Showing posts with label suspense novel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label suspense novel. Show all posts

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Nora Roberts’ “The Liar” Book Review

Nora Roberts "The Liar" Book Cover - Source: Amazon
Nora Roberts “The Liar” Book Cover

I’m a huge fan of Nora Roberts’ writing and have read most of her books (including her “In Death” series under her J.D. Robb nom de plume). I had purchased the audiobook of her 2015 romantic suspense novel “The Liar” as soon as it came out, but somehow it got lost in the shuffle in my Audible library. Coming across it again recently – and finally getting to listen to it with my husband – was a treat!

The things we enjoyed most about this book are that it's:
  • Authentic. One of the things we’ve always loved about Nora Roberts’ writing is her thorough research. This makes her characters and locations very believable, so it’s easy to be transported into the world she creates for each of her stories.
  • Detailed. Roberts’ characters, for the most part, are fully formed. She provides enough detail and history and weaves in enough backstory to make us feel as if we know each character personally. We feel like they have lives beyond just what’s in the story.
  • Well-paced. One of the hallmarks of Roberts’ writing is her excellent pacing. She doesn’t rush through the telling, but she also never lets the story drag. She doesn’t use adjectives for their own sake, like many other authors. Her descriptions are all well thought out and help move the story forward.
  • Dialogue-driven. Roberts is an acknowledged master of dialogue. Like all her books, “The Liar” is told largely through conversations. I’ve always appreciated her very sparing use of speech tags (e.g., “he said,” “she asked,” “they exclaimed”). She gives every character a distinctive, recognizable speech pattern, so readers can easily identify who’s saying what without naming the speakers every time. For example, Viola speaks straightforwardly and with authority, but also with the slightly formal, slightly flowery language of a proper Southern lady when she’s addressing someone outside the family; whereas Forrest, a cop to the core, speaks tersely and uses adjectives sparingly.
There were a couple of things that felt a bit off. Melody’s character seems a bit forced. She’s surprisingly one-dimensional for a Roberts character. She never shows even a hint of remorse and it’s hard to feel any sympathy for her. Also, my husband thinks Griff seems too good to be true. He always has time for Shelby and Callie. He always does the right thing. He doesn’t make even a single misstep. In a true romance, we need to follow the lines of both characters. But although Griff is the romantic foil, this is Shelby’s story, and in some ways he’s a supporting player. We never learn much about his backstory or any of his previous relationships. Fortunately, neither of those issues prevented us from thoroughly enjoying this book.

Although I also own the Kindle version, I much prefer the unabridged audiobook of “The Liar”. Narrator January LaVoy does a fabulous job of giving both the male and female characters distinctive voices. In many audiobooks, it can be hard to tell which character is speaking without speech tags, but that was never a problem with this one. LaVoy also makes the men sound like men and the women like women – a skill narrators often lack. Even more impressive is her totally believable voicing of three-year-old Callie. Her excellent narration brings an added dimension to the storytelling. This audiobook will keep you happily engrossed for 16 hours, 31 minutes.

Main Characters in “The Liar” Include:

Shelby Pomeroy Foxworth – a young wife and mother who grew up in rural Tennessee; former Homecoming Queen

Richard Foxworth – Shelby’s snobby, cold, jet-setting husband

Callie Rose Foxworth – Shelby and Richard’s three-year-old daughter

Viola MacNee Donahue – Shelby’s vivacious, ambitious, straight-shooting and wise grandmother, owner of Viola’s Harmony House Salon and Day Spa

Forrest Jackson Pomeroy – local cop and Shelby’s big brother

Ada Mae Pomeroy – Shelby’s mom

Emma Kate Addison – nurse and Shelby’s best friend

Matt Baker – Emma Kate’s boyfriend and partner in The Fix-It Guys

Griff Lott – Matt’s partner in The Fix-It Guys; originally from Baltimore

Melody Bunker – Shelby’s main nemesis in high school; second runner-up in the Miss Tennessee pageant; manager of the Artful Ridge artisan craft gallery

“The Liar” Synopsis

This novel is broken into three sections: The False, The Roots and The Real.

The False
Pretty redhead Shelby Pomeroy Foxworth learns that her husband, Richard, is missing and presumed dead. Richard Foxworth was everything Shelby wasn’t – urbane, suave, worldly, wealthy, sophisticated and well-traveled. He quickly swept her off her feet and into an unfamiliar world of glamorous jet-setting and an expensive lifestyle. When she met Richard, he had been attentive and flattering, but that didn’t last long. After their daughter Callie was born, he became increasingly insulting to Shelby and had little time and even less affection for their sweet, pretty, vivacious daughter.

Shelby discovers that everything she thought she knew about Richard was false. The man she had married, the father of her darling Callie, had been not only a liar but also a successful con man. Shelby had never suspected that Richard hadn’t purchased the fancy house in Philadelphia, elegant clothes and all the other trappings of their wealthy lifestyle outright. And he had racked up $3 million in debts that now fell squarely on Shelby’s slender shoulders. 

The Roots
Shelby sells all of Richard’s belongings and most of her own, as well as the huge, fancy house he had purchased (without consulting her) and the expensive custom furnishings she had always hated. Then she takes Callie back to Rendezvous Ridge, Tennessee, Shelby’s beloved hometown, determined to raise her daughter surrounded by three generations of Shelby’s close-knit, loving and supportive family.

Shelby moves back into her parents’ home and starts to build a new life for herself and Callie. She makes up with her best friend, Emma Kate, who has been angry at Shelby ever since she had taken off with Richard and seemingly ignored her family and friends back home. Emma Kate’s boyfriend and his business partner, Griffin Lott, have a fledgling construction and remodeling business. Griff falls hard for Shelby and Callie. He quickly wins Callie’s heart, but Shelby is reluctant to put her own on the line again or risk Callie’s getting hurt. 

As this section progresses, Shelby, Callie and Griff find themselves increasingly in danger. Shelby’s policeman brother Forrest tries to protect them while he figures out and tracks down who is responsible for murder, both attempted and successful. Things comes to a frightening head.

The Real
The last section consists of the final chapter and an epilogue. Telling you anything about them would be a major spoiler, so you’ll just have to read “The Liar” to find out what happens. It’s a worthwhile ride!



“The Liar” book reviewed by:
Margaret Schindel




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Saturday, December 30, 2017

Her Fearful Symmetry - A Book Review

Click image to purchase book
I think I must be the last person on earth who has yet to read The Time Traveller's Wife (or to see the movie), but I did know the author was Audrey Niffenegger so when I saw another of her books I thought I'd have a read.   I'm very glad I did!

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger is unlike any other book I've read, it's not a can't put it up kind of book, but it's nonetheless a really good read and very thought provoking.

Have you ever wondered whether ghosts have to learn to be ghosts?   Funnily enough that idea was written so well that it just made sense to me.

The teaser to the book that I read said.....

Take mirror twins, a man with OCD and a ghost and what do you get?
I'm not sure what it was about that statement but I was sold.  The mirror twins in question are Valentina and Julia Poole, the ghost is the twin's estranged aunt who they haven't seen since they were babies and the man with OCD is an upstairs neighbor of their aunt.

A Riveting Tale of Obsession & Love

A Review of Her Fearful Symmetry, Don't Worry There's No Spoilers!


Her Fearful Symmetry is all about obsession, love and the urge to control.  Audrey Niffenegger's  novel begins with one of the central characters dying. This in itself is nothing new, but what is new in this novel is that this particular character 'stars' as a ghost.

Following on from her hugely successful debut novel - The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger stays in the realm of the supernatural with this ghost story. The main character is a ghost who has been estranged from her twin sister for years and decides to leave her flat and money to her twin nieces who she has only met once when they were babies.

Now nothing is ever that straight forward in books so of course this inheritance comes with a clause - the twins, Julia and Valentina Poole must live in her flat for a year. The flat in question borders on a famous London cemetery - Highgate Cemetery.

While she was researching this book Audrey Niffenegger actually worked as a volunteer at London's famous Highgate Cemetery and a great facet to this book is the little snippets of trivia about the cemetery that she sprinkles throughout the book.

There are some complex emotions in the book and it poses some interesting questions such as - do ghosts really have to learn to be ghosts? An incident that occurs later in the book can really give you goosebumps and wondering if that sort of thing could really happen!




In all this was an interesting book and I enjoyed it, but I was rather deflated with the ending. There was a perfect place for the book to end, but when the story continued I felt I wasn't satisfied because I then wanted to know what else happened.

Would I read it again?  Absolutely, because I am sure that I would 'discover' more things that I had missed on my first reading.

Would I recommend starting it knowing that you don't have time to finish it in one sitting?  Yes, it was one that I definitely wanted to finish, but it was a book that I put up a couple of times to go and do things.......things that I could probably have postponed if I'd been reading a real 'can't put down' book.



Now I know that sometimes the last thing you want to read is a thought provoking suspense book, we had days when we just want to curl up with some historical romance or a cozy mystery etc.  Well don't worry we have reviewed countless books in different genres so please check them out - our book reviews.


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Saturday, May 13, 2017

Book Reviews of the Forensic Instincts Series


Series Book #1 Available on Amazon
by Andrea Kane

The Forensic Instincts team is a group of private investigators who achieve the impossible, often pushing ethical and legal boundaries to accomplish it. They take on cases that ~ for one reason or another ~ law enforcement cannot solve or doesn't have the necessary time to devote to it.  


The team consists of a behaviorist (Casey), a former Navy SEAL (Marc), a techno-wizard (Ryan), an intuitive (Claire), a retired FBI agent (Patrick) and an FBI trained human-scent-evidence dog (Hero).  Together they are amazing, accomplishing what others cannot.

In addition to the team's outstanding abilities (each member having been hand-picked by their leader, Casey Woods, not only for their unique attributes, but also for their ability to work cohesively together as a team), we are also introduced  to some of the personal lives of each member, making them more appealing as people besides the traits that make them very good at their jobs.



The Girl Who Disappeared Twice 


The series begins with The Girl Who Disappeared Twice.  At that time, the team consists of just Casey and her two outstanding cohorts Marc & Ryan. As the story unfolds and the case involving a kidnapping of Family Court Judge Hope Willis' 6-year-old daughter, Krissy, we are introduced to Claire and Patrick who later become the newest team members of Forensic Instincts. We also meet FBI BAU profiler Kyle 'Hutch' Hutchinson from Quantico, Virginia, who is romantically involved in a long-distance relationship with FI team leader Casey Woods who lives and works in New York City.

Even though local police and the FBI are involved in this kidnapping case, Judge Willis has hired Forensic Instincts due to the bizarre circumstances of her twin sister having been kidnapped (and never seen again) 32 years ago. FI soon figures out that the two kidnap cases are related. The ending is a surprise you won't see coming.  


This is Author Kane's first Forensic Instincts book and her most popular. If you read this book, you will be  hooked, as I was, and want to read the entire series!

The Line Between Here and Gone

 

In The Line Between Here and Gone, the Forensic Instincts team becomes involved in a frantic search for an elusive father whose infant son is battling a rare immune deficiency condition. Baby Justin's only hope for a cure lies with his father who everyone thought was brutally murdered before mom Amanda even realized she carried his child.  Then an emailed photo changes everything. The photo looks exactly like Paul - the missing and presumed dead father.  Every second counts in this search for a 'ghost'.  



The Stranger You Know 

 

The Stranger You Know involves the case of a series of college-aged girls with long red hair who are brutally murdered.  The crime scenes are identical to those of a serial offender now serving thirty years to life—a criminal brought to justice with the help of Forensic Instincts. Now the Forensic Instincts team is in a frantic race to discover, and stop, the killer who is selecting targets who have been chosen because of a unique connection to Casey Woods, team leader.  And it soon becomes apparent that the killer is closing in on Casey as the ultimate target.
 


The Silence That Speaks

 

In The Silence That Speaks, the story revolves around Casey's associate Marc Devereaux, the former Navy SEAL, and involves the only girl he ever loved - Madaline. She's a nurse at Manhattan Memorial, and she's terrified because someone is trying to kill her.  Madeline turns to Marc and FI for help and protection.

At the hospital, Manhattan Memorial, there is turmoil.  There is a merger in the works, and the staff is in shock over their hospital administrator's sudden death—during heart surgery performed by Madeline's ex-husband, Conrad. A surgery at which Madeline was present. The killer seems to blame both Madeline and Conrad…

Who is the killer who has the greatest incentive to want Madeline dead?  The FI investigative team has the resources to discover just that, working inside the law—and outside it. Another on-the-edge-of-your-seat Forensic Instincts thriller.
 


The Murder That Never Was



Given the opportunity, would you assume someone else's identity and leave your old life behind? In The Murder That Never Was, A strange set of circumstances gives Lisa Barnes, a down-on-her-luck job seeker, and Julie Forman, a personal trainer to an Olympic hopeful, exactly that opportunity. Problem is, a cold-blooded killer who is a megalomaniacal genius will stop at nothing to eradicate anyone who threatens the success of his medical breakthrough, and he wants Julie dead to protect it. Except, Lisa Barnes has become Julie ... and she's terrified.  

The unorthodox criminal investigative team of Forensic Instincts takes on the case and is forced into uncharted territory to protect their client. The team has grown to include a former pickpocket who is now their receptionist and Girl Friday and who ends up playing a pivotal role in the solving of this case. 


A Face to Die For


Ready to Pre-Order


The newest Forensic Instincts book in this popular series (A Face to Die For) debuted September 19, 2017.  This time, author Andrea Kane explores the urban legend of the doppelganger, as the readers' favorite team of investigators (Forensic Instincts) find themselves in a conflict of interest between two clients.

I need to get this book next, having now read the entire series and become a huge fan of Andrea Kane.








Author Andrea Kane


Andrea Kane is a bestselling author of twenty-seven novels, including thirteen psychological thrillers and fourteen historical romantic suspense titles. 

She lives in New Jersey with her husband and family. She's an avid crossword puzzle solver and a diehard Yankees fan. Otherwise, she's either writing or playing with her Pomeranian, Mischief, who does his best to keep her from writing.  You can read more about Andrea Kane and see her other books on her website AndreaKane.com.


Kane's Forensic Instincts series is about a dynamic, eclectic team of maverick investigators who continue to solve seemingly impossible cases while walking a fine line between assisting and enraging law enforcement.  These are definitely in the 'thriller' category and have, without a doubt, captured my interest and attention. 


If you like suspenseful thrillers, you will enjoy the Forensic Instincts series. 





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Saturday, April 1, 2017

A Review of Author Lisa Unger

Lisa Unger, American Author
Lisa (Miscione) Unger is an American author of contemporary fiction. Her stories are in the crime thriller mystery and suspense category, which is my favorite genre to read.  

A couple months ago I 'discovered' Lisa Unger, an author new to me, and was so pleased by the first book I read that I have subsequently now read my way through almost all her books. Lisa writes fast-paced psychological mysteries with strong characters and I've found her books nearly impossible to put down.


Bio of Lisa Unger


Born Lisa Miscione in 1970, the author published her first four books under her maiden name.  She had spent a decade in the publishing business before meeting and marrying Jeff Unger, after which she began her writing career.

Since then, she has written twelve more books under the name Lisa Unger, has won numerous writing awards, and has become an international best-selling author. She lives in Florida with her husband and daughter. You can visit her at www.lisaunger.com.

Lisa's books might best be called 'psychological thrillers' as she combines her knowledge of the human psyche with an understanding of trauma and fear. The suspense builds throughout each story and the reader finds themselves wrapped up in the psychology of the characters so much that the lines are often blurred between the protagonist and the villain.


Brief Synosis of Books by Lisa Unger


Lisa Unger writes both 'continuing character' stories and 'stand-alone' books (each having different characters).



Lydia Strong

 

Lydia Strong Series



Lisa's first 4 books (written as Lisa Miscione between 2002 and 2005)  feature the same continuing character, Lydia Strong, who is a true-crime writer in New York City. They include:

  • Angel Fire
  • The Darkness Gathers
  • Twice
  • Smoke

Ridley Jones


Her next character, Ridley Jones, is featured in two books (2006 and 2007)  and shows us that the choices we make day-to-day and even year-to-year, can cause continuing ripples throughout our life.  Ridley is a freelance writer in New York City who begins to discover deep secrets about her family after her rescue of a child makes headlines. Beautiful Lies begins the story and Sliver of Truth continues and completes it.


The Hollows


Kindle Introduction to The Hollows

By far, my favorite group of books by Lisa Unger are about a cast of characters set in The Hollows, a fictional secluded town located 100 miles outside New York City. There is my favorite character, Jones Cooper, a former detective with the Hollows Police Department who is now a private investigator. Plus, Jones' wife, who is a psychologist and interacts with different characters throughout several books.  And Eloise Montgomery, who has had the ability to 'find' lost women ever since an automobile accident badly injured her and left her with a special ability. She appears later in another book which features her now grown granddaughter, Finley, whose psychic abilities far surpass hers. 

Various books in this series have different Hollows characters appearing as the central character in a story, with the others as minor characters. It's such a treat to see them appear. They feel like family has stopped by.  Each character has a supporting role around the central character.

I've already read the first four books Unger has written about The Hollows and hopefully they are just the beginning of a long series, because I find them fascinating and cannot wait to revisit the characters who populate this rather haunted old mining town in the Adirondack Mountains.  

The Kindle eBook (The Whispering Hollows) shown above is an introduction to The Hollows and includes 3 short stories featuring reluctant psychic Eloise Montgomery.  To date, Ungers 4 Hollows novels written between 2010 and 2016 include:


  • Fragile
  • Darkness My Old Friend
  • Crazy Love You
  • Ink and Bone


Non-Series Books by Lisa Unger


Ungers' non-series books (five to date) include a variety of characters, each featured by themselves in a stand-alone novel. Although, if you have read and followed her earlier books, you will see characters from The Hollows popping up here and there as minor characters.




Newest Novel Debuted on April 25, 2017

 
The newest non-series Lisa Unger mystery (The Red Hunter) debuted April 25, 2017.


Prologue and Epiglogue


Many novels, particularly mystery and suspense stories, begin with a prologue. They then end with reaching a conclusion where the crime is solved and the villain is captured or the problem is unraveled and the story reaches a satisfactory ending.  But, have you ever reached the end of a book and thought "I wonder what happens to her in the future, or does he find what he's looking for". 

What I find most fascinating and interesting about Lisa Unger's books is she brings her stories to it's exciting ending, THEN she has another chapter that really wraps up all those things the reader might wonder about even after learning the ending of the story.   And even THAT is not the ending.  She still has an Epilogue! By the time the reader finishes each book, one has no more questions, except 'where's the next book - I can't stop reading'.


Caveat/Caution


Lisa Unger's books might not appeal to everyone.  If you don't care for stories about murders and traumas and fears both real and imagined, then these psychological thrillers are not for you. But if you like mystery and suspense, involvement with police and FBI and a main character you like very much, then you will become a fan of Lisa Unger's thrillers. I certainly have!


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Friday, February 12, 2016

A Review of "The Inn at Ocean's Edge" by Colleen Coble

http://reviewthispersonalreviews.blogspot.com/2016/02/a-review-of-inn-at-oceans-edge-by.html
Every once in a while I find a book that is so rare, the plot so unique, that I want to shout to the world, "you must read this book!"  That is the case with the book I literally just finished reading.  

I don't normally read mysteries, but this book appeared in my romantic fiction genre.  I didn't even realize I had selected a mystery until I was hooked.  As it turns out, this may well be the best book I have read in years.

Obviously, I could highly recommend "The Inn at Ocean's Edge" by Colleen Coble to anyone who enjoys a romance, a lot of mystery, and a plot that is not at all obvious to the reader.  I literally set on the edge of my seat, stayed up as long as my eyes would stay open, to read this book and find out what really happened to this family, these people, the little girl who was lost in the woods.



The Inn At Ocean's Edge


The plot of the book is so detailed, there is no way I can truly do it justice in a few short paragraphs, but I will try. 

 The Inn at Ocean's Edge (A Sunset Cove Novel)On her 4th birthday, Claire Dellamare was lost in the woods.  A year later, she was found, but she had no recollection of anything that had happened to her.  It was as if the whole year was completely lost to her.  As she was growing up, she was cherished by her parents who previously thought their daughter was gone to them forever.  Her life was cushioned by great wealth and she was respected for her business acumen within her father's company.  It seemed her life was perfect until she returned to "The Inn at Ocean's Edge".  


She didn't think she had ever been there, but she seemed to know things about the place she couldn't possibly know otherwise.  Not very deep into the pages of the book, we find out that this hotel was the setting for her 4th birthday party.  This was the place from which she disappeared.  She didn't even remember that she had disappeared.  She had no idea that her life was so shrouded in mystery, until the residents started talking.

Murders, illness, abduction, lies, and scary nightmares of an unknown man who she witnessed commit murder, all play a part of this most unusual plot.  Once the killer realizes she could actually identify him, he doesn't hesitate to stalk her.  Even with a murderer close on her heels, she is having occasional flashbacks, revelations about her father and his infidelity, as it all culminates to put her, and others, into even greater danger.  So many lies have been told.  So much of the past has been covered up.  She has no idea who she can actually trust.

As Claire searches for the truth, her life, past and present, becomes intertwined with Luke Rocco, whose mother disappeared the same day the little 4 year old went missing.  Unlike Claire, Luke's mother did not return to Folly Shoals, Maine.  He fears she actually never left, especially once bones are found on nearby property.  



A Sunset Cove Novel

Apparently "The Inn at Ocean's Edge" is the first of 3 books in the "Sunset Cove Series".  I don't think there is any way Colleen Coble can ever match this book again, but I will definitely be starting the second book in the series tonight.  I can hardly wait to see what she has in store for us in "Mermaid Moon", but most likely by the time you are reading this review, I will have finished that book as well.  

It is so very exciting to find a book series that I can barely finish one book before I am downloading the next in the series as fast as my little fingers can sail across the keyboard and push that little purchase button.

Now, I am off!  I only stopped long enough to tell you about this most excellent book.  I know you will want to read it too.






"The Inn at Ocean's Edge" Book Review Written by:
House of Sylvestermouse





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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Review of Novels that Take You Behind the Scenes in Book Publishing Houses

Two Novels Let You Peek into the World Of Book Publishing


Have you ever wondered how the authors of best selling books get to the top? I just discovered two authors new to me whose novels provide a peek into the offices of publishers and their agents, as well as insight into book marketing and the publishing industry. I will review these novels here.  


Spider Web with Scott Quote, photo from Pixabay


Marsha Grimes offers a humorous look at the competition between publishers, editors, and agents for popular authors . Just to make it interesting, a few hired killers with scruples are added to the mix.

 Writer Steve Martini's thriller, The List, shows another aspect of the publishing industry that focuses on the marketing of an author persona. In this book, an author's idea for promoting her new book involves a bit of deception that almost gets her killed in the end.


Martha Grimes Novels about Publishing


Buy Foul Matter at Amazon
The two books I read by Martha Grimes are Foul Matter, my favorite, and The Way of All Fish, which bored me. Many of the same characters populate both books. We meet the first of those characters, Paul Giverney, in Foul Matter. He is trying to choose a new publisher who will meet his conditions – a publisher who would do whatever it takes to get whatever he wants. He decides that Bobby Mackenzie of Mackenzie-Haack is his man. 

Mackenzie wants Paul badly because Paul writes best-selling books that would carry the costs of marketing them and make money for Bobby, but Paul will only come on board if he can have Tom Kidd, who doesn't like to edit the kind of commercial fiction Paul writes, as his editor. Tom Kidd only likes to edit literary fiction, especially that of Ned Isaly.

Paul is now a free agent and the big publishers are competing to sign him. Mackenzie wants Paul's book, but Paul has one condition that is blocking the deal. Paul insists Mackenzie drop Isaly. Paul wants Kidd to edit his books, but almost everyone knows that if Ned Isaly is dropped, Kidd will also go and he would take Mackenzie's best literary authors with him, including Isaly, who has won a lot of awards for his fiction. Besides that, Isaly is still under contract for one more book. Breaking the contract isn't legal. Paul insists the legal team could find a way if they really wanted to. 

Clive Esterhaus is second in command to Mackenzie, and handles acquisitions along with some editing. His job is to get Paul Giverney under contract. He just doesn't see how he can get rid of Isaly without breaking the contract and also losing Kidd and his literary authors. 

Mackenzie puts a book written by Danny Zito, an ex-mob contract killer who is now in the Witness Protection Program, on Clive's desk, and hints that maybe Danny would like to write another book. Clive knows the real hint is that Danny still knows people who might be able to solve their Isaly problem for them. Danny refers Clive to hit men Candy and Karl, and Clive contacts them. Bobby Mackenzie hires them to get rid of Isaly.

Candy and Karl are unlike any hit men you've ever seen and have their own conditions. They don't want to “do” anyone they don't think deserves it. They take the advance money and study the potential “project” for a couple of weeks until they decide whether they want to take the job. If they decide they don't, they return the advance. Candy and Karl ask Bobby and Clive why they want Isaly eliminated and they can't believe the answer  they get. Karl would actually like to write a book himself, and is fascinated by what he's learning about book publishers. 

As the book progresses, we often see Ned and his friends Saul, Jamie, and Sally, at Swill's bar, where many literary folks hang out. The friends also run into each other in the park, another place they frequent.  Saul, like Ned, is a literary author. Sally is a wannabe writer who is an assistant to Tom Kidd. Jamie is a romance writer. Saul sometimes takes them for dinner at the Old Hotel, which is known for including and excluding dinner guests, and even some who only want a drink at its lobby bar. No one knows what criteria determines who gets in and who doesn't. Clive is one of the anointed but neither Bobby nor Paul can get in on their own. No matter where they get together, Saul, Ned, Sally, and Jamie often discuss their books and the writing process. There's a lot of shop talk.  


Novels that Take You Behind the Scenes in Book Publishing Houses
Photo Courtesy of Pixabay


Ned is at the very end of the process of completing a book.  He's been struggling over what to do with his character Nathalie in the final scene. He has left her in a park after her lover has ended their affair, and he keeps "hearing" her entreaties not to leave her there like that. On one such occasion his thoughts are distracted by his realization that he can't remember what Pittsburgh, the town he grow up in, looks like. This bothers him, and he decides its time to visit his hometown. He thinks that might help him figure out how to end his book. He tells everyone he's going to Pittsburgh. 

Naturally, Candy and Karl follow him so they can observe him and decide whether to take him on as a project. Sally, who had overheard part of a meeting between Bobby and Clive discussing how to end Ned's contract, senses something is up that's not good. She has mentioned this to Saul. Each of  them separately decides to go to Pittsburgh when Ned does without telling Ned or each other. In the meantime, Clive is afraid Candy and Karl might really kill Ned and he might get blamed. So he hires someone to follow Ned and protect him. Her name is Blaze. Clive decides to go to Pittsburgh himself, as well, just to keep and eye on things.   

Paul, although he stays home, is worried at what his demands may have set in motion. He has nothing personal against Ned, so he hires Arthur Mordred to protect Ned. Ned himself is oblivious to all of this. He only vaguely senses someone may be following him.  He does wonder why Candy and Karl seem to be turning up everywhere he goes. 


Arthur Mordred, Candy and Karl know each other and wonder why they are seeing each other on the same turf. It seems like the whole gang is in Pittsburgh, though Saul and Sally don't let Ned or each other know they are there at first. The Pittsburgh chapters are fun for the reader, with Ned mostly just looking around while all the others follow him as inconspicuously as possible, often in disguise. The last day the disguises come off and everyone acknowledges everyone else, but not why they are there. Then everyone goes home and they all manage to get back to New York safely, including Ned Isaly, so the problem of what to do with him remains.  You will have to read the book to see how the situation is resolved, and only at the end is it revealed why Paul wanted Mackenzie to break Isaly's contract. 

The best parts of the book are the conversations between Candy and Karl as they “research the project” and interact with everyone. They provide a lot of comic relief. It was, in fact, this humor and the spoof on the publishing industry that made the book interesting. The characters were not very well-developed, but the dialogue was great. The whole scene (several chapters) in Pittsburgh is hilarious. Some readers may find Ned's mental interactions with Nathalie a bit tedious. though. 

A reader might pick up the idea that in spite of having written the popular Richard Jury novels, which I've not yet read, Grimes is not especially fond of how the publishing industry operates and that would also apply to the way books are marketed and get to the best seller lists. Steve Martini picks up some of these same themes in his legal thriller, The List.

Review of The List by Steve Martini


The title refers to the  New York Times Bestseller List that every author wants their book to be on. I'm classifying this as a legal thriller because two of the main characters are lawyers. The book is much different in tone and style than Martha Grimes Foul Matter. In the Grimes books, there were plenty of opportunities to laugh and the fun was in seeing the characters interact and learning what they really thought of each other. In The List, you will find yourself holding your breath and unable to put the book down. It is full of action and suspense. 

Book Review of The List
Buy The List at Amazon
 The List begins with a Prologue in which Abby Chandlis is running for her life on an old docked ship. She is trying to reach Morgan Spencer, her lawyer, whom she is sure is aboard. She is fleeing two men on the dock, whom you will meet later in the book. Then the book moves to Chapter One and we discover Abby is a lawyer who works with Morgan Spencer. It's obvious the two are very good friends, but not lovers. Abby wants to keep it that way. Morgan doesn't.

Abby has written a book, but since she has written previous books, which although published never got very far, she is reluctant to publish her new book under her own name. She has chosen the pen name of Gable Cooper. She is afraid that if she submits the book under her own name she will get less for it because she's a woman and it wouldn't be marketed well because her other books weren't best sellers. She knows her new book is blockbuster material.

We next meet Carla Owens, who is looking for Gable Cooper. Carla is a powerful literary agent, and she tells Abby that she must get hold of Cooper because a major publisher wants the book and expects it to be very successful. Abby says Cooper is in South America researching another book and cannot be reached. The truth is that Abby hasn't found anyone to play the part of Cooper for the book jacket, interviews, and book signings. She promises to try to find Cooper. She is his legal representative in the negotiations. 

The scene then shifts to Jack Jermaine, a frustrated writer who is currently at home in Coffin Point, South Carolina, using his rejection slips for target practice. He is handsome, rugged, and very good at shooting.

Meanwhile, back at Abby's office, she explains her problem to Morgan, to whom she tells everything. He's upset because they have a new boss, Cutler, whom he doesn't like. It appears Cutler wants to downsize, and that means both Abby and Morgan could lose their jobs. Abby asks Morgan to file a copyright for her on the new book so she can prove, if there's ever a problem with the person she gets to lay the part of Cooper, that she herself wrote the book. The only other person who knows about her authorship is is her best friend Theresa, who is divorced because her husband Joey has abused and almost killed her. Abby had acted as Theresa's divorce lawyer, and Theresa is currently living with Abby.

Morgan, as Abby's lawyer, wants all the details of how Abby intends to pull off letting someone play her part without the publisher and agent finding out who really wrote the book. They discuss all the details of how Gable Cooper will sign papers and contracts that deposit Cooper's advances, signed over to Abby, in Abby's account. Then she will pay Cooper his share. Morgan wants to be sure only he, Abby, Theresa, and whomever turns out to be Cooper, are the only ones who know Abby really wrote the book. Because he doesn't trust Cutler, he tells Abby he will keep all the documents safely at his home.

Abby, realizing she has to come up with a Gable Cooper soon, goes with Thersa to L.A. to hire someone to play the part. She settles on the handsome Jess Jermaine. Theresa is staying with friends. Abby stays in L.A. to continue briefing Jess on his part. After that her plan is to fly to New York, meet Carla alone, and then after the two of them have worked out the details, they would meet Jess at the airport together.

Meanwhile, back in Seattle, Joey has broken into Abby's home and torn it up, waiting for Theresa to appear so he can abuse or kill her. While he's there, the people trying to get the movie rights to the book appear looking for Cooper. Joey answers the door, plays along, pretends he is Cooper, and agrees to sell them the rights for only $25,000.

Abby gets into New York at 2 AM and after only a few hours sleep prepares to go meet Carla. Under her hotel door she finds a handwritten note from Jess saying he can't be Cooper after all, but not to worry, he's made arrangements. She imagines her entire book deal flying away and is furious, but when she calls Carla's office about the change in plans for picking up Cooper, Carla very happily tells her that she has been chatting in her office with Cooper and he's wonderful. Jess had arranged for his brother Jack, older and just as handsome, whom we met earlier in Coffin Point shooting up rejection slips, to substitute for him. Abby is extremely angry that Jack got to Carla before she did, but she's in a bind and finally has to accept the situation in order not to blow her own deal.

Since this is a review, not a synopsis, I won't tell you about all the dead bodies, romance, and double-crossing that follow or even introduce all the players in this drama. The plot is too intricate for me to do that here. I did not pay careful enough attention to all the details on my first reading, and so I was more surprised than I should have been at the end. What I could not do is put this book down. As I'm rereading parts of the book today, I find myself laughing at some parts I'd forgotten about. There is touch of humor because of who the people are and how they interact, even though the mood of most of the book is tense.

Novels that Take You Behind the Scenes in Book Publishing Houses


My Recommendations 


I would recommend either Foul Matter or The List to writers or anyone else interested in the publishing industry. Foul Matter is a light book with a lot of comic relief. Most of the action is intellectual, and most battles take place with words. The “goons,” Karl and Candy, have their own version of justice. They tend to find an appropriate punishment to fit whatever is crime in their eyes. 

Although The List has a bit of humor, it has much more violence and suspense than Grimes' books. It, too, has some vigilante justice, but it's more violent than in that in Foul Matter.  You will find language and behavior in both books you would not want your grandchildren to imitate, but nothing worse than they would see in a PG-17 rated movie or much of today's television, or overhear in conversations. The F-word is used often by some characters because it fits their personas. There aren't any sex scenes in Foul Matter that I can remember, but The List has a few that would be rated R if they were in a movie. Forewarned is forearmed. I didn't see anything that seemed inappropriate in its context, and I enjoyed both books, different as they were from each other.

Which of these books do you think you'd want to read first?



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