Monday, February 28, 2022

Come With Me by Ronald Malfi


Aaron and Allison Decker have a good life.  Aaron translates Japanese novels into English and Allison is a reporter.  They have a great marriage and are content.  That is, until the day Allison walks out to meet a source and walks into a man who has picked this day to kill his parents, his ex-girlfriend and anyone standing near.  Allison is one of the victims and her death leaves Aaron reeling.

A few months later, he finally has the strength to go through the box containing her belongings from work.  He is surprised to see a receipt from a hotel in another state and as he thinks back realizes that he was out of town himself on a work assignment.  Why did Allison go to a hotel in some little town he had never heard of?  Was she having an affair?

Aaron decides to look into it.  What he discovers is more life shaking than an affair.  Allison was tracking a serial killer, one who had claimed victims all along the Eastern Seaboard and who had remained invisible.  Even more shocking, Allison's sister, who she had told Aaron had drowned, was one of the first victims.  Did Aaron know Allison at all?  Was their whole life based on a lie?

Ronald Malfi has written a novel that besides being a mystery, asks the question can we ever really know anyone, even those we love?  Do we really want to know the secrets that our partners choose to keep or will they shatter the relationship?  They mystery is solid and the characters that Aaron meets in his search are portrayed well.  The impetus for the novel is a random shooting in a newsroom in which Malfi's friend was killed a few years ago and the randomness and grief that such an event leaves behind is well written.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Shock Wave by John Sandford


When Willard Pye decided that a Minnesota river town would be a great location for his next megastore, not everyone was happy about it.  Small business owners in the town worried that the new store would undercut their prices and put them out of business.  The environmentalists and fisherman worried that runoff from the huge parking lots would ruin the rivers and the kill the fish.  At first the town council was leaning against approval but suddenly the vote went through and several members changed their vote and the store was on.

A common story but this one was about to take an unusual turn.  A bomb was sent to the Pye headquarters and only the tardiness of a meeting kept it from being a massacre although a secretary was killed.  That happened in Michigan but when a second bomb at the construction site in Minnesota killed a construction supervisor, Minnesota police got involved.  Virgil Flowers, a state investigator, was sent to capture the bomber before anyone else got killed.

Virgil started talking to everyone he found but he wasn't in time.  The bomber kept on setting off bombs and the death rate kept rising.  Can Virgil find the bomber?

This is the fifth Virgil Flowers novel.  Virgil is much more laidback than Sandford's other detective, Lucas Davenport, who is Flowers' boss.  He moseys around, talking to everyone and narrowing down his suspicions until he finds the killer.  This novel has lots of twists and turns and readers will enjoy following along.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Saturday, February 26, 2022

I Am Not Who You Think I Am by Eric Rickstad


When Wayland Maynard is eight years old, he sees something no child should see.  He is sent home from school sick and when he arrives there, sees his father's truck in the driveway.  Curious as to why his father would be home during the day, Wayland goes in just in time to see his father shoot himself in the face with a shotgun.

Eight years later, Wayland's life has never recovered.  His mother, who had been a stay at home mom, now has to work two jobs to keep them fed.  His younger sister has gone off the rails, dating a bum who has managed to get her pregnant already.  Wayland is a loner at school, the other kids leaving him alone due to the tragedy.  He has one friend, Clay, a jock who Wayland befriended when Clay moved to town.

One day as Wayland is sitting on his bed, a revelation comes to him.  The man who shot himself had feet that dangled from the bed rather than reaching the floor.  Wayland's dad was tall and that should never had happened.  Wayland pulls out the note he never has told anyone he found that day.  It still says the same thing, "I am Not Who You Think I Am".  He puzzles about what that could mean.  Eight year old Wayland had no resources to investigate the death but sixteen year old Wayland is determined to find out all he can about the death.  With the help of Clay and a new girl at school, Juliette, Wayland starts to dig into the case and everything he finds deepens the mystery.  Can he find the truth after all this time?

Eric Rickstad has written a mystery that grabs the reader on the first page and propels them along.  Wayland is sympathetic and the author has captured the thoughts and actions of a teenage boy caught in misery and determined to find the truth.  The passages between Wayland and Juliette as they explore their new relationship are particularly well written.  This book is recommended for mystery fans.

Friday, February 25, 2022

Space Opera by Catherynne Valente


When the aliens arrive on Earth, it's not like the dire warnings of science fiction.  They come with a proposition.  Although they consider humans to be woefully simple, they are inviting the race to enter this years intergalactic singing competition, the Metagalactic Grand Prix, sort of a Eurovision grown huge.  If they place, the humans will be recognized as valid members of the universe.  If they place dead last, total annihilation of the entire race.

The aliens come with a list of singers they consider valid for the competition.  Unfortunately, most on the list are dead or too ancient to perform.  But there is one group still around.  The British pop group, Decibel Jones and the Absolute Zeros are still alive and still relatively young.  But there's issues.  Of the three members, only two are still alive and they haven't spoken in more than a decade.  Still, the future of the human race is at stake so they agree to the plan.

Once on the planet where the competition is held, Decibel and his partner, Oort St. Ultraviolet, face other issues.  The first is just wrapping their heads around the enormous number of other species and their appearances and actions.  The second is coming up with a competition song after years of inactivity.  The third is surviving the pre-competition maneuvers where killing your competition is considered a perfectly valid strategy.  Can the group make it to the competition and save Earth?

Catherynne Valente has written an over the top, zany space book with interesting characters and a plot that will delight fans of the Eurovision competition.  This book is recommended for science fiction readers.

Sunday, February 20, 2022

Anxious People by Fredrick Bachman


The bank robber isn't really evil.  After being turned down for a loan, they just want enough money to make the rent so they don't lose their apartment and their daughters in the divorce settlement.  But it doesn't go well.  The bank they chose was a moneyless bank and had no cash.  Fleeing, the robber ran into an apartment building next door and ended up in a top floor apartment where there was a real estate listing.  Running in with a gun probably gave the wrong impression and before they knew it, they had an apartment full of hostages.

They are the worst hostages ever. There is a retired couple that spends their lives buying apartments, renovating them and reselling them.  A gay couple is about to have a baby.  There is a rich woman who thinks she is better than all of them.  There is an older woman patiently waiting on her husband who is parking the car.  There is even a man who is mostly nude with a rabbit head who takes jobs scaring off potential buyers.  Each has their individual stories and problems which puts them at odds with the others.

Then there are the police.  The pair that are handling the situation are father and son.  The son is full of modern ideas and thinks his father is holding him back.  The father loves his son and isn't sure what to do at work with him.  As the situation develops, it may provide an avenue for the two to find some peace.

This novel got lots of buzz.  It was a Book Of The Month Selection and chosen by various media outlets such as the Washington Post, CNN, the New York Post and others.  The characters are well developed and the plot which at the beginning seems to be a lot of tangled threads ends up well-knit into a satisfying conclusion.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Friday, February 18, 2022

If I Had Two Lives by A.B. Whelen


Vicky Collins has the perfect life she has worked for.  Three months ago she was transferred to the FBI which has been her career goal.  She is in a long-term relationship with a man she loves and has a wonderful family and friends.  But all of that changes the day her supervisor calls her into his office.

During a routine DNA check in a case, Vicky was identified as a sibling of the person being investigated.  It appears that he is a brother that she never knew she had.  But the FBI sees it as her falsifying her job application and puts her on leave.

Vicky goes to her parents' house immediately but her mother denies that they had another child that they put out for adoption. Are her parents lying to her?  Have they always been? Things continue to get worse when it appears that this supposed sibling may be tied to the serial killer investigation Vicky and her partner had been working on.  Can she get the truth?

A. B. Whelan has written a fast paced thriller that will engage the reader.  There are lots of twists and turns in the book, some foreseen and some that are a total surprise.  Vicky learns what is important to her when it all is about to be taken away.  This book is recommended for mystery readers. 

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Booksie's Shelves, February 17, 2022


Mid-February and it's going to be 72 today in North Carolina.  My daffodils are about to burst into bloom and I have high hopes for the new forsythia bush we planted.  Those cheery yellow blooms scream renewal and better weather ahead.  I've been busy reading and buying more books!  Here's what's come through the door:

  1. Home So Far Away, Judith Berlowitz, historical fiction, sent by publicist
  2. Unmasked, Paul Holes, true crime, sent by publicist
  3. The Quaker, Liam McIlvanney, mystery, purchased
  4. Gun Love, Jennifer Clement, literary fiction, purchased
  5. Those Who Knew, Idra Noey, literary fiction, purchased
  6. Call Me Zebra, Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi, literary fiction, purchased
  7. The Australian, Emma Smith-Stevens, literary fiction, purchased
  8. Destroy All Monsters, Jeff Jackson, literary fiction, purchased
  9. Fast Friends, Jill Mansell, women's fiction, purchased
  10. Sympathy, Olivia Sudjic, literary fiction, purchased
  11. Sorry To Disrupt The Peace, Patty Yumi Cottrell, literary fiction, purchased
  12. The Floating World, C. Morgan Babst, literary fiction, purchased
  13. Lost Empress, Sergio De La Pava, literary fiction, purchased
Ebooks I've bought:
  1. Necessary As Blood, Deborah Crombie, mystery
  2. Nemesis, Jo Nesbo, mystery
  3. The Magnus, John Fowles, literary fiction
  4. All My Puny Sorrows, Miriam Toews, literary fiction
  5. Broken Monsters, Lauren Buekes, literary fiction
  6. The Killing Boys, Luke Delaney, mystery
  7. Throne Of Glass Bundle, Sarah Maas, fantasy
  8. Portents Of Chaos, K.C. Julius, fantasy
  9. Murder In Little Shendon, A.H. Richardson, mystery
  10. Oh William!, Elizabeth Strout, literary fiction
  11. A Lesson In Dying, Ann Cleeves, mystery
  12. The Forest Of Stolen Girls, Jane Hur, literary fiction
  13. The Raven Spell, Luanne G. Smith, fantasy
  14. The Devil And The Dark Water, Stuart Turton, mystery
  15. Here And Now And Then, Mike Chen, science fiction
  16. The Locked Door, Freida McFadden, mystery
  17. Women Talking, Miriam Toews, literary fiction
  18. The Quiet People, Paul Cleve, mystery
  19. Collecting Cooper, Paul Cleve, mystery
  20. Whatever It Takes, Paul Cleve, mystery
  21. Empress Of Forever, Max Gladstone, fantasy
  22. Dialogues Of The Dead, Reginald Hill, mystery
  23. In The Lake Of The Woods, Tim O'Brien, literary fiction
  24. Harrow The Ninth, Tamsyn Muir, fantasy
  25. Final Girls, Riley Sager, mystery
  26. Skin Game, Jim Butcher, science fiction
  27. A Hard Ticket Home, David Housewright, mystery
  28. Wizard's Rise, Phillip Tomasso, fantasy
  29. Edge Of The Grave, Robbie Morrison, mystery
  30. Kingfall, David Estes, fantasy
  31. Mort, Terry Prachett, fantasy
  32. The Hidden Place, Helen Wecker, fantasy
  33. D, Michael Faber, literary fiction
  34. The Comfort Of Monsters, Willa Richards, mystery
  35. A Bird In The Hand, Ann Cleeves, mystery
  36. Dragonfly Falling, Adrian Tchaikovsky, fantasy
  37. Battle Ground, Jim Butcher, science fiction
  38. The Angel's Mark, S.W. Perry, mystery
  39. The Defense, Steve Cavanaugh, legal thriller
  40. Salmon Fishing In The Yemen, Paul Torday, literary fiction
  41. Master Of Poisons, Andrea Hairston, fantasy
  42. Legendborn, Tracy Deonn, fantasy
  43. Dark Is The Grave, DG Reid, mystery
  44. The General's Daughter, Nelson DeMille, legal thriller
  45. Death In The Sunshine, Steph Broadribb, mystery
  46. Like Me, Haley Phelan, mystery
  47. Give Me Your Hand, Megan Abbott, mystery
  48. Body Parts, Caitlin Rother, true crime
  49. Some Of The Best Of Tor, 2020, anthology, science fiction
  50. Some Of The Best Of Tor, 2016, anthology, science fiction
  51. Some Of The Best Of Tor, 2019, anthology, science fiction
  52. Some Of The Best Of Tor, 2021, anthology, science fiction
  53. The French Lieutenant's Woman, John Fowles, literary fiction
  54. A Man Called Ove, Fredrick Bachman, literary fiction
Here's what I'm reading:
  1. Gideon The Ninth, Tamsyn Muir, hardback
  2. The Night Swim, Megan Goldin, Kindle
  3. Anxious People, Fredrick Bachman, Kindle
  4. The Last Dickens, Matthew Pearl, historical fiction
  5. The Moral Lives Of Animals, Dale Petersen, nonfiction
Happy Reading!


Private investigator Roland Ford has settled into a routine life.  Still gutted by the death of his wife in a plane crash, he rents out the villas on his ranch in California to friends and relatives and just lives life, taking easy cases when he gets bored.  Then a friend from the past, Lindsay Rakes comes to him with a problem.  She has been receiving threatening letters and is getting scared.  She doesn't want to go to the police because she is in the midst of a custody fight with her ex-husband over her young son.

Ford moves Lindsay into one of the villas and starts to investigate.  Some years before, Lindsay was in the military and her job was as a drone operator.  Along with two others, they targeted and dropped bombs on terrorist targets in the Middle East.  Lindsay has checked with her teammates and both of them have also received the same threatening letters.  She asks Ford for help and he reluctantly agrees.

But Ford knows his limits.  He knows he needs more help and contacts Joan Taucher, an FBI agent he knows who is focused on stopping the next terrorist attack before it happens.  She has never forgotten that some of the 9/11 terrorists learned to fly in Santa Barbara.  Together they start to investigate and learn that the drone team had made a mistake that cost the lives of nine doctors and nurses.  Could this be a relative of one of those innocent victims?  Then one of the drone team is found beheaded which ups the stakes considerably.  Can they find the killer before he finds Lindsay?

This is the second novel in the Roland Ford series.  Parker has created an investigator who is a sympathetic character.  There are interesting side characters in the friends and relatives who live on Ford's spread and the investigation is fast and furious.  This book is recommended for thriller readers.

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

The General's Daughter by Nelson DeMille


When military investigator Paul Renner gets the call, he knows it will be trouble.  He's investigated plenty of murders in his time, but this victim is the general's daughter, Anne Campbell.  She has been found, nude, spreadeagled and staked out, strangled.  It's the kind of case that can't help but be sensational and sensational always means trouble.

Renner had been on the base undercover with another case.  The other outside investigator there to investigate a rape, is Cynthia, a woman Paul had an affair with overseas about a year ago.  He is not happy to be paired with her again nor to find himself on the outside where he can't trust or use the normal resources since everyone on base is a suspect until proven otherwise.

Anne Campbell was the Army's dream girl.  She had been through West Point at the top of her class, then pursued higher education and was a psychologist specializing in mental warfare.  Anne is gorgeous and is on the Army's recruiting posters as an icon.  Who would want to kill her?

As Paul and Cynthia investigate, they discover that almost everyone who knew her had a motive.  Anne was a femme fatale, sleeping her way through the general's staff, seducing and throwing away men with abandon.  Far from embracing her father, she hated him and did everything she could to embarrass him.  What lies behind her actions?

This is the first in the Paul Renner series.  It was written a little over twenty years ago, and some of the attitudes and statements about women are outdated.  But the mystery is sharp and interesting and as the truth is revealed bit by bit, the reader will remain entranced.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Sunday, February 13, 2022

The Children's Book by A. S. Byatt


This extended saga follows the lives of the Wellwood family in Victorian times up through WW I.  The Wellwoods live in the country and are artists.  Olive writes children's books while Humphrey writes political articles and they delight in putting on plays with their large family of children and friends.  A famous potter lives nearby and other friends are jewelry makers, artists, puppeteers and sculptors.  The eldest son along with a friend whose father runs the soon to be opened Victoria and Albert museum find a runaway boy hiding in the workshops below the exhibits.  They take the boy, Philip, home and he becomes an apprentice of the potter.  Other families in the surrounding area related or not work in business or teaching.  

But there are secrets in the family and friends.  As the children get older they discover that both their mother and father have various illicit relationships and the children are not all full siblings.  Some are, while some have Olive as a mother but someone else as a father and others have Humphrey as a father with a different mother.  This causes some consternation but the family continues as the children grow.  Other women are seduced outside of marriage in a time that still regarded children born out of wedlock with suspicion but each seems to find peace within this artistic community.  The children grow and start to decide what will be their lifework.  Some of these decisions are approved by their parents and others are not.  

This book was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2009 and it is a marvelous novel.  The stories are interesting and entwined and the reader will delight in watching the children grow up and make their own lives.  There is the rise of art noveau and the Paris Exhibition that highlights this trend, there is the rise of socialism which appeals to some of the younger characters and there is the foreboding of war.  All in all, this is one of the most satisfying reads I've had lately.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.  

Saturday, February 12, 2022

Perpetual West by Mesha Maren


Alex and Elena grew up in West Virginia.  Elena's family had lived there for years but Alex was adopted as a baby by local residents who had gone to Mexico as missionaries.  They got close in college and married, sure that each had found their soulmate.  Restless, the couple came up with the plan to move to El Paso so that Alex could try to investigate his origins.

The two entered graduate programs in Texas.  Alex decided to write his thesis on lucha libra, the wrestling industry that so enchanted the population.  The wrestlers are idolized and are like rock stars.  Alex didn't expect to fall in love with Mateo and Elena has no idea that Alex has drifted from her and their relationship.

When Elena goes home for a week for a family issue, Alex takes the opportunity to spend the week in Mexico with Mateo.  But Mateo has his own issues.  He is caught up in a struggle within the industry and the drug cartel wants to move in and take the contracts of the top wrestlers.  Mateo and Alex are kidnapped and taken to the home of the cartel head.

When Elena returns, she begins to search for Alex.  She quickly learns how little of his life she knew and she thinks of all the secrets she had been hiding from him.  Did they know each other at all?  Was their marriage ever anymore than a convenience to propel them out of West Virginia?  As she travels through Mexico looking for him, Elena meets many people who help in their own ways but she has no success.

Mesha Maren has written one other novel, Sugar Run.  In this novel, she explores the loneliness we all carry and the difficulty in breaking down the barriers and letting others know our secrets.  The reader will feel the desperation and despair that Elena feels as she searches and Alex's terror as he contemplates where his secrets have brought him.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

The Spider And The Fly by Claudia Rowe


In September 1998, Poughkeepsie police made a startling discovery.  They had been aware of Kendell Francois, a huge man who associated with prostitutes and sometimes harmed them.  Women had reported him for trying to strangle them or beating them.  He had been brought in several times but not charged.  But on this day, when another prostitute made a complaint, Kendell had apparently had enough.  He confessed to the police that he had killed some of the women and that their bodies could be found in his house where he lived with his parents and younger sister.

It was a grisly scene.  Some of the bodies had been there for two years.  The house was filthy with rotting food, piled up trash and an odor beyond description.  How had this family lived like this?  Kendell was arrested and the removal began.  At his trial, Kendell was sentenced to life in prison.

Claudia Rowe was also living in Poughkeepsie.  She had been a staff reporter for a newspaper and after moving to upstate New York with her boyfriend, a stringer for the city papers.  She was fascinated with the story and wanted to understand what went on in the mind of someone like Kendell.  She started a correspondence with him that lasted for the next four years, eventually going to see him in prison a few times.

Rowe was in a bad stage of her own life.  Her boyfriend was dominating, something she had not really realized.  She was drawn to the dark side of things perhaps because she suspected that she had unresolved issues.  Although many asked her to stop her association with Francois warning that it was dangerous, she continued although he routinely frightened her.  But underneath she could see a different man he could have been if things had gone differently and that drew her to him.

This book was written by Rowe and details her journey of self-exploration as she learns more about the murderer.  Her association with him eventually gave her the ability to break away, not only from Francois' story but from her doomed relationship and start a new, happier life elsewhere.  While this book is marketed as true crime, it is more a journal of resolving past experiences and finding the courage to live in a different way.  This book is recommended for true crime readers.

Monday, February 7, 2022

33 Women by Isabel Ashdown


Celine and her sister Pip have come to town to arrange their mother's funeral and clear out her belongings.  They hadn't spent much time there as their mother always put whatever man was around before her children.  Celine and Pip can't help but notice the gap inside that is caused by their sister who is gone.  Vanessa's murdered body was found here years ago but the murder was never solved.

Along with Una, their retired police friend, the sisters decide it's time once and for all to find some answers.  There is renewed police interest in Vanessa's case because a local woman, Robin, has been recently found murdered and both women had the same tattoo.  Robin lived at and was a member of a women's commune called Two Cross Farm.  The commune shelters women who have had hard lives but has very strict rules, allowing no possessions and requiring total obedience and work.  The commune has determined that thirty-three women is the right number of women for the membership to have.  

Celine and Una believe that the commune is involved somehow as are the police.  One of the commune's basic rules is that no men are allowed so the two are grudgingly accepted instead as the police representatives.  They find a few tantalizing clues about Robin's fate and it turns out that their sister had lived there as well.  Can the three women find the answers they have looked for all these years?

Isabel Ashdown has written a page-turning mystery with lots of twists and turns.  There is a thick layer of secrecy at the commune and it takes various methods to break through to the truth after all these years.  There are some extra threads that could have been omitted such as Pip's marriage and its breakdown but overall the story is engaging.  I listened to this novel and the narrator did a great job.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Thursday, February 3, 2022

The Confession by John Grisham

 Keith Schroder, minister in a small town in Kansas, had a routine life.  He gave sermons, counseled his flock, visited the sick and grieving, performed funerals and weddings.  He thought he had seen most of life until the day Travis Boyette walked in and asked to see him.  

Travis had a huge confession to make.  Nine years ago, he had kidnapped, raped and killed Nicole Yarber, a seventeen year old cheerleader in Sloan, Texas.  Now he had an inoperable brain tumor and didn't have long to live so he wanted to set things straight.  Keith wasn't sure he believed him but was willing to listen.  The police had arrested a black teenager named Donte Drumm.  After hours in a police interrogation room, Donte had confessed and that confession put him on death row even though he renounced it the next day.  Now he was to be executed in a few days time.

Keith asked for proof.  Travis said he could take law enforcement to the grave and showed Keith what he said was Nicole's class ring that he wore around his neck.  Keith started to make phone calls.  Donte's lawyer, Robbie Flask, was working hard that week to try to stay the execution.  He didn't believe Keith's story at first but when Keith said he would bring Travis to Sloan, Robbie thought it might be the key to stopping Donte's death.  Along with that, the only witness at the trial was about to recant as well.  Could a minister and a lawyer find a way to stop a terrible miscarriage of justice?

John Grisham has written a heart-stopping novel about a race against time to stop an injustice.  Grisham was a lawyer for over a decade, writing before and after work until his books started selling.  Now he is a bestselling author and this book is one of the reasons.  It explores all the facets of a death penalty trial and the appeal work afterwards as well as the effects an execution has on all who know the victim and the accused.  This book is recommended for legal thriller readers.