Into the Woods

Into the Woods, a 16th century mystery novel assumed published copyright and written by Josh Soule.

The book opens with Chapter Zero where a “beast, no longer interested at clawing its way through the door to devour the family dwelling inside, but rather the townsmen who had just fired his musket… it did not slink through the trees… The beast was no longer afraid, no longer timid; it no longer would hide from the people of this town. The monster would not stop until it had its fill of death…A deep rumble escaped the beast’s throat as it skulked its way down the dirt path toward the town square.” A prologue follows that apparently begins recounting events that preceded this occurrence by three months; i.e. March 3, 1590. The reader is introduced to John who has left Paris where he had been studying art, to return to Carn, a small town on a trade route that is home to farmers and tradesmen. He has no family, was raised by Michael, the town priest who also was responsible for Thomas and Henry who were in similar circumstances. They were inseparable as children and often played close to and occasionally ‘on a dare’ entered the huge forest that began at the town’s edge. Their ‘acts of bravery’ occasioned by the rumors of its being inhabited by a creature that supposedly could change from human to beast. As the friends are reunited upon John’s return, more information is provided about them. Henry is married with small children and seemingly possessed of some lung problem; Thomas is a very large man, a hunter as well as owner of a farm on the outskirts of the village and a real ‘loner’; John again lives in the church with Michael, is the intellectual of the threesome and often approached by town residents for help. As time progresses, reports of cattle being killed in a horribly destructive manner surface and the three friends decide they must investigate for the safety of the town. Thomas and Henry are constantly at odds on the method to be followed and John acts as arbiter. On one attempt they are attacked by a rabid bear and manage to kill it without being infected. However, John is brutally mauled with broken ribs and more, but does recover. The town celebrates the heroes and believes all is well and life activities continue normally until sometime later another attack occurs. The tale’s description of the time and activities leading to this and the subsequent events comprise the remainder of the story.

Discussion: This book’s most unusual and especially intriguing dedication provides a compelling basis for post-reading thought. It is to “every pastor, priest, or any other religious leader – no matter where you live or what title you go by it is a very challenging task to care for the masses as your own family – the severity and complication of this cannot be fully compared to the symbolism in this book. The physical, spiritual, and emotional toll you have taken upon yourself cannot go unnoticed. Thank you.” The tale itself explores the existence of a mental attitude to protect another individual from some feature/condition/action. Frequently such activity may appear to be helpful, but conversely it may provide grossly detrimental results. In accord with the author’s expressed beliefs, the tale examines this attitude. With respect to the mechanics of presentation, the story itself projects the period and its physical and mental patterns moderately well. The characters, although not as well ‘fleshed-out’ as they could be, are adequate. *SPOILER ALERT*! Their movement within individual scenes occasionally leave gaps that require the reader to fill, or ignore, and for the pragmatist, some of John’s post bear activity is most difficult to accept as are occasional activities of others.

3* 5* Post-read thought stimulant; -2 spoiler alert re: presentation, at end of discussion.

Cache, Cache

Caché, Caché ISBN: 9781948046930 Telemachus Press copyright and written by Peggy A, Edelheit.

As the story opens, Sarah just has been confronted with her husband of twenty years, David’s demise. Sarah, had been a young woman fearful of being hurt emotionally, who had shied away from any extended relationship with men except for one. Blake, a young MD with whom she had established a close relationship in which each seemingly reveled in a companionable, brother-sister type association of just being with and sharing each other and their thoughts. Admittedly upon rare occasions, a romantic thought might open in her mind, but afraid of the possibility of in some manner spoiling the enjoyable association, it quickly was exterminated. Blake, worked in older and established physician David’s research laboratory and introduced the two upon an occasion when they met. David, although 20 years older than Sarah, was handsome, physically fit and enjoyed daring motorcycle trips as well as other often similar activities. The attraction was almost instantaneous and they married shortly thereafter without her even offering a hint to Blake with whom she normally discussed everything. Shortly after this marriage and although never previously demonstrating sustained interest in any woman, Blake married Jennifer, a lovely young photographer who was in rapidly rising demand because of her expertise. Blake and Sarah’s close platonic relationship continued with no apparent disruption and with apparent complete acceptance as such by their respective spouses and the two families continued an enjoyable relationship. As time progressed, each made great advances in their endeavors. Demands for David’s lectures and consultations soared worldwide; Sarah’s books were tremendously successful; Jenifer’s photographic skills called for extensive travel; Blake, with a surprising ability to draw and paint and the constant urging of Sarah, switched from medicine and became an artist renowned for his work that demonstrated incredible sensitivity. Regrettably, Jennifer passed away after a few years and Sarah aided his gradual acceptance. Now, she was in a similar position but even worse because of thoughts generated from David’s parting words and action. Just before dying, David had given Sarah a key and told her that his death now would release them both. Of course Sarah was shocked. Not only was she experiencing extreme inability to deal with his death, but also was deeply concerned and drawn to the mystery. Her widely ranging thoughts went immediately to David’s recurring periods of withdrawal. They were brief and their pleasant way of life would quickly return. But then, she remembered that he had insisted that she go to Florida alone to clean out and close down their condominium there. Her many thoughts and struggles are laid bare for the reader to follow as she debates whether to move forward and attempt to solve the mystery or just ignore it and attempt to find closure without additional stress.

Discussion:  This book’s author, already successful in her Samantha Jamison Mysteries, appears to have progressed further in her maturation as a thoughtful author. She has quite poignantly pictured the plight of a character faced with the death of a loved one with whom she has shared the vicissitudes of life for many years. The multiple thoughts and processes through which such an individual would progress demonstrate a remarkable understanding. She also has added additional levels to her plots. There is the obviously disturbing one of mystery that in itself would generate many conflicting thoughts and questions. But even more appealingly, this is a person who has carried a repressed fear of rejection that constantly would shade many, if not most of her life’s activities. Would she be able to face this long-held fear and perhaps conquer it?

In summary, this volume is a mystery in more than the usual sense and in some ways a departure, or perhaps an interesting extension to the theme of the author’s already successful novels. It depends not only on finding the object that the key will open, but additionally on attempting to discover if she ever will be able to discover in her introspective meanderings the cause for her psychologically directed misunderstanding and/or simple avoidance of the many ‘signs’ and thoughts which had been apparent but ignored through the years.

5* Mystery/romance; interesting author’s growth to another level.

Cold but Not Forgotten

Cold but Not Forgotten ISBN: 9781509226504 Wild Rose Press copyright and written by RJ Waters.

The book opens with an excerpt where Lieutenant Carlson the protagonist and story teller, informs the reader that he, and his two buddies, Gary Horton and Joseph Malone are the 3 who conduct criminal investigations for all of Elko County, a section of Nevada the size of Maryland have gone to the range for their required shooting requirement. They arrive and Native Indian Joseph checking the sky for weather sees two vultures circling. He, followed by the others, runs up the berm and discover a body lying about seventy-five yards away. It belongs to Diane Morrissey, the wife of a local Dentist. It appears that she “died today because her cell phone failed.” She had been crawling toward the area of help and had succumbed just shortly before their arrival. She was covered in blood but there were no discernable injuries. From this grisly introduction the reader is led into, and through, a rather thoroughly convoluted and complicated plot. Diane, enormously well liked, was married to a man who unfortunately constantly was attracted to other women and additionally had an active on-going affair with his office manager. Numerous other actions by the man also pointed strongly toward his guilt as he was moving his practice to Las Vegas. However, numerous additional characters gradually become involved in the expanding mystery. There is a physician who specializes in dispensing supplements especially for marathon devotees. A lonely, elderly, somewhat recently widowed neighbor whom Diane befriends; her friend/rival marathoner, wife of another dentist who has partnered with Diane’s husband in buying out, and moving to, the La Vegas practice; plus a little known live-in friend of the Dentist’s office manager. Other characters offer their own interesting bits, especially Joseph, Carlson’s investigating officer who is a Native American Indian with tribal Shamanism blood and an owl that provides him with insights into cases in which he is involved. He, in turn, introduces Carlson to one of the tribe’s elders which introduces a sub-plot. Another sub-plot sets up discovery of missing facts that offer data for the main mystery and are a fascinating twist of their own. Also included are allusions to an earlier case of Carlson’s in which he had been involved in another position in another state.

Discussion: The author has given the reader an interestingly involved mystery with credible action and an array of activities that routinely could be included in the overall work days of a police officer in the position depicted. And, it specifically describes such activity being performed by one of these individuals who portrays the best qualities of such an officer and very nicely emphasizes the tremendous strain imposed upon such individuals’ loving wives. Thus, one has a story of multiple crime investigations that includes, as so often is needed, a bit of luck, the usual homicidal, often psychologically disturbed characters’ but additionally some ‘nice’ people not that frequently found in police investigative tales.

5* Recommended, well-written mystery for readers who enjoy a less jaded police tale.

Slater’s Tempest

Slater’s Tempest assumed published, copyright and written by T. J. Jones.

This 3rd book in the Slater Mystery series follows former Navy Seal, now PI Eric Slater, as he and his ‘working for her license’ love Maggie embark upon solving another mystery. This one is in the Florida Keys where the much loved daughter of an exceedingly wealthy tycoon supposedly died when hurricane Irma tore through the area in 2017. It was believed that Isla the daughter, had taken her beloved dead mother’s boat, the Caroline, out trying to save it by sailing it to safety. Slater is contacted by the tycoon when he receives in the mail a neckless that his purportedly dead daughter never removed. Slater and Maggie, with aid from Jasmine, his young ward who is eighteen, brash, overconfident with a mind of her own, but really a most intelligent and nice young person who enjoys ‘pushing his buttons’. It seems that the old man has ALS with a remaining 3 -5 year life span. He now was struggling with numerous additional complications arising from his less than exemplary life style. After being cleared of killing his first wife with whom he had been totally in love, but both had ‘messed-up’, he had married a beautiful younger woman. Seemingly, his money was not important because she really cared for this much older man as a result of her own early problems. His daughter Isla, close to the new wife’s age, did not equate well with her and for that matter believed her father did kill her mother. He had a brother who was intelligent and a part owner of his company, but actually was a ‘playboy type’ individual interested only in the money, not the company. The caretaker for his mansion actually was a brilliant engineer who helped develop many of Dunbar’s products. This man’s longtime live-in Asian friend/wife (?) who serves as the mansion’s cook also had some strange type of relationship with the owner’s family. Then there is a local PI who works as a barman at his son’s local tavern and whose other son is a recluse growing marijuana. Still others are entangled in the very complicated plot that even includes a ghost of Eli, an old sailor in some manner associated with the dead wife and/or the house. All in all, an interestingly involved tale including mystery, romance, humor, many psychological overtones and even a touch of the occult that the author ultimately is able to untangle.

5* Well-written, addition to the seemingly popular developing series.

The Outbreak of a Monstrous Infection

 

The Outbreak of a Monstrous Infection ISBN: 9781535616027 Book Fuel Copyright and written by Afshan Naheed Hashmi, PhD, C(ASCP), RAC.

The author opens the book with a quote from Donald Trump, then proclaims that “I feel safe and healthy in America. (Thus) This book is dedicated to all Americans and to the Movement: “Make America Great Again.”” Congratulatory statements follow on “this beautiful publication” by Nilima Mehra, Executive Producer and President Global TV Network, “the first Indian American (Executive Producer of GTV, Washington, D.C.) to broadcast her TV productions on a National TV”, and flattering brief description of the contents of the book by (Retired) Ambassador and former India University president, Har Swarup Sing, PhD. A formal dedicatory statement appears followed with a significant number of acknowledgements, a list of the numerous characters in the story. A lengthy introduction explains “My Story – How The Outbreak of a Monstrous Infection Came to Be” and is followed with further discussion “About the Book.” Finally, at Location 233 (of 935 total) or 22% of the total narrative, Chapter One begins the actual tale. The plot centers on a deliberate release of an infectious element known to be highly destructive upon a world-wide collection of notables attending a lavish wedding. The reason seemingly stemming from jealousy. Subsequent tenacious investigation ultimately manages to unravel the complicate means taken by the perpetrators to avoid detection.

Discussion: The story is an admixture of suspense and various aspects of medical science combined with an extravagantly luxurious life style beyond any that easily can be conjured up by the average American reader, even though occasionally being introduced to articles about the extravagancies in which mostly Hollywood residents engage. Admittedly, this reviewer acquired some understanding of the extent to which these luxuriously appointed activities can rise from a slightly extended stay in India a few years ago. Consulting on an allocation of research monies with the Assistant director of the Tata Research Institute in then Bombay, I was introduced to the father of a graduate student of mine in the States. Another of his sons was a rising star in the early developing Bollywood. We were entertained quite lavishly, shown several properties being considered for an extravagant dinner to be held in the following months. One, the Asoka Hotel in New Delhi, reputedly at the time was able to seat 1000 people for a formal dinner. Thus, the immense wealth attributed to the characters in this present novel are not totally beyond belief. However, the existence of such huge numbers being held by so many in the medical profession alone, does raise some measure of credibility. With respect to the verbalization and mechanics in general, a ‘stiffness’ in action and conversation seemed to pervade and material with regard to investigative activity was far too inadequate for this reader as well, no doubt, as for most crime story devotees.

Conclusion: The praise for this author’s first book on business affairs seemingly have been sufficient to establish her as quite a good writer. Perhaps she should continue in this area of endeavor, or if wishing to enter the field of fiction writing, acquainting herself more thoroughly with the area, along with attempting to find a good editor would be most helpful.

2* Regrettably and apologetically to an apparently fine author of non-fiction.

A Spell of Murder

A spell of Murder ISBN: 9781838880958 Bookouture, London copyright and written by Kennedy Kerr.

The story follows the activities of two local but very modern witches as they attempt to solve a murder that appears to involve some manner of witchcraft. Their home belonged to their parents in the small town of  Lost Maiden’s Loch, named for the small lake in Scotland which had gained its name from  a young maiden who mysteriously had drowned in its waters. The sisters’ parents had been quite knowledgeable of the dark arts, even purportedly have taught the subject. The two young presumed witches are thirty-year-old Temerity Love, owner and proprietress of Love’s Curiosities and her 2-year-older sister Tilda, each quite accomplished in different most unusual subjects. Temerity was the proprietress of a small antique shop, Love’s Curiosities, in their home, but more importantly was a world renowned clairvoyant who had the gift of psychometry or psychic provenance that allowed her to gain extensive history of an item merely by touching and/or holding it – a talent of immeasurable importance in the antique and collectors’ world. Tilda was an authority, verifier and dealer in rare books as well as an Herbalist. Thus, their designation. The plot involves a number of prominent characters living in the town as well as the Laird, his home, wife and former wives, his sons, two of his old mansion’s remaining staff members, the town’s police officer, his quite newly arrived replacement along with Temerity and Tilda and their unusual knowledge as they attempt to unravel the mystery surrounding the death of a relatively newly arrived school teacher.

Discussion: As aptly explained by the author, this is a tale about “a little Scottish village alongside one of those strange, sometimes enormous lochs. A gossipy, cozy village where, sometimes, strange things happen and two local witches are on hand to investigate…” This reader found the description basically to be quite accurate and, for the most part, the story enjoyable. The only detracting features were insertion of ‘Americanisms’ in an otherwise Scottish tale and a sense that the charming picture developed in the book’s earlier chapters would have continued unabated if a little more judicious editing had been employed in the last third of the volume.

3* Charming mystery tale with slight caveat.