Monday, August 25, 2014

DOWN MEMORY LANE





     "I always remember people I've met

       So the next time I sight one

       'Hello!' I exclaim then add their name,

       Which is seldom the right one." - GC

Thursday, August 21, 2014

AN UNWILLING ACCOMPLICE by Charles Todd





After opening this book I read two pages and then simply could not put it down.  Lunch skipped, dinner warmed I read it in a day and was sorry to reach the last page.  For this reader An Unwilling Accomplice is the best Bess Crawford mystery in a most excellent series penned by an estimable mother/son team writing under the name of Charles Todd.

They so perfectly capture England during World War I that their work certainly tops the list of historical mysteries.  As one reads the voices of the characters are distinctly heard, the chill of the night tends to make you shiver, and the wartime wounded touch your heart.  Battlefield nurse Bess Crawford is an exemplary heroine who while to the manor born doesn’t hesitate to go to the front lines where she is needed.  She endures hardships and deprivation but soldiers on.

With An Unwilling Accomplice we find Bess on leave in London where before she can rest she receives a notice from the War Office telling her that she’s to accompany a wounded soldier, Sergeant Jason Wilkins, to Buckingham Palace where he’s to receive a medal from King George.  Moreover Wilkins had specifically requested her although Bess has absolutely no memory of the man or his wounds.  Obviously, she cannot refuse such an honor.

When she meets her charge Bess finds him heavily bandaged, literally from head to toe, and confined to a wheelchair.  She feels no trepidation about this assignment as he will only be in her care for a day or so.  The morning following the ceremony she goes to the sergeant’s room to prepare him for his return journey to find that he has vanished.

And there, my friends, begins an intriguing tale as both the Army and the Nursing Service blame Bess for the sergeant’s disappearance.  There is naught for her to do but try to prove her innocence so she can return to duty in France.  How exciting it is to follow her from village to village where she meets a cast of surprising characters, some helpful, some not, all with stories of their own.

Enjoy!

- Gail Cooke

SIGHT UNSEEN by Iris Johansen, Roy Johansen Audio Edition






With over 60 readings to her credit Elisabeth Rodgers is an accomplished audio book narrator.  She brings just the right amount of building suspense to this thriller by the Johansen team to keep you listening until the last word.

Kendra Michaels was born blind but at the age of 20 she underwent experimental surgery which almost miraculously gave her sight.  However, before her operation she did, of course, develop her other senses to the nth degree.  For instance she could identify the make of a car by the sound of its engine or the brand of an electric razor by the amount of stubble it leaves behind.  Yes, her senses were and are that keenly developed.  This is a unique and valuable gift that had various law enforcement agencies competing for her skills.

When four people are killed in a three car accident on San Diego’s Cabrillo Bridge almost immediately Kendra intuits that this was not an accident but murder.  In fact, this so-called accident bears an amazing resemblance to a case of hers in Texas.  Checking with San Diego’s FBI headquarters she learns of two more murders that resemble former cases of hers.

Obviously, there’s a psycho on the loose with Kendra at the center of his machinations.  But, who, why, where and how can he/she be stopped?

Sight Unseen is a unique finely crafted thriller - enjoy!

- Gail Cooke

Saturday, August 16, 2014

CLOSE CALL by Stella Rimington






Few international spy thrillers are on a par with those penned by Stella Rimington.  Hers are intelligent, informed, exciting.  And why not?  She is the former head of M15, Britain’s famed Security Service and I might add the first woman to hold that position.  She knows her territory well and brings a familiarity to it that few can muster.  Especially intriguing for this reader are the matters of investigative procedure which she details knowledgeably, concisely.  Thus, I joined a host of others in awaiting Rimington’s eighth story featuring British intelligence officer Liz Carlyle.  When it arrived I turned off my phone, closed the door, and read it from cover to cover.  What pleasure!

With Close Call we find Carlyle and her colleagues in the counter-espionage division facing their greatest challenge to date - uncovering the source of under-the counter arms trades in Yemen.  With the Arab world in a state of volatility the Brits are concerned that extremist Al-Qaeda jihadists are building a power base in preparation for an attack.  Rightly so.  And to make matters even worse the head of the CIA’s London station can prove that the weapons being smuggled into Yemen come from a connection in the UK.

Carlyle’s pursuit of the source of these arms deals takes her across the globe to Paris and Berlin. And perhaps the greatest shock of all is that the man she is after is a figure from her very own past.

In addition to Carlyle the author gives us a diverse and fascinating cast of characters.  Each is unique and captures attention as his or her part is played.  Close Call is prime spy fiction!

Enjoy!

- Gail Cooke

Thursday, August 14, 2014




From time to time I’ll come across a debut that is quite good yet it seems that the writer has been a bit tentative, not quite sure of himself or herself as an author, careful, if you will.  That is the complete opposite of Stephanie Feldman who has crafted an amazing debut encompassing Jewish mysticism, mythology, family love, and history without missing a beat.  Feldman is obviously intelligent, original, and imaginative as she flawlessly  blends mythology with our modern world (no small feat!)

At the center of the story are two sisters who grew up in New Jersey, Marjorie and Holly Burke.  At one time they were very close but are now estranged due in large part to Holly’s conversion to Orthodox Judaism to marry Nathan.  Marjorie has been spending much of her time working on a Ph.D. about the Wandering Jew, while Holly prepares for the birth of her first child, a boy whom she will call Eli.  When the girls were much younger they listened to their grandfather, Eli, tell them bedtime stories about a bearded wizard, the White Magician.

After Eli’s death Marjorie discovers a note of his which is filled with jottings seemingly part biography and part folk tale.  Her curiosity piqued Marjorie begins to investigate the notebook’s main character, the White Rebbe.  However, in the process she discovers more than she had imagined about her grandfather’s past.

Beautifully imaged, deftly delivered The Angel Of Losses is a stunning page turner - enjoy!

- Gail Cooke

CIVIL WAR LIMERICKS by Charles H.Hayes




If you think those involved in the Civil War had their hands full without any time for humor think again.   Thanks to Charles H. Hayes who has compiled a delightful collection of limericks concerning people or events tied to the American Civil War we see the people as very real human beings and the events as landmark happenings.

Cartoonist/ poet Hayes accompanies each of his limericks with a caricature and a brief description of the person or event that inspired the rhyme.  So readers are not only amused but they’re learning a few things, too.

For instance, Hayes’s opening limerick is titled “Webster, Calhoun, and Clay - The Missouri Compromise.”  Following the smile provoking rhyme we’re reminded that these three statesmen from different parts of the country often worked together in the Senate to avoid a crisis by coming up with a compromise.  Of course, the most significant of these was the Missouri Compromise of 1820.

And so it goes through 96 limericks and the same number of reminders of what occurred during the time of the Civil War.  This small book is a gem not only for the cleverness of its presentation but for the information shared about the early days of our country.

- Gail Cooke

Monday, August 11, 2014

HOUNDED by David Rosenfelt





Ready for a light-hearted, feel-good, intriguing mystery?  Sounds like not only a series of contradictions but also an impossibility, doesn’t it?  Not in the hands of David Rosenfelt who created Andy Carpenter, a fast talking, dog loving, likable lawyer who is always ready with a smile provoking quip.  Yes, with Hounded readers will find an unusual unbeatable combination - dogs and mystery.

The opener is a shocker - Andy receives a phone call from his good friend respected policeman Pete Stanton asking (really telling) him to come to an address and bring his girlfriend, Laurie Collins.  What they find is a surprise to both - a dead body, namely the late Danny Diaz.  Upstairs in the house is Danny’s four-year-old son, Ricky, and his basset hound.  Pete wants Andy and Laurie to take the boy plus dog so they won’t be relegated to the “system.”

As if that weren’t favor enough Pete soon needs to ask another one - he is arrested for the murder of Danny and needs Andy to defend him.   Of course, Danny isn’t going to turn his good friend down, especially one as honest as Pete.  However, the evidence against Pete mounts - a mega stack of heroin hidden in his home, the fact that Danny was reporting that Pete was dealing in drugs, and more.  Not only was the evidence mounting against him but dead bodies were mounting, too, all of the deceased unrelated to Danny.   If there was a connection how could Andy prove it and how would it help Pete?

Highly entertaining and heart warming Hounded is peopled with quite a cast of characters - gangsters, murderers, and Edna, a crossword puzzle fanatic.  You’ll enjoy it from start to surprising finish.

- Gail Cooke