book reviews

2 Great NetGalley Finds and 1 That Left Me Shaking My Head

Here are three more great novels you won’t want to miss that I got from the wonderful NetGalley:

  1. Tracking Game –– working dog Robo is amazing at tracking bad guys and finding clues
  2. The Long Call — fast-paced and atmospheric story of a Scottish detective
  3. The World Rose Forgot — is Rose crazy or was she incarcerated against her will?
–received free from NetGalley in return for an honest review
–a note about my reviews: I only review books I enjoyed. I need to be inspired to write. That’s why so many of my reviews are 4/5 or 5/5
by Margaret Mizushima
5/5
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In Margaret Mizushima’s Tracking Game (Penguin Random House 2019), next in the Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries, Mattie Cobb and her working dog Robo are called In to find the criminals who blew up a car and killed everyone inside. Timber Creek is a tight community so most residents knew the person killed. That makes it more personal. The two partners start by tracking down clues the murderer may have left, then try to track down people who may have fled the crime scene, and it builds from there. Before they solve the crime, they  face an unexpected and highly-dangerous wild predator that should have no part in the Timber Creek wilderness.
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With each piece, Mizushima describes in authentic detail how a working dog like Robo can follow a scent, track down non-human evidence, and everything else he does to help his partner solve the crime:
..
“She let Robo pull her forward through the deep grass while she watched his every move, looking for his head to go up and his hackles to rise, his way of telling her that someone is here, someone is out to get us. Robo raised his face”
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“He stuck his nose in a depression between bales to sniff, then turned to sit and stare at her. His signal that he’d found something.”
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“When she slipped on his narcotics detection collar, it focused all that eagerness into work. She clipped on his”

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For those of you who are avid readers of this series, we know Mattie and the town veterinarian Cole have a budding romance. In this installment, it continues to grow but not without a few bumps. Mattie loves Cole, but she has secrets from her past he doesn’t know and Mattie is sure when he finds out, he will no longer want any part of her.
In every chapter, every scene, her every move, Mattie’s affection for her partner Robo defines her life:
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“Life seemed so simple for Robo: rest and relax when you can, take pleasure in a job well done. He didn’t lie awake at night wondering if he’d done the right thing. She loved him for it.”
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In everything they do, they are partners, each with their own strength, both with a high degree of respect and trust in the other;
..
“Cops might need a warrant to collect DNA from a person, but there was no law on the book to inhibit a K-9 officer from taking in someone’s scent.
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Overall, this is a well-constructed, fast-moving, engaging story you won’t want to miss, especially if you’re a dog love.

The Long Call

by Anne Cleeves

4/5

In Anne Cleeves latest atmospheric novel, The Long Call (Minotaur Books 2019), Book 1 of the Two Rivers Series, Detective Matthew Venn is called in when a homeless man who had been trying to turn his life around is found dead on the beach. The clues touch on the help center run by Matthew’s husband where people in need are assisted in a variety of ways. Somehow, this homeless man, who used to be a productive member of society, is involved with a Downs Syndrome girl who also attends the Center. And then to another. As the case becomes more and more centered around Matthew’s husband’s center, Matthew considers removing himself from the case due to the potential conflict but is persuaded to stay. And then, a girl is involved who is tied closely to Matthew’s estranged parents.

As a reader, I couldn’t see the connections between all of these threads, so masterful was Cleeves’ storytelling. I read eagerly, trying to unravel how one clue fit with the bigger picture, but I confess, I didn’t see the ending coming. As is usual in Cleeves’ books, the story is awash in the atmosphere of small town Scotland, from the settings:

“Then he parked up and climbed the narrow line of dunes until he was looking down at the shore. Here, the river was wide and it was hard to tell where the Taw ended and the Atlantic began. Ahead of him the other North Devon river, the Torridge, fed into the sea at Instow. Crow Point jutted into the water from his side of the estuary, fragile now, eaten away by weather and water, and only accessible on foot.The sun was low, turning the sea to gold, throwing long shadows…”

“…was a semi at the end of a row of eight, curved around a patch of grass, where kids sometimes kicked a ball about. There was a long garden at the back looking out on a valley, with a view of Exmoor in the distance. These days, Maurice spent most of his time in the garden; he grew all their own veg and they had a run with half a dozen hens.”

…to the rich background details of the characters:

“There was something of the indulged schoolboy about Ross. It was the gelled hair and designer shirts, the inability to understand a different world view. He seemed a man of certainty. His marriage to Melanie, whom Jen had once described as the perfect fashion accessory, hadn’t changed him.”

It is impossible to make any decisions about who is guilty and who a victim. Cleeves is endlessly clever and creative in creating backstories that end up critical to the plot. And Matthew is a fascinating and unique detective. Rather than a super detective with Sherlockian skills, he is personable, human, and what we commoners might be if we were trained in this job.

Overall, a good read and well worth the investment of time.


What Rose Forgot

by Nevada Barr

3/5

I picked What Rose Forgot (Minotaur Books 2019) because I like every book Nevada Barr has written. She usually writes about surviving nature against impossible odds–that sort of story. But this one was a new character and quite different. Still, Barr has always been a good storyteller so I cheered when NetGalley awarded it to me.

A quick summary: Much to wealthy, late-60-something Rose Dennis’ surprise, she finds herself a resident of an expensive, high-end mental care facility being treated for late-onset Alzheimer’s. She overhears folks there saying she isn’t expected to live more than a few more weeks. Somehow, despite the murky fog and confusion that has taken over her brain, she comes to believe she shouldn’t be there. Worse than not being allowed to leave, she suspects the nurse’s of drugging her to keep her mindless and complacent. When she manages to break out, the managers pull out all the stops to recapture her going so far as to send a burly hit man to kill her. It becomes clear to Rose that even though those who know her best kind of do think she’s half-gone, there’s more to this incarceration than her failing mental health. With the help of her computer-savvy sister and her lion-hearted granddaughter, Rose uses her time outside the hospital to figure out who admitted her and who gains by her incarceration or death.

Rose is a compelling character. She’s scrappy, opinionated, and her closely-held never-quit attitude hasn’t abandoned her despite her age. But she has been heavily drugged over a long period of time so when we first met her, Rose couldn’t figure out where she was or how she got there, much less any details of her life. Even when she escapes and the drugs wear off over time, she seems too old to escape a hit man, outrun pursuers, and connect the myriad of disparate clues that underlie how she landed in a locked mental health facility. This juxtaposition of fact and fiction becomes what accomplished reviewer Barb Saffer (she writes insightful and pithy book reviews I love reading) calls ‘exaggerated plot points’ (good term). All in all, although I wanted to, I couldn’t suspend my disbelief. My rare 3/5 reflects that.

Still, it may be perfect for you. The plot moves quickly, the characters are appealing albeit borderline unbelievable, and I cheered for Rose throughout.

View all my reviews

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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, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Against All Odds, Winter 2020. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning

28 thoughts on “2 Great NetGalley Finds and 1 That Left Me Shaking My Head

      • 🙂 I can’t remember where I read it, Jacqui, but I learned that humans and dogs have been together for so long that we have actually physically evolved to read each other’s non-verbal signals, just like we do with other people. I think that is just so cool. (And based on your books, I’m certain you totally get it).

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I haven’t read these, but my wife and I have been watching “Vera” on BritBox which is based on Anne Cleeves novels. The show is really good, so people should read the books. Well, closest I’m getting to writing a book review today.

    Liked by 1 person

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