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.

BENEATH A BLACK MOON by Benjamin Hanstein

beneath-a-black-moonWell, in this fantasy, horror, alternate history, (yeah, alternate history is really a genre, not just something Kellyanne Conway made up), steampunk novel,  there is something for everyone.  Even a sex change.   OK, that was inadvertent,  kind of like that Steve Martin, Lily Tomlin movie.

Our heroine, Mab … and here’s where we try to have our cake and eat it too…. is an actress, off, off, off, off, off Broadway, circa pre 1900s.  The gigs are bad, but then, so is she, actress-wise.   She has a real sleaze for a boyfriend, and in an altercation, he cuts her throat, and she finds herself in a dark, muddy, slimy disgusting place.  Turns out it is hell.  Strangely enough, she meets a guy, seems like a decent sort, and they slog together towards a hill, upon which stands a personage directing who goes where.  (No, really,  is Hell where a girl has to go these days to find a fella?)  While awaiting their turn, a sliver, a string width, of light pierces the blackness and begins to descend from above.  It reaches for the guy, but our gal Mab, being a survivor from the Bowery, etc. snags it and is hurled….   well, I don’t know how all this happens, but anyway she wakes up in the body of the guy.  Turns out the people wielding the light were witches trying to get the guy back.  Oops.  Missed.  They need him to find the killer of the daughter of the guy who invented the machine that created the light that got the dead guy back.  Sounds like the House that Jack built.   So our heroine turns into our hero.

Also, someone has been snatching young children and doing horrible things by way of knives.  Really disgusting.  I tended to skip over those parts.  We do get one scene where we see the guy and he sees angles,  and I told you this was a fantasy, so shut up.

So Mab, inside the guy’s revived body, is forced to go off in search of the killer, and meanwhile we have the search for the serial abductor/killer in the person of a sweet detective who Mab might have the hots for but can’t because she is in a man’s body,  but that large male body comes in handy for a lot of other heavy lifting kind of activities, so it all balances out.

There’s a guy who runs the city, seems like a decent sort, well, except for the monsters living beneath the streets which he unleashes, and turns out he is really a terrible person and a witch and can do all kinds of spells, and turn into things.  If you don’t generally care for fantasy, you will hate this book.  On the other hand, it is quite possible you will keep reading page after page after page,  telling yourself that you are going to abandon it…… right up until you get to the last page ….  where, …. spoiler alert, spoiler alert…… Mab does NOT get her own body back, and we are left thinking that maybe there is another book coming.

And the black moon.  There is this ominous dark presence, planetoid in shape which has risen over the city, and brought death, destruction, monsters, and apparently dirigibles with it,  with sea traffic all but eliminated because of the sea monsters, and disease and pestilence.  There is no explanation for this black moon;  it is just there.

As a reviewer on Goodreads, known only as Ralph,  wrote (lawsy, lawsy, I love it when somebody else does all the research work for me):

According to mystics and occultists, the Dark Satellite (not to be confused with the mysterious 13,000-year-old object in a polar orbit) began to recede from our Earth around 1881. Prior to that date, the object, sometimes described as an “astral moon” or a “dark body perceptible only on a psychical level,” exerted a sort of spiritual influence over humanity, causing spiritual turmoil and crises of the soul.the Dark Satellite is more of a physical manifestation, but still with occult influences, one than not only did not leave the Earth, continuing on its long orbit about the Sun, but which came to loom hugely over the Earth toward the middle of the Nineteenth Century. At the rising of the Black Moon, societies and countries collapsed, the wilderness and rural areas became dominated by Witches and those afflicted with “the Mark,” and the largest cities of the now-fallen United States of America became self-sufficient city-states.

I really enjoyed this book.  It requires more than the usual amount of suspension of disbelief, and it has a mystical and symbolic underlayment to it, which is probably why I couldn’t stop reading it.   I mean, blood, gore,  witches, monsters, people in bodies not their own… what’s not to like?

 

 

THE MAKIOKA SISTERS by Junichiro Tanizaki

makioka-sistersThis is a novel by Japanese writer Jun’ichirō Tanizaki that was serialized from 1943 to 1948. It follows the lives of the wealthy Makioka family of Osaka from the autumn of 1936 to April 1941, focusing on the family’s attempts to find a husband for the third sister, Yukiko. It depicts the decline of the family’s upper-middle-class, suburban lifestyle as the specter of World War II and Allied Occupation hangs over the novel.

I stole that from Wiki because I have no shame.   Here’s more:

The novel’s title, Sasameyuki (細雪?), means lightly falling snow and is also used in classical Japanese poetry. The image suggests falling cherry blossoms in early spring—a number of poets confess to confusing falling cherry blossoms with snow. Falling cherry blossoms are a common symbol of impermanence, a prevalent theme of the novel. The “yuki” (雪 snow?) in Sasameyuki is the same as the yuki in Yukiko’s name, suggesting that she is the central character of the novel.

These nuances do not translate well into English. The translator, Edward Seidensticker, struggled over the title. Translations like “Fine Snow” and “Snow Flurries” do not convey the elegance or layers of meaning in the Japanese title.

It is the story of a family over a period of years,  and although the concerns of the family — what would people think,  trying to marry the daughters off in age order, illnesses, illicit affairs, business problems, are presented from the viewpoint of the Japanese culture, they really are universal in theme.  Of course, if you want to get more academic about it, you can see that “decline and decay are prominent themes of The Makioka Sisters and are emphasized by the repetition of certain events. The succession of Yukiko’s suitors, the Makiokas’ yearly cherry-viewing excursions, and the increasing severity of illness in the novel form a pattern of “decline-in-repetition”.

In reaction to this decline, the characters long for an idealized past—they attempt to remain connected to their past through yearly rituals and observances.  The Makiokas’ adherence to these rituals connects them to the traditions of the Edo-period merchant class and reflects Tanizaki’s belief that the Edo-period culture had been preserved in Osaka.”

And yeah, there’s  a Sparknotes on it, and it was made into a movie in 1983.

It is a very long book, at times a teensy weensy bit tedious in its minuteness, interspersed with sections of great activity. This is due to it’s serialization.  Think Dickens.   There are four sisters, the the two oldest married with children, the parents are both deceased, and the basic story concerns the efforts of the siblings to get the third daughter married so that the youngest, who has a boyfriend and wants to get married, can wed.  But the third daughter is very picky, and very very shy, unwilling even to talk on the telephone.  She turns down any number of suitable matches for one reason or another, and as she grows older and rather out of the age for matches, when some are found, they turn her down because of her coldness and shyness.

It is a sweet book, easy to read, but as I said, long.  I read it interspersed with other books, because the minutiae of daily pre-war Japanese life holds only so much fascination.

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FLINDER’S FIELD by D. M. Mitchell

flinders-fieldSomething of a thriller, although to be honest with you, I am not exactly sure what the definition of a thriller is.  I really have to look that up.  Be right back.   Ok, I’m back.  Wiki says “ Thrillers are characterized and defined by the moods they elicit, giving viewers heightened feelings of suspense, excitement, surprise, anticipation and anxiety.”   OK, so I am right.  Something of a thriller.

An unsuccessful writer of thrillers, dark and violent books, living in London, gets a call that his father has passed away.  He is from a little village in the southwest of England, and it is 5 days before he can bring himself to go back the village that was his childhood home, where he had no friends, and was convinced his father and mother hated him, because his mother almost died giving birth to him.  His older sister also seems to hate him, and so we can understand why he was reluctant.

When he was a child, he had a friend one summer, until the parents on both sides forbid their boys to play with each other.  That autumn, the other family left, and our writer grew up alone and friendless with his parents and older sister.

When he returns all those years later, he notices that the old homestead of that long ago family has been revitalized, and a garden nursery established on its grounds.  He learns that his old friend is now back, along with his sister.  Our writer goes to visit, and thus starts a chain of events that all fans of Gone Girl will appreciate.

You know how the descriptions say, ‘But things were not as they seemed.’?  Well, in Flinder’s Field, things are exactly as they seem …. right up until they aren’t.

I really liked this book and I know you will too.  Put it on your list of books to be read before you get senile.

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