Monthly Archives: July 2012

Stay Close by Harlan Coben

Stay CloseReviewed by Allen Hott

How intertwined people’s lives can sometimes turn out is pretty much the premise of Stay Close. Things that occurred years ago in a lifetime can often come back to either haunt a person or make a person feel giddy and happy. Most of the things that come back in this book tend to haunt the person involved.

The main character, Cassie as she was known as in her days as a stripper in Atlantic City many years ago, is now living as Megan. As Megan she has a loving husband and two teenaged youngsters in the New Jersey countryside. When she receives a phone call from an old acquaintance back in Atlantic City she feels she has to return to find out some answers to questions that were left unresolved upon her departure.

Another friend of that old acquaintance is a photographer who developed a drinking problem brought on by some strong guilt feelings. Ray is now not the respected photojournalist that he was but rather a very disturbed man who ekes out a living doing menial photo shoots. Little does he realize that he is about to not only meet up again with the lost love of his live but he is also about to be looked upon as a possible murderer.

Detective Broome began investigating a missing person who had been thought to be a runaway husband. Broome had become very close with this fellow’s wife and family. Broome felt something strange about the case and though it was now more than fifteen years past he still was pursuing answers.

Robert B. Parker’s Lullaby (Spenser) by Ace Atkins

Reviewed by Allen Hott

As most of you know, Robert B. Parker, who passed away early in 2010, was the Spenser creator. Spenser being the private investigator in the Boston area who was patterned after the private eyes in Raymond Chandler’s earlier mysteries.

Recently Ace Atkins was selected by the Parker estate to carry on the Spenser novels. What may seem to be quite a change for a boy born in Troy, Alabama, graduate of Auburn University, and who still lives in the south to take over the story telling of a Boston private eye’s escapades. His writing while replacing Parker, is quite snarky, short sentences, little description, lot of dialogue and plenty of action which somewhat mimics Parker.

In this first one Spenser is “hired” by a fourteen year old girl who is fourteen going on thirty-five or more. Her mouth is as foul as any Marine after four combat tours. Mattie is saddled with more problems than anyone should have at any age. First off her mother has been killed (four years ago). Although the police claim to have solved the crime and put away the culprit Mattie is sure he is not the killer. She believes she knows who did it and wants Spenser to help her prove it.

That is part of her problem but she is also saddled with twin sisters who are still less than six years old. Her grandmother who is supposed to be taking care of the three girls is a confirmed alcoholic and spends most of her time away from home in some bar. When she is home she is either passed out, drunk, or asleep so Mattie does the caretaking of the sisters, grandmother, and their apartment.

On the night of her mother’s murder Mattie saw two guys, who she can identify, take her mother forcibly and throw her into a car . Later her mother was found raped, beaten and run over by a car. The car belonged to one of her mother’s boyfriends and his blood was also found on her and the car. Case closed per the police.

Judgment Call by J.A. Jance

Judgment Call by J.A. JanceReviewed by Caryn St. Clair

When the high school principal goes missing, little does Sheriff Joanna Brady realize that the case is going to involve her family. First her own daughter Jenny is the one who finds the principal’s body while out horseback riding one morning. Then a photograph of the crime scene is posted on several kids’ Facebook pages and Joanna realizes that photograph could only have come from Jenny. When a second murder occurs during a charity event that her mother is chairing, Joanna begins to look for a connection between the two victims. The only problem is that the principal, Deborah Highsmith kept to herself and appeared to not have any local friends so finding her next of kin and trying to find out anything about her was difficult. A call in the middle of the night from someone who saw the news story brought more startling news-the victim was not who she claimed to be. At this point the plot begins to take a turn that could have easily become too over the top to be believable, but fortunately, Jance managed to weave the victims’ stories together in a fascinating tale with several unexpected twists.

Readers get a lot of family versus work issues in this book and it’s done in a good way. The fact that Joanna’s daughter is involved puts Joanna’s personal life front and center throughout this book. Her struggles to be a full-time Sheriff as well as a mother to her teenaged daughter and toddler son work to make Joanna seem more real to readers. Another plot line in the book also involves Joanna’s personal life. Readers of the series know her father was killed by a drunk driver when she was young. Butch, Joanna’s husband, is reading her father’s journals, and stumbles on to some things that put her father’s death in a different light and brings her closer to closure with some of the more unpleasant things her parents lives.

Dismantling Vindictiveness
by Lillian R. Melendez

Dismantling Vindictiveness Reviewed by Julie Moderson

This is the first novel that Lillian R Melendez has written. She has an unusual style of writing and it takes a bit to get used to it. She writes and explains where the character is at the same time as telling you who is talking. It is almost written like a play would be written.

Hitchers by Will McIntosh

HitchersReviewed by Teri Davis

Sometimes life is just not fair. Finn Darby is finally beginning to get his life back on track. As a child, his twin sister drowned. The two were competitive and she chose to swim at night due to a dare from him. His grandparents and mother raised him However, his grandfather always made it clear that he was not the favored twin. Added to that, Finn’s wife died two years ago in a freak accident where she was struck with lightning on a river bank.

Finn’s grandfather had successfully created a syndicated comic strip, Toy Shop. After years, the popularity of the strip was beginning to fail. With the death of his grandfather, Finn let the comic strip die but after awhile and with his wife’s encouragement, revitalized it, adding new characters while reigniting interest with success that the old strip could never had imagined.

When Atlanta, Georgia is struck with a terrorist attack, life changes for Finn. He is beginning to believe that he is possessed by his hateful grandfather. As people die from this anthrax attack, Finn discovers how mad his grandfather is at him for changing the comic strip. Who do you go to for help if you believed you are possessed?

At first, Finn finds medical help but he is not alone. It appears that with half-a-million people dying within such a small area, this created conditions of souls who are not wanting to die. These souls have unfinished business and tend to inhabit the bodies of those who they resented. The term for these souls inside a formerly normal human, is “hitcher..”

The Farm by Charles C. Anderson (Review #2)

Reviewed by Douglas R. Cobb

There are many ways to become a marked man in this life. One is to have secrets that powerful individuals fear getting out and becoming public knowledge. For former Navy SEAL and medical doctor Andy Carlson, it’s also about having a deeply ingrained sense of morality. If the secret you’re guarding threatens countless human lives, and could potentially endanger national security, one’s priorities should shift from closely guarding secrets to deciding to throw in the towel as a good soldier. In the edge-of-your-seat page-turner, The Farm, by the talented author Charles C. Anderson, that’s just what Carlson does–he resigns from the SEALs, though he still remains a member of the Reserves. The evidence he discovers suggests that the U.S. government is secretly buying old Soviet tactical nuclear weapons for purposes other than disarmament.

Leaving behind his old life as a Navy SEAL, where he followed orders without asking too many questions, a life where he killed whoever he was either ordered to kill or who was an obstacle to his mission, and resuming his career as an emergency physician, does not mean other interested parties are through with him. Repercussions emanating from his final mission, in which he and his friend Josiah (Joe) Chambers are inserted into the Saudi Arabian desert by helicopter. Joe dies when the helicopter they’re flying in blows up during a sandstorm, but Andy, the first one out of the plane, survives. He carries out his mission, and rescues a then sixteen-year-old young woman from sexual abuse and possibly getting tortured and murdered.

Andy Carlson’s resignation from the SEALs and his return to his family’s ancestral farm in Virginia called “The Farm,” is not enough to deter certain interested parties from attempting to kill him and eliminate the possibility the secrets he knows will ever become public knowledge. The CIA is after Carlson, as are Russian arms dealers. Can one man hope to survive such a determined onslaught of pursuers?

The Farm is a richly complex novel, one that is extremely well-researched. Charles C. Anderson has created intense, larger-that-life three-dimensional characters, and, as in his novel The First To Say No, he displays an impressive knowledge of the medical profession and history. That’s because Anderson is, himself, a retired Naval officer, and emergency physician, and a weapons specialist, and he lives in Virginia at the actual plantation known as The Farm that’s almost like a character in its own right in his novel. Anderson writes with immense authority about the history of The Farm, Farmville, and Virginia, because he and his family have lived there for generations. It’s been in his family since 1743, and has played an important role throughout America’s history. Knowing that the place called The Farm is an actual plantation with tunnels and caves underneath it and the grounds where it’s built upon made the novel pop for me.

I had not known before reading The Farm how vital the place Hampton Roads which Anderson writes about is to America. Four nuclear carriers could be destroyed if a nuclear warhead went off there, at “the only shipyard capable of building those Nimitz class carriers.” This would be both militarily and economically crippling to the United States. As Andy tells the CIA agent, Lindsey: “The last time I heard, each carrier cost five billion dollars and each took five years to build.”

When Andy’s friend Joe Chambers died on his last mission in Saudi Arabia, Andy had to hold back his emotions, to get back to America alive and in one piece. The experience made him into a functioning alcoholic, and because of that experience, and others we read about in The Farm, it’s with good reason that Andy thinks of the Deputy Director of the CIA, James Harrison, as the Weasel. Harrison is a cunning, resourceful person, but he’s also very self-serving. Carlson discovers that the Weasel’s interest in Russian nuclear warheads has nothing at all to do with a desire to make sure Russia is complying with disarmament. Instead, he has something much more sinister in mind:

“Is that your goal, to disarm these warheads permanently?” Andy asked.

“What else could we do with them?”

“You could use them to blame some nuclear terrorist act on somebody else,” Andy said.

“You’re asking me to believe the best from you when all I’ve seen is your worst side.”

Andy has a few tricks up his sleeve, like his intimate knowledge of The Farm, its tunnel and cave systems, and other aspects of the fortress-like plantation, and three allies who I won’t get into much in this review as they’re mentioned elsewhere in other reviews. Reading about the strategies he uses against the CIA and Russians was very fascinating. Will Andy’s expertise with weapons, his medical knowledge, and The Farm itself, enable him to outwit and defeat his foes? Read the excellent novel The Farm to find out!

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Nightwatcher by Wendy Corsi Staub

Nightwatcher Reviewed by Patricia Reid

Terrifying in more than one way, this novel holds the interest of the reader from the very beginning and just does not let go. The book begins the night before the terrorist strike on New York on September 11, 2001.

Allison Taylor lives in Manhattan and loves it. Allison is a style editor at 7th Avenue Magazine. Kristina Haines lives in the apartment above Allison’s and the two are neighbors. Kristina is an aspiring Broadway actress. The two visit in the laundry room from time to time and have exchanged keys to their apartments with each other in case of emergency.

Jerry Thompson is the maintenance man in the apartment building. Kristina tells Allison that Jerry is creeping her out. She says he is always watching her. Allison assures Kristina that Jerry is harmless. Jerry is a little slow but Allison feels that he would not hurt anyone.

Suddenly terrorists strike New York. The city is in a shambles. All members of the police departments and the fire departments are called to the scene. Many are trying to find friends and family of their own as well as looking for survivors. Allison is forced to walk most of the way home from a late party.

Allison hasn’t seen Kristina since the tragedy and thinks perhaps she went to stay with a friend but when she goes to Kristina’s apartment to check she finds that Kristina has been brutally murdered. Detective Rocko Manzillo is in charge of the investigation. He explains to Allison that although the department is short-handed the police will be at the apartment for quite some time investigating the murder. Allison tells Detective Manzillo about Kristina’s fear of Jerry but Allison doesn’t even know his last name or where to find him.

Shards: A Novel by Ismet Prcic

Shards Reviewed by Woodstock

Author Prcic was born in the Bosnian province of Yugoslavia in 1977. His family was Muslim. Before he was 20, he had emigrated to the United States; he was living in southern California; and the country he had called home had vanished from international maps.

These brief facts about the author are included on the jacket cover. Since he uses his own name for the protagonist in this debut novel, it’s not surprising that the reader assumes that some of the content is autobiographical. But it’s very hard to read with that in mind, since the consequences of war for one individual life are vividly conveyed.

Young Ismet enjoys a typical boyhood, exploring the environs of his family’s weekend home in the country, getting into trouble with his friends, fantasizing about what girls are really like. Only an occasional ripple of trouble mars the days – his mother’s gloomy prediction of war as she listens to radio or TV news.

When war does come, the family slips into a semi-nomadic existence, moving to one location, then another, seeking sanctuary with other members of their extended family in cities and towns not yet affected by the bombs.

Devil-Devil: Introducing the Sergeant Kella and Sister Conchita Series Set in the Solomon Islands by Graeme Kent

Devil-Devil Reviewed by Teri Davis

Many times it is better to read about another place and time than to actually experience it yourself. That sums up my feeling in the Graeme Kent novel Devil-Devil.

Devil-Devil takes place in the 1960s in the Solomon Islands. Two unlikely characters, Sister Conchita, an American nun, who has just arrived on the islands and Ben Kella, who is a sergeant in the Solomon Island Police Force join together to solve the problems, crime, and mysteries of the area.

Sister Conchita attempts to bury a skeleton that was recently discovered. Since the skeleton is of a tall man, there is an assumption that this could be the missing white man from years ago. She wishes to bury it to prevent further problems regarding ethnicity and race. Sister Conchita strongly has her own way of doing things and does what she believes is the right thing to do, even if it is against the wishes of the local priest.

Being that Ben was born on the islands and has lived there all his life, he brings an insight into the white police force that is unusual for this time. Also Ben is an aofia which is a hereditary spiritual peacekeeper of his native Lau people. Pleasing the local police department and his people seems to be impossible since both seem to want opposite things in almost all matters. The police somewhat accept the customs of the people, but they do not always agree with it.

Devil-Devil thoroughly immerses the reader into the culture of the 1960s on the Solomon Islands. As the people transition from their tribal customs to the white man way, life is not always smooth or easily explained. With Ben being both with the police and the people, he is viewed frequently with mistrust rather than acceptance in his dual role. Even though it is a little difficult at first to get into the rhythm of the writing, it is well worth the journey.

All Roads Lead to Austen: A Yearlong Journey with Jane by Amy Elizabeth Smith

All Roads Lead to Austen Reviewed by Teri Davis

How many of you are Jane Austen fans? Do you realize that there are international book clubs for discussing Jane Austen books? What have I been missing all these years?

Literature professor, Amy Smith decided to take her love of Jane Austen books on the road to discuss the books with people in Central and South America. Even though the books would be translated into Spanish, she wanted to record people’s reactions and thoughts to the Jane Austen books that were written about two-hundred years ago. Would people feel the same way about the author and the books as those who have read the books in this country? Also, would Amy find love in one of these exotic far-away places? (even though this is not mentioned in her agenda, but is fairly obvious.)

All Roads Lead to Austen is somewhat a travel-log of Amy Smith as she meets with people in Guatemala, Mexico, Ecuador, Chile, Paraguay, and Argentina to discuss books such as Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Sense and Sensibility, and Northanger Abbey. (Yes, I have read these books but have chosen not to make them a guide to my everyday life.)

Who is this book for? I would definitely say Jane Austen fans and also women who tend to favor romance novels. I chose to read it because I wanted to see her view of these people from the various countries and her triumphs and disasters in traveling to these places.

All Roads Lead to Austen is delightful even when the author comes down with dengue fever while also discovering the people and the books of these varied cultures. Also, she began this journey with a very limited Spanish vocabulary. I saw this book as a possible, “How to survive in Central and South America without knowing the language.” For those of us who discuss the possibility of traveling to these areas, I thoroughly gained through her experiences, both positive and negative.