Category Archives: Mystery

Insanity – Cameron Jace

I’ll be honest, I knew nothing of Cameron Jace…never heard of him, never seen any of his work when one day I received an email from an ebook service that I subscribe to that described one of his books that was on sale (OK free) and the description intrigued me…since the price was right I went and “purchased” it.  I didn’t get around to reading it for quite some time but finally did just before the holidays.

According to Mr. Jace’s web site, he isn’t a professional writer but likes writing stories that he always wanted to read but couldn’t find already done. There’s really not much more I can tell you about the author…which bothers me as I tend to like to know at least something about the author I’m reading so I can get an idea of how their background and experiences have molded their writing.

Insanity is the first book of a series of books that he refers to collectively as Insanity; however, I think a more accurate title would be the Wonderland Wars….but, we’ll see.

Years ago, I purchased and absolutely adored a computer game called American McGee’s Alice.  It tells a very dark tale of Alice (as in Alice in Wonderland) who accidentally set fire to her home as a child which resulted in everything and everyone she loved to be destroyed or killed.  She gets institutionalized in an insane asylum and is eventually called back to a much more dark and twisted Wonderland.

The reason I mention this game is because Mr. Jace’s stories have a striking resemblance to the concept (but not execution).  In Insanity, Alice Wonder is in an institution for having killed her classmates on a school bus.  There she meets Professor Pillar, a serial killer (a-la Hannibal Lector) who believes that she is “THE” Alice and that he is The Caterpiller from Wonderland.  Together they are trying to stop a Wonderland monster that is in the real world who is brutally killing people, leaving a sewn up grin on their faces.

The story is at turns bizarre, humorous, educational and dark…very much like the real Alice In Wonderland books.

Honestly, I could not put the book down (a rarity for me).  Once finished, I actually wrote a review on Amazon.com…which I seldom do and have never done so for a freebie.  I have since purchased the collection for the first 3 ebooks and will likely buy books 4 and 5 (I think that’s as far as it goes so far).   Honestly, I was afraid to start book 2 since often books that may have been intended to be one-off frequently doesn’t translate well into a series, completely changes the characters or changes the sense of wonder…..so far, I’m happy to report that book 2 “Figment” is every bit as much fun as book 1 although perhaps a bit darker.

 

The Sexphiles: Haunting Melody by Kimberly Zant

I still know next to nothing about Kimberly Zant… if anyone knows anything about her, I’d appreciate some feedback.  I like to know at least a little about the authors I read.

I frankly don’t know where I picked this eBook up at, possibly part of a collection or maybe from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or possibly years ago from Fictionwise.  I never got around to reading it until this week.

The story is an obvious erotic spoof of The X-Files with the main characters working for either the FBI (Florida Bureau of Investigations) or the PIA (Private Investigators Association), Dianne Skelley and Sly Mullien as they investigate strange cases.  In this case, they first meet and investigate and are assigned a case to investigate a old plantation style house that appears to be haunted.  The ghost rapes Dianne while she’s showering at the house the first night they stay to investigate…although frankly, she more enjoys it that is actually physically or emotionally injured.  Roles are reversed and Sly is the skeptic and Dianne is the one more inclined to believe. They are joined early on by Dianne’s identical sister, Dee who is an paranormal investigator.  Soon, Dee is also raped by the the ghost, although she is more “injured” by the ghost, although only emotionally as she was having an orgasm when she realizes it’s a ghost rather than Sly.

The story is really more of a short story than a novel at only around 125 pages and while Kimberly writes very well and has some of the most approachable, if unrealistic, sex scenes of any modern erotica, what she does lack is convincing closure in her stories.  Admittedly, this appears to be an intended recurring series of stories, the ending was, much like others I’ve read of hers, ends rather abruptly.  Never the less, it’s an enjoyable romp, if short.

If you enjoy this, try:

  • Surrender and dozens of others.

 

The Big Over Easy – Jasper FForde

I’ve already written about Jasper Fforde, so I won’t explain what I know of him again.

I’ll admit, I’m a big fan of his Thursday Next novels and as a new series based on some comments made in the Thursday Next novels…but, don’t be mistaken, this isn’t the same series, although perhaps in the same world.  Never the less, I quite enjoyed the story.

This story is based on the Nursery Crime Division staring detective and family man Jack Spratt who is investigating what may or may not be a crime, a certain ovoid minor celebrity has been found in pieces…literally.  Did he fall to his death off a wall, or was he murdered?  Yes, the down and out Humpty Dumpty has been found dead and the investigation, much like all of Fforde’s novels, takes some seriously twisted and humorous  turns.  Written in much the same manner as Dashel Hammett and others in the genre, this hilarious noir crime novel is one entertaining gem of a story.  Despite the bizarre premise, the pace is fast and consistent with believable characters that you genuinely care for….a talent that, perhaps not uniquely his, is a particular talent of Ffordes.

If you enjoy this, read:

  • The Fourth Bear
  • Or any of Fforde’s other novels

Blood Price – Tanya Huff

Tanya Huff is a Canadian writer who writes fantasy, paranormal romance and sci-fi, often involving strong female main characters.  Unfortunately, my personal knowledge and research hasn’t raised much in way of a background.  She was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia and has a Bachelor of applied Arts in Radio and Television Arts from Ryerson Polytechnical Institute in Toronto, Ontario and currently resides with her wife Fiona Patton in rural Ontario.

This novel is the first of the “Blood” books involving a former police officer, Vicki Nelson, who was forced from her position as detective by Retinitis Pigmentosa which causes failing eyesight, and Henry Fitzroy, a historical romance writer who also happens to be a vampire and the 1st Duke of Richmond and Somerset.

Vicki witnesses the brutal murder of a young man and is hired to investigate by his girlfriend, Coreen Fennel who claims that her boyfriend was murdered by a vampire, which she of course does not believe and even after seeing the killer disappear she chalks it up to her failing eyesight.  While investigating, she’s knocked unconscious and wakes up in an unknown apartment with a strange man looking through her purse.  The stranger, Henry Fitzroy, explains that he isn’t the killer but a demon is, oh and he’s a 450-year-old vampire…so begins a guilty indulgence of a series of 5 novels and a short story involving these two and several other characters.

The stories are cheesy, to be honest, but enjoyable much like watching the silly Sci-Fi series.  Cleopatra 2525 and much like the first few years of Smallville, the stories are “monster of the week”. This first and the last are probably the best of the series, probably due to them being more character based.  My biggest complaint has to do with the simplicity, i.e. it’s very, very straight-forward and other than the main vampire, all of the characters are stereotypical with clear delineation between “good” and “evil” and little depth or background; however, that can be part of it’s charm as well since it doesn’t require any “deep thinking” either.

The series of books was also the basis for a Canadian/Lifetime channel television series, called Blood Ties, which ran for two seasons.  The series was “OK”, just a cheep, Canadian cable television series…but, if you can get it cheap or off of Netflix, it’s still watchable…but, like so many books turned into movies or series imagination and visual media never quite match up.

If you enjoy this, please read the remainder of the series:

  • Blood Trial
  • Blood Lines
  • Blood Pact
  • Blood Debt

Except The Dying – Maureen Jennings

Maureen Jennings was born in 1939 in Birmingham, England; however, she moved to Windsor, Ontario, Canada with her mother at the age of seventeen in 1956.  She graduated with a M.A. in English Literature from the University of Toronto around 1965.  In 1966 she taught English at Ryerson Polytechnic Institute.  She left for a career as a psychotherapist in 1972 and published her first novel, “Except the Dying” in 1997.

This is one of those rare occasions where I first saw a TV movie which prompted me to read the source material.   Having seen “Murdoch Mysteries” listed in a promo clip from a DVD release of something published by Acorn Media, it looked interesting.  I rented the “series” which in reality were three movies that were produced staring Peter Outerbridge in the role of Detective Murdoch.  The first movie was an adaptation of Except the Dying with a number of significant differences between the book and the movie; however, they both stand well in their own rights….well, enough about the movie, what about the book?

Maureen Jennings is nothing if not exacting in her research of her adopted country and city’s past.  The novel takes place in turn of the late 19th century Toronto where William Murdoch is a Catholic police detective investigating the murder of young girl found drugged, strangled and nude in an alley in the red light district in the middle of Winter.  It is later discovered the girl was pregnant but everyone believes she was a prostitute, except for Murdoch.  Murdoch must investigate despite resistance from his superiors, because he dares interview and suspect members of Toronto society.

The novel is well written, completely engrossing and paints an incredibly vivid picture of Victorian-era Toronto following a massive tuberculosis outbreak and bitter winter where many buildings are still abandoned.  TB is still an ever present threat, some of those closest to Murdoch are dying of it, poverty is rampant and the divide between the haves and have-nots is  wide although even those that have are not all living as lavishly as they once did.  The mystery is ever present and it’s hard sometimes to remember that some of the investigative techniques that we take for granted (thanks to TV, movies, etc…) were just beginning to come into existence, such as fingerprints.

I highly recommend the novels.

The movies are good, but not for the squeamish and with some fascinatingly creepy (and titillating dream sequences).

The long running TV series, known as “The Murdoch Mysteries” in Canada and the UK and currently airing on Ovation in the US as “The Artful Detective”, which is based on the characters less than the novels can be hilarious and entertaining.

If you enjoy this, please read:

  • Under the Dragon’s Tail
  • Poor Tom Is Cold
  • Let Loose The Dogs
  • Night’s child
  • Vices Of My Blood
  • A Journeyman to Grief

One For The Money – Janet Evonovich

An American writer whose career is primarily in the genre of romantic contemporary mysteries began her career writing short romance novels under the pen name of Steffie Hall, but, earned fame for her mysteries staring an ex-lingerie buyer turned bounty hunter, Stephanie Plum.  The novels are in turns hilarious with a cast of bizarre characters, stranger family and the ever present love triangle between Stephanie, childhood romantic interest Joseph Morelli and mysterious “Batman-like” Cuban-American Ricardo “Ranger” Carlos Manoso who is also a bounty hunter and owner of RangeMan security company.  Stephanie lives alone, well, except for her pet hamster, and works for her creepy cousin, Vincent “Vinnie” Plum who owns the Vincent Plum Bail Bonds. 

One For The Money is the first in the numbered series staring Stephanie Plum and while not the funnies since this is the introduction of her sometime partner “in crime” Lula who is currently a street walker when we first meet her.   That doesn’t mean there’s not a lot of laughs though, between Grandma Mazur, Stephanie’s parents, and a slew of other characters.  Don’t get me wrong though, this is not a madcap comedy…under the humor in pretty much the entire series is actual danger, the nastiness of humanity and more close calls, twists and turns than should ever be expected in a book, and series, that is primarily a romance. 

At the time of this writing, there are 20 novels in the numbered series but there are several “specials” which are usually seasonal and written very much like holiday specials for television series and don’t really fit into the normal time lines of the series and include “supernatural” characters, i.e. Christmas Elves, “Sandy Claws”, etc… and usually involves a character named Diesel who literally materializes in front of Stephanie.

If you enjoy this, you will enjoy:

  • Two for the Dough
  • Three to Get Deadly
  • Four to Score
  • High Five
  • Hot Six
  • Seven Up
  • Hard Eight
  • Visions of Sugar Plums
  • To the Nines
  • Ten Big Ones
  • Eleven on Top
  • Twelve Sharp
  • Plum Lovin’
  • Lean Mean Thirteen
  • Plum Lucky
  • Fearless Fourteen
  • Plum Spooky
  • Finger Lickin’ Fifteen
  • Sizzling Sixteen
  • Explosive Eighteen
  • Notorious Nineteen
  • Takedown Twenty (Due out November 19, 2013)

Dating Dead Men – Harley Jane Kozak

Harley Jane Kozak is an American actress and occasional writer, starring in Necessary Roughness, Parenthood, Arachnophobia and several soap operas.  So far, she has written five novels, this being the first (and personally I think the best).

The story centers around Wollie Shelley, a Los Angeles greeting-card artist, who’ love life isn’t quite going to plan.  She’s currently participating in a radio  talk show host’s upcoming book on relationships where she is to date 40 men in 60 days, but, it’s not going well.  On here way to visit her paranoid schizophrenic brother who is institutionalized at a hospital in Rio Pescado, she discovers a dead body.  She believes that her brother may be involved so, to protect her brother, she tries to solve the crime herself and in the process meets small-time crooks and mobsters…the question is are they actually worse than the men she’s been dating?

I’ll admit, the story is somewhat predictable and some of the characters are less than interesting.  The dating scenes are in turns painful and hilarious.  The relationship with her brother though is a shining point and appears to be genuine and well written.

For a first novel though, it’s not horrible.  The problem was that I kept feeling like I was reading a novelization of an “Ellen” episode, the friends, the “I Love Lucy”-like antics; with murder thrown in.  It could have been worse, there’s at least enough interest to keep it readable, I just wouldn’t go out and make an effort to read it again, although oddly enough the Audible.com audio book version is slightly better and well read.

What astonishes me is the fact the book won an Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity Awards.   Like I said, it wasn’t horrible…but, award worthy, perhaps it was a slow year.

Other books by Harley Jane Kozak:

  • Dating is Murder
  • Dead Ex
  • A Date You Can’t Refuse
  • Keeper of the Moon