“The Sisters Club”

sisters clubLauren Baratz-Logsted has captured the read for companionship in ” The Sisters Club,” a sweet, humorous. sometimes sad, but always insightful novel. Four women with nothing in common find out the hard way that life is more fun and satisfying with you have close friends.

As we all know, you can’t pick your family, but you can pick your friends. For this group, a love for reading provides them with love of another kind – love from the heart.

“Among the Ten Thousand Things”

Strong, intense and highly entertaining, yet disturbing.Among the ten thousand things Author Julia Pierpont draws readers into the depth of family dynamics, deception, dysfunction and struggles as parents and children search for their place – all in a place they never expected to be.

Excellent writing and character description by a gifted writer.

“The Scribe”

the scribeMatthew Guinn. G-u-i-n-n. Remember that name, because this Mississippi novelist is making his mark on the literary scene in the history/mystery genre.

His second novel, “The Scribe,” was released in September by W.W. Norton & Co. Within a few days, positive reviews were springing up on the web, social media and by word of mouth. “The Scribe” was unexpected considering that Guinn’s first novel, “The Resurrectionist,” was contemporary fiction. That book earned him honor as an Edgar Award finalist.

Though “The Scribe” and “The Resurrectionist” are set in different time periods, their protagonists are forced to face how far they will go to fight for what is right. Both novels give readers a taste of the ugly powers of racism and prejudice. It’s an environment where prejudgment isn’t limited to one race or another, but can be directed toward anyone for any reason – race, faith, wealth and personal prejudices.

This time, the author takes us back to Atlanta as she stood in the late 1880s, still reeling from the Civil War. Guinn takes readers into his imagination, letting them picture the war-worn city, its haggard citizens and its overhanging cloud of racism as it probably truly was. The author, an Atlanta native, builds his history/mystery on a foundation of historic details, events and mood. The result is a fast-paced murder mystery enhanced by fine detail and intriguing characters.

A gruesome murder has been discovered, and ex-detective Thomas Canby has been recruited back to the city that once turned its back on him. Members of a secret group of the rich and powerful, known as the Ring, think they have Canby in their back pocket. If he was shunned for embezzlement once, then why won’t Canby shade the truth in their direction this time? They pressure him to “solve the case” without regard to who is truly guilty or innocent.

The Ring is worried that the murders will threaten attendance at the 1881 International Cotton Exposition, an extravaganza that investors hope will bring money and recognition back to the New South.

Canby isn’t alone in the hunt. He’s been paired with virgin officer Cyrus Underwood, Atlanta’s first African American officer. Underwood is working his first case after his promotion from janitor. Since the killings have been mostly wealthy black entrepreneurs, Atlanta police want the investigation to appear that both races are working together to stop the mad man.

Suspicion points in all directions. Who is the murderer whose victims are left sliced, diced and with a capital letter carved into their body part? Is it a deranged human or the essence of pure evil?

Reasons for finding the killer point in all directions, too. Canby wants to clear his bad name and settle down with a school teacher. Underwood wants to prove that people of color are intelligent problem-solvers, are strong in their force and mostly, that they are not for evil.

Many innocents, those with no reason to be killed, die. The murderer, who has become more sloppy and careless, gets away. The score, especially Canby and Underwood, has not been settled. The circumstances set the backstory for what will hopefully be Guinn’s third book. Until that next edition appears, readers can stay busy imaging who should play what role if “The Scribe” becomes a movie. My vote is for Matthew McConaughey (“Dallas Buyers Club” Oscar winner) and Jussie Smollett (“Empire” TV show.

“Before He Finds Her”

How far would you go for your family? What’s the ultimate sacrifice you’d be willing to make for them? How do is your belief system, and what would you do to support your beliefs?

before He finds herMichael Kardos has taken those basic questions and stretched them into a taut thriller, “Before He Finds Her,” a story about a man, his family and a crime no one knows how to deal with.

First, you need to know that the author is an extremely creative individual. He shares his talents with not only his readers, but with students at Mississippi State University. As an associate professor of English, he teaches creative writing and American literature. He knows what makes a story stay in your head long after the last page is read.

He’s honed his craft with a guide for writers, a collection of short stories, a novel in 2012, and now “Before He Finds Her,” a novel about family, anger, devotion and mystery.
In late 1991, Ramsey Miller murdered his wife and 3-year-old daughter after hosting a block party. He’s never been charged, though, because no one can find him. And no one ever found the little girl’s body. She’s still alive.

Fifteen years later, Melanie Denison is tired of living under what she assumes is the Witness Protection Program. She wants to live – go to movies, browse the internet, enroll in college, do all the things people do if they have a “normal” life. He’s always been told her murderous father is still free, and ready to ruin her life. Her few attempts at freedom have left her 10 weeks pregnant, and she’s ready to escape her cocoon. She doesn’t want her baby leaving under the same isolation and secrets that have encased her.

She learns away, returning to Silver Bay, N.J., in hopes of learning what happened that awful Sunday night and then finding her father before he locates her. She finds an ally in an elderly journalist who has been fascinated by the case since its earliest days. What Melanie discovers is more mystery, more intrigue – and more lies, yet few answers. Her father had his bad points, especially jealousy and anger issues, but was he a bad man?
Kardos focuses on the three days leading up to the block party and murder. From there, he heads forward, putting his laser focus on the aftermath of murder and how crime and fear distort even the smallest details. The plot unfolds delicately, letting the reader savor – and interpret – what’s going on in his own way.

The author puts together the story, details the ending, but leaves the final message up to the reader. As the last page is turned, you’ll catch yourself thinking, “What would I do?”

ARC provided by Netgalley

Conversation with the author

What is your current role at MSU? How long?

I’m an associate professor of English, where I teach creative writing and American literature. This is my eighth year there. Still married to Catherine Pierce, poet extraordinaire.

“The Three-Day Affair” was a crime-based thriller. How would describe “Before He Finds Her?”

Psychological suspense? Coming-of-age thriller? As with The Three-Day Affair, I really just tried to write the kind of novel I’d want to read.

You’ve chosen to set both novels far from Mississippi. How do you choose a location setting?

I needed it set near, but not in, New York City, and New Jersey happens to be where I’m originally from. I find myself returning to that geography because I know it so well. Having grown up there, it’s pretty deeply rooted in my subconscious.

Ramsey Miller (in “Before He Finds Her” is definitely a lost soul – until he marries. What does “family” mean to him, especially since he’s still a wanderer behind the wheel?

Family means everything to him, though I don’t think he knows that until he has one and it’s being threatened. A threat to the stability of his family means that he might become lost yet again, and that is something he is terrified of, because ultimately he is terrified of himself.

What do you consider the major differences between your two novels? Any similarities? In writing style, voice, etc.?

They both revolve around a crime, of course. But while The Three-Day Affair is like a tight puzzle, Before He Finds Her is more expansive. Tonally, it has less of a noir feel. Going along with that, I believe the new novel has a larger emotional palette.

What’s next?

Still figuring that out. As of this moment, it is possibly a novel that takes place in an art museum. Dare I say that there is a theft?

‘Descent’

“Descent” is an excellent thriller by Tim Johnston. What would you do if your teenager was abducted? Would you ever give up the search?descent

Johnston plays out every parent’s worst nightmare, digging deep into the emotions of a family trying to cope in each person’s own way. The author lets us feel the cold of Colorado and the even colder heart of an evil man.

You will find yourself cheering for the characters, minus a few. Intense and emotional throughout.

‘Destroyer Angel’ – Anna Pigeon

51pKx1iC9nL__AA160_Nevada Barr is back with another hit, “Destroyer Angel,” the latest in the Anna Pigeon series. This time the former Mississippi author takes the mystery-solving, adventure-seeking and crime-fighting U.S. Park Service ranger to the Iron Range in Minnesota.

Anna, the heroine in 17 best-sellers, is enjoying the outdoors with two female friends and their daughters. Returning characters include Heath, a paraplegic, and her adopted teenage daughter. All have come together to help Leah and her daughter test camping equipment, including a rock-climbing wheelchair, for disabled adventurers. When Anna returns from a solo canoe float, she finds four crooks holding her small group captive.

It’s up to Anna to save the day with her come-to-be expected resourcefulness, resilience and respect for the land. As readers have discovered for themselves, Barr has created Anna as a woman who stands tall in a man’s world. She does whatever is necessary to protect those she loves or who have been put in her care. (If you don’t like tough women, don’t read Barr’s novels.)

An added feature in Barr’s latest novel is that she tells the story from different points of view – those of Anna as well as head kidnapper Charles. The carefully crafted dialogue lets the reader see the plot unfold, struggling with each character to cross the mountains and achieve their personal goals.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17934372-destroyer-angel

‘The Rented Mule’

“The Rented Mule” is a Southern-framed novel by West Point, MS, resident Bobby Cole. It is his third work, following “The Dummy Line” and “Moon Underfoot.”

Cooper Dixon is a 36-year-old frustrated ad agency co-owner who dreams of trading the rat race for the outdoors. The Tower Agency is up for sale, but Cooper’s partner, and majority stockholder, has plans to weasel more than his share of the profits with the help of a local banker and his associate. Cut off from his family’s fortune, Gates Ballenger desperately needs the cash to pay off gambling and drug debts. Cooper, however, is unaware of the string pulling. Instead, he has a strong sense of family, right and wrong – and honesty. Born to hunt and fish, Cooper wants to buy pristine acreage from his family’s longtime housekeeper, Millie Brown, to build a hunter’s paradise retreat. (The novel’s title references one of Millie’s old-time sayings.)

Cooper’s biggest vices are Mexican Coca-Colas and a growing infatuation with a colleague named Brooke Layton. Wife Kelly is all about money and the social status that she thinks dollars can provide.

Their lives go awry when a motley criminal crew, including a former football star, a computer whiz, a female accomplice and a Larry King wannabe addicted to teeth-whitening strips, is hired by “the Client” to kidnap Kelly and implicate Cooper. He is determined to get to the truth of Kelly’s disappearance while trying to evade police and arrest. The hunter becomes the hunted.

The person behind the kidnapping comes as a surprise. Just know that he’s insane, possessing a drug-addled false sense of grandeur and the knowledge of his family’s deep and dark past. “Deep” and “dark” are key to the Client’s plans for Kelly and Cooper as well as Brooke and her son.

“The Rented Mule” is not a quick read, coming in at 500 pages. It takes space to flesh out details, little nuggets that keep readers’ attention and let them relate to the characters, the settings and even the criminal mastermind’s back story. In the South, anything is possible.