Wednesday, July 22, 2015

REVIEW OF SAVAGE FALL (Part II. The Curt Savage Mysteries): Ruth Bainbridge Series Rocks!!!
SAVAGE FALL is the second in THE CURT SAVAGE MYSTERY SERIES. If you love noir, action, sarcasm, and coffee combined into one intriguing witch’s brew, this one’s for you. In fact, you’ll need plenty of caffeine to keep up with this very fast-paced thriller.
The story picks up right where SAVAGE SUMMER lets off. Curt Savage leaves California and heads home. He no sooner lands, then Marge, his cranky next-door neighbor, gets him embroiled in a case involving a philandering husband. At least that’s what Bebe Clauson alleges. She’s sure her husband Nigel is cheating with a woman named Mildred, but needs to find out for sure before she kicks him to the curb. I kept hearing Destiny’s Child singing: “To the left, to the left” throughout!
I gotta say that Savage is at his sarcastic best in this suspense-thriller. While the name Mildred triggers a whole series of parries and thrusts, the investigation really begins with a visit to the Twisted Cherry Motel. The scene is hilarious, and his confrontation with desk clerk Jerry is classic. It contains some of the best one-liners ever. Lines such as, “There are a few rules in investigations, and one is to never cringe at the person’s appearance that you’re about to pump for info.”
Of course, Savage continues to discover more about his murdered fiancĂ©e, and what he finds is uber disturbing. The anonymous caller Dr. Shadows is there every step of the way, taunting Savage as he feeds him more clues. Then there’s the introduction of a new love interest. Will Ms. Victoria Marshall be enough to heal Savage’s broken heart? I don’t know, but Ms. Marshmallow is off to a good start. The abduction of Amy Weissman is not forgotten, and let me tell you that the answers uncovered are shocking. Then there’s this unexpected twist that had me shouting. I’m sure my neighbors were wondering what was going on, but I never saw it coming and it’s just one of the many surprises you’ll encounter.
In terms of style, there are multiple storylines going on, and I LOVE complex. Not many authors even attempt this feat because of the difficulty involved, but there’s an amazing clarity adhered to in SAVAGE FALL. Nothing gets tangled, lost or dropped. The paranormal that’s sprinkled in makes it all the more intriguing.  Let me just state that I was in detective heaven whilst reading this!
You know, there was another mystery I went bonkers over. Its name is THE OUTSIDER by Emily Organ. Now SAVAGE FALL and the entire CURT SAVAGE MYSTERY SERIES are dramatically different than Ms. Organ’s work. While THE OUTSIDER is classic English mystery, THE CURT SAVAGE MYSTERIES are pure noir. However, both do have one thing in common and that is playing on the sense of paranoia on how well we know our neighbors. The English have always gotten this aspect of what makes murders so frightening right. It’s why writers such as Agatha Christie, Ruth Rendell, and Caroline Graham are so popular. In films, Alfred Hitchcock had this element as an underpinning for most of his works. And it seems that Ms. Bainbridge also has discovered this key ingredient and uses it to her advantage in creating little masterpieces that keep us on the edge of our seats.
I’d also like give kudos to Ms. Bainbridge for the juggling act she performs in brilliantly weaving comedy into such heartfelt tragedy—and without missing a beat. The veering from one extreme to the other only enhances either the frivolity or terror of a scene and adds depth by toying with our emotions. It’s so difficult to do, but with deft hand, she manages to execute it superbly.
I highly recommend this book and series. It’s got everything a detective lover could ask for … and more! Just buy it!
Great job, Ms. Bainbridge!  I can’t wait to start SAVAGE WINTER. As for SAVAGE FALL, I’m giving this awesome entry in the series 5.0 stars because mysteries don’t get better than this!


Sunday, July 19, 2015

Promising Start to a Series …
Jeff Resnick was busy living his life in Brooklyn when two determined street thugs took all that away. A baseball bat to the head will do that to you. Suddenly, Resnick’s existence is turned upside down. Unable to work, he reluctantly agrees to pull up stakes and move in with his estranged brother Richard—at least until the head trauma heals. The living arrangements are far from ideal, but what bothers Resnick more are the visions that won’t stop coming. Images of a deer being hung and slaughtered taunt him, and he wants to know why. He spots a connection when a banker is found murdered in much the same style. The problem is that he knows more about the killing than the papers reveal, and it’s the bits he’s gleaned from intuition that prompt him to launch his own investigation into the murder.
MURDER ON THE MIND by L.L. Bartlett is the first book in The Jeff Resnick Mystery Series and I thought it was a great start. The writing is good and the book held my interest throughout. In terms of the story, it was complex and suspenseful. The added element of the paranormal made it even more enjoyable for me.
I found the character of Jeff Resnick to be very likeable. I sympathized with his plight and the fact he kept trying to do more than the doctors recommended. I think most of us can relate to that. If you’re active and independent, you want to stay that way. I also loved his brother and live-in girlfriend. They were each given their own space to develop, and had very different takes on Jeff’s newly found psychic powers. While Jeff’s brother Richard has a hard time believing they exist, Brenda seems to embrace the entire notion, and comes in handy as a friend and sounding board. She also intercedes when there’s problems, and serves as a much needed buffer.
The pacing is taut, the surprises many, and the clash between law enforcement and the man searching for the smoking gun inevitable. MURDER ON THE MIND kept me guessing and that’s what I expect from a good thriller. But there were also a lot of moments that were downright poignant. It added a lot of depth to this very original story. I very much liked L.L. Bartlett’s writing style. While descriptive, there was an earthiness to it that kept it flowing in the right direction. Because of all of the above, I definitely recommend MURDER ON THE MIND. It’s a different take on the genre and I always reward unique. So if you’re a mystery lover who’s looking for a series to get lost in, this is one to keep in mind.
I’m giving this 4.5 stars which rounds up to 5.   

Saturday, July 18, 2015

REVIEW OF DEAD WOOD: Dan Ames, Solid Read …
DEAD WOOD by Dan Ames is the first book in The John Rockne Mysteries. It’s fast-paced thriller with unique characters and an intriguing storyline. John Rockne is the protagonist and he’s a bit of a knuckle-head. The “head” thing will come into play a little further down in this review, so keep it in mind.
The story opens up with a bang. You know how in some movies, you’re screaming at the idiot not to go into the basement to investigate that noise? Well, you’ll find yourself doing this to your kindle, but the glassy screen will ignore your warning at which time you’ll begin pounding the pillow beside you, beating it the way you would like to beat Rockne, all to keep him from doing something really, really stupid. But does anyone listen to a mere reader? No. And it’s because we’re ignored, that he goes from being a cop to a private detective.
The case he takes on is a good one. Jesse Barre is murdered while in her workshop building a guitar. She uses rare salvaged wood that her boyfriend just happens to dredge up from the bottom of the Lake Michigan. Her death is a tragedy to be sure, but her passing is not destined to be ignored. Not when her father is Clarence Barre, ”the” Clarence Barre … the famous country western singer. The family ties ensure that Poppa Bear will not rest until he finds out who killed his daughter, and so, he hires Mr. Rockne to find out who dunnit and why.
The connection to the music industry makes for interesting reading and lets the story flow into some pretty unexpected directions. What also helps is Rockne’s family dynamics. You see, like the old country song, “Little sis don’t miss when she aims her gun," and his sister shouldn’t be taken too lightly, either. Why? Well, because his sister is Grosse Pointe's Chief of Police, that’s why. But it’s not easy to have a sister who’s an overachiever, especially when you like doing things the hard way, and it’s right here I’d like to return to that “head” thing.
My problem with the book is that Rockne doesn’t seem to use his head for what it’s intended for which is thinking. Instead he uses it to block punches (not soccer balls), take beatings, have it battered into concrete, and catch bullets and knives. I have a problem with this style of writing because at some point, it pulls you out of the story. No one, except those with superhuman powers, can recover that quickly from all the physical damage … NO ONE. Then there’s the problem that when Rockne springs out of bed the next day, no one even questions that he’s been bashed repeatedly in the face. Wouldn’t someone notice? Wouldn’t his physicality be impaired? Apparently not. Of course, the other problem is the way Ames constructed this character. There’s a hapless, Charlie Chaplinesque quality to him. It imbues the scenes where Rockne is taking what should be a lethal dose of punishment so much so that we find ourselves taking a certain perverse pleasure in this slightly obtuse detective getting his brains bashed in. Should we be enjoying it that thoroughly? Probably not. But it’s all due to Ames’ skill as a writer and so it became tantamount to a guilty pleasure for a large part of this novel.
The above is my only real criticism. Other than that, I found the story, characters, plotline all engaging. It’s a superlative read and one I can and do recommend. And I will be reading Mr. Ames again and following this series. The approach was refreshing and think DEAD WOOD is altogether a great read. Oh, and before I forget, that opening chapter … in between the concussions, Mr. Rockne does realize the huge mistake he made and is obliged to fix it. It makes for a compelling underlying storyline that I suspect will continue the length of this series.
Because of all of the above, I’m giving DEAD WOOD by Dan Ames 4.2.    

Thursday, July 16, 2015


LOVED This Book So Much!

An inquest. The tragic death of a young woman who fell off a balcony during a New Year’s Eve party. A coroner concluding it was an accident due to too much alcohol. A quirky individual who won’t let it rest because, as he puts it, “Someone must have seen something.” is the premise of the fantastically entertaining THE OUTSIDER. It’s a classic English mystery that paints a quiet, complex picture of what happens when evil invades the perfect home, the perfect couple, and the perfect life. But was it that? It’s what Richard Cohen means to find out. He’s the quirky individual mentioned earlier, and for him, the case is personal. The gardener knew Lisa Ward, was in love with Lisa Ward— but was he also obsessed? It’s what Lisa’s husband Daniel thinks, and it’s the reason he’s so dismissive of Richard’s very unwelcomed and very intrusive inquiry into his wife’s untimely death. While Daniel and his friends all want to put the heartbreak behind them, Richard’s sleuthing only stirs things up.
There are so many things to love about this book. There’s the strength of the plot, the intelligence of developing memorable characters, and the construction of phrases, but in literature it all comes down to the story. Emily Organ gets that and excels in writing a brilliant one. If you’ve ever watched a flower open using time-lapsed photography, you’ll get an idea of what to expect. The cast reveals themselves slowly, without you realizing the unveiling. Before you know it, they’re fleshed out, and we’re connected so strongly in a very human way. But what’s that shadow to the side? The one stretching across the lawn and just out of reach? It’s the solution—the one we’re committed to finding out. If only that camera pulled back a little further so we could see the secrets … the lies. And so we wait to find out, enjoying being kept in suspense and taking measured steps.
I love all the characters Ms. Organ has created. Daniel Ward is the perfect dichotomy of a self-made millionaire who for all his accomplishments yearns to connect to something real. Then there’s Yasmin Clark, a young college graduate. She’s intent on becoming a journalist, but stuck working as an assistant to a fairly impossible woman who sucks the ambition out of her and leaves her dry. The attraction works. After all, Daniel is the epitome of what she wants to be, and Yasmin? Yasmin is genuine. Tangible. Not someone who’s impressed by what Daniel can buy. She’s only interested in what he is, but that’s the crux of the problem. Is he the man he portrays? The one devastated and left heartbroken and alone by his wife’s demise? Or is he a methodical killer? One that carefully plotted out and executed a cunning murder?
I can’t recommend this book highly enough and am thrilled I ran across it. I’d downloaded a ton of stories and had skimmed the opening chapters of quite a few before clicking on THE OUTSIDER. I’d forgotten what the description said, and had never heard of Emily Organ before, but I thought, why not? I’m so glad I took the chance because I discovered a new favorite author. I have to add tht I was thoroughly dumbfounded by the lack of reviews for Ms. Organ’s work. I looked her up on Amazon when I was just about finished. I figured she had to be a New York Times bestselling author, but nope. I found her author page devoid of even one review. It just goes to show you that there are great undiscovered authors out there, and it’s our job as readers and lovers of books, to find them!
It’s my absolute pleasure to give this work five stars. Ms. Emily Organ, I shall be reading you again so get busy! I’m expecting great things from you and the chance to say, “I told you so!” to those not willing to listen.
In closing: Buy the book! Now!