FINAL ARRANGEMENTS by Donna Huston Murray

final arrangementsThis is the second book in the Ginger Barnes mystery series.   Ginger is married to the headmaster of an upscale Main Line Philadelpia private school.  She has two kids and a quirky mother.  The quirky mother finagles  Ginger to drive her and her old school friend to the Philadelphia Horticultural Show — you know, the Philadelphia Flower Show.

The old school friend is a competitor in the Niche category.  And she is a nasty bitch, too, pardon my Swahili.  At the show, merciful heavens, she is found strangled to death.  Egads and little fishes.

Ginger is a likable and realistic character, caught up in the busy life that is the lot of mothers of school age children.  But she is also caught up in the intriguing mystery of who killed that nasty bitch old school friend of mom’s.  Fortunately, the detective on the case is an old school friend of Ginger’s, who seems content to let her run around amassing clues for him.  Oh well.  It’s fiction.  And a pleasant one, but not one that compels me to wait with bated breath for the next in the series.

It’s in that category of interest and nice mysteries.

I grew up and lived in the general area in which the book was set, and am familiar with all the towns, roads, areas mentioned, so it had an additional interest for me.

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THE CELTIC DAGGER by Jill Paterson

celtic dagger  A mystery set in New South Wales.  University professor Alex Wearing is found murdered in his study.  Assigned to the case is Detective Chief Inspector Alistair Fitzjohn, whose relentless pursuit for the killer zeros in on Alex’s brother, James, as a key suspect in his investigation.

James starts his own investigation and finds himself immersed in a web of intrigue, ultimately uncovering long hidden secrets about his brother’s life that could easily be the very reasons he was murdered.
This gripping tale of murder and suspense winds its way through the university’s hallowed halls to emerge into the beautiful, yet unpredictable, Blue Mountain region where more challenges and obstacles await James in his quest to clear himself of suspicion and uncover the truth about his brother.  (Official plot summary, somewhat edited.)

DCI Fitzjohn, a recent widower, is about to leave on his vacation, when his superior requests that he postpone it to take on a high-profile case.  What is delightful about DCI Fitzjohn is that he is secretly pleased to do so, because going on vacation alone, to his sister’s, was not something he was really looking forward to doing.

A good mystery, with a surprising ending (aren’t they all?), and some interesting characters along the way.

 

THE ENEMY WE KNOW by Donna White Glaser

ENEMY-WE-KNOW  This is one from the 12-Step Mystery series.  Letty is a psychotherapist in a group practice.

When one of her clients slips free from an abusive boyfriend, Letty becomes the target of his violent rage. Wayne invades Letty’s life, slithering his way past the barriers erected between her personal and professional lives, leaving gifts of dead rats, mutilated dolls, and freaky Shakespearian sonnets. Worst of all, Wayne uncovers Letty’s deepest shame, infiltrating her AA group and threatening to expose her to the state licensing board.

And then–good news–Wayne is murdered. The bad news? The police suspect Letty. Worse yet, the sonnets and bloody souvenirs keep coming. Someone else has been watching Letty. Someone eager to drop bodies at her feet like a cat offering dead mole trophies to his mistress.

The above is the official plot blurb.  Letty is an alcoholic 5 months dry.  What is an alcoholic doing practicing psychotherapy?  What kind of advice can she give, she who cannot even regulate her own life?   And she acts like a 15 year old from time to time.  This bothered me.  She didn’t seem like a grownup in a professional occupation.

The mystery itself was good, if only Letty were a more believable character.  Someone can be an alcoholic, and a recovering alcoholic in any profession or job.  But it is scary to think that if one needs therapy and counseling, one might be receiving those services from a drunk.

 

 

 

KILLGRACE AND THE FAITHLESS

faithless-300  Two scientists unexpectedly stranded in a technological backwater find, to their dismay, that conservation of energy and E=mc2 are in effect.  Most of their technology is useless.  They have to ways to get home:  try and merge the reality they are in with the main causality, or rebuild a navigational data base from readings taken across space and take a shortcut.  Unfortunately co-operation could be a problem.  The world they came from was at war, and they aren’t on the same side — or even the same species.

Under a shaky truce, they explore a series of worlds where physics may not work the same way, aliens exist and may never have encountered their various species before, and most dangerous of all, places where life as they know it is not supported.

This series of novellas starts in the 1920s, with one scientist who seems to be human, and the other, Killgrace, who is ummm something else.

In this story, they are on a world where a humanoid species has abandoned an evolved technology for primitive life.  It is the story of what happens there on that world between the outcasts and the main colony.

THE COLORADO KID By Stephen King

Coloradokid_pb  The Colorado Kid is a mystery novel written by Stephen King for the Hard Case Crime imprint, published in 2005.

It sucked.  It is actually more of a novella, and it is tedious.  The basic plot is a young girl is apprenticing with a couple of old timers on a small newspaper on some island in Maine.  The old coots tell her of an unsolved mystery of a guy who was found dead sitting on a bench on a deserted beach.

Here’s why it sucked.  The mystery is never solved.  So you read through all this cutesy dialog basically for nothing.  I want my mysteries solved, my loose ends tightened up, my stories with a beginning, a middle and an end.  I have enough mysteries in real life.  I read for entertainment, education, and escape.  No point in escaping to more horse manure, is there?

And anyway, like I said, it is really a novella.  A fairly short read.

OK, so I’m not nuts about everything King writes.  Earl Stanley Gardner he ain’t.  So what.   I still love him for The Dark Tower.  That whole tale continues to stay with me.

MAN PLUS by Frederik Pohl

man plus  Man Plus is a 1976 science fiction novel by Frederik Pohl. It won the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1976,  and was nominated for the Hugo and Campbell Awards.

This is a killer sci novel.  The basic plot is that the world is on the brink of total nuclear war.  The government feels that the only hope is to establish a colony on Mars.

The trendline forecasts look pretty sour.  Now they show nuclear escalation probabilities peaking pretty fast.  We’ve got a date for it.  The curve continued shows the point-nine probability in less than seven years.  “Which means,”  he added, “that if we don’t have a viable Mars colony by then, we may not live to have it ever.”

So what the government sets out to do is to create a cyborg – a guy who is mostly hardware who can live on Mars without having to have a special shelter against the climate and gases.

This is the story of the making of that cyborg man – man plus.  The technology of it, the psychology of it, really interesting. But we also get into the idea of Truth with a capital T.

He had to accept Roger’s [the cyborg] need for mediation circuits to interpret the excess of inputs, but he had no answer for the great question:  If Roger could not know what he was seeing, how could he see Truth?

And ‘mediated truth’,  touching on what governments feed the populace.

And of course, since this was written in the 70’s, long before the internet, it is filled with references to newspapers, music tapes, microfiche files to read, and typewriters.

It is also still before feminism took hold.  All the main characters are male, none of the astronauts are women,  and backpack computers for wearing on Mars are called brother computers.  The only women are in supporting roles, caretaking roles:  nurses, and a psychiatrist.  The wife of the Man Plus is drawn in negative lines.  She is the baddie.

As so many of the best sci fi of that era, it is filled with the fear of nuclear extinction, of the damage man does to man and to the planet, and the need to escape, which serves as the vehicle on which the story rides.  You can compare this with Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy which was written in the late 90’s, and which concerns itself with the technology and excitement of creating a Mars colony and then terraforming the planet to make it habitable.  The tenor of the two stories have an entirely different feel to them, but Pohl’s story echos more Walter M. MIller’s A Canticle for Leibowitz, also of  this era, (written in the 60’s), the fear of nuclear destruction all pervasive in the book.

There is so much really excellent sci fi, both the early stuff and the more modern works, that it would take a lifetime to read it all.

 

THE SHOLES KEY – Clarissa Draper

Sholes Key  Cryptology.  I love that stuff.  Codes.  Secret messages.  You know, stuff like that.  Except when the encrypted messages are carved on the bodies of dead people.  Eeeeuuuu.

All across London, single mothers are vanishing.  Newly promoted Detective Inspector Theophilus Blackwell is assigned the case of Lorna McCauley, which, on the outside seems to be a simple case of mid-life crisis and child abandonment.

Elsewhere in London, MI5 analyst, (that’s British agency lingo for cryptologist) Sophia Evans, is working undercover to catch an animal rights group responsible for targeted bombings.

Through one thing and another, the two come together as their disparate cases seem to merge.

A very intrigung mystery, goosebumpy events, some insight into code breaking, and some nice personal stuff on our two protagonists.

Ok, I will give you a little hint.  Sholes Keyboard.

keyboard-sholes shoals 2

That’s all you get.  Go read the book.