Saturday Miscellany – 6/9/18

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:

    • Brief Cases by Jim Butcher — New collection of short stories from The Dresden Files. I started this Wednesday and cannot believe that I haven’t finished it yet. I will be expressing my deep love for this soon. (A quick update 1 hour after posting, I’m done and I had no idea an hour ago how much I loved this book. Probably my favorite thing to date in 2018)
    • The Puppet Show by M. W. Craven — introducing Washington Poe. I heard a review of this on the latest Two Crime Writers and a Microphone episode. Sounds great, sounds creepy and with great lead characters.
    • Free Chocolate by Amber Royer — I’ve been seeing raves about this for so long, I can’t believe it’s only been released now — a Space Opera with a sense of humor about a Galactic struggle to control the Earth’s chocolate. Of all the reasons I’ve seen for going to war lately, I’ve gotta say this ranks at the top.

    Lastly, I’d like to say hi and extend a warm welcome to glenn van nostrand and T.Jaye for following the blog this week.

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    Rescued by David Rosenfelt ★ ★ ★ 1/2 A tale of self-defense, an old flame and a truckfull of dogs

    RescuedRescued

    by David Rosenfelt
    Series: Andy Carpenter, #17

    eARC, 304 pg.
    Minotaur Books, 2018

    Read: May 4, 2018

    At an early age, Andy Carpenter discovered that he couldn’t hit a curve-ball and therefore had to give up on his dreams of playing in the majors and fall back to following in his father’s footsteps and becoming a lawyer. His father, a lifelong prosecuting attorney, probably wished for something else, but for the many people that he’s defended in court, they wouldn’t have it another way.

    This is the seventeenth novel in this series — I’ve talked here about nine of the previous sixteen. There’s part of me wondering just what I could possibly have to say about this one that I haven’t said at least once before.

    Andy Carpenter is called to a nearby rest area — a truck containing sixty-one dogs was discovered with the driver shot. Andy and Willie were called out to help the police retrieve the dogs and care for them. The police are really not happy to see him there — Andy Carpenter at a crime scene? Not a welcome sight. But then he’s called away, there’s a prospective new client waiting for him at home.

    Not that surprisingly, the potential client was also at that rest area earlier in the day. He actually tells Andy that he shot the driver — in self-defense, mind you. Sure, there’s a history between the two — Kramer (the client) had assaulted the victim and threatened to kill him, in fact. But that was years ago, and he had no current reason to. He just needs some help with the inevitable arrest. Andy believes him — he has to. Kramer is Laurie’s ex and she vouches for him — so much so that Andy pretty much has to take the case for her sake.

    Honestly, Andy really isn’t that interested in helping tall, hunky and dangerous Kramer — ex-Military, ex-police, ex-licensed investigator. But it’s not long before he starts to believe that there’s something more afoot. And what was the deal with all the dogs?

    All the regulars are along for this ride — Pete Stanton brings the law and order, we get a little more about the fun side of Hike that was introduced in the last book, Sam and his hacking crew dig up plenty of information, Marcus is his typical imposing self, Tara is as loyal as ever — and Andy gets a lot of courtroom time in. There’s a new prosecuting attorney for him to face off against — I liked her, and would like to see her against Andy again.

    I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler here, because it’s pretty much the default in this series, but there’s a conspiracy behind the murder and they men behind it have decided to frame Kramer. This is one of the better — or at least one of the more grounded — conspiracies featured in these books. Up to a point, some of it was pretty hard to swallow — it just went a little over the top for my taste (but many of them do in this series). Also, this one features the best code names this side of Reservoir Dogs. Still, it was one of the more clever solutions that we’ve been treated to lately.

    A thought about the series as a whole at this point: I would appreciate it if Rosenfelt would shake things up a little bit — I’m not talking about killing Hike or splitting up with Laurie or anything — just dial down the super-criminals a bit, maybe spend some more time with the client again. But there’s little reason for him to do that — the series moves like clockwork and is reliably entertaining. I only say this because I’m a fan — Rosenfelt is in danger of becoming a parody of himself (at worst) or just putting out cookie-cutter books (at best), I don’t want Andy Carpenter to become a Stephanie Plum.

    This is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the book — because I did. Andy, Sam, Pete, Vince, Laurie, Tara and the rest are old friends that I enjoy getting together with every few months. Rosenfelt’s latest demonstrates what’s been true for years — this series is at the point where you can reliably count on each book for an entertaining read, a puzzling mystery, some good comic moments, a nice dog or two and maybe even a tug on the heart strings. They’re still charming enough to win over a new reader (and any of the books serve just fine as entry points) as well as satisfying the long-term reader. Rescued delivered just what I expected and left me satisfied — satisfied and ready to read number 18.

    Disclaimer: I received this eARC from St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this, it was a real pleasure.

    —–

    3.5 Stars

    BOOK BLITZ: Outfoxing the Gaming Club Blitz by Pascale Batieufaye

    Biography, Business
    Date Published: May 2018
    CLAIM INSANITY OR BE FIRED!
    Ex-Casino Employee Spills All of the Unseen Corruption
    Running Rampant in the Business!
    Ideas flow freely through the work environment, and the good ones are scooped up and put into action. But what happens when your ideas are suddenly being claimed by someone else? What if you found out that your employer was hiding secrets from the public? A job is supposed to secure one’s finances, but what if it was actually the cause of your financial troubles?
    All of these questions – and more! – are addressed in Pascale Batieufaye’s tell-all memoir, Outfoxing the Gaming Club: A Former Worker Reveals All. From the kitchen to guest services, Batieufaye exposes the corruption and exploitation present in one of the world’s biggest casinos, Resort Casino, where he worked from 1996 to 2004
    Through the book’s pages, Batieufaye details how corporate executives undermine their employees and use their ideas as their own, as he found was done with his own ideas when he shared them with leadership at the gambling powerhouse. He also details the mistreatment of the Native Americans he witnessed, who built the very grounds that now contribute to their injustice.
    “I have centered Outfoxing the Gaming Club on the emotional suffering I faced while working for my previous employer,”shares Batieufaye. “The book outlines guiding principles for those who have experienced maltreatment and anxiety in their own workplace. Readers will discover the crookedness that occurs right under the noses of the patrons, and unearth the oppression that the employees had to deal with on a daily basis.”
    An exposé for both gamblers and those opposed to it,this book details:
    · How his own ideas were stolen from right under Batieufaye’s feet
     
    · The mistreatment of Native Americans involved with the company
     
    · Corruption’s role in the mental health of himself and other employees at the company
     
    · Gambles employees took when attempting to contribute, knowing all too well they may not receive proper credit for those ideas
     
    · The emotional suffering that workers had to deal with on a daily basis
     
    · And so much more!
    About the Author

    Pascale Batieufaye attended Johnson & Wales University, where he studied travel and tourism. He is technically an animal rights activist and aspires to open an animal rehabilitation center for rescue animals. His principal occupation has been a part time school bus driver since the end of 2012, which allowed him to write five unpublished manuscripts in his spare time. Before that, Batieufaye ran a video store which closed up at the hype of Netflix’s driven internet power. He has also held some backbreaking jobs, such as courier driver (independent contractor) and Skycap/baggage handler, although nothing seems to take as much of a toll as his work with a major, corrupt casino corporation did, as detailed in his book Outfoxing the Gaming Club.
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    Rubicon by Ian Patrick: A thrill-ride that will stay with you long after the action ends.

    RubiconRubicon

    by Ian Patrick

    Kindle Edition, 232 pg.
    Fahrenheit Press, 2017
    Read: May 31 – June 2, 2018

    . . . there’s no money in policing unless you cross the line.

    But that doesn’t mean that Sam Batford isn’t going to try.

    Batford is an undercover police officer who’s after a kingpin of some repute and his guns and drugs importing. DCI Klara Winter is a no-nonsense head of a task force going after the same kingpin, Big H, more directly — phone taps, applying pressure to associates, interrogations, etc. Batford is assigned to her task force to supplement their intelligence. Neither want this assignment, and work to undermine it immediately. They do actually help each other out — but it’s almost despite their best efforts. Their mutual dislike, distrust and antagonism is one of the more interesting dynamics that I’ve run across lately.

    We see most of the novel through Batford’s eyes, with the occasional glimpse from Winter’s perspective. It doesn’t take much to get a strong sense of Winter’s personality and thought process. Just from the volume, the reader ends up seeing things Batford’s way — whether or not they should.

    Batford infiltrates Big H’s organization — at least to a degree — for one job. A large one, no doubt, one that would secure Winter’s career (and would do his own some favors). Like most undercover officers (especially in fiction), he cuts many legal and ethical corners to do so. There’s some question — as there should be — whether or not Big H really trusts him, and the constant testing, evaluation and insecurity makes for great reading — it’s an atmosphere you can almost feel through the words.

    So Batford is doing what he can to get enough information to take down Big H, to gain his trust (and therefore access), to disrupt the flow of drugs and guns — and mostly to stay alive. If he can find a way to make a little money while he’s at it . . . well, he might as well. Winter just wants enough evidence to make some arrests — and maybe some headlines — so she can get the budget to keep her team working.

    This is not a book for the squeamish — there are a few scenes I know that would cause some of my friends and readers to throw the book down in disgust (the same scenes will cause other friends/readers to fist pump their excitement — I’m not sure which of these bothers me more). There’s one scene in particular that made me think of the dental scene from Marathon Man (I’ve never watched the movie just in case they nail that scene from the novel).

    There were two . . . I don’t want to say problems for me, but things that kept me from going over the moon with Rubicon: Batford works his way into this assignment by worming his way in to the trust of one Big H’s associates while they’re in Bali. Do Metropolitan Police Undercover Officers really get to globe-trot the way that Batford does? Is that a bit of Artistic License? Is it a sign of just how far outside the lines that Batford colors? Does it tell us that he’s not just a Metropolitan Police Officer? It’s a minor point, I admit — and it’s really easy to accept as kosher (but that doesn’t mean I don’t wonder), because watching Batford’s machinations there is fascinating.

    Secondly, Batford displays a very particular vocabulary — I’m not sure if it’s London slang, or Ian Patrick-slang. I could believe either. I will admit that there were periods that the slang got in the way of the story. That’s probably on me — and some of it is Shaw’s two countries separated by a common language phenomenon. With a little bit of work, and a small amount of guesswork (and a willingness to go back and revisit a passage later), it was all accessible enough and perspicuous.

    There’s a lot about this book that I’m not sure about — I’ve been chewing on it for a couple of days, and it’s going to take a few more at least. Patrick’s characters take a little chewing, I think. It’d be easy to put Batford in the “murky anti-hero” category and move on — but I’m not sure he fits there; I’m even less sure where Winter fits — she’s not the straight-laced cop you’re at first tempted to label her, nor is she just the figure that makes life difficult for our anti-hero to do what he wants (although she functions pretty well that way). But even if/when I decide how to categorize these two — then I have to decide what I think of them as these characters — are they good people? No. That’s easy. Are they good fictional beings in their particular roles? My gut says yes, and my brain leans that way, but I’m still working on that.

    Either way, I’m enjoying chewing on the novel and these ideas — and I’m definitely getting my money’s worth out of this book, just having to think about it this much.

    There is part of this evaluation that’s easy — the writing? Gripping. The pacing? Once it gets going, it’s a runaway train that you’re just hoping you can hang on to long enough to get through to the end. The narrative voice is as strong as you could ask, and even when you’re thinking this cop might be more deserving of a being handcuffed on his way to a long incarceration than his targets, you’ll need to hear his singular perspective on the events around him.

    Strong writing (some of my favorite sentences of the year are in this book), characters that demand thinking about, a plot that you can’t wrap up in a tidy bow — this isn’t your typical thriller. Whether it’s your cup of tea or not, it’s one that you won’t forget easily.

    —–

    4 Stars

    BOOK SPOTLIGHT: Rubicon by Ian Patrick

    Today we welcome the Book Tour for the provocative Rubicon by Ian Patrick — frankly, half the reason that I’m happy about this is that now I can read all the great content that’s been put together for this tour. Along with this spotlight post, I’ll be giving my take on the novel here in a bit.

    Book Details:

    Book Title: Rubicon by Ian Patrick
    Publisher: Fahrenheit Press
    Release date: August 21, 2017
    Format: Paperback/ebook
    Length: 232 pages

    Book Blurb:

    Two cops, both on different sides of the law – both with the same gangland boss in their sights.

    Sam Batford is an undercover officer with the Metropolitan Police who will stop at nothing to get his hands on fearsome crime-lord Vincenzo Guardino’s drug supply.

    DCI Klara Winter runs a team on the National Crime Agency, she’s also chasing down Guardino, but unlike Sam Batford she’s determined to bring the gangster to justice and get his drugs off the streets.

    Set in a time of austerity and police cuts where opportunities for corruption are rife, Rubicon is a tense, dark thriller that is definitely not for the faint hearted.

    About Ian Patrick:

    Ian PatrickEducated in Nottingham, Ian left school at sixteen. After three years in the Civil Service he moved to London for a career in the Metropolitan Police.

    He spent twenty-seven years as a police officer, the majority as a detective within the Specialist Operations Command. A career in policing is a career in writing. Ian has been used to carrying a book and pen and making notes.

    Now retired, the need to write didn’t leave and evolved into fiction.

     

    Ian’s Social Media:

    Twitter: https://twitter.com/IPatrick_Author
    Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ian-Patrick/e/B075VB1MP4/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

    Buy Rubicon direct from Fahrenheit Press:
    http://www.fahrenheit-press.com/books_rubicon.html


    My thanks to damppebbles blog tours for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials they provided.

    Trouble Makes a Comeback (Audiobook) by Stephanie Tromly, Kathleen McInerney: Not as good as its predecessor, but a heckuva fun read/listen

    Trouble Makes a ComebackTrouble Makes a Comeback

    by Stephanie Tromly, Kathleen McInerney (Narrator)
    Series: Trouble, #2

    Unabridged Audiobook, 7 hrs., 56 min.
    Listening Library, 2016
    Read: May 23-24, 2018

    After the explosive ending of Trouble is a Friend of Mine, life has settled down for Zoe — so much so, she may have achieved “normalcy.” Her grades are good, she’s got a nice job, she’s dating the backup QB (maybe not the brightest guy, but he’s nice), and even has a couple of friends. The biggest stress in her life is the SATs just around the corner (she’s over-prepared but doesn’t believe it). Her mother’s got a new live-in boyfriend, and other than all the health food he’s insisting they eat, things are good on that front, too — better than they’ve been in years.

    Which means, it’s time for Digby to come back to town and muck everything up. And boy howdy, he does a great job of that.He’s got a lead on his missing sister, and he wants Zoe to help. Oh, and he’s pretty sure there’s a drug ring afoot at her school, and he might as well take that out while he’s at it.

    The drug story runs just like you’d think it would — maybe a bit too conventionally, really. But it does it’s job — giving Digby, Zoe and the rest an easier target than the quest for his sister. And is good for enough laughs and tension that it feels like more than just a distraction from the “real” story.

    That story, the hunt for clues to his sister’s fate is huge. We learn so much more than we did in the first novel — and find out that so much that Digby thought he knew wasn’t quite right. In the end, this task feels out of the reach and capabilities of these two — even if it’s inevitable that they’ll get somewhere that the police, FBI, and other professionals never did.

    I may not have done myself a favor listening to this so soon after the first novel — I may have liked it better with a cool-down period. Still, I just don’t think it’s as good. Which is strange, the story’s more focused, there’s less stage-setting needed — we know almost everyone already, the situation is clear, etc. But the story wasn’t as gripping, I kept waiting for something to happen — and when it did, it seemed too easy. Plus, the whole “high school story” thing — romantic relationships, etc. — was more significant to this book. None of this made it a bad book, just a “less-good” one. Still, plenty of fun, and I really want to get the sequel, which can’t be a bad thing, can it?

    Nevertheless — I enjoyed the novel (and McInerney is a big part of that) — I laughed, I had fun, I enjoyed the tension, and might have even gotten wrapped up in the emotional moments. A strong sequel that does an admirable job of setting up a sure-to-be knockout final book in the trilogy.

    —–

    3.5 Stars
    2018 Library Love Challenge

    How It Happened by Michael Koryta: A great thriller to kick off your summer (and/or a Russo novel gone awry)

    How it HappenedHow It Happened

    by Michael Koryta

    Hardcover, 368 pg.
    Little, Brown and Company, 2018
    Read: May 29 – 30, 2018

    The rain had tapered off overnight and given way to a gorgeous day, the sky and sea competing for the deepest blue, a light wind pushing off the water, temperature nearing eighty. The air was scented with ocean breezes and pines and held only the faintest trace of humidity. A quintessential Maine day, more suited to July than May.

    If you weren’t looking for a drug addict and self-confessed murderer, it would be a day to treasure.

    This is one of those that comes down to the set-up. Because it’s executed practically flawlessly, and if you’re in for a penny, you’re in for the whole pound — and it’s a heckuva ride. You won’t want to get off until the end, and then you’ll be able to breathe for the first time in seventy pages or so. If you’ve read Koryta before, you have an idea what things’ll be like — and you’ll be right. If you’ve not read him before, you probably will make arrangements to familiarize yourself with him soon after finishing this.

    So, what is the setup? FBI Agent/expert on eliciting/evaluating confessions from criminal suspects, Rob Barrett returns to the small Maine community of his childhood summers to investigate a missing persons case/potential double homicide. After weeks of work, he finally gets a seemingly reliable confession from Kimberly Crepeaux to what happened to the missing young people. It’s a harrowing confession, I have to say — I’ve read novels with less tension than her recounting of what happened that night. Kimberly is a drug addict, jailhouse snitch, and all-around unreliable person — everyone in town knows this. But Rob believes her (and you will, too).

    But there are a couple of problems. Problem one: Mathias Burke is the man that Kimberly says is the murderer. Mathias is a go-getter of a young man, and has been since he was a kid — the dictionary might as well feature his picture under “industrious.” No one in town can believe anything Kimberly says about the way he acted that night — even the non-criminal aspects of it. None of it is characteristic of him. Problem two: the bodies aren’t where she says they were. In fact, they’re found miles away and seemingly killed in a different fashion, with the fingerprints and DNA of someone not Mathias Burke present.

    So much for Kimberly’s confession — and Rob’s career. He’s shipped out to a field office in Montana, probably for the rest of his career.

    But Kimberly sticks to her story, and convinces the father of one of the victims, Howard Pelletier, to believe her (and fear for her safety from Burke). Howard’s wife died when his daughter, Jackie, was young. He became the most devoted single father in history, and in time, she reciprocated. The story of Jackie and Howard would be enough for a novel, were it not for the murder. Howard’s insistence that Rob pay attention to Kimberly again and his need for answers brings Rob back for one more try at finding out how it happened.

    Pretty good hook, eh? And like I said, once it’s set, Koryta reels the reader in just like the seasoned pro he’s become.

    A strange thought occurred to me this weekend: this could very easily have been a Richard Russo novel — I’m not sure who the protagonist would’ve been — maybe the cafe owner or something. But Rob, returning to his childhood stomping grounds (however temporarily), Howard and Jackie would’ve easily have been fixtures — ditto for Mathias Burke (and even Kimberly, come to think of it). Mathias would be a major player, really — not the protagonist, but a lead character for sure, his troubled youth, his Horatio Alger-ish work ethic/success story, the way that this silly FBI interloper messed up his life, etc. The tangled lines connecting all these people would be seen more clearly, and traced back a generation or two, making everything more complex. Actually, the more I think about this, the more I want to see Russo write his take on these elements. Anyhow, this isn’t a Richard Russo novel — this is a Michael Koryta novel. So, it won’t be anywhere near as funny, the psychology will be presented in starter light, the tension level will be much higher, and the sense of right and wrong will be much less murky.

    A knockout of a read — a great thriller to kick off your summer with.

    —–

    4 Stars2018 Library Love Challenge