Tuesday Shorts: The Sacrifice of Lester Yates, The End of Men, Find You First and The Moonlight Child

Of course I’ve been neglectful of writing blog posts and reviews; of course I have. It’s spring and that means gardening for me. That doesn’t mean I stopped reading. In fact, I think I’ve read more books already this year than I did last year during the height of the pandemic. So, bear with me as I post some short, quick reviews of some of the books I’ve read thus far.

From beginning to end The Sacrifice of Lester Yates captivated me. Robin Yocum, a new-to-me author, can seriously write. His descriptions and knowledge of the grittier side of Ohio and midwestern politics are so spot on; it truly is impeccable writing. Labeled as a “legal thriller,” I thought it was more political suspense. It’s a story told well, not an edge of your seat thrill ride.

What was most interesting for me is that the book is told from a Republican politician’s viewpoint which is something I tend to avoid. However, here was a pro-death penalty guy working like crazy to get an innocent man off of death row. He also does a great job of showing the nasty underbelly of party politics which we see so often today in the US.

I loved the book and highly recommend it. I’ll be reading the prequel now and am happy to have found another great midwestern author to follow.

THE END OF MEN by Christina Sweeney-Baird

The End of Men is one of those books where I think the hype is influencing the reviews. I’ve read two other books about a pandemic that wipes out males and they were far better than this one. Far too many characters to keep them straight and, in the end, there still was just greed and nations fighting over crap. I’d like to think that women could do better than this but given the results of the pandemic, perhaps I’m overly hopeful. Read Athena’s Choice for a far superior book about the end of men.

FIND YOU FIRST by Linwood Barclay

Normally I love Linwood Barclay’s books and I did really like Find You First until I didn’t. First, exactly how many people know and are willing to hire “hitmen?” Is this just something that I have missed throughout my life? Executioners around here are generally so stupid that they get caught and then turn out to be young men on drugs. In Find You First there is a plethora of these men just waiting to be hired and apparently screw the wealthy person hiring them. Who does that!? I liked the premise of the main character finding his “offspring.” That was an interesting storyline. However, the book totally went off the rails in the end with the Winnebago. I’m not sure I’ve ever read a serious piece of crime fiction that resorted to something so ridiculous. Ever. So, I gave it three stars because I was semi-sort-of hooked until the end.

Lest you think I haven’t enjoyed my reading material this year, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite books so far:

The Moonlight Child by Karen McQuestion

I didn’t expect to love this as much as I did! This is a beautiful story of horror, loss, love and forgiveness. This author is new to me but her writing is mesmerizing, pulling you into the lives of each character and then wringing your heart out with emotion.

The Moonlight Child is the story of wee little girl named Mia who is kept hidden by a family that she knows is not her own. She knows that her world is different from other children; she is well fed and cared for but also is forced to do the housework which is expected to be done perfectly. The child is only five years old. It is also the story of Nikki, a foster home “graduate,” who knows there is more to life than what she has experienced to date. She is intelligent, caring and, currently, at loose ends. Nikki is taken in by Sharon, her social worker’s mother, and the relationship between these two women is one of the most beautiful that I’ve ever read. Together, Sharon and Nikki try to unravel the mystery of the girl they only see in the moonlight.

This book is emotional and beautiful and one that I I highly recommend.

Have your read any of these books while I’ve been away? What did you think of them? Am I once again out in left field? Let me know!

Judgement #JosephFinder

Once there was a time when I only read legal, political and espionage thrillers. I cut my teeth on the sharp edges of the race against time, twist backs and back stabbing plot lines. I had to stop because the reality of these book was, in fact, too real. I begin seeing crooks and spies and murderers behind every tree and in every shadow. But that doesn’t mean I don’t still love a really well written thriller now and again. Joseph Finder is one of the best writers of the genre and his latest, Judgement, a legal thriller had me captivated from the first sentence to the last.

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In a departure from his long running series, Finder sets this novel primarily in the legal arena. Juliana Brody is a judge who rotates between civil and criminal cases. Currently, while dealing with a very heavy docket, the case taking up a majority of her time and attention is one dealing with a new start-up company, an employee who has been fired and who, in turn, has filed a sexual harassment case against the company. While the case is going through motions, Brody runs into a problem. This straight-laced, never does anything wrong judge has a one night stand and that one night stand miraculously becomes the newest lawyer for the very same start-up company over which Brody is presiding. Admittedly at this point I was a little incredulous but, you know, we have to have a plot and the rest of the storyline is amazing. So read on…. We soon learn that the one night stand black mailer is just a tiny pinpoint of the problems waiting for Brody if she doesn’t throw this case – and that is something she is not willing to do. As the stakes get higher, so do the threats and the thrills. Brody makes mistake after mistake that could very well cost her life and her career. Her allies are few and her enemies are mounting. It’s a race to see who will come out on top in the end – and with Finder, you never really know who what will be!

Finder is great at creating characters that are deep, flawed, realistic and relatable and he has done another fantastic job with those in Judgement. The plot, with the one exception that I mentioned, is so incredibly timely and realistic that I found myself reading between the lines in the newspaper and wondering who this story really was about. You just know it has happened or will happen! It’s too real not to be true. There is some courtroom drama if you like that in your legal thrillers, but not so much to bore you if you don’t. This is more of a cat and mouse, keep you on the run thriller with legal overtones than an actual “court room” legal tome.

If you like action packed, character driven, ripped from the headlines, heart pounding thrillers then this is the book for you!

Thank you to #Edelweiss, #DuttonBooks and #PenguinPublishingGroup for my copy of this thriller

Defense of An Other by Grace Mead

Defense of An Other is gripping book ripped from today’s headlines. Sort of.

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Matt is an up and coming young attorney practicing in post-Katrina New Orleans for a prestigious law firm. While his career is on the fast track, his personal life is not. He has just ended a long-term relationship with his girlfriend and is exploring his attraction to men – something he has felt since he was a young boy. He has not, of course, come out to anyone, not even to himself. After a tough day at work, he decides to go to a gay club in the French Quarter where he meets Joey. The two don’t necessarily hook up but they do spend a nice, fun night at the club together. When they step out back to take a leak – the men’s room being stuffed full – they are attacked by three thugs looking to beat up some “faggots.” One of them ends up dead and Matt is arrested for the murder – first degree murder, no less. It is, after all, the south in the early 2000s – not that much has changed since then – and it is the word of the “bubbas” against “gay boy” Matt. You can see where this story is going, right?

The author is a successful attorney herself, very intelligent, and it shows throughout the book. The legal aspect of the pre-trial and courtroom drama is spot-on and captivating. I love legal thrillers and, from that aspect, Defense of An Other, is terrific and well written. I also spent half of my life in Arkansas, a stone’s throw from New Orleans, and nearly every summer of my adult life we traveled down to NOLA. The description of New Orleans, the French Quarter, the people there is vivid and real. I could almost smell the stench of the garbage and vomit of Bourbon Street and remember how amazing the Café du Monde looked and smelled at dawn. However, when it came to the actual characters of the book, I thought Mead drew up short. Matt and his mother never were quite angry enough to be believable. If it was me or my son, I would have been livid. Everyone stayed so calm, cool, collected. I have been arrested on false charges – that’s a story for another post – and my son has been arrested for protesting. I know first hand how these characters should have reacted and calm and cool were not in our wheelhouse on those occasions. You also had a mother who, in a round-about manner, just found out that her son may or may not be gay and she just shoved that discussion aside and talked about going back to work instead. Totally bizarre. From a legal stand point, the book is brilliant. From a personal perspective it was lacking and that missing element made all the difference in the world for me. The ending, too, was abrupt and unfulfilling. I’m unclear if it was meant to be a cliffhanger or if we were meant to extrapolate our own interpretation of what would come next but, either way, it simply didn’t work.  Defense of An Other is being billed as a legal thriller and LGBTQ. It is legal fiction that features a young man who was in a gay bar and is tried as a gay man. I’ve read a lot of other books featuring LGBTQ characters that were not labeled as such for the simple premise that they are, in fact, human beings just like the rest of us. I’m not sure I appreciated the distinction for this particular work. While his sexual orientation is the reason for the beating and storyline in this particular instance, Matt could just as well have been African American or a prostitute or Asian American or a liberal or Muslim or, or, or An Other that Southern Bubbas find offensive. “They” are the issue, the point – if you will – not his sexual orientation. Three stars, middle of the road, because of the great legalese versus the poor character development.

I was given this book to review by #Netgalley and #ClinkStreetPublishing.

An Engineered Injustice

This fast paced thriller moves quicker than a roaring locomotive to its breathtaking conclusion.

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It has been ages since I have read good legal thrillers but this one caught my attention for multiple reasons, not the least of which was the topic of a massive train crash. Anyone keeping up with the news in the US is aware that there has been a number of Amtrak wrecks in 2018, so this book is as timely as it is captivating.

In An Engineered Injustice, one of the largest and deadliest train wrecks has just occurred and as Vaughn Coburn is frantically searching for news on his co-worker, he receives a call from cousin’s wife: his cousin was the engineer on the train. While Vaughn’s loyalty is torn between sympathizing with his injured co-worker and his duty to his family, he owes a debt to his cousin that has to be repaid. Vaughn agrees to represent Eddy, his cousin, and begins searching for the answers that Eddy, due to amnesia, cannot remember – why did Eddy plow into an obstruction on the tracks without ever applying the brakes or slowing down. As tension mounts and evidence against Eddy grows, Vaughn slowly begins to realize that there is far more to this case than a train wreck and blame. The nefarious undertones and implications will have you, the reader, turning the pages so quickly you will not stop for a break until the very end. The story is compelling, unique and, sadly, extremely plausible.

I had no idea that this was a follow-up to William Myers, Jr.’s best seller, “A Criminal Defense.” Since I haven’t been reading legal thrillers, I had not read the first book but it didn’t in any way affect my enjoyment of this book. It works fine as a stand-alone. If you enjoy thrillers of any type or legal thrillers specifically, then this is definitely a “must read.” Myers is a very successful attorney and his writing reflects his skill and knowledge. 4 out of 5 stars.

I greatly appreciate #ThomasandMercer, #Netgalley and Mr. Myers for their generosity in providing my copy of this book for review.

Never Goodbye

I worked at a florist for over 20 years when I was younger. Every Thursday new flowers would arrive for the weddings that were scheduled for the weekend. That meant that all of the flowers in the fridge had to be used in arrangements. Sometimes we got over creative in our mixtures. We called this Toss Up Thursday because you just never knew what you were going to get! The same idea applies to Macsbooks on Thursday. (did you like that segue?) There are times that books just don’t fit into nice, tidy category – like today’s selection – and often I have too many of one genre and need to clear out those reviews. Thursdays will be a smorgasbord day for those books. Which brings us to the book for today…

Never Goodbye is a genre bending tale of suspense that will capture your attention with the character development in the beginning and then take you on a legal thrilling ride at the end. The story is told from dual points of view: Ella/Cassidy (I know that seems confusing but it isn’t) and Dana, both prosecutors, who are grappling with the murder of their mentor/friend Lauren. Ultimately, Dana is arrested for the murder and Ella is tasked with prosecuting the case. However, prior to this point in the story, Mitzner does a superb job of creating characters in which you become well invested. Having never read any of his previous novels, I didn’t realize that he wrote legal thrillers and I assumed this was going to be a book about these women, a narrative tale, not a legal one. It was a surprise when the book went off in that direction. In addition, Ella’s boyfriend is the lead cop investigating the murder so this is a bit like the television show, Law and Order, with the characters and investigation up front and the courtroom drama in the end. It works and it works very well. What works even better is the ending! Do not be prepared for a neat and tidy wrap because there is not one. Like many things in life and most court cases in the real world, there is no resolute ending in this case. The book is not a cliff-hanger but there is no nice, pat finale in the case either. This actually made me enjoy the book more, not less.

Never Goodbye is a sequel to Mituntitledzner’s very popular novel, Dead Certain. I didn’t realize this when I was offered the book for review. There are references to the first book and the characters, of course, are the same but this could be a stand-alone if you choose. It certainly didn’t detract from the enjoyment of the story for me and I doubt it will for you either. I definitely will read the first one now and will pick up more books by this author.  If you like crime fiction, legal thrillers or books with really good character development then this is a book for you!

Thanks to NetGalley for an advanced copy of this book for review.