Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Du Pré Solves a Hundred Year Old Crime

One morning Du Pre finds Lieutenant Patchen parked outside his girlfriend Madeleine's house. Patchen is looking for Chappie, Madeliene's son. He and Chappie, were wounded in Iraq, and Patchen has come to convince Chappie, to accept the Navy Cross. With Du Pre's help, Chappie is located, but he's suffering from a night of serious drinking. Du Pre takes both men to the sweat lodge where voices are heard calling out 'Bitter Creek.'

Du Pre learns that Bitter Creek is a ballad describing a massacre of Metis, people of mixed heritage often French and Cree. Du Pre, a Metis himself, discovers a frail old woman who claims to be the only survivor of the massacre, and they begin the hunt to locate Bitter Creek.

The book is filled with colorful characters from Du Pre, a renowned fiddler, to Booger Tom, foreman on the ranch owned by Bart and his wife Pidgeon. The mystery is not so much what happened as why someone today wants to keep the facts secret.

This is not the first book in the series, so there is background you don't get in this novel. However, I didn't find it hard to follow the plot. The author gives background on the characters, but doesn't include a lot of backstory. This keeps the story moving quickly.

I very much enjoyed the book. The characters' comments on daily life, war and religion are marvelous. It's worth reading the book just to get to know these people. The is not a story with a great deal of violence or police procedures. I recommend it primarily for the view of history and the descriptions of Montana.

I reviewed this book for Amazon Vine.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Crime in a Small Town Environment

Samuel Craddock, although retired, is the acting police chief in Jarrett Creek. He has become friendly with his neighbor Jenny Sandstone. When her mother Vera suffers a stroke, she tells Samuel that Jenny is in danger. After several incidents, one of which lands Jenny in the hospital after being run off the road, he worries that she is in serious danger. He tries to get information from Jenny, but she wants to handle it herself.

Although Samuel is preoccupied with Jenny's problems, he is still called upon to perform services for the local community, like taking care of the parents on prom night. If you like mysteries with a large helping of local culture, you'll enjoy this book.

Unfortunately, the mystery is almost too simple. I was able to figure out the culprit from the first few pages. However, Samuel is a likable character and reading about the small town is fun. I was not as interested in Jenny. She is too withdrawn and wants to do everything for herself, regardless of the danger.

I recommend this book if you like small town mysteries. The plot is reasonable. It shows what types of problems, family and community, that can lead to crime is a small rural community.

I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Legal Thriller with at Least One Eccentric Character

Lisa and Joe Stone are law partners. They have an easy life practicing law in a Virginia small town, no children, but a lovable dog, Brownie. After twenty years, Lisa is becoming restless. She loves Joe, but what's exciting about small town legal work. In addition, Joe is such a push over, he takes on eccentric clients for little pay, like Lettie VanStandt. Lettie is constantly making wills, trusts and corporations. She also fancies herself as someone able to communicate with animals and is constantly developing potionpotions.

Lisa tries not to mind Joe's habits, but she's restless which leads to dabbling in an affair with a colleague, Brett Brooks. Nothing serious happens, but now Lisa is ridden with guilt. Her guilt becomes worse when Lettie is murdered and Joe, cited in her new will as her heir, becomes involved with murder and shady drug company deals.

Everyone in this plot lies, except Joe. He's the perfect guy to be setup because he's so honest. I enjoyed the plot, but found the amount of time devoted to the domestic arrangements of the Stones distracting. The plot doesn't really start until about a third of the way through the book when Lettie is murdered and Lisa and Joe are caught up in the investigation.

I found the characters more interesting in the opening chapters. As the novel progressed, I found myself not liking Lisa very much. I thought the affair with Brett was contrived to give an additional plot line to the story and to give Lisa a reason for being involved.

I thought the ending was equally contrived. As a legal thriller, I found it difficult to believe the way the court, and particularly the bar association behaved. It's not a bad read, if you enjoy legal drama, but I can't recommend it as one of the best.

I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program.

A Mormon Vendetta, A Rare Mormon Book, and Murder

A murder in 1844 is the basis for a vendetta. The Mormon Prophet, Joseph Smith, and several of his followers died at the hands of a mob in Carthage, Illinois. Several of the men who escaped the massacre vowed to kill everyone involved down to the last living descendant.

Michael Bevan, a rare books dealer, has never heard of the Mormon vendetta, but Natalie Phelan, his friend and director of the Celtic Heritage Center, has fallen in love with Emery, one of the descents of the original Mormon vigilantes. He claims to love her and wants to marry her, but they need money. He has an original copy of one of the early Mormon books, which he gives to Michael to authenticate. For Bevan this is an opportunity to get a book good enough to allow him entry to the AABA, Antiquarian Book Association of America, but nothing is simple.

This is a fun mystery with an interesting plot that revolves around an historical incident. It's a quick read. The characters are interesting. Michael Bevan is a mix of scholarship and physical ability. The small town he lives in is like having a vacation from the real world. The other characters Natalie, and particularly, Michael's lover Josie, are sympathetic and well drawn.

If you enjoy mysteries with little violence and an interesting historical plot, you may enjoy this book.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.  

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Lydia and Mort Team Up to Solve the Murders of Young Prostitutes

Lydia, alias the Fixer, and Mort. Seattle's chief of detectives, have been estranged since, Allie, Mort's wayward daughter, left Lydia's care to go away with Vadim Tokarev, a Russian drug lord. Mort is living on a houseboat and continuing his work as chief of detectives. Lydia is a practicing psychologist. She misses Mort's friendship and feels that she was unfairly accused of letting Allie escape.

In Mort's latest case, a young woman's body is found, and it's evident that she was tortured before being killed. Then another young woman is found also tortured before being killed. Both are prostitutes and were involved with an unscrupulous loan shark who charged exorbitant interest rates designed to lead the women into prostitution. When Lydia's patient, another young woman, disappears, Mort and Lydia decide it's time to work together again.

This is another fast paced Fixer novel. The characters of Mort and Lydia are more developed than in the previous books. He's devastated by his daughter's actions. Lydia is trying to leave behind her life as the Fixer. This book gives us insight into their struggles and their need for each other's friendship.

The plot is fast moving and the author does a good job of misdirection. It's hard to tell until the very end who is responsible. Although the idea of young women being tortured and killed is horrendous, the violence is handled tastefully with a minimum of gory details.

I recommend this book if you're a fan of the Fixer series, or if you enjoy a good mystery.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.  

A Personal Account of What Suffering from a Concussion is Like

In 1999, Clark Elliott was in a fairly minor automobile accident. He had a moment of blackout, but thought that his symptoms would quickly pass. They didn't. He experienced intense pain in his skull, suffered balance problems, had trouble thinking for any extended period of time, and suffered bouts of nausea when concentrating hard.

Medical professionals were unable to help him, suggesting that he learn to live with his symptoms. Clark is a remarkable person. He did live with his symptoms for ten years and during that time recorded his struggle to cope and understand his problems. Being a professor of artificial intelligence, he described his symptoms in language relating to information processing. Although at times his descriptions become a little technical, he offers simplified examples so the book is easy to follow.

The descriptions of how the cognitive processes in his brain appeared to work are fascinating. Because his thinking speed was slowed, he was able to analyze the way his brain worked to retrieve and process information. Anyone interested in cognitive psychology should read this book. Necessarily, it is one person's experience, and therefore, a case study. However, it is a case study that suggests a number of pathways for future research.

Perhaps one of the most significant sections of the book for anyone suffering from the effects of concussion is the part about his eventual successful treatment. I highly recommend this to anyone suffering from concussion and looking to understand and get treatment for their symptoms.

I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program.

Ancient Mysteries. Las Vegas Casinos, and Human Trafficking

Michael Tirano, owner of the Seven Sins Hotel and Casino, is looking to expand, but he has run afoul of the Nevada Gaming Control Board, or is someone out to take over his empire? Scarlett Swan, the love of his live, is an archaeologist working in Transylvania. She finds a mysterious document that someone is trying to keep from exposure. His sister, Raven Khan, has become involved with Saltuk, a crime kingpin. A ship she boards as a pirate turns out to be carrying women and children, a product of human trafficking.

The three strands of the plot are cleverly woven together to keep the story moving at a rapid pace. Each strand builds on the findings from the other until the novel reaches it's exciting conclusion. Although there are three separate plot lines. It's not hard to follow. Each plot is distinct. The chapters are short and although there are many characters, because they are attached to each plot line it's not hard to remember who they are.

Michael Tirano is a heroic protagonist. He wields great power, but he also has compassion. One of the early scenes, shows him buying the home of a couple who are being evicted and leasing it back to them at favorable terms. He, like Las Vegas, has a bright exterior covering dark secrets.

The other characters act primarily in the service of the plot. This is an action novel, not one with serious character development. If you enjoy fast paced action, you'll enjoy this book.

I reviewed this book for PR by the Book.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Murder in Bruges and a Secret From the Past

A young couple are restoring a badly deteriorated farm house when they discover a skeleton in the backyard. Commissioner Van In and his wife, Deputy Prosecutor Hannelore, get the case. At first it seems to be a mysterious death, but when the skeleton is a murder victim the case changes.

The farm was first owned by one of the wealthiest men in Bruges. He donated it to charity and from there it found it's way to the young couple. Donation to a charity seems straight forward, but many of the wealthiest men in Bruges were involved, and when one of them turns up dead, the picture changes.

This is straightforward detective fiction. There are no surprising twists until the end, but even there it's fairly easy to see what's coming. The story is carried by the main characters. Van In is gruff and doesn't like a lot of people. Hannelore is young, beautiful and pregnant with their first child. She is the more sympathetic character.

I was disappointed that there weren't more descriptions of Bruges. It's a fascinating city. The other problem is the names. Many of them start with 'V' and that makes it hard to remember who's who early in the novel. This is a somewhat unfair criticism because this book is a translation. However, it can make it difficult to enjoy the novel.

If you like detective fiction with engaging characters, you may like this one. The plot is not original, but the characters are interesting and the foreign atmosphere is a plus.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.

A Twist on the Serial Killer Theme

DI Helen Grace has just landed a serial killer case. A killer kidnaps two people, locks them us in an abandoned structure, and gives them a grisly choice. One must kill the other then the killer will be set free.

Helen Grace herself has some issues. She's a workaholic DI with apparently no life outside of work, but her demons lead her to pay Jake for S&M sessions. As the case progresses, Helen begins to realize that the case has some connection to her, but facing it is not easy.

I found this take on the serial killer theme innovative, but that was the only part that wasn't predictable. The fact that Helen is troubled is a theme running through many detective novels, but she's more than troubled she's edging toward psychosis. I didn't find her character believable. She does all the things a competent DI would do, but when she starts to suspect a connection to herself, she delays in investigating.

If you like fast paced thrillers, you may enjoy this novel. The chapters are short moving among the various characters, including the victims. However, since the actions are predictable even the short chapters get old after awhile.

I didn't enjoy this book. Helen was not a sympathetic character, and the scenes of the victims were pretty gross. However, it is a twist on a much used theme, so it may be worth reading for that reason.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.  

Friday, April 10, 2015

Action, Suspense, and Technology Against the Background of War

In a scene reminiscent of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Chinese catch the US off guard and launch attacks from air, sea and outer space. When the dust settles, the US has lost possession of the Hawaiian Islands and is struggling to come back and launch and offensive.

The chapters are very short moving from one set of characters to another. Although many characters are introduced, they are all sympathetic and I didn't have trouble remembering the plot line for the various groups. The focus of the action is on Captain Jamie Simmons, his father Mike and their father-son conflict. This thread pulls the book together and gives a human dimension to the war.

Although the book has exciting action scenes, the best part for me was the use of technology by both countries. I found it fascinating and a little frightening that technology we're familiar with could so easily be turned to evil purposes. If you like reading about technology, you'll enjoy this book.

The book reminded me of Tom Clancy's work. The technology is well researched as are the political alliances. I recommend this book, if you like the excitement of war and politics with a serious look at advanced technology.

I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program.

A Mayoral Race Upset by Murder

In the third book in the Cape Refuge Series, Morgan and Jonathan are still running Hanover House, a transitional facility for drug offenders. To complicate their lives, Jonathan is running for mayor and they are trying to have a baby, but with little success.

Morgan is drawn to Lisa, wife of another mayoral candidate because they both have fertility problems. When Lisa disappears, the investigation centers on her husband. The evidence is there, but Chief of Police Cade, has trouble thinking
that her devoted husband would kill her.

The characters are believable. Morgan and Jonathan are the kind of sympathetic people that make running a transition house work. Their problems are something many people can relate to: the rigors of a campaign, and the heartbreak of being unable to conceive a child.

It may surprise readers new to Cape Refuge that the book is not only a murder mystery, but also a portrayal of Christian values. Blackstock isn't too heavy handed with her Christian message, but the ideals of family and helping others are well illustrated by the way Morgan and Jonathan run Hanover House.

I recommend this book if you like a mystery with a twist at the end that is relatively free of violence.

I reviewed this book for BookLook Bloggers.  

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Courage and Love in War-Torn Germany

In the days leading up to WWI, Klare, an eighteen-year-old German-Jewish girl, has a big decision to make. Jakob Kohler, a young Jewish attorney, wants to marry her before he goes off to fight. Klare likes him. He has good prospects, but she's unsure whether she loves him. In the pressure of a country going to war, Klare agrees to the wedding and soon finds herself a housewife and mother.

The novel follows Klare's story from her marriage before WWI through the horrors of WWII and beyond. The book is well researched and paints a realistic picture of the fate of German-Jews before, during and after the two world wars. The experiences of the author's family, which form the basis of the narrative, add realistic detail.

The book is worth reading to get the flavor of the life of an average person during the wars. However, the narrative moves very slowly. In some ways, Klare is a compelling character for the bravery with which she faces the privations and discrimination of war. However, she is a very average person. Circumstances drive her. She shows ingenuity in dealing with some of the worst problems of WWII, however, she does it in a quiet way. If you want excitement and fast-paced action, this is not a book you'll enjoy. If you're interested in life in Germany during and after the wars, the
book is well done.

I reviewed this book for PR by the Book.  

Monday, April 6, 2015

A History of the Violence at the Separation of India and Pakistan

After WWII, the British felt pressured to give India independence. However, the Muslim forces in the north of India, led by Jinnah, a lawyer, wanted to control their own destiny. Jinnah would settle for nothing less than an independent country, and Pakistan was born. However, creating two separate countries was not simple. Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs lived on both sides of the proposed border. Each group feared the other would try to take away their freedoms, and thus began the ethnic cleansing.

Muslim toughs rampaged through the countryside killing hundreds of Hindus and Sikhs. Hindus and Sikhs retaliated by killing Muslims. Wholesale massacres occurred and the British were unable to stem the tide. Even Gandhi, who believe that the Indians as a whole were a peaceful people, was unable to keep the violence from escalating.

This is a very difficult book to read because of the descriptions of violence. However, it's important to the understanding of what happened and what is still happening today. Before reading the book, I knew little about the division of India, now I can see how stressful it was. The author points out that much of the violence in the Middle East today had it's roots in that time. Pakistan feared India and as a result gave asylum to the Taliban and other extremist groups.

Anyone interested in the problems of the Middle East should read this book. It is very well written and gives a warning about the origins of the stresses in that region that we would all do well to heed.

I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program.  

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Family Secrets and Intertwined Relationships

Annie Holleran is 15 and a half. On that night at midnight if a girl looks into a well, she will see the face of the man she'll marry. Annie doesn't want to join the other girls at the usual well, so she heads to the Blaine well. This is forbidden territory every since her brother Dale died. 

Annie's Aunt Juna accused Joseph Carl Blaine of the death, and he was hanged. Then Juna disappeared and now Annie is terrified that she'll return to make trouble. Annie is doubly terrified because it's an open secret in town that Juna is Annie's mother; and Joseph Carl, her father.

The setting, a small Kentucky town in the 1950's, draws you into the web of strange characters and a different life style. The families are poor. Most subsist by growing tobacco or lavender. The traditions, like looking into the well to see your future husband, seem far removed from the present day, but the characters believe in them.

According to her grandmother, Annie has the sight. She knows what will happen in the future. Juna had it also, but people believed hers came from her evil nature. Annie struggles with this comparison throughout the novel.

The story is told by two characters, Annie in the 1950s and her mother in the 1930s. While the juxtaposition of the two accounts adds depth to the novel, I sometimes found it difficult to remember the family relationships at different times. So many things were the same and yet different.

If you enjoy southern writing, this book has believable background
. I recommend it, it you like mysteries driven by family secrets.

I reviewed this book for Dutton.