logo
Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: intrigue
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-06-28 21:35
A solid and entertaining cozy mystery set in the world of the circus, and a must for those who love big cats
A Spark of Justice - J.D. Hawkins

I was sent an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

This book is classed as a cozy mystery and is set in the world of the circus, probably in the recent past, although this is not specified and the novel has a somewhat timeless feel.  There are mobile phones (but hardly ever used, and most people rely on land lines as nobody is located unless they are at home or at work), computers (but only an old-fashioned one is ever mentioned or seen and reports are paper based) but most people do not seem to use any modern commodities, although the mauling of Rolo, the lion tamer and the victim whose murder/accidental death is the mystery at the centre of the novel, is available on YouTube. And of course, the circus where the story is set still has performing animal, including big felines (lions, leopards, tigers, and panthers). In the US there is no federal ban as such yet (although they are banned in many countries) but most of the big circuses have stopped showing those numbers (and indeed Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus gave its last performance in May this year) and there are many local bans, so that adds to the feeling of a somewhat idealised and old-fashioned world.

The story is told in the third person but from the point of view of John (Juan) Nieves, an insurance investigator of Puerto Rican origin, born in New York, who left his studies as a vet to join the police, and after working for the police for a time, moved to the Mid-West and changed his job to try and save his marriage. Unfortunately, it did not work, but he loves his son, thinks about him often and lives for his visits.  His lifestyle is itinerant and he feels no strong attachment to his current job or to his apartment. For some reason, he feels irresistibly attracted to the world of the circus from the moment he sets foot in it. Although he does not like clowns and he is less than welcome by the circus artists initially, he cannot stop going back, even when he does not have a very good reason to. At first, it seems it is due to his attachment to detective work and to his wish to solve the mystery, but later we realise there is something else at play.

As happens in all good detective or mystery novels, the story is not only about the mystery but also about the investigator. In this case, John’s motives and sense of self and identity are put into question from the very beginning, and eventually, the process of self-discovery becomes more interesting than the case itself. If circuses have traditionally been places where people could run away from their circumstances and become a new person, this novel shows them as a big family happy to accommodate those who might not fit into normal society and others who want to become who they feel they really are, no matter how alternative. It is perhaps significant that Rolo did not spend all year with the circus but lived at times with his outside family, and was not as fully invested as the rest of the artists and did not truly belong.

The mystery is pretty intriguing too, don’t get me wrong. A death by a deadly tiger attack is not everyday news, and the fact that the tiger had been spooked by an electrical spark from a damaged cable makes it even less common. There are a suitably large number of suspects (both from within the circus —as Rolo was not very well liked, for reasons we discover later—, and from his personal life, including a wife, a lover, and a brother), a complex web of deceit and betrayal; there are threats and warnings to John to keep out of circus’s business, and there are wonderful descriptions of the world of circus, wild cats, clowns, and behind the curtains insights that will delight anybody who has ever felt curious about this world.

Although there are anxiety provoking and scary moments (near- miss accidents, close calls with a knife thrower, eerie moments with a lion and a panther, and also more run of the mill human violence), there is no actual gore and the investigation itself is not precise and full of detail (in fact, once some of the suspects are removed from the scene they practically disappear from the story).

I liked John (Juan) Nieves, the main character. He is not the usual noir detective, full of clever repartees and sarcastic comments. He thinks before he acts (mostly); he is not unduly violent and uses no foul language; he thinks of his son often and is kind towards animals and kids, and he acknowledges his weaknesses, his doubts, and his mistakes. He is happy to let certain things drop and to hide others that have no real bearing on the matter and will not affect his employer. He is not a rigid believer in the value of finding the truth and revealing it at all costs and is more interested in human beings (and big cats) than he is in some perfect vision of duty.  The author, who describes a personal background in carnival attractions, creates some interesting secondary characters, particularly the circus’s performers, although due to how different clowns look with and without makeup, it is quite easy to get confused as to who is who, but this does not prevent us from following the plot and enjoying the story.

I have read some comments that describe the ending as a let-down and this is true if we think of the novel as being only about the investigation of Rolo’s death. On the other hand, if we see it as a process of investigating and revealing who the real John (Juan) Nieves is, there is no disappointment at all.

Recommended to lovers of cozy mysteries set in original settings, to those who like big cats (or cats of any size), and to readers who appreciate a good background and an inside knowledge of the world of circus, especially those who feel nostalgic about a world that seems to be on the verge of disappearance. A solid and entertaining read.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-06-26 23:30
Brief Thoughts: The Substitute Sister
The Substitute Sister (Harlequin Intrigue) - Lisa Childs

The Substitute Sister

by Lisa Childs

 

 

Ghostly Whispers

Rocking chairs moving to and fro in the night... and an inherited house straight out of the eeriest of ghost stories.  These were the things Sasha Michaelson found when she arrived on Sunset Island to collect the body of her identical twin... and take charge of her newly discovered niece.

But even more frightening to Sasha than her sister's shadowy presence in the old house, and the killer still running loose on the small island, was the fact that Sheriff Reed Blakeslee stopped her breath and made her heart pound fast.

But was the brooding lawman's determined search for answers caused by a love that hadn't stopped with death...or by a desire - for Sasha - that he couldn't deny?



The Substitute Sister had a pretty intriguing premise that had drawn me in.  And the book started out pretty good.  It had a creepy enough feel, and the additions of a hostile house staff as well as strange noises in the night was a nice touch.  The not quite there paranormal elements were also a lovely add-on, giving the book itself that Gothic feel of being set in a huge mansion on a scenic island.

But the moment that Sasha meets love interest Sheriff Reed Blakeslee, the entire story seemed to automatically slide into "Romance, First and Foremost" territory.  The insta-lust picked up, and despite there having been a murder on the island, and other matters that Sasha now had to attend to, the two of them kept coming back to "growing feelings" that went from insta-lust straight to insta-love.

I feel like I'm repeating myself lately, but I suppose my selection of reading material just hasn't been all that varied.  Although much like some other books I've quite recently read (To the Rescue, The Mysterious Twin), The Substitute Sister is bite-sized and didn't take long to finish.

Don't get me wrong:  The writing style is serviceable and the progression was smooth, actually outlined pretty well on the murder mystery side of things.  Even our main characters had a bit more personality to them than the other romances I mentioned.  And while the main culprit wasn't a surprise, I WILL admit that the book kept me guessing about the entire fiasco--even about whether or not Sasha's twin sister, Nadine, was really dead.

I would probably give this book props for atmosphere, that's for sure.

And as silly as it is to be complaining about how this Romance novel had too much focus on the romance, with an uneven development in our main couple's relationship...  Honestly, that was really the biggest quibble I had about it.  The murder investigation was a bit weakly constructed, but overall effective.

Despite my low rating and my few disappointments, I'm actually interested in continuing to keep Lisa Childs on my radar as an author to check out other books for.


***

 

Booklikes-opoly

Roll #20:
Water on book cover.

Page Count:  240
Cash Award:  +$6.00

Updated Bank Balance:  $109.00

 

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2017/06/brief-thoughts-substitute-sister.html
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-06-19 02:06
Conclave - Robert Harris

I love these kinds of novels. I’m always up for a plot filled with intrigue, who’s going to backstab who, who’s got the dirty secrets and who’s the horrible but cunning bastage that will expose these secrets and so on….

 

I had to whip out my dictionary for these latin/Catholic terms that are prevalent throughout this novel. (My knowledge in Catholicism is very rusty.) But you learn something new all the time right? Now I know there’s actually names for each piece of their clothing these men wear.

 

I love how it in the first third of the novel the plotting to be the next pope starts. It’s a reminder that even though these people are spiritual figureheads and we look to them as authority figures, they’re still humans with ambition. But this is the part I loved reading the most. I love the intrigue, I love the plotting. I love how Lomeli is in the middle of this and is trying to make sure everything in the voting process is legitimate.

 

You have a group of characters to keep track of, but there isn’t much to them. They’re broken into cliques to keep track of them easily but the book is centralized on Lomeli and he’s the only one that develops throughout the novel. He’s likable for the most part and does deal with his inner self for the most part. He has his faults as well which makes sense (who doesn’t want to be pope?!) which makes these characters realistic.

 

The plot itself starts off really well. I liked the pace and events during the story. What bothered me was the last third of the novel where everything went chaotic and the author seemed to inject some action to make it more lively. I didn’t think it was necessary and there wasn’t any need for that. What I would prefer is more intrigue and inner plotting amongst the Cardinals. (There was but there was no need to the action sequence which wasn’t even a feature it happened “off screen”.)

 

Another thing which didn’t sit too well was it was one thing after another with the surprises. First it was this guy. Then the other. Oh, can’t forget this guy either. We already elected the pope? No wait here’s another monkey wrench. It was just too much (by the end I was screaming out: “Just give him the papacy and let’s go home. This is getting ridiculous”.) Some parts were spaced out but it just felt too much. However, good on the author to make sure all the loose ends were tied together. Nothing was left unanswered.

 

I liked this book but it would have been better without all the extra bits and pieces here. More intrigue and plotting within. It’s what makes it so much better. Otherwise, it was a short quick read and worth it. Just remember this is an alternate history of events.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-06-09 20:01
The Diabolic
The Diabolic - S.J. Kincaid

A lot of good ideas in this book, and I really liked the first part... but it started to go downhill when the Mandatory YA Het Romance plot waltzed in. I felt there were so many other ways the whole 'Diabolic without emotions may actually discover her humanity' could have unfolded, instead of romance (especially the boy/girl kind) being touted as the one means to everything and the main dilemma all at once. Also, NOT bonus points for the one LGBT aspect, considering how it turns out.

Too bad because the Empire in space/religious faith vs. technology revival side of the story, coupled with GoT-like politics, could've been really interesting otherwise.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-05-12 14:13
Whiteout
Whiteout - Elyse Springer

 

What a damn nice surprise read that was!  I really loved it all.  From the suspense, to the uncomfortable not knowing what the hell to believe, to the ending. I was pretty captivated throughout the entire book.  About halfway through the book the direction shifts a good bit and while I was good with the direction, it could have also gone a completely different direction and I think I would have been just as pleased.  I do wish we would have gotten some dual POV, especially towards the end, or perhaps even switching completely at Part 2.

 

**Highly Recommended**

 

Also - I am kinda disappointed that the next in this series is FF.  Yikes.  I mean whatever floats your boat, but that does not interest me at all.  Too bad really as I really enjoyed this author.

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?