Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Paris Key - A Novel by Juliet Blackwell.

The Paris Key: A Novel.  Juliet Blackwell. Penguin Group (USA). September 2014. 384 pp.  ISBN#: 9780451473691.

Genevieve Martin learned the art of the locksmith as a child from her Uncle Dave who lived in a lovely little village in Paris, France.  She lost her mother, Angela, at a very young age and has never fully recovered from that devastating loss.  Now she knows she’s at a dead end in life and now decides to get a divorce from her husband.  For the time being she has come to Paris after being notified of the death of her Uncle Dave. He has left her his locksmith shop; and while there will be many difficulties getting a permit to work in France and obtain a locksmith license, she arrives in Paris to see what happens.  Her husband has been unfaithful to her, just once as he says, but that is enough to energize her to make the changes she knows are pivotal for her own survival.

Her arrival in Paris is not a quiet one.  Her Uncle’s home is dirty and old-looking, more like an antique shop than a modern hardware store for locks.  But what is even more astonishing, delightful and even rather overwhelming is the immediate and constant flow of Parisian neighbors, friends and acquaintances of her Uncle.  They know of her love for her Uncle and are determined to help her settle in and learn to love their beloved city.  By the time you are done with this novel, you will want to travel to the City of Lights and experience all you read about in these pages so carefully, sincerely and dramatically presented.  It’s a place to fall in love with and here Genevieve begins her new life.

The story is told in the third person and fluctuates with not only Genevieve’s story but also that of her mother, Angela.  There’s an added mystery that involves Uncle Dave, a Basque artist, a Parisian baker, underground tunnels that were used in WWII by the Resistance to hide Jews and other political characters escaping imprisonment and death by the Nazis and ghosts of the past from long, long ago.

The Paris Key… is a unique story that is a different type of romance, mystery and coming of age tale.  It’s even better than a travel guide because it carries the essence of friendship, food, drink, story, and history that one can only convey through Parisian residents. Delightful and highly recommended!

Marbeck and the Gunpowder Plot: A Historical Mystery (A Martin Marbeck Mystery Book 4) by John Pilkington

Marbeck and the Gunpowder Plot: A Historical Mystery (A Martin Marbeck Mystery Book 4). John Pilkington; Severn House Publishers; 2015; 208 pp.; ISBN: 9780727885142.

Martin Marbeck is tired, mentally and physically weary, of weaving his way through the snares of the devious plots in the Court of King James in 1605 in England.  He travels under several pseudonyms and is not recognized by his real name until later in this fourth novel of his spying activities.  The country is awash in Papists a/k/a Catholics and those who seek them out for extinction.  But Martin through an excellent source believes there is a more sinister plot being planned that could mean the death of the King and most of his high-placed and favored ministers.

Distractions abound and cleverly keep Marbeck (or John Sanders as he is currently known) from pursuing his instinctive inclinations.  The first is to follow the activities of Thomas Percy, a Papist, who seems to escape from Marbeck’s search at every turn. 

A young and beautiful Charlotte de Baume succeeds in seducing Marbeck but very soon becomes a lethal opponent. Marbeck is enthralled and yet wary of her, with excellent reasons.

Using his few free days to follow his increasingly certain suspicions, Marbeck for the remainder of this novel will court danger, as well as past and recent acquaintances, to prove what he would mean absolute disaster for England and its loyal residents. 
Pilkington presents an accurate and harrowing tale that shows the varying states of English people, from the glorious dress and elaborate housing of the King and his Parliament members to the lice-ridden, malodorous homes and taverns of the common folk.  He also knows precisely where to arouse and ease tension with an increasingly complex set of characters.  For the Papists are a serious and impassioned group, as seen in the demeanor of a captured Jesuit priest, who are not afraid to risk a certain execution in order to fulfill their mission of bringing souls to Christ within their own faith.  However, Pilkington also includes other nefarious characters who believe there is a better way to change the Protestant domination of the King, a plot that is quite unholy!

Marbeck and the Gunpowder Plot… is a superb historical mystery that this reviewer thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommends, as well as the previous installments in this Marbeck series.  This would make a superb film series as well!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Blind Justice: A Thriller by Ethan Cross

Blind Justice: A Thriller.  Ethan Cross. The Story Plant. August 2015. 352 pp.  ASIN#: B00ZRR4XG.

Deacon Munroe, a blind investigator, is called to work on the deaths of a friend, a top-ranking general and his wife.  The reader already knows that the General died without revealing what his killer demands to know.  However, the killer makes the General kill himself and so it looks like the General killed his wife and then himself.  But Deacon, a remarkably skilled investigator, immediately realizes something is wrong with the crime scene. And so begins an unbelievable tale in which there is a far larger conspiracy to carry out a drone terrorist attack in the middle of Washington, D.C. at the National Mall.

This is a middle-sized novel that packs enough action that it’s over the top of tension.  The extremely perceptive skills of Deacon Munroe, accompanied with a calming sense of class and style, make the entire story fascinating as the rest of it feels like a montage of every crime novel that’s been written in the last five years.  The success of a crime or thriller novel lies in including something unique that can’t be found in any other story or a particular style that enhances the stereotypical criminal story.  Deacon Munroe is that person!

Early on in the story, Munroe, suffers a great loss and soon thereafter he realizes that he’s always been in love with his late friend’s sister.  But the hunt for answers lies larger than that attraction and Annabelle is not ready for Munroe’s brief attempts to get closer. 

The task at hand is to stop a killer from getting his hands on something that could be responsible for a chemical attack that would kill thousands. 

I’m not sure how I felt about this novel riddled with deaths, violence and surprising evil.  No break in the action allows one to grab one’s breath.  The reality of the possible terrorist action being planned is probably what is responsible for the tension one feels while waiting for how this action will unfold!

Nice characterization and plot, Ethan Cross!  Great for lovers of the mystery and crime genres!

Thoreau in Phantom Bog - A Henry David Thoreau Mystery by B. B. Oak

Thoreau in Phantom Bog: A Henry David Thoreau Mystery.  B. B.Oak. Kensington Books. September 2015. 320 pp.  ISBN#: 9780758290274.

Phantom Blog is located outside of Plumford, Massachusetts and its name arises from a tale about a runaway slave who still haunts a bog that escaping slaves still have to occasionally cross when being pursued by formidable, relentless bounty hunters or owners.  Now the tale comes to the attention of Henry Thoreau as a farmer who lived not far from the bog is found murdered.  As he was a member of those assisting slaves attempting to flee to Canada, a group known as the Underground Railway, the assumption is that he was helping a slave when he met his violent demise.  The question is obviously who killed him?

A friend of Henry, Julia, is also eager to help by becoming part of the Underground Railway but she is not so readily accepted because of its secretive nature and because she’s a woman.  Add to that she is separated from her husband who is all for slave-catching.  Julia, however, couldn’t care less because she’s in love with the town’s doctor, Adam, and having an adulterous affair with him.  Now the two lovers are about to become deeply involved with Henry Thoreau in the aforesaid murder and later on a different murder. 

Add to the cast of characters a Sheriff who is all accusatory bluster without much substance, an old granny who is bedridden but knows everything going on and predicts what is to come, a slave who practices voodoo medicine in a way that heals people who cannot be healed by a regular physician, a slave owner and catcher, and more intriguing people at every turn of the page.

B. B. Oak knows how to create a good mystery while lacing the story with enough tension and fascinating scenes that keep the reader riveted to the story to the very last paragraph.  We also learn of the virulent and passionate sides taken in this divisive issue with very little middle ground in the mid-19th Century.  Slaves were owned by men and women who saw this possession as a financial boon not to be interfered with or as a rabidly poisonous and demeaning practice that needed to be abolished.

Also there’s an interesting aside about the Thoreau and Emerson (Ralph Waldo for those not of a literary mind) families that might be fact or fiction – more mystery!

A good mystery slowly but powerfully demolishes the assumptions of characters and readers about the “who done it” presentation of pivotal characters.  This is the remarkable gift of Henry (and the author’s vivacious skill) that makes him the singularly intriguing sleuth he is herein.  Highly recommended historical mystery!!!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Bourbon Kings (Series #1) by J. R. Ward

The Bourbon Kings (Series #1).  J. R. Ward. New American Library: Penguin Group USA. July 2015. 432 pp.  ISBN#: 9780451475268.

Move over, creators, actors and actresses of the singular TV series, Dallas, depicting the oil and cattle families in all of their glory, glitziness, and scandal! For now we have a Novel, The Bourbon Kings, taking place in Kentucky where the production of bourbon and prize-winning horses rules.  The Bradford family is quite a collection with characters and outrageous scenes that will keep you up very late at night and feeling that you can’t put this soon to be bestseller down until you’ve finished the whole story.  And this is only Book One of a series to follow!

Lizzie King, the Bradford’s head gardener, made a big mistake in falling in love with Tulane, the family black sheep.  Their breakup was bitter and crushing for Lizzie and is now uprooted when Tulane appears after drinking and gambling away his life in New York for two years.  He’s come back because the family cook, Aurora, is ill, possibly dying.  Lizzie spends her time fighting her desire and repulsion, determined not to be entrapped again by Lane’s charm and entrancing sexiness. But somehow this is the least of the Bradford problems.

Another brother, Edward Bradford, sets himself apart after being kidnapped and tortured in South America.  His hate for his brother, William, the ostensible family leader, is volatile and unending.  Edward raises horses and wants nothing to do with the family business of producing high quality bourbon for the world.   But Edward will be forced to come out of his reclusive stance and face family problems beyond his ken.
Gin Bradford is probably the most spoiled character in this novel.  She uses sex as a tool and is now about to be challenged by a forced marriage. 

There’s a rival family to the Bradfords and the female leader of this clan will be called upon to save William and his clan. For William has been keeping so many secrets that no one is even slightly suspicious of the cliff-hanging crisis about to be unleashed and needing immediate intervention!

Murder, theft, betrayal, and unbelievable acts fill this novel with unending and tension-riddled moments that could also make for a phenomenal movie or series.  As this novel is the first in a series, such a possibility seems ripe for the taking.

You will either absolutely love or hate this tome of dysfunction, romance, sex exploitation, violence, and more!  All in all, The Bourbon Kings is bound to be a hit!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Devil’s Bridge: An Alexandra Cooper Novel #17 by Linda Fairstein

Devil’s Bridge: An Alexandra Cooper Novel #17. Linda Fairstein. Penguin Group (USA). August 2015. 384 pp.  ISBN#: 9780147538932.

Alexandra Cooper’s job isn’t pretty but it’s all about justice.  She’s the chief prosecutor of the Manhattan Sex Crimes Unit and has made more enemies than she can count on both hands.  So no big shock when she’s called into the scene of a murder of a pimp, a creep who was so passed out from booze that he probably never knew that the gal who clambered over him was just aiming for a guaranteed hit!

Mike Chapman, one of Alexandra’s peers, quickly becomes involved in finding the murderer.  A series of events will quickly connect a very well-known Reverend to not only the murderer but also many other connected crimes.  The problem is the so-called “Reverend” is connected to just about every high politician and their family members in New York City.  So the job is clear but where it will end up and through how many mazes before they get there is for the reader to discover.

The plot becomes rivetingly more intense when Alexandra disappears. Since she and Mike have recently become a “couple,” everyone seems to think he knows precisely where she’s gone.  More deaths will follow and the investigators will have to ramp up their skills to capture the elusive killer, who is not who the reader thinks committed the brutal kills.

There’s a story behind the term “Devil’s Bridge,” a story obviously connected to the practice of evil, a connection all too real and too well-known, a fact of life that grossly tarnishes what is otherwise a remarkably lovely view along the Manhattan waterfront.
Devil’s Bridge… is fine crime fiction with just the right amount of tension, tenderness and humor.  Finely crafted, Linda Fairstein!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Rainy Day Sisters: A Hartley-By-The-Sea Novel by Kate Hewitt.

Rainy Day Sisters: A Hartley-By-The-Sea Novel.  Kate Hewitt. Penguin Group (USA). August 2015. 368 pp.  ISBN#: 9780451475589.

Lucy Bagshaw’s life has been shattered by her mother’s embarrassing public commentary on Lucy’s art, the public response and Lucy’s boyfriend who drops her like a hot potato to protect his own children from the bad press circulating both online and print media. So Lucy decides to take a temporary receptionist position in a school in Hartley-By-The-Sea and live with her half-sister, Julie, for the duration. But the welcome she receives is less than lukewarm, in fact downright cool. Add to that the fact that Lucy’s new boss, Alex, is sexy hot in looks but colder than stone in professional affect.  The weather is cold and bleak on most days, albeit the good days are glorious and gorgeous.  So much for a happy escape for Lucy!

This is the story of how Lucy and Juliet learn to become true sisters, but initially there’s nothing easy.  Juliet feels even more hated by their mother, artist Fiona, and is angry at and jealous of Lucy who supposedly got all the mothering Juliet never had.  Juliet runs a bed and breakfast business but that’s about all the socializing she’s done in the ten years she’s been a resident in Hartley.  However, that’s about to change as Lucy, despite constant disappointments, is a hopeless optimist and easily makes friends.  Lucy’s also got a soft spot for many of the troubled kids in the school where she works.

Lucy’s compassion also extends to her boss, Alex’s children who are really hurting since the death of their mother two years earlier.  Her efforts with one of them will open up a whole new world.  Lucy’s outgoing nature will change Juliet’s world as well, forcing her to open up to new friends and neighbors in small increments that will be the beginning of a far better life.

Rainy Day Sisters… is a lovely read that is full of secrets to be learned, healing to happen and a beautiful environment in which all good things will emerge for those willing to move past self-imposed boundaries.  Nicely crafted, indeed, Kate Hewitt! Recommended contemporary fiction and romance fiction reading for sure!