Monday, September 24, 2012

Talking to the Dead

Talking to the Dead
Harry Bingham
Delacorte Press
New York
ISBN: 978-0-345-53373-9
September 25, 2012
$ 26.00
352 pages

Detective Constable Fiona Griffiths is new to her job, insecure, and finding it
difficult fitting into the "old boys" detective mold with the police force in the
town of Newport in Wales. Knowing that she has a tendency to not fit in anyway, she finds the job a challenge that is quickly becoming a life obsession.

For Fiona, her first murder scene is shocking and disturbing. Sure, woman on drugs would seem to have an outcome of being murdered, stabbed. That part didn't completely bother her. What she didn't plan on was the woman's six-year-old daughter being killed by having a sink smashed over her head. How could a six-year-old have deserved that kind of a death? Also, the young girl seems to have a smile on what is left of her face. She appears happy and content.

Curiously though, a platinum credit card was found at this crimescene. The card
belonged to a man who went missing months ago. Even though his body had not been found, he is believed to be dead. Could he be alive? What would this wealthy man's platinum card be doing at the home of this single mother? Added to that is that the neighbors didn't ever see the daughter. Was she hiding in the house and fearful to even look out the windows? It seems that each discovery brings with it a multitude of questions that are not easily answered.

Also, she is currently assigned the job of investigating embezzlement by another police officer. She finds that somehow he seems to be linked to both the murders and the missing person.

For whatever reasons, Fiona becomes obsessed with this murder. She searches out the history of the credit card and the missing man, as well as those who knew both the mother and her child. Unfortunately, she manages to question too many people and another prostitute is killed. As she finds herself connecting with the world of the victims, she discovers a healing process herself for her own breakdown years ago.

The author of Talking to the Dead is Harry Bingham who is the literary consultant of the U. K. largest literary consultancy firm, The Writer's Workshop. He is currently working on his next novel featuring his unlikely heroine, Fiona Griffiths.

The character of Fiona Griffiths is refreshing as a realistically flawed and insecure character who has her own set of rules and is willing to put her own money with her beliefs. Although definitely unconventional within her police department, Fiona
discovers her own way of doing things might just be the best. At times, she was a depressing person but considering the crime, that was

Talking to the Dead is a hauntingly realistic tale of real police work with the quirky and likable protangonist, Fiona Griffiths, who is a refreshing character to the mystery scene. I look forward to the next Harry Bingham book featuring this unlikely heroine, Fiona.

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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Love Finds You in Amana Iowa

Love Finds You in Amana Iowa
Melanie Dobson
Summerside Press
Minneapolis, Minnesota
ISBN: 978-1-60936-135-8
313 pages

Life with people known for their peaceful practices allows avoidance of war, bu how does anyone attempt to handle a country's civil war while still holding your values and beliefs.

The people from the Amana colonies are in the process of moving their entire colony from New York to settle in Iowa during our country's Civil War. Even though the elders chose to pay for their young men not to be conscripted, they were still strongly influenced by the realities of the war.

The colony in New York sent many able-bodied men ahead to begin to build and
prepare for the women, children, and the rest of their families who would eventually make the long trek overland to Iowa. Their advance team included Friedrich Vinzenz, clockmaker, and his adopted brother, Matthias, who was a builder. Their job was to start planting the fields and building the kitchens, shelters, and places of worship for those coming in the near future.

Friedrich has promised to marry Amalie Weise when she finally arrives at the colony. Their long relationship grew from their childhood while spending time with Friedrich's family. Growing up with the Vinzenz family, their close relationship grew as well along with Matthias being promised to Friedrich's sister.

However life does not always work out as we plan or hope. When some wounded Union soldiers come to the colony to recruit, Friedrich feels obligated to join and to fight for those in slavery. Even when the elders of the community offer to pay in compensation for their services, Friedrich still chooses to join much to the distress of his friends, family, and community. Added to that, Amalie is finally near the Iowa colony after being separated from Friedrich for nearly three years. Now that she is finally arriving, she has to question their relationship when she is told that Friedrich has left to fight in the war.

This hauntingly romantic tale expertly describes the hardships of those resettling in Iowa and gives the perspective of the Amana people. This country's Civil War influenced more than those who were directly in battle, the influences changed the country in numerous ways, including attitude. The characters were believable and realistic in this well-develop story.

The strength of this particular novel is how well Melanie Dobson developed the characters and life in the beginning Amana Colonies in Iowa during our country's
Civil War. Her interwoven characters into the daily life traveling on foot and wagon train, to beginning in a new land, to the struggles with a country in a civil war allow the reader to truly understand the times.

Melanie Dobson has written many novels in this historical romance category. Except for the cover of the book not matching the character description of Amalie Weise, this particular novel is a wonderful book to read for anyone who is interested in these historically peaceful people and for those who love romance.

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Monday, September 17, 2012

Lips Together, Teeth Apart

Four adults in a summer house that one of them inherited on Fire Island across
from Long Island for the July 4th weekend during the early 1990s. What could
possibly go wrong?

“Lips Together, Teeth Apart” is being presented through September 23rd at the
Chanticleer Theater. For a community theater group this play has to be
daunting for only having four characters which requires all four to be on stage
for over two hours.

This drama involves two husband/wife teams with one husband and one wife being
brother and sister. This adult play encompasses numerous issues such as
infidelity, cancer, infertility, homosexuality, mercy killing, secrets,
communication, listening, and how our attitudes and beliefs about AIDS have changed since 1991.

John Carlson. as John is believable as the smart one, even doing his crosswords,
and making words up to fit the spaces rather than the definitions. He succeds with his character being both arrogant and pitiful at the same time. Deb Kelly portrays his wife, Chloe, who fluctuates between being helpful and perky, while
overbearing all at the same time. She also shows how some older sisters quickly
assume their earlier role as caretaker. Jay Huse plays Sam who is Chloe's little brother. He quickly shows his character's insecurities and uncertainties while still playing at being a responsible adult and not quite succeeding at that
part. Liz Mulhern is Sally who is the sulky, artsy, and intelligent with usually some minor errors. She has her own personal issues while also carrying guilt from her brother's death. These four succeed in revealing their characters' flaws in their relationships with each other, completely exposed.

The acting and directing is outstanding especially considering all the dialogue
and the demands with all characters being constantly on stage. This show is certainly a challenge both to perform and direct in that there are so many adult issues which were all performed exceptionally well. The sound, sets, lighting, costuming, background sounds, and even a cameo bat appearance in the night sky were all perfectly executed.

For the next two years, the Chanticleer Theater will be presenting many shows
which are all involving area talent.
“Lips Together, Teeth Apart” will continue through September 23rd with the show beginning at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. Sunday afternoon. The tickets cost $17 for adults, $14 for seniors, and $9 for students. Contact the box office at (712) 323-9955 or email for tickets.

Just Add Salt

Just Add Salt
Book 2: Hetta Coffey Series
Jinx Schwartz
WhooDoo Mysteries
Treble Heart Books
Sierra Vista, AZ
ISBN: 1-932695-46-X
$ 12.45
294 pages

Some people seem to attract trouble like Hetta Coffey. It also might be that Hetta is the type of person who jumps into the water and then asks about its depth. Added to that, she can't swim.

Living on a yacht definitely requires a different lifestyle. Since she no longer has a land-based house, all of her life encompasses her boat. Being the she is an engineer who is contracted to work in various places, her boat or house, goes wherever she is needed. With her love, Jenks, currently in the Middle East, Hetta takes off for Mexico with her best friend, Jan, and a mysterious, but conveniently cheap captain to pilot the boat.

The more Hetta discovers about her new temporary job, the more she questions whether this job is legal or ethical. A particular Japanese company wants to buy land in Baja to develop into a desalinization plant which also seems to be involved with some poaching of whales. Hetta's job is to plan their supplies and needs to complete their project. Jan accompanies Hetta as a marine biologist who is really a companion and friend with no qualifications.

Just Add Salt is the second book in the Hetta Coffey series which now includes four novels. Just Add Water is the first book in this series which is wonderful with the character develop of Hetta and her friends. This second book in this series could be difficult to understand if someone does not have this background of the characters.

Just Add Salt truly succeeds with giving a sense of the setting. Understanding the area of Baja is quite unique with its varied populace and the Atlantic hurricane season as well as the US Coast Guard responsibilities along the southern California coastal region. The characters, especially Hetta, seem to long for adventure without thinking of the possible consequences. In that respect, it is a delightful journey in someone else's shoes that I personally would not want toinhabit.

Jinx Schwartz has written four books in this series featuring Hetta Coffey. Jinx lives in Arizona and Mexico most of the year. Jinx has also written a wonderful book, Land ofMountains, based on her own experiences growing up in Haiti.

Just Add Salt is a fun read. Hetta's misadventures resemble LucyRicardo from I Love Lucy, even with the red hair. The recommended audience is for women who love a mystery with a wicked sense of humor.

Johnny Winter review

What would make middle-aged graying men obviously in their sixties with
male-patterned baldness jump on their toes like girlish teeny boppers or
uninhibitedly strut their stuff to music? One thing, the music of legendary
guitarist, Johnny Winter who performed at the Whiskey Roadhouse inside the
Horseshoe Casino last Friday night.

This particular concert began with the Terry Quiett Band. With
bassist Aaron Underwood and drummer Rodney Baker, this band is definitely an
up-and-coming rock/blues band with immense talent and potential. Between
their enthusiasm, sense of musicianship, original songs, excellent techniques
with their instruments, superb vocals, sense of being a band, and loving the
music they play, their varied sounds perfectly matched the expectations of this
blues crowd. They also demonstrated their flexibility by even performing a
quieter selection in a true country/blues/rock style. This is definitely a
band that everyone will want to see again and again.

The Johnny Winter Band consists of Johnny, guitarist Paul Nelson, bassist Scott
Spray, and drummer Vito Liuzzi. Starting off the night with "Johnny Be Good"
set the pace for the night with the legendary guitarist. Many songs were
played from his recent album, and thoroughly enjoyed by this predominantly male
crowd who became one with the music from the "guitar slinger" and his band.

For being sixty-eight years old, he walked slightly bent but overall looked
healthy, compared to his emaciated years. However, age has not
changed his technique, his musicianship, or his passion for the hard rock blues.
With his superb band, who any one of them could be a blues star by themselves,
the respect they give to Winter's playing and music, is truly wonderful since
all of them are so masterful.

The show was too loud for the venue. If you can't understand the words
because of the volume, it could have been more controlled. The other side
though is that it has to be difficult balancing the noise from the slot machines
and the Whiskey Roadhouse along with the amps from the various bands.

Johnny Winter showed that age has not affected his ability to still be one of
the best guitarists worldwide. For Johnny, his guitar is an extension of who
he is and how he communicates. With fingers masterfully flying, his guitar
playing proved to everyone why he was on the lists of the best guitarists from
Rolling Stone years ago. This type of playing showed why most Woodstock
performers became legends in music.

The staff of the Horseshoe Casino was outstanding with their helpfulness and
courtesy. For the entire audience and bands, there could not have been a more accommodating venue.

Johnny Winter is definitely one performer everyone needs to see at least once in
a lifetime. For those of us who were not at Woodstock, the Whiskey Roadhouse
last Friday night proved to be a memorable event for years to come . If you
ever get the chance again, definitely go see Johnny Winter and his phenomenal

Friday, September 7, 2012

Mixed Signals

Mixed Signals
Jane Tesh
Poisoned Pen Press
October 2012
ISBN: 9781464200618 Hardback
ISBN: 9781464200632 Trade Paperback
$ 24.95
250 pages

We all have some kind of emotional baggage which weighs us down. For private investigator, David Randall, it's his eight-year-old daughter who died in a car accident. Since then, he has divorced twice and believes that he has found the love of his life with a much younger woman, Kary, who is not going to quickly jump into any commitment.

Accompanying his friend Camden, the two discover the dead body of Jared Hunter, who has been stabbed numerous times. Being that Cam has psychic ability, he actually repeatedly sees the brutal slaying of his former friend and is constantly haunted by this vision. The two plan to investigate this to be certain the they are not involved, even though the police are working on it. It just might clear the nightmares.

At the same time, a series of robberies are happening in an older section of this city, Parkland, which seems to be somehow related to a recent robbery at a history museum. This along with the newspaper, have common elements. What is combining these with the murder? Why is one of Cam's former friends hiding? Why is a friend of Jared now locked at a mental facility?

One unpredictable suspect is a person in a red and yellow costume calling themselves, The Parkland Avenger. Being that this character sometimes has caused more problems than help, this masked super hero/villain is getting the attention of the newspaper and the local community. There is even a Super Hero Society of Parkland whose masked members deny any knowledge of the Avenger.

Jane Tesh retired from being an elementary school library media specialist while becoming a writer and continuing her love of the violin, piano, and the community theater. She is also a certified kickboxing instructor who lives in North Carolina.

Mixed Signals is the second in this Grace Street series by Jane Tesh. Being that this is part of a series, it does help the reader to read the first book Stolen Hearts first to help understand the characters and their relationships. She has written another series featuring Maddy Maclin with the books A Case of Imagination, A Hard Bargain, and A Little Learning.

The basic storyline is unusual, logical, and engaging. The characters are believable, even eccentric at times in this well-organized tale. All of this mixed in a brew of a delightful romp connecting the threads of a haunted psychic. Without having read the first book, it is difficult to completely connect with the characters at first since their development was in the previous book in this series. Mixed Signals is definitely a lesson in history, public records, as well as a delightful romp with red tights and a cape.

I look forward to more book in this humorous, cozy series.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Portrait of Malice

Portrait of Malice
Sanjay Sanghoee
Agni Books
Amazon Digital Services
July 10, 2012
Kindle $ 1.99
722 KB
316 pages

Everyone has heard about the art that was stolen during World War II by the Nazis, but never recovered. It always makes you wonder if it is stored in a Swiss bank or a hidden vault in some remote location inside a mountain.

However, there is the true story of the Goudstikker family who received international attention after the loss of their art which was sold to the Nazis, reclaimed by the Dutch government, and after a law suit, finally restored to the original owners. Portrait of Malice is based on this family's long quest to regain the art that was stolen from them.

Ethan Wolf is not enjoying life. He is a former police detective who had the bad habit of gambling and taking little payoffs. His wife is in a coma depending on life support. He needs the money to keep her alive. So now, he works as an insurance investigator, still skimming a little off the top, continuing to visit his bookie and owing too much money, in this dead-end job.

Ethan is being sent to Paris, France to investigate the robbery of many art masterpieces from a museum. He quickly discovers that the stolen art actually does not belong to the French government, but was taken from a Jewish family during World War II and was never returned to them. So how do you investigate stolen art that was already stolen? Added to that, the French law officials have their own problems without having outsiders asking questions about their internal corruption at numerous levels. Being stonewalled, Ethan quickly deduces that this is a dead-end investigation and discovers that he has few allies until he is arrested, one friend rescues him. Or is this a "friend" with their own agenda?

Portrait of Malice is a realistic, action-adventure thriller with believable characters. The problems of justice with the art stolen from the Jewish people by the Nazis with the restitution between the governments and the people, addresses the multiple issues facing the descendants of these unfortunate families. How can you prove ownership from papers that were destroyed? How can you prove your ancestry with the many documents that were destroyed during this time?

Sanjay Sanghoee has previously written the thriller novel, Merger. Daily, this New Yorker works in the banking and investment industry.

From Paris, France to the forgotten underground tunnels of New York, Portrait of Malice is a thrilling and engaging novel with a flawed protagonist that is still endearing. With the search for safety and dealing with low lifes while simultaneously entering the elite society events, Portrait of Malice is a memorable and educational novel.