Sunday, September 26, 2010

DEATH IN WEST WHEELING - A Carl Brookins Review

Death in West Wheeling

By Michael Dymmoch

Five Star Mysteries,

Hardcover, 182 pages

Hardcover, $25.95


Who knew author Michael Dymmoch, who has written such solid noir mysteries as "White Tiger," "The Fall" and "M.I.A.", could put together such a funny, even hilarious novel as this one, set in a small town in West Virginia, or somewhere close by? Homer Deter is currently acting sheriff and he has to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a teacher at a local missionary school.

This case is just the start of something bigger. Before long, Acting Sheriff Deter is faced with three more disappearances, an odd-acting ATF agent in search of illicit stills, a few apparently random motor vehicle accidents, and including a twenty-three car pileup right in the middle of town. And the funny thing is, all these incidents eventually connect. That even includes the full-grown escaped tiger locked in the post office.

Author Dymmoch has some trenchant things to say about relationships between men and women, and about the state of our society. It's all wrapped in fine writing, a really excellent if skewed sense of our society, and some dandy plotting.

Pick up this good short novel. You'll be glad you did.

Carl Brookins

Case of the Greedy Lawyer, Devils Island,Bloody Halls, more at Kindle & Smashwords!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Vermilion Drift
By William Kent Krueger
ISBN: 9781439153840
Hard Cover from Atria ,2010,
305 pages

Authors of crime fiction, like authors working in any other genre, often use their talents to work through personal issues, sometimes intensely private issues. Although it is not entirely clear, the writer may be working through some family issues with this novel. Does that matter? Perhaps. That depends on the result. In this case, the author, possessed of well-honed, significant writing talent, has produced a novel of finely wrought proportions, multi-layered with considerable depth. By that I mean that the characters demonstrate multiple levels of engagement, and the story itself works on more than one level. Almost every character who appears in the book is involved in the story in more than one way. Some of their levels are casual or socially related, such as what may be routinely expected of law officers in Tamarack County, the Northern Minnesota location of this novel. Other characters, Henry Meloux, for example and other Native Americans; Sam Wintermoon, appears, and of course, Cork's mother and his father, Liam, all have, at different times, visceral involvement in the story.

The problem, if there is one, is that this story is much more a novel of family and community relationships than it is a novel of suspense, or crime, horrific and awful though the crimes were. Death is always the ultimate judge, from whom there is no appeal.

So, in my view, the problem is one of balance, or perhaps of categorization. The involvement of Cork O'Connor, now a private investigator, alone in Aurora, is mostly one of self-examination. The novel is one of Cork's journey of discovery. What was the meaning of his occasional nightmares? What were the issues that consumed and separated the O'Connor family in those last fateful months of Liam O'Connor's life?

The novel begins with Cork once again at odds with his Ojibwe heritage. His mother, remember, was a member of the tribe. He's hired by the owners of the Vermilion One and Ladyslipper mines to deal with threats against the mine. But then he's also tasked to try to locate a missing woman, sister of the mine owner. Lauren Cavanaugh has gone missing. Finding the missing woman opens a window on old unsolved crimes from a previous generation, from a time when Cork's father was the sheriff of Tamarack County.

Sorting through old albums, records and memories, fresh and repressed, takes up the body of the novel As with all of this author's previous novels, the explanation is logical, satisfying and meaningful. Krueger, as always, is skillful in evoking the landscape, not just its physical self, but its atmosphere, its mystical presence and its influences on the people who reside there.

In the end, this thoughtful exploration of law, truth and justice and their profound influences on all of us is a highly successful emotionally moving effort.

Carl Brookins

Case of the Greedy Lawyer, Devils Island,Bloody Halls, more at Kindle & Smashwords!

Monday, September 13, 2010



by Justin Scott

Poisoned Pen Press

255 pages, hardcoverISBN: 1-59058-063-X

Justin Scott has written over a dozen mysteries, thrillers and adventure novels under several names, taut, exemplary stories that illuminate and explore many of our social concerns. They are good stories, well-written with drive and panache. This is another, peopled with interesting characters, a serious underpinning, and enough crime and mystery to satisfy the most enthusiastic crime fiction reader.

Ben Abbott is a sometime private investigator, sometime real estate agent, and a full time commentator on some of the more egregious aspects of our modern society and the influence on small town America. Abbott is also one of the more pleasant and thoughtful investigators readers are likely to run across in this age. Abbott is concerned about the effects of aging on his Aunt Constance who lives nearby, he takes in children in need of adult supervision and he worries about unrestrained development of open spaces in the Connecticut town of Newbury where he lives. That last concern forms the core of this interesting novel about crooked developers, and a badly twisted legal system.

One of the worst developers, a Billy Tiller, possessed mostly of terrible taste, monumental greed and a willingness to break the law anytime he thought there was profit in it, gets his come-uppance when somebody drives a bulldozer over him at a construction site. The perpetrator, a young member of ELF, is discovered by the local troopers sitting at the controls of the offending 'dozer with the crushed body of Billy Tiller underneath. Open and shut, but Abbott, retained by the boy's lawyer, doesn't believe it. His pursuit of the truth leads him into some interesting and stressful situations.

Carl Brookins

Case of the Greedy Lawyer, Devils Island,Bloody Halls, more at Kindle & Smashwords!