The Benevolent Lords of Sometimes Island, by Scott Semegran

Nine stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Scott Semegran for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Have read another of Scott Semegran’s novels, I was eager when he approached me to read an ARC of this one as well. A tale loosely in line with Lord of the Flies and Stephen King’s The Body, Semegran makes this his own as he presents a handful of young boys and their quick maturity in the face of trouble. William (Billy), Brian, Randy, and Miguel are the best of friends. These four middle-schoolers have been through a great deal, including being the targets of a high school gang with nothing to do. When, during a skirmish, Billy takes one of the gang member’s backpacks and discovers it is filled with money, the boys all know that the target on their backs just grew exponentially. As the 1985-86 school year is coming to a close, Brian’s parents take the boys camping one weekend. There, they meet Tony, an older boy who shows them around, including an abandoned house that has the boys quite excited. It holds all the mystery they could want and fuels their imaginations like nothing else. If that were not enough, there’s Sometimes Island, a local attraction across the water that is almost inaccessible. After their brief weekend away, the boys are itching to get back and concoct a plan to deceive their parents—in an era before social media and smartphones. Paying Tony to take them back to the campground, the boys decide to make their way to the abandoned house, where they stay the night. However, some trouble ensues and they are forced to flee, barely making it into a boat. With Sometimes Island in front of them, the boys attempt to make it, only to be shipwrecked and clamber ashore. Stuck on the island with no food and no way of communicating with others, they will have to use all of their intuitiveness to make things work. As the days pass, things become a little bleaker, and the lustre of this summer adventure is soon tarnished. Someone will have to take drastic measures, or all will be lost! A gripping story that pulls the reader into the middle of quite the adventure. Recommended to those who loved Lord of the Flies and seek a modern take, as well as the reader who needs a fast-paced story about coming of age.

When Scott Semegran approached me with the idea that this was a modern version of Lord of the Flies, I was intrigued, but admitted to myself that I had never read the novel. While I have a general understanding of the premise, I went into this read blind to some of the nuances. Semegran guides the reader effectively through the story, with William as narrator, and keeps the action coming throughout. I would not want to choose one of the four boys as the protagonist, as all of their experiences work well together and mesh into a comprehensive storyline. Each receives some backstory in the early parts of the book and their character development is like no other, as William tells updated pieces about what happened to them and how it relates to the summer of 1986. The narrative mixes a 1986 and 2020 feel to it, with William delivering all the news necessary to better understand the story. Pop culture references pepper the narrative and keep the reader feeling as though they were right there. Even with a comparison to Lord of the Flies, Semegran keeps the story uniquely his and captives the reader with a great set of events. The description was perfect, as were some of the struggles these boys faced, compacted into a few days on Sometimes Island. I cannot say enough about this book, which is also quite easy to read, with quick chapters that propel the plot forward. Semegran is sure to find many fans with this book and it might even be the perfect modern contrast to William Golding’s classic piece.

Kudos, Mr. Semegran, for lighting a fire under me to read the classic, so that I might better compare your novel to Golding’s. Your writing is so very inviting, something I am sure many others will discover when they take the time with this piece.

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

August Snow (August Snow #1), by Stephen Mack Jones

Eight stars

After the cover and dust jacket blurb of this novel caught my eye, I knew that I would give Stephen Mack Jones a try. Mixing some police procedural with gritty racial struggles, this series debut will surely interest many who enjoy the genre, but are not afraid to tackle some of the more taboo issues that arise in a city where equality is not even faked. August Snow is half-Black, half-Hispanic, using this unique cultural mix to his advantage. Returning to Detroit after a year away, much has changed for Snow, though many still vilify him for the actions he took. Once a detective with DPD, Snow blew the horn on a corrupt mayor and the police who helped protect him. He received a major payout, but is still the centre of many whispers and a platter for his head remains at the ready. When Snow is approached by Eleanor Paget, he is not sure what to expect. Paget is a wealthy woman and well-known around town. Her husband’s death was one of the high-profile cases Snow worked before everything blew up in his face. After Paget mentions that she feels her bank accounts are being tampered with, she seeks Snow to help keep an eye on things and dig a little deeper. Not a registered PI and with little interest in doing so, Snow declines Paget’s offer, but promises to keep in touch. A few days later, Paget is found dead, apparently having shot herself, but Snow is not buying it. He decides to poke around to see what really lurked under the surface for Eleanor Paget. With a handful of former colleagues still speaking with him, they share the sentiment that Paget was likely unhappy and chose to end things herself. Equally baffling is why the FBI approaches Snow and has many questions for him about his interactions with Paget. The deeper Snow digs, the more he uncovers, including what might be a money laundering scheme, which could be the angle the Feds are taking. As Snow tries to piece it all together, he’s sure that there is something going on, though cannot put his finger on how Paget fits into the larger narrative. On the mean streets of Detroit, anything’s possible and August Snow knows that all too well, which includes decades of racial suppression, a motive all its own. A decent debut that pulls the reader into the middle of the socio-economic and political struggles of the city. Recommended to those who want a break from the glitzy procedurals that fill the genre, as well as the reader looking for a gritty piece to balance out some of their other reading experiences.

I entered this book with an open mind and sit here now, unsure if it met my expectations. Stephen Mack Jones has a way with words and paints quite the tale, which seeks to reveal racial and sociology-economic disparity and put it directly in front of the reader. The August Snow backstory is quite thorough and left me wanting more, which is balanced nicely with some character development and decent choices to lay the groundwork for a successful series. Snow is a no holds barred kind of guy, not afraid of standing his ground, willing to rock the boat if it furthers his cause. Snow’s attention is trying to reinvent himself and the Mexicantown area in which he lives, breathing new life into something that many have left to perish. With his intuitiveness, Snow is eager to make a difference and thrives to help those in need, even if they do not appear to require much of anything on the surface. Other characters complement the work that Snow does, sometimes in subtle ways that are not entirely apparent at first glance. The vast array of characters offer the reader a flavoursome choice of perspectives, spicing up the narrative effectively throughout. The novel is well-paced and reveals much about the central characters from beginning until the very end, while also proving to be a raw depiction of the filthy underbelly that is Detroit. Snow interacts well with most folks, though their varied backgrounds make the protagonist’s colours differ at various points of the novel. Jones has a way of making his point effectively, keeping the reader attuned to the struggles of all in some of the less than desirable parts of Detroit. While I am still on the fence about how I feel about the book, I will likely give the second book a try to see how it sits with me. It’s the least I can do, since the awkwardness of the gritty presentation parallels how most people feel about snow in August.

Kudos, Mr. Jones, for an interesting debut. I’ll keep an open mind and tackle another before locking in a personal decision.

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

Lies Behind the Woods, by Bradley Cornish

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Reedsy Discovery and Bradley Cornish for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Turning to a crime thriller that mixes in the emotional fallout of a kidnapping, Bradley Cornish presents the reader with a book they will not likely soon forget. Steve Breiten is a history professor who enjoys his time away in the Adirondacks. During one of his vacations, he witnesses what he thinks might be a kidnapping, with an out of control vehicle speeding through an intersection and a woman’s foot sticking out the passenger window. It is not until he sees an article about a missing woman, Tara Murphy, that Steve decides to go to the authorities. His description, paired with some new traffic camera technology, helps to nab the kidnapper, John Dexter. Three years later, Tara shows up at Steve’s office and wants to thank him. Having never formally met the woman and feeling slightly awkward, Steve agrees to a lunch to see if they can swap stories before sending Tara on her way. However, Tara has other ideas, having travelled far and wanting to thank Steve for all he’s done. Rebuffing her sexual advances, Steve is pulled into memories of some other events around the time of the kidnapping, including a detailed sexual encounter with someone in the DA’s office and an equally detailed fantasy about Tara’s mother. Now, Steve is learning a little more about Tara’s ordeal and how she feels that she must fulfil a personal fantasy of her own to ‘cleanse’ her from the brutal rape and treatment she suffered at the hands of her kidnapper. Steve finds that Tara’s plan includes drugging him, which takes things to a new level. News that Dexter escaped from prison hits the police wire, creating panic for those involved in the case three years before. Steve wakes to learn that Tara and Dexter are in cahoots and that their plan includes taking Steve and others deep into the woods, where new and equally disturbing truths await them. John Dexter has a colony that is almost fully functional and needs new members to help it expand. There is more to it than that, something that will rock Steve to his core as he learns the truth about himself and a past that differs really from what he grew up understanding. While the plot development might not be something I would pick up to read on most occasions, Bradley Cornish writes in such a way that it is easily digested. Recommended to those who want a thriller with a peppering of flashbacks to fill in the gaps, as well as the reader who needs some steamy writing to keep them on the edge of their seats.

I’d never read anything by Bradley Cornish before receiving this ARC, but the dust-jacket blurb had me quite curious. As I mentioned above, there were some odd moments throughout, particularly the overly detailed descriptions of Steve’s passionate encounters, though these were somewhat balanced by some interesting plot developments and discussion of Stockholm Syndrome. Steve Breiten is an interesting protagonist, a late 20s history professor with a past of romantic disappointments. In a ‘right place, right time’, Steve is able to act as a hero and save a young woman from almost certain death, though I am sure he would have preferred the quiet of his time at the cabin. He is surely hungering for physical interaction, though I am not sure he thought that being a good Samaritan would help add notches to his bedpost. He appears to struggle throughout with events three years in the past, though he faces them head-on and with as much dignity as he can. Revelations in the latter portion of the book offer a new and needed depth to round out Steve’s character. Others who help fill the pages of this story bring their own perspectives to the piece. The development of various abuse scenarios and some Stockholm Syndrome play into the backstory and development of numerous characters, enriching the story a little more. The premise was nothing earth shattering, but proved to be highly entertaining, even if there are sexual landmines for the reader to dodge throughout. I am no prude, but am also not entirely sure what purpose they served in such detail. WIth short chapters and good plot development, Cornish proves that he is an author worth reading again, especially if he can keep the narrative flow working in his favour. The story reads with ease and the writing is easy to digest, perfect for a summer vacation or to fill the hours during travel.

Kudos, Mr. Cornish, for a decent piece. I may have to check out your other book, which you conveniently plugged within the narrative.

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

Twisted Justice (Daniel Pike #4), by William Bernhardt

Seven stars

Long a fan of William Bernhardt’s writing, I returned for the fourth novel in his Daniel Pike series. Bernhardt still has a great ability to write, though I do miss some of the sharper prose from his earlier series work. Early one morning, Daniel Pike and his paramour, who also happens to be the mayor of St. Petersburg, are startled awake by a knock on the door. A detective and two officers greet them with arrest warrants for the murder of the District Attorney. He’s been shot and gruesomely crucified for all to see. An anonymous email sent to the St. Pete PD includes a recording where Pike and the mayor discuss getting the DA ‘out of the way’. Pike is used to defending the innocent on serious charges, but now he is the one in the hot seat. He turns to his colleagues, the Last Chance Lawyers, who begin to sift through the evidence. Much of this appears to be a campaign to smear Pike and send him away for good, if not see him executed. While the team tries to build a case for Pike’s defence, the famed attorney has a hard time sitting on his hands and letting the wheels of justice turn for themselves. Meanwhile, a young woman emerges out of the water one day, battered and bruised. All anyone can get out of her is that her name is Elena, though the rest is complete nonsense. Working an angle based on rumours and hearsay, the defence tries to prove that the illustrious DA might have been involved in something that got him killed. However, time is running out and the evidence is still too flimsy to ensure Pike’s innocence. An interesting take in the series that pulls no punches. Bernhardt does well to tell his story, even if it lacks some of the cutting edge many fans have com to expect from past novels. Recommended to those who need a decent crime thriller, as well as the reader who wants something to pass their travel or vacation time.

There’s nothing like a great legal thriller to get the blood pumping. William Bernhardt has delivered this time and again with some of his Ben Kincaid novels, though the turn to Daniel Pike has been somewhat of a diluted collection of stories. Pike remains a decent protagonist, whose backstory of wanting to see the innocent stay free pushes him to do all that he can to find the truth. Badgered by a few in town who want nothing but to see him suffer, Pike is always trying to find legal loopholes for his clients. His Casanova-like moves are also a key to his character, though one can only hope that he’ll find a way to tame those while facing a major legal battle. Other characters emerge as decent additions to the series, bringing their own flavour to a novel that takes the reader in many directions. Some of the new faces that emerge offer new and interesting perspectives, though no one stands out as stellar for me. With a decent plot and well-paced narrative, the book was a decent read, though I was not as enthralled as I might have hoped. Daniel Pike seems almost to be biding his time for something bigger and better. Bernhardt is surely quite busy with all his writing seminars, where one can hope some of the next big names are learning the craft, though the caliber of his writing seems to be suffering a tad. Still, I like them enough to keep pushing forward and hope there is more to come from the Last Chance Lawyers before too long.

Kudos, Mr. Bernhardt, for a decent effort. I trust you have some more ideas to share with your fans soon.

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

Alone Together: Love, Grief, and Comfort in the Time of COVID-19, Jennifer Haupt (editor)

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Jennifer Haupt (editor), and Central Avenue Publishing for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

The emergence of COVID-19 hit everyone in different ways. Some people struggled to understand what was going on around the world, while others panicked about how they would make a living. Jennifer Haupt capitalised on these varying sentiments and found a number of collaborators around the United States to share some of their feelings and thoughts about COVID-19 in its many forms. She collected these poems, interviews, journal entries, and essays into this collection, hoping to offer a life line to many who might feel completely alone (or those curious to see how others were coping). Additionally, she knew the importance of the written word and how it can only make it out there with strong go-betweens. While the internet is full of communication highways, many still love the idea of a book in hand and so Haupt sought to use sales of this collection to support booksellers, the essential lifeblood of the author and poet that connects them with the reading public. Within this collection, there are those who contribute and share what one might expect when discussing a pandemic; health and symptoms that appear to come out of nowhere. The reader will see how various people react when a cough turns into ‘lungs like cement’ and the ability to stay away becomes too much to handle. Other contributors talk about the isolation that forced social distancing has left the world, where there is no sense of personal interaction and relationships become about speaking to a screen. Still others talk about the struggles of being stuck behind a mask, covering who they are and how. their personalities cannot grow. COVID-19 not only created threads of alienation and self-panic, it forced the world to take notice of things that may not have been more than a blip on the screen. With little else to do but watch the news and read reports in newspapers, social movements actually rose to the forefront and were fuelled by those who bounded together, no longer too busy with work or life. Haupt’s various contributors talked about this as well, a positive that came out of so much panic and concern. Be it staring up at the sky and wondering what others are feeling, eating one’s favourite snack and not caring about the nutritional information on the package, or watching a person grieve and not be able to touch them due to social distancing, people have taken the new realities of COVID-19 and made them their own. This book offers a flickering candle to show that the arts community, particularly the written arts, has not been extinguished, even with new rules. This collection explores how we may all feel alone in our own ways, but we are together in the struggle to define what is to come! Recommended to those who want to feel that sense of togetherness by understanding the written word’s power to unite!

I am a fiction or fact-based reader for the most part, so when I was asked to read this piece by Jennifer Haupt herself, I was not sure if it would be for me. I love books and I respect booksellers are an essential piece to the delivery of this, so I agreed, in hopes of getting others interested and supporting those who sell books. Admittedly, poetry does not usually prove to be something that brings me home sooner to explore sentiment or expression, but those contained within the pages of this book seemed to speak to me. I have emotions and do share them, though I am not one who usually flocks to books with a central tenet of discussing them. These poems spoke to me, they pulled me in and showed me that I, too, have felt some of these feelings over the past number of months. The essays and journal entries fascinated me, particularly by those who have faced the illness side of things head-on. I became even more curious when discussion of social movements came to the forefront, especially how lack of outside interaction allowed them to gain momentum with people stuck seeing the images and words before them with little else to do in their day. I suppose what I am trying to say here is that the collaborators in this book spoke to me in ways I did not expect and kept me wanting to know more. I felt as though I could actually engage in a small discussion with them about struggles, feelings, insights, worries, happiness on the other side of it, and curiosity about what the new ‘norm’ might become. Jennifer Haupt has chosen well with a great cross-section of people to contribute to this piece, each offering their own flavouring to this behemoth that has taken over our lives. Symbolically and literally, the world has been masked by rules and worry and uncertainty, but there is also hope, albeit slow and socially distance driven. Some of the entries are a handful of pages, while others barely fill a few lines. This mix leaves something for everyone and the reader can pick what works for them to heal, entertain, or engage. Whatever that might be, the themes that arise here are well sorted and keeps the reader thinking from the outset. A great piece that I can only hope unites as well as supports those who need it most. Refreshing in its delivery, I can admit that I was not expecting to enjoy this book as much as I did, but am glad I took the time to read it from cover to cover.

Kudos, Madam Haupt and all your collaborators, for opening my eyes to the various sides of this pandemic!

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

The Answer Is…: Reflections on My Life, by Alex Trebek

Eight stars

I was quite pleased to be able to get my hands on this brief autobiographical piece by Alex Trebek. He entertains readers with some pieces from his long time in the public spotlight, as well as many of his more personal moments. Trebek hails from Sudbury, Ontario and grew up in a loving home, where he was able to develop as a fully bilingual child. Trebek speaks a great deal of his diametrically opposed parents—a heavy drinking father and teetotaling mother—which made their match anything but smooth. However, this did not deter Trebek from carving out his own niche, which saw him find his own fair share of trouble in school and a brief, unsuccessful bout in military college. With his smooth talking and love of interacting, Trebek soon found himself working for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in both radio and television, which proved to be a wonderful stepping stone for him into a career where he would be a household name. Trebek earned his keep in Canada and was soon working many important events and rubbing elbows—albeit lightly, we are Canadians—with some celebrities. Trebek was lured to the United States to try out for some new and intriguing game shows that were being bandied about, something that proved to be the place Trebek thought he belonged the most. After a few duds, including The Wizard of Odds (??), Trebek found some success and was eventually cast as the host for the revival of Jeopardy. Trebek spends a great deal of time sharing insights into the goings-on of this, his most popular television show. Quick to ensure the reader is aware that it is a quiz and not game show, Trebek regales the reader with funny quirks that occurred during his 36 years at the podium, as well as many of the foibles and successes the show has witnessed. While he continues to struggle with cancer, Trebek offers the readers some encouragement that no one is invincible and that he is not the be all and end all of Jeopardy, but simply the host who is willing to hand over the reins to another, whenever the time might come. Modest to a fault (Canadian, remember), Alex Trebek will likely never know just how many lives he has touched with his quick banter and quiz show moments. I am proud to have had to time to discover more about the man who has become a household name, even without Vanna White complementing him five times a week! Recommended to those who enjoy biographical pieces that seek to shine a light on the lighter side, as well as the reader that enjoys learning tidbits that Jeopardy never could offer through the television.

When I first got hold of the book, I was slightly dismayed. A man of eighty who has done so much and the book is short. I expected a tell-all with long chapters and many pieces of information that would have me thirsting for even more. However, once I got started, I began to see that Trebek, who was in the middle of chemotherapy and was close to two score old, would likely want to get this piece out quickly and highly key moments, rather than create a substantive narrative about each event. Trebek breaks things down into small vignettes, titling them with some of the catchphrases used on Jeopardy, which makes it much more digestible and easy to devour in short order. Trebek has much to say and does so with ease, even if he won’t expand on all the details. He discusses the crafting of the show, how contestants are vetted, and what sorts of categories have been presented over the years. He is keen to also share some of his own persona anecdotes about some of the more notable contestants (going so far in the audio version of the book as to let Ken Jennings narrate all but a few vignettes). Trebek, who was once known as having quite the potty mouth in Hollywood, is down to earth and loves his family so very much, as it becomes apparent with each passing story. While brief, I was so very pleased with what he had to offer and hope others will pick up a copy of their own. Answer: Alex Trebek. Question: Who is a man with a legacy that will surely outlive him and all his accomplishments!

Kudos, Mr. Trebek, for all you have shared. I admire you and all you have done. You make Canada (and the world) proud with your many accomplishments and charitable work!

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

Cajun Justice, by James Patterson and Tucker Axum III

Eight stars

Looking forward to some new collaborative efforts, I picked up this piece by James Patterson and Tucker Axum III. The story held my attention throughout and broke some of the traditional Patterson stylistic choices, which only added to the intrigue and entertainment. Secret Service Agent Cain Lemaire has a great position on the US President’s advance security team, which is how he finds himself in South America. When Lemaire tries to cover for one of his fellow agents, he ends up paying off a prostitute and lands the entire team in some hot water. Summoned back to DC, Lemaire is placed in quite the predicament and his Secret Service career is all but done, pending a review. Lemaire has little else to do, other than to return to Louisiana, where his family awaits. After some coaxing by his twin sister, Bonnie, and with an interest to turn the heat down in America, Lemaire agrees to a job in Japan. He’ll be heading up a security detail for an automobile executive who has been in some hot water of his own. When Lemaire arrives, he is not only greeted by the cultural differences, but also a sister who is very excited to see him. Lemaire and Bonnie enjoy catching up before it’s time to get down to brass tacks. Lemaire assesses the team he will lead and discovers some weaknesses that need reorganising. This is even more important when an assassination attempt rocks Lemaire and his team. While he remains ever vigilant, Lemaire agrees to some downtime, where he discovers another side of Bonnie, one that never seemed to have made it into their numerous conversations. This leads to a few fists being tossed and Lemaire soon learns that he has attacked one of the yakuza, the Asian Mafia. When Bonnie goes missing, the message is clear, forcing Lemaire to realise that this is no group worth ignoring. While he balances a massive search for his sister, Lemaire also finds solace in a colleague and reveals much about his past. Bonnie’s life is surely hanging by a thread, as the yakuza have no issue with sending their captives into the depths of despair to prove a point. Cain Lemaire will have to rely on his skills and some key assets in Japan to find his sister and clear his name in media outlets. A great book that pulls intensity out of all corners to leave the reader wanting more. Recommended to those who enjoy culture shock novels, as well as those who find pleasure in some of Patterson’s better collaborations.

I may have a love/hate relationship for books that bear James Patterson’s name on the cover, but this was a wonderful surprise and I hope others in my position take note. Working with Tucker Axum III, Patterson is able to pull on his collaborator’s experiences to craft a wonderful book that keeps the reader hooked throughout. One will presume that Cain Lemaire has some parallels to Axum, which helps add depth and intrigue to the protagonist. Forced out of the job he loves, Lemaire must reinvent himself and find solace halfway around the world. This move to Japan not only opens Lemaire’s eyes to a new culture, but helps him heal from a personal tragedy he’s kept hidden. There is both strong backstory and character development in this piece, permitting the reader to see the full gamut of Cain Lemaire and his abilities to rise above it all. Others within the book offer the reader some interesting insight into life within many circles: the Secret Service, Cajun traditionalists, as well as the Japanese. All these groups highlight different portions of the book and shine their experiences on Cain Lemaire, who traverses through them with some degree of ease. The story was quite entertaining from the outset, leaving the reader to wonder if this might be a political thriller, with POTUS in the middle of a scandal, but soon develops into a wonderful story that takes the reader through a significant culture shock. The authors present the Japanese lifestyle quite effectively here, contrasting and comparing while also developing a great story that never loses momentum. There is something for everyone with his book and is sure to keep many talking about the superior nature of the piece, while others posit about the likelihood that Cain Lemaire will be back again. I’d read more from this collaboration if they ended up being as strong, while I also applaud James Patterson for finding someone who has upped what can sometimes be mediocre publishing efforts.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Axum, for a great piece. I am eager to see what comes of your work and how others react to it.

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

Death of an Heir: Adolph Coors III and the Murder That Rocked an American Brewing Dynasty, by Philip Jett

Eight stars

While many might be aware of the Coors name, particularly for its beer, I would suspect that few are aware of the tragedy that befell the family in the winter of 1960. Philip Jett shines some light on the crime and the story behind it all, offering interesting descriptions from all sides and presenting it in an easy to digest format. Adolph ‘Ad’ Coors III, the CEO and figurehead of his family’s brewing dynasty, lived with his young family just outside of the Denver. While the family enjoyed living well, they remained humble and tied to the community. When Coors left for work on February 9, 1960, it would be the last time he saw his family. Coming upon a car blocking the one-lane road over Turkey Creek Bridge, Coors sought to be a kind man and help the driver. This was a mistake and after a struggle, Adolph Coors III would be killed and his assailant would flee the scene. Jett does a wonderful job building some backstory about the Coors family, which included many sightings of vehicles peering onto their land. Might someone have been plotting or scheming, yet proven elusive enough never to be caught? On a professional front, the company was in the middle of complex negotiations with the union to keep them off the picket line. Could the confrontation with the union have sown ill will, enough to leave someone to strike Ad and send a message? Turning to the other side of the story, Jett offers some great build up around the life and times of Joseph Corbett Jr., soon identified as the killer. Corbett was an escaped convict who had been on the lam and was trying to find a way to make some quick cash. He devised the plan to kidnap Coors and hold him for ransom, which appears to have been years in the making, as Jett explores the plans uncovered in documents and purchases over the years leading up to 1960. Corbett was adept as blending in and not coming across as anyone who’d be noticed. His landlady loved him and hardly knew he was there, something that Corbett banked on when he chose to flee soon after the murder. As the narrative progresses, the Coors family tries to guess what might have happened to Ad, while Corbett makes his way across the country. Good police work and some definite clue assembly in a pre-computer age helped to create a list of suspects before Corbett was deemed the definite culprit. Forensics and an eventual locating of the body turned things from a missing persons case to the murder of a man who touched the hearts of many who knew of him. The Coors notoriety soon led to the FBI getting involved and creating a nationwide manhunt for Corbett. By this time, the cunning man had fled north to Canada, where he continued to blend in, making stops in Toronto, Winnipeg, and eventually Vancouver. On the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List, Corbett was soon noticed and arrested before he voluntarily permitted himself to be extradited back to the US to face charges. Colorado still had (and used) the death penalty, leaving that option on the table. Many within the family thought this a great way to end the misery, though the fallout had more impact than simply an empty chair at the dinner table. Jett describes the trial of Joseph Corbett Jr. and how he as treated throughout the judicial maneuverings, even as he pled innocent to all charges. Even at this stage, there were some twists in the tale, things that the reader might find surprising as they follow Jett’s recounting of the trial and subsequent actions. This piece of true crime offers readers something worth their while, which includes a crime likely long forgotten by those who were not around when it took place. Recommended to those who love true crime, as well as the reader who finds learning more about the lives of the rich an famous something of interest.

This book crossed my radar a number of years ago, though I am not entirely sure why I allowed it to collect digital dust for so long. Philip Jett does well laying the groundwork for a great piece of true crime, filling in the cracks on both sides of the case before moving forward with the planning and execution of the attempted kidnapping of Adolph Coors III. Jett pulls on perspectives of many to create a stronger narrative, including offering up a blow-by-blow of how February 9th played out while the family became more upset. The discussion of forensics and how witness statements were useful in creating a list of suspects proved intriguing as well, particularly as it was only 1960 with database sharing still fairly new. Jett does well to offer a detailed depiction of Joseph Corbett Jr. and how he was able to slide under the radar for so long, caught only because he was tired of running. He covered his tracks more by blending in than conniving acts, though as Jett argues, he was sloppy when it counted most. Completing the circle, there is a decent discussion of the legal actions around the arrest and prosecution of Corbett for the crimes, in an era where a murder of this level garnered so much media attention. Jett uses a strong writing style to present the story to the curious reader, with decent length chapters to push the narrative forward. There is much to learn from this story and Jett keeps the reader wanting to know just a little more. As I am not one who has read a great deal of true crime, I cannot compare it to much else in the genre, but it was entertaining and kept me returning for another few pages, which is the sign of a decent book. I can only hope to stumble upon more books in the genre that seek to educate the reader about all sides of the crime, particularly when they do not seek to accentuate the glitz over substance. Philip Jett surely took the time to research this piece and resurrect a crime lost in the annals of history, though well worth telling anew!

Kudos, Mr. Jett, for a winner with this book. You have me wanting to see if you’ve written anything else, as I am quite intrigued with this effort.

This book fulfils Topic 6: Equinox for the Equinox #11 Reading Challenge.

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

Firestarter, by Stephen King

Eight stars

Needing a little King horror in my life, I turned to this classic piece by the author who never seems to run out of ideas. While he was ‘banned’ in my house growing up, I have come to find out just how masterful King can be and his varied ideas keep me coming back for more. Andy McGee and his daughter are on the run from a ruthless group of government agents, call The Shop. The McGees crept under the radar not long after Andy’s wife was killed and young Charlie was sought by The Shop for their own greedy reasons. With flashbacks to years ago, the reader learns that Andy and his eventual wife, Vicky, were part of an experiment in college, where a government group injected them with a drug. This drug was said to aid in the creation of telekinetic powers, though for many it was useless, as the ‘high’ counteracted any usefulness. The Lot 6 experiments were shelved, but the patients were closely monitors, perhaps to keep them silent. However Andy and Vicky were not only successful, but also fell in love, married, and had a child of their own. Now, Charlie presents with new and even more interesting powers, pyro-kinesis, which allows her to set fires at will. This is sure to be something that the government can utilise to their advantage, though they will have to capture young Charlie and keep her powers at bay. While Andy and Charlie remain on the run, the little girl wants nothing than to be ‘normal’ and keep those powers hidden away. However, the need to explore how her fiery abilities could benefit America seems too strong and Charlie is eventually taken captive by The Shop. As Andy tries to use his own telekinesis to communicate with his daughter, there is a definite intensity to how Charlie will handle herself around her captors. One little girl could be the start to a new and chilling weapons program, if all goes well. But how to keep a little girl’s temper from getting the better of her, while also tapping into the depth of her powers? King takes readers on quite the ride in this one, sure to pique the interest of those who want some old school writing. Recommended to those who love a good King horror piece, as well as the reader who seeks a tingling thriller sure not to fizzle out.

I never tire of looking into the older Stephen King novels to see what I missed growing up. While some of his newer stuff is great, I miss those massive tomes that were so popular and led the genre for a long while. King does really well with this piece, upping the ante in the creepy factor without the need for excessive gore. Young Charlie McGee has powers and can use them to create havoc, which she does, but there is a desire to dampen them, not use them in some maniacal manner. She wants to be a little girl she is and forget that which makes her so vert different. King’s creation of a plot that has Charlie and Andy constantly on the run allows for some third party interactions, some of which reveals what Charlie can do, while others are based on the odd idea that a man and his daughter are constantly running from something. Hints at kidnapping come up, which makes for some interesting sub-plots throughout the piece. Charlie and Andy may be joint protagonists, but King offers enough backstory on the Lot 6 program and those tasked with finding the McGees that a number of characters receive great development throughout this piece. The story is somewhat meandering, but always in a way that King has perfected, with nuances and tangents to keep things interesting. Those not familiar with older King writing may want to begin here, as the gore and gratuitous bloodshed is minimal and the mental experiments are more the central focus. Not as intense as some of the King pieces I have read, but I still enjoyed it enough and can check this one off, waiting to see if the movie lives up to expectations. Yes, I know movies and books are always moody cousins, but that’s for another review.

Kudos, Mr. King, for another winner on your ‘old school’ novels list. I will have to find some more to pique my interest soon, though I do quite enjoy the newer stuff as well.

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

1st Case, by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts

Seven stars

In another of their collaborative efforts, James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts bring their ideas together to craft an interesting story that will keep the reader flipping pages until the final chapter. Angela Hoots may not have had the end to the MIT experience she hoped, but her computer skills are off the charts, much like her intelligence. When she is offered an internship with the FBI, Angela jumps at the opportunity and is soon placed in the middle of an intense investigation. A high school girl is found murdered in her home and the key might be embedded somewhere on her cellphone. Angela begins exploring what might be loaded on the device, where she soon discovers a secret app that promotes a discreet chatting platform. Inside these messages are piles of suggestive conversations that turn graphic and present a rendezvous that could have led to murder. Angela learns not only what she can about the app, but that malware is also involved, which helps the killer track their prey before striking. Working a number of angles, Angela finds herself on the dark web—that elusive location where nothing is tracked and anything goes—honing in on a cyberterrorist group that could be leading the charge in their own twisted little game. When Angela presents her progress to superiors, they praise her, but continue an hands-off approach that leads this rookie down quite the path. Targeted for what she knows and how close she may be getting to opening a can of worms, Angela’s life, as well as that of her family, could be in danger. This first case has surely turned out to be something Angela will never forget, though at this rate, death could erase it all. A decent story that taps into many of the current buzz topics making their way through media outlets. Recommended to those who enjoy some of Patterson’s faster stories as well as readers who need an easier read for travel or beach time.

While this seems to be a long and productive collaborative partnership, I have never read any of the Patterson/Tebbetts work before this piece. The story held together well and touched on a number of interesting areas within the cyber world, though I would not say it explored anything new for more. Angela Hoots comes across as a decent character whose grit and determination was not dampened after being expelled from her grad work. She landed on her feet and has accepted this internship with ease. While Angela knows her stuff, her age and lack of social maturity shines through in this book, as she takes risks and dabbles in what she thinks is romance, only to be sobered up with a few pointed remarks by those around her. The attentive reader will see where Angela uses some personal idols to help create the strong woman she wishes to be, without getting too bogged down with trying to fit into preconceived idea of how to be successful. The authors do well with how they have created her, leaving the reader to judge whether she passes off the early 20 something well. Other characters serve their purpose in the book and help to add to the intensity, as needed. The story, while not entirely unique, did prove to be engaging and left me wondering if there could be a return for some of these characters within the FBI framework, though I am always reticent to encourage too many Patterson series, as quality always suffers with the more books that affix his name to them in any given year. With trademark Patterson short chapters that push the story along, the book read easily and kept me wanting to turn a few more pages. I was impressed with what must have been some of the Tebbetts influences and will have to look into some of his other work, though I will likely want to focus on those penned for adults, if possible.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Tebbetts, for entertaining me throughout and leaving me to wonder what you two might have in the works.

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