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Gin and Panic

Gin and Panic

Gin and Panic: A Mystery by Maia Chance (Minotaur Books, $25.99, 278 pages)

Spunky Lady Detectives Redux.

We meet again – Lola Woodby, widow and self-made detective, and Berta Lundgren, former cook for Ms. Woodby, are running low on funds because even odd retrieval jobs such as finding lost laundry carts and missing pooches won’t finance their pared down lifestyle.  Gin and Panic is the third novel in the Discreet Retrieval Agency Mysteries series featuring Lola and Berta.  Happily, this installment is as charming, humorous, and fast-paced as author Chance’s prior work, Teetotaled.

The time is the 1920s and the action takes place in New York City and Connecticut.  An English country house weekend set in rural Connecticut provides the perfect excuse for witty pitch perfect quips and charming asides to the reader by Lola who is the narrator.  Snappy dialogue among the cast of weekend guests advances the plot while revealing their intentions and proclivities.

The owner of the estate, Rudy Montgomery, has a rhinoceros head trophy that Lord Eustace Sudley believes is rightly his.  Lord Sudley engages Lola and Berta to spirit away the trophy while pretending to be his friends along for the weekend.  As the plot thickens, code for somebody dies under mysterious circumstances, the scene shifts back and forth between New York and Connecticut at a rather breakneck pace.

Ms. Chance is mindful of the reader’s need for more than just plot twists and red herrings.  There are scenes full of cinematic details of the long ago U.S. Prohibition era.  Lastly, she has crafted character development that bodes well for future installments of the adventures of Lola and Berta.  Well done!

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

This book will be released on October 24, 2017.

A review copy was received from the publisher.  

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Stairway to Heaven

No Rest for the Dead: A Novel by Sandra Brown, R. L. Stine, Alexander McCall Smith, J. A. Jance, Diana Gabeldon, Jeffrey Deaver, Lisa Scottoline, John Lescoart, Kathy Reichs, Raymond Khoury, et al. (Touchstone, $15.00, 286 pages)

Twenty-Six Writers.   One Mystery.

“The lineup of writers who have contributed to this mystery is akin to the Murderer’s Row of the 1927 New York Yankees.   There is not a weak spot in the bunch.”   David Baldacci

Can there by synergy when it comes to writing?   If 26 well-known and admired mystery writers collaborate on one story, can it be as good as, or better than, the work  of just one of them?   That’s the question behind the creation of No Rest for the Dead.   Each chapter or segment was written by one of the twenty-six writers or a combination of them.

The book includes police reports of the crime in question (by Kathy Reichs) and journal entries by the cop who would not let go of an old death penalty case (by Andrew F. Gulli).   The tragedy was that a wife who was the mother of two young children was executed for the murder of her husband, and the policeman had serious doubts he ignored at the time of the initial investigation.

While there are no obvious disconnects among the chapters, there are perspective shifts and slight changes in attitude as each writer adds his or her voice to the mix.   The tone may go from cunning to bullying or from scene description to dialogue.   For example, Faye Kellerman’s penchant for details marks her contribution and Lisa Scottoline’s snappy, terse dialogue is present in hers.

The typical plot elements include super locations in San Francisco that are accurately described and a sinister observer who is designated by an alternate font/typeface.   He/she is puzzling but not quite menacing.   Moreover, there are shifts from characters that are clearly cerebral to ones who are driven by emotions and actions.

Readers of Joseph’s Reviews may have noted that this reviewer is quite fond of the mystery genre.   Several of the authors who contributed to this book have provided a bedtime lights out that stretched into the early hours of the morning because their stories truly kept this reader engaged up to the final page.   Now, together, they provide a bit of magic!

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.   “…except for funds allocated to author payments, all of our profits from (this book) are going to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.”   Lamia J. Gulli

No Rest for the Dead was released as a trade paperback book on July 3, 2012.

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Stairway to Heaven (Sedaka)

No Rest for the Dead: A Novel by Sandra Brown, R. L. Stine, Alexander McCall Smith, J.A. Jance, Diana Gabeldon, Jeffrey Deaver, Lisa Scottoline, John Lescoart, Kathy Reichs, et al.   (Touchstone, $24.99, 256 pages)

Twenty-Six Writers.   One Mystery.

“The lineup of writers who have contributed to this mystery is akin to the Murderer’s Row of the 1927 New York Yankees.   There is not a weak spot in the bunch.”   David Baldacci

Can there be synergy when it comes to writing?   If 26 well-known and admired mystery writers collaborate on one story, can it be as good as, or better than, the work  of just one of them?   That’s the question behind the creation of No Rest for the Dead.   Each chapter or segment was written by one of the twenty-six writers or a combination of them.  

The book includes police reports of the crime in question (by Kathy Reichs) and journal entries by the cop who would not go of an old death penalty case (by Andrew F. Gulli).   The tragedy was that a wife who was the mother of two young children was executed for the murder of her husband, and the cop had serious doubts he ignored at the time of the investigation.

While there are no obvious disconnects among the chapters, there are perspective shifts and slight changes in attitude as each writer adds his or her voice to the mix.   The tone may go from cunning to bullying or from scene description to dialogue.   For example, Faye Kellerman’s penchant for details marks her contribution and Lisa Scottoline’s snappy, terse dialogue is present in hers.

The typical plot elements include super locations in San Francisco that are accurately described and a sinister observer who is designated by an alternate font/typeface.   He/she is puzzling but  not quite menacing.   Moreover, there are shifts from characters that are clearly cerebral to ones who are driven by emotions and actions.

Readers of Joseph’s Reviews may have noted that this reviewer is quite fond of the mystery genre.   Several of the authors who contributed to this book have provided a bedtime lights out that stretched into the early hours of the morning because their stories truly kept this reviewer engaged up to the final page.   Now, together, they provide a bit of magic!

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.   “…except for funds allocated to author payments, all of our profits from No Rest for the Dead are going to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.”   Lamia J. Gulli   

 

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Baker Street

The Brothers of Baker Street: A Mystery by Michael Robinson (Minotaur Books; $24.95; 274 pages)

“Everyone is entitled to the best defense available.   That doesn’t mean everyone is entitled to me.”

Snappy dialogue and well-described characters make this a charming riff on the legendary Sherlock Holmes detective mysteries.   Of course, the opening of the story is set in a privileged, upper class English home where a servant is tending to the needs and desires of an unidentified central figure.   The reader is not provided with any clues regarding the gender or age of the homeowner, nor the reason for their interest in the Daily News, a tabloid of sorts.

There is a direct tie to the 19th century literary character Sherlock Holmes that the reader discovers when the main character of this mystery novel, Reggie Heath, drives his Jaguar into the neighborhood where he works.   The office is located at 221 B Baker Street, London.   Reggie is a barrister, someone in the legal profession who represents lawyers in court.   This seems convoluted and layered, and it is distinctly British.   The office lease for this historic address comes with special terms and conditions.   Writers of letters to Sherlock Holmes, and there are many, must receive a timely written reply.   Reggie’s brother Nigel, who lives in the United States, is responsible for the replies; however, Nigel must return to London in order to play a part in the action in this story.

In the first book of this series, The Baker Street Letters, a letter for Sherlock Holmes drew Reggie to California.   Moreover, the chaos that ensued depleted his bank account and nearly ruined his reputation.   As is frequently the case with British mysteries, the mundane details are glossed over in favor of creating an illusion of surreptitious and clandestine meetings, great chases and general gallivanting about the countryside.   Happily, there are enough wonderful examples of these features to satisfy the reader’s need for a Holmes-like experience.   As always, a London taxi, actually a legendary Black Cab, features prominently in the action.

Author Robertson sets up duels of wits between Reggie and several other characters.   One of these characters is a modern day version of Holmes’ nemesis Professor Moriarty.   This reviewer refuses to divulge any more about the plot as it is engaging and deserves not to be spoiled.

Well recommended.

This review was written by Ruta Arellano.   A review copy was provided by the publisher.   The Brothers of Baker Street will be released on March 1, 2011.

“An extremely clever evil scheme will delight readers.”   Publishers Weekly

 

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Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Book of Nathan: A Novel by Curt Weeden and Richard Marek (Oceanview Publishing; $25.95; 264 pages)

“Dan Brown meets Janet Evanovich…”   Roxanne Black

Co-authors Curt Weeden and Richard Marek have teamed up to create a fascinating novel that is part mystery and part life lesson.   Their main character is Rick Bullock, formerly a successful Madison Avenue advertising man who turned agnostic soul saver when his beloved wife, Anne, died from a brain tumor.   Rick has refocused his life and manages a shelter for men in the inner city.   He knows his clients and when one of them named Zeus is accused of a high-profile murder, Rick makes it his task to prove the accusers wrong.

The first person narrative is an excellent vehicle for combining the disparate elements of the tale.   Rick’s thoughts and actions are consistent with a man of high moral principles.   Fortunately, the authors have resisted portraying him as a saintly type.   He is capable of trickery and a little arm twisting to obtain the resources needed to travel to Florida where Zeus is incarcerated.   Lacking funds for the journey, Rick calls in a favor from a buddy in his advertising past, Doug Kool, who is a fundraiser par excellence for a big nonprofit.

The team Rick takes to Florida is a rag-tag group.   Some of them are helpful for the mission (Doc Waters and Maurice) and one is a genuine bundle of precocious trouble (Twyla Tharp – no, not that one).   This reviewer was reminded of The Wizard of Oz and the pilgrimage that Dorothy made with her band of seekers.   Amazingly, the story line manages to stay reasonably tight and manageable regardless of the wide variety of characters.   Oh, did I mention that an extremely wealthy man also plays a part?   Indeed, the reader will discover more than the identity of the killer by the story’s end.  

The values and moral judgements presented are all too real and not off the scale of everyday issues we all face.   Kudos to Weeden and Marek for delivering their message in such an entertaining way.   Highly recommended.

This review was written by Ruta Arellano.   A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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