Saturday, March 30, 2013

Books, Crooks And Counselors by Leslie Budewitz

Books, Crooks And Counselors is a book written as an aid for writers whose books are about crimes.  It explains the various topics that such writers encounter, and gives enough background and answers that the reader will not be put off while reading due to items or plot devices that are implausible. 

The book is organized into twelve chapters, each of which covers various legal topics in an area of law.  The chapters are Trial and Error, Legal Issues In Criminal Investigation, Crime, ...And Punishment, Civil Matters, Some Terms of the Art, Wills, Probate and Adoption, Legal Miscellany, Thinking Like a Lawyer, Thinking Like A Judge, Legal Ethics and Research And References.  Within each chapter, the format is that of question and answer.  Often, relevant cases demonstrating the legal principle are cited.  Even more interesting to the layman, novels and movies that demonstrate the issue being discussed are mentioned.  There are areas that explain a case or concept in greater detail, and Tip sections that inform the author how a concept could be used to liven up a book's action or introduce controversy.

Leslie Budewitz is an attorney herself who also writes mysteries and crime columns.  She graduated from Notre Dame Law School, and clerked for the Washington State Court Of Appeals.  She is a member of the bar in both state and federals courts in Washington and Montana, and also several Native American courts.  Budewitz has represented both civil and criminal clients.  She is conversant with the law in many ways.

This is an excellent resource for authors and an intriguing read for anyone interested in the law.  The book covers a wide range of topics.  It is organized well, and the information is given in short bites that inform without overwhelming the reader.  There are many hints on where additional information can be found.  This book is recommended for authors and readers interested in crime and the courts.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Canada by Richard Ford

"First, I'll tell you about the robbery our parents committed.  Then about the murders, which happened later.  The robbery is the more important part, since it served to set my and my sister's lives on the courses they eventually followed."

These are the first three sentences in Richard Ford's novel, Canada.  The book goes back from that point and explains the events that led up to this opening.  Dell Parsons is an average teenager of the 1960's.  He lives in Grand Falls, Montana with his twin sister, Berner, and their parents. Bev Parsons is an ex-military man, a charming rascal who finds himself at odds after his military career.  The mother is a schoolteacher,unimpressed with Montana or with Bev.  Dell and Berner are fifteen the summer the book begins, looking forward to high school and bored with their average lives.

Bev finds himself in a mess when one of his schemes goes awry.  His only solution, he believes, is to rob a bank.  Dell's mother accompanies him when it is clear that he plans to take Dell with him.  As might be suspected, the robbery is soon solved and the police show up and both parents are sent to jail.  There are no relatives to step in.  Berner, disillusioned already with small-town life, runs away.  Dell is picked up by  friend of his mother's.  She takes  him over the border into Canada, where she leaves him with her brother in a remote hunting town.

The brother ignores Dell for weeks.  He is sent to live in a hunting shack with no running water or toilet.  He is to help with the work of hunting guide, as men come from all over to hunt the geese as they migrate.  There is no mention of school.  When the brother starts to notice Dell, he is drawn into a web of deceit and violence.

The book is a bleak coming of age novel.  Dell is thrust from a comfortable, boring life to one where he has no one who cares about him.  He must learn to survive and decide what kind of man he will be.  The unforeseen consequences of a moment's actions are explored, along with how quickly an entire life can change.  Dell's character development and his decisions are compelling, and the reader will remember him for a long time.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Death Of A Kingfisher by M.C. Beaton

The small village of Brikie is in Police Constable Hamish Macbeth's territory.  Not much goes on there and the economy has hit hard with unemployment.  So there is a lot of excitement when a beautiful woman manager turns the local forested land into what she calls a 'fairy glen' and the tourists start pouring in, bringing their money.  Everyone seems thrilled, that is, except for an old widow who lives near, is wealthy enough to have great sway, and doesn't like the increased traffic. 

One of the major attractions of the glen is a family of beautiful kingfishers.  Macbeth is not amused when he is called out on an emergency to a death at the glen, and it turns out to be the kingfisher.  He is interested in the gorgeous Mary who runs the place, and she seems interested in him even though she is married.  Still and all, he is there for crimes against persons, not birds.

No fears.  Within days, the older woman creating dissension is found murdered in a horrendous fashion.  There are tons of suspects.  It turns out that Mary has been given half the estate in a new will.  The woman's disagreeable family are suspects, along with their strange teenage children.  Many of the villagers who have found work are just as happy that the old woman is gone.  Hamish struggles to make sense of it all while adjusting to his new helper, Dick.  Soon, bodies start to pile up and the mystery deepens.  Can Hamish unravel the mystery and restore the peaceful village?

Death Of A Kingfisher is the twenty-seventh book in Beaton's Hamish Macbeth series.  New readers will be interested to read to discover while the series is so beloved while established M.C. Beaton fans will enjoy another visit with Macbeth.  This book is recommended for cozy mystery readers.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Lucifer by Annabell Cadiz

Zahara Faraday is your average teenager.  She spends her time hanging out with her best friend, Becca, working out at the gym, giggling over boys and working at the local bookstore.  Just a normal life except for one thing.  Zahara comes from a family of Light Witches, who use their magic powers to combat evil and hunt down rouge supernaturals such as fairies, goblins and Imagoes.  Imagoes can control water and steal human souls.

While any day can bring a battle with one of the supernaturals, a crisis is brewing.  Lucifer has returned, determined to create a Nephilim, a child from the union of an angel and a human, to help in his fight against God.  He has chosen Zahara as the human to create this Nephilim child, and has started a new coven dedicated to kidnapping her and destroying anyone who gets in their way.  Suddenly, every day is fraught with danger as the coven becomes ever more determined to fulfill Lucifer's plan,  Luckily, Zahara has allies also.  There is her parents coven of Light Witches.  Rakesh is a powerful Imago who is working on the side of good.  Then there is Bryan, who Zahara thought was the cute new boy at work.  It turns out that he is an angel sent to battle Lucifer.  Will good or evil prevail in this struggle?

Annabell Cadiz has written a lively supernatural romance sure to appeal to the young adult audience.  The plot and pacing move quickly, and the numerous fight scenes are compelling.  The conflict between good and evil draws the reader on to determine which side will be triumphant.  This book is recommended for the YA audience as well as readers who enjoy the paranormal romance genre.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Beautiful Lies by Clare Clark

The year is 1887, and London is aglow with the excitement of Victoria's Golden Anniversary celebration.  The show to see is Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, and society flocks to each performance.  One of society's gliterring couples are the Campbell Lowes. Edward is a Member of Parliment representing his Scottish holdings. His wife, Maribel, is a Chilean heiress who grew up in Paris. They know everyone worth knowing, dining with Oscar Wilde one day and political stars the next.  Their lives are enviable.

But all is not as it seems.  Edward and Maribel are hiding many secrets.  Their Scottish estates are mortgaged to the hilt.  Edward's politics lead to him being considered a rabblerouser by many, and it is unclear how long he can sustain his political career.  Maribel's background is far different from that which is commonly known, and the secrets of their courtship and marriage coukd lead to the ruin of this favored couple.  When they run afoul of a powerful newspaper editor, their lives balance on an increasingly seesawing balance.

Clare Clark has created a fascinating view into Victorian society.  The politics were changing as socialism and the rise of the champions of the working poor occurred.  Women's roles were starting to change, and some dared to carve out lives that encompassed more than home and children.  Clark uses the lives of the Campbell Lowes to demonstrate this changing world.  The historical facts are well-researched, illustrated through the fictional lives of the main characters.  This book is recommended for readers of historical fiction and illustrates a time period many know little about.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Blessed Are The Dead by Malla Nunn

A beautiful Zulu girl, Amahle, is found lying dead in the open. There is no apparent mark upon her, and the body has been laid out as if she were sleeping, covered with wildflowers. Amahle is a daughter of the Zulu chief, from his third wife. She lives in his compound and works as a housemaid at the large farm nearby. She has been poisoned with a small shot in her back.

This is South Africa, and everything is touched by the institutionalized racism known as apartheid. Amahle lives a divided life. She has status in the Zulu world from her father’s position and her beauty. She will never be more than a second-class citizen in the white world, although her beauty there draws attention. That attention can be a double-edged sword; it can bring her attention other servants don’t receive but that attention is not all positive.

Detective Sergeant Emmanuel Cooper and his subordinate, Detective Constable Samuel Shabalala are sent from the city to investigate. Cooper was recently reinstated as a police sergeant when his mixed race designation was changed to make him an official white person again. Raised as a white person, his enemies had conspired to have his racial designation changed, and he lived in the world between white and black for a time, learning much about both worlds. This is his first murder case after his reinstatement, and his success is critical to secure his place on the force.

There are plenty of suspects. Amahle is about to be married off to an elderly man for her bride price by her father. There are the usual tribal jealousies that arise in a multi-wife compound, as each wife fights for their children to be the most favored. To all indications, Amahle wants more than a traditional tribal life and may have been using her beauty as her ticket out to a different life in the city. There is a white boy, strange at best and perhaps mentally ill, running in the hills and disrupting the investigation. The local police are not helping and are actively interfering in the investigation. The whites in power fight against being investigated, pulling in favors from their influential friends to hinder Cooper whenever he gets close to a secret they don’t want uncovered. Can Cooper push through all the difficulties to find the murderer?

This is the third book in Malla Nunn’s Emmanuel Cooper series. Cooper is an interesting character, a man of contradictions who lives in the netherworld between the highly segregated social structures separating those in the native culture from those in power. He must not only face the difficulties of a murder investigation, but fight the rigid rules of this society to succeed. The reader is transported to this alternate world, and learns about native culture as well as the strictures of apartheid. The plotting is well-done, and the eventual unmasking of the murderer is a surprise that will have readers eager for more of Cooper’s adventures. This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Wrath Of Angels by John Connolly

Charlie Parker's new client comes to him with an intriguing tale.  Her father confessed a story to her on his deathbed.  He and his best friend got lost in the woods while hunting.  They found a crashed plane deep in the woods that had been there for years.  There were no bodies, but a satchel of money was there along with papers, specifically, a list of names.  The men took the money but left the paperwork, hoping if the owners ever discovered the plane they would be mollified by that and not come looking for the thieves.  The plane was not found, nor was there any news stories of a missing plane or pilot.  The men spent the money over the years but now wanted to make amends.

As Charlie starts to research the story, he quickly realises that this is tied to his life work of discovering and defeating an organization of evil.  It is a group of fallen angels, and it is a testament to Connolly's skill that the reader is willing to believe that such a group exists.  The participants leave a trail of murder and broken lives, including the murder years before of Parker's wife and child.  Parker realises that the list is the prize that the group desires and knows he must get to it before they do.

Thus the lines are drawn.  On Parker's side are his team members, Louis and Angel, violent men who watch his back and that he trusts with his life.  Tangential help is supplied by two men who are not friends, but who also fight the same enemy.  One is a Jewish rabbi surrounded by bodyguards to protect him as he works against the fallen angels.  The other is an ancient lawyer whose firm stays out of the spotlight but maintains files on those involved.  On the other side is a scarred, formerly beautiful woman with a child who is abnormal, and The Backers, who lead the group.  Stalking them is a serial killer known as The Collector. 

All these disparate individuals race against time and each other to find the plane and the list of those whose names are essential to the organization's ultimate success.  The suspense is drawn tighter and tighter as they all come together in one last attempt to end their war.

The Wrath Of Angels is the eleventh book in the Charlie Parker series.  I had not read the others but didn't feel at a loss as enough backstory was supplied that the reader doesn't feel list.  The book has a menacing undertone that is racketed tighter and tighter as the book progresses.  None of the characters are totally good, although it is clear that Parker's team is fighting for the common good.  This is a superb thriller and is recommended for both mystery and paranormal fans,

Sunday, March 10, 2013

In One Person by John Irving

In One Person is the story of William Abbott's life.  An author now nearing seventy, Bill or Billy as most knows him, looks back over his life and thinks about the influences that have made him the man he is today.  Bill is a bisexual man, and his life growing up in Vermont was spent coming to terms with his differences.

There is a wide cast of characters.  Billy's father is absent and he has no memory of him.  His male influences are his cross-dressing grandfather and his stepfather, ten years younger than his mother.  He has a domineering grandmother and aunt, and a rebellious lesbian cousin.  Bill attends an all-male academy, from which his closest friends come.  Elaine is a faculty daughter as Billy is a faculty son.  They have a close, sustaining relationship.  There is Tom, who has a crush on Billy, and who later becomes his first male lover.  There is Kittredge, a swaggering athlete, impossibly beautiful, who Billy adores and fears in equal measure.

Then there is the town librarian, Miss Frost.  She recognizes Bill's intellectual curiosity and becomes his friend, guiding his reading and shoring up his self-esteem.  Bill loves her and not just platonically.  When as a senior, their friendship progresses to the physical, it turns out that Miss Frost was formally Al Frost, a former wrestling star at the academy.  After leaving school, Al became the transgender Miss Frost.

The book follows Billy's life.  It explores the AIDS epidemic, which takes many of Billy's friends and lovers,  It explores his relationship with both male and female lovers.  Finally, it documents Bill's creation of his own family of choice.  He realises that what he needs cannot be found 'in one person' and takes what he can from those around him to carve out a satisfactory life.

I am a huge Irving fan.  Many of the motifs seen in other books are here; the New England setting, the wrestling background, and the offbeat characters striving for validation in a world where they are different from the mainstream.  Billy is a strong character, refusing to feel like less of a person because of his differences.  Characterization is one of Irving's strengths along with his championing of those who are different.  This book is recommended for Irving fans  and for those interested in self-actualization.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A Thousand Pardons by Jonathan Dee

Ben and Helen Armstead are living a perfect suburban life.  Ben is a lawyer while Helen is a stay at home mom to their teenage daughter, Sara.  This world falls apart, though, when Ben admits he is terminally bored and ends up creating a scandal that makes retaining any part of their lives untenable.

Left to support herself and Sara, Helen manages to find a job in the city in public relations.  Soon she is known for her specialty; helping clients move past their own scandals by publicly admitting blame for their actions and asking for forgiveness.  Helen is promoted and is in vogue; anyone with a scandal wants her at their side. 

As she becomes consumed by her career, Sara starts to go off the tracks.  When Helen takes Sara to a movie premiere, she reconnects with her earlier life and finds herself seated by the movie's leading man, Hamilton Barth.  She and Hamilton grew up in the same little town, but had not seen each other in years, and Hamilton actually doesn't remember Helen.  But when he finds himself caught up in a scandal, he remembers her new career and calls her in.  Can Helen handle Barth's problem, and if so, at what cost to herself and Sara?

Jonathan Dee has written an intriguing novel about how humans handle their mistakes.  We all need a pardon eventually for some hasty, misbegotten action, or some expedient action meant to solve an issue that instead makes it worse.  We all have to make decisions about when and if to pardon those who have wronged us.  Dee explores this situation with deft understanding.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction, and those interested in the human condition.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Jack Absolute by C.C. Humphreys

It is the start of the American Revolutionary War, and spirits are high in England.  Surely this will be a short war as the British have the premier army in the world.  Jack Absolute, former Captain, is in London for only a short time before he heads to the Indies to try to restore his family's fortunes.  He is dismayed on his short trip to discover that his playwright friend, Richard Sheridan, has written a play about Absolute's life and loves and that he is the talk of the town.

Jack finds himself caught up in a duel over the favors of an actress in the play.  When the duel turns from a fight with honor to an assassination attempt, he flees and is rescued by his old general, Burgoyne.  In return, he asks Jack to re-enlist and serve his King and country once again with his fighting and intelligence skills.  Against his best judgement, Jack agrees.

The book follows Jack's adventures in America fighting against the Colonials.  There are spies within the top councils of the General, and Jack's job is to ferret them out.  There are allies from Germany, organizations such as the Illuminati whose loyalty is at question, beautiful women, and battles and military missions.  Jack's blood brother, the Iroquois Ate, fights by his side.  Will Jack be successful or will these be his last battles?

This is a rollicking historical fiction with a larger than life figure.  Absolute is many things; a rogue, a lover of beautiful women, a master spy and fighting machine.  Above all, he is a man of honor and a character the reader will fall in love with.  My first reaction after turning the last page was to immediately order more novels about Jack and his adventures.  The viewpoint of the American Revolution from the British standpoint was intriguing and unexpected.  This book is recommended for readers of historical and military fiction.