Monday, April 25, 2011


"The Fifth Witness" by best-selling author Michael Connelly (Little Brown, $27.99) is another masterpiece by one of America's best crime fiction novelists.

Torn from today's headlines, it's the latest in his popular series starring Mickey Haller, a hard-working Los Angeles attorney.

Haller has fallen on hard times - his specialty, criminal defense has been generating little business. Now he's found a new legal angle, representing people with foreclosure problems.

His most prominent client, Lisa Trammel, has been arrested for the murder of Mitchell Bondurant. He was the bank officer directing foreclosing procedures against her.

Bondurant's body has been discovered next to his car in a parking garage. Trammel, who had led protests against the bank, is the prime suspect.

After she's arrested for the murder, Haller agrees to represent her in the trial, which promises to get considerable media attention.

Haller, who's known as "The Lincoln Lawyer," because he's been operating out of the trunk of his car, finally decides to get an office.

He gathers his minimal staff and proceeds to investigate the case. He's up against Andrea Freeman, a diligent, experienced prosecuting attorney, who uses a variety of sometimes-questionable legal methods.

But Haller's no slouch when is comes to sleazy attorney tactics - he gets help from many sources as he tries to prove Trammel's innocence.

Haller uncovers a variety of possible suspects in the banker's death, even though the police have had tunnel vision, only focusing on Trammel as a suspect.

Quirky characters abound, including many members of Haller's staff; unexpected violence occurs when Haller is beaten by two thugs and ends up hospitalized.

Haller's ex-wife Maggie doesn't have quite a prominent spot as she did in "The Reversal." Los Angeles policeman Harry Bosch makes only a minimal appearance.

The first book in the series, "The Lincoln Lawyer," was recently released as a highly praised movie starring Matthew McConaughey as Haller. "The Fifth Witness" is also a prime candidate for film adaptation.

This compelling page-turner is a great, gripping legal thriller that's ideal for Connelly fans. Readers who enjoy John Grisham type courtroom scenes, with sneaky scheming and verbal battles, will not be disappointed.

Connelly's next book, "The Drop," showcasing Harry Bosch, is scheduled for release in October.
Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing's Curious Book Shop, 
has reviewed crime novels and Michigan books regularly since 1987.

This review was originally published by the Lansing State Journal on April 24, 2011.


Monday, April 18, 2011


Animals are the focus of attention of two releases; one is designed for children while the other is a bit more thought provoking.

"Fuzzbutt" by Morrice author Brenda Roy (R & B Publishing, $11.95) is a slim, self-published, attractively designed children's book. It showcases a small, partially wild kitty who grows up to be an 18-pound watchcat.

Full of great, clear photos by her husband Rohn, this colorful book covers the long life and misadventures of  young kitten that was left on the porch of an old country farmhouse.

Brenda tries to tame the suspicious kitty but it's a slow process. Once Brenda gains the feline's trust and the animal comes inside, she faces more challenges. A trip to a local veterinarian is particularly memorable, as the nervous cat is still very wary about other humans.

Fuzzbutt grows up and protects the farm property, even keeping a coyote away. The last part of the book delves into the cat's aging process and his companionship/training of other cats that Brenda's family have adopted.

It's uncommon to have a children's book with so many different photos that follow a cat's life. While younger children will get a giggle because of the book's distinctive title, this is ideal for cat lovers of any age.

Brenda, an elementary school teacher, also has written a children's book "Night Noise," which came out last year. More information is available from the author at

"Beso the Donkey: Poems by Richard Jarrette" (Michigan State University Press, $14.95) is an intriguing collection of poetry that's a bit more complex than it seems.

Although it's less than 90 pages long, it includes over 70 thought-provoking poems, providing refreshing reading for those who like to contemplate.

Jarrette, a California psychotherapist, offers a variety of laid-back insights into the life of a donkey - and life in general, viewed from different perspectives.

The poet doesn't go in for long, boring detailed verse; the reader won't have to dig deep for meaning. There's lots of strong, simple imagery; a useful acknowledgement section explores many of Jarrette's literary and Zen influences.

While this may be one of the largest collections of donkey related verse ever published, it's deceptively good. It's best savored, like fine wine, a little bit at a time.

Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing's Curious Book Shop, 
has reviewed crime novels and Michigan books regularly since 1987.

This review was originally published by the Lansing State Journal on April 17, 2011.


Monday, April 11, 2011


"Mystery" by award-winning author Jonathan Kellerman is a satisfying but not spectacular crime novel.
It's the 26th entry in his long-running series starring Los Angeles psychologist Alex Delaware and hard-working Detective Milo Sturgis.

It begins easily enough, with Delaware and his wife Robin enjoying dinner at a restaurant in a fancy old hotel that's about to be closed permanently.

They notice a beautiful, stylish, well-dressed young woman at another table, apparently anxiously awaiting someone.

A few days later, Sturgis contacts Delaware about an odd case - a body that has been dumped on the outskirts of the city. The victim turns out to be the woman from the restaurant, although there's no ID and the corpse was found miles away from the hotel.

Delaware and Sturgis work to put together clues, first trying to figure out who she was and how she got there.

The police assume that there are two killers, since the woman died from simultaneous wounds from two different caliber weapons. They get a tip that leads to information about the homicide victim. She called herself "Mystery" on a website devoted to pairing up beautiful women with older, rich men.

It gets darker and sleazier from there, as Delaware and Sturgis uncover dark secrets of the exceptionally wealthy.

They're also seeking information about a missing bodyguard who has ties to the victim.

Kellerman throws in another sub-plot involving a dying madam and the counseling of her young, worried son. The woman, who ran a successful call girl operation for many years, provides valuable, useful insights into the case.

There are a variety of intriguing suspects; another body is discovered that is related to the case. Stakeouts are necessary when a pair of possible suspects emerge.

The solution to the complicated case requires significant research by Delaware; the final confrontation is long-winded and shows him making many assumptions.

The frenzied atmosphere of life in Los Angeles is well utilized by Kellerman. His brisk dialog, sometimes similar to Ed McBain, is likely to hook many readers.

Longtime Kellerman fans won't really be disappointed with this release; newcomers can easily follow the action without grabbing earlier books in this popular series.

Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing's Curious Book Shop, 
has reviewed crime novels and Michigan books regularly since 1987.

This review was originally published by the Lansing State Journal on April 10, 2011.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Curiosities Newsletter for April

Greetings, Curiosities Readers!

Take 30% off items from the Music, Arts & Crafts, Literary Criticism and Literary Biography sections during the month of April.

Recent acquisitions include a variety of 18th and 19th century stage plays, theater histories, hundreds of vintage comic books, volumes of poetry, coffee table art books, sports books on golf and bowling, children's books and general fiction paperbacks and hardcovers!

The Curious Book Shop is hitting the road! Visit us in Chicago at the Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention, April 15th - 17th. This newly expanded show focuses on pulps and other collectible popular culture items. More details about this exciting show can be found on Facebook and at

Many thanks to those who attended the 53rd Michigan Antiquarian Book and Paper Show this past Sunday! We hope that you enjoyed it as much as we did. Photos from this show will soon be available on our Facebook page, where you can also find photos from past shows, shop updates and special offers.

Mark you calendar! Classicon 39, a collectable paperback, pulp & glamour art show, takes place on Saturday, June 25th at the University Quality Inn. The 54th Michigan Antiquarian Book and Paper Show will take place at the Lansing Center on Sunday, September 25th. Information about both of these shows is available on our book show webpage.

Many thanks, and we hope to see you soon!


Monday, April 4, 2011


Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett faces new challenges in “Cold Wind” by C.J. Box, (Putnam, $25,95), the eleventh crime novel in his popular series.

Joe is back home with his wife Marybeth and his family in Saddlestring; his detested mother-in-law Missy calls, claiming that her millionaire husband, Earl Alden is missing.

Heading out to the ranch to investigate, Joe is surprised to find Earl dead – his body up in the air, strapped to the blade of a spinning wind turbine.

Joe calls the local sheriff to the scene and the body is removed; soon Missy is arrested for the murder of her fifth husband.

Marybeth pushes Joe to investigate; he does so reluctantly, because he really can’t stand Missy and he’s not sure she’s altogether innocent.

Soon, Joe’s trying to track down Missy’s angry ex-husband Bud, who lost his ranch to her in a recent divorce.There are other suspects; Earl had made many enemies as he put together properties for his wind energy project.

As Joe seeks more answers, Missy lawyers up with a fancy high-priced attorney; the police have discovered the murder weapon and the district attorney thinks they’ve got a rock solid case. The bumbling sheriff is up for re-election and doesn’t want any negative publicity or complications.

Meanwhile, in an interesting sub plot, Joe’s violent friend Nate is still in hiding; an attempt on his life has devastating results. Now Nate is out for revenge, searching for answers, trying to locate a devious enemy.
Box is in fine form as he spins a top-notch, entertaining tale that could be torn from today’s headlines. He delves into the pros and cons of wind energy, offering insights without pontificating. He also deftly deals with a variety of dynamic family situations and an assortment of political issues.

There are many excellent plot twists and turns, with enough courtroom highjinks to please even a John Grisham fan. The jaw-dropping conclusion is quite unexpected; hints are given to further adventures of Joe and Nate in an ominous epilogue.

The award-winning author never disappoints, although it’s probably best to read the earlier books in the series to fully appreciate character development and growth. 

Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing's Curious Book Shop, 
has reviewed crime novels and Michigan books regularly since 1987.

This review was originally published by the Lansing State Journal on April 3, 2011.