by Martin Caidin
1930. A billion dollars worth of diamonds is stolen from a South African train, then hijacked en route to Germany by a force operating a fantastic flying machine. Included in the heist was an enigmatic cube rumored to be ancient. However, the cube is all part of a plan put together, in part, by Indiana Jones, famed archeologist and adventurer. Together, with his band of assistants, Indy is off on another world-wide chase to discover the identity of the pirates of the sky.
This is my first story I’ve read about Indiana Jones. Of course, I’ve seen all the movies and enjoy the character. This reads, however, like one of the old Doc Savage stories from the 1930s/40s. It has the same quality of adventure.
Henry ‘Indiana’ Jones, Jr.: archeologist, professor at the University of London, widower, on sabbatical from Princeton as a professor of Medieval Literature and Studies, uses a whip
Willard ‘Madman’ Cromwell: Royal Flying Corps squadron commander in World War I, fluent in several languages, drinker, portly but muscled, scar on one arm from a friendly fire round as well as other war gotten scars, former member of the Royal Navy, expert in demolitions and weapons, excellent memory, handlebar mustache, smoker
Gale Parker: red hair, ruggedly beautiful, Ph.d in ancient cultures, mother was a Wiccan witch, expert in the ‘black arts’, real name Mirna Abi Kalil, Muslim father, athletic including expertise in jujitsu, archer, expert inweaponry
Tarkiz Belem: Kurd, former pro wrestler and bodyguard, has connections from the Vatican to the gutter dives, exudes an unattractive odor, shrewd but not overly intelligent, multilingual, wanted for crimes in several countries, gold fanatic
Rene Foulois: French, fighter pilot in World War I, tall, slender, thin mustache, wealthy, family is well known vintners, secret agent for the French Foreign Legion
Harry Henshaw: American Colonel in the U.S. Army, in technical intelligence
Jack Shannon: Indy’s long time pal, blues musician, thin, owns a nightclub in Chicago
Again, characters one might expect to see in the Doc Savage stories. Enough information about each to keep them interesting. A nice variety of personalities.
Distinctive voices which you would expect from such a unique cast. Explanatory conversations are broken up to give them a bit of flavor to keep them from being boring.
At the time of this reading, I was trudging through a few books that were okay, but not especially interesting. I was ready for something different. This is the type of adventure story I enjoy, one that helps the reader ‘escape’ into an exciting world of danger and excitement. Lots of action. Again a Doc Savage feel to it with the use of gadgetry and specialized technology. Delicious fact based detail kept me moving through to see what would come next. A well written story using a movie character.
by Henry Kane
What do you do when the dead guy in your girlfriend’s apartment disappears? Peter Chambers, New York private investigator, finds the situation thus. The other situation is his girlfriend is being hounded by a millionaire who has problems of his own with an estranged wife. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Enter another millionaire who wants Peter to enter a complex web of blackmail and untangle the threads.
I really can’t say more because this one is a hoot and besides I can’t say more without revealing too much. Kane’s mind is deliciously vicious when it comes to creating plots. This is a wild one all the way through.
Peter Chambers: private investigator, tall, smokes, drives a Chevrolet convertible
Arlene Anthony: 26, tall, attractive, heart-shaped face, high cheekbones, black eyes, red hair, long legs, crooked teeth, stage actress, smokes, real name Angelina Antoninni, from a farming family, only child, Peter’s girlfriend
Thomas Rutherford Lyons, Junior: millionaire, owns a yacht, married but separated, in love with Arlene, big muscular man, 6’3”, 36, curly blond hair, ice gray eyes, family money from plastics, co-producer on Arlene’s musical, owns Cadillacs, a Continental, and a Rolls Royce
David Holly: 47, millionaire, co-producer of Arlene’s musical, divorced because of infidelity, black hair, black eyes, black mustaches, hawk nose, baritone, slight paunch, tall, capped teeth, smokes
Stereotypical characters for this genre, but that’s all right. You expect them and enjoy them. Chambers, even though he finds himself in tough situations, doesn’t take himself too seriously. Not a comedian, but not a serious Joe either. Everybody drinks and smokes. I enjoyed the over-the-top personalities.
Conversations, for the most part are quick, clipped. A lot of back and forth.
First person from Chambers’ POV. Flowing words with repetitions every now and then. The story advances at a rapid rate because scenes are to the point. This is, of course, part of the pulp fiction crowd where the women are beautiful, the PI’s can take a punch or two but usually are knocked unconscious at least once, drink and smoke. Instances of profanity but not too many to get worked up about. Original and amusing similes. Kane has a way with words, uses some fancy ones now and then but it’s fun. I also enjoy reading a book from decades ago and reveling in the references: self-service elevators were just coming into use; answering services, and an interesting inclusion of a topic that was particularly interesting back in the day. I thought about brown belt but this is so wonderful I would read it again.
by Barry Johnson
Incensed by a recent case involving a doctor and medical fraud that blew up because of corruption from his superior Department of Justice agent Bryan Hampton decides to transfer from Chicago to Las Vegas to work for his old college buddy, U.S. Attorney Paul Dixon.Hampton’s first case involves a lawyer collaborating with a doctor to defraud the insurance and medical system. Working with a former FBI agent and state of the art technology, Hampton and his associates discover a tangled web of deceit and murder.
Interesting plot. A bit different from a normal mystery thriller in that it involves medical fraud. Medical/health issue are hot topics in today’s world and medical fraud is wrought with corruption and under the table deals just as much as anything else. It’s a nice change of direction for a mystery.
Bryan Hampton: 54, Department of Justice investigator living in Chicago, formerly with Florida DOJ, divorced, has two married daughters, attended Utah University, father was in the Army, drives a Corvette
Paul Dixon: U.S. Attorney for the Nevada District, Hampton’s friend from college, attended Stanford Law, former Clark County Commissioner, has married daughters
Gayle Baker: mid 40′s, former FBI agent, working medical fraud investigations in the Southwestern Region, formerly worked in DC, single, attorney, attractive, athletic physique, only child
Josif Stolic: physician (orthopedic surgery), bearded, big man, runs a health care fraud prevention company, married, five children
Ari Mirzoyan: chiropractor, runs the Accident and Health Restoration Clinics, married, wife is a paid consultant whose only client are the clinics, Armenian ancestry, 55, divorce four times, wealthy, practed medicine in six states, drives a Jaguar convertible
Descriptions vary with enough background information, but I never had a clear image of each character.
Lectures and a lot of details spoken by most of the characters. There is so much explanatory dialogue the characters sound the same. Johnson goes into a lot of detail about various aspects of medical fraud but the individual voices don’t carry through because everybody lectures or has lengthy explanations. Agents don’t speak like agents and criminals don’t speak like criminals. Everybody blended into one voice.
Chapters are headed by Location/Date/Time. Not that it makes any influence on my ranking decision, but I found it interesting to note that the format was not justified, but ragged right. Johnson feels the need to explain a lot more than is necessary up front. The events leading to Hampton’s transfer was too long and could have been done in a few chapters. Because of the explanations beforehand, there was no tension or buildup. POV changes within the scene.
Little action. A lot of meetings between people discussing matters. I realize that it is not a shoot ‘em up type of story, but even what action existed was over detailed.
by D. R. Benson
Ten years after the fateful incident at Reichenbach Falls, Holmes foils another plot by Professor Moriarty. Days later he is drawn to New York and a renewed acquaintance with Irene Adler, singer and actress who is to star in a new play. Soon Holmes and Watson are engrossed in another mad plot involving their greatest nemesis. Can they solve a kidnapping and a huge theft of gold before all is lost?
I do enjoy Holmes stories and I haven’t read very many I haven’t liked. This one is a quick read, about half the length of normal novels. It has the usual deductive reasoning and puzzle.
James Moriarty: Professor, vulpine face, sharp nose, beady eyes, pale gray thin hair, knowledgeable about mathematics
Sherlock Holmes: private investigator in London, hawk-like nose, tall, lean, ancestry is half French, plays the violin, master of disguise
John Watson: doctor, friend of Holmes and shares his lodging, twice a widower, writer of the cases of Holmes, former Army man,
Irene Adler: actress, singer, met Holmes in a previous case, has a son
Thomas Mix: former cowboy, sings, former cavalry member in Cuba and the Army in South Africa
Ms. Reichenbach: German, governess to Adler’s son, light blue eyes, hair in a bun, just past thirty years of age
Lafferty: Inspector with the NYPD
Mortimer McGraw: around 60, portly, President of the International Gold Exchange
Pretty standard fair for a Holmes novel. Not too much detail about any particular, but just enough.
Nice New York voices. The main characters come across well.
First person from Watson’s POV. I really enjoyed the period references-cost of theater tickets, the building of the subway and the elevated trains, steamships-and the language used. Also, the inclusion of real people of he time period, including a famous writer. Well written for a novelization of the movie. Typical Holmes.
by Wendy Hornsby
Who killed Park Holloway, president of Anacapa Community College? Maggie MacGowan, investigative filmmaker on a short-term contract teaching film production is on the case. And she has plenty of suspects: The art student whose award winning project Holloway wanted scuttled? The college’s fund raising chairperson who discovered Holloway’s illegal financial shenanigans? The interim vice president of the college? A donor who was duped by Holloway? While Maggie deals with a new love in her life and seeking background information for one of her students, she steps closer each day to exposing the killer. Will her final film project end in her death?
A nice standard mystery with a few subplots for filler. Hornsby presents a well rounded mystery with the usual action and suspect cast.
Margot ‘Maggie’ Eugenia Duchamps MacGowan: 40+, investigative filmmaker on a short-term contract to teach film production at Anacapa Community College, has a nineteen year old daughter, has a stepson, father was a professor of physics, attended Berkley after convent school, widow for almost a year, afraid of thunder/lightning, dating, has an aging mother, has a dog and three horses, has a sister, brother dead, has had comsmetic surgery on her nose
Ronald ‘Sly’ Miller: 19, sculpture, brown hair and eyes, wolf-like face, was in foster care or on the streets since a baby
Max Duchamps: Maggie’s uncle, dark featured, round stature, lawyer
Lew Kaufman: chair of the Anacapa C.C. Art Department, Sly’s mentor, 6’5”, thin, near 50, stoop-shouldered, nearly bald
Kate Tejeda: Maggie’s friend and former roommate in school and college, History Professor at Anacapa C.C., chair of the Academic Senate, husband is Anacapa’s chief of police, wealthy
Joan Givens: director of Anacapa C.C. Foundation, tall and slender, just past fifty, single, pretty
Tom Juarequi: round frame, has a mustaches and wears a bad toupee, chairs the college Board of Trustees
There are a lot of characters in this one with plenty of good background information. Especially regarding Maggie. This is well done so that new readers won’t be lost in questions about where Maggie has been in past stories.
I think the voices were fairly distinctive. Conversations stayed on point and more often than not ended up veering back to the mystery.
First person from Maggie’s POV. Some profanity. Varying lengths of chapters. Even though the subplot made, as I said for a well rounded story, I would have enjoyed a bit more focus on the main mystery. Hornsby presents a good day in the life of Maggie with her responsibilities toward her mother and her horses and students. There’s always an open door to keep Maggie from staying in one place too long. Action is subtle, tension stays medium low.
by M. R. Sellars
In 1975, a few days before Christmas, a little girl in the small Missouri township of Hullis, a little girl runs afoul of a child molester. Deputy Skip Carmichael receives the first call on the case, but his discoveries are more than he imagined. Thirty-five years later, Sheriff Skip is dealing with a serial killer who drops bodies off in his town seven years running. This year, he receives a visit from the fifth FBI investigator to handle the case in the form of Constance Mandalay. Will this year be any different or can Mandalay and Carmichael ferret out the anomalies and inconsistencies to the string of murders?
Serial killer mysteries are always unique. This one is no exception. Depending on the story, though, this type of story told in two parts with a past and a present, can sometimes lose me. If the clues aren’t clear or the action isn’t enough to hold my interest. However, I didn’t find that in this book. The circumstances were presented well enough I wanted to know the solution.
Addison ‘Skip’ Carmichael: 27 (1975), Deputy Sheriff in Hullis Township, smokes, brown hair, has a super-sensitive observational skills, came from a farming family, played football in high school
Constance Mandalay: FBI Special Agent from St. Louis, small stature, brown hair, chest scars from a shooting
Merrie Frances Callahan: 45 (2010), lives in a retirement home, never recovered from sexual abuse as a child. Parents dead. Has a younger sister. Graying chestnut shoulder length hair.
Basically, two characters. Merrrie is there because she was the victim, but the book centers around the sheriff and the agent. The others are on the periphery even though their minor roles play a part. Good contrast between the then and now versions of Skip and Merrie. Not too much background info on Constance. I would have liked a bit more depth with her.
Skip has some lengthy narratives. I found the dialogue comfortable. Not forced or too hick-ish.
Some chapters headed by date, time, and location. Some profanity. Scene breaks are various sized snowflakes. A lot of narrative. Fairly good descriptions. I did get a mental picture of some of the town and locations. Not much action mostly Constance tracking down clues. However, even though the supernatural goodies don’t come for awhile, there is a compelling aspect to the book that kept me going. I was hoping the questions I had throughout would be answered and they were.
by Shaun Morey
Atticus Fish, billionaire ex pat, now living in Magdalena Bay, is called into track down Digby, an archaeologist who may have discovered the famed Jesuit treasure. Digby, however, has been kidnapped by a pair of twin knuckleheads who decide to steal the treasure for themselves. Soon to get involved in the chase for gold, silver, pearls and a cursed crown are a wealthy real estate mogul, a strange woman who keeps her lair hermetically sealed, and a womanizing lush black marketeer. Up and down the Baja coastline, under the sea and in the air, the adventure never stops. For Atticus, danger stalks him every minute and only with a little know-how, and a few surprises can he survive.
This is so much more than a treasure hunt. The plot is very simple, though, but what makes it fun are the characters.
Atticus Fish: formerly Francis Finch, ex attorney, billionaire, expatriate, lives in Baja Mexico on his own island. Owns a yacht, a trawler, a seaplane, a mule, and two labs. 6’4”, braided goatee, long hair, widower, ex alcoholic, boxer in college,
Duncan ‘Digby’ Rigby: Professor of archeology at the University of Arizona, drives an F-150, has a shark tooth tattoo on arm, has a sister, mustached
Zack and Jack: twins, dirty beards, Jack chews, Zack has crooked teeth, drive a 1979 Toyota truck, Zack has kids and is a part-time custodian at the University of Arizona
Toozie McGill: Fish’s ex sister in-law, P.I., drives a diesel truck
Harvey Dixon: Thief, smokes, brother is a bounty hunter/hit man
Ronald Stump: Real estate mogul, owns a mega-yacht, wears a toupee
Charlie Diamond: Black marketeer, made his wealth in billboards, owns several yachts, smokes cigars.
These are very unique characters, every one. Fun, vivid, kooky. I especially enjoyed Barbie, the germaphobe. Too bad some had to die because I would have like to read about them in later books.
Very good voices. Conversations stay on point and don’t drag.
Short chapters headed by location of scene, some profanity but not an overabundance. Three epilogues? Action is quick. Descriptions give you the right amount of material. Atticus’ back story doesn’t detract from the story. I really enjoyed this story. I liked the adventure and the fun. I recommend you to read Morey’s first book, Wahoo Rhapsody, but it’s not necessary to read first before El Dorado Blues.
by Day Keene
Private investigator Tom Doyle is hired by a buddy from the war to look into a case in the gambling town of Central City. James Burton is on death row for a murder he may not have committed. Those in criminal power are blackmailing the wife of a sitting Senator running for governor (and who vows to clean up Central City) into calling it quits. The blackmail: Burton may be the illegitimate child of the Senator’s wife given up for adoption. Doyle takes the case to discover the truth but already knows the stakes are high and the people with whom he has to deal are powerful…and deadly.
Gambling, politics, blackmail. These always are favorites to make a good pulp fiction thriller.
Tom Doyle: Married with twin sons, private investigator in Chicgo, was a Marine in WWII, owns a gambling joint in Central City, has a stomach scar from a bayonet, smokes, white hair, blue eyes
Tiny Anderson: 45, was in World War II, smokes cigars, white hair, sunken eyes, big man, was a Marine in WWII
Fay Rogers:18, attends a girls college out east taking design courses, father dead, thin, mother owns a gambling joint
Meager: Justice of the Peace in Central City, scrawny neck, tall, rheumy eyes
Lieutenant Phillips: Central City police officer, clean cut, smokes cigars
Phil and Bill Karney: twins, blonde, bad cops
Paul Hanlon: doctor, Central City Commissioner of Public Health, drinker, white hair, wears pince-nez
John T. Eggers: attorney, alcoholic, married, small man, bulbous nose, dyed black hair, smokes cigars
Pretty standard characters and just what you’d expect from a book like this. Still, it’s refreshing to read about these types from time to time. Everything you need to know can be summed up in a few sentences. No need for a lot of back story unless it’s relevant to the plot.
The men are men, the women are women, the bad guys talk like bad guys. The drunks are drunks and the lackeys are lackeys. Standard fare. No nonsense, no extraneous words. Narratives stay on track.
First person from Doyle’s POV. This book was written long before computers, cell phones and ipads. I love the references and the phrasing to what used to be. Portable plug in phones, four bits, jalopy, eight dollars a day for a motel room. No profanity. Action is tough and straight. Death was swift and violent. Just what a pulp fiction book should be.
by Julie Kenner
Manhattenite Jennifer crane longs to be a Broadway star, but makes due with being a singing waitress. The previous year, Jennifer’s friend and former roommate, Melanie Prescott, was involved in a real version of an online game of intrigue, puzzles, and murder. Melanie survived and subsequently joined the NSA. However, the games, real and online, are still being played. This time, Jennifer has to stop the assassin from completing the mission or she may be dead.
I like puzzle thrillers, even light-hearted, humorous ones. I couldn’t fully comprehend this one because it deals with Broadway productions, with which I’m not familiar. Still an enjoyable tale with a bit of romance to keep it spicy.
Jennifer Crane: employed as a singing waitress in Manhatten, trying to be a stage actress, tall, thin, former smoker, has a sister an niece, has brothers
Brian: Jennifer’s friend, stage actor, homosexual
Birdie: did prison time, blonde, has a tattoo of a tropical bird on her shoulder, husky voice
Melanie Prescott: Jennifer’s friend and former roommate, has a live-in boyfriend, pretty, words for the National Security Agency, was a survivor of a killer’s scheme the previous year. Lives in Maryland.
Devlin Brady: FBI agent who was involved in Melanie’s case. Won a tony award as a child.
Andrew Garrison: tall, geeky, spiked hair, thick glasses, freelance programmer, was shot while involved with a ‘real’ game.
Well developed characters even though not too much information is given. Kenner doesn’t slow things down with a lot of back story. Quick profiles and onto the action and story.
The main conversations are between Jennifer and Devlin. They play well off each other. Jennifer is all girl in her speech and actions.
First person from various characters. Chapters are named for the character presented. Some chapters are present tense. Relatively short chapters. Some profanity. Light-hearted tone when dealing with Jennifer. Action is quick and the sex is left to your imagination. I’ve read Kenner before and have enjoyed her stories.
by Adam Nevil
Kyle Freeman is a documentary film maker down on his luck. Deep in debt, he accepts an assignment from enigmatic Max Solomon to produce a film about a cult from the 60s and 70s. The cult was ruled by Sister Katherine and spread from England to France and met its bloody end in the Sonoran desert. Kyle takes the project even though the time frame for completion is short. What he doesn’t understand is that by interviewing surviving members of the decades’ old cult and visiting the abandoned places where Sister Katherine’s madness was revealed, he is inviting forces he doesn’t understand to become aware of him. Soon, he sees shapes in the walls of old structures, his dreams are plagued with nightmarish experiences, and entities too horrible to comprehend haunt him wherever he goes. Can he find the answers before it’s too late?
I’ve read hundreds of horror stories, books filled with supernatural plots. Most of them I’ve enjoyed. Some of them I haven’t. This book ranks up those by masters like Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith. This takes the typical nutty religious cult to a new level.
Kyle Freeman: early 30s, documentary film maker, in debt, smokes, owns a cat, has tattoos on his arms
Maximillian Solomon: CEO of Revelation Productions, tiny stature, graceful, glittering eyes, tanned, thin hair implants, had a facelift, was an original member of The Last Gathering cult, has a degree in Economics
Dan: Kyle’s partner, early 30s, white hair, bulky, smokes
Finger Mouse: Kyle’s film editor, early 30s, computer guru, 19th Century beard, milky green complexion
Susan White: Sister Isis when she was in The Last Gathering cult, white hair, hunched body, thin skin, blue eyes, lives in Brighton
Rachel Phillips: QC, former tenant of The Last Gathering’s house, plump, blonde, wears glasses, former United Nations employee
Arthur Smith: Brother Gabriel when a member of the The Last Gathering, wears glasses, has dandruff, thin, greasy grey curly hair, white beard, cares for his elderly mom in his small flat, bad breath
Martha Lake: 58, former member of The Temple of the Last Days in America, thin, grey lined white hair, once attractive features gone to seed, brownish teeth, smoker, drinks whiskey, has three children by three different men, came from an abusive father and alcoholic mother, dropped out of high school, took drugs
Vivid characters, detailed, in depth. They’re what you might expect, and more. The descriptions of the scene or where the characters are or live fit each character.
Nevill is British and so are many of his characters so there are British idioms, phrasing, and slang. Excellent voices and characterizations. A lot of the dialogue is narration by various characters explaining about the cult so there are long narratives. Because of the nature of the story, this is how the reader learns more and only adds to the bigger picture.
The book is separated into parts or sections, titled. Long chapters. Profanity. Nevill writes with incomplete sentences, starting many with conjunctions. This is not necessarily distracting and he’s experienced enough editors would allow this. Nevill is akin to Lovecraft in that he doesn’t show you the ‘monster’ in its full horror, but teases, lets the terror sneak and settle in. Some books spark the imagination. This one lit a bonfire. Some horror books never quite get going. This one leaps forward into something special.