Sunday, March 30, 2014


    Once upon a time I gobbled novels like this like popcorn.  They're almost addicting with their nonstop action, innovative thinking, close calls, around the world chases, and characters with unbelievable skills.  Of course the characters are always beautiful or handsome and incredibly smart as well.  I don't remember why I stopped reading them, probably something about a lack of time, but at any rate it has been years.

When a publicist at HarperCollins offered this paperback edition to me for review, I remembered the good old days and accepted.  Well, Sigma Force novels are a little different now than those thrillers I used to read but not much.  The difference is in the technology.  I felt like I should have a Ph.D. in physics to even attempt to follow the mystery the characters were trying to solve.  So, lacking that kind of education, I just rolled with the flow and let the tech talk just sort of fly over my head.  

If you have the stomach for some torture, some very scary situations, and danger, you'll like this.  The plot involves a search for relics of Genghis Khan and St. Thomas (strange pairing there) they had to use to stop the destruction of the earth.  And of course they have to find them in a few days.  New calculations keep lessening the time line, and no one knows for sure where the relics are.  We travel to Rome, the Aral Sea's exposed bed, Hong Kong, Mongolia, Lake Baikal, etc.  The good guys deal with North Korea, a Chinese Triad led by a woman and a cult in Mongolia.

If you are a fan of James Rollins or just love thrillers, this one will certainly not disappoint you.  There were a lot of times I rolled my eyes and thought, "Come on.  Really?" but for the most part I just relaxed and enjoyed the fun.  The characters are perfect, even the guy who has had magnets surgically implanted into his fingertips to detect electromagnetic fields is a hunk who will win you over.

Highly recommended
Source:  Publisher

Sunday, March 23, 2014


  Thanks to author Rory Clements' clever plot and wonderful characters, I have been on a 16th century adventure with William Shakespeare's brother John.  He is an intelligencer for Queen Elizabeth I in a department that functions much like an early CIA.  Not everyone is impressed but he always proves that his efforts are worthwhile.

This story involves a plot to assassinate the queen, a plot that is hatched partly in a Jesuit college in Spain and also involves Roman Catholic cells in England.  Not only Shakespeare but also his children are in grave danger which makes him vulnerable.  He is a widower with two beloved daughters and a teenage son, and he is also responsible for their caretakers and his "sidekick's" wife and child. The sidekick is Boltfoot Cooper, a crippled man who would gladly die for his boss, but he is vulnerable as well now that he has a wife and little son.  Thankfully he's resourceful and smart.

We learn about a kind of doctor people seek out for all types of maladies.  Jane Cooper visits him without her husband's knowledge because her son is ill and Dr. Forman saves the boy.  He also gives her something to help her have a second child.  He deals in potions, a little psychology, real injuries and diseases, and isn't averse to a little romp in bed with female patients if the opportunity arises.

We learn too about exorcisms, disgusting conditions in prisons, torture, and executions.  Although disgusting, this isn't told in a way that would deny the pleasure of this book to the squeamish.  

The plot, while a bit convoluted, is simply great fun to follow.  Even Will Shakespeare makes an appearance in this one because theater people and costumes are involved.  John Shakespeare is a character dear to my heart.  With each volume of this series I like him even better.

Highly recommended
Source:  HarperCollins

Friday, March 21, 2014


I'll take a rare break from March Madness during a one-sided game to post a blog about the other things going on in northeastern PA.  Actually, most of the games have been exciting and there have been surprising upsets, so we've stayed glued to the tube.  My reading has to get accomplished in the early morning and other odd moments such as when we're waiting in a doctor's office.

We have some special guests in our yard this early spring.  We saw a large blue heron standing beside our lower pond the other day.  Since the ice hasn't gone out yet and he was there for at least 1 1/2 hours, we decided he was patiently awaiting fishing season.  When I tried to sneak out to get the mail, I had a coughing spell that scared him and another heron we hadn't noticed away.  I hope they just flew as far as our upper pond.  As soon as ice out I'll be looking for them again.

Because of my cough I've resorted to sleeping much of the night in my recliner recently.  I come downstairs around 3 a.m. or whenever the coughing drives me out of bed, and have discovered a half dozen deer are lying down in our side yard in those early hours.  They've been coming into the back yard from the hay field sometimes as well, and one of them is a piebald deer. She is colored somewhat like an Appaloosa horse with large areas of white amid the usual brown.  I had seen her last summer and feared she wouldn't survive hunting season so I was overjoyed to spot her again.  I love looking out to see them relaxing near our shop driveway just before dawn - as long as they don't eat my lilac bush.

Now we have a pair of pheasants.  The male has been strutting around doing his best to impress his mate, but so far she seems to be telling him to leave her alone.  She knows he'll just run off and leave her with a nest full of chicks to feed, don't you suppose?  Anyway he's persistent and I guess his chasing her will eventually be successful.  Meanwhile, we're enjoying watching them.  His colors are so beautiful.

Otherwise our  yard is disgusting.  It looks like we had hundreds of moles busily digging all winter.  Can hardly wait to roll the yard.  We also have an electronic device we put into one of the mole holes that emits a high sound they can't abide.  It really works - drives them away in a few days.

Other than watching basketball and worrying about the world situation, I'm reading a John Shakespeare (Will's brother) mystery and loving it.  Stay tuned for the review.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


This is a DS Duncan Kincaid and DI Gemma James mystery with an emphasis on James.  For those not in the know, Kincaid and James are married with several children, the youngest of which is Charlotte, a 3 year old orphan they are fostering.  Charlotte is a beautiful child but due to the upheaval in her life she has not settled well in the preschools they've tried, so Kincaid has taken leave to care for her until they can find a solution.  That adds quite a lot to this excellent novel as he deals with worry about his job, finding money for a better school, and frustration because he can't help his wife with her mysterious south London murder case.

Speaking of her case, the naked body of a middle-aged man has been found in a cheap hotel tied up in a particularly humiliating position.  The victim had been strangled.  He apparently had used that room frequently for sexual encounters with women he picked up in a nearby bar.  Turns out he was a respected barrister known also for his devoted care of his wife who has Alzheimers.  

The story actually begins much earlier.  Told in flashback, we meet a young teenager with a drunken mother and a natural talent for guitar.  He goes to Crystal Palace Park each day to play his guitar and get out of his house, an escape ruined by bullies.  His neighbor, a young widow who is a French teacher, befriends him but can he escape the bullies?  

Crystal Palace was a real place.  It was an enormous iron and glass building used for exhibitions and other events from 1854 until it burned years later.  Now the area around the site is known generally as Crystal Palace.  Each chapter is headed by a sentence or two from a guidebook or history about the building and surrounding area.  I love history so I was interested in that aspect of the novel.

The characters in this series are people you would like to know so you can just settle in for a comfortable time with them as they solve a mystery, keep up with friends, and deal with problems in their personal lives as well.  This story also gives us a glimpse into the music world of London as Andy the guitar player tries to get his big break.  James' current partner, Melody Talbot, also has a big role in solving this case.

Highly recommended
Source:  Partners in Crime Book Tours

Sunday, March 16, 2014



I thought I had read a book in this series before but when I checked, I didn't see Booth's name on my list.  Must have been several years ago, or I've just heard so much about the series that I was mistaken.  This Cooper and Fry series is popular and successful of course, but I was a bit disappointed with this particular story,

First, Cooper and Fry.  I do like Cooper.  He's a thinker, compassionate toward people and animals, has a good detective's intuition, and seems easy to get along with.  Fry, on the other hand, is in this story at least moody, touchy, edgy, and a bit obtuse.  I noted that she's dealing with some issues from her childhood when she was shuttled from foster home to foster home, and her sister is now living with her.  Since the sister is a former heroin addict, this is causing problems.

The story is difficult to follow and has strange characters.  For instance, a retired professor who specializes in (actually is obsessed with) death, all aspects of death.  There is a funeral home owned by Melvyn Hudson with employee Vernon Slack, the grandson of one of the founders of the business.  Melvyn thinks of Vernon as stupid and useless.

Speaking of useless, one funny spot in this depressing story is that Cooper meets the property owner where a body is found and the man has four hound dogs who tend to sleep in a pile on the porch.  Their names are Graceless, Feckless, Aimless, and Pointless.  I still laugh at them and their names.

There are other murders and attempted murders, missing persons, a crematorium, a series of mysterious phone calls tantalizing the detectives with supposed clues to a murder coming soon and I found it tough to follow.  At the end I didn't feel as if I had all the answers I needed.  Some likely suspects just seemed to drop off the edge of the page never to be heard from again.

Keeping in mind that sometimes what doesn't appeal to me might be just the thing for another reader, Cooper & Fry mysteries didn't get so popular without something good going for them so I intend to read at least one more.  Maybe I just happened to start with a rare miss from this author.

Recommended if you know and love this series
Source:  Publisher Witness Impulse Imprint, HarperCollins

Friday, March 14, 2014

WATCHING THE DARK by Peter Robinson

Peter Robinson is the author of a page-long list of novels.  Watching the Dark is one of his Inspector Banks novels.  I read this one as a stand-alone.  I'll never be able to follow all of the excellent series available, but my lack of knowledge about Insp. Banks didn't lessen in the least my enjoyment of this novel.  I will, however, be reading the next one, Children of the Revolution, due out next month and I look forward to it now that I've made the acquaintance of these intriguing characters.

This story begins with the murder, by crossbow no less, of a former cop who has been residing in a home for injured cops or those who need psychological treatment.  Peter Quinn's wife had recently died and his grief was intensified by a case that he never solved.  He was obsessed with the disappearance of a young woman on holiday in Tallinn, Estonia six years earlier.

As the investigation into Quinn's murder proceeds, Banks and his detectives, accompanied by a member of what we in the U.S. would call Internal Affairs, learn about a migrant worker racket being run by crooks in both England and Estonia.  Banks' assistant Annie has just returned to work after a serious injury so she and a colleague follow up in England while he and the detective investigating Quinn head off to Estonia.  In the process they turn up all kinds of despicable men who prey on the vulnerable and the poor.  And always on their minds?  What became of Rachel Hewitt when she became separated from her friends six years ago?

The way the investigation plays out and the interaction between the characters is fascinating.  The reader is brought in easily to who and what is going on.  There are many victims of these evil men; I was struck by how easily many people could fall victim to them.  You just don't expect people to turn on you and not care one whit about your suffering and/or your family and friends.  But it happens and we all know it.  Estonia's Soviet Union past is involved as well.

Highly recommended
Source:  William Morrow Imprint of HarperCollins

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

LYING DEAD by Aline Templeton

This is my second DI Marjory Fleming story in a series I'll certainly continue. Fleming is a farmer's wife, mother of two, daughter of elderly parents, and dedicated cop. She's so human that I sometimes half believe she's real rather than a fictional character.

A few of Templeton's characters are not so real, but then they'll surprise me by stepping away from stereotype to show another side. This is a very clever author who I suspect has done a lot of "people watching" in her life. (One of my favorite activities.)

In this story the homicide detectives have some sort of office problem. One of the problems is DC Jon Kingsley. He's new to the town and overly ambitious. He's quite sharp so it's hard to criticize him. He can be charming and entertaining, but he is obviously the main source of friction keeping his colleagues out of sorts.

Marjory needs to do something about the situation but she has too much on her plate at the moment. Her father has Alzheimer's; her mother insists on caring for him at home but it's too much for her.

Also there are leftover issues from the foot and mouth epidemic of Cold in the Earth that land a family who lost everything in the cottage on the Fleming farm. Marjory's husband Bill has kindly offered it to them along with a job for the husband. Unfortunately the wife despises Marjory, blaming her for everything because as a cop she was obliged to enforce killing infected herds.

In the middle of all this strife a woman's body is discovered on a wooded hillside. The investigation leads them to an inlet resort area where wealthy people have summer cottages. Their hard drinking and many affairs apparently are common knowledge in the area. The marina is co-owned by a newly rich scrap dealer from Glasgow with questionable background and a local ex-farmer, Niall Murdoch, who has a wandering eye and anger issues.

We also get a bit about sheep herding trials for dogs and their trainers. This aside is interesting and insightful.

Excellent plot with enough twists to keep the reader off balance. I really liked this one.

Recommended eBook
Source: Publisher through Partners in Crime Book Tours  )
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