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 series 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.

Crooked House – Agatha Christie

crooked houseA classic British mystery first published in 1949

Charles, a young man striking out on a career in the diplomatic service returns home to England after the war to look up a young woman he knew in Cairo and ask for her hand. But, as is the fashion in a Christie novel, a corpse stands in the way. Well, that’s the lead into Crooked House a mystery of a well-heeled immigrant family three generations living at the family estate Three Gables in Swinly Dean, whose patriarch Aristide Leonides has died in rather uncertain circumstances.

Sophia, Aristide’s granddaughter, whose hand it is being sought, invites Charles to the house to meet her family and discretely see if he can assist the police, lead by Chief Inspector Traverner, as Charles’s father is an Assistant Commissioner at Scotland Yard and perhaps he may be able to see into the heart of the matter as the inspector appears stymied in his efforts to delve into the family secrets.

Of the characters in residence at the estate are Aristide’s two sons Philip (Sophia’s father) and Richard, their wives Magda and Clemence respectively, and Sophia’s younger brother Eustice and her younger sister Josephine. Also, there is Sophia’s great-aunt Edith de Haviland, sister to Aristide’s first wife, and his second wife Brenda Leonides (fifty years his junior).

The story moves at a slow pace… leisurely taking the reader through a series of interactions and interviews with family. Charles tagging along with the inspector on his questioning of the family and their various motives. The real insight into the case come from Charles’s conversations with his father at his home. The old detective offering his insights into murder and murderers. From here the reader can gain a good perspective and a toehold as to the crooked solution to this puzzle.

Although I enjoyed the story (and the movie BTW), it did lag somewhat in its pacing. It was slow to unfold and even as the story’s climax was approaching the pace never really picked up. There really didn’t seem to be any sense of ‘urgency’ to this drama…

“Dad, what are murderers like?”

“Yes, I’ve never met a murderer who wasn’t vain … It’s their vanity that leads to their undoing, nine times out of ten. They may be frightened of being caught, but they can’t help strutting and boasting and usually they’re sure they’ve been far too cleaver to be caught.” He added: “And here’s another thing, a murderer wants to talk.”

Noir – Christopher Moore

noirWilliam Marrow – Harper Colling published April 2018

“A couple of onions short of a Gibson.” Funny… It’s the first book from this author that I’m reading.

Set in San Francisco in 1947, its Ramond Chandler meets J. A. Konrath with a humorous story of Sammy, a gimpy barman who falls for a blonde, Stilton (like the cheese) who’s built like a B-52 and wandered into the bar one dark and stormy night. Speaking of bombshells, we are introduced to a General who wants to perk up a weekend get-away in the woods with some working girls and Sammy’s shady boss Sal who has his fingers in many a shady pie, has just the idea…

Speaking of idea’s… Sammy get a helluva genius one when his Chinese friend and side-kick Eddie Moo Shoes take him for dinner at a place in the Chinatown back-alleys… If they could just get their hands on a snake and Sammy just knows a South African merchant marine from the bar who might just have the goods.

Things get a little out of hand with the snake crated up back at the bar… and now Sal needs to be put on ice. Next thing you know, the snake’s gone, Sal’s gone and the Cheese turns up missing!

Sammy recruits some friends, all neighborhood characters, and a search is underway… hijinks, including a high-speed car chase, ensue… Hold on to your aliens and G-men, its going to get bumpy!

She had the kind of legs that kept her butt from resting on her shoes – a size-eight dame in a size-six dress and every mug in the joint was rooting for the two sizes to make a break for it as they watched her wiggle in the door and shimmy onto a barstool with her back to the door. I raised an eyebrow at the South African merchant marine who’d been spinning out tales of his weird cargo at the other end of the bar while I polished a shot glass.

Murder House – James Patterson

murder-houseA Thriller Mystery published by Grand Central running 451 pages

A house with a history meets a cop with a past. Number 7 Ocean Dr in a quiet community of Long Island’s famous Hamptons has seen its fair share of murders. So what makes the deaths of a Hollywood talent scout and an attractive local young lady cause Detective Jenna Murphy to doubt the obvious.

This was a good book to read,.. I liked the split point of view, at times Patterson’s writing with Jenna’s first person narration, which is used for most of the book… but the timeline is broken up and Patterson uses the ‘Holden’ character, the antagonist as the first person narrator. He’s done this before as I recall him doing this in his novel Murder Games… the first person protagonist point of view and the first person antagonist narration. It’s a way of bringing the reader closer to the story.

The story starts off with a bang, literally, telling the tale of an incident some years prior to the ‘present time’. The characters here will be pivotal players as the main story commences. It seems that the evil that inhabits number 7 Ocean Dr is not necessarily confined to the house itself.

In the immediate ‘present time’ a new tenant leasing number 7, and his companion, are found murdered and suspicion falls immediately to a local handyman. But there is something not quite solid about the evidence and Detective Jenna Murphy starts expressing her concerns. She’s a hot shot detective recently dismissed from the New York City Police under scandal. Now she’s here in the Hamptons working for her uncle, and fighting the reverse snobbery of men in her uncle’s police force.

As she works to uncover the truth, the bodies start piling up. But soon the house’s past catches up to its present and in the twists as the climax approaches Jenna needs to expose the evil, or be added to the pile of corpses.

Aiden pushes himself off the wall, straightens himself.

Looks at me, just for a single moment, those darting eyes making contact with minne.

Come with me

Then he walks toward me. No sudden movement, just slowly approaching me.

Come with me

The boy with the scarecrow hair

Aiden places a hand over my gun hand, then carefully removes the revolver from it.

I look up at him, on my knees, helpless.