LADY JUSTICE ON THE DARK SIDE by Robert Thornhill

lady-justiceA faux police procedural semi-thriller.  I say faux because our protagonist has just retired from the Kansas City police force at age 70, has nothing to do, and gets sucked into helping his half-brother in a stakeout to photo whoever is stealing furs out the back door of an expensive fur shop. (Turns out to be the owner’s relative, and said owner is  a tough guy type, and said relative was found swimming with the fishies a few days later.  Justice served.

This is the kabillionth volume in the apparently endless Lady Justice series,  and is an easy read, but nevertheless does address some of the more profound issues we face.  Let me give you a little background.

The series starts with Walt, 65, retired and bored.  He ends up somehow on the police force in the City Retiree Action Patrol, or C.R.A.P.  Unlikely as this may be,  a few more older guys are also recruited.  Walt is teamed up with Ox for his partner,  and they have many fine adventures through innumerable books, until this one, when Walt takes a bullet in his butt, and he and his wife say enough, and he retires. 

When Walt thinks about the result of his photographing the perp, his sense of morality kicks in, and although justice WAS served, was it served correctly? He thinks,

Maybe not the justice of the lady in the flowing white robe wearing a blindfold, but the justice of her sister, the one in the skin-tight skirt, fishnet stockings and high heels.

So as the story progresses, we are offered the opportunity to muse on that age-old conundrum:  do the ends justify the means, or are means simply means?

Walt has a collected of what are called ‘zany’ sidekicks, or ancillary characters, but I did not find them zany so much as endearing and likeable, and basically, that is what this whole series is:  likable.

Walt ends up opening up his own P.I. firm, and an older female doctor hires him because someone is stalking her. Turns out to be her half-nephews.  Is there such a thing?  The sons of her half brother.  She discovers through Walt’s investigation that her father was not her biological father, and all that leads to a convoluted side story, which ends up in another improbable twist,  which leaves us all shaking our heads, thinking WTF?

But really, it was still an enjoyable and easy read, a palate cleanser between Mike Lofgren’s The Deep State, (a depressing look at the realities of our government, which I am only a third through because it is so disheartening), and Craig A. Falconer’s Not Alone, (an extremely long sci fi book about alien artifacts found on the planet and the government’s response, also very disheartening), so you can see that having a little fun with Walt and his buddies was definitely needed.

What struck me the most was the fact that the author began writing at age 66, and in five years has written 19 books in this series, seven volumes in a series of chapter books for kids, a mini autobiography, and a cookbook.  A cookbook!  hahahahaha   So, yeah, this book has the feel of a guy going, ‘I can crunch this out in a week, and then we can go to the beach’, because although it touches all the bases – shootings, blood, dead people, murder, moral musings, colorful side characters and side story line, touch on is the operative phrase, nothing too heavy, and in spite of the dead people, we are not disheartened.

Geez.  I could be churning out books like this.  If I could write.  And had any story ideas.  And wasn’t so lazy.

Oh!  Guess what!  It is free on Amazon.   I do so love free.  https://www.amazon.com/Lady-Justice-Dark-Robert-Thornhill-ebook/dp/B00T224WT2

 

 

 

BRASS IN POCKET by Stephen Puleston

brass-in-pocketA really fine police procedural, with a Monk-like Inspector Drake, trying to keep anxiety and chaos at bay, and a body count that steadily rises.

The first incident …. gee, incident sounds so casual for a middle of the night shooting of two traffic officers on a deserted road in the Welsh mountains….. was a middle of the night shooting of two traffic officers on a deser… oh, sorry.  already said that.  They were apparently shot with a thing from a crossbow.  One was also tased.

Inspector Drake noticed that the orange road cones that had been left at the scene by the perp were laid out in a numeral 4.   And the next day, he received  anonymously a polaroid of the murder scene, with a note on the back, the lyrics to the song Brass in Pocket, by the Pretenders.

A horrific scene, and one that caused Inspector Drake’s ocd to flair up, as he sorted his papers on his desk, made color-coded rows of his post it notes, dusted, cleaned, showered.

We get the perp’s perspective before the killing.  And again before the next killing, this time a politician taking a mountain hike with his wife and kids.  Under his body is another note, with the number 3 on it, and lyrics to another song, Silly Little Thing Called Love, by Queen.   Then, after the perp’s perspective again, there is the murder of Dr. West, a cancer specialist.  And song lyrics to Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall”.   And then a message is left in the Inspector’s house, from the band The Police, “Message In A Bottle”.

Drake’s ocd is causing his boss to constantly ask him if he is alright, and does he need a little time off, which of course Drake brushes off, because now it has become personal, and he is determined to find who is doing this.

Nice character development with his new partner, a young gal with sloppy habits that make him even crazier, who runs an alpaca farm with her husband, and Drake’s parents, and his surgeon wife.

Great mystery, and I especially liked it because I had the teeniest glimmer of who the killer might be, but didn’t trust my own instincts, so I am calling it a draw as to my solve rate, good writing, all in all, a very enjoyable read.

 

THE LAST ALCHEMIST by Erik Hamre

the-last-alchemistI admit, I am a sucker for anything ‘alchemist’, and have read some really interesting fiction using that as their vehicle, and some really cheesy pseudo spiritual la-di-da using it as the vehicle.  So naturally, seeing this title, I dived right in.

This is really an alchemical mix of traditional quest trope, a psychotic nut case working for the CIA, an examination (lite) of the Nazi obsession with occultism, and their belief in alchemy,  the legend of Midas and his store of gold,  which, incidentally,  has never been found,  and the possibly mythical die glocke, a supposedly top secret Nazi scientific technological device, a secret weapon that would transform the world.  More on this later, because it is very interesting in and of itself.

The story line is this:  David Dypsvik, a depressed and broke Finnish career student in Australia at Bond University, is coerced into finding a missing long lost billionaire, Yossar Devan. His professor, Grossman, is finishing writing a book on the ten principles of wealth. These same principles came from a series of lectures by Yossar who had held them for a few students at Oxford in London. These students all had become billionaires themselves. Professor Grossman entices David to embark on quest to find Yossar and also learn about the ten principles. David is not the only one looking for Yossar. Like a breadcrumb trail, David starts a globetrotting hunt for clues with someone close to his heels and it becomes a deadly game.

In typical quest fashion, David comes upon a couple of people to help him along the way, but also along the way, he discovers his grandfather worked for the Nazis, and that his father who died in a car accident a year ago, was researching his grandfather, and found some startling info on Midas’ treasure, the Nazi’s and the secret weapon. We get some bullet points on how to get rich which if I recall, came straight from Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, a book I read decades ago and did not become rich, so I guess I didn’t think hard enough.

All in all, it was a fun caper, not superior, but adequate.  As in many thrillers and mysteries, there was a lot of recapping, both in conversations and in descriptions of his thoughts, which made the book a lot longer than it possibly needed to be, so I got to skipping over the group analyses of what they knew and their guesswork. Also the psychotic CIA agent angle seemed a little gratuitous, and for me, the book would not have been the lesser for the elimination of that plotline.  It was only there to make it a thriller.  Meh.   I give the book four stars, and it gets Special Mention for the stuff about die glocke.

Now concerning that die glocke, about which I am forced to confess ignorance.

Wiki says the die glocke (the bell) was allegedly an experiment carried out by Third Reich scientists working for the SS in a German facility near the Wenceslaus mine and close to the Czech border, Die Glocke is described as being a device “made out of a hard, heavy metal” approximately 2.7 metres (9 ft) wide and 3.7 to 4.6 metres (12 to 15 ft) high, having a shape similar to that of a large bell. This device ostensibly contained two counter-rotating cylinders which would be “filled with a mercury-like substance, violet in color”. This metallic liquid was code-named “Xerum 525” and was “stored in a tall thin thermos flask a meter high encased in lead”.

It is said that five of the seven original scientists working on the project died in the course of the tests.

Polish author Igor Witkowski who claims he has seen Nazi classified documents concerning die glocke, believes that it ended up in a “Nazi-friendly South American country”.Others speculate that it was moved to the United States as part of a deal made with SS General Hans Kammler. And yet others speculated that it was recovered as part of the Kecksburg UFO incident.

And the Kecksburg UFO incident? [You know, you start with this stuff, and one link leads to another, and three days later you come up for air and try to reduce it all to a paragraph or so, but geez…]

The Kecksburg UFO incident occurred on December 9, 1965, at Kecksburg, Pennsylvania, United States. A large, brilliant fireball was seen by thousands in at least six U.S. states and Ontario, Canada. It streaked over the Detroit, Michigan – Windsor, Canada area, reportedly dropped hot metal debris over Michigan and northern Ohio, starting some grass fires, and caused sonic booms in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area.

It was generally assumed and reported by the press to be a meteor after authorities discounted other proposed explanations such as a plane crash, errant missile test, or reentering satellite debris. However, eyewitnesses in the small village of Kecksburg, about 30 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, claimed something crashed in the woods. A boy said he saw the object land; his mother saw a wisp of blue smoke arising from the woods and alerted authorities. Another reported feeling a vibration and “a thump” about the time the object reportedly landed. Others from Kecksburg, including local volunteer fire department members, reported finding an object in the shape of an acorn and about as large as a Volkswagen Beetle. Writing resembling Egyptian hieroglyphs was also said to be in a band around the base of the object. Witnesses further reported that intense military presence, most notably the United States Army, secured the area, ordered civilians out, and then removed an object on a flatbed truck. The military claimed they searched the woods and found “absolutely nothing.”

Typical government/military response. Haul it away, claim it never happened, and discount all eye witness accounts.

So come for the thriller aspect, and stay for the interesting information about Nazi alchemy experiments.  I enjoyed it.

LUCKY MAN by Toy Dunbar

lucky-manYippee!  Another Tubby Dubonnet crime story.  This is number 6, and it was FREE.  I do so love free.  I read Crooked Man, the first in the series, and discussed it here.    Then I read Crime Czar, and talked about it here.

Well, in Lucky Man, Tubby is off the booze, ‘on a trial basis’, and called in to defend  his long time friend, the judge.  In the previous book, Tubby got roped into heading the judge’s re-election campaign.  Now, the judge is under attack by the DA, who is possibly using this as leverage for bigger things.  The DA is screaming about corruption in the entire judicial system.  Well, heck what do you expect?  It is New Orleans, the Big Sleezy.  Has the judge done a bad thing?   Is it on tape?  Oh, dear.

Tubby’s long time friend has been staying with him, but since Tubby is no longer drinking, he finds the guy intrusive and annoying, and tells him he has to find other accommodations.  The friend, of course, is not pleased.   His secretary gives him notice, The cream of the ‘dancing’ girls has been set up to set up the judge.  Are you with me so far?  And Tubby’s detective on hire falls for another of the gals, andone of them goes missing and  …. oh, gee, just go read the book, would ya?

Fewer screwball clients, and a little less humor than the others, but otherwise a fine offering in the noir crime series that is heavy on New Orleans descriptions, which I really enjoy, and light on the noir.

You ever notice that when you are not drinking, your friends that you thought were so much fun no longer seem to be all that much fun anymore?

 

MURDER AT THE LIGHTHOUSE by – Frances Evesham

lighthouseA nice, serviceable cozy mystery, and I was delighted to see that a photo of the author  showed me an English lady author exactly as I had pictured her.  Yeah, I know.  That has zero to do with the book, but you know, sometimes we just get curious about what an author looks like.   And she has written a whole truck load of the Exham  on Sea mysteries, and has another historical series going.

In this one, a body of a woman is found on the beach under the local lighthouse.  And everybody knows her, but hasn’t seen her for yonks since she left to become a rock star in the States.   What the heck is she doing here, and dead to boot?

The protagonist is a divorced and wronged woman, the hubs having hidden all the money, and leaves her with only their marital home, which she sells, then moves to Exham on Sea where she hopes to begin a new life making chocolates and cakes.  Who does this?  Who believes in this day and age that you can make enough to pay your light bill running a bakery in a little town?  People in English murder mysteries do, that’s who.   Wait until Brexit does the full Monty.  Then talk to me about making chocolate things in a small town.  But moving right along…..

OK, setting all that aside, it was a fine mystery, spanning two continents, and some fine sleuthing, and a possible romance, and a young Goth girl assistent in the bakery.  What else is there to say?  It’s a cozy mystery, not War and Peace.  I liked it.  If you like cozies, either as your go-to fare, or for an occasional palate cleanser in between your denser reads, you will certainly like it.  I certainly did.

ROAM by Erik Therme

roamYoung woman has a terrible, ego-involved boyfriend.  Hopes to have a fabulous 21st birthday night.  Car trouble strands them on a dark deserted road out of cell phone service.   Young woman learns exactly what kind of guy he really is.  Young woman then stalks off to find help.

Kevin, a high school senior, and aspiring writer, spends the nights driving around, hoping to pay forward kindnesses received, trying to exorcise the effects of an abusive father.  He keeps a set of clothes in his car, hoping for a reason, any reason, to leave town forever.

Sarah, the young woman, having blown off all her friends for the last three months in favor of the new boyfriend, decides she will find a way to get to the next town where her one true friend lives, Scotty.  Although they haven’t spoken in maybe over a year, or more, she is sure he will be there for her.

Kevin comes across Sarah and offers her a ride.  She accepts.  Why?  Because we all at some point make some pretty dumb decisions.  She just got lucky on this one.  Kevin explains about his pay it forward thing, and that apparently tonight, she is it.  So he will take her anywhere she wants to go. He tells her it is fine, he will take her to find her friend.

Meanwhile, in an intersecting thread, we are introduced to Scotty, who turns out to be something of a problem, who has been living with his brother, having been tossed out of his mother’s home. They no longer speak.  The father is dead.   But because of his slovenly ways, sister-in-law is anxious to get him off of their couch and out of their home, too.

Scotty actually has no job, and hangs around his so-called girlfriend (see what I did there?) on her night shift job at the sleezy possibly hot pillow hotel in town.  He is lost, sure that something is broken inside him.

Sarah is not exactly sure where Scotty lives, and through a series of events, like a trail of crumbs, and due to the lateness of the hour,  finally gives up and gets a room in that same hotel,where the two story threads come together, and  where she attracts the ire of the girlfriend who thinks that Sarah and Scotty might be a thing.   While in the hotel, Kevin comes to the room with Sarah and they have a revealing and touching conversation.

There seems to be someone hiding in the hotel, around the pool area, and the desk receives several complaints about this.  Guess who it turns out to be?

I really loved this character-driven chiaroscuro tale of love and hope, right up to this point…

— spoiler alert—

Honest to goodness, the lovely story closes, and…..  it is two other people talking about the story and whether it will be picked up by a major market publisher.  OMG.  How awful.  A story about a story.  I hate those.  I felt totally played.

I really like the work of this author, and you can see what I thought of another book of his that I read here — Mortom.

 

 

 

 

POLK, HARPER AND WHO by Panayotis Cacoyannis

polk-harper-and-whoAnother home run from the versatile pen of the author whose name I cannot pronounce, but do remember.   You know how it is with Americans.  We are always so superior about things foreign, and take pride in not being able to speak other languages or pronounce foreign words.   Well, Since Mr. Cacoyannis was born in Cyprus, even though now he is a Brit, having passed the bar to practice law and lives in London, maybe he counts on my Read Foreign Authors Challenge. He definitely holds a secure place on my Top Ten Authors list.

This is another quirky story, although not nearly so quirky as The Dead of August,  of Bowl of Fruit (1907), a much more straight forward tale.  Although said to be a love story, I found it to be more about the wife, who had a strange childhood.  Her mother died of cancer when she was a child, and her father soon after married the grasping ‘housekeeper’,  with whom he had been having an affair before his wife’s death, you know, as one does,  but the strange part was the stepmother insisted that the child call her ‘mummy’  or whatever and never refer to her dead mother, so that this woman could pretend the child was really hers.  The stepmother was truly wicked to the father, but always sweet, loving and giving to the child, who cordially hated the woman.

Well, dad died a lingering death when our girl was 15, but strangely enough, she went on calling her stepmother ‘mother’ even when she no longer had to in order to appease her father, and even though she still went on hating the woman, perhaps now not so cordially.  And she never told her husband of ten years that the woman was not her ‘real’ mother but her stepmother.  Oh well, we all have secrets.

The husband absolutely adored his wife, and this is what I absolutely adore about this male author — that he writes so tenderly about a guy’s feelings, and makes the guy still love the wife long after I would have taken her by the shoulders and shaken her until her eyeballs rattled and yelled into her face “GET A F**KING GRIP!”   Yeah.  but that’s me,  My Way or the Highway Marti.

It is a story not only about love, but about friendship, and tolerance and understanding.  A lot more understanding than I personally understand.

Although the blurb talks about a bit of black humor, I did not find any.  Maybe because I am not British.

What I was ho-hum about:  lots, and I mean lots, of talk about having sex.  Not descriptions of the act, but these people had a LOT of sex.  We are told this over and over.  Maybe it was to convey to us jaded and oh-so-blasé readers how much they still loved each other after all this time.  And the other thing:  yeah, I know it was part of the story, and my ho-humness has nothing to do with the writing or the story arc or anything but me, but there is this whole thing about how the wife was suddenly over the top anxious to have a baby, but she couldn’t because….   I am underwhelmed about people’s problems with having a baby.  We have too many people on the planet as it is, sorry about your biological issues, get a puppy, get over it, get on with your life.  My third ho-hommery was how everybody got so successful without having to really work at it.  The hubs takes up photography and is an immediate international success.  The wife receives a sizeable inheritance, and so buys herself a nifty two-story apartment … in London…. in a decent neighborhood. Then she enlists two other best friends and they start an advertising agency and guess what?  Yeah, they are wildly successful.  The wife sets up her other best friend in a boutique, and it immediately prospers.   Oh well.  I am just jealous, because I am Wednesday’s Child, had to work hard for a living.  Life isn’t fair.  Who said life was fair?  Wait.  What am I jealous of… this is F.I.C.T.I.O.N.  Oh, yeah.  I forgot.  Never mind.

Good book.  I am having trouble expressing why I liked it so much, but I really did.