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Murder on the Metro by Margaret Truman and Jon Land

Reviewed by Russell Ilg

“You need to get somewhere safe,” one character tells another late in MURDER ON THE METRO, to which the other responds, “I don’t think there is such a place anymore.”

That should come as no surprise, given that Jon Land has picked up the writing duties in this 31st book in the New York Times bestselling Capital Crimes series originally conceived by Margaret Truman. After all, Land is no stranger to high stakes thrillers in which the country, or entire world, hang in the balance. In MURDER ON THE METRO, those stakes include the United States government which is about to be overthrown. Read the rest of this entry »

Windfall: A Henry Lysyk Mystery by Byron TD Smith

Reviewed by Daniel Ryan Johnson

Windfall: A Henry Lysyk Mystery is a well-researched story interweaving real-world intrigue into a fictional tale full of questions. Windfall is not an over the top mystery thriller where every moment is filled with high suspense and the pressing need for action. Instead, it quietly tells a tale about an unassuming former banker, who is somewhat reluctantly drawn into the maze by a love for puzzles and at the urging of his precocious niece and captivating neighbor. The distraction might be exactly what our protagonist needs to pull him out of a dark period in his life – unless the danger catches up to him.

While the book may move at a more casual pace than many modern mysteries, which feel the need to fill every page with excitement, that does not mean it is lacking in tense moments of suspense. The first chapter of the book will hook you before the following chapters reel you into the world surrounding one of the most infamous unsolved crimes. Author Byron TD Smith does a terrific job of balancing these moments with wonderful character development, that leaves the reader feeling connected to those who live between the pages. All the characters feel real, and their actions are believable, which is not often something you find in the genre.

Mr. Smith’s writing flows smoothly across the pages and can make it difficult to find a place to pause your reading session. This can pose a hazard for late-night readers as they may find a short sleep ahead of them. Smith doesn’t rely on the high-octane world of sex, drugs, and rock & roll to sell the reader on his story, although all three do lurk around the edges. Instead, he relies on the compelling storylines and mildly eccentric characters he has created to keep readers engaged. He doesn’t attempt to write down to the reader to appeal to a larger audience, nor does he alienate readers with overembellished sentences.

After finishing the book, I was surprised to discover that Windfall was Mr. Smith’s first novel. The polished storytelling and literary presence read like an author who has honed his craft for years. I look forward to seeing what he will bring us next, and based on the subtitle am hoping to meet up with Henry and his friends again before too long.

In Her Tracks (Tracy Crosswhite Book 8) by Robert Dugoni

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Following in his own foot tracks, Robert Dugoni has written a very interesting book about missing women. He has chosen Tracy Crosswhite to be the “good guy” and track down not only the women but also who caused them to be missing. It isn’t the type of case Tracy wants but since she just returned from maternity leave her boss ended up putting her on Cold Cases since her old spot had been filled.

Missing persons is not really Tracy’s cup of tea since she had just been involved in that several years ago when her own sister had turned up missing and was never found alive. But Tracy accepts her job in her new position and gets involved in her first cold one now.

Seems as though several women in her area are missing and it also seems as though they were in the same section of town. Tracy quickly finds a path that runs through the area but then it seems to just stop dead. Although she does not find any women on the path it does seem to have some evidence that becomes quite useful as the case develops.

Also in the area is a somewhat worn looking house that turns up being occupied by three young men (or older boys) whose parents have passed away recently. The boys wander around the area but also work at various jobs in the neighborhood. The oldest one named Franklin appears to be the head of the family and “rules” the two younger ones. The youngest (though an elder teenager is somewhat of a slow thinker and spends most of his time playing with various games like Monopoly). Though they are very close to that same path it doesn’t immediately provide any evidence of wrong-doing.

Two of the main users of the path seemed to have been a pair of neighbors who lived close by and close to each other. One is the father of the three boys but he had passed away recently. The one still living there is an older gentleman named Bibby who walks his dog quite often on the trail and there is even of a dog walking on the deserted path recently.

Tracy believes she knows now what is going on and she takes another of the police officers with her and heads to the neighborhood where all the action has been taking place. There is no question that
Tracy has it figured out because as she gets close to where she expected an occurrence, another one did happen. Lucky for her and an intended victim that her hunch worked out correctly.

The ending was not as she had planned but it was still a good finish. There is no doubt that Dugoni has written another good story for his readers to follow all the way to the end.

The Hot Rock: A Dortmunder Novel (Book One) by Donald E. Westlake

Reviewed by Allen Hott

A story that moves, moves, and moves. Basically The Hot Rock is about a very expensive Balabama emerald that belonged to one country in Africa but since the country divided into two halves both sides want possession of this jewel. As the story begins one side (Talabwo) with their ambassador, Major Iko, is trying to get the emerald out of its display position which is in New York City.

Dortmunder is led into working to get the emerald by Kelp, his normal right hand man. Kelp and Dortmunder meet with Iko and arrive at a financial agreement for the event to happen. It will take five men at thirty thousand dollars per man for Dortmunder’s crew to pull off the job. But that is only part of it though as Iko and Dortmunder then battle over expense money per man per week. All of these happenings go along to make this story not only funny but definitely readable to the end.

After Dortmunder and Kelp leave they begin rounding up the balance of the crew and beginning to make some plans for when, where, and how not only will they live but also how they will pull off the money making deal.

Little do they realize however that at the same time another group of thieves have also looked into the value of the stone and already made the necessary arrangements and stolen it from the display? However the guy who actually stole the gem was later caught and put in jail and he supposedly has the gem with him (likely swallowed it prior to capture).

So that means Dortmunder and his gang will have to break Greenwood (the one with the stone) out of jail. In true Westlake fashion Dortmunder and his gang do in fact break Greenwood out of prison.

But then when they get to talk to him they find that he doesn’t have the gem now. Because when he was arrested he decided to hide the gem at the police station.

This is how this book moves from one place to another as the gem is constantly on the move and the Dortmunder crew never stops hunting it but always it appears to be a step ahead of them. They are earning money from Major Iko but they can’t get him what he wants so they don’t earn the big bucks that they want.

What they do get from the Major always seems to be another major tool of some type (a truck, a helicopter, and other tools) to help the gang break into and then out of the newest location of the stone.

Overall the book is a very funny read as Westlake writes well and the conversations that go back and forth between the characters are more than enough to keep the reader’s attention. There have been several Dortmunder books over the years and they all created quite a variety of stories that were well received. The Hot Rock is one of those!

Stargazer: A Leaphorn, Chee & Manuelito Novel (A Leaphorn, Chee & Manuelito Novel, 6) by Anne Hillerman

Reviewed by Carol Smith

    Summary

The setting is the Navajo Nation in New Mexico; the month is October.

The story begins when Officer Tara Williams at Socorro County Sheriff’s Department receives the call about a young boy finding a dead man inside a car near highway MN 169. She embarks on the assignment and begins her work creating a crime scene.

Stargazer is the story of Officer Bernadette Manuelito working with her police colleagues in the Navajo Nation of New Mexico. It is more than a murder mystery or investigations of crime. It is about the people who work inside law enforcement in the Navajo Nation coping with the pitfalls of budget shortage, staff shortage and other obstacles. Some episodes include mention of missing and exploited indigenous women and children as a prime problem although not the focus of the story.

Tara Williams is contacted by Officer Bernadette Manuelito regarding a missing woman in Socorro. Her name is Maya Kelsey. Tara immediately makes the connection, the woman named Maya Kelsey is married to the man found dead in his car. Maya Kelsey, reported missing, shows up at the police department confessing to the murder of her husband, Steve Jones.

Together, the two police women begin a long journey of investigating the murder of the dead man, Steve Jones, Ph.D., a scientist who works at the VLA. The VLA is an actual real-life astronomy observatory located in central New Mexico. The author makes an interesting note of this observatory at the end of her book.

Throughout the book the haunting experiences of death and suicide experienced by folks in police work surface in various characters. They carry on in-spite of it. It makes the story authentic.
The author includes colorful descriptions in her scenes that create picturesque moments for the reader. They will feel present.

Officer Bernie’s dedicated, hard work causes her to solve the mystery and find the “real killer” of Steve Jones and also solves the mystery of why his wife, Maya Kelsey, confessed to a crime she did not commit.

This story is action-packed with a lot of movement and interaction between characters. It is a very multi-faceted, enjoyable read.

Editorial Review

Hillerman’s gift of creating alliteration in various sentences adds strength and enhances reader impact. In one scene taking place in the wilderness, the alliteration in “coyote chorus” causes the reader to relax in the midst of a violent episode.

The phrase “Tsunami of sadness” cleverly inserted in a very emotive scene is an alliteration used to soften the powerful word “Tsunami” placed before the emotional word “sadness”. It is intended to galvanize the reader.

Descriptions of police characters definitively depict that of tough, dedicated folks who are on task.

Anne Hillerman performed an outstanding job creating the character of Bernadette (Bernie) Manuelito. Throughout the book she remains focused on her police work and connects with husband Sergeant Jim Chee. She has a natural inclination that causes her to see patterns, missing pieces, and the ability to notice what does “not add up”. Bernie’s actions show respect for her superiors. Her chary attitude saves her in a violent scene.

“No stone is left unturned” under her watch. The character of Officer Bernadette is believable because of Hillerman’s ability to build her personality into that of a bona fide police woman.

The author’s prose often includes words that describe the usual sights and sounds of the natural world we live in. E.g., “The morning light gave the grass a golden glow as it shimmered in the autumn breeze”. The euphony invites the reader to be present in scene.

The sound of Navajo words such Ghaaji” for October and other Navajo words are often used throughout the book. It marks the importance of American Indians clinging to their native language and customs while living in a modern-day society. There is mention of some primitive conditions such as many homes on the Navajo Nation still lacking electricity.

Hillerman is very adept at connecting all the dots in a mystery. She is an excellent mystery writer.
Quite a bit of Navajo history and present-day problems are mixed into the plots. Because of this, the story would appeal to Native American Indians and other races who are genuinely interested in the history and present day life of the American Indians.

The Fiancèe by Kate White

Reviewed by Lily Andrews

The Fiancèe is a mystery thriller novel by one of the best-selling authors, Kate White. The plot revolves around the Keaton family of Ash Keaton, Claire Keaton, and their four sons: Gabriel, Blake, and fraternal twins, Marcus and Nick.

The author uses the first-person narrative through one of the characters, Summer, who is Gabriel’s wife. The Keatons hold extravagant and lovely vacations in their family home but on this particular vacation, Summer feels uneasy and anxious as she, Gabriel, and her step-son, Henry make their way to the Keatons. As the get-together begins, Nick introduces his fiancee, Hannah, to the family during one of their dinners in the evening. Everyone is utterly surprised that Nick, known for his usual casual flings, wants to settle down with a woman he has hardly known for two weeks. The matriarch of the family, Claire, whom all her stepdaughters find controlling and judgemental except for Summer, is particularly not pleased with the announcement. Read the rest of this entry »

Leave the World Behind by Ruumaan Alam

Reviewed by Teri Takle

New York City residents, Amanda and Clay, need a vacation. Life can be tedious with having a teenaged boy and a daughter. They lead the busy lives of a white middle-classed American family. Amanda selected the perfect vacation home on Long Island in a remote and luxurious area, renting a house with a pool for one week. The home is lovely and better than she had expected.

Their time on Long Island is enjoyable until there is a knock on the door. An older black couple is waiting to enter the house while claiming that this is their home and they want the family to leave.

They will even refund their week’s stay in cash, even doubling it. They claim that strange things are happening in the city, so they jointly decided to go back to their own home.
Wait! The week is not over. Do you leave? Do you demand a refund? Are they the actual owners? Is this some scam? Do they believe the couple? Are they criminals?
Would you? What would you do? Read the rest of this entry »

Slip Out the Back, Jack: A bone-chilling gritty serial killer thriller (Jack Ryder Book 2) by Willow Rose


Reviewed by Allen Hott

An interesting but somewhat confusing book by one of the busiest writers in the marketplace right now. Willow Rose is a Scandinavian writer by birth but now resides in the United States and has had over 125 books published in this country. She writes Mystery, Thriller, Paranormal, Romance, Suspense, Horror, Supernatural thrillers, and Fantasy.

Slip Out the Back, Jack is somewhat of a combination mystery thriller with some romance interspersed throughout. One of the first

chapters tells of a surprise gun attack in a crowded theater but it takes several more chapters before the reasons for that in this book to become apparent. Following the flow of the total story takes some work by the reader as there are several different occurrences that have to come together to make it a complete story.

But as these things happen Jack Ryder, a detective, is a major part of the entire book as he tries to live his life solving mostly murders while he raises his children, at least partially, as his separated wife also does her part in this job. Read the rest of this entry »

Twenty: A Jack Swyteck Novel by James Grippando

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Jack Swytek, one of Grippando’s favorite characters, is pulled into quite a tale in this one. Swytek, a defense attorney, gets the call to defend Xavier Khoury, an eighteen-year-old high school student who has been charged with a deadly shooting in a Florida school. Ironically, Jack’s wife, Andie who is an FBI agent was on the scene because she was taking their daughter to school. Neither Andie nor her daughter were hurt but twenty casualties did occur.

Xavier was immediately identified as the shooter because the gun found by his side had his dad’s name on it. Since Andie was friends with his mother, she was brought in to help on the arrest and detainment. Upon arrangement Xavier blurted out, “Mom, it’s ok..I did it”.

Andie stays with the mother to help her and Jack is called in immediately to serve as the defense lawyer for the boy. No one can figure out why he would do it even though his father is a devout Muslim. But the heart of the story now becomes the fact that Xavier refuses to talk to anyone. He won’t even talk with Jack who is trying to defend him. The only reason that Jack gets so tightly involved in the case is that the daughter of a close friend of his was killed in the shooting. Read the rest of this entry »

Bank Shot (The Dortmunder Novels Book 2) by Donald Westlake

Reviewed by Allen Hott

This is a book from the 70s but is well worth reading because it is one of the funniest books that you will read. And it is all clean fun without sex or cussing. Just a great storyline that will keep your interest.

It all begins with Dortmunder (one of Westlake’s best characters) selling encyclopedias door to door. In fact he is just taking deposits and the books will never be delivered). However on this current attempt he manages to discover that the woman he is trying to “bamboozle” has called the cops on him. Out he goes as fast as he can and meets up with Kelp, one of his associates. They get away from the scene quickly and have no problems.

Little does he know that meeting Kelp is about to begin one of the biggest happenings of his life. Kelp introduced Dortmunder to his nephew, Victor, who was a former FBI agent. The two of them take Dortmunder to see a nearby bank that appears to be being torn down. Next to it sat a huge mobile home mounted on some type of foundation. Read the rest of this entry »