DEADLY RUSE – In this 2nd Mac McClellan Mystery, Mac investigates a weird case while becoming a Florida P.I. – #bookreview

 

 

Deadly Ruse

E. Michael Helms

(Seventh Street – paperback, Kindle)

 

Fans of E. Michael Helms’s debut “Mac McClellan Mystery” novel, Deadly Catch, will be pleased with this fine new addition to the series.

In Deadly Ruse, Mac’s girlfriend, Kate Bell, thinks she has seen a ghost–specifically, a previous boyfriend who supposedly was killed at sea more than a decade ago, along with two other passengers when their boat caught fire and sank. Mac reluctantly begins to investigate and soon finds himself caught up in a very dangerous case involving drugs, diamonds, murder–and more.

Mac McClellan is an appealing everyman character. In Deadly Ruse, he is still trying to figure out what he wants to do next with his life, now that he has fought in Iraq and been retired from the U.S. Marines for a while. Sometimes, however, Helms lets the everyman angles go just a bit overboard, with Kate saying “Dang, Mac” too often and Mac making an occasional commonplace pronouncement such as “You take the proverbial cake” or “There’s more than one way to skin a cat.”

Deadly Ruse is set in the Florida Panhandle and briefly in Texas and Atlanta, Georgia, and Helms has a fine knack for blending real locales into his fiction. In this new novel, Mac manages to get his basic Florida private investigator’s license, while cracking a big case. But, under Florida law, he will have to continue interning for a detective agency for two years before he can go out on his own. Thus, the Mac McClellan Mystery series is now set up well for future cases.

E. Michael Helms is a Marine veteran of the Vietnam War and author of a combat memoir, The Proud Bastards, as well as a two-part Civil War novel, Of Blood and Brothers.

 — Si Dunn

 

 

Halley – This fine, intense #YA novel explores the harsh lives that women and children faced in 1930s rural Georgia – #bookreview

Halley

Faye Gibbons

(NewSouth Books – hardcover, Kindle)

 

Life was tough in the mountains of  northeast Georgia during the Great Depression. And it was particularly hard for women, who had virtually no rights and no say in important matters, especially if they were unmarried. The rural mountain life also was tough for children, who were expected to work hard, always obey, not be heard, and waste no time on enjoyment or fun.

In Faye Gibbons’ excellent new young-adult novel, a hard, unforgiving brand of backwoods religion also holds sway in young Halley’s life. Her father, Jim Owenby, recently has died, and Halley, her mother Kate, and her young brother Robbie have been forced to move in with Kate’s mother and father. Halley’s grandfather, Pa Franklin, is a backwoods fundamentalist preacher who cuts no one any slack. He is quick to judge, criticize, preach, punish and condemn. In his eyes, the road to hell is very short and most people already are on it.

Pa Franklin also takes, or tries to take, any money earned by his wife, his daughter and his granddaughter. And he even reads their mail and sometimes throws it away before they can see it. It is his way, he thinks, of protecting them from their own helplessness.

The author grew up in northern Georgia, in a large mountain family, and she has gotten to know many of the region’s people, mill towns, and other communities. Her central character, Halley Owenby, is fourteen and dreams mainly of getting an education and somehow gaining a level of control over her own life.

The actions and confrontations that unfold in this new book are gritty, intense and sometimes dark. Yet the combined powers of hope, love, honesty and stubborn effort finally shine through and light the way to brighter possibilities for Halley and those around her.

Faye Gibbons is a superb storyteller and writer, with a fine-tuned ear for regional speech, a sharp eye for detail, and an unhidden love for her characters–even the ones who make us shudder, cringe and tighten our fists in frustration at their repeated refusals to listen, think, and change.

Si Dunn

 

 

 

 

 

 

Halley