Review: Solemn Graves: A Billy Boyle World War II Mystery by James R. Benn

Reviewed by Theodore Feit

 

51kjn0zzfgl-_sy346_The adventures of Billy Boyle during World War II bring him close to the front lines shortly after the D-Day invasion of Normandy to investigate a suspicious murder of a communications major in a farmhouse. He arrives with Big Mike at the house which was occupied by a Nazi military police group and now serves as headquarters for an American battalion.

The investigation is hampered by the existence of a ghost army nearby operated by actors and technicians who perform theatrical stunts to mislead the German forces.  Shrouded in secrecy, it makes Billy’s task more difficult.  And, of course, the various potential witnesses have their own agenda, withholding information vital to Billy’s solving the case. As a result, Billy dives into the biggest operation of the invasion forces, seeking to interview a Nazi officer behind German lines.

Like all the previous novels in this wonderful series, the descriptions of the battles and army operations are real and gripping. The Billy Boyle series only gets better with each new book.   Each has been highly recommended, and Solemn Graves joins that list.

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Online Issue 14

TSP OI14 coverAuthor Lee Murray talks about her novelInto the Sounds, and how traveling has shaped her life and writing, the actor she’d pick to play her protagonist for the series and her faithful author assistant, Bella.

Stuart R. West drops by to talk about his faithful companion, Zak, and his novels Secret Society (which may be one of the most original takes on a serial killer story) and how a real-life ghost town inspired Ghosts of Gannaway.

Jon O’Bergh is back to share the music his characters in The Shatter Point would listen to.

S.D. Hintz is also giving us the goods on the nosey neighbors who inspired The Witching Well and the reason he may just live in the creepiest house, ever.

ICYMI, Brian talked to Steph Post and Nik Norpon about their tattoos. And there’s a new story up at Zombie Cat: Waiting on the Stress Boxes by David Hagerty.

Goldilocks and the Dark Barometer

Every now and again, someone writes about the darkness that permeates Young Adult fiction. This leads to speculation about whether it is too dark, and summaries on the topic. I could do likewise, but I felt  already did that so well, I don’t need to.

What I did decide was that I would focus on reading some popular YA authors and titles and see what I thought. So, reads over the past few months classified as YA have included Nightwolf, Salt, The Fragile Ordinary, The Forest of Hands and Teeth

Out of all of these offerings, Nightwolf is probably the darkest. Salt has monsters and The Forest of Hands and Teeth has zombies, but Nightwolf focuses on real horrors some kids today live with, and although it isn’t pure noir, there is a sense of hopelessness and futility that permeate the story. It isn’t what I’d call cheery. The other titles have varying degrees of hope – for resolution of problems, for overcoming difficult situations, for the future. I didn’t find any of this unrelentingly dark.

Now, your mileage may vary. But here’s the thing. Young people are dealing with a lot of crap. We did, too, in our day. They’re trying to figure out who they are, what they want out of life and what others expect of them. They have to make decisions that will shape their entire future. And they’re looking at a war of words between politicians that might lead to war with North Korea and all kinds of other crap going on that could change their future. They want to assume control of their lives but they aren’t adults, so they’re caught between taking responsibility for their actions and having limited authority for their choices.

And everything they do is presented on social media for all the world to see.

Frankly, the stuff I’ve heard about via the kids over recent years has been numbing. They are far more aware of a lot of crap than I ever was. And I specifically started watching The Walking Dead because their biomom was watching it with them when they were eleven. Brian and I always felt we should have some sense of what they were watching and being exposed to so that we could have informed conversations about it, so a show I’d resisted watching became part of our regular viewing. (And they had some good seasons, so for a while it wasn’t a chore at all.) Frankly, if they can watch that when they aren’t even teens, it’s got to be pretty damn hard to top that level of darkness in fiction.

People read for all kinds of reasons, and one of those reasons is to escape. Another is to learn about things they otherwise wouldn’t get answers about. And another is to help them process things they’re dealing with.

Hells bells, I’m just glad to see young people reading. You want to read dark? Read on, I say.

Reviews:

Review: Salt by Hannah Moskowitz

 

Review: The Fragile Ordinary by Samantha Young

 

Review: Creatures of Want and Ruin by Molly Tanzer

 

Review: The Middleman by Olen Steinhauer

 

Review: Walking Shadows by Faye Kellerman

 

Review: Robert B. Parker’s Colorblind by Reed Farrel Coleman

 

Bye Bye Kindle Boards

From their new terms of service:

“You agree to grant to KBOARDS.COM a non exclusive, royalty free, worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual license to reproduce, distribute, transmit, sublicense, create derivative works of, publicly display, publish and perform any materials and other information you submit to any public areas, chat rooms, bulletin boards, newsgroups or forums of KBOARDS.COM or which you provide by email or any other means to KBOARDS.COM and in any media now known or hereafter developed. Further, you grant to KBOARDS.COM the right to use your name and or user name in connection with the submitted materials and other information as well as in connection with all advertising, marketing and promotional material related thereto, together with use on any other VerticalScope Inc. web sites. You agree that you shall have no recourse against VerticalScope Inc. for any alleged or actual infringement or misappropriation of any proprietary right in your communications to KBOARDS.COM.”

You have to email and ask for all your information to be removed. Always nice for some assholes to come along and change the terms of service after the fact so that people’s information is already being sold. Jerks. Time to sign off.

Hulu Programming Campaign for Letterkenny

Now, Brian’s new favorite show is a Canadian show called Letterkenny. The first two seasons are on Hulu, and he wants them to get all the seasons added. So here’s hoping some of you will have a full appreciation for the quirky humor and jump on the bandwagon. Season 1 has a running joke starting episode 2 that has payoff in the final episode of the season…. just brilliant. These clips have nothing to do with the ostrich fucker, or my favorite joke about a certain book, or even the super-soft birthday party, but they do help set the tone of the show.

 

Now, this one… maybe not young kid friendly. But a great illustration of ‘show not tell’ writing. I know exactly what Wayne and Daryl think about Squirrely Dan’s revelation about his sexual experience without so much as a word from either of them.

 

Review: The Middleman by Olen Steinhauer

Reviewed by Theodore Feit

(Note: This title was previously reviewed by Sandra Ruttan here)

9781250036179A thriller wrapped in a mystery which cannot make up its mind where it is going, or even coming from.  At the heart of the plot, Special Agent Rachel Proulx of the FBI is studying and preparing a report on terrorist groups.  Consequently, she spearheads the FBI’s efforts to monitor a group whose leader does not favor active terrorism, but cerebral efforts to change society.

The FBI plants an undercover agent in the group and he is forced to act as a sniper on July 4, 2017, shooting a Congresswoman spearheading an investigation into a couple of financial institutions,  Three other members of Congress are killed, although the Congresswoman is only shot in the neck and survives.  One of the other three is also a leader in the investigation of the financial companies.  So much for peaceful demonstrations, and the group is now classified as a terrorist organization.

What remains is for Rachel and the undercover agent to team up and try to find out what really took place along the way and discover the answers to unexplained questions and events, making these attempts while outcasts from their own FBI.  While the novel is constructed to move along and keep the reader interested, it is buried in obscurity and sometimes difficult to follow. For the most part, the story meanders back and forth, past to present, adding little to forward movement.  It really is a tale of conspiracies compounded by double-crosses, but not a bad read, and is recommended.

Review: Walking Shadows by Faye Kellerman

Reviewed by Theodore Feit

51axfvx5mjlAfter 35 years with the LAPD, Peter Decker took his well-earned pension and a supposedly softer job in a small town in upstate New York.  So much for wishes.  Now two years later and a homicide in each, he now has a third, when residents complain about vandalism, and a body is discovered in the area.  This discovery leads Decker (with the help of his wife Rina Lazarus) on a wild chase involving a 20-year-old double murder and a robbery of a jewelry store in a nearby town.

Complicating the task of finding the murderer is the fact that Decker needs the cooperation of the police department of the neighboring town, whose chief of police was the one who made his reputation in solving the old case.  Another complication is that the persons convicted of the robbery-murder, one of whom is the father of the victim serving a 20-year term, and providing Decker with no help.

It’s kind of hard to believe that Walking Shadows is the 25th novel in the series. I guess it has stood the test of time.  Like its predecessors, the novel is a police procedural in which Decker logically solves the crime step by step, applying logic and asking questions, lots of questions.

Recommended.

Review: Robert B. Parker’s Colorblind by Reed Farrel Coleman

Reviewed by Theodore Feit

51dg4d-tz7l-_sy346_One would not expect racial unrest in the sleepy town of Paradise, MA, but Jesse Stone and his cops have their hands full.  To begin with, a black woman is assaulted in a neighboring town and it is made to look like a murder that occurred in Paradise years before.  The woman was in a relationship with a white man, and unfortunately she dies.  Then another black female, Alisha, who Jesse hired for diversity purposes, responds to a call at a bar and is taunted by bikers.  She also has a relationship with a white man.  Soon, however, things get worse.

A cross is burned on the lawn of Jesse’s old house, which was bought by a couple, a white woman and a dark Indian man, with two children.  Apparently the fire was set with kerosene, and a check of places where it could have been bought turns up a CCTV image.  When Alisha spots the person captured in the CCTV as she emerges from a bar, legally over the limit, she chases him into a blind alley and responds to what she believes is a shot by shooting and killing him.

It turns out that the victim is the son of a strident agitator seeking to incite a race war.  Of course, a black cop killing a white person is the perfect excuse.  Especially when the investigation turns up no weapon by or near the victim.  Jesse to the rescue.  As a side story, Jesse now is abstaining from alcohol and is attending AA meetings.

Mr. Coleman continues to live up to the standards set by Robert B. Parker in this latest addition to the Jesse Stone series, and it is recommended.

Online Issue 9

While the #SecondCivilWar tweets remind of us what can be great about social media, many are feeling less than excited about the Fourth of July this year.  For those people, Oprah is broadcasting from the north with a message of hope.

 

Life on the Inside: Roy Harper Talks About the Origins of SHANK and HEIST

 

Check out Brian Cohn’s soundtrack for The Last Detective 

and find out what’s on his To Be Read pile

 

We also have Paul Levine’s soundtrack for Bum Deal

and

Michael Zimecki talks about

Death Sentences, his Protagonist’s Fears and His Inspirations

Reviews:

Exit Strategy by Charlton Pettus

Murder on the Left Bank by Cara Black

Dead If You Don’t by Peter James

 

Did you miss it?

Brian talks to Chris Holm about his ink… tattoo ink, that is.

Online Issue 8 had some great stuff. Paul D. Brazill, more Brian Cohn, and Anne Frasier’s soundtrack for The Body Counter

Online Issue 7 featured Kevin Wignall, Jo Perry and Chris Roy.

Our full Online Issue Archive is available through the link at the top of the page, or here.

Elsewhere…

The uproar over the ALA’s decision to rename an award has me squirming about racial language while David Nemeth pokes white people with a big stick over the controversy and Scott Adlerberg talks about asylum seekers and immigration issues in fiction.

Online Issue 8

 

On the book front…

Paul D. Brazill talks about Last Year’s Man while I weigh in with my quick take on Brazill’s latest

Anne Frasier is back with The Body Counter and she shares her music soundtrack with us

Do you know who Brian Cohn is? If you don’t, time to go buy a book! Brian talks about his latest, The Unraveling of Brendan Meeks, while I share my thoughts on his other book, The Last Detective

Reviews of Bearskin * Death of an Honest Man * Head Wounds

Did you miss it?

Brian’s latest Music Monday post is right here

I also shared some very personal things about my latest writing projects and myself over at Crimespree

Cages

It’s easy to sound like you have principles until you have to take a stand. A lot of my friends on social media have been saying that if you’re okay with children being kept in cages then unfriend them. This came to a head yesterday on Facebook when an author made a letter-of-the-law post about crossing the border being a misdemeanor and then went on to point out that nobody arrested gets to keep their kids with them in a cell.

Mr. Lofland then cried victim because some people unfriended him.

Look, if people on your friends list are saying ‘get off my lawn’ if you’re okay with kids in cages and then you make a post like that, you were asking for it. And for Lee to suggest it wasn’t political is asinine. Of course it was.

Journalism is as much about what you don’t say as what you do say. Making that post and failing to point out that when someone is arrested for solicitation or for being suspected of murder we do not take their babies and put them in cages. We don’t tell the staff who have to care for those children not to comfort them.

What also was not discussed was how these families were treated until a matter of months ago.

It wasn’t a post about the letter of the law. It was a post justifying putting those children in concentration camps.

Mr. Lofland has had many followers flock to his defense calling those who disagreed with him names in comment after comment. Meanwhile, Mr. Lofland has blocked myself and others.

And I’m okay with that. If you’re okay with kids being kept in cages then either have the common sense to keep your mouth shut about it if you don’t want to find out who has a moral problem with that or find the door. I suspect I’m not the author for you, because I have moral issues with things like that, and I have no interest voluntarily engaging with your warped world view.

And for some, it’s time to buck up or shut up. I really didn’t think I needed to say that if you’re okay with putting these children in cages best we go our separate ways. I thought that my friends list had been thinned out over politics already, but apparently not. Authors who have been railing against this policy can put their money where their mouth is and hit the unfriend button and boycott The Writer’s Police Academy.

The fact that Lofland blocked myself and others because we disagreed with him is more than enough to tell me his post had a clear agenda. But he wanted to come off like a victim and get sympathy in the process.

I’m not a victim for being blocked by him for simply stating my issues with his post (and not calling him any names).

The victims are children taken away from their parents and stuck in cages.

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