Current Reading: Claire Booth

On April 28, I posted (here) on the first of the three Sheriff Hank Worth novels by Claire Booth. Here are the second and third.

Another Man’s Ground by Claire Booth, Claire Booth, 2017 St. Martin’s Press Minotaur Books, mystery, Sheriff Hank Worth # 2

Sheriff Hank Worth is called out to investigate the theft of elm tree bark, apparently, once processed, a valuable herbal supplement. There he meets the talkative and combustible property owner, Vern Miles, who is trying to make enough money off the land he just inherited to pay the taxes on it.

The thieves have stripped so much of the bark that the trees are now dying, so Miles decides to go ahead and cut the whole grove down. The only thing is, he uses undocumented workers to do it, and when Hank and Sam stop by the clearing in the woods to check on things, the whole crew takes off like a flock of birds. One unfortunate runaway laborer tumbles into a deep crevice and lands on not one, but two bodies—a month-old rotten corpse and a decades-old child skeleton.

Hank suddenly finds himself in the midst of two separate murder investigations, not to mention tree bark theft, all while running for re-election as county sheriff.

A Deadly Turn by Claire Booth, 2018 Severn House Publishers, mystery, Sheriff Hank Worth # 3

Hank Worth thinks he’s performed a good deed when he pulls over the car of six teens caught speeding on a Saturday night and lets them off with a warning and instructions to go home. When he responds to an urgent call minutes later, he realizes he made a fatal error of judgement – the car has smashed on a turn, every teen is dead. Struggling to come to terms with his role in the crash, Hank begins to suspect foul play. While notifying the parents of the children involved, his suspicions grow when an unidentified body is discovered in one of their homes and a teenage girl is found after apparently attempting to commit suicide. Hank believes the incidents are connected, but those around him disagree. Is Hank right, or is his guilt making him search for answers where there are none?

My take:
I read the books in this series out of order; first seeing an interview with the author on Jungle Red Writers blog, in which she discussed the latest book, then later seeing a review of it.

I liked it quite a bit so I hunted up the first two at the library. I enjoyed seeing the growth of the main character and the books are well plotted and written. They get better as the series progresses. I’ll be on the lookout for the next whenever it’s published, which is soon, I hope.

The Hank Worth series:

The Branson Beauty – 2016
Another Man’s Ground – 2017
A Deadly Turn – 2018

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Friday Forgotten: A Question of Proof by Nicholas Blake

A Question of Proof by Nicholas Blake, Rue Morgue Press 2008 trade paper mystery (not shown), original publication in 1935,

This one is about as classic a British mystery as you could ask for. I’ve had it on the shelf for some time, and on a recent trip decided to take it along for evening reading, and found it to be quite entertaining.

The Plot:
The annual Sports Day at respected public school Sudeley Hall ends in tragedy when the headmaster’s obnoxious nephew is found strangled in a haystack.

The boy was despised by staff and students alike, but English master Michael Evans, who was seen sharing a kiss with the headmaster’s beautiful young wife earlier that day, soon becomes a prime suspect for the murder.

Luckily, Evans’ friend Nigel Strangeways, nephew to the Assistant Commissioner of Scotland Yard, is on hand to help investigate the case. It’s clear to the experienced mystery reader that the obvious suspect isn’t the culprit, but…who is?

Of course Strangeways appears in many Blake novels, being his primary character. I have read a couple of others, but think this makes a good introduction to the new reader of Blake’s mysteries.

Posted in Books & Reading, Friday Forgotten Books, Mystery | 6 Comments

Current Reading: The Templar Legacy by Steve Berry

The Templar Legacy by Steve Berry, Ballantine Books 2006 hardcover, spy/thriller, 1st in Cotton Malone series.

I subscribe to Mystery Scene magazine, and Berry is on the cover of the current issue. Not having read any of his books, I thought I’d try this first in his long-running series featuring Cotton Malone, ex Justice Department operative and antiquarian bookseller.

“Two forces are vying to find the ancient treasure of the Templars.” is the blurb. I’m only about 40 pages in, so I have no opinion at this stage.

Have you read any books by Berry? Did you enjoy them? What have you been reading lately?

Posted in Books & Reading, current reading | 13 Comments

Friday Forgotten: Look to the Lady by Margery Allingham

Look to the Lady by Margery Allingham, first published in January 1931, in the United Kingdom by Jarrolds Publishing, London, and in the United States by Doubleday, Doran, New York, as The Gyrth Chalice Mystery. It is the third novel featuring Albert Campion, accompanied once more by his butler/valet/bodyguard Magersfontein Lugg. This copy: Felony & Mayhem Press 2006 trade paper.

The Plot:
Val Gyrth, heir to the Gyrth family and their traditional vocation of guarding the famous Gyrth Chalice, is homeless and wandering the streets. After a mysterious chain of events, he is plucked out of danger by Albert Campion, who explains that a conspiracy of art collectors and criminals hopes to steal the treasure his family is charged with protecting.

Returning Gyrth to his family in the village of Sanctuary in Suffolk, Campion is shocked when Val’s aunt Di, a bohemian who upset the family by being photographed with the chalice, is found lying dead in a forest clearing, apparently frightened to death.

Val’s 25th birthday, at which a great secret is to be revealed to him, is fast approaching.

My Take:
While the plot feels a little “old fashioned” it must be remembered this is a golden age mystery, and Campion is very much in that mold here. I’d read most of the Campion mysteries, but had skipped this one, so it was new to me. I’ve been of the opinion that the Campion books improve as the series progresses, and nothing in this one disabuses me of that thinking. A solid entry which will be enjoyed by Allingham and Campion fans but not quite the top of the heap.

Posted in Books & Reading, current reading, Friday Forgotten Books | 12 Comments

Current Reading: The Branson Beauty by Clair Booth

The Branson Beauty by Claire Booth, Minotar Books 2016, 320 page mystery, Hank Worth #1

This is the first in the Hank Worth series. Worth is a Sheriff in popular, touristy Branson, Missouri. The Branson Beauty, an old showboat, takes visitors on a lake cruise several days a week. But it has crashed into some rocks and is disabled. More than one hundred people are trapped aboard. Newly elected Sheriff Worth has his hands full in what is his first real case when it appears the crash wasn’t an accident.

I liked the character of Hank Worth, who has a sense of humor to go along with the serious business of investigating the accident. There are those who would just as soon see the old boat scrapped for the insurance money and others who want to see it continue it’s tradition. As the plot progresses, we meet the supporting characters that will become regulars in the series. Booth is a talented, insightful writer and her characters and setting make this series special. I zipped through the first book and am half way through the second now.

The Hank Worth series:

The Branson Beauty – 2016
Another Man’s Ground – 2017
A Deadly Turn – 2018

Posted in Books & Reading, Friday Forgotten Books | 8 Comments

current reading: Rogues edited by Martin & Dozois

Rogues edited by George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois, Bantam 2014 832 page hardcover, various genres

This twenty-one story anthology is large. The hardcover page count is shown above, but the paperback edition I read had even more, a whopping 909 pages.

It took me almost a year to work through, but during that time I was reading other things: novels, other short story anthologies and collections, graphic novels. Still, my interest didn’t flag, and I’d say I enjoyed better than 90% of the stories, many of them quite long.

Here’s the table of contents…

  1. “Tough Times All Over” by Joe Abercrombie
  2. “What Do You Do?” by Gillian Flynn
  3. “The Inn of the Seven Blessings” by Matthew Hughes
  4. “Bent Twig” by Joe R. Lansdale
  5. “Tawny Petticoats” by Michael Swanwick
  6. “Provenance” by David Ball
  7. “The Roaring Twenties” by Carrie Vaughn
  8. “A Year and a Day in Old Theradane” by Scott Lynch
  9. “Bad Brass” by Bradley Denton
  10. “Heavy Metal” by Cherie Priest
  11. “The Meaning of Love” by Daniel Abraham
  12. “A Better Way to Die” by Paul Cornell
  13. “Ill Seen in Tyre” by Steven Saylor
  14. “A Cargo of Ivories” by Garth Nix
  15. “Diamonds From Tequila” by Walter Jon Williams
  16. “The Caravan to Nowhere” by Phyllis Eisenstein
  17. “The Curious Affair of the Dead Wives” by Lisa Tuttle
  18. “How the Marquis Got His Coat Back” by Neil Gaiman
  19. “Now Showing” by Connie Willis
  20. “The Lightning Tree” by Patrick Rothfuss
  21. “The Rogue Prince, or, the King’s Brother” by George R. R. Martin

This is a really top notch anthology, and a good one to have on the shelf, whether you want to read it straight through, as I did, or just hunt and peck Highly recommended.

So, what have you been reading?

Posted in Books & Reading, current reading | 11 Comments

Friday Forgotten Stories – G Stands for Glory by Norvell Page

G Stands For Glory by Norvell Page © 1936-1939, originally published in Ace G-Man Stories, this edition: Altus Press 2010 limited edition hardcover (also available in trade paperback)  – pulp crime short stories featuring the F.B.I.

It’s the stories, not the book, that are forgotten here. From the publisher’s website:

Known best for his work on Popular Publications’ The Spider, pulp scribe Norvell Page proved he was no slouch when it came to penning gangster and G-man epics! This book collects all eleven stories Page wrote for “Ace G-Man Stories” between 1936 and 1939, which are reprinted here for the first time!”

I’ve read some of the Spider adventures, and while I like them, I find these even more to my taste, since the plots elements are less outlandish. These stories are fast and furious, great fun reading though a bit predictable. There are at least three stories with similar set-ups: two agents, either in “G-school” or in their first year and still on probation, competing against each other both to make a good showing to their chief but also to get the girl. In both there is also a gang of crooks that needs to be caught. The crooks and the girl are a standard part of these stories, a required element by the story editor of Ace G-Man Stories.

These stories won’t be mistaken for anything serious or thought-provoking, but if it’s simply an enjoyable few hours that’s wanted, these may be a good choice. I’ll read more of Page’s non-Spider stories.

Posted in Books & Reading, Friday Forgotten Books | 5 Comments

current reading: nothing this week

I’ve been reading a little of this, and a little of that, but not anything to fill a post this time. I’ll have something next week.

Meanwhile, what have you been reading?

Posted in Books & Reading, current reading, Mystery | 7 Comments

Friday Forgotten Stories – Space Pioneers edited by Hank Davis

Space Pioneers edited by Hank Davis and Christopher Ruocchio, Baen 2018 mass market paperback, science fiction

This nineteen story anthology is edited by one of Baen’s best, Hank Davis. Though the book is pretty new, the stories range from as early as the Thirties all the way to now. So I think it qualifies as a Friday Forgotten Book for it’s contents.

For the most part, this is the kind of science fiction I grew up on and still love. These are what is now – with the exception of two of the newest stories – thought of as “old fashioned” hard SF.

Davis provides brief editorial comments before each story. I particularly enjoyed the Pournelle and Simak. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Contents:
Introduction: Will The Space Ocean Have Gems? By Hank Davis
“Third Stage” By Poul Anderson
“Becalmed In Hell” By Larry Niven
“Delilah And The Space-Rigger” By Robert A. Heinlein
“Expedition” By Fredric Brown
“Not Yet The End” By Fredric Brown
“Superweapon” By David Drake
“In From The Commons” By Tony Daniel
“Home Front” By Sarah A. Hoyt & Jeff Greason
“Incident On Calypso” By Murray Leinster
“All The Traps Of Earth” By Clifford D. Simak
“The Cave Of Night” By James E. Gunn
“He Fell Into A Dark Hole” By Jerry E. Pournelle
“What’s It Like Out There?” By Edmond Hamilton
“The Man Who Lost The Sea” By Theodore Sturgeon
“The Parliament Of Owls” By Christopher Ruocchio
“Quietus” By Ross Rocklynne
“Men Against The Stars” By Manly Wade Wellman
“Over The Top” By Lester Del Rey
“Kyrie” By Poul Anderson

Posted in Books & Reading, Friday Forgotten Books | 11 Comments

current reading: Foreign Bodies

Foreign Bodies edited by Martin Edwards, Poisoned Pen Press 2018 trade paperback, British Library Crime Classics series, mystery short stories.

The first ever collection of classic crime in translation from the golden age of the genre in the 20th century. Many of these stories are exceptionally rare, and several have been translated for the first time to appear in this volume.”
– from the introduction

This volume contains fifteen stories, all translated from foreign (non-English speaking) authors from around the world.

I was impressed with the concept and ordered the book as soon as I found out about it. Now, having read it, I admit I’m less enthusiastic. I found several of the stories not to my taste at all, and only two of them really enjoyable. This could well be simply a matter of taste, or present mood, but I’m afraid this isn’t an anthology I can recommend.

Does this sound interesting to you?
What have you been reading?

Posted in Books & Reading, current reading, Mystery | 13 Comments