Category Archives: mystery

Philip Donlay — Aftershock

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A USGS team is murdered as they are placing instruments on a volcano that is about to erupt. The photographer accompanying them is abducted and held for ransom. She is the lifelong friend of Donovan Nash and of course he goes to the rescue.

The story is a fast-paced thriller set in Guatemala. Plenty of action in the middle of earthquakes, volcano eruptions, shootings, chases on land and in the air… It kept me reading. I liked the characters, tough and determined but with heart.

The thing that always amazes me about some novels, movies, and TV shows is the seemingly coincidental connections between characters and events from the past and present. This book is full of them. It appears everyone in the book, good and bad, is connected in some way to Donovan Nash’s past.

I’m not complaining. I’ve been known to write a few such instances into my own books. J

M.P. Cooley — Ice Shear

ice

Upstate New York is cold in winter, and Ms. Cooley makes you feel it. It makes me want to go curl up in a blanket in front of a fireplace to warm up, even though I’m reading here in sunny Florida. The story begins with the discovery of a body impaled on the ice at the bottom of a frozen waterfall. Ice Shear is a mystery that keeps you interested from beginning to end. The protagonist, June Lyons, is a local police officer, ex FBI, and single mother in a small town. Cooley’s characters are diverse and interesting, her plot twists and turns, and her settings make you believe you are there.

This is a first novel by Ms. Cooley. I can’t wait for her next.

Christopher Fowler — The Invisible Code

How many times have you read a novel with a pair of police detectives as protagonists? I must have read hundreds. But these two are old men who should have been retired from the police years ago. One is well dressed and organized and follows the facts. The other is beat-up, rumpled, intuitive, and he consults with psychics, historians, museum curators… He’s more of a historian than a detective. They work out of the Peculiar Crimes Unit in London.

Author Fowler brings us the English culture, atmosphere, history, social mores, foibles, superstitions, and more. His characters are humorous, interesting, quirky, and intelligent. His plot twists and turns. The two detectives, Bryant and May, start with their boss requesting an investigation of his wife who is behaving strangely and circles into investigating the boss for murder and more.

The Invisible Code is a delightful read.

Martin Cruz Smith — Tatiana

I hadn’t read one of Smith’s novels for a while. I’m not sure why since he’s one of my favorite authors. Tatiana is one of his Arkady Renko novels. Most of the story takes place in a little piece of Russia called Kaliningrad (which I’d never heard of) on the Baltic Sea between Lithuania and Poland.

I can’t decide what I like best about the author’s writing. He paints fantastic scenes (with words), sometimes beautiful, sometimes ugly. You can feel the cold wind from the Baltic, moving the sand, blowing it into your hair and eyes. You can hear the sounds of the city; see the people and the buildings old and new. He gives you a picture of Russia and its culture that feels like reality. He makes you believe he is Russian, not an American looking in. Of course, I don’t know if a Russian citizen would feel the same.

His characters are quirky and sometimes outrageous, yet believable. Renko is a police detective who doesn’t follow the rules or politics and is always in some sort of trouble with the authorities. He carries a bullet in his brain which could kill him if it moves in the wrong direction. He loves mysteries and seeks the truth. In this book, he is chasing Tatiana’s reported suicide, which he believes is murder.

Tatiana is also an interesting character. She is a reporter who chased corruption. There is also a poet, Renko’s teenage chess playing ward, and several Russian mafia characters — all intriguing. One object (almost a character) central to the story is the notebook of a dead interpreter, which no one is able to interpret.

His plot twists and turns — not a typical plot. It’s a mystery — a puzzle with Renko seeking all the pieces. Underneath you find dark humor, politics, romance, and more.

He has all of my three H’s: head, heart, and humor.

I find his books don’t grow old. Some of our best known authors, especially those who write a series with the same protagonist, lose some of their sharpness with time. I don’t feel that way about Martin Cruz Smith. As I said in the beginning, one of my favorite authors — one of the best.

Carol Cassella — Oxygen

I picked up this book because I loved her book, Gemini. I was disappointed for two reasons. I kept second-guessing the author about what would happen next (and I was right most of the time) and there was way too much medical and legal stuff to plow through. Not enough story. Maybe that’s because I kept skipping over parts of the book.

I know that this was a highly acclaimed book, but she is writing better stories now.

Andrew Gross – Everything to Lose

What lines would your cross to save your family’s home? What laws would you break to help your child? Would you steal to pay your mortgage or to keep your child in a school that was helping him? Borrow illegal money to protect family? Try to destroy a man you know is a monster? Kill to protect a loved one? What would you do if you had everything to lose?

The book has an interesting plot and covers many moral ambiguities. Various characters become caught up in the immoral or illegal to protect what they have or whom they love.

I enjoyed the book but was unhappy with the ending. Questions were left unanswered. That’s not always a bad thing, to leave the reader thinking about the answers. But too many good people died. Maybe the author was trying to teach a lesson about crossing the lines.

Carol Cassella – Gemini

I am impressed. Cassella is an amazing writer! Gemini is a captivating story switching between two main characters with very different stories and lives.

A doctor becomes involved, against her better judgment, with discovering the identity of a “Jane Doe” in her care. “Jane” lies in a coma in the hospital after she is found alongside the road almost dead from a hit-and-run.

The author also follows a young artist growing up with her grandfather in a backwoods small town. We see her first love, marriage, motherhood, her frustrations, struggles to survive, her spirit, her connection to grandfather, son, husband, to the land.

The genre is medical mystery, but I think it could also be classified as women’s fiction or literary. There is so much to grab you and keep you reading—hopes and fears, love and loss, heartbreak and joy, family, communication, morality, medicine, genetics…

I’m going to find Cassella’s two earlier novels, Oxygen and Healer, and spend more sleepless nights reading her work.

Bragging Rights

FAPA-GoldI don’t usually post about myself and my writing, but I won an award. The Janus Code by J.C. Ferguson (that’s me, Judy Loose) is the winner of the Florida Authors & Publishers Association 2014 President’s Award Gold Medal for Adult Fiction: Action/Suspense. It’s exciting to win a prestigious award—first place. Wow! It’s probably silly to be so pleased, but it does feel good to have professional writers and publishers approve of my work.

This is also a credit to the Gulf Coast Writers Association. They have three winners this year. In addition to my award, Alice Oldford won a gold medal in the Home and Garden category for her book, Recipes and Life and Patti Brassard Jefferson won a silver medal in the Children’s Picture Book category for Stu’s Big Party.

Thanks for listening to me sound off.

James Sheehan – The Lawyer’s Lawyer

I was up until 3AM finishing this one. I need to quit doing that. But I’m too busy to read during the day. As you might guess from the title, the book genre is legal/crime thriller with cops and lawyers. I have become bored with that genre in recent years, but this one is the exception.

The book has interesting characters, a good plot with lots of twists and turns, a Florida setting that I enjoyed, some romance, and surprises at the end. There was murder and mayhem – even a serial killer. It kept me wanting to find out what happens next.

Underneath it all is friendship, loyalty, love, a trust in the truth, and a belief that good people will do the right thing. To me this sets it apart from most books in this genre – in fact, most books.

Donna Leon – By Its Cover

Donna Leon is an ex-pat from New Jersey who has lived in Venice, Italy for the past 30 years. In her Commissario Guido Brunetti series, while leading us through the waterways of the old city, she plunges us into the slow-paced atmosphere of Venice’s culture – its beauty, food, people, and problems. By Its Cover has Brunetti looking into the theft of rare antique books and pages (illustrations and maps) cut from books in a library. An ex-priest who was a possible witness to some of the thefts turns up murdered.

I find the pace of this story interesting as Brunetti starts his investigation apparently relaxed and not too concerned and increases his tempo and concern to the point where is barely taking time out to eat or sleep before he solves the crime.

Leon’s settings are fascinating and her plot keeps you reading, but for me the best part of her writing is the characters.