Old Bones, the second novel by Trudy Nan Boyce, continues the story of homicide detective Sarah Alt, “Salt.” Having spent over thirty years in law enforcement in Atlanta, Boyce is qualified to take readers to places they would not consider going alone. She presents her version of law enforcement members and the society with which they interact without glorifying either, while tackling the tough subjects of racism and sex trafficking.
The main character, Salt, is trying to come to terms with a difficult family history while she embarks on a new stage in her life. At the same time, she is working to help a young man who faces serious challenges to his future.
Boyce skillfully walks the line between providing too much or too little in the way of resolving these conflicts. However, the character development and plot don’t seem to hit their stride until approximately two-thirds of the way through the book. This may be intentional; not all books are written in the same style. It did seem that there was a rush at the end to tie up a lot of loose ends. Even so, the ending is worth the wait.
Trudy Nan Boyce
G.P. Putnam's Sons
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.
Death by Romance
Gordon Taylor is murdered right before Christmas, and right before his company makes its initial public offering. His wife, Jessica, is devastated, but alarmed that her partnership with Romance, Ltd., makes her a suspect in her husbands murder, along with many other supporting characters.
Years before the murder, Jessica’s friend, Mavis, concocts a business plan for a lucrative, investor-driven matchmaking service. She calls it Romance, Ltd. Mavis uses Jessica as her investment, using her resources to school her in philanthropy and high culture, with the aim of putting Jessica in Gordon Taylors path. The company’s goal is that the investment marries for money, and the investors get a cut of the spoils when the marriage eventually sours. But what if the investors are impatient, and the marriage isnt souring fast enough? It just might be a motive for murder.
Jessicas clear-eyed earnestness is admirable, if only a bit naïve. Jessica knows that Mavis makes money through their partnership after Gordon Taylors estate is settled, but doesn’t see this as a reason to suspect her. Jessica blames herself for her husbands murder, and continues to forgive Mavis over and over again for being a single-minded, greedy hag the whole time.
A shady lawyer and some investors with mob ties kept me guessing, and threw Ryan, the cop on the case, off the trail. Like many crime novels, the evidence points to multiple characters as being the murderer, but it was almost the one you least expected.
Death by Romance is short, simple and straightforward. The characters are deep and interesting. Jessica’s grief is the readers grief. Maviss anxiety is the readers anxiety. Ryan, the cop with whom readers will spend the most time, loves his cat and loves to cook, has a dismal relationship with his son, and can’t seem to let go of his late wife, Mary. Ryan’s vibrant personality will make readers feel like theyre solving the mystery right alongside him. While there wasn’t a ton of action, some excellent sleuthing made the ride entertaining.
The Last Chapter
If ever there was a book that made you want to go back and read or re-read all of Charles Dickens classics, The Last Chapter by Lyn Squire is it. The story opens with the famed author struggling to get his final words to his latest piece of work The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Or at least that is what readers are led to believe. In truth, the author has realized he has been poisoned and is trying in vain to pen his final message to the world. His ever faithful housemaid Georgina works to cover up his assumed murder and employees the help of the well-meaning but often daft nephew of Charles Dickens, Dunston Burnett. She confides her theory of how she believes his uncle was murdered to only him. Georgina implores Dunston to utilize the hidden final three chapters of the book and the initial three to discover who murdered Charles Dickens. Eager to be of service, Dunston takes on the job and scours the pages as well as the people closest to his uncle to solve this mystery. The deeper Dunston digs, the more questions he comes across. When the characters and readers think the mystery has finally been solved, a whole new mystery develops before their eyes. Vagrants, lovers, hidden letters and more keep the readers hooked until the very last page when the true conclusion to all that was hidden is finally revealed.
Squires approach to this book is absolutely brilliant. As you begin the book readers are lead to believe it is a mystery where there is a slew of obvious charactersone of whom one will be revealed as the villain. However, Squire takes the story one step farther and adds an additional mystery closely linked to the initial mystery. His ability to not only link the two story lineswhich could have been two separate books easilyand blend the characters and clues to lead readers through a maze of not only who did the crime, but question their motives and identities. His reference to many of Dickens works throughout the novel and secrets they may hold made me, and I am sure will make others, want to read them again and look for clues, true or fictional, that were missed. This book is definitely a delightful and intriguing surprise and must not be missed!
The Wallenstein Testament
Edmund Amesbury, the main character of The Wallenstein Testament, is quirky. It is difficult to determine if this is entirely due to memory loss he suffered as a result of a traumatic event when he was sixteen. Perhaps he always spoke in a vernacular more suited to a previous century, using Latin quotes that no one understands. He is interesting, to say the least.
Readers are taken on a journey with many twists and surprises as Edmund and a small group of accomplices set out to prove that he is the last descendant to Frances royal family. His primary source of help is Christy Shannon, an up-and-coming journalist who is writing an article about Edmunds cousin, Lester, who disappeared in San Francisco following some questionable business deals. Christy is spunky and energetic. She and Edmund could not be more different, yet each of them contributes vitally in the pursuit of Lester and the search for the Wallenstein Testament. Christy is able to ferret out information from sources unavailable to Edmund. On the other hand, Edmund has a few tricks up his sleeve that use the information to its greatest advantage.
Vibrant descriptions of characters and settings make it easier to overlook some less plausible scenarios, like a physician who gladly gives up HIPAA-protected information. The story moves forward at a fast pace, so much so that readers may not recognize some valuable clues that are peppered throughout. These details cleverly raise questions about the Wallenstein Testament and Lesters role in having Edmund confined to a mental institution for many years.
The Wallenstein Testament would make for great vacation or travel reading. It is entertaining, without requiring a large investment of time or energy by readers. Will there be a third installment to the Amesbury story that will advance Edmunds rightful place and explain how he arrives there? There are still some loose ends that could be tied up with a third installment and I think readers would be pleased to follow Edmund into the next stage of his life.
Veil of Deception
You save an influential politician seeking a run for the presidency from Russian assassins and ultimately find out he is your father and then the love of your life disappears. You would think that is enough excitement and drama to last a lifetime. That is not the case for Jason Conrad. In Veil of Deception, bad luck, lies, and corruption seem to follow him wherever he goes. When a routine practice flight goes horribly wrong and he and a trainer pilot have to eject as their plane crashes, he figures his career is all but done. Especially since television reporter Dane Robinson is quick to jump on the story, set on killing Conrads career. However, instead of a reprimand and dismissal from duty, he is called to Edwards Air Force Base to help test a simulator that will ultimately help with the creation of a new age fighter jet referred to as the F2000 that is being created by a private Chinese run company, TRENCOR, and the Department of Defense (DOD). Uprooted from Oklahoma and set to be moved to California in less than two weeks he receives an unexpected visit before he leaves from old flame, Kathy Delgato, who mysteriously walked out of his life all those years ago. Her arrival is strange and sends off signals but he takes her back. As he settles into his new surroundings he is met with more questions than answers about the people he meets, why he is there and what exactly is going on with this top secret project. A chance run in with investigative reporter, Sherri Davis, who has her own information and theories convinces Conrad that all is not what it seems. As all the pieces begin to come together and information comes to light about money, people, companies and agendas involved in this F2000 project Conrad and Davis end up joining forces to stop a possible disaster. However, at the end of the day, with so many dirty hands in the pot, who survives the fallout?
Michael Byars Lewis created a fast paced military thriller with twists and turns that will hook a variety of readers. His use of military acronyms, brings a sense of real life to this fictional joy ride that flies full throttle until the very end. The characters are well developed and while there are a lot to keep track of, their importance is made apparent and adds to the storys overall impact. A fly by the seat of your pants page turner and not to be missed.