Saturday, 18 May 2019

And a minute passed.. er, well more like a Week..

It's difficult to believe that a week has passed since my last entry, but there you go, eh? I guess I've actually been a bit busy this past week; some yard work, the missus and I did some spring house cleaning, I had my physio appointment. I also finished 3 books this past week. Two books arrived in the mail (one of which makes up the list of 'finished' books). As I finish books the next two weeks I'm going to switch from my normal challenges to my June 'freebie' challenge. I've picked 10 books that I've had on my bookshelf for ages and read them.

At the moment, Jo and I are in the family room watching the Veronica Mars movie. The patio door is open and we've a nice cool breeze blowing in. We've had some rain this week and the temperature is a bit more comfortable.

So today, I'll update my new book purchases, books finished and any new books I'm reading. I'll also continue with my ongoing look at the Mystery genre, with my last entry in the American PI category.

New Books

1. In the Heat of the Night by Matt Pelfrey. This is the stage adaptation of John Ball's book. I'll discuss it more in my review as I read it this week.

2. Get Wallace! by Alexander Wilson (Wallace of the Secret Service #4).

"Sir Leonard Wallace, the famous chief of the Secret Service, finds that the peace of Europe is threatened by a gang engaged in the theft and sale of national secrets. Wallace gets busy, and is assisted by the gang leader's own fear of him and his anxiety to get the Englishman into his power. Wallace's investigations, his startling discoveries and his escapes from death make this one of the most exciting books ever written by Alexander Wilson."

Just Finished

1. In the Heat of the Night by Matt Palfrey.

"In the Heat of the Night is an adaptation for the stage by Matt Pelfrey of the novel by John Dudley Ball. This was the first in a series of books featuring African American police detective, Virgil Tibbs. The book was turned into an award winning movie and also an award winning TV series. I've tried to find a copy of the book and when I ordered this copy was surprised to find it was, instead, Pelfrey's adaptation.

With all that preamble, I must say I enjoyed this tremendously. My normal reading of plays is both haphazard and more often than not, not all that enjoyable. But this adaptation caught me from the very beginning and held my interest until the end. It was, to say the least, excellent.

I've seen the movie and have enjoyed the TV series from the late '80s / early '90s as well. This short play grabbed all of the salient aspects of both perfectly; the racism of Alabama when the story / play is set, the intelligence of Virgil Tibbs and his ability to transcend this racism as he tries to help the local sheriff (almost against both of their wills) solve the murder of a local realtor, and the realization by the sheriff and one of his deputies that there is more to a man than just the colour of his skin.

Briefly when local realtor Charles Tatum is found murdered in the middle of the road in Argo Alabama, local sheriff Gillespie has one of his deputies, Sam Wood check out the train station to ensure the possible suspect isn't trying to leave by train. Wood arrests a black man, thinking he is the murderer. It turns out to be Virgil Tibbs, who is a police detective from California, waiting for his train after visiting with his mother.

By various circumstances, Tibbs is thrown into the murder investigation and during this time, the feelings of Gillespie and Wood towards him evolve very quickly. Not so with other members of the community, especially those of the Klan. For a short play, it manages to run the gamut of emotions and personal feelings quickly and effectively. The story is developed in a logical, swift manner and it drags you into the characters immediately. I will still have to find a copy of the original book, but his adaptation was excellent and I can't recommend highly enough. (4.5 stars)"

2. Lie in Wait by Eric Rickstad (Canaan Crime #1).

"The first book in the Canaan crime series by Eric Rickstad, Lie In Wait is also my first exposure to his writing. Based on this story, I look forward to reading more. There are three books in the Canaan crime series and he has also written two standalone novels.

The town of Canaan is located Vermont. The story starts with the violent murder of a young girl, baby-sitting for a local lawyer and his wife. The lawyer, Jon Merryfield, is assisting two gay men in their case against the state. This is not popular with a certain group in the community and this is one possible story line for investigation. Local detective, Sonja Test, is involved in the murder investigation, but in a subsidiary role to the State police investigator, Detective North. There is friction between the two, although they also make a reasonable team.

Other suspects begin to come to the surface as the two investigate. Could it be the star football player, who may have been having a relationship with 'underage' Jessica Cumber. Could it be his father, trying to protect his son? Could it be the lawyer himself? What about Jed King, the local trouble maker, who may have been trying to implicate the lawyer? It's an interesting group of suspects, each with seeming secrets to hide and the investigation moves along nicely.

While Sonja is the main character, the story does move between the various main characters, adding to the texture of the story. There are enough incidents throughout the story and an ongoing feeling of menace which adds to the tension that Rickstad develops. It's not a perfect story by any means but it is well-written, flows along very nicely and all in all, it's a satisfying mystery. (4 stars)"

3. Louisiana Lament by Julie Smith (Talba Wallis #3).

"Louisiana Lament by Julie Smith is the 3rd book in the Talba Wallis mystery series set in New Orleans. I've read books in Smith's other series, one featuring New Orleans cop Skip Langdon and the other San Francisco lawyer, Rebecca Schwarz. This was my first exposure to Talba Wallis.

Wallis is a PI who works for Eddie Valentino. In a previous book she had met her sister, Janessa (same father, different mother). Janessa had told Talba in no uncertain terms that she didn't want anything to do with her. Suddenly she gets a call from Janessa to come help her. On arrival, Talba discovers the dead body of Alyson Brown, Janessa's employee. We discover later that Alyson's daughter has also been murdered. Janessa and her friend, Nathan are both suspects.

Talba persuades her boss to take on the case and this begins the investigation into the murders or murder / suicide. One other aspect of Talba's character that needs to be highlighted is that she is a published poet, under the pseudonym of the Baroness of Pontalba. The story uses poetry at times provide clues to the mystery, an interesting aspect of the story.

There are no shortage of suspects' Alyson's son and other daughter, Janessa and Nathan, Alyson's business partner, etc. it's a meandering story that wanders between Talba and Eddie as they track down the suspects to gather clues. You get a nice picture of parts of New Orleans as the investigation is followed.

It's an interesting story. I found New Orleans interesting and also the main characters. I do find it interesting that Talba is black and the author is white and I wonder how accurate her portrayal of that culture is. At any rate, while not perfect, it is an interesting story and mystery. I will check out the other books in the series. (3 stars)"

Currently Reading
Latest books I've started are below.

1. The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan (John Hannay #1). I've read this a couple of times previously. I'm reading this for my Mystery Book Group as I'll be moderating the Group Read discussion in June.

"Adventurer Richard Hannay has just returned from South Africa and is thoroughly bored with his London life - until a spy is murdered in his flat, just days after having warned Hannay of an assassination plot that could plunge Britain into a war with Germany. An obvious suspect for the police and an easy target for the killers, Hannay picks up the trail left by the assassins, fleeing to Scotland, where he must use all his wits to stay one step ahead of the game - and warn the government before it is too late. One of the most popular adventure stories ever written, The Thirty-Nine Steps established John Buchan as the original thriller writer and inspired many other novelists and filmmakers including Alfred Hitchcock."

2. The Book of the Lion by Elizabeth Daly (Henry Gamadge #13). 

"It should be a fairly routine job for Henry Gamadge: Examining the papers of a dead poet and playwright with some early promise but not much commercial success. But it's not so much the life and letters as the death of the author (murdered in Central Park) that interests Gamadge. Add in a dead witness and the odd behavior of the family, and Gamadge decides something criminal is afoot."

3. The Master of Rain by Tom Bradby

"Shanghai, 1926: a sultry city lousy with opium, warlords, and corruption at the highest levels. Into this steamy morass walks Richard Field, an idealistic Brit haunted by his past and recently appointed to the international police. He's not there long before called to the flat of a Russian prostitute, former daughter of privilege found sadistically murdered, handcuffed to her bed. When he discovers among her possessions a cryptic shipping log, he senses that this murder is more than a random crime of perverse passion. What unfolds is a searing story that propels Field into a confrontation with the city's most ruthless and powerful gangster, and a dangerous attraction to another salacious Russian whose sordid connections seem destined to make her the next victim"

My Ongoing Look at the Mystery Genre, American PIs (The Final One)
In my last entry, I looked at Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe series. This is the final entry in my look at American PI's

John Straley
1. John Straley - Cecil Younger. John Straley is an Alaskan author / poet who has also acted as writer laureate for the state of Alaska. From 1992 - 2018 he has written 7 books in his Cecil Younger mystery series. Younger is a PI who works in Alaska. I have yet to start the series, but will this year. I have the first 4 books in the series sitting on my bookshelves.

a. The Woman Who Married a Bear (1992). 

"Sitka, Alaska, is a subarctic port surrounded by snow-dusted mountains. In addition to honest work, there is a lot of alcohol consumed and other people's money appropriated. Bars are loud, fights are mean. Rowdy youths party in the ancient Russian cemeteries, sitting on overturned gravestones. Sitka is hardly straight-laced, but murder is uncommon enough to be widely noted—like the Indian big-game guide killed by an ex-miner obeying voices from the earth's center. The victim's mother, a Tlingit Indian, summons to her nursing home a local investigator named Cecil Younger. The case is old and ostensibly solved. She wants him to investigate anyway. What he unearths is a virtual fairy-tale contrived to hide a primal conspiracy."

2. The Curious Eat Themselves (1993).

"P.I. Cecil Younger is in a jam. Louise Root had hired him after she was raped at the Otter Creek gold mine where she was working as a cook. She was the best friend of his ex-girlfriend, Hannah. Louise had come to him for help, and now she's being fished out of the ocean, her throat slashed. He has disappointed Hannah once again, yet suddenly everyone wants Younger's help: his old friend, Doggy, the D.A.; his autistic roommate, Toddy, whose Labrador retriever has disappeared; an image-conscious environmental activist; even the sleazy executives of Global Mining, whose interest in the case is suspicious. This is no longer a simple investigation, but a complicated murder case involving Global's environmentally incorrect waste disposal program and the implications of dumping cyanide into the ground. Dead bodies are piling up faster than Younger can count and he has his hands full just trying to stay alive, tracking down the suspects and some missing documents which could lead to the truth."

3. The Music of What Happens (1996).

"Younger's got the child custody case from hell, and a client to match. Shrill, confrontational, and obsessed, Priscilla DeAngelo is sure her ex is conspiring with a state senator to wrest her son from her. When she storms off to Juneau for a showdown, Younger's custody case swiftly turns into a murder. Fired from her defense team, Younger stays with the investigation. He's not sure what keeps him bulldogging the case—Priscilla's sister, his lost love; his regard for truth as a rare commodity; or the head injury Priscilla's ex gave him—but he won't let go until it's solved."

4. Death and the Language of Happiness (1997).

"Cecil Younger is a man who takes comfort in the absurdity of the universe.  And the universe is obliging him, with a joint phone call from his lawyer and his shrink, to convey a job offer from another client: all Cecil has to do is kill a man.

Though common sense tells him murder just isn't a good career move, his finances tell him it can't hurt to meet his potential client. The decision will lead Cecil from a pathetic small-time murder to a decades-old slaughter that is still reaching into the present—and its dark and chilly grasp may extend to Cecil Younger himself…"

The other books in this series are -
- The Angels Will Not Care (1998)
- Cold Water Burning (2001)
- Baby's First Felony (2018)

That finishes my look at American PI's. Next in line in my look at the Mystery genre will be American cop series. Can't wait, eh? Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Friday, 10 May 2019

A Friday Update

It's been a wonderfully warm week; temperatures in the low 20's (Celsius that is.. 70's if you still use Fahrenheit). I did a bit of work this morning, dropped off our recycling bottles. That paid for my haircut and a coffee and bagel for Jo and I. It's a bit warm to want to do much else... my excuse anyway. So we watched Deadline: White House this afternoon and are now setting up for our evening's viewing.

I finished my 3rd book of May this morning and started a new one that I think will be somewhat challenging. I also received a new book in the mail yesterday. I'll finish off today's entry with my ongoing look at the Mystery Genre.

New Books

1. Human Croquet by Kate Atkinson (1997). I've enjoyed a few of Atkinson's books, both her Jackson Brodie series and her standalones. This is her second novel.

"Once it had been the great forest of Lythe--a vast and impenetrable thicket of green with a mystery in the very heart of the trees.  And here, in the beginning, lived the Fairfaxes, grandly, at Fairfax Manor, visited once by the great Gloriana herself.

But over the centuries the forest had been destroyed, replaced by Streets of Trees.  The Fairfaxes had dwindled too; now they lived in 'Arden' at the end of Hawthorne Close and were hardly a family at all.

There was Vinny (the Aunt from Hell)--with her cats and her crab-apple face. And Gordon, who had forgotten them for seven years and, when he remembered, came back with fat Debbie, who shared her one brain cell with a poodle. And then there were Charles and Isobel, the children. Charles, the acne-scarred Lost Boy, passed his life awaiting visits from aliens and the return of his mother. But it is Isobel to whom the story belongs--Isobel, born on the Streets of Trees, who drops into pockets of time and out again. Isobel is sixteen and she too is waiting for the return of her mother--the thin, dangerous Eliza with her scent of nicotine, Arpege and sex, whose disappearance is part of the mystery that still remains at the heart of the forest."

Just Finished

1. Cross Bones by Kathy Reichs (Temperance Brennan #8).

"Cross Bones is the 8th book in Kathy Reichs' Temperance Brennan forensic mystery series. I found it to be one of the more interesting ones so far.

Temperance is working at her 2nd job as forensic anthropologist assisting the Montreal coroner. (For those not familiar with the books, Temperance works in South Carolina most of the time, but spends time also in Montreal as part of an arrangement.) This story starts off with Temperance assisting with two bodies, one who is found in a chimney and another who may have committed suicide. His autopsy is witnessed by members of the Jewish community as well. During this autopsy, Tempe is given a photo of a skeleton and is advised that is the reason for the victim's 'murder'.

Thus starts an adventure that will take Tempe and her lover, police detective Andrew Ryan to Israel in search of further evidence and also to discover if the bones might be those of Jesus Christ. It's an intriguing story; a murder mystery and an investigation into the history of Jesus' family. The story moves along very nicely and provides an interesting history of the archeological digs in Israel as well as a nice glimpse of the country itself.

I did find some of it confusing, especially the story (which is based on a true one) of the discoveries in Masada. As well, the possible implications of discovering the body of JC, if it turns out to be the case in this story, and its impact on Christianity, Judaism and even Islam are examined, sometimes a bit too much. There is lots of action and the interactions between Tempe and Ryan are excellent. All in all it was a fascinating mystery and a joy to read. I have found that sometimes Kathy Reichs seems to be going through the motions, but not in this story. (4 stars)"

Just Started

1. Natchez Burning by Greg Iles (Penn Cate #4). I've started this already. I think it's going to be a heavy, dark read. Time will tell.

"Raised in Natchez, Mississippi, Penn Cage learned all he knows from his father, Tom Cage. But now the beloved family doctor has been accused of murdering the African-American nurse with whom he worked in the 1960s. Now Penn is determined to save his father no matter the cost.

The quest for answers sends Penn deep into a dark conspiracy involving the vicious Double Eagles, an offshoot of the KKK controlled by some of the state's most powerful men. With the aid of a local reporter and his fiancée, Penn uncovers a bloody trail stretching back forty years, and is forced to confront a wrenching dilemma: does a man of honor choose his father or justice?

Rich in Southern atmosphere, Natchez Burning marks the return of an American master of suspense. Tense and disturbing, it's the most explosive and ambitious story Greg Iles has ever written."

My Ongoing Look at the Mystery Genre - American PI's #19
In my last entry I looked at Dana Stabenow's Alaskan PI Kate Shugak.

Rex Stout
1. Rex Stout - Nero Wolfe. Mystery writer Stout lived from 1886 - 1975. He was born in Indiana and died in Connecticut. Between 1934 - 1975 he wrote 33 novels and 39 novellas. He is most well-known for his Nero Wolfe mysteries. I've read two of the Nero Wolfe books so far. There are still a few left and I've a bunch on my book shelves.

a. The League of Frightened Men (Nero Wolfe #2).

"Rex Stout is another of those authors that I have come to late in my reading life. My first experience was with one of his last books, a short story collection, Death Times Three, which I enjoyed quite a bit. I've been trying to find his first book, Fer de Lance (1934) but so far with no luck. But I did find this book, The League of Frightened Men, his second book, originally published in 1935.

From being someone who enjoyed my first experience of the great detective, Nero Wolfe, I now find my self an unabashed fan. This book was excellent, a fascinating, entertaining, great mystery. Nero Wolfe and his partner, Archie Goodwin are a great team and both interesting in their own rights. Wolfe is an oversize detective, basically housebound, whose life, while he works to solve mysteries, is quite regimented. Each morning and each afternoon, he works upstairs in his home, tending his multitude of orchids. While he can be visited, no business is conducted. He settles the remainder of his day, in his office, tending to business.

Archie is his eyes, ears, arms and legs. Archie conducts the investigations, travels around New York and local environs, interviewing, gathering information. He can be Wolfe's strong arm man if necessary. The stories are told in Archie's voice, from his perspective. (Oddly enough, Wolfe does sometime leave his home, this I discovered in this story. But this seems to be a rarety, not the norm)

So this story; a group of men, Harvard classmates have a secret past. While in university, they hazed another classmate and as a result caused him to have severe injuries. Out of guilt, they have banded together to pay medical bills, etc. Now two have died, or maybe been murdered. They think that Paul Chapin is involved and that he plans to kill them all. Wolfe is hired and so the story begins.

I enjoyed so much how the story is presented; small details like how Wolfe decides how to bill each of the different members of the group, and so many other aspects. The story has a surprising menace throughout and the case is so very interesting (even when Archie and Wolfe seem to be grinding their heels trying to get information.) I love Archie's manner of presenting the case, his thoughts on Wolfe; a combination of affection and anger. Great story and now I will have to read the whole series. An excellent story and mystery. Can you figure out the ending? (5 stars!)"


2. Death Times Three (1985).

"Even though this was the last published book of Rex Stout's work, featuring Nero Wolfe, it was still my introduction to the famed detective. Death Times Three features three short stories/ novellas; Bitter End, Frame-up for Murder and Assault on a Brownstone. I didn't really have any sort of clue about Nero Wolfe and was interested to find out more about him and his assistant Archie Goodwin, who is, in effect, Wolfe's arms and legs. Wolfe never leaves his brownstone in New York and uses the investigations conducted by Archie to analyze and solve the cases brought his way. Wolfe is a curmudgeon, doesn't like his routine upset (breakfast, morning with his orchids, office work in the afternoon, then more work with his orchids, etc). He doesn't like women clients for some reason (maybe I'll find out more as I further explore his other cases), doesn't really need the work, but seems to take them on when his routine is disrupted or his character is called into question (at least in the three cases in this book.) They were nicely varied; an invasion by Treasury officials in the last, a case involving quinine in Wolfe's pate and the murder of a fashion designer. I enjoyed the cases, the dynamic between Archie and Wolfe and the interruptions by Inspector Cramer and how Wolfe works the information to solve the cases. Enjoyable reading and I'm looking forward to finding out more about this detective. (4 stars)"

3. Fer-de-Lance (Nero Wolfe #1).

"As any herpetologist will tell you, the fer-de-lance is among the most dreaded snakes known to man. When someone makes a present of one to Nero Wolfe, Archie Goodwin knows he's getting dreadfully close to solving the devilishly clever murders of an immigrant and a college president. As for Wolfe, he's playing snake charmer in a case with more twists than an anaconda -- whistling a seductive tune he hopes will catch a killer who's still got poison in his heart."

4. The Rubber Band (Nero Wolfe #3).

"What do a Wild West lynching and a respected English nobleman have in common? On the surface, absolutely nothing. But when a young woman hires his services, it becomes Nero Wolfe’s job to look deeper and find the connection. A forty-year-old pact, a five-thousand-mile search, and a million-dollar murder are all linked to an international scandal that could rebound on the great detective and his partner, Archie, with fatal abruptness."

The remaining Nero Wolfe mysteries can be found at this link

There you go. One more entry in this category, then it'll be on to the next one; Mysteries with American Cops.

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Mid-Week Reading Update

We've been having difficulties with our internet the past few weeks. Finally had the repair guy over. Things seem to be back to normal for the time being. *fingers crossed* It's been a lovely sunny day today. In fact, we've had lovely weather.

Well, I've finished two books in May so far and have started two replacements. I'll update that and also continue with my look at American PI's.

Just Finished

1.  Ten Big Ones by Janet Evanovich (Stephanie Plum #10).

"Ten Big Ones is the 10th book in the Stephanie Plum mystery series by Janet Evanovich.  Stephanie is a somewhat clumsy bounty hunter who works out of New Jersey for her cousin, Vincent Plum, a local bail bonds man. Her often assistant is Lula, an ex-prostitute who adds humor, as if there isn't enough already, to the stories. Stephanie is torn between two 'lovers', local cop Joe Morelli and fellow bounty hunter, Ranger, both of them hunks. Throw into the mix, Stephanie's wonderful family and you've got a recipe for fun and action.

In her latest adventure, Stephanie, in the course of trying to catch up to folks who are not meeting bond requirements, falls astray of a local gang and her life is threatened. In fact the gang purportedly has hired a West Coast hitman, the Junkman, to have Stephanie bumped off. Stephanie moves out of Morelli's house and hides out in one of Ranger's hideaways to ensure nobody in her family is put at risk.

All the while, stubborn as she is, Steph still takes Lula out with her on her bounty hunter duties, leaving a trail of burned out cars behind her as people take pot shots and other things at the terrible twosome. She also is involved in planning sister Valerie's wedding and escorting Grandma to funerals and letting her accompany her on her duties. As well, she is still torn between the two men in her life, desiring both but unable to sort out her priorities.. Oh, don't forget Sally, transvestite rock singer / school bus driver / wedding planner.

So it's more of the same and there is sufficient action and humor to keep you satisfied. A bit more of the sexiness from previous stories might have been appreciated but there is still enough to tease you along. Fun and games and chuckles. (3.5 stars)"

2. Savage Run by C.J. Box (Joe Pickett #2).

"Savage Run by C.J. Box is the 2nd book in the Joe Pickett and my first exposure to Wyoming Game Warden Joe Pickett. I have to say I enjoyed very much, action, intrigue and a neat character, maybe a cross between Park Ranger Anna Pigeon and Sheriff Longmire... or maybe not.

I imagine I should have read the first book in the series first but it didn't seem to be all that critical as I was introduced nicely to both Joe and his family, Marybeth and their three daughters. This story starts with what seems to be an implausible bang, an environmental radical and his wife blown up when a cow explodes in front of them. But ultimately this won't seem so implausible and everything will make sense.

A mysterious person(s) has hired a pair of killers to get rid of a select group of environmentalists, with Stewie Woods the first. The main leader of the pair is an implacable killer, the other has doubts. Joe is involved only peripherally at first, assisting the local sheriff in investigating the explosion. The sheriff takes over and Joe is more involved trying to prove a local landowner, a nasty individual if I've ever seen one, killed an elk out of season, just for the head and antlers, and leaving the meat to rot.. This landowner is powerful and seems to have many connections.

The story moves between the killers as they take after the names on their list and Joe and Marybeth. It turns out that Marybeth knew Stewie from her past and she seems to be getting phone calls from someone pretending to be Stewie.

So there you have the gist of this entertaining story. Joe and the killers are drawn inexorably together as we near the climax and exciting finish. I guess it's a simple story in its own right but it was fun to read and to get to know Joe and his family somewhat. I will continue with the series. (4 stars)"

Just Started

1. Louisiana Lament by Julie Smith (Talba Wallis #3).

"Allyson Brown, the Girl Gatsby, is a woman of wealth, hostess of fabled parties, patron of the arts--especially of poets. Found floating in her own swimming pool, shot to death.

Poet and fledgling detective Talba Wallis gets an urgent call from the sister she barely knows: Janessa. To Girl Gatsby Janessa is close friend. But this call isn't an invitation to an elegant literary salon. Janessa wants off the hook as the principal murder suspect.

Investigating, Talba and her irascible boss, Eddie, find the reality behind the Gatsby glamour. Allyson was widely hated, a con artist who neglected her children, failed to pay her bills, and lied to everyone she wanted something from. The one person she loved may have ushered her to her death.

The case takes Talba and Eddie from literary parties to Gulf Coast bait shops, from biker bars to abandoned wharves, and finally, to the story of another Gatsby, which may yield answers, or greater mysteries."

2. Intensity by Dean Koontz.

"Edgler Vess is a sociopath intent on murder. He lives for one purpose only: to satisfy all appetites as they arise, seeking ever more outrageous experience. To live with intensity.

When he attacks her friend, Laura, Chyna Shepherd is saved by the instincts developed during a dark and turbulent childhood. Not knowing Laura is already dead, Chyna follows, hoping to save her friend, as Vess carries her body to his motor home - a dungeon and morgue on wheels. The killer, unaware of her presence, drives away. But Chyna is now trapped in his dangerous orbit.

Her sole aim is to get out alive, but when she learns the identity of the killer's next intended victim, she knows she must act to save that precious life - and take risks beyond any that she ever imagined she could endure."

Next book I should finish will be Cross Bones by Kathy Reichs, one of the better Temperance Brennan forensic mysteries I've read so far.

My Ongoing Look At The Mystery Genre - American PI's #1.
In my last entry I highlighted two female PI's created by Julie Smith, Rebecca Schwarz (San Francisco) and Talba Wallis (New Orleans). I'll take a look at another female PI in this entry. I've enjoyed one of this series set in Alaska.

Dana Stabenow
1. Dana Stabenow - Kate Shugak. Alaskan writer Stabenow has written a number of standalone novels and series in the mystery, science fiction and historical fiction novels. I'm focusing on her Kate Shugak mystery series. Kate is an ex investigator for the Anchorage DA's office. I've read the first book so far and she is asked to help the DA find some missing people. Since 1992, Stabenow has written 21 books in the series, so I'll be able to enjoy it for awhile.

a. A Cold Day for Murder (#1).

"A Cold Day for Murder is the first Kate Shugak mystery by Dana Stabenow. Kate was the lead investigator for the Anchorage ADA, Jack Morgan. Something happened on one of her cases which lead her to quit and move back nearer home in The Park. She lives alone with her dog (wolf) Mutt. Kate is an Aleut.

Jack and an FBI agent show up to ask her help in finding a missing Ranger and the current ADA investigator. The Ranger disappeared 6 weeks ago and his father is a US Senator who has pressured the FBI to become involved. Morgan had sent Ken Dahl to search for the young man and he also had disappeared two weeks ago. Morgan wants Kate to take up the search. (Morgan and Kate had previously had a relationship, it seems)

Taking on the assignment means Kate returns to her home town, Niniltna to find their trail. This means making contact with her grandmother Ekaterina (Emaa), who rules the roost and is a leading member of the Aleut community in Alaska. There is considerable friction between the two.
The story is a quick read, with action right from the get-go. We meet a great many interesting people, from her Uncle Abel, Bennie owner of the Road House and Bobby, the legless Vietnam Vet who provides weather reports and short wave radio communications for the community to the world at large.

There are many suspect, including family members of Kate and the story moves along nicely. We get an excellent feel for The Park and being winter, you can almost feel the cold. It's very much a Wild West (or maybe North is more appropriate) and a fascinating place. For a first story, it's an excellent intro to Kate. I hope we find out more about her past in future stories. (4 stars)"

b. A Fatal Thaw (#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...."

c. Dead in the Water (#3).

"Two crewmen of the crab vessel Avilda are missing—presumed dead—under very suspicious circumstances. The Bering Sea offers ample means and opportunity, but without bodies, a motive, or evidence of foul play, the DA doesn’t have a case. And so, freelancing again for her former employer, Kate Shugak finds herself working undercover in one of Alaska’s most dangerous professions: crab fisherman. It’s an assignment that will take her from the debauchery of Dutch Harbor to the most isolated of the Aleutians, and if the job itself doesn’t kill her, her unsavory crew mates just might."

d. A Cold-Blooded Business (#4).

"Work hard, play hard. That's the credo on the oilfields of Alaska's North Slope, where harsh conditions and long, isolated shifts make for some of the best-paid jobs in the state. Management typically turns a blind eye to off-hours drinking and gambling, but a spate of drug-related deaths means it's time for Royal Petroleum to get its house in order. Working on behalf of the Anchorage DA, Kate Shugak is brought in undercover to identify the dealer and shut down the flow of cocaine. Of course, the dealer might have some very different ideas."

The remaining books in the series are located here.

Two more series to go in my look at American PI's. Enjoy the rest of your week. Happy Hump Day!

Friday, 3 May 2019

Beginning a New Month

It's a beautiful, sunny, fresh day in the valley. It's also been a lazy day.... ;0) I thought I'd start off May with an update on the books I've started the month off with, some new books I've added to my bookshelf and then get back to my look at the Mystery genre as I've neglected it for the past little while.

Currently Reading
I'm reading a variety of mysteries at the moment. Two feature new authors for me and the other three are old favorites.

1. C.J. Box - Savage Run (Joe Pickett #2).

"In Savage Run C.J. Box's acclaimed follow-up to his career-making debut Open Season game warden Joe Pickett looks into the bizarre death of an environmental activist...and what he finds is bigger and far more sinister than anything he imagined."

2. Kathy Reichs - Cross Bones (Temperance Brennan #8).

"Examining a badly decomposed corpse is de rigueur for forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan. But puzzling damage on the body of a shooting victim, an Orthodox Jewish man, suggests this is no ordinary Montreal murder. When a stranger slips Tempe a photograph of a skeleton unearthed at an archaeological site, Tempe uncovers chilling ties between the dead man and secrets long buried in the dust of Israel. Traveling there with Detective Andrew Ryan, Tempe plunges into an international mystery as old as Jesus, and centered on the controversial discovery of Christ's tomb. Has a mastermind lured her into an elaborate hoax? If not, Tempe may be on the brink of rewriting two thousand years of history -- if she can survive the foes dead set on burying her."

3. Janet Evanovich - Ten Big Ones (Stephanie Plum #10).

"Swing off the Jersey Turnpike and you'll be in bounty hunter Stephanie Plum's neighborhood. You'll know it because all hell will be breaking loose. Not that she looks for trouble - it just seems to follow her. In Ten Big Ones it explodes at a deli, and when Stephanie pegs a robber as a member of a vicious Trenton gang, they peg her as dead. Vice cop Joe Morelli fears she's in way too deep - even with the help of crime-solving, cross-dressing, bus driver Sally Sweet, and Stephanie's friend Lula riding shotgun as backup. With a notorious killer on her tail, Stephanie figures the best hideout is Ranger's secret lair..."

4.  Jane Haddam - Baptism in Blood (Gregor Demarkian #14).

"Bellerton, North Carolina is reeling from a hurricane, but it's also devastated by another king of tempest that hits the town with equal force--a murder mystery with a macabre twist. An infant is found murdered on the grounds of Bonaventura, a controversial retreat for women, a place rumored to be a den of Satan worship--and worse. In pursuing the purse, former FBI agent Gregor Demarkian may learn that more than one person in Bellerton has an ungodly motive for murder."

5. Eric Rickstad - Lie in Wait (Canaan Crime #1). 

"In the remote pastoral hamlet of Canaan, Vermont, a high-profile legal case shatters the town’s sense of peace and community. Anger simmers. Fear and prejudice awaken. Old friends turn on each other. Violence threatens.

So when a young teenage girl is savagely murdered while babysitting at the house of the lead attorney in the case, Detective Sonja Test believes the girl’s murder and the divisive case must be linked.

However, as the young detective digs deeper into her first murder case, she discovers sordid acts hidden for decades, and learns that behind the town’s idyllic façade of pristine snow lurks a capacity in some for great darkness and the betrayal of innocents. And Sonja Test, a mother of two, will do anything to protect the innocent."

New Books
My latest visit to drop off some books at Nearly New Books. I found a few that were on my list.

1. Minette Walters - Fox Evil.

"When elderly Alisa Lockyer-Fox is found dead in her garden, dressed in her nightclothes and with bloodstains on the ground around her, the finger of suspicion points at her wealthy husband, Colonel James Lockyer-Fox. A coroner's investigation deems it death by natural causes, but the gossip surrounding James refuses to go away." With James friendless and alone, his reclusive behavior begins to alarm his attorney, whose concern deepens when he discovers that his client has become the victim of a relentless campaign accusing him of far worse than the murder of his wife. James is unwilling to fight the allegations, choosing instead to devote his energies to a desperate search for the illegitimate granddaughter who may prove his savior as he battles for his name - and his life."

2. Craig Johnson - The Dark Horse (Longmire #5).

"Wade Barsad, a man with a dubious past and a gift for making enemies, burned his wife Mary's horses in their barn; in retribution, she shot him in the head six times, or so the story goes. But Sheriff Walt Longmire doesn't believe Mary's confession and is determined to dig deeper. Unpinning his star to pose as an insurance investigator, Walt visits the Barsad ranch and discovers that everyone in town--including a beautiful Guatemalan bartender and a rancher with a taste for liquor--had a reason for wanting Wade dead."

3. Charles Finch - The September Society (Charles Lenox #2).

"In the small hours of the morning one fall day in 1866, a frantic widow visits detective Charles Lenox. Lady Annabelle's problem is simple: her beloved son, George, has vanished from his room at Oxford. When Lenox visits his alma mater to investigate he discovers a series of bizarre clues, including a murdered cat and a card cryptically referring to "The September Society." Then, just as Lenox realizes that the case may be deeper than it appears, a student dies, the victim of foul play.
What could the September Society have to do with it? What specter, returned from the past, is haunting gentle Oxford? Lenox, with the support of his devoted friends in London's upper crust, must race to discover the truth before it comes searching for him, and dangerously close to home."

4. Nicola Upson - An Expert in Murder (Josephine Tey #1).

"March 1934. Revered mystery writer Josephine Tey is traveling from Scotland to London for the final week of her celebrated play "Richard of Bordeaux," But joy turns to horror when her arrival coincides with the murder of a young woman she had befriended on the train ride, and Tey quickly finds herself plunged into a mystery as puzzling as any of those in her own works.

Detective Inspector Archie Penrose is convinced that the killing is connected to her play. "Richard of Bordeaux" has been the surprise hit of the season, with pacifist themes that strike a chord in a world still haunted by war. Now, however, it seems that Tey could become the victim of her own success, as her reputation--and even her life--is put at risk.

A second murder confirms Penrose's suspicions that somewhere among this flamboyant theatre set is a ruthless and spiteful killer. Together, Penrose and Tey must confront their own ghosts in search of someone who will stop at nothing."

My Ongoing Look at the Mystery Genre - American PI's #17
In my last look at this thread, I highlighted Robert B. Parker's Spenser for Hire series.

Julie Smith
1. Julia Smith - Rebecca Schwarz. Julie Smith is a former reporter for the New Orleans Times - Picayune and the San Francisco Chronicle. She's also author of over 20 novels. She has written four different series. I'll focus on two in the next posts, one set in New Orleans and one in San Francisco. Rebecca Schwarz is a lawyer in San Francisco who is involved solving various crimes From 1982 - 2014, Julia Smith has written 7 books in the series. I've read the first two books in the series so far.

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 the series are -
- Tourist Trap (1986)
- Dead in the Water (1991)
- Other People's Skeletons (1993)
- Blood Types (2014)
- Cul-de-Sac (2014)

2. Julia Smith - Talba Wallis. This is a new series for me. I've had a couple of books in the 4 book series and I've added the first to my 12 + 4 Reading challenge.

a. Louisiana Hotshot (#1 / 2001)
b. Louisiana Bigshot (#2 / 2002)

c. Louisiana Lament (#3 / 2004)

"Allyson Brown, the Girl Gatsby, is a woman of wealth, hostess of fabled parties, patron of the arts--especially of poets. Found floating in her own swimming pool, shot to death.

Poet and fledgling detective Talba Wallis gets an urgent call from the sister she barely knows: Janessa. To Girl Gatsby Janessa is close friend. But this call isn't an invitation to an elegant literary salon. Janessa wants off the hook as the principal murder suspect.

Investigating, Talba and her irascible boss, Eddie, find the reality behind the Gatsby glamour. Allyson was widely hated, a con artist who neglected her children, failed to pay her bills, and lied to everyone she wanted something from. The one person she loved may have ushered her to her death.

The case takes Talba and Eddie from literary parties to Gulf Coast bait shops, from biker bars to abandoned wharves, and finally, to the story of another Gatsby, which may yield answers, or greater mysteries."

d. P.I. on a Hot Tin Roof (#4 / 2005).

There you go folks. Have a great weekend and remember, visit a book store and read a book!

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