Monday, May 31, 2021
The Magic Line by Elizabeth Gunn (Severn House, 2012) is the fourth of the Sarah Burke contemporary police procedural series set in Tucson, Arizona. Gunn also created one of my all-time favorite fictional police detectives, Jake Hines of the Rutherford, Minnesota, police department. The Hines series seems to have stopped with 10 books. The seventh in the Burke series was published in 2020. Both series deserve a wider audience than they currently have.
Despite her plan for a quiet evening with her family in their new home, Sarah Burke is called out during dinner to a mass shooting in a quiet blue-collar neighborhood that appeared at first glance to be a home invasion gone wrong. A quick inspection revealed the house to be full of drugs and related paraphernalia. Five bodies and a significant number of weapons suggested a quick drug war with no winners. One of the victims wasn’t quite dead, however, so the police packed him into an ambulance for emergency treatment. In route to the hospital he managed to overpower the attendants and escape, adding another element of the unexpected to a crime that already didn’t quite look right.
Told from Sarah’s perspective and that of two of the criminals involved in the shooting, the story is a crisp portrayal of the law enforcement war on drugs along the United States/Mexico border and the kind of people who see it as a viable way to earn a living. The police investigation is balanced with quick looks at Sarah’s personal life, in which she, her live-in boyfriend and fellow detective Will Dietz, her mother recovering from a stroke, and her niece, abandoned by Sarah’s drug addict sister, have all recently become a blended family in a new-to-them larger house. This story is what fans of Gunn’s work have come to expect: a soundly plotted, well-written police procedural with interesting, credible characters. Highly recommended.
· ASIN: B008L1FUS2
· Publisher: Severn House (October 1, 2012)
· Publication date: October 1, 2012
· Language: English
· File size: 589 KB
Aubrey Hamilton ©2021
Aubrey Hamilton is a former librarian who works on Federal It projects by day and reads mysteries at night.
Sunday, May 30, 2021
Saturday, May 29, 2021
The Reading Room: The Playground Murders (The Detective's Daughter Series #7) by Lesley Thomson: Reading Room Review
The Kingdom of Liars: A Novel by Nick Martell is the author's debut book and stars Michael Kingsman. That matters because he is the son of David Kingsman, the murderer of the King's nine-year-old son. Dad is dead and considered by nearly everyone to be a murderer and a traitor to the Hollows (a city state in this fictional world). The nobility that rules the Hollows are at war with each other as well as the Rebels who seek to overthrow the nobility and usurp the King. Not only has the King done a terrible job of leading his country, the death has set off a battle with the remaining children who want the throne as well as other members of royal families who believe they now have an opportunity to claim it. The King’s most likely heir is commonly called the Corrupt Prince for his hedonistic and sadistic behavior. The common folk, as they are everywhere, are stuck between all these warring factions who do not care about who they hurt, maim, and kill.
In this world, magic is a rare gift that is tightly controlled by the nobility. To use it, you will lose something of your memory. It might be a little memory or it might be your own name. The nobility uses magic as a weapon as the people do not have access to magic. Magic is great until somebody puts a bullet in your head and the people have plenty of guns.
Michael Kingsman is determined to protect his family and uncover the truth about his father's crimes. Did he really kill the king's son or was he framed? To find out, he needs to work his way into the ranks of the nobility to have any chance of finding out anything. He has to try, despite the fact they all hate him for apparently good reason, as well as the fact that he has gaps in his memory going back to events in his childhood. Those gaps could hold clues to what really happened. If his mind was altered, how can he trust himself or figure out what the truth is?
The supporting cast in The Kingdom of Liars: A Novel by Nick Martell is very diverse and different. Everyone has realistic motivations and evolves throughout the novel. Michael Kingsman is complicated and makes clever decisions at times and at other times makes decisions based on emotion that may or may not be the right one.
One of the more entertaining characters is an all and friend, Kia. A blind noble who offers a lot of funny commentary. One of which is, “I can't tell where we are going, but I never can tell where we are going.”
While the author does tend to lean into cliches at points, overall, this debut novel is very good. This very good read is followed by The Two-Faced Queen. That came out earlier this year and remains on order by the Dallas Public Library System. I have a hold for a copy when it finally arrives.
The Kingdom of Liars: A Novel
Saga Press (Simon & Schuster, Inc.)
My reading copy came from the Central or Downtown Branch of the Dallas Public Library System.
Scott A. Tipple ©2021
Friday, May 28, 2021
Jerry's House of Everything: FORGOTTEN BOOK: THE SAINT'S CHOICE OF HOLLYWOOD CRIME, edited by Leslie Charteris
It is 2058 and marriage is on the menu as Immortal in Death by J. D. Robb begins. Roarke asked her, she said yes, and now she is stressed about it. Marriage is complicated and Eve Dallas is worried about it. Thanks to her childhood, it is very hard for her to let her guard down or trust anyone else. Only a very few people are close to her and even they only get glimpses of the real Eve Dallas.
One of those few people in her inner circle is Mavis. An entertainer, Mavis is everything Eve is not. Flamboyant, loud, and brash in so many ways, Mavis knows people and has quite a few contacts and friends. One of those is a designer who is going to handle her wedding dress. Not only does Dallas meet Leonardo, she also meets Pandora, a model, who saw Eve and thought she was there for other reasons.
Not only does she assault Eve, she goes after Mavis. When the dust settles, Pandora threatens to end the career of the designer, Mavis, and pretty much everyone in sight before she leaves. It is no surprise when hours later, Pandora is dead and Mavis is suspect number one and soon arrested.
Despite the evidence forcing the arrest, NYPD Homicide Lieutenant Eve Dallas is sure that Mavis did not kill Pandora. Some of the other potential initial suspects she is not sure about. That list of possibilities seemingly grows exponentially while at the same time, the evidence continues to point to Mavis. In the following days as a media frenzy breaks out and Dallas’ professionalism is questioned by many, her long buried childhood memories begin to unlock adding to her stress.
There is still the wedding and the mounting stress of that as well.
This third book in the series is another enjoyable police procedural/romance read. The author’s ongoing habit of pov head hoping continues what seems to be a default style. Despite that fact, the read is entertaining and moves as at a rapid pace as we learn more and more about Eve Dallas and what drives her. 2058 has a lot of cool high-tech stuff, but humans are still present, and murder still happens for the same reasons it has going back to the first time one of our ancient ancestors decided to whack somebody else.
The books to this point and my reviews:
Naked in Death: Eve Dallas Mysteries (March 2021)
Glory in Death: Eve Dallas Mysteries (April 2021)
Immortal in Death: Eve Dallas Mysteries (Book 3)
J. D. Robb
Berkley Books (Penguin Random House)
eBook (also available in audio, hardback, and paperback formats)
My copy came via the LibbyApp from the Dallas Public Library System.
Kevin R. Tipple ©2021
Thursday, May 27, 2021
We’re now featuring 24 new reviews in each issue of Crime Review www.crimereview.co.uk together with a top industry interview. This time it’s author Caroline England in the Countdown hot seat: http://crimereview.co.uk/page.php/interview/9245
We’re on Twitter at:
Crime Review: @CrimeReviewUK
Linda Wilson: @CrimeReviewer
Sharon Wheeler: @lartonmedia
This issue’s reviews are:
A Song for the Dark Times by Ian Rankin, reviewed by Ewa Sherman
John Rebus always focused on his job. But family is important which he realises more than ever when his distraught daughter Samantha calls in the middle of the night. Her partner Keith, interested in the old POW camp on the windswept coast, has gone missing. Rebus knows he has to help her.
A Prince and a Spy by Rory Clements, reviewed by John Cleal
Cambridge-based American history professor Tom Wilde investigates the death of George, Duke of Kent, brother of the King of England, in a mystery plane crash.
Box 88 by Charles Cumming reviewed by Chris Roberts
Lachlan Kite, working with top-secret spy agency Box 88, is abducted by Iranians and subjected to questioning about events one summer 30 years ago.
What Abigail Did That Summer by Ben Aaronovitch, reviewed by Linda Wilson
While magician and copper Peter Grant is off chasing unicorns and missing children, his 13-year-old cousin Abigail has some missing kids of her own to investigate, with the help of a bunch of talking – and very organised – foxes.
Double Agent by Tom Bradby, reviewed by Chris Roberts
A Russian foreign intelligence agent offers to defect, bringing evidence that the British Prime Minister is in the pay of Moscow.
Secret Weapon by Anthony Horowitz, reviewed by Linda Wilson
Seven short stories featuring teenage spy Alex Rider.
Blackout by Simon Scarrow, reviewed by John Cleal
Criminal Inspector Horst Schenke is assigned to investigate the murder of a former well-known actress, but is put under immense pressure by rivalries in the Nazi hierarchy in an atmosphere where ‘disloyalty’ can mean death.
Smoke Screen by Jørn Lier Horst and Thomas Enger, reviewed by Viv Beeby
When a bomb rips through the centre of Oslo as the clock strikes in a New Year, police officer Alexander Blix and journalist Emma Ramm are both at the scene. And so begins a new investigation and a ten-year-old mystery to solve for this unlikely partnership ...
The Coldest Case by Martin Walker, reviewed by Linda Wilson
With the ever-present danger of forest fires adding to his workload, Bruno, Chief of Police, still finds time to help investigate a cold case that has haunted his friend J-J throughout his career.
The Finisher by Peter Lovesey, reviewed by John Cleal
As teacher Maeve Kelly struggles to compete in a charity half marathon, Superintendent Peter Diamond, tasked with crowd control, spots a violent criminal he once jailed – and his suspicions are raised when a runner disappears without trace.
The Island by Ben McPherson, reviewed by Ewa Sherman
Scottish Cal and Norwegian Elsa leave their home in Washington DC to stay for six months in Norway, with their two teenage daughters and a baby son. The change of scene brings a devastating change to their lives: 15-year-old Licia vanishes from a summer camp on a tranquil island where two men shot tens of youngsters.
Knife Edge by Simon Mayo, reviewed by Linda Wilson
Seven journalists are murdered on a single day in London. They all worked for the same news agency. The question in everyone’s mind is who will be targeted next. It’s not a happy thought for Famie Madden, or her colleagues, but that doesn’t stop them when a possible lead turns up.
A Double Life by Charlotte Philby, reviewed by John Cleal
Foreign Office counter-terrorism expert Gabriela finds her life falling apart in a web of lies, while drunken, drug-taking journalist Isobel is in danger as she investigates people trafficking and prostitution.
Making Wolf by Tade Thompson, reviewed by Chris Roberts
Weston Kogi returns to his birthplace in West Africa for the funeral of his aunt and is pushed into investigating the death of a revered statesman.
After Dark by Dominic Nolan, reviewed by Kati Barr-Taylor
The little girl suffered from man's inhumanity. Now the police must piece together her story because she may never find the words.
Good Dark Night by Harry Brett, reviewed by John Cleal
Tatiana Goodwin, widow of crime boss Rich, has struggled to take over his business as enemies pile up. Now she must learn that power comes at a price.
Killing Rock by Robert Daws, reviewed by Chris Roberts
Gibraltar-based detective Tamara Sullivan joins forces with a colleague across the border to solve murders from the past and present.
Like Mother, Like Daughter by Elle Croft, reviewed by John Barnbrook
Kat has two daughters, Imogen and Jemima. She has a secret about the elder daughter, Imogen, that even Imogen does not know. One day Imogen disappears, and Kat is desperately worried that this is linked to what she knows.
Private Moscow by James Patterson and Adam Hamdy, reviewed by John Cleal
One of PI Jack Morgan’s oldest friends is shot dead at his company’s New York public launch. In Moscow an office worker is murdered in a bomb blast. Morgan finds a link and exposes a deadly conspiracy.
Like Flies From Afar by K Ferrari, reviewed by Chris Roberts
Self-made businessman Luis Machi has made plenty of enemies, but who dislikes him enough to leave a body in the boot of his beloved BMW?
The Viper by Cristobel Kent, reviewed by Sylvia Maughan
Two bodies are found in a remote area of the countryside near Florence. Sandro Cellini is called back into his old police department as a consultant. He knows why, but is he strong enough to be able to help?
The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse, reviewed by Viv Beeby
An isolated hotel in the remote Swiss Alps, which was once a sanatorium, is cut off by an avalanche. A deranged masked predator stalks the residents and the only person who can help them is convalescing fellow guest, Detective Elin Warner.
The Last Thing to Burn by Will Burn, reviewed by Chris Roberts
A young Vietnamese woman smuggled into Britain is imprisoned in a rural hell and as the last of her possessions are taken from her she desperately seeks a means to escape.
Slow Burn by Stephen Leather, reviewed by Linda Wilson
Spider Shepherd is taxed with bringing a former jihadists wife and son back to the UK as the price for his cooperation with the security services but, as ever, there are added complications.
Sharon and Linda
Wednesday, May 26, 2021
Jerry's House of Everything: SHORT STORY WEDNESDAY: THE DRUMS OF KAIRWAN by The Marquess Curzon of Kedleston
From the archive….
As Hollow Point: A Short Story begins, it is 1984 in New Orleans and Casey Aloysius is once again the target of a manhunt by the New Orleans Police Department. Six years ago he went to prison in Angola for a raping a ten year old girl. The parole board granted his release so he got free three days ago. He came back to New Orleans and tracked down the now 16-year-old girl. Once he found her, he kidnapped her and raped her repeatedly making sure to do everything he had done before all over again. He left her barely alive, savagely beaten and abused, and chained to a wall of a garage after telling her repeatedly he was punishing her for reporting him before. If it had not been for two neighborhood boys who thought they heard a puppy whimpering and came looking she might have died there.
This is an all hands on deck situation as the police of the City of New Orleans look for Casey Aloysius. That means even the homicide unit is working the case. After briefing the officers under his command, Lieutenant Mason sends LaStanza and his partner, Jodie Kintyre, over to Mercy Hospital to get a statement from the victim. As it happens, Jodie’s mom and the mother of the victim were friends so the victim, June Holmes, remembers Jodie from the old neighborhood. Her need for vengeance is not a solitary need as soon a member of New Orleans’s finest is gunned down.
What follows is a hard-edged police procedural type short story that has occasional flashes of cynical humor. LaStanza has seen a lot in his years on the force and his internal monologue and cutting comments say as much about him as they do others. An enjoyable short story, the chase is on in Hollow Point: A Short Story by O’Neil De Noux.
Hollow Point: A Short Story
O’Neil De Noux
Big Kiss Productions
Material was picked up using funds in my Amazon Associate account when the author publicized the release last month.
Kevin R. Tipple ©2016, 2021
Tuesday, May 25, 2021
Please welcome Jeanne of the BPL back to the blog…
Yes, you read that right: this is a mystery where the sleuths are the former president and vice-president of the United States. And if reading that makes you skeptical, join the club. I thought the idea was ridiculous.
Then someone talked me into reading the first book, Hope Never Dies, because it was very funny. I needed funny at the time, so I gave it a try and nearly fell off the treadmill laughing a couple of times. Sure, the concept is over the top but really no more so than having a baker solve all the murders in a small town (which has a LOT of murders!) or other series in which Jane Austen, Edgar Allan Poe, or Eleanor Roosevelt catch the criminals.
The stories are narrated by Joe Biden, who is portrayed as being somewhat inept (his smartphone baffles him at times, for instance) but who is passionate about justice, America, and looking out for each other. He’s an all-around decent guy who may not have all the answers but you know he’ll have your back. Barack Obama is the cool guy, the professor, the one who wants to stop and take stock before Joe rushes in.
As the second book opens, Joe is mulling whether or not to run for president. Since the book came out in July, 2019, Shaffer had to walk the fine line of “will he-won’t he” in Biden’s musings. Biden is in Obama’s home town of Chicago for an economics forum, and traffic is terrible. It’s St. Patrick’s Day weekend and the celebrations have already started, so that when Biden gets out of the cab to walk he smells the odors of corned beef, cabbage, and horse manure which made him “nostalgic for the Senate Chambers in August in the seventies” before the advent of air conditioning.
It isn’t long before there’s the murder of someone Joe met and liked, and he isn’t sure that Mayor Rahm Emanuel is going to see that the investigation gets the attention it deserves. So Joe is going to take the case himself, with a little help from the guy in the tan suit.
I put off reading the second book in the series because I figured it just couldn’t be as good as the first. After all, the element of surprise (if you will) is gone. Finally I picked it up and I was right. It wasn’t as good as the first.
It was better.
Others have disagreed, I’ll admit. And maybe it’s more due to really REALLY needing something funny at the time I picked up Hope Rides Again but it seemed to me there was something to laugh at on every page. I like Shaffer’s sense of humor and the way he portrays the “bro-mance” between Biden and Obama and the way their wives are always bemusedly a step ahead of them. And trailing in their wake is hapless Secret Service agent Steve, who has to be a glutton for punishment.
I don’t suppose there’ll be a third now but if there is, I’ll be reading it.
Monday, May 24, 2021
The first book in the Max Freeman series by former journalist Jonathon King, The Blue Edge of Midnight (Dutton, 2002), won the 2003 Edgar Award for Best First Novel and was shortlisted for the Anthony Award for Best First Novel, the Barry Award for Best First Novel, and the Macavity Award for Best First Novel. It introduced Freeman as an ex-cop fleeing from the memory of shooting a child by accident and hiding from everyone but his conscience on the edge of the Florida Everglades. The seventh and apparently last book in the series is Don’t Lose Her (Open Road, 2015).
Diane Manchester, a Federal judge and eight months pregnant, is forced into a van as she walks down the street in Palm Beach, on break from the courtroom where she is presiding over an extradition case involving a Colombian drug lord. Her terrified husband Billy calls in Freeman, who conducts investigations for Billy’s law practice. Freeman launches his own search, leaving the obvious avenues to the FBI and believing the defendant of the judge’s current case is behind her kidnapping. His first stop is at Billy’s bank, where he retrieves $100,000 in cash to use as bribes for informants who won’t talk to the FBI. His hunt takes him into the underside of southern Florida society, where poverty and drug addiction and those that exploit its victims are the norm.
Three story lines offer multiple perspectives on the action-- Freeman, the judge, and a young woman pulled into the crime -- and then converge in the heart of the Everglades. A fast-moving, intense thriller with a strong sense of place and a suspense-filled finale. The descriptive passages about the Everglades are striking. It’s clear King knows this region well. Highly recommended.
· Publisher: Open Road Media Mystery & Thriller (June 2, 2015)
· Language: English
· Paperback: 262 pages
· ISBN-10: 1504001656
· ISBN-13: 978-1504001656
Aubrey Hamilton ©2021
Aubrey Hamilton is a former librarian who works on Federal It projects by day and reads mysteries at night.
Sunday, May 23, 2021
Saturday, May 22, 2021
CrimeReads: SHOP TALK: MEGAN ABBOTT DRINKS TWO DIET COKES, MAKES WEIRD CHOICES, AND KEEPS ON WRITING
Avengers by Jonathan Hickman: The Complete Collection Volume 3 collects “The Infinity Event” and all of its tie ins with the main Avengers titles so there are two distinctly separate but connected wars. Captain America leads most of the Avengers into space alongside a coalition of Alien races to confront the Builders. The Builders are a hostile race of Aliens who are killing everyone on entire worlds as they rampage on a bloody path to Earth. With most heroes off Earth, Thanos and his Black Order goons attack. It is up to Iron Man and the Illumanti to stop him.
While most characters get the spotlight at least once, I think the best moments in this volume are by Thor, Black Bolt, and Black Panther. Each character has intense and epic moments. Since this is a book consisting of mostly wars, there are large scale battles which result in a lot of action and are very colorful.
I still think someone should have put in editor’s note to explain things for folks not up to speed. For example, why does Iron Man have a new armor in this volume? Readers who have not read the previous books are going to be confused as that is never addressed. There are other situations like this as there were in the preceding book. Despite the minor nitpicks, Avengers by Jonathan Hickman: The Complete Collection Volume 3 is awesome and I highly recommend it.
Avengers by Jonathan Hickman: The Complete Collection Volume 3
Paperback (also available in eBook format)
My reading copy came from the Downtown Branch of the Dallas Public Library System.
Scott A. Tipple ©2021
Friday, May 21, 2021
From the archive…
DEATH OF A SNOB (1992) by M.C. Beaton
Reviewed by Barry Ergang
It’s Christmas in the Scottish Highlands and Hamish Macbeth, police constable of the village of Lochdubh, is miserable indoors with a head cold while a snowstorm rages outdoors. He’s equally miserable because he’s been looking forward to spending the holiday with his parents, who have “moved to a croft house and land near Rogart.” Other family members will be there as well, among them his Aunt Hannah—and there’s the rub. “Aunt Hannah,” you see, “was a fat-loud-mouthed harridan who loathed Hamish. But she had been generous to the not-too-comfortably-off Macbeths with presents of money and gifts for Hamish’s little brothers and sisters. Never anything for Hamish. She loathed him and never tired of saying so.”
“Ever since you put that mouse down her back when you were eight, she’s never been fond o’ you,” his mother reminds him, and Hamish understands that his attendance at the festivities, which will potentially prove remunerative for his parents, would be looked upon with less-than-sanguine eyes—especially Hannah’s. She is arriving on December 20th, so Hamish promises that if the head cold doesn’t kill him, he’ll drop off presents before then.
He’s barely back in bed when Priscilla Halburton-Smythe, “once the love of his life, until Hamish had grown heartily sick of the weight of the torch he was carrying for her,” shows up at his door. She’s there to ask that Hamish give some advice to her friend Jane Wetherby, and Hamish agrees to see Jane the following day. The tall attractive woman who shows up is wearing “a thin white blouse plunged at the front to a deep V” that she tends to emphasize, inadvertently or otherwise, by leaning forward when she speaks intently. She fears that someone might be trying to kill her. Her suspicion is based on a couple of potentially fatal accidents—or were they merely unfortunate incidents?—which have recently occurred.
Jane is the proprietor of “a health farm called The Happy Wanderer on the island of Eileencraig….‘I not only teach people how to have a healthy body but how to get in touch with their innermost feelings.’” When she explains that a villager read her tea leaves and said someone was trying to kill her, she “began to worry about my guests.”
As you can easily imagine, Hamish becomes one of the guests.
The farm is closed for the winter, so the guests are friends Jane has invited to spend Christmas with her. They include two married couples, Jane’s ex-husband, and Harriet Shaw, a woman who writes cookbooks and to whom Hamish finds himself attracted despite their age difference. One of these people is the titular snob, and the others are among the suspects Hamish must contend with while also clashing with the local constabulary.
Death of a Snob is the sixth title in the Hamish Macbeth series but the first that I’ve read. I’m not sure I ever would have were it not for a longtime friend of mine who is an equally voracious reader, and who told me he’d enjoyed several titles in the series which—like this one—are short, quick, and diverting reads. M.C. Beaton excels at characterizations, particularly through dialogue, and atmosphere, especially when depicting the tensions among the Christmas guests at the health farm and the hostility of the Eileencraig islanders toward strangers. She’s also quite skilled at conveying a gentle kind of humor.
With the caveat that you avoid the epub edition I read as being obnoxiously riddled with typos and other problems in both narrative and dialogue, I can readily recommend it. Unfortunately, I can’t recall where I acquired this particular epub edition, so you’re on your own in that respect.
Barry Ergang ©20016, 2021