Category Archives: book reviews

Night on Bald Mountain: Musorgsky’s version vs. Rimsky-Korsakov’s

“I would agree. If you listen to  Musorgsky’s version here and then Rimsky-Korsakov’s, you can hear the difference in the rawness and power of Musorgsky versus the nuance and finer polish of Rimsky-Korsakov.” From Carolyn Sienkiewicz’ review of Stephen Walsh, Musorgsky and … Continue reading

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Cozy mysteries: The 90s Club and the Hidden Staircase, The 90s Club and the Whispering Statue, Eileen Haavik McIntire

  In The 90s Club and the Hidden Staircase long-retired detective Nancy Dickenson, now in her nineties, moves into Whisperwood Retirement Village in the wooded mountains of Central West Virginia. She hopes to leave behind fears associated with living alone in … Continue reading

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South American mysteries: Garcia-Marquez, Vargas Llosa, and Sabato: three great short novels

These three books will take you to Columbia, Peru, and Argentine. They’re all short enough for an afternoon’s read, great length for a three-to-five hour flight. Chronicle of a Death Foretold (1981) is on my list of all-time favorites. A reporter visits a small … Continue reading

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Re-reading Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Afraid my Kindle might run out of juice, I wanted a small book for backup for a recent flight and, because I wanted something light to carry, grabbed off my bookshelves the novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I’d read it at least three times over the … Continue reading

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Gainsay, meaning “to speak against,” a word encountered in Mary Roberts Rinehart’s 1914 mystery, The After House: when and why do we stop using words?

“I think that if she had chosen to say that I had wielded the murderer’s ax on the Ella, I should have gone to the gallows rather than gainsay her.”–from The After House. According to, most dictionaries consider “gainsay”–meaning “to … Continue reading

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Clothed but missing one shoe, criminal lawyer Jake Lassiter wakes in early morning on Miami Beach with a security guard standing over him. So begins Paul Levine’s novel, State vs. Lassiter (published Sept., 2013)

  The tide is lapping toward Jake, and a sand sweeper will run over him if he doesn’t get up from the beach. But the mouthy nature of our hero immediately asserts itself, although once awake enough to reflect, even he … Continue reading

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Ex-pats and natives mix it up intimately in a Dubai that is almost a character in Garry Craig Powell’s Stoning the Devil, a novel that in my opinion should be a NY Times notable, for the quality of its prose and the significance and timeliness of its portrait of women in the United Arab Emirates.

It shouldn’t be surprising when boys raised isolated from girls and taught they’re superior grow up to become adult sexual monsters (sometimes even unwilling monsters). What is surprising is how Garry Craig Powell gets under the skin, into the hearts and minds, of … Continue reading

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Fat Chance by R.J. Leahy: laughs and light mystery. A likeable, smart aleck NY detective gets stranded in a small New Mexico town and partners, sort of, with a crotchety Japanese-American widow there to visit her husband’s grave. Together they search for a missing special-needs local nicknamed “Fat Chance.”

I often read in bed, and Fat Chance passed the toothbrush test: that is, while brushing my teeth, I found myself looking forward to getting into bed with Fat Chance (the book, not the character). Half the books I buy don’t … Continue reading

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Double Indemnity: You’ve seen the movie but have you read the book?

I recently re-read Double Indemnity, originally published in 1935. It’s a gripping novella not to be missed, whether you’re 15 or 95. In a remarkable twist of morality, Cain has his readers rooting for an anti-hero who really doesn’t deserve the pathos we … Continue reading

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“Beasley can kiss my ass upside-down off a camel before I ‘yes sir’ him anymore.”–from Ron Cooper’s novel Purple Jesus

Upside-down off a camel? Excuse me? Or how about “God up a dog’s ass of a flooding.” You or I might have said, “Oh, my god, what a flooding.” If the way the characters in Purple Jesus talk and think isn’t fascinating enough, … Continue reading

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