Sunday, March 30, 2014



This is a realistic mystery that makes the reader seem close to the action.

Doc Ford is a marine biologist and his friend, Tomlinson is contacted by a man of the Crow Indian nation. The man is trying to locate lost artifacts that belonged to his tribe.

As Doc begins helping, he's put in contact with a man named Mick who is a guide and knows about diving and artifacts. Their search leads to an area known for people involved in black market activities and deal with illegal artifacts and fossils.

They travel to land owned by the Albright family whose family collected artifacts. Their land also includes an elephant rescue section. Members of this family have been doing things behind Mr. Albright's back this adds to the suspense and makes him a sympathetic character.

Albright places his trust in Doc and since Doc is a marine biologist, he asks him to analyze some of the water by his property.

There is a murder and realistic dialogue as the story continues. One of the highlights of Randy Wayne White's writing is his descriptions of the land and businesses in the Sanibel, Captiva Island area in Florida.

I enjoyed the story and found it even more interesting since I was vacationing in Sanibel as I read it. It was as if I was learning about the action from the daily newspapers.

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4. US only
5. Giveaway ends April 18th.

This is for an advanced review copy

Thursday, March 27, 2014

An eye opener

Fans of fast action mysteries will know this story is a winner right from the start.

"Oak" O'Clair is a former Detroit Homicide Detective who retires and buys a motel in Florida. One day he finds the body of a dead woman with her eyes cut out. Someone left the body on the beach outside of O'Clair's hotel. The local detective assigned to the case isn't experienced in homicides and asks O'Clair to help in the investigation.

O'Clair remembers a murder case in Detroit where the killer also cut out the victim's eyes and wonders about the connection. When he finds his housekeeper killed in the same manner, it is too much of a coincidence. He asks the local detective, Holland, to provide security for his girlfriend, Virginia, and returns to Detroit to look at the old case.

He teams up with the detective who he had worked with before and begins examining the facts. The killer picked prostitutes to kill and cut out there eyes. Oak feels that he may have moved too quickly to find that killer and perhaps the wrong man is in jail.

The action is at super speed and the tension intense as the killer taunts O'Clair and seeks a new victim.

There is some action that is confusing about the suspected killer. However, the drama was excellent and O'Clair and his girlfriend, Virginia are very well portrayed characters who the reader will cheer for their success. The antagonist is also well described and we hope that O'Clair can catch the killer before he can kill again.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


Chief Inspector Gamache of the Surete is asked to come to Three Pines. His friend, Myrna, tells him that a friend was supposed to return to her home in Three Pines but hasn't showed up. Since her friend, Constance, is elderly, Myrna asks for Gamache's help.

Gamache finds the woman, murdered at her home in Montreal.

So far, this is a basic mystery story but Louise Penny separates herself from most other mystery writers with her intricate plotting, vivid character portrayals and intense suspense.

Gamache's rival in the Surete is Chief Superintendent Francoeur who is plotting something against Gamache. He dismantled Gamache's well thought of homicide squad and Gamache knows that Francoeur is planning something illegal.  Gamache must solve Constance's murder and stop Francoeur in whatever plot he's concating.

Constance's murder takes on a much larger importance when we learn that she is one of the famous Oulette Quintuplets. She was the last living Quint and kept her identity a secret. We learn more of the history and fame of the Qulette Quints as Gamache searches for a motive for Constance's murder.

The theme of good vs. evil is well detailed as we see the kindness and generosity of Gamache. He shows a fatherly love for a man he has mentored, Jean-Guy Beauvoir.  On the other side of the coin is Chief Superintendent Francoeur who seems to want nothing more than supreme power and riches. On top of that, he wants to have Gamache blamed for whatever crime he's hatched.

The town of Three Pines is filled with love and good camaraderie. It reminded me of Brigadoon in that Three Pines is separated from the rest of the world by high mountains and has no internet access.

As I read this excellent story, I nodded my head at the intelligence of the Edgar Award nominating committee who selected this book as a nominee for the 2013 Edgar Award for best mystery novel of the year.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Breath catching

This fast moving story will appeal to readers who enjoy gutsy women. The writing is catching and suspenseful.

Investigative reporter Maxine "Max" Revere travels to her home outside of San Francisco for the funeral of a childhood friend. Kevin committed suicide but left her  a note that he's not guilty of their friend Lindy's murder and would Max look into the facts.

At the airport, an elderly couple recognize her from her TV show and ask her to look into the murder of their grandson, Jason,  who was killed recently.

Max is a modern woman and after looking into the facts, is fiercely determined to solve  Jason's murder. She also examines the killing that Kevin was charged with. Lindy was a childhood friend and when Kevin was tried thirteen years before, Max was one of the few people who took the stand in his defense.

There are obstacles in her path. One detective who investigated Lindy's murder has a dislike of her and does whatever he can to hinder her investigation.

Max shows good instinct and bravery. She doesn't run from threats and continues on the case of finding the killer of two people, both of which are beginning to have similarities. Part of her determination might come from the fact that her mother abandoned her and when she was going to inherit money from her great-grandmother, members of her family tried to fight against her getting her inheritance.

This is an excellent story showing a woman's belief in herself and her ability to get answers to a mystery. She carries the readers on the trail of both murders, never doubting that she will succeed in her quest to find the killer.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Devil or Angel

My first thought in seeing the title of Nevada Barr's latest novel was that it might have a religious context.

Far from it. The story tells of two women and their daughters who were starting a canoeing and camping trip in upper Minnesota. Lucky for them, park ranger, Anna Pigeon was also on the trip.

Fortunately, Anna wasn't in camp when four gangsters kidnapped the women. The kidnappers plan is to get the women to a landing site not far away. This way they can be picked up by an airplane and proceed with getting a ransom payment. However, one of the women is a paraplegic and the leader of the gang is ready to kill her rather than go through the trouble to get her to the landing site when one of the women's daughters tells them that the woman's family has lots of money and it would be worth their while to kidnap her too.

Of the four women, one adult is a paraplegic and the other adult is the brains behind a company who has designed a wheelchair that can be used in a wilderness setting. They are accompanied by their daughters. The hoodlums had been told that there would be another woman in their group but when asked, the other women tell them that the other member of the planned group changed her mind.

Anna is late getting to the camp and sees what has transpired. She observes the plight of the women and although she is unarmed, she is like a Rambo character in that she goes up against four hoods without a weapon.

The leader of the group uses his cell phone to tell the person who will pay them that the women are captured and to send the plane.

Anna's survival skills are first manifested as she braves the cold and awaits her opportunity to get the best of the criminals. The women have to endure many things such as the sexual advances of one of the men, the hard terrain and the physical abuse of the men. They must also overcome the wilderness. Cries that might be from wolves or a dog the men injured and left for dead, are enough to unhinge one of their members who was a city dweller and afraid of what he might find in the woods.

Nevada Barr has brought her readers, Anna Pigeon, a woman who can survive in a world where men are unscrupulous and avaricious. Anna is smart, brave, and willing to do what it takes to save her friends.

As Anna follows her friends, awaiting an opportunity to save them, she speaks to the dog she has rescued. In this, she is like literature's Inspector Ian Rutledge who speaks to the ghost of his deceased friend Hamish.

Readers will enjoy the story and the character build up where we see the motivation of the criminals and the bravery of the women. However, I did have difficulty imagining a wheelchair bound woman traveling over rocky trails and crossing icy waters.

The author did a good job in telling the story from different points of view. We get Anna's thoughts and actions and also those of the leader of the gang and from the designer of the wilderness wheelchair. These points of view allows the reader to see the story unfold as if we were on the scene.

          This is for an advanced review readers copy

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Vietnam Memoir

This is a powerful story that relates the author's experiences in Vietnam. He entered the Marines at age eighteen, leaving behind a girl he loved and who would bear his child, he arrived in Vietnam prior to the Tet Offensive.

I was also in the military at that time. My branch of service was with the U.S. Air Force but I could certainly relate to the happenings during war.

The descriptions of Marines in action are very real. Of course, it is a memoir but I consider that these were men at the same age as I was at that time.  I found the battle scenes intense and dramatic. I also enjoyed the descriptions of the locations where Jack Estes served in Vietnam.

There were some action events that were so severe that I had to pause and take a breath. More than one Marine yelled "I'm hit," and one badly wounded Marine yelled "...kill me." I could only imagine his terrible pain.

This is a memoir that people who were in service during Vietnam would read and be reminded of what went on during the war. I enjoyed when Jack read in "Stars and Stripes" about Jane Fonda communicating with members  the North Vietnamese Army. and wondered how this must have made soldiers and Marines in the field feel they had been betrayed.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Entertaining and Intriguing

This author writes a very suspenseful story and I was happy when I received an advanced copy in return for my honest review.

The story opens with a mysterious woman, Salomme, dealing with a man who ran South Africa's nuclear program. He stole some of the nuclear weapons but her mission with him is unclear.

John Wells is a well liked CIA operative who shows that he is human in that he admits to putting on weight and that he isn't as fast as he used to be. He thinks of asking for an assignment with the CIA training center where there would be less travel and danger.

Wells asks his girlfriend Anne to marry him but she feels that she wants a family and for him to be there to help raise the children. With him traveling all around the world on his missions he'd be an absentee father. She tells him that if he wants her to marry him, he'd have to resign from his job and gives him 30 days to decide.

Meanwhile, a CIA case worker, Glen Mason, a high riser in the agency, gets fired for his gambling problem and from a run in with another agent. He's contacted by Salome who offers him a job. She tells him that the pay is good and her company works with industrial espionage and assassinations.

The CIA gets a tip that there is a hit on for one of their station chiefs and Wells is assigned to find out who set it up and to stop them.

I enjoyed the story and the descriptions of Wells's travel to exotic places like Istanbul, Hong Kong and Guatemala. There was good development in Wells's character but we don't learn a lot about the backgrounds or motivations of the other characters except for Mason.

There was a good conclusion and some unanswered questions that leave room for a sequel.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Standing tall

Former detective John Rebus is brought back from retirement to work on cold cases. He doesn't like his stuffy boss and continues his reputation as a loner and not a team player.

A woman comes to his office and requests his help in looking into the case of her daughter's disappearance. Her daughter, Sarah, was sixteen when she disappeared twelve years ago.

He doesn't hold out much hope but tells her he'll look into it. When he does, he sees the cases of other missing girls and the cases have enough in common to make him think that a serial killer might be at work. He brings this info to his old friend, Siobhan Clark who is now a deputy inspector. She's glad to see him and it appears as if he was her mentor.

As a side story, there is an officer from Internal Affairs who has been after Rebus but now that Rebus is in a civilian capacity he can't be touched by Internal Affairs. This man knows that Rebus is friends with a gangster and is afraid that he might be passing privileged information.

Rebus goes to the northern section of Scotland and learns more of the missing girls. When a new girl goes missing, the case get an added boost in the urgency to solve the crimes. Rebus shows great determination as he travels long distances to investigate. As he does, he discusses the case with his Saab, in the same manner that Charles Todd's character, Ian Rutledge talks to the ghost of his friend, Hamish.

The most engaging part of the story is Rebus's smooth narrative when discussing the developments in the case and how officers like Clark can help. He also has a good report with Nina Hazlet the mother of the first victim.

As a story of a serial killer, this story is engrossing. There are some surprises and roadblocks that Rebus must overcome but his persistence pays off. There are good descriptions of the Scottish countryside and the life around a main highway that was the setting of a number of the young girls abductions.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Seeking Justice

One of the best books I've read this year and an award winner. This tells the story of a boy about to enter manhood. One moment his life was carefree and then tragedy strikes.

The story is narrated by Joe, a thirteen-year-old boy and the setting is North Dakota and the Ojibwe Indian reservation.

Joe is with his father, tribal judge Bazil Coutts, when his mother fails to return home at dinner time. The two become worried at this change in Geraldine's behavior and begin a search. When they spot her on the road, racing home in her car, they follow. They learn that she has been raped and beaten. She doesn't want to discuss the attack and Bazil seems unable to help.

Later, as a judge, Bazil brings home some of his case files to see if he can determine who his wife's attacker might be. In this, we learn some of the dealings of the tribal nation and some dealings between Indians and whites. However, Joe sees a lack of progress in finding his mother's attacker. She has become a recluse and Joe wants his mother back, the way things were.

Joe overhears his father talking to an FBI agent and it seems as if there is difficulty in progress with a crime that took place on the reservation. Joe gets more support from his friends, Cappy, Zack and Angus. They decide to investigate. Their search brings them to the Round House, a special place for worship for tribal members.

There is good detail about Indian life and the difficulty in dealing with whites when seeking justice.

The prose is outstanding as is the character development. We get to know Joe and Cappy in particular and get a feel about what friendship means to them. The characters are unique and people who we really want to learn more about.

Joe becomes a man in the story, learning about life and in dealing with non-tribal people. There is also an element of spirituality as Joe deals with a priest to learn about justice and his dilemma in seeking revenge against the attacker. Joe's grandfather is an ancient man who relates things about Indian history to Joe, with a description of characters from Indian folk lore and what their stories mean.

As the author, Louise Erdrich, is a member of the Ojibwe Indian nation, it is as if she is telling the reader about her family and relating the stories she learned at the powwows she had attended.

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