Monday, October 31, 2005

Books read in Oct. 2005

October was a good month for mysteries! Here's the list of everything I read during October.

The City of Falling Angels - John Berendt - The author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil looks at the life of Venice, Italy for seven years.

The Darwin Conspiracy - John Darnton - Two researchers examine Darwin's story of his voyage and his daughter's journal account of his later life.

The Green Room - Deborah Turrell Atkinson - A Hawaiian attorney is present when her cousin's life is threatened by an ancient Hawaiian weapon, and she knows it's not an idle threat.

Tilt-A-Whirl - Chris Grabenstein - Two cops in a resort town in New Jersey investigate a murder and kidnapping in this police procedural with touches of humor.

Relics - Mary Anna Evans - Faye Longchamp finds violence and suspicion on her first archeological dig in Alabama.

Now You See Her - Cecelia Tishy - Psychic Regina Cutter consults on a cold case in Boston, and events snowball out of control.

Next Man Up - John Feinstein - A year behind the lines with the Baltimore Ravens football team. One of the best books of the year.

Marley & Me - John Grogan - Story of Grogan, a journalist, and his life with the "world's worst dog," a yellow Lab.

Riding Gain - Joyce Krieg - When a former intern at the radio station in Sacramento is murdered, talk show host Shauna J. Bogart investigates.

Dig - C.R. Corwin - A newspaper librarian in Ohio links the murder of an old friend with the fifty-year-old murder of a college wrestler.

The Cipher Garden - Martin Edwards - In England, a historian and a cop look into the cold case of a gardener murdered on the job.

Delete All Suspects - Donna Andrews - Turing Hopper, an AIP, and her team check out a computer business when its owner is the victim of a hit-and-run.

Now You See Me...:A Novel of Suspense - Rochelle Krich - True crime writer Molly Blume reluctantly searches for a teenage runaway who is an Orthodox Jew.

Now You See Me...

Rochelle Krich has written her strongest novel to date with Now You See Me...Molly Blume, true crime writer and freelance reporter is drawn into the world of teen angst when she reluctantly agrees to search for a missing teen.

Hadassah Bailor is an eighteen-year-old who ran away with a man she met in an Orthodox Jewish chat room. When Hadassah's uncle begs Molly to look for her, she agrees despite her past history with Rabbi Bailor, Hadassah's father. Molly finds more than a story behind one runaway girl. She uncovers a world of desperate teens crying out for help, through chat rooms, theft of tests and term papers, teen suicides and cutting themselves.

Hadassah herself reveals some of that story as she tells of her loneliness. She felt that people really didn't see her, so maybe she wasn't real. She knew three other teens who had died from her class. She was desperate for approval from her parents, so she transferred schools and chose a career her parents would approve. Through a chat room, she could reach out to someone who would notice her.

As Molly tries to keep the Bailor family secrets, she risks alienating a friend from the police force. Molly may have to join forces with Jessie Drake, a police detective in another precinct, to save people endangered by the truth.

Rochelle Krich's website is www.rochellekrich.com.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Cipher Garden by Martin Edwards

"That was Warren Howe's epitaph. He dug his own grave." Howe, a gardener, was found killed by his own scythe in a hole he had dug on a job. No one except his family seemed sorry to see him go. He was a womanizer who slept with half the women in the small village of Old Sawrey in England's Lake District. When DCI Hannah Scarlett, head of the local Cold Case Review Team, wants to reopen the case years later, even her own sergeant accuses her of putting the villagers through "ordeal by innocence," forcing them to relive their pasts.

As Hannah tries to unravel the lies and stories, historian Daniel Kind has a mystery of his own. What is the puzzle behind his unusual garden? Why did earlier owners die on the same day, one year after their son's untimely death? Kind, the son of a policeman, has a need to know the answer to the puzzle. He turns to garden designer Peter Flint, whose previous business partner was Warren Howe. Soon Scarlett and Kind, along with Howe's daughter, Kirsty, are uncovering the village's dirty little secrets.

Edwards' story describes the gardens and the Lake District beautifully. The English village setting is perfect for this puzzling mystery. The Cipher Garden is an intriguing, twisted play on an ancient Greek story. It's a welcome sequel to The Coffin Trail.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Bookbitch

Stacy Alesi, the Bookbitch, is the owner of the website, www.bookbitch.com, where I review books weekly. She lives on the east coast of Florida, and the site might not be updated for a short time because much of the east coast is without electricity, due to Hurricane Wilma. I was appalled to read that as of Oct. 26, Florida Power & Light said they should have Broward and Dade County up again by Nov. 22, two days before Thanksgiving. I can't imagine being without electricity for four weeks.

Here was Stacy's response to my question as to how she was.

I'm fine, my house - not so fine. Lost half my roof,
screened patio is no longer screened, roof gone off
the side patio, my yard is in shambles with trees &
debris higher than my head, basketball hoop snapped in
half and blew away and the pole was filled with
cement, mailbox gone, cars a bit scratched up. No
electricity - I'm using my husband's laptop at the
moment which is plugged into a car battery. On the
bright side, the weather is gorgeous, 50's at night &
low 70s during the day so at least it's comfortable.
Hope to get power back soon and gas is impossible to
buy so we are trapped at home. I won't be able to
update the site until I get my computer back which
means electricity. We got hit much worse than the west
coast - go figure.

Thanks for asking!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Dig

Dig is the second Morgue Mama mystery by C.R. Corwin, and it's even better than the first one. Maddy Sprowls is "Morgue Mama," a feisty 68 year old librarian at The Hannawa Herald-Union, a newspaper in Ohio. Maddy's own history comes back to haunt her in this latest story.

Fifty years earlier, Maddy was a college student and a member of the Meriwether Square Baked Bean Existentialist Society. She's let go of her past as a bohemian, and she no longer attends the annual dinners to remember the visit of Jack Kerouac. But all of that comes back when Gordon Sweet, a college friend is murdered. Gordon, an archeologist, was leading a dig at the local dump. Was he also digging up the past? Is there a connection with the murder of a college wrestler fifty years earlier?

Maddy is a research librarian, skilled at digging out the facts and digging out people's memories. She's an admirable amateur detective.

On a personal note, it was fun to read a mystery set in Ohio that referred to Sandusky and the washing machine plant in Clyde. That's Whirlpool, where Jim and my Uncle Bob worked.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Marsh Madness

For personal reasons, Christine McCreedy, owner of www.christinesbooklist.com, will be discontinuing that web site. For a few months, I had book reviews posted on her site. The following review was posted in June 2005.

Marsh Madness by Caroline Cousins

If you like small Southern communities where everyone is either related or knows each other, historic plantations, gossipy characters and mystery, Caroline Cousins is the author for you. Or I should say authors. Caroline Cousins is actually three women, Nancy Pate, and her "one-and-a-half times" cousins-sisters Meg Herndon and Gail Greer. (Their mothers are sisters, and their fathers are full cousins.) They use the same cousin-sisters situation for their book's main characters.

In Marsh Madness, Lindsey, who is temporarily living on Indigo Island in the South Carolina Low Country, acts as manager of Pinckney Plantation. Lindsey's cousin, Margaret Ann, is coordinating a large wedding at Pinckney, with the help of her sister, Bonnie, and Lindsey. None of them need a murder before the wedding, a bridesmaid diva hiding from a stalker, and meth problems on the island.

Marsh Madness has two strengths. The setting is beautifully done. The reader can easily fit themselves into the southern atmosphere and lifestyle of Indigo Island. Plantations and weddings, storms and alligators bring the island to life.

Cousins also does a wonderful job with humor. Marsh Madness is a fast-paced funny story, which will keep the reader racing toward the end. The cousins continue to find themselves in situations which lend to the humor in the story. The wedding preparation itself adds to the humor. There's everything from "Pinckney purple" dresses to goldfish carried by the attendants. Cousins places the characters in situations which become funny. If you're looking for enjoyable characters, and a great deal of humor, try the mysteries of Caroline Cousins. Witty storytelling definitely fits with the southern atmosphere.

Marsh Madness can be a confusing story, if you have a hard time keeping all the characters straight. There are a large number of people to remember because the three cousins know everyone on the island, and there are multiple crimes. It's an inviting atmospheric mystery, though, so it's worth sticking with the characters. Marsh Madness is the second mystery by Cousins. It's as fun and frantic as three whirlwind cousins hurling towards a wedding and disaster.

Eye of the Wolf

Christine McCreedy, owner of the website www.christinesbooklist.com, will be discontinuing it for personal reasons. For a few months, I did book reviews on her site. The following book review for Eye of the Wolf was done in July 2005.

Eye of the Wolf is Margaret Coel's eleventh mystery set on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. Once again, it features Father John O'Malley, a Jesuit priest, and Vickie Holden, a lawyer and Arapaho Indian. Despite their attraction for each other, the two understand their need to deny that attraction. However, case after case draws them together because, as Father O'Malley realized, "people confided in them, and they kept confidences."

In 1874, at Bates Battlefield, Shoshones brought white troops into an Arapaho village, and almost wiped out the trible. For 130 years, the two tribes have lived in uneasy peace on the same reservation. When Father O'Malley receives a myserious phone call which leads to posed bodies on the battlefield, he realizes someone is trying to disturb the long-standing peace. When the bodies are discovered to be Shoshones, attention is focused on one of Vickie's clients. He is an Arapaho. Are the Arapahos out for revenge after all these years? Once again, Coel uses the history of the Wyoming tribes to bring present-day problems to light. The environment and current reservation conditions and life are always part of her stories. She shows respect for the Arapaho tribe, their legends and history. One of the elders referred to Father O'Malley's phone call as, "an untrue voice, an evil spirit wanting to stir up trouble and bring us more death." Whether it's a massacre in 1874, or murder in 2005, Margaret Coel's books reflect what Father O'Malley calls, "the endless changability of evil."

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Marley & Me

John Grogan's book is subtitled, "Life and love with the world's worst dog." Prepare yourself for funny adventures and a tearjerker of an ending. As young newlyweds in south Florida, Grogan and his wife decided to find a puppy to prepare themselves for parenthood. They fell in love with a yellow lab they named Marley, but were horrified when they finally saw his father, who may have been a descendent of the Hound of the Baskervilles. Their little lab was easily housebroken, but he was never broken of his fear of thunderstorms, during which he'd destroy a room, wood and all. He was destructive, hyperactive and flunked obedience training. Grogan was horrified to read Barbara Woodhouse in "No Bad Dogs" when she said, "Some dogs are just mentally unstable." He knew she was describing Marley.

He grew to be almost one hundred pounds, a gentle giant who loved the entire Grogan family, including the three children who came along. And, by the time of Marley's death as an old dog, he had a family that adored him, hyperactivity and all. Grogan said, "He might well have been the world's worst behaved dog. Yet he intuitively grasped from the start what it meant to be man's best friend." After Marley's death, the family mourned. Finally, Grogan was able to write about Marley in his column in the Philadelphia Inquirer. He summed up his life with Marley. "Like any relationship, this one had its costs. They were costs we came to accept and balance against the joy and amusement and protection and companionship he gave us." A perfect summary of any relationship.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Next Man Up

Next Man Up is the latest book by bestselling sportswriter John Feinstein. Subtitled, "A Year Behind the Lines in Today's NFL," it's actually one season with the Baltimore Ravens. Feinstein is such a great sportswriter that I found myself cheering for the Ravens while I read this, despite the fact that I was raised in Cleveland Browns territory.

Feinstein was allowed complete access to the team for the 2004 season. He covered Jamel Lewis' problems with the law, the first year for new owner Steve Bisciotti, and the movement into the new facilities. For me, as a former Ft. Myers resident, he even made Deion Sanders likeable. Each coach, staff member and team member had their place in the story of the year. A brief biography was presented as the name came up, so the reader could understand the background, and how the person fit into the team. No one person became the focus of the book. It was a year in the life of the team, and how individuals came together to form that team.

This is another outstanding effort by one of our best sportswriters.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Now You See Her

Cecelia Tishy, author of the Nashville-bashed Kate Banning series, has started a new series based in Boston. If her new character, Regina "Reggie" Cutter, hadn't attracted my attention immediately, I would have been really mad at some of her actions. Some months ago, someone referred to female characters as "TSTL, Too Stupid To Live." Reggie took too many chances, and went too many dangerous places on her own. But, she's a likeable character, and she was compelled to find answers to try to save a man unjustly found guilty of murder.

Reggie is starting a new life after divorce, living in her aunt's house, and taking over her aunt's job as psychic consultant to the Bostson Police Dept. When a detective brings her a thirteen year old case, he tells her of a young man in prison who might not have killed a politician's son. Reggie travels to bad neighborhoods and interviews powerful people in order to discover the truth behind his death. Her psychic ability might point to the past, but it can't predict her future danger.

Despite her risk-taking, Reggie is a smart woman trying to make it on her own, and she's a likeable addition to the mystery field.

Relics

Mary Anna Evans' second mystery, Relics, is even better than Artificacts. She's taken Faye Longchamp and Joe Wolf Mantooth out of Florida for the first time. Even though Faye is still in school working on her degree, she's the supervising archeologist on a fascinating project in Alabama. An entire scientific crew has been put together to study the Sujosa, an isolated group of people who have lived in Alabama for centuries. No one has looked into their background until a local doctor discovered that they don't get the AIDS virus.

Faye is meant to work on a dig to find out more about the Sujosa culture, but with the death of Carmen, the oral historian in a house fire, Faye finds herself digging into the current life of the people, as well as Carmen's stories. Suspicion about the fire leads to more death, and soon Faye and the Sujosa way of life are both threatened.

With the second book, Mary Anna was able to reveal more about Faye and Joe Wolf. They both continue to grow and develop as characters. Faye's career as an archeologist opens a number of opportunities for the series. I'll be waiting for the third book.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Tilt A Whirl

In Tilt A Whirl, Chris Grabenstein introduces one of the best sidekick/narrators since Rex Stout's Archie Goodwin. Danny Boyle grew up in Sea Haven, New Jersey, a touristy resort town. Now, at 24, he's a part time summer cop, who helps the police during tourist season. This summer, he's assigned as driver and assistant to John Ceepak.

Ceepak, who took the job working for an old army buddy who is the police chief, is a former MP who spent thirteen years in the Army, including time served in Iraq. The other cops are amused by his interest in forensic and educational cop shows and his "Code." Ceepak "will not lie, steal, or cheat, nor tolerate those who do."

Sunnyside Playland, a small amusement park, is the scene of a brutal slaying when local billionaire Reginald Hart is shot to death after sneaking onto the Tilt-A-Whirl ride with his daughter, Ashley. When Ashley runs screaming down the street, it's Ceepak and Boyle who respond to her appearance in the street in her bloodstained dress. Everything seems to unfold logically for the two men as their witness leads them to a homeless man who resents Hart as a slumlord. However, an ex-wife, a lawyer, the Dominican Mafia and a kidnapping seem to point to more than a simple shooting.

As Danny observes his partner's investigation of the crimes, he begins to admire and trust him. That makes it all the more disturbing when Ceepak appears to violate his code. Danny's relationship with his partner has changed, and his mentor seems to have deceived him.

Danny Boyle's story of the Tilt-A-Whirl crime comes alive through his unique voice. He grows as a narrator as he relates a story of murder and deception. Grabenstein has written one of the best first mysteries of the year.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Carl Brookins

This was too good to pass up. Mystery writer Carl Brookins wrote this to DorothyL today.

Subject: Readers and Libraries

Dear list members:
I love libraries. I love librarians. Librarians buy my books and talk
about them. Librarians circulate my books to patrons. Some patrons
even
then go out and buy my books. Tell me you are on the waiting lists for
my
books at your local library, I will embrace you.
Librarians rule!
Carl Brookins
Carlbrookins@comcast.net
http://www.carlbrookins.com
A Superior Mystery
Old Silver
The Case of the Greedy Lawyers, Sept. 2005

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The City of Falling Angels

It must be difficult to write a book following the success of one that remained on the bestseller lists for four years. John Berendt, author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, moves to Venice, Italy in The City of Falling Angels. However, Venice does not come to life as Savannah did in the previous book.

On Jan. 29, 1996, the Fenice Opera House in Venice burned down. Was it negligence, arson, an accident that caused the fire? Everyone in Venice has an opinion. Berendt searches out the people who witnessed or were affected by the fire in order to find a focal point for his story. The city is populated with fascinating characters, but neither the fire nor the characters carry this story forward. By the time the reader finishes, there's little more interest in the city or the people of the city.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Books read in Sept. 2005

Here are the books I read during September.

Sacred Cows - Karen Olson - A journalist is called off an investigation that threatens New Haven insitutions such as Yale and the newspaper itself.

Small Gods - Terry Pratchett - In DiscWorld, a young novice hears the voice of a god.

The Old Buzzard Had It Coming - Donis Casey - In 1912 Oklahoma, anyone might have wanted to murder Harley Day, but Alafair Tucker wants to clear his son and her daughter of suspicion.

Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading - Maureen Corrigan - NPR's Fresh Air book critic on life as an obsessive reader.

Straight Into Darkness - Faye Kellerman - Homicide Inspector Axel Beck looks for a serial killer of women in 1920s Munich, while having to cope with the poltical unrest.

Bait and Switch - Barbara Ehrenreich - The author tries to get a white collar job, spends time with career gurus and in workshops, and fails to get a job.

Talking Back...To Presidents, Dictators, and Assorted Scoundrels - Andrea Mitchell - Life and career of the political journalist.

The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette - Carolly Erickson - Novel in which Marie Antoinette keeps a journal of her life from age 14 to her death.

Awaken Me Darkly - Gena Showalter - A woman who hunts aliens who are criminals on earth, falls for an alien.

Solomon vs. Lord - Paul Levine - While lawyers Steve Solomon & Victoria Lord are fighting and working together, they're fighting their mutual attraction.

School Days - Robert B. Parker - Spenser investigates a school shooting.