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A Black Sail: A Coleridge Taylor Mystery
By: Rich Zahradnik
Publisher: Camel Press
Publication Date: October 2016
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: July 15, 2016
The year is 1976 and Coleridge Taylor is bored...and seasick. Used to covering exciting, and dangerous, crime stories for his beloved, and sadly defunct, Messenger-Telegram newspaper, he's now stuck covering an utterly dull story. Taylor is reporting on Operation Sail, a Bicentennial celebration taking place in the New York Harbor. Taylor can't wait to get back on solid land, write up his story and move on to something more interesting. How could he know that something far more interesting was about to float his way?
As a police reporter, Taylor has connections within the police force and is riding in an NYPD boat to view the celebration. When the call comes in for a "possible drop" (someone dumped something in the water), Mott, an NYPD scuba diver, goes in the water to see if he can find anything. Expecting to find drugs, he, and the whole crew, are quite surprised to find a body. And not just any body but the body of a woman with several bags of heroin wrapped around her waist. Must be a drug war, they all guess. Perhaps a new gang moving in and someone is sending them a message to get out. Could it be that simple? Taylor was going to find out.
Now working for the City News Bureau (a news wire service), Taylor reports on the body in the harbor to his boss and gets the okay to dig around - but not before he finishes that story on the majestic ships. Taylor's first clue that the dead woman may not be associated with two rival drug gangs that are known to the police is that mobsters never involve wives and children in their killings. Perhaps it's an Asian gang...
When the body is finally ID'd as Bridget Collucci, Taylor heads out to Dobbs Ferry to interview the woman's husband. Carl Collucci is willing to talk to Taylor because he is desperate to find out who killed his wife. The local police have been no help and Carl doesn't know where to turn. Carl assures Taylor that he has disassociated himself from his father's mob dealings and is on the straight and narrow. But then, during their conversation, Carl's "public relations consultant" walks in the room, and the guy just oozes mobster. To add to the weird situation, Collucci's father-in-law arrives, along with the man's son, and it looks like war is about to break out in the room. Someone knows something but they're certainly not going to tell Taylor.
This is the third book in the Coleridge Taylor series and the second one that I've read and I have to say I enjoyed it as much as the first one I read (Drop Dead Punk). Taylor is a very likeable protagonist, with all his faults and hang-ups, and I was happy to see that Samantha Callahan (who we met in Drop Dead Punk) as well as Mason the dog, were back to soften up Taylor's gruff exterior. Because the stories take place in the 1970s, the author obviously did a fair amount of research to bring the era to life from the Bicentennial celebration to cars of the time (remember the Pacer?). Solving the murder of Bridget Collucci required a fair amount of sleuthing on Taylor's part and will keep readers guessing until almost the last page. If you love a good murder mystery, check out this series - I promise you'll be hooked in no time flat.
Quill says: Another winner in the Coleridge Taylor mystery series. When is the next one coming out???!!!
For more information on A Black Sail: A Coleridge Taylor Mystery, please visit the author's website at: www.richzahradnik.com
By: Diane Lunsford
Publisher: Tate Publishing
Publication Date: June 2016
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: July 13, 2016
A daughter out of control, and a mother who desperately wants to help, sets the stage for a heartwarming novel by debut author Diane Lunsford.
Louisa and Jake Croft have a good life. They are happily married, have a nice life in Virginia and have two beautiful daughters. Kylie, their oldest, is a well-adjusted college student. Unfortunately, their other daughter, Dani, is a high school student who has fallen in with the wrong group of kids. She is rebellious, her grades have fallen, and since she's always on her cell phone, calling or texting a friend, she has pretty much forgotten how to have a real conversation, particularly with her patents. Oh yes, and the troubled girl also blames her parents for many of her problems. In desperation, Louisa, or Lou to her friends, decides that she and Dani will spend the summer at Echo Ranch, a spectacular working ranch in the gorgeous Colorado countryside.
Years ago, when Lou was a young woman trying to find her place in the world, she discovered Echo Ranch. The owners, Zack and Tessa Calhoun, welcomed Lou to their farm, provided she carry her weight and worked hard. Along the way, with the careful guidance of Zack and Tessa, Lou learned so many important life lessons. Now, twenty years later, Lou hopes that Dani too, will discover her true self at Echo Ranch. Deciding that it would be best for Lou to travel alone with Dani, Jake and Kylie stay in Virginia. Soon, Mom and a very angry daughter leave their home and embark on a long car ride, headed for the mountains of Colorado.
The car ride is indeed long, and most of it is spent in silence. Dani simply doesn't want to know. When they arrive at Echo Ranch, Dani is still an angry and confused young woman, but with Zack's wisdom, Tessa's support, and the love of a special horse who shares some of Dani's "issues," the girl's walls slowly dissolve. Fresh air, open spaces and the time spent away from texting and phoning friends is helpful, but it doesn't solve all problems. It isn't until Dani meets a young man who is attending a summer camp at Echo Ranch, that Dani starts to discover who she truly is. As the summer draws into fall, mother and daughter learn many important lessons that help to bring them closer.
It only took me a few pages to become thoroughly entranced with the story of Lou and Dani. With daughters of her own, the author writes about what she knows. In even the most loving of relationships, conflicts arise and resolutions aren't always easy to find. Making it more realistic, Lou learns that she too, has some issues to deal with, issues that have helped build those walls between her and Dani. The dialogue was crisp and believable and the descriptions so perfect that I could see the beauty of the ranch myself, and smell that clean, fresh air. Truly a wonderful debut novel, I can't wait to read the next offering from this author!
Quill says: An uplifting story about a mother and daughter who find themselves, and along the way find each other too.
By: Christine Sunderland
Publisher: eLecto Publishing
Publication Date: May 2016
Reviewed by: Anita Lock
Date: July 5, 2016
Christine Sunderland offers a thought-provoking viewpoint on the collapse of Western civilization in her latest murder mystery.
Twenty-two-year-old Cal student Jessica Thierry witnesses the rape and murder of a young woman while walking on the scenic Fire Trail. It is difficult for Jessica to get the horrific images out of her thoughts. Jessica is particularly unnerved by the fact that she and the murderer made eye contact. Between his dysfunctional family issues and the murder, Jessica has to find a way to keep her attention on her history dissertation research, instead of allowing herself to be engulfed by fear and worry. Fortunately, her advisor points her in the direction of the Comerford House, the perfect place to gather information for her thesis.
Another Cal grad, twenty-six-year-old Zachary Aguilar hasn't been able to get Jessica off of his mind since he encountered her in one of his classes. While helping his docent mom Anna out at the Comerford House, Zachary is caught off guard when Jessica not only attends a house tour, but also applies for the open assistant docent position. A strong bond begins to build between Zachary and Jessica. Plus, Zachary's Catholic beliefs start to rub off on Jessica, providing her with a deep sense of peace and encouragement during this troubled season in her life. Yet Jessica is unaware that her newfound faith will soon undergo testing.
Sunderland chooses her own stomping ground for the backdrop in her sixth religious novel. Featuring the popular Fire Trail frequented by "joggers, walkers, and hikers of all ages," Sunderland has created a story that draws from the Catholic faith as well as raises issues of free speech and relaxed sexuality (as a result of the sexual revolution of the 1960s) and its effects on society. Sunderland's fictional cast is surrounded by the histories of Berkley and the beneficial work of the Presentation Sisters, while punctuating factual news articles from September 2014.
Forthright about her deep concerns with "America's cultural collapse, the decline in civil order, and threats to freedom of speech and religion," Sunderland unflinchingly weaves in conservative perspectives that give readers plenty of food for thought. Examples include speeches from speakers at the Fidelity Society highlighting sexual purity and encouraging traditional marriage. Although fictionalized, the Fidelity Society "is loosely based on the Anscombe Society (which began at Princeton), and the Love and Fidelity network, which links such university groups." Incorporating a flurry of expected and unanticipated scenes, Sunderland's plot is a nice mix of fact and mystery from beginning to end.
Quill says: The Fire Trail is a perfect read for religious enthusiasts.