Thursday, December 31, 2020
Back in late July, I told you about my favorite books of 2020 thru June. I gave you six reading suggestions for the first six months and did so here. That means you need at least six more of my favorite reading suggestions for the back half of the year. They are….
A coyote found the body first as it lay at the base of a pagoda in Thailand Plaza. Driven by the fires that had consumed Griffith Park moving her natural food sources away, the scrawny coyote took off a chunk of thigh before the flashing lights and sirens of the first officers to arrive on scene sent her scurrying off elsewhere this new day. The rest of my review of One Day You’ll Burn: A Novel by Joseph Schneider can be found here in this post from late July. I also now have the sequel, What Waits For You by way of the publisher. Publication day is 1/5/2021 and I do not think I will make that.
“She was lucky to have escaped with her life when the intruders came for her that cold and snowy night. She had been ready and had a plan, but as often happens with plans, things went sideways from the point her door crashed inward. She fled into the night and by sheer luck survived and got to the vicinity of Painter’s Mill, Ohio. There is one person there she knew long ago that might help her now: Kate Burkholder.” The rest of my late July review of Outsider: A Novel of Suspense by Linda Castillo can be found here.
“It is late June 1898 as Sooner Than Gold by J.R. Lindermuth begins. Hiram Mariner is the local doctor and he has come to fetch Sheriff Sylvester Tilghman in his newfangled horseless carriage as they both are wanted down at a mine just outside of town. Nathan Zimmerman, owner of the mine just outside of Arahpot, Pennsylvania wants both men pronto. Since Zimmerman is technically his boss, the good sheriff has to go as fast as possible and that means his own horse is out.” The rest of my review of Sooner Than Gold by J. R. Lindermuth can be found here from last August. Sadly, this is out of print right now.
“Never Look Back In Texas by Russ Hall begins innocently enough with Al Quinn long since retired being asked by Sheriff Clayton to do a little mentoring. He has the experience and despite the grumbling, is ready to help out. He just was not ready to see on his way home hours later, Fergie in deep conservation with a man who clearly is very special to Fergie.” Also from August comes my review of Never Look Back In Texas: An Al Quin Novel by Russ Hall. I have long said you can not go wrong with a Russ Hall book and this series is absolutely great. I recommend reading in order, but you are a grown adult and will do what you do. The review of the sixth book in the series can be found here.
“It is the middle of May 2018 as The Lantern Men: A Ruth Galloway Mystery by Elly Griffiths begins and a lot has changed in recent months. Kate is now nine. Dr. Ruth Galloway now teaches at Cambridge and lives with Frank. She is no longer the North Norfolk police’s resident forensic archeologist and is far from her beloved cottage on the Saltmarsh. While she will always have a connection to DCI Henry Nelson because of Kate, she is trying her best to close that door of her life and move forward with Frank and her new job duties.” The rest of my early September review of The Lantern Men: A Ruth Galloway Mystery by Elly Griffiths can be found here. This is another favorite series of mine, book in and book out, and most definitely should be read in order.
“Badge Heavy is the third book in the Charlie 316 series and picks up shortly after Never The Crime ended. The Anti-Crime Team is up and running and working the streets of Spokane hard. Officer Gary Stone is on ACT along with Tyler Garrett as well as well with rookie Jun Yang and veteran officer Ray Zielinski. While the four officers are on the team and, in theory, working together, they are fragmented and have settled into a Stone/Garett and Yang/Zielinski pairing. Despite their internal issues, they are generating results in their pursuit of HPOs--High Profile Offenders.” My late September review of Badge Heavy: A Charlie-316 Novel Frank Zafiro and Colin Conway is here. This is another series that must be read in order. My November review of what is currently billed as the final installment, Code Four, can be found here.
“A Private Cathedral: A Dave Robicheaux Novel is a book of two times. Set a couple of decades ago, it has numerous references to the here and now concerning the fight for social justice, the current occupant of the White House, and more. As one always expects in a Dave Robicheaux novel, aspects of the paranormal are front and center. Sometimes those aspects are subtle. At other times, like in this read, those aspects are major – if not the major character of the book.” My October review of A Private Cathedral: A Dave Robicheaux Novel by James Lee Burke can be found here.
“Sunshine Vicram is back in Del Sol, New Mexico, with her teenage daughter, Aurora, better known as Auri. She is also less than thrilled about living in the small tourist town of Del Sol again. Even if it is home for her parents and she and Auri are in the guest house about fifty feet from their backdoor. She is also not thrilled about being the newly elected sheriff. Especially when she wasn’t even running for sheriff far as she knew.” The rest of my October review of A Bad Day For Sunshine: A Novel by Darynda Jones can be found here.
“It is the middle of January as Beyond the Truth: A Detective Byron Mystery by Bruce Robert Coffin begins. As expected Portland, Maine, is bitterly cold and there is ice and snow the ground with a major snowstorm on the way. That snowstorm is going to make things even more complicated when investigating an officer involved shooting.” My early December review of Beyond the Truth: A Detective Byron Mystery by Bruce Robert Coffin can be found here. Earlier this week, I reviewed the fourth book in this series, Within Plain Sight: A Detective Byron Mystery here.
There were other books that I enjoyed, but hit me very hard and I chose not to review them. I was reminded of that when I read Lesa Holstine’s roundup of 2020 books which included Craig Johnson’s Next To Last Stand. A really good read, but one I found incredibly depressing. It stirred up a lot of grief in me in regards to Sandi so I chose not to try and write a review of the book.
There you have it…. nine more personal favorites from the back half of the year. Eleven if you count the two that follow for a couple of these series. Throw in the half dozen books plus I recommended from the first half of the year and you have some solidly good reading suggested for you. Not saying these are the best books. I Am saying they were my personal favorites.
Kevin R. Tipple ©2020
Wednesday, December 30, 2020
this final Wednesday of December 2020, it is another repeat review this week.
That was not the plan, but as often has happened this year, things got away
from me. It is also more reading courtesy of Texas author Jan Christensen and
her short story collection, Warning Signs.
Warning Signs by award winning author Jan Christensen is made up of three short stories that were previously published in print and online markets. This collection is a bit less than 19,000 words and each story is a good one. Each story has a small intro, a brief explanation of how the story came about, and details on where the piece first appeared.
The book opens with the longest story “Warning Signs.” Rhoda isn’t happy with her ex-husband Hank for a lot of reasons. For one thing, he isn’t paying his child support for their daughter Tiffany. To draw attention to the problem, Rhoda had a bright idea to put up a few wanted posters with Hank’s picture prominently displayed along a local highway. He owes fourteen thousand in back child support and with Tiffany in kindergarten and other issues, Rhoda is desperate.
Somebody put up a “For Sale” sign in her front yard and Rhoda is sure Hank did it. She decides to retaliate by placing “garage sale” signs in his new more expensive neighborhood so that Hank and his new wife Melanie can get a dose of their own medicine. It is going to be a busy Saturday for Hank and his wife and serves them right.
The war takes a new turn that Sunday morning when she comes outside to find her ex dead beside her car with the apparent murder weapon, one of her old iron skillets, on the ground next to him. Rhoda takes the skillet, washes it, and puts it away where it belongs in her kitchen before calling 911. Rhoda soon learns she wasn’t the only one angry at Hank and possibly wanted him dead.
28 year old Connie is not divorced yet but the divorce is coming in “Overkill.” She is supposed to meet with her divorce attorney, Jerry, but one thing after another happens delaying her arrival at his office. When she finally does get there she finds him apparently dead at his desk. The murder weapon still embedded deep in his chest.
Soon named as a suspect and arrested, Connie has no choice but to take help anywhere she can get it to clear her name. That includes her soon to be ex-husband Howard who has more on his mind then clearing her name.
The final story titled “Quack” involves a kidnapping. Awhile back Josie defended a guy, Harley Summers, who shot up a local coffeehouse. Fortunately, he didn’t hit anyone but he still ended up serving jail time. He is now out supposedly none too happy about having had to serve jail time. That makes him the obvious suspect when Josie disappears and her aunt Reba is told that the ransom is 50K. The police can’t be involved and fortunately, Reba is not only also a lawyer, but a resourceful woman who has people she can trust.
Coming in a bit less than 19,000 words this small short story collection is a fun and fast read full of mystery and double dealing with the occasional flash of humor. These three stories feature women who can handle their business and deal with whatever comes their way. Feisty and independent, the heroines don’t wait to be rescued but take action on their own to get the job done. Violence is kept at a minimum in these three stories as are the body counts and descriptions of the death scenes. Instead, the focus in Warning Signs is more on the psychology of people and their relationships and how folks may interact in ways that are not revealed until the aftermath of a murder.
The award winning author has publicly stated Warning Signs is the first of a collection series with more around various themes planned in the future.
Warning Signs (Warning Signs #1)
Material supplied by the author in exchange for my objective review.
Kevin R. Tipple ©2012, 2020
Tuesday, December 29, 2020
Publishing ... and Other Forms of Insanity: 49 Calls for Submissions in January 2021 - Paying Markets
Portland, Maine has gone from the season of ice and snow in the last novel, Beyond the Truth, to the season of heat and great humidity in Within Plain Sight: A Detective Byron Mystery. It is middle of July in 2017 as the read by Bruce Robert Coffin begins and it is just after 5 in the morning when Police Detective Sergeant John Byron arrives on scene. As the lead homicide detective, it will be up to him and his team to identify the murder victim, identify the killer, and arrest the person or persons who did it. Clearly she met with foul play and clearly that event happened some unspecified time earlier at another location. A quick overview of the scene indicates to Detective Sergeant Byron they have little to go on as forensics are going to have to provide some avenues of inquiry.
It would really help the case if they also had her head.
Unfortunately, they only have her body that was dumped in the weeds of a long since derelict lumberyard. Specifically, the weeds and dirt inside an open-air drying shed, one of several such sheds and other decaying structures, on the long since abandoned property. Though it is not completely abandoned as a roving security guard found the body inside the fenced lot and called it in to the 911 system. Whether it is the work of a serial killer known as the “Horseman” who has been active over in the Boston area, a copycat of some type, or something entirely else is going to take time to determine. Time they don’t have once the media gets wind of the case and events begin to escalate in dangerous ways.
The fourth book in the series that started with Among the Shadows continues to build on that initial police procedural. While these are billed as mysteries, they only are in the sense that the criminal or criminals are not known to the reader or the team. These books are police procedurals and each one builds on the preceding read. Characters develop and change, even die, in this series as things are not at all static. Politics and the personal lives of a number of characters are interspersed with the complex cases, flashes of humor, and plenty of action. Each read is an intense one that delves deep into police work and the complexities and personal consequences of doing the job. Such is the case again here in Within Plain Sight: A Detective Byron Mystery. This book and the entire series are strongly recommended.
The series and my reviews:
Among the Shadows: A Detective Byron Mystery (April 2020)
Beyond the Truth: A Detective Byron Mystery (December 2020)
Within Plain Sight: A Detective Byron Mystery (You Are Here)
Within Plain Sight: A Detective Byron Mystery
Bruce Robert Coffin
Witness Impulse (HarperCollins Publishers)
Paperback (also available in eBook format)
My reading copy was a print edition from the author with no expectation of a review.
Kevin R. Tipple ©2020
Monday, December 28, 2020
Steven Havill’s police procedural series set in fictional Posadas County, New Mexico, has been among my all-time favorite mysteries for years. I discovered the series early when its lead character was Undersheriff Bill Gastner. After nine books, Havill acknowledged Gastner’s advancing age and retired him, shifting the focus to Undersheriff Estelle Reyes-Guzman. Gastner remains a constant presence in the background, serving as unofficial advisor to his former employees and as official godfather to Guzman’s two sons.
The change in protagonist added a domestic thread to the narrative arc without sacrificing its detection emphasis, as Guzman juggled a full-time job with erratic hours and family responsibilities. The stories with Gastner, a widower whose grown children are scattered, were always centered on his work. The prequels that Havill has produced offer additional insight to Gastner’s earlier life but by and large the Gastner books are strictly about the crimes of the moment.
In Statute of Limitations (Minotaur, 2006) Guzman is settling in for a happy Christmas Eve with her family when a call comes in for her doctor husband that requires him to leave. A short time later she’s called out for what appears to be an attack on the retired village chief of police. A couple of hours later she and Sheriff Bob Torrez are taking down a pair of thugs in the church where her mother and aunt attended Christmas Eve mass only hours earlier. Christmas morning she awakens to the news Torrez has relapsed from the injuries he suffered in the fall and is being airlifted to Albuquerque. Christmas afternoon brings the discovery of a body in an arroyo and in the evening Guzman finds Bill Gastner prone on his doorstep with a head injury, resulting in a Christmas that is far from merry for county law enforcement.
Guzman spends as much time monitoring medical reports as she does fielding a dismayingly thin force to probe a homicide that appears to have no apparent reason. The methodical investigation that leads to a completely unexpected motive while maintaining daily operations is one of the hallmarks of these stories. The realistic map of Posadas County, showing the towns and villages with landmarks and various state roads referenced in the books, is a wonderful gift to the reader. Highly recommended series, especially for fans of police procedurals.
· Publisher: Minotaur Books; 1st edition (March 21, 2006)
· Language: English
· Hardcover: 304 pages
· ISBN-10: 0312336306
· ISBN-13: 978-0312336301
Aubrey Hamilton ©2020
Aubrey Hamilton is a former librarian who works on Federal It projects by day and reads mysteries at night.
Sunday, December 27, 2020
It is that time of year and once again, Kevin’s Corner is up for consideration as Best Review Site. This year, we attempt to defend our crown as THE Best Review Site. As always, we are up against an ever-increasing list of review sites. Most of which have teams of reviewers and are active in many genres across multiple forms of media. Most of them host book giveaways and other events as well. This site remains an underdog as always as we do not have all the bells and whistles use on a daily and weekly basis.
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 Aubrey Hamilton, Barry Ergang, Jeanne of the BPL, and the numerous guests that have visited the blog during 2020, and myself, thank you for your support.
Saturday, December 26, 2020
Batman: Last Knight on Earth by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo is a DC Black Label title that is an adult orientated tale and not for young kids or sensitive readers of any age. This graphic novel is by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo. This creative team created one of the most well-regarded modern runs for a Batman series. They had an incredible decade long run with Scott Snyder writing the stories and Greg Capullo doing the impressive artwork. This book is billed as their last time working together on a Batman graphic novel, so they really pulled out all the stops.
Batman wakes up twenty years into the future in Arkham Asylum and quickly figures out things are way different then he remembers. He manages to get outside of the Asylum and ventures off into this broken new world to figure out what has happened to the planet and humanity. His traveling companion, who tells a good portion of the story himself, is Joker who is not all there literally or figuratively. Being decapitated can really screwup your memories and Joker has gaps. Joker was decapitated and had his still alive head stuck in a jar which was then subsequently buried deep in the sand for two decades. Batman and the bodiless Joker in a jar must faces various horrors to uncover the truth about this nightmarish world. They will encounter various heroes and villains and see some things.
Batman: Last Night on Earth is a great book featuring amazing art. I highly recommend pretty much any book by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo working together because they do a spectacular job when they combine their talents. This is a very good book, but it is meant as the epic finish to their prior work. While it could be read by itself, the read could be a bit confusing as it is meant for those readers who have been following on the entire series. Because it is designed as their grand finale, the book pretty much features every major hero and villain in the DC universe as well as everyone who is important to Batman whether they are a hero or villain.
It is a great read.
Batman: Last Night on Earth
DC Black Label
Hardback (also available in eBook format)
My reading copy came from the Timberglen Branch of the Dallas Public Library System.
Scott A. Tipple ©2020
Friday, December 25, 2020
Thursday, December 24, 2020
Unbeknownst to the good citizens of Ballard, Texas, as Hawke’s Prey: A Sonny Hawke Thriller by Reavis Z. Wortham begins, terrorists have crossed the nearby border and then violently through a nearby temporary border patrol checkpoint leaving bodies in their wake. While snowstorms and blizzards happen in this part of Southwest Texas, this one is a rare and massive super powered storm. The blizzard is not going to stop them from attacking and seizing the Presidio County Courthouse and taking those who survive the initial assault as hostages.
That includes Kelly Hawke, a teacher, and her civics class from the local school. That also means her own kids are also now held hostage with her and their fellow classmates in the occupied building. A legendary courthouse that is now occupied and full of innocent people, many terrorists, and a local legend in his own right, Sonny Hawke. The Texas Ranger is Kelly’s husband, father of their kids, and the only member of law enforcement in the building. The terrorists do not know that he is inside as he works to let Sheriff Ethan Armstrong know what is going on while doing recon and eliminating a terrorist or two along the way.
This book can pretty much be summed up as taking the concept for the movie Die Hard, making the setting a multilevel courthouse in far southwest Texas, make the terrorists homegrown and domestic with respective agendas, and let chaos ensue. This is a not a deep read nor is it intended to be as the thriller shifts among many points of view. Many of the characters are two dimensional and, as often happens, at least one of the on-site terrorist leaders is certifiably nuts. Of course, many of the foreign terrorists hate America for various sins while the home-grown ones seek to start a revolution that will, somehow, change America to what they believe were the good days back a couple of hundred years ago. This is billed as a thriller so one expects a lot of stereotypes and shallow characters as the focus is on constant action.
One is not disappointed in that as Hawke’s Prey: A Sonny Hawke Thriller by Reavis Z. Wortham powers along the violence increases and events spiral out of anyone’s realistic control. A plan is only good until first contact with the enemy and that point is taught repeatedly throughout the entire read.
A tad jingoistic and more than a bit simplistic, Hawke’s Prey: A Sonny Hawke Thriller by Reavis Z. Wortham, despite the negatives for this reader, is an entertaining read. Might make a great movie through Bruce Willis is a bit old now for Hawke. He could easily be Sheriff Ethan Armstrong who is hamstrung by the intense weather and a lack of resources as well as trying to keep the locals from excising their second amendment rights on their own. The next book in this series is Hawke’s War and I am on hold for it at the library.
For another take on the book, make sure you check out Aubrey Hamilton’s review from last August.
Hawke’s Prey: A Sonny Hawke Thriller
Reavis Z. Wortham
Center Point Large Print (Thorndike)
Large Print Hardback (available in audio, eBook, Hardback, and paperback formats)
Material supplied by the Grauwyler Park Branch of the Dallas Public Library System.
Kevin R. Tipple ©2020
Wednesday, December 23, 2020
Bookblog of the Bristol Library: Nevermore: My Sunshine Away, March, Calypso, Water Is Wide, Night Strangers, Birchbark House, 1491
Another Wednesday means it is time for another short story review. Various things have conspired against me in recent days in one way or another, so on the docket today is a repeat review from way back in my dusty files. Today I offer you a reminder of Artie And The Long-Legged Woman by Jan Christensen.
If reading crime fiction has taught us anything it should be that a beautiful woman with sexy legs often means trouble. Years ago when Artie and Henry were teens and friends, Artie first noticed that Henry’s mom had great legs. They were distinctive and he would recognize those great legs anywhere. Nearly twenty years later they still are incredible as is the rest of Mrs. Henderson. The same Mrs. Henderson who just stepped out of a white limo to talk to him in an alley. It has been a long time since he saw her and these days Mr. and Mrs. Henderson own a jewelry store. The same jewelry store Artie just successfully robbed.
Artie is good at his job and usually gets away with no one able to prove he did it. But, this time, Mrs. Henderson has security camera footage of what he just did. Not to mention the fact that she just caught him literally holding the bag with the loot. He can keep the loot he lifted as a down payment and she won’t use the security footage as long as Artie does the job she wants done.
This is a well written and highly entertaining tale by Texas author Jen Christensen much like her novel, Sara’s Search. A lot of character depth is packed into this fast moving and complicated tale. Like her tale “Going Where the Wind Blows” in the anthology On Dangerous Ground: Stories of Western Noir there is more than one twist in Artie And the Long-Legged Woman available from Untreed Reads.
Good stuff. Period.
Artie And The Long-Legged Woman
Untreed Reads Publishing
Material supplied by the author in exchange for my objective review.
Kevin R. Tipple © 2011, 2014, 2020
Tuesday, December 22, 2020
Lesa's Book Critiques: RECAP – THE LADY MOST WILLING by Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, & Connie Brockway
Back in May 2019, Jeanne of the BPL introduced you to this series with her guest blog post here. She builds on that with her review today of fourth book of this series.
Treadmill Books: Pies Before Guys by Kirsten Weiss
The number of murders connected to Val Harris’ Pie Town pie shop is one of the running gags in this fourth entry in the Pie Town series. While Val protests, one of the participants in a poetry reading held at Pie Town is found, killed by the sword he was using as a prop during the reading. Good thing Val’s boyfriend, police detective hunk Gordon, is being pretty calm about the whole thing—even about Val’s investigations into the death. Is it possible he’s TOO calm about it? Is Val about to get dumped? Will Charlene, pie crust maker extraordinaire, get them both hauled off to jail with her Pie Town UFOs? And by the way, who did murder the erstwhile poet?
Cozy mysteries these days seem to bank on eccentric characters, bizarre murders, and recipes (or craft instruction) and the Pie Town books fall right into this category on all counts. Val is a plucky heroine with a sense of humor and a great deal of loyalty to her employees and friends. Otherwise, she certainly wouldn’t put up with the stubborn Charlene who creates conspiracy theories as deftly as she turns out pie crusts. How you view the series may depend on how you feel about Charlene; a friend gave up after 30 pages because she found the character so annoying. I struggled, but finally decided to see her as funny. She’s bull-headed but she’s also a tech savvy senior who knows how to use social media and is a huge Stargate fan. She also has a white cat named Fred who sleeps a lot, even for a cat. Charlene claims he has narcolepsy.
I’ve read the previous books in the series and enjoyed them. I applaud the author for letting her characters change and grow, and for giving them some depth. Sure, I get irritated with Charlene too, but in this book in particular Val’s insights made me cut them both some slack. It helps that I now picture Charlene as a female Wilfred Brimley.
While a little background helps, I think a reader could come in at any point in the series. I have to say that Charlene is easier to take after the first book but I’m still glad I read them all and in order.
The fifth book in the series just came out this summer, and I’ve made a note to check the local book store for a copy.
The books in order are:
The Quiche and the Dead
Pies Before Guys
Gourd to Death