PRAYERS FOR THE DEAD by Faye Kellerman

KELPRAY11-2Decker and his lovely wife Rina are back, this time dealing with a brutal murder of a celebrated heart surgeon.   Official blurb:  The brutal murder of celebrated heart surgeon Azor Sparks brings with it shock, public outrage, and a demand for answers. Immediately, Lieutenant Peter Decker and his crack team of homicide detectives begin working overtime to unravel the mystery. But the deeper they probe, the more murky the case grows. Sparks’s wife and six adult children stand to inherit a sizable fortune. Vicious backbiting among jealous colleagues raises questions about the dead surgeon’s pharmaceutical research. Outlaw bikers with their own agenda suddenly show up at Sparks’s funeral. And Decker’s investigation is further complicated by the resurrection of old secrets from his wife’s past.

As one reviewer said, “This was a really complex story that mixed several contentious aspects of American society: religion – Jewish, Catholic and Protestant, Big Pharma and drug research, homophobia and violence.”   Yep, that about sums it up.

Really interesting cast of characters, especially with one of the sons of the murdered Christian fundamentalist doctor having become a Catholic priest.  And who turns out to be somebody that Rina knew back in the day after her first husband died and long before she met Peter Decker.

If I give you the hint “Victorian era science”,  that will be the key to the mystery, including the biker dudes.  I love the interweaving plot threads.

 

JUSTICE by Faye Kellerman

JusticeDang, these Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus mysteries are like Frito Lays:  you can’t read just one.  Fortunately for me, Faye Kellerman has written 22 of them so far, so I can indulge my addiction a while longer.  Justice is number 8 in the series.  If you type the author’s name in the search box on this page, that will bring up what I had to say about the other 7 books.

I think I like them because they each have an overriding theme that connects with a tenet of Jewish Law or of the Torah, or Jewish life.    Since Rina is an Orthodox Jew and therefore very religious and runs an orthodox religious home, we learn a lot about the Jewish culture(?), religion(?), way of life(?).

The official blurb on this one is:  Called to investigate the shocking murder of a local high school’s prom queen, detective Peter Decker confronts an especially exotic subculture: the rootless, affluent, sometimes violent teenagers of Southern California. As the father of a nineteen-year-old daughter, Decker must deal not only with the brutality of the killing but with his own parental terror. When a disturbed young man with a mysterious history is identified as the prime suspect, everyone is relieved – except for Decker, whose professionalism and integrity lead him to startling and controversial conclusions.

This was more police work oriented than family and Jewish life oriented, and with the introduction of a young man who turns out to be the adopted son of a New York mob guy, rather more chilling than the other books.  In it we have a first-person point of view of one of the principal characters,  which is a departure in this series.

Decker uncovers some corruption in his department, which in the end means an upgrade for him to Lieutenant.   We see how strong the unusual marriage between Decker and Rina is, and the important role the kids play in their lives.

The ending leaves us asking ourselves if justice has been truly served,  and if so, how?

Love this series.  Just love it.

OLEANDERS IN ALASKA by M. Thompson

20628843I guess you would call this a psychological study.  Well, that’s what I would call it.

It is about a remote small town on a remote small island in Alaska, where the supplies come in mostly by bush pilot.  Yeah, THAT kind of remote small Alaskan town.  In the town live several people with seemingly nothing to do with each other, and only one is a native of that town.  All the others are outsiders who ended up there for one reason or another.

The threads that entwine.  Yeah, THAT kind of story.  Those kinds of threads made somewhat confusing — the kind of confusing where you scrinch up your one eye and mumble “Huh?  I’m confused.”   That’s because it tells the story from each of the character’s viewpoint, and pops back and forth between decades and places and people, and we have two women each a single mother, each with a son, so there are four similar kind of people we — OK, *I* — keep getting mixed up with each other.  [It says teenager — I thought he was 5, no wait, nine, no that’s the other kid]   We have the cafe owner, the sheriff, the old recluse guy who lives way out of town and only comes in for supplies maybe twice a month.  He is a Viet Nam vet, suffering from PTSD, and just wants to be alone.

There is a denouement that you don’t see coming, mainly because of the confusing threads, so that the clues to the ending which are somewhat obscure to begin with and are offered fairly early on in the book, get forgotten in trying to keep the who is who straight.  And what is really the climax is strangely diminished by one more viewpoint of a character where she does something years before the climatic ending events, and this recounting is tacked on AFTER the climax.

Good story, strange execution.  One that leaves the reader (that would be me)  scratching her head and thinking, “There HAS to be a better way to tell this story than this way.”

And to top it off — no, really, I couldn’t make this stuff up, I’m not that creative — in the About The Author section at the end of the book, it gives his bona fides,  then tells us he lives in Georgia with his chihuahua Bruiser, and is seeking his MA in Literature, followed by a photo of him with a young woman close to his side — who is never mentioned in the bio!!!   I mean, we even know the name of his dog, but we are faced with a photo of someone who looks like a Significant Other who is never mentioned.   (More head scratching.)  If he didn’t want to mention her, couldn’t he find a photo of just him alone?

So I’m thinking that maybe that MA in Literature could help straighten out this book and make a pretty good story more accessible to the reader who does not have a scorecard on hand.

A chihuahua named Bruiser.  OK, that’s it for me.   I am on Surreal Overload.

THE ONE YOU LOVE by Paul Pilkington

One you loveEmma Holden is an actress.  She is being stalked.  For the second time.  Or is it the third time?  The first time chased her out of her home town to London, to live with her boyfriend.  But the boyfriend left her abruptly –  just like that.  She was devastated.

Now, two weeks from getting married to a new boyfriend,  she is at her bachelorette party when she gets a call from her brother telling her that her finance, Dan, hasn’t shown up, and their apartment is dark.  She meets her brother at her apartment building, they go in and find the kitchen tossed, and her finance’s brother lying bloody and unconscious, and the finance nowhere to be seen.  He doesn’t answer his phone, and it would appear that he has attacked his brother and fled.

This starts a tale of intrigue, lies, secrets and misplaced trust and love.  It is a story of stalking,  and of the lengths someone might go to in order to keep their true love close to them, and to make a buck (OK, in this case a Pound Sterling), and to gain fame and hopefully fortune.

Since this is a mystery, I don’t want to tell you much more, because most of the interest of this book is (are?) the twists and turns the story takes, as the author leaks out clues little by little.

This is the first of a trilogy, but it is definitely a stand alone.   The other two are The One You Fear, and The One You Trust.

 

 

THE COLOR OF WATER IN JULY by Nora Carroll

Color of WaterA pleasant story about a young woman who inherits a ‘cottage’ on the shore of a summer lakeside colony in Michigan.  And by ‘cottage’ I mean one of those huge rambling places the Victorians built.  But being in Michigan, it of course didn’t have the cachet of one built in Nantucket or Cape Cod  or thereabouts.

Jess, the young woman, has a famous journalist photographer mother who doesn’t do much mothering, and left all that to her own mother, Mamie, a proper always-a-lady woman, whose sister Lila drowned in the lake the summer she was 18 or so.  Mamie  and her true love Thomas eloped, and had a baby — Jess’s mother.   Thomas left Mamie to raise the baby on her own.  She then inherited her father’s very substantial estate when her mother died about five years later,  and she then proceeded to live in accordance ‘to her station.’    I don’t think people even talk like that anymore, but this was back in the days between the two great wars.

Jess and her ambitious publisher boyfriend go to settle the estate and sell the house.  First time back there for Jess in 17 years.  She figures a fast in and out, wind it up, get back to the East Coast.  But being there dredges up a lot of memories of her childhood and her first love.   And we are introduce to the Grandmother and the 17-year-old Jess in alternating chapters that jump around in time periods.  I guess it worked out all right, but sometimes I like my narrative in a straight line, but I suppose that since this way,  as we learn the secrets piecemeal, it wouldn’t have made such an interesting story in a straight line.

But it is the story of the mores of an era, the stupid things people do for the damnedest reasons,and less than stellar motives.   Chick lit, if you well, but nicely done.  Not a romance, not a tear-jearker, just a good all around story.  I like books like these.

 

DRT – A Ghost Story by Eric Thomas

DRTDRT  – Dead Right There.   I never heard that expression, but then, I don’t get out much.  I think it is used supposedly by emergency workers responding to an accident scene.  It is contrary to DOA – Dead On Arrival (at the hospital).

Greg is the night shift traffic guy on a DC-Richmond radio station.  He has monitors to watch the traffic on various highways,  and he calls the police departments to get updates on accidents in their areas, or traffic tieups.   He lives alone in a small studio apartment, and has for years.  He is almost invisible.   Remember John C. Reilly doing his star turn as Mr. Cellophane?   Yeah, that’s Greg.

But one night, a trucker calls him, says his radio is on the fritz and is there anything up ahead?   Greg, not paying attention much to his screens, tells him no, hangs up, then turns to his monitors and sees a car stopped in the right hand lane, apparently broken down.  And here comes the truck, barreling down and BLAM!

Ten brakes trying to stop a speeding 18 wheels doesn’t do it, the truck swerves and flies into a tree, killing the driver.  Greg is horrified.  And when he goes to see the scene, the ghost of the driver appears to him.

The ghost continues to appear to Greg, and Greg determines that the ghost wants him to do something, to finish something for him.  But what?  And that ‘what’ is the story, as the tale turns into a mystery.  Not the greatest mystery ever, but not bad even so.

What happens to us when we become too solitary?  Does it affect our minds?   Is solitariness sometimes a defense against being hurt?   Interesting story that makes you consider these issues.  As well as the question:  do you believe in ghosts?

ORPHAN ELIXIR by Joseph Hirsch

OrphanElixirfinalcoversmallforadOrphan Elixir is one of Joseph Hirsch’s ‘weird westerns’.  It is set in the time of the Civil War, and our main character who tells us his story, considers himself fortunate to have sat out the war without having to take sides — albeit he sat it out in prison.  For stagecoach robbing, and setting fire to things.  Like buildings.

When he is finally released, he sets off on a quest.  OK, not a quest, really, a journey, having no particular destination in mind.  He ends up in some tiny town within traveling distance of the prison, and that place is populated with people even weirder than he is.

Before I get any further into the storyline, I have to tell you one of the reasons I really liked this book.  It is peppered with big, erudite words.  I love big words.  I love writers who use big words.  You want some examples?  OK, how about:  gambrels, cordovan, ossuary, refulgent, brigand, libertine, encomiums, codices, defilade, viticulturist, emendations.  Some of them aren’t big words, per se.  But they are certainly less commonly used.  I figure if a writer knows a bunch of big, lesser known words, s/he might have something of value to say that is not the same old same old.  Maybe a writer who uses big, lesser known words might have something to say to me.   Or maybe not, but it is always worthwhile to keep reading just to find out.

Hirsch writes paranormal/horror stuff mostly,  but this is not paranormal, nor is it particularly horrific.  It is eeeuuuuie, I’ll give it that, because the town is somewhat uneasy due to a ‘presence’ that is unknown and damn scary.  Our boy James and one of his pre-prison buddies who has come out to help him look for gold, go trailing off after something spooky which turns out to be just your regular old run of the mill psychopath doing disgusting things with bodies.

So we have this miserable town where it seems like all the women are pregnant, and most of the men are named James,  some big shot who runs everything, (there is always some big shot who runs everything in Western towns, isn’t there?),  and some kind of interesting back story for our boy.  But none for the psychopath.

You might like a couple of quotes:

Curiosity is a merciless vice.

And how about

She probably regarded me as yet another rotating member of the menagerie orbiting this sinkhole of a desolate town, where she was destined to drown in so much tedium.

So did this writer of big, lesser known words have anything of value to say to me?  Perhaps nothing more than that the world is a strange, surreal place, but that you might not really notice that if you are living in the middle of it and contributing to it.