Category Archives: Series

Lust, Money and Murder Book 1 – Mike Wells

Lust, Money and Murder – Mike Wells 2014 from Amazon Digital Services at 130 pages.
It’s very umm narrative. It’s all narration. There is very little dialogue and the style doesn’t show aspects of the characters,  it simply tells you about them in a third person voice that seems as still and lifeless as the story it’s telling.

The tales starts off with a fairly well constructed prologue and I found that to be the most compelling part of this book. The rest of it is a lengthy narrative of Elaine Brogan, her complete life’s story about growing up in a poor neighborhood of Pittsburgh, her father, a construction worker stealing to put her through private school, her brief foray into a modeling school scheme, her father’s subsequent arrest, imprisonment and suicide, her finishing school and going to college for design with the ultimate goal of becoming a secret service agent and avenging her father’s death.

It tells us the story of what it takes to make an special agent and the trials and travails Elaine must overcome to become an agent. Then we follow her to her first posting in Montana. The story continues with a case of sexual harassment and her being reassigned to an office in Bulgaria,  where, low and behold she meets the man of her dreams, her new boss, Nick is so much better than her old boss, so caring, so kind, so handsome. .. and yet the story is so bland. .. is creeps it’s was to a climatic ending that will resolve itself in the next book…

I feel perfectly comfortable waiting for the cliff notes version.

“We’ve got to get you laid, girl,” Ashley said frankly, when Elaine felt comfortable enough to talk openly with her. “What kind of guys do you like?”
“I don’t know,” Elaine said. “Strong, but kind.” Like her father.
“Strong, but kind,” Ashley said. “Hm. That eliminates about ninety-eight percent of the male population. What about looks? Tall, beefy, slim? Blonde, dark? Blue eyes—”
“I don’t know, Ashley. Does it matter? I just need somebody to get the job done.”
Ashley laughed. “Boy, you are jaded.”
Elaine had long given up on the idea that the process of losing her virginity would be a romantic event. It was simply a barrier she wanted to break—both literally and figuratively. She thought it would not only make her feel more comfortable with boys, but would make her feel like she was a complete, fully functioning female.

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.

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.

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.

Murder On The Left Bank – Cara Black

Murder On The Left Bank – Cara Black published by Soho Press 2018 – 276 pages… I checked this out of the library. It appears to be the eighteenth book in this Aimee Leduc Investigation series. A location mystery set in the city of lights, Paris.

How much detail is too much detail? It’s a personal question that can only be answered personally.  And since I am here to off my own opinionated review… I think this has too much detail. In just a couple of quick paragraphs (see quoted below) where a suspect, Danlin, is being tailed by our detective Aimee, our attention is drawn to four landmarks. Each gets its own quick tourist blurb. Now don’t get me wrong, I love location mysteries. But i like to really feel a part of the setting I like to take it in on a tactile level. .. the sights, the smells, the tastes, an immersion. .. but I feel that this book is more of a whirlwind group tour rather than a slower self-directed excursion.

There is an such an abundance of unconnected landmarks… this local flavor of detail is like a seasoning… meant to add a bit to the story, but here, it’s used almost to the point that of being the main ingredient!  Like, with you touch up a piece with a little glitter.. it serves as a highlight, but then you get these objects that are so encrusted with glitter you can hardly tell what the hell object is.

Well, as far as the plot goes, an attorney Bisson, whose a relation of a friend of Aimee’s seeks her help to locate a notebook that his nephew, who has been murdered, was suppose to deliver. It’s just another ball to juggle in the multitasking universe that is her life. Between working with her agency’s partner Rene on a proposal for a security system for the Bibliotheque Francois-Mitterrand Library and spending time with her bebe Chloé she agrees to look into the matter, low key.

As she starts probing around, she finds that a notorious shadow group called The Hand is also looking for this notebook behind. Where agents of the Hand responsible for the murder, or was it drug related as the police would have us believe?

It seems that this organization has been present in prior books in this series.

Aimee needs to track down a girlfriend of Bisson’s nephew to help she’d light on the notebooks hiding place. In tracking this girl down we accompany Aimee as she treks about Paris. Will she find this mysterious Katrine before the Hand can strike? Once you can weave your way around the landmarks littering your path, you have a real mystery to follow.

I think that I will try to read the first in this series and see if I can get the satisfaction I seek in it.

   He followed the steep rue Renault in the direction of Maison-Blanch. Nearby lay the decrepit Panhard and Levassor car engine factory, commandeered by the Germans during the war to manufacture airplane engines for the luftwaffe.  On the other side, the cavernous la Petite Ceinture, the abandoned nineteenth century rail line that had once belted Paris.  Now overgrown, a deserted place where disoriented  cataphiles emerge from the catacombs to find themselves with junkies and foxes. Parts of the Left Bank were wilderness,  green where nature had rooted in the cracked stones. She loved the wild flowers sprouting on the tracks and the neighborhood groups that planted allotments of vegetables and kept rabbits.

   Danlin woven through the small tress to Jardin du Moulin de la Pointe, a park where mills once harnessed the power of la Bievre. Here the Petit Ceinture tracks led into a tunnel. He got off his bike. She parked, grabbed her jacket, and picked her way down to the tracks in her ballet flats along the winding path lined by bushes and trees.

Cold Blood – Robert Bryndza

Cold Blood – Robert Bryndza Bookouture (September 20, 2017) 357 pages.

The fifth DCI Erika Foster novel is another great read. This time out, as DC Peterson recovers from his wounds, two bodies are recovered from the banks of the Themes. Dismembered and stuffed into suitcases… who could do such a horrible thing… and how does someone become a person capable of doing that? This is the story that answers those questions. As DCI Erika Foster and her team track down those responsible for these murders, the split narration shows how an ordinary person can become a person with the capacity to commit murder.

During the course of this investigation Erika continues to check on Peterson while he’s recovering. But, in a sudden twist Erika is betrayed by one close to her and she’s attacked while delivering evidence to the forensics unit. We follow Erika as she recovers from her wounds. The physical one she received during the attack, and the other… well… she is still coming to terms with the death of her husband years ago. She returns to Slovenia to stay with her sister and enjoy her niece and nephew.

During Erika’s recovery, the case is assigned to a drug investigation unit within the department where it becomes ‘lost in the tall grass’ until Erika returns. With new evidence, new perspective and renewed engagement Erika takes charge of the investigation again and her dogged pursuit of these ruthless killers brings about another tense and trilling conclusion.

Erika looked down at Nina’s body and felt an overwhelming sadness. How could a young girl with so much promise stumble down such a dark path? She looked back to the cave, and could just make out Max Kirkham’s feet through the gap in the rocks. It was quiet, and the light was fading, and she shivered. With her free hand, she closed Nina’s eyes.
   The wind whistled across the heather and the air was bitterly cold, and Erika paced up and down to keep warm. She thought how long she had hunted for these two people, and of the trail of destruction they had left in their wake. And now she was alone, guarding their bodies.