Category Archives: Fiction

Mark of the Spider – Supernatural Thriller

The Mark of the Spider
by David L. Haase
© 2018

Mark of the Spider by David L. HaaseThe Mark of the Spider is an installment in David L. Haase’s Black Orchid Chronicles, a supernatural-thriller series. On a working trip to the Southeast Asian island of Borneo, photographer Sebastian Arnett searches for rare orchids to photograph. At the invitation of an Australian attaché on a mission to locate mineral deposits, Arnett joins his group’s forays into the interior. When an old, indigenous woman offers him a shot at the ever-elusive black orchid, Arnett and his mates take her up on it. But they get, and lose, more than they bargained for.

Arnett gets shot with a dart when he and his three cohorts stop at the old woman’s village. He wakes up with pain in his face and finds he has been tattooed and now apparently possesses an evil spirit and an unusual power. Arnett also finds his friends’ heads hanging from a pole. What follows—Arnett attempts to lose himself and the spirit, while the government wants him as a secret weapon. Various efforts to help come from Mike Owens, a Marine ordered by the military to keep tabs on Arnett. A Native American medicine man, Amanda Cox Campion (Arnett’s new love interest) and Tom (or T, to his friends), a son of Campion’s ex-husband, are also in the mix.

The Good and Not-so-Good

Overall, The Mark of the Spider marks a good beginning to this supernatural series. However, the pacing slowed at times, such as when Arnett found himself alone with the old woman after his friends had been killed. Part of that might have worked better as a flashback later, when Arnett attempted to get the tattoo altered. Occasionally, too much time was spent expostulating about Arnett’s attempts to stay off the grid such as when he broke into a house. Another instance of over-expostulation involves Arnett and T building a bunker in the last in a series of bolt-holes.

On the other hand, I would have liked Arnett to do a little sleuthing into southeast Asian spirit beliefs. That might have been woven into Arnett’s attempts to come to terms with what has happened to him.

On the whole, a fairly engaging read. I look forward to reading the second installment and learning the ongoing fate of Arnett, Campion and T.

Shanks – Unlikely Detective

Shanks on Crime
by Robert Lopresti
© 2003-2014

Shanks - Unlikely DetectiveShanks on Crime by Robert Lopresti is a collection of short stories about Leopold Longshanks and his wife Cora. Longshanks is a mystery writer and an unlikely detective. who, with his wife, Cora, in the background gets into some unusual situations. Shanks, Longshanks’ nickname, then unravels the crime or misdemeanor, all the while protesting that he’s a writer, not a detective. The stories are interesting enough, such as when Shanks sets out to catch the person who mugged him and pays for the miscreant to go to vocational college rather than be convicted and sent to jail. But all the stories follow the same general pattern and pacing, which makes the collection seem rather dull. Overall, a nice set of stories, just not fast-paced.

Several of these stories first appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine between 2003 and 2014.

Rob Lopresti also writes novels and blogs at sleuthsayers.com and Little Big Crimes.

El Dorado – A Golden Search

A Shadow Away
by Joan K. Lacy
© May 2018
Alazo Press

A Shadow Away - a search for El Dorado El Dorado

Searching for El Dorado in the Amazon jungle, Alex Cort and Andrew Seaton need all the help they can get in A Shadow Away by Joan K. Lacey. Cort, a private art theft investigator, and Seaton, a British archaeologist, search for the fabled city of gold based on an old map, a gem and a golden idol that’s gone missing. As Cort and Seaton slog through the jungle assisted by a local guide, they’re aided by Angel, a mysterious being from an alternate universe. Angel’s heightened senses and skills, some would say magic, keep the searchers a step ahead of Benjamin Guelf, an unscrupulous rival collector.

Although Angel uses her powers to get the group out of danger on occasion, she seems withdrawn and not really part of the group. The reader learns nothing about her antecedents or world. On more than one occasion, Angel implies that Cort and Seaton can attain some or most of her powers. When Cort asks her, she just proclaims that he’s not ready to know such things. Often, as Cort and the others traverse the jungle, Angel seems to walk along in another world, like a slippery wraith.

Literary Comparisons

A Shadow Away might be compared to the Indiana Jones universe. Lacy’s novel involves an archaeologist seeking a religious relic in an intimidating environment while evading unscrupulous competitors. In addition, similarities exist between Lacy’s Alex Cort series and Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series. Again, both involve archaeologists searching for artifacts and dealing with danger. But Lacy introduces a subtle dose of magic realism in the search for El Dorado, thus expanding the trope.

Recommendation

Overall, A Shadow Away is an engaging read that kept me interested. I would have preferred to learn a good deal more about Angel even if the information was kept away from Seaton and Cort. She refers to herself as a “witch” and is evasive when Cort asks about her world. She says he’s not ready to know even after Cort begins accepting her abilities, which seems condescending. At times, she seems insubstantial, like a hologram, even when she and Cort become attracted to each other.

Cort and Seaton with their group of indigenous guides hack and slog their way through the jungle undergrowth. Yet, on a few occasions, Guelf and Raul Facón, his nasty sidekick, just step out from behind a tree to confront them looking unscathed and fresh as if Guelf and Facón could just teleport into the area. At one point, the Amazon River, which is full of life-threatening creatures, sweeps Guelf away. Yet, in the final stages of the story, he appears well and hearty.

Still, I recommend A Shadow Away for those who like stories full of adventure, mystery and magical realism. I give this first Alex Cort novel 3.75 out of 5 stars; a solid read. I look forward to the next installment in the series.

Cults, Daggers and Rekindled Love

The Dagger by Pam AndersThe Dagger
By Pam Anders
© September 2018
Real Publishing Company

Author Pam Anders leads readers on a merry chase through the USA’s Pacific Northwest in The Dagger, her debut novel in the Kat Delaney series. From the forests of Idaho through Walla Walla, WA, towards Portland, OR, Kat’s grit and perseverance defeat a madman and a cult of incestuous monsters.

The Good Life

Kathryn (Kat) Delaney has a good life. A 24-year-old teacher who enjoys her work, Kat lives with her father in Portland, OR. Although Kat enjoys the nice house and nice cars, she wonders about her father, but has stopped asking. For all her life, Kat’s father refused to answer any questions about himself, his income or background. Or the identity of Kat’s mother. Her father just stonewalls her. She also ponders the need for an elaborate alarm system that is monitored from a secret room built by her father.

Lots of Questions

Consequently, Kat knows nothing when her father, Sean Delaney, is found dead in the woods while on one of his periodic “hunting trips.” Where had her father gotten the several thousand dollars in his possession? Can she convince Detective Leo Burton that she and her father were not drug dealers or part of a spate of recent bank robberies? Who was the mysterious woman at her father’s funeral? Why did the Circle of God cult kidnap Kat and insist on calling her Ursula? Why did the cult leaders insist that Kat hand over a ceremonial dagger? Would Kat’s ex-boyfriend, Doug Stamper, and his father, Marty, be able to help her after she escapes from the cult?

Overall, The Dagger is a very good, suspenseful read. Plenty of fast-paced action engaged me and kept me turning pages. Anders’ writing was terse and spot on. I look forward to more character development of Kat, Doug and Marty as the series progresses.

The Dagger would be a good holiday or birthday gift for the mystery lover in your life.

Cruise the Mediterranean

A Cruise to Die For
by Charlotte and Aaron Elkins
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
© 2013
Paperback

Cruise the Mediterranean, looking out at the warm blue waters of the Aegean and Ionian Seas. Visit the Palace of Knossos on Crete with no other tourists around. Stroll on the Promenade in Corfu. Eat well on a mega yacht owned by a Greek mogul. All in the name of catching a cagey art collector who is not always on the up-and-up when selling paintings from his collection.

Along for the ride on this floating dreamboat, Alix London is the eyes and ears of the FBI until she gets help from Ted Ellesworth, her FBI contact, who comes aboard as an investor later in the cruise. The second installment of the Alix London series, A Cruise to Die For finds London knocked unconscious on the floor of the yacht’s music room and, later, in the middle of a standoff between the police and art thieves in Albania.

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A Dangerous Talent – Alix London series

A Dangerous Talent by Charlotte and Aaron ElkinsA Dangerous Talent by Charlotte and Aaron Elkins
Thomas & Mercer
© 2012
Paperback

A low-slung Lamborghini cruises along a curvy, narrow road through scenic New Mexico mountains. Will Alix London and Christine LeMay survive when a tailgating pickup truck and a tractor trailer barreling down the wrong side of the road try to force them through the guardrail and down a cliff? Charlotte and Aaron Elkins wrote A Dangerous Talent as the first installment of the Alix London series. Previously, Charlotte wrote five romance novels pseudonymously as Emily Spenser. Aaron’s 16-novel mystery series featuring Gideon Oliver and three-novel series about Chris Norgren are familiar to mystery lovers.

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Betrayal and Distrust

Dark Tide Rising by Anne Perry

Dark Tide Rising
by Anne Perry
Ballantine Books
© 2018

Who kidnaps Kate, wife of wealthy Harry Exeter, and demands a king’s ransom? The money paid, Kate’s release still goes awry. in Dark Tide Rising, Inspector William Monk stands amid a conundrum. He and Harry Exeter followed the kidnappers’ instructions to the letter. Who knew and betrayed them? Mistrust oozes up from the Thames like the famous London fog. How can Inspector Monk untangle the web of betrayal and distrust surrounding his chosen team of River Police? Continue reading

Book Blogger Platform

The Book Blogger Platform, 2nd Edition: The Ultimate Guide to Book Blogging
by Barb Drozdowich
© 2016

Book Blogger PlatformFor anyone new to blogging and who wants to blog about and review books, The Book Blogger Platform, by Barb Drozdowich, gives a solid overview of the main blogging platforms. The book is aimed at those who are not totally tech savvy. Ms. Drozdowich discusses WordPress and Blogger, the two most popular blogging platforms. She discusses the posts, plugins, gadgets, widgets and sidebars that are part of every blog. Also discussed are backing up your blog and monetizing it.

Since this book focuses on book blogging, Ms. Drozdowich discusses where and how to get books about which to blog. Netgalley and Edelweiss are mentioned as prime sources from which to request advanced reader copies (ARCs) and as places to post reviews.

Book bloggers can also guest post on blogs of other book reviewers/bloggers. Other sites to post book reviews are GoodReads, LibraryThing, and Booklike. Ms. Drozdowich is also a proponent of posting to the major social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube and Instagram.

Overall, this book is a good overview of how blogging software works, where book bloggers can find ARCs and suggestions for other places to review books and get your name out there.

The author can be found online at:
http://barbdrozdowich.com
http://bakerviewconsulting.com
http://sugarbeatsbooks.com/

Edinburgh Dusk – Review

Edinburgh DuskTitle:   Edinburgh Dusk  |  Author:   Carole Lawrence  |  Publisher:  Thomas & Mercer  |  Publication:  2018 |  Genre:   Mystery

Edinburgh Dusk is the second installment in a mystery series by Carole Lawrence. Set in 1880, Ian Hamilton, a Shakespeare-quoting Detective Inspector, and his associate, Sergeant Dickerson, are drawn into a poisoning case when Dr. Sophia Jex-Blake reports the death of the first victim, the husband of a client who gets help at her clinic for poor women. More victims follow, including a banker visiting Margaret, a prostitute at Fair Kate’s.  The investigation leads Hamilton and Dickerson through brothels, pawn shops and back alleys in the Old Town section of Edinburgh. Continue reading

Review of The Quartet Murders

"The Quartet Murders" coverThe Quartet Murders: A Yorkshire Murder Mystery | By: J. R .Ellis | Publisher:  Amazon Publishing UK / Thomas & Mercer | Copyright: 2018 | ISBN: 9781053903098 | Genre: Mystery

Detective Chief Inspector Jim Oldroyd is thoroughly enjoying a concert of chamber music in a chapel in a small Yorkshire town when one on the quartet members is shot while performing onstage by an unseen assailant and the musician’s irreplaceable Stradivarius violin goes missing. No one is seen leaving the building, yet the murderer and thief aren’t found. Is this the work of a gang of art thieves with whom some of the locals are involved? A few of the local well-heeled gentry are known for their private collections of rare and priceless musical instruments. Before long another member of the quartet is killed, and his murder linked to the stolen violin. DCI Oldroyd assists his old friend, DCI Sam Armitage of the local Halifax police force, in unraveling the knotted strings of these mysteries. The police assume the two deaths and the theft of the violin are committed by the same group of criminals. But are they connected or are they separate cases?

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