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 DEVIL’S MAKING by Sean Haldane

I knew I’d be writing a review by the middle of THE DEVIL’S MAKING by Sean Haldane because it’s a fascinating story. Sadly the moment passed when I could write knowledgeably about the story, but I’m unwilling to let it go. Everyone should read this book!

THE DEVIL’S MAKING won the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Novel (2014).

NEVER KILL A FRIEND by Martin Hill

Detective Shelley Krieg’s actions as a bad cop give me a bad taste and I wonder whether to quit the story, having little stomach for bullies. But then, neither does Shelley.

NEVER KILL A FRIEND (©2015) by Martin Hill is slow to start but my interest keeps building. Detective Krieg doesn’t do what I’m expecting. Neither does author Martin Hill Ortiz.

Some of the language is lyrical. The crimes are gruesome. Banter between friendly workmates is titillating. Carping by adversaries intrigues.

DEAD ANYWAY by Chris Knopf

In DEAD ANYWAY by Chris Knopf (©2012), Arthur has a great life, until he nearly loses it. Dragging himself back to the living, he sets out to find who is responsible. Although we know, generally, what he’s up to, it’s fascinating how he goes about trying to identify the culprits. I suppose if I’d stopped reading and thought about it, I might have deduced more of his plan; but I couldn’t stop reading. Arthur’s way of narrowing the probabilities to figure out what to do next is very engaging. He has a tidily precise mind, which is devious and obsessive. We zip through the details of his plan like we’re hanging on the back of a speedboat.

HOUNDED by David Rosenfelt

HOUNDED by David Rosenfelt is an engrossing first-person story layered with the protagonist’s smart-arsed remarks. From the start you root for Andy Carpenter, lawyer. Soon you’ll be rooting for Andy’s client too. They’re ably assisted by an impressive supporting cast.

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.