Saturday, August 30, 2008

"A Dirty Business"

A friend of mine (also another blogger- Meadowview Thymes) and I both love to read. She has read books I have suggested and I have read books she has suggested. As a matter of fact, she was the one to suggest "Pushing Up Daisies" by Rosemary Harris. It is the first book in the Dirty Business Mystery Series with Paula Holliday as the sleuth.

Who is Paula Holliday? Well ... I learned she is in some ways like the author. She was a tv exec who left the business to pursue her interests in gardening. She does not have a lot of business right now so when a friend tells her about a possible opportunity through the local historical society, she goes after it. She got the job but little did she know what she would dig up - literally!!! When she was getting soil samples to test, she dug up a chest that contained a mummified baby. Boy..., does this open up a can of worms? You bet. This was just the start of the mysteries she would become involved in solving – in this book alone!!!

One question leads to another. Who was the baby’s mother? Were one of the sisters the mother? Was a missing girl the baby’s mother? What happened to the missing girl? Who murdered the nursery owner and why? Between tackling these questions and getting the garden ready for the showing, Paula had her hands full. And she relies on help from several angles. There were a number of potential suspects - and a number of interesting characters.

Needless to say she comes up with the answers and solves the mysteries. And as a result, she gets more business in town to keep herself going.

I know this review is short and not full on details, but it was a good read and you just have to read it. I will be looking forward to more by this author about this character.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Honor Walk

I just finished book number 13 in the Sheriff Joanna Brady series – “Damage Control” by J.A. Jance. Actually I finished it more than a week ago. I did not know how to write my review of it - it was incredible!! I have enjoyed all of the books in the series. This is not my typical review. Instead I want to focus on one episode / a subplot within the book.

This part of the book started with the murder of an officer who was guarding a scene – a scene important to a criminal investigation. The author does a good job of including a description of a law enforcement tradition. This is a tradition of honoring an officer who has been murdered in the line of duty. In this book it is called an honor walk. Officers from several jurisdictions show up at the scene of the murder. They line up the path from outside the scene to the vehicle taking the body away from the scene. Each officer has a black ribbon over their badge.

This was a “moving” description in the book. The turnout for Sheriff Joanna Brady’s fallen officer not only touched her but it touched me as well. This is just one example how the author includes what I call “extras” that help make the story an interesting read.

As I have said before, there is “so much to read and so little time to read’. But I look forward to more by this author.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Blue Cheer

Author Ed Lynskey sent me an email and asked me to review his book – The Blue Cheer. When I looked into it, I discovered it was not the first book in the series and I typically like to start with the book in the series. I found out from the author that his newest book (Pelham Fell Here) is actually the earliest in the series for Private Investigator Frank Johnson. Since I was able to get a hold of the Blue Cheer, I went ahead and broke from my routine of reading the first book first.

Here is what I gathered about P.I. Frank Johnson. He is a licensed P.I. in Virginia but not in West Virginia – which is where we find him in this book. He came to West Virginia to get away from it all and has made friends with his closest neighbor – Old Man. It was hard for me at first because Frank referred a lot to other characters in the book by descriptions rather than names.

An explosion occurs in the air above the woods where he lives and this sets up the rest of the mystery. He has plans to go investigate in the morning with his friend Old Man. But during the night he decides to go take a look for himself. In his past he has worked with military equipment and he finds a piece of a stinger in the dark. Next thing he knows he is clobbered on the head. When he wakes up, his friend has found him but the piece of the stinger is missing.

Old Man convinces him to report it to the local authorities. While in town at the local mini mart, he see some tee-shirts that say “The Blue Cheer” on them. He starts asking questions about them and things seem to go sour from there. They get shot at and Old Man’s handicapped wife is murdered. When he decides to investigate for himself (and later for Old Man), he gets roughed up by a deputy and gets thrown into jail.

After he is released on bail, he learns his cousin who was on death row for murdering his wife has escaped the prison in Virginia. He has been asked to come up there and speak with the warden. So he and old Man make the trip there. The warden tells him he is a person of interest and if he does not help locate his cousin, he will be thrown in jail. He and Old Man check in at a local motel and plan to start looking in the morning. Before morning comes however, two men bust into their room and kill Old Man before Frank can shoot them. Now he is on the run because he has to be able to discover the reason for the murder of Old Man and his wife.

He enlists the help of another friend who is a bounty hunter to continue his search. They learn there is a connection in the death of Old Man’s wife and The Blue Cheer so they start looking for this organization. They discover another murder – the pastor at Old Man’s wife’s church – and a connection to The Blue Cheer. They learn the pastor was outspoken against The Blue Cheer and they learn where they are located.

They call for some backup and go out to the location. Before their backup can arrive though, everything breaks loose and they must defend themselves. Frank chases after the leader and catches up with him.
After breaking up the gang and going to the funerals of his friends, Frank has decided to return to his life in Virginia. It would be interesting to learn about his life before The Blue Cheer fro

Sunday, August 10, 2008

August Selection for Our Mystery Discussion Group

The selection for our mystery group discussion in August is called "Murder on Astor Place" by Victoria Thompson. When I looked at the cover prior to reading it, I had some reservations about the book. The cover says "First In The Historical MysterySeries" and translated to me it means it is a period piece. One thing my wife knows is that if a show on tv is a period piece, I will fall asleep. You might be able to see the reason I was concerned. But let me spill it here - I did NOT get bored or fall asleep. Every month we cast our vote for the book our group read so I will go ahead and cast my vote - thumbs up. Following is a very sketchy review of this first book of the series.

In this "Gaslight Mystery", our two sleuths meet at the scene of a murder. They are Sergeant Frank Malloy of the New york City Police and Sarah Brandt - a midwife. Their meeting is not a pleasant one. And when Sarah realizes the young lady who was murdered is the sister of an old friend, she becomes determined to see to it that the case is solved. Apparently she does not trust the police to do the job. We learn she is a widow whose husband was murdered and the police never completed the investigation into his murder.

Our police sergeant does not exactly trust her either. She could be a suspect, or a meddling old lady (even though she is not old), and because she is a midwife. Now how does being a midwife contribute to his feelings towards her? Well..., he is a widower and his wife died in childbirth - with a midwife involved. And his son born at the time will never be able to grow up normal.

Initially prompted to followup on this case by Sarah, Frank Malloy becomes more interested in solving this case when he is taken off of it. He helps Sarah (who can not be thrown off the case) by confirming some of the actions she takes throught her investigation. Through each one of their unofficial investigations, they both wind up at the murderer's house. The suspect is the father of the murder victim who got his younger daughter pregnant. But when they confront him, he denies murdering his own daughter. Instead it was the sister who murdered her - and she is really the mother. She wanted her father back to herself.

When the book leaves off, we find Sarah and Frank have a better understanding of each other. Will it lead anywhere? Who knows? Stay tuned. There are nine more books in the series. Of course you may want to check them out for yourself.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Love Your Library

The topic of my blog today is not a typical topic for my blog. I am not discussing a mystery book, an author, or a character in a mystery. No - today I am excited about our public library growing.
On August 21st, a new branch of our library will be opening. The picture shows where the branch will be housed. This will be Small Business Library.
As a member of the community AND a member of the Friends of Sachse Library, I am excited this resource for our business community will be making it's debute soon. The public library (and the librarians at the library) is one of the places where I usually get introduced to the books and authors I read. And the library provides so much more than just the books to read.
Check out the opportunities your local library has to offer. Not only that but think about what you can offer to your library as well. LOVE YOUR LIBRARY!!!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Blanco County - Back in Texas

"Holy Moly" is the sixth and latest book about Texas Game Warden John Marlin. According to one review I read, it may be the last in this series. "Word is that Ben Rehder might drop the curtain on his snarky Blanco County mystery series. If so, the Austinite goes out on a high note with this screwball tale. For those suffering Carl Hiaasen withdrawals (the master of comic crime last put out a novel in 2006), Holy Moly might be the perfect poolside fix come summer."— Texas Monthly. There was no explanation as to why it may be the last but it has been a funny series and our sleuth John Marlin will be missed.

Once again John Marlin has been asked to help in an investigation. This investigation is into the death of a local back hoe operator. Initially it appeared as an on the job equipment accident but it became apparent that it was actually a murder. What is not obvious is the reason or motive behind the death. This leaves a long list of suspects and subplots. In order to keep these all straight, be prepared to sit down and read the book in as few sessions as possible.

Our victim (Farley) is doing some pre-construction work for a mega church. There are not a whole lot of people in Blanco County happy that this mega church is coming to their county. So it is difficult to rule anybody out as suspects without a clear cut motive. Also suspect are the owners of a deer ranch where deer are raised and sold for huge amounts of money. Farley (in the past) had reported some suspicious discrepancies in the number of deer being raised and sold by the owners.

During the investigation additional motives turn up when it is reported that Farley had discovered a rare dinosaur skull on the construction site. This opened up the list of suspects. Now the list includes the church officials who did not want a delay in the building of the church. They do not want this find to become public for two reasons. First, it gives environmentalists who oppose their project a reason to stop it. Second, dinosaurs do not fit in the literal understanding of the six days of creation.

The reported discovery of the dinosaur skull gives motive for other suspects as well (and additional subplots for the story). The professor who reported the finding indicated there were collectors who would pay huge amounts of money for this find (or do anything to get it). And sure enough we have one who is trying to find it.

And if you think these are enough motives (or not), you will just have to read the book. Besides..., there is so much more in this book it would be impossible to know unless you read it for yourself. Who knows? Maybe you will even uncover the reason this might be the last book of the John Marlin series. If you do, let me know.

P.S. John Marlin gets married at the end of the book. Does this have anything to do with the reason this might be the last book in the series?