A Blog for Mystery Lovers

Posts tagged ‘book lover’

“A Dead Man’s Tale” by James D. Doss

I can’t decide whether I liked this book, a recent entry (Minotaur Books, 2010) in the Charlie Moon mystery series.  This author’s style reminds me a lot of Elmore Leonard, and I’m not sure whether I like Elmore Leonard either.  I had considered abandoning the book part way through, but I’m glad I finished it, although I doubt I will be reading many more in this series.

Charlie Moon, Ute rancher and investigator, has fallen on hard times.  So when investor Samuel Reed approaches him and Granite City Chief of Police Scott Parish with a proposed wager, Charlie cannot resist.   Reed is betting that the two men can’t keep him alive, a wager that of course he would be happy to lose.

The setting is western (think cattle country),  and the book is written in a folksy, story-telling manner, but this one is a little too much of a tall tale for me, although the author does a very good job painting the scene and developing the characters.  Charlie’s amusing, yet sinister Aunt Daisy pretty much creeped me out, and her “supernatural” abilities were a little hard for me to swallow. 

I suppose this is probably a “man’s book”, as opposed to a woman’s, and that could be why it’s not one of my favorites.  I tend to prefer books with a primary female character, one who is emotionally vulnerable, yet strong enough to eventually figure out how to triumph over whatever adversity she encounters.  I can relate to that. 

But this was a  well-done and an interesting change of pace.

“Personal Injuries” by Scott Turow

I am writing about this book, even though it is an older book (Farrar Straus Giroux, 1999) because I admire the way Scott Turow develops and details all his characters so thoroughly. Even with the minor characters, he always relates a backstory when they are introduced to give you a sense of what kind of person they are and what happened to make them that way, a technique I will be sure to employ in my own writing.

Personal Injuries is a fine legal thriller about Robbie Feaver, a wealthy and charismatic personal injury attorney.  However, he has become embroiled in a network of legal corruption involving bribing judges to obtain favorable decisions.  When the IRS discovers an offshore bank account Robbie has been using to pay off  these judges, US Attorney Stan Sennett offers him a deal if he will cooperate to help catch the man he believes to be at the center of all this corruption.

This scheme involves making Robbie wear a wire to try to entrap the various judges receiving bribes and their facilitators, which of course then puts Robbie and those around him in danger. 

All through this very interesting and tangled tale of secret wire taps, hidden cameras, mistrust, and betrayal, the author reveals more and more of Robbie Feaver’s past and present, providing insight into his complex character.  In particular, his relationship with his deep cover FBI handler, Evon Miller, as well as with his invalid, terminally ill wife, continually evolve throughout the book and show a side of Robbie entirely different from his outward charm and bravado.

The book is a little long due to all this description, but it is a very fine and interesting read, and very well-written, I think.  Well worth the time.

Check out his other books at:   http://www.scottturow.com/

“Clubbed to Death” by Elaine Viets

“Clubbed to Death” by Elaine Viets (Obsidian, 2005) is a cute and humorous cozy mystery, one of her series of books, the Dead-End Job Mysteries.  Helen’s job in the complaint department of a private country club, fielding calls from the rich, arrogant, demanding members who make her life a living hell, goes further down the sewer when her deadbeat ex-husband, Rob, reappears, then disappears, and Helen is suspected of murdering him.  A couple of other bodies then turn up, clubbed to death with a 7-iron of course, and things go from bad to worse.  Helen must figure out whether Rob is dead or alive and who the murderer is to save her job and herself.

I enjoyed this book because of the quirky characters, the tongue-in-cheek humor, and the fact that it is set in South Florida where I live.  Although the country club is fictional, the rest of the settings are pretty much actual places in the area or good representations, which always makes the story easier for me to picture in my mind and relate to.

The only other book I had read by this author was “Dying in Style” (Signet, 2005) which I thought was not quite as well written as “Clubbed to Death”, but it was an earlier effort.  This one is part of the Josie Marcus, Mystery Shopper series. The plot is pretty much the same.  The owner of a chain of exclusive stores that Josie has been assigned to shop undercover and evaluate  is found murdered, and Josie is suspected.  She needs to find the killer in order to clear herself.

The book is a little slow getting started, but gets going eventually, and there is a satisfying conclusion.  This is an earlier book, and it was apparent that Ms. Viets’ more recent effort shows a developing style and better pacing.  As a budding writer myself, I always find it interesting to see how other writers improve and develop their craft over the years.

In any case, if you are a fan of the cozy style mystery and are in search of an light diversion, this author is well worth checking out.

Check out the author’s web page for more info: http://www.elaineviets.com/

“13 1/2” by Nevada Barr

This is a terrific book!  I had never read anything by Nevada Barr before, although she has been writing the Anna Pigeon Mystery series for some time.  However, this is a recent stand-alone book (2009, Vanguard Press), not part of the series, so I chose it for my first read.

When I picked the book up at the library, I was surprised to learn it was still a 14-day book.  I thought , “OK,  I need to make sure I get this one read in a hurry.”   Not to worry – I picked  it up on Monday at 4:00 P.M. and finished it on Wednesday by 2:00 P.M.  I could not put it down!

This story is about Dylan Raines who, as a child, was convicted of murdering his parents and younger sister, and how his later life under an assumed identity intersects with a woman, Polly Deschamps, who also has a sordid past to hide.  The murders take place in Minnesota in the 1970’s, and these two meet later in 2007 in post-Katrina New Orleans.  The book flashes back and forth between these two time periods, which is not a problem, since each section is clearly marked when there is a shift in time, and the chronology makes perfect sense.

When Polly gets a warning from a mysterious fortune-teller, she begins to suspect the man she fell in love with is not what he seems, and that her life, along with her children’s, might be in danger.  Of course then events spiral toward an inevitable confrontation and a deadly conclusion.

The author goes to great lengths to try and get into the head of a psychotic killer, describing in detail what happens in Dylan’s mind while he is locked away in a mental hospital.  Once in a while, these descriptions seem a little overdone to me, but other than that, I loved the book.  It takes place in New Orleans, one of my favorite spots, so I enjoyed that aspect of it especially.  I could picture where the scenes were taking place, making them all the more vivid.

Try this one – I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Nevada Barr’s website:  http://www.nevadabarr.com/

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