OFFERING TO THE STORM by Dolores Redondo

The final book in Spanish writer Dolores Redondo’s atmospheric Baztan trilogy, featuring Inspector Amaia Salazar.

It begins with a murdered child. It ends in a valley where nightmares are born.
When Detective Inspector Amaia Salazar is called in to investigate the death of a baby girl, she finds a suspicious mark across the child’s face – an ominous sign that points to murder.

The baby’s father was caught trying to run away with the body, whether from guilt or grief nobody can be sure. And when the girl’s grandmother tells the police that the ‘Inguma’ was responsible – an evil demon of Basque mythology that kills people in their sleep – Amaia is forced to return to the Baztán valley for answers.

Back where it all began, in the depths of a blizzard, she comes face to face with a ghost from her past. And finally uncovers a devastating truth that has ravaged the valley for years.

This is the kind of book reviewers tend to call ‘atmospheric’, which is another word for creepy and paranormal-ish.  The mystery continues from the first two novels in the series, with creepy added upon creepy.  I found it an interesting intertwining of disturbing, folklore apologia, marital relationship issues,  and a strange insistence on how much she adored and was cemented to her child while at the same time never being home and leaving him, sometimes for days at a time, in the care of her husband and/or elderly aunt.   The story line is filled with demented people:  her mother, a psychologist, some whacked out spouses who all have babies who died crib deaths, and which storyline relies heavily on satanic rituals.

In the end, my conclusion is that the series cannot quite decide whether to be a psychological look at disfunctionality, or a detective mystery, and so decides to mush them together.  You will have to decide for yourself if you think it works.

Advertisements

UNGLUED by Zig Davidson

A murder mystery, but wait, no.  It’s a crime novel.  But yet sort of.  It is sci fi fantasy, but only partially.

OK, here’s the deal.  Martin Gonlea’s life takes a sudden wrong turn as he rounds a street corner in lower Manhattan to find his mistress dead on the sidewalk. He can’t account for the minutes leading up to her death, and the more he tries to fix things–with his wife, and with her hard-boiled NYPD detective sister–the more quickly they unravel. Clocks fly out of windows, watches run backward, and time becomes undependable in this fantasy-tinged story of guilt, lust, obsession, and redemption.

He finds he can reset the clock, but each time he tries to do that, to get back before the bad stuff, when he comes to in that new time, things go awry.  And he finds his ability unreliable, sometimes putting him in the future, sometimes in the past.  He sees the deaths of several people, and when he tries to move time to avoid it, it seems to happen anyway, in yet a different time setting.

In different time settings, different people are the murderer, different people are the dead victim, and nothing is certain.

I absolutely loved this, except for the very very end, which was a total cop-out, a taffy for the lady readers.

Magic. Wizards. Spells.  Demons.  You know, everyday stuff like that. Ho-hum.  Yawn.  hahaha  This is the first of the Dresden Files series, of which there are about sebenty-lebenty books.  The genre is fantasy/paranormal/magic/mystery.    Kind of noir wizard detective in the 40’s Raymond Chandler style.  You know, Sorceress in A Red Dress.  As written in 2000.

It was fun, but got a little too evil demon-ish for my taste, a whole lot of whirling and swirling and damage and black magic and stuff like that.  I like my fantasy/paranormal/magic/mystery a bit more subtle, thanks.  Here’s the plot, such as it is:

Lost Items Found. Paranormal Investigations. Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates. No Love Potions, Endless Purses, or Other Entertainment.

Harry Dresden is the best at what he does. Well, technically, he’s the only at what he does. So when the Chicago P.D. has a case that transcends mortal creativity or capability, they come to him for answers. For the “everyday” world is actually full of strange and magical things—and most don’t play well with humans. That’s where Harry comes in. Takes a wizard to catch a—well, whatever. There’s just one problem. Business, to put it mildly, stinks.

So when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry’s seeing dollar signs. But where there’s black magic, there’s a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry’s name. And that’s when things start to get interesting.

Dresden is a wizard working as a P.I., or a P.I. working as a wizard.  A woman calls his office, needing his services.  And that’s where it begins.  Then it continues when the police call him to view a double murder where the victims’ hearts have been …. well …. exploded.  Egad.  Obviously done by magic, and between the chick and the gruesome murder, Harry is suddenly busy.

Fun read, but I’ll take a pass on the remaining series.  I can only take so much summoning of demons before I get hungry and want to summon a pizza.

BOOGIE HOUSE by T. Blake Braddy

OK, I really loved this book.  A nice mashup of mystery, thriller, paranormal lite, and small southern town politics.

Even though it stars  a tried-and-true trope of the alcoholic cop on suspension, or maybe he was fired? I forget.  He was drunk, ran a stop sign, ploughed into an older black woman, destroying her car, but fortunately she only suffered a leg injury.

In one of his evenings along with the bottle, he wanders into the surrounding woods and finds himself at the old boogie house, a negro juke from the sixties, now abandoned and decaying.  He hears music, blues and laughter and people having fun.  He goes gingerly to the building, steps in, the halluciation stops, and he sees the beaten and tortured body of a young black man, dead a few days, in a corner.

He of course calls the police and reports it, and it turns out to be the son of the woman he T-boned.  She visits him to tell him she will speak in his favor at the court hearing for his dui, and asks him to find the killer of her son.

We meet a mojo man, more spirit apparitions, more ethereal blues music, and a desperate wannabe senator who will do anything to keep his run for congress from collapsing.

Great mystery, just enough paranormal to be interesting without being too woo woo and not credible,  just enough sad history of his own, which all twines around this current situation, and just enough likability of our trope-bound protagonist to make it a really interesting and fun read.

There are two more volumes to this series.

IN THE DARKNESS THAT’S WHERE I’LL KNOW YOU by Luke Smitherd

“There are hangovers, there are bad hangovers, and then there’s waking up inside someone else’s head. Thirty-something bartender Charlie Wilkes is faced with this exact dilemma when he wakes to find finds himself trapped inside The Black Room; a space consisting of impenetrable darkness and a huge, ethereal screen floating in its center. It is through this screen that he sees the world of his female host, Minnie.

How did he get there? What has happened to his life? And how can he exist inside the mind of a troubled, fragile, but beautiful woman with secrets of her own? Uncertain whether he’s even real or if he is just a figment of his host’s imagination, Charlie must enlist Minnie’s help if he is to find a way out of The Black Room, a place where even the light of the screen goes out every time Minnie closes her eyes…”

This was one freaking weird book.  Well, no, not the book, but the idea.  A guy wakes up to find himself in a black space, which he eventually decides is the mind of a woman he has never met.

OK, I am trying to figure out how to describe more of the plot.  Just let me say it involves some kind of regressive action, him being him being him being him and her and different lives or worlds or …. I give up.

It was great for about half the book, then got just a little too too, and then ended definitely too too.  Maybe I am grousing because I didn’t fully follow it, fully understand it.  I am a simple peasant after all.

It kind of defies genre.  That’s what I like about a lot of the new works — they are not specifically romance, or mystery, or sci fi, etc.  this was originally written in four parts, then eventually put together in one volume and issued as a single book.  The writing was good, and the idea definitely something really different.

I read his Physics of the Dead  quite some time ago,and loved it.  You can see what I said about it here.  What I said about it was a whole lot more than what I have said about this offering, because, well, because waking up inside someone else’s head where the walls seem to be the physical mind of the person, and there are multiple universes is hard to have a conversation about, wouldn’t you say?

Side note:  Doesn’t ‘universe’ mean one verse?  As in uni being the prefix for single, or one?  So therefore, I should be saying ‘there are multiverses’, not ‘there are multiple universes’.  Food for thought, as if waking up in someone else’s mind isn’t enough food for thought for one post.

 

DAUGHTERS OF BABYLON by Elaine Stirling

Well, this was fun.   A little bit history, (Eleanor of Aquitaine), a little bit woo woo (Mexican brujas [witches or shamans],  a little bit paranormal (appearances of djinns), and a little bit of confusion on my part (because sometimes all the spark plugs are not firing properly).

Silvina Kestral agrees to clear out the house of an eccentric dead actress amidst the ruins of a medieval priory in the French Pyrenees where she comes across references to the Daughters of Babylon, and comes across a tall dark stranger in the attic.  A Mexican cane cutter with a party of witches and a sense of rhyme,  a 19-year-old, badly married queen named Eleanor of Aquitaine, and a modern day poet, feature prominently.

It’s all about poetry, portals to other dimensions, (I think).  The blurb says “Literary historical mysteries, split timeline puzzle mysteries, magical realism mystery: whatever term you choose to label them, the ability of these genre-blending books to trap the reader in a labyrinth of intrigue and wonder.”  Yep.  I was intrigued, all right.

More blurb:  “Crusader battles in the Holy Land, painful love affairs and courtly romance, a remote French community not far from Carcassonne where events in the time of Eleanor of Aquitaine still resonate powerfully today: some of the ingredients of Daughters of Babylon might appear familiar at first. But spiced with Gabo-style Mesoamerican magical realism courtesy of the Mexican nagual and his witches, … we begin to learn from the understanding of cyclical deep time known to the Incas, Aztecs and Mayans, and we see that at some level these times are not separated at all. The links between these times have been induced for a noble purpose; they are not coincidences, nor contrived ‘leakage’ across time due to a dramatic event. This book describes a maniobra, a magical deep time maneuver of extraordinary complexity.”

Enjoyable  story, with a soupçon of implausibility if you are of a pragmatic turn of mind, but I think if we call it fabulism, we can get comfortable with the whole idea.

 

 

 

DEMIURGE-Blood of the Innocent by Michael R. Hagan

The law of averages dictate, with all the baseless predictions and educated guesses made throughout mankind’s recorded existence, some of these will have proven accurate, many others quite the opposite.  There have however  been examples of auguries or predictions which transpired to be uncannily accurate, describing events and unfolding consequences in such detail, the last remaining defense for any skeptic is the classic, vaticinatio post eventum*…. That they were in fact fraudulently created after the incidents described took place.”

This is one of those mashups of detective mystery, paranormal spirit/demon/god story, The DaVinci Code tale, thriller, archeologically-based plot that partners a somewhat loose cannon homicide detective who has some kind of special foresight or insight abilities, with a respected archeologist working in a dig in Iran, against an entity which we are not sure until the end is a demon, a god, THE god, some universal force, or what.  But this entity believes that mankind has ruined everything and the only way to cure the world is by spilling the blood of the innocent.  This entity has fathered a son with a Nigerian virgin teenager, who dies in childbirth.  The child is found to have some kind of crazy special abilities, such as curing ailments, wounds and injuries, and special foreknowledge.

Yeah, see what I mean?

The detective is called to a murder scene where an entire family has been brutally murdered and placed at their dining room table set as if for a party.  Fingerprints reveal the perpetrator to be a resident of a local psychiatric institute.  Also a resident at this institute is a former preacher, who is now apparently in thrall to the entity, and has as his life’s mission to kill the special boy.  The baby born to the teenage mother, who is now 9 years old),  has been placed in an obscure group foster home for his safety.

The archeologist and his team at last uncover a buried room in a cave in Iran which has cuneform symbols all around it making predictions.  And those same strange symbols were found painted in blood at the murder scene.  An attempt to learn their meaning is what brings together the archeologist and the detective.

The idea is that the entity inserted himself into various places and situations during the growth of civilization in order to create the events that were prophesied.   So we bounce around in the book between the archeological dig, the homicide investigation, the growing problem of protecting the boy, and flashbacks to the entity’s efforts throughout the ages.

As one reviewer put it, “Very Dark, very gnostic, very intense.”   And another calls it a horror thriller with pseudo-mystical trappings that the author outlines in a broad-brush introduction of the ancient myths.”   Yeah, that pretty much covers it.

*or Vaticinium ex eventu,   “prophecy from the event”),  a technical theological or historiographical term referring to a prophecy written after the author already had information about the events being “foretold”. The text is written so as to appear that the prophecy had taken place before the event, when in fact it was written after the events supposedly predicted. Vaticinium ex eventu is a form of hindsight bias.