Monthly Archives: February 2014

Unbridled Greed

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by Barry Johnson

Barry Johnson

http://unbridledgreed.com/about.php

Plot

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.

Characters

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.

Dialogue

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.

Writing

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.

My ranking:

Camouflage Belt

Camo

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Sherlock Holmes In New York

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by D. R. Benson

http://www.amazon.com/Sherlock-Holmes-New-York-Bensen/dp/0345255712/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1359980992&sr=8-3&keywords=sherlock+holmes+in+new+york

Plot

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.

Characters

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.

Dialogue

Nice New York voices. The main characters come across well.

Writing

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.

My Ranking:

Blue Belt

Blue

The Hanging

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by Wendy Hornsby

Wendy1

http://wendyhornsby.com/

Plot

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.

Characters

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.

Dialogue

I think the voices were fairly distinctive. Conversations stayed on point and more often than not ended up veering back to the mystery.

Writing

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.

My Ranking:

Blue Belt

Blue

In The Bleak Midwinter

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by M. R. Sellars

Sellars

http://www.mrsellars.com/

Plot

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.

Characters

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.

Dialogue

Skip has some lengthy narratives. I found the dialogue comfortable. Not forced or too hick-ish.

Writing

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.

My Ranking:

Blue Belt

Blue