Shadow of Death by Patricia Gussin

I have found a new author who shows great promise for novels and who can write in more than one genre. Patricia Gussin’s first book Shadow of Death features first year medical student Laura Nelson. Laura is the mother of two young children, married to a social worker and determined to succeed as a physician. The setting is the Detroit of the 1967 riots. Her first patient to actually see, touch and do a write-up without performing any medical procedure on is a young man who is non-responsive and was suspected of looting during the riots. His mother responds to Laura’s kindness and reports that Anthony was her “good” son who was studying to go to college and would not have been a looter. His brother Johnny swears he will get retribution from the hospital and the “stringy yellow-haired female” doctor who intubated Anthony wrong, although the intubation had nothing to do with his vegetative state. As Laura is leaving the hospital that evening, she is grabbed by a young man and brutally raped. Laura manages to retrieve the gun her husband insisted that she carry and fatally shot her attacker. She manages to hide the incident from everyone, even her husband. Her best friend in medical school has a father who is a police detective investigating the case and wants to speak to Laura frequently about the case. Over the course of a year, Laura hides her thoughts but lives in fear and tells no one except her supervising doctor in medical school who becomes a close friend. Her fear is enhanced by her pregnancy with twins and not being sure of the paternity of the children; if the children are bi-racial, they are the result of the rape and will be a major unwelcome surprise to husband David. David’s job includes advancements and the chance to employ an assistant, while his ties with his family grow more tenuous through the years and he and Laura drift apart. The story is suspenseful, as Laura’s life continues to be in jeopardy, her home life becomes more chaotic and stressful, and her career path continues to improve. I was surprised to note when finished this novel, that the author has written a sequel which the library also has entitled Twisted Justice. A few weeks before reading Shadow of Death, I read a book entitled The Test which I found really intriguing. When checking Gussin’s listings, I found that she was also the author of The Test. In this novel, patriarch Paul Parnell, a renowned philanthropist and billionaire, dies leaving a very unusual will. Wanting to leave something more valuable than money to his six children, stipulates that his estate will be divided among the heirs who pass “the test” in hopes of inspiring them to give back to society and embrace a code of moral values. They have one year in which to make this difference. Some are faced with their own personal demons and an incredible evil comes into their midst. For some of them, the test becomes a matter of life and death. Rory is married to a family physician and has several children; she leads a happy family life and maintained good ties with Paul. This caused jealousy with some of the other siblings, especially Frank, since Rory was an adopted daughter. Frank is a politician with major ambitions and an ambitious and equally ruthless wife and a very sheltered young daughter. Dan has been estranged from the family for years and lives on his own palm tree farm in Florida having nothing to do with his siblings or his own ex-wife and children. Monica, Carla and Ashley all have their own demons as well – intense shyness, a drug addiction, and being the unknown love child of Paul and a famous actress. A maniacal psychologist infiltrates the family determined to get his hands on the money. How all these people’s lives are intertwined and become more complicated because of the money is an interesting study in varying human nature. Will anyone accomplish what Paul had wanted? Will anyone survive alive? I highly recommend Gussin as a novelist to enjoy now and in the future.

– Anniesse

The Confederate General Rides North by Amanda C. Gable

confThe Confederate General Ride North, by Amanda C. Gable is the story of Kat McConnel, an eleve-year-old Civil War buff. When Kat learns that she and her mother are to travel from their home in Marietta, GA to Maine to buy antiques, Kat is thrilled. Kat charts their trip to take them to famous battlefields and historic sites in twhich she magines herself as a war general ridging her pony and leading her troops to battle. When their trip suddenly ends at Gettysburg, Kta is faced with a potential tragedy and a difficult decision to make. The Confederate General Rides North is a very good novel about the sometimes difficult relationship between mothers and daughters and the heartache of having to grow up too soon.

Kay

American Rebel by Marc Eliot

UntitledClint Eastwood spent all eight seasons as Rowdy Yates in TV’s popular western Rawhide and became one of the most popular TV cowboys of the late 1960s and early 1960s. His movies made him a household name worldwide. His directing and producing made him an Academy Award winner at the age of 60 plus. His film career meant a lot to him. Most critics did not take his movies seriously and some of the subjects were socially distasteful. In American Rebel, Marc Eliot examines Eastwood’s life and career with candor – his highs and lows, successes and failures. Married twice (his first marriage was a very unorthodox union, the father of seven (3 legitimate, 4 illegitimate) and nearing his 80th birthday, Eastwood has played strong, silent types on-screen for more than 50 years. He may have stared in his last movie (Gran Torino), but he has no plans to stop making films. A wonderful filmography, including television, is included (with release dates, all TV show appearances, date of first release, production/director credits, musical recordings, and a list of his awards).

Kay

A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick

UntitledA Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick is the dark tale of Ralph Truitt and Catherine Land. After living twenty years in solitude and remorse, after the death of his wife and daughter and the abandonment of his son, Truitt advertises for “a reliable wife” to share his life. Catherine Land leaves her worldly life behind to become Truitt’s wife, but with a sinister plan in mind. But, Truitt was no fool. The fact of her plan did not appall him as he thought it should. He wouldn’t stop her. He wouldn’t save himself. He had grown to love her and she wanted him dead. His son was forever lost to him and this was what he had lived twenty years of solitude for – to see what would happen, to see how it would all turn out. Complex and haunting with some unexpected turns, I can’t say that I liked the book, but wanted to know what would happen.

Kay

The Farm Chicks in the Kitchen by Teri Edwards and Serena Thompson

UntitledThe Farm Chicks in the Kitchen is the story of how two stay-at-home Moms created a successful business doing things they love: cooking and creating “treasures” from what others consider “plain junk.”

Their love of family and the simple life brought them together as friends and their unique abilities led to their thriving business. Their motto is: Live well, Laugh Often, and Cook Much.

This book is part biography, part cookbook with some of Teri and Serena’s thrifty craft projects thrown in.

– Rena

The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder by Rebecca Wells

lillypFamed for Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood and its two sequels, Rebecca Wells has added another wonderful novel to her works. The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder follows the irrepressible Calla from her early childhood in her beloved small river town of La Luna, Louisiana, of less than 2,000 people. She was born in 1953 to loving and talented parents who teach dance lessons at the Spin ‘n Shake and her mother M’Dear’s healing hands at her Crowning Glory beauty salon. Into her life one afternoon wanders a pitiful looking little boy who gets off the bus and heads toward her neighbors – Miz ‘Lizbeth and Mister Tuck, “her” special friends she does not want to share. As she grows, this terrible boy becomes the love of her life and she discovers her talent for fixing hair and quieting souls with her healing hands. All the characters in this novel are delightfully portrayed – you can’t help but feel that you know them personally. The town comes to life from Nelle’s grocery shop / skating rink to the dirt roads leading from the one main street to the families of Renee and Sukey, Calla’s best friends for life. A broken heart suffered when Tuck leaves for college in California and she does not hear from him at all even though they pledged their undying love and to write each other every day. Calla goes to New Orleans to learn her trade and meets Mr. Ricky who she naively believes she can convert to husband material. This is a quiet novel, but it runs the gamut of emotions for the reader – laughter to tears to laughter to tears. The Ya-Ya’s were good and made a good movie, but Calla is the big winner and deserves best-sellerdom and any type of award that’s available for fiction.

– Anniesse

Mrs. Jeffries in the Nick of Time by Emily Brightwell

jcMrs. Jeffries is “the Miss Marple of Victorian mystery.” Mrs. Jeffries is the housekeeper of Inspector Gerald Witherspoon, who is sometimes rather inept and awkward. He inherited his home and Mrs. Jeffries and staff from a relative raising him socially above his former station in life. Emily Brightwell is the talented author of this series of mysteries. The first three have been brought together in one volume Mrs. Jeffries Learns the Trade, containing The Inspector and Mrs. Jeffries, Mrs. Jeffries Dusts for Clues, and The Ghost and Mrs. Jeffries. These charming mysteries give you an instant feeling of place and time as Mrs. Jeffries uses the skills learned from her late policeman husband with her handy staff of young Wiggins, the older and worldly- wise Smythe, the much younger housemaid Betsy, and Mrs. Goodge, the cook. They are occasionally joined by Luty Belle Crookshank, the plain old homespun American widow of a wealthy British aristocrat and her butler, companion, and driver Hatchet. They are all very discreet in their inquiries so as not to embarrass the Inspector who has no idea that his solutions are all handed to him by Mrs. Jeffries in mild suggestions she makes while serving his meals or tea. There are 23 books in the series. It helps to read them in order, but it is not essential. The romance of Betsy and Smythe waxes and wanes throughout the series. A wry sense of humor is obvious in all the series. Scotland Yard cannot figure out how the awkward, inept Inspector Witherspoon is so successful with his cases.

In the latest novel (March 2009 paperback) Mrs. Jeffries in the Nick of Time, a tea party is commencing at Humphrey House, but the owner of the place, train devotee Francis Humphreys fails to be with his guests. His two young nieces who live with him along with other assembled relatives and friends become concerned because he is a punctual person. A knock on his door goes unanswered. Recently Francis has been forgetful as if he was in an early stage of senility. All talking at the party abruptly ends when a shot is heard. Everyone rushes to Francis’ room where they find him dead, a bullet to his head. They call the cops and Scotland Yard sends their top detective Inspector Witherspoon to investigate what looks like a suicide by a man losing his mind.

The Inspector is disgusted as he is stuck with Inspector Nivens’ nephew Lionel Gates as his assistant rather than the dependable Constable Barnes whom he respects. Still they interview the guests and investigate motives; most inherit part of Francis’ estate. However opportunity remains elusive as every attendee had an alibi since all of them were in the drawing room together when the shot was heard. Witherspoon’s housekeeper Mrs. Jeffries and the rest of the downstairs staff secretly investigate in hopes of finding clues to assist their kind employer and prevent a killer from murdering again.

More serious Victorian mystery readers may prefer Inspector Thomas Pitt cases written by Anne Perry, but I enjoy both series equally well.

–Anniesse

Salty Like Blood by Harry Kraus, M.D

Salty Like Blood, by Harry Kraus, M.D., continues this doctor’s theme of writing about medical and religious / ethical themes. In this latest work, we meet David Connors, M.D., whose seven year old daughter Rachel disappears one afternoon at David’s childhood home in a little Chesapeake Bay island when David with his wife and daughter go to check on his dying father. The local authorities want to claim it as an accidental drowning with the body carried out to the ocean. David learns that another couple from the island recently lost a little girl who looked a lot like Rachel and had a similar pound puppy stuffed animal with her. He cannot be satisfied until he finds Rachel or gets revenge for her death. His wife Jo just wants to mourn her daughter’s loss by drowning alone and move on with her life. Jo’s mother uses Rachel’s disappearance to further Jo’s father (“The Senator’s”) political career driving a further wedge in their rocky relationship. Old flame and finance’ at the time of David and Jo’s elopement Blake begins appearing by her side so frequently she can no longer see it as coincidence. David explores his relationship with his parents and his upbringing as he loses his position with a prestigious medical consortium and takes a part-time job with the prison in his home county. There is the further complication of the beautiful and kind Amini, David’s next door Somali neighbor on the island. Told primarily from the first person account of David with some omniscient narrative from Jo’s point of view, this is not Kraus’ best work, but it is still an engaging novel. His Clare McCall novels (For the Rest of My Life, All I Ever Need and Could I Have This Dance?) are quite compelling dealing with life and love and coping with the destruction genetic Huntington’s Disease. The first and best novel I read by Kraus is The Chairman – the story of a policeman who was shot in the line of duty and paralyzed. Readers can visit his web site http://www.harrykraus.com to learn more about his career, his faith, and his works.

Anniesse

Runner by Thomas Perry

Author Thomas Perry has returned after a several year hiatus with a new Jane Whitfield novel.
Runner brings Jane out of retirement and back into her old life. She had retired to settle down, marry her true love Dr. Carey McKinnon, and be a model doctor’s wife. In the middle of the marvelous fund raiser she had coordinated in the hospital’s cafeteria, a bomb is detonated and she finds herself confronted by a 20 year old pregnant girl who had been searching for Jane to help her. Thus began another run to escape someone trying to harm Chrissy. Jane maintains many identities and funds for these occasions. Perry’s books are very intense and fast-paced, and ordinarily I don’t like stories with this much violence. The character of Jane Whitfield is so well-drawn and dynamic that it overcomes my dislike of the violence. The Jane Whitfield novels should be read in order of their release.

Zoe Sharp

Zoe Sharp is a new thriller mystery author to me, although she’s been writing since she was teenager. Her official writing career took off in 2001. The library didn’t pick her up as an author until this year. Sharp is British, but has done an excellent job of bringing Charlie Fox, her heroine to America. In First Drop, Charlie and Sean are in Florida serving as bodyguards (or close protection) to a computer software innovator and his son. Charlie and the teen boy are soon on their own and being pursued on several fronts – by police, company employees, and total unknowns. The action is non-stop, very violent, but it keeps your attention. Charlie has to kill or be killed or have her charge be killed. Her teen charge and his friends are at first fascinated with Charlie and the world of killers, but this soon alternates with terror. In Second Shot, Charlie must once again go to America as a protector of a young woman and her 4 year old daughter after she has won an enormous lottery and is searching for her father whom she hasn’t seen since she was a young child. A third trip to America is due in Summer 2008 in Third Strike. It is not necessary to have read the first three Charlie Fox novels to follow these newer volumes. Sharp is an excellent writer. Her use of the term a “rake” of something is disconcerting – it must be a “British” term for a “rack” of something.