Jeremiah Healy

healy-bluntdartsI sadly read that one of my favorite mystery writers, HealyJeremiah Healy, took his own life earlier this month. Healy who created the conflicted private investigator John Francis Cuddy series (first book-Blunt Darts) based in Boston won the Shamus Award, given by the Private Eye Writers of America, for The Staked Goat (1986). Many of his other books were nominated for the award.
What I didn’t know was that he also wrote under the pen name Terry Devane and created a legal drama featuring Mairead O’Clare and Sheldon Gold. I liked that series as well and wish there were more than the three books in it. Healy-AStainUponTheRobe
While I’m not sure I’ll re-read the entire Cuddy series, I’ve already reserved a copy of Blunt Darts.
Lastly I read and enjoyed Off Season and Other Stories Healy-OffSeasonwhich combines mysteries and the super-natural. So, if you’re looking for a great detective series (incidentally based in Boston) try John Francis Cuddy.

Let’s Get Lost by Adi Alsaid

Leila is a high school senior on a road trip to see the Northern Lights, starting out in LetsGetLostLouisiana. Let’s Get Lost is her chronicle of four adventures along the way. First she meets Hudson in Vicksburg, Mississippi., the day before his interview for a college scholarship. Her car is limping along and he’s a mechanic in his father’s garage.

Next is Bree in Kansas. She’s on a road trip as well. Her parents recently died and she didn’t get along with her older sister, Alexis, who is now her guardian. So, it’s better all around if she just left.

Elliot in Minneapolis told his long time best friend, Maribel, that he’s in love with her. It’s high school prom night and his declaration didn’t get the desired result.

Finally, Leila meets Sonia. Sam was her sole mate and one true love. Sam died during a basketball game due to a rare heart disease. She swore he’d be her only love but, she’s fallen for Jeremiah, Sam’s sister’s future brother-in-law. Is it a negation of all she and Sam had if she’s fallen in love again? And how will his family take it, a family that’s treated her as their own?

In four novellas, Adi Alsaid recounts Leila’s interaction with these people, people she’s never met before but goes out of her way to help.

The fifth and final novella gets Leila to Alaska and waiting to see the Northern Lights. This time it’s someone helping her to see the light (no pun intended). In every adventure, she asks What’s Your Story? In the final story, you get Leila’s.

Let’s Get Lost is a pleasant read. I’ve never met anyone like Leila, willing to drop everything to help another human being. I wish the world was populated with more Leila’s. It would certainly be a better place. The stories are interesting. The characters are fun. If you’re looking for a fast, easy, put a smile on your face read, Let’s Get Lost by Adi Alsaid will fit the bill.



TheBookstoreDid you ever read a book and the more you got into it, the more it seems like you read it already but nothing in your records shows that you did? I didn’t blog about it. It’s not in my Librarything library. Yet, the more I read The Bookstore by Deborah Meyler, the more I remembered reading it…but maybe not.

The plot is simple. Brit Esme Gardner is on scholarship at Columbia to study art history, in particular Thiebaud. Several weeks into her New York residency, she attends an art gallery event and meets the ultra rich, ultra suave Mitchel van Leuven, an old monied guy. During their one and only unprotected sexual encounter, Esme gets pregnant. After deciding to keep the baby, she must then decide to tell or not tell Mitchell. Since they’re not an ‘item’, she decides against it. Thinking that money might come in handy with a baby on the way, Esme sees a help wanted since in the Owl Bookstore that she frequents and gets the job. Of course she ultimately does tell the father. You can guess the rest. It is no secret that Mitchell is a shit and ultimately her bookstore friends win out.

The book jacket says “A sharply observed and evocative tale of learning to face reality without giving up your dreams, The Bookstore is sheer enchantment from start to finish.” And it is. You’ll fall in love with Esme, with the bookstore employees and customers. You’ll truly hate Mitchell, right from the start. So, people who aren’t familiar with this particular bookstore, but love bookstores in general, will certainly enjoy this book.

Ms. Meyler, actually British herself, worked in a bookstore on Broadway in the upper west side, which apparently is a source for her bookstore.Westsider2 I have no doubt it is Westsider Books on Broadway between 80th and 81st Streets. When she new_york_361_westsider_books_4e9348a06a1074578c000273_store_main_newdescribes the narrow staircase with books on both sides, this is what I envision. I can see the books two deep on the shelves. I can picture the cramped quarters upstairs and the books going all the way up to the ceiling.

So, for me, the book had an extraWestsiders3added attraction. I wondered, as I read the book, whether Ms. Meyler was working on any of the days I wandered through its aisles. It’s definitely possible. 

So, the two things you should do are : (i) read The Bookstore by Deborah Meyler and (ii) go to Westsider Books. Enjoy.


DancerInThedustI had to write a review of A Dancer in the Dust by Thomas H. Cook with a limit of 200 words. Impossible. So, here’s a little fuller review.

Let me start by saying I am an avid Thomas H. Cook fan, beginning with The Chatham School Affair (which I’m planning to read again, one of these days), which is my favorite still. His writing is lyrical and descriptive. His plots are unusual. His characters run the range of likeable to untrustworthy. A Dancer in the Dust is a departure from his norm, if you can actually say he has a norm.

As an idealistic college graduate, Ray Chambers decides to spend a year in the African nation of Lubanda through an organization called Hope for Lubanda. His boss was Bill Hammond. His native assistant is Seso Alaya. On his first day there, in the market, he meets Martine Aubert, a white Lubandan farmer whose father had emigrated to Lubanda many decades ago. Aubert had very distinct opinions as to what these ‘do-good’ organizations were really doing and whether they actually made Lubandan life better–no they didn’t. This was contrary to
Chambers’ opinion and those of the nation’s dictator. She was a thorn in the government’s side. But of course, Chambers fell in love with her.

Twenty years later, Alaya’s tortured body is found in an alleyway near a sleazy Manhattan hotel. He had called Hammond a week prior saying he had important information but they never met and that information was never passed. Hammond asks Chambers to investigate the murder and retrieve the information.

The scene is set. Alaya’s murder is merely the ploy for the rest of the book. The book flips back and forth between the current day and Chambers’ reminiscences about his time spent in Lubanda, especially his relationship with Martine, as well as the political climate of the country. It is also a means for Cook’s diatribe against the Westernization of underdeveloped countries.

A Dancer in the Dust kept my interest but it was certainly not up to the standards of his most recent book Sandrine’s Case or his Edgar Award winning Chatham School Affair. If you’re a Cook fan or you like more political oriented intrigue, then I’d give A Dancer in the Dust a try, but I’m certainly not going to say it’s a ‘must read’ like most of Cook’s other books.


Blind by Rachel DeWoskin

Emma Sasha Silver is fourteen when she is blinded by a backfiring fireworks at a town BlindFourth of July celebration. For the next six months she remains a lump on the gold couch in her living room, doing little to learn how to live in her dark world. It is then that her parents (doctor father, artist mother) decide to send her to the Briarly Academy for the Blind. It is there that she learns to cope with many of the physical day to day tasks of living. However, it did little to enable Emma to cope with the psychological trauma of blindness after being able to see for fourteen years.

A year after “the accident”, Emma is now mainstreamed into high school. The excitement of this remarkable achievement is overshadowed by the drowning death of Claire, a friend and classmate. Adults and grief counselors, rather than addressing the death head on (suicide? accident?) offer only platitudes and half truths.

But Emma wants to know more…why? What happened? What caused Claire’s death? How can kids help each other avoid getting to the point of suicide? She organizes a group of kids to meet and talk. Will it help? You’ll find out.

There’s a lot to like in Blind by Rachel DeWoskin. Firstly, it’s the first teen book that I know about that deals with blindness and it handles it very  well. The range of emotions. The techniques for getting around (organizing clothing with Braille labels, a place for everything and everything in its place). Emma has six siblings from older sisters Leah and Sarah to Babiest Baby Lily. Of course, Emma’s first thoughts are me, me, me. Why me? How can I live? Who will love me? But there comes a time when Emma realizes that her entire family has been affected by her blindness and she begins to see outward.

At first I thought the death of Claire was an obstacle in reading the book. There was a significant story just in dealing with the blindness and its impact on everyone. But later I realized that the contrast between what Emma went through and the “unknown” that Claire went through is an important part of the story. What makes a survivor? Why can one person live and thrive after becoming blind while another potentially ended her life on purpose without enduring anything nearly as catastrophic.

The characters in Blind are great. They run the gamut from best friend Logan who helps Emma manage getting around to some cynical classmates to Emma’s sisters, some understanding, some gruff. It’s interesting to note that the younger ones sometimes have the most honest perspective…but we all know that…out of the mouths of babes.

So, while I think Blind is a wonderful book and definitely worth reading, I do have one small criticism. A little bit better editing and deletion of about 50 pages would have made it a tighter, better book.  But, hey, if that’s the only criticism, that’s not bad. Blind is a welcome addition to YA literature. It opened my eyes. (Please forgive me for that one. I just couldn’t help it.)


OK, so everyone has their ‘guilty reading pleasure’ and mine is Connie Shelton’s CompetitionCanBeMurderCharlie Parker mystery series. I’m a courtroom drama, police procedural man (think Harry Bosch, 87th Precinct) but something about this series struck my fancy many years ago. I thought they’d been discontinued in the early 2000s but found out Shelton’s been writing them continuously, the last one being published in 2012 (14 in the series, so far). Good for me….I have a few to catch up on.

I started catching up with number 8, Competition Can Be Murder. Towards the middle of the book, I realized I had read it, but really didn’t remember much.

Let me set the background. Charlie Parker (a CPA turned sleuth) and her brother run a private detective business in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Her parents died when she was a teenager. The closest thing she has to a mother is her octogenarian next door neighbor (think the female version of Henry in Sue Granfton’s Kinsey Millhone series). She loves her dog, Rusty (I don’t remember the breed). In book 2, Vacations Can Be Murder, she meets Drake Langston, a helicopter pilot in Hawaii. They marry and move back to New Mexico. Between book 2 and 8, Charlie gets her helicopter pilot’s license. So, now you’re caught up.

In Competition Can Be Murder, Charlie and Drake head to Scotland to help out one of Drake’s pilot friends, Brian. Brian’s mother is not well and he must leave his business to be with her. The business, shuttling workers to and from oil rigs in the North Sea, is taking business away from boat operators, who are unionized. The pilots are not. Will the unions take matters into their own hands?

Additionally, Charlie and Drake are renting a cottage on the grounds of Dunworthy, owned by the Dunbars, an extremely old Scottish clan. One day Robert and Sarah Dunbar find their grandson, Richie, is missing when they receive a ransom note. Charlie made the mistake of saying she was in the sleuthing business and gets embroiled in finding Richie.

What do I like about this easy going series? I like the characters. Charlie and Drake truly love each other. There’s a relationship between them…the kind that married couples have. I don’t recall another series like this. Of course, I love the fact they have a dog, especially one named Rusty, which was the name of my first dog. There’s enough action to please most readers. I don’t remember any endings that come out of nowhere. If you can say that a mystery is an ‘enjoyable’ read, then this is the series.

Next is Balloons Can Be Murder, which there is a chance I’ve also read but since my memory is like a sieve, I’m sure I won’t remember until I’m half way through.

Fantasy League by Mike Lupica

FantasyLeagueWhoever thought I’d really like a Mike Lupica book, but I totally liked Fantasy League.

Twelve-year-old Charlie Gaines, nicknamed the “Brain”, knows everything about football. He watches the games, studies the stats and somehow sees things that others miss: how teams line up for certain plays, how the stats highlight some unique talent a player has. He’s also a master at Fantasy Football, using all the information he’s garnered.

His best friend Anna’s grandfather, Joe Warren, owns the L.A. Bulldogs, an expansion team with a history of losing. Her uncle Matt is the team’s general manager and is getting flack from the media because of the team’s lackluster performance. Anna knows almost as much about football as Charlie and they love watching games and talking football, especially how they would turn the Bulldogs around.

When Anna suggests that Charlie do weekly football podcasts, he thinks she’s lost her mind but goes along with it. Charlie’s coach in his Pop Warner league hosts an ESPN radio show and decides to broadcast a portion of Charlie’s show, giving him minor celebrity status.

At Anna’s urging Charlie suggests to Joe Warren that he draft an older quarterback who will probably be dropped by his current team. He is astonished when Warren takes this advice. Word gets out that Warren is taking suggestions from a twelve-year-old and both Charlie and Warren take considerable grief from the media. When Warren acts a second time on Charlie’s advice, the media has a field day. Will these choices prove positive for the Bulldogs?

Throughout this, Charlie is also player/assistant coach in a Pop Warner league, not confident that he is talented enough to contribute to the team’s performance.

Fantasy League by Mike Lupica is the feel good book of the year. Charlie and Anna are truly best friends. It is heartwarming to see a friendship develop between septuagenarian Warren and Charlie, whose father left when he was young. Mr. Warren becomes friend/father/grandfather rolled into one. Lupica touches on family, illness, self-confidence and more in an easy reading, enjoyable way. While the plot is predictable, the action and characters make Fantasy League a fun read. Primarily geared to boys, female sports fans might enjoy this as well.



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