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Archive for the ‘Ed’ Category

Persons Unknown by Susie Steiner picks up where her debut novel Missing, Presumed leaves off. Manon Bradshaw has adopted twelve year old Fly (from the previous book) and moved back to Huntingdon, living with her sister and nephew Solly. When a finance executive is stabbed to death in a local park, Fly is charged with the murder, even though there is no evidence to support the charge. He was seen walking in the park at the time of the murder and his footprint was found in some blood on the ground.

Manon, five months pregnant, is obviously beside herself, bemoaning the move which was theoretically to benefit Fly by getting him out of his old neighborhood. Barred from participating in the murder investigation, she of course, does so anyway, along with hired attorney Mark Talbot.

There are a lot (a lot) of twists and turns in Persons Unknown, that’s for sure. And it is a good read. However, it is short on solving the mystery and long on Manon’s bemoaning her fate: single, pregnant, tired, not keeping Fly safe in his new environment…and the list goes on. So, here you have the plusses and minuses. Do what you will.

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Darren Mathews has been suspended as a Texas Ranger pending the results of an inquiry regarding his allegedly lying to a grand jury. Yet his FBI friend Greg Heglund, knowing that his interest would be piqued by it, told him of two murders in a small Texas town, the first a Black man from Chicago and second a local white girl. The local sheriff was making the former into a robbery/death and the latter into a domestic dispute of some sort. Knowing however, that the Aryan Brotherhood has a strong hold in the town, made for curiosity.

Mathews, despite having to turn in his badge, figures out he has about a day to drive, take a look and return. What he finds reeks of something other than a robbery gone awry. It is a town where everyone knows everyone else and everyone else’s business, where half the town is related to the other half, regardless of skin color and where secrets abound. Being a Black man nosing around, regardless of his law enforcement status, can be dangerous and even deadly.

I’d never read Attica Locke before, despite her book Black Water Rising being nominated for an Edgar Award. I’m sorry I waited so long. Bluebird, Bluebird is filled with musical references, something I love. It’s got colorful characters, both Black and white, many descendants of either slaves or slave owners…sometimes both. Geneva is the Black woman who, having experienced heartache, still mother’s everyone. Wally is the landed gentry whose family homestead dates back to the 1800s and who thinks he runs the town. (He might.)

There is the usual repartee between the rogue cop (Mathews) and his boss, the unheeded warnings and the rebukes. There is the credit starved FBI friend. There is the romance gone south. There’s drugs and beatings and racial tension of the south. In other words, all the ingredients of a good mystery. Bluebird, Bluebird, exceeding my high expectations.

 

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When P.I. Rick Cahill’s ex-girlfriend, Kim, comes to him with a problem, he cannot deny her request for help because he’s still in love with her. She fears her husband is cheating on her and she trusts no one but Cahill whose forte happens to be tailing wayward spouses. What he sees appears to be philandering, but as Cahill digs deeper, it becomes something more complicated, especially when a “solid citizen” with a notorious past enters the picture.

Simultaneously, Cahill receives a phone call from a contractor who found a hidden safe while demolishing Cahill’s boyhood home. Upon opening it, Cahill finds a gun, $15,000 in cash and safe deposit box key. His father, a dishonored La Jolla policeman who died a broken man after years of ostracism and alcohol, was rumored to be on the mob payroll, but Rick, who idolized his father, always held out hope that the rumors were false. Could this be evidence that they indeed were true?

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This fourth entry in the Rick Cahill series, after Dark Fissures, provides readers with a lot of action. Cahill does take his share of knocks. The plot moves along quickly. Cahill’s part time partner, Moira, a true curmudgeon, provides the smart repartee exhibited by many crime novel sidekicks.

Cahill’s antagonistic relationship with the local police, carried forward from previous books, continues unabated. A little more background, while alluded to, would have been nice, although its absence doesn’t really hinder enjoyment of this solid book. My only other criticism is that Coyle keeps harping on the rumors and demise and Cahill’s idolizing of his father. It was made crystal clear a few pages into the book and there was no need for the constant repetition. All in all, though, Blood Truth was a good read and  while I’d read more books in the series, I wouldn’t necessarily go specifically looking for them.

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Kate Waters, a reporter, needs a good story. In this online world, this seasoned reporter is relegated to editing other reporters’ stories. The laurels of her previous great story wore off years ago.

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Angela Irving wants to know what happened to her newborn daughter. Leaving her in her crib in her hospital room after visiting hours and going off to shower, she returned to find the bassinet empty. That was 1975.

Emma Massingham????? is afraid the police will find out what she did and arrest her.

So, when a newborn baby’s bones are found under an urn on a concrete patio that is being demolished, everyone has an interest. Forensics determines that the bones are around 40 years old but the detritus around the body suggest it was buried 10 years later. Where could it have been for those 10 years?

The Child by Fiona Barton, author of The Widow (like those 2 word titles?) is a good read. It’s got an interesting premise. It’s populated with good, solid characters and it keeps the action flowing. Kate Waters also plays a role in The Widow and she’s a good character to build a series around. She’s the female equivalent of Bruce DeSilva’s Liam Mulligan, a reporter lamenting the fate of the newspaper industry, hard driving and undeterred.

If you want a good mystery that will keep you guessing, The Child is a good place to start.

 

 

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Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler may be the architects and set the unbeaten standards of the tough but caring detective, it is clearly Cornell Woolrich who has set the standard for the psychological thriller. He was a mainstay of the Mystery/Thriller pulp magazines of the 1930s and 1940s.

According to Wikipedia (which I hate to quote), “His biographer, Francis Nevins Jr. [a respected pulp writer in his own right], rated Woolrich the fourth best crime writer of his day, behind Dashiell Hammett, Erle Stanley Gardner and Raymond Chandler. A check of film titles reveals that more film noir screenplays were adapted from works by Woolrich than any other crime novelist, and many of his stories were adapted during the 1940s for Suspense and other dramatic radio programs.” And while I’d consider him a ‘crime writer’, his writing was in a class by itself…Hammett and Chandler on one branch of a Mystery Tree and Woolrich on another branch.

The Cornell Woolrich Omnibus contains Rear Window (which lacks the romantic aspect of the movie version) and other short stories as well as two novels, I Married a Dead Man and Waltz into Darkness and it is in these novels where his talent shines.

He is a master at allowing his protagonists to get what they desire but, the question is, at what cost? Woolrich is an artist who paints a scene, then another and then another, all the while moving the story forward, inch by sometimes excruciating inch. In Waltz into Darkness, particularly, I didn’t know whether to root for the main characters, Lou and Julie/Bonny Durant, love them or hate them or feel sorry for them. My feelings changed by the page and at one point I was tempted to read the last page to see how the story ended. But I”m glad I didn’t, because it would have ruined the suspense.

The two novels take place in two different times, I Married a Dead Man in the 1940s when the story was written, and Waltz into Darkness in 1880s New Orleans and he does each time period justice. In the latter, readers feel like they are in New Orleans, he sets the stage so well.

I’ve read various Cornell Woolrich stories and novels (Rendezvous in Black) and I haven’t cracked the surface of his works. There are definitely going to be more in my future.

If you are into reading the best of a genre, then Cornell Woolrich is a must read for every mystery fan. His works are well written and suspenseful.

P.S. A biography of Woolrich might be in order as well, as his life would have made a great Woolrich story.

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Shakespeare’s Garden by Jackie Bennett with photos by Andrew Lawson is a photo essay of the gardens that Shakespeare may have been familiar with as he was writing his plays and sonnets. Plants and flowers were common in his works and Bennett tries to describe the gardens of the day and those he may have seen.

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(The photo on the cover is indicative of the numerous photos throughout the book.)

Gardens in Shakespeare’s time served many purposes. Ornamental gardens were just being introduced. Most gardens served a purpose–to feed a family, to produce herbs and plants for medicinal purposes, to feed livestock. As Shakespeare’s popularity and fame increased, he traveled between London and Stratford on Avon. He came into contact with royalty and commoners. As a result, he would have been familiar with both royal gardens as well as common gardens of the working class. He would also have been familiar with the medical and household uses of many of herbs and flowers.

Many of the Shakespeare properties have been purchased by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (SBT) and have been restored. Shakespeare’s Garden was published in association with the Trust.

Per the publisher: “From his birthplace in Henley Street, to his childhood playground at Mary Arden’s Farm, to his courting days at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and his final home at New Place – where he created a garden to reflect his fame and wealth. Cared for by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, these gardens are continually evolving to reflect our ongoing knowledge of his life. The book will also explore the plants that Shakespeare knew and wrote about in 17th century England: their use in his work and the meanings that his audiences would have picked up on…”

While the narrative describes the gardens and there are tidbits of botanic quotes from Shakespeare’s plays, it is the photos that bring everything to life. Andrew Lawson’s photos will make gardeners drool. While I was hoping for more of an explanation of the meanings of the flowers and plants Shakespeare used in his works, and there was little of that in Shakespeare’s Garden, I was not disappointed by the book. I wish I could have a fraction of one of the gardens photographed in the book. Shakespeare’s Garden is definitely worth the time. It is totally enjoyable.

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Precocious nine year olds can be exasperating and when you’ve got a heart disease and a helicopter mother, you are a uni-sensor (someone who knows things before or as they happen), and a science nerd, it can be a bit much. Julian is just such a person. He, his moms and his sister, Pookie,  move from Washington, D.C. to the boondocks of Maine to open a bed and breakfast. Upon arriving they receive a notice that their elderly neighbor, Mr. X, is suing them to demolish the addition they put on the house for the B&B because it hinders his view of the ocean.

Pookie suggests Julian go over and befriend Mr. X in hopes that he change his mind, thus beginning a relationship between Julian and Mr. X, who recently lost his wife to cancer, and has been described as a lonely man with nothing to live for.

The Incredible Magic of Being by Kathryn Erskine (author of Mockingbird among other tween books) describes exactly that…the magic of being alive, the magic of the world around us, the magic that is family. Everyone in the book, Julian’s moms and sister, Julian,  and Mr. X all have issues that they must deal with. But it’s Julian’s positivity (is that a word?) that shines through and, in many instances, gets people through their issues.

Julian is a science nerd and through Julian, The Incredible Magic of Being cites many scientific facts and theories. It also has “farts”, Facts and Random Thoughts, at the end of each chapter, some of which we learn from (facts) and some of which are merely random thoughts. (Julian is a font of information and I got the feeling that he is on the autism spectrum somewhere, although that might not have been the author’s intention. Caitlin, in Mockingbird, has Asperger’s Syndrome, by the way.)

The one thing about science, according to Julian, is that whether or not you believe it in, it is there. And the fact that we don’t believe or understand it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. So, when Julian talks to his best friends in parallel universes, you’ve just got to believe. When he can sense occurrences in other locations, you just have to believe. When he describes his sister as a black hole, you’ve got to believe.

I love upbeat characters. In some ways, The Incredible Magic of Being reminds me of Soar by Joan Bauer whose main character also has a heart problem but won’t let it keep him down. I think kids will relate to Julian and his teenage sister and enjoy his thoughts and escapades. The Incredible Magic of Being is a fun, light read even though the subject sounds kind of heavy. Have fun with it and even learn something, such as what the Messier Objects are.

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