Blog Posts by Uncle Will

Posted by Uncle Will on 06/04/12
cover image
Camilla Lackberg is the best selling mystery author of Sweden.  She has 7 best sellers; to date, only 3 have been translated into English.  This is her latest in her Fjallbacka series.  What is it about Swedish authors that seem to mandate that all their mysteries have at least 20 characters?
 
True to form, this latest story has several plots with interconnecting characters.  The story begins in the present with Patrik and Erica, the proud parents of newly born Maja.  Erica has all the signs of postpartum depression.  Patrik hasn't a clue since he is immersed in investigating the shocking death of his wife's best friends' 8-year old daughter Sara...found tangled in a fishing net off the coast of Fjallbacka.   
 
Chapter 2 backs up to 1928 and has Lackberg tangling-in the title character, Anders Anderson, who is an artist with hammer and chisel in hand.  His canvas is Stromstad's quarry's granite.  He is commissioned by the town's most prominent businessman to create a great granite statue.  Agnes, the rich man's spoiled and only daughter has commission plans for Anders of her own.  The story continues to flip-flop back and forth between storylines, building to a dramatic conclusion.
 
All of Patrik's police cronies are back; each with their own set of hang-ups and emotional baggage.  Anna, the abused wife and younger sister of Erica, continues to plot her (and her children's) escape from her ogre husband Lucas. 
 
Make no mistake about it, this 500-page book is not an easy read and readers are advised to begin with Lackberg's first two mysteries in the series: The Ice Princess and The Preacher.    The series' central characters continue to develop from book to book.  The last chapter is always the "teaser" foreshadowing what is to come. 
 
If one enjoys mysteries that are thought-provoking and not formulaic, heroes that are flawed, and romance that endures, this Swedish series is carved in stone. 
 
   
Posted by Uncle Will on 05/25/12
cover image
"Vengeance is mine...sayeth the short story lover."
 
Lee Child has edited a collection of short stories from noted mystery authors Dennis  LeHane, Alafair Burke, Michael Connelly, Twist Phelan, Zoe Sharp, Jim Fusilli, Rick  McMahan, Anne Swardson, Steve Liskow, Brendan DuBois, Michael Niemann, Karin Slaughter,  Michelle Gagnon, Orest Stelmach, Adam Meyer, Dreda Say Mitchell, Darrell James, C.E.  Lawrence, Janice Law, and Mike Cooper.
 
Short stories are always a challenge to create for mystery writers.  Stephen King has in the past said that he thinks the successful ones are more difficult to write than the typical novel. There isn't an unsuccessful one in the bunch collected here. 
 
There is fine supply of twisted plots and complex characters.
 
"The Unremarkable Heart" I found to be the most controversial; the cleverest one has to be "Even a Blind Man." Lee Child fans will enjoy his dark entry "The Hollywood I Remember."  Make certain to read Child's introduction on how he chose the authors and their works.  It, too, is most enjoyable.

The lengths of all the stories are perfect for that bedtime nightcap to end the day.
Posted by Uncle Will on 05/09/12
cover image
Vivian is a teen werewolf.  She recently lost her father, who was King of the Pack, in a horrific fire.  Her mother, Esme, is 40-going-on-18 and Vivian's closest competition for male attention.  Like any teenage girl who lacks parental guidance, Vivian is depressed and a loner.  All her male peers are beasts...both figuratively and literally.  It's tough enough for a teen to deal with puberty, yet alone the repercussions of full moon transformations.
 
One day Vivian's life is transformed when she initiates a conversation with Aiden.  He is a creative classmate.  He has a gentle soul and smile to match.  He has a group of friends that could rival any werewolves' pack.  He also, in the eyes of any card-carrying werewolf, is nothing but a meat-boy
 
Meat-boys are not meant to be friends or lovers of werewolves.  Meat-boys are meant to be meals. 
 
Vivian's struggles abound.  She fears what a relationship with Aiden might bring out in her.  She fears being shunned by her pack for crossing a line that is forbidden.  She fears that her family will retaliate against Aiden for her indiscretions. 
 
Add to the plot the murders of some humans that draw unwanted attention to the pack and a power-struggle for a new leader; and the reader gets the classic story of  forbidden boy meets forbidden girl...with some howling at the moon added for special effects. 
 
This book was adapted into a film starring Agnes Bruckner and Hugh Dancy.  It should be required reading for teens (or adults) that feel the constant pressure to fit into today's society. 
 
Posted by Uncle Will on 04/06/12
cover image
Carl Hiaasen once again writes a book that a reader can really sink their teeth into.  The question is why  has it been categorized a Kid's Book?   It must be because it carries a PG rating.  This is textbook Hiaasen:  characters that are a tad off-center, witty dialog galore, and the setting in the Florida everglades. 
 
Mickey Cray is a loving husband and father, a professional animal wrangler, and a certifiable nutcase.   His doting son, Wahoo, loves giving his father a hand around their animal farm.  One of Wahoo's hands is sans  thumb thanks to Alice, the alligator, who one day was a little more eager to get fed by Wahoo than he anticipated.  Mrs. Cray has to take a short-term interpreter's job in China to help pay the bills.  Times are hard.
 
Hard-pressed for income, Mickey signs a contract with a network studio that produces the extremely popular TV series: Expedition Survival!  The star of this television show, Derek Badger, is battier than one of the bats that nearly bites off Derek's tongue while filming footage for an upcoming everglades' episode.  
 
Mickey and Derek are not a match made in heaven.  Derek, the supposed environmentalist, has total disregard for anything living.  His only concerns are having a massage each night in a posh motel that sports a hot tub in his suite and an abundance of chocolate éclairs at his bidding.  So totally out of control is Derek that he has to have his own personal wrangler....Raven Stark.  She has the undesirable job of being his production assistant and full-time baby sitter.  
 
Before packing up and traveling to the proposed filming location, Mickey and Wahoo sort of adopt Tuna, a runaway abused classmate of Wahoo's.  Tuna's mother is in Chicago.  She has escaped her drunken husband's beatings by leaving to care for her sick mother.  After receiving her latest black-eye from daddy dearest, Tuna decides that swimming solo upstream would be better for her health than remaining home.  Home is a trailer parked in the local Wal-Mart lot.  
 
As expected, there are production problems a-plenty betwixt Derek and Mickey that must be wrangled by Raven and Wahoo.  When Tuna's dad discovers her current whereabouts, the collision course among the three mental midgets is more dangerous than entering the Bermuda Triangle.
 
 
 
   
Posted by Uncle Will on 04/03/12
cover image
David Bledsoe is the author of two other successful series books; one about hip'n'happening vampires and the other about a sword-wielding private-eye from back in the day of noble knights and distressed damsels.  In this first book of his new series, Bledsoe spins a fascinating tale about the Tufa; descendants of a tribe of Irish fairies that immigrate to the Smokey Mountains years before Columbus discovers America.
 
The setting is the mountains of East Tennessee, Cloud County, where a wounded, recovering Iraq War veteran returns to her secluded home town.  She's greeted with an unwanted hero's welcome, a parade celebration and national news coverage.  Only wanting to lick her wounds and rejoin her loving family, Pvt. Bronwyn Hyatt becomes the government's current poster-child depicting their latest attempt to justify their involvement in a foreign war.
 
There is a foreshadowing of death.  Bronwyn's only defense is in the music that she once was able to create, that now she struggles to relearn.  She must learn to separate her past and forge a new future.
 
Bloodlines are very important in Cloud County.  There are two family factions.  Bronwyn is the first-born daughter of a first-born daughter, of a first-born daughter, etc.  Her gifts and talents are extremely special.  Music is the tie that binds the families.  It is the hum that defies description.  The power that the music emits is godly.  It is the shiver. 
 
Bledsoe creates a world of music, magic and mystery.  The characters are lovable and believable.  Reading this story will leave readers with a hum and a shiver.
 
Posted by Uncle Will on 03/12/12
cover image
Michael Robotham is back with his sixth installment in his international bestselling mystery series.  Readers not familiar yet with Robotham are missing out.  Each of his books is told in the first-person narrative of one of his recurring characters. 
 
This time around, Professor Joe O'Loughlin is still battling the beginning stages of Parkinson's Disease and the 2-yr. separation from his wife, Julianne, and his two daughters.   Sienna, the best friend of his eldest, Charlie, is found covered in blood not belonging to her.    Sienna's domineering dad, a retired Detective Investigator, is found bludgeoned to death in her bedroom.  All evidence points to her guilt.  Joe is asked by the court to conduct her pre-trial psychological profile. 
 
What Joe discovers while conducting his investigation is disturbing to a man, a husband, and most of all a father.  Joe is reminded of the pure evil that exists in the world.  Evil that even touches his precious family core.
The evil that has rocked Sienna's world is now determined to make Joe dance to its bastardly beat.
 
As mentioned earlier, by switching narrators in each of his books, the reader gets a refreshingly new perspective on each of the main characters.  One man's said strengths thus can, and sometimes are, viewed as his weaknesses.
 
This book is such a page-turner that readers should be aware of the probability of a plenitude of paper cuts. 
 
 
 
Posted by Uncle Will on 03/09/12
cover image
Historical Fiction has been called "a genre of controversy and contradiction." 
 
In this wickedly clever novel, Oscar Wilde attempts to solve the mystery behind the murder of the Duchess of Albemarle.  After hosting a posh party, whose guest list includes many of the blue bloods residing in England, circa 1890, the Duke finds his wife dead in their telephone parlor around midnight.  The Duchess has two deep, penetrating puncture wounds on her neck and appears to have been violently violated.  Official cause of death:  heart attack.  Oscar joins forces with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Bram Stoker to prove to the Royal Family that the Duchess' death was anything but accidental.
 
Prince Albert, still suspect in the Jack the Ripper murder spree, belongs to a secret society that meets in cemeteries to hobnob with vampires and their groupies.  One newly acquired acquaintance of Wilde's professes to be a vampire and is enlisted in the group's hunt for the truth.
 
This tale is told through the use of telegrams, love letters, news articles, diary entries, etc.  It is fast-paced and deliciously wry.  Just to experience all the Sherlock Holmes/Oscar Wilde comparisons is worth the read.   A historical fiction critic once wrote "...Most historical novels feel thin once you are away from the historical figures that have drawn you to the novel in the first place..."   
 
This is not the case in this mystery book.
Posted by Uncle Will on 02/29/12
cover image
In 1971 Sam Peckinpah released his film adaptation of this novel entitled "Straw Dogs" starring Dustin Hoffman.

In 2011 Rod Lurie released his remake of "Straw Dogs" but it was more an adaptation of the earlier film than the novel that originally inspired it.

Leave it to Hollywood to take a nice, neat novel and botch the big screen adaptation, not once, but twice.

First published in 1969, Gordon's book was a tight psychological thriller.  The protagonist was an introverted American author, George Magruder, married to an English lady (far above his station) that longed for returning to her homeland.  His passion for his work and her homesickness adversely affect their marriage and their 8-yr. old daughter, Karen. Together they agree to leave America and move to England
where they purchase a quaint British home known as Trencher's Farm.

This continental jump creates a chasm in the Magruder family that cannot be corrected.  George and Louise begin to bicker more frequently and Karen withdraws from being party to her parents' poor problem-solving practices.  

The country setting that they've settle in has an escaped mental patient, Henry Niles, on the prowl. He has been hospitalized for a history of murdering young girls.  Needless to say the town is outraged that a psychotic killer is on the loose.  How humans react when an alleged wild animal is on the hunt becomes the central theme.   At what lengths will a man go to protect himself and his loved ones?

If one has seen either of these film adaptations and found them interesting, then reading this book will undoubtedly be more fulfilling.

Posted by Uncle Will on 02/23/12
cover image
This is the actress-turned-writer's long anticipated sequel to her first novel, Vampyres of Hollywood.  The premise of her first book was that many of the great actors past and present were vampires. The head of the movie studio, Anticipation, was, the centuries old, Ovsanna Moore.  Ovsanna joined forces with her human-Beverly-Hills-police-detective-turned-love-interest, Peter King, to battle the demon mother of all vampires.  They prevailed.

 In this book the plot continues the cute courtship of Peter and Ovsanna.  It always is a serious affair, when on Christmas Eve, you bring home to meet Mama, a vampire queen.  It doesn't help the relationship when one party of the couple is hiding the fact that a powerful Werewolf has already attempted to reconvert a member of the undead back to the dead-membership category.

Barbeau is no stranger to B-movie plots, having starred in several during her long Hollywood career.  Co-starring on the TV show Maude with Bea Arthur must have inspired some of the character strengths inherent to Barbeau's Vampire maven femme fatale...Ovsanna.

This time around Barbeau did not join forces with a co-writer as she did in her novel and is credited as the sole author.  Her biggest strength is that she does not take herself too seriously.  The tone of her books is campy.  She has created characters that are totally unbelievable; however, many have a place in Hollywood
history.  

Lookout Historical Fiction authors...there's a new player in town.

Posted by Uncle Will on 01/31/12
cover image
It was recently recorded that the cast and crew of the popular TV hit "Justified" begged creator Elmore Leonard to write a new book about the story's hero Raylan Givens.  Givens is a man in his mid-30's who always dreamed of becoming a US Marshall.  He is a throwback to the cowboys that use to fill the Saturday matinee screens in movie theaters across America.
 
A true cowboy is he.  He wears a distinctive-looking western hat at all times except when meeting women.  Then the hat is removed and held nervously in hand as he easily spews out some witty banter.  He routinely practices his quick draw.  He never "pulls" his piece unless the object of his action is forewarned of the probable outcome...their demise.  He always shoots to kill.  
 
This book reads like three short stories all interconnected.  There are three female leads; one good, two not so, that Raylan encounters.  The first is a tasteful transplant nurse who entices men into hotel rooms with the intent to surgically remove their kidneys and later sell them back to the victims.  Left naked and helpless in bathtubs full of ice, her victims have little choice but to become willing buyers. 
 
The second femme fatale is a cold-blooded coal mine executive who is out to screw the common man while filling her company's coffers.  After committing murder, she arranges to enlist the protection of a said US Marshall who has ties to the coal community that she is battling.  Raylan has sent seven souls to their damnation, but never has one been a woman.  Is there a first time for everything?
 
Everything comes to a close when Raylan tracks down a suspected lady bank robber on the lam.  She is a Texas-Hold'em-type-tart who was formerly an Ivy League A-student turned gambler whose goal is to win the poker championship of the world.  Raylan seldom lets himself get knocked from his horse, but he might have met his match when corralling this little filly.
 
No author today has the writing style of Elmore Leonard.  His ability to pen dialog that seems so real and effortless makes him stand apart from all.  As they say:   "...Often imitated, never duplicated...."
Complete a simple form to share your taste and preferences and receive personalized reading suggestions.