Category: FM – Fiction Mystery


Where The Crawdads Sings by Delia Owens

June 30th, 2019 — 1:25pm

Your comments are welcome at the end of the review

Where the Crawdads Sings by Delia Owens

The story takes the reader to a place I would not usually choose to visit- the wild nature land in North Carolina. A young girl is gradually abandoned by her siblings and parents and grows up alone in the marshland. She has her dad’s motorboat and she can fish and collect mussels et cetera and sell them in the local town in order to get gas for the boat and the essentials of life. She is known by the town folks as the wild marsh girl. While living a very isolated lifestyle, she has on occasion to meet two local young men. One of them teaches her to read and she ultimately over many years becomes a renowned expert in writing and painting the local nature life. Since the author is a well-known expert in nature writing, her depictions are quite beautiful and fascinating.

The marsh girl is attracted to both young men and one does not treat her very well. There is an incident where one of the young men dies under mysterious circumstances. So, there is intrigue and ultimately a courtroom drama, which is, as interesting and well-written as any literary courtroom scene that you might encounter

So, we have sensitive novel about living in the wildlife with all the beauty and mysteries of nature. We also have a sensitive depiction of a naïve young woman who feels her yearnings, as do all the creatures of nature. On top of all these, we have a mysterious death and a murder trial. For me, half of the time this book was a page turner, the other half, I was turning the pages to get through the book. I conclude by giving it a mixed review. (2019)

Comment » | FG - Fiction General, FM - Fiction Mystery, T - Recommended for Teenagers

Waking Lions by Ayelet-Gundar-Gosher

October 15th, 2018 — 1:12pm

 Waking Lions  by Ayelet-Gundar-Gosher

 The setting is modern day Israel. A neurosurgeon in the early evening at the end of his shift at the hospital, takes his SUV out on an open road to release some of the tension built-up during the day. After speeding on what he thought was a deserted road, he hears a thud. Upon getting out of the car, he realizes that he has killed black Eritrean man. He uncharacteristically decides to leave the scene of the accident and vows to tell no one what happened. His wife, who is a homicide detective, is assigned the case.

Certainly, this has the makings of a great story, which it is. However, the author is intent on also making it a study of many aspects of human behavior including marital relationships, honesty, fidelity, blackmail, prejudice, discrimination, drugs, conscience and a lot more, perhaps too much. I can see that the author deserves the accolades that she has received for the book, as she has developed many wonderful skillful metaphors worked into the narrative. For me, however, these many deviations or sidetracks directed me away from my interest in the characters and the plot. I found myself reading faster and faster and flicking my finger more quickly on my iPad as I was not inclined to reflect as much as the author wanted me to do. This may have been my shortcoming as the book was very well received and recommended to me from people that I highly respect.

Please consider leaving your comments below 

Comment » | FG - Fiction General, FM - Fiction Mystery

The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan

July 1st, 2016 — 8:58pm

The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat KhanScreen Shot 2016-07-01 at 8.48.54 AM

This is a convoluted detective story which ultimately reflects the history of the 1992 Genocide in Bosnia. My reaction and experience to this novel was to be so overwhelmed with the truth and the harsh reality of this modern day horrific set of events which occurred under the watchful eye of the United Nations and the entire world, that I had little interest in the fictionalized story that was being weaved. The appendix at the end of the book which documented numerous such examples stood out in my mind as much more significant than the fictionalized, interspersed chapters in italics, which were supposed to be accounts of people related to the characters in the novel who were killed and tortured. Nothing in the book was as real as the accounts in the appendix at the end of the book. My response to this may be related to the fact that while I knew about the events in Bosnia I had little familiarity, previously, with the details.

If this fictionalized story stimulated any special thoughts in my mind, it would be identifying with a dilemma of one of the main characters in the story. That is, if I knew for sure that I were face-to-face with a horrible murderer of many people who had personally brought about death, rape and torture of many friends and family – and if the authorities had failed to act and bring him to justice despite my efforts to provide documented information about what he had done and his availability to be captured, and if I had the ability and the opportunity to push him over a cliff to his death and never be found out to be the killer, would I do it?? I suppose that is a no brainer. The book did suggest the question also, should the police arrest me if they believed I did it.

 

Comment » | FH - Fiction Historical, FM - Fiction Mystery

Blood Flag by Steve Martini

June 14th, 2016 — 6:51pm

 

 

Screen Shot 2016-06-13 at 8.37.43 AMBlood Flag by Steve Martini

Not too long ago, I read Compelling Evidence, the first of 14 novels written by Steve Maritini ,which features private detective, Paul Madriani. This book was published in 1992 and I found it a terrific read and enjoyed the courtroom insight and intrigue. So now, I jumped to his latest novel in this series titled, Blood Flag. Perhaps my expectations were too high as I eagerly looked to see how the author had elevated his game after a quarter of a century.

Paul Madriani, the lawyer, was there with Harry, his trusted partner. There also was his special private investigator, Herman, who has a team of his “guys” to dig up information to further the plot. I thought these guys were overused to provide information for the story line.

The story begins as Madriani takes on a new client, an old woman who is accused of killing her hospitalized husband with an insulin injection in a mercy-type killing, which she denies. The deceased husband is connected with his World War II buddies who were in Berlin at the end of the war when Hitler committed suicide. They become linked to “Blutfahne” also known as the bloody flag, which is purported to have been designed by Adolf Hitler. (Remember, he was a struggling artist before the war). This flag was believed to have been first flown in Munich at the Beer Hall Putsch in 1923 where Hitler was arrested and put in jail (where he wrote Mein Kampf). There are supposed to be various keys to a safe deposit box where this symbolic, historical, iconic object is said to have been hidden.

Rather than being an exciting courtroom drama, which characterized his first novel in this series, this latest one in the series seems to me to have turned into a convoluted detective story. I didn’t believe that the characters were that well developed so I didn’t really care about most of them. Certainly, the author still has his touch in writing a dramatic moment or a confrontation, which occurred near the end of the book. I may have to give the author another chance by reading one of his earlier novels but I can’t recommend this latest one.

 

 

Comment » | FM - Fiction Mystery

Compelling Evidence by Steve Martini

March 31st, 2016 — 11:56am

Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 8.40.10 AMCOMPELLING EVIDENCE  – by Steve Martini

Published in 1992

A friend of mine mentioned that he is a big fan of Steve Martini who has written 13 bestselling novels in which the main character is a lawyer and has some very exciting courtroom scenes. Since I have enjoyed a few of John Grisham’s novels and I am always drawn to a movie or a TV program with a good courtroom action, I decided to explore this series. I chose Martini’s second novel and the first one in the 13 published books that has this main character, attorney named Paul Madriani.

Compelling Evidence was published in 1992. It did not disappoint me. The author opened the story with a detailed and what appeared to be a very knowledgeable description of a prisoner being executed in a gas chamber as a death penalty was being carried out.

The story progressed as the reader was introduced to Paul Madriani. It was through his eyes that we view this captivating story. It puts the legal profession front and center as just about all the characters are lawyers. The victim of the current case in point is Ben Porter, a honcho of a large successful law firm. His wife, Talia is his accused murderer of him. We learn early in the story that Mr. Madriani had once worked at the Porter Law Firm and even had an affair with Talia. Mr. Madriani ultimately becomes her chief defense attorney and so the plot develops.

All the characters and details of this story are woven together quite skillfully. Although there is a lot of “lawyer talk”, the readers’ knowledge and background is never taken for granted. Through the narrative and the dialogue, we are always kept in the loop and are well-educated. We meet the district attorney and his staff and we clearly understand their role as well as the role and obligation of the police who had investigated the crime. When we are introduced to the judge, we not only appreciate his role and obligations but also get insight into his personal issues (he does not want anything to go wrong because a mistrial would reflect badly on him). We are not only given a good description of what is happening when there are various motions but we gain insight into the various opposing forces of this legal battle and what they are trying to accomplish. We come to understand the basic legal tenets of why no one accused of a crime is expected to take the stand to testify and how a jury is strictly instructed not to hold such a refusal against them.

Reading this novel is like taking a class in law school except we are caught up in the plot that rivals a TV courtroom or movie story. I must admit that we also were given a dose of cynicism from the author’s experience. For example the statement that popped up at an appropriate place threw me for a loop. Cases are won or lost not on the truth but in the predominance of perjury attended by witnesses on the stand who lie with impunity and then walk away. Shortly later, the author stated The law is no instrument for divining the truth.

In the end, I had a very enjoyable and educational experience. This 1992 novel was Steve Martini’s first novel in this series and I understand the fourteenth book is due out in May of 2016, I cannot help wondering if the author may have even raised his game with additional novels under his belt.

1 comment » | FL - Fiction Legal, FM - Fiction Mystery, Uncategorized

Southland by Nina Revoyr

August 8th, 2014 — 4:47pm

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 4.16.25 PMSouthland by Nina Revoyr– Having recently read and reviewed a great book mostly about social justice in Los Angeles ( see previously reviewed book in this blog) which included some insight into the history of racial conflicts and violence in this city, I was very receptive to picking up this novel. In fact, it did deal with these subjects with a compelling storyline which focused on the struggles of Japanese-Americans including their relationships with African Americans in Los Angeles over the past 50 plus years.

The opening setting is the 1990s and Jackie Ishida is a Japanese-American young woman, preparing to enter law school and who also happens to be a lesbian whose grandfather Frank Sakari suddenly passes away. She comes into possession of a forgotten old box in his closet, that had a few clippings, some pictures and a great deal of cash with a note that it should be given to Curtis, a young teenager who worked in his old grocery store that was destroyed in Watts riots. It is well known to the family that those difficult times were very traumatic for many people including Frank not only because of the destruction brought about by riots but because in midst of them, Curtis and 3 younger boys were found locked in the grocery store freezer, having frozen to death. It was thought by some that this murder was the work of an unpopular white police officer who was known for mistreating kids in the neighborhood and was reportedly seen talking to them at the store on day of the tragedy. Jackie is moved to try to find more details. She connects with James Lanier, an African American who was Curtis’cousin. Once she talks to him, they team up to try to find out what really happened, in order to try to bring about some kind of long delayed justice. They embark upon a road trip (mostly limited to the Los Angeles area) where they interview several people who could shed light on this dastardly crime.

As the author follows this duo, she also provides flashbacks to earlier times to allow us to understand not only the characters in some depth but also the social climate of Southland, American, also known as Los Angeles. This includes the history of the Japanese who settled in this area and were sent to internment camps during World War II. We also learn about those young men who enlisted and fought in the War including some of the famed accomplishments of the Japanese American 442 regiment. The story that Jackie and James uncover is more than a study of how race relations played out during the past 50 years but it is also is a very personal moving story about her grandfather. She also finds meaningful insight into herself.

This 2003 novel deservedly won several awards. However, it did not hold me on edge of my seat or qualify as a page turner despite it being a great example of a “cold case being brought to life.” Some of the flashbacks, while necessary for insight into the characters, did seem to slow the flow of the book. A good part of the theme of this book also qualifies as an example of the search for biological roots which I have found in many true life clinical cases as well as a major storyline numerous motion pictures. See my blog about this subject.

 

Comment » | FG - Fiction General, FH - Fiction Historical, FM - Fiction Mystery

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

December 14th, 2013 — 1:22am

 

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynnimages-4 It is a very difficult task to review a mystery novel such as this one without revealing the ultimate secrets and discoveries, which develop in the book. This is not a “spoiler alert” as I will not deprive you of the fun of reading this book, which I do recommend that you do

As the title hints, you will be immediately confronted by the fact that Nick Dunne, one the main characters in the book has come home one day and his wife Amy is nowhere to be found. He assumes she will return shortly but that is not the case. The distraught husband calls the police and the local detectives become characters in the story as they begin to assemble clues. Thanks to modern media this situation becomes a worldwide story, closely followed by newspapers, television and the Internet.

The format of the book is that there are alternate chapters written in the first person through the eyes and thoughts of Nick and Amy. This provides the reader with the back-story on the two protagonists and their relationship as well as insight into the evolving mystery. The great thing about this book is that it is clearly a page-turner that you don’t want to put down. The author gives us characters who pay attention to details but so does she. There are no wasted words. Every incident or piece of action is ultimately related to something else important in the story. There is also authenticity to the various situations. This is especially true when we are dealing with a mystery where the police are involved. It has to be assumed that the readers have watched CSI and a bunch of other TV crime shows so they come to expect DNA analysis and the like.

However in a typical crime show on TV we expect interesting, even fanciful characters but in a top-notch best selling novel we also expect insight into the characters and their personalities, which are realistic and internally consistent.  Those of us who probe the human psyche for a living (being a psychiatrist) especially appreciate this. We meet Amy Dunne’s parents and we do come to understand her unique upbringing but that is as far as it seems to take us. Otherwise she is presented as a beautiful, intelligent woman who was a great catch for Nick. Similarly Nick’s persona is invented as some typical guy that everyone might know and like but we really don’t have a clue about the determinants of his psychological development despite meeting father who basically only utters one sentence over and over. We have very little insight into the two stars of the show.

On the other hand I found it quite interesting to see the authors’ detailed description in the acknowledgment section of the warm, rich relationship that she has with her own family. This only suggests the vivid imagination that she has to have in order to construct the characters in her novel who were quite different.

Despite some the above stated reservations we do own a debt of gratitude to the author for providing a very good read.

Comment » | FM - Fiction Mystery

Inferno by Dan Brown

June 12th, 2013 — 6:01pm

InfernoInferno by Dan Brown (2013). I picked up this book (on my Kindle) after it had just become number one on the NewYork Times Best Seller List. I suspect it will be there for a long time as Dan Brown’s previous best seller Da Vinci Code was Number one for 40 weeks, on the list for 166 weeks and sold 80 million copies. The main character from that book Dr. Robert Langdon, Harvard Professor of Art and Symbolism, is the center of attention of the latest thriller as is Dante, the city of Florence and related subjects. If I were to read a book set in New York, LA, San Francisco  or D.C and it used the nooks and crannies with which I was more or less familiar as the basis of a hide and seek, life and death scavenger hunt,  that would add to my pleasure of the experience. However, this story goes into exquisite detail of so many churches, monuments, museums special rooms, works of art, secret passages mostly in the city of Florence, Italy. Even though I briefly visited that city less than a year ago I had no familiarity with most of them. I tried to zip through the detailed descriptions of these places and stay with the fascinating story line. Similarly, although I had read Dante’s Inferno many years ago while in college, the secret meaning in the passages which was an important part of this story could have come from the  Captain Midnight Decoder ring from my youth. Nevertheless, the premise of the of the book was riveting in that it brought into focus the fact that our planet is on a collision course with extinction by the unrelenting growth of our population. At some  point in the not too distant future, we will not be able to sustain ourselves. This raises scientific, ethical and moral issues. We are introduced to the idea that there could be futurists or what are called Transhumanists that would support a radical solution to this dilemma. The book is filled with twists and turns along with some big surprises.  Not only are we on the edge of our seats to see how the characters of this story deal with the immediate and future life threatening issues but in the end we come away pondering the questions which are raised. We also hear the words of Dante echoing in our mind as he said, “The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.”

Comment » | FM - Fiction Mystery

The Wings of the Sphinx by Andrea Camilleri

August 3rd, 2011 — 7:31pm

Buy it now on Amazon: The Wings of the Sphinx by Andrea Camilleri
The Wings of the Spinx

I decided that I could like to sample this popular Italian mystery writer after a friend recommended him to me. On the second page of the book there is a picture of the fifty something author smoking a cigarette and looking very tough, much as I pictured the fifty something Inspector Montalbano. The author gives us glimpses into the thinking of the Italian police detective as he obsesses whether or not to call his girl friend or is solving the crime which is on his plate. While I did not know the locale of the setting of this book, one easily get a feeling for the Italian atmosphere by the names of streets and towns as well as the various meals which are consumed. We learn that the police department doesn’t have enough gasoline assigned to it so the various policemen at times have to use their own cars and even pay for the gas. The story line mentions an actual recent controversial government reform which is also explained in a note at the end of the book. That is a relaxation of the requirements for the right to bear arms and led to people feeling justified to shoot anyone who is burglarizing their house or whom they feel they might be threatened by and have to shoot in self-defense. The English translation captures the accent of some of the characters as one might try to record a Brooklyn accent. Naturally, Inspector Montalbano is very clever but very human and certainly not larger than life. The plot held my interest but it only took about 200 pages of pocketsize book to resolve which makes for quick easy and relatively light reading. Inspector Montalbano and author Camilleri do keep busy as there are at least ten other books in this series.

Comment » | FM - Fiction Mystery

Summer’s Lease by John Mortimer

August 16th, 2010 — 7:34pm

Summer LeaseSummer’s Lease by John Mortimer, Penguin Books, 1988

If you want some good summer light reading, this book is for you, especially if you will be vacationing in Italy and renting a lovely villa. This is just what Molly Pargeter, the main character of this book did with her husband and her three girls.. Her father, a columnist for a British newspaper and a self proclaimed ladies man also came along. Not surprising, Molly found more than she expected, hence your summer mystery. Molly usually handled all the details of their summer rental and naturally has a great deal of curiosity about the owner of the villa and his family. She is also s dying to find out why did the owner specify that he wanted renters with three children, all girls. Then there is the strange occurrence of the water being unexplainably being drained out of their pool as well as of the pool of a neighbor’s pool. The difference being, in the later case the dead body of Mr. Fixit, the handyman was found at the bottom of it. This book was published 22 years ago but it still makes a good summer reading now in the 21st century. John Mortimer is a veteran British author who has successfully written for the movies and television. The book will fit nicely in your summer bag, pocket, Nook or Kindle and give you a good summer read.

Comment » | FM - Fiction Mystery

Back to top