Jason dinAlt Goes Interdimensional

Sword of the Bright Lady (WORLD OF PRIME Book 1) by M.C. Planck

The character of Christopher Sinclair, mechanical engineer from Arizona, dropped into a world where magic works and rank is the most important aspect of society, is fascinating. He’s blunt, often clueless, and yet very intelligent and a determined personality. He reminds me of Jason dinAlt, if Jason didn’t know anything about subterfuge or manipulation. And Christopher’s current world is every bit as dangerous as any of Jason’s Deathworlds, though people and politics are more the drivers than the monsters are.

In a world where people can be brought back to life when nothing of them is left but their heads, and the gods are real, Christopher uses his engineering knowledge to level the playing field for himself – actions that affect larger and larger groups of people as he focuses on finding a way back to his wife, Maggie. He’s no kid; he’s forty and not used to the active life of someone who frequently finds himself embroiled in battles or duels. The idea of killing another human being – even if they DO have the possibility of being brought back – makes him ill, but he has his black belt in kendo, and he didn’t find his soulmate until his late 30s, and he’ll do whatever it takes to get back to her, including signing on as the priest of a god he never guessed existed.

It’s absorbing to learn, as he does, what this world is all about, and to shake your head over his cluelessness when it comes to people and politics. For him, rationality and logic are nearly everything, and it’s fascinating to see how he accomplishes what he sets out to do when he’s at such a disadvantage.

The first ebook was a bargain (as #1 books in a series can be), but subsequent books sell at nearly $10. When I started the book I scoffed at the idea that I might be willing to pay so much for each of the successive ebooks in the series (#3 is the latest). But as soon as I finished the last sentence, I was plunking down my money for book #2.


The Barrel Murder by Michael Zarocostas – A Book Review

THE BARREL MURDER - a Detective Joe Petrosino case (based on true events)THE BARREL MURDER – a Detective Joe Petrosino case by Michael Zarocostas

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book involved a lot of research because it is based on real events and real New York City detectives at the turn of the century.

A swarthy man who could be Italian or Middle Eastern is found murdered, his body bent double and stuffed into a wooden barrel on a New York street. These are the days when the NYC police force is dominated by Irish immigrants and there is considerable and open prejudice in the ranks against Italians and Jews, among others. Detective Joe Petrosino has been lucky; he was smiled upon by Teddy Roosevelt, who appointed him the first Italian American detective in the Central Bureau. Teddy was intent on removing graft and stamping out Tammany Hall and Joe is an honest cop. But Teddy has moved on to Washington, and Joe Petrosino can see the Tammany ways are back. He and other cops who stood for Reform are on the outs. This is not a good time to be fighting with the Irish cops over the murder of an unknown man in a barrel. But Joe just can’t help himself. And from there, things can only get worse.

Was it a crime of passion by a mentally disturbed doctor or was it really a message from a gang of drug dealers and counterfeiters who moved over from Sicily? And are they working on their own or with others? And might those others be people Joe knows and works for? Adding to his problems are a couple of muckraking journalists and an uncertainty about whether his big Jewish partner, Inspector Max Schmittberger, is really reformed from taking graft.

Michael Zarocostas does a good job of telling the facts and giving the reader just enough flavor of the times to stay engaged without getting bogged down. He is also faithful to the thinking of the times in that he does not pull any punches when it comes to the kind of talk people in Joe’s position may have both heard and engaged in, including racial slurs that are made more shocking by the offhand way in which they are uttered. Zarocostas’s prose itself is a little on the terse side. The connections between sentences and paragraphs is not always a smooth one, which makes the read a little bumpy.

The book is sprinkled with pictures of many of the main participants as well as photos of newspaper articles printed about them and the case as it unfolded which add to the sense of witnessing the events.

The only true disappointment in this book lies in the ending. It’s obviously the first book in a series, but it should have been able to stand alone. By the last chapter, Schmittberger has taken a leave and Joe has promised to talk to his lady friend’s father about marriage. But these relationships are not addressed. Further, Joe’s decision to take a risky action related to his career is only asserted, not depicted. We don’t know whether it succeeded, partially succeeded, or failed. No doubt readers will discover the answer in the second book, but it would have been nice to have some things made a little clearer.

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Kick – a Book Review

KickKick by John L. Monk

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As a college student, Daniel killed himself over love lost. But his existence didn’t end there. Stuck in a limbo he calls ‘The Great Somewhere’, he finds he can exit through a kind of gate and spend 3 to 4 weeks in the body of a living man. The good thing is, he can enjoy pie again. The bad thing is, the guy he’s inhabiting is a nasty killer. Unable to access any of his host’s memories, he must use his wits to navigate the living man’s life, friends, and foes, to discover what he has been brought out of limbo to do. But when he does, his accomplishment becomes confused wonder as he’s given a ticket out of limbo again and again and usually to deal with the same sort of conscience-less killer. Connections to his life as Daniel occasionally come up and he understands them as small tests; ones he often fails. Then one day, he finds himself in the body of someone not a psychopathic predator. What is he meant to do?

This is the second book in one month I have read that deals with the idea of a personality piggy-backing on a living person (the other being A Warm Place to Call Home by Michael Siemsen). But where the protagonist in Siemsen’s book does not know exactly what he is, Daniel has all of his memories of life as a human man, even if he would rather not. Where A Warm Place speculates on the meaning of identity, Kick is about self-understanding, forgiveness, and redemption. It’s also about becoming a grown-up, something that Daniel did not allow himself to do.

With a young man’s passion, Daniel is frequently ruthless with his hosts, whom he refers to as ‘rides,’ though his ruthlessness is often anger on behalf of their victims. He is clever and resourceful, but he’s also aware that limbo hasn’t seemed to have made a real dent in his callowness. (He killed himself, after all, to make sure the girl who dumped him never forgets him.) But when his latest ride turns out to be a decent guy, he recognizes it as the opportunity it is. If he can make use of it.

It’s a difficult thing to balance self-examination while simultaneously trying to find your way through dangerous situations and author Monk does a good job of making Daniel’s struggles interesting. Likewise, his alternately carefree and introspective turns are never awkward or inhibit the pace of the book, which is brisk. There is violence, but seen from Daniel’s perspective, it becomes darkly humorous rather than off-putting; it’s easy to get caught up in Daniel’s brazen actions and wonder what crazy thing he will do next as he veers from avenging angel to junk food gourmand while trying to make the most of things before the next *Kick* that tells him his host is repossessing his ride.

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