Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore: A Novel
Every bookstore has its regulars, becoming a home-away-from-home for all sorts of quirky individuals. But for bookshop employee Lydia, things change in an instant when one of her regulars hangs himself in the store. He leaves behind a single clue: a photo of Lydia as a child. As Lydia delves into the young man’s life, she uncovers more connections to her past, including the event that changed her life forever: the night she survived an attack by a murderer called the Hammerman.
This is really a story of two books. The first is a novel about lost people who somehow find each other. That book is curious, quirky, sad, and engaging. But as the book continues, it becomes a small-town prime time soap, one where the threads are so entangled that it begins to seem preposterous rather than tightly-plotted.
And when all the mysteries are unraveled, no one really seems happier for it. The last 40 pages or so border on misery porn as everything turns to shit for every character when the secrets are out. The mystery is well-constructed and Lydia is an engaging character, but it’s all a bit too downbeat by the end.
Three different Amazon boxes — each containing a Ziploc bag with a “Don’t Steal Music” sticker slapped on it and filled with bodily pieces-parts. That is all the evidence SFPD Detectives Qigiq (pronounced “ki-jeek”) and Kandy Dreeson, his partner, have on a missing college student named Sally Bellowi. Their biggest clue comes in when a demented YouTube video goes viral. While further research connects the hideous recording with the “Don’t Steal Music” sticker and peer-to-peer music files, the leads eventually zero in on a psychopathic culprit. But more technological sleuthing reveals viruses, one more deadly than the other, which makes cornering the perpetrator more difficult than expected. Klingler’s new thriller is a ride into the dark side of computers and comedy.
In his second novel, rising author Joe Klingler features Qigiq, who purposefully relocates to California from Alaska in the hope of becoming acquainted with computer crime. A quasi-gumshoe Clouseau, Qigiq is not only technologically behind the times, but also technologically challenged — to the max. Coupled with Kandy, his quick-witted, brawny-ish sidekick, Qigiq’s awkwardness only stands out more. In addition to his clueless main character, Klingler includes a handful of other quirky characters in the mix. Aside of a few scatterbrains, Klingler throws in enough red herrings to leave readers also clueless when it comes to pinpointing the real offender.
Klingler’s plot definitely has a Quentin Tarantino-feel to it. Opening with a graphic crime scene, Klingler quickly shifts scenes by introducing the daring duo with morbidly hilarious misdirected dialogue. But that is only the beginning of the black comedy that he deftly interweaves throughout his somewhat substantial story. Penned in third person, Klingler’s constantly moving narrative principally but not exclusively alternates between the crime investigation, the inner workings of the music media company, Silver Platter (headed by the suave and narcissistic Eddy Blake), and computer programmer and guru Harry Zeto. All periodically laced with snippets of romance, Klingler’s plot slowly builds up to a ticking clock scenario that leads to an ambiguous ending.
Cleverly designed, Mash Up is the perfect detective read, as well as a classic addition to the noir genre.
Upon discovering new evidence, a retired detective with months to live races to catch a high school track stars killer. Garnering the support of a PI firm, on-duty cops, and loved ones, the detective and allies face off against a ruthless manipulative psychopath to bring young Sydney Adams case to a successful close.
Cold-Blooded continues the trials and tribulations of Lisa Regans previous heroine last seen in Hold Still. Jocelyn Rush barely survived a horrific attack that left her, and her partner Anita, scarred. Rush left the force to focus on her daughter, but opening a PI firm to continue helping Philadelphias underserved citizens. A case is dropped in her lap by the nearly dead Augustus Knox. Knox lost everything he loved in the pursuit of Sydney Adams murderer. Discovering pictures that link Adams to the beloved Coach Cash Rigo, Knox implores Rush to help him solve the case before he dies. With just a theory and some weak evidence, Rush and Knox hound Coach Rigo in the hopes of forcing a confession. Between flashbacks and investigating, its soon made clear that there is a more sinister killer waiting in the wings for a time to strike.
Lisa Regan is clearly at the top of her game as a suspense novelist. The plotting is impeccable. Its difficult to determine the actual killer until nearly the last page. For instance, no spoilers, Coach Rigo had repeated affairs with underage girls. Everyone believes he must have been the killer, but just as evidence begins to mount the rug is ripped out from under everyone. Flashbacks to Rigos and other characters pasts help flesh out the story and add dramatic irony. The characters are dynamic and worn in, with strong backstories. Rush and her partner are carry-overs from a previous book, but Knox is such an interesting and tragic figure. He gave everything he had to find Adams killer and lost it all. Drunk, dying of various illnesses, he clings to life. With the dark and disturbing plot, the strong characters, and engaging prose, Cold-Blooded is not just a page-turner, the pages fly by on their own and you just have to hold on as it races to a stunning conclusion.
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.
A Patchwork of Old Spies
A drug trade operation appears to go awry and two undercover agents, Gunther and Heidi, head to Chipley Island. Zach and Jodie Warren, two of the fourteen retired espionage experts who call the island their home, are not too thrilled that the agents have chosen their haven for protection. Yet they, along with the remaining retired spies, get involved to piece together the truth behind Operation Seagull. There are way too many unrelated clues and a slew of red herrings, however, which call for intense problem solvinga time for Jodie to resurrect the program from her old Patches mission. But trying to figure out “how a South American drug business, a Far Eastern gang, and…a Russian op named Polaris,” fit together, for example, is far more complicated and extremely riskier than the retirees thinkespecially when they’re invaded.
With a slew of published works under her belt, Gini Andings latest espionage novel takes readers into the strange and mysterious world of retired spiesat least the ones on Chipley Island. Once again featuring husband and wife agents, Zach and Jodie, as principal characters (from A Case for Old Spies), Anding includes a large, but intricately designed, cast of retired spies and other colorful protagonists and antagonists set within the confines of a tight community. Of particular interest is the way Anding punctuates each character (spy or otherwise) with his/her detailed credentials in bold lettering throughout her third-person narrative. That writing style not only helps readers wrap their heads around Anding’s hefty cast, but also identifies how each character is related to the other in some fashion.
As Anding continues to introduce each cast member, she slowly, but deftly, unfolds her storyline. Key to plot building, Anding creates the most interesting character conversations. Intertwined with geopolitics and its behind-the-scene connections with intelligent activity, dialogues are filled with a combination of reality, bumbling lame comments, and ad nauseam yet hilarious statementsall compactly laced within black comedy and action-packed who’s-done-it, game-of-Clue-like adventure. In addition, Anding also keeps her narrative flowing by including cliffhangers at the close of chapters and a whole stream of unexpected scene changes.
There is no doubt in this reviewer’s mind that A Patchwork of Old Spies is one read that is truly an unforgettable one of its kind.
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.