Tag Archives: reading and reviews

Review: The Burning Island (Jack Serong)

Eliza Grayling – a woman who tends to her aging, blind alcoholic of a father – is approached by Srinivas, a Bengali Indian. Srinivas has a tale to tell her of a ship, lost with all its cargo and passengers, many of whom were women. He is not unfamiliar with ships lost to the sea or the pirates who sail on them; indeed, he believes that the person behind the disappearance of this ship is the mysterious Mr. Figge, with whom he sailed when Srinivas was merely a young orderly on another ship that foundered many years ago.

In this time, though, with this ship, Srinivas wants to enlist the help of Eliza’s father Joshua, who is also acquainted with Figge, and who also has business to settle with a man Eliza had thought more a myth than monster.

Eliza, for her part, points out that her father is in no ship to put out to sea, and that he hasn’t sailed in many years. Joshua insists, however, and because Eliza decides she must go as well, to care for him, the three of them embark on a journey to the Bass Strait on a ship called The Moonbird, along with a pair of convict brothers, a doctor studying marine life, and the crossdressing master of the ship.

The narrative language is lush, at times soaring so high one might think it will never alight on the page again. There are brief moments when it skips along the line marking the abyss of purple prose, but dances away before falling in. The book is not a fast read, nor is it without the weight of being informed by actual events. Readers who stay with the book will be rewarded through its ups and downs by a story well and remarkably told.

Five stars out of five.

Thanks to Text Publishing and NetGalley for the review copy.

Review: Maniac (Harold Schechter)

Maniac: The Bath School Disaster and the Birth of the Modern Mass Killer

In 1927, a disgruntled and very pettily angry Andrew Kehoe detonated explosives he had planted under the Bath Consolidated School, killing 38 children and five adults (including himself). Kehoe had also set the buildings on his farm ablaze after killing his wife, as well as destroyed his equipment and tied his horses’ legs together so they were unable to escape the fire.

In the meticulously researched, quite detailed, and well-written Maniac, Harold Schechter provides the details leading to Kehoe’s destruction of the symbol on which he focused his rage and the man who ran it – in fact, the entire history of how the township of Bath came to be in the first place comprises the opening chapters.

Eventually, we get to Andrew Kehoe and his wife, Nellie, who move into Nellie’s family’s homestead after her parents die. By all accounts, Kehoe is quick to lend a hand when people need it, and asks nothing in particular in return. He is an upstanding member of the community, attends church, and in general never strikes anyone as anything other than what he is.

This changes, though, when the Bath Consolidated School is constructed and a tax is levied for its upkeep and the salaries of those employed there, from teachers to janitor. After a bad year on the farm, Kehoe’s rage is directed toward the school, the tax, and the head of the school. He manages to get himself elected to the Board, and immediately begins micromanaging what he can, attempting to torpedo the raise and vacation time of the head of the school, and instead of hiring someone to fix the issues that come up in the school – wiring, installing boilers, plumbing, and so forth – Kehoe, being a mechanically-minded man, does them instead. In his mind, he is saving the school money. In the process, he is also learning details he will use later in his nefarious plans.

When elections for the board come around again, to his shock, Kehoe is not supported by his party, having burned too may bridges with his aggressive and controlling ways. This fuels even more resentment.

By now months behind on his mortgage, Kehoe stockpiles 500 pounds of pyrotrol, an explosive used widely in WWI and manufactured in the millions of pounds by chemical companies in the US. He also purchases dynamite, which seems odd to us today, but both were considered normal ways to deal with things like boulders and tree stumps when clearing land for farming.

From this point, we get a ticking timeline of witness statements: from someone seeing Kehoe take crate after crate into the basement of the school, to movements of student and teachers in the school, to people who first notice Kehoe’s farm on fire.

As the clock ticks to 9:45AM, the destruction begins, with more details of where people were, inside and outside the school. Warning: there are some gruesome descriptions of injuries as the people of Bath start digging through the rubble. Included in this part of the narrative is how, after sufficient rubble had been cleared and the dead and injured counted, the men who went into the basement made the horrifying discovery that Kehoe had packed all of the pyrotel he’d purchased in various parts of the basements, all wired to the same ignition battery. The battery was apparently not strong enough to detonate all of the explosives – had it been, the school would likely have been just a crater in the ground, and much of Bath and many of its inhabitants would have been killed.

This takes about half the book. The second half is a discussion of mass (and not so mass) murders and how they are viewed by the public, including bringing up previous mass murders like Bath when subsequent mass murders make the news. It’s also a discussion about how atrocities like Bath can be readily forgotten because of other news – Schechter uses Lindbergh’s solo, nonstop flight from New York to Paris, for instance, as an example. But, he always returns to Bath. From Columbine to Whitman in the Tower to the Alfred Murrah bombing in Oklahoma to Virginia State to Parkland, he hammers on stories about those hearkening back to Bath, one of the earliest known intentional mass murders in our collective history.

The first half is definitely stronger than the second, and – and this is a point he makes – likely more interesting, because of human nature. The second half, however, is worth the time to read. While the book is geared toward US readers, it would likely be of interest to readers in other countries who take an interest in the history of mass killings (not serial killings; this is not the story of a serial killer).

Five out of five stars.

Thanks to Little A and NetGalley for the review copy.

Review: Death Rattle (Alex Gilly)

Nick Finn is an agent with Customs and Border Patrol. Mona Jimenez is a human-rights attorney attached to a firm that provides legal services for people caught crossing the border illegally.

Of course they’re married.

They also wind up being the trope-ish investigative team that looks into the murky death of Carmen,who was caught and placed in a detention center after crossing the border to escape her drug cartel-associated boyfriend. There’s also the spectre of dirty CBP agents, as Finn notices interdictions in one particular office is solely resulting in rounding up people illegally crossing the border, and zero drug traffickers or their mules.

The story takes a bit to get moving, and in my opinion, the actual opening of the book is a little ways in from where it starts here. However, it is a necessity to give us some information on our main characters.

Curiously enough, these two could just as easily been colleagues instead of husband and wife, as there’s no real zing in their relationship. Whatever the case, they do at least work well enough together to investigate what’s happening here and bring a little justice into play.

The setting and subject matter are certainly topical and important, the story is decent, and the writing is fine. Some of the Spanish in the text was not translated in the text – I’m not sure if this was because I was reading an ARC or if this was intentional, but it’s just a note for folks who may not be able to read the language.

A solid three star out of five read.

Thanks to Forge/Macmillan-Tor and NetGalley for the review copy.

Review: The Eighth Detective (Alex Pavesi)

An interesting premise, marred by a lackluster ending.

Not terribly long ago, I read The Eighth Sister, by another author. Now, The Eighth Detective (Eight Detectives, for the UK version) is here. Did I miss a memo?

In The Eighth Detective, Grant McAllister, a mathematician, once worked out a math formula for detective fiction – there must exist at least one victim, one detective, and so forth. As a proof of the claims he made, he wrote seven short stories, all of which contain one or more elements of his formula. He called the collection The White Murders, self-published one hundred copies, then moved to an unnamed island in the Mediterranean.

Julia Hart, ostensibly an editor with a small press, visits McAllister on his island, to sort the stories and edit them for publication.

The format of the overall book is this: one of the stories, which w find Julia is reading back to McAllister, then a conversation chapter, where Julia is reading the last line(s) of each story, then points out items that belong to his math theory, and then items that do not fit the story – inconsistencies. She asks if he purposely wrote these into the stories, and he claims he must have, but that his memory after thirty years have passed between his writing does not allow him to recall these things concretely.

There are seven stories comprising The White Murders, each with their own detective of sorts – that is, some have actual detectives, and some featuring amateurs. As each is read and discussed, more and more of the math is brought in, up to and including Venn diagrams. Each story is certainly what could be expected of the time they were written: crimes are solved by deduction and conversation (LOTS of conversation), and while some of the deaths are rather macabre, there are no lingering, lengthy, detailed description of the gore. If you expect to find car (or horse) chases or gunfights, you will be sorely disappointed. Think more Agatha Christie and less Robert Ludlum.

What we do not get, at least for most of the book, is any sort of character development of the two people about whom we should care the most: McAllister and Hart. Hart, from time to time, mentions an unsolved murder back in the UK of a woman with the last name White, and points out that elements of that murder appear in each of the stories. Was the impetus for these stories that murder? McAllister denies this was the case, and claims to not knowing he had placed these real life things into his fictional tales. He does, though, allow that perhaps he did so unconsciously do so.

As we reach the end of the book, we derive that Julia Hart herself is the eighth detective, looking into the very murder she has repeatedly questioned McAllister about. We also get more narrative of what she does when she leaves his company for the day and returns to her hotel, and that informs the big reveal at the end.

I’ll not go into spoiler territory, but all is not as it appears on this lovely island or with McAllister.

Toward the end, the stories became a bit tedious, as did the math. The explanations we get from Julia Hart were confusing at first, given the swaps she’d done with material and the way they were presented, and her “testing” of McAllister. By then, this reader, at least, knew what she suspected.

The stories…well, at least one did not contain enough clues for the reader to actually solve the crime, unlike the larger story that wrapped them. Instead, we get a monologue telling us how things were – the story with the department store fire, for instance, was terrible in this regard, and would be terrible in any era if one didn’t have ESP.

Overall, I’m giving it three stars out of five.

Thanks to Henry Holt and NetGalley for the review copy.

Review: The Girl Who Wasn’t There (Vincent Zandri)

Based on other reviews, I’m solidly in the minority here: this is not the sort of book I expect from someone who has won awards in their field (as the author has won the Shamus award from the ITW). I did not find the book to be particularly well-written or the story one that couldn’t be figured out abut 20% of the way in (based on markings in my Fire).


Sidney “Doc” O’Keefe has been released from prison, where he was incarcerated for ten years after being caught as the wheelman for two of his friends – friends who executed a Chinese family of four at the behest of their boss, a gangster named Rabuffo. Sidney assures the reader that he, himself, did not participate in the shooting of the family. Multiple times through the book, again and again. We get it, he’s innocent, even though I didn’t buy it the first time he told us and was even more convinced he was involved in nefarious doings the further the book rolled along. (I was right.)

Sidney and his wife Penny, along with their daughter Chloe, who is now 11, head to Lake Placid as a family rebonding thing. There they set themselves up next to another couple, the Stevens, and their daughter. Sidney and Penny decide to leave their daughter outside, paying with the daughter of total strangers, to go back to the hotel room and have some sexytime. Sidney finally admits he gave up Rabuffo to the Feds, and that’s how he was able to get his release.

First of all: who in their right mind leaves their child with complete strangers? Second, how is little vacation being paid for? The opening page says they sold their house to pay his legal bills, after which his wife and daughter moved into a one bedroom apartment, then a studio apartment. We get the answer to the former (idiots) but not really the latter.

When they go back out to the beach, their daughter is gone. The Stevens are of no help, and their daughter saw nothing. Thus we begin Sidney and Penny’s hunt for their daughter. They walk through the town, return to the hotel, where House Detective Giselle assures them they are scouring the hotel for her. Everything comes up empty.

They head to the police to file a report. The chief, Walton, makes no effort whatsoever to act like someone concerned for a missing child; instead he all but accuses Sidney of doing something terrible to her, being an ex-con and all. They head back to the hotel, and that night, hear their daughter calling for them. Sidney jumps up and sees what appears to be a man with his daughter. He heads out of the room toward them, and is promptly hit on the head. He shakes it off and goes after the man he saw, dragging him off a fence and pounding the crap out of him, trying to find out where his daughter is.

The next day, the guy he beat up is on tv telling a sob story about how he was just minding his business and Sidney just beat him up. The cops show up, and Sidney and Penny steal a jeep and head for the hills (literally). They find a vacant hunting cabin and hole up there, but naturally, the cops manage to find them in this one remote, abandoned cabin, bring a helicopter along, and start firing grenades at the cabin.

The book had, to that point, only made me shake my head from time to time. After that point, I just sighed and made myself go through the rest of it. It’s all a grand scheme, involving his lawyer, wife, the Chief of police, some weirdo named Gary (who they trust without a second thought, even though the book has already shown they shouldn’t be trusting complete strangers), one of Sidney’s friends from the massacre of the Chinese family, and the House Detective.

What they want is all the money Rabuffo has stored in a vault in his house, since Rabuffo has been fortuitously arrested by the FBI and his house is empty. For some reason, Rabuffo had keyed Sidney to the vault, via optical scan (what, none of them saw Demolition Man?) and entry code. And for some reason, the Feds and police and simply run crime scene tape around the place and then just went on their way, leaving no one at all to watch the place.

There are a bunch of deaths, by bullet and by strangulation by belt, and lost things (and people) found. Sidney lives, just like that – snap! – exonerated, and is reunited with Chloe.

It’s a short book at only 226 pages, and I really hope that the review ecopy I received is an uncorrected proof. There is apostrophe abuse, incorrect use of words that show why people should not rely on spellcheck alone (wrap for rap, for instance, right on page 3), tons of sentence fragments, and phrases that made no sense.

“I’m free, paroled for good if I keep my nose clean, as the rednecks like to say.”

I a fairly sure that keeping one’s nose clean is not just the purview of rednecks (or mothers wiping snot off a toddler’s face, for that matter).

Then there’s this, which I had to read a couple of times to understand what the heck he was saying – not to a person, just telling the reader something.

“You know, the big, black Suburban I drove to the house lived in by a Chinese family who owed my boss, Ricky Rabuffo, too much money.”

What? How about making that better, using active instead of passive voice, and using some of those commas on all the sentence fragments strewn everywhere?

It started off well: ex-con goes to the beach with his wife and daughter. Their daughter goes missing, and they need to find her. It was all downhill from there, with a too-many-people-involved conspiracy, short sequences where we have to question if Sidney is actually seeing something/having something happen to him, and lots of the author telling us things instead of showing them to us.

Two stars out of five.

Thanks to Oceanview Publishing and NetGalley for the review copy.

Review: Her Final Words (Brianna Lebuskes)

Lots of telling, far too little showing, and an ending that is anticlimactic.

Teenager Eliza Cook walks in to an FBI field office to confess to killing another (almost) teenaged boy. But she will only confess to Special Agent Lucy Thorne. When she lays out her confession, where to find the body, and hands over the knife used in the murder, she also makes a point to tell Lucy that a particular quote from the christian bible is carved on the boy. Then she clamps her mouth shut and refuses to say anything else.

For some reason, Lucy thinks there’s more to this story than just Eliza’s confession, and of course there is, because otherwise there would be no book. How does she arrive at this? Who knows. The Special Agent in Charge – Lucy’s boss – gives her three days to head to Knox Hollow and tease out any story that might be there. That was too bad, as it meant I’d have to keep reading this.

Don’t get me wrong: I didn’t hate it. I just didn’t really like it all that much. Lucy gets to Knox Hollow, meets Sheriff Wyatt Hicks, who has secrets, Eliza’s family, who have secrets, other members of their church (which is clearly one of those weird, cultish churches) who all have secrets, a deputy who works under Hicks, who also has secrets….you get the idea. It’s like the small town with secrets trope on steroids.

There are also a TON of characters introduced here. Cops, social workers, all the members of the church – if you’re not a fan of large casts, you might want to sit this one out.

Pretty soon, Lucy manages to find out that people – and especially kids – just vanish into thin air in this town, and another girl goes missing while she’s there.

For someone who only had three days to determine if there was something more going on in this secret-filled little town, Lucy didn’t seem to act with a whole lot of urgency. As she went around questioning people, she was often told she should speak to another party, and off she went, pinballing her way from person to person just because someone told her she should. I didn’t find her to be a deductive superstar.

The killer is given away before the ending – and it’s almost, but not quite, the author holding up a giant neon sign with an arrow pointing to the killer.

The ending was underwhelming, given that someone paying just a little attention could have seen it. The rationale behind the disappearances is semi-plausible, since people do oddball things all the time, in the name of something – in this case, in the name of some fundamentalist church. The whole thing wraps itself up with a bow, and all the loose ends are tied up.

Speaking of churches, there are some glaring errors about this cultish fundamentalist church: it’s highly unlikely they would have “Mass” and I’m almost 100% positive they would not carry rosary beads. Those things are part of the catholic rituals, and a cult, even one based on what seems to be the pentecostal flavor of christianity, is not going to have these things in their rituals.

We also don’t really get Lucy’s story: who she is, deep down, what drives her, what her backstory is. It doesn’t mean we need infodumps, but something would have helped me identify with her. As it is, she’s more like a “Hey, it’s that woman!” in a movie – a character actor whose face is familiar, but whose name you can’t recall.

The book shifts through time a *lot*, too. “Three weeks ago”, “Today”, “Two hours ago” and so on. After awhile, this annoyed me. I do not, in general, dislike timestamps on chapters, but if you’re constantly jumping around like this, you’re going to confuse the reader’s sense of time. If you do it almost constantly, then perhaps you should make it a series – even a duology, with all the events leading up to Eliza getting on a bus to go see Lucy to confess in one book, and then Lucy’s investigation in the second. It’s hard to get a real sense of what time it is, at least until Lucy reminds herself for the umpteenth time that she has to put this to bed by Monday, and it’s now (day) at (time) and well, she’d better hurry. But she doesn’t seem to be hurrying, and that’s a problem.

Overall, it’s readable. It simply didn’t grab me, which is a shame because I liked the premise.

Two stars out of five. Perhaps next time, Ms. Labuskes.

Thanks to Thomas & Mercer and Netgalley for the review copy.

Review: House Privilege (Joe DeMarco #14)

One of the best things about reading is stumbling across a series you didn’t know existed.

One of the worst things about reading is stumbling across a series you didn’t know existed.

I would say House Privilege falls into both of those categories for me. The first, because I do enjoy books like this, where a fixer works (mostly) behind the scenes to do things to support an Important Person, whether that Important Person is a politician, a big business/union leader, an athlete, and so on. The second, because it means that I don’t know the canon of that fixer: their history, their strengths or weaknesses, and how successful they’ve been in the past to fix something for their employer. As this is number fourteen in a series, I’d be inclined to guess that Joe DeMarco is fairly successful.

House Privilege opens with DeMarco returning to Washington, DC, after his equivalent of a mob no-show job was discovered with the political winds having changed the US government, and his Democrat boss John Mahoney lost his role as Speaker of the House. Those winds have changed again, and Mahoney is poised to reclaim the gavel and, by extension, return DeMarco to his post as Mahoney’s personal fixer. His first job seems relatively easy: check up on Cassie Russell, the only survivor of a small plane crash that killed her billionaire parents and that left Mahoney as her legal guardian, as Mahoney’s wife is out west, seeing to a terminally ill friend.

DeMarco dutifully heads to Boston, where he meets the girl and the Russell’s housekeeper, and finds Cassie thinks she will just stay in her parent’s home and doesn’t understand that isn’t quite how it’s going to work. But he doesn’t disabuse her of that thought, and heads out to meet the manager of the Russell’s trust, Erin Kelly, who appears to be capable enough, and when DeMarco asks her about a few things, has ready answers for how to handle them. He leaves, fairly confident that other than the girl’s ideas about where she will live, everything is fine.

Spoilers ahead….skip to SPOILERS END for the summary.

On his return to the Russell’s house to check in again on Cassie, the housekeeper gives him a name: Jerry Feldman. She overheard a conversation the Russells were having that indicated all may not have been well with Erin Kelly’s management of the trust, and that a CPA named Jerry Feldman was auditing the books for it. DeMarco heads out to find Feldman.

Feldman, unfortunately, has met his demise during a robbery of a convenience store, which seems rather coincidental, and DeMarco digs around, only to find that Erin Kelly is the niece of Mike Kelly, a notorious mobster in Boston. This raises the question for him – although not for us, having already received scenes between Mike and Erin that detail how angry she is that Cassie was not also killed in the plane crash and that she wants someone else killed as well – that perhaps Erin is not the chipper go-getter she appears to be.

DeMarco finds out that Feldman has been killed and believes Cassie may also be in danger, so he takes her up to a property owned by the Russells – a cabin in the woods, with few neighbors, and what neighbors there are a good bit of distance away. Pat McGuire, Mike Kelly’s top guy, has followed them there and attempts to kill Cassie. He is interrupted by a couple of teenagers (a young man and woman), and flees after shooting the young man and trying to shoot at Cassie as she swims away. One problem: McGuire has left fingerprints on the inflatable raft he used while there.

Now sure that Erin Kelly is a very bad person, DeMarco tells a Boston PD detective about all of it, but of course, jurisdictional problems are a thing. The NTSB, investigating the plane crash, won’t have a findings for awhile, and there are no direct links between any of it that he can prove.

DeMarco learns from Mahoney that there’s someone attempting to blackmail him with what are supposedly Mahoney cheating with a woman. Knowing that Mahoney does cheat on his wife, DeMarco meets with the blackmailer, who, it turns out, is a guy who was fired from his job for excessive absenteeism due to being an alcoholic, but who is now sober but in desperate need of money. He decides he just doesn’t have the heart to be a bad guy, and tells DeMaarco to forget it.

Meanwhile, McGuire, knowing he will be arrested once his prints are lifted, makes Mike promise that if anything happens to him that Mike will take care of McGuire’s elderly mother. Mike by now knows that his niece is in charge of billions of dollars and is considering how much he can wring out of her to keep her secrets – like the fact she came to him to get people killed, which has been captured on tape.

DeMarco realizes that the only solution is to keep the audit going, so it can be shown that Kelly was embezzling. He approaches the other two members of the three person board overseeing the trust (Mahoney is the third), and they agree the audit should proceed. A team shows up at the trust, taking everything and kicking Kelly out.

Before they get things locked down, Kelly accesses the trust funds electronically and transfers out over a hundred million dollars, then transfers those funds into other accounts at other banks, attempting to hide the trail. She then flees to London on her own passport and then to Montenegro under an assumed identity.

DeMarco turns to the investigative firm that had fired the blackmailer, and hires them to find Kelly, on the condition they hire the guy back and have him work on this case. They agree, since he had been one of their top investigators. They track Kelly to Montenegro, and DeMarco and his (now) crew, including the wannabe blackmailer, another operator from the investigative firm, and a disgraced doctor, head there. Mike Kelly also sends a crew there, to grab his niece.

The end is a caper. DeMarco and company put on a show to lure the bad guys into getting arrested, and act out their plan to grab Erin Kelly and hustle her out of the country. Back in the US, Erin Kelly is arrested for financial crimes and McGuire is arrested for attempted murder. Kelly thinks she’s maybe get four or five years, max, and McGuire is prepared to keep his mouth shut to protect Mike Kelly, but after he learns his mother has died while Mike Kelly was supposed to be overseeing her care, thinks Mike murdered her and considers talking. He then talks himself into believing she died of natural causes, given her age, and is prepared again to keep his mouth shut. He is stabbed while in jail, but survives, and tell DeMarco that all the dirt Mike Kelly has collected over the years on powerful people, and the tape with Erin Kelly saying she wanted people dead, is in a safe on a property he owns. Everyone is toast at this point except McGuire.

The book ends with Mahoney’s wife spending time with Cassie, and telling DeMarco Cassie will live with her in the Mahoney’s home in Boston, and the housekeeper and her husband will move with them. DeMarco is then sent off to Minnesota to deal with another matter.


Overall, it’s a good, fast read, and fun, too, if you enjoy stories about fixers that involve capers. While this is a book deep into the series character DeMarco, it can be read as a standalone, as enough information is given on DeMarco to know who he is and what he does. There’s only one infodump, and it’s a bit of a required one, to describe the no-show job Mahoney had created to stash DeMarco so he would be around to do whatever things Mahoney needed him to do.

I liked this quite a bit and will be going back to the beginning to read more about Joe DeMarco.

A solid 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Thanks to NetGalley and Atlantic Monthly Press for the advance copy.

Reading, no writing, and arithmetic

I always wondered about “The Three Rs: reading, writing, and arithmetic” and why they were called The Three Rs when only one of the words begins with an R. Was it a pirate’s turn making up rules that day? Did the pirate work in an office with a bunch of teachers and won the office pool that day? “There’s three arrrrs, I tell you: rrrrreading, wrrrriting, and arrrrithmetic.” Then the pirate slams back a mug of grog and invites everyone to the ship for some rrrrum.

Anyhow, I have been doing quite a bit of reading, as one might tell from the reviews starting to pop up on this here blog. There are some people who will say it’s just refilling the creative well, but really it’s just something I can do between flurries of activity in the server migrations we’re doing. Fortunately, I read incredibly quickly and always have, so I’ve been pounding down books – mostly mysteries, as that’s my jam these days – courtesy of ARCs (advance reading copies) I get from publishers. In return, I do reviews of those books, on Goodreads and on Amazon when the books are released. I figured as long as I’m doing the reviews, I might as well stick them on the blog as well.

No writing: no real time. I know the old “If you want to write, you’ll find the time” but most of the things we’re doing with migrations is all hands on, with just brief periodsĀ  in between the various things that have to happen to get the migrations of done. Fortunately, as we approach nine months of non-stop migrations, we are reaching the end, so it isn’t as hectic. The next couple of servers we’ll start Monday. Between now and then, I’m working on mail-related stuff. It’s mostly to make my life easier, and give me some time back that would otherwise be spent on mail. Between this and the end of migrations, which is so close I can feel it, and with the addition of not doing a garden this year, I’ll probably be able to have some uninterrupted/unbusy time to get some writing done. I hope.

Arrrrrrithmetic: counting down to when the migrations will be done and over with, really, and counting the number of servers left to migrate. It will be nice to get that number to zero. Then we can sit back and say: we did it.

I hope all is good with you, peeps, and until next time: be well.

Review: Past Deeds (Brandon Fisher FBI #8)

Special Agent Brandon Fisher of the FBI’s BAU team investigates the sniper death of a prosecuting attorney in Arlington, VA.

That’s a bit misleading, as Fisher is not the AIC (Agent in Charge), but rather a member of the team under Jack Harper, who is the AIC and who I found to be both unlikable and annoying. This book is labeled a Brandon Fisher book, though, and we spend a lot of time in his head as we do in the head of Kelly Marsh, formerly Miami-Dade PD and who is (based on us getting hit over the head with it multiple times) new to the team.

Darrell Reid is killed by a sniper as he’s leaving a residential building. For some reason that isn’t made entirely clear, the BAU is called. But out they roll, to the scene. It’s pretty difficult to me that they would be, since at this point, there’s a single victim. It’s a real “it’s in the script moment”, to be honest.

In any case, back at the BAU, there’s the requisite computer geek who can pry records out of any system, anywhere, and soon it becomes clear there are three other killings, in other states, that match this particular one. The team splits up, with Jack and Kelly staying in Virginia, and Brandon and Paige (with whom he apparently slept with in a previous book) sent out west to revisit the previous killings to see what links they can find.

From there, it’s a standard procedural whodunit, with the agents going around to scenes, interviewing people, checking for video, and so on, until they make the connection and close in for the arrest.

I can say it’s reasonably well written, although there is more than one character who says “In the least” instead of “At the least” – a quirk of the writer, perhaps. I’m afraid I didn’t really care for any of the BAU agents. Jack’s an asshole (in my opinion), and maybe I just think that because I’ve not read the seven books in the series before this. Kelly does way too much second guessing of herself instead of just realizing Jack is an asshole, making her feel small. Brandon is wishy-washy and annoying, constantly going back to the time he and Paige slept together while he was still married, as if one, he’s still married to his wife and two, he doesn’t have a new girlfriend. Paige was just eh, she’s there and throws in her two cents now and again, although she nearly gets herself and Brandon killed by an oncoming vehicle because she’s zoned out, thinking about her and Brandon. The characters were cookie cutter and could be swapped out in any other book of this type without a beat being missed by anyone.

That said, the whydunnit was okay, and the sniper clearly nuts but doing the killing from what in her mind is a rock solid foundation. The fact that not one agent guessed at what the killer was going to do at the end of the book was disappointing, considering that they had all the information on the killer and certainly could have done a profile on that. That they didn’t says to me they may not be very good at their jobs.

There are some gratuitous “thank you for your service”s and a short commentary by Kelly on providing for veterans after they’ve exited the services. Neither did anything for the book or the characters.

Will I pick up earlier books in this series? Unlikely. But if you like Criminal Minds the show, you’ll probably enjoy this much more than I did.

Three stars out of five.

Thanks to NetGalley and Hibbert & Stiles for the advance copy.

Review: One Minute Out (Gray Man #9)

Court Gentry (aka the Gray Man) is in Croatia to snipe a war criminal. As he watches the old man through his scope, though, he decides that far away through a scope just won’t do, and this man needs an up close and personal visit. Despite the presence of a small personal army and a couple of dogs guarding the war criminal, Gentry makes his way into the house only to find the old man not in his bed. Following sounds he hears, he makes his way into a basement and finds over twenty women and girls chained to the walls there. One woman, who was loose because the old man was about to bring her upstairs and assault her, runs out of the house (despite the presence of that small army and a couple of dogs). Gentry kills the old man and then wants to free the women, but one of their number tells him to leave, as he can’t protect all of them, and they will be punished worse if they leave and are recaptured.

Gentry reluctantly leaves them but vows to find them again and free them, and also to bust the human sex trafficking ring he has stumbled across.

The story moves from Croatia to Italy to the US, as Gentry follows the pipeline of women moved from country to country. Along the way, he picks up an ally – one of the womens’ sister, who works in financial fraud for EUROPOL – and she heads off on a side trek to engage the services of a hacker. after telling Gentry that not only is there a sex trafficking ring, there’s an ocean of bad money being laundered in the process. Meanwhile, Gentry keeps dogging the pipeline, killing quite a number of people in his path and getting beat up at various locales.


The evidence continues to pile up, and when it points to a US-based businessman and movie exec as the ringleader, Gentry calls his office – the CIA – and asks for help. When it’s denied for reasons he isn’t told, he requests help from another, more personal source: a bad guy in Italy, where the women will be sold at auction. The bigshot US businessman will also be in attendance at this particular stop even though his head of security advises him against it, and Gentry wants to get to him somehow, and kill him. On the evening of the auction, Gentry spots members of a special ops team, realizes they’re hunting him, and eventually there’s a big firefight, with the bad guys hoping on a private plane with two women marked for “special handling” – that is, to serve as sex slaves for he crooked businessman.

Gentry makes his way back to the States via a pretty humorous (considering the circumstances) method, and gets to California. Based on information provided by the EUROPOL analyst, he makes his way to the bigshot’s house. He realizes he can’t take the entire compound by himself, so enlists the help of some old operators (and I mean older in ago, as in, this sort of thing is a young person’s game). After killing some more bad guys, and talking the bigshot’s personal security out of protecting the bigshot, Gentry has come face to face with the bad guy – but he promised the CIA he wouldn’t kill the guy, because the guy is an asset to the CIA, providing information on the flow of money and arms around the world. Since Gentry can’t kill the bad guy, he shoots the bad guy right in the crotch, blowing his junk off. I guess that means no more sexytimes for him, assaulting or otherwise, although the way medicine is these days, and the fact that he’s a billionaire, it could be entirely possible bad guy could get his nether regions redone and go right back to his evil ways. On the other hand, it’s made clear in the last few chapters that the gad guy needs ED drugs and coke in order to be able to perform, so maybe not.

Gentry then walks away from the house, despite the LAPD showing up in huge numbers. He climbs into a van holding some CIA dudes, and they drive off into the sunset.


The end of the book evokes The Shawshank Redemption (or, for the pedants, “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption”) with a litany of “hopes”. This book really does seem to be one of the more adaptable ones of the series for the big screen, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see it adapted into a screenplay and made into a movie starring some actor everyone will either love or hate, with the hate side pointing out all the ways X could not possibly be the Gray Man.

Overall, if you like the Gray Man series, you’ll like this book. I do, and I did.

Four solid stars out of five.