Thursday, August 18, 2016

LucyLucy by Randy Cecil
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are perhaps a dozen books that I loved as a child and kept in my library lo these many years to share with my children.. I imagine young readers today will not want to part with Lucy. Cecil’s brilliantly unique 144 page book is not only a touching story but a reminder of love, compassion and hope.

Pictures done in oil, soft in black and gray on white paper introduce us to three inhabitants of a city. There is Lucy, a wee stray street dog who searches for food. When she trots along the pavement to the entrance of an apartment Eleanor will lower a piece of sausage on a string from her second floor window. Otherwise Lucy sniffs along looking for food, “These are questionable scraps. Very questionable. She eats them anyway.” She cannot really remember the comfortable home in which she once lived.

Eleanor is a rather lonely girl but a compassionate one. Her father, Sam, is a grocery clerk who is also a very talented juggler suffering from terrible stage fright. He performs beautifully if no one is looking but sad to say he cannot do it in front of an audience and night after night he is yanked off the stage.

Things begin to change in the lives of this trio when Eleanor tries to boost her father’s confidence. The decisions that each one makes leads to the unexpected and there is a rousing conclusion.

Lucy is suggested for 6 - 8 year olds - I envy them their discovery of Randy Cecil’s gem.

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Monday, August 15, 2016

GO-BETWEEN by Lisa Brackmann

    If you read Lisa Brackmann’s best selling Getaway (2012) you’ve probably been impatiently waiting for Go-Between as it brings us up to date on Michelle Mason, heroine of Getaway.  Once again Brackmann has penned a smart, timely thriller that’ll keep you up until all hours.  It has a fast start and once begun it’s impossible to put down.

    With Go-Between Michelle has reinvented herself and started a new life.  She’s now Emily and the owner of Evergreen, a popular bistro in Humboldt County, California.  There’s usually a full house as the food is good, wines are fine (2001 Chateau Montelena, Turley, Rafanelli), and the prices are reasonable.  She has a capable, trustworthy staff and life seems fine.  Nonetheless after what she’s been through she does keep a custom made .38 Smith & Wesson tucked in her hobo.

    She lives with her fire fighter boyfriend, Jeff, known as Danny in Getaway.  Jeff doesn’t just put out blazes but earns extra cash by flying cannabis to out-of-state customers.  All is well until he’s arrested in Texas on federal drug trafficking charges.  In order to get Jeff’s charges dropped Michelle must cooperate with their old enemy Gary, a former CIA agent lacking in scruples, well equipped with meanness.  He wants Michelle to ingratiate herself with Kaitlin O’Connor, a wealthy socialite who heads Safer America, a welfa re organization working to stop criminal activity.  Gary and the guys in the shadows who are backing him want Kaitlin to help defeat a Texas bill that makes marijuana legal for recreational use.  Winning Kaitlin’s trust and keeping it isn’t an easy task for Michelle as Kaitlin has a bit of a drinking problem

    Brackmann’s noir plot peppered with lies, murder, dirty politics, drug struggling, and betrayal hurtles to a shocking conclusion.

Saturday, August 13, 2016


As has been recently noted Daniel Silva’s latest book in his over the top Gabriel Allon Series has headed every bestseller list this summer.  What more could one need to realize that his writing speaks to millions, it surely does to me!  If I recall correctly he once said in an interview that if his wife reminds him that he’s forgotten to do a few things he says that he spends more time in the world of Gabriel Allon than he does in his own.  They’re joined at the hip and Allon is very, very real to Silva as are the other characters he creates.  And, all are very, very real to listeners/readers.

    I make no apologies for the fact that I’m a fan and I loved this audio book - what a treat!  Three books,  32 hours of listening on 3 discs.  Each is read by an expert performer and all are suspenseful, surprising, and totally absorbing.

    The first is PRINCE OF FIRE which takes art restorer and spy Allon back to Venice.  However, no time to admire his surroundings as there’s a huge explosion in Rome which makes him aware that everything known about him is now in the hands of terrorists.  He’s quickly called home to Israel where he soon finds himself tracking a master terrorist.

    THE MESSENGER follows on the heels of Gabriel’s showdown with the master terrorist in the previous story.  He’d really like a little r&r to recover from what he’d just been through, but no such luck.  In London an Al-Qaeda suspect is killed and photographs are found on Gabriel’s computer.  From these photos Israeli intelligence is led to believe that Al-Qaeda is planning one of the most frightening attacks yet - the Vatican!  Is it possible to stop this?

    With THE SECRET SERVANT Gabriel is tasked with what appears to be a simple request - visit to Amsterdam to clean the files of a murdered Dutch terrorism analyst who was also of import to Israeli intelligence.  A piece of cake!  Not at all because once in Amsterdam Gabriel finds a conspiracy growing in the city’s Islamic underground, a horrendous plot that will threaten London.


Friday, August 12, 2016

WHEN THE MUSIC'S OVER by Peter Robinson

    Surely one of the greats in crime fiction Peter Robinson kept me up all night when the 23rd novel in his Inspector Banks series arrived.  As is his wont Robinson’s writes with a sharp ear for dialogue and eagle eye for detail.  Plus When The Music’s Over is alive with today’s issues -  racism, misogyny, celebrities, crooked police.  There is an immediacy to his story that will capture readers from page one.       
    Banks has been recently promoted to Detective Superintendent but cannot enjoy his new position for a second as he’s handed a case no one would want - a  fifty year old sex crime.  Claims have been made against a popular and beloved British star, Danny Caxton, who was all the rage in the 1960s.  Linda Palmer, a recognized poet, now wants to bring a case against Caxton claiming he raped her during the summer of 1967 when she was only 14 years old.  Lending credibility to her claim is the fact that she says there was a witness.  It is up to Banks to decide whether or not Palmer is credible and whether there are other victims.

    Meanwhile Detective Inspector Annie Cabbot is investigating the rape and murder of 15-year-old Mimosa “Mimsy” Moffat, who lived in the rather run down estates in Wytherton, York and seemed to be part of a crowd around some older fellows of Pakistani descent.  Mimsy’s body is found on Bradham Lane as Annie said “bloody miles from nowhere.”  The scene is so grim that few can look at it - Mimsy is naked, curled in the fetal position with her hands covering her face as if she had been trying to protect herself.  Annie’s best guess is she had been brutallly beaten and kicked to death.         

    Thus we have two seemingly unrelated cases that are thematically tied together, almost dual plots.  Yet in Robinson’s hands they are powerfully united in a story that rockets to a startling climax.  When The Music’s Over is one of the most compelling, substantive crime novels in memory.  If I could give 10 stars I’d happily sprinkle them on Robinson’s shoulders.

Monday, August 8, 2016

SMOOTH OPERATOR by Stuart Woods and Parnell Hall Audio Edition

    Stellar teaming makes for rare excitement in Smooth Operator.  First outstanding team was that of Stuart Woods and Parnell Hall.  While most are familiar with the work Woods does his co-author Hall is best known in the mystery community and as President of the Private Eye Writers of America.  Together they’ve crafted a topnotch thriller.

    Second outstanding team is that of fictional Stone Barrington and Teddy Fay, a former CIA agent who is quite adept at disguises and overlooking laws when it comes to achieving his goals. Those two as is found in Smooth Operator are up to any challenge.

    We first find Stone cruising on his yacht on the Hudson River - he deserves it after all he’s been through!  However his peace and quiet are interrupted when he receives an urgent request to attend a state dinner in Washington, D.C.  Somewhere during the first course he’s called away to meet with President Kate Lee, a Democrat, and Congressman Charles Blaine, a Republican and Speaker of the House.

    Blaine’s daughter has been kidnapped and will be killed unless Blaine changes his vote on an important bill and convinces his allies in the House to go along with him.  Stone  immediately recognizes that this an extremely sensitive problem and calls in Teddy Fay for some assistance.  Now, there are countless folks who would like to see Fay dead but he’s willing to go out in the open to help Stone.  Not a good choice?  Before he knows it Fay is awash in phony leads, bodies, and those who would seek vengeance on him and his family.

    Non-stop action and surprises aplenty.

Monday, August 1, 2016

ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD by Caroline Angell

This remarkable debut is not only a riveting story filled with heartbreak and humor but it also gives readers much to ponder in their own lives. Caroline Angell’s voice is so honest, so truthful that one almost feels she has penned a memoir. All The Time In The World is an extraordinary book - what a debut!

We meet Charlotte, a young woman living in New York City who once dreamed of being a composer but has given that up after a teacher stole her composition. So to pay the rent she becomes a babysitter for a wealthy, loving Upper East Side family - the McLean’s. Scotty, Gretchen, and their two young sons, Matt and George. Charlotte finds her job distracting and rewarding while she tries to decide how to move forward after the betrayal that sent her off course.

Before long she finds herself totally absorbed in the daily lives of the McLean’s - planning birthday parties, pick-ups and drop-offs, play dates, bathing, feeding, naps, and joyfully hearing little George’s first words when some had feared he would never speak. Charlotte’s personal life goes by the wayside as when a grad school friend comes to her with good news, she chooses to work late rather than be with him.

Tragedy strikes when Gretchen is struck by a car on a gray, rainy day and dies. The scene in the hospital waiting room when relatives have gathered and the family hears the news is stunningly, heartbreakingly drawn. Suddenly Charlotte finds herself the boys’ primary care giver and the glue trying to keep this grieving family together, living a life she had never imagined - she moves into the McLean home to care for the boys and if at all possible assuage Scotty’s grief. She tries to do all of this under the watchful, sometimes judging eyes of friends and family. Scotty’s younger brother, Patrick, is a story in itself as we are privy to his responses to the tragedy and to Charlotte herself.

Angell has chosen to tell her story by moving backyard and forward in time beginning with the day before Gretchen’s death, then moving to two years before when Charlotte applies for the job, and so on. This reader found that somewhat distracting but it did not detract from the power of this complex story that is both heart-breaking and life affirming. I eagerly await the next from Caroline Angell.

Monday, July 25, 2016

GUILTY MINDS by Joseph Finder Audio Edition

    If you’ve heard/read any of Joseph Finder’s previous Nick Heller novels you know that Heller is a fellow who can more than handle whatever comes his way.  Well, even the best of us can come up against a rock and a hard place as Heller finds that what he thought would be an easy task explodes into a complicated scheme and murder.

    Heller has been hired to clear the name of Chief Justice Jeremiah Claflin who is soon to be torn apart in the gossip website Slander Sheet.  Seems there is about to be a tell-all saying Claflin was given three nights with a hooker by a casino boss - his way of thanking Claflin for a favorable ruling in a recent case.  Heller has but 48 hours to discredit the story of the woman in question, Kayla Pitts aka Heidi L’Amour.  Seems easy enough - Claflin was having electroshock treatment at the time he was supposedly carrying on with the call girl.

    However, easy becomes very difficult when Pitts is found dead, an apparent suicide, and Heller discovers the secret owner of Slander Sheet which turns the case upside down and leads Heller in a totally different direction.

    Along the way he has the company of the attractive Mandy Seeger, the former top Washington Post reporter who has come to rue the day she began writing for Slander Sheet.  There’s so much more to this tightly plotted tale than just an attempt to discredit a Chief Justice, as we hear in the voice of Holter Graham who is a multiple Audie Award nominee and winner of Best of the Year Awards from AudioFile magazine.