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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Darkness on the Edge of Town

Darkness on the Edge of Town

Review of Darkness on the Edge of Town by J. Carson Black

Overview from Laura Cardinal: Packs a SIG Sauer P226 9mm. Investigates homicides in small towns that have limited resources. Brings justice to murder victims—and to their killers. Laura’s job description: Criminal Investigator with the Arizona Department of Public Safety. But maybe it should just say “Troubleshooter.” 

Used to be kids played outdoors until time for dinner, now social media’s the new game in town. These days, they play on their smartphones. But with more freedom comes greater danger. Mobile devices are a conduit into a child’s life, not just for friends but for those who intend harm. This is the message of J. Carson Black’s Daphne du Maurier Award-nominated thriller, DARKNESS ON THE EDGE OF TOWN.

My Review:

J. Carson Black was the author of a book I previously reviewed though I don’t remember the title. I do remember that it also featured this Detective Laura Cardinal because I not only remembered the protagonist’s name, but also this habit she had of seeing her deceased mentor, Frank Entwistle, show up out of thin air whenever she seemed to need extra help.

Laura Cardinal works for some type of Arizona state police agency that is called out to smaller locations whenever a crime is committed that is too much for local authorities to handle. The murder of Jessica Parris is one of those cases so the Bisbee PD calls for assistance and Laura dashes off to the rescue.

At first there is nothing to go on, other than the strange doll-like dress that the girl is found wearing and a note on a matchbox that reads CRZYGRL12. Laura is convinced from the start that the guy is either a beginning serial killer or that there are other victims but why were they not reported?

After a lead from Riverside County, California, she discovers she just might have found a link yet some of the modus operandi from the Indio murders are different from her own. To prove her hunch correct, she takes off for Florida where her alleged suspect lives, hoping that she is not wasting her department’s time and money. Can she stop him in time?

Of course I am not giving away the ending but here’s my two cents about the book. As before, I like the protagonist Laura Cardinal and I think the idea that she still talks to her dead mentor is really unique but also makes her relatable. As she hunts down bad guys who are no doubt insane, her encounters with Frank leave us wondering if she is even sane herself.

Then with her dilemma about allowing her boyfriend of two months to move in with her we see that she has trust and security issues. Given her past experiences with men though as well as they type of work she does, I can’t really blame her.

The negative for me was mainly the language. The f word appears a little too frequently for my taste. And then there is the serial killer bit. I know that there are probably many people who like serial killer mysteries but I usually find them too gory for my taste. This one however was not as bad as I thought it would be.

In any case, if you don’t like a lot of bad language and are entirely adverse to gore, I would skip this one. For everyone else however, I think it is a pretty good story with well-developed characters that make for an entertaining story.

Contains: language (including the f bomb) and violence with mild gore.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Privateersman

The Privateersman (A Poor Man at the Gate Series, #1)

Review of The Privateersman by Andrew Wareham

Overview from In this free historical fiction novel, first published in 2013, Dorset lad Tom Andrews escapes the hangman’s noose only to find himself shanghaied onto a Caribbean-bound privateering ship, before he and crewmate Joseph, flee to America carrying illicit booty. They prosper in the vile corruptness of New York - a town destined to be on the losing side in the Revolutionary War. Betrayed and forced to return to England, they seek riches in the early industrial boom. Tom relishes wealth, but also secretly yearns for love and social acceptance. He hopes that the purchase of a grand country estate will help him fulfil his desires.

My Review:

I was really looking forward to reading this one since I expected it to be much like the Horatio Hornblower movies that were on A&E a few years ago. In that fact, I was somewhat disappointed.

The story was interesting and had to the potential to be a great one. I saw it in certain parts of the novel where it kept my interest better. One of those was the first chapter where we see Tom running to get away. He was caught doing something illegal and forced to flee.

As we watch him run through the woods and then to the ocean, hoping to get passage out of England, I started thinking 'here's a guy I can root for.' And I continue to feel that way for a while but then the author throws a monkey wrench into the story.

We soon start going in and out of other people's heads, not just seeing them from Tom's perspective. In the beginning we know what Tom thinks and feels but then we start hearing what other people think about him and eventually a host of other subjects. I just didn't understand why were even in the heads of these others. I mean besides the fact that they are not our protagonist (at least that's not what the introduction led me to believe), they just are not that interesting to me.

For example we spend a lot of time inside Joseph's head. I mean its true that he is Tom's partner but I still didn't think he was all that interesting. We learn what Joseph thinks of Tom mostly through this means.

And then there's the part where in the beginning where Tom has decided to sign up to go away on a privateering ship but then is kidnapped by a privateering ship. I mean why kidnap the guy if he's probably willing to go anyway. And furthermore, he accepts his fate calmly. He never even thinks to ask why he is there when he comes to on a strange ship. He is only later told the reason and it seemed like a rather unbelievable one at that.

Also I wondered about the use of words like ain't. I mean did they even use that word back then? But I haven't done the research so I couldn't say for sure.

I am not saying that this is a bad story, just not what I was hoping it would be. And I think it could be a lot better if we didn't do so much head hopping and we knew more about Tom's thinking instead.

Contains: some sexuality and violence

Saturday, February 14, 2015

One Day in Budapest

One Day In Budapest

Review of One Day in Budapest by J. F. Penn

Overview from A relic, stolen from the heart of an ancient city.
An echo of nationalist violence not seen since the dark days of the Second World War.
Budapest, Hungary. When a priest is murdered at the Basilica of St Stephen and the Holy Right relic is stolen, the ultra-nationalist Eröszak party calls for retribution and anti-Semitic violence erupts in the city.
Dr Morgan Sierra, psychologist and ARKANE agent, finds herself trapped inside the synagogue with Zoltan Fischer, a Hungarian Jewish security advisor. As the terrorism escalates, Morgan and Zoltan must race against time to find the Holy Right and expose the conspiracy, before blood is spilled again on the streets of Budapest.
One Day In Budapest is a chilling view of a possible future as Eastern Europe embraces right-wing nationalism. A conspiracy thriller for fans of Daniel Silva, where religion and politics intersect.

My Review:

I finally got a chance to read (and thus review) J. F. Penn’s work. It was enclosed near the end of a special e-book edition containing twelve mystery stories for ninety-nine cents. I had bought a while ago but had not idea that any of her books were in there.

This book, however, was only a novella. I also did not know that. But maybe it was best that start on a small sample rather than a full length novel.

I think that this novella was either number four or three in her series featuring Morgan Sierra as its protagonist. I believe that it is part of the ARKANE series. The author does have at least one other series.

The story starts with a bang. Dr. Morgan Sierra, whose father is Jewish, arrives in Hungary to deliver an old Jewish relic to a local synagogue on very same day that a priest is murdered nearby. An ancient relic from Hungary’s past is stolen by the murders and a Star of David is painted at the crime scene.
Feeling that they have been betrayed by the Jewish population, Hungarians begin to riot all over the city of Budapest, many of them closing in on the synagogue. Joining up with a man named Zoltan who she meets at the synagogue, Morgan determines to find this holy relic to prevent as many deaths as possible.

When some Jewish citizens are later symbolically killed by the river, Morgan knows she cannot leave without stopping whatever chaos the Nationalists are trying to exploit. When she finds proof of where the relic is and who is involved, she will stop at nothing to make sure that she can prove it to the Hungarians before the violence escalates. But will she make it in time?

I won’t give away most of the story but here’s my two cents. The good parts of this story are almost everything. It is fast paced and mostly believable. The story keeps you turning the pages. The characters seem to be mostly well done also.

The negatives was that the f-bombs were used a little too frequently for me taste and the ending seemed somewhat abrupt for my taste. I realize that part of it was the set up for the novel but somehow it felt like something was missing at the end of the story.

Overall though, I recommend it but with some reservations due to the language and some general grossness.

Contains: language, some sexuality, and cannibalism (yuck)

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Coming Home

Coming Home: A Novel

Review of Coming Home by Stacy Hawkins Adams

Overview from If forgiving your ex-husband was easy, everybody would do it. Brent had cheated on Dayna and coldly said goodbye to her seven long years ago—dashing her hopes of having children or growing old with the love of her life. Working hard to make herself successful as a hospital executive, Dayna has moved on, finding comfort in a new dating relationship with a faith-filled colleague, Warren. But when Brent resurfaces on her doorstep at just the wrong time, Dayna’s heart threatens to come unglued. Why is Brent asking for forgiveness now? And why are he and his new wife, Tamara, interested in reconciliation with Dayna? The unbelievable answers begin to surface in the ebook download of Coming Home as Brent boldly asks Dayna to support him at the most crucial time of his life. While Tamara’s heart brims with guilt, both women will discover what it means to reach beyond pain and baggage to love unconditionally, leaving the consequences to God.

My Review:

I surprised myself by picking this one out. Contemporary Dramas are usually not all that popular with me but something about this story piqued my interest. It's true that part of it was the fact that some of the situations that our main character faced in this novel seemed relevant to me but I think that there was more to it than that. It seemed more real.

The story centers on Dayna, a hospital executive who seems to be finally moving on with her life after a bitter divorce. She moved to a new city (and state), moved up the career ladder, found a new boyfriend, and seems to be doing alright.

One day, out of the blue, she gets a surprise visit from Brent, her ex husband. Just as she's about to dash out the door with her current main squeeze, he shows up on her doorstep bearing flowers and asking to take her to dinner along with his current wife. The current wife is the same woman he cheated on her with years ago in the fiasco that ended their marriage.

After discussing it with the new boyfriend, Warren, she reluctantly agrees to meet with him just to get him off her back. She then forgets to check the dates with Warren who can't make it and decides to go alone.

This first misstep initiates a downward spiral in her life as well as the lives of those closest to her. After finding out that her ex husband has not got much time to live, she struggles with using her expertise to help him achieve a life-long dream, or keeping the man she's got now at the expense of ignoring Brent. Who or what will she choose?

In the process of sorting through her feeling for her ex, her current boyfriend, and even a close friend who makes a series of bad choices that rub Dayna the wrong choices, she must also deal with the issues that she has with family members who seem to blame her for her ex husband's failure to stay married to her.

This was a beautifully touching story whose spiritual truths were conveyed in a more natural manner than many Christian Fiction stories. The characters seem more real and the author, less judgmental. 

It was not a perfect story and perhaps not the most entertaining, but it was something that touched me and might also touch others. There were flaws, like one point where the wrong character's name was used and it sometimes seemed to treat certain problems in a couple of characters a bit too lightly. Still, I think it is worth a read for anyone who has ever been through a difficult time in his or her life or just likes dramatic stories.