Tag Archives: William Morrow Paperbacks

Helter Skelter

“Mental wounds not healing/Who and what’s to blame/I’m goin’ off the rails of the crazy train.” Ozzy Osbourne (“Crazy Train”)

Absence of Mercy (nook book)

The Absence of Mercy: A Novel by John Burley (William Morrow Paperbacks, $14.99, 352 pages)

A high school boy is murdered, and a high school girl barely escapes the same fate. A bedroom community is rocked, and the Medical Examiner’s family becomes embroiled in the controversy. This is the essence of John Burley’s debut novel, The Absence of Mercy. Burley himself is an emergency medicine physician, and those in that profession can attest to the accuracy or lack thereof in his details. For the typical reader who wants to enjoy a good suspense thriller, one could do far worse than Absence. In fact, having reviewed many books of this genre, I am hard pressed to recall any contemporary suspense thriller that I have enjoyed more.

Absence of Mercy back cover

In addition to an intuitive sense of pacing that is well refined for a first-time author, the reader does not have to suspend reality or ignore sensationalism to appreciate the book. I suppose the cross border escape attempt pushes the envelope a bit, but I’ll give Burley a pass on this, as the rest of the story is rock solid (or “spot on” as the English say). The events chronicled in this book could have happened today, anywhere. A mother’s love, professional integrity, trust, despair and forgiveness permeate the story effortlessly. Nothing here seems forced.

And, then, there is insanity. Yes, mental illness is real, and many good people effectively manage various afflictions throughout an entire lifetime. But there is also crazy and evil in this world. As humans we seem compelled to attempt to explain, make sense of, or feel the need to control everything around us. Unfortunately, this is not possible, as we tend to learn all too directly. As to true crazy and pure evil, there is no remedy, no cure.

In Absence, there is also no mercy.

Well recommended.

Dave Moyer

A review copy was provided by the publisher. Dave Moyer is an education administrator and the author of Life and Life Only: A Novel.

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Just About a Moonlight Mile

Moonlight Mile (nook book)

Moonlight Mile: A Kenzie and Gennaro Novel by Dennis Lehane (William Morrow Paperbacks, $14.99, 336 pages; Harper, $9.99, 368 pages)

Dennis Lehane’s Moonlight Mile is a typical crime novel that weighs in as above average, but not enough to be considered a great work. The book relies significantly on dialogue. When an author’s story rests on a foundation of dialogue, the dialogue had better be good. In this case, it is strong at times but cheesy at others. All in all, the results are mixed.

While Lehane’s earlier novel, Live by Night, was a superb novel with a crime backdrop, Moonlight Mile is more of a stereotypical crime novel; although there are high points found throughout, it is basically “run of the mill.”

Private Investigator Patrick Kenzie and wife, Angela Gennaro, are caught up in the sequel to Gone, Baby, Gone, in which the enigmatic Amanda resurfaces twelve years later. As in any good crime novel, Russian gangsters are somehow prominent and, in this case, baby smuggling is the theme/motive. Dre, the Doctor that becomes entangled in the enterprise, is introduced well on into the story – which makes it a bit difficult for the reader to track and become emotionally involved. However, the doctor’s dereliction of duty provides an explanation for how and why everybody involved is involved. Sadly, the character development is lacking.

Kenzie and Gennaro struggle through the fact that they are in a relationship in which one person is shot at on a regular basis. Luckily, they remain attracted to each other. Okay.

While this is, overall, a good book with an exciting conclusion that some – or even many – will enjoy, I found it to be just passable. One would be better advised to pick up and read any Frederick Forsyth novel.

Recommended for less demanding readers.

Dave Moyer

Dennis Lehane

A review copy was provided by the publisher. Dennis Lehane also wrote Mystic River: A Novel.

Dave Moyer is an educator and the author of Life and Life Only: A Novel.

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A Question of Balance

A Question of Honor (nook book)

A Question of Honor: A Bess Crawford Mystery by Charles Todd (William Morrow Paperbacks, $14.99, 336 pages)

The 2013 installment of the Bess Crawford saga draws readers back to India in 1908 for the plot-setting incident. Bess grew up in colonial India where her father, Colonel Crawford, commanded a regiment. One of his officers was identified as a murderer; however, the fellow was presumed dead before he could be captured and tried for his crime. The regimental honor was sullied and the memory of the evil deed followed the men for years.

The secondary plot threads concern the perils faced by British citizens whose children were shipped back home due to sickness and the tensions between the British and local warring tribes in the early 1900s. Fast forward ten years to 1918 and we encounter Bess serving as a nurse on the battlefields of France. She is, as always, plucky and strong willed. Her eyes and ears gather information from the wounded as she carriers out her duties. One fellow in particular confides in her regarding the presumed dead murderer from her father’s regiment, thus sparking Bess to action. The regimental honor is family business!

The tale unfolds across Europe from this multi-level beginning. The book seems to be more Bess’ journal than a mystery novel. The narrative is a bit bouncy which may be due in part to the advance reader’s edition on which this review is based. There is an interesting contrast in perspective for fans of the authors, the mother-son duo who write under the pen name of Charles Todd. The Ian Rutledge series focuses on the post-war personal fallout for a male World War I officer; whereas, the Bess Crawford series details the ways in which women were expected to be brave and serve their country in time of battle and yet maintain their modesty. That’s quite a challenge.

Well recommended.

An Unwilling Accomplice (nook book)

An Unwilling Accomplice: A Bess Crawford Mystery by Charles Todd (William Morrow, $25.99, 352 pages)

This year’s Bess Crawford tale segues smoothly from the one reviewed above. There is an even pace to the telling as the reader learns of Bess’ experiences behind the battle lines in France. As the book begins, Bess is home in England on leave and planning to rest. A messenger delivers an order regarding a badly wounded soldier who has requested that she accompany him to Buckingham Palace. Bess must accept the assignment and forego her rest.

The soldier, Sergeant Jason Wilkins, is to receive a medal from the king. Social mores dictate that Bess restrict her care to checking in on Sergeant Wilkins and tending to his bandages. At no time is she to stay in his London hotel room. The evening after the ceremony, Sergeant-Major Simon Brandon (known to fans in past mysteries) meets her for dinner in the hotel dining room. All seems well until the next morning when Bess goes to ready Sergeant Wilkins for his trip out of London. Wilkins’ bed is empty and he is missing!

The Army and the Nursing Service blame Bess. Her spotless record of service is now tainted and she is placed on administrative leave pending a review of the matter. That’s all she needs to spur her to find the vanished soldier and clear her good name. Simon assists Bess in her quest whenever he is between covert assignments.

The complex plot line is at times confusing. There are miles of back and forth driving in the English countryside chasing the elusive Wilkins. The search occurs among three small towns. A map of the vicinity would be helpful. This review is based on an advance reader’s edition. Hopefully, the final published version will include a map. One other matter is confusing – Bess and Simon are devoted friends and their relationship seems oddly platonic. Perhaps his military rank relegates him to only being a buddy?

Well recommended.

Ruta Arellano

Review copies were received from the publisher. An Unwilling Accomplice was released on August 12, 2014.

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Doing Battle

What Strange Creatures (nook book)

What Strange Creatures: A Novel by Emily Arsenault (William Morrow, $14.99, 368 pages)

I did not intend to read this book. I picked it up while I was heating something to eat and, boom, I was hooked. This is the story of a divorced graduate student, Theresa Battle – about five years past her PhD completion date, whose younger ne’er-do-well brother has been arrested for the murder of his girlfriend. The problem is that her brother lied to the police during the homicide investigation; he actually stalked his own girlfriend when she went out of town, thinking she was meeting an old flame. He had the means, motive and opportunity to kill her.

Author Emily Arsenault draws the reader in with a very calm, focused style. It’s almost as if one’s watching the story unfold in slow motion, but everything about it seems real – from the dialogue to the people involved, and their pets. This is not a book for those who want action on every page – I put that type of book down to read this one, without regret.

The reader will wonder whether Battle can free her brother since his plight involves a very powerful individual out to protect himself at all costs. It’s worth reading What Strange Creatures to find out.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released on Tuesday, June 22, 2014.

Emily Arsenault.jpg

“Arsenault writes a smart tale about a character who finds it hard to save herself, but will do anything to save her brother.” Jacqueline R. Sheehan, New York Times bestselling author of Lost and Found.

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Here Come the Brides

Bridge Wore Size 12 (nook book)

The Bride Wore Size 12: A Novel by Meg Cabot (William Morrow, $14.99, 400 pages)

Heather Mills is used to having her cake and eating it too, but this time her cake just might be cooked. Her wedding cake, that is.

Prolific author Meg Cabot delivers a new and very funny installment to fans of her Heather Wells series with The Bride Wore Size 12. Heather, a former teen pop singer, works at New York College – a fictitious private school in the city, where she is the assistant dorm director. The setting is ripe with possibilities for mayhem and humor.

The dialogue is snarky and remarkably upbeat considering Heather – who narrates the tale, is swamped by unanticipated drama at the beginning of the school year. Back-to-school events for incoming freshmen and a death in the dorm keep getting in the way of a more important matter – planning for her upcoming wedding to private investigator Cooper Cartwright.

The dorm residents include the son of a wealthy Middle Eastern king, numerous students whose helicopter parents insist on changing the room assignments to place their darlings in the best suites, and a core of resident assistants who help Heather manage the chaos – sometimes with cocktails. The politics of her job are enough to drive the average person bonkers; however, Heather has weathered more stressful situations in her prior career as a performer. Her mom ran off with Heather’s money and her manager to Argentina which necessitated the assistant dorm director job. She relies on her boundless energy and help from Cooper – and some alcohol, to solve the murder and get to the altar on time.

Bridge Wore Size 12 drink recipe

Meg Cabot’s audience clearly overlaps with those of writers Lisa Scottoline and Lisa Lutz. Together these three zany writers have provided many happy reading hours for this reviewer. Keep those book rolling off the presses, ladies!

Highly recommended.

Skating Under the Wire

Skating Under the Wire: A Mystery by Joelle Charbonneau (Minotaur Books, $25.99, 304 pages)

For a complete change of pace, but with a wedding theme as well, pick up the latest book in the roller-skating series by Joelle Charbonneau – Skating Under the Wire. Rink owner Rebecca Robbins is making a go of the business she inherited from her mom. The EstroGenocide women’s roller derby team now has a large and enthusiastic fan base. Rather than return to Chicago and the life she had before her mom’s untimely death, Rebecca has decided to stay in Indian Falls. Her grandfather, Pop, the senior citizen Elvis impersonator lives there, as does a rather handsome large animal veterinarian named Lionel whom Rebecca is dating.

Rebecca’s best friend Danielle is about to be married to the local preacher and Thanksgiving will be here soon. Rebecca is determined to be a super maid of honor for Danielle. The wedding shower for Danielle is held at the local senior center. As the presents are being opened, one of the ladies is missing from the festivities. She is found dead in the TV room! That’s mystery number one.

An intimate Thanksgiving dinner at her apartment above the roller-rink is the other obligation that Rebecca has on her literal plate. Thanksgiving has a strange meaning for the folks in Indian Falls due to a ten-year string of burglaries. You can count on Rebecca to create her own extravaganza as she turns a simple holiday dinner into a mass event all the while following clues and odd happenings to solve her most challenging cases yet.

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

Review copies were provided by the publishers.

You can read a review of Joelle Charbonneau’s earlier book, Skating On the Edge: A Mystery, here:

https://josephsreviews.wordpress.com/2013/01/12/four-to-go/

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I Am… I Said

One Last Strike: 50 Years in Baseball, 10 and a Half Games Back, and One Final Championship Season by Tony La Russa (William Morrow Paperbacks, $15.99, 432 pages)

Tony La Russa’s One Last Strike chronicles his final season as manager of the St. Louis Cardinals — a season in which the team came back from a large deficit, overcoming injuries and other adversity, to make the playoffs as a wild card team and eventually win the World Series.

Cardinals fans will likely enjoy the book a great deal, and some baseball fans at large might find the book interesting, but other baseball fans, sports fans, or general readers may not be so keen on it.

La Russa’s writing is as icy as his personality, and although he does not come across as stoic as one might have expected, the writing does not require the reader to make any connection to the quest or comeback of the team or the swan song of one of baseball’s most successful managers, or the players who played for him.

One Last Strike (close up)

La Russa had a chance to perhaps sway some in the middle who are neither lovers nor haters of his career and methods, but he really doesn’t do anything to engage anybody who already didn’t either a) like the Cardinals, or b) like him prior to the unlikely championship season.

Putting aside some minor irritants such as the continuous referrals to Cris Carpenter and Dave Duncan as Carp and Dunc (I mean, if you are on a team and that’s what they go by, I guess that’s what you call them), the writing seems to truly mirror the way the author’s mind processes the world.

If La Russa is the genius who all but invented the game, then it would seem that this final goodbye might include a bit more of the baseball decisions and technicalities that were part of his final run. Since the book doesn’t go there, it would seem appropriate to focus on the relationships of players, managers, and families that comprised this winning club. La Russa’s attempt at this is to convince us that this is so — that he and Dunc are tight; Carp is a big game pitcher; he sticks up for his players; he cares about them, the local organization, and the game, etc. Less telling and more showing would go a long way to help the reader who didn’t already follow this team be drawn into the storyline and the characters who made it happen.

La Russa’s attempt to explain how he is the sole arbiter of which hitters deserve to get thrown in a baseball game and which ones don’t, only reinforces that he is the “Omniscient” manager — it does not convince anyone that he has the scoop on proper baseball protocol. His telling of why he chose to start certain pitchers leading up to an in the World Series is much more enlightening. His admission of a mistake in a big game is humanizing and honest. But on the whole, the book is just there. It doesn’t move anybody in any direction unless they just happen to want to enjoy and relive the unique and fine 2011 World Series.

Recommended.

Dave Moyer

This book was purchased for the reviewer. Dave Moyer is an educator, a musician and the author of Life and Life Only, a novel about baseball and Bob Dylan.

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