Mr. Monk Is Miserable

By Lee Goldberg



Adrian Monk and his assistant Natalie are in Paris, touring the shadowy catacombs that wind beneath the city streets, lined with millions of centuries-old human bones. Of course, Monk notices one particular skull, declaring that the person was killed recently. With the delights of Paris overshadowed by murder, Monk will have to think fast-and see in the dark-if he’s going to catch a cunning killer.

My Analysis

What’s amusing about this book is that I’ve read it before, but don’t remember when. It came up as a lottery choice for recording books for a friend, but as I got further into the book, I realized it sounded familiar. Oh well.

I’ve read several of Goldberg’s Monk stories, and they’re all delightful. I think he holds pretty true to the character on the television series. In this story, there are several chapters ‘setting the scene’ which are necessary relevant to the mystery. The chapter which included Monk admiring and then subsequently driving a sidewalk cleaner had nothing to do with the murder mysteries. It and a couple others serve to highlight Monk’s OCD. They also show a good portrayal of Paris. Personally, I would love to see the catacombs with the bones.

Told from Teeger’s first person POV, the book brings in the cops from the show and shows their quirks. Fans of the show, as I was, will enjoy further adventures from Monk.

My Rank:

Blue Belt

The Grail Tree

By Jonathan Gash



In the world of antiques the Holy Grail is a holy terror – for almost every month someone claims to possess the original. So when an inebriated ex-clergyman confided to Lovejoy that he did indeed possess the cup, the resourceful antiques dealer knew just what to make of such a statement. The trouble was that someone else thought this version of the Grail was worth stealing – and now the owner was dead amid considerable carnage.

My Analysis

What a delightful murder mystery. If you want to be overwhelmed by antiques, this is the mystery for you. The author’s research for this book must have been exhausting.

I thoroughly enjoyed the rogue Lovejoy. I loved his wit, his barbs, his cynicism. I loved his ancient car. The quips about women (they just fit his character so well, you have to smile).

The mystery is a bit complex and I’m not sure how he put the pieces together. I didn’t follow the clues as well as I think I should have. There are a LOT of characters in this book. This didn’t quite work like an Ellery Queen mystery where the detective talks to the suspects one by one to eliminate all but the killer. There was a bit of that, but much of the knowledge came from around the corner.

Still, a unique, tension- and humor filled climax that didn’t end when I thought it might. Lovejoy pulls a bit of a MacGyver, but it works so well.

Wonderful British humor, with so deep a dive into antiques you’ll want to come up for air. But it works. It has too to fit the ending.

This is an author I’d read again. I bought the book at a sale, and would have to track down on eBay or Amazon anything else from him. I think it’d be worth it.

So, as to rank. I thought about Blue, but this one’s a bit better.

My rank:

Brown Belt

The Wood

By Guy N. Smith



Cold as death, the sudden mist seeped and coiled through the wood. Naked and terror stricken, the girl floundered ever deeper through the undergrowth and the clinging black mud, desperate to escape her pursuer. But in front a worse horror waited. For with the mist came the figures from the past – from many pasts – lurching through the blinding whiteness, reaching out to clutch, choke and smother the wood!

My Analysis

A lot of Smith’s books are short, pretty basic, and don’t delve too deep into characters. Many of his books could be expanded with more detail, a bit more set up, but they are what they are.

This book is no different, other than the fact is resonated with me in the way the horror is presented. It reminded me of In The Tall Grass by King and son, where everyone who enters gets trapped and/or killed. Okay, neither the movie nor the book really explained the big rock in the middle of the grass, but never mind, this is not about that story.

The Wood presents another interesting aspect in that you have ghostly bad guys showing up. Those from the 1700s and even a WWII Nazi. I thought it interesting that a few people who entered the haunted woods encountered this fighter pilot whose parachuting scene kept repeating.

Some basic graphic (not too graphic, though) horror with creepy crawly things that kill.

I thought this one was a bit more rounded out than other Smith stories. It kept me intrigued and had an interesting ending. While part of the horror was destroyed, the haunted wood remains. That means history could still replay at some point, right?

My rank:

Purple Belt

City At World’s End

By Christopher Bulis



The Tardis lands the time travellers on the deserted observation deck of a skyscraper-like building. Giant screens show programmes about an evacuation procedure and reveal that “Zero Time” is an estimated 35 days away.

My Analysis

I like when the Doctor Who books reflect the characters and ‘knowledge’ of the time the shows aired on television. Let me explain.

This story concerns the first doctor, Barbara, Ian, and Susan. In this story, Susan is injured and taken to the hospital. During the medical exam, the nurse notices an anomaly. This strange discovery isn’t explained. Early viewers knew the Doctor was an alien. It was assumed, then that Susan, being the granddaughter, was also an alien. Hence, her being more intelligent than her teachers at the school. However, no one knew the physiognomy of the aliens (two hearts, able to temporarily breathe in outer space, etc.) until later. So, the medical exam findings only hint at Susan to be different than ‘normal’ human expectations.

Many episodes have the companions separated from the Doctor on their adventures, especially the earlier ones. This follows suit in that the Doc and Ian are together, with Susan and Barbara having their own problems elsewhere.

I also enjoyed the adventure, the dangers, and the problems. Many Doctor Who books tend to get very technically scientific. This one, I think, stays true to the show.

My rank:

Blue Belt

After Alice

by Gregory Maguire



When Alice toppled down the rabbit-hole 150 years ago, she found a Wonderland as rife with inconsistent rules and abrasive egos as the world she left behind. But what of that world? How did 1860s Oxford react to Alice’s disappearance?

In After Alice, Gregory Maguire turns his dazzling imagination to the question of underworlds, undergrounds, underpinnings—and understandings old and new, offering an inventive spin on Carroll’s enduring tale. Ada, a friend of Alice’s mentioned briefly in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, is off to visit her friend, but arrives a moment too late—and tumbles down the rabbit-hole herself.

Ada brings to Wonderland her own imperfect apprehension of cause and effect as she embarks on an odyssey to find Alice and see her safely home from this surreal world below the world. If Eurydice can ever be returned to the arms of Orpheus, or Lazarus can be raised from the tomb, perhaps Alice can be returned to life. Either way, everything that happens next is “After Alice.”

My Analysis

So, this book has two main pieces of plot. Ada, who enters Wonderland and searches for Alice, and Lydia, a caretaker and the preparation of a luncheon and the follow up search for Alice and Ada.

This was an attempt at writing in the style of Carroll at the time he wrote the original story. The problem is two-fold and they contrast. First, if read or listened to (as I did with the audio book), I think it works in the voice/style of Carroll and the time period of the original. However, for a modern reader/listener, it doesn’t. Every character is kooky. Yes, you expect some illogical characters in Wonderland, and you get some old friends dropping by. However, those in the ‘real’ world are just as kooky. This was the main problem for me, no real distinction between the Wonderland individuals and the humans.

For the first part of the book, I found it difficult switching back and forth between Ada and her adventures and Lydia and her preparing for a luncheon.

Then you have the introduction of Siam, a black child, who also falls into Ada’s Wonderland. I think, for him, this works, because of what/who he is. You have to consider the time period.

At the end, for me, it sounded as if Maguire needed to wrap up the story and rushed through an ending. There’s the trial of Alice, a disappointing monster in the Jaberwocky, the escape, and a quick scene with Darwin, then the end. No denoument, but the story did leave an opening for (egad, tell me please there’s not going to be one) a sequel.

Unfortunately, while I can see the side of the story working, I side with it not working. It was too much trying to sound like the original. The rank is based on the enjoyability factor.

My rank:

Green Belt

Passage Of The Tangmar

Old Radio Programs

This is the third old radio show in serial form. It’s called Passage of the Tangmar. Again, I apologize if I misspell character names.


An eccentric millionaire world traveler has left $1,000,000 pounds to six people who must travel from Sydney, Australia to Jamaica. The people who arrive will divide up the inheritance. Unfortunately, as the story opens, one of the six has been found murdered. Interpol sends Dirk Kendall to be first mate on the cargo ship Tangmar that is carrying the rest of the passengers. Is the murderer on board? Is it one of the six…or someone else? The story is 51 episodes and each is a bit over twelve minutes in length.

I thought it was a good plot for a serial. A good mystery with the expected further murders and action. Character development also made it a good story.


Dirk Kendall: agent for Interpol. Ex Merchant Naval officer, smokes

Basil Cheloner: 55, former Major in the British army, has a daughter

Elona Federov: 32, parents dead, Russian, smokes

Martin Lawler: surgeon, smokes

Ben Miller: Australian, 40, serial thief

Edwin Tucker: wants his name pronounced like the ‘too’ in tool, ex con, poisoned first wife and married again, 50

Goddard: ship’s captain

Lee Blake: smokes, father owns shipping business which owns the Tangmar

Sharon Cheloner: 25, daughter of Basil, mom died at childbirth

Good variety of characters and as mentioned above, most develop throughout. The major development came from, uh, the Major, and his reasons for being so belligerent and a downright ass throughout most of the story.


Each character had his/her own voice so it was easy to distinguish. Conversations stayed tight and managed to not drift too far from the basic plot.


Of course, this is a serial, so each episode ended with, if not a cliffhanger, then a moving forward of the story. Narrated from Dirk’s POV, although there were scenes without him. Those scenes were to be inferred that he later knew about the basic gist of what happened. Each episode ended with Dirk saying the title within the summary of the current situation. Not an example but similar: I was to find out more about the mystery soon enough on this…passage of the Tangmar.

Each opening sequence had a bit from the ship’s captain, then the announcer saying: Passage of the Tangmar. A story of a ship and its cargo of…death!

Good sound effects.

A particularly good mystery always has a bit of a twist at the end. While this one couldn’t be considered a twist, I wondered if the writer of the series wasn’t coaxed into making the story line to run just over a year (if the episodes were broadcast one per week), because when the guilty party was discovered, the story had about half a dozen episodes to go. So, there was a little extra half twist thrown in to keep the story going juuuust a bit longer. It worked well enough.

All in all, a decent mystery adventure with some good story involved.

My rank:

Blue Belt

Magic Island

Old Radio Programs

This is the second of three old time radio shows, broadcast in serial form. Magic Island.


I took a chance with this one, because it was geared toward YA or teens rather than adults and everything about it is a bit juvenile. Fourteen years ago, Patricia Gregory was caught in a shipwreck and was one of the few survivors. She swears her 1 year old daughter also survived and has spent the intervening years searching for her. A mysterious short wave radio broadcasts sends her, a friend, and the teen who also heard the broadcast off to a strange island where they find the daughter. Sorry, that’s not really a spoiler. They spend the rest of the story trying to escape from a mad scientists and his cohorts who want to control the world. The story runs 130 episodes, each around twelve minutes in length.


Jerry Hall: 16

Captain Bradford: nicknamed Tex. A bit of a scientist.

G-47: bad guy scientists

Joan Gregory/Cleostra: 15, daughter of Patricia

Patricia Gregory: mother of Joan

Elaine: 22, military commander

A few other characters and each have their own personalities and—somewhat annoying—idiosyncrasies to be discussed in the dialogue section. I thought early on that Patricia and Bradford were government agents because that was sort of hinted at. That fact was never verified or expanded upon. Patricia was annoying in her constant fretting. In essence, that was her character. She didn’t get involved in much action. She just stood around fretting a lot. The main characters were Joan and Jerry.


Patricia never raised her voice, always fretted. Jerry spoke in teen slang and said “Golly whiskers” way too many times. The boat’s captain spoke in only one word sentences. The islanders all spoke in high-pitched voices which was annoying. Elaine (I forget her island name), sounded like Glenda, the Good Witch from the North, as a robot. When she changed tones later, she sounded like a sultry vixen from a 1940’s movie. Some of the dialogue was laughable today in their sexism. Jerry says something along the lines of, “Well, leave this to a man, we don’t expect much from a woman.” and “Joan’s just acting like a woman.” in her overreaction to things.


One of the main plot points was that G-47 wanted Bradford’s formula for a universal solvent. The question of where do you hold a substance that dissolves everything was brought up, but not definitively answered. Bradford ‘just does it.’

No music for dramatic effect. Few sound effects. The story was drawn out with them going to the island, coming home, going back, coming home and Bradford and Elaine going back and having to be rescued by the others. Apparently, no one really cared about Jerry’s father who must have been out of his mind worrying about the danger his son was in.

The romance between Patricia and Bradford was subtle. The new romantic emotions between Jerry and Joan was amusing, especially the jealousy from Joan whenever Jerry would say nice things about Elaine. Amusing, too, was they referred to Elaine’s being 22 as really ‘old.’

As I said, fairly juvenile and while the plot was okay, the characters were tedious, the dialogue overdone, and 130 episodes, way too long.

My rank:

Camouflage Belt

Undercover Carson

Old Radio Programs

So for the next three weeks, I’d like to review three old radio serials. Technically, they’re not books, but with the multiple episode in serial form, they tell a complete story, so could be a book in one sense. Of course the story had to be formatted and written for radio, but there is a story. I could probably track down the writers of each, but I’ll provide a link to the website where you can listen to them. Look around and you can find sites to download them.

First up is: Undercover Carson. Secret Agent. Operation – Death Ray. An assignment in Rio.


That’s how the first was introduced each time. Bruce Carson is on the trail of scientists whose plane crashed in South America. Each has part of a plan for a ‘death ray’ weapon. Along with his contact, Giles Davenport, Carson weaves a trail through adventures to find the scientists. He also encounters several foils along the way, most of them in the form of attractive females…all of them suspect. Since I don’t have a ‘book’ forgive me if I happen to misspell character names. The story last 104 episodes, with each around twelve minutes in length.


Bruce Carson: spy, pip collector

Sir Giles Davenport: Carson’s handler and main contact in Rio

Faye Carila: French/Italian, exotic dancer

Hettie Fitzhenry: painter of birds, red hair

Sally Bruen: 22, daughter of one of the scientists

Angelo: Davenport’s manservant

Angelo: nephew of the first Angelo

Roger Dovial: Carson’s former classmate

Helena Jensen: antique dealer, former spy

So a lot of characters, very standard fare. Almost no one is who they seem and that’s quite obvious right from the start. Faye shows up way too often to be ‘just’ a dancer. Hettie and Bruce play the game where neither gives complete answers to questions. Helena acts all mysterious because of her jaded past. Roger comes across as a bit pompous and not forthcoming. Giles doesn’t seem to do anything except stay around his hotel room all the time. He really enjoys his alcohol and he and Bruce drink during times when they’re waiting for something or someone.

The characters are enjoyable for radio and their descriptions have to be imagined through their voices and dialogue.


The story moved along well with dialogue. Of course the script was written to remind listeners of the story at large. Conversations tended to follow that theme before introducing something new. One thing that became a bit tedious were the repetitive rounds between Giles and Bruce in suspecting and defending individuals. Giles would suspect one of the women and Bruce would deny any wrongdoing. Bruce would suspect one of Giles’ friends and Giles would adamantly deny any wrongdoing. After a while, it only seemed to draw out the story more.

One of the poorer parts of dialogue was that while this was set in Brazil and the main language would be Portuguese, the speakers tends to slaughter Spanish pronunciations. Angelo is pronounced as An-jello. Senor is pronounced as Se-nor, rather than Se-nyor.


This is told from Bruce’s POV and he narrates parts of scenes between dialogue bits. He ends each episode with a summary of the cliffhanger and always getting the title in. Not a real example: So, there it was. I was faced with another challenge to overcome in….Operation Death Ray.

As for the writing, I think the author of the serial did a good job of keeping themes throughout. The main ‘theme’ was birds. Whenever Bruce and Giles would speak through the radio or phone, it was always with code using birds. One of Bruce’s stories to the ladies was he was a bird-watcher. One of the clubs he visited was the Golden Eagle. Faye is dressed in an Aztec bird costume for Carnival.

There was a scene where Bruce and Giles had their drinks drugged near the beginning of the story. While it was sort of agreed to later who the culprit was, it really wasn’t a definite guilty verdict.

Of course there was the stereotypical scene where a person is two seconds from revealing some vital information…then is killed.

All in all, a fun adventure…with not a lot of adventure. Bruce spends most of his time in Rio with Giles and the women. Not often does he get out into the jungle.

I also thought the ending a bit chintzy and didn’t agree with it because there weren’t enough clues throughout the story to justify the last revelation.

Still, enjoyable and if you have the time to plod through all 104 episodes, go for it.

My rank:

Purple Belt


By Dennis Maulsby



Father Donahey is a priest retired from active service. He is assigned to fill in for the regular priests in Winterset, Iowa. However, he soon discovers this area is fraught with supernatural creatures. Some are good…some are not. In 11 short stories (12 actually but one recounts an adventure when he was in Argentina), he encounters strange creatures and he has to determine whether they are their to help…or destroy.


Ignatius Patrick Donahey: priest, pipe smoker, tippler (in the early stories), elderly, drives a Ford 100

Rick: Sheriff, also is a pooka

Catherine Darcy: psychologist, has a pet crow, is a witch

Clara Murphy: elderly, has an attraction for Donahey

There are other characters, some of whom show up in a few stories. I think all of them could be developed further in longer stories or a novelette or a full length novel. I enjoyed them all, just wanted more. More background, more conflict with them, more interaction with Donahey. Donahey, of course, gets a bit more background info and I liked that.


The author uses a good bit of local dialect with spelling, especially when it comes to the Irish. Some Latin thrown in. Otherwise I thought the characters each had good voices.


As mentioned above, while I enjoyed the stories, I wanted more. None are bad, don’t get me wrong. They easily could have been lengthened fleshed out to include a bit more character info and interaction. A few didn’t have Donahey as the ‘hero who saves the day,’ but has one of his supernatural friends come in to help, usually while the Father is on the ground injured.

There are many areas to explore and I think the author did a good job of introducing us to the ‘other’ Winterset. Using fiction and fact he brings us through the door (or should I say the ley line gate?) into this Iowa town. I hope he goes further with more stories and more in depth characters.

Several misspelled words.

The author has a style that throws me a bit. Sometimes he will not ascribe things to the people or creatures and it’s left to the reader to infer this. Not an actual example: Donahey walked toward the fence. Hands found the gate latch. Sweat dripped from neck and saturated clothing.

While this is okay, the author does this a lot. I’m wanting to put in his hands, his clothing. I think it works to a point.

The author is into supernatural stories, and fans can check out other of his novels with other spooky things. As I said, this is a good intro to Maulsby and his writing.

My rank:

Purple Belt


By Bill Napier



From a remote Scottish mountain, Dr. Oliver Webb—one of the world’s great physicists—is whisked away by a military helicopter and routed to the Mexican border. Along with the leading men of physics and one sexy atom smasher, Webb is given an impossible task: identify the asteroid—code name Nemesis—that is on course to collide with and destroy America. They have five days to stop it. If they can’t, the President will retaliate first by ordering the U.S. military to pull the nuclear trigger…

But when one of Webb’s colleagues is found dead, he has every reason to suspect that there is more to Nemesis than he knows. Then, he makes a staggering discovery: That the secret to saving the world is hidden in a 17th Latin century manuscript that has gone mysteriously missing.

An electrifying race against time, NEMESIS spans centuries and the globe in a white hot journey through physics, history, and geopolitics—and mankind’s ultimate duel with the unknown.

My Analysis

So, I thought this was going to be a wonderful thriller with lots of action, building danger, a little trip to the past that relates to the present, a hero who steps in at the last minute to save the day. What I got was a thriller full of scientific jargon, much of it not comprehensible, a bit of action, a little trip to the past that related to the present, but only by a stretch of the imagination, a hero who steps in at the last minute to save the day.

Seriously, the first third of this book is all scientific stuff, discussion upon discussions upon discussions by scientists who don’t have clue how to do their assignment. Enter a bunch of politicians and military men with their own roles.

I will admit the plot in and of itself is pretty good. However, the author brings in the past with a thin line that I had to delicately handle to believe.

More writing craft problems included a lot ‘ing’ and ‘ly’ words. A lot of ‘was’ and ‘were’ usage. The author kept using present tense for some scenes which didn’t make sense. Many times conversations were done in the narrative which was okay.

My biggest problem was the science and trigonometry and formulae weren’t explained. I sort of had to just go along with it.

My rank:

Green Belt