PURSUIT by Joyce Carol Oates

October 13, 2019

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The author, in many of her novels, has demonstrated a capacity to project the innermost feelings of the people she writes about. The Pursuit is definitely a study in one woman’s grasp of reality and how this affects her mother, and later her husband.

Abby is a reclusive young woman coming from the most traumatic of childhoods. She keeps to herself, afraid that contact with others will showcase her faults and drive them away. She dreams of coming upon a field with skeletons and a large skull, and a smaller one that she thinks of as the daddy and mommy skulls. Her mother and father disappeared one day leaving Abby to feel that they didn’t care for her and left to go live alone without her.

Not seeking companionship, Abby is surprised when a young man, Willem, seeks her out and eventually asks her to marry him.  She does so with a good deal of trepidation. The day after the wedding, as Abby is on her way to the University she is attending, she gets off the bus she is riding on and into traffic. She is hit by the same bus she was on and sent to the hospital. Willem, in love with Abby, begins investigating whether the incident was an accident or done on purpose by his wife.

Oates sets up the rest of her novel as a completely mesmerizing look into what is the deep-seated trauma that engulfs Abby, how was it initiated, what caused it, and how to bring it to rest. The workings of her mind become bared for the reader, and it becomes impossible to set the book down before solutions are arrived at, or not arrived at. And, of course where her trauma began.

 

10/19 Paul Lane

PURSUIT by Joyce Carol Oates. Mysterious Press (October 1, 2019). ISBN 978-0802147912. 144p.

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DACHSHUND THROUGH THE SNOW by David Rosenfelt

October 10, 2019

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An Andy Carpenter Mystery, Book 20

In my recollection, there has never been a bad book featuring Andy Carpenter and his assorted team of assistants. This novel is certainly not an exception to the rule. It does, however, go a step further and delivers a story that connects in every which way, and if not his best, is certainly among David Rosenfelt’s top novels.

The basic idea is the same; Andy has inherited a large sum of money and really does not want to work. He is married to Laurie, his true love, they have a son, and of course two dogs that he walks while he thinks. He then is faced with a case to prove someone is not guilty of the murder of which they have been accused.

The present volume is released in time for Christmas, and the holiday spirit permeates the book. Laurie has developed the custom of filling the wishes of children that are undoubtedly poor. A pet store near the Carpenter’s home normally puts up a Christmas tree and allows children to place their wishes on it, instead of having ornaments. Laurie takes the wishes and gets the children what they wished for, delivering it confidentially.

One of the lists is from a boy named Danny, who would like a coat for his mother, a sweater for his dachshund, and to bring home his father, who has suddenly disappeared. The first two wishes are easy to fulfill when the answer to the third one becomes suddenly apparent. Danny’s father is arrested for murder.

The crime is 14 years old and never solved, but the DNA of the possible killer was located on the dead girl’s body and around the scene.  Noah, Danny’s father, has no criminal record so that his DNA, which was that found, has never been identified. Unfortunately, Noah’s brother sends a sample of his DNA to a website that matches DNA with possible groups, and of course, Noah is identified and arrested.

Andy has to take the case because it was part of Danny’s wishes. While the normal banter between Andy and others takes place, the handling of the case in court is a lesson in the scientific handling of DNA as evidence in police work. This sequence does take the novel to an area that is beyond the norm in Rosenfelt’s work. A very well done novel.

10/19 Paul Lane

DACHSHUND THROUGH THE SNOW by David Rosenfelt. Minotaur Books (October 1, 2019). ISBN 978-1250237682. 352p.

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FEARED by Lisa Scottoline

August 14, 2018

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A Rosato & DiNunzio Novel, Book 6

From the publisher:

In the new thriller from New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline, Mary DiNunzio’s ruthless nemesis Nick Machiavelli is back…with a vengeance.

When three men announce that they are suing the Rosato & DiNunzio law firm for reverse sex discrimination—claiming that they were not hired because they were men—Mary DiNunzio and Bennie Rosato are outraged. To make matters worse, their one male employee, John Foxman, intends to resign, claiming that there is some truth to this case.

The plaintiffs’ lawyer is Nick Machiavelli, who has already lost to Mary once and is now back with a vengeance —determined not to not only win, but destroy the firm. It soon becomes clear that Machiavelli will do anything in his power to achieve his end…even after the case turns deadly. The stakes have never been higher for Mary and her associates as they try to keep Machiavelli at bay, solve a murder, and save the law firm they love…or they could lose everything they’ve worked for. Told with Scottoline’s trademark gift for twists, turns, heart, and humanity, this latest thriller asks the question: Is it better to be loved, or feared…

Feared, the sixth entry in the acclaimed Rosato & DiNunzio series, expertly explores what happens when we are tempted to give in to our own inner darkness.


Before it was Rosato & DiNunzio, there were the Rosato & Associates novels, 11 of them. Same series for the most part but it was rebranded six books ago. It is one of my favorite series and it never disappoints – how often can you say that? Especially with so many books!

Set in Philadelphia, Rosato & DiNunzio were an all female law firm until a couple of books ago when they hired a man. I remember being surprised back then, and now it has come home to roost. DiNunzio and all her crazy, loving big Italian family are here and you can just feel the “gravy” dripping off the pages.

I love the characters, the setting and the mystery, which had a shocking ending – perfection! Don’t miss it.

8/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

FEARED by Lisa Scottoline. St. Martin’s Press (August 14, 2018). ISBN 978-1250099594. 400p.

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RESCUED by David Rosenfelt

July 18, 2018

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 An Andy Carpenter Novel, Book 17

I’ve been reading this series since the first book literally dropped into my hands through the book drop at the library where I was working. The cover, a skyline of NYC, drew me in but the writing has kept me coming back book after book. The cover of that original book, Open & Shut, has been updated with dogs to match up with the rest of the series. And it is a dog-centric series.

Andy Carpenter is a lawyer who inherited enough money so that he doesn’t need to work. He takes only one or two cases a year, and that suits him just fine. It gives him more time to spend with his dogs, his wife and son. probably in that order.

When a large truck is found at a New Jersey rest stop with a dead body in the front and lots of dogs barking in the back, Andy is called to help out. He has a rescue foundation for dogs, and with this many, his help is needed. Turns out his help is also needed when his wife’s ex-boyfriend is accused of being the killer.

Self defense is the way to go and it is not looking good for Andy and his legal team until the very end of the book, but getting there is half the fun.  With his wise cracks, witty repartee and all the series regulars in place, I had a good time reading this book. These books do not have to be read in order but I think it best if you read the first book, it sets up the rest of the books in the series.

If you love dogs, wise cracks and legal fiction, and I do, this is a terrific read.

7/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

RESCUED by David Rosenfelt. Minotaur Books (July 17, 2018).  ISBN 978-1250133069. 304p.

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WEYCOMBE by G. M. Malliet

October 15, 2017

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G. M. Malliet brings us a well-written whodunit set in an upscale gated community in England called Weycombe. The novel is set up with the main protagonist, Jillian White, as the narrator and analyzer of the events portrayed.

Jillian is an American living in Weycombe with her English husband whom she met while attending Oxford. He is a member of the British peerage, has a title, and an excellent career which allows him to provide the wherewithal to live in Weycombe, even when Jillian loses her job with the BBC.

The novel begins as Jillian, finishing her morning exercise run, spots the dead body of a woman near the road. The police are called and determine that the lady was murdered, starting an investigation in which Jillian and her neighbors are questioned. Jillian decides that since she has the time she will also attempt to solve the crime.

With a very pleasing tongue-in-cheek style, Malliet describes Jillian’s findings when she questions her neighbors as to their views of the murder. In what is certainly the manner that these types of investigations proceed everywhere, Jillian finds that most of what she finds is a mixed bag. Most of the people questioned have opinions and most of what they say conflicts with every other opinion.

Adding spice to an already excellent read, Jillian is faced with the probability that her husband has been cheating on her. She realizes that her marriage is in trouble and has to deal with that situation while looking into the murder. I found myself immediately drawn into the novel and couldn’t put it down until finished.  I am now a Malliet fan and look forward to her next book.

10/17 Paul Lane

WEYCOMBE by G. M. Malliet. Midnight Ink (October 8, 2017).  ISBN  978-0738754260. 360p.

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THE PRAGUE SONATA by Bradford Morrow

October 13, 2017

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A beautifully written book set against the background of the international world of music, both classic and general. Otylie Bautosova is a young girl that we meet in 1918 as she is saying goodbye to her father, a Czech soldier who is returning to the front at the very end of World War I. His parting words to Otylie are that music is everything and even the horrors of war revolve around it. He gives her a music manuscript that is clearly old and which her father tells her to guard and keep safe because it will ensure her future. Her father is then killed, becoming one of the last casualties of the war.

Years later, Otylie marries but the second world war intervenes. Her husband joins the partisans fighting the Nazi invaders but is unfortunately killed. With enough tragedy for several lifetimes, the capstone is the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Stalin and the Russians. Otylie manages to escape to England and works for the Czech government in exile while there. She later moves to the United States and her fate ties in with the second half of the book and the activities of an American pianist named Meta Taverner.

Meta lives in New York with the ability to become a great pianist. Unfortunately, she suffers an injury to one arm which takes away her ability to perform as required in playing great classical music. She is advised by a friend that there is a valuable undiscovered sonata in Prague. Meta makes the decision to try and locate the piece and return it to its rightful owners.

The search for the sonata is described beautifully by the author, whose expertise in the world of music makes this book a truly wonderful read. The reader is introduced to a world not often touched upon by most authors and introduces creativity given to some people that cause happiness in our world. This is truly a haunting book that will stay with the reader for a long time to come.

10/17 Paul Lane

THE PRAGUE SONATA by Bradford Morrow. Atlantic Monthly Press (October 3, 2017).  ISBN 978-0802127150. 528p.

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Y IS FOR YESTERDAY by Sue Grafton

September 4, 2017

A Kinsey Millhone Novel, Book 25

In 1979, a local private school became the site of an academic scandal that turned into murder. Two students were kicked out for cheating and a third, blamed for tattling, was shunned and then killed. Of the boys involved in the crime, only two actually served time­—one escaped and the other was given immunity for testifying. But the case had another twist to it: rumor has it the murder wasn’t over the cheating scandal at all, but a tape the girl was said to have stolen. A tape that was never recovered in the investigation.

Ten years later, the two boys who served time for the crime have been released and the parents of one have called Kinsey. It seems the rumored tape is not only real, it’s being used for blackmail and the parents want Kinsey to find out who is behind it all.

Kinsey’s latest case is something of a pain in the ass. A group of rather well to do (for the most part) teens gets caught up in a cheating scandal that goes south when one of the teens, gun in hand, accidentally kills a classmate. Ten years later, that teen is now a young man, newly released from his time served. But his parents are concerned that he’ll be arrested again when a sex tape from those same high school surfaces.

Everyone involved in making the film claims it was a lark, a joke with outtakes that show the kids laughing and goofing off. But the only actual evidence that seems to remain is the one tape, and there’s no question that it would lead to another trial. The biggest mystery isn’t just who is behind the blackmail, but where the video has been all this time. As Kinsey investigates answers are few and far between, though.

There are a few subplots. First, Kinsey has a stalker who’s returned from a previous case. Then there’s drama in the neighborhood as well, including Henry’s new houseguests, all of which commands some of Kinsey’s time and attention. But, as per usual, never causes her to lose her wits or cool.

I adore this series and I have loved each and every installment. Y is for Yesterday is no exception. Kinsey has grown so much over the course of the series and has learned a lot about herself and her family. Grafton has built a strong support system of characters around Kinsey as well, making each new book a welcome return not only to the PI we all know and love, but to Henry, Cheney, Rosie, and newer additions like Anna as well.

I can’t stress enough just how much I’ll hate saying goodbye to this series. I’ve been reading alongside Kinsey  and her cases for almost two decades now and I’ve loved each and every entry. With Y, there’s now just one more book to go.

9/17 Becky LeJeune

Y IS FOR YESTERDAY by Sue Grafton. Marian Wood Books/Putnam (August 22, 2017).  ISBN 978-0399163852. 496p.

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THE ALMOST SISTERS by Joshilyn Jackson

August 10, 2017

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If you are not familiar with Joshilyn Jackson, you should be. She writes Southern stories with a touch of mystery and memorable characters, and this book is terrific.

Leia Birch Briggs is an author – she wrote a graphic novel that was a mega success and went on to write for many of the superhero series. At comic book conventions, she is a superhero herself, but her family doesn’t get it, they think she is barely scraping by with her doodles.

At one such convention, Leia has a bit too much tequila and goes back to the hotel with Batman – a black, good looking Batman. A few months later she finds out she is pregnant, and she doesn’t even know the father’s name.

Before she can tell her family or do anything about it, she receives word that her grandmother, who she is very close to, has apparently lost her mind. She immediately heads down south, with her niece in tow. Her almost perfect stepsister is in the middle of a knock down, drag out fight with her husband, and needs some time alone.

Turns out grandma Birchie, as she is best known, does have an illness but her closest friend, daughter of the black maid that raised her, has been taking care of her. The two of them are over 90 years old, so it is a bit of the blind leading the blind, but they have been managing, until now.

When the two old ladies talk their neighbor into moving a trunk out of the attic and into Leia’s car and they try to steal said car before crashing it, all hell breaks loose. There is a skeleton in the trunk, and the cops are investigating.

This is a story about racism and family and love and Dixie. The characters are all well developed, interesting and real and I was so sorry this story had to end. It is at times, laugh out loud funny and often touching. The process of creating a graphic novel is fascinating, too, adding another dimension to this story. That aspect put me in mind of Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, but that was a book for young adults, and this book ultimately has more depth. If you are new to this author, try it, and if you are a fan, you will love it.

8/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE ALMOST SISTERS by Joshilyn Jackson . William Morrow; First Edition edition (July 11, 2017).  ISBN 978-0062105714.  352p.

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DEVIL SENT THE RAIN by Lisa Turner

September 27, 2016
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Detective Billy Able series, Book 3

Memphis police detective Billy Able lands a murder case with his new partner, the ambitious Frankie Malone. The victim, Caroline Lee, found dead wearing her wedding gown in her car in a cow pasture, is Billy’s old high school girlfriend. It’s been years since they’ve been in touch, so it seems there’s no conflict.

The Lee family is Memphis royalty; the mother runs the family law firm where Caroline worked, and they own other businesses in town. The person who found her body, a recently released felon, is a suspect, but there are others, most notably her ex-fiancé. Lee broke off her engagement to the arrogant Indian doctor, who feels humiliated and has been stalking her.

The Lee family has skeletons in the closet, and the investigation deepens into the family history, which causes Billy to examine his own. Frankie proves to be a good partner, as much a workaholic as Billy, and together they chase down every possible lead until the surprising conclusion.

A good Southern police procedural and should appeal to Caroline Haine or Margaret Maron readers.
Copyright ©2016 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association.

9/16 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

DEVIL SENT THE RAIN by Lisa Turner. William Morrow Paperbacks (September 27, 2016).  ISBN 978-0062136213. 352p.

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DARK HORSE by Rory Flynn

June 30, 2016
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Eddy Harkness Novels (Book 2)

They call it Dark Horse and it’s a bit of an anomaly in the drug market: an almost pure heroin sold and darkened as though it’s not. And it’s deadly, resulting in death by overdose all over Boston. Eddy Harkness and his fellow Narco-Intel team members have had their eye on it for some time, but when a hurricane rips through the city a discovery of a large cache of the drug offers their first possible break in the case.

But while Dark Horse and Boston’s drugs are supposed to be the focus of their efforts, Eddy soon realizes there’s something larger going on in Boston’s neighborhoods – the Lower South End in particular. And when citizens of the neighborhood begin taking up questionably legal residence in Eddy’s old hometown, it’s inevitable that he’ll get involved.

I would love for more people to discover this fantastic series. Harkness is a man with a troubled past, much of which is covered in Dark Horse’s predecessor, Third Rail.

In this second of the series, Eddy has put much of that trouble behind him, regaining his place as head of Narco-Intel. He’s also in a much healthier relationship than his last and considering making it permanent.

A literal (and figurative) storm is brewing in Boston when the book begins, and Eddy finds himself caught in the very center. His actions have him branded a hero but it’s clear he may soon make some very powerful enemies.

This is a perfect follow up to Third Rail, another smart installment in what is a real standout series.

(I’d suggest reading them in order as there are some callbacks to Third Rail throughout Dark Horse.)

6/16 Becky LeJeune

DARK HORSE by Rory Flynn. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (June 7, 2016).  ISBN: 978-0544253247. 240p.

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