Wednesday, July 31, 2013

BLOOD & BEAUTY by Sarah Dunant

Product Details

Who hasn't heard salacious stories about the Borgia family? There was Rodrigo Borgia who made payoffs to cardinals and their families to become pope about the time Columbus was discovering America. He had a wife, several children by her, a mistress and more children, was enormously fat and emotional but also shrewd and conniving.

We've also heard the stories about his son Cesare and his daughter Lucrezia. Cesare a warrior and Lucrezia a lovely young woman married off to men she didn't know for political alliances, but rumored to be promiscuous.

The Borgia's sound like the main characters in a modern soap opera. The problem for author Sarah Dunant in her research to sort out the truth was that any of their peers who wrote about them had an ax to grind. We just can't know what the truth is.

This left Dunant to write a novel in which she tried her best to be true to what she knew and felt about her characters. Her portrayals of the pope and his two older children are some of the best characterizations I've read. The complex pope seems to defy depiction but yet Dunant manages. She writes Lucrezia as a sympathetic and smart young woman who knows her only choice in life is to be used for political advantage. Cesare is larger than life and loves only Lucrezia.

I loved this novel. Apparently there is to be a sequel to continue their story and I can hardly wait to read that too.

Highly recommended novel
Source:  Amazon Vine

Saturday, July 20, 2013


Something different for you this morning, an e-book novella.  If you follow my reviews, you know I'm a big fan of J. A. Jance.  I especially enjoy her series featuring Sheriff Joanna Brady set in Arizona, and another featuring J. P. Beaumont set in Seattle.  Jance has a home in each of these areas.

J. P. Beaumont was a Seattle cop and alcoholic who finally went to A.A. to sober up.  Along the way he inherited a zillion dollars and lives with his wife Mel in the penthouse of a luxurious highrise.  

In this novella Beaumont is taken back in memory to the beginning when he first made detective.  His first partner was called Pickles because his last name was Gurkey and that reminded everyone of gherkin.  Now Beaumont gets a call from Pickles' daughter saying she wants to bring him something.  She and her mother had always blamed Beaumont for her father's death, but in going through the house after her mother died she found something her father had typed about his partnership with Beaumont.  Now his daughter understands, and she gives the typed sheets to Beau.

I loved this story and I was struck by how easily Jance slips from one character to another, writing first as Beaumont, then as Pickles.  Both ring so true.  The story is funny as the two get used to each other, and sad too.  We discover Beau as a rookie detective and Pickles as the cynical old-timer afraid the department is planning to send him into retirement so he takes out his frustration on his new partner.  The crime and the criminals are also believable.

Ring in the Dead is a short read, but then there is a sneaky little trick afterward - a look at the beginning of the next full-length hardcover J. P. Beaumont called Second Watch.  Now of course I can't wait until that one comes out.

Highly recommended e-book
Source:  William Morrow Imprint, Harper Collins

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


This is a nice little mystery for a summer read.  It seems highly improbable but, in a case of the truth is stranger than fiction, there really is a buried treasure out there waiting for someone to follow the clues and find it.  A friend of the author's, a restaurant owner wrote a memoir called The Thrill of the Chase in which there are subtle clues to a million dollar treasure he would hide.  His name is Forrest Fenn.

Hence this Jemimah Hodge mystery, the plot of which centers around a buried treasure and clues in a book written by one of the men who hid it.  This spurs all kinds of interest by countless people, some of whom actually go out searching for the treasure but in all the wrong places. 

Greed, of course, leads to murder.  Jem Hodge is a forensic psychologist and her new boyfriend is Sheriff's Deputy Rick Romero.  Both are very likable, smart detectives but they have two murders to solve and both have them stumped.  One of the victims is a homeless prostitute, but the other lives in a higher station in life.  It's this second victim that gives me pause.  I found that character's life and death a little beyond my powers of belief.

Regardless, I thought what the heck, it's summer and this is a fun premise, so I'll just go along with the flow.  Sometimes I think I'm looking for too much veracity in a simple novel.  Once I stopped nit-picking, I enjoyed the book.  There is a lot of description of western scenery and a little about Indian ruins that piqued my interest.  I'm always looking for someone to fill the enormous shoes of Tony Hillerman.  This isn't it; I don't think anyone can replace Hillerman, but still this is set in New Mexico and there are Indian artifacts involved.

Source:  Partners in Crime Book Tour

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Deer in the Yard at Twilight

Last night I was reminded of the pleasures of country living.  It's something I tend to forget because I'm a city person at heart.

At twilight as I was sitting beside a bay window in our family room, a movement caught my eye.  Out at the edge of our back yard, seen well against the tall hay behind them, were a doe and her twin fawns.  The little ones had of course been in hiding all day, probably plagued by flies, and they were excited to be able to move around.  While the doe fed on the grass I hadn't mowed for a while, the fawns ran around, jumped at each other, and kicked up their heels.  It was the kind of scene you would never see in the city and here we were comfortable in our home watching.

It's normally about 10 degrees cooler here than in the city too and we nearly always have a breeze.  While city people tossed and turned in the heat last night unless they had air conditioning, we didn't even have to turn on our window fan.  The air was moving quite well all by itself, thank you very much.  Good sleeping.

This week is supposed to be extremely hot and humid in the Northeast and I'm sure we'll be feeling it but it won't be as bad as it will be in the city.  As I type this, I'm listening to birds, and I fell asleep last night listening to our bullfrog and his cronies who always sound like they're having a party.  Bullfrog sounds like a broken guitar string and another one sounds like he's just heard a great joke, har, har, har!  Later today the swallows will treat us to their aerobatics show and since I will be mowing this afternoon, they'll have lots of bugs to chase and eat.

Summertime and the living is easy in the country.  

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


Just finished this stunning mystery yesterday.  It is set in rural Iowa in two time periods.  The first is 1890 on the Krause farm where we meet Hannah Krause, wife of Jacob.  Jacob is a brutish lout who beats her and has practically imprisoned her on the farm.  Her teenage stepson lives in a cabin near the house because he hates Hannah.  Her only purpose and joy in life is her nine year old son Willie.  He's also Jacob's son but bears no resemblance to his father.  

Second, in 2012 we meet Kate, bride of Joseph Krause.  He is bringing her home from the city to live on the farm.  She doesn't know until they arrive that her crabby, nit-picking mother-in-law will be living there too.  At the farm she gradually learns that Joseph has inherited some of Jacob's less than endearing qualities, and he and his mother live by 1890 rules as far as a woman's place is concerned.

The Krause family split in half after Jacob's murder in 1890 and Kate's new family is ensnared in the hate they have nurtured in their hearts ever since, even though they kept the farm.  Kate has to learn to stand up for herself and find friends she can trust as the continuing feud threatens to destroy her.   I found myself wanting to grab Kate and implant some spine when she doubted herself and refused to speak up against what was happening, but reading on I discovered why she was that way.

This is a riveting family saga involving women's rights, or lack thereof, and how hatred eats a person alive.  Those of us who live in rural areas have known people who are incapable of changing with the times.  We can relate to some of the characters in this story, but it still got my blood pressure up because the women were treated so unfairly.  As you can imagine, gossip played a big part in what happened too.

Highly recommended
Source:  LibraryThing win  

Friday, July 5, 2013

POINT BLANK by Catherine Coulter

I have a little time between deadlines now so I dug into the latest bag of books a friend gave me and pulled out this Catherine Coulter paperback.  It's one of her FBI thrillers so I knew I would enjoy it.  Her star characters, FBI agents Dillon Savich and Lacey Sherlock, are married now and have a son.  They are like old friends.  I can count on their adventures being both scary and full of relationships that captivate me.

Point Blank begins with their colleague Ruth Warnecki caving in Virginia as she follows an old treasure map she found in a 19th century book.  Supposedly Union soldiers intercepted a shipment of gold headed for General Robert E. Lee in 1863.  They decided to hide part of that gold to recover after the end of the war.  As she searches, following that map, she is suddenly conscious of a strange odor and is driven mad by hallucinations.  She wakes up much later when a dog finds her lying unconscious in a wooded area in newly fallen snow.  The local sheriff, following his dog, saves her.  

The dog is one of my favorite characters in this book.  A little poodle named Brewster, when he gets excited, he pees all over whoever is trying to calm him down.  He provides laughs in times of worry.

Ruth has amnesia but as soon as she is identified, Savich and Sherlock hurry to her side and they join the search to discover who drugged her and took her from the cave.  Brewster of course gets really excited with all these people in the house.

Savich and Sherlock had been investigating a pair of criminals, two of the worst people on the planet who are apparently intent on killing Savich and maybe Sherlock too.  As they follow both cases, the thrills and chills are many, but there is also the growing relationship between Ruth and the sheriff and his two teenage sons.  He is a widower and lonely, funny how that works out.

Excellent thriller with a touch of romance, and great characters.

Highly recommended
Source:  book trade with friend

Monday, July 1, 2013


I've read one of C. J. Box's novels in the Joe Pickett series, so I selected this stand-alone novel expecting a good read. It is that, but I must admit it scared the heck out of me. I couldn't wait for the end because I couldn't take much more.

The story is about a long-haul trucker who preys on young women, calling himself the Lizard King. This guy is scary because he's such a thorough planner and so inhuman. Most of his victims are the prostitutes called "lot lizards" who work truck stops, simply going from truck to truck looking for customers. Many are drug addicts and many are too old and ugly to make their living any other way.

Two teenage girls are heading north, supposedly to visit their father, but the eldest instead turns off their route toward Helena, Montana to check on her boyfriend because he is apparently not so stuck on her anymore. Her sister doesn't want to do this, but has to go along. Then they and their car vanish.

I can't tell you anymore without spoilers but this plot will have you on the edge of your seat. As for characters, I thought the bad guys were better portrayed than the good guys, but then a lot of the action is theirs and Box concentrated on describing them and their methods.

C. J. Box is an excellent writer whose plots are elegantly constructed for maximum page-turning effect.

Recommended reading.
Source: Amazon Vine