Category Archives: Reviews

‘A Good Death,’ by Chris Collett

I think I’m caught up on Chris Collett’s Inspector Mariner police procedural series now. All the books to this point have been titled (or re-titled; at least some were originally published under different titles) with names including the word “Lies.” Now they’ve come out with a new book that breaks the pattern – A Good Death is the eighth book in the series.

I found this one a tad stressful, because it dealt with religious people more than earlier books. One Christian and one Muslim family are involved and – predictably, in our times – the Muslims appear somewhat more admirable than the Christians. Though the author doesn’t take a hatchet to either side. Inspector Mariner makes a dismissive comment about “God-botherers” and one point, but that’s consistent with his established character. He doesn’t “get” religion – like most Caucasian Europeans.

A Good Death involves the investigations of three separate deaths. There’s the death in a house fire of an elderly Muslim patriarch – quickly identified as arson. This is complicated by the discovery of a second body in the ashes of the same fire.

Then there’s the disappearance of a wealthy young man, just before his wedding date. I figured out, if not the culprit, at least the motive (kind of), quite early on. However, oddly enough, I deduced it from the wrong piece of evidence. (Am I brilliant, or what?)

The Inspector Mariner mystery series is a solid one. A Good Death was not my favorite of these books, but in spite of my comments on the handling of religion, it was not offensive. Recommended, with the customary cautions.

‘Destry Rides Again,’ by Max Brand

I’m the kind of buckaroo who’s interested in the books movies are based on. Even more, I’m interested in how the movies change the story, for better or worse. Recently, one of the digital broadcast channels ran both iterations of the film, Destry Rides Again. The 1939 version, a classic comedy-drama, starred James Stewart and Marlene Dietrich. It was remade in 1954, almost shot-for-shot, with Audie Murphy and some actress nobody remembers (“Hey gang! Let’s do it all over again just the same, but this time let’s make it stink!”). When I read the Wikipedia article, I noted that the movies bore almost no resemblance (except for the hero’s name, and they even changed the first part of that) to the original novel by Max Brand. That intrigued me enough to get the book for my Kindle.

They did not lie. Max Brand must have thought he was getting money for nothing when they paid him for the film rights, because very little of his work made it to the screen. (There was an earlier 1932 version with Tom Mix, which is said to have been closer to the book.)

The story of the movie, briefly, is this. The town of Bottleneck needs a new deputy sheriff, so they call in young Tom Destry, son of a legendary former sheriff. Only when he shows up, he’s a disappointment. He’s meek and quiet, and does not carry a gun. The toughs of the town, led by the local saloonkeeper, laugh at him. The saloonkeeper is behind a scheme to buy up all the properties on a strip of land that cattle drives need to cross. Then he can get rich off exorbitant watering fees. Destry employs his charm and disarming manner to defuse violence for a while, but eventually things get out of hand, and he at last straps on his pistol and meets the saloonkeeper for a showdown. There’s also a love triangle involving Marlene Dietrich’s saloon girl and a virtuous girl, both in love with Destry.

The book Destry Rides Again could hardly be more different. Harry Destry is the hero, and he’s a wild, tough, uncivilized young man, even a bit of a bully. He’s convicted of a robbery he did not commit, and comes back a changed – and darker – character. Each man on the jury had a personal grudge against him, and Harry has a plan to get revenge on each and every one of them. However, he does not guess his true enemy, a purported friend who in fact set him up and profited by it. The pure faith of the girl who loves him, and a boy who idolizes him, combine to help him begin to see the futility of his ways.

One can discern certain points where moments of the book might have suggested the film plot. When the story begins, Harry doesn’t have a gun – but that’s because he lost it in a poker game. When he returns from prison, he at first makes out to be a broken man, and appears unarmed – but that’s only a ploy. Also, there’s an idol-worshiping boy in both versions.

Otherwise they’re entirely different stories, in entirely different spirits.

What kind of a writer was Max Brand? I’ve read one of his novels before, and this one impressed me less. The term “purple prose” might have been coined for this book. Here’s a snippet:

There was no answer from Cleeves. He never again would answer any man. His lips were cold. Until Judgment Day, a thousand trumpets might blow, and Hank would never reply. He whom a hundred thousand eyes had seen now had vanished. He was gone. He was away. Deeper than the seas he was buried, and deeper than the mountains could hide him. The impalpable spirit was gone, and only the living blood remained to tell of him, dripping down into the silence of the old shack, drop by drop, softly spattering, like footsteps wonderfully light and wonderfully clear….

And it goes on. Brand originally wrote this story as a magazine serial, and here you see the unmistakable traces of an author being paid by the word.

He also helpfully provides exclamation marks at the ends of narrative sentences on frequent occasions – so we’ll know when to be excited!

Destry Rides Again was amusing to read, but only as an artifact of its time. It is simplistic, overwritten, and improbable. Cautions for the occasional racial slur, too.

Big Men’s Boots, by Emily Barroso

Prayer is like that fire causing the pot to boil. God does nothing unless we pray. He has chosen us to be his co-workers on the earth. Prayer moves His divine hand. You need to remember to listen to what God is saying when you pray–he gets bored with lists. If you listen He will talk back.

What drew me to start reading Big Men’s Boots was the setting of the Welsh revival in 1904-05. What could be more exciting on its face than a historic outpour of the Holy Spirit?

According to Barroso, Wales was primed for change. English landowners clashed with common Welshmen on every front. Labor unions were taking up arms. Welsh Nonconformists chafed against Anglicans, who spoke another language and seemed to have all of the power. Would rising up against the English businessmen bring equality and justice to the Welsh, or would it drive all jobs out of the country?

The story begins with three men praying over the body of a young man who had passed away three days prior. They hold nothing back in urging God to act, even calling the boy to rise in Christ’s name, believing their earnest faith will produce the miracle they require. Outside the window, the boy’s friend Owen Evans, 13, also prays. The whole community must reckon with their grief and what they believe as social trouble begins to brew. Owen’s growing faith and what appears to be a prophetic gift frame up the rest of the story.

I want to praise this book and recommend it without reservation. That’s what I want to do with every book. But I have to be honest and say I didn’t finish reading it. Because I didn’t finish it, I delayed reviewing it until now. It feels overly long. Historical novels have their own pace as do readers. Perhaps you would enjoy it more than I did.

‘Missing Lies,’ by Chris Collett

Sorry I didn’t post the last couple nights. I was having trouble with myinternet connection. Still not sure the problem is solved. It seems to work fine in the mornings, but in the evenings it freezes up like an old man’s knees.

My plan was to review another Inspector Mariner mystery, byChris Collett. Missing Lies is the seventh book in the series, concerning abachelor police detective in Birmingham, England.

In the previous book, Tom Mariner became the guardian of anadult autistic man. This gives author Chris Collett (who is a woman) a chanceto teach him a lesson about what working mothers go through. (Personally,unreconstructed Victorian that I am, I think it just proves that mothers shouldstay at home, if they can). Anyway, Mariner now has to structure his lifearound his dependent, and it’s an annoyance and an education – through it hasits satisfactions too. On top of this, his most valuable subordinate, a newmother, is on maternity leave, and his second most valuable, a man, is on aspecial assignment. Another male subordinate appears to be less than diligentat his work – but is doing more than Mariner thinks (this character, interestingly,is a born-again Christian). A new member of the team, very promising, is yet another single mother.

In Missing Lies, a young woman, daughter of a prominent citizen, has disappeared. She started out along a city street to a party and never arrived at her destination. The case gets headlines, and corresponding pressure from superiors. Then a package arrives at police headquarters, containing most of the young woman’s clothing, all meticulously laundered and pressed.

Then another woman disappears. And another package arrives.

The mystery will spread far afield, and then spiral back in close to home.

I liked Missing Lies. Mariner is a solid character,believably solitary, carrying old scars. He is skittish withrelationships, but we are given reasons to understand him.

Recommended, with only minor cautions for what you’d expect.

‘Buried Lies,’ by Chris Collett

Continuing the DI Tom Mariner police procedural series by Chris Collett. This story takes Mariner out of his usual haunts in Birmingham, to a more rustic setting.

At the end of the previous novel in the series, Married Lies, Tom Mariner suffered a shocking personal loss. When Buried Lies begins, he has decided to take a holiday – a walking tour in the Welsh mountains. Back in his teens, he spent a summer in a village there, and he thinks he’ll revisit some old scenes.

At the same time, an ex-prisoner begins a series of revenge killings, repaying old “wrongs.” Everyone thinks he’s headed for Ireland, but in fact he’s on his way to Wales.

Driving to Wales, Mariner picks up a hitchhiker, a personable elderly academic who doesn’t seem to know much about walking tours. By chance they reconnect in Mariner’s destination village, where they share a room in a former youth hostel, owned by a woman who was Mariner’s girlfriend on that long-ago summer.

Meanwhile, Mariner comes across a murdered body on one of his hikes. And he grows curious about a local estate owned by a mysterious Russian, as well as a neighboring farm which claims to be growing organic vegetables(though Mariner can’t figure out how they’re paying the bills). When Mariner discovers yet another murder victim, the local police have no choice but to arrest him on suspicion.

I enjoyed Buried Lies, though I thought it tried to juggle too many balls at once. The final dramatic climax seemed a little contrived.

Still, Mariner is an interesting and admirable investigator, and the characters were interesting. Recommended with only minor cautions.

‘Debris Line,’ by Matthew FitzSimmons

A quarter mile from the Faro Airport, the old hotel seemed like a last-ditch option for those on a budget holiday. It rose out of the ground and sloped sleepily to one side. Jenn felt sure that if God reached down, he’d be able to wiggle the hotel back and forth like a loose tooth.

Another installment in Matthew FitzSimmons’s interesting Gibson Vaughn series of thrillers, which I’m enjoying. My only problem (and it’s not confined to this series) is that the books come out slowly enough that I have to get reacquainted with the characters each time around. (Yes, I know –physician heal thyself.)

Gibson Vaughn started the series as a kind of a loner. As a boy, he was arrested for hacking into a prominent senator’s computer. Soon after that his father, who worked for the senator, was found hanged to death – supposedly suicide, but it wasn’t. Vaughn avoided prison thanks to a kindly judge who got him enlisted in the military instead, and he ended up a trained commando with hacking skills. Since then, over the course of the books, he’s gotten attached to a disparate group of dangerous people – George, a Japanese man who used to be their boss, when he still had a company. Daniel, a middle-aged, black former cop. And Jenn, a kick-butt operative with whom Gibson carries on an on-and-off relationship.

As Debris Line begins, the group is in hiding from federal authorities. They’re hiding in the Algarve, the Riviera of Portugal. Their host and protector is an old friend of George’s, the “godfather” of the Algarve. When drugs were legalized in Portugal some years back, this man consolidated organized crime in his region, making it a way station for Mexican cartel drug shipments, and establishing peace in his own bailiwick.

But now the godfather wants a favor in return for his hospitality. Someone has electronically “hijacked” a shipment of drugs, and he needs it freed up before the deadline for delivery to the Mexicans. Gibson’s skills are needed to retrieve the shipment. Gibson has no desire to help, but mobsters are still mobsters, and pressure is applied. Gibson agrees, reluctantly, to help. Then he discovers a horrific secret – and the job becomes a mission of mercy and rescue – and justice.

What’s particularly nice about Debris Line is that there’s no predictability here. Decisions and actions come out of left and right field, and it’s hard to tell what anyone will do. When you think you’ve got a character figured out, they surprise you – though their behavior makes perfect sense once it’s explained.

I enjoyed Debris Line. Cautions for language and disturbing content, but recommended.

‘Immoral,’ by Brian Freeman

Immoral

Brian Freeman is a new novelist to me, and I almost loved his novel, Immoral. Almost.

The hero of Immoral, police Lt. Jonathan Stride, works in Duluth, Minnesota. Fourteen months ago, a local teenaged girl disappeared, leaving no trace. That’s not impossible in a place surrounded by the north woods, but it’s frustrating for Jonathan – and unbearable for her parents – that the crime hasn’t been solved. Now another young girl has gone missing – Rachel Deese. Rachel was the most beautiful girl in the local high school – seductive, promiscuous, manipulative. Was she murdered – perhaps by the predator who (probably) murdered the first girl? Or did she disappear on her own initiative? But if that’s true, she sure did an expert job of framing her stepfather for murder before lighting out for the territories.

In the course of his investigation, which will take three years to wrap up, Jonathan will puzzle over Rachel’s parents’ bizarre relationship, probe the broken hearts she left behind, meet a woman he wants to marry, travel to Las Vegas, and then meet a woman he wants to marry more. The final truth, once discovered, will be extremely complex and morally mystifying. The final judgment on Rachel – and on Jonathan – will be difficult to make.

I liked the writing in Immoral. I liked the characters too. Brian Freeman is a good writer – with one jarring exception. He takes the sex scenes way too far (in my opinion), making bedroom behavior unnecessarily explicit. There’s also a hypocritical pastor, but – oddly – the author doesn’t seem particularly outraged by the hypocrisy. Also he pushes the modern view of marriage, which holds that it is not legitimate unless there’s romantic passion. This, in my view, justifies a lot of cruelty and betrayal.

I’m not sure what to say about Immoral in the end. I found the conclusion problematic, but understandable. I’d almost be eager to read more of Freeman’s work, but the combination of near-pornographic sections, the questionable resolution, and the handling of marriage put me off a little. You might like it better than I do. There are a lot worse books out there.

‘When It Grows Dark,’ by Jorn Lier Horst

When It Grows Dark

I’ll just briefly review this book by Jørn Lier Horst. I enjoy the William Wisting series of police procedurals, and I enjoyed this one, When It Grows Dark. I think it must have been released recently in Kindle format, because I’m pretty sure I’d have read it before if it had been available.

In this episode, Larvik (Norway) detective William Wisting calls on some students in the police academy to help him solve a very cold case. The case involves the disappearance of what we’d call a limousine driver, back in the 1980s. Wisting has recently discovered what he thinks is the missing man’s car, abandoned in a disused barn. But that barn also seems to be connected to an even older crime, going back to the 1920s.

And so we enter into a prolonged flashback, in which we observe young William Wisting, then a uniformed policeman, as he follows up some clues on his own time and sets out on the path that will make him a detective.

A cold case story, and William Wisting. That’s a winning combination for me. Wisting is – as far as I know – unique in Scandinavian crime literature. He’s not suicidal; not even especially depressed (though he has his sorrows). He’s not an alcoholic, or a drug addict, or a sex addict. He’s not a Communist, as far as I can tell. He’s just a decent man and a conscientious cop. He seems to have what my friend Gene Edward Veith would call “a sense of vocation.”

My only real complaint with When It Grows Dark is that the translation is weak in places. Otherwise, highly recommended, as is the whole Wisting series.

‘The Pretender: Saving Luke,’ by Steven Long Mitchell & Craig W. Van Sickle

The Pretender: Saving Luke

I reviewed the first novel in the “rebooted” Pretender series a few days ago. Now I’ve read the second, and I’m equally – or more – disappointed.

The old Pretender TV series (which I loved) concerned Jarod, a young man, a genius able to absorb knowledge fast enough to become anything he wishes very quickly. He was raised in a scientific laboratory where he was used to test out scenarios for various customers, some of them pretty evil. Then he escaped. Now he was going around looking for cases of cruelty and injustice, and setting up the bad guys for exposure and punishment (usually the legal kind).

The literary reboot, written by the series’ two head writers, alters that formula a tad. Jarod is the same, and his chief opponents – Sydney, the closest thing he has to a father, and Miss Parker, a miniskirted attack dog who’s half in love with him – are pretty much the same. But Jarod is taking on bigger challenges now.

In the first book, Jarod helped a few people incidentally, in service of his greater goal, rescuing a kidnapped boy named Luke. Luke was taken by terrorists in order to pressure his father, an engineer, into committing a major act of terrorism (I’m not sure it’s ever explained what the terrorists’ actual political or financial goal is). Luke was not rescued at the end of the last book, so The Pretender: Saving Luke finishes that story.

I liked spending time with Jarod, although this Jarod is a little more coldblooded than the TV one. He does some pretty cruel things to people in pursuit of his goals. Granted, they’re bad people, but that kind of ruthlessness does not build reader empathy, unless the reader is a psychopath. Also, the plot is (to my mind) just too big. A big terrorist plot, a ticking clock, and heroics that frankly pass credibility. This is a superhero story, kind of like Batman. I don’t go to The Pretender for a superhero.

Also, the writing hasn’t improved: awkward sentence structure, confusion of words – imminent/eminent, rappel/repel. The book really, really needed a copy editor.

I’m not sorry I read The Pretender: Saving Luke, but it missed the bullseye for me.

Also, there seemed to be more transsexualism and lesbianism than strictly necessary.

Cautions for a little rough language and sexual situations.

‘Bats In the Belfry,’ by E.C.R. Lorac

Bats In the Belfry

A while back one of our kind commenters recommended books published by Poisoned Pen Press, which is reprinting old British mysteries. Working at random, as none of the authors were familiar to me, I settled on Bats In the Belfry by E.C.R. Lorac (a pseudonym).

The book opens appropriately, with a drawing room party of cultured Londoners in the 1930s. There’s a once-famous novelist, his actress wife, a playwright, his minor female ward, and a young man who’s in love with her. The conversation wanders into the subject of murder fiction, with the various characters discussing good ways to dispose of a body. The young man also asks to marry the girl, and her guardian refuses to permit it.

Then the novelist leaves town and disappears completely. The young man, looking for clues to his whereabouts, searches an abandoned artist’s studio, where he finds the novelist’s suitcase.

At that point Inspector Macdonald of Scotland Yard takes up the investigation. He has as much trouble keeping the missing man’s friends from muddying up the case as in figuring out what actually happened.

Bats in the Belfry is a “fair play” mystery, in which all the necessary information is placed before the reader. This is the kind of classic “cozy” mystery that nearly defined the genre for a century. “Cozies” aren’t really my thing – I prefer the more character-driven hard-boiled variety of mystery. I think it’s a personality thing – the cozy provides many people with a fun intellectual challenge that entertains them. If you’re that kind of reader, you may enjoy Bats in the Belfry, and other classic offerings from this publisher.

No reader’s cautions necessary.

‘The Pretender: Rebirth,” by Steven Long Mitchell & Craig W. Van Sickle

The Pretender: Rebirth

I was a huge fan of the old TV series, The Pretender, starring Michael T. Weiss. It was, I felt, a refreshing concept – on top of the old, familiar theme of the Imposter, one who “becomes” whatever he chooses to be and operates well enough to fool others, you have the theme of an adult male encountering the real world for the first time – childlishly delighted to discover the Three Stooges, or aerosol cheese, or Pez candy. The character of Jarod, a genius combining superior intelligence with naivety, was an invitation to us all to stop and appreciate the wonders that surround us. His quest to find his mother, from whom he’d been kidnapped by the sinister “Centre,” where he was raised as a guinea pig, reminded us of the importance of family.

But the show wasn’t well served by its production team. Each season, Jarod would discover a chain of clues leading to his true identity, and would follow them up, and then the next season that chain would be completely abandoned for another, frustrating the fans. The scripts began to lose track of the original series concept. The show died. There was an attempt to revive it on the TNT network, but that plot was another pointless detour, with uncalled-for mystical accretions.

So I was interested to see that the show’s original creators, Steven Long Mitchell and Craig W. Van Sickle, had come out with a couple new Pretender books. The first is The Pretender: Rebirth. I read it with considerable enjoyment, though it’s flawed.

As in the TV version, Jarod, the Pretender, has escaped the Centre. Jarod is a rare genius, a young man with quick learning and empathy skills that allow him to “become” anything he chooses to be, with just a little research. Pursuing him are Miss Parker, sort of like Diana Rigg’s Emma Peel with a harder edge, and Sydney, the scientist who monitored Jarod through childhood, helped him develop his gifts, and became his father-figure.

It’s not enough for Jarod to search for his own origins. He also helps people whenever he can. Here Jarod is intrigued by a news story about a boy who disappeared in a river after an auto accident. Jarod doesn’t believe the boy is dead, and he has a strong suspicion where he is – or at least who can tell him where he is. All he needs to do is become a surgeon overnight, ingratiate himself with a prominent doctor with a grandiosity complex, and spring someone from a mental ward. Continue reading ‘The Pretender: Rebirth,” by Steven Long Mitchell & Craig W. Van Sickle

‘Live Wire,’ by Harlan Coben

Live Wire

Another Harlan Coben novel, this time in his Myron Bolitar series. Myron is a sports, literary, and actors’ agent, and for some reason he keeps getting involved in investigating crimes. This one hits closer to home than most.

Live Wire begins with an appeal from “Suzze T,” a tennis star client married to a rock star. Suzze recently gave birth to a baby, and someone posted a comment on her Facebook page, saying that the baby is “not his.” Just a troll, you’d think, but now her husband has disappeared. Can Myron find him and bring him back?

As he investigates the husband’s last known movements, Myron gets a look at a night club closed circuit surveillance recording, and sees a familiar face – his sister-in-law, Kitty, also once a tennis star. Myron hasn’t seen Kitty or his brother in fifteen years. Myron didn’t trust her, and made accusations. The last time he saw his brother, he broke his nose. Now he wants nothing more than to see him again and apologize.

But Kitty is hard to find, and she has secrets. And then somebody dies, and the whole mystery plunges into a tangle of old and toxic secrets, while a ruthless killer lurks in the background. Of course Myron has his own dangerous weapon, in the person of his best friend, Win Lockwood.

Live Wire is in many ways a heartbreaking story, well told. Coben’s usual themes of loyalty and family love are front and center. LW also serves as a launching pad for Coben’s young adult mystery series starring Myron’s nephew Mickey Bolitar. Recommended.

‘Stay Close,’ by Harlan Coben

Stay Close

I reviewed a miniseries created by Harlan Coben a few days back, and so I decided to read a couple more Coben novels. Stay Close was the first. Although it doesn’t follow the usual template for a Coben stand-alone, it had all the familiar elements. And you won’t hear me complaining.

We start with Ray Levine, an Atlantic City photographer at the bottom of his profession. Once a promising photojournalist, a traumatic event several years ago left him adrift. Now he’s – not a paparazzo – but a fake paparazzo. He follows the customers around with a camera, trying to make them feel like big shots on important days in their lives.

And then he gets a glimpse of Megan Pierce. Ray was in love with Megan once, when she was a stripper he knew as “Cassie.” Megan is a suburban wife now, with a pretty good life. Only sometimes she misses the excitement of the old days. And when she makes a discreet visit to a bar where she used to dance, she gets some very dangerous people furiously trying to locate her.

Finally there’s Broome, an old detective trying to solve old mysteries. All of these people have theories about a particular missing persons case. All their theories are wrong. The truth will shock them and put their lives, and those of their loved ones, at risk.

Harlan Coben excels at creating layered, relatable characters. Even the bad guys are understandable, and sometimes almost sympathetic. Except for a couple characters in this book who seemed over the top to me. A sociopathic couple who work as a hit team, and are apparently Mormon missionaries (or something similar) in their off hours. I found them a little hard to swallow.

But the book was exciting – in fact it was one of those I had to take in small doses, because of the constant peril to innocent people – and the conclusion was satisfying. Recommended with the usual cautions.

Netflix Review: ‘Safe’

Safe

Back in 2006, a French movie appeared, based on Harlan Coben’s novel Tell No One. I’ve seen it on Netflix. It’s a pretty good thriller. Coben says he agreed to sell the rights to the French company rather than taking an American offer, because the filmmakers understood the story – that it’s primarily a love story, not a mystery.

Although he takes his material overseas again (this time to England) for the miniseries Safe, available for viewing now on Netflix, I think it’s not as successful as the French movie. But it’s a pretty fair entertainment.

In spite of the uprooted location, Safe is a very recognizable Coben story. You’ve got a secure (in this case gated) upper middle-class suburban community, where neighbors are friends and everybody knows everybody’s business (or thinks they do). You’ve got a family friend who tells some of the kids that if they ever need a designated driver, call him night or day – no questions, no snitching to the parents. You’ve got a teenagers’ party that gets out of hand – a boy drowns. Then a girl disappears. Then the clues lead back to very old, buried secrets.

American actor Michael C. Hall plays Dr. Tom Delaney, widowed father of the missing girl. (His English accent sounds OK to me, but apparently the actual English have laughed at it.) His relationship with his daughter Jenny (Amy James-Kelly) has been strained, since her mother’s death from cancer. He desperately tries to trace Jenny’s movements on the night of the party, assisted by his best friend, a gay doctor, and his girlfriend, a police detective. Clues lead to drug dealing, concealment of a body, and a guilty secret shared by members of the close-knit community.

I found the solution, and the Big Surprise that followed it, a little improbable and forced. However, the series as a whole was compelling and I enjoyed it. Cautions for mature themes and a few obscenities.

‘Like to Die,’ by David Housewright

Like to Die

Another entertaining Mac McKenzie novel from David Housewright. Like to Die is the last book published to date in the series, and as it happens it’s the last I plan to read. The author tipped his hand at last. More on that further down.

Mac McKenzie, millionaire former St. Paul police detective, does investigative favors for friends from time to time. One of those friends is dating Erin Peterson, better known as “Salsa Girl” in spite of her blonde hair and blue eyes. Erin manufactures six highly regarded flavors of salsa in a factory in St. Paul, and business is great. But somebody super-glued her factory locks shut one night. Erin doesn’t think that’s worth calling Mac in for, but then someone does the same to the locks on her company trucks. So she agrees to let Mac look into things. But she’s strangely reluctant, and Mac realizes he doesn’t really know much about Erin at all.

Turns out Erin and her business have problems with a big distributor. Not to mention with a flaky partner, a Mexican drug cartel, and organized crime. Erin has deep, deep secrets.

I enjoyed Like to Die very much, for the most part. Mac is a splendid main character, and the cast of supporting players is vivid and fun – especially the enigmatic Erin.

But this time author Housewright reveals his politics, a topic on which he’s been pretty evenhanded in the past. A conservative Christian is portrayed in such a stereotypical manner that I wondered if I’d stumbled into a Saturday Night Live sketch, or a Lee Child novel. Also, the charge of racism, which Householder has aimed at Norwegians in the past, is now extended to Minnesotans in general. What’s up with that?

Anyway, I’m sure David Housewright doesn’t want my bigoted, conservative business, so I don’t plan to buy any more of his books.

Otherwise, it was great.