New Iberia Blues – James Lee Burke

new iberia bluesPublished January 2019 by Simon and Schuster, 465 pages of pure scenic detective fiction. I checked my copy out from the library and I sure wasn’t disappointed with this. This is the book I had in mind when I was reading Debbie Herbert’s Cold Waters. There are several threads running through this story and its woven together masterfully.

Detective Dave Robicheaux spies a woman tied to a cross drifting in from the bay while on the deck of his old friend Desmond Cormier’s house. The award winning director Desmond and company are in the area filming a new movie when a series of unfortunate incidents occur. From a dead woman on a cross, to a hanged laborer, then a crooked sheriff’s deputy is killed… as Robicheaux diggers deeper into the people surrounding Desmond the bodies pile up.

Is there a killer amongst Desmond’s friends or could it be a fugitive death row inmate from Texas who has been spotted in the area… or perhaps its an albino mafia contract kill whose also returned to New Iberia. It couldn’t be a young deputy who has a knack for being around just when someone is killed… could it?

The descriptions are wonderfully drawn in a vibrancy of detail and oe of the things that I liked about this story is that there is time in between the events. Everything isn’t cramped together, its spaced out, paced over a series of months, season even. The story starts in the spring and concludes in the fall and Burke gives amble nuanced description of the bayou throughout its transitions.

And its not just the physical landscape, no, the characters themselves are painted with a fine-tip brush. Even the recently deceased get rendered in full dimension:

   By Monday the victim had been identified through his prints as Joe Molinari, born on the margins of American society at Charity Hospital in Lafayette, the kind of innocent and faceless man who travels almost invisibly from birth to the grave with no paper trail except a few W-2 tax forms and an arrest for a thirty-dollar bad check. Let me take that one step further. Joe Molinari’s role in life had been being used by others, as a consumer and laborer and voter and minion, which, in the economics of the world I grew up in, was considered normal by both the liege lord in the manor and the serf in the field.

He’d lived in New Iberia all his life, smoked four packs of cigarettes a day, and worked for a company that did asbestos teardowns and other jobs that people do for minimum wage while they pretend they’re not destroying their organs. He’d had no immediate family, played dominoes in a game parlor by the bayou, and, to the best of anyone’s knowledge, never traveled farther than three parishes from his birthplace. He had gone missing seven days ago.

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Spells And Cells – Sam Short

spells and cellsShort, Sam. Spells And Cells: A Spellbinder Bay Cozy Paranormal Mystery – Book Three (Spellbinder Bay Paranormal Cozy Mystery Series 3) (pp. 49-50). Sam Short Books. Kindle Edition.

“Just look around you,” said Judith, her hair shining gold in the sunlight. “Adults are just big kids at heart.” This appears to be an idea that keeps coming through in this very dramatic story. This is the third, and I don’t know if it’s the final, installment in the Millie Thorn “Spellbinder Bay” Young Adult Paranormal Cozy mystery series, and it seems to tie up many of the loose ends from the previous two books. Suffice it to say, I actually believe that the death under investigation in this story, is actually a subplot compared to the other threads being tied together.

There is an apparent death of a werewolf while in police custody.. Is our beloved Sargent Spencer really the guilty party? Or is there some force that might be working through him? And what will the other werewolves think?

In this story, we really get to see a side of Spellbinder Bay and its paranormal community that we didn’t get in the prior two novels. It shows a stratification within the community, ad it shows to some degree internal conflicts within this community. Much like we see different interplay between groups in The Planet Of The Apes, here we get a similar education.

We also delve deeper into the back stories of some of the power players in the politics of Spellbinder Hall… while Henry, the de facto leader of this community is away, such as Frederick, the ‘head vampire in charge’ and Edna a witch who evidently does autopsies as well.

But mostly, this is THE story of Millie, her past, her present, and a possible future with a new set of familiar relations. Well, spoiler alert, as with most cozies this one has a happy ending. But not just A happy ending, there are several happy endings spanning many of the diverse story threads weaving themselves through this third tome.

SERIOUS spoiler alert here, and, although I don’t usually chime in on what should or shouldn’t be done… on a personal note and most certainly in my humble opinion… I think the story would have had more punch, a real moment of reflection, if Rueben didn’t survive the Chaos.

Fredrick gave another smile. “Because of politics, Miss Thorn. All is not what it seems in Spellbinder Hall. I’m content in the job I perform here in the hall, I like teaching the children… it is the one joy in my existence, and I’m content with being on The Board of Governors, but to retain the positions I hold, I must keep on proving my competence. Henry left me in charge, and if I did nothing in the wake of a murder committed during his absence, other people who hold a dislike for me, or who covet my position on the Board, would speak against me, perhaps persuading Henry to remove me from my responsibilities. And I happen to enjoy my responsibilities.”

Broomsticks And Bones – Sam Short

broomsticks and bonesShort, Sam. Broomsticks And Bones: A Spellbinder Bay Cozy Paranormal Mystery – Book Two (Spellbinder Bay Paranormal Cozy Mystery Series 2) (p. 89). Sam Short Books. Kindle Edition.

“Sergeant Spencer took a deep sniff of the crisp morning air. ‘I’m hungry,’ he stated. ‘We should have breakfast before beginning a murder investigation.'”

And that’s the sentiment that defines the ‘cozy’ subgenre of mystery fiction. First muffins, then murder. And it is murder, make no mistake about that. After the discovery of a mysterious skeleton unearthed by a treasure hunting beachcomber, the arrival of the alien hunting group ASSHAT, yup, ASSHAT (Alien Search Syndicate and Hazard Alert Team) and an midnight covert incursion by the Spellbinder Sand Diggers group, the body of the beachcomber is found. Who, or quite possibly what killed him puts a recently deputized Millie on the case.

I find myself really enjoying the cozy flow in this series. Broomsticks and Bones is the second in the Millie Thorn ‘Spellbinder Bay’ mysteries. It has quirky characters that quickly draw you in and the narration flows along. This is a wonderful book for a lazy spring day sacked out in the hammock and an ending that satisfies our curiosity, and small town justice as well.

Sergeant Spencer coughed, the sound hiding his laughter, but unable to conceal the mirth his wide smile exposed. “It’s his uniform,” he explained. “He’s from a —”
“I’m quite capable of explaining who I am, and what organisation I represent, thank you, Sergeant,” said the man. He smiled at Millie and Judith. “I’m Mister Anon, which is a clever pseudonym, of course — I like to keep my real identity a secret. I have to keep it secret. I represent a group known as the Alien Search Syndicate and Hazard Alert Team.”
“Erm,” said Judith. “You’re from a group called ASSHAT?”
Mr Anon sighed. “You’re quick at working out acronyms. Very good. Most people don’t pick up on it. The group was named before I joined it. That mistake would have never slipped past me if I’d been in charge at the time.”
“You could change it?” said Millie.
“Too late,” said Mister Anon. “We’ve got headed paper, business cards — the works. We don’t have the funds to make such sweeping changes.”

Wicked For Hire – Lotta Smith

wicked for hireCreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (April 17, 2016) I read the kindle edition 123 pages

I suppose it’s a matter of perception, or rather presentation? No, representation! I just finished reading Cold Waters (see the previous post) and I was critical of the simple no twists storyline, the fact that you had the story pretty much solved by the one third mark, and I was critical of the lack of substance and dimension in the characters.

Well, here is a story… that I expected to be simple and straight forward with fairly two dimensional characters and it was a delight to read. And that was due to my expectation walking into the story.

Wicked For Hire is put forward as a young adult, paranormal cozy mystery and that’s what I got… just as expected. Cold Waters was put forward as a serious, location-style mystery and it didn’t meet expectations…

But yes! I certainly enjoyed this light, quick, quirky story. At just over a hundred pages you can read it in one sitting. The bright, tongue-in-cheek narration adds to the color and the quick pace keeps you turning those pages.

It’s the story of a young woman, Amanda, who has some serious student loans to pay back… being denied the chance to finish med school can do that to a gal, but that’s what happens when some of the patients drop dead from your touch. Oh, and you also get labeled “The Grim Reaper”. Such is the opening to this young adult paranormal cozy…

Amanda is recruited by FBI Special Agent Rick Rowling who just happens to be the star loose cannon of a secret ‘paranormal cases’ division. Seems he needs a new assistant as he goes through them like tissues, and his boss wants someone to rein in the one-man wrecking crew.

So Amanda starts her new job with her new boss trying to solve the mysterious disappearance of a struggling artist, whose sugar-momma is the sister of a woman seeing Rick’s father. Seems the cops have a suspect, the sugar-momma’s other beau. He seems the perfect culprit right up until he mysteriously disappears while under police surveillance.

Can Rick and Amanda find out who, or what is behind these disappearances, before we all disappear?

Riding with him was a hellish experience—he drove as if he were in the Daytona 500, not the middle of Manhattan. “Are you insane?” I managed to say while I tried my best not to puke in the passenger’s seat. “Seriously, you should give your driver’s license back to the state. You can’t drive like a meth-crazed maniac!” “Ha. They shouldn’t grant a driver’s license to someone incapable of dodging my car” was his reply. He had a point, so I made a mental note to file a complaint to the local DMV

Cold Waters – Debbie Herbert

cold waters2019 published by Thomas Mercer 323 pages, I read the kindle edition

More drama llamas running through this book than bulls at Pamplona!

I picked this book hoping to get a sense of small town Alabama, and a good mystery in the mix… instead, I know more about the Keurig machine in the police station in an ‘old man vs new tech’ trope than I do about the building itself. The characters themselves are drawn straight out of central casting and never really developed past their tightly confined narratives… they boarder on base stereotypes. .. and as far as the ‘mystery’ goes, the only red herring will be found in a jar of cream sauce in Delaney’s pantry…

The story is about Violet, as she returns home from her stint in a halfway house having been interred at a mental facility for ten years following her witnessing the death of her best friend… or is she more than a witness? She is presented as a troubled soul who takes solace in her superstitions and talismans. And she has her reservations about returning to her home in Normal, a small Alabama town, to claim an inheritance left by her mother.

Waiting for her there are her evil step-sister Delaney and her father, an alcoholic with rage issues now showing signs of dementia. I characterize Delaney as ‘the evil step-sister’ because that is how she is presented by every character that narrates their interactions with her… and she is true to that stereotype.

The story is narrated in the first person and predominantly by Violet. For most of the time she’s narrating in the present-time, but smore chapter are set in the past, mostly ten years ago when the death of her friend Ainsley occurred. Other characters narrate scenes from their points of view, Delaney, Hyacinth (Her mother), Boone (the detective)… but even though the narrator changes, the ‘voice’ doesn’t change. Its as if all these characters sound the same.

Since is was an Amazon April recommendation I didn’t want to just shelve it. But, at about the halfway point I was able to push the throttle down and go right into skimming mode, just to get through this.

As for the theme in all this? Quite simply, the ends justify the means. Cue music, roll credits…

“You were rude,” she accused. Her eyes rked over me. “And why didn’t you wash up? I told you they were coming this afternoon.”

“No, you didn’t.”

“I mentioned it twice at breakfast,” she insisted.

She hadn’t, but I let that go. “Why did you tell them those lies about me having nightmares?”

“they weren’t lies. Every night, you scream in your sleep.”

My anger went down a notch. Was she telling the truth? I shook my head. “If I had nightmares, I’d remember.”

Delany arched a brow. “Do you always remember your dreams or wake up from a bad one?”

“No, guess not,” I had to admit. “Do I really call out Ainsley’s name?”

“You do. Repeatedly. Last night and most every night.”

Dark Water – Robert Bryndza

dark waterI’ve read the kindle edition and found that the third installment of this series is better that the first two, and the first two were great too. I can’t wait to get to the forth Erika Foster novel!

Dredging a flooded quarry for evidence in a drug bust that DCI Erika Foster has overseen, human remain from an unsolved abduction of a seven year old girl 26 years earlier. Currently Erika has been assigned to the Bromley department as part of a special projects team that mostly takes down drug dealers. Erika is dissatisfied with this as it just seems that as soon as they put one dealer away, another pops up to take his place. She does not feel a sense of completion, of a final justice, that she does when she solves homicide cases.

Erika needs to go around her current Superintendent Yale to get an audience with the new Assistant Commissioner Brace-Cosworthy. Erika recruits her former commander Mash to make this happen, and become the Senior Investigating Office (SIO) for the Jessica Collins case.

Once this administrative coupe has been accomplished, Erika is able to recruit two DI’s from her former station, DI Moss and DI Peterson to help her on this case. Together they hit the ground running with boxes and boxes of records from the previous abduction investigation.

The family is interviewed, and Erika gets the rundown from the retired former head of the case DCI Amanda Baker, whose career path nose-dived after her failing on the high profile flawed abduction investigation.

It takes Erika and her team a lot of leg work to get through the muddle and find the right questions to ask before coming to a great climax. Meanwhile, a mysterious figure is shadowing the investigation, and Erika’s sister and her kids drop by quite unexpectedly…

This is a wonderful page-turnning read and in this third installment, Erika seems to be much more comfortable in her investigation and spends less time fighting departmental battles which made reading this third novel better in my opinion. I can see her growing as a character…

But now, lets talk Moss and Peterson. They have appeared with Erika in this her third story and it’s about time that we should really get a more rounded view of these characters . I would really like to know more about them as people… there is a lot of information about their personality and such as it relates to Erika, but I would like to see more of them away from Erika… see what they are like… I’d like to see Peterson order a round of drinks for non work related friends down at the pub.. what does he like what’s his drink of choice… and moss, maybe fiddling with her Playlist as she works out at the gym, what’s on her Playlist what does she do at the gym… does she like the gym?

I’m not one for comparing one author to another too often but I’m currently reading Stuart Kaminsky inspector Rostnikov series, and the way he fleshes out Tkach and Karpo is a really good example of what I’m thinking about. Now I’m sure that Kaminsky does this to also showcase more of Soviet Moscow into his story… but certainly Brydnza could do something along those same lines fleshing out Moss and Peterson while giving us non brits more of scenic London.

Moss and Peterson, what can I say… I’d like to know them better.

Erika couldn’t seem to summon up any feelings of triumph about finding the case of heroin. All she could think about was the tiny skeleton. During her time in the force, she’d spent several years heading up anti-drug squads. The names seemed to change – Central Drug Unit, Drug and Organized Crime Prevention, the Projects Team – but the war on drugs rumbled on, and it would never be won. The moment one supplier was taken out there was another ready and waiting to take his place; filling a vacuum with even more skill and cunning. Jason Tyler had filled a vacuum, and in short space of time someone would take his place. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Murderers, however, were different; you could catch them and lock them up.

For All Our Sins – T.M.E. Walsh

for all our sinsI’m on chapter nineteen of this train-wreck, almost one third through… and I just had to shelve it at this point.

I don’t know if the author intended this story to be ‘Young Adult’ fiction, but based on the childness of the main characters, and other dysfunctional relations within this police office, I just can not take it anymore.

This snippet below, an exchange between the team lead Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Claire Winters and her subordinate Detective Sargent (DS) Michael Diego is a typical one for these two… its petty, vindictive, antagonistic, its like watching spoiled children… we are introduced to these characters in this state, and it isn’t getting any better. There appears to be no adult in this police station. Detective Inspector (DI) David Matthew outwardly gloats over having a current case reassigned from DS Diego like a child being given another child’s toy.

I’m one third into this soap opera and I feel I’ve given it a fair shot. It opens with a young woman killing a priest with her switchblade and that opening chapter closes out with a line of such promise “The dead cannot cry out for justice. It is a duty of the living to so so for them.” And I thought the chapter well done. But then… we meet DCI Claire Winters smack in the middle of some ‘mysterious’ undefined sub-plot and being called into work because of the homicide. Then we meet more of the cast and the characters come onstage antagonistic and unnaturally confrontational right from the start.

Then we get to interviewing a person of interest, and following up on their dysfunctional family life with runaway daughter and ‘mysterious’ foster children… there is the questioning of the daughter, and then thrown into this mix is an aside… a chapter with an inmate escaping from a local asylum for the criminally insane… and since that scene has none of the main characters in it… it stands as a well written chapter, much like the promising first chapter, but right after that, its back to the juvenile detectives.

So, being that there is so little time and so many more reading options, I’ve shelved this book in favor of starting the third DCI Erika Foster novel…

  She called Michael to her office.

She stared at him as he sat in front of her desk, his hair messy and his face unshaven. He had dark circles under his normally clear eyes and his shirt didn’t look like it’d seen an iron in a long time.

‘Nice weekend?’ she asked. ‘Or should I say, eventful?’ She eyed him up and down. He shot her a sleepy look but ignored her question. ‘Judging by the look of you shirt, I’d say eventful.’

He stared down at his notepad, vacant expression on his face. Claire grew annoyed.

Leaning forward she clicked her fingers in front of his face. ‘Are you even fit to be in work, Diego? I’ve called a team briefing in twenty minutes and you’re looking fucked.’

‘Sorry,’ he managed. ‘I guess I overdid it.’

She stared hard at him and felt the slight twinge of jealousy.

She remembered that look of his. It hadn’t been that long ago that she’d been on the receiving end of his wild nights out. It was obvious to her that this weekend he’d been showing someone else a good time, and she hated the thought of it.