Last Update 3/28/14

Night and Day by Robert B. Parker, Putnam 2009   

There aren’t any murders in this Jesse Stone novel, which I think is a first. There are three interrelated cases – a school principal who invades the privacy of some of her students, a peeping tom who escalates to home invasion, and an abusive husband involved in a sex swapping club. It’s more of a police procedural than usual although the solution is once again mostly luck rather than detection. This one has a fairly good story although the lack of ongoing controversy about the principal was unconvincing, and Stone’s decision that even if she broke no laws the woman needs to be publicly punished to reassure the girls she violated is conveniently forgotten at the conclusion, and her unrelated punishment is private.  It felt as though Parker lost interest in this one and just wound things up when he reached the right word count. 3/28/14

Basket Case by Carl Hiaasen, Warner, 2002  

Another case of déjà vu all over again. The protagonist this time is a former private investigator working as a newspaper reporter, sort of. When a prominent musician dies in a suspicious scuba accident, he figures this might be a chance to make a name for himself. His efforts to discover the truth are hampered by a predictable cast of wacky characters as well as his own somewhat dubious back story. There is slightly less slapstick this time around, which I found to be a good thing. I believe this is the first of his novels with first person narration, which gives it a somewhat different feel, and the relatively straight plot helps as well. Enjoyable but neither gripping nor hilarious. 3/24/14

The Professional by Robert B. Parker, Putnam, 2009  

Spenser is hired by four women who are being blackmailed by a gigolo who threatens to reveal their affairs to their respective husbands. He tracks the man down with little difficulty, but the gigolo seems untouchable since none of them will testify against him. After a few gyrations, Spenser gets the blackmail stopped, discovers that he rather likes the gigolo despite everything, and he uses his underworld connections to prevent one of the husbands – another gangster – from retaliating. Then the cuckolded gangster turns up dead, possibly unrelated, but suspicious nonetheless. There isn’t much effort expended to conceal who the killer is and I had figured out how everything was going to end well before I got there. About average. 3/23/14

She Who Sleeps by Sax Rohmer, 1928, Collier  

Barry Cumberland is driving through a rural part of New York in a storm when he has a serious accident just after spotting a strange looking woman standing by the road. He wakens in a hospital and discovers that he and his car were brought to hospital and garage by a stranger who did not identify himself. After recovering he has dreams of the mystery woman and eventually manages to locate the scene of the accident but when he makes inquiries at a nearby house, he is rebuffed. A short time later his father, who collects Egyptian antiquities, entertains a strange proposition from a dealer/smuggler which involves a manuscript in which there is a portrait of the same mysterious young woman. When we learn of the legend of a woman mummified alive so that she could live thousands of years, the connection is obvious. Barry and his father travel to Egypt to excavate the tomb where the rumored princess Zalithea was interred, but so does the mystery lady, whom Barry never quite gets to confront although he sees her more than once. The excavation is illegal so it has to be conducted clandestinely. Eventually they did up the still living girl, restore her with an ancient ritual, and smuggle her to America, where she promptly disappears. Everything is rationalized at the end. It was all an elaborate – and very unbelievable – con job with no fantastic content whatsoever. The ending is very disappointing; it would have been far more interesting if the magic had been real. 3/19/14

Moon of Madness by Sax Rohmer, Burt, 1927 

This is a rather atypical Rohmer novel, more along the lines of Edgar Wallace. The first part of the story introduces Major O’Shea, a kind of secret agent for the British government who recovers an embarrassing letter involving a member of the royal family from a communist agent with the help of the civilian narrator. There’s a rather silly young woman who becomes infatuated first with the communist, then with agent, while teasing two other male companions and irritating her mother. She gets enlisted in the effort to steal back the letters – discovers secrets apparently through some feminine magic that is never explained – and has further adventures. Rohmer, who never did female characters even remotely well, fails spectacularly here. There’s quite a bit of action but there is absolutely atmosphere and it feels more like a treatment than a finished work. Very minor. 3/16/14

Rough Weather by Robert B. Parker, Putnam, 2008   

Spenser is hired to attend a very lavish wedding even though he doesn’t understand why he’s there. Then an old enemy reappears, kills six people including the groom, and kidnaps the bride. The bride’s mother behaves unnaturally and pays him off, which makes him and the reader suspicious. After convoluted investigation, and more deaths, we discover that it was all staged in order for the bride to inherit the groom’s fortune. Actually, this was all pretty obvious from the outset and not much happens that’s particularly interesting. The Gray Man turns out to be another of Parker’s honorable thugs, and Spenser lets him go after finding out that he is the bride’s biological father. Unsatisfying, truncated, ethically dubious, and mostly just dull. 3/14/14

Tales of Chinatown by Sax Rohmer, 1922 

A selection of early stories with some common characters and more than a mild dose of racism. “The Daughter of Huang Chow” is quite good. A detective investigates the illicit business of a Chinese merchant and discovers that he guards his money with a poisonous spider. “Kerry’s Boy” is less interesting. The son of a detective is abducted by Chinese thugs, but manages to get away. “The Pigtail of Hi Wing Ho” features a friend of Paul Marley, who starred in a pair of Rohmer mystery novels. It’s a relatively minor piece about a smuggled diamond. Harley himself appears in “The House of Golden Joss.” He is investigating a rumored murder but the killer is himself murdered in revenge. Harley thwarts a white slaver in “The Man with the Shaven Skull.”“The White Hat” is a fairly clever murder mystery. “Tcheriapin” (aka “Dr. Kreener’s Last Experiment”) is the best known story from the collection. Enmity between a master musician and an acquaintance ends in tragedy. A dancer attempts to avert a murder in “The Dance of the Veils” and another mystery involves post hypnotic suggestion in “The Key of the Temple of Heaven.” My favorite from the collection is “The Hand of the Mandarin Quong (aka “The Hand of the White Sheekh”) in which a severed hand may be responsible for a murder. A pretty good selection with only a few minor stories. 3/9/14

Stranger in Paradise by Robert B. Parker, Putnam, 2008   

In an earlier Jesse Stone novel, one of the bad guys escaped at the end. Now he’s back, looking for someone for reasons unknown, and Jesse can’t find enough evidence to arrest him for anything. His quarry turns out to be the runaway wife and daughter of a Florida mobster. The bad guy has some scruples and refuses to kill the wife and return the child. Instead he tells Jesse what’s going on. Then a local gang kills the mother after speaking to the mobster, who also sends four professionals to finish off his disobedient hireling and finish the job. Violence ensues. This was pretty good and even the irritating by play between Jesse and his ex-wife was fairly muted. He comes across as more like Spenser than ever this time. 3/8/14

Fire-Tongue by Sax Rohmer, 1922 

Paul Marley returns for his second adventure. This time a poisoned man mentions the title words with his last breath. Marley investigates and discovers the existence of a secretive Oriental organization which has spread to England and which now numbers non-Orientals among its minions. He is followed, assaulted, and captured for a while as he tries to figure out the relationship between a reclusive American millionaire, a rich Persian banker, and various other characters. Rohmer’s usual devices are all present but this is much more action oriented than the first appearance of Marley and despite some pretty blatant racism it’s not bad at all until the final third, which slows the plot to a near standstill for far too long. Rohmer seemed to have run out of story to tell. 3/5/14

In the Morning I'll Be Gone by Adrian McKinty, Seventh Street, 2014, $15.95, ISBN 978-1-61614-877-5

Concluding volume in a trilogy of crime novels set in troubled 1980s Belfast. The protagonist is a Catholic working for the Protestant dominated police who in this installment is tasked with tracking down an escaped terrorist bomber. Along the way his investigation bumps into a locked room murder mystery remotely connected with the fugitive. His best path toward his own objective is to solve the other crime, which he does in due course. This is a blend of police procedural, classic detective story, and international spy thriller, which is a pretty ambitious project, but which comes off quite well in a book I enjoyed much more than its predecessor, which was well written but not really my cup of tea. I'm curious about what McKinty will try now that this series is, apparently, concluded. 3/4/14

Now and Then by Robert B. Parker, Putnam, 2007 

This is an above average Spenser novel in which he is hired to track down an adulterous wife with unexpected results. He tapes her with her lover, but their conversation also includes information suggesting a subversive organization. Parker edits the tape while trying to figure out what to do, but then the wife is murdered, followed quickly by the husband, who was an FBI agent. That brings the federal authorities into the case, but Spenser plays his own hand and tracks down the real past of the organization’s leader, uncovering more murders on the way. This all results in threats to Spenser’s love interest, who has to be guarded while the detecting is going on. Not much new but engaging. 2/28/14

Bat Wing by Sax Rohmer, 1921   

This is the first outing of Paul Marley, a professional detective who in this case is contacted by a Spanish Cuban nobleman living in a remote mansion in England. His client offended the local voodoo cultists and he has been troubled recently by mysterious intruders and the discovery of a bat wing nailed to his door. Not far away lives an American who specializes in the study of voodoo and who has a Cuban Creole wife. There is marked animosity between the two households which neither of them will explain. Marley and his associate, the narrator, are frustrated because their client is withholding information which they consider vital. Although nothing much happens until halfway through the book – at which point the client is shot and killed – the mystery is sufficiently convoluted and quite engaging. Although I guessed the solution, it’s quite nicely done. This is one of Rohmer’s best books and I’m rather surprised it is so little known. 2/27/14

High Profile by Robert B. Parker, Putnam, 2007  1165 

Jesse Stone returns to solve the murder of a popular talk show host while Sunny Randall helps him with a man stalking his ex-wife. The secondary plot is a good example of the silliness that mars a lot of Parker’s novels, with self absorbed people acting irrationally but told in a fashion that suggests there is some abstruse psychological principle involved. The main plot is rather better although the solution is telegraphed early and this is another one of those novels where at least one of the murderers gets away with it, so that the reader has no closure and the story seems unfinished. It is apparent by now that Parker has grown tired of his characters and is largely going through the motions. 2/22/14

Spare Change by Robert B. Parker, Putnam, 2007   

Sunny Randall’s best case has her helping her father track down what appears to be the reappearance of a serial killer from twenty years earlier. The Spare Change Killer strikes at random and leaves three coins at every crime scene. This is more a police procedural than most of Parker’s other novels. Sunny meets the killer during interviews of potential witnesses and immediately senses that he is bragging about the deaths. Convinced that he is guilty, she talks the rest of the task force into helping establish his guilt, which involves some extra-legal breaking and entering on her part. The annoying interactions with her ex-husband – who has now left his wife to start a fresh relationship with Sunny – are the only real downside. 3/29/14

Death and the Devil by Frank Schatzing, Morrow, 2007  

Since I very much enjoyed this German author’s two SF novels, I decided to try this historical thriller set in 1260 Cologne. Against the backdrop of the construction of a cathedral, we have a murder committed at the behest of a secretive group whose motives we don’t learn for some time, although they are involved in a conspiracy which the murdered man, an architect, refused to join so presumably it was to ensure his silence. The murder is witnessed by a professional thief who escapes the killer, a professional assassin, at least temporarily. Much of the rest is the cat and mouse game between the protagonist and the band of conspirators. Except for a mildly overlong sidetrip into the thief’s childhood, the plot is tightly paced and exciting.  There are more Schatzing novels that have not been translated into English. I hope someone corrects that problem soon. 2/16/14

The Golden Scorpion by Sax Rohmer,1919   

A London doctor is asked to hold onto a sealed envelope by a cab driver who said it was left in his cab, but no one has ever heard of the cabbie in question. A mysterious woman attempts to steal the document from the doctor’s office shortly after a mysterious cowled figured was spotted in the vicinity. A dead body turns up which is presumed to be that of the famous French detective, Gaston Max. The doctor and a police detective decide to open the envelope, which contains only the top of an ordinary cardboard box and the number 30. Shortly thereafter, the doctor realizes that the parcel was put together in his own laboratory and begins to wonder if he has had a blackout and imagined the entire sequence. Max, of course, is not dead and shows up to narrate part of the story. Max suspects that the Scorpion is the code name of an Oriental criminal mastermind behind several deaths which have been designed to look natural but which are actually subtle poisonings. After a promising opening, the story loses its momentum and never really gets it back. There are lengthy conversations, frequent recapitulates, and sideplots of no particular interest. Disappointing. 2/15/14

Blue Screen by Robert B. Parker, Putnam, 2006  

This is a Sunny Randall novel, although she ends up in bed with Jesse Stone before it ends. She is hired to bodyguard an athletic but untalented actress who is supposedly going to play major league baseball, primarily as a publicity stunt. Almost immediately her personal assistant is murdered, and Sunny’s investigation easily reveals that the dead woman was actually secretly her sister and that the two of them had been high class prostitutes on the West Coast before she was discovered. That leads, as with all Parker novels, to some vicious but not very bright crime figures who make a lot of threats, but there is actually very little violence in this one. The resolution was not very satisfying and it is not even clear that she solved the case. Minor. 2/11/14

Dope by Sax Rohmer, 1919   

A politician hires detectives to follow his wife, whom he assumes is unfaithful, but she is actually an opium addict who buys her drugs from the mysterious fortune teller Kazmah, whose true identity is unknown. She is seen to enter Kazmah’s suite with an old friend, but neither she nor the drug dealer emerge, and when the police force an entry, they find the friend stabbed to death and with no sign of the other two.  The story is diluted by a one hundred flashback showing how the woman became addicted in the first place, and it’s not very interesting. The story picks up a bit after that and there’s some byplay about a secret agent, whose identity we can guess easily enough. The resolution isn’t much of a surprise either. Very minor Rohmer. 2/10/14

The Grimswell Curse by Sam Siciliano, Titan, 2013, $9.95, ISBN 978-1781166819   

Sherlock Holmes and his cousin Henry investigate when a woman breaks off her engagement due to the family curse and what she says are the wishes of her recently deceased father. The curse involves a dissolute ancestor rumored to have been a vampire. Holmes is not entirely sympathetic to his client, the suitor who wishes to marry her, and who might be a fortune hunter. He and his cousin visit the remote mansion in Dartmoor where various spooky things happen including the sighting of an enormous hound on the moors. Sound familiar? There are three villains, one of whom is obvious and one of whom we don’t even suspect exists until very late, which is cheating. For the most part this is pretty good, but it goes on too long and the lady in peril, who is supposedly very intelligent and highly educated, is duped too easily too many times and whines continually. I almost decided the villain ought to succeed. 2/8/14

Sick Puppy by Carl Hiaasen, Warner, 1999    

Another typical Hiaasen novel, which perhaps revisits too many of his earlier tropes. There’s another rich ecoterrorist with a nutty agenda, a cast of weirdoes including corrupt – it goes without saying – politicians, bimbos, criminals engaged in apparently legal development projects, and so forth and so on. The various individual plotlines converge for an outlandish and implausible but neatly organized conclusion. If I had read this after an interval of two years from the last – which is how long he took to write it – I might not have found it so overly familiar, but reading his work in close temporal proximity makes them blur together. Okay, but nothing to get excited about. 2/7/14

Sea Change by Robert B. Parker, Putnam, 2005    

Jesse Stone investigates when a dead woman is found floating in the water near his town. Naturally he finds the right yacht to investigate almost immediately, even though he has no evidence for singling it out, but Parker’s plots are almost always this direct. Not much happens for a long time. Stone sneaks aboard the yacht and finds a videotape of people having sex, and the dead woman was known to have had herself filmed under similar circumstances. Her sisters show up – their parents think they are in Europe but they’re partying in New York instead – but that doesn’t contribute much to the story. Stone’s ex-wife has a promising new assignment in a documentary and he’s still seeing his shrink, but those are both distractions as well. Some good villains in this one although they all get their just desserts off stage. 2/6/14

The Quest of the Sacred Slipper by Sax Rohmer, 1914 

A researcher returns to England from the Mideast with a slipper worn by Mohammed, which he stole during his travels. A Muslim cult is determined to take it back, and to cut off the hands of any infidel who touches it, this last accomplished mysteriously even in the middle of crowds. The researched is killed by a midget inside a box, but several attempts to seize the slipper from his safe, and later from a museum, are thwarted following great effort by the authorities. The protagonist is helping them because of his abhorrence of the cult’s tactics, even though he thinks the slipper should be restored to its true owners.  An American criminal steals the slipper and holds it for a while, and there’s a mysterious and beautiful woman flitting around the edges. This was clearly written as a serial, with an episodic plot and occasional recapitulations of the story for people who might have missed the earlier installments. Rohmer was much better later in his career. 2/3/14

The Night Flower by Max Brand, International Polygonics, 1987 (originally published in 1937 as Dark Peril

Max Brand wrote hundreds of westerns so it’s not surprising that his relatively small number of crime and mystery novels is largely forgotten. Pursivant is an ex-crook who owes his reformation to a powerful politician who is himself not completely on the right side of the law. The politician asks him to find evidence that two career criminals are responsible for an armored car heist and the murder of two guards, which he does fairly easily, although he only implicates one of the pair, Cappen. Cappen vows that his friends will avenge him and Pursivant is concerned that his patron will discover that he was responsible for the death of the patron’s brother. Cappen’s beautiful ward is thrown into the mix as well. The plot is fairly complex with several reversals of fortune. There are a couple of questionable plot points but for the most part this is a well constructed crime novel and the style is quite different than the one Brand used for his westerns. 1/30/14

Hundred-Dollar Baby by Robert B. Parker, Putnam, 2006 

The young prostitute Spenser helped way back early in his career is now running a high class brothel in Boston and someone is trying to extort money to her. Spenser and Hawk are able to dispose of the thugs without too much trouble, but Spenser gets suspicious and discovers that the man behind the extortion was the woman’s former lover and business partner, and that they were actually trying to scam another woman who invested in the operation. Then the head thug turns up dead and there seems to be no reason why either party would have been interested in killing him. I was way ahead of Spenser on this one and it all turned out pretty much as I expected, but it was nicely done notwithstanding. 1/29/14

School Days by Robert B. Parker, Putnam, 2005  

Two teenagers confess to having committed a school massacre although one wasn’t apprehended until well after the incident was over. Parker is hired to prove the innocence of the latter, despite the boy’s insistence that he did it. Predictably, the police and school officials don’t want him stirring things up. Less predictably, all of the parents of the two boys want to get past the tragedy and aren’t interested in pursuing the matter. But Spenser wants to know how the boys acquired the firearms and learned to use them when nothing in their backgrounds suggests they had any familiarity with them. Despite a couple of minor glitches, this one was pretty good. 1/27/14

The Yellow Claw by Sax Rohmer, 1915 

A reclusive writer is disturbed by the appearance of a distressed woman at his apartment. When she collapses, he goes to a neighbor for help, but in the brief interim an intruder strangles her. She is discovered to be the widow of a man who died only hours earlier, a woman who apparently led a secret life unknown to her rather dastardly husband. The police suspect the writer, since there seems to have been no way for anyone else to have escaped unobserved, but they have reservations because of some incidental evidence which seems to exonerate him, including the presence of a mysterious oriental in the vicinity. Although he is married, the writer’s wife was away at the time and their relationship does not seem close. The daughter of a neighbor is, however, in love with him although he doesn’t know it.  The writer’s butler, whom we know was in the pay of a sinister figure for reasons unknown – although part of it involves intercepting the mail of the writer’s wife, disappears before the police can question him. Enter Gaston Max, a French investigator of international renown, who is on the trail of a gang of opium dealers. There’s an exciting escape from the opium den despite various traps and entanglements and a nicely wound up climax, although we never do discover who the mastermind was. Presumably Rohmer was saving that for another story. 1/22/14

Cold Service by Robert B. Parker, Putnam, 2005    

Spenser’s friend Hawk is badly wounded in a failed attempt to protect a small time criminal from a new mob in town. He and Spenser eventually decide to even the score but find themselves not only opposing a city dominated by armed criminals but also caught in a complicated three way battle with an old adversary and a new one as well. Spenser gets through this one without killing anyone, although Hawk gets to kill a number of bad guys, including a kingpin whom he finishes off mysteriously and disappointingly in the finale. Average with a poor ending. 1/21/14

The Blood Promise by Mark Pryor, 7th Street, 2013, $15.95, ISBN 978-1-61614-815-7

The third adventure of Hugo Marston. This time Marston is providing security for an American senator on an extended visit to France. His sojourn there coincides with the discovery of a two hundred year old manuscript containing a valuable and potentially shocking secret. When the senator angrily announces that someone has made an unauthorized visit to his room, Marston is faced with two separate - but maybe not entirely separate - incidents. The senator dislikes the French but there is a secret in his past that could subject him to ridicule and possibly blackmail as well. Then a dead body turns up and discretion is no longer a viable alternative.  Smoothly written but perhaps a bit too predictable. 1/16/14

Lucky You by Carl Hiaasen, Knopf, 1997   

Although I find that Hiaasen’s humor wears on me pretty quickly, I liked this one the best of the books I’ve read so far, perhaps because there is less slapstick. Two people have won the Florida State Lottery but one is convinced he needs all of the proceeds from both tickets in order to finance a private army ready to oppose the NATO invasion which he imagines is imminent. The other party, from whom they steal the ticket, wants to use the money to save an endangered rain forest, so she decides to track down the thieves. She teams up with a journalist who is typical of Hiaasen heroes – harried by a variety of weird supporting characters – and they eventually track down the villain and his small but dedicated, sort of, supporters.  Fairly consistently funny, which isn’t always the case with Hiaasen. 1/15/14

Double Play by Robert B. Parker, Putnam, 2004   

This is not really a mystery story although it strongly resembles the Spenser novels, complete with the usual Parker gimmicks – tough but honorable crimelord, borrowing a shooter who turns out to have scruples about his victims, and several people get shot, always fatally. The protagonist is a jilted war hero who becomes a professional bodyguard, first for a troubled young woman dating an even more troubled son of a mobster, then Jackie Robinson, the first black professional baseball player. There are some attempts to murder him – not in the historical record – which Burke thwarts efficiently and without publicity. Ultimately Burke regains his capacity for emotion, settles the problems with various criminal elements, keeps Robinson alive and out of trouble, and lives happily ever after.  If it was meant as a change of pace for Parker, it didn’t stay that way very long. It’s okay but pretty slight. 1/13/14

Stormy Weather by Carl Hiaasen, Warner, 1995 

More of the author’s usual zaniness in this one. There’s one group involved in an insurance scam after a major hurricane devastates part of Florida, a crazed kidnapper whose victim isn’t playing with a full deck himself, and some escaped monkeys to season the brew.  The various plots run parallel for a while, then begin to converge. As always, there is slapstick comedy, biting satire, caustic comments, and a variety of caricatures that only sometimes feel like actual characters. Hiaasen is perhaps the Douglas Adams of crime fiction, but somehow the humor seems to struggle at times, perhaps because the genre is so different. 1/11/14

Melancholy Baby by Robert B. Parker, Putnam, 2004  

Sunny Randall is hired by a troubled college student to discover who were real parents were, since she is convinced that the couple who claim to be are not. Sunny starts asking questions, she and her client are threatened, and eventually people start showing up dead. This one moves reasonably well and her sessions with her psychiatrist – Spenser’s girlfriend – are not quite as obviously filler as in some of Parker’s other novels, but they read go on too long. I also figured out almost the entire explanation very early and the way in which Sunny finds the shooter is a major authorial cheat. She essentially waves a magic wand and the hired gun happily confesses who hired him to pull the trigger. Readable, but it felt more than ever that Parker was tired of writing detective stories and wasn’t interested at all in working out his plots. 1/9/14

Castle Rock by Carolyn Hart, Seventh Street, 2014, $13.95, ISBN 978-1-61614-873-7

This is a variation of the woman in jeopardy story wrapped around a murder mystery, originally published in 1983. The protagonist is, or was, the ward of a wealthy ranch owner in New Mexico until his death in what appears to be a riding accident. I never trust accidental deaths in suspense novels. There are several suspicious circumstances surrounding and following the death, including an argument with persons unknown and several individually minor but troubling incidents that take place afterward. Is the young woman in danger from the people she would normally trust? Is some kind of international plot involved? Will she live to the end?  Not terribly original but well constructed and suspenseful. 1/8/14

Bad Business by Robert B. Parker, Putnam, 2004 

Spenser gets hired by a woman who believes her husband is having an affair. Almost immediately he discovers that she’s right, but also that the other woman is also being tailed, presumably by her own husband. But someone is also tailing his employer, which is likely to be her cheating husband. In the midst of all this confusion, the hubby is shot to death in his office while Spenser is sitting in the parking lot outside.  Then Spenser discovers that the man who hired both of the other detectives was actually the head of security at the company where the murder took place, posing as husbands in both cases. This is one of the best of Parker’s later novels, with a mild cheat at the end. Semi-spoiler – the killer isn’t introduced until the last few chapters. 1/7/14

Buried by Kate Watterson, Tor, 2014, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-7653-6962-8

Third in the Ellie MacIntosh series. I haven’t read the previous books in the series. There are two apparently unrelated cases. Someone seems to be targeting members of the police department for execution style killings. Someone else is found buried on property belonging to Ellie’s grandfather but even though it appears to have been there for years, she senses that he knows something about it. There’s the usual romantic subplot – not particularly interesting but fairly brief. The mystery is fairly well constructed but there’s not much momentum in the first half of the book and I think part of the problem is that there are multiple viewpoint characters and each jump interrupts the narrative flow. I’m also a bit skeptical that a forensic examination would be unable to distinguish between a mauling by a bear and multiple stab wounds based on the marks on the bones, even after twenty years underground.  Everything gets tied up eventually. This would have been a lot better if the plot had been tightened up, but that might have made it too short for current publishing preferences, a problem that I suspect leads to a great deal of padding in every genre. 1/6/14

Strip Tease by Carl Hiaasen, Warner, 1993  

This is probably Hiaasen’s best known book, basis for the movie starring Demi Moore and Burt Reynolds. It opens with a politician, in disguise, assaulting a man at a strip club for no apparent reason. The most popular of the strippers is working there to raise money to fight a legal battle with her ex-husband for custody of their daughter.  The opening chapters, though tongue in cheek, are fairly serious in tone despite the sometimes raucously funny situations. An infatuated fan shows up, promises to blackmail the politician into putting pressure on the judge presiding over the custody case, but he mysteriously drowns under suspicious circumstances. Things proceed rather predictably, sometimes humorously, from there. The best of his that I’ve read so far, but there’s a sameness about them that bothers me a little. 1/5/14

Stone Cold by Robert B. Parker, Putnam, 2003   965 

Jesse Stone loses one of his romantic interests to a pair of psychopathic killers in this one. Their case is pretty straightforward otherwise. They leave enough clues that they can be identified fairly quickly and the detection part is pretty routine. This story alternates with another about three jocks who rape a high school girl, and it’s clearly a reaction to bullying incidents in the real world. Stone resolves this one as well, though perhaps not as satisfyingly as it could have been. Probably my favorite so far in the Jesse Stone series although the interludes with his ex-wife and his psychiatrist are still mind numbingly dull and irrelevant. 1/1/14