Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Margarita Nights

Margarita Nights, the first of the Sherri Travis mystery series by Phyllis Smallman introduces the reader to a character, Sherri Travis, chiseled from real life. Although not the brightest crayon in the box Sherri holds true to her trailer camp background and heart of gold attitude instilled by her bartender mother, Ruth Ann. Sometimes you want to reach between the covers of this book and give Sherri a shake of the shoulders. Her persistence that her 'godawful' estranged husband, Jimmy, didn't blow up with his boat and the subsequent events caused mostly by Sherri's ability to talk to the wrong people at the wrong time make this book an exciting read. The police want to know who killed Jimmy, if he's dead, and Sherri is the prime suspect. When another close friend is murdered the plot becomes more tangled.
Sherri and Ruth Ann are characters you won't forget after the last page. There are very effective scenes played out between the two that make them larger than life. The mother-in-law, Jimmy's mother, who doesn't, even remotely, come from a trailer camp background is convinced that everything that happened to her son is Sherri's fault. Her grimace when she opens the door to her less than perfect daughter-in-law speaks volumes. But Sherri has always been 'Jimmy's girl' whether she admits it or not. 
All the characters in this book, although numerous, are all well crafted and defined. You won't want to miss the 'reunion' at the Sunset Bar when the people of Sherri's life sort out their individual parts. Smallman describes it as 'The air was charged with energy as if an electrical storm was about to crack open the room'.
All of this, plus a great look at the Florida coastline and surrounding towns ensure a very enjoyable read. You can visit Sherri again in the sequels. Smallman's series was chosen by Good Morning America as one of the top six mystery series for 2010.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Drive Time

What really happens when the parking valet gets in your car and drives off? Is the car you just rented really safe?  Hank Phillippi Ryan, author of Drive Time is an investigative reporter for a major television station. The main character in her books, Charlotte McNally, becomes a mirror image of Ryan by pursuing criminal elements in everyday life. Drive Time, the fourth book of a series  deals with a valet parking scheme, unscrupulous rental car owners, and the general public that chooses to ignore car manufacturer recalls. Top that with mysterious deaths at her soon to be step-daughter’s exclusive school, a deal of a lifetime offer for her career, last minute nerves about her upcoming marriage and you have a real show-stopper of a book.
Fast moving, arm chair gripping car scenes, and a particularly effective dark, parking garage element sets the tone for exciting reading. Danger calls again as McNally decides to investigate the deaths and finds herself face to face with a demented blackmailer and confessed killer.
Should she get married, or stay single and take the job offer? Should she get married, take the job offer, and try to make it work? All will be revealed in the pages of Drive Time, a good read with lots of thoughts provoking situations.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Hemlock Lake

A rattlesnake, a missing shotgun, a phantom in the mountains and a small town revolt are some of the ingredients in this Carolyn J. Rose novel. Add to that an accidental death, followed by a suicide, fires set by arson, graffiti on the walls of newly constructed lake homes, a mysterious dark-skinned woman and small, carefully crafted stone mounds that magically appear in the moonlight.  Mix these together and you have a heart-thumping, mind boggling, suspense filled ride that careens off the logging roads of the Catskill Mountains into a book that defies you to put it down. Who wants to kill Sergeant Dan Stone? Who doesn’t want to kill him becomes more the question.
Hemlock Lake is a ‘walk-in’ novel skillfully weaved by its talented author in first person narrative. The reader, through Dan Stone’s thoughts and words, is privileged to enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of a Catskill Mountains summer.  They feel the emotional and physical pain of life-long bitterness, deception and betrayal.  Walking with Rose through the pages of Hemlock Lake is an adventure you won’t want to miss!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Threats at Three

Threats at Three is a series book by Ann Purser. This is actually the tenth book in the series. All are centered around the English village of Long Farnden and the lives of characters introduced in the first book which was Murder on Monday.

 When I started reading Threats at Three I didn't think I would like it but hung in there for a chapter or two and began to get interested, not so much in the plot, but in the characters. Actually, the plot was a little thin. For instance who was trying to burn down the hall? If that was clearly established I missed it. The characters, however, seemed well defined and tempted you to read the forerunner books to see how they developed.

If you like fast moving action, dead on suspense, and a stunning rap up, this book is probably not for you. If, instead, you want to spend a leisurely couple of days in an English village peering in the windows of some of the families then Threats at Three will be your 'cup of tea'.