Monthly Archives: May 2014

Following The Scent

Book cover

By Lena M. Pate

Lena with frame


Maggie Foster does double duty for both the Dallas County morgue and as a CID photographer. She’s also trying to be a private investigator. So, her life is busy. She’s involved with: a gangster connected to human trafficking, a serial killer of coeds, gathering evidence on a cheating husband, and an enigmatic handsome man who intrudes upon her life. Are they all connected?

A lot going on here. I had to stay focused to take it all in. However, I think it’s an interesting mix of baddies up against Maggie and the good guys.


Maggie Foster: Works for the Dallas County morgue, starting a private investigator’s business, freelance photographer for the Dallas Criminal Investigations Division, short brown hair, has a brother, drives a van, lives in an apartment, owns two dogs, parents own a farm, dad fishes, mom paints, has a lack belt in martial arts

Oscar: bodyguard, chauffeur, burly, Mexican, ugly, scars and acne pits on his face

Moe: a bit overweight, cop

Larry: cop, tall, thin, wavy black hair

Ted: computer programmer, blond, geeky looking

Donald Campbell: ex military, wife murdered, auburn hair, handsome

Some characters don’t have last names. I like Moe the best. At the stressful times, I wanted to see more emotion from Maggie and have it linger through the next scenes. Most of the characters don’t exhibit enough emotion for me to get a feel for. I don’t want to spoil anything but two kidnapped girls don’t act as if they’ve been held for a long period of time. When Maggie and the two little girls are running from the bad guy, I don’t feel the fear and the exhaustion and the hardship from them while on their journey.


Sometimes the dialogue doesn’t feel natural or fitting to the situation at times. Where I would expect contractions, there aren’t any. This may be the way some people speak but it was a bit distracting. Some of the bad guy conversations aren’t natural, too wordy for menacing and murderous. Maggie, being the main character, has a distinctive voice. Moe does, too.


First person from Maggie’s POV for much of the book, third person POV from other characters in some scenes. Written in present tense. Interesting phrases: the man was ‘lower than my grandma’s panty hose crotch.’ Lots of good country or southern words. Some misspelled words and errors in grammar especially with tag lines. Lots of ‘ly’ and ‘ing’ words that could be eliminated or tightened up with the present tense style. Sometimes when using ‘ing’ words there is action where there shouldn’t or couldn’t be. ‘…he says while sipping his tea.’ No, you aren’t speaking while sipping at the same time. There’s a bit of this now and then. No profanity although there are derogatory terms used. Action is quick.

My Ranking:

Green Belt



Catwoman: Tiger Hunt


by Robert Asprin & Lynne Abbey



Catwoman prowling around for a man with a heinous attraction to wild cats. Batman is on the trail of a shady middleman known as the Connection in regards to an upcoming major arms deal in Gotham City. What do the two cases have in common and what happens when the Bat crosses the Cat’s path?

It’s a good plot. Not complicated. No real surprises. Just basic stuff that you’d find in a multi-issue miniseries comic book. There’s something in it related to cats and the strongarm big baddies that Batman like to go against.


Selena Kyle: Cat burglar by the name of Catwoman but who also fights crime in her own lower class neighborhood, owns several cats, athletic, attractive, expert at hand to hand combat, donates to an animal wildlife charity, has a sister who is a nun

Bruce Wayne: Millionaire, orphan after his parents were murdered when he was a child, costumed crime fighter known as Batman, handsome, physically fit, wears glasses and has a mustache, has a son and a daughter, president of the Wayne Foundation

James Gordon: Gotham City’s police commissioner,

Tiger: stevedore, scarred face, dark haired, powerful frame, around 30, criminal background, runs an import/export business

Theresa Carmel: nun, at the same mission for forty years, likes to garden, large knobby hands

Come on, even blind, deaf, illiterate cave dwellers know who Catwoman, Batman, and James Gordon are. I do like the version of Selina this book offers. She’s tough and confident when out on the streets as Catwoman, but unsure of herself when not in costume. Her apartment is a mess and too many memories of the past cloud her thoughts. This is a different perspective from the old television series’ Catwomen or with only a hint of Pfeiffer’s portrayal. This Catwoman does not have an ongoing costumed romance with Batman.


A lot of internal dialogue and thoughts. Some good voices but I enjoy the rambling Bonnie the best. Seeing the movies I, of course, hear the whispering of Batman.


Quick read. This is a typical novelization of comic book characters. It’s not difficult and you get what you expected. Action is quick and decisive. A bit of profanity. I chose to review it because I’m a Batman fan. This isn’t a timeless classic and was never meant to be one. Still, I enjoyed it.

My Ranking:

Blue Belt


Black Cherry Blues


by James Lee Burke



Dixie Lee Pugh, former country star, now alcoholic leaseman wants help from Dave Robicheaux, an ex cop whose wife was recently murdered and who just wants to get through life. Dixie tell Dave about an overheard conversation regarding what he thinks were murders committed by two of his co-workers. Dave doesn’t want to get involved, but after Dixie is almost killed, then arrested and after threats are made against Dave’s loved ones, he can’t help but become involved. He faces possible conspiracy within an oil company and a gangster with whom Dixie is associated.

I’m not saying that if you’ve read one of Burke’s Robicheaux books you’ve read them all, but there are similar qualities to all of them. I don’t think the mystery is all that complicated, but what makes Burke’s books of first rate quality are the characters and the writing.


Dave Robicheaux: 49, former cop, recovered alcoholic, first wife left him, second wife was murdered, father died in a oil drilling accident, mother was unfaithful in the marriage, has a brother, owns a boat rental in New Iberia, owns a three legged raccoon, attended Southwestern Louisiana Institute, physically fit, has a stomach scar, mustache, Vietnam vet, has a half brother,

Dixie Lee Pugh: 49, former country/rock star, former prison inmate, alcoholic, lease man for an oil company, multiple murders, blond, roommate of Dave’s at SLI, drives a pink convertible Cadillac, had a son who died in an electrical fire

Alafair: 6, El Salvadoran, lives with Dave, brown eyes, wide set front teeth, parents dead

Clarise: elderly mulatto who works for Dave, turquoise eyes, uses snuff and smokes

Batiste: black, partner with Dave in the boat rental business, strong, bald, married, illiterate, smokes cigarss

Dan Nygurski: DEA special agent, erect posture, solid body, 5’5”, thick neck, mono-brow, hillbilly accent, thinning dark hair

Sally ‘Sal the Duck’ Dio: involved in various crimes, has done prison time, lean and hard bodied, sharp features, scar on his face, plays the drums, father was a big time mobster, divorced

Cletus Purcel: Dave’s friend, ugly face, green eyes, scar on his face, sandy hair, big shoulders, former partner from Dave’s homicide days in New Orleans, was married, took drugs, smokes, wears a porkpie hat

I love the characters. I think, like I mentioned above about Burke’s books, they all have similar qualities. Nobody is all good and the baddies are really bad. I’ve listened to a lot of Burke’s mysteries and the narrator does an excellent job. I really enjoy Purcel but everybody in this story contributed to make the story whole. I don’t think you could take one character out and have a complete story.


You can’t help but listen. Personalities and voices come through clear. Pugh speaks of his past glory days. I think even Dave’s reflections of the past, his philosophizing, and his dreams are part of the dialogue he’s having with the reader. Dave’s telling the story to one person and that person is sitting next to him on the steps drinking a beer or a soda and gazing out at the bayou.


This the first Burke novel I’ve read. The others I’ve listened to the audio books narrated by Will Patton. (I recall I may have listened to this one, too, long ago.) I still hear the same Patton voice, though when I read it. I love the little details that pulled me into the Louisiana atmosphere. Words as simple as paper plates, pecan trees, mimosa trees, nutria, moss can spur the imagination. The slow, laid back way layered with sadness, is just…magical. The similes and phrasing are uniquely Burke. (The water is not calm; it’s undented.)Some profanity but nothing too overwhelming and it’s used because that’s how the characters speak, not because Burke throws it in for gratuitous’ sake. First person from Dave’s POV. Long chapters. The violence is swift and deadly and no nonsense. One thing I will say about Burke’s stories is that one can tide me over for awhile. I can’t listen to them one right after another. I tried that once and was too overwhelmed. I need a break, a breather. One book and I’m set for a time. Two or three right in a row and I lose the magic or rather i’m swamped in it. Burke is unique and a rare treasure. The man knows how to write and I’ve not seen anybody come close to his style…and don’t want to. That person would be a pale comparison. Burke and Black Cherry Blues deserves the top rank of:

Black Belt




by Carsten Stroud



When a little boy disappears in a town infamous for it’s anomalous amounts of people who go missing, one of those investigating is ex military Nick Kavanaugh. Soon, the boy returns…but in a very strange location. A year later, Nick finds himself involved in the investigation of a bank robbery in a nearby town, the murder of cops, and another disappearance, this time of an elderly lady and her gardener. Meanwhile his wife, Kate, is discovering clues to the rash of disappearances over the decades and the connections to the city’s four founding families. Meanwhile, the bank robbers have discovered something interesting in their cache of loot for which others will kill to retrieve.

This is a complicated and intricate plot. I will have to say that I almost gave up on it. I didn’t understand the direction it took, or rather the multiple directions it took. It seemed as if there were several stories going on at once with no connection. I kept reading because of the supernatural element and found the story intriguing.


Nick Kavanaugh: 32, officer with the Criminal Investigation Division, ex Special Forces, lean, 6’1”, pale gray eyes, black hair graying at the temples, baritone voice, father is a lawyer, mother runs a hospital, has a twin sister

Kate Kavanaugh: Nick’s wife, lawyer, auburn hair, sapphire blue eyes, fine features, father is a military history professor, mother dead, has a brother and sister, attended Georgetown University of Law

Rainey Teague: 10, pale, blond, large brown eyes, mother suffers from ovarian cancer, dad is an investment banker

Mavis Crossfire: Staff Sergeant with the Niceville police, beefy woman

Tyree ‘Tig’ Sutter: Lieutenant in charge of the Criminal Investigation Division of two counties, black, blunt featured, nose has been broken, large man, former Army

Coker: Sergeant with the county patrol, pale brown eyes, used to live in Billings, MT, smokes, former Marine

A lot of characters and almost every character is heavily, detailed, almost to the point of TMI.


I heard some distinct voices and conversations tended to stay on point. A few accents and phraseology that kept it in a southern flavor.


Chapters aren’t numbered, but titled and various lengths. Omnipresent POV. Lots of extraneous detail. Long sentences. Clusters of profanity. I found, however, an overload of details that took me out of the story and was part of the reason I almost gave up. Stroud, however, does a good job of sneaking in the supernatural, building on it. He almost gave too much explanation near the middle of the story, but held back a few bits. There was just enough information for me to stop and say, “Wait a minute.” and realize that I’d been reading about even more strangeness before this point. It’s a long book with too many descriptions and details I didn’t think helped. However, I think the subtle eeriness kept me going and upped my original rank from purple to:

Blue Belt