The Imaginary Realms of
Gilbert M. Stack

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A Sticky Situation by Jessie Crockett

Posted by Gilbert Stack on July 20, 2022 at 5:50 AM

Sugar Grove Mysteries 3 A Sticky Situation by Jessie Crockett

Dani Greene is back for a third mystery set in Maple Syrup country. With her is the whole zany cast of the town—which is a strong benefit to readers of the series because many of these residents have been suspects in earlier novels and they will feel familiar to the reader.

 

This time the crime is thirty years old when the bones of a man who for three decades was suspected of stealing the profits of a local festival are discovered during the renovations of a town building. It turns out that this man, “Spooner”, was a lady’s man loved by women even as they fought over him and hated by their fathers and husbands. (Who would have thought that the ability to make music from two spoons would make a man sexy?) Just about everyone had something to say about Spooner and something to coverup from the past.

 

To complicate matters further, Dani’s annoying aunt and cousin have returned to Sugar Grove to live and they are so bad that Dani and her (up until now) rotten sister, Celedon, become partners in trying to keep away from them. The only thing “wrong” in this book is that Dani’s reason for poking her nose into the police investigation is very weak, but then, being nosy is often the excuse to investigate in this sort of novel. Overall, this was another enjoyable book in the series and I’m very sorry that Jessie Crockett apparently stopped writing them after this book.

 

Line of Fire by W.E.B. Griffin

Posted by Gilbert Stack on July 19, 2022 at 6:35 AM

The Corps 5 Line of Fire by W.E.B. Griffin

The first two-thirds of this novel is filled with Griffin’s characteristic behind the scenes maneuvering—some of it in Washington, some of it on Guadalcanal, and some of it in Australia, and all of it is exciting. The book checks in with most of the large cast of characters. General Pickering is in Washington with malaria and his absence leaves his team in Australia unprotected from officers more interested in advancing their careers than the mission. His son, Pick, arrives on Guadalcanal where he joins the now familiar group of pilots fighting to keep the Japanese from retaking the island and with it quite possibly winning the war in the Pacific. And the two marine Coast Watchers, each sick with half a dozen tropical diseases, get weaker and weaker as they come to accept that their superiors in the corps have written them off. Unfortunately, this is true. Their replacements are being trained, but no effort is being made to create a plan of extraction.

 

The scene where that changes is one of the most moving in the series this far. Recently returned from Guadalcanal and sick with malaria, Reserve General Pickering asks a simple question—when did they kick those two young men in the Coast Watchers out of the corps? His deputy gets angry at him, but the question stands because, as Pickering was taught when he enlisted in the corps for World War I, marines don’t leave their wounded behind and Pickering is wholly determined to bring those two young men home again.

 

Enter Lieutenant Ken “Killer” McCoy, veteran of the first Marine Raiders mission and star of the opening novel in the series. McCoy gets the job of planning the rescue mission—and overcoming tremendous obstacles including the hostility of superior officers. This leads to unusually granular action-writing for Griffin as the reader is taken not just through the planning but through the mission itself to see if the corps really can rescue its men.

 

The Case of the Green-Eyed Sister by Erle Stanley Gardner

Posted by Gilbert Stack on July 18, 2022 at 6:45 AM

The Case of the Green-Eyed Sister by Erle Stanley Gardner

Perry Mason’s in trouble again—this time suspected of murder himself for a significant portion of the novel. His client is being blackmailed and Perry is hard at work to remove the source of her problem when someone preempts his efforts by killing the blackmailer. As usual, this puts Perry arguing in front of a jury seeking to keep his client out of the electric chair.

 

I thought the courtroom scene was better done than in the other novels in this series that I’ve read. Perry doesn’t have any secret knowledge this time. Instead, he has a theory of the case that he has to work very hard to bring to life through cross examination of the prosecution’s witnesses. The judge was a fun character as well—in control of his courtroom and clearly interested in justice.

 

Battleground by W.E.B. Griffin

Posted by Gilbert Stack on July 17, 2022 at 6:40 AM

The Corps 4 Battleground by W.E.B. Griffin

In the last book in this series, Griffin brought the corps to Guadalcanal, but he did so in large brush strokes mostly from an eagle-eyed view. In Battleground, he retraces some of that territory from his characteristic boots-level perspective, going over the lightning preparations for the invasion and reminding the reader again how the navy pulled out—stranding the marines on the island without giving them all their gear or even all their personnel. Griffin rarely puts the actual battles in the center ring, but you feel like you’re there anyway as reports come in and the consequences are dealt with. You also see quite a few of the people you’ve come to care about go into harm’s way.

 

In addition to battles with the Japanese, there are also plenty of the petty conflicts between the branches of service and between officers—the sort of stuff that you would think people would put behind them as they fight the Second World War but which human nature insists would become even more prevalent as the tension mounts. Even Magic—the greatest secret of the war (the U.S. had broken several Japanese codes)—is put at risk more than once for the basest of reasons.

 

Yet, it’s this pettiness and corruption that lets Griffin’s true heroes shine even brighter—men and women making every sacrifice to serve their country in one of its darkest hours. These books are not only exciting, they inspire us to imagine how we would (hopefully) step up when our country needs us.

 

The Misfit Soldier by Michael Mammay

Posted by Gilbert Stack on July 16, 2022 at 6:30 AM

The Misfit Soldier by Michael Mammay

Michael Mammay likes to write stories about corruption in the military usually in the form of the military industrial complex making money off war. For me, that is the heart of his newest novel, The Misfit Soldier—not the Ocean’s Eleven style heist that the blurb talks about. The Misfit Soldier is about a sergeant who is in the military to avoid the ramifications of a con gone wrong deciding to put it all on the line to recover one of the soldiers lost from his platoon after an apparently pointless battle.

 

So he pulls a Kelly’s Heroes and assembles a team to illegally drop from their ship, get behind enemy lines, and rescue their man. In doing so, they get stuck in a high-level power struggle between different officer factions who have different ideas about how and why the war should be prosecuted—causing a second unexpected problem that needs to be resolved by the end of the novel.

 

This is a fast moving, fun, book, but I don’t think it achieves the heights of Mammay’s Planetside series. Sergeant Gas is a pretty good guy despite apparently not wanting to be, but I just didn’t find his unabashed “I have no real plan” attitude to be believable. Naturally, plans go wrong and improvisation would then be needed, but Gas’ entire plan is to improvise from point A to point Z and in the end, I think that hurt the story.

 

Angel Trouble by D.M. Guay

Posted by Gilbert Stack on July 15, 2022 at 6:40 AM

24/7 Demon Mart 3 Angel Trouble by D.M. Guay

After almost getting eaten by zombies in book 2, Lloyd is finally ready to stop messing around and get his body into shape. Unfortunately for him, the bizarre problems that are a daily occurrence at the Demon Mart do not plan to wait for him to get ready for them. This time, the trouble centers upon The Grim Reaper (actually, he's only A Grim Reaper) who has been laid off from his job while the other angels investigate some rather nasty accusations against him. To make matters worse, The Grim Reaper's girlfriend of a mere 5000 years has broken up with him and so he's doubly heartbroken and has come to the rather strange idea that Lloyd (whom he has just met) is his best friend in the whole world. He then goes about accidentally destroying Lloyd's life, screwing up his company-paid-for gym membership and getting Lloyd put on review and in danger of losing his job. Oh, and the Grim Reaper is also apparently accidentally killing lots of people he runs into.

 

Now the reader is pretty sure from moment one that all is not what it seems, but the cast of our Demon Mart epics can be forgiven for not catching on too quickly. After all, Lloyd has a demon personally interested in wrecking his life and all the spirits the Grim Reaper is creating have come to the Demon Mart to haunt everyone (including one of our beloved main cast heroes.)

 

Lloyd has to really step up and become the principal hero (as opposed to the sidekick) this time. He has to be better than you ever believed he could be or he, Kevin, and DeeDee are going to be seriously dead for all eternity. I was, quite frankly, shocked at how far D.M. Guay took this and I was incredibly pleased how she maneuvered Lloyd into tackling these problems without fundamentally changing who he is.

 

Now if all of that isn't enough, I cannot close this review without mentioning Lloyd's employee manual. He has been avoiding reading it for two books now and it appears to be very angry at him over his neglect. Now that he needs it, the manual wants nothing to do with him. If you thought it was getting odd and scary in the last book, you ain't seen nothing yet.

 

This is hands down the best book of a great series. Here's to hoping the next book is just about ready for publication.

 

Three Doors to Death by Rex Stout

Posted by Gilbert Stack on July 14, 2022 at 7:25 AM

Three Doors to Death by Rex Stout

Here are three more novellas by Rex Stout featuring everyone’s favorite detective pair, Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin. Novellas are a good medium for these mysteries because you can read them in a single sitting, maximizing the experience.

 

In Man Alive, Wolfe is hired to find a man who was supposed to have committed suicide. It looks like a fairly straightforward job until he’s actually found dead and the client is accused of murdering him.

 

In Omit Flowers, Wolfe is coerced into working for free when pressure is brought to bear by one of his very few genuine friends. I particularly like this one because I figured out who the killer was and even why she had done it—even if I didn’t catch the clue that led to Wolfe solving the case.

 

Finally, in Door to Death, Wolfe is motivated to protect an orchid grower from a charge of murder. This one has a classic Wolfe trap in it that I found incredibly believable.

 

All in all, there are three nice mysteries in this collection.

 

Flirt by Laurell K. Hamilton

Posted by Gilbert Stack on July 13, 2022 at 6:00 AM

Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter 18 Flirt by Laurell K. Hamilton

This short novel gets started with a bang. Two different people come to Anita to raise their dead spouses as a zombie. The first is a man who avoids coming right out and saying it, but sounds like he wants to continue having sex with his dead wife (and yes, even though Anita raises very lifelike zombies, that’s as gross as it sounds). The second wants her to raise her husband so she can chop him into bits for cheating on her (because Anita’s zombies remember who they were and won’t die from being chopped up, so he can suffer forever). Anita refuses to help either person despite being offered seriously large amounts of cash. But one of them decides to force her to do the resurrection anyway.

 

The pacing of this novel is very quick with very little in the way of subplots. It doesn’t need them. Anita is on her own in a way that she rarely is in this series and when we compare her solution to her problems to similar ones that she has used in earlier novels, it shows just how starkly she has changed over the course of this series.

 

Gilded Latten Bones by Glen Cook

Posted by Gilbert Stack on July 12, 2022 at 6:55 AM

Gilded Latten Bones (Garrett Files #13) by Glen Cook

This is by far the best novel in the Garrett Files series since the opening trilogy. It caught my attention from moment one and kept me flipping pages right through to the end. Part of what makes it so interesting is that it opens unlike any of the other books. Garrett has given up the PI business in an effort to make his relationship with Tinnie Tate work. She’s been an on-again off-again love interest since book one and they’ve decided to get married even if they never quite get around to setting a date. Perhaps the reason they haven’t set the date is that they are making each other miserable, but that’s an issue for later in the novel. What happens right from the beginning is that Garrett and Tinnie are attacked in their home and immediately thereafter they learn that Garrett’s best friend, Morley Dotes, has been stabbed and is dying and needs Garrett’s help. If there weren’t already signs that Garrett’s relationship with Tinnie was in trouble, the proof comes right then. Tinnie doesn’t want Garrett to help Morley and Garrett understands that that is because Tinnie wants everything in Garrett’s life to revolve solely around her. It’s sad and it’s clear that if the series is going to continue, Garrett and Tinnie’s relationship can’t survive the book.

 

But that’s still a problem for later in the novel. First Garrett has to keep Morley alive and that involves protecting him from the people who tried to kill him. Unfortunately, Morley’s been out of the PI business for a couple of years. His city has changed. There are new players and he is out of practice and making dumb mistakes. It takes time for him to start get his groove back and he’s hampered by the need to never leave Morley’s side, but slowly, a huge problem in the city begins to get uncovered. Someone is creating zombie monsters by stitching pieces of people and things together like Dr. Frankenstein. It’s creepy. It’s dangerous. And it’s still not the whole picture because someone on the Hill is trying to cover the whole thing up and the effort to do so involves not just the king but law-and-order’s former champion, Prince Rupert. The Prince is so determined to cover up the mess that he is willing to dismantle the City Guard that he has spent a great many books constructing to accomplish his end.

 

Somewhere near the heart of the problem, but not actually directly involved, is Garrett’s new potential love interest, a very powerful sorceress called Furious Tide of Light. Her family keeps showing up in connection to the zombies and she is both determined to find out why and terrified of the answers. She’s also decided that Garrett is going to be her man and despite feeling guilty about Tinnie, Garrett is interested.

 

This one has all the things that makes the Garrett Files great. It’s a fantastic mystery. There is a very serious threat to Garrett and friends. And there are a couple of emotionally powerful subplots. My only complaint, is that Garrett moves on too quickly from Tinnie, but frankly, this is in keeping with his character even if it was a little disappointing.

 

Skin Trade by Laurell K. Hamilton

Posted by Gilbert Stack on July 11, 2022 at 6:05 AM

Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter 17 Skin Trade by Laurell K. Hamilton

Hamilton is back in her old form in this novel. The opening chaptermilton sees Anita receive a package containing a severed head with a return address in the city of Las Vegas. (Talk about opening with a bang!) Shortly thereafter she learns that the head belongs to a vampire executioner and that several members of the SWAT team backing him up were also killed. Oh, and there’s a note painted in blood inviting Anita to Vegas.

 

So this is a good beginning and it’s followed by the sort of action that Hamilton used to give us. She has to make contact with the police many of whom do not like her because she’s a woman and has gotten a reputation for sleeping with any and everyone who moves. (Hamilton tries to make this look like an undeserved reputation and it’s certainly exaggerated a bit, but thanks to the ardeur, Anita does sleep with a lot of people. The better question which Hamilton asks is why should her sleeping habits impact her ability to do her job? After all, she has the highest number of vampire kills in the country.) There’s also lycanthrope politics and some interesting metaphysics coming both from the vampire serial killer she’s tracking, plus the Mother of All Darkness, plus a lot of the cops. And the focus of the book does mostly stay on trying to catch the killer.

 

All of this is to the good. In addition, Hamilton mostly avoided doing the things that have been annoying me for most of the last six books. Sex is not dominating the vast majority of the pages and sometimes the sex that is there serves a clear plot purpose. (Hamilton even does one of the major sex scenes off screen, which is where most of them belong.) This book also downplays the endless relationship talk that has overtaken so many of the novels, letting the reader focus on figuring out what is going on and how Anita is going to end the threat.

 

So lots of good, not so much bad, and a major storyline that has been building for many books is seriously advanced.

 


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