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.




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?



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.


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.






medit  Henry’s back — I love Henry Grave.  A geriatric combo of Columbo and Joey Soprano.  I first came across him in Grave Passage,  and was delighted to find this book, where our 84 year old hero, an investigator for the Association of Cruising Vessel Operators, is called to come to the aid of  the cruising yacht Vesper, anchored off the Greek island of Thera, in the caldera of an ancient volcano.  An Egyptian federal agent was on board to guard a valuable Minoan cup, but the agent was murdered and the cup, stolen.

You’re going to love The Vesper.  A vessel of uncertain age, whose name has been changed in an attempt at an upgrade (changing the name of a ship is always unlucky, so it is believed), which leaks, smells badly of mildew and damp, has the rock bottom minimum crew working the cruise, and a whole slew of eccentric characters.

As the plot blurb tells us, with the help of a Nicaraguan soap opera star, a New Age spiritualist, and a blind pickpocket, Henry draws on skills honed in a Nazi prison camp to track down the killer.

Well, it’s a hoot.  Want to see why?

I took out my wallet and handed him a card.  “Perhaps this will change your mind.”

He read it and frowned. “It’s a gift card for the House of Pancakes.”

I grabbed it back and found my glasses in my pocket.  “Sot it is.  I forgot about that.  I hope it’s not expired.”  I found the card I was looking for and handed it to him.

“Interpol,” he read aloud, looking at the picture.  You are the General Secretary of the Executive Committee?”

“That I am.”

“You’re based in Lyon, France?  What is it like there this time of year?”

“It’s nice. They drink wine.  Let’s go.”

And this:

“Sit down, Malibu.”  I fished my investigator’s license from my wallet and handed it to Melora.  “This card gives me broad authority to investigate maritime crimes.”

“No, Mr. Grave,” she said, tossing it back to me. “This is a gift card for the House of Pancakes.”


I found Dyson standing out in the hall with Captain Lasko of the Greek Harbor Corps. “I thought we left you in Thera,”  I told him.

“I’m a naval commander,” he said.  “We have boats.”

One last.  I can’t resist:

“You were at the show too?” I asked Kevin, “the seance?”

“It was not a seance, Mr. Grave,” Melora said firmly.  “It was a directed meditation.”

“Were you at the medicated direction?” I asked Kevin.

“You mean the directed meditation.”

“That’s what I said.  Were you there?”

Henry drinks, naps, frequently while someone is talking to him, wears glasses and a hearing aid.  He’s just this side of doddering, like Miss Marple on the high seas.  But don’t cross him.  Just because he manages a roller derby team doesn’t mean he doesn’t know his aft from his starboard.

Get onboard.  Maybe you will find him as enchanting as I do.


Savior  As the author says in his Acknowledgements, this is the “evolution of a tentative collection of linked short stories”.   This is an interesting, though somewhat odd book, the story of a young man, autistic and vision-challenged, as he works his way through separating from the tight grip of his parents and bullying older brother, to find his own spirituality, his own way in the world, and answers to his difficult childhood.

First, the mechanics of the book.  Well written, that is, sentence by sentence.  However, the seams  of the short stories are sometimes jarringly visible.  I would like to have seen more ruthless editing of their joining, eliminating the repetition of some scenes, the reiteration of what we already know in other places.  We didn’t really need the recapitulation given to us in spots;  we just read it!   It got a bit confusing here and there, but I’m smart enough to have figured it out.  But like I said, a tighter edit would have done it a world of good.

Now, the good points.  Although the protagonist is referred to as ‘autisic’, and refers to himself that way, the description of his behaviors and thought processes sounds more specifically like Asperger’s Syndrome.  Since this story is set in 2003, I think there was enough known then to call it that.   The story is told in the first person, and the protagonist describes his feelings and events with colors, a very charming and likable trope, and believable as well.

The bones are that a poorly sighted young man, coping with a highly functioning form of autism, living in Boston  with a decent job, reads about Primal Scream therapy, figures it might be the answer to his disjointed life, and against his parents’ advice, picks up stakes and move across country to L.A., where he gets in touch with a practitioner and begins  weekly therapy.

Throughout the book, he recounts his dreams, and his sessions, which I found to be tedious after a while, but then, I am a ‘cut to the chase’ kind of reader.  Following long developmental processes, fascinating as it can be, eventually pale.

While visiting the Arizona memorial in Pearl Harbor, he experiences an ‘episode’, where he seems to disappear into another’s life, a sailor on the ship at the time of the bombing.  I was a bit nervous that this was going to turn into some kind of paranormal storyline, but it somehow doesn’t, although I was never clear just what part this was supposed to play in his ongoing efforts to grow and heal his mind.  He has a girlfriend, distant and not quite together, who gets bitten by a rattlesnake on a camping trip they take together to the desert.  This figures quite heavily in the storyline, as well.  Perhaps it serves as a vehicle to examine guilt and grief.  What do I know.  Perhaps it is only an example of ‘that’s life’.  Random crap happens. Deal with it.

It is basically a “quest’ type of story, with our hero questing after Truth, his truth, and healing.  It may be every young person’s story  — pushy seemingly unloving parents, pushy, unpleasant older brother, feeling out of place, feeling like everyone else seems to know the rules but them, a struggle to learn the rules, to fit into society.  He wants to be a writer, not a computer programmer, a coder, and begins to write think pieces based on famous works of art.  Interesting concept.

So, like I said, I enjoyed it.  I did say that, right?




Mayflower  Geez, this thing even has a number of study guides available.  And to think I read it all on my little own.  haha  It is the account of the Pilgrims and the Puritans and the first century in the new land, with emphasis on the first 75 years.

I found it a compelling read. It is a 56 year intergenerational saga of discovery, accommodation, community, and war — a pattern that was repeated time and time again as the United States worked its way west and ultimately, out into the world.

The settlement started out with accommodation on both sides, and the first settlers would not have survived at all without the help of the native peoples.  But as their numbers increased,  conflict grew.

Both sides had begun to envision a future that did not include the other.

In the end, both sides wanted what the Pilgrims had been looking for in 1620: a place unfettered by obligations to others.  But from the moment Massasoit decided to become the Pilgrims’ ally, New England belonged to no single group.

In 1674, a war  began which divided the Native population, and pitted Indian against settler, and Indian against Indian as well.  King Philip’s War — the 14 bloody months between June 1675 and August 1676 had a vast, disturbing impact on the development of New England and with it, all of America.

The peace-loving Pilgrims who only wanted a place to worship as they wished, ended up becoming bloody soldiers and slavers,  in contradiction to their stated original purpose.

This is a scholarly, well researched book that gives us an unvarnished look at what life was really like for the settlers of the Plymouth Colony for the first 100 years, and believe me, it wasn’t pretty.  But it is what we need to know.  And yes, there was a first Thanksgiving feast with the Pilgrims and the Indians.  But there was so much more to the story.

Making Haste From Babylon gave us an in-depth account of the time before the sailing of the Mayflower, the politics and machinations that occurred to get the settlers to the New World.  Mayflower  is what happens after they land.

A really compelling read, and I recommend reading both books if you have an interest in this period of American History.