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The Sins of the Fathers

The Sins of the Fathers - Lawrence Block "The Sins of the Father" is the first book in Lawrence Block's Matthew Scudder series and the first book that I have read by this author.

Scudder is the definition of the cliched hardboiled detective. The mystery to which he has attached himself is not overly complex and it is not difficult to guess where Block is leading the reader. But, when taken as a whole, the setting, the characters, the crime all weave a bit of mental comfort food.

"The Sins of the Father" was a fun read and will be the first of many more of Block's works that I will read.


4 STARS

In the Shadows of Children

In the Shadows of Children - Alan Ryker When I was a kid, I saw an episode of "In Search of..." (the one hosted by Leonard Nimoy) in which a ghostly, white-faced figure stepped out of an open closet and quite literally scared a young woman to death.

It was at that point that I became conscious of open closet doors at bedtime and ALWAYS thereafter made sure to close the door even if it meant braving the dark and the two steps to the closet after the lights had been turned out to address a forgotten door.

Over time the fear that something would step out of the darkness has subsided and the act of closing open doors has become a matter of habit and not the result of some childhood fear....I thought.

I would like to thank Alan Ryker for bringing those thoughts back to the foreground once again. Closet doors closed.


4 STARS

A Shrill Keening

A Shrill Keening - Ronald Malfi "A Shrill Keening" is an atmospheric, Lovecraftian novella.

Carl Thompson is stuck between two "realities". In one reality, he is a mental patient convicted of murdering his girlfriend, a crime he cannot remember. In the other, he is serving an important role in a Lovecraftian horror tale of the end of times.

Carl cannot determine if one, the other or both of his "realities" are real.

Malfi does a good job of weaving together Carl's two "realities". I find myself pondering the end of this tale and asking myself if Malfi left this story open-ended or if in just a few sentences he managed to mostly close the door on this one.

I like where he left this one!


4 1/2 STARS

The Fortune

The Fortune - Michael McDowell "The Fortune" is the fifth book of six in Michael McDowell's Southern Gothic saga "Blackwater".

This installment is about the Caskey family post-WWII. The financial posturing of the previous few decades has started to bear fruit and the Caskeys grow wealthier than they have ever been.

With the final book in the series still to read and the climax of the series still to come, there is just a fear that everything that has gone so well for so long is about to change.


5 STARS

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine - Michael Lewis In "The Big Short", Michael Lewis takes another waltz through the disaster that is Wall Street.

I personally saw so much of the topic of this book happening over the course of my career in the financial world. In the early 1990's as a broker with Merrill Lynch, Lewis had written our Bible, "Liar's Poker". I was at Oppenheimer in the mid 1990's when Steve Eisman was making his first short recommendations on consumer credit stocks. I spent a short stint working at a mortgage company in the early 2000's and saw "stated loans", adjustable rate loans with deceptively low teaser rates and home buyers that had no business being lent money walking into shiny, new homes. In the mid 2000's I worked on CDOs, CBOs and CLOs (though admittedly not on anything mortgage backed) and I wondered why a company that wasn't going to make payroll unless I funded a loan by noon was being allowed to borrow at LIBOR+1.

Lewis is good at the forensics. He is good at talking to the people that were at ground zero when disaster struck and he does it in a manner that gives you a couple of audible chuckles and entertains as much as it informs.


5 STARS

Out are the Lights

Out are the Lights - Richard Laymon I picked up Laymon's "Out are the Lights" for a little 1980's horror throwback fix. I can honestly say that the book was a fun read though a little disjointed at times due to the merging of storylines.

What turned me off was the abrupt ending, and calling it "abrupt" is an understatement. It almost seemed as if Laymon just got bored writing the book and just pinched it off several chapters too early. Maybe that was some early 1980's artsy-fartsy thing to do. I don't know. All I am certain of is that it did not translate well in 2014.


2 STARS

The Mourning House

The Mourning House - Ronald Malfi "The Mourning House" is a very creepy haunted house tale.

Dr. Sam Hatch suffers the loss of his young family in a brutal automobile accident. Dropping out of life, Sam begins a decline that may be the side effects of anxiety meds, insanity or a haunting.

Malfi keeps you on the edge of your seat wondering what is coming next and keeps the reader in dread of what the next piece of the puzzle to fall in place will be.

4 STARS

Leviathan

Leviathan - Tim Curran "Leviathan" was a fairly run-of-the-mill monster horror book. As a story it was fine. But, it lacked some of the creativity that I have come to expect from Curran.


3 STARS

Lost Girl of the Lake

Lost Girl of the Lake - Michael McCarty, Joe McKinney "Lost Girl of the Lake" is a well-written, dark coming of age tale.

Set in the summer of 1961 in the piney woods of Lake Livingston, Texas, Mark Gaitlin discovers something of his family's haunted past and has an experience that becomes the defining moment of his life.


5 STARS

Operator B

Operator B - Edward Lee I pretty much read "Operator B" in a single sitting. It was a good read!

The novella is a little out of line with what I have come to expect from Lee. It was sci-fi, not horror. And, it certainly wasn't splatter/gore or filled with deviant sex scenes, even though that was hinted at in the opening pages.

Very well done!


4 STARS

The Shell Collector

The Shell Collector - Christopher Golden This one was a disappointment on so many levels. "The Shell Collector" started off strong with great character development and a haunting scene on a boat where the protagonist first encounters the Shell Collector. The story just unravels from there.

The emotions in the tale fell flat, the conclusions drawn seemed to miss a logical connection somewhere and the ending pulled up way short.

I am a fan of the novella in the horror genre and feel that in a lot of cases the length of a novella better allows an author to convey ideas than would a short story or a full-length novel. This was not one of those times.

If Golden had tackled the last half of the novella with the same zeal he attacked the first half and had exploited the characters and the frightening scene he set up on the boat, this could have been a strong story. As it is, not so much.


2 STARS

I am Legend

I am Legend - Richard Matheson "I am Legend" is a horror classic. It is as timely today as it was when written 60 years ago. Then, it was fear that radiation from nuclear weapons would somehow result in mass extinction of the human species. Today, straight from the headlines, it is a virus unleashed from the jungles of Africa that induce fear of the same.

This really is a must read!


5 STARS

The War

The War - Michael McDowell "The War" is the fourth book of six in Michael McDowell's Southern Gothic saga "Blackwater".

This installment takes the Caskey family through WWII and sees several more changes to the composition of the extended family and the family's lumber business.

This one felt more emotional to me than the previous three books with a couple of harsher realities. I can't help but to feel that McDowell is building to some larger tragedy in the remaining two books.


5 STARS

CLOWN

CLOWN - Matt Shaw "Clown" is a twisted novella told from two distinct points of view. First, from the point of view of a down-on-his-luck clown, an entertainer of children. And second, from that very same clown's psychotic, child-killing alter ego. Frankly, those two don't really get along that well.


4 STARS

The Troop

The Troop - Nick Cutter "The Troop" is a very solidly written novel. The characters are well written. The storyline is engaging. The suspense that Cutter creates keeps you guessing until the page-turning ending.

While the story is complete, I can't help thinking that Nick Cutter may have something more in mind for this tale.


4 1/2 STARS

Dark Harvest

Dark Harvest - Norman Partridge All-in-all I really enjoyed "Dark Harvest". It was seasonal, a great Halloween read, and the story and the premise were creepy and certainly held my attention cover to cover.

But, (slight spoilers here!!!!) somehow I felt a little let down by the ending. I would like to have known more about the Harvester's Guild, their motivations, why the Boy was necessary, what curse was being held at bay, what rewards were reaped by those holding it at bay. I realize vague endings are a mechanism that many writers use to allow the readers' imaginations to write the rest of the tale. I just felt that there was way too much left out of this one that had it been from Partridge's imagination and not my own would have made the story that much better.


3 STARS