Monday, March 26, 2012
By Beth Groundwater
In the whitewater rapids of Colorado’s Arkansas River, Tom King falls out of his raft. Mandy Tanner, ranger and river guide rescues him but King dies anyway. Mandy subsequently finds out King died from poisoning. Who killed him? The suspects are numerous. The wife had motive because Tom cheated on her. The mistress hated that Tom wanted to go back to his wife. The son Tom refused to help financially. The environmentalist who was against Tom plans for a golf course. The realtor in competition with Tom for land and water rights. Maybe it was one of Mandy’s own crew of river guides. She navigates her way through the list while also dealing with her uncle’s failing rafting business. Soon, she finds the water isn’t the only danger she has to face.
A nice cozy set in a small Colorado tourist town. A different setting than a typical big city mystery. This has your usual slate of suspects and characters.
Mandy Tanner: Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area Ranger and river guide at her uncle’s rafting business in Colorado. Both parents dead. Likes peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
Steve Hadley: Mandy’s supervisor
Gonzo Gordon: Another river guide.
Victor Quintana: Sheriff’s Detective
Rob Jaurez: An owner of a competing rafting outfit and Mandy’s boyfriend
Cynthia Abbott: bartender, Mandy’s good friend, likes to tell blonde jokes
Bill Tanner: Mandy’s uncle. Widower, no children. Wants Mandy to take over his business when he retires.
David Tanner: 30, Mandy’s brother. Blond with freckles. Accountant.
As I mentioned a standard cast for this type of mystery. Everyone is well defined and Groundwater doesn’t go into to too much depth with anybody except Mandy.
Standard. Rob doesn’t use any Spanish except mi querida when talking to Mandy
Easy read. I must mention, however, about the cool and appropriate name of the author. What else but a river adventure would you expect someone named Groundwater to write? She did some excellent research to bring a lot of aspects of life on the river, the dangers, and the technical know-how. This is a cozy with a few instances of foul language, but not enough to turn you off. The author did a nice job of keeping the story moving with each chapter.
Sunday, March 18, 2012
By Charles Wilson
Mississippi doctor, Spence Stevens investigates the death of a mentor and runs afoul of a government conspiracy. Years ago, scientists implanted human lab rats with computer chips, giving them enhanced knowledge and abilities.
An interesting plot worthy of a Syfy movie. This is another story about the power of government against the little guy in an effort to control the world. You could throw just about any hero into the midst and the story would still work.
Spence Stevens – Research scientist out to solve the problem of blindness. Single.
Walter Quinlan – The antagonist. The controller of the troops of chip implanted warriors. He ‘sees’ what his underlings see and commands them to act.
I’d mention the detective I thought would be paired with Stevens, but (and I’m sorry for the spoiler) he dies early on. This is unfortunate because he’s a likeable guy and you get to know his history but I was disappointed when he turned into a throwaway character. In fact, I felt after this death, the other roles didn’t matter too much. There’s a little bit of mystery near the end of which one of Steven’s female acquaintances is the traitor, but by that time, I didn’t care. Nobody is really strong except for Quinlan and I would have liked to have seen him even stronger and ‘badder.’
Nothing complex. The mild profanity sounds forced.
A little confusing in the opening chapters. I tried to make a connection between the prologue and the opening scenes with the first death that gets the story started. I enjoyed the scenes in Montana in the secret government lab. Those were the most intriguing and enjoyable. The merciless power of the bad buys is typical, but still gets you into a ‘love to hate’ mood.
Monday, March 12, 2012
by J. T. Baroni
(Baroni is gentleman on the left. Just in case you thought it was the furry creature in the lower right.)
Christian Kane is a sports writer for a Pittsburgh newspaper. On the night of the annual awards banquet the paper celebrates the retirement of a long time veteran and Kane is expecting to be promoted. He is not. Disgusted, he quits the paper and he and his wife use what money they have to move to a rural house where Christian plans on writing a novel. He is unable to come up with a worthwhile plot until he and his wife stumble upon an old grave out in the woods. Buried in the grave is a young girl, Rachel Petersen, who died during the Civil War. Inspired by this grave, Kane then proceeds to write the following story:
In 1950, two brothers, Thaddeus and Seth, are out hunting deer. They finally managed to bag the prized buck but the deer is lying on an old grave, the grave of a little girl whose ghostly legend is popular in the area. Come Spring, Thaddeus digs up the grave and releases the spirit of the girl.
Everyone assumes the story of the little girl who reportedly killed her uncle, aunt, and cousins, then hung herself is true. Everybody uses the legend as a way to scare others because Rachel supposedly returns haunt area folk, wielding the knife used in her slayings. However, Thaddeus and Seth are encouraged by the Rachel's spirit to discover the truth behind the girl's death.
This is a story within a story involving a paranormal mystery. There is a little bit of the classical revenge-of-the ghost story here, too, but I really got into it because I happen to enjoy these types of stories. I wasn't too sure at first how the story within a story would work, because the Kane's story takes up the majority of the entire book. I think it works pretty well, though.
Christian Kane: 6'2”, fit physique, late thirties, sports reporter for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, doesn't wear a watch or like electronics such as new computers, likes ESPN, drives a BMW, likes the Steelers
Shelby Kane: Christian's husband, fit physique, late thirties, secretary for law firm
Rachel Petersen: 12, redhead, mother dead, father unable to care for her, taken to Pennsylvania in 1863 to live with uncle and aunt
Some good characters here. Pretty well defined. I enjoyed Kane's rebuffing of modern technology even to the point of not wearing a watch. Nobody was forgotten or left behind; in other words, I didn't feel there was any character needing more attention.
A good effort at bringing voices of the different time periods into play. No long speeches or unnecessary filler.
If it weren't for the excessive profanity and a rape scene this would have been a great YA story. It had that type of feel to it. It's a fairly quick read (only about 142 pages in the pdf file and part of that is intro and promotion of other books at the end). Good use of period products and factoids (a young Roy Clark at the Grand Ol' Opry, for example). I had mixed feelings about what happened after Kane's story ended. I thought Baroni rushed to get to the end and everything seemed to fall into place for Kane rather systematically, quickly, and unbelievably. Then, I received the first surprise (which I won't tell you because it'll ruin the book) and I groaned audibly wanting it not to be so. However...the very ending and the next set of surprises wrapped the story up nicely and I had a good satisfied chuckle. I think you will, too. Not because the story is belly laugh humorous, but because of the sly eeriness with which Baroni finishes it off.
Monday, March 5, 2012
By Terry Ravenscroft
Terry Ravenscroft, former factory worker turned comedy writer, tackles the airlines. In this collection of humorous letters to various airlines foreign and domestic he describes various ‘complaints’, inquires about cultural affairs, and requests accommodations and/or reassurances for a whole host of ‘problems’ which may or may not occur during the flight or during his vacation. He begins by requesting a supply of lasagna from Air 2000, inquiring about special arrangements from Britannia Air for his extra large body size, and wanting to buy a stewardess uniform from Air UK. From there his requests and questions become stranger and funnier with each letter. Some of the replies are notable, too, for what they DON’T say. For instance, Olympic Airlines (Greece) referred Mr. Ravenscroft to their cargo department in reply to his request for information on ferrying back an urn, never mentioning the fact he’d be stealing a Greek artifact.
Similar to Dear Coca-Cola, this is a collection of humorous letters and replies.
None, other than the authors various self depictions. He presents himself as an obese man, deaf, mute, blind, or suffering from different ‘diseases’ and ‘afflictions’ which may cause problems for the airline.
The replies from the airlines remain professional and even acknowledging some of the humor in the author’s letters.
I did find this book a bit more humorous than Dear Coca-Cola for some of the outrageous requests and ‘complaints’ listed. However, I felt the author did push the envelope a little. Sometimes the number of letters re-covering the same ground was too much. Plus, on many occasions he threw in some mild insults to the host country, which to an airline representative, would tend to result in less assistance offered even though, to their credit, they remained professional. In many ways, the author comes across as one of those customers who will not be satisfied no matter what is said or done and in many instances, I can understand the airline’s termination of communication.