Unprotected Love – Murder on the docks of Manhattan
Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Author: John F. Rooney
Format: Kindle, Paperback
Late night on the docks of Manhattan, they find him, carefully laid out, hands crossed, peaceful, and very dead. A close examination of the body finds something usual hidden in his mouth – a condom. Unfortunately, this is not the first victim to be found this way. All are male hustlers and all have the same condom calling card. A serial killer has been born. NYPD special ops is called in and Denny Delany, one of the city’s best is put in charge of the case. He reaches out to sex crimes but intra-department politics start to hamper Denny’s progress. As he battles his own alcoholic demons, the bodies pile up and Denny wonders if his lack of progress is by design. Could the perpetrators be within and if so, how can protect his career as well as his life?
Unprotected Love was my first read of Rooney’s Delany series. Rooney has a knack for storytelling. His characterization, settings and plot all work together to create strong hooks keeping the reader engaged. His style and voice are a little different than the average read which took me a chapter or two to tune my ear to. As with most mysteries, the fun is taking the clues provided and trying to jump ahead and solve who the murderer is. Rooney does a good job at throwing a couple of red herrings in the mix hear and there and had me guessing then second guessing most of the way.
I also found the details of how the relationship between “John’s” and “Hustlers” interesting from a psychological perspective. This detail and the backstory of Denny and Molly gave the work a real and edgy feel. More mystery then thriller, Unprotected Love is an entertaining read.
In the Shadow of Swords – Arabian Fantasy
Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Author: Val Gunn
Pursued by an assassin, Hiril Altair races to stay alive long enough to reach sanctuary and deliver the evidence – evidence that will prove the world and their Sultan are not what they had believed. Steps from success he encounters the half-jinn kingslayer Ciris Sarn whose blade quickly ends Altair’s life as well as any chance for the truth to be known.
Val Gunn’s In the Shadow of Swords starts fast immediately grabbing the readers’ attention. The Arabian setting is engaging, the mystery involving their world unsettling and the motivations of a cursed assassin drive the plot forward. The mysticism, exotic local, and fast paced passages are the strengths of this novel.
Gunn’s chapters are quick snippets of action and jump from one character to the next. At times, it feels a bit like changing television channels after only getting a short piece of the story. During the first half of the book, it was a little difficult to follow what was happening and with each chapter and character I found myself wondering who I should be cheering for as they all seemed like bad guys hunting one another for a purpose that was not clear. Fortunately, at the half way point in the novel, these motivations and independent threads start to come together and the action builds to its ultimate climax and resolution.
Gunn builds and interesting and complex world and while this story in itself is complete, its ending leaves the door open for future adventures.
Blood Opal – The Curse of the Blood Opal!
Rating: 5 of 5
Author: Carole Sutton
Tags: crime fiction, murder, mystery, Cornwall, Goodreads author
After a long day at work, Pug Germaine returns home only to find it in complete disarray. Convinced her husband has tossed it during one of his more and more frequent foul moods, she cautiously searches for his whereabouts only to find him in the arms of another woman both of them covered in blood—murdered! Horrified she contacts the police and soon learns not only has he been cheating but he has leveraged all of their assets on bad investments. In a heartbeat, she’s lost everything—her husband, home, and business. Determined to start anew, she sails off. But Pug’s troubles are only beginning. Her husband’s killers haven’t found what they are looking for and they are convinced Pug has it.
In Blood Opal, Carole Sutton once again demonstrates her prowess in creating rich characters, describing beautiful settings, and formulating an engrossing and complex plot. So drawn was I to her unlikely heroine Pug, that I easily felt her fears and frustrations and wondered as she did who to trust. The legend of the Blood Opal and its curse and back story were fascinating and with the prodding from Celeste—Pug’s friend and confidant—one can not help but wonder if there is some truth to the curse as death follows in its wake.
Sutton’s knack for storytelling quickly engrosses the reader in this well crafted murder mystery and doesn’t let go until the final page is turned. Fans of this genre should quickly add this to their shelves.
The Merry-Go-Round – Opposites Do Attract but do They Stay Together?
Rating: 4 of 5
Author: Donna Fasano
A year after being financially ruined by her husband Greg, Lauren Flynn goes to court to fight for a divorce he will not give her. The court not only grants her request, but to make up for her financial losses she is also awarded Greg’s only asset, a worthless plot of land complete with a rundown barn. Unfortunately, Lauren’s expectations of moving forward with her life are quickly dashed when she learns the barn houses not only a merry-go-round in disrepair, but her ex-husband who would be otherwise homeless. Soon Lauren’s life is much like the carnival ride, going backwards, going forwards, and most of the time just going in circles.
Donna Fasano’s Merry-Go-Round is an easy beach read about one woman’s search for happiness. Her main character, Lauren, has unfortunately built up in her mind what she thinks her life should be like – much like one would build a resume for a career – versus understanding and admitting to herself what truly makes her happy.
I will admit that I didn’t understand why Lauren wanted to divorce Greg. His hardware business does fail causing them financial difficulties and he doesn’t tell her until it is too late. But he seems like a great guy. He treats Lauren well, plans romantic surprises, can fix just about anything, is selfless, good looking, and is constantly helping others. On balance, he seems like a great catch.
Oddly enough, my favorite characters were not Lauren and Greg; rather, Lauren’s father Lew and her co-worker Norma Jean resonated with me. In many ways the evolution of their relationship was more endearing than the tumult between Lauren and Greg. They both have the wisdom and confidence that comes with age and their honesty with others and themselves was refreshing.
Fasano also does a good job building romantic tension throughout the book keeping the pages turning which made for a very enjoyable read. I look forward to her next offering!
Amsterdam 2012 – Thought Provoking Alternate Future Reality
Rating: 4 of 5
Author: Ruth Fransisco
Carefree and making their way across Europe, Peter and Anne meet a group of locals in Amsterdam willing to show them around to the various sites and galleries. Finding their guides fun and engaging, they agree to accompany them to their home in the outskirts of town and enjoy dinner, desert, and new guests who arrive during their stay. As the alcohol flows and the night drags on, Peter and Anne agree to spend the night in the Amsterdam couple’s old windmill recently converted to a guest bedroom. After a restful and relaxing sleep, the young couple make their way to their guests house to help clean up and start breakfast. Inside, they find their hosts brutally slain bodies. What follows is a harrowing escape from Europe that will not only change their lives, but the course of the world.
In Amsterdam 2012, Ruth Fransisco paints what I would call an alternative reality of a potential future sequence of world events. Similar to the assassination of Arch Duke Ferdinand which started World War I, Fransisco shows how these slayings in Amsterdam begin the start of World War III except this time, it is a war of Islam versus the rest of Europe and the United States. I can understand the comments from some reviewers regarding the unlikely series of events or the speed upon with the Jihadists can take over so much of the world. But this is why I call this an alternative reality. Fransisco is hitting readers over the head with hyperbole of some of the potentially politically correct leanings of this country and how far it could take us if we aren’t home watching the store.
Do I think events could unfold as described? No. Do I think the book is thought provoking and compelling? Absolutely. Those who like a more subtle approach may not enjoy this read and would not find the United States to be so willing to embrace such radical cultural indoctrination. Having said that, Clavell’s book “A Children’s Story” frightening shows how easily and quickly it is to change beliefs. My estimate is this book will polarize readers but all will come away thinking.
Completely Restored – An Unassuming Jewel!
Rating: 5 of 5, TMBOA Recommended
Author: Robert Kerr
After years of putting their blood, sweat, and tears into renovating a Victorian era home in small town Iowa, Joe and Linda Murphy, along with their two children, celebrate the final touch of their restoration – hanging the original front door. Kept for years in the basement, the door needs professional help to bring it back to it’s former glory. Fortunately, Joe finds a local craftsman able to complete the work. The same night the door is hung, a thunderstorm moves through the area. The next morning, when the Murphys awaken, they find themselves transported back in time to the year 1909.
Robert Kerr’s Completely Restored, starts as a very unassuming book. I read the opening pages and was immediately engaged by the characters but was unprepared for how engrossed and special the story would be for me. I suppose what appealed to me was how the story enfolded so effortlessly and the magic of going to what would have initial appeared to be a simpler time and less complicated life.
After multiple failed attempts to return to their own time, the Murphys resign themselves to finding ways to adapt to life in 1909. Because very little technology such as televisions and such do not yet exist, the sense of community and family really starts to grow for the Murphys. They spend time with their neighbors sharing lemonade and cookies on the front porch; they spend time with the kids playing family games and sharing their days experiences; they make friends with locals and find hard but rewarding work; they become a closer and loving family.
But Kerr is careful not to turn this into a simple romantic view of the past by interjecting a number of plot arcs which also convey how different the rule of law, child protection, and the limitations of medicine were one hundred years ago. I encourage readers to pick a copy. The book evokes a feeling of nostalgia and desire for simpler times while at the same time making one appreciate the things they have today.
Circles of Mercy – Fargo Meets Witches of Eastwick
Rating: 5 of 5, TMBOA Recommended
Author: Gerry Bacon
George Bogart was indifferent toward most folks in the small town of Glaston, Michigan. He preferred the serenity of tending his garden over the chit chat most folks enjoyed. His new neighbor Mercy Horstman was nice, though a little different, and was often seen around the town trailed by her many cats. George was rather indifferent to cats as well that is until he came upon Mercy’s prized “Precious” destroying and relieving itself in his garden. Well, nothing a little shot to the head wouldn’t cure. And the next thing you know, Precious used up her nine lives and George’s garden was safe from further destruction. But Mercy was no ordinary neighbor and soon not only George but many of the town’s folks learned the true meaning of the phrase “what goes around comes around”.
Gerry Bacon’s Circles of Mercy is an unassuming treasure of a read. In the small town of Glaston, he creates a unique set of down home quirky characters whose insights into the world are universal though displayed in almost caricature like fashion. Ironically the one person who stands out as different in the town – Mercy – is in reality likely the most “normal”.
The banter between many of the town’s folks are hysterical. There’s an entire sequence debating why a meeting’s notes are referred to as minutes and who Robert was from Robert’s Rules of Order and why anyone should be following his rules anyway. This novel begs to be made into a movie by the Coen brothers. It’s a wonderful cross between Fargo and Witches of Eastwick.
Run out and pick up a copy today. You won’t be disappointed. This is a unique and entertaining read that will have talking about it around the water cooler. One of my favorites this year. Enjoy!