Long time, no blog … then there were two!

Welcome to the launch of the 2015 Fall To Be Read list!

Hello everyone!

As you saw in my previous post, the summer list finished with Blood on the Sand, the second book in a trilogy of medieval historical fiction by the brilliant Michael Jecks. Here’s my Amazon review:

For Jecks’ fans, “Fields of Glory” tested our mettle to see if there was Jecksian life after Simon and Baldwin. We carefully put our toes in the Vintaine water and decided that everything was fine. But now, with “Blood on the Sand,” we are totally convinced! The Jecks magic has emerged in all its splendor! This book is literally the definition of a “page turner” that is impossible to put down! When you decide to open this book, set aside a quiet weekend because you will be binge reading! Fripper and his men wend their way through the siege of Calais with English pluck and aplomb! Bodies are strewn everywhere! In somewhat of a departure for this brilliant author, a bucolic ending serves to make us wonder what will fill the last tome in the trilogy. Undoubtably this is a must read!

But now, it’s on to the 2015 Fall TBR list. We’ve got until about the 21st of December and I’ve chosen eleven mystery/thrillers to curl up with in front of the wonderful fall fireplace festivals. One caveat – I read books in order of publication, so with an ongoing series, these selections represent where I am in the chronology. Most of these can work as a stand-alone (that’s what the authors and publishers want you to believe!). However, I find the character relationships and development to be so much more interesting and vivid if you follow them right from the beginning. One more thing: I do 99.9% of my reading for fun on my Kindle app on my iPhone 6. I have my entire library attached to my belt or in my pocket at all times and I can often steal an hour here and there to jump into some sleuth’s paradigm!

Having said that, here is the 2015 Fall TBR List (fanfare)! I hope you will join me and read along. You might even reply to a post, or make a suggestion from your own personal reading list. Anyway, here we go …

(This is a long list – go get a cup of coffee …)

Lee Child – Make Me (Jack Reacher)

“Why is this town called Mother’s Rest?” That’s all Reacher wants to know. But no one will tell him. It’s a tiny place hidden in a thousand square miles of wheat fields, with a railroad stop, and sullen and watchful people, and a worried woman named Michelle Chang, who mistakes him for someone else: her missing partner in a private investigation she thinks must have started small and then turned lethal.  

Reacher has no particular place to go, and all the time in the world to get there, and there’s something about Chang . . . so he teams up with her and starts to ask around. He thinks: How bad can this thing be? But before long he’s plunged into a desperate race through LA, Chicago, Phoenix, and San Francisco, and through the hidden parts of the internet, up against thugs and assassins every step of the way—right back to where he started, in Mother’s Rest, where he must confront the worst nightmare he could imagine.

Walking away would have been easier. But as always, Reacher’s rule is: If you want me to stop, you’re going to have to make me.

I’ve been waiting for this for a long time. My son, the tenor, got me hooked on Reacher (not the Tom Cruise version, however) and now I am committed. The problem with catching up to an author is you have to wait so long for the new opus! Well, it’s here and I can’t wait! This is a perfect start to the list!

Tim Ellis – Souls of the Dead (Tom Gabriel)

Tom Gabriel is asked by Giuseppe to go back to Staten Island and find out who killed his friend – the bag lady – Horty. No sooner does he begin investigating her murder, than a sniper tries to kill him. He is soon trying to keep one step ahead of the shooter as he follows the clues Horty left for someone to find.

Rae goes to a dying woman’s house to listen to a strange story about abducted women over fifty years, and the clues to those abductions being left in the woman’s head by a man every five years. As soon as she begins following the clues, she realises the story is true.

Tim Ellis is very prolific, writing several books in multiple series’ each year. I read his Parrish & Richards series and the Tom Gabriel series. This is the latest Tom Gabriel, a retired cop turned private eye. It’s a mystery/thriller with a twist and a bit quirky – you see, Tom Gabriel talks to dead people! Enough said – read it!

Sue Grafton – X (Kinsey Milhone)

Sue Grafton’s X: Perhaps her darkest and most chilling novel, it features a remorseless serial killer who leaves no trace of his crimes. Once again breaking the rules and establishing new paths, Grafton wastes little time identifying this sociopath. The test is whether Kinsey can prove her case against him before she becomes his next victim.

This is the  alphabet soup of mystery series’! How many authors wish they had thought of this concept? Just two more to go (y and z) – then what? Grafton makes Kinsey unique and she was the first female sleuth that I committed to read.

Jane Haddam – Bleeding Hearts (Gregor Demarkian)

Former FBI agent Gregor Demarkian races against time to prevent a Valentine’s Day murder that would keep the perpetrator of a long-unsolved crime secret forever.

I love this vintage series! I guess because Gregor Demarkian is retired (read: old), a little overweight, and lives in Philadelphia. At this point in the series, Haddam is still doing her holiday mysteries which was a cute concept, but eventually she abandons it. This one focuses on Valentine’s Day. Perhaps I should have left it for the winter TBR list, but I’m curious to see how the storyline unfolds. Of interest is that Demarkian supposedly started the FBI’s behavioral unit that is featured on TV’s Criminal Minds! Mandy Patinkin would be a great Demarkian.

Cynthia Harrod-Eagles – Game Over (Bill Slider)

When ex-BBC correspondent Ed Stonax is found dead, the last thing Detective Inspector Slider needs to complicate his life is the reappearance of an old enemy issuing death threats. Trevor Bates, aka The Needle, is on the loose and trying to kill him, and with a high-profile murder to solve, Slider must try to find a spare moment to marry Joanna before their baby is born and stay alive long enough to do it. The eleventh Bill Slider Mystery finds the everyman hero grappling with corruption in high places as two old cases come back to haunt him.

Again, one of my favorite series’! In the first book in this series,  an opera  conductor is the victim! Profound, right? I was immediately hooked! Also, Slider’s girl friend is a professional violinist and her world sometimes figures in the mystery. CH-E’s plot twists are usually very clever if a bit on the intellectual side. Give it a try!

Anne Hillerman – Rock with Wings (Leaphorn & Chee)

Doing a good deed for a relative offers the perfect opportunity for Sergeant Jim Chee and his wife, Officer Bernie Manuelito, to get away from the daily grind of police work. But two cases will call them back from their short vacation and separate them—one near Shiprock, and the other at iconic Monument Valley.

Chee follows a series of seemingly random and cryptic clues that lead to a missing woman, a coldblooded thug, and a mysterious mound of dirt and rocks that could be a gravesite. Bernie has her hands full managing the fallout from a drug bust gone wrong, uncovering the origins of a fire in the middle of nowhere, and looking into an ambitious solar energy development with long-ranging consequences for Navajo land.

Under the guidance of their mentor, retired Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn, Bernie and Chee will navigate unexpected obstacles and confront the greatest challenge yet to their skills, commitment, and courage.

Anne Hillerman has done a wonderful job of breathing life anew into her father’s characters as they battle the bad guys on the res! Bernie gets a little more airtime,  but it’s all good. If, like me,  you’ve spent any time in Santa Fe, you’ll love the descriptions of the landscape! Also, great insight into native American customs and culture!

Donna Leon – The Golden Egg (Commissario Guido Brunetti)

In The Golden Egg, as the first leaves of autumn begin to fall, Vice Questore Patta asks Brunetti to look into a minor shop-keeping violation committed by the mayor’s future daughter-in-law. Brunetti has no interest in helping his boss amass political favors, but he has little choice but to comply.

Then Brunetti’s wife, Paola, comes to him with a request of her own. The mentally handicapped man who worked at their dry cleaner has just died of a sleeping pill overdose, and Paola loathes the idea that he lived and died without anyone noticing him, or helping him. Brunetti begins to investigate the death and is surprised when he finds nothing on the man: no birth certificate, no passport, no driver’s license, no credit cards. As far as the Italian government is concerned, he never existed. Stranger still, the dead man’s mother refuses to speak to the police, and assures Brunetti that her son’s identification papers were stolen in a burglary.

As secrets unravel, Brunetti suspects that the Lembos, an aristocratic family, might be somehow connected to the death. But why would anyone want this sweet, simple-minded man dead?

Unfortunately, I won’t be going to Venice next summer as planned! The Georgia Ambassadors tour had to be cancelled (boo!). However, I’ve been there enough times that Leon’s writing really comes alive for me. Brunetti is a complex, albeit very interesting, character and detective. Again, Leon’s plots are usually on the intellectual side, but very fulfilling as the story unravels! Hop into my gondola and let’s go! O sole mio, anyone?

Archer Mayor – St. Alban’s Fire (Joe Gunther)

The latest installment in Mayor’s classic Joe Gunther series finds the intrepid detective and his team in scorching pursuit of a serial arsonist.

This series is a great palette cleanser after the intricate plots of some of the above – not that Mayor’s stories aren’t complex – but this is good old New England charm at it’s best. The series has a vintage gumshoe feel to it, but it’s contemporary enough to pull the reader in. Mayor’s varied background allows him to explore some rather unique issues instead of the usual, “here’s a body/catch the killer” standard. For instance, in this one, it looks like we’re going after an arsonist! I’m there!

Les Roberts – The Ashtabula Hat Trick (Milan Jacovich)

The people of Queenstown, Ohio, don’t take kindly to strangers. But they have no choice in the matter after a man’s body is found in a local park, pants unzipped and stabbed through the heart―and a second man’s body turns up days later, his head bashed in. Local law enforcement needs help with the town’s first-ever murder investigation.

Private investigator Milan Jacovich (pronounced MY-lan YOCK-ovitch) tags along when his main squeeze, Cleveland homicide detective Tobe Blaine, is dispatched to rural Ashtabula County to handle the case.

Word travels fast in the small town, and the mixed-race couple receives a cold welcome. The motel manager doesn’t like their looks, the coroner conveniently forgets key details, and patrons at the local watering hole flaunt their disrespect for Tobe’s out-of-town badge and her skin color.

Milan enlists his young assistant, Kevin “K.O.” O’Bannion, to glean information from the town’s teens, who tell tales of their parents’ fervent devotion to their local pastor, an outspoken bigot. Did homophobia factor in the murders?

Looming over the case is nearby Conneaut prison―privately run, overcrowded, and rumored to employ some questionable methods (as well as many local residents). Inside its walls, a powerful convict known as “The Prophet” just might have the information Tobe and Milan need to solve the case―if they can get him to talk.

Queenstown might only be an hour’s drive from Cleveland, but Milan, Tobe, and K.O. find themselves strangers in a strange land. They also soon find themselves neck-deep in serious trouble.

Sorry for the long description! Les Roberts and Milan Jacovich are both near and dear to my heart. We lived for seventeen years in Cleveland and reading Roberts allows us to go back for occasional visits. Plus, it’s hard not to like PI Milan Jacovich. I thought the series had come to an end (Like me, Les is a senior citizen!), so imagine my thrill when I saw a new book! Roberts has a comfortable prose style like putting on an old pair of shoes. His characters are well-drawn and the plot twists keep you flipping those pages. Most of all, read this to get an authentic glimpse of a great city!

Peter Robinson – Past Reason Hated (Inspector Alan Banks)

From New York Times bestselling and Edgar Award-winning author Peter Robinson comes this gripping thriller—in the tradition of Louise Penny and Elizabeth George—set in a picturesque Yorkshire village during the upcoming Christmas season…but one of its residents will not be celebrating this holiday.

Chief Inspector Alan Banks knows that secrecy can sometimes prove fatal, and secrets were the driving force behind Caroline Hartley’s life…and death.

She was a beautiful enigma, brutally stabbed in her own home three days prior to Christmas. Leaving her past behind for a forbidden love affair, she mystified more than a few. And now she is dead, clothed only in her unshared mysteries and her blood.

In this season of giving and forgiving, Banks is eager to absolve the innocent of their sins. But that must wait until the many facets of a perplexing puzzle are exposed and the dark circle of his investigation finally closes…and when a killer makes the next move.

Let’s go to England for Christmas – what could be better? When your holiday vacay arrives, curl up by the fire, get a couple or more fingers of Oban single malt and lose yourself in the winter beauty of the Yorkshire countryside! I really enjoy the Banks series. I wish we had more TV episodes to watch. It’s fun to realize that the actor, Stephen Tomkinson, who does a great job as Banks in the TV series, was also the young priest starring in the fabulous Irish classic, Ballykissangel!

Well friends, if you’ve made it to here, you are indeed a book-reading saint! I’m going to read these books in the order I’ve listed them here. I invite you to join me. All are available on Kindle and most at good prices. There are some excellent releases coming in the next few months, so I think the Winter list will be excellent as well.

In another blog post I will keep you abreast of the other Shrader goings-ons. We’re looking forward to opera jaunts to Leipzig (Aija), Boston, (Aija), Philadelphia (both), and San Francisco (both). If you want to know more about the opera singers, Alek Shrader and Daniela Mack, google them, or check out their schedules on operabase. As for the other household members, Valda and Moxie are both in fine fettle and enjoying the cooler weather even here in South Georgia. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the new love of all our lives, Evangelina Violet, AKA Eva. Granddaughters are absolutely the best!

Sorry for the lengthiness! Please reply, respond, like, share, etc.  I hope to see you ONLINE!  Cheers!  -Jim

 

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