently than the past way most
House of X, Powers of X by Jonathan Hickman is not for fans
who can’t accept widely different interpretations of a character. If you are
not okay with having stories where both the “good” and “evil” side are correct
in their views from their perspectives and therefore are doing morally grey
things that make sense from their perspectives, this is not the book for you.
If you have an open mind and are an X-Men fan who likes a heavy dose of science
fiction, you should enjoy this book. The art is amazing and the story is epic.
Another cool aspect of the book assuming you like world building is all the
charts, maps, documents that help support the tale and set up the new world for
recommend House of X, Powers of X by Jonathan Hickman.
My hardback reading copy came from the Central
Downtown Branch of the Dallas Public Library System.
SECRET by Rory Clements, reviewed by John Cleal
American history professor Tom Wilde is asked to smuggle a mysterious package
out of wartime Nazi Germany – something so secret, even Hitler doesn’t know
what it is!
Jo Nesbo, reviewed by Viv Beeby
Harry Hole's life is in chaos and when a deranged and vengeful enemy strikes at
the very heart of it then Harry must face his darkest hour.
A DISTANCE by Ben Aaronovitch and Andrew Cartmel, reviewed by
of an old friend takes both Nightingale and Peter Grant on a trip down memory
WITHOUT SKIN by Mads Peder Nordbo, reviewed by Ewa Sherman
discovery of a mummified body on the edge of an ice sheet in Greenland leads to
the re-opening of an unsolved case from 1970s. Danish journalist Matthew Cave
and a young woman released from prison after serving a sentence for killing her
family delve into the shocking and brutal past.
CONFIDENTIAL by Martin Limon, reviewed by Chris Roberts
Army CID agents Sueno and Bascom investigate a South Korean bank robbery which
has all the hallmarks of military involvement.
MOTHERS by Erin Kelly, reviewed by Kati Barr-Taylor
husband has bought a convenient pied-à-terre. But it’s the key to a dark past
that should have remained buried.
HESITATES by Georges Simenon, reviewed by John Cleal
Inspector Maigret receives a series of anonymous letters threatening murder in
the household of an eminent lawyer.
TWO EVILS by Eva Dolan, reviewed by Linda Wilson
doctor at an women’s detention centre is murdered, there are no immediate
suspects but plenty of people who seem to be putting roadblocks in the way of
the latest investigation for Peterborough cops DI Zigic and DS Ferreira.
WOMAN IN THE FOREST by Diane Les Becquets, reviewed by Ewa Sherman
offered an opportunity to work with rescue dogs on environmental projects and
falls under the spell of her mentor Tate. Several months later after Tate’s
tragic death she realises that he might have been responsible for the unsolved
murders of at least four women.
OF REFUGE by Ausma Zehanat Khan, reviewed by Chris Roberts
Khattak and Rachel Getty travel to a Greek island where a friend working to aid
refugees has disappeared.
VANISHED BRIDE by Bella Ellis, reviewed by John Cleal
three Brontë sisters hear that a young women has gone missing from her home
leaving no clue but a pool of blood, they decide to investigate.
WHISPER MAN by Alex North, reviewed by Linda Wilson
Kennedy and his young son Jake are making a fresh start away from the grief
associated with the house where Tom’s wife died. Tom doesn’t expect to be
plunged into another nightmare when Featherbank proves not to be the safe haven
he’s expected for a boy of Jake’s age.
DOOR by JP Carter, reviewed by Kati Barr-Taylor
Anna Tate looks down on the body of the brutally murdered girl, she cannot know
people on high will soon be looking down on her every move.
by Catherine Steadman, reviewed by Chris Roberts
A man is
washed up on a Norfolk beach with only vestiges of memory. Neuropsychiatrist
Emma Lewis is asked to help, but returning to Norfolk will bring her
face-to-face with a past she is keen to forget.
LIES by Ted Denton, reviewed by John Cleal
Ratchet, a rookie golf agent, discovers that the Russian gas company sponsoring
the tournament and fixing results is also on the verge of tying up a mega deal
with the British government. Lone wolf ex-SAS man Tom Hunter must save him.
WELCOME by DK Fields, reviewed by John Barnbrook
United Realms there are no elections, instead each year the leading group is
chosen by picking which of them tells the most compelling story. This year, one
of the storytellers is murdered and fear /and suspicion grows.
IN NEW YORK by Sylvia Bishop, reviewed by Linda Wilson
Creedon doesn’t just want to deliver the news, he wants to write about it, and
not just in his school newspaper. When he gets the chance to visit the offices
of the Morning Yorker, he doesn’t realise quite how dangerous his life is about
THE LAW by William A Graham, reviewed by John Cleal
Linton is hired by his former wife, a top lawyer, to help prove the innocence
of his boyhood friend – now the city’s major drugs dealer – found with £2
million worth of cocaine in his car.
GODFATHER by Gianni Russo with Patrick Picciarelli, reviewed by
autobiography of Gianni Russo, who lived as a gangster both in real life and in
the movies, and rubbed shoulders with the cream of Hollywood.
MOTHER, SOMEBODY’S DAUGHTER by Carol Ann Lee, reviewed by Kati
stories from victims and survivors of the Yorkshire Ripper.
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.