Review: MURDER ON WHEELS: ELEVEN TALES OF CRIME ON THE MOVE (Editor: Ramona DeFelice Long)

Murder On Wheels: Eleven Tales Of Crime On The Move features short stories where various wheeled modes of transportation past and present serve as a key part of each tale. The tales come from six authors known as the “Austin Mystery Writers” as well as two award winning authors outside the group, Earl Staggs and Reavis Z. Wortham. Edited by Ramona DeFelice Long, the short stories that follow a brief introduction by Kaye George feature a lot of variety in style and complexity.

The stranger in town has quite the effect on people. While the men see him as trouble, that same quality is a serious attraction for the fairer sex. That is especially for Rosemary, a fifteen year old looking for a way out of her small town life. Whether or not Campbell Reed is the answer to her dreams is the question in “A Nice Set Of Wheels” by Kathy Waller.

Running moonshine has gone on for decades in the bottom lands of northeast Texas. In “Family Business” by Reavis Z. Wortham illegal liquor has paid the bills as well as caused a lot of problems and heartache. It is the business of the Caissen family and comes with a cost.

Fourteen year old stowaway Tim Brooks thought he would hide on the merchant ship until it arrived in port in Charleston. He picked the vessel Rota Fortunae to hide aboard and that was a serious mistake in this tale of the same name by V. P. Chandler. There is a secret in her hold and one that can’t be explained easily. Out of all the tales in the book this one of adventure, and the mystical was my personal favorite.

It is just after World War II in Hollywood as “Mome Rath, My Sweet” by Gale Albright begins. Private Investigator Grimm has a major problem as Joey Dormouse is dead and Grimm is being blamed.  He should have known the woman billing herself as “Miss Wonderland” who claimed she wanted nothing more than her sister found would be nothing but trouble. After all, Mome Rath is the biggest gangster on the west coast and more famous in all the wrong ways than Al Capone.

The route from Knoxville to D. C. is usually simple enough. The bus is one of those jumbo buses that have two levels. People take the ride, look at the scenery, and have fun. A difficult passenger can change things in “The Wheels On The Bus Go Round And Round” by Kaye George.

As the rest of the family has repeatedly pointed out, Mary should have never married her Italian husband, Marco. Her family is Irish and there are cultural issues. Then there is his behavior and his insistence on joining the family business in “Buon Viaggio” by Laura Oles.

Faye and her husband, Fred, are at opposite sides in their marriage. He loves riding his bicycles and is all about fitness. He now even wants to go vegan. Faye understands they have grown older and would prefer they stay home together and be cool and comfortable in their house. In “Aporkalypse Now” by Gale Albright the situation is definitely not a bicycle built for two.

Family stress also takes a major role in “Have A Nice Trip” also by Kaye George. Prissy has a difficult, to say the least, mother-in-law named Abigail. While Prissy’s husband, Trey, is aware and agrees they should go on their long delayed honey moon, one wonders if he truly understands Prissy’s needs.

There is an old adage about how one should write what one knows. Early Staggs knows all about driving school buses. One hopes he does not truly know about dead men on school buses. In his story “Dead Man On A School Bus” being Police Chief in the suburb of Southlake was supposed to an easy gig after thirty years of hard work on the police force over in Fort Worth. The chief has seen a lot of dead bodies, but the one found early this morning on a school bus is a new experience.

It is not a good thing when one walks into the kitchen and finds elderly Mom stirring in ground glass in the lemon meringue pie filling. Something has to be done to make sure Mom does not get thrown into prison in “Hell On Wheels” by Kathy Walker. The family has to have a plan and that means they have to work together.

Billy Ray Bryant always has one thing going wrong or another and needs a favor from Red Clark. Such is the case in “Red’s White F-150 Blues” by Scott Montgomery. Billy needs to hide his truck in Red’s garage to keep it away from the local repo man, Jerry Coonts. Red has been married long enough to know that the coming argument with his wife Britney over hiding the truck will be shorter if the dead is already done before she gets home.

A two page biography of each author brings the book to a close.

Slipping back and forth in time and set in various locations in Texas and elsewhere the eleven tales in this book are all good ones. Some are more adventure orientated than straight mystery and at least a couple are very noir like in their situations. Murder On Wheels: Eleven Tales Of Crime On The Move is a solidly good anthology from eight talented authors and one that is well worth your time.

Murder On Wheels: Eleven Tales Of Crime On The Move
Editor Ramona DeFelice Long
Wildside Press LLC
http://www.wildsidebooks.com
April 2015
ISBN# 978-1-4794-0554-1
Paperback (also available in eBook format)
152 Pages
$12.99

Material supplied by the publisher some time ago in exchange for my objective review.

Kevin R. Tipple ©2016

Review: APOCALYPSE SOON (Kyler Knightly and Damon Cole Volume 2) by Garnett Elliot

Timelines are tricky things as readers were reminded in Carnosaur Weekend. Agents Kyler Knightly and Damon Cole are back in Apocalypse Soon. The work of protecting the timelines by Continuity Inc. is ongoing,  difficult, and relies on everyone sharing the same common goal and following the rules.

In the signature story of this second volume of the series one Continuity Inc. technician by the name of Paul Dirac has gone rouge. His ongoing obsession with Pre-Apocalypse North America and vintage cars was thought to be a quirk one expected from a genius. The company shrink had perceived his obsessive interest as nothing to be concerned about and cleared him to work. Proving the shrink wrong, Dirac has gone rogue and jumped back in time to “Old Vegas” in the year 2035. He took a lot of supplies with him which means he is not coming back. What he plans to do there is unknown, but he can’t be allowed to do more damage than he has already done simply by going back then. Kyler and Damo have to go after him as fast as possible and bring him back alive. Easier said than done.

“Babylon Heist” comes next where Kyler Knightly is sent back approximately 3000 years to prevent a theft. Continuity Inc. got a tip that another time traveler had been sent back to collect a priceless artifact for a collector in the 23rd century. Kyler knows what they are after, but has no idea of the identity of the time traveler. So, he is working undercover in the Babylonian underworld trying to make contacts and gather information. 770 B.C. is a dangerous place and he has no idea whom he can trust.

Billed as a “Bonus Story” the final tale “Strontium Dreams” has nothing to do with Kyler and Damon or Continuity Inc. for that matter. Time travel may or may not be involved. What is clear is that it is a future world and one so decimated that survival means doing anything you have to survive.  Having the stamp of “genetic undesirable” on your forehead helps keep you away from the collectors looking to salvage organs for the wealthy and keeps the rest of you out of the taco meat sold by vendors in the Jetsam Flats. One does not want to become taco meat.

Like the past, the future is not always pretty and certainly not here in these short stories written by Garnett Elliot. Whether it is Red Venus or Dragon By The Bay, Scorched Noir, or his efforts in the Drifter Detective Series, or the aforementioned Carnosaur Weekend, a hint of hard edged noir prevails no matter the setting. It doesn’t matter if one is vicariously on Venus fighting humans and alien life, running from dinosaurs, or shooting it out to bring back the rogue employee, that dark nourish edge of crime fiction is always there in the works of Garnett Elliot. One could easily make the argument that these are primarily crime fiction tales in a science fiction setting Those works are also very good reads that tell complex tales with plenty of action and adventure.

Apocalypse Soon is yet another example of Mr. Elliott’s steadily increasing body of work. If you have not read him yet you really should. The only question is where and when you wish to start.

Apocalypse Soon (Kyler Knightly and Damon Cole Volume 2)
Garnett Elliot
Beat To A Pulp
http://www.beattoapulp.com
February 2016
ISBN# 978-1943035144
Paperback (also available in eBook format)
104 Pages
$5.95

Material was supplied in paperback format by the publisher three months ago in exchange for my objective review.

Kevin R. Tipple ©2016

Review: A BOND WITH DEATH: A PROFESSOR SALLY GOOD MYSTERY by Bill Crider

The last book in the Professor Sally Good Mystery Series titled A Bond with Death opens with a familiar theme to readers of this series. Instead of a painting that may or may not have a satanic image (Murder Is An Art) Dr. Sally Good stands accused of being a witch. According to an e-mail that has been shared far and wide, Dr. Sally Good is following her ancestor, Sarah Good, down the road to witchcraft. Therefore she needs to be dealt with appropriately and that would include losing her job.

Sarah Good was hung for her alleged crimes on July 19, 1962. The only way Sarah and Sally Good would be related would be by marriage as Sarah Good was a distant relative of Sally’s late husband. The man passed away eight years ago so it is not possible to have him come forward and speak on the matter or provide love and support to Sally Good. The fact that Dr. Sally Good was never a blood relative of Sarah’s is one of those facts that some people choose to ignore because it kills their argument or claim.

Beyond the whole ancestor relation deal, there is the matter of the notion of witchcraft itself. The fact that anyone would believe such stupidity, even well educated men who should know better such as her boss, President Fieldstone, of Hughes Community College is annoying. Fieldstone is all about image and what people might think regarding the small college in deep Southeast Texas. This news coupled with recent events and an upcoming bond election for the school has him greatly concerned.

He ought to be more worried about the fact that someone else linked to the college has once again been murdered. Harold Curtin, decisively nicknamed by many, “The Garden Gnome” used to teach at HCC. He’d been there for years, was a lousy teacher, and finally the new department chair, Sally Good, recommended his dismissal. Of course, throwing a stapler at a student had something to do with his dismissal.

Gone for several years and off doing other things including being part of the anti-bond movement, Curtain has now gone and gotten himself dead. From what is coming out of the rumor mill it definitely sounds like a murder. Rumor has it that he choked to death on his own blood. Reminiscent of the curse that allegedly Sarah Good put on her enemies three hundred years ago that allegedly caused deaths then. Despite the fact that Sarah and Sally would only be related by marriage some have leaped to the conclusion that Dr. Sally Good is a modern day witch capable of murdering her enemies. If true, one would have to ask why it took so long for her to start as one can easily think of a few targets in earlier books.

Published in 2004 by Thomas Dunne Books (Minotaur Books), this tale by Bill Crider is another occasionally funny and always twisting ride into the dark waters of academia. Along with having to deal with students and bureaucracy, Dr. Sally Good is forced to look for answers to the identity of her e-mail accuser as well as the identity of the killer. Both threads gradually come together in a complex case that puts her in real life danger far beyond being forced to hear Seepy Benton sing.

Like the earlier ones in this series A Bond with Death: A Professor Sally Good Mystery understates the violence while occasionally inserting some laugh out loud moments. Those readers that enjoy the current trend of there must be a murder in the first three pages of the work and in the first paragraph if at all will be disappointed as the murder occurs a few pages later. In addition to plenty of clues and complexity, the family atmosphere where one quickly feels like old familiar friends with the characters is present here as it is in just about any book by Bill Crider. A solid and enjoyable tale the final book in the series is another good one.

This is a series that should be read in order starting with Murder Is An Art followed by A Knife In The Back.

A Bond with Death: A Professor Sally Good Mystery
Bill Crider
http://billcrider.blogspot.com/
Thomas Dunne Books (Minotaur Books)
http://www.minotaurbooks.com
2004
ISBN# 0-312-32296-8
Hardback (eBook version available)
218 Pages
$22.95

Material supplied by the good folks of the Plano Public Library System who do not care whether my review is objective or even if I review it. They just want me to bring it back undamaged and to always wear pants.

Kevin R. Tipple ©2016

Review: THE NECESSARY MURDER OF NONIE BLAKE: A SAMUEL CRADDOCK MYSTERY by Terry Shames

The Necessary Murder Of Nonie Blake is the latest in the Samuel Craddock Mystery Series by Terry Shames. As the title makes clear Nonie Blake had to die. Why and who did it are the main questions that drive much of this book from start to finish.

Winona Blake, or Nonie, is legendary in Jarrett Creek, Texas and nearby areas. It has been twenty years since she left town and eventually wound up in a mental institution far to the north up near Dallas. When she was 14 all those years ago she tried to kill her younger sister. It wasn’t horseplay as she meant for her sister to hang until dead. If it hadn’t been for the quick action of her brother Charlotte Blake would have died that day.

Instead, it is Charlotte Blake, who calls Chief of Police Samuel Craddock to report the latest family tragedy. Her sister drowned in the stock pond behind their house.  The home of the reclusive Blake family located a few miles down a gravel road out past the cemetery on the north side of town is about to be a very active crime scene. When Craddock gets out there it is very evident to him that the main cause of Nonie’s death is certainly not drowning.  She took a significant blow to the head that also crushed her cheek and broke her jaw. The force that was used far exceeds what she could have generated by a simple fall against a tree or the ground before sliding into the water. This was not an accidental drowning by any means. Figuring out who did it and why are the primary points of an investigation that leads Samuel Craddock on a trail of secrets going back decades.

While that is the main plot there are secondary plots building off previous events and ongoing characters/situations in this highly entertaining series. Along with that, author Terry Shames had added a new character in the form of a female deputy, Marie Trevino, sent in by the state to assist as Samuel Craddock sees fit. She has her own way of doing things and that attitude is going to push Craddock to up his game.

The Necessary Murder Of Nonie Blake features yet another engrossing and complicated mystery in this long running cozy style mystery series. Macavity Award Winner for Best First Mystery author Terry Shames continues to deliver in each successive installment of the series much like what Texas author Bill Crider (prominently mentioned on the book cover) has done in his Sheriff Dan Rhodes Series, Terry Shames has created a sense of family with these characters. It doesn’t take a reader long to feel like he has known Samuel, Lorretta, and numerous others for years once one starts reading the books.

A Killing At Cotton Hill started everything off. Five books later, The Necessary Murder of Nonie Blake keeps a great series rolling forward at a great pace.

The Necessary Murder Of Nonie Blake: A Samuel Craddock Mystery
Terry Shames
http://www.Terryshames.com
Seventh Street Books
http://www.seventhstreetbooks.com
2016
ISBN# 978-1-63388-120-4
Paperback (also available in eBook format)
258 Pages
$15.95

Material supplied by the publisher in exchange for my objective review.

Kevin R. Tipple ©2016