‘Little Pretty Things’: An engrossing new mystery from Lori Rader-Day – #bookreview

 

 

Little Pretty Things

Lori Rader-Day

(Seventh Street – paperback, Kindle)

Lori Rader-Day already has proven she can write a good mystery. Her debut book, The Black Hour, won the 2015 Lovey Award for best first novel.

In Little Pretty Things, her forthcoming second novel, the Chicago writer gives us a most unusual investigator: a cart-pushing housekeeper and occasional desk clerk at a rundown cheap motel, the Mid-Night Inn. Juliet Townsend dropped out of college in her first year and went to work at the motel after her father suddenly died and her family’s finances quickly evaporated.

The author sets the scene quickly, with just enough seedy and telling detail. And she gets Juliet Townsend into trouble with the police fairly fast, as well. The housekeeper-desk clerk becomes the chief suspect in the death of a guest who could have easily afforded to stay in a fancier place, but wanted to see Juliet again just before their 10th high school reunion.

Madeline Bell and Juliet had been friends of sorts. Yet Maddy also had been Juliet’s main rival on the Midway, Indiana, high school track team. Maddy always ran faster and won the first-place trophies, while Juliet consistently finished second.

To prove her innocence and find Maddy’s killer, Juliet must somehow get ahead of someone else from her high school class, Courtney Howard, now a police officer who dislikes Juliet and seems determined to nail her for murder.

Available July 7, 2015, Little Pretty Things is an intriguing, entertaining mystery. It is rich with atmosphere, rich with some of the tense realities that people caught in deadend, low-wage jobs often have to face, and rich with desperate determination as Juliet begins her own investigation.

Si Dunn

Will “Smart” Device Dependence Make You Increasingly Dumb?

I strolled into my favorite Austin Starbucks recently and noticed a startling sight. Every person standing in line or sitting at tables simultaneously had their head down as if in group prayer. All at the same moment were staring at their smartphones.

I pulled out my own phone, dramatically flipped it open, held it aloft, and waved it in silent protest. No one got the joke, because no one noticed.

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We’ve all seen people become panic-stricken and helpless when they realize they have lost or forgotten their “smart” device, or had it stolen. “Everything—my whole life—is on there!” one friend wailed recently. “All my pictures, my personal information, my contacts. And—oh, god–work emails! I don’t know what to do!” She kept frantically digging through her big purse, which also contained “everything,” including papers from work, so she could keep working at home after she got off work. When I called her phone from my phone, we found her “smart” phone buried deep beneath makeup containers and assorted other purse rubble.

Many people now use their smartphones for “everything,” from paying a restaurant check (after using the calculator function to split it and calculate the tip) to hailing an Uber ride and remotely controlling their home air conditioning. And, anytime a question is raised in a group, several people will circumvent natural debate or brainstorming by immediately going to Google and reading off some article titles and paragraphs.

Meanwhile, a few unrelated videos also will pop up and be shared:  Cat attacks python! Man sets shoes on fire by standing on hot coals! Ha-ha-ha!

The smartphone video distractions are only going to get worse. As AT&T’s CEO, Randall Stephenson recently told Fortune magazine: “…mobile video…is the real deal,” adding: “Half our mobile network traffic is video now, and it’s really growing fast.”

So, recent statutes banning talking or texting on a digital device while driving are now far behind the curve of progress. (“Sorry, officer, I was not breaking the law. I was watching Game of Thrones while paying no attention to the traffic and scenery around me.”)

Perhaps it is time to ask yourself two serious questions. Are you losing touch with the real world as you become increasingly distracted by your smartphone? And will your growing dependence on its “smart”-ness make you correspondingly “dumb” over time?

Si Dunn

The Bomb Maker’s Son – Book 3 in the Parker Stern series is a deep, engrossing legal thriller

 

 

The Bomb Maker’s Son

A Parker Stern Novel

Robert Rotstein

Seventh Street Bookspaperback, Kindle

 

Los Angeles attorney Parker Stern has lingering stage fright and a not-so-high opinion of himself. “As a child,” he admits, “I was an actor. As an adult, I chose a profession that requires me to take on a role depending on which side is the first to shell out a retainer.”

While he drives a “sagging old Lexus,” he has been successful in both careers, has solid savings, and doesn’t actually need to work. Yet he still believes in searching for truth, helping people find it and presenting it skillfully in court.

In The Bomb Maker’s Son, however, those values are shaken to their deepest core when his estranged mother suddenly shows up and wants her “Parky” to represent an accused bomber who happens to be one of America’s most hated fugitives from justice. The long-time fugitive stands accused of a fatal bombing directed at protesting the Vietnam War. Now, after successfully hiding in plain sight for decades, he  wants to give himself up and face trial.

Parker seldom has done murder trials. Indeed, he hates them. He repeatedly says no to his mother–until she reveals long-kept secrets that set his life spinning in several different directions.

This is the third novel in Robert Rotstein’s burgeoning Parker Stern series. The Bomb Maker’s Son is an excellent tale that can introduce readers to an intriguing and engrossing series already in progress. The two other books are Corrupt Practices and Reckless Disregard.

 — Si Dunn

 

 

 

 

The Skull of Pancho Villa and Other Stories: Chicano noir…and more

Skull of Pancho Villa, The

The Skull of Pancho Villa and Other Stories

Manuel Ramos

Arté Público Press – paperback

 

Seemingly mundane moments in life quickly spin out of control in this engaging collection of 22 short stories. And Denver writer Manuel Ramos frequently comes up with surprising endings for his tales.

Some of his short stories can be labeled “Chicano noir.” They get dark and gritty as they move along through the struggles and ragged edges of Mexican-American life in the United States. Meanwhile, other stories in the collection explore different themes, such as the thoughts of a young Mexican-American soldier as he lays dying in Vietnam and what happens when a Mexican-American shoeshine boy gets pulled into a barroom fight and is defended by the writer Jack Kerouac.

Manuel Ramos has won several literary awards and is the author of a number of novels from a variety of publishers. At least one prominent writer who admires his work has labeled Ramos “the godfather of Chicano noir.”

His stories, however, are entertaining and easily accessible at a universal level. And he writes with a smooth clarity that looks simple on the page, yet is very difficult for most authors to achieve.

Si Dunn

Order The Skull of Pancho Villa and Other Stories here.