Opening Lines: The Godwulf Manuscript by Robert B. Parker

We all know we’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover (yet, publishing companies spend big bucks on cover design/art). But, the opening sentence(s)/paragraph(s) are fair game. So, when I stumble on a good opening (or remember one and pull it off the shelves), I’ll throw it up here. Dare you not to read the rest (plus the 39 novels to follow by Parker (not to mention the 8+ by Ace Atkins)).

from The Godwulf Manuscript by Robert B. Parker:

The office of the university president looked like the front parlor of a successful Victorian whorehouse. It was paneled in big squares of dark walnut, with ornately figured maroon drapes at the long windows. There was maroon carpeting and the furniture was black leather with brass studs. The office was much nicer than the classrooms; maybe I should have worn a tie.

Bradford W. Forbes, the president, was prosperously heavy—reddish face; thick, longish, white hair; heavy white eyebrows. He was wearing a brown pin-striped custom-tailored three-piece suit with a gold Phi Beta Kappa key on a gold watch chain stretched across his successful middle. His shirt was yellow broadcloth and his blue and yellow striped red tie spilled out over the top of his vest.

As he talked, Forbes swiveled his chair around stared at his reflection in the window. Flakes of the season’s first snow flattened out against it and dissolved and trickled down onto the white brick sill. It was very gray out, a November grayness that is peculiar to Boston in late fall, and Forbes’s office seemed cheerier than it should have because of that.

He was telling me about the sensitive nature of a college president’s job, and there was apparently a lot to say about it. I’d been there twenty minutes and my eyes were beginning to cross. I wondered if I should tell him his office looked like a whorehouse. I decided not to.

“Do you see my position, Mr. Spenser,” he said, and swiveled back toward me, leaning forward and putting both his hands palms down on the top of his desk. His nails were manicured.

“Yes, sir,” I said. “We detectives know how to read people.”

Forbes frowned and went on.

“It is a matter of the utmost delicacy, Mr. Spenser”—he was looking at himself in the glass again—”requiring restraint, sensitivity, circumspection, and a high degree of professionalism. I don’t know the kind of people who usually employ you, but…”

I interrupted him.

“Look, Dr. Forbes, I went to college once, I don’t wear my hat indoors. And if a clue comes along and bites me on the ankle, I grab it. I am not, however, an Oxford don. I am a private detective. Is there something you’d like me to detect, or are you just polishing up your elocution for next year’s commencement?”

Forbes inhaled deeply and let the air out slowly through his nose.

“District Attorney Frale told us you were somewhat overfond of your own wit.”

Operation Large Scotch: O.L.S. by Bill Flockhart: Terrorists Attempt the Unthinkable

Operation Large Scotch: O.L.S.

Operation Large Scotch: O.L.S.

by Bill Flockhart

Kindle Edition, 331 pg.

Read: January 21-23, 2019

Flockhart has given us a tale of horrible people doing horrible things in the name of various causes. There’s no attempt to minimize these acts, or is there any attempt by anyone to convince the reader that these groups are worthwhile. Just before (what we know as) the Good Friday Agreement is finalized, the 1972 Club (a reference to the Bloody Sunday massacre) sees their way of life and way of funding is at risk. They launch an ingenious and audacious (if troubling) effort to destabilize the British government while lining the Club’s bank accounts. Meanwhile, various intelligence services and armed services are at work, too, and showing a similar disregard for lives as the terrorists do.

Each group is convinced they’re in the right—at least they act as if they are. Flockhart doesn’t try to make any of the characters sympathetic, they aren’t charming ne’er-do-wells. They are soldiers, killers, and/or those who aid them. The reader is free to apply their own value to the actions taken by the characters. It’s uncommon for a writer to do this and a refreshing take.

I have to warn you, there is a rape scene/storyline that many of readers of The Irresponsible Reader will find offensive (all of the writers of The Irresponsible Reader did). I don’t take the position that rape is an unmentionable subject in fiction–but there’s a way to use it to depict reality and depravity responsibly, and Flockhart fails at this.

I feel bad about saying this, but if Brian May played a concert out of tune, someone should say it. In that vein, more often than not, Flockhart doesn’t use commas where he needs them. It’s distracting and detracts from the text (or I wouldn’t say anything). Similarly, his dialogue reads like the script from a drama from The Golden Age of Radio. which does create problems for the reader.

Ultimately, the technical problems were too much for me to overcome, and while Flockhart’s approach to the subject was atypical and fresh, it didn’t win me over. I can see where many readers would see the appeal to it (and many have). For readers who appreciate a bare-bones style and frank discussion of the acts of these various groups and how they attempt to achieve their ends, Operation Large Scotch: O.L.S. should prove to be a bracing and compelling read.

My thanks to damppebbles blog tours for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials (including a copy of the novel) they provided.

BOOK SPOTLIGHT: Operation Large Scotch: O.L.S. by Bill Flockhart

Today I welcome the Book Tour for Operation Large Scotch: O.L.S. by Bill Flockhart. Along with this spotlight post, I’ll be giving my take on the novel here in a bit. But let’s start by learning a little about this here book, okay?

Book Details:

Book Title: Operation Large Scotch: O.L.S. by Bill Flockhart
Release date: December 11, 2017
Format: Ebook/Paperback
Length: 331 pages

Book Blurb:

Fearing the Good Friday Agreement will effectively end the lifestyle his IRA terrorist cell has enjoyed for years, Michael Caldwell the leader of the 1972 Club (named after the Bloody Sunday Massacre) decides to turn his attention to targeting the UK Government economically. He launches an attack threatening to bomb the Scotch whisky industry unless the British Government pay the terrorists a £20m ransom.

Armitage Brown, Assistant Controller of MI5 is given the task of stopping the terrorist attack but is unable to get any information on the assailants as to how, where and when they are going to deploy their explosives if their demands are not met. He co-ordinates a strategy, using all the emergency services, to thwart the terrorists under the code name ‘Operation Large Scotch.’

Bothe the military and the intelligence services have been guilty of murderous acts going back over the previous eighteen years. John Johnston, a young Ulsterman, living thousands of miles away in South Africa, is determined to get revenge for the killing of his father in Belfast. With the assistance of Mossad, the Israeli Secret Service he releases information that will haunt both the British Military establishment and the terrorists.

Will MI5 succeed in preventing mayhem in various towns around Scotland?

About Bill Flockhart:

Bill Flockhart‘Operation Large Scotch’ is my first book and at my age (71) possibly my last. it reflects on my life in many respects having worked in a distillery in my early working life before digressing into financial services.

My interests are sport (especially golf, swimming and basketball, (the latter through my two sons who played at international level) and current affairs in our ever changing world.

I have always enjoyed a challenge, which producing a book has certainly proved to be, but I would recommend writing to the retired population as it certainly keeps your brain active.

Two years after publishing ‘operation large scotch’ I am delighted to release my second novel ‘She’s Not a Lovely Girl’ which is a sequel to my first book. I only hope it gives everyone the pleasure ‘O.L.S.’ did judging by the favourable reviews it received

Social Networks:

Facebook ~ Pinterest ~ Instagram ~ BookBub ~ LinkedIn

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK ~ Amazon US

My thanks to damppebbles blog tours for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials (including a copy of the novel) they provided.

Deep Dark Night by Steph Broadribb: High Stakes Danger for Lori Anderson in the Windy City

Deep Dark Night

Deep Dark Night

by Steph Broadribb
Series: Lori Anderson, #4

Kindle Edition, 320 pg.
Orenda Books, 2020

Read: January 16-17, 2020
Grab a Steph Broadribb book from your local indie bookstore!

I’ve always felt an element of fear about the jobs I do. In the right dosage it can help you. It gets your adrenaline firing, makes you think clearer, faster—gets you alert and ready to tackle anything that comes your way. But if the fear builds too much, all that good stuff swings things around; the nerves make you hesitant, jumpy and too cautious. That’s when you start making mistakes. And mistakes, in my world, can be fatal.

After barely getting to take a breath following the events of Deep Dirty Truth, Lori finally gets the chance to work off her debt to FBI Agent Monroe. This puts Lori and JT in Chicago trying to get the mobster Cabressa to take possession of some stolen goods. Once that’s done, a series of dominoes will fall and Monroe will be able to put him away for a very long time.

So he insists, anyway.

Step one involves Lori getting an invite to an incredibly exclusive Poker game, Step two involves giving her a crash course in playing Poker so she seems mostly credible in the game. (this isn’t presented as a comedic segment, but I chuckled at this part of the book—also, I’m jealous, I wish I could learn how to play like this).

Now, every thriller reader knows what will happen next—no plan, no matter how thorough, how well-thought-out no matter who’s involved, will work. If for no other reason than it would produce a dull novel. But also, every thriller reader has heard the line, “no plan survives first contact with the enemy” and knows it to be true. The questions that need to be answered are: how badly will the plan go awry? and How will Lori and JT react to it?

So let me assure you, when this plan is derailed, it’s derailed in a spectacular fashion, providing a lot of danger for our heroes, peril for those around them, and more than enough tension to satisfy a hungry reader. Lori and JT respond appropriately, not perfectly (which would be boring), but they display the stamina, resourcefulness, and tenacity we’ve come to expect from them.

The poker game collected quite the interesting mix of players—sports figures, politicians, as well as shady characters like Cabressa. When things go wrong during the game, it opens things up for a lot of drama and conflicting interests causing trouble for all involved. Suddenly, Lori and JT can’t focus solely on getting Cabressa to fall into Monroe’s trap—they have to worry about survival—their own, and as many others that they can help. Sure, Cabressa is still their target, but there’s a lot they have to go through before they can make him a priority.

I’m not going to get more in-depth than that, I’ll leave it there and say there’s more than enough going on plot-wise to fuel a book at least half again as long as this one. Broadribb has stacked the deck against the pair and it’s great to watch them try to navigate the situation.

The game takes place at the top of a pretty high building in Chicago and the action centers around that location, stories above the ground. In the real world, I’m pretty acrophobic—and occasionally (okay, more than occasionally), a movie can get me to feel the anxiety that heights can bring out in me. I don’t remember ever feeling symptoms while reading a book, but I did here. It’s not like Broadribb focused all that much on the height and risk of falling (it was there, but she didn’t belabor the point), but something about the way that she told the story, flicked that particular switch in my brain. There’s something very disconcerting about sitting in a comfortable seat (on the ground level like a sane person) but feeling like I was standing in a precarious* location several feet off the ground. I’m not promising that anyone else will experience what I did, I assume the rest of humanity is a bit better adjusted than I am, but for me that was an unexpected “bonus” to the book.

* Yeah, fine, my definition of a precarious location applies to perfectly safe—even benign—spots.

I’m a little worried about the long-term health of Lori’s elbows. She uses them so often as weapons, she probably heads back to Florida with at least one of them horribly bruised. I don’t remember this being the case in the previous novels, maybe I just forgot—or maybe she’s just relying on the technique in these circumstances (I remember more than once the narration in a Jack Reacher novel talking about the usefulness of that tactic compared to the use of a fist).

As far as long-term character development goes, Lori and JT start a conversation they’ve needed to have since, well, since we met the two of them about Dakota and why Lori didn’t tell JT about her before she did. This will prove helpful in the future and provide the opportunity for the relationship to grow and change. The two of them have some sort of plan going forward about their careers and daughter, but we’re going to have to come back to find out what they have in mind. Seeing these two deal with each other and their daughter is almost as rewarding to me as the action-hero kind of thing is, and Broadribb’s featuring both sides of Lori like this is a real strength of the series.

For my money, this is the best of the series—she’s got a real handle on these characters by now and knows just how to put them through the wringer in a way that provides real tension and thrills. I got more wrapped up in this than I expected to (and I had pretty high expectations at this point in the series), and it was absolutely worth it. Book five cannot arrive soon enough for me.

If you haven’t met this bounty hunter yet, you need to—either in the pages of this book or the beginning, either would work (but you might as well just buy the set all at once, you won’t be satisfied until you read them all). Deep Dark Night will win Broadribb some new fans and confirm those readers already along for the ride.

4 1/2 Stars

This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase from it, I will get a small commission at no additional cost to you. As always, opinions are my own.

Wizard Ring by Clare Blanchard: A Subtle Take on Contemporary Fantasy

Wizard Ring

Wizard Ring

by Clare BlanchardSeries: Wizards Series, #1

Kindle Edition, 284 pg.

Read: January 17-20, 2019

“You mean evil spirits, black magic, that sort of thing?” Sylvia asked. As can happen when unexpected doors are opened in the mind by experiences one lacks the vocabulary for, Sylvia found herself both believing and not believing what her mother was saying to her. She felt in her gut that it was the truth, but her rational mind was doggedly resisting it.

Sylvia is a Religious Studies teacher at a prestigious school (that is in danger of losing its luster), a single mother to a teenage son, the daughter of a fun character with a mysterious past and the possessor of a ring made by a legendary British alchemist. The book chronicles Sylvia’s exploration of the ring’s history and abilities while she tries to find stability in her teaching career, particularly in her new position.

I really appreciated the relationship between Rusty (her son) and Svetlana (her mother), and think it’s probably the strongest part of the novel. I’m not sure all their comedic antics were worth the time (or, at least I’m not sure they were that comedic), but their presence added a lot to this.

You could be forgiven if you walked away from this book thinking it was about the trials and travails of a decent woman (and some allies) working for a lazy, corrupt, and dictatorial school administration. At various times, the school storylines reminded me of recent works by Lisa Lutz, Richard Russo, I. M. Nemo, and Paul Goldstein. And had that been the sum of what this book is about, with a little bit of a family story on the side, I’d have very likely been satisfied (and it wouldn’t take much to edit the fantasy elements out of the book to give us this).

That’s because Blanchard brings the fantasy elements into this novel with a subtle, delicate touch—so subtle it’d be easy to miss at times. I’m honestly torn about this—on the one hand, I really appreciate this move. Its incumbent on the reader to decide, is there magic at work, or should our “rational minds…doggedly resist…” the idea? On the other hand, there’s part of me that thinks if I’m reading a book where magic happens, I shouldn’t have to wonder if I just read about it.

If I didn’t know better, I wouldn’t have thought that the author of The Tainted Vintage wrote this, the voices are so distinct. Wizard Ring is told in a rambling, circuitous style that will probably appeal to many readers who will find it charming and chatty (although I found it frequently frustrating and occasionally redundant).

At the end of the day, your appreciation for this book is going to come down to what you think of Blanchard’s approach to the magic involved—if you find the subtlety and hints appealing, you’ll likely enjoy this singular take on fantasy in a contemporary setting.

My thanks to damppebbles blog tours for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials (including a copy of the novel) they provided.

BOOK SPOTLIGHT: Wizard Ring by Clare Blanchard

Today I welcome the Book Tour for Wizard Ring by Clare Blanchard. Along with this spotlight post, I’ll be giving my take on the novel here in a bit. But let’s start by learning a little about this here book, okay?

Book Details:

Book Title: Wizard Ring by Clare Blanchard
Release date: August 24, 2019
Format: Ebook
Length: 284 pages

Book Blurb:

I knew nothing about the alchemist John Dee until one winter’s night in Prague when I met the ghost of a barber.

My name is Sylvia. I was just a burnt-out teacher with a subversive sense of humour. Then my mother gave me a magic ring made in the Prague workshop of John Dee.

I’ve never been the same since.

About Clare Blanchard:

 Clare BlanchardOriginally from the North Yorkshire coast in England, Clare Blanchard spent half her lifetime in Czechia in Central Europe, where her books are mainly set. Inspired by noir fiction, her settings are often like another character in the plot. She writes crime mysteries and dark urban fantasy with a historical twist.

Clare loves beautiful landscapes and architecture, cross-country skiing, the wine of South Moravia, and of course Czech beer. When she’s not being literary she knits funky socks.

Social Networks:

Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Website ~ Instagram

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK ~ Amazon US ~ Nook ~ Nook

My thanks to damppebbles blog tours for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials (including a copy of the novel) they provided.

The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling by Henry Fielding: BOOK I., Chapter v.-ix.

Fridays with the Foundling
(yeah, I know, I typically hate using actor’s images when it comes to discussing the source material…but, w/o Finney, I’m not doing this) Bridget shocks the housekeeper by showing actual tenderness and affection toward the (as yet unnamed) foundling. She follows that up with what could (should?) be construed as a less than compassionate move–she hunts down his mother (a far easier task than you’d expect) and brings her before the magistrate, Mr. Allworthy. Allworthy doesn’t condemn her for what she does, he gives her a lecture on morality, assures her he’ll take care of the child better than she could’ve, and then tries to get the name of the father from her. She doesn’t give that up, but does so in a way that she earns the approbation of Mr. Allworthy, as well as Miss Bridget and the housekeeper (who were absolutely not eavesdropping, they just happened to hear what happened between the magistrate and mother.

Really not a lot happens here, and Tom is “off-screen” for almost all of it. Still, it’s good to get this kind of thing out of the way and the narrator continues to be entertaining.