Sunday, June 29, 2014


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I had never read a Clare Hart thriller before, and frankly I may never read another.  This ebook scared the heck out of me.  Hart is a profiler and documentary film maker in Cape Town, South Africa.  Her project in this story is human trafficking; bringing girls from countries north of South Africa to supply the sex trade in Cape Town.  She and her former lover Captain Riedwaan Faizal investigate the murder of teenage girls whose bodies are left obscenely posed in public places in the city after having been tortured.

Hart also has a twin who was gang raped and tortured 20 years earlier.  Since then she has lived in isolation under the protection of another of Hart's former lovers, a priest.  Constance Hart has never recovered emotionally and is continually worried about Clare.  She sends her tarot cards when she feels strongly about Clare's life.  There is also a third sister, Julia, who has a husband and two daughters, and blessedly a normal family life.  When Hart visited Julia, it provided not only a break for her but also for me.

The Prologue gives a glimpse of what the kidnapped girls go through, and that sets the stage for the rest of the book during which the reader is constantly expecting more of the same, or worse.  Every time Hart goes out for a run or an interview the reader is on tenterhooks until she is safe at home or with the police.  The evil men seemingly lead ordinary lives but with the sex trade as a common vice.  

Apparently this vice is legal in Cape Town and it is only when dead bodies are found that anyone believes there is something wrong.  With so many men involved and such a permissive society it's difficult to figure out who the killer is.  The mystery that kept me going in fact was to discover the identity of the murderer and hopefully see the woman haters among the bad guys get their comeuppance.

The female characters are necessarily victims except for Clare Hart, one police officer, and two women who help victims.  Of them we only get to know Hart, her strengths, and her weaknesses.  She is a fully formed character though whose strengths are not overdone; she's human and I appreciated that in the face of the horrid nature of the story.

Recommended only for the very strong stomach
Source:  Witness/Impulse Imprint, Harper/Collins

Thursday, June 26, 2014


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I find it difficult to believe this mystery novel is Neely Tucker's first.  His only previous volume was a memoir.  He is a man with a quirky view of the world, a great sense of humor, a journalist's instincts, and a beautiful talent for writing.  After finishing this book, I've decided he's simply brilliant.

He has worked for the Washington Post for many years and draws on that experience to create his main character, Sully Carter.  Carter is back in Washington working for a newspaper after covering the war in Bosnia where he was nearly killed in an explosion.  He had fallen in love with a woman there and she died in bombing.  They both understood that theirs was doomed to be only a wartime romance but that doesn't make it any easier for him to get over losing her.

Meanwhile he contends with his physical scars and a bad limp as he tries to avoid working in his confining office and uses his time on the street to make contacts.  In effect, he covers the city as he covered the war, a method that drives his superiors crazy.  They only keep him on because he never fails to get the story and he writes so well.  He is dealing unsuccessfully with a drinking problem so his life is a constant battle with hangovers, run-ins with his editors, and his failing relationship with his girlfriend who is a bartender.  

When a judge's teenage daughter is the victim of an attack, he recalls other young female victims in the same small area and catches on that there is a serial killer at work.  No one else agrees but he is determined to learn more about the other victims.  He gets caught up in one of the most twisted plots I've read in a long time.  It wasn't so much confusing as it was fun to try to follow who was up to what.  I was fooled off and on all the way to the end and I loved it.

The neighborhood where most of the action takes place and the people who live there are fully formed characters who keep you involved in the story.  I do hope there will be a sequel because I'm anxious to follow Sully Carter's adventures more.

Highly recommended
Source:  Amazon Vine

Monday, June 23, 2014


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I've been reading Karin Slaughter for years and enjoying her series characters. Now she's thrown a change-up pitch, a novel about cops in 1975 Atlanta. There is a cop killer on the loose and the male police officers have gone off half cocked chasing down every black man with a record they can lay hands on, and probably many without. The cops that have died were all white. Since this is 1975 when Atlanta was closer to a small southern city than the international business, transportation and media hub it is today, prejudice rules. The full story involves more than racism though.

Our main characters are two women who have chosen to brave the male bastion of the police force. They have lived with belittling sexist behavior since the first day of the police academy. Maggie is a cop because her brother and uncle are, even though her uncle is one of the leading abusers of alcohol and women. Kate joined to prove something to herself and her family after her husband was killed in Vietnam. Her first few days are nightmares, beginning with the absurd oversized uniform she was issued to humiliate her. Thanks to her huge hat and shoes, she runs smack into a concrete wall on her first day. The consensus is that she won't show up for her second day, but Kate finds strength she never knew she had.

The best characterizations are of two radically different people. The shooter, for instance. Slaughter puts us inside his head and we see why he has become so bent. The other is a long-time female cop who works undercover as a prostitute. She's tougher than tough and yet there's a heart under all those cheap clothes and hooker makeup.

Some of this book was difficult to read because it's a no-holds-barred look at some of the worst people in our world and the life of downtrodden people they prey on. Maggie and Kate grow on you as you get to know them, but the never ending prejudice against them is maddening. That's hard for a 2014 reader to take, but I think it's good for people to understand the truth. This is the way it was, ladies.

Highly recommended
Source: Amazon Vine

Sunday, June 22, 2014


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This is my favorite kind of nonfiction.  It's written for a general audience but is thoroughly researched, with complete footnotes in the back for readers who would like to pursue the subject further.  In this particular biography there is a personal touch in that the author actually knew his subject when he was young and he had the cooperation of Ames' widow and children.  Kai Bird is an author I will seek out in the future for highly readable history.

Robert Ames was a CIA agent who was killed in the 1983 bombing of the U.S. embassy in Beirut.  Ames' death was a great loss for CIA operations in the Middle East because he was a common sense agent with friends in all the right places.  His chief source of information for many years was a VIP in the PLO.  The CIA kept insisting he formally recruit the man but he had the good sense not to do it. That would have put the man in terrible danger and ruined their relationship.  

The depth of his friendships with Arab figures is shown by the fact that one of them was a huge help to Bird in his research for this book.  Ames defied CIA protocol from the beginning as he immersed himself in Arab language and culture.  For reasons I still don't understand, such knowledge was discouraged and certainly friendship was out of order.  Ames would drive out through the desert, stopping to talk with Bedouin tribes.  They would invite him for a meal, the worst part of which was that as the honored guest he was given the eye of the goat to eat.  Ames hated that but he ate it rather than insult his host.

We learn an amazing amount about the culture and customs of that part of the world, something we know is terribly important because of almost constant conflict among religious and nationalist organizations there.  We also get a hint of the kind of life his family had.  He and his wife didn't tell their children he was CIA until the oldest daughter was grown, and then only because both of them were taking a trip that could be dangerous and someone needed to know who to contact and how.  It all brings Robert Ames back to life as a man who was brilliant at his job, and only his family surpassed his dedication to that job in importance.

Highly recommended
Source:  LibraryThing win

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


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San Francisco seems like a legendary city to me; it's one I've always wanted to visit but haven't had the opportunity.  One of the joys of reading is that I can visit such a place through the magical descriptions of talented writers.  Telegraph Hill took me to San Francisco on a breathless trip up and down hills, across bridges, and looking out on the bay.  In addition, I saw the city through the eyes of a fascinating character, P.I. Ray Infantino, and an excellent plot.

Author John Nardizzi is himself a private investigator and lawyer as well as author in Boston. That lends the necessary authenticity to his characters' actions, with allowance of course for a little extra heroism and ability to escape the bad guys.

Infantino has been hired by an attorney in Boston to find a Chinese woman in San Francisco. Supposedly her family is concerned about her and just wants to be assured that she is all right. Actually she has worked as a prostitute, has ties to the Black Fist Triad, and is on the run from the triad.  Things start to smell fishy almost immediately as Infantino runs into Asian thugs at every turn.  We know part of her story, just enough to make us worry about whether she'll survive long enough for him to save her.

Meanwhile, Infantino's fiance was killed in San Francisco ten years earlier and he's still on the trail of the man responsible.  He looks up an old girlfriend, Dominique, who also has contacts he requires to find Tania Kong.  The story is enough to take your breath away and the chase scenes are brilliant.  At one point during a guns blazing flight, a tourist couple think they've stumbled into a movie set and begin asking people for autographs.  These flashes of the most clever writing catch the reader up short and you laugh as Infantino gets away yet away.

This book cries out for a movie version and definitely a sequel.  We must know what happens next to this honorable and courageous private investigator.

Highly recommended
Source:  Partners in Crime Book Tours

Monday, June 16, 2014


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This is my first Delhi Laine mystery.  Aside from the distraction of it causing the Beatles' "Penny Lane" to run through my mind while reading it, I did enjoy the story.

The plot begins when Delhi, her husband Colin Fitzhugh, and daughters Jane, and four-year-old twins Caitlin and Hannah are living in Stratford-upon-Avon, England for an archeology professors seminar.  At the time Delhi is pregnant with their fourth child, Jason.  One idyllic day in the park by the river Caitlin disappears and is presumed to have drowned.  She has never been found.  The family returned to New York and now Hannah is in college.  Jane is launched on a career in New York City.  The fallout?  Hannah Is overweight and feels like she wasn't loved as much as her twin, and Delhi and Colin live separately although there are no plans for divorce.  Delhi has remained in the comfort of old books by running a used book store and online service.  

Then Delhi receives a message:  "Your daughter didn't drown."

Is it possible?  Could she still be alive?  Colin and Hannah are opposed to searching for her after so many years, but Delhi and Jane are determined to solve the mystery and, if Caitlin is alive, find her and bring her home.  The mystery is relatively simple but obstacles come up at every turn.

One tiny quibble I have won't bother anyone else.  Colin is a professor at Princeton and Jane went to "Douglas" but dropped out in her sophomore year to get married.  I suppose that means she went to Douglass College at Rutgers University, my alma mater.  Maybe Culberson should have just made up a name?

I would suggest this for a hot afternoon's reading.  The snowy scenes should cool you off.

Source: Partners in Crime Book Tours

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


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Let me waste no time letting you know that I absolutely loved this book.  The characters appealed to me, the plot was scary but fun, the settings were great, everything in short was to my liking.

The story is at the same time an intelligent discourse on the appropriateness and impossibilities of the insanity plea.  A paranoid schizophrenic, not under treatment at the time, is arrested and charged with murder.  The case against him is very strong, particularly since he found a diamond bracelet on the body and put it in his pocket.  His name is Dan Little and he lives on the streets of Galveston where he was an outstanding quarterback in high school.  He had gone on to become an attorney but then was struck down with his mental illness.  He hears voices that tell him what to do.

Dan's brother, Wayne, is also a lawyer in Houston.  His best friend Duke is a former NBA star and current criminal lawyer, and along with Duke's girlfriend Claudia plus Wayne's next door neighbor Rita, they call themselves the posse.  Wayne takes his brother's case along with the posse and they take advantage of his mother's hospitality to set up shop in Galveston for the trial.  I could almost hear the waves as they walked along the seawall there.  You'll be very fond of Mrs. Little, as I was.

This story has one of the most frightening villains I've read about in a long time.  He's brilliant and totally amoral so one can only hope he will be brought up short by his confidence that he's smarter than anyone else.  A member of the posse finds herself one of his targets; that aspect of the book really had me in goosebumps.

Highly recommended
Source: Partners in Crime Book Tours

Monday, June 9, 2014


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Readers of Leigh Russell's Geraldine Steele series will enjoy this new one featuring Detective Ian Peterson.  They had worked well together but she's gone to London now and Ian is married and going for promotion to Detective Inspector.

Poor Ian is finding marriage a rough go.  His wife for some reason expected that after they were married he would spend less time at work, that she could expect him home every evening and could make plans for them to go out without him canceling due to his job.  Of course that hasn't happened, and with his home life getting more unpleasant by the day, his job has become even more important to him.  His long-for promotion seems to be taking forever; he feels stuck in a bad situation.

Meanwhile, his new case involves the murder of a middle-aged woman in a park.  She was stabbed, yet has no defensive wounds.  Her husband is the prime suspect because he inherits quite a bit of money.  The marriage, they learn, was terrible and they had only stayed married because as a devout Catholic the victim refused to consider divorce.  There is a teenage son who everyone says was close to his mother.  

The husband, knowing he's the most likely suspect, pays a stripper to give him an alibi.  As Ian investigates this link, he spends a lot of time at the strip club and with the girl and her roommate and little boy.  All of the people involved give Ian life situations differing from his and giving him perspective on his own life.

I found the plot somewhat far-fetched but the characters for the most part sympathetic.  There is a boy being abused by his mother's boyfriend, disaffected teens caught up in a cult, and the strippers trying to live day to day with little hope of a better life, and Ian wanting only a happy home for him and his wife. 

Source:  Witness/Impulse Imprint, HarperCollins