Monthly Archives: August 2015

Time’s Up

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By Janey Mack

Mack

http://www.janeymack.com

Plot

When Maisie McGrane, who longs to be a Chicago cop like some of her older brothers, is instead expelled from the police academy, she reluctantly takes a job in the Traffic Enforcement Bureau – as a meter maid. Soon, however, she is embroiled in not only two murders (gathering clues in the hope that by solving them she’ll be reinstated at the academy), she has to deal with two feisty supervisors, two egoist patrols officers, family problems, a couple of attractive beaus, and tussles with the mayor. Plus, don’t forget a killer is targeting her.

What a delightful little mystery. There is a lot of story, a well laid out plot, rich characters, and some good humor.

Characters

Maisie McGrane: 24, 5’7”, auburn hair with blonde and brown highlights, expelled from the police academy (at the beginning of the book), dad is a cop, has five older brothers (cops and lawyers), stepmom is a lawyer, drives a Honda Accord, has a criminal justice degree

Hank Bannon: 31, wealthy, ex Army Ranger, works in a gym, owns a Mercedes SUV and a 1969 Dodge Coronet (Yes!), gray eyes

Ernesto Padilla: caramel skin, tattooed, paramedic, smokes, drives a pickup

Jennifer Lince: works in traffic enforcement, white blonde

Leticia Jackson: black, 4’11”, works in traffic enforcement, 180 pounds

Leticia and another meter maid, Eunice, are wonderful characters. The author does an excellent job of using everybody and giving everybody time in the spotlight. My only concern was Hank in that he’s more enigmatic than I would have liked. I thought he would be ‘partnering’ with Maisie but although he’s there, for the most part, when she needs him, he wasn’t as actively involved in the mystery as I thought he might be. There are some characters that, though not over-the-top, do peek above the rim. But they only add to the fun.

Dialogue

Good voices. Leticia, Eunice, some of the Irish family. Even the minor characters, because of the descriptions sound like I would have expected. Some good exchanges between characters. Just the right amount of cynicism and humor and seriousness.

Writing

First person from Masie’s POV. Profanity.

My one concern is that the murders sort of get pushed to the back burner while much of the book deals with Maisie’s misadventures that just seem to worsen (in an oh-no-what-now kind of way that adds more humor to the book) and I found myself saying, “But wait, what about the dead guys?” As I mentioned, there is a lot of story, with angles and facets and trying to include everyone. So, after finishing it, I was still concerned about the lack of complete focus on the murders because, in a roundabout way, those are just part of the mix and do connect up to several other big pictures (and little picture) items.

I think this author did a fine job of keeping everything organized, not losing touch with minor parts of the story, and though she left open some relationship questions (who does Maisie end up with; what happens with between Cash and Jenny, Ernesto and Leticia, Dacien and Bliss; Maisie’s problems with her dad) that’s okay, because it all fodder for the next book.

I enjoy these types of stories, a little action, a little humor, a little more humor, a little mystery and a lot of fun.

Now, as to rank. I thought the moving away from the murder should reduce it at least to Blue. However, I have to take into consideration the above mentioned aspects of the characters and how they all get time to be special and nobody is left dangling to where I didn’t care about them or they were unimportant. Also I have to look at the overall writing style, and to repeat, the author kept everything together and things that needed to be tied up were, and there were things left open for future stories.

So, with the amount of effort the author obviously put into making as fine a story as possible, I’m going to bump this to:

Brown Belt

Brown

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Death And A Cup Of Tea

DeathCupOfTea-eBook_Cover-2015Mar04

Edited by Jess Faraday

http://www.elm-books.com/

Plot

Eight stories involving mysteries and death and tea. (Pretty obvious by the title, eh? lol) Some are cozy, some aren’t. Set in the past and the future. From a misfiled book to a stolen mouse to death by mechanical spider, there’s a variety of mysteries for everyone.

Some stories don’t deal with death (i.e. the misfiled book, a stolen mouse, a recovered Romanov egg.) I found most of the plots pretty good. The tea group story reminded me of a plot by Sayers. The very short story, as mentioned below, was basically an explanation for something that happened before the story started.

Characters

Edith Chauvaune Jones: medical examiner, graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, played basketball at Penn

Beatrice Winser: librarian

Darcy McKay: slender, blonde, amateur P.I., attends University of Illinois-Chicago

Sofia Goodreck: private investigator, blind

Anne Holcomb: works in a psychological lab

Audrey Louise Plotz: appraiser, gemologist

Claire Leighton: gardener, drives a Mini Cooper, middle aged, fake psychic

Short stories mean quick hits on characters. Not much description on some of them. In fact in the tea group story I didn’t see a name for the main character telling the story. But most of the characters, and the supporting cast, were pretty good and likeable.

Dialogue

Pretty good voices throughout. Some come through very well – the blind detective, the target of the tea group, Winser.

Writing

Some profanity. I found some of the stories confusing. One very short story didn’t really involved a ‘mystery’ per se, but was the ending to what could have been a longer story. This one was the explanation at the end of a long mystery. In the final story, POV jumps and although I might have accepted a shift from Claire to the cop, when the narrator takes over in Claire’s memories, the narrator jumps to the POV of a third party, something Claire wouldn’t know about.

For an anthology promoting tea, the beverage plays a major role in only one story. In others, it’s a token mention. In the first story, it’s a quick mention and the story centers more on basketball than it does on the death.

There was a bit of tension in the blind detective story which was good.

I found no grammar/spelling/punctuation mistakes.

There’s something here for different tastes, though, and despite the problems, most were enjoyable.

My Rank:

Green Belt

Green

Stage Business

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By Gerry Fostaty

Gerry_Fostaty_Author

http://www.amazon.com/Stage-Business-Gerry-Fostaty/dp/1928049087/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1430066905&sr=8-1&keywords=stage+business%2C+fostaty

Plot

Michael Dion is just a Toronto actor in love with another member of the cast of a play in which he has but a supporting role. However, he is destined for a different part when his attractive co-worker, Amanda, asks him for assistance in finding a missing teenager, son of pair of friends. Soon, Dion is in deep with drug dealers and rescue operations. The problem with this bit of acting, if he bombs, he may not live to regret it.

Actors as detectives. Okay, sounded pretty good at first but it started livening up when other members of the play became involved. This is different from other mysteries where ‘the average Joe with a mundane job becomes a private investigator’.

Characters

Michael Dion: early 30s, actor, owns a cat, divorced

Amanda Clarke: actress, smoky voice, steel grey eyes

Elizabeth ‘Bid’ Stackhouse: 26, stage manager, wears glasses, freckles, short brown hair, compact frame, former Army

David Pound: play director, tall, large build

Nigel Holmes: early 30s, dark hair and eyes, British, physically fit, smokes

Cal: college student, works a doorman at raves, bodybuilder, large frame, father worked on city road construction

Megan: early 20s, tattooed

Karen Eaton: slim, fit, blonde, married with son, drives a black Murano, husband is in Parliament

A nice, uh, cast of characters. Lol. Each have a particular, uh, role, which fits in nicely with the mystery. If ‘the average Joe’ can incorporate any unique qualities or specializations into the story to help solve the case, that makes it all the better. The characters in this book use, obviously, their acting abilities when dealing the bad guys.

Not too much description of Dion and Amanda so I didn’t quite get a mental picture of either. I did enjoy Nigel and Elizabeth in the, uh, supporting roles. Lol. I wasn’t too sure about Karen. Maybe she didn’t come off as a strong characters as I would have thought she would. Her description fit a politician’s socialite wife but other than her being appropriately worried over her son, I just didn’t think she fit.

Dialogue

Nigel’s British-ness comes through and Elizabeth’s directorial type voice.

Writing

First person from Dion’s POV. Some profanity. Good tension. A bit drawn out when the scenes were on the play rehearsal and performance and A bit at the end. However, some good surprises and the ending sets up for a sequel.

Darn good story.

My Rank:

Purple Belt

Purple

Willing Servants

Ebook Cover for Willing Servants

By Eric Turowski

Eric author Photo

http://www.amazon.com/Willing-Servants-Eric-Turowski-ebook/dp/B011QNKXGU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1437617749&sr=8-1&keywords=willing+servants%2C+turowski

Plot

How can a dead serial killer from ten years ago returned to haunt Mara Singleton, a ghost hunter? The detective who solved the decade old case thinks it’s a demon. How can a dead serial kidnapper of children return to torment Mara’s psychic father? His psychic associates are there to help. What is haunting a San Francisco area house owned by a couple of Mara’s friends? Mara and her investigative team are on the case.

Enter the paranormal world and be prepared to be scared. There is plenty of story here and enough side stories to keep me interested. I have to to steal the line from the Chiller channel – scary good.

Characters

Mara Singleton: paranormal investigator, owns PsiCom, psychic, drives a Toyota, graduated San Francisco State, former insurance investigator, author

Everett Singleton: Mara’s father, divorced, uses a cane, black hair white at the temples, tall, psychic, former stock broker

Sam Bradford: rank of Lieutenant, divorced, trying to quit smoking

Mike Halloway: overweight, owns a contracting firm, owns a cat

Bridgett Halloway: Mike’s wife, pregnant, gold-brown eyes, works in IT

Ben Fredericks: Mara’s boyfriend, attended San Francisco State, likes to cycle, hike and rock climb, sells insurance

Arthur: 6’5”, thin, geomancer

Delores ‘Dee-Dee’ Delacroix: bird like, upper 70s, psychometrist

Holly Owen: Reverend, wavy black hair, sharp nose, CPA

More characters than I thought. Not that this is bad at times, but the supporting roles weren’t as strong as I would have liked. This is due to the three stories going on so something has to suffer. This is disappointing because I liked the supporting cast and wanted more from them.

Dialogue

Some instances of periods where there should be commas and vice-verse. Some lectures but not too bad. Voices come through relatively well. An aged priest and some of the associates of Everett and Mara are pretty distinctive.

Writing

Book is separated into Parts. Some chapters are headed by date. Profanity.

There are many instances of ‘ing’ action words following actions. This is fine sometimes, but sometimes it doesn’t work. What works-and when it does, I think it should be used sparingly-is when the first action assists the second action. i.e. – He pushed her, knocking her back against the wall. Okay, this could work although I might have rewritten the sentence to dispense with the ‘ing’ word. The second action is happening at the same time, or nearly so, as the first action. The above example isn’t a sentence from the story, however, this one is: Jerry reached in, pulling out a long cylindrical case. In this case, I don’t think it works because one can’t reach in and pull out at the same time. Jerry reached in and pulled out a… works better. It may be minor, but I saw several instances where sentences could have been rewritten to work or sound better. The ‘ing’ words denote an action happening at the time and many times I found in this story, that sentences could have been tighter had they been written to eliminate the ‘ing’ word.

Otherwise the scare factor was pretty good. The author did a nice job of bouncing from one story to the next. The action was tight. I was a bit confused at the point where Mara was overwhelmed by the demon and only because the next day, but the explanation is fine…and eerie.

And get ready for a wild and wicked ending.

To be fair, with the errors, I should give this a green. However, the ‘like’ factor kicked in and I enjoy a scary story that shows me something different or presents the horror in a fresh way. This one does, so, with grudging reluctance, I’ll bump up the rank, with a caution that next time, no more Mr. Nice Guy. Lol.

My Rank:

Purple Belt

Purple

Blood On Hampton Beach

Blood on Hampton Beach

By Jed Power

jed

http://www.amazon.com/Blood-Hampton-Beach-Jed-Power-ebook/dp/B00KGM0J5S/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1429758387&sr=8-1&keywords=blood+on+hampton+beach%2C+power

Plot

1993. New Hampshire. Hampton Beach in June is filling up with tourists, snowbirds returning home, and murder. Bartender Dan Marlowe, jogging on the beach one morning discovers the corpse of a powerful real estate agent. Almost immediately, one pesky detective thinks Dan is the culprit. To clear his name, Dan, with help from his coworkers, begins to look into possible suspects – a radio talk show host, the dead woman’s brother, a local businessman wanting to make a huge profit. And do a couple of lowlife hustlers and their bad-news associates have anything to do with the case?

Ah, the oft seen guy in trouble with the law turned investigator. This is a decent plot with the usual cast of suspects.

Characters

Dan Marlowe: bartender, suffers from anxiety, ex drug user, owns a shotgun and a .38, former bar/restaurant owner, drives an ’86 green Chevette, divorced with children, allergic to cats

Richard Gant: Lieutenant in the Hampton police department, iron gray hair

Steve Moore: with the police department, buzz cut, married and has an adopted son

Michael “Shamrock” Kelly: dishwasher, smokes

Morris Kruel: short brown hair, thin neck

Henry Fuller: white hair, blue eyes

Arite “Tiny Bastards” Neal: radio talk show host, drives a Cadillac, dyed thinning black hair, overweight, pasty complexion, married with children

Dianne Dennison: Dan’s boss and girlfriend, long black hair

Eddie Hoar: short, thin pockmarked face, oily black hairy, hustler, drives a Cadillac

George Ransom: motel owner, bald, big frame, 40s

A lot of expected characters. Just tidbits of info for each, just enough for the reader to get a taste of them without drowning in background information.

Dialogue

There’s a minor attempt to sound local. It’s difficult to stay consistent unless seen often enough. Kelly’s voice, Irish, of course, comes through the best. Conversations don’t wander or contain too much extraneous material.

Writing

First person from Dan’s POV. Relatively short chapters. Some profanity.

A few times, just enough to be noticeable but not enough to be irritating, several sentences in a paragraph started with the same word, usually ‘he’ or ‘I’.

Some good similes sprinkled throughout. I don’t know if it was intentional but there is a little bit of a noir feeling to this story. Not much, just a touch.

Good tight writing, maybe a few extraneous words here and there and only one period missing that I found.

Pretty decent story. Third in the series.

I considered Green Belt, but, what the hec, I’m in a good mood (lol) and enjoyed the book.

My Rank:

Purple Belt

Purple

Wounded Animals

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By Jim Heskett

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http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00VQL7LOA

Plot

Tucker Candle, software tech, weeks away from unemployment. Married with a pregnant wife. One night an enigmatic stranger gives him a warning to refuse an assignment from his boss. When Candle ignores the warning, he returns home to find his wife missing and a dead man in his bathroom. And his life is only going to get worse – strangers attack him, another corpse shows up, and he can’t trust the cops.

Okay, this is a weird one. Not your normal murder mystery. This plot is unusual in the sense it’s not something seen in countless other books. There’s a bit of mystery, sure, but a bit of supernatural, a bit of surreal.

Characters

Tucker Candle: married, works at Intellicraft, Mom dead, knows martial arts

Kareem: short brown hair, dark skin, thin mustache

Alison Roche: Tucker’s boss

Wyatt Green: Chief Operating Officer for Intellicraft, broad shouldered, married with children, baseball fan

Some physical description. I didn’t get a picture of Candle. Several characters come and go and I started wondering about each new one – can this person be trusted? Is this person part of the overall plot? This is not a bad thing. A good mystery should have the reader wonder about everybody from the bellhop to the CEO.

Dialogue

Not too bad. Some voices come through.

Writing

First person from Candle’s POV. Some profanity.

Some good action and tension. This is the first of a trilogy so-if I can be forgiven a bit of a spoiler (or a non-spoiler), don’t expect everything to be wrapped up at the end. Jimmy’s got some ‘splainin to do. This first book will leave a lot of questions unanswered, but that’s okay, because it will leave you wanting the second part.

My Rank:

Green Belt

Green