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