Blog Posts by David

  • "The Taking of Libbie, SD"

    by David Housewright

    Minotaur, 310 pp., $24.99

    Reviewed by David Marshall James

    Not many recurring mystery protagonists win over the reader the way Rushmore McKenzie does, and not many mystery writers possess the sylistic wherewithal and storytelling abilities of St. Paul, Minnesota, author David Housewright.

    For novitiates, McKenzie (never "Rushmore," and never, ever "Rush"), born and bred in the capital city, and once a member of its P.D., lucked into a huge reward from an insurance company, allowing him the liberty to live well and to take on cases and causes that interest him-- but, more than likely, as favors for friends.

    In this seventh McKenzie novel, he doesn't have much of a choice as per his involvement in the plight of (literally) poor LIbbie, South Dakota, which has lately been swindled by a flim-flammer who stole McKenzie's identity in the process, leaving the town coffers and many individual investors high and dry.

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  • "Grace Under Pressure" by Julie Hyzy: Book Review

    "Grace Under Pressure" by Julie Hyzy
    Berkley Prime Crime, 310 pp., $7.99
    Reviewed by David Marshall James

    With a setting in a Biltmore-esque mansion, complete with rolling grounds and a guest hotel, author Julie Hyzy has developed a most manageable premise for a mystery, especially when the enormous old museum house comes complete with secret rooms and passageways.

    The titular heroine-- Grace Wheaton-- is serving as assistant curator of Marshfield Manor, and is living in none-too-shabby digs herself.

    Well, the roof on her Victorian homestead-- which came to her via her recently deceased mother, and her mother before her-- needs replacing. And the garden's in a tangle.

    Nevertheless, Grace is a fairly happy camper. Having "done the NYC thing," she's thoroughly contented to be back in her hometown of Emberstowne (no state locale given, although it sounds suspiciously like Asheville, N.C.; nevertheless, it's a good bit smaller, given the size of the constabulary force).

    She also

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  • "Cut, Paste, Kill" by Marshall Karp: Book Review

    "Cut, Paste, Kill" by Marshall Karp
    Minotaur, 296 pp., $25.99
    Reviewed by David Marshall James

    Author Marshall Karp is so hip that he's even ahead of the Betty White craze.

    She figures funnily-- what else?-- into the plot here, and would have a really memorable cameo if this novel made it to film, and she were cast as Karp tags her.

    So would Matt Damon-- if he's willing to do a Tony Perkins twirl.

    Speaking of the movie biz, LAPD homicide detective Terry Biggs-- partner to Det. Mike Lomax-- is silver-screen dreaming in this fourth Lomax & Biggs mystery, collaborating with Mike's pop, Big Jim, on a screenplay about big-rig truckers who fight crime on the side.

    Sort of like a downsized A Team.

    However, that's just a leitmotif in this chucklefest, in which Lomax & Biggs are hot on the trail of L.A.'s scrapbook killer-- a vigilante who's stabbing (with scissors, but natch) skumsukkahs who ought to be in jail but who have skirted the law in various and sundry fashions.

    After each

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  • "Caper" by Parnell Hall: Book Review

    "Caper" by Parnell Hall

    Pegasus Books, 250 pp., $25

    Reviewed by David Marshall James

    When an attractive, buxom blonde tosses a case-- specifically, a peculiar case involving her teenaged daughter-- at a hormonally challenged P.I., then all the more reason for him to check her out.

    Make that "background check."

    If she's clutching a couple of grand, then he ought to proceed swiftly, once the Ben Franklin's pass from her hand to his, the better not to lose out on the big green retainer.

    She can always be billed for the background check.

    If she's not flashing a bankroll, then the P.I. should at least request a photo I.D. and a recent gas & electric bill.

    Save himself a lot of trouble on a penny-ante case.

    However, Stanley Hastings is, as he puts it, "a second-rate P.I. doing a third-rate job." That is, he investigates slip-and-fall (and trip-and-fall) claims for uber NYC attorney Richard Rosenberg.

    IOW: Stanley could use a little spice in his

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  • "The Poacher's Son" by Paul Doiron: Book Review

    "The Poacher's Son" by Paul Doiron
    Minotaur, 324 pp., $24.99
    Reviewed by David Marshall James

    Twenty-four-year-old Maine game warden Mike Bowditch is more like his father than he would care to admit, even if their father/son relationship has always been shaky at best, and they haven't spoken for two years at the beginning of this story.

    They both have issues with the women in their life, and they have both disappointed the same woman-- Mike's mother, his father's ex-wife.

    She "traded up" in the spouse department when Mike was 10, moving to the high-end burbs with a tax attorney. She's deeply disappointed that her only child isn't emulating his stepfather's profession, as is Mike's live-in-but-moved-out girlfriend-since-college, who hasn't been happy residing in a patched-up cabin out in nowhere, with little money to keep the rain from dripping into the house.

    Mike's father, Jack, was far from happy when his son decided to become a warden, yet for a much different reason: Jack

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  • User post: Tween Book Review--"The Tin Woodman of Oz"

    "The Tin Woodman of Oz" by L. Frank Baum
    Books of Wonder/William Morrow, 294 pp., $25.99
    Reviewed by David Marshall James

    As summer fast approaches, this blog will be featuring several selections for "Tween" and "Young Adult" readers. For those with a penchant for fantasy, nothing surpasses L. Frank Baum's fourteen "Oz" volumes.

    I devoured J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter books and have fingers and toes crossed that her pen hasn't run dry of ink. (Although it's understood there'll be no further Harry.) However, the Potter books are more appropriate for fifth/sixth graders and beyond.

    For first through fourth graders, I heartily recommend the "Oz" books. And, as an adult, I derive even greater pleasure from them than I did back in elementary school.

    One of the great attractions offered by the Books of Wonder/William Morrow series is that the "Oz" books are presented in facsimile editions, with all the original illustrations and color plates by artist John R.

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  • "Half-Price Homicide" by Elaine Viets: Book Review

    "Half-Price Homicide" by Elaine Viets
    Obsidian, 261 pp., $22.95
    Reviewed by David Marshall James

    Elaine Viets's "Dead-End Job" mysteries have evolved into a truly fun-- and funny-- series built around "fugitive" Helen Hawthorne's attempts to remain under the radar from her slimeball ex-husband, who took her for a ride in their divorce, two years past in fictional time.

    In this ninth series entry, the reader learns how Helen's scum of an ex came out so swimmingly in the settlement, even though Helen was the high-powered breadwinner of the couple and he the stay-at-home philanderer whom she discovered in flagrante delicto on one of their patio lounge chairs.

    Indeed, Helen's life is shaking up faster than Cosmos on Saturday night at a South Beach bar.

    Without revealing the gory details, suffice it to say she's headed back to her hometown of St. Louis from her refuge of Fort Lauderdale to settle some important family business, but not before she's tangled up in another murder at her

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  • "Canaan's Gate" by Kathryn R. Wall: Book Review

    "Canaan's Gate" by Kathryn R. Wall
    Minotaur, 322 pp., $24.99
    Reviewed by David Marshall James

    Early-fortiesish widow-turned-newlywed Bay Tanner (technically, it's Bay Tanner Tanner), nee Lydia Baynard Simpson, has experienced three life-altering events during the past few months (in the course of the action of Wall's previous Bay Tanner novel, "Covenant Hall").

    Her beloved father-- judge/lawyer and eminently wise adviser-- has died following a steady decline that left him confined to a wheelchair in the antiques-laden halls of Presqu'isle, a South Carolina Lowcountry manse that "came through" (to employ a Southernism) the family of Bay's emotionally distant, uber-socially-correct mother.

    Second, Bay has discovered that she has a half-sister (her father's daughter) who has been living a sort of "Boo Radley" existence in a falling-down plantation house on an overgrown Lowcountry road way off the beaten track.

    Third, Bay has married her brother-in-law, Redmond "Red" Tanner. As

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  • "Tressed to Kill" by Lila Dare: Book Review

    "Tressed to Kill" by Lila Dare
    Berkley Prime Crime, 292 pp., $7.99 (paperback only)
    Reviewed by David Marshall James

    It's not even summer tourist season in the seaside resort of St. Elizabeth, Georgia, but all heck's bustin' loose.

    The town's already in a lather over the proposed construction of a big-box superstore when local grande dame and she-dragon Constance DuBois is slain after a town-hall meeting concerning the controversial commercial building project.

    Mme. DuBois is such a terror that the mystery of how she has managed to remain unscathed for so long almost overshadows the question of who finally had the nerve to slay her.

    Violetta Terhune, who manages a beauty parlor (and mani-/pedi- and facial salon) out of the downstairs of her Victorian house on the town square, has drawn Constance's ire shortly before her murder and therefore emerges as a prime suspect (forget everyone else she's trampled over).

    Indeed, Mme. Du Bois's daughter, Simone-- who seems to be trying out

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  • "The Cat, the Professor, and the Poison"
    by Leann Sweeney
    Obsidian, 275 pp., $6.99
    Reviewed by David Marshall James

    Anything that concerns cats concerns feline-ophile Jillian Hart, so she's true to form when a hungry kitty leads her to an old farmhouse and a disgraced professor who's holding lots of other kitties in experimental bondage while he attempts to make a better pet food.

    Unfortunately for him, the professor's spending other people's money faster than he's making headway on his research, which results in a murder.

    And homicide can lead to further homicide when it's not carefully executed, and a cover-up comes into play.

    Jillian herself is treading dangerously around a killer, as her upset over the experimental animals' welfare draws her too close to the murderer's identity.

    This second "Cats in Trouble" mystery finds the young widow buddying about with police officer Candace Carson, whom Jillian befriended during the murder investigation in "The Cat, the Quilt, and

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