Greetings from The Raven!

Dec. 7, 2016

The Monet Murders by Terry Mort

 

My thanks to my contacts at Pegasus Books, Iris Blasi, Katie McGuire, and Maia Larson, for my advance reading copy of this book. You ladies rock!

Hollywood, 1934. The Nation has shrugged off the uncomfortable bonds that were Prohibition. Bruno Feldspar is a hard boiled Private Eye with a storied past. For example, his name isn’t Bruno Feldspar. Riley Fitzhugh assumes identities as he needs them, discarding the old ones as he goes. To interact with art professor Dennis “Bunny” Finch-Hayden, Fitzhugh becomes the more upper crust sounding Thomas Parke D’Invilliers.

Riley is working for two clients. Manny Stairs, real name Shlomo Rabinowitz, (hey, this is Hollywood, remember!) wants Riley to find a girl who is a exact physical match to his dead girlfriend. Riley has been hired ($25 dollars a day plus expenses) to trace a lost Monet which was stolen and replaced with a fake.

I actually enjoyed the book for a while, but the clichés just do not seem to stop. Since it is Hollywood 1934 there has to be the requisite “casting couch” references. It wouldn’t be hardboiled without a shady side to the detective, so we learn he’s been involved in at least two under the table deals.

One was undercover with the FBI, but had all gone to Riley’s plan he would have stolen the proceeds. This may be the one original point in the whole book! Mort misses the opportunity to build on this momentum…

There are the gambling ships anchored off the three mile limit, cigarette girls, Jewish gangsters, Italian gangsters, a touch of the Chicago mob and so on. Then there is the game of bed swapping that involves the PI and several women. It’s been done before, yeah?

I’m having a bit of trouble finding an original idea. The murders would be fine if about half of the cliché stuff were trimmed away. No, it isn’t a unique case, but the presentation could have been salvaged. It is sad that in the end, I lost interest in this book.

I give the book two stars…

Quoth the Raven…

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Dec. 3, 2016

My Peculiar Family edited by Les Rosenthal and Derrick Belanger

 

My thanks go out to Derrick Belanger of Belanger Books, Ltd for my review copy of this collection! Thanks a lot, my friend!

Have you ever thought of shaking your Family Tree but were afraid of the nuts that might fall from it? That is the premise of this delightful collection of horror, mystery, and the downright macabre. Chastity Willingham Dinsdale has a bundle of stories from her ancestors; uncles, aunts, siblings, and cousins removed—but never far enough!

Some of the tales are mysteries concerning family members who perhaps vanished without explanation, or were covering a secret that only now can be revealed. Some of the tales are bone chilling horror, people who have faced choices and fates that are terrifying. Some tales fall into the category of just plain weird, inexplicable stories that shouldn’t exist about experiences and events that defy attempts to sort them out.

There are nineteen authors represented in this volume. Their stories vary, some told second or third person and some first person accounts. If I pointed out anything it would be how the stories make a very cohesive volume. There are no stories that do not fit the given theme. They are all individual accounts, but each story tells a part of the bigger story, the Dinsdale Family Tree.

If I chose one story as the prize of the anthology, it would be “Crownshield’s Apothecary” by Rob Watts. Watts gives us the tale of Calvin Crownshield, a man with a past that catches up to him in the end.

 Crownshield has atoned for past sins and has had the good fortune to marry and rise above his plebian roots. But what one man can hide, another man may discover. Sometimes in an attempt to dig your way out of a hole; you just dig your own grave…

I give this excellent anthology five stars…

Quoth the Raven…

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Nov. 25, 2016

Sherlock Holmes and a Hole in the Devil’s Tail by Viktor Messick

My thanks to Steve and Timi at MX Publishing for my review copy of this book. May Undershaw stand forever!

“The Devil’s Tail” is a narrow, twisting alley sometimes used by passersby to reach McGeady Street in Merton. A Mr. Richard Cockright was murdered there in his office. Cockright was a lawyer by trade.

The difficulty of this case is determining just how the murderer got in and out of the room. There seems to be no discernible secret entrance, but Holmes is certain that one is there. Curiously, there is a hole in the Devil’s Tail across from the back wall of Cockright’s office…

Meanwhile, there is another series of murders taking place. The so-called “Tarot Master” has been dropping bodies, seemingly at random, each marked with a Tarot card from a certain deck. The cards are linked to the method of murder. Stabbed victims are marked by the suite of swords, blunt force trauma victims by the suite of staves, and poison victims by the suite of cups.

Worse, the “Tarot Master” has actually contacted Holmes to dare the detective to catch him! The “Tarot Master” tells Holmes in advance there will be further victims. Cockright’s murder has no Tarot card with the body, and yet Holmes sees a connection between the cases. Even Watson wonders if the Great Detective is off his game for once…

I found the story to be a nice little mystery. There are twists, turns, and trails that run cold. A number of suspects are mentioned, and Holmes weighs the evidence with a scale that can find differences in weight to a microscopic degree. For Holmes the Devil is in the details which might just point back to a hole in the Devil’s Tail…

I give the book four stars. Unfortunately the pace varies, almost reaching a standstill at times. Overall, the book does have a real mystery and is within plausible limitations.

Quoth the Raven…

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Nov. 14, 2016

The Detective and the Woman by Amy Thomas

My thanks to Steve and Timi at MX Publishing for my review copy of this book. May Undershaw stand forever as a beacon in remembrance of the creator of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle!

Possible spoilers, but I really strive only to whet the appetite…

Irene Adler, you may recall, was married to Godfrey Norton at the end of “A Scandal in Bohemia.” Now it seems that their marriage turned out badly. Unfortunately, Godfrey Norton proved to be a cruel man who married Irene for her fortune. Unknown to her, Godfrey had inherited a large estate which required her fortune to keep it shipshape.

Godfrey Norton died suddenly of a heart attack, and Irene was again free. She went back to her singing career, successfully turning cities in the United States. Her latest engagement is in Orlando, Florida, where she runs into Sherlock Holmes…

Holmes is supposed to be dead, killed at Reichenbach Falls. But Mycroft has discovered a plot against Irene Adler, by the duo of her lawyer James Barnett and would-be citrus grove magnate Alberto Sanchez. So Sherlock Holmes is dispatched to Florida to renew his acquaintance with The Woman…

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, the first in a series by Amy Thomas starring Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler. The plot has many twists and turns and is full of intrigue, danger, and a budding relationship between two former foes…

I give the book five stars!

Quoth the Raven…

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Nov. 13, 2016

Storm Cell by Brendan Dubois

My thanks to my contacts at Pegasus Books, Iris Blasi, Katie McGuire, and Maia Larson, for my advance reading copy of this book. You ladies rock!

As the book opens, Lewis Cole is a recently unemployed journalist who is attending the murder trial of his friend, Felix Tinos. Cole has returned to his home at Tyler Beach, NH. Due to the efforts of his friends, his home has been rebuilt following a destructive fire.

Cole is certain that Felix is innocent of the charges, even though circumstantial evidence is against his friend. A man named Fletcher Moore was found shot to death in an empty third floor apartment. The dead man was shot with a nine millimeter automatic, found beneath his body. The gun belonged to Moore, and his fingerprints are on the gun and in the apartment…

Moore has been in trouble before, and has a reputation of being a man who pushes the line between what is legal and what is not. He is usually represented by Boston lawyer Raymond Drake, but he is inexplicably absent. His current lawyer, Hollis Spinelli, seems unconcerned about getting his client released.

When Cole questions Hollis’ handling of the case; he finds himself threatened by a tough young man who threatens to burn his house down again. Two mysterious FBI Agents approach Cole, stating that he needs to keep Felix out of prison—or else!

The action moves smoothly and the various twists and turns show the difference between what seems to have happened and the truth of the matter. I liked the story a lot!

I give the book four stars!

Quoth the Raven…

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