Search This Blog

Monday, June 17, 2024

Guide Me Home by Attica Locke

Guide Me Home is the third and final installment of Attica Locke's Highway 59 series featuring Darren Matthews.  I'm sorry to see this series end as Locke is one of the best at characters, setting, and plot.  

Darren has so much on his plate.  He's juggling his guilt, a possible indictment, his hope for a commitment from the woman he loves, his drinking, and his justified resentment of his mother.

He hands in his Texas Ranger badge, which is unwillingly accepted, and plans on going home and asking Randi to marry him. To his chagrin, his mother is there and Darren can hardly bare to look at her, he is so angry.

His mother explains that she is sober, but Darren doesn't trust her, and when she says she's worried about a young black girl in a white sorority who has gone missing, Darren doesn't really believe her.  His anger about his mother combined with his drinking reaches the point that he may have permanently damaged his relationship with Randi, and she leaves.

Eventually, Darren realizes that he wants to know more about the missing woman and begins checking into her disappearance.

Locke is an exceptionably fine writer with a love of Texas that does not deny the problems of race.  Guide Me Home departs from her previous books in the series as it concentrates on Darren's drinking, his animosity toward his mother, and his concerns about whether or not he will be indicted.  He feels terribly sorry for himself, but discovering what happened to the young woman keeps him focused.

While Darren's self-pity is entirely human and understandable, it took up perhaps more time than needed.  On the other hand, his finally learning to open himself to new information about his family background made for genuine growth.  

There are uncomfortable truths about the rise of White Nationalism in Texas and elsewhere.  Despite Locke's love of Texas, the Aryan Brotherhood and similar groups have been evident in all three novels in the trilogy.  The characters are flawed and complex, and Darren is far from perfect, yet one can't help cheering for him, hoping for the best.

Recommended, but appreciation of the novel may depend on your political leanings.

 Publication date:  Sept. 3, 2024

Thanks to NetGalley and Mulholland Books

Previous books in the series:

 Bluebird, Bluebird 

Heaven, My Home

Saturday, June 15, 2024

Lady Anne and the Haunted Schoolgirl by Victoria Hamilton and Dead Silence by S.A. Barnes

I've enjoyed the previous books in this series, but something changed in the way Anne and Tony react that bothers me.  I liked the attraction between the two in the earlier books, but the presentation this time felt both blatant (nothing graphic) and unnecessary to the plot.  Too much time on their eagerness to pursue wedded bliss.  Anne didn't really need Tony until the end.

Lady Anne and the Haunted Schoolgirl is the latest in a light entertaining series that always has Anne uncover a "supernatural" mystery.  

Historic mystery.  Print length:  302 pages 

Thanks to NetGalley and Beyond the Word Publ.

From blurb:  A Best Book of 2022 by the New York Public Library  One of the Best SFF Books of 2022 (Gizmodo) • One of the Best SF Mysteries of 2022 (CrimeReads) • A GoodReads Choice Award finalist for Best Science Fiction!

A crew that responds to a distress call finds the spaceliner that disappeared over twenty years ago.  Despite the weirdness of seeing dead people floating around inside, Claire Kovalik and crew decide to claim the ship for salvage, but they have no idea what they're taking on.  

My opinion is drastically different from the blurb above.  I didn't care for the protagonist, her crew didn't move beyond one dimensional, and an interesting premise turned into something less.  There you go, we all have different opinions, and mine may be in the minority.

Science Fiction.  2022.  Print length:  345 pages.

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Taking London by Martin Dugard and a short list of WWII nonfiction

Taking London by Martin Dugard is a bit misleading in both the title and the cover.  The author does spend some time on Churchill and Chamberlain and their opposing views of Germany's intentions in the decade or so before the war.  Churchill spent years trying to persuade the country to prepare for another war with Germany, but the majority of England still resisted the idea.   

With Germany's move on Poland, however, public opinion began a slow change and Churchill began climbing back to influence and power, continuing to warn of the need to be prepared.  Then France falls.

I found the first section disjointed, although there was interesting information about the "Spitfire" and "Hurricane" fighter aircraft, Air Vice-Marshall Hugh Dowding, the RAF/Luftwaffe differences, and the efforts to prepare for invasion before the Battle of Britain.

The majority of the book deals with four legendary fighter pilots and their personal experiences.  The sections on the pilots (Peter Townsend, Richard Hillary, Geoffrey Wellum, and the lone American, Billy Fiske, long before America entered the war) were much better written and flowed more easily, even though the author went back and forth between them and their individual missions to hold back the Luftwaffe.   The Battle of Britain has been described as a "David vs Goliath" situation as England was badly outnumbered in both planes and pilots.

The book would certainly have benefitted with a thorough proofreading to give a more coherent presentation. The information on the individual pilots and their accounts made it worth persevering.  

"RAF pilots were at the heart of the Battle of Britain. Just 3,000 men stood between Britain and a German invasion – those who Winston Churchill famously called 'The Few'."

WWII nonfiction, Print length:  349 pages.

Thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Group

Some recommended WWII nonfiction:

 Operation Mincemeat by Ben MacIntyre

 The Liberation of Paris by Jean Edward Smith

  The Bastard Brigade: The True Story of the Plot to Stop the Nazi Bomb  by Sam Keane

  Dick Cole's War by Dennis R. Okerstrom  reviewed here

The Code Girls by Liz Mundy 

 Between Silk and Cyanide by Leo Marks

  The Citizens of London by Lynn Olson

All of the above nonfiction are extremely readable, well-documented, and fascinating.


Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Death at the Sign of the Rook by Kate Atkinson and Sleeping Soldiers by Jack Gatland


It has been such a long time since I read a Jackson Brodie book!  I know now that I missed #5 and will have to back up and get it at some point.

Death at the Sign of the Rook brings Brodie back, but he's now 70.  His current clients annoy him, and he certainly has questions about the painting they want him to find and about the brother and sister who want it recovered.  

Maybe because it has been so long since the last Jackson Brodie, this one felt a bit different.  Is it a pastiche or homage to Agatha Christie?

I like the way Atkinson spends a great deal of time with other characters, but in this one, it feels like Jackson Brodie gets lost.  He kind of bookends the plot, his search for the missing painting begins the story and he is there at the end, but not too often in between.  

In the end, I found it a bit disappointing, especially since I'd looked forward to the return of Jackson Brodie.  I liked it, but wanted to love it.

Thanks to NetGalley and Doubleday for this copy.

Mystery.  Publication Date, Sept. 3.  

I've kept up with the Last Chance Saloon series featuring DI Declan Walsh for several years now.  Tom Marlowe is a secondary character who has occasionally made an appearance in that series, so I thought I'd give this one a try.

 Sleeping Soldiers has Tom Marlow, a Section D agent of MI5, currently on medical leave after mission that went wrong.  (One connected to the Declan Walsh series).   

  From blurb:  "Someone is killing old spies. Retired and forgotten, these relics from the Cold War are being removed—quietly and brutally."   

 Tom gets drawn in to the situation, when an old mentor dies, and from then on it is full of action.  

Fast-paced, as Tom survives one deadly incident after another.  I liked it fine, but not nearly as much as the Last Chance Saloon books with Declan Walsh and all the other characters who have become so familiar.

Espionage. 2022.  Print length:  364 pages.

I thought this was funny as I've had a young possum visiting at night.  

Thursday, June 06, 2024

Her Deadly Game by Robert Dugoni

 Book 1 of Robert Dugoni's Keera Duggan new legal thriller series follows the arrest of a millionaire for the murder of his wheelchair-bound wife.  Keera Duggan takes the case with the hope of helping revive her family's law firm.  She isn't sure of her client Vince LaRussa's innocence, but her role is to defend him and there are puzzles in the evidence that make her hope to find an alternative to LaRussa for the murder of his wife.

Her Deadly Game introduces several characters (besides Keera's family) that I imagine will appear in future books, both as supporters and as antagonists.

An interesting aspect concerns Keera, who was a chess prodigy in her teens.  She learned much about chess, strategy, and law from her father Patsy Duggan, the Irish Brawler and legendary lawyer.  Patsy, however, has always had a problem with alcohol which has only gotten worse and threatens the family law firm's reputation.  

An anonymous chess game Keera is playing online makes her think about the moves she needs to make in her case.  The strategy of chess helps Keera anticipate moves her opponent might make.

* Kerry is receiving emails from "Jack Worthing" that lead her and her team to background on Vince LaRussa.  The prosecutor in the case has a personal antagonism toward Keera and does his best to make things difficult.  Frank Rossi, detective believes in LaRussa's guilt but has questions about the prosecutors tactics.

Has LaRussa been set up...or is he guilty?

Almost everything in this engrossing novel was excellent.  I had quibbles about one thing, but let it go in the end because the rest of the novel was so good.   Can't wait for the next installment which is due out in October.

Legal thriller.  Thomas & Mercer.  Print length:  396 pages.  


One book that I didn't finish last was Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel.  I wanted to like it, but couldn't maintain interest.  If you've read it, what did you think?

Monday, June 03, 2024

The Elias Network by Simon Gervais; The Summoner Trilogy by Taran Matharu

The Elias Network by Simon Gervais is the first in a new series featuring Caspian Anderson, a translator at the United Nations; except that is only a part of Caspian's portfolio.  He is also an assassin for Homeland Security.  At least, that is what he believes.  

The truth: the Onyx group has been disbanded, and Caspian's handler had no intention of notifying Caspian of the groups demise as she continues to have use for him.

As his current assignment takes place in Switzerland, Caspian begins to discover that the situation isn't exactly what it seems.  He doesn't follow protocol and instead rescues the family of his target.  

The plot is full of action, his girlfriend is also a spy, a female colleague is off her meds (and off her head), and his rival assassin has also been misled about his mission.  

Fast-paced and entertaining even if spy thrillers are not my usual choice.  

Thanks to Thomas & Mercer and NetGalley

Read in April.   349 pages.  Publication date:  Sept. 17, 2024 

In May, I read the following three in the Summoner trilogy back to back and found them fun, full of adventure, and also thoughtful in the sense that there are racial problems between dwarves, men, and elves.  These are YA books that are as entertaining for adults as for the younger crowd.  

The Novice introduces Fletcher, an orphan who has been raised by the local blacksmith.  Seems pretty normal, but you know the thing about orphans in fantasy, they are rarely what they seem.  As it turns out, Fletcher can summon demons, which comes as a stunning surprise to Fletcher, who thought the ability to roll his tongue was his best trick.  

I love all good fantasy and found The Novice so much fun, I went directly to the next book.  

"The appealing characters, fast-paced plot, focus on racial politics, and interesting demon varieties (demonology addendum included) make this an enjoyable read."―School Library Journal

Print length:  366 pages

The Inquisition follows up on Fletcher's adventures after his training as a battlemage and his imprisonment.  Again, orphans turn out to be more than expected, a trope fantasy novels often use. 

The characters and adventures kept me engrossed once again.  I loved the friendships developed in this series as well as the adventure.

Print length:  368 pages

 Battlemage takes Fletcher and his friends forward in their battles to save their world.  As in the previous books, the characters are likable, despicable, loyal, treacherous according to their roles.  Adventure, suspense, action, great characters.  Fantasy lovers should take a look at The Summoner trilogy!

Print length:  385 pages


Wednesday, May 29, 2024

The Butcher's Boy by Peter Hawes, Farewell, Amethystine by Walter Mosely, Pitch Dark by Paul Doiron


The Butcher's Boy by Peter Hawes wasn't what I was looking for. I wanted The Butcher's Boy by Thomas Perry, but I wasn't paying attention.  

Nevertheless, I enjoyed it--although there were some uneasy moments.  Garen Gerard is a retired assassin, having given up his "career" after an incident that scarred him emotionally.

Past: Garen, son of a butcher, was living with his father and little sister, but when he was ten, corrupt police ruined his father, abducted his sister, and left Garen with his broken father, who shortly thereafter killed himself.  

Present: When a neglected young girl in the apartment next door catches his interest, Garen begins packing her lunches wanting to protect her as he was unable to protect his little sister. When an overdose leaves one man dead and her father jailed, he takes her under his wing.

The story moves back and forth in time, revealing how Garen became an assassin in the past and how he is drawn in again in the present.  This time, in addition to his other problems, Garen is the target.

Entertaining.  If you are a fan of Orphan X, you might enjoy The Butcher's Boy.

I read this in April or early May, and just noticed there is a new cover that doesn't appeal to me.  I like this one much better than the new one.

Assassin.  Print length:  306 pages.  Feb., 2024.

This is my first book by Walter Mosely, although I've been familiar with his Easy Rawlins books through others.  Farewell, Amethystine is the latest installment in the series and provides an interesting introduction for me.

Since I had never read anything by Mosely, there were plenty of times I knew that I was missing background information and characters.  Nevertheless, I liked Easy Rawlins, his strong family dynamic, and his friendships.

The novel opens in the 1970's with many references of a time gone by that amused me.  From mentions of songs and incidents, to Easy's reminiscences of his role in WWII, to the lack of cell phones, the small details give atmosphere.

Easy is now 50 and beset with two cases at once.  Amethystine Stoller comes to him for help in finding her ex-husband and Easy's friend with the LAPD Mel Suggs is also out of contact and in trouble.  Easy has his hands full.

If I can find time, I might want to try the first book in this classic series.

Thanks to NetGalley and Mulholland Books
Private Investigator.  June 4, 2024.  Print Length:  333 pages.  

Another book that I haven't read any of the previous books in the series, Pitch Dark is the 15th Mike Bowditch mystery.  Mike is a Maine game warden investigator who (since this is the 15th book) manages to have a great deal to investigate.

In this case, he's curious about a man who has gone missing after inquiring about a reclusive builder in the north woods and his young daughter.  Easy enough to get lost in the north woods of Maine, but something about the man's search for Redmond and his daughter bothers Mike.

Redmond is building a cabin for bush pilot Josie Johnson, a friend of his father-in-law, Charlie.  Mike and Charlie decide to visit Josie and see if she will fly them to the location of her new cabin.  Things go terribly wrong, and Mike ends up hunting Redmond and young Cady, afraid that she is in danger.  

The novel works fine as a stand-alone, but I found Mike a little too full of himself, often seeming juvenile and, although brave and committed, not entirely likable.  There is a twist that you may or may not suspect earlier in the book.  There is a lot of suspense as Mike tracks Redmon and Cady up to the Canadian border and beyond.  

Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for this fast-paced adventure through the woods of Maine.

Suspense/Mystery.  June 25th, 2024.  Print length:  304 pages.

Monday, May 27, 2024

At the River by Kendra Elliot, Cover Fire and Fire and Ice by Dustin Stevens, and A Stranger in the Family by Jane Casey.

 I haven't been reviewing, but I've been reading a lot.  Now, it is time to cut down on the gardening, and start some reviewing.  (Today is predicted to be 95 degrees, and the heat index has made it feel 7-10 degrees warmer for the last week.  I'm taking those heat warnings seriously now.)

I'm a fan of this series featuring FBI Agent Mercy Kilpatrick and her husband Police Chief Truman Daly.  The murder of a true crime podcaster investigating a twenty-year-old murder sucks both Mercy and Truman into the puzzling case.  Five teenagers went camping, one was murdered; one survived, but is damaged; and three were never found.  Twenty years later, the questions remain--what happened to the three missing teens and what did the podcaster discover that led to his similar death?

I thoroughly enjoyed trying to figure out the twists, but the conclusion felt contrived and less believable.

However,  nothing that distracted me from the pleasure of revisiting these characters again.    

Suspense/Procedural.  353 pages.  2024.

I chose not to read the first book in this series because it started with the murder of former DEA agent Hawk Tate's wife and child.  Decided to skip straight to the second book, which deals with a young photographer who inadvertently witnessed a cartel human trafficking transaction in the desert.  DEA agent Mia Diaz seeks out Hawk to protect the young woman, who is now a target.

The plot is full of action and suspense, as Hawk tries to keep the young woman safe.  A bit predictable, but you know that if it is a series, the MC is going to be around for a while.  I then went on to the next book.  

Suspense/Thriller. 2015.  Print length: 374 pages. 

From blurb:  "In the middle of a rare mid-April blizzard in eastern Montana, a young emergency room doctor steps outside to help the occupants of a truck that arrive in the middle of night appearing desperate and in dire need of aid.

Only once she is too far removed from the safety of the building does she realize their true intentions, the entire incident just beyond the scope of the front door cameras, everybody disappearing into a swirling storm of wind and snow."

More of the same action/suspense as in Cover Fire.  This time Hawk must rescue Dr. Yvonne Endicott from a meth operation gone wrong.

Sometimes this is all I want--a fast read with lots of action.  This kind of suspense doesn't require much of me and lets me relax.  Sounds strange to think of it that way, but like watching an action movie, I know the hero will survive, so I don't have to worry.

Suspense/Thriller.  2016.  Print length:  326 pages.  

I've followed the Maeve Kerrigan series for several years, but I must have missed the previous one, which left me at a bit of a loss on a current situation.

When Bruce and Helena Marshall are found dead in their beds in what looks like a murder/suicide,  DS
Maeve Kerrigan questions the scene.  The scene has been staged, and both Bruce and Helena have been murdered.

Sixteen years earlier, their adopted daughter disappeared and tore the family apart.  Kerrigan and DI Josh Derwent can't help but wonder if the murder has anything to do with the missing (presumed dead) Rosalie.  The "perfect" family was not perfect even before Rosalie's disappearance and details not previously available make that clear.  

 As usual, the plot and plot development is right on target; however, having missed the previous book, both Maeve and Josh feel...different.  I must go back and pick up The Close.

Jane Casey is one of my favorite writers, and I'm looking forward to book 12.

Police Procedural. March 14, 2024.  Print length:  463 pages.

May Garden

 All I've been doing this month is reading and gardening.  Not keeping up with much else.  I'm taking a day off of working in the garden today.  Almost everything I have the energy to do is done--plants divided and replanted, and now it's just rooting and potting left overs, weeding, deadheading, watering, etc.  I say "just" but when the heat index says 101 degrees and you sweat when you open the door, and you're 75, well, things take longer than they used to.  I take more and more frequent breaks as the day goes on and read because that takes no energy and relaxes me.

Today's forecast is supposed to be 95 with the humidity making it feel SO much worse.  Our overnight lows have been mid to high 70's with high humidity, but after today, things are supposed to be back below 90 degrees.   Little miracles do happen. 


Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Deep Beneath Us by Catriona McPherson

 Deep Beneath Us is the sixth book I've read by Catriona McPherson, all but one of which I gave 4/5 stars.  McPherson excels at psychological mysteries.

When I started this one, I wondered if I'd finish it because the beginning was so confusing.  Dealing with mental illness IS confusing and trying to follow the "logic?" difficult.

Then as Tabitha returns home, the plot becomes more and more interesting.  Clearer?  No.  This is one of those books in which you truly do not know what to expect next.

The characters are interesting, and the reader quickly becomes involved with the lives of Gordo and Barrett and their support of Tabitha.  The suspicious death of Tabitha's cousin Davy unites them, and the multiple plot twists are provocative.  

The background of a dysfunctional family is revealed slowly with each twist throwing the reader off again.  Barrett's girls Willow and Sorrell, and Tabitha's son Albie, and eventually, another teenager become a lighter, positive element as the Muire family secrets and lies gradually surface.

I don't know how the author kept up with all of twists; there were points when I just had to accept them because they came so fast and thick.  You aren't going to be able to predict them all even when you think you can.  

I couldn't put it down.

Thanks to NetGalley and Severn House for this one.

Read in April.  Blog review scheduled for May 22.

Publication date:  June 4, 2024                                                                                                         341 pages. 

Tuesday, May 07, 2024

Long Time Gone by Charlie Donlea

Years ago, I read The Girl Who Was Taken by Charlie Donlea, and was intrigued by the character Dr. Livia Cutty, who was at that time a fellow in forensic pathology.  I was excited to learn she makes a cameo appearance in Long Time Gone

The MC in Long Time Gone is Sloan Hastings, a fellow in forensic pathology under Dr. Livia Cutty, who is now Chief Medical Examiner.   Sloan's research  assignment is the field of forensic genealogy, and her first step is to contact a genealogist, who advises her to submit her own DNA to a site to better understand the process.  

A little hesitant because she was adopted and had never been interested in finding out about her birth parents, Sloan submits a sample of her DNA.  The results are shocking.  Her profile indicates that Sloan is actually Charlotte Margolis, a two-month-old infant who went missing in 1995, along with both of her biological parents.  The case made national news, but no trace of Preston, Annabelle, or baby Charlotte was ever found. 
Sloan and her adoptive parents are confused, to say the least.  They contact the police and the FBI gets involved.  Then Sloan gets a message from the genealogy website from Nora Margolis, who has seen the Sloan's DNA profile and wonders if Sloan could possibly be Charlotte Margolis, missing for nearly 30 years.

The story alternates between 1995 and the present,  and eager to know more about what happened to her biological parents, Sloan, encouraged by Sheriff Eric Stamos, goes to Cedar Creek, Nevada, to try to figure out the events that led to the disappearance of her biological parents and her adoption.

The little town of Cedar Creek, Nevada holds secrets that someone does not want revealed.  Sloan meets the Margolis family--her grandparents Reid and Tilly, her uncle Ellis and his wife Norah, and other assorted family members.  She also meets with Eric Stamos who has his own concerns about what happened in 1995, as his father was investigating an incident involving a hit and run and Annabelle's car before he died.  The two of them attempt to figure out the chain of events that led to the disappearance of Preston, Annabelle, and little Charlotte.

I was thoroughly invested throughout, although the conclusion felt rushed and was a bit over the top.  Nevertheless, Long Time Gone is an entertaining mystery, and I wouldn't mind hearing more from Sloan or Dr. Livia Cutty.  So many possible plots involving forensic pathology! 

Thanks to Kensington Books and NetGalley

Publication date:  May 21, 2024
352 pages

Friday, May 03, 2024

The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig

 I first saw The Whistling Season on Jane's blog and ordered it at once.

Jane's review appealed to the same things I look for in literary fiction, and from the beginning, the Milliron family captivated me. Doig's writing inspires memories of a childhood before cell phones and the internet for those of you who remember that more innocent time.  

Even if we never experienced riding horses to a one-room school house, the visuals of the Milliron boys and others riding to school feel as palpable as if we are experiencing it ourselves.  The humor and empathy which Doig employs provides a remarkable feeling of intimacy with the characters and setting in 1909 Montana.

Falling in love with the father and his three sons Paul, Damon, and Toby happens quickly--the family dynamic is comforting and amusing despite the loss of the mother a year previously. When Mr. Milliron sees an advertisement for a maid, he stuns the boys with his decision to pay her train fare to Montana (Rose is a proficient negotiator).  When Rose arrives, she gets the house into shape with hard work, but the Milliron's dream for a cook is unsatisfied.  Rose warned them, and their hopes to  persuade her to take up the skillet fail. 

Morrie Morgan is another important character who influences the Milliron family. Having accompanied Rose to Montana, Morrie seems to have no apparent skills needed by homesteaders.  Eventually, when the current teacher elopes and leaves the school teacherless, Morrie finds himself thrust into a situation he had not expected.  Although scholarly, he has no experience teaching children.  As it turns out, Morrie is a brilliant, if eccentric teacher. Despite Paul's initial concerns, Morrie doesn't simply survive, he prospers as if it is the very role he was born to.  

Every time I read the name Rebrab, I cackled to myself.  I loved every minute of The Whistling Season: the backwards horse race Damon devises for Paul and Eddie; Aunt Eunice's snarky comments that annoy everyone but Toby; Eddie's bullying and background, Rose's willingness to clean, but not cook; Paul's cleverness and insight and ongoing battle with "Carnelia" and more.  

I will certainly be looking for more by Ivan Doig.  Highly Recommended.

Read in April.  354 pages.

Wednesday, May 01, 2024

Fixit by Joe Ide


Those who follow Joe Ide's IQ series will look forward to Fixit, but the book does have an end-of-the-road vibe.  

Isaiah Quintabe is suffering from PTSD after several particularly dangerous, violent cases. The fact that his girlfriend Grace has broken up with him doesn't help his ability to heal and recover. 

 Isaiah, known as "IQ" for both his initials and his intelligence, was initially the neighborhood fixer.  Lost cat, someone threatening your mother, problems with a loan shark?  Call IQ.  Yes, he'll take live chickens or a good meal in payment if necessary.  There are, however, also cases that have proven more difficult, dangerous, and violent.

IQ has made enemies along the way, one of which has taken out a $25,000 bounty on Isaiah and the other has kidnapped his estranged girlfriend Grace.  At his lowest point, IQ is dealing with more problems than he can manage.

The first section of the book concentrates on Grace, as she does her best after being kidnapped by Skip Hanson (hitman, lunatic, and a man who loathes IQ) who is determined on revenge.  Interfering at the same time is Manzo, former gang leader who blames IQ for his humiliation.  

An important and interesting element is how Joe Ide can list all of the awful things these villains do--and still create some sympathy for them.

Back to the neighborhood--this is where I think much of the success of the series lies.  Deronda, Juanell Dodson, Cherise, TK, and others lighten the atmosphere and contribute to the community feel of the run down, crime ridden neighborhood.  

What saved Fixit for me?  The diversity of characters, the neighborhood community, and Juanell Dodson.  Not IQ, this time.  I have to wonder if this was the author's intent.  Dodson has grown into his role at the same time IQ seems to have grown out of his.   

Is this the last of the series?  I don't know, but while Fixit was not as good as the first novels, I enjoyed reuniting with the characters that have given a such a strong backdrop to IQ's various adventures.

Thanks to NetGalley and Mulholland Books.

Publication date:  May 9, 2024.

Monday, April 29, 2024

Some Thoughts About Nonfiction and The Cure for Women by Lydia Reeder

 Whenever I go on a mystery/thriller spree, I remember my father encouraging me to broaden my habits--to the point of examining the books I brought home and telling me "No more Nancy Drew (or whatever mystery) unless you bring home something else.  

Because I didn't really know what he meant, I started to wander the aisles in the adult nonfiction sections and pulling books on ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt, the kind with stunning photographs and simple text, developing a fascination with ancient history.  When I found something especially intriguing, I'd show him and we'd look at the photos and read the associated descriptions.

The librarians never interfered or made an eleven-year-old feel awkward.  Sometimes they would flip through a book and comment on the photos.  It was years before I realized, they were probably checking to see if the books were appropriate.  I just appreciated their interest.  Yay, librarians! 

Did it change my love of mysteries and thrillers?  Not at all, but it encouraged a love of historical fiction and for nonfiction.  My father's influence on something "worthwhile," and my mother's love of reading have guided my reading ever since.

So when I realized I was overdoing the mystery thing again, I selected some books to provide balance.

You Only Go Extinct Once sounded interesting, and in-between the author's attempt at humor there are some interesting facts.  Three or four essays in, I'm skimming out the "humor" and learning a few interesting tidbits.  (Did you know opossums have two vaginal tracts and two ovaries?  And why?)

But for every essay, I'm overlooking the superfluous and the annoying humor and finding only a few sentences that make the essay worth reading.
Will probably skim through some more, but even the "funny" introduction annoyed me.

Not recommended.

Thanks goodness for the next one!  I am on the last few pages now, and The Cure for Women will go on my list of all time favorites.

All really good nonfiction for the layperson is as readable as fiction, well-documented, and fascinating.  The Cure for Women is all of that.  

It begins with Elizabeth Blackwell the first woman to earn a medical degree in America in 1849.  I was familiar with the name through both fiction and nonfiction, but knew nothing else about her.  Her efforts (and those of her sister Emily) for the advancement of women in medicine were remarkable.

However, Dr. Mary Putnam Jacobi, who studied privately under Blackwell and worked with Blackwell at various times throughout her career, is the main focus of the book.  Both women addressed and fought for higher education for women, for the right to attend medical school, and for women's suffrage.

"Full of larger than life characters and cinematically written, The Cure for Women documents the birth of a sexist science still haunting us today as the fight for control of women’s bodies and lives continues."   

I'll be reviewing the book later with some of the salient details of the tremendous obstacles these women and many others that the book discusses.  Highly Recommended.  

You'll probably be tired of hearing about it before I'm finished talking about it.  My husband already glazes over when I say, "That reminds me of _________ in The Cure for Women.

Thanks to NetGalley, St. Martin's Press, and Lydia Reeder, author for a book that I could hardly bare to put down.  Publication date:  Dec., 2024

I just realized that Lydia Reeder is the author of The Dust Bowl Girls, another nonfiction that I loved.  Reviewed here

Saturday, April 27, 2024

The Bitter Past and Shades of Mercy by Bruce Borgos

I read the second book first and really liked it, so I looked for the first book by Bruce Borgos. 

The Bitter Past has some problems that are corrected in Shades of Mercy, but also has a fascinating plot that provides a great deal of historical information.

A gruesome opening that I didn't like, and I found Porter Beck too full of himself, but...

when the book really gets into the plot, it is fascinating!  The background of Project 57 and Operation Plumbob, the effects of atomic testing on animals and humans, especially the Downwinders hooked me.

Who was the Russian spy that foiled a disaster and then went into hiding?  Why is the government trying to find a man who is now between 80-90 years old a half century later?  A dual timeline kept me guessing and great research made The Bitter Past a compelling glimpse at the early atomic age and a thrilling mystery in the present.  The twist was one I did not see coming.

I was also interested in the Nevada setting including Big Rocks Wilderness and the Moon Caves in Cathedral Park.  The links helped me visualize several interesting scenes.  

310 pages
Published 2023 

As I mentioned in the above review, I read Shades of Mercy first, before picking up the first in the series.

The characterization is much better and the plot equally exciting in Shades of Mercy.  The author has toned down Porter Beck's snark, but leaves his wit; the minor characters all have more depth; and the plot involves a hacker that that commandeers a military drone and targets...a prize bull.  

As you can imagine the military and the government are all up into the search for the hacker, but Sheriff Porter Beck (whose background in military intelligence and familiarity with his county and its geography) has a childhood connection to the man whose prize bull was targeted and something isn't adding up for Beck.  

Beck suspects sixteen-year-old Mercy Vaughn is the hacker, but he's not ready to reveal all he thinks he's figured out, especially since Mercy herself becomes a target.  With help from his small team and his sister Brin, he needs to keep some of his suspicions to himself, especially when Mercy disappears.

Full of action, with much better character development than in the first book, Porter Beck's team has progressed into a familiar ensemble of characters that a reader wants to see more of--accompanied by plots that keep the reader guessing.  While I ended up liking The Bitter Past, Shades of Mercy is even better and shows the author's growth in melding plot and characters while dealing with some problematic topics.

(A new character who hopefully will be seen in future books is Charlie Blue Horse.  Beck never calls her just Charlie, he always uses her full name and gets a kick out of saying it.  It seems that the author has a Golden Retriever by the name of Charlie Blue Horse.)

Thanks to NetGalley, St. Martin's Press, & Minotaur Books

Review scheduled for April 29, 2024                                                                                     

336 pages 

Publication date:  July 16, 2024

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

The Instruments of Darkness by John Connolly

From blurb: "In Maine, Colleen Clark stands accused of the worst crime a mother can commit: the abduction and possible murder of her child. Everyone—ambitious politicians in an election season, hardened police, ordinary folk—has an opinion on the case, and most believe she is guilty."

Colleen's lawyer is Moxie Castin and those familiar with the series know that Moxie is good; any who underestimate him will regret it.  He may not look like much and he certainly fails at healthy eating, but Moxie wins cases and Charlie Parker trusts him.  

The case hinges on a bloody blanket.  No body.  The assumption is that the amount of blood assures that little Henry could not have survived, and when Colleen's husband makes comments about Colleen's "failures" as a mother, public sentiment turns against her.

Although the evidence is circumstantial, there are those who see this as slam dunk case that will elevate their careers.  Moxie turns to Charlie Parker, who is initially reluctant to get involved, but after meeting with Colleen, Parker agrees to work on the case.

All the usual suspects (the Fulci brothers, Louis, Angel, Dave, etc.) appear and lend a hand.  An appealing new character gets involved, Sabine Drew--medium/psychic, who has had successes in the past and one demoralizing failure.  Hope to see more of Sabine.

As usual, Charlie Parker is a winner for me.  Now I have to wait for the next book.

Thanks to Atria and NetGalley for this ARC.

Publication date:  May 7, 2024


Poetry Month and Crime 

In Praise of Librarians