Shaking Off Summer’s Dust: a few book reviews

I’ve taken a leaf out of others’ books, as it were and spent a chunk of this summer reading. I thought I’d share with you some of the books into which I’ve delved, just in case you have them in your TBR or, more to the point perhaps, wonder if they should be there.

The Fair and the Foul by Allie Potts

 The Blurb: Juliane Faris is a brilliant programmer determined to change the world through scientific and technical advancement. Blinded by ambition, she will do whatever it takes to secure her legacy including agreeing to participate in an experimental procedure. The procedure grants her unprecedented knowledge and cellular control over her body but threatens everything she holds dear including her sanity. When others undergo the same modifications it becomes apparent that not everyone can afford the price that this technology demands

Juliane has a supercomputer for a brain and she isn’t afraid to use it. Perhaps she should be.

Set in the not too distant future, The Fair & Foul is earth-based science fiction dealing with the next era of human evolution. The line between humanity and technology is blurring, and what seems like magic is only a scientific discovery away.

I enjoy sci-fi if it passes two tests: first, the sci piece must be sufficiently believable to grip my attention and, second, it must have more to it than clever science. TFATF passes. We follow the story of Julianne as she strives for the kind of recognition her talent deserves. In a triangle of minds, she variously allies herself with and then competes against Alan and Louis in a helter-skelter career that would become the vehicle for the kind of public recognition she craves if only she would look up, step back and realise that being manipulated can work two ways. She is a compelling creation by the author leaving us frustrated as she fails to make the most of what she has yet never gives up. In her two (male) adversaries, she has differing types of opponent who understand that they need her more than she them and are fortunate that she fails to see that truth until late on. Wrapped around this tale of defeated ambition, is a fascinating piece of world building, imagining a future when the internet is accessed from within rather than without. It is the science that keeps the reader on track and gives Julianne her focus time and again. If I had a criticism it is that the cavalier approach to human testing of new technologies displayed here seems to be something the world experienced in the 1960s and which has gradually eroded with health & safety rules; I doubt in a  near future there would be the appetite to self-inject untried products as there seems to be amongst the geniuses at work here.

The Frank Rozzani Detective Series by Don Massenzio:

Book One, Frankly Speaking 

Book Two, Let Me Be Frank 

and Book Three, Frank Incensed

 The Blurbs:

One, A 16 year old girl has disappeared. The police believe she is a runaway. Her parents believe she has been taken and is being held against her will. When the parents enlist the services of Frank Rozzani, a former police officer turned private detective, a series of events begins to unfold that implicates a popular local pastor and the religious stronghold of the ultra-conservative community.

Frank Rozzani, a transplant to Jacksonville, Florida from Syracuse, New York, must find the young girl despite the obstacles launched at him from the local police and others whose interests may be compromised by his investigation. Frank enlists the help of his associate Clifford “Jonesy” Jones to find the girl, uncover the conspiracy, and stay alive. While solving the case, Frank must deal with the demons that drove him from Upstate New York causing him to leave traumatic memories and his children behind.

Two, A young girl is senselessly murdered. The police believe the murder to be a random homeless casualty until it is discovered that she has ties to Fat Sam and his mysterious past life in The Big Easy.
Join private detective Frank Rozzani, and Clifford “Jonesy” Jones as they travel to historic New Orleans and other areas in the Gulf Coast to search for clues in the girl’s trek to Jacksonville, Florida that will help them uncover evidence implicating those responsible for the murder so they can be brought to justice. They soon discover that things are not as they seem. As the case progresses, the evidence uncovered has ties to the tragic events that drove Frank from his life in Syracuse, New York. Frank realizes that proceeding with the case could change his life, as well as the lives of those around him, forever.

And Three, The stakes are high as Private Detective Frank Rozzani races against time to save the love of his life. Will Frank rescue her from the terrible man in the trench coat or will this man end the life of yet another person that Frank is close to? Find out who survives in the new Frank Rozzani Detective Mystery – Frank Incensed.

This series, comprising three books contains two standalone detective stories and an over-aching story that runs throughout and while explores how the hero, Frank Rozzani ended up in small town Jacksonville in Florida and how he comes to confront the demons of his past. When we enter the story Frank is living in a trailer with a rescue dog, Lucy and getting by with help of his friends Jonesy, the legal eagle surfer, Anita Velasquez the police officer and Fat Sam the bar owner who gave Frank his much needed break when he washed up on the beach having left everything he had in Syracuse. Book one focuses on the intriguing machinations of an evangelical Church and whether its charismatic leader is the sleaze-ball he seems to be – while that story gathers pace we are fed tidbits from Frank’s past, just enough to intrigue but not too much to distract from what a good private dick book should do which is move along at pace. By book two, Frank’s life is established as are his frustrations with his inability to deal with the ghosts from New York. The main thrust of the book is Fat Sam and his own need to address his past. Increasingly the tentacles from up north, the mafia connections that Frank has sought to avoid begin to crowd in. And then there is Frank’s new relationship to consider, a love interest he fights for intriguing reasons – you’ll need to read the books to find out – but gradually he begins to lose the battle. And that’s where we step into book 3 and the unravelling of his present as the past hurtles in. Book three begins fast and gets faster. Someone surely is going to suffer, someone has to pay and there are many possibilities as the action moves across country. And just when you think the action is over we have another intrigue which has been bubbling away, but which comes front and centre. It is of a different kind at a different pace but it takes hold of the imagination and we need to know how it unfolds.

Don is a story teller of no little skill. He manages to avoid any of the traps of a trilogy – the soggy middle, the weighty dispositions of back story – by involving us in two crafty and thoughtful standalone mysteries and builds up the tension to the main event so that, in the end, putting the book down just isn’t an option – it isn’t often I stay seated on a plane when everyone else has got off just to read more. If you enjoy a detective with a chequered past and a colourful present with well-developed sidekicks to match then give this three book deal a go – I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

The Vanishing Lord by Lucy Brazier

 The Blurb: There’s nothing quite so annoying as having the police arrive when you are trying to cover up a crime that may or may not have happened.

Lord Bernard has died unexpectedly. Is Deputy Head Porter being framed? Head Porter just wants to be kept out of the picture.

In this fast-paced whimsical British romp, a priceless work of art – the portrait of Old College founding father Lord Arthur Layton – has gone missing and with the death of Lord Bernard, the Master of arch rivals Hawkins College, there is nothing for it but for our heroine to don her trusty bowler hat and embark upon another eccentric investigation.

In this sequel to the debut PorterGirl novel, First Lady of The Keys, Old College’s first and only female Porter must find the portrait or it will be her that is flat on the canvas and framed like a kipper.
Tenacious detectives, ill-advised disguises, saucy medieval literature and Russian spies conspire to confuse matters further in this entertaining escapade. 

Ok so I’m a sucker for a book that aims to make me laugh – as long as it makes me laugh. I was pretty sure The Vanishing Lord would succeed as I had already enjoyed our first introduction to Portergirl. Here we have the same core cast of characters – Deputy Head Porter herself, alongside Porter and Head Porter and the Dean supplemented by a range of others including Chief Inspector Thompson and DS Kirby, and Hugh of the Unlikely Law Association, with his stunning forearms and chunky thighs. And in the centre of them all, Lord Layton who has gone missing.

The novel takes up through all the back passages of Old College and its twisted history, into dusty corners and through secret doors as intrigue is layered on intrigue. Every time we enter another ancient room or confront another bizarre tradition I’m taken back to Porterhouse Blue, the genius Tom Sharpe novel of years ago. I laughed then and I laughed now. Like all the best comic novels the humour is part of the story, it’s part of the engine that drives the action and it slips into the pages like clockwork. Not for this writer the distraction of a funny scene that doesn’t also punch its weight in carrying the story forward. It takes work and discipline to let the humour come through while ensuring the story does not sag and this achieves its goal. Try it and you’ll not regret it.

Last Seen by Lucy Clarke

 Seven years ago, two boys went missing at sea – and only one was brought to shore. The Sandbank, a remote stretch of coast dotted with beach huts, was scarred forever.

Sarah’s son survived, but on the anniversary of the accident, he disappears without trace. As new secrets begin to surface, The Sandbank hums with tension and unanswered questions. Sarah’s search grows more desperate and she starts to mistrust everyone she knows – and she’s right to.

Someone saw everything on that fateful day seven years ago. And they’ll do anything to keep the truth buried.

I still shudder at this. The premise – a community living in a set of isolated beach huts from which a young man goes missing – is claustrophobic enough. But what gnawed away at me is the realism in the parents’ dilemma. The missing lad is 17, he’s argued with his mother and his girlfriend. Why should it be anything other than a young man needing to get his head straight? Yet as a parent you know you’d instantly worry, whatever anyone else says to try and rationalise what has happened. And as time passes and the questions mount and previously well-meaning platitudes are shown to have been excuses for doing nothing the agonies of what might have been if more energy had been invested up front begin to play tricks on everyone and undermine the tight knit relationships of this oddball and intriguing community.

The story is told from two perspectives: in the present from the point of view of the mother and, bringing us the back story, from the point of view of the best friend whose son drowned seven years before. This is a psychological thriller with many twists and like the best of its ilk, it has you speculating on what really happened on that day those years before and why the two friends are as estranged as they have become. I found this unsettling and compelling in equal parts. If you have teenage children and they are being arses, hug them before you read this; but do read this.

The AdderStane by Avalina Kreska

Something is unearthed that should have stayed buried…

When a retired schoolteacher visits the remote island of Fetlar, in the Shetland Islands, she becomes obsessed with the mystery of a local man who went missing in 1965. While the island is plagued with strange events, she uncovers more than she bargained for. What is the true meaning of The AdderStane Prophecy? Who are The Papar, and why are they linked to Fetlar?

 This was a different kind of book, a wonderful mystery in the mould of the Wicker Man; we are enveloped in another tight-knit and intense community, this time on Fetlar a small island which is part of Shetland. The story follows Fruma, a retired teacher who is holidaying on the island and in need of some time to come to terms with where she is in her life. Soon though strange things begin to happen, both generally and to Fruma in particular. Something untoward is going on, what are the mysteries of Papil Water and what is the Black Water that has suddenly appeared? And how does this tie into a missing man who went missing years before? Her dreams become vivid and invested with numbers and recurrent images which mean nothing to her at first. But gradually, with the help of the local vicar Fruma begins to see her connections are more deeply embedded in this island than she could have possibly anticipated and all point to the Adderstane, a prophecy that apparently is meaningless but is, of course, anything but.

This is an intense read, one that has you checking back to make sure you haven’t missed something important. It breaks several ‘rules’ in its storytelling that might not suit everyone but add to the overall sense that this is really happening and not just a story, if only we had the whit and imagination to hear what these ancient rocks might tell us. In a way it is hard to say I ‘enjoyed’ this book in a traditional sense because that would suggest that when I finished it I stopped wondering about it. You really do want to believe the truth behind it, the stories that are hidden in folklore and fairy stories. If you like something a bit different then this might well be for you.

So there you have it; a few books to consider. I’ve had a fun old time away from my laptop, away from my writing but maybe it’s time to get back to it.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published three anthologies of short stories and a memoir of my mother. More will appear soon. I will try and continue to blog regularly at about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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13 Responses to Shaking Off Summer’s Dust: a few book reviews

  1. Mary Smith says:

    I enjoyed Lucy’s first book so I’ll definitely be reading this. I also loved Tom Sharpe’s Porterhouse Blue (and all his other books). You’ve reviewed quite a few I’ll add to my tbr pile.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ritu says:

    Some interesting reads there His Geoffleship !

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A real mixed bag there Geoff, but they all sound a good read! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Some fantastic books here, Geoff. I really enjoy Don’s writing so those are definitely on my list.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I was wondering what had become of you – reading wasn’t my first thought! Thanks for the great list and clear reviews, there are a couple or three I’ve added to the never ending list 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. willowdot21 says:

    Thanks Geoff food for thought

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Geoff, Thanks so much for the kind reviews. I’m honored to be in the company of Avelina, Allie Lucy and Lucy.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Reblogged this on Author Don Massenzio and commented:
    I’m honored to have my first three Frank Rozzani books reviewed by Geoff Lepard on this post from his blog.


  9. Allie P. says:

    Wow, I am very honored to be included this list. I am intrigued in particular by Last Seen and will be adding a few of these to my TBR list (here’s hoping it doesn’t break).

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Hi Geoff! Just spotted your review of my book, thank-you, would you be kind enough to post this as review on Amazon or Goodreads? If not, could I post this on my website? Thanks for reading it Geoff, I’m off social media but occasionally pop in and see what folk are up to. Currently writing a sequel which might help with your ‘wondering’… Best Wishes, Avalina

    Liked by 1 person

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