Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Brotherly Love

By William D, Blankenship

Ben is a successful designer with a lovely wife and two children. He lives his life secure in the knowledge that his evil twin brother, Harry, is dead, killed in a car crash.
Unfortunately, Harry isn't actually dead. He is very much alive and he has a huge grudge against brother Ben.
Years ago, Harry raped and murdered a woman and was committed to a facility for the criminally insane. He was never supposed to be released but he was, only to die in a crash.  But that wasn't Harry in the crash. Harry has new identity and plenty of money and now he is closing in on brother Ben and family, looking for some kind of twisted revenge.
But Harry makes a mistake when he picks up a female hitchhiker and does to her what he likes to do to women. Only this dead girl is the daughter of an organized crime boss, Tony Scar. Tony Scar wants his daughter's killer dead. But which one is the killer? The police refuse to believe Ben's claims that Harry is back from the grave.
But in the end, it doesn't matter to Tony Scar. His daughter is dead and he doesn't care if Ben, Harry and Ben's wife and kids all have to pay the ultimate price.

I liked this story despite is rough elements of rape and murder. It adds quite a twist when the murdered girl turns out to be a gangster's daughter who will stop at nothing to exact his vengeance. The ending is a little weird and not exactly happy, which was somewhat disappointing. But the story moves along quite rapidly and was pretty gripping. It was a good read.

The Goldcamp Vampire

By Elizabeth Scarborough

Pelagia Harper, aka Valentine Lovelace, aka Pat Harper, aka Corazon has recently lost her father.
Pelagia despises her father's widow, who owes her money that she had failed to pay. Her father's mistress, Sasha Devine, is leaving California to head to the Klondike to work in an opera house there.  She offers Pelagia a job as her traveling companion, with Pelagia to make all the arrangements and the salary to be paid upon arrival at their destination. Traveling along with the two women will be the coffin of one Mr. Lawson, whom Sasha has promised to bring home to Alaska.
Mysterious deaths accompany the two women on their travels north. One of the deaths is that of a Canadian official. One evening the official demanded that Mr. Lawson coffin be opened to check for contraband. Upon refusal, he attacked the coffin with a pry bar. Mist boiled out of the coffin and engulfed the man and he died. Pelagia, fearful she would be blamed for his death, weighed his body down and, with the help of a friend, sunk him in the lake.
But he didn't stay down for long. And the authorities are looking for Pelagia now. Sasha offers her a position with the opera disguised as a flamenco dancer named Corazon. Pelagia, who has still not received her wages from Sasha, feels forced to accept.
But strange doings are going on at the opera house, centered around the owner, Vasily Bledinoff. Soon all the girls in the opera, except Pelagia, are going around with small wounds on their necks.  The nearby woods appear to be full of werewolfs and weremoose. Vasily is attempting to woo Pelagia into becoming another of his blood cows and the authorities are soon going to figure out that Pelagia is the dancer Corazon.
Who will get her first, the police or the seductive vampire?

This was an OK story. It has a lot of different characters and at times I had a bit of trouble keeping them all straight. It seemed to take Pelagia a long time to figure out that Vasily is a vampire. She only begins to understand what is happening when someone brings Bram Stoker's book, Dracula, to the opera house where she is working. Vasily is an interesting character and it would have been nice to read more about him and his ways. Pelagia herself is kind of boring.

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Mask of Memory

By Victor Canning

Margaret is finally facing the fact that her husband, Bernard, no longer loves her. Years ago, he decided he didn't wish to share a bed with her and moved into a different room. He works in London and they live in the country. He has an apartment in London and spends most of his time there. In fact, he has a girlfriend.
Margaret, who has endured her loveless marriage for years, has met a man who seems enamored with her. Dougall is a laborer and part-time artist. He is an orphan and has been poor all his life. In Margaret he sees a chance at a better life. He callously plans to seduce her and gain control of her and her considerable fortune. And when he tires of her, he plans to dump her and walk away with her money, because, as he says, "he was never going to love her or anyone else." Dougall only believes in looking out for himself.
One weekend Bernard brings home an important report to work on. Margaret confronts Bernard and tells him that she has fallen in love with Dougall and she wants a divorce. Bernard sees through Dougall and tries to reason with Margaret, telling her that Dougall is just using her to get to her fortune. But Margaret refuses to listen and they have a fierce argument. Bernard goes out for a walk to cool down and meets his doom. As he lays dying, he leaves a message on his government-issue watch which has a recording function.
After his death, government officials descend on Margaret's house, looking for that report and for the watch. Margaret has run off with Dougall after the funeral and is not to be found. She is finally tracked down and it is revealed to her that her husband hid his marriage from his bosses. Bernard was not only unhappy in his marriage but unhappy in his job too.
Margaret has problems beyond her lonely marriage. She has spells where she goes to stores and shoplifts. She has no memory of these episodes and only knows what has happened by the stolen items she finds in her pockets. She is not a very intelligent person and fails to see through Dougall's machinations, even when it is all laid out for her by Bernard. And now that Bernard is dead, there is no one to save her from herself.

When I first started reading this story, I was really put off by it. Bernard is cold and uncaring, Margaret is a fool, and Dougall is a bounder. How are you supposed to like a story when all the characters are so unsympathetic? I put the book down for weeks before I picked it up again, right at the point where Margaret and Bernard quarrel and Bernard dies. That is when his colleagues become more involved in the story in the desperate search for the hidden report and the lost watch and Margaret runs away with her new lover, Dougall, whose plan is use her then cast her aside, possibly by murdering her, once he can talk her into changing her will in his favor.  The suspense in the second half of the story really drew me in and I finished the book within two days. At the end, I felt very satisfied with this story and quite enjoyed it.

See also,

Thursday, August 13, 2015

No Enemy But Time

By Michael Bishop

Ever since he was a little boy, John has experienced vivid dreams about ancient Africa, at the time of homo habilis. His dreams seem to be a direct connection to the past, as attested by his accurate descriptions of the flora and fauna encountered.
John was the son of a Spanish hustler and an American soldier. Abandoned by his mother, he was adopted by the Monegals and taken to the USA to live. As a teen he had a falling out with his mother and left her and his sister and went to Florida to work as a laborer, still haunted by his dreams of the past.
In Florida, he falls in with a scientist who is working with the military to develop a kind of time machine and they want to send John back to the land of his dreams, since his connection to that time will be instrumental in getting him there.

I didn't really understand the mechanism for the time travel in this story. He doesn't actually go into our past but goes to a place similar to our past? I don't know, it was beyond my ability to grasp the idea. Anyway, while there, he falls in love with a hominid girl and becomes a member of her little tribe. I found that part kind of unbelievable. He is attracted to an ape woman. Really? That's messed up.
Anyway, the best part of the book is the time he spends in the past.  The rest of it was okay, but not as interesting.
For more, see: http://cthulhuwrites.blogspot.com/2013/02/book-review-no-enemy-but-time.html.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Brief Encounters

By Dick Cavett

Columns by Cavett from the online NewYork Times, where Dick Cavett looks back at some of the famous, talented people who have crossed his path, people like Arthur Godfrey, Stan Laurel, Groucho Marx and Jonathan Winters.
Most of the people mentioned will be familiar to older folks but these columns are also an intriguing introduction to those who don't know that much about them. Like Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, about whom Cavett recommends reading Furious Love by Kashner and Schoenberger.
Cavett also bids fond farewell to some of the more recently departed: Dick Clark, Nora Ephron, James Gandolfini and others.

A nice trip down memory lane, it was fun reading about the icons of my childhood like Laurel and Hardy. I loved their movies and I loved the Marx Brothers movies and I loved Jonathan Winters too. Reading about them brought back that enjoyment, those good feelings experienced watching their shenanigans.

For more about the book, see The Chicago Tribune at http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/books/ct-prj-dick-cavett-brief-encounters-20141113-story.html.

The Breathtaker

By Alice Blanchard

Charlie Grover is the police chief in a town in Oklahoma. As a boy, Charlie was terribly burned when the house caught on fire. His mother and little sister died in the blaze. Charlie spent months in the hospital and endured many surgeries. As an adult, he still deals with the pain of his scars.
Charlie's pain isn't just physical. His wife died a few years ago and he is raising his teen daughter alone. And he has issues with his abusive, alcoholic father, whom he blames for the fire that killed his mother and sister.
A tornado hits the town and a family is killed in the storm. At first, it appears they died as a result of injuries inflicted by the tornado. But closer examination reveals they were murdered and the murderer used the tornado to disguise it.
It isn't too much longer before Grover uncovers more victims of this sneaky killer. This ruthless and deranged person uses the chaos of the storm to enter houses and murder the inhabitants in horrible, cruel ways.  As the story advances, the murders become even more bizarre and vicious.
Charlie Grover has more than just a disturbed killer to worry about. There's his terrible relationship with his father, the disconnect with his teen daughter, the local drug dealers, the wild boy chasing after his daughter, and one of his officers who has gone missing. Plus an interesting woman has entered his life, the first woman he has been attracted to since his wife died. He has all this to deal with plus a murderous lunatic disguised as an ordinary person.

This was quite a gripping and exciting story. Charlie Grover has lots of baggage that adds so much to the story beyond that of the murder. I actually read this book in one day. I think I found the story of Charlie's relationship with his father to be the most interesting part of it.  Charlie has to deal with several red herrings and doesn't even have a clue as to the real killer until almost the end of the story. His struggle to understand what is happening was the best part of the story for me.

See also Publishers Weekly at http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-446-53139-9.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

The Girls of Mischief Bay

By Susan Mallery

Three women living the life in sunny California, in a suburb of Los Angeles, Mischief Bay. Nicole owns an exercise studio and is married amd has young son. Shannon is a career woman who has risen to the top of her field. Pam, who has just turned fifty, is married to a loving, successful man and is soon to be a grandmother. Their lives seem pretty good on the surface.
But Nicole is worried about her marriage. Her husband quit his job, without discussing it with her, and is now in the process of writing a screenplay. He is supposed to be taking care of their son, but is frequently gone, attending workshops and taking meetings.
Shannon loves her job and is well-paid for it, something that the men in her past have found intimidating. But she still hopes for a husband and a family even though she is in her forties.
Pam, the oldest at fifty, is bored. Her life has become routine, and with the impending arrival of a grandchild, she is feeling like life is passing her by.
Nicole is getting tired of being the sole support of her household and is doing more and more of the chores her husband promised he would undertake. But it seems his screenplay is more important to him than his family.
Shannon meets a nice man and thinks she is falling in love. But the fact that he has had a vasectomy and has two kids from a previous marriage are unlooked for complications.
Pam books a romantic weekend for herself and her husband and it works to rekindle the spark in their relationship. Until one evening when the worst thing possible happens.
Together and apart, these three friends will come to terms with adversity and find new lives and new hope for the future.

Although a little on the predictable side, still I quite enjoyed this story of these three women dealing with their problems and coming out OK at the end.
This is the first book in the Mischief Bay series and this first book leaves the reader wondering what awaits these interesting women in the future.

For another review, see http://www.star-telegram.com/entertainment/books/article12473666.html.