With a personal viewpoint, writing about the arts stops sounding like Newspeak. Here is the best gift I can give an artist—a flash of my impressions of the work as open as I can divine them, uncluttered by social and historical baggage, and free of plot-spoilers.


Photographs were taken of or from Point Richmond, California and Champaign, Illinois.


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THE COURAGE TO KILL by Ron Argo

THE COURAGE TO KILL by Ron Argo starts in a terrible place and moves into the thoughts of a highly disoriented person where it stays for too long, until we tumble into a straightforward exchange between two reporters for whom I didn’t care enough. I was going to quit the story but for the voice in my ear telling me to persevere—I’d corresponded with the author on social media and he’d struck me as an intriguing man with a way of talking about the story which enticed me. Tucked into those comments was hidden a beautiful accusation of the effects of the Vietnam war on those who served, from those who stayed home and protested. The story mutates again and again, wandering effortlessly between the horrors of war, child abuse, neglect and revenge.

And then everything happens so fast you can’t put the book down.

What an incredible story!

GENIE FOR HIRE by Neil Plakcy

What fun! Last night I finished a charming story from the silver-tongued Neil Plakcy, GENIE FOR HIRE, the first book in a new cozy series (with a twist).

GENIE FOR HIRE features Biff Andromeda, a buff young-looking private eye with exquisite manners and a very nice conscience. Although Biff has been around for a few hundred years, he tackles some very modern problems with social media, pornography, and the Russian mafia.

Though no golden retrievers are found bounding through the pages, don’t despair, there are just as amusing anthropomorphic pets.

For an easy read with an uplift, read GENIE FOR HIRE.

Memorable Books of 2014 on DorothyL have been posted!

DorothyL is a 20+ year old mailing list which goes to ~3K addresses of people in ~25 countries who are interested in mystery, suspense, & crime fiction.

Every year members of DorothyL post lists of their favourite books read in the prior year and we have a team of kindly volunteers to help get the job done. Click Best of 2014 DorothyL booklists or select the menu item "DorothyL" at the top of the screen to see 2013 and prior years.

ICE ON THE GRAPEVINE by R. E. Donald

One of the things I like about writers who have retired from other professions and taken up mystery writing is how interesting it is to find out details of the writer’s former business. In collecting recommendations for stories I have read from Crime Fiction members, I’ve been wandering through my memory of great crime fiction. I remembered R. E. Donald’s SLOW CURVE ON THE COQUIHALLA as an enjoyable story with fascinating information about the trucking industry. I’ve always loved the sound of wheels spinning on the highway and you can hear them in these books.

Last week when I began book#2 in the series, ICE ON THE GRAPEVINE, I realized that I was under-appreciating just how good the storyline is. Hunter Rayne is a retired RCMP officer, now driving a truck for a Vancouver, B.C., Canada firm. He’s a complex man with good self-knowledge but has varying difficulties telling his loved ones how he feels. Not surprisingly Hunter gets landed with unexplained deaths which somehow he must resolve. A man on a mission, Hunter gets on with the job.

THE EXIT MAN by Greg Levin

THE EXIT MAN by Greg Levin ©2014 has crimes galore, but some you may find excusable. Eli Edelmann has an odd job: he assists suicides to a painless end. Other crimes occur but there’s no sleuth sifting clues to find a dastardly murderer, like traditional crime fiction.

Told from the first person point of view, THE EXIT MAN is a fascinating, plausible tale. Eli Edelmann is a misfit: smart but lazy and not quite sure what to do with his life, until he falls into his new profession. We hear the patter of his thoughts, the tumble of amusing asides, self-consciousness and self-discovery. Juxtaposed with the gravity of serious illness. He slides seamlessly between each with a very engaging voice. The story is invigorating.

Greg Levin uses the very best kind of humour: the only person Eli Edelmann pokes fun at is himself. And he does take a few jabs at the incomprehensibleness of our world.

THE EXIT MAN is unique, moving and un-put-down-able.

NERVE DAMAGE by Tom Combs

Yowzers, what a story! NERVE DAMAGE by Tom Combs is an absorbing read. I was leaving town the next day but almost didn't pack in daylight because I was too interested in reading the story—mismatched socks will be your fault, Tom!

Drake Cody, ER physician at Hennepin-North Hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota, is delivered by helicopter to a drowning victim. She is the wife of Jon Malar, a fellow physician, research partner and friend. She is also the lawyer for their nascent research drug. Drake is afraid Jon won’t have the heart to keep up with their current research, but it gets worse when he becomes the prime suspect. Meanwhile other parties clamour for the promise of wealth. Soon hurt feelings and secrets converge with obsessions and criminal activity until it’s hard to distinguish who are the good guys and who will win.

NERVE DAMAGE is compelling and satisfying.

DEADMISTRESS by Carole Shmurak

I was lucky enough to win an audiobook of DEADMISTRESS by Carole Shmurak. Since it was my very first audiobook, and I "read" the story on my early morning walk when I wasn’t yet awake, I listened to it twice.

Professor Susan Lombardi becomes an eager amateur sleuth when a body turns up and her friend turns into the prime suspect. She’s a great character to spend time with and has a few piquant perceptions.

Other characters are charming and funny, with some highly enjoyable accents. I’m surprised by how rich the experience of listening to books can be.

MURDER IN THE WORST DEGREE by F.M. Meredith

MURDER IN THE WORST DEGREE is a place where old friends connect. It’s the tenth book in the series, so regular readers meet up with familiar characters. Although I read one or two books in the series, it was long ago so I’m close to being a newcomer. The story holds up well for new readers. In nearly all parts of the story the reader meets the characters before they have much time on stage, a technique I much prefer over its inverse.

AFTER ALL THESE YEARS by Susan Isaacs

Feeling a little underappreciated? In need of a bit of a lift?

For all middle-aged women (and some men), Susan Isaacs’ AFTER ALL THESE YEARS will give you a kick, enable you to trounce that enemy Time, and restore your faith in the world. I read it in one sitting, caring neither for food nor drink—though possibly I did have a nibble and sip now and then.

Thank you to whomever recommended it. Only problem now is what’s good enough to read next?

THE OUTSMARTING OF CRIMINALS by Steven Rigolosi

The hardcover version of Steven Rigolosi’s THE OUTSMARTING OF CRIMINALS promises exquisite delights. Just holding the book in my hands I know I’m about to embark on a pastiche of amateur detective fiction. The cover simulates a beautiful pen and ink drawing, reminescent of the line drawings which preceded BBC’s Friday Night Mysteries. The pages are heavy and crisp and I’m sure I can hear violins.