Quote of the Week

"The key is to commit crimes so confusing that police feel too stupid to even write a crime report about them."
Randy K. Milholland, Something Positive Comic
10-30-03. Web Comic Pioneer

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Colton P.I. Second Unit by Gina Cresse

Nothing says California quite like movies and stuntmen and in Colton P I Gina Cresse has captured it perfectly.  Sam Colton, stuntmen extraordinaire, is a part time private investigator on the side.

In this case, he juggles a mysterious and not very nice missing girl, her heartbroken parents and various politicians of dubious ethics while maintaining his own integrity and sense of humor.

This is the first of Cresse's books I have read and I enjoyed immensely. I couldn't figure out who the real criminals were until the very end and found the story believable. Cresse's style utilizing jargon of the film industry and her macho male names of some of the characters just added to the enjoyment. I hope that Sam Colton shows up in another mystery by Cresse. In the meantime,  I am going to track down Sinfandel about a murder in wine country and her series about Devonie Hall, a storage wars participant of sorts.  Could there be bodies or clues in those auctioned storage containers.

According to her bio, Cresse started writing mysteries in 1990 and has added screenwriting to her lengthy resume. She has been a finalist in numerous screenwriting competitions. 

Her books are available at independent bookstores, chains and at Amazon. Reviews are available on Goodreads.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Death With an Ocean View by Nora Charles

"Death With an Ocean View" was an easy pick for a number of reasons.  First was the author's name, Nora Charles, which immediately made me think of the series of mysteries starring the wonderful Nick and Nora Charles. Second it was a small book perfect for reading on the beach on Cape Cod.

But it was the story that grabbed my attention, starring a 60-something unlikely heroine and her equally 60-something friends and neighbors. I confess to being a fan of active and imaginative  senior citizens some quite obnoxious and even criminal.  For a setting of Florida, this was just a perfect  book.  The characters were almost stereotypically on target.  The setting with the big-time developers tearing down historical homes and businesses for parking lots and huge condos and complete lack of interest in environmental concerns seemed to ring all too true. The locals fighting back and sometimes giving in led to all types of clues which turned out, in the end, to be false. Friendships come under scrutiny and some actually survive.  An old yearbook, which is something most seniors treasure, helps solve the mystery.

Kate Kennedy, the protagonist in this tale, is portrayed so well that her emotions and reactions ring true in every scene. Her sister-in-law, Marlene, not so graciously portrayed, is also a person who seems quite real, if flawed for sure.

There are six books in this series known as the "Senior Sleuth Mystery Series" and I am going to search out some more as they are perfect summer reading and the mysteries are not easy to figure out. Nora Charles is a pseudonym for Nora Wald who has also scribed the "Ghostwriter Mysteries. Wald lives in Sarasota, Florida.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

New Orleans Mourning

New Orleans Mourning by Julie Smith depends on the setting of New Orleans during Mardi Gras for its mystery as well as its unique characters who fit the time and place perfectly. The protagonist, is a reluctant debutant now finding her way in the New Orleans Police Department. With parents who are stereotypical social climbers, she is seen by the other officers as entitled and relatively useless.

But when one of the scions of New Orleans Society is murdered while riding on a float as King of Carnival, she is recruited to help solve the case. The murder of Chauncay St. Amant brings suspicion on all of this family and one family friend.  His wife is a drunk, his son is an actor and gay, not a banker, this daughter aimless.  The closest family friend has loved Mrs. St. Amant forever although unsuccessfully.  The number of intriguing red herrings never seems to stop.  I did not figure out the villain until the end.  I listened to the book on audio and on more than one occasion took the long way home in order to keep listening.

This is the first in a series about Skip Langdon and her struggle to "find herself" in a city that defines her quite differently.  I am looking forward to reading the other books in the series as the characters are quite interesting Julie Smith has won and Edgar Award for this mystery which along with her other  mysteries are available through libraries and online.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Time Out! Reflections on Booktopia VT 2013

I can’t believe it’s been two weeks already since our grand and exciting trip to Manchester, VT to participate in the annual Booktopia program.  An offshoot of the great “Books on the Nightstand” blog by Ann Kingman and Michael Kindness, like-minded and passionate readers gather with noted authors and talk books, reading, and writing (and a whole bunch of other cool stuff).   It all began with an amazing drive through the Green Mountains, reservations at an almost scary motel that Wendy muttered something like Bates Motel under her breath, and culminating in literary trivia night which was incredibly difficult albeit great fun.  This was just Thursday.

We survived night one and  went to our first of many sessions in which we met amazing authors who were willing to share everything from the writing process to editor and publishing angst. I felt like I was among the privileged few who had landed in book heaven.  Many of the sessions were held at the famous Northshire Bookstore which is a vibrant independent which has the richest selection of books and gifts imaginable.  The nooks and crannies of genres and subjects are so appealing that you are hard pressed to not spend a ton of money on something wonderful.

Some of my personal highlights were meeting a pantheon of greats.  Matthew Dicks had an amazing take on writing. I was truly inspired and his book “Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend” will be my summer reading choice for my students and my book group choice for July.  I Listened to Paula McLean talk about her journey of research and reading the letters from Ernest Hemingway to his first wife Hadley that would evolve into the book “The Paris Wife.”  She made you fall in love with both of them and yearn to revisit his novels. What a smoky sultry time Hadley and Ernest lived and reading about them was almost like a drug.  I met Will Schwalbe author of “The End ofYour Life Book Club” at one of the talks and I had a chance to speak one-on-one about what his wonderful book meant to me.  Having lost my grandmother to pancreatic cancer, I especially appreciated his tender memoir of the time spent with his mother while she battled that same type of cancer.  But I was happy to tell him how his book was so much more to me, and that family and a passion for reading, sharing, and ideas just reached my soul.  I listened to Chris Pavone speak about writing “The Expats.”  He is a handsome charming man who spoke in an endearing way about moving his own family to Europe and living a little bit like the characters that he wrote about.  Being a huge fan of the novel it was fascinating to listen to his stories about being a stay-at-home dad in a foreign country among expats and deciding to write that book that he always wanted to write.  For the people who went to Booktopia and heard him speak about raising his boys while writing a spy novel will forever remember the words “more guns less poop.”  Or the other way around, but you get the point and even more funny for those of us that were there.  We had the chance to meet Sara J. Henry and hear about her recent book “A Cold and Lonely Place,” book two in the Troy Chance saga in a panel discussion with Elizabeth Kelly, author of the upcoming “The Last Summer of the Camperdowns.”  Two authors with a real divergent point of view made for a lively discussion on the significant of place and setting in a novel.  But their creative clash only made the session more fun and a point and counter point on the topic endearing and often very funny.  Chatting with Sara after meeting at last year’s Booktopia was a thrill to renew that acquaintance and see her blossom among her awards and acclaim.
Later in the day, I had signed up for a talk by author SteveYarbrough, who I will admit that I had neither read his books nor was I familiar with him before arriving in VT.   Born in Mississippi, Mr. Yarbrough balked at being labeled a ‘southern writer’ exclusively admitting that he had not actually lived in the south for over 25 years.  With soft spoken southern accent and almost shy speaking style, I was drawn easily into his world.  His body of work and life experiences reflected in those works was captivating.  I hung on every word and came out of the book store with three of his books and I can’t wait to dive into them.   Now a professor at Emerson, I envy the young college student with emerging talents that will get to be mentored by such a gifted author.
As the weekend wrapped and just not enough time to meet everyone,  I was able to hear brief talks from Nichole Bernier, whose book “The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D.”  I had read and loved. The book was amazing and the perfect book club choice.  Bernier  is friendly and just a great person to know.  Thanks for being willing to friend me on FB. That was a thrill.  Listening to Amy Brill speak about her new book “The Movement of Stars,” had me riveted to the process that led to the writing of the story and my immediate march back into the store to buy her book so I could get it signed.  It’s one of the lead picks at Oprah reads page and I was at the place where they went on sale first.  One author that totally got by me was Jon Clinch.  I did not get to meet you Mr. Clinch but I look forward to checking out your body of work.  He is a great and funny storyteller. 
It was amazing to talk about books and reading in such a pure literary and happy grouping.  There was no “my Kindle is better than your Nook...”  There was a lot and I mean a lot of personal as well as social networking.  There was only murmuring about the future of reading and books and all of us concur that books in all forms aren't going anywhere.  We were a group of all ages, backgrounds, occupations, and walks of life.  We came from far and wide with a common purpose to share our love of reading and ideas.   I am blessed to have renewed acquaintances from the previous year and added a whole bunch of new friends.  Our bonds are growing tighter as we follow each other on Goodreads and FB and like what each other are up to and sending personal messages along the way. 
Special thanks to Michael and Ann for keeping this going and providing such an incredible experience. I know behind the scenes it’s a noble task to get the authors and all of us coordinated.   You both deserve a raise!  Already we have mental plans for our trip in 2014 and yearn for the step out of New England to one of the regional sites.  Who know what is in the cards for us.  But, all I can say is that this experience was so huge for me and so reaffirmed a lifelong passion for reading that I won’t soon forget. So a note to my patient husband Doug, those book piles aren’t going away anytime soon.   All the best!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Body In Blackwater Bay by Paula Gosling

Paradise Island, home to nine cottages mostly owned by generations of the same families soon becomes more of a hell for the residents when a dead body appears. Before the reader learns of that crime, even more sinister ones are described in the prologue. Red herrings abound in this tale of spoiled vacations, incorrect assumptions, tangled relationships, some outright bigotry and various modern day crimes such as spousal abuse and smuggling of one kind or another.
Every character in this book is interesting in some way and many have motives to protect their summer island retreat.  Jack Stryker, hero of another Gosling series, shows up to help local sheriff solve the crime of murder.  Swamps, storms, bug, and heat all add to the authenticity of a summer island retreat.  The description of a town meeting going terribly wrong and prying media being held off are spot on.  Most of the dynamic characters were women, some strong, some not so strong, one pretty evil although we don’t find that out until the end.  The women definitely drive the story forward and most everyone has known someone like at least one of them.
The action was possible, the emotions and actions were reasonable and the murderer a complete surprise.  I have decided to catch up with quite a few more of Goslings books as this one was thoroughly enjoyable.
Gosling, who was born in Michigan, has resided in the U.K. since the 1960s. She has received the Gold Dagger Award, the John Creasey Award for Crime Fiction. One of her works, A Running Duck, was later made into a movie starring Sylvester Stallone. Her books are available in public libraries, on Amazon, and many are available for e-readers.

Midnight Come Again by Dana Stabenow

All the typical attributes of Alaska are present in Midnight Come Again one of a series of mysteries featuring Kate Shugak, private investigator and Aleut native.
It is only too easy to believe in the possibility of taking on a whole new identity in the wilds the coastal regions of this state where disappearing on purpose seems quite easy. Kate’s remote lifestyle, frontier cabin in woods miles from nearest neighbor, let her exit go unnoticed for months. A change of career and new hairstyle finished the deception.
 The why of her departure becomes quickly obvious and then her involvement in the search for missing plutonium with former friend Alaska State Trooper Jim Chopin sets up action that includes salmon fishing, suspicious Russians, a notable number of red herrings, and some of the most intriguing characters to be met between the pages of a book.  And then, of course, there is Mutt, half wolf, half husky and 100% loyal to Kate.
 Midnight Comes Again introduced me to many aspects of life in Alaska leaving me with an appetite to learn more.  I am putting books by Dana Stabenow on my search list for local library book sales and heading to the library in search of another one.  Books can be read out of order in this series as enough of the back story is referenced to clarify details.  Refer to www.stopyourekillingme.com and click on Author “S” to find Stabenow and a complete, chronological list of her books.  The books are also available at Amazon and other online booksellers.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

"The Moonstone" by Wilkie Collins

Wilkie Collins wrote "The Moonstone" in 1868 and is considered the 'father of the English detective story."  As a long time fan of mystery genre, I grew up loving police detective stories and remain a faithful fan.  I had always wanted to read this book based upon the allure of the famed old tale and getting back to mystery's roots.  The moonstone is a famed yellow diamond with a checked past. Supposedly taken from a monastery in India in the 18th century, the diamond fell in and out of possession of a variety of English families.  When the diamond is bequeathed to a young noble woman upon her 18th birthday, the valuable diamond immediately goes missing.  The remainder of the story goes step by step and voice by voice of the people who were involved with the family, the servants, the guests, and the police.  The story begins to be dissected as only a great detective would do.  The story at times gets bogged down. But that is a 21st century mind reading a 19th century book.  You often think the obvious and that for sure you know who dun it.  This book abounds in red herrings.  But Collins is masterful in creating doubt along the way.  This is considered one of his best works.  As a contemporary and friend of Charles Dickens, there are critics who think that Collins is as good a writer.  I loved the book and found a true mystery with great old fashioned police work with deduction and reasoning as the clearest path to solving the crime a refreshing change. Often in the 'old days' a mystery was not just about murder, but maybe an abduction or a masterful theft.  This book sets forth a blue print for the writers who would come after as step by step and interview after interview the story unfolds.  The other thing this book is known for is what is called the 'locked door' or 'locked room' mystery.  A murder or theft happens in a supposed locked room and there is no apparent rhyme or reason for the event to have occurred.  I won't spoil  the ending for you as this part of the mystery is revealed to the reader.  I am taking a departure from our trip around the USA to post this book for two reasons.  Reason one it is a mystery classic and ground breaking for it's day and time.  I wanted to encourage our readers and followers to also read this great book especially if you are a fan of the British mystery greats of today.  Secondly, I am taking part in the "Sarah Reads Too Much" blog challenge for classics for 2013.  Sarah has set a high bar and this fits the category of reading of a 19th century novel not only for her, but for myself.  This book remains today in many advance school curricula and is available in almost any format that you find yourself reading  today.  Also check libraries and Netflix for many versions of this story made into movies and miniseries.