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Book Review – Deadly Departed

Deadly Departed Sometimes Life after Death can be a Killer!

Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Author: Tom Ryan
Format: Kindle

The newly appointed constable of Port Isle was understandably anxious as he approached the lumber mill.  After all, this was his first death investigation.  As he and the mill supervisor walked into the expansive and dangerous lumber yard, the supervisor explained his shock and dismay at the gruesome accidental death of a young female office worker crushed under a stacked log pile that had given way.  In an attempt to uncover and positively identify the body, the constable finds evidence clearly showing that the log pile did not give way by accident and that the tragic death was in fact murder.  While the mystery of who committed such a crime plagued the constable, and even more and perhaps greater mystery filled his mind –how was it that one could be murdered in the land of those already dead?

Tom Ryan’s “Deadly Departed” is definitely not your run of the mill (pun intended!) murder mystery and that is its strength.  If you can imagine a cross between David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks” and Tim Burton’s “Beetlejuice” then you might be somewhere in the ballpark of what “Deadly Departed” is like.  “Departed” is an imaginative and clever romp into a unique “purgatory-esque” afterlife.  Ryan creates such a unique and at times bizarre world that it is almost impossible to guess how the plot will resolve and unfold.  None-the-less, it all works resulting in a very entertaining read.

Ryan’s writing is spot on – good pace, great descriptions, impressive world building, engaging characters and fun turns of phrase.  I have no idea if Ryan intends this to be a series, but with a world so unique one could see how this could really blossom into a multi-novel offering.  If you like standard fare and mainstream reads, this may not be for you.  If however, you enjoy something very different that will likely be something you remember for quite some time to come, you won’t be disappointed in “Deadly Departed.”

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Book Review – Salted Away

Salted Away – Espionage, Murder, and Mystery on the Exotic Island of Cyprus

Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Author: Gina Drew
Format: Kindle, Paperback

When a Russian Orthodox priest from northern Europe is found dead in a monastery on the island of Cyprus, Greek Chief of Cypriot police Takis Koniotis is called in to investigate the murder.  Across the green line, or buffer zone, separating the Greek and Turkish sides of Cyprus, Safa Ziya, the Turkish Cypriot police senior investigator, is brought in to investigate a similar murder; both victims foreigners and found stabbed multiple times.  However, neither investigator is aware of the other’s research given the physical, political and cultural barriers that separate the two.  As bodies being to pile up on both sides of the island, Koniotis and Ziya’s lives intersect, the only question is will they work past their historical cultural differences to cooperate or search in vein for the killer – a killer who can manipulate them both.

Gina Drew’s  “Salted Away” is an intriguing and engaging well paced read that looks at the world of espionage and what happens to those involved years after end of the cold war.  Drew leverages her experience as a foreign service officer investigating international crime and espionage to create a complex and believable set of characters.  Who to trust?  What are their motivations? And how does one ensure they are not “retired with prejudice”?  I especially enjoyed how Drew wove in the political and cultural history of Cyprus and its ongoing conflict through her marvelous descriptions of the island, its iconic architecture, and the influence of British colonialism, Greek and Turkish cultures and UN oversight.

“Salted Away” is the second in Drew’s Koniotis Mysteris Series of six books.  Having not read book one, I can say that it in no one detracted from my enjoyment of this second installment as it stands on its own.  Quite the contrary in fact, I look forward to reading more of the series.  Fans of international espionage and political intrigue are sure to enjoy Salted Away.

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Book Review – Sudden Death

Sudden Death – “Tee Anyone?”

Rating: 4 of 5

Author: Michael Balkind
Available: Paperback, Kindle

Reid Clark is at the top of his game.After fulfilling his lifelong dream of wining the Masters Tournament in Augusta Georgia, he lands a huge multi-million dollar product endorsement deal.But everything is not quite right for Reid.Having led a fairly carefree yet successful life, Reid is prone to temper tantrums which has lead the media to coin him as golf’s “Bad Boy”, and while Reid supports philanthropic endeavors, not everyone is as happy with Reid as he is with himself.Players on the tour resent his success and frequent arrogance, ex-girlfriends are legion as he is just as much a “player” off the green as on, and ex-caddies and business associates are frustrated with his juvenile outbursts.

Its no surprise Reid receives a death threat.The rules for staying alive – never win another golf tournament.Impossible for Reid.The threats do, however, cause him to take stock of his life and attitudes.He sets out to spend more time with his family, appreciate those around him, and perhaps even find the girl of his dreams.But it’s hard to turn around your life on a dime, and Reid finds himself frequently agitated by the press and those hired to protect him.

Will Reid back off and retire from golf while at the top of his game?Or will he risk everything and take on the thugs threatening him?

I enjoyed “Sudden Death”.Michael Balkind takes you into the clubhouse, the mind, and the life of a professional golfer – the stress, the deals, the parties, the game, the fans, the agents, you name it.

My one issue is that I found it hard to connect with and like Reid Clark.Though he tries to re-evaluate his life after receiving multiple threats, connecting with family and his budding relationship are all centered around buying them high priced gifts and taking them on shopping sprees.There’s no real emotional connection.This is certainly consistent with his persona, but does make it difficult to really route for him as the novel’s main character.

None-the-less, “Sudden Death” is a very enjoyable read.If you like golf and a good mystery, “Sudden Death” is for you!

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Book Review – Soul Identity

Soul Identity – The “Eyes” Have It

Rating: 4 of 5

Author: Dennis Batchelder
Available: Paperback, Kindle

As the old saying goes, “The Eyes are the window to the Soul”.In Dennis Batchelder’s Soul Identity, this is more than a figure of speech.Rather, it is the premise behind a twenty-six hundred year old organization tasked with finding, recording, and managing their clients’ soul lines.Similar to a finger print, a persons eyes, specifically their iris patterns is unique – at least while they are alive.At some future point after their death, their iris pattern may repeat in a new body.It is this unique pattern that identifies that this new body carries the same soul line as the previous body.

But in the present day, the organization – aptly named “Soul Identity” – is finding it harder and harder to match soul lines – especially the company overseer souls – even though technology has made it easier to capture, read, catalogue and compare iris patterns.Could it be this same technology is actually preventing this company from its mission?Is someone using this technology against them?

In comes Scott Waverly, a security and technology expert hired to find the answers and save “Soul Identity” and its millions of soul lines from disappearing forever.Though skeptical of the company’s claims, Waverly quickly finds himself in the middle of a philosophical, technological, and life threatening affair which has him jet setting around the world to save the company as well as his life.

In his debut novel, Dennis Batchelder has created a fast paced barnstormer similar to the likes of Lincoln Child in novels such as “Death Match” and “Utopia”.Though taking on the questions of immortality through the possible reincarnation of souls, Batchelder, similar to his fictional “Soul Identity” overseer Archibald Morgan, does not delve too deeply into the philosophical and spiritual implications of this “technology”.Rather, the novel relies on the wonderfully written dialogue and suspenseful situations the protagonists must overcome to solve the mystery behind who is trying to destroy “Soul Identity” and why.

This novel is a very engaging read and I would encourage anyone who enjoys novels such as those written by Lincoln Child, to consider purchasing Soul Identity – you are sure to enjoy it.The book ends with a few teaser preview chapters from the sequel which looks equally good if not better.I, for one, am anxiously awaiting the release of Batchelder’s next book.

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Book Review – The Starfish People

The Starfish People – A Bittersweet Exceptional Debut Novel

Rating: 5 of 5 – TMBOA recommended book!!

Author: Leann Marshall
Available: Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle

After years of being haunted by a recurring nightmare where she is drowning, Sera Muir’s life is an empty shell.The nightmare is unrelenting and repeated therapy has proven to be unsuccessful.Sera moves through life without meaning, unable to hold anything more than a menial job.Her one promising relationship for love and happiness is doomed due to her water phobia caused by her all consuming dream.

Sera is convinced by Dr. Moore, her therapist, that perhaps her dream is not a dream but rather a memory- a memory of a drowning in a previous life.In the year 2202, science has advanced such that one has the ability to trace their life energy signature back in time.Dr. Moore identifies Sera’s past life signature in a woman named Melissa James.Through research, they discover that Melissa dies in a drowning accident which is the likely cause of Sera’s nightmare.An experimental procedure, Kinetic Regression Travel, may allow Sera to return back in time to witness what happens to Melissa so that she can finally break free of the hold this nightmare has on her.

However, for her journey to be successful, Sera must be extremely careful to only observe events of the past and not interfere with them or the result may be catastrophic.Desperate for finding meaning and searching for a way forward, Sera agrees.Ironically, after traveling back to 1973, for perhaps the first time in her life, Sera is anything but an observer.In fact, in a period of only a couple of days, Sera connects so deeply with those she meets, she begins to finally live life.The ultimate choice she makes and its impact transforms herself and those around her.

The Starfish People by Leann Marshall is a beautifully written novel.The characters are marvelously developed and lovingly conveyed to the reader as if paying tribute to their tragic lives.I was moved by each of them and haunted by the bittersweet ending.Marshall’s insights into the human condition are thoughtfully written.One of my favorite quotes comes from Willie:

“Maybe you understand why somebody is the way they is, and maybe you don’t understand them at all.But folks all got their own ways about them – good and bad.And that’s all there is to it in this life, you know.We all just trying to find our way.”

It is only through her past, that Sera finds her way.

Not only did I enjoy reading this novel, but I found myself frequently thinking about it’s characters, themes, and what might have been, making it clear to me why this novel was awarded a 2008 IPPY Silver Medal.This is an extremely good debut novel and Marshall proves she is a very capable author.

I suppose my one complaint would be that I longed for more.The novel is a brief 138 pages and I know that I could have spent even more time in Marshall’s world.If you like novels from Oprah’s book club, put this one on your shelf.You will grow and care about the characters more than those in The House of Sand and Fog and the outcome will be more satisfying than Drowning Ruth.I anxiously await the release of Leann Marshall’s next offering.

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