Wednesday, March 9, 2011

March 2011

1.CUT SHORT by Leigh Russell. #1 DI Geraldine Steel mystery set near fictional Woolsmarsh, a small town in the UK. Geraldine has just relocated to this area after ending a relationship and right off the bat, there's a young woman strangled in a local park. With little time to get settled into her new flat, she must acquaint herself with her new co-workers and dive right in to interviews and evidence, trying to track down the killer. Several suspects spring to light without much to actually connect them and a second body a few days later eliminates most of those. Then it is the proverbial race against the killer's inner need, trying to prevent a third victim. I quite frankly didn't enjoy this book much. It was a rather obvious first book, with almost all aspects of it being very superficial. DI Steel herself was a cliche--the thirty-something single woman, her career causing the break-up of her relationship which drives her further into workaholism, spending evenings poring over case notes with a glass of wine at her elbow. There was nothing different or even very likable about her, mostly because there just wasn't much substance to her character. Equally banal were the tough-as-nails female DCI in charge and the affable newly promoted Sergeant, DS Peterson, that Geraldine primarily works with. The dialogue was often unnatural sounding and stilted and there were frequent little forays off into moments of peripheral characters lives that left me scratching my head as to the intent or relevance. There were these odd changes in point of view that sometimes happened mid-paragraph. It was just awkward to read and I admit I skimmed the last 50 or so pages, but there really were no surprises. I won't be reading further in this series. D+

2.THE VICTORIA VANISHES by Christopher Fowler. #6 Bryant & May "Peculiar Crimes Unit" mystery set in London. When a middle-aged woman dies in suspicious circumstances in a London street, Arthur Bryant recognizes her, having seen her entering a pub the evening before as he was walking home half-souses from Oswald Finch's wake. The problem comes when he and his partner John May go to find the pub and find that not only is it not there, but it hadn't been there since sometime in the 1800's. When several other middle aged-women die in similar circumstances in various pubs around town, they know there's a connection--but what? Of course the PCU employs all their usual offbeat methods to piece things together, even with their newest member--former nemesis from the Met, Sgt. Jack Renfield--now a member of the team and set to watch them like hawks for rules violations. When the eventually find the killer, they're relieved, but Bryant still isn't satisfied because he knows the killer--while capable of killing--couldn't possibly have masterminded such a complicated scheme and thus he knows they need to seek out the brains behind the young man's actions. But how, when the PCU is once again set to be disbanded since they've lost the tenancy on their office building through a loophole in the paperwork process discovered by their arch-nemesis Kasavian at the Home Office. Another delightfully quirky mystery with the octogenarian duo and their younger cohorts brilliantly sniffing out crime through the use of decidedly unconventional methods. Looking forward to the next! A+

3. LAST ARGUMENT OF KINGS by Joe Abercrombie. #3 in the First Law fantasy trilogy. The conclusion of this epic fantasy series takes up where the second left off, with the weary travelers who went to the edge of the world with Bayaz, First of the Magi seeking The Seed--a powerful magical artifact--now back in Adua and dispersing to other parts in an attempt to resume their former lives. Not an easy task when all have been profoundly changed by their adventures. Loren Ninefingers is off to the north to help Dogman, Grim, Black Dow and the other Named Men fight the self-proclaimed King of the North, Bethod. They hope to join forces with Collum West and the Union army. Meanwhile, back in Adua, Ferro Maljinn sticks around and hopes to figure out what Bayaz is really up to, and Jezal dan Luthar, once somewhat of a dandy and now an almost-seasoned warrior, seeks out Collum West's sister Ardee, once the love of his life, but Bayaz has other plans for him. And my own personal hero, Sand dan Glokta, crippled and bitter from his years of torture in a Gurkish prison, continues as lead Inquisitor with only Arch Lector Sult above him in power. They are busy trying to machinate the votes for the next King, as the old one has died and his son has been killed in battle. All of these internal battles pale when it is learned that the Gurkish are heading for Adua en force at just the time when the Union army is scattered. Excellent conclusion to this series, although there is some wiggle room for the possibility of additional books or spin-offs with some of the characters. Dark and depressing at times with a none-too-hopeful take on humanity and with its brutal and broken protagonists, I daresay this series won't be to everyone's liking, but I thoroughly enjoyed all three books. Got a couple of stand-alones by this author and look forward to reading them as well. A+

4. HOLY TERROR IN THE HEBRIDES by Jeanne M. Dams. #3 Dorothy Martin mystery, this one set on the island of Iona off Scotland's coast. Dorothy is planning to join friends who are renting a cottage on Iona for a couple of weeks, only to have her friend's husband have a mild heart attack just before so they are unable to go. Since the cottage is paid for, they urge Dorothy to go on ahead, and as her policeman friend Chief Constable Alan Nesbitt is out of the country at a conference, she decides to do just that. She unwittingly forgets the key to the rented cottage back in Sherebury and thus spends a couple of days at a hotel along with an ecumenical church group from the Chicago area--but they certainly seem to be having some problems with getting along together! A diverse group from several Christian sects and a Jewish Rabbi, their number dwindles by one when Robert Williams--whom none of the others liked--dies in front of Dorothy's eyes, slipping off a cliff inside Fingal's Cave, bouncing off rocks and into the water. But the more Dorothy thinks about it, the more she thinks his death wasn't entirely accidental. Then a major storm with hurricane-force winds besieges the island and she doesn't have much time to consider it--without phone or electricity working in her cottage, Dorothy once again takes refuge in the hotel where they have a generator, and where she can observe the members of the religious party more closely and look for clues as to who might have sabotaged Bob Williams, causing him to fall. This was a pleasant, light cozy read--another of these series that I inexplicably enjoy. I learned a lot of interesting things about Iona and its history, and despite Dorothy sometimes being a silly twit, I do like her and find the author's writing style easy to read and enjoyable. Not earth-shatteringly wonderful, but a certainly enjoyable read, and a series I'll continue to read through. B.

5. DUST by Martha Grimes. (AUDIO) #21 Supt. Richard Jury mystery. Jury is called to the scene of a murder by young Benny Keegan--Benny is working (illegally, as he's only 13) in a hotel and had delivered some coffee to a patron's room and found him shot dead on the balcony. Billy Maples lived part of the time at Lamb House in Rye, the one-time home of author Henry James (and later, E.F. Benson). He was also the grandson of Jury's old acquaintance, Oswald Maples, who was a code-breaker during WWII. Jury fears he is treading on the Islington police patch but the DI in charge, Lu Aguilar, invites him to assist her because of his acquaintance with Oswald Maples--and Jury inexplicably ends up in bed with her, even though he's seeing Dr. Phyllis Nancy, one of the pathologists. Poor Jury. He goes through books and books without "getting any" and then he's drowning in it. ROFL! At any rate, trying to discover just who Billy Maples was isn't easy--he was apparently bi-polar and untreated, so what he was like depends on whom you spoke to about him and when. Is there a connection back to Billy's grandfather's code-breaking days? Or something to do with his philanthropic efforts in the art world? Or something more personal? Melrose Plant comes into the story as he volunteers to take up the tenancy at Lamb House since the National Trust are in urgent need of someone to move in with Billy's death, and he can get the feel of things in Rye while Jury is working on the London connection. This book was okay, but definitely not one of the best in series. Too cobbled together with a lot of weird coincidences, and Jury's behavior was just--I don't know. I think he was possessed. It was read by John Lee, who sometimes does a stellar job, but sometimes all his voices sound the same, which was pretty much the case here. C.

6. MISS ZUKAS IN DEATH'S SHADOW by Jo Dereske. #7 Helma Zukas mystery. Helma once again is around when a dead body is discovered--this time at the local men's shelter/soup kitchen where she's been sentenced to serve community service for refusing to pay a ticket that she feels was not deserved. The body is that of Quinton Boyd, a local financier and property developer who served on the Mission's board of directors and was at the Mission for a meeting. A young man who stays at the mission occasionally confesses to killing Boyd, but he is a simpleton and no one believes he actually did it. Tony's friend "Skitz" begins tailing Helma and wants her to prove that Tony didn't do it. Then someone starts implicating Helma herself, sending an anonymous letter to the police and planting the gun that was used in her car. Helma does (on the surface) have a motive, given that Boyd also served on the library board of directors and he and Helma had crossed horns there. To make matters worse, an old beau of Helma's from high school shows up courting her, just as police chief Wayne Gallant seems finally poised to make his move on Helma himself. Another light, enjoyable read in fictional Bellehaven, WA with Helma, Ruth and some interesting characters from the shelter. A.

7. SILVER BORNE by Patricia Briggs. #5 Mercedes "Mercy" Thompson paranormal mystery set in the Tri-Cities area of Washington State. Mercy is a coyote shapeshifter whose mate is the Alpha werewolf of the local pack. Not everyone in Adam's pack is happy about Mercy, a non-wolf, being mated to their leader, as she discovers when one or more of them get inside her head and attempt to influence her behavior while she and Adam are out on a date. Mercy hadn't realized that the pack could have that much influence, and it takes her awhile to figure out what had happened--but then, she's got other problems, including her roommate Sam 'going wolf' after a botched suicide attempt and a missing friend, owner of a bookstore who left a strange looking book with her before he disappeared--only to have some very powerful fae looking for the book and for Phin. Another enjoyable visit with Mercy, Adam, and the gang as Mercy continues to feel her way around trying to make her life situation work within pack laws. Because of all the different elements to the book (various storylines) it did feel a bit scattered at times, but the author did a nice job of tying many of those threads together into a somewhat cohesive plot. Looking forward to River Marked! B+

8. DAUGHTER OF TIME by Josephine Tey. #5 Inspector Alan Grant mystery--I hadn't realized when I chose it that it was part of a series. I thought it was a standalone as I hear this book mentioned all the time but had never heard of the other books in the series even once. I've even seen other books modeled after this plot--a police detective hospitalized and physically incapacitated who uses his mental muscles to solve a crime--in this case, one that is centuries old. Attempting to snap him out of the rut of boredom, Alan's friend Marta brings him a sheaf of photos and prints of interesting faces (Alan's weakness!) of people throughout history--and the one that intrigues him is that of King Richard III, the one who was accused of killing off his two nephews, 'the princes in the Tower.' The portrait Alan sees makes him think that the man could not be a murderer, so he sets a young friend of Marta's to doing some research to see what proof exists to convict Richard--and finds, to his amazement, that far from proving his guilt, much evidence exists to exonerate him. He certainly comes up with a lot of interesting evidence, and by the end of the story managed to convince me, and I guess a lot of other people over time too, that history books sometimes have got a lot to answer for. (The book is a classic, written in 1951--the author died the following year and never got to see just how revered it became.) It's not your standard whodunit by any stretch of the imagination and of course is quite dated, but a very interesting and well-done book. A-.

9. TO FETCH A THIEF by Spencer Quinn. (AUDIO) #3 Chet and Bernie mystery. Bernie Little and his dog, Chet, really dislike doing divorce work. But when money's tight, it does pay the bills. Of course, when the woman they are following ends up at a motel with none other than Bernie's ex-wife's boyfriend Malcolm, things get decidedly more complicated--at least for Bernie. Chet's not sure what all the fuss is about. The client gives them some tickets to the circus as a bonus, so Bernie, Chet and Charlie, Bernie's six-year-old son, are off to see Peanut the elephant and all the other circus acts. Only they discover upon arrival that the circus is closed because Peanut and her trainer have disappeared overnight. The story going around says that Uri DeLeath, known as a humanitarian trainer, finally felt the pressure of the animal rights groups and stole off with Peanut in the night. Bernie, who arrives when his cop friend Rick is beginning his interviews and sits in, isn't so sure--and is glad when Popo the Clown hires him to find Uri (who is his life partner) and Peanut when the police aren't able to give more time and resources to the hunt for them. Anything to take his mind off the problem with Lita and Malcolm. So Chet and Bernie are off on another wild adventure across country (and even across borders) on the trail of wild animals, smugglers and all-around bad guys. Told from Chet's point of view, I worried after the first book that the whole novelty of stories told by a dog would fade and the series would lose its luster, but I have continued to enjoy each of the audio versions as much as the first. Very well-read with just the right "tone" by Jim Frangione. Looking forward to the next one! A

10. SHROUD OF DISHONOR by Maureen Ash. #5 Bascot de Marins "Templar Knight" mystery set in 1194 Lincoln UK and surrounding area. When a local prostitute is murdered and stashed in a chest in the Templar's chapel, everyone is firstly aghast that someone could get into the enclave unobserved and commit such a heinous crime under the Templars noses, and also that anyone would want to. Bascot de Marins, set to leave Lincoln for Portugal in just a few days, is asked to undertake the investigation for the Templars, working with the Sheriff on the secular side since the victim was a Lincoln citizen. A second body with the Templar sigil carved on the whore's belly confirms that there is a serial killer about with a grudge against the Templars--or perhaps it's one of the Templars themselves? Bascot works with the Sheriff's men--whom he'd investigated earlier cases with when he was a retainer of castellan Nicolaa de la Haye before rejoining the Templars--and even a little help from Gianni, his former servant now training as a scribe in de la Haye's household. I enjoyed this entry in the series with the historical detail, although I still don't feel that Bascot is a fully developed character yet. Characterization seems to be this author's weakness, as well as a somewhat pedestrian writing style, and yet the books read quickly and tell an interesting story. B

11. NO COLDER PLACE by S.J. Rozan. #4 Lydia Chin/Bill Smith mystery set in New York City. This series is somewhat unique in that it alternates points of view every other book. This one is told from Bill's point of view. Both are private investigators with separate agencies who work together. Bill would like their relationship to be more than it is, and I think Lydia would as well, except that her family is traditional Chinese and her mother dislikes Bill--or the idea that any Caucasian would woo her daughter. Bill is contacted by an old cop friend who now runs his own much larger and more sophisticated PI agency. A construction company boss has hired him to discover who's stealing from his company--and also if possible to find a worker who disappeared a few days ago, seemingly without a trace. They have an idea who the thief might be, but proving it and dismissing him without the Union raising a fuss is another matter--and as Joe Romeo is also suspected of being a bookie and possibly running other kinds of illegal activities on site, even trickier. Bill goes undercover as a mason working with the company--not so far-fetched as he did construction work when he was younger. First day on the job, there is an 'accident' that puts one of Bill's co-workers in the hospital in a coma, and the second day, they dig up the body of the missing guy in an elevator pit that needed to be redone due to water seepage. The situation deteriorates from there, when Bill discovers (via Lydia, whom the client has agreed to putting in the office as a temporary 'secretary' to keeping an eye out there) that the company is having financial problems, that the architect has her own agenda, and that there may well be a mob connection somewhere in the works. I enjoy this series and find that the switching back and forth from Bill's and Lydia's point of view in every other book works great--much better, IMO, than swapping about within the same book. It gives the story more cohesiveness. Although I had figured out most aspects of the actual mystery and figured out the murderer well in advance, I still enjoyed this book immensely. Looking forward very much to the next one! A.

12. ROLLING THUNDER by Chris Grabenstein. #6 John Ceepak/Danny Boyle mystery set in fictional Sea Haven on the Jersey Shore. Ceepak and Danny are working at the opening of the new boardwalk amusement, the Rolling Thunder, a gigantic wooden roller coaster. Excitement ensues when the wife of the owner has a heart attack during the inaugural ride, and even Ceepak performing CPR after climbing up the roller coaster tracks can't save her. Although some members of the dysfunctional O'Malley family don't seem to be too grief-stricken, there's no evidence that it was anything other than a natural death--although, admittedly, not exactly good advertisement for the ride. Later, when a local woman, a waitress at a local dive that Ceepak and Danny stop for speeding and issue a warning to ends up hacked to death and packaged in two suitcases just hours later, it seems there may be a link back to the heart attack death as the young woman was apparently the mistress of Paddy O'Malley. Suddenly evidence pointing at O'Malley starts turning up left and right, and it's rather obvious even to the still-green Danny that someone really wants him implicated not only in the young woman's death but his wife's as well. Ceepak of course sees through this ruse from the beginning and digs to the heart of the matter by the end of the case, which ends with more heart-stopping moments up on the Rolling Thunder. Another great visit to Sea Haven, with Danny, Ceepak, Rita and the rest of the regular crew--although some of the peripheral characters change regularly, including Danny's girlfriend-of-the-month. Poor guy--he'll find the right one someday, I have no doubt! Easy reading style, great story and wonderful characters--a perfect light summer beach read if you're into that sort of thing--me, I couldn't hold out that long. Reading this catches me up to the current end of the series--now I'm stuck waiting a whole year til the next one comes out. Boo hoo! A.

13.STARVATION LAKE by Bryan Gruley. First in a (I think) series set in the small fictional resort town of Starvation Lake, Michigan. (There is a lake named 'Starvation Lake' but no town by that name.) Starvation Lake, where they eat, sleep and breathe hockey, and where Gus Carpenter grew up. Gus has to spend every day of his life living down the humiliation of letting the winning goal past him in the one state championship game that the River Rats ever made it to. His coach, Jack Blackburn, never spoke to him after that game. Gus moved away, became a reporter in Detroit, and then ended up returning to his hometown in shame after his newspaper was sued over an investigative story that he wrote with a primary source that was later shown to have an ulterior motive for blowing the whistle. So now he lives with the double humiliation (although no one knows about the exact reason why he came back from Detroit--that shame is mostly Gus's alone) and leads a mostly quiet life as a small town newspaperman--until the snowmobile that Coach Jack Blackburn was driving when it went through the ice on Starvation Lake ten years previously washes up on shore on Walleye Lake, five miles away. New questions about Blackburn's death begin to be raised, and Gus and his young reporter Joanie McCarthy start digging and find some very disturbing information about the much-loved Coach. This was an excellent read with a story that hooked me in right from the beginning, even though I'm not a huge hockey fan. While the initial mystery about Coach wasn't too hard to untangle fairly early on, the other plot twists at the end of the book were quite unexpected and increased my respect for the author's plotting skills. He also does a great job of providing a sense of place in the small, isolated town. It will be interesting to see what he does with the second book in the series. Highly recommended! A.

14.A RED HERRING WITHOUT MUSTARD by Alan Bradley. (AUDIO) #3 Flavia de Luce mystery set in 1950's England. At the church fete in Bishop's Lacey, Flavia encounters a gypsy fortuneteller who makes allusions to her dead mother Harriet. Although a very smart cookie for an eleven-year-old, and a chemistry whiz, Flavia tends to have a blind spot when it comes to the mother she never knew and is intrigued by the gypsy--enough to upset a candle which causes a fire in her tent. Feeling remorseful, Flavia invites her to park her caravan on a secluded corner of her family's estate and accompanies the woman there. When she returns the next day, finds that the woman has been attacked, beaten and near death. She summons help, and only a few hours later discovers the body of local ne'er-do-well hanging from a fountain with a lobster pick from her own family home stuffed up his nostril. Later, when the police come 'round, the lobster pick isn't there. As Flavia noses around and tries to connect the strange middle-of-the-night goings on at her home, the puzzle of an almost-extinct religious group, and the odd behavior of the gypsy's granddaughter with the seemingly unrelated beating of the gypsy woman and Brookie's death, she of course must deal with her two annoying and mean older sisters, her distant father--who has financial problems and is starting to sell off the family silver--and the ever-watchful police inspector who encountered Flavia's meddlesome self on earlier cases. Thoroughly enjoyable book as read by Jayne Entwistle--light, entertaining and charming without being sappy. Looking forward to the next! A.

15. THROUGH A GLASS, DARKLY by Donna Leon. #15 in the Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery series set in Venice. Brunetti is asked by Vianello, recently promoted to Inspector, to see what can be done about a friend of his family who was arrested in an environmental protest. While this doesn't have much to do with the eventual mystery, it does lead to another personal entreaty by the environmentalist's wife to determine whether her father, the owner of a glass factory on the island of Murano, is serious when he makes crazy threats against his son-in-law. During the course of that visit to Murano, he meets a night worker who assumes Brunetti has come to visit him about the letters he's been writing to the police and several other agencies protesting the unsafe conditions in the fornaci on Murano and how they caused birth defects in one of his children. The man seems obsessed and nearly crazy, but when he turns up dead of an apparent accident a few days later, Brunetti begins to give more weight to his rantings and investigates--even though he's been told to leave it alone by Vice-Questore Patta. (As usual!) One wonders whether the police are ever allowed to actually be police in Italy given that Brunetti is almost always called off of cases by his political-minded superior. As always, though, despite some of the repetitive themes, this was an enjoyable visit to Venice with Guido, Paola and her cooking and the city itself. A.

16. WHERE SERPENTS SLEEP by C.S. Harris. #4 Sebastian St. Cyr historical mystery set in Regency-era London. Sebastian is approached by Hero Jarvis, daughter of his mortal enemy Lord Jarvis, to ask his assistance in solving a crime that the Bow Street Runners have been ordered--by her father--not to investigate. The Magdalene House--a Quaker refuge for prostitutes trying to get out of the life--is burned down while Miss Jarvis was there interviewing one of the girls, a wellborn young woman going by the name of Rose. From what Hero observed, Rose herself was targeted specifically and was actually shot to death, and Hero wants to know why, and also wants to see justice done for those whom no one else will speak. Sebastian is not eager to work with Miss Jarvis, but the case is intriguing enough to pique his interest and get him out of the doldrums of drink and gambling where he's spent the last many months since his relationship with Kat Boleyn ended. They pursue different avenues, using decidedly different methods, first trying to determine who Rose was, and then why someone would target her for death. As they begin to uncover answers, both find themselves followed and attacked, so they know that the person whom they seek must be someone in a place of power with an explosive secret to keep. Enjoyable read as always, although the ending on this one was a bit predictable. Interesting characters, easy-reading style and great historical detail--physical as well as social--make these books a treat to read. A.

17. COLD CASE by Linda Barnes. #8 Carlotta Carlyle mystery set in Boston and environs. Carlotta is approached by an older man who gives her the first chapter of a manuscript to read--he believes that Thea Janis is alive. She had written a brilliant, seductive novel that read well beyond her fifteen years--and then disappeared. She wrote using a particular paper and ink in a certain style and this manuscript certainly reads a lot like Nightmare's Dawn. But a little digging makes Carlotta wonder what her client is playing at--when it's revealed that Thea--whose real name was Dorothy Cameron, one of the politically rich and powerful Cameron family--was actually dead, the killer having confessed and her body being buried. Suddenly, the client--who also is not whom he claims to be--wants the manuscript back and to un-hire Carlotta, but by then the old, cold case has got her intrigued and she's not likely to give up so quickly. Leaving most of the laws and ethics of a good private investigator behind, she plunges ahead anyway--otherwise, there would probably be no story here. LOL Meanwhile, the drug lord natural father of Carlotta's "little sister" Paolina has disappeared and she engages her dispatcher pal Gloria to harass his lawyer until she knows where he is--and she's being followed by someone she suspects is either one of Carlos' thugs or else a DEA agent. Or is it someone connected with the Cameron family who don't want her digging too deeply into Thea's death? Every time I read one of these books, I'm amazed how the series flew under my radar for so many years, and that the author isn't more well-known. Great main character, interesting secondary characters, very atmospheric with plenty of action and realistic dialogue. Another winner! A.

18. SNAKESKIN SHAMISEN by Naomi Hirahara. #3 Mas Arai mystery set in LA. Mas, a seventy-something-year-old Japanese-American gardener who is also a Hiroshima bomb survivor, gets sucked into another mystery when a party he's coerced into attending by his friend GI Hasuike to celebrate the Vegas jackpot GI's friend Randy won sports an interesting ending--Randy being murdered in the parking lot, next to him a broken antique shamisen--an Okinawan musical instrument. Once again, history plays a role in the case, which Mas works on with Juanita Gushiken, a licensed PI and GI's girlfriend. As he begins to trace the shamisen, he finds out some interesting details about Randy that even GI didn't know, and the murder could tie into the disappearance of a Japanese national some fifty years previously. Mas must set aside his naturally reticent nature to go knocking on doors and be persistent about asking questions. I always learn something when I read this series and this book was no exception. Although the story can be a little difficult to follow at times, with the use of some Japanese terms as well as the strange sort of combination English-Japanese speech that many of Mas's generation use, I've gotten somewhat used to it now by this third book. I really like Mas and look forward to reading his next adventure. A

19.SILENCING SAM by Julie Kramer (AUDIO) #3 Riley Spartz mystery set in the Twin Cities, MN. Riley, a TV reporter, is herself a suspect in the shooting death of a newspaper gossip columnist who had thrown some nasty tidbits about her in his column. They'd been seen arguing--she threw wine at him--and she had no alibi. To make matters worse, a new reporter from Texas was stealing all the good stories and annoying Riley to death with his condescending attitude, calling her "little lady" even after she'd requested that he stop. Since she isn't allowed near the Sam Pierce case, Riley is determined to scoop Clay by solving the headless murder story. She also continues working on the story of someone sabotaging wind turbines on a wind farm to the south of the Twin Cities near where her parents live. I'm going to be blunt and say that I was very disappointed with this book. I thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in the series--one read in print, the other listened to--but the reader for this book was horrible. I had to double check because I remember liking the reader for the last one, and sure enough, this was a different audio company that produced it and a different reader. Besides her narrative voice being somewhat annoying, the reader's dialogue voices--male and female--were almost enough alike to be interchangeable, except for Clay--the Texan--who had a decidedly fake accent. The timing was also off, with lots of inappropriately placed pauses. Not sure if it was the director of the piece or the reader, but I nearly stopped listening at one point. I kept on only because it's a relatively short book. The story itself wasn't too bad, but it didn't capture my attention nearly as much as the first two books in the series did. There also seemed to be a lot of re-hashing of events in previous books and at times the narrative explaining various procedures with news production seemed more like a dry lecture than being woven in as part of the story. The local flavor was still there, and I did enjoy that familiarity, and I like the way the author picks an interesting topic to focus on (in this case, wind power) that I get to learn a little something about. I'm planning to continue reading the series, but I will definitely read the print version if the same reader is used next time. C+

20. THE TIME MACHINE by HG WELLS (AUDIO) Classic sci-fi story written in 1895 about a group of men who meet at their club in London. They witness a little machine made by one of their number--they refer to him only as The Time Traveller--disappear. And the following week, the machine's owner shows up late to their dinner and has a fantastic tale of traveling to the year 802, 701 A.D. where he meets a people called the Eloi--humanoid, but very different from the humans he knows from Victorian London. Before long, he also meets another set of creatures whom he christens the Morlocks, who live in the dark subterranean depths of the planet and who make the effortless lives of the Eloi possible--or so he thinks. He develops several theories about how humans evolved to this state, some of which are disproved by himself over what feels like just a few days. He also travels briefly on his way 'home' to other times and sees interesting and often horrific things. When he returns, he's only been gone a few hours and of course no one believes he's figured out how to traverse the fourth dimension. Enjoyably read by Simon Puttock, it was good to return to a bit of classic literature. Better than either of the movie versions, that's for sure! Going to try to listen to a little more of this classic stuff. A.

21. #2 Stella Hardesty mystery set in rural Missouri. Stella is still recovering from the events at the end of book one, so her 'activities' (persuading the county's abusive men to be a little friendlier to their wives) have been curtailed. Until a tornado plows through Prosper, bringing back a lot of bad memories for Stella--her uncle was killed in a tornado when she was a little girl and she's always gotten a little panicky in bad weather since then. This one rips the snack shack at the local fairgrounds out of the ground, exposing the mummified body of a woman, and a friend of Stella's who was working on the shack when it was built three years previously is arrested for the murder. Stella tries to get Sheriff Goat Jones to reveal what they have against Neb Donovan, but he's being closemouthed--especially since the night of the tornado when he was in the midst of serving Stella dinner when his ex-wife Brandy showed up on his doorstep. Stella's trying to figure out if he still has the hots for the ex or if she should keep trying to snag him for herself. Strangely, Brandy's appearance ends up tying into Stella's case (she's being paid by Neb's wife to clear his name--mostly nosing around, no real physical action just yet) as the clues lead back to some mighty strange goings-on, even resulting in Stella and Brandy having some quality girl-time. Another wild and wacky romp across rural Missouri with a whole parcel of eccentric characters and a strange and twisty plot that tugs equally at your heartstrings and your funny bone. Very enjoyable, and I'm very much looking forward to the next in series. A.

DNF: THE GOLDEN ORANGE by Joseph Wambaugh. Just...argh

Currently reading: MURDER AT WRIGLEY FIELD by Troy Soos (audio), TELL ME, PRETTY MAIDEN by Rhys Bowen, THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD by Agatha Christie and THE LAST KINGDOM by Bernard Cornwell.