Tuesday, September 30, 2014

LIGHTS OUT! by Donald Bain

Finished Tu 9/30/14

A saw this on the New Books Section at the library and finished it in two days. This author is supposed to have 'ghost-written' the novels of Margaret Truman. This book is like a second rate Donald Westlake, but not entirely bad.

Carlton Smythe is a Canadian engineer with POWER-CAN and is retired (forced layoff) and his wife is wealthy. They've been married for thirty years and it was a shotgun wedding, but they lost the child. He gets the bright idea to cause a power outage, and then sell the exact time to a mafia kingpin. Then he plans to leave his wife and take up with his Argentinian girlfriend in South America.

Dominick Marone- Crime boss of Toronto and a lover of opera. Gives Carlton a million dollars for the exact time of the power outage. When it doesn't occur, he's enraged at first, but then views it as a wake up call. Time to quit the life of crime.

Cynthia- Carlton's wife, a major supporter of COC (Canadian Opera Company)

Mrs. Gladys Wiggins- Carlton's mother-in-law. She is a domineering woman who lives with the couple

Gina Ellanado- Carlton's beautiful girlfriend. She's just looking for a sugar daddy, and really not an evil person.

Paul Saison- the slovenly drunk that works for POWER-CAN that Carlton pays $250,000 to shut off the power at 9:45pm on August 22nd. Paul is drunk and his watch is fifteen minutes late and the plans fall through.

Carlton gets on a cargo ship and sails to Brazil. And, when he arrives at Gina's love nest, she's been paid off by Cynthia and Gladys and his dismal marriage continues.

The book was an easy read, and I've read hundreds better plotted and written.

About a C-

Monday, September 29, 2014

FALLING ANGELS by William Hjortsberg

Finished Su 9/28/14
Published 1978

I loved the novel, and I wished it was longer, but it was a quick read. I can't really say which one I liked better....the book or the movie; and that's pretty rare. Both great!
The film FALLEN ANGEL with Robert DeNiro and Micky Rourke (Allen Parker-dir.) was based on this novel, however, the book is all set in NYC and the Bronx whereas the film travels to New Orleans.

DI Harry Angel is contacted by a lawyer representing Louis Cyphre (LUCIFER) to try and find Jonathan Liebling who is believed to be in an upstate New York mental home. He returned from WWII shell-shocked and was institutionalized. He owes to Mr. Cyphre, and Harry is retained to find out if he there or what became of him.

The hook is that Harry Angel IS Johnathan Liebling and he made a deal with the devil. In exchange for his soul, he would be rich and famous. He tried to welch on the deal, but he was wounded and couldn't conclude his plan.

Johnny was a famous singer with the Spider Simpson Orchestra

Harry Angel lives in the Chelsea Hotel

Dr. Fowler- murder or suicide. Junkie who was Liebling's doctor at the sanitarium.

Millicent/Margaret Krusemark- her father is a devil worshiper and she was engaged to Johnny for 2 1/2 years. Margaret is killed after talking to Harry. (heart ripped out)

Edison 'Toots' Sweet- the pianist for the Simpson Orchestra. He's a Harlem resident and involved in black magic. He is killed after contacted by Harry. (genitals stuffed in his mouth)
Ethan Krusemark is killed in the subway after a black mass. Electrified on the third rail.

Epiphany Proudfoot- she is Harry's girlfriend, but she's also his daughter, but he's unaware of this until the very end of the novel. Her mother was deeply involved in white magic. She owned a magic store in Harlem and Epiphany runs it. Epiphany is also into white magic, but well aware of the darker implications.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

TO THE POWER OF THREE by Laura Lippman

Finished Fr 9/26/14

Before dinner with the Brandenburgs at salad bar at the new Hyvee

Set in the fictional Maryland city of Glendale. This is in the far north portion of Baltimore County
Farmland that has been hastily developed that includes a mix of upscale 'McMansions' and suburban track homes.

The novel is about the intense friendship between three girls who have bonded since they were in primary school. The main story occurs in their senior year of high school.

Kat Hartigan- the rich girl in the group. Her grandfather was responsible for the massive building growth and they live on the original dwelling that dates back to the 18th century. She is 'queen of everything', well liked, and it seems, well deserved.
Father Dale and mother Chole have divorced. Dale has remarried and Chloe is a nagging bitch; a kind of 'low class' woman who is out of her element in the Maryland high society.

Perri Kahn- drama queen. Is shot in the face and thought to be the shooter. Almost as academic as Kat. She had kind of hippie parents who let her do whatever she wanted.

Josie Patel- small and athletic. Indian background on father's side. She is witness to the murder

Eve Mulhy- in the same class as the three girls, but is from the old section and a farm girl. SKEEZER

Detective Lenhardt- older detective in charge of the case. Married for the second time, late in life and has a teenage daughter and is apprehensive about what he sees of the behavior of the Glendale teens.
Detective Infante- he is Lenhardt's partner and younger and a 'ladies man'.

Peter Lasko- graduated a couple of years before and used to date Kat. He comes back to find what has really happened and Dale tries to make him infiltrate the teens. He's up for a movie with Guy Pearce and is a kind of egomaniac.


The previous year three of the top boy students had been killed in a bad car wreck. They were sent on a mission by Kat to stop Binnie Snyder from beating Kat academically. Binnie is in the girls bathroom on the fatal morning. Perri had the gun and wanted Kat to admit to the involvement in the boys accident and when Josie tries to grab the gun she shoots Kat through the heart. Perri tries to use the gun on herself and in the struggle with Josie the bullet hits her in the face. She dies within a week. Binnie flees and tells that Josie should cover for her ("you owe me that much"). Josie shoots herself in the foot (after removing her expensive new sandals), but realizes that she has to relock the door. When she hops to the door to relock it, she leaves blood splatter and footprints that cause the cops to doubt her story. It all comes out in the end, but it seems that the case is stalled in the grand jury. No indictments.  That ending was kind of weak.

I loved the book because each character was fully developed and you never really understand what has happened until the last few pages. I absolutely love Lippman's 'stand-alone' novels, and I'm almost ready to give a Tess novel a chance.

Lippman's wikipedia entry-

Link to Amazon-

Monday, September 22, 2014


Finished Mo 9/22/14

September selection Contemporary Book Club

The book follows the story of Nuri, a teenager living in exile with his family in Cairo in Egypt, after the sudden death of his mother, he also loses his father Kamal Pasha el-Alfi who disappears in mysterious circumstances in Switzerland, and it becomes obvious that he was abducted by the regime of their country. The young Nuri tries to come to terms with the disappearance of his father while he is living in London in Britain.


  • Nuri el-Alfi - the young teenage narrator
  • Kamal Pasha el-Alfi "Baba" "Father" - Nuri's father
  • Ihsan "Mother" - Nuri's mother
  • Mona - Nuri's Stepmother
  • Taleb - Kamal Pasha's best friend
  • Hydar - Kamal Pasha's best friend
  • Naima - el-Alfi's young Egyptian maid
  • Hass - Kamal Pasha's Swiss confidant; the family attorney
  • Fadhil - Nuri's uncle
  • Salwa - Nuri's aunt
  • Souad - Nuri's aunt
  •  family’s devoted housekeeper Naima
  • Beatrice Benameur- Kamal's girlfriend in Geneva. He was kidnapped with this woman and it's revealed that he had a long lasting relationship with this woman.
Magda Marina- the summer resort where father and son first see Mona near Alexandria

Sunday, September 21, 2014


Finished Th 9/18/14
I noticed this book on display at the checkout desk. It was 'Large Print' and the newest John Rebus novel owned by the library- released 2013. I couldn't resist.

The title refers to a group of Edinburgh detectives who put themselves above the letter of the law. John Rebus was just getting started and wasn't completely vetted. The novel hinges on the fact that had he had a bit more seniority, he would have been with these guys 100%. Summerhall was the name of the police station where they worked.

Car crash in which a girl has been positioned to appear to have been the driver of the car. Her boyfriend is the son of a prominent politician and she is the daughter of a ruthless businessman. Later, the politician is murdered and might be connected. A snitch for the 'saints' is shot and killed and his body is found in a canal. The 'saints' killed a prisoner while in their custody and this snitch was in the holding cell at the time. He used this as leverage against the group.

Siobhan Clarke is friends with John Rebus and is featured in many of the novels. Her name is pronounced "Chiv-ahn".

Malcolm Fox is an internal affairs detective trying to find the goods on the 'saints'. This includes Rebus, but he is coming to like John. Malcolm is a recovering alcoholic and tries to get Rebus to enter a program.

Forbes McCuskey- His father, Pat, is the politician. Jessica is his girlfriend.

Alice Bell is Jessica's roommate and her family is involved in organized crime. They run car parks where they park car in long term parking that have drugs, guns, or bodies hidden.

Saunders is the name of the snitch who is shot by Maggie.

Stefan Gilmour- one of the 'saints' and he has gone on to become a successful businessman

Phil Kennedy- the bad guy that the 'saints' killed. He was being beaten, fell, and died. They brought him back to his house and made it look like he fell while drunk. The autopsy was corrupted. They poured liquor in his stomach while on the operating table. The coroner was in on the plan.

Dod Blantyre is one of the 'saints'. He is dying of cancer. His wife Maggie had an affair with Rebus during the time of the 'saints'.

Maggie is the one who killed the snitch and she and her husband attempt suicide.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A FLASH OF RED by Clay Harvey

Finished Mo 9/15/14

I found this in my collection, and I had read it in September of 1997, The book is a debut novel and is the first in the Tyler Vance series by Clay Harvey. I noticed on Amazon that today, there are several more of his novels featuring this character.

Tyler Vance is a highly trained military man who served in the DMZ of Korea during the 80's. Apparently there were special American forces who did 'dirty deeds', and Vance was one of the most skilled. He has been back in the States for many years, and one day he is at a bank and brutally foils a bank robbery. He kills two of the criminals, and one of them is the brother of the international gang leader.

The plot hinges on the fact the the US doesn't want it known that such a highly skilled killer was schooled by US forces, and Vances old army boss intercedes to help. Although he knows that Vance can do all that is necessary, he doesn't want him to go too far and bring attention to this secret program.

Once Vance realizes that an international criminal gang has him in their sites, he knows that all of his friends and family are at risk. The gang is kind of a mash-up of a huge Mexican gangster and two Croatian/Serbian brothers. A 'gang for hire' on the international criminal market.

Vance's wife had been killed by a drunk driving several years before, and he has the sole custody of a four year old son, Cullen.

The climax of the book is how Cullen is kidnapped, and Vance and his team kills the bad guys and rescues his boy.

The novel is set in Greensboro, North Carolina

McDuffy and Fanner- local cops who do almost nothing to help Vance. McDuffy is an ignorant bully, and Fanner goes by the book, but only to cover his ass.

Dave- Vance's pal from the military. They were friends since young boys. He's a 'mountain of a man' and equally skilled in martial arts and arms.

McElroy- Vance's old boss in the military. He's actively helping, but strives to conceal who Vance really is.

Heather Patterson is Vance's girlfriend. She is getting a divorce from Jason who has come out as a gay man. Vance has respect for this man because he saved Cullen at one point in the story. 'The Tree House Incident'. Web is Heather's son who is a friend of Cullen.

I'd read more of these (if the library has them), but the only thing that I could locate about the author is kind of negative. Just as Tyler Vance makes his living writing for gun magazines, so does the real-life author, Clay Harvey. But, there is a post on the internet where several people who have dealt with him have some negative comments.

Link to that post-

Saturday, September 13, 2014

THE BAD PLACE by Dean Koontz

Finished Fr 9/12/14

I had read this book (different edition) several years ago, and I always liked this one the best of all Koontz novels, but I could never remember the title.

A terrific mash-up of the Detective Novel with Supernatural/SciFi

Frank Pollard

Dakota & Dakota (Julie and Bobby)

The Pollards-
Candy (James), Violet, Verbina (Twin sisters) Roselle (mother)

Set in Orange County, California

Unstuck in space. Teleportation

Link to wikipedia-

Link to Amazon-

BARNEY'S VERSION by Mordecai Richler

I spent a few days with this Canadian novel the first week of September, 2014 after seeing the film (Paul Giamatti)

When I checked out the film on IMDB I noticed that this author had 21 novels made into films.

He's kind of like the Saul Bellows of Canada, and I'd never heard of him

I read about 100 pages, and then skimmed through to the end.

I liked the premise that a man meets the true love of his life at his wedding reception

The library had the book, and Id be willing to give another novel of his a chance, but I just wanted to move on to something else.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

I'D KNOW YOU ANYWHERE by Laura Lippman

Finished Th 9/11/14

The Maryland section of the novel is set near Catonsville Md.

Strange tale of a kidnapping and rape. Elizabeth is taken by Walter as he has just finished burying Maude. Although, Elizabeth has no idea what he had done, he takes her captive for 39 days.

She is easily manipulated, and she does this to elicit some control over her situation, but even after over twenty years, she cannot forgive herself for her possible complicity.

She's definitely a victim, but can't commit to this 100%

Holly is taken after she had been with Walter for over two weeks. Holly is younger than Elizabeth, but more developed. She was taken from her house as she was raising money for a classmate with a deadly disease.

Walter tries to rape Holly at a remote campsite. Holly flees and is either pushed by Waler, or falls to her death.

Elizabeth is saved by a routine traffic stop, and maybe she could have left Walter numerous times.

Elizabeth's mother works with the criminally insane and her father is a psychiatrist. She changes her name to Eliza and changes schools. Later, she marries Peter a successful venture capitalist and has two children, Albie (Albert) 8yrs. old and Isobel (Iso, pronounced 'eye-so') 13 years old. The family is back to Maryland after Peter's job took them to London. Iso misses it more than she acknowledges and Albie seems like a sweet English boy.

The novel's push is that Walter wants to see Elizabeth before he his execution.

She does, and the novel ends where she begins to see herself less of a victim and starts to take an active role in her own life.

In the afterword Lippman says that this novel is based on a true crime, but it has been camouflaged.

This was my least favorite Laura Lippman novel so far, but it was still well worth the time and I'd still read almost anything by her. Wait a minute.....The Girl In The Green Raincoat was much weaker.

Friday, September 5, 2014


Finished Th 9/4/14

A terrific stand-alone, and I loved every page!

Two eleven year old girls take a baby and kill it. This is covered in the opening chapter, but you don't know what 'really happened' until the last chapter.

Alice Manning- 'the good girl'. Her mother is kind of a hippie-type, and wanted Alice to NOT follow the crowd, but Alice wants to just get along to get along. Their relationship is the trigger for all of the action, but that's not revealed until the end.

Ronnie Fuller- the girl from the wrong side of the tracks. And, she is instantly tagged as the mastermind behind the abduction and killing.

Alice's mother, Helen Manny, encourages the relationship between Ronnie and Alice because she sees and identifies with Ronnie's independent spirit. She thinks that this is lacking in her daugher.
Book opens with a birthday party for Maddy in which Ronnie brings a black Barbie. This is obviously an inappropriate gift for an eleven year old girl. Ronnie accidently hits Maddy's mother and both Alice and Ronnie are asked to leave the party. This is where they see the baby, Olivia.

This baby is the granddaughter of a prominent black judge and his daughter is very well connected to the local political structure.
Kevin Infante and Nancy Porter are the detectives on the case. Detective Sergeant Lenhardt is the wise old mentor to both Kevin and Infante. This character is in the 'Tess' series of novels by Lippman.
Sharon Keppelman is Nancy's lawyer. She feels guilt about the outcome, but has only been manipulated by Alice.

The girls get seven years, and the story skips to when they are 18 and have been released. Alice is fifty pounds heavier. Ronnie managed to get into a mental ward by gaming the system. She's obviously troubled, but Alice is much, much worse, but this is carefully concealed until the end of the novel.

A series of 'false' kidnappings of toddlers has been occurring just as the girls are released. Finally, one girl is actually abducted.
Mira Jennings is a reporter for the 'Beacon-Light' who is trying to advance her journalistic career through the current kidnapping case. She is fed a lead (by the mother of Olivia) that the two girls had taken the girl because there was a strong resemblance to her daugher that they killed.

Because Alice and Ronnie were juveniles they couldn't be charged very severely, so the charges were split into three different issues. That way they could at least serve until they turned 18. A sub-plot ( I wish this was more developed) was that children really do kill, and what is odd is that they don't do it more often.

Alice had a child when in prison by a guard. This child was taken from her and she is falsely convinced that the child she took was this child.
Although Ronnie actually strangled the first child, it was Alice convinced her that it was in the best interest of the child. She was deranged and said that the kid wasn't wanted, and they would be doing the kid a favor.

Helen knew that Alice was the real 'evil doer' and convinces Ronnie that Alices' jack'n the box which she planted at the crime scene would make sure that they would both be treated fairly. Alice would get some of the blame.

Ronnie slits her wrists in the tub. Alice's boyfriend flees the country.

Amazon link-

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


Finished Su 8/31/14

A Tess Monaghan novel. She is bedridden and very pregnant with Carla Scout.

She notices a young woman in a green raincoat walking a dog and one day, the dog runs by without the woman.

Man has two wives and one girlfriend die of mysterious circumstances and the disappearance of this woman looks like he's a contemporary Bluebeard.

The book is only a novella and what I love about Lippman's writing is her brilliant character development and eloquent settings, and all of that is missing in THE GIRL IN THE GREEN RAINCOAT. It's pretty barebones and reminds me of why I hate Agatha Christie. It's a terrific plot, but it doesn't enchant.

Many of the characters reappear in her books and although a stand-alone, I felt like I was 'in the middle' of something.

Link to Amazon-

CALLGIRL by Jeannette Angell

Finished Sa 8/31/14

I learned about this book when I was researching THE MOST DANGEROUS THING by Laura Lippman. This book was the August, 2014 selection for the Contemporary Book Club, and in an interview on Youtube Lippman said that CALLGIRL was a book that she was reading, and that she really enjoyed. Boy, she wasn't kidding! This was one of the most fascinating books I've read in a long, long time.

Angell has a four year undergraduate degree in Psychology from Harvard, a Masters and a Doctorate in Social Anthropology, and was working as a teaching assistant making $1,300 a class per semester; two classes. Her boyfriend wiped out her savings accounts and racked up a huge bill on her credit cards. She tried to work as a sex 'hot-line' operator, and found that she couldn't handle it.
Set in Boston. Harvard/MIT

By chance (an ad in a flyer) she meets 'Peach' who works as a madame at a moderately high-end escort service, and Jeannette finds her niche as 'Tia'.  Peach sets the price and screens the clients, and gets $60 off the top. Jeannette (as Tia) calls when she arrives, she gets the money upfront (although repeat customers are allowed to pay at the end), and Peach calls back at the end of the hour so that the client is aware that the encounter has ended and it will require more money for it to continue.

400 pound fat man who tries to collect info on the callgirls to control them. Jeannette never tells anyone that she is a teacher and keeps that part of her life separate.
A call girl friend of Jeannette's who becomes a free base addict and steals money from Jeannette numerous times.
Jeannette falls in love with an Indian graduate student only to learn that he was only trying to cause a hooker 'to give it up for free'. Tia learns what is going on when she hears one of his friends congratulating him on his answering machine.

The book is not very sexy, but is really about how people view sex. Jeannette is really an actress playing a sexual role.

She was teaching a class about people in asylums throughout history. She claims that women were institutionalized by a man and were kept in the institution regardless what the healthcare pro's of the time felt. The man that filed the paperwork was the only one who had the power to free the woman regardless of what the doctors felt.

Also a class about how people grieve and their feelings on Death. And, finally a class on prostitution which was a smash hit.

Amazon book link-