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.

Friday, October 10, 2014

"I am a poor, wayfaring stranger,traveling through this life of woe" lyrics

In a departure from his Dave Robicheau detective series, James Lee Burke brings his readers a riveting historical novel. Weldon Holland's life is described in a manner that parallels many important events of the last century.

As a teenager during the depression, Weldon lived at his grandfather's ranch.  There, he encountered Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow who felt the backroad of the ranch would be a good place to lie low. Although they were ordered off the ranch, Weldon developed a lifelong fantasy about Bonnie and her radiant red hair.

WWII found Weldon as a college graduate and new second lieutenant in action in front of the U.S. lines. His unit comes into attack from German tanks with heavy casualties. Weldon is able to rescue his sergeant, Hershel Pine who was buried under by a passing tank. As Weldon is digging Hershel out, the reader feels the drama of the unexpected enemy tanks on raw recruits.

During this segment of the story, Weldon gets his first taste of anti semitism. We see what one man can achieve by taking a stance against this view and his manner in attempting to change another person's narrow view.

Later, Weldon and Hershel rescue Rosita Lowenstein from underneath a number of dead bodies, killed by Germans who abandoned a concentration camp as the allied soldiers approached. Rosita and Weldon form a love that carries them for the remainder of the story.

Back home, Weldon and Hershel go into business and feel the disappointment of dry oil wells and then the ecstasy when their wells begin to deliver oil. Wealth accumulates but Rosita is the daughter of a well known Communist woman in Spain and we see the manner in which communism was treated at the end of WWII.

The story continues with Hershel and his wife dealing with new wealth and with his wife, Linda Gail following her dream of becoming a Hollywood actress.

Burke has many themes in the story, from prejudice, to bravery and friendship. Weldon and Rosita are memorable characters, vividly portrayed and very sympathetic. Weldon is heroic in his approach as he stands alone for the things he believes and his love for Rosita.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Over and over and over again, this dance is gonna be a ride" song lyrics

Child psychologist, Dr. Alex Delaware gets a call in the middle of the night from a patient he has seen in the past but feels that he let the boy down. Now, Jamey Cadmus is in a psychological hospital and begs for help.

When Delaware arrives at the hospital, he finds that Jamey has escaped. When he tries to look into the treatment Jamey was receiving, he's stalled. The following day, Jamey is accused of being the lavender slasher killer. He's said to have murdered a number of homosexual young men in grisly fashion.

Jamey is the heir of the family estate and stands to inherit a substantial amount when he comes of age. He's being cared for by his uncle and guardian, Dwight Cadmus.

The evidence against Jamey looks strong and Delaware is hired by the attorney defending Jamey in hope that Jamey could be found guilty by diminished capacity and sent to a treatment center for the criminally insane.

Digging deeper, everything seems a little too convenient and it makes Delaware want to know more. He's warned off the case and eventually fired but continues to dig. He's aided by his friend, homicide detective Milo Sturgis. They look into Jamey's past and the drug scene in Los Angeles and San Francisco in the Height Ashbury section. Evidence shows possible use of hallucinogens and mind altering drugs. There are a number of interesting twists and surprises.

This is a well done, psychological novel with many secrets hidden by Jamey's family and uncovered by Delaware. Everything isn't as it appears and watching Delaware uncover the truth is an entertaining ride.

There is good background information but maybe a bit too much but I enjoyed the novel and in finding what was transpiring.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Do not forsake me oh my darling

For fans of the novels about the Old West, "The Untarnished Badge," provides a quick and easy read.

The plot seems like old stuff; there is a crooked council running the town and an honest rancher asks for help from the U.S. Marshal's office.

Deputy U.S. Marshal Luke Cochran is sent to help. He finds that the entire town council is crooked and of the two honest members of the group, one is dead and the other missing. He does meet a woman who is the daughter of the missing councilman. She runs a cafe and tells Luke about the despair of honest folk in the town.

The town sheriff is a crook and his deputy is a bully. They are corrupt and when the young woman whose father is missing asks for their help in locating their father, they brush her off.

The man who runs the stable gives Luke the lowdown and Luke makes quick work of the deputy, showing him up as a coward besides being a bully.

After Luke sends and receives a telegram from his boss in Denver, Luke understands what has to be done and when he tells the few honest men in the town, he gets the back-up he needs.

Not a great bit of suspense and little character development but for a quick trip back to the Old West, this provides an interesting escape.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

There's a light in the window

This well written novel tells the parallel story of two young people at the start of WWII.

Marie-Laure LeBlanc is age six when she goes blind. She lives with her father, David, who is the principal locksmith at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris. David adores Marie-Laure and builds her a miniature city so she can follow the miniatures and learn her way about.

When the Germans invade France, Marie-Laure and David travel to her great uncle Etienne's home in the walled city of Saint-Malo. David builds a miniature of this city also for the same purpose and it has a secret compartment where something can be hidden. He also obtains a copy of "Twenty Thousand Leagues Beneath the Sea" in braille that Marie-Laure comes to treasure.

At the Museum of Natural History  there is a rare gem that the museum is attempting to hide from the Germans. This precious gem is said to have the power to make the owner have a long life but cause misfortune to those around the owner.

Werner Pfennig is a twelve year old living in an orphanage in a small German town. He has a rare ability with radios and electrical items. As the war goes on, the older boys at the orphanage join the Hitler youth and seem to become hardened.

Werner is recommended to attend the National Political Institute and excels. Through the story we witness the events in France and Germany and the oppression of the Jewish people. We also follow the story of Marie-Louise and Werner throughout the war.

They are described in a literate, sympathetic manner where the reader becomes attached to them and wishes them happiness in a world of sadness.

This is a heart touching story that will linger in the memories of those who read it.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Things are amiss in the Army department in France in the 1890s

This is an excellent retelling of the Alfred Dreyfus affair that was the subject on most Frenchman's minds in the mid 1890s.

As tensions worsen between France and Germany, a source reveals that there is a French spy in the Army providing military information to Germany. The French spy is said to be a high ranking officer.

Maj. Alfred Dreyfus is accused and found guilty based on falsified evidence. One highly ranked officer was prominent in convincing others that Dreyfus was the guilty officer. The fact that Dreyfus was Jewish made it easier for the other officers to believe since anti-semitic feelings were strongly felt at the time.

Col. George Picquart tells the story from his point of view. He begins to doubt that evidence and when he learns the ID of the true spy, the Army Department would rather keep an innocent man in jail than admit that it made a mistake in the trial of Dreyfus.

The suspense is strongly felt as Picquart puts his own career on the line to convince others of Dreyfus's innocence and who the guilty officer really is. Picquart is sent to Tunis on a mission where his murder is planned.

The story continues and Dreyfus's many supporters rise to his defense led by Emile Zola who published an article J'Accuse where he points the finger at the real criminals in the matter.

Well done with characters out of history that tell their story with realism and literary precision.

Currently Reading

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Broken Promise