Monday, December 30, 2013

THE BURGLARY by Betty Medsger

The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover's Secret FBI

The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover's Secret FBI is a hefty book that I've been absolutely glued to for the last couple of weeks. I tried to read short mystery novels in between sessions with this one, but couldn't wait to get back to it.  My fear that it might be boring couldn't be further from the truth.

Medsger was a reporter for The Washington Post in 1971 when a group of anti-war protesters broke into an FBI regional office in Media, PA, just outside Philadelphia.  They took all the files they could, sorted through them over the following weeks, and then released copies of some to various journalists, one of whom was Medsger.

Remind you of something?  Edward Snowden and the NSA of course.  That made this story even more interesting, and it also made my reaction less predictable.  I opposed the war in Vietnam but didn't protest publicly; and I'll admit my decision not to participate in protests was due to fear of the possible consequences.

The eight Media burglars were much braver and more committed.  The story of their meticulous planning and carrying out of the break-in is fascinating.  They remained quiet about it until 40 years later when most of them consented to telling Medsger their story.  In the meantime, they had never contacted each other and the FBI had never discovered who the burglars were. Amazing.  Also quite interesting was the effect on the lives of the burglars afterward.  They were unique individuals with quite different lives before and after.  

The result of the release of files was exposure of FBI tactics under J. Edgar Hoover who apparently never saw a law he wouldn't break for his own gratification.  Those secret files of rumors for as long as I could remember actually existed.  He was enraged of course.  What happened after the exposure, though, is disappointing.  Even after Hoover's death similar tactics were used for some time, particularly under Reagan.  The potential for abuses are too tempting for some presidents and attorney generals.

I wish I had more space to tell you about this book but instead I must simply urge you to consider reading it.  Publication date is Jan.10, 2014 and it will be available in print and as an ebook as well from Alfred A. Knopf.

Highly recommended
Source:  Amazon Vine

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Christmas Mystery with John Shakespeare

The Man in the Snow, A John Shakespeare Novella by Rory Clements is an e-book for today.  
Actually, it's merely set during Christmas.  It begins with John writing to his parents that he is unable to get home for the holiday because he is busy with work as Chief Intelligencer for Sir Robert Cecil.  He is Will Shakespeare's older brother.  Stratford-upon-Avon is 100 miles away.

An old friend, Joshua Peace, arrives at John's comfortable home and they sit down with brandy to warm him.  He has come because as Searcher of the Dead, he has the corpse of a black man who was shot in the back. The justice and the sheriff won't do anything about it, so he has come to ask John to find out who killed him and bring the murderer to justice.

Travel is difficult because of heavy snow.  When the two men near London, they see gangs of men shoveling snow from the roads.  All Peace knows is that the body was found just outside the city frozen solid.  Can't determine time of death but assumes it was within the past three weeks.  To his surprise, John recognizes the man.  He is Giovanni Jesu from Venice who works for the Earl of Oxford.  He remembered him from years ago because Jesu was such a perfection of human form.  His skin was a glowing shade of light brown.

Solving the mystery involves a stay in the household of the Earl who is a drunkard, and his wife, a lovely and admirable lady.  He finds that Jesu has fathered a child with one of the maidservants in the house.  There are many suspects and no one talking due to fear or loyalty. John's servant, Boltfoot Cooper (who has a clubfoot) returns to London to further the investigation there.

The characters in this story set in the late 1500s are a motley lot.  Figuring out who to trust is half the case, and then ferreting out motives is even more difficult.  It has the air of genuine research behind the story.  I learned quite a bit about the life in those days.  It all held my interest, and I loved John Shakespeare.

Highly recommended quick read
Source:  publisher - Witness/Impulse Imprint, HarperCollins

Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

The year 2013 has been so good to us that we are celebrating this holiday season with friends of all faiths.  I am cancer free and healthy.  Dave continues to do exceptionally well with his Parkinson's symptoms; his doctor recently said, "remarkably well."

We are still able to live in our rural home with the deer and other animals, beautiful scenery, and good neighbors.  Someday we'll have to move to a condo, but not yet.

Wreaths decorate our double front doors.  No other decorations but we do have a basket full of Christmas cards, many with photos of family in Maine.  The snow we had has disappeared with rain and unusually warm days, but that just means safer driving for people traveling for the holidays.

Our hope is that all of you have a wonderful Christmas or other holiday of your faith, no matter how you choose to celebrate.  Then we hope you begin 2014 on a good note, feeling great and a big smile on your face.  I'm sure 2014 will be a fantastic year for all of us.

Friday, December 20, 2013


This is a new author to me but I want to read more by her now.  Her main character is a fully realized woman.  DCI Kate  Daniels has been a detective for many years and has just returned to work after a leave she was required to take after killing a dangerous psychopath.  She has also just broken up with her lesbian lover, a police profiler.  Despite her heartache and the continuing psychological problems from the previous case, Daniels jumps right back into work on a new case that will sorely tax her both emotionally and physically.

She is dropped by police helicopter beside Hadrian's Wall where the fully dressed body of a young woman has been found.  You may remember this wall from history.  The Roman's built it to protect the part of England they had firm control of from my ancestors, those darned Scots who insisted on invading to attempt to drive them off the island.  Anyway, a retired cop found the body while hiking the wall.  It turns out she was a university student and every bone in her body is broken; was she dropped from a plane?

Meanwhile, wealthy but coldly disciplined Adam Finch has reported his daughter Jessica,  a student at the same university, has gone missing.  Could the body from the wall be hers? There will be two other students missing who look like Jessica.  Is this the work of a deranged serial killer?  They uncover information about students being forced into prostitution.  Is that what's going on here?  After all, these young women are tall, pretty blonds.

I loved the way this investigation went on, meanwhile entertained by the relationships between the members of the murder investigation team.  They are uniquely individual but also a cohesive team.  Clues come about naturally and are followed as such a team would.  I never had a "come on" moment in the story. 

This is a real nail-biter because of the unfeeling cruelty of the bad guy.  I was surprised by his identity but there was a logical (in his mind) reason for his actions.  Daniels is frustrated but has dogged determination to solve the mystery no matter what.

Great characters, great plot, a great read.

Highly recommended e-book
Source:  publisher, Witness/Impulse Imprint, HarperCollins

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


I think Stuff ti Die For would make a better movie than it does a book, which is something I never say.  On the other hand, it is a funny book that will entertain you during this season when we all seem to accumulate "stuff."

That's the reasoning behind one of our main character's latest get rich scheme.  He is James Lessor and while he's waiting for one of his ideas to actually work, he works at a fast food place and lives in  a crummy little apartment with his best friend since third grade, Eugene "Skip" Moore.  Skip also has a dead-end job so they mainly live on food from James' job and beer. They went to college at Sam and Dave University and have student loan debt to pay off, but even so, when James gets a small inheritance, he uses it to buy a big box truck.  They will go into business hauling all that stuff people pile up and don't have room for.  Forget that neither knows how to drive a truck and certainly not how to back one up.

Skip's girlfriend, Emily (good job, wealthy family, lives in high-rise) gets them their first hauling job.  Jackie Fuentes has tossed out her cheating husband and needs someone to haul off all of his stuff.  Accidentally, our heroes find an envelope leaking blood in the stuff.  Inside is a finger with a class ring - their class!  It belongs to Vic Maitlin, a guy who once saved Skip's life and is an old boyfriend of Emily's.  Turns out his father is Rick Fuentes, aforesaid cheating husband.  Vic is being held hostage.  Everything goes downhill from there, with James and Skip right in the middle of it.

I know all of this is silly and highly improbable, but that's why it's so much fun.  Just forget logic and have a good time with this one.  After all, don't you have enough stress this month?  I got this e-book free on a long time ago, and this was the perfect time to read it.

Recommended for fun and stress relief
Source: free e-book

Sunday, December 8, 2013


Author Charles Belfoure is an architect as well as a writer.  He is also the son of a woman who survived a forced labor camp in World War II.  Combining these has resulted in a novel that is a serious contender for the best book I've read this year, or perhaps longer.  I've studied that war for many years and learned that the way the Nazis turned human beings into monsters is beyond my comprehension.  This story shows that monstrosity in spades.

The hero is an architect named Lucien Bernard who had deserted from the French Army along with many other officers when their post along the Maginot Line was not attacked by the Germans who had circled around the end.  The French destroyed their uniforms and military IDs, and quietly melted into the civilian population.  Soon he was back in Paris with his wife and no one the wiser.  Being in Paris was horrible during the German occupation though.  There was little food, people stood in line for hours only to find the shelves empty, or that the inflated price was more than they had.  They kept rabbits in a hutch on the balcony so they could have meat occasionally.  Bernard could find no work, and his marriage failed with the stress. 

Then a wealthy French manufacturer contacted him about a job.  Bernard soon found himself earning fabulous amounts of money, but the jobs were not only factories.  They were also jobs that could get him tortured and killed:  hiding places for Jews while they awaited transport to Switzerland or Spain.  Bernard is terrified but also excited at the prospect of fooling the Germans, and it turns out that he has a gift for it.

As the story progresses we see terrible acts of violence with German soldiers laughing at the pain and terror they cause.  Bernard is alternately proud and scared out of his mind, and so is the reader.  I was totally wrapped up in this book, even dreaming about it.  Meanwhile, he comes to care about the people he is protecting and enjoy the frustration of the searchers.

The Bernard he becomes makes me wonder whether I could possibly be that courageous, inventive, and loving.  It's a wonderful tale of the power of love and decency to overcome evil, but this is no fairy tale with a happy ending.  It's believable, moving, and exhausting.

Highly recommended
Source:  Amazon Vine 

Monday, December 2, 2013


Laura Lippman started out as a reporter for The Baltimore Sun and has become a bestselling author of mystery novels which are normally set in Baltimore.  I've been reading her novels for years, enjoying the fact that I've never read one I didn't like.  That remains true after reading this one, but I must say this isn't my favorite.

The story begins July 4, 1976 when Felix Brewer disappears, leaving behind his wife, three daughters, and his girlfriend.  He leaves money for his family but leaves the coffee shop he owns for his girlfriend.  He figures they'll all be okay.  He was a bookie among other things and was facing prison time, so disappearing for good seemed like the only way out.

Unfortunately, his wife doesn't get the money.  Felix had made a lot of money enabling them to live very well.  He said once that there was no point in having money if no one knew you had it. Now his wife daughters keep up appearances but must do some serious scrimping and borrow money to do so.  Meanwhile, his girlfriend prospers with the coffee shop and then opens a lovely B&B.  She's obviously doing very well for herself.  Ten years after Felix disappears his girlfriend also disappears.  Everyone assumes she has gone to join him - wherever he is. Turns out she was murdered and eventually what's left of her body is found in a deserted area of a park.

We meet Roberto "Sandy" Sanchez, a retired Baltimore Police Department detective who has taken on a part-time job of looking through cold cases to turn up ones that might possibly be solved now.  Sandy is a real character, a widower who adored his wife and is having trouble adjusting to life without her.  He's an old-fashioned Baltimore cop leery of all the modern "stuff."  He likes the new job, though, since he can take his time and doesn't have set hours.  He's also persistent enough to make progress in this case of Brewer's disappearance and the girlfriend's murder.  The solution surprised me several times.  I enjoyed Sandy's pursuit, his personality, and the plot.  The problem was in the fact that Sandy was the only character I liked.  

Source:  Amazon Vine

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


Frances Fyfield, a attorney in England, has written a long list of novels but this one is my own itroduction to her work.  It won't be the last one I read; I'm very impressed with her style, her characters, and her plot.

This is quite a mystery.  You learn a little at a time about the background of the lawyer who has jumped from a hotel balcony in a bright red skirt,  She had recently successfully defended a man accused of rape, torture, and kidnapping.  Unfortunately, his victim had been so destroyed by him and his lawyer that she committed suicide during the trial.  Afterward, the lawyer threatened to write a book telling the whole truth.  Her client was a horrible man, guilty as sin, who needed to find and destroy any information she had.

You meet her sister and parents and many other characters that you begin to feel you've known forever.  The sister, Henrietta, is called Hen.  She knows more about fabrics and fashion than anyone and makes her living sewing, designing and/or redesigning clothes, and cleaning stains from them.  She loves to take a still serviceable but outdated garment and make another out of it.  She tried to save her sister Angel but was unable to.

Descriptions of places, Hen's living quarters, a museum, the parents' home, and a, for lack of a better term, love nest are fascinating.  Having said that, I do believe that you will either fall under the spell and love this book, or find it much too slow.

The bad guy in this story is one of the most truly evil villains I've ever read about.  Thinking of him still gives me the creeps.  I guess it's kind of a delicious creepiness.

Source:  Publisher via Partners in Crime Book Tours

Friday, November 22, 2013


Product Details

This wonderful book is the love story of Robert Louis Stevenson (who liked to be called Louis) and his American wife Fanny.  It begins with her childhood and first marriage, a disaster.  The only good to come from her adulterous first husband was three children, Belle, Samuel Lloyd, and little Hervey.  When she had had enough of the humiliation of living in the miners' camp where her husband had blown all their money and where the prostitutes he spent most of his time with lived, she packed up the children and went to Europe hoping to learn to paint.  In Paris Hervey died of TB, and she learned of a lakeside resort where artists went for the summer so off they went again.  At the resort she met Louis.  He fell in love with her immediately but it took a while for her to return that love.

As the saying goes, the course of true love has its ups and downs, or something like that.  Fanny and Louis had a tough life, first because her husband made it difficult for her to get a divorce so they could get married.  Then there was always the major problem of Louis' health.  He had severe lung disease and would occasionally fall ill and hemorrhage from his lungs.  Fanny saved his life many times.  You may have the same problem I had with the fact that both Louis and Fanny smoked until the day they each died.  For such intelligent people to be so ignorant of the fact that smoke cannot be good for your lungs was hard to accept, but realistic in the late 19th century.

They eventually learned that the only time he was really healthy was when they were at sea.  Unfortunately, she was always seasick, but she insisted they take long cruises to the South Sea Islands for his health.  They lived on various islands for short times, then settled in Samoa.  (I had always thought it was Tahiti.)  They built a house on a large tract of mountainside land.  Louis was very healthy there and actually got involved with a dispute about leadership of the natives, most of whom loved him.  It was Fanny who fell ill there, actually suffering a horrible mental collapse.  She did recover but was never the same.

The fascinating part of their love story is how she sacrificed so much for him and yet he never recognized her writing talent, dismissing it as not good enough to publish.  Everything was done for him, to make it easier for him to write.  She gardened as her creative outlet.  Very late he realized that he had done her an awful disservice and tried to make up for it.  Family gathered wherever they were; it was vitally important to him since he knew he could never go back to Scotland.

This lovely book will be out in January, but you can preorder it now.  Horan's writing style rolls along smoothly and she captures well the deeply felt emotions Louis and Fanny endured.  The scene of his death practically had me in tears.  I encourage you to read this.

I've been on such a streak lately with wonderful books that you'll begin to think I like everything I read.  Not so, but I am getting better at selecting books.

Highly recommended
Source:  Won from LibraryThing

Saturday, November 16, 2013


I was surprised that only two readers entered my giveaway for Aunty Lee's Delights.  However, that does make selecting a winner for each of the two books easy, doesn't it?

Jill (Rhapsody in Books) and Kathy (Bermudaonion) will each receive a copy soon, but I will need your mailing address.  Please email it to me at freedomacres94 at frontiernet dot net and I will ship your copy right away.  By the way, there is a recipe as well as a nice interview with the author in the back.

Congratulations, Jill and Kathy!

Thursday, November 14, 2013


I requested this paperback book after reading Gore's A Criminal Defense which I enjoyed.  I wasn't disappointed at all.  Gore is a former private investigator and that shows in his plots.  His hero is Harlan Donnally, a good man trying to make up for what he sees as the errors of his father's ways.  Dad is a legendary Hollywood movie maker, famous particularly for a movie about Vietnam that Donnally believes got his brother killed in action.  

In this story Donnally's friend Mauricio Aguilera confesses on his deathbed to having lived a lie. His name isn't even his real name.  Aguilera tells his good friend that he killed his father when he was a boy because he came home to find his father molesting his little sister.  Then he took her to a sort of commune where he felt they would take care of her and not go to the police.  He has lived ever since wondering if she is all right and whether the police are looking for him to charge him with murder.  He hands Donnally a letter and begs him to deliver it to his sister.

That sets our hero off on a search that leads him into ever more fascinating stories.  There is a mentally ill man who was charged with murdering Mauricio's sister.  The system has abandoned the man and his life has been hell.  The people from the commune also have an interesting story and a sad one.  They are also hiding from the world.  Then Donnally picks up a thread in his investigation that will lead him to an organization of men who molest boys.  Donnally's world is a cruel one.  However, the local deputy where he lives is a bumbling fool determined to find evidence against him on anything and that provides a few smiles.  We need those light moments, and we also need the closeness Donnally finds with his Vietnamese girlfriend as an escape from the sadness.

Don't let that sadness keep you from reading this excellent mystery though.  I was glued to the book and yet didn't want it to end.  The varied characters are beautifully drawn and seem real, and Donnally's reasons for every move are realistic though of course heroic.  The evil people in this story are truly evil; you'll hate them with a vengeance.  Please do read Steven Gore's books.

Highly recommended
Source:  HarperCollins

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Subtitled "A County Guides Mystery," this e-book is one of HarperCollins new Witness Impulse imprint.  I will be trying several titles from this imprint in the next few weeks, hoping that the books will be good reads.  This is a good start.

The story begins in London in the 1930s and then moves to Blakeney, a village in Norfolk County.  Stephen Sefton, our narrator, has been hired as an assistant to famous author Swanton Morley.  Sefton has no particular background for the position since he neglected his education, drifted, flirted with Communism when he thought he should do something serious, went off to Spain to fight in the civil war, came home disillusioned, and drifted again.  He is penniless and has no prospects when he answers Morley's ad in the paper.  This will change his life.

Swanton Morley is a pompous bore who talks nonstop whether anyone is interested or not.  He's also loud so no one can avoid hearing his sometimes controversial views, but he is oblivious to any objection.  His daughter, Miriam, has a small role in the story but since she is her father's exact opposite, she provides comic relief.

Morley has decided his next project, after countless books on various topics, will be a set pf guides to all the counties in England.  To research the series, he and Sefton, along with Miriam on occasion, will travel to all the counties.  They set off in Morley's car with his portable desk surrounding him, on which a typewriter is secured.  He talks and types, and makes me tired.  I just couldn't stand him at first, but eventually I was caught up in the story and could see the subtle humor in his stream of conscientiousness.  

I like Sefton.  He provides the common sense as well as the compassion Morley lacks.  There are photographs throughout the book, taken apparently in the 1930s.  The mystery doesn't begin until the 28% mark when they find the body of a Church of England minister hanging in his church.  At that point the story takes off and more interesting characters are introduced.  This isn't the greatest mystery in the world, but it is witty and a good read.

Source:  Witness Impulse Imprint, HarperCollins

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


Sometimes I wonder why I continue to read psychological thrillers.  I nearly had a heart attack reading this one.  When I know a character has a mental disorder so no one can predict what he or she might do next, it just scares the heck out of me.  In this expertly crafted thriller, I couldn't even decide which of my suspects was the threat for sure until late in the book.

The heroine is Julia Stilwell, a freshman at Stradler College in Pennsylvania.  She's a bit of a loner and certainly not like the other girls in that she doesn't care about make-up, the latest gossip, or even chatting about classes.  She does get along well with her roommate, and the fact that she always has a witty comeback to any remark helps.  Her roommate's boyfriend seems to have an eye for Julia but only once does he cross the line, and he has an excuse for that.

Then a girl is raped on campus and everyone is extra careful about only walking around with others.  Julia lives just off campus and ignores the need for caution but is nervous walking alone.  She has made a friend at music classes named Marcus and another one who works at the snack bar.  His name is Sam.  Both are a little odd, definitely  not popular, and that makes Julia more comfortable with them.

Julia's background provides the explanation for why she is the way she is.  I don't want to spoil the book by telling you about it except to say it gives her very low self esteem and a scar on her upper lip that inhibits her from playing her beloved trumpet.  In fact she had planned to play professionally.

All through the book I knew something horrible was going to happen, probably to Julia, but I didn't know when, how, or even why.  I read carefully, gleaning clues, and still I was surprised at the way it turned out.  This is really a good story, but don't read it at night alone.

Highly recommended
Source:  Publisher via Partners in Crime Book Tours

Monday, November 4, 2013


There is only one problem with Sara Paretsky's V. I. Warshawski novels.  She can't write them fast enough for me.  Every time I think she's decide to abandon the series, finally another one is published and I'm happy again.

This one, Critical Mass, is her best yet in my opinion.  As usual, it takes place in Chicago and takes me back to that city I love.  However, there are flashbacks to Austria during WW II.  If you have read this series, you know that one of her best friends is Dr. Lotty Herschel who grew up in Vienna and escaped with many other children on the Kindertransport to London in 1939.  She lost her family in the Holocaust.  

Now Lotty is trying to help another woman, the daughter of another child who escaped with her.  She asks V. I. to help and with good reason.  What a messed up family.  The mother is a recluse who thinks evil people are after her.  The daughter is a drug addict.  Then there is a son, Martin, who is brilliant like his great-grandmother, Martina Saginor, a physicist.  He has disappeared suddenly and is probably in great danger.

I don't have room to go into the other people and companies involved in this great novel, but the story is gripping.  One truly evil character was a closet Nazi.  She delighted in torturing Jews such as Martina who were caught and imprisoned.  The last she knew, Martina was on a train bound for Sobibor for execution.  Whether you know the history of Austria during the Nazi occupation or not, you will be horrified.

One thing I enjoyed in this novel was getting to know Lotty better, as well as her friend Max.  It was edge of your seat time following V.I. as she tried to find Martin and learn the story of his family.  This story even takes V. I. and her musician boyfriend/neighbor to Vienna.

Highly recommended
Source:  LibraryThing win    

Monday, October 28, 2013



I only rarely read a cozy mystery so I tend to forget how much fun they can be.  This one is a good reminder of that because of its quirky main character.  Aunty Lee lives in Singapore where she has a small restaurant.  She is a wealthy widow more interested in the people she serves than in building a huge business.  Her stepson and his wife have been having wine and food tasting events to promote the business.  The wife is a witch, spelled more correctly with a "b."

One evening a tourist couple, a man presenting himself as a sort of jaded world traveler, and Aunty Lee's sister-in-law show up.  Another woman who was supposed to help has texted to say she won't be there.  Later, during dessert, a young American woman shows up in a panic because she can't find her friend or the other woman who didn't show up that evening.  Meanwhile, a body has been found on a beach and no one knows who she is.

Aunty Lee loves a good mystery so right away she sticks her eccentric little nose into everyone's business to solve this one.  And solve it she does, but only after lots of red herrings and taking food along to insinuate herself into the right situations to get information.  Her employee Nina goes along with her and, since no one notices a lowly serving girl, acts as a spy.

These characters are only a slight exaggeration of people we've all met at one time or another and Aunty Lee is really funny.  There's a cop that she more or less trails in her wake as she investigates the crime.  I'm kind of proud of myself that I figured out who the murderer was and why fairly early, but I still loved following the story.

Now the Giveaway.  I actually have two copies of this lovely book to give to two lucky readers.  I like to keep things simple, so all you have to do to enter the contest is leave a comment at the end of this post saying you want to enter.  The deadline is November 15th, at which time I'll draw two names at random.  I'll need your email address to let the winners know, after which you can send me your address and you'll soon have the book.  Good luck!

Source:  William Morrow Publishers

Sunday, October 20, 2013


This is the biography of Empress Dowager Cixi, the woman who at the age of 12 became a concubine of Emperor Xianfeng which is a great honor even though she was initially only a low level member of his harem. Fortunately for her, she gave birth to the emperor's first son, and was therefore elevated to #2 concubine. She and #1 were both mothers to Cixi's son.

When the emperor died, Cixi and #1 managed a coup which made them regents over the four-year-old new emperor. The two women acted on Cixi's ability to keep her eye on the big picture as she instituted gradual reforms to pull the country out of abject poverty. Later her son died young and she got her sister's young son designated as the heir. Once again Cixi was the regent, keeping China on a steady course toward power, respectability, and prosperity.

Unfortunately that nephew undid much of the good Cixi had accomplished and he mismanaged relations with Japan so badly that the country was once again plunged into dire poverty. Only when he admitted Cixi into negotiations and political dealings did things improve.

Cixi was virtually a prisoner in the emperor's harem most of her life and yet was able to maneuver the men in power to her way of thinking. When they listened to her, China prospered, when they didn't, the country failed. She died in 1908.

The author was born in China, coming to Great Britain in 1978. This is a work based on scholarly research and the book will have footnotes, bibliography, photographs, and an index. However, it is accessible to the general reader. I didn't know anything about her, so I learned not only her story but quite a bit I had forgotten or didn't know about Chinese history. I come away from my reading with a great admiration for Cixi and for the journey China traveled from a closed country to the power it is today.

Highly recommended especially for women's history
Source: Amazon Vine

Thursday, October 17, 2013


The subtitle of Book of Ages, The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin, is what drew me to request this book.  Jane was Benjamin Franklin's youngest sister, and as they were close in age they were also close in spirit.  This, however, is a cautionary tale about the differences between them, not in intelligence, but in opportunities.  We know what kind of life Benjamin Franklin lived and of his inventions, diplomacy, writing, and other accomplishments.  Do you know anything about Jane?  No.  And that is simply because she was a woman in the 18th century who was not given the opportunity to rise above the restrictions on women of her time.

I know this book will anger many readers but unfortunately the history is correct.  Jane's life was sad and mostly lived in poverty.  Her brother was kind to her because he loved her so, and also recognized that her mind was capable of great thought.  He tutored her when they were young, but then he left home and there her lessons had to stop.  In future years as she struggled through her marriage to a weak, failure of a man and her almost steady pregnancies, her brother helped her financially and provided her with books.  Reading is probably what saved her sanity through much of her sad life.

This book is thoroughly researched and Lepore seems to feel close to Jane and sympathy toward her situation.  There are appendices, footnotes, and all the scholarly information that support her manuscript.  It is written, though, so that amateurs in women's history and actually general readers  as well can read it with great interest.  Warning - it will make the modern reader angry at the waste of such an intelligent person, and also angry at the lack of help available for her with her children's medical and mental problems.

Recommended, especially for women's history readers
Source:  Amazon Vine

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


This is sort of an odd book.  It's funny in places, especially as it features a bunch of not-so-wise guys from Wilmington, Delaware.  But then it's deadly serious in others, with a family man striving to go straight, and a butcher of a serial killer on the loose in Brooklyn.  You don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Frankie Donovan and Nicky Fusco have been lifelong friends.  They and their families and the other people in their part of Wilmington are close, and when Donovan's father dies, all of them show up for the wake and the funeral, all the women bearing food of course.  Fusco served ten years in prison and has turned his life around for his beloved wife and daughter, and for himself.  Unfortunately, the old friends and neighbors are more likely to remember him as he was before.

Donovan is now a homicide detective in Brooklyn, but when he comes home for his dad's funeral, his presence brings out all the old grudges and suspicions about everyone.  It's like walking on eggs as everyone tries to honor his parents while avoiding offending anyone.  Meanwhile, in Brooklyn there is a serial killer on the loose, one of the worst villains I've read about in years.  Donovan needs to get back to work.  He is delayed because his brother-in-law gets killed, conveniently just after Donovan has tracked him to a bar and beat him up badly.  The law likes Donovan for the murder.

The two plot lines are interesting and so are the characters but for some reason I just couldn't get into this book.  Some of the details were too much of a stretch for me, and some of the characters were more like caricatures of gang leaders and their enforcement types, and the "wise guys."  All in all the book was disappointing, but I can't say it isn't worth reading.

Verdict:  Good, not great
Source:  Partners in Crime Book Tours

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


Product DetailsRuin Value is subtitled "A Mystery of the Third Reich."  Actually it is set in Nuremberg in 1945 as the world gathers in that bombed-out city for the Nazi War Crimes Trials.  I had read Jones' earlier book, Time of the Wolf, a thriller set in Vienna, in 2012 so I knew that no one transports his readers to another time, another place better than he does.  I wanted to know what Nuremberg was like in those momentous days, and that's what I got.

It isn't only how real the setting becomes for me as I read though.  He creates believable characters of every sort and there is a plot that is worthy of the setting.  In this book I realized who the killer was early, which isn't normal for me, but that fact only added to the edge of your seat thrill of the story.  There is a serial murderer in the streets of the city, striking every three days, and highlighting the history of the Nazi reign.  The nationalities of the victims are appropriate to that event as well.  We meet black marketers, displaced persons scrabbling to stay alive, Nazi holdouts eager to damage the victors in any way possible, along with the military, the press, the judicial presence - all gathering in one city.

Most of the center of the city is composed of buildings in ruins.  People live where they can, and outsiders there for the trials compete for decent accommodations.  Our hero is an American cop who had been a spy during the war.  He is assigned the task of stopping the killer, and he chooses as his partner a German cop he finds imprisoned.  They are an odd couple but both focused on the same goal.  I liked both of them immensely.  The best developed character though was the killer.  Jones has created a background for this person that lends understanding but still horrifies. 

I see on the back cover that J. Sydney Jones has written two more mysteries, again set in Vienna.  Since he lived there for many years,  these should be just as good as his others.

Highly recommended.
Source:  Open Road Media 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

DARKNESS FIRST by James Hayman

This is, surprisingly enough for me, an e-book.  E-readers have become so ubiquitous that even I have been pulled into the web; not that I like them, but too often that's the only way I can get a title I want.  So, my Kindle is becoming a constant companion.

Darkness First was well worth reading this way.  It is set in Machiasport, Maine, a major factor in my choosing this book.  My husband is from southern Maine and I lived there for several years.  Although this is set in northern Maine, we traveled and camped in various parts of the state so I know the area fairly well.  

I'm happy to report that only once was Hayman unable to resist the corny old jokes about people from Maine answering questions with absolute minimum effort, and their accent (ayuh, that too).  An old codger questioned on a boat at the dock is the stereotypical Downeaster.  On the other hand, our heroine's father, Sheriff Savage, is the real thing.  Look to him for what a real Maine man is like.  Hayman, who lives in Portland, gets it just right.

The story is one of Hayman's McCabe and Savage thrillers, part of the new Witness Imprint from HarperCollins.  

The sheriff's daughter has followed him into law enforcement, currently working in Portland at the Crimes Against People unit.  She grew up in Machiasport though and hasn't been home to see her dad in too long.  When she gets a middle-of-the-night call from him that her lifelong best friend, Dr. Emily Kaplan, has been run over by a car and is severely injured, Maggie Savage immediately heads north.  

The villain has not only injured Emily, he has gruesomely murdered a young woman.  Going by the alias Conor Riordan, he is one of the scariest bad guys I've come across in a long time.  He is a sexual pervert and killing is one outlet for him; this guy gets off on torturing women.  I spent a good deal of the book worrying myself silly for Maggie and Emily.  There is a credible alternate suspect, but it didn't take me long at all to figure out who Mr. Evil was.  As I've said before, I'm not really good at that normally.  It didn't detract from the story at all; getting the goods on him and cornering him were still to come.

As you read this book, you get a feeling for the various types of people who have been born in northern Maine or have settled there.  Hayman has obviously spent some time with these people who are among the most individualistic in the country.  I enjoyed his depiction of that part of that vast and vastly interesting part of our country.

Maggie's younger brother is involved in this story and he too is well drawn as a veteran of the Iraq war with PTSD.  Their loyalty to each other despite his mental problems is invaluable to the investigation and the denouement.  

I can't tell much more of the story without spoilers, so I will just recommend this book.  Even though there is violence and the villain may keep you up a night or two, the writing and the plot are excellent.  If you like character-driven thrillers, this is for you.

Source:  Publisher via Partners in Crime Book Tours

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


First, I have to admit that I've been a Jance fan for many years.  I love her Sheriff Joanna Brady series but I'm just as much a fan of J. P. Beaumont, her Seattle homicide detective.  Earlier this year I read her novella about Beau called Ring in the Dead and if you also read it, you have a kind of head start on characters and locations in Second Watch.  Reading that one isn't necessary before reading this one though.

The novella ended with Beau's wife, Mel Soames, driving him to the hospital to have a double knee replacement.  Second Watch begins there.  Since I was in the hospital part of the time I was reading this book, the part where he is gradually awakening from anesthesia and he's in that weird place where you just don't know for sure what's real and what isn't, I was laughing in empathy.  During the drug-induced dreams post-op Beau is visited by two "ghosts" from his past, both of which send him on an investigation.

The first is the victim in his first murder case as a homicide detective, and while we're at it, that promotion was so sudden as to be positively hinky.  The investigation is intense and pulls skeletons out of many closets.  

The second visitor was his lieutenant in Vietnam.  The guy had loaned him a paperback copy of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, insisting he read it.  Later the book saved his life when schrapnel dug into the book rather than his chest.  Suddenly Beau is determined to learn more about the guy and the girl Lennie D. had been engaged to.

All of the characters are, as usual for Jance, excellent but one will have you laughing out loud.  Since the doctor won't let Beau go home alone and Mel is out of town on an important case, he hires a nurse his doorman knows.  She is one of those old-fashioned nurses who gives you your marching orders and you had better behave, or else.  It doesn't take Beau long to learn that if he wants to live, he should shut up and do what she says.  You will absolutely love her.

Please read the afterword.  It tells us one reason the characters in this one are obviously created from the heart.  Hint:  the lieutenant was from Bisbee where Jance grew up.

Recommended highly.  Please do read this book.  As they say, you'll laugh, you'll cry, and you'll have a wonderful time.  This is one you'll sigh and hold to your heart as you turn the last page.

Source:  publisher via Partners in Crime Book Tours

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

MURDER BY SYLLABUB, Kathleen Delaney

Product Details

This is an Ellen McKenzie mystery set at an estate just outside Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia.  Ellen has traveled across the country with her Aunt Mary because Mary's good friend, Elizabeth has called and ask for help.  Elizabeth has seen a ghost in her house and someone, perhaps the ghost, has tried to kill her.  Since Mary never goes anywhere, let alone fly that far changing planes, etc., Ellen and her new husband decide she needs to go along.

From the time they arrive, they are confused.  They keep getting half stories and being interrupted by people they don't know.  Elizabeth is newly widowed and now the owner of an estate which has a main house connected by passageways to guest houses on either side of it.  She lives in one of the guest houses which she and her husband had completely remodeled, and she plans to fix up the main house in eighteenth century style to use as a place to give teachers an authentic experience which hopefully will enhance their teaching.  It's a great idea, but apparently Elizabeth's ghost is determined it won't happen.

Meanwhile, her late husband's stepson is trying to lay claim to the estate so he can sell it off to developers.  There is also the matter of Noah and his mother Mildred who have always lived in a house there but have no deed.  They are descended from slaves owned by the original owner.  Elizabeth had promised to give them title to their house but has apparently forgotten.  If  she loses the lawsuit, they will lose everything.  

The story is a cozy mystery and occasionally drags just a bit as Delaney describes colonial furnishings and cooking.  That feature of the book is very interesting, especially to a history buff like me, but someone else might not enjoy it so much.  The characters are either endearing or outrageously funny.  No one goes foolishly down into the cellar or out in the darkness alone, or anything other than what normal people would do in the situation.  It's hilarious when Elizabeth, her sister-in-law, Ellen and Aunt Mary go to the main house to find the ghost.  The four of them are scared to death and armed only with a cane and a flashlight - great scene that made me laugh out loud.

I really enjoyed this book.  It was perfect after finishing a long nonfiction book and when I wasn't in the mood for more serious reading material.

Source:  Publisher, through Partners in Crime Book Tours

Monday, September 23, 2013


The subtitle of this book is "Coping with Parkinson's Disease."  Since my husband was diagnosed with Parkinson's about eight years ago, I was happy to win the book from LibraryThing.  The cover blurb by Dr. Hubert H. Fernandez of the Cleveland Clinic says, "A must-read for all whose lives are touched by this illness."  I can agree with that.

This is a kind of basic guidebook for patients and caregivers that comes in handy because you never remember everything your neurologist tells you, and of course the doctor's time is limited.   There is a glossary in back as well for terms you might be unfamiliar with.  Since I was a medical transcriptionist, you would think I'd have no use for it, but I do.  I've forgotten some things since I retired, but also there are always new terms coming up and new findings about this disease.

Dr. Friedman updated the text for this second edition of the book so it is nearly up to date in its valuable information.  The chapters focus on symptoms such as fatigue, apathy, anxiety, sleep, driving, and many other problems we face.  Not only does he describe these problems but also explains what medications or other treatments have been tried, whether they worked, and what the patient and caregiver can do for themselves.  I found this very helpful.

One topic I was thankful to read about was what to do if you need to go to the hospital.  He reminds us that most doctors and nurses at hospitals aren't too well versed in how to care for Parkinson's patients so the caregiver needs to be firm about medication schedules and other needs to prevent big problems, even going so far as to have them call your neurologist to confirm what you're telling them.  Patients have been treated for stroke simply because the E.R. staff didn't recognize Parkinson's symptoms for what they really are.  This is important.

I will keep this book handy as years go by.  We frequently have questions that we can easily answer with Dr. Friedman's book rather than wait for the next appointment with the neurologist.

Highly recommended for PD patients and caregivers
Source:  LibraryThing win

Monday, September 16, 2013

TRUMAN by David McCullough

This review has been some time coming.  The trade paperback edition I read is 992 pages plus acknowledgements, footnotes, bibliography, and index.  Practically got a hernia carrying it around.  I also had commitments to review other books so I had to put it aside occasionally to read and review shorter books, usually fiction.  Despite a weekend of football watching, though, I finally finished it Sunday afternoon.  Now I'm almost sorry it's done.

Anyone who loves history and biography as much as I do knows David McCullough writes like a storyteller.  His prose is never dry, boring, or academic, yet he unfailingly tells the reader what is important to know about a person or an event.  

I thought I knew a lot about Harry Truman, a fellow Midwesterner, but I didn't.  I simply understood "where he was coming from" as the kids say.  His childhood as a farm boy who wore glasses and was also a dedicated student was delightful to read about.  In Sunday school he fell hard for a little girl with golden curls and beautiful eyes, Bess Wallace.  She was his only love but they didn't marry until they were in their 30s.  Mama Wallace never did consider Harry good enough for her daughter, even when she was dying in the White House near the end of his time as President of the United States.  Regardless, he never said a bad word about her, ever.

Now that I know the truth about his spell as Tom Pendergast's candidate for county office and the enduring reputation as a product of that political machine, I understand a bit more about why my grandfather had such a low opinion of Truman.  Of course, he would have felt that way anyway since Truman was a Democrat which made him, in Gramps' eyes, a spawn of the Devil.  Hard to believe this liberal Democrat (me) came from such a staunch Republican family, but I did because when I was old enough to think things out for myself, that was the way I believed.  That was a matter I never discussed with Gramps.  He would have been horrified.

We were city people, but farmers and small town folks loved Truman.  When he went on his whistle stop tour running for president on his own, he stopped in the small towns and he talked their language.  They loved his honesty, his humbleness, the way he introduced Bess as "the boss," and his knowledge of their cares and worries.  (Although one time she told him if he introduced her thus one more time, she was going to get off the train and go home.)  They also appreciated his service in World War I, as a captain of artillery.  The men he commanded were to remain his good friends for the rest of his life and participate as honor guards at his inaugural parade.

His Achilles heel was daughter Margaret.  No one could criticize her singing or anything else about her without feeling the full strength of Truman's wrath.  He had begun to think he would never realize his desire to be a grandfather when she stayed single so long, but eventually she married and Truman would hold the first of four grandsons in his arms just a few days after he was born.  Doting grandpa was his proud title from then on.

It was fascinating to read about his taking office after Roosevelt's death.  FDR had not liked him very much, and didn't include him in briefings and conferences, so suddenly Truman had a huge learning curve immediately ahead of him.  He pulled himself up by his own bootstraps as people used to say and did very well.  He was fortunate enough to find some of the best men in the country to man the cabinet and be his advisors.  Dean Acheson, in fact, was a close friend until his death.  

His performance in Potsdam was surprising to Stalin and Churchill.  One of my favorite quotes in the book is from Churchill.  He wrote in 1952,  "I misjudged you badly.  Since that time you more than any other man, have saved Western civilization."  (p. 875)

Whether to use the atomic bomb is another period I'm glad to know more about, and Korea.  To know what went on in the background and the agony those decisions cost him was a revelation to me.  Once a decision was made, he stuck with it no matter how many critics condemned him.

I won't go on but, in short, this is one of the best biographies I've ever read.  Thank you David McCullough for giving us this wonderful story, the life of a controversial man who was so vital in our history.

Highly recommended
Source:  purchased several years ago

Friday, September 13, 2013

A Long Visit with Harry S. Truman

It's been too long since I posted on this blog but I have an excuse.  I'm determined, despite the stack of books on my desk to be read and reviewed, to finish Truman by David McCullough.  It's nearly 1,000 pages in my paperbound copy but it is simply too good to keep putting aside in favor of reading a short book I've committed to review.

Truman's background as a farm boy in Missouri makes me nostalgic, although I lived in the capital of Illinois rather than on a farm.  Still people in the Midwest are a special kind of folks.  Actually I can usually tell if someone I've met is from the Midwest.  Can't put my finger on why exactly except that most of us are friendly and open and down to earth.  Sometimes I can even tell if a fellow blogger grew up in the Midwest.

I'm about 200 pages from the end so it shouldn't be long and then expect raves.  McCullough could make mud interesting, but in Harry Truman he has a subject worthy of his storytelling style of book writing.  

See you soon.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

DEVIL IN THE HOLE by Charles Salzberg

This is a clever book based on a terrible tragedy that really happened in New Jersey in 1971.  I remember, and you might too, when John List almost got away with murdering his wife, three teenage children, his mother-in-law, and even their dog.  He disappeared long before the bodies were discovered and the law didn't catch up with him for 18 years, until after the case was featured on "America's Most Wanted."

Salzberg has turned this awful crime into a novel set in Connecticut.  He tells the story through many characters, each with his own chapter or chapters.  This sounds confusing and a little ridiculous, but it is actually very effective.  First we hear from a neighbor across the street who gets suspicious when all the lights are on in the huge house 24 hours a day and he doesn't see anyone coming or going.  The family is strange and not friendly, but this finally gets to the neighbor and he calls the police.  They find the bodies, but the husband/father is gone, as is the car, and the bodies are so badly decomposed, it has obviously been a couple of weeks since they were killed.

We then get the perspective of one of the cops who entered the house, then the other.  The neighbor has his say again, then the chief of police, etc.  The story advances through chapters supposedly written in the first person by people who are somehow involved with the case or the missing murderer.  The characters seem real; almost as if you are listening to various types of people sitting with you telling their brush with a killer.

In retrospect, I think this way of telling the story is brilliant.  I can't imagine any other method that would work as well.  There are nearly two dozen characters and as we hear from them, we begin to form an idea of what was in the killer's mind when he did this unthinkable crime.  We can't be totally certain of that, nor can we know John List's reasoning when he actually killed his family, but this gives us some inkling of the workings of a murderer's rationale for his crime.

Highly recommended
Source:  author through Partners in Crime Book Tours

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


This is the second volume of a trilogy about a retired San Francisco cop, Harlan Donnally.  I haven't yet read the first, Act of Deceit, but that didn't matter as this works well as a stand-alone.  Having said that, I'll be reading the first book very soon because I want to know more about Donnally.

The book begins with Donnally and his friend, SF cop Ramon Navarro, in the shadows of the Golden Gate Bridge where they can see a body hanging.  The victim's pants are down around his ankles and plainly visible is what for the sake of delicacy I will call priapism.  Apparently the object was to humiliate him, something he richly deserved as a sleezy lawyer who never let the law or any sense of ethics stop him from making money.  His name was Mark Hamlin.  He had left word with his assistant and a note in his desk that if something happened to him, he wanted Donnally to investigate, no one else.

Donnally had been shot in the hip in the line of duty several years earlier.  He had retired, left the city, settled in a small town in northern California, and opened a small restaurant there.  Still he stays in the city a few times each month because his girlfriend, Janie, a hospital psychiatrist, lives in his home there.  He is there visiting her and doing little repair jobs around the house when he gets the call about Hamlin's wishes.

The D.A., Navarro, Donnally, and a judge they trust decide to appoint straight arrow Donnally a "special master" to discover who murdered Hamlin, but not get into attorney-client privilege issues or complications.  Ha!  Just try to do that and still solve the crime.  

I would call this one a thinking person's kind of legal thriller and it's a winner.  Author Steven Gore gets into not only what happened but particularly why and looks deep into the characters' backgrounds for answers to who they are at the time of this murder.  There is some danger and some shooting, but mainly it's the story of Donnally and the other major characters involved.  And it's the story of corruption, a widespread evil that hurts mainly legal clients but also investigators and other lawyers.

Highly recommended
E-book released July 30, 2013
Source:  HarperCollins, Publishers 

Sunday, September 1, 2013


I've read other books by this author and found her witty, and good with a mystery plot.  Her character names in those books were hilarious so I was invariably left laughing as I turned the last page.  This book is quite different.  For one thing it is a serious book about controversial topics, but as usual her characters are so real you can't help getting caught up in the story and feeling sad for them.

First we meet Anna, an unemployed young woman who isn't having any luck finding a job.  She lives with Lars and we immediately realize that she isn't really happy with him despite his occasional attempts at being a considerate and thoughtful boyfriend.  She is uneasy in his company.  Why?  He wants to get married; she doesn't.

Her father is ill which upsets her terribly but also gives her an excuse to go stay with her parents frequently.  However, then she misses her best friend and neighbor, Karin.  Karin is always perfectly made up and dresses beautifully.  She is also a good listener and makes Anna feel like she can talk about anything in the world.  The trouble is that Karin is in financial trouble so she is taking jobs that Anna worries about.  She also has strange men in her apartment often.  One day Anna cleans brown stains off of the stairwell and landing.  It looks like maybe coffee dripped out of the garbage bag as Karin took it down.

Anna has become curious about her father's family.  He never talks about her grandmother and is obviously uncomfortable talking about his family at all.  Finally her mother gives her a diary her grandmother kept, and as her father dies Anna is already deep into investigating her family's story.

So, there are two mysteries here and both are very satisfying as there are plenty of red herrings to lead the reader astray.  I loved the way Jakobsen told this tale, partly because I cared about Anna and worried about what she might find out.  There are surprises at the end which I should have seen coming but didn't.  I was too wrapped up in Anna's search for the truth to see the dangers ahead.

Highly recommended
Source:  author

Friday, August 23, 2013

THE BIG CROWD by Kevin Baker

This new novel by Kevin Baker has all the ingredients for a blockbuster novel. There are two Irish brothers who have come to America seeking success with all the perks that come with it. One is middle-aged and jaded by his run to the top in New York City, the other young and full of ambition and naivete. The O'Kane brothers, Charlie and Tom, take similar paths but with radically different moral choices.

Charlie, the elder brother, becomes the District Attorney and then mayor of the city. He must, therefore, deal with the corruption, the mob bosses, the unions, and at the same time face the lingering death of his beloved wife. His second wife, Slim, is a gorgeous model much younger than Charlie and his marriage to her will change his life and his choices in many ways.

Tom also works his way up as an attorney and is always judged by his brother's success. He ends up working for D.A. Hogan investigating an intriguingly suspicious murder that happened when Charlie was mayor. A killer-for-hire is under guard in a seedy motel and telling where the bodies are - literally - when he goes out the window and dies. It looks like an attempted escape.

Meanwhile we are titillated by Tom's affair with Slim, his guilt over said affair knowing that Charlie is besotted with the woman, and Tom's growing love for another woman.

Sounds good, doesn't it? The problem is that the story is told in a jumbled fashion, jumping from 1939 to 1953 to 1945, and from New York to Mexico and back. There are so many characters you need to remember I should have made a list. I would just get used to the brothers being in Mexico in 1953 when the story would jump back in years and to New York City, from the New York docks to a failed resort in Mexico, from Charlie's life to Tom's and back again. It was so confusing that I couldn't really enjoy it.

I consider myself fairly knowledgeable about the city and its history, and I love NYC. However, even though this is based on a true unsolved mystery, I just couldn't follow it.

Recommended for those who love big sagas
Source:  Amazon Vine

Sunday, August 18, 2013


It's only August but already I think I've found my #1 read of the year.  The Butterfly Sister is so beautifully written and the characters so real that I can hardly believe this is Amy Gail Hansen's debut novel.  Others have called it a perfect beach read but it is so much more than that.  I started it one evening but the next day once I picked it up I literally could not put it down.  It's that good.

Ruby Rousseau, native of New Orleans, attended a small women's college in Wisconsin on the shores of Lake Michigan.  For reasons you will learn later, she dropped out one semester shy of her degree.  Then one day a suitcase that belongs to one of her classmates from college, Beth, is delivered to Ruby.  She had borrowed it months earlier and her nametag is still on it.  Supposedly the suitcase was never picked up at Beth's destination and the airline is returning it to the person on the tag.  But where is Beth?

Ruby had written a thesis her last semester involving female writers who committed suicide.  Inside Beth's suitcase is a copy of Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own with a mysterious notation in the text.  This must be a message, so wanting to return the suitcase, Ruby begins to investigate.  She finds that Beth has simply disappeared.  This mystery brings Ruby back to the college and memories she had tried to forget.  It also puts her in danger.

Admittedly I was drawn to this plot by my attachment to women's colleges.  For my last two years of high school I attended a women's prep school and college that I dearly loved.  I did enjoy that aspect of this book, but delving into Ruby's life and mind is what kept me turning pages.  The characters in this book are still alive to me several days after finishing the book and actually kept me from getting into my next read at first. 

This is a great book and I do hope you will read it.

Highly recommended
Source:  William Morrow/HarperCollins publishers

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


I raced through this novel from a few years ago, one of my finds at our book sale.  Anything by C. J. Box is an automatic grab after all, and this one really had my heart pounding.  It begins with two children, Annie and her younger brother William, witnessing a murder.  Then one of the killers sees them and the chase is on.

The setting is a small town in Idaho that is in transition because a large number of retired cops have moved there from Los Angeles.  They've brought money but even as they claim to want a different, less stressful life, they've brought big city habits with them.  Some have built enormous mansions and they drive their SUVs through town like they own the place.  The people who loved their little town and surrounding ranches aren't necessarily happy about the changes or the people who brought them about.  When word gets out that the kids are missing, they take over the investigation from the rather weak police chief who is out of his depth.

Our hero is a rancher who is in financial trouble and about to lose his beloved ranch.  It's been in the family for generations but he has hit hard times.  He's in his early 60s and he's a kind man who suffered when he had to let his last ranch hand go.  I loved Jess Rawlins.  He and the kids make the whole book in my mind.

This is a thriller with a subplot of another retired cop trying to trace money from a robbery at Santa Anita racetrack several years earlier in which a young guard was killed, leaving a wife and kids.  All of the characters, good and evil and somewhere in-between, are skillfully depicted so you get more and more tense as the story plays out.  At times I was breathless when the action heated up and I worried about the good guys.  

One character is a staple in every small town I've ever known.  In this town she's a rural mail carrier but she could be anything.  She's a thoughtless gossip who craves attention and has no compassion for the people she's hurting.  She also thinks she's attractive (not!) and has her eye on Jess Rawlins.  And she's loud, so when she's spreading gossip she lets everyone around her hear what her imagination has come up with. 

I happened to read this at the time the 16 year old California girl and her kidnapper were found in Idaho.  That added even more color to the background as I read, especially when the horse riders who saw and reported them were interviewed.  I could imagine how those two couples would resent the intrusion of city people into their lives.

This is an action-filled thriller with great characters and I hope you'll read it and other C. J. Box novels.

Highly recommended
Source:  book sale 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

THE LAST ALIBI by David Ellis

I have a terrific legal thriller for you today, The Last Alibi by David Ellis.  Since this is the ninth book in the Jason Kolarich series, I'm probably preaching to the choir here, but I've just discovered Kolarich.  Needless to say, I'll be looking for the previous eight books now.  

In this story Kolarich has had knee surgery and unfortunately was given Oxycontin for postop pain.  That's the one piece of the mystery that I found hard to believe.  Oxycontin, the highly addictive pain killer, for this type of pain?  Anyway, Kolarich has become addicted and when the doctor refused to prescribe any more of it, he started buying it illegally on the street.   Meanwhile, his life is in such a downward spiral that even he begins to be aware of it, but he's too addicted to stop.

His legal partner, Shauna Tasker, can see something is very wrong but doesn't know what and he refuses her help.  She is handling a huge civil case with their junior associate so she's really too busy to catch on anyway.  Then a court reporter catches Kolarich's eye and she becomes his lover and his enabler.

During this time a new client enters Kolarich's office.  He says two women he has some connection to have been murdered and he's afraid the police will arrest him but he's innocent.  Sounds fishy but then Kolarich isn't too sharp under the influence of the drugs and he promises to be the guy's lawyer if he is arrested.  From that point on the lawyer's life takes a hinky turn that grows worse and worse.  And I was definitely hooked.  There are so many things for the reader to worry about and work out, twists and turns that defy attempts to solve them, and you just have to keep turning pages.  It's an amazing plot and one that I loved.

Author David Ellis has written a couple books with James Patterson but don't let that influence your decision whether to read this one.  Personally I think Patterson has lost his touch and I don't read his books anymore.  Maybe that's why I never read Ellis before.  Who knows?

Highly recommended
Source:  won from LibraryThing