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Archive for April, 2021

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 »