Gunslinger

Gunslinger by Jeff Ridenour

Gunslinger by Jeff Ridenour sizzles. One murdered bookstore owner, two disgruntled employees, and rumors of more extramarital affairs than you can shake a cactus at. Petra Barcotti, owner, with her husband, Antonio (Tony), of It’s A Mystery! Bookstore in Scottsdale, AZ, is murdered. Was it because she refused to take Preston Silvernale, an employee, on as a partner in the bookstore? Or was it because of the affairs in which she engaged? Did a jilted lover see red enough to bludgeon and shoot Petra? Or was it someone or something else? Suspects abound, including two detectives with the Scottsdale Police Department. Also among the suspects is Petra’s husband, Tony, who makes plans to marry Vera Crenshaw, Petra’s sister, before Petra is barely cold in her grave.

Ridenour sets the right pace with his easy, spare prose. His characters are believable, especially Stu Fletcher, the private investigator brought into the current case by a local detective. Fletcher sums up the suspects and other locals he meets with considerable insight. He catches the murderer through the process of elimination and ingenuity. He also catches the eye of a few of the local women. That makes his stay in Scottsdale more enjoyable. This is the fourth installment in Jeff Ridenour’s Stu Fletcher series. But it’s the first one I’ve encountered. I enjoyed Gunslinger enough to find and read the first three books in this appealing saga.

I received a free copy of Gunslinger from www.readersfavorite.com in exchange for an honest review.

Sirgrus Blackmane Demihuman Gumshoe

Sirgrus Blackmane Demihuman Gumshoe & The Dark-ElfLooking for a well-written mystery mixed with some fantasy? Then Sirgrus Blackmane Demihuman Gumshoe & The Dark-Elf by William Schlichter is a must read. Sirgrus Blackmane, dwarf, war veteran, and detective, seeks the murderer of Craig Mason. Although Mason is human, Blackmane and Mason fought the orcs together in the world war and subsequently open a detective agency as partners. After Mason’s death, Blackmane investigates a case concerning Doris, a dancer whose death may have been suicide, or murder. Was this death linked to Mason’s death?

Blackmane has a slightly twisted sense of humor. When interacting with a rock giant at The Dark-Elf (a bar), Blackmane thinks, “They’re immune to magic-edge weapons, and I left my howitzer in my other coat.” Blackmane is also an unreliable narrator. He says, “I don’t speak about the war.” But illusions to the Great War are forever creeping into his narration of the story. In fact, it inhabits a lot of the story. Blackmane also declares he hates magic. But magic, in the form of FBI Agent Edgeangel, a mage, helps him solve his cases.

Great Mix of Real and Fantasy Worlds

Schlichter does well at mixing the real world with his created fantasy world. America is a land of humans and demihumans and other creatures. Dwarves, mages, fauns, trolls and other creatures inhabit this world with humans. Although no specific time frame is mentioned, there’s been a world war and Prohibition is still in full effect. Segregation rules, with races confined to different sections of the city where Blackmane resides. Interactions between the demihuman, magical creatures and humans are natural and convincing. Even down to stereotypical attitudes so similar to the ones in our current culture. Schlichter’s solid prose and good characterization kept the plot moving and my interest level high. I look forward to reading more about Sirgrus Blackmane, demihuman gumshoe, in the future.

I received a free copy of Sirgrus Blackmane Demihuman Gumshoe & The Dark-Elf from www.readersfavorite.com in exchange for an honest review.

Sirgrus Blackmane Demihuman Gumshoe & The Dark-Elf
by William Schlichter
©2021
BHC Press

 

 

Sherlock Holmes and the Eye of Heka

Sherlock Holmes and the Eye of HekaDavid Marcum’s prose in Sherlock Holmes and the Eye of Heka recollects the spare but effective prose of Arthur Conan Doyle. Lovers of the original canon are in for a real treat.

Dr. Watson inhabits a larger share of this adventure than in Doyle’s canon and in some modern pastiches. Watson’s marriage to a woman named Constance in this adventure precedes his marriage to Mary Marston. Watson’s marriage to Marston is indicated as Watson’s first marriage in Doyle’s writings about Holmes. Plus, new information is revealed about Watson’s interest in, and relationship with, women. Watson exhibits a range of emotions throughout this adventure, including irritation towards a woman who flirts with him shortly after the death of Constance.

In this exploit, Holmes and Watson team up with men they once thought were adversaries. The goal: to find a foot-tall statue depicting Heka, a minor African deity. This adventure involves some old friends from the ACD canon. Namely, Inspectors Gregson and Lestrade, who team up to help. The Baker Street Irregulars, Holmes’ loosely knit group of street urchins, help out in the background.

Holmes visits the various homes of the main suspects in pursuit of clues. He also requests help from several confederates and sits back like a skilled spymaster in the middle of the web he’s spun. Eventually, Holmes’ trap ensnares the guilty. But not before death comes to some of Holmes’ compatriots.

I very much enjoyed Sherlock Holmes and the Eye of Heka penned by David Marcum. Most notable is the treatment of Watson as a well-rounded character. Marcum’s other numerous writings about Holmes and Watson now inhabit a permanent place on my to-be-read list.

I received a free copy of this book from www.reedsy.com/discovery in exchange for an honest review.

Cosmic Killings

Cosmic KillingsThomas J. Thorson’s The Cosmic Killings delivers. Thorson rewards the reader with relatable characters, snappy prose and a succinct plot. Also, ironic humor appears frequently enough to keep readers chuckling.

Humor sneaks in when a volunteer at the zoo calls the police “incompetent boobs.” Late in the story, the English Department Head at the university where Mal teaches, disparages Mal’s teaching methods. I erupted into outright laughter when Mal says the following to confuse and dismiss him:

“Stuart, no need to be alarmed. I’m sure you’re keenly aware that when it comes to the problematization paradigm of students’ dialectic approach to disputatious engagements, where iatrogenic paths are often the result of idiopathic homogeneity, professorial divagation toward the inapposite, here in the form of a demiurge, can lead to originative solutions. Don’t you agree?”

Even Mal agrees to himself that this is “pure babble.”

Relevant information about Amish culture and Raelism slow the plot a bit. However, things speed up as Vinn Achison and Malcom Winters’ investigation heats up.

Vinn and Malcom (Mal) help bring down a killer who murders two young people. But they feel that the case isn’t finished. The police officer who oversees the official, but closed, investigation, agrees. So, with the officer’s blessing, Vin and Mal continue their probing and research. And feel like they’re traveling “a path of uncertainty in a crusade without end.”

Great Characterization

Vin and Mal’s deepening relationship rings true. They enjoy everything from cooking for each other to trying to outsmart each other in their investigations. Leo and Ted/Rebecca, Mal’s tenants, make appearances. As usual, they help in the current murder investigation.

Thorson’s new book delves a bit too much into lesser-known religions (Amish, a traditionalist Christian group, and Raelism, a UFO religion founded in the 1970s). But it still charmed and satisfied me.

See my reviews of Thorson’s previous books, Heirs Apparent and Connubial Corpse, here and here.

I received a free copy of this book, but gave an honest opinion.

The Cosmic Killings
Thomas J. Thorson
© 2021

Dress Whites – Not What You Think

Dress WhitesI received Dress Whites by Richard Gilmore Loftus in the mail from the bookstore last Thursday morning. I finished it on Friday (Oct. 22, 2021). Read it in two days. Usually, I take my time reading poetry collections. But I couldn’t put this one down. Have several new favorite poems from this collection.

From “Jazz” to “Sparrow” to “Come Hither” to “Among the Sonnets,” Loftus’s imagery will surprise and captivate you as it did me. Crisp and elegant, his phrases and poems satisfy and enchant. Loftus effectively emphasizes the connection between nature and personal growth and outlook. Water functions as an ongoing symbol throughout the collection. From the mystery of a “dark river / gurgling through the night” in the “History of Religion” to “the wet in the wind touches her cheek” as a wife waits for her fisherman husband to come home in “Shetland Islands.”

I’ve already read some of the poems more than once or twice. Everything captivates, from the cover art to the last poem, “An Old Orange Boat.” For a debut poetry collection, this is a moving, emotional, superlative offering.

Richard Gilmore Loftus’s poetry is new to me. But, based on this collection, I’ll pick up his other books of poetry. And look forward to being entertained and enlightened by them as well as this assortment of poems did.

For a review of another poetry collection that I’ve enjoyed, check here.

Dress Whites
Richard Gilmore Loftus
© 2018
Self-published

Sherlock Holmes’ Cat

Sherlock Holmes' CatPatricia Srigley has imbued the narrator of The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Cat with ironic humor. This imparts a lively outlook to what amounts to a collection of linked stories. Cat Watson, as the small black cat gets dubbed, shares the narration with Sherlock. So, certain aspects of the stories are discussed from both viewpoints.

Sherlock and Cat Watson go from adventure to adventure. Dr. John Watson is not much involved with these adventures. He’s newly married and taken a rambunctious dog as a pet.

Although the stories/chapters, “The Mystery of the Missing and Presumed Stolen Bicycle” and “The Case of the Wacky Widow,” for example, are not up to par with the Arthur Conan Doyle canon, all are entertaining. However, some of Sherlock’s actions are uncharacteristic for Doyle’s detective. For example, in “Doctor Watson’s Second Case,” “Sherlock rolled his eyes extravagantly.” Needless to say, this mannerism would be abnormal for Holmes. It is well known that Holmes does not particularly like women. But he is especially haughty and standoffish with Mary Watson. Same with Srigley’s portrayal of Mrs. Hudson, who inquires, “Yes, Sherlock dearest?” in the same chapter. She also makes unnecessary nonsense talk to Holmes’ cats (he ends up with two). Plus, Dr. Watson is satirized as a fool, always coming to Holmes with minor, inconsequential problems. And looking bedraggled with a thin, but large, droopy mustache.

These stories are for those who enjoy lighthearted humor and also Sherlock Holmes.

(For another mystery with a black cat as narrator, see my review of Clea Simon’s The Ninth Life.)

I received a free copy of The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Cat. I gave an honest opinion of this book.

 

Wrecking Storm – Civil War

Wrecking StormMichael Ward has done it, again, with his second Thomas Tallant adventure. The Wrecking Storm takes us back to mid-17th century England. This was a period of political unrest, disagreements about religious freedom between Puritans and Catholics, and civil war.

The Wrecking Storm continues the focus on the Tallant family begun in The Rags of Time. The Tallants are well-to-do merchants in the spice trade. The family is slowly drawn into the unrest incited in part by the Puritans engulfs the Tallants. A confrontation with an angry mob occurs at their business’s warehouse. And their home on the outskirts of London is attacked and a friend’s son is killed. Tensions throughout London and the country tighten. All events destined to lead to “the wrecking storm…a vicious, painful civil war, with no escape.”

Puritans sought to cleanse the Church of England of any remaining Roman Catholic practices. Later, the group played a significant role in the Protectorate under Oliver Cromwell. Ward does an excellent job of portraying the tensions of this period as the Tallants have both Protestant and Catholic friends. The research he did into this particular time period is evident and informs, but does not overwhelm, the story.

Again, as with The Rags of Time, Ward’s pacing of the novel is quick but steady. His characters are attractive and engagingly differentiated. Especially the relationships Thomas has with his father, Elizabeth Seymour, and Barty.

This book, like The Rags of Time, is a must-read if you like historical fiction with a bit of mystery thrown in.

For my review of The Rags of Time, Ward’s first Thomas Tallent adventure, visit here.

I received a free copy of this book. I gave an honest opinion of this book.

Holmes – Mummies – and Mystery

Sherlock Holmes, Mummies and MysteryMX Publishing has issued another winner in the ongoing saga of Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock Holmes and the Egyptian Tomb Mystery by Joanna M. Rieke entertains. This case of Holmes, mummies and mystery moves quickly along.

Holmes and Watson have a friendlier relationship in this case than in some cases in the original Conan Doyle canon. The regard they have for each other because of their long association is evident. Holmes even hugs Watson at one point, showing more emotion than is usually apparent from Holmes. Also, Holmes drags Watson to safety after Watson suffers a concussion.

This case has the famous duo in trouble caused by Colonel Moran and Professor Moriarty.  Important plans about the Suez Canal are stolen. Holmes and Watson trace them to an Egyptology exhibit at the British Museum. While investigating the death of a night watchman in connection to the case, the duo go to the basement. A fire set by Colonel Moran imperils Holmes and Watson.

Of course, there are many twists and turns in the detection and discernment of clues by Holmes with Watson’s help. The pacing is steady, but sluggish in spots. Rieke deftly draws Holmes and Watson. Their friendship and comradery are unmistakable.

Rieke has written other works based on the Holmes and Watson saga. I will read others in the future.

I received a free copy of Sherlock Holmes and the Egyptian Tomb Mystery but was free to give my honest opinion.

Black Cat Mysteries and Mean Streets

Black Cats and Mysteries - The Ninth LifeThe Ninth Life by Clea Simon is not the first book I’ve read in which the narrator is nonhuman. (Think the Chet and Bernie mystery series by Spencer Quinn, for one.) Black cat mysteries have joined the group.

Blackie, a cat, is the first-rate narrator in this story of urban survival and friendship. Street smart, tough, aging, Blackie exhibits a no-nonsense outlook. Simon gives Blackie the voice of a full-fledged human private investigator. As Blackie says, or thinks, to himself, too bad he can’t talk. He has a soft spot for Carrie (nicknamed Care). She’s the street teen who saves Blackie from drowning in a drainage ditch.

Care and Blackie work on solving the mystery of who killed Care’s mentor – a nameless private investigator alluded to as “the old man” throughout the book. They interact with low-life businessmen, drug dealers, and gangs of thugs. Care’s younger, some-time friend, Thomas (known as Tick) wants to stay friendly with Care but is drawn back into the gang life from which Care is trying to escape. Throughout the book, Blackie does not totally trust Tick. Tick wants the drugs and other things he thinks he can get from Care’s former associates.

Much as I enjoyed Blackie’s narration, he sometimes seems overly knowledgeable about everything. The book’s ending also left me feeling let down – it sort of fizzled. But, on the whole, black cat mysteries, especially by Clea Simon, may be my new enjoyment.

The Ninth Life
by Clea Simon
© 2015
Severn House Publishers Ltd.

Mummies – Moriarty – and Sherlock Holmes

Mummies, Moriarty and SmugglingFrom unwrapping stolen mummies to Professor Moriarty escaping in an early flying machine, these Sherlock Holmes stories by Robert V. Stapleton enchant. From Scotland to Cornwall to Berlin, Holmes and Watson deal with a mummy’s curse, smuggling and international politics.

Stapleton’s short stories in Sherlock Holmes: A Yorkshireman in Baker Street entertain for the most part. Professor Moriarty stars in an interesting affair that culminates in his making his escape in an early flying machine. (For me, this story tops the rest of the stories in the collection.) “The Whitehaven Ransom” captured my attention, too. Watson drags Holmes off on a vacation to the English Lake District. While there, the duo solve a 30-year-old local mystery. Holmes and Watson are called to Berlin to intercede with delegates attending a conference on Africa. Events go awry quickly in “The Black Hole of Berlin.” Most of the stories move along at a steady clip. Most are believable. “You Only Live Thrice,” involving voodoo, is not quite up-to-par as far as plot. In fact, I found it rather weak.

I enjoyed the voice of Dr. John Watson as he narrated these stories. Stapleton made Watson’s voice crisp, clear and convincing. Whereas, in some of the early black-and-white movies on television, Watson is portrayed as a bumbling fool. (Think Nigel Bruce to Basil Rathbone’s Sherlock Holmes.) Since Watson was a doctor, he was no fool. Nor was he stupid, even if he couldn’t match Holmes’ analytical deductions.

Stapleton’s story collection satisfies my craving for short stories and all things Holmesian. At least temporarily. Although mummies are not my thing, Moriarty and Holmes certainly are. No doubt, I will be back reading about Holmes very soon. For another post I’ve written regarding works involving Sherlock Holmes, find it here.