Tag Archives: mystery

Sixth Grave on the Edge by Darynda Jones (Charley Davidson #6)

Redd Becker Book Review

Darynda Jones writes cross-genre novels that highlight romance, by Darynda Jonesmystery and the occult. Her writing style captures her protagonist’s sharp, irreverent personality and keeps you in Charley’s mind set. Jones breaks the traditional literary approach, but she punches her story up with fun similes, creative descriptions and unexpected subplots that take the reader on tangents into the world of angels, Lucifer’s children and the afterlife.

The protagonist, Charley, sees ghosts. She inherited the role of ‘grim reaper’ which gives her the power to help souls transition, but additional powers, hinted-at, lurk beneath the surface. With a compassionate perspective and defiant approach, Charley blunders forward resolving crisis for the living and dead alike.

To spice the story up romantically, the devil’s son, Reyes, entangles Charley in his sexy-hot tentacles which creates tension, titillation and intrigue.

For me, a muddled middle of subplots left me wondering. By the end I was left wondering. Many of the subplots don’t resolve cleanly and the ending opened as many doors as it closed. Regardless, plenty more books in the series carry Charley’s tale forward.

Darynda Jones Writes with Wit

Darynda Jones’ fresh writing (as writing coach, Margie Lawson, would say) entertains and keeps the reader captivated. Her characters verge on the hilarious; such as a corpse with a hard-on who rides shot-gun in her car.

A review on the first three Charley Davidson novels at FictionVixen provides the foundation for the series, although it contains spoilers.

Sixth Grave on the Edge by Darynda Jones (Charley Davidson #6)Sixth Grave on the Edge (Charley Davidson, #6) by Darynda Jones
Series: Charley Davidson #6
Published by St. Martin's Press on May 20th 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Mystery, Romance
Pages: 326

Few things in life can come between a grim reaper and her coffee, but the sexy, sultry son of Satan is one of them. Now that Reyes Farrow has asked for her hand, Charley Davidson feels it's time to learn more about his past, but Reyes is reluctant to open up. When the official FBI file of his childhood abduction lands in her lap, Charley decides to go behind her mysterious beau’s back and conduct her own investigation. Because what could go wrong?
Unfortunately, another case has fallen into her lap—one with dangerous implications. Some very insistent men want Charley to hunt down a witness who is scheduled to testify against their boss, a major player in the local crime syndicate. If Charley doesn't come up with an address in 48 hours, the people closest to her will start to disappear.
Add to that a desperate man in search of the soul he lost in a card game, a dogged mother determined to find the ghost of her son, and a beautiful, young Deaf boy haunted by his new ability to see the departed as clearly as he sees the living, and Charley has her hands full. The fact that Reyes has caught on to her latest venture only adds fuel to the inferno that he is. Good thing for Charley she's used to multi-tasking and always up for a challenge…especially when that challenge comes in the form of Reyes Farrow.

The Long Way Home by Louise Penny, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #10

Redd Becker Book Review

Many of you are familiar with Louise Penny’s Québécois inspector, Armand Gamache. A character full of warmth, compassion and, by Louise Pennyalways necessary for a great inspector, an ingenious perspective. When Gamache’s friend and neighbor’s husband fails to show up for a date on the one year anniversary of their separation she wants to know why. The search for his whereabouts leads Gamache from Paris, to Italy, to the recluse reaches of wilderness Canada, where the estranged husband has gone to redeem himself.

Penny paces her mystery. She takes the reader on circuitous paths that develop characters and enriches the overall ambiance of the story. By the end we are as fond of the isolated community of Three Pines, where Gamache lives, as the characters directly connected with the mystery. Fear not, however, as Inspector Gamaches’ patience and understanding of human psychology prevail to unravel the mystery.

Louise Penny Writes with Style

Once again I enjoyed Penny’s mystery. She writes in third person omniscient, developing the plot with care and paying attention to the details.

I didn’t like the end of The Long Way Home. It was too expected–although perhaps necessary in order to remain within the mystery genre’s expectation.

For those interested in writing: Take a look at Penny’s use of sentence fragments. She builds paragraphs on incomplete sentences that create images with the least amount of words. Penny uses this style to its fullest effect in her later novels.

Point-of-view shifts often, sometimes for only a short period of time. This technique builds rapport with multiple characters.

Although Penny breaks some of the rules teachers advocate these days, her fragmented sentences and word choices create a familiar atmosphere appropriate for the caring Inspector Gamache.

The Long Way Home by Louise Penny, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #10The Long Way Home (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #10) by Louise Penny
Published by Minotaur Books on August 26th 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery
Pages: 373

Happily retired in the village of Three Pines, Armand Gamache, former Chief Inspector of Homicide with the Sûreté du Québec, has found a peace he’d only imagined possible. On warm summer mornings he sits on a bench holding a small book, The Balm in Gilead, in his large hands. "There is a balm in Gilead," his neighbor Clara Morrow reads from the dust jacket, "to make the wounded whole."
While Gamache doesn’t talk about his wounds and his balm, Clara tells him about hers. Peter, her artist husband, has failed to come home. Failed to show up as promised on the first anniversary of their separation. She wants Gamache’s help to find him. Having finally found sanctuary, Gamache feels a near revulsion at the thought of leaving Three Pines. "There’s power enough in Heaven," he finishes the quote as he contemplates the quiet village, "to cure a sin-sick soul." And then he gets up. And joins her.
Together with his former second-in-command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, and Myrna Landers, they journey deeper and deeper into Québec. And deeper and deeper into the soul of Peter Morrow. A man so desperate to recapture his fame as an artist, he would sell that soul. And may have. The journey takes them further and further from Three Pines, to the very mouth of the great St. Lawrence river. To an area so desolate, so damned, the first mariners called it The land God gave to Cain. And there they discover the terrible damage done by a sin-sick soul.

Sacred River by Debu Majumdar, story of a temple gold heist

Redd Becker Book Review

In Sacred River, A Himalayan Journey, Debu Majumdar introduces us to East Indian characters from all walks of life.  He weaves them Sacred River by Debu Majumdartogether as they journey to the source of the Sacred River, each for their own reasons. The meld of characters on their disparate quests immerses the reader in the complexities of India’s rich and diverse culture.

The question of ‘what happens to the gold that monasteries receive from worshipers’ became the focus of the murderous prologue scene. From there we follow three primary story lines. The poor farmer Jaglish, a light to cherish, begins and ends Majumdar’s story. Persons associated with the SMS society contrast with the farmer’s endearing role. The SMS needs money for philanthropic endeavors. Although work by the SMS helps the poor, its leaders  plan to grow the charity exponentially, thus putting them into a precarious financial position. When they acquire an old manuscript with a mysterious sequence of numbers, they make plans to rob a temple at the source of the Ganges.

Majumdar introduces Shovik in chapter 5. Although Shovik grew up in India, he married and lived with his family in the USA. His midlife crisis drew him back to India. Majumdar intertwines the three story lines, with each character reflecting a different aspect of India.

Backstories peppered throughout enlighten the reader on motives and personal challenges. We travel through a couple childhoods which took me out of the main plot. But ultimately, the story returns to the gold heist.

Debu Majumdar Writes India as a Character

India exists as a character itself in Majumdar’s tale. Rich detail on the intricacies of Indian culture impregnate every page. His descriptions take you there. You walk the streets and meet the people.  Majumdar blends history and religion, while Hindu folk tales add yet another layer.

The cover fooled me. It gave me the impression of a spiritual book, rather than a fiction novel. While the spiritual transformations that the journey to the source of the Ganges prompts is the theme of the story, the gold heist functions as the plot holding everything together. The heist itself is a fun read.

Majumdar Takes Award

Debu Majumdar won the Somerset Award in Literary Adventure for Sacred River, A Himalayan Journey.

Somerset Awards Writing Competition recognizes emerging talent and outstanding works in the genre of  Contemporary/Literary Fiction. The SOMERSET Awards is a division of Chanticleer International Novel Writing Competitions.
Sacred River by Debu Majumdar, story of a temple gold heistSacred River: A Himalayan Journey by Debu Majumdar
Published by Bo-Tree House on October 10th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Historical Fiction

"Mystery, love and beautiful scenery wrapped into a terrific journey."
- Jim Porell, Pine Plains, NY.
An Indian-American journeys to mystical Gangotri Glacier in the Himalayas, searching for peace and renewal. As he travels, a pilgrimage temple near the glacier becomes the target of a gold heist. Pilgrims, thieves, tourists, and events flow toward the temple independently with their individual stories. The life struggles of an illiterate farmer, lofty goals of a charitable organization, desire for fame, romance, and cultural nuance, along with Indian myths and legends, supply colorful threads to the story. Their paths cross and re-cross until the ultimate denouement. As little tributaries flow together to make the magnificent Ganges River, each thread is woven to make a beautiful tapestry with an uplifting conclusion. While, on the surface, all action centers on the treasure heist, underneath, this is a story of a spiritual quest invigorated by Indian mythological and folk tales. The novel is also a travelogue of India; through the events of the journey and planning for the gold heist, the reader comes face to face with the real India. A Himalayan journey that will touch your soul.

Praise for Sacred River

Sacred River is a deceptively readable novel that begins with murder and ends with a temple treasure hunt. The real treasure, however, is the intervening story which unwraps India itself--its deep history, dramatic geography, captivating people and above all its spirituality, both Hindu and Buddhist. The writing is clear, swift and engaging, as if written for young readers, but readers of every age will enjoy and profit from it. Since at least Tagore, modern Indian writers have offered great gifts to the rest of the world. Sacred River is another one.
- Jerry Brady, former newspaper publisher, Peace Corps staff member, and co-founder of one of the world's largest micro-lending organizations, Accion International.
Sacred River graciously introduces us to the old songs and stories about gods and heroes who make sites sacred and pilgrimages fruitful. And as an Indian story of pilgrimage ought to do, Sacred River also teaches its readers that the best fruits of pilgrimage are reserved for those who do not seek them.
- David Curley, Professor Emeritus, Western Washington University.
A brilliant novel, which gives a wonderfully vivid flavour of India with all its idiosyncrasies and contradictions. It transports you there, from Delhi to the foothills of the Himalayas, and there is an intriguing glimpse into Hindu beliefs and gods with insightful snippets of scriptures and stories. The novel also involves an ancient manuscript, a mysterious number sequence, and a plot to steal temple treasures. Fascinating and thought provoking that will bowl you along, wanting to know more.
- Barbara Hall, Nibley Green, Gloucestershire, U.K.
Mystery, love and beautiful scenery wrapped into a terrific journey. This book has elements of both a murder/mystery and historical fiction. What is unexpected is the spiritual journey that the author took with his characters, which might also be a pilgrimage of sorts for the reader. There are some great life lessons shared in the book, intertwined with a love story, deception and intrigue and a wonderful travelogue on the trip to the head of the Ganges River. All of these different angles are woven together in a very enjoyable way. It is worth every minute!
- Jim Porell, IBM Distinguished Engineer, retired, Pine Plains, NY.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Redd Becker Book Review

by Anthony DoerrAll the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is a touching story written in 3rd person omniscient. We follow the lives of two main characters from pre-World War II to various points throughout their lives. A blind French girl growing up during the war and a German orphan boy who has a knack for radios, each ferret their way through harrowing times. 

This is one of the best books I’ve read recently. The intensity of the times drew me in, but the characters are the juice that kept me reading.

Anthony Doerr knows Plot

Doerr weaves plot complexities wonderfully. While two main characters create the warp and weft of the story, which we expect to converge, Doerr develops secondary characters. He explores all of them fully, as a result, they add color, depth and intrigue to the overall storyline. Doerr includes well-researched details that build believability in this wonderful piece of historical fiction. He develops locations, scenery, circumstances and his characters with attention to detail.

Doerr addresses all lose ends by the book’s close, except one. We never learn what happened to the mysteriously sought-after diamond. That said, who cares? It’s a great read.

On a side note, the book felt too long in places, but that is largely a matter of Doerr’s writing style, which I consider ‘Setting’ as described by Nancy Pearl. Not my favorite style, but revered by many.

A Pulitzer Prize for Anthony Doerr

The Guardian wrote an article on the author after the announcement of his Pulitzer Prize win. Enjoy getting to know the author.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony DoerrAll the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Published by Scribner on May 6th 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 530

Winner of the Pulitzer PrizeFrom the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the beautiful, stunningly ambitious instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.
Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.
In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.
Doerr’s “stunning sense of physical detail and gorgeous metaphors” (San Francisco Chronicle) are dazzling. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, he illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another. Ten years in the writing, a National Book Award finalist, All the Light We Cannot See is a magnificent, deeply moving novel from a writer “whose sentences never fail to thrill” (Los Angeles Times).

Bear Bait by Pamela Beason, author of Endangered

Bear BaitRedd Becker Book Review

Bear Bait, A Summer Westin Mystery, takes place in the Olympic National Forest.  Summer, a freelance writer/nature biologist, encounters everything from poaching, bombs, illegal mining and teens gone awry, but no wrong-doing passes without our heroine’s concern. She’s a strong, believable character with intellect, compassion and a bit of a self righteous temperament. Don’t we love it? She possesses an almost unhealthy commitment to endangered species and effectively entangles herself into every explosive situation she encounters, thus creating suspense at every turn.

Characters in Bear Bait

I enjoy Beason’s integration of characters from all walks of life. Persons of varied sexual orientation, heritage and status come alive with equal finesse. Varied political and environmental perspectives find a place in most characters. The inclusion of issues working for the National Park Service versus the United States Forest Service appeared authentic, although I hope over-emphasized.

The addition of teens provides an unexpectedly nice balance. Not many characters come through with great depth, but in general they represent a wide spectrum of perspectives from the naive, rebellious, self righteous and those deserving of redemption.

Romance hovers in the wings, but never dominates the mystery. It adds color and sometimes tension for Summer. Her love interest, Chase, is an FBI agent working on a case nearby. Chase’s story-line somewhat conveniently,  intersects the multi-threaded issues that ensnare Summer. One wonders if Chase’s motives are for real or are calculated to pull her along for his own agenda. The resolution of the romantic element at the end of the book disappointed.

Summer is often referred to as Sam in the story. I questioned this decision by the author, because it didn’t add to the story and could be confusing.

Although Beason takes us to Forks, Washington, the small town made famous in the Twilight series, she barely references the books.

Bottom line for Bear Bait

Bear Bait engulfs the reader in an engaging mystery that exposes many aspects of the environmental movement in the Northwest that doesn’t often present themselves to those in other parts of the country.

Goodreads gives Bear Bait a 4.2 star rating, which is a bit above the usual 3.4 or 3.5 average. For another reviewers perspective go to the blog Mysteries and My Musings where Ariel reviews three of Pamela Beason’s mysteries.

Bear Bait by Pamela Beason, author of EndangeredBear Bait (Summer Westin Mystery, #2) by Pamela Beason
Series: Summer Westin #2
Published by Berkley on October 2nd 2012
Genres: Adventure, Mystery
Pages: 320

 Wildlife biologist and writer Summer “Sam” Westin loves the wilderness. But her latest attempt to protect nature may just get her burned… 
Sam Westin is working on a twelve-week project for the National Park Service as a biologist and a volunteer firewatcher when, one night, she hears an explosion. Above a nearby lake, fire lights the sky. She calls it in and is the first on the scene to do battle. When the blaze is finally extinguished, a body is discovered in the embers. It’s a young woman who was working on the park’s trail crew for the summer—and she’s still clinging to life.
Sensing something sinister, Sam starts asking questions. Who started the fire? Was the young woman involved? Does this have something to do with an old gold mine? Is the recent sighting of an illegal bear hunter just coincidence? Sam wants the answers—but someone else wants her out of the way before she finds them...

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, family and teenage suicide

Redd Becker Book Review

A teenage suicide story by Celeste Ng

Celeste Ng writes the story of a teenage suicide and a family left to figure out what happened, as well as how they influenced the event and how they will live with it.

Ng moves through each member of the family as they confront their personal prejudices and motivations. They each make assumptions and live accordingly. Whether the assumptions are accurate makes no difference. Each character lives truthfully by their own beliefs. The consequences of their actions; however, based on what they assume, determines their life and those around them. As the reader, we see how pieces of a young girl’s life fit together to create a family tragedy.

Emotions of teenage suicide are universal

Ng created a story brimming with the intricacies of family dynamics, while bullying, racism and misunderstandings drive tensions for an Asian American family. Although issues of racism drive many of the characters, the underlying motivations and desires of each character are common to most of us. Ng writes about universal truths that reside in each of us and our families. Insecurity and misunderstandings are not unique to any specific race.

For those interested in writing: Ng writes in a style you may be warned not to use. The book is full of memories and not much dialogue or action scenes, but the fullness of the plot, characters and environments are clear.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, family and teenage suicideEverything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Published by Penguin Books on May 12th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Historical Fiction
Pages: 292
Buy on Amazon

“If we know this story, we haven’t seen it yet in American fiction, not until now. . . . Deep, heartfelt.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos. A profoundly moving story of family, drama, and longing, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.

Defender by Graham McNamee; trust is the root of family

 Redd Becker Book Review

Defender by Graham McNameeDefender is a quick read at 226 pages. Teens can relate to the six-foot-six female basketball player from the ghetto who tells the story in first person.While Graham McNamee captures family dynamics and boyfriend issues through his Tiny’s eye, great dialogue and the voice of the narrator carry the book.

The plot was predictable in the beginning. I could almost write the script, but the voice of the narrator kept me reading.  With few words used, scene locations come alive. It’s an enviable writing style teens should appreciate. There were, however, few twists, but most of the ending was satisfying.

Tiny finds a mummified body in the basement of the tenement where her family lives and her father works. When her dad hides the body and tries to convince Tiny she hallucinated it, Tiny and her boyfriend Stick want to find out more, but who can they trust. Suspecting her dad of the murder almost destroys Tiny’s relationship with him.

For those who enjoy writing: This is a good example of teen dialogue acceptable to wide audiences.

My Rating three-stars


Defender by Graham McNamee; trust is the root of familyDefender by Graham McNamee
Published by Wendy Lamb Books on April 12th 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery
Pages: 227
Buy on Amazon

They call her Tiny, but Tyne Greer is six foot six, a high school basketball star who is hoping the game will be her ticket out of the slum. She lives in a run-down building called The Zoo, where her father is the superintendent. One day she discovers a crack in the wall of an abandoned basement room. And sealed up in the wall is a girl’s body. Horrified, she runs to get her dad. But after he goes to take a look, he comes back and tells Tyne that nothing’s there. No girl. No body. He tells her she must be seeing things in the dark.
Tyne is sure it was real, though, and when she finds evidence that the body was moved from the hole in the wall, she knows the only one who could have done it is her father. But why? What is he hiding?
Tyne’s search for answers uncovers a conspiracy of secrets and lies in her family. The closer she gets to the truth, the more dangerous it becomes for her. Because some will do anything to bury the past…and keep her silent.