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.”

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.

Red Chameleon – Stuart Kaminsky

red chameleonThis is the third Inspector Rostnikov novel. Published in 1985 I found it interesting that the novel mentions the transitions in Soviet leadership through the span of the prior novels, Death of A Dissident (1981) and A Black Knight in Red Square (1983) From Brezhnev to Andropov and then the death of Chernenko. From the climax of the second novel to the start of this third novel finds Chief Inspector Rostnikov demoted to simply Inspector Rostnikov, and it is due to this demotion that Procurator Khabolov, who succeeded Procurator Timofeyeva, assigned Rostnikov, along with his new leg-man the uninspired Comrade Zelach, to investigate an insignificant murder of an old Jew.

“In Moscow, the investigation of a crime is a question of jurisdiction, and the investigation of important crimes is an important question of jurisdiction. Minor crimes, and no one is quite sure what a minor crime is, are handled at the inquiry stage by MVD, the national police with headquarters in Moscow. Moscow itself is divided into twenty police districts, each responsible for crime within its area. However, if a case is considered important enough, a police inspector from central headquarters will be assigned. The doznaniye, or inquiry, is based on the frequently stated assumption that “every person who commits a crime is punished justly, and not a single innocent person subjected to criminal proceedings is convicted.” This is repeated so frequently by judges, procurators, and police that almost everyone in Moscow is sure it cannot be true.”

An old man is murdered in his bath and the only clues that Inspector Rostnikov has to go on is a very old photograph of four young men, and an old brass candlestick was taken from the scene. A very old photo of now very old men… who are they? Where are they? Are they even still alive? Well, at least one of them isn’t alive anymore. But who takes a simple old candlestick? It’s a question, a puzzle that draws the detective in Rostnikov to solve.

Along the way he, like Prometheus, tries to bring that spark to Comrade Zelach and ignite the detective in him.

“Zelach,” he said as they rode up the escalator, “do you think of me as a violent man?”

“No, chief inspector,” said Zelach indifferently. “There’s a stand on the corner. I have not eaten. Would it be all right if I bought some blinchiki?”

“It would be all right, Comrade Zelach,” Rostnikov said sarcastically, but the sarcasm was lost on Zelach. “Do you want to know where we are going?”

Zelach shrugged as they pressed through the morning crowd.

“In that case, we will let that be your surprise for the day.”

Meanwhile, we find our old friend Inspector Emil Karpo investigating a sniper at large in the city, and Inspector Sasha Tkach investigating a series of luxury car thefts. The pursuits of these investigations enable us a readers to again venture through the streets of Moscow and encounter the unique characters that populate the city… hell, this is as enjoyable as dogging Spenser around Boston!

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.

Black Knight In Red Square – Stuart Kaminsky

red knightI read the 2012 MysteriousPress.com kindle edition of this novel.

This is the second in the Inspector Rostnikov series. There has been a murder, a poisoning of an American, two soviets and a Japanese citizen at a hotel in Moscow. The American was a journalist reporting on the Moscow Film Festival. The other victims were also connected with the festival. Is this just an isolated incident? Could there be a nefarious person or group who seeks to spoil an important cultural event?

Chief Inspector Porfiry Rostnikov and his trusted assistants, the idealistic Sasha Tkach and dedicated Emil Karpo set off to investigate. From swank hotels, to meeting with prostitutes in dark Metro Stations, and following suspicious westerners to theaters and Moscow landmarks. Something is certainty going on..

Thanks to a brief meeting with the KGB’s Colonel Drozhkin, Porfiry is informed that there may be western capitalist fanatics loose within the city of Moscow. Now, not only does he have to solve the murder, but he is being tasked with preventing any terrorist plots against the Film Festival.

I’m real taken with the writing, the way Kaminski draws me into the whole story. And, there’s even a bit of the old noir detective fiction. Here Tkach is interviewing a suspect at her hotel room:

“I haven’t been much help, have I?” she said, rising slowly.

“You’ve told me what was necessary.”

“If you’d like to come back tonight after dinner and ask more questions,” she said, taking a step toward him, “I’ll be right here.”

Now Tkach smiled, and his smile stopped her. The game-playing halted, for she had seen something that told her things had not gone as she had guided them. That smile was quite knowing and much older than the face of the good-looking young detective.

“I have to work tonight,” he said, stepping past her. “But I may have more questions. And perhaps next time you will answer with the truth.”

Without looking at her he crossed the room, opened the door, and stepped into the hall, closing the door behind him. At this point, he had no idea whether or not she had told the truth. He’d had no reason to be suspicious until he gave her know what you are hiding. Tkach didn’t know that it was the smile of all detectives from Tokyo to Calcutta to San Francisco to Moscow. He had seen her play her scene out, then had given her the knowing smile, and for an instant she had broken, showing that there was something more behind those eyes and that lovely facade. He had no idea what she might be hiding or why. He would simply give the information to Rostnikov and let him worry about it.”

Death Of A Dissident – Stuart Kaminsky

death of a disidentOriginally Published in 1981 – I read the kindle version from MysteriousPress.com

On the eve of a political dissident’s trial he is murdered by means of a rusty sickle, left at the scene. Is it a political crime? A crime of passion? Or perhaps a random act of violence which does not occur in the Soviet state… It is assigned to Inspector Porfiry Petrovich Rostnikov to investigate. But, where to begin… well it doesn’t take long for the hammer to drop and now there are two murders on his plate.

This is the first in the Inspector Rostnikov series and I found it to be quite the experience. I felt myself really drawn into the city and its people. The story is peppered with both the broad brush strokes of scenic narrative as well as the pinpoint vignettes of interactions which make the story come to life. For example in a simple act of questioning witnesses we see the psyche of the average muscovite.

“He was a foreigner?” tried Karpo.

“Yes,” went on the old man, “definitely a foreigner, English or American, he…”

“Did he speak?” tried Karpo.

“I…I…,” stammered the old man, anxious to please.

“No,” said the son, hugging the blanket over his vulnerable legs. “He said nothing. He just ran down Petro Street.”

Pytor Roshkov had decided to fix his eyes on the fascinating painting on the wall of the first meeting of the Presidium.

“Then you don’t know if he was a foreigner,” Karpo continued.

“No,” said the son.

“Yes,” said the father.

“If you would try less hard to please me and harder to simply tell the truth, you will get out of here much faster and back to your home or work,” Karpo said.

You can feel the weariness of exasperation coming through Inspector Karpo. The way Kaminsky just drops these little interactions through the novel makes this story so immersive. I really had the feeling of being transported to another time and place.

I am very much looking forward to the next book in this series “A Black Knight in Red Square”

“Though there are rules and regulations, restrictions and requirements, it is no easier in Moscow to find a killer or a saint than it is in New York, Tokyo, or Rome. If the world does not know this, the police do, and so they learn to value patience and good shoes.”

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.

The Foreigner – Francie Lin

2311150Francie Lin hits a lot a major themes in this novel, love, family, honor, the past, the future, heaven and hell… but, is it a mystery? It’s a mystery in the sense that there are crimes and criminals and even a car chase down a highway in Taiwan. But as for mystery… I find it to be a mystery only in so far and there are things unknown, hidden things, but any story really takes time to unfold. You really don’t get the full picture of a character in a novel all up front… it rolls out over time.

And in The Foreigner, the ‘mysterious’ past is only ‘mysterious’ because it hasn’t unfolded yet.”

As the story unfolds, Emerson, an eldest son who is close to his immigrant Chinese mother in America is thrust into a journey back to his mother’s home in Taiwan after her death of natural causes. There he must find his younger brother who’s cut ties with them years before in order to settle the estate.

Upon finding his brother ‘Little P’, Emerson is drawn into a murky criminal underworld whose dealings are centered around their uncle’s karaoke bar called the Palace.

A keeper of a shared past. That’s how Emerson views his younger brother. Now that thier mother, his mother, has past away Little P is the only one left to validate his memories as he comes to see things.

Having recently lost a parent myself, this thought had a eureka moment for me as I now see my own younger siblings as sojourners traveling on towards the end of days. Siblings, they are the only ones who really knew you when…

Emerson finds Little P in business with Uncle, and two cousins named Poison and Big One. And while Emerson seeks to extricate his brother from the seedy noir world in which he is erythromycin much a Foreigner, he encounters two young women, Angel and Grace. With the help of a friend and compatriot of Uncle named Atticus Emerson hopes to learn some of the things about Little P’s life here in Taiwan that he brother chooses not to talk about.

Yes, it has occurred to me that there is more to the naming of these characters than meets the eye, and I wish I had a better recollection of To Kill A Mockingbird than I do because, although Emerson is about forty years old in this story, it’s really his coming of age story… he may just be the Scout in this journey of discovery.

And for a taste of that ‘noir’ style.. How’s this:

“Only the British would name a strip club The Admiralty,” she said, digging in her purse for the cover charge. “How is that erotic to anybody?”

The stout matron at the door turned out to be the bouncer and cashier both, and as she took our money, she rattled off a little spiel that was meant to be sexy and suggestive (“You look for fun tonigh’, huh? Our girls lot of fun”) but lost something in the bored, dry transaction of money for sex, especially when she and Angel scuffled over the amount of change owed. Inside the bar flanked the sides of a short catwalk illuminated by blue lights, with a pole at either end, and every once in a while a girl in a bikini and plastic heels would clamber onstage and do an indifferent little dance. Mostly, though, the dancers sat around the inside of the bar munching sandwiches and drinking Cokes. The place was not very crowed, which gave it an intimate air of soiled hopes.

Vengeance Is Mine – Mickey Spillane

0451203526I read this as the third story in the Mike Hammer Collection vol 1 – New American Library 2001. Originally copywrited E P Dutton & Co. in 1950.

 

Felons, fillies and fisticuffs, nobody every accused Mickey of writing a dull story, and this third Mike Hammer novel starts out right away with Mike being roused from a night of drinking with a corpse in the middle of a hotel room shot with Mike’s own gun. Police are looking at it as a suicide, but Mike, having seen an important detail, comes to the conclusion that its murder… and if it wasn’t Mike, who did it?

 

Well, the corpse was an Air Force captain Mike had met when he came home from oversees. After a night or reconnecting over several bars, he turns up dead. Who in New York would want a department store buyer in from Cincinnati dead… that’s where Mike’s trail starts. And that trails leads to a modeling agency, a trip to the Bowery, a lunch in Greenwich Village, and a tangled web of an extortion ring weaving its way through the city leaving a string of bodies that were often dismissed as suicides. Somehow, the blackmailers are always one step ahead as Mike makes his way through to the truth behind the apparent suicide that wasn’t which started this crusade.

 

Mickey’s third novel, just like the first two makes wonderful use of straight forward prose to paint a picture of New York in the late forties on a canvass using a shadowy pallet of grays. Against this backdrop he paints the bright colorful characters of Connie, Clyde, Juno and Anton as well as the ever present and faithful Velda and Pat.

 

I love reading the pure, unvarnished, pre-pc prose. There is a raw and visceral quality to the low-life’s, high hats and criminal middle managers that Mike encounters. And although most people are quick to tell you about his hard-nose ‘take no prisoners’ approach to personal conflicts whenever some mook invades his ‘personal-space’ I like the wa that Mickey lets you know that the ghosts of Mike’s past still haunt him. Mike really sees clearly the impact that his actions make and that he himself is not insulated from the violence around him. But he still chooses to clean up his city. A city where Mike feels for his fellow citizens.

 

One description that really stands out in this book is where Mike is taken to a section of town he hasn’t visited in a while… and if you like this, wait till her goes to the village…

   The Bowery, a street of people without faces. Pleading voices from the shadows and the shuffle of feet behind you. An occasional tug at your sleeve and more pleading that had professional despair in the tone. An occasional woman with clothes too tight giving you a long, steady stare that said she was available cheap. Saloon doors swung open so frequently they seemed like blinking lights. They were crowded too. The bars were lined with the leftovers of humanity keeping warm over a drink or nursing a steaming bowl of soup.

It had been a long time since I made the rounds down here. A cab swung into the curb and a guy in a tux with a redhead on his arm got out laughing. There was a scramble in his direction and the redhead handed out a mess of quarters then threw them all over the sidewalk to laugh all the louder when the dive came.

The guy thought it was funny too. He did the same thing with a fin, letting it blow out of his hand down the street. Connie said “See what I mean?”

I felt like kicking the bastard. “Yeah, I see.”