Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Ray's Reviews: "Paradise City" by Archer Mayer and "Seven Days" by Deon Meyer

If you enjoy reading police procedural mysteries, here's a quick look at two highly talented authors with similar last names. It's easy to get mired in Mayor and Meyer -- both writers showcase well-developed returning characters faced with deadly, unusual challenges.

"Paradise City" by award-winning author Archer Mayor (Minotaur, $25.99) is the 23rd in his popular series starring Joe Guenther, head of the Vermont Bureau of Investigation.

Somewhat similar to his earlier novel "Tag Man", Guenther becomes involved in investigating a string of unusual burglaries at the residences of wealthy residents.

But this time, there's a big difference -- jewelry and antiques are also being stolen. The fast-paced novel opens with a robbery at the Beacon Hill home of an elderly rich woman who lives alone -- but the burglars kill her.

Guenther notices similarities to Vermont break-ins and joins forces with Massachusetts authorities. The dead Boston woman's granddaughter is independently searching for answers and makes surprisingly useful discoveries.

Other assorted clues lead to the disclosure of a meticulous mastermind with devious plans. There are numerous plot twists and violence erupts. Mayor doesn't disappoint his fans with his latest highly entertaining tale.

"Seven Days" by best-selling author Deon Meyer (Atlantic Monthly Press, $25) is another strong entry in his series set entirely in contemporary South Africa.

It stars hard-working recovering alcoholic homicide detective Benny Griessel, who earlier appeared in Meyer's "Devil's Peak" and "Thirteen Hours".

Two police officers in Cape Town have been shot; the killer vows to shoot more unless a recent unsolved murder case is reopened.

The shooter wants further investigation of the murder of an attractive and ambitious attorney who was stabbed to death in her luxury apartment.

Sending strange e-mails to the cops and the press, the shooter is quoting scripture and demanding results, threatening to continue his shooting spree until the killer is found.

Griessel and his associates have little luck -- there are few good leads and no forensic evidence. The tension mounts as the shootings increase and media frenzy escalates.

Meyer is exceptionally adept at examining the diverse complexities involved in solving a challenging crime. While you may slowly tire of continuous dead ends, realistically the search for facts is tedious and time-consuming.
Eventually, information is discovered that reveals the truth, providing an unexpected but satisfying conclusion.
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 Sunday, January 27, 2013


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Ray's Reviews: The Murderer's Son by Joseph Herr

"The Murderer's Son" by Joseph Herr (J & S Publishing, $17.99) is an unusual book by the son of a convicted murderer.
It's not fiction, but instead is an intriguing memoir of a boy who grew up in Lansing while his father was serving time in Jackson State Prison.
Richard Herr, Joseph's father, was convicted for the brutal 1966 slaying of pretty housewife Betty Reynolds, in Grand Ledge. Richard Herr pled guilty and in 1967 was sentenced to 25 to 40 years in prison. He later claimed that he didn't commit the crime and had bad legal representation.
Richard served 12 years in prison before being paroled; he later remarried, successfully sold cars around the country, and moved to Arizona.
According to his self-published 2011 autobiography "Inside-Outside (to be continued...)," after entering the penitentiary, Richard Herr soon controlled Jackon State Prison's drugs, gambling, and protection rackets.
His son, meanwhile, was growing up as the son of a convicted murderer, facing continual taunts and being bullied as he went to Bingham Elementary School, Resurrection and Eastern High School.
Joseph relates a variety of experiences about growing up in Lansing and his perseverance; he examines his divorced mother's devotion to her husband.
He explores his relationship with her father, Paul "Harry" DeRose, who ran a local nightclub called Amedeo's, who paid for much of Richard's legal defense.
Joseph felt so strongly about his grandfather's positive influence, he legally changed his last name to DeRose when he turned 18.
Joseph Herr also corrects inaccuracies he feels were made in "Inside-Outside," offering police reports and courtroom testimony verbatim to back him up. He supplies realistic observations on how the Reynolds murder may have taken place and his father's involvement.
In a time before DNA testing was created, the police had enough evidence to link Richard to the bloody crime; if he had not pled guilty, his father would very likely have received a life sentence.
Richard recently received notoriety when it was revealed that he was serving as Santa Claus in a "Toys for Tots" program in Arizona.
"The Murderer's Son" is an intriguing look at a strong-willed survivor who challenges his father's views and wants to set the record straight.
Joseph Herr's email address is
Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing's Curious Book Shop, has reviewed books regularly since 1987.

This review was originally published by the Lansing State Journal on January 13. 2013.


Monday, January 7, 2013

Ray's Reviews: Target Lancer by Max Allan Collins, The Lincoln Conspiracy by Timothy O'Brien, and In the Name of Honor by Albert Payson Terhune

Deadly conspiracies abound in three recent books, offering surprising fictional revelations.
"Target Lancer" by award-winning author Max Allan Collins (Forge Books, $27.99) is the fourteenth novel in his popular series starring Nate Heller, dedicated Chicago private detective.
This time, the hero is involved in stopping a 1963 John F. Kennedy assassination attempt - not in Dallas, but in Chicago on November 2!
The author bases his compelling tale on true events and includes many real characters such as Robert Kennedy, Jimmy Hoffa, Jack Ruby, assorted mob figures and even noted fan-dancer Sally Rand.
Collins' book is fascinating reading with deadly action and unexpected complications, working well on a variety of levels.
The 9-page section "I Owe Them One" at the end of the novel offers more insights into numerous conspiracy theories.

"The Lincoln Conspiracy" by veteran journalist Timothy O'Brien (Ballantine Books, $26) deals with another important assassination, with events set in the time period following President Abraham Lincoln's death.
Washington D.C. policeman Temple McFadden discovers two diaries strapped to the body of a man who's been murdered at a local railroad station. The assailants are soon after McFadden, but he makes a quick escape.
McFadden gets assistance and learns that one diary was from Mary Todd Lincoln. The shocker is when he finds out that the other diary, in code, belonged to John Wilkes Booth.
This is highly innovative historical fiction, with the talented author continuously putting McFadden and his wife Fiona in constant danger.
There are many real characters involved, including Lafayette Baker (head of the Union Army's spy service), Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, master detective Allan Pinkerton and abolitionist Sojourner Truth.
The surprising conclusion makes O'Brien's fast-paced, intriguing debut novel well worth reading.

"In the Name of Honor" by Albert Payson Terhune (Black Dog Books, $16.95) is the first book publication of a tale that initially appeared in the pulp magazine "Argosy" in 1908.
It's still fresh today, as Terhune, who's much better known for his memorable dog stories, relates the tale of Civil War hero Guy Bruce, who travels to England to clear his family's name.
Framed in a clever conspiracy for a crime he didn't commit, Bruce is shipped off to a brutal Australian penal colony. While Lincoln and Stanton appear as minor figures, Bruce's strong character predominates, getting positive, vengeful yet rewarding results.

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 Sunday, January 6, 2013.