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Posts Tagged ‘veterans’

THE DRIVER by Hart Hanson: Book Review

The Driver is, in turn, comic, tragic, uplifting, profane, and suspenseful.  In short, it’s a wild and worthwhile ride, but it’s not your typical mystery novel.

The driver is Michael Skellig, who served in the Afghanistan war.  He’s returned to California, his home state, and opened a limo service, hiring three fellow veterans he met overseas.

The only woman at Oasis Limo Services is Tinkertoy, the company’s mechanic.  She suffers from post-traumatic stress paranoia, having been the victim of multiple rapes and unimaginable torture.  Ripple is the dispatcher, now using a wheelchair since he lost half of one leg to a sniper and all of his other leg to a vehicle that accidentally ran over him.  And Luqmann Qaid Yosufzai, nicknamed Lucky for obvious reasons, was the driver’s interpreter when Michael worked with the anti-Taliban forces.

Bismarck Avila is a world-famous skateboarder, winning the X Games at the age of fourteen.  The day that Avila hires Michael to drive him to a hotel for a meeting Michael foils an attempt on Avila’s life, and the impressed skateboarder employs Skellig to be his permanent driver.  Why would someone want to kill the young man, or at least threaten him so dramatically?  And, if Avila really doesn’t know why anyone would want to harm him, why is he so insistent on Michael becoming his new driver/bodyguard?

When Michael arrives at Avila’s mansion the following day, he’s met by a Los Angeles County Sheriff Department deputy, Detective Willeniec, who is brandishing a warrant to search the extensive grounds for barrels.  Willeniec doesn’t explain what he expects to find in the barrels, and, in fact, he discovers none on the huge property.

But he tells Skellig and Avila he’s not done with them, the warrant extending to several other properties the skateboarder owns, and Skellig, Avila, and Willeniec drive to one of Avila’s storage units.  The detective finds nothing there either, but he threateningly tells Avila he’s not finished with him yet.

The Driver is definitely a unique read.  The story is told in the first person, so we learn everything from Michael’s point of view.  He’s a kind, generous man who knows how to handle himself in tough situations, although he doesn’t go looking for them.  His love-life is torn between his involvement with his attorney, Connie Candide, and his desire for her best friend, Detective Delilah Groopman.  His life is complicated indeed.

Although this is his first novel, Hart Hanson’s literary output is impressive.  He’s the creator of Bones, which just finished its twelfth and final season on Fox television, as well as being the creator and script writer of several other shows.  It looks as if this book may be the first entry in a new direction for him, one that definitely will please the readers of The Driver.

You can read more Hart Hanson at various Internet websites.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.


THE LAST DEATH OF JACK HARBIN by Terry Shames: Book Review

Terry Shames has written a second novel about former police chief Samuel Craddock, and it’s just as good as her first, A Killing at Cotton Hill

Jarrett Creek, Texas, is a small town obsessed with its high school football team.  As the story opens, Samuel is on his way to the Town Cafe, where the locals meet daily, usually to discuss the fortunes of the team.  One of the regulars is Jack Harbin, a local man who was blinded and lost a leg while he was serving in the Gulf War.  Never married, Jack has been confined to a wheelchair since his return home and has been taken care of by his father, Bob.  When Samuel arrives at the Cafe, the Harbins are not there and they don’t answer their phone when Samuel calls.  Bothered by this departure from the Harbins’ regular routine, Samuel drives to their house and finds Bob lying unmoving on the grass and Jack on the sidewalk near his overturned wheelchair.

Bob is dead, apparently of a heart attack, and Jack’s fellow veterans rally around him to help him get on with his life.   When Jack’s younger brother Curtis arrives, the bad feeling between the siblings is evident.  Curtis wants Jack to sell the house and live in a veterans’ hospital, something Jack definitely doesn’t want to do.

When the preliminary autopsy results come back, they show that Bob had a large amount of Benadryl in his system.  Jack says that can’t be right, his father never  took any drug that would cause him to sleep so soundly that he wouldn’t hear if Jack called him during the night.  Curtis dismisses Jack’s statement out of hand, but it makes Samuel decide to look more closely into Bob’s death.

When Jack was in high school, his best friend was Woody Patterson, a teammate on the football team that Jack quarterbacked.  Both boys volunteered for the army upon graduation, but a previously unknown medical problem kept Woody home while Jack was sent to the Middle East where he was so grievously wounded.  After his return, Jack cut off contract with Woody; in fact, the two haven’t spoken in twenty years.  But now, after Bob’s death, Woody wants Jack to come to live with him, his wife, and their two children.  Then Jack is murdered, opening another criminal investigation.

Samuel is asked by the Texas Rangers to take over the investigation, as the Jarrett Creek’s sheriff is out of commission (read drying out) and the deputy isn’t deemed capable enough to replace him.  Samuel agrees, determined to find out the truth about Bob Harbin’s death and all that followed.

Terry Shames brings small-town Texas to life again, with its secrets and feuds going back decades.  The present-day economic crisis hasn’t improved lives or tempers either, and Samuel keeps coming across figurative locked doors and high walls in his attempt to solve the crime.  Samuel Craddock is as wise and compassionate as he was in the first novelThe Last Death of Jack Harbin is a wonderful successor to A Killing at Cotton Hill.

You can read more about Terry Shames at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Reads blog at her web site.