Friday, February 17, 2012

The Royal Wulff Murders – Review

The Royal Wulff Murders: A Novel is a well-written story with great descriptions and sense of place. The mystery involves fly fishing, and for outdoor enthusiasts, there's a lot here to enjoy.

From Publisher:
"When a fishing guide reels in the body of a young man on the Madison, the Holy Grail of Montana trout rivers, Sheriff Martha Ettinger suspects foul play. It's not just the stick jammed into the man's eye that draws her attention; it's the Royal Wulff trout fly stuck in his bloated lower lip. Following her instincts, Ettinger soon finds herself crossing paths with Montana newcomer Sean Stranahan.
Fly fisher, painter, and has-been private detective, Stranahan left a failed marriage and lackluster career to drive to Montana, where he lives in an art studio decorated with fly-tying feathers and mouse droppings. With more luck catching fish than clients, Stranahan is completely captivated when Southern siren Velvet Lafayette walks into his life, intent on hiring his services to find her missing brother. The clues lead Stranahan and Ettinger back to Montana's Big Business: fly fishing. Where there's money, there's bound to be crime."

Through the course of this mystery, author Keith McCafferty (a name you might know if you read Field and Stream magazine) provides interesting facts on fly fishing and the whirling disease that infects trout in many Western waterways. He also has integrated details of tracking, and types of weapons—beyond rod and reel.

For me, the main protagonist, Sean Stranahan, could have been developed better. He often fades behind more dynamic characters. Perhaps that withdrawn/bland aspect is part of his character. Sheriff Martha Ettinger, however, is well developed, with personality coming through—strengths and weaknesses.

The character of Velvet LaFayette is too mysterious to be believable, and the fact that Sean becomes captivated by her seems to add to his blandness. I didn't find her as compelling as she is purported to be and read through her scenes wondering when I'd get back to the main story. Not that she isn't part of the main story. Velvet is the reason Sean became involved in the murder investigation, but she dominates more of the story than I thought necessary.

But then, I like mystery stories to have the mystery front-and-center. Although crime solving is a major part of The Royal Wulff Murders, overall it has too much Romance for me.

Other characters and their settings are dynamic and well presented, from fishing guide Sam, to tracker Harold Little Feather, and the rich summer fly-ins who populate the story and the Montana riverbanks.

There is a long monologue that ends the mystery. I had felt the story got overly complex at times, and here it seems as if McCafferty was writing his way out of corners. Then there are the wrap-ups, which, if the romances hadn't been so prominent, wouldn't have been needed.

Throughout, McCafferty presents very nice use of language that make the scenes spring to life, and the character of the Treasure State—Montana—come to the fore. I'm a Montanan. It rings true.

A FOUR star title, with reservations caused by my personal preferences. A good outdoors mystery.

For more of Kae's book reviews Click here.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Blasphemer - Review

The Blasphemer is a very well crafted, Espionage/Political Thriller. The writing is good with an interesting storyline that the author, John Ling, calls "faction" in that it has so much based on facts from current events. He gives the connections in the Author's Notes and essays at the end of the book. These facts are were informative, and he worked them into the story efficiently and believably.

From the book page:
When Abraham Khan releases an e-book condemning radical Islam, the consequences hit him fast and hard--an armed fanatic smashes into his home one evening, trying to kill him. He survives the harrowing attempt. Just barely. But will he survive the next one?
Maya Raines is the security operator brought in to protect Abraham. She is tough and committed. The very best at what she does. Always one step ahead of the threat.
But Abraham is no ordinary principal--he will not hide, and he will not stay silent. And as rage explodes on the streets and the nation is propelled to the brink, Maya will have to ask herself the hardest question of all: how far would you go to protect one man's right to speak?

I liked the characters. Maya, while exceptional at her defensive work, also has the empathy to understand people; yet she doesn't let it intrude on her duties. And she doesn't let her own fears and pains compromise her job. Maya and her mother, and another operative, Adam, are well-drawn and compelling.

So to are the various other characters, from the manipulative "Magellan" who plots to kill Abraham Khan, to the Muslim woman who gruesomely loses her life in a street riot.

Fast paced, with plenty of firefights as well as sleuthing, The Blasphemer is not one to miss.

For more of Kae's book reviews Click here.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Black History Month 2

The American history that is often revealed to people for the first time during Black History Month, is particularly appealing. For me, I'm particularly in that history as it concerns the American West.
The Harlem Renaissance of the early 20th Century, is termed that because of the association of the Black-American art scene as flourished in Harlem, New York City. A recently published title from Routledge Publishing, shows that this was not an East Coast phenomena. the anthology, The Harlem Renaissance in the American West: The New Negro's Western Experience (New Directions in American History) show that artists, musicians, playwrights, club owners, and more in African American communities in the American West participated fully in the cultural renaissance.
My friend, historian Charlotte Hinger, has an entry in this book: "Black Renaissance in Helena and Laramie: Hatched on Top of the Rocky Mountains." Helena. My current residence. So wonderful to have this reference.
Another often-missed piece of history about blacks in the west is in Erich Martin Hicks' Rescue at Pine Ridge: Based on a True American Story. The book page states: ”Rescue at Pine Ridge is the story of the 9th Cavalry from its Congressional conception in 1866, to the rescue of the famed 7th Cavalry by the 9th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers.... The 7th Cavalry was entrapped again after the Little Big Horn Massacre, fourteen years later by the Lakota Nation, the day after the Wounded Knee Massacre. Only after enduring an all night forced-march in a snow blizzard, the 7th Cavalry are saved from sure annihilation by the 9th Cavalry Buffalo Solders." Hicks (unique in his own right) has written fascinating U.S. history. A movie is in the works.
Author/historian Troy D. Smith has his charismatic character, Alfred Mann, ending up with the Buffalo Soldiers in his powerful historical fiction title, Bound for the Promise-Land. This excellent book had been recently reprinted, and is also available as an ebook. It won a SPUR award in 2001.

These books will increase your knowledge of American History. Don't pass them up.

Click "Black History Month" in the labels of this page for more articles.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Gauntlet Assassin - Review

I downloaded the Kindle edition of L.J. Sellers' The Gauntlet Assassin after reading about it at an online book site. Mysteries always attract me, and this title combined mystery with another of my favorite genres--speculative fiction, in that the story takes place a few years in the future.

From book page:
The year is 2023 and ex-detective Lara Evans is working as a freelance paramedic in a bleak new world. She responds to an emergency call and is nearly killed when a shooter flees the home. Inside she finds the federal employment commissioner wounded, but she's able to save his life. The next day Lara leaves for the Gauntlet—a national competition of intense physical and mental challenges with high stakes for her home state. She spots the assailant lurking at the arena and soon after, she lands in deep trouble. Who is the mysterious killer and what is motivating him? Can Lara stop him, stay alive, and win the Gauntlet?

Lara Evans is a good character; we see her tough side, as well as her inner worries and fears. Her altruistic need to win the Gauntlet competition seemed a bit overdone, however—sort of Joan of Arc-ish. But her other strengths (physical and mental) kept me engaged.

Sellers did a good job of giving backstory and slowly merging it into Lara's side of the tale. I had no doubt it was all important, even if a bit obvious. An unexpected turn at the very end was a good touch.

The slightly-dystopian view of the future world was predictable—today's grievances extended and becoming global actuality. The government-adopted Reality show method of awarding grant money to states was an interesting twist that could have had more play. I kept wondering what other "events" were launched for other money distributions.

L.J. Sellers writes a well-paced story, with action and decent character depth. The Gauntlet Assassin adds to her collection of interesting novels. It's available in print and electronic editions.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

February Is Black History Month

February is Black History Month, which began in 1926 as a week-long celebration; Frederick Douglas was born in February, and so was Abraham Lincoln--both icons in African American History. Fifty years later, in 1976, the commemoration was extended to a month. African-American history and American history are so intertwined, you can't be celebrating one with out glorifying the other. The same is true with all the other "ethnic cultural celebrations."
This year's theme is Black Women in American Culture and History. Goodness, that's a lot to cover in one month! Many events and online places have American history information as it pertains to Black Americans. Community events can also be found at various locations. Nike (yes, the shoe company) has a special Black History Month collection. Ah, marketing—anything to grab a sale.
Here's your American History: Yesterday (1 February) was "Freedom Day" the 147th anniversary of the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery; tomorrow (3 February) is the 142nd anniversary of the ratification of the 15th Amendment (voting rights for black men--with conditions, of course).
Throughout this month, as a writer and book reviewer, I'll post about some titles that are pertinent.
The Adventures of Elizabeth Fortune takes place in 1870 when the 15th Amendment was ratified. The feisty woman protagonist fits well into this year's Black History theme.
On Promised Land, set in the 1830s, has a rather gutsy gal, too.
William Loren Katz has many authoritative titles about Blacks in the West. His Black Women in the Old West has nearly become a classic with school librarians.
Leave a note about the online sites and book titles you like for this month.
More later.