Category Archives: Crime

The Last Child

the last childby John Hart

John Hart is a writer who describes himself as a “recovering” attorney who lives in North Carolina, the site of his novels.  Although he is currently not practicing law, his experience in our criminal justice system benefits his writing.  He has received praise as a writer who can bring his characters to life, making them very real to the reader.  His thrillers keep us on the edge of our seats, unable to put his work down.  In the book “The Last Child,” Hart mixes a boyhood adventure much like Huckleberry Finn’s with a modern mystery of missing children and serves us a winner of a story.

The hero of the book, Johnny Merrimon, is a 13-year-old boy who had lived in a very happy and strong family.  This changed a year ago when his sister disappeared.  Johnny still will not accept that she might be dead.  His family has been devastated.  Johnny’s father has disappeared, apparently absorbing blame for not being on time to pick up his daughter.  His mother feels guilty and changes her entire life-style, having lost two of her loves- her daughter and her husband.  She uses drugs and alcohol to dull the pain.  The result is that she loses touch with her son.  Both Johnny and his mother are abused by the town’s rich and influential power figure.  Johnny fights back the only way he knows how.  He spends his every moment and all of his energy to find the sister—the twin sister he has lost.  Clyde Hunt, the troubled police detective, is always there, still trying to solve the mystery, which has devastated him and his family, too.  Now the town cringes in fear.  Another young girl has gone missing.

Before long there are dead bodies and twists and turns that keep the reader both guessing and involved.  Hart’s book is full of action and suspense.  There is little time to rest, or to put this exciting book down—which you certainly won’t.  Our book club gave this book the highest rating of any book we have read.  I highly recommend it to both mystery lovers and to anyone who enjoys a fast-paced, exciting story.

Key Ideas from different club members:

I really liked the characters; Well-written; Like 2 books in 1; Wonderful page-turner!  Loved it; Nice read; Fantastic!  Suspense and drama all wrapped up into one; Kept you reading and guessing; Couldn’t predict the ending; Keeps you guessing till the end; Fabulous book!

The Club Members rating of this book:

Pat Gombita, Pat Kuna, Sharon Shaffer, Julie Shultz, Bill Simmons, Helen Skalski, Deb Stewart, Barb Swanson, and Linda Troll

Club’s Average Rating:  4.9 of 5       Rating Range:  4 to 5

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Filed under Adult Fiction, Crime, Family, Fourth Tuesday Book Club Books, Murder, Mystery

Books from the New York Times Best Seller’s List January 2014

  How Lucky You Can Be by Buster Olney

Where can you find a good book when you are looking for one?  The library has hundreds of books, but which one should you choose?  One option is to read reviews (like this one) or to wander through book lists, like the New York Times.  This will give you a good idea of what books are being read and enjoyed by others.  Our club decided to pick books from some of these lists.

​The book How Lucky You Can Be was written by Buster Olney, an ESPN announcer.  It is subtitled “The Story of Coach Don Meyer.”  Coach Meyer is the most famous coach that you never heard of… but other basketball coaches around the country know about him.  He devoted himself not only to his teams but also to teaching the art of coaching to anyone interested in the game he loved.  This is much more than a sports story.  It is the story of a dedicated man who at times neglected his family to achieve greatness in his field, passing the legendary Bobby Knight in career wins with over 903 victories, the most by any coach in history at that time.  It took a tragedy for him to express the love he had for his family — wife, children, and his players.

​ Don Meyer had been a college player at Northern Colorado and a head coach for years at David Lipscomb College and Northern State University.  His success was tremendous, but this story really begins on a lonely stretch of two-land road in South Dakota.  While leading a caravan of cars, taking his players on a team-building retreat, Meyer fell asleep at the wheel.  His car veered into an oncoming tractor-trailer truck.  The Coach was crushed, and it was feared that he would die from his injuries.  At the hospital, doctors prepared his wife because they were certain he would not make it through the surgery.  After five hours, Meyer survived but lost part of a leg, his spleen, and had numerous other injuries.  Meyer said that the accident was the best thing that could have happened to him.  He equated it with an angel providing him with a message.  The doctors found that Meyer had terminal cancer.

​ The story describes how this driven coach, who did not want to give up coaching basketball, rose to face the greatest challenge of his life.  He reassessed his life and his relationships.  His three adult children describe the changes that he under went.  Meyer now expressed himself, particularly his emotional self.  He did not hold back telling his children, his wife, or his players how much he loved them.  This tragedy actually has made their family even closer.  This is the story of a man who’s belief in God, his religion, his family, and his team— both coaches and players– gave him the strength to come back to coaching and to fight the lose of a leg and the cancer.  This would be the toughest battle of his life.

I recommend this book wholeheartedly, not only for basketball fans, as an inspirational story of a man fighting to overcome tremendous odds.  (5 of 5)

Other books from book lists rated by different club members:

Mr. Ives’ Christmas by Oscar Hijuelos

Part love story, part meditation on finding spiritual peace in the midst of crisis.  It is a beautifully written, tender and passionate story of a man trying to put his life in perspective.  (4 of 5)

  Eats, Shoots, and Leaves by Lynne Truss

A funny, informative nonfiction book with excellent examples of misused punctuation. (5 of 5)

  The Hundred Year-Old Man by Jonas Jonasson

The story spans the 20th century with a character similar to Forest Gump.  (4 of 5)

 The Postmistress by Sarah Blake

Multiple story lines and strong women tell the story of World War II.  (5 of 5)

    Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross

Thought provoking historic novel about women being held back by authoritive men.  (4 of 5)

     Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Published in 1932, a thought  provoking novel anticipates developments that have profoundly changed society.  (4.5 of 5)

 The Christmas Train by David Baldacci

This tale shows how we do get second chances to fulfill our deepest hopes and dreams, especially during the season of miracles.  (5 of 5)

 God is not Mad at You by Joyce Meyer

A book that explains the relationship between God and man.  (5 of 5)

     Duck the Halls by Donna Andrews

‘Tis the season to be jolly – a funny novel with a heroine who rounds up stray animals of all sorts as well as a killer.  Duck the Halls! (5 of 5)

    Nighttime is My Time by Mary Higgins Clark

A riveting novel of psychological suspense that depicts the mind of a killer. (4 of 5)

The Club Members rating these books:

Pat Gombita, Mona Herrell, Pat Kuna, Lee Ann Schrock, Julie Shultz, Bill Simmons, Deb Stewart, Barb Swanson, Linda Troll, Patti Tullis and Rae Ann Weaver

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Filed under Adult Fiction, Adult Non-Fiction, Biography, Crime, Fourth Tuesday Book Club Books, Historical, History, Humor, Inspirational, Inspirational, Murder, Mystery, Personal Insights, Religion, Sports, Sports/Entertainment

Death Along the Spirit Road

by C. M. Wendelboe

Reviewed by   The Fourth Tuesday and Mystery Book Club

 Image            Manny Tanno is a hero who is quite different from the typical slick detectives that occupy the pages of most mysteries.  He is over-weight, balding, fighting the urge to smoke again, and perhaps the worst driver in mystery lore.  He is a very real person who could not wait to get out of his hometown and prove that he could be a success.  What makes him different is that his “home town” is Pine Ridge Village, a Lakota Sioux Indian Reservation.  Manny did achieve success.  He became a highly regarded FBI agent.  Now he is reluctantly coming home, sent by his boss to solve a murder that no one is able to solve.  Manny must do it in two weeks or lose his job as an instructor at the FBI Academy.

Jason Red Cloud also grew up in Pine Ridge Village and became a successful land developer.  He was heading up a project that would bring jobs and money to the impoverished reservation.  Jason was found dead, beaten with a Sioux war club.  Near the body was also found what appeared to be the remnants of a Lakota religious ritual that is traditionally performed for the dead.

To add to the complications of the murder, Manny’s old rival, “Lumpy” Looks Twice, is the acting Chief of the Tribal Police Agency.  Lumpy is not cooperative, and sets up Manny in tough situations to make his life difficult.  The community is not greeting this FBI agent with open arms.  Even his family is less than happy to see Manny return.  This is probably because his older brother, Reuben, who served time in prison for murder, is a prime suspect in this homicide.

C. M. Wendelboe’s first effort with the characters of Pine Ridge is successful.  The people he describes come alive in the pages of this book, the first in a series of three mysteries.  He succeeds in making us care about Willie, the young policeman who Manny befriends, about Cara, who falls for Manny, and about Reuben and others.  Around these personalities, Wendelboe weaves a good mystery centered on a murder, stolen and returned Indian artifacts, and Indian culture.  The author shows the importance of the family among the Lakota.

Wendelboe visited the Mary S. Biesecker Library August 6th, 2011 and on August 7th he appeared at the American Legion in Somerset.  We therefore have a connection with this mystery writer.  If you enjoy Margaret Coel or Tony Hillerman’s stories of American Indian culture and the hard-boiled detectives of Robert Parker, you should enjoy C. M. Wendelboe.  This is a unique combination of both styles, and it comes off well.  It should wet your appetite for his next two books, both with Manny Tanno also as the hero.  We recommend his first mystery and hope that Mr. Wendelboe will pay another visit to us.

Key Ideas from different club members:

Good detective story with Native American info sprinkled throughout; Interesting; Hard to get into but I liked it once I got into it; I liked the book; I will read more of this series; Really outstanding.

The Club Members rating of this book:

Pat Kuna, Lee Ann Schrock, Sharon Shaffer, Bill Simmons, Barb Swanson, Linda Troll, Patty Tullis, and Rae Ann Weaver

Club’s Average Rating: 4.1 of 5       Rating Range: 3 to 5

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The Scarpetta Factor

scarpetta factorby Patricia Cornwell

Reviewed by The Fourth Tuesday and Mystery Book Club

                A “procedural” is a type of mystery that follows police at work.  The reader “listens” to in-depth conversations about forensic science or police techniques for dealing with cordoning off an area for public safety.  Often the discussions are long, dry, detailed, and boring… just like real police work.  Procedural mysteries take us into the daily activities of a police officer or a crime scene investigator, like this book’s main character, Kay Scarpetta.  In this era of CSI and other forensic crime shows, Patricia Cornwell’s forensic heroine and her writings are extremely popular.

In this story, Scarpetta has become well known and is in high demand.  Television shows want a forensic expert like her to explain things to their audiences.  They want the “Scarpetta Factor” to draw viewers and raise their ratings, especially when a serial killer is stalking New York City.  CNN is torn between reporting the news and making it.  Is it possible that this maniac is driving a yellow cab and killing women?  Are the people of the great city in danger?  The disappearance of an important, influential financier adds to the city and the police concerns and complicates the search for a possible serial killer.

What people don’t know is that Kay Scarpetta and her husband, Dr. Benton Wesley, are being stalked themselves, apparently by one of his former mental patients.  Their lives and safety are threatened when a package that looks like a bomb arrives at their apartment.  It becomes even more complex when an organized crime figure becomes involved in the plot.

Patricia Cornwell introduces new readers to the people in Kay Scarpetta’s life.  In addition to her husband who is a forensic psychologist and former FBI profiler, we meet her niece Lucy, who is a computer whiz assisting the police.  Scarpetta’s watchdog is the tough cop, Marino, who now works for the hard, driven district attorney, Berger.  Cornwell was never directly involved in police work.  However, much of her character’s lives reflect Cornwell’s own personal experiences, whether it was having a fatherless childhood, marrying an older man as a father image, or entering into intimate relationships with other women.  Cornwell’s own foibles and flaws are used to mold Scarpetta’s world.

For those who love CSI and procedural mysteries, you will enjoy this book.  It is a very long novel that could have been much shorter.  Cornwell must explain who people are, events from the past, and how characters’ relationships developed, for those who have not read her earlier Scarpetta mysteries.  This makes it sometimes wordy and repetitive, but the story is strong.  We recommend it with the understanding that there are weaknesses in this particular book.

Key Ideas from different club members:

Needed knowledge from previous books to really understand; Too long; Too wordy; Too many characters; I got confused with the twists in the story; Hard to follow plot and I usually like her books; Not as good as her other books; Could not stay interested in the book; Enjoyed use of language and phrasing; Intriguing plot; I really liked the book, will read more.

The Club Members rating of this book:

Linda Bowman, Pat Gombita, Mona Herrell, Pat Kuna, Julie Shultz, Bill Simmons, Deb Stewart, Linda Troll, and Rae Ann Weaver

Club’s Average Rating:  3.3 of 5       Rating Range:  2 to 5

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Coyote Waits

By Tony Hillerman

Published by Harper & Row

Copyright © 1990

Chee and Leaphorn investigate a cop killer in the Navajo Nation where the killer might just be a victim as well.

Officer Jim Chee is on his way to Red Rock to meet a fellow officer Delbert Nez for a coffee break. However, Nez thinks that he has spotted the vandal that he has been after for awhile. Chee thinks about giving him back up, but Nez doesn’t sound like he needs it. When Nez doesn’t show up at Red Rock Chee gets worried and finds him shot and burning in his patrol car. Risking his own safety, he pulls Nez from the vehicle and starts down the road only to find who he believes to be the killer, Ashie Pinto, an 80 year old Navajo Shaman who is staggering around in the middle of the road with a bottle of whiskey in his hand and a pistol in his belt.

While Chee is almost certain that this is his man, his friend and newly hired public defender, Janet Pete doesn’t believe Pinto is guilty. In addition, Pinto’s family doesn’t believe he could have done it either, and they urge Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn, to whom they are loosely related to investigate. Pinto is making all of this necessary of course because he refuses to speak of the event, he will neither confirm nor deny his guilt. Following two separate paths Chee and Leaphorn will find themselves in the middle of a case that proves to have historical and monetary significance.

Hillerman is the master of Native American Mysteries. He meshes Navajo tradition and lore into his stories so confidently and seamlessly that the casual reader can only assume that they are accurate. I love his protagonists. Hillerman writes us individuals with strengths and weaknesses and contradictory personality traits and actions. They are not portrayed as super human, it is their intellect and knowledge of their peoples ways that makes them so interesting and good at their jobs. “Coyote Waits” is a fine example of Hillerman’s art of storytelling and understanding of logic.

I was first introduced to Hillerman’s work by way of the PBS Mysteries series that featured Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn which were fine films. From there I had to read some of his books. I have read “Skinwalkers” and now “Coyote Waits.” I won’t devour all of his books one after another, but whenever I’m looking for a good mystery, in an interesting setting, with strong three dimensional characters I will look for Tony Hillerman.

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Filed under Adult Fiction, Crime, Murder, Mystery, Native American, Strong Sense of Place

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Fourth Tuesday Book Club

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson

This is one of the most highly acclaimed and widely read mysteries in recent times.  It is the first in a trilogy of novels and soon to be a Hollywood movie.  The story continues through each of the three books to complete a picture of the girl with the dragon tattoo.

Larsson, who died before his books were published, would actually have disliked the title that was given to this novel.  He entitled his first book “The Man Who Killed Women,” which is more descriptive of the crimes described in this mystery (and generally disliked by our club).  The author delves into multiple areas, which held an interest for him as a journalist– women’s rights, the fascist movements in Europe, and international finance.  The story is actually a mixture of a murder mystery, a mysterious family’s history, a love story and a financial thriller.

Larsson introduces his two main characters in this book.  The first is Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist who fights injustice but then finds himself in court charged with libel and facing prison.  Mikael is then encouraged to investigate a missing person who was assumed to have been murdered twelve years before.  He uncovers the hidden secrets of a unique and strange family.  The unlikely heroine is Lisbeth Salander, a 24 year old pierced and tattooed woman who lives an unusual lifestyle, with the unique ability to use computers and hack the Internet among her many weapons.  It is a sometimes violent but always a riveting tale that will keep you enthralled.  The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is a great read and thankfully there are two more books in the trilogy that we can enjoy.

Key Ideas from different club members:

Impelling; Very intriguing; Suspenseful; well written with strong story line; I liked the characters; I want to read the other books in the series; Violent in spots.

(Linda Bowman, Pat Gombita, Pat Kuna, Sharon Shaffer, Bill Simmons, Lynn Simmons, Helen Skalski, and Linda Troll)

The Club Members rating of this book:     4.4   of   5          

Rating Range:    2   to   5 

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Filed under Adult Fiction, Crime, Europe, Fourth Tuesday Book Club Books, Murder, Mystery

The Corpse Wore Tartan

By Kaitlyn Dunnett

Published by Kensington Publishing

Copyright © 2010

The Liss MacCrimmon Scottish Mysteries continue with “The Corpse Wore Tartan.” In an effort to help her boyfriend Dan Ruskin, and boost business in her Scottish specialty shop, Liss has been helping coordinate the visit of the SHAS (Scottish Heritage Appreciation Society). The SHAS holds an annual celebration of Scotland’s beloved poet Robert Burns in a different location every year, and this year they have chosen a grand hotel called “The Spruces” which was recently opened by Joe Ruskin, Dan’s father. A Successful event like this could do wonders for the Spruces reputation and financial outlook.

The arrival of the SHAS brings with it many cantankerous members with old grudges and financial problems. As expected the occasion begins to unravel quickly with a stolen brooch, a barbed and insinuation filled speech, and the death of a high ranking SHAS member. To top this all off Maine does not have the nicest weather in late January, and this proves to be no exception as Moosetookalook is hit with a double header blizzard knocking out power and anyway out of the hotel. The thief and murderer are trapped, and in addition all the SHAS members and other guests staying in the hotel will have to be lodged and fed without hope of compensation. This could spell disaster for Liss and the Spruces on so many different levels.

I really enjoyed Dunnett’s endeavor on this go round. I read the Second book in the series “Scone Cold Dead,” and while I liked it I didn’t really care for the love triangle that she introduces. I thought why does love have to be so hard? I also wondered: why does Liss have to be so hard headed and independent. Kaitlyn really handled each of those things very well in this installment, though I won’t give anything away. And as with the second novel I found the mystery easy enough to follow, although if she added one more character I think I would have needed to start taking notes just like Sherri Willett. Also, the twist in the identity of the killer at the end of this book, while so very simple, took me completely by surprise because among the many scenarios I considered I never thought of the one Dunnett concocted. Once again, this is a first rate mystery series for those, like me, who aren’t into gore, serial killers, or psychomaniacs.

As an aside, the Liss MacCrimmon Scottish Mysteries always remind me of the SNL “All things Scottish” skit and the line “If it’s not Scottish, It’s Crrrraaaap!” not that they are in any way similarly hilarious, but rather it is this whole celebration of how cool it is to be a Scottish. Kaitlyn Dunnett seems to have a love for “all things Scottish” and it spills out in her Liss MacCrimmon books. While I’m not Scottish (I’m Welsh/English) her books make me wish I was on occasion.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Adult Fiction, Crime, Murder, Mystery, Romance