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An interview with author Dorien Grey....

Feb. 3rd, 2010 | 05:54 pm

I've read both Aaron's Wait and The Hired Man. What I'd like to do is talk about the differences between your two series.

1. Elliot Smith and Dick Hardesty are such different people! Is there one that feels closer to being like you in personality?

Oh, Dick, definitely. Dick is the alternate universe me, someone I would love to be and whose life I would love to live. One of the reasons I decided to start the Elliott Smith series was to explore someone different than me/Dick. I like Elliott a lot, but I can't really imagine myself being him. He's much too practical and down to earth.

2. Elliot developed the ability to communicate with the dead after an accident - when he became connected to John. What made you go with a supernatural element with Elliot?

I'm not sure where/when/how the idea came to me, but when I was writing short stories, I always loved those that left you guessing. Is John real, or a result of Elliott's trauma? I soon resolved that issue, but that was the question that set it all in motion.

3. Dick has an enviable sex life. Do you foresee him settling down any time in the near future? He certainly has a knack for introducing friends who end up connected for the long term.

Dick meets his partner Jonathan in the course of "The Good Cop," the fifth (of 13) book of the series, and they have been together ever since. Dick misses his promiscuous days from time to time, but realizes what he has with Jonathan is far more important. They are now raising Jonathan's five-year-old nephew.

4. The styles of these series are very different. There's a quiet to the Elliot books that is very different from the brashness of the Dick books. Why did you choose to go with such a different style with Elliot?

A lot has to do with the origins of the two series. When I wrote the first Dick Hardesty mystery, "The 9th Man" (which is technically the second book in the series, since it first appeared only as an e-book and didn't appear in print until after the second book, "The Butcher's Son" had been printed...so "The Butcher's Son" is considered the first in the series....very confusing, I know), I had no idea it was going to become a series. Dick started out as a fun, every-gay-boy's fantasy adventure, and he has grown and developed over the course of the series. Elliott started out and continues to be a lot more grounded and practical than Dick's first appearance. Plus, I deliberately write the Elliott Smith Series in third person as opposed to the Dick Hardesty series' first person, which gives it a more intimate feel.

5. Elliot is an amateur and reluctant sleuth. Yet he has the more difficult mysteries to solve, since generally his mysteries are about long dead people. Are the mysteries more difficult for you to write and solve?

Not really, I don't think. One of the wonderful things I find about writing is that it's like being handed a large block of modeling clay, and I can shape it any way I like. I've often said I do not write my books as much as I read them as my fingers put the story on the computer screen. Like shaping the block of clay, if I don't like something, or if I decide to add something new at some point, I am free to go back and rework the clay to fit what I want it to become.

6. I found in reading these books that the deaths in The Hired Man made me really sad since I'd been given a chance to meet these men. (I especially hated Billy dying!) Does the immediacy of those deaths factor into the difference in tone that exists between the books?

Perhaps in the manner in which the deaths occur and are described. By nature, the deaths are after-the-fact--Elliott finds out how and why someone already dead died; in the DH series, they're more immediate. (Billy, in "The Hired Man," was based on a real person--a friend's roommate--and what happens to Billy in the book tragically happened to my friend's roommate.)

7. In both series there's a good relationship with the cops, generally. Elliot's brother-in-law is a cop and they get along well. Dick has Richmond, whom he respects. A lot of mysteries with private investigators and amateur sleuths don't have good relationships with the police. Why did you choose to make your cops good guys?

A very strong thread through the first several books of the DH series is the very real and very deep distrust and conflict between a vehemently homophobic police department and the gay community. Lt. Mark Richman is indeed a good guy, and I use him to represent the slowly evolvement of the relationship between the community and the police.

8. Can we mark our calendars for new Elliot and Dick books?

I'm about 2/3 of the way through "Caesar's Fall," the next book (#3) of the Elliott Smith series, and then will begin work on the 14th in the DH series...though I haven't a clue at the moment what it will be about. I am just deeply grateful to my readers, who, like you, come to think of my characters as real people they can care about.

Thanks, Dorien!

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Dorien Grey's Great Mystery Series....

Feb. 3rd, 2010 | 05:25 pm
mood: geekyreading

Dorien Grey has two great mystery series (along with other books!), his long running Dick Hardesty Private Investigator series, and the new Elliot Smith supernatural series.


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We were introduced to Elliot Smith in HIS NAME IS JOHN. Elliot is injured and in a coma after being hit by a car. When he regains consciousness, he is aware of a new presence. That presence is John. John is dead, and in the first book Elliot finds himself trying to solve John's murder.

In the second book, AARON'S WAIT, John helps Elliot solve yet another murder case. This time it's not the ghost who was murdered, but the ghost's lover. The ghost died of a broken heart, and he still waits in the apartment they shared for the return of his lover.

This is a major problem for Elliot. See, Elliot buys old buildings, restores them, and then sells them. He loves the old architecture of Chicago, and each building he chooses is special. His restorations are detailed, painstaking and beautiful, and the buildings are worth a great deal more once he's finished with them.

It is his great love in life, bringing back a wonderful old building to shine like new again.

But Aaron is still waiting in his apartment in Elliot's new building, and he knocks on doors and bangs around, and it's going to be very difficult to sell a building that is haunted. So it's pretty important that Elliot figure out what happened so that Aaron can have some peace and move on.

As a fellow ghost, John works on Aaron and Elliot works on the living.

Elliot is a great character. He's stable, gentle, and has a loving relationship with his sister, her husband and children. He also has a boyfriend, Steve, who's a wonderful painter. Steve is also "sensitive" and when he does a painting of the building he places a figure in the window of Aaron's apartment.

Figuring out what happened to Aaron's lover, Bill, is not easy. Nor is it easy for John to get through to the very upset ghost to gather information. But working together, John and Elliot do indeed solve the murder and bring peace to both Aaron and the building.



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Dick Hardesty is an entirely different kind of person, and the mysteries he solves are very current.

In THE HIRED MAN, Dick gets a referral of a businessman from out of town who is looking for an investigator to do background checks on some potential management employees. It turns out that an old friend, Phil, has been seeing the businessman on a regular basis. Phil is a professional escort and the businessman is a very closeted bi-sexual.

When the businessman ends up murdered, Dick finds himself being called upon by both the police and the escort service to try to answer some questions about the man's death. A short time later, one of the escorts, Billy, turns up dead. Billy was Phil's roommate, a really sweet guy, and Dick finds himself even more involved now that Phil's lost his best friend.

Are the murders connected? If so, how and why?

When a third murder takes place, a woman who is stabbed to death with a knife stolen from the room of the businessman during his murder, the path to solution becomes incredibly convoluted.
There is family intrigue - the owners of the escort service are a couple and one of the escorts is her "brother," who is actually her "son." The beautiful men who work for the service, and one who was fired from the service, may all be involved in the murders - or they may be potential victims.

It's pretty much up to Dick to unravel the links between the murders and the people, and solve the cases.

Both of these books are a lot of fun to read, and the personalities of the characters are incredibly different. Dick is brash and bright, while Elliot is classy and intellectual. The mysteries are intricate and fascinating. I was really surprised by the solution to THE HIRED MAN, and loved the fact that I hadn't figured it out, despite all the clues being laid out for me.

Grey is a terrific writer, and I highly recommend both series.

See the interview posted next!

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After a long delay...the reviews are back!

Jan. 31st, 2010 | 07:25 pm

Starting this week, there will be several new reviews going up.

There will also be an interview with mystery novelist Dorien Grey!

Sorry for the long, long hiatus. My brain went to the Bahamas and has finally returned.

WP

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WHEN A MAN LOVES A WEAPON by Toni McGee Causey

Jul. 16th, 2009 | 01:26 pm
mood: geeky

Get ready, put your copy on hold at your favorite bookstore, or pre-order at your favorite on-line site - Bobbie Faye Summrall is back in the third book of the series, and she's about to be really, really pissed off.

First of all, Trevor is forcing her to train in hand to hand combat. She already can shoot the eye out of gnat at 50 paces. So now he wants her able to kick butt close up, should the need arise, and let's face it, with Bobbie Faye the need will arise.

Secondly, he wants her to set a date for their nuptial, and she dosen't like being pushed about anything. For reasons she can't fully understand, she's hesitating.

Finally, Trevor takes on an undercover job and promises to return after three days and left her under the care of Riles, and they don't take to one another. As in, she really, really wants to shoot him.

Then he doesn't return.

So naturally, Bobbie Faye, with Riles in tow, goes looking for him.

And of course, all hell breaks loose pretty damn fast after that.

However, this book has more to offer than the usual mayhem that accompanies any adventure with Bobbie Faye. This book deals with real growth not only for Bobbie Faye, but for her family and friends. This means there are slightly less laughs in this book, but that's not a bad thing at all. Those moments of seriousness are earned as we see Bobbie Faye come to understand herself and make some real decisions about what and who she wants in her life.

This is not to say there aren't laughs in this book. There are. Plenty.

The villain of this piece is Sean MacGreggor, the Irish terrorist and thief who nearly got himself killed by Bobbie Faye in the last book. Seems he holds a hell of a grudge. He also still holds a rather strange and creepy attraction to Bobbie Faye.

MacGreggor has come up with a plan that will give him Bobbie Faye and leave Trevor suffering the guilt of the damned, as well as a physical hell. It will also devastate Bobbie Faye and, he hopes, break her emotionally so that he can quite literally own her.

This kind of serious threat helps along the books slightly darker tone.

All the regular supporting players are there, including CeCe who makes a chicken foot charm for Bobbie Faye that will turn black when she's in danger. The foot not only turns black, when it can't get any darker, it begins to move.

With settings that include a river boat casino and a stadium filled with LSU football fans, there will be no shortage of spectacular places for Trevor and Bobbie Faye to have their adventure.

Go. Now. Reserve. Prepare to read. You will enjoy.

WP

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RUN INTO TROUBLE by Alan Cook

Jul. 16th, 2009 | 12:54 pm
mood: geeky

This book was a first for me. I've read many mysteries that managed to include all manner of hobbies or activities, but this was the first that included ultra-marathoning. Ultra-marathoning, if you don't know, is running EXTREMELY long distances. A marathon is 26.2 miles. I know this intimately because I've run two marathons. Ultra-marathons start at 50 miles and go further.

In this case, it's "Run California." The elite long distance runners of the USA have been invited by GiganticCorp, a huge and wealthy government military contractor, to run the length of the California coast. The team that wins gets $1 million.

Oh, and this is 1969, when $1 million is a hell of a lot of money.

Drake and Melody make up one team. They were previously government agents, he for the USA and she for the UK. Six years after their last contact they find themselves partnered in what could literally turn out to be the race of their lives.

Before the race even begins, Drake's taxi is deliberately rear-ended and he is injured. With lots of help and monetary incentives, he agrees to go ahead and race.

As the race begins, it becomes clear that the CEO of GigantiCorp is using the race to launch his political career. Many former generals and admirals sit on the board of GigantiCorp, and it has the full support of the Joint Chiefs. So he has support for his run.

Then there is an attack from the sea on Malibu as the runners pass by, killing innocents in one of the homes and one of the runners with some sort of shelling or mortar.

When the CEO begins using that attack to promote military control of the coastline, Drake and Melody call in help from their government contacts and begin to look into what exactly is going on behind the scenes at both GigantiCorp and with the race.

It gets a great deal weirder, and there are a lot more deaths before they finally solve the mystery and stop plans that could send the USA into war, at best.

This is an interesting book, and I liked Drake and Melody. I was rooting for them all the way. The idea that anyone could run the distances they're doing injured is beyond my comprehension, though, and to me strained credibility. But, even given that, I found the story interesting and intense.

WP

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UNDER THE FIFTH SUN by Jeffrey Osburn

Jul. 16th, 2009 | 11:24 am
mood: geeky

This book is a complicated story of drugs, politics, and relationships along the border between Mexico and the USA. It begins with several individuals and events, from a U.S. Customs and Border Control (CBC) officer to two teenage boys looking for a way to make money to help their families. Eventually all the stories tie together to form the incredibly complex status surrounding the border and these two countries.

Within the book, the character we are allowed to follow with the most, and to develop the greater relationship is Filipe Vega. He's a CBC officer and Iraq veteran. When the CBC follows several SUVs to the border, he is the one who spots the RPG (rocket propelled grenade) launcher and shoots the soldier pointing it. This soldier is Mexican, and this opens up an inquiry into the relationship of the Mexican military and the drug cartels.

This inquiry goes all the way to the top, involving the Mexican President, who is trying to build a strong government, and the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico who must walk the fine line of diplomacy.

The instability of the Mexican government comes into play, as well as the corruption of officials on every level.

The book is tight, fierce, thrilling, and fascinating. It lays open for the reader the problems of dealing with people mired in intense poverty and the pressure and power the cartels can bring into play.

It's also fascinating how amazing the new technologies come into play in being able to locate and identify the players and the movements at the border. We've definitely gone far past Big Brother and gotten into a whole new territory of surveillance.

WP

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MAHU VICE by Neil S. Plakcy

Jul. 8th, 2009 | 10:35 am
mood: geeky

Kimo Kanapa'aka is back, and as usual, he's neck-deep in a mystery.

The last time we saw Kimo, during MAHU FIRE, he seemed to have found true love in fireman Mike. But at the beginning of MAHU VICE, they've broken up, and definitely not under the best of terms.

Mike is deeply closeted, and Kimo is not. His outing came during a murder investigation, and was very public, but now that he is out, he doesn't want to hide. This created some tension between them, but the final blow came when Kimo finds out he's gotten gonorrhea from Mike. He knows it has to be Mike, because he hasn't been with anyone else.

Mike had a one-night stand while at a conference for arson investigators in San Francisco.

Their break-up hasn't been good for either of them. Kimo has gone on a series of rough-sex one-night stands, and Mike has begun drinking heavily.

Neither knows this about the other until they find themselves forced to work together again. A fire in a shopping strip that was built by Kimo's father (though he no longer owns it), killed a young boy who was living in the back of a hair salon.

The fire started in an acupuncture business at one end of the strip. Mike is the arson investigator and Kimo and his partner are assigned the death.

Their investigation leads to a prostitution ring and several familiar characters from past books. It also leads back to a mysterious Mr. Hu who orchestrated a series rough sex nights for Kimo. Turns out that not only Kimo, but many other men were being recorded during these nights. The closeted men involved are being blackmailed.

There are also other fires, all of which were set as sites of the prostitution business might have come under some scrutiny. It's the preferred "clean-up" method for this group.

The mystery is tight and tense, and Kimo is constantly caught between protecting the innocent and trying to get the guilty without exposing them. He also has to find a way to work with Mike.

This is probably the best yet of the Mahu series, and a welcome addition to the story of Kimo.

WP

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NUCLEAR WINTER WONDERLAND by Joshua Corin

Jul. 8th, 2009 | 10:24 am
mood: geeky

This is one tough book to describe. I started reading it, having no idea what to expect, and the book kept going places that surprised me - and delighted me. A synopsis of it will do it no justice at all.

But here goes:

Adam Weiss and his twin sister Anna are driving to a funeral in New Jersey. Adam is an aimless college student who really doesn't seem to have much on his mind other than his baseball video game, drinking, and women. Anna is a serious student and musician.

After stopping for fast food, Adam finds himself in serious need of a restroom. He stops at a highway rest stop, and while in the stall relieving himself of his noxious meal, a man in the next stall - with a gun - demands his car keys.

Adam is terrified. He gives up his keys, and when he finally has the courage to leave the restroom, finds that the man has not only taken his car, but has also taken his sister.

For the first time in his life, Adam has to really take charge, face a problem, and try to fix it.

As it turns out, finding his sister involves atomic bombs, a 13 year old black computer-genius foster child, a woman dressed as a clown, mobsters, Las Vegas, many cops, federal agents, and eventually Epcot in DisneyWorld.

Seriously.

Oh, and Adam never makes it to the funeral.

WP

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TREASURE OF EDEN by S.L. Linnea

Jul. 8th, 2009 | 10:06 am
mood: geeky

I read and reviewed the second in the Eden series, BEYOND EDEN, so I was happy to read the latest. These books are really thrillers, based in a faith-bound mythology that is well-crafted and fascinating.

Eden is a real place. There are those who live in Eden, and there are those from Eden who live in the world as we know it. There are "operatives" and "swords." Operatives take on missions that the people of Eden decide are important either for protecting Eden or for protecting the people of the world.

There are those who have gotten a hint about Eden, and they desperately want to find it. Some believe it is full of worldly riches. Other want to find its secrets to longevity and health.

Jaime Richards is an Army Chaplain. She was in Iraq, and from there she disappeared for three years. The story is that she was kidnapped, injured, and lived with people in a remote area until she regained her memory.

In truth, she was kidnapped, but she ended up in Eden. Now she is an operative from Eden. She continues her work as an Army Chaplain, and she is still stationed in Iraq. She is about to take leave, and while on the surface she will be going for R&R from her military service, in reality she will be on the trail of a box covered in gems that has been placed on e-bay by a Bedouin tribe.

The box carries many secrets. The Bedouin who leads the tribe knows that it was found by he and a friend Rasheed in caves like those where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. Rasheed did not make it out of the caves alive, and it is a horrible secret that he has carried since boyhood.

Those in Eden want to retrieve the box because it may hold secrets that they have long waited to know.

Also, though, rogue CIA operative Frank McMillan wants it, because he believes it will lead him to Eden. He was involved in Jaime's original kidnapping, and he is not above torture and murder to achieve his ends.

This book seemed a bit slower than BEYOND EDEN in getting moving, but once it did, it flew. No matter how one feels about Christian religion, the story and the mythology established with Eden is well worth the reading time.

Jaime is a strong woman and her struggle to find the box and keep McMillan from gaining what he wants is tense and scary.

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KILLER CUTS by Elaine Viets

Jul. 8th, 2009 | 09:55 am
mood: geeky

I'm a huge fan of the Dead-end Job mysteries. Helen Hawthorne is a great character, and her friends and endless series of strange jobs are always fun.

This time she's working as the receptionist in a high-end hair salon. Miguel Angel is a Cuban-American genius with hair. He can perform miracles that change the look of any woman for the better. He's well paid for this talent, with his haircuts costing several hundred dollars.

One of his clients has hired him to do the hair and make-up at his wedding. She's a nurse who is pregnant and marrying a much older man, TV gossip show host "King" Oden. Oden is odious, and there are many who have reason to want him dead, so when he turns up drowned in his own pool after the wedding, the suspects are numerous.

Unfortunately, they also include Miguel, who had a huge argument with the man before the wedding and threatened him with a pair of scissors.

Helen must prove Miguel didn't do it, before his shop goes under completely from the scandal. This is the best job she's had, and she really likes him.

In the midst of this, she's planning her own wedding. She's marrying Phil, the private investigator who lives in the same apartment building. They've been together for a while now, and they decided to make it legal.

This is a very big deal, as the reason Helen lives here and has this long series of "dead-end jobs" is because her first husband was a philandering deadbeat who'd been awarded alimony during their divorce.

As always, the mystery is tightly woven, with generous helpings of humor and threat. This is a series that would satisfy pretty much any mystery reader. If you haven't discovered Viets, yet, go and do so now.

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