Saturday, June 28, 2014

"To manage men, one ought to have a sharp mind in a velvet sheath." Eliot

This enchanting story opens at Yellowstone National Park. It mixes the serenity of a natural animal preserve with a number of unscrupulous character who use the park for their own agendas.

Rachel Stanley is a bear biologist. She makes a grim discovery of a scientist who appears to have been killed and partially eaten by a bear. It is unusual for a bear to attack humans in the park and this unusual animal behavior is magnified when Rachel finds a number of animals that have been born deformed.

Rainey is a former P.I. who meets Jen Donahue, while he was fly fishing. Jen is a Chicago cop who is on leave. Rainey is a rare character who is totally honest and possesses so many good qualities that both Jen and Rachel are drawn to him.

There are multiple stories in this complex mystery such as a corrupt sheriff who is trying to open an illegal business that would sell elk horns to a Chinese man,  there is a crazed poacher who believes that the devil is after him and he has to offer sacrifices and there is also a black ops government agent performing experiments in the park.

The characters at first seem interesting but turn out to be extraordinary. The scene when Rachel discovers that the black ops agent is performing these expirements and that might be effecting animal life, is most memorable.

I was totally satisfied with the story and sad to see it end.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Black Horizon made me blue

Jack Swyteck is a trial lawyer honeymooning in Key West when an offshore explosion occurs. Soon, gobs of sticky oil began drifting to the Florida coast.

He's hired to represent a woman whose husband was killed in the explosion. However, he's not sure who to sue since the explosion was in Cuban waters and the oil derrick was owned by a consortium made up of Cuba, Venezuela, China and Russia.

Jack does the research with his sidekick Theo and the banter between these two characters makes up much of the story.

The central characters of Jack, Theo and Jack's wife, Andie went about their business in a dry and steady manner. Andie is an undercover agent for the FBI. However, the action was as if I was reading it from a newspaper and I never felt an urgency to keep turning the pages.

Theo is a complainer and demands much of Jack's time. Eventually he became annoying, like a spoiled child.

There is a scene when Andie has a health issue that was well described. But, overall, even though I'm a fan of Grippando and always look forward to his books, this one just didn't excite me.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Take a shot on this thriller

This thriller plays out as if it were a lengthy episode of NCIS.

An American Naval ship finds a body floating in a life raft. The man's body had been brutally beaten and showed burn marks consistent with radiation burning.

Based on an actual hijacking, Somali pirates hijacked the MV Markarid in the Gulf of Aden. The ship was retaken by members of the Iranian military then made its way to port in Caracas, Venezuela.

With the possibility of radiation poisoning, the CIA enters the picture and the assignment given to agent Jonathan Burke (think Jethro Gibbs). He is a senior analyst in charge of Red Cell, a think tank that thinks outside the box.

Burke and his protege Kyra Stryker (think Ellie Bishop) are ordered to Venezuela to locate a possible nuclear stockpile.

We learn that Iran and Venezuela have conspired to create a nuclear weapon. As the action unfolds, we wonder how the CIA representatives can locate where the nuclear materials are being hidden.

We also observe the arrogance of the president of Venezuela toward the United States and see he is joined in his lofty attitude by the man in charge of Iran's nuclear program.

The novel shows the scenario where Venezuela tries to become a nuclear power and then it might be able to force the United States cower to its will. There is all the stuff of a good spy novel with good action, good characters and a contemporary story.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Well written medical thriller

Dr. Lou Welcome is sent to Atlanta to make a presentation for his boss at a medical convention. His boss couldn't attend due to his wife's health.

Lou brings his best friend and AA sponsor, Cap Duncan on the trip. While on a long distance run through mountain terrain, a freak accident lands Cap in the hospital. He contracts a deadly infection from which there is no cure. This flesh eating bacteria is dubbed the Doomsday Germ by the media.

Unable to give the presentation because Lou is caring for his friend, his boss fires Lou for dereliction of duty. This enables Lou to return to Atlanta and spend more time to care for his friend.

Lou is informed that the doctors will have to amputate Cap's leg because the bacteria is spreading. Lou meets a pharmacist named Humphrey Miller. Miller gives Lou advice about which surgeon to pick for Cap's operation and he and Lou become friends.

Humphrey is an  intelligent man suffering from cerebral palsy. Because of this he is often overlooked and underappreciated but he has a passion for macrobiotics and has been working with another doctor on a cure for this bacteria.

The reader follows a group of people called 100 Neighbors. They want to end government entitlement programs like social security, medicare and welfare. They think these programs are ruining the country. They want to find a cure to this disease and blackmail the government into stopping the entitlement programs and then they will give the government the cure to the Doomsday Germ.

There are a number of surprises and the good characters like Lou, Cap Duncan and Humphrey are well described and likable. We want them to succeed. The evil characters are somewhat stereotypical of what a villain should be. But there is excellent suspense and the action moves swiftly.

I enjoyed this fast moving story and regret that the author is no longer with us to demonstrate Lou Welcome in another adventure.  I also found a number of messages in the story such as a person's loyalty to another, overcoming physical obstacles and the power of having a positive mental attitude.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Justice Prevailed

Dani Mueller legally changed her name and relocated to Austin after her daughter was murdered and the man accused of the murder was acquitted. When the body of the accused man was found beaten to death, the man's family figured that Dani was the killer. They began harassing and stalking her. It became so hard to bear so she thought it would be better to start a new life in Austin.

She works as a crime scene investigator for the city of Austin, Police Department. When she attends the trial of a man accused of killing a little girl about the same age as Dani's daughter, she sees this man also acquitted. Dani decides to provide her own justice but someone beats him to it.

Det. Jason Scarsdale of the Austin, PD is dealing with his own tragedy. He lost his wife recently and decides there is nothing to live for. Then he realizes what a special person his five-year-old daughter, Shannon, is.

He becomes involved in investigating two murders and comes into contact with Dani at work. She provides good assistance.

Dani meets Shannon at the take your child to work day. They each fill a void in the other's eyes, Dani, for her daughter and Shannon for her deceased mother.

Jason and Dani are good characters. They are sympathetic and make the reader interested in their lives and predicaments. The evil characters are truly evil and are active in a child pedophile group and selling child pornography. We follow their trail and want them to be punished. This is the stuff of a very good mystery.

With a number of surprises, good characters, and a suspenseful story, what else could mystery lovers want?

I received this book from the author in return for an honest review.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Newport, the setting for a murder

"Murder in Newport" is another fun read by the author of "Murder in Mystic."

Liz Adams and her husband, Garret, decide on a vacation in Newport. They dock next to a luxury yacht, Party Girl.

Garret is looking at the Party Girl when he's startled to see Rebecca, his first love. She disappeared from his life nearly thirty years ago.

Even though he's been happily married to Liz for twenty-seven years, Rebecca still holds a place in his heart. After confirming that it is Rebecca, he manages an invitation to board the Party Girl.  They meet Rebecca's daughter, Jessica who is in her late twenties. They also meet Howard Boswell, a wealthy autocrat, Rebecca's husband.

Eventually there is a murder and the fun begins. Garret is a suspect and Liz sets out to find the real killer. As she sneaks onto the Party Girl and has to hide in a small compartment, she reminded me of a young Lucille Ball.

I enjoy the series and find Liz Adams to be an entertaining character. The author, Marilyn Della Valle has done her homework in describing Newport, with notable places like Bowen's Wharf and the Black Pearl restaurant visited by Liz and Garret. It's easy to close my eyes and imagine I'm in the crowd and watching the action unfold.

I received a free book for an honest review and the views are my own.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Southern literature

Perry Woodson Hatfield James is a seventeen-year-old boy who is a mine worker in Harlan County, Kentucky. He's proud of his family heritage being of the Hatfield clan and a distant relative to Frank James.

The story opens when he's with a number of men and sets an explosive device to go off and shut down a mine that was hiring non-union workers. Since the scabs take jobs of union men, they feel that they are taking food off of their table.

With the minors on strike and no work to be found, Perry enters the job corps. He makes mistakes but owns up to them and ends up with letters of recommendation and the promise of a good job. However, a letter comes about his father being injured in a bomb that was set at a union meeting. He rushes home to see his father and promises revenge to the men who set the bomb.

Perry's family refuses to accept welfare and there is a memorable scene when welfare workers come to his home and discuss taking the three youngest children to a home where they could get care and feeding.

With Perry's desire for revenge, the reader feels sympathy for him and hopes that he doesn't throw his life away.

The story is extremely believable and reading of the economically deprived workmen and the big time businesses that are looking out only for themselves, the story reminded me of "The Grapes of Wrath."

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

History rewritten


Cotton Malone was ready to start enjoying his retirement from the justice department when he receives a call from his old boss. One of her agents is missing and she wants Malone to detain a suspect who may have information on where her agent might be. She is sending one of her active agents but needs Malone to detain the suspect before he escapes their pursuit.

So begins best selling author Steve Berry's latest entry into the Cotton Malone series.

There is a secret document sent from Abraham Lincoln to Mormon leaders during the Civil War. If the details of this document are released, it could mean the end of the union.

One Mormon who is also a U.S. Senator, has ambition to lead the Church of Later Day Saints. He leads the plot to find this document which could give Utah and other states the legal right to leave the union and declare their independence.

Malone is drawn into the intrigue and learns that his former lover is also involved.

The complex plot is well laid out with action moving from Sweden to Salt Lake City, to Washington, D.C. and elsewhere. The historical characters who make an appearance such as Abraham Lincoln and Brigham Young, are fun to observe.

There is a parallel story about a lost gold shipment from 1857 and finding it could give the Mormon separatists the funds to declare their independence.

I found the background of this document fascinating and the originality of the mystery interesting.

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Sunday, June 1, 2014

World War I story

"The First of July" is a sweeping war epic that deserves to be placed with the exceptional war novels of WWI.

With recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, readers often forget about the battles and terrific losses in WWI. In a disaster that was the Battle of the Somme, the final numbers showed over 57,000 casualties of whom over 19,000 died and over 35,000 were wounded.

This story lets the reader share in the lives of four men who were to participate in the battle. We follow their paths from 1913 to their actions in the battle on July 1, 1916.

Frank Stanton was an apprentice carpenter who moved to London at age 19. He became a store clerk who dreamed of riding a bike in the Tour de France.
Benedict Chatto from Gloucester, was a music student and close friends with another student, Theo. They would both serve as officers in the army, Ben in artillery and Theo as a pilot.
Jean-Baptiste Mallet from Corbie, France, worked in a blacksmith shop and left home after witnessing an unpleasant situation.
Harry Sydenham was a businessman in New York after leaving England suddenly after a family incident.

The author does a good job in describing the characters and the pride they took at being soldiers. At Frank's business, the company gave a monetary bonus to each man who joined the army. We read the interesting turns of fate as the man cross paths at various points in the battle.

The gritty image of exploding bombs, grotesque corpses of fellow soldiers and dead soldiers whose bodies hung up on the barbed wire were parts of the story that were very visual.

We forget how young men at the time had such patriotic feelings about the war and went into battle not realizing how terrible trench warfare would be or dreaming of the deaths many of the soldiers faced when they tried to race across fields and faced German machine guns.

The story is memorable and reminded me of Picket's Charge in the Battle of Gettysburg in the Civil War.

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Broken Promise