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Posts tagged ‘mystery’

Excerpt: ‘LOCAL AUTHOR APOLOGIZES FOR MAKING VIXEN IN NOVEL TOO MUCH LIKE NEIGHBORHOOD VIXEN’

Here’s a brief excerpt from Special Investigative Reporter:

“When he got to the office, the clerk at the information desk told him Marcus wanted him to cover the Cane Molasses press conference over at the Main Street Book Emporium. He (Jock) would know that already if he bothered to answer his phone. Cash had, apparently, left for the day when a police officer located the pickup truck at his house. (The receptionist said she didn’t know whose house she was talking about.)

“After the press conference, he went home and slapped together a news story while waiting for a goat cheese and anchovy pizza to arrive:

 

LOCAL AUTHOR APOLOGIZES FOR MAKING VIXEN IN NOVEL TOO MUCH LIKE NEIGHBORHOOD VIXEN

Cane Molasses apologized at a hastily called press conference here this afternoon to “any and all women” who believe they are or might be the Judy Miracle character in his prize-winning 2008 novel Miracle on 35th Street.

Molasses called the press conference and book signing at the Main Street Book Emporium after an unidentified woman accosted him at his home this morning and accused him of basing the Miracle character on secrets she told him when they stopped for drinks on the way home from an AA meeting.

“I’m involved with dozens of women a year for research purposes,” said Molasses, “and all of them are well compensated. Miracle is a composite character based on Carl Jung’s reformed hooker archetype which is extensively described in his collected works.”

Molasses told the crowd of some 500 adoring fans and one heckler that Miracle is a beautiful fictional character who sees the light just in time to be buried in a high-brow cemetery on 35th Street. While many of his fans purportedly model their lives on Miracle’s story, it was not his intent to suggest Miracle is either every woman or any specific woman.

According to Police Sergeant Wayne Bismarck, nobody was seen leaving the Kroger Store on Edwards Street wearing a sack over their head “any time in recent memory.”

-30-

 

As he finished the story, the pizzeria called and apologized for not sending out the pizza he wanted. Apparently, everyone who tried to make such a thing got sick. He thanked them for their trouble, canceled the order, and ate two diet TV dinners with a glass or two (he lost count after two) of Cabernet.

It was the kind of wine a restaurant like the Purple Platter bought in 55-gallon drums, then used for filling bottles with an “estate bottled” Purple Platter label.

Copyright © 2019 by Malcolm R. Campbell

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Review: ‘Into the Water’ by Paula Hawkins

Into the WaterInto the Water by Paula Hawkins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There’s a deep place in the river that runs through Beckford where people swim, fish, dive from the high cliff, and lie on the beach and listen to the ubiquitous voice of the water. For many, this place is simply a good swimming hole. For others, especially the women, it’s the “Drowning Pool.” There should be a warning sign at the water’s edge: “Never send to know for whom the water calls; it calls for thee.”

Paula Hawkins’ words are like those massive spiderwebs we run into when we hurry out the front door or run between dead trees in a graveyard, on a foggy night. The spiderwebs startle us, but after looking around nervously, we pull them off our faces and out of our hair and move on.

When the first Beckford woman to drown in the river was found dead in the town’s swimming hole, the news was shocking. As always, when such things (suicides or possible murders) happen, people asked: “why?” The answers were never quite certain or satisfying, so people pulled the spiderweb of shock and sadness out of their hair and moved on.

Then there were more drownings, that place in the drive acquired a whispered name, and in time it became impossible to move on because the voice of the river became harder to ignore and even those who had reason to know “the why” of each death weren’t sure whether they really knew “the why” or were caught in a web of lies, nightmares, premonitions, or the cries of the women’s’ spirits. The strands of the web now had the strength of heavy ropes, perhaps chains, and nobody could move on.

The reader, like any other newcomer to Beckford, is thrown into this twisted dream, and nothing is quite clear because there are so many points of view (a superb idea on Hawkins’ part) and those points of view align with less clarity than the yarn about the blind men trying to describe an elephant based on their impressions of a single leg, tail, or tusk. It’s hard not to ask, “Is everyone in town guilty or are they all simply crazy?”

Hawkins is content to step back from, say, a Stephen King “in your face approach,” and allow the readers and the saner characters time to push through the web of stories that ties the townspeople together. The ending–which some reviewers think was pasted onto the story for want of anything better–was, in fact, pitch perfect. Given what we knew, or thought we knew, it was the only ending that made sense. In fact, it was an epiphany we should have seen coming–but didn’t.

This is a superb thriller, almost an immersion in a drowning pool of dark waters and hidden currents. When we finish the book, we’ll plan to get the story out of our hair in a few days and move on. That probably won’t happen.

View all my reviews

–Malcolm

Review: ‘European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman’ by Theodora Goss

European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman (The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club, #2)European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman by Theodora Goss
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter” was my favorite novel of 2017. I don’t yet know what this year’s favorite book will be, but I’m happy to see that book two in the Athena Club series, “European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman” is a well-written and wondrous sequel. It does not disappoint.

Like book one, it is highly literate, carefully written, and intensely readable. As with the first book in the series, we find a smorgasbord of of myths and literary characters here, including Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and Doctor Moreau.

I know from Goss’ Facebook page and blog that she Hungarian-born author knows her locations well, and enhances her knowledge of them through yearly travels. This adds a great amount of depth to her books and does the fact that she teaches and researches fairy tales at the college level.

The members of the Athena Club leave London in this story and travel far afield to uncover the nasty projects coming from the rogue members of the alchemist society. One might quibble here that alchemists don’t normally engage in the Frankenstein horrors portrayed in the books, but that’s a small matter. The prospective mix-ups and horrors of travel add to the fun.

Since the novel itself is being written by one of the members of the Athena Club, we see frequent conversations outside the narrative by members of the club as they more or less discuss how they are being portrayed. This is a clever device and provides interesting depth to the story. I do think that it’s used overly much and represents a distraction after a while.

Goss definitely knows what she’s doing here and, when all is said and done, that makes for an exciting story with a lot of overlap with other genres that many of her readers know well. Highly recommended!

View all my reviews

Malcolm

Review: ‘Crescendo’ by Deborah J. Ledford

crescendoIn music, “crescendo” indicates a gradual increase in force or loudness. If Deborah J. Ledford’s three-book Steven Hawk/Inola Walela Thriller Series (Staccato, 2009, Snare, 2010, Crescendo, 2013) were a concerto, the audience would leave the concert hall at the end of the performance electrified by the force of the third movement and the virtuosity of soloist Inola Walela.

Crescendo (Second Wind Publishing, January 27) begins with great force when antagonists Preston Durand and private investigator Hondo Polk push Billy Carlton to tell them what he knows about the location of Durand’s son and ex-wife. The book’s volume increases when Inola’s partner is killed during a traffic stop by a bullet that might have come from her gun and a female passenger in the stopped car is struck and killed by another vehicle just after she says, “I got you the money.  Where is my son?”

Though she’s a decorated Bryson City, North Carolina police officer, Inola is put on administrative leave pending a departmental investigation into the deaths at the scene. She’s told to stay away from the investigation, including trying follow up on her gut feeling that the woman’s son has been kidnapped.

Inola’s fiancé Steven Hawk, now the county sheriff, wants to play everything by the book. He tells Inola that there’s no evidence of a kidnapping and the city police and county sheriff’s departments can’t take action until evidence and leads, if any, materialize—and she is to stay home.

Readers of the Steven Hawk/Inola Walela Series were introduced to Inola in Staccato when Hawk, who was a sheriff’s deputy then, first became aware of her: “Hawk had noticed Inola Walela, the only female cop on the Bryson City police force. She was captivating, beautiful, smart, tough, exactly what he hoped to find in a woman.”

Inola, who played a larger, but secondary, role in Snare, is Ledford’s on-the-hot-seat protagonist in Crescendo. She comes into her own in this tense novel as a three-dimensional, risk-taking police officer who needs to find the young woman’s son and who has kidnapped him even though she may be suspended or terminated regardless of what she learns.

This is a richly told psychological and physical thriller. Ledford, who knows her characters and her settings well, increases the volume of this story until the last shot is fired.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of contemporary fantasy novels, including “Sarabande’ and “The Sun Singer.”

Briefly Noted Novel: ‘The White Forest’ by Adam McOmber

whiteforestAdam McComber’s The White Forest (which I’m currently reading when I should be working) introduces protagonist Jane Silverlake, a young lady with an affinity for man-made objects that transcends psychometry. It’s as though they have souls and agendas that are much more than simply the traces of those who made them or owned them.

The novel is set in Victorian England at a time when some people are interested in the latest frontiers of spiritualism while others think anyone with odd talents is a witch. Jane has only shared her talent with two close friends and, soon after the novel begins, one of them disappears. Jane’s best friend is distraught as well as suspicious, and the police are looking at everybody.

From the publisher

In this hauntingly original debut novel about a young woman whose peculiar abilities help her infiltrate a mysterious secret society, Adam McOmber uses fantastical twists and dark turns to create a fast-paced, unforgettable story.

Young Jane Silverlake lives with her father in a crumbling family estate on the edge of Hampstead Heath. Jane has a secret—an unexplainable gift that allows her to see the souls of man-made objects—and this talent isolates her from the outside world. Her greatest joy is wandering the wild heath with her neighbors, Madeline and Nathan. But as the friends come of age, their idyll is shattered by the feelings both girls develop for Nathan, and by Nathan’s interest in a cult led by Ariston Day, a charismatic mystic popular with London’s elite. Day encourages his followers to explore dream manipulation with the goal of discovering a strange hidden world, a place he calls the Empyrean.

A year later, Nathan has vanished, and the famed Inspector Vidocq arrives in London to untangle the events that led up to Nathan’s disappearance. As a sinister truth emerges, Jane realizes she must discover the origins of her talent, and use it to find Nathan herself, before it’s too late.

Praise from the Chicago Sun-Times

“What sets “The White Forest” apart from other contemporary novels is Adam McOmber’s careful attention to language. While it is the Columbia College professor’s first full-length novel, “The White Forest” is written with an imaginative and haunting prose reminiscent of H.P Lovecraft.”

Praise from Kirkus Reviews

“Teeming with as many twists and turns and shadowy characters as the narrow Victorian streets in which the tale is partially set, McOmber creates a . . . supernatural mystery that bombards the senses with rich dialogue and imagery.”

Opening Lines

“When Nathan Ashe disappeared from the ruined streets of Southwark, I couldn’t help but think the horror was, at least in part, my own design. I’d infected him, after all, filled im up with my so-called disease. The rank shadows and gaslight in the human warens beyond Blackfriars Bridge did the rest. Madeline Lee, my dearest friend, would come to hate me for what I’d done.”


This well-written mystery/historical/fantasy has lured me into another world.

Malcolm

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Review: ‘Lowcountry Bribe’ by C. Hope Clark

Authors often ask “What if” when they have an idea for a plot. When C. Hope Clark first thought about a civil servant at the Department of Agriculture reporting an attempted bribe by a farmer, she must have asked “what’s the worst that can possibly happen?”

Carolina Slade (and you don’t call her “Carolina” unless you’re her mother) is a USDA official who plays by the rules. While others might have overlooked hog farmer Jesse Rawlings’ offer of a bribe in hopes he would never bring up the matter again, Slade tells her superiors. After that, the dust never settles.

C. Hope Clark’s protagonist in the dazzling debut mystery/thriller “Lowcountry Bribe,” is a Charleston County manager who coordinates federal loans and their repayment by farmers. When she leaves her desk, it’s to inspect a farm, not to carry a gun and catch bad guys. Yet, as a Cooperating Individual (CI) she has no choice but to help agents Wayne Largo and Eddie Childress prove Rawlings tried to bribe her.

The case is getting a lot of attention from Atlanta. Slade wonders why. Perhaps there’s more to the bribe than she knows, a greater level of fraud that might implicate her former boss who disappeared last year or a co-worker who shot himself in the office last week. Slade can’t even be sure Largo and Childress aren’t investigating her. A supposedly easy “Get Jesse to repeat what he said Friday” turns into a dangerous crash course in crisis management where the stakes are much higher than missed loan payment or a reprimand from the boss.

Some publishers would have categorized “Lowcountry Bribe” as a mystery/thriller/romance because the novel includes romantic elements as well as Slade’s feelings of approach/avoid, trust/distrust insofar as agent Largo and his motives are concerned. Regardless of the book’s official genre(s), the danger and intrigue Slade is drawn into are industrial strength, requiring a CI who is tough enough to view blood on an office wall as “O-positive primer,” savvy enough to think a like federal agent and experienced enough to apply humor and sarcasm to methods and practices that don’t measure up to her high standards.

Clark knows the territory. She lives in South Carolina, has a degree in agriculture, has worked with the USDA for 25 years, and is married to a former federal agent. This information appears on the novel’s back cover. By the time readers finish the novel and find out the worst that can possibly happen, they will have discovered that Clark also knows the territory of deftly plotted fiction, realistic dialogue and place settings, and how to tell a story that burns like a stiff drink with a touch of sugar.

Clark is now writing the next novel in the Carolina Slade Mystery Series. For readers who like great storytelling, that’s the best that can possibly happen.

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of contemporary fantasy, magical realism, and paranormal stories and novels, including “Conjure Woman’s Cat” and “Eulalie and Washerwoman.”

Review: ‘The Devil’s Elixir’ by Raymond Khoury

Reading Raymond Khoury’s The Devil’s Elixir can be hazardous to your sleep cycle! You won’t be able to put the book down until you reach the last page.

Once again, Khoury pairs up FBI agent Sean Reilly and archeologist Tess Chaykin whom long-time Khoury fans already know from their tangled and dangerous destinies in The Last Templar and The Templar Salvation. (See also my review of The Templar Salvation.) In this high-energy thriller, Reilly and Chaykin shift their focus from Templar and Vatican mysteries to a potentially more dangerous secret extracted and resynthesized out of the South American rainforest.

Eusebio, the priest who learned about a psychoactive alkaloid from a tribal shaman in 1741, viewed the “sacred brew” as a catalyst that could lead a seeker toward mystical enlightenment. Álvaro, his Jesuit brother at the mission, called the drug the devil’s elixir. In the hands of a present-day drug lord named El Brujo the drug represents not only a belief-changing experience but a chance for unlimited profits with a potion more powerful than meth, cocaine and heroine combined.

Reilly is is drawn away from New York into the high-body-count world of drug cartels and kidnappings when a former girlfriend calls to report her life is in danger. Former DEA agent Michelle Martinez’s story is so compelling that Reilly packs his bags and heads for San Diego immediately. Soon, his life will be at risk as will Chaykin’s. One way or another, sparks fly when Reilly and Chaykin are involved in a case. This time out, there are a couple of additional complications, one being that Reilly never told Chaykin about his earlier relationship with the “seriously hot” Martinez.

Khoury’s story moves briskly with alternating chapters from the perspectives of El Brujo, southwestern FBI operatives, the drug lord’s foot soldiers, Reilly and Chaykin. This approach heightens the intrigue by showing the reader thrills, chills and plot twists that the primary characters have yet to discover. Reilly is a strong-willed, indefatigable FBI agent who gives everything he has to keep his loved ones safe while keeping the devil’s elixir out of the black market supply chain. At the same time, his conscience constantly asks him whether the ends justify his means.

Readers new to Khoury’s fiction may think as they finish each chapter in The Devil’s Elixir, “certainly things can’t get any worse than this.” Those who have  read The Last Templar and The Templar Salvation know things never get better until the story’s over because following a Khoury plot is similar to riding a snowball through hell.

The Devil’s Elixir is a delightfully breath-searing ride.

Book Details

The Devil’s Elixir by Raymond Khoury

Hardcover: 384 pages

Publisher: Dutton Adult (December 22, 2011)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0525952438

ISBN-13: 978-0525952435

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of four novels, including the recent contemporary fantasy Sarabande.

Review: ‘Snare’ by Deborah J. Ledford

SnareSnare by Deborah J Ledford
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Deborah J. Ledford’s “Snare,” book two of the Deputy Hawk/Inola Walela Thriller Series quickly entangles readers who believe young Katina Salvo’s broken past will remain long ago and far away. A popular California songwriter and recording star, Katina has never released photographs and videos or appeared in a live concert because she doesn’t want her fans to know what happened in Valentine, Nebraska on August 29, 1995 at 11:29 p.m.

After convincing her twenty-three-year-old Native American signing sensation she owes her fans a live concert, business manager Petra Sullivan hand-picks a small theater in North Carolina so Katina can debut in a nonthreatening environment.

However, before they leave for the Great Smoky Mountains, Katina discovers that Petra has been hiding threatening fan mail from her. Both overprotective and nurturing, Petra is the mother Katina was never allowed to have. Katina asks if the series of letters is coming from the father she wants to forget.

While Petra maintains the nasty letters are simply a nuisance downside of being famous, Katina is less certain, and wonders what else Petra has been keeping from her. The concert goes forward as scheduled because, as Petra tells Katina, “you can’t hide out forever.” Plus, Katina’s safety is a top priority through the efforts of the sheriff’s point man on the security detail, Deputy Steven Hawk. Hawk also appeared in Ledford’s stunning debut novel “Staccato” (Second Wind Publishing, 2009).

The concert appears to be a triumph until Katina is attacked by a shadowy man in the audience who escapes leaving few clues behind. Katina thinks she knows who it was. Hawk thinks he is responsible for the security lapse. Together, they plan to ensnare the perpetrator. Against the advice of Petra, Hawk’s girl friend and sheriff’s department colleague, Inola, and veteran officer Kenneth Stiles, they fly to the Taos Pueblo in New Mexico where Katina’s past lies hidden.

In “Snare,” Ledford brings her readers a novel of contrasts: Katina’s horrible childhood vs. a successful recording career, people who can be trusted vs. those who follow their own agendas, Native American beliefs vs. mainstream spiritual viewpoints, and the lush beauty western North Carolina vs. the stark beauty of central New Mexico. “Snare” has been nominated for a Hillerman Sky Award, an honor presented to the mystery that best captures the landscape of the Southwest.

While “Snare” does not quite match the bone-chilling punch of “Staccato,” it excels in other ways with deeper character development, a realistic presentation of Native American society and beliefs, and the role of family and friends in the choices one makes. By no means legato, “Snare” provides an ever-tightening story with a realistic, satisfying and unpredictable conclusion

View all my reviews

If you like the Pueblo influences in SNARE, you may also like the Blackfeet influences in GARDEN OF HEAVEN

Book Review: ‘Crush at Thomas Hall’

When Cassandra Martin attends Crush Weekend at Virginia’s Thomas Hall Winery with her good friends Sarah and Michael, she experiences the multiple meanings of the word “crush” in Beth Sorensen’s soon-to-be-released romantic mystery Crush at Thomas Hall.

In wine making, the crush–often called a grape stomp when it’s done with bare feet–gently splits the skins of the recently harvested grapes allowing the juice to escape. Thomas Hall’s annual Crush Weekend is a festive event in which long-time friends of the powerful Baker family gather to help with the harvest, taste the wine and enjoy each others company.

Cassandra quickly develops a crush on winery CEO and confirmed bachelor Edward Baker. The feeling is mutual. Yet, she has recently buried an abusive and controlling husband, and Edward–for all his gentle intentions–is used to being in charge. His behavior is not only emotionally crushing, but reminds her of the worst moments of her marriage.

A college professor on sabbatical to rediscover her life, Cassandra is a highly intelligent protagonist, eager to soak up not only the ambiance but the art and science of wine making. Yet, in personal matters, she is indecisive, vacillating between losing herself in Edward’s arms and running away to a safe place where she can avoid the danger of emotional commitments.

Complicating her evolving romance is talk of millions of dollars of funds embezzled from the winery, a dead body in the wine cellar, and an attack that sends Cassandra to the hospital. Beth Sorensen has spun a compelling mystery of champagne dreams and family intrigues in Crush at Thomas Hall. Sorensen’s protagonist must decide whether to continue her round-the-world travels or seriously consider whether she should make a commitment to Edward and his winery. No matter that she decides, she’s in jeopardy, for there is every indication that the killer wants her stomped dead and out of the complicated picture.

Crush at Thomas Hall is an exciting, romantic and highly recommended fine-vintage debut novel.

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “The Sun Singer,” “Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire,” and “Garden of Heaven.”

‘Garden of Heaven’ Takes Readers into World of Magic, Quantum Entanglements

In my second novel set in the high country of Glacier National Park, Montana, “Garden of Heaven: an Odyssey,” I tell a multi-layered story about a man whose life is twisted by the Vietnam War, compromised by the denizens of a corrupt college, and destroyed by a lover out for revenge.

Paperback

When nineteen-year-old David Ward climbs the sacred mountain Nináistuko seeking a vision, the golden eagle of earth flings him back onto the prairie and the black horse of dreams shows him the future. Though his eyes are opened, fate hides exactly what he needs to know.

The spiritual journey that follows leads him through the mountains of Pakistan, the swamps of North Florida, the beaches of Hawaii, the waters of the South China Sea and the ivy-covered halls of an Illinois college as he attempts to sort out the shattered puzzle of his life.

A blend of realism and magical realism, the novel’s robust, non-linear structure emulates the randomness of memory while its multi-column sections illustrate the simultaneity of time’s pathways in a quantum universe.

E-Book



Like my first novel “The Sun Singer,” also set in Glacier National Park, “Garden of Heaven” follows the late Joseph Campbell’s mythic hero’s path journey of personal transformation popularized in such films as “Star Wars” and “The Matrix.”

While “Garden of Heaven” has characters and themes in common with “The Sun Singer,” the two novels can be read independently of each other.

Available in both a paperback and an electronic edition, “Garden of Heaven” can be found at Amazon, OmniLit and other online booksellers and by order from any bookstore. I am also the author of the comedy/thriller “Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire.”

Malcolm