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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.”

Someone We Know – Shari Lapena

Someone We Know – Shari Lapena, Viking 2019 and I borrowed my copy from the library. A perfect place to try new authors.

This isn’t a whodunit mystery in a traditional sense, there simply aren’t enough clues for us to reasonably follow but it’s a solid character driven mystery much like her novel The Couple Next Door… but where that story focused on the police procedure and plot driven, this is more like an Unwanted Guest in that the story is strongly driven be well written and multilayered characters both suspects and those who suspect them alike.  Shari… she spends a lot of time showing means motive and opportunity to several characters in this story, each set of particulars turning and twisting but not all the pieces fit together for any of them. Sure the circumstantial evidence is there for each on spades, but when it comes down to it, is the killer someone we know?

The story starts right off with Raleigh committing a break in and roaming about a neighbor’s house. Seems this is his idea of kicks. Meanwhile a neighbor Robert has reported his wife Amanda missing. Seems the flirtatious young wife he’s simply disappeared.  That is until a chance encounter in a lake not far from town reveals her body in the trunk. As detectives Webb and Moen start making inquiries they begin to  find no lack of suspect and no lack of motives in what appears to be an insular close knit community of neighbors. Meanwhile, the questions the investigation spawn lead friends and neighbors through a series of revelations uncovering the secrets that unexpectedly bind them together.

“Parenting is so stressful, she thinks, glancing sidelong at her moody son slouched in the seat beside her. You try to do your best,  But really what control do you have over them once they’re not little anymore? You have no idea what’s going on inside their heads, or what they’re up to. What if she’d never seen that text? How long would it have gone on – until he was arrested and the cops showed up at the house? He was breaking into places, snooping through people’s lives, and they’d known nothing about it. If anyone has accused her son of such a thing, she would never believe it. That’s how little she knows him these days. But she saw those texts herself. He admitted it. She wonders uneasily if he’s keeping any other secrets. She parks the car in their driveway and says, “Raleigh, is there anything else you want to tell me?”

Whom Gods Destroy – Clifton Adams

Whom Gods Destroy – Clifton Adams (1953) (PlanetMonk Pulps Book 13) . PlanetMonk Books. Kindle Edition.  It wasn’t bad… in some way I wish that it was because then I could just put it back on the dust bin of history, write up the reasons why you shouldn’t waste your time with it and be done. I could go on with the rest of my happy life and go on to read a much better book. But no, this book wasn’t bad… unfortunately for me it was mediocre. Not bad enough to put it down quickly but also not worth the investment of time and effort it took to read it.

The plot… what there is of it… poor boy from the wrong side of the tracks, Roy, meets pretty good girl from the good side of town, Lola. Boy becomes high school football star… confesses love for girl near the end of their senior year. Girl laughs at boy. Boy runs away, scarred for life, for fourteen years (well it is the early 1950’s).

Upon returning to town due to the death of his father, Roy finds that his father was buried by a charity that’s headed by Lola who is now married to the prominent county attorney. He has become driven by rage over the laughter of Lola and his not being able to make something of himself. One of his old high school buddies is not a bootleg booze retailer in town. Roy finds this bootlegging business may be his own path to riches and power… and then he’ll show Lola, yeah, he’ll have his revenge! Then he’ll be able to stop the perpetual laughter that drives his rage and turmoil. Well all his schemes keep backfiring… and this sad cautionary tale of blind rage and complete inability to move on with ones own life leads to its inevitable conclusion…

Seriously, you see the ending coming from chapter one and the wreckage that accumulates within the rest of this story is just not worth the trip through, unless you’re one of those who love to rubber-neck car wrecks in the opposite lane, then this sad, hopeless Wyle E Coyote tail is for you…

I had seen Lola, I’d had my hands on her, but it was Vida beside me now. She had her arms around me, pressing my face to her breasts, and she was crooning something softly. It had a soothing, pleasant sound in the darkness. “Lie still,” she crooned. “Lie still … ”

But it scared me – whatever had happened in my brain. I had to figure it out, and I couldn’t do it my myself. “I went crazy,” I said. “As crazy as a whole carload of loons. I saw her, right here in this room. She started laughing and I – God, Vida, I’m sorry.”

“I’m not. It had to happen sometime, and I guess I’ve been hoping it would happen. I’m not made like some women. I can’t keep holding on and on forever. And a lush is no husband, Roy. It happened and I’m glad – even if you thought I was someone else.”

Deadly Secrets – Robert Bryndza

Deadly  Secrets  – Robert Bryndza published by Bookouture in 201? I read this on my kindle. This is the sixth in the DCI Erika Foster series. It’s a brilliant British police procedural mystery set in contemporary London.  I’ve really enjoyed following this series. I’ve been taken with how well developed the entire cast of characters and how those characters have deepened and developed over the course of the novels.

This sixth novel starts up right where the fifth novel finished up… almost immediately. It’s the Christmas right after the Marsh twins were rescued by Erika and she’s been invited over for Christmas lunch. Apprehensive about the situation Erika is relieved when she encounters a crime scene on her way there. So, she stopes and takes charge of a situation unfolding where a burlesque dancer has been slashed to death just outside her door apparently as she arrived home where she lived with her mother.

Well, as the investigation unfolds,  a local young peeping Tom flees the scene with his camera as he’s been hiding up a tree. Erika and Mc pursue him as he flees home where he lives with his parents, one of which is a retired barrister.

It seems this young mam has a somewhat unhealth fascination with his exotic neighbor. Ha and his camera are later taken into custody. After some intense questioning about photos found on that camera he commits suicide in his cell.

But he isn’t the only man, or woman that had crossed paths with the statuesque victim. They’re were at least two married men with whom she’s had relations with in her neighborhood. There’s also the dotty old lady that she made money caring for. Seems their is an issue of stolen diamond earing, or is there… and then there is her son who seems to be skulking around.

But all that’s really known from the CCYV footage is that the perpetrator was wearing a long coat and… a gas mask!

I enjoyed this novel so much because it’s a return to the first novel. The previous novels to this one were straight forward police procedural mysteries where the action was the story. In this book, we see Erika returning as the detective. This really is more of a whodunit mystery and there are some clues to follow along. Things are always what they seem and the solution comes down to Erika seeing certain inconsistencies and working past appear to answers to get to the real solution…

Marissa Lewis’s body lying in the snow. A crime scene always tells a story, and the small front garden in Coniston Road told of a violent struggle. The sheer volume of blood, caking Marissa’s body and the surrounding snow. Her shoe, left lying close by; her vanity case, broken on its side, the contents spilling out into the snow. Her keys still dangling in the lock of the front door. If Marissa had reached her door a few seconds earlier, would she have been able to turn the key and get safely inside?
Erika found it a struggle, the balance between feeling sorrow for a murder victim, and shutting it out. To stay sane, it was easier to dehumanise a dead body, and think of the person as an object: a thing, or a piece of evidence. Erika could never do that, though, any more than she could come home from work and live a normal life.

Origin – JA Konrath

Origin – JA Konrath published by Pinnacle Books in 2009. I read the mass produced paperback, (I don’t think there was a hard cover of this) running 341 pages.  Its not exactly a mystery, but its billed as a thriller, and though its suspenseful, most of the punches that are thrown in this yarn are fairly well telegraphed. There is a fairly predictable ending to this, but it’s a quick read and has a slight thread of humor running through it. Though most of Andy’s humor falls flat. I don’t know if that’s intentional of not as I’ve read a couple of JA Konrath’s Jack Daniels series and he’s very good at weaving humor through those stories.

This story is about a hibernating creature being held at a super-secret underground base, where the President is oddly always a quick pone call away. The base is staffed with a very small group of specialists all of whom have had some major trauma in their past. They are each on some level ‘damaged goods’. But when the creature awakens, the need for a specialist in languages brings the protagonist Andy to the facility. Andy though doesn’t seem to have any major trauma in his history, other than dodgy tax practices.

But Andy’s specialty is not as vital as it once was though since the creature, awakened, has quickly taken to and become well conversed in English and is able to be subjected to questions. Andy then focuses his talents on transcribing the capsule that contained the creature when it was discovered.

Well, best laid plans and all that, seems the creature has an agenda of its own. The nature of the beast is slowly revealed, and the bodies start piling up. Each death having something to do with the trauma from each victim’s past. As I said, you can see many of these punches coming. In the end… will any survive? Can any survive? Can you beat the devil and win?

“What’s you impression of our General Race?” Andy asked, holding open the Red Arm door.

“He’s good at manipulating people. I wonder why he’s here though. The army only has so many generals. Why stick one underground for forty years?”

“Something to do with his wife?” Andy suggested. “Dr. Belgium told me about her disease.”

“I don’t think so. She didn’t become symptomatic until a few years ago.”

“Maybe we should ask him. He seems honest. Well, as honest as the military can get. What’s Dr. Harker’s problem?”

“You noticed it too?”

“Yeah the lady seems to have a large assortment of bugs up her ass.”

Sun punched in the code for the first gate. “She has problems relating to people, I think.”

“And Dr . Belgium… don’t get me wrong. I like the guy. But he seems to be one slice short of a sandwich himself.”

“Yeah,” Sun agreed. “And the holies. Odd ducks both of them. Father Thrist’s little outburst didn’t wear well with the Roman collar.”

Andy sad, “Maybe we’re not all here because we’re perfect for the job.”

Sail – James Patterson

Sail – James Patterson and Howard Roughan Little, Brown and Company published 2008 coming in at 388 pages. I read the hardcover from the library as one of their ‘Summer Reads’ selections. Anything having to do with the beach was stacked up on that table… including Peter Benchley’s classic Jaws, a perfect summer beach read I’m sure.

This is definitely another quick page turner from James Patterson. The liberal use of white space and seriously short chapters makes what looks like a lot of pages go by a faster than expected pace. One benefit of the short chapters is that as you’re reading the story, the numerous change in points of view and different narrators flow smoothly and naturally. This is another solid story of suspense that does provide a sudden twist or two before the whole tale be told matey.

A family suffering from a recent loss sets sail on a family vacation.  With uncle Jack at the helm of the family’s craft, mom and three kids embark on a trip to the Bahamas. Family conflicts and disfunctions play out in the confinement of their physical space, but after a sudden storm at sea, and an explosion which destroys the boat, the family finds the strength to overcome the onslaught of the elements thrown against them.

But what caused the explosion?

And with a distress signal sent, where is the rescue?

And who are these shadowy figures the new step father is meeting with?

Ps. If you have a negative view of lawyers as arrogant, money minded psychopaths… well, have I got a book for you!

   We’ve all had an impossible day, but with Jake’s having to save Carrie and the boat, he is definitely our hero. The least I can do is stay up until he finishes.
   Besides, it’s a absolutely beautiful night out on the deck. So many stars. The heavens peaceful and calm. I’m reminded of my days as a churchgoer and I say a few prayers of thanks.
   Then I lean back on the cushioned bench behind the helm, wrapped warmly in a fleece blanket, my eyes tracing one constellation after another. Orion, Lyra, Cassiopeia. When I come across the Big Dipper, I can’t help a bittersweet smile, “You know, sweetheart, technically the Big Dipper is not a constellation,” my father told me over and over when I was around eight or nine. He either didn’t know he was repeating himself or was worried I’d forget. “It’s an asterism,” he’d explain, practically sounding out the word for me every time. “That means it’s only part of a lager constellation.” 

  “In a way,” he’d continue, “we’re all Big Dippers, part of something much bigger than ourselves. At least I hope that’s how you come to see yourself.”

Dead End – Ed Lacy

Dead End – Ed Lacy (PlanetMonk Pulps Book 16) (p. 73). PlanetMonk Books. Kindle Edition.

 I enjoyed this pulp despite its disconnected voice. It’s the story of a young guy who joins the police department after coming home from serving in the Korean War.  His war bride wife, whom he married to spite the man who raised him before he shipped out, keeps pushing the young man to make more and more money.

Soon he’s taking a little grate here, a touch of a freebie there… but nothing serious… at least not until he lucks into making a collar that lands him a promotion, a modest bump in pay, but most importantly puts him in with an older detective… whose got a real money making side deal going. But this is still nickel and dime to what a huge payday may await them, if they can wait it out and play their cards right… why, it could be a million…

It’s a nice story well told in a first person point of view. And that I think is where it was a bit of an issue for me because where you can see in the story that this is a young guy not yet thirty… and there are several examples of where his immaturity can get the better of him… reading the narrative, the voice that’s speaking through it seems older somehow… I feel like the narrator is somewhere in his forties… I really can’t put my finger on why I get this impression. I suppose it’s just from the overall language being used… but the narrator of the story doesn’t sound like some twenty nine year old… kid…

I GUESS the first week I worked with Doc I learned more about police work – the right and the wrong kind – than I did in the entire previous year or so I’d been working at it. Doc was very good, as a cop and as a crooked cop. He was smart, had an explanation for everything. In fact, he could talk you to death about anything. He seemed to have solid connections behind him way up to City Hall. Most times we’d be assigned to the Commissioner’s roving squad, and whenever there was a shake-up in sight, we would be sent to some precinct detective squad, for a while. I guess Doc could have got us both some office jobs, but we worked hard, put in long hours on the streets – where there was money to be made. Right from the first day I made money. We never made a fortune, you understand (up till a few days ago, that is), but I managed to about double my salary. At first I was a little uneasy about the shakedowns, but as Doc told me, “Kid, you get what you pay for in this world. And a city only gets the police force it pays for. You weren’t getting an extra dime for working on your vacation, risking your life by going after Johnson. We take chances every minute. Then it’s up to us to increase our pay whenever we can.”