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Posts Tagged ‘police detectives’

AS THE CROW DIES by Kenneth Butcher: Book Review

In scenic Asheville, North Carolina, police detectives Dinah Rudisill and Ira Segal are called to the French Broad River, where a corpse has been found.  Expecting to see a drowning victim, they are instead confronted by a man whose body shows a large exit wound between his shoulder blades.

The man who discovered the victim tells them that his attention had been drawn to the water by the loud cawing of a group of crows.  “Calling to each other like they were upset or excited or something,” he tells the police.

The corpse’s body contains, among other things, a wallet with a business card showing that his name was Charles Atley and his job title was manager, Behavior Augmentation, at a local business called Creatures 2.0.  At the company headquarters, Dinah and Ira learn that the company is involved with the selection, breeding, and training of animals, with special emphasis on crows.  They learn there is a pecking order among the crows (pun intended), with the company’s special project, Richard, the most important and apparently the most intelligent bird.

Richard belongs to Creatures 2.0’s owner and president, Francis Elah.  Francis is currently out of town on a secret, perhaps government, job and has been out of touch for five weeks.  Neither his employees nor his wife knows where he is or how to reach him.

The detectives learn that the Office of Naval Intelligence, in the person of Jerome Guilford, will be joining the Asheville investigation.  “So now I guess what part of the government” is involved in the secret project, Ira tells another police officer.  Guilford wants to be kept abreast of all the information Ira and Dinah gather, but he isn’t willing to share what he knows.  “Reasons of national security” and “classified” are his favorite expressions.

The research that Francis Elah’s company is doing is what he calls “reordering.”  He has taught a monkey to do magic tricks, a mule deer recite the first three letters of the alphabet, and was working on having a raccoon assist in surgical procedures, taking advantage of the animal’s tiny fingers.  At first this all seems unbelievable to Ira, but after seeing videos of the animals in action he is beginning to change his mind.

Kenneth Butcher has created an intriguing plot and a strong detective team in this mystery.  The plot involves homicides, the disappearance of Francis Elah, and the mysterious intervention of the federal government, while the police twosome shows the personal sides of Ira, who carries paperback books as self-soothing devices to help him recover from PTSD brought on by a previous case, and Dinah, who is a roller derby star and local sports legend.  Together they make a perfect professional pair.

You can read more about Kenneth Butcher at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden Oldies, Past Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.

SHOOT TO THRILL by P. J.Tracy: Book Review

The mother-daughter team of P. J. Tracy has written another Monkeewrench novel about two winning teams: the computer geeks/hackers/geniuses at Monkeewrench and the Minneapolis detective team of Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth.  And the entertaining style of Patricia Lambrecht (mother) and Traci Lambrecht (daughter) combines to make this book hard to put down.

In Shoot to Thrill, it appears that the Web has spawned a new kind of evil, pre-posts of murders that are then carried out. There seems to be a Wisconsin connection, a strange thing in a state where nothing bad ever happens, or hardly ever.  But it all comes to light in nearby Minneapolis, the home of the Monkeewrench group and Magozzi and Rolseth.

The F.B.I., being legally unable to hack into sites that may be hiding these killers, sends its agent, John Smith, to Minneapolis to work with Monkeewrench to uncover the web sites that are posting the murders on YouTube for the whole world to watch.  Straight as an arrow, Smith is nearly at the Bureau’s mandatory age of retirement of 57 and is thinking back over his lackluster career.  He had dreams of heroic exploits that never came to pass, and his association with Monkeewrench may be the “slippery slope” that will make him look outside the box he has created for himself.

Magozzi, meanwhile, is still dealing with his unrequited love for Grace McBride, the founder of the Monkeewrench computer experts.  Grace, in turn, is unable to commit to any relationship due to her feelings of guilt over the deaths of close friends and associates for which she blames herself.

During the national search for the killers who are posting the murders on the Internet, the Minneapolis P.D. is also confronted with a series of possible bombs planted at various locations around the city. Is this the work of a terrorist group or simply some copycat teenagers out to disrupt the city as a joke?  F.B.I. profiler Chealsea Thomas thinks the latter but can’t be certain.

Even though the plot is a serious one, there’s a lot of humor in this series. There’s a lot of clever repartee between Magozzi and Rolseth, two typical cops who can’t let on how fond they are of each other.  The Monkeewrenches are oddball characters who have made a fortune with their video games and now can pick and choose what they want to do.

The authors have given each member an offbeat vibe:  Harley Davidson (yes!) owns the mansion where the group works and is a fabulous cook; Grace McBride also cooks but locks herself in her house with its barred windows and steel door; Annie Belinsky wears costumes rather than clothes; and Roadrunner (no first name given) lives in Lycra jogging outfits.

The Monkeewrench series is an enjoyable one, and this mother and daughter team have a lot on the ball.

You can read more about P. J. Tracy at her/their web site.