Hank Phillippi Ryan made her novelist name with the Charlotte McNally Mysteries, starting with “Prime Time” in 2009. Those were taut, well-plotted mys...moreHank Phillippi Ryan made her novelist name with the Charlotte McNally Mysteries, starting with “Prime Time” in 2009. Those were taut, well-plotted mysteries in a short form.
Now, she’s digging in and deepening the plots for long-form novels. The first Jane Ryland mystery is “The Other Woman” published in hardcover in 2012, and now out in paperback.
Jane is a reporter, a star of the Channel 11 news until a businessman denied her report that he was seeing a prostitute and took her to court. When “The Other Woman” begins, she’s starting a new job at a newspaper, the Boston Register. She doesn’t want to rock the boat in her first 90 days, but when she’s assigned to profile the candidates in the upcoming senate race, her investigative journalist skills kick in.
Who is the woman in the red coat at all the rallies and fundraisers? Could she be a candidate’s mistress, in an affair suspected (off the record) by his wife?
At the same time, Jane’s friend – and source – Boston police detective Jake Brogan is investigating a series of murders. The bodies of young woman are turning up under area bridges. The media is already branding the murderer “the bridge killer” – but Jake’s not convinced the killings are linked.
As Jane develops her story and Jake investigates the mounting murder cases, they begin to ask the same question: Are the killings connected to the political race? With the election looming, time to unravel the mystery is running out.
I started figuring out what was going on about two-thirds of the way through, but even so, it was still very suspenseful until the last few scenes. By then, the denouement seemed a bit over-the-top melodramatic and drawn out. Aside from that, I really enjoyed this book.
“The Other Woman” is a fantastic murder mystery. The intricately woven plots keep you guessing, and Ryan’s knack for ending her fast-paced chapters on a cliffhanger make the book next to impossible to put down. Ryan is a detail-oriented writer – the settings are easy to picture, every character has a unique voice, and the action is all believable. It’s easy to see why she’s won (or at least been nominated for) all the top mystery-writing awards.
This novel is very suspenseful, but the descriptions never get explicit or gruesome. Jane and Jake have some serious sexual tension, but these books don’t have anything I’d be embarrassed about showing my mother or a teenager. I recommend this for anyone who loves a good mystery. (less)
I loved "The Emperor's Conspiracy" from start to finish. The characters are clever and well-drawn, and the plot is carefully thought out. I highly rec...moreI loved "The Emperor's Conspiracy" from start to finish. The characters are clever and well-drawn, and the plot is carefully thought out. I highly recommend it. I have a more in-depth review posted at Fresh Fiction(less)
I don’t read many mysteries, and I’d never read anything by Tami Hoag until I picked up “Deeper Than the Dead” a couple of weeks ago. I should explain...moreI don’t read many mysteries, and I’d never read anything by Tami Hoag until I picked up “Deeper Than the Dead” a couple of weeks ago. I should explain that more clearly. A few months ago, I won copies of two books by Ms. Hoag, and I gave them to my mom, and she read them and gave them back, and then I started reading the paperback a couple of weeks ago.
“Deeper Than the Dead” is set in the dark ages of 1985, when I was in college. The author explains in her forward that this is before the internet, when computers were still uncommon in law enforcement offices, DNA evidence was so new it had never been used to get a conviction, and criminal profiling was in its infancy. Pop culture references and descriptions of ’80s fashion and hairstyles served as regular reminders that the story was taking place 26 years ago. Only once did I forget and wonder for a moment why the detectives didn’t look something up online.
The story takes place in the small California community of Oak Knoll. Three children literally stumble across a woman’s mutilated body, partially buried in the woods near their shortcut home. Her eyes and mouth are glued shut, her eardrums punctured. The search begins for the “See No Evil Killer.”
Hoag weaves a finely-tuned tale of dark secrets in the tight-knit community. The children who find the body are tied to the most likely suspects. The sheriff is close friends with the head of a women-empowerment program linked to all the victims. The owner of the junk yard where the victims’ cars turn up is not the most likely suspect in their murders, but a grisly discovery opens a new case.
Just went I thought I knew for sure who the killer was, some new twist or something one of the other suspects said, would make me change my mind. As I read the final chapters yesterday, my husband was sitting nearby, grinning at the faces I was making at each new reveal, and he laughed out loud at one audible, “Eeeew.”
As I said, I don’t read a lot of mysteries, but “Deeper Than the Dead” is definitely one of the best, and it puts Tami Hoag on my list of recommended authors.(less)
Contains observations that may be considered SPOILERS.
I received an advanced reading copy of “The Left Hand of God” through a giveaway at the Goodread...moreContains observations that may be considered SPOILERS.
I received an advanced reading copy of “The Left Hand of God” through a giveaway at the Goodreads website. It’s not something I would have picked up on my own. I’m not sure if that small detail colored the way I feel about the novel, but it’s worth mentioning.
The plot seems fairly standard, combining elements from myth, fairy tales and film. Young boys are bought or kidnapped and brought to a monastery where they are cruelly treated and trained for warfare. The protagonist is Thomas Cale, a boy brought to the Sanctuary as a child and who is now the top student. He witnesses an unexpected and savage event that leads him to escape the Sanctuary, taking with him three others. They make their way to Memphis, major city, where Cale earns both respect and hatred. He falls in love, and that completely changes his outlook and approach to combat. The book concludes with a massive battle between the Redeemers of the Sanctuary and the Materazzi of Memphis.
The story doesn’t end there, because “The Left Hand of God” is, in another commonality, the first in a trilogy.
I must admit that the novel is compelling. I was never inclined to set it down and leave it, which I have done with books on rare occasions. I wanted to know what happened to the characters and what secrets they were hiding. I can’t say that the characters are well developed. We don’t often see into their thoughts, and when we do, it’s as though the door is cracked just a little. We get a glimpse, just enough to let us know that there is much more that remains tantalizingly beyond our view.
The time and place of the story is one of the most frustrating elements. According to the back cover blurb and the publisher’s website, “The Left Hand of God” is set in a “distant, dystopian past.” Many of the locations we visit or hear about bear familiar names: Memphis, the Appalachians, Fatima, Silbury Hill. Even the ones that didn’t sound familiar tend to show up in a web search, although they are not close together. The presence of plate armour suggests that it takes place during the middle ages, though certain aspects seem more akin to the Roman Empire. The characters will make one comment that makes it seem later in history then say something that seems contradictory.
The language includes many unfamiliar terms, some of which appears to be slang. I’m not sure those words are British slang or something that Hoffman made up. The characters know what they mean, so nothing is defined for us. Sometimes the meaning is easily discerned, but at other times I had no idea what I was supposed to be picturing or what the character was trying to say. A couple of times, I was left wondering if I was experiencing a typographical error. When the book says “squits” was it a typo for “squirts?” Hard to say. As I mentioned, the copy I have is an advanced reading copy, specifically an “advance uncorrected proof.” Had the book not been released shortly before I started reading it, I might have felt a duty to record the many typos and mail it in. In the past, I have read ARCs that contained typos and I have found those typos in for-sale copies of the book. I truly wonder if the “uncorrected proofs” are actually used for proofing.
In addition to the typos, I found any number of sentences that were not well constructed. I sometimes had to read over a line several times, trying different inflections and breaks to figure out exactly what Hoffman intended to say. Most of the time, I eventually understood. A couple of times, I just moved on. Those lines just weren’t written clearly, and could have been broken up or rearranged to have them make more sense.
The Redeemers are a religious cult that is very much based on Christianity or perhaps more specifically Catholicism. They worship the Hanged Redeemer, a martyr worshipped as the son of God, and death without redemption means burning for all eternity. Hoffman makes frequent and obvious parallels between the faiths. One of the primary Redeemer characters reveals, at the end of the novel, a prophesy given to him by a vision of the Redeemer’s mother.
It was at that point, at the end, that I came to believe that the novel takes place in a history so long ago that it’s been forgotten, with mankind and all civilization wiped out in the interim and reinvented by a God trying again to get things right.
So just tell me that. Don’t leave me trying to figure out if this is an alternate history or a fantasy world that just seems like Earth. I also would have liked more insight into who was telling the story. The book starts out (and I’m pulling this from the official series website, not the uncorrected proof):
“Listen. The Sanctuary of the Redeemers on Shotover Scarp is named after a damned lie, for there is no redemption that goes on there…”
The first word suggests that someone is telling this story, someone who witnessed the events or who’s passing down the legend. It’s not written in first person, so it can’t be (or shouldn’t be) any of the characters we meet in the book. Sometimes, the narrator is omniscient. He knows what’s going on at the Sanctuary after Cale leaves, he tells us about secret meetings between a Redeemer agent and Kitty the Hare, a perverse businessman who seems to have some sort of physical deformity or mutation. Sometimes the narrator gives us a glimpse into a character’s mind; at other times, we get no insight into what anyone is really thinking.
While I was compelled to finish reading this book, I am not inclined to buy the next two books. I feel no pressing knowledge to know what happens next. So much of the story seems trite, endless set-up for religious and social commentary from the author, which he may reveal by the end or perhaps he’ll just let the readers decide for themselves.
A final note: on the official website for the trilogy I found a map of Cale’s world. I’m not sure if the map or any reference to it was included in the for-sale version. If not, it should have been. It doesn’t offer any particular insight, but it would have been a nice touch. I would also like to have had a guide to pronunciation for unfamiliar names and words and a dictionary of the unfamiliar or slang terms.
“The Left Hand of God” was released in hardcover in June 2010. It’s available for $25.95 from Penguin.com. (less)
I thought I had an idea of why most television is crap, and I was pretty much right. In "'Hello,' Lied the Agent" Ian Gurvitz takes the reader through...moreI thought I had an idea of why most television is crap, and I was pretty much right. In "'Hello,' Lied the Agent" Ian Gurvitz takes the reader through the trying process to get a half-hour comedy show picked up by a network. Even before his steady gig on staff for "Becker" wraps up, Gurvitz is pitching ideas to studios and networks. On those occasions when he gets a nibble and is asked to produce the script for a pilot, nothing ever seems to be good enough. Rather, I should say that nothing is ever simple-minded enough for the execs. We see them pass on good ideas, see them really exited about projects they later reject, and see them proceed with surprisingly similar ideas a year later. Through it all, Gurvitz maintains a mostly positive and very appreciative attitude towards his work.
In addition to Gurvitz's notes (this is a journal of his experiences over about 18 months), he includes clippings from trade publications and entertainment websites. They range from articles about the shows that get a greenlight for production to calendars of the then-current television season.
I found it odd that, in the beginning, Gurvitz used a lot of footnotes to define industry terminology, but later in the book, he worked the definitions into the text (a much preferred method). I knew what 99% of the terms meant, but because Gurvitz would sometimes embellish on the actual definition with a comic jab or personal insight, I still felt I had to stop and read them all.
My only criticisms are first, the rampant use of profanity. I use it myself, but I'm more uncomfortable reading and writing curse words than I am saying them, and I don't feel their use added any insight into his feelings most of the time. Secondly, I think the publisher could have made the trade articles a little larger on the page, so they'd be easier to read. Better yet, they could have re-typed some of the articles (or gotten the files from the editors). Then again, perhaps those editors told them what they could use and how large they were allowed to make them.
All in all, this is a book that any aspiring TV writer should read, if for no other reason than to be prepared for the uphill battle both to sell the idea, then to complete a script that's acceptable to the many personalities that will have a yay-or-nay in the process.(less)
Eloisa James is an expert at weaving multiple storylines into her novels, setting us up for future books. "When the Duke Returns" focuses primarily on...moreEloisa James is an expert at weaving multiple storylines into her novels, setting us up for future books. "When the Duke Returns" focuses primarily on Isadore Del Fino, who was married by proxy when she was a child. Years later, her husband returns but he's not ready to claim his bride. He's not sure he wants to keep her.
The story builds very nicely. It's a romance novel, so you know everything will work out for our hero and heroine, but the journey is well written and enjoyable.
I found the ending a bit contrived, but other than that, I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to readers of historical romance.(less)
I won a copy of "The Exile of Sara Stevenson" here on goodreads. I finished it a couple of days ago, and I've been mulling over what I should say abou...moreI won a copy of "The Exile of Sara Stevenson" here on goodreads. I finished it a couple of days ago, and I've been mulling over what I should say about it. I was very intrigued by the blurb that suggested a supernatural element.
I began reading the book during my day at Jury Duty, and it was a great way to pass the time. The characters are all well-drawn and intriguing. It's written in first-person, and we can tell that the other people populating the story have secrets of their own, but we must discover them along with Sara.
I found the dialogue to be very well written. Almost everyone who appears in the book is Scottish, but they speak in a variety of dialects, and author Darci Hannah does a great job of writing so that I could really hear the characters' voices.
The farther along I got into the book, I found myself wondering when the mysterious time travel element would come into play. It's well over halfway into the book when we get our first inkling of what's going to happen (or what's happening, rather).
When we reach the denouement, I found it a little odd and not entirely satisfying. On the surface, it's the kind of lighthouse story that might be passed along from generation to generation. Maybe there's just a little too much to it. I don't want to say too much and ruin it for anyone.
I enjoy historical romances, some historical non-fiction, and science fiction. I'm not someone who usually enjoys "good literature." Please don't take that the wrong way, Darci! Aside from that little bit of oddness at the end, I really enjoyed the book. I would say that I might have enjoyed it more had the supernatural element not been revealed in the cover blurb; then the events would have been more mysterious and let me "play along" with Sara trying to figure out what's happening. However, that element is part of what interested me in reading the book, and not giving a hint could also disappoint readers who don't like that kind of thing in their fiction.
I look forward to hearing what other readers thought of this book.(less)
On the trail of her scheming husband, a wife discovers his twin is anything but identical.
A businesswoman bilked by her new husband teams up with his...moreOn the trail of her scheming husband, a wife discovers his twin is anything but identical.
A businesswoman bilked by her new husband teams up with his identical twin to get back her fortune. Lady Olivia Shea soon sees that her brother-in-law, Samson Carlisle, may look like her husband Edmund, but the two are nothing alike, and Samson is the better man. Samson is also smitten with Olivia, at once jealous that his brother made such a catch and suspicious that she is part of a plot to steal from him.
The chemistry between the two characters is well-defined, and the mystery is fairly well plotted. Early on, author Adele Ashworth shares the secrets of the perfume industry the plot revolves around, and the various basic scents, but she never really develops that. Her writing is very descriptive, sometimes ploddingly so, and some overly long, convoluted sentences are occasionally hard to follow. The resolution is quite literally tacked on, when it seems there's no hope for Sam and Olivia to live happily ever after.
Equally disappointing, the 'scandal' of the title is not revealed until the very end, and while we're told about its consequences, we never really see them. It was hardly worth the emphasis of mentioning it in the title. Also, perhaps a minor point, but whoever approved the cover art should have taken a closer look at the 'newsprint' ? which refers to Saddam Hussein and Iraq.
In short, 'Duke of Scandal' is a pleasant enough read, but it had the potential to be so much better.(less)