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Mystery/Thrillers

If you are a fan of mysteries you may be interested in the following site,  http://www.stopyourekillingme.com/.

The site contains a list of authors, titles, new releases and a whole lot more.

THE SCARECROW

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THE SCARECROW by Michael Connelly

Little, Brown and Company; (May 26, 2009), 448 pages

With The Scarecrow, the author brings back ace crime reporter Jack McEvoy and eventually reunites him with FBI agent Rachel Walling. We last saw our two heroes together in The Poet – Ms. Walling subsequently paired up with Bosch in The Narrows – and I would recommend reading The Poet before this book. (The Narrows is not a necessary prerequisite, but is a good book nonetheless.) McEvoy and Walling are solid protagonists and although I enjoyed The Poet more, this addition is a very engaging and fast read.

Our story opens with McEvoy being given his 14-day notice by the L.A. Times, i.e. he’s being laid off - Jack the latest “Reduction In Force” casualty in the floundering news print industry. After a weekend of wallowing in self-pity – and a few too many cocktails – Jack decides to go out with a bang – meaning a “big story” – while he trains his new, young, and very attractive “replacement”.  

After receiving a phone call from an accused murderer’s mother – not surprisingly she claims her son is innocent - Jack begins investigating the seemingly straightforward, but very brutal murder. And lo and behold, there’s more to the crime than meets the proverbial eye. So before the reader can say “Whodunit?”, Jack finds himself on an investigative roller-coaster ride tracking a very shrewd serial killer, with Rachel at his side – kind of – just as in The Poet .

Overall The Scarecrow is a pretty good read and our villain - whose identity the reader learns early on – besides being evil, is also a cyberspace guru. There are a few very predictable twists, which to the credit of the author are not belabored. And there is at least one epiphany “Ah Ha!” moment with our hero, which rings a tad hollow. That being said, The Scarecrow is still an exciting offering from Connelly and even if you don’t love it, fans of this genre and author won’t be disappointed. 

 

FLESHMARKET ALLEY

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FLESHMARKET ALLEY by Ian Rankin

Little, Brown and Company (February 1, 2006), 576 pages

This is the 15th adventure of Edinburgh Police Detective John Rebus. Our hero can be a lone wolf – although a few of his peers do make the Rebus grade – he’s acerbic, seemingly knows every pub in Scotland – and their bartenders, him – and if nothing else he is persistent; working round the clock between pints and “malts” to solve cases. This is a very good series with Rebus fighting the good fight – usually on his own terms – exposing the seamy underside of the Scottish criminal element.

In Fleshmarket Alley, a police department reorg has occurred with the “aging” Rebus and the much younger Siobhan Clarke – one of the few who’ve made it inside the Rebus circle – having been farmed out of the St. Leonard’s precinct. Neither of them is thrilled about the “move”. To stay out of the office, Rebus almost immediately inserts himself into the investigation of a murdered Kurdish refugee; Clarke is enlisted by a married couple – whom she knows from a previous case – to locate their missing teenaged daughter.  Just to add to the mix, a pair of skeletons – one an infant’s – is found in the cellar of a near-by pub. All of this seems unconnected – at least initially – but not so in this author’s hands.

A lot of ground with many characters is covered here, but the core of the story is the plight of illegal immigrants/refugees/asylum seekers and the associated xenophobia and resentment among the Scottish “natives” – all troublesome and trouble for Rebus, Clarke and Company, as they go about solving their soon intertwined cases. At times the author’s portrayal of these newcomers to Scotland – and their plight - although admirable, comes across as heavy-handed – and may frustrate the reader. Still Rankin’s point is valid and there is still an engaging mystery here. And for fans of this series, Ger Cafferty, an old Rebus nemesis, pops into the story-line.

Maybe not the best addition to the series, but still a good one. If you are new to the series, start with an earlier book in the Rebus canon.

 

FER-DE-LANCE

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FER-DE-LANCE by Rex Stout

Farrar & Rinehart, October 24, 1934, 313 pages

Fer-De-Lance introduces master detective Nero Wolfe and his right-hand man, Archie Goodwin. As author Loren Estleman, (Amos Walker series), points out in the introduction of the edition of this book I read, the reader meets the two protagonists as fully developed characters and seven years into their “partnership”. Wolfe – cantankerous, agoraphobic and massive – is fully entrenched in his twice daily greenhouse visits to his beloved orchids – never to be interrupted – as well as pursuing his insatiable culinary habits. Goodwin, Wolfe’s legman as well as his eyes and ears out in the real world, does most of the sleuthing, while not so gently prodding his boss into action – which is thinking – for when Wolfe applies himself – he is a genius.

In this adventure Wolfe takes on the case of a missing person which quickly intersects with the seemingly unrelated death – presumably of natural causes – of a college president on a golf course. Our weighty hero adds up 2 + 2 and comes up with seven, declaring said golfing university head was murdered - This out of the blue claim subsequently proven, much to the chagrin of the local authorities. And it’s then off to the proverbial investigative races as our two heroes work to collect the clues, find the murderer and collect a hefty fee.

Although Fer-De-Lance sets the pattern for the many Wolfe/Goodwin books to follow, there are a few subtle, yet fascinating differences. The author, through Wolfe’s admissions and Goodwin’s observations, provides the reader with a peek into the inner psyche of the master detective as he goes about his business. Also the solution and the identification of the culprit occur outside of the confines of Wolfe’s office – the usual locale where Wolfe pieces together the puzzle.

Great book – Great series.

 

REX STOUT

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Author Rex Todhunter Stout was born on December 1st, 1886, in Nobelsville, Indiana. Stout served in the US Navy from 1906-08, including a stint as yeoman on Teddy Roosevelt’s Presidential yacht. After his military service, among other endeavors, he devised a banking system for school children’s’ savings plans, from which he received royalties. In 1934, his first Nero Wolfe/Archie Goodwin novel, Fer-De-Lance, was published and detective fiction history was made – Stout writing more than 70 Wolfe/Goodwin novels/stories during his lifetime.

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THE WILL

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THE WILL by Reed Arvin

Pocket Books; Reprint edition (February 1, 2011),originally published 2000, 512 pages

Our protagonist in The Will, Henry Matthews, Jr., is an up and coming attorney in Chicago, working his tail off to make partner at a prestigious law firm. He has a beautiful girlfriend, just as driven as he is – she’s a financial advisor/broker – and both are seeking the proverbial brass ring, i.e. lots of money. Both read like 1980’s throw-backs. Out of the blue Henry is called back to his small hometown of Council Grove, Kansas to execute a will his late father had prepared for the richest man in town – “the King of Council Grove” – who has died. “The will” is not what anyone expected, starting with “the King’s” family, and Henry is sucked back into the politics, feuds and small town machinations he thought he had escaped. So begins this very lengthy and very vanilla “legal thriller”.

The crux of this story is why “the King” left most his assets, including most of Council Grove’s businesses, to a seemingly insane homeless man, aka “the Birdman”. Due to a lack of character development, the story’s premise – Henry’s “need” to solve the riddle of the will – is simply never plausible. There is no compelling reason for Henry to stick around, yet he does. So right from the get-go, the story-line has the reader scratching his head with this less then believable quandary.

The supporting cast – the bully son of the King, a crooked politician, a willful, young woman working for the state’s environmental agency, the townspeople and even “the Birdman” – are all one dimensional. And as they are introduced while Henry uncovers his hometown’s “deep dark secrets”, the reader knows exactly how they will fit into the book’s predictable, cookie-cutter, plug-and-play plot.

To compound the issue, this book is also woefully bloated. Scenes that at best would merit paragraphs meander for pages and even chapters. The Will is a long, very dry, superficial tale of redemption and is anything but a thriller.

Pass on this one.

 


Page 8 of 35

Comedy Clips of the Week

KEVIN SPACEY

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Producer, director, screenwriter and Oscar award winning actor Kevin Spacey Fowler was born on July 26, 1959 in South Orange, New Jersey. He has starred in such movies as The Usual Suspects, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, L.A. Confidential and American Beauty. One of his many talents is uncanny impersonations of famous people. The clip below is from Inside the Actors Studio as he runs through his repertoire for James Lipton. Highly entertaining and what a mind Mr. Spacey has.

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HERMAN CAIN IS A VERY FUNNY FELLOW….RIGHT!

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If nothing else Mr. Cain has a future in improvisational/sketch comedy.

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Sports

JESSE OWENS

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On August 3rd, 1936 Jesse Owens won the 100 meter sprint in the Summer Olympics held in Berlin. This was the first of his four Gold Medals, which included the Long Jump, 200 meter sprint and as a member of the 4x 100 meter relay team. A record that wasn’t equaled until Carl Lewis did it in 1984.

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JOHNNY EVERS

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Second baseman John Joseph Evers was born on July 21st, 1883.  Known as “The Crab” for his style of play in the field, Evers is also remembered as one of the smaller players to make it in the major leagues, weighing in at 100 lbs as a rookie and never topping out at more than 130 lbs during his career.

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Classic Movies

UNFORGIVEN

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Directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, Gene Hackman, Jaimz Woolvett and Saul Rubinek, the film Unforgiven premiered on August 7th, 1993. So often with classic movies the plot here is a simple one, an aging and retired Old West outlaw/gunslinger takes on one more “job” to avenge the brutal beating and disfigurement of a prostitute.

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HANG ‘EM HIGH

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Directed by Ted Post and starring Clint Eastwood, Inger Stevens, Ed Begley and Pat Hingle, the film Hang ‘Em High premiered on August 3rd, 1968. Fresh from filming the Dollars Trilogy with Sergio Leone in Europe and known to the American TV viewing public from his time on Rawhide, Clint made this movie – which really wasn’t much of a stretch. Playing a man wrongfully lynched – he’s rescued by a US Marshall just in the nick of time – Eastwood goes to work for the “local” judge, (Hingle), as a Marshall with the goal of “finding” the men who strung him up. This theme of frontier revenge/justice one that Clint would “revisit” several more times in his career. In this movie we meet Alan Hale, Jr. – the skipper from Gilligan’s Island – and a young Bruce Dern and Dennis Hopper. And even this early in his career Eastwood had an eye on the future; this movie was the first to be produced by Eastwood’s Malpaso Company.

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Dates In History

GULF OF TONKIN RESOLUTION

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On August 7, 1964 Congress passed what is now known as the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, giving President Lyndon Johnson “the power to take whatever actions he deems necessary to defend Southeast Asia, including the use of armed force.”  Although not a formal declaration of war, the Resolution was used by the Johnson Administration as the legal basis for the future conduct and escalation of the war in Vietnam.

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PT-109

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On August 2nd, 1943 the Patrol Torpedo boat skippered by future President John F. Kennedy was rammed and split in half by the Japanese destroyer Amagiri. The PT-109 sank within minutes taking two of its crew with it. The remaining 11 survivors grabbed what they could and began swimming the 3.5 miles to the deserted Plum Pudding Island - in the Pacific among the Solomon Islands. Two of the crew members were badly injured, Kennedy towing one to safety by taking the injured man’s life preserver strap in his teeth while swimming. The crew was rescued six days later after a coconut with the crew’s location carved into it was passed along to a Solomon local who passed it along to the US Navy. The coconut with its SOS message was preserved and adorned the JFK Oval Office as a paperweight.

 

Music

LOUIS ARMSTRONG

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One of the founders of jazz; musician, singer, entertainer, and trumpeter extraordinaire, Louis Daniel Armstrong was born on August 4, 1901, in New Orleans, Louisiana. Much has been written and said about “Satchmo” – genius, friend to many but close to few, comical, optimistic – whatever – to appreciate the man and his legacy listen to his music. Louis Armstrong was one of a kind.

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ADAM DURITZ

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Lead singer and founding member of The Counting Crows, Adam Duritz was born on August 1st, 1964 in Baltimore, Maryland. The son of two Jewish doctors Adam admits he is “impersonating African-Jamaican”, starting with the dreadlock hair extensions. In articles I’ve read Adam described as morose, tortured, melancholy and pretentious. And maybe he is. All I know is that when he and his band mates get together and make music something happens and it’s a good thing. The Counting Crows are still one of the best bands to see live for my money.

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Political Clips

HUNTER S. THOMPSON

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Hunter S. Thompson, the father of gonzo journalism, counter-culturalist, iconoclast, and someone who seemingly took Richard Nixon’s existence on this earth personally, was born on July 18, 1937, in Louisville, Kentucky. He was a frequent contributor to Rolling Stone, it was his book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas that combined all that made Thompson either loved or reviled – Drugs, alcohol, guns and contempt for authority – as the protagonist and his attorney make their way through Sin City. His follow up book, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign trail ‘72, tracked that year’s Presidential election and Thompson’s ever growing hatred of President Nixon.

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NOT THAT JOE WALSH …THE CRAZY ONE

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I’ve mentioned our local (Illinois) collective Congressional embarrassment before –

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Crime

WILD BILL HICKOK

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On August 2nd, 1876, James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok was shot and killed while playing poker in a saloon in Deadwood, located in the Dakota Territory. Prior to his final stop in Deadwood, he’d been a Union soldier during the Civil War, specifically as a scout and a marksman. After the war he became a stagecoach driver and then a lawman in Nebraska and Kansas. After turning in his badge Hickcok had toured the East with Buffalo Bill and after giving an interview with Harper’s magazine was now famous as a gunslinger – Wild Bill claiming that he had killed at least 100 men. If the number seems preposterous, it should be noted no one argued with Hickok’s claim.

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PUBLIC ENEMY #1

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On the very warm Chicago evening of July 22, 1934, John Dillinger exited the Biograph Theater after watching “Manhattan Melodrama”, (a gangster movie), starring Clark Gable, William Powell and Myrna Loy. With Dillinger was his new girlfriend, Polly Hamilton, and her “landlady” Anna Sage—“The Lady in Red”—who was actually clad in orange that evening.

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