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review SPOILER ALERT! 2020-03-27 04:51
Review: Don't Look Down by Hilary Davidson
Don't Look Down - Hilary Davidson

***Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer!***

 

In the interest of full disclosure, I will tell you that I did not read the entire book. I read to 150 pages and I just couldn’t stomach it anymore. Reading it was painful and I just couldn’t do it. And since I am about 98% sure I know how it’s going to end, there really wasn’t much to keep me reading any further.

 

This book is just not good. It’s not a good character story nor is it a good police procedural. I am not an expert in the law or police procedure, by any means, however I have read enough books and watched enough Law & Order that I know how these types of books should work. I have a basic understanding of the law and how it works and this was not even close to being accurate. This case would get thrown into the nearest paper shredder and the detectives would be berated in open court to handle a case this way.

 

Also, consider this your ***SPOILER WARNING***

 

Three prime examples that the author has zero idea how the police actually function:

 

- The detectives go to the office of a suspect and state that they need to speak with said suspect, the fill-in receptionist advises that the suspect is not there but her office is that way so feel free to wait. Apparently this is a good enough cause for the detectives to search the suspect’s office. They do not have a warrant. They have not obtained permission unless you count the receptionist and yet they snoop through everything and decide to obtain a warrant for the suspect’s home once they find something. That is called an unlawful search and any evidence obtained in said search is automatically inadmissible in court, except in this book.

  • - They go search the suspect’s home and find her boyfriend there, they do not escort the boyfriend outside or to a specific place while they conduct the search. He just follows them around from room to room, offering an opinion on what they find and being asked leading questions about their investigation. Apparently in this book a search warrant also means that you get to search anything in the home and seize anything you feel like. That isn’t how search warrants work. Typically search warrants indicate exactly what sort of evidence you believe that you will find or that you believe is relevant to the investigation. For example, a murder weapon, belongings of the victim, etc. You don’t just get to snoop and seize things on a whim because they might pertain to your investigation. Also, one of the uniform police officers is asked to crack open a safe. Which he does, in just a few minutes. Is safe cracking a typical skill for a beat cop?
  • - When they find the suspect they are unconscious from blood loss. The suspect is taken to the hospital for treatment after being placed under arrest. The detectives then literally have a conversation of “Do you think we have to Mirandize her again? I don’t think it counts if they’re unconscious.” No, it doesn’t count. But apparently this is also a book that a suspect is taken into custody after suffering a gunshot wound that has left them unconscious from blood loss and they are expected in court the next day to be arraigned.

Also, on to another rant. This felt like a social justice rant. Every other page you have the African American detective making some observation about how awful things are for minorities in New York City and how wonderful white people have things. For example, “That’s assuming that the DA will arraign a wealthy white woman for possession of an illegal firearm, which isn’t likely.” Spare me. In case Ms. Davidson hadn’t noticed, she is white. And lecturing the reader about racial injustice. Personally, I am so white that I practically glow in the dark so I understand that I have very little perception of what minorities in this country experience on a day to day basis. I found it condescending for a white woman to be lecturing about the plight of another race. A plight that she does not understand.

 

Finally, this story is predictable. I knew how this was going to go by page fifty. All it took was one line (not a direct quote, I can’t be bothered to find it again), “If I had to pinpoint my blackmailer I would have said Lori in a second, but Lori had been dead for eighteen months.” Well there you have it folks. Two possibilities. Either Lori is not really dead and exacting revenge for some past slight. Or Lori is actually dead and someone close to her is exacting revenge for some past slight. I really don’t need to slog through 300 more painfully bad pages to find out that the ending is exactly what I think it is.

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review 2019-12-12 11:08
A satirical vintage cozy mystery with an awfully funny (anti) hero
Dover One (Chief Inspector Wilfred Dover Novels) - Joyce Porter

I thank NetGalley and Farrago for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review. Let me clarify that this novel was first published in 1964 by Cape, and Farrago is now republishing all the books in the series.

In brief, this book is a blast. I hadn’t heard of the Dover series and had never read any of Joyce Porter’s books before (more fool me!), but I’m pleased to have discovered both, the character and the author. While the character is truly dislikeable, the author had a talent for creating solid and engaging mysteries inhabited by a fantastic array of characters, and her observational skills and her comedic timing turn her books into a peculiar creation, somewhere between the satire and the farce.

I’ve been trying to find a way to describe this book. It is clearly a mystery and as I said above, it is a good, solid mystery, with red herrings, twists, turns and enough clues to make most lovers of the genre enjoy the putting together of the puzzle. You even have the mandatory summing up at the end, by Detective Chief Inspector Dover, but like everything else in the book, any similarity with what would happen in a true golden age mystery (yes, Agatha Christie comes to mind) is pure coincidence. You’ll have to read the book to judge by yourselves what you think of the ending, but it made me chuckle. I guess I would call it a vintage cozy mystery (if such a thing exists). It is not a standard modern cozy mystery, because although we do have some of the typical elements of those (a peculiar investigator, a strange crime, and a weird assortment of characters), the investigator here is a professional of law enforcement (to call him something) from Scotland Yard and all (the fact that the Yard are keen on sending him as far away as possible notwithstanding), and rather than being engaging and likeable, he is quite the opposite. In some ways, the novel has element of the police procedural, of the period, of course, and the mystery plays a more important part than it does in some of the modern cozy mysteries, where the main character is usually an amateur and his personality, her relationships, her business/profession, and her adventures can take up much of the novel.

Dover is a great creation. He is terrific and horrible all at the same time. He is lazy. He will go to any extents not to make any effort, either mental or physical. He is completely self-centred and totally uninterested in his job. There is no rule he won’t break in order to make his life easier and get a quick result. He exploits Sergeant MacGregor, making him do all the donkey work, and scrounging his cigarettes; there isn’t an invitation to food or drink he ever turns down; he is prejudiced, short-tempered and blows his top at the drop of a hat; he is pompous and never listens to anybody… As the back matter of the book says: “Detective Chief Inspector Wilfred Dover is arguably the most idle and avaricious hero of any novel, mystery or otherwise. Why should he even be bothered to solve the case?” This is not a novel for those who are looking for a character to root for. Although his sergeant is the total opposite, when it comes to solving crimes, he is methodical but not a great asset, either. The mystery takes place in a small town, mostly around what would nowadays be called a luxury housing state, and we come across a fantastic catalogue of characters and suspects, from the slightly odd to the wildly eccentric, and every shade in between. The local law enforcement sounds pretty normal in comparison, although the police women we meet are something else as well. Sorry, I’d rather not spoil it for readers.

The story is narrated in the third person, and although we mostly follow Dover’s adventures, we are clearly outside observers, rather than seeing things from his point of view. We might be privy to some of his thoughts and those of the other characters, but always as spectators. People who read the novel and feel disgusted by the lack of political correctness and the character’s flaws miss the distance between the narrative’s perspective and the character, in my opinion. We are not meant to like him or agree with his approach, quite the opposite. Of course, the novel is of its time, and that’s another one of the joys of it. I loved the language, the references to popular culture, the snippets of information about clothing, habits, social mores… It occurred to me that people researching the era (writers, designers, scholars…) would have a field day with this book.

I don’t want to go into too many details about the plot, but we have a pretty special victim, a bunch of characters from the ridiculous to the more ridiculous (dope fiends, yapping dogs, leery aristocrats, amateur detectives, defrocked priests (well, sort of), a writer interested in little known tribes…), blackmail, a ransom note, a missing body, adultery… and more. Take your pick.

Although I know comedy and sense of humour are very personal, and many of the references in the book are very British, I found it really funny and witty. The book is eminently quotable, but I had to try to offer you at least a few snippets, so you can get an idea:

I was nearly fifty when I married. Up till then I had always avoided matrimony like the plague, going on the principle that there is no need to throw yourself into the river to get a drink of water.

Dover didn’t approve of foreigners, mainly on the irrefutable grounds that they were un-English, and he was looking forwards to giving Boris Bogolepov, guilty or not, a rough old time just for the sheer hell of it.

It’s no good going round with an open mind like a vacuum cleaner because all you’ll finish up with is…’ Dover paused to work this one out ‘… is fluff!’ he concluded triumphantly.

I recommend this book to people who love cozy mysteries but are looking for something leaning more towards the police procedural side, and who prefer their humour rather sharp and British. Although I’ve read far worse, and there is only limited violence (fairly slapstick), the novel is non-PC (not that it condones the points of view exposed, but…) so it could be offensive to people reading it as a straight narrative. On the plus side, royalties from the book got to the work of the Friends of Friendless Churches (yes, they do exist, and do a great job as well). Go on, try it. You know you want to!

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review 2019-12-05 17:33
Spiderman – No Mercy by Joanna Schaffhausen @slipperywhisper @MinotaurBooks
No Mercy - Joanna Schaffhausen

Every so often I will follow an email link from NetGalley and check out what’s happening. I try to limit how many books I grab at one time…you know how that is. I found some books by Joanna Schaffhousen and grabbed a couple. I would like to thank NetGalley, Minotaur Books and Joanna Schaffhausen for the opportunity to read and share them.

 

No Mercy (Ellery Hathaway, #2)

Amazon ‘/ Audiobook / Goodreads

 

MY REVIEW

 

I immediately began reading No Mercy by Joanna Schaffhausen after finishing The Vanishing Season. I am loving the author and her characters and eagerly begin.

We start where we left off in The Vanishing Season. Each book can stand alone, though I highly recommend beginning at the beginning, because once Ellery got under my skin, I had to know… Each mystery, in this case two mysteries, end with my complete satisfaction and leave me wanting more. Now…let’s get to it.

 

Ellery Hathaway is on leave because of what happened. And that you will need to find out for yourself. Even though No Mercy is Book II, Joanna Schaffhausen will fill you in on the necessities.

 

Reed Markham is getting a divorce. He is an FBI profiler, so for those of you who watch Criminal Minds, you can see the complications that would entail for those left at home.

 

I love Joanna Schaffhausen’s ability to show me Tula, Reed’s daughter. I can see the little firecracker racing around, not happy with her pigtails daddy did because they are a bit lopsided. She’s ready for mommy to pick her up, but she’s so caught up in just being, she forgot she doesn’t have any shoes on. Joanna’s ability to show me the event had me smiling as I watched her.

 

Ellery had never been on a date. After her abduction at fourteen years old, I can understand why. Sure, she has sex. But she uses it like a weapon. Romance? She doesn’t believe it can ever happen for her after what Francis Coben, the serial killer did to her. Even though he is in prison, so is she. He is always with her…in her mind.

 

Something happens. I won’t tell you what, but Reed comes rushing to her side, leaving with just the clothes on his back. He saved her once, and he is determined to not let anything else happen to her. Little does he know, trouble seems to find her…or does she go looking for it? There is no romance between them, but, I wonder….

 

A note…

 

“You really think I’m unlucky enough to attract the attention of a third serial killer?”

 

Imagine yourself and everything about you splashed all over the internet. You even have a Wikipedia page, telling of the horrors inflicted on you by a serial killer. People building websites devoted to you…of HIM…the trolls, the filthy, disgusting…

 

Even though this is fiction, it reads like a true story. I don’t know how Ellery could even step outside her home. Especially on a dark night. I don’t know if I would every leave my house again. Could you? I would have alarms on every access point, the outside lit up as if it’s daytime and, at least, ONE BIG guard dog.

 

When it came time for Reed to leave, his boss giving him an ultimatum, I knew he couldn’t do it. There’s a rapist on the loose, an old arson case, and someone is messing with Ellery.

 

I love that he cooks for her, and stays with her. He’s a good cook and it is a definite improvement over the fast food she lives on. He refuses to leave her home alone.

 

Joanna’ Schaffhausen’s characters are the lowest of the low and the highest of the high. They range from the pond scum that doesn’t deserve to breath air to the knight in shining armor that all children dream about.

 

Ellery’s need to help others makes her a target all too often, but it leads to lots of non stop action and intense mysteries. Danger lurks around every corner and even comes knocking on her door. Joanna Schaffhausen stacks mystery on top of mystery, because one isn’t enough. LOL

 

Reed: “I want you to stop taking chances with your life.”

Ellery: “You forget. I’m living on borrowed time.”

 

OMG. Joanna Schaffhausen continues to blow me away with her in your face, can’t put down, take my breath away suspense.

 

I voluntarily reviewed an ARC of No Mercy by Joanna Schaffhausen.

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MY JOANNA SCHAFFHAUSEN REVIEWS

 

The Vanishing Season

 

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text 2019-10-07 00:06
Weekly Reading - October 6-13th
Connections in Death - J.D. Robb
Jane Doe: A Novel - Victoria Helen Stone
Well, That Escalated Quickly: Memoirs and Mistakes of an Accidental Activist - Franchesca Ramsey
Bud, Not Buddy - Christopher Paul Curtis

We FINALLY got Sweater Weather here in Kansas! It feels so nice to turn off the central air and open up the windows. This week I want to finish Connections in Death (print) and get through Jane Doe (Kindle) for Halloween Bingo. Since it is a "calm week before the chaos week" in my house, I may be able to squeeze one more book so I'm planning on Well, That Escalated Quickly (print). 

 

My son's school holds a William Allen White challenge (it is a children's literary award named after the author) and at the end of the school year the kids who met the challenge in accordance with their grade level gets a pizza party. My kid really wants to go to the pizza party, so we have started Bud, Not Buddy which he picked out himself. Just two chapters in and already got caught in the mom feels and Joshua is already relating to and liking Bud. 

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review 2019-08-26 10:20
A great police procedural novel set in Northern Ireland, to keep the grey cells ticking.
The Doom Murders - Brian O'Hare

I discovered Brian O’Hare and his Inspector Sheehan series thanks to the second book, 11:05 Murders, and I have been a fan ever since, reviewing the next two books in the series as well, but had not managed to catch up with the first one. As I mentioned in my last review, the author is happy to send a copy of the first book in the series to any readers interested, and he was kind enough to send me one as well. And I am very pleased about it.

I’m not surprised by the accolades and the praise bestowed on this novel. Although I’ve come to it after reading the rest of the series, and therefore I was already familiar with the characters and the setting, it has all the elements that will endear it to fans of police procedural novels and thrillers, and a few extra ones for good measure.

The story is narrated in the third person, like the rest of the series, mostly from Inspector Sheehan’s point of view, although there are parts of the novel where we share in the point of view of other characters, including members of the team and others who seem, at first, not to play a direct part in the plot, although we soon learn this is not the case. As I have mentioned when reviewing other novels in the series, the changes in point of view are not confusing or sudden, and the narration style works well because it offers readers plenty of clues, hints, and also a few red herrings that contribute to keeping the brain engaged and readers on their toes.

One of the aspects of the series I’ve always particularly enjoyed is the interaction between the members of the team, and also the teamwork involved in the investigation. Sheehan is, without a doubt, the star of the team, and his intuition/flashes of inspiration always help solve the mystery, although they are, at times, a source of frustration and puzzlement, as is the case here. Apart from a great detective, Sheehan is an inspiring leader of his men, a caring human being with his weaknesses and foibles; he is far from the ladies’ man so favoured by the detective genre, and although he does not shy away from action, he is a thinking man and spends a fair amount of time reflecting, not only upon the cases, but also about social, political, and religious matters. (He is a lapsed Roman Catholic, and the nature of the killings makes him question his own beliefs). The rest of the members of the team are also individuals in their own right, and we get to learn about their likes and dislikes, their strengths and weaknesses, and some details about their personal lives which are relevant to the story, because, in this case, everybody is a suspect. There are also other characters we meet, some who are regular collaborators of the team, like the medical examiner (one of my favourite characters, who always help bring a touch of lightness and fun to the proceedings), but also some introduced due to their relationship to the case, and all of them add interest to the story and play important roles later on.

The story is set in Northern Ireland, in Belfast, and the book’s setting is very important, not only because of the real locations and because how it affects the functioning of the team (Northern Ireland is part is the UK, and therefore their police force is organised in the same way as that in England), but also because the political and the religious background and tensions play a fundamental part in the plot and in the series as a whole. There are beautiful descriptions of neighbourhoods, buildings, and places, and I felt that the novel manages to give readers a good insight into the nature of both, the place and the people of Northern Ireland. At a historical moment such as this, with the Brexit discussions as one of the main items in the news, and the issue of the Irish Border as one of the stumbling stones, the novel’s background makes it even more compelling.

I’ve mentioned religion, and despite some twists and turns that point towards other possible motives, the murderer seems to be preoccupied with religion and with making a statement about the current state of affairs in the Roman Catholic Church. As I have said, thanks to the omniscient point of view, we are offered information the investigating team does not have, and readers will probably feel they are ahead and have a pretty good idea of what is going on, but the balance between what is revealed and what is not is finely tuned, and it is easy to miss clues or get stuck on one of the many possible suspects and trapped by the red herrings. I cannot discuss the ins and outs of the case or of the ending (yes, I had my suspicions, but mostly because I was at an advantage having read other books in the series, and even with that I was not all that confident and missed a few of the clues), but it fully engaged me and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’d recommend anybody reading it to pay close attention to it and not to dismiss any information provided. Everything has a reason. I’d also warn readers that although the descriptions of the crimes are not graphic in the extreme, the deaths are violent and there are a number of upsetting elements in the plot, and these are realistically depicted. Readers who prefer their crime novels light should stay away from this book.

The novel flows well and the language is easy to follow, without over-the-top reliance on jargon, and terminology that might not be familiar to the reader is explained within the context of the novel. The novel moves at a good pace, but it does include moments of reflection and commentaries about the case, its ramifications, and also about the general state of affairs that allow readers to think about the events and to catch a breath. Despite the serious subject, there are also moments of fun and banter, and even what seems to be a budding romance. There are some action scenes, but there is also plenty of work following clues and examining the evidence, and that helps readers feel like true investigators and ersatz members of the team, as they eavesdrop in the discussions and come up with their own theories.

This is an excellent police procedural novel, the first in a great series, with engaging characters, in a setting that is as important as the plot, and one that shows a team of investigators readers can root for (rather than corrupt individuals or egotistical detectives only interested in their own glory). There is a lot of talk about religion, partly due to the plot, and partly to the main character’s own spiritual crisis, and this might put off some readers, although, personally, I enjoyed that aspect of the story, a likely reflection of the author’s personal journey.

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