Tuesday, January 17, 2017

K Street: A Kay Hamilton Novel #3 by M. A. Lawson

K Street: A Kay Hamilton Novel #3.  M. A. Lawson. Penguin Publishing Group. January 2017. 304 pp. ISBN #: 9780399573842.

K Street in Washington, D.C. is renowned as the home of lobbyists of special corporations, business groups and companies representing special interest.  Their job is to influence the course of American policy through the Senate and House of Representatives.  However, on the same street is one group that carries out activities that the President wants done secretly, and so the group exists with absolutely no connection to any member of government.  The novel opens with a killing job that goes awry.  When it’s all over, two of the attackers are dead as well as Callahan, the head of this secret group, landing in the hospital in critical condition and another of his employees dead.  Kay Hamilton had been going to meet with Callahan to let him know she was quitting as his worker; instead she walked into a barrage of bullets flying and dead bodies everywhere.  Before he goes into a coma, he whispers a letter to Kay, which immediately sets her in a specific direction to find the thieves and murderers.

Kay is determined to find out who is behind this attack.  No spoilers here.  Suffice to say that the people in charge of this mayhem are just as determined not to be found.  The question is twofold: should Callahan and Hamilton be allowed to live or can they remain alive and harmless regarding a higher mission, the passing of military secrets to a foreign government? 

Kay Hamilton was originally fired from her DEA job for doing things her way instead of following rules and protocol.  She’s no different here as she refuses to carry out someone else’s narrowly-defined investigation.  The result is a satisfying romp with constant surprises, tension, deaths, and answers slowly revealed.  Kay Hamilton is an intelligent, street-savvy investigator who gets the job done and keeps the reader guessing through the entire process!

K Street.. is a great read and will thrill all those who love adventure and a great mystery!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Guests on South Battery by Karen White

The Guests on South Battery.  Karen White. Penguin Publishing Group. January 2017. 352 pp. ISBN #: 9780451475237.

Melanie Trenholm is returning to work after being home following the birth of her twins.  She’s a successful real estate seller and her husband, Jack, is a successful author.  They live in an old house in Charleston, South Carolina; in fact most of the homes in their area are historical, “old” homes.  Melanie has a gift that she can see the dead and for some reason while she was pregnant she lost that ability.  But now it’s back full steam ahead, beginning with someone trying to communicate with her by telephone even though there’s no voice on the other end when she answers the phone.  Now some people who have helped her fix up parts of her home in need of desperate changes find that underneath her back yard are questionable artifacts.  It seems her house is starting to resemble the proverbial “money pit” with constant surprises.

Returning to work, Melanie meets Jayne, who wants to sell a house she inherited and buy a new home that is ultra-modern.  She also finds out that Jayne is looking for a job as a nanny and she’s a perfect match for Melanie as they’re both rather anal about schedules and ways to take care of children.  Of course, there has to be a problem and it’s that disastrous things happen whenever Jayne is around.  When Melanie visits the house Jayne wants to sell, mysterious events start happening like a talking doll, ringing bells in a home with no electricity, objects being thrown, etc. 

The story continues with the mystery obviously being who had lived there beside the woman who left the house to Jayne and what were the turbulent relationships that caused this house to be haunted.  Of course, the reader knows the mystery will be solved, but that doesn’t stop the constant thrills, shocks and threats that continue non-stop throughout the whole story. 

There’s another sub-plot about an author who stole a plot from one of Jack’s novels.  Add to that Jack has had writer’s block ever since Jayne was hired to nanny the couple’s children.

All in all, this is a grand thriller and exciting read for those who love the genre and others as well. The plot is somewhat stereotypical but told in a way that generates and holds interest quite constantly.  Nicely crafted, Karen White!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A Perilous Undertaking: Veronica Speedwell Novel #2 by Deanna Raybourne

A Perilous Undertaking: Veronica Speedwell Novel #2. Deanna Raybourn. Penguin Publishing Group. January 2017. 352 pp.  ISBN#: 9780451476159.

Victoria Speedwell is a sharp lepidopterist who is back again to solve a new mystery with her natural historian/taxidermist buddy, Stoker.  When Victoria is invited to a woman’s club that is like men’s clubs of the Victorian era in 1887, a place where women’s intelligence and interest in just about anything are allowed to shine and be shared.  Victoria meets a formidable member, Lady Sundridge, who brings Victoria into a quiet room where she is scrutinized and queried by another woman.  Victoria takes very little time to figure out that she is being addressed by a member of royalty.  Now Lady Sundridge had already begged Victoria to assist in solving the mystery of the murder of a woman named Artemesia, the lover of a famous society art patron, Miles Ramsforth who is to be hanged for the murder in only two days. Not too much pressure! Add to the fact that Victoria she will meet her own father if she succeeds.  Both sides of this quest have very different, unknown motives in resolving these mysteries with success!

Stoker and Victoria discover the more sordid side of royalty in a secret sex society and other mysterious places and people.  As usual, Victoria receives a secret communication that threatens her life is he insists on continuing her investigation of the circumstances surrounding Artemisia’s death. 

No spoiler’s here – we soon discover there are plenty of suspects who might have committed the murder.  We also meet several high society and royal personages who are a part of the decadence so characteristic of this historical time.  Add to that the mystery behind Victoria and Stoker’s relationship which seems slightly hot, growing hotter but never actually getting there, a frustrating conundrum for readers!

A Perilous Undertaking is a satisfying read that starts off slowly but gradually picks up momentum with plenty of twists and turns all the way to the surprising final page!  Nicely done, Deanna Raybourn!

Traveling Light: A Novel by Lynne Branard

Traveling Light: A Novel.  Lynne Branard. Penguin Publishing Group. January 2017. 320 pp. ISBN #: 9781101989043.

Alissa has entered a rather strange contest to win a storage unit that has been abandoned.  What she finds, ironically, doesn’t seem to surprise her.  Instead she discovers the ashes of a deceased man, Roger Hart, and quickly decides she will return his ashes to his family or hometown.  She also is in need of a change and this strikes her as presenting innumerable possibilities.  No, it’s not the path most would take but it’s certainly an intriguing premise.

Little does she know that her eyes and heart are about to be opened, beginning when a strange young waitress, Blossom, decides to join her on the trip to Texas, as well as Alissa’s three-legged dog.   They discuss families as they travel and Alissa gets to meet some unique characters, like Blossom’s Dad. 

They meet fascinating people, some stereotypical, some odd.  They learn to go with the flow of whatever happens, including when their car starts misbehaving and all of Alissa’s car education helps them figure out what it is but not be able to fix it without help from elsewhere.

Meanwhile the man who abandoned Alissa a few days before the wedding keeps calling her and trying to hook up again.  But Alissa’s stronger, feistier and she’s not giving in to his charm.  Add to that her own father is dating a woman thirty years younger than he is, with two small children. And Alissa makes it clear that she doesn’t want to take over the newspaper her father owns and for which she wrote for a long time. 

What does she want to do?  Repair a boat.  “I don’t want to follow a script anymore…Everybody needs to listen to their own hearts…we should all decide on our own scripts.”  It seems that Alissa has learned to allow life to happen to her instead of directing life along the patterns her family has always followed, even though she really didn’t mind those patterns until now.

This is a quite unusual novel that reminded me of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road story, even though it really isn’t like that for most of the story of Kerouac’s journeys.  One even wonders if this change is because people are different in the West and the South.  One thing for sure is that Alissa and Blossom’s story will have you nodding your head up and down and at times holding still while questioning what has always been accepted.  What would it take for you to totally embrace life in different ways?  Lynne Branard helps the reader to begin his or her own journey, if one dares!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Echo of Twilight: A Novel by Judith Kinghorn

The Echo of Twilight: A Novel.  Judith Kinghorn. Penguin Publishing Group. January 2017. 400 pp. ISBN #: 9780451472106.

Pearl Gibson loves to travel, to move up, to make up names for herself and tales she tells strangers, lying to embellish and enchant mundane reality!  She’s good at it or perhaps one should say she was good at it until she was caught in one of her brilliant fabrications.  On the way to interview for a job as a lady’s maid, she gives her name as Ottoline, the name of her soon to be employer, to a fine looking man she meets at a railroad station.  Just a stranger, right? Ha!

In fact, the real Ottoline Campbell who hires Pearl is a unique woman who does exactly as she pleases during an era when women’s roles were quite circumscribed.  Ottoline’s attitude to Pearl from the very beginning is more of a friend than employer, although when displeased she lets Pearl know her place.  Very quickly, Pearl learns about the family secrets but it isn’t her place to comment.  Pearl then meets a family relative and they immediately bond.  Now Ottoline has a secret that binds her to Pearl even deeper, a truth that is unfortunately or fortunately, depending on one’s point of view, shunted to the side with the beginning of World War I in 1914.  Ottoline’s sons and so many other sons in the area join the military fight out of patriotic duty. Some will die; some will return as scarred, traumatized wrecks! Pearl soon has a secret that she entrusts to Ottoline, who now evolves into Pearl’s protector and more than friend.

Pearl’s tension from the war and its shocking effects builds up until one day she breaks and spews out what she perceives as the truth, an act that mandates she leave the Campbell home to become the independent woman she needs to be.  Years later, she will return under totally unexpected circumstances.

This story has been told many times before this novel was written.  The essence of this story, however, is quite unique.  What rules our lives – fate, destiny, choices, rebellion, conformity – what?  Judith Kinghorn is a very skilled author who crafts a mesmerizing account of how the vicissitudes of life dramatically shift during wartime.  Every character is dramatically changed forever and the reader is honored to have shared the dramatic lives within these pages.

The Echo of Twilight is an amazing work of historical fiction that this reviewer highly recommends!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

An Unsettling Crime for Samuel Craddock: A Samuel Craddock Mystery Prequel by Terry Shames

An Unsettling Crime for Samuel Craddock: A Samuel Craddock Mystery Prequel.  Terry Shames. Prometheus Books. January 2017. 270 pp. ISBN #: 9781633882096.

Samuel Craddock has recently been appointed Chief of Police in small town Jarret Creek, Texas.  Some treat him with respect and others scorn his office as he’s in his 30s, a very young age compared to most law officers in the area.  Because there’s not much crime locally, for the most part, Sam decides to try his hand at raising a few head of cattle.  He and his wife are about to welcome the delivery of these bovine additions to their family when he receives a call about a fire and something that should be seen immediately.  What he finds is so far beyond his recent experience in the Air Force, a grisly fire that burns five people to death and one of them has clearly been shot at point-blank range!

This then is the story of how Sam bypasses and gingerly maneuvers around the flagrant racial prejudice of another law officer and several people in the town, the rambunctious journalist who will do anything for an exciting story like this, corruption in the town, a major drug problem in the local high school, and those who do everything possible to impede Sam’s independent investigation of the fire and murders.  Add to that Sam’s dysfunctional family with a nephew who desperately needs some tender loving care beyond his own parents. 

It's not just racial prejudice that’s rampant in Jarret Creek.  Certain “important” families think that their high status means they are untouchable when it comes to breaking the law.  It’s not until a crisis happens that Sam’s determined nature begins to transform from insecurity to maturity. 

Crimes in these types of legal thrillers or mysteries are almost always solved and the surprise involves unusual investigative techniques and the unpredictability of the perpetrator or perpetrators.  However, there’s another element here, the abandoning of stereotyping everyone with the same brush.  So Sam gives the reader hope that lack of prejudice clears one’s mind to see things objectively and thus connect links toward a solution that not only solves the crime but also serves as a teaching moment for many who may have spurned such previous moments.  

Nicely crafted Terry Shames!  This is a prequel to six other Sam Craddock mysteries – happy reading all!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Law and Disorder: A Legal Thriller by Mike Papantonio

Law and Disorder: A Legal Thriller.  Mike Papantonio. Select Books. September 2016. 352 pp. ISBN #: 9781590793671.

Like the author, Nicholas “Deke” Deketomis is a skilled trial lawyer and talk radio show host.  The novel opens with a dramatic scene in which a young woman, suing a large pharmaceutical company for allowing the sale of a drug, dies right in front of the court after the Judge’s decision to not allow her story as evidence in a class action lawsuit against the drug company.  Deke’s law firm had six good witnesses to take to trial on this matter but now he’s got five and he’s looking for evidence that will unequivocally burn through the defendant’s “lawyered-up” and powerful strategies to defeat Deke’s lawsuit.

The plot then moves to a seeming sub-plot in which a coach of a woman’s team at a Southern Pentecostal Church receives a letter threatening exposure for sleeping with a minor fifteen-year-old teen.  The alleged perpetrator fakes a suicide hoping to con his wife into forgiveness and prayer, but the Pastor in charge of this church has different plans.  For one thing, this is one of those popular mega-churches making enough money from televised sermons and their in-person weekly services to make them a wealthy business.  The Pastor is also supporting a former Senator who is planning a comeback and who is stupid enough to ignore the fact that he is a tool in the Pastor’s grand strategy for even more success in the political world.

The remainder of the novel is about the machinations of the court, lawyers, Judges with a partisan preference, pharmaceutical companies whose only vision is making money minus caring about patients who die because of their poisoning drugs, and what it takes to achieve success in modifying the choices made by these drug companies.  Illegal methods are deemed perfectly appropriate to obtain pivotal evidence to use against the defendant drug company.  Religious leaders are not above destroying anyone who opposes their glorified status.

Most of what is in this novel reflects the way the law and businesses operate, but some of it goes over the edge with authorial license.  Still we are left with a ripping tale that has enough twists and turns to keep the reader flipping the pages and left with somewhat an education that is both informative and shocking!

Nicely plotted, with spunky, intelligent characters, Law and Disorder… is a terrific read sure to please those who love the legal thriller genre!