A small bronze gift called “Mirror”

A small bronze gift called “Mirror”, an unusual story by juvenile fantasy/mystery Greek author Anna Musewald, whose former books have been published in Greek and German with this e-book translated into English by Dimitris Bontis.

Plot: Lydia, five years old and readying to begin school, sees police at the house where she lives with her mother and her Grandmother Maria. She is told that her mother had to leave for a while. Shortly thereafter, the two make a quick and inexplicable move followed by several more in the following few years until at twelve, Maria leaves her at a boarding school with a Mrs. M. With time, she begins to wonder about her past and from her diary and gradually evolving memories discovers that her mother actually had been poisoned and that her Grandmother was blamed due to untrue information. Additionally, three other deaths of people who had attempted to help her Grandmother had occurred. With school activity, another interesting item is brought to her attention. Maria had given her, as a sixth year birthday present, a very old piece of bronze attached to a stick that she was told was a mirror. She thought it worthless but now at school discovers how to use this mirror, enters a contest participated in by students from other schools as well, wins the contest and escapes from the school to attempt to discover what happened to her mother, why her grandmother was still missing and the perplexing reality hidden behind or within the mirror.

Discussion: A situation seems to arise occasionally where this reviewer seems to be in total disagreement with the others. Specifically, although not removed completely from other reviewer’s thought processors in the majority of cases, we again differ quite noticeably on this book. Thus, a SPOILER ALERT, or perhaps better yet, a HUMBLE APOLOGY is necessary for the following discussion that extends somewhat beyond pertinence to this specific book. The reasons for our major differences are diverse, but in this case seem to arise from interpretation and a completely understandable hesitancy to be critical of an already well accepted author. We agree that the author probably can write well, although another feature not mentioned is that she certainly deserves a better translation. She also obviously is quite knowledgeable of the well described features of the countries and places visited (e.g. terrain, cities, castles) and of the fabled/historical stories/parables (e.g. the women of the defeated city transporting their most precious possessions [husbands] to safety, Montezuma/Cortez relationship, unique historical/fabled position of mirrors) and weaves them well into her tale of mystery/fantasy. From this point we part ways. At least to this reader, this appeared to be a story moving forward toward positive results with possible allegorical overtones. She states: “Those who manage to forge the closest relationship with their faithful reflection are made for the highest positions in the world. They are tomorrow’s leaders who will lead the world with guaranteed prosperity to the future.” In other words, these persons can be introspectively honest and hold the best intentions for the world foremost. And later she explains that no one can know in advance the moves of a man of free will when explaining the actions of the villains in the plot. However, for this reviewer the story seems to ‘lose its way’ as Lydia begins and continues her somewhat vaguely meandering journey of inquiry with pertinent reasons for much activity often difficult to discern. Additionally, some of the physical activity, most especially where physical altercations take place, are particularly difficult to accept even for the targeted audience which is far more knowledgeable than the amount of credit given them. Thus, I have the impression that the talented and successfully published author of this book unfortunately has been misinformed or for some other reason not been made completely aware of the high degree of sophistication that exists in the youth of this country. And I believe that many of us, as reviewers, often forget, or many even only tangently may be aware of the tremendous differences among the generations. Briefly, we know economics are different, but often give little thought to attitudes, and perhaps even more obviously, thought processes and verbalization. Every generation devises its own. Many of the terms that a Millennial commonly uses actually mean nothing to a member of Generation X. and it is hypothesized that an individual of average intelligence in the 1950’s would be of near genius level today with the wide dissemination of knowledge that begins even before school attendance. Traditionally, readers expect reviewers to be aware of these changes that occur and take them into consideration, uninfluenced by the writer’s reputation or similar factors, when we examine/review a work. Admittedly, I could be completely wrong but have been influenced personally by a note sent by an author several years ago: “I think your review is accurate and it certainly is an immersion, for better or worse. Most people really like that but it is a little too much for some others.” So, specifically stated, it is my understanding that most authors, as well as readers, expect reviewers ‘to tell it like it is’, and several other authors even have expressed appreciation for such action.

Conclusion: A probably well-written book that deserves a better translation, by an accomplished author who has been misinformed about the level of sophistication of the youth of this country. An included explanation suggests a reason for the wide division between this review and the others provided; i.e., a wide difference exists between generations with the present ones at a level of sophistication not realized by many. If such lack of realization is evident in a published book, it should be recognized and although not particularly beneficial and possibly heart rending to the author, it is only fair to the reader and author that this fact be presented.

2* Poorly translated, knowledgeably written, regrettably targeted for audience of lesser sophistication level.

Once Upon a Lie

Once Upon a Lie ISBN: 9781938288661, Terra Nova Books, an e-book by Michael French.

Plot: Jaleel is a 12-year-old black boy growing up in a small Texas town in the 1970’s. He is highly intelligent and a gifted athlete with high hopes of playing professional baseball. Unfortunately his father fights with a white man, is fired and upon returning home is severely upbraided by his wife during dinner preparation. Already distressed to the breaking point, he draws a gun and kills her, then turns the gun on his son telling him to run, then kills himself. The stunned child eventually recovers enough to call emergency. He is placed in a children’s home, but a detective known for aggressive and often ‘not exactly within legal bounds’ investigative activity pushes for a murder charge against the boy. With help from an older inmate he escapes from the home, catches a bus where he meets an unusual traveler who also saves him from apprehension by police. The traveler is an immigrant from Holland and a ‘professional do-gooder’ who provides him with a new identity, money and basic instructions on how to survive, which he does quite admirably by applying his basic intelligence and instincts to engage in adroit maneuvering. The reader next is introduced to Alex, teenaged daughter of a highly successful co-founder of one of LA’s most prestigious law firms, his socially prominent wife and Alex’s younger somewhat ‘nerdy’ brother all completely ensconced in an enclave of the area’s elite. On a bicycle ride beyond the normally set parental limits, and actually in rebellion against these and other constant parental demands and admonitions, she meets Jaleel and a strange relationship develops where eventually she asks him to do a favor. Against his better judgement he complies and is seen in Alex’s wealthy neighborhood at a time when her father’s best friend is murdered. Again, he must flee because again he is accused of murder. Once more he establishes a new life while Alex’s life becomes one of tremendous upheaval. Then gradually as the lives of the two protagonists unfold separately but in an gradually closely entwining manner, the story progresses with numerous encounters, twists and turns to reach a climax that is logical but one that may prove somewhat surprising to some. The author also provides a number of additional interesting characters throughout the book.

Discussion: This is a fictional story of considerable length and detail that is based upon, and quite clearly illuminates, some of the most glaring of today’s societal problems – class inequities, the loosening of moral codes and their sequellae, the attitudes and excesses of the privileged, race relations, police injustices, and the duplicity and corruption that exists among many members of the legal system where the most important feature of a case appears to be if it is won or lost with the guilt or innocence of the individual largely secondary.

Conclusion: A most insightful fictional but fact based examination of several of today’s most prominent social problems in, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, a non-pessimistic presentation.

5* Long, fact based fiction interestingly and insightfully scrutinizing social problems.

The Thing Speaks for Itself

The Thing Speaks for Itself ISBN: 9780997905502, Sneaky Quiet Publishing, a psychological mystery/thriller by A. S. A. Durphy.

Plot: The author introduces the reader to Special Agent Gracie Stratis who is on a mission headed by Charles Davis. It serves as part of advanced training before leaving for overseas security assignment. The mission does not go particularly well and she receives some injuries, but not sufficient to interfere with a second assignment. The second assignment is a more or less complete disaster where Charles is killed and she receives several severe injuries leaving her with a damaged leg/ankle, median nerve damage (which controls feeling/action to the thumb and adjacent three fingers) and a certain amount of brain damage that time alone will determine rate of recovery. She is in her early thirties and formerly was employed by the Mayor in a position assumed to be related to security. In her personal life she is responsible for an unusual small group of younger persons all living with her in her apartment – Russell, her 22-year-old brother who delivers pizza and who she has ‘taken care of’ since he was a pre-teen when their father died; Dario, the same age and a gym employee (personal trainer?); Paige, a student journalist well versed in use of electronics; Noah, a young man raised in luxury, repeatedly cut off from funds by his parents because of non-conformity with their wishes and now employed on a questionable project being espoused by the Mayor. Noah disappears and the story evolves into activities undertaken by Gracie and her untrained cadre as they attempt to find him. Their attempts coincidentally interfere with advancement of a project deleterious for most of the people but immensely profitable for a small group of politically involved individuals. This brings into play several deadly employees-for- hire, a vicious drug dealer, his henchmen and assorted other characters. Wild melees result as a ‘refusing to admit but definitely severely injured and illusion-suffering Gracie’, assisted by her untrained/unknowledgeable and poorly fitted group, and with unexpected assistance, pursue their blundering but somehow moderately successful course.

Discussion: This is a story about a young woman carrying a considerable load of psychological baggage who reacts in a manner that proves to be increasingly self-destructive. It is a tale that is quite fascinating in some ways although more pragmatic readers will find several features difficult to accept. The plot gradually evolves well, action is ‘over-the-top’, and the illusionary aspects credible. Regrettably, the character development and their interaction are rather rudimentary and this reader often had difficulty in ‘catching-up’ at the beginning of, of even during some portions of the activity in a scene,.

3*  Interesting story, fascinatingly but unevenly presented.

Mouth of the Rat

Mouth of the Rat ISBN: 9781938701672 Telemacus Press, Book 5 in Samantha Jamison Mystery Series by Peggy A. Edelheit.

Plot/Characters: Samantha (Sam) a mystery author constantly pushed by her editor and publisher has just been persuaded to visit a friend in Boca Raton, FL. The friend Mona, a college friend long removed, suddenly has an emergency that Sam cannot resist. (Her next story?) It seems that Mona’ husband, Marco has been killed, she has been left with instructions to find and give to his uncle Carlos his extremely valuable collection of cars and his condo. The problem is that she does not know where the cars are garaged, nor can she find the uncle anywhere. The story evolves as Sam attempts to discover both and encounters a mass of impediments as the search advances with numerous serious consequences awaiting any misstep. Marco was heavily involved in illegal activity, he was killed with Mona’s pistol (she has a permit to carry), Marco’s ex-wife doesn’t yet know about his marriage to Mona which is fortunate because she is believed to have very lethal tendencies. Another ex-wife also turns up, although rumors exist that she may have died in an auto accident (been run over –twice) along with two very large thugs, one with a poodle, neighbors Sylvie and Bunny and Irving who had ‘heard/saw things’ the night of the murder, Sydney and Nikko, neither of whom seem to be who they are supposed to be, and of course’ Sam’s AARP triumvirate of mystery-solving partners, Martha, Betty and Hazel.

Discussion: This is the third novel I have read in this series and all have involved zany players actively engaged in a plot of duplicity and deception with murder and mayhem working their way to an acceptable ending. A historical note about Boca Raton is included.

Conclusion: To repeat a conclusion I have used previously to describe books in this series: This book presents an amusing romp through a complicated plot with rather zany characters involved in a type of madcap activity that appeals to many readers in this seemingly well-received series.

5* Another amusing romp by the regular and new zany characters

ALIBI Aficionado

ALIBI Aficionado, is the first in a new series of Edwin Burrows Mysteries by Harvey Church.

Plot: Edwin (not Ed, Eddie, Edmond or Edwina) Burrows is an accountant (CPA after two failed exams) and lower level employee at a prestigious accounting firm with hugely successful clients. He is given the task of finding an alibi for perhaps their most ‘regal’ client. Yannick Knight, the client, has a multi-million yearly income and a seemingly compulsory interest in pursuing young women. He is suspected of raping and killing a young college student who has been missing for two weeks. Loss of Knight’s account would be catastrophic to the firm. Unfortunately, Edwin is not exactly the best equipped for this assignment. He rather bumbles through life, is wrong more often than right, fails to think before he speaks or acts, often offering misplaced humor, his adored wife left him for another man only two years into the marriage, and he has no clue as to why. Additionally he has no knowledge of investigative methodology, in fact not even basic understanding of matters associated with it. Yet, he has been the one designated to discover a way to save Yannick and the situation. A host of similarly unusual characters affect his proceedings as he stumbles through the investigation that ultimately leads to an end that indicates more of the same will follow.

Discussion: The title of this book plus its dedication – Dedicated to the puerile – ‘tells it all’. Edwin is a likeable, incredibly naïve, mostly inept individual, completely without any investigative ability who somehow manages to accomplish the impossible during his often amusingly bumbling activities while pursuing his goal. Readers that enjoy mystery/romance (?) parody should love this.

5* For those who enjoy a well written mystery/romance (?) parody.

JUNCTION

JUNCTION ISBN: 9781512004458, Create Space Independent Publishing, an e-book by Cody Schlegel.
Plot/Characters: The tale opens with twenty-nine year old Nick Harman vomiting in a “piss-stinking lavatory after binge drinking” while his unaffected 23-year-old cousin Ryan remains at the 5 Span Bar, ancient and still favorite gathering place for Junction’s 3500 population. The story then continues in and around this small Iowa community while we follow Nick and his group of acquaintances as they meander through their gritty life endlessly drinking, using and delivering drugs. The acquaintances include his older seemingly successful brother Bruce, former school mates Zack, for whom he took a minor drug rap, cousins Cory and Dusty Sheeks; Joey, the most active drug dealer who is found dead early in the story; Adam, son of the only Black family in town who survives Iraqi combat, returns and moves to West Virginia where he becomes a top Narcotics agent following in the steps of his 56-year-old father Will who was Deputy Sheriff in Junction County; Sheriff Rick Helmsley who we also discover to be the real power behind the drug trade; Jimmy Baker, another deputy; Patricia, Nick and Bruce’s mother for whom both lovingly assume full responsibility; Toni, Nick’s ex-girlfriend who still lives with him because she presumably has had his daughter Hayden, whom he adores; a Priest who has a gambling problem and other assorted individuals. The course of the story winds through the interplay of these numerous characters as various destructive situations, mostly self-wrought, arise. Regrettably, a finale per se, is not provided. There is no closure, but rather an opening to further the story line.
Discussion: The volume opens with two interesting statements: “If you’re looking for a fairy tale, you won’t find it here”, and an Irish proverb; “When the chess game is over, the pawn and king are placed in the same box.” These simple quotes pretty much address the story ‘telling it like it is’ – an unvarnished tale of the seamier side of life experienced in a largely by-passed small rural American town with a hint that it may speak of possible implications that similar situations could exist on other levels. Interesting discussions are included with respect to life/death and race relations.
Conclusion: A story of mostly psychologically damaged people living lives with no apparent thought and or hope for future happiness. Rather depressing and offering no closure, but apropos the author’s opening statements, sufficiently well and interestingly written to hold the reader’s interest.

4* Somewhat sad but interestingly written story.