Category Archives: Fiction

Case of a Puzzling Book: A Maximo Morgan Mystery by William LeRoy

Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

Case of a Puzzling Book: A Maximo Morgan Mystery by William LeRoy is a tricky mystery told in a uniquely creative format. Readers are immediately drawn into a rollicking adventure set off by the actions of a baldheaded stranger who goes into the Twisted Sister Coffeehouse in the small town of Henryetta, Oklahoma. Popo Crowder owns the coffee shop that includes a free library book exchange with erotic novels and similar literary fiction as part of the collection. The literary works on the bookshelves are regarded with antipathy by Eppie, her twin sister. Eppie is part of a group that “edits” books of an “objectionable” nature. The differing points of view between Popo and Eppie have created a rift in the sisters’ relationship, which comes into play in the story.

When the baldheaded stranger takes Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence and leaves The Same Old Story by William LeRoy in its place, Popo is perplexed as to why words and sentences are missing from pages in the book. Popo hires private detective Maximo “Max” Morgan, whose role model is private investigator Brad Runyon, a character created by novelist Dashiell Hammett. Popo asks Max to look into why The Same Old Story is the target of intentional defacing of parts of the text. Is there more to the case than meets the eye? Will Max figure out who might be responsible for the vandalism and the purpose behind it?

The Day of the Ferret by Michael Woodman

Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

A witty, satirical romp through the political world of the President of the United States, author Michael Woodman’s The Day of the Ferret, craftily intersects politics, intrigue, comedy, and a cast of well-devised, skewed characters into a memorable and overall humorous journey into presidential politics.

Aiming for the jugular of this specific political machine, in this case, the presidency of the United States, this is the type of book that you either dislike or love, due to its undeniable relatability to a former president (especially judging from the front cover of the book) as well as some similarities to some of his antics while in office. Personally, I loved the provocative nature of this book and found it easy to laugh at its often-comical moments.

The story starts out with a sarcastic bang as characters are brought into focus beginning with (ahem) President John Thomas Rump.   He’s narcissistic, gross and a character that you may grow to have a love-hate relationship with. Moreover, facing low approval ratings, and sexual harassment accusations Rump needs something to alter the public view of him and the answer to his political dream comes in the form of an idea from his lawyer and “yes” man Benedetto Luigi Capone, which involves an intriguing entanglement of characters.   In particular, Eve Coronata is beautiful, intelligent and a former beauty queen looking for some payback when it comes to President Rump . The exchange between the two men is hilarious and sets the tone for the rest of the book.  As well, the additional characters who follow, as the story progresses, offer their own unique personality quirks, issues, and machinations into the fray of this wholly engrossing satire.

Overall, I truly and resonantly enjoyed The Day of the Ferret. It was a gritty humorous jaunt into politics, which while reading often made me laugh or smirk. But most of all, this was a story that showcased (to me at least) the human or inhumane conditions that can be brought on by excesses of political privilege and wealth told in a dark humorous way.  Essentially, ensconced in adept storytelling, and told through characters that were gritty and often morally challenged. Overall, author Michael Woodman brought forth a well-written narrative, replete with seedy politics, plot twists and turns, affairs, backstabs and strange friendships, which ultimately made for a great adult themed read which was very entertaining. This is a definite must add to the “want to read” list.

 

 

Grind Slowly, Grind Small: A Big Ray Elmore Novel by Thomas Holland

Reviewed by Daniel Ryan Johnson

Grind Slowly, Grind Small is the second novel by Thomas D. Holland set around Big Ray Elmore, a small-town police chief from Split Tree, Arkansas. You don’t have to have read the previous novel in the series, Their Feet Run to Evil, in order to enjoy this gritty crime drama. However, once you have finished reading, don’t be surprised if you find yourself immediately looking to get more of Big Ray Elmore in your life.

Grind Slowly, Grind Small primarily takes place in 1960 and focuses on the discovery of some old bones dug up during a construction project. The discovery leads Big Ray on a dark path to uncover the truth and bring justice to the long-dead victim. As one would imagine in a small-town murder case, Big Ray is tasked with investigating people he has known his entire life.

Thomas D. Holland does a superb job of making the reader feel like they are in the room with Big Ray every step of the way as he pursues answers about this mysterious skeleton. The picture painted of a small Arkansas town in 1960 is vivid, and the reader is transported back in time. The characters that Holland creates are well fleshed out and easy to visualize. You can almost feel the summer heat and taste the refreshing iced tea as sweat rolls down your cheek.

The Nosferatu Conspiracy: Book Two, The Sommelier by Brian James Gage

Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

The Sommelier is the second book in The Nosferatu Conspiracy series by Brian James Gage. A synopsis of the first book, The Sleepwalker, provides an excellent framework for readers in this riveting, chilling, and hair-raising tale that is both unsettling and addictive.

German Emperor Kaiser Wilhelm II, the ruler of the Prussian Empire, is working toward world domination and searching for the bottle of Vlad Dracula’s blood so that he and his mistress can achieve immortality and conceive a superior and untouchable child personified by evil. Augusta, Wilhelm’s wife, has stooped to devious measures in the hopes of stopping the mistress from becoming her successor.

Shapeless Summers by Hayden Thompson

Reviewed by Lily Amanda

Shapeless Summers” is an intimate and touching story of William Greenwood, a middle-aged man from England, who retired from his lifelong career as a seafarer. William moves to the Pacific Islands and takes up data engineering positions and later begins working as a development program manager.  William hopes to regain his vibrancy and his happiness and forget the painful memories and experiences he left in England. “Shapeless Summers” is a tale of loss, pain, soul-searching, and self-discovery.

 

A rare gem, this book displays the picturesque descriptions of the Pacific Islands, its people, their history, and traditions. With Thompson’s artistic proficiency, the author does a remarkable job highlighting the indomitable spirit of locality and solidarity. While here, William learns how to endure human lights with lightness and simplicity.  The author manages to capture the richness of the local people while also some of the challenges in these islands in an all-embracing duality. This makes the story relatable and resonant as well.

The Architect of Auschwitz by S.J. Tagliareni

Reviewed by Nancy Eaton

How can a nice young man change so much that he becomes an evil monster?

Gerhardt Stark’s father was killed in the war. His mother remarried and everything seemed to go downhill for Gerhardt. He and his stepfather did not get along. Gerhardt’s aunt and uncle offered to let him stay with them. They knew there was conflict between the two and made the suggestion that their residence would be closer to Gerhardt’s school. Even though this family was nice to Gerhardt and made him feel welcome, he experienced many mixed emotions.

When Gerhardt got older, he attended school at the university and fell in love with Frieda. Frieda was involved with the University National Democratic Socialist Party. Until now, he was not interested in political parties. Gerhardt moved in with Rolf, Frieda’s brother. From this point, he is introduced to an emerging political party, National Socialism.

Rolf recognized Gerhardt as the ideal candidate for the Nazi party. Gerhardt got more involved and attended many meetings. Rolf kept instilling in Gerhardt that his father died because of the Jews—they were more interested in money than morality.

Murder at the CDC: A Capital Crimes Novel by Jon Land

Reviewed by Russell Ilg

I’ve reviewed more books by Jon Land than I can count but his latest, MURDER AT THE CDC, stands out for all the right reasons.

And all the wrong ones, too.

That’s because the book, completed prior to the January 6, 2021, eerily explores the very mindset that made that chaotic, violent day possible. Not only does the book open with, yes, a mass shooting on the steps of the Capitol Building, it centers around a crazed plot by unified militias and extremist groups to wage what is essentially a second civil war to seize power forever.

Five years ago, we learn in the prologue, a tanker carrying a deadly bio-weapon called the “White Death” seemingly vanished into thin air. Once those contents fall into the hands of an unscrupulous politician eyeing the White House and the powerful offspring of a famed televangelist, all bets are off and a fanatical plot that dwarfs January 6 is underway. We’ve seen the politician, Senator Byron Fitch, before. It’s a classic thriller trope and there’s nothing new there.

Still the Night Call by Joshua Senter

Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

Joshua Senter’s Still the Night Call traces a memorable and emotionally rending journey to self- realization, with a tale which rattles the heart and mind into giving pause and reflecting on how you may value your life and the world you live in.

Told through the lens of central character Calem Honeycutt, a dairy farmer, whose whole life is centered around making a living through farming which he does mainly by helping his father work his farm. Moreover, at thirty-two years old, Calem is a man who has lost hope. A quiet man of few words, the narrative is fueled by his internal mentations, more so than his face- to-face interactions. Ultimately a bit of a loner, he does not often venture far from his life as a dairy farmer; however, for the most part, he seems to enjoy his life that way and sees his life as nothing worthier than that.

Immediately the curiosity is piqued when Calem, who comes across as an intelligent, determined and sympathetic character, seems convinced he is living his “last day”. Consequently, the story traces the events of his self-prophesied last day counting time down, to his final “night call”, a time known when your activity ceases to go to bed, but for his intents and purposes it would mean much more. As he lives out the hours of his last days he ruminates over his life’s events, experiences, and memories as well as comes across a life altering experience which would teach him the hardest lesson of all to value your life, live it your way no matter what is happening in your world externally.

Enough to Make the Angels Weep by Ernesto Patino

Reviewed by Daniel Ryan Johnson

Enough to Make the Angels Weep is an intriguing and well-researched mystery novel. The novel features P.I. Joe Coopersmith as he investigates the murder of his client’s grandmother four years prior. However, as his investigation progresses, it becomes clear that this murder is a small piece in a much larger mystery involving the Mexican-American War, a group of Irish-born soldiers known as the Batallón de San Patricio, and a missing diary.

The primary mystery that will keep you turning the pages is not identifying the killer but rather the motivations behind the killing, which can be traced back over a century and a half. Ernesto Patino uses his narrative to shed light on a period of North American history that few people in the U.S. know much about but which is far more well chronicled in Mexico.

Third Watch: A Tracy Crosswhite Short Story by Robert Dugoni

Reviewed by Allen Hott

A short but very interesting one by Dugoni about Tracy Crosswhite, whom Dugoni has written about previously. She is a police officer in Belltown a suburb of Seattle and has been doing a very good job. On this particular night she had spent some time being interviewed by a local newspaper reporter who was doing an article not only about women police officers but those who worked Third Shift.

Tracy worked it because she liked the overall peace and quiet on the latest shift of the day for police officers. And she felt like she was doing a job that needed to be done….policing the streets not only late at night but into the morning hours.

However on this night it became more than just a normal policing of the streets. Tracy got a call to follow up on a call made to the police about a loud argument and what sounded like a major disturbance. On arriving at the scene she finds a woman who had called in and who then told Tracy that a man, woman, and two small girls were in an apartment where the argument was going on. She was fearful for the woman and the girls.

From there the story gets very into the happenings at the scene when Tracy hears where the apartment is located. She heads for that spot after telling the reporter who was accompanying her to stay in the vehicle.