Monthly Archives: April 2015

review of Smile Now, Cry Later by Paul MacDonald

SmileNowCryLater

★★★★★

reviewed by Cy Wyss

Smile Now, Cry Later is the first installment of works about Chuck Restic, a bored HR supervisor with a caustic wit and insight into the vagaries of big business. The series is not about big business per se, however, but rather about Restic’s transition into the world of private investigation. In this story, Restic simply breaks protocol by returning a missing employee’s belongings personally. What ensues entangles Restic in a web of organized crime (the Armenian mob) and big money real estate speculation, gets him involved with a sharp police detective, and has him realize he’s at least as good a negotiator as any police psychologist. He manages to talk himself out of (almost) all the tight spots.

I loved this book from start to finish. Restic’s police detective liason is believable and sympathetic, a woman underdog in a male dominated and chauvinist force. She makes a great foil for Restic’s easygoing, slightly self-effacing style. The prose is impeccably edited and MacDonald’s evocative descriptions bring LA to life. It’s all here — memorable characters, a gripping plot, and a quirky point-of-view character that works. The book at times seems too humorous to be noir, but I would put the wisecracking Restic with the great hard-boileds anyway. Looking forward to more!

review of Dead Scary by Sally Gould

DeadScary

★★★★★

reviewed by Cy Wyss

It’s always important when reviewing to consider a book’s aim, and this one is Middle Grade. In Dead Scary, Adam is a teenager with a special gift. Like Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas, Adam can see ghosts. Unlike Odd, however, Adam can talk to them too. Adam and his family receive a surprise inheritance and move into the house of their dreams. There’s just one problem for Adam, though: the house is already inhabited, by a morose ghost named Edward. Edward wants the family out and Adam knows that’s not going to happen. Edward is no ordinary ghost, he’s special to the Earthbound Spirits and so facing him off is difficult, resulting in lots of threats and follow-up action, including an impressively done conflict scene near the end of the book.

I found Dead scary easy to read, well-paced, and age appropriate. Its author is Australian so there are minor Aussie-isms, which I found odd as an American. Other than that, there’s nothing to take you out of the story. The book is impeccably edited with nary a typo or vocabulary mistake in sight, something I respect and love among book selections. You can’t go wrong with this fun story and if I was middle grade, I would rush out and get everything else by Sally Gould.

review of The Rimmer Tree by Paddy Kildarra

RimmerTree

★★★★★

reviewed by Cy Wyss

The Rimmer Tree is the story of Alan Cain, a mid-level government housing manager in a mid-sized town in England. He’s in many ways not entirely sympathetic, as the general dislike of him by almost every other character in the book evidences. Still, at this particularly difficult juncture of his life, he manages to find the strength to rise up and overcome the odds against him. These include a nasty divorce that is turning his kids away from him, a murder rap, and a fraud accusation. I found the book gently difficult in the beginning because of dialect issues (there are many British colloquialisms whereas I am American). On the other hand, if it weren’t for the dialect and hopping prose of Kildarra I might have missed such gems as one character’s face being compared to a “gargoyle suffering from constipation” or the one about an “ant’s pecker” and an “elephant’s arse.”

The book really takes off at 40% when Cain saves Rebecca from an unknown assailant in a parking garage. From that point on, it’s constant action and chase, which I love. The police are after Cain, the assailant is after Rebecca (and Cain), and everyone else is out for Cain’s blood too, which somehow Rebecca is not (gotta love her for that, she recognizes his self-deprecating moroseness for what it is, not for an antisocial psychopathy). Who are the bad guys? Everyone? Well, the plot is full of twists and turns but Kildarra pulls everything together by the end and unifies the cast at last. It’s a great ending after a great read. Don’t hesitate!

review of Jack by Ann Livi Andrews

Jack

★★★★☆

reviewed by Cy Wyss

Jack is the origin story of superheroes Jack and his twin brother Jesse. The book is also part of the serial “Rehab for Superheroes,” about aging superheroes created by “relics” and a government agent, Michael, who is trying to find the relics, ostensibly for research but in actuality probably for unsavory reasons of his own. In this installment, Jack and Quinn get away from Michael with help from erstwhile super-villain Jesse (Jack’s twin brother).

Like the other volumes in the series, this one is short. The pace is fast and the book is over before you know it. I found the beginning disorienting since I haven’t read the other volumes in the series. Probably this should not be marketed as a stand-alone novel but as an installment in the larger work. Nonetheless, the enigmatic Quinn and steadfast Jack are compelling characters in their own right and this book gives a glimpse into their relationship at a turning point. It’s a good, if quick, read and the fact that it contains the origin story for Jack and Jesse is a bonus.

review of In the Victim’s Shadow by Victoria Schwimley

VictimsShadow

★★★★☆

reviewed by Cy Wyss

In the Victim’s Shadow turns out to be more on the romantic side of romantic suspense which is not my favorite genre. In spite of this, Schwimley managed to keep me reading until the end, no small feat considering the book weighs in at over 400 pages. It is the story of Katherine, a beautiful and wealthy lawyer living in the penthouse of a tower downtown San Francisco. Through the book, she reaches many milestones in her life, but she is always under threat from Chad Simon, the son of the man who killed her mother. Chad feels his childhood was robbed by Katherine and her father, suffice it to say Chad is disturbed. The book has a ton of fairly shallow subplots which add to the length. Most involve memorable characters, such as Beth, the single-mother assistant with the unsavory ex-con for a boyfriend.

My biggest complaint with the book is it could have been appreciably shorter, by a third to half I’d say. The web of subplots is largely unnecessary, save for one or two for illustration. On the other hand, if you’re a fan of the genre, the length of the book might be a bonus. Where I saw many scenes of unnecessary and mundane acts, like petting the cat, taking a bath, making breakfast, on the other hand a fan of romantic suspense might see sequences of deepening into the character’s interesting lives. Another qualm I had is head-hopping. From one paragraph to the next it is not certain what point-of-view will be used. To be honest, though, the effect wasn’t that unpleasant or unsettling. Finally, my biggest potential pet peeve was unrealized: the editing (apart from length) is impeccable. There are almost no niggling errors in the typography or vocabulary to pop you out of the story. Thus, readability combined with what I suspect is a good conformation to the genre render this a four-star read. If you’re a fan of romantic suspense heavy on the romance, don’t hesitate.