Song of Eagles

Song of Eagles ISBN: 9780786037568 Pinnacle Books Published, copyright and written by William W. Johnstone.

Once again the author has provided a story about the ‘Old West’ which is labeled fiction largely because so much of the history contains so many questions with respect to activity, characters involved and the frequent requirement of including fictional character(s) to piece together a smooth sequence and/or explain ‘missing parts’ or logical reasons for the action that had occurred. In this case the author has told a tale of the Lincoln County War which was a complicated and bloody affair begun and continued by a basic greed that involved and extended to include, many unscrupulous men and eventually even to split friendships to a deadly degree. It included numerous men well known for various reasons including the infamous William Bonney (Billy the Kid) and his friendship with Pat Garret, the eventually appointed Sheriff of Lincoln County. Additionally, attempting to explain much of this period’s history with respect to the fate of the actual characters such as William Bonney, “Buch Cassidy” and others has been most difficult because of the amount of credible material that provides a different demise than the one reported and accepted at the time.

Discussion/Conclusion: Little material actually can be added to that already set forth in the above description. Many stories of this period are replete with inexplicable facts and/or credible explanations of differences between ‘facts’ accepted at the time and ‘facts’ that emerge in later years. The author has ‘pieced together’ a most enjoyable story of another of these ‘tales of the Old West’.

5* for readers who may not even be Western devotees.

The Girl from Columbia


The Girl from Columbia ISBN: 9781642378900 Gatekeeper Press, copyright and written by Julian Rodrigues.

This is a story covering a significant portion of time and activity that had taken place in Columbia and the United States before 1884 where the story begins in Sea Girt, New Jersey and extends well into the next century. The author offers some introductory remarks referring to a story by Guy de Maupassant that presents, perhaps somewhat mystical characters that are most representative of those set forth in his own forthcoming tale. It is one of tragedy resultant of the unscrupulous activity of several totally amoral, vicious men as they proceed through life with seemingly only hedonistic goals and acquirement of personal wealth and more significantly, power. The action begins with a general depiction of the Columbian youngster and her activities in rather ghostlike familiarization to obtain knowledge of all of the nooks and crannies of her father’s huge house. Also gradually exposed are a description of the father’s (Samuel Johnson) personal appearance, undesirable traits, alliances, and the eventual consequences as other characters appear and are incorporated into the mixture.

Discussion: The author has set forth a dark story of abuse of power, not only of personal love, but of against an entire class of people. It is a tale of the effects of the despicably deceitful acts of a man who acquires power and money and employs it literally in almost inhumane ways that are destructive to many individuals. The characters associated with, as well as those contrary to, his desired goals are appropriately introduced and gradually developed with respect both to reasons for, and action taken against, the man. The book does exhibit some author unfamiliarity with some aspects of the book which would enhance enjoyment, but this no doubt will be unnoticed by most readers.

5* Unusual, relatively fast-paced, dark mystery/suspense

The Helpers

The Helpers Library of Congress # 2010902607 assumed published, copyright (2010) and written by S. E. Nelson.

This is “A (fictional) International Tale of Espionage and Corruption” set in the African Congo. It is a tangled web of activities involving primarily French and Belgium internationally military and diplomatic trained members of these governments assigned to espionage positions in this country. Numerous other individuals of English and various other nationalities also are involved in this quite intricately involved plot that explores and lays bare the power hungry rulers of Colonial times and presents a picture of how pervasive it was and of the possibilities of the existence of persistent remnants of similar activity. Several major characters are murdered along the way with a few making it through to the end, mainly a dedicated American Free-lance Journalist and her photojournalist partner, a small local schoolgirl and her mother, a British world health worker and his wife, a wily French Intelligence Officer and his protégé, also some of “The Helpers” – the powerful secret group that is responsible for the constant warfare and “ethnic cleansing” that constantly causes the mass murders repetitiously occurring and set in position by their minions. The action is non-stop from beginning to end, and even beyond because the story makes most clear the fact that the use and misuse of power is a never-ending commodity in world affairs with seemingly special emphasis on Africa and its abundance of natural resources

Discussion: The author has set forth an intriguing multi-genre thriller that includes mystery, suspense, a degree of romance and large quantities of distrust, betrayal, treachery, deception and deceit. It also includes strong demonstrations of empathetic behavior and well fleshed-out characters. The story begins with a “Brief Synopsis” explaining the Congo and their interrelationship with “The Helpers”, a “very powerful underground organization whose members include international businessmen and high priests (who) are determined to maintain a stronghold on the natural resources of Congo.” In all, it is a long story that still will hold most readers interest throughout, even though the frequent switches to different characters, their thoughts and activities, do add considerably to the rather abundant repetition and redundancy as the author has handled it sufficiently well that most will not find it too annoying.

4* Long, but hard to put down, fast-paced multi-genre book, with noted slight flaws.

Stories of the Night

Stories of the Night ISBN: 9780996527385 Two Tales publishing, copyright and written by J. T. Ellison.

Sub-titled “A Bundle of Shadowy Tales”, this short collection of dark stories consists of Catwood, a monologue by an unfortunately mentally disturbed girl; Gray Lady, Lady Gray a tale involving the occult and of a young couple desiring and participating in a ‘dream wedding’ in an old Scottish castle and its aftermath with a follow-up description by the author about research done prior to the story; The Endarkening, another most unusual occult tale again followed by the author’s interesting notations; The Omen Days, a story following the activities of a Nashville, Tennessee Police Officer who cannot bring himself to enjoy especially this time of Christmas and the 12 days following after losing the love of his life 7 years previously – again an usual tale involving the occult and the Author’s provision of the meaning of the Omen Days. This story only partly fits into the dark nature of the others. The book seemingly then ends with About the Author and a list of her books that are available. But then an oversize SURPRIZE! Offers a SNEAK PEEK! An excerpt from her “latest standalone thriller, LIE TO ME published “in the fall 2017.” It is termed “a domestic noir”.

Discussion: According to the material supplied, this is a well-received author who prides herself on unusual stories following dark thoughts with occult features and unusual twists. This book appears to follow her usual production and should be thoroughly enjoyed by her usual readers and those who enjoy similar themes.

3* 5* for readers specified; regrettably -2* for this reader’s estimation of general reading interest.

The Cambria Deception

The Calabria Deception ISBN: 9870999057018 assumed published, copyright and written by Phillips Dickerson,

The story, although travelling through several countries and their most prominent cities, is based on initial, following and anticipated further action in the Calabria Region of Southern Italy where the story’s protagonist awakens in bed with Portia, the woman whom he has decided he wants to marry. Much would depend upon the next forty-eight hours and weather he could wrap-up two years of careful work as an elite spy for the FBI, or whether he would be dead. Thus begins a story of endless intrigue where numerous things go wrong and questions abound. Paul has been arrested for murdering his trusted, but strangely acting for several weeks before disappearing, partner and stealing 64 million dollars’ worth of uncut diamonds that is secreted somewhere only known by the missing man. He is free before his trial because another close FBI agent is able to obtain a position for him in an exclusive school which also offers tangential problems. Ultimately the trial is a mere weeks away and he still cannot remember important parts of the last two days of his mission. A seemingly empathetic psychiatrist gradually begins to ferret out the problem but this too is complicated with the Calabria mafia continuing a vendetta against him. Factions of other Mafia and Mafia-like organizations also are involved as well as arms deals involving a Mexican Cartel. The entire story with its almost constantly evolving unexpected twists and turns and fast pace is sufficient to provide devotees of the mystery/thriller genre a tale they will thoroughly enjoy.

Discussion: Fast paced mystery/thriller most enjoyable for all devotees of the genre. An unfortunate caveat for the aficionado who may be ‘bothered’ by the activity of the protagonist as an FBI agent.

5* for mystery/thriller devotees with a caveat, as described, for a few readers.

The Road to Delano

The Road to Delano EPUB ISBN: 9781644281253”A genuine Rare Bird Book” copyright and written by John DeSimone.

The author has fashioned a fictional story surrounding the violent period around Delano, California during the bitter disputes between the grape growers and the poor Mexican and Philippine workers bused in, and poorly housed/treated while working on the grape vines. It is a story of the resulting confrontations between the brutal, even viscous, supporting strike breakers heaping humiliation, and violent abuse on the Latino/Filipino strikers who were supported by Caesar Chavez and his insistence on non-violence among his United Farm Workers. It also is a coming of age story centered on two couples, each discovering love for another with roots in the opposite side. Adding further to the depth of the troubling situation for all concerned, is that each male character has the ability to gain a full college athletic scholarship that will take him from the chaotic situation in which he now resides. Still more, a mystery is part of the tale that involves the death of one of the protagonist’s father, an earlier occurrence that is highly contributory to the entire situation. Overall, the basic theme of the story is the requirement for individuals occasionally to make the most ‘gut-wrenching’ decisions to do what is morally correct in spite of the fact that it may result in a change in one’s life dreams.

Discussion: The author has presented a fascinating look at this particular time in American history and used it to provide a most interesting coming-of-age story of decision making involving the most basic of moral values. The tale projects a ‘feeling’ of being somewhat contrived in following the actions of probably the main character, but still makes for an intriguing read.

4* Intriguing story with flaws that largely may be overlooked.

Mysteries from the Keys

Mysteries from the Keys: a collection of short stories ISBN: 9781927899397 Cavern of Dreams Publishing, Library and Archives Canada Cataloging and Publication written by Mary M. Cushnie Mansour.

Story #1.   Minnie’s way – an old, sightless woman with a stray cat and old, ‘comfortable dog reliving memories while a ‘day helper’ comes to visit, but again leaves to buy groceries.  2. The Storm – a violent storm, a telephone call is received, mysterious and frightening. Discovers it was only a dream. Another call comes in. She answers and discovers it is a repeat of the Dram.  3. We can Smile Again – a story of 2 most unusual young girls as they gradually grow and mature in their macabre artistic pursuits.  4.  Closing the Cottage – a new tale of a now 19-year-old girl who is being left alone for several days in a lakeside home quite removed from a town of any size. The protagonist is purported to be a young woman recovered from a “nervous breakdown”. The plot details her regression into a return of psychological disturbance and proceeds to describe an episode, but with no definite closure.   5. Return to the Cottage – an episode based on follow-up material about the same setting and some of the same, with addition of new, strange individuals and still with no closure.   6. Flowers for the attic – another short bizarre vignette.   7.  The Witness – charming tale with a house cat the protagonist   8.  The Coffin – another tale ‘on the darker side’ somewhat softened by its poignancy.   9. Angelique – another dark tale – death of a loved one, another chance, gypsies and a not unexpected ending.   10. Master Arpeggio – an unusual fantasy centered on a cat   13. Rodney – a kidnapped child ends as a cold case to be solved in the next story__14. Rodney’s Return – same characters with a few additions and like the other stories, leaves much for the reader to determine with respect to closure.

Discussion: Recently, a number of books have been offered with the Florida Keys as a setting for their plot. Amusingly, this reviewer selected the book without properly determining the message provided by the title. Mysteries from the Keys is just as presented – a collection of stories ‘on the dark side’ written with the typewriter pictured. They do not have anything to do with the Florida Keys, but should have appeal for readers who particularly enjoy this type of story.

4* For readers who enjoy ‘tales on the dark side’.

Coffin Cove

Coffin Cove ISBN: 9781789317534 Joffe Books, London copyright and written by Jackie Elliott.

This volume is the first in a series of “Coffin Cove Mysteries” stated to be “A gripping murder mystery full of twists.”

Setting and plot: The time period described is one beginning during the latter part of the last century when Lumbering was a huge part of Vancouver Island’s activity as well as fishing. The later-day part of the story’s setting is at a time when the lumbering had pretty much ‘run its course’, but activity in the fishing business still continued at a goodly pace and the past and present interactivity were inextricably interwoven into a tight knot. A Prologue describes the plight of a teen-age girl who is left securely tied to drown as the tide rises in the Coffin Cove area of the Island. The story then opens years later describing the area, the characters, their activities, a couple of more murders, and their investigation by the Royal Canadian Police as well as a young woman investigative reporter who has been blacklisted for publishing  a story that was erroneous and embarrassing to the mainstream publisher for whom she worked. Her only chance for redemption was when offered a job by the owner/publisher/single reporter of the local Coffin Cove Gazette. The unfolding tale implores the need for discovering whether any connection exists between the earlier girl’s death and the present killings as more hidden facts gradually are revealed by this homogenous enclave of residents who trust no outsider and will divulge no information to non-residents.

Characters: Prominent characters besides the blacklisted reporter Andi Silvers are Jim Peters, her ‘savior’ with the job on his small local paper; Harry Brown, a 6’+, near 300 muscular pound retired fisherman who lives on his boat docked in the cove; Hephzibah, his sister who runs the local eatery; Gavin, her former Senior Editor; Brian McIntosh, brother of Joe, the father of Sarah (the girl who was drowned); Joe’s daughter Sue; Brenda, disliked and unwanted secretary to Adrian Palmer, CEO of Hades Fisheries that is still owned by Nikos, a Greek immigrant who built the very successful business (she had promised Nikos to attempt to keep him ‘on the right track’ because he has ideas for expansion that do not include fishing, so she cannot be fired); Steve Hilstead, son of Stan who had a long history of drug relations as Skipper of a boat that would buy a fisherman’s catch while on the water and transfer it to their ship so the fisherman did not have to waste time with a trip to port before returning to catch more; Pierre Mason, head of a so called ‘Black-Op’ Organization that is attempting to hurt fishing activities – a charismatic individual, released from Greenspace Organization because of his dangerous attitude toward fishing vessels and a person with great appeal to young people who are all in favor of ‘saving the fish’; Captain Gerry Roberts of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, formerly in charge of a patrol boat monitoring fishing activities; Andrew Vega, RCMP Inspector sent to investigate the recent killing of 2 sea lions who reportedly are interfering with fish survival but are protected by the department; a few other interesting characters of lesser importance. Provision of more material than already described would be extremely detrimental to any prospective reader’s enjoyment of this fascinatingly written multi-directional mystery

Discussion: The author has assembled a large number of characters and details and released each of them at most appropriate times throughout the story to provide an intriguing story. As described, it is “A gripping murder mystery full of twists.” Additionally, it describes a fascinating bit of history that most likely is known by few. This reviewer suggests it is a tale not to be missed, especially by mystery and history devotees.

5* Not to be missed, especially by mystery and history devotees.

Murder Aboard a Cruize to Nowhere

 Murder aboard a Cruise to Nowhere, Sand in my Shoes Publishing copyright and written by Owen Parr.

This book is Novella 2 in “A Jack Ryder Murder Mystery Series” and follows an episode where the protagonist, along with Miami Beach Police Detective Logan Robert are guests aboard a privately engaged luxury cruise ship where the Head of the family, Gustav Inglenorth, is scheduled to announce changes in his estate plan, a matter involving several billion dollars. Jack and Logan have been invited, along with their ‘significant others’ as substitutes for four cancellations of original invitees. The invitation assumedly as a result of Jack’s reputation. He is a middle aged, former financial analyst now a prominent author of considerable reputation whose ability to detect minor and only slightly noticeable details has positioned him frequently to provide necessary material to Logan and positioned him to become a valuable consultant to the Miami Police Major Crimes Division. As a divorcee, his life style is rather ‘free-swinging’ and his abode is a sizeable yacht, his present ‘significant other’ is Logan’s sister. The plot emerges from the first night of the family cruise when the family patriarch is stabbed to death and a hurricane requires the ship to continue away from American waters where the crime can be turned over to the American authorities. Further acceleration of the storm finally makes them seek sanctuary in Cuba. It is incumbent upon Jack and Logan to discover the crime perpetrator(s) before return to American waters and surrender of the case to their authority.

Discussion: The author has set forth a quite interesting plot with an involved set of clues the reader can simultaneously attempt to correctly assemble. Regrettably, one feature of the book is the almost incredible lack of proper proofing. The number of missing, misspelled, misused and repetitiously employed words are almost impossible to believe. Thus, the reader will need to decide whether this mystery is sufficiently enjoyable to wade through the almost boundless proofing errors.

5* engaging mystery, -4* huge Caveat as discussed; Prospective reader’s choice.

Don’t Mess with Jess

Don’t Mess with Jess assumed published, copyright and written by Kim Hamilton.

The author states that this is Book #1 of “An Accidental Lawyer Short Read in a series of short reads inspired by the full-length novel, Accidental Lawyer.”

Jessica Snow, a recently graduated young lawyer works with Kari Cruz, part black and other races and seemingly ‘Girl Friday/ jack of all trades’ for work required in and around the office.  Both work for boss Dawson who has a still newer employee whom he is grooming to partner with him in a most important (purportedly) golf tournament. The legal practice is of a typically described ambulance chasing variety and the office is in a depressed section of town as is Jess’s only slightly better situated place of abode. Jess has a well-deserved reputation for aiding in a criminal investigation, and once more is involved in finding the perpetrator of a hit-run incident that involves drugs.

Discussion: A tale of mystery and criminal investigation involving stereotypical characters but the tale is saved by the authors approach and the zany activities – a light, amusing style. This is the first of a proposed series of short stories, each easily consumed in a couple of hours.

4* A short bit of mystery in an amusingly described situation with zany characters.