Tag Archives: reading and reivews

Review: Trial by Fire (Carson Taite)

I think I may very well be in the minority on this one, but the book did not deliver for me, either on the mystery side (as it was categorized) or on the romance side (implied).

Wren Bishop is on loan from a fancy, high powered law firm to the public defender’s office. She seems overly optimistic and sunny, and is somehow blind to the fact that waltzing around in designer clothes, with designer bags, and crapping on the coffee served in the department might not win her any friends. Or maybe she doesn’t care. Either way, it isn’t a good look.

Lennox Roy is on the prosecution side and has what seems not just a chip on her shoulder because of her poor as hell childhood but a superiority complex. She also sees things in black or white, guilty or innocent, and she’s sure that any defendant – including the one Wren winds up defending – is guilty. This led to some amusement on my part that any intelligent person (as Lennox supposedly is) would look at the investigative work the police did on that case and not see the gaping holes it had. My question at this point was whether Lennox had any redeeming qualities that would get me to like her. After her declaration she’d never date anyone on the defense side of the world, as Wren is at the moment, just because a previous relationship with the woman who represented her druggie brother went down in flames, I decided that the answer was probably not.

There are some courtroom scenes, and these are the best part of the book. There are a lot of office politics, some outside politics (a judge with whom Lennox is friends is running for office) and a lot of talk about wealth inequality.

Wren winds up hiring an investigator on her own because the PD investigators are swamped with work, and ends up with evidence that points the crime away from the guy she’s defending. She goes to Lennox and convinces her to get some evidence, and Lennox finally sees it.

It was too late for me by that time. There wasn’t any real romance to speak of other than both of them thinking about the other and a kiss in someone’s garage. They didn’t spend any real time together, although Wren did break things off with her kind of girlfriend who she didn’t like that much, so there’s that sacrifice, I suppose.

The ending was rushed and the “I love you”s felt far too early, which is something I also noted in my review of Her Consigliere by the same author. This could easily have been a bit longer, with more of the romance prominent through the middle of the story to better lead to the ending. This book is apparently part of a series of books in this universe, so I wonder if these two will have cameos down the line to show that they’re still together and/or managing to work on Lennox’s brother’s case to resolve it one way or another.

Only two stars out of five for me. Sorry.

Thanks to Bold Stroke Books and NetGalley for the reading copy.

Review: Plain Dead – DI Henry Ford #3 (Andy Maslen)

DI Henry Ford is called to an army base where private Rachel Hadley has apparently slit her own throat, committing suicide. That’s the view of the army, anyhow. Ford thinks not, and throws himself into an investigation with a deadline: Hadley’s unit is shipping out to Somalia before month end. Is it really suicide? Perhaps a lover’s quarrel gone wrong?

So we have a ticking clock, and several unbelievable things.

First, Charlie, the army SIB officer who is the liaison between the civilian police Ford represents and the army. Let’s just toss in every other soldier who looks at the scene, up to and including Hadley’s father, who is a colonel, and also in charge of her unit. Anyone who knows anything about human anatomy – and especially anyone who has been involved in a war, as the colonel will assuredly have been by now – can tell this is not a suicide. People bleed. A ton. Even minor papercuts can bring out an amount of blood that looks a bit scary. But the army people tromping all over the scene don’t seem to notice that there’s very little blood by the body – and ergo, that it is not the scene where this happened, and Hadley has been posed there, knife in hand.

Speaking of falling down on the job: Ford does not order, nor does CSI think of, apparently, a search of several outbuildings that are near where Hadley is sitting. It strains suspension of disbelief that neither would have a light bulb moment about the lack of blood, look around, and say, “Gee, maybe we should have a look over there.” The blame for this is placed on a live-fire exercise due to take place in just a few hours that cannot be canceled, which also strains credulity. Of course it can. Exercises and patrols and invasions are cancelled all the time for various reasons, and a dead body on a live fire field could certainly be one of those cases.

Once the investigation gets moving, it reads like a script from NCIS. Coroner: check. Forensics: check. And so on. It isn’t lightning the world on fire, but most investigations are not exciting – they’re fairly tedious, truth be told.

It doesn’t take much to pick out the villain in this. I was disappointed that with all the representation going on that no one picked up on the name of a book found in Hadley’s room on the base – and that unless it’s a very old, used copy, the author’s pen name would not be on the cover, not now. The author’s real name would be. Even without that, nobody can pop on to Amazon and read a description of the book? Or, is that yet another thing they didn’t think of?

It sounds like I hated the book, but I didn’t. It’s an easy read. There’s a good camaraderie between Ford and his team, although not so much Ford and his superiors, one of whom he actually cusses out. Ford’s immediate boss is more forgiving, and a lot more likeable. I really liked Hannah, the forensics expert and “walking wikipedia”, who clearly has Aspberger’s Syndrome. I’d be willing to read anything where she was the lead.

Overall: a solid three out of five star read. It moves along, and there are some good moments between Ford and his son, Sam.

Thanks to Amazon UK/Thomas & Mercer and NetGalley for the reading copy.

Review: Absence of Mercy – Lightner and Law #1 (S. M. Goodwin)

Absence of Mercy is the first of what I hope will be a very long string of books featuring Jasper Lightner, son of a duke sent to pre-Civil War America and Hieronymus Law, a former New York City policeman Lightner rescues from the Tombs, NYC’s notorious prison.

Lightner is a veteran of the Crimean War, having taken part in the charge of the Light Brigade and is the best Inspector the Metropolitan Police have. Police reformers in NYC have requested his assistance in solving a string of murders of wealthy men, all found outside brothels. The Home Secretary prefers that he go, but his father – horrified that the son of a duke is working at all – gives him a choice between two positions, neither of which he really wants: go to America for a year to assist them, or take a position that involves being a figurehead and nothing else. Lightner, stubborn, chooses to go to America for a year.

He lands not only in the period just prior to the American Civil War, but in a city already at war with itself, and corruption at every turn. The captain to whom he reports doesn’t want him, the rank and file resent him, and the Alderman he first meets seems to have his finger in every pie.

He begins his first case immediately: a wealthy man, killed in the same fashion two others were. As he susses out the case and finds out details of previous cases, he tracks down Law. Lightner’s boss has said he can have anyone he wants to assist him, so he basically jailbreaks Law in order to get the information Law has on the first two cases, as the case files for those have been conveniently lost at the precinct.

Together, they go through the mean streets of New York, into the bleakest, hellish basements of the poorest residents, to the posh and spotless homes of the very wealthy – including the widows of the men who had been killed.

As they continue to turn over every rock and put together evidence, they find men with disgusting predilections, men who claim to be reformers, men who actually are reformers helping free blacks flee to Canada (if you have seen 12 Years a Slave (and if you have not, you should) you will have seen at least one story of a free black man captured and sold into slavery; it is the same here in 1857 New York), women who know more than they tell, a plot involving guns, slaves, and money, and corrupt cops looking to get ahead by any means.

Lightner and Law’s investigation finally puts them on the trail to determining the culprit, but other factors are at work in the shadowy world of actors behind even the corrupt governing forces of New York. The real truth, when Lightner finally comes to it, is a punch to the gut.

This story takes no time at all to get moving – in fact, on the first page, we are with Lightner as he looks over a grisly murder scene. Lightner has sharp mind, an superb control of his emotions. Unfortunately, he also has a good chunk of his memory missing, a bum knee, gets headaches, and smokes opium-loaded cigars to treat his ailments. Law, for his part, turns out to be a fair detective himself, and tries to follow Lightner’s lead – asking questions people don’t want to answer, tracking down clues, so he can become a good detective rather than a fair one.

This is an excellent book, although there are a lot of characters, both dead and alive, and with differing loyalties, to keep straight. However, this does not detract from the book at all. The pace is quick when it needs to be, slower when it is appropriate. Overall, a superb read.

Five out of five stars.

Thanks to Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for the review copy.