Sunday, October 17, 2010


Mark Mattison will be signing books on Monday at 7 p.m. at Barnes & Noble Books, 333 E. Grand River, East Lansing.

Scott D. Southard will be signing books on Thursday from 6-8 p.m. at Everybody Reads, Books and Stuff at 2019 East Michigan Ave., Lansing.

Two Michigan authors have released highly entertaining, unusual trade paperbacks that that are aimed at an often-neglected audience.

Each book has strong elements of science fiction and features rousing action that should appeal to young adult male readers as well as grown-ups.

“Commander Chris and the Mystical Orb” by Grand Rapids author Mark Mattison (Gollehon, $9.95) is a nifty debut novel. It introduces young Chris Morinas, a nerdy, unpopular student who’s absorbed in skateboarding and video games.

When a lab experiment goes terribly wrong, he’s transformed and is warped to a distant galaxy and a fleeing spaceship.

If you think this sounds like something straight out of “Star Wars” you’d be right – there’s enough pulse-pounding action to please almost any reader.

He’s got highly interesting crewmembers, including space pirate Ava, who’s stolen the prototype of an alien spaceship. There’s also Pi, the ship’s offbeat android, Zach, a large alien, talking insect and Majubar, another strange alien with a powerful, mystical orb staff.

Fortunately (and happily!) there are no vampires, just lots of fast-paced action that ranks among the best of contemporary space opera. Commander Chris puts his video game skills to use, barely escaping nasty aliens as he faces numerous exciting challenges.

This is a remarkable, enjoyable first novel that may entice readers to discover what wonderful further adventures await in the realm of science fiction.

“My Problem With Doors” by Lansing writer Scott D. Southard (I Publish Press, $15.95), is the latest novel by the author of “3 Days in Rome” and “Megan”.

 It’s an unusual time-travel tale that showcases a young man simply named Jacob, who doesn’t really know what to expect when he opens doors.

It all begins when he stumbles through a door as a toddler, transported to South Africa in the 1870’s. From there, Jacob experiences many fascinating adventures, learning from a patient Master, joining a pirate ship, and bouncing around through time like a ping pong ball.

While he can control his destiny somewhat, he really doesn’t know what to expect when he opens his next door.

His experiences vary greatly from fighting in an early Roman coliseum to having dinner with Jack the Ripper.
He spends time with Lord Byron as well as Percy and Mary Shelley and discovers a fateful true love on an ocean liner.

Southard’s latest novel is a bit disjointed in the beginning but slowly changes into an absorbing, thought- provoking tale.

Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing’s Curious Book Shop, has reviewed crime novels and noir thrillers regularly since 1987.

This review was originally published by the Lansing State Journal on October 17, 2010.


Thursday, October 14, 2010


Two recent mysteries set in Michigan feature well-defined characters, convoluted plots and intriguing crimes.

“And Then There Was One” by Patricia Gussin (Oceanview, $25.95) is a highly entertaining tale that focuses on family members who have to deal with the puzzling disappearance of young children.

Set in Auburn Hills, the gripping novel opens when Katie Monroe, a forensic pediatric psychologist and the mother of identical nine year old triplets, gets word that two of them have disappeared from a local theater complex.

Jackie, the third triplet, is okay, but her mother, a forensic pediatric psychologist, calls her husband, former New York Yankee catcher Scott Monroe, to let him know the situation.

The plot becomes more complicated as Gussin throws in many possible suspects, including a former lover who’s now out of jail and a wealthy defendant in Florida who’s involved in a nasty child abuse case.
The FBI is called in, but few new leads surface; soon the focus shifts and the bizarre real reason for the disappearance is clarified.

Gussin, a physician who grew up in Grand Rapids, has written a top-notch thriller that’s tough to put down, offering an emotional roller coaster ride full of tense suspense.

“Shelf Ice” by Aaron Stander (Writers and Editors, $15.95) is the fourth in his well-crafted series starring Sheriff Ray Elkins, of Cedar County in northern Michigan.

The first chapter is likely to entice readers to continue, as Elkins and his second-in-command are run over in their car by a huge diesel snowplow while en route to a possible crime scene.

A reclusive local artist is discovered badly injured in her isolated home and is taken away to a hospital. Elkins and his staff try to figure out what’s going on, and what the role of a local, charismatic TV evangelist. When the artist dies, Elkins increase his efforts, trying to sort through an odd group of potential suspects.

Stander, who hosts an Interlochen radio show about writers, has put together a highly atmospheric crime tale with crossover appeal to those who love reading books set in northern Michigan.

It’s best to read Stander’s absorbing works in order to fully appreciate the growth of Elkins and other characters. Earlier books in the series are “Summer People”, “Local Color” and “Deer Season.”

Originally published on October 10, 2010 in the Lansing State Journal.

Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing’s Curious Book Shop, has reviewed crime novels and noir thrillers regularly since 1987.


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Connelly back in top form in 'Reversal'

"The Reversal" (Little Brown, $27.99) by award-winning crime novelist Michael Connelly, is a real treat for his legion of ardent readers.

The book, which is scheduled for release on Tuesday, features of Connelly major fictional characters - Los Angeles defense attorney Mickey Haller and his half-brother, LAPD Detective Harry Bosch.

Both appeared in Connelly's 2008 best-seller "The Brass Verdict," but this time there's an added twist - they're working for the prosecution.

Convicted child killer Jacob Jessup, who's served 24 years in prison, has been granted a retrial based on new DNA evidence.

Haller, who also starred in "The Lincoln Lawyer," agrees to serve as a special prosecutor in the high-profile case, but on his own terms. He wants Bosch as his investigator and his ex-wife, Deputy District Attorney Maggie McPherson, as second chair.

As expected, the case gets complicated. The cops who handled the case aren't around anymore or aren't useful. The testimony of a jailhouse snitch can't be used and Sarah Landry, the only witness to the abduction of her sister Melissa, has dropped from sight.

Longtime police veteran Harry Bosch uses his ties with the FBI to help gather information, but it's not easy. When he discovers unsavory records of Sarah's past, he can understand her reluctance to testify.

Jessup, meanwhile, has a celebrity lawyer who is twisting facts to gain media exposure. Utilizing airtime to proclaim his innocence, Jessup also is making disturbing visits to unusual locations during the night.
The defense brings up an assortment of challenging issues, so the prosecutor's team must go all out, using ingenious methods in an uphill battle for justice.

Haller and Bosch are sure the sadistic killer has plans for more brutal attacks and want to stop him before he kills again.

The conclusion is stunning, yet realistic. Connelly, a former award-winning journalist, deftly captures the courtroom atmosphere as well as life on the turbulent streets of Los Angeles.
Connelly smoothly combines the best of two literary genres, adroitly mixing the intriguing elements of a legal thriller with the insights and step-by step methodology of the police procedural. It's easily one of the year's best crime novels.

Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing’s Curious Book Shop, has reviewed crime novels and noir thrillers regularly since 1987.