DANGEROUS WOMEN compiled by Otto Penzler

dangerous  A wonderful collection of short stories about dangerous women, which usually include some dangerous men, mostly made dangerous by their own gullibility and vulnerability.

Penzler gives us an introduction in which he examines the notion of  ‘dangerous women’.  He thinks

the most dangerous women are those who are irresistible.  Each of us may have a unique weakness, an Achilles’ heel that is unfathomable to others…

The notion of a ‘dangerous woman’ is an old one.  Think Jezebel, Helen of Troy, the Sirens, Scylla, Delilah, the femme fatal of countless fiction throughout the ages.  Think Basic Instinct,  The Last Seduction.  Think Carrie.   Think, if you will, Gone Girl.  Right.  Now you have the picture.

The women in the collection of stories all seem to be dangerous in a psychological way, as well as in a physical way.  They all get into the heads somehow of the man in the story.  And there is always a man in the story, isn’t there.

This collection has a woman sniper, a paranormal evil gal from ancient times,  a jilted lover, a woman bent on revenge of a death in the family, a woman who suggests to the man she just met in the bar that for entertainment, they kill someone at random.  And many, many more.

A fun, yet chilling read.  And you know what?  It is worth it just to read Penzler’s introductory essay on dangerous women.

Have fun.  And guys?   Maybe you might want to sleep with the lights on.

 

 

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THE MARINARA MURDERS – by Erik Hanberg

14418865  Arthur Beautyman, former L.A. detective, and now P.I. in Minneapolis … Minneapolis?  …. is on another case.

After circumstances eased Detective Beautyman out of his job in L.A., (in the first book of the series The Saints Go Dying) he moved to Minneapolis ostensibly to help out his widowed mother of 65.  He has been living … OK … mooching and mooning …… in his mother’s basement for six months, almost never leaving, and not even honing his secret computer hacking skills.   Just riding out the depression of having no job, no girl, no home other than his mother’s basement, when….

His mother demands he make an appearance upstairs to talk to her best friend, Julie, another lady of a certain age, who has a problem she would like solved.  Her grandson disappeared three years ago, leaving evidence of having drowned himself in a lake.   But suddenly, the police notify the family that his body was just found, in that lake, and recently deceased… like within 3 days of discovery.

So, where had he been for three years and why?  And what happened now?  A really truly suicide, or, as they say foul play?   Beautyman agrees to look into it, but he is not licensed as a P.I. in any state, let alone Minnesota, his mother is bugging him to help, and to get her off his back, he tells her she can be his partner.

Partner!  Whooeeee!   She is ecstatic, and sets in motion the necessary paperwork for him to get his P.I. license.  And so it begins.

The title comes from a restaurant that features prominently in the story.  It is owned by a guy named Diamond.  He names his restaurant Carot.  Get it?  Diamonds?  Carots?  Yeah, well it’s Minneapolis, not New York, what do you expect?

So with a little help from his friends, his hacker buddy, his mother .. his mother for pete’s sake…. he solves the case which obviously involves a whole lot more than some young man wandering off and committing suicide.

I admit, I liked  The Saints Go Dying  a bit more than this one, I think because I liked his character better in Saints…. the competent detective who wasn’t so great with the political moves, the one who scratches his head in perplexity.  Also, I like the plot line better, but that is simply a matter of storyline preference.   The  Marinara Murders is just as well written, with just as good a storyline, but it takes Arthur in a really new direction.  We lost the police procedural aspect and gained a P.I. aspect.  It’s all good.

There is now a third in the series, Con Before Christmas.  I am eager to see where Mr. Beautyman goes in that one.  Will he still be in (sigh) Minneapolis?

 

THE SAINTS GO DYING by Erik Hanberg

saintsA police procedural.  Need I say more?  Yes, of course, I need.  Arthur Beautyman — shut up, that’s his name — is the police detective on the case….. for something like 14 months, and um I forget how many murders perpetrated by a really sick serial killer.   He  – we suppose it is a he, they (serial killers) usually are — shaves the body completely and drains the blood, and the victim dies by exsanguination.  How do you like that $50 word, eh?  It means blood loss.  And as an extra side note, you don’t need to lose all your blood to die, half or 3/4 will do fine, thank you very much.

Ok, so the police have diddle boo, nada, zilch, zip.  And a local TV reality show called “Watchdog” is doing a series on the cases, even casting a real look-alike to play the killer, as he resembles somewhat the one fuzzy description of a man who might be the guy or might not.   The show is trying to make the police and Detective Beautyman look incompetent, corrupt and just plain stupid.

The title comes from the fact that the killer is killing people he considers to be saints — people doing good for humanity and the community.  He even left a card to that effect with several of the vics, calling himself the Whore of Babylon.   So now folks are scared of being good.  Go figure.

Good characterization, good plot, story moves right along, and the ending will surprise you, even if the identity of the killer does not.

This is the first of the Arthur Beautyman series, the second being The Marinara Murders, which I had forgotten I had already read!   Duh.

Good book.

THE ORIGINAL ALIBI by David Bishop

original-alibi-matt-kile-mystery-david-bishop-paperback-cover-art  A P.I. mystery, and a dandy one at that.  Here’s a new twist – our P.I. Matt Kile, was a cop, watched a rapist and murderer go free, and so shot him dead on the courthouse steps.  Now THERE’S taking matter into one’s own hands.   Well, of course he went to prison for it, and due to one thing and another, was pardoned and released after 4 years.  He now makes a living as a P.I.  Seeing where he lives, looks like a pretty good living.

His cell mate is now his man of all work kind of guy, kind of Sancho Panza to his Don Quixote.

He gets called by a famous, beloved but very ill general to look into a case that is now 11 years old, in which his grandson was charged with murdering his finance and mother of his unborn baby,  on the strength of eyewitnesses, and then released on the strength of impeccable testimony of eye witnesses who claimed to have seen the grandson hours away in another location.

Who is lying?  None of them?  All of them?  The beloved general?  His lusty daughter?  His not-so-likable grandson?  His staff?

Good mystery, with some ugly physical stuff thrown in for the guys in the audience,  and  some sad wishing about our P.I.’s destroyed marriage thrown in for the ladies, and there you have it, a nice, if somewhat formulaic P.I. mystery.  You know, I don’t mind a formulaic mystery, as long as it is well-written, decently plotted, and has likable characters.    Let’s face it, just how many P.I. mystery twists can there exist in the world?  Formula works, if it’s good.  And this certainly was.

Oh, BTW, it is the second in the series, the first being Who Murdered Garson Talmadge.  Mr. Bishop has several mystery series going.  A competent and fun writer for sure.

MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT THE MIDDLE AGES – Edited by Stephen J. Harriss & Bryon L. Grigsby

Misconceptions  I am currently in the throes of an obsession about the middle ages — that would be the years 500 AD through 1500 AD.   I am reading all kinds of books and articles, and when I came across this one, I screamed  said primly,  “That’s for me!”

It is a collection of essays, each on a different misconception about medieval times written by experts in those particular fields.  They are interesting, entertaining, and very readable, nothing to be afraid of if you like history, but hate dry, dreary tomes on the subject.

It is organized around five basic areas:  The Church, (as one writer says, everyone then was either a Christian or a Pagan),  Knights, Science, The Arts,  and Society.   The various sections within the five main parts often have humorous titles:  Rehabilitating Medieval Medicine;  King Arthur The Once and Future Misconception.

The topics cover all kinds of subjects:  Was the Church corrupt?  The Medieval Popess, monks, the Crusades,  everything you have ever wanted to know about Knights but didn’t know whom to ask,  the myth of the belief in the flat earth, superstitions, all that eeuuie stuff about bloodletting, etc., herbology, medieval cuisine, and what people really ate, entertainment, dramas, theater,  Beowulf, Chaucer, Shakespeare, that whole myth thing having to do with King Arthur, the so-called Peasants’ Revolt, illiteracy,   OH YEAH, and witches!

And the chastity belt.  Srsly. The chastity belt.

Great book.  Everything so readable and fun and interesting.

MRS. TUESDAY’S DEPARTURE by Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson

Mrs. Tuesday  I download books, and by the time I get around to reading them, I forget what they are about, so they usually are a surprise.  I had totally forgotten the premise of this one, so was surprised to find it something I might not have chosen in a more lucid moment.

The story opens with Mrs. Tuesday packing up her lovely New York City apartment in anticipation of her trip back to her native Budapest, which she hasn’t seen in 30 years, since she was shipped off to New York when the Nazi soldiers took over the city in WWII.

The story then shifts to that time when she was a girl of ten, in Nazi occupied Hungary,  and it becomes a sad story of a dark time, a story of the competition between twin daughters for their father’s approval and society’s acclaim, of love, requited and un-, of fear, war, and what people will do to save their own skins.

What else is there to say?  A beautifully written book, and a sad book, as almost any story of that time must be.   My opening comments were because I don’t usually read stories about the Holocaust or WWII in Europe.  Too sad, too clearly illustrative of the depths of what we humans are capable of.   But a good book, nonetheless.

MR PSYCHIC by Dermot Davis & H. Raven Rose

Mr. Psychic    The slug says it all:  The bean counter who lost it all … in order to find himself, open his heart, fall in love and live happily ever after.

OK. All done.

Nah, but there really isn’t much more to this chic lit kind of sweet book.  George II, an obsessively tidy, finances-obsessed divorced guy, with a grown son named George III, putters in his garden, drives his antique car, and has lovely little dinner parties for four where everything is just right.  He is working on his Plan A and B for retirement, and nothing else matters.  He is trying to climb the corporate ladder at his firm where he works as a …. I don’t know …. some kind of fancy CPA or something.  He keeps getting passed over for promotion.

Then, his department gets outsourced and he is out of a job and out of a perfect retirement plan.  Thing go from bad to ugly, and he finally takes the only job offered to him — that of a psychic.   And he’s good at it.

And like it says, he opens his heart, he falls in love and lives, we hope, happily ever after.

Nice book.  Won’t win the Nobel Prize for Literature, but so what.  Lovely little read.