Category Archives: humor

John Keyse-Walker — Beach, Breeze, Bloodshed

BVI Constable Teddy Creque is called on to capture a shark that has attacked and killed a woman off Virgin Gorda. But sharks don’t usually attack humans unless they are dead or wounded, and Teddy sees a cut on the woman’s neck that doesn’t appear to be caused by shark’s teeth.

The story unfolds around unique characters, including a brilliant boy who almost never speaks, a parrot who repeats everything he hears, a Russian ex-spy, “De White Rasta” Teddy’s cohort from the previous story, and various other fascinating participants.

bananaquits
Bananaquits

For me, the setting draws me back to the islands. I can picture the people, the shops and houses, the tropical flowers, the warm humid air, the beautiful clear water—even the birds are familiar. I haven’t seen or heard of a bananaquit since I lived in the Bahamas where they would join me for breakfast on the veranda, stealing my food.

I also appreciate that the author didn’t drag us through the protagonist’s depression as many crime novels do. Teddy apparently went through a period of moping over his mistakes and his affair with a not-so-nice woman between novels. But he mostly has his act together by the time this story happens, although he doubts his policing skills from time to time.

Keyse-Walker’s second novel is as engaging as his first. He again captures the spirit of Caribbean island life. This time on Virgin Gorda, a tiny bit faster-paced than Anegada where his first book took place, due to more people, more tourists, etc.

I’m delighted that I went back for seconds.

Joanne Harris — Different Class

Something bad happened at St. Oswald’s boys’ school twenty-four years ago. What was it and who was responsible? Different Class is a British literary, psychological suspense story, which takes place in 1981 and 2005. This novel reveals many secrets slowly. More than once, you think you know what happened, only to find out you’re wrong.

Roy Straightly has been the school’s Latin master for thirty years. One of his least favorite students from 1981 returns to the school as headmaster to bring the old institution into the 21st century. Straightly resists in every possible way.

The point of view in 2005 is mostly Straightly’s, and we see the events of 1981 mainly through a journal of an unknown student. The novel started a bit slow, and I almost stopped reading. But the unanswered questions and suspense kept me reading, and the more I read, the more I enjoyed it. In addition to the twists and turns and suspense, Harris throws in dark humor, murder, and underlying themes about class differences, friendships,  revenge, and acceptance of others.

A very good read.

Tim Dorsey — Clownfish Blues

The protagonist of Dorsey’s twenty-plus books is Serge Storms, a psychotic serial killer who thinks up unique ways to punish or kill people who are hurting others. Coleman is a drugged-out sidekick to tea-totaling Serge. Clownfish Blues main plot (if it has one) revolves around the Florida lottery.

Dorsey skips between places, events, times, and people, so you don’t know where the story is going. Sometimes he seems to throw in characters from previous novels just for the sake of mentioning them, not to advance the story. Serge is unbelievable, Coleman is getting boring in his drunken stupor, the plots are thin, but Dorsey makes me laugh.

His stories are an exaggerated view of reality in Florida. The highways and byways visited by Serge and Coleman are real or based on real places. I enjoy the tours around the state.

So even though there are many things about Dorsey’s writing that I wouldn’t put up with from other authors, I enjoy his weird tales. As I said, he makes me laugh.

Carl Hiaasen — Tourist Season

Carl Hiaasen writes black humor about Florida. Tourist Season is one of his earlier books written in 1986.

It’s obvious to me that Hiaasen loves Florida but not necessarily the developers and the tourists. The villain in Tourist Season, Skip Wiley, is a columnist for the Miami Sun who feels the same as the author about Florida, but more vehemently. He goes over the edge of sanity and forms a rag-tag band of terrorists made up of crazy Cuban, a Seminole, and a black ex-football player. They commit kidnappings, bombings, and murder to create headlines that will send the tourists and developers back north and leave Florida to the wildlife.

Brian Keyes is a reporter turned private investigator. He is hired to find a couple of missing persons (kidnapped and disposed of by the terrorists), then hired by the editor of the Sun to find Wiley, and finally hired as a bodyguard for the Orange Bowl queen.

The book is filled with murder, mayhem, and lots of humor. I thoroughly enjoy reading Hiaasen.

Dennis Lehane — Since We Fell

I met Dennis Lehane once at a book signing in Boston and I’ve seen him on television a few times. He seems like an easygoing likeable person with a twinkle of humor in his eyes. But Lehane writes dark stories. His characters are twisted. He examines his characters minds good and bad—their delights, doubts, and demons. Great stuff!

The first part of Since We Fell follows Rachel Childs from a childhood with a dominating mother and no father, through a successful career as a journalist in Boston and an unsuccessful marriage, to a breakdown on camera in Haiti while covering the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake. Her husband leaves her, she’s fired from her job, and she becomes a virtual shut-in.

Enter second husband, Brian Delacroix, who understands her (unlike first husband), treats her with loving kindness, and helps her overcome her phobias. Perfect husband…or is he?

The story is filled with questions, conspiracies, murder, and surprises. Is it a psychological thriller, a literary novel, crime novel, or something that doesn’t fall into any genre or category? It fits all three of my classifications of head, heart, and even some humor.

Charles River, Boston
Charles River, Boston

The setting is mostly in Boston, my favorite city in the world. It made me feel at home.

In my opinion, Dennis Lehane is one of the today’s best authors.

Alexander McCall Smith — Precious and Grace

I’m not sure The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series of novels fits in any genre—maybe cozy mystery. If you are tired of reading fast-paced thrillers, this book will slow you down. It’s a relaxing pleasant read.

The protagonist, Mma Precious Ramotswe, owner and founder of the detective agency in Gaborone, Botswana, has a unique personality unlike any I’ve encountered in other novels or in real life. She sees the positive in life and in the people around her, overlooking others faults and misbehaviors, especially those of her “partner,” Mma Grace Makutsi. Even though Mma Ramotswe owns the agency and hired Mma Makutsi as a secretary, Grace self-promoted herself to assistant detective and now co-director, even insinuating to a client that she started the business. Unlike Precious, Grace is not tolerant of others real or perceived faults. But Precious doesn’t like to argue; she would rather relax with a cup of tea.

The plot revolves around a Canadian woman who was born in Botswana and left when she was eight years old. She wants to reconnect with her past and is looking for the house she lived in and the woman who cared for her as a child. This is difficult because the Canadian only has a very old fuzzy photo and Gaborone has grown and changed much in thirty years. No crime involved there, but there are subplots.

A part-time assistant of Mma Ramotswe, Mr. Polopetsi, becomes involved in a pyramid scheme. Precious takes it upon herself to unwind Mr. Polopetsi from the tangle into which he’s naively fallen. And there is also a stray dog who keeps showing up that Precious feels needs a home.

As I said in the beginning, this is not a fast-paced thriller. This is a gentle, people oriented, relaxing novel.

Iain Pears — Arcadia

A delightful fantasy about time travel, which skips between times as characters accidentally or purposefully pass through to past and future worlds. Angela Meerson, a psycho-mathematician, has created a machine to take people to alternate worlds. She discovers that those worlds are all in her own timeline. Angela escapes her own time some two hundred years in the future to mid-twentieth century in Oxford, England and takes her notes with her in order to prevent the use of her invention. It is far too dangerous to be messing with time.

She creates a gate into imaginary Anter-world based on a fantasy written by her friend Professor Henry Lytten. She leaves the gate in Henry’s basement. One day In the 1960s, Rosie, a young teenage friend of Henry’s finds the gate and steps through.

The story, which takes place mainly in three times, is full of interesting characters. The plot twists and turns, but it all resolves nicely in the end. The settings for the different times are interesting and easily pictured in my mind. There is imagination and humor.

From the front flap text: “If the past can change the future, then might the future also indelibly change the past?”

Meg Rosoff — Jonathan Unleashed

Jonathan is a young man just out of school with his first job that he hates, an apartment in NYC that he may lose at any time when the owner gets out of jail, and a girlfriend who is his total opposite. The best parts of his life are the two dogs he is keeping for his brother (currently on an assignment in Dubai) and the comic books he creates as a hobby. His girlfriend doesn’t like the dogs or appreciate the comics. He’s trying hard to squeeze into a life that doesn’t fit him.

Rosoff writes with humor and insight. For me this was a front-to-back read at one sitting. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Janet Evanovich & Phoef Sutton — Curious Minds

As a fan of Evanovich’s early Stephanie Plum novels (although I’ve become disenchanted with the unchanging characters and plots), I wanted to check out this start to a new series with different characters and settings.

The two protagonists are quirky and fun. Emerson Knight is a billionaire eccentric with no social skills who wants to see his gold, which is deposited in a megabank. Riley Moon, recent graduate of Harvard and newest employee at the bank, is assigned to handhold Knight. They chase around the country trying to find the gold. The plot is unbelievable at times, but it’s entertaining.

I enjoyed it enough that I will look for the next book in the series.

Colin Cotterill — I Shot the Buddha

I reviewed another of Cotterill’s novels in 2012, one of my first posts. He still holds my interest throughout. The combination of humor, fantasy, and mystery set in Laos in the late 70’s sounds weird (and it is).

Dr. Siri Paibour is a retired coroner. He and his wife, Madam Daeng, love a good mystery. There are three mysteries, three plots in this story. One takes Siri and Daeng to Thailand, accompanying a Buddhist monk. Then there is the disappearance of Buddhist monk Noo, who Siri leaves in the hands of police officer and friend, Phosy. Another mystery concerns a claim for a new Buddha. Civilai, a retired Lao official and another of Siri’s friends, is asked to investigate.

The book is filled with spirits, good and evil. There is a village populated by psychics and a town practicing the Buddhist version of “Black Mass.” All of this is contained in a good plot and told with a sense of the absurd.

This is the last book in the Dr. Siri series. If you haven’t read any of them, you might want to start at the beginning with The Coroner’s Lunch, which was republished in 2015. Or you can jump in anywhere and enjoy.