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

The Evolving Peacemaker

The Evolving Peacemaker, A Commitment to Non-violence ISBN: 9781504371049, Balboa Press, an e-book by Leona Evans and Matthew J. Evans.

The author opens with an explanation that the book is “based on the Gandhi philosophy of nonviolence and contains a set of principles and practices designed to guide us on a powerful journey of self-discovery and enlightenment. It begins with the premise that peace is not a one time achievement but a lifelong practice that starts with our willingness to “be the change we wish to see in our world””. She follows with the admonition that peace is much more than a task with a beginning and end. That it is an abstract spiritual process of discovering who we are, why we’re here, and how we can honor our relationship with all creation; that Peace is acquired through use of words instead of weapons; having respectful and ethical relations with those of other faiths, cultures, mores and other unique qualities; that it is most important to remember that in a win-lose system EVERYBODY loses; AND most importantly the person responsible to accomplish this feat is ME.

There follows a step by step procedure to attain this ME person and to gain its acceptance. One must begin with a search for the truth both introspectively and through education so that eventually the “art of self-acceptance” is attained. Along the way an understanding of Gandhi’s Satyagraha, or Sanskrit title for his Philosophy of Nonviolence must be absorbed along with understanding: “the many faces of passive violence”; existence of both overt and concealed anger; how to turn this emotion into a positive influence; obtain an enhanced ‘social and emotional intelligence’ so that eventually that ME will have “malice toward none”; project the “forgiving power of love”; ultimately “understanding our purpose” and pass this on “one person at a time” so that it eventually may become a universally overriding theme. If this can be accomplished, the world will come to respect all life, end discrimination, promote equal rights, ensure protection for children, eradicate poverty and illiteracy, save the environment and reduce inequality among nations. An epilogue summarizes the presentation and a set of questions offer the reader an opportunity to intensely review exactly what he/she has acquired and retained from the presentation. A sizeable number of individuals are acknowledged and biographical data of the author and co-author are included followed by a suggested list of readings.

Discussion: This indeed is a most interesting and ambitious project set forth in a somewhat unusual manner. It is part ‘how-to’ and part memoir and/or autobiographical. A forward by the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi explains that the co-author came to him at the age of fifteen with a film proposal. Wondering what a fifteen-year-old would know of non-violence, he recalled the words of his grandfather: “If we are going to create peace in the world, we will have to begin with educating the children.” He discovered the lad to be “wise beyond his years” making a film that changed the life of his mother, the author and Unity minister Rev. Leona Evans who “has put into this book everything that Matthew put into his film-and more. This book will take humanity another step closer to peace and harmony in our world”. The film’s subject projected all-enveloping peace and gained recognition from the United Nations. Chapters in this book written by co-author Matthew, Leona’s son, are interspersed with those by the author whose words provide the volume’s main message. From Matthew’s words we gain an understanding of Gandhi’s remarks and understand the pertinent autobiographical material.

Conclusion: The author(s) have set forth a very ambitious proposal for establishing a far better world than the one in which we presently live and have done so in a quite clearly presented manner from which many will gain much. It may be exactly the ‘tonic’ required for the sick condition in which today’s world exists, even though ‘time appears to be running out’.

5* Well-presented ambitious proposal for a ‘better world’.

Trump, MELANIA

Trump, MELANIA, Slovenian Side of the Story  ISBN: 9789612838256 (mobi), an e-book by Sandi Gorišek,

This short book provides few facts but gives rise to interesting speculation. It is written by a person raised in a similar setting and time as Melania Trump and sets forth a few interesting facts about Mrs. Trump and her early life, along with some speculations about the woman herself. Specifically presented: the home of Amalija and Viktor Knavs and their two daughters, Ines and Melanija was the mediaeval town of Sevanica, now approaching 5000 population; it was a largely self-contained town in which solid middle class individuals worked under a Socialist regime; her father was an entrepreneur who fought a decidedly uphill battle under a socialistic government; Melania had the fortitude to pursue a modeling job in a country where the tendency was rather toward self-effacement – an ‘inner’ strength she believes was further demonstrated by Melania’s well-presented speech at the Republican convention when she was totally unfamiliar with this type of activity. The author further believes that the country’s President Tito’s excesses stimulated a secret love for ‘flashy’ surroundings and beautiful attire that, combined with other scattered bits, offers a possible insight to the glitter evident in the Trump Tower private quarters. She further believes the same probably served to influence Melania’s career in modelling. She cites the purported esteem that Melania has for Betty Ford and Jackie Kennedy, and believes a closer relationship than usually believed may exist between Donald and Melania because a) he and her father have been described as ‘looking enough alike to be described as twins’ and b) there is great similarity between her and Donald’s father’s wife – both immigrants who struggled for ten years to attain citizenship. Further, she believes that Melania probably strongly believes in the principles that Donald appears to espouse because she absorbed similar thoughts from the mores of the time in the country in which she was raised.

The remainder of the author’s presentation is to provide some insight into the country’s mores, local customs, people and geography to support her speculations.

Discussion: The reader is presented with a minimum of factual material that could be immeasurably expanded merely by checking the internet. However, the speculation generated is intriguing and does seem plausible. The author states: “…future of the USA and its population will be partly tailored by the patterns and principles learned from the people of a small proud nation situated on the sunny side of the Alps.” The statement seems a little extravagant, if not outright ‘over-the-top’. In actuality what has been provided is some evidence about Malinia’s strength of character PLUS material that the reader can interpret as being that which naturally would be incorporated by a child maturing with the influences extant. Specifically, the author presented relatively short but definite views of the beliefs of this society with special emphasis on attitudes toward respect and discipline, postulating that introduction to which would insure that a child raised in this environment would make the reader tend to believe that she would clearly have a mindset in complete accord with the President’s and of the individuals that voted for him. This, in turn, depends upon the reader’s acceptance of a belief that Trump and his supporters agree and no doubt at least in part espouse, the opinion of a man whose book I reviewed several years ago. Hutchinson, the author, was on a destroyer that survived engagements from Guadalcanal to the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay and stated: “We hope to be remembered as the products of a different country and society from what the United States of America has become in the last fifty years. Products of a far more disciplined society with rather rigid moral and social standards to which everyone was expected to conform given how society chastened and disciplined offenders. The way of the transgressor was hard. We were taught individual responsibility, that evil is due to character flaws in the individual and not to the shortcomings of society.”

Yes, this is a quote from a member of the generation that fought WW II. Much of the mindset expressed by this man no doubt is considered totally outrageous by today’s far more liberal society. BUT, there does seem to be quite a large segment of the population living in this country that does agree with much of it and have expressed strongly a need to curtail at least some of the ‘out-of-control’ activity extant in the non-united states of today. Trump appears to reflect this feeling by word and deed. Thus, if speculation by the author of this present book may be believed, Melania would seem to be most supportive of her husband.

Conclusion: A very short, not particularly well written book that offers little of a definitive nature about the President’ wife, but undoubtedly opens a wide area for interpretation and speculation.

3* Because of fascinating content for speculative interpretation.

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.

Money Can’t Lie

Money Can’t Lie, ISBN: 9780998185347, Schlegel Press, Book One, The Sleeper Series, A spy thriller in e-book by Anna Schlegel, translated from Russian by Alla Koshechkina.

Plot: Vlad Holt, once a Russian ‘sleeper spy’ and American citizen working in San Francisco as Harvey Smith was a dummy agent in a huge money scheme that largely consisted of shadowy inter-bank transfers of debts, both real and imaginary, allowing the silent partners to make large amounts of cash. The action involved several countries and numerous transactions. Time had arrived where a person had to be named responsible and the United States, Great Britain and the German Intelligence/Counter Intelligence agencies all were involved along with a couple of small banks in Poland and the Czech Republic which were implicated in money laundering because a man also involved and wanted for questioning, had accounts in these banks. The story then unfolds as the action proceeds to attempt to find a legal witness to the processes’ actual legal transaction that had taken place at the time. Vlad Holt/Smith becomes aware that he has been targeted when he learns of the death of another sleeper spy and realizes that the ear marks of the advancing endeavors points rather specifically to the British Intelligence Agency because they refused to compromise their integrity and have never varied from their tried and true methods. The complicated tale of international intrigue involving legitimate and illegitimate banks, money and individuals with mostly ‘shady’ pasts and/or presents is set forth by Anna, a Moscow securities trader until ‘the bottom dropped out’ and now intimately involved with the protagonists.

Discussion: This reviewer previously had read the first volume of the Dead Bank Series that was set in Moscow. It was, as the author explains, a book in which “…there are no cops, no killings. There is much about the illegal takeover of banks, and a powerful amount of money….(as seen) … thru the eyes of a swindler – (and) …there are no good guys.” My conclusion with respect to the volume of this series was: “An absorbing and totally different type of thriller `peopled’ with engrossing characters that provide flashes of intimate thought patterns of individuals we seldom encounter. It should be especially enjoyed by persons knowledgeable of business practices but regrettably difficult to follow for those of lesser understanding. However, for ALL readers it imparts a provocative insight to the thoughts of many native Russians similar perhaps to those generated by the motion picture Doctor Zhivago; i.e., it brings an intangible sense or `feeling’ of the country and its people that is even emphasized by the occasional slightly missed translation. In fact, this factor alone may be enough to induce the undecided to read the story even though comprehension of the fraudulent practices may be limited.”

This new series regrettably loses much of that quality in that it takes place in Germany and provides even more of a complicated, interwoven plot. However it does retain, and project much of a seeming sense of fear of surveillance with possible ensuing disastrous results that seemed to be widespread among much of the Russian population in the pre-Glasnost era and particularly anyone associated with the government or financial activity. (A personal observation/opinion.) Even several years later after the changed policies this same ‘sense’ still appeared to exist, although to a lesser degree. Amusingly, the characters here in the new series also seemingly continue to enjoy endlessly their vodka and cigarettes. The translation is not as well done as in the first book.

Conclusions for this book of the new series: another totally different thriller; a most complicated plot, difficult for those unfamiliar with finance; `peopled’ with engrossing characters; action – largely flashes of intimate analytic thought patterns by individuals seldom, if ever, encountered by the usual reader; the story’s appeal will be for those who like ‘something different’ with a complicated plot and characters introspectively reviewing past activity that could provide dangerous results that now are closing in.

3* Unique, complicated plot and characters in a story not for everyone.

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.