Saturday, October 14, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Bluebird, Bluebird by Attical Locke

    Darren Matthews was gone—free, maybe—from East Texas that seemed to have a grip on so many who were unable, or afraid, to leave. Darren was in his third year of law school in Chicago, married to a fellow student, and ready to take on the world. But duty--his sense of it anyway, not his lawyer and professor Uncle Clayton’s, or his wife Lisa’s--called, and Darren returned to become a Texas Ranger, following in the footsteps of his Uncle William, the first Black Ranger.
     But things don’t always work as planned, and the
beginning of Bluebird, Bluebird, the fourth novel by Attica Locke, finds Darren suspended from the Rangers, separated from Lisa, and battling the demons of alcohol. But when a friend from the FBI calls and asks him to look into two deaths in nearby Shelby County, one of a black man and the second a white woman, Darren can’t resist. He’ll just look, see if they’re connected, maybe race related, and report to his friend. Too much effort could put what’s left of his career in jeopardy, but not looking into it could mean that the deaths could go uninvestigated, and Darren wouldn’t have that. His “looking into it” uncovers a town that seems not to have progressed in decades, and a possible stronghold for the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas. Were the deaths related? How deep are the ties of the ABT to local law enforcement? And how far will they all go to prevent Darren from finding the truth?
     Bluebird, Bluebird has something for most readers. A great crime to investigate; a Texas Ranger family legacy, complete with its blemishes; the story of a small East Texas town; and the roles of race in America, both today and over the lifetimes of many characters in this book. Some parts made me wish the book was set in 1917, not 2017, as there was clearly not enough progress in the 100-year interim.

Locke, Attica. Bluebird, Bluebird, Mulholland Books, September 12, 2017.
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316363297

A copy of Bluebird, Bluebird was provided by the publisher via  No compensation was provided for this review. 

Friday, October 6, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: The Cuban Affair by Nelson DeMille

    Another page turner from Nelson DeMille! The Cuban Affair features a new character, Daniel 'Mac' McCormick, an Army vet escaped to Key West and running a heavily mortgaged fishing charter. When he's approached by Cuban Americans interested in retrieving some cash and papers from the Old Country, he thinks maybe the adventure--more appropriately mission--could fill the void and need for adventure that he's been feeling. And pay off his boat. And maybe some extra cash. And his parter in this adventure, Sara Ortega, was motivating in her own right!  

     The Cuban Affair is classic DeMille. A fun, witty, smart assed protagonist; a beautiful, confused, less than honest with Mac but honest in her cause partner; rich and colorful characters; and a peek into the unknown in descriptions and experiences in Cuba. 

     While there's not a lot of new ground in the style or tone of this book, it is a fun and easy read that will keep you up at night to finish!

DeMille, Nelson. The Cuban Affair, Simon & Schuster, September 19, 2017. 

A copy of The Cuban Affair was provide by the publisher via NetGalley. No compensation was provided for this review. 

Monday, July 31, 2017

BACKSTRAP by Johnnie Dun

     Callie Byrne is an Iraq war vet, former MP, recovering drug addict and suicide attempt survivor working to get her life together enough to regain custody of her young son, Dillion. When her friend and fellow MP veteran, Rachel Martelli, sends her some digital files and a request for help from Guatemala, Callie balks, but knows she must go. She quickly finds herself in the middle of a drug cartel and human trafficking ring that seems to be imploding as key players turn against each other. 
   Backstrap is the first novel by Johnnie Dun. The first half
had a few slow spots, and what I thought was an abstract tone throughout, giving a sense of feel for the plot. The characters were compelling, particularly Callie Byrne and the complicated, compromised, unpredictable, and even by the end of the book hardly understood John Slinger. The plot was solid, unpredictable, and finished with the emergency abated but certainly no resolution for Callie and her unlikely allies, leaving wide open a follow-up featuring Callie Byrne.  

Dun, Johnnie. Backstrap, Pearly Baker Crimes, November 8, 2016

  • ISBN-13: 978-0997968309

A copy of Backstrap was provided by the publisher via NetGalley. No compensation was provided for this review. 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017


   When two-year-old Chrissy disappears from her bed overnight, the Kenilworth Police Department mobilized all its resources to catch her kidnapper, including a newly implemented Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. And the police have a lot to consider, especially after Chrissy's own mother featured her in an art exhibited that was criticized as bordering on pornographic days before her disappearance.  The Department and the Task Force, particularly Officer Manny Ochoa, have a lot to consider in the case. In addition to the art show, there is a nanny who flees the country, a commune home where dozens of unknowns have access to the child, a father angry and jealous not to have the child as his own. 
     "I am the owner of my actions, heir of my actions. Whatever actions I do, good or evil, of these I shall become heir"--Buddha's Fifth Reflection
     The Fifth Reflection is the third novel by Ellen Kirschman featuring police psychologist Dot Meyerhoff, a middle-aged divorcee who works hard to deal with the emotions of her own failed marriage and the baggage it has brought to her new relationship while she tries to help the men and women of the Kenilworth Police Department, a group who, by their nature, are averse to taking help for anything, let alone from a shrink. 
     But Dr. Meyerhoff isn't your ordinary shrink. She has a knack for getting herself into situations that could get her into trouble, both with her job and real danger. While the police chief calls it meddling or butting into official police business, she prefers to think of it as doing The Right Wrong Thing. However, Dr. Meyerhoff finds herself caught in the middle of a police investigation, her motives are always to help; a grieving family, a cop in trouble, or a crime that needs solving. 

     Dr. Kirschman writes what she knows. She has a successful career as a police psychologist and wrote the book I Love a Cop to help families get through the unique challenges that accompany loving and living with a police officer, and Counseling Cops, to offer advice to therapists with police clients. (She also wrote I Love a Firefighter, which I just don't understand...) Her experience in psychology and police work is evident in her Dot Meyerhoff series. As Dr. Meyerhoff feels some stress in her relationship with her fiancĂ© Frank, she thinks, 
"He doesn't have trouble sharing his opinion about what he calls the important things of life, religion and politics, but the closer we get, the harder it is to talk about our differences because we have so much more to lose." 
 And as she is talking with one of the police officers she serves, she proves she knows the business, writing something similar to what I've found myself saying and thinking over my career,
"This is the typical progression. In the beginning of their careers cops are so overwhelmed with novelty and new found power they would work for free. Give them a few years and boredom sets in. They start looking around for ways to re-stimulate the feeling of excitement and passion."
     I had the pleasure of meeting and spending some time with Dr. Kirschman at Bouchercon last year when she was on a panel I moderated. She is an expert in her field and it is quickly apparent to anyone who meets her how dedicated she is to her career, the law enforcement community, and the myriad issues facing them now. The Dot Meyerhoff books are fun and entertaining crime fiction novels, each one better than the last. Perhaps they can also bring attention to some of those important issues in a way or to an audience that nonfiction can't. 

"Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth." 
Albert Camus

Kirschman, Ellen. The Fifth Reflection, Oceanview Publishing, July 11, 2017. ISBN-978-1-60809-250-5

A copy of The Fifth Reflection was provided to The Thirty Year Itch by the author. No compensation was provided for this review.