Thursday, June 30, 2016

Silent City: a Claire Codella Mystery (Book Review)

Title: Silent City: a Claire Codella Mystery
Author: Carrie Smith
Publication: Crooked Lane, Hardcover, 2015
Genre: Mystery/suspense
Plot: Claire Codella, a NYC detective, is returning to her job after successfully battling cancer with months of chemo. On her first day back, she is assigned the murder of an elementary school principal, who was admired by everyone but his own staff. Self-conscious about her changed appearance and wondering if she is really ready for the stresses of the job, Claire is also aware that her supervisor resents the attention she received on an earlier case and will do her no favors if she can’t solve this crime quickly. Partnered with an appealing gay detective, Eduardo Munoz, who is also persona non grata with the bullies at the police precinct, Claire is plunged into the surprisingly cutthroat atmosphere of the Manhattan public school system as she investigates two murders, and navigates her way among teachers, parents, and coworkers.

Audience: Fans of suspense and of female detectives who don’t take garbage from anyone; I was actually reminded more of TV shows like Blue Bloods and NYPD Blue than of current mysteries but maybe that is because the sense of place was so strong.

My Impressions: This is a fast paced debut, full of interesting characters and their interrelationships, with a vivid and gritty New York setting. I like Claire, who has been through a tough time with her cancer treatment – and the one person she thought she could really rely on, her best friend and former partner, Brian Haggerty – never made it inside the hospital to visit her. Claire has learned to rely only on herself, so she has to learn all over again how to trust and when to ask for help or she will not survive a dangerous investigation:

She preferred the truth to gentle fantasy landings. During investigations she always gave the truth – as sensitively as possible, of course – to the families of the violently murdered.

Claire’s candor, her post-treatment symptoms, and her determination to handle a high profile case so well that even her unpleasant boss couldn’t complain make her a very sympathetic heroine.

I wondered if other cancer survivors would be interested in this book and identify with Claire or if they would prefer more escapism in their suspense fiction, so mentioned it to a coworker who fits that category and had just told me she wasn’t reading any more cozies! Well, this is not a cozy – there is plenty of bloodshed and the kind of language you would expect from police, so I am lending her my copy.

I liked the relationship developing between Claire and Munoz (he is taunted so unmercifully by the homophobic detectives in the Manhattan North homicide unit that I wanted to offer my legal services pro bono) and appreciated the desperate shame of her friend Haggerty who knows he let her down when she needed support. Maybe I guessed who the killer was halfway through the book but it was really about more than just finding a killer.   
Author Carrie Smith

Source: I put this on my list after reading a very favorable review in Publishers Weekly, and checked it out from the Brookline Library. According to Smith’s website, a second book is coming in December.  Recommended!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

All Summer Long (Book Review)

Title: All Summer Long
Author: Dorothea Benton Frank
Publication: William Morrow hardcover, May 2016
Genre: Fiction
Plot: When glitzy New York interior designer Olivia Ritchie got married, she promised her professor husband they would one day retire to his home town of Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina. Now Nick, some 15 years older than Olivia, has retired and it is time for her to move, despite her poorly masked horror at leaving NYC. This drastic lifestyle change comes at a not inconvenient time for Olivia, whose business is going through a bad patch. She hopes that selling her New York condo and living modestly down south will help her and Nick recoup their fortunes. Olivia also has an extremely rich and needy client, Maritza Vasile; she spends most of the book zipping glamorously around the world with Maritza and her billionaire husband, and their marital issues cause Olivia to realize that money does not buy happiness.

Audience: Fans of commercial women’s fiction will enjoy this book. I was reminded of Elizabeth Adler and Eileen Goudge, although I had been expecting something more like Elin Hilderbrand and Nancy Thayer, who also write about families and relationships but in a less glitzy way than this book. Here is an interview with the author.

What I liked: All Summer Long was a fun, entertaining read, perfect for a big comfortable chair and a relaxing day. I grew fond of Olivia and her secrets and financial worries, and her affection for her sloppy husband. Although it was in her best interests to keep Maritza happy and eager to spend money, Olivia turns out to be genuinely fond of her rich, spoiled client, and gave both Maritza and her husband good, practical advice. The large cast of characters (including many bitchy women) added humor and dimension to the story which did not have much actual plot other than ‘money can’t buy me love,” but my favorite was Olivia’s hard working assistant Roni and I was glad she seemed to be getting a happy ending. And I do yearn for a trip to Charleston which I last visited in the seventh grade!

What I disliked: While I enjoyed this book, it was not at all what I expected and I got tired of all the designer name dropping. I thought it would be about Olivia’s and Nick’s slow but ultimately happy acclimation to Sullivan’s Island but they spent most of the book jet-setting with the Vasiles. Most of that wound up being diverting but I would have liked more about the famed Lowcountry of South Carolina and got very tired of their saying how much they loved each other all the time. Do people really do that? I wished they would make some local friends and I also disliked the dream Olivia has in Chapter 16 (I suspect this dream was to punish readers like me who were predicting such an outcome). 
Source: Thanks to TLC Book Tours and William Morrow for giving me a copy of this book in return for an honest review. You can visit other stops on Frank’s tour to see how they enjoyed the book or click below.

Tuesday, May 31st: A Tattered Copy
Wednesday, June 1st: A Chick Who Reads
Thursday, June 2nd: bookchickdi
Friday, June 3rd: Stranded in Chaos
Monday, June 6th: Seaside Book Nook
Tuesday, June 7th: Books and Bindings
Wednesday, June 8th: Tina Says…
Monday, June 13th: 5 Minutes For Books
Tuesday, June 14th: From the TBR Pile
Wednesday, June 15th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
Monday, June 20th: Kritters Ramblings
Wednesday, June 22nd: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom
Thursday, June 23rd: A Soccer Mom’s Book Blog
Friday, June 24th: Queen of All She Reads

Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Room Where It Happens

I wanna be in the room where it happens
The room where it happens
The room where it happens . . .

That hardly makes me unique but the other day I actually got to be in the room where it happens! I had left some documents at Boston City Hall for the mayor’s signature, and when I went back to pick them up his secretary noticed my curious glances down towards his office. She kindly offered me a quick tour (knowing he was in China for a few days, I could accept without worrying he would appear and find me gawking) and when she told me the mayor uses former Mayor Curley’s desk I was enthralled. “Sit down; I’ll take your picture,” she offered.
For those who don’t know, James Michael Curley (1874-1958) was a legendary four-time mayor of Boston (and one term governor of Massachusetts) whose popularity reflected the increased influence of the Irish community. Accused of campaign bribery, among other things, he was indicted twice but was still reelected to a fourth term. During his fourth term, he actually went to jail. John Hynes (grandfather of goalie John Hynes who took Shakespeare with me in college, now a big developer) served loyally as acting mayor, until Curley returned from jail in Connecticut, greeted by enthusiastic crowds and a brass band. Not the kind of person I would like in real life but intriguing to any historian!

James Michael Curley
Without any of the usual courtesies one would expect from the courtly Curley, the old mayor once back in his office brusquely pushed Hynes aside. Curley seemed to believe that it was important for him to quickly re-assert primacy over city government, and that the best way to accomplish this goal was to diminish the man who had ably served as caretaker during his five months in Danbury Prison. Later in the day, convening an impromptu press conference, Curley remarked that he had accomplished more in that one day than Hynes had done in five months. It was a disastrous miscalculation. Curley was a master of the political arts, but he made a fatal mistake. He had given the mild-mannered Hynes an invaluable political asset: passion. Hynes would not soon or easily forget the insult – his son would recall that he had never seen his father as angry as he was that day – and 1949 offered him the chance to exact revenge on the aging and increasingly out-of-touch Curley.
There was no fifth term for Curley. An outraged Hynes ran against Curley and won in a very close race, portraying Curley as out of touch and corrupt. As James Aloisi says in CommonWealth, also cited above, this election was a conscious choice by Boston voters to put aside nostalgia and elect someone who would move the city forward.  Much later, Hynes' grandson was in my Shakespeare class in college!

(Apparently, it's not uncommon to get a tour of the mayor's office - his secretary wasn't breaking any rules.  But it still made me feel extremely special!)

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Deception Island (Book Review)

Title: Deception Island
Author: Brynn Kelly
Publication: Harlequin, June 2016, Hardcover
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Plot: Rafe Angelito thought he was done with the demons from his past—until his son is kidnapped. Blackmailed into abducting an American heiress, the legionnaire soon finds himself trapped in paradise with a fiery, daring beauty who’s nothing he expects…and everything he desires. But when he uncovers her own dark secret, Rafe realizes he’s made a critical mistake—one that could cost him everything.

Playing body double for a spoiled socialite was supposed to be Holly Ryan’s ticket to freedom. But when she’s snatched off her yacht by a tall, dark and dangerous stranger, the not-quite-reformed con artist will make a desperate play to turn her captor from enemy to ally, by any means necessary. Yet as scorching days melt into sultry nights, Holly is drawn to the mysterious capitaine, with his unexpected sense of honor and his searing touch.

When they’re double-crossed, they’ll have to risk trusting each other in ways they never imagined…because in this deadly game of deception, it’s their lives—and hearts—on the line.

Audience: If you like Cherry Adair and Cindy Gerard, you will enjoy this book.

My thoughts: This was a fun, fast-paced read with a fairly likeable heroine who deserves a happy ending. The deserted island was too dangerous to be romantic but the setting makes the book a good beach book and the hero has the requisite dark past. Although the actual plot and characters are not very convincing, the action sweeps the reader along without much time to quibble. Perhaps giving the mercenary a conscience and an appealing child was meant to endow him with depth but he simply did not come across as realistic in any way, including his transition from trained killer who has “no firsthand experience” of love to someone who wants to settle down with “the people I love” and run a business – all in the span of about five days. Or maybe it’s just my bad luck that I only know men lacking the firsthand experience of love who never evolve like Rafe . . . at least, comfortingly, I have been spared the paid assassins!

As someone who likes impersonation stories, I was a little disappointed that that part of the story line was over before it began. I became more curious about the real Laura Hyland than about Holly’s eventual fate. Maybe Brynn Kelly will write Laura’s book next!
Source: I received this book from TLC Book Tours in return for an honest review. You can read what other bloggers thought about Deception Island by clicking here.