Snow: A Prequel Short Story (Inspector Porfiry Rostnikov #0.5), by Stuart M. Kaminsky

Seven stars

Needing a quick short story to tide me over, I chose Stuart M. Kaminsky’s prequel short story from the Inspector Porfiry Rostnikov series. Knowing nothing of these novels, I entered this piece without any preconceived notions. During a heavy Moscow snowfall, newly minted Officer Porfiry Petrovich Rostnikov and his superior are in search of a baby. Having visited a crime scene in a Moscow apartment, Rostnikov and Inspector Luminiov noticed a still-warm crib close to a recently murdered woman, leading them to believe that someone has a little one. With the snow close to blinding, Rostnikov and Luminiov locate a man atop another building, carrying what appears to be a bundle. Rostnikov uses his wit and gift of calm speech to bring the man’s defences down, if only to save the baby before something dire can take place. With Luminiov and a gathering crowd waiting, one can only hope that this new recruit has it in him to help the situation, not add to the body count of this winter night. An interesting story that, should I continue on with the series, will likely prove poignant in helping me build a larger understand of the character who will rise through the ranks of the Moscow Police Department. For now, a neutral recommendation, as the story was too short to really point me towards any particular group of readers.

I admit that I have not read any Kaminsky before this piece, which can sometimes be a good thing, keeping me from being influenced one way or the other. Interestingly enough, I could find no mention of this book on any sites (such as Goodreads), so I am at a loss to really understand if this was a lost story or one embedded into a larger collection of short pieces by many authors. All the same, Kaminsky does have a good grasp on how to lure the reader in and lays the groundwork for what looks to be an interesting series. Rostnikov may be a young officer, but he has a history, as yet not fully understood. His leg injury at the hands of a Nazi tank is likely one that has more play in another piece, but it does show his roughened exterior and ability to survive, making the most of what he has. The brevity of the story leaves little time for any other characters to shine during this snowfall, but the minute portions of character development on offer suits the story well. Meagre folks who remain nosy but not willing to help pepper the short piece and help shape part of the setting’s despair and lack of caring. The story itself is decent, though it almost seems as though Kaminsky needed somewhere for his long-standing protagonist to begin and chose this piece to flesh it all out. I am not sure if I’d rush out to binge this series, but I will surely keep it in mind when I am looking for something new and perhaps a little different from my usual reading fare.

Kudos, Mr. Kaminsky, for this interesting piece. It served the purpose I had (needing a short story) and has me slightly intrigued, but I am not dazzled just yet!

Love/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at:

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

The Sequel, by Jeffrey Deaver

Eight stars

Needing a quick short story to end a day of reading, I turned to this Jeffrey Deaver piece, as it sounds quite intriguing. It did not let me down and had me rushing to finish it in a single sitting. Frederick Lowell has spent years managing the estate of one of America’s greatest authors. When Edward Goodwin penned his only novel, the country stood up and took notice, turning him into a hero overnight. Lowell receives a redacted letter indicating that there may be a sequel published before Goodwin’s death, the fallout could be monumental. It would not only quell the rumours of such a manuscript, but could help a new generation of American readers to fall in love with Goodwin again. Lowell follows some of the breadcrumbs left for him, discovering some interesting aspects of Goodwin’s life and writing style, all while the next generation of Goodwins await their royalty cheques. What Lowell discovers shocks not only him, but those around him, as it is a game of cat and mouse to locate and substantiate this apparent manuscript that could be invaluable. Deaver is full of wonderful ideas in this piece and he had me glad that I took the time. Recommended for those who enjoy a little dry wit in their short stories.

I admit that I have not read much Deaver in my life, but this piece has me wondering if I ought to change that soon. The story, while not out of this world, was compelling and had me hooked throughout. Frederick Lowell is a believable character and one whose ideals and curiosity trump his search for the almighty dollar. Others who pepper this short piece make enough of an impact to guide the story along and keep things light when they need not sink too deep in a quagmire of repetitive information. The story was well crafted and, truth be told, I could not help but supplant the Harper Lee connection within these pages. While I am not entirely sure if Deaver had a particular individual in mind for this piece, but Lee’s name kept surfacing, even if her life was anything but on par with that of Edward Goodwin. I’ll keep my eye out for more by Deaver and more generally the Mulholland Books collection, which is the collection that permitted this piece to flourish.

Kudos, Mr. Deaver, for a great effort. I may have to find more of your work and dive in, if it is anything like this short piece.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Beached (Mer Cavallo #2), by Micki Browning

Eight stars

After enjoying her debut novel, Micki Browning plunges into the depths of the water again for this mystery off the Florida Coast. Dr, Mer Cavallo is a teuthologist by training, but has agreed to work for a dive shop between academic pursuits. While out with a family of clients, she comes across a a floating bale of contraband. Taking it aboard, Cavallo discovers a gold coin from almost three centuries ago. Before she can admire her find, she is attacked by a handful of men who shoot first and ask questions later. Dumping the drugs and pocketing this coin, Cavallo barely makes it ashore, where she can examine the coin a little closer. After turning it in to the authorities, Cavallo does a little digging at the local library and discovers that there is rumoured to be many more of these coins off the coast, rumoured to be part of the Thirteenth Galleon, which is echoed by a man seeking day labour who approaches the dive shack. Trying to learn a little more about this mysterious ship, Cavallo approaches a local nautical archeologist who has made a name for himself with such finds, only to find herself on the wrong end of a cocked fist. With a treasure and many more valuable coins waiting for her, Mer Cavallo wants nothing more than to explore and see what awaits her on the ocean bed, if she can stay alive long enough to tell anyone. Browning has delivered a wonderful novel here that will appeal to those who like their mysteries below water and full of oceanographic settings.

I discovered the series debut when handed an ARC over a year ago and have been keeping my eyes open for this follow-up piece. Browning does well to depict life off the Florida Coast and filling her stories with dive- and ocean-centric details that helps differentiate it from much I have read within the genre. The characters are strong, particularly Mer Cavallo, whose life has taken quite the twist since her last academic posting. She is trying to keep her life in order without letting an old flame burn her again. Her love of the water shows through much of the character development and discussion of her passion, something that Browning captures with ease. With a strong supporting cast, the story flows well and those familiar with the series debut will latch on to learn even more about some of the returning individuals. The story holds water (pardon the pun) and I was pleased to be taken on more nautical and underwater adventures, learning much between parsing through the process of the mystery. Browning has definitely found a sub-genre that suits her well and I would gladly explore more off the Florida Coast if she and Dr. Cavallo have additional stories to offer.

Kudos, Madam Browning, for a strong second novel. I am happy I stuck with this series and can see much coming from your work.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Perfect Silence (DI Callanach #4), by Helen Sarah Fields

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Helen Sarah Fields, and Avon Books UK for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Helen Sarah Fields has been developing this strong police procedural series over the past few years, which mixes some unique characters against the backdrop of some vicious murders that will keep the reader wondering well into the story. When a young woman is discovered murdered, her body dumped like a pile of rubbish, DI Luc Callenach and DCI Ava Turner are understandably concerned. However, when the body is shown to have a doll-like piece of skin carved from both the abdomen and back, things get a little more concerning. Thus begins a panicked search for a killer that Police Scotland can only hope will be brief. When a second woman goes missing, she is seen to have left her baby in a pram. The baby is eventually located, with a raggedly stitched doll of human skin tucked next to her. Callanach and Turner think that this may be the start to a gruesome killing spree and it is only getting started. Meanwhile, there is a new drug on the streets named Spice, which turns its users into zombies, at least for a time. Those in the homeless population are turning up carved with a ‘Z’ on their cheek while under the influence. Turner and the rest of her team are trying to see who might be targeting this vulnerable population, finding a clue that takes them on a goose chase through the richer families of Edinburgh. DCI Turner must not only wrestle with these two cases, but a superior who will stop at nothing to meddle and cut her down. Edinburgh is rocked by these crimes and the killer may be trying to push a religious extermination of their own to cleanse the streets. Fields continues with her stellar writing that will have series fans begging for more. Recommended to those who have been intrigued by the DI Callanach novels to date, as well as those who like a well-paced police procedural that does not lose stream throughout.

While there are many police procedural series on the market today, Helen Sarah Fields has found a way to produce unique stories with a handful of strong characters. Using Edinburgh as an interesting backdrop, the stories exemplify the strength of Police Scotland as they face a number of bone-chilling cases. Fields again turns her focus on DI Luc Callanach and DCI Ava Turner, developing their characters as well as abilities to solve crime. Callanach continues to impress since his move from INTERPOL, showing that he has a strong dedication to the police work required to solve these complex cases. As with the previous novels, Callanach’s struggles with issues in his personal life bleed into the present through a well-paced narrative that highlights these struggles. The series reader will know precisely what is going on and find much interest in how it is handled herein. Turner is forced to continue her struggle with being catapulted up the ranks, where she is now able to oversee the Major Investigations Team (MIT). However, this has led to a number of other issues, including trying to define her relationship with Callanach, who now answers to her, as well as the issues of being put under the microscope by an equally determined Superintendent. Fields effectively shows how Turner seeks to find a balance in a position that is rife with controversial decisions. The story is strong and Fields is able to weave together a powerful crime thriller with clues and dramatic case development peppers amongst the ever-intensifying chapters. These cases are full of dark criminal elements and will surely keep the reader up well into the night. Another strong effort by Fields will keep me reading as long as she has ideas put to paper.

Kudos, Madam Fields, for another wonderful novel in this series. I cannot wait to see what else you have in store for your fans.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Jessica, by Bryce Courtenay

Nine stars

There is something about a novel by Bryce Courtenay that sets my mind at ease. The way he tells stories and the silky flow of the narrative has me eager each time I am able to (re)read his books, all of which I have found to be stellar. This story focuses on the life of Jessica Bergman and her family, who are living in rural Australia soon after the country’s formal independence. Jessica is unlike the other girls around town—including her sister, Meg—who prefer to remain prim and proper. Rather, Jessica is happy to get dirt under her fingernails as she is reluctantly given work shearing sheep alongside her father. While first seen to be an outcast and the lesser sex, Jessica soon befriends Billy and Jack, leading to a strong platonic connection between them all. When Billy is seriously hurt and suffers a debilitating brain injury, he becomes a pariah and ‘dim-witted helper’ to Jack’s family. One day, Billy comes to Jessica with news that he’s committed a horrible crime, one that no one will understand, especially in his altered mental state. Jessica soon realises that the only way to save Billy from the town mob is to get him to the police magistrate. Their journey is long and slow, but Jessica is determined to find justice for her friend. When the law takes over, it is the influence of those with power, administering it through a lens of judgmental beliefs, that sees Billy face harsh consequences. Meanwhile, Meg and her mother have a plan that could secure the elder Bergman girl into a life of luxury, or at least ensure her status, though an unsuspecting Jack has no idea that he’s soon to be lured into a trap. Seeing what’s happening, Jessica tries to strike back, only to be silenced and used in the larger plot as well. As the story progresses, Jessica comes of age and must grow up faster, not only because of her family’s schemes, but as she comes face to face with some of the racially-motivated laws on the books that seek to subjugate portions of the population. Jessica must struggle and discover that she alone has the power to shape her own future, and those closest to her. A brilliant piece by Bryce Courtenay that shows the power this man has when putting a story to paper. Highly recommended for those who love a strong tale of self-discovery and determination in the face of ever-growing doubt and obstacles.

I have had a long-standing admiration for Bryce Courtenay and his books, all of which have captivated me early in my reading experience. While they are usually long and quite tangential, their thread is one that can be easily followed and the plot constantly evolves, which may explain my vague summary above (which may appease those who chirp about my reviews being too long and revealing for their ivory tower reading sentiments). Courtenay creates a number of strong characters and utilises them effectively to shape the direction in which his narrative moves. Jessica is, of course, the central character in this piece and her life is shaped by those around her. Moving from the age of fourteen through to her mid-twenties, Jessica’s life is influenced by a number of events that take her along paths that could not have been foreseen. She becomes one person that the reader cannot help but admire and her tribulations, while surely placed in a ‘soap opera’ type drama, are usually grounded in something substantial. Others find their place in the narrative and offer poignant life moments to give Jessica even more depth. This is something Courtenay does well and seems to be able to effectively portray in most of his novels, as well as using some of his standing character types in each novel (ie, Jews, blacks). The story, rich with description and development, takes on an interesting approach. Courtenay opens each ‘book’ with a summary of events, then backtracks to play them out through a series of progressive vignettes, offering the reader foresight into what will come, then letting the narrative take control,. It is effective and does not present too many issues for the reader who enjoys a surprise within their reading experience. The plot is strong and well-grounded, providing not only personal growth for Jessica, but touching on a number of political and social issues of the day, not all of which have been adequately resolved close to a century later. Courtenay may have passed on, but his books resonate with me and I hope that by the time my son is ready to tackle them, they will appeal to his passion for reading and learning.

Kudos, Mr. Courtenay, for another wonderful re-read. I find myself so energised when I have read one of your books. Let’s ride that wave through the next little while.

This book fulfills Topic #5: Name That Book, for the Equinox #4 Reading Challenge.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

The Great Alone, by Kristin Hannah

Seven stars

There is something about Alaska that tends to pique my interest, though I cannot put a finger on precisely what it might be. Could it be that it is so isolated from all that I know or that the stories that come from this far-away land tend to contrast so much with those I am used to reading? Whatever it might be, Kristin Hannah takes the reader on quite the adventure, exploring the land as well as the psyche of the characters she peppers throughout this piece. After her father is returned stateside from a P.O.W. camp in Vietnam, Lenora ‘Leni’ Allbright is not sure how things will change at home. Having spent so much time with only her mother, Leni is forced to acclimate to this new dynamic. When Ernt Allbright learns that he has been left a parcel of land up in Alaska, he announces that they’ll relocate there for a fresh start. With a few supplies to get started, Ernt leads his wife, Cora, and Leni up North to part of the world that Robert Service poetically called ‘The Great Alone’. It is here that things begin to unravel, as Ernt suffers from debilitating nightmares, which turn him sour and help justify an alcoholic crutch. This altered state has him raising a fist to a wife who has succumb to his violent ways, having forgotten her feminist beliefs from earlier in the decade. It’s 1974 and Leni is isolated from her friends and the world at large, a horrific thing for any girl of thirteen. As the story progresses through a series of vignettes, Leni begins to set down some roots and soon finds solace in the only classmate her own age, Matthew Walker. Leni comes of age in this desolate land and learns to hate her father’s explosive temper, but also her mother’s inability to leave him behind. Even when an escape from this vast loneliness seems possible, Leni finds a way to put the kibosh on it and remain cemented in the one place she cannot stand. Surrounded by others, the Allbrights each find their own way to suffer in the ‘Great Alone’, but might there be a glimpse of happiness on the horizon for the Allbrights, or simply the dashing of the Northern Lights? Well-crafted and strong on character development, Kristin Hannah offers an interesting tale of self-discovery against a frigid backdrop. Recommended for those who enjoy tales that take things off the beaten path and allow characters to meander along ti find their own way.

I agreed to try this book when a good friend of mine mentioned that it was set in Alaska. I read the dust jacket summary and immediately felt that I had to explore what Kristin Hannah might have to offer. What I discovered was that Goodreads was flooded with laudatory comments for this book, finding diamonds on offer with the turn of each page. While I cannot echo some of the blind praise, I did feel that there was much more to this book than the summary promises. Leni is an interesting character, who has been torn away from everything she knew and forced to grow up quickly. She suffers loss, anger, and isolation simultaneously, but cannot convince herself to shed this skin when given the chance, falling back on her loyalty above all else. Cora and Ernt also prove noteworthy, enriching their daughter’s journey while also proving to be oil and water in their marital interactions. The Allbrights serve to complement one another well, but seem so different that it is no wonder that they cannot live under the same roof in harmony. The author offers a handful of other characters who push the narrative forward effectively and serve to offer depth to the various vignettes that provide glimpses into this jagged way of life, loosely woven together to call this journey a single story. Speaking of vignettes, I agree with the idea put forward by some that there is no true sense of story arc, in that the entire narrative is a set of pocketed happenings that resolve themselves before moving onto the next. The reader may have a hard time solidifying their appreciation or ire towards anyone, as things keep changing, like the pieces of an ice floe. There is no setting other than Alaska that Kristin Hannah could have used and kept some of the deeper meanings within the novel. Symbolism peppers the narrative to the point that the reader cannot deny its existence. Each of the three protagonists seek to define and resolve their own form of ‘alone’ doing so with varied degrees of success. While I cannot offer blind praise, I can see significant growth in the characters throughout and in myself as I travelled this journey alongside them.

Kudos, Madam Hannah, for such a thought-provoking piece. I am happy to have taken the time to read this novel, but remain on the fence if I want to try more of your work. Allow this book to percolate for a while.

\A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

The. Slum Reaper (Esther and Jack Enright #4), by David Field

Eight stars

Victorian England’s criminal element comes to life in the writing of David Field. The reader can be assured of another strong Esther and Jack Enright tale, chock full of mystery and intrigue. After saving two young children in a harrowing act of bravery, young Inspector Jack Enright is sidelined with a severely broken leg. Not wanting to suffer from too much work atrophy, he accepts a temporary secondment to Records, while his uncle, Detective Sergeant Percy Enright holds down the fort within the Metropolitan Police. When Jack is recuperating, his wife, Esther comes to him with an odd request. Their neighbour’s niece seems to have gone missing without reason. While Jack is not able to convince his uncle to open a formal investigation, it does come on the heels of a number of gruesome discoveries in another part of London. The bodies of a few lower-class citizens have been uncovered in the debris of a recently razed building that is scheduled to be quickly rebuilt. Sergeant Enright begins an investigation and soon discovers that the builders may have hired a rent collector who had a strong-fisted way of handling those who refused to pay. This missing girl, Emily Broome, was a governess in a well-to-do home, though it is only upon pressing the matter that Enright learns that the twin boys have also gone missing. Enright continues to press for information as a new body is found in the rubble, one that matches Broome’s description. With no sign of the children, Enright is forced to juggle two cases, seemingly off the books, and use his nephew to press for leads amongst the criminal records of some in London’s underbelly. Unable to procure all the information needed, Percy and Jack press Esther to return to her role of unpaid, undercover agent for the Metropolitan Police. What Esther learns may be invaluable, though someone has their eye on her (again!) and will stop at nothing to keep the truth from coming out. Field presents another winner in this series. While the story may be brief, it should not indicate anything less than a stellar reading experience. Perfect for those who love Victorian murder mysteries and prefer something that can be read in short order.

I was introduced to David Field and his work not too long ago and feel that these novels have found a decent niche in the genre. After devouring a few novels for the publisher, I knew that I would return as soon as more novels appeared in publication. Field uses Victorian England yet again as an eerie setting, mixing in a handful of strong characters to propel this story forward. This turns a compact plot into something both exciting and easy to enjoy. Esther Enright, married and a mother of two, again plays a smaller role, but she is used effectively as a decoy and undercover agent. Her banter with many of the characters provides a lighter thread in the story, but she is also keen on injecting her own wisdom with a wonderful female perspective. Jack also takes a backseat in this piece, but has come to grow into fatherhood effectively and serves to prop-up his uncle effectively throughout this story. Jack and Esther continue complementing one another so well as they work yet another crime together, in new and exciting roles. The novel is surely one in which Detective Sergeant Percy Enright not only steals the spotlight, but has much development as he cracks the case wide open. Field has effectively used Percy in the past, but it was this novel that I felt he stepped out of his nephew’s shadow and served to propel the story forward in an effective manner. The secondary characters prove entertaining within the pages of this story, using Cockney speech and salty sayings to take the reader inside the less refined parts of London while also allowing a sense of being in the middle of the action. The story flows well, unique from past pieces, and keeps a decent pace, with a mix of quick and longer chapters that never hamper the narrative from moving forward. Field has but a short time to develop his plot, but injects a mix of dram and humour into the piece, with decent dialogue banter, when time permits. The writing leaves the reader wanting more, the sign of a well-developed story. Field has done a masterful job with these novels and I await another book in the near future. I can only hope that Field will continue crafting these addictive stories for fans who find them so enthralling.

Kudos, Mr. Field, for this wonderful novel. I am eager to read more Esther and Jack stories and hope others will follow my lead.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

The Guilty Dead (Monkeewrench #9), by P. J. Tracy

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to P.J. Tracy and Crooked Lane Books for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

A much different P.J. Tracy continues to evolve in the series after the death of the elder in the mother-daughter duo. Those who are familiar with the series will notice a higher intensity to the writing and a plot that seeks to delve deeper into the mystery and police procedural genres. After the death of his son a year ago, socialite Gregory Norwood plans to honour him with a private memorial. However, before this takes place, the elder Norwood is found at his home, an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. This sends shock waves through the city and travels all the way to the top of the MPD pyramid, after current gubernatorial candidate—and best friend of Norwood—Robert Zeller, requests it be handled with discretion. Enter Homicide Detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth, who survey the crime scene at the request of their chief, only to discover something out of place that tips the scales towards murder. Meanwhile, Monkeewrench are approached by a member of the FBI’s Minneapolis Field Office, hoping that they can create a specialised piece of software. It would seem that there have been murmurs of an attack within the Twin Cities, but nothing is surfacing with the usual suspects. The FBI has begun to wonder if those no longer on the radar might be developing new and covert means of communication through electronic channels, both legal and on the Dark Net. Members of the team rush to create something and run beta tests, unsure how long they might have before an attack. With the Norwoods mourning two loses in as many years and Minneapolis as a potential hotspot for the next big act of terror, Magozzi and Grace MacBride surely have no time to focus on the imminent arrival of their child. All that being said, babies follow no timetable or schedule, save their own. Tracy provides readers with a stellar exploration of terrorism, politics, and the ties that can bind a family together or tear it apart. A powerful new novel, which series fans will enjoy, even if it is with a heavy heart for the loss of part of this fantastic writing duo.

I am sad to say that I have reached the end of my summer reading binge of P.J. Tracy’s work. I must also offer my sincere condolences that the writing world lost a great member with the death of one half of the P.J. Tracy duo. The series has been well-crafted and thoroughly enjoyable, both in writing and audio formats, which helps solidify my admiration for the authors and books in this collection. This novel is again able to mix great mystery with strong characters and deliver a grounded story, one in which the reader will notice new depth and strong story development. The Magozzi/Rolseth banter remains strong, as always, as does the humour that offsets some of the more serious and morbid parts of the narrative. Tracy offers some interesting character development for Magozzi and Grace MacBride, both individually and as a unit, with impending parenthood. How this will change their lives and the characterisation of them has yet to be seen, but one can only hope that a tenth novel will answer some of the questions series fans will surely have on the tips of their proverbial tongues. 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 a few plots that developed throughout, keeping the reader guessing as to what might happen at any turn of the page. 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. I must wonder if the Magozzi/Rolseth storyline will change when they are both fathers and if, perhaps, Tracy will give readers a Rolseth-centred storyline (perhaps involving his family), which might help develop a stronger tie to those people who come up in Gino’s dialogue on occasion. 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. As noted above, there was a significant shift in the writing and story presentation, likely the influence of the solo writing that will continue going forward. Might the series take a heavier turn or will the lighter reads resume in subsequent publication?

Kudos, P.J. Tracy, for another wonderful piece. You continue to show how proud your mother can be in your efforts by keeping the story going. Write and think of her, always!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

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:

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: