Showing posts with label mystery. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mystery. Show all posts

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Nancy Drew Girl Detective #14 Sleight of Dan by Stefan Petrucha, Sarah Kinney, Sho Murase, Carlos Jose Guzman


Rating: WARTY!

This was one of three Nancy Drew graphic novels I'm reviewing today. It's also the last Nancy Sue I'll ever read. I never read any of the original novels, and prior to these three graphic versions, I'd seen her in only two movies, once an older 'original' and the other a 2007 knock-off starring Emma Roberts who is evidently a lot more charming and mature in her movies than in real life as judged by her 2013 Montreal fight.

None of these graphic novels were particularly interesting to me, although younger readers might enjoy them. Again, this particular one was nothing to write home about. The color by Guzman, the art by Murase, and the writing by Petrucha and Kinney were all workman-like and nothing special, and the story was quite predictable.

Nancy-Sue, nuttily-named Ned, and some dude named George go to see Dan Devil's magic show. His assistant vanishes - and doesn't reappear. Of course Nancy can't not get involved. An encounter with a hungry anaconda somehow persuades her to become his new assistant. Ri-ight!

Isn't it weird how, in these stories, predators are always, but always, hungry? Judged by its ferocious and unnaturally lively pursuit of Nancy, the reptile evidently hadn't eaten in months. Boring. The largest anaconda is the green anaconda and it is not known to eat people or even large prey save for rare occasions. After a meal, an anaconda can go for six weeks before needing to eat again, so this story is not remotely realistic and is downright misleading, in fact. Shame on the authors. Inventive they may have been, clueless they definitely were. No commendo!


Nancy Drew Girl Detective #13 Doggone Town by Stefan Petrucha, Sarah Kinney, Sho Murase, Carlos Jose Guzman


Rating: WARTY!

I can only give pretty much the same review for this one that I did for the previous volume out of three I read recently. I never read any of the original Nancy Drews (and I'm starting to be glad about that!) although in July of 2017, I did positively review a book which told the interesting story of how the Nancy Drew books came about.

My only experience of her prior to these graphic novels was via two widely disparate movies, one an old one, and one a much more recent version which actually wasn't too bad. None of the three graphic novels were particularly interesting to me, although younger readers might enjoy them. This particular one was nothing to write home about. The color by Guzman, the art by Murase, and the writing by Petrucha and Kinney were all workman-like and nothing special, and the story was unsurprisingly predictable.

Nancy Sue and the absurdly-named Ned Nickerson, who sounds like a character out of the Monty Python sketch 'Election Night Special' are out and about when they encounter an apparently lost dog. They drive out to a remote village and return it to its owner only to discover the entire village is deserted except for the owner, who is absurdly mean. Of course, she did it! Boring.

These books never explain why it is that Nancy doesn't simply call the police. You'd think the writer would at least offer a token explanation for why she cannot, but no - that's too much to ask for. And what? And entire village goes missing and no one notices? Not the police, not relatives, not delivery people? No one?


Nancy Drew Girl Detective #11 Monkey Wrench Blues by Stefan Petrucha, Sarah Kinney, Sho Murase, Carlos Jose Guzman


Rating: WARTY!

This was one of three Nancy Drew graphic novels which I decided to take a look at, having never read any of the original Nancy Drews and having seen her in only two widely disparate movies. None were particularly interesting to me, although younger readers might enjoy them. This particular one was nothing to write home about. The color by Guzman, the art by Murase, and the writing by Petrucha and Kinney were all workman-like and nothing special, and the story was quite predictable.

Nancy and her mechanic, Bess, drive a car in a race of supposedly environmentally-friendly vehicles. Naturally someone is trying to run Nancy off the road and naturally Mary Drew (or is it Nancy-Sue?) escapes scot-free and solves the 'puzzle'. Boring. Can't commend this one.


Troublemaker by Janet Evanovich, Alex Evanvovich, Joelle Jones


Rating: WARTY!

Illustrated by Joelle Jones, this is a classic example of it's not what you can write, but who you know. The blurb doesn't even pretend that daughter Alexandra Evanovich (or Evanvovich as idiot Amazon, known for screwing-up of author's names, has it!) had any writing involvement at all although she's credited with it, so maybe she did contribute. We'll never know. But what a great way to get your foot in the door, huh, on the fly leaves of your mom?

I thought I could kill two birds with one stone here, reading an Evanovich, which I'd really had no interest in because her titles are far too gimmicky, and seeing what her daughter might have contributed, and all in a short graphic format, but it was a complete fail! I should have paid closer attention to the blurb: "Alex Barnaby and Sam Hooker are back together and fighting crime the only way they know how - by leaving a trail of chaos, panic, and disorder." Yep, that's how to successfully fight crime all right! Not! In the end it was nothing worth my time.

The first problem I had was with how the two main characters are set up. Masculine Sam is the leading man - the daring racecar driver. Alexandra Barnaby is his lackey. No surprises there. It's about what I'd expect from someone of Evanovich's generation, where playing it safe and by the numbers is an unwritten rule. So, a man has gone missing and since all police are pretty much universally useless in these interfering meddler stories, twin clowns Barnaby and Hooker evidently have to go deep into the "underbelly of Miami" (which in this era of climate change is actually underwater), delving int "Voodoo, explosions, gift-wrapped body parts, and a deadly swamp chase." Yawn. This novel sucked, period. That's all it merits as a review. I'm done with these two authors. Nothing to see here. Moving along.


The Missing Activist by Louise Burfitt-Dons


Rating: WARTY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This story had sounded interesting from the book blurb, but it turned out to be just the opposite in practice, and it moved so slowly that I gave up on it after about twenty-five percent. It didn’t engage me, and it felt a bit like it couldn't make up its mind whether it wanted to be a mystery or a romance, or something else, and tripping itself up in indecision.

The characters were not really very interesting to me either. I didn't meet anyone I particularly liked, much less someone I’d want to root for. The book switched between characters every chapter so it felt very disjointed and fragmented, and we never really got to know anyone. The activist of the title never was properly introduced to the reader, so the fact that he went missing was not an impactful event. I didn't miss him at all, and apparently neither did anyone else, since there was no real concern evident from anyone over his whereabouts - at least not in the portion I read. It seems to me that there would be political points to be scored here over an episode like this, but it was a non-event.

The book had an overall feel like it was not quite ready for prime time. The writing technically wasn't bad in general terms, but there were a lot of instances where I felt the author had written one thing, then later changed it, but never re-read it for coherence, so there were many instances of writing like this “...when she own heaps..” where the author clearly ought to have written "...when she owned heaps...." There was another such instance where I read, “But they also agreed start somewhere just in case" which needed to have read, "to starting somewhere" or "agreed: start somewhere" or something like that.

At another point I read, "When Hailey’s flatmate there, Karen assumed Hailey would be somewhere behind him." Clearly something is missing from the first clause - like maybe a verb? Another instance was "He tried Miller’ number." Clearly there's an 's' missing after the apostrophe. Another instance was where a sentence had evidently been re-arranged but some words were not deleted and ended up repeated; “Karen had even discovered there’d been a woman, wearing a full burka, sighted around the Cardiff Hotel the night Alesha Parkhurst died wearing the full burka.” I don't think we're meant to understand that Alesha Parkhurst died wearing the full burka! Or maybe we are?

Sometimes the wrong word was used, such as where I read, “But soon they were both woofing it down...” where the author ought to have written, "wolfing it down." Occasionally there was an unfortunate juxtaposition, such as in “Karen clenched teeth until she finally had the chance to put her bit in.” Was Karen a horse No! She didn’t actually want to put a bit in her mouth; she wanted to, as Americans would say, put her two cents in. I'm not sure what the Brit equivalent of that is these days. It’s been a long time since I lived there!

On other occasions the description of something was off, such as when I read, "A recent story in Google..." when the situation is that Google doesn't publish news stories - it merely facilitates you finding them, so a better turn of phrase would have been, "A recent story on the Daily Mail's site" or "a recent BBC news article said..." or something like that. What really made me decide to quit this though, was reading a sentence like this: “...Bea, the second wife of James Harrington MP was petite, lively and still pretty for fifty-eight.”

Now if a character in this story had said that, I would have no problem with it, because people really can be that shallow, judgmental, and determinedly pigeon-holing of women, making them both skin-depth and the appendage of their husband, but when the actual narrative of the story says something like that, I have to take issue once again with a female author reducing a female character to nothing but shallow looks and diminished status. If this had been a novel about a beauty pageant or something like that, then looks would certainly enter into it, rightly or wrongly, but this is someone who is for no narrative reason, not only reduced to a male appendage, but to skin depth only. Her role in this novel has nothing to do with beauty or looks, so why is whether she's pretty or not even remotely relevant?

Instead of how she, surprisingly, wasn't a wrinkled crone at fifty eight(!), could we not have her described as a "respected activist" or "an intellectual powerhouse" or "a stalwart campaigner for women's rights"? Something - anything but reducing her to a pretty appendage. You know, I have no problem with a radio station playing "Baby, it’s Cold Outside" and especially not when that same station plays songs far more abusive to women than that old and misunderstood song ever could be. I do have a problem with female authors routinely reducing women to their looks.

I understand this author has an admirable life working against abuses of children and doing good work in other endeavors too, but this review is not about the author, it’s about what was authored, and while I wish the author all the best in her writing, I cannot commend this novel for the reasons I've listed.


Friday, November 16, 2018

More Than Bones by Craig David Singer


Rating: WARTY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Emily is a med school graduate embarking on her internship. She was lured into working at a Catholic hospital in Baltimore to be near her fiancée, and manages to find a room in a nicely-appointed house run by a usually sweet, but very temperamental guy whose first name, Norton, is the same as Emily's last name. On day one Emily is given a gift by an old man named Frank who lives next door to Norton. Emily tries to refuse it, but he's so insistent that she accepts just to be nice, and she hangs it on this skeleton - a real skeleton that Norton put in her room as a weird sort of housewarming gift for the surgeon intern.

The amulet is supposed to bring her good luck, and Frank is insistent that she wear it, but she doesn't and sure enough, a host of bad luck comes her way. She's late on her first day because of car trouble; later, her fiancée dumps her; Norton becomes seriously pissed-off with her over a remark she makes about him being gay - which he either isn't or is in serious denial of; a fellow female doctor, Mondra, with whom Emily was bonding also becomes angry with her, and an important guy from the local community files a formal complaint against her over her medical conduct when she treated his son - a patient she was tricked into taking by two other senior doctors who didn't want to deal with this kid's abusive dick of a father! After Frank dies unexpectedly and fails to impart some last words to Emily, a private detective shows up asking about his will, which seems to be missing.

The author has an interesting style, repeatedly tricking the reader into thinking one thing while revealing later how wrong you were to think as you did, but that grew rather old after a while as did the story-telling. Emily is neither an interesting nor a likable character and reading this story from her PoV was neither pleasant not engaging. First person voice is rarely the best one for telling a story, especially one like this, and did the main character no fav ors.

I made it only two-thirds the way through this novel before I quit because I could not stand to read about this whiny little self-absorbed ditz any more. At one point, for example, Mondra approaches Emily in the parking lot asking for help, and Emily just leaves her there and coldly drives away. I already didn't like Emily prior to this point, but that killed-off any hope of me growing to like her. At that point I was thinking Mondra's story would have been far more interesting than Emily's was - but not if it was written the same way this one was!

In the end I could not stand to read any more about her, so I DNF'd this. The mystery was boring and taking far too long to go anywhere for my taste. I cannot commend this as a worthy read.


Saturday, September 1, 2018

In the Night Wood by Dale Bailey


Rating: WARTY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Usually on Net Galley, you request a book to read and review and you take your chance as to whether it will be approved. Sometimes books are listed as 'Read Now' which tends to mean the book isn't doing so well or is being undervalued, and the publisher wants it read more widely. Those books are great because I've found many gems among them. There is another option though, which is the 'wish for it' category.

This has also been kind to me because I've found some gems there, too, but since the ones I've wished for have all been granted (to my best recollection), I have to wonder if this category is used because the author or publisher is lacking somewhat in confidence in the book and wants to ensure that it's requested only by those who really want to read it? I don't know. Personally I've tended to enjoy the 'wished-for' books, but I can't say that of this particular one unfortunately.

The blurb for this book makes it all about Charles Hayden, which seems rather genderist since Hayden is only one half of a married couple who travel to Yorkshire in the UK, a place I know and from whence both my parents hailed, but we see very little of Yorkshire. We are confined to an ancient manor house surrounded by a castle-like wall, and it's Erin Hayden's family connections which have led to this inheritance: to this manor isolated in an even more ancient wood. Erin isn't even mentioned in the blurb! Charles may as well have been single.

That said, the story is told from Charles's perspective, thankfully not in first person, but this novel would have been a lot easier to like had either of these two people been themselves remotely likeable. As it was, they were chronic whiners and I was turned off both of them within a few paragraphs of starting to read this.

Both were endlessly wallowing in the loss of their daughter Lissa. A mention of this once in a while would have been perfectly understandable, but as it was, it felt like it was every other paragraph and it became a tedious annoyance, drawing me out of the story as I read again and again of how obsessed they were with their 'lost' daughter. A search for the daughter's name produced 156 hits in this novel. A search for 'daughter' produced another 56. It was too much, and it felt like a failure of writing. It's certainly possible to convey deep grief in a character without rabbiting on about it to a nauseating degree, so this felt like a really bad choice to me.

The fact that we're denied any real information about what happened to Lissa didn't help at all, and actually made things worse. Did she disappear? Was she killed? Did she become fatally ill? Who knows? The author doesn't care to share this information, at least not in the portion of this that I read before becoming so frustrated I didn't want to read any more; nor do we learn anything about the affair Charles had - just that he had one.

This affair is related to us as if it were no more important than his remembering he had once stubbed his toe, so even as big of a betrayal as that was, it carries little import because of the way it's so casually tossed out, yet this woman Syrah, is mentioned a further 34 times in the book. It's another thing that Charles is unaccountably obsessed with. No wonder he gets nothing done: his mind is always elsewhere! And this obsession is a continuing betrayal of his wife.

Frankly, these two, Charles and Erin, were so annoying I wanted to shake them and slap them. Not that I would, but the truth is that they were seriously in need of inpatient psychiatric attention and it showed badly, but no one seemed to care. The fact that we're told his wife has a boatload of medications she's taking and Charles doesn't even care made me dislike him even more intensely. He came across as shallow and selfish and quite frankly, a jerk. His wife was painted a little bit better, but neither of them remotely interested me as characters about whom I would ever want to learn anything more or about whose futures I cared.

At first I had thought the story would end with their daughter being returned to them, but then I learned of another child in the story and it seemed pretty obvious what would happen at that point. I don't know if that's what did happen, but if it did, that would have been way too trite and predictable for my taste. It's been done before.

Charles's other obsession, aside from his daughter, the woman he had an affair with, and the woman, Silva at the local historical society with whom he'd like to have an affair, was this book he stole as a child, and which was written by a Victorian relative of Erin's. He thinks he can write a biography of the author, Caedmon Hollow - yes that's the name of the guy, not the name of the mansion! - but it seems like he's much more interested in getting into Silva's panties than ever he is in writing anything. He's been into that book only once in his entire life, but he's into thinking about Silva at the drop of a hat.

The book and the mystery it was attached to should have been central to the story but there was so much stuff tossed in here (I think there was actually a kitchen sink at one point) that the book robbed that purported mystery of any currency it may have had. It became a secondary issue to everything else that was going on.

Since it was that very mystery which had drawn me to the novel in the first place, this felt like a betrayal if not an outright slap in the face and really contributed to my decision to quit reading. It felt like it was going nowhere and taking a heck of a long time to get there, and I had better things to do with my time. I wish the author all the best, but I cannot commend this book as a worthy read.


Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Joann & Jane: Who Made This Mess by Brandon T Mayes, Taylor McDaniel


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

If you were hoping to let your kids read this on a smart phone as an emergency distraction, it won't work! The picture is larger than the screen so you can't read the text, and you can't shrink the picture! You'd best plan on reading it only on a tablet or in the printed form.

The screens slide up and down, not side to side, but you can't catch the slide in the middle to maybe read the missing text, because for one thing, the text simply isn't there, and for another, the screen doesn't slide - it quantum jumps to the next image too quickly to ready anything even if there was text there to read at the margin.

That said, it's beautifully illustrated by Taylor McDaniel and engagingly written by Brandon Mayes, and it's wonderfully colored in more than one way, because this is a mixed race family which is very rare to see in a children's book even though such marriages have been steadily increasing in real life.

It's been half a century since mixed-race marriage stopped being illegal in the USA, and they're now at the highest proportion in US history, with one in six couples being mixed race, but it remains the case that Asians and Latinx are more likely to marry outside their race than black or white people are. Unsurprisingly, especially in the present political climate, twice as many Democrats as Republicans believe that mixed race marriage as a good thing.

But I digress! Sisters Joann and Jane can't figure out how their room got into such a mess. I'm sure many parents have heard this excuse many times, but here, it's a bit more complicated, it seems. While everyone is wondering how this happened and J&J are playing detective, the little beagle, known as London Dog, seems to be napping quite contentedly. I wonder why? I thought this was a great book and I commend it.


Sunday, July 1, 2018

Panda-monium by Stuart Gibbs


Rating: WARTY!

Read slightly annoyingly by Gibson Frazier, this audiobook started out interestingly enough. It's part of a series where the middle-grade boy solves mysteries. Frankly, if this is to be the basis of my judgment (I have no other!) then Teddy Fitzroy really doesn't do very much and worse, his life really isn't very interesting! This is, I believe, the fourth in this series, all set in a zoo-cum-theme park named FunJungle - evidently based on SeaWorld® in San Antonio, Texas.

The panda disappeared apparently from a moving truck on a highway, such that when the truck left, the panda was on board, and when the truck arrived, it was no longer there. I thought a cool way to do this for a kids' book would be to have a false panel at the far end of the trailer, so that the panda could be hid behind it and the truck looked empty, but given that the FBI were involved in this investigation (pandas are considered to be the property of China), I doubt such a ruse would fool them!

I never did find out how the theft was done because I DNF'd this one after about a third of it. Judging the rest of the book from what I did read though, it seems to me that there would have been a perfectly mundane explanation - nothing special or daring. As it was, the part of this book that I could bear to listen to was simply too boring, too slowly moving, and had nothing entertaining to offer me. Appropriately aged readers may disagree, but for me, I can’t recommend this and I will not be reading any more in this series. The characters held nothing for me, being a bunch of spoiled, privileged brats, and the story was too light and lacking in substance.

Some other reviewers have mentioned that this author was or is a writer for Disney and that this book had some Disney-ish aspects to it and I can see that in retrospect, but that wasn't on my mind when I was listening to it. I just didn't find it engaging at all. The characters were unappealing and I cannot recommend it as a worthy read.


Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Harlem Charade by Natasha Tarpley


Rating: WORTHY!

Read sweetly by Bahni Turpin, this was another successful audiobook! See? it does happen! To be perfectly honest, it was a bit lacking in credibility: the usual middle-grade story where adults never help, and kids never go to them for help, which frankly annoys me, but that aside, it was an interesting and credible story (for the most part!), decently plotted and which involved adventuring and detective work as three kids-of-color from disparate backgrounds strove to track down some historic paintings by a black artist from Harlem, and overcome the machinations of an unscrupulous property developer. I recommend it.


Sunday, April 1, 2018

Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane, Christian de Metter


Rating: WORTHY!

I favorably reviewed the print version of this novel in November of 2017. This graphic novel version is also a worthy read, although I have to say I wasn't overly enamored of the artwork. It was mostly sepia-toned and was passable. Others may approve of it more than I, but to me it looked rather muddy and scrappy. These shortcomings - at least the scrappiness - became much more apparent in the full color images. However the story overall was well told and the art work was not disastrous. Please read my review from November for my full take on the novel. This version would make a decent substitute if you don't want to read the full-length story.


Monday, March 26, 2018

The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova


Rating: WARTY!

Another soured audiobook experiment. I typically avoid long novels because it means they're full of filler which ruins the story. Before I started blogging books I read this author's The Historian and quite liked it. I went looking for my review of that, to see what I said about it, but I must have read that before I began blogging so it's nowhere to be had! This story was far too rambling.

When I saw Kostova had out The Swan Thieves I took a look at it, but it didn't appeal to me, especially given what a fat tome it was, so I never read it. I thought it would be boring. This one sounded like it might be more interesting despite Kostova proving herself by this time to be a one-note author. I was wrong! It was rambling and boring. I listened to about an eighth of it (an eighth of a one note and I didn't quaver) and while the reader (Barrie Kreinik) was listenable, the story wasn't. Quite literally nothin happened.

I don't want twenty pages about a woman being driven to a monastery unless all of those twenty are relevant to the story, but that's what I got here (at least it felt like it), and in this case none of it was. Kostova takes a whole chapter to write about a drive from A to B, which has nothing whatsoever to do with moving the action forward, In fact it did quite the opposite. It would be like that movie, Dunkirk about the dramatic evacuation of British troops from French beaches at the onset of World War Two, showing five minutes of action on the beach, five minutes of disembarking the boat at Dover in England, and then two hours in between spent in existential angst during the twenty-mile boat ride, or admiring the beautiful ocean, the action of the waves, the blowing wind, the burning of the surf, the engine noise, the diesel fumes, and declaiming upon ocean wildlife.

Or maybe in that famous car chase in the movie Bullitt, instead of simply showing the car chase as they did, the story focused on backstory and admiring window boxes of flowers as he drove, and stopping to gas-up and get a car wash, and slowing to let the chicken cross the road and so on. I am not kidding about the chicken, it quite literally happened in this story. It ruffled my feathers and I decided that was more than enough for me.

In short I cannot recommend this drivel, and I am now completely done considering this author worth wasting any more time on.


Saturday, February 3, 2018

'Til Death Do Us Part by "Amanda Quick"


Rating: WARTY!

Amanda Quick is the pen name of Jayne Ann Krentz, an American author who doesn't do too bad of a job on Victorian London, but there are one or two fails. In Victorian times there were no such things as Crime Lords for one thing! The reader doesn't do too bad of a job either. Her name is Louise Jane Underwood. Apart from not knowing that the British pronounce the word 'process' with a rounded 'O' like in 'hose', not with a short 'o'; like in 'ostracize', she doesn't do too bad of a job. The story was quite engaging to begin with, but began to pale after a while, and I ended up not happy with it at all. I think I'm done with "Amanda Quick" now. This is the second title under that name I've not liked.

Once again there is a Big Publishing™ fail here. The cover for the audiobook shows a woman in a Victorian-style, bright yellow dress running away from the viewer across a meadow. This cover bears no relationship whatsoever to anything that happens in the story! LOL! This is one of the perils of letting Big Publishing™. My advice is to take charge of your novel. Why do book cover illustrators/photographers/designers never, ever, ever read the books they are creating the cover for? Why does the author not set them straight? I guess the publisher doesn't give the author much of a choice, and if an established author like Krentz has no such pull, then what hope is there for the rest of us? This is why I self-publish. I refuse to let an old-school publisher ruin anything I write.

This is one of the author's stand-alone novels. Maybe the name Amanda Quick is related to quick turn-out? She has a bunch of these stories. Starting in 1990 she churned out about two a year for half-a-dozen years or so. The titles should tell you all you need to know about the subject matter: Seduction, Surrender, Scandal, Rendezvous, Ravished, Reckless, Dangerous, Deception, Desire, Mistress, Mystique, Mischief, Affair. I got these titles out of Wikipedia and I wish I had read that before I picked up this novel! I have not seen the covers for those novels, but I imagine the covers are of some buxom woman in a bosom-baring pose, probably wearing a Victorian outfit with some dominant, self-absorbed, narcissistic, manly man ravishing her. He's probably bare-chested. The covers will be in pastel colors. Yuk!

The story, published a couple of years ago, was fortunately not one of those sickly things. In general was quite engaging to begin with, but it went downhill as soon as romance reared its ugly head. The romance was ham-fisted and so dominated by the male side of it that it was nauseating. I think the novel could have done with omitting it altogether or certainly muting it, but that would not have fixed everything that was wrong with this novel. The problem with it their 'romantic' encounters for me was the violent terms used to describe it, and the callousness of Trent's approach to Calista. It was sickening to listen to, and sounded not remotely Victorian at any point.

Calista Langley is in her late twenties and she runs an introduction service to enable wealthy Victorians to meet people who might be like them in that they seek companionship and perhaps romance. She vets her clients to keep out the riff-raff and fortune hunters. I think this was actually a pretty good idea for something to build a novel around: take something modern and set it in the past. Unfortunately the author didn't stick with that. Instead there came murder and dominating males, and it went to hell in a hansom cab.

Lately Calista's life has been upset by the fact that someone has been sending her memento mori: objects associated with death and funerals, and which have been engraved with her initials. She has no idea where they're coming from though the answer seems obvious to the reader. All we;re told is that they're from a stalker who at one point makes use of a kind of dumb-waiter that was installed in Calista's house, and of which she seems to be ignorant. It was a bit far-fetched that someone could sneak into the house unobserved, use this contraption unheard, and leave something in Calista's bedroom. It made her look stupid - and how would the intruder even know about the dumb waiter? It was dumb!

Into her sphere comes Nestor - a dick with whom she was involved some time before, but who left her for a more wealthy conquest with whom he is now displeased and who he wants bumped-off so he can get her fortune for himself. After a year, and out of the blue, he now wants Calista back in his life as his mistress, but she rejects him. What she ever saw in him goes unexplained, and iot makes her look even more stupid than she already did. Also arriving is author Trent Hastings who is at first predictably antagonistic to Calista, and then who predictably 'magically' falls in love with her and she with him. That part of the story was genuinely puke-worthy. He "heroically" helps her with the investigation, but essentially takes over her life. he has a sister whom he dominates and infantilizes in the same way that Calista's brother, predictably named Andrew for his excessive androgen level dominates her.

In Britain, and evidently unbeknownst to this author, there is a river named Trent. No one named their child Trent. It's not even in in the top 200 names, and neither are Calista nor Eudora, although Andrew is. Eudora is like the one thousandth most popular name for 1890. Please, a little more thought for your character names! There are lots of names to chose from that are unusual now, but which were popular back then.

The blurb says, "Desperate for help and fearing that the police will be of no assistance, Calista turns to Trent Hastings, a reclusive author of popular crime novels" but the reticence about involving the police made zero sense. Of course from the perspective of writing the novel it left everything to be done by Calista and her author acquaintance, but it stood out as being poorly addressed to me.

If you don't want the police to be a part of your story, fine, but please do better than a wheedling excuse as to why they cannot be involved! At least go to them and have them reject your position for some reason or come up with an intelligent reason why going to them at all will not work. Don't simply refuse to resort to them citing a lack of evidence when the evidence is steadily mounting in your favor. It made little sense, especially when Calista's home is being broken into and the two of them are being attacked by a murderer. It made no sense to avoid reporting these things and made Calista and Trent look dumb and clueless.

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Although I started out liking this novel, it is for these reasons that i decided it was in the end, not a worthy read. I cannot recommend this one, and I am done with this author!


Saturday, January 27, 2018

The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell


Rating: WORTHY!

Also known as "The Girls" this novel should not be confused with The Girl in the Garden by Kamala Nair, The Girl in the Garden by Melanie Wallace, or The Girl From the Garden by Parnaz Foroutan, none of which I've read, but I am intrigued that two of these have authors with rather exotic names! Shades of The Perfumed Garden (but not fifty shades)! Anyway this novel was another audiobook experiment I picked up from the library.

Getting these books for me is like buying a lottery ticket. You take a risk when you buy one of those, because most of them aren't winners, but you hope at least the money you paid is going to a good cause. With audiobooks you take a similar risk. This one was a winner. I really liked it. I liked the writing voice, and I also liked the reader, Colleen Prendergast. If either of those two elements is off in an audiobook it can spoil it even if the other is spot on, but in this case they worked well together, and in this case I did find a good story, so I requested more work by this author from my library in hopes that her other novels will be as good as this one was.

The story is of some dysfunctional families: three in particular. Clare Wild is effectively a single mum. She has two daughters, one who is just twelve, the other a year older. Their father, Chris, is a documentary maker, but recently he was in a psychiatric hospital after burning down their house to get rid of the alien rats which he was convinced were living there. Claire has had enough of him and wants nothing to do with him. He's been released from the hospital, but Claire has not informed her daughters, Pip (short for Pipsqueak - obviously not her real name) and Grace, that he's out.

She lives in London in a home that borders on a private communal park named Virginia, which is supposed to be a shared garden used by all the homes bordering it. Children run free and unsupervised in this park, and are in and out of each other's homes. It's a bit like a commune, but not quite, and everyone except Claire who moved there only recently, has known each other for some time, although that doesn't mean they know each other.

Another such home is where Pip and Grace's friend Tyler lives. Tyler's mom is single, having divorced her husband who was mean and violent. Now she's off dating a new guy and Tyler is pretty much left to her own devices, which are more vice than devious, but that latter element plays a part in this story. Closer to home is Adele and Leo Howes, a seemingly well-balanced couple who home-school their three daughters who are all named after trees. They treat them with worthless homeopathic remedies when they get sick rather than with proven medical aid. I wasn't too keen on the Howes.

On the night of their midsummer party, Claire's daughter Grace is found unconscious with her clothes rucked up as though she was sexually assaulted, and the book then focuses on finding who the perp is. It seems we're meant to wonder if this was perhaps Chris, the schizophrenic absentee father or Leo, who had a technically inappropriate 'relationship' with a 13-year-old girl when he was only eighteen. A month or two before his birthday, everything would have been fine, we're supposed to believe, but a month or two afterwards, and it's an unforgivable crime? Laws are made to serve the lowest common denominator, let's face it, but they are the law. Calling it a 'relationship' though, is a bit of a stretch. Thoughtless misadventure might be a better term.

The thing is that Grace was found in almost exactly the same place that, many years before, 15-year-old Phoebe Rednough was found dead. Phoebe was the sister of Tyler's mum. Has her killer resurfaced? Or was hers merely a suicide and nothing to do with Grace's case?

Be warned that this story moves somewhat ponderously. It's not your usual whodunit, but it was nonetheless interesting to me, and I really enjoyed it.


Saturday, January 13, 2018

Chance by Kem Nunn


Rating: WARTY!

This is form an audiobook I got form my library after having watched season one of the TV show which is based on this book and actually follows it pretty closely.

Overall, I though that this was a worthy read, but I have to qualify that by adding that this author is so in love with his own turn of phrase and with repetitive philosophizing that he spoils the story in some places. The worst example of this was during what ought to have been a gripping climax, when the final showdown comes between the corrupt detective and the, let's face it, equally corrupt doctor. In stead of letting the pace pick up and making it exciting, this author slowed it down and went off into endless rambling diversions which caused me to skip pretty much the whole of that section instead of enjoying it as I was hoping to. Kem Nunn does not know how to write a thriller.

I did not like Eldon Chance, the so-called "neuropsychologist" either. That actually is a profession, but to me, the name sounds like it was made up by a writer who didn't know medicine too well! Chance was just as corrupt as the detective who was the villain in this story. As a doctor, Chance sees people to evaluate them for legal purposes: court cases, last will and testament contestations, and so on. When he meets Jaclyn Blackstone, he falls for her - which is to say that he just wants to jump her bones; he doesn't really fall for her in any other way, or at least if he does, it's not apparent from the writing.

The problem is that he's the doctor here, which makes him a quasi-authority figure, so though she is technically is not his patient as it's generally understood, he is in a professional relationship with her and it would be flat-oout wrong to get involved. Worse than this, she is a sick woman. She has multiple personality disorder and it's entirely unethical to take advantage of that and of her vulnerability. That said, it's hardly the "steamy affair" the book blurb extolls. Worse than this in a different way, by becoming involved with her, Chance has undermined any reliability his professional diagnosis might have had should people find out about his behavior. This could actually harm Jaclyn Blackstone.

She's not only vulnerable as a patient; she;'s also the victim of an abusive and somewhat codependent relationship. She's married to, but separated from a detective in the San Francisco PD. As Jaclyn Blackstone, she is afraid and seeking to avoid her husband, but as Jackie Black, she willingly has rough sex with him. When the detective discovers that Chance is hoping for a chance with her, he makes veiled threats.

Here is where I really took a dislike to Chance. Instead of thinking of his family and backing-off, he continues to actively pursue Jaclyn, leaving his young daughter open to retaliation by the detective. At one point he spends a weekend with Jaclyn, with his phone turned off (turning it off and forgetting to recharge it are constants in Chance's life), and when he finally gets back on the air, eh discovers his daughter is in hospital having OD'd. That's the kind of lousy, selfish, absentee father he is. We never see him interact with his daughter except in reaction to something.

Chance is also separated from his wife and they're divorcing. In order to try and raise some money, he sells some antique furniture after having had it tarted-up to look like it's all original, by a guy named Dee (real name darius Pringle, but you'd better never call him darius to his face). Dee is a big tough guy who lies about his military experience, but who nonetheless is a very dangerous man. He and Chance form an awkward friendship and partnership in trying to get one-up on detective Blackstone, but until the climax. it's like everything Chance does is ill-conceinved and doomed to failure.

For me, Jaclyn and Dee were fascinating people, and even detective Blackstone was more engaging than Chance, but we only got to know about them through Chance interactions, as it were. Dee and Jaclyn both have amazing stories to tell but that's not what we got unfortunately. I was sorry about that, but even so, we got enough of them and enough of a decent story for me to rate this a worthy read.


Sunday, November 5, 2017

Queen of the Flowers by Kerry Greenwood


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy fro which I thank the publisher.

This is my third Phryne Fisher and the first I've liked. I loved the TV series, but the books (Cocaine Blues - the first and Murder and Mendelssohn the last - to my knowledge - Fisher mystery). They were less than thrilling, so it suggests to me that the TV writers/adapters can often be rather better than the original writer in capturing the quintessential main character in a series like this!

This is the 14th in the Fisher series so why it was available on Net Galley I have no idea, but I'm glad it was. I'm not a trivia buff, but I have read in some reviews by others who are following the entire series, that there are continuity errors causing them to speculate on who wrote this novel! I'm not one of those, and I haven't been reading the whole series, but continuity errors are not a good thing if you want to keep your regular fans happy. For me, a casual dabbler, it wasn't noticeable.

Also the TV show has Phryne in a relationship of sorts with the police inspector who is unimaginatively named Jack. This never blossoms into romance, but there is always a hint of it. In the books, Jack seems to be more of a bit player, particularly in this one, where he hardly puts in an appearance at all, and Phryne has no feelings for him. I sincerely wish authors would drag themselves out of this deep rut of calling their go-to guy Jack, because it's so tediously over-used that I flatly refuse to read any more novels that have a main character named Jack. Fortunately, this one really didn't!

So, you may have guessed by now that it was only because of my love for the TV show that I went back a third time into the books, but I was rewarded with an entertaining story this time, even if it was predictable and a bit of a slog at times. The Phryne here seemed a lot less engaged than in the TV show; she was less scintillating. At one point one of her two adopted daughters goes missing and Phryne never seems to show any anguish over it whatsoever. She is trying to find her, but there's not a whit of urgency or fear over it.

It's as though she has some secret information that her adopted daughter is just fine - which she was of course - but the problem here is that Phryne did not know any such thing - or if she did, then the author kept it from us. On the other hand, the author did indeed know that Ruth's disappearance was really nothing more than a red herring, if a slightly salty one. What was missing was some restrained panic in Phryne's demeanor. It did not read true. Either that or Phryne is far more sang-froid than is healthy for anyone, and particularly for her daughters' continued well-being. I think if perhaps the author had children of her own (to my knowledge she does not) she might have understood those feelings better and represented them more authentically.

The Goodreads review website predictably got the blurb wrong again. In it we're told that there is "a young woman found drowned at the beach at Elwood" but this is an outright lie! The woman is one of Phryne's flower girls for an upcoming parade, and she isn't drowned at all. Almost-drowned is right. Beaten and half-drowned would be better, but not "drowned." The Amazon-owned Goodreads corporate review web site has killed private review blogs like this one, and due to this and other issues I have both with Amazon and Goodreads, I refuse to post any more reviews at either site. They're too big, too powerful, and are becoming dangerous, so I guess they don't care if they get the blurb right Why would they? What incentive do they have?

The publisher though, ought to check on these things as they should verify that the Kindle version is formatted sensibly. I read some reviews which complained that it was not. Mine was fine as it happens, but Amazon's crappy kindle app is well-known for mangling texts. I've seen plenty of those. I recommend using PDF format, which can be problematic if trying to read it on a smart phone, or Barnes & Nobles's Nook format, which consistently renders books better than Kindle. B&N has its own problems, particularly a web site which actively gets in the way of your buying books! They need to fire their website designers.

There was a touch of ageism incorporated here. This is something I would hope a mature author would be more sensitive to. I read, "The curvaceous ladies appeared shopworn and over forty." Excuse me, but what's wrong with forty and over? Nothing, I assure you. There were other little things like this, but not quite enough to turn me off the novel. For example, we get the tired cliche of the main character looking at herself in the mirror to give us a self portrait. It's nearly always a woman when this antique MO is employed and it's tedious to read: "She pottered gently through the routine of bathing and dressing and sat brushing her hair in front of her vine-wreathed mirror. The Hon. Miss Phryne Fisher looked at herself.".

Another example was in Phryne being put in the position of justifying her sexuality! This isn't Phryne. Why does she feel a need to make excuses to Lin, regarding an affair, when he's married and having an affair with her? Can only men take a lover? I read, "'...He was my lover once,’ said Phryne, short-circuiting the question. ‘When I was twenty, in Orkney. Now he is married to his Maggie and wants to go back to her. I just didn’t want to see an old friend - and a wonderful musician - sleeping in the rain. Clear?’." No, it;s not clear why Phryne even has to say this. But again, in the big scheme of things this was relatively minor.

All of that said, I enjoyed the pell-mell of this story, which featured something new popping-up regularly: a personal crisis or a parade crisis, or a new development in the story. It kept things moving in general, although at some points it felt a bit of a stretch or worse, a bit of a slog. That notwithstanding, overall I liked it, and I consider it a worthy read.


Sunday, August 20, 2017

Water Memory by Valérie Vernay, Mathieu Reynès


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

From writer Mathieu Reynès and artist Valérie Vernay, this beautifully illustrated and well-written story of a family curse and how it affects a younger generation is a delight. It begins with a single mom, Caroline, and young daughter, Marion, arriving at a gorgeous clifftop home overlooking the Atlantic off the coast of Brittany in northern France. The home has not been lived in for years, but the two of them soon have it shipshape, and Maron is off exploring.

Marion is a little too adventurous for her own good, and almost drowns when an incoming tide takes her by surprise, but her restless spirit also takes her to the clifftops, where strange carvings exist, and to the lighthouse, just off the coast, which can be visited at low tide, but which is not a welcoming place at all. From her trips and questions she learns of local legends, one of which is very ominous indeed. Something vague and malign, something from the sea, hit the town with a severe storm in 1904, and now it looks like that storm is returning.

The story explores the gorgeous Brittany coast, sea legends, and a curious old lighthouse keeper who seems to be shunned by the entire village. Except for Marion who despite warnings from her mom, senses that this old man is the key to the mystery. Marion is a strong female character, well worth reading of.

Despite being static drawings on paper (or on my screen in this case!) the story is nonetheless creepy, insinuating itself into you like a crawling fog, chilling bones and driving you to follow Marion as she learns the truth about this curse that follows all descendants of this one family name, which must do penance for an ancient evil it perpetrated. The drawings are colorful, beautiful and as captivating as they are varied. I recommend this.


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Squawk of the Were-Chicken by Richard J Kendrick


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This book was hilarious and I recommend it, although for me it went on a little bit too long to be perfect. It was beautifully written and full of characterization, quirks, fun, amusing asides, and an actual mystery. It was also weird, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. It was weird in the sense that it seemed to straddle two completely different time periods simultaneously: the rustic of the Jane Austen, and the modern. For example, while bicycles were apparently new inventions, screenplays were not, so it made for a rather mind-boggling read, the reader never quite knowing what to expect.

As I mentioned, it felt rather long for a book which appears to be aimed at a middle-grade audience. Despite being amused and entertained by it, I have to say I was often wondering why it was taking me so long to get through it! I read it frequently and I'm not a slow reader, but I always seemed to be making awfully slow progress through it which was frankly off-putting. This drag effect was offset by the interesting story.

The relationship between the two main characters, Deidre, who leads us through this tale, and Fyfe, who is her sidekick, is choice and beautifully done. The two of them are an item and either don't know it yet, or are in serious denial, but it was a pleasure to read of their interactions. They were not the only two characters though, and rather than have a pair of startlingly realized actors playing against a backdrop of an otherwise bland ensemble, this world was full of equally engrossing and quite complex people, particularly the eccentric were-chicken investigator.

Even minor characters contributed fruitfully, as in when I read this, which made me laugh out loud despite not being a fan of fart jokes or stories:

Of course, then there'd been tea. And, apparently, the Master Seamstress was just about the only person Deidre had ever met that was completely impervious to Fyfe. In retrospect, maybe Deidre should have figured on that. She had once told Deidre, rather cryptically, to 'never trust a fart, dear.'
That felt so off the wall to me that I really did laugh out loud.

Deidre lives in a quiet village which nevertheless has a thriving market. Almost all of the activity in the village seems to revolve around making and selling things, and most of those things seem to revolve around wheat, chickens, and eggs, but which came first, I can't say. Deidre has no interest in that. Instead, she's focused on inventing, and by that I mean engineering, and she's really focused on that. Her father is supposedly trying to get her the position of smallest cog at the clock shop, a venue she loves, even as she detests its owner.

So she occupies her time inventing things, usually with disastrous consequences, and then trying to figure out how to solve the problem or whether she should move onto something else. The latter option tends to win, because her mind is all over the place. Into this orderly, if messy life, comes a kleptomaniacal were-chicken. Or is it merely someone impersonating a chicken? And whence cometh the bravery if they're impersonating a chicken? That last question may be irrelevant and/or ill-considered, but only Deidre and Fyfe can find the answer - and determined they are to do so.

There was a minor writing issue with this, and since my blog is more about writing than it is about reviewing, I want to add this in, if a bit belatedly. I read:

Deidre trailed after the two men as they trudged across the stricken yard, treading rather more carefully than they did so that she wouldn't trip.
Now you can argue it's fine the way it is, because it's clear what's intended here, and I accept that, but I believe it could have been written better, and thereby have avoided the question of who it was who trod more carefully: the two men or Deidre! How about:
As they trudged across the stricken yard, Deidre trailed after the two men, treading rather more carefully than they did so that she wouldn't trip.
Small change, big difference, No reader in their right mind is going to ditch your novel for one or two infractions of this nature, but suppose you've made a dozen through inattention? This is why reading helps - to clue you in to how other writers tackle it and to what's acceptable and what's nonsensical. It's why re-reading your own work often before publishing is a tedious but worthwhile expenditure of your time!

I really liked this novel and I recommend it although as I said, it may be a bit long (and even a bit mature in reading style) for many middle-grade readers. Although the author has an annoying habit of omitting question marks from clearly interrogative sentences, the writing overall was excellent and appreciated, and even Amazon's crappy Kindle app couldn't ruin it for me!


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Artsy Mistake Mystery by Sylvia McNicoll


Rating: WARTY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

The review copy had some major issues, but I worked around these and this does not factor into my negative review of this book. Yes, negative. I'm sorry and I wish the author all the best in this series, but it wasn't quite there for me, even when I viewed it through middle-grade lenses. While I'm not a series fan, I think this one has potential, but this volume (the middle of three in the series s far as I know) just didn't get it done for me.

This book is told from the perspective of Stephen Noble, who walks dogs to help out his father's business. If we were to categorize his parents by traditional 'roles', then Stephen's father was more like a mom and his mom more like a dad given his dad's interest in knitting and other traditionally female pursuits, and his mom's traveling for her job, but this felt to me to be more like a novelty add-in for effect than a serious attempt at depicting equality or parents outside of traditional roles, but they were relatively minor characters, so this really wasn't a big deal.

Stephen's best friend is Renée Kobai. As is usual in these stories, I found the side-kick - Renée - to be far more interesting than ever Stephen was. The problem with Stephen (apart from his foolish willingness to do highly risky if not downright dangerous things, such as trying to follow suspected criminals at midnight) was his obsession with these two dogs, Ping and Pong. It was honestly really irritating, and the number of times the dogs are mentioned was nauseating. I kept asking, "Is this about these two dogs or about art theft?!" because it honestly felt like the plot was taking a back seat to the minutiae of the dogs walking, and sniffing, and barking, and whatever.

The story was supposed to be about the inexplicable disappearance of various items of 'outdoor art' such as the mailbox of Stephen's next-door-neighbor, which was designed to look like a house, and the vanishing decorative fish from the fence around Stephen and Renée's school. The problem was that there never really was any plot!

The story sort of meandered around without any real detective work being done, and it was so obsessed with these two dogs, which Stephen seemed to be walking full time non-stop, that I rapidly lost interest - and I actually like dogs! After about the fifty percent mark I began skimming the story, reading bits here and there, and it was not improving. By seventy-five percent I'd lost even a pretense of interest in it and wanted to move onto something which would actually keep my attention, and not annoy me! I'm sorry, but life is too short for this kind of a novel to occupy any significant amount of it.

There were instances of children lying to adults and getting away with it, and for no good reason. I know children do lie, but to promote this as a real option in life is a mistake in a children's novel, especially when there are no consequences for it.

Worse than this though, at one point Stephen tells us, "I think I've seen enough rescue videos that I can use CPR to bring him back to life if I have to." This is a serious no-no. You cannot do CPR unless you are properly trained, and to suggest to children that you can see it in a video and then just leap in and do it, is excusable, especially in a children's book! You can do serious harm to someone if you try CPR without knowing properly what you are supposed to do, and this alone should disqualify this book from a positive rating. I found it dispiriting that no other reviewers seemed to find a problem with this.

The writing aside, there were serious technical problems with the crappy Kindle app version of this novel and the problems were the same whether I looked at this on my phone or on a tablet computer. Almost every instance of the letters 'T' and 'H' like in 'they' and 'this' and so on, were missing. Also every instance of two 'F's together, like in the word 'off', were missing, so the word was just the letter 'O'. Also missing were combinations of 'F' and 'L', and 'F' and 'I'!. It was weird.

I encountered something like this in another book which I read in Kindle's crappy app a long time ago. Why it happens, I do not know. There must be some glitch when converting to Kindle, I guess, but Kindle's app is substandard anyway in my opinion. I'd much rather read in Bluefire reader, Adobe Digital Editions, or the Nook app, all of which put Kindle to shame. Here are some examples of the missing letters:

  • "the moment her older brother, Attila, takes o for class" (takes off for class)
  • "It'll be the rst one I make" (first one I make)
  • "ey scramble ahead of me like mismatched horses pulling a carriage: Ping, a scruy pony;" (they scramble...scruffy pony)
  • "make the dogs walk to the le of me" (left of me)
  • "He is out walking his ve Yorkie" (No idea what that's supposed to be!)
  • "is junk slows us down" (this junk)
  • "with some kind of ller." (filler)
  • "e sunlight glints o the diamond stud in her nose as she pulls the ugliest wall plaque I've ever seen from someone's pile of junk. It's a large grey sh, mouth open, pointy teeth drawn, mounted on a at slab of glossy wood. Maybe Ping is growling at the sh, not the girl."
  • "e sh is bent as though it's wriggling in a stream." (the fish)
  • She looks from the sh to me. "Oh, not for me. e plaque is for my prof. ey're redecorating the sta lounge."

One of these was unintentionally hilarious, and might well be deemed so by middle grade boys at least: "I don't want to be caught with sh in my pants." It was meant to be (I'm assuming!) "I don't want to be caught with fish in my pants." All this talk of fish, by the way, was from a set of carved wooden sharks that like the dogs, frankly featured too largely in the story.

Had the novel been better, these problems were ignorable (it's surprising how much sense you can make of a sentence which is missing letters!), but as it was, they simply added to the negative overall impression I was already getting from the story itself, so I cannot recommend it.


Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Last Surgeon by Michael Palmer


Rating: WARTY!

This novel sounded from the blurb a lot better than it turned out to be in the oratory, and John Bedford Lloyd's reading of the audiobook did not help one bit. His voice was just wrong. I feel bad for writers who get stuck with the wrong reader for their audiobook. I think more writers need to read their own work, or the audiobook publishers need to get in some new talent instead of obsessively-compulsively resorting to old school readers. Just because someone is an actor, for example, does not mean they can read an audiobook worth a damn.

The story is about a surgeon named Nick Garrity, who is of course a vet who suffers PTSD, and who heroically devotes his life to offering medical treatment to the homeless form his camper-van clinic in Washington DC. As if that's not heroic enough, he's searching for his best friend from his military days (which begs the question how they're ever fell out of touch if they were best friends).

Nick is about to be rescued and validated by the hot Jillian, whose kid sister Beth appears to have committed suicide, but Jillian doesn't swallow that, and I didn't swallow this. Of course there's an inevitable government conspiracy, and the villain is so utterly absurd that I was surprised to find he didn't wear a long black cloak and twirl the ends of a waxed his mustache. Instead he just waxed people. The whole story was too much and took far too long to get going, and Nick was absurdly heroic. I can't recommend this.