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review 2017-09-19 09:42
Portrait of Vengeance (Gwen Marcey #4) by Carrie Stuart Parks
Portrait of Vengeance (A Gwen Marcey Novel) - Carrie Stuart Parks

Gwen Marcey has done a good job keeping the pain of her past boxed up. But as she investigates the case of a missing child in Lapwai, Idaho, details keep surfacing that are eerily similar to her childhood traumas. She doesn’t believe in coincidences. So what’s going on here? No one knows more about the impact of the past than the Nez Perce people of Lapwai. Gwen finds herself an unwelcome visitor to some, making her investigation even more difficult. The questions keep piling up, but answers are slow in coming—and the clock is ticking for a missing little girl. Meanwhile, Gwen’s ex-husband is threatening to take sole custody of their daughter. As Gwen’s past and present collide, she’s in a desperate race for the truth. Because only truth will ensure she still has a future.

Amazon.com

 

 

 

Let me start off by saying that if you haven't read any of the previous Gwen Marcey stories, I'd recommend checking out the earlier books with this particular series. While the cases themselves could technically make for stand-alone works, there are characters and certain details of Gwen's life that are carried through all the books. 

 

In this fourth installment in the series, forensic artist Gwen Marcey is investigating the murders of a married couple within the Nez Perce tribe (Lapwai community) as well as the whereabouts of the victims' missing (presumed kidnapped) young daughter. Some of the particulars of the case, as far as clues at the scene and specifics regarding the profiling of the killer, appear to echo traumatic events from Gwen's own childhood. As the case / plot progresses, Gwen becomes more and more convinced that finding the answers within this present case will, in turn, answer questions about her own traumas that have plagued her for years.

 

The journey to the truth proves to be a solidly uphill battle, as Gwen finds that many of the key witnesses she is relying on for information have deep-seated prejudices against Caucasian people. In what's now become a signature mixture within this series as a whole, author Carrie Stuart Parks creates her characters and environments by bringing forth a compelling blend of historical fact, details / inspiration from actual true crime cases, and occasionally details from cases Parks herself worked during her own years as a forensic artist. While working within the Nez Perce tribal lands, our protagonist Gwen gets a crash course in the history of such traumatic events as Wounded Knee / Pine Ridge, as well as the development of AIM (the American Indian Movement). It takes little time for Gwen to see that she will need to tread lightly when working with the descendants of people involved in these painful moments within Native history. Though the years have passed, the hurt has hardly diminished. 

 

Having followed this series from the beginning, I couldn't help but laugh and shake my head to find 8 pages into this latest book that Gwen is STILL having fights & custody battles with her ex-husband. I couldn't help but think "it's been four books now, that kid can't have too much high school left for this argument to be relevant much longer.." I feel for Gwen there. On the happier side though, I'm loving that the stories within this series seem to be quietly steering toward a "Gwen & Beth Investigate" kind of trend. Beth has a bigger role in this book than in some of the previous ones. She's such a hoot, I love to see her getting more of the spotlight! Keep your dictionary nearby though. Beth loves her some "word of the day" usage and Parks works in some words that definitely had me feel like I was back in SAT prep days! 

 

The true star for me though has to be Winston, Gwen's Great Pyrenees dog. While Parks always gave him quite the humorously entertaining dog personality, he, like Beth, was more in the background in much of the previous books. In Portrait of Vengeance however, Winston gets solid book "screen" time, scenes that will make dog lovers cheer at the protectiveness of pups over their humans. Go ahead, hug your own pooch after this one. :-)

 

So far, the very first book in the series, A Cry In The Dust, still proves to be my very favorite. But this one is now in a close second. This book proved to be slightly more gruesome in parts than its predecessors -- in one scene, Gwen likens a crime scene to a Jackson Pollack painting. Yeaaah, I'll just let you art fans visualize that one. But if you're not scared off by a little edge, Parks yet again gives the reader one fun ride full of twists and turns that have you wondering who in this story is to be trusted! 

 

It was neat to read in Parks' acknowledgements that she wrote this story (at least in part) while participating in a writing retreat at author Colleen Coble's home. She further notes author Frank Peretti as a mentor in the process of developing this series as well. For fellow fans of Gwen's investigations: when asked whether a 5th book was in the works, Parks answered (via Goodreads):

 

"As of now, book 5 will be a stand-alone about an artist (caught up in a case) in Kodiak Island, Alaska. My publisher wanted me to take a break from Gwen. You'll be meeting Murphy."

 

 

I, for one, am looking forward to meeting this Murphy fella! 

 

 

FTC Disclaimer: BookLookBloggers kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book with a request that I might check it out and share my thoughts. The opinions above are entirely my own. 

 

------------------------

ICYMI -- My reviews for the previous books in the series:

 

#1 A Cry In The Dust

#2 The Bones Will Speak

#3 When Death Draws Near

 

* Gwen Marcey also makes a cross-over appearance in Colleen Coble's Mermaid Moon AND Twilight At Blueberry Barrens

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review 2017-09-18 16:24
Nine Coaches Waiting / Mary Stewart
Nine Coaches Waiting (Rediscovered Classics) - Sandra Brown,Mary Stewart

Read to fill the “Romantic Suspense” square of my 2017 Halloween Bingo card.

This Bingo was a great excuse to revisit an old favourite, which only been slight worn by the passage of time. It is very much a gothic romance, with the heroine having the usual attributes—she is an orphan, she needs to pay her way in the world, and she is hired by a French family to school a young nobleman in English. The young Comte is nine years old and it takes a bit for Linda Martin to make friends with him and get him acting like a real small boy, but they manage to make the connection just before sinister things begin to happen. Has Linda been chosen because she is an orphan with no real connections in France? Will she be the scapegoat when young Philippe is killed?

Add the complication that Linda has fallen in love with Raoul, her employer’s son, who manages another large family estate. Raoul is as sophisticated as Linda is naïve, which causes much of the romantic tension, as the reader wonders whether he is serious or just playing with Linda. Stewart actually uses Cinderella imagery to reassure the reader—there is an Easter ball, of course, for which Linda sews her own dress and during which she dances with Raoul and they agree to become engaged. She has promised to visit her charge, Philippe, in “the dead of night” so he can feel included in the event, so she & Raoul take a “midnight feast” pilfered from the buffet table up to the little boy’s room. On her way up to the nursey, Linda’s shoe comes undone and she almost loses it, completing the Cinderella reference.

Nor is that the only literary reference. The book’s title comes from the poem The Revenger’s Tragedy, a tale of lust and ambition suited to the story line of Nine Coaches Waiting. Each of the chapters is referred to as a coach and Linda takes some kind of conveyance (train, car, plane) in each. The poem also includes a tempter’s list of pleasures: coaches, the palace, banquets, etc., all of which decadent indulgences may lure our heroine to overlook the attempts on her student’s life.

One of the joys of the book for me was the description of the French countryside and communities. These descriptive interludes extend the tension of both the mystery & the romance and give the reader some time to assimilate the clues and try to see the road ahead. It also gave me breathing room to assess the very whirlwind nature of the romance, something that I would usually find unrealistic & therefore off-putting (and which I never noticed as a teenager reading this novel).


I am delighted to report that I enjoyed this novel almost as much forty years later as I did when I first read it.

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review 2017-09-14 20:06
Monk's Hood / Ellis Peters
Monk's Hood - Ellis Peters

Gervase Bonel, with his wife and servants, is a guest of Shrewsbury Abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul when he is suddenly taken ill. Luckily, the Abbey boasts the services of Brother Cadfael, a skilled herbalist. Cadfael hurries to the man's bedside, only to be confronted by two very different surprises. In Master Bonel's wife, the good monk recognises Richildis, whom he loved before he took his vows. And Master Bonel has been fatally poisoned by a dose of deadly monk's-hood oil from Cadfael's herbarium. The Sheriff is convinced that the murderer is Richildis' son Edwin, but Cadfael is certain of her son's innocence. Using his knowledge of both herbs and the human heart, Cadfael deciphers a deadly recipe for murder...

 

I read this for the “Murder Most Foul” square of my 2017 Halloween Bingo card.

Brother Cadfael has not disappointed me yet. In this book, one of his herbal potions is used for evil instead of for good and the Brother feels he must right the wrong caused by his tincture. A very young step-son is blamed for the murder and since Cadfael is sure the boy is innocent, he pursues the matter all the way to Wales.

Cadfael is such a steady, sensible character. It’s a joy to watch as he methodically put together the pieces, assesses the people involved, and uses his opportunities to solve the mystery, while still managing to (mostly) obey the rules of the Abbey. This situation has probably perturbed him the most because of his reconnection with Richildis, the woman he loved before he went to the Crusades and joined the religious order. One poignant scene has him looking at her son and thinking “That child could have been mine if I’d returned to her.”

This is a very quietly enjoyable series and I will look forward to the next installment with anticipation.

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review 2017-09-11 19:53
Three Bedrooms, One Corpse / Charlaine Harris
Three Bedrooms, One Corpse - Charlaine Harris

Deciding if she wants to go into real estate becomes a life-or-death choice for Aurora "Roe" Teagarden. A naked corpse is discovered at her first house showing. And when a second body is found in another house for sale, it becomes obvious that there is a very cool killer at large in Lawrenceton, one who knows a great deal about real estate-and maybe too much about Roe.

 

 

Read to fill the “Cozy Mystery” square for 2107 Halloween Bingo.

I wonder if Aurora Teagarden was in some ways a practice run by Charlaine Harris for her Sookie Stackhouse character? They’re both small town girls, seemingly not outstanding in any sense, feeling that life is passing them by. Both of them are attracted to dangerous men. Both of them take unreasonable risks for those men.

Also like Sookie, Aurora changes male partners fairly frequently. I was glad to see the pastor get the boot in this book. By the looks of things, Roe has found the one she intends to keep—but nothing is sure with Harris’ characters, so I will undoubtedly read the next book!

I like that Aurora is a little more independent that she is willing to give herself credit for. She’s not going to settle for just anyone because of societal small-town pressure to get married. Nor is she going to let the opinions of others prevent her from doing exactly what she wants to, whether that’s buy a house just outside of town or take a date to bed (or not). These choices are much easier for the single woman living in the city—we only have our relatives & friends who consciously or unconsciously push us to make certain decisions! We don’t have weight of community judgment hanging over us. Very seldom do our family members or friends live right next door, so we can generally get away with doing EXACTLY what we want to.

One does have to suspend disbelief over the number of murders that Roe runs into in such a small community—not that murders don’t occur in towns, but they do seem to be rather more numerous in Lawrenceton than one would truly expect outside of the city.

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review 2017-09-09 08:11
Heaven's crooked finger - Hank Early

Earl Marcus returns to his birthplace, a very rural area in North Georgia, after rumours of sightings of his father(after his death )have reached him. He left this area, his father and especially a rather weird (we're talking ordeals by snakes here)and intense evangelical church community where his father was a very charismatic preacher and leader, some 30 years previously. Not much has changed,the church still has fervent followers, moonshine is still drunk and the whole area still feels pretty isolated from the rest of the world. To make matters worse, young girls go missing and return completely disoriented, anxious and with strange marks on their bodies.

This is a very atmospheric novel,one can feel the claustrophobic sensation and the threat of approaching thunderstorms.But as the story evolves,the storyline starts to unravel and the last half/quarter of the book could do with some serious editing. Pity...

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