Sunday, January 07, 2024

December 2023 Additions to My Digital Security Blanket


I fell off the wagon last month. I'm blaming unbelievable sale prices and a Christmas gift card. (That's my story, and I'm sticking to it. It has nothing to do with a lack of willpower.) And since I did fall off the wagon, I'm going to cut to the chase and start sharing my purchases. I've grouped them according to genre/subgenre, and if you click on the link in the book title, you'll be taken to Amazon US where you can learn more about the book.

Let's see if I added any you're familiar with... or if I've added to your own wish lists.

=== Thriller ===

Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson

Synopsis: "Everyone in my family has killed someone. Some of us, the high achievers, have killed more than once. I’m not trying to be dramatic, but it is the truth. Some of us are good, others are bad, and some just unfortunate.

I’m Ernest Cunningham. Call me Ern or Ernie. I wish I’d killed whoever decided our family reunion should be at a ski resort, but it’s a little more complicated than that.

Have I killed someone? Yes. I have.

Who was it?

Let’s get started."
▲ Interesting premise, right? Well, I picked this up, began reading, and the more I read, the more I hated the author's writing style. I tired of his constant attempts to prove to me how clever he was. The first person point of view normally doesn't bother me, but it did here. Okay, so you kiss her in chapter twenty-seven, bub. I don't need to know about it in chapter two. This was a Did Not Finish for me.  Oh well, you can't win them all... 

=== Short Story/Novella ===

Black List, White Death: Two Holmes on the Range Novellas by Steve Hockensmith. Set in Arizona and Colorado.
Synopsis: "In 'Black List,' the Amlingmeyer brothers ride into the Arizona Territory on a quest to unearth a buried secret, coveted by a ruthless cattle baron. Can Old Red's deductive skills, inspired by Sherlock Holmes, solve the mystery and protect them from the cattleman's hired guns?

In 'White Death,' the Amlingmeyers investigate mysterious deaths at a tuberculosis sanitarium deep in the Colorado mountains. As they search for clues, a sinister figure lurks in the shadows. When a sudden blizzard traps them with the patients, staff, and the killer, the suspense reaches its peak.

As a special treat, enjoy the bonus short story 'Expense Report: El Paso,' where Big Red embarks on his first solo mission to collect a bandit's head. But what if the head has other plans?

▲ The Amlingmeyer brothers have new adventures? Count me in!

=== Private Investigator ===

The Investigator by John Sandford. Set in Texas.

Synopsis: "By age twenty-four, Letty Davenport has seen more action and uncovered more secrets than many law enforcement professionals. Now a recent Stanford grad with a master’s in economics, she’s restless and bored in a desk job for U.S. Senator Colles. Letty’s ready to quit, but her skills have impressed Colles, and he offers her a carrot: feet-on-the-ground investigative work, in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security. 
Several oil companies in Texas have reported thefts of crude, Colles tells her.  He isn’t so much concerned with the oil as he is with the money: who is selling the oil, and what are they doing with the profits? Rumor has it that a fairly ugly militia group might be involved. Colles wants to know if the money is going to them, and if so, what they’re planning. 
Letty is partnered with a DHS investigator, John Kaiser, and they head to Texas.  When the case quicky turns deadly, they know they’re on the track of something bigger.  The militia group has set in motion an explosive plan . . . and the clock is ticking down.

▲ I remember reading Sandford's first Lucas Davenport book and not being overly impressed. But this purchase was a case of great price and feeling like I'd been left out. How can Sandford have such a long-running series if he's not a good writer? I'm going to give him another shot. Will I like Davenport's daughter better? Who knows?

=== Fiction ===

North Woods by Daniel Mason. Set in New England.
Synopsis: "When two young lovers abscond from a Puritan colony, little do they know that their humble cabin in the woods will become the home of an extraordinary succession of human and nonhuman characters alike. An English soldier, destined for glory, abandons the battlefields of the New World to devote himself to growing apples. A pair of spinster twins navigate war and famine, envy and desire. A crime reporter unearths an ancient mass grave—only to discover that the earth refuse to give up their secrets. A lovelorn painter, a sinister con man, a stalking panther, a lusty beetle: As the inhabitants confront the wonder and mystery around them, they begin to realize that the dark, raucous, beautiful past is very much alive.

This magisterial and highly inventive novel from Pulitzer Prize finalist Daniel Mason brims with love and madness, humor and hope. Following the cycles of history, nature, and even language,
North Woods shows the myriad, magical ways in which we’re connected to our environment, to history, and to one another. It is not just an unforgettable novel about secrets and destinies, but a way of looking at the world that asks the timeless question: How do we live on, even after we’re gone?

Dorothy's review on her blog, The Nature of Things convinced me I needed to read this book.

=== Non-Fiction ===

Synopsis: "Who gets pockets, and why?

It’s a subject that stirs up plenty of passion: Why do men’s clothes have so many pockets and women’s so few? And why are the pockets on women’s clothes often too small to fit phones, if they even open at all? In her captivating book, Hannah Carlson, a lecturer in dress history at the Rhode Island School of Design, reveals the issues of gender politics, security, sexuality, power, and privilege tucked inside our pockets.

Throughout the medieval era in Europe, the purse was an almost universal dress feature. But when tailors stitched the first pockets into men’s trousers five hundred years ago, it ignited controversy and introduced a range of social issues that we continue to wrestle with today, from concealed pistols to gender inequality. See: #GiveMePocketsOrGiveMeDeath.

Filled with incredible images, this microhistory of the humble pocket uncovers what pockets tell us about ourselves: How is it that putting your hands in your pockets can be seen as a sign of laziness, arrogance, confidence, or perversion? Walt Whitman’s author photograph, hand in pocket, for Leaves of Grass seemed like an affront to middle-class respectability. When W.E.B. Du Bois posed for a portrait, his pocketed hands signaled defiant coolness.

And what else might be hiding in the history of our pockets? (There’s a reason that the contents of Abraham Lincoln’s pockets are the most popular exhibit at the Library of Congress.) Thinking about the future, Carlson asks whether we will still want pockets when our clothes contain “smart” textiles that incorporate our IDs and credit cards.

Pockets is for the legions of people obsessed with pockets and their absence, and for anyone interested in how our clothes influence the way we navigate the world.

▲ This is just the sort of off-beat history that's right up my street!

=== Cozy Mystery ===

Synopsis: "As the new owner of the Coral Shores Veterinary Hospital, Dr. Emily Benton is in over her head. When she makes a house call at the home of her client, Mrs. Eliza Klein, she finds the woman's terrier, Elvis, in a state of distress and Mrs. Klein face down on the floor-dead. Emily immediately contacts her brother, Deputy Sheriff Duncan Benton, for help.

The cause of death is later determined to be nicotine poisoning, triggering an official murder investigation. Who would want to kill a retired piano teacher best known for her animal charity work?

Emily is caught up in the middle of the drama when she brings Elvis into her home. The little terrier's strong canine instincts drag Emily further into the investigation, putting them both at risk. While Emily and her best friend, Anthony, take on the role of amateur sleuths, Emily's brother and his very handsome colleague, Detective Mike Lane, work to uncover the truth and get justice for both Mrs. Klein and Elvis.
▲ This purchase was a case of the cover catching my eye... and the fact that I have a weakness for mysteries involving veterinarians. I'm a little over halfway through it now and enjoying it-- even though it has a bit more romance than I prefer. 

=== Police Procedural/Law Enforcement ===

Scavengers by Steven F. Havill. Set in New Mexico.
Synopsis: "A man's body is found in the unforgiving New Mexico desert, his face so smashed that identification is impossible. It's the beginning of a brutal murder spree that will soon take Posadas County's new undersheriff, Estelle Reyes-Guzman, into a case that has roots on both sides of the border.
With retired Sheriff Bill Gastner—now a livestock inspector for the state—still close at hand to offer unerring logic and horse sense, Reyes-Guzman attempts to identify the "Juan" Doe. Another body turns up in a shallow grave, revealing little about the killer, but more about the victims. And when a suspicious fire takes a third life, the terrible twist finally offers the break Estelle has been looking for, one that will lead her back into a harsh, merciless desert where death welcomes all.
▲ This is one of my favorite series that I've been savoring slowly. I always know I'm going to enjoy one of Havill's Posadas County mysteries, so I tend to save them as "sure things." 

Midnight Creed by Alex Kava. Set in Florida ad Washington, DC.
In the middle of the night, FBI Agent Maggie O’Dell is called to a crime scene in D.C. The M.O. matches another murder in the same area. Maggie and her team at Quantico believe this killer struck in other cities and is targeting homeless men.

After another attack leaves a colleague hanging on for life, Maggie grabs the only tip they have. She’s determined to track this killer herself as he flees D.C. and leads her hundreds of miles to a place she never expected.

When Sheriff Norwich enlists Ryder’s help to find a missing boy, it’s personal. The young boy is someone Ryder and his crew know. The search will lead them deep into the forest and after dark.

The paths of Ryder’s missing boy and Maggie’s killer are about to collide.
▲ This is the latest entry in another of my favorite series. I tend to be reading these faster than I have been in the past, so I certainly don't want to run out! *wink* 

Stranded by Alex Kava. Set in various US locations.
Synopsis: "Tired travelers and weary truckers have stopped at rest areas on the nation's highways for decades to refuel, grab a bite, and maybe get some shut-eye, but one man's rest stop is another's hunting ground. For decades the defenseless, the weary, and the stranded have disappeared along the highways and byways, vanishing without a trace, but these seemingly unconnected incidents are no coincidence, and a madman stalks the freeways.

When FBI special agent Maggie O'Dell and her partner, Tully, discover the remains of a young woman in a highway ditch, the one clue left behind is a map that will send Maggie and Tully on a frantic hunt crisscrossing the country to stop a madman before he kills again.

As the body count rises and Maggie races against the clock to unmask the monster who's terrorizing the nation's highways, she turns to a former foe for help since he seems to know just what the killer's next move will be. As she gets closer to finding the killer, it becomes eerily clear that Maggie is the ultimate target.

▲ Maggie O'Dell makes regular appearances in Kava's Ryder Creed series. I can't remember which it was, but it was either on Kava's website or in the acknowledgements of the last Creed book that I read that she mentioned Creed's first appearance was in this particular Maggie O'Dell mystery. Naturally, I had to get my hands on it.

Well, how did I do? Have you read any of these? Did you add any of them to your own wish lists? Inquiring minds would love to know!


  1. That is quite a treasure trove. Can't wait to read the reviews. But dogs? Are there dogs in the Alex Kava books? A favorite of mine.

    1. Yes, there are dogs in the Alex Kava books.

  2. You've got some nice choices here, Cathy! I really hope you'll like the Stevenson. In my opinion, it's the sort of book that you either really like or really don't. I thought it was awfully clever, actually. I'll be interested in what you think.

    1. You're right, Cathy! I do remember your post about it now - sorry! I think my brain went out for a walk and never came back!

    2. My brain has been known to do that from time to time. (Always at the wrong time, too!)

  3. Those Christmas sales were hard to resist, weren't they? I bought something like ten e-books in December (and unfortunately another five the first week of January), including North Woods. I also have Everybody in My Family Has Killed Someone on my TBR after having to push it back late last year because of due-date clashes at the library. I started one of the Holmes on the Range books and look forward to getting back to it. I think it is book number one in the series.

    1. I really hope you like the Holmes on the Range book, Sam. I enjoy that series. I also hope you have better luck with Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone. You probably will, since I seem to be in a very small minority that couldn't stand it.

    2. I did read the first ten or so pages of Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone and was underwhelmed by the experience. That's probably why it got pushed back so effortlessly when I had to make a decision about which book to pass on. I do plan to give it another shot, but I'm not optimistic that it will read better to me.

  4. A Creed novel I had missed hearing about - that's good news on a Monday. :)

    I'm among the many who enjoy Sandford's books, so I'm glad you're giving The Investigator a shot. Letty is a smart, resourceful character. I'll be interested to learn what you think.

    1. I almost started reading it but got sidetracked by The Boys in the Boat. And I'm glad I could be a Creed Alert for you. ;-)


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