Bark of Night by David Rosenfelt: Another winner of a case for the lawyer who’s gone to the dogs

Bark of NightBark of Night

by David Rosenfelt
Series: Andy Carpenter, #19

eARC, 304 pg.
Minotaur Books, 2019
Read: July 3 – 4, 2019

I know it’s practically de rigueur for me to start off talking about how difficult it is to talk about yet another Andy Carpenter book, but I’m going to try to resist this time (no promises that I won’t resort to it next time).

Instead, I want to focus on people who read this blog and haven’t picked up a book in this series — let’s see if I can help you come to the light. Andy Carpenter is a defense attorney — thanks to some high profile cases, some lucrative lawsuits, (and some other things), he’s an independently wealthy defense attorney (see the first couple of books for details). He’s also lazy. These two traits generate a lawyer/protagonist who doesn’t want to take on clients who doesn’t want to go to work (he’s the anti-Lincoln Lawyer). He’d rather watch sports, hang out with his wife, kid, friends and dog (especially the latter) and maybe check-in on the dog rescue he runs with a former client. He only takes on a case when he likes the potential client, he feels an injustice is being done, his wife talks him into it — or the life of a dog lies in the balance (there’s a strong link between the first reason I listed and the last). This time out, it’s pretty much a combination of those motivations. Nevertheless, when he takes on a client, he pulls out all the stops for him or her. Much like with Perry Mason, you have to wonder why prosecutor’s don’t just drop charges when Andy shows up in court — you can bet his client will be exonerated.

Andy’s vet calls him to his office to talk about something — namely, this dog that had been brought in to be euthanized. Before he did that, someone in his office scanned the microchip in the dog. The man who paid for the euthanization, wasn’t the owner f the dog — because he’d been murdered shortly before the dog appeared. After some digging, Andy discovers that the man who brought the dog in is very likely connected to the murder (especially when they look at his rap sheet). No one’s sure why he wanted a vet to take care of destroying the dog rather than doing it himself. But someone completely different has been charged with the crime, and Andy knows that this man is innocent — he has to be, there’s no other explanation how the would-be dog killer got involved.

From there, Andy and his team (his PI wife, her PI friend/Andy’s bodyguard, Andy’s CPA/hacker, his associate attorney) set out to defend their client, figure out why anyone would want to kill the victim (a documentary filmmaker, and not a particularly successful — or good — one), and maybe answer a few questions about the victim’s dog. Like most Carpenter novels, the mystery is just twisty enough to keep you guessing to the end. Andy’s courtroom antics are pretty subdued this time, but watching him in action is fun — particularly as he battles the Assistant D.A.

Andy’s team — and his friends who aren’t on the team — are as enjoyable to spend time with as ever. With some long-running series you stick with it because the characters are so near and dear to you. With some, you put up with characters because the author puts out great mysteries/adventures/whatever. It’s with the best series that you get both — a good mystery (in this case) and a cast of characters you look forward to seeing again. That’s definitely what we have in the Andy Carpenter books, and Bark of Night is a prime example of it.

As a capper, if the last few paragraphs don’t provoke a warm fuzzy or three in you, there’s something wrong with you and you should probably seek professional help. Rosenfelt is good at the heart-warming stuff, and he’s at the top of his game here.

Newcomers will get enough information along the way to hop on board here — there’s no need to feel like you need to go back to Book One (Open and Shut) and read them in order to catch all the nuance. Start here, and you’ll easily see why this book has charmed and entertained audiences enough to last for 19 books (and counting!). It’s a clever mystery, featuring characters that are reliably comfortable and funny — with just enough moments of seriousness and displays of skill that you can believe they’ll be defending someone and bringing a killer to justice at the same time. This is one of the better installments in the last few years (both for being enjoyable and for the mystery) and should move right to the top of your TBR (note that a “lesser” Andy Carpenter book is still fun, engaging and entertaining).

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this opportunity.

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4 Stars

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Bullet Points about Even Dogs in the Wild by Ian Rankin: Another winner from one of the best in the biz

Even Dogs in the WildEven Dogs in the Wild

by Ian Rankin
Series: John Rebus, #20

Hardcover, 347 pg.
Little, Brown and Company, 2016

Read: June 10 – 12, 2019

This post is overdue, and I can’t seem to find time to do it right. So, I won’t. Here’s a quick and dirty way to get it taken care of. I wish I had it in me to do a better job, but I don’t. Here’s the blurb taken from Rankin’s site:

           Retirement doesn’t suit John Rebus. He wasn’t made for hobbies, holidays or home improvements. Being a cop is in his blood.

So when DI Siobhan Clarke asks for his help on a case, Rebus doesn’t need long to consider his options.

Clarke’s been investigating the death of a senior lawyer whose body was found along with a threatening note. On the other side of Edinburgh, Big Ger Cafferty – Rebus’s long-time nemesis – has received an identical note and a bullet through his window.

Now it’s up to Clarke and Rebus to connect the dots and stop a killer.

Meanwhile, DI Malcolm Fox joins forces with a covert team from Glasgow who are tailing a notorious crime family. There’s something they want, and they’ll stop at nothing to get it.

It’s a game of dog eat dog – in the city, as in the wild.

Even Dogs in the Wild brings back Ian Rankin’s greatest characters in a story exploring the darkest corners of our instincts and desires.

If I had the time to do this properly, here are the things I’d be talking about.

  • Rebus as consultant/PI — this is really the perfect role for him, he’s not that great at procedure anyway. Calling his own shots, following his instincts, going about things, he’s a better fit for this kind of thing than a certain retired LAPD Detective.
  • This proves to be the kind of case made for Rebus — the solution lays in the past, but the ramifications are in the present.
  • Cafferty isn’t the suspect here (he’s not innocent, he never is), but he’s the victim — and maybe a concerned citizen?
  • There’s little in Crime Fiction better than Rebus and Cafferty on the same page — that’s as true here as ever.
  • Clarke’s role seemed diminished in favor of Fox and Rebus (particularly the former), but maybe that’s just me — what she does, however, allows Rebus to do what he does best
  • The Clarke/Fox friendship is an interesting one — and different from the Clarke/Rebus friendship. I’ll enjoy watching this develop.
  • I’m already really enjoying the Fox/Rebus friendship/mentorship. That’s not something anyone would’ve seen coming the first time we met Fox, or the first time we saw the two of them cross paths. The fact that they’ve got a strange friendship/mentorship going on is just wonderful.
  • There’s more going on in Fox’s personal life than we’ve really ever seen with Rebus or Clarke on an extended basis.
  • Fox’s share of the story is really strong and displays the character we’ve come to know over the past few novels, but evolving to take on some of Rebus’ better traits, but none of his . . . well, worse.
  • For a period of time, through no fault of his own, Rebus takes guardianship over a small dog. This was just fantastic and one of my favorite things to happen to him in years.

Combine all of the above with Rankin’s consummate skill and you’ve got another winner — the twentieth Rebus book and the character, the writing, and the perspective is a strong and fresh as it ever was. A sure-fire win for old fans that would probably convert a newbie, too.

—–

4 Stars

2019 Library Love Challenge 2019 Cloak & Dagger Challenge

Marah Chase and the Conqueror’s Tomb by Jay Stringer: An Archaeologist and a Spy Walk Into a Bar . . .

Marah Chase and the Conqueror's TombMarah Chase and the Conqueror’s Tomb

by Jay Stringer
Series: Marah Chase, #1

eARC, 320 pg.
Pegasus Books, 2019

Read: June 26 – 29, 2019

Right after I finished Stringer’s How to Kill Friends and Implicate People, I jumped onto NetGalley to request this — despite being woefully behind on everything else (including NetGalley books!), curiosity prevailed. I had to know how Stringer would approach this particular premise and character.

What a fun, strange, ride! This is pure escapist entertainment. There’s no message, there’s no pondering foibles of contemporary society, there’s no commentary on social ills (or celebration of social triumphs), just a wild and crazy story about a “renegade archeologist” and a spy battling a cult, a plot to take over the government, and historic artifacts that could easily change the course of civilization. (there is some pretty well-done character growth and development — which grounds the lunacy a bit)

It’s difficult — at best — to not mention the Pop Culture Icon that Marah Chase will remind readers of, and I’ve decided that I’m not up for difficult right now (after trying a few times). Marah Chase is essentially a contemporary, female Indiana Jones — without the legitimate day job. Circumstances forced (well, forcefully encouraged) her to abandon the more scholarly, accepted archeology and to become a “relic runner” or “gold dog.” Someone who finds historic, hard to find, artifacts and sells them to private collectors. It’s hard to say just how successful she is at it — enough to be a known figure throughout the Middle East (to people on both sides of the law), but not enough to get overly-choosy about what jobs she takes.

She’s on the run from a group that pretends to be an arm of ISIS to cover up their criminal activities after scooping a treasure from their grasp when a British spy recruits her to go on the hunt for an artifact rumored to be a powerful weapon. I’ll leave the details to Joanna Mason as she briefs Marah, but what’s driving her to get Marah on the hunt is that she’s convinced a powerful church has decided that a. the weapon is real and b. they are close to finding it. Marah’s always been fascinated by the researcher they’re basing their search on and she’s in probably the best position to stop them before it’s too late.

All she has to do is find the tomb of Alexander the Great — a location that has stumped archeologists, treasure seekers, and zealots for centuries — in the next few days. All she has to do is deal with white supremacist soldiers, faux-ISIS goons, a wealthy and powerful church, an ancient secret society, and worst of all, the granddaughter of the one man in history who may have found (and then covered-up) Alexander’s tomb — her ex.

Marah may be the star of the book — and her name’s in the title — but don’t think that Mason doesn’t play as nearly vital a role in these events. While Marah’s on the hunt for the tomb, Mason’s trying to prevent a bloodless coup from within her own government, one that’ll pave the way for the church to take over.

Both of these women seem to be the embodiment of an amped-up Murphy’s Law — If anything can go stunningly, horribly, mindbogglingly wrong, it will — and usually will involve mortal danger, and then leave you in a worse (and more dangerous) predicament. I quickly stopped thinking that anything would work for either of them and just held my breath until things went from precarious to worse. It’s a tribute to Stringer’s imagination that he was able to keep that up for as long as he did.

Both Marah and Mason are surrounded by a great cast of characters — enemies and allies alike. Honestly, either story line would’ve been enough to keep a novel going and be a lot of fun. You stick both of them together and you’ve got gold on your hands. I’m not sure this is the kind of story that invites in-depth analysis — it’s the kind of story that invites cheers, fist pumps, and would work best with a bowl of popcorn at your side.

For those looking for the Jay Stringer of the Sam Ireland books, they’re going to be disappointed. For those looking for a Jay Stringer using his skills to create a new world, new voice with the same quality, they’re in for a treat. His sense of humor is still evident, it just shows itself in different ways — just as delightful, however. The banter between Marah and her smuggler friend is like catnip to me — I could read it all day long. The action scenes, in particular, are outstanding — there’s one fight on board a plane that will . . . well, no, I’d better not.

Fast-paced, adrenaline-fueled, adventure with a couple of the most marvelous female protagonists you’ll find this year — Marah Chase and the Conqueror’s Tomb is a guilt-free pleasure and a fantastic introduction to what had better be a long-running series.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from W. W. Norton & Company via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this opportunity.

—–

4 Stars

Opening Lines – Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey

Head & Shoulders used to tell us that, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” That’s true for wearing dark shirts, and it’s especially true for books. Sometimes the characters will hook the reader, sometimes the premise, sometimes it’s just knowing the author — but nothing beats a great opening for getting a reader to commit. This is one of the better openings* I’ve read recently. Would it make you commit? How can you not?

It might take a little while to get there, but I’ll tell you everything, and I’ll tell you the truth. As best I can. I used to lie, but when I tell you the story, you’ll understand why I had to lie. You’ll understand that I didn’t have a choice.

I just wanted to do my job.

from Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey

* Technically not the opening, there’s a Prologue (or something, I don’t have the book on me) — it’s the start of Chapter 1. But I count that as the opening.

Kill for Me by Rebecca Bradley: Compelling seems an inadequate word to describe this Police Procedural

Kill for MeKill for Me

by Rebecca Bradley
Series: DI Hannah Robbins, #5

Kindle Edition, 275 pg.
2019

Read: June 20 – 22, 2019

           …it had happened the way he planned it and there was no use crying over a perfect plan. The one surprise was how well it had all gone. How easy it had been to manipulate people. Like pieces on a chess board they had done as he told them to. They’d moved where he told them to move and done as he’d told them to do. He felt powerful and it was a feeling he liked and could get used to…

He could create a vicious circle where the police could never catch up . . . and he was pulling the strings but not a single strand of his DNA was left at the scene. It was priceless.

Pure genius. He was a genius.

There were enough people in the world who were more interested in saving themselves than anything else that they would do as he told them to.

There were some fun times ahead.

So like the last DI Hanna Robbins book I read — The Twisted Web — so much of the success of Kill for Me comes down to the hook. Obviously, how well she delivers on the promise of the hook is as essential, but without that hook, who’s going to read on?

As you can see above, it’s a great hook — our nameless “He” puts this single mother in a no-win situation. He’s manipulated her daughter’s school, compromised her communication with the outside world and has her daughter. All he requires her to do is kill someone, and then her daughter will be returned. Once he’s done with her, he moves on to someone else. And someone else. And someone else. Each time, the lever he uses to pry his victim into action is different — the life of a daughter, threatening to expose wrongdoing and ruining the life of a spouse as well as his victim, threatening to use falsified pictures of a child, and so on. Rather than risk whatever he’s threatening — “saving themselves” (or someone else) — these victims will do “anything else. . . he told them to.”

Murder by proxy. Spree killing by proxy, really. What starts off as killing for some dark purpose quickly evolves into killing because of the thrill gained by manipulating others — being a puppet master who happens to have deadly puppets

It’s gripping. It feels plausible. It feels like a story in the news from next week.

Does Bradley deliver? Yes. Not in the way I expected things to go once I got to the quotation above, but in a way that was so much better. This is the third novel of Bradley’s I’ve read in the past ten months. Each one had a fantastic premise, a hook as shiny and sharp as anyone could want — and each time she uses that hook to reel in her readers in the manner of a seasoned pro. I’m not going to say more than that so I don’t risk giving something away.

I wasn’t crazy about the Epilogue — it was an efficient way to wrap up what needed to be wrapped up, take care of remaining details, etc. If she hadn’t written it up in a nice summary fashion like she did, it would’ve taken a chapter or two. But it felt rushed, too compressed and perfunctory. It did what needed to be done, but in a way that left me unsatisfied. It’s a small thing compared to the rest of the book, but Bradley didn’t do the novel any favors with that.

As effective as Bradley is with premises (and following through with them), she’s great with the emotional core of the story and characters. I wonder from time to time if she doesn’t give enough space to the “procedural” part of “police procedural” (in at least two of the three books by her that I’ve read). In this book in particular there were two lines of inquiry that I thought Hannah and her team could’ve — should’ve — done better with. Thanks to a recent binge-watch with my wife, I had visions of DCI Gill Murray eviscerating Hannah for leaving them untouched. But the reader will either not notice those points, or won’t care, because Bradley will suck you into the innermost thoughts and feelings of the victims and the police investigating the crimes (and, in some ways, with the killer). I sympathized and empathized with each of these victims — understanding why they felt they had no choice but to dance to the wicked tune he was playing, turning themselves into the kind of monster they couldn’t imagine ever being.

The same is true for Hannah Robbins and her team — you see the turmoil caused by this case, the way it gets under their skin — as well as personal and professional crises/upheaval changes for Hanna, her right hand man, and others. I’m still trying to suss out all the various plotlines, character arcs and motivations when it comes to the police thanks to coming to this series so late — but I’m very interested in the way a couple of them play out. One thing along those lines that Hannah seems to think has been resolved, has almost certainly not been resolved and will blow up in a book or two, and I’m very curious about it.

Whether we’re talking about new characters or established ones, victim or police trying to help them — Rebecca Bradley infuses these characters with enough genuine emotion, authentic desire and undeniable and relatable reactions to the madness surrounding them that she can do pretty much what else she wants and readers will follow.

In addition to writing compelling stories, Bradley seems to have many things to say about our mobile devices, social media, personal security and the way these three ideas need to be carefully reevaluated by ourselves and others needing some sort of court order (it seems) to reconsider the way we utilize this new technology.

I’m finding myself becoming a real fan of Rebecca Bradley and DI Hannah Robbins both, and this book is a large part of why. Compelling doesn’t seem to be an adequate adjective for these books and this author. Fans of police procedurals should get their hands on these books right off. This would be a great jumping on point for a new reader, and a great maintenance fix for people familiar with Hannah Robbins and her brand of investigation.

—–

4 Stars

LetsReadIndie Reading Challenge 2019 Cloak & Dagger Challenge


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: Kill for Me by Rebecca Bradley

Today I welcome the Book Tour for the gripping and powerful Kill for Me by Rebecca Bradley. Along with this spotlight post, I’ll be giving my take on the novel here in a bit. But before I get to talking about the book, let’s start by learning a little about this here book, okay?

Book Details:

Book Title: Kill for Meb by Rebecca Bradley
Release date: February 14, 2019
Format: Ebook/Audiobook
Length: 275 pages

Book Blurb:

A deadly game. An unstoppable killer. The perfect alibi.

Lucy Anderson is late collecting her daughter from nursery. A mistake that could prove fatal.
Her daughter is gone and there is only one way Lucy can get her back. The ransom is simple, she has to kill someone…

And this is just the beginning. A deadly game with a domino effect has started as the real killer forces others to do his bidding.

Can detective inspector Hannah Robbins find the killer’s next puppet before they’re forced to strike or will this be the case where her opponent has found the perfect way to kill?

Pick up Kill For Me for impossible choices and moral dilemmas and see where you would fall.

For fans of Peter James and Angela Marsons

About Rebecca Bradley:

Rebecca BradleyRebecca Bradley is a retired police detective. She lives in the UK with her family and her two cockapoo’s Alfie and Lola, who keep her company while she writes. Rebecca needs to drink copious amounts of tea to function throughout the day and if she could, she would survive on a diet of tea and cake while committing murder on a regular basis, in her writing of course.

She writes the DI Hannah Robbins police procedural series and has also released a standalone novel, Dead Blind, about a cop who acquires prosopagnosia, also known as face blindness.

To receive a free novella sign up to her readers’ club and you will be able to download the prequel to Hannah Robbins series. Find it on the blog at rebeccabradleycrime.com You’ll also be provided exclusive content and giveaways.

Rebecca Bradley’s Social Media:

Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Website ~ Instagram ~ Amazon Author Page

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.

Null Set by SL Huang: Cas Russell — the world’s most violent mathematician — gets proactive fighting crime.

Null SetNull Set

by SL Huang
Series: Cas Russell, #2

eARC, 288 pg.
Tor Books, 2019

Read: June 17 – 19, 2019

In the aftermath of Zero Sum Game, Cas and her associates are seeing the fallout from taking down those telepaths who’ve been reigning in expressions of human corruption, and it’s not pretty. So, she takes it upon herself (with a little help from her friends) to fight crime in LA — à la that rich guy in Gotham, that lawyer in Hell’s Kitchen, or the sole survivor of the Cavendish ambush of the Texas Rangers. She’s making a difference, but not as much as she wants, until she decides to take a more proactive approach.

I’ll skip the details, but what she comes up with (and talks her team into helping with) is a combination of technology, psychology and her genius. It’s so successful that every major criminal figure in LA would happily kill her several times over if they only knew what she was doing and who was doing it. Of course, many of these people are former/potential future customers. This little dance she does, while trying to get the goods on one player in particular, is a whole lot of fun to watch.

It’s also fascinating watching Cas’ develop a conscience, and then let it take her in ways that bring her into conflict with her team. They go along with her, but with reservations. In many ways, she’s grown from the woman we met in the opening of Zero Sum Game — but in so many ways she hasn’t. The heavy drinking she indulges in/retreats to testifies to that.

One thing that happened at the end of the previous novel was that a telepath triggered something in her — how much of an effect this had, or whether it was time, or something else (probably a combination of the three) has loosened something in her subconscious. Memories — partial, confusing, scattered — are coming back to her — from a time that Cas had given up on ever remembering. The memories come back, unbidden, at the worst possible times and make her vulnerable when she needs to be focusing. They also point to mysteries, questions and so many unknown things that Cas decides she’s not going to acknowledge that this is problematic for her, her work and those who depend on her.

My problem is that I think Huang overestimated how interested people were in Cas’ background and trying to learn about it/deal with it. Maybe it just feels that way to me because I can’t muster up the level of enthusiasm that the novel seems to want me to have, and everyone else will be hanging on every word. What Cas is going through has roots in the conclusion to Zero Sum Game and in her murky past. Instead of dealing with the memories and issues they raise, she spends most of the novel running from the problems, not in denial, just in a refusal to work through them — until she can’t any more (and even then . . . ). If I knew her better, if I was given more of a reason to be curious about her past, I think this could be a very interesting plot line But we don’t, and we’re not — and I had a hard time getting above the level of mild interest in this part of the novel. Which isn’t good — because this is what the novel really wants to talk about, not Cas’ innovative solutions to fighting crime.

For people who haven’t read Taylor Stevens’ Michael Munroe novels, this paragraph won’t do much for you. You should read those, by the way, if you like Cas Russell. In the second book in this series, The Innocents, Stevens takes Munroe — her complicated, almost impossible to believe, hyperviolent protagonist with a self-destructive bent (hmmm, who does that sound like?) — and has her deal with some of her problems, taking a deep dive into her psyche at the risk of the job she’s taken on — and the innocents she’s supposed to be rescuing/saving. I’d liked Munroe in her first book, and continued to, but I struggled getting through that book — but once Munroe had dealt with (in some way) what was getting to her, she was a stronger and more interesting character. I cannot tell you how often while reading Null Set that I thought back to The Innocents. True, very different books, different problems plaguing the protagonists — but their reactions to the issues and how they intend to deal with the problems raised, remind me greatly of each other. I’m hoping what comes next for this series is as strong as it was for Stevens’.

Everything else about this novel was just as absorbing and captivating as Zero Sum Game. The supporting characters were, if anything, more interesting than they were last time — and the two new characters in Cas’ circle were welcome additions. The ethical dilemma posed by Cas’ actions was pretty interesting, and a good twist on the similar conundrum posed in (and, arguably, less clear — although, I’m with Checker in not seeing it that way). The characters’ reactions to her plans (and carrying them out) seemed authentic and not just something to create drama. If Huang had wanted to and just dialed back the A-Story and dialed up the B-Story, I’d have been more enthusiastic about this — probably as much as I was about Zero Sum Game, maybe moreso.

And you just cannot beat Huang’s combination of math and fight scenes — others dabble in it, but most don’t go as far (they’re probably not that good at math) or do it as well. I don’t know why these scenes work so well for me, but I just love them. Think of River Tam wielding a gun in “War Stories” — but if she was able to tell you what she was doing and why without sounding a little . . . well, River-like. I’m not doing a great job of describing it, but it’s hard. But if Huang decided she just wanted to publish a novella or two that really just consisted of fight scenes without a whole lot of plot? I’d be all over them. Nothing against plot or characters, but sometimes they just get in the way.

I did like Null Set — just not as much as I expected to, or wanted to. But I’m still in for more of this series. What Huang’s set up for the next novel (or more) — really has my interest. The possibilities for book three have really got my curiosity churning. Having (somewhat/largely) dealt with these issues around Cas, the door is wide open for what comes next — I literally can’t wait. This isn’t what I wanted from the second Cas Russell novel, but it’s good — and will likely be a strong foundation to build on. Recommended.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Macmillan-Tor/Forge via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this.

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3.5 Stars