Monday, July 06, 2015

The Winner of an Autographed Copy of Alex Grecian's The Harvest Man Is...

Congratulations are in order for Virginia D. of Arizona because she's the lucky winner of an autographed copy of Alex Grecian's The Harvest Man

Be on the lookout, Virginia-- I'm just about ready to put it in the mail!

Thanks also to everyone who entered the giveaway! 

Friday, July 03, 2015

The Just Passing Through Weekly Link Round-Up

Monsoon season has officially begun. We've already had our first haboob (dust storm), and I had what seemed like a ton of debris to get out of the pool. Tonight we had dark clouds and lots of thunder and lightning... but no rain. Before the monsoon begins is when we usually have our extreme temperatures-- like a week with temperatures dancing around 115° (46°C). Last week many birds were showing signs of stress. There's something about a tiny hummingbird, beak gaping wide open and struggling for breath, that just breaks my heart. That's one reason why I have so many birdbaths that I keep filled. I know they are lifesavers.

But the birds' favorite water feature isn't a birdbath; it's the waterfall at the deep end of my pool. Birds-- like humans-- are drawn to the sight and sound of cool water tumbling down over rocks. 

There has been a gang of anywhere from three to six hummingbirds trying to claim the waterfall as their own. They all lurk back in the depths of the shrubs, waiting for one to crack and fly to the running water. Then the rest come zooming out of hiding to chase each other away. It's hilarious.

I have several videos of the feathered friends who have shown up to enjoy the waterfall, and I had a difficult time choosing one for this post. I think I'll stick with the hummingbirds this time. Only three of the six are in this one, but I think you'll get an idea of what an oasis it's been so far this summer.

Don't worry-- I promise that there are links after the video!


►Books, Movies & Other Interesting Tidbits◄
  • It seems that book publishers are finally beginning to do a bit more fact-checking.
  • How a new Librarian of Congress could improve U.S. copyright
  • The London mansion where Peter Pan was written is for sale.
  • I love this semi-trailer!
  • Would you read a one million-word book? (If the story's good, sure.)
  • What Heathers taught us about being a twisted teen. (I must be twisted, too, because I love this movie.)
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald's secretary, Frances Kroll Ring, has died at the age of 99.
  • Patrick Macnee-- the only John Steed for me-- has died at the age of 93.
  • Starz series Outlander is in the news for Outlander tartans, kilts, and the like, and for a website created by one of the stars to help people (especially adults) learn Scots Gaelic.
  • Under the category of You Just Can't Make This Stuff Up: check out a man's complaint about NBC's logo.
  • If there were ratings numbers for Netflix, TV would definitely be losing. 
  • Amazon has become the next great Library of Alexandria.
  • English bookstores are thriving in China.
  • Amazon is changing product reviews, but only one of the changes has me annoyed.

►Channeling My Inner Indiana Jones◄
  • A lot has been uncovered, but the ancient Greek Antikythera shipwreck still holds secrets.
  • Ten times larger than Stonehenge, archaeologists have begun excavating Marden Henge.
  • Someone just paid $282 million for a Klimt portrait at Sotheby's.
  • Seems to me a recent link was about a bunch of antique cars found in a barn in France. You would not believe what the wonderful (rare) Bugatti sold for! 
  • A man in Scotland has found what he believes to be a long-lost Picasso in his attic-- and the story of how it got there is even more interesting than the painting itself.
  • You'll never guess what was stored in the attic of the Parthenon.

►Channeling My Inner Elly Mae Clampett◄
  • With a little patience, talent, and know-how, this photographer gets some cute shots of this squirrel.

►The Happy Wanderer◄
  • Did you know that the Grand Canyon is on the annual list of America's 11 most endangered historic places?

►I  ♥  Lists◄

That's all for now. Don't forget to stop by next Friday when I'll be sharing a freshly selected batch of links for your surfing pleasure!

Have a great weekend, and read something fabulous!

Thursday, July 02, 2015

A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley

First Line: My cousin didn't try to catch the bride's bouquet.

Historian Alistair Scott is writing a new book, and he's positive that an almost three hundred-year-old journal contains information that will make his book a bestseller. Problem is, the journal is written in code. Fortunately for Scott, amateur codebreaker Sara Thomas is available to go to Paris to crack the cypher.

After much frustration and even more persistence, Sara does break the code, and the story of Jacobite exile Mary Dundas comes to light. Young Mary, longing for adventure and for the family she lost. Young Mary, who steps onto a surprising path that is much more dangerous than she ever expected.

The more Mary's story unfolds, the more Sara has to face events in her own life that will make her question everything she believes to be true. Although separated by centuries, the similarities between these two young women are uncanny.

I have enjoyed every book by Susanna Kearsley that I've read. I slipped into the story of A Desperate Fortune and really didn't come up for air until I'd read the last page. If there are any Diana Gabaldon or Mary Stewart fans out there who haven't read Susanna Kearsley, I urge them to do so.

I found both storylines absorbing. Sara's Asperger's is dealt with objectively, and her work in breaking Mary's code is a treat to watch. Mary's storyline really gives readers a feel for what exiled Jacobites had to endure. I also appreciated the similarities between the two women. As far as the secondary characters go, I like Sara's love interest, Luc, but found his history with his ex almost too good to be true. Sara and Luc's son Noah are definitely my favorite present-day characters. But what about Mary's time? Mary's traveling companions Madame Roy and MacPherson are wonderful, and so is Mary's dog, Frisque. And as far as competing love interests go, Mary's wins, hands down.

Although A Desperate Fortune is a standalone novel, recurring characters from previous books do make brief appearances, which will please Kearsley's fans. While being immersed in Paris and secret codes and exciting escapes and handsome men, I also learned some fascinating details about the fairy tales of Madame d'Aulnoy and the role she and other women writers of that time played in literature. (The things you don't learn in school....)

Yes, I love this book, and if I can leave you with any advice, it's this: please don't skip reading "About the Characters" at the very end. Kearsley's telling us about the real Mary Dundas brought a smile and a tear to my eye.

A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley
ISBN: 9781492602026
Sourcebooks Landmark © 2015
Paperback, 528 pages

Romantic Suspense, Standalone
Rating: A+
Source: Purchased at The Poisoned Pen


Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Empty Houses by Betsy Thornton

First Line: The place was a beach town near LA; the event was lunch at La Casita, a Mexican restaurant Harry and Kate went to from time to time.

Kate Waters has come to Dudley, Arizona, in the remote southeastern corner of the state, to escape an abusive relationship. Phoenix police officer Malcolm MacGregor has come there to heal after the death of his wife. The only thing anyone knows about Carrie and Wes Cooper is that they were shot dead right there in town. 

Since Dudley relies a great deal on tourism, those running the town want a quick arrest, but after having spoken to Carrie briefly, Kate is convinced that the wrong man is sitting in jail. She and MacGregor find themselves working as a team to search through the victims' history in order to catch a killer.

Having read and enjoyed all of Thornton's Chloe Newcombe mysteries which are also set in Dudley (a thinly disguised Bisbee), I was excited to see this first book in a new series. As I've come to expect from Thornton, the setting is vivid and adds so much texture to the story. In addition, the mystery kept me guessing from beginning to end. However, all the various parts of the book never really gelled into an enjoyable read for me. 

Thornton inserts derogatory comments about Arizona SB1070 (the highly inflammatory immigration law) and the state's (lack of) gun control. I happen to agree with her on both counts, but if she feels that way about guns, why does one come in so handy in one particular scene? It certainly could have been written differently. 

Although the book is listed as a "Kate Waters" mystery, Kate does very little investigating in the book. Instead it's MacGregor's expertise that is put to good use. I liked MacGregor even though he seems to be one of those men who are drawn to damsels in distress. He's a good investigator and a nice guy.

Kate Waters is certainly a damsel in distress. A very annoying one. I have to admit that she is the main drawback in this book. The woman has just escaped from an abusive relationship. She lives in fear that her ex will find her. She is extremely paranoid. All that being said, then why on earth did she go do something and leave her house unlocked for the entire day because she knows a friend will be stopping by? That almost beggars belief. And-- once again-- if Kate is so paranoid, why can she never remember to charge her cell phone? A bit difficult to call for help if her phone's dead, isn't it?

I did enjoy the mystery in Empty Houses, and as always, I can't get enough of the setting, but with Kate Waters as the main character, I doubt very much that I'll continue with this series. What a shame.

Empty Houses by Betsy Thornton
eISBN: 9781780106526
Severn House Publishers © 2015
eBook, 224 pages

Private Investigator/Amateur Sleuth, #1 Kate Waters mystery
Rating: C
Source: Net Galley 

July 2015 New Mystery Releases!

Hard to believe that the second half of a Sonoran Desert summer is already underway. We're special here. We get two summers. One with dry, blast furnace heat. The second (which just started a very few days ago) not so dry humidity-wise, with dust storms (AKA haboobs), and... hopefully... some rain.

I've been out in the pool, reading as fast as I can go, stopping only for the necessities. But you know me. I may be out in the pool in the afternoons turning pages lickety-split, but I'm going to find some time to keep an eye on new crime fiction that I'm going to want to read!

The following are my picks for new books being released during the month of July. They're grouped by release date, and you'll find all the information you'll need to find them at all your favorite "book procurement locations." Synopses are courtesy of Amazon.

Happy Reading!

=== July 1 ===

Title: The Case of the Dotty Dowager
Author: Cathy Ace
Series: #1 in the WISE Enquiries Agency cozy series set in Wales
ISBN: 9780727884954 
Publisher: Severn House
Hardcover, 224 pages

Synopsis: "Henry Twyst, eighteenth Duke of Chellingworth, is convinced his mother is losing her marbles. She claims to have seen a corpse on the dining-room floor, but all she has to prove it is a bloodied bobble hat.

Worried enough to retain the women of the WISE Enquiries Agency – one is Welsh, one Irish, one Scottish and one English – Henry wants the strange matter explained away. But the truth of what happened at the Chellingworth Estate, set in the rolling Welsh countryside near the quaint village of Anwen by Wye, is more complex, dangerous, and deadly, than anyone could have foreseen . . .

Title: Empty Houses
Author: Betsy Thornton
Series: #1 in the Kate Waters series set in southeastern Arizona
ISBN: 9780727884985
Publisher: Severn House
Hardcover, 224 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "Dudley, Arizona is an isolated desert town attracting people who need to escape. Kate Waters flees there following an abusive relationship. Phoenix cop Malcolm MacGregor comes to recover from the death of his wife. No one knows why Carrie and Wes Cooper arrived. But when they are shot dead, the town authorities’ first instinct is to protect the lucrative tourist trade and make a quick arrest – without asking too many questions.

Having once spoken to Carrie briefly, Kate becomes increasingly convinced that the wrong man has been arrested for the crime. Was the shooting random, or is there something in the victims’ history back east that would explain it? Teaming up with Malcolm MacGregor, Kate is about to uncover disturbing links between her own and Carrie’s past. Is Kate herself at risk?

Title: Walking by Night
Author: Kate Ellis
Series: #5 in the Joe Plantagenet police procedural series set in Yorkshire, England
ISBN: 9781780290737
Publisher: Crème de la Crime
Hardcover, 224 pages

Synopsis: "Taking a short cut home beneath the ruined abbey in the centre of the city, a teenage girl reports stumbling across a body. She also claims to have seen a mysterious nun-like figure watching her from the shadows. But during the subsequent search, no body is found. The girl’s inebriated state and her troubled history make the police sceptical of her story, and only Detective Inspector Joe Plantagenet is inclined to believe her.

Then a woman is reported missing, and Joe finds himself caught up in a complex investigation involving a production of The Devils at the local Playhouse. Could the play, with its shocking religious and sexual violence, have something to do with the woman’s disappearance? And is there really a connection with the tragic death of a young nun at the site many centuries before? Nothing is as it first appears.

=== July 7 ===

Title: Green Hell
Author: Ken Bruen
Series: #11 in the Jack Taylor noir series set in Galway, Ireland
ISBN: 9780802123565
Publisher: Mysterious Press
Hardcover, 304 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "The award-winning crime writer Ken Bruen, called 'the best-kept literary secret in Ireland' by the Independent, is as joyously unapologetic in his writing as he is wickedly poetic, mixing high and low with hypnotic mastery. In the previous book in the series, Purgatory, ex-cop Jack Taylor had finally turned his life around, only to be taunted back into fighting Galway’s corruption by a twisted serial killer named C33. In the new novel Green Hell, Bruen’s dark angel of a protagonist has again hit rock bottom: one of his best friends is dead, the other has stopped speaking to him; he has given up battling his addiction to alcohol and pills; and his firing from the Irish national police, the Guards, is ancient history. But Jack isn’t about to embark on a self-improvement plan. Instead, he has taken up a vigilante case against a respected professor of literature at the University of Galway who has a violent habit his friends in high places are only too happy to ignore. And when Jack rescues a preppy American student on a Rhodes Scholarship from a couple of kid thugs, he also unexpectedly gains a new sidekick, who abandons his thesis on Beckett to write a biography of Galway’s most magnetic rogue.

Between pub crawls and violent outbursts, Jack’s vengeful plot against the professor soon spirals toward chaos. Enter Emerald, an edgy young Goth who could either be the answer to Jack’s problems, or the last ripped stitch in his undoing. Ireland may be known as a 'green Eden,' but in Jack Taylor’s world, the national color has a decidedly lethal sheen.

Title: Down Among the Dead Men
Author: Peter Lovesey
Series: #15 in the Peter Diamond police procedural series set in southern England
ISBN: 9781616956264
Publisher: Soho Crime
Hardcover, 384 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "In a Sussex town on the south coast of England, a widely disliked art teacher at a posh private girls’ school disappears without explanation. None of her students miss her boring lessons, especially since her replacement is a devilishly hunky male teacher with a fancy car. But then her name shows up on a police missing persons list. What happened to Miss Gibbon, and why does no one seem to care?

Meanwhile, detective Peter Diamond finds himself in Sussex, much against his wishes. His irritating and often obtuse supervisor, Assistant Chief Constable Georgina Dallymore, has made Diamond accompany her on a Home Office internal investigation. A Sussex detective has been suspended for failing to link DNA evidence of a relative to a seven-year-old murder
case—a bad breach of ethics. Diamond is less than thrilled to be heading out on a road trip with his boss to investigate a fellow officer, but he becomes much more interested in the case when he realizes who the suspended officer is—an old friend, and not a person he knows to make mistakes.

As Diamond asks questions, he begins to notice unsettling connections between the cold case and the missing art teacher. Could the two mysteries be connected? How many other area disappearances have gone unnoticed and uninvestigated? Diamond and his hapless supervisor have stumbled into a web of related crimes. Will Diamond be able to disentangle them?

Title: The Fraud
Author: Brad Parks
Series: #6 in the Carter Ross investigative reporter series set in New Jersey
ISBN: 9781250064400
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Hardcover, 352 pages

Synopsis: "In the most thrilling entry yet in Brad Parks's award-winning series, investigative reporter Carter Ross must chose who gets to live: him or his unborn child.

A rash of carjackings terrorizing Newark become newsworthy when one such theft ends in the murder of a wealthy banking executive. The affable, wisecracking Ross is assigned the story, but he's weary of only writing about victims of crime who happen to be rich and white. To balance his reporting, he finds a Nigerian immigrant of more modest means who was also killed during a recent carjacking.

When it turns out the two victims knew each other, sharing an unexplained round of golf at a tony country club shortly before their deaths, Carter is plunged onto the trail of a deadly band of car thieves that includes a sociopathic ex-convict. When his unborn child is put in harm's way, it becomes more than just a story for Carter. And he'll stop at nothing to rescue the baby-even if it costs him his own life.

Parks, a rising star on the crime fiction scene known for his mix of wit and grit, delivers his most emotionally resonant book yet.

Title: A Study in Death
Series: #4 in the Lady Darby historical series set in 1830s Scotland
ISBN: 9780425277522
Publisher: Berkley
Hardcover, 336 pages

Synopsis: "Scotland, 1831. After a tumultuous courtship complicated by three deadly inquiries, Lady Kiera Darby is thrilled to have found both an investigative partner and a fiancé in Sebastian Gage. But with her well-meaning—and very pregnant—sister planning on making their wedding the event of the season, Kiera could use a respite from the impending madness.

Commissioned to paint the portrait of Lady Drummond, Kiera is saddened when she recognizes the pain in the baroness’s eyes. Lord Drummond is a brute, and his brusque treatment of his wife forces Kiera to think of the torment caused by her own late husband.

Kiera isn’t sure how to help, but when she finds Lady Drummond prostrate on the floor, things take a fatal turn. The physician called to the house and Lord Drummond appear satisfied to rule her death natural, but Kiera is convinced that poison is the real culprit.

Now, armed only with her knowledge of the macabre and her convictions, Kiera intends to discover the truth behind the baroness’s death—no matter what, or who, stands in her way

Title: Caught Read-Handed
Series: #2 in the Read 'Em and Eat cozy series set on the Florida Gulf Coast
ISBN: 9780425270295
Publisher: Berkley
Mass Market Paperback, 304 pages

Synopsis: "From the national bestselling author of Well Read, Then Dead comes the second mystery featuring Sassy Cabot and Bridgy Mayfield, who bring Fort Myers Beach, Florida, residents plenty of sinful treats and killer reads at their bookstore café, Read ’Em and Eat.

Happy to help her fellow bibliophiles, Sassy visits the local library with book donations for their annual fundraising sale. Unfortunately, the welcoming readers’ haven is in turmoil as an argument erupts between an ornery patron and new staff member, Tanya Lipscombe—also known as “Tanya Trouble.” She may lack people skills, but everyone is shocked when she’s later found murdered in her own hot tub.

The man last seen arguing with Tanya is soon arrested. But Alan Mersky, a veteran with PTSD, happens to be the brother of Sassy’s former boss—and he’s no murderer. Now it’s up to Sassy and Bridgy to clear Alan’s name and make sure the real killer gets booked.

Includes a recipe for Miss Marple scones!

Title: Hooked on Ewe
Author: Hannah Reed
Series: #2 in the Scottish Highlands cozy series
ISBN: 9780425265833
Publisher: Berkley
Mass Market Paperback, 304 pages
Synopsis: "It’s early September in Glenkillen, Scotland, when American expat (and budding romance novelist) Eden Elliott is recruited by the local inspector to act as a special constable. Fortunately it’s in name only, since not much happens in Glenkillen.

For now Eden has her hands full with other things: preparing for the sheepdog trial on the MacBride farm—a fundraiser for the local hospice—and helping her friend Vicki with her first yarn club skein-of-the-month deliveries. Everything seems to be coming together—until the head of the welcoming committee is found strangled to death with a club member’s yarn.

Now Eden feels compelled to honor her commitment as constable and herd together the clues, figure out which ones are dogs, and which ones will lead to a ruthless killer . . .

=== July 14 ===

Title: After the Storm
Series: #7 in the Kate Burkholder police procedural series set in Ohio Amish country
ISBN: 9781250061560
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Hardcover, 320 pages
Synopsis: "When a tornado tears through Painters Mill and unearths human remains, Chief of Police Kate Burkholder finds herself tasked with the responsibility of identifying the bones--and notifying the family. Evidence quickly emerges that the death was no accident and Kate finds herself plunged into a thirty year old case that takes her deep into the Amish community to which she once belonged. 
 Meanwhile, turmoil of an emotional and personal nature strikes at the very heart of Kate's budding relationship with state agent John Tomasetti. A reality that strains their fragile new love to the breaking point and threatens the refuge they've built for themselves--and their future.

Under siege from an unknown assailant--and her own personal demons--Kate digs deep into the case only to discover proof of an unimaginable atrocity, a plethora of family secrets and the lengths to which people will go to protect their own.

=== July 28 ===

Title: Badlands
Author: C.J. Box
Standalone set in North Dakota
ISBN: 9780312583217
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Hardcover, 288 pages

Synopsis: "Twenty miles across the North Dakota border, where the scenery goes from rolling grass prairie to pipeline fields, detective Cassie Dewell has been assigned as the new deputy sheriff of Grimstad-a place people used to be from, but were never headed to. Grimstad is now the oil capital of North Dakota. With oil comes money, with money comes drugs, and with drugs come the dirtiest criminals hustling to corner the market.

In the small town resides twelve-year-old Kyle Westergaard. Even though Kyle has been written off as the "slow" kid, he has dreams deeper than anyone can imagine. He wants to get out of town, take care of his mother, and give them a better life. While delivering newspapers, he witnesses a car accident and takes a mysterious bundle from the scene. Now in possession of a lot of money and packets of white powder, Kyle wonders if his luck has changed.

When the temperature drops to 30 below and a gang war heats up, Cassie realizes that she may be in over her head. As she is propelled on a collision course with a murderous enemy, she finds that the key to it all might come in the most unlikely form: an undersized boy on a bike who keeps showing up where he doesn't belong. Because a boy like Kyle is invisible. But he sees everything.

Title: Brush Back
Author: Sara Paretsky
Series: #18 in the V.I. Warshawski series set in Chicago, Illinois
ISBN: 9780399160578
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Hardcover, 480 pages

Synopsis: "No one would accuse V. I. Warshawski of backing down from a fight, but there are a few she’d be happy to avoid. High on that list is tangling with Chicago political bosses. Yet that’s precisely what she ends up doing when she responds to Frank Guzzo’s plea for help.

For six stormy weeks back in high school, V.I. thought she was in love with Frank. He broke up with her, she went off to college, he started driving trucks for Bagby Haulage. She forgot about him until the day his mother was convicted of bludgeoning his kid sister, Annie, to death. Stella Guzzo was an angry, uncooperative prisoner and did a full twenty-five years for her daughter’s murder.

Newly released from prison, Stella is looking for exoneration, so Frank asks V.I. for help. V.I. doesn’t want to get involved. Stella hated the Warshawskis, in particular V.I.’s adored mother, Gabriella.

But life has been hard on Frank and on V.I.’s other childhood friends, still stuck on the hardscrabble streets around the dead steel mills, and V.I. agrees to ask a few questions. Those questions lead her straight into the vipers’ nest of Illinois politics she’s wanted to avoid. When V.I. takes a beating at a youth meeting in her old hood, her main question becomes whether she will live long enough to find answers.

Title: Broken Promise
Standalone set in New York State
ISBN: 9780451472670
Publisher: NAL
Hardcover, 512 pages

Synopsis: "After his wife’s death and the collapse of his newspaper, David Harwood has no choice but to uproot his nine-year-old son and move back into his childhood home in Promise Falls, New York. David believes his life is in free fall, and he can’t find a way to stop his descent.

Then he comes across a family secret of epic proportions. A year after a devastating miscarriage, David’s cousin Marla has continued to struggle. But when David’s mother asks him to check on her, he’s horrified to discover that she’s been secretly raising a child who is not her own—a baby she claims was a gift from an “angel” left on her porch.

When the baby’s real mother is found murdered, David can’t help wanting to piece together what happened—even if it means proving his own cousin’s guilt. But as he uncovers each piece of evidence, David realizes that Marla’s mysterious child is just the tip of the iceberg.

Other strange things are happening. Animals are found ritually slaughtered. An ominous abandoned Ferris wheel seems to stand as a warning that something dark has infected Promise Falls. And someone has decided that the entire town must pay for the sins of its past…in blood.


There's some mighty fine reading coming up during the month of July, isn't there? I'd be hard-pressed to figure out where to start first!

What about you? Did you find any books in this list that tickled your fancy? Which ones? You know that inquiring minds want to know!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Death in Brittany by Jean-Luc Bannalec

First Line: The seventh of July was a magnificent summer's day, one of those majestic Atlantic days that always lifted Commissaire Dupin's spirits.

Recently relocated from Paris, Commissaire Georges Dupin enjoys his posting to the remote coast of Brittany, especially when his morning coffee and croissant are undisturbed. Unfortunately Dupin is called away from his daily ritual by a murder in nearby Pont-Aven. Pont-Aven is a small village where everyone knows everyone else. It's at the height of the season, and many tourists are coming to see where the famous artist Gauguin once lived. The last thing Pont-Aven needs is a murder, but that's exactly what's happened.

Someone has killed 91-year-old hotelier Pierre-Louis Pennec, and it's up to Dupin and his men to find the murderer. They soon find five principal suspects, and it's going to take a lot more digging to find out which one "done it."

Bannalec has written a mystery with a marvelous sense of place, complete with some of its fascinating historical background. His descriptions are so vivid it was easy for me to picture the beautiful setting. The mystery is also a good one, with tie-ins to local history and to Paul Gauguin. 

What is lacking in Death in Brittany is characterization. It's all about the investigation here. None of the characters come to life. Dupin's two inspectors become mere minions after very brief introductions. Dupin is constantly saying, "We need to talk," but readers are never allowed to hear what they talk about. Part of the fun of reading mysteries is being allowed to be the proverbial fly on the wall. There's none of that here, and it's missed-- as are more fully fleshed characters.

Death in Brittany by Jean-Luc Bannalec
eISBN: 9781250016744
Thomas Dunne Books © 2015
eBook, 322 pages

Police Procedural, #1 Commissaire Dupin mystery
Rating: C
Source: Net Galley 

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Darkness Rolling by Win and Meredith Blevins

First Line: I was itchy.

Seaman Yazzie Goldman served his country during World War II as a member of the shore patrol on the California coast. It's been a long time since he's last seen his family's trading post in Monument Valley, and a lot of things have changed. His beloved grandfather, Moses Goldman, suffered a debilitating stroke, and although Yazzie's mother Nizhoni is doing the best she can, money is scarce and the trading post is slowly falling apart. 

Yazzie quickly finds a way to help pay for badly needed repairs and supplies: he's hired on by film director John Ford to serve as a translator and as a bodyguard for actress Linda Darnell, who's been receiving threatening letters.

But Yazzie isn't the only person to come home recently. Zipilote, "the Buzzard," has spent the last twenty-five years in prison, and now he's back in Monument Valley with only one thought in mind: revenge against the two who sent him to prison-- Yazzie's mother and grandfather.

I love Monument Valley. I've stayed at Goulding's Lodge where the stars and film crews stayed while filming so many classic Westerns back in the 1940s and 50s. I've had a Navajo guide take me through not only Monument Valley, but the lesser known (and equally impressive) Mystery Canyon. I was thrilled to see that a new mystery series was set here during its Hollywood period.

The Blevins use this glorious setting to excellent effect and manage to blend in some Navajo traditions as well. The distances involved in bringing in supplies and My Darling Clementine's stars show how remote the area is. In fact, Yazzie gets to travel on the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe's Super Chief and stay at the fabulous Fred Harvey hotel La Posada in Winslow in order to pick up actress Linda Darnell and take her to where the filming is being done. 

But it's with Linda Darnell that the book frayed around the edges a bit for me. I've read many historical mysteries, and quite a few of them have historical characters. I normally don't have a problem with that, but I did with the role Darnell plays in this book. I won't go into detail here, and I'm sure the Blevins did their research, but Darnell's characterization just plain made me uncomfortable.

The best secondary character by far is Moses Goldman, and it's easy to see why Yazzie loves him so much. I cheered Moses on in several of his scenes.

Unfortunately other than as a foil for the other characters, Zipilote doesn't really work as a killer for me-- much too one-dimensional. But then... I suppose most homicidal maniacs are.

I like Yazzie, a young man who's half Navajo, half Jew. He wants a "big life" but he still remains level-headed. His time as shore patrol for the Navy has given him a good background in investigating, and he needs it here because when things go wrong-- since he's the Indian in the middle of a bunch of famous white people-- he's the person who gets all the blame. He's also the man who gets all the women in this book, and his second relationship moved so quickly that I'm wondering how well it's going to fit in with the series.

For yes, this is going to be a series, and even though I'm not thrilled with some of the characterizations, I like the main character, and I'm still in love with the setting. I'm looking forward to the next installment.

The Darkness Rolling by Win and Meredith Blevins
ISBN: 9780765378606
Forge Books © 2015
Hardcover, 288 pages

Historical Thriller, #1 Yazzie Goldman mystery
Rating: C+
Source: Purchased from The Poisoned Pen.


Win an Autographed Copy of Alex Grecian's The Harvest Man!

The month of June is winding down, and here is my last scheduled giveaway. I've been a fan of Alex Grecian's Murder Squad books set in Victorian England ever since I read the very first one, The Yard. I always enjoy Alex's appearances at The Poisoned Pen, and I couldn't resist having him autograph a copy of his latest book, The Harvest Man, so I could give it to one of you.

The Prize

Enter to Win!
This is the book one lucky person will win, and here's the synopsis to tell you a bit about it:

"Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad—and Jack the Ripper—return, in the extraordinary new historical thriller from the author of the acclaimed national bestseller The Yard.

In The Devil’s Workshop, London discovered that Jack the Ripper was back, sending the city—and Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad—into chaos. But now it is even worse. Not only is the Ripper still at large, but so is another killer just as bad.

For Inspector Walter Day, it has been a difficult time. His wife has given birth to twins, his hostile in-laws have come to stay, and a leg injury has kept him at his desk. But when the Harvest Man begins killing, carving people’s faces off their skulls, the Yard knows they need Day in the field.

Not so Sergeant Nevil Hammersmith. Rash actions have cost him his job, but that doesn’t stop his obsessive hunt for the Ripper. When the mutilated bodies of prostitutes start turning up again, Hammersmith enlists the help of a criminal network to stop Saucy Jack, his methods carrying him further and further from the ideals of the Yard, so far in fact that he may never be able to find his way back.

Of course, the Ripper’s been playing a game with him—with Walter Day, as well. He is pushing both of them to their limits, and what happens when they get there . . . no one can say."

The Rules

Here are the rules of the giveaway. There aren't many of 'em, but they all must be followed, or you won't be eligible to win the book. All entries that are "proper and correct" will receive an email in reply. Something along the lines of "Your entry has been received. Good Luck!" If you don't receive that email, then something was wrong with your entry.

  1. Send an email to kittlingbooks(at)gmail(dot)com.
  2. The subject line of the email must read "Harvest Man Giveaway."
  3. The body of the email must contain both (A) your email address, and (B) your mailing address.

The Fine Print

You have until midnight, Sunday, July 5, to enter the contest. The winner will be announced on Monday, July 6. 

All entries will be destroyed once the winner has been notified. The title of the book you want to win may be The Harvest Man, but this blogger does not harvest your info!

Good luck to you all. Now-- get to filling up my inbox, there's some excellent reading to win!