Tag Archives: infidelity

The Blood Red Indian Summer by David Handler

David Handler has written a series of mysteries featuring the investigative duo Berger and Mitry. The Blood Red Indian Summer is Book #8.

Des Mitry has a lot on her plate. She’s worried about her dad who is residing with her while he recovers from open heart surgery. The recuperation was successful, but her tough as nails father, assistant detective of the local police department, has lost his mojo.

Now she has to deal with a football legend who has moved into the New England village of Dorset along with the newscasters and paparazzi waiting for the NFL Champion Linebacker to mess up. As a Connecticut State Trooper, it’s her job to keep the peace and placate the neighbor who doesn’t like the noise and confusion of the new family next door, especially since they’re black.

Checking up on the complaints, Des is welcomed into Tyrone “Da Beast” Grantham’s home and introduced to the extended family who lives there – including his brother, cousin, mother, pregnant wife, sister in law, and father in law. All Tyrone wants is some peace and quiet while he waits out his one year NFL suspension resulting from the negative publicity following a questionable altercation with a charlatan hoping for a nice settlement.

Grantham is very gracious, but watch out if he loses his temper and changes into a beast with the temperament of the Incredible Hulk.

Complicating matters in Des’ life is the arrival of her boyfriend’s parents. She expects a problem since she isn’t white or Jewish like her significant other. Yet she and Mitch Berger get along so well together, in spite of his obsession with movie trivia. Plus Mitch helps her figure out the truth behind the various crimes she investigates. A series of incidents point to Da Beast as the guilty party, and even his own family thinks him capable of murder, but Des needs proof before she can make an arrest.

There’s a lot going on with numerous plots and subplots thrown into the mix making it difficult to keep the various characters straight. The murder happens late in the book, almost as an after thought, and the resolution is abrupt and disturbing. However, Des and Mitch are interesting characters who capture our interest and their eccentric parents add a nice touch despite the tendency for the author to stereotype his characters.

Ultimately, an excess of miscellanea along with a flawed plot distracts the reader and keeps this book from becoming a top notch mystery. Three stars is generous.

The Little Red Chairs by Edna O’Brien

The devastation of war leaves behind many victims consigned to clean up the mess that was once their life. Homeless, both literally and figuratively, they huddle together as refugees in their new countries trying to come to terms with an altered sense of self, brushing aside those clinging memories which must be left in the past if they are to survive in the future.

The title The Little Red Chairs by Edna O’Brien refers to the 11,541 red chairs placed in the center of the capital of Bosnia in 2012, representing each person who died during the 1992-1995 Siege of Sarajevo, small chairs (643) indicating the life of a child. Such a visualization can’t help but move the reader before a single page is even turned. O’Brien’s intent is to haunt us as the story unfolds.

A charismatic stranger, Dr Vladimir Dragan, enters a small town in Ireland, intriguing the locals as he worms his way into the community, setting up shop as an alternative healer. Using his knowledgable background, he mesmerizes the townspeople, gaining their trust, even taking their children out to the countryside to teach them about the natural habitat. Vlad’s expertise in literature and poetry endears him to the members of the book club, gaining him further acceptance. One lonely woman, Fidelma, in a frigid marriage to an older man, desperately wants a child and convinces Vlad to oblige her desires. He reluctantly agrees and during their brief affair he also introduces her to the romance she craves. Verifying her condition, she is left wondering how to explain her predicament to her husband when her lover, afraid of discovery, disappears. Several weeks pass and he reappears, rumpled and mangy, for a previously arranged poetry outing. On the bus filled with townspeople, he is arrested as a master war criminal to the horror of the entire village, but especially to the pregnant Fidelma. Vlad has been on the run for almost twenty years avoiding an arrest for the atrocities he ordered during the Bosnian War, especially during the Siege of Sarajevo. Responsible for the death of thousands in an attempt at ethnic cleansing to remove all the Muslims in Yugoslavia, this man is hated the world over.

Realizing she is carrying this monster’s child, Fidelma wonders how to rid herself of this affliction, but matters are taken out of her hands when she is kidnapped and brutalized for revenge by Vlad’s bodyguards who are livid that they couldn’t claim the huge reward for their former boss’s capture. Just barely escaping death, Fidelma is rejected by her husband and seeks refuge from the nuns at the nearby convent who help her escape to London where she becomes one of the homeless and disenfranchised.

Now a refugee from her own homeland where she no longer feels welcome she must find a new life which includes meeting and hearing the stories of others who also have heartbreaking tales to confess, a string of seemingly unrelated anecdotes sharing a common bond of crimes against humanity. Fidelma meanders through various jobs drifting from one location to another, finally seeing closure by going to The Hague to attend Vlad’s trial and confront her former lover who is unable to admit any responsibility for his actions. Hearing his blame game, she must accept her own guilt in this matter so she can move forward. In a way, she is another war victim of this man. Eventually Fidelma finds some sort of peace with the help of her “new kin”.

Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of this story which is full of literary references and an underlying message. There are many parallels with the author’s life. Edna O’Brien was a poet from a young age who felt a deep connection to literature and ran off with a writer to spite her parents and escape their disapproval, just as Fidelma left her parents to find a better life with an older, wealthier husband. O’Brien, who focuses on the truth, refusing to sugar coat her findings, has habitually found her books banned in Ireland due to the power and control of a church which prefers to deny the foibles of the average man prone to sin. O’Brien believes literature provides a means of escape and uses literary illusions as a parallel to Fidelma’s hardships, with references to classics such as Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse, The Heart of Darkness by William Conrad, The Aeneid by Virgil, and A Midsummer’s Night Dream by William Shakespeare. Including subtle underlying caveats, such as the name Fidelmas which means faithfulness and Vud (Vlad’s nickname) which means wolf, O’Brien’s true genius is in her vignettes revealing that each person has a tale to tell, no matter how reluctant the storyteller.

Carefully researched to bring an authenticity to her writing, O’Brien even attended the trial at The Hague of Radovan Karadzic, the true villain behind the ethnic cleansing in the Bosnian War who received a sentence of forty years about a year ago.

This seemingly straightforward book leaves the reader with more questions than answers. While I would have preferred a bit more expository transitions between events, The Little Red Chairs is a poignant narrative reminding us of the evil which still exists in our world manifested, but all too often ignored, in the mantra “Never Forget”.

Four stars.

This review also appears on Goodreads.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Calamity! Yes, it’s one calamity after another in the small seaside resort area in Pirriwee, Australia when Madeline sprains her ankle on her way to kindergarten orientation with her precocious daughter Chloe. New resident Jane with her son Ziggy assists the injured woman as they both drop their children off to meet the prospective teacher. Madeline and Jane end up on the beach at the Blues Blue coffee shop where Celeste, the mother of twins, joins them to help the injured party celebrate her birthday. The gift of champagne and flutes are perfect, despite the early hour, because Madeline is now f-o-r-t-y. The party atmosphere continues as they go to pick up their darlings until little Amabelle accuses Ziggy of choking her. Despite the tot’s denial, the parents end up sorting themselves into team Renata (Amabelle’s mum) vs Team Madeline. Amidst the conflict and resulting bedlam, the families deal with the normal chaos of raising children. While behind the scenes each couple has secrets which are slowly revealed, it is the flamboyant, gutsy Madeline who meets life head on, guiding her friends through their individual crisis. She even tries to be “civil” to her ex husband and new wife who also have a daughter attending the same kindergarten program, (although on PMS days, her behavior might not be “quite polite” towards those who have slighted her or her friends).

As the story progresses, bad behaviors escalate until the climax on Trivia Night, a costumed fundraising competition, where an altercation and death occurs. The event is alluded to via short vignettes placed at the beginning or end of a chapter, with various participants giving their take on exactly what happened through the questioning by Investigating Officer Quinlan. The reader is left trying to sort fact from fiction and figure out exactly who the victim might be.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty is an amusing, witty romp dealing with societal pressures, spousal abuse, infidelity, love and loss, bullying, blended families, teen angst, working mothers, and fragile egos. Who knew a story about a class of kindergarteners could be so much fun!

Five stars for a “can’t stop reading” book. (For a real treat listen to the CD expertly read by Caroline Lee who makes each character your personal friend or enemy). We will have to wait and see if the upcoming version on HBO retains the flavor of the original novel when the locale is moved from Australia to California.

This review also appears on Goodreads.

A Promise of More by Bronwen Evans (The Disgraced Lord Series, Book 2)

As a child, Lord Sebastian Hawkestone, Marquis of Coldstone witnessed both his mother and father try to outdo each other’s infidelities in retaliation for perceived hurts, supposedly as a response to the heartache from their all-consuming love. After his parents’ death, Sebastian was left the guardian of his two younger sisters, Marisa and Helen, raised by their capable Aunt Alison. As a defense mechanism, the Marquis pledged to never get personally involved with any woman, even refusing to take a mistress. Despite his repulsion of love, Sebastian still was obligated to get married and start a family, so when Lady Beatrice Hennessey confronted him about the damage he had done to her family after the dueling death of her brother, Douglas Hennessey, the Baron of Larkwell, he decided that she was an adequate choice. Her plain looks wouldn’t tempt him, and after she was with child he could leave her at his country estate and continue his rakish ways. Plus marriage would give him the respectability necessary to launch his sisters into society.

Unfortunately, Sebastian’s plans fall by the wayside when the newly weds discover there was a plot to discredit and destroy the Libertine Scholars and that Doogie’s death was really a murder used to besmirch Lord Coldstone’s good name. Beatrice was horrified for guilting the Marquis into marriage, but he felt she was just another victim in this evil plot of revenge. Together they try to discover what really happened that fateful day and the more they work as a team, the more Sebastian recognizes her outward beauty and inner integrity. What started as a marriage of convenience becomes much more than he had planned. She, too, feels an attraction to her handsome husband who tenderly teaches her the intricacies of lovemaking and awakens her passionate side. Who knew that Henpecked Hennessy would have such a depth of character.

In A Promise of More (Book Two in The Disgraced Lord Series) by Bronwen Evans, we once again meet the six comrades of the Libertine Scholars (minus one who is off in Egypt rescuing the kidnapped daughter he has pledged to protect, the subject of Book Three, A Touch of Passion). On the sidelines is Christian Trent, Earl of Markham and his wife Sabrina whose story is found in A Kiss of Lies, (Book One). Both are in hiding to prevent the enemy from discovering they are still alive after an almost successful murder attempt. Some additional clues concerning the overarching mystery binding the series together are revealed.

While I was looking forward to reading Sebastian’s story since he was so likeable in the previous book, I was disappointed by his behaviors towards Beatrice. Instead of being understanding, he treats her with disdain and threats any time she crosses him or behaves contrary to his wishes. He would often abandon her in search of someone else, behaving like a bastard, even though he eventually returns home realizing it is his wife he truly desires. Beatrice wasn’t a blameless spouse as she kept a big part of her life a secret, although I couldn’t blame her for not wanting to share her news with such an inconsistent husband. Neither inspired the trust which they both sought.

A major problem, as in the first book, was the repetition of thoughts and even actions as each of the protagonists continue their bad behaviors and agonize over their situations including a wife searching for true love and a husband avoiding any semblance of emotional commitment, doing his best to ignore his wedding vows. Sebastian could see the love sick look in his wife’s eyes, a condition which usually sent him running to the next lover. Beatrice wanted to seduce Sebastian into loving her, but often earned her reputation as “Henpecked” Hennessey by berating him. He in turn got angry and viciously lashed out, hurting them both. This made it difficult to root for the couple. The sex, however, was steamy. Sebastian certainly earned his reputation as an accomplished lover. The villains, Lord Dunmire and Lady Christina, were truly evil, with actions totally motivated by self gratification, to the point of insanity.

While I liked Book Two in the Disgraced Lord Series better than the initial book, the promise shown in the first half was marred by aspects which dragged, especially the repetitive introspective flow of thoughts which resulted in a sappy love story instead of a romance. With some more even pacing and editing, this would have been a tighter, more enjoyable read. Once again, a little research into the terminology and life style of the Regency Period would have been appreciated.

Three stars.