Thursday, October 30, 2014

A woman's experiences as a Civil War soldier

In Flat Creek, New York, feelings of patriotism filled the land in 1862.

Young Rosetta Edwards falls in love with Jeremy Wakefield. They discuss his enlisting in the army as a way to save for their own farm. Being a younger son, he knows that the family farm will go to the eldest son.

Once Jeremy enlists and leaves for military training, Rosetta feels alone. Her love for Jeremy is intense and after she learns that she has even been replaced in her own family, she makes a decision. She used to milk the cows and help at her parent's farm but her father hired someone to help with the farm after her marriage.

With this rejection, brave and impetuous Rosetta, cuts her hair, binds her chest and dresses as a man. Then she follows Jeremy to Utica, New York and enlists as Ross Stone. She claims to be Jeremy's cousin so they are placed in the same company.

Jeremy is torn in what to do and wants to keep his wife from danger but Rosetta shows her courage and disagrees with him. Then she travels to war with Jeremy and the other soldiers.

In a letter to her parents she uses a Bible verse to state that as they say in the Bible, a wife should cling to her husband.

It is heart wrenching to see the love between the two and what they must do to avoid detection. Of course, some of Jeremy's friends knew Rosetta at home but they form a protective band around her.

Problems arise and some are handled with humor such as when the soldiers decide to go for an impromptu swim. They undress to their skivvies and jump in the water. Rosetta must think of a reason why she isn't joining the fun.

The story is told from Rosetta's point of view and becomes more intense when she visits a military hospital and sees what war can do to the severely wounded men. She also had to deal with men in battle when some of Jeremy's old friends thought she was a distraction.

This was a well told story, good characters and vivid descriptions of the scenes. It was still a bit hard to see Rosetta/Ross fooling so many people, many who were gruff and supporting beards.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

An Unwilling Accomplice in WWI

The novel opens with battlefield nurse Bess Crawford summoned to the war department in London. She is ordered to escort a wounded soldier to Buckingham Palace to be decorated by King George.

A day after the ceremony, the soldier, Sgt. Jason Wilkins disappears. Bess is questioned about his disappearance and accused of dereliction of duty in permitting him to go AWOL.

What follows is Bess's efforts along with her friend, Simon Brandon, to search the English countryside and locate the missing soldier and thus, to clear Bess's name.

Through the eyes of Bess, we view the English landscape and observe many of the victims of WWI, both military and civilian.

One of Bess's friends sums up the true cost of the war. "I think the greatest cost of the war is in lost friends...All the young men I've danced with...played tennis with and dallied with, are gone."

In the midst of the story Bess and Simon come upon a town where a wealthy woman is caring for a wounded officer. Thinking that it might turn out to be Sgt. Wilkins, they question the woman. In this case there is a head wound. It isn't Wilkins but we observe another casualty. The soldier has a head wound that causes moments of irrational behavior.

This was an easy read where I could imagine the countryside and what Bess and Simon were going through. I was a bit confused with the conclusion but overall enjoyed the story.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Beware of this serial killer

In this psychological thriller, the Rose Killer is imitating the murders that were committed by a prior killer 30 years ago. The killer not only murders their victims but slices parts of their skin to take as souvenirs.

Detective D.D. Warren is investigating along with her partner Phil and her husband, criminalist, Alex.

The killer who is being imitated is Shana Day who has been jailed in a Massachusetts Criminal facility for thirty years.

Dr. Adeline Glen is Shana's sister. Adeline has a rare genetic condition that makes her unable to feel pain.  She is a psychiatrist and becomes D.D.'s pain therapist after D.D. is pushed down a flight of stairs by a criminal she didn't see.

The story is told from the point of view of D.D. and that of Adeline. With every other chapter told by the other character.

The characters are intense and through a maze of twists and surprises Adeline, Shana and D.D. communicate. The reader is swept up with the suspense. Shana is the leading suspect but how could she commit crimes while locked up? Is there a copycat killer?

This edge of seat novel will have the reader gasping for breath as the suspense mounts in an explosive conclusion.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Texas in my rear view mirror

"To Hell and Gone in Texas" opens with a bang. Texas law officials are viewing the bodies of three men who were murdered and decapitated. They suspect drug gang activity.

Al Quinn has retired from his detective work in Travis County, near Austin. His philosophy changed after his partner was killed during a call where he and Al felt that a woman's life was in danger so they couldn't wait for the SWAT team and the deranged man killed Al's partner.

Al has a home by the water and enjoys fishing but gets a call from one of his friends on the job. Al's brother is in the hospital, someone tried to kill him.

Al and his brother haven't spoken in years but Al goes to the hospital and soon learns that his brother, Maury, could be the target of a drug gang seemingly at war to eliminate the competition.

ICE, Immigration Customs Enforcement, is pitted against a drug cartel and Maury is in the middle of the conflict.

Although there is a split between the brothers, Al continues to investigate.  There's lots of action but I would have preferred it if the story ended sooner than it did. Everything worked out too easily and there is one segment when multiple characters are thought to have been killed, only to come back into the story.

The author is a good story teller and the novel was a quick and easy read but I enjoy more depth in characters.

Monday, October 20, 2014

"Take my hand, I'm a stranger in Paradise" Song lyrics

Bill Pronzini is an entertainer. Through the entire book, "A Wasteland of Strangers," I had a smile and warm feelings that I was experiencing the lives of a group of characters who had a tale to tell. The book made me think of a modern Peyton Place mixed with a TV soap opera.

A large, brutal looking man arrives at a lakeside village in Northern California. His arrival unleashes the prejudices and sexual fantasies of many of the locals.

John Faith is a quiet man, just looking for a place to be accepted and that he can call home.

Women solicit him,  some men challenge him in order to prove their manhood and a slim few-accept him for what he is.

He's accused of murder, almost accused of being a pedophile and is actually a kind hearted, lonesome man.

I found the story unique and totally engrossing. It is cleverly plotted and each character is well described.

Friday, October 17, 2014

"Lavender blue, dilly dilly" Song lyrics

Get out your shillelagh, sprinkle four leaf clovers around your easy chair and get ready for a dramatic ride to Belfast in the 1980s.

Sean Duffy is a Catholic in the Protestant RCY (Royal Ulster Constabulary). After being forced out of his job because he crossed the wrong people, he's visited by the M 15.

Dermot McCann is an IRZ master bomber and has just escaped from Maze Prison. M 15 believe that since Duffy knew McCann from their school days, he's the best chance they have of catching McCann before he begins his bombing attacks.

As a police officer, Duffy isn't welcome in Belfast but then meets a woman who strikes a deal. She'll give up McCann in return for Duffy's reopening the case to find the killer of the woman's daughter. The daughter died in a questionable manner inside a locked put. Police claim an accident but the woman knows it was murder.

Duffy investigates and we witness poverty stricken Belfast and and police anxiety at what McCann is up to. Time is running short and a major event is approaching. There is to be a Conservative Party Conference in Brighton and Mrs. Thatcher is scheduled to be a speaker. This would be an ideal target for McCann.

The descriptions of life in Northern Ireland is a treat. A locked room mystery and a clock running down as suspense builds is just what the doctor ordered for mystery fans.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Be careful, images can change in the night

Blake Sanders is still recovering from the suicide of his son, Cole, and Blake is working as a volunteer in a suicide prevention center.

After work, he receives a call from his ex-wife, Molly, about remembering to water her plants while she's away. Then she stops the conversation to answer the door. Blake listens as her voice grew to a scream and the call suddenly ended.

He goes to Molly's law firm and learns that they are putting a crisis team together to handle Molly's kidnapping. Blake wonders why she would be the one abducted since she's only a junior partner in a high level firm.

In a side story, former Navy SEAL, Trip Macready is forced to work with a group of terrorists who have kidnapped Molly and are using her to persuade Trip's assistance. He has trained a number of dolphins and the terrorists want Trip to get them to retrieve some cannisters from the sea.

At Molly's firm, the kidnappers call and want Blake to be the person to handle the money drop and he begins to feel that the kidnapping is something personal but he can't think of a reason why.

The author creates a puzzle that has various pieces, we have Blake's involvement with his former wife, Macready's actions with his dolphins, the terrorists and a young soccer player who Blake represented. The young man went overseas and was killed.

The action moves swiftly bouncing from the terrorists to Blake to Macready. Unfortunately we never get to hear what Molly is going through so it is difficult to see Blake's reaction to the kidnappers. He also has a new woman in his life, a Naval intelligence officer.

I enjoyed the book but never developed an emotional connection to the characters. The sympathy a reader should have just wasn't there for me. I haven't read the author's two prior adventures with Blake Sanders and feel that there was probably more of a connection there. In starting with the third book in the Blake Sanders' series, I must have missed some of the connections.

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Deon Meyer