Thursday, February 20, 2020

Blood WIll Be Born by Gary Donnelly

First Line: Nothing's as heavy as a dead body.

On loan from London's Metropolitan Police to the Police Service of Northern Ireland, Detective Inspector Owen Sheen is ostensibly in Belfast to work on the Serious Historical Offences Team. His real agenda? To find the man who planted the bomb that killed his brother. But before he can dig into the past, he's required to babysit Detective Constable Aoife McCusker on her first murder investigation.

The case rapidly slides into chaos. Will Sheen be able to put his personal agenda aside? Will McCusker keep her job long enough to ensure that her first case isn't her last?

Readers in the United States may be under the illusion that the Troubles in Northern Ireland ended simply because they don't highlight our news broadcasts anymore. In Blood Will Be Born, author Gary Donnelly shows us that it isn't true. There are too many still living from those days, too many who like their little crime syndicates, too many children who will never forget the wrongs done their families in times past.

The story is a steamroller with a stellar cast. John Fryer, a patient in a psychiatric hospital who is tortured by a beast he calls The Moley. Christopher Moore, a young man who should be in a psychiatric hospital but is free to begin a bloodthirsty rampage. Cecil Moore, a crime boss who enjoys his position and doesn't really want the past forgotten because it's what gave him his standing in the community. It's an excellent cast of bad guys, but the good guys are even better.

DI Owen Sheen, part of the Murder Squad of London's Metropolitan Police, has secured a three-month break to work on the Serious Historical Offences Team, a move which he thinks will be the perfect cover for him to find the man who killed his beloved brother (and nearly killed him). Whenever he and his partner stumble across a clue that could be related to his personal quest, Sheen tends to get tunnel vision, and readers really don't know if he's going to go off the rails or not. His partner, DC Aoife (EE-fuh) McCusker, is brand new to the Serious Crimes squad and eager to make a good impression. She's sharp and observant, and it's obvious that she's going to make an excellent detective, but she's got some baggage that could easily ruin her career. (In fact, it's Aoife's baggage that raised the one annoying little question in my mind that won't go away. Her blackmailer had plenty of time to carry through with his threat. Why didn't he?)

Blood Will Be Born moves from one point of view to another as the story progresses, letting readers know what's going on in the characters' minds, but we're still kept guessing to the end. With this high-powered start to a new series, I'm certainly looking forward to the next book.

Blood Will Be Born by Gary Donnelly
eISBN: 9780749025267
Allison & Busby © 2020
eBook, 448 pages

Police Procedural, #1 DI Owen Sheen mystery
Rating: A
Source: NetGalley


Wednesday, February 19, 2020

A Chilly Day at the Desert Botanical Garden

I'm loving being able to get out and about after so much time spent on what felt like house arrest. Denis and I have been to the Wildlife World Zoo, and although I already knew we'd be back, I've learned that the zoo now has pygmy hippopotamuses, so I think the visit will be much sooner than originally thought.

But enough of the zoo. If you've been reading my blog, you know that I love the Desert Botanical Garden. Now... if I can get to the zoo, you know that means the Desert Botanical Garden is next. What Denis and I didn't anticipate was the weather front that came through the Phoenix area on the day we visited. It was overcast and cold. What Phoenicians mean by cold weather can be entirely different from what other folks think is cold, but take a look at this--

Icicles! In Phoenix!

No, your eyes are not deceiving you. Those are icicles. I was so glad when the clouds starting moving out and the sun came out during the last half of our visit!

The Desert Botanical Garden is currently host to a new art exhibit. Here's their promo about it:

"Desert Botanical Garden’s newest art exhibition is traveling straight from Milan to bring Wild Rising by Cracking Art—an installation of more than 1,000 animal sculptures made from colorful and recyclable plastic. On display now on the Garden’s desert trails."

You'll see several photos of the exhibition starting!

Frogs at the entrance

Meerkats & Chihuly glass

For those who are tired of winter.

Agaves and a b-i-g snail.

The emu bushes are starting to blossom.

I loved this little blooming Bonzai with its tire swing!

The lavender is blooming, too.

Crocodile tears on the way to the Webster Auditorium.

A pair of Gambel's quail at the Patio Café.

I love this squirrel's dappled fur. It likes eating at the Patio Café, too.

A young roadrunner even came up to me for a visit at the Patio Café. I love how it hasn't lost all its baby fuzz.

I have more photos that I want to share, but I'll save them for another post. I don't want you folks on "vacation slides" overload!

Monday, February 17, 2020

The Fragility of Bodies by Sergio Olguín

First Line: The building was at least eighty years old.

Journalist  Verónica Rosenthal smells a story when she hears about the suicide of a Buenos Aires train driver who left a note confessing to four mortal "accidents" on the tracks. For the police, the case is closed. Suicide is suicide after all. But for Verónica, her investigation leads her into an unfamiliar world of abject poverty, crime-infested neighborhoods, and train drivers on commuter lines haunted by the memory of bodies hit at speed by their locomotives in the middle of the night.

She receives help from a train driver, a junkie in rehab, and two street kids willing to risk everything for a can of Coke, and she soon learns that there is a group of men betting on these youngsters who have been convinced to play Russian roulette by seeing who can stand the longest in front of a fast-moving train.

I haven't had the best of luck in finding crime fiction written by South American writers that holds my attention. I don't know if my problem lies in the translations or some other factor. I'm happy to say that my luck has changed with Olguín's The Fragility of Bodies.

The story is a strong draw. I've read books and seen television and films that have someone hit by a train, but there's seldom ever any focus on the driver of the train. This book tells you what happens to the drivers when they hit a person on the tracks. I appreciated that; however, the entire storyline of betting on children playing railroad Russian roulette, who's behind it, who's grooming the children, who's betting on it-- this grabbed my attention and wouldn't let it go.

The point of view changes from Verónica to her train driver lover to two children being enticed to participate in the "game" to a junkie who's in the right place to see things, but it's really Verónica's show. She has an excellent nose for a story as well as a supportive boss, and her network of contacts from her cast-off lovers to her influential lawyer father aid in her investigation. Verónica is an independent woman who lives life her own way, and the portrayal of her character is unflinchingly honest. The author even has her looking for a tampon in one scene, and I don't think I've ever read that in any other mystery I've picked up before. It was a pleasant surprise.

The Fragility of Bodies is an excellent mystery set in Buenos Aires and peopled by interesting characters. Unfortunately, for me, it was marred by too much graphic sex that didn't really seem to have all that much to do with the story. Those scenes, although numerous, don't last long, but if you're the type of reader who likes to wipe the steam off your glasses while you read a good mystery, I think this book will be a complete winner.

The Fragility of Bodies by Sergio Olguín
Translated from the Spanish by Miranda France.
eISBN: 9781912242207
Bitter Lemon Press © 2019
eBook, 377 pages

Amateur Sleuth, #1 Verónica Rosenthal mystery
Rating: B-
Source: Purchased from Amazon.


Sunday, February 16, 2020

On My Radar: Camilla Läckberg's The Golden Cage

When I saw this book while wandering through the interwebs, I not only did a happy dance, but I also checked my To-Be-Read shelves to see if I have the next book in the author's Hedström and Falck series. (I'm woefully behind in reading it.) I still bemoan the fact that I had to work the night Camilla Läckberg appeared at The Poisoned Pen along with the man who translates her books into English. That would've been so much fun! (But it's also fun to discover that she has a new mystery coming out-- and it sounds verrrrrrry interesting!

Let's read more about it.

Available July 7, 2020!


"Faye has loved Jack since they were students at business school. Jack, the perpetual golden boy, grew up wealthy, unlike Faye, who has worked hard to bury a dark past. When Jack needs help launching a new company, Faye leaves school to support him, waitressing by day and working as his strategist by night. With the business soaring, Faye and Jack have a baby, and Faye finds herself at home, caring for their daughter, wealthier than she ever imagined, but more and more removed from the excitement of the business world. And none of the perks of wealth make up for the fact that Jack has begun to treat her coldly, undermining her intelligence and forgetting all she sacrificed for his success. When Faye discovers that he's having an affair, the polished façade of their life cracks wide open. Faye is alone, emotionally shattered, and financially devastated--but hell hath no fury like a woman with a violent past bent on vengeance. Jack is about to get exactly what he deserves--and so much more. In this splashy, electrifying story of sex, betrayal, and secrets, a woman's revenge is a brutal but beautiful thing."

I already know that I like the way Läckberg tells a story, and with a plot like the one in The Golden Cage, I can't wait to read what Faye has in store for Jack!

What about you? Do you find The Golden Cage intriguing? Inquiring minds would love to know!

Friday, February 14, 2020

It's All for a Good Cause Weekly Link Round-Up

Last week saw me at the Abrazo Central Campus Hospital's lymphedema clinic for the first time. They took detailed measurements of both legs, talked to me about diet (no dairy...*whimper*), and the therapy session ended with my legs being put into a three-part machine, two parts of which look a bit like golf bags. The "golf bags" extended from my toes all the way to the tops of my legs, and when turned on, gradually increasing pressure began from the arches of my feet all the way to the tops of my legs. The pressure would end, then start at the arches and work its way up again. Over and over for forty-five minutes.

That severe case of cellulitis I had hoodwinked my body into retaining fluids, and gravity makes those fluids travel down into my legs. (This is one time when my long legs are more of a hindrance than a help.) This machine is used to force the fluids being retained in the lower extremities back up, up, up so my kidneys can take care of it. I'll probably be getting a different sort of compression bandage as well.

After only one treatment, my leg was even skinnier and the pain in my knees had lessened. Huzzah! The downside is that I have to go to the clinic twice a week for the next month, which cuts down on the time Denis and I are able to visit places like the Desert Botanical Garden--which we'd done the day before. (Photos to come!) Don't worry, I still have my priorities straight. Getting this leg back in shape is the most important thing right now, even though it is aggravating that something medical is-- once again-- cutting into our O & A (out and about) time. Besides... that forty-five minutes in the golf bags? Reading time!

Now let's check out those links!

►Books & Other Interesting Tidbits◄

►Channeling My Inner Indiana Jones◄

►Channeling My Inner Elly Mae Clampett◄

►The Happy Wanderer◄

►Fascinating Folk◄
  • Raye Montague: the "Hidden Figure" who revolutionized naval ship design.
►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, February 13, 2020

The Amok Runners by Colin Cotterill

First Line: Sergeant Chat had ridden to the crime scene on his personal Honda Dream.

Jimm Juree and her brothers Arny and Sissy have found work as extras on an American movie complete with Hollywood stars that's being filmed in northern Thailand. If filming a movie isn't chaotic enough, Jimm's Burmese friend wants help with an ancient treasure hunt. But when Jimm stumbles upon a murder, her focus quickly changes to finding a killer.

I love both of Colin Cotterill's series which feature ex-journalist Jimm Juree and Dr. Siri Paiboun. He has a wonderful sense of humor, and I've learned so much about the people and culture of Thailand and Laos. Unfortunately, The Amok Runners is a bit of a hot mess. Let me explain after a short digression.

When I was growing up "running amok" was a frequently used phrase. (It means to behave in a frenzied, out-of-control, or unrestrained manner.) I liked the sound of it and always said that I'd like to run amok at least once in my life, so when I saw the title of this book, it made me smile. Jimm and her brothers Arny and Sissy get to run amok as extras in the crowd scenes being filmed in the movie. Since the crowd scenes involve attacking armies and innocent bystanders, they get to do a lot of uncontrolled screaming and running. I enjoyed those "insider" scenes during filming. I also liked the two mysteries of the treasure hunt and the murders. I love how quick Jimm's mind is at putting together disparate clues. Now for the hot mess.

The synopsis on the back of the book says The Amok Runners is a prequel to the previous three Jimm Juree mysteries, all of which I've read and enjoyed. However, Prologue 2-- which is Jimm's letter to Clint Eastwood, a running joke in the series-- mentions events that happen much later in the series. This is such a glaring oversight that I had to go back and reread the first pages of the book to make sure my brain hadn't slipped a cog. It hadn't. I'm still wondering how this could come through the entire writing/editing/publishing process without being caught.

It put me off-balance for the entire book, which is a shame because there is a lot to like in The Amok Runners. All you Jimm Juree fans beware and be prepared. For all of you readers who are new to Jimm, chances are you won't notice a thing. Just sit back and read. From the chill-down-the-spine Prologue 1 to the end, you'll get to watch the most eccentric trio of siblings in crime fiction solve not one but two mysteries.

The Amok Runners by Colin Cotterill
ISBN: 9781533265289
DCO Books © 2016
Paperback, 270 pages

Amateur Sleuth, #4 Jimm Juree mystery
Rating: C+
Source: Paperback Swap


Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Exploring the Wildlife World Zoo in January

With the temperatures in the 70s combined with bright blue skies and sunshine, Denis and I made a break for it to visit the Wildlife World Zoo-- the first opportunity we'd had to use our brand-new membership cards. Both of us tried to exhaust our camera batteries, and I thought I'd share a dozen photos that I took.

I hope all you animal lovers enjoy!

One of our first stops was the Baby Animal Nursery where we saw Onyx, a jaguar. He was quite vocal about being alone.

Dozer, the baby tapir, was (sort of) awake from his nap.

Swans are beautiful, aren't they?

Sometimes it's best to let sleeping badgers lie.

Here's our local poisonous lizard, the Gila (HEE-luh) Monster. The patterns on its back remind me of Native American pottery I've seen.

I think these ring-tailed lemurs were getting ready to watch rush-hour traffic.

Thomson's Gazelle

Baby Arabian Oryx

African Crested Porcupine

A disgruntled prairie dog

A meerkat snoozing in the sun

Meerkat, close-up

I've got more photos I can share. Would you like to see them?

Monday, February 10, 2020

Play the Red Queen by Juris Jurjevics

First Line: On 24 August 1963, the newly arrived American ambassador to South Viet Nam, Henry Cabot Lodge, received a cable from Washington.

It's 1963, and there are military advisors in South Viet Nam working to stop the spread of Communism. Of the sixteen thousand American servicemen there, only six Army Criminal Investigation Division soldiers have been assigned to solve all the crimes. Two of them are Ellsworth Miser and Clovis Robeson. They are in charge of finding the young female Viet Cong assassin who's killing US Army officers with a single pistol shot then riding off on the back of a scooter. However, once they begin investigating, they understand that identifying the daring assassin is not going to be easy. And neither is staying alive. Too many things are at stake.

Although Play the Red Queen could have been tightened up a bit more to keep the flow of the story moving, I did like the book. One of the two investigators had what I thought was an unnecessary love affair, but perhaps the author meant to show just how many countries were interested in what was going on in South Viet Nam.

The daring young female assassin is played up in the synopsis-- and it is a good storyline-- but what I found to be more interesting was the fact that Play the Red Queen is actually a snapshot of a time and a place. As social history, the book is often fascinating (and infuriating). As is stated in A Note from the Author's Widow at the end of the book, Jurjevics wrote about "an underreported aspect of the Viet Nam war: 'the elaborate, even treasonous corruption-- and our complicity in it.'" Finding out just how elaborate that corruption was shouldn't have surprised me so much, even while the identity of the assassin wasn't surprising at all.

For some reason, I felt as though there should have been a bigger payoff at the end of the book. Perhaps that feeling of satisfaction never came because I already knew the end of the story. Yes, I did have mixed reactions to Play the Red Queen, but I am glad that I read it. Your mileage may vary.

Play the Red Queen by Juris Jurjevics
ISBN:  9781641291378
Soho Crime © 2020
Hardcover, 360 pages

Historical Thriller, Standalone
Rating: B-
Source: the publisher