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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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.

THE END OF WINTER by T.D. Griggs

THE END OF WINTER would be a lovely read were it only for the description of surroundings and views in which the reader is immersed. Griggs has an exquisite use of colour, light, moisture, juxtaposition and much more.

THE END OF WINTER by T.D. Griggs ©2004 is a story about seeking redemption.

DIARY OF A SMALL FISH by Pete Morin

Ultimately DIARY OF A SMALL FISH by Pete Morin is a love story. And a crime story, but not my usual fare. I rarely read legal fiction and almost never read American political thrillers; usually I find the machinations boring. Not so with DIARY OF A SMALL FISH—I was riveted, finding the action smack in the middle of a slippery slope where seemingly innocent behaviour can become criminalized just because someone intimates it so. And worse, where highly criminal behaviour is the order of the day—where no one goes after the big fish.

BAD NEWS TRAVELS FAST by Gar Anthony Haywood

I've never read this series before (starts with GOING NOWHERE FAST © 1994). They're as wonderful today as if they were written today (minus instant cell phone communication).

The protagonists are a blissfully married African-American couple who have run away from their adult children. For anybody who'd like a good chuckle (possibly parents of adult children particularly), these are a fast, entertaining, suspenseful, well-written read. Having read the first in the series, I ordered BAD NEWS TRAVELS FAST from my library. Turns out I couldn't wait, so I bought the ebook (Gar has recently made the titles available as ebooks).

THE GIRL WHO CRIED WOLF by Robert Ferrigno

THE GIRL WHO CRIED WOLF by Robert Ferrigno is an outrageous, sardonic romp through the rainforests with idiots on both sides of the story’s moral watershed. It takes time to read 326 pages, so what one thinks about the characters changes, the bad- and good- guys mutate into something else.

Robert Ferrigno is a highly talented storyteller. He takes us derisively through preposterous ecological positions, then we burst out laughing, then we stumble upon something distressingly sad. Though he’s made the eco-terrorists a laughing stock, he manages to pull off some real appreciation for just how badly humans have endangered the earth. Lots of philosophical vignettes are jammed in there alongside tongue-in-cheek wacky characters who remain passionately self-centred.

JUSTIFIED ACTION by Earl Staggs

Military spy thrillers aren’t my cup of tea, so you’d think I wouldn’t enjoy JUSTIFIED ACTION by Earl Staggs. I might have given up but I kept on as I had faith in Earl’s storytelling, and halfway through emerged a traditional mystery with rich characters, several with complex motivations.

Tall Chambers is an ex-Special Services officer whose job is to eliminate terrorists before they perform the terrorism for which they would then be imprisioned. Tall is strongly motivated to protect the innocent. The dichotomy in the former two sentences is not debated in this patriotic thriller as the guilty usually are guilty. Usually. And the innocent—er, they are sometimes guilty too. The plot has some amusing twists, both tender and clever.

Tall Chambers is tough, altruistic and suprisingly lucky. I’ve enjoyed shadowing him from the depths of my armchair.

BLEEDING HEART SQUARE by Andrew Taylor

Yesterday I finished BLEEDING HEART SQUARE by Andrew Taylor. Whoo boy, I didn’t see it coming—rather, I did see something coming—and it made me complaisant. Engaging sensitivity and bullies, side by side. Twists upon twists.

BLEEDING HEART SQUARE is timed in the early 1930s in England, so the atmosphere is charged with the reader's foreknowledge of war.

An outstanding read.

RULES OF CRIME by L. J. Sellers

I have always liked the way L. J. Sellers unwraps a character to give the reader a deeply personal view. Not surprisingly, it’s a difficult feat to sustain with a series character over many books. In RULES OF CRIME, the seventh Wade Jackson story, we get reminders of why we care for Detective Jackson. But—most excellently—L. J. develops an intimate understanding for some new characters alongside reacquainting us with familiars from earlier stories. Several times during the story, I paused to recognize that I really enjoy her writing style.

This is not easy to do: to pause in the middle of an L. J. Sellers story. And the ending blew me right out of the water.