The Stalking Man

cover

By William J. Coughlin

William-J-Coughlin

http://www.amazon.com/Stalking-Man-William-J-Coughlin-ebook/dp/B005BP0ELE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1395733918&sr=8-1&keywords=the+stalking+man%2C+coughlin

Plot

Edward Teague was caught after killing several women. However, he was deemed insane, hospitalized, and released after a doctor confirmed he was mentally stable. But he’s not and he’s back in the killing game. A homicide detective can’t convince anyone that Teague is responsible for a series of heinous murders around the Midwest. Teague’s lawyer is having second thoughts about the insanity defense. What will both do when Teague shifts his focus and makes the killings more personal?

Nice plot. I expected more of a police procedural but was not too disappointed to understand everybody knows who the killer was at the beginning.

Characters

Anthony Russo: 47, Lieutenant in homicide, divorced twice, black hair, blue eyes, muscular build, Roman nose, Irish mother/Italian father, soft features, smokes, a little over 6′

Thomas Knapp: defense attorney, married with a son and daughter, wife is a problem drinker, steel gray hair, late 40s, muscular frame, teaches a night school criminal law course, has a sister, was in Army intelligence

Edward Teague: serial killer, father was a hunter, married with stepson, a little over 6′, drives a Chevrolet

Marie Coyle: early 30s, police officer in records and identification department, auburn hair, drives a Chevrolet, smokes

Joe Rosinski: early 30s, Russo’s partner, 5’8”, hard body, square jaw, mashed nose, brown eyes, light brown curly hair, smokes

Carl Rose: psychiatrist, divorced with two children, small, lean, smokes cigars

Do you see the similarity in many of these characters? Almost everybody smokes, has a similar build or drives the same car. There are some blurred lines here in character distinction.

Dialogue

For the most part the dialogue is okay. Voices come through pretty well, however, Teague’s dialogue sounds B-movie. His profanity sounds forced and false.

Writing

Lengthy chapters. POV switches within scenes which was distracting. Profanity. The things that jumped out at me were: repeated phrasing (Russo uses “I’d rather deal with a cobra than with Teague.” type phrasing several times.). Writers today are supposed to avoid overuse of adverbs especially after tag lines: spoke softly, move cautiously, etc. and watch the ‘ing’ words. Coughlin has a plethora of each. Maybe it was a different attitude when this book was written (1970s), but I’ve read better written material.

My rank:

Green Belt

Green

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Quick Kick – Hundred Dollar Baby

hundred_dollar_baby_by_robert_b_parker

By Robert B. Parker

Parker

https://www.amazon.com/Hundred-Dollar-Baby-Spenser-Book-34-ebook/dp/B000OVLIR4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1497527026&sr=8-1&keywords=hundred+dollar+baby

Plot

April Kyle, a prostitute from Spenser’s past, comes back into his life-with deadly complications.

My Analysis

What can I say about a book by a popular and prolific author. Parker died too soon because we’re going to miss Spenser and Stone. Other authors may take up the mantle and write in the same vein, and those might be enjoyable, but nobody will truly match the style of Parker.

I listened to the audio book, read by Joe Montegna, who is an excellent narrator. His voice brings the characters to life, and something about his voice adds that extra amusement in the less than serious scenes and dialogue, whether it’s Hawk or Susan or Spenser himself talking.

Yes, it’s true, a one line plot description listed on Amazon, but with Spenser novels, it’s never quite that simple…or for that matter, too complicated. Spenser is hired to dissuade some bad guys from harassing April’s escort business, but then the wheel spins and he’s up against some bad people and lies, and murder.

Parker brings love and tragedy to his story. I always smile at the relationship between Spenser and Susan and Hawk is such a wonderful character although my image of him is a bit different from Avery Brooks on the television show. The friendship between Spenser and Hawk is wonderful. There’s always an exchange related to race, but it’s not bigotry. It’s based on respect and caring and true and strong friendship. They know each other so well and work together with precision.

The two cops who show up in these novels are also good characters and sometimes I wish they had more scenes.

Some of Parker’s books are more involved than others, but I’ve never read a bad story from him.

My Rank:

Brown Belt

Brown

Virals

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by Kathy Reichs

kathy-reichs

http://kathyreichs.com/

Plot

Tory Brennan and her three friends, Hiram, Shelton, and Ben, live on an island just off of Charleston, South Carolina. Frequently, they travel to Loggerhead Island where there is a research facility, employing many of their parents. Recent trips had them encounter a wolf and her mate, a dog, and their wolf-pups. As the book opens, they have traveled to the island again to discover the fate of one of the pups who has gone missing. In the process, they find an old soldier’s dogtag and subsequently that the missing canine is part of a secret experiment. Soon they’re involved in a decade’s old missing person’s investigation someone wants to keep quiet. The most dangerous part, though, is when the teens start to experience…physiological changes.

Not quite YA, but a bit older, the new classification of New Adult. I like the plot. It’s leads you through the story and keeps you wanting to know what happens next. The setting is just off the coast but isolated enough you feel you’re not really part of South Carolina anymore. Reichs has fun with this one.

Characters

Tory Brennan: 14, lives on Morris Island near Charleston, SC, mother dead, intelligent, loves science, Temperance Brennan is her great-aunt, came from Massachusetts, red hair, green eyes, freckled, 5’5”, slender physique, likes dogs

Christopher ‘Kit’ Howard: Tory’s father, thirty-one, a marine biologist and research professor at the institute on Loggerhead, workaholic,

Hiram ‘Hi’ Stolowitski: 15, out of shape by being a bit overweight, likes floral print shirts, wavy brown hair, dad is lab technician, mom is a community watch organizer,

Ben Blue: 16, father runs a ferry service and is in a sort of estranged marriage, dark eyes, owns a boat, claims to be part Indian, thick black hair, medium height, physically fit,

Shelton Devers: 15, black, short, skinny, wears glasses, father black, mother Japanese, parents work on Loggerhead Island, likes puzzles and computers, dislikes insects and spiders,

Marcus E. Karsten: Professor and Department Chair, Charleston University College of Veterinary Medicine; Head Administrator on Loggerhead, late fifties, skinny, glasses, dark, thinning hair

Whitney Rose Dubois: Kit’s girlfriend, bleached hair, manicured hands, fake breasts

Jason Taylor: blonde, blue eyes, sophomore, lacrosse player

Brian Limestone: librarian, mid-thirties, black hair, rat-faced, owns cats

Very good characters. Very likable good guys and baddies you expect. There’s a variety that doesn’t get dull. Tory’s tomboy nature is dominant but she still feels the girlish crush for the attractive boys.

Dialogue

Conversations don’t wander. Good voices for each character. I enjoy a book more when I can ‘see’ in my mind who’s talking and imagine reactions and expressions.

Writing

Book divided into titled Parts and many chapters. Most of the book is written first person from Tory’s POV. Some scenes are written from in third person POV. I think Reichs does a good job of capturing Tory’s ‘voice’ as well as her friends’. Tory is related to Reichs’ main series character Temperence Brennan and the author can’t quite get away from using Tempe’s science and deductions and logical thinking. Sometimes you forget Tory and is only 14. One instance of profanity. Some good tension and a nice mystery.

My rank:

Blue Belt

Blue

Quick Kick – The Vault

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By Boyd Morrison

Morrison

https://www.amazon.com/Vault-Tyler-Locke-Boyd-Morrison-ebook/dp/B0043RSK8K/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1484193192&sr=8-1&keywords=the+vault%2C+morrison

Plot

Tyler Locke’s routine commute on a Washington State ferry is interrupted by a chilling anonymous call: his father has been kidnapped, and a truck bomb is set to detonate on board in twenty minutes. When Tyler reaches the bomb on the boat’s car deck, he’s stunned to find classical languages expert Stacy Benedict waiting for him. She’s received the same threat, and her sister has also been taken.

In order to disarm the bomb, Tyler and Stacy must work together to solve an engineering puzzle—a puzzle written in ancient Greek. But preventing the explosion is only the first step; they soon learn the entire setup is a test created by a ruthless criminal who forces them to go on a seemingly impossible mission: uncover the legendary lost riches of King Midas.

Tyler and Stacy have just five days to track down the gold. Armed with an ancient manuscript penned by brilliant Greek inventor Archimedes, they begin a quest to unravel a two-thousand-year-old mystery whose answer is hidden within the workings of a cryptic artifact: the Antikythera Mechanism, a device designed by Archimedes himself. To save their loved ones and prevent their captors from recovering a treasure that will finance unspeakable devastation, the two scramble to Italy, Germany, Greece, and finally to the streets of New York City in a race against the clock to find the truth behind the story of King Midas.

My Analysis

Another adventure quest for a treasure of the ancients. I enjoy these.

An interesting aspect about this book is: no profanity. This would be one where I would have expected some, but no. This one has great action, some evil plots, but the language doesn’t drop into the gutter. For the most part, I think it works. It’s difficult to write dialogue where the good guys are being threatened and stay clean. It’s tough sometimes to write baddie dialogue without them becoming enraged.

Two main baddies in this one so one has to take second billing, but that’s okay. There’s enough to go around.

I like adventure quest stories, combining truth with fiction or speculation. Morrison does a wonderful job in this one and I’d read more.

My rank:

Blue Belt

Blue

High Stakes

Cover

By Dick Francis

0430 SOCIAL Racing

http://www.dickfrancisbooks.com/

Plot

After Steven Scott, racehorse owner, decides to terminate his relationship with his horses’ trainer because of the trainer’s deceptions, his prize horse is summarily stolen. It’s only later that Scott realizes he owns a replacement. He knows there is a conspiracy between the trainer and an unscrupulous bookie. Scott, at the same tiem a new romance begins for him, decides to obtain justice for the crimes committed against him…in his own fashion.

Actually, this plot is one of Francis’ simpler ones. Unlike some of the others, you see everything up front, you know the baddies and no real surprises. Still, it’s Dick Francis, so you can’t go wrong.

Characters

Steven Scott: 35, wealthy through his making of toys, drives a Lamborghini.

Jody Leeds: 28, racehorse trainer, short, stocky, intelligent, competent at his job

Charlie Canterfield: 55, merchant banker, smokes cigars, overweight, attended Eton, smooth graying hair, deep set eyes, large nose, drives a Rover 3500

Ganser Mays: bookmaker, sharp nose

Alexandra Ward: American from Westchester, NY, early twenties, brown hair, has a sister, is a cook for weddings

Rupert Ramsey; 45, racehorse trainer, energetic

Owen Idris: Scott’s houseman, short, thin, has a daughter

Good solid characters. Each with a unique personality. Just enough depth to get a good feel for them. Actually I enjoyed one roughneck by the name of Bert Huggerneck.

Dialogue

Distinctive voices. Again, Huggerneck’s comes through the best with his ‘swearing’. The book mentions Canterfield’s Eton accent, but that he can adapt to the specific crowd.

Writing

First person from Scott’s POV. Typical Francis. The man was knowledgeable about horses and the horse racing industry so everything is factual and realistic. Action is quick and decisive and Scott’s narration of the action doesn’t drag. A bit of mild profanity. If I’ve missed any of Francis’ novels, that number is pretty low. Each has a connection to horses and horse racing even if a couple have a plot outside of racing. As I mentioned earlier, this is a simple plot so there are no surprises. You know what’s going on and what’s going to happen but that didn’t lessen the enjoyment of the book. This is one of his early books but a good one to add to my collection.

My rank:

Blue Belt

Blue

Dogs Don’t Send Flowers & Other Stories

Dogs-Dont-Send-Flowers-cover

By Gary Beck

https://www.amazon.com/Dogs-Dont-Send-Flowers-Stories-ebook/dp/B07H4RPVCF/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1538398948&sr=8-1&keywords=dogs+don%27t+send+flowers

Plot

Ken Kensington goes against family tradition and becomes an acting teacher who sidelines as a clown. He tries to write a play, has issues with a pesky landlord, and on top of that has problems with his adopted dog, Pard, who is overly…frisky. Ken has various thoughts to solve his pet’s sexual problem, including creating a newsletter with want ads, creating a television show, and contemplating visiting a Brazilian dog hotel.

So, that’s pretty much the entire book. The ‘other stories’ really didn’t exist because everything was connected throughout. However, there are issues that bring down the book.

Characters

Ken Kensington: teaches at Gotham University School of the Arts, does a clown act

Anitra Blavatsky: tall, bony, artist

Pard: dog, medium size, brown/white, terrier/shepherd mix

Mary Jane Kowalski: red hair, fair skinned

There are few other characters including one of Ken’s homosexual students. Each of the characters is distinct with interesting personalities. There isn’t any description of Ken and there’s no mention of his name until further into the book.

Dialogue

Not much, so there’s not too much to comment about. This wasn’t a book full of dialogue and there could have been more. What was there was fine, on point, conveyed the message

Writing

No profanity. I found one misspelling of Anitra’s name. Written in first person from Ken’s POV and written in a way that sounds like it’s non-fiction. I suspected something when the story became bizarre in respects to Anitra’s mentor ‘artiste’ who wanted to wrap everything in plastic.

Some nice humor and the over-the-top stuff didn’t go too far.

Okay, so we have a dog who is overly sexual and often frustrated because he isn’t allowed to have the full experience. Ken tries various ways to fulfill the dog’s needs. He loves his dog, but the common sense question I had was: why didn’t he neuter the animal and be done with it? Okay that question is answered and this makes for some quirky scenes, but the question hangs in the air with the crazy things he thinks of.

The major issue is one of repetition. This is a short book, but most chapters spend too much time reviewing the story so far, including review of characters and plot and bits and pieces of story line. This is not needed especially when the same material and the same phraseology is used time and time again. For instance, Pard and Ken go to visit Mary’s family several times because of issues within the Kowalski family and Pard is constantly dissuaded by the male dogs from mounting one or two of the female dogs. That’s fine, but it happens every time they visit, and it’s mentioned in other chapters for review. There is no need to mention Mary’s full name time and time again, or the nickname Ken uses for Anitra’s artist friend, especially since the guy isn’t a big part of the story.

I thought the ending was abrupt and didn’t resolve the issues. Ken’s play still hung in the balance trying to find a theater and nothing was resolved with the problem of his landlord wanting him out. Was anything solved with the issues with Mary’s family? Did Ken’s family accept him and his life?

The book ended when issues were coming to needing to be resolved, but weren’t.

My Rank:

Yellow Belt

Yellow

Quick Kick – The Mobius Murders

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By Brian Lumley

brian-lumley02

https://www.amazon.com/Necroscope-1-The-Mobius-Murders/dp/B01FWMREPY/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1496667051&sr=8-2&keywords=the+mobius+murders

Plot

Harry Keough, aka the Necroscope, has always considered himself a master of the Mobius Continuum–a dimension existing parallel to all space and time and his personal instantaneous gateway to anywhere in the multiverse. But this is hardly overweening conceit on Harry’s part, for to his knowledge he is not unique; two other intelligences, with powers similar to his, do indeed exist. One such is the long-dead August Ferdinand Mobius himself, the German astronomer, mathematician, and discoverer of the eponymous Mobius Strip which led him to explore, posthumously, his previously conjectural Continuum; and the other is Harry s son, who has not only inherited his father’s mathematical skill but also the metaphysical talent by means of which the Necroscope converses with dead people in their graves!

Picture Harry’s confusion, then, on returning home via the Mobius Continuum from an adventure in Las Vegas, as he witnesses however briefly a flailing figure hurtling conscious but uncontrolled through the endless midnight of the Continuum. Who could this be–how can it be?–that a helpless, silently protesting other is rushing meteor-like across the Continuum’s Stygian vault? Moreover, if he hasn’t arrived here voluntarily, then what vile murderer has sent his victim on this monstrous journey to the end of life itself? For Harry is sure that this is neither his son s nor Professor Mobius’ doing.

Who and where is he, this Mobius murderer? It is a mystery that only the Necroscope can ever hope to solve–but at what risk to his own life?

My Analysis

I am a big fan of Lumely and have read just about everything he’s published. I started the Necroscope series awhile ago and read them to a friend who had problems focusing on the printed page for long period of time. I have enjoyed Lumley’s writing style, language, imagery, and the ability to tell a complex story and keep me interested.

This book, however, falls a bit short. Yes, it’s a shorter book. Yes, it contains some of Lumley’s phraseology and language usage. Yes, you get a snapshot of who Harry is. Yes, there is an evil villain who is defeated in the end.

But…

I listened to the audio book and it mostly wandered around the metaphysics of what Harry is, can do, the Mobius Continuum, theory, math, and it all became jumbled. Fans and readers of Lumley will understand this book. Maybe my problem with this is because it was a short story, it didn’t have the flair, the complex storyline, the plotting from the good guys and the bad guys I enjoyed from previous. It certainly didn’t have much action until the end.

I enjoyed the background information and the evil-ness of the bad guy, but, again, a short story means get in, get it done, and get out. So, I didn’t get to enjoy the baddie like others in this series. Plus, this was a continuation of previous stories, so Harry is still looking for his wife and child (who must be how old by now?) and is still taking up with a werewolf girlfriend (and THAT whole issue and story needs to be resolved in a book…please Brian, resolve this? Finish it? Do something with it?)

Anyway, a good Lumley story that falls a bit short of his best work. I’ll bump it up from my original thought of Green only because, well, it’s Lumley and I enjoy his stuff. But watch it, okay? lol

My Rank:

Purple Belt

Purple

Playing Dead

cover

By Allison Brennan

Allison-Brennan-photo2

http://www.allisonbrennan.com/

Plot

Fifteen years have passed since Claire O’Brien helped put her father in prison for killing her mother and her mother’s lover. Now her father has escaped and made contact, pleading with her to investigate possible evidence to prove him innocent. As a private investigator working fraud cases, she believes everybody lies and is reluctant to help. When she decides to track down the only lead her father gave her, she discovers more than what she bargained for.

Mitch Bianchi is an FBI agent with an agenda. He figures getting close to Claire will lead him to her father. However, he doesn’t know what to do with the feelings that have developed during the lie he’s perpetrated.

Meanwhile, a killer tries to prepared to eliminate any traces of his crimes.

Oft-seen plot but I haven’t read something like this in awhile and it’s a good, refreshing story. Some interesting angles, predictable problems, but still a decent thriller.

Characters

Tom O’Brien: ex Sacramento cop, was found guilty of killing his wife and her lover, father dead, has a scar on his stomach from being shot, black hair

Claire Elizabeth O’Brien: 29, 5′ 3”, Tom’s daughter, short black hair, private investigator who works fraud cases, drives a Jeep, owns two dogs and a cat, college dropout, has a tattoo on her right shoulder blade and on her thigh

Mitch Bianchi: FBI agent, trained in underwater forensics, likes diving, ex wife is his supervisor, was in the military, father was a prosecutor, has trouble following orders at times, physically fit,

Nelia Kincaid: brown eyes, had a son who was murdered, lives in the woods in Idaho, mother alive, divorced

Megan Elliott; Mitch’s supervisor and ex-wife, blonde, green eyes, stickler for rules

Dialogue

I think the dialogue is well written. Lots of internal dialogue. I think Nelia’s attitude and personality come through best.

Writing

Several flashback scenes that aren’t too long to drag down the story. Good and bad sex scenes. Some profanity. I expected more action and suspense and less PI and police investigation but that’s okay. Brennan keeps the story moving and the interest going by cutting off one lead but showing you another clue for Claire and the FBI to follow. Once pieces start falling into place, the action builds.

My Rank:

Blue Belt

Blue

Smoke And Mirrors

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By Neil Gaiman

author

https://www.amazon.com/Smoke-Mirrors-Illusions-published-Perennial/dp/B008V12DFU/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1481676265&sr=8-2&keywords=smoke+and+mirrors%2C+gaiman

Plot

In the deft hands of Neil Gaiman, magic is no mere illusion . . .and anything is possible. In Smoke and Mirrors, Gaiman’s imagination and supreme artistry transform a mundane world into a place of terrible wonders—where an old woman can purchase the Holy Grail at a thrift store, where assassins advertise their services in the Yellow Pages under “Pest Control,” and where a frightened young boy must barter for his life with a mean-spirited troll living beneath a bridge by the railroad tracks. Explore a new reality, obscured by smoke and darkness yet brilliantly tangible, in this extraordinary collection of short works by a master prestidigitator. It will dazzle your senses, touch your heart, and haunt your dreams.

My Analysis

I used to love anthologies. Short fiction by horror or even mystery writers. As I’ve aged, I’ve become more selective and less gung-ho about them. I’ve learned that with anthologies, there are some pretty good stories, some average stories, and some less enjoyable stories.

This book is no exception. There are some pretty good stories in here. There are stories I shrugged an okay with and there were a few I just didn’t understand.

I listened to the audio and the author is the narrator. Now, when I first heard that he was the narrator, I cringed. I have longed held the belief that authors should not read their own material. There is one exception and if she ever gets around to it, I will enjoy her book that much more.

Anyway, Gaiman does a decent job of voices and his own ‘voice’ in writing.

Pick and choose. The one about the Holy Grail is good. So is the one about the man who goes a step too far in dealing with a murder for hire group. Ditto with the murder mystery in heaven.

My rank:

Green Belt

Green

The Givenchy Code

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by Julie Kenner

julie-kenner-2277612-250-400

http://juliekenner.com/

Plot

NYU student Melanie Prescott is trying to survive to earn her Master’s degree, have enough money to buy the latest in shoes, and wanting to see her parents when they come for a vacation. However, while on her latest gig as a dog walker, she receives not only a visit from her ex boyfriend, but a stranger gives her a coded message.

There’s an online game called Play Survive Win that has been very popular. However, somebody has taken the game into the real world…and Melanie is the target. She must play or die.

This was the first in the PSW game with Melanie. I read and reviewed the Manolo Matrix some time ago and enjoyed it. I realized, at the time, that there had been a story before and this is it. I like the light-heartedness mixed with the serious. It’s another stalker vs heroine, ‘most dangerous game’ scenario, but Kenner has a good version of it.

Characters

Melanie Lynn Prescott: 5’9”, blonde, attends NYU, has a B.S. in math with a minor in history and working on a Masters in History, prefers Mel but not Melanie, has worked as a short-order cook, a Circle Line ticket agent, and a cocktail waitress and a dog walker. Love shoes and handbags and Indian food.

Jennifer: 5’9”, Mel’s roommate, green eyes, black hair, works as a singing waitress, has two sisters

Todd Davidson: Mel’s former boyfriend, second year associate at a law firm,

Matthew Stryker: 30s, ruggedly handsome, tanned, physically fit, ex Marine, does freelance private security

Stryker? Really? Could you have a more soap opera hero stud name? Okay, okay, I like the story and I like the characters. Mel goes from almost swooning at times to serious math/puzzle solver to remembering how scared she is to be the target of a killer. There isn’t much depth to the other characters, and that’s okay, for the most part. This isn’t a character driven story. I would have liked to have seen a bit more from Stryker. Not sure what, maybe more Superman and less Clark Kent.

Dialogue

I enjoyed the internal dialogue from Mel. These conversation really bring her to life. Other dialogue stays on point and doesn’t drag down the story.

Writing

First person from Melanie’s POV. Third person from the POV of Stryker and the baddie. Some profanity. Relatively short chapters. The pace is quick and the tension is broken up nicely by the some light-hearted stuff as well as the building romance between Stryker and Mel. Although, I must induce a bit of reality. I didn’t quite buy the fact that one night Mel’s having sex with her ex, then the next day she’s going all girly when Stryker says or does something. Chalk it up to heat-of-the-moment-danger-builds-bonds, but it seemed a bit pat. The puzzle explanations are simple to understand but the puzzles themselves are teasing enough.

My Rank:

Blue Belt

Blue