The Word

The Word
ISBN: 9780692369005, Serpentine Books, an e-book by Hubert Crouch is a multi-plotted legal thriller on subjects most pertinent in today’s headlines.

Plot/Characters: Two prominently integrally woven main plots – 1) legal action against a fringe religious group led by Ezekiel Shaw, a self-centered, marginally psychopathic leader that pickets in a viciously demeaning manner, but deemed acceptable as free speech by supreme court decree, the funeral of a woman soldier killed in action fighting in Afghanistan; 2) the attempt by a new and talented reporter Leah Rosen under constant threats initiated by the lawyers to publish an article detailing fraud perpetrated by collusive activity between their law firm and an insurance company. Associated conflicts: The virtual protagonist, Jace Forman, a highly successfully profiled lawyer attempting to gain retribution for the disrespect shown the soldier, is assailed with troubles stemming from his son Matt’s belief that he was responsible for his mother’s automobile accident, and his subsequent activity; threats by his long-term and indispensable paralegal Darrin Mackenzie to leave him because of jealousy with respect to a superb woman P.I. Jackie McLaughlin important to the case; his former law firm, Hadley and Morgan, whom he left because of unfair treatment is attempting ‘payback’; as well as ‘normal’ difficulties with discovering necessary supportive evidence. Darrin’s sister Megan, with whom she has a close relationship, simultaneously is involved with marital problems disconcerting to her; Jackie also is working Leah’s case of personal threats. Numerous additional characters – Eugene and Janice Hanson, mother and father of their late-in-life only child, the dead soldier; Christine and Cal Connors, the lawyers involved in Leah’s case; Mike Randazzo, a shadowy unprincipled P.I.; Jamie Stein, an unprincipled insurance executive; Abe Levine, Leah’s boss; ‘Sister Rebecca’ and her daughter ‘Sister Mary’ (Maddy); numerous others who variously play smaller to highly significant parts in the constantly evolving complexly integrated plots and sub-plots.

Discussion/Conclusion: The author, a highly successful trial attorney, has produced one of the best legal thrillers this reader ever recalls having read. The plot/sub-plots are numerous, as are the characters but all simultaneously are so beautifully integrated that there are no ‘hitches’ whatsoever. The flow not only is smooth but fast moving as well and the characters have life. Additionally, the author has NOT fallen into the technically laden, often long-winded trap that so often catches other writers of books with legal plots. In this reviewer’s opinion, any reader who enjoys legal thrillers should NOT miss this one.

5* A MUST READ if you enjoy books with a legal theme.

 

The Witches of Hemlock Grove

The Witches of Hemlock Grove, Boxset: Volumes 1 – 3 Monty’s Tale Press in e-book format by Kennedy Chase.

Introduction/characters: The stories center on activity of protagonist Grace Angelos, a widow now approaching middle-age who is a former local police officer still hired to consult on difficult cases. This incidentally, helps sustain the family bakery business. Her special deductive powers stem from her occult background along with hints acquired from her constant companions Noah, a chocolate Labrador, and a white cat Charity she has reason to believe embody elements of her deceased father and mother. The Angelos family, because of these reputedly occult powers, originally fled during the Salem Witch Hunt and eventually landed in the extremely picturesque New England coastal town of Hemlock Grove. Other recurring characters are: Detective Zackery Jackson, her former trainee with whom she still works well; her older sister Joy, an excellent baker but with a compulsive desire to prepare magic potions to ‘nudge’ fate in a desired direction – an activity that Grace constantly must guard against because of the disastrous results of a former action by her mother who was a very powerful maker of such potions; Joy’s husband Nathaniel, now the closely knit family’s ‘jack-of all-trades’; her even older sister Hope who has clairvoyant powers but mostly is reclusive after never really having recovered from losing her husband in the Vietnam war; Dario Donatalli, the suave, handsome owner of the local bookstore who the reader discovers in the first volume to be more than he appears; a host of other town and/or nearby residents of varying importance to one or more of the individual tales.

Plots: A Mystic Murder, the first volume, centers on a local bar owner, Greg Pelt being found dead in the Angelos family bakery’s oven. This could result in a disastrous situation. The family is committed to a large catering job which really is needed for their business survival. Since this is a small town where everyone knows everyone, food prepared in the same oven would NOT be well received. Thus, something must be done about getting the food baked and the perpetrator must be discovered and apprehended quickly. Unfortunately there are numerous suspects: the King brothers Callum, Abe and David, were constantly feuding with the Mannings; Greg recently had thrown family members out of his bar at the point of a shotgun; Michelle Deschamps had been romantically, but secretly involved with Greg as had been his barmaid Casey Foster and a young King family daughter; also Francisca, another local dweller with special talents who was involved with Abe. Mystical activity as expected, plays an important part in the ultimate resolution of the situation and the reader moves on to the next volume in the series.

Plot: A Cryptic Case. During the official reception celebrating the town’s founding in March 16, 1916 the mayor is murdered and Dario’s extremely rare book is stolen in a highly unusual manner. After interviewing Stephania the lady of Thornwood Manor and other residents, Grace and Zack strongly suspect a young couple that were noisily demonstrating during the event and the Mayor’s ex-wife who drunkenly performed a ranting denunciation of the mayor. Then a visit to the unpleasant seller of potion ingredients, Louis Merlowe who ‘under persuasion’ is able to identify the ingredients that produce a powerful spell for disguise and also to identify to whom he had sold them. This leads to still another suspect and the tale ultimately ends in spectacular fashion as Grace, with important help from Noah and Charity finally must fight through strong black magic spells to solve both crimes.

Plot: A Tangled Teaser finds Grace and Dario on holiday staying as guests of Anthony Cava, an artist friend of Dario’s who is the new resident of a home in the expensive Ocean View enclave. After settling in, talk centers on a report of smuggling of Viking antique jewelry that according to rumor, had been discovered at a sunken ship in the cove. A murder of the local diving instructor suddenly occurs, gradually is tied together with the Viking artefacts and a smuggling ring involving some of the cove’s residents as well as newcomers. Ultimately another interesting conclusion is provided.

Discussion: These three enjoyable murder mysteries are solved by usual routine methods with associated assists from individuals versed in various aspects of witchcraft. The plots are interesting, well-executed and move well. The second tale depends largely upon the occult while the first and third are more balanced. The characters would benefit from a little more ‘body’ but overall are acceptable.

4* Enjoyable murder mysteries with a little aid from witchcraft.

 

Something Witchy This Way Comes

Something Witchy This Way Comes, (previously published as Murder Spell) is a mystery in The Victorian Witch Chronicles in e-book form by Fiola Tempest.

Plot: The tale opens with Tellehandra Quin McMurry, preferably called Viola, revealing that life on her landed gentry father’s estate in Galway County, Ireland had been a happy one with her sisters and mother whom her father referred to “as wild as the land”. Suddenly and for reasons unknown to her, they suddenly disappeared and shortly thereafter her father passed away leaving her a 15-year-old orphan. She was left as the sole heir to her father’s sizeable estate and according to the law of the period her money would be transferred to her husband upon marriage unless she did not marry until the age of 25, when the inheritance could be hers. Her uncle, suspected of being a heavy gambler as well as perpetrator of other nefarious schemes, is appointed her legal guardian. The story progresses revolving around facts she discovers from a presumed lost letter and other slowly evolving evidence about the evilness of her guardian and of his son Thomas with whom the two attempt to force her into marriage. Simultaneously, evidence gradually reveals evidence that she may have some attachment to witchery and that this fact also may offer some explanation for her mother and sisters inexplicable disappeared. Mounting suspense is generated while Viola attempts to escape a deadly fate planned by her dastardly uncle and his son as she receives some help from an unusual source and also discovers the manner in which unsolved murders had been committed and by whom.

Discussion: This is a short story taking place in the late nineteenth century and manages to convey quite well a sense of the mores of the time as well as providing a feeling of ‘being in the era’. It moves well and should be thoroughly enjoyed by readers who take pleasure in fanciful tales of this period.

4* 5* For readers enjoying fanciful mystery tales with a touch of the occult.

 

Expendable

EXPENDABLE
A Matti James Mystery in e-book by M. A. R. Unger.

Plot/Characters: Matti James is a special reconstruction artist attached to the Coroner’s Office in the town of Henderson and intimately friendly with Jack Wagner. He, a coroner’s assistant, must investigate a possible death at a strange fire pit of sorts that has been seen from the upper trail in the wild canyon region. He asks her to accompany him and also requests that she bring her dog that has particular assets. It is a difficult hike but she is accomplished in the sport and agrees. They discover a skull with a RR spike driven through the jaws that is suspended on a pole in the middle of a particularly unusually arranged fire pit. They retrieve the skull, turn it in and discover they must be examined for radioactivity because of the RR spike. From this point a complicated plot evolves as an attempt is made to inflict radioactive suffering upon a huge mass of individuals to make the world aware of the perils of nuclear power. Involved is much of the Las Vegas area, persons associated with the Chernobyl disaster, the Piute Indian Tribe, FBI, members of a Wicca coven, now retired members of the Mafia, Matti’s Inbetweener (Ghost-type) buddie Abby, her Foothills Canyons Detective Agency companions, the U. S. President briefly and a number of individuals of, and/or with, indeterminate association(s).

Discussion: This is a pleasantly written, heavily convoluted mystery about a protagonist whose adventures assumedly are well-known from former volumes. The story moves well and although not providing answers to several questions, presents an interesting tale that, except for activity of a couple of strange ‘Inbetweeners’, for the most part, delicately tip-toes around and within the bounds of credibility.

4* Interesting and involved mystery story enjoyably written.

Mortum

MORTUM
ISBN: 9781477829394, Thomas & Mercer, an e-book by Erik Threrme.

Plot: Andy Crowl inherits the house and other worldly goods from his 33-tear-old cousin Craig Moore who apparently fell from a cliff and drowned. There were no witnesses but autopsy demonstrated no contrary evidence. The house is in the very small town of Mortum where Mary, Craig’s mother still lives. Andy drives to the town with his sister Kate, meets the real estate agent and against instructions to not visit and/or attempt to move anything from it until legal matters have been settled, he goes there and begins to explore. A highly offensive odor greets him and Kate which turns out to be a dead rat under the refrigerator that has a key and a note in its mouth. Andy immediately realizes that this is a clue that will lead to others before his total inheritance is divulged. He and Craig often challenged each other in this manner. From this moment the story proceeds in a slowly expanding way to evolve a pattern of deceit and deception laced with misconceptions, misunderstandings and poorly thought-out activities indulged in by a number of often quite self-centered and/or thoughtless individuals. The tale ends in a manner that just seems to perpetuate the problems experienced by the poor protagonist.

Characters: Craig is never introduced, per se, but his competitive nature in association with Andy provides the basis for the plot. His mother Mary was 19 and pregnant when she moved to Mortum and provided the information that her husband had been killed in an auto accident in Canada. She also refused to answer any of Craig’s questions about his father. Andy is the son of a caring mother and father, as is Kate who is a single, conservative thinking, lower grade school teacher. Andy is enamored of puzzles, recently divorced under circumstances divulged later as not of a frivolous nature previously assumed by his sister. Nate is the local owner of a gas station in the town and has been there ‘forever’. Harlan, Nate’s ‘no-good’ nephew occasionally plays poker with Craig. Ricky Simms is the local cemetery custodian who takes a liking to and treats Craig like a son until a misunderstood occurrence drastically changes the situation. Debbie who is Ricky’s 13-year-old granddaughter.

Discussion: The author has provided an interestingly involved tale of deceit and deception indulged in by a group of characters who regrettably from this reviewer’s standpoint are not well defined. Thus, the activities in which they participate often are difficult to understand and/or accept. If, however, the reader enjoys a provoking almost totally plot based mystery, he/she no doubt will enjoy.

3* Unusual involved plot based mystery, 2* character inconsistencies.

Expired Listings

Expired Listings
An erotic Novel of Psychological Suspense”,                                           Punctuated Publishing, an e-book by D. M. Barr.

Dana Black had a brutally psychologically damaging childhood where she lost her father most tragically at 6 years of age. Following this was her mother, Cassandra, taking her older sister Melanie and moving away leaving her with her grandmother in a town literally dying from the existence of a natural disaster and insisting upon a legal name change for the child. Through the years, her mother would return for a perfunctory one day visit but never a word from or about her sister. Finally, she left for college, met Harrison, a man who appeared to be loving and introduced her to a somewhat luxurious life of sorts and adventure. She had skipped the usual sex explorations of her student days and was first introduced to sex by Harrison. Unfortunately he practiced the Kinky BDSM (Bondage, Discipline, Sadism, Masochism) type as well as probably suffering from Bi-polar disorder. The relationship dissolved and the reader is introduced to her as a relatively successful Real Estate salesperson working at the same office as her immensely successful sister. It further is revealed that she is in this position after being contacted by Dare, a Dominant BDSM with whom she becomes closely involved. Then suddenly, a number of Realtors are murdered and/or disappear and finally even her best friend Endicott from her college days who is a fellow realtor, is seriously injured opening Dana to become even more of a prime suspect. Dana, along with other severe reactions, is in therapy because she suffers from complete blackouts where she remembers nothing for hours at a time. If not sufficiently complicated already, the ‘plot thickens’ even more. Dare is discovered to be someone other than just her sex partner; her sister Melanie is other than just the successful realtor who hated her; her mother is extremely wealthy but suffering the results of a devastating CVA; her mother’s caring caretaker, Lorelei, becomes further involved; Grayson, Endie’s gay significant other becomes troublesome; Aidan Cummings who Dana meets at a BDSM club, is a former police detective now a PI, who is at the club for purposes other than for the expected reasons – he provides an unexpected source of help for the beleaguered Dana. The highly convoluted tale eventually unravels to terminate in a logical, albeit somewhat incredible fashion.

Discussion: Interestingly, the author opens with a Preference: “This is a satire not to be interpreted as serious regarding Realtors who have definite legal standards, although their public rating is 17%, a little above advertising executives, used car salesmen and politicians, but below lawyers.” Also included are a warning of sexual explicity and a disclaimer with respect to BDSM activity. From here the story unfolds as a provocative, highly convoluted mystery involving mostly persons on various psychologically compromised levels. The level of sexuality provided is far less explicit than that presented in most books featuring erotica and the ‘dirty tricks’ used by the realtors certainly are no different from those endlessly rumored to have been employed by members of this profession.

Conclusion: A mystery that is highly convoluted, somewhat stretches credibility, provides some mild (by many standards) deviant erotic activity but generally a story that should appeal to those who enjoy a tantalizing read.

4* Generally appealing for those enjoying a tantalizing read.