Tag Archives: mystery

Chet and Bernie – Investigative Duo

Chet and Bernie - Investigative DuoBernie Little, a private investigator, and Chet, his dog, make an appealing investigative duo. Chet, the narrator of Dog on It, by Spencer Quinn, implies that the brains of this duo doesn’t always walk on two legs. He considers himself an equal partner with Bernie.

Bernie and Chet search for a smart, pretty teenager in this. their first recorded case. Is she just a runaway as her divorced father insists? Or is it something more sinister like kidnapping? In the heat of the case, the kidnappers wallop Chet and kidnap him, too. He ends up in an animal shelter staring down a technician who’s about to euthanize him. How can Chet get home to Bernie and tell him the case is virtually solved?

Spencer Quinn created a smart, believable and likeable narrator in Chet. Since dogs feature prominently in everything from Jack London’s Call of the Wild and White Fang to W. Bruce Cameron’s A Dog’s Purpose: A Novel for Humans, Chet is in good company. Indeed, Chet’s intelligence and persistence keep Bernie on track more than once. Chet and Bernie insinuate their way into your life with their tough-guy exteriors and good-guy hearts. Cue up the next book in the series about Chet and Bernie, investigative duo par excellence.

Dog on It
©2009 Spencer Quinn
Atria Books

Life-and-Death Decisions

Life or Death Decisions in the Canadian PrairiesLURE by Jeff Marschall (© 2019) begins on an interesting, fast-paced note. Dr. John Mueller is an intern doing a research project at a university lab in somewhat remote Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. Mueller is bored with the dark, cold winter weather as well as his minor research project. His outlook abruptly changes as two supposed “agents” of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration accost Dr. David Devilliers, Mueller’s lab director, and demand that Devilliers turn over his cancer research. Mueller witnesses the altercation, takes Devilliers’ laptop and escapes with it, with the bogus agents in hot pursuit. Life-and-death decisions could result.

Unfortunately, the rest of the book does not maintain the fast pace. A close third-person narration that follows Mueller as the protagonist dominates LURE and effectively crimps the story’s style. For most of the book, the reader is subject to Mueller’s uncertainty and indecisiveness about what to do with Devilliers’ research. Such flip-flopping indecision creates an all-too-human, but unsympathetic protagonist.

In addition, women in Mueller’s life are rather stereotypical. Stephanie, Mueller’s ex-girlfriend, exhibits self-centered, egotistical attitudes. “Stephanie had natural presence and loved attention.” “She always wore jewelry…She could talk passionately and knowledgeably about amber, pearls, the many varieties of agate and jasper, and more that he couldn’t remember.” “She was always very careful about her appearance.” Signs of expensive tastes? When having a few drinks during a meeting with Stephanie later in the book, Mueller notices, “Stephanie wasn’t far behind, although she was definitely more accustomed to drinking wine; he suspected her tolerance was quite a bit higher than his, despite his greater body mass.” Signs of a drinking problem for Stephanie? Even Mueller’s mother is stereotypical. “When he got home, his mother was there, standing in her spotless kitchen, quivering with curiosity.”

Population Expansion, Life-and-death Decisions

On the positive side, Marschall takes on hot, current social topics such as population expansion and, to a lesser degree, climate change. (Population expansion comes up because Dr. Devilliers’ research involves a cure for cancer and, thus, a longer life expectancy for some people.) Conversations with some of the folks wanting to steal Devilliers’ research highlight Mueller’s indecisiveness. The reader is never certain what Mueller’s definitive opinion is about these topics. Who gets to decide who lives and dies by withholding medical cures, among other means? Unless readers take the final actions of Mueller and new girlfriend, Julie, as an answer. One that involves a seeming lack of remorse and a good helping of current-state capitalism. (The movie, Avengers: Infinity War, in its way, also looks at population control on a universal scale.)

I received a free copy from the author to give my honest opinion.

Autism and Sex-trafficking

Novel about autism and sex-traffickingTrue Mercy by Idelle Kursman is a page-turning thriller. Marina, kidnapped from her native Moldova by a sex-trafficking ring, escapes once she and her captors land by ship in America. While running from her captors, Marina meets Adam Hutchins, an 18-year-old who happens to have autism. Taken in by Adam and his father, Bruce, the rest of the plot revolves around Marina’s attempt to evade recapture by Igor, one of the kidnappers.

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Mystery-Review Website Roundup

Here we go with a mystery-review website roundup, These websites review mystery, crime, thriller, spy and suspense books. Some of them also incorporate author interviews and book lists.

The Real Book Spy

New Iberia Blues by James Lee BurkeAccording to Ryan Steck, owner of The Real Book Spy, the site presents “full coverage of all your favorite thriller authors, and their characters, unlike anywhere else on the web!”

A few of the book reviews currently offered on the site are Daughter of War by Brad Taylor, Crucible by James Rollins, New Iberia Blues by James Lee Burke and The Night Agent by Matthew Quirk. Steck also offers author interviews with such luminaries as Brad Thor, Sean Parnell, and Brad Taylor, among others.

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CrimeReads – Mysteries, Thrillers and Crime

For those who love mysteries, thrillers and true crime, CrimeReads will satisfy your cravings. An offshoot of Literary Hub, CrimeReads presents news, essays and excerpts. This website offers discussions about mystery, noir/hardboiled, suspense, espionage/thriller and legal/procedural genres. For example, currently available is the 11/28/18 posting, “Writing Crime Fiction for the Podcast Generation: Chatting with Two Authors Who Are Bringing Mystery to the World of Scripted Podcasts.” Another is the 1/17/19 post by Lisa Levy, “Mothers and Daughters and Psychological Thrillers: The Rise of Mother-Daughter Noir.”

CrimeReads interviews Matthew Quirk about The Night Agent

For suspense and thriller readers, check out The Night Agent by Matthew Quirk, published this month by William Morrow. Also, check out the interview with Matthew Quirk on CrimeReads.

Like unusual protagonists? Look for Erica Wright’s 11/23/18 post: “Unexpected Investigators: 9 Mysteries That Challenge Our Expectations for Crime Fighters.”

The website partners with numerous publishers from Akashic to W. W. Norton & Co. and everything in between. Other partners include venerable groups such as the Baker Street Irregulars as well as up-and-coming Down & Out Books (and magazine). According to the website, “Each day, alongside original content and exclusive excerpts, CrimeReads is proud to showcase an editorial feature from one of its many partners from across the literary crime community, from publishers big and small, bookstores, non-profits, librarians, and more.”

So, check out CrimeReads. See what’s happening in your favorite genre and what new books are forthcoming. Plus, find out what books are nominated for the 2019 Edgar Awards. Or, listen to a horror or true crime podcast.

For other book-related websites and apps, take a look at my previous posts about Felony & Mayhem and Litsy.

Shanks – Unlikely Detective

Shanks on Crime
by Robert Lopresti
© 2003-2014

Shanks - Unlikely DetectiveShanks on Crime by Robert Lopresti is a collection of short stories about Leopold Longshanks and his wife Cora. Longshanks is a mystery writer and an unlikely detective. who, with his wife, Cora, in the background gets into some unusual situations. Shanks, Longshanks’ nickname, then unravels the crime or misdemeanor, all the while protesting that he’s a writer, not a detective. The stories are interesting enough, such as when Shanks sets out to catch the person who mugged him and pays for the miscreant to go to vocational college rather than be convicted and sent to jail. But all the stories follow the same general pattern and pacing, which makes the collection seem rather dull. Overall, a nice set of stories, just not fast-paced.

Several of these stories first appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine between 2003 and 2014.

Rob Lopresti also writes novels and blogs at sleuthsayers.com and Little Big Crimes.

El Dorado – A Golden Search

A Shadow Away
by Joan K. Lacy
© May 2018
Alazo Press

A Shadow Away - a search for El Dorado El Dorado

Searching for El Dorado in the Amazon jungle, Alex Cort and Andrew Seaton need all the help they can get in A Shadow Away by Joan K. Lacey. Cort, a private art theft investigator, and Seaton, a British archaeologist, search for the fabled city of gold based on an old map, a gem and a golden idol that’s gone missing. As Cort and Seaton slog through the jungle assisted by a local guide, they’re aided by Angel, a mysterious being from an alternate universe. Angel’s heightened senses and skills, some would say magic, keep the searchers a step ahead of Benjamin Guelf, an unscrupulous rival collector.

Although Angel uses her powers to get the group out of danger on occasion, she seems withdrawn and not really part of the group. The reader learns nothing about her antecedents or world. On more than one occasion, Angel implies that Cort and Seaton can attain some or most of her powers. When Cort asks her, she just proclaims that he’s not ready to know such things. Often, as Cort and the others traverse the jungle, Angel seems to walk along in another world, like a slippery wraith.

Literary Comparisons

A Shadow Away might be compared to the Indiana Jones universe. Lacy’s novel involves an archaeologist seeking a religious relic in an intimidating environment while evading unscrupulous competitors. In addition, similarities exist between Lacy’s Alex Cort series and Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series. Again, both involve archaeologists searching for artifacts and dealing with danger. But Lacy introduces a subtle dose of magic realism in the search for El Dorado, thus expanding the trope.

Recommendation

Overall, A Shadow Away is an engaging read that kept me interested. I would have preferred to learn a good deal more about Angel even if the information was kept away from Seaton and Cort. She refers to herself as a “witch” and is evasive when Cort asks about her world. She says he’s not ready to know even after Cort begins accepting her abilities, which seems condescending. At times, she seems insubstantial, like a hologram, even when she and Cort become attracted to each other.

Cort and Seaton with their group of indigenous guides hack and slog their way through the jungle undergrowth. Yet, on a few occasions, Guelf and Raul Facón, his nasty sidekick, just step out from behind a tree to confront them looking unscathed and fresh as if Guelf and Facón could just teleport into the area. At one point, the Amazon River, which is full of life-threatening creatures, sweeps Guelf away. Yet, in the final stages of the story, he appears well and hearty.

Still, I recommend A Shadow Away for those who like stories full of adventure, mystery and magical realism. I give this first Alex Cort novel 3.75 out of 5 stars; a solid read. I look forward to the next installment in the series.

Cults, Daggers and Rekindled Love

The Dagger by Pam AndersThe Dagger
By Pam Anders
© September 2018
Real Publishing Company

Author Pam Anders leads readers on a merry chase through the USA’s Pacific Northwest in The Dagger, her debut novel in the Kat Delaney series. From the forests of Idaho through Walla Walla, WA, towards Portland, OR, Kat’s grit and perseverance defeat a madman and a cult of incestuous monsters.

The Good Life

Kathryn (Kat) Delaney has a good life. A 24-year-old teacher who enjoys her work, Kat lives with her father in Portland, OR. Although Kat enjoys the nice house and nice cars, she wonders about her father, but has stopped asking. For all her life, Kat’s father refused to answer any questions about himself, his income or background. Or the identity of Kat’s mother. Her father just stonewalls her. She also ponders the need for an elaborate alarm system that is monitored from a secret room built by her father.

Lots of Questions

Consequently, Kat knows nothing when her father, Sean Delaney, is found dead in the woods while on one of his periodic “hunting trips.” Where had her father gotten the several thousand dollars in his possession? Can she convince Detective Leo Burton that she and her father were not drug dealers or part of a spate of recent bank robberies? Who was the mysterious woman at her father’s funeral? Why did the Circle of God cult kidnap Kat and insist on calling her Ursula? Why did the cult leaders insist that Kat hand over a ceremonial dagger? Would Kat’s ex-boyfriend, Doug Stamper, and his father, Marty, be able to help her after she escapes from the cult?

Overall, The Dagger is a very good, suspenseful read. Plenty of fast-paced action engaged me and kept me turning pages. Anders’ writing was terse and spot on. I look forward to more character development of Kat, Doug and Marty as the series progresses.

The Dagger would be a good holiday or birthday gift for the mystery lover in your life.

Cruise the Mediterranean

A Cruise to Die For
by Charlotte and Aaron Elkins
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
© 2013
Paperback

Cruise the Mediterranean, looking out at the warm blue waters of the Aegean and Ionian Seas. Visit the Palace of Knossos on Crete with no other tourists around. Stroll on the Promenade in Corfu. Eat well on a mega yacht owned by a Greek mogul. All in the name of catching a cagey art collector who is not always on the up-and-up when selling paintings from his collection.

Along for the ride on this floating dreamboat, Alix London is the eyes and ears of the FBI until she gets help from Ted Ellesworth, her FBI contact, who comes aboard as an investor later in the cruise. The second installment of the Alix London series, A Cruise to Die For finds London knocked unconscious on the floor of the yacht’s music room and, later, in the middle of a standoff between the police and art thieves in Albania.

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Book Blogging – Guest blog post

Book blogging takes time—time to read, ruminate and write. Then it’s time to find a jpeg or graphic of the front cover, edit what you’ve written and boost the SEO. I recently wrote a guest post on book blogging for Mary Fiacco, owner of Filles Vertes Publishing (FVP), a traditional independent publisher. Her first book, Using Curse Words: Finding Unusual Solutions to Life’s “Worst” Problems, will be published in the near future.

My short post speaks about what I like about being a book blogger. Although reading the book, forming an opinion and writing the review take time, it’s not all hardship. As publishers produce more and more books each year, plenty of candidates from many genres vie for my attention. Currently, I deal mainly with mystery novels. In the future, I plan to include some literary fiction, poetry and nonfiction. I frequently request Advance Reader Copies (ARCs) through www.netgalley.com, www.librarything.com and www.goodreads.com.

I foresee myself book blogging for quite a while into the future. Here’s to meeting new literary friends in real life and through the pages of their books.