Category Archives: humor

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.

Irene “Susie” Smith — Angel of Tears

Angel of Tears
This story of a young girl, Summer, growing up in Detroit is a rewrite of an earlier novel. There are some added details and an epilogue. I enjoyed every minute of it, especially Summer’s connection with her neighbor, an old albino woman.

Irene’s characters are believable and likeable (except those who are not so nice). Her story flows and keeps you reading to the end. Her descriptions of Detroit in the fifties takes you back to another time.

The author writes from the heart. She makes me laugh, she makes me cry.

Steven Rowley — Lily and the Octopus

If you like quirky stories and love dogs, you will enjoy this book. It is silly and sad, touches your heart, and makes you laugh.

Lilly is Ted Flask’s aging dachshund—his closest friend. He holds conversations with her. One day he sees an “octopus” on her head. Not facing reality, he tries to find ways to rid Lily of the octopus. He even talks to the creature attached to his dog’s head. At one point in the book, Ted goes off on a fantasy trip with Lily. They take a ship out into the ocean to defeat the enemy in his own territory.

This is Rowley’s first novel, and I hope not his last. He captures the emotions of his protagonist (and the reader).

Alexander McCall Smith — The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine

bots-MMAP-md

The author has a unique voice and style of writing. The pace is pleasant and meandering through the heat of Botswana in southern Africa. This is the latest in the series about The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency.

His main character, Precious Ramotswe, owner of the detective agency, wanders through the story with her mind drifting to related and totally unrelated subjects from whatever problem she is trying to solve. She is a big, warm-hearted woman who is always concerned with doing the right thing for her clients, her friends, her employees, her husband, and most anyone she meets.

In this novel, Mma Ramotswe has been persuaded to take her first vacation since she started her business. She is leaving the agency in the hands of her partner, Mma Makutsi. She is concerned about how the office will be run while she is away and not enjoying her vacation. She encounters a young boy on the streets of Gaborone and feels obliged to help him. Then Mr. Polopetsi, a school teacher who works part-time for her agency, asks her for help with a new client. She doesn’t want to interfere with her partner and how she is running the business, but ends up helping. She may not be going into the office, but she is not on vacation.

The setting is wonderful. I can feel the dry heat of the land, can almost smell the cattle when Precious goes into the country. The author captures the culture of Botswana. I can visualize the people in the streets of Gaborone.

The point-of-view is different. It is mostly third-person subjective from Precious’ viewpoint. But when she is in conversation with other characters we are sometimes privy to their thoughts as well.

Alexander McCall Smith’s writing is slow-paced, scattered, and delightful at the same time. I normally read books that are fast-paced thrillers. His writing is a pleasing change of pace.

Cory Doctorow and Charles Stress — The Rapture of the Nerds

Full Title:  The Rapture of the Nerds 
A tale of singularity, posthumanity, and awkward social situations.

I read somewhere that speculative fiction that predicts the future is truly about the era in which it is written. I believe this was in reference to one of the classic dystopian novels, Brave New World or 1984. The Rapture of the Nerds is written in our far-flung future but definitely reflects our current world.

The novel is set in a future Earth where most of the population has chosen to leave and become part of “the cloud,” which occupies the inner solar system. The protagonist, Huw, is quite happy in his simple home and garden in Wales where he spends his time throwing pottery. His parents gave up their earthly bodies and left for the posthuman cloud fifty years ago.

Huw volunteers for jury duty to judge whether or not to accept the latest technology tossed back to Earth from the cloud. This leads him to being chosen as witness for those still living on our planet when a decision is eminent as to whether to preserve Earth or use its resources and move everyone into the cloud.

The book is ridiculously funny, full of pokes and prods at today’s world. If I read it ten times I would probably catch something new each time.

I have read other novels by Doctorow but none by Stress. Together they wrote a rollicking good story.

Tom Corcoran — Crime Almost Pays

key-west-southernmost

Dubbie Tanner and Wiley Fecko have started a Key West private-eye firm called the Aristocrats. They are drawn into a job which pays way too much money for a small task. It turns out to be complicated and dangerous, involving Cuban tourists, a weird federal agent, street fights, kidnapping, scams…

They enlist the help of cab driver Kim Salazar, police detective Beth Watkins, and a few street people who are friends of Fecko’s from his past days of drink and living off the grid. The best part of this novel for me was the Key West setting. Corcoran captures the look and feel of wacky Key West and its characters.

This author is new to me, although he has a number of previous novels. I enjoyed the ride and will look for more of his books.

Curtis C. Chen — Waypoint Kangaroo

Waypoint Kangaroo is a delightful, high-tech, SF thriller with lots of humor thrown in. Kangaroo is the code name for a spy who has the unique ability to open a “pocket” into an alternate universe where he can store all sorts of tools and toys and retrieve them later. Since he’s somewhat of a loose cannon, he has been ordered to go on vacation on a tourist ship to Mars so that he’ll be out of the way while the home office is audited.

Of course, he runs into trouble on his vacation.

The characters are fun and the plot is fast-paced and full of twists and turns. The author has a vivid imagination when it comes to the space ship, the techy stuff, and the weird “pocket.”

Chen wrote a captivating first novel. Try it. You might like it.

Not the Way It’s Supposed to Work

Fiction by Judy Loose

Note: This is an Ernie "Ernestine" Pratt tale. She is the Florida PI featured in my novel Mangrove Madness by J.C. Ferguson. The story won an award in the GCWA writing contest a few years back.

Bam! I hit a speed bump going too fast. Didn’t expect it. My little red Mini Cooper takes the bumps kinda hard. He’s a replacement for my yellow bug who got trashed by a gorilla last winter. But that’s another story.

I’m so nervous, doing something new to me, poking my nose in other people’s business. Not that I don’t do that all the time, being a PI, but this is really personal.

I’ve tracked down a birth mom for a woman who was adopted. I just started finding adopted kids for their birth mothers and I’ve found two so far. It was pretty easy, since the kids were looking for the moms, too. It’s fun getting people together. I wasn’t at the reunions, but from what they tell me they were happy get-togethers with lots of tears and laughter. Nice. So, I added it to the list of things I do.

With the other two, I did all the work on-line, looking up records and sending emails. But, I tracked down this mom right here in Fort Myers, so I decided to contact her in person. She may not want to see me or hear about her daughter. After all, she’s been avoiding her for forty-three years, not even looking, as far as I can tell. Don’t think I could do that—give up a child and ignore it the rest of my life. But, I’ll probably never have a kid since I’m almost thirty and not married.

I find the house—a typical small Florida ranch, built in the fifties or sixties, cinder block, probably two or three bedrooms. It’s a peachy color, reminds me of a Creamsicle. The front yard’s a little dry. Bet she doesn’t have a sprinkler system. Haven’t had any rain yet and it’s May already. Her flowers look nice. She pays more attention to the plants than the lawn. Who am I to criticize? We have no lawn, our plants are more weeds than flowers. But, we live on an island, so no one notices.

I ring the doorbell but don’t hear anything, so I knock on the front door. Nothing. There’s a white Accord in the carport, eight or ten years old I’d guess. She’s probably home. I knock on the door, again. Well, maybe I bang on it.

I’m about ready to leave when a woman comes around the corner of the house wearing pink shorts, yellow tee, and bright green muddy Crocs. The gloves on her hands are covered with dirt. Saturday gardening. I should probably be doing the same instead of digging up old dirt for this woman.

Except for her pure white hair, she looks about mid-forties, maybe fifty. If she’s the woman I’m looking for she’s sixty. She’s five or six inches shorter than me, maybe five-six or seven, tan, healthy, none of the roundness or wrinkles that seem to come with age for most women. She’s in good shape for a sixty-year-old.

“Ms. Tipton?”

“Yes?” She smiles, but there’s a question in her green eyes.

“My name is Ernie Pratt from Pratt Associates.” I hold out a card. “I’m a private investigator.”

“What can I do for you?” She starts to reach, then pulls her hand back to remove the dirty glove, wiping her hand on her shorts before taking the card.

“A woman named Geraldine Adams hired me to look for her birth mother.”

The smile on her face disappears. “I don’t know any woman named Geraldine Adams.”

“That’s her married name. Her adopted name was Geraldine Graham and her birth name was Missy Tipton.”

“Oh.” Ms. Tipton leans, almost falls, against the wall of her house. Her face goes pale. Now she looks all of her sixty years. I don’t think she wanted to be found.

“Are you OK?” Stupid question, Pratt. Of course, she’s not OK. She probably feels like I punched her in the gut.

“I’ll be fine in a minute.” She stands up and kind of shakes herself. “Come inside. I’ll make us some ice tea.” She doesn’t even ask if I want any.

I trail after her through the carport and into the kitchen, which is spotless. White tile floors, older cupboards, new appliances. She takes off her crocs at the door, so I slip out of my sandals and stand there, not knowing what to do with myself.

“Go sit. Make yourself at home.” She waves a hand at me, like she’s saying ‘get out of my way.’

The living room is nothing fancy, but comfortable. There are plants in a big window and in the corners with lights shining on them. Furniture is mix and match, old and new. Nice pictures on the walls – no photos that I can see. I park on the couch and a big gray cat jumps into my lap from nowhere. I scratch, he purrs, and my discomfort disappears.

Ms. Tipton plunks two glasses of ice tea on the coffee table and sits at the other end of the couch. “It’s not sweetened. I have no sugar in the house.”

“Fine by me. I like it that way.” I take a sip to prove it.

“Ms. Tipton, about your daughter…”

“The name’s Eleanor. People call me Ellie or El.”

“Ellie, your daughter has been looking for you for years. She’d like to meet you.”

She gazes off across the room like she’s watching something on the blank TV screen, saying nothing. I sip my tea and pet the cat, waiting her out.

She turns and looks at me. “You must be a cat person. Sam doesn’t go near most people.”

“I have two at home.” We talk about the antics of cats for a while.

“Sam’s adopted,” she says, “like my daughter.” Back to the subject at last. “I don’t think about her at all. That’s what you have to do, you know. Put her out of your mind. When she was born, if you put a child up for adoption there wasn’t much chance of ever seeing her again. So, you learn to not think about it. Wipe the whole incident out of your memory.

“I wanted to name her Mistake but the social worker wouldn’t let me, so I called her Missy.” Ellie is still staring at the TV. Maybe she’s seeing her past life play out on the tube.

“Seventeen years old, way to young to raise a child.” More silence.

I’m starting to fidget, I’m not the patient type. Sam, the cat, jumps off my lap and disappears. I guess he’s not patient, either.

“Do you want to meet her?” I ask.

“Not really, but I suppose she has the right to meet me if she wants.”

“I can bring her by, or you could meet somewhere for lunch.”

More silence.

Banging on the front door interrupts our non-conversation.

Ellie gets up off the couch and opens the door. Much to my surprise, Geraldine Adams or Missy Tipton stands there. She looks like her mother except for reddish brown hair instead of white. Same height, same build, same green eyes…almost the same face. They even look about the same age.

“What are you doing here?” I ask.

“I followed you. Got tired of waiting.”

“That’s not the way it’s supposed to work.”

“Is this my mother?” She points, her finger an inch from Ellie Tipton’s chest.

“Yes, I’m your mother, Missy.”

“Bitch!” Missy screams. Then swings her huge, fully loaded purse and hits Eleanor Tipton on the side of her head, knocking her on her ass.

This is definitely not the way it’s supposed to work.

Of Mice and Marquis

Fiction by Judy Loose

Millie hummed as she cruised up I-75 on Friday morning, headed for Busch Gardens with Brian and Becky secured in the back seat. She enjoyed these outings with her grandchildren, driving her Grand Marquis. She’d had the car for fifteen years, and it still purred.

As much as the kids at five and seven enjoyed these trips, Millie enjoyed them more. Right now, Brian and Becky had their heads together, giggling, looking at something on the seat between them.

“What is it, Becky?”

“It’s the mice from my school project.”

Oh no! What was Becky planning to do with mice? “You were supposed to leave them with your neighbor.”

“She doesn’t even like mice. She screamed at the babies,” Becky whined.

“What babies?”

“Joe and Jim had babies,” Brian answered.

“Joe and Jim?”

Joe and Jim were obviously Joe and Jill. Should she turn the car around and take the mice back to Fort Myers? She pointed the car toward the rest area.

“Oh, Nana. You’re not gonna take them home, are you?” Becky pleaded.

Not far to Tampa. The round trip to Fort Myers would take a couple of hours. The kids would be hungry and cranky long before they arrived. So would Millie. She avoided the rest area.

“No, Becky. But they are not going in the room with us.” It was January and cool. They could leave the mice in the car. Would she regret that decision?

When Becky went out to feed the mice that night, Millie peered into the cage. The babies were tiny, pink, squiggly things, like ugly gummy bears. Becky held one up for Millie. No way! She backed off and shook her head; a shiver of disgust ran down her spine.

Saturday, Busch Gardens was great; no one threw up on any of the rides. Brian petted the giraffe; he loved giraffes. The children wanted to take the mice to see the other animals but accepted Millie’s firm, “No.”

On Sunday, after dropping her grandchildren at home in Fort Myers, Millie sang with the music in her car. She adored Becky and Brian, but she was glad to take them home. As she stopped for a red light, she opened the front windows for fresh air and something crawled across her shoulders — must be a bug. She reached up and flicked it off. A mouse flew out the window and into the next car. A woman screamed, the light changed to green, and Millie stepped on the gas.

~~

When Millie traded in her old stand-by Grand Marquis a month later, she didn’t tell the salesman about the mice that kept appearing — on the dash, in the back seat, in the trunk, or the one that had crawled up her leg the day before.