Wednesday, January 16, 2019

At The Poisoned Pen with Thomas Perry!

It seemed like an eon or two had passed since the last time we'd gone to our favorite bookstore, The Poisoned Pen, for an author event, so Denis and I were very happy to be heading that way to see Thomas Perry, author of one of my favorite series, the Jane Whitefield mysteries. This time he would be talking about his latest book, The Burglar.

Without any further fuss, I'm going to get right down to the interview.

Thomas Perry & host Barbara Peters
Barbara: This is Tom's twenty-sixth book, The Burglar, and we calculate that this is our twenty-fifth event together or something like that. It's really been fun.

How many of you are Jane Whitefield readers? [Most of the audience raised their hands.] Oh good! We were doing a podcast that's going to be a little different, and we talked about how the protagonist of The Burglar, Elle Stowell, is a bit like Jane Whitefield and how she is different.

Let's talk about how she's like Jane since Jane is one of my favorite people, and there are eight Jane Whitefield novels now, is that right?

Thomas: I think there are eight.

Barbara: I couldn't count either. Originally it was five and then one or two crept in. Was it the last one where you had an assist from an actual member of the Seneca tribe?

Thomas: Yes, that was A String of Beads. It was a gentleman who was a Canadian lawyer who spent his life dealing with Native American issues. Defending them against infringements of their rights and so on. He wrote to me at one point and he said, "I've been reading your books for twenty years. I've been meaning to write to you about it, but there are some things that I don't think you understand. He proceeded to write a three-page single-spaced letter about the things I didn't understand. [Audience laughter]

I read the letter, and I thought to myself that this was wonderful stuff. These are all things I've never seen anywhere, in anyone's anthropological texts or anywhere else. Lots of tiny little cultural things. So I wrote back to him and said, "This is great. Thanks! If you ever think of anything or if you ever notice anything in one of my books that you know to be wrong, please let me know. You've done me a great favor." Immediately I got a five-page single-spaced letter that had more things. And it was all gold.

Barbara Peters
Barbara: I know the hook for you there is that you're such a research addict and to discover that you had a whole new trove to draw from was terrific.

Thomas: Oh, absolutely. Fibber McGee's closet... I don't know if any of you remember Fibber McGee's closet? Open the door and tons of things fall out, and there are tons of things you can use in a book.

Barbara: You know, I really miss radio. None of you are probably old enough to remember the old radio drama "Suspense" when there'd be that horrible creaking door. As a little kid, I would lie there in bed and I'd hear that door. You know, your imagination can do so much more for you than actually watching something on the screen.

Thomas: That's true. But to get back to Jane, when you write a series and you like the character, you don't want to write a book that's awful so that every time you walk into a bookstore the rest of your life people will say to you, "I used to love that series, but it's too bad you had to write that last one!" [Audience laughter] So I'm waiting for an idea that's worth anyone else's time. You know. Is it worth your time to read it?

Barbara: You realize you've given me a new mission. In my copious free time, I'm going to start evolving an eight-page single-spaced letter that will prompt you into writing about Jane again.

Anyway, back to my point about Jane and Elle. The ways in which I think they were alike... Jane was always careful to map out the territory she'd be working in. If she was going to make someone disappear, she was always familiar with the landscape. Elle does the same thing, but what is the landscape she's got here?

Thomas Perry
Thomas: Well, Elle is a young woman who has been on her own since she was about fourteen when all of her relatives-- three aunts, her grandmother, and all the children the aunts have had-- move out of the house they'd been living in illegally for all of these years and don't hang around to tell her where they moved. So she was basically on the street at the age of fourteen trying to steal to stay alive.

She has become an expert burglar. She's very good at blending in. She can look like the daughter of some rich Beverly Hills or San Marino family. She runs through the neighborhood wearing a pair of the latest $600 running shoes. She wears t-shirts that say things like "Princeton." She's essentially casing the neighborhood as she jogs. She's looking for anything that gives her the indication that this is the place to break into. Because she's physically small and in great shape, she's really good in getting in through places like doggie doors. Taking the louvers out of the kitchen window.

She also knows that most people who have valuable things they want to hide, hide them in the master suite. And she knows that the things she wants are the valuable things. Things like cameras, jewelry, guns, gold, that she can carry out on a very quick trip.

Barbara: She actually puts it on her body to escape?

Thomas: Yes, she usually wears a fanny pack. She looks just like the other women jogging in the prosperous neighborhoods of LA. She's like Jane in some ways, but she's a criminal.

Available Now!
Jane is not a criminal. Jane breaks laws, but the point of what Jane does is always to help someone. She takes people who have convincing reasons to believe they are about to be murdered and she moves them to other parts of the country and teaches them to live as new people. That's completely altruistic.

Elle, even though she's stealing things that are very valuable, is still living at a subsistence level. If you are a burglar, you have to sell this stuff to somebody and the people to whom you sell it are crooks. So they're not going to give you a great deal. If you steal a $200,000 necklace, you're going to get something under $20,000 for it.

They have qualities that I admire in people. I admire self-reliance, cunning, and things like that because they're fun to write about.

Barbara: They are fun to write about. I was actually not referring to her moral character but to her skill set. You've also brought up the next point I was going to make which is Elle's physical skill set. Both of them are athletic and able to do things that the ordinary person may not be able to. In fact, Elle gets into trouble because she infiltrates a house in a way that other people can't.

Thomas: It's fun to think about what a burglar sees when he's looking at a house. We look at a house and we see doors and windows and how pretty the paint job is; they're looking for ways in.

Barbara: Are you doing this all in your imagination, or are you, too, going out in Rancho Santa Fe or San Marino and casing the neighborhoods?

Thomas: Have you seen my new watch?

Barbara: I can just see Tom out there saying it was just research when the cops catch him! [Audience laughter]

Thomas Perry
I think that another way Elle is different than Jane-- and partly it's because if you're writing a character over the course of several books they accumulate people and relationships and baggage and so forth-- is that Elle is young and she doesn't have any of that. This is a single book, but if you were to continue, you'd almost have to...

It's the same problem Barry Eisler had when he wrote the first John Rain book. I don't know if any of you remember Barry or that book, but he wrote the perfect assassin. He had zero relationships. He lived an entirely solo life in Tokyo. And Gregg Hurwitz who will be here with Orphan X. When you get to book two, you gather people as you move along. Actually, Gregg's been very good because when he's here with book four, he's managed to get all those people out of the way and he has homed in on a single mission: assassinating the U.S. president.

Thomas: Where'd he get that idea?

Barbara: I'm making no further statement. I'm just sayin' he did find an interesting way to hone away all the baggage that Orphan X may have been accumulating and focus on the mission. You're almost forced to do that if you want a real solo agent.

Thomas: I think that's true. What I was trying to do with Elle is to show that she has the type of life that she does because she doesn't have these relationships and what she needs to solve in her life. But yes, if you're going to write some sort of superhero, you're going to have to cut these relationships, or you're going to have to just use people. One or the other.

Thomas Perry
Barbara: Where Elle is vulnerable is with the fence because the fence can betray her. So you're writing about her as an accomplished burglar but maybe one who's thinking that this isn't a permanent career path?

Thomas: You're in a business that depends upon you looking like a college student. Your credentials as a jogger in a place like Los Angeles is that you run really hard and fast, and there are a limited number of years in which you can carry that off and make it look convincing.

Barbara: You don't think she could take up dog walking or something?

Thomas: She could. That's what I do. But essentially, when you're living as a criminal, you're living on borrowed time. Eventually, the odds are going to catch up with you.  Or you're going to have what happens to her which is you break into a house and there are three dead bodies in the room you've gone into to rob. Who left them there? Why is that camera on the other side of the room still running? Something bad's going to happen.

Barbara: So this is your Real Housewives of Beverly Hills moment, isn't it? [Laughter] But if you're going to write a crime novel about a burglar, there's always going to be a time when the burglar finds themselves in a place where their profession prevents them from dealing with a greater crime, right?

Do you remember Larry Block when he wrote Bernie Rhodenbarr? Bernie breaks in. There's a body on the floor. What does Bernie do? Can he call the cops? Not really because he just broke in. Same thing with Tim Hallinan and Junior Bender. I think it's a really neat dilemma when you have someone who's breaking the law on a softer crime and they bang right into a big crime and they're morally impelled to do something about it, but how do they go about doing that? Although in Elle's case, it may just be self-preservation because she doesn't seem to have a particularly high moral plane.

Thomas Perry
Thomas: No, she's not. There's another implicit problem with burglars and that is you break in, and what happens if the guy who lives there is there? What are you going to do? Are you going to kill him? Are you going to try to outrun his gun? What is it you're going to do? You have to make the decision before you get in that house.

Barbara: And that is something that has come up many times in real life.

Thomas: There are all sorts of things you have to think about if you're going to be some sort of criminal. Those are fun things to play with.

Barbara: This is why you write books, right? You're really a criminal, but you're too chicken to go out there and do it. [Audience laughter] I don't want to say chicken; that's unfair!

Thomas: Well, my needs are few and therefore I don't need to do it. But one of the reasons why I write books is that there are certain qualities humans have that I find despicable, but there are other ones that I think are just so inspiring! And one of them is physical courage. There are a lot of people throughout the history of the world who have done things that are just astounding. They make superheroes look like jokes. You wait for a moment where you can write about something that actually makes you feel good to be human. Meanwhile, you play around with lesser issues. Things like competence. There's a lot to be said for competence. You may be writing about a burglar, but how well does she do her job? How does she get in...

Barbara Peters
Barbara: But you've always taken a lot of pride in doing your research. In making it as authentic as it can be.

Thomas: The world is given to you as a writer. It's out there. Everybody owns it. Everybody that you meet, everybody that... when you're in an airplane and you overhear the people in the seats in front of you talking, their stories are free. They're given to you.

Barbara: So you eavesdrop?

Thomas: Of course. I'm a terrible eavesdropper!

It gives me change. It gives me a chance to think about the problems of somebody else. I often think that what you're doing as a writer is what we used to do when we were kids. We get to be somebody else for an hour or two. I got to be a young, twenty-four-year-old burglar. I think what we're doing is playing. Whatever we learned as children by playing those roles is graduate work when you write stories.

Barbara: So this is your version of cosplay at Comic-Con?

Thomas: Yeah, I guess! It took a while to admit that.

Barbara: So what's happening with the old man? [The Butcher's Boy and film options]

Thomas Perry
Thomas: My policy on these things is that if somebody wants to do an option of a book, what you do if the price is reasonable and your agent can protect you from predatory clauses is you sign the paper, wait for the check to clear the bank and then forget it ever happened. [In other words, nothing much is going on film-wise.]

After a brief Q&A period, we adjourned to the signing line. For any of you who want to hear more from Thomas Perry, I invite you to listen to the podcast he did with Barbara Peters.

It was wonderful being back at The Poisoned Pen. I'd been in serious withdrawal!

Monday, January 14, 2019

Too Late to Die by Bill Crider

First Line: It was another damn election year, and if there was one thing that Sheriff Dan Rhodes knew for sure it was that Hod Barrett wasn't going to vote for him this time either.

When a pretty and well-liked woman is killed in her own home, Blacklin County Sheriff Dan Rhodes has a Texas-sized problem on his hands. He's already having to contend with a rash of burglaries, and he's running for reelection against a wealthy man who knows how to schmooze any crowd he comes in contact with. But having a killer on the loose is more important than all the other things on his plate. What he doesn't quite take into consideration is how many of his neighbors' secrets he's going to uncover while he's solving the case.

Bill Crider's Dan Rhodes mystery series is one that I've been meaning to get around to reading for a long time. Many of you know how it goes. But a recent recommendation nudged me in the right direction, and I picked up this first book in the series.

I enjoyed Crider's gentle sense of humor throughout the book. Whenever Sheriff Dan Rhodes has to tell someone something he (or she) doesn't want to hear, the first thought through his mind is, "Well, there goes another vote." Rhodes is a genuinely nice guy who's fairly well acquainted with all the folks in his county. Speaking of those folks, Crider's provided his sheriff with a good supporting cast, including his daughter Kathy, Mrs. Wilkie (who has the hots for this widowed lawman), and Ivy, a strong, intelligent woman who's running for justice of the peace. The only problem is, he doesn't always make use of that supporting cast. He likes to ponder a case, and when he thinks he may have all the puzzle pieces in the proper places, he runs off to check it out all by his lonesome. I can see times where that's not going to be such a good idea.

With a main character who has an independent turn of mind, it's a good thing Bill Crider has a lot of talent when it comes to adding elements of surprise and writing action sequences. I can see that this is a series that I'm probably going to enjoy a lot. I may even wind up adding Dan Rhodes to my list of favorite fictional sheriffs.

Too Late to Die by Bill Crider
Crossroads Press © 2013
Originally published in 1986.
eBook, 183 pages

Police Procedural, #1 Sheriff Dan Rhodes mystery
Rating: B+
Source: Purchased from Amazon.


Sunday, January 13, 2019

I Have Alex Grecian Covered!


I have to admit that what persuaded me to use this week's title for a Cover Off wasn't so much the covers but the difference in titles. I always find it interesting when the same book has a different title in the UK than it does here in the US. It makes me wonder the eternal "WHY?" But before I get any further, let's take a look at the book I've chosen...

And to help us with this particular Cover Off, I'm going to add the synopsis for the book:

"Travis Roan and his dog, Bear, are hunters: They travel the world pursuing evildoers in order to bring them to justice. They have now come to Kansas on the trail of Rudolph Bormann, a Nazi doctor and concentration camp administrator who snuck into the U.S. under the name Rudy Goodman in the 1950s and has at last been identified. Travis quickly learns that Goodman has powerful friends who will go to any length to protect the Nazi; what he doesn't know is that Goodman has furtively continued his diabolical work, amassing a congregation of followers who believe he possesses Godlike powers. Caught between these men is Kansas State Trooper Skottie Foster, an African American woman and a good cop who must find a way to keep peace in her district--until she realizes the struggle between Roan and Bormann will put her and her family in grave peril.

Okay. Obviously, the wolf and/or butcher is this Rudy Goodman, and he's referred to as "the saint" because he's the head of a church in Kansas. Having been at The Poisoned Pen and heard Grecian talk about this book before it was published, it is based on a true story.

What do I think of the artwork on the covers? The UK cover is so simple that it's almost an insult. A man walking down a rain-slicked highway with a dark cloud hanging over his head. But the storm looks as though it's already passed and that cloud's merely a leftover. Land that's flat as a pancake which reminds me of the Great Plains. Absolutely no blurbs. Just the title and the author's name. On the whole, this cover says so little that most people probably wouldn't bother picking it up. Was the UK publisher obligated by contract to release the book in the UK? Just wondering.

Now, the US cover has more oomph to it, although-- you know me-- I could do without Nora Roberts' blurb and the "National Bestselling Author" bit. There's Skottie Foster's state trooper car raising a dust cloud as it travels down the road toward a sky that looks as though all hell's about to break loose. I would not want to be traveling toward that storm! I also like the font and slant the US publishers have given to the title and author's name. Very eye-catching.

But what about those two different titles?

The UK choice of title, like the cover, says nothing, gives no clues. On the other hand, when I read the US title, my first thought was "I didn't know wolves and butchers had a saint" which led to curiosity which led to me reading the synopsis.

So it should come as no surprise when I tell you that I much prefer the US cover. It's much more evocative than the UK cover. 

What about you? Which cover do you prefer? US? UK? Neither one? Inquiring minds would love to know!

Friday, January 11, 2019

An Unsentimental Weekly Link Round-Up

It's been a very quiet week here at Casa Kittling. We've had another winter storm come through, giving us a good, soaking rain which is always a wonderful thing. I much prefer our winter rains to the ones in summer because they do tend to be gentle, not the microbursts that can give us half our annual rainfall in ten minutes. Those summer toad chokers are the ones that usually fill the pool with mud. Nope, give me winter rains any day-- especially when they usually mean a fantastic spring showing of wildflowers out in the desert. Now... if the temperature would only go back up to normal. You know Mother Nature is having a laugh when the morning temperature in Anchorage, Alaska is eight degrees warmer than Phoenix, Arizona!

You're probably wondering why I've titled this link round-up "unsentimental." Well, it's because I'm not sentimental at all. Nope. Not me. Never in a million years.

It would never occur to me to look for a ring that combined my birthstone with Denis'.  But I did manage to "stumble" across one that combines my January garnet with Denis' June moonstone, and you see it to the left. I love how the moonstones catch the light and flash with blues and lavenders. I just thought I would share one of my Christmas presents with you. The unsentimental one, of course!

In the meantime, Denis and I have some events at The Poisoned Pen to look forward to. After the hectic holiday selling season, authors will be coming back to our favorite bookstore, and we're really looking forward to that.

It's time for me to put on my wellies and slosh on out to the link corral. They're wanting some attention. Head 'em up! Mooooooooove 'em out!

►Books & Other Interesting Tidbits◄

►Channeling My Inner Indiana Jones◄

►Channeling My Inner Elly Mae Clampett◄
  • A lonely parrot goes shopping online with Alexa while his owners are out.
  • A Utah bobcat named Mr. Murderbritches was just released back into the wild-- and the video is going viral.
  • The shrinking of a Utah national monument may threaten 660 bee species.
  • The story of Dyngo, a war dog brought home from combat.
  • A Dracula ant's snapping jaw is the fastest known appendage in the animal kingdom.
  • To help corals fight back, scientists are breeding populations separated by hundreds of miles.
  • Cliquey Adriatic dolphins may have strategies for avoiding each other.
  • Their songs suggest that cardinals in different regions could actually be distinct species.

►Fascinating Folk◄
  • A VR experience lets you join Nellie Bly on her 72-day trip around the world.

►I ♥ Lists◄

That's all for this week! 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, January 10, 2019

Fastest Things on Wings: Rescuing Hummingbirds in Hollywood by Terry Masear

First Line: If destiny arrives at times by chance and at other times by choice, for me it came through some of each.

This memoir of rehabber Terry Masear is a must-read for anyone who is fascinated with hummingbirds. I've loved these tiny living jewels since I was quite small, seeing ruby-throated hummingbirds visit my grandmother's flower garden. The day I moved to Arizona was the first time I'd ever seen one perch in a tree and being able to observe them every day in my own desert garden is a delight I never tire of.

Masear includes many facts in her memoir that people with differing levels of expertise will appreciate, but what I enjoyed the most was her account of the day-to-day care involved with rescuing and rehabilitating these little marvels. In four months, she took in 160 hummingbirds in various stages of need. With feedings every thirty minutes during the day and a phone that never stopped ringing, readers can feel Masear's exhaustion. But we can also feel her love and dedication, especially with hummingbirds like Gabriel and Pepper, birds that were gravely injured and not expected to live. Yes, this is a book in which both your mind and your heart will be engaged.

Don't be surprised if you read Fastest Things on Wings and discover that your sense of wonder has been reawakened-- and that if you're lucky enough to have hummingbirds in your neighborhood that you look at them in a brand-new light. These little jewels are enough in and of themselves to make me believe in miracles, and I am so glad I read Masear's book.

Fastest Things on Wings: Rescuing Hummingbirds in Hollywood by Terry Masear
eISBN: 9780544416086
Mariner Books © 2016
eBook, 333 pages

Non-Fiction, Standalone
Rating: A
Source: Purchased from Amazon.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

2018: My Year in Books

It's that time of year again when I look through my Excel spreadsheets (yes, I have those to track my reading) and go to ChartGo to make some pretty (and free) graphs so I can share last year's reading statistics with you. I've already shared my Best Reads of the year, so here goes with some of those other numbers!

Setting is important to me as I read. I love to learn about other parts of the world, especially those which I probably will never visit. I keep track of the setting of each book that I read on an online map service, ZeeMaps, and if you go to Book Travels by City 2018, you can follow my travels around the globe. You can enlarge the map, move it all around, click on the red markers to see the books I read that were set in that location, etc. It's something fun for me to do, and it can help me focus my reading.

How Many Books Did I Read Overall?

Online Graphing

As you can see, this is the first time in six years that I haven't read over 200 books. I chalk that up to all the eye procedures I underwent from August through November, many of which forbade me cracking open any books for a few days. But I have noticed that-- even before then-- I was more easily distracted than I have been in the past, so I've adjusted my Goodreads reading challenge for 2019. I tend to be competitive, which isn't always a good thing. If these distractions are trying to lead me in new directions, I want to be able to follow them without feeling guilty for neglecting one of my other goals. I know. I'm strange.

How Many eBooks Did I Read?

Online Graphing

Here's something that doesn't happen very often: I read the same number of eBooks this year as I did last year. I would've thought the number would be higher. Shows you what I know!

How Did I Rate the Books I Read?

Online Graphing

Compared to last year, I rated more books as "A" and I had more "C" and "D" books. I didn't rate any as DNF (Did Not Finish) although in hindsight, at least half those D's should've been consigned to that category.

Female vs. Male Authors, Old and New

Online Graphing

Last year, my reading was pretty evenly split between the sexes, and I even read the same number of new authors for each. I'm finding that, more and more often, the new books that are appealing to me are written by female authors. I don't know if that has more to say about me or about the caliber of women writers who are coming on the scene. What do you think?

Mystery Subgenres

Online Graphing

Compared to last year, my fondness for police procedurals is holding steady, while the number of cozies I read fell from 42 to this year's 27. The cozy number doesn't really surprise me as I realized that I wasn't enjoying them nearly as much as in the past. Series that I'd been reading faithfully had become stale, and if I could look at a title and honestly think that I could care less what happened in the next book, I decided not to read it. Life's too short, and all that!

Another subgenre showing a significant decrease was short stories, mostly because I'd overdosed on Agatha Christie in 2017. Which subgenres showed an increase? I read twice as many P.I. books as last year and historicals and thrillers were up, too.

Where Do I Get My Books?

Online Graphing

The numbers may be different than last year's, but the percentages are almost identical. Well... maybe not. The number of ARCs are down, and purchased ones up, which doesn't bother me.

Publication Dates

Online Graphing

This is a breakdown that has held steady since I started keeping Excel spreadsheets in 2010. It's obvious that I'm a reader that likes her books hot off the press.

Reading By Month

Online Graphing

There is a big change in this category of my reading. In years past, the summer months have been my major reading time when I've normally read thirty books per month in June, July, August, and September. More than anything else, I think this shows the problems I had with my eyes. Even though I was firmly ensconced in the shade, I think the brilliantly harsh Arizona sun caused me problems I wasn't fully aware of. And after all those eye surgeries (the last ones in November), you can see that I've started getting my reading mojo back.


I could dazzle you with more graphs and more breakdowns and more suppositions, but I think these are the main ones that those of you who like reading these kinds of statistics will want to see. It's going to be interesting to find out where my reading takes me this year. 

Here's to 2019!

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

The Burglar by Thomas Perry

First Line: A young blond woman ran along a quiet Bel-Air street at dusk.

With the right combination of intelligence, looks, and skills, Elle Stowell has gone far in her chosen profession: burglary. It's easy for her to stroll through the swanky Bel Air neighborhoods and pick the perfect homes to break into and steal the most valuable items. But when she breaks into the home of a wealthy art dealer and stumbles upon a triple homicide, Elle discovers that someone is searching for her-- and leaving a trail of bodies in their wake as they do so.

Her knowledge of the high-profile murder has made her a target, and her skills as a burglar are going to have to help her uncover the truth before she becomes the next victim.

I am a big fan of Thomas Perry's Jane Whitefield mysteries in which Jane helps people disappear. Reading passages in those books makes readers feel as though they're reading a textbook on how to leave your old life behind and start all over again. You get that same textbook feeling reading The Burglar, but the reading enjoyment was much lower for me.

The repetition is deadly in this book. We are told over and over how pretty Elle is. How smart she is. How good she is at being a burglar. We are told over and over of her wardrobe changes and her rental car trade-ins. Over and over, world without end... This might have worked-- I might not have noticed all the repetition-- if Elle's voice hadn't been so dispassionate. As if everything she says must be taken as fact and it's useless to argue with her because she could care less what you think.

But I do insist on arguing with her. She may be pretty, and she may know how to trade in rental cars and choose just the right outfit for each occasion, but she's not nearly as smart as she likes to think she is. She knows someone is following her, someone who committed a triple homicide. What does she do? Go to a friend's house to stay. In another instance-- having even more proof that she's being followed-- she attends a funeral and is surprised by what happens there. There are even more examples of Elle being Too Stupid To Live, but there's no need to list them all. Seasoned crime fiction readers will know what I mean. This character was driving me insane.

The only thing that kept me going was the fact that I insisted on knowing what was going on, why it was going on, and how it would all be wrapped up. That was interesting, and it helped that the point of view at the end switched from the smug, flat-voiced Elle. My ear needed a rest from her, and the different point of view helps readers see how everything fit together.

At the end of The Burglar, I was happy to know how everything turned out and even more thrilled in the knowledge that I'd never have to spend any more time with Elle Stowell. If you've wanted to read Thomas Perry-- and you should-- it's better to stick to a standalone like The Butcher's Boy or his Jane Whitefield series. This is not one of his better books.

The Burglar by Thomas Perry
ISBN: 9780802129000
Mysterious Press © 2019
Hardcover, 304 pages

Amateur Sleuth, Standalone
Rating: C
Source: Amazon Vine


Monday, January 07, 2019

Lives Laid Away by Stephen Mack Jones

First Line: Her secret ingredient was nutmeg.

Detroit ex-cop August Snow is given the photo of a young Hispanic woman whose body was found in the Detroit River in hopes that someone in Snow's home turf of Mexicantown will recognize her. Someone does. The victim is Isadora del Torres, and she's not the only young woman to have disappeared during an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raid, only to turn up dead a few weeks later.

Preyed upon by the law itself, the people of Mexicantown have no one to turn to except August Snow, the son of an African-American cop and a Mexican-American artist. Snow will not stand by and watch his neighbors suffer in silence and soon finds himself on a wild ride across Detroit, visiting neo-Nazi biker dens, hip-hop recording studios, seedy nightclubs, and the social clubs of the rich.

I really enjoyed Stephen Mack Jones' August Snow and looked forward to a new book. Snow won a wrongful dismissal suit against the Detroit Police Department and the City of Detroit, and he's used the $12 million settlement to renovate the houses of Mexicantown one at a time. He's bringing his neighborhood back to life, and I really like that. From Snow's voice to the book's secondary cast, from the information about Detroit to its tone of pragmatic hopefulness, the first book really had me looking forward to the next one. Unfortunately, I wasn't particularly happy with what I found.

If your outlook on immigration-- both legal and illegal-- tends toward the conservative, you're not going to like this book. I had no problem with the book's more liberal viewpoints and having some of the people in the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency be bad guys didn't bother me either. In the opening pages, Lives Laid Away was set up as Snow seeking justice for two murdered girls most law enforcement would consider throwaways. The Harry Bosch in me was rubbing my hands together in anticipation, but what followed was a disappointment.

The entire book devolved into Rambo (Snow) and sidekick loading up with weapons and heading to one shootout after another. I've never been a fan of Sylvester Stallone or the My-Gun-Blows-Bigger-Holes-in-People-than-Yours-Does school of film and fiction, so reading rapidly became a chore. So... a bit of a sophomore slump that makes me wonder if I want to read a third book in the series.

Lives Laid Away by Stephen Mack Jones
ISBN: 9781616959593
Soho Crime © 2019
Hardcover, 312 pages

Private Investigator, #2 August Snow mystery
Rating: C+
Source: the publisher