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Archive for November, 2019

Murder, She Wrote: A Time for Murder by Jessica Fletcher & Jon Land

Reviewed by Russell Ilg

“It’s just that the research I did turned up a murder where you used to live, where you were an English teacher.”
“There was a murder, and someone was arrested, yes, Kristi.”
“Were you the one who caught him, Mrs. Fletcher?”

That exchange, between Jessica Fletcher and a young woman she thinks is a reporter from the local high school newspaper, forms the heart of A Time for Murder, the 50th entry in the iconic Murder, She Wrote series. Jon Land, current series shepherd, has chosen to celebrate that milestone by taking us where no reader (or viewer, for that matter) has ever gone before: into Jessica’s past, specifically twenty-five years back in time, and the result is nothing short of a smashing, slam-dunk success unrivalled in the annuls of literary pop culture.

Jessica’s still married to a much alive husband Frank. And they’re raising their eight-year-old nephew Grady at the time, as she tries to carve out a career as a high school English teacher while struggling to get published.

“Is this a mystery?” one of her students asks, as the class dissects one of Jessica’s own short stories that she distributed anonymously.

It’s not supposed to be, but that gets her thinking, as does the murder of the beloved high school principal who was just about to hire her full-time. An office mishap is suspected at first, until Jessica displays her keen powers of observation for the first time while working with Appleton Maine’s only detective, none other than future Cabot Cove sheriff Amos Tupper.

But that flashback to the past is only part of Land’s fourth, and best, effort in the series so far. In the present, the high school reporter for whom Jessica granted an interview turns out not to be a reporter at all; in fact, she’s not even in high school. And when she turns up murdered herself after badgering Jessica about that murder in neighboring Appleton, we’re off to the races on a dead sprint that swiftly reveals a clear connection between these two killings separated by twenty-five years.

Choice Cut (The Cut Series Book 3) by Arnold Eslava-Grünwaldt

Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

Book three in his penetrating “Cut” series, Choice Cut by author Arnold Eslava-Grünwaldt dispenses to readers yet another fast-paced, and intensely exciting addition to his well-received crime thriller series, within which, he capably continues to delve into the activities of the criminally debauched in Yonkers, New York, and the skilled team of detectives that pursue them and bring them to justice.

Maintaining the pace of excitement, drama, and thrills author Grünwaldt artfully continues the general storyline from book two, populated with most of the same characters, particularly the resilient and tough, Detective Sergeant Hamilcar Hitchcock and members of his general assignment squad. With a challenging mystery brewing, the story moves quickly and flawlessly into new and twisted scenarios calling for Sergeant Hitchcock and his team to move into action.

This time, the story starts out with members of the general assignment squad finding themselves coming to terms with the end result of their previous investigation which led to the nearly fatal shooting of a revered fellow officer and the unfortunate and temporary loss of another valued officer. However, the thrills and twists are just beginning with the discovery of a recently deceased male who may possibly be the casualty of a serial killer known as “The Butcher” whose victims are referred to as “one of the butcher’s cuts.” Read the rest of this entry »

A Dangerous Duet: A Novel by Karen Odden

Reviewed by Jim Eaton

This novel is a romantic thriller of sorts, set in London in 1875.

It concerns the comings and goings of one Nell Hallam, a young pianist whose chief desire is to study piano at the Royal Academy. At story’s open, she is employed three evenings a week at the Octavian, providing accompaniment for the various acts (magicians, jugglers, singers, trapeze artists, etc.), disguised as a man named Ed. As a woman, she’d be paid for less to play, if she were allowed to play at all.

Her position permits her access to a host of shady characters, some of which might not the scrutiny of her family physician, who fears for her mental health (her mother was manic-depressive), or her older brother, who is employed as a detective by Scotland Yard. Her daytime world bears little resemblance to her gig at the Octavian, and Nell does her dear best to keep these worlds apart, with, as one might expect, dwindling levels of success as we get deeper into story. Organized crime, corrupt coppers, sniveling schemers, sympathetic rogues, and several Dickensian tropes hop about, all bent on ruining Nell’s days and Ed’s nights.

The yarn pulls one along, no doubt. Odden deftly navigates London of the time with the confidence of a tour guide, reminding me at times of a certain Irish author whose creations stumbled and bloomed about Dublin, those they were notably burdened by a relentless ineluctable cavalcade of proto-post modern modalities and odysseys the likes of which Odden chooses to eschew. Instead, she strides forward and through in the manner of perhaps Ann Radcliffe and the Inimitable Boz himself. Her sense of place, of putting in a scene, made me wish to act (as I sometimes badly do) in a production with her as the director or at least set designer. The specificity of imagery is at times remarkable. The actions are equally excellent. Read the rest of this entry »

Run Away by Harlan Coben

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Simon Green has been searching for one of his children, Paige, who not only has become a runaway but also a severe drug user. On one of his searches in Central Park, Simon sees Paige and chases after her. However the young man with her steps in the way and she gets away. Simon knocks the man to the ground and then a group of young folk surround Simon. They hold him until the police come and arrest him.

After getting released he explains to his wife, Ingrid, what has happened and she pretty much tells him it is time to accept what is going on. She feels Simon is getting too involved in Paige’s disappearance. He doesn’t agree and just gets further and further into the search.

When he finds through a friend of his several of the drug sellers he does get Ingrid to go along and try to find if any of them know where Paige lives. This maneuver doesn’t turn out well as there is gun fire and Ingrid is very badly wounded by a gun shot.

Simon pretty much leaves Ingrid, who is hospitalized, under the watchful eye of her sister. He then is free to continue his search and find not only Paige but the one responsible for shooting Ingrid.

Now as the story goes along Coben brings in a group of Truth Seekers who are supposedly working to help and serve the needy and others like them. These folk are basically women who appear to be banded together for a reason other than working as saviors. That reason develops later on.

It turns out some of them have been involved over the years in helping unwed mothers give birth to children (strangely enough it turns out that for the most part children are boys and even more strangely related!).

Simon continues to work hard on his end and ends up getting help from some friends and those who work with him. But it just keeps getting more and more involved as there doesn’t seem to be an end to the chase.

In the meantime one of the women from the Truth Seeker group has bonded with a gentleman who is especially good with a gun. They begin working on a list of young men that they not only find but in most cases annihilate for what seems to be no real reason. Needless to say these two end up with Simon in their gunsights as he works to continue looking for Paige.

An interesting story with normal twists and turns in Coben’s way. Profanity and sexual items, as usual with Coben, are pretty much omitted. The ending does kind of baffle the readers. Just good writing with good dialogue and normal twisting and turning!!!