Friday, August 31, 2012

The Killing Way

The Killing Way
Tony Hays
Forge Books
Tom Doherty Associates
New York, New York
Trade paperback
ISBN: 978-0-7653-1945-6
272 pages

Most of us have heard the legends of King Arthur with the sword in the stone
along with Guinevere and Sir Lancelot. This magical story is now believed to be
based on a real person and time, though probably without much magic. Tony Hays
book, The Killin Way, approaches the legends as a realistic mystery of these early times, complete with crime.

As the ruling king ages, he plans to name his successor with Arthur as the likely choice. Even though Arthur serves basically as a tribal king, his chances are
weakened when a woman's body is found outside his close friend and advisor,
Merlin's house. The woman was killed with Merlin's knife that he loaned to someone. He just can't remember who. Also Merlin is a little unusual and the town
people have already judged and condemned him to death and begin to stone his

Arthur wisely choses an old friend, Malgwyn to investigate this murder and to
discover the truth of whether or not Merlin killed the woman, and if not, who
did and why. Added to that, Malgwyn hates Arthur for saving his life. When a
Saxon cut off his arm and left him to die during a battle, Arthur rescued him forcing him to become a one-handed scribe. Malgwyn has never forgiven him for that.

The Killing Way is a fascinating tale weaving the old legends into a realistic
tale of the times including the constant war with the Saxons, the adjustment
from being ruled by the Romans, the Druids with the own religion and followers, the Picts mixing in the society, and Arthur's stand with Christianity. All of these are combined to make this story a history lesson woven through the murder.

This book is well-researched and organized into a logical and realistic story.
The part about the early Christians with the Druids was fascinating in this
culture with their family traditions.

Texas author, Tony Hays, is both a novelist and journalist. He has previously
written Murder in the Latin Quarter, On the Banks of the River: A History of
Hardin County, Tennessee, and since this first novel in the Arthurian Mystery
series, has additionally written The Stolen Bride, The Divine Sacrifice, and The
Beloved Dead.

The Killing Way is a superb historical mystery novel, truly weaving the past
into the story. Personally, I definitely plan to read his other novels in
this series.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Black Stiletto

The Black Stiletto
Raymond Benson
Oceanview Publishing
Longboat Key, Florida
ISBN: 978-1-60809-020-4
$ 25.95
268 pages

Most of us think that we know our parents extremely well. They have no secrets
that we do not know and as grown children we have judged their lives as being
rather dull and routine. What would you do though, if you discovered that your
mother actually was a mysterious,caped,crime-fighting vigilante from years ago. This legendary crusader was almost a comic-book heroine whose identity had never been discovered. Her escapades made her a friend of the people, feared by the mobbed, and wanted by law enforcement.

Accountant Martin Talbot's mother is in a nursing home since she is suffering from Alzheimer's. Her memory isn't wasn't it used to be and she usually does not recognize him during his weekly visits. Since she has moved to the home, Martin has emptied her house and placed it for sale but it's just sitting there, vacant.

Being a single-parent to a teen-aged daughter is excitement in Martin's life. That is until he discovers his mother's diary of her life in the 1950s in New York. She explains why she ran away from her home in Texas to successfully begin a new life in New York at the age of fourteen. This is definitely a shock to Martin.

Now fifty-years later in the Chicago area, Martin is engrossed with his mother's previous life through her diary while his career has hit a dead-end. At first, he tests the information in his mother's diary by mentioning a name from it and watching how his mother miraculously and coherently reacts.

At this same time back in New York, a man is released from being in prison and he has one goal, revenge by killing the one who put him there, the Black Stiletto.

The Black Stiletto is a well-developed novel based on a diary and revenge. This story combines realism with balancing law enforcement and justice while dealing with the everyday routine challenges with an aging parent suffering from a debilitating disease. Also the idea of viewing our parents through different lenses makes this an interesting life lesson. How well do you really know your parents?

The Black Stiletto is an intriguing tale through the hum-drum daily routines of the realistic character of Martin Talbott. The characterizations are visual and well-developed in an unusual tale of creating a real-life action hero, the Black Stiletto.

Raymond Benson has written several books including many James Bond, 007 novels. His writing has been nominated for both a Shamus and an Edgar.

After reading The Black Stiletto, I plan to look for more books by Raymond Benson as well as wonder about the secrets my parents never told me. I wonder if there is a hidden diary, cape, and a stiletto somewhere?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Shake Off

Shake Off
Mischa Hiller
Mulholland Books
Little, Brown and Company
Hatchette Book Group
New York
August 2012
ISBN: 978-0-316-20420-0
288 pages

"Everybody behind you could be following you, and it is your job to
shake them off."

How are spies recruited? Most people don't say that they want to
grow up to be a spy. What type of people become spies?

Growing up in Palestine, Michel Khoury has had an unfortunate life.
His parents were murdered by terrorists which placed him in a refugee
camp. With no family, Michel finds himself being recruited to be a
spy. With his keen ability to learn languages and having a Middle
Eastern complexion, he is quickly recruited and trained in Russia to be a spy.
Being able to fit into any group of people is obviously a trait
much valued for this profession.

Michel carries a passport which lists him as being from Lebanon. The
group who employs Michel has one goal which is the resolution of
peace for all in the Middle East. In order to achieve this, Michel
needs many identities, passports, and money.

While living in London, Michel notices Helen who lives across the hall in his
apartment building. The two of them share a bathroom where
Michel hides his various identities and passports with some money. He wonders
why Helen is tolerating her current lover who is an obviously
older, married man. Through a chance encounter, Michel and Helen
begin a relationship, but he can never tell her who he really is and what he

Michel has a new assignment from his handler, Abu Leila, in which he
is to find a house in London for some people to meet. However,
Michel quickly discovers that he is being followed. He constantly is
shaking off his pursuers who seem to always know where to find him. Is he being
set up? Who can he trust?

Shake Off has a different perspective as it shows that all who has lived in the
Middle East have suffered atrocities whether they are Jewish,
Muslim, or any other of the religious or territorial divisions.

This espionage novel is similiar in style to John Le Carre with the
central character being very much a loner and not being able to trust
anyone. There is the constant struggle between completing your task
while keeping yourself safe. This well-written, intense novel, is
engrossing as you follow Michel and sense his reactions while he is
balancing his safety with his paranoia.

Mischa Hiller resides in Cambridge, England now after growing up in
London, Beirut, and Dar El Salaam. He is a winner of the
Commonwealth Writer's Prize for the Best First Book Category for South Asia and

For a gripping tale full of espionage, read Shake Off.

Dying for Justice

Dying for Justice: A Detective Jackson Mystery
L. J. Sellers
Spellbinder Press
Charleston, South Carolina
ISBN: 978-0-9832138-3-3
310 pages
$ 11.99
"Gina opened her eyes, taking in the white blanket and blue-scrub nurse. Her first thought was: This is a hospital. Her second thought was: Someone tried to kill me."

When someone has been in a coma for two years and they suddenly awake to full consciousness, we consider that to be a highly unusual miracle. After asking for water, Gina immediately told her nurse that someone had tried to kill her. Her nurse called the police so that they could investigate whether this was an attempted murder or as previously thought, a suicide.

Detective Lara Evans is assigned to this case. She is young and inexperienced, but is smart enough to realize that she needs to consult her partner and mentor, Detective Wade Jackson. Wade has recently been allowed two weeks to investigate the death of his parents from ten-years ago. The man convicted of killing his parents recently wrote a letter admitting to stealing money from his parents, but not killing them. Being that the man is dying of cancer, what reason would he have for lying now?

Logically, the local newspaper can't wait to print Gina's story. What a wonderful, upbeat surprise. However, if someone tried to kill Gina two years ago, wouldn't that person still want to kill her? What if Gina really attempted suicide? She had tried it before and was heavily in debt. Would the publicity cause the murderer to try again? Could running this story cause further embarrassment if Gina did try to kill herself?

These two cases of the coma awakening and the death of Jackson's parents combine into this story, Dying for Justice by L.J. Sellers. As the cases interweave, the character traits are openly revealed into a realistic novel involving the personal and professional lives of both detectives. The investigations are realistic in that the detectives are looking outside the finite set of characters in the beginning of the story and always searching for possible suspects, not just those closely associated with the victims.

Dying for Justice is the fifth of L. J. Sellers' Detective Jackson mystery series. In this novel which also works as a stand alone, the character development is exceptionally strong. L. J. Sellers has also written two non-series novels, The Baby Thief and The Suicide Effect.

Dying for Justice is an unpredictable, realistic, and well-written mystery that keeps you engaged until the last page. The pace never slows and easily parallels the life style of a police detective. L. J. Sellers writes superbly literally hurling the reader in this realistic mystery. Personally, I plan to read all the Detective Jackson mysteries and her other novels. Dying for Justice is definitely a memorable and enjoyable mystery.

Thursday, August 16, 2012


Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery Series
Gigi Pandian
Gargoyle Girls Productions
El Cerrito, California
ISBN: 978-1-93821-00-7
August 28, 2012
$ 14.95
296 pages

"Our paths will cross again someday."

Isn't that a haunting statement from a former boyfriend? Even though you have moved on with your life, there's always that one little thought in the back of your mind, wondering what the intention was with that statement.

Jaya Jones has a successful new life working with a university and is proud of recently earning the security of having a tenured position. Her specialty is the time period of the British Raj in India.

When she receives a mysterious package from her former boyfriend, Rupert, she is surprised to find that he has sent her a ruby bracelet obviously from India and likely to be from the time of the British Raj. Curious about his obviously valuable gem, she takes a picture of it to ask her working associates about it and it's value. Coincidentally, she is informed that this former boyfriend has died from being in automobile accident in Scotland. Was he killed because of the bracelet?

When Jada's apartment is broken into and nothing is taken, she quickly realizes that she needs to place the bracelet in a secure place and puts it in a safety deposit box. She still has the picture of it which she carries with her.

With a colleague that she has just met, she is wondering why he is also on her plane going to England. What does he know about the jewel that he has not told her?

She plans to go to the archaeological site that Rupert was working on. The site was discovering artifacts from the Picts.

Artifact is a romp through the Scottish countryside that is well-organized with realistic characters thrown into a situation that is overwhelming and dangerous to them. For a debut novel, the characters are well-developed with personalities. The story is masterfully plotted and logical which makes Artifact an enjoyable, even educational, novel.

Artifact is Gigi Pandian's debut novel which is the result of her being the winner of the Malice Domestic Grant. With both her parents being cultural anthropologists, her perspective is refreshing with global influences from one parent being from New Mexico and the other from the southern tip of India. Artifact is a delightful new novel in a new series from the enlightened voice of Gigi Pandian.

I definitely plan to read more from this exciting author, Gigi Pandian.


How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art
Laney Salisbury & Aly Sujo
The Penguin Press
New York
ISBN: 978-1-59420-220-9
$ 24.95
327 pages

Most of us have seen the great art that can be viewed in museums. Unfortunately, most of us value the expertise and brilliance of the artists but there are always a view pieces where we think, “I could have painted that.” How is what we consider great art different from those usually modernistic pieces that the untrained eye just doesn't understand besides the ridiculous costs? How do you
know if the pieces in the museums were really painted by the listed artist or by a gifted forger?

The answer is provenance. Most of us trust the museum curators and the
legendary auction houses like Christie's and Sotheby's's for authenticity.
Could they be fooled? Yes, and they were. Big time. The provenance of a piece of art is the accompanying paperwork of who owned the art, it's costs, and history.

Con man, John Drewe, managed one of the biggest swindles in art history. He
found a destitute and talented artist, John Myatt, who desperately needed money for raising his two children alone. Drewe convinced Myatt to paint originals in the style of a particular artist, preferably in a modernistic style using whatever tools might have been utilized by the real artist of the time. Then Drewe managed to infiltrate the art world in such a way that he could forge the provenance of a painting. He then proceded to sell this usually unknown piece of work in the style of a particular artists marketing it as a previously forgotten work by a master.

When non-fiction reads like fiction, you know that upi are reading a well-written
unusual book. The reader of Provenance learns how paintings and pieces of art are valued and the importance of the paper trail of ownership, known as the
provenance. John Drewe forged so many provenances that the art world is certain that they will never find all of the forged pieces.

The authors, Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo, are a husband/wife team who jointly
wrote Provenance. Laney Salisbury strongly understood the art world since she
is the daughter of a New York gallery owner. Aly Sujo has recently died.
Laney continues to write while raising her daughter.

The one thing that I want after reading this book is to know of the whereabouts of John Drewe, or whatever name this master criminal is going by, now that he is out of prison. The authors followed him until his release. Unfortunately, John Drewe is the type of person that needs to have a website with GPS attached to his ankle on where he is and who he is scamming.

Also, John Drewe lived a lavish lifestyle while always driving expensive vehicles. How did he afford it? Logically, the reader makes the assumption that he somehow scammed previous owners or dealerships and relied heavily on others trusting him.

Provenance is an educational journey into the inner workings of the art world without the expenditures.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

More than Sorrow

More Than Sorrow
Vicki Delany
Poisoned Pen Press
Scottsdale, Arizona
September 2012
ISBN: 978-1-59058-985-4
$ 24.95
312 pages

“It can be difficult for people to understand that you are ill, very ill, when they can't see any visible wounds. Easy for them to suspect you're not as sick as you make out.”

Hannah Manning has this problem. As a journalist on assignment in Afghanistan, she is injured. She comes home with a traumatic brain injury to the occipital lobe. Daily fighting headaches, voices, hallucinations, and trauma can exhaust anyone not to mention, complicating your life and concentration. Living on a family farm In Prince Edward County, Ontario, where everyone is needed for the business to succeed, she quickly finds herself a burden to her sister's family.

More than Sorrow effectively interweaves two tales into Hannah's recovery, one is about Hila Popalzai who is staying with the neighbors and is also recovering from an explosion killing her family in Afghanistan and the story of the American Revolution told from the perspective of a Tory family. For both Hila and Hannah, they develop a friendship to help healing, Hila for her visible scars andHannah for her invisible ones. While all this is going on, Hannah has to daily interact with the family and has difficulty especially with her sister's husband, Jake, who is resentful that Hannah lives there as a guest with no responsibilities.

Added to that, Hannah is blacking out for periods of time with no memory of either the amount of time or the happenings around her. When Hila is missing, then found murdered, guess who was blacked out at this time?

More than Sorrow is a superb mystery that mixes the real historical events from Afghanistan and the American Revolutionary War into a tale about brain injuries, possible ghosts, terrorism, and crime. The characters are believable, even though predictable at times. The flow of the sentences makes for quick reading in a well-organized story. The problems of having a hidden medical condition such as a brain injury is outstanding allowing the reader to view the problem and the character from various perspectives while also allowing the reader to better understand those with invisible illnesses.

Vicki Delany, the author, lives in Prince Edward County, Ontario where she continues to write her Constable Molly Smith series which is being considered for Canadian television. She recently retired from being a systems analyst.

More than Sorrow is a wonderful mystery intermixing the past with the present in real-life situations and problems in a well-written murder mystery.

The Chiefs of Council Bluffs

The Chiefs of Council Bluffs
Five Leaders of the Missouri Valley Tribes
by Gail Geo. Holmes
History Press
Charleston, South Carolina
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 978-1-60949-613-5
$ 19.99
128 pages

The known as Council Bluffs, Iowa sits in a strategic place on the Missouri River becoming part of the Omaha metropolitan area. How did this place start?

Five Native Americans were instrumental to this place Big Elk, Captain Billy Caldwell, Chief Wangewaha who was also called Hard Heart, Petalesharo, and Standing Bear. Though all have different histories, tribes, and experiences, their interactions greatly and permanently influenced this place.

Gail Holmes weaves this tale of these outstanding Native American leaders with the Mormon people as they passed through this area on their way to Utah as a storyteller intermixing the events and historical figures of the day as well as their conflicts and solutions.

What was outstanding in this short historical collection was Mr. Holmes research about placing these events in the present day so that the reader can truly comprehend where these places were in this metropolitan community. He also has an excellent manner in explaining the geography of this area especially the loess hills and the river area.

The Chiefs of Council Bluffs is strongly connects with the Mormom centers in the area, especially the recent production of “Come Home to Kanesville” at the Council Bluffs' Tabernacle. Mr. Holmes masterfully details the Mormom journey through this area and further relates it to the Native American and their interactions of the time developing a stronger understanding of the area, choices, and the people of this time.

There is one slight problem in that the story of Billy Caldwell is repeated completely in the book twice. Yes, this is somewhat like a storyteller repeating themselves.

The drawings by Brent Fredrickson were wonderful representations of the Native American leaders. Personally, the drawing of the five statues were perfect for the book and actually should be considered as real statues together for the city. All the drawings and photographs were perfectly placed in accentuating certain aspects of the book for visualization.

Who should read this book? The Chiefs of Council Bluffs is for anyone who has an interest in the history of this area. Being that Mr. Holmes was the president of a Native American branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he built on his experiences and research for this book which besides the chiefs it also focuses on the Mormom exit from Nauvoo and their stay in this area to their final migration to Salt Lake City.

Mr. Holmes has definitely had varied experiences in his life. From serving in the Philippines in World War II, to directing the aerial mapping of South Korea, to publishing a newspaper in Switzerland, to being a press officer for the World Plenary of YMCAs in Denmark, to working with the press from North Dakota to Saskatchewan, Canada, to being a copy editor at the World Herald in Omaha, Nebraska, all of these experiences greatly assisted in the writing of this wonderful book.

Who should read The Chiefs of Council Bluffs? Everyone in this area should to better understand and respect those who influenced the beginnings of our city and to fully understand the choices these leaders made for us.

I look forward to further publications by this local historian, Gail Geo. Holmes.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Boob Girls II

The Boob Girls II: In Lies, Spies, and Cinnamon Rolls
Joy Johnson
Grief Illustrated Press
Omaha, Nebraska
ISBN: 1-56123-217-8
296 pages

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Supposedly Ben Franklin stated this or some variation of this old certainty in life. This depressing quotation is not the way that The Boob Girls, the Burned Out Old Broads at table 12, plan to live even though they live in a retirement community.

Hadley Joy Morris-Whitfield, Dr. Robinson Leary, and Mary Rose McGill recently had the adventure of their life, after raising their families. The threesome, along with Maggie Patten, learned to live after the death of their husbands, and to have the time of their lives. Unfortunately, Maggie died during the adventure which is chronicled in Book 1 of The Boob Girls.

Being that there is now an empty place at their assigned table 12, Patty Whack is the new Patty Whack addition to this table group at the retirement home. She is an undercover spy pretending to be a retiree while still working on current investigations. She essentially is taking Maggie's place even though no one can actually replace this hardened, loveable character. Also, new to this novel is the larger than life, Mrs. Evangeline Goldberg and her large men and cinnamon rolls as they romp into a cemetery adventure.

The first book in this series is wonderful because it is believable and the reader can actually have an adventure with these ladies without actually getting tattooed. This second book is a little unrealistic with both the grave robbing and the break-in with the undercover agent. The characters, especially the first three Boob Girls, are delightful and are beginning to have some romantic interests.

This is a lighthearted mystery series with wonderful characters who start living after grieving. This is an encouragement to all of us. Also, these books need to be read in order because the reader needs the knowledge of the character development from the previous book(s). This is not a book that should be read as a standalone novel.

The Boob Girls series is written for mostly retired women readers. It's message is of how to develop friendships and to start living again, especially for those who have never had an adventure. However, there needs to be more adventures without either unrealistic action adventures or excessive money.

Joy Johnson, along with her husband, Dr. Marvin Johnson are the founders of North America's largest bereavement resource centers and Ted E. Bear Hollow which is a center the grieving children.

I look forward to more books in this series.