Elementary, She Read: A Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery
In Vicki Delany’s Elementary, She Read, the first in her Sherlock Holmes Bookshop mysteries, we meet Gemma Doyle, the owner of the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium, who has the same deductive mind and knack for finding trouble as the beloved classic character. She is helped by her friend and co-owner of the adjoining Mrs. Hudson’s Tea Room, Jane Wilson (I see what you did there Delany!), and her own Lestrade-esque detective, Ryan Ashburton.
Upon discovering a potentially rare and valuable edition of a Sherlock Holmes story hidden among the books on her store shelves, Gemma can’t stop herself from investigating, despite being number one on the suspect list after the discovery of the book owner’s body. She must put her powers of deduction to work to discover which of the suspects on her own list is the murderer before she ends up locked up–or worse!
Being a reader of A.C. Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes novels helps, but even the person who knows the character and his deductive detection methods only through the new television series will be able to follow along quite easily thanks to Delany’s vivid descriptions and non-obtrusive explanations. Who can resist a fast-paced, quick-witted, ripping good yarn? Certainly not a bibliophile like me!
Crooked Lane Books
In the Shadow of Lies
Oliver Wright a homicide detective returns home to Richmond, California, upon his fathers insistence to try and keep his brother Peter out of trouble. Peter Wright is an Assistant District Attorney and insists on investigating the case of two children whom have died in a fire in the woods near their home, sparked by the burning of a cross, most likely the work of the Ku Klux Klan though hard to prove, because no one is willing to speak up, and anyone who tries doesnt seem to live long enough to actually do so.
Life in Richmond during the 1940s is difficult for just about everyone. There isnt a soul in town who isnt experiencing loss, fear, or heartache of some kind. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, anyone of Japanese descent is labeled an enemy of the state, rounded up, and sent to internment camps. The Italians are still on the wrong side of the war, and, thus, they are deemed suspicious and deprived of their fishing boats, homes, and livelihoods. Although African-American men are allowed to enlist in the army, they are treated as second-class citizens, forced to cook and clean after the white recruits, even when they are willing to fight and die for their country. To make matters worse, a serial rapist is on the loose, striking fear among the colored women of Richmond, while shipyard workers are also being beaten to death, with little more than relative apathy as a response from the police force.
Oliver is caught in the midst of all this chaos trying to appease his father, attempting to keep his brother safe, and searching for the truth in a town overcome with fear, yet he is unable to put his mind at ease until he can solve these seemingly unrelated cases plaguing his hometown even after he reenlists in the Army and returns to solve a new crime.
M.A. Adler weaves this taunting mystery through a series of intriguing clues, tragic deaths, awful crimes, and troubled characters. And, although these unusual crimes draw the reader in, begging for a connection and resolution against a backdrop of darkness, hatred, and bigotry, there is a lightness and all-encompassing feeling of hopefulness and camaraderie among the downtrodden folks of Richmond. Whether it is Olivers determination to find the truth, Mrs. Forgiones welcoming nature at Café Avellino, or Roans love for his dog Emma and Peters children, every character is forged out of difficult experiences, unfathomable loss, intricate family relationships, and an ardent desire for a better future and the end of the war. In the Shadow of Lies proves to be a skillfully written mystery taking place during a very distressing period in American history, yet confirms that hope and kindness can triumph over intolerance in the darkest of times.
Finding Claire Fletcher
On the day that Detective Connor Parks has jeopardized his career for killing a man, he meets Claire Fletcher in a bar and spends one night with her, catching a glimpse of the girl she once was. Trouble is Claire Fletcher is no longer that girl. When she vanishes from his bed leaving an address, he tries to follow up for a chance to re-encounter this intriguing woman only to discover shocking news. The enigmatic Claire has been missing for years. As his work life disintegrates he sets out to solve the mystery of her disappearance. Claire becomes as ethereal to Parks as the ghost of whom she used to be is to Claire herself due to the man who has unmade her.
Returning to the living hell that is her new life, Claire is overcome with guilt for endangering the man who has woken a part of herself she had thought was long since dead. The question is how will she find the resolve to ensure no one else loses their life in her name?
From the opening first person narration of the mystery woman herself, or a version of her, the question hooks are planted that lead us into the story which is really four separate story lines cleverly shuffled. As each one ends on a crisis point or question we alternate to the next which deftly pulls us along as we search for the next big reveal. Major questions demand answers. Why isnt the most obvious and simple solution to Claires dilemma possible?
We follow Parks quest to find Claire from his third person narration as he weathers the situation with his career. Intermingled with all this we become a party to Claires current life as well as the history of her past which has led to now, when she still was wholly Claire Fletcher.
This gripping tale of psychological abuse is realistic and well-written. At times, I felt my breath become tight as I empathized with Claires ordeal, which is a testament to the books inherent craft. Clearly much research on trauma had been undertaken to underpin the heroines motivations. Dark it may be, but not gratuitous. Part way through however I became disappointed when Id thought Id figured out who Claires abuser was, but I had just been led into a skillful trap by this talented author who had sent me off down a blind alley, laying a trail of pseudo clues that had me fixing on how smart I was.
I finished the book and remained in the world Lisa Regan had created for a while. Its always a good sign when a story lingers. Its even better when you discover an author you enjoy and want to hear more from then find out there are several other works to encounter.
The Paris Protection
The Secret Service is in some ways like the NSA, CIA or some other government lesser known acronym group: just about everyone knows who they are, but they dont really know exactly how they operate or what they do. The Secret Services job is to protect the President of the United States 24/7, no matter what it takes. Their lives are always on the line for this one person. But what does this truly unique job entail?
The premise for The Paris Protection seems somewhat mundane and ordinary: a terrorist group has infiltrated the hotel where the United States President is staying and plans to assassinate her. They are fully confident in their success, while the Secret Service knows the job they have to do.
Abigail Clarke has done a lot of work – as a state prosecutor, US Senator, and governor of Virginia – and sacrificed much to become one of the most powerful and important people on the planet; many say THE most important. President Clarke does not take her job lightly and has very little free time. She is now in Paris for a summit meeting as she hopes to bring the prickly subject of organized crime to the international stage and address it as a terrorist attack. For now, the days work is done and she is at her hotel carrying out various conference calls with important people back on US soil and around the world.
Maximillian Wolff, who once served on the Israeli Security Protection team when Yitzak Rabin was assassinated, has suffered much during his life and holds the United States accountable for its world domination, and with a huge and highly trained team of mercenaries, his plan is to remove the head of power and bring the US to its knees. His right hand man, Kazim Aslan, has spent his time as an insurgent soldier in Iraq who has lost loved ones because of the United States policies and wants their assassination plan to be just as successful. Maximillian also has a hero: Hannibal Barca who once brought Rome to its knees.
The Paris Protection is three-hundred-and-fifty-odd pages that is anything but ordinary and mundane. Devore skillfully takes the reader step by step through the attack, giving POVs from both sides and plenty of detail of tactics, weaponry, and skill. It is a gripping thriller at its best. Here and there, he provides some back story to his characters–again on both sides–that help the reader understand what is fueling their desire and drive. Maximillian goes into numerous contemplations of how Hannibal handled certain situations to help them in their current one, which is juxtaposed with Secret Service Agents contemplating their skill and training and what past agents have done in similar situations.
It is the ideal blend of action and story with plenty of well-researched details that keep the reader glued to the page. The story passes throughout the hotel with some impressive battles, eventually leading down deep into the haunting Paris catacombs that serves as a terrifying arena for a chase scene. The Paris Protection is one of those books where you dont know who will make it out alive and how its really going to end; a perfect example of the thriller genre.
On vacation in Germany, a middle-aged husband and wife hike to a medieval tower. Knowing the tower makes the husband uncomfortable, the wife sends him down the trail and enters the tower alone, waving to him from an upstairs wooden landing. Later, the husband returns, but cannot find his wife. Entering the dark tower, he becomes ill, blacks out, and awakens outside. Still unclear what has happened to his wife, the man returns to his hotel, cleans up a few details without speaking to the authorities, and begins his return trip home to the States as if nothing has happened. Some time later, the womans body is discovered in the tower without identification, and a local, small-town detectives caseload becomes a good deal more complex.
Did the husband kill his wife? Was she killed by an old boyfriend? Did she commit suicide, or did she simply have the bad luck of falling?
Clearly, Katya is a labor of love for husband-and-wife writing team Jon Martell and Jamie McCormick, and the result is a pleasure for those who love a good mystery. The strength of this novel, which spans two continents and several decades, is the depth of thought given to each main characters possible, but no way predictable, back story and the care taken in revealing those stories in the plot. Intrigued from the first few pages, the reader feels the delicious compulsion to keep reading to finally discover how all of these lives interweave to create this unique novel. In the end, the authors tantalize the reader further. Rather than providing clear answers, they leave the reader puzzling. A tribute to their skill, this lack of complete clarity proves a completely refreshing and satisfying result. Katya was four years in the making, and those were four years well spent.
The Nash Criterion
Obama’s term has come to an end, and Elaine York has stepped up to the plate as the newly inaugurated 45th President of the United States. She soon finds herself compromised, however, as a coup, seemingly initiated by a faction of the military, divides the nation, and America descends into civil war.
Events set in motion by a genius hacker named Fawkes, after he has unleashed a super-virus, have triggered the chaos. Once again, a team of FBI and CIA agents find themselves pitted against the forces of evil, including many within their own government. This story, book four of the Intel 1 series, follows on from The Anonymous Signal, in which an FBI cyber crimes unit went off-reservation with their crime-fighting methodology, and the chief and members of his team were forced to defend themselves and their actions in a military-style trial. However, this novel does function as a standalone, and can be successfully read as such.
Feds John Savas and Rebecca Cohen have to prove themselves worthy of their earlier exoneration, as they attempt to aid the ailing president. Meanwhile, a crack team, including super cybersecurity girl Angel Lightfoote, work on deciphering a secret code which obscures the unpublished work of brilliant mathematician John Nash. Once cracked, it promises to defeat a hidden enemy and restore peace and harmony to the nation. As if this weren’t enough, both groups must battle a divisive contingent of the military, pledging allegiance to this opposing set of puppet-masters, with sophisticated modern weaponry and advanced computational power at their disposal.
The author continues to develop his original creations, an interesting and quirky cast of non-stereotypical misfits, but, in places, paints quite a broad sweep when it comes to character perspective. Though successful in initial chapters when were inside Sava’s and York’s heads, the storytelling becomes less focalized as we switch between the two interwoven plotlines to spend time with the secondary group. It feels like if the reader were to be privy to the interior monologues of all of the characters and their motivations, a much stronger connection could be made, along with a sense of the cast having been more fully-developed. In this instance, I believe this series could be propelled into a league alongside tech thrillers written by masters such as Barry Eisler.
The author’s jargon and technical know-how is believable, as is the convincing fight choreography. All of this, along with the complex and intelligent plotting, makes for an extremely satisfying and page-turning read, and the incorporation of several hot politic topics and fascinating conspiracy theories about elite shadowy governments make it all the more compelling. Erec Stebbins is definitely one to watch, a good writer who just gets better and better.