Monthly Archives: February 2016

Review: THE CROSSING: A BOSCH NOVEL by Michael Connelly

It has been approximately a year since the events of The Burning Room and these days find Bosch retired, suing the LAPD over the retirement and other issues, and spending his time working on restoring his vintage motorcycle. He should be spending his days working homicide cases.

That is exactly what his half-brother Mickey Haller wants him doing. Part of that is by helping Bosch with his lawsuit against the department. Another part of that would be convincing Bosch to work for him as an investigator. Mickey Haller, known to one and all as “The Lincoln Lawyer,” has no idea how strongly Bosch feels about such a move. To do that, to slip over and work for the defense (the dark side), would betray everything Bosch has ever stood for as a detective with his three decades plus with the LAPD            .

Haller’s client is a man by the name of Da’Quan Foster.  A reformed man, Foster is sitting in jail on a murder charge and Haller is sure he did not do it. Haller is positive that his client is a pillar of the community these days and is willing to deal with the consequences if Bosch proves otherwise. All he wants right now is for Bosch to look over the case and offer an opinion. The problem for Bosch, more than being asked to crossover and work for the defense to help set a man free, is that if Foster is innocent the wrong man is in custody.  The idea that a killer might be out there walking free is a small possibility and the only reason Bosch takes a look. It does not take him long to determine that there are questions and inconsistencies in the prosecution case and, at the very least, some sloppy police investigative work.

The Crossing: A Bosch Novel is another solidly good book from author Michael Connelly who has been doing this a long time. Part police procedural and part mystery, the read moves rapidly as Bosch, working without the legitimacy of the police department, has to finagle and nuance his way through an increasingly complex case. A case that ultimately leads to one of the best climatic endings in this series to date.

While events earlier the series are briefly referenced one could read this first if you are new to the series. If you are, why have you waited so long?

The Crossing: A Bosch Novel
Michael Connelly
Little, Brown and Company (Hachette Book Group)
November 2015
ISBN# 978-0-316-22588-5
Hardback (available in e-book and audio formats)
400 Pages

Material supplied by the good folks of the Plano Public Library System who may or may not have known I would review the book after reading it. They just want the book back intact.

Kevin R. Tipple ©2015

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Review: THUGLIT PRESENTS CRUEL YULE edited by Todd Robinson

Known for their very good bimonthly magazine of crime fiction (often very dark and twisted), the Thuglit folks put together their first themed holiday collection. Thuglit Presents Cruel Yule is an anthology of 11 twisted stories set during the holiday season. If you are have ever considered the idea that Santa Claus was a peeping tom pervert who stalked people long before the NSA decided to track everyone, this is the book for you.

After a very brief introduction from Editor Todd Robinson it is on to the stories. “The Santa Con” by Rob Hart gets things going by way of having some Santas in full costume rob a bank. The robbery has been timed to coincide with SantaCon in New York City where hundreds of folks show up dressed like Saint Nick. A perfect plan destined to fail because this is a Thuglit production. The real question is how spectacularly wrong will it go?

Sometimes one can get nitrous oxide outside of going to the dentist and needing a procedure. If you were lucky and at a certain concert out west— usually some sort of hippie jam or electronic dance festival—- you might have come across a certain van. Led by a normal seeming guy by the name of Chris who was clearly psycho the more time you spent around him he had connections that would get the nitrous. The group would sell the balloon hits that would give you a buzz. In “Christmas Morning Coming Down” by Jordan Harper things were okay until Jimmy got stabbed and everything went wrong out in the desert that Christmas.

Sexual harassment is the backdrop to “Mistletoe” by Hilary Davidson. The holiday party is just an excuse for Ian Wainwright to go after Sadie. She knew almost from her first day of work what kind of guy he was and had managed to avoid things until now. With few options and no help by way of HR Sadie is a millennial that will have to learn a new life skill.

A child of divorce learns mad skills. Some of those skills in negotiation can make one a very good arbitrator. Such a job can be lucrative as noted early on in “Letters to Santa” by Thomas Puck. There are also consequences in a story that has a touch of the Halloween season in it.

It is Christmas day in 1837 as “Okeechobee” by Ed Kurtz begins. In a swamp of the same name, the 4th infantry regiment of a 1000 men has come to quell the Creek and Seminole. While most of the men have the killing of Indians on their mind, a soldier by the name of Parker Getts has a more personal target in mind. Finally, after eleven long years, Parker Getts is going to get payback. His annual Christmas Day prayer has apparently finally been answered.

Discovered by Johnny Shaw, “Feliz Navidead” by Brace Godfrey tells the tale of the world’s deadliest Mexican. He is also the world’s greatest Mexican lover and a few other things. His name is Chingón and men who go up against him die the most gruesome deaths.  He loves grenades. Women love him and can’t keep their hands off of him. A former member of an elite team known as the Explosioners that had battled and defeated numerous foes including Dr. Pervert’s mutant army of sex ogres, Chingón has determined that it is time to go to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to see the old gang again. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately for Chingón, sex and death are on the menu at the reunion.

The usual poker game is in play as “The Brass Coin” by Justin Porter begins. Dre, a writer, is having a hard time of things. His money situation is not helpful to the goal of buying a nice present for his son. Desperate times call for desperate measures including giving up a very special coin.

When a bodyguard by the name of “Krampus” is driving somebody by the name of “Krissy Kringle” around in her Geo Tracker as a story starts, you know things are going to be weird. In “A Very Blacky Christmas” by Angel Luis Colón, Krissy wants a guy named Black Jaguar dead. Christmas, Florida is her small town and Blacky must die. The problem is he is crazier than she is. The town is going to be a war zone when everything is said, burned, fried, blown up, dead, and done.

For the children of Joseph Ketler a hard life is made worse by an abusive father. Kids playing around just before dinner has consequences in “Fork” by Jan Conley. For some of us, this very well done story brings back some hard memories.

No one will hear Roger Cobb sing “O Holy Night” on Christmas morning in “Unholy Night” by Terrence McCauley. There is no one for miles around the abandoned resort deep in the jungle. That also means nobody is around to hear his prisoner scream. It is time for negations to begin.

The Cellar was supposed to have a band for Christmas Eve. But, there is no music and the man known to all as “Boo” is not a happy man. He is less happy when Caleb shows up with a lady Boo vaguely knows. Her name is Darla and she should have way better taste in men. Things are about to get messy in “’Twas The Night Before….” by editor and contributor Todd Robinson.

The 11 tales included in Thuglit Presents Cruel Yule are all dark ones that have virtually nothing in common with the idea of goodwill to all men. Instead, bad will to all is often the theme though there are occasional moments of humor. Dark and twisted as one would expect from Thuglit with some mighty good noir style holiday tales.

Hopefully, this is not the last of the themed holiday collections. After all, Valentine’s Day is coming up which is good for a massacre or two. Then after that somebody has to slaughter all those rabbits for Easter. Not to mention the fact that the Fourth of July demands somebody to take an explosive firework up the rear. Heck of a way to rob a bank. There is a lot of dark potential in holidays for Thuglit to mine.

Thuglit Presents Cruel Yule
Editor Todd Robinson
Thuglit Publishing
November 2015
E-Book (Paperback also available)
173 Pages

Kevin R. Tipple ©2015

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Archeologist Ruth Galloway lives alone in a small cottage on the edge of an area known as “the Saltmarsh.” It is a coastal land of desolation where the sky and sea meet. It is a treacherous and dangerous land of stark beauty and one that few people enjoy. She is far from her south London upbringing as well as her parents. Considering her observations about them distance is a very good thing.

When she isn’t at her small cottage with her cats she is at the University of North Norfolk where she teaches forensic archeology. It is there, thanks to her department chair Phil, she first meets Detective Chief Inspector Harry Nelson. The inspector wants her to inspect some bones that have been found out near the bird sanctuary in another part of the Saltmarsh.

He hopes that the bones might be a missing child who vanished ten years ago. Her name was Lucy Downey. Since her disappearance a decade ago the inspector has been receiving strange letters from someone. A person who uses quotes from the Bible, Shakespeare, T. S. Eliot, and other sources to taunt the inspector with clues. If Ruth Galloway can verify that the bones are of the missing child, he might just have the first solid piece of evidence to advance the case.

What follows is a complex and highly atmospheric read as Ruth Galloway gets drawn deeper and deeper in the mystery of the Lucy Downey case. At the same time a bond begins between her and the inspector creating additional stress. It isn’t surprising when Ruth herself becomes a target as the case proceeds.

Character complexity is at work here from the beginning. In some senses Ruth is the classic clichéd spinster– overweight, cats as her companions, no romantic interest, and a job that that fills her days. It is her observations on her parents, life, the world around her, and much more that fill the character with depth and meaning. The same is true to a lesser extent with the inspector though most of the book is told from watching Ruth.

The Crossing Places: A Ruth Galloway Mystery by Elly Griffiths is a solidly good start to what could be a very intriguing series. At least in this book, history, archaeology, and more take prominent roles resulting in the subtle education of the reader as the pages move by. A mystery that encourages the reader to think while also quietly teaching is a book that is very much worth reading.

The Crossing Places: A Ruth Galloway Mystery
Elly Griffiths
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
January 2010
ISBN# 978-0-547-22989-8
Hardback (also available in paperback, audio, and e-book formats
320 Pages (includes several pages of the next book in the series)

Material was obtained via the Plano Public Library System to read and review.

Kevin R. Tipple ©2015


Professor Carl Burns knows that a call from the dean is never good news. It usually signals trouble of some sort. Dean Partridge has proven to be no exception to the rule though in this case it was not her who called. Instead, it was her secretary who informed Professor Burns that the dean wanted to see him immediately. Either way, a summons from the dean is ominous.

Burns can’t figure out what he did this time to get himself summoned, but it wouldn’t have had to be his doing at Hartley Gorman College in South Texas. It could have been somebody in his English department who ran afoul of one rule or another. It could be because a student filed a complaint over something. Burns knows full well that he isn’t Dean Partridge’s favorite person by a long shot, but what has gone on in recent years wasn’t really Burn’s fault. He just got dragged into a murder investigation or two and a few other things. Professor Burns has a bit of a reputation at the college and beyond as many of the residents of the small town of Pecan City know he has helped local law enforcement. Most of the stuff happened long before Dean Partridge got there though there was that incident with her goat.

Once he gets to her office, Burns quickly realizes that it his crime solving reputation that she had in mind when Dean Gwendolyn Partridge sent for him. She collects toy soldiers. Her collection of miniature military figures is worth a lot of money. Somebody took six figures during a recent party she had at her house. While Burns does not like or trust her goat, he probably is not the responsible party. The culprit is a two footed human that was at a party that Burns had not been asked to attend.

The party was to celebrate the honor students at the college. In addition to the honor students, also in attendance were important people such as local civic leaders and/or donors.  News of the theft, if it was made known to the public by local media, would bring unfavorable publicity to the college. Nobody wants that to happen again as there has been more than enough of unfavorable publicity.

Dean Partridge wants Burns, because of his track record of solving previous mysteries, to very discreetly poke around and find out who took her soldiers. Beyond the problem of the suspect list being about 100 names is the problem that even the local police chief, Boss Napier, is on the list. A suspect that is a rival for a certain librarian’s affection. Chief Napier isn’t pleased that the dean dragged him into the situation regarding her toy soldiers. Especially since of them has just been found by the body of Mathew Hart who used to work at HGC. Hart used to be a professor years ago and was pretty much universally despised by students and staff.

Napier wants Burns to stay out of the way which suits Burns fine. But, the murder of Mathew Hart stirs up the campus. Even though Burns tries to stay out of things, gradually one thing leads to another and before long he is being shot at and worse. He even has to play in a softball game against the students. After all, the game must go on because if it does not the terrorists have won.

Fourth in the Carl Burns Mystery Series, Dead Soldiers is another very satisfying read. Originally published by Five Star Books in 2004 and now again available via the e-book format from Crossroads Press, the tale does not follow the current fad of dropping a body in the first three paragraphs.  Instead, author Bill Crider sets the table with some background before Burns learns of the first body. Like the other books this series, the world of academia takes center stage as the author follows the classic dictum of “write what you know” while putting a very enjoyable spin on things.

Dead Soldiers is the final installment of the very good Carl Burns mystery series. While it would be best to read in order starting with One Dead Dean, then moving on to Dying Voices, and then to … A Dangerous Thing, one could safely read this mystery first as events in earlier books are only briefly alluded to in the read. Along with the core mystery, humor and other touches by author Bill Crider make this mystery as well as the entire series well worth your time.

Dead Soldiers: The Carl Burns Mystery Series
Bill Crider
Five Star Books
June 2004
ISBN# 1-59414-186-X
250 Pages

Material was picked up to read and review by way of the good folks of the Plano Public Library System.

Kevin R. Tipple ©2015