Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Review of "Cutthroat Dogs: An Amos Walker Mystery" by Loren D. Estleman

In this 29th book in the 'Amos Walker' series, the Detroit private detective looks into the case of a man who may have been wrongly convicted.


As the story opens, hard-boiled private investigator Amos Walker foils a bank robbery by shooting the perpetrator in the leg.

Subsequently, Walker is approached by the bank teller involved in the incident, Chrys Corbeil, who asks Amos to look into her brother's case.

It seems Chrys's brother Dan was convicted of murdering his girlfriend, April Goss, twenty years ago. Chrys believes her brother is innocent, and prevails on Amos to prove it.

Walker learns that Dan Corbeil's attorney was a rookie public defender and that key evidence was suppressed, so he plans to work those angles. Amos assumes the Detroit cops will resent his looking into the Corbeil case, but Detective First-Grade Stan Kopernick - who worked the original investigation - endorses Walker's efforts. Kopernick asserts a 're-investigation' will confirm Corbeil's guilt AND shine a positive light on Kopernick himself.

On the other hand, April Goss's father, Chester Goss, is furious. Chester hosts a reality show called 'Cutthroat Dogs', which encourages the public to call in tips about dangerous criminals. Chester is a real law-and-order type, and he's certain Dan Corbeil murdered April and belongs in prison.

It seems someone REALLY doesn't want the Corbeil case reopened because Amos Walker is stalked and attacked - which only makes him more determined to carry on.

A lot of the fun of the story lies in the character descriptions and snappy dialog, all of which provide some chuckles. This is a good detective story for an afternoon's entertainment.

Rating: 3 stars

Monday, October 3, 2022

Review of "Little Souls: A Novel" by Sandra Dallas

This review was first posted on Mystery and Suspense. Check it out for features, interviews, and reviews. https://www.mysteryandsuspense.com/li...

This novel is set during World War I, when the Spanish Flu pandemic devastated populations around the globe. The deadly illness infected about 500 million people worldwide and may have caused up to 50 million deaths. People were so frightened of the disease they would leave deceased victims in the streets, to be picked up by death wagons.

Millions of victims succumbed to the Spanish Flu

The story opens in 1918, when America is scurrying to produce the soldiers, food supplies, munitions and money needed to win the war. After the death of their parents, two twentysomething sisters, Helen Hite - a nurse.....

.....and Lucretia (Lutie) Hite - a fashion illustrator, move from Iowa to Denver, Colorado.

The sisters buy a house and rent out the basement to the Streeter family - Ron, Maud, and their 10-year-old daughter Dorothy.

Helen is engaged to a doctor called Gil Rushton.....

.....and Lutie dates a theology student named Peter Howell.

Even though he's a divinity student, Peter feels compelled to enlist in the army, and he proposes to Lutie before he leaves for France.

Basement tenant Ron Streeter is an unemployed rotter who constantly fights with his wife Maud and sexually abuses his daughter Dorothy.

Eventually Ron moves out of the house and deserts his family, and Maud dies shortly afterwards, from the Spanish Flu. This leaves Dorothy in the care of Helen and Lutie, who love the child and think of her as a younger sister.

One day Lutie comes home from work to find Ron dead on the kitchen floor, Helen standing over him with an ice pick, and Dorothy crouching nearby, in shock.

Helen says she stabbed Ron when he broke into the house and tried to rape Dorothy. With the help of Helen's fiancé Gil, the sisters leave Ron in a vacant lot, with a note saying he was a victim of the Spanish Flu.

The sisters hope Ron's body, supposedly riddled with flu virus, won't be closely examined. However two detectives show up at Helen and Lutie's door, saying Ron was murdered. The detectives are clearly suspicious of Helen and Lutie, but the women insist Ron moved out months ago, and they haven't seen him since.

As the police investigation proceeds, Helen and Lutie try to adopt Dorothy, but are stymied by the girl's aunt and uncle, Beulah and Gus Vincent, an unscrupulous couple who have nefarious plans for the little girl. In fact, there are suspicions that Ron Streeter 'shared' Dorothy with Gus.

Luckily, the parents of Lutie's fiancé Peter - a wealthy influential couple - make it their business to help Helen and Lutie.

As the story unfolds, secrets are revealed, tragedies occur, and the ongoing suffering of trauma victims is discussed. The bonds of family and friendship are examined, and it's clear that human connections help the characters cope with trying events.

The story provides a dire picture of the Spanish Flu pandemic, which was eerily similar to the recent Covid-19 pandemic. The Spanish Flu resulted in the closure of schools, businesses, theaters, places of worship, and other public gathering places. Mass transportation was limited and people were advised to wear masks, practice social distancing, institute appropriate disinfection procedures, and quarantine victims. As with the Covid-19 outbreak, some people/municipalities followed the rules better than others, with a resulting difference in mortality rates.

Many establishments were closed during the Spanish Flu pandemic

People were advised to wear masks during the Spanish Flu pandemic.

I listened to the audiobook version of the story, which was excellently narrated by Carly Robins.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Friday, September 30, 2022

Review of "The Widowmaker: A Novel" by Hannah Morrissey

Photographer Morgan Mori - who grew up in a rough area of Black Harbor, Michigan - had a hard life before she was adopted at the age of ten. Thus Morgan is reluctant to return to Black Harbor, but is drawn back when she's sent a mysterious key with a note reading MR. Morgan is determined to discover what the key opens, and tries it on various locks around Black Harbor.

Meanwhile, Morgan accepts a job taking pictures of the Christmas gala thrown by the wealthy Reynolds' family of Black Harbor.

The Reynolds' have been notorious for decades, ever since patriarch Clive Reynolds disappeared twenty years ago. Clive's wife Eleanor, who collected on an eleven-million-dollar life insurance policy, was suspected of murdering her husband, but Clive's body was never found and no one was ever arrested.

While Morgan is snapping photos at the Christmas bash she makes a connection with the Reynolds' son, Bennett, and they go for a drink after the party.

Later, when Morgan stops for gas and a candy bar at a convenience store.....

.....she witnesses an attempted robbery and the shooting of a cop named Brix Garrison.

Garrison's police partner and best friend, Investigator Ryan Hudson, is devastated by his pal's death.

However, since Hudson is too close to the victim, he's ordered to stay out of the investigation. Instead, Hudson is assigned to the cold case of Clive Reynolds. It seems Clive's car, a 1978 Porsche called 'The Widowmaker', was just recovered from a lake....with a body inside. Clive had reported the car stolen, and collected insurance money.

1978 Porsche Widowmaker

Hudson digs into the Clive Reynolds files, but can't stop himself from poking into Garrison's murder as well. Thus Hudson interviews Morgan Mori again and again, trying to glean information about the robbery and shooting. Eventually, Hudson concludes that Garrison's death is connected with Clive Reynolds' disappearance, and he tries to connect the dots.

While the police investigations are proceeding, Morgan is drawn into the lives of the Reynolds clan, who have taken a shine to her. The Reynolds' even give Morgan an expensive Christmas gift and invite her to join them for a few days at their vacation cabin.

The story is told from the alternating points of view of Morgan Mori and Ryan Hudson, and some shocking secrets are revealed.

I enjoyed the book but found the finale to be a little over-complicated and hard to believe. Still, this is a compelling thriller, recommended to fans of the genre.

I listened to the audiobook, narrated by by Adam Verner and Xe Sands, who did a good job.

Thanks to Netgalley, Hannah Morrissey and Macmillan Audio for copy of the book.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Monday, September 26, 2022

Review of "Fifty-Four Pigs: A Dr. Bannerman Vet Mystery" by Philipp Schott

This first 'Dr. Bannerman Vet Mystery' is set in a frosty Canadian town in mid-winter. It features murder, theft, and a good sniffer dog.


Dr. Peter Bannerman, a veterinarian in the lakeside town of New Selfoss, Manitoba.....

.....is appalled when he sees the pig barn of his friend and neighbor, Tom Pearson, go up in flames.

H0g farmer Tom kept his fifty-four pigs in the barn, and all are lost in the conflagration. When investigators examine the burnt structure, though, they find fifty-five bodies, one of them being a man. The human victim - whose identity is unknown - was shot before the fire started.....

.....and Tom becomes a suspect in the man's murder.

Veterinarian Peter, who has an analytical mind, likes to solve mysteries. Moreover, Peter is convinced his friend Tom is innocent, and he means to prove it. This puts Peter at odds with his brother-in-law Kevin, an RCMP officer in charge of the murder inquiry, who doesn't want Peter's 'help'.

Though Tom's property is a crime scene, and off-limits to civilians, Peter takes his dog Pippin - who's good at sniffing out clues - to examine the area.

Peter even finds a scrap of paper, with Korean writing, which he withholds from the police. Officer Kevin is furious when he learns about this, but - realizing Peter will stick his nose into the investigation no matter what - the RCMP detective agrees to share information.

Meanwhile, other crimes are occurring in New Selfoss. There's another murder and there are a series of burglaries in which meat is stolen from freezers around town. Peter thinks all the criminal activity is connected, and he racks his brain to figure out what's going on. This eventually leads to an exciting denouement.

As the story unfolds we learn about the Icelandic origin of many residents of New Selfoss, and we're told how Peter wooed and won his wife Laura.

Peter and Laura live with their dog Pippin and cat Merry, and Laura knits and sells sweaters and accessories inspired by movies and television shows likes Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, etc. Peter also goes about his veterinarian job, which ranges from dog and cat check-ups to a goat caesarian.

The book's characters are interesting and the ambiance of wintry New Selfoss is well-depicted, with a frozen lake, ice-fishing shacks, snow mounds, residents using skis to get around, and so on.

This is a fun cozy mystery that would probably appeal to fans of the genre.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Review of "Upgrade: A Novel" by Blake Crouch

Logan Ramsay is an agent for the Gene Protection Agency, an organization that hunts down scientists engaged in illegal genetic manipulation.

In a way Logan is just paying his dues. It was his mother, the brilliant geneticist Miriam Ramsay, who perfected a ground-breaking DNA modifier system called Scythe.

Using Scythe, Miriam attempted to enhance the blight resistance of indica rice plants, which are a staple food for over half the world's population.

Farmers harvesting rice

To make a long story short, things went wrong, there was a worldwide famine, and 200 million people died.

Miriam committed suicide and Logan - who was a college graduate working in his mother's lab - went to prison for three years. Legislation was passed to restrict gene tampering, and Logan now works to capture people who flout the law.

After Logan helps raid a suspected gene-tampering lab, an explosion lands him in the hospital.

Logan learns that the blast injected modified genes into his body.....genes bioengineered to enhance human abilities. Over the next several weeks Logan finds that he's getting smarter, his bones are getting denser, his muscles are becoming stronger, his reflexes are improving, he has a photographic memory of his entire life, he can recall the contents of every book and article he's ever read, etc. In brief, Logan has been 'upgraded.'

Logan determines that the lab explosion and upgrade weren't random events, but a plan engineered by his mother before she committed suicide. Irregardless, Logan is arrested and quarantined at a black site by the GPA, who accuse him of fiddling with his own genome.

Logan is sprung from the black site, and learns that his mother's long-term plan was to 'upgrade' all of humanity. Miriam believed that making people more intelligent would result in better stewardship of the Earth, with attention to environmental concerns like global warming, ocean pollution, and so on. Thus, Miriam planned for a cabal, led by Logan's 'upgraded' sister Kara, that would spread the 'enhancement' virus to every person on the globe.

Logan is strongly opposed to changing the genome of the entire human race, and takes steps to stop the cabal.

Thus much of the story is an action thriller, with Logan and his sister maneuvering to destroy each other.

There's plenty of shooting, fighting, death, and destruction, enhanced by the superior abilities of the combatants. It's fascinating to watch Logan's thinking processes, and the manner in which he tracks down and battles his enemies.

The story would make a good movie, and has been optioned for a Hollywood film.

Rating: 3.5 stars