IT IS PURELY MY OPINION - Reviews by L. J. Roberts

EX – Will probably make my top 10 of the year
VG – I probably started and finished the same day.
Good  – Enjoyed very much (Good Plus) or with reservations (Good Minus). 
OK – Had some problems with it.  May read more, but this is probably not an author
I’ll collect.
NR – Didn’t work for me.  May not read more by this author.

JOHN BAKER - Poet in the Gutter (Indigo, 1995; paperback, UK release; Sam Turner, Private Investigator; 1st in series)

    Recovering alcoholic Sam Turner keeps telling people he’s a private investigator.  But when a friend asks Sam to find out if his wife is being unfaithful and then ends up murdered, Sam, with the help of a retired schoolteacher, a homeless youth, and his pool-hall friend, becomes an investigator for real.

*** Sam and the crew he picks up along the way are diverse and delightful.   Although the dialogue is weak in points and the plot fairly light, it is definitely the characters that drive this book.   I am definitely going to follow Sam and the crew to see where their adventures take them.  This looks to be a very enjoyable new series.       Good Plus


- Death of an Addict (Mysterious Press, 1999; hardcover; Hamish Macbeath, Police Procedural/Cozy; 15th in series)

    When drugs come to the Scottish Highlands when a young man is found dead from an apparent overdose, his parents believe it as murder and ask Constable Hamish Macbeth to investigate.

*** Although Hamish is brighter than he appears, the idea of him posing as a drug kingpin just doesn’t work, and the dialogue is weak in the extreme.  It is rare when a television series is better than the books, but the BBC series of Hamish Macbeth is.  Even though this is a very light series anyway, this story was one of the weakest.        OK


C. J. BOX - Trophy Hunt (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2004; hardcover; Joe Pickett, Game Warden; 4th in series)

    It’s bad enough when Joe finds the mutilated body of a moose, but when similar mutilations are found on dead cattle and then two men, it becomes clear that the predator has two legs rather than four.

*** After Box’s first three books, all excellent, I found this a bit lacking.  It felt very slow at times and had a number of things left unexplained.  I don’t mind the element of mysticism, but it didn’t feel complete.  Joe, his family and friends are great characters.  The story definitely had me turning the pages and completing it in a day, but it wasn’t quite as strong as his previous books.    Don’t misunderstand; this is still a very good read and a series I shall continue to follow.  I just hope the next entry will have a bit more suspense to it.      Good


PHILLIP GOODEN - Sleep of Death (
Carroll & Graf, 2000; trade paperback; actor Nick Revill, 16th Century Mystery; 1st of series)

    During the reign of Elizabeth I, actor Nick Revill joins the Chamberlain’s Men, the acting company of Richard Burbage and author William Shakespeare.  After he unmasks a thief, he is asked to investigate the death of a young man’s father whose mother then marries his uncle.

*** There are scenes of great good humor, early investigative techniques, some suspense — could Shakespeare be the killer? and wonderful depictions of London during the late 1500’s.  One doesn’t need knowledge of Hamlet to enjoy this book.  This is a well-plotted, delightful book and the start of a very good series.      VG


- R Is for Richochet (
Putnam, 2004; hardcover; Kinsey Millhone, Private Investigator; 17th in series)

    When Kinsey is hired to pick up Reba, the daughter of wealthy Nord Lafferty from prison, little did she know she would find herself in the middle of a money-laundering investigation.

*** Kinsey is finally growing as a character, and Reba was a delight.  The story felt less dated than it has been, and the tone was lighter but not silly.  If there are a couple of people who havent yet discovered this series, this book would even read as a stand-alone.    I had nearly given up on this series a few books ago, but I am very glad I stayed with it.  This book was great fun.     VG


TAMI HOAG -  Kill the Messenger (Bantam Books, 2004; hardciover; Suspense/Police Procedural; author
s 25th book)

    Bike messenger Jace Damon makes one last run of the day and ends up running for his life when the lawyer who gave him the package is murdered.  Jace is both the prime suspect of the police and the target for someone who wants that package.. 

*** I have loved Tami Hoag’s books since her early romantic/suspense novels and she has only gotten better.  There are wonderful characters, great suspense, fast-paced action, and a twist at the end I didn’t see coming.  I picked this book up thinking I’d read a few pages, and I didn’t put it down until I’d finished it.   This is a great read!     VG



ANDREW KLAVEN - Dynamite Road (Forge, 2003; hardcover; Weiss & Bishop, Private Investigators; 1st in series)

    The San Francisco detective agency of Weiss Associates sends operative, pilot and lady’s man Jim Bishop to investigate how the planes of a small Northern California airport are being used.   Meanwhile the agency’s owner, Scott Weiss, is investigating several deaths that seem to tie to a beautiful, but missing, woman.

*** It’s hard to say what made me like this as much as I did.  While the suspense is good, it’s the crisp writing and the very intriguing characters that really drew me in and kept me going.  I have not read Klavan before, but I can guarantee you that I will be reading him again.     VG


JOHN MACKIE - East Side (Onyx Fiction, 2004; paperback; Manhattan South homicide squad, Police Procedural; 3rd in series)

    It’s winter in New York City.  Priests are being murdered with a card of Our Lady of Fatima left behind, and a letter sent to the New York Post from The Soldier claiming credit.  Detective Sergeant Thornton Savage and his team are under pressure to solve the crimes before the pope visits New York.

*** This was a very enjoyable police procedural which to me captured the feel of New York City.  I did feel I’d have been better off having read the previous books in the series to understand the characters better, but it was still fast paced and had a couple of good twists.  While not exceptional, it’s a good page-turner.    Good


MARGARET MARON - High Country Fall (Mysterious Press, 2004, hardcover; Deborah Knott, Amateur Sleuth/Judge; 10th in series)

    Newly engaged Judge Deborah Knott, looking to escape the chaos of her family, agrees to sit in for another judge in the small mountain community of Cedar Gap.  But when the friend of her twin nieces is brought before her accused of murder, she becomes more involved in the community than she planned.

*** Maron’s first book Booklegger’s Daughter is still a standout for me, and I’d moved away from the series.  But while lighter than I usually read, although not really a cozy, I very much enjoyed this book.  The character of Deborah is a wonderful blend of southern gentility, contemporary independence, and backwoods strength and survival.  The combination makes this book well worth reading.     VG


PATRICK QUENTIN - Puzzle for Wantons (aka Slay the Loose Ladies; International Polygonics Ltd, 1990; trade appaerback; reprinted from 1945; Peter Duluth, Amateur Sleuth; 4th in series)

    Lieutenant Peter Duluth and his actress wife Iris are spending his leave at the Lake Tahoe home of wealthy Lorraine Pleygel.  Other guests include Lorraine’s brother and a group of women about to be divorced, but when Lorraine shows up with the soon-be-ex-husbands, the mortality rate rises daily.

*** Set during WWII, and featuring an entertaining husband-and-wife investigative pair, this book is not as light as you might expect.  What I found particularly interesting, given that the book was written in 1945, was that the female characters held their own.  I’ve read all the books in this series and have always enjoyed them.  I’d recommend giving them a try for something a bit different.     Good Plus


SUSAN SLATER - Five O’Clock Shadow  (
Poisoned Pen Press, 2004; hardcover; Pauly Caton, Amateur Sleuth)

Set in New Mexico, Pauly Caton takes refuge at her carnival-queen mother’s house while trying to find out who killed the husband she married four days ago.

*** Between a recent widow lusting after every man she meets, terrible dialogue and absurd characters, I could not get through this book.     NR


Happy Reading,


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