Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A FAIR TO DIE FOR - a Carl Brookins Review

A Fair To Die For
by Radine Trees Nehring
ISBN: 9781610091220
A 2012 release from Oak Tree Press
238 pages (without recipes)

In spite of continual bumps in their road of life, Carrie McCrite and her second husband, Henry, forge onward. They both have healthy, positive attitudes. That’s mildly surprising for Henry. He’s retired from a career as a cop in Kansas City. They expected to live a quiet, typical retiree life in the Ozarks. Fate intervenes, in the form of a long-forgotten cousin named Edith Embler. Edith blows into town looking for family history and bringing behind her a variety of really bad dudes who seem to hang around craft fairs with evil intent.

The story rests in a really clever idea, and the author handles the plot necessities carefully and responsibly. Her skill as a writer puts this novel very much in a positive cozy sort of grouping. Like a lot of traditional American mysteries, this story has a harder edge than is typically found in the classical, traditional, stories from the UK.

Carrie’s experience and generosity of spirit in wanting to help Edith in every possible way play out nicely against her husband’s more suspicious and cautious nature. The novel is interestingly peopled with several unusual characters who add to the richness of the scene. I’ve been reading this author over a number of years and am pleased to recommend this novel. It is in the end a satisfying mystery involving nice people who are truly competent. In the end, one might view with a certain hesitation, if not suspicion, the abrupt arrival of long-lost relatives.

Carl Brookins www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com, Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky

Thursday, May 10, 2012

MURDER UNSCRIPTED - a Carl Brookins Review

Murder Unscripted

by Clive Rosengren

ISBN: 9781935797197

a 2012 release from

Perfect Crime Books

111 pages, Trade Paper

Eddie Collins is a sometime Hollywood actor and a part-time investigator. He’s cast in the old style; a loner, divorced, he views the world through plain, cracked lenses. Nothing rose-colored here. He’s an authentic character, one you’d be likely to encounter on Sunset Boulevard. If you made the connection and bought him a drink, Eddie might tell you a story. Like this one.

When the scene opens, Eddie Collins is costumed as a cowboy, perched on a fake rock, chewing on yet another piece of chicken. He’s doing a TV commercial for an enterprise called Chubby’s Chicken. A telephone call to his office sends him, on behalf of his client, a bonding company, to the set of a murder. It turns out the deceased actress is Eddie’s former wife.

The novel benefits hugely from the author’s background. He’s a former theater, film and television actor who has appeared in numerous theatrical films and television dramas. Rosengren uses his considerable experience to infuse the novel with authenticity, but he never slides into the bitterness or the whining of too many journey-actors who made a living but never reached starring level. Eddie Collins has come to terms with his career and that’s why he’s become more of an investigator than an actor.

“Murder Unscripted,” is a short, fast, read, well-plotted and intrinsically solid. The characters are enjoyable to follow and the final emotional twists are logical and just right for the character and the tone of the story. I hope to see much more of Eddie Collins in the near future.

Carl Brookins
www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com, Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

BAD MOON RISING - a Gerrie Ferris Finger Review

Bad Moon Rising
Frances di Plino, Author
Crooked Cat Publishing
Released March 2012
Gerrie Ferris Finger, Reviewer

Detective Inspector Paolo Storey and his irritating partner Dave Johnson investigate the attempted rape of a prostitute by his boyhood classmate who has an alibi. Lisa Boxer, the prostitute goes missing at the same time Paolo and Dave get a call.

The second murder victim of a sexual deviate has been found by boys chasing a ball into an alley. This prostitute is the second victim in a string perpetrated by a cassock wearing killer who films himself murdering whores. He leaves a part of himself on the bodies. Does he honestly believe he won't be caught because he doesn't exist? Why did this madman come to be addicted to the pain of the lash?

Di Plino's characters are well-developed with complications readers will identify with. Paola has an ex-wife who calls him toxic and a daughter who attends convent school but doesn't believe in the religion. She asserts before classmates that priests are pedophiles. Father Gregory warns Paolo that she must change her philosophy or be expelled from the school. Further complicating his life is his infatuation with Barbara Boyston, a forensic pathologist. Does the prickly doctor she share his infatuation?

It's not a spoiler to say that the second body found was that of Lisa Boxer, thus stepping up the investigation into his old school mate. The deeper the investigation takes him, the more exposed Paolo becomes, endangering everyone he loves. This tight thriller takes many twists and turns before tragically Paolo unmasks the sick killer.

DiPlino’s writing is as solid as her credentials. She is a deputy editor of Words with JAM, writes fiction for the women’s magazine market, features and photo-features for monthly glossy magazines, and is a writing competition judge for Writers’ Forum. Winner of a Petra Kenney International Poetry Award, she has been placed in numerous creative writing and poetry competitions.
Highly Recommended.

Gerrie Ferris Finger
http://amzn.to/zSseC1 WHISPERING
http://amzn.to/r3imp5 THE GHOST SHIP
http://amzn.to/zSseC1 MERCILESS

Sunday, March 4, 2012

SOME LIKE IT RED HOT - a Carl Brookins Review

Some Like It Red Hot
By Robin Merrill
Acacia Publishing, Inc
ISBN: 978-0-9774-306-4-2
2008, Trade Paper, 276 pages

Lotsimina Hannon (Lotsi to her intimates) is forced by an evil corporate empire to retire before her time. Lotsi, for want of something else to do, decides to start a whole new life. What better way to do so than buy an old RV and a new motorcycle and hit the road? The fact that she’s never in her life driven either a large recreational vehicle or a high-powered motorcycle is no deterrent.

Since she’s looking for a little excitement in her new life, she heads to Las Vegas, home of opulent RV parks, saunas and hot tubs. And men. Oh yes. Older and retired, but far from sedentary, Lotsi has the heart and the attitudes of a much younger woman. You might say the fires are low but still burning. All it takes is a delectable hunk with the wit and the knowledge of the desires of the more mature woman, and a certain level of experience, to bring those embers to a raging inferno. It also may be said that starting a relationship in a hot tub can get things off to a quick start.

Then of course, murder and associated chicanery intrudes and Lotsi is forced into a game of clues, a game that soon turns deadly. What’s worse, Lotsi becomes a target of the killers even while desperately learning to ride the motorcycle and speed out of trouble.

Smartly written, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, author Merrill presents a romp through the RV culture with pokes at aging baby boomers that is just askew enough to keep you reading and chuckling all the way along. While the story is realistically presented with enough straight and freaky characters to keep readers guessing, this frank romantic mystery is not aimed at fans of the realistic or the noir. A fun read. I hope the author is able to bring us further adventures of the mature.

Carl Brookins
www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com, Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

SWIFT EDGE - a Carl Brookins Review

Swift Edge

by Laura DiSilverio

ISBN: 978-0-312-62444-6

2011 release from St. Martins/

Minotaur, 291 pages.

Judicious blending of two quite different characters as private investigators carries this story of murder and identity theft on a roller coaster of humor and tension. Gigi Goldman, one half of the investigator team of Swift Investigations is inept at best. I mean how about trying a surveillance gig from a yellow Hummer? Charlie Swift is the more competent partner with background and experience and she carries the bulk of the serious investigation that is at the core of this slickly written, well-laid out story.

A world class figure skater disappears on the eve of national trials. Charlie Swift is up for the challenge of finding the guy but she keeps stumbling over her partner Gigi and Gigi’s petulant teen-aged daughter. Then the client, another figure skater, disappears, a world-renowned coach is attacked and almost everywhere she goes, somebody is shooting at Charlie. If that isn’t enough trouble, almost every male she encounters seems to be after Charlie’s body in a less destructive way. But maybe that’s just Charlie Swift’s take on the situations.

The action is constant, often funny and requires the occasional suspension of disbelief. The characters are well-drawn and consistent. This is a sometimes zany, very enjoyable addition to what appears to be a swiftly growing series of light to medium crime novels.

Carl Brookins www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com, Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky

Monday, January 30, 2012

UNDER THE DOG STAR - a Carl Brookins Review

Under The Dog Star
by Sandra Parshall
ISBN: 978-1-59058-878-9
a 2011 Poisoned Pen release,
303 pages

The story is already in full-bore action when you open the book. “In the silver moonlight, the dogs appear as a dark mass moving down the hill and across the pasture.” Contrast of light and dark. Questions immediately arise. Are these dangerous dogs? Feral dogs? Where are we and who is observing this? Why should we care?

 In the hands of this careful, experienced writer, you know you are in for a wild ride. Veterinarian, Rachel Goddard, runs an animal clinic in the mountains of Virginia, a place where people are used to taking care of their problems in direct fashion. Wild dogs threatening livestock? Never mind they are or were somebody’s pet, shoot ‘em. This is anathema to Rachel and she mounts a county-wide attempt to trap and rescue the dogs before they are shot. The county is thrown into an uproar and her competence is questioned when a prominent physician is discovered with his throat torn out and plenty of evidence that a dog was the culprit.

 Rachel’s lover, Tom Bridger, a deputy sheriff in the county is worried about Rachel’s safety as he struggles to understand the crime. Both Rachel and Bridger come up against one of them most dysfunctional families I have ever read about. There are other complications and false trails that have to be dealt with. The author handles dog fighting and other crimes is a forthright yet sympathetic manner. Readers will get the vivid pictures the author draws, but won’t have to wallow in the degradation. Parshall makes her points cleanly and evocatively, just as she illuminate the settings, both by contrast and depiction.

 There were times when I wanted to grab Rachel and inject a little backbone into her and Bridger is sometimes entirely too controlling. Nevertheless, this is a strong, well-written chiller with crackling dialogue, great characters and a powerful resolution.

Carl Brookins www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com, Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky
Under the Dog Star: 4.5/5 stars on Amazon
Gerrie Ferris Finger

Thursday, January 19, 2012

NEWS FROM MYSTERY WRITERS OF AMERICA - Nominees for the Best in Category for 2011.

I'm not listed this year, maybe next. :-D Congratulations to the nominees

Mystery Writers of America is proud to announce on the 203rd anniversary of the birth of Edgar Allan Poe, its Nominees for the 2012 Edgar Allan Poe Awards, honoring the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction and television published or produced in 2011. The Edgar® Awards will be presented to the winners at our 66th Gala Banquet, April 26, 2012 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, New York, New York.


The Ranger by Ace Atkins (Penguin Group USA – G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
Gone by Mo Hayder (Grove/Atlantic – Atlantic Monthly Press)
The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino (Minotaur Books)
1222 by Anne Holt (Simon & Schuster - Scribner)
Field Gray by Philip Kerr (Penguin Group USA - G.P. Putnam’s Sons – Marion Wood Books)


Red on Red by Edward Conlon (Random House Publishing Group – Spiegel & Grau)
Last to Fold by David Duffy (Thomas Dunne Books)
All Cry Chaos by Leonard Rosen (The Permanent Press)
Bent Road by Lori Roy (Penguin Group USA - Dutton)
Purgatory Chasm by Steve Ulfelder (Minotaur Books – Thomas Dunne Books)

The Company Man by Robert Jackson Bennett (Hachette Book Group – Orbit Books)
The Faces of Angels by Lucretia Grindle (Felony & Mayhem Press)
The Dog Sox by Russell Hill (Pleasure Boat Studio – Caravel Mystery Books)
Death of the Mantis by Michael Stanley (HarperCollins Publishers – Harper Paperbacks)
Vienna Twilight by Frank Tallis (Random House Trade Paperbacks)


The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime That Scandalized a City and Sparked the Tabloid Wars by Paul Collins (Crown Publishing)
The Savage City: Race, Murder, and a Generation on the Edge by T.J. English (HarperCollins – William Morrow)
Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard (Random House - Doubleday)
Girl, Wanted: The Chase for Sarah Pender by Steve Miller (Penguin Group USA - Berkley)
The Man in the Rockefeller Suit: The Astonishing Rise and Spectacular Fall of a Serial Imposter by Mark Seal (Penguin Group USA - Viking)


The Tattooed Girl: The Enigma of Stieg Larsson and the Secrets Behind the Most Compelling Thrillers of our Time by Dan Burstein, Arne de Keijzer & John-Henri Holmberg (St. Martin’s Griffin)
Agatha Christie: Murder in the Making by John Curran (HarperCollins)
On Conan Doyle: Or, the Whole Art of Storytelling by Michael Dirda (Princeton University Press)
Detecting Women: Gender and the Hollywood Detective Film by Philippa Gates (SUNY Press)
Scripting Hitchcock: Psycho, The Birds and Marnie by Walter Raubicheck and Walter Srebnick (University of Illinois Press)


"Marley’s Revolution" – Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine by John C. Boland (Dell Magazines)
"Tomorrow’s Dead" – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by David Dean (Dell Magazines)
"The Adakian Eagle" – Down These Strange Streets by Bradley Denton (Penguin Group USA – Ace Books)
"Lord John and the Plague of Zombies" – Down These Strange Streets by Diana Gabaldon (Penguin Group USA – Ace Books)
"The Case of Death and Honey" – A Study in Sherlock by Neil Gaiman (Random House Publishing Group – Bantam Books)
"The Man Who Took His Hat Off to the Driver of the Train" – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Peter Turnbull (Dell Magazines)


Horton Halfpott by Tom Angleberger (Abrams – Amulet Books)
It Happened on a Train by Mac Barnett (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)
Vanished by Sheela Chari (Disney Book Group – Disney Hyperion)
Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby (Scholastic Press)
The Wizard of Dark Street by Shawn Thomas Odyssey (Egmont USA)


Shelter by Harlan Coben (Penguin Young Readers Group – G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson (Penguin Young Readers Group – G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
The Silence of Murder by Dandi Daley Mackall (Random House Children’s Books – Knopf BFYR)
The Girl is Murder by Kathryn Miller Haines (Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group – Roaring Creek Press)
Kill You Last by Todd Strasser (Egmont USA)


Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Suicide Club by Jeffrey Hatcher (Arizona Theatre Company, Phoenix, AZ)
The Game’s Afoot by Ken Ludwig (Cleveland Playhouse, Cleveland, OH)


"Innocence" – Blue Bloods, Teleplay by Siobhan Byrne O’Connor (CBS Productions)
"The Life Inside" – Justified, Teleplay by Benjamin Cavell(FX Productions and Sony Pictures Television)
"Part 1" – Whitechapel, Teleplay by Ben Court & Caroline Ip (BBC America)
"Pilot" – Homeland, Teleplay by Alex Gansa, Howard Gordon & Gideon Raff (Showtime)
"Mask" – Law & Order: SVU, Teleplay by Speed Weed (Wolf Films/Universal Media Studios)


"A Good Man of Business" – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by David Ingram (Dell Magazines)


Martha Grimes


M is for Mystery Bookstore, San Mateo, CA
Molly Weston, Meritorious Mysteries


Joe Meyers of the Connecticut Post/Hearst Media News Group

(Presented at MWA’s Agents & Editors Party on Wednesday, April 25, 2012)

Now You See Me by S.J. Bolton (Minotaur Books)
Come and Find Me by Hallie Ephron (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
Death on Tour by Janice Hamrick (Minotaur Books)
Learning to Swim by Sara J. Henry (Crown Publishing Group)
Murder Most Persuasive by Tracy Kiely (Minotaur Books – Thomas Dunne Books)

# # # #

The EDGAR (and logo) are Registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office by the Mystery Writers of America, Inc.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Assignment: Nepal - a Carl Brookins Review

by. J. S. Squires
2011 E-book release from
Echelon Press

Readers of this review should be aware that this press has published some of my crime fiction and I am acquainted with the publisher, though not with the two authors writing under a single pseudonym.

The protagonist is named Irene Adler. Not the woman who beat Sherlock Holmes at his own game, her modern namesake, a Doctor of Philosophy in Anthropology at Boston University. Adler has a demi-cynical outlook on life and it turns out she supplements her income by playing poker; specifically Texas Holdem in the gambling parlors around the New England area. Irene Adler is a bright, smart, single woman, an endearing protagonist.

Her former advisor, a fellow faculty member, prevails on Ms. Adler to travel to Nepal to inquire into the life and times of a former fellow undergraduate student of Irene’s, a Margot Smith, who’s in Nepal doing research on one of that country’s goddesses, one Chwwaassa Dyo. The problem is that there appears to something awry with Margot and her physician husband and Adler is supposed to sort things out. What needs sorting turns out to be only part of the story. Irene agrees to go half-way around the world to see a woman she barely knows. From this most unlikely beginning, the plot drives poor Adler into one complexity after another.

Her assignment clearly has unstated dimensions about which neither we readers nor Irene Adler herself are clear. Now, Nepal is an exotic nation from which assaults on Mount Everest are mounted and the ubiquitous Sherpa play an important part, as do digital cameras, former Cold War adversaries, political unrest in the country, and a whole series of meddlesome individuals who seem to still show up on the fringes of the former English Empire.

The novel winds its way through a variety of conflicts among wanderers, a boorish American tourist couple, and murder and bomb blasts. At times the narrative suffers from a pedestrian pace and some lapses of editing discipline over the point of view. Still, the story is interesting, Irene is definitely a character to build a series around, the exotic setting in and around Katmandu is, well, exotic, and a satisfactory conclusion is fashioned. I think four stars in too strong a rating, but the novel is more enjoyable than three stars would indicate. Sample the novel and make your own judgment.

carl brookins
Reunion, Devils Island, Red Sky, The Case of the Great Train Robbery 
The Case of The Missing Case