Nothing Stays Buried (Monkeewrench #8), by P. J. Tracy

Eight stars

A different P.J. Tracy emerges in this piece, primarily because one of the duo has passed on, leaving the legacy on the shoulders of the younger. It was also the first ‘book’ in the series I read, the others having been of the audio variety. After the daughter of a farmer goes missing, the local sheriff calls in a favour from Monkeewrench to help piece this all together. Grace MacBride, well into her pregnancy, is happy to oblige and the team makes their way into rural Minnesota to assist. One interesting clue found close to the scene is blood traced back to a member of a Mexican drug cartel. Meanwhile, in Minneapolis, Detective Leo Magozzi is pondering his recent move to the country and the fact that he will soon be a father. Alongside his partner, Gino Rolseth, they banter about anything that comes to mind, at least until a call comes in. It’s a body, slashed and dumped, but there’s also a playing card tucked inside the clothing. Could it be the killer that the MPD Homicide team has been hunting; a serial killer perhaps? When more bodies emerge, each with another playing card, Magozzi and Rolseth are baffled as to how they will solve this case. When the FBI sweeps in to take control of the case, both detectives are confused by the federal presence and unwilling to simply walk away. Meanwhile, Monkeewrench has been running some searches for Magozzi and found a few pieces of information that might tie-in to the case they have been working. Could the two be connected? With a story that moves from Minneapolis to a farming community, no one is safe with a killer on the loose and another one prowling the woods! Tracy, in whatever incarnation, is truly captivating in yet another novel and keeps the reader glued to the page well into the night. Recommended for series fans who love what they have read and are ready for a slightly different flavour in this piece.

I continue my summer reading binge of P.J. Tracy’s work, having been forced to pick up a book for the first time with this series. In their written form, the stories have not lost their momentum, even while I am forced to create accents and banter dialogue in my mind. This proves that Tracy’s work can transcend the audio medium and still come to life on the page. This novel is again able to mix great mystery with strong characters and deliver a knockout punch. The Magozzi/Rolseth banter remains strong and offsets some of the more gruesome aspects of the narrative. Of great interest in the realm of characters is how Magozzi and MacBride are each handling the pending parenthood that is surely just around the corner. Tracy offers the reader glimpses into both their psyches and permits some self-reflection on how things will change in the coming months (book or two?). I am eager to see this change in the next book, presuming there will be a birth before too long. The rest of the gang (both police and Monkeewrench) continue to dazzle and keep the reader on their toes for a variety of reasons. I was pleased to see a strong narrative and an interesting two-pronged story that neither dragged nor jumped without offering substantial progress. While P.J. Tracy commonly offers two cases, the reader is rarely left feeling unfulfilled during the gaze into the case’s progress. Using a constantly revolving group of characters, Tracy is able to push the narrative forward in interesting ways and never forces the reader to accept subpar writing or storytelling. These novels move away from the traditional police procedural and permit P.J. Tracy to entertain the reader with strong storylines, perfect for a vacation or summer binge. With one novel left (at this point) to read, I am beginning to face the reality that the binge is almost done, but I want more. Truly a sign of powerful writing!

Kudos, P.J. Tracy, for another wonderful piece. You have done your mother proud by keeping the story going. Write and think of her, always!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

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The Sixth Idea (Monkeewrench #7), by P.J. Tracy

Eight stars

In yet another thrilling novel, P.J. Tracy impresses readers with a well-grounded novel of mystery and suspense. Homicide Detectives Magozzi and Rolseth are enjoying some much needed time off, when a call comes in that a man has been found in his home, shot in the head. After rushing to the scene and beginning their investigation, a second call comes about a man who was killed outside a local hotel. A little digging shows that these two men had been exchanging emails and were planning to meet the following day. Could the murders be related, or simply a very odd coincidence? Soon, a woman comes forward, having seen the news about the murders. Lydia Ascher reports that not only was she on a flight from L.A. to Minneapolis with one of the victims, but they share an odd connection from sixty years in the past. Magozzi and Rolseth begin exploring this and learn that one victim had a website ‘The Sixth Idea’, which has since been removed from the World Wide Web. Enter, Monkeewrench and their tech skills to help with the investigation. What they discover only adds to the confusion and opens new pathways in the case. More murders bring Magozzi and Rolseth running, but the victims are not who they might predict… which only makes things more confusing and the case further from resolution. P.J. Tracy offers up another stunning piece that will keep readers devouring the novel well into the night, begging for more Monkeewrench. Recommended to series fans and those who love a good thriller without all the hype of the big city lights.

I continue to thoroughly enjoy my summer reading binge of P.J. Tracy’s work! The stories have not lost their momentum and Tracy is able to mix great mystery alongside wonderful characters to come up with the ideal formula for a hit. Magozzi and Rolseth dazzle throughout this series, including this seventh novel. Their banter, perhaps the thing I enjoy the most, is always sharp and on point, keeping me laughing between trying to piece together what’s going on in the larger mystery. Magozzi’s love affair with MacBride seems finally to be grounding itself, though there is still an interesting push-pull between the two. Rolseth has his own moments, though there is little new to offer up at this point, save one glaring issue. The entire Monkeewrench crew is present, using their tech-savvy skills to crack yet another case wide open. As with the other novels in the series, the narrative flows well, giving the reader a wonderful gift of great reading, which is sometimes lost in this genre. I did enjoy the six decade span of this novel and how things that started so long ago could return to being poignant, yet with its own new flair. On the topic of time passing in the novel, I found an anomaly worth mentioning. I have come to notice that Rolseth’s children never appear to age, at least based on mention of them in the narrative. ‘Ever youthful’ one might say, but the narrative clearly show a progression in time over these six novels (particularly when one character remembers having known Magozzi for a decade, when they first met on the original Monkeewrench case), while the Rolseth second generation remain five and close to sixteen. Not a major issue, but surely one that remains on my radar as I look ahead to the coming two novels. These novels move away from the traditional police procedural and permit P.J. Tracy to entertain the reader with strong storylines, perfect for a vacation or summer binge. I am eager to keep racing through these books and have only a few left. I can see the crash coming after such a great binge.

Kudos, P.J. Tracy, for another wonderful piece. I am so happy to have found this series and hope to feel more chills throughout this summer reading binge!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Endgame: The Year of Short Stories, by Jeffrey Archer

Eight stars

Master storyteller Lord Jeffrey Archer has chosen to please his fans with a new venture; a short story released each month. Those familiar with Archer’s work will know that he can not only spin long and involved pieces, but also the short story that compacts adventure into a handful of pages. I recently discovered that I overlooked the December (2017) story in my reading, which is an interesting piece that pits family members against one another and shows just how charitable they can be in times of crisis. Cornelius Barrington has always suspected his family to be more interested in his money than anything else. Over one of their weekly chess matches, Barrington devises a plan with his solicitor, Frank Vintcent, to turn the tables on his greedy family. Barrington and Vintcent draw up paperwork to show that this well-to-do man is actually on the brink of bankruptcy. Reactions are quick to come in, though no one is entirely sure if they can help their esteemed family member with his financial woes. Barrington continues with the charade, putting not only his estate up for sale, but liquidating most of his belongings at auction. Barrington generously invites family and close friends to bid on items of interest to them. It is at this point that their greed and need to be at the trough becomes readily apparent, forcing Cornelius Barrington to see just how far people are willing to go to deflect the need to help, while surrounding themselves with riches. Archer pens yet another wonderful piece that keeps the reader thinking and the story flowing through to its final zinger. Recommended for those who love a good Archer short story or any reader who needs something to fill a little time in their day!

Lord Jeffrey Archer’s work is always full of unique perspectives, be they complete novels or shorter story such as this one. I am so pleased to have come across this collection and have reviewed each story based on its own merits. Now I await each instalment on a monthly basis, I can hope to find gems amidst all the reading I undertake each year. This was definitely one of the more complex and should likely not have been ready without the aid of my morning caffeine boost, as I needed to be sharp and follow the quick wit that Cornelius Barrington adds to the story throughout its development. That being said, Archer develops some interesting character traits for Barrington, this mastermind who coaxes his family into their downfall and shows that they are but a grubby lot, interested in riches over family honour. The supporting characters, individuals who seek to better themselves at the cost of others, proved interesting and their excuses kept my eyebrows raised throughout this piece. Truly, one could not ask for a more deceitful lot. The story was of the perfect length to remind myself why I enjoy Archer’s work so much. Archer is able to impress and entertain in equal measure, something that is rare in the pieces I have come across over the last number of years. I have enjoyed all these pieces and am eager for the next turn of the calendar, when I can be assured yet another short story.

Kudos, Lord Archer, for a masterful new story collection. How you find so many effective ideas that produce high quality publications I will never know.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Museum of Mysteries: A Cassiopeia Vitt Adventure, by Steve Berry and M.J. Rose

Eight stars

There are few authors I could read every day without tiring (I say this never having tried, haha!), but Steve Berry would have to be one. His mix of mystery and little-known historical events blend together to make sensational stories. He has a well-established Cotton Malone series, which has permitted one of its supporting characters—Cassiopeia Vitt—branch out onto her own on one previous occasion. Berry has teamed-up with M.J. Rose, an author I have not read, to create this wonderful novella with Vitt in the driver’s seat. Visiting a friend in the French village of Eze, Cassiopeia Vitt finds herself chasing someone who has just stolen a costly item from a museum. This is not just any box, but a Sabbat Box, filled with elixirs and potions and used in mediaeval times. Apparently brought to auction six months before, the Box contains items that trace back to the fifth century and could be called an ancient ‘pharmacy in a box’. Vitt catches the apparent thief and slides one of the vials into her pocket, curious about what its powers might be. Soon, Vitt is attacked herself and the Box stolen once again. Confronting the original thief, Vitt learns the true power of the Box, having inhaled some of the fumes from her own vial. This takes her back in time, into the body and mind of one Morgan le Fay. During this state, Vitt (le Fay) encounters a man she has been waiting for and with whom she has a romantic connection. Does this hallucination speak to the present course of events? If so, who is this man, if not Cotton Malone (who is on his way to America)? Baffled but adamant that she will retrieve the Sabbat Box, Vitt follows clues she obtains while conversing with a Paris detective. With a French presidential election under a week away, the Sabbat Box could play a larger role that that of the ballot variety in swaying the results. The trouble is, no one is entirely sure how! A brilliant teaser for those waiting for Berry’s next Cotton Malone novel as well as the many fans Rose has of her own work. Recommended specifically for Berry fans who like what Vitt brings to stories (for I cannot speak of anything Rose has penned).

As I mentioned above, I have long been a fan of Steve Berry’s work and leapt at the chance to read this piece while I await the next Cotton Malone novel. Berry and Rose have created an interesting tale that pulls on both the present time and distant ages past. Cassiopeia Vitt, who has long been a secondary character, plays the protagonist in this piece. Her backstory is fleshed out a little more, with discussion of her childhood and upbringing. The authors also put her grit and determination front and centre, allowing the reader to better understand this woman who has often been called the ‘billionaire building a castle’ and more recently Cotton Malone’s love interest. The handful of other characters help to offer a stronger story, both in modern France and medieval Europe, though there is surely a sinister revelation that awaits the patient and attentive reader, revealed through intense dialogue presented within the narrative. The story straddles both time periods and uses alchemy to bind them. Without offering up too much of the story (and thereby spoiling it), there is a definite pulse to the story that requires the reader to understand what is going on during both time periods, which can then be bound together by the closing pages of the novella. Berry and Rose Bering their experiences together in this piece, adding some of their characters to the novella and creating a handful of others. While sorcery and magic is not my cup of tea, this piece did pique my interest and I may have to see what M.J. Rose is all about. Additionally, I am curious to see if Berry adds mention of it in his upcoming Malone novel. A great way to spend a short time reading and perfect for a beach afternoon!

Kudos, Mr. Berry and Madam Rose, for this piece that is both unique and on par with much that I have read in Berry’s series. I hope you work together again, as this was a wonderful collaborative effort.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Dante Conspiracy, by James Becker

Eight stars

A great fan of James Becker’s work, I was pleased to come across this novella that mixes a police procedural with some Italian literary history. Professor Antonio Bertorelli is found tortured and murdered after an apparent struggle, though it is not entirely clear who might want to harm him. When Sergeant Cesare Lombardi and Inspector Silvio Perini arrive at the scene, they are equally confused, but soon learn that Bertorelli was quite knowledgeable when it came to Dante’s Divine Comedy, having penned an interesting academic article on the topic only weeks before. In the article, Bertorelli posits that Dante may have written an alternate part to his famous work, or at least amended it with some clues to another important document that he wished could come to light. As Lombardi and Perini seek to find the killer and get to the root of this homicide, there are a few hooded men who have been trying to crack Dante’s code themselves, ready to stop at nothing to horde the results for themselves. Lombardi and Perini find themselves surrounded by Italian history as the sift through much of the time in which Dante lived, hoping to better understand what the killers sought. What they find may shock not only historians keen on the period, but the larger academic community. Becker does a wonderful job keeping the reader hooked with this novella, mixing history and mystery into a brief piece of writing. Recommended for those who enjoy Becker’s past work as well as the curious reader who likes historical mysteries.

I tend to find that James Becker not only packs a punch with his writing abilities, but fills each story with so much history that the reader cannot help but go away knowing so much more. This piece is no exception, as Becker pushes a thirteenth/fourteenth century historical mystery into the early narrative and does not let it go until the final chapter. With so little time to explore character development, Lombardi and Perini receiving much of their connection to the reader through the sleuthing that they do. They ask the poignant questions and posit interesting solutions to issues throughout, keeping the reader feeling as though they are part of the investigation. The story moves forward at a clipped pace, mixing investigation of the murder with a great deal of history related to Dante. The story offers up both the man’s place in the larger Italian community as well as information about the Divine Comedy in general. Becker does not pull any punches, flooding the piece with a great deal of fact in order to push the narrative in a certain direction. I was happy to go along for the ride, admittedly hoping that much of what I was being told could be grounded in fact and not fallacy in order to spice up the story. Becker always seeks to reveal new aspects of history to keep his reader wondering and searching for more information. This novella was surely no exception.

Kudos, Mr. Becker, for another wonderful historical mystery. I am eager to get my hands on more of your work, as you seem to be churning out some interesting standalone pieces at the moment.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Off the Grid (Monkeewrench #6), by P.J. Tracy

Eight stars

Just when you think a series must be running out of steam (for how can things remain explosive forever?), P.J. Tracy comes out with another stellar novel in the Monkeewrench series! Down in the Caribbean, Grace MacBride is enjoying a restful, platonic time with former FBI Agent John Smith, aboard his boat. When two masked men make their way on deck and try to kill Smith, MacBride has no choice but to neutralise them. She discovers a photo of Smith and learns that these Saudi nationals seem to have been targeting him for reasons unknown. Back in Minneapolis, Magozzi and Rolseth are neck-deep in a case where a young Indigenous girl has had her throat slashed, one of six kidnapped from a reservation and likely bound for a life of human trafficking. When the authorities arrive at the kidnappers’ house, they find two of the perpetrators shot in the head, the apparent shooter across the way, and the five girls bound in the basement. A number of readings from the Koran and a calendar with a date is circled in red is found inside, leaving Magozzi and Rolseth to wonder if there is something brewing of the terrorist variety. While trying to piece together their case, Magozzi receives a call from Detroit, where a similar situation has occurred, two men killed and the same date circled on the calendar. This is soon matched by even more killings across America, reported by various police forces. Might there be a nation-wide terror plot brewing that the Feds inadvertently discovered? With John Smith off the grid, Magozzi and Rolseth must ensure that all connections to him are secured, including members of the Monkeewrench team. Still, there seems to be something in the works and yet a number of vigilantes stopping things at the same pace. P.J Tracy offers another poignant novel in this evolving series that keeps the reader on the edge of their seat throughout. Perfect for series fans and those who love a quick holiday read!

I have come to thoroughly enjoy this summer binge of P.J. Tracy’s work! The stories continue to find poignant ways to entertain me as I work and putter around the house, while not becoming too repetitive. Magozzi and Rolseth are always able to find new and great banter to keep me smiling, which is matched with their superior sleuthing skills to keep the reader hooked. Magozzi seems to be processing his distancing from Grace MacBride with ease, though the narrative does not spend too much time analyzing it, or his true sentiments about the John Smith angle. Rolseth has his own weak moments, particularly when speaking about child trafficking and his daughter, who is about the same age as these victims. The entire Monkeewrench crew is present, using their skills to crack the current case open and Tracy shows some development with them, if only peppered throughout the narrative. They are, truly, there to keep the series name going, rather than being firmly in the middle of this piece throughout. This novel keeps a dim spotlight on John Smith, while also spending time examining some of the indigenous ways of life, in which Tracy finds parallels to unite, rather than divide. The narrative flows well and the reader is treated to decent writing, something that lacks at times within this genre. Over the past ten years, the focus of thrillers has been to turn things on Muslim extremism and some of the evils that came from a post-9/11 world. While Tracy does hint at some of this throughout, there is less of a ‘beat the dead horse’ about good versus evil, which pleases me greatly. Smearing and using silly soapbox moments to colour an entire religion with a single brush gets old in the genre and I have read too many books where this hot button topic is used to sell manuscripts. Moving away from the traditional police procedural, P.J. Tracy entertains the reader with strong storylines, perfect for a vacation or summer binge. I am eager to keep racing through these books and have almost caught up to a great Goodreads friend who is bingeing as well.

Kudos, P.J. Tracy, for another wonderful piece. I am so happy to have found this series and hope to feel more chills throughout this summer reading binge!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

A House at the Bottom of a Lake, by Josh Malerman

Nine stars

Having read one of his recent psychological thrillers, I was eager to plunge into this novella by Josh Malerman. James has had his eye on Amelia for a while and has wanted to ask her out but lacked the courage. When the moment arises and they both agree to spend time together, their first date seems cemented. Wanting to try something different, James uses his uncle’s canoe and takes Amelia out on the lake. They paddle together, traversing through a tunnel and into a second connected body of water. This area is much quieter and away from the speedboat traffic. As they drift along, James notices something at the bottom of the lake, pointing it out to Amelia. Could it be a roof… atop an entire house? As they both take the time to peer into the water, James and Amelia learn that the house seems firmly grounded to the lakebed, but cannot fathom what might have brought it there. Taking turns diving down, James and Amelia soon discover that the house is fully furnished and everything is stuck in place—defying any forces of gravity— as if it were meant to be underwater. Planning future dates that focus around more exploration of the house, James and Amelia discover that a love affair is brewing, both between one another and with the house. Other mysteries await the curious reader in this well-developed novella that is distinctly Malerman. Recommended for those who like something a little supernatural and full of symbolism.

I thoroughly enjoyed the single novel I have read by Malerman, but have read some blurbs about others that may surely make their way onto my To Be Read list soon. In this novella, Malerman offers the reader some interesting insight into young love that soon turns into something supernatural. James and Amelia are inseparable throughout much of the piece, making their character development one in the same. Young and still uncertain about life, they share stories about dating and personal struggles before the house takes over all their conversations. Their connection, both physical and mental, gets stronger as the chapters pass, but there is also a struggle that seems to surface, which both pushes them apart and makes their bond even stronger. The house takes on its own persona, becoming more complex and alluring as the story moves forward. Its presence is the crux of the early narrative and soon becomes part of the psychological thrill of the entire novella. The story was decent enough, morphing from a teenage crush into something that envelopes them both and takes over their lives. Obsession, but not of the typical teenager variety. My father, who was an English teacher, would surely rage, as I choose not to delve into the many instances of symbolism throughout the piece. The attentive reader who enjoys finding these instances will be buoyed by the story’s strength on many levels. Malerman offers the reader with some spine tingles akin to some of the great psychological thriller writers of the time, proving that he is not an author to be dismissed. This shorter piece is easily digested in a single day, though the reader may want to take a break when things get a little intense. Perfect for vacation reading, though some may not want to take it to the beach.

Kudos, Mr. Malerman, for another wonderful piece that will keep me thinking. I needed something short, but the memory of the writing lingers!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Shoot to Thrill (Monkeewrench #5), by P.J. Tracy

Eight stars

P.J. Tracy continues her wonderful series with a fifth novel that taps into some of the technological aspects of crime in the 21st century. As they still remember their last major case in the middle of a blizzard, Homicide Detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth find themselves in the middle of a Minneapolis heatwave. They are, however, fitted out in a wonderfully air conditioned ride, at least for a time. When they are called to the river to investigate a floater, Magozzi and Rolseth soon learn that they are in for more than they thought, but are assisted by a former judge who’s down on his luck and pining for booze. Meanwhile, members of Monkeewrench have been called to an ‘invite-only’ meeting with the FBI, headed by Special Agent John Smith. It would appear that a number of people have been anonymously posting videos of killings, which is troubling enough. Who is out there, posting snuff films to social media across the country? Working an angle with some of their high-tech software, Monkeewrench discovers that people have been posting cryptic messages about potential killings, all around America. Working not only to crack through the plethora of chat room messages, Grace MacBride and her team try to sift through snuff versus fake murder videos, all while Agent Smith waits idly by to stop this spree of killings. Magozzi soon learns that his own case might have some ties to the social media killings, along with trying to decipher the struggles with his ongoing relationship, which seems to have hit a dry patch. P.J. Tracy proves that this is a series worth the time invested. Series fans will flock to this one, and those new to the party can binge (as I did) with ease to catch up.

I cannot put into words how much I enjoy P.J. Tracy’s work as I binge my way through this series! The stories continue to scratch an itch that I get when needing something a little lighter to pass the summer months. Magozzi and Rolseth assume their positions as protagonists again, using great banter and strong sleuthing skills to keep the reader hooked from the early chapters. There are some great character development moments for Magozzi, who continues to struggle with Grace MacBride and a potential new woman to keep things spicy. The series reader will know that the Magozzi-MacBride oscillation has been one that is simmering, tension—sexual and otherwise—always present. The entire Monkeewrench crew is present, using their skills to crack the current case open and Tracy shows some development with them, if only peppered throughout the narrative. This novel’s ‘spotlight’ character would surely be FBI Special Agent John Smith, whose beige attitude does not change throughout the investigation. He sticks out against the strong characters found within the narrative and there are some interesting hints about whether he might reappear, but that is for the reader to discover in the novel. Secondary characters offer some interesting perspectives within the novel, as Tracy is able to effectively utilise them to push home key points to drive home a theme throughout the narrative. The narrative flows well and the reader is treated to decent writing that lacks at times within the genre. Moving away from the traditional police procedural, P.J. Tracy entertains the reader with strong storylines, perfect for a vacation or summer binge. I am eager to keep racing through these books and will likely soon catch up to a great Goodreads friend who is bingeing as well.

Kudos, P.J. Tracy, for another wonderful piece. I am so happy to have found this series and hope to feel more chills throughout this summer reading binge!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

A Long Time Coming, by Aaron Elkins

Seven stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Aaron Elkins, and Thomas & Mercer for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

A fan of one particular series Aaron Elkins penned over the years, I was curious to see how one of these standalone novels might work for me. Valentino ‘Val’ Caruso is facing middle-age head on, though life has not dealt him the hand he would have liked. An assistant curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Caruso knows his stuff and makes it his business to ensure the New York art world remains on pace with its European counterparts. When Caruso is approached to help with the return of a few pieces of art confiscated by the Italian Government during the lead-up to the Second World War, he jumps at the opportunity to assist. Mr. Solomon Bezzecca, into his ninetieth year, tells of how he witnessed his great-grandfather lose two early pieces by Renoir, torn from his grasp, including an early self-portrait of the author. Caruso soon learns that the current owner is none other than his old friend and mentor, Ulisse Agnello. After securing a plan with Bezzecca, Caruso travels to Italy to determine what might be done. Armed with the knowledge that the Italian courts rejected Bezzecca’s claims of rightful return, Caruso will use his familiarity with the current owner to find a happy medium. After reaching out to Agnello, Caruso discovers that things are more complicated than they first appear. Pulled into the darker side of the Italian art world, Caruso will not stop until he brings these pieces home to a man who wants nothing more than to set the world right once again. Elkins proves that he is able to write effectively outside his forensic genre and still entertain the reader with his captivating writing. Those who enjoy art and mysteries centred around them will surely find much in this book to their liking.

I first became familiar with Aaron Elkins as the father of modern forensic anthropology mysteries, which proved to be a lighthearted and highly educational binge read a few years ago. I knew he had worked on a few other novels, including a husband-wife series, some of which might have an art flavour to them. However, this was my first venture outside of forensics with Elkins at the helm (admittedly, he adds some in this novel). Val Caruso proves to be an interesting character, with much of his backstories relayed through first-person narrative in the opening chapter. Moving forward, he presents as an intelligent man in the art world but one who bumbles around and appears to fall into the crosshairs of those seeking to stop him from accomplishing his mission. The handful of other characters pepper the narrative and inject their own personality traits to provide the reader with some decent contrasts, some more effective than others. The premise of the novel is decent, tracing back a piece of art that was confiscated from its rightful (?) owner in a world where prices change hourly and the criminal element is always lurking. I found the pace of the story decent, but the plot had so many quick resolutions. The art is there, then it’s gone. A shadow changes in the background, then two bodies are left bleeding and alone. There was also a problem with the first-person narrative, as it allowed Elkins (through Caruso) to offer annoying editorialising and information dropping. I have often read books outside of my area of vast knowledge, but I am forced to stumble through and learn for myself, not be told every minute thing that I may not know in a “look at how much I know and will tell you, reader!”.That being said, it is clear that Elkins knows his stuff and has been able to relay it to the reader effectively. I have come to expect Elkins to be a little ‘bumbly’ and ‘preachy’, though it has slightly skewed my enjoyment of this novel.

Kudos, Mr. Elkins, for a decent novel. I know many have lauded your praise and I see much that I enjoyed in this piece. At this stage in your life and career, I suppose it’s best to roll with the punches from reviewers like me.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Snow Blind (Monkeewrench #4), by P.J. Tracy

Eight stars

P.J. Tracy continues to pull me in with this fourth novel in the series, set during a cold snap that makes me remember my childhood. In the middle of the coldest part of winter, Homicide Detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth are preparing for the Minneapolis PD’s snowman festival. However, as they examine some of the other entries, it becomes apparent that there are two bodies within other snowmen. These bodies are soon identified as fellow MPD officers, making it apparent that there is a killer on the loose and children will likely never want to see another Frosty-type image. As they begin their investigation, they cannot guess how many other bodies there might be hiding in plain sight or who might be the next victim. In a rural Minnesota county, Iris Rikker is ready to begin her first day as sheriff, having won a contentious election to unseat her longtime predecessor. As she is trying to get acclimated, a snowman body is found and she’s forced to start her new job on the wrong foot. The victim is a parole officer and it would appear that parolee Kurt Weinbeck took offence to something, having left him frozen solid and surrounded by snow. Magozzi and Rolseth see the similarities and make their way out to see Rikker, who soon learns that there is more to the story. Weinbeck is on the hunt for his ex-wife, Julie Albright, who is in hiding after being an abuse victim for too long. The MPD Detectives agree to tag along during a visit to Albright, to check on her welfare with Weinbeck on the lam and a potential killer. Locating Albright in Bitterroot, Rolseth is anything but pleased about the community, which offers a unique style of protection. Magozzi seems more accepting, but no matter how protection is offered, Weinbeck is on the loose and must be stopped. Back in Minneapolis, members of Monkeewrench discover someone’s been bragging about the snowman killings in a chat room, hours before the bodies were discovered. Might the killer be found through technological means and could this narrow the future victim pool? Tracy offers up another wonderful thriller that is sure to pique the interest of the series fan and those who love quick police procedurals with a difference.

I simply cannot say enough about P.J. Tracy’s work as I binge my way through this series! The stories reel me in each and every time and these characters continue to evolve, with new ones introduced in each book. Magozzi and Rolseth are back in the driver’s seat, using their banter and sleuthing skills to keep the reader keen on what they will find. Introducing the Sheriff Iris Rikker storyline is not only useful, but plays right into the larger theme of the novel, which can only do good things, should she reappear in future novels. As always, the Monkeewrench crew is present, though they seem to sit in the background for much of the story, popping up only when their usefulness adds depth to the plot. Secondary characters do, as always, offer some interesting flavours, and Tracy is able to effectively utilise them to push home a key point needed to better tell the story. The narrative flows well and the reader is treated to some superior writing that is not always found within the genre, while also staying grounded. Moving away from the traditional police procedural, P.J. Tracy entertains the reader with strong storylines, perfect for a vacation or summer binge. I am eager to keep racing through these books to see what other mysteries come up in the numerous cases that follow.

Kudos, P.J. Tracy, for another wonderful piece. I am so happy to have found this series and hope to feel more chills throughout this summer reading binge!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons