Saturday, December 1, 2007

"Heigh-ho, Silver, Away"

I remember hearing the Lone Ranger saying this. The latest book I read brought this back to mind. Echo Burning is written by Lee Child. The sleuth in the book is called Jack Reacher. Jack Reacher is an ex-military cop who is a drifter. The impression I got from this first book that I have read about him (actually the fifth in the series) was that he is kind of like the Lone Ranger. He drifts into town, he sees some people in trouble, he helps bring justice, and then he rides off into the "sunset".

Jack Reacher is one of those kind of "guys" I like to read about. He thinks before he does something. Also he tries to get out of a situation without violence if all possible. And after thinking about it, the "violence" he uses is only as a last resort.

Another phrase I would use to describe him would be a real "good guy". This book took place in Texas but he is not one of those Texas sleuths that I like to read about. Will I read more of the books with him in them? YOU BET I WOULD!!! I plan on going back to the first book in the series.

Monday, November 26, 2007

First-Hand View of Sheriff Joanna Brady

Partner in Crime is the latest book I have read in the Sheriff Joanna Brady series by J.A. Jance. This book brings another character from another of Jance's series into it - J.P. Beaumont. I have not read books in the other series yet but I probably will now.

It is interesting how Jance uses Beau (one way he prefers to be called) in this book. We get a view of Joanna Brady from Beau in a first-hand account. In other words, we hear what Beau thinks about Joanna. He visualizes the way Joanna looks in her uniform. He also compares her to one of his teachers.

At first he sees her as a woman trying to keep him from doing his job. Later in the book, his view of her changes. He begins to see the way Joanna does her job professionally as well as intelligently. Joanna also realizes how good J.P. (another way he prefers to be referred to) is.

I have not really discussed the story in this book and there was a part I was uncomfortable with at first. Close to the end Joanna and Beau embrace (and kiss) with some passion. They realize this should be a one time thing and move on from there. Joanna thinks how important Butch - her new husband - is to her. Beau doesn't want to be the cause of turmoil in Joanna's life. This brief "affair" points out how "human"/"real" the characters are. And the way they move on from this incident, we see they have "real" character.

I imagine I will go back to the beginning and read the J.P. Beaumont series now that I have been introduced to him. I wonder??? Could this be the reason these two characters were put together in this book - to get crossover readers?? Smart move!!!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Discovering A Buffet

I love buffets. There is always a variety to select from at a buffet. You can sample several things from the buffet and determine which items you like and which ones you want seconds on. I discovered a book that is like a buffet – a buffet of Texas sleuths. The title of the book is Lone Star Sleuths – An Anthology of Texas Crime Fiction.

This book is a buffet in several ways. First it is a buffet by the way it is organized. Instead of having entrees together, vegetable dishes together, desserts together, etc. , it has divisions by the Texas regions the writing takes place in. These groupings include: El Paso and West Texas; Austin and the Hill country; Houston and the Gulf Coast; Dallas, Fort Worth, and the Panhandle; San Antonio and South Texas; Small Town Texas; and (not a region) End of The Road. The selections in each of the sections give you the feeling of the area.

It is also a buffet in the sense it gives you a taste of the style of the represented writers. These are not complete stories. They are only a piece of the story. They give you a taste of the author and you can decide which authors you want to read more from.

The selection also introduces you to the sleuths. You learn a little about them – their backgrounds, their jobs, their personalities. This is another factor that helps you decide which sleuths you want to read more about.

I was familiar with and have read some of these authors/sleuths represented in this book. I have enjoyed reading Susan Wittig Albert’s China Bayles (a herb shop owner); Ben Rehder’s John Marlin (a game warden); Rick Riordin’s Tres Navarre (a part time professor); and Bill Crider’s Dan Rhodes (a sheriff in Blacklin County).

I discovered a few more author and sleuths in this collection I want to read more about. Some I have heard about before but have not read before. For example, I have heard about Kinky Friedman before. The book had a small excerpt from one of his books in it and I thought it was a good enough sample that I want to read more from him. I was introduced to some writers (and their sleuths) I have not heard or read from yet that I also intend to read more of. Some of these include: Nevada Barr’s Anna Pigeon (a park ranger); Jeff Abbott’s Jordan Poteet (a librarian); Paula Boyd’s Joleen Boyd (a newspaper writer); and D.R. Meridith’s Charles Timothy Matthews ( a sheriff).

There are several other of these authors I would like to read more from – given the time. This book has given me an introduction to what I like best – Texas Authors, Texas Sleuths, and mysteries in Texas locations. It is not hard to see my interest in reading Texas literature.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Intervention (?) in Black Cherry Blues

This month our mystery book discussion group chose to read James Lee Burke’s Black Cherry Blues. This is the third book in the Dave Robicheaux series. Did intervention of spirits help solve this mystery?

To learn more about this neighbor (Robicheaux is from Louisiana) I started with the two previous books in the series. Robicheaux is a Cajun raised in Louisiana with his brother by his dad. He was raised with a Catholic background. His father died in a oil rig accident.

In the first book, we learn the following about him. He is a New Orleans cop to start the series. After some trouble he leaves the force at the end of the first book. We also learn he is a Vietnam vet. His experiences in Vietnam have affected him. Finally we learn he is a recovering alcoholic.

More of life’s experiences affect him in the second book in the series. He met his to be wife in the first book and started a new life with his wife and a boat and bait shop. He finds and rescues a little girl from a downed plane. He and his wife take the little girl in as their own. The downed plane brings him more trouble which results in the murder of his wife.

In the third book of this series, Dave finds himself in more trouble after his “adopted” daughter is threatened. He beats up the guys who threatened his daughter and one of them ends up dead. He ends up being charged with the murder.

In order to overcome the charges, he goes to Montana to find something about the guy who would be the witness against him – that guy murdered two Indians in Montana. The sister of one of the two indians gets murdered when it appears Dave is on to something.

Dave suspected this but had a problem being able to prove it. He learns some things about the guy but does no put it all together until three spirits intervene to point him in the right direction. These spirits – his deceased father, his deceased wife, and the murdered girl friend of his former partner – give him the clues to break the case. But the question is did spirits really give him the clues? I think this is how his mind worked to solve the mystery. The visions were creations of his depression and previous problem with drinking. But it was his desire to protect his adopted daughter that helped him to prevail.

James Lee Burke has a website at .

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Buns and Roses

Some of the members of my discussion group (and my wife) attended an event – the second annual Buns and Roses Romance Tea for Literacy. They were scheduled at the table of author Brenda Novak who in addition to writing romance novels also wrote a series starting with Dead Silence. I decided I would read this book. Is this book a mystery? Well … not really. Technically it is classified a romantic suspense novel. It does not have a typical “sleuth” which is generally associated with a mystery. Is there a mystery? Yes there is – what happened to and where is Reverend Barker a respected member of the Stillwater community who disappeared some 16 years earlier than the book. But it is no mystery to the Montgomery family.

Most of the Stillwater community suspect murder and still believe the Montgomery family is responsible. Grace Montgomery who left Stillwater 13 years ago and became a successful assistant D.A. is returning to Stillwater for a visit. In spite of her success, most of the community still thinks she is trash. We learn in this book why the there is this image of her and the underlying reason. As a young kid, she had been abused by her stepfather – the reverend. As a result she had a very low esteem as a teenager and fell into a trap of getting approval by letting the boys have sex with her. Yes this is fiction but it is not unusual for the same thing to happen when a kid is molested. Grace Montgomery’s return restirs the suspicions of the community that the Reverend was murdered by the Montgomery family. We learn what the Montgomery family knows about the death of the Reverend. But was he murdered?

We learn the circumstances leading up to his death. Giving this information, we understand why it happened. I am no lawyer but it would be my opinion that no legal charge of murder should be made. But given the attitude of the community and their feelings towards the reverend, the Montgomery family feels alone. However, they learn they have allies. And when you think the truth (that the reverend is buried on the family property) is going to come out, it still remains a secret. In the end Grace gets some peace in knowing she was not responsible for what the reverend did to her. Also she finds love and a family. But since this is the first in the trilogy, this is obviously not the end.

Even though this was not what I consider a mystery, I enjoyed the book and will probably read the other two books in the trilogy.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

List of Some Favorite Texas Mysteries

As requested, Here is a list of Texas Mystery Authors I have read. TTT indicates the author is in Texas, the sleuth is a Texan, and the books generally take place in Texas. Let me know of any you might be aware of - I am always looking for more.

TTT. Texas Author – Susan Wittig Albert; Texan Sleuth – China Bayles is a former lawyer from Houston, Texas who moves to become a herb shop owner; Texas Location – Pecan Springs. Books Include: Thyme of Death (1992); Witches’ Bane (1993); Hangman’s Root (1994); Rosemary Remembered (1995); Rueful Death (1996); Love Lies Bleeding (1997); Chili Death (1998); Lavender Lies (1999); Mistletoe Man (2000); Bloodroot (2001); Indigo Dying (2003); A Dilly of a Death (2004); Dead Man’s Bones (2005); Bleeding Hearts (2006); Spanish Dagger (2007); and An Unthymely Death (2003).

TTT. Texas Author – Jay Brandon; Texan Sleuth – Mark Blackwell is the District Attorney in San Antonio, TX; Texas Location – San Antonio. Books Include: Fade the Heat (1990) and Loose Among the Lambs (1993).

TTT. Texas Author – Jay Brandon; Texan Sleuth – John Marshall (Lawyer); Texas Location – Green Hills. Local Rules (1995).

TTT. Texas Author – Jay Brandon; Texan Sleuth – John Marshall (Criminal Lawyer); Texas Location – San Antonio, Tx. Books Include: Rules Of Evidence (1992).

TTT. Texas Author – Jay Brandon; Texan Sleuth –Chris Sinclair is a San Antonio District Attorney; Texas Location – San Antonio, TX. Books Include Angel of Death(1998); After-Image (2000); Silver Moon (2004); Grudge Match (2004); and Running With The Dead (2006).

TTT. Texas Author – Bill Crider; Texan Sleuth - Dr Sally Good is the Dept Head at Hughes Community College; Texas Location – Hughes, TX. Books Include: Murder is An Art (1999); A knife In The Back (2002); and A Bond With Death (2004).

TTT. Texas Author – Bill Crider; Texan Sleuth - Carl Burns is a college professor; Texas Location - Pecan City, TX. Books Include: One Dead Dean (1988); Dying Voices (1989); A Dangerous Thing (1994); and Dead Soldiers (2004).

TTT. Texas Author – Bill Crider; Texan Sleuth - Truman Smith is a PI; Texas Location - Galveston, TX. Books Include: Dead On The Island (1991); Gator Kill (1992); When Old Men Die (1994); The Prairie chicken Kill (1996); and Murder Takes A Break (1997).

TTT. Texas Author – Bill Crider; Texan Sleuth - Dan Rhodes is a Sheriff; Texas location - Blacklin County, TX. Books Include: Buster (1991); The Empty Manger (2001); Chocolate Moose (2001); Too Late To Die (1986); Shotgun Saturday night (1987); Cursed To Death (1988); Death On the Move (1989); Evil At the root (1990); Booked For A Hanging (1992); Murder most fowl (1994); Winning Can Be Murder (1996); Death by accident (1998); A Ghost Of A Chance (); A romantic Way To Die (2001); Red, White And Blue Murder (2003); A Mammoth Murder (2005); and Murder Among the Owls (2007).

TTT. Texas Author – Ben Rehder; Texan Sleuth – John Marlin is a game warden; Texas Location - Blanco County, TX. Books Include: Buck Fever (2003); Bone Dry (2004); Flat Crazy (2005); and Guilt Trip (2006).

TTT. Texas Author – Chris Rogers; Texan Sleuth - Dixie Flanagan is a bounty hunter; Texas Location - Houston, TX. Books Include: Bitch Factor (1998); Rage Factor (1999); Chill Factor (2000); and Slice of Life – an online book (2003).

TTT. Texas Author – Barbara Burnett Smith; Texan Sleuth - Cassie Fletcher is a radio personality; Texas Location - Austin, TX. Books Include: Mauve and Murder (2000).

TTT. Texas Author – Barbara Burnett Smith; Texan Sleuth - Jolie Wyatt is an aspiring writer and newscast producer; Texas location - Purple Sage, TX. Books Include: Writers of the Purple Sage (1994); Dust devils of The Purple Sage (1995); Celebration In Purple Sage (1996); Mistletoe From Purple Sage (1997); and Skeletons In Purple Sage (2002).

TTT. Texas Author – Barbara Burnett Smith; Texan Sleuth - Kitzi Camden is a retired politician and public speaker trainer; Texas Location - in Camp Green Clover, TX. Books Include: Bead on Trouble (2005); Beads of Doubt (2007) (completed by Karen MacInerney –another Texas Author).

TT. Texas Author – Karen MacInerney; Texan Sleuth - Natalie Barnes retired from state job in Texas to buy and operate the Gray Whale Inn; Location - Cranberry Island, Maine. Books Include: Murder on The Rocks (2006) and Dead And Berried (2007).

TTT. Texas Author – Leann Sweeney; Texan Sleuth -Abby Rose is a Texas heiress who becomes an adoption PI in the Yellow Rose mystery series; Texas Locations – Houston, Tx. Books Include: Pick Your Poison (2004); A Wedding To die For (2005); Dead Giveaway (2005); and Shoot from the Lip (2007).

TTT. Texas Author – Rick Riordan ; Texan Sleuth - Tres Navarre is a private eye, martial arts master and English Ph.D. in medieval literature; Texas Location - San Antonio, TX. Books Include: Big Red Tequilla (1997); Widower’s Two Step (1998); The last King in Texas (2001); The Devil Went Down to Austin (2002); Cold Springs (2004); South Town (2004); Mission Road (2006); and Rebel Island (Aug 28, 2007).

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Treasure and The Amber Room

“The Amber Room” by Steve Berry. This sure takes me out of the normal Texas mysteries by Texas authors that I like to read. This is the book of the month for our Mystery Discussion Group. I suppose this is one of the things good about the discussion group – the selection is broader than I normally would read so I experience some new things in my readings. This is the first of five books by this author with another on the way. He has a website at Based on what I read in this book, I think I will read more by this author.

I really have had a lot of trouble writing this. If I were a real writer, I guess I had a writers block. Ha Ha . All I can say is I enjoyed it.

Based on the books I have read in the past, I would say this one comes closest to “The DaVinci Code” than any other I have read. It is a great fictional account with some factual/historical basis. It was fascinating how the author bought so many webs and conflicts into the one book - especially since this is an author outside of his traditional / occupational area of expertize.

One of the interesting ideas introduced was the concept of a club of wealthy collectors of stolen arts. The fact they stole only stolen art for their private collections justified in their minds what they were doing. And the murders committed to keep their private collections private did not seem to bother them.

What was especially interesting were the different relationships. Even our sleuth Atlanta Judge Rachel Cuttler evolved in her relationships. At the beginning of the book, she had a civil relationship with her ex-husband. She meets Christian Knoll and finds him exciting. This is before she realizes who he really is - the killer of her father for one. Her ex-husband joins her and sticks with her through this journey. It is during this journey that she realizes what she had all along.

Of course this ends up as the traditional good wins in the end - but it was not necessarily traditional. The good guy wins, the bad guy loses, abd the treasure is returned to its' rightful owners. I can't wait to see what others in the discussion group thought about the book.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Herbs, Mysteries, and More

Pecan Springs (Texas … of course) is the location for most of these mysteries. China Bayles is the sleuth. She left a law practice in Houston to move here and open an herb shop. These mysteries were written by Susan Wittig Albert. If you look at the titles in this mystery series, you will see the connection to herbs – hence China Bayles Herbal Mystery Series. However you will find the title has a lot to do with the mystery – it is not just an herb.

I just finished reading the fifteenth (and latest) book in this series – Spanish Dagger. I am not all that familiar with herbs so I would not have known this was an herb. But having read the previous books in the series, I realize it must be a herb. While reading the book (and the previous ones) I quickly learn what the herb is from our herb shop owner (and sleuth) China Bayles and friends. This is one of the things I like about this series-the theme it is developed around – herbs. Not only do I get a mystery but I learn things about herbs, their uses, and recipes using various herbs.

As I said before, the title also has a lot to do with the mystery as well. The first murder was discovered when China and her guest were collecting supplies for papermaking. They were in the midst of Spanish Daggers and other related yucca plants. (I was not aware until I read this book that some parts of cactus make good paper making materials.) But this does not end the connection with Spanish Dagger – a dagger was used in another murder in the book. And finally, Spanish dagger was the name of a drug sting operation. This drug operation had its connections with the two murders. It was China’s investigation of the first murder and then the second murder that leads to the break in the drug sting.

Another thing I like in the China Bayles mystery series is the way the author develops the character as a “human”. These characters are presented as more than just another character in the book (or later in the series). A good example is China Bayles’ bst friend and business partner – Ruby Wilcox. She is usually a driving or guiding force into solving these mysteries because of the nature of her character. She still plays a part in this one as well. However we see the “human” side of Ruby as she deals with problems with her mother out of town and the murder of one of her friends. She becomes a more “believable” character.

I thoroughly enjoyed this series by Susan Wittig Albert. For those interested, she has a website with her husband (and author Bill Albert) at . You can find out some more about her other books and blogs here.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Discovering J.A.Jance

Let me start off by saying I am NOT a writer – that claim (or honor) belongs to others such as J.A.Jance and J.D.Robb (my wife’s favorite author). I am sure you have already figured out that I am a mystery reader – although some things I might consider mysteries I may be pushing it a little to far. So why would it be a surprise that I have read J.A. Jance?

Well, let me tell you what factors I use to pick what I read. As you might have noticed, I am in Texas. As a matter of fact, I am a native Texan. So it may come as no surprise to you that I am especially fond of Texas writers. I like to read mysteries by Texas writers – particularly those mysteries occurring in Texas (but not always) and involving a Texas sleuth. Now I do not choose these to read because of my big Texas ego – I do not think I have one. One of the reasons I like these is because of familiarity. Mysteries are fiction but the places they occur are sometimes real places even though (using a familiar phrase that might date me) “the names have been changed”. When I am reading these mysteries I can visualize the places they are happening since I know some about Texas – it is where I live. This is one of the key factors to how I choose what I read.

I also mentioned another factor – the sleuth. The mystery does not have to occur in Texas necessarily. But if I can relate to or picture the sleuth then I will read the mystery. One thing fascinating to me is who can be a sleuth. They do not have to be professionals – they can be amateurs as well. This is one of the reasons I use the word “sleuth” which does not imply a professional. So if the sleuth is a Texan there usually is some things familiar in the mystery – even if the place is not necessarily familiar.

Again.., how did I come to read J.A.Jance? Well…, I was in the bookstore getting the latest book by a Texas mystery writer and looking for another Texas mystery writer. This is when I came across J.A. Jance and Joanna Brady who was the wife of a law enforcement officer in Cochise County, Arizona. This is what drew my attention. My wife and her family were from that area in Arizona so I am a little familiar with the place. (Besides…, I thought perhaps my wife might be interested in reading this series since it takes place in her old stomping grounds.) Once I read the first book in the Joanna Brady series I liked the character – so I am reading more in the series.

Now this brings up another thing I like in mysteries – the series. Once I read one book in a series I like, I want to read more. A series allows you to learn more about the sleuth. In addition ro the continual development of the sleuth, the author does the same for other characters in the book. I like characters with character. This is one of the things Jance does with the Joanna Brady series and she does it well.

I have read one other book of hers in a series about Ali Reynolds. I will continue to read this series which takes place in the general area of Sedona, Arizona. My wife went to school in Flagstaff and I am a little familiar with this area.

Jance has written one more series I am aware of but have not read yet – the J.P. Beaumont series. It takes place in California. As I understand it (from another person who reads Jance) Beaumont and Brady will work together in another book – which series I do not know. So I imagine I will read the Beaumont series as well. Oh …, did you know there is a city in Texas called Beaumont? And, on a hunch, I just found out there is a Texas city called Brady – imagine that!!!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Blog Inspiration- Alison Reynolds

I read a book for Firewheel Mystery Book Discussion Group. It is called "Edge of Evil" by J.A. Jance. It is the first in a series of books with Alison Reynolds a TV journalist in California. She gets "let go" and goes back to her home in Sedona, AZ. While there, her son sets up a blog for her. This gave me the idea about setting up a mystery reader blog. It would be another way to discuss mystery books. It obviously is not the same as being in a mystery book discussion group. In the discussion group other things may be discussed as well such as movies. However this blog adds another dimension to being able to discuss these books. Maybe this blog will be another avenue for discussions by our mystery book discussion group. After reading this book, I am anticipating the next book in this series.