Saturday, July 26, 2008

Continuing with Sheriff Joanna Brady

What is one thing an author like J.A Jance does that makes a mystery series good - like the series about Cochise County Sheriff Joanna Brady? Continuity!!!! I just finished reading the next to the last book in the series - "Dead Wrong" - and the continuity is there. This book picks up after Joanna Brady has been re-elected to be Sheriff of Cochise county. In the last book she was in the middle of the campaign for re-election. In this book she is still pregnant - I imagine it is close to eight months later than the previous book. In the previous book, she was dealing with the responsibility of Animal Control and it's personnel being under her department's responsibility. they still are in this book. And while there are a couple of mysteries being dealt with in this book, there are other issues that are dealt with at the same time.

A body is discovered close to the border. The body turns up to be an ex-convict who works as a counselor in the prisons. And to make it more interesting, this convict was arrested years ago by Joanna Brady's father who was a deputy at the time. The man went to jail for 25 years when he confessed to killing his wife and unborn child while he was in a drunken blackout - in spite of the fact the bodies were never found.

It just so happens that Joanna's father kept some private journals and at this stage her mother decides to get rid of a lot of stuff - giving them to Joanna to go through. The journals were supposed to be disposed of but were brought to Joanna as well by her father-in-law. Joanna checks the journals to learn if there is anything about the old case. She learns her father did not feel right about the conviction and felt it was "dead wrong" as the title infers.

To top things off, one of the animal control officers who was introduced in the previous book gets beaten up pretty bad and almost dies. In spite of being pregnant and being short-handed with staff, Joanna must deal with these and other issues that come up.

She and her staff track down leads that explain why the ex-convict was murdered - and lead to the truth about his missing wife and unborn child. They put together the reason her ACO was attacked and during the investigation uncover a puppy mill raising pit bulls for dog fights in her county. The owners of this operation are discovered dead and a problem of what to do with 75 vicious dogs and their puppies surfaces for Joanna to deal with. Some of these dogs have to be put down but a solution for the puppies is proposed by the local vet involving some of the inmates at the county jail. The nightmare of what to do with all these dogs turns into a good public relations event for the county and the department.

Sheriff Brady is working right up to the end when her water breaks and it is time to have her baby. I am sure there is more to continue in the next book. I will definitely be reading it soon.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Catching Up With Sheriff Joanna Bradey

I have just gotten book number 13 of the Sheriff Joanna Brady series by J. A. Jance - I am so excited. I have been waiting for this new book to come out. I realized a couple of weeks ago however that I had not read books number 11 or 12 in the series yet. So to start to "catch up", I have just finished reading number 11 - "Exit Wounds".
Now "catching up" with Joanna Brady is not easy to do. She is the Sheriff of Cochise County - an elected position. She is running for reelection and has scheduled appearances she has to make. On top of this, she is also a mother of a teenager involved in other interests. So Joanna finds herself in a position trying to balance her professional and personal life. To top it off, she learns she is pregnant and is having morning sickness.
A clash of her duties occurs when a woman turns up dead in a trailer along with 17 unlicensed dogs. The woman was shot so being sheriff it is obvious why this would be her concern. The county has made cutbacks and placed the Animal Control department under her as well making the death of these dogs her concern as well. So she has a murder to investigate as well as the operations of the Animal Control department.
To make things more complicated, she has to deal with problems at the jail when the air conditioner goes out right before the 4th of July. She deals with this and everything is going well until one of the inmates turns up dead. Now she has to deal with whether this death was a result of the breakdown in procedure or not.
Oh ... and this is not all. There is an accident involving a van loaded with illegal aliens in her county. All the passengers died and only the smuggler's driver survives. Joanna is determined to do what she can to see that the smugglers are brought to justice.
Joanna deals with all of these professional duties in a manner that impresses some her colleagues. There are more twists and turns in this book than I will mention. But hey..., the book was definitely worth reading and you need to read it to see for your self. One book down and two more to in order to "catch up".

Monday, July 21, 2008

A Surprise From Pecan Springs

It was a double treat. Susan Wittig Albert's latest book in the China Bayle's series is called Nightshade. As usual I enjoyed this mystery but there was a twist in this book in the series.

Usually China is the sleuth of the book and she gets help from her friend Ruby. And for the most part the story comes from China's point of view. A different point of view was added to this story - that of McQuaid.

In a previous book China learned she has a half brother and her half brother wants help investigating their father's death. China is having a hard time with this and does not want to be involved in the investigation. Since McQuaid is a private investigator, China's half-brother hired him to help in the previous book.

In this book, McQuaid is trying to get China involved in her half-brother's life and specifically this investigation by telling her what is going on. China reluctantly listens to McQuaid about the investigation and gives him some information about her father - but only half-hearted. But when her brother ends up dead from a hit and run, China goes through a flood of emotions and becomes a more active participant in the investigation.

Some of the chapters are from McQuaid's line of investigation. He speaks to an old partner from the department to get information on the original investigation. He also follows up on a link to the automobile China's father was killed in. It is through his investigation that he learns in fact that China's father was murdered. Other chapters are from China's line of investigation - and following up on the little family left behind by her half-brother. China becomes convinced her brother was not merely killed by an accidental hit and run but was intentionally killed.

Both McQuaid and China come to the same conclusion about the murders of her father and brother. Each comes up with pieces when put together point them in the direction of the killer. The motive for the murders was to conceal a scandal that took place involving some partners of china's father. McQuaid and China (with help from a local cop) set out to confront the killer - China is the bait. Fortunately the end result turns out ok.

As with the other books in the series, there were a lot of other things going on besides this central mystery. So it was more than a story of this one case. This is another one of the ways the author makes the books in this series interesting.

Of course, the location in Texas and the tie to events that occurred in Texas and the political connections made interesting as well. I look forward to more surprises from Pecan Springs.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Another Bookstore Mystery

I referred to this as "another bookstore mystery" but it is actually the first in a new series. The series is "a booktown mystery" and takes place in a small town (Stoneham, NH) with a lot of specialty book stores. It is a book written by Lorna Barrett and is called "Murder is Binding".

Tricia Miles is the owner of the mystery book store. She like the other book store owners in this community caters to tourists who come to buy rare and new books. She is the new kid on the block having been in business for just six months.

She has a few things she has to deal with as a new business owner. Somebody is sneaking nudist brochures into the books in her shop. Another bookstore owner wants her to join forces to get the owner to stop raising leases. Now her older sister is coming for a visit. And if things could not get worse, the bookstore owner next store gets murdered and a fire is started there. Tricia and her sister were the ones who discovered the body and the fire.

Murder in this town has been unheard of - until now. Tricia has been labeled as a jink in the town. And in the eyes of the sheriff, Tricia is the most likely suspect since she is an outsider. Since the sheriff is not pursuing any other suspects, it is up to Tricia to look for the guilty party.

One of the likely suspects is the real estate owner of the book store properties. He was scheduled to meet with the murdered woman on the evening of her death. But "his alibi" was "some other business" he was attending to that evening. In spite of the fact Tricia's sister becomes involved with him, she still suspects him.

Another likely suspect is the twin sister of the murdered book store owner. She shows up a couple of days after the murder and says she and her sister were going to do business together.

Another possible suspect is a local political candidate who Tricia was initially attracted to. She learns he is trying to sale off his mothers books and other stuff to pay for the home she is in with Alzheimer's.

Despite this list of possible suspects, the sheriff is not pursuing any of those seriously.

Tricia learned of another recent death (automobile) that she suspects may be connected. This was the death of a local woman who bought stuff from tag / estate sales and resold them to the local businesses. She had sold a valuable cook book to the murdered shop owner. That valuable cook book was missing when the body was found. A few days later this valuable cook book showed up in Tricia's book store further implicating her. Somebody wanted to hang the murder and theft on Tricia. If Tricia was going to escape this rap scotfree, she would have to discover who the responsible party was.

As part of her investigation, she went to visit the mother of the political candidate in the nursing facility. While she was there she leaned the lady seems to have improved miraculously. She is suspicious about the circumstances that put the lady in the facility in the first place. The mother tells her that her son has stolen from her in the past and asks Tricia to help her.

After some more investigation she takes her concerns to the sheriff who dismisses them. Now she must pursue other measures to protect herself and the mother of the suspect. She goes to the mother's lawyer office to get herself a lawyer and to ask the lawyer to follow up for the mother.

That night after the shop is closed, the local politician and the sister of the murdered book store owner break in. The local politician is angry about the accusations made to the sheriff. In his angry comments to Tricia and her sister, he lets it spill out that the sister of the murdered book store owner was not actually the book store owner but actually the sister. The book store owner was having a hard time making things meet and her sister was a well off business woman who was dying. The motive for the murder was clear. Tricia and her sister were the next candidates for murder and they were going to be disposed of where they would not be found for a long while.

Tricia had to take some drastic measures to protect her sister and herself. She wrecked the auto before they got to there final destination. In the process, the local politician died and her sister almost died.

Afterwards, it became public about what actually happened in the murder. And Tricia's sister became the new owner of the book store next door.

My recommendation - this is a good book and enjoyable reading. I will look forward to more in this series. Oh by the way... this author also writes under another name - L.L. Bartlett and has another mystery series featuring the sleuth - Jeff Resnick. I think I will try out that series soon.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Triple Delight

Sounds like an interesting dessert ... right? Could of been but since this is not a dessert blog it probably is not. I have been on vacation for the 4th of July week and have had some extra time to read. During this time, I have read three very interesting books.
The first scoop was the first book in a series by Lee Child. It is called "Killing Floor" and it features the sleuth Jack Reacher. This is NOT the first book I have read about Jack Reacher but according to the Lee Child website, you can read these books in any order.
Jack Reacher is a drifter - now. He grew up in a military family and then he joined the military. He was in the military police up until he was discharged six months ago. Now he is traveling and he decides to stop in a town called Margrave (Georgia) in search of information about an old musician.
His first morning there he gets arrested for suspicion of murder. He gets sent to the state prison over the weekend and gets attacked by two separate groups. When his alibi gets checked out, he is released and he is just about to leave town when he learns the person who was murdered was his brother. He is now determined to learn who murdered his brother and why. The police chief and his wife are brutally murdered and things in this town do not add up. During his investigation, an attempt is made on his life - twice. The family of another character and a female deputy disappear.
Reacher learned the reason his brother was murdered is linked to a counterfeiting case he was investigating. He learned who most of the players who were involved in this town. And he learns an FBI man is also involved. This was an almost perfect counterfeiting case because the paper used to make the counterfeit one hundreds was actually real one dollar bills collected from all over the country. With some help from another detective in Margrave, he is able to blow the case. And although he has some feelings for the lady deputy, he must move on.
The other part of this delight was two scoops of J.A. Jance and her sleuth J.P. Beaumont. They were the 2nd and 3rd books in the series. "Injustice For All" opens with Beau on vacation - a vacation to get over the loss he experienced in the first book of the series. A man is murdered at the resort where Beau is staying and is discovered by a lady who was a colleague of the man. As a detective, he becomes unofficially involved in the murder. As a man, he becomes "involved" with this woman - the wife of a political candidate seeking a divorce. She ends up dead in an apparent DWI accident but Beau finds it difficult to believe this was an accident.
Beau has to return to work and must balance his unofficial investigation of these murders with some other official cases he is involved with. An attempt is made to implicate him with the murder of the wife of the first victim. And then the case is "officially" closed when a suspect is found dead and a suicide confession is found. Things do not add up so Beau continues his unofficial investigation. He learns the political candidate (and his father) both had opportunity and motive for the murders. He gets taken at gunpoint by the political candidate and ends up in a walk in freezer with the candidate's father on election night. Here he learns the whole story and he escapes with the older man to go and take custody of the political candidate. In the melee that occurs, the old man is killed. Beau chases the other person and gets shot at but the candidate ends up falling to his death.
The second book with J.P. Beaumont in it was called "Trial By Fury". It was another good book picking up later. Just a note - these reviews do NOT include some side stories that make the books interesting reading as well. In this book, a murder victim is found near a sports stadium. The murder victim turns out to be the coach of one of the high school teams who played in the stadium the previous night. His pregnant wife becomes one of the suspects when a photo of the coach and a cheerleader in a motel room are discovered. But the list of suspects expand to include the father of the cheerleader and the principal at he school.
It is not until Beau's partner disappears that the real suspect is learned about - a counselor at the school who is also the faculty advisor for the cheerleaders. Beau frantically searches for information about this lady and discovers where her mother is in the hospital. From information he gets from the hospital, he followups his investigation to discover the house where the suspect is. He gets there to find the suspect leaving with his "drugged" partner in a van.
The van crashes and the suspect dies. Beau's partner is left in critical condition. Beau learns more about a relationship of the first murder victim and the suspect from letters recovered by the wife of the first murder victim. They apparently had a relationship that was torn apart when the suspect learned about the photo of the cheerleader and the coach.
The book ends with Beau on leave - taking care of his partner's two daughters. This is an interesting story initially introduced in the first book of the series that develops further in the second and third books of the series.
I would suggest all of these books as good reading materials.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Murder By The Book

"Murder By The Book" is another mystery by D.R. (Doris) Meredith. This is the fifth with Megan Clark and the mystery book discussion group in the Murder by the Yard series. I have enjoyed each one of them. I have not been able to find anything else by this author. And I have been unable to find any contact information for her either.

This book has the same sleuth in it and there is a similar thread as the other books. Each book has offered something different. The series has been a mixture of telling the story from a third person and from a first person point of view (Ryan). In this book we now have another first person point of view by a mystery person - somebody involved in a depression-era mystery brought to light when a car is discovered in a lake drying up. This is one of the mysteries our sleuth wants to investigate but is finding little support from the other members of the book club. Ryan who typically does not support the investigations Megan undertakes is one of the few who supports this investigation because it does not involve a body - until a skeleton is discovered when a laundry building is being demolished.

But wait. Bodies always seem to appear where Megan discovers them. And this time she is a person of interest by the police - more than usual. Especially after she discovers the third body in this book. Each body seems to be left by a serial killer. The bodies were stabbed 13 times, then posed on it's back, and some marks made on the head. When she finally identifies the markings on the heads as letters in the Phoenician alphabet, this seems to be the final clue pointing to her as the murderer. It also let's her know who the murderer is and she has to run from the police in order to clear up these murders. She knows there was an intent in the murders and she was specifically targeted to be made to look guilty.

She is able to prove who the guilty person was in the three murders. She is also able to uncover who the mystery person is and this person tells the story about the depression-era car and the skeleton.

The only mystery unresolved is whether there will be any more Megan Clark mysteries.