Party Girls Die in Pearls: An Oxford Girl Mystery
When Ursula Flowerbottom arrives at Oxford University, she is ready for a productive academic year, full of lectures and sleepless nights spent studying in the library. Her new American friend, Nancy, on the contrary, is much more interested in Oxford’s party scene and snagging a well-connected aristocrat. Before either can settle into their new lives at Christminster College, an aristocratic “it” girl, India Brattenbury is murdered.
In order to pursue her dream of writing for the prestigious college newspaper, Ursula sets out to discover who killed India. Nancy is all too ready to help find out more about India if it means she can attend the numerous posh balls at the college and at the same time hunt for a new beau.
This fabulous mystery kept me entertained from beginning to end. Ms. Sykes really knows how to keep the reader invested in the story with brilliant descriptions and fun characters. I was so glued to the page, I almost hated to make it to the end. Not only was the 1980s setting a hoot, but it brought back long forgotten memories. I’m so glad I got to read this one.
My first thought upon finishing Missing Mona was that it is well-tailored novel for those enthusiasts of crime drama novels. Readers outside of this genre may find themselves bored with the density of the book at times, but the story is nothing, if not engrossing. The bones of the plot were set up well: Tommy Cuda is a protagonist with almost nothing to lose, who goes out to rediscover himself, and the adventure he gets is a result of accidentally stumbling into an opportunity that was the consequence of being in the right place at the wrong time. Its the classic story of the inexperienced average Joe who gets swept up in a mystery more grand than he ever could have imagined. When Tommy decides to leave behind what he knows and heads toward Chicago, he picks up an attractive hitchhiker on the way who goes by the name of Mona, and she hires him as a private investigator in order to find someone for her. But theres a twist. When he wakes the next morning in the motel room where they had stayed for the night, all he has is a photograph of Mona with a message on the back that reads: Find Me Tommy M”.
A seemingly simple mystery, Missing Mona rather quickly turns into a complicated plot with strong political and monetary motives. Particularly as the unanswered questions start tying in together to paint the bigger picture of Tommy Cudas mysterious hitchhiker. The story gets convoluted at times, and I found that the overall timeline was not the easiest to follow. I lost track of how many days Tommy Cuda was actually in Chicago, and I think it was in reality a much shorter time frame than it felt while reading. That being said, the action was well-paced, which made for some exciting moments. I was definitely invested enough to want to find out where Klingler was driving this novel. And aside from a few minute inconsistencies, all major questions were addressed making the novel feel concluded.
Klinglers Chicago made me want to visit the city in Tommy Cudas world. It was exciting and gritty, and set up to be the perfect type of place for our protagonist to find some adventure. I think the character was able to live the life that epitomizes the notion of finding oneself. Tommy Cuda had beautiful girls, great music, an old car on the open road, and an enticing unsolvable mystery. I dont think he could have sought out a more drastic change from the monotony of the life he had.
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.
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.
A family is murdered in a dilapidated Minneapolis housing area, and Milo Krantzthe unpopular rental agent of the unitis pegged as the culprit. Fifty-two-year-old Detective Gunther Mulvaney senses that Milo is telling the truth when he initially pleads not guilty. Yet overnight, Milo’s court proceedings become a main public attraction, and it’s only at the sentencing stage! In addition, Milo not only suddenly changes his plea, but also refuses to say anything in his own defense. Gunther, wondering if Milo’s drastic indifference has something to do with the judge handling his trial, does his own sleuthing. It is a matter of time whether or not Gunther can collect enough evidence to prove Milo’s innocence before he is sent to prison.
Award-winning author, Patrick Garry, spins a mystery within a mystery in his recent novel. Key to Garry’s third person narrative is a complex cast. Garry features a handful of tainted charactersnamely Gunther Mulvaney, Milo Krantz, Judge Donna Davis, and her husband, Steven Davishiding behind facades . Surrounded by a supplemental yet foiled cast, each principal character (whether a professional or supposed lowlife like Milo) is a mixed bag of personalities laced with problems and/or deception. That said, Garry keeps readers scratching their heads and wishing that the real culprit would rise to the surface. Adding to the confusion, Garry’s characters also have their own set of convoluted circumstances that slowly intertwine in the body of plot.
Garry keeps his story moving by incorporating the aforementioned literary tools within chapters that alternate between character scenes as well as backstories. Amid a flurry of activity and red herrings, Garry also includes cliffhanging chapter endings that eventually (for the most part) get resolved in subsequent chapters. Replete with plenty of twists and turns and closing on an eerily open-ended note, Blind Spots is not only a top-of-the-line read for mystery aficionados and beyond, but also earmarked to be another award-winning book.
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.