Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Bloody Black Flag - A Spider John Mystery by Steve Goble

The Bloody Black Flag: A Spider John Mystery. Steve Goble. Prometheus/ Seventh Street Books. September 2017.  237 pp.  ISBN #: 9781633883598.

What child has read a book about pirates or seen pirate movies and imagined living such an adventurous, constantly thrilling life.  Well, that hunger can be sated again with Steve Goble’s novel about Spider John, a man who feels safer as a pirate at sea than a landlubber always having to watch his back for fear of the hangman or jailkeeper because of past deeds.  The time is 1722 and the place is the Colonial Coast of America.  Spider John and his good friend, Ezra, have escaped capture ashore and are now part of the crew of the Plymouth Dream, with a captain who would not think twice about killing any crew member if his rules are broken.

Early on, a young, bitter looking “bloke” keeps eying Ezra and it turns out he believes Ezra is the descendant of witches and therefore to be burned at the stake or hanged.  This is an area of Massachusetts still carrying shadows of the earlier “witches” frenzy that wound up with rash charges made and confirmed, followed by death.  Imagine Spider John’s devastation when Ezra is found dead in his room.

Spider John is determined to find the murderer, but in between his investigation steps are battles to be fought against attackers of their ship.  These are the swashbuckling battles that are expected by the reader and do not fail to satisfy with their minute descriptions of hand-to-hand combat as well as sword-fighting duels that are life and death matters.

There is no law on a pirate ship and Spider John has no intention of capturing Ezra’s killer but instead will kill him.  Surprises aplenty will thrill the reader as this search continues!  Nicely done and hopefully the first of many more Spider John stories to follow!

The Border by Steve Schafer

The Border. Steve Schafer. Sourcebooks. September 2017. 360 pp. ISBN#: 9781492646839.

Imagine going to a “quincinera,” a 15th birthday party in a small Mexican town, which turns into a mass murder scene!  When it’s all over, three young men and a young woman are the remaining survivors who know that drug gang members or narcos have wiped out their entire family!

It’s a quick, brutal beginning and the reader would think that anything that follows is anticlimactic but the journey these youths are about to undertake “to the north” is anything but sedate.  Marcos and Gladys are siblings, and Pato and Arbo are cousins.  Marcos is a strong but shady character.  He’s obviously not always telling the truth but he knows more about the dangerous situation they are attempting to escape.  Gladys is a vulnerable young girl whose brother is very protective of her.  Pato and Arbo are simple guys who seem to be having the hardest time dealing with the memories.  One of the guys wonders over and over if he could have prevented the disaster if he had spoken about the suspicious looking car parked outside of the party. 

The journey begins with a phenomenal car chase in which Marcos’s ability to use a gun saves them from immediate capture.  But then they must deal with serious physical problems from a cactus plant, rattlesnakes, and the devastating effect of being dehydrated.  The desert is a brutal, merciless place where the furnace-like heat parches them all to exhaustion.

Snippets of memories fill the moments while they travel, juxtaposing the life-threatening present situation in which they now find themselves.  When it’s all done, they know they will have each other’s backs forever!

The Border is a starkly realistic story about immigrants seeking asylum in America, Mexicans who are not criminals or evil people.  Indeed, this scenario is probably true for the majority of those escaping brutal regimes or criminals in many countries.  It certainly forces the reader to rethink the reality that so contrasts with political statements presently being touted and certainly forms a laudatory background for those fighting the effort to stop immigration with a blanket law that ignores life and death decisions calling for phenomenal courage and action!

Recommended reading, indeed! Food for soul-searching thought!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Address: A Novel by Fiona Davis

The Address: A Novel. Fiona Davis. Penguin Publishing Group. August 2017. 368 pp. ISBN#: 9781524741990.

Millions of readers might recognize the name of the Dakota Hotel as the place where John Lennon was killed, but lovers of Manhattan and its history will know this same hotel as one of the first most glamorous buildings built to house and entertain the rich and famous of the business, entertainment and political world in 1884. Our story begins in London but quickly moves to New York City where Sara Smythe has been hired as the new “Managarette” of the hotel by architect Theodore Camden. Both have very difficult jobs, trying to please aristocratic residents used to being pampered and coddled at any time of day or night.

The story quickly shifts to the same place in 1985. Bailey Camden is trying to recover from alcoholism. She’s just returned from rehab and found out her job is gone as the last drunken scene she put on gave her too much of a reputation and one that the owners didn’t want to smear the Dakota Hotel. Her cousin, Melinda, hires Bailey to do architectural work but that doesn’t last long with the appearance of someone who turns out to be a real friend.

It also turns out a mysterious object is about to be found that might lead to Bailey finding out more about her history than she’d ever imagined. But not without threats and trouble galore!

The Address is a plot-driven account of a lovely Manhattan Hotel, its founders, designers, interior decorators, and more. Even famous places have their notorious, as well as lovely, sides and Fiona Davis does a grand job of providing the reader with a mystery that brings the Camden family full circle, perhaps contrived but well done all the same.

More than that, Sara Smythe and Bailey Camden discover they are valuable human beings with and without fancy names, places and connections! THAT is the magical part of this highly recommended story!