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KRL is a California Magazine with Local Focus and Global Appeal.
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Friday, October 25, 2013

Standing in Another Man’s Grave By Ian Rankin


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Ted Feit


Old soldiers may never die and John Rebus hopefully will never fade away. After a couple of years in retirement, he’s back as a civilian consultant on cold cases (which seems to be becoming a trend in resurrecting protagonists in crime fiction). In the course of this work he is informed by the mother of a girl who disappeared many years before that her daughter may have been the first in a series of disappearances ( and presumably murders) along a northern highway (serial murders apparently are becoming de rigueur among retired detectives as well). And Rebus is off to the wars, albeit with no official standing.



Image source: Back Bay Books

Rebus worms his way into an active investigation with the help of his old sidekick, Siobhan Clarke. And he uses all the old techniques frowned upon by his old nemesis, Malcolm Fox, of the Complaints, including consorting with the likes of gangsters such as Rafferty to gain information. While a massive police force goes about the investigation by the book, of course Rebus goes it alone.

It’s good to have Rebus back, and hopefully more is in store because the rules have been changed and he has applied for reinstatement. All he has to do is pass the physical. Can he do so, despite all that hard liquor and cigarettes? And, of course, if successful, Fox is looking forward to Rebus making a colossal mistake on the job to justify his enmity.

As with all the previous novels in the series, this one is highly recommended.



Ted & Gloria Feit live in Long Beach, New York, a few miles outside of New York City. For 26 years, Gloria was the manager of a medium-sized litigation firm in lower Manhattan. Her husband, Ted, is an attorney & former stock analyst, publicist & writer/editor for, over the years, several daily, weekly and monthly publications. Having always been avid mystery readers & since they're now retired, they're able to indulge their passion. Their reviews appear online as well as in three print publications in the UK & US.


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Styx & Stone: An Ellie Stone Mystery By James Ziskin


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Cynthia Chow


Check out details on how to enter to win a copy of this book at the end of the review.
In 1960, Eleonora "Ellie" Stone is a reporter who plays in a man's world. She drinks hard, plays harder, and occasionally invites a "gentleman" over for a nightcap. However, a call informing her that her father was just beaten and left hospitalized in New York, has her rushing to his side and reliving and regretting the massive breach between them and the teenage incident that severed their relationship and made her a disappointment in Abraham Stone's eyes.

Ellie puts all this aside though when she begins to suspect that her father was not a victim of a random burglary gone wrong. A professor in Columbia University's Italian Department, Professor Stone was a powerful and unwavering force who refused to compromise his ethics, whether it involved changing a grade for the son of a potential donor or approving the tenure of a brilliant but relentlessly ambitious candidate.

All of Ellie's instincts refuse to allow her to accept the police’s and the University's declaration that her father was not the target of an attack, especially when she learns that another professor from the Italian Department recently died in a pronounced suicide. A missing manuscript, the disappearance of an unusual collection of items from her father's apartment, and the desecration of her brother's grave, all combine into a puzzle that at first seems baffling but could all tie into one tragic tale. There is no little amount of political infighting within the University, and considering the rather impressive amount of sexual peccadillos going on, this all provides Ellie with an ample number of suspects and shady, over-educated criminals.

In Ellie author Ziskin has found a character who shields herself with a strong and aggressive exterior that hides a vulnerability, as she still winces in pain and shame whenever she thinks of how she disappointed her father. While her shell protects her from condemning judgments of others who frown on her assertion of professional independence and liberal sexuality, Ellie still feels the pain of potential rejection and hurt when she succumbs to an affair with an angelically beautiful professor. Having been born at the end of World War II, the twenty-three year-old still has an acute awareness of the racism that faces other Jews and how that may have bled into the attacks on her father. Luckily, Ellie finds an unusual ally in a diminutive investigating detective who continually seems surprised by her intelligent observations and conclusions.


Image source: Seventh Street Books

While inevitable comparisons to Mad Men will be made, Ziskin has created a labyrinth of plot twists and clues that intriguingly incorporate the author's background in Italian and Romantic Literature. Ziskin perfectly captures the voice of a young woman who wears a masculine exterior that shields a very fragile feminine self.

I also love mysteries that educate a reader and weave knowledge seamlessly into the plot, so I reveled in how Dante and his works are incorporated into the mystery. The humor and complexities of the academia is as well highlighted, never the more so in a free-loving female doctoral candidate who acted out a nude scene in a performance of Our Town. Despite there actually being no nudity in the written text, it did ensure that the entire Department attended the performance. The romance of the Sixties loses much of its shine when it exposed for its sexist and racist attitudes, but the conclusion seems to reveal that people continue to be motivated by needs that never change. The author has created an extremely twisty tale of murder that at its core centers around a very vulnerable but brave heroine making her way through a man's world.

To enter to win a copy of Styx & Stone, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Stone”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen October 19, 2013. U.S. residents only.

Cynthia Chow is the branch manager of Kaneohe Public Library on the island of Oahu. She balances a librarian lifestyle of cardigans and hair buns with a passion for motorcycle riding and regrettable tattoos (sorry, Mom).



Friday, October 4, 2013

Death on the Greasy Grass: A Spirit Road Mystery By C.M. Wendelboe



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Cynthia Chow


Check out details on how to enter to win a copy of this book at the end of the review.

An Aloha shirt-wearing tourist cheering for Colonel Custer at a reenactment of the Battle Of Little Big Horn may not seem to be an unusual set up for a mystery, but considering that the tourist is Manny Tanno, an FBI agent and member of the Lakota tribe, this does set the unique tone for this very resonant yet entirely humorous third mystery featuring the Native American federal investigator. His large partner, Willie with Horn, would rather have vacationed at Yosemite or actually anywhere else Manny insisted on visiting than the battle site at Crow Agency where the Lakota were once forbidden from entering.

Unfortunately, it's not Custer but a reenactor who falls when gunshots are fired and by the merit of their actually being present, Willie and Manny are taken off their vacations to coordinate with the tribal police to investigate whether the death is a simple accident or murder. When it's discovered that Harlan White Bird was a purveyor of priceless Native American artifacts–some real and others fake–murder looks to be much more probable, especially when they learn of the disappearance of the journal of Levi Star Dancer, a Crow warrior who recorded his life from the shattering events of 1876 until his death in 1887. Considering the pride of tribe members, the explosive secrets hidden within the journal murder, and not an incompetent accident becomes a definite probability.

With the reluctant cooperation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs tribal policeman, Matthew ‘Stumper” LaPierre, Manny and Willie investigate the many resentments and offenses taken against the victim. The arson death of one of their suspects leads them to a congressional candidate as well as Chenoa Star Dancer, a former model for Montana’s State Tourism calendar and who embodies the character of a femme fatale if ever there was one.



Image source: Penguin Books

Manny Tanno is delightfully practical and realistic about his capabilities. He's diabetic, struggles with his cravings for cigarettes and has a fiancée making wedding plans while Manny himself has barely managed to accept that he will soon have to purchase an engagement ring! Reluctant-to-commit does not come close to defining Manny's state of mind. The horrific shooting of someone close to Manny forces him to reevaluate his life as he realizes that he was not made to function alone and realizes how much he needs others to bounce idea off of and share concerns and occasional visions.

Just as interesting as the murder, is the lore and background the author provides readers in a way so entertaining that I found the journals of Levi Star Dancer as compelling as the present narration. Levi never forgot the betrayal of Eagle Bull; anger and unwillingness to forgive colored Levi’s entire life. The secrets his journals reveal could destroy the legacies of two tribes and more than one has enough will to protect their lineage’s pride and honor. The Native American tribes were warring amongst themselves before the whites ever came and their resentment and anger have very long memories. The historical information proves to be invaluable and fascinating and always as engaging as the main mystery of the novel, making this an enjoyable read that sneaks in a thoroughly riveting education.

To enter to win a copy of Death on the Greasy Grass: A Spirit Road Mystery, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Grass”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen October 15, 2013. U.S. residents only.


Cynthia Chow is the branch manager of Kaneohe Public Library on the island of Oahu. She balances a librarian lifestyle of cardigans and hair buns with a passion for motorcycle riding and regrettable tattoos (sorry, Mom).