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Reviews Written by
D. Kaplan "sleuth029" (New York, NY USA)

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Mary, Mary: A Novel
Mary, Mary: A Novel
by Julie Parsons
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
14 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Ms. Parsons, Ms. Parsons...not your best effort, Dec 8 2001
After reading "Eager to Please" by Ms. Parsons, which I loved, I decided to read another of her books. "Mary, Mary" sounded interesting and on the basis of my appreciation of "Eager to Please," I was really looking forward to reading Ms. Parsons' debut novel.
The story begins with the torture, rape and murder of Mary, a 20-year old woman temporarily living in Dublin. We even know who the murderer is early in the book. This brutal crime is merely a catalyst for the story of Margaret, Mary's single mother, and her reaction to the murder of her only child. During the course of the book, we learn everything there is to know about Margaret from the time of her birth up to the present day. Ms. Parsons explores every relationship Margaret has had during her 40-plus years. One would think that with all this probing into Margaret's life, we would get to know this woman in a very personal way. However, with all this information, Margaret comes off as a one-dimensional character whose only reason for being is to revenge her daughter's death.
Inspector Michael McLaughlin, the police officer assigned to this case, is the one character I felt Ms. Parsons brought to life. I found his personal story touching and overshadowed his involvement in the investigation of the crime. He is the one person in the book that I was drawn to and actually cared about. What I found interesting is that in all his interactions with Margaret we always know what Michael is feeling while Margaret and only contributes dialogue. If it were not for Michael, I would probably give this book a two star rating.
The problem I had with this book, other than the fact that is relentlessly dark, is the shift in time periods and characters. The book covers a 40-year time frame and Ms. Parsons shifts back and forth to any time and place within these 40 years. This, in itself, would not be a problem. In fact, I usually like this literary device. However, Ms. Parsons will start out a scene with two people in a certain time and place and quite abruptly, you will find there is a new cast of characters in another time and place only to find you are back again with the original two characters a few paragraphs later. Have I confused you? Well, imagine how I felt reading this. I was constantly having to go back a paragraph or two to get my bearings.
I will say that the last 30 pages were real page turners. What a shame to have to plow through a very long not so great book to get to there.
Although I didn't like this book very much, I would recommend that you pick up a copy of "Eager to Please" if you want to read
Mr. Parsons at her best.
Boy, this was a hard review to write. Forgive me if I have rambled on but I think I am only reacting the rambling and rather disjointed style of the book.

Eager to Please
Eager to Please
by Julie Parsons
Edition: Hardcover
18 used & new from CDN$ 0.69

5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Pleasing Psychological Thriller, Nov. 21 2001
This review is from: Eager to Please (Hardcover)
When I first started reading "Eager to Please," I felt it was just too dark and wanted to rush home and grab another book. However, my bus was coming and this was the only reading matter I had with me. Lucky me!! To think that I might have missed the opportunity to read this superb novel. I am hesitant to divulge more than the basic plot because I personally found each revelation throughout the book a surprise and wouldn't want to deprive the reader of that experience.
This is the story of Rachel, a middle-class, well educated woman in Dublin, who was convicted of killing her husband although she has never stopped claiming her innocence. The story begins when she is being released on parole after serving 12 years of a life sentence. While in jail, Rachel lost much...her five-year old daughter was taken in by foster parents, her father, being so ashamed by the trial and never really believing her innocence, stopped visiting her after a few months, her mother died never having visited her.
As the story unfolds, we begin to realize that Rachel has an agenda of revenge against the one person she claims murdered her husband and is responsible for her imprisonment and all the personal losses she has suffered. It is fascinating to see how Rachel painstakingly orchestrates her plan. There is not a character in this book who doesn't find themselves a piece of the puzzle.
What starts as an introspective look into Rachel's rather bleak life becomes a thrilling page-turner. Ms. Parsons has written her story in such a way that is exquisitely subtle while at the same time jarring us every so often by revealing that all is not what we have come to think it is. From the first chapter through the last, we are privy to twists and turns and come to know a far different Rachel than the woman we meet on the first page. The way the story evolves reminded me very much of Robert Goddard at his very best.
I read this book in little over a day and I am not a fast reader. It is one of those books that you just can't put down. If you are in the mood for a very smooth roller coaster ride, I suggest you pick up a copy of "Eager to Please."

Aftermath: A Novel of Suspense
Aftermath: A Novel of Suspense
by Peter Robinson
Edition: Hardcover
36 used & new from CDN$ 0.84

5.0 out of 5 stars Here's to you Mr. Robinson!, Oct. 20 2001
"Aftermath" is the most recent entry in the British police procedural featuring Superintendent Alan Banks. For those of you who have followed this series, you are in for quite a surprise.
Peter Robinson has done what very few authors of a series have been able to accomplish. He has taken a very popular series of books that were on the cozy side and with each succeeding book made the stories deeper and more meaningful and the characters richer and more complex. With this book, he has passed over from the rather mild British police procedural into the realm of Val McDermid land. In a brutally graphic manner, Mr. Robinson tells his story about a serial rapist and murderer while exploring child abuse, sexual exploitation, espousal abuse and the very dark side of the human psyche.
Along the way, Mr. Robinson adds more layers to the straight forward Alan Banks we met in the earlier books. We have come to discover that this is a complicated man who is in conflict about his broken marriage and the demands of his job. Mr. Robinson has paid the same attention to each character in this book, creating a rich and multi-dimensional cast of players.
One can only applaud him for taking this series in a totally new direction. I imagine it is not that easy for an author to fiddle with a wildly popular series. Mr. Robinson took that chance and we, the readers, are the beneficiaries of his willingness to explore new vistas.

Red Hook
Red Hook
by Gabriel Cohen
Edition: Hardcover
20 used & new from CDN$ 3.74

5.0 out of 5 stars The mystery joins the ranks of fine literature!, Oct. 17 2001
This review is from: Red Hook (Hardcover)
If you look for "Red Hook," you will find it listed as a "mystery." Hah! Don't believe that for one minute. Sure, there are a couple of murders and some good police investigation. However, the heart and soul of this book is about a man's search for himself...for acceptance of things past and the capacity to open his heart to the future.
Jack Leightner, a 50-year old divorced man, is a detective in a special homicide squad in Brooklyn. Jack is Brooklyn born and bred and has never had the desire to leave. I have often heard people say they like the sense of place they get from a book. If you want to spend some time in the real Brooklyn, this is your book. Mr. Cohen has captured the cultural differences of each neighborhood in that borough of New York.
When a man is found dead in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn, Jack and his special homicide unit are assigned the case. The circumstances surrounding this murder are a true to mystery to him and his partner. Why would anyone want to kill a Dominican janitor in such a brutal manner? In his tireless search for the answer, Jack not only confronts his childhood which was spent in Red Hook, but the future of this area of Brooklyn whose golden days seem long past.
Jack's exploration into his darkest and deepest hidden fears bring him face to face with his relationships with both the dead and the living. He tries to come to terms with a strained relationship with his dead father and his feelings about his younger brother who died at thirteen. While doing this, he is trying to reconnect with his 20-something son and enter into his first meaningful relationship with a woman in almost 20 years.

The ending of this book is second only to that of "The 25th Hour." I couldn't turn the last 20 pages fast enough. Like the famous roller coaster ride in Coney Island, Mr. Cohen takes you on a heart-thumping ride that sends you soaring and plummeting time and again. This does not end until the very last page when you can catch your breath and get off the ride.
With the publication of, among others, "The Bottoms," The 25th Hour" and "Mystic River, the mystery novel has joined the ranks of fine literature. Add "Red Hook" to this impressive list.
Five stars does not do this book justice. Pick up a copy and see if you're not rooting for Jack.

by Penelope Evans
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
11 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars With friends like this..., Sept. 29 2001
This review is from: LAST GIRL (Mass Market Paperback)
"The Last Girl" is the story of Larry, an old age pensioner, living in a boarding house in London. When Mandy, a young woman, rents rooms in the house, Larry becomes obsessed with befriending her. The problem is that Larry is not just looking for a friend; rather, he is looking to possess Mandy. He will settle for nothing less than her spending all her time with him, having no other friends and comporting herself in a manner he considers proper for a young lady.
The story is told in Larry words with very little dialogue. Larry is the "star" of this story and everything that happens evolves around how it affects him. In his mind, nothing else exists but his needs and his feelings.
Did I like "The Last Girl?" Well, that depends on which part of the book I was reading. I found the first part of the book to be repetitive, rambling and often boring. Then about one-third through the book a light went off. I realized that I was not reading mindless dialogue but was inside the mind of a madman. At that point, I was fascinated, repulsed and sitting on the edge of my seat as the tension subtly escalated. Larry's skewed and self-absorbing view of the world and his relationship with Mandy often made me want to throttle him. This part of the book I thoroughly enjoyed. If a character can evoke such a strong reaction from a reader, in my opinion, it is a good book. However, I thought the ending was predictable and a bit of a let down. With all the possibilities available to Ms. Evans, I was looking forward to a real shocker.
This is a book that requires a commitment from the reader. Initially, it is not a fast read and you have to plow through some less-than-exciting reading to reach that point where the book grabs you. Oh, if only the book had ended with the crescendo begun midway through. For this reason, I only feel comfortable giving the book three stars.

The Earthquake Bird
The Earthquake Bird
15 used & new from CDN$ 1.56

5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional first outing for a new author, Sept. 8 2001
This review is from: The Earthquake Bird (Hardcover)
I read "The Earthquake Bird" when it was first released in the UK. I normally wouldn't consider writing a review of a book that I had read months ago but in this case the distance works very well. This is a book that just gets better the more you think about it...and think about it you will.
Lucy Fly is a British woman who fled England years ago to live in Japan. Lucy is an enigmatic and detached character who, although allowing us to stroll through her mind, very rarely allows us to enter her heart or her soul. During the many years she has lived in Tokyo, she has made few friends and her central relationship is her affair with Teiji, a man who lives his life through his photographs. Lily Bridges, a young woman escaping her own personal hell in England, enters the lives of these lovers. In doing so, this seemingly naive young woman is the catalyst for the "earthquake" that upsets Lucy's claustrophobic and rather controlled life. For this, it would seem that poor Lily may have paid with her life.
This tightly-woven story unfolds at a slow and steady pace. While often sounding dispassionate, there is an undercurrent of electricity lurking beneath every word. Although it is a tale of passion, rage and obsession, emotions I associate with blazing colors, the story is told in muted shades of black and white. In the film noir style, there are scenes shrouded in a haze of fog, masked in gauze or with slim rays of light falling across small enclosed spaces. While there is no single stunning moment in "The Earthquake Bird," the story in itself is stunning.
At first I was thinking of comparing Ms. Jones' writing to that of Minette Walters, Barbara Vine or Nicci French but, on reflection, I believe that her storytelling skills are far more subtle. This is an extraordinary first outing and I anxiously await Ms. Jones' next book.
Make no mistake about it, "The Earthquake Bird" is Lucy's story and hers alone. She is the narrator and all that happens in the book is in her voice and seen through her eyes. If you want to take a walk on the dark side, I would strongly recommend that you pick up a copy of "The Earthquake Bird" and spend some time with Lucy.

Death At Wentwater Court
Death At Wentwater Court
by Carola Dunn
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
21 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A very British cozy, Aug. 31 2001
I am an ardent reader of British mysteries. I was first drawn to this genre by reading a series of cozies. Over the years my tastes have changed, though, and I now much prefer a British psychological thriller or police procedural. However, I still read a cozy now and then for a change of pace.
"Death at Wentwater Court" is the first book in a series featuring The Honourable Daisy Dalrymple and Inspector Alec Fletcher of Scotland Yard. Take a weekend gathering at a country estate in the 1920's, one of the guests who is the unfortunate victim, suspects galore, a promising romantic story line, more red herrings than clues and you have the makings of the ultimate cozy.
Most of the sleuthing is done by Daisy, a member of the British aristocracy who, being rather down on her luck, is supporting herself by working as a journalist. Alec seems to be along for the ride providing her with bits of information that set her off in her pursuit to solve the murder. Oh, he also serves a very important role as a possible suitor for Daisy.
I am giving this book three stars because I found it to be a bit too one-dimensional for my tastes. However, if you like an old fashioned very British mystery, this just might be your cuppa.

The Bottoms
The Bottoms
by Joe R. Lansdale
Edition: Hardcover
16 used & new from CDN$ 2.92

5.0 out of 5 stars The Bottoms is an intimate trip...get onboard, Aug. 19 2001
This review is from: The Bottoms (Hardcover)
I have been struggling with this review. I think that is because "The Bottoms" was such a personal experience that trying to find the words to share my thoughts with others is a bit difficult. However, I believe this deserves telling because "The Bottoms" is a very special book and I wish to share the experience with others.
This is the tale of Harry, a boy grappling with bridging that difficult gap between childhood and manhood. Along the way he confronts the search for a serial killer, race relations and his love for his parents with all their faults that we are loathe to accept in our parents.
The story takes place in Eastern Texas during the Depression. Although this is not a time and place I am familiar with, I found myself meandering through the woods, creeks and rural roads without feeling like a stranger to this part of the country. Mr. Lansdale made it so real to me that I could feel the heat, smell the air and want to swat at flies or scratch imaginary mosquito bites. It was as if I were hiding in the woods, in the barn or behind a chair in the farmhouse watching the story enfold before my eyes. Mr Lansdale has a wonderful talent for bringing you into the pictures he creates. His ability to do this reminds me of Stephen Booth's writing in "The Black Dog."
Although I figured out who the murderer was early in the book, that didn't detract one iota from my pleasure in reading this book. I was so caught up in lives of a family that I had come to love that catching a serial killer became superfluous to their story.
Of all the characters in the book, I was most drawn to Jacob, Harry's father. Aside from the fact that I wished I had grown up with a father like Harry, I suffered with him during his crisis of faith in his core moral beliefs and the very purpose for his existence.
This book will hold you in its grip until the very last page. The last chapter lulled me into a sense of complacency only to find myself in tears when reading the last few paragraphs.
I would urge you to read "The Bottoms" and experience your own personal trip.

Justice: Crimes, Trials, and Punishments
Justice: Crimes, Trials, and Punishments
by Dominick Dunne
Edition: Hardcover
57 used & new from CDN$ 1.46

3.0 out of 5 stars Old stuff..., Aug. 15 2001
JUSTICE is a compilation of articles written by Dominick Dunne about famous murder trials that have appeared in Vanity Fair magazine over the past ten years. Over the years having religiously bought the magazine solely to read Mr. Dunne's articles, I only have myself to blame for purchasing this book. The money I spent would have been better invested in a subscription to Vanity Fair magazine.
Right off the bat, I will say that about two-thirds of the book is devoted to articles about the O.J. trial. The article about the Menendez brothers' trials was written very early in the judicial process that went on for over a year and, therefore, did not discuss very much that occurred during these two sensational trials. Furthermore, there were only two articles in the book about recent crimes.
I did find the article about a murder that took place in 1943 to be the best of the lot. This was an article that I hadn't read before about a crime I knew nothing about. Typical of Mr. Dunne's articles, it is a tale of murder, sex and the lifestyles of the rich and famous.
I would recommend this book to those who have never read Mr. Dunne's articles or those of you who are interested in learning more than you already know about the O.J. trial. It is also a must for those of you who have been stranded on a desert island for the past ten years.

Seven Up: A Stephanie Plum Novel
Seven Up: A Stephanie Plum Novel
by Janet Evanovich
Edition: Hardcover
59 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars This series is my favorite sit com!, Aug. 10 2001
That last thing the world needs is another review of "Seven Up." However, after reading a number of reviews of this book, I do feel as though I have something to add to the mix.
This series reminds me of watching your favorite TV sitcom. When you turn on the TV, you know exactly what to expect...the same central core of characters in familiar surroundings. However, you know that no matter how many times you have seen these people sitting in their living room, somehow each week something will happen or a dialogue will ensue that will have you roaring with laughter. I feel the same way whenever I pick up a Stephanie Plum book.
For years, whenever someone would suggest I read this series, I always said that I didn't like funny mysteries. Finally succumbing to the pressure, I picked up the first book in the series. After reading it, I realized that the only way you can truly enjoy these books is if you give up the notion that they are mysteries. I find that the mystery is nothing but a backdrop for the antics of Stephanie Plum and the assorted off-center characters that are recurring characters and those that wander in and out of her life.
I thought that "Seven Up" was a fine addition to this very funny series. Just sitting here thinking about Bob the Dog brings a smile to my face. I also thought the introduction of Stephanie's sister and the exploration of her sexual identity was brilliantly funny. This is a classic example of the subtle humor that Evanovich weaves into her stories. I find this to be the perfect foil to the more slapstick and far from subtle humor that I associate with Grandma Mazur. There are those who say that Grandma Mazur is getting boring and predictable. Did we say the same thing about the Estelle Getty character in the "The Golden Girls," who to me is a Grandma Mazur clone?"
In the earlier books, another example of brilliant comedic writing is the description of the Buick belching its way down the street. At one time this vintage car, the size of a small tank, was my favorite character.
I don't know about you, but whenever I think of certain scenes in this book, I still find myself chuckling.
In closing, I can only say that if you liked any of the books in this series, you will not be disappointed in "Seven Up."

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