Monday, September 26, 2011

Book Reviews by Carl Brookins

What would Monday be without some great book reviews by Carl Brookins? Without further ado...

Where Danger Hides
By Terry Odell
ISBN 978-1-43282-512-6
Five Star Mystery from Gale
May, 2011

The novel is a suspenseful thriller with a healthy dose of romance. Or maybe it’s a romantic thriller with a good deal of suspense that keeps this moving at a sometimes alarming pace. “Where Danger Hides” is both, and it’s also a fantasy in particular in the way and the speed with which the two principal characters are drawn together.

Miri Chambers is the caretaker and overseerer of a San Francisco shelter primarily for abused women. Galoway House also manages to shelter and care for a number of children and men, as well. There’s a lot more to Miri Chambers. She is adept at disguise, light-fingered, and as prickly as one can get. Two wrong words and she is liable to go off like a rocket. That propensity for shoot-from-the-hip judgments and attitude may also be the reason for her nearly unbelieveable hormonal response to the hunk she meets on a clandestine foray into the home office of a wealthy art patron.

Her reaction to “just” Dalton isn’t much different from his. He works for a private security firm that has a large well-funded and mostly covert group of operatives working well outside the usual legal limits. Dalton, one of Blackthorn’s elite black ops operatives, has an appreciated eye for female anatomy wherever he finds it, including hiding under the desk of the aforementioned wealthy San Francisco Art patron.

Dalton and Miri Chambers are all fire and sparks and hot sex throughout this rollicking novel. The author has created a pair of characters who could each carry the novel solo, but when you pair them, look out.

The action carries Dalton and Chambers from posh and elegant settings to gritty exceedingly dangerous operations. Readers are not likely to predict each succeeding move. One is required to suspend disbelief and recognize from the outset that explicit play, both sexual and with firearms, is integral to the story. Nevertheless, the plot is carefully and fully laid out, the dialogue is mostly logical, and the tension carries well through the entire book. Gritty, tender, frustrating by turns, I did feel that there were times when both characters exhibited too obtuse attitudes and were slower on the uptake than they should have been, given their life experiences.

Nevertheless, this is a fun read that makes several important points along the way.

Danger In Deer Ridge
by Terry Odell
e-book available at all the usual retailers.
released in 2011

All right, so there’s a big fat coincidence at the beginning of the novel. These things happen in real life so why not in crime fiction? The coincidence does not, however, make things easier at the beginning for Elizabeth Parker. Even late into the novel the woman has understandable trust issues. Paranoia is always nearby.

Elizabeth is running from an abusive marriage and has taken her son deep underground. The problem is, that isn’t all she took with her when she disappeared from the relationship and from her home city.

The characters in the novel are well-written and develop in reasonable and meaningful ways within the fabric of the story, and that includes most of the relatively minor ones. The setting, rural mountainous Colorado, is both beautiful and menacing at times. Two major threads, often in conflict, wind through the novel. In order to remain free and see her son develop a normal life, Elizabeth must try to set aside all-encompassing suspicion and mistrust. Beyond that, she has to develop some real relationships. No one can live in society without relating to others, even if it’s just arms-length situations. For Elizabeth, a healthy woman with normal drives, that is difficult. To return to anything approaching a normal life, she also needs to resolve the dangers still associated with her former husband.

Odell has a good handle on Parker character and the themes of the novel. I look for more worthwhile reading from her.

The Rock Hole
by Reavis Z. Wortham
ISBN: 978-1-59058-884-0
2011 release from Poisoned Pen Press. HC, 284 pages

A sensitive, suspenseful debut crime novel. Full of twists, wry and earthy humor, it epitomizes the grit, the patience and the perseverance, of middle America. Folks who grew up in Texas, where the novel is set, or anywhere in the belt that runs from the northwest angle of Minnesota to the Padre Islands and from the middle of Pennsylvania
to Cody, Wyoming, will recognize themselves in this novel. Their humor, their practicality, their keen natural observations, are all here to savor.

Welcome to 1964. In Center Springs, Texas, farmer and part-time constable Ned Parker is faced with a puzzling series of animal deaths. That they are brutal, atrocious, unnecessary killings only adds to the tension and suspense. Across the river, the black deputy, John Washington, is trying to find reasons for the same killings, while also dealing with the added difficulties of racism in the county. All these factors entwine to create a real and growing calamity for the small communities in the county surrounding Center Springs. As the killings continue, strange footprints are found near bedroom windows and citizens begin to carry weapons and look suspiciously at their neighbors.

Laced with forthright humor, the novel proceeds at a racing pace through event after event as suspicion grows and plot twist after twist keeps readers off-balance until the stunning climax is reached. Ned Parker is a real character who carries the story in an authentic and realistic manner.

The novel is not without its problems. Abrupt and annoying changes of points of view are occasionally confusing, but the writing, like the stories within the narrative, is solid. This is an eminently satisfying novel. I look forward to the next.

Carl Brookins
Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky

Carl's latest book is REUNION, a Jack Marston mystery, that I'll be reviewing here shortly. Jack works with adult students at City College while his lover, Lori Jacobs, is a psychologist and part-time employee of the same institution of higher learning. Returning to Riverview, Minnesota, for Lori's 20th year high school reunion gives Jack an opportunity to learn more about Lori and her life before they met. Unfortunately, it also puts him smack dab in the middle of a gruesome murder case involving one of Lori's former classmates. Stay tuned for the full review of this puzzling new mystery by accomplished writer Carl Brookins.


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