Tour’s Books Blog

April 25, 2014

Meandering Around the Past and a Look Ahead

So I’m sitting here listening to Julia Migenes sing Habanera in the movie version of Carmen (Placido Domingo played Jose, and may I just say he was a handsome devil who is, even now, a good looking guy) and thinking my tastes in music are almost a bi-polar as my taste in books.  I’m not much better about movies, except for one universal truth, I try and avoid horror and the ‘deep’ stuff.  Oddly enough, I do like Shakespeare, but I’d rather break a leg than endure Death of a Salesman or Brothers Karamazov.  And forget about Ingmar Bergman, I’d really rather watch Some Like It Hot or The Magnificent Seven.

So what does all this have to do with books?  Well, books get made into movies ………… OK, SOME books get made into movie, others just lend their title to some dreadful claptrap that bears little or no resemblance to the source material – like Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan series and (shudder) what was done to One Shot by Lee Child so Tom Cruise could play 6’5″ blond, blue-eyed Jack Reacher.  Oh, just kill me now.  And occasionally, current events echo the past in an eerie fashion.  The death of 13 Sherpas on Mt Everest made me think of Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air, a great book about his own tragic experience on Everest.  Short, and much criticized by others on the mountain at the time, it reads as compellingly as great fiction.  Apollo 13, a movie that was based on another real life event was also so well done, viewers were tensely waiting to see what would happen, despite knowing the ending.  In both cases, the story was history, yet we become so involved in the telling, it’s as if it were all fresh.  And that is the gift of the best non-fiction.  Not just facts, telling an enthralling story.

My mother was a history teacher and so was her best friend.  They taught in neighboring towns and both taught primarily American history II – Reconstruction to modern times.  And both would teach summer classes, sometimes extra credit ones for smaller topics.  I was driving them both to school one summer morning (so I could have the car, of course) and Anita says to Mom, “Yesterday I was talking about WWI and really selling the whole story to this one kid who just looked bored and I noticed the guys that were supposed to be painting the windows were just sitting there listening to me.  I never knew I was such a ham!”  Mom laughed and said, “The best history teachers are all hams!”

I probably heard Mom say, “How can anyone find history boring?  It’s OUR story?  It’s great!”, a hundred times, and she really meant it.  And if you get a good teacher, it is.  Unfortunately, really good teachers are rare, especially ones that want you to love their subject as much as they do.  Well, good movies and good books – memorable ones that stand the test of time – are pretty rare too.   I’ve seen Macbeth many times, everything from college productions to the Royal Shakespeare Theater.  I still like it.  The first movies I bought for my dad when I got him a VHS player (remember those?) were Some Like It Hot, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, African Queen, and Casablanca.  If I had to pick the best movie ever, yeah, Casablanca.  No fancy sets – in fact, they’re kind of cheesy.  No great special effects.  Actually, other than squibs for guns, none at all.  But a cast, story, dialogue, direction, and acting to remember.  It also makes me realize what crappy movies they make these days.

So I got to thinking about the best books I ever read and realized that the list changes over time.  Not just because something new is better, but because, in retrospect, the book I thought was so great did not hold up over time.  So from time to time, we need to revisit our lists, and update them – and actually reread the books we on our lists.  One example is Plum Island by Nelson DeMille, a book I thought terrific.  I got a copy for my brother about a year ago, and he was ‘Meh, it was ok.’  Now he and I usually have very similar tastes in the mystery/thriller genre (Except he does not deal well with characters that are neither good nor bad, and the ending is ambivalent.)  So I went back and re-read the book myself.  He was right.  It was good, not great, and had not aged as well as it should.  I also re-read Sphere of Influence by Kyle Mills and realized it had held up much better over time for an action thriller.

My other problem is separating ‘the best’ from ‘my favorites’.  Favorites tend to have a lot of humor for me.  Wiseguy PI’s, humorous assassins, off-beat romance.  No, not great books and certainly not great literature, just best friends.  And ‘Favorites’ books tend to land on my bedside table.  I like a lot of books, but not many well enough to re-read them again and again over the years.  I can admire movies like All the Kings Men and Chariots of Fire, both best picture winners, but I’d rather watch Death on the Nile with Peter Ustinov or The Great Race, with Jack Lemon chewing the scenery as Professor Fate and Natalie Wood looking great in Edith Head costumes while Tony Curtis plays ever competent, sparkling white hero.  No where near the perfection of Some Like It Hot, but it does have the best pie fight ever filmed.

I figure we all pick ‘the best’ wrong now and then.  The best picture of 1941 was How Green Was My Valley.  Sounds ok, right?  It’s competition is was tough – everything from The Maltese Falcon (my favorite) to Suspicion, a Hitchcock gem.  But the real kicker?  Passed over was the film widely regarded as “The Best Movie Ever Made” – Citizen Kane.  Yeah, we really do all get it wrong.

Same is true of books.  Winning awards may, or may not mean anything.  Barry Eisler’s brilliant John Rain series won one award.  Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series has multiple nominations and awards, some deserved, some not.  Robert Crais’ Elvis Cole and Joe Pike books are almost ALL nominated and many won a whole host of awards – and they deserved it.  And some of the lame cozies that win awards just baffle me.

Great movies, great books, and great food are very personal tastes.  My brother hates wine, he’d rather have soda.  He wants simple food, not some complicated thing.  He’ll eat Cheez Whiz.  (Yes, I just flinched writing that.)  We both like dates stuffed with Skippy peanut butter and rolled in granulated sugar, something we learned to make in Kindergarten.  We also both like Jersey wieners – hot dogs steamed then fried in deep fat till the skins are crunchy (and split a bit), get slapped on fresh bun, mustard, raw onion, and smothered in a weird meat sauce that half gravy, half God knows what (and please don’t tell me!).  Heart attack on a plate.  I like good wine and really appreciate great, but not pretentious, food.  No, I would not spend a dime on ‘molecular cuisine’.  Seriously, food is a science experiment?  GAH!  I can watch a favorite movie so many times I can do the dialogue.  And I can re-read a book till the poor thing all but falls apart.

Top of my list of rereads is Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Cruise and Bob Mayer.  It didn’t get a great review from me the first time I read it, but it just stands up to time.  Stand By Your Hit Man by Leslie Langtry hits this list too.  Part of her Bombay Assassin series, it was also one that did not impress at first, but again, has stood up to time.  Louisiana Longshot by Jana DeLeon is another funny assassin book that has created a whole fan club for its characters as well as homepage for Sinful, Louisiana, the setting for the books.  The Rook by Daniel O’Malley is there as well.  It was great on the first read and is still great.  It has some of the BEST lines ever.

“This should be a pleasant little interview. All I have to do is put on my scary face.”
“You have a scary face?” Ingrid sounded skeptical.
“Yes,” said Myfanwy indignantly. “I have a very scary face.”
Ingrid surveyed her for a moment. “You may wish to take off the cardigan then, Rook Thomas,” she advised tactfully. “The flowers on the pocket detract somewhat from your menace.” 

Seriously, how could I not love this book?  By the way, the second book is tentatively scheduled for 2015 and the proposed title is Stiletto.  It will pick up where The Rook left off.  River Road is my most re-read of the Sentinel of New Orleans series by Suzanne Johnson.  Hounded, by Kevin Hearne makes this list too.  And for paranormal romance, The Accidental Vampire and Single White Vampire, both part of the early Argeneau books by Lynsay Sands.

The most re-read mystery?  Lullaby Town by Robert Crais.  That’s followed by Janet Evanovich’s Steph Plum books 1 to 7.  After that, meh and after 13, I barely made 1 read.  And Raymond Chandler.  Yes, I have a lot of classic mysteries and I re-read them – and realize just how much we’ve dumbed down our books.

By the way, all those books make good beach reads……….. except maybe The Rook.  That one is a bit hard to put down.

So, with spring FINALLY rearing its colorful head, we can start picking our next reads.  On order and top of my TBR when they hit the door?  Sixth Grave on the Edge by Darynda Jones, the latest in her excellent and original Charley Davidson series.  Next up will be Shattered by Kevin Hearne, his latest Iron Druid book, first hard cover, and the one where his old mentor is brought back, Arch Druid Owen Kennedy.  YEAH!  Skin Deep by Jim Butcher’s latest Harry Dresden, and Hidden by Benedict Jacka, and Alex Verus are on the list too as is a new series by Seanan McGuire, Sparrow Hill Road.  It will be August before the next Spider book is out by Jennifer Estep, Promise, Promise.  Better Homes and Hauntings by Molly Harper is due in June.

On the mystery front, a new David Housewright, The Devil May Care, and a new Craig Johnson book in his Longmire series, Any Other Name will hit my hot little hands soon.  Yeah, there’s kind of a dearth of good mysteries.

Keep reading and revisit those old favorites and see if you change your mind too!

April 20, 2014

Observations on ARC’s and Reviews – MYSTERY WEEK!

Filed under: Book review,Cozy,Mystery review,Tough Guy PI — toursbooks @ 4:00 pm
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I enjoy getting ARC’s of various books, but I can’t say I’m thrilled when I get one with so many type-setting errors it’s nearly unreadable.  One of the ARC’s I recently received was so damn annoying I came close to tossing it several times before I finally had to quit in frustration.  Probably 95% of all words, including contractions, that had a double ‘ll’ in the spelling read like …… ‘usual y the Wel ington’s were kept in a hal  closet’.  It went past distracting and reached serious annoyance when I had to go back and work out what the words really were.  Why would any publisher risk a new author or series with such shoddy work?  An ARC is not for Beta readers, it’s meant for reviewers, many authors in their own right.  Publishers want something good to promote the book, not, “Incomprehensible junk!”

Typos in ARC’s exist.  Hell, they exist in print even in the best hardcover bestseller.  But when every page is so littered with them it’s like trying to read code, that’s not excusable.  After 48 pages it improved, but it was false hope.  Within two pages ‘down the hal ‘ was back.

The author and reader both deserve better.  I simply couldn’t finish reading it with so many errors, mostly because the odd spacing kept disrupting the rhythm of my eyes going across the page.  Authors, please tell you publishers that ARC’s readers are not Beta lab rats.  I know ARC’s have errors and I deal with that.  Heaven knows hardcovers go to print with errors that would have been unheard of 10 years ago, but the material still has to flow smoothly enough that it’s not an endurance contest for the reader to get through it.

That’s a book I’m not naming.  It wouldn’t be fair to the author, but the publisher is Hatchette, owners of Grand Central and Little  Brown and Co, not exactly small houses, and they should know better.

On to the reviews!  And it’s MYSTERY WEEK!



Sugar and Iced is the latest in the Cupcake Bakery series, which is kind of a mixed bag.  I liked the mystery part, but all the teenage drama in 30 year olds over their respective love lives drove me nuts.

Mel and Angie find themselves supplying cupcakes to a beauty pageant thanks to Mel’s mom and her best friend Ginny.  Seems to me cupcakes and beauty pageants are sort of mutually exclusive, but the decision to have each contestant create a cupcake that Mel and Angie will then bake and the judges evaluate as part of their score give their presence a little credibility.  Oz, their Goth skateboarding part time help and his girl Goth pal, Lupe, get dragged into this when the two ladies decide that Lupe should enter the contest which has substantial scholarship money as a prize.  Lupe might put magenta streaks in her hair and wear the whole Goth black and piercing thing, but she’s smart as a whip and accepted at Stanford, if she can find the money to go.

Now a word of warning, once again a judge dies.  Yes, it’s happened before in her books, but this time, the shrewish judge, an original ‘mean girl’ is under the cupcake display table in the hotel lobby.  Enter the handsome cop, Manny, ex-fiancee waiting patiently for Mel to come around ‘Dear Joe’, and slightly sleazy but handsome lawyer, and Angie’s lifelong love, Tate is back at the bakery doing business plans for expansion – something Mel is opposed to.

Naturally Lupe, who rec’d outrageously low scores from the now dead judge, becomes the leading suspect, so Mel and Angie one again meddle in police business.

The mystery plot was good, though it stretched credibility at times.  Mel’s personal issues are more of a distraction than asset to the story, at least for me, though other readers seem to like it.  The big denouement isn’t a shock, but what happens afterwards has a personal shock for Mel.

Sugar and Iced is a good, but not great, cozy mystery.  It gets a C+ to B- (3.5*) from me which is lower than most reviews on Amazon.  If this is your favorite genre, then this series is above average, even though I had a sense of déjà vu with over half the plot.  I got this book for $7.19 from Amazon.  I sent it on to a PBS (Paperback Swap) friend.  Free is the best, but try for a used copy.  This is not a keeper.



J.J. Cook hit the ground running with the Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade mysteries and with Death on Eat Street, the latest in the crowded field of foodie mysteries.  J.J. Cook is a pseudonym for Jim and Joyce Laverne, the prolific husband and wife team that does  the popular Missing Pieces mysteries among many others.

Zoe Chase has a dream and she quits her boring job, gives up her expensive condo and buys a run down diner and a food truck to fulfill her dream of owning her own restaurant like her eccentric Uncle Saul.  Her mother, a lawyer with political ambitions, and her dad, the head of the investment bank where her supposed fiancee works, don’t agree with her choice, but her dad is quietly more supportive.  Even worse, she dumps fiancee Tommy Lee – who has been cheating on her anyway.   Times are tough for Zoe and she’s living in the diner with an overweight cat and soon a woman who needs a job and is a natural at selling her deep fried biscuit bowls.  With the help of an strange, but nice guy from the shelter, Ollie, she starts getting her food truck business on track.  It means less food for the men’s homeless shelter, but on bad weather days, they still do well.

That’s when things deteriorate.  Someone tries to rob her.  Her brake lines are cut on the food truck, there’s a public fight with the owner of another food truck – who is then found dead – and now everyone seems to think she has something valuable that the dead food truck owner had.  She hasn’t clue what that something is, but someone if willing to kill for it.  Her defense lawyer is handsome, but a bit shabby and seems a little beaten down.  But life has not treated him well either and he fits right in Zoe’s band of misfits.

Death on Eat Street had more pluses than minuses.  The plot revolving around some missing valuable is old as time and who did was obvious to any mystery reader, but the characters were interesting, from pushy divorced parents to the ragtag group of friends that Zoe acquires.  Like a lot of first books, establishing the backstory of characters takes up time and detracts somewhat from the flow.  Overall though, it was above average.  I’d give Death on Eat Street a low B- (3.7*) and a suggested read for cozy lovers.  Not as original as I’d hoped, but there’s not much new ground to cover in the foodie mystery field.

I bought this book from Amazon for $7.19 and will pass it on thru PBS.


Second Helping for Murder



A Second Helping on Murder is the second book in the Comfort Food series by author Christine Wegner.  Wegner has published numerous Harlequin romances, so this is a departure, but her Harlequin roots show through.  The first book in this series, Do or Diner, I have not read, so I wasn’t quite prepared for this simplistic mystery.  I don’t hold cozies in high esteem, but many are enjoyable and a choice handful rise above the generic formula and become fine additions to any mystery read’s ‘Books I Read’ list. A Second Helping is down at the other end, Books I Could Have Missed.

The story takes place in a realistic town of Sandy Harbor, NY on the southern shore of Lake Ontario.  All the states bordering the Great Lakes, or any other large lake away from major cities, have similar small towns with summer homes and rental cabins where people go to enjoy the country air, cool evenings, lake sports, and the slower pace of small town life.  Come winter snow season, they head south.  That’s what Trixie Matkowski’s Aunt Stella did when her husband died, and Trixie, who was fresh off a divorce from her cheating husband bought the place and started life over as a 30 something diner chef and owner of about a dozen well maintained rustic cabins used for summer rentals and one 24 hour diner where managed the night shift cooking.

The town is in something of an uproar over the discovery of the remains of a 16 year old girl who went missing one summer back when Trixie was an awkward child.  She had nothing but good memories of the older girl who befriended her when she needed it.  But with the diner and her first guest arriving insisting on Cabin 8, the cabin where the ill fated Jacobson family was in when Claire went missing.

As usual, Trixie, who apparently does not have enough to do running both a 24 hour diner and a dozen rental cabins, decides she owes Claire enough to investigate the 20+ year old murder.  Deputy Ty Brisco might be a handsome, slow talking cowboy relocated up north, but her was also a sheriff’s deputy, so she’s wary ……. and he isn’t a local.  Then there’s another death, the strange man renting Cabin 8 is shot and killed in the cabin – and cancellations come in on the cabin rentals.  Naturally, Trixie gets involved.

If you don’t figure it out in the first 50 pages, you’re losing your Nancy Drew badge.  The book is short, the plot simplistic and predictable, the characters unoriginal.  A Second Helping is essentially a dull read.  At the $7.19 I paid at Amazon, it was also a waste of money.  Typeface is large, so word count per page is short and the whole thing can be read in a couple of hours – if you last that long.

A Second Helping gets a C- (2.7*) from me.  It’s a Harlequin romance with bodies.  The score is that high because Ms Wenger captures the atmosphere and character of those small summer lake towns really well, even if her characters and plot are lame.  You can safely miss this one.


bone deep

Randy Wayne White is the author of over 20 Doc Ford novels.  His books have made the tiny islands on Sanibel and Captiva famous.  A former local reporter, former fishing guide, and current resident of the islands in Pine Island Sound, White sets his books in area and in countries he’s come to know well over the years, including much of the lesser known Southwest Gulf Coast of Florida.  And now he’s an investor (NOT OWNER) in three restaurants (one on Sanibel, and newer one on Ft Myers beach, and the most recent one up on Captiva (2013) named for his iconic character, ex-CIA agent, marine biologist, and Sanibel resident, Marion ‘Doc’ Ford.  The above photo is him in front of the Original Doc Ford’s on Sanibel holding his latest book, Bone Deep.  I confess that Doc Ford’s has been a favorite of mine since the restaurant opened years after the books started hitting the NYT Times Bestseller list – and more years after I had to hunt them down in on-island book stores that White had to deliver to himself.  By 1990 I’d been a frequent visitor to Sanibel and Captiva for a few years and was delighted to discover a local writer who did good mystery/thrillers.  Sanibel Flats, The Heat Island, The Man Who Invented Florida, and Captiva are not to be missed by any lover of John D MacDonald.  After that, things get dicey.

By the time The Mangrove Coast hit the shelves in hardcover, thanks to a new publisher and some badly needed promotion, I was able to buy his books easily up here in the Northeast.  Doc Ford and his hippy, pot smoking, peace loving genius side-kick, Tomlinson (the name of the Sanibel Police Chief and friend of White’s) are once again enmeshed in problem that seems simple, but never is.  Some of the locations on Sanibel, like Dinkin’s Bayou, are made up (though it’s located in Tarpon Bay according to the map in the books, the location of the marina where White used to work as a guide.), but he loves researching Florida and folds in the history this with the eye of a newsman he once was.

In Bone Deep, the mining of phosphorous in Florida, a controversial business like everything these days, and the illegal fossil hunting and dangerous trespassing that thieves do to recover fossils in the mining areas, is really interesting – and one of the things I like about White.  The story opens with Doc getting pulled into the hunt for two Native American carvings by a Crow Indian friend of Tomlinson’s.   He agrees to take them to a private island for some touchy feely sweat lodge drum ceremony, and he goes off to talk to the aging scion of a once rich family that owns mining concessions in the state.  In the end, he’s dragged into the dangerous underground trade in rare fossils.  Who knew???  The story is one of family and betrayal, and greed, old sins, and new.  Is the carving taken from the dead collector’s house and the taken from the thief by the Doc what the crazy killer is after, or something  else he has – or the psycho THINKS he has – that was stolen from the home of the illegal collector.  And what’s going on with the stepson and his buddies at the phosphorus mine?  The two separate yet co-joined mysteries make for strange bedfellows.

As always, White excels at capturing the atmosphere of Florida, especially the islands, but Bone Deep is a choppy read and frankly, the plot just didn’t work for me.  Disjointed when it needed to spool out seamlessly.  It seemed to be confused and jumbled rather than clean and sharp.  Was this about the fossil thieves, the psycho killer, or the missing Indian artifacts?  And throwing in confusion about his relationship with Hannah was more a distraction than addition to the plot.  Instead of a tasty fusion, we had a messy mashup.  A book that starts strongly then seems to just spin like a dervish.

Despite the fact that I love the character Doc Ford, I simply cannot overlook the short-comings of Bone Deep.  Plus the ending was too Twilight Zone.  Bone Deep gets a D+ to C- (2.5*) from me, but do NOT let that deter you from reading his excellent early books.  I got Bone Deep through Paperback Swap and I will pass it along to another reader.  In truth, White is at his best when he does clean, direct, fast paced stories with few side tales, and gets messy when he goes for the multi-thread stories that need to be cohesively woven together.  His clean, spare writing style just seems to work best with equally clean, spare, tricky plots rather than sprawling story lines.

And should you ever find yourself on Sanibel Island with the best shelling beach in North America, go have lunch at Doc Ford’s.  Try the Yucatan Shrimp, fish tacos (very mild salsa typical of Central America) with black beans and rice, and carrot cake brushed with 151 rum.  And if you have a driver, try a flight of rums to discover a world of tastes as complex and varied as any good Scotch.


April 1, 2014

Not so April Fool!

Filed under: Caper,Mystery review,Western Mystery — toursbooks @ 4:20 pm
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OMG, it’s April already and not single sign of buds on the trees or even the forsythia.  Damn.  While the winter has been long and cold here, it’s still active in places like Minnesota where they’re still dealing with new snow.  I’d be ready to kill the weatherman or myself at this point.  At least this past weekend was just torrential rain for us.

Yeah, it’s April Fools Day.  While I do enjoy some of the elaborate and clever tricks people play, I was never one for April Fool jokes.  So relax, they won’t start here.  No, April 1 was always my personal start date for Spring.  Some years it would come early and some years, like this year, it seems very, very late.

Spring is when every day we look out and the world looks different.  Flowers peek out of the ground, trees bud, shrubs seem to erupt into bright colors almost overnight.  Daffodils that just sprung up a few days ago all seem to suddenly pop open.  Every day my SIL gives me the ‘crocus report’!  Spring is colorful, cheerful, and much needed after a long winter of dreary days.  We start getting restless to get outside and do things.  Where I used to live, I’d take a week’s vacation from work to get the gardens ready – clean out all the leaves, fertilize, correct the pH, dig in soil modifiers and lots of dried manure.  We had a lot of garden space and it took a lot of time between spring when we’d get ready and fall when we prepped it for winter.

I’m no longer able to do that kind of heavy work and I miss it, and I miss my gardens, but life changes and we move on.  I still enjoy looking at all the beautiful gardens folks create – and relax knowing I won’t have to do the digging and the weeding and ………… well, the million other things all gardeners do.  I do love watching the annual parade of colors as one after the other ornamental trees and shrubs do their once a year beautification show.  The are a welcome sight.

Another welcome sight is the brightly color mysteries that arrived today.  But before I settle in for the latest Cupcake Bakery mystery by Jenn McKinley, I need to review a a couple books, mysteries that are as alike as chalk and cheese.

Stone Cold

C.J. Box writes both the Joe Pickett mysteries and stand alone thriller/suspense type books.  Here in Stone Cold we have Joe, the ultimate straight arrow, chasing his friend Nate Romanowski, a man with a past.  Nate, a complex man, a good friend, and a lethal killer, finds himself questioning a path he chose and now doubts.

At the end of Breaking Point, the previous Joe Picket book, Joe quit thanks to the new Director who is a ‘bambi hugger’ and willing to lay down for political gain and throw Joe under the bus while doing it.  But Joe has a friend in high places, namely the governor, who gives him a special job and now that marker has come due.  Of course the governor threw him under the bus years back too, so it’s not like they’re close friends.  Much to Joe’s everlasting disgust, he’s to fly to Cheyenne in the morning for a ‘special assignment’, one that will have him helping the FBI with what looks like an elaborate murder for higher scheme, and it also looks like Nate may be involved.

Woven into the action packed story of a rich, successful man who disappears into near anonymity, and is rumored to run an assassination business, is the more basic tales of Joe’s adopted daughter wanting to run off with a rodeo star with a history of abusing women,  his eldest daughter worrying about a student on her dorm floor displaying all the signs of being a potential ‘lone gunman’, including obsessively playing first person shooter games, and Joe again trying to save Nate, not just the man, but his soul as well.

Box writes a layered, complex, interesting story that moves at a breakneck pace from the opening scenes with Nate hunting and killing a parasite of a businessman to a literally explosive ending with creepy results, and a tragic, but seemingly inevitable conclusion to the isolated college student who in the end, was not what they thought.  The various plot elements weave in and out at always at the nexus is Joe Pickett, a Game Warden with a gift for finding trouble and the tenacity and strong moral code of an old time lawman.

Stone Cold is a really good read.  Maybe not his best, but his most nuanced.  The one drawback is the really bad guy escapes and likely will not be made to answer for his crimes.  The more obvious theme is is all about things never being quite what they seem, but they are in mysteries.  They rarely are in the best mysteries.  Stone Cold remains a very satisfying, engaging read in one of the most solid series currently in print.  It is highly recommended to hardcore mystery fans, especially followers of Craig Johnson’s Longmire books, Steve Hamilton’s Alex McKnight books, or Willim Kent Krueger’s books.

Stone Cold gets a B+ (4.3*) and recommended read.  I got this book thru an online book swap site and I will pass it on.  It is currently just under$20 on Amazon, so try and get this through your library.


The Chase

It’s hard to even put a book like The Chase into the same set of reviews as a C.J. Box book.  It’s like reviewing McDonald’s after discussing haute cuisine.  The Chase could not be more different, and other than sharing the same general genre of Mystery and Thriller, they have exactly ZILCH in common.

Book 2 in the Fox and O’Hare series is, if possible, even lighter and less substantial than The Heist, which is saying something given the fluff level of The Heist.  One thing you have to remember is Goldberg is a scriptwriter and Evanovich has reverted to her ‘humorous romance’ roots, so substance is in short supply.  It’s fun, fluffy, superficial, the plot is on the level of a ‘made for TV’ movie, or maybe just a one hour episode in a series.  So is the dialogue and the cast of characters.  The Chase is another caper style mystery in the same vein as ‘White Collar’, which it shamelessly copies.  Not one of the great caper books that has more twists and turns than hedge maze, nor is it Dortmunder, or Bernie Rhodenbarr, or one of Ross Thomas’ many wonderful books, no this is just some harmless fun caper story.  A bagatelle.  Short, fast, and don’t look too closely or you’ll see the flaws book.

Fox and O’Hare are after really big game this time, a corrupt former White House chief of staff who runs a virtual private army mostly on government contracts.  And buys stolen art with his less than clean money.  He’s also like all massive egoists, anxious to be feted as hugely successful and noteworthy.  The entree is making his elaborate Florida mansion the feature of a TV show.  A show that gives Nick the cover he needs to grab the bronze the Chinese government is demanding be returned by the Smithsonian.  You’d think stealing an art treasure from a paranoid man who has his own army would be enough, but no, that’s too easy.  Finding out the one on display is a fake was a bummer.  Even worse, some well meaning museum official gave it to the Chinese billionaire before Fox and O’Hare could switch it out for the real one, and it’s locked up in a nearly uncrackable safe in the secure belly of the Chinese billionaire’s A380 that’s hard.

It’s shallow, devoid of deeper meaning, character growth, or any over-arcing qualities.  It reads at a grade school level and has as much substance as cotton candy.  But it is amusing, largely harmless, and is over with in record time.   The Chase gets a C- (2.8*) and a strong recommendation you get it FOR FREE SOMEHOW, because seriously, it’s not worth more than $2-$3.  I got The Chase thru a book swap site and it will move on the same way.  If you miss it, your life will still be complete.


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