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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Review - Listen to the Dead


We are well into autumn now, but let's take a trip to Massachusetts for springtime in this atmospheric tale of a cold case that dredges up a lot of buried secrets.   I somehow got wind of this book and it sounded intriguing - so I just had to check it out.  It is a police procedural, and true to this type of novel it is a bit rougher in attitude by nature.  See what you think from the review. 
Author: Randall Peffer

Copyright: August 2010 (Tyrus Books) 350 pgs

Series: # 5 in Cape Island Mysteries

Sensuality: Adult Material, language

Mystery sub-genre: Police Procedural

Main Character:  Single mon and Detective Yemanja Colon

Setting: Modern day Cape Island Massachusetts

Obtained book through: Publisher for an honest review

 
 
Bird Island is just beginning to thaw from the piles of snow and ice which subsequently uncover the corpse of a 1980s murder.  Is this young girl, shackled and buried alive another of the New Bedford serial killings that took place back in the 80s or unrelated?  Who was this girl with the flowing long red hair?  Detective Yemanja Colon is put in charge of the investigation of this very cold case.  Even the harbormaster who tends the lighthouse on Bird Island has something to hide and nobody is coming forward with information.  Yemanja likens it to a dentist literally strapping a patient down and having to pull teeth.
"Corby Church is waiting for you with his boar.  And Hank Cabot from the archeological society.  They think this is some kind of old grave that the ice floes have opened up."

He tells her to go on out there to Bird Island.  Do her thing with Corby's bones.  Get something that will help to figure out who's buried out there.  But try to be back here by mid-afternoon.  Chi Chi needs her working on the B&E they had out on Neck Road yesterday.  Property owners are bat shit.

"Just cover your bases.  Leave the rest for the archeologist types." 

"He said there were maybe handcuffs, manacles, he called them, on the body.  What's with that?  Probably not death by natural causes.  You think I'm going to  give a soft touch to a murder investigation?"  She tilts her head back, uses a hand to flick her long, dark hair out of her eyes, continues to hold her boss in her sights.  Never blinking.  She's thirty-five, but looks ten years younger.  A babe in cheap charcoal pants suit.  A whole heap of attitude.
Yemanja's grandmother practices Santeria and is apprenticing Yemanja into the ways, which adds plenty of atmosphere.  The murdered girl, "Princess" starts to literally haunt Yemanja and intrude on her thoughts, providing flashes of what led up to her murder, all sketchy and laced with promiscuity and drugs.  Princess was a tragically lost soul who fights to regain her dream of ice skating competitions but seems unable to overcome her cocaine habit and her resulting willingness to do pretty much anything to fund the habit.  Yemanja is also haunted by her own demons throughout the story from her past.

It doesn't help when Yemanja gets personally involved with the harbormaster hiding his own secrets.  As the story unfolds even influential and connected attorneys and wealthy socialites are dragged into the investigation.  Is Princess's murder connected to a 1980s several-month-long drug run from the Bahamas to New England that Princess was the cook for (and other locals including the harbormaster were part of) or was she simply one of the victim's of the New Bedford serial killer?   The New Bedford Serial Killings are a true crime case (nine women's bodies were found alongside Southeastern Massachusetts highways between July 1988 and April 1989) that remains unsolved and an open investigation to this day. 

This is definitely for mature readers, but don't take that to mean it contains "R" rated scenes just for sensationalism without a point.  Everything is pertinent to this tragic girl's life and murder.  If anything it brings compassion to just how sad these lost-souls-to-drugs are and puts a pathetic face to the murder victim.  It is interesting to note that Bird Island and Buzzard Bay (as well as New Bedford) where this novel takes place do really exist and the book seems to faithfully portray them.  These locations provide a lush atmospheric setting for this tale.

Character development is done very well.  The character of Yemanja is complex and even a touch volatile.  She is not the sort of character most will want to become friends with or hang out with, but she is compelling as she attempts to wade through the quagmire of the case.  The character of the harbormaster (Corby Church) is prominent in the story with many scenes from his point of view and flashbacks of his recollections of the drug run from Bahamas to New England and the deceased girl.  His character is only slightly easier to relate to as his own shortcomings become evident.  He has a reputation as a "player" and did the crazy scene plenty, but how much has he grown up from all that is doled out in small doses leaving the reader always wondering about him.  Yemanja's boss is the kind of boss you love to hate, sexist and prejudice.  Yemanja gets assigned a partner that is a good leveling influence on her .  The character of "Princess", the murder victim, is expertly drawn as well.

The plot is well thought out and executed with precision.  This novel many not be for everyone with its "mature audience" rating, but it is actually a well done story that keeps you puzzling and wanting to figure out who the killer really is.  The subject matter of "Princess's" life and death is dark but overall I didn't feel the story dragged me down into the pit with Princess - which I feel is an important point.  The climax is suspenseful and the wrap-up I appreciated. 
If I had one thing I would have changed would be the mingling of Yemanja's personal demons with the case.  In those instances I began to feel bogged down with hopelessness.  Thankfully those moments weren't prevalent.

If you like well written grittier police procedurals, this book should be to your liking.   

 
 
 
 
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Monday, September 27, 2010

Banned Book Week - Celebrating the Freedom to Read

This week is Banned Book Week.  The folks at the American Library Association say "Banned Books Week (BBW) is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment.  Held during the last week of September, Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States."

Heard on over to the American Library Association's website (http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/banned/bannedbooksweek/index.cfm) to find all sorts of resources, ideas and events for taking part in this week's celebration of our freedom to read.

If this is a passion of yours, consider joining the Freedom to Read Foundation.

Banned Books Week is sponsored by the American Booksellers Association; American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression; the American Library Association; American Society of Journalists and Authors; Association of American Publishers; and the National Association of College Stores.  It is endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress

Enjoy your freedom to read!!



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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Review - Night of the Living Deed

Fall is creeping up on us and that means Halloween can't be far behind.  I have been waiting for this season to read all my paranormal mysteries!  So here is the first in my line-up, a new mystery series by a kinda-sorta new author.


 
 
Author: E.J. Copperman

Copyright:  June, 2010 (Berkley) 336 pages

Series: #1  in the Haunted Guesthouse Mysteries

Sensuality: N/A

Mystery sub-genre: Cozy (Paranormal) 

Main Character: Alison Kerby, recently divorced mother of nine year old Melissa 

Setting: Modern day New Jersey Shore

Obtained book through:  Publisher for an honest review

 
Alison Kerby moves back to her hometown to start over after divorcing "the swine".  She acquires an old Victorian fixer-upper mansion with the express mission of restoring it and turning it into a guesthouse to support herself and her daughter, Melissa.  She quickly finds out this Victorian has "lots of character" in the form of two resident ghosts, the former owner and the private investigator she hired to protect her and find out who was threatening her.   Alison is soon pressured to help the ghosts uncover who killed them - particularly when she begins getting death threats herself.

Alison is a truly likable character with a sense of humor and a touch of sass.   She is handy with power tools and knows her way around a saw horse and Spackle.  She has a "can-do" attitude and doesn't shy away from a lot of hard work. I enjoyed her quirky way of looking at things which made the story a pleasant ride.

The interactions with the two ghosts can be either humorous interchanges or frustrating situations - for both Alison and them.  Imagine having a ghost chiming in on your design/decoration plans or being a conflicting influence for your child!  The ghosts, Maxie and Paul, are wonderful characters who appear to be permanent fixtures in the house and possibly the series.  Alison's mother adores her daughter, which is a pleasant change from so many cozies that have obnoxious mothers.  But as we get to know her, mom has a bit more spunk than even Alison realized.  Some nice touches there!

"We heard something fall, and we thought someone might be hurt," Paul told me.

I experimented with standing up, but my head was not pleased with the attempt..."No, that's not what happened," I told Paul.  "Paul, right?  I remember, you were yelling at her."  I indicated Maxie.  "You said she might have killed me."

Paul's eyes widened in an "uh-oh" sort of way for a flash, and he clearly avoided the urge to look quickly at Maxie.  "I wasn't talking about you.  I was talking about our dog."

"Your dog."

Paul nodded.  "Yes, Maxie left our dog in the car with the windows closed.  In this heat..."

"Heat?" I asked.  "It's October.  It's maybe sixty degrees out.  What heat?"

His stammering got worse.  "Dogs feel the heat more than we do," he said.  "All that fur..."

"I got hit on the head," I told Paul.  "It hurt, but it didn't make me stupid."

Maxie laughed.  "Good one," she said.

I turned to Maxie.  "Don't look at Paul," I said.  "What kind of dog do you have?"

She wasn't chewing gum, but she should have been.  "We don't have a dog," she answered.

"Then what's going on?"

"We're dead."  She cocked her head defiantly.

Paul looked aghast.  "Maxie!"

I opened and closed my mouth a few times.  It was worse than I thought.  I wasn't just woozy - I was hallucinating.  I decided to lie down and close my eyes for a moment.
It wouldn't be a cozy without the ensemble of interesting town's people.  The mayor who was a prior beautician, the "perfect" mother who works for Alison (and coincidentally Maxie's) real estate agent, the developer wanting to snatch up Alison's house and Melissa's history teacher who is over-eager to explore the house in spite of repairs being done.  A stand out minor character is the local newspaper's one-and-only staffer, Phyllis who has been around long enough to know the goings on.

The plot is solid without being overdone.  The story moves along easily and before you know it the story is wrapping up.  The writing is smooth and flows expertly.  Told from Alison's viewpoint, it is easy reading and funny.  I enjoyed the wrap up which set up the next works to be equally as enjoyable.  As a cozy it is spot-on and entertaining and as a debut novel it foretells a delightful series I am looking forward to reading each addition to.

For added mystery, this prior-published author is apparently assuming a pen-name to keep his/her identity quiet.  Hmmmmm, who could it be???

 I liked how the title is a tip-of-the hat to "Night of the Living Dead" with zombies....so here is a zombie cat for you.

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Author Interview - Suzanne Arruda

WELCOME to all the new members!  Our anniversary giveaway and participation in Blogmania brought us many new members.  I hope you enjoy this little spot in the blogosphere.   So grab your cup of coffee and enjoy today's post.

We have a great interview with author Suzanne Arruda today!  Read the review I did of her latest novel here.  A little background information on her first.

She grew up in Greensburg, Indiana, attended Purdue University, worked part time at the local zoo, then became a laboratory technician at the University after graduation. She then moved to Kansas and received a masters degree in wildlife ecology and worked for Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks in their Pratt museum, then as a research assistant on the Konza Prairie at Kansas State University. She also managed a job as a Biology instructor at Kansas State University. As if that weren't enough for a lifetime, she earned a Master’s in Education and taught middle and high school science.

But through it all she has been an explorer at heart.  She was profoundly touched by Elsa the lioness in "Born Free" and she read the semi-autobiographical stories of African bush pilot Beryl Markham and explorers and cinematographers Osa and Martin Johnson. She then graduated into museum collector Roy Chapman Andrews whose exploits became the basis for Indiana Jones, Amazon explorer Col. Fawcett, African coffee farmer Isak Dinesen, and finally Peter Capstick, a modern big game hunter. (I did not know these authors before this - OH MY!)  She has a lot squeezed into her life - now a great mystery series fueled by her explorer passion to crown it all.

Do you start your next mystery with the killer, the victim or a plot idea?


Yes! (or 'D' All of the above.) Actually, I have started with a location (Kilimanjaro) and in the research come up with a plot based on a legend, I've started with a villain, a crime, and also a plot based on a 1920 Nairobi newspaper notice. One takes inspiration where it comes and if it doesn't come, you go beating around the thicket until you scare it and it runs out in front of you.


Do you outline the plot or some variation of that (a little/a lot of detail, a strict 3 act structure etc) before sitting down and writing?

I do outline mainly because my publisher wishes to see a 12+ page synopsis before making a contract. And while I long for that "wander through the manuscript and just write" experience, that's actually harder than it sounds and I find the synopsis helps. BUT, I do digress from it, especially in the middle act (which is the hard part). Then, I do let scenes and characters suggest alternatives to my original plan. I still stick to the original ending (more or less)

What is your process for developing a character? Do you use pictures, a worksheet or just let the character(s) tell you about him/herself as you write?

I begin with a skeletal construct of a character - age, appearance, attitude, gender, and then stick them in a scene and see how they interact with others. Some end up 'running with scissors' and not playing well with others. Others turn out to have more interior fortitude than I'd originally thought. It's great fun to let the characters take hold and grow. It's much the same as when we were kids and invented characters in our role-playing games.

How do you find time for writing, what works for you - and do you have anything special you do before writing, particular music or a special room/location that helps you get in the zone and write?

Writing, at present, IS my job (and I'm a lousy housekeeper so I never let that interfere) so I have a lot of time for writing. I tend NOT to write with music. I can't hear my characters talk then. In fact, I find it distracting when anyone is home. My location is possibly not the best - the computer is in the front room right by the door, but I do like hearing the birds outside.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing and how long does it take you to write a book?

I try to keep a 9-4 work day and treat this professionally like any job. When I was teaching as well, I always had time set aside, devoted to writing. If you're serious about this, you have to plan and schedule the time. Of course, like any job, there are break periods which for me means feeding the kitty and checking on the flower beds briefly.

What in your background prepared you to write mystery novels?

READING! Writers should read read read read. Otherwise, I'm trained as a biologist and perhaps that analytical turn (problem solving - scientific method sort of thing) helps in thinking of crime solving.

How did you get your first break to getting published? Was it at a writer's conference or mailing a query letter?

I went to conferences where agents were running around loose. Actually, the first agent I applied to from a conference turned me down. But I discovered that just getting any agent is like going into a store and grabbing the first pair of pants you find. They may not fit in which case, you're no better off. Whether you find an agent via conference or by leg work looking to see who represents books similar to yours, It's important to find one that "fits" and believes in your work.

What are you currently reading?

I'm enjoying SANDI AULT'S "Jamaica WILD" mystery series set in the SW pueblo areas of Colorado. I'm alternaternating them with some very old H. Rider Haggard adventures.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

Hmmm! This is a tough one. But I've been known to use small stuffed animals to represent characters and have them act out a more troublesome scene. Watching a small stuffed lion knife fight the 'pointy-headed boss' from Dilbert comics while a teddy bear pilot hurries in is ..... very odd - but helpful!

Do you participate in a critique group (or have you in the past?) What are the pros and cons of critique groups?

I don't have a critiquing group at present. I did belong to one when I began writing and was selling articles and kids short fiction but the group sort of disbanded. I have trouble finding a critiquing group where everyone is serious about writing rather than talking about writing. And I found that, often, the critique was more about punctuation rather than plot or construct. I know there are on-line groups, but I've gotten used to talking to the cat or (more usefully) bouncing some ideas off my husband.

If your Jade Del Cameron mysteries were to be made into a movie, who would you cast in your character's roles?

Back when I began writing Jade and my sons were then teenagers, THEY wanted Angelina Jolie to play Jade. Right now, I'm not sure but what I'd prefer an unknown to take her on or any of the other roles. But someone with FIRE for Jade.


Thank You Suzanne, especially for sharing your writing quirk - I love it!


* * * * * If you have enjoyed this blog, then PRETTY PLEASE vote for this blog as best Entertainment Blog (proving reading is entertainment) CLICK HERE and also as best Hobby Blog CLICK HERE. Thank you most sincerely. There are voting buttons on the sidebar too. You will have to register with Blogger's Choice, but it is a simple process. I am listed under Mysterysuspence.Blogspot.com. * * * * * 



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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Blog Anniversary Celebration - Blogmania





It Is the One Year Anniversary
of Mysteries and My Musings.
Join the celebration with prizes galore.


A big THANK YOU to everyone who participated.
Entries for the prizes are now closed.



This would not have been possible without the 
Small store owners donating items.  
Please visit these talented and hardworking people.
Simply click on the photo titles and browse their shops.
They did this hoping to meet all of you!

 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Below are the prizes and the suppliers

who are on board to make this a memorable event.

Please take a peek at what they are providing to our

Blogoversary event - you might find some early holiday

or gift ideas while you are at it!

Disclaimer:  Prizes are shipping directly from the shops/companies providing them.


The winners are listed below with the photos.
I shall be forwarding email addresses to the shop owners and winners should be notified by them shortly.




Winner:  CathyH







Winner:  Misscaseylee











Winner:  Rebecca Wells


Winner:  I♥thesecrazykids    








Winner:  haydensmommy05


Winner:  BMom76

"Some of our most exquisite murders have been domestic,
performed with tenderness in simple, homey places like the kitchen table."


Winner:  expogenic


Winner:  k_sunshine1977





For 48 hours we will be all about celebrating one year of Mystery and Suspense and you have a front row seat.


How to enter:

*** First, you must be a member (follower) of this blog.***

All entries are to be in the comments for this post.

I will accept entries for this giveaway Wednesday September 15 beginning at midnight (EST) through to 11:59 pm on Thursday September 16.  Winners will be announced Saturday Sept 18.
 
IF you are a member of this blog, you only need to leave a comment with your correct email information.

Prizes will be given away by a lottery system, so you don't know which one of the wonderful prizes you may get.



Check out the other Blogmania participating blogs here:







* * * * * If you have enjoyed this blog, then PRETTY PLEASE vote for this blog as best Entertainment Blog (proving reading is entertainment) CLICK HERE and also as best Hobby Blog CLICK HERE. Thank you most sincerely. There are voting buttons on the sidebar too. You will have to register with Blogger's Choice, but it is a simple process. I am listed under Mysterysuspence.Blogspot.com. * * * * *


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Monday, September 13, 2010

Author Interview - Lauren Carr

Only a few days to out Blog Anniversary Celebration!  Be sure to come back and take part.


Today we welcome author Lauren Carr.  You can read the review I did of her latest novel here.  Lauren is a popular speaker who has made speaking appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She is also an active member of Sisters in Crime. She lives with her husband and son on a mountaintop in West Virginia. 


- Do you start your next mystery with the killer, the victim or a plot idea?

I have to say that I always start with the plot idea. Generally, it comes from a “What if…?” or a “Why would…?” scenario. It’s Murder, My Son sprang from an old episode of Unsolved Mysteries. It was the case of a woman found dead after years of being stalked. However, the police could never catch, or even identify, her stalker. Everyone, the police and her friends and family, said the victim admitted that she wasn’t telling them everything. Eventually, her secret got her killed. So, I started thinking, “What type of secret would someone keep even when they were being terrorized to death?” I kept working on that in my mind until I had a storyline for It’s Murder, My Son.

- Do you outline the plot or some variation of that (a little/a lot of detail, a strict 3 act structure etc) before sitting down and writing?

If I do an outline, it is very loose. Mostly, I make notes in order to sort things out in my mind. Ninety-five percent of the time, I won’t refer to the outline when writing out the book.

- What is your process for developing a character? Do you use pictures, a worksheet or just let the character(s) tell you about him/herself as you write?

The personality comes first. It is a given that certain types of personalities are capable of some things that others are not. The characters drive my storylines. It is not unusual for me to want to go one way with the story, only to get so far into the book and have a character drive it in a different direction.

I have a vision of all of my characters in my mind. Of course, since they are fiction, I don’t have pictures of them. Even Gnarly, the German shepherd in It’s Murder, My Son, has certain distinctive physical characteristics that make him unique in my head.

In my current work in progress, Old Loves Die Hard, there is a character with an outrageous personality, but I had trouble visualizing him. While we were on vacation this summer, I saw a man at a rest stop who appeared quite bizarre. As soon as I saw him, I knew he was this character that I had already developed for Old Loves Die Hard. Suddenly, I could see him. After we got home, I returned to the manuscript and gave that character this stranger’s physical description, which was a perfect match for his personality.

- How do you find time for writing, what works for you - and do you have anything special you do before writing, particular music or a special room/location that helps you get in the zone and write?

I have a writer’s studio in the top floor of our home. My husband built it for me after A Small Case of Murder came out.

I used to write early in the morning. It was the only time that I could be alone. But as my son has gotten older and more antisocial, I am able to write more after the sun comes up. I write about four hours a day. Two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening before I go to bed. During the day, I’ll work on marketing and promoting my books.

That something special to get me in the zone: Once I start thinking about the characters and the plot and the scenes, and then I’ll get there. Once I get in that zone, it’s hard to get me out.

- What is your work schedule like when you're writing and how long does it take you to write a book?

My work schedule varies. After I write a draft, I let it sit while I go onto to another project. That way, when I return to the draft, I can read it with fresh eyes. I’ll go through three drafts of a book before sending it to my perfect reader. Each draft takes approximately six weeks to complete. My perfect reader is my mother, who is an expert when it comes to murder mysteries. She reads them all. She used to read Perry Mason to me at bedtime. I almost always have revisions based on her recommendations. After that, the book will go to the editor, and then on into the publication process.

- What in your background prepared you to write mystery novels?

My dear sweet mother. She turned me on to Perry Mason, then Agatha Christie, and whodunits. That is something that we share. Neither my brothers nor sister share the love Mom and I have for murder.


- What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

I have trouble deleting my work. As I go through drafts of my books, instead of deleting whole sections that I decide to do away with, I’ll cut and paste them into another document called Cut Scenes. I’m not totally crazy because there have been times when I have lifted a cut scene or two and used it in another project.

- I see you self published, what were the factors the made your mind up to go that route? Has your experience been positive going this route?

My first book, A Small Case of Murder, was self-published through iUniverse. At that time, I knew no one, and couldn’t get anyone to even read it. It was named finalist for the Independent Publisher Book Awards. Since I was self-published, I had to invest in and do all of the marketing and promotion for my book. I had to print up bookmarks, postcards, advertisements for book signings. I had to write and send out press releases to the media and set up interviews. I had to set up booksignings and book events. I had to pay for and do it all.

My second book, A Reunion to Die For, was traditionally published with Five Star Mystery. Even though I received an advance, I went through that and beyond in no time. Personally, I did all of the marketing and promotion. I had to print up bookmarks, postcards, advertisements for book signings. I had to write and send out press releases to the media and set up interviews. I had to set up booksignings and book events. I had to do it all.

Five Star Mystery had said they would take It’s Murder, My Son, but I chose not to go back to this publisher because they had done away with their paperback division. It is very hard to sell a $26 hardback when you’re an unknown. Another traditional publisher offered a contract for It’s Murder, My Son. I was tempted, but I kept coming back to the question, “Why do I need a traditional publisher? I had to do everything on my own when I was traditionally published as I did when I was self-published.”

By the time the traditional publisher and I came to a disagreement on the contract, it was very easy for me to say, “Thanks, but no thank you.”

It’s Murder, My Son has been through two editors. The cover is designed by the traditional audio publisher. I did the book’s interior layout design, something I have been doing professionally my whole adult life.

I independently published It’s Murder, My Son with CreateSpace, for the print version; DTP for the Kindle; and Smashwords for the other e-publication distributions. I have been very happy with the results and how well It’s Murder, My Son is doing. I will definitely continue with self-publishing.

A traditional audio publisher, Books-In-Motion released the audio version, including MP3 download. I have looked at Podio, but considering that I hate the sound of my own voice, I think I’ll stick with Books-In-Motion for the audio.

- Do you participate in a critique group (or have you in the past?) What are the pros and cons of critique groups?

No, I haven’t participated in any critique groups. I get an honest critique from my mother. I’ve heard different things about them, some positive, some negative. I guess it is a matter of getting in with a really good one.

- Do you have another book in this series planned? If so, please tell us a little about it.

Oh, yes, definitely. I am already working on Old Loves Die Hard. In this next installment of the Mac Faraday Mysteries, Mac returns to Georgetown when his wife becomes the prime suspect in the murder of the ADA, the man for whom she had divorced Mac.



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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Review - It's Murder, My Son

I stumbled upon this book and just had to review it.  I contacted the author and she graciously sent a copy to me.  I had a feeling from the description that I would enjoy it.  Read the review and find out how this new mystery series is a great new addition to the genre.  Next week is the GRAND Blog anniversary with prizes.  Please visit the great sponsors HERE.


Author: Lauren Carr

Copyright:  June, 2010 (CreateSpace) 286 pages

Series: #1  in the Mac Faraday Mysteries

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery sub-genre: Amateur Sleuth

Main Character: Mac Faraday, recently inherited millions from the mother who gave him up

Setting: Lakefront Spencer Manor in Spencer, Maryland

Obtained book through:  Author for an honest review
 
 
Mac Faraday, a D.C. policeman, just finished a nasty divorce when he gets another life changing revelation.  His birth mother, a Pulitzer prize winning author, who had given him up for adoption had just left him millions, a mansion and a resort with a five-star restaurant in her will.  Overwhelmed, Mac moves into his new home and begins to learn about his mother via her novels and journal.  He also finds out that the house next door was the scene of an unsolved murder only a few months old.
While packing up his handful of belongings in his two-bedroom, third-floor walk-up in Georgetown, Mac Faraday envisioned his arrival into high society:
 
He would pull up to the front door of Spencer Manor in his red Dodge Viper.  Then, the front doors would open and Ed Willingham, the senior partner of Willingham and Associates, would welcome him into his new home.  Ed was the first attornety Mad liked.  He sensed it had something to do with Ed working for him.
 
Everything happened as Mac envisioned until Ed opened the front door and released a hundred pounds of fur and teeth that shot like a bullet aimed at the man in the roadster.
 
"No!  Come back here!  Stay!" the lawyer seemed to beg the German Shepard, which landed in the front passenger seat of Mac's convertible in a single bound.
 
Mac felt the beast's hot breath on his cheek while they spilled into the stone driveway.  He shoved against the canine straddling his chest to keep him from  ripping his throat open.
 
...Nobody told him that a man-eating dog was part of that inheritance.
 
A high pitched whistle broke through his screaming and the shepherd's barking.
 
The canine froze.
 
"Gnarly, get off him!"  Mac heard yelled in a feminine, but firm, tone. 
 
The German shepherd paused.
 
"Yes, I'm talking to you."  She seemed to respond to the dog's nonverbial question.
 
..."Mac is your new master," the woman back on the porch told the dog.  "What have I told you about biting the hand that feeds you?"
 
The dog uttered a noise that sounded like "Humph!" before climbing off Mac's chest and disappearing around the front of the roadster.
Mac starts wading through the local politics and wealthy neighbor personalities as he starts his own investigation on the murder.  His mother's copy editor and research assistant, Archie, inherited the guest house and she is there to help him understand his mother who was also her dear friend and the new life he has stepped into.  He realizes that the local cop is also his half brother which is only the beginning of the complexities to come.
 
Mac is a simple cop who is thrown into completely unfamiliar waters and latches onto what is familiar, investigating murder.  Mac makes a great main character and the myriad of supporting cast pull their weight as well.  Interesting enough is the character of Mac's deceased mother.  Even in death I loved this character.  Archie makes a great guide for Mac in his strange new life and she shines in her own right as gutsy and smart.  Several wealthy neighbors, a headstrong police chief and the other famous author and his model wife round out the cast nicely.  But I can't forget Mac's sidekick - his impossible to control German Shepard, Gnarly!  He was kicked out of military service but he has Mac's back, is rebellious and too smart for his own good.  He provides some comic relief but he also plays a key role in the whole mystery.
 
The story takes hold immediately and the reader quickly identifies with Mac.  The plot is well done without being overplotted.  There are just enough twists and turns to keep the reader guessing.  The climatic confrontation with the killer is good and the wrap up leaves you laughing and feeling good.  The writing style is easy and draws the reader in effortlessly.  I am looking forward to the next installment!
 


Check out this book trailer as an added bonus.
 
 




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Monday, September 6, 2010

Mystery & Crime Fiction Blog Carnival Sept 2010

Month nine in the year!  I still can't get over how fast the time flies.  A year ago this month I started this blog and in December I started the Carnivals.  I hope you are enjoying the blog and carnivals as much as I am.

Police Procedural Book Review

Booking Mama gives us 31 Bond Street by Ellen Horan

It's Not All Gravy gives us The Fourth Sacrifice by Peter May
Private Investigator Book Review

Back to the Mountains gives us The Middle Temple Murder by J.S. Fletcher


Amateur Sleuth book Review

The Star Celeb gives us Shadow Hills by Anastasia Hopcus, a young adult sleuthing mystery.

Mysteries and My Musings gives us Royal Blood by Rhys Bowen

Mysteries and My Musings gives us The Crocodile's Last Embrace by Suzanne Arruda

 
Cozy Mystery Book Review

Royals Reviews gives us The Thief Taker by Janet Gleeson
Pudgy Penguin Perusals gives us Grace under Pressure by Julie Hyzy
Thriller/Suspense Fiction Book Review

Missy Frye presents Solitary by Travis Thrasher and shares it is a brief look at Travis Thrasher's young adult thriller.

Author Interview

None submitted

Writing Tips and Advice

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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Review - The Spider's Web

Just a few days until the Anniversary BASH, check here for all the exciting details and notice the featured items on the sidebar.  In the meantime let's visit the Arapahoe Reservation in Wyoming for a case of murder.  It has been a long time since I have read one of the Wind River Mysteries - since the third book in this long running series, so I was tickled to have the chance to review the latest.


Author: Margaret Coel

Copyright: September, 2010 (Berkeley) 304 pgs

Series: # 15 in the Wind River Mysteries

Sensuality etc.: Occasional swear words

Mystery sub-genre: Amateur Sleuth

Main Character:  Arapaho attorney Vicky Holden and Jesuit priest, Father John O'Malley

Setting: Modern day, Arapaho reservation in Wyoming

Obtained book through: Publisher for an honest review

The story opens with the discovery of Ned Windsong shot to death and his recent and surprising fiancĂ©e Marcy is the only witness. She identifies two Arapaho troublemakers (Lionel Lookingglass and Dwayne Hawk,) as the killers.  Marcy's father is a mega TV Evangelist who hires Vicki to represent his daughter and ensure she doesn't get railroaded as the "outsider".  Ned's family clings to the belief that Marcy herself was responsible.

Believeing that Marcy is in danger, Father John offers the mission's guest house for her safe keeping until the Federal agents find Lionel and Dwayne.  But Father John starts to suspect Marcy has some deep seated issues.  Father John also figures that Lionel and Dwayne were not the brains involved, so there must be a leader who is likely more dangerous yet.  Ned's prior girlfriend, Roseanne Birdwoman may be the one who is in immediate danger as she puts together several pieces to the eleborate web of deception where "trust nobody" is a mantra to live by but she has no way of hiding.

Chapters are told from either Vicky, Father John or Roseanne Birdwoman's point of view and this works in showing the reader just enough of the danger that surrounds Ned's death.  The killer or killers are still at large and Ned's murder starts to unravel the tale of what he had been trying to untangle himself from.  Ned's decision to get his life right and dance the Sun Dance were cut short because what he got involved with wasn't letting him go.
 
Vicky doesn't have as much of a role in this one, Father John and Roseanne Birdwoman seem to be center stage more often, which worked out fine for the story.   The running thread of an undercurrent between Vicky and Father John still shows.  I really came to appreciate the character of Father John more in this novel.  Father John has been joined at the mission by an elderly and retired Bishop who is a surprisingly welcome addition who I look forward to getting to know better.   I couldn't help but feel like taking the character Roseanne into my care, she becomes such a breathing person.  Miss Coel expertly reveals her characters in the midst of this tragedy and draws the reader into the web of Ned Birdsong's murder. 
He realized he had been hoping there was some mistake, but this was the same house he had come to last year to anoint Ella's father, Albert, before he died.  The Windong family had been parishioners at St. Francis Mission longer than he had been here.  He had known Ned since he was a kid, brown face and big teeth, playing first base on the Eagles baseball  team.  Ned had moved to Jackson Hole for a while, but then he'd come hom.  He'd stopped by the mission twice, something on his mind each time, Father John thought, but when he tried to ask, Ned had shrugged away the question.  He was going to go into the Sun Dance, he said.  Donald Little Robe, one of the elders, would sponsor him, be his spiritual grandfather, teach him the prayers and the rituals and help him catch up to the other dancers who had been preparing for most of the year.  "I wanna get back to myself," Ned had told him.
I felt the plot was well done and the twists and turns kept me on the edge of my seat.  The suspense is finely layered like a good Hitchcock thriller.  The reveal of the killer(s) is handled well with a good dramatic scene.  The wrap up actually leaves the door open for a follow up on this tale with Father John being in danger down the road. 
 
I must thank Miss Coel for her deft handling of the cultural issues that interplay between the mission and the traditional native beliefs.  Neither is lessened for the sake of the other but rather an honoring of both spiritual paths is exemplified.  Which brings me to the setting - a Native American Reservation.  The unique and complex challenges facing reservation life are the backdrop and you come away with a part of your heart touched for this mini-visit.   This book took me back to my visit to Wounded Knee and I thank Miss Coel for that.
 
Miss Coel's writing style is subtle and easy going, drawing the reader in until you feel you are there, truly in the action and you never realized the transition was happening.  If you have never read the Wind River Mysteries, this is a good place to start.  I think most readers will find themselves addicted in short order and start reading all of the books in the series.   I feel Miss Coel has grown along with the series as a first class writer.  If you enjoyed Tony Hillerman I think you will equally enjoy Margaret Coel.
 
 
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