book reviews

3 More Great Books

Here are three more great books I read this summer:

  1. Fallout — PI Warshawsky helps a family find their missing relative
  2. The Redemption of Charlie McCoy — what should have been an easy mark turns into a soul-searching event for Charlie McCoy
  3. The Last Savannah — are Africa’s might herds being destroyed by man

FalloutFallout

by Sara Paretsky

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve read every one of Sara Paretsky’s murder mysteries about private eye, V. I.Warshawaki. In Fallout (William Morrow 2017), Warshawksi helps a worried family find a missing 25-year-old who disappeared while filming a documentary about the life of an aging star. In fact, she’s missing, too. It takes Warshawski from her homebase of Chicago to Kansas where she still succeeds in getting into her usual boatload of trouble as she defends the little guy against oppressive events out of his/her control.

I did find a few odd attitudes I don’t remember from earlier books, such as these:

“Kansas students looked so scrubbed, so wholesome, that I might have stumbled into a eugenics experiment.”
xx
Throughout the book, there were few positive observations. Mostly, her take on people and events was judgmental. Maybe I read into it? Here’s another:
“…poured a cup from the outsize urn, even though I knew it would be overboiled and bitter.”
xx
This sort of description is designed to leave the reader feeling negative about the setting or events. That’s OK, except most of VI’s situations included this sort of feedback. I ended up feeling grouchy by the time I finished the book. What I loved about the old VI was her pleasure with middle-class attitudes, blue-color life, despite its warts and wounds. I fed off of her strength and confidence in the face of daunting events. In this book, she’s become a more pedantic, holier than thou character who probably wouldn’t like me if she met me. Nevertheless, her plotting is tight, action quick, and she kept me turning pages. I’ll definitely try at least one more in the series.

The Redemption of Charlie McCoyThe Redemption of Charlie McCoy

by Christopher Wilsher

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Charlie McCoy, in The Redemption of Charlie McCoy (Amazon Digital Services 2017), is a small time crook desperate to repay a debt he owes to a mobster. The thug has already broken his hand in an effort to persuade him to pay up quickly and of course, threatens much worse. When a friend asks Charlie to help him out on an easy robbery–steal a senile old man’s money from a keyed safe the friend has access to–Charlie agrees. He doesn’t really trust this guy but, well, Charlie’s desperate. Turns out, it’s a set-up. The ‘senile old man’ is the Godfather of the Adonis family, who is the local mobster. Along with less money than Charlie expected are two surprises: The take includes computer discs that must have to do with the mobster’s financial empire. Second, his ‘friend’ tries to kill him. Charlie manages to escape by killing his partner but ends up fleeing with his teenage daughter (read the book to find out how this happens) who he hasn’t seen since she was three, closely chased by the FBI and the mobster who both want the discs. As he escapes one near-disaster after another, his daughter wants to discuss why he’s a thief, why he left his mother and abandoned her, and a long list of philosophic discussions only a precocious teen could engage in with confidence forcing Charlie to explain his life choices.

Only one piece bothered me and not enough to drop the rating even half a star: I had trouble accepting that the daughter would talk so maturely with her father about his mistakes and decisions. Still, the story is engaging and gave me lots to think about. It’s clear that given a different framework for his life, McCoy could have been much more than a small-time thief.

–received a free copy in exchange for an honest review


The Last SavannaThe Last Savanna

by Mike Bond

5/5

Mike Bond’s The Last Savanna (Mandevilla Press 2013) is one of the most darkly beautiful books you will ever read. If it were non-fiction, you’d consider him a nature writer of the caliber of Matthiesen but more dystopian. Read these snippets:

“Like malaria, Africa. Once bitten you can never shake it.”

“The shoulder-high thorn bushes grew thicker near the stream. The downslope breeze twirled their strong, dusty scents among their gnarled trunks.”

“He waited for the comforting twitter of sunbirds in the streamside acacias, the muffled snuffling of warthogs, or the swish of vervet monkeys in the branches…”
..
“Shaking flies from his muzzle, he trotted through the scrub and bent his head to suck the water flashing and bubbling over the black stones. The old lioness…”

This is the story of a man who’s lived his entire life in Africa’s wild beauty. He’s raised his children, built his ranch, and now become old and complacent. His wife has given up persuading him to leave and in his heart of hearts, he knows he’d leave her before giving up on the dream that has always included Africa, even though it seems unrequited. Like the African land around him, he’s dying. His hope in the bright future that Africa always represented is being killed by poachers and corrupt governments and his wife’s constant nagging to leave. As a last chance to redeem his dream, he agrees to join an old African friend who is committed to stopping the poachers that are decimating Africa’s great herds. That goal dramatically changes when an internationally-recognized archaeologist he knows is kidnapped. Now, his journey has a goal that’s much closer to home.

While this is his story, it is told variously through the eyes of an Eland who must risk its life for a drink of water, an African man trying to harvest the hide of a lion to pay for his sons’ schooling:

“…yellow furious eyes, the impossibly broad square jaws framed in its colossal black mane nearing as the lion thrust himself up the trunk, his front paws the size of a man’s belly, their yellow curved claws shattering bark as they dug into the wood.”

… and an elephant who is killed by hunters:

“The softest sweetest leaves of the baobab tree are high in the top branches, and the young elephant was determined to get them. … She dropped to four feet and ripped away mouthfuls of lower, bitter stems, grunting at their dusty, rough taste. Without listening she heard ripping soil behind her as her sister pulled up chunks of murram grass, the crackling of boughs from a neighboring tree as old aunt yanked them down, the squeal of baby bull calf as he waited for the tasty leaves.”

This is a darkly atmospheric tale of the eternal battle between man and Nature, the powerful and emotional struggle that is man’s primacy and weakness, his goodness and evil, and what that means to Africa.

Another snippet I think you’ll enjoy:

“…he gathered dry leaves from the base of a thorn bush, and with his simi cut thin strips of bark from a small tamarind tree. These he piled near the lioness; then he ran to an umbrella acacia and snapped twigs from the edge of its canopy where giraffes had browsed the leaves and killed the branches. Something black moved through the gray scrub silvered by moonlight − a low, hunchbacked scurrying silhouette…”

–received a free copy from NetGalley in return for an honest review

View all my reviews

More murder-mysteries:

The Kill Switch

Crimes of Memory

5 Detective Story Reviews from NetGalley


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, and the thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and  Twenty-four DaysShe is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  a columnist for TeachHUB, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.

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61 thoughts on “3 More Great Books

  1. Thank you Jacqui and all of you for this response to The Last Savanna. I wrote that book out of my heart and my own experiences in Africa. This is really what it was like.
    We’re all trying to understand the mystery of life.

    Liked by 1 person

    • How funny. I like knowing the characters, so I know what to expect. Like with friends. There are lots of readers like you though who like a fresh cast each time. Right now I’m reading a 67-book series. Yikes!

      Like

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  3. Hi, this is Chris Wilsher. I wrote The Redemption of Charlie McCoy and Jacqui kindly invited me to stop by and answer any question anybody might have regarding the book.

    So, whatever you got let me have it. I’ll be stopping by over the next couple of hours.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Jacqui – well as you know The Last Savanna called me right in – sounds a wonderful read … and I’ve noted to buy it perhaps for a friend … but also to read at some stage … wonderful review – and yes I can feel, hear and see Africa once again through the quotes you’ve given us -thank you !!! Cheers Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

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  6. Three terrific review, Jacqui and I feel a bit sorry for you that ‘Fallout’ was a bit off in places…it’s disappointing but as you say, give the next one a go. Wow, Mike Bond’s book sounds lusciously dark and one I’ll definitely look out for; as always you’ve given us a real treat with these snippets! Have a great long weekend! 😀❤️

    Liked by 1 person

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