Monday, 15 October 2018

Some New Books and a Reading Update

It's another sunny Autumn day, fresh and cool. Getting ready for our Monday evening TV watching, some of our favorite shows; Bull, The Good Doctor, 9-1-1, The Resident, Murdoch Mysteries and Frankie Drake Mysteries.

I received some new books in the mail on Friday. I also finished one book this weekend and, of course, started a new one. So let's go, dude!

New Books
1. Fly Away, Jill by Max Byrd (Mystery / Mike Haller #2).

"This adrenaline-packed page-turner from bestselling author Max Byrd brings back the unstoppable P.I. Mike Haller, this time in the streets of London. Lighting a cigarette in the gray night, P.I. Mike Haller is uneasy about the job that has brought him to London and away from his home in California. His instincts warned him that he was in for trouble—he just didn't trust the old man who had hired him, and he couldn't quite explain the reason behind his suspicions. But the photo of the runaway bride had touched his romantic heart. Too bad he forgot to remember the sickening surge of adrenaline that fear brings... because Haller would soon find a hard, deadly barrel of a .38 jammed into his ribs, forcing him to make a decision that he must never regret. With its suspenseful, intriguing plot set against the backdrop of London town, Fly Away, Jill brings Haller face to face with the horrifying truth behind one man's scrupulous past" 

b. A Fatal Thaw by Dana Stabenow (Mystery / Kate Shugak #2).

 "On her homestead in the middle of twenty million acres of national Park, Aleut P.I. Kate Shugak is caught up in spring cleaning, unaware that just miles away a man's sanity is breaking. When the sound of gunfire finally dies away, nine of his neighbors lie dead in the snow. But did he kill all nine, or only eight? The ninth victim was killed with a different weapon. It's up to Kate and her husky-wolf sidekick Mutt to untangle the life of the dead blonde with the tarnished past and find her killer. It won't be easy; every second Park rat had a motive. Was it one of her many spurned lovers? Was a wife looking for revenge? Or did a deal with an ivory smuggler go bad? Even Trooper Jim Chopin, the Park's resident state trooper, had a history with the victim. Kate will need every ounce of determination to find the truth before Alaska metes out its own justice...."

3. Winter of the Wolf Moon by Steve Hamilton (Mystery / Alex McKnight #2).

"Ex-cop and sometime-P.I. Alex McKnight endures the bitter winter of Michigan's Upper Peninsula in his log cabin with warm fires and cold Molsons. When Dorothy Parrish, a young Ojibwa woman asks him for shelter from her violent boyfriend, McKnight agrees. But after secreting her in one of his cabins, he finds her gone the next morning. McKnight suspects vicious, hockey-playing Lonnie Bruckman of abducting the woman, but his search for her brings on more suspects, bruising encounters, and a thickening web of crime, all obscured by the relentless whiplash of brutal snowstorms. From the secret world of the Ojibwa reservation to the Canadian border and deep into the silent woods, someone is out to kill--and McKnight is driving right into the line of fire..." 

Just Finished
1. The Hellfire Club by Jake Tapper (Mystery / Thriller).

 "The Hellfire Club by CNN anchor Jake Tapper was one of a number of political - type books, both non-fiction and fiction, that my wife bought me for our anniversary. The Hellfire Club falls into the latter category, a historical political thriller set in the 1950's.

New Congressman, Charlie Marder, a WWII veteran and also a published novelist, is placed in a vacant seat by his congressional leadership from New York. The previous congressman had died and the spot needed to be filled. Charlie and his wife move to Washington and Charlie begins his new career.

This is during the time of the McCarthy hearings and Charlie soon finds himself in a new life style, often hard drinking and with lots of political intrigue. The story starts with Charlie returning from a party with a strange woman in his car, an accident, the woman found dead, help from a political lobbyist to hide the incident (of course, Charlie remembers none of what happened), and the follow-on events.

The story jumps back a few months to go through the events that lead up to this accident. It's not necessarily a fun time for Charlie and his wife, Margaret. Their time together shrinks, eve though Margaret is newly pregnant. She heads off to a biological research activity, he heads to other political activities, finds himself often caught in the middle of competing desires.

It's an interesting story, lots of intrigue, some gun fights, some sex, some research into this Hellfire Club and other neat political activities. You'll meet historical people, like McCarthy, Eisenhower, the Kennedys, etc and get a peek at actual events the color the story. Tapper writes well and creates interesting characters and a fast-paced, page-turning political thriller. It reminded me of movies like The Rocketeer and those old serials that used to start off a movie, a great adventure with lots of action and twists and turns. Very entertaining (4 stars)" 

Now Reading
1. The Goblin Reservation by Clifford D. Simak (Science Fiction). I've read a number of Simak's books and enjoyed them all. He has a quirky way with Science Fiction and Fantasy.

" En route to an interplanetary research mission, a scientist is abducted by a strange, shadowy race of aliens and taken to a previously uncharted planet, a storehouse of information that would be invaluable--even to an Earth so advanced that time travel allows goblins, dinosaurs, even Shakespeare to coexist."

So there you go, a quickie to start the week off. Enjoy. Maybe you'll get a couple of reading ideas. 

Thursday, 11 October 2018

A Reading Update and My Ongoing Review of the Mystery Genre / California Gurrrls (Female PI's)

It's another lovely, sunny, fresh Autumn day. I will have to mow the lawn at least one more time this month, I think. I broke in my new reading glasses this morning, finished one book I'll update that, also the new book I'll be starting and a new book I received yesterday. I'll also continue my look at the mystery genre. Today, I'll visit California and look at books featuring female private eyes (or those with similar type jobs but aren't necessarily Private Eyes).

So let's get on with it!

New Books
1. Passage to Peril by James Leasor. This is the second book in the Dr. Jason Love spy / adventure series.

"The International Committee for the Preservation of Big Game was a cover for a sinister Chinese international spy network, an operation which needed big money - and obtained it by blackmail and extortion. Their latest victim was the Nawab of Shahnagar, the wealthy ruler of a small Himalayan kingdom. With a price of 2,000,000 pounds on his son's safety, the Nawab desperately sought help from his old friend Jason Love, on holiday in Switzerland - and as the trail of violence and murder pursued him from the Swiss ski slopes to the Himalayas, Dr. Love found he had indeed accepted a passport to peril. In a final confrontation on the roof of the world, Jason Love launched a dramatic bid to destroy the enemy."

Just Finished
1. Hope Never Dies by Andrew Shaffer (2018).

"Do you miss Barack Obama and Joe Biden? Do you want to get away from today's headlines for a few hours and just enjoy a fun mystery? Well, with Hope Never Dies by Andrew Shaffer lets you spend time with a fun mystery and spend time with the 44th President and his 'bro', VP Joe Biden.

We find Uncle Joe not enjoying his retirement as VP and somewhat jealous of the fun that Barack seems to be having; para-sailing with Richard Branson, canoodling with celebrities... While wife Jill keeps busy as a Professor and many other activities, Joe sits and stews. One night he sees something in his backyard and gathering up his Sig Sauer, sneaks out to see if he's got intruders. Instead he finds a Secret Service agent, Sam, and his erstwhile buddy, Barack Obama. Barack tells him that a friend of Joe's, a retired conductor on the train-line that Joe used to frequent during his days as a Senator (the train from Wilmington, Delaware to DC) has been found dead on the train tracks. He had a map to Joe's house and also in his pocket, a plastic baggie of heroin.

This piques both of their interests and Joe wants to prove that his friend wasn't a drug user and also find out why he has Joe's address? Did he want to tell Joe something? Thus begins a somewhat nonsensical, but totally enjoyable mystery romp. Joe feels his age, sore knees, somewhat overweight and he tends to lead with his jaw. Barack is, well, he's Barack, can't resist a long explanation when a word will do. Sam is the loyal follower, quiet and regularly taking the brunt of the damages.

Will the bromance be rekindled? Will Joe forgive Barack for abandoning him? Well, as we navigate frictions with the local police, a bruising from a lovely lady PI and danger from motorcycle gangs, it'll all come clear. A most enjoyable mystery / adventure. Maybe the two will get involved in more adventures? We can only hope. (3.5 stars)"

Currently Reading
1. Ice Lake by John Farrow (Inspector Emile Cinq - Mars #2).

"When a corpse is found floating in a fishing hole cut into a frozen lake in Montreal, it appears at first to be a straightforward homicide. But the victim had shadowy connections to the pharmaceutical industry and, before long, brilliant, unorthodox detective Emile Cinq-Mars realises he has a far more complex case on his hands. As Cinq-Mars delves deeper, he uncovers a horrifying web of intrigue which extends far beyond ruthless scientists to the heart of the Mob, and has enmeshing beautiful Indian activist Lucy Gabriel, who has been innocently involved in illegal experiments on AIDS patients. Finding herself the target of a vendetta to destroy those who know too much, Lucy takes revenge with the native Indians. But Cinq-Mars knows it's now a race against time and that he must find her before it's too late. And can he solve the riddle of the death cocktails before his shadowy opponents sacrifice even more vulnerable and innocent men?"

The Mystery Genre - California Girls

I'll feature 5 authors in this category. I've enjoyed all of them so far.

Jan Burke
1. Jan Burke (Irene Kelly). Burke was born in Houston in 1953 but has lived in California most of her life. She was one of the first mystery writers I discovered when I moved to British Columbia, finding her books at ABC Books in downtown Courtenay. Irene Kelly is a crime reporter who is married to a local police investigator. She gets involved in solving many gritty crimes. All of the books I've read have been excellent. So far she has 11 books in the Irene Kelly series.

a. Goodnight, Irene (#1 / 1993).

"Goodnight, Irene is the debut novel in an exciting new mystery series featuring Irene Kelly - reporter, intrepid amateur sleuth, and woman of today - who tracks a murderer obsessed with keeping the past from interfering with the future. 

In Las Piernas, California, a beach community off the coast of Los Angeles, veteran reporter O'Connor is blown to bits by a bomb; his son is buried alive in the sand; and his best friend and former colleague, Irene Kelly, is nearly killed when a stream of bullets whizzes through the window of her home. Unwilling to be the next victim in a frightening series of events, and determined to discover who murdered O'Connor, Irene takes it upon herself to track down the killer. She begins investigating by digging through O'Connor's files and deciphering his highly secretive, coded notes. 

Irene soon discovers that her friend was on the verge of solving a thirty-five-year-old mystery involving a pregnant woman who was brutally murdered and mutilated beyond recognition. And, this old murder mystery is somehow connected with a current political cover-up concocted by a group of local politicians involved in a greedy - and deadly - money-laundering scheme. Irene follows a lead that takes her from her California beach community to a desert Arizona town and back, determined to find out who silenced O'Connor before he could reveal the connection between the old murder mystery and the current money-laundering scheme. 

Ignoring deadly threats, Irene expertly gathers clues, and narrows down a long list of unlikely suspects. There's a money-hungry-politician with more to lose than the local race if the truth is revealed; a high society babe who will do anything to protect her"impeccable" reputation; a manipulative gigolo whose bedside secrets prove lethal; a high-ranking bank official who conveniently disappears when Irene starts nosing around; and many other memorable characters, all of whom had a personal motive for wanting O'Connor dead." I gave it 3 stars.

b. Sweet Dreams, Irene (#2 / 1994).

"Irene Kelly is a reporter with a fierce integrity. Detective Frank Harriman is her lover and friend. Now they're both about to be plunged into political hellfire when a ruthless politician rocks a race for district attorney with a stunning allegation: his opponent's son is in the clutches of a satanic cult.

The charge takes a fatal turn when a local woman is brutally murdered, and the grisly crime scene bears unholy implications. Tracking the clues takes Irene behind the closed doors of an isolated home for troubled youths, where obscuring the truth is only part of a stranger's diabolic game. To win it, Irene will have the devil to pay.
" (3 stars)

c. Dear Irene (#3 / 1995). I don't seem to have read this one yet. I'll have to find a copy.

"When a strange letter signed "Thanatos" -- the ancient Greek name for death -- lands on Irene Kelly's desk, the intrepid reporter doesn't think much of it; she gets crazy mail all the time. A less cryptic message is sent when a body turns up the next morning. As more letters roll in, the death toll mounts...and Irene fears that her mysterious pen pal has cast her in his own private Greek tragedy as Cassandra, the seer whom others refused to believe. It's the killer's dream to challenge Irene to follow his ancient blueprint for murder. It's his ultimate desire to make her face the inevitable -- that she is the next to die."

The remaining books in the series are -
- Remember Me, Irene (#4 / 1996)
- Hocus (#5 / 1997) (4 stars)
- Liar (#6 / 1998) (5 stars)
- Bones (#7 / 2000) (4 stars)
- Flight (#8 / 2001) told from the POV of her husband, Frank Harriman (4 stars)
- Bloodlines (#9 / 2005)
- Kidnapped (#10 / 2006)
- Disturbance (11 / 2011)

Meg Gardiner
2. Meg Gardiner (Evan Delaney). Gardiner was born in 1957 in Oklahoma and currently resides in Austin, Texas. She has written three series, the one I am focusing on here is that featuring Evan Delaney, a writer and legal assistant in California. From 2002 - 2006 she wrote 5 books in this series. I have read the first book so far

a. China Lake (#1 / 2002)

"China Lake by Meg Gardiner, the first book in the Evan Delaney series was definitely a thriller. Right from the get-go, the action started and it didn't let up until a fiery, explosive ending. 

Evan Delaney is a lawyer in Santa Barbara, California. At a funeral for the mother of a dear friend, the funeral party is heckled by a group of protestors from the Church of the Remnant. A confrontation ensues and actions continue from then on. One of the members of the church is the ex-wife of Evan's brother, Brian, who is a Navy fighter pilot. Evan has been taking care of their six-year old son, Luke, since Tabitha abandoned him and while Brian was at sea. 

Another confrontation, at the Church of the Remnant leaves a man dead, who it turns out has rabies. Tabitha wants to get her son back, Evan goes to the Navy air base at China Lake to get Brian's help. There is more violence and death and it turns out that the Remnant has a plan to bring about an Apocalypse. 

Does it sound confusing? Well, yes it is, and somewhat far-fetched, but the tension and action are ratcheted tight and you find yourself reading and reading to see how Evan and her brother, oh, and also Evan's boyfriend, Jesse, will solve it and save each other and Tabitha and Luke... Whew!!! Confusing at times and convoluted, but an entertaining, scary, exciting read.... (3 stars)"

b. Mission Canyon (#2 / 2003).

"Evan Delaney has come to terms with the hit-and-run crash that left her boyfriend, Jesse Blackburn, in a wheelchair and killed his best friend. But when she hears that the driver, Franklin Brand, is back in Santa Barbara, she is determined to help Jesse bring him to book for his crime.

Brand was a golden boy at Mako Technologies, a heavyweight cyber-security firm. That's where Evan starts looking, and as she digs deeper, she finds evidence of theft and extortion. Then witnesses to the hit-and-run start dying. It seems that powerful interests are determined to stop Jesse and Evan - once and for all."

The other books in the series are -
- Jericho Point (2004)
- Crosscut (2005)
- Kill Chain (2006)

Sue Grafton
3. Sue Grafton (Kinsey Milhone). Sue Grafton was born in Kentucky in 1940 and died in California in 2017. She is best known for one of the iconic private investigators of all times, Kinsey Milhone, of the Alphabet mysteries. She died after completing Y is for Yesterday in 2017. There will be no Z. I've read most of the books over the years, starting in 2001 and have enjoyed them all. I have completed up to S. I usually try to read one at least a year. It'll be a bitter sweet moment when I finish Y. I'll highlight the last two that I've read and the next book on the list.

a. R is for Ricochet (2004).

"I had mixed emotions about this particular Kinsey Milhone mystery, but as she says at the end, sometimes she's just a passenger. Kinsey is hired to escort Reba from prison by her father. A simple job and Kinsey likes Reba. But the story develops a twist as the police and Feds ask Kinsey to persuade Reba to help them catch her boss. It turns out Reba went to jail for her boss, because she was in love with him. The story has many twists and Reba has her own plans and Kinsey becomes sort of a pawn. 

I found this story frustrating at times as I'm not used to Kinsey playing such a secondary role, but it did tie up nicely. As well, Kinsey deals with her landlord, Henry, who is dating but also competing with his brother, Henry. How does that all work out? And finally, what does the future bode for Kinsey and her new friend, police investigator, Cheney? The story had its frustrations, but was still ultimately satisfying. S is next. :0) (3 stars)"

b. S is for Silence (2005).

"I think S is for Silence by Sue Grafton was a bit of a return to form for Grafton. While I enjoyed the previous three books; P, Q and R, I just thought they were ok. S was so much better.

The story is a cold case. Kinsey is hired by Daisy Sullivan to find her mother, Violet, who disappeared when Daisy was a child, 35 years previously. Kinsey doesn't want to take the case as she feels it's a waste of her time and Daisy's money. But Daisy is persuasive and gets Kinsey to accept the job for 5 days. Thus begins her investigation into Violet's life and the possible reasons she disappeared, or was she murdered? The story is presented in an interesting style; alternating between present day, where Kinsey interviews people who still live in the area and who knew Violet, and then presenting the final days of Violet's life in Serena Station.

There was so much to enjoy about this latest Kinsey case. It builds nicely, the plot is interesting, the characters are interesting and there is a tension that slowly develops as Kinsey seems to be getting close to a solution. I enjoyed S very much and hope the next, T is for Trespass is as good. (4 stars)"

c. T is for Trespass (2007).

"Before letting someone into your house and granting access to the intimate details of your life, it's a good idea to run a background check. But as Kinsey Millhone is about to discover, a clean record means nothing if it belongs to a stolen identity. And the consequences can be deadly..."

Karen Kijewski
4. Karen Kijewski (Kat Colorado). American mystery writer Karen Kijewski was born in 1943 in Berkeley, California. I discovered her series featuring PI Kat Colorado only in the past couple of years. She wrote 9 books in the series from 1989 - 1998 and I've read the first book so far and have the next couple on my books shelf awaiting my attention. Kat Colorado reminds me somewhat of Kinsey Milhone. I see rumours regarding why she no longer writes; no publisher, family concerns, but nothing conclusive.

a. Katwalk (1989).

"Katwalk is the first book in Kat Colorado mystery series by Karen Kijewski. I bought this book by chance because the synopsis looked interesting. I'm glad that I took the chance as it was an enjoyable, interesting mystery.

Kat is a private investigator from California (she reminds me somewhat of Kinsey Milhone) who is asked by a friend to help with her divorce. She believes her ex-husband has hidden $200K from her so she won't get her share in the divorce settlement. As much as Kat doesn't like working for friends, she agrees. The investigation brings her to Las Vegas and into shady real estate dealings, bribing and threatening of public officials and even murder.

It's a well-paced story and peopled with interesting characters. The one weakness is the main villain who is a bit of a comic book caricature. But all in all the story was an excellent introduction to the Kat Colorado series. I hope future books are as interesting and further develop her personality and story line. (4 stars)"

b. Katapult (1990).

"A murderer has struck home —and Kat Colorado is taking it personally. Her cousin Johnny has been found stabbed to death in the parking lot of the Homestead Cafe. And now Kat's on the prowl —trailing a killer through a dangerous world of shady real estate shenanigans and teenage hookers. And she's about to uncover a closetful of sordid family secrets almost certain to get an overly inquisitive Kat skinned."

c. Kat's Cradle (1992).

"She's a hard-boiled Sacramento P.I. with a soft spot for the unlucky, the unloved, and one special cop named Hank. Her name is Kat Colorado and in  her line of business curiosity can be more than an occupational hazard -- it can be  murder.

She said her name was Paige Morrell and she came to Kat Colorado hoping to untangle the twisted mystery of her past. She was a twenty-one-year-old "orphan," a poor little rich girl on the verge of inheriting a wealthy old river estate -- and some very nasty surprises. But when Kat set out to solve the case, she found herself following a thread of lies, greed and deceit that led straight to the corpse of a key source to Paige's past.  Now the Sacramento private eye was about to learn that in the California Delta some family secrets were better left buried . . . because uncovering  them could be murder."

The remaining books in the series are -
- Copy Kat (1992)
- Wild Kat (1994)
- Alley Kat Blues (1995)
- Honky Tonk Kat (1996)
- Kat Scratch Fever (1997)
- Stray Kat Waltz (1998)

Julie Smith
5. Julie Smith (Rebecca Schwartz). Julie Smith was born in 1944 in Annapolis Maryland. Two of her series, Skip Langdon and Talba Wallis are set in Louisiana. The series I will discuss her, that featuring Rebecca Schwartz, is set in San Francisco. Schwartz is an attorney who finds herself involved in mysteries. I've read the first two books in this series of 5 books.

a. Death Turns a Trick (1982).

"A light, entertaining, well-paced mystery, the first Rebecca Schwartz mystery. A nice, spunky character, a lawyer in San Francisco who gets involved in a murder in her apartment and works to keep her boyfriend from being charged/ found guilty of the crime. It's not a deep crime mystery, just good fun. I like Rebecca and her sister Mickey and the other characters that were introduced. Entertaining and comforting. 3.5 stars. I'll read more of this series."

b. The Sourdough Wars (1984).

"The Sourdough Wars by Julie Smith is Smith's second book in her Rebecca Schwartz mystery series. She also writes the Skip Langdon and Tabitha Walls' series. Rebecca Schwarz is a lawyer based in San Francisco working in partnership with her friend, Chris Nicholson. This mystery finds them involved in the world of Sourdough bread and bakeries.

Both attend a play by acquaintance Peter Martinelli. Martinelli, it turns out, comes from a family that had been successful in the sourdough bread industry, supposedly very big in the San Francisco area. He inherited the 'starter' dough for their famous sourdough bread. Martinelli is persuaded to sell this starter dough off at an auction, which sparks interest from rival bakers, the brothers Tosi, Sally Devereaux (a smaller baker) and Clayton Thompson, rep for a major bread-making conglomerate. All the interested parties arrive for the auction but when Martinelli doesn't show up, Rebecca and her boy-friend Rob the reporter discover his dead body (murdered).

This begins an investigation by Rebecca, Rob and Chris into the world of sourdough bread and who might be guilty of the murder. It's a fun ride, in a similar vein as those of Lilian Jackson Braun's 'Cat who' mysteries, or Karen Kijewski's Kat Colorado mysteries. There are plenty of suspects, including all the competing parties and even Peter Martinelli's sister, who had also wanted the starter dough.
Combined a quick paced mystery / adventure with lots of action, you also have Rebecca's relationships, with her Jewish parents, her sister and boyfriend and all of the other's mentioned. It's not a complex mystery, just an entertaining one. Enjoy. (3 stars)"

The remaining books in this series are -
- Tourist Trap (1986)
- Dead in the Water (1991)
- Other People's Skeletons (1993)

So there you go. Perfect timing for a finish as the dogs are glaring at me, demanding their supper... Poor things.

Enjoy the rest of your week and the impending weekend.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

A Reading Update and My Continuing Author's A - Z

I finished two books this weekend, one from a new series and one from an ongoing series. I've, of course, also started two more books. I'll update that and get back to my ongoing Author's A - Z.

Just Finished
1. The Godwulf Manuscript by Robert B. Parker (Spenser #1).

"Robert B. Parker is one of those mystery writers that I had never thought I'd read. Not for any particular reason, I don't think. Then a few years back, my wife and I watched a few of the Jesse Stone movies starring Tom Selle and I discovered that there were a series of books by Parker on which the movies were based. I started collecting the books but have yet tried the first. I also discovered that he wrote a series on which a successful TV series was based, that being the Spenser series. I bought the first book, The Godwulf Manuscript recently and for some reason it was the first Parker book I read.

Spenser is a private eye in Boston, Mass. He is hired by Boston University to find a stolen manuscript, the titled Godwulf Manuscript, which is being held for ransom. Based on some info provided by the university security officer, Spenser checks out a female student, Terry Orchard, who is a member of a political group on campus, SCACE, who he thinks might have something to do with the theft. This leads quickly to murder, Terry Orchard's boyfriend, for which Miss Orchard is suspected. The Orchard family, a rich Boston family, also hire Spenser to prove that Terry is innocent.

So now you've got the plot, which leads to the mob, drug dealing on campus, threats to Spenser, more murders. It's a full, entertaining story. Spenser is a great character, somewhat of a throwback to those great noir detectives like Sam Spade and Lew Archer, but with his own great qualities. He's big and strong, handsome (the ladies seem to like him), a wise-cracker, but also a guy who enjoys cooking and even knows who Marcuse is. This was a great introduction to what I hope will be a great series because I plan to keep reading it. (4 stars)"

2. Death Without Company by Craig Johnson (Longmire #2).

"Death Without Company is the 2nd Walt Longmire mystery by Craig Johnson. It's been awhile since I read the first and I'm so glad to revisit the Absarka Police Department in Wyoming. Such a great, entertaining, engrossing story.

It's near Christmas and the snows are starting to fall in the community that Walt Longmire polices. He's waiting for his daughter Cady to come for the holidays from Philadelphia. He is interviewing and considering hiring a new detective, Santiago Saizarbitoria and also heading to the Durant Home for Assisted Living for his weekly chess game with Lucian Connally, the previous sheriff. The trip takes a turn when a woman of Basque heritage, one Mari Baroja, is found dead at the home. It turns out that Lucian was once married to her, for all of 3 hours, and he claims that she has been murdered.

Thus begins a sometimes convoluted murder mystery, more bodies will crop up and there will also be attempted murders. How is Mari involved and for that matter, how is Lucian. Family members begin to arrive to find out what they might have inherited. It turns out Mari was a bit of a financial expert and is worth quite a bit. Her second husband, the father of her children, was an awful man, one who beat her and who has 'disappeared'. Are drugs involved? What about this past? What about the granddaughter who runs the local bakery?

It's such a fascinating story. The cast is excellent, from Longmire himself, to his assistant, Vic, down to earth and sexy, to Henry Running Bear, Longmire's oldest friend, to the other people who work at the Police department and even Dog, Longmire's inherited pet. There is great wit and humor (check out the stake out at the hospital, some laugh out loud moments there) and awful violence (the incident at the river had me holding my breath) and even spirituality (Longmire has dreams and visions that are interesting to try and dissect). It's not a perfect story (some of the crime solving seems a bit convoluted) but it's just an excellent read. (5 stars)"

Currently Reading
I've started one Science Fiction and one fun mystery / adventure.
1. Shift (Silo #2) by Hugh Howey. I read the first compilation, Wool, a few years ago and found it to be one of the more unique Science Fiction novels I'd read in a long time.

"In 2007, the Center for Automation in Nanobiotech (CAN) outlined the hardware and software platform that would one day allow robots smaller than human cells to make medical diagnoses, conduct repairs, and even self-propagate. In the same year, the CBS network re-aired a program about the effects of propranolol on sufferers of extreme trauma. A simple pill, it had been discovered, could wipe out the memory of any traumatic event. At almost the same moment in humanity’s broad history, mankind had discovered the means for bringing about its utter downfall. And the ability to forget it ever happened. This is the sequel to the New York Times bestselling WOOL series."

2. Hope Never Dies by Andrew Shaffer. Jo bought me this for a bit of fun. We'd seen it advertised and it looked good.

"Vice President Joe Biden is fresh out of the Obama White House and feeling adrift when his favorite railroad conductor dies in a suspicious accident, leaving behind an ailing wife and a trail of clues. To unravel the mystery, “Amtrak Joe” re-teams with the only man he’s ever fully trusted—the 44th president of the United States. Together they’ll plumb the darkest corners of Delaware, traveling from cheap motels to biker bars and beyond, as they uncover the sinister forces advancing America’s opioid epidemic."

My Ongoing Author's A - Z
In my last entry on this subject, I featured Charles Dickens, Adam Diment and Garry Disher.

R.E. Donald
1. R.E. Donald. R.E. Donald is a Canadian mystery writer who sent me the first book in her Hunter Rayne series to try out. I've since bought the second book. 

a. Slow Curve on the Coquihalla (#1).

"Disclaimer (I'll start this review by saying that the author sent me a copy because she thought it might suit my taste and asked for my comments when I read it). Having said that, let's get into the book. 

Basically, Slow Curve on the Coquihalla by R.E. Donald follows an ex-RCMP officer, Hunter Rayne, who has quit the force and now works as a long haul truck driver. A friend who owns a trucking company is found dead at the bottom of a ravine, possibly due to a driving accident or maybe due to murder? His daughter, Suzanne, asks for Hunter's help in finding out the cause of his death. That is the gist of the story. 

What did I like about the story? Firstly, I liked the setting, the interior of British Columbia. While I live on Vancouver Island, it was still nicely close to home and I enjoyed the descriptions of the area and just the overall setting. I liked many of the characters. Hunter is interesting, trying to deal with his past, maintain contact with his teenage daughters (he's divorced) and not sure how to go about it. His boss, El, is a strong woman who works in the trucking industry; has her soft spots but also her tough side. Suzanne and her two girls, trying to cope with the death of her father and also to keep his trucking business working, is lovely and like Hunter, I wanted to protect her. 

Sorry, the ex biker and wild child, is fun and loud. Hunter likes him, uses him to help in his investigation but still doesn't quite trust him. The dialogue was natural and the writing intelligent. Unlike many mysteries, we don't have to follow a trail of bodies, which is nice. We can get to know Hunter, his friends and the story in a well-crafted, interesting story. Even the ending was satisfying. There are other books in this series and I will check them out as well. (4 stars)"

b. Ice on the Grapevine (#2).

"Ice on the Grapevine is a traditional mystery featuring Hunter Rayne, a retired homicide detective turned long haul truck driver. The story opens on a July morning with the discovery of a frozen corpse at a brake check just south of the Grapevine Pass in L.A. County. Hunter, who is in southern California making a delivery, is persuaded by his irascible dispatcher, Elspeth Watson, to help clear two fellow truck drivers who are arrested for the murder. His job is made more difficult by the fact that the suspects, a newlywed couple, won't speak up in their own defense.

The circumstantial evidence is strong, and a rookie detective from the L.A. County Sheriff's Department is eager to score a win. The investigation crosses the Canada-U.S. border when the victim is identified as a second rate musician from Vancouver, and it turns out there were more than a few desperate people happy to see him dead, including the accused couple. Hunter has to use all his investigative skills to uncover the truth.

Hunter’s ex-wife maintains that by taking to the highway Hunter is running away from his past, but he believes that the solitude of days on the road is helping him to heal from guilt over the failure of his marriage and the suicide of his best friend. His life gets more complicated when he feels an unwelcome attraction for a lawyer representing one of the accused."

Stephen R. Donaldson
2. Stephen R. Donaldson. American science fiction / fantasy writer was born in 1946. I've read two of his series in the past years; The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant and Mordant's Need. The Chronicles consist of 10 books written from 1977 - 2013. I read the first two chronicles of six books and don't know if I have the energy to try the remaining four. It was a fascinating series, as I recall. Thomas Covenant is a leper whose life is miserable and he finds himself in another world where he is perceived to be the hero who will defeat Lord Foul. Unfortunately, Thomas is more of an anti-hero and his actions regularly result in the deaths of those who follow him. I enjoyed the six books but they were often emotionally draining. I often found myself just wanting to smack Thomas on the side of the head to wake him up.

The series now consists of ten books -

The First Chronicles
a. Lord Foul's Bane (1977)
b. The Illearth War (1978)
c. The Power that Preserves (1979)

The Second Chronicles
a. The Wounded Land (1980)
b. The One Tree (1982)
c. White Gold Wielder (1983)

The Last Chronicles
a. The Runes of Earth (2004)
b. Fatal Revenant (2007)
c. Against All Things Ending (2010)
d. The Last Dark (2013)

Maybe I'll try the Last Chronicles someday. I much preferred Mordant's Need, which consisted of two books

a. The Mirror of her Dreams (1986).

"The daughter of rich but neglectful parents, Terisa Morgan lives alone in a New York City apartment, a young woman who has grown to doubt her own existence. Surrounded by the flat reassurance of mirrors, she leads an unfulfilled life—until the night a strange man named Geraden comes crashing through one of her mirrors, on a quest to find a champion to save his kingdom of Mordant from a pervasive evil that threatens the land. Terisa is no champion. She wields neither magic nor power. And yet, much to her own surprise, when Geraden begs her to come back with him, she agrees.

Now, in a culture where women are little more than the playthings of powerful men, in a castle honeycombed with secret passages and clever traps, in a kingdom threatened from without and within by enemies able to appear and vanish out of thin air, Terisa must become more than the pale reflection of a person. For the way back to Earth is closed to her. And the enemies of Mordant will stop at nothing to see her dead."

b. A Man Rides Through (1987).

"Terisa Morgan desperately needed to escape. Gilbur was trying to kill her, Castellan Lebbick wanted to torture her, and she needed to find Geraden. Orison was being attacked by the Alend army poised at the gates…Eremis, the traitor, was working with Gilbur in league with the hated Cadwals and the Arch-Imager Vagel…King Joyse’s actions could not be explained.

Everything that Geraden loved was about to be destroyed—unless the two of them could find a way to prevent it by using the talent for mirrors and Imagery that Terisa now knew they both possessed…a talent that made them extremely powerful and extremely dangerous to Eremis. And Terisa knew that Eremis would use all the evil means at his disposal to insure the success of his master plan, which meant that the kingdom would be lost and she and Geraden would surely die."

David Downing
3. David Downing. English writer, David Downing, was born in London in 1946. I have read the first two books in his Jack Russell WWII spy series and enjoyed very much. He has also started a new series featuring WWI spy, Jack McColl. I've got the first two books and look forward to trying it as well.

a. Zoo Station (Jack Russell #1 / 2007).

"I was very pleasantly surprised by this mystery/ thriller. I rarely give 5 - star ratings to mystery/ thrillers, but this was an such an engrossing story. It's my first book by David Downing, the first in his John Russell series. 

Russell is a British reporter living in Berlin just before WWII as the Nazis are consolidating power in the country and beginning to make waves in the world. He's a bit of a cynic, reporting on small items, making ends meet, living with his girl friend, German actress, Effi and spending time with his German son, Paul on weekends. 

While in Danzig gathering information for a news article, he meets a Russian spy who offers to pay him well to write a series of stories on Germany, a comparison between Communism and Socialism (and maybe also provide the Soviets with information useful to them). Russell is also given a job teaching a Jewish family English, a family who are trying to gain exit visas from Germany (as are countless other Jews at that time). Russell finds himself becoming more and more involved in issues, trying to help the Jewish family, trying to avoid the Gestapo, and so on. 

It's a very well-written story and the development of Russell's character is carefully well-crafted. I liked many of the characters; I think I've got a bit of a crush on Effi. The story builds tension excellently, the story keeps you deeply engrossed. All in all, I'm glad I discovered this and look forward to continuing to see how Russell manages to survive in Nazi Germany as war becomes more and more of a given and also to see what other situations he will find himself in. Excellent!! (5 stars)"

b. Silesian Station (#2 / 2008).

"This is the 2nd book in the John Russell, wartime thriller/ spy series. This story starts with news reporter, John Russell, returning to Germany from a trip back home to the US with his son. He finds that his girlfriend, German actress Effi, has been imprisoned by the SD, the intelligence arm of the SS, for stating insults about Hitler. In fact, the imprisonment is to goad Russell into working for the SD by providing false information to the Russians. He readily agrees in order to get Effi out. 

At the same time, he finds himself working for US intelligence, trying to contact potential agents for them and also, in his spare time, (that's a joke of course) trying to find a Jewish girl who had been sent to Berlin by her parents, but who has ended up missing. Action is non-stop in this thriller, much like the first and in many ways it's a bit of more of the same, but still excellent. I like how Effi plays a bigger role in this story; her incarceration, making her even more aware of the inequities of the Nazi regime. The story moves to Czechoslovakia, Poland and even Russia as Russell plays the Germans against the Russians in an effort to keep his family safe and still help those in need. Well-paced and well-written (3.5 stars)"

c. Stettin Station (#3 / 2009).

"In the fall of 1941, Anglo-American journalist John Russell is still living in Berlin, tied to the increasingly alien city by his love for two Berliners: his fourteen-year-old son, Paul, and his longtime girlfriend, Effi. Forced to work for both German and American Intelligence, he's searching for a way out of Germany. Can he escape and take Effi with him?"

The remaining books in the series are -
- Potsdam Station (2010)
- Lehter Station (2012)
- Masaryk Station (20130

The other series that I want to try features Jack McColl, AKA Jack of Spies. It contains 4 books as of 2018.

a. Jack of Spies (2013).

"It is 1913, and those who follow the news closely can see the world is teetering on the brink of war. Jack McColl, a Scottish car salesman with an uncanny ear for languages, has always hoped to make a job for himself as a spy. As his sales calls take him from city to great city—Hong Kong to Shanghai to San Francisco to New York—he moonlights collecting intelligence for His Majesty's Secret Service, but British espionage is in its infancy and Jack has nothing but a shoestring budget and the very tenuous protection of a boss in far-away London. He knows, though, that a geopolitical catastrophe is brewing, and now is both the moment to prove himself and the moment his country needs him most.

Unfortunately, this is also the moment he begins to realize what his aspiration might cost him. He understands his life is at stake when activities in China suddenly escalate from innocent data-gathering and casual strolls along German military concessions to arrest warrants and knife attacks. Meanwhile, a sharp, vivacious American suffragette journalist has wiled her way deep into his affections, and it is not long before he realizes that her Irish-American family might be embroiled in the Irish Republican movement Jack's bosses are fighting against. How can he choose between his country and the woman he loves? And would he even be able to make such a choice without losing both?"

b. One Man's Flag (2015).

"Spring 1915: World War One rages across Europe, and the British Empire is assailed on all fronts—domestic and abroad. Amidst this bloodbath of nations, where one man’s flag is another man’s shroud, a British spy is asked to do the impossible: seduce and betray the woman he loves, again. Only this time betrayal is a two-way street.

Jack McColl, a spy for His Majesty’s Secret Service, is stationed in India, charged with defending the Empire against Bengali terrorists and their German allies. Belgium, he finds, is not the only country seeking to expel an invader.

In England, meanwhile, suffragette journalist Caitlin Hanley begins the business of rebuilding her life after the execution of her brother—an IRA sympathizer whose terrorist plot was foiled by Caitlin’s own ex-lover, the very same Jack McColl. The war is changing everything and giving fresh impulse to those causes—feminism, socialism and Irish independence—which she as a journalist has long supported.

The threat of a Rising in Dublin alarms McColl’s bosses as much as it dazzles Caitlin. If another Irish plot brings them back together, will it be as enemies or lovers?"

The remaining two books in the series are -
- Lenin's Roller Coaster (2017)
- The Dark Clouds Shining (2018)

Well, there you go folks. Another week has started and it's almost time for our evening of Tuesday TV watching.. :0)
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