Thursday, February 27, 2014

A trial

Sam Madison returns home from teaching one of his classes and finds his wife, Sandrine, dead from an apparent suicide. She had been depressed since being diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease.

When police begin investigating, they find Sam's passive attitude puzzling and eventually believe that this was a murder disguised as suicide. Sam is arrested. Sam shows little reaction and the reader wonders if he might be guilty after all.

Sam narrates the events of his trial. We don't read about the testimony, only Sam's reaction to what is said.  Sometimes his mind wanders and his attorney has to remind him to pay attention. When he is questioned, being a professor of English, he often answers with a quote from a novel or something of the sort. When a detective states that Sandrine was working on a book on Cleopatra who was Egyptian. Sam responds that Cleopatra was Greek and no more Egyptian than Elizabeth Taylor.

As a mystery, this book didn't keep me interested. There was never a time that I felt I couldn't wait to get back to the story. We know from the start that Sandrine is dead and only have to decide if Sam had a hand in her death. He didn't seem to care how the court case came out and neither did I. The pace crawled and Sam is an unlikable character.

His attorney, Morty, is one of the better characters and has a flair about him when cross examining the witnesses. He has to remind Sam how to act as a man on trial but Sam is so passive that the reader becomes  unempathetic.

I enjoy Thomas Cook as a writer and felt that his literary style was good, he had a hard job in trying to make an unlikable character someone that the reader would like to know more about. I also felt that the conclusion didn't save the novel, even though the book has been nominated for an Edgar Award for the best mystery novel of 2013.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Suspenseful and intense

I've been a fan of Michael Connelly for years and with "The Gods of Guilt" the reader sees one more demonstration of Michael Connelly's talent and story telling ability.

The Lincoln Lawyer, Mickey Haller gets a call about a murder and discovers that the victim was a prostitute who he had helped in the past. He thought he had helped her change her life. He feels let down and learns that the man accused of killing the prostitute, Gloria Dayton, had been referred to Mickey from Gloria. She told him that if was ever in a jam, Haller was the best.

Mickey learns that Gloria had been a DEA informant and when Mickey receives a subpoena he becomes aware that Gloria might have been dealing with a crocked DEA agent who may have used her to set up a drug dealer so the man got a longer sentence. Since Gloria had knowledge of the case against the drug dealer, Mickey thinks that may have led to her murder and by linking the two cases, Mickey might free two men who were set up.

As Mickey and his team is investigating the situation where Gloria set up the drug dealer, he isn't aware that he is placing himself and his staff in danger.

Connelly draws his characters with finesse, giving enough background for the reader to become interested in the character and in seeing their lives as real figures not just names on a page.

Mickey isn't perfect and this gives the reader a reason to be in his corner and pull for him. One of his failures is that sometimes he treats other characters in a disdainful manner. He is a bottom line person who looks at the final results and sometimes misses being a better man.

The courtroom scenes are well portrayed and realistic. I also enjoyed the conclusion and know that if I ever was in need of an attorney, I'd like to have Mickey Haller in my corner.

Thursday, February 20, 2014


This masterpiece is filled with unexpected turns and touching moments. Penn Cage, mayor of Natchez, Mississippi, learns that his father, a beloved doctor, is about to be arrested for physician assisted suicide. The case involves Dr. Tom Cage's former nurse, Viola, an African-American.

Penn is a former prosecutor and wants to help his father but Tom won't talk about it, citing doctor patient confidentiality. A complication arises when an Afro-
American man claims that he is Viola's son and that Dr. Cage is his father.

The story goes back to the 60s when racial tensions in Mississippi were at their peak. The Klu Klux Klan is active but a more violent group splinters off. They call themselves the Double Eagles and one of the first people they murder is a young black man who was sleeping with the daughter of a wealthy member of the group. There is another black man who had been helping the murdered man hide and the Double Eagles set fire to this man's store and what they do to him is difficult to imagine. Dr. Cage's nurse is the sister of one of the men the Double Eagles are after and Cage helps her and the man in a way that places himself in danger.

We read about the power of the anti Negro members and their hatred for those promoting racial equality. There is a great deal of history detailed and we come across such figures as Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy.

Penn Cage narrates the story. He seems secure in his role as Mayor and novelist. However, neither he nor his father realize what that they are up against with the racists who they are trying to prove had something to do with Viola's death and had killed a number of men in the 60s.

This elegant story deals with hope and despair. The author makes the characters come to life, they are not just names on a page but people who the reader gets to know intimately. This is the first book of a planned trilogy and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I received a free copy of this book in return for writing an honest review.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Extrordinary Novel

Frank Drum reminisces about his life when he was thirteen-years-old in Minnesota. It's 1961 and the area is excited about the Minnesota Twins moving to their state and playing baseball in Minnesota.

Frank and his younger brother, Jake, learn that a friend of theirs has died at the railroad tracks. This is a dangerous place where children are warned to stay away from. As the local minister, Frank's father, Nathan, conducts the funeral service and Frank is made aware of some of what the boy's parents were going through. Frank relates that he didn't know it at the time but this summer would bring other deaths, one quite close to him.

Frank's father was in law school prior to WWII but after seeing action in the war, he had no desire to practice law and decided to go into the ministry. There are times that Frank hears his mother wish that Nathan had become an attorney and that she had her fill of being a minister's wife.

The river by the railroad has a large place in the story, the body of an itinerant is found there but it is the third death that shatters Frank's peaceful summer.

Gus is a man who does odd jobs around town and is Frank's father's confidante. He had been in the army with Nathan and they share battlefield memories. Gus could easily be a character in "To Kill a Mockingbird" as the adult who Scout could turn to when confused about what is going on around her. Gus has faults but is a kind of Everyman who has an innate goodness.

The theme of a person's faith and putting oneself in the hands of God is well presented with Ruth, Frank's mother, as the person who has doubts and wishes she got more attention from Nathan and was tired of having to be a model wife.

As the novel evolves, the author's lyrical style is seen with his descriptions of the land, the life of a small town and faith in God.

The novel has been nominated for an Edgar Award for the best mystery novel of 2013.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Tasty mystery with excellent desert


This is a delightful novel with interesting characters and tasty recipes.
Haley Snow is a food critic for a magazine in Key West. She's also busy as the maid of honor for her best friend, Connie. Connie has been close to Haley's family for years and most of Haley's family is coming to Florida for the wedding.

As the story opens, Haley is busy preparing a desert for the wedding. She learns that her stepbrother is also coming to the wedding. Rory is a moody teenager who complains about everything.

At the rehearsal dinner, Rory is bored and wants to visit the city by himself. Haley persuades Rory's mother and step-father to allow him to go. It's spring break so there are many college students in town. Rory is given permission as long as he's home at a reasonable hour.

With Haley busy with wedding preparations for Connie, it seems like everything is going well but Rory doesn't come home. Police are called and Haley joins the search for Rory without success. Further inquiries show that Rory was last seen on a stolen jet ski with a young girl.

The scenic story is set in Key West with Haley living on a houseboat. She enjoys cooking and the author shares some of the recipes of her specialties such as strawberry cream pie with graham cracker crust, and  Spanakopita. Both meals are heartily enjoyed by those lucky enough to taste it.  Enjoying the food and the various restaurants Haley is reviewing lessens the tensions existing with Rory and a development in the marriage of Connie and her fiance.

Haley is a delightful character who is described so well that the reader will think they know her and are at the scene of some of her culinary feasts.

The story moves along nicely with a good mixture of action, scene setting and imaginative food breaks. It is a story the reader will remember

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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

A well done story

This family story opens with two girls, age twelve and six, witness the sudden death of their mother. The girl's names are Easter and Ruby, respectively.  Since their father left the family and relinquished parental rights, the girls are put in a children's home. The possibilities of what will become of these children was an intriguing premise for the book.

The girls seem to have settled in at their temporary home. Most of the children are black and one of Ruby's friends tells her that they will probably be adopted because they are white.

Then, one day while playing kickball, their father appears. He wants to re-establish contact with the girls. He was a former minor league baseball player and left the family when problems mounted to high for him to cope with.

The setting is Gastonia, North Carolina and we see the attitudes the children have and their lack of expectations. They have maternal grandparents in Alaska but there doesn't seem to be any rush by these grandparents to come to the south and being the process of gaining custody of the children.

Then, complications arise. We learn that there is someone after their father, Wade. He did something to this character so that the man carries a grudge against him. Further, he is paid to find Wade and locate something he took from an unscrupulous character.

We also follow the actions of Brady Wellers who is the court appointed guardian of the children.

It is interesting to read of Easter's low expectations and lack of any faith that her father has returned for legitimate reasons and wants to regain a lasting relationship.  Something happens and he takes the girls away from the home and we follow their trail and that of the man after Wade and of Brady Wellers who wants the best for the children.

Easter, in her maturity, has been compared to Atticus Finch's daughter, Scout, of "To Kill a Mockingbird" both girls are approximately the same age and behave far beyond their age.

Wade has come into money from someplace but Easter feels that wherever it came from, it can't be legitimate and she can't believe anything he tells her.

The story continues as we see the family in different places and the man who is after Wade. Feeling that some doom will befall Wade, we root for Brady Wellers and hope he can save the children from whatever fate might be before them.

There are some good surprises in the story and good development, especially in the relationship of Easter
and her father. The setting was well described and the mixture of action and drama was well handled.
Overall, a very satisfying and entertaining read.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Intelligent mystery set in England

This book was selected in my mystery reading club. It is an absorbing story with a unique protagonist.

Dr. Ruth Galloway is an archeologist who is asked by Det. Inspector Harry Nelson, to examine some human bones found in a saltmarsh. He hopes he has discovered the bones of a child who went missing ten years ago, it would at least solve the mystery.

The saltmarsh setting is not far from Ruth's home. She lives there with her two cats and has only two neighbors on a lonely road. One of her neighbors is there only on weekends and the other is a reclusive bird warden.

Ruth agrees to help Harry and discovers that the bones are ancient. Further study shows that they are over two thousand years old and must have been from some ritual at the time.

Ruth is overweight and doesn't mind living alone. She spends much of her time, preparing for her lessons at the university where she teaches. Unexpectedly involved in researching the bones, she becomes friends with Harry.

Harry is tormented with the case of the missing girl. He even gets letters taunting him about his inability to find the girl's body. These letters have literary and archaeological references. Then, another little girl goes missing and Ruth agrees to help again.

The author portrays Ruth well and we see her compassion for the families of the missing children. She has a small number of friends who were at an archaeological dig ten years ago and the reader is led to wonder if any of these friends could have had a hand in their abductions.

I enjoyed learning about Ruth and Harry and their development as characters. It was interesting that she was described as being overweight and yet, in the concluding scenes, her weight was an important part of the story's suspense.

Currently Reading

Currently Reading
Broken Promise