Don’t Take the Dummy on the Robbery

After being impressed by Fallen Angel by James Harper, I followed links and found another freebie No Rest for the Wicked, a lengthier short story than Fallen Angel. There is a subtitle on the cover that might be a mantra: “There Ain’t No Such Thing as Free.”

There is a robbery gone wrong. Three people entered a store, all were wearing masks. The store owner tried to protect what was his and was shot for his troubles. There wasn’t supposed to be any shooting but one of the three gang members, one who was short several cards of a full deck, overreacted. The three fled, taking a female clerk hostage. Intending to flee to a nearby hotel deserted for the winter, they had not counted on the entrepreneurial spirit of the hotel owners. There was a promotion to which only three select couples were invited as test guests prior to a grand opening. Unfortunately for the evildoers, Evan Buckley (it’s a series) and girlfriend Gina were one of the couples. Another couple canceled. But that left two guest couples, a manager and a chef, four bad guys, a hostage store clerk, and one small child (brought by the other couple) to weave an entertaining tale.

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Mistaken Angel

Fallen Angel by James Harper is a short story published in 2017. The short story is remarkably good for being so surprising while still being remarkably short. Evan and Kate begin the story at a bar where the inebriated Kate is telling Evan about the horrible nature of suicide, about how a body sounds when it descends from a high altitude and meets street pavement. She can give an authoritative account to Evan because a few hours prior such a body had made such a sound as it landed inches away from her on a pavement that she was traveling. The police ruled it suicide. Kate, being a cop, could accept this. She didn’t want a mind-wasting analysis of possibilities from Evan.

Evan wasn’t going to supply alternatives until a client appeared at his office to ask for help. Claire Henderson didn’t accept the police theory of suicide. She wanted to know who killed sister Jessica. When she visited the police, she overheard police officer Kate disparaging the notions of Evan about the possibilities of a homicide. Claire tracked down Evan, now working as a private investigator. Evan could grudgingly accept Kate’s police assessment. Claire’s appearance changed his mind. She was a double for Evan’s missing wife. Missing, lost, not found, we learn nothing more about Evan’s wife. This is not her story. Another surprise comes when Evan learns that the near double for his wife is also a double for dead sister Jessica. The reader’s mind starts to take weird paths.

The investigation is on with Evan, open to all possibilities, Kate, determined to stick with a police determination of suicide, Claire, determined that her sister’s death was a homicide and equally determined to find the murderer and a classic case of how a murder could have taken place. No one was seen entering the apartment complex. There was a doorman on duty. No one left the complex after the murder, the doorman had locked the doors before going to investigate the cause of all the pedestrian screaming. A suicide chain was in place at the window where the body exited the apartment. It was still attached and could not be reattached if a murderer had left by the window.

There were two questions. What really happened and how had it happened? There is quite a surprise ending and this is a short story worth reading to find out what the ending is. Along the way, there is snappy dialogue between investigative rivals Evan and Kate. James Harper has written a couple of novels with subtitles “An Evan Buckley Mystery.” Those that read this intriguing novel will join the ranks of his readership. I could not find this on Amazon and got it from the author’s mailing list. Two of his novels, Bad to the Bones and Bad Call are available on Amazon, Bad to the Bones is free through KU.

Some Questions of Faith

Chief Among Sinners by Lois K. Gibson is a crime mystery with a cover that promises revelations of secrets that are really not so secret in a small town. The story starts out strong with a murder in the first few pages perpetrated by one person that the reader will immediately suspect. A few pages later the possibility of one or two other suspects arises. Then the strong prologue ends and a lull occurs for approximately five chapters. This is where the author introduces most of her characters, something about their backgrounds, and the context that will move characters to interact.

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Clearing Ghosts

I received an advance copy of this book from the author’s mailing list.

The Clearing by Patrick Kanouse starts out as a clear-cut mystery. Who shot William (Billy) Nimitz in cold blood execution-style on a winter night in Zion, a small town very close to the Canadian border? The shooting is described in chapter one. After following a series of mysteries related to different crimes, I found it interesting to read chapter one again after finishing the novel.

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A Frustrated Writer/Blogger

The Serial Killer’s Wife by Robert Swartwood grabs reader attention right away with a catchy title. Given that a serial killer might have a wife, is she then automatically either willingly or unwillingly an accomplice? We learn in the first few pages that Sarah Walter is working as a teacher’s assistant, so she must not have been considered an accomplice. But Sarah is also Elizabeth Piccione and Elizabeth’s husband is in jail for multiple murders. Serial killers once caught tend to attract publicity and Eddie’s trial had plenty of that. Despite not truly believing Eddie had done such a thing, there had been absolutely no hints of violent behavior and no spousal abuse, Elizabeth felt she and son Matthew had to disappear. She enlisted two close friends to help her, changed her name, and fled from all the publicity in order to provide a more normal life for her son.  But there were those that felt by fleeing she had admitted complicity in the crime. Several people with different motives wanted to find her. The one that she feared the most was a self-serving author/journalist/blogger, Clarence Applegate.

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Research Gone Wrong

In a character-driven novel such as Envy Rots the Bones by Nina Blakeman it seems easy to group the characters into the two broad categories of “good” and “bad.” In this crime/horror novel, there might be one good character, Dr. Todd Davis, and he seems to be a creature more deserving of pity than one possessing good, hero qualities. A medical researcher, he had been married to Annette, a woman despised by everyone, to include her mother. So maybe one could forgive Todd’s indiscretion in falling in love with Faye, a graduate student twenty years his junior. His children, twin daughters Emma and Ella, were troubled enough with the acceptance of Faye as “mom” to support conflicts throughout the novel. That didn’t excuse Faye’s admitted murder of Annette. Maybe Faye could claim self-defense since former wife Annette had kidnapped and tortured Faye with an objective of killing her. But Faye would only admit to the murder to herself, she would not assert a claim of self-defense in any public trial.

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Conspiracies, Not Coincidences

Tabloid by Robin Masters delivered more than I expected. I thought the storytelling was good with just one reservation. There were lots of characters and I had to work to catch up. My efforts took the form of going back, highlighting, and then sometimes going back again. Conspiracy fans will love this. There wasn’t just one conspiracy, but two! True, the first one is ignored for the most part; it just provides background for why Belinda Edmonds is under a heavy cloud of disgrace as a journalist. It seems that she served jail time for some things that happened in London where she was working as a journalist. There is a difference between insightful journalism and inciteful journalism. One of them will put a person in jail which is what happened to Belinda. After returning home to New York, Belinda was able to get a job due to the influence of her rich mother. The job was at the lowest ranks of newspaper writing and a “tabloid” is considered to be near the bottom rung of the newspaper hierarchy but let the healing and the slow climb to respectability for Belinda begin.

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