Haunted – James Patterson

Haunted a James Patterson and James O. Born novel from Little Brown and company 2017, 317 pages

One of the Michael Bennet novels. An Irish Catholic detective with the NYPD takes his former partner, Sandy, up on her offer to take his extensive  family on a summer vacation in Maine… but, there’s always a catch. Little does Mike know, this will become a busman’s holiday. And one of the strengths of Patterson’s style is that he knows how to pace a story.

This tightly written adventures starts off with Bennet’s eldest son Shaun arrested for selling drugs. From there Michael tracks down and shoots a young prospective med school  student involved with his son. And after this ‘officer involved shooting’ Mike is encouraged to take a vacation. So, with an offer from a former partner to come up and visit, Mike brings the family to Maine.  With its quiet streets, it’s respect for its police in the forth of July ceremonies, is pleasant neighborly residents, it just seems so idyllic.

But the grass isn’t always greener as Mike finds out when his former partner asks for his help in finding two missing teenagers. The woods are lovely dark and deep… but they also hold there secrets, and when a shallow grave is discovered, and a shoe from one of the missing teens is found, Mike learns that the scourge of drug dealers he though he left back in the city… well, it’s more pervasive than he thought.

   He looked like a cowboy from a 1970s western. Not as dashing as the old-time cowboys, because he had a definite edge to him.
   I took an instant dislike to him when we got out of the car and he said, “Howdy. You have ten seconds to stay your business here.”
   I had to ask, “what happens after ten seconds?”
   “Then somebody’s ass is gonna get kicked.”
   I said, “If that’s the way you want it. But I’m on the tired side, so if you want your ass kicked, you’re going to have to come down to me.”
   It was gratifying to hear my partner laugh at one of my cracks.

The Turn Of The Key – Ruth Ware

Turn Of The Key – Ruth Ware “Full of spellbinding nuance and told in Ruth Ware’s signature suspenseful style, The Turn of the Key is an unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.” Quoted from the dust jacket it’s a pretty claim to meet… Scout Press publishing 2019, 336 pages

It has a first person narrative… and the issues of reliability of the person telling you the story is put to question straight away when she tells you where she’s writing from. You see, the novel is not written in chapters, it’s written a a series of lengthy letters. So there really isn’t too many clear points of transition. Which is a bit off-putting as these narratives are a bit lengthy. The book puts itself out there as a ‘suspense’ novel. But as far as suspense goes… we’ll I’ve found the book to be easily put down, and come back to later. But one glaring contradiction in this is the pacing… it’s strange, as I read, the story folds out slowly (part of the reason for being so easily put down) but the timeframe of the story seems abnormally compressed. I’m two thirds of the way through this and she’s only been watching these kids for three days.

Also, there hangs over this story a broken promise. According the the promotion and the blurbs a undertone of surveillance is suppose to be woven into this tale, but I really didn’t see that come up. Although the house is connected to a network that the parents who are away on business can access, they don’t. The mom checks in remotely only twice, when the kids are getting ready for bed… a very normal thing to do… though she does this with her cellphone through the house’s speaker system… I see nothing  overtly ‘surveillance’ about that. Also the husband, Bill doesn’t appear to access the house system at all, when, if the accusation about him is true… he would probably be accessing the cameras.

The story is about a young woman who is looking for a change and finds an opportunity that is… wait for it… too good to be true. And of course it is. The young lady works watching children in a nurse at a daycare facility in London.  While surfing the Internet one day, she comes across a live-in nanny position in Scotland that offers free room and board with an annual salary of over fifty thousand pounds! So, she puts together a ‘mostly true’ resume (CV), and applies for the position. She is selected for an interview and the process goes quite well. She is selected for the position of watching three children, Maddie,  8 Elizabeth, and the infant Petra.

The house in Scotland is a melding of new design and technology,  apps the parents are accomplished architects, an old mansion that they had purchased and have been remodeling. So there is this whole old house with its haunting and the new house with its glitches.  Both of these conditions are gaslight ingredients our poor young nanny who is less ‘perfect’ than she puts herself out to be. And that works it’s way through the novel, the nanny who seems perfect, for a position that seems perfect, for a family that seems perfect, watching children who seem perfect in a house that seems, well, perfect… none of which is true.

   The ghosts wouldn’t like it … I heard it again in Maddie’s reedy little voice and shook my head. Ghosts. How absurd. Just folktales and rumors, and a sad old man, living here after the death of his child.
   It was more for want of anything else to do that I opened up my phone and typed in “Heatherbrea House, child’s death, poison garden.”
   Most of the early results were irrelevant, but as I scrolled down and down, I came at last to a local-interest blog, written by some sort of amateur historian.

Black Orchids – Rex Stout

Black Orchids (A Nero Wolfe Mystery Book 9) – Rex Stout originally published in 1942 by Farrar & Rinehart. It Contains the novellas “Black Orchids” and “Cordially Invited to Meet Death“. I read the Kindle Edition from Random House Publishing.

This is two novella length stories. The first one tells the story of how Wolfe became the one who owns the black orchids. In a case where a murder is committed in plain sight at a flower show exhibit, Wolfe will find the killer. Though evidence points to a millionaire orchid fancier Mr. Hewitt, who has been exhibiting his hybridized black orchids, Wolfe sees something else at work here. He will expose the actual murderer. Wolfe’s fee for this serve, why, the rare black orchids themselves. Though Hewitt considers it blackmail, he agrees to this deal. As Wolfe investigates, it seems that the dealings of rival planters and their proxies are behind the murder. In typical Wolfe fashion all the principles in this story are collected at the mansion for the ‘big reveal’. The story reaches its climax in Wolfe’s own orchid fumigation room where the guilty party may just poison Wolfe and his guests.

The second story revolves around a poison pen campaign against a prominent party planner. In typical Wolfe fashion, a small group of suspects is collected, including the planner’s secretary,  assistant, niece, nieces fiancée, and a discrete rogue or two. Just as Wolfe sees the impossibility of the initial investigation, the client turns up dead. Now he has a case he’s much more motivated to solve… and he needs to move quickly, before the next body falls!

According to the obit in the Times the next morning, the funeral service was to be Wednesday afternoon, at the Belford Memorial Chapel on 73rd Street, and of course there would be a big crowd, even in August, for Bess Huddleston’s last party. Cordially invited to meet death. I decided to go. Not merely, if I know myself, for curiosity or another look at Janet. It is not my custom to frequent memorial chapels to look at girls even if they’re good dancers. Call it a hunch. Not that I saw anything criminal, only something incredible. I filed past the casket with the throng because from a distance I had seen it and couldn’t believe it. But when I got close there it was. Eight black orchids that could have come from nowhere else in the world, and a card with his initials the way he scribbled them, “N.W.”

Covenant of Genesis – Andy McDermott

The Covenant of Genesis: A Novel (Nina Wilde & Eddie Chase series Book 4) by Andy McDermott published by Bantam (April 12 2010) 594 pages, I read the Kindle Edition.

Our story starts in the Sands of Oman where a survey crew is using Soundwave to map an oil field. In setting off the charge to make the soundwaves, they uncover a hidden cave. Upon exploring the find, the amazing discovery is transmitted in a feed of images back to their  corporate headquarters. Before they hear back, the crew is killed and the site destroyed by fighter jets of the Saudi air force.

Meanwhile,  in Indonesia,  Nina and Eddie on a new archeological survey for the UN make an unusual discovery of thier own. Upon exploring the find, the amazing discovery is transmitted in a feed of images back to the UN headquarters.  Before they hear back, the crew is killed and the site destroyed by Indonesian pirates. The difference here is that Nina, Eddie and a diver survive.

It’s quite a thrilling adventure with Nina, Eddie and his surprisingly not dead ex-wife Sophia venturing from Indonesia to Antarctica to the Sudan one step ahead of a shadowy conspiracy group comprised of three significant forces, a Muslim,  Jewish and Christian coalition of mercenaries. What it the secret that this cohort is killing anyone who dares to learn the truth.

McDermott writes these adventures that are really longer than they need to be because of all the details he brings to his action sequences.  Although it’s impressively wordy, it’s easily skimmable and though the books are lengthy, they don’t take too long to read. And he is following in the mode of Clive Cussler with these ancient mystery adventures that spark the most interesting what-if speculations.

Good-bye, Cardinal!” shouted Ribbsley, giving di Bonaventura a jaunty wave. The helicopter left the ground, wheeled about, and headed south.
   Di Bonaventura watched it go, then returned to the cave, looking in the direction of the ragged craters marking what had once been the survey camp. There was still cleanup work to be done; the bodies of the men at the camp, or whatever was left of them, had to be found and buried, all evidence of the camp itself removed.
   Anything that could expose the Covenant had to disappear.
   Without a trace.
   Without exception.

Vixen – Ken Bruen

Vixen – Ken Bruen Published by Minotaur Books 2003, 201 pages. A fine British hard boiled police procedural where one character, a doctor, sums it up best… “God help us all if they’re the good guys.” This is the fifth in a series of Inspector Brant stories and an ensemble cast of recurring characters,  like the nick DCI Erika Foster is stationed in. But unlike Bryndza, this novella of Bruen’s follows several characters not focusing on one central character’s perspective.

Written in a terse, almost staccato style, the story starts literally with a bang as a small explosive is set off in a cinema.  Then we jump into lives in progress with pompous Superintendent Brown asking officious Chief Inspector Roberts where the flamboyant  Sergeant Brant, the chip-on-her-shoulder DC Falls and the anxious Porter Nash aren’t on the scene already.

Interspersed between the scenes of interpersonal drama and heavy drinking we follow as the team pursues a scantily-clad, sociopathic siren and her two henchmen, a pair of two bothers, a would-be brains and pure brawn pair of formerly petty criminals as they extort a ransomed from the police to stop the bombings they’ve started. A broad stroke story of colorful characters cast on a canvas of South London’s lesser known drinking establishments.

Angie, in her elation, had let her true self emerge, her eyes no longer guarded, and what looked out was as old as time and primeval in its malevolence.  Ellen had, without realizing it, moved a few feet away, a voice in her head urging her to get the hell out of there. Angie, always sensitive to danger, put out her hand, touched Ellen’s wrist, asked:
   ‘You okay? You don’t look too good.’
   ‘The brandy. I’m not used to it on an empty stomach.’
   She got up, left fast and felt she had indeed supper with the devil. She’d relegate this case to a junior.

The Hidden Staircase – Carolyn Keene

Nancy Drew 02: The Hidden Staircase by Carolyn Keene. Penguin Young Readers Group I read the 1959 revised Kindle Edition.  This Second Nancy Drew story is as good as the first. A nicely crafted story. Not a ‘solve it yourself’ story but a good tale. Reading through this the thought that kept coming around was ‘wholesome’. There is a wholesomeness that envelopes this story.

It starts with Nancy’s friend Helen enlisting her help to solve a ghost haunting mystery at her great-grandmother’s estate Twin Elms. Nany, with her dad’s approval, agrees to help, but prior to leaving for Twin Elms, Nathan Gomber, a attorney representing property owner’s whose land is being purchased for a railroad project arrives and warns Nancy not to leave her father’s side as he is in great danger.

Nancy’s dad encourages her to continue to Twin Elms and help her friend’s great-grandmother as he has business and will be in Chicago for a few days. He say’s that he will rendezvous with Nancy on his way back at Twin Elms. However, he is kidnapped enroute. While Nancy works to discover her father’s where-abouts she continues to discover more secrets about the mansion at Twin Elms. These explorations lead to her father and to a plot to defraud the railroad company he is working for.

I don’t know what technically is considered ‘young adult’ fiction but Amazon has tis listed as good for ages 8 to 12 and grade 3 to 7 which sounds appropriate with the caveat that this edition was written in 1959 and is has some colloquialisms and language that are archaic in today’s parlance. But Nancy is presented as a level headed young woman of eighteen with a keen sense of observation, intrepidness, and perseverance with all the customary manners of a young lady of the 1950’s.


   Nancy ignored Gomber’s remarks. Shrugging, the man pushed his way into the hall. “I know this. If anything happens to your father, you’ll never forgive yourself. But you can’t blame Nathan Gomber! I warned you!”
   Still Nancy made no reply. She kept looking at him steadily, trying to figure out what was really in his mind. She was convinced it was not solicitude for her father.
   Nathan Gomber changed the subject abruptly. “I’d like to see Mrs. Turnbull and Mrs. Hayes,” he said. “Go call them.”

Paper Son – SJ Rozan

Paper Son – SJ Rozan, published by Pegasus Books July 2, 2019. This is the twelfth book in the Lydia Chin/Bill Smith Mysteries.

The major theme on this seems to revolve around family, and family ties that connect through distant, and up to this point, unknown relations. Lydia Chin is told by her mother that she, and her partner Bill need to go to Mississippi and investigate the circumstances of her cousin Leland’s incarceration. .. Lydia doesn’t know if she is more surprised by her mother acknowledging her investigating profession, or the fact that she has cousins she never knew about in Mississippi.

When she gets there she’s greeted by her uncle Pete,  her cousin Jefferson’s been arrested for the murder of his father, her uncle, Leland. And we learn the another unknown cousin of hers, Raymond,  uncle Paul’s son, is running for governor of Mississippi. Paul’s son in law Frank gives the reader an insight into who race and family play out in politics here in Mississippi.

Through the course of the investigation, Lydia and Bill come across two sisters, one recently deceased and the other in a nursing home. Through them we see a subplot weaving through about how the bitterness we carry around not only affects our lives but the lives of those left behind.

But the title of this novel Paper Son goes to the heart of the story. The original Paper Son, Lydia’s great-grandfather, becomes a ‘paper son’ when friend of the family returns from worming on the railroads in the United States in the late 1800’s. And, because of immigration law changes, Chinese people are not able to emigrate to the United States as freely as they had been able to. A loop hole in this law allows children of Chinese people already living in the United States to come here from China. Because her great-grandfather changes his identity to become the son of the family friend he is able to emigrate and enjoy the benefits of opportunities.

   My mother made a wordless, but nevertheless easy to understand, sound. She said, “Have you discussed the situation with the White Baboon?”
   Wait. Was my mother really asking me what Bill thought?
   “Yes,” I said cautiously. “He’s – ” I stopped myself before I said stumped. Why cap this new well at the moment it started to flow? “He doesn’t see the answer yet, either. But we’re working on it.”
   “Please continue to work on it.” My mother paused, and I could have sworn her voice softened the tiniest bit as she said, “The Delta of Mississippi is not different from other places. Cuckoos do not hatch from robin’s eggs there. This is only a case, Ling Wan-ju. It’s more important than others because it involves family. But for all that, this is no different from other cases you have solved. You must use the same detecting methods you have used in the past. Please call me tomorrow when you have made progress.”
   And she hung up.

Trouble Is My Business – Raymond Chandler

Chandler, Raymond. Trouble Is My Business . Distributed Proofreaders Canada. Kindle Edition.

This is a collection of four Philip Marlow classic short stories ripped from the pages of Black Mask magazine.

In the first story… a case of extortion, blackmail, revenge and murder, Philip Marlow is subcontracted to rescue an infatuated young man from the clutches of a vicious vixen, after a prior detective on the case turns up deceased things take a turn for the sinister as nefarious types get the drop on our hero. Through bold fisticuffs and intrepid determination, Marlow makes it through to bagging the bag guys.

In the second one Philip Marlow due to testify against a corrupt political boss takes a bodyguard side job for a friend,  when  the friend gets bumped off on the way back from winning a bundle at a wheel rigged roulette wheel… Philip feels a frame… and the tomato playing the numbers at the wheel is telling too many stories to keep it straight.

The third story, Goldfish – Philip Marlow is on the trail of a pair of pearls in a pretty pricy caper… and a determined dame with a flair for violence, is no deterrent. Seems a pair of pearls earnings went missing from a robbery a couple of years ago. The insurance men will pay twenty five thousand for them and a former police woman turned boarding house madam has a clue to there whereabouts. .. twenty five thousand split two ways is a lot of dough. But the bird who gave her the tip have chipped to another, more ruthless chickadee who may just have a head start on Marlow.

The forth, a case of purloined pearls, Marlow falls into a case of cheating spouses and cheating chiselers. The hot Santa Ana winds feature through this story. Marlow steps into a new bar opening across the street from his apartment building. Only one other guy is sitting there, when a man walks in looking for a dame. A rather specific dame, and he describes what she’s wearing. Neither Marlow nor the bartender have seen her, and adds the man goes to leave, the other patron at the bar shoots him and flees, jumping into the guy’s car still running outside. And as fate would have it… the Dame as described just happens to be walking through the hallway in the apartment building across the street.

   The door opened with a jerk and Finlayson and Sebold came in. Sebold looked as spruce and nasty as ever, but Finlayson looked older, more worn, mousier. He held a sheaf of papers in his hand. He sat down across the desk from me and gave me a hard bleak stare.
   “Guys like you get in a lot of trouble,” Finlayson said sourly. Sebold sat down against the wall and tilted his hat over his eyes and yawned and looked at his new stainless-steel wrist watch.
   “Trouble is my business,” I said. “How else would I make a nickel?”

Lethally Wedded – J A Jones

Jones, J.A.. Lethally Wedded . Second Reef Publishing. Kindle Edition.

I want a t-shirt for finishing this story! I really feel like I deserve some sort of reward for finishing this story since the story itself didn’t provide any. This tragic tale of mail-order bride woe is narrated in the first person with different  characters telling their part of this lackluster yarn. DWM, Stan, fifty-something lonely man seeks SWF bombshell for marriage sex and citizenship… no mystery here.

Stan meets Tatiana online. She’s living with her friend Julia in an apartment managed by Victor after the death of her husband Boris. So you can see the level of imagination we have going on here…  I would not be surprised if in the first draft of this, Julia was named Natasha.

So, Tatiana come to America and between the luxury brand product placements and commercials for Costco… a story is told. Boy meets girl, girl meets dog trainer, girl meets love of her life rock star, boys rich mother dies, girl plans to kill boy… and at this point Stan is so poorly defined, I really don’t care if she offs him or not. These characters are so flat that I’m hoping for a quick death so I can get out of this book that much quicker.

I should have shelved this book halfway through. But, it has one saving grace… it’s lack of depth and detail makes it very skimmable. So, in for a penny, I stayed to see the big ‘twist’ at the end… I’m not going to spoil it here, but if I did… you would thank me for not letting you experience this lack of a mystery for yourself.

   “Are you really sure about this?” Holly said as she picked at her premade Costco salad of kale, tomatoes, and something that looked like grass.
   “It’s just a ninety-day fiancé visa,” I said as I picked up my slice of greasy pepperoni pizza. Costco made arguably the world’s best pizza, mozzarella cheese melted just right, a tiny bit burnt, the crust crunchy. For only $1.99 a slice! The generous slice of pizza completely covered the paper plate. It was like getting half a pizza for $1.99. Such a deal. I took a bite and wiped at my mouth with a paper napkin as the grease threatened to drip down my chin. “I’m just bringing her over for a visit. You’ll get to meet her, tell me what you think.”
  “What about the ring?”
   “I just wanted an excuse to see you at my favorite lunch spot,” I said, treating her to one of my killer smiles.

The Jealous Kind – James Lee Burke

The Jealous Kind – James Lee Burke, published by Simon and Schuster 2016

This book has something to say I can feel that in me… but I just don’t seems to be cracking it open. I feel it’s like a Rubik’s cube that needs to be unlocked, and I could do it, it is within me to break through the veil, but it would take more effort than I’m will to expend… and I’m asking myself is James Lee Burke the author to to tell me… I feel he’s speaking man to ,an but to a man who can relate to this particular time frame… the lesson transcends geography but not the timeframe, where as Hemingway speaks make  to make in a way that transforms both location and time…

The paradox of detail … not enough detail and it could be any place, anywhere, anyone… too much detail locks a story in time or place… the character seems less a character and more a portrait of a specific person.

This story start with Aaron Broussard doing something that he’s not been able to do before… stand up to bullies. Being that this is James Lee Burke, the bullies are the well-heeled set. But its not for himself that he stands his ground but on behalf of Valerie Epstien, a damsel in distress. Well, maybe not distress, but certainly on a bad date.

But it I thought it strange that the scene that opens this story, a swimmer of the coast of Galveston in the late 50’s, is almost the same scene as the opened to James Lee Burke’s novel Crusader’s Cross one of the Dave Robicheaux novels.

Now there is a a murder lurking in the background of this story, but its not so much at the heart of this story for me to really consider this a ‘mystery’ per say. So… somewhere around the halfway mark I’ve put this back up on the shelf… perhaps I’ll pull it down and pick up where I left off… when I’m older and wiser and too advanced in years to benefit from the good advice I’m sure is there just hidden beneath the surface.

“I was trying to tell you you’re everything that’s good. That’s why I couldn’t understand how you could go out with Harrelson. I’m not the same since that night at the drive-in.”
“Don’t talk stupid. People don’t change,” she said. “They grow into what they’ve always been. They just stop pretending, that’s all.”
My head felt small and tight. My cheeks were burning. I couldn’t speak.
“Some people are the jealous king,” she said. “They don’t love themselves, so they can’t love or trust anyone else. There’s no way to fix them. That’s why you’re really upsetting me.”
“I think that’s the worst thing anyone ever said to me.”
“I’m going upstairs now and lie down,” she said. “You can let yourself out.”