All posts by Lars Walker

‘The Body in the Mist,’ by Nick Louth

Nick Louth’s Craig Gillard series, about a police detective in a small English city, has been a delight from the start. This third book, The Body in the Mist, is not only the best of the series (in my opinion) but one of the best English/Cozy/Police Procedurals I’ve ever read.

Craig Gillard has rarely talked to his (implausibly longsuffering) wife Samantha about his family and upbringing. But a call from his aunts in Devon, forcing them to travel there to visit them, will bring everything to light. And it’s a horror show.

Gillard has two aunts and an uncle living near his maternal family’s old sheep farm. One aunt, Barbara, is a hulking old troll, not terribly bright, who runs the farm mostly by herself. His aunt Trish is a tiny little chatterbox with a gift for emotional manipulation. And his uncle – once a celebrity liberal clergyman – is now suffering dementia in a nursing home, and has lost all his sexual inhibitions.

Gillard does not want to go. But apparently someone stole Barbara’s SUV and ran a man over one night, killing him and destroying his face so badly that he can’t be identified. The police suspect Barbara. Craig is a policeman! He has to come and help!

As Gillard does his best to look into the problem without stepping on the local police’s toes, Samantha gradually learns some of the family’s secrets. After what she learns she’ll be amazed that her husband managed to lead a semi-normal life. Dysfunctional doesn’t begin to describe it.

Also it’s possible his uncle murdered someone, years back.

The Body in the Mist was fascinating, horrifying, and sometimes darkly funny. I also noted some quite effective prose, particularly in a night scene on the farm when a storm is brewing and some mysterious beast is hunting Barbara’s sheep.

I strongly recommend The Body in the Mist. You’ll probably want to read the series in order (it starts with The Body in the Marsh). The three books (to date) aren’t expensive, and they give great entertainment for your book-buying dollar. No unusual cautions for content, expect for some creepy stuff about child molestation that happens offstage.

Ascension Day


Benvenuto Tisi da Garofalo, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica, Rome 1510 – 20

It’s Ascension Day, a very important feast in the Christian calendar, which (like so many important feasts) is little noticed today.

I read something in one of Francis Schaeffer’s books a long time ago that left an impression on me. I’m pretty sure he was citing someone else. The idea was that the importance of the Ascension is (at least in part) that it proclaims the physical existence of Heaven. According to the testimony of witnesses, Jesus had (after the Resurrection) an actual body that could be touched and consumed food. And that body went somewhere. Not to a “philosophical other,” but to some place where bodies can live.

It’s part of our hope of eternity.

Happy Ascension Day.

Viking alert

My renowned Viking tent (seen here a year ago) will be on display once again (God willing) at Danish Day at the Danish-American Center, 3030 W. River Parkway S., Minneapolis, this Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 4:00 or so. I’ll be there with the Viking Age Club & Society, selling books and pretending to be a bigshot. The weather looks to be OK.

You have been warned.

‘The NIght Window,’ by Dean Koontz

Shadows had shrunk into the objects that cast them, waiting to emerge when the day finished transitioning from morning to afternoon.

Five dystopian thrillers and it’s done now. The Jane Hawk pentalogy by Dean Koontz has been a rewarding ride, and he ties it all up pretty neatly in The Night Window.

Jane Hawk is a former decorated FBI agent. Now she’s the FBI’s most wanted fugitive, not to mention the CIA, the NSA, and any other federal agency that has a free minute on its computers. Jane found out about the Arcadians, a stealthy group of self-described human elites who have a plan to enslave the whole world through nanotechnology mind control. The Arcadians, who largely control the government, killed Jane’s beloved husband, and now they want her. But it’s not enough for her to just disappear. She has a young son, Travis, and she knows the Arcadians are hunting him, to use him as a weapon against her. She has him hidden, but you can’t hide from these people forever. They have to be unmasked and stopped.

It’s a big order, but Jane is not without resources, particularly her friend Vikram Rangnekar, a computer genius who adores her. He used to feel guilty about what he did for the government. Now he’s with Jane, working hard to redeem himself.

The cast of characters, as with any Koontz novel, is Dickensian in its variety. There’s the unlikely team of an old Jewish man and an autistic black genius who are protecting Travis. A young filmmaker targeted for murder by the leader of the Arcadians, who turns out to be better at survival than even he ever imagined. There’s an appalling team of Arcadian assassins, united by their obsession with men’s fashion.

I thought the wrap-up of the story slightly contrived, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t weep manly tears as I read. I recommend the whole series, and I don’t think the finale will disappoint you.

And the writing’s darn good.

Cautions for rough language and horrific crimes.

These honored dead

As advertised, I was at Fort Snelling National Cemetery on Saturday morning, helping to dedicate a memorial to the men of the 99th Infantry Battalion (Separate), a World War II commando unit organized and trained for an invasion of Norway. Most of its members were either Norwegian merchant sailors stranded by the Occupation, or Norwegian-American boys. Requirements were Norwegian heritage, ability to speak the language, and the ability to ski.

Although the invasion never happened as such, they participated in commando actions (some of them became part of the legendary OSS), and participated in the battle for Europe. The man in the grave above died in 1944, probably in Belgium, where the unit saw fierce fighting.

I was asked to read an invocation for the ceremony, and then I helped place battalion flags on the graves of all the 99th members buried in the cemetery. A couple of my Viking friends came too, and I thank them. It was a moving occasion. No 99th veterans were present, but a couple of their widows were there, along with some descendants.

Memorial Day

When it comes to Memorial Day, I always seem to perambulate back to “The Mansions of the Lord,” because it just gets me right here. This version includes a lot of Ronald Reagan, so if you don’t care for that, there are other blogs in the web. Have a good day.

I want to post a photo from Saturday at Fort Snelling, but that will have to wait because the picture file is taking forever to appear in Dropbox.

I just finished a big translation job, and I have another smaller one I need to get at today. And that’s good. Because I’m a hard-working man with a vibrant life, not a fat old bachelor with odd hobbies, as I might appear to some.

To all survivors of fallen heroes, may the Lord be with you, today and every day.

Memorial Weekend

I mentioned earlier that I’ll be participating in the dedication of a war memorial at Fort Snelling Cemetery in Minneapolis this Saturday, May 25. The event will be in honor of the 99th Infantry Battalion (Separate) of which I’ve written several times before. I actually have no personal connection to the unit, except for ethnicity and historical interest. But they’ve invited me to give the invocation, and I will be doing that. In Viking costume.

To see a local TV report on the event and on the unit itself, follow this link.

‘Close Out,’ by Jeff Shelby

Tonight’s review will be even shorter than last night’s. I’ve got a big translation project (at last), and deadlines loom. Posting may be sparse for the rest of the week. We’ll see how it goes.

Fortunately, this is another Noah Braddock book, Jeff Shelby’s series about a lonely surfer/private eye in San Diego. When Close Out begins, Noah and his giant friend Carter have been reduced to doing bouncer work at a local night club. Business has been slack. But one night a woman lawyer, Cynthia Guzman, comes in to talk to Noah. She has clients she’d like him to meet. But they can’t just get together. They need to meet in a secret place.

Cautiously, Noah agrees. He is introduced to two illegal immigrants, a middle-aged man and woman. They’ve been paying a mysterious “benefactor” who promised to clear up their legal problems and get them legalized. But he’s long on promises – and demands for payments – and short on results. They now realize they’ve been cheated. Can Noah help them recover their money?

It doesn’t look like a high-paying job, but Noah is interested. He agrees to look into it on a preliminary basis. The trail will lead to unexpected quarters, and to risk for himself and his clients.

Like the other books in the series, Close Out is a fairly low key, enjoyable read. The author is on his immigration crusade again – again there are no non-admirable “undocumented immigrants” in sight – but the politics aren’t too heavy-handed, and Noah and Carter are fun to hang out with.

Recommended with minor cautions for language.

‘Wipe Out,’ by Jeff Shelby

This will be a short review, but I’m giving you two posts today, and the other one is awesome.

I’m continuing reading Jeff Shelby’s Noah Braddock mystery series. This one is Wipe Out (cue background music – you’ll understand if you’re old enough). Noah, you’ll recall, is a California surfer/private eye, who’s spent many years overcoming his exceedingly dysfunctional upbringing to become a responsible and decent man. He’s still recovering from a personal tragedy that made him a fugitive for a while.

Mitch Henderson was the proprietor of a beach motel in San Diego, and served as a badly needed father figure for Noah in his youth. So when Mitch dies suspiciously, another friend, Anne Sullivan, who worked at the motel, asks Noah to investigate. Curiosity becomes something like desperation when Anne – instead of Mitch’s widow – is left the motel in Mitch’s will, and she becomes the target of threats and malicious vandalism.

This story looked at first like kind of a standard “surprised and threatened heir” story, a staple in the genre. But it worked out in surprising ways, and was resolved in a pretty satisfying manner.

I enjoyed Wipe Out, and recommend it, with mild cautions for language.

I have a Carl Martell moment*

The figure above, with the strange hair and the tree growing out of his head, is your humble servant. In my hand is a genuine, authentic 1,100-year-old Viking sword, from the Ewart Oakeshott collection.

As I announced, I was at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis on Sunday, as part of a Viking “encampment” in connection with their “The Vikings Begin” exhibition. Among the exhibitors was The Oakeshott Institute, also located in Minneapolis. They offered the unrefusable opportunity to actually hold a Viking sword — if you wore cotton gloves.

(Only the blade is original, by the way. Some collector in the 19th Century added the guard, hilt, and pommel. Which is why they don’t mind people picking it up. With proper protections.)

I talked to the Oakeshott representative, who told me that Oakeshott himself, an Englishman, gifted his entire collection to his friend Chris Poor, a noted swordsmith here in Minneapolis — mostly to spite the British Antiquities nazis. I need to learn more about this organization. Oakeshott was The Man when it came to medieval swords. (I’ve read his book.)

It was a good day, though a wintry rain kept us indoors. Sold a good number of books — and book sales are no longer gravy for me. They’re part of my bottom line.

But the sword is what I’ll remember.

*Obscure reference to a novel written by a forgotten author.

‘Impact Zone,’ by Jeff Shelby

Having finished Jeff Shelby’s “Thread” books, I moved on to his Noah Braddock series, which I’ve also enjoyed. Noah Braddock is an implausible private eye – a surfer who investigates in his spare time. But author Shelby does some interesting character development with him. Noah is the product of an especially dysfunctional background, fumbling his way to maturity. A few books ago he suffered a personal tragedy and had to flee his California home for a while. As Impact Zone begins, he’s back in San Diego, trying to rebuild his life.

A girl he once dated asks him to travel up to rural northeast San Diego County to talk to her father, who is a big avocado farmer. He’s installed closed circuit TV in various locations in his orchards, and one of the cameras took a picture that bothers him. It’s a young blonde girl who’s running, and looking scared. Can Noah see if he can find out who she is, and if she’s all right?

Noah feels intensely out of his element on a big farm, far from the ocean. But he hasn’t gotten far in his investigation when one of the farm workers disappears. There’s a ransom demand. Noah and his friend Carter find themselves facing a conspiracy involving surprising people, some of whom are playing for keeps.

The subject of illegal immigration is prominent in Impact Zone. Author Shelby obviously has strong opinions on the issue, because another book in the series, which I’m reading now, also deals with it. His is a pretty rose-colored view, in my opinion. In his world, there are no criminal “undocumented immigrants.” No drug cartel members, no gangsters, no human traffickers. Only hard-working, incredibly decent people, an example to us all. I think it hurts his storytelling a little, because we know from the beginning that certain possible scenarios just aren’t going to happen. If you have strong feelings about immigration, you may have trouble with these books.

The editing falls down occasionally, and at one point a firearm starts as a rifle and then somehow transforms into a shotgun.

But I like Noah Braddock, and I enjoyed the book anyway. Mild cautions for language.

Norwegian stuff

Today is Syttende Mai, Constitution Day, Norway’s foremost national celebration. I have my Norwegian flag flying at my house, as is my wont when the weather permits on this date. There are rumors of rain, but so far so good.

If you’re in the Twin Cities area, and longing for a chance to look on my kindly visage (now that Grumpy Cat has left us), there are a couple opportunities coming up.

This Sunday I’ll be at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis for the Vikings Family Day. It was supposed to be outside, but it’s looking like weather will drive us indoors. I’ll have books to sell, if you can find me. 12:00 to 5:00 p.m.

And on Saturday, May 25, I’ll be at Fort Snelling Cemetery for the dedication of the new memorial to the 99th Infantry Battalion (Separate). The time will be 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.

‘Thread of Truth,’ by Jeff Shelby

I’ve been going through Jeff Shelby’s “Thread Novels,” starring former cop and current lost kid locater, Joe Tyler. This is the last book published to date, as far as I can tell, so tomorrow I’ll have a review from a different Jeff Shelby series. His books aren’t without their flaws, but I like the writing and the damaged main characters.

In many ways, Thread of Truth is a riff on the same theme as the book I reviewed last night. Again a young man has disappeared, and Joe Tyler is asked to try to find him. Again the lost kid is a recovering drug user, who has been clean for a while, but may have been involved in something else dangerous.

Joe Tyler has given up teaching now, a career he never really liked much. So when Desmond Locker’s parents ask him to find their missing son, he takes the job. The boy’s girlfriend has just given birth to his baby, and he had lots of plans for the future. He had not gone back to drugs, everyone insists. He’d been working hard and saving his money.

But his boss says he hasn’t given him the overtime he’s been talking about. So where did his money come from?

There will be no easy answers, and little good news. Many people are hiding secrets.

These books are pretty low key for their genre, but I like that just fine. I enjoyed Thread of Truth as I have the rest of the series. Recommended, with minor cautions for language.

‘Thread of Doubt,’ by Jeff Shelby

Plowing through Jeff Shelby’s interesting “Thread” series of mystery/thrillers. The hero, Joe Tyler, as you know if you’ve been following these reviews, is a former cop in Coronado, California. His life changed when his little daughter was kidnapped, and he spent years single-mindedly chasing her down. In the end he did locate her, now a teenager, and brought her home. At the beginning of Thread of Doubt she’s just back from college for Christmas break. She wants to talk to Joe about something, but he has trouble making time. He’s been teaching high school, and is behind on his class work. On top of that, he’s got a new investigation to look at in his free time.

He hadn’t intended to look for another kid, but the request came from an old cop friend, Mike Lorenzo. Mike’s nephew, for whom he was a sort of father figure, has disappeared. The young man has a history with drugs, but had seemed to have cleaned up his act. He was a musician, and his band looked to be on the brink of a commercial breakthrough.

Joe talks to the young man’s friends and girlfriend. What he learns brings him to a grim discovery, and grim solution to the mystery.

Thread of Doubt was a fairly by-the-numbers effort, and the end surprisingly low-key. But I like the characters and have had a good time following Joe’s odyssey. I enjoyed Thread of Doubt, and recommend it, with only minor cautions.

‘Thread of Revenge,’ by Jeff Shelby

Somehow I’d gotten the idea that Jeff Shelby’s “Thread” series of mystery/thrillers had come to an end. I was even more surprised to find that I’d missed one. By which I mean that I’d missed the book before the last book I reviewed here, Thread of Danger. I have a vague idea that I noticed at the time that something big had changed. Turned out I’d skipped an episode.

Anyway, Thread of Revenge is the book I skipped, which I’ve now read. I almost think I might have bypassed it purposely, because some awful things happen and I enjoyed this one least of them all.

It’s always necessary to give you deep background, especially with this series. It started out with the hero, Joe Tyler, searching for his daughter Elizabeth, who was snatched from his front yard just before Christmas one year. After years of searching, he did locate her (with an unaware adoptive family in Minnesota), and now the family is almost back together. He and his wife Lauren, now divorced, have been reconciling.

But in his quest to find Elizabeth, Joe desperately asked a favor of a very bad man in Minnesota. The bad man asked him for a favor in return. Joe did not keep his part of the bargain, and lied to him about it.

Now the bad man knows. And he’s kidnapped Lauren. Jack must do the awful thing he promised to do, or Lauren will die.

That’s a pretty horrifying scenario. Joe has to do his best in a lose/lose situation, and things will get very nasty indeed.

I found this story unpleasant, and somewhat unsatisfying. Also, a major plot element didn’t make sense to me – though author Shelby is likely setting up a return visit to the situation in a future book.

But the writing’s good, and I like the characters. I’m continuing to read the series, as you’ll learn with tomorrow’s review.

But Thread of Revenge was a bit of a downer. Cautions for the usual stuff.