Monthly Archives: January 2019

Confessions of an Innocent Man

So. I was scrolling Instagram not too long ago and Dutton Books asked if anyone was interested in receiving an advanced copy of Confessions of an Innocent Man by David R. Dow. I messaged and said I was because I’d read Autobiography of an Execution and it blew me away. Well, Confessions also blew me away. I finished reading it over the weekend, but waited to write a review so I could sort out the very complicated emotions this book made me feel.

David Dow is a great writer. He knows how to tell a story. The book flowed and there were not any wasted words or scenes. The plotting was tight and made sense. It is a suspenseful story. Mr. Dow knows how to wind up the tension at just the right moments.

Plot. The plot is this – a restaurant owner meets a rich socialite and they hit it off. She is older than he and has a condition that makes sex painful so she tells him he can have sex with other women. They get married and are truly happy. Until she is killed. Suspicion ultimately falls on Rafael because – it’s always the husband. He is tried and ultimately convicted. He is sent to death row. He is in prison for six years when he is exonerated. He then plans surprising revenge. And that is all I’m saying about the plot. I do not want to spoil anyone’s pleasure at reading this book.

I probably could have given this book five stars. Except for the fact that I was not fond of the ending. It made me cry, actually. This story brought up so many emotions. I have long believed in the death penalty – that is that some people do things that are so heinous and awful they deserve to die. But. I also think that our death penalty is applied so unfairly that it does not serve the purpose it was intended to serve. It is disproportionately applied against the poor and minorities and the innocent, that I do not support imposition of the death penalty anymore. We are just too flawed to do justice. This book made me sad and angry and heartbroken.

The fact that I felt all of those emotions is a testament to the kind of story that David Dow has told in this book. His writing about death row in Texas is heartbreaking and infuriating. We manage to rob people of their freedom, but more importantly, of their humanity. And that should never happen. As Bryan Stevenson says, “None of us are the worst thing we have done.” David Dow makes that point so eloquently in this book. I’m not going to lie. At times, this book was really, really hard to read. But it was so worth the hardship. It is beautifully written and tells a very important story. If you are interested in the law or like legal thriller or just lie a really well-told story, I highly recommend this book.

I received an advanced copy of this book and got no other compensation in exchange for this review. The opinions expressed herein are mine and mine alone. Thank you Dutton Books for allowing me to read this book.


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The Moroccan Girl

C.K. “Kit” Carradine is a British thriller/spy novel writer. He is approached by an agent of the British Secret Service with what seems to be a simple mission – deliver an envelope to a woman at a literary festival the author is attending in Morocco. He gets to Morocco and finds the girl and delivers the envelope. That is where the story begins.

This book is my introduction to Charles Cumming and it won’t be my last. I loved this book. Carradine is a great character. He decides to do this favor for the service because his father was a spy, he finds writing spy novels solitary and boring, and he thinks (though this isn’t explicitly stated) doing this “mission” will be like what his spies do in his novels. Kit quickly finds out that he isn’t really a spy, makes some amateur mistakes, and gets embroiled in true spy game.

Charles Cumming writes a great story. The book was believable and entertaining. Most of the characters are fully drawn and he has a knack for description. I found the characters entertaining and authentic. The plot was tightly wound and convincing. The plot twists were authentic and did not feel like a trap or a trick. They felt like good story telling.

I hope this is not Kit’s last appearance. If you enjoy spy novels, I high recommend this one. It’s wildly entertaining and well-written. I won this book and received no other compensation in exchange for my review. The opinions expressed herein are mine and mine alone.

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Trail of Echoes

Detective Elouise Norton is back. This time she and her partner, Colin Taggert, are investigating the death of a young, African-American teen. She is found in a park, holding her last baby tooth, and injected with bug repellent to keep the decomp bugs away. The case disturbs Lou, who is still recovering from finding her sister’s bones, her impending divorce, and the reappearance of her father, who walked out before Lou’s sister disappeared.

Without giving spoilers, I figured out who the murderer was pretty early on in the book, which is rather unusual for me. That didn’t stop me from enjoying the ride. I thought I was wrong a couple of times, and there were some good plot twists.

Once again, I can’t say enough good things about this series and about Rachel Howzell Hall. Her writing about Los Angeles reminds me so much of Michael Connelly and Raymond Chandler. She makes the city a character. Her description of the Jungle and Bonner Park and all of the people Lou comes across makes these books wildly entertaining and a joy to read.

I have ordered the fourth book in this series and cannot wait for it to arrive. This is a detective series I look forward to. I highly recommend this book.

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The Magpie Murders

Anthony Horowitz is a genius. The Magpie Murders is the second book of his I have read and it is the second time I have been utterly clueless as to what was going to happen. The plotting is ingenious. The writing is crisp and perfect.

A book editor receives a manuscript, The Magpie Murders, from her author. She reads the book, only to find that the final chapter(s) are missing. Then, the author supposedly commits suicide. Alan Conway is the author and Susan Ryeland is the editor. Susan comes to believe that Alan was murdered, despite his being diagnosed with a terminal cancer. She goes about finding the murderer and the motive.

I say this book is genius because you get two mysteries for the price of one. The manuscript is included, but it leads to clues to Alan’s murderer. The route Susan takes to find the murderer leads us to a large cast of characters, all of whom have motive to want Alan dead.

This book is why I love mysteries. There’s little blood and gore, but it was still suspenseful and kept me guessing until the end. I loved it and so will you.

I won a copy of this book and received no other compensation in exchange for this review. The opinions expressed herein are mine and mine alone.

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Hello, 2019

Book wise, 2018 was a good year. I read 146 books. Most were really good. Some were not so good. Otherwise, 2018 was pretty craptacular. I haven’t had a year that bad in a long time. Even so, I’m excited about what 2019 will bring. I set my reading challenge on Goodreads at 120. I never know, when I set my reading challenge each year, whether I will make my goal. So I tend to set it low. But I thought I would at least challenge myself this year.

I was reading the Real Book Spy’s post about the thrillers coming out in 2019, and I’m going to have my work cut out for me. Pretty much every author I read has a book coming out. That makes me happy. I also have to figure out my¬† book budget so it’s good to know what comes out when.

Even more than reading authors I have read in the past, I look forward to discovering someone new. Last year, I discovered Nick Petrie, Andrews and Wilson, Allen Eskins, David Riccairdi, Jack Carr, Anthony Horowitz, Karen Cleveland, Hank Phillipi Ryan, and Rachel Howzell Hall. I hope that I find a new crop of authors to add to my regular reads. Though, I suppose at some point, I will have so many authors to read, I will have to cut back. But I will cross that bridge when I come to it.

I’m looking forward to seeing what the book world has to offer me this year. If you have an author you read that you’re excited about, please leave a comment and let me know. Happy 2019!!

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Land of Shadows

Eloise Norton (Lou) is an LAPD detective. She is married to a video game designer who cheats on her. She has a new partner who is a white boy from Colorado. They are called to the scene of a murder. A teenage girl has been found dad in a condominium complex under construction. The owner, Nappy Crase, was a suspect in the disappearance of Lou’s sister in 1988. Lou and her partner, Colin, are trying to wade through a gaggle of suspects to find out who killed the girl and why. Lou also wants to know if this girl’s murder is somehow connected to her sister’s disappearance.

Rachel Howzell Hall manages a complicated plot so well. This book kept me guessing until the end. I did not figure out the “who done it” part until the very end. And then, when I thought I had it figured out, something totally different happened. I don’t usually get fooled, but I did here – in a good way.

I really like Lou. She’s tough, but vulnerable. She is confident, but insecure. She is a real, three dimensional person. I not only liked, Lou, I liked the supporting characters as well. Her fellow cops, her mother, her husband, and her two best friends are well-written. Hall has a gift at writing people. She also has a gift at writing location. She, like Michael Connelly, Raymond Chandler, and James Ellroy, writes Los Angeles really well. You feel as though you can see the Jungle, the housing project where Lou grew up. You can see the condos where the victim is found. You can taste the salty ocean breeze near Lou’s house. That was a joy to read.

I was so taken with this book, that I immediately started Skies of Ash, the second in this series. I hope there is more to come from Rachel Howzell Hall because I really think I have found a new friend in Lou Norton.

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