Category Archives: Crime

Deadly Anniversaries: A Collection of Stories from Crime Fiction’s Top Authors

Reviewed by Allen Hott

This is a very interesting concept to writing a book on mysteries, etc. in short form. There are a total of nineteen short stories written by some of today’s top writers. And basically each story is centered about some type of anniversary. The writers include Jeffery Deaver, Lee Child, Sue Grafton, and other notables.

“If You Want Something Done Right” tells of how a woman who wants out of her marriage pulls off various attempts but none work because he figures them out quickly. However he does become overly involved himself in how to protect himself and guess what? You got it right. Now read the story (and book)
to get the whole story. Sue Grafton put that one together and it is good.

“Ten Years On” is about an Indian nurse who is drawn to a dead soldier’s brother and it has a very strange ending.

Lee Child wrote “Normal In Every Way” that tells of a very slow thinking clerk who while working in police headquarters uses anniversary dates of various murders and ties them together in such a fashion as to help solve some crimes that have gone unsolved.

The Hot Rock: A Dortmunder Novel (Book One) by Donald E. Westlake

Reviewed by Allen Hott

A story that moves, moves, and moves. Basically The Hot Rock is about a very expensive Balabama emerald that belonged to one country in Africa but since the country divided into two halves both sides want possession of this jewel. As the story begins one side (Talabwo) with their ambassador, Major Iko, is trying to get the emerald out of its display position which is in New York City.

Dortmunder is led into working to get the emerald by Kelp, his normal right hand man. Kelp and Dortmunder meet with Iko and arrive at a financial agreement for the event to happen. It will take five men at thirty thousand dollars per man for Dortmunder’s crew to pull off the job. But that is only part of it though as Iko and Dortmunder then battle over expense money per man per week. All of these happenings go along to make this story not only funny but definitely readable to the end.

After Dortmunder and Kelp leave they begin rounding up the balance of the crew and beginning to make some plans for when, where, and how not only will they live but also how they will pull off the money making deal.

Little do they realize however that at the same time another group of thieves have also looked into the value of the stone and already made the necessary arrangements and stolen it from the display? However the guy who actually stole the gem was later caught and put in jail and he supposedly has the gem with him (likely swallowed it prior to capture).

So that means Dortmunder and his gang will have to break Greenwood (the one with the stone) out of jail. In true Westlake fashion Dortmunder and his gang do in fact break Greenwood out of prison.

But then when they get to talk to him they find that he doesn’t have the gem now. Because when he was arrested he decided to hide the gem at the police station.

This is how this book moves from one place to another as the gem is constantly on the move and the Dortmunder crew never stops hunting it but always it appears to be a step ahead of them. They are earning money from Major Iko but they can’t get him what he wants so they don’t earn the big bucks that they want.

What they do get from the Major always seems to be another major tool of some type (a truck, a helicopter, and other tools) to help the gang break into and then out of the newest location of the stone.

Overall the book is a very funny read as Westlake writes well and the conversations that go back and forth between the characters are more than enough to keep the reader’s attention. There have been several Dortmunder books over the years and they all created quite a variety of stories that were well received. The Hot Rock is one of those!

The Devil’s Teardrop by Jeffery Deaver

Reviewed by Allen Hott

One more great one by Deaver! In this one he has so many bad guys that even the cops (the good ones) have a hard time trying to figure out just who is the real bad guy. And they do it by using not only FBI agents but one retiree who is specialized in analyzing handwriting. His presence and abilities are needed because a killer (or killers) is shooting up D.C. and leaving notes telling where ransom moneys should be left or more killings will occur.

The handwriting agent is Parker Kinkaid who is separated from his wife and trying to raise two youngsters with the help of an older lady who doesn’t live in their home but is in and out. Parker and his ex-wife are still battling over the children and he is in constant fear that something in his previous line of work will cause him to lose custody of them. The somewhat lead agent of the FBI team is a woman named Margaret Lukas. The FBI wants Parker to come back and assist them because of the notes that are being left and the scheduled shoots. Just as a note “the devil’s teardrop” pertains to a type of writing.

The shooter’s notes say that he will be doing his mass shootings on a four hour schedule for the present. They will be held in heavily traveled places and he somewhat gives them clues as to where they will be held. Finally Parker agrees to try to help but on a limited basis and he will be able to leave whenever he feels his kids are in any danger.

Buried Leads: A Nichelle Clarke Crime Thriller by Lyndee Walker

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Early one morning Nichelle Clarke, a very hard-working crime/political writer for the Richmond Telegraph, gets a call that drives this whole story. A body has been found in a shallow grave. It turns out the well dressed individual in the muddy shallow gravesite was a lawyer. And not just a lawyer but a tobacco lobbyist from Washington D.C.

To be the first reporter on the scene is a great deal for Nichelle as she is constantly battling with other reporters for the top spot in the eyes of the paper’s editors. Her boss, who is an assistant editor, is always trying to get her more and more involved as he likes her style. However the competition is tough and continues throughout the story.

As other events occur, including other deaths, there is little doubt that the original death was part of a very large political manuever. Not only are local politicians but the trail goes higher and higher all the way to the Senate.

There are several people who get involved with Nichelle and one is an FBI agent who is a former boyfriend of hers. Kyle still is pretty well enamored with her though she doesn’t appear quite as anxious for him. But he is a great source of needed information as she gets deeper and deeper into the case.

Strangely enough the other individual who not only helps her but actually saves her from possible harm is a Mafia boss. Joey is a young neighbor who has been very friendly with Nichelle. She never realizes that he is involved with criminal activities at all. It turns out he seems to be a watchdog for several gangs but doesn’t really do much expect spy around and report activities.

Nichelle does get very deep into who and what is involved. It turns out that many of her instincts are correct as politics, graft, and just plain criminal events happen. One of these even include putting Nichelle into the hospital

It is a very good read and all of it seems to be very possible in today’s world. Crime is rampant everywhere, politicians get involved, and quite often it is the work of a “digging” news reporter of some sort to uncover it!

Neon Prey (A Prey Novel) by John Sandford

Reviewed by Allen Hott
Lucas Davenport, who used to be the governor of Minnesota’s number one crime solver, still works at solving crimes. But now the former governor has moved on to Washington and from afar he uses Lucas as his number one U.S. Marshall. So whenever there is a strange crime going on anywhere in the West Lucas gets the call and off he goes.

This time he starts off meeting a different FBI agent in New Orleans along with a couple of other agents, Bob and Rae, whom he has worked with on other occasions. It turns out that they not only are hunting a killer but this particular guy is also a cannibal. Although not a perfect one in that he does kill the person first and then usually cuts them open and eats the liver or other intestinal organs.

The killer, named Deese, was on bail for doing other criminal activities in his job as a muscle for hire by loan sharks and others. He skipped out on his bail procedure and was on the loose but still actively doing various crimes as he worked at earning more money.

Don’t Wake Up: A Novel by Liz Lawler

Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

Imagine waking up stripped of your clothes, strapped to an operating table, and threatened with unimaginable physical cruelty. This is what happens to Dr. Alex Taylor, who works at a hospital in Bath, England. After Alex’s terrifying experience, she is convinced that she was violated, however, no physical proof exists that supports her story. Alex’s life takes a downward spiral, as she tries to convince everyone the attack was real and not a delusion. She starts drinking too much. When a pregnant nurse dies, Alex is convinced the same person who tortured her is responsible. No one believes Alex’s allegation. It appears as if Alex needs psychological help, and deadly incidents involving her only make things worse. Relationships with her colleagues and boyfriend suffer, and Alex worries she is losing her grip on reality.

In Don’t Wake Up, Liz Lawler expertly utilizes multiple third person point of view. Lawler only switches character perspectives between chapters or scenes, and it is clear whose eyes readers are looking through. The majority of this engrossing story is told from Alex’s perspective, but readers are also shown the viewpoints of key characters and their reactions to Alex’s claim of an attack. The different viewpoints pull readers deeper into the heart of the story in which Lawler skillfully interweaves not only things such as criminal acts, police investigations, prejudice, disloyalty, jealousy, violence, and dedication but also the effects of psychological trauma, overindulgence in alcohol, and reliance on anxiety medication.

The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town by John Grisham

Reviewed by Allen Hott

A somewhat different book for Mr. Grisham. Although it is very involved with the legal world it is a non-fiction book. Grisham had seen some news articles about this unusual case and decided to follow it. And then he turned it into The Innocent Man. From all indications it is definitely a case of an innocent man who gets completely and unfairly tried and convicted by the authorities.

Ron Williamson had been a fairly decent ballplayer in his youth and actually was signed by Oakland Athletics to a minor league contract. Sadly he never had enough talent to hang on in the minors nor make it to the big leagues. He pretty much hung around Ada, Oklahoma and got by. He had many friends and he was always out in public somewhere. Most of his time when he wasn’t working he was hanging out in bars and saloons.

The One That Got Away by Joe Clifford

Reviewed by Jud Hanson

The One That Got Away by Joe Clifford is an average novel in terms of quality. While Clifford is the author of the successful Jay Porter series, this book is not nearly as good as those. The plot is interesting enough, although not particularly original.

The story starts out with potential and will likely be intriguing enough to hook most readers. However, by the midway point, the book just ambles along and suddenly ends. While I can and do recommend that readers try out one of Clifford’s Jay Porter novels, I can’t really strongly recommend The One That Got Away. As a result, I can only justify a 2/5 star rating.*

A print copy of this book was the only compensation received in exchange for this review.*

The October List by Jeffery Deaver

Reviewed by Allen Hott

The October ListI am a Deaver fan and read almost all of his books BUT this one is so completely different I am not sure what comes next. The story is a good one and I am sure if he had written it in the right order it still would be a top seller. I’m sure this is is a best seller for him but it is weird!

The first chapter is actually Chapter 36 and is the ending of the book! Yes, you read that correctly. Chapter 1 is actually at the back of the book and though it is the last chapter it is actually the beginning of the story!

In essence it is a story about a lady, Gabriela McNamara, (as she is known part of the time but uses aliases also) who is an undercover cop and at the same time she works as an undercover person for a big time criminal. Now the reader won’t know all of this right away as some of it comes out at the ending (or in Chapter 1 if you will at the end of the book).

Baby’s First Felony (A Cecil Younger Investigation) by John Straley

Reviewed by Caryn St. Clair

Baby's First FelonyBaby’s First Felony brings back Cecil Younger and the wonderful setting of Sitka, Alaska. Before even starting the book, I would strongly urge readers to turn to the end and read through the A Guide to Avoiding a Life in Crime. The rules as outlined are referenced frequently, so you might want to keep a book mark there as well.

Cecil is called to the jail to arrange bail for a client who asks that he go pick up a box containing things that will prove her innocence which she left with friends. Two things about this cause Cecil angst. First, the box contains money. Lots of money. And secondly the place she left the box is the house where a friend of Cecil’s daughter’s friend is now living and a place that his daughter Blossom has run off to when her mother gets on her nerves. But that is just the beginning of Cecil’s problems. There are drugs a kidnapping and a murder to contend with causing Cecil breaks nearly every one of his rules as outlined in the book.

Along with the criminal plot is an interesting side story involving the use of humor as therapy for autism leading the book to be packs with jokes as told by Todd, the sort of adopted son of Cecil. Some of these are really pretty funny. There is a very brief note at the end of the book lending credence to this as a real therapy. This also brings in the very real issue of who has a right to post someone’s comments on line.