Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Snake Dreams by James D. Doss: A Charlie Moon Mystery

Book 13 of the Charlie Moon series and I have read all of them up to and including this one. Waiting for me in my bookcase is #14 The Widows Revenge, and on my Wish List is #15, A Dead Man's Tale. Obviously I am a fan of James Doss and a fan of Charlie Moon. What is not to like? A 7 ft tall lean good-looking Ute cowboy, retired cop and now part-time tribal investigator. He has a wonderful ranch in a beautiful location, every girl falls for him but he just can't seem to hang onto them. Of course this is often because of Aunt Daisy's machinations.

His Aunt Daisy Perika, of ancient age, is a blessing and a curse, trouble with a capital T, yet often helpful in solving cases. Sly as a fox, she is a shaman, a crabby one at that. Daisy talks to spirits, not that she invites them, they come to her with messages and portents and try as she might, she can't ignore them. After all, they know where to find her anytime, anywhere. She also visits and talks to a pitukupf, a dwarf who lives in an abandoned badger hole, bringing him food and tobacco in exchange for cryptic answers to the spirits' problems which are now her problems. He also brings news of evil coming, if she can decipher what he is saying in time.

In Doss's earlier books, there was much more police action, mysteries, missing people, murder and such playing a rather major role, along with the great descriptions you can count on. Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Arizona some of the most beautiful and extreme landscape in the country. Those readers of Tony Hillerman's series of the Navajo tribal police, especially Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn, will understand what I mean. I expected similar when I started reading James Doss' books, and in fact there were a lot of similarities in the early books, although with Daisy there was a lot more myth, legend, because of her heritage, but there was still a lot of policing and investigation.

The Charlie Moon series has always been great fun to read, but in the latest books, possibly because Charlie is supposed to be on his ranch, not solving crimes like his best friend Scott Parrish, chief of police for Granite City, the focus has been much more on the characters themselves with a mystery running in the background. As mentioned, the books have always had some humor in the storyline, but the past few have been nothing short of hilarious, which leaves me to wonder if this series has done a crossover genre. I laughed out loud through a lot of this book Even the style of writing seems to be different and very unique, but again, very funny.

The characters are true to themselves, and it's been fascinating to see them continue to grow and even to age, something that is often missed in a series. Who would be my favorite character? It's hard to answer that, so many diversities, but I think my personal favorite is Daisy, without her half the book would be missing. She is now tutoring her young protégé, 16 year old Sarah, in healing, magic and other shamanist knowledge. This is still one of my favorite series and great for a break between more serious books. Highly entertaining.

Saturday, December 25, 2010


Photo by Brenda Gelean 2009
my youngest granddaughter, Bella, and their "cat with no name"

Thank you to all my friends, followers,
authors and readers,

may the New Year 2011 bring us all
happiness, health, & peace!


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Justice in June by Barbara Levenson

Reviewed for Review the Book
Published by Oceanview Publishing

Starting right off with the death of an informer, we meet Mary Magruder Katz, a criminal defense attorney in Miami, immediately thrown into heavyweight cases building up to overload. Her friend Judge Liz Maxwell is about to up the ante with a serious criminal investigation aimed at her, and needs Mary's legal assistance. It doesn't help that the dead informer was the main witness in a case that Judge Maxwell is trying.

If that were not enough, Mary's hunk of a boyfriend, Carlos, desperately needs help for his "cousin", actually the son of friends of the family, Luis. Luis was taken into custody as a terrorist on a business flight for his parents from his home in Argentina. He has completely disappeared into the Federal system with no information, no paper trail, no formal charges, and one partial phone call. Mary takes on all these cases with only one assistant. She knows she has serious and short deadlines to accomplish all this, and spends almost all her time on her work, until the threats begin.

It is June in Miami, and living up to its steamy hot weather. Not only is the weather stifling, but the caseload is threatening to stifle Mary for good. Are the threats related to the case for Luis? Possibly, but no one can find out where the Feds have him, he might even be out of the country. Are the threats related to her investigation of why Liz is in danger of being removed as a judge? Again, possibly, but who would be going after Liz? She appears to be honest and fair in her judgments. Certainly they can't have anything to do with a suit against Carlos, which has just been added to her caseload ... or can they?

Mary, though frightened having already been assaulted, is only more determined to carry on with all her cases regardless of the threats. When she gets a threatening call on her brand new Blackberry that she hasn't used, nor given out the number, and her home is broken into, she hightails it over to Carlos' with Sam, her dog, and moves in temporarily.

Barbara Levenson's writing is interesting, well researched, and filled with unique characters. The story is a blend of judicial, legal, and federal investigation and performance. It outlines the chaos and paranoia in the ongoing search for possible terrorists. It addresses greed and corruption as it can happen from within the judicial and the policing arenas, particularly with drug money involved. It also highlights the qualities of the honest in these same arenas. Bringing some light humor into play is the interaction between the parents of both Mary and Carlos, who have their own plans in play.

Mary Magruder Katz is an interesting character, one I would like to see grow. I enjoyed reading this book, and I appreciated Ms. Levenson's chapter breaks with subtitle whenever the storyline backtracks so the reader knows when there is a time shift. This is the second in a series and I will be looking for Fatal February, first in the series, and look forward to the third.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Judgment Day by Wanda L. Dyson

Reviewed for LibraryThing giveaway
Published by WaterBrook Press

I went into this book thinking it might be lighter reading, somewhat like a fascinating cozy, but immediately found out how wrong I was. Fascinating, yes, but this plot is much more sinister, a significant, fast-paced thriller. This story has a deadline which must be beat! An arrogant, self-centered sensational reporter, Suzanne, with her own show, Judgment Day, is about to find out she has taken on more than she can handle. Somebody wants her to meet her own judgment day.

Teens are disappearing, most of them runaways who presumably won't be discovered as missing. Is there any connection? Her boyfriend has just been killed while driving her car. They traded cars for the day because he was worried she would have an accident, and he wanted to take it in to be checked out. Somebody is trying to kill her.

Who wants her dead? The father of her boyfriend? The senator she has been investigating? The Reverend she has accused of building his mansion with church funds? The District Attorney who is in such a hurry to prosecute her? Or maybe it's the widow of the school principle her allegations caused to commit suicide. Suzanne has been arrested for a murder she didn't commit. Her rich father has posted bond and she is back on the prowl for information.

Only one thing is sure, she is onto something, but since she hasn't been doing her homework, sensationalizing her accusations to boost her ratings without proper authentication of her facts, she doesn't realize what she has. Her lawyer knows he needs good investigation if he is going to win her case. Enter her ex-fiance, now a private investigator, and his suspicious female partner who knows their romantic history from the college they all attended. Marcos and Alexandria (Alex) suddenly find themselves baby-sitters, while trying to learn what is happening to the missing teens and if they are truly missing or just hiding. Their assistant Razz, a technical whiz who can achieve amazing results, starts digging to find out why the D.A. is in such a rush to get the murder to trial.

Everyone involved is fighting demons of their own, but somehow they must keep Suzanne safe and find out who is framing her. She certainly does not understand what she has done, how much damage she does with her lack of attention to the details of truth. She constantly takes chances as though she is immortal.

Lots of action in this book, and with so many possibilities for suspects, there are lots of red herrings, but are they really? Or is every one of them involved? This is a good storyline, up-to-date, and a fast read. I found the book intriguing and the more I read, the more I needed to. My attention was held all the way through. It is not just a case of who and why, but how many are involved. The character of Suzanne is pretty straightforward. We do get to learn what drives her, though, which gives the reader a different perspective from that which runs all through the book. Razz is a likeable character even while dealing with the death of his wife. Marcos and Alex are great characters I'd like to meet again. They work very well together.

Wanda L. Dyson has produced a great plot, involving a totally unexpected crime that is current, and delivers it with aplomb. There is in this atrocity more than the usual known facts about the dangers to teen-age runaways, and a lot more money can be made. This is a plausible, newer hazard, and profitable to people with the right connections and lack of principles.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Poison Tree by Erin Kelly

Published by Pamela Dorman Books/Viking
Review based on Advance Reading Proof

A wonderfully well-written, psychological thriller debut, one that just cries out to be read and discussed. A perfect choice for a book club. Although I found it a bit disconcerting with early chapters switching between then and now, it is really just an essential hiccup in the storyline. This ploy simply increases the building suspense as the story unfolds. Watch out for author Erin Kelly, she has thrown down the gauntlet and intends to stay around for a long time!

An unusual storyline from the voice of the protagonist, Karen Clarke, the characters with their many differences are well-drawn and continue to grow throughout the book. Take a young normal girl who just happens to be fluent in several languages and throw her suddenly into a completely different society and what is she to do? Her meeting with Biba opens a whole new world to her, one she is not only introduced to, but embraces wholeheartedly. In 1990s London, the beautiful and vivacious Biba lives her life fully and dramatically, essentially the actress she wants to be. When she meets Karen, the straight-A student of linguistics, she brings her to her home, a very run-down yet exotic house of many characters, some of whom live there with Biba and her brother Rex. Soon Karen is a constant visitor.

The book begins near the end, then switches back to this carefree and exciting life, time and time again. We learn of old secrets that have a distinct effect on the brother and sister, and later newer secrets come between them. Karen can not tell her story alone without telling the story of Rex and Biba. Their lives and stories are tangled as one. These three are the main characters, but there are more roles to be played by lesser players. Still, they are all bigger than life and all play their parts boldly. The story unfolds between this wild beginning, fraught with suspense and lies, racing toward an unknown and unexpected tragedy. Clues and portents are sprinkled between these carefree days of one summer, building and building to an excruciating level. Murder, prison, life, loss, all wrapped up in one great read. Descriptive, alluring, and definitely atmospheric, characteristics run the gamut from innocence and trust to parties, drugs, drama, sex and lies.

This is not a book one can easily review without spoilers, mostly because of the way the book is written with all its portents. That said, the ending is shocking and yet feels right. Once read, the reader will understand what I mean, but earlier in the book he/she may not. This is an exceptional start to what I believe to be a long run for this author.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Dead of Knight - A Jack Staal Mystery by William R. Potter

Reviewed for Review the Book
Published by RealTime Publishing

This psychological thriller was of special interest to me because a lot of the action centered around the area where I grew up, Vancouver and the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. According to the cover blurb, Canadian author William R. Potter began this book in 2002, put the book on hold, and after completing other work, returned to Dead of Knight. I for one, am very glad he did.

A descriptive book, it takes place in the fictional town of Hanson in British Columbia. The book begins with a journey into the mind of a psychotic murderer, nick-named the Birthday Boy, because his victims were murdered on their birthdays. He sees himself as a hero; he is currently Tyro, training to become what he perceives to be a super hero who will be Damian Knight, Soldier of Justice. He believes he is on the same side as the law. The character is well-defined, as is the character of Jack Staal, the detective who becomes Knight's focused nemesis.

The story is also a police procedural that doesn't always follow procedure, often a sign of office politics versus either the very caring or the corrupt. Jack Staal is one of the caring, but he is fraught with demons of past cases. Some might call him flawed, others a hero. No matter, this is one man who is determined to stop Damian Knight, the psycho-serial killer with a mission. But what is the mission? How do the murders connect?

Jack and his group of allies on the police force must buck authority to bring in the "perp" as soon as possible, while the authorized group bungle and follow wrong leads, rumours abound. This is a very satisfying thriller, complete with background descriptions of what has led to this killing spree, internal strife in the police department, a vendetta against Jack Staal by Damian Knight when he thinks he is getting too close to solving who Damian Knight is, false leads, taunting hints left for Jack, death and injury. The methods of putting the pieces together is compelling. The plot was well thought out, played out with passion and resolve. A complex and taut story that kept my attention throughout. Written for mature readers.