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DEE ROMMEL MYSTERY #1

An entertaining, richly textured suspense yarn with a spirited hero.

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A one-legged private eye searches for a missing heiress while navigating mayhem on the mean streets of Portland, Maine, in this mystery.

This knotty first installment of the Dee Rommel series finds the fledgling shamus working at G&Z Investigations while on disability leave from the Portland Police Department after she was knocked off a roof by a perp and had her lower left leg amputated. She’s hired by local tech zillionaire Philip Claren to find his daughter, Lucy, a brainy, 20-something research scientist. Lucy’s gone off the grid just 10 days before her wedding to a young PR man named Tyler Peppard, whom Claren takes a dim view of. Assisted by her friend Jade, an IT whiz who can get into any encrypted file or database, Dee delves into the Claren clan’s underbelly. The excavation turns up Lucy’s rich, prickly mother; an Ecstasy-enabled, extortion-porn plot; and a sinister artificial intelligence company’s scheme to surveil people by implanting them with microchips. Dee also gets major subplots heaped on her plate. A liquor salesman who hit on her at a bar turns up dead, and she gets involved in another missing woman case when her hairdresser friend Karla Ackerman disappears. The latter riddle deepens when Dee finds Karla badly beaten in a motel and too traumatized to talk. Then, town terror Billy Payer, whom Dee and Karla testified against at his assault-and-battery trial, gets out of prison and pursues his calling of menacing everyone he comes across. Along the way, Dee fields romantic interest from canny police colleague Detective Robbie Donato and “the Reader,” a flirty knight errant who’s into motorcycles and Dickens novels.

Selbo’s busy plot creaks occasionally. The mystery’s mechanism sometimes needs people who have good reason to explain things to not explain them and others to give Dee notes clarifying things out of the blue when she’s clueless. But the narrative usually earns its keep with nifty, engrossing procedural, including Dee’s locomotion tactics—how she manages the complicated process of moving around and even climbing a tree with her prosthesis. (“I swing my good leg up and use my abs to lift the rest of my weight. Hurts like hell.”) The author grounds the story in an atmospheric portrait of a Portland divided between yuppified quaintness and working-class grit and where everyone has a shared past. Her characters are sharply etched by Dee’s always observant voice. (“The lights of the cameras hit two reflective points on” Tyler: “one on the excessive Rolex on his left wrist and the other on his shiny, pointy, steel-toed boots. He looks like an arrogant dickwad.”) In Selbo’s punchy, vivid prose, Dee is hard-boiled when she needs to be, but her injury gives her a vulnerability and interiority that deepen her. (“My goddamn leg thinks it’s whole again; the knee thinks it’s connected to a calf and ankle and foot—thinks it has muscles, tissue, fat, tendons, veins, arteries and bones all in place to keep blood flowing from my left extremity to my heart….Of course, I know it’s my brain dipping into the past; imagining the tickle of fresh sheets and the heat of a calloused hand stroking the length of my leg.”) Readers will root for her as she steps gamely into every peril.

An entertaining, richly textured suspense yarn with a spirited hero.

Pub Date: July 31, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-95-062739-4

Page Count: 332

Publisher: Pandamoon Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

FOURTH WING

From the Empyrean series , Vol. 1

Read this for the action-packed plot, not character development or worldbuilding.

On the orders of her mother, a woman goes to dragon-riding school.

Even though her mother is a general in Navarre’s army, 20-year-old Violet Sorrengail was raised by her father to follow his path as a scribe. After his death, though, Violet's mother shocks her by forcing her to enter the elite and deadly dragon rider academy at Basgiath War College. Most students die at the War College: during training sessions, at the hands of their classmates, or by the very dragons they hope to one day be paired with. From Day One, Violet is targeted by her classmates, some because they hate her mother, others because they think she’s too physically frail to succeed. She must survive a daily gauntlet of physical challenges and the deadly attacks of classmates, which she does with the help of secret knowledge handed down by her two older siblings, who'd been students there before her. Violet is at the mercy of the plot rather than being in charge of it, hurtling through one obstacle after another. As a result, the story is action-packed and fast-paced, but Violet is a strange mix of pure competence and total passivity, always managing to come out on the winning side. The book is categorized as romantasy, with Violet pulled between the comforting love she feels from her childhood best friend, Dain Aetos, and the incendiary attraction she feels for family enemy Xaden Riorson. However, the way Dain constantly undermines Violet's abilities and his lack of character development make this an unconvincing storyline. The plots and subplots aren’t well-integrated, with the first half purely focused on Violet’s training, followed by a brief detour for romance, and then a final focus on outside threats.

Read this for the action-packed plot, not character development or worldbuilding.

Pub Date: May 2, 2023

ISBN: 9781649374042

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Red Tower

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2024

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