Who is Henrietta Hebert’s biological father? An answer to the question is a conundrum that could be illuminated when Henrietta’s mother finds DNA evidence that supposedly belongs to the mystery man, and this is the impetus behind Tracks: A Curious Tale of Who’s Her Daddy? Henrietta’s mother hires a private detective, Max Morgan, to find out the truth. Max is not only an admirer of hard-boiled detective tv shows and crime novels but also an avid listener to The Fat Man, a popular detective drama radio program in the 1940s and early 1950s. In American history, the show lasted for six seasons. Max fashions himself after the detective in the title role. A marvelous beginning to an entertaining story with a number of complications arising as the detective becomes more embroiled in the speculative paternity case. More than one man is a suspect for possibly fathering Henrietta, and melodrama surrounds each man.
Simon Plaster pulls readers into this delightful story from the first page and keeps their interest right up until the final page. It takes place over a time period of five days in Henryetta, Oklahoma. A good balance of noteworthy, pivotal, and lighthearted moments lends additional meaning to momentous subject matters, such as political treachery and subterfuge, differing views and aspects involving paternity, and ethical issues in both sperm donation and DNA testing. All of these topics are woven together with amazing skill revealing a seamless story from beginning to end. Plaster also beautifully shows how extenuating circumstances and individuals’ subsequent reactions to them can impact a person’s life in positive and/or negative ways.
Plaster’s skillful use of amusing and imaginative metaphors and eclectic dialogue provides readers with wonderful visuals of scenes and characters. Each of the characters is imbued with a unique voice that suits their roles and makes their distinct personalities stand out to readers. The characters act from believable motivations, and each one’s actions are pertinent to not only moving the plot forward but also to the final outcome of the story. Plaster’s stylistically complex writing techniques along with witty and clever wordplay adds to the overall enjoyable reading experience. Readers will appreciate and enjoy the fictional excerpts of Fat Man episodes that wonderfully tie into the storyline. The musical interludes scattered throughout the book are not only fitting but also humorous in the scenes in which they appear. Plaster has written a great twist ending that surprises readers and totally fits in with this intriguing story that will stick in readers’ minds long after they have finished reading it.
Claire's Last Secret is an historical mystery that features English writers. In the summer of 1816, a literary circle gathered in Geneva, Switzerland. It included Percy Pysshe Shelley and George Gordon, Lord Byron, as well as Mary Shelly and John Polidori. This is the summer that Mary Shelley had written Frankenstein and John Polidori had written The Vampire. The story is told by Mary's stepsister, Claire Clairmont, who was another member of their circle.
Each chapter in this story moves back and forth between the same two time periods and locations. The first one begins in 1873 in Florence, Italy, where Claire is living in genteel poverty with her niece and her niece's daughter. The other time period in this novel is 1816, a time when Claire had already been one of Byron's lovers in England and was now carrying his child. Claire named their daughter Allegra and had been told this child had died when she was five years old, but Claire had never been sure if Allegra had really died at that time.
In 1873, Claire receives a letter from her old friend, Edward Trelawny, who advised her to expect a visit from William Michael Rossetti. He was interested in purchasing some of her most cherished possessions, such as letters from Shelly, Mary, and Byron. By the time Claire discovers that Rossetti was one of Polidori's nephews (Polidori was Byron's personal doctor and a man Claire regarded as her enemy), she had already begun searching her memories for what had actually happened back in 1816. When she began dickering with Rossetti, her personal priest and confessor was suddenly murdered.
Claire is a fascinating character and lived in an age when her independence was not accepted or valued. The one love of her life had been Bryon, but the one who now supported her in Italy was Shelley. The author has obviously researched not only Claire's life, but all that happened in that one eventful summer in 1816. The narrative is supported by a short note at the end of each chapter written by a contemporary observer.
Quill says: A well-written book which will be enjoyed by Shelley and Bryon fans, as well as those who like historical mysteries.
Supreme Betrayal (A Zachary Blake Legal Thriller, Book 6)
By: Mark M. Bello Published by: 8Grand Publications Publication Date: April 2021 ISBN: 978-1734548921 Reviewed By: Amy Lignor Review Date: March 31, 2021
It will come as no surprise, for anyone who has had the brilliance of mind to pick up one of this author’s books, that Mark Bello is a retired lawyer. After all, each novel he puts out is more than realistic when it comes to storylines, characters, and locations. Think of it this way. They always say a chef excels when they cook the dishes they know. Well, for a writer, it is the same: Write what you know and you will excel. For Mr. Bello, having that law background has allowed him to carve out his very own award-winning niche in the very busy genre of legal/political thrillers.
This time around, we begin at a party being held inside a stunning lakefront home. Yes, all the young adults have gotten together to tie one on and celebrate life because the parents are away. Hayley Larson Schultz is a 16-year-old at this party, but she’s not exactly a wild child; she hasn’t even given up her virginity as of yet (which, let’s just say, is a novel idea nowadays). Although Hayley is among the “good girls,” that also means there’s something she does not have—street smarts. Very quickly into the book, Hayley learns that the male species is not very nice at times. She ends up sexually assaulted, turning this picturesque home into Hayley’s own personal nightmare.
We fast forward over two decades later and learn that Hayley’s attacker, Oliver Wilkinson, has graduated law school and has now become the president’s nominee to sit on the best and most powerful judicial body in the world: The Supreme Court. Although Oliver has enough wealth behind him so that he believes he can get out of any bad situation, Hayley has grown into a strong woman and is about to become his worst enemy. There is no way she can allow this heathen to achieve this kind of success. But she will not bring the glowing nominee down by herself. Zachary Blake, the lawyer who one and all have come to love through Bello’s books, once again is there to aide a victim and make sure that the truth sees the light of day.
What Hayley and Zachary do together in order to toss Oliver off his golden throne encompasses a series of amazing, intelligent and somewhat crafty scenes. There are times in this book where you will stop and wonder if Oliver Wilkinson is finally the one person Blake won’t be able to see fall. There are other times in the tale that you will be pumping your fists in the air and cheering for the fact that ‘good versus evil’ still exists and that good still wins out.
Told from alternating points of view so that readers get a real feel for each character and the heart and soul they possess, Supreme Betrayal serves up knock-out punches through words and actions creating a battle that even Rocky, himself, would be proud to fight.
Quill says: Powerful and, at times, gut-wrenching, this engrossing thriller shines the light on history, politics, and society’s errors to create an unforgettable read.
For more information on Supreme Betrayal (A Zachary Blake Legal Thriller, Book 6),please visit the author's website at: www.markbello.com.
By: Deborah Stevenson Illustrated by: Stella Mongodi Publisher: Frog Prince Books Publication Date: April 2021 ISBN: 978-1734824230 Reviewed by: Holly Connors Review Date: February 2021
Special friendships and cherished memories are the focal point of author Deborah Stevenson's newest children's book, The Green Woolen Fedora.
Nora is getting ready to go meet her good friend Lenny so they can go see the newest movie playing in town. Because it's a bit cold and windy out, Nora puts on her coat and to top off her outfit, a lovely green fedora.
When the friends meet up, Lenny is curious about Nora's hat. "It's called a fedora!" she explains. Lenny thinks the hat is neat and asks if he can try it on. Nora happily agrees and Lenny puts it on his head. A few smiles and giggles and then Lenny holds out the hat to hand it back. But unfortunately, at that exact moment, a burst of wind charges through and grabs the hat. It flies away and in a moment it's gone.
"The hat whirled and twirled through the air like a top... out over the river, the wind let it drop."
A river rat watches the hat fly about and plop into the river. She races to the hat, now upside down, floating on the river and immediately decides it's the perfect new home for her. Poor Nora is desperate as the hat is very special to her. Lenny wants to help his friend get the hat back and comes up with a plan. Will it be enough to get the hat back to Nora?
Author Deborah Stevenson has a plethora of fantastic children's books (I've reviewed several), all centered around animals. Her newest book, however, is a bit of a departure. While many of her other books are written in verse, as is this one, and there are animals in The Green Woolen Fedora, animals are not the main focus. Rather, this book focuses on a close friendship (Nora and Lenny) and what friends will do for each other, simply to help. And the reason that fedora is so special? When you learn the reason, it will leave a warm, fuzzy feeling in your heart. The Green Woolen Fedora is definitely a departure for Stevenson, but like her other books, it's one you should add to your child's bookshelf.
Quill says: The Green Woolen Fedora is a heartfelt tribute to friendship and special memories shared with grandparents. Sweet and fun, it's sure to delight young readers.
Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with Susan Fleet, author of Foulshot: A Frank Renzi Crime Thriller, Book 10.
FQ: I know we have spoken many times in the past, and I would love for our readers, this time around, to learn more about Music & Mayhem Press, and how that got started.
FLEET: Music and mayhem have always been part of my life. I began playing trumpet when I was eight and joined the musicians union when I was fifteen to play in the city concert band. My father was a print journalist so he'd write up my performances in the local newspaper. But long before that, he used to take me to the police station and I'd hear him talking to the cops. That's probably how I discovered my dark side and began killing people. Fictionally, of course! So what better name for a publishing company than Music & Mayhem Press?
And I do seem to run into mayhem. Several years ago, the man who lived right above my fourth floor condo was shot dead by the police. It seems he had robbed a restaurant after it closed for the night. When police knocked on his door to serve a warrant to arrest him, he wouldn't open the door. Then his girlfriend screams, He's got a gun! So the cops called for reinforcements. It was pretty crazy, ten police cruisers in the condo parking lot and the whole building was locked down. After a while, he came out the door with a gun in his hand and the police officers shot him. True story.
FQ: I know you made the move back after the Katrina tragedy, but what made you initially move from Boston to New Orleans?
FLEET: In 2000, I came to New Orleans to attend the Words and Music writers' conference and fell in love with the city. New Orleans has great jazz clubs, and the architecture and ambiance in the French Quarter are unique. By then I was already writing thrillers, but I hadn't published one yet. So I decided to set my novels in New Orleans and moved there in 2001. Most readers like to travel vicariously and they love reading about New Orleans, especially the French Quarter. Frank's office is in the District-8 station on Royal Street, which has many antique stores, including an antique gun shop with rifles and muskets from the Civil War.
In fact, I met one of my NOPD sources at the District-8 station, a homicide detective, who once helped solve a serial killer case. He gave me terrific information and I got to see the conference room on the second floor. As it happens, when I moved to New Orleans in 2001, a serial killer was murdering young women in Baton Rouge. So I thought, what if a serial killer was murdering young women in New Orleans? That became the premise of my first published book, Absolution. But my killer is very different from the Baton Rouge serial killer. He's a priest.
FQ: Unfortunately, I have yet to set eyes on New Orleans, but everyone says it’s a truly amazing and diverse city. Is it fair to say that New Orleans played a large part in creating Frank Renzi?
FLEET: New Orleans has a tremendously rich heritage. Even before the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, the population was very diverse. The architecture in the French Quarter reflects Spanish and French influences, interior courtyards and lacy iron balconies. When I taught at Berklee College of Music in Boston, I had many Japanese students, because jazz is huge in Japan. I also had students from Latin America and Europe, and due to my interest in jazz, I've always had black musician friends. All of them have different viewpoints and backgrounds, which helps me create diverse characters. Frank's partner, Kenyon Miller, is black; Morgan Vobitch, Frank's boss, is Jewish. Natalie, one of my bad girl characters, is half Vietnamese. I got so attached to her, as did my readers, that I wound up writing three novels about her. And the villain in Foulshot is Russian.
Frank is half Italian and half Irish. He grew up near Boston and later became a homicide detective with Boston PD. Jackpot,my fourth book, is a prequel that explains why he moved to New Orleans. In Jackpot, Frank is hunting a serial killer who targets lottery winners. How scary is that? Frank's experiences in Boston, his love of jazz and the Celtics, shaped who he is, but Boston has a diverse population too, so Frank feels very comfortable in New Orleans. But he still roots for the Celtics.
FQ: Could you tell our readers about your blog, Dark Deeds, and how it came about?
FLEET: My Dark Deeds blog posts are about serial killers, stalkers and domestic homicides. I do so much research for my books, I decided to write about actual crimes. The current post is a tragic case. A beautiful young woman became a call girl in Boston, met a Tufts University professor who became obsessed with her, and wound up dead. Eventually, the professor went to jail, but her body was never found. Her parents were devastated. After reading my blog, her brother posted a comment. So did the MA State Police detective who investigated the case and I later talked with him by phone about it.
FQ: You have a diverse resume, to say the least. When it comes to your various careers – from trumpeter to professor to writer, etc. – is there one you can say you enjoy the most?
FLEET: All of them! My musical training and years of performances influence how I structure my novels, the pace and the timing and the dialogue. The students I met while teaching gave me insight into various backgrounds, racial, ethnic and economic. Including gender. At Berklee I created and taught a Women in Music course because many talented female musicians are neglected. Now I write about them on my website. susanfleet.com/morewomenmusicians.htm
As for my novels, I love writing them. I get totally lost when I'm writing. The outside world doesn't exist. It gives me a chance to create an escape for people who need a diversion from their jobs or their lives, or from the pandemic these days. I love talking about my books at writers conferences and libraries. I meet a lot of interesting people and their questions and comments often give me new insights into how my novels affect them.
FQ: Along those same lines, what made you decide to don the “fiction author” hat, so to speak?
FLEET: Many years ago, I produced a slide show about Growing Up in America around 1900. To learn how to write better narration I took a script writing course at Emerson College in Boston. As it turned out, the course focused on writing movie scripts. The professor was terrific and she encouraged me to write a movie script. I wasn't interested in doing that, but I loved writing dialogue. So I decided to write a novel and asked myself, what sort of novel should I write? At the time, my favorite novel was Day of the Jackal, by Frederick Forsythe. I analyzed each chapter of the book to see how he did it, and wrote my first thriller. That one is hidden in a drawer where no one will ever see it! But I kept writing and now there are ten crime thrillers featuring Frank Renzi.
FQ: As a HUGE fan (as you can probably tell by now), can you let me in on whether or not I get to see Frank Renzi again; and, if so, what I might expect from him next?
FLEET: The Frank Renzi adventures will definitely continue. Strange as it may seem, along about the third or fourth revision of each novel, I get an idea for the next one. Sometimes a character speaks to me. Twilight Zone, right? But I swim laps in a pool to stay in shape, and this often happens while I'm swimming. I already know the next book will be about a serial killer. Here's the first line in the book. He loved stalking them. Not going to tell you any more than that. Stay tuned!
FQ: Social media is such a big slice of the pie for writers nowadays, could you give me your opinion on social media and how you feel it has helped over the years? In addition, could you provide your social media sites as to where readers can gather more information about you and your titles?
FLEET: To be honest, I don't spend much time on social media. I don't have time. I still play my trumpet for an hour in the morning. Then I write, sometimes for five or six hours. This involves many tasks. First, I create my villain, a worthy opponent for Frank, and write his or her backstory. This involves creating other new characters. I do extensive research to create the characters, the locations and so forth. Finally, I plan the plot, all the way to the end. I have to know how the story ends before I start writing. This may take weeks. Then I write the first draft. And rewrite it! Get feedback from my Beta readers and rewrite some more. Months later, I send it to my proofreader. Then I fix the little diddly mistakes. Who's got time time for social media? But I have a website, which features my crime thrillers, biographies of fabulous female musicians, even my trumpet CD! I love to have folks visit me there, so come on down! susanfleet.com/index.htm
FQ: Thank you so much (again) for your time. As always, I am honored and extremely happy to have another Renzi title on my shelf.
FLEET: My thanks to you, Amy, for doing the interview!