Tag Archives: mysteries

Book Review of Wish Come True by Eileen Goudge

The Family Dynamics

Wish Come True by Eileen Goudge deals with a dysfunctional family, and specifically the relationship between three sisters and their mother. During the book we learn that the oldest sister, Monica, a famous actress now in wheelchair,  had been sexually abused by her father while a child. Her mother Betty, a battered wife had known, but not stopped it.

 

Book Review of Wish Come True by Eileen Goudge
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Anna, who is in the process of losing the pounds that have always made her feel ugly in comparison to her gorgeous sister, cares for Monica by day and their mother Betty by night. Monica pays Anna very little but makes heavy demands on her time and energy. Anna puts up with it because it’s the only way she can afford to pay for help in caring for Betty, who has dementia and can’t be left alone. Anna would love to be free to live her own life again, but in spite of Edna’s urging, Anna simply hasn’t the heart to put her mother in a nursing home. 

Anna pays Edna to help Betty in the daytime, but Monica’s money makes that possible . Arcela is paid to help Monica during the night when Anna can’t be with her. The third sister, Liz, does very little to help Anna with Monica or her mother. She is divorced and has a child.

Anna resents having Monica dominate her life while constantly putting her down, especially about her plump figure and unstylish clothes. As the book unfolds you soon understand as you watch Anna and Monica interact what a toxic situation Anna is in.

 

The Intervention

Book Review of Wish Come True by Eileen Goudge
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Monica is an alcoholic.  When Anna can no longer face dealing with the drunken Monica, she finally persuades a reluctant Liz  join her for an intervention to insist Monica enter a live-in rehab program.

Liz resists but finally agrees, and she and Anna participate in group therapy during family week as part of the treatment plan. In the therapy process Anna and Liz learn much more about each other and begin to build a better relationship.  Anna also falls in love with Marc, one of the therapists there. He reveals he has a wife he still loves who is in a mental institution.

Murder?

After Monica comes home from rehab, she seems to be abstaining for a while, but then starts drinking again. After a confrontation where Anna hands in her resignation, she returns home exhausted physically and mentally and goes to bed early.  It is  Arcela’s night off, so Monica is alone. The next morning when Arcela arrives at  work, Monica is found dead in her swimming pool. Anna is arrested for her murder. As they say, no good deed goes unpunished.

Ironically, just as it appears Anna might finally find happiness, it seems she may have to spend the rest of her life in prison. You’ll have to read the book to see what happens next — to Anna, to Liz, to Mark,  to Betty and to all the characters in the subplots I didn’t introduce.

My Response to the Book and Recommendation

This book held my interest from beginning to end. I so wanted to see Anna stand up to Monica, who uses every bit of her acting talent to continue to manipulate Anna and keep her from having a satisfying life. Anyone who has ever lived with or had an alcoholic in the family can relate to Anna’s discouragement and frustration.  The romance with Marc,  Anna’s arrest, their search for the real killer, and watching the murder hearing made it hard for me to put the book down until everything was resolved.

I would  recommend this book to anyone who has suffered at the hands of alcoholics or been abused as a child or by a husband or boyfriend.  Friends and those trying to help such people will also find this book meaningful. Even if you’ve led a fairly normal life, you will find it easy to become emotionally involved with the well-developed characters in the book and enter into their lives.


After reading Wish Come True, I’d like to go back  and read the other books in the Carson Springs Series . Although Wish Come True can easily stand alone, I wish I’d read the two earlier books in the series first. I just stumbled upon this book, but you can start at the beginning. You can also save by buying all three books at once for your Kindle. I have a Kindle Paperwhite, which I reviewed in Should You Buy a Kindle Paperwhite? 

I also reviewed The Replacment Wife by Eileen Goudge – another book you might enjoy.

Short Reviews from Recent Reading

One of my challenges is that if I read a lot, I don’t always have time to stop and review a book I’ve finished,   and these books tend to pile up because reading is more relaxing than writing about what I just read.

pix-sweden-713021_640-houseI finally read the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and I wish I hadn’t. Although I enjoy mysteries, I don’t enjoy people being tortured and mutilated as recreation. If you like thrillers, this is likely to keep your spine tingling, especially near the conclusion .

Much of the book is set in Sweden.  The two main characters are Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist who was convicted of libel, and a brilliant but unconventional helper, Lisbeth Salander, who is a genius at internet research, legal and illegal, and a master analyzer of the data she finds. Mikael has been hired by a wealthy Swede, Vanger, with a large and dysfunctional family to find out who in his family killed his missing niece years ago. Mikael is to live on the Vanger estate under the pretense of writing a biography of Vanger, with access to most of the family.

The only character I liked very much in this book was Lisbeth, who was a ward of the state whose appointed guardian was raping her as a condition for giving her access to some of her money. The only part of the book I sort of enjoyed  was when Lisbeth used her wits to fight back and get her revenge and get free of him.

I pretty much agree with this New York Times review of the book.  It shows me again that being on the Best Seller List does not mean a book is worth the time spent reading it. It seems to me that too many people are putting poison into their  brains. I will not read more by this author. But if you don’t mind rape and torture scenes as a mystery is solved, and seeing  some sexually abusive sadists in action, you might be able to stomach this better than I did. To each his own. I don’t recommend it.


I recently finished The Art of Detection by Laurie R. King. I checked it out from the library because I needed a book to take to a waiting room and my Kindle battery was dead. It’s another book I think was a waste of my time. The major problem was that the characters were not developed very well and I didn’t really care about any of them.

The plot was also unrealistic, at least to me. It was set in San Francisco, and the victim, William Gilbert, was an eccentric Sherlock Holmes fan whose living room was like a replica of Holme’s Victorian sitting room. The murder appears to be related to a manuscript Gilbert believed was an undiscovered Sherlock Holmes story by Doyle and he was trying to authenticate it when he was murdered. Suspects included his  friends in the Sherlockian Dinner Club that met once a month, some of whom knew about the manuscript and had even read it.

The manuscript described a murder that very much resembled Gilbert’s murder, right down  to the place the body was discovered. The reader is treated to a chance to read it along with Detective Kate Martinelli – a story within a story. Unfortunately, when I read this I wasn’t in the mood for long descriptive passages, intricate subplots, and having to work to keep all the characters straight. To top it off, I’m not a Sherlock Holmes fan. There was just nothing in this book  to grab my attention and make me care. I finished it because I had started it, but I had to force myself. The book gets mixed reviews on Amazon.  I suppose we get out of a book what we bring to it. If you like all things Sherlock Holmes, this book may interest you more than it did me.

pix-the-white-house-269734_640I was more interested in  Elliott Roosevelt’s mystery novels. I just learned they were actually written and researched by William Harrington, who also wrote novels I’ve read listing Margaret Truman as the author.  I  just did a bit of research on both Ellliott Roosevelt and William Harrison and have concluded neither is someone I would enjoy knowing.

Harrison was a competent researcher, and from what I’ve read in memoirs of other figures mentioned in Murder in Georgetown, many incidents mentioned may well be true. They are certainly realistic, except for the part about Eleanor Roosevelt getting personally involved in solving murders.

Much of the book was set in the White House in 1935. Prohibition has ended, but it’s obvious the White House didn’t take it very seriously even when it was law. We meet Joseph Kennedy, who sees that the White House always gets the best booze when it’s important, and the author often brings him into the story .

A major part of the plot turns out to be bank corruption at the highest level. The real killer of Sargent Peavey, a member of the federal treasury board, tries to frame a young Jewess, Jessica Dee, who had been smuggled into the country from Poland.   Mrs. Roosevelt had recommended Senator Huey Long hire Jessica as a secretary.  Since he was  F.D.R.’s main political opponent, Eleanor was hoping Jessica could keep her informed about what was happening in Long’s office.

When Jessica was arrested for Peavey’s murder because her earring was found at the scene, and some other non-conclusive evidence, Mrs. Roosevelt works with the detectives to try to find the real killer.  She doesn’t believe for a moment Jessica is guilty,

The reader witnesses some of the political intrigue behind the scenes in the Roosevelt White House and is party to the local gossip. We learn that politicians and the people who are involved with them are as crooked as we suspected.

I learned outside this book that Elliott himself, the credited author and the son of Eleanor and F.D.R, was involved in his own share of scandal,  and that was not fiction. He ( and Harrington as well) probably shared the casual morals of his characters. It seemed most characters believed it didn’t matter what you did, as long as you were discreet enough so that no one who wasn’t supposed to know ever found out. Jessica could have been cleared much earlier had she been willing to reveal whom she had been with when two of the three murders with the same weapon had been committed.

This was not a thriller – just a picture of discrete police investigations, including some in the White House, and some visits to dives and dark alleys. The reader sees more questioning than dangerous pursuits of criminals. I prefer novels like this that let me see what the investigators see so I can draw my own conclusions and see if I was right.   In this case, I had it solved by the time the police did,  though I  didn’t have all the motivations until the last scenes.

This book is out of print and there are some cheap copies left on Amazon as I write this. If you enjoy murder mysteries with some political intrigue set in the White House, I think you might enjoy Murder in Georgetown.  Since I’m currently so busy, I was glad that I could read a couple of chapters at a time to relax without feeling I had to rush to the end. If you need a real page-turner, this is isn’t it, but it’s just right if you want to take reading breaks during the day and be able to go back to what you were doing without being frustrated.

Review of Cat in a Vegas Gold Vendetta: A Midnight Louie Mystery

I’m a great fan of cats, and I’ve also become hooked on cat mysteries. The Midnight Louie Series by Carole Nelson Douglas is my favorite series in this genre. The human characters are as fascinating as the main cat character, Midnight Louie, a large black tomcat, who by this book in the series has received a vasectomy so he can have his fun without making kittens. How this happened is explained in an earlier book. I have read all the books in this series up to and including this book, and wrote about the series itself in Why I Love the Midnight Louie Series by Carole Nelson Douglas.

I was looking forward to this book because the last one, Cat in an Ultramarine Scheme: A Midnight Louie Mystery (Midnight Louie Mysteries)
left me hanging. Max, the ex-fiance of Temple Barr, had disappeared. Everyone thought him dead back in Las Vegas, including Temple.  Meanwhile, Temple began to return the love of her friend Matt Devine, who lived in the condo above the one she and Max had shared. It appeared that Max was dead and gone forever, and finally, Matt and Temple became engaged. The reader of the previous book, however, knows that Max has narrowly escaped death and been whisked away to a clinic in Switzerland by his friend Garry, who was also thought to be dead earlier. Temple, in fact, though she had witnessed Garry’s death. The reader also knows that Kathleen O’Connor, who had tried to kill both Max and Matt, who was also supposed dead, may also still be alive. The previous book ended with Temple receiving an international phone call from none other than Max, who though alive, had lost his memory in the attack that almost killed him.

Review of Cat in a Vegas Gold Vendetta: A Midnight Louie Mystery

So this book opens with Temple anticipating picking up Max from the airport. Garry had told Max that Temple knows him and can help him know who he was. But now Garry really is dead and Max is totally alone, knowing very little about his past life. Matt was in Chicago interviewing for a new job when the phone call came. Temple cannot refuse to help, but neither she nor the reader can help wondering what will happen when Temple and Max meet again.

Cat in a Vegas Gold Vendetta: A Midnight Louie Mystery (Midnight Louie Mysteries) included the usual cast of characters readers have gotten to know, including Lieutenant Carmen Molina, her ex-husband Rafi Nadir, Detective Alch, her right-hand man, and Dirty Larry, an undercover narc officer. On the loose is still the deadly Barbie Doll serial killer, who may be a threat to Molina’s teen daughter, and Molina and company are working hard to stop him before he strikes again.

As Temple is getting ready to meet Max at the airport, she receives a call from one of her least favorite people, aspiring actress Savannah Ashleigh, owner of two cats Louie had once loved, and who was responsible for Louie’s vasectomy. She is definitely one of Louie’s least favorite people. Savannah wants to hire Temple, whose real work is public relations, as a private investigator to look into the death of her Aunt Violet’s hired hand who cared for her many cats. Violet is very sick, on what is presumed to be her deathbed, and is very concerned that her cats be taken care of after she dies. Pedro, the yard man who was found dead, was the one taking care of the cats. Savannah is convinced he has been murdered and wants Temple to find the killer.

As the book progresses, the three plots intertwine. As usual Midnight Louie offers his perspective throughout the book, and his supposed daughter, Midnight Louise, assists him in helping to solve the mystery at Violet’s house and save the cats who have been disappearing from it.

I confess to starting the book yesterday afternoon and finishing it this afternoon. I find the books in this series hard to put down, but I wanted to see how Temple, Max, and finally Matt would interact when they got together. For me, the human elements in the plot are the most interesting and I like to follow the characters and their lives throughout the book.

At the end, both Louie and the author, Carol Nelson Douglas, encourage readers who have pets to consider what will become of them if they outlive their owners. She encourages pet owners to make arrangements for their pets’ care after the death of their owners.

An Interview with Carole Nelson Douglas

I watched two video interviews with Carole Nelson Douglas. This one was the best, even though it didn’t say as much about the Midnight Louie series as I would have liked. Most of the conversation deals with the newer Delilah Street Paranormal Mysteries. I got a much different impression of the author in the interview than I did from the Midnight Louie books. Maybe that’s because I was so wrapped up in the stories.

Have you met Midnight Louie yet? If you love cat mysteries and you haven’t met him,  don’t deprive yourself any longer.

If you like more serious mysteries, you may want to read the Lei Crime Series by Toby Neal. Here’s my review of the books I read from this series.

I also enjoyed and reviewed Allison (A Kane Novel), another murder mystery,  by Steve Gannon.  All of these mysteries have been tasty additions of this bookworm’s buffet.

Review of The Silent Reporter (Hyder Ali #1) by Mobashar Qureshi

Don’t start reading The Silent Reporter unless you have time to finish it the same day. I couldn’t put it down. The characters were introduced scene by scene and at first the scenes seemed unrelated. But you saw the relationship by the time you knew who everyone was.  To make it easy, I will introduce them all at once here.

Cast of Main Characters

  • Hyder Ali, American-born Muslim of Pakistani descent, who works as temporary reporter at The Daily Times
  • Lester Glasgow, works at the technology desk at the The Daily Times, Hyder’s friend
  • Caroline Dunny, Hyder’s boss, AKA Dunny the Killer Bunny
  • Amanda Hansborough, an accountant at TriGate Management Group, whom we see die in an auto accident when her brakes fail
  • Peter Hansborough, Amanda’s husband
  • Tom Nolan, a police officer whose wife died in that same accident who had turned into a alcoholic since his wife’s death and been on leave from the police force
  • Police Captain ‘Rudy” Ross, who cares for Tom and wants to see him back on the force
  • Sergeant Doug Halton, Nolan’s supervisor on the Franklin Police Force, who would love to fire him if Ross would let him.
  • Detective Angelo Pascale, who despises Nolan and wants him fired
  • Detective Marina Lopez, who is sympathetic to Nolan, and has his back.
  • Jessica Freeland, daughter of Professor Eric Freeland, who was found hanging in his home, an apparent suicide.
  • Charles Marshall, CEO of TriGate Management, which had just been awarded a 1.2 billion dollar contract to build an extension for the city nuclear reactor plant. Nolan had seen the announcement on television when he was drinking at a bar.
  • Ian Marshall, son of Charles
  • Terry Scott, President of TriGate ManagementGroup
  • “Grant” the “fixer” of problems for the Marshalls and TriGate Management
  • Hyder’s widowed mother, whom he calls Ammi
  • Hyder’s brother Akbar, a doctor
  • John Kroft, Jr., Publisher of the The Daily Times


The author brings the characters together in such a way that they advance the plot bit by bit until you begin see  it  coming together. There are plenty of clues you can grab along the way to the plot’s resolution. Several themes run through the book. As you read, you will probably be rooting for some characters and hoping to see others get their comeuppance.  I was most drawn to Tom Nolan and  Capt. Ross. I wanted to boo or hiss every time Haldon, Grant or Marshall appeared after I had first met them.

Tom Nolan is an alcoholic detective. He had been headed for a very successful police career because before his wife’s death he had been an excellent detective. After her death he had fallen apart and turned to the bottle, hoping to drink himself to death. After almost a year’s absence, Ross had gone to his house to get him when he wouldn’t answer his phone calls. He had to break his window with a rock to make him finally open the door. He told Nolan to come back to work and clean himself up. Ross would not take no for an answer. Ross let Nolan know he considered him valuable enough to save, even when Nolan could see nothing good in himself.

Nolan’s first case back back at work was to investigate the death of Professor Eric Freeman, reported as a suicide. Freeman had been a mentor to Hyder when he was a student, and Hyder just couldn’t believe it was a suicide. Jessica Freeland couldn’t believe it either. Even Nolan saw a couple of signs that weren’t consistent with suicide, but he was still not completely himself, and when asked to make a decision, he called for the coroner, and handled it as a suicide.

Hyder and Jessica try to convince Nolan it was a murder, but he said he had no proof, so the two work together to try to figure it out themselves. Then Jessica notices she is being watched by someone in a black sedan. She tells Hyder.

We then see Ian Marshall in his mansion discussing Freeland’s death with Grant, who was responsible for it. They wonder aloud if anyone else knows too much. Grant says he’s keeping an eye on Jessica.

Most of the book deals with the investigation. When Nolan is pressured by Halton to close the case in three days or prove it wasn’t a suicide, he takes another serious look at the file. He sees the coroner’s report somehow is missing from the file so he talks to the coroner. Nolan is told someone had picked up the report to hand deliver, but the signature of the one who picked it up was undecipherable, and it had never arrived.

A talk with the coroner revealed that the death was not consistent with suicide. Nolan remembered he inconsistencies he had seen and he retrieved he evidence he had removed from the scene he had filed away.  He let Jessica and Hyder know he now agreed with them, and they began to work together to share information. You will have to read the book to see how they finally pieced the solution together.

The second theme is the author’s attempt to portray how an American Muslim family practices its religion in everyday life. This is shown in the scenes that take place in Hyder’s home, which becomes the meeting place for Nolan, Jessica, and Hyder to work on the case. Hyder found it strange that his mother, who wore traditional Muslim dress, prayed five times a day, and regularly read the Quran, could enjoy watching figure skaters in skimpy, tight costumes dance on the ice in front of crowds (on TV.) She had told him “It didn’t matter how someone lived, talked, ate, or even worshiped. What mattered was how they lived their lives.”

Another quote deals with Hyder’s perception of the Muslim view of suicide: “Contrary to what was reported on the news, suicide was also not permitted in Islam. Life was a gift from God and no one had the right to take it away except for God.”

Hyder had talked with Freeland (who was Jewish) “about Islamist suicide bombers and they both had agreed that no God, no matter from what religion, would accept the death of innocent people in his name.” This may be true, but it may also be true that Muslim views on who is innocent may differ both from those of other Muslims and from non-Muslims.

It is clear that the author wants readers to see Islam as a religion not much different than Judaism. “Freeland was Jewish and Hyder was Muslim, but they both shared a common trait: a love for God and an appreciation of his people.”

The third element in this novel is the rehabilitation of Tom Nolan. The beginning of the book  vividly shows us the despair and pain Tom suffers and his degradation as he continues to rely on  alcohol. We see it is only Ross’s belief in him that makes him drag himself back down to the police department.

We see many scenes that portray his grief. His wife, Simone, had been five months pregnant when she was killed. Her accident was caused in the aftermath of the accident that had killed Amanda. In one scene he is in their bedroom and almost kills himself, but couldn’t go through with it. He sees their wedding rings on top of the dresser.

Nolan kissed her ring and held it tight in his hand. The tighter he held it,the more he felt like he was holding her But this was not true. She was gone, leaving behind the object that was once a sign of their love.

He then replays in his head the last day of his wife’s life and his reaction of denial when he got the call that she was dead and he had to identify her. When he saw her body, he stopped wanting to live. Though he couldn’t make himself take his own life, he hoped either the alcohol or another person would kill him.

During the course of the year he was on leave, Tom occasionally drives by the Hansborough house and watches Peter with his children. He wonders how Peter can laugh again and live like a normal person when he can’t. He thinks it’s because Peter has his children. Tom has no one.  He can’t bear to go into the room of his house that was to be the nursery for his unborn child.

Nolan finally collects his “marbles’ as he decides he will give his all to solving the case of Freeland’s death, which he now believes is a murder. By the end of the book you see that Ross’s faith in him was justified. He demonstrates he is still a sharp detective, and a brave one. Of course it helps that he isn’t afraid to die and that he is convinced the same people who killed Freeland also are also responsible for his wife’s death, and he wants them brought to justice.


I thoroughly enjoyed The Silent Reporter (Hyder Ali #1)
 look forward to reading the sequel, The Rogue Reporter (Hyder Ali #2)
.

Lei Crime Series by Toby Neal

It seems the protagonist or a main character of almost every noveI I have read recently has either been molested or abused as a child or both.  I almost feel like an anomaly for having had a normal childhood with two parents who stayed married to each other, loved me, and protected me.  As I read these novels, I’m also very grateful I had this kind of childhood. Leilani (Lei) Texeira had been abused as a child. Her mother had preferred drugs  to mothering  after her husband Wayne had gotten her hooked and then been sent to prison for dealing drugs when Lei was five.    Charlie Kwon had moved in with  her mother and molested Lei for six months, often when she was bathing.  As Lei put it, ‘Charlie’d had a way of getting to her, twisting everything he did to her into something she’d wanted.’  When Charlie broke up with Lei’s mom, she overdosed, and Lei was sent to live with her Aunty Rosario in California when she was nine. It was the best thing that ever happened to her. But she continued to have flashbacks to the bathtub scenes throughout Blood Orchids.

When we meet Lei in the first book of the Lei Crime Series, Blood Orchids (Lei Crime Book 1)she is a rookie in the South Hilo Police Department in Hawaii. She is pulling a young woman’s body out of the water as her partner, Pono, is phoning in her grisly discovery.  After Lei pulls a second girl from the water it is evident they have been murdered, and Detective Michael Stevens, from Los Angeles, and his partner Jeremy Ito, are put in charge of the case.

Lei isn’t happy about that. Since she discovered the bodies, she wants to be involved in helping to find the murderer. Finally, Stevens allows her to help since the help he has requested from other departments has not been given. Lei and Stevens spend more time together as the case unfolds. As the book (and series) progresses, much of it deals with the growing attraction between Lei and Michael Stevens.

Meanwhile, Lei has discovered she has a stalker who puts threatening notes in her mailbox and on her porch. Even though she has a security system and a pet Rottweiler, Keiki, she is still afraid.  She wonders if her neighbor, Tom Watanabe is her stalker since she thinks he looks at her in a creepy way. The reader sees several possible suspects besides Tom. I’m not going to spoil the book for you by mentioning them, but I did suspect the right people. I like that the author gave me enough clues to figure out who the killer was.

We see the murder of Mary, another woman police officer and a friend and classmate of Lei before the killer lets readers know that Lei herself will be his next target. I have trouble with books like this because they use a technique that builds suspense to the point that I can’t handle it. The reader knows from almost the beginning that a serial killer is responsible for the deaths of the two girls Lei and Pono found drowned.

Throughout the book there are passages where the killer speaks (in italics), savoring his mementos from his victims and the photos of them he has so carefully posed. He also lets the reader know ahead of time that there will soon be another killing and in some cases, who it will be. I’m sure this technique appeals to some readers who enjoy the suspense and the anticipation of the next murder. I don’t. I prefer books where the body is found and the detectives go to work methodically to find the killer as we follow in their steps and think with them.  In this book, the reader knows more than the police. I empathize too much and can’t stand knowing a character I’ve gotten to know is going to be grabbed and probably killed and that I will have to watch it happen.

Were it not for that, I would have found the book a fast-moving and entertaining escape. I just don’t consider being scared over and over entertaining the way some people do. I did enjoy the interaction between Lei and Pono and watching the romance between Lei and Stevens develop.

Lei has frequent flashbacks to the abuse she faced as a child, and what happened back then affects her ability to trust Stevens and her ambivalence creates tension. Stevens considers Lei’s willingness to take initiative in her work a strong point. She is also impulsive, though, and takes unnecessary risks.

At one point when she thinks her stalker has just put a note on her porch when she’s already dressed for bed, she turns Keiki loose and pursues on foot — a really dumb thing to do. It doesn’t end happily, and it results in her being disciplined by her boss and being forced into counseling. The counseling turns out to be a good thing. It continues into the second book after Lei has begun to see its value

.

 

I am about halfway through the second book in the series, Torch Ginger (Lei Crime Book 2).  I don’t think I will be able to finish it because the inner stress it produces in me is worse than even that in  Blood Orchids.  That same technique of letting the killer share his thoughts is used there, and Lei continues to take off on risky solo investigations on her own that could get her killed.  I just can’t bear to follow her this time. I’m sorry I’ll have to forego finding out what happens next in Lei’s relationship with Stevens and that I won’t find out if I’m right about the identity

I just can’t bear to follow her this time. I’m sorry I’ll have to forego finding out what happens next in Lei’s relationship with Stevens and that I won’t find out if I’m right about the identity of the mysterious Timekeeper. I would recommend this series to those who relish suspense and thrive on thrillers. The police detective work is thorough and chances are you will predict the killer if you pay attention to the clues the author lets you see.  Toby Neal knows how to create a mood that draws the reader into the book from the first page.

Despite my resistance to the suspense leading to witnessing violence, Blood Orchids (Lei Crime Book 1)
kept me turning the pages, and I couldn’t put it down even when I wanted to.  The author made me care about so much about the characters that I may sneak  to the end of Torch Ginger (Lei Crime Book 2)
just to see what happens. I suspect Lei will find herself in a very dangerous position it will take all her strength and survival instincts to get out of.  I don’t want to watch, which is why I’ll skip the dramatic build-up and climax and just see how it is all resolved. In spite of the past pain in her life, Lei is a very caring detective who wants justice for the victims of the vicious.  I think you will enjoy getting to know her.

Review of Allison (A Kane Novel) by Steve Gannon

Quote by Barb Radisavljevic

Few of the several books I read each week meet my expectations.  Allison (A Kane Novel) by Steve Gannon, exceeded them. I was engaged from the very first page.

We meet Alison (Ali) when she is almost twenty, a UCLA student planning to transfer to SC for her junior year in order to study journalism. We also learn she was raped when she was sixteen during a robbery in her home when her parents and older brothers were out, and she had kept the experience to herself for a year. Then she had finally told her parents and the police.  She had sworn her younger brother, Nate, who was there at home with her when it happened, to secrecy. The fact that she had kept the secret for a year had broken a bond of trust with her parents. She had finally mended that bond with her father, but not her mother. Her relationship with her mother was still edgy and fraught with conflict. That conflict is a constant undertone in the plot.

Allison’s mother, Catheryne (Kate) and older brother, Travis, are both talented musicians. Her father, Daniel Kane, is supervising  homicide detective for the West Los Angeles Division of the LAPD.  Her oldest brother, Tom, had been killed in a rock-climbing accident. Nate, the youngest in the family,  is fourteen, and very likable and expressive.  He is loyal, and though he can get very angry, he also is quick to forgive.

The book opens with Allison’s early morning  jog around the UCLA campus. She lived in a private dorm that had once been a sorority house, and very close to Hershey Hall, the dorm where I had lived for a semester in 1962.  I rather enjoyed following Ali around the campus past the places I had frequented myself.  I could identify with her choosing the botanical gardens as a place to retreat, since I often sought refuge there myself.

When she returned to the dorm,  she wrote a rough draft for a Daily Bruin article with a rapidly approaching deadline, and then she worked on her novel.  She wasn’t quite sure why she was writing the novel, since she never intended to show it to anyone.

About 9:45, as she was changing to rush to her 10:00 literature class,  she got a call from her best friend MacKenzie (Mac), just back from Dartmouth, who pressured her into going to Newport Beach with her for some relaxation.  She tried to say no because she didn’t want to ditch her class, but Mac wouldn’t accept it. In fact, Mac was already parked outside ready to scoop up Ali and take her away. So off they went. Mac made no secret of hoping to see a lifeguard she had a crush on, and she was also hoping to get Ali interested in someone at Newport Beach.  Ali had never told Mac about the rape, so Mac had no idea why Ali wasn’t interested in dating.

The time at the beach turned out much differently than either of the girls expected.  Mike Cortese, a videographer and reporter for Channel 2 TV News, happened to be on the beach. He was filming the gigantic waves, but was hoping to find  someone in the water as a visual reference for their size.  He had noticed Ali and Mac, who were both very attractive, when they arrived at the beach.

He had also seen two girls who had ignored life guard warnings head into the deep water. They were having trouble making it back to the beach. A third girl was also in danger, separated from the other two.  A lifeguard appeared just as Mike was about to jump in, and a second lifeguard was also coming. Mike knew he wasn’t a strong enough swimmer to help much, so he grabbed his camera again and started taping the rescue efforts.

Two of the lifeguards were busy trying to save the two visible girls when Mike spotted the third girl, far from shore, face down in the water. There was no way the lifeguards in the water would reach her in time. Then Mike saw Ali jump in. The author then switches to write in Ali’s voice and follows her thoughts as she almost drowns rescuing that third girl.

When she was just about at the end of her strength, help arrives  in the form of a yellow  lifeguard vessel. Ali and the rescued girl are finally both gotten aboard and taken to shore to the waiting crowd and medical personnel.  Mike had gotten all the action with his video camera, and Ali became the heroine of the day.  She did not want the publicity, and wouldn’t give Mike her name.  Before she could leave, the sheriff wanted to interview her.

By the time she returned, Mac had already told Mike who she was. She had also told Mike that Ali wanted to be a journalist, and Mike said he might be able to help her — maybe get her an intern position with Channel Two. All Ali really wanted right then was to go home and change and get to the BBQ at her parents’ beach home in Malibu.

Meanwhile, a teenage star in a popular TV series, Jordan French, is reported missing and is later found dead. Ali’s father is put on the case.

Mike keeps his promise to talk to people at his station about an internship for Ali, but her appearance in Mike’s televised report on the rescue has already made Ali well-known.   CBS was impressed by her “performance” and hires her as a paid assistant. Her interviewer (later boss) turns out to be a woman with whom Ali’s father had once had an affair. Although the affair is long over, Ali is not thrilled with telling her mother and father about this new position — especially since she dropped out of her classes to take the job so she puts off telling them. This further deteriorates the trust issue with her parents when they do find out, since she made these decisions without talking to them first.

As  the book developed, I couldn’t put it down. There is constant conflict between Ali and her parents over Ali’s becoming what her father considers one of the media “scumbags” who interfere with his work.   Ali  tries to prove to her mother that becoming a journalist is more important to her than her creative writing. Catheryne is convinced Ali’s true talent is in her creative writing, and Ali should put her effort there. Catheryne  doesn’t  think much of journalism, especially TV journalism. Both parents are upset that Ali has quit school.

Although Ali loves her older brother Travis, who is an extremely talented pianist and composer, she is also jealous of his talent and his relationship with their musically talented mother. Ali loves her parents, too, but always seems to be at odds with them.  Everything comes to a head when the family learns that Catheryne has leukemia.

Interwoven in the family drama is the growing relationship between Ali and Mike.  Ali is still afraid to trust men.  Just as it appears she is about to trust Mike, his “friend” Brent Preston, who actually got Ali her job at CBS, , betrays them both and destroys that trust.

The attempt to find Jordan’s murderer strains Ali’s relationship with her father even more. She is under constant pressure from Brent and her boss at CBS to reveal information on the case that she shouldn’t even know.  A couple of leaks in the news threaten Daniel Kane’s job, raising the stress level between father and daughter once more.

I will leave it to you to discover how it all comes together at the end as Catheryn tries hard to cling to her life.  Ali, who had the closest match, had donated her bone marrow to Catheryne  but it appears the transplant may be rejected. As the family gathers to support Catheryne during the transplant and its aftermath, everyone has to deal with powerful emotions as they realize she is very likely to die. Yet even then, Ali can’t avoid conflict with her mother. The reader is as tense as the family members and also wants Ali to make peace with her mother quickly, before it’s too late.

The book’s characters were people I would enjoy meeting, with one exception — Brent.  I have said the least about Brent because it’s really better to form your own conclusions after seeing him in action.  All the characters who play major roles are well-developed and will remind you of people you actually know. I’m sure you know someone like Brent — unfortunately.

The twists  in the plot will keep you turning the pages. The murder mystery is logically solved and I enjoyed knowing I’d identified the killer early on. The point is well made that even if your prime suspect  seems to be guilty, it takes systematic work to prove that guilt and gain a conviction. I appreciate an author who lets me think with the detectives instead of springing a surprise twist on me at the end. I’m looking forward to reading more from Steve Gannon. I hope there is a sequel to Allison (A Kane Novel)

 

Short Reviews of Mysteries I Read Recently

 bookwormMysteries on Today’s Bookworm Menu

Today I will offer my fellow bookworms an assortment of mini-reviews on the most recent mysteries I have read. First, though, are some things you should know about my personal reading tastes so you can determine how similar yours might be

I tend to like mysteries that focus on police detectives or professional PI’s but a couple of my favorite authors feature amateur sleuths and/or cats.  Among these are the  Midnight Louie series and the  Benni Harper series.  Both feature amateurs who seem to always be finding bodies in the course of their everyday lives and feel compelled to find out who killed them with or without police cooperation, and I love both these series.  I think it’s because the characters are intelligent people and don’t take as many stupid risks or engage in the silliness I’ve seen in some cozy mysteries.

I don’t like reading a lot of profanity but will tolerate some if consistent with the characters’ otherwise likable personalities.  I don’t want to read page after page of it, though.  Neither do I enjoy a lot of bedroom scenes — especially those that seem to be there for no good reason that contributes to the plot. I would prefer to follow the process of solving the crime and not have to see violence, blood, and gore unless it helps me in trying to figure out who the murderer is.

Stealing the Preacher by Karen Witemeyer

I read a lot of Christian inspirational fiction, but have discovered it is not all of equal quality.  For example, I did not get much inspiration from Tears Fall at Night even though many people say they did.  On the other hand, I thoroughly enjoyed Stealing the Preacher by Karen Witemeyer, since it showed how a consistent witness of walking the walk may be the best way to win over someone who is resistant to preaching. I found the characters believable and enjoyed getting to know them.

Now that you know where I’m coming from with regard to fiction, here are some comments on my recent reading.

Murder Mysteries

52 Steps to Murder by Steve Demaree

Short Reviews of Mysteries I Read Recently

52 Steps to Murder (Book 1 Dekker Cozy Mystery Series)
by Steve Demaree , was clean, as far as mysteries go, but slow moving, especially at the beginning. The detectives, Cy and Lou, were Christians and prayed each morning before they left their homes. Lou often received a “word from God” each morning that usually turned out to be a clue in solving the case.  I wish, though, that these men had also paid attention to the Scriptures that told them how to treat their bodies.

 

I felt that Cy Dekker, lead detective for the Hilldale Police Department, and his partner, Lou Murdock, were not all that concerned about their lack of fitness and their tendency to overeat. Cy made a big deal out of how difficult it was to climb the 52 stairs to the hilltop homes he often needed to visit during the investigation. This was humorous, but also a bit pathetic.  I understand though, that on the detectives’ schedule, a fitness program and healthy meals weren’t always practical. I suppose the author also thought the humor helped break the tedium of climbing all the stairs each day.

 

 Another source of humor was Cy’s ongoing effort to escape from his unattractive single neighbor who lay in wait for him with her little poodle Twinkle Toes every morning as he left for work.  Although these encounters offered comic relief, it still bothered me that Cy had no problem insulting Heloise Humphert at each encounter. It was also unbelievable that any woman would act the way Heloise did in misinterpreting everything Cy did and said. I have to admit, though, that these encounters did relieve some of the book’s tension. I’m sure that’s the real reason Demaree included them. I just think it detracts from the image of Cy and Lou as Christians.

 

The mystery itself involved two women who had been poisoned, but the timetable was such that it seemed to eliminate everyone who could have committed the crime. That is it did until the detectives learned of the underground tunnels that were common knowledge among the neighbors. Suspects had many ways to come and go unseen by anyone. I won’t spoil the ending, but I was interested enough to keep reading. I probably will read more in this series.  This isn’t as exciting as the In Death Series by J. D. Robb, but I’ve read far worse detective novels than this. The investigative work was very thorough.

 

My first introduction to the Dekker Cozy Mystery series was

Murder In The Library (Book 3 Dekker Cozy Mystery Series)
I thought it moved faster than 52 Steps to Murder, which shows that authors often write more skillfully as they get to know their characters better and write more about them.

‘Doc.’ Gordon by Mary E. Wilkins-Freeman

Short Reviews of Mysteries I Read Recently

I downloaded this free from Amazon. It was first published in 1906 and is now in the public domain. If you are only used to reading literature written in the past few decades, you might find the manners and language in this book a bit antiquated.  After a few pages of reading, however, I expect you will be drawn into the book.

We meet young medical school graduate James Elliot on the road walking from his home village of Gresham 25 miles to the village of Alton, where he will begin his practice of small town medicine assisting Doctor Thomas Gordon (‘Doc’).  He will live in the doctor’s home, along with the doctor’s widowed sister and her daughter.

 

James soon discovers that everyone seems to have secrets they are keeping from each other, and you will become as curious to learn them as James is. There is the hint of the first one when James meets a lovely young woman on his way to Alton and rescues her from a mysterious man who seems to embody evil.  It turns out that she is Clemency, Doc Gordon’s niece, and they will meet again in the doctor’s house.  James realizes he should act like he is meeting her there for the first time. There are several more encounters with the mystery man to come, and it’s obvious that Clemency must be kept out of his sight, but we don’t learn why until the end of the book.

 

Another theme in this book was the illness of the doctor’s sister, Mrs. Ewing.  James could tell she was ill, but Doc denied it when James asked what was wrong.   I was surprised that near the end of the book, the author dealt with the moral dilemma posed by assisted suicide.

 

James, Doc, Clemency, and Mrs. Ewing are all decent people. The last three suffer because of all the secrets surrounding them and their past pain.  They care about the ethics and morals of their day, though Doc often tries to escape his pain with Apple Jack.

 

This book may not appeal to modern readers, but once I got into it I found it hard to put it down.  It certainly doesn’t cost anything to download the free eBook and decide for yourself if it’s worth reading.  Just click the book image above to get to a  download page.

 

That’s enough books for one post. I’d be interested in your opinions if you have read any of these. Feel free to comment. My taste may be different from yours, but not necessarily better. Reading is a personal experience.

Earlene Fowler’s Benni Harper in State Fair

The Benni Harper Mystery Series is Set in San Luis Obispo County

I first became interested in the  Earlene Fowler’s  Benni Harper mysteries when I heard they were set in my county, San Luis Obispo County, in California. The first one I got my hands on was Goose in the Pond (Benni Harper Mystery).  Like most books in this series, it was  set in San Celina. Benni’s official job is director of the Josiah Sinclair Folk Art Museum. The museum ties in with the quilt theme reflected on the covers and in the titles of the Benni Harper books, and quilts and quilters play a significant role in these mysteries.

Earlene Fowler's Benni Harper in State Fair
Laguna Lake, San Luis Obispo

 

Which Places are Fictional and Which are Real in Fowler’s Benni Harper Mystery Books?

Fowler has changed the name of the city of San Luis Obispo to San Celina, but she refers to other cities in the county, such as Paso Robles, by their real names. I gave my brain a workout trying to figure out what library she was talking about that was near a lake in Goose in the Pond. I know where the library in San Luis Obispo is, and there is no lake nearby.

I finally found Fowler’s  Fool’s Puzzle Tour, where she does explain that her library building was based on the Huntington Beach Library where she had worked,  and in The Goose in the Pond she put it near Laguna Lake in San Luis Obispo.  I walked around that lake a couple of months ago and took the photo which appears above.

The people and businesses Earlene Fowler writes about are mostly fictional, but it’s fun trying to see if they are based on actual places. On the website linked to above and on her Irish Chain tour, she tells us which places are real and which buildings and locations inspired her descriptions of them.

Who’s Who in the Benni Harper Series

After reading The Goose in the Pond, I realized the Benni Harper mysteries were best read in order, so I went back to the first one, Fool’s Puzzle (Benni Harper Mystery), and started reading. In this first book Benni is a recent widow making a fresh start in San Celina. She had lived on a ranch with her husband Jack before he died. She had lived on her parent’s ranch since she was a child.

Her Grandma Dove still lived on the ranch owned by Benni’s father. Dove had moved there to help raise Benni after Benni’s mother had died . When we meet Benni, she is working in the city as the director of the Josiah Sinclair Folk Art Museum .  When she discovers a dead body in the course of her work, she plays sleuth, causing a run-in with the San Celina police chief, Gabe Ortiz. Their relationship remains antagonistic through most of the book.



By the time we progress in the series to State Fair , Gabe and Benni are married. They have had their share of problems and worked have them through.  Those who have read all the way through the series have also met the other main characters.

  • Dove, Benni’s grandma who raised her
  • Hud, a deputy sheriff who raises Gabe’s hackles by paying too much attention to Benni
  • Elvia, Benni’s best friend who owns Blind Harry’s bookstore
  • Benni’s cousin Emory, who is married to Elvia
  • Their infant daughter, Sophia
  • Garnet, Dove’s sister, who is visiting from Arkansas

Conflicts in Earlene Fowler’s State Fair

Since Benni has been raised on a ranch and still is active in ranching activities at her father’s ranch, she has been involved in the Mid-State Fair in Paso Robles since childhood.  She is also very busy at this year’s fair judging pig-wrangling, making sure things go right at the folk art museum’s exhibit of African-American folk quilts, and keeping her great aunt Garner, out of Dove’s hair. The two sisters wage constant battle with each other, so Benni agreed (under duress) to take her off Dove’s hands for many of the fair days.

Themes running through this book include racism, the conflict between Dove and Garnet, and local crime. There’s still a hint of conflict between Hud, who is responsible as part of the sheriff’s department for fair security, and Gabe, who attends fair events but has no jurisdiction over criminal events in Paso Robles.  There is also rivalry between the sheriff’s department and the Paso Robles Police.

Racism  Rears Its Head as the Fair Begins

In the book, a new fair director, Levi Clark, an African-American, has been appointed. Not everyone is happy about it, and there are rumors that he was an affirmative action appointee who might not be the best person for the job.  Benni considered him very qualified and had known him since he began at the fair cleaning restrooms years earlier, and she had watched as he had worked his way up to fair manager.

Early in the fair, Benni learned Levi had received some letters insinuating he hadn’t received his job fairly and that he might have bitten off more than he could chew, and that he might be sorry. These had been reported to the Paso Robles Police Department, but not to the sheriff’s department. It’s evident when Hud learns this that he is upset he wasn’t notified. After all, his department has jurisdiction over the fair.

Fair Food and the New Hospitality Center

Benni loves the fair atmosphere and its tempting fair-only deep fried avocados, deep-fried Twinkies, and other fattening treats. For her, it’s like an annual reunion of the agriculture people she has interacted with for years. She likes to hang out at the Hospitality Center,  informally known as the Bull Pen, with other fair Booster Buddies.

Earlene Fowler's Benni Harper in State Fair
Scene from Mid State Fair, 2005, CC 2.0

Her cousin Emory had made a big contribution toward remodeling the hospitality suite for this year’s fair to make it more comfortable for Booster Buddies and their friends to gather there for drinks, snacks, and making deals.  Most of the movers and shakers in the county’s  agriculture and business community had paid the $500 annual fee to become members and also worked hard to promote the fair. That’s one reason so many important conversations take place there during the course of the book.

A Stolen Quilt

The Josiah Sinclair Folk Art Museum booth is featuring a collection of African-American quilts made by the Ebony Sisters Quilt Guild.  The focal point of the exhibit was to be a special replica of a historical story quilt made by renowned historic quilter Harriet Powers.

On opening day, the Ebony Sisters report that the quilt has been stolen. They find another quilt to hang in its place, hoping the theft is just a prank and that the quilt will be found and rehung. 

The Family Farm Exhibits

One of Benni’s favorite exhibit areas is that where the family farms have their displays. She knows the families. Traditionally each farm family was given an exhibit space to decorate according to the year’s theme.  Usually, the children were involved in the decorating.

Benni is disappointed that this event has become more competitive and that the adults have almost taken over the decorating so as to make their displays more professional looking.  The winning family usually had its display featured on the front page of the Tribune. This year’s theme was “Cow Town Boogie.”

Benni walks around the family farm exhibits taking photos. The Blue Ribbon Grand Prize winner had not exactly followed the theme, but Benni could see why it had won. She was a bit upset that it appeared the booth had been designed and built by professionals, not by Milt Piebald’s family.

Although the Piebald family lived on a large ranch and had some livestock, Milt made his living by selling cars in his five used car dealerships spread throughout the county.  Everyone knew how much he liked to win. Although he was not considered a really reputable dealer, he did give generously to the community.

The Cattle Drive Through Paso Robles

Gabe, Benni, and her dad participated in the annual cattle drive through the streets of Paso Robles. I had fun deciphering the names of the streets the cattle ran through to get to the fairgrounds,  but Fowler’s code was easy to break for this local. The cattle drive went smoothly almost to the end when a horse got loose and caused a bit of excitement.  Due to Gabe’s quick action, the situation was soon back under control.

The Dead Body

Back at the fair, Dove corners Benni and says she’s got to help her. Garnet is driving her crazy.  Benni agrees to entertain her aunt for the rest of the day. She first takes Garnet to see the family farm exhibit.

It is Aunt Garnet who comments, upon seeing the Piebald exhibit, ‘Look at that old pickup truck….Daddy used to call them pick-me-up trucks….He had one just like that, only it was dark blue. I remember many times taking cold lemonade out to him when he was working on that truck. Just like that there dummy. Seeing those legs sticking out like that brings Daddy back like it was yesterday.’

Benni turned back to look at the exhibit again to study the truck. She saw the legs Garnet had commented on, and she realized they had not been there earlier. She sat Garnet down and dialed Hud after taking a closer look and confirming that the legs were human and dead. It turns out the body is wrapped in the missing quilt.

Garnet Plays Detective

From then on Garnet is determined to play detective and find out who the killer is — a role Benni herself usually takes.  This obsession gives Garnet an interest other than fighting with Dove, who is sure Garnet wants to find and steal her famous cornbread recipe. Garnet’s efforts to play detective almost get Benni and her family and friends killed, although Benni herself did her part in stirring up the skinheads who threatened them.

A subplot involves the reason for Garnet’s visit and why she won’t reveal how long she plans to stay. Everyone senses this is no ordinary visit, but the sisters refuse to communicate in a straightforward manner. They just don’t get around to talking about why Garnet is really there.  It finally comes out near the end of the book, after the other mysteries have been solved.

Why I Enjoyed the Book

Fowler handles both plot and characters deftly. I find it hard to put her books down, and I always look forward to the next one.  The subplots are woven artistically into the main plot. I didn’t even mention most of the subplots in State Fair here, nor many of the minor characters who played important roles in those subplots.

Part of the fun in this series is watching what happens in the lives of the main characters from book to book. You get to know each one very well. They have their quirks but I still love them. The characters are so well-developed that you would be able to identify them just by what they say to each other. They grow on you.

I can visualize having a party and inviting all of them for a fascinating evening.  They will not be sneaking into the bedrooms or using foul language. Instead, they will be engaging in lively and sometimes quirky conversations and teasing each other.

Who Should Read This Book

If you enjoy well-written mysteries with a memorable cast of characters, you will want to read the Benni Harper Series by Earlene Fowler. If you live in San Luis Obispo County, the books will be even more appealing.  They will not only make you laugh, they will make you think. You can find all Earlene Fowler’s books here on Amazon.

 Benni Harper’s Quilt Album: A Scrapbook of Quilt Projects, Photos & Never-Before-Told Stories

 

 

Here’s a sampling of Earlene Fowler’s Benni Harper Books. Benni Harper fans might also be interested in Benni  Harper’s Quilt Album.

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 Fool’s Puzzle (Benni Harper Mystery) Irish Chain (Benni Harper Mystery) Kansas Troubles (Benni Harper Mystery)

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