Review: The Good Know Nothing – Not Quite Hardboiled, But Tasty

Leave a comment

The Good Know Nothing

By Ken Kuhlkenhttp://www.poisonedpenpress.com/the-good-know-nothing/

277 pages

Detective Tom Hickey worked for a police department that not only enforced the law, but also often became judge and jury. It was 1936. Prohibition didn’t prevent drinking, it was hidden in plain sight and readily available. Hickey’s boss and most of the department were dirty. Turning guns on whiskey runners that didn’t pay them off, the law became lawless.

The Police Chief called Hickey in, gave him a rifle, and told him to kill a man. He left without argument or the intension of following orders. Hickey has troubles and he doesn’t want to add murder to the list. At the top of the list was the discontent of his wife, Madeline. The former records clerk was now a mother and a sweet singer that got a taste of show biz, savoring every morsel. Hickey is sensing an increasing distance in their relationship. Their young daughter Elizabeth is the joy of his life.

The other woman in his life is Florence, his younger sister. He was her protector and guardian when his father left them with their abusive mother. Once a wild thing, Florence has settled down and has a good life. The siblings are thrust into the past with the arrival of a book that was most likely written by their father. Hickey becomes obsessed with the mystery surrounding his father; every door that opens pulls him in deeper. Will he cross the line, losing everything dear to him just to find the long hidden secrets of the father that abandoned them?

This is the sixth and last Tom Hickey novel. It is the first I have read, and absolutely works as a stand-alone story.  The only thing that confused me at times was the number of characters. I can assume that some of them were developed in previous books. At times, I had to go back several pages to get a better understanding of some of the roles the characters played.

Hickey and his immediate family were well-defined and developed. Kuhlken made me fall in love with the precocious Elizabeth. Strong willed Florence has a wonderful soft spot. She works with young girls and her interactions with her niece showcases their close and loving relationship.

At times, this novel appeared to be noir. It was almost, but not quite dark enough. I found the story being bogged down with the telling of it at times. It was kind of struggle of to be or not to be hardboiled, but only at times.

I liked the short chapters. When things got rolling the story pops to life with page turning action. The ending was unexpected and satisfying.

Copyright © 2014 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

Advertisements

Book Review: Hell With The Lid Blown Off

1 Comment

Hell With The Lid Blown Off Temp CoverHell With The Lid Blown Off

By Donis Casey

219 pages

Twisters pop up fast and furious in the flatlands of Oklahoma. In the summer of 1916, tornados weren’t the only thing tearing people apart and leaving a path of destruction in the wake.

Like any other town, Boyton had solid citizens, good for nothing citizens and secrets. The worst of the bunch was Jubal Beldon. He ran with a group of other troublemakers of whom he was the ringleader. He was mean and seemed to hold secrets of more than one of the townsfolk. When he ended up dead, it didn’t surprise many, but has the wrong person been blamed for his death?

Alafair Tucker was the polar opposite of Jubal. Mother of ten nearly grown children, she never hesitated when some child needed to come and live with her family for a while. She and her husband Shaw were good people that gave everyone the benefit of the doubt and turned the other cheek. Alafair also has a flair for solving mysteries, and she cannot stand to see someone wrongfully accused of murder even if they are confessing to the crime.

As the residents of Boyton pick up the pieces of their lives after the devastation of the twister, the search for the murderer and motive puts more strain on the overburdened town. Tensions rise as it appears that secrets may be revealed.

Hell With The Lid Blown Off starts a bit slow.  But like a twister, it gathers speed, snatching the reader up and swirling you right into the chaos. It is a different twist on a cozy mystery. Who could imagine a mother and grandmother in the early 1900s solving a mystery as handily as she bakes homemade biscuits or fries up some green tomatoes? Donis Casey keeps the reader’s interest while taking you on a journey back in time.

This is the seventh book in Casey’s Alafair Tucker series, but works well as a stand-alone read. I really enjoyed the voice of the characters. Having grandparents from the south, I can hear their voices in the dialog, it rings true to the era. An extra bonus were the recipes for some of the mouthwatering home cooked food at the end of the book. After the vivid descriptions, that make a reader hungry, you can make them to enjoy while reading one of the earlier books in the series.

Copyright © 2014 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

Ancient Alaskan Mystery: Book Review – The Spirit and The Skull by J.M. Hayes

1 Comment

The Spirit and The Skull

By J.M. Hayes

Poisoned Pen Press

184  pages Genre: Mystery

Surviving in Paleolithic times was a daily struggle, almost impossible as an individual. Bands of undocumented immigrants, calling themselves The People, depend on each member of the group to survive. They place their trust in Raven their aging Spirit Man for guidance from the Spirit World. As the narrator of the novel, he allows the reader to see his strengths as well as his shortcomings as he tries to set The People on the right path.

He returns from a scouting mission to find one of the leaders of The People dead. Murder is unheard of and an unspeakable action among them, yet it has happened. Raven has the task of finding the killer so the remaining leaders can either banish or kill him. This task becomes more complicated than he first imagines after finding a doll much like a voodoo doll with the body. This could mean there is an evil spirit or witch among them.

His investigation of the murder unearths secrets of The People that he does not want to become known, worried that this would only compound the problems the band is having. Unsure of his actual ability to find the murder, he begins having dreams in which he is only a skull in modern times.  He is not sure if it is a dream or a glimpse into his future, but either way it is disturbing.

As if Raven did not have enough complicating his life, he encounters who he believes to be the Goddess, Mother Earth. She tells him he must go back to his band and find the murderer. This has to be completed within the next 24 hours. His urgency compounded with yet another murder; he sets events in motion that will change the lives of The People forever.

Hayes does a fabulous job of showing the reader everything in Raven’s world. He brings the reader into the world of Raven and The People with vivid details of both every day events and rituals believed to be part of the immigrant’s lives.

The reason I loved this book is the fact that it is so different from most murder mysteries. Hayes masterfully takes the reader to ancient times then draws you back to modern day with Raven’s dreams or visions. At times the plot was moving so quickly, I could hardly wait to turn the page to see what happened next.

Google Images from www.seattlepi.com

Google Images from http://www.seattlepi.com

Be sure to read the afterword about the inspiration for writing The Spirit and The Skull. Maybe the Spirits spoke to him while he slept close to the Arctic Circle so he could bring this mystery to life for our enjoyment.

Copyright © 2014 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

Do Not Avoid Avoidable Contact by Tammy Kaehler

Leave a comment

Avoidable ContactBook Review: 

Avoidable Contact  (A Kate Reilly Mystery)

Tammy Kaehler

Poisoned Pen Press

296 pages Genre: Mystery

Kate Reilly, racecar driver and coincidental sleuth, is back in Tammy Kaehler’s third book in the series. Avoidable Contact is set in Florida, during the “24 Hours of Daytona” race that combines drivers from NASCAR and American Le Mans Series (ALMS). They are driving prototypes and custom cars like the Corvettes that Kate’s team drives. The race also allows drivers that are not exactly professional drivers, but have qualified and won enough other races to participate in this one.

Before Kate hits the track, her boyfriend Stuart is critically injured by a hit and run driver. He is in surgery, with a small chance of survival so his role of the Series Vice President of Operations has to be covered by a couple of shady characters so the race can go on. Kate decides she will do her stints in the race because she cannot do anything other than win for Stuart.

To add to her distress, her estranged birth father, whom she just met at the end of the second book of the series, has his racing team there to compete also. Her obnoxious cousins as well as half-sister are also there, which add another layer of distraction for Kate. She is not comfortable around her family in any situation, and is worried they might be part of the illegal activities that are going on.

As the race gets going, Kate learns that Stuart’s hit and run might not have been an accident, and it could be someone from the Series that attempted to kill him. Stuart’s condition,  as well as rumors of bribes, send Kate into a race with time to find the guilty person before the enod of the car race. She may have to team up with an unlikely ally to get the job done.

Like the 24-hour race, this book is paced a bit slower than the last in the series. The drivers, drive competitively throughout the race, but do not kick it into overdrive until the last few hours because the drivers and cars have to last for the entire race. Because the book was only set at the racetrack, it did not have the change of setting or the lapse of time to add interest. I suspect someone more into racing than I am would have enjoyed the details of the race more.

What I loved was the way Kaehler added text messages instead of dialog or phone calls in places that were appropriate. This mixed it up a bit to add interest and it really worked for me. The last few chapters, like the race it was about, were fast paced and nail biting. The action on and off the track is roars to a conclusion as the checkered flag is waved.

I liked Avoidable Contact; there are plenty of suspects in cars and around the pits to keep the mystery lover in me guessing until the last chapters.

Copyright © 2014 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

Book Review: Justice in June by Barbara Levenson: Fast Paced Mystery

1 Comment

Justice In June

Barbara Levenson

301 pages

Justice In June is the second book in Barbara Levenson’s Mary Magruder Katz Mystery Series. The book opens with a dead informant and criminal defense attorney Mary Magruder Katz getting a call from Judge Elizabeth Maxwell asking for a meeting ASAP.

Judge Maxwell asks Mary to defend her in a hush/hush case that could ruin her career or possibly send her to jail. Added to the extra stress of possibly losing the case, Mary might have to depend on her ex to retrieve some information that could point her in the direction of the real criminal instead of the judge. Unfortunately, this information may cost Mary more than an uncomfortable liaison with the guy that dumped her.

While fretting over the fate of her case with the judge she has more issues. Her hot Cuban boyfriend, Carlos, asks Mary to see why they are holding a friend of his family, Luis Corona, after an altercation on an international flight. Thinking this is just a case of mistaken identity or some other reasonable explanation, she agrees. Within a few hours, she finds herself knee deep in a federal case. The feds are accusing Corona of terrorism and are preparing to move him without benefit of a lawyer or a hearing. Kate sees him for a brief time before the Secret Service arrives. When she leaves the jailhouse, she walks into a barrage of TV and newspaper reporters asking her why she is defending a terrorist.

Meantime, Carlos has a group of people suing him for not having the condos that his company is building completed on time. Additionally, someone just might be trying to hurt Mary. She does not know if it is from one of her current cases, one of her past cases or just some random acts of violence. She is exhausted and understandably so. Mary has more defendants than she has time for and more troubles then there are gators in the Everglades.

As you can imagine, this novel goes from zero to 60 as soon as you turn the first page. To say it is fast paced is an understatement. Levenson does not sacrifice great writing for speed, she keeps up no matter how fast the plot is moving and no matter how many twists and turns it takes.

Her characters are believable and easy to care about. I want Mary to come out the winner, and feel awful when she has so much on her plate she starts forgetting things like court dates. Who hasn’t had that kind of week? At least mine don’t include death threats and my mom not talking to me because she thinks I am defending a terrorist.

This is the second novel I have read by Barbara Levenson. I read her third Mary Magruder Katz novel, Outrageous October last year and loved it. I have not read the first in the series, Fatal February, but still plan to do so.  The fourth in the Mystery Series, Neurotic November will be available in September 2014. Each book of this series can easily be a stand-alone novel. As you have probably noticed, I read Levenson’s third, then second, then will probably read the fourth, then first book of this series. I don’t feel as though I’ve been confused or missed anything by not reading them in order. Let’s face it, who doesn’t enjoy eating dessert before dinner sometimes, but it doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy dinner also because I ate in a different order.

In my review of Outrageous October, I urged mystery fans looking for a new series to try Ms. Levenson’s books, and still stand by that recommendation. Both of the books I have read in this series are well written, keep me guessing and have characters I care about. Mary, Carlos and Sam the dog can entertain mystery lovers for as many books as Levenson is willing to write for us.

Copyright © 2014 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

Book Review: This Private Plot by Alan Beechey

Leave a comment

This Private Plot  by Alan Beechey

Poisoned Pen PressThis Private Plot

ISBN-978146202407

305 pages Genre: Mystery

Alan Beechey’s latest, This Private Plot,is a wonderful romp. His character,  Oliver Swithin, is a children’s book author that is currently working on a trivia book. We travel with him to his childhood home in a small village appropriately named Synne, which I am pretty sure is pronounced “sin”. Swithin is with his girlfriend, a police officer that reports to Swithin’s uncle, who is also on holiday in Synne.

While out on a naked midnight romp in the “Shakespeare Race” an authentic turf maze, our couple finds Dennis Breedlove, a former children’s television personality, hanged. The police think it is suicide, because a blackmail note is found. It turns out that Breedlove is actually the blackmailer.

Swithin is on the trail of the killer. Several trails actually. Convinced that one of the blackmailers is the killer, Swithin tries to match up suspects with the nursery rhymes Breedlove used to identify them. With the help of his girlfriend and unheeded warnings from his uncle to stop, he discovers that Synne has more than its share of secrets. They include a strange writing group run by the Vicar, a couple which may be the same person, a recluse monk and possibly his own family.

All of sleuthing is going on while Swithin’s brother is trying to prove there were two William Shakespeares and his uncle is starring in a local theater production of Hamlet. There are great tidbits of information on Shakespeare as well as other bits of trivia shared by Swithin while this story unfolds.

Beechey is a master of double-entendre. From names such as Lesbia Weguelin (to which I read “let’s be a wigglin’) to the name of the actual town. Swithin talks often about living in Synne. More than once, I stopped to read a particularly funny line to whoever was near me at the moment.

This mystery is so wonderfully British in the spirit of Agatha Christie with the humor of P.G. Wodehouse, I simultaneously laughed and was intrigued. At times, this book was a bit bawdy, but never graphic, I did not find it offensive. Deliciously tangle plot that is perfectly tied up by the end of the book, with a beautiful, unexpected twist at the end.

This is the third book in Beechley’s Oliver Swithin Mystery Series. It was the first one I’ve read and worked very well as a stand-alone mystery. Swithin is an endearingly wacky character. I want to see more of him and the other characters that Beechley skillfully brings to life  .

 

Copyright © 2014 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

Book Review: Muzzled by Eileen Brady

Leave a comment

Muzzled (A Kate Turner D.V.M. Mystery) Product Details

Eileen Brady

Poisoned Pen Press

ISBN-9781464201844

219 pages Genre: Mystery

 Eileen Brady’s first novel is the pick of the litter when it comes to new cozies out for the summer. Muzzled has a fast moving plot with plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader guessing.

Dr. Kate Turner, Oak Falls Veterinary Hospital’s newest employee has her hands full. She knew filling in for old Doc Anderson while he took a cruise around the world included making house calls.  However, finding dead bodies while working at his small, upstate New York clinic was never part of the deal.

During a routine house call checking on champion Cavalier King Charles spaniels, Kate walks into the bloody scene of their owner’s deaths. This is much more than she bargained for. The deaths are quickly deemed a murder/suicide, but she has her doubts and sets out to prove to the authorities they were mistaken. She was right, but unfortunately, this puts her on top of their list of suspects. Especially after another person is shot and the weapon is found in Kate’s possession.

The list of suspects and motives grows, drudging up secrets kept for years by the residents of Oak Falls. Meanwhile, Kate goes about her daily routine of the busy veterinary practice.  Will she end up being the next victim, as she gets closer to discovering the secret that will reveal the killer?

As if she did not have enough going on, unwanted men intrude to complicate Kate’s solitary life. They include her ratty ex that shows up causing problems, a cat loving scary biker dude and a hunky Italian who is engaged to someone else. Could one of them end up being her love interest? I cannot wait to read more about them in the Brady’s next book.

Brady layered eccentric characters and pets throughout her novel. Kate can interact with this crazy crew of human and furry friends and foes as stand-alone elements or within ongoing spots of humor and interest in future books of this series. One of my personal favorites is Little Man. He is a well-dressed Chihuahua, for whom owner Daphne (appropriately Daffy for short) sews “his and her matching” outfits.

Muzzled is a 2013 Discover Mystery Award Winner. Once you read it, you’ll discover why. It is a doggone good mystery!

Copyright © 2014 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

Older Entries

Creating Through the Pain

writing, inspiration, RSD advocacy, with a sprinkling of whimsy

Making Things Work

Tales From a Cabinetmaker's Life

Tim Stout

Writer & Editor

Cold

The way revenge is best served; the way a war was fought; the way a story should be told. ©

French Twisted Woman

Paris in Pennsyltucky

Hiking Photography

Beautiful photos of hiking and other outdoor adventures.

Dartmoor Yarns

Knitting on Dartmoor

A Tattered Copy

You're bound to find something ......

Middle Grade Mafia

Middle Grade books and Middle-Grade authors

jenknittingaround

knitting, traveling and the stuff that happens in between

LittleChurch

Knitting, knitting patterns, knitting accessories

robinnewmanbooks.wordpress.com/

www.robinnewmanbooks.com

Single Stitch

EVERY JOURNEY BEGINS WITH A SINGLE STITCH – A KNITTING BLOG

My Aberdeen Garden

My Scottish garden and further afield.

ESTATE UN RATO

Blog web multitemática

Erika Wassall here... The Jersey Farm Scribe

Author, Freelance Writer, Entreprenur... LIVER of life