Thursday, August 30, 2018


A Nero Wolfe Mystery
By Robert Goldsborough
A Mysterious Press Original
224 pgs

As we love both baseball and Nero Wolfe mysteries, this new entry by Robert Goldsborough was a much anticipated read. Happily it did not disappoint in any way offering up another intriguing murder and the all too familiar investigative routines originating from the brownstone at West 35th Street in New York. 

The story opens with Archie Goodwin and his pal, Saul Panzer, attending a Giants vs Dodgers game at the Polo Grounds. Upon arriving, they learn it is Flag Day at the ballpark and among the dignitaries on hand is State Senator Orson Milbank and his entourage. At the top of the 4th inning a homerun is hit into the second deck area over left field and as the crowd of thousands jump to their feet to cheer, the Senator keels over having been shot in the head by an assassin’s bullet. By the time Archie and Saul reach Milbank, he is dead. Several days later the Senator’s widow, a much younger former Hollywood actress, calls the Brownstone requesting to emply the famous Nero Wolfe to solve her husband’s murder and bring the killer to justice.

The late Rex Stout, Wolfe’s creator, was a genius in developing a mold by which the rotund detective’s tales would be laid out. Basically Wolfe never leaves his home. Rather he assigns Goodwin to do the leg work; which also includes interviewing the various suspects. Archie has a knack for remembering conversations verbatim and these he reports back to Wolfe. When all the pieces of a puzzle have been assembled in the tale, Wolfe deduces the solution and has all the suspects invited to his office where he then reveals the “how it was done” and the killer’s identity. It is a formula Robert Goldsborough has captured perfectly in these new Wolfe mysteries which is why we love them so much.

Much like the Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson stories that clearly inspired Stout, the mysteries themselves often prove secondary in importance to the actual fun of simply “being” with these wonderful characters. “Murder In The Ball Park” is no exception. If you are Wolfe and Goodwin fan as this reviewer is, you will relish every single scene in this dandy little caper where in the end, murder strikes out.

Monday, August 20, 2018


By T. Jefferson Parker
Putnam Books
353 pgs

Lindsay Rakes is a former drone operator for the U.S. Air Force.  In the end, her work of dropping missiles on enemy targets a world away becomes too much for her own conscience. The post guilt eventually ruins her marriage, losing both her husband and son through to the abuse of alcohol. Ultimately it is San Diego Private Investigator, Roland Ford, who comes to Rakes’ rescue, seeing the psychological scars she carries. He can identify as a Marine veteran who had served in Fallujah. He eventually gets Rakes in AA and on a path of sobriety.

As the book opens, Ford is still grieving for the loss of his wife in a single engine plane crash a year earlier. When Rakes shows up at his doorstep with a note threatening her life via beheading, he puts that melancholy aside. The note is written in a stylized Arabic calligraphy and the author signs himself Caliphornia openly identifying himself as a Muslim and alluding to her service activities. As it turns out, the other two men in her unit, also drone operators, had received the same thread on similar stationary. Ford takes Rakes note to FBI Agent Joan Taucher, a dedicated warrior obsessed with protecting her community from suffering terrorist attacks of any kind. She sees the threat as real and together, they begin their hunt for the elusive villain.

When one of the other two targeted veterans is murdered and beheaded, both Ford and Taucher find themselves in a race with a madman bent on a very singular vengeance. He has not chosen his targets at random, but because of their involvement with one specific mission. Now it’s up to the world weary P.I. to find that connection before the killer strikes again on an ever larger scale.

“Swift Vengeance,” like all good thrillers, works because of Parker’s ability to create believable characters, both good and bad. His insights into the human soul with its flaws and strengths is what propels the story. It allows us to know these people as if they were our own friends and neighbors. When the climax arrives, we’ve become invested and it carries us to a powerful finale cruel in its truth and inevitability. The last page of this amazing book is one this reviewer will never forget.  

Sunday, August 12, 2018


An Isaac Bell Adventure
By Justin Scott (& Clive Cussler)
Putnam Books
416 pgs

Of all the cottage spin-off series to come from Clive Cussler, my favorite remains the Isaac Bell stories, as writer Justin Scott knows his history and can write smooth, fast paced action better than most thriller writers today. “The Gangster” is no exception. It begins with an early encounter be Bell as a college student with an Italian immigrant, Anthony Braco, in a railyard. Later, that immigrant becomes the brilliant and cruel leader of New York’s Black Hand, the precursor of the dreaded Mafia.

Of course by this time, Bell is now a detective for the Van Dorn Agency and it is inevitable that the two will cross paths and become antagonist. All of this set up is wonderfully set forth and the tactics of blackmail and intimidation employed by are right out of crimeland textbooks. Where the novel takes a sharp turn is when Bell learns Braco has become involved with a plot to assassinate President Theodore Roosevelt. From that point on, we dare any reader to put this book down. It flies over the last two hundred pages like a bolt of storytelling lighting. 

We’ve enjoyed all the Isaac Bell books to date and “The Gangster” is by far one of the best. Can’t wait to see what Justin Scott has up his sleeve for the next one.