Sunday, September 24, 2017

Missing persons by Michael Brandman

Michael Brandman is not only the author of three Jesse Stone novels, based on Robert B. Parker's character, he also produced and co-wrote nine Jesse Stone movies. Now, he's launching his own laconic lawman, Buddy Steel, in Missing Persons.

Buddy narrates the story of his return to Freedom, California and San Remo County. He's been quite content with the life he built as a homicide detective for the LAPD. But, his father, Burton Steel, Sr., has been diagnosed with ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease, a fatal diagnosis. Despite family tension, he returns when his father asks him to step in as county sheriff so he can show him the ropes before he dies.

But, Buddy's first case only escalates that family tension, disagreements with his stepmother, the mayor of Freedom. Catherine Long is missing. She's the wife of a charismatic television evangelist who is about to hold the annual three day celebration of the ministry. When Buddy heads to the compound to ask questions, he has a run-in with the Reverend Barry Long, Jr.'s staff and brother. The run-in and resulting calls to lawyers stirs up trouble. But, Buddy keeps his father in the loop as he investigates the Longs' finances and history. And, Buddy's investigation reveals he isn't a member of the only disfunctional family in town.

Buddy Steel, despite his flaws and irreverence towards everything political, is a likable narrator. The reader can't help but root for him to find answers, and some sort of happiness. This is a cinematic book, which is appropriate, considering the author's background. Missing Persons is for all of us who appreciated Robert B. Parker's spare writing. Parker can't be replaced, and neither can his characters. Buddy Steel fits that small town sheriff comes into town and cleans up corruption style. We can always use another hero.

Missing Persons by Michael Brandman. Poisoned Pen Press. 2017. ISBN 9781464208041 (hardcover), 272p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received a copy to review for a journal.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Protocol by Kathleen Valenti

Admissions right up front, so you can take my review with a grain of salt. Read Kathleen Valenti's debut novel Protocol if the subject matter interests you. I'm not a fan of scientific/medical thrillers. My eyes glaze over when there are paragraphs about the science or medicine, and I just skim over them. However, I reviewed the book for a journal, and what they're looking for is a short summary, and the appeal of the book. I can do that, even if the book doesn't appeal to me.

Maggie O'Malley is thrilled to have landed a job in her field right out of college. Rxellence is a company that does pharmaceutical research, and, for personal reasons, she wants to work on cancer research. Instead, she finds herself researching acne during the day, and going to a bar with co-workers in the evening. But, Maggie's a little socially inept, and her first evening at the bar is a disaster. She receives an appointment reminder with the photo of a woman she doesn't know, only to see that same woman's picture on TV as she is leaving the bar. The woman is dead. In her panic, Maggie tries to push through the door, only to run right into a man from her company's management team.

That collision symbolizes Maggie's life spiraling out of control. She receives another appointment reminder, and another person ends up dead. At the same time, someone at work seems to be sabotaging Maggie. Strange documents appear on her desk. There are rumors about what she's doing. When she and her best friend search for connections between the victims, they find a connection to Rxellence. But, who is going to believe a woman's conspiracy theories when she's been suspended on suspicion of using drugs and taking money?

Valenti's debut mixes technology, medical research and social media in a complex novel that leaves some loose ends. Perhaps they will be cleared up in future books. But, there were too many sharks, too many plot twists that I had seen on television. Protocol wasn't for me, but it may be for those who like medical mysteries involving conspiracies.

Kathleen Valenti's website is

Protocol by Kathleen Valenti. Henery Press. 2017. ISBN 9781635112399 (paperback), 294p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received a copy to review for a journal.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Season of Sacrifice by Bharti Kirchner

Asian-American private investigator Maya Mallick makes her first appearance in Bharti Kirchner's Season of Sacrifice. And, the opening scene of the book is unforgettable.

Maya has just opened the Seattle branch of a successful all-women boutique detective agency based in India when she comes across a terrible scene. Two young women set themselves on fire in front of the residence of a Chinese official. Maya recognizes Sylvie, the sister of her best friend, and tries to stop the deaths, but a man hits and impedes her. She witnesses their brutal deaths, and she's unwilling to accept the news stories that say the women were protesting the Chinese occupation of Tibet. As far as Maya knows, Sylvie was a scientist researching malaria, with little interest in politics. And, she's determined to find the truth.

Maya's first case turns out to be a dangerous one that threatens her safety and the safety of her mother, who is visiting from India. It's also a complex case that involves Russians, a meditation center, a powerful Indian family, and more murders. Maya is forced to utilize the research skills of her assistant and her mother's knowledge and friends in India to find background material on the suspects. When she's followed, and she and her mother are threatened, Maya knows she's in a new dangerous world.

While there may be a few too many threads in this first mystery in a series, Maya shows promise as a private investigator. And, the elements of Indian cooking and life add atmospheric touches to the book. Maya's assistant and her mother are strong supporting cast members. But, it's that opening scene that will suck in readers.

Bharti Kirchner's website is

Season of Sacrifice by Bharti Kirchner. Severn House, 2017. 224p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.                        

Thursday, September 21, 2017

What Are You Reading?

I'll never catch up with my friend, Kaye Wilkinson Barley. She's been reading about Paris for months. But, I'm a third of a way through John Baxter's forthcoming book, Montparnasse: Paris's District of Memory and Desire. That's the neighborhood we're staying in when we go to Paris this weekend. I also read a beautiful book called Doorways of Paris.

So, I'll be gone next Thursday. It's going to be up to all of you to lead the discussion. This is still a place where you can all come to talk about your books. I hope you do. I'll miss all of you.

So, what are you reading this week? I'm eager to know.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Winners and Contest News

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. The copies of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express will go to Steve G. from Ashland, OH and Karen R. from Katy, TX. I'm sending them out today. And, if you haven't read the book, you should read it before you see the movie.

Due to my upcoming travel schedule, there will be no contest again until Friday, September 29. Come back that day for the kickoff of the new giveaway.

A Conspiracy in Belgravia by Sherry Thomas

Somewhere in a pile, I have A Study in Scarlet Women, the first Lady Sherlock book by Sherry Thomas. But, I started it, and didn't care for the predicament Charlotte Holmes was in. However, when I finished A Conspiracy in Belgravia, I could see why others liked the character and the set-up.

Charlotte Holmes is a disgraced gentlewoman who uses her intelligence and the assistance of a widow, Mrs. John Watson, to take on cases under the guise of "Sherlock Holmes". This time, the case could be a little awkward. Lady Ingram, wife of Charlotte's close friend and benefactor, asks Holmes to find the man she loved when she was young and single. The two had agreed to pass each other at a specific location once a year just to show they still remembered, and this year, Myron Finch didn't show up. Myron Finch is also the name of Charlotte's illegitimate half brother.

Actually, I found that particular case to be the least interesting of the cases in the book. Lord Bancroft, Ingram's brother, proposes to Charlotte, and to show he respects her mind, he presents her with a set of challenges. One of them leads Charlotte and Ingram to a house where the police are about to investigate a murder. Bancroft's clues and the suspicion that Charlotte and Ingram are followed is a tantalizing aspect of the story.

Then, there's Charlotte's sister, Livia, who is trying so hard to write Sherlock Holmes adventures. Although Charlotte may have Sherlock Holmes' intelligence, Livia has a few of his traits. She has her own adventures in this book, ones suitable for the bookworm she is.

It's the characters and the setting that will bring me back to the next Lady Sherlock book. I enjoy Charlotte's personality, and her relationship with Mrs. Watson and Lord Ingram. She's courageous, independent as she can be during the Victorian age, and truly cares about her sisters. It will be interesting to see where Sherry Thomas takes her, and a few other characters, in future books.

Sherry Thomas' website is

A Conspiracy in Belgravia by Sherry Thomas. Berkley. 2017. ISBN 9780425281413 (paperback), 336p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Murderous Mistral by Cay Rademacher

Capitaine Roger Blanc blows into Provence, and fans flames in the same way the dangerous mistral winds do in the summer. Cay Rademacher's Murderous Mistral, translated from the German by Peter Millar, loses nothing in the translation. Blanc is a fascinating character in a atmospheric police procedural, sure to capture readers who love Jeffrey Siger's novels set in Greece.

Blanc was a little too successful as an investigator for an anti-corruption unit in Paris, and was banished to the south of France. His marriage couldn't stand the strain, and, as a result, he's alone in a two-hundred-year-old hovel he inherited. Even his assigned partner seems to fit the image of a reject. Lieutenant Marius Tonon made a serious mistake years earlier, and he knows he'll never rise any higher. As a result, he comes in late, drinks on the job, has a slovenly appearance. But, he knows the streets, and the local politics. And, he's not happy when the team is called to a murder scene at the local dump, where a man has been shot and set on fire. Tonon's recognition of the man as a local low-life means they have a murder case on their hands. Since no one will miss the victim, everyone would happily close the case. But, Capitaine Blanc is not known for his politically astute actions. And, a second death means Blanc will just dig in deeper in a case that could have political and career repercussions.

Local big shots, local politics. Blanc and his small team of cohorts are not eager to investigate in the wrong areas, but they are eager to find the killer, and not pin it on the most convenient suspect. As Blanc and Tonon traverse the streets of Provence, a co-worker skillfully searches the Internet, providing them with additional ammunition. Now, Blanc will have to prove to the local juge d'instruction, the local magistrate, that he suspects a connection between the two deaths.

Rademacher's police procedural is an intriguing story of teamwork by an untested group of gendarmes. The mystery itself is fascinating, as is Blanc. Add the atmosphere, the food, the scents of Provence, set during summer when the mistral winds blow. Murderous Mistral is an enjoyable, complicated story.

Murderous Mistral by Cay Rademacher. Minotaur Books. 2017. ISBN 9781250110701 (hardcover), 288p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Call Down the Hawk by Sheila Simonson

After a four year absence, Sheila Simonson returns to the Columbia River Gorge area for her latest Latouche County mystery, Call Down the Hawk. It's a reflective story, told from multiple viewpoints, about the tragic deaths of two domineering men who happened to be neighbors.

Jane August was visiting her father, Frank August, and his fifth wife when the news came about the financial collapse of the bank he had turned over to his son, Gus. And, soon after, Frank disappears. Was he escaping the notoriety? Running away from his wife? Or was it something worse? Over on the Hough (pronounced Hawk) farm, someone may have seen something.

Bill Hough committed suicide, leaving a cowed wife, an estranged son, Russell, who hadn't been home since he left at eighteen, and a daughter, Judith, who was a military hero, but suffers from PTSD. The night Frank August disappeared, Judith may have seen something as she patrolled the farm. But, she tried to kill herself that night, saved only by Russell. She's in a coma, unaware that she may have witnessed a murder because Frank August's body is uncovered by a bulldozer on the Hough farm.

Yes, Call Down the Hawk is the story of a murder investigation, led by Undersheriff Rob Neill. But, even more, it's the story of two adult children, Russell Hough and Jane August, trying to pick up the pieces of shattered lives that were broken by their fathers. Jane escaped most of her father's turmoil, until she learns the terms of the will.

Thoughtful. Reflective. Call Down the Hawk is a leisurely paced story, seen through multiple eyes. But, Jane August, the artist, is the one who sees the land and the people with an artist's perspective. And, Frank August and Bill Hough left destruction in their wake, brutalizing the people they left behind.

Sheila Simonson's website is

Call Down the Hawk by Sheila Simonson. Perseverance Press. 2017. ISBN 9781564745972 (paperback), 248p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.