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Monday, January 31, 2022

The Echoes by Jess Montgomery, Grimm Up North by David J. Gatward, Billy Summers by Stephen King


Another visit to Kinship and to Sheriff Lily Ross and her family.  Lily's mother takes on a bigger role in this one--because she has been keeping a secret for three years and now there is no way to avoid the consequences.

In the meantime, there is preparation for the new amusement park to be opened on July 4th, and Chalmer Fitzpatrick's 97-year-old woman has called Lily (again) because there is a drowned woman in a pond which is slated to be part of a new amusement park.  Once again, Lily finds no drowned woman, and the question is whether the old woman's vision is dementia or the "the sight."

It's 1928, but there are connections to the Great War that claimed Lily's brother and the discovery of a truly unexpected legacy. There are so many secrets in this one!  As usual, Jess Montgomery uses some actual history in her plot.

Montgomery's characters and setting feel so genuine that the opportunity to visit Kinship again is always appreciated...but now another year to wait for the next book.

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press.  
Historical Mystery.  March 29, 2022.  Print length:  288 pages.

DCI Harry Grimm is seconded to a small village in Yorkshire.  He isn't happy about it.  Accustomed to a big city and an active life, Harry finds that sheep rustling is the crime du jour in the Yorkshire Dales.  Not exactly the fast-paced criminal element Harry is accustomed to policing.

Set in the country of All Creatures Great and Small, Harry does find the people friendly and the location beautiful, but he doesn't feel cut out for the pastoral life.  

His first case is a missing girl, not missing sheep, and it develops into more than he and his new team considered possible in the peaceful dales.

A lot of humor, an interesting puzzle, and some good secondary characters kept me engaged.  :)  

Kindle Unlimited/Weirdstone Publishing.  2020.

Another long audiobook with a lack of the supernatural horror often associated with Stephen King.

For the most part, I liked it.  There are "two" Billy Summers, there is the dumb one his clients see, a hired killer who chooses the jobs based on whether or not he believes the victim deserves it--because after all, that was what he did as a military sniper in Iraq.  But the other Billy, the one hiding behind the mask is much more perceptive, shrewd, and cautious.  He may appear easy to manipulate, but that assumption is a mistaken one. 

On what is supposed to be his final job, Billy must live and work in a small town while waiting for the man he is to kill to be extradited to the local courthouse. The way Billy is taken in by the neighborhood where he waits for the signal to act on his current contract, forming friendships he knows he shouldn't, but discovering a life with which he was unfamiliar  appealed to me.  

Even as Billy hopes to retire, he is aware of fictional "final jobs" in books and films and that they often go wrong.

The last third of the book didn't work as well for me, for several reasons.  I also wanted to know where Billy lived when he wasn't working on a hit.  Such a blank from his years as a sniper in Iraq and his current situation--maybe twenty years of no information even hinted at beyond his hired kills.  More than that, I wondered when and where did Billy become some acquainted with the classics.  The Billy he presents to clients is a simple man who loves comics; the other Billy has read widely and is currently reading Zola.  I'd have liked some information on the missing years. Just me, but these omissions kept me wondering.  

Audiobook.  Simon & Schuster Audio.  Paul Sparks Narrator.  

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Letter From the Dead by Jack Gatland, The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles, and Cohen's MacBeth

Some January books.  Already a month behind.   

from description:  Recently blacklisted from the police for punching a priest on live TV (long story), D.I Declan Walsh is one step away from quitting the force for good - and privately investigating the mysterious death of his father, Chief Superintendent Patrick Walsh, who died shortly after writing a tell-all memoir of his time on the force.

Despite his problems, when his father's old friend DCI Alex Monroe offers Declan a place on his recently formed cold case squad, made up of "officers who are too valuable to lose," but who have had some kind of problems within the force--Declan accepts.

Known as "The Last Chance Saloon," the new squad has an ensemble of characters that create loyalty in a reader.  The kind of team that keeps me intrigued and eager to read more about them.

Victoria Davies died when pushed off a roof in 2001, and her husband Michael was convicted.  Two decades later, a letter is discovered that casts doubt on the earlier conviction of Victoria's husband and adds some powerful men to the suspect list.

Complex and complicated, and I don't usually use both terms in describing a plot, but this was a Gordian Knot (maybe a net of Gordian Knots) of threads and connections.  As the team attempts to ply through all the implications of the new suspects, each member of the team begins developing into a three-dimensional personality.  One lead after another untangles in the team's investigation of a twenty year old murder.

Letter to the Dead was a great introduction to the New Year.  So much so that I read books 1-8 in quick succession!

Hooded Man Publ.
Mystery/Thriller.  Print length:  334 pages.

The Lincoln Highway was a surprise for me.  I'd seen positive reviews, but had not read them because the book was on my list.  When I finally got to it (audio book), much of the plot was a surprise for me.  

I certainly enjoyed it and got a lot of chores done while listening: Because it was long--16 hours of listening.

The Lincoln Highway is a sort of "hero's journey" 
as young Billy reads Professor Abernathe's Compendium of Heroes, Adventurers, and Other Intrepid Travelers on the road trip he and his older brother Emmett set out on.  There is a definite Joseph Campbell vibe (Professor Abacus Abernathe) as The Lincoln Highway is a picaresque novel with shifting points of view and the much abbreviated stories/myths in Professor Abernathe's book.  

In a hero's quest, the hero is supposed to be changed, and Emmett certainly has experiences that have changed him, but does he bring back something to his community?  Maybe--if that community is Billy and perhaps Sally, who will have fresh hope in California.  At any rate, I like books that reimagine myths and archetypes, often turning them on their heads.

The last section of the book takes a rather abrupt turn in tone; it has been set up, but still seems sudden. The conclusion was ambiguous, and I still can't decide what Emmett intended.  I was not disappointed because I've not read A Gentleman in Moscow or The Rules of Civility the books most often associated with Towles, but I did have mixed feelings about some things.

Viking. 2021.  print length:  564 pages; audio 16 hours, 39 minutes.
Joel Cohen's The Tragedy of MacBeth was a big disappoint for me.  I'd looked forward to it and to the performances of Denzel and McDormand, but the entire film felt like Cohen's effort to be original and artistic--and the nuances and language of Shakespeare were less important than Cohen's need to be innovative. 

Frustrated with the lack of emotion and passion in the actors (due to Cohen's direction?),  I still looked forward to Malcolm's testing of MacDuff's sincerity in Act IV, scene III.  I love that speech in which Malcolm claims to be worse than MacBeth in order to determine if MacDuff wants him to return to Scotland to meet the same fate as his father had at MacBeth's hands.  It wasn't there.  Skipped.  Absent.

And MacDuff's reaction to hearing about the deaths of his wife and children?  Must have taken an effort to make that speech bland and without genuine grief.

My daughter liked it; I didn't like it at all.  Maybe it would make Shakespeare more appealing to some because of the famous actors, but hopefully they will see a better production in the future.  Rant concluded. 

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Dead Drop by Marilyn Todd, The Marlow Murder Club by Robert Thorogood, Fates Ransom by Jeff Wheeler

 More December books.  

I enjoyed the first three books in this series about a female photographer who has inherited the studio of her mentor, but who needs to pretend he still lives because her clientele remain leery of a woman as a photographer.

The first book (Snap Shot) introduces Julia McAllister, who takes normal photographs, including some of the recent dead, a Victorian custom, but is supplementing her income with risqué pictures.  First one, then another of her models are murdered, and Julia comes under suspicion.  Her knowledge of Alphonse Bertillion and his use of photography to solve crimes.

I liked this use of a female photographer and the inclusion of the first uses of crime scene photography and liked the first books.

Unfortunately for me, Dead Drop did not live up to what I was expecting.  The book seemed to have lacked something with the traveling "wild west show."  Disappointing, but hope the next book will be better.

None of the covers have much to do with the contents.

NetGalley/Sapere Books
Historical Mystery.  Dec., 2021.  

Every once in a while, I enjoy a cozy, and I did find The Marlow Murder Club fun, in large part because the main character is 77, wears a cape, and loves good whiskey.   :)  

I'm drawn to older eccentric protagonists and Judith Potts fits the description.  Having introduced the characters and setting, this new series has the potential, but isn't quite there.

NetGalley/Poisoned Pen Press
Cozy Mystery.  Jan. 7, 2021.  Print length:  340 pages.

Jeff Wheeler has written a number of series in related kingdoms and worlds:  Muirwood, Mirrowen, and Kingfountain, and I've read and enjoyed many of these series.  The Kingfountain books are a mixture of alternate history, fantasy, and excellent story telling.

  Fates Ransom is the fourth and final book in the First Argentine series and is set in Kingfountain.  

My favorite is The Queen's Poisoner, the first in the six book Kingfountain series, but each series is full of great characters and exciting adventures and each book  is hard to put down.  Wheeler's characters have depth--he excels at creating the kind of characters that the readers want to know more about.

I recommend starting with The Queen's Poisoner to become acquainted with the kingdom and see if you might become as addicted to Wheeler's books as I've become.

Fantasy.  Jan. 4, 2022.   

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

What Can't Be Seen by Brianna LaBuskes (Gretchen White #2), One for Sorrow by Helen Fields, and Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians but Were Afraid to Ask by Anton Truer

 When I read A Familiar Sight, I was fascinated and found it compulsive reading while at the same time, having a lot of questions.  The character of Gretchen White, acknowledged sociopath and a psychologist and consultant for the Boston PD, is seductive and disquieting.  I knew I'd want to read the next book.

What Can't Be Seen has Detective Lauren Marconi persuading Gretchen to look at her own case.  This, Gretchen has never been willing to do.  Did Gretchen really kill her Aunt Rowan when Gretchen was eight years old?  Marconi wants Gretchen to use her skills as a psychologist and criminologist discover what really happened that night--because Marconi doesn't believe Gretchen is guilty.  Gretchen, however, believes she is guilty and has done her best to avoid examining her own case as a result.  

Looking into her own case threatens Gretchen's tight control of her own dark impulses.  A brilliant woman, she has done her best to prove herself in the world, knowing that her world view is that of a sociopath and that her abilities are always impaired by her lack of emotional empathy.  

Detective Shaughnessy believes she got away with murder when she was a child, and Gretchen has used him as a kind of guidepost to controlling her impulses.  She is determined not to let her impulses prove Shaughnessy right in his opinion.  The two of have worked together on many cases that Gretchen has solved, but he still waits for her to screw up.  

Eventually, Gretchen and Marconi come to an arrangement, and the two begin investigating the thirty year old case.  The book moves from present to past and back again and is told from differing perspectives in a complex plot that kept me guessing.

The first book had me completely engrossed (despite all my questions), and What Can't Be Seen is even better.  I want more of Gretchen White and Detective Lauren Marconi.

Read in December 

NetGalley/Thomas & Mercer.   Psychological Thriller.  May 24, 2022.  

Helen Field's DI Luc Callenach and DCI Ava Turner series keeps up dramatic suspense in the latest installment.  While it is interesting to begin the series with the first book, each can be read as a stand-alone.

In addition to her main characters, Field has a great cast of secondary characters, and it is always nice to catch up with them.  Edinburgh also functions as both setting and character.

One for Sorrow is compelling and fast-paced as a lone bomber creates chaos in Edinburgh.  Luc and Ava are at a loss as to motive, but the deaths are devastating.  The bomber targets police and ambulance workers, those who are there to help--adding another degree of horror to the chaos being inflicted.

The bomber gives the police tips and leads them into traps, and even after they know what to expect, they have no choice but to respond.

Two timelines, twisty, dark, and engrossing, the book gets your adrenaline going.

Read in December.

NetGalley/Avon Books UK.  Thriller.  March 3, 2022.  Print length:  400 pages.

from description: From the acclaimed Ojibwe author and professor Anton Treuer comes an essential book of questions and answers for Native and non-Native young readers alike. Ranging from "Why is there such a fuss about nonnative people wearing Indian costumes for Halloween?" to "Why is it called a 'traditional Indian fry bread taco'?" to "What's it like for natives who don't look native?" to "Why are Indians so often imagined rather than understood?", and beyond, Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask (Young Readers Edition) does exactly what its title says for young readers, in a style consistently thoughtful, personal, and engaging.

The questions in the above blurb indicate only a small portion of the content, and the answers to these and many other questions are both thoughtful and thought-provoking.  

Anton Truer, an Ojibwe, grew up the Leech Lake Reservation in Minnesota.  I mentioned it on my other blog in December and am copying and pasting the following: The format is question and answer, and includes history, culture, language, stereotypes, racism, sovereignty, and much more.  Truer approaches each subject in a non-confrontational manner.   It is not, as you may imagine, a pretty picture, but it is fascinating.

Although targeted at young adults, it does not condescend in any way in language or ideas.  The book and Truer's comments provide absorbing views of history, stereotypes, the treatment of "the other," government policies, languages, and cultural values that may make you reconsider what you think you knew about Indians.  Truer concedes that his views are not universal among all the tribes, even on the the term Indian.  He self-references as Indian because that is what he grew up with.

I read about this one on Deb's Reader Buzz blog during Nonfiction November, and it was one of my early December books.   I join others in saying all libraries should have copies of Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians, but Were Afraid to Ask.  


I won't be reviewing all the books read in December, but I'm making an effort to catch up on many of them!

Monday, January 24, 2022

Murder at Greysbridge by Andrea Carter, One Step Too Far by Lisa Gardner, The Big Perhaps by John Seeley, Dead Point by LaVonne Griffin-Valade

 I didn't intend to take a break from blogging in December, but the longer I was away, the harder it was to get back.   

Some December reads.

 The setting in Inishowen, Ireland, caught my interest and although this is the fourth book in the series, it is the first I've read.  

Solicitor Benedicta (Ben)O'Keefe's legal assistant is getting married at the historic and recently renovated Greysbridge Hotel.  Of course, things do not go well and two of the hotel's guests end up dead.  The hotel has the reputation of being haunted, there is a nice mix of characters, and an intriguing atmosphere.

Fun.  I'll

NetGalley/Oceanview Books
Mystery.  Nov., 2021.  Print length:  353 pages.
One Step Too Far by Lisa Gardner is the second book in her new Frankie Elkins series, and I liked it much better than the first one.  

The threats of the wilderness in an isolated area of a National Forest in Wyoming combined with the tension that emanated from the search team kept the suspense high.

Timothy O'Day disappeared five years ago when he and his groomsmen went for a bachelor's weekend before his wedding.  Only Tim was  a skilled outdoorsman; the other young men were at a loss at how to locate him.  The searches at the time and since have turned up nothing.

Tim's father and the four groomsmen are prepared for what might be the final search when Frankie Elkins reads about the search party in a local paper and decides to join in. 

A number of interesting characters and a great setting becomes even more intriguing as Frankie senses something intrinsically wrong--in the previous stories, the tension, reluctance, and guilt among members of the search party, and in the disturbing incidents that sabotage their efforts.

I already love several of Gardner's books, and was not at all sure of this new series, but this was a page-turner and that I could hardly put down.  Now, I'm ready for the next one.

NetGalley/Penguin Group
Mystery-Thriller.  Jan. 18, 2022. Print length:  418 pages.

from description:  Thirty years after the unsolved murder of hardboiled fiction writer Dan Fargo, a single orphaned manuscript page turns up that could be evidence of a previously unknown novel by the author.

Private detective Harry Webster is hired by a wealthy fan to prove or disprove the existence of this long rumoured masterpiece, The Big Perhaps.

It appears on the surface to be a tricky but safe assignment....

There were plenty of things to like in this one, especially as I tend to like missing manuscripts and some of the secrets went back to WWII.  On the other hand, although Seeley's prose is good, the arrogance and condescending attitude of the main character annoyed me.   

Mystery.  Nov. 17, 2021.  Print length:  429 pages.

from description:  When Maggie Blackthorne returns to her hometown after nearly twenty years to serve as an Oregon State Police Sergeant, she expects to deal with the usual suspects — drunk drivers, oxy slingers, and the occasional rural scofflaw.

But after she stumbles upon the bullet-ridden bodies of twin brothers, she realizes she’s stepped into something much more sinister

An interesting debut novel, and I would certainly give the next one a try.  The blurb compares it to the Longmire books, but no--that would be a stretch.  Maggie and Trooper Hollis have potential, however.

Mystery/Thriller.  June 15, 2021.  Print length:  390 pages.

Sunday, January 02, 2022