Crime Scene Reviews

Book Reviews at the Scene of the Crime

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May 28, 2016
by Richard Demma
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The Vanished: Nordic Noir

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Shite Cover

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Revised Cover

I’ve just been sent – for review purposes – The Vanished, by Denmark’s brother and sister team, Lotte and Soren Hammer. I’m 5% into it and I expect to be up all night devouring it. Why is this news? Well, because the sibling Hammer’s debut novel, The Hanging – while receiving rave reviews in native Denmark and other nordic parts – bombed miserably in its English version – because, well, because the English translation was abysmal – and the initial cover was shite also. Lots of very peeved people on Amazon expressing their peevety in no uncertain terms. I didn’t even attempt a read.

The second installment – The Girl in the Ice (what a great title – except, ooops,  they weren’t the first to use it, about five other authors got there before them!) was sort of ho-hum, or so I’ve heard. But a much better cover. See? Somebody got wise. Now for the third installment, The Vanished. Well, if it’s as good as the first chapters, which went through me like a gunshot to the brain, then I’ll be giving up eating for the next several days until it’s finished. Maybe, just maybe, these authors are worth all the hype – earning this glowing blurb from no less a 9781408821091distinguished crime writer than Lars Kepler: The best Danish crime fiction in years! I hope so, because I’m really looking forward to the next several days without food. om_os_4 And also who could not love a pair of weirdo siblings who look like this: No wonder they write crime. Something kinky and sinister going on there, I’m sure. Would you want to spend a weekend alone with this pair in a Nordic cabin deep in the woods without electricity?

Not sure when I will get around to reviewing The Vanished, however, because I’m just finishing up Geraldine Evans’ Dead Before Morning, (having just polished off Manda Scott’s revisionist crime novel featuring Joan of Arc, Into the Fire, so my plate is full.) Dead Before Morning is the first installment in Ms. Evan’s Rafferty & Llewellyn crime series, part cozy-part quirky police procedural, a sub genre she virtually invented herself. I can already reveal I’m giving it five stars – not because it’s a world classic crime novel on a par with Gorky Park or The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, but because Ms. Evans – on her first try – so perfectly fulfilled the requirements of the sub genre she invented. It is a perfect little masterpiece of economy and control and a class act. Geraldine Evans is a Book Club Reading List author, and I reviewed her book, Blood on the Bones, here on this blog sometime ago. Ms. Evans also has a second novel listed with Book Club Reading List, A Thrust to the Vitals.  And herein lies one of the advantages of listing one’s book on a reading list : to wit, readers are introduced to an author’s entire body of work ( or oeuvre, if you wish to be snooty and sound French) and not simply a single volume.  A single click takes an interested reader to the author’s webpage and Amazon page, and there you are (or voila!). I was introduced to Geraldine Evans through Book Club Reading List and she’s now become one of my favorite crime authors.

Besides, who could resist an author’s page when they look like this:
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Follow this link if you dare to Lotte And Soren Hammer’s webpage. INTO-THE-FIRE-large51jGJflgTmL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

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May 22, 2016
by Richard Demma
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Book Review: The Tipping Point

As the saying goes, better late than never. I hope it applies here, because I promised this review some months ago, but then experienced certain personal setbacks which I won’t divulge (keeping it mysterious, as is appropriate to the subject matter of this blog).

MV5BMjM2MTQ2MzcxOF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzE4NTUyNzE@._V1_UY1200_CR69,0,630,1200_AL_The Tipping Point, by Walter Danley, is a selection of Book Club Reading List. The book was a fun, breezy read for me because of it’s fast plotting, tension and suspense and because it took me into an unfamiliar world (beyond my comfort zone as a crime novel reviewer), that of big business and its sometimes ruthless, cutthroat practices. Given the fame and notoriety of both the book and the Hollywood film, The Big Short, which chronicles the murky business practices of the big banks (and the savvy investors who bet against them), leading to  the collapse of the economy in 2008, I was anticipating another informative read with the Tipping Point. I wasn’t disappointed. In this case, the author, Walter Danley, succeeded in making the arcane world of real estate investment quite fascinating, by incorporating it inside a face paced thriller, with corpses piling up faster than you can say portfolios, stock options and contracts.

The strength of the book lies in it’s clever, fast paced plotting and the author’s ability to make difficult, complex business practices both comprehensible to a novice reader as well as entertaining. Without giving away too much of the plot (since these details are revealed early on),  a major real estate business, Cap Vest, experiences a number of shocking setbacks. First, three of their top partners are murdered one after the other, together with several other associates. Secondly, the surviving partners discover a massive embezzlement fraud and suspect the murders are linked with it, though nothing is as it seems and this turns out to be more difficult to prove than the reader might think. Thirdly, the remaining partners are disconcerted by the revelation that some of their top partners,including some of the deceased, were using the drug Ecstasy to “enhance their consciousness,” supposedly with an eye to increasing their effectiveness as businessmen. And this – the drug use – is what one partner describes as “The Tipping Point,” that point at which the company – through the unethical practices of some of its top partners – veered over the edge, heading for ruin and collapse.

Into this heady mix comes an assassin straight out of Israel – and I have to say one of the most entertaining and original hit men I’ve encountered in crime fiction. He has a very original take on his profession, which I won’t reveal, except to say it’s not your stereotypical psychopath. This is an assassin given to reflection. He was one of my favorite characters in the book.

The reader is carried along on a wild roller coaster ride, watching the assassin systematically pick off one body after another, wondering who hired him and why while following the efforts of partner, Garth Wainright, together with several police detectives, as they attempt to track down the murderer and the people behind him. After a rousing chase sequence in the latter part of the book, all loose ends are tied up, the villains are revealed, their motives made clear and (spoiler) the company just barely escapes teetering over the edge into financial and social ruin. However, there is one delicious twist at the end which took me completely by surprise and made me laugh out loud. So I won’t reveal it, except to say I was rooting for both of the characters involved (against all my moral principles).

Danley does a nice job balancing suspenseful plotting, sexy love scenes, violent encounters with some very informative and interesting descriptions of the world of big business and real estate investment. He has a sure touch when it comes to writerly discipline, giving us just enough info before taking us back into the plot or some romantic encounter. He also displays a masterly control over the business info, since this is clearly something he knows a lot about. It shows in the writing and inspires confidence in the reader.

Less successful, in my opinion, were some of the love scenes and romantic interludes – designed, I would imagine, to give spice to the story and well as depth to the characters. But to this reader, the dialogue in these scenes seemed a trifle forced and stilted, and I found the scenes more a distraction than anything. I wanted to get back to the actual story. And in fact, when we get to the business scenes, the dialogue seems right on the money and completely convincing. We are taken with great confidence into this fictional world and given the deep satisfaction fiction is supposed to provide: allowing us to vicariously experience a world different from our own. What surprised me is that the dialogue involving the assassin displayed even more authority and control, leading me to wonder if the author also had experience in this area of employment as well (small witticism). 17949117

However, I breezed through the book because I wasn’t that heavily invested emotionally in any of the characters, including the very sympathetic lead partner who spearheads the investigation, Garth Wainright (who figures in the sequel). Partly this is simply a result of my own prejudices. It’s hard for me to care about the plight of super rich people struggling to protect their investments and their corporations, even ethical businessmen dedicated to the good of the firm and their investors. But that’s just me, former social-justice minded Jesuit and former Catholic Worker in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco. These are very rich people running about in this book, as desperate as they may be, with huge assets most of us can only dream about. Even the narrator conveys a bouncy enthusiasm for the glories of the good life, whether it’s a ten bedroom mansion on the shores of Lake Tahoe or tropical island beach, replete with sun umbrella, mai tais and a sexy mistress in her bikini sitting nearby. Well, I lived in a tropical island beach house in Phuket, Thailand, for three years, with the crystalline blue waters a mere minute’s walk from my verandah and I know it’s not all it’s cracked up to be (another witticism). I would prefer greater vision in a crime novel – beyond wealth and privilege and luxury. But that’s just me.TippingPointFront2-FJM_Low_Res_500x750-Copy

My final summation = a very entertaining, informative read that not only taught me a lot about big business but actually enabled me to experience it in fictional terms and that was a refreshing experience. The roller coaster ride of a thriller plot was fun and absorbing, and I really appreciated the expert way the author balanced all the elements of his story, knowing just when to bring one element to a close and draw us quickly into another. Fun and informative, but not profound. There is an interesting reflection towards the end of the book about the classic Seven Deadly Sins (avarice, envy, wrath, sloth, gluttony, lust and pride) and the manner in which seven of the nefarious characters exemplify these sins. It’s clear this provided the author with a certain framework for the book and a moral perspective about the perils of unethical business practices. As interesting as this was, it wasn’t quite enough for me (picky, picky). However, does every crime novel have to have gravitas and significance and plunge us into existential questions about the meaning of life?  I think not.

Officially, I’ve given it four stars, though my personal prejudices lean more towards three and a half.

 

Amazon page for the Tipping Point. 

Author Walter Danley’s page.

four-stars

 

 

 

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September 25, 2015
by Richard Demma
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What I’m reviewing next

 

After a long, eventful summer teaching drama to CzCONFESSIONSech kids in the forests, I’m just now getting back into the swing of things with reading and reviewing. I’ve chosen two exciting books from Book Club Reading list to read and review next. The first is a book that deals with an issue close to my own heart (and mind), Confessions of a Conspiracy Nut: Diary Notes on the Tsarnaev Case. The book’s focus is on the Boston Marathon Bombings and the many anomalies that still remain unresolved in the case. Were we told the truth during the investigation and trial,  and did the trial, replete with its confessions from young Dzhokhar Tsarnaev himself, settle the many doubts. This is true crime writing at its best, and is more pertinent than ever as an examination of the present state of American justice in this age of the surveillance state.

Two Years on the Edge. A personal account of how the author found herself part of the Boston Marathon Bombings conspiracy theory, and why she continues to question the Tsarnaev brothers’ guilt. According to John Remington Graham, who has filed an amicus curiae motion in the Tsarnaev case, “It has been clear from ancient times that confession statements are the weakest and most suspicious of all. This section includes a summary of the trial, the basis for our doubts, and the wide variety of people who are still examining the case with skeptical eyes. It isn’t just smitten fangirls!

519RsDT15mL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_The second book is a paranormal mystery, one of my favorite genres: Vanished: The Search for Sally Hunt.

From the blurb:What would you do if suddenly you were given an awesome gift – the ability to heal with a touch?

That was the gift the Sally Hunt received in 1974. Not religious Sally sought counsel with an old professional psychic, Carmella Nuncio. Years before, Carmella helped find a kidnapped boy and she shows Sally how to live with this new power.

 

I’m always interested in works of fiction that increase our openness to dimensions of existence beyond the rational, and this looks like a fun, entertaining read, with a dash of spirituality thrown in for good measure.

Reviews coming soon!

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June 29, 2015
by Richard Demma
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What we’re reading next!

I’m off to summer camp this coming Saturday, two weeks in the forest with a bunch of wild, rambunctious Czech kids. We’ll be doing drama, swimming and hiking, scaring each other with ghost stories and taking scary midnight walks in the woods. In my free hours, I’ll be reading a couple of fun crime novels that I’ll be reviewing shortly here at Crime Scene Reviews. Both books on my short list are taken from Book Club Reading List.

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The first on the list is Thomas Sawyer’s Cross Purposes and here’s a blurb to whet your appetite:

Manhattan Private Investigator Barney Moon can hack, charm or con his way into or out of damned-near anything. Barney is driven — to solve cases, nail bad guys, and to anyplace not reachable via the NY Subway. 

Barney never learned to drive. And, like most born/bred New Yorkers, he regards pretty much anywhere else as “Out-of-Town.” 

But there is one place for which he has a particular, lifelong aversion: Los Angeles, California (which he thinks of as an Alien Planet). And — guess where he finds himself stranded? 

In CROSS PURPOSES, a case takes the reluctant Barney and his driver, Al Drobowsky to Los Angeles to obtain a single fingerprint. Things quickly get complicated. That night, of what by then seems sure to be only two in Tinseltown, Al learns he must immediately return to Brooklyn.

Next morning, Barney notices his rented car being hot-wired by a young woman. Pragmatically, in exchange for not having Melodie Seaver arrested, he enlists the gorgeous 18-year-old Southern California delinquent to drive him around for — at most — one day. 

Except that things quickly escalate for this comically ill-matched pair, into murders, conspiracies, and mortal danger. Very fortuitously, the Good News for Barney: Melodie’s driving skills are awesome. Together, our off-the-wall team narrowly survives, and solves the complicated mess they’ve stumbled into.

The second book is Manipulation by Australian screenwriter, Dawson Howard. This one tickled my fancy  because it involves a special forces soldier trekking through the desert seeking spiritual enlightenment. I thought, well, that’s a twist, but why not? I’ll give it a go.

The Australian desert.
Wade Ross, Special Forces soldier, has been trekking through the sandy wasteland of Australia on a journey of spiritual enlightenment.
That is, until he is shot by a 7.62mm SLR.
Ducking for cover and hastily bandaging his wound, he knows that the rifle-men are still out there.
They were his assassins.
It is time to return to civilisation and determine who these men work for, why they want to kill him and how he can find and destroy them first.
Ross will need assistance from Stefan, the French Foreign Legionnaire who works on undercover missions out of his disguised fishing boat in the Darwin harbour. On board is Crystal Cartos, a US Navy helicopter pilot and Ross’s new partner.
Their investigations lead them to a possible lead: Samantha Cooper, the older sister of ex-Vice President Daniel Cooper. Cooper could inherit the family’s millions and has a large stake-holding in the world’s diamond houses. With such money, comes great power…
Can Ross track down his assassins before they find him?
When those close to him begin to get hurt, the mission changes. It is no longer about survival, but revenge.
‘Manipulation’ is a fast-paced international thriller that transports readers from the deserts of Australia and Israel to the coast of Porto Cervo and the lakes of Geneva. MANIPULATION

‘Action packed.’ – Tom Kasey, best-selling author of ‘Trade Off’.

Dawson Howard, born in 1959, lives with his lovely wife in Brisbane, Australia. Having served as a teenage soldier he spent most of his working life in the construction industry. Drawing on his military experiences and association with the Australian Aboriginals, his debut novel introduces Wade Ross, an ex-SAS soldier, highly regarded among secret service agents. Having completed the second of his Wade Ross series, he is now focused on a psychological / action thriller.

 

I’ll be back from camp in about three weeks and hope to have reviews up about these two entertaining summer reads, plus lots more.

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June 17, 2015
by Richard Demma
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Book Review: The Fifth Gospel

Here is a review of Ian Caldwell’s bestseller, The Fifth Gospel, which I posted at Amazon.com some two months ago. I usually reserve this blog for reviews of independent authors who are listed with Book Club Reading List, Cheap eBooks, and Cheap Kindle Books . This is because I believe that many of these independent authors’ works are just as deserving of attention as these multi-copy bestsellers, but for reasons of marketing – and other inscrutable mysteries of pop culture –  have trouble getting into the media spotlight. However, occasionally I’ll post a review of these more prominent books just to make a point. In this case, The Fifth Gospel is a complement to my earlier review of The Franciscan. Both are “Catholic” novels.
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The Fifth Gospel is an intelligent, erudite thriller that held me in suspense for the first 80% of the book. However, I was quite disappointed with the left turn it took towards the end and the final denouement. I will try to avoid major spoilers in this short review – at least until the final paragraphs.

As a religious thriller, I thought it was professionally done and succeeded in engaging my sympathies with the characters, especially the narrator, a Greek Catholic priest and his six year old son. Because both are threatened by the turn of events, the narrative was really quite moving and genuinely suspenseful. And using a Greek Catholic priest who is able to marry as the central narrator also offered a window into reform of the moribund Catholic system, without having to belabor the point. A very clever move, because the overall tone of the book is reverential (too much so) towards the hierarchical male system of both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. There is also reverential awe displayed towards the ‘saintly’ John Paul II and respect for his closest theological advisor (and future pope) Cardinal Ratzinger. So any Catholics of a conservative bent would be reassured, while more progressive readers would be appeased by the use of a married priest. Very interesting interplay.

The interplay between the Catholic and Orthodox worlds was also fascinating for anyone interested in arcane religious lore. Beyond this, however, the early parts of the book formed a superb crash course in biblical exegesis and the ‘critical-historical method’ of reading the gospels. I went through all of this during five years of theological graduate studies. This short summary was really brilliantly done, engaging, interesting, and to the point as far as the plot was concerned.

More importantly, the author shows himself conversant with the latest scientific discoveries regarding the controversial relic, The Shroud of Turin. It is true that a seminal article was published in 2004 in the world’s leading peer reviewed scientific journal. Thermochimica Acta by chemist Ray Rogers of Los Alamos Laboratories that seriously called into question the 1985 carbon dating of the shroud. As of this point in history, no respected scientist accepts the 1985 carbon dating as reliable. So the author of the Fifth Gospel knows his stuff and this makes for a compelling and exciting read.

My problem with the book (spoiler alert) comes towards the end in the uses the author makes of his biblical exegesis to ‘prove a point’ about the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin. Having led us in one direction about the Shroud’s authenticity, he then makes an abrupt turn in the opposite direction – without having sufficiently come to terms with or explained the implications of the discrediting of the carbon dating. He uses a simplistic ‘critical historical’ approach to John’s gospel to prove his point, namely that the discrepancies between John’s gospel and the other three ‘synoptic’ gospels rests with John’s penchant for symbolization over factual accuracy. He implies that details found in john’s gospel about the final passion of Jesus which are not found in the synoptics must therefore be imaginative inventions added for symbolic theological reasons – namely the wound in the side and the discovery of burial ‘cloths’ in the tomb rather than a single cloth. Unfortunately, this is an extreme oversimplification that robs his conclusion of any reliability.

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Now he is writing a work of fiction, not a scientific treatise, so he is free to arrange, edit, invent and imagine as he pleases for fictional purposes – but within certain limits. He mentions, for example, that John’s gospel says herbs and spices were used in preparing Jesus’ body for burial, but evidence of such spices were not found during the scientific examination of the shroud. Therefore – voila! – we see how John invents and adds. By implication, therefore, because John alone of the four gospels mentions the wound in Jesus’ side, the Shroud of Turin, which includes a side wound, must be inauthentic or a ‘fake,’ based solely on John’s imaginative invention. However, he fails to inform his readers that there is spectacular forensic evidence on the shroud that supports John’s gospel and completely contradicts his own thesis. (I leave it to the interested reader to research what this might be, but forensic scientists have confirmed that the evidence is not apparent to the naked eye, but only detectable under microscopic examination under ultraviolet light. Therefore, in no way could it have been ‘faked’ by a medieval forger.). There is also equally spectacular forensic evidence coming from another source about the possibility of multiple cloths in the tomb (The Sindona in Spain, bloodstains of which form a perfect match when superimposed on the Shroud of Turin). Taken together, these two pieces of ‘evidence’ support the alternative theory that the author of the Gospel of John had access to a stream of authentic tradition, including eyewitness reports of the final hours of Jesus, which was not accessible to the synoptic gospel authors. Too complex a subject to go into detail here.

Does this matter in a work of fiction? Well, I think it does when the early treatment/instruction about the historical/critical method of reading the gospels has been so responsibly and seriously done. This raises expectations of trust in the reader – that the author, while fictionalizing the investigations surrounding the shroud, is also being responsible in his treatment of the subject and will not lead the reader astray. Not leading the reader astray does not mean espousing one position or another about the shroud’s authenticity. It means warning the reader IF one is carefully selecting and editing/ excluding evidence to suit a fictional point of view. He includes what supports his thesis, he excludes what does not. Anyone familiar with the present state of Shroud research will feel quite deflated by this subterfuge. The ending feels dishonest to me, partly because I can’t quite figure out his fictional purposes, and partly because it doesn’t square with current research. There is even a bit of a snide, condescending comment aimed at viewers of the shroud exhibition (in the novel) thinking, “Ah yes, we always knew (the Shroud was authentic), when in fact they have all been fooled. But he hasn’t presented a plausible argument, fictional or otherwise, as to how they have been fooled. If you want to suggest a bit of iconoclasm, that we shouldn’t take such sacred relics so seriously, but focus instead on the substance of the gospels and you fictionalize that approach by questioning the Shroud’s authenticity, well and good. But the author’s approach seems so ‘scientific’ when in fact it is highly selective and, to this reader at least, more than a little dishonest. I felt quite let down at the end. What was the point of all that effort?

STAR-3.5-2 Three and a half stars for an intelligent, compelling read – minus a bit of honesty.

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May 1, 2015
by Richard Demma
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Book Review: The Pleasantville Junior Detective Agency

The Pleasantville Junior Detective Agency by Johnny Cooper is a delightful mystery read for young children that introduces them to the pleasures of reading as an art form. I was asked by the author to give an honest review, to which I agreed because I’m currently working on a crime novel myself with a pair of young teenagers who find themselves in deep trouble because of their own crime investigations. So I was curious to see how the author shaped his narrative and developed the character of his young detective.

Perry Winkle – right off the bat with the name of our young neighborhood detective, we see Cooper’s knack for clever phrasing that entertains. Our young 51iTjRAju2Ldetective likes to read detective novels and from them he learns, “All the great detectives take notes”. This is followed by “the shabby shack in the backyard”, the “One Stop Shop”, “Melancholy Lane”, “Ice Cream for You,”   This witty wordplay offers assurances to young readers that even though the world is peopled with some dishonest folk who do dastardly deeds (and all of us might be tempted from time to time) this planet is still a fun and secure place to be. Life is good.

Mr. Winkle charges $2 a case and says, “No case is too small.” The book consists of ten separate chapters covering various cases, including “The Case of the Halloween Bandit”, ‘The Case of the Running Man”, and the delightful finish, “The Case of the Donut Caper”. In each case, our clever detective solves the crime, often in a  matter of minutes, but the chapter ends with a question: Can the reader herself solve the crime? Turn the page and you are given the solution. I found myself chuckling throughout the entire book. Perry Winkle is charming and even some of his villains are charming, too, including a bully or two thrown in for good measure.

Clever, witty little stores that introduce young readers to the pleasures of crime detection and mystery stories, but I’ve boosted my rating of this book to five stars for this reason. Mr. Cooper has a real writing style. He knows how to shape sentences and phrases to convey emotional tension and suspense and to create an emotional response in the reader. This is a rare and innate gift that distinguishes a merely clever writer from a literary one. Here is one excellent example:

“He had been hired to investigate a case. Solve a crime. Bring justice to the victims. But as he stared at the baseball card in his hand, he wondered if there had been a crime committed at all.”

You can see how the author builds up tension with his short, clipped, dramatic opening sentences, then leads us through a free flowing sentence to his dramatic denouement. This is a genuine writing style and by means of it, he introduces his young readers to the visceral pleasures of a truly literary reading experience. It’s not ‘just the facts, ma’am,’ it’s the very shaping of language itself that conveys meaning and emotional resonance. Kids who read this book will not only have fun in their heads with the clever stories and their solutions, they will feel with their bodies the pleasures of the literary experience. And as reading is a ‘dying art’ among young people (or so we are told), this book is a precious gift. Thank you, Johnny  Cooper.

An enthusiastic★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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April 28, 2015
by Richard Demma
0 comments

Book Review: Divine Intervention

Psychic Skills Investigators

Another winner from Book Club Reading List, Divine Intervention by Cheryl Kaye Tardif is a cracking good read that kept me engrossed until the end. It is a21768722 paranormal crime novel with a special set of investigators gifted with psychic abilities, known as Psychic Skills Investigators or PSI’s. The title, “Divine Intervention”, despite the expectations it might raise in the reader’s mind, does not refer to some mystical dimension to the story or to the investigators’ special gifts. There is no particular spiritual subtext to this story, unlike First Grave on the Right, which I reviewed some time ago. In fact, “Divine” refers to Matthew Divine, the director of a Canadian complex known as the Enviro-Safe Research Facility that both trains and employs psychics in police detection. This is what made the novel really interesting and original to me, it’s no-nonsense approach to psychic abilities, treating them as something ‘natural’ and unsurprising, no matter how much they might disconcert the uninitiated. In this subtle way, Tardif has made her own small contribution to breaking through the outmoded scientific paradigm that has been with us since Newton. When ‘minds’ are connected beyond the body and the five senses, then ‘clearly’ the brain is not the origin of consciousness. The situation is really the reverse, the brain acts as a transmitter or conduit for an energy field that both transcends and unites individuals. This is unquestionably a pointer to a spiritual dimension, but Tardif wisely does not make too much of this or she would spoil the fun of this very entertaining crime mystery. Psychic abilities are simply ‘there’ as a natural part of life, there is nothing particularly ‘supernatural’ about them. As the Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung remarked in the 1930’s, Western culture is undergoing a shift away from the rational mode and into what he termed the “psychic phase’ of it’s evolution, and one sign of this would be an increasing openness to the reality of psychic gifts – accompanied by a ferocious backlash as skeptics resisted this shift.

“She’s a Victim Empath. She picks up vibrations-pictures from the victims,” she explained. “Usually she sees their final moments.”

The Usual Suspects

entangled_minds_by_yathish-d5yuw94I won’t say too much about the plot of the novel, except to say it included a list of the ‘usual suspects’, corrupt politicians, malfeasant doctors, child abusers, serial killers, and tales of vengeance, blackmail, torture and grisly murder. The three murder victims that figure in the story were all burned to death and one of the psychic investigators has a special relationship to fire. I found that a really interesting twist, her psychic abilities weren’t simply generalized, they were focused on a specific kind of crime. Intriguing. It took me a while to get into the story, after the very interesting introduction that explained the gifts of these uniquely endowed investigators. However, by midway in the book I became really gripped by the story and three quarters of the way through I was turning pages at high speed. The twists were genuinely surprising and believable and kept me guessing until the end. Happily, I did not guess the identity of the killer until Tardif revealed it. The story stands on its own as a compelling, fascinating crime story.

“She reads fires….She’s a Pyro-Psychic,” Natassia bragged. “Jasi is the best there is.” 

“I can usually tell you where and how a fire started. Sometimes I pick up the perp’s last thoughts or the last thing he saw.” 

“Ben was a highly skilled profiler with the ability to touch someone and feel his or her thoughts. But his psychic abilities were unreliable and infrequent.”

Characters on Fire

Our three principal investigators, Ben, Natasia and Jasi, have complementary gifts that give them a unique insight into the minds of the perpetrator and the {C8A099A1-117E-4821-8D00-4F4B73E5E34A}Img100victims together. While this gives them an extraordinary advantage in their investigations, their visions and insights are not always clear or infallible. The visions seem to lead the investigators  into certain clear directions, until surprising obstacles pop up and sideswipe them, thereby fulfilling the requirement of any good crime suspense novel – surprise and reversal of expectations.  What I most appreciated about this aspect of the story is that Tardif does not turn these psychic gifts into a cheap device that offers easy solutions to the crimes. The very convoluted story remained suspenseful until the very end. Kudos to the author for pulling off that trick, very clever and realistic plotting indeed.

However, no crime novel worth its salt can succeed without a compelling central investigator and Tardif delivers here as well with an impressive female lead investigator, Jasi McLellan. Jasi is strong-minded, independent, pugnacious and resolute and the reader learns to trust her judgements and her authoritative drive. She also has a deeply vulnerable side because of the special nature of her psychic gift, an ability that frequently gives her nightmares. Yet she recognizes it as a profound responsibility, this is a gift to be used in the service of others. Along with Jasi’s strength, we see deep compassion and vulnerability. It’s a complex, well rounded and believable characterization and it made me like her at once. She would be very interesting to know ‘in private life,’ to quote Hannibal Lector in The Silence of the Lambs.

As Jasi says of her abilities:

“When I do a reading, I have to be very careful that I take certain precautions,” she explained. “First I have to clear my mind and inhale pure oxygen. If it’s a large fire with multiple victims I have to wear an oxy=mask.”

“I’ve had visions since I was about six. Every time I’m near a fire, I pick up thoughts and pictures. It’s actually very draining. Emotionally and physically.”

“(My gift is ) more controllable than Natassia’s,” Jasi admitted. “Natassia is a  Victim Empath. With her job she can lose herself in the victim’s emotions and fears. Sometimes we have to pull her back. We use a reality line.

Tardif introduces a love/sex interest into Jasi’s life with Brandon Walsh, Chief of Arson Investigations, a man she seemingly finds repugnant and whose forced imposition on her as a partner in the investigation she seems to resent. However, as the story develops, we discover that Jasi is actually powerfully attracted to Walsh, despite her conflicted, ambivalent feelings about him. At first I was a bit taken aback by the sudden development into sexual attraction, and some readers did find this aspect of the novel unrealistic. But as I grew into the story of their affair, I found this relationship really interesting and believable. Love and attraction are frequently just like this, conflicted and ambivalent, and it made Jasi’s character even more complex and compelling. Most of all, this special twist revealed the depths of her compassion and felt responsibility, because any involvement in a personal love affair dilutes her particular psychic abilities and throws her off. This means she is faced with a profound conflict between the demands of a personal life and the requirements of her special vocation as a psychic investigator.

Balance and a New Beginning

6343168If I had to choose one word to describe the author’s handling of the psychic dimension to this crime novel, I would say it had great balance. We are introduced to the investigators’ special gifts, we see them in action several times throughout the story, we see how their visions and insights greatly aid them in their investigations and how they sometimes confuse them. But the author has exercised great restraint in the employment of this device. The psychic dimension is not allowed to overwhelm the primary focus of this and any good crime novel – the investigation itself, the developing insights into character and motive, the reversals and surprises that increas dramatic tension, and the final dramatic and very violent denouement. Divine Intervention is a really interesting crime novel, aided and abetted by a fascinating exploration of psychic abilities that is seamingly interwoven into the plot. Well done, Ms. Tardif.

How to End a Novel

A very pleasant surprise awaits the reader at the very end, a surprise I’m now about to spoil, but not too much. Jasi has a vision right at the end of the book of a missing girl and this reader thought, “Oh wow, there is more to this story than I thought,” and I fully expected a surprise twist.  This vision comes right before Jasi again rebuffs Brandon Walsh, telling him -again – that any love affair she might have would interfere with her primary vocation. He walks out and she is left with a feeling of deep remorse. And then the book ends – we turn the page, and we’re given some twenty pages of the sequel – which starts right off with the very same scene where the book had ended. And we realize that the missing girl is at the heat of the mystery of the next book in the series and that Jasi has not yet seen the end of Brandon Walsh nor spoken the final world about her ability to balance a personal love life with her special vocation as a Pyro-Psychic.

An enthusiastic  FOUR HALF

Divine Intervention at Amazon

Cheryl Kaye Tardif’s Webpage

April 19, 2015
by Richard Demma
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New Crime Novels at Book Club Reading List

BITTER SWEET

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Some fourteen exciting and original crime novels have been added to Book Club Reading List in the past month. I hope to be reviewing at least some of them in the coming weeks. At the moment, I’m committed to reviewing Divine Intervention by Cheryl Kaye Tardif in the near future, also a BCRL title. Also on my list is the charming children’s detective novel, The Pleasantville Junior Detective Agency. And as a complement to my previous review of The Franciscan, I’ll also be shortly reviewing The Fifth Gospel, by Ian Caldwell, another Vatican centered suspense thriller, focusing on current scientific investigations of the Shroud of Turin.

Here is a list of the exciting new crime mystery additions to Book Club Reading List:

 

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Redemption by Samantha Charles.

A child still born after a violent altercation with the father, a best friend’s accidental death on a mountain, an escape from an abusive relationship back to one’s hometown – only to discover that one’s best friend’s accident was no accident at all! And shocking secrets that shake a small Southern town to its roots.

51-iP7Aa+NL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Against Their Will by Nancy Livingstone: After a plane crash in the pine woods of East texas, a reporter and a movie star discover  “they are being used against their will as medical test subjects and are embroiled in a conspiracy that involves government cover-ups and scientific data- a conspiracy targeting the President of the United States”.

HOMEFIRES-450xHome Fires by Judith Kirscht: A compelling family drama mystery about shocking secrets, a desperate search for the truth and a tale of horrific abuse.

545_Cross_Purposes_Cover_Final_3Cross Purposes by Thomas S. Sawyer: “a near-endless trail of goniffs, betrayed-and-betraying partners, stolen and re-stolen CIA code, religious nutcases, iffy Congressmen, Mercenaries, Russian Muscle, near-terminal greed-and-thievery, wannabe stars and starlets, and a pair of only-in-LA homicide cops.”

 

powers-not-delegated1Powers not Delegated by Rodney Page:

An evil alliance between Al Qaeda and Iran plots the unthinkable; their tools…disaffected American citizens lured to act on behalf of Islamic extremists.

Only a reluctant Georgia congressman, the CEO of an automobile company and a group of state governors can stop an out-of-control president and preserve the Constitution.”

headerHands Across the Sea by Brian Cook: A gritty look at the behind the scenes machinations of a small town sheriff’s office.

FOUR PIECESFour Pieces for Power by Marc Estes: “When mysterious strangers arrive at the home of Andrew Correo, they provide him with life changing news. He learns of the Vedicatori, a secret organization established by his ancestors, an organization he now has the chance to inherit control over. In order to gain this control, he needs to compete with Robert Stavero in a global scavenger hunt. They must search for four illusive crystals that, when brought together, will tell them their final destination.”
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 Manipulation by Dawson Howard:

‘The Australian desert. Wade Ross, Special Forces soldier, has been trekking through the sandy wasteland of Australia on a journey of spiritual enlightenment.
That is, until he is shot by a 7.62mm SLR. Ducking for cover and hastily bandaging his wound, he knows that the rifle-men are still out there. They were his assassins. It is time to return to civilisation and determine who these men work for, why they want to kill him and how he can find and destroy them first. “temporarilyemployed_w8210_300
Temporarily Employed by Vicki Batman: Out of work and out of cash, unemployed Hattie Cook is pulled over by Detective Adam Wellborn and the end result is a goofy love story spiced up with a murder mystery, and plenty of thrills and chills for temp worker Hattie.
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Bitter Sweet by E.D. Bird: “Hilton Shire, a newly appointed private investigator, since the untimely death of his wife Sabrina, is on a mission of revenge together with his brothers-in-law, Jordan and Kyle. They believe that Sabrina was murdered as a result of her investigation into the demise of Julie Curl’s husband a number of years before; they further believe that she was drawing close to resolving the mystery when she met with unmitigated violence. Their own endeavors to find those responsible for their loss and that of many others takes them as far afield as Barbados, but despite the many perilous episodes along the way, they achieve success in the end.”
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Shadow Game by Darryl Sollerh: Set in Indonesia, this is an international thriller that centers on the assassination of a populist President, with a ruthless general behind the scenes controlling the police and the press. But it is also a story of redemption as Jarret, the assassin, meets the Shadow Puppet Master and his daughter and is introduced to the healing spiritual dimensions of Indonesian culture.
FIRST PLACE, Reader Views Literary Awards
CHOICE AWARD WINNER, Rebecca’s Reads
FINALIST, Hoffer New Horizons Award
FINALIST, Readers’ Favorite Book Awards
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Gordian Knot by Joseph Di Francesco:  A tormented detective wracked by guilt and addictions, an airplane’s black box – key to a dark secret, a mysterious auto accident, combined with sex, murder and blackmail makes this a compelling psychological page turner.
AMAZON MURDERS
The Amazon Murders: A Rainforest Mystery by S. W. Lee: “Illegal loggers are mysteriously dying horrific deaths in the Amazon rainforest. The color of the fluids expelled from the men morphs from red to cream as their internal organs disintegrate and mix with their blood. At a nearby compound a group of American educators and students including medicinal research scientists Dr. Stephen Elmore and Dr. Julia Cole help local law enforcement investigate the gruesome deaths. When three more men die nearby at the same time the scientists quickly discover whatever is happening is spreading. The question of “who is the killer?” may be replaced by a “what.” Could it be the local eco-terrorist group? Or could it be something from the deep, unexplored interior jungle-something that has yet to be identified by anyone? Within days, four more men die violently. Can the grisly mystery be solved before the members of the compound also succumb to the killer? “
BLACK
The Black Madonna by Linda Lee Kane: “Luci de Foix was nine when her parents were killed in a car accident. But was it an accident? Unbeknownst to Luci, a group known as The Order has been watching her family for many years, waiting for the day that a diary written in the fourteenth century would be delivered to her family—a book that contains a key to a lost codex—and they would do anything to get it. Early one morning, when Luci is twenty-nine, a bloodied young man delivers a book, claiming it’s from her late grandparents. Plagued by panic attacks that have left her crippled, Luci struggles to overcome her fears, avenge the death of her family, and search for the lost codex. But who can she trust? Everyone seems intent on betraying her, even the gorgeous, enigmatic Max, a man with secrets of his own.”
Fourteen exciting crime and mystery novels, just added to Book Club Reading List. I hope to get to a good number of them soon!
Book Publicity Services The Franciscan Final Front Cover

April 19, 2015
by Richard Demma
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Book Review: The Franciscan

Book Publicity Services The Franciscan Final Front CoverPartly because of my theological background, I was asked by the publishers to provide an honest review of The Franciscan, a religious suspense thriller by WR. Park. Written some fourteen years ago, the plot revolves around a fictional Pope Francis (from the Franciscan order) who attempts to introduce revolutionary reforms into the Catholic Church and who faces numerous death threats and assassination attempts as a result. Of course, the coincidence of naming his protagonist Pope Francis some ten years before the present Pope Francis’ election is striking and noteworthy, especially since the present Pope, an amiable and charismatic man on the surface, raised many expectations of genuine reform at the beginning of his tenure. Sadly, those expectations have failed to be realized by now, as Francis has sought the support of billionaire oligarchs (particularly those circling round Jeb Bush for the upcoming US presidential race), continues to oppose any meaningful discussion of lifting the ban on birth control, continues to firmly oppose any discussion of women being admitted to priestly orders, continues to oppose any meaningful inclusion of gay people into the church or to prohibit the Church’s attacks on civil liberties for LGBT persons, and most importantly continues to protect his bishops from any meaningful accountability for the sex abuse scandal, even to the extent of appointing a notorious priest/pedophile protector, Juan Barros, as Bishop of Osnoro Chile.  Any hopes of good Pope Francis introducing genuine reforms into the Catholic church have been pretty much shattered by now. But that is another story.

WR. Park’s book was written with the best of intentions and a kind of boyish enthusiasm and naivete, and I respect his intentions and found many of his proposals for reforms and the effective means of carrying them out to be quite refreshing and original. Unfortunately, he has incorporated his ideas into the format of a suspense thriller and as a thriller it doesn’t really succeed. We know right from the beginning pages who the villain is (a dastardly, evil conservative Cardinal), his motives and several of his assassination plots. The only suspense in the novel is whether the villain will succeed in his attempts to do the Pope in, and I’m afraid that’s not really very suspenseful at all. I found the numerous sub plots revolving around this theme to be amateurish and unconvincing and quite tedious to read. This part of the plot rushes at breakneck speed in an attempt to mimic an action thriller, but it doesn’t convince. However, what tickled me no end was the sight of prelates and cardinals engaged in feats of ‘daring-do’ and even engaging in fisticuffs with one another. Even the Pope storms into a room and slaps his opponent in the face and breaks his jaw! That got a guffaw out of me. It was a very refreshing, iconoclastic picture of Catholic prelates at variance with the controlled gravitas so many of them exhibit. But the suspense thriller? Not suspenseful at all, I’m sorry to say.

The best parts of the book, in my opinion, were the brief forays into past history, displaying many highly fallible (and quite monstrous) decisions made by these supposedly ‘infallible’ Popes. Park does a good job summarizing them, so that reading them provides the most effective wallop when dismantling the myth of papal infallibility. Also, his proposals for reform of the Church are intelligent and thoughtful and the means by which they might be carried out, especially the democratizing of the church’s governing structures, are refreshingly original and breathtaking. This is indeed how it should be done, I thought,  if there were a Pope with the courage to undertake it. Some of the proposals were naive, particularly regarding the speed with which they were announced and carried out (the Pope simply announces from the balcony of St. Peter’s that he is not infallible), but I found this aspect acceptable in a work of fiction, unlike the sorry lack of suspense in the thriller dimension of the novel. The proposals for democratizing the church’s governing structures – really interesting, thoughtful, and provocative. Park shows a commendable balance between respect for the sacredness and need for the “Petrine office” and the pressing need to ‘put the Pope in his place,” because of the false idolization of the papacy. All well and good.Book Publicity Services WR PARK

In the end, however, this is still a man’s novel with a bunch of men running around saving the world and the church, and a charismatic male hero at the helm, good Pope Francis. Park is highly selective in the reforms he wishes to focus upon, mainly papal infallibility, Vatican finances, church governance. Sexual issues are pretty much ignored, particularly the sex abuse scandal which gets nary a mention, birth control, LGBT people in the Church, and women’s ordination and sharing in governance. There is one mention at the beginning that women should be accepted for priestly ordination, and then it is pretty much forgotten. Even worse,  there is no single outstanding woman leader/fictional character helping the pope and all of his male accomplices in saving the church. It’s all men engaged in acts of spying, espionage, plotting, saving the world. The only significant female character in the whole book is a vicious female assassin towards the end. Ouch! I thought. Not a good way to go about fictionalizing the issue of reform of the Catholic Church – by mirroring the Church’s  own male misogyny and distrust of women and gays.

Gays? One reference to ‘homosexuals,’ spoken by our evil cardinal when slandering Pope Francis behind his back by suggesting he and his co-friars engaged in disgusting, immoral ‘homosexual orgies’ when they were together in a remote Franciscan monastery. That’s it? That’s the only mention of the issue of gay people in the Church and the clergy? Of course, we all know that when gay people gather together, they turn into ‘homosexuals’ engaged in “disgusting orgies”. What else are they to do?

Coupled with this are a number of references to the robust heterosexual lustiness of a number of the hero cardinals and prelates assisting the pope, including one triumphant bello  from a sexy femme fatale about an aging Cardinal. ” He’s straight,” she announces with evident glee after succeeding in arousing him. Gee, really? How weird. I let the first one slide and the second, but after the third reference to an elderly prelate getting turned on by a sexy female, I thought – Hmmm, seems to be a bit of defensiveness here about the image of male clericals. ‘We need to counteract the gay image that has so tarnished the church,’ the author seems to be saying.  Not a good way to deal with the issue of gay people in the clergy, whom reliable estimates put at 20 to 25%. The systematic attack by the church on the civil rights of gay people in civil society is one of the most egregious practices now underway in the Catholic Church, completely at variance with the gospel message of Jesus the Nazarene,  and any book dealing with reform must face it head on and honestly. This is a defensive reaction on the part of a profoundly homophobic church. “Please don’t think we’re gay, see how much we hate gay people.” This Park does not do, quite the contrary. Coupled with the absence of any significant, empowered female character, and the inclusion of a vicious female assassin, one can only conclude that the author himself has some serious ‘issues’ of his own to deal with regarding women and gays. Best to clear those up before engaging in a work of fiction.

In the end, I was rather disappointed with the book, after starting with high expectations. I appreciated the author’s sincere suggestions about reforms, as far as they went, I chuckled at the image of elderly cardinals running about engaging in feats of daring do, I thought some of his suggestions about practical means of effecting reforms to be breathtakingly original. But the tone of misogyny regarding women and gays was quite disturbing. However, I would have been willing to overlook these faults (somewhat) if the darn suspense thriller part of the book, had been, well….suspenseful. Unfortunately, I wasn’t gripped by the story nor particularly worried for the characters. Suspense and tension seemed to be missing, and that is a serious flaw in a ‘suspense thriller.’ Park is proposing this book as part of a three part series. Let us hope that in subsequent volumes, he conceals the villain’s identity until the very end. And please – throw in some truly empowered women leaders and a decent gay character or two.

★ ★ ★ for good intentions

Mini reviews from Book Publicity Services

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February 15, 2015
by Richard Demma
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Book Reviews: Bestsellers

22557272While I usually devote my energies to indie crime novels listed with my favorite book club, Book Club Reading List, from time to time I’ll offer some mini-reviews and impressions of recent bestsellers. These mega million bestsellers don’t really need any more press from the likes of me, they receive more than enough as it is – making it difficult for equally deserving crime novels on the fringes to get noticed. And they tend to follow the winds of fashion, which are not known for their taste and judgement.

I’ve just finished the hugely popular Girl on a Train, which – with tedious predictability – has been compared to the blockbuster of several years ago, Gone Girl. I read Gone Girl in two days and really wished I hadn’t bothered.  While I found it wickedly clever and stylishly written, it left me feeling completely empty at the end – and even feeling I needed to take a bath. This is slick, escapist 41Lg22K3ViLentertainment at its most hyped – empty, shallow and pointless. But there is a huge market out there for just such a book, alas alas and alas. Girl on a Train, I’m afraid, is much the same, at least in my opinion – even though several of my friends raved about it. Yes, it has Hitchcockian echoes as a young woman riding on a train sees an incident in a backyard as she passes which may or may not offer clues to the solution of a murder. The book contains three unreliable and very unlikeable female narrators, their stories all intertwined, but I found the experience of immersing myself in their sordidness endlessly tedious, and the wicked cleverness of the plot ultimately pointless and unfulfilling. I hate to be so harsh, but when there are so many far more worthy crime novels out there of real depth and substance which cannot manage the hysteria (and money) generated by books such as the two above, it is frustrating in the extreme for a reviewer and aspiring crime novelist such as myself.

I give both books three stars only: ★ ★ ★

21936809Despite this reading experience, I continue to feel obligated to punish myself by reading these blockbusters – just to keep abreast of fashion. I’ve now just started another in the same mode, The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson. I’m happy to say that so far at least it appears to be a cut above the other two. It is also being compared to Gone Girl and described as ‘devilishly clever’ and ‘Hitchcockian,’ the standard cliches of marketing hype. Let’s see if it rises above the din.

Having indulged myself in that rant, here are three superb crime novels that I feel are truly worth the hype – except that there is no hype, only qualified and highly intelligent praise. None of these three have sold in the millions or are they likely to. Yet they amply reward a discerning reader’s patience, the kind of reader looking for substance and depth in a crime novel and an insightful look into society’s dilemmas and conundrums. These are books with genuine humanity and culture behind them.

The first is Burial Rites by Australian author, Hannah Kent. It examines in harrowing detail the final months of an Iburialritescelandic maid, Agnes Magnusdottir, condemned to death by execution in 1829 for her alleged part in a brutal dual murder. This is based on actual historical events, as Agnes Magnusdottir was the last person to be executed in Iceland. While we already know the final outcome for the central figure, the story Hannah Kent weaves around this enigmatic figure is mesmerizing. We are taken so deeply into an alien misogynistic culture of poverty, oppression and religious superstition, very much male dominated. We discover what little chance  a poor, orphaned indentured female servant could have in such a culture controlled by blind and powerful men.  Hannah Kent has given her protagonist a stirring voice of courage and independance , and the subsequent exploration of her true guilt or innocence is riveting and profound. Well worth the investment in time and emotional commitment.

Five Stars without a doubt. ★ ★ ★ ★

My second choice for comment is a work by one of my very favorite crime novelists, Val McDemrid and it is her latest, Skeleton Road. This is an in-depth exploration of the brutal Yugoslav Wars of the 1990’s, seen through the plot device of a series of revenge killings. The protagonist is a woman academic, a specialist on the Balkans, whose husband, a former general in the Yugoslavian army, has gone missing for some nine years. Is it his skeleton investigators have discovered on the roof of an old building in Glasgow or is he in fact responsible for the spate of revenge killings of former war ciminals from the Balkans? Ms. McDermid gives us a deeply moving history lesson interspersed with the engrossing crime investigation itself, and the level of her writing is uniformly intelligent and highly cultured, with many cultural references that I dare say would fly over the heads of the average readers of Gone Girl or Girl on a Train. How many crime readers can handle discussions about Derrida or Foucault or complex political analyses devoid of stereotypes?At the heart of the book’s mystery is a horrendous war crime, the summary execution of some twenty children in a field in Croatia during the war. This is a thinking person’s crime novel that grapples with monumental crimes of social injustice  and the complicity we all share in their perpetuation – simply by not caring enough about our own responsibilities as citizens. Val McDemrid never disappoints. I also appreciate her Lesbian sensibilities and the way she integrates Lesbian characters into her fiction, without directly turning her books into ‘gay novels’. Lesbian and gay characters are simply ‘there’, living out their lives in the same normal fashion as the rest of us.

A resounding five stars:★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Saving the best for last! Finally a mystery thriller worth all the hype – yet how often is that statement  made, so as to become a cliche in itself. “Worth all the hype.” In this case, it’s Emma Healey’s 2014 Costa Book Award winning debut, Elizabeth is Missing. This was such a richly rewarding read, a journey into the complex mind of Maud, an 82 year old woman struggling with dementia while also trying to solve two intricate mysteries all on her own The first is the disappearance of her sister, Sukey, some 7018481678 (1) years earlier, a disappearance that shattered her family and left Maud haunted by memories ever since. Now that Maud’s memory is deteriorating, bits and pieces of the past come into greater clarity within her shattered mind, leading to a surprising resolution. The second mystery is the disappearance of Maud’s good friend, Elizabeth, but this turns out to be a mystery more easily resolved than the first. The two mysteries are intertwined and towards the end of the book, as Maud’s condition deteriorates further she has trouble keeping the two stores separate in her memory. Ms. Healy’s ability to capture the subtle shifts of a mind slowly unraveling is nothing short of astonishing. This is a carefully controlled and crafted work of true originality. A richly humane study of a shattered mind, this novel finally blurs the distinction between so called ‘serious fiction’ and mystery thrillers.

A true original and worth every one of it’s five stars:★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Coming up next:

The next book I’ll be reviewing in depth, chosen from Book Club Reading List, is Divine Intervention by Cheryl Kaye Tardif. This continues my series of book reviews examining crime novels that respectively incorporate spiritual and psychic dimensions into their plots. Goodness knows, we need more of those – to end on a rhyme:)21768722