Category Archives: head

Walter Mosley — Blood Grove

Mosley is a descriptive writer—settings, characters, actions—all are vividly detailed. You can see them in your mind’s eye. His characters are never one-dimensional. He digs deep and finds good and bad in heroes and villains alike. He describes LA of 1969 so well that you feel as if you’re living there.

In this story, Easy Rawlins is almost accidentally drawn into uncovering a complex plot of theft and murder when he sets out to find a missing girl for a PTSD veteran. Even after the young vet is murdered, Rawlins can’t let it go. He wants to finish the job, and if he doesn’t untangle the mystery, he could end up dead like his client.

The only thing that kept the novel from being five stars for me was too many characters to follow, even though each one felt distinctive.

Joseph Wambaugh — Hollywood Hills

Most of this novel is filled with tales of the motley crew of Hollywood Hills cops taking police calls—a mixture of hilarious, sad, heartbreaking, and violent stories. But mixed in with the incidents is a crime plot with many weird twists and turns. Wambaugh writes with such finesse and detailed characterization that you understand all the players’ (good an bad) motivations.

The book keeps you reading to see what crazy action will happen next.

Lori Rader-Day — The Lucky One

The novel is the story of two young women searching for the same man for totally different reasons. Alice is looking for her “kidnapper,” and Merrily is looking for her “stepfather.” They cross paths via a couple of wild characters, members the Doe Network, an online organization of volunteers trying to match missing and unidentified persons.

Alice and Merrily have different backgrounds and personalities, and yet they are in some ways alike. Both raised by single parents, Alice’s rich and powerful father controls and protects her, and Merrily is controlled and protected by her working class mother. Neither reaches out to uncover the mysteries of their childhoods until they are adults.

The plot is filled with twists and turns, deceits and lies. It kept me guessing, but sometimes my guesses were right on. The characters are well-written and interesting. The book kept my attention to the end. Lori Rader-Day is new to me and a good storyteller. I will look for more of her work.

Kim Stanley Robinson — The Ministry for the Future

The book is not really a novel.

I’m a huge fan of Kim Stanley Robinson, but I almost quit reading a third of the way through. To me it felt like a mind dump of facts, ideas, speculations, possibilities, etc., with a thin plot woven in between. Maybe the author was trying to get all his thoughts about how to deal with global warming down in one place. It was filled with vignettes about the environment, economy, banking, politics, history, terrorism, immigration refugees, and more. But a chapter from the point-of-view of a carbon atom? Come on!

Something that bothers me as an editor is the switching back and forth in style of writing. An example: the use (or lack thereof) of quotation marks in conversation. It takes me a while to tune into a story where the author chooses not to use quotes. It hit me over the head when KSR threw in some chapters where he used them in a book that was mostly written without. One chapter even switched in the middle.

Needless to say, since I finished the book, KSR captured my attention. I learned a lot and was intrigued by his ideas (real or imagined) about how to deal with the world’s environmental, social, and economic problems.

Alex Kava — Hidden Creed

Kava gives us the three H’s—head, heart, and even a little humor. This is only my second read of an Alex Kava story and the first with dog handler Ryder Creed. She also includes FBI Agent Maggie O’Dell from another series. Kava gives us a picture of Florida’s Blackwater River State Forest for setting, a well-paced plot, and likable (and despicable) characters. My favorite characters are the dogs.

Ryder, his sister Brodie, and dog Alice uncover a body dump in the forest behind Ryder’s dog kennel. Some of the bodies aren’t even buried.

Even though the sixth book in the Creed series, I had no problem reading it as a stand-alone. I recommend for all murder mystery lovers.

Sara Paretsky — Fallout

Fallout is the third Paretsky novel I’ve read and the best of the three, even though published before the other two, Dead Land and Shell Game. The plotting is meticulous, and the characters are believable and likable, even V.I.’s dog, Peppy.

Private Detective V.I. Warshawski’s god-daughter, Bernie, and Bernie’s friend send her looking for August, who has disappeared along with an aging film star. August is a person of interest in the ransacking and drug theft from a gym where he works. But Warshawski finds his apartment has also been broken into and trashed.

The search sends V.I. to Lawrence, Kansas, where no one wants to answer an outsider’s questions. She continues digging, uncovering clues, secrets, lies, more missing people, plus injured and dead bodies, which all seem connected to events at a 1983 protest at a nuclear missile silo. At the center of all the mystery is Sonia Kiel, whose parents have labeled her crazy and ignore anything she says as hallucination and rambling. V.I. rescues her from an overdose, but she’s in a coma in the hospital, unable to answer questions.

A well-written story with step-by-step clues to the answers plus an engaging protagonist. I highly recommend this book to mystery lovers.

Ann Cleeves — The Darkest Evening

I’ve read a couple of Ann Cleeves’ books and enjoyed them, but this (#9 in the series) is my first DI Vera Stanhope novel. Cleeve always gives us a good feeling for the setting. This story centers around the estate of Vera’s family from which Vera’s father was disowned. The mystery plot is good and I was surprised when the killer was revealed.

This novel is a character-driven police procedural. I found the first murder victim, Lorna, to be the most interesting character in the story. The protagonist, DI Vera Stanhope, spent a bit too much time going over the same information in her head and getting nowhere. In my opinion, the author spends too much time covering many characters’ feelings of guilt, envy, or both. Joe, one of Vera’s team, seems to be the only one with his head on straight.

Overall a good read. It could have been shorter if it didn’t cover the same ground several times.

Alyssa Cole — When No One is Watching

*Spoiler Alert*
I rate this five stars for the first half or more and three stars for the last part. The first part feels almost like a romance novel with girl meets boy, conflict between girl and boy, etc. The last part is more like a thriller, with the two main characters chasing down the enemies who are trying to take over the neighborhood—lots of violence.

For me, the strongest part of the novel is the social theme of breaking up neighborhoods for profit. This story carries it to an extreme, with really evil people doing terrible things. I learned a lot of history about the ups and downs of Brooklyn.

The characters at the beginning of the story are so well written they pull me into their frustrations, especially Sidney. Divorced, she returns to Brooklyn, trying to hold onto her mother’s home in a neighborhood undergoing gentrification. Trendy upscale shops buy out familiar stores, new condo buildings crop up, a pharmaceutical company is moving into an old hospital, and Sydney’s friends are disappearing. She’s not only trying to save her mother’s home, she’s trying to save the neighborhood.

In contrast to black, angry, frustrated Sydney, her new neighbor Theo is clueless, white, out of work, and riding the coattails of his rich girlfriend, who has relegated him into the hot attic of their house while she redecorates. Theo is a puzzle to me. He admits to doing things, even in the present, that don’t seem to fit his likable, curious, helpful personality.

The end of the story left me hanging. It solved the neighborhood’s immediate problem but left the overall issue alive and well.

I enjoyed the read; it kept my interest from beginning to end.

Lawrence Wright — The End of October

A well-researched pandemic novel. Reading the book, I learned a lot—interesting facts and history about viruses and epidemics—more than I wanted in a thriller. It felt almost like nonfiction. There were side trips that didn’t add to the story, such as the chapter about Henry’s family camping trip. Maybe the author was trying to give us a break from the science and political unrest.

This was a timely release, during the COVID-19 epidemic. Written before this disease cropped up, it’s surprising how much prediction was correct, but thankfully, our current crisis isn’t nearly as bad as the one in this story, and the world hasn’t responded in quite such a negative way.

Kristen Lepionka — What You Want to See

I read books 1 and 2 of this series back to back. To me, the second is a bit better than the first. PI Roxane Weary is jumping to wrong conclusions less often and making fewer dumb decisions, probably because she’s drinking less and not running around in a drunken haze as she was in the first book. She still shuts herself off from friends and family but grows closer to them toward the end. I like the relationship she develops with Selby, taking her under her wing.

There are too many characters to follow. Marin, the woman who dies early in the story and leads Roxane down the path of solving her murder, is one of the worst of many bad guys. She’s into all sorts of thefts and scams.

The plot jumps around a lot, but overall I enjoyed the read.