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Robicheaux

Posted by on Mar 12, 2018 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Robicheaux

Mysterious Book Report No. 325

by John Dwaine McKenna

Whenever a new book by James Lee Burke is released, I can’t wait to get my hands on it and promptly read it cover-to-cover.  It’s been that way since the early 1990s, when I heard him speak on NPR about a character he’d created; a fictional Cajun detective from New Iberia, Louisiana.  He was unique, this fictional detective, because he was an idealist with the quaint notion that he might speak for the neglected members of society, those poorly served by the American justice system because it can be so easily manipulated by unscrupulous people of wealth.  That altruism, plus an addiction to alcohol and a tendency to resort to violence when confronted by the enablers and perpetrators  of vile, vicious and evil acts against those who are powerless to defend themselves, make him one of the most interesting characters in crime fiction. And it is those very qualities, plus his reflections upon morality, philosophy, death, religion, literature and the essence of evil, which make him the most fascinating character in modern writing.  The detectives name is Dave Robicheaux.  He’s been speaking to all of us through twenty volumes and now, Mr. Burke has graced us, with his thirty-seventh novel overall, and twenty-first in the New Iberia, Louisiana deputy sheriffs series.  It’s eponymously titled Robicheaux (Simon & Schuster, $27.99, 445 pages, ISBN 978-1-5011-7684-3) by James Lee Burke . . . and it’s a masterpiece.  The novel opens with Dave ruminating about his affinity for the departed: “. . . to pause and reflect upon my experiences with the dead and the hold they exert on our lives,” in Mr. Burke’s words, and then we learn that he sees confederate soldiers; ghosts marching in the fog at Spanish Lake; and that his wife Molly has been killed in a traffic accident by a speeder.  He describes his home as “cavernous with silence” and “the world I had known being airbrushed out of a painting.” He’s depressed, lonely and suffering from hallucinations when he gets “back on the dirty-boogie,” losing decades of sobriety in the process.  He’s blackout drunk on the night the man who killed his wife is found beaten to death . . . Dave can’t remember anything . . . but his fingerprints are all over the dead mans truck.  The event leaves Dave under a cloud of suspicion, and fearful that he’s a murderer.  And although there’s a pall over him, he’s not suspended.  Robicheaux still has to do his job, because things are heating up all over the parish.  An old mob boss and wannabe filmmaker from New Orleans shows up, along with a local politician who has national aspirations and a civil war sword belonging to the family of a prominent writer.  He lives a little ways up the teche and owns the story rights to the film the Mafia Don wants to produce.  Then, there’s Dave’s old pal, and human wrecking ball Clete Purcell, daughter Alafair, a new deputy with a suspicious history, a couple of hitters from Miami, a grief-stricken widow and a string of grisly murders taking place that Robicheaux and Sheriff Helen Soileau are racing to solve before the body count reaches awesome proportions in this epic work of southern noir.  Read it for yourself and join James Lee Burke’s legions of devoted fans!

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Illegal Holdings

Posted by on Mar 5, 2018 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Illegal Holdings

Mysterious Book Report No. 324

by John Dwaine McKenna

Serendipity is the ability to make fortunate discoveries by accident . . . which is what happened here at the MBR when our mailbox, (P.O. Box 2406, Colorado Springs, CO 80901) yielded up an unsolicited new publication from a small independent press in Seattle, Washington, which brought a unique new character and a superb writer to our attention.

Illegal Holdings, (Coffeetown Press, PB, $14.95, 228 pages, ISBN 978-1-60381-591-8) by Michael Niemann, features a fraud investigator from the United Nations Office of Internal Oversight Services named Valentin Vermeulen.  In this, the third book of the series, he’s sent to Maputo, Mozambique, (Naw, me either, but if you think of the African continent as a clockface, it’s down in the five o’clock position, by the Indian Ocean) where he’s going to audit a NGO by the name of Global Alternatives—the not-for-profit, Non Governmental Organization that’s been set up and funded by a hedge fund billionaire named Vincent Portallis to revolutionize development aid—to see if they’re spending their UN grant money as promised.  It’s a boring, ho-hum assignment to the far reaches of the world . . . made brighter only by the fact that his globe-trotting lover Tessa, will be there at the same time, reporting on foreign land acquisitions in Africa.  But as soon as he hits town, Vermeulen discovers a five-million dollar discrepancy in the accounts of Global Alternatives local partner Nossa Terra, who claims that the money . . .  supposedly transferred from GA to them . . . was never received.  Vermeulen at first gets excuses—never saw, never got, never before and the like—which sets his alarm bells to ringing at full tilt.  When the chief accountant and defacto second in command at Nossa Terra disappears on the following day, the case for his guilt seems evident to everyone.  But soon after his body washes up on the beach, and there’s no doubt he’s been murdered.  It’s only the first act in a chain of violence and criminality that Vermeulen is powerless to stop, as he digs in and desperately tries to solve an increasingly complex series of crimes and evermore vicious events before he, or Tessa, or both of them are killed.  Valentin Vermeulen is a hero you can believe in, an ordinary, brave and honest man, who’s doing an almost impossible job in the toughest of places.  He’s a character you’ll like, and maybe even love, and definitely want to read more of!

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The Cuban Affair

Posted by on Feb 26, 2018 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Cuban Affair

Mysterious Book Report No. 323

by John Dwaine McKenna

Who doesn’t dream of sunny, warm days with an ample supply of cold drinks and an ocean to play in, when we’re up to our ear-muffs in icy roads, snow and sub-freezing temperatures, day, after day, after day . . . and if we can’t actually go there, we can at least escape in literature to the sun-soaked tip of Florida, down to swinging Key West, where  The Cuban Affair, (Simon & Schuster, $28.99, 429 pages, ISBN 978-1-5011-0172-4) by MBR perennial favorite and master storyteller Nelson DeMille, kicks off at the Green Parrot Bar.  That’s where a thirty-five year-old wounded Afghanistan war veteran, confirmed bachelor, and deep-sea charter fishing boat captain named Daniel Graham MacCormick—Mac for short—is drinking beer, watching the women, and waiting for a guy named Carlos to come down from Miami.  Carlos is a Cuban ex-pat and lawyer who’s heavily involved with the anti-Castro movement in Miami.  He may want to hire Mac and his boat, The Maine, for a few days.  When he shows up, Carlos has in tow an older distinguished-looking Cuban gentleman named Eduardo, who’s treated with all the respect of a Cuban Godfather.  The third, and last member of the entourage is an early-thirties hottie named Sara Ortega, another Cuban-American who’s involved in the movement to free Cuba from the communists.  They want to hire Mac and his boat for a ten-day fishing tournament in Cuba, and use it for cover of a covert mission to recover sixty million dollars in cash that was hidden in a remote cave by Sara’s banker grandfather on the eve of the communist revolution.  Mac refuses . . . until he hears the payoff . . . three million American dollars.  For a guy with a quarter-million in bank loans, who’s struggling to make ends meet, it’s irresistible.  He’s in.  Mac and Sara will fly into Cuba as part of a Yale University tour group, while First Mate Jack Colby skippers The Maine down to the tournament.  And so begins one of the most rollicking and timely caper novels to come along since the first Las Vegas casino heist.  Written with the sure hand and light touch of an acknowledged master of the genre, reading The Cuban Affair is just about the most fun you can have—and still keep your clothes on— during these long cold, and dark days of winter!

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False Flag

Posted by on Feb 19, 2018 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

False Flag

Mysterious Book Report No. 322

by John Dwaine McKenna

In the world of espionage, The business of spies is lies, which makes it impossible at times, to distinguish between friend and foe . . . because all covert operations are designed to advance the interests and objectives of the spying country.  Put it another way and the axiom becomes: TRUST NO ONE.  They all lie all the time.  And nowhere is this illustrated better than in a thrilling new spy yarn in which a trusted ally and friend becomes a deadly enemy.  False Flag (Blackstone Publishing, $26.99, 320 pages, ISBN 978-1-5047-9772-6) by John Altman, posits a scenario in which a rogue Israeli Mossad agent attempts to mount the deadliest terrorist attack the world has ever seen against the United States, while leaving behind a set of clues that implicate Iran.  In spy jargon it’s known as a false flag, and the hope of the renegade agency is to create an incident which will lead one’s ally and friend—the USA—to go to war in retaliation against the enemy state.  Which, in this case is Iran, where crowds routinely chant: Death to America and Death to Israel, with depressing regularity.  The plot is accidentally uncovered by an elderly Israeli-born woman named Dalia Artzi, who’s a lecturer at Princeton University in the art, tactics and history of warfare.  And although she’s considered a genius in her field, Dalia’s life experiences have left her a pacifist, and her only son a prisoner in the hands of Islamic fanatics.  She’s reluctant at first, to get involved.  But her strong Jewish faith, which has instilled in her a desire to try and make the world a better place, compel her to do otherwise.  And so, Dalia is pitted against another Israeli citizen, a young Mossad agent known only as Jana, who’s as deadly as she is dedicated and beautiful.  Thus begins a game of hide-and-seek-to-destroy that begins in Washington state and culminates in Washington, D.C., with stakes that are impossibly high, to prevent an act that’s unspeakably evil.  False Flag is so eerily prescient and electrifying that readers of all ages and sizes will find it hard to put down.  It’s a thriller of thrillers because it’s so entirely possible, and utterly plausible in today’s raucous, unstable, uncivil, unpeaceful and war-torn world.  False Flag is bound to become a classic among spy novels!

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Night Blind

Posted by on Feb 12, 2018 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Night Blind

Mysterious Book Report No.  321

by John Dwaine McKenna

Iceland sits just below the Arctic Circle, about midway between Greenland and Scandinavia.  At  the northernmost  point of the volcanic island is the city  of  Siglufjördur . . . where in late November, “The darkness comes and curls around you like a  furry black cat,”  and it doesn’t even think about getting light again until sometime in February.  Some of the people living there get depressed by the long dark night, others find comfort in it somehow, and still others—like Reykjavík lawyer Ragnar Jonasson—put their time in the dark to creative use, writing some of the best crime fiction of the new millennium.  In his newest work to be translated into English entitled,  Night Blind, (Minotaur/ St. Martins, $25.99, 213 pages, ISBN 978-1-250-09609-8), series character Ari Thór Arason, one of two local policeman, is starting to feel claustrophobic in the small fishing village as the fall rains and the creeping darkness begin closing in.  It’s a quiet town where nothing much ever happens . . . the kind of place where no one bothers to lock their doors because everyone knows every one else.  This idyllic quiet is shattered when the local police chief is killed in the dead of night at a deserted house on the edge of town.  It falls upon Ari Thór to solve a pitiless, arcane and increasingly complex murder, which involves the new mayor from out of town, and a psychiatric ward in the capital city of Reykjavík.  When his old boss is called in to replace the murdered chief, it becomes obvious to Ari Thór, that the murder can’t be solved without the help of the local citizens, and he’ll have to improve his image with them in order to do his job.  As the mystery deepens with each passing page and Ari Thór is forced to spend more and more time on the case, his relationship with his girlfriend—the mother of his son—becomes strained to the point of fracturing.  Atmospheric, tense and complex, Night Blind has a memorable and absorbing plot that will keep you guessing until the startling denouement . . . which will take you totally by surprise.  Ragnar Jonasson has translated fourteen Agatha Christie novels from English into Icelandic, and her influence shines brightly in his work . . . so much so in fact, that he’s being hailed as the Prince of Icelandic Noir!

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Bluebird Bluebird

Posted by on Feb 5, 2018 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Bluebird, Bluebird

Mysterious Book Report No. 320

by John Dwaine McKenna

One of 2017s most outstanding novels was first released in the last quarter of the year, and we were so inundated with other books to review that we weren’t able to report on it.  The MBR regrets that and intends to rectify things immediately.

Bluebird, Bluebird, (Muholland Books/Little Brown & Co, $26.00, 303 pages, ISBN 978-0-316-36329-7) by award-winning author Attica Locke, took the reading world by storm with her novel of ethnicity, kin, honor, prejudice and justice in the east Texas town of Lark.  It’s a place that time and progress have forgotten . . . where race is  ever present . . . and fairness is hard to come by.  East Texas is where a black man named Darren Mathews grew up and escaped from the first chance he got.  Now, he’s a Texas Ranger with an Ivy League education who’s being inexorably pulled back down Highway 59 to his red dirt roots by the deaths of a black, middle-aged lawyer from Chicago and a young, local white woman.  Both of their bodies washed ashore in the Attoyac Bayou within a couple of days of each other and it’s stirred up a boatload of simmering racial tensions, resentments and reexaminations of old, scabbed-over injustices that have been festering for decades.  What seems at first to be another racially-motivated crime turns out to be a more complex and disturbing tragedy, with roots hidden deep in the social fabric of a culture which no longer exists, except in myth.  Ranger Darren Mathews is a modern day knight-errant, duty and honor-bound to solve a crime that conceals at its heart a devastating secret which could cost him his career, his family and possibly his life.

Attica Locke has written one of the most compelling, thought-provoking and provocative novels to come down the literary pike in an ordinary lifetime, because at its heart, is that which we’re all reluctant to acknowledge and discuss openly: race and relationships, and how all of us . . . black, white, red, brown and yellow are going to live together in peace and harmony after everything that’s gone before.  And, oh yeah, wrapped up neatly in the middle of it all, is an exceptional murder mystery that’ll keep you guessing up until the very end.  Bluebird, Bluebird is genre fiction raised to the level of art.  It has masterpiece written all over it!

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The Quantum Spy

Posted by on Jan 31, 2018 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Quantum Spy

Mysterious Book Report No. 319

by John Dwaine McKenna

It’s indisputable that the next war will be fought in cyberspace.  Some scientific and military experts believe in fact, that World War III has already begun . . . that the opening skirmishes are evidenced by the endless hacking attempts on the most secure of websites . . . where our adversaries are going after America’s commercial, financial, governmental, scientific and military secrets in hopes of besting the United States by destroying the economy and infrastructure.  By doing so, the enemies of America could defeat her without firing a shot.  Because of this, the race is on to build ever more powerful and faster computing machines.  And the fastest, most powerful of all is a computer based on quantum mechanics . . . something so outlandish that when he discovered it, Albert Einstein himself was baffled, and thought he’d made a mistake somewhere in his equations.  He was in fact, never able to find the mistake, which predicted that something could exist in two different places at the same time.  But in fact, they can.  They’re only able to do so for a fraction of a second however, and there’s the rub.  They’re unstable.  But they’re the basis of the fastest computers ever dreamed of, and all of the advanced countries in the world are racing to develop the first quantum computer . . . which would give the owners of that technology the absolute ability to take over every other computer in the world.  It’s the subject of a pulse pounding new thriller entitled The Quantum Spy, (Norton, $25.95, 320 pages, ISBN 978-0-393-25415-0) by David Ignatius, in which the United States has achieved a breakthrough in quantum computing that will allow them to dominate the field for the foreseeable future.  Unfortunately however, the technical details wind up in the hands of the Chinese Ministry of State Security less than 48 hours later because there’s a spy—known as a mole—embedded deep in the American Secret Services.  It’s up to a CIA officer named Harris Chang to catch the traitor.  Thus begins the gripping cyber-thriller which goes from the city of Singapore, to the Pacific Northwest, to the mountains of Mexico and beyond.   The investigation is intense, obsessive, destructive and ultimately uncertain, due to the leaks exposing our deepest secrets . . . or are they false trails to deceive the Chinese?  Chang, a west Point graduate and decorated combat veteran, will begin to question everything he knows about honor, duty, and country, as well as his heritage, loyalty, morality, and ultimately, the truth.  This novel is a sophisticated and up-to-date look at contemporary spying and the consequences of the cutting edges of science.  It is a nail-biter of the highest order.  If you, like me, love spy novels, don’t miss this one . . . it’s absolutely positively one of the best and most current espionage tales since Barry Lancet wrote The Spy Across the Table!

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Paradise Valley

Posted by on Jan 25, 2018 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Paradise Valley

Mysterious Book Report No. 318

by John Dwaine McKenna

Our author this week needs no introduction, as his name has become synonymous with the modern American West.  We’re referring of course, to the prolific and award-winning Wyoming writer C.J. Box, and his beloved character, Joe Pickett; the iconic Wyoming Game Warden, all-American good guy and dedicated family man.  Now, Mr. Box has another character that the MBR thinks will become just as iconic, and just as beloved by readers.

Paradise Valley, (Minotaur Books, $27.99, 340 pages, ISBN 978-1-250-05104-2) features a female detective named Cassie Dewell, who’s been trying to catch a serial killer known to law enforcement as The Lizard King.  He’s a long-haul tractor-trailer driver who kills truck stop prostitutes, known slangy as Lot Lizards.  Cassie almost caught him three years ago, but he escaped and continued his indiscriminate and wanton cross-country bloodshed.  Cassie herself is now working for the Bakken County, North Dakota, Sheriff’s Department.  She’s set what she thinks is a fool-proof trap, luring him and his truck into a local depot.  But the plan goes horribly wrong, he escapes again, and Cassie is blamed for the failure.  She is disgraced and loses her job after an inquest by her political enemies lays all the failure on her.  At the same time a boy named Kyle Westergaard disappears.  He’s a troubled teen Cassie was mentoring, who’s been telling anyone who’ll listen, that he’s going on a big adventure.  Cassie agrees to try and find him, while at the same time, she’s hunting for The Lizard King.  She’s on her own following two faint trails which converge in the remotest of places . . . where the indefatigable woman will have to fight for her life.  This one is a thriller-diller from start to finish.  It’ll keep every reader nailed to the page as thrill follows thrill, and adventure follows adventure, as a plucky and determined brave woman hunts for a monster who’s terrorizing the highways.  C.J. Box is at his best.

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Righteous

Posted by on Jan 15, 2018 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

Righteous

Mysterious Book Report No. 317

by John Dwaine McKenna

Isaiah Quintinabe—one of the most original sleuthhounds to ever grace the pages of mystery and crime fiction—is back in a second installment that’s equally as good, or better than his Edgar-nominated first, which was entitled simply IQ.

Righteous, (Mulholland Books/Little Brown & Co, $26.00, 326 pages, ISBN 978-0-316-26777-9) by Joe Ide, finds IQ on a mission.  He’s the high school dropout from East Long Beach, California with a shy mannerism and world-class intelligence.  He’s the neighborhood guy who solves cases that the cops can’t or won’t be bothered with.  Ten years ago, his beloved older brother Marcus was killed by a hit and run driver.  It’s an unsolved case that broke his heart, keeps him awake at night and eats at his soul.  Isaiah was determined to solve the mystery, but unable to do so, and it plunged him into despair, almost destroying his life.  Now, his career is flourishing, he has a new dog and an elevated status in the community as a Private Eye.  But, when a chance encounter reopens that old wound, Isaiah is compelled to start the hunt for his brothers killer all over again.  Then, as if that’s not enough, his brother’s old girlfriend . . . whom Isaiah has a secret crush on . . . asks him to rescue her half-sister Janine, she’s a beautiful DJ and degenerate gambler who, along with her deadbeat boyfriend, is being stalked by Chinese gangsters and a sinister, seven-foot tall loan shark in Las Vegas.  It’s a quest full of treachery, twists and terror from which he may not survive.  Let’s hope he does, because IQ is one of the most original and coolest characters to come down the literary pike since Sax Rohmer penned his first Dr. Fu Manchu novel.  The MBR is all in for Joe Ide and Isaiah Quintinabe and can’t wait for the next installment!

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The Downside

Posted by on Jan 8, 2018 in Mysterious Book Report, TV Townsman Articles | 0 comments

The Downside

Mysterious Book Report No. 316

by John Dwaine McKenna

The MBR is kicking off the New Year 2018 with one of the best caper novels to come our way since The Sting was made into a movie back in 1973.  It features one of the most unique bad guys in current crime fiction.  His name is Finn and he’s a professional thief who calls himself the last of the hard hats, that’s because he only steals big things . . . like a tractor-trailer load of new luxury automobiles, or heavy machinery . . . even a couple of railcars full of exotic ores for processing high strength steel.  Finn’s a guy who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty, knows how to operate anything with a motor and has a hand-picked crew of men with calloused hands, dirty fingernails and larceny in their hearts.  We meet them all in The Downside, (Mysterious Press/Open Road, PB $14.99, 286 pages, ISBN 978-1-5040-4461-5) by Mike Cooper.  Finn is fresh out of prison and flat broke.  He’s contacted by a beautiful woman named Emily who’s the executive assistant to a shady Wall Street billionaire who wants to finance Finn’s next job.  It’s easy . . . all he has to do is break into a high security commodities warehouse and make off with fifty million dollars worth of the precious metal Rhodium.  Big and heavy, it’s right up Finn’s alley.  He reassembles the very same crew from his last job, the one that put him in prison for seven years, and prepares to tunnel into an unbreachable vault.  His only problem?  Somewhere in his crew of construction workers is a turncoat . . . the rat who put him in prison.  Determined, focused, and wary of everyone, Finn lays out a plan and starts buying heavy equipment to do the job.  This novel moves at breakneck speed and never slows down, with a blue collar anti-hero you’ll be rooting for, long before the novel comes to it’s dynamic conclusion.  The MBR is fascinated by Finn, and looking for more of him from the award winning pen of Mike Cooper, which is the pen name of author Mike Weicek.

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