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.

The Changemaker

The Changemaker ISBN 9781946633736 Forbes Media copyright and written by Deke Copenhaver.

Sub-titled “The art of building better leaders” opens with several statements of praise for the book and its author followed by publication details; a forward; acknowledgements; about the author; timeline; introduction; nine chapters; “a parting word”, Passing the Baton to the Next Changemakers”; and more about deke”. The author admonishes that a Changemaker is “somebody who’s not afraid to do something different in the service of a good cause” and describes 7 attributes of such individuals; asks “What kind of Leader are you? Stresses the importance of creativity; Courage to Weather the Storm; importance of Coming Together; need to listen so you can learn from others; the requirement of transparency in all activities; dire need to remain calm, composed and lead on during times of trouble; and perhaps the most essential requirement, to follow your moral compass. Each chapter expands upon its subject matter and provides a helpful list of activities apropos to the subject in hand.

Discussion: This is a well-written book by an intelligent non-politician who had the temerity to run, and serve, for 3 terms (2005-2014) as Mayor of Augusta, Georgia. He was eminently successful by travelling a path quite different from the usual track espoused by career politicians. The individual chapters tell how it was accomplished and provides the reader with step by step directions how to become such a leader. Although containing some redundancy, an unfortunate feature of written material presented by anyone accustomed to speaking engagements, this is a well-written blueprint for any person desirous of attaining a high level of expertise in leadership.

5* Worthwhile read for any aspiring leader.

Strategic Entanglements

Strategic Entanglements assumed published, copyright and written by D. K. Knightley.

The author has set forth this initial book in the planned Kendra Veiss series that introduces her and other characters in another world in the year 2977. This world is composed of the dominant empire of Basur who had defeated and literally destroyed Askar, a medium-sized militant nation and left in this state although it’s ideological enemy. Askar gradually had climbed out of its devastated position and was again proving problematical. Both nations retained Counterintelligence agencies including Clandestine Operations, State Security and similar branches. The plot centers in Kendra’s position as an operative in Basur’s clandestine operations and her hot/cold sexual attraction to Aran Reiner, her Askar counterpart, especially after having been abducted by his operatives and submitted to torture. Kai Ansurian, an apparently good friend of Aran but seemingly a Basur-Askar Double agent, presents a somewhat similar problem after sexually attacking her not un-pleasurably during her torture sessions. Additionally, he also was helpful in her survival before release. A number of other supportive characters also are introduced and the story provides no ending per se, but rather serves as an introduction to the next volume in the series scheduled to appear in the near future.

Discussion: The author is described as presenting “A red-hot battle of the sexes designed for sophisticated readers looking for something original and out of the ordinary.” From what this reader seems to have been able to assemble from relatively diverse social intercourse, she has provided a vehicle that should have great appeal for these individuals. If the potential reader has not attained the more advanced levels of this mental state, however, the following notes may be helpful. Kendra’s at times almost hostile verbalization and actions with respect to attitudes of male dominance certainly are understandable after the horrible results of such activity she encountered within her own home. Similarly, such chauvinistic attitudes, even without her life experiences, are totally understandable and justified. It is only in the manner in which she often uses them that is difficult to accept. It would appear that she held almost a ‘death wish’ associated with some latent desire to be dominated as demonstrated by her totally unrealistic actions that repeatedly placed her in a dangerous, even untenable, position from which some dominant male’s activity was required to extract her. Additionally, the basic direction of the tale was a little difficult to discern. Besides depicting a highly intelligent and totally modern, courageous young woman fighting male chauvinism, an underlying tone of hesitant titillation seems prominent. For example, a rather extended scene seemingly slanted toward raising the expected titillation, proceeded during the torture period but was followed by quite clinically explicit descriptions that, perhaps purposely, nullified its apparent direction. Another feature of this volume that readers who prefer at least partial closure to parts of a story, may find the tale a little annoying in that it’s serial nature dictates that one must wait with baited breath until the author has been able to furnish the next episode.

Summary: If the prospective reader is not deterred by the above listed features, they will discover a well-written tale incorporating tension and sexual, as well as other, intrigue between attractive characters in a foreign land of the future. A good first novel.

3* 5* “…battle of the sexes …for sophisticated readers”       -2* for some as described.

Gritty Tales

Gritty Tales ISBN: 9781732544109 an anthology assumed published, copyright and written by Tyler M. Mathis.

The author states that this book contains “13 stories of Crime, Mayhem and Terror”. A forward, although purported to be brief, contains adequate length to provide an overview of the contents with a few directions on suggested approach. He also defines “Gritty tale” as “a story of harsh and uncompromising realism” and lists three definitions of gritty – “courageous, course and abrasive and characters driven by their very basest motives” – as applicable to his content. He also admonishes that “vulgar language, graphic content and unhappy endings” are abundant. He also advises that 6 of the stories previously have been published and all are “straight-up crime, horror of supernatural bent, and most are cross-genre works.” Each individual tale is initiated by its own brief forward providing a hint of what the reader will discover in the following prose.

Discussion: The collection of stories offered are replete with characters who are losers, contain sick minds and/or are basically evil or are in an evil position as a result of one or another factor. Each story is independent of the others and can be randomly selected to read, except for 4 designated as closely related and to be read as such. Thus, the volume provides an excellent read for the busy person who finds only short spaces of time for such activity. The book perhaps is a more fitting read for those who enjoy stories on the dark side.

4* for readers who enjoy dark tales often involving course characters and language

NEXUS

NEXUS ISBN: 9781543981551 assumed published, copyright and written by Ryan W. Aslesen.

In this new addition to the popular Max Ahlgren series, Max is continuing to attempt to discover and eliminate, in as painful manner as possible, the men who had murdered his wife and son. During this continuing process, he is asked to help a new FBI agent to continue her assignment to deliver a brilliant Israeli Scientist, his young son and his tremendously advanced scientific achievement in Artificial Intelligence to a safe house outside of Washington, D.C. Margaret Leet, the new agent, along with her more experienced partner were attacked while waiting for a delayed flight at Los Angeles Airport. Her partner had been killed, but she, the scientist and his son temporarily were safe until Max’s arrival. They again set out only to be attacked repeatedly by supposed friends as well as foes. The action escalates in the manner usually provided by the author’s novels to an interesting conclusion seemingly much more philosophical in its content than usual before preparing the reader for the next book in the series.

Discussion: The author, well-known among thriller aficionados, has provided another high octane thriller again featuring the indestructible Max Ahlgren. The action, in a less usual manner, is slowed somewhat   with a portion describing dreams similarly suffered by most service men who have participated in heavy combat. Also, a considerable amount of time is spent discussing the fact that “dynamite, TV and the Internet –each created for betterment of mankind and for peaceful purposes, instead now are instruments of murder and mass control” because “The wisest and kindest intentions don’t matter when greed and narcissisms become involved.” These latter features, as applied to the plot of the story, actually add another worthwhile dimension to the content of the ongoing series.

4* thriller but 5* for added dimension demanding serious thought.

The Voice of Death

 

The Voice of Death assumed published, copyright and written by Lawrence J. Epstein.

The reader is introduced to Danny Ryle, the protagonist, as he is being asked by an old friend of his father to ‘do-away-with’ a man who had stolen his wife. It seems Danny’s father, now infirm with a caretaker, had been the best at eliminating unwanted persons. So good in fact, that he never had been caught and was known as ‘the Ghost’. Danny, however, although extremely clever and a card-carrying congressional investigator specifically hired by a very wealthy member of the House, will do nothing unlawful. But, because the man asking Danny the favor is such a good friend of his father’s, he is asked by his father to at least speak to the wife stealer. They leave, enter the building where the supposed man is attending a New Year’s Eve Party and Danny is greeted by his beautiful wife Hannah. His father and the friend enjoy the joke they have played and with this background material for readers unacquainted with the characters, the tale begins. We discover that Danny and Hannah are raising Jennifer, a small child orphaned when her parents died in a horrible accident. They are attempting to make the child’s life as normal and full of love as is possible. Unfortunately, Hannah formerly had been in a marriage that did not work out and the ex- suddenly appears and proves to be a scumbag. He never signed the final papers, although he had said he had. He had an ulterior motive and wanted her back and would use the law if necessary, because she and Danny had committed bigamy. He is killed and Hannah is the most likely suspect. At the same time, Danny’s congressional boss similarly is the most prominent suspect in the death of his not overly attractive, but very wealthy wife. The story unfolds as he gradually attempts to solve these murders in order to save his wife and his employer. While thus engaged, he also encounters a woman who just won a huge lottery jackpot but has a unique problem that only he, with his strange set of acquaintances, can solve. The ending is not easily predictable and interesting.

Discussion: This is a fascinating mystery, or mysteries, filled with intriguing characters that keep the reader on the edge of his/her seat until the end. It is a mystery lover’s tale that even a pragmatist can enjoy in spite of the frequently encountered bits bordering on incredibility.

5* Mystery lover’s tale with a caveat.