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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 
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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."
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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

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Poetry Month and Crime 


In Praise of Librarians


 

Monday, April 22, 2024

The White Lady by Jacqueline Winspear

 

Having enjoyed so many of the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear (especially the earliest ones concerning The Great War), I was immediately interested in The White Lady as a standalone and new character.  

In 1914, after her father left to enlist, Elinor, her mother, and her sister were supposed to leave Belgium for England.  Elinor's mother was English and the girls had dual citizenship.  It should have been easy, but as is often the case, people don't realize the danger soon enough. Charlotte, Cecily, and Elinor were unable to escape occupied Belgium,

This is not where the novel begins, however.  The story opens in 1947, only a couple of years after the end of WWII, but "the White Lady's" story begins in 1914 and moves through two World Wars and the aftermath.

In 1947, Elinor White is living in a "grace and favor cottage" bestowed by the crown for Elinor's life time, for her contributions to the war.  She keeps to herself, neither friendly nor unfriendly, until the small child of a neighbor's catches her attention and interest. The neighbors, Jim, Rose, and young Susie Mackie have moved to the country from London to escape Jim's family who are criminal overlords in London.

When Elinor sees Rose crying and hears the family argument that seems to have turned violent in the Mackie cottage, she is determined to protect them from Jim's family.

And Elinor has the means to do just that.  She's already researched their background and knows the danger the Mackie clan can represent.  Most men would be frightened of interfering with the Mackies; most women wouldn't even dream of it.  Elinor is not most women.  As a child in Belgium during the first war, Elinor and her sister Cecily were enlisted in the resistance by "Isabelle."  They knew that was not her name, but they were eager to do what they could.  By the time Elinor was 12, she was already on her way to becoming quite the skilled saboteur.  

As the story moves forward in 1947, Elinor's memories of both world wars are revealed gradually.  

In 1941, Elinor was teaching in England and resisted joining the SOE (Special Operations Unit), but finally gave in, partly because the woman who recruited her was "Isabelle," now known by her real name, Commander Claire Fields.  The purpose of the SOE was to provide support to resisters in occupied countries and to wage a clandestine war by sabotaging equipment and disrupting the enemy in as many ways as possible.  Elinor already had experience as a child saboteur in Belgium, but she learned and experienced more with the SOE. 

Her background gives Elinor the confidence to go up against the Mackie family, and she knows who she will call on first.  What she doesn't know is how this  involvement will affect her life through connections to the past.

The White Lady is a well-written, compelling tale covering two World Wars and the immediate time period right after the end of WWII, the courage and resilience of ordinary people, and the energy and tenacity of one particular woman.

For those who love good historical fiction, Jacqueline Winspear has done it again.

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If you are interested in the role of the SOE during WWII, you might try Between Silk and Cyanide: A Codemaker's War, 1941-1945 by Leo Marks.  This nonfiction account is fascinating and relevant to some of what occurs in The White Lady.  

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Lying Beside You and Storm Child by Michael Robotham

 Lying Beside You is book 3 in the Cyrus Haven/Evie Cormac series.  It can work as a standalone, but it is more satisfying to read the first two books:  Good Girl, Bad Girl and When She Was Good.  I had to read this one before reading Storm Child because I'd somehow missed it.  Reading the first two books provides the background of the relationship of Cyrus as caretaker/guardian of the damaged Evie.

In this third installment, Cyrus Haven's brother Elias (who has been in a psychiatric hospital for killing his parents and twin sisters twenty years ago) will be released into Cyrus's care.  Cyrus, who wasn't at home at the time of the massacre, suffers survivor's guilt.  

As a criminal psychologist, Cyrus believes in forgiveness and second chances, but he knows that medication is the key for his schizophrenic brother, and he isn't completely sure about his own ability to forgive.

Evie Cormac, a troubled young woman with a horrific background, lives with Cyrus, who hopes that she can eventually regain her memories and overcome some of the traumatic effects.  Evie is also a "truth wizard," one of those rare individuals who can tell if a person is lying up to 90% of the time.  

Elias, who has spent 20 years in a psychiatric hospital, is out of touch with modern life.  His addition to the household causes tension for everyone.

When Cyrus is called in to help in the murder of an old man and the abduction of his daughter things become even more complicated.

Aside from the awful cover and title (neither of which have much to do with the plot), this psychological thriller is in keeping with Robotham's ability to keep the reader engaged and intrigued with the characters.

  349 pages;   published 2023

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After catching up with book 3, it was time for Storm Child.

A much better cover and title.  Cyrus has been trying to get Evie to remember elements of her childhood, to discover how she came to be locked in the secret room.  

When Cyrus and Evie take a trip to the beach, bodies of migrants begin washing to the shore, and Evie begins having debilitating flashbacks.  

The only survivor, a teenage boy insists they were intentionally rammed and that no efforts were made to rescue those who were drowning. However, two young women are missing from the bodies and suspicions of human trafficking are on the table.

Two men are arrested, and Cyrus hopes to help Evie regain her awareness of what happened to her by joining the investigation.

While the plot is sometimes less than realistic, the characters carry it well.  The themes of human trafficking and human evil are real...and sometimes fiction does a better job of making us aware than do newspaper articles.  

I particularly enjoyed the references to Joe O'Loughlin, who was Cyrus's mentor.  Michael Robotham's Joe O'Loughlin books are worth checking out if you haven't read them.  

Thanks to Scribner's and NetGalley.

Publication date:  July 2, 2024

I'll post a reminder closer to publication.

Monday, April 15, 2024

Dark Water Daughter by H.M. Long


Dark Water Daughte
r is the first in The Winter Sea series by H.M. Long.  Some swashbuckling fun with pirates, privateers, storm singers, and ghistings (sentient trees often made into the figureheads for sailing ships).

Told from 2 points of view:  Mary Firth, the storm singer and Samuel Rosser, disgraced former Navy, now employed as a Sooth on a privateer vessel.

Storm singers can control the weather, and are highly prized by sailing ships that often enslave them. Mary is powerful, but has received no instruction and has little experience. Mary wants to find her mother, a legendary storm singer who has been missing for years.

The world building is successful and the story grabs your attention when Mary escapes hanging after having been misidentified as a notorious  highway[wo]man. Although she escapes the noose by calling a storm, she immediately falls into the hands of men who auction her off as a storm singer.

Dark Water Daughter is a nautical/magical adventure that has promise as a series.  It wasn't quite as satisfying as I hoped, but it was entertaining.  I plan to read the next book, Black Tide Son, at some point. 

Piratical Fantasy
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I've been catching up on the Cyrus Haven series by Michael Robotham and reading when I get tired in the garden.  Initially, I manage an hour or a little more before resting/reading and starting again, but the periods of work get shorter and the rests longer as the day goes on!  By the end of the day, it is mostly reading.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Catching up on reviews while it rains

The second in a series, The Wolf's Eye by Luanne G. Smith was slow and confusing initially.  It did get better, but still wasn't completely satisfying for me.

Witches, mages, and a vlkodnak (Czech for werewolf) curse. 

I read The Raven Spell by Smith in 2022 and thought it was good fun, but for some reason this one didn't resonate in the same way.

Thanks to NetGalley and 47 North.  

 



A Welcome Grave by Michael Koryta is the third book in the Lincoln Perry series that I've read recently.  

When Alex Jefferson is found tortured and murdered, the police come to Lincoln Perry.  At first, simply because Lincoln Perry had history with Jefferson.  As things progress, however, the case against Perry grows from curiosity to suspicion to the police wholeheartedly believing in Perry's guilt.

Perry must find a way to clear himself, but the set up against him continues to increase, making him look guiltier by the minute.  Jefferson's death was a revenge killing, but Perry and Joe, his partner, must discover the reason for such a terrible revenge intent on leaving Perry as a scapegoat.

A Welcome Grave kept my interest, and I've enjoyed all three books so far in this series.

305 pages                                                                                                                                             PI Mystery

I've read 6 stand alones by Catriona McPherson and enjoyed each one.  I haven't read any of her series books, but the psychological standalones keep me coming back.  

Deep Beneath Us did not disappoint. From the blurb:

"Tabitha Muir returns to her childhood home in the remote hills of Hiskith in Scotland after twenty years away. She's lost her job, her house, and custody of her son after a divorce, and thinks this must be rock bottom - but worse is to come. An unplanned explosion at the dam on the loch and the suspicious death of her beloved cousin Davey force Tabitha to confront her past demons."

And boy, does the Muir family describe  dysfunction.  I couldn't keep up with the twists, doled out like dominoes ready to fall.

I've scheduled my review for May, as the publication date is June.  Thanks to Netgalley and Severn House.

Psychological mystery                                                                                                                           341 pages

Can't play outside.  This rain hasn't let up for 3 days.



Friday, April 05, 2024

The Furies by John Connolly

John Connolly's The Furies is quite different from earlier books in the Charlie Parker series.  It is actually 2 short novels combined.  The first The Sisters Strange was written during the pandemic lockdown daily for 64 days.  The second The Furies which gives the title, perhaps because of the 3 women in The Sisters Strange and the child in The Furies.

In other ways, the book is typical of the Charlie Parker books:  good vs evil, violence, and paranormal.  The violence is less than in earlier books, many of which are certainly not for everyone.  

I never miss a Charlie Parker installment and always look forward to recurring characters, especially Louis and Angel (there is never enough of them).

Connolly is an unusually erudite author and his humor is sharp and witty, often lending comic relief to horrendous situations.  The first time I read Connolly was decades ago and I think I abandoned it in fear.  About 5 years later, I read the second book, and only after starting it did I realize that it was the second in the series, but by then I was hooked, and I've read each book since, 20 so far.  I don't think of myself as a horror fan, but I'm certainly a fan of Charlie Parker.

Horror/mystery
508 pages

Europa Deep by Gary Gibson

Cassie White didn't make the first expedition to Europa, but her brother Chris did.  The expedition ceased responding and disappeared, but now 15 years later, another expedition is about to embark, and Cassie has the opportunity to be on board.

She's wary of this opportunity for several reasons, but the chance to discover what happened to her brother seals the deal.

Someone, however, seems determined to sabotage the mission, and Cassie doesn't know who to trust.  

At the heart of the novel, perhaps, is our human distrust of the very technology we often depend on.  AI and humans who are enhanced in some way can become frightening.  While the novel is set far in the future, the problems of fear and prejudice are the same we are suffering through in the present.  

The human condition is leery of what is different.  We are both curious and apprehensive of what we don't understand, the unknown, the unfamiliar.  The situation for Opt (individuals whose genetics have been altered) on earth is becoming dire.  Attacks on individual Opts and plans for internment camps are increasing.

The question of  consciousness also exists as some, like Marcus, on the verge of death uploads his consciousness, becoming a sentient AI.  And there is the phenomenon of consciousness deep in the ice covered Europa lake.  

Europa Deep is the second book I've read by Gary Gibson and both are different from the science fiction I usually favor.  Both Echogenesis and Europa Deep are stand alone novels and have, in addition to action and suspense, a more philosophical turn.

However, it seems Gibson has some series that fall more into the military science fiction/space opera subgenres I usually choose. 

Both of the stand-alone novels I've read by Gibson leave as many questions as answers, and considering the genre, that's OK.  I'm interested in his book series now.

Read in March.  

Science Fiction.  360 pages

Thursday, April 04, 2024

The Light Pirate by Lily Brooks-Dalton

The Light Pirate is set in the near future. Destructive hurricanes have been worse for several years, but the storm coming for Florida is going to be a turning point.  

The ominous threat of Hurricane Wanda, has pregnant Frieda Lowe's anxiety increasing by the moment.  She wanted to evacuate, but her husband Kirby is convinced his preparations will keep them safe and tries to convince her that the storm is predicted to go north of their location.

A storm has been brewing in their relationship as well, as Frieda's fears increase and Kirby resents her lack of trust in his preparations.  Neither is right; neither is wrong.  They are both good people on the edge. Frieda's experience with a devastating hurricane in which she lost her mother and Kirby's experience as a linesman who has experience in restoring power in the aftermath of hurricanes and who grew up along the Florida coast put them at odds. Frieda's fear and Kirby's confidence clash.

Frieda's fears are realized in more ways than one.  Hurricane Wanda's damage reaches a new scale for Florida, and terrible loss and grief for the Lowe family.  In the midst of the storm, Frieda goes into labor and delivers a baby girl that she names after the hurricane.  

From this point Wanda becomes the focus.  The child is well-loved, but different.  Her friendship with her older neighbor Phyllis, retired from teaching biology at the university, teaches the young girl much about the nature around her.  Initially, Phyllis keeps Wanda after school until Kirby gets home, but eventually there is no more school. By the sixth grade, almost no children remain as families have given up and left.

The Light Pirate is an unusual dystopian work.  No sudden disaster like an EMP or a plague that kills with impunity, devastating a population.  Instead, even when the novel begins, people have begun expecting the violent changes in weather in the form of fire, flood, or wind.  No one expected the changes to come so quickly, by the time Wanda is ten, people are realizing that the infrastructure they've relied on cannot be repaired.

We follow the characters over the years and the adaptations, the difficulty keeping power on, the migration of families to the interior, the eventual evacuations of small towns and finally, the evacuation of Miami.  The seas relentless encroachment, the frequent storms, the increasing heat cause the decampment of the coastal population, but the interior has been undergoing changes as well.

The author's prose is beautiful, vibrating with tension at times, but always tender with the characters.    

The novel reminded me of At Home on an Unruly Planet (reviewed here), which was nonfiction, but was examining some of the climate changes that have already occurred and what needs to be done in preparation.  The Light Pirate, in the hands of an immensely talented Lily Brooks-Dalton, imagines further in the future in the decidedly human characters she creates.

Highly Recommended.