Miss Kopp Just Won’t Quit by Amy Stewart: Deputy Kopp faces her biggest challenges yet — a new Sheriff and an Uncertain Future

Miss Kopp Just Won't QuitMiss Kopp Just Won’t Quit

by Amy Stewart
Series: The Kopp Sisters, #4

eARC, 320pg.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018
Read: August 8 – 9, 2018

So it’s been roughly a year for Constance Kopp working as the ladies’ matron for the Bergon County Jail. In that time she has investigated crimes, tracked down murderers, sought justice for women of all walks of life, and put her life on the line more than a few times. She’s gained nationwide notoriety, and caused more than a few scandals at home. About now, some of those scandals are coming back and are in the forefront of local elections.

Because of New Jersey law, Sheriff Heath, Constance’s boss and chief defender, cannot run for another term of office without taking one off — so no matter what, after Election Day, Constance will have a new boss. Heath’s former Sheriff is running for the position again, and is the expected winner. He finds the idea of a female deputy silly, and while he won’t take Constance seriously, he’ll probably leave her alone. His opponent is a current detective in the Prosecutor’s office who has been opposing Constance’s position and person since Day 1, he’s essentially running a campaign against Heath (even if Heath isn’t the opponent), and Constance is the easiest way to do that. Clearly, the future isn’t bright for Deputy Kopp.

While this is going on, Constance makes a couple more headlines — she runs down a burglar single-handedly, she jumps into a river to apprehend a potential escapee under their custody when another deputy is injured. Constance has to take a woman to an insane asylum, after her husband and doctor get a judge to commit her for a while. This isn’t the first time this has happened to the woman, and it seems clear to Constance that this woman is as sane as anyone. So Constance attempts to find out what’s behind this commitment so she can free this woman. She’s very aware of the trouble that this could cause for herself and for Sheriff Heath, she tries to do this under the radar. Under the radar isn’t something that comes naturally to her, and her results aren’t stellar (but better than one would expect).

The story was a bit flat, honestly. A lot of things seemed to be foregone conclusions (not necessarily the way that various characters saw them working, either). The one case that she really gets herself into is really pretty tidy and doesn’t take a lot of effort — although she does take plenty of risks. So really, the novel isn’t about Constance sinking her teeth into a case, into helping a woman through some sort of problem, or any of the usual things. This is primarily about Constance worrying that she’ll do something to jeopardize Sheriff Heath’s Congressional campaign by giving his opponents something to harp on, while contemplating her future in the jail under the upcoming term of office for either candidate. Which is fine, really — it’s just not what I’ve come to expect from these books — I expected the case of the poor committed woman to take the bulk of the attention, so the problem is my own. But it comes from being conditioned by the previous books.

Constance’s sisters have a background role in this book — Fleurette in particular, she’s around frequently, but she plays a very small role. I appreciate that she seemed to have her head on straight and wasn’t the cause for trouble (inadvertently or purposely). Norma seemed to primarily be a conduit for comic relief in this novel. But it never feels right to laugh at her, she’s the most practical, she’s the only realist in the family — it’s her blood, sweat and tears that’s kept the family going. On the other hand, her obsessive nature does lead her into some strange preoccupations.

This is not to say it’s a bad book — Stewart is probably incapable of writing a bad book. Miss Kopp Just Won’t Quit feels very different than the others in the series (although, really, each has felt different than the others), and it left me feeling dissatisfied. Still, it was an entertaining and compelling read. The ending is likely the best the series has had thus far — we just have to go through some meandering passages, and some dark times for our favorite Deputy before we get to it. I don’t know what comes next for Constance Kopp (I’m deliberately not consulting anything to tell me, either) — but it’s going to be very interesting to see what Stewart does next.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this.

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3.5 Stars

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A Few Quick Questions With…Nick Kolakowski

Little backstory to this Q&A, in my never-ceasing attempts to get organized, I’ve started noting when a book post is due, what I’m doing associated with it, etc on my reading log (nothing special, just an up-to-current date Excel spreadsheet, with a couple of blank lines and then a list of upcoming reads). I’d put a note on with Boise Longpig Hunting Club with the release date and a note “read early for Q&A.” Before I sent my list of Questions, I looked over my correspondence with Kolakowski and realized we hadn’t actually discussed it — thankfully, he was gracious enough to answer my questions (beer’s on me next time you’re in town) — and here they are.

Could you tell us a little about your “path to publication”? What got you into writing and what did you do to take it from an aspiration to a reality?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer. My love of crime fiction also started at a very young age, when my Dad gave me his yellowed copy of Chandler’s “Trouble Is My Business.” I’d written crime fiction since I was a teenager but I only got serious about producing a novel in my late 20s. I wrote three “trunk novels” before “A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps,” which was picked up by Shotgun Honey and published in 2017. Other novels followed.

I suspect my process mirrors that of other folks: you write a lot, query agents, send manuscripts around, and generally struggle in a very crowded market. And when you finally begin publishing books, that kicks off a whole new game: marketing, publicity, trying to get the word out. The grind never stops. Good thing it’s fun.

Why Boise, of all places? In the Acknowledgements you mention the time you’ve spent in Idaho — other than just soaking up the culture, what kind of research did you do? (I’ve got to say, as someone who’s lived most of his life in the Boise-area, you do a really good job of capturing the feel, the geography, etc. Just hopefully not the crime)
My wife was born and raised in Boise, and so I started going there with her, sometimes a couple times a year. She has friends and family all over the state, and so we spend a lot of time driving around. That’s the bulk of the research I did for the novel—with the exception of the book’s final act, which is set in a wilderness of my own invention, I don’t think there’s a location that isn’t grounded in reality. I’m sometimes startled by the changes when I come back every eight months or so—the money pouring into the state is producing seismic changes, especially in the Boise area.

I chose Boise because it’s not a place usually covered by crime fiction; I’m a little tired of novels always being set in New York, or Los Angeles, or Chicago. And for years, I’d wanted to write a thriller set in someplace more isolated and rural—which Idaho definitely provides, along with a unique texture all its own.

What’s the one (or two) book/movie/show in the last 5 years that made you say, “I wish I’d written that.”?
“Breaking Bad.” I can say that without putting too much thought into it. It’s a masterpiece.
(I might have to retire that question — between the answer, and the way you put it, I don’t know if that can be topped.)

I’ve often heard that writers (or artists in general) will forget hundreds of positive reviews but always remember the negative — what’s the worst thing that someone’s said about one of your books, and has it altered your approach to future books?

Ooof, that’s a tough one. My sense of humor is rather bleak, and at one point, an Amazon reviewer suggested that they “didn’t appreciate the crudeness and [my] choice of words at times.” And when I read that, I thought, “Well, okay, but you should have seen the first draft. That was even worse.” I do try to restrain myself a little bit more, at moments, because I realize that some readers might not appreciate when I go deliriously over-the-top.

The same goes with violence; I’m trying to be a little bit more judicious in my moments of kinetic action. If you structure it right, you can pack a lot of emotional and thematic “oomph” into just a single gunshot.

What’s next for Nick Kolakowski? (Bonus points if it involves anyone who survives Boise Longpig Hunting Club)
I’m actually writing the sequel to “Boise Longpig” right now! It’s called “Voodoo Potato,” and it’s set in New Orleans. It deals heavily with the privatization of public security, and the dangers that stem from that. When we were in New Orleans last, someone casually mentioned to us that it takes 20 minutes for the cops to arrive if you call 911, and that some local millionaire had set up a private security force in the French Quarter that can respond more quickly. Sounds like a potential Pandora’s Box to me.
Oh, that sounds great (the book, not the terrifying reality behind it).

Thanks for taking the time to answer these, and I hope that Boise Longpig Hunting Club finds all sorts of success!

Pub Day Post — Boise Longpig Hunting Club by Nick Kolokowski: A Gritty, Violent Visit to Idaho

Boise Longpig Hunting ClubBoise Longpig Hunting Club

by Nick Kolakowski

eARC, 320 pg.
Down & Out Books , 2018
Read: July 28, 2018
Jake Halligan is a bounty hunter — more in the Lori Anderson/JT mold, than a Stephanie Plum-type — in Boise, Idaho and the immediate environs. He’s got a kid, an interesting relationship with his daughter’s mother, and a sister that . . . well, you just have to meet her. But think Bubba Rogowski without the size and clinical diagnosis.

Jake’s a Vet, having served in some of the worst conditions Iraq has to offer. He’s smart, he’s careful — he has people he cares about, so he has to be — and he has a conscience. It doesn’t stop him from doing his job, but it can stop him from enjoying it. Early on in the novel, we find Jake after a rough week at work — and a less-than-friendly exchange with the local police — on the whole, his life is looking pretty good, even if Janine (his ex-wife, fiancé and mother of his child) made him pay a social call on some neighbors. When they get home, Jake finds a dead woman in his gun safe. This plunges Jake into a hunt for a killer — as well as an explanation. He’ll find both, and probably wish he didn’t. It’s a violent, nasty hunt full of crazy characters, drug dealers, Aryan assassins, corrupt police — and people who are even worse than them.

Along for the ride are Janine — I can’t say enough about Janine as a character. From her attitude towards a house without books, to her hidden strength and anxieties — and all points in between. Then there’s Frankie, his sister — she’s cocky, funny, and vicious — she’s the biggest gun dealer in Idaho, not even close to legal, and the law can’t touch her. The law can’t even find her. She’s surrounded by associates/employees who are almost as colorful as she is (some even more so) — and is definitely the person you want at your side (or back) in a firefight.

Which is good — because they’re going to find themselves in a few.

Kolakowski has a great way with his characters — they’re real, they’re human — and they’re larger than life in a way that you’ll absolutely buy, as well as enjoy. When the action starts, it is gripping and exciting — you’ll keep turning pages. When there’s a lull in the action, you can bask in the character moments. I’m not really sure what else can I say beyond that. This is the whole package, you get to spend time with interesting people being interesting, and when they take a break from that, it’s because fists or bullets are flying — or maybe something explodes.

My one gripe — and it’s not much of one, before we get back to me saying nice things. The ending is abrupt. I’m not sure if I can think of a well-known book/movie to compare it to. You’re just reading along, hoping that Jake, Frankie, Janine and the rest survive this mess and then before you really realize what happened, it’s over. You know who survives — and who doesn’t — and the book ends with very little wrap-up (actually the wrap up happens before the ending — that remark will make sense when you read it). Kolakowski had a story to tell and he didn’t drag out the ending, much like his protagonist would approach things, I expect. He got the job done and moved on. I would’ve preferred a little more time after the main events are over — there are things I want to know about the immediate aftermath. There aren’t loose ends left untied, I’d just like to see what they look like after they’re taken care of. You can make a strong case that this is the way to end a book — when things are done.

It’s not often that I can evaluate an author’s use of geography — I know that Robert B. Parker and Dennis Lehane have tweaked Boston, I understand that Butcher goofs re: Chicago’s neighborhoods, etc. but I don’t know that reading the books, I learn that later. It’s rare when I’ve been somewhere a book has been set — a little bit with the Mercy Thompson books (but I’m better at noting pronunciation on the audiobooks that no resident would recognize), I noted that Wesley Chu fumbled a smidge Eastern Oregon in the third Tao book, and that Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping was creative with the facts, etc. But by and large, this book takes place in the area I’ve lived in most of my life, so I feel that I can actually comment. — and Kolakowski nailed it. Not just the details, but he’s got the feel, he’s got the atmosphere, the attitude toward change and the out-of-state money that’s bringing the change. he’s changed business names and whatnot, but I can still recognize them — I love seeing this kind of detail brought to life. I’m trusting that his depiction of local crime is hyperbolic, however.

I’m a little worried that it’s as accurate as the rest, actually . . . but we’ll move on.

There’s a visceral feel to this novel and these characters — people in places most don’t think about showing skills, interests, and circumstances that you don’t normally associate with that area. Just a guy trying to make a decent life for his family and himself, who finds himself in dangerous situations. I couldn’t help but think of Jason Miller’s Slim in Little Egypt series while reading his. Jake’s far more capable than Slim, and is far less likely to end up on the wrong end of a beating. But there’s a very similar ethos in the books, and fans of one should grab the other right away.

I’m not going to belabor the point any more, I think it’s clear that I enjoyed the heck out of this — it’s fast, it’s energetic, it’s fun. Go grab a copy of it.

Disclaimer: This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for my honest opinion, which I greatly appreciate.

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4 Stars

Saturday Miscellany – 8/11/18

Hey! I’m back — I think. We’ve moved into a different place for the remainder (probably) of our time away from home — a Ronald McDonald House. It is great — by the way, absolutely worth tossing your coins (or bills or checks) into the boxes while getting some fries and whatnot — anyhow, their WiFi seems pretty stable, and there are no immediate plans to update it (I think it was a bad job of installing new hardware that killed things at the last place — the poor hotel staff didn’t have a clue what to do with so many angry customers). I should be okay for the foreseeable future. Thankfully, I was still able to pull together a few odds ‘n ends over the week about books and reading that caught my eye. You’ve probably seen some/most/all of them, but just in case:

    This Week’s New Releases I’m Excited About and/or You’ll Probably See Here Soon:

  • In the Stacks: Author’s Enhanced Edition by Scott Lynch — a revised and expanded version of his short story.
  • See You Soon, Afton by Brent Jones — the second of four novellas about Afton Morrison, everyone’s favorite librarian/would-be-murderer.
  • In Truth and Claw by Ari Marmell — the fourth Mick Oberon novel, and the second reminder that I need to read the second Mick Oberon novel (also, #s 3 and 4) — bought it years ago, just need to, you know read it. A Fae living in 1930’s Chicago and working as a PI. I mean, come on, who doesn’t want to read that?

Lastly, I’d like to say hi and extend a warm welcome to Leah’s Bookish Obsession and Johnny for following some form of the blog this week.

Well this is one way to build up some posts

When I posted a couple of weeks ago that I was afraid regular posting might not happen, I expected it to be because of medical problems, concerns, general fatigue on my part from dealing with the above, etc.

What I didn’t expect was that the hotel we’re staying in would lose its Wi-Fi for two straight days, and probably one or two more. Which means there is no way to get the multiple posts I’ve written from my laptop to your screen.

And no, I can’t use my phone to post – it’d be ugly and take hours. So watch this space, I’m doing my best. And hopefully you aren’t expecting an email of any length from me.

BOOK BLITZ: The Ephemeral File by Henry Hoffman

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Adam Fraley Mystery Series
Mystery
Date Published: July 2018
Publisher: Melange Books
 
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What begins as a simple lost love case for private investigator Adam Fraley quickly escalates into something of far greater magnitude during the course of his investigation. Not only is it a potential felony he stumbles across but one of the rarest in the catalog of crimes, all due to a critical piece of information having been withheld by his client, a terminally ill World War II vet. The job eventually takes Fraley to remote stretches of Florida’s Withlacoochee River and events that occurred over a half century ago. At the center of the case are teenage twin sisters, Staci and Kati Carew, whose conflicting friendships, loves, and ambitions rise far above normal sibling rivalry, ultimately leading to a grievous injustice and major cover-up.
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Excerpt
 As he watched the scene unfold before them, with his daughter riding the shoulders of her teammates, Adam could not help but be reminded of another time and place long ago when a young girl stood with her arms raised in triumph, a time when first loves were forever, summers endless, and young lives full of promise; of a bridge over the Withlacoochee River and Kati Carew, the backflip girl, whose summer of life was never to be.
     Oh, Staci…if only it had been a thumbs-up you had giver you sister…
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About the Author

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Henry Hoffman is a former newspaper editor and public library director whose works have appeared in a variety of literary and trade publications. He is the author of the Adam Fraley Mystery Series and is a past recipient of the Florida Publishers Association’s Gold Medal Award for Florida Fiction.

 

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Ways to Die in Glasgow by Jay Stringer: Three distinct and entertaining voices take you on a tour of Glasgow’s underbelly

Ways to Die in GlasgowWays to Die in Glasgow

by Jay Stringer
Series: Sam Ireland Mysteries, #1

Kindle Edition, 289
Thomas & Mercer, 2015
Read: July 21 – 22, 2018

Inside the front door of the building, I checked the directory, looking to see which floor the firm was on, only to find that they used all of it. The recession hadn’t reached this far up the street. The reception area was decorated in muted shades of black and tan. Anything that didn’t share that colour scheme was made of glass. A woman who was far too young and far too skinny greeted me. She took my name and waved me into a large waiting area.

She didn’t whisper that she was a child slave or beg for help.

She didn’t ask if I could sneak her a cheeseburger.

So we are just dropped into the action here, no background, no setup, no idea who this guy narrating things is — the very definition of in media res, and, come to think of it — we are also dropped into the very definition of coitus interruptus. In this particular case the interruptus takes the form of a couple of guys trying to kill our narrator. Somehow, Mackie (the narrator) escapes — though injured — and seeks shelter at his Uncle’s place — which turns out to have been recently tossed by persons unknown (the people that came after Mackie?), and his Uncle Rab is nowhere to be found. Mackie gets patched up by his therapist and the two head out to search for Rab.

Once that’s underway, we jump back a couple of hours in time to meet our second narrator, Sam Ireland. Sam’s a newish Private Investigator who made a little splash in the news recently and is working enough to keep going, but not enough to pay rent on the office. So the office is now her apartment. It’s her father’s firm, but he’s in a retirement home and Sam’s trying to keep it alive — with a little help from her brother. Sam’s got an appointment with a potential new client, who insists on very strange meeting times (e.g., 11:23) — it’s the law office described in the quotation above. They’d read about her in the papers and wanted to hire her for some things, but first they want a test run — they’d like her to deliver some legal papers to a local celebrity author. As Sam says “…a Glasgow celebrity. . . is one way of saying dangerous.” He’s writing true crime memoirs now, and there’s a problem with his latest book so they need to serve him with papers — but can’t find him, can Sam? For the price they’re willing to pay, yes, yes she can. The celebrity’s name? Rab Anderson.You begin to see the fun here.

It turns out that our third narrator, DI Lambert, also has a vested interest in finding Rab. But there’s the tiny little thing called a job that is interfering. There’s a suspicious death that he really wants to write off as a suicide, but the guys from the Lab won’t let him. He also has connections to our other narrators. He’s a friend of Sam’s and will occasionally bend a rule or two to help her with some information. He’d also arrested Mackie some years back on a pretty serious charge.

The novel is told bouncing back and forth through each of these narrators (sometimes the same scene is retold from a different perspective) — there’s a little bit of shifting back and forth through time to keep everyone at about the same point, but it’s easy to follow. Each of these narrators has a great and distinctive voice — you really don’t need the chapters to tell you who is “speaking” you get it within a sentence (not that I mind the help). I could easily read an entire novel from one of their perspectives — Lambert’s wouldn’t be as entertaining as either Mackie’s or Sam’s, but it’d still hold up. Bringing these three voices — from radically different backgrounds, education, age, experience, vocation — but all representing Glasgow. Mackie’s a great, great character — he’s the first we get to know in this book, and in many ways, he’s the heart. But Sam’s the star — she’s stubborn, reckless, clever, and resourceful. That doesn’t quite make up for the fact that she’s a small woman with little ability to defend herself — but she frequently has her large brother along to offset that.

One of my favorite parts of John Wick was how we’re dropped into this extensive underground world with relationships, rules, alliances and whatnot — as the film goes on we grow to understand them. Something very similar is at work in this novel — we don’t have a point of entry character, really (Sam’s close), we have nothing really to get us oriented in this reality other than what happens when the characters interact and what we learn from that. This is a rich world full of many colorful, dangerous people. It’s not long before we move beyond the hunt for Rab and dive deep into the murky waters surrounding him, Mackie and Lambert — and hope that at least someone is able to survive before Sam gets drug under as well.

That metaphor may have gotten away from me. But oh well . . .

This is a violent book — make no mistake. It’s a visceral blood bath at times — and its disturbing. But honestly? The hard scene to get through had no blood, no guns, knives or anything. It was a chapter where a father thinks about the trouble his daughter is in and what he can do to help her — it’s a couple of pages long, helps build the tension, it deepens the mystery, and just breaks your heart. Give me a dozen bloody corpses any day over that.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from Kate McCall and Sam Ireland, it’s that daughters should not take over their father’s PI business unless they’re ready to learn a lot about their father that they didn’t want to know. It’s possible that’s true for daughters taking over any business of their father’s — I’m not sure, I should probably read more about them, but I don’t recall a lot of novels being written about daughter’s taking over for their father’s CPA firm or pizza parlor or dry cleaning business. There’s a pretty big difference between these two ladies (there are plenty of similarities, now that I think about it, too). Kate is surrounded by oddballs, eccentrics, and actors up for anything who are generally good-natured and willing to help her. Sam is surrounded by people she can’t trust, people she shouldn’t trust, a brother who has to be harassed into helping her out, a maverick cop, and a whole lot of shady characters — all of whom (except the brother and probably the cop) would be just as likely to drop her in a grave as they would be to lend her a helping hand.*

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am definitely coming back for more from Stringer. It’s twisty, it’s violent, it’s got a lot of heart, it’ll put a smile on your face and get you to come back for more. Check out this unique look into Glasgow.

* This isn’t to knock McCall & Co. — I actually rather enjoyed the book, and plan on reading the rest of the series soon. It was just a parallel I thought of when reading this.

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4 Stars