Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Lone Wolf by Sara Driscoll: My Review

A new crime series is an exciting event, and when it expands one’s horizons in the genre, it is especially a great find. Lone Wolf by Sara Driscoll is the first in the F.B.I. K-9 novels and features F.B.I. Special Agent Meg Jennings and her black Labrador search-and-rescue/tracking dog named Hawk. Using dogs to help recover and/or discover during a crime investigation is an area with which I was not familiar and an area that has not been overly covered in the mystery/crime genre. Lone Wolf does an excellent job of bringing these dogs and their handlers to the light of day. The team of handler and dog are fiercely devoted to one another and must be able to depend on each other in life and death situations. The author does a superb job of describing the emotional bonds of handler and dog, as well as the physical training required. The use of a defined search-and-rescue term at the beginning of each chapter in the book helps acquaint readers with the jargon used in this function of search-and-rescue. The characters are fresh and interesting including the canine ones, the plot is all too plausible in our world today, and the story unfolds in a chilling atmosphere of well-measured suspense.

Fear has gripped the nation’s capital as a domestic terrorist is targeting government buildings and departments which he feels have wronged him and ruined his life. The modus operandi is homemade drones, packed with C-4 for maximum damage and loss of life. Meg and Hawk are drawn into this nightmare investigation as the first drone demolishes the Department of Agriculture building on a day that school children are visiting and directly in the bomb’s path. Survivors must be found in a crucial window of time, and the FBI K-9 unit is an integral part of the search and rescue effort. Meg and Hawk and the other canine teams work throughout the night locating those who clung to life amidst the hellish chaos.

The perpetrator soon shows that he is an angry American with axes to grind and no regard for human life, as he sends an anonymous email to Washington Post reporter Clay McCord indicating that there are more bombings to come. The next target is outside of D.C., and Meg and Hawk are once again called in with the other first responders. With a home-grown terrorist who shows no signs of stopping his attacks to kill and maim, Meg enlists the aid of McCord to do some private investigating into finding this madman before the death and destruction paralyzes the nation with uncontrollable panic.

I think that Jen Danna and Ann Vanderlaan, a.k.a Sara Driscoll, have found a niche in crime fiction that the FBI K-9 series fills quite nicely. I look forward to the minor characters, Meg’s fellow dog handlers and the newspaper reporter and the hint of a romantic interest for Meg all being fleshed out more. To me, that’s one of the beauties of a series, each book adding more background and more character development. There is lots of potential for this series to be a popular one, and not only for dog enthusiasts.

I received an ARC of Lone Wolf, but it is a definite hardback buy for me, too.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Interview with Jen J. Danna and Ann Vanderlaan

Today I'm interviewing a couple of authors who are as diversely interesting as they are impressively talented.  Jen J. Danna and Ann Vanderlaan first began their writing partnership with a favorite series of mine, the Abbott and Lowell Forensics Mysteries.  There are currently four titles in that series.  Jen and Ann have now joined forces in a new series, the F.B.I. K-9 Mysteries, and its first title, Lone Wolf, comes out tomorrow, and they have a new author name of Sara Driscoll for it.  As with all their work, Lone Wolf is a special read, and I will be posting my review of it here on the blog tomorrow.

So, now I will let you get to know Jen and Ann as they answer some questions about their writing and personal lives.


    Reading Room:  I’ve always been fascinated with how a partnership in writing a book works.  I’m guessing neither of you is a control freak.  Considering that you live in Canada, Jen, and you live in Texas, Ann, when and how did the two of you first meet and decide to write a book together, and what is the division of labor?

Jen: When I started writing again following a very long hiatus (more on that later), I posted some of my work online. Ann saw some of that work and introduced herself. She had correctly caught me in a gun error—she’s a gun owner herself and I’m a gun control-loving Canadian, and I was clearly making it up as I went along. We started talking and she offered to beta read some of my writing. But it quickly got to a point where she was contributing so much on both editing and plotting that we knew we’d be more successful if she was involved right from the beginning. That process is essentially the same one we still use: we do character and story/series planning together, then I write each chapter, and Ann rips it apart. We then put it back together as a team and then move onto the next chapter. Once the entire manuscript is done, we do several similar passes at the manuscript level. Ann also writes the chapter titles/descriptions, assists with research, lends her particular medical/technical/veterinary expertise, helps beat out the ‘Canukisms’ I inadvertently write into the manuscript, and is invaluable when we are writing characters that require a local colour and voice I simply don’t know. The perpetrator of the crimes in Lone Wolf is a perfect example of this. His life comes directly from Ann’s experiences and from the people she knew from when she lived on the east coast.

    Reading Room:  I follow both of you on FB and probably know from our acquaintance through your books some interesting facts about you, such as scientist and dog lover.  Could you tell those who are just starting to read you something about yourselves in your day jobs or activities?

Jen: I work full time in an infectious diseases lab at a Canadian university studying dengue fever, West Nile, influenza, and a number of other pathogens. We run a number of national and international studies funded by both American and Canadian funding agencies. We are an extremely busy and diverse group, but the day job is never boring (we don’t have time for boring!). So my writing has to fit around my day job, which means writing during my lunch hour, after work and in the evening, and on weekends.

Ann: I’m retired, but have never been busier. Aside from our writing, I am the treasurer and registered agent for a 501(c)(3) bully breed rescue, train and amuse my own dogs every day, assist my therapy dog with his day job at a domestic violence shelter and an elder care facility, practice nosework with my therapy dog in his favorite sport, and act as interpreter between vets and rescue members for some medical cases.

    Reading Room:  Jen, I had the good fortune to meet you at my first Bouchercon in Albany, New York in 2013.  You and Ann had started the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries series, which I’ve really enjoyed, as I’m a big fan of forensics and you all did a superb job of that.  Could you tell us a bit about how you and Ann came to decide on that series’ subject matter?  Will there be more Leigh Abbott and Matt Lowell in the future?

Jen: Both Ann and I are scientists by heart and career and we both find the field of forensic anthropology fascinating and an interesting spin on a typical police procedure when you want to build in an active forensic angle. I personally wanted to be able to combine my love of science with my life-long love of mysteries, without writing a biothriller, which would be too close to my actual day job to be fun. It required learning the field of forensic anthropology to make the series believable, but my job at the university made all the professional journals available to me. Dr. William Bass, the father of modern forensic anthropology was speaking at Killer Nashville when I attended in 2011. Many writers spoke to him about how they loved his books (he writes with Jon Jefferson as Jefferson Bass). I’m sure I was the only one who spent time talking to him about his career as a scientific researcher and how his journal articles allowed me to write our forensic mysteries.

The next book in Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries, Lament the Common Bones, will be released on March 15, 2017. This book is special because it not only has a full and very interesting case, but also wraps up a long arc of some very personal troubles for Leigh Abbott.

    Reading Room: Now, to your exciting new series, the FBI K-9 Series with Meg Jennings and Hawk, her search-and-rescue Labrador.  How did this series come about?  And, the new author name of Sara Driscoll?

Jen: We owe a large part of the FBI K-9 series to our agent, Nicole Resciniti of the Seymour Agency. She had lunch with editor Peter Sentfleben, who was with Kensington at the time, discussing the books he’d like to see. He requested a police procedural with a K-9 angle. Nicole brought that request, along with a number of other requests from other editors to her clients and Ann and I jumped at it. With Ann’s background in dog training and handling, we knew we had a leg up on many other writers. We were thrilled when Peter offered us a three book, hardcover deal. Lone Wolf is the first book in that series. Sadly, Peter moved on to a new publishing house, but we are now working with our new editor, Esi Sogah, on Before It’s Too Late, book two in the series, which will release in October 2017.

As far as the name, Kensington wanted a fresh name for the fresh series, so we came up with a name to encompass the two of us. Sara is the name of Ann’s granddaughter. When it came to the last name, what we were aiming for was something a little unusual that had no one like it through existing booksellers. And Sara Driscoll was born.

    Reading Room:  Something that I’d like for all of your readers to know is that you have one of the most interesting blogs around, with its “ forensics, archeology, science,  (your) writing and publishing path, and, the world of K-9 investigations.”  The recent post “The Brains Behind the Dog” featured dog handlers and there was a nice picture of Ann and the dog she serves as a handler for.  Most of the posts lately have been about working dogs, but this past year has also seen posts about Colma, CA, the city of death and the talented photographer daughter of Jen, Jess Danna.  So, the question is, do you write the blog solo, Jen, or do you and Ann both contribute to it?  Also, add anything else about the blog you want.

Jen: Both Ann and I look for interesting content for the blog, either through our own interests or current news stories. For example, we followed the discovery of the remains of Richard III from the first announcement of the uncovered skeleton, all the way through to the final facial reconstruction and DNA results in real time. For the K-9 stories, Ann has a heavier hand in the content as that’s her forte, not mine. Just as with our prose, I do the writing, and Ann does the editing.

    Reading Room:  Can either or both of you remember your first writing, be it as a youth or an adult, that made you think writing was in your future?

Jen: I used to write for fun as a teenager, but gave it up when my life got busy getting a university degree, then getting married and raising kids. But about twenty-five years, later, as my kids were older and didn’t need me as much, I started writing again. Back when I first started, I was writing with a girlfriend—now published children’s author R.J. Anderson. We lived 275 miles apart and used to snail mail chapters of our stories to each other. I’m sure the writing was terrible but I really wish I’d kept some of it because there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a learning curve and we all start somewhere. But never in a million years did I think this would be a career. I have a science degree and haven’t taken a single English class past high school. But both Ann and I are voracious readers and you can learn how to write simply by reading a lot of excellent writing. 
Ann and I wrote for fun for two years, composing five trunk novels in that time. We simply did it for the joy of writing, until a few people said to us ‘Why aren’t you doing this professionally?’ and we both thought ‘Why aren’t we?’ We scrapped everything we’d done in the past and started the first Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mystery, Dead, Without a Stone to Tell It, and the rest is history. But neither of us initially intended it as a career. 

Ann: I never really thought of writing as my future. I always wanted to be an engineer or biomedical scientist.

    Reading Room:  Something I like to ask all authors in an interview is about their secret or lesser known talents.  I know with both of you exude talent in your writing and your other work, but what’s a talent each of you has that might be quirky or not as well-known as your obvious ones?  Dowsing? Grave digging? 

Jen: Well, it’s not really a quirky talent, but I, like the rest of my family, am very musical. I used to play the oboe in high school, still dabble at the piano, and sing regularly in a choir.

Ann: I’ve taught courses in a vet school, a medical school, and a nursing school before veering off into software and automation in the oilfield. I am fascinated by large machines and how things work. But even before grad school I was always interested in systems behavior: why do individuals (people, red blood cells, software modules, etc.) behave differently when alone rather than in a crowd, living body, or other system? After years of living in a prolific moonshining county, I can walk outside on a crisp fall morning and identify which of my neighbors’ stills are running and what mash they are using. I learned how to quilt by hand. I also was taught how to dowse, although I am a skeptic.


    Reading Room:  And, being interested in what everyone else is reading, I must ask, what book or books do you have on your nightstand now?

Jen: I’m just about to start Louise Penny’s most recent release A Great Reckoning. I love her Chief Inspector Gamache books (and no, not just because she’s a Canadian author writing a Canadian setting). She writes beautifully, and that series is a fantastic example of how you can build up a long arc over eight or nine books, culminating in a magnificent climax, in her case, in How the Light Gets In. Simply amazing.

Ann: With five large dogs, reading is a communal activity in the living room reserved for evenings or wet days. Currently, I’m reading And the Dog Who Spoke with Gods by Diane Jessup and Jordan’s Stormy Banks by Jefferson Bass. Without Mercy, also by Jefferson Bass is next on my list.

    Reading Room:  One last question that I personally am excited to know the answer to.  Are you amazing authors going to be at Bouchercon next fall when it’s in Toronto?

Jen: Absolutely! Wouldn’t miss it!

Monday, October 31, 2016

Say No More by Hank Phillippi Ryan: My Review

The fifth entry in the Jane Ryland mystery/crime series checks so many boxes on the exceptional novel check-list that Hank Phillippi Ryan might want to make room in her already jam-packed award cabinet. Every novel in this series imparts unsurpassed plotting and a timely theme threaded with reliability and consistency. Say No More starts its theme with its very title and infuses into every pivotal action the paralyzing effects of keeping quiet about a crime, even when it is a crime committed against oneself. But, of course, it is all much more complex than that, and nobody delves into the complex and unravels it better than Hank.

The characters, both major and minor, are the embodiment of authenticity, and readers will appreciate the attention to detail the author exerts. I found the clothes descriptions quite telling about the characters’ personalities, with traits such as greed and timidity easily recognizable. Further insight can be gained from Ryan’s use of multiple points-of-view, too, with the major players each having their own turn speaking and moving the action along. Jane and Jake still take stage front and center, but the additional POVs provide a complete and most satisfying immersion.

One of the most distressing topics concerning college campuses today is that of sexual assault, rape, mostly involving young women attacked by fellow male students, and too many times with the excuse of alcohol or other drugs. Jane Ryland has left the breaking news department of Channel 2 News and is working on a special project, a documentary on that very issue, sexual assaults on college campuses. Hoping to get hits from a FB page set up asking for students wanting to tell their stories to contact her or her producer, Jane has heard from a rape victim who is willing to meet with Jane about her nightmarish experience as a college student at a party. Jane has just come forward herself with information about a crime, a hit-and-run she witnessed and a description of the driver. Reporting the accident just seems like the right thing to do to Jane, but she will face her own dilemma about speaking out, especially after receiving a note warning her to SAY NO MORE.

Meanwhile, Jake Brogan, Boston Police Department detective and Jane’s boyfriend, is investigating a drowning that might be a homicide. The victim is associated with a local college as an adjunct professor in the drama department. Avery Morgan was on loan from her screen-writing in Hollywood and living in a house furnished by the college. Jake and his partner Paul DeLuca are met with a wall of silence in the residential neighborhood called The Reserve, with no one admitting to having seen anything. And, there’s Jake’s snitch who is having problems with the Boston gangster family he has been snitching on, afraid he’s said too much. All have connections to the same college as Jane’s rape victim.

And, Jane and Jake have their own secrets and struggles with just how much to say concerning their relationship. It’s always been a conflict of interests, with Jake’s police work and Jane’s reporting, but they are trying to strike a happy balance with Jane leaving the breaking news part of reporting. How much do they reveal about their personal lives to others and how much do they reveal to each other if their work intersects? With a private engagement now cementing their feelings, much more is on the line. How much and what are they willing to sacrifice to achieve the right balance?

I was most fortunate to receive an advanced reader’s copy of Say No More from the author. I thank Hank Phillippi Ryan for that and for providing another riveting tale that is now one of my favorite reads of 2016.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Murder in Containment by Anne Cleeland: My Review

I tend to take a page from Lord Acton when I read a book in this outstanding series by Anne Cleeland. Obsession starts from the first word and hardly ends with the last. I usually must pull out the previous books and revisit those in part, too. And, there is the knowing that the book is ending and trying to read the last few chapters slowly or delay them, because I know that while I will be completely satisfied when I close the book, I will be entering withdrawal from my addiction. Of course, the addiction never goes away; it is only abated until the next book. Book #4, Murder in Containment, in the Acton/Doyle series is as unputdownable as the previous three, which is great news for fans and maybe not such good news for a husband with whom I was spending an anniversary weekend. Ah, but the heart wants what the heart wants, and as Kathleen Doyle would say, “It was a crackin’ good read.”

Murder in Containment is one of the most deliciously complicated plots yet in the series. Detective Sergeant Kathleen Doyle is pregnant, as was revealed in the previous book, Murder in Hindsight, and she is having a wretched time of it, with morning sickness that won’t confine itself to morning. DCI Michael Sinclair/Lord Acton, Doyle’s husband, is on a high-profile case with connections that could prove irreparably scandalous for Scotland Yard’s CID. Doyle’s prescience is becoming more fine-tuned as she allows herself to give credence to its veracity, but she keeps her gifts under wraps. She already presents a target for those who would harm Acton, and knowledge of her abilities could prove fatal.

As usual, Detective Sergeant Doyle’s case, a carry-over from last novel finds itself crossing into the territory of Acton’s web of tangled troubles. The journalist-turned-vigilante, who Doyle knew as a friend before his nefarious activity, has one more murder to commit, and DS Doyle is on hand to thwart his final attempt. The intended victim is DCI Drake, and Doyle is puzzled about Drake’s fitting the killer’s profile for his marks. Kevin Maguire, the killer/journalist had as his fixed motive trying to right previous miscarries of justice. While Doyle struggles to understand the motive, Maguire starts appearing in Doyle’s dreams as a sort of guide to danger ahead. Acton’s case involves corruption at Wexton Prison, and he cautiously uses Doyle’s gifts to ferret out the lies.

The murder focus in on that of containment murders, those committed to prevent the victim from leading Acton, either deliberately or accidentally, to the masterminds in the prison corruption. Doyle is well aware that her husband, no stranger to vigilante justice, may be involved in some containment activity, including murder, of his own. Acton has always played his own game in law enforcement, but it has its own twisted form of what’s right and just. Doyle is more by the book, except where her special gifts are an advantage. Together Doyle and Acton make a formidable team, both professionally and personally. Their conversations are such great dialogue, with Doyle’s use of her Irish roots and self-deprecating quips and Acton’s dry sense of humor. The Lord of the realm and the Irish lass are never boring.

The story is told from the point of view of Doyle, but there is a nice surprise deep into the novel when Detective Inspector Thomas Williams has a short chapter of his own. Williams is such a likeable character, his heart still beating for Doyle, but his loyalty to Acton never in question. It’s a tough line he must walk, and he walks it admirably. He has a few surprises of his own in this story, and I’m delighted to see his role deepened.

This book could well be read by itself and enjoyed, but the previous three books build on each other so much, especially the brilliant character development (both major and minor characters), that the reader would be cheating her/himself by not reading the first three. And, you don’t want to miss a minute of the story of Kathleen Doyle and Michael Sinclair, Lord Acton. The other characters, too, grow so much, and Lord Acton’s peerage and his estate at Trestles is explained a little more each book. Of course, there are the amazing police procedural stories, crimes and murder mysteries, that just can’t be missed. So, if you haven’t read any of the series yet, give yourself a Christmas gift by buying all four and shutting yourself away during the holidays for non-stop reading. If you’ve read the previous novels, it’s rather certain you are already champing at the bit to read Murder in Containment.  So, treat yourself to one of the best reads of 2016 as soon as you can.  

Monday, October 17, 2016

Smoke and Mirrors by Elly Griffiths: My Review

Smoke and Mirrors is the second book in the Magic Men Mysteries, following the successful The Zig Zag Girl. This second entry seals the deal for me that Elly’s new series is another favorite. As an ardent fan of the Ruth Galloway series, I started this new series with a bit of trepidation. Could I really love another series by this favorite author as much as the first? Well, apparently, the answer is an unqualified yes. The smooth writing, the great plotting, and the fascinating characters whose depths are ever growing. It’s all there in the Magic Men series, also known as the Max Mephisto/Edgar Stephens series.

The setting is Brighton, England in 1951, and the Christmas season has begun. But, there is little to be jolly about after two children disappear on their way to a sweet shop and are found dead in a fresh snow two days later, a trail of candies/sweets leading to their bodies. Mark and Annie, ages 12 and 13, had been best friends, growing up on the same street, and both having an interest in writing plays and the theater. Annie’s writing leaned toward a dark, twisted style, with a startling retelling of Hansel and Gretel and an original, though steeped in folktale traditions, script entitled The Stolen Children. It falls to Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens and his team of DS Emma Holmes and Sergeant Bob Willis to determine who would have motive to kill these bright, creative kids just beginning their lives. There seems to be no shortage of leads to follow up and people to investigate and more than a few red herrings, but with a crime of this magnitude and brutality, no stone can be left unturned, and Griffiths leaves no loose threads when the resolution is revealed.

And, there is the theater connection, which leads Edgar to the pantomime performance of Aladdin at the Palace Pier Theater starring his friend and fellow WWII veteran, Max Mephisto. The current murders have eerie similarities to a 1912 pantomime performed in Hastings where a fifteen-year-old girl was killed right before she took the stage in Babes in the Wood play. One of the performers in the current pantomime had been one of two who discovered the body of that girl in 1912. Max gives Edgar insight and access to the theater world that would have been a closed community otherwise, and Edgar needs all the edge he can get in a case where make-believe is all too real.

The 1950s is an interesting, but challenging era to write about, but Elly Griffiths uses her resources well to recreate Brighton after the horrors of WWII, but still showing its effects in rationing and the all too fresh memories with which Edgar must deal. Edgar and Max have the bond of serving together in the Magic Men assignment during the war, and it has given them both a basis for a friendship and a way to cope with their past. The boundaries of what are socially and legally acceptable sexual relationships in Brighton and England in this pre-war decade surface, too, within the theater cast. And, there is still a matter of class divisions long after WWI started to change those. But, one of the most fascinating aspects of the book is the peek into the world of the English pantomime play of the 50s, with its double entendre and the fluidity of gender in roles.

Characters are one of the outstanding features of Griffiths’ writing that give it depth and provide the reader with exceptional enjoyment. Major characters, such as Edgar and Max, are expected to be well developed, with each book adding to their background and connection. But, Elly Griffiths, as she does in her Ruth Galloway series, gives incredible attention to detail in her minor characters, too. Emma Holmes is a sign of times to come with her smart, dedicated police work and her ability to succeed in what is still very much a man’s world. The Great Diablo brings his larger than life personality to the cast of the play and the cast of the book. Ruby, Max’s daughter and Edgar’s love interest is becoming a more clearly recognizable player, as her ambition becomes more apparent. Even the dead children are characters we feel we know and, thus, lament their deaths even more.

Elly Griffiths just received the Crime Writers’ Association Dagger in the Library for 2016, a prestigious award for her whole body of work thus far. It comes as no surprise to those of us who have read her books for years and enjoyed the consistency of excellence she always produces. Her stories continue to be one of the best highlights of my reading year.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Coffin Road by Peter May: My Review

I first fell in love with the wild and wooly Outer Hebrides of Scotland in Peter May’s Lewis Trilogy, three outstanding novels that captured the beauty of that isolated wildness. I also have the companion book by May and photographer David Wilson that is a testament to just how on target the written descriptions from the Lewis Trilogy are. Now, Peter May returns to the setting of the Hebridean archipelago in his latest book, a standalone, Coffin Road. This time, it is the Isle of Harris that is the featured spot in the Outer Hebrides, and it is once again a tale of depth as only Peter May can pull from these islands. Three stories that need to be resolved. Three stories that are dependent upon one another to fill in the blanks.

And, the book begins with just that. A blank. A man is washed up on the beach at a sparsely populated area of the Isle of Harris and doesn’t remember who he is or why he’s there. All he knows is that something bad has happened and he might be involved. He’s wearing a life jacket, but there’s no boat or other means of explaining his arrival. Struggling up the beach, he encounters an elderly woman who just happens to be his neighbor and calls him Mr. Maclean. The woman realizes Maclean is not well and leads him to his cottage. He is able to add the first name of Neal and a profession of writer after other neighbors, apparently friends, drop by. Neal makes a decision not to reveal his amnesia due to his uneasy feeling on the beach, and thus begins a frustrated effort to regain his identity and memory. A map with Coffin Road designated on it surfaces, but with no memory of it or its significance. He was supposedly writing a book about Eilean Mor and the mysterious disappearance of three lighthouse keepers on that island in 1900, but he can’t find a manuscript or any related work.

Another man lies dead from a head bashing in a small chapel at a lighthouse on Eilean Mor. Detective Sergeant George Gunn is sent from Stornoway on Isle of Lewis to investigate who the dead man is and what he was doing on the uninhabited island and who would want him dead. No small task with no ID on the murder victim. His only lead is the identification of a man seen fleeing the island by a tourist boat captain.

With the action going on in the Outer Hebrides, there is a third mystery forming in Edinburg, where a teenage girl is making discoveries that turn her world upside down. It’s been two years since her father’s disappearance was ruled a suicide, and Karen’s mother has just moved her boyfriend into the house with them. Karen’s transformation from a young teen at the time of her father’s death to a bitter, rebellious young woman with multiple tattoos and body piercings two years later has brought her to the point of breaking with her mother. Desperate for an anchor, Karen Fleming turns to her godfather, who worked with her father, for information about her father, something to help her find closure. She finds anything but closure, and lives are in danger as a result.

Peter May is a genius at many things in his writing, but two of the most brilliant are the aforementioned setting descriptions and the skill that must bring these layers of story together to fit seamlessly into a complete picture of who, what, when, where, how, and why. Is the murder of a lone man at an isolated lighthouse connected to a girl’s quest to find answers about her father? Is a man’s loss of identity authentic or a convenience? There are secrets hiding in every crook and cranny of this book, and May orchestrates their revelations into a perfect flow of need to know.

Peter May also is adept at turning out interesting characters, and his movement of them reminds me of chess pieces that are strategically and expertly placed. The main character of the novel is that of the amnesia sufferer, Neal Maclean, so readers must deal with an unreliable narrator much of the time, but one on a fascinating path. There are alternating narrators, with George Gunn and Karen Fleming taking their minor turns, but it is through Neal that readers must try to make sense of most of the twists and turns. Being a fan of the unreliable narrator when done well, I think May pulls it off quite well with the amnesia being the vehicle of unreliability. With every move towards regaining identity and memory, Neal Maclean edges towards reliability, and the story moves towards resolution.

And, with all the substance Coffin Road has with the characters and the setting and the layers of story, there is a cause. The reason for the secrets and the isolation and murder, a world issue that is woven into the story elements that will leave the reader with lingering fears of an all too real terror. I am pleased to say that with Coffin Road, readers will be treated to one of Peter May’s best and most thrilling tales yet.

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Friday, September 30, 2016

October Books: Catch Them as They Fall

The October book releases are upon us.  So grab your sweater and your cup of coffee or tea, because you will be chilling with some great reading this month.  This fall has been one amazing profusion of publications, and it shows no signs of letting up.  Steady your TBR pile and take a look at some of the titles coming your way.

Echoes of Sherlock Holmes: Stories Inspired by the Holmes Canon edited by Laurie R. King and Les Klinger (Oct. 1st)

Blood on the Tracks by Barbara Nickless  (Oct. 1st)

The Queen’s Accomplice by Susan Elia MacNeal  (Oct. 4th

Coffin Road by Peter May (Oct. 4th) (U.S.)

The Heavens May Fall by Allen Eskens (Oct. 4th)

The Big Book of Jack the Ripper by Otto Penzler (Oct. 4th

The Trespasser by Tana French (Oct. 4th)

Crosstalk by Connie Willis (Oct. 4th)

All the Little Liars by Charlaine Harris (Oct. 4th)

Murder in Containment: A Doyle and Acton Mystery by Anne Cleeland (Oct. 7th)


Still Life with Tornado by A.S. King  (Oct. 11th)

Hag-Seed (Hogarth Shakespeare) by Margaret Atwood (Oct. 11th)

Smoke and Mirrors (Magic Men series) by Elly Griffiths (Oct. 18th)

What Light by Jay Asher (Oct. 18th)

Mary Russell’s War and Other Stories of Suspense by Laurie R. King (Oct. 18th) (Paperback edition)

The Whistler by John Grisham (Oct. 25th)

Fields Where They Lay (A Junior Bender Novel) by Timothy Hallinan (Oct. 25th)

A Lowcountry Heart: Reflections on a Writing Life by Pat Conroy (Oct. 25th)