Friday, March 2, 2012

Reviews by Carl Brookins

The weekend is here, so what better way to spend it than with some great book reviews by my good friend Carl Brookins. I think you'll enjoy these four.

Some Like It Red Hot
By Robin Merrill
Acacia Publishing, Inc
ISBN: 978-0-9774-306-4-2
2008, Trade Paper, 276 pages

Lotsimina Hannon (Lotsi to her intimates) is forced by an evil corporate empire to retire before her time. Lotsi, for want of something else to do, decides to start a whole new life. What better way to do so than buy an old RV and a new motorcycle and hit the road? The fact that she’s never in her life driven either a large recreational vehicle or a high-powered motorcycle is no deterrent.

Since she’s looking for a little excitement in her new life, she heads to Las Vegas, home of opulent RV parks, saunas and hot tubs. And men. Oh yes. Older and retired, but far from sedentary, Lotsi has the heart and the attitudes of a much younger woman. You might say the fires are low but still burning. All it takes is a delectable hunk with the wit and the knowledge of the desires of the more mature woman, and a certain level of experience, to bring those embers to a raging inferno. It also may be said that starting a relationship in a hot tub can get things off to a quick start.

Then of course, murder and associated chicanery intrudes and Lotsi is forced into a game of clues, a game that soon turns deadly. What’s worse, Lotsi becomes a target of the killers even while desperately learning to ride the motorcycle and speed out of trouble.

Smartly written, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, author Merrill presents a romp through the RV culture with pokes at aging baby boomers that is just askew enough to keep you reading and chuckling all the way along. While the story is realistically presented with enough straight and freaky characters to keep readers guessing, this frank romantic mystery is not aimed at fans of the realistic or the noir. A fun read. I hope the author is able to bring us further adventures of the mature.
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Swift Edge
by Laura DiSilverio
ISBN: 978-0-312-62444-6
2011 release from St. Martins/
Minotaur, 291 pages.

Judicious blending of two quite different characters as private investigators carries this story of murder and identity theft on a roller coaster of humor and tension. Gigi Goldman, one half of the investigator team of Swift Investigations is inept at best. I mean, how about trying a surveillance gig from a yellow Hummer? Charlie Swift is the more competent partner with background and experience and she carries the bulk of the serious investigation that is at the core of this slickly written, well-laid out story.

A world class figure skater disappears on the eve of national trials. Charlie Swift is up for the challenge of finding the guy, but she keeps stumbling over her partner Gigi and Gigi’s petulant teen-aged daughter. Then the client, another figure skater, disappears, a world-renowned coach is attacked, and almost everywhere she goes, somebody is shooting at Charlie. If that isn’t enough trouble, almost every male she encounters seems to be after Charlie’s body in a less destructive way. But maybe that’s just Charlie Swift’s take on the situations.

The action is constant, often funny and requires the occasional suspension of disbelief. The characters are well-drawn and consistent. This is a sometimes zany, very enjoyable addition to what appears to be a swiftly growing series of light to medium crime novels.
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Under The Dog Star
by Sandra Parshall
ISBN: 978-1-59058-878-9
a 2011 Poisoned Pen release,
303 pages

The story is already in full-bore action when you open the book. “In the silver moonlight, the dogs appear as a dark mass moving down the hill and across the pasture.” Contrast of light and dark. Questions immediately arise. Are these dangerous dogs? Feral dogs? Where are we and who is observing this? Why should we care?

In the hands of this careful, experienced writer, you know you are in for a wild ride. Veterinarian Rachel Goddard runs an animal clinic in the mountains of Virginia, a place where people are used to taking care of their problems in direct fashion. Wild dogs threatening livestock? Never mind they are or were somebody’s pet, shoot ‘em. This is anathema to Rachel and she mounts a county-wide attempt to trap and rescue the dogs before they are shot. The county is thrown into an uproar and her competence is questioned when a prominent physician is discovered with his throat torn out and plenty of evidence that a dog was the culprit.

Rachel’s lover Tom Bridger, a deputy sheriff in the county, is worried about Rachel’s safety as he struggles to understand the crime. Both Rachel and Bridger come up against one of the most dysfunctional families I have ever read about. There are other complications and false trails that have to be dealt with. The author handles dog fighting and other crimes in a forthright yet sympathetic manner. Readers will get the vivid pictures the author draws, but won’t have to wallow in the degradation. Parshall makes her points cleanly and evocatively, just as she illuminates the settings both by contrast and depiction.

There were times when I wanted to grab Rachel and inject a little backbone into her, and Bridger is sometimes entirely too controlling. Nevertheless, this is a strong, well-written chiller with crackling dialogue, great characters and a powerful resolution.
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How to Survive A Killer Séance
By Penny Warner
Mass Market release in 2011
by Obsidian, 290 pages.
ISBN:978-0-451-23279-3

Party planner Presley Parker is back. In another delightfully cozy murder mystery, she’s got herself enmeshed with some high-roller, high energy, digital silicon-valley types who are nothing if not focused. The problem is they seem to have left everything resembling human values back at the starting gate. Compassion? Nowhere to be found. Fidelity? It is to laugh at.

The women are sexy and high energy, the guys are bright and energetic, if often ill-tempered, and poor Presley is caught between some over-stressed corporate types, her own urges and career needs, and her flakey mother. It’s easy to see where Penny gets some of her idiosyncrasies.

A wide range of characters? You bet. Unusual ideas and offbeat characters? Absolutely. This author fully understands what her readers are looking for, and in spite of having already produced a huge number of enjoyable books, she continues to plumb her creative muse to write stories that satisfy a certain risibility and belief in the quirkiness of human nature.

A fast read, well-plotted, with a setting to die for, and characters that are distinct. This is yet another of Penny Warner’s diverting, novels. Here there is no gloom or doom, just a murder or two in dark rooms, secret passageways, unreal emanations and a fast romp to a perfectly designed conclusion.
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Carl Brookins
www.carlbrookins.com, www.agora2.blogspot.com
Case of the Great Train Robbery, Devils Island, Bloody Halls, Reunion, Red Sky
more at Kindle, Smashwords & OmniLit!

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