Thursday, October 30, 2008
Forensic Handwriting Mystery
By Sheila Lowe
Are you a "forensic" fan like I am? Well, then you definitely will enjoy the debut of Sheila Lowe's new forensic handwriting mystery series, starting with Poison Pen.
Through a bit of serendipity, I had the opportunity to read both Poison Pen and the follow-up book, Written in Blood this past weekend--what an enjoyable opportunity!
Claudia Rose, our forensic expert, was pulled into action when her former college friend was found dead in her hot tub, seemingly as a suicide. Only her alleged note,
IT WAS FUN WHILE IT LASTED
did not match the personality of Lindsey Alexander. Indeed, most people who knew her would not be surprised if she were murdered--their surprise was that she had supposedly committed suicide!
There was only one man who seemed to mourn Lindsey's death--Ivan, her business associate, friend and executor of her will. From the personal side, Ivan was sure that Lindsey had not committed suicide; from a business side, the insurance company refused to pay on a suicide. There was no choice; Ivan had to convince Claudia that she must help him prove whether the suicide note was authentic.
Claudia, as well Kelly, her best friend, had been "burned" once too often by Lindsey and couldn't even pretend to know why they had attended her funeral. But with Ivan's pleas, Claudia forced her memories back to college days when she and Lindsey were still friends and agreed. The one thing she required, however, was hard to find--she needed samples of Lindsey's handwriting in block printing, as the suicide note had been created.
Ivan pointed out that this was a very important reason to assume that the note had been faked--Lindsey always wrote in cursive; in fact, trying to find similar documents forced further and further involvement as Claudia worked with Ivan to find needed evidence. That is, until Ivan was murdered!
And when Kelly admitted that she was afraid she "might" have killed Lindsey, while she has also discovered that another good friend, Zeb, had written Lindsey a threatening letter, Claudia is pulled in well beyond her original task of authenticating writing. On the other hand, working with Detective Joel Jovanic and finding a mutual attraction developing between them, placed her in a difficult spot where loyalty to her two friends forced her to make difficult choices. Especially when Claudia finds she could very well be the next victim!
This is a whodunit that will wrap you tight--into trying to solve the mystery along with Claudia. Even though I was narrowing down my own suspects, I wasn't quite sure what had happened until the very end--after all, among many others, there was the senator who had been blackmailed by Lindsey, or her brother who had once been Lindsey's partner in her schemes!
Poison Pen is a page-turner that will keep you reading! Enjoy!
And, now...I'm on to reading Written in Blood!
G. A. Bixler
Thursday, October 23, 2008
By Stephen Frey
Two men are tracking Mikey Clemant—one of them wants to help him; the other has been sent to kill him. Sounding exciting? Then you need to read Forced out by Stephen Frey—drama on nearly every page!
Jack Barrett had been a scout for the New York Yankees for many years until someone set him up for instant termination—by blaming him for revealing inside information. Still angry and defensive, he found after many successful years he was now forced to live with his daughter and bag groceries to scrape by. Bitter beyond words, he had even stayed away from going to ballgames until his daughter begged him to go with her and her new boyfriend. Once there he was forced to admit to himself that he missed the game—“like you missed the love of your life.” (p. 4)
And that’s when he saw him. Jack had scouted many potential stars; this player showed it even as he ran out with the rest of the team—the aura of talent, exceptional talent. And when the ball player made a number of outstanding plays during the game, Jack immediately realized that Mikey Clemant could very well be the man who would get him back into his job!
Johnny Bondano was paid a million dollars a year; his job was to act as a hit man for the local mob. And he really didn’t mind using a drowning-death torture technique to gain any information he needed. Interestingly, though, Johnny had a streak of decency—he only killed men who deserved to die. So when his boss offered him a million dollars for one murder—the man who had killed his grandson in a hit-and-run, he began his own investigation about the man and found that he was now playing ball on a small obscure team under the name Mikey Clemant. The problem was—he didn’t think he was the man who had killed the boy.
The cat-and-mouse chase between Jack Barrett as he tries to meet and gain Mikey’s trust is often trumped by the horror of Johnny’s torturous actions to others in order to find him. What it results in is an action-packed page-turner for readers!
Jack’s personal goals are soon set aside as his personal feelings and concern for Mikey grows, even while he realizes that Mikey could very well be one of the greatest baseball players ever. Personal hint to the story: think anagram...
Johnny’s streak of decency is lost as he falls in love with another man’s wife, and wants her more than he wants to retain his own personal integrity. Mikey Clemant stands in the way!
This book is simply a mindblower...it successfully merges a fairly in-depth look at baseball, while the thriller keeps us moving forward to a surprise ending that will leave you stunned! Of the new books out, I’m naming Forced Out! a must read!
G. A. Bixler
For Amazon vine
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
By D. Kenneth Ross
Have you ever had the enjoyment of seeing raw talent in a young person? Seeing that one special gift that he has been given that may be used, polished and developed? In Raw Talent, D. Kenneth Ross shares the story of such a gem—a young boy named Carlos who had been given the raw talent for playing golf.
Raw Talent opens as Carlos Alvarez awaits the start of his first Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, Georgia. Throughout the novel, golf enthusiasts will have the opportunity to read of this competition between he and another PGA professional who had been invited to play.
Carlos was only thirteen when he began visiting a local driving range to “bang a few balls just for fun.” There was also that “release” that came to set a ball down and “hauling off and smacking it as hard as he could.” (p. 2) Fortunately for Carlos, Pete Sanchez, owner of a driving range, watched as he spent time at his range and, when the opportunity arose, he offered Carlos a job to gather the balls there. And, of course, have the opportunity to use and develop his skills. Pete saw Carlos’ raw talent—and was wise enough to realize that his talent not only surpassed his own, but he had that “sparkle of joy and endless determination” that was so important to polish that talent.
Though big for his age, Carlos was very shy. But he was determined in one major area—to help his Mom and Grammy Cella and, if necessary, to get his Dad out of his family’s life. He had spent too many hours trying to find his father, who most times would be hanging out with his drunken friends, to beg for money for food and expenses before he would drink it away or use it for other pleasures. Both he and his mother found that being beat up was part of the price of living.
Carlos also spent some of his time at the gym. At school, it was his excuse for showing up bruised and battered. Mainly, though, he was getting pretty good at fighting and would some day be able to stop his dad... What he could not understand was why his mother was able to accept his dad’s abuse. His Grammy Celia, who loved her grandson very much, tried in all ways to support him and help him learn about his grandfather who had been a strong, God-fearing man. But all Carlos could think about was “when he could fight better, he’d make sure his dad would never hurt his mom or Grammy Celia again.” (p. 20)
As Carlos spent time on the job, Pete became more and more certain of his initial recognition of Carlos’ raw talent. He began to slowly make suggestions to him and to give him lessons. When Pete learned that his father had taken his son’s salary, it was then that his feelings started to be more personally involved. Even to the extent of working with Grammy Celia to have Carlos’ wages paid in check form rather than cash.
Grammy Celia died when Carlos was fourteen. The loss was traumatic for Carlos but it presented an even greater burden that he must do something to support his family. Pete had shared with Carlos that he had “hustled” some when he was younger and Carlos sought his training in how he could use his golfing talent to earn money. When Pete was hesitant to do this, primarily because he saw that Carlos’ was so talented that he could make money professionally, Carlos was not interested in waiting. Instead he turned to his boxing skills and when the opportunity arose to make money boxing, he took it!
The only problem was that he had to travel into Mexico to fight.
And on the same day he was scheduled to fight, the police found Carlos’ father—murdered!
And his father’s drinking partners claimed that they’d seen Carlos nearby that day.
Ross has created both a heartbreaking and heartwarming story that follows a young man’s life through a bad home environment, trouble with police and into the triumph of not only using his raw talent, but in gaining the protection and love of his personal mentor as well as a new family. Carlos’ story will capture the hearts of readers and keep them enthralled as Raw Talent culminates in a great win! You, too, will win reading the story of Carlos!
G. A. Bixler
For IP Book Reviewers
Monday, October 20, 2008
Hi Ms. Bixler,
Thank you so very much for your kind review! I so appreciate your careful reading and your contribution to the book's future on Amazon. There are a million books out there and it is easy for one debut title to become lost in the fray.
I am such a book lover myself, and I am saddened when I read the statistics on how reading is declining in this country. Good readers and reviewers like you will help keep books alive for the next generation!
All the best,
By Carol Cassella
Simon & Schuster
Oxygen is a breathtaking novel! Not such a catchy phrase when you think what breathtaking means—exciting, astonishing, and inspiring. And, indeed, Carol Cassella’s first novel, Oxygen, is all of those!
Marie Heaton is an anesthesiologist, working as a member of a team at First Lutheran Hospital. Long, hard hours is the norm because there is always a shortage of staff to support the many and varied operations that are scheduled or completed as emergencies. Marie is experienced and has a fine reputation, until...
Jolene Jansen is eight years old. She is scheduled for a “straightforward, short surgery,” the removal of a congenital cyst at the base of her spine, which has resulted in recurrent infections. The only complicating factor being she will have to be turned facedown on the operating room table after she is asleep (p. 22)
Jolene is mildly retarded and her mother as well as the records available presents nothing that would alert a problem. Yet—an emergency situation occurs and Jolene dies.
I was surprised that the anesthesiologist was the first person to be considered to be at fault. But, indeed Heaton was at first investigated, but was later faced with a legal suit from Jolene’s mother, raising the question to a higher level. Even without the legal issue, Heaton herself cannot let the child’s death go—she was constantly going over each procedure, each action that was taken—and by who¾ trying to determine what had happened. Even though her peers told her she was not at fault, she could not accept her own absolution.
At the same time, Marie is faced with a personal crisis as she discusses with her sister the extent to which their father’s health had deteriorated. In particular, his eyesight had failed to the point that he was no longer able to read—a traumatic issue for him, since his life had been full of study and reading! But here, too, Marie only found stress and tension because, although she and her father had been estranged for many years, her sister expected Marie to help—and Marie felt guilty for not doing more for her father.
Only one friend remained for her to lean on. Her long-time friend, once lover, and peer anesthesiologist. And while everything in her world crumbled around her, she once again turned to Joe and found his love to support her.
But when the hospital, and the attorney filed criminal charges against Marie, it is through her own efforts that she discovers exactly why Jolene died—and who was responsible.
From a personal standpoint, I found much in Oxygen that spoke to me—a challenge to her professional life as well as her father’s fear of losing his eyesight. Cassella, as a real-life anesthesiologist has achieved the ultimate goal—her readers are able to empathically place themselves into her main character’s shoes and walk her walk. As readers we can understand the trauma she faces when one of her patients dies, especially a young child. And as a daughter, we are sympathetic when her estrangement with her father is no longer acceptable—he needs her and she feels compelled to respond.
But no matter how empathic, I could not have dreamed of the final outcome of this book! It is reality that we do not want to face—it is life as it is today!
This book had a powerful impact on me personally. It has the potential to do that with many readers! This is one that will stay with you as you ponder the “potential” and the ramifications of each issue that one woman had to face. Highly recommended as a medical thriller!
G. A. Bixler
For Amazon Vine
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
By Fred B. McKinley
In an exciting historical adventure, Devil’s Pocket, Fred B. McKinley brings us sex and secrets during the times when black gold was the lure for men striving to make their fame and fortune. More, he gives us three family stories that twine and intertwine so fully that murder had to result--secrets always come out! McKinley uses his knowledge and research for his earlier book, Black Gold to Bluegrass, a nonfiction account of the second Spindletop oil boom that occurred in 1925 in Beaumont, Texas. With this background, he has created a thrilling first novel that pulls readers into the time and feelings of those who lived and searched for the rich oil lands in early America.
The main thrust of the book follows the life of Morgan, a young ambitious man who moved quickly and easily from one job to another as he sought to secure his financial future. While ambitious, he was also a man who loved and respected his family, working diligently to provide support and a home for his mother and sister.
Rachael fell in love with Morgan upon first sight. She was the daughter of a rich man and the granddaughter of an even richer man! Morgan had come to Rachael’s father to seek financial support in one of his ventures. Thoughts of Rachael or any other woman were far from his plans, as he became friends with her father. Many years went by as Rachael waited and longed for Morgan to notice and come to love her.
A simple love story? Not!
While waiting for Morgan, Rachael foolishly flirts with the wrong man, and because he doesn’t listen to her when she tells him to “stop,” she later finds herself pregnant. Rachael wants both to keep her child and to not have to admit that she is hers. Her lies later leave her daughter in the same situation and with the same man--her father!
As Morgan is busily making an honorable name for himself and working continuously to move forward toward his goals, oil is struck at Spindletop and he gets a touch of the “fever” that many men followed and for which many men failed. Morgan had his sights set on leasing land that he felt would be rich with oil. The only problem was that Rachael’s grandfather owned it! Morgan went to his friend, Rachael’s father, hoping to work through him to gain support to lease his father-in-law’s land, but they had been enemies since the birth of Rachael since his daughter had died giving birth. However, there was one thing that the two men had in common--a love for Rachael so strong that they could put aside their estrangement and secretly work toward making Rachael happy; i.e., married to Morgan!
Devil’s Pocket was the bait...
Oil was struck there—richer even than Spindletop! But at what cost? For in the end, Morgan and his sister were dead and so was Rachael, her father, and her grandfather.
Susannah Fletcher, a granddaughter, was one of the few left. She wore a tarnished cross from a grandmother she had never known. And she was given her grandmother’s diary to haunt her until she found the true story of what had happened to the family members, now all gone.
The early 1900’s were hard times. Women were often left to carry the burden of children from lost loves. Men left to try to find the fortunes that they knew they were due. Some found them; most did not. Devil’s Pocket presents the drama behind those lustful times. McKinley may have written the fiction; but readers will easily and quickly believe that all of the events could easily have been real. He has created characters you will hate immediately. Some are crafty and selfish and want their own way. Others love and work hard to provide for their families. They were killed due to greed, love, pride, but most of all, fear.
Readers interested in historical fiction will find this a well-written, well-researched story of the time when black gold fever touched our lands. Devil’s Pocket, hopefully, will not be the last story about this time period. This reader is already looking for a McKinley sequel!
G. A. Bixler
IP Book Reviewer
The Greatest Gift
By R. J. Brown
Big River Press
You may think by reading the blurbs for Standing the Watch: The Greatest Gift by R. J. Brown that this book is about death and dying. It is not!
This book is about Life! And giving the greatest gift that can be given to a parent or loved-one(s)—giving them the best possible life they can have as they live out their last days, months or years! For my mother, who had been living with me for many years, it was not a time of turmoil as I cared for her. She simply and quietly died in her sleep. I had only one thing to do for her right then—I immediately put a new pair of slippers on her worn feet as she had asked me to do.
But for some individuals, there are not only medical issues to be attended to; there are logistical issues of concern, based upon where a family lives. And then there is the burden that is placed on the caregiver(s) as time goes on and stress and strain develops.
Standing the Watch in its second edition provides not only specific issues to consider, but, more importantly, in my opinion, the writer shares exactly what happens—both the good and the “not so good.”
David and Rebecca had already made a commitment to Lincoln, David’s father, that he would live with them after his wife died. And after many years, as Lincoln’s health failed to a point that he was considered terminal, he asked for another commitment—for him to be allowed to die at home. Standing the Watch is the story that centers in on those final days of Lincoln’s life¾a story that should be read by everyone old enough to understand and grieve at the death of another! It should also be read and taken as a learning tool for pastors, doctors and friends of those who are caregivers!
I found that I could read this story from two sides—as a potential friend of Rebecca and David, as they lived through their pain and worry. The other side, as an individual who could very well be in the role of caring for loved ones in their declining years. This book does not need a review that tells you about the storyline, for we all know what occurs. It does, however, give you specifics about what must be done at that time, in one book, with places to make notes...and with checklists that can be reproduced easily and used!
Rebecca writes this book as if she is sitting, talking to you. You feel her disgust when Lincoln, who had been a missionary, has a pastor who cannot be bothered to visit him during his last days. You see her inclusion of email friends’ notes, which obviously were so meaningful that they kept her and David going when inner strength was sagging. But, no matter what, you will see the love of a family, facing one of the toughest, most life-changing events in anybody’s life—the loss of a loved one.
This book should be on your home bookshelf because you never know when it will be needed—to share with others in the same situation, to learn and brace yourself for the future, or to guide you day by day as you and a loved-one face the dance to the death. Some readers will search for this book at that time; but I urge you to read and be prepared...for Standing the Watch really is about now—and living and loving!
G. A. Bixler
For IP Book Reviewers
Thursday, October 9, 2008
“Criminal law operates in a simple world—the prosecutors and police try to put people in jail, my minions and I try to keep them out...This is how the struggle between good and evil is played out in post-Biblical times.” (p. 76)
Meet Buzz Levin, a defense lawyer who has dreams about what Clarence Darrow thinks of him as a lawyer! And thanks to his wife, Ally, he has just taken on a case that “had everything—bimbos, bodies, buggery and bail.” (p. 62)
Ally is an interior decorator, plus “Aphrodite...to his Groucho Marx.” (p. 202). So when she calls him from her work site:
“Get over here right away—somebody tried to kill Megan...Someone bashed her head in with a hammer or something. The police say we’re all suspects and you’re my alibi. Besides, the place is full of policE and there’s an ambulance, so shouldn’t there be a lawyer? (p. 33)
He responds, “I’m on the way. Don’t let anyone who looks like they can afford me confess until I get there.” (p. 33)
You got it! Almost-like-George Burns and Gracie Allen’s comic routines run throughout this novel. Yes, there’s murder and mayhem and great investigating, but the underlying comedic interplay oftentimes trumps the mystery and suspense!
Needless to say, Ally also ensures that Buzz becomes the defense lawyer for Barry, of Barry and Bruno, gay partners, the latter of which was also murdered the day Megan’s head was bashed!
I’m sorry, folks. I promise that there is an excellent whodunit full of twists and turns that will keep you guessing as to who did do it, to the very end. But you must admit that what I’ve shared ensures that this book is not just another great mystery!
Plus you get great interior decorator tips throughout the book such as:
The best designers make custom lamp shades which often have
a pink silk liner to soften the light.
Levy gave me more than a cozy mystery, wonderful, funny characters, a puzzling whodunit, with interior design tips. He wrapped it up in the latest fabric for a must-read!
I just know you, too, will enjoy this one!
G. A. Bixler
For Amazon Vine
Monday, October 6, 2008
A Cure for Night
By Justin Peacock
“That’s what...criminal law is: it’s how the day tries to correct the night’s mistakes...
“What does that make us? ...night’s janitors?
“We’re absolutely that...a cure for night.” (p. 152)
I think I was most intrigued by the concept of Justin Peacock’s novel, A Cure for Night. Consider that the majority of crime is committed during night/dark hours; you quickly realize that, indeed, criminal lawyers could be called the nation’s janitors—or more, its doctors!
Based upon that concept, Peacock takes readers into all facets of various law cases, looking deeply into the lives of many of the main characters. I don’t recall becoming so empathic toward characters’ lives in other legal novels or, perhaps, I was just more drawn to those created by Peacock. Bottom line--A Cure for Night pulled me in and held me until the end...and beyond...
Joel Deveraux began his legal career at one of New York’s most prestigious law firms, earning a six-figure salary that was exchanged for most of his waking hours. That was until he met Beth, a paralegal assigned to one of his cases. Along with fulfilling Joel’s sexual needs, Beth introduced him to heroin. But when Beth OD’d and the death was investigated, Joel was scrutinized and found guilty—guilty enough to lose his position and be placed on probation for retention of his law license.
He was finally able to acquire a new position—as a Brooklyn public defender. While his new boss knew the background that led to his “resignation” from his former position, Joel wondered how long it would be for word to leak out. In the meantime, he was inundated with minor misdemeanor cases, most of which were handled by plea-bargaining.
Finally, after putting in sufficient time, his boss assigned him to assist in a big new murder case. Although Myra Goldstein was not thrilled, she made the best of it, while still letting Joel know that this case was definitely hers! The defendant was Lorenzo Tate, a black drug dealer of marijuana who had never been caught and jailed! The victims were a white college honors student who had been killed while he was talking with a major drug dealer, who had only been injured.
“A criminal trial is a search for the truth, but the defense lawyer isn’t a member of the search party.” (p. 72)
The case is clear-cut from the prosecution’s standpoint. He has two major witnesses: Devin Wallace’s sister who claimed that Tate was threatening her brother regarding money he owed him. The other claims to have seen Tate run by her the night of the crime, carrying a gun.
For Joel and Myra, they must defend their client, no matter what is or is not the truth. But in doing so, an innocent man is later shot and Joel and Myra face their own deaths, as lies are used to manipulate those involved!
Joel’s past use of drugs becomes part of the picture as more than one of his clients become involved in the “whodunit” investigation. And Joel and Myra find that, for this case, justice and truth will not be found, in the courtroom—or, on the streets!
Peacock’s debut is a winner from my standpoint. His movement deep into the entire case was a welcome addition. Although there is a feel of Raising the Bar, the impact is more slowly developed as discovery is made, and thus momentous as the book’s surprise ending comes! Highly recommended by a lover of drama!
G. A. Bixler
For Amazon vine
Lost Girls: A Sherry Moore Novel
By George D. Shuman
Simon & Schuster
Lost Girls by George D. Shuman is one of those books you hate to love! The storyline of human trafficking is horrendous; however, the story created surrounding the topic is an exciting, fast-paced thriller that takes you from the cliffs of Mount McKinley to the jungles of Haiti! Shuman is a 20-year veteran of the Washington D. C., Metropolitan Police Department and he writes with the fascinating detail that comes from that experience!
But then he added Sherry Moore as his main character—not somebody you’d meet on the streets of D.C. Sherry has one paranormal ability; she can touch the hand of deceased individuals and see their last 18 seconds of thoughts! Sometimes those thoughts are those that we would all expect to have—thoughts of our loved ones, or thoughts based on their beliefs about life after death. Surprisingly, many different thoughts can also occur within those seconds, and sometimes Sherry is able to discover those thoughts and use them to help the living!
And it was based upon that hope that Sherry was whisked away to Mount McKinley where a sudden storm had caught many climbers somewhere on that mountain. One climber had fallen and was hanging from his supports, clearly visible from the ground. It was hoped that by taking Sherry to him, she would be able to see his thoughts and perhaps gain information on the location of those with whom he had been climbing. And, indeed, she was able to learn the coordinates of where the remainder of his group was and they were rescued!
While that is just the exciting beginning, the remainder of what she saw in those 18 seconds, was so hideous that Sherry couldn’t just forget them! She had seen jungles, a castle, a red room, a chair with a woman who was being tortured—visions that were so terrifying that the man who had died had found himself reliving them as he, too, met his death.
Little by little, things begin to happen. A policewoman is kidnapped. A young woman on a cruise does not make it back to her ship. News of drugs and human trafficking are whispered in the dark. Interpol is finally able to begin putting things together. One of the first solid leads is that the man who had died on Mount McKinley was the son of a major drug lord who had recently died! And then another death, this time in Haiti, brings news that his death was connected to having seen women being held in a prison in Haiti.
When it is discovered that the young girl from the cruise ship is from a very rich and connected family and her mother refuses to accept not finding out where her daughter is, Sherry is once again contacted, joins together with the girl’s mothers to try to discover what she can from the murdered man who had seen the imprisoned women. When she reaches the location of the corpse, she soon finds herself comparing visions with the local voodoo priest!
Needless to say, this novel is loaded with twists and turns as pieces of information are collected and molded together to find the location of the castle. While the gift of paranormal experience is part of the storyline, I found the overall action and adventure much more compelling. The book is well written, a page-turner, and just might be read in one sitting, as I did!
Highly recommended! But please consider this book adult content!
G. A. Bixler
For Amazon vine