May the road rise to meet you.  May the wind be always at your back.  May you be in heaven and hour before the Devil knows you’re dead. – Irish blessing. 

The next in the Matt Scudder, quasi-private detective series.  In this story, Matt is still sober, his ex-girlfriend, Jan, is suffering from non-treatable pancreatic cancer (this was written in 1993) and wants Matt to get her a gun so she can make her exist on her own terms,  he and his current girlfriend finally decide to get married, and he has a pretty interesting case about a seemingly decent guy, a lawyer, with a job in a publishing house, and a nifty if small condo with a heck of a view, who becomes just another statistic, gunned down in a phone booth on Eleventh Avenue. When the cartridge casings of the fatal shots turn up on a local Vietnam vet street person,  the whole of the Big Apple knows it’s an open and shut case. But not Scudder.  When the brother of the vet contacts Matt to investigate,  Scudder finds that the Yuppie dead guy has skeletons in his closet and Matt can hear them rattling.

Scudder does the horizontal hula with the grieving widow which makes his declarations of love to Elaine, his current squeeze, seem less believable, but what do I know.  I am just an old broad who is jaded and cynical.

Some more information was offered as to the structure and workings of the AA organization, which I found interesting.

There are several different formats for AA meetings.  There are speaker meetings and discussion meetings, and there are formats which combine the two elements.  There are step meetings, which center each week upon one of the program’s twelve steps, and tradition meetings, which do the same for AA’s twelve traditions.  Promise meetings focus on the benefits of recovery, which are presumably assured to everyone who follows the directions.  (There are twelve promises, too.  If Moses had been an alcoholic, I’ve heard it said, we’d be stuck with twelve commandments instead of ten.)  At a Big Book meeting, members typically take turns reading a couple of paragraphs of the sacred text.  When the week’s designated chapter has been completed, the rest of the hour is given over to a discussion of what was read, with people relating what they heard to their own personal histories and current situations.

The Big Book is the oldest and most important piece of AA literature, written by the first members over fifty years ago, [seventy-five years ago at this blog writing].  Its opening chapters explain the program’s principles, and the rest of the book consists of members telling their personal stories, much as we tell them now when we speak at meetings, telling what our lives used to be like, what happened, and what it’s like now.

Another good mystery, although I did figure out that the dead guy had some secrets, because what was he doing using a public phone booth at night in a dicey neighborhood when he had a perfectly good phone at home in his condo?

Commentaries are beginning to appear by the characters as to the lack of public phones in the city, how so many of them do not accept coins but only calling cards, how there are few if any of the booth style, they are all open half boxes attached to telephone poles, and how they no longer have the number on them so you can call the person back.  This to counteract the drug dealers, and the phone card phones because of the rate of coin theft.  Persistent thieves had gone so far as to attach the phone boxes to cars and pulled right off the poles … all for a few quarters!  So we readers can track the history of the decline of the public phone booth through the story line of the Scudder series.





WRATH by E. H. Reinhard

A police procedural type mystery.  It was OK,  almost perfectly written, a couple of booboos, but I am easy about stuff like that.  It is about a guy who suspects his wife has a boyfriend, and then finds it is true.  He murders the boyfriend, then the wife, then goes on to murder others.

It was told in a back and forth manner between following the murderer, and following the homicide lieutenant, the portions about the murderer told in third person, the portions about the detective and the police told in first person.  So, basically, we know right from the beginning who did the murders.  Right there, I am losing interest.  I like my mysteries to be mysteries.  This was more of a thriller.  The second trope I dislike and rarely read has the protagonist and/or his/her family in danger from the villain.  I really prefer my mysteries to be impersonal, and the mystery to be a puzzle.

Boy.  Picky, picky, picky.  So in conclusion, it was fine for what it was, it’s just that what is was wasn’t what I like.  Oh, well.  Every day can’t be Sunday.

It is also the first of a series.


A small book about desertion on both sides of the forces fighting the American Civil War.  Nicely and impartially told, filled with interesting tidbits about the war and life in the camps that I had not known.  I am not much of a Civil War buff, and have not read very extensively on the subject, so I found much to like about this work.

Here’s something I did not know:  apparently both sides engaged in propaganda issues to encourage fighters from the opposite side to desert!  Who knew.  War is hell.

Easy to read, not academic in tone, geared toward the general reader.  It would be a nice outside reading for the school levels studying the Civil War.  It has been so long since I was in school, I no longer remember when in one’s school life this part of history was taught.

It got me thinking about desertion in general, and what the rate was in WWI and WWII.  So I did what any red-blooded American chick would do — I googled.  Turns out desertion has been an ongoing problem over the millennia.  There is a lot of very interesting material on the subject for all the wars, and it seems that the biggest factors at work in desertion is not fear, as we non-combatants would assume, me being the Consummate Coward.  The biggest issues are worry about and missing family, and the other is poor conditions for the military personnel — poor food, poor sanitary conditions, poor arms supply, and finally, often, boredom.  These seem to be the uniting themes from the  Peloponnesian War right up to today’s skirmishes.

It has a substantial bibliography which made me happy. I would have liked to have seen a ‘Suggested Further Reading’ list, but that is just me being picky.

This is not a long book, and I felt it could have explored the subject more, and offered us more insight, but really, it is a lovely book.

I like books that make me think about the wider issues.  I consider a book a success if it sends me to googleland for additional material.


MYSTIC TEA by Rea Nolan Martin

Quirky nuns, a little bit of what appears to be magic, a bit of mysticism, what’s not to like?

This endearing book is about a small (OK, tiny) community of mismatched, aging women struggling to find meaning and purpose on a ramshackle monastery in upstate New York. They are the last of their order, and have gotten pretty lax in following the rules of the order. Having spent their lives in service to a church that seems to no longer serve them, they are confused about their own futures and the future of the entire monastery. Led by Mike, the practical no-nonsense prioress, and Augusta, the grand ancient mystic hermit, they are joined by Gemma, a self-punishing novice, who believed she was sent to the convent by an angel,  and Arielle, a firebrand jailhouse conversion who was sent there out of rehab by an angel as well.   Augusta receives ‘instructions’ for recipes to make special teas for specific physic, emotional and physical ailments.

Prioress Mike receives a notice that they are being investigated by some arm of Rome, probably with an eye to closing them down and merging them with some other order.  There is consternation, and Augusta’s magical sacred teas draw the inevitable closer and closer.  This story is a lovely examination young and old, franchised and disenfranchised, pedestrian and mystic. Most of all, it is a story of female empowerment as the women find the courage to confront epic challenges, creating a surprising future from the oppressive ashes of the past. It will make you smile as much as it will make you think.

Ok, all that snazzy stuff about female empowerment and creating a future from the oppressive ashes of the past are not my words.  You probably guessed that, right?  Because whenever do I talk about female empowerment? And oppressive ashes?  But nevertheless, despite the overblown rhetoric, it really is a delightful book, because who doesn’t love the idea of an angel appearing to one and giving one a destination?  And magic tea?  All we have here in the house is Earl Grey Darjeeling Green, and Earl Grey Citrus Black.  Nothing mystical about those other than their possibly magical diuretic properties.  TMI?  Sorry.



This is the fifth in the Matt Scudder  detective crime series, out of  24 volumes, the last one being published in 2011.   It was made into a movie in 1986, starring Jeff Bridges.

I really liked this ex cop-turned P.I., so I will print out a list of the series titles in order and see what others I can snag.

One thing about mid-twentieth century crime fiction, it all kind of has the same flavor, and I read three or four almost in a row, and now the plots are all swirling about in the mosh pit of my mind.  Let’s see if I can sort out the story line of this book from the others.

Plot stolen from a much better reviewer than me (somebody named Kemper, to give credit where due, since it sure as shootin’ isn’t due to me for this symopsis) slightly edited so I can feel better about my outright theft:  “Still working as an unlicensed private detective, Scudder is approached by an upscale prostitute named Kim. She wants to quit the business but is nervous about telling her pimp, Chance. Kim hires Matt to break the news to Chance and gauge his reaction to see if he’ll try to keep her working.

After Matt tracks Chance down, he’s surprised to find that the pimp seems reasonable and doesn’t object to Kim leaving. Matt passes the word along to Kim and thinks his work is done. Days later, he’s shocked to learn that Kim has been brutally murdered.”

OK, enough of other people’s words.  Some interesting characters here, starting with the elegant Black pimp, a connoisseur of African tribal masks, and his stable of 5 working girls with a heart of gold.  One of his ladies is a not-successful poet, one is a woo woo hippie, etc.  The first soiled dove to be murdered is not the last, and Chance is starting to get nervous that someone is working their way through his entire stable.

Good mystery.  But the almost more interesting flip side is the fact that Scudder is a recovering alcoholic, and throughout the book we are witness to his sometimes not-so-successful struggle to stay off the booze.  The story is filled with AA meetings, and his musings on whether or not to drink.  It is a formulaic recovering alcoholic ex-cop turned P.I. / noirish detective crime mystery, but although both halves of the book are formulaic, somehow it really works.  A tribute to a good writer and story teller.

Lawrence Block is quite prolific, having churned out over 100 books.   Wow. If you set yourself the task of reading his entire oeuvre, even if you read two of his books a year, it will take you a couple of years.  Wow.


This is the fourth book in the Walt Longmire series, which is kind of a tribute to the nostalgic cowboy mythology of the old west.  Great series.

When the body of a young Vietnamese woman is found alongside the interstate in Absaroka County, Wyoming, Sheriff Walt Longmire is determined to discover the identity of the victim and is forced to confront the horrible similarities of this murder to that of his first homicide investigation as a marine in Vietnam.

To complicate matters, Virgil White Buffalo, a homeless Crow Indian, is found living in a nearby culvert and in possession of the young woman’s purse. There are only two problems with what appears to be an open-and-shut case. One, the sheriff doesn’t think Virgil White Buffalo–a Vietnam vet with a troubling past–is a murderer. And two, the photo that is found in the woman’s purse looks hauntingly familiar to Walt.

The story is told in flashbacks, a technique I often find tedious, and yes, I found it a bit tediou in this book, too, but I forgive a lot in this Longmire series, because you do when you love someone, right?  Even the astounding coinkydink concerning the dead Vietnamese woman and Longmire.  But I have a forgiving nature.  It’s how I roll.

Moving right along to the next in the series, The Dark Horse.



THE COLD DISH by Craig Johnson

After having read two of the Walt Longmire series way out of order, I decided to get myself a list of the books  and read them in order.  As with all good detective/police procedural series, the protagonists develop and grow, and although each is a stand along mystery, the lives of the principle characters continue as a life does.   So, the first one in the series is The Cold Dish,  named after that old proverb, ‘revenge is a dish best served cold’.  We meet Walt, Sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming, and learn of his adult daughter Cady, a legal eagle practicing law in Philadelphia, and meet Vic, his tough deputy, a gal with a whole family on the police force in Philadelphia, who is smart, gutsy and has a mouth like a stevedore.

The blurb tells us that the story is about Cody Pritchard, a young man found dead. Two years earlier, Cody and three accomplices had been given suspended sentences for raping a Northern Cheyenne girl. Is someone seeking vengeance? Longmire faces one of the more volatile and challenging cases in his twenty-four years as sheriff and means to see that revenge, a dish that is best served cold, is never served at all.

So four young men brutally gang rape a young woman who suffers from fetal alcohol syndrome.  She does not testify against them, because she doesn’t want to hurt their feelings.  Then one of them is found shot.  And then another of the four.  Things get complicated, but the likable sheriff with the help of his lifelong bff, A Cheyenne native, work together to discover just who seems to be stalking those young men.

I really like Craig Johnson’s writing style.  Clear, with a touch of humor, he creates a decent guy as the protagonist, one we can all like.