Monthly Archives: November 2016

Mystereity Reviews Behead Me

I just got this really nice review of Behead Me by Tammy of Mystereity Reviews and had to share it. It’s nice to know that it appeals to non-geocachers as much as it does to geocachers.

29284829Behead Me by Russell Atkinson

Retired FBI agent Cliff Knowles is hired by a company to investigate possible theft of proprietary industrial plans, an investigation that leads him to shady business dealings, danger, and even murder.

Before you ask, Behead Me refers to a word puzzle. No blood and guts here, Behead Me is an engaging and absorbing mystery that will quickly draw you in and keep you turning pages. Cliff is an unflappable investigator, and I enjoyed how his methodology was neatly laid out. This wasn’t one of those super-cop-hunches kind of solves, it was a realistic procedural, and I really enjoyed how Cliff ferreted out the smallest details and connected them to another case, and the presidential pardon sub-plot was heartwarming and added some human dimension to the story. Cliff’s geo-caching adventure in the desert and the high speed chase at the end added a lot of action kept me on the edge of my seat.

I haven’t read the other books in the series, so I can safely say that this book can be read as a standalone, or as an entry into the series. The few references to prior books were minor and didn’t cause any confusion.

Overall, Behead Me is an intriguing and fascinating read and I definitely recommend it for fans of mysteries and procedurals.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review

Behead Me is available at book retailers or online at Amazon  | Barnes & Noble

Series: Cliff Knowles #6
Rating:★★★★★ 5 stars
Publication Date: February 23,2016
Language: English
Formats: Kindle/Paperback
ISBN: 9781530039401
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Reviewer: Tam (Mystereity Reviews

The Author’s Life

Adam@Home courtesy

Adam@Home courtesy

Sigh. How I sympathize with Adam. So far I’ve only had a typo on the cover once. Fortunately, it was on the back cover in the “About the Author” section. A sentence was repeated. If you have one of those copies, someday when I’m posthumously famous, it may be as valuable as those stamps with the airplane printed upside down. As for typos in the interior … I think they reproduce forever.

Three under-the radar comedies worth watching

For Thanksgiving I will depart from my usual book reviews. The last two or three books I started turned out to be flops, so I didn’t read enough of them to do a review. Instead I’m going to mention three television comedies that I’ve discovered. Okay, I’ve discovered along with a few million others, probably, but I don’t see or hear anything about these in the press or social media, so I think they are somewhat under the radar. I can put two of these in the guilty pleasure category as they are things that sound like they are (because they actually are) in the weird to tacky range. Here they are in order of overall quality.

Life in Pieces This CBS screwball comedy is so well-written it’s amazing it ever made it to the screen. The first big plus: there’s no laugh track. A laugh track is a sign of a failed comedy. I will never watch any show with a laugh track; a live audience is okay, though. LIP is a family comedy much along the lines of Modern Family. The scene shifts from the patriarchal family unit to the children’s, but that’s where the similarities end. The half-hour show is split into four vignettes, each focused on one family unit. In essence, it’s a series of skits. This is its second season, which says something about about its quality right there, since few comedies make it past season 1. The acting all good, too, but the absolute best in my opinion is Zoe Lister-Jones who plays the wife of Collin Hanks’ character. Her comic timing and deadpan one-liners are spot on.

Son of Zorn The first guilty pleasure is this off-the-wall live person-animation hybrid from Fox. Zorn is the Hulk-sized muscle-bound animated sword-wielding fantasy hero whose live action ex-wife (played by Cheryl Hines) is now engaged to a mild-mannered doctor. Zorn’s teenage son (Johnny Pemberton) has his father’s animated legs, which he attempts to conceal in gym class. Zorn has returned from the kingdom of Zephyria where he slayed dragons and whatnot to reconnect with his son who lives in suburban Orange County. Zorn takes a job working in a call center and thinks his female boss is a man because, well, bosses are always men. Zorn’s natural proclivity toward violence and magic spells keeps him in constant trouble. The premise is completely wacky but somehow it works, once again due to top-notch writing. Pemberton is terrific as the beleaguered Alan and Jason Sudeikis does a superb job voicing Zorn.

People of Earth The even guiltier pleasure is POE. I’ve only seen the first two episodes of this, so it could go south on me, but it’s clever enough to interest my wife and me. It centers on a support group for alien abductees. The main character, played by Wyatt Cenac, is a journalist who was doing a story on this obviously crazy group when he himself is abducted. It has been compared to (inspired by?)  the “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency” novel series, written by Douglas Adams. The absence of a laugh track and the low-key performance by Cenac are enough to keep it on our series record list, but the other characters seem rather like one-dimensional stereotypes. Ultimately the writing will make or break this series.

Interview with The Writing Greyhound

I had a nice author interview with Lorna of The Writing Greyhound.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Interview: Russell Atkinson

Russ Atkinson, author of the Cliff Knowles Mysteries series, has stopped by The Writing Greyhound to answer a few questions about Behead Me, the sixth book in the series.

Firstly, tell me a little about yourself and your background.

I’m a retired FBI agent and lawyer living in California, the Silicon Valley area. My hobbies include finger-style guitar, geocaching, and cipher solving. I’m the past president of the American Cryptogram Association and I was the Head Cryptographer for the movie The Red Machine.


See the rest Here:

The Writing Greyhound

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Big Little LiesBig Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This review applies only to the audio recording version. I got only as far as track 3 on disk 1. The obnoxious screechy voice of the narrator was so horrible I couldn’t stand it any longer and turned it back in to the library. I have no idea whether the story itself is any good, although the beginning was less than auspicious. If you want to give it a try, I strongly recommend a print version.

Edit: After writing this review I found out my wife had tried the audiobook, too, and had exactly the same reaction. She only made it 30 seconds.

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A Midsummer’s Equation by Keigo Higashino

A Midsummer's EquationA Midsummer’s Equation by Keigo Higashino
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hari Cove is a small seaside town southwest of Tokyo. The Kawahata family, a mother, father, and 30-year-old daughter Narumi, runs an inn there that has seen better days. Narumi’s young cousin Kyohei comes to stay for a while during summer vacation. It’s past the tourist season and the inn has only two guests, a physicist there for a conference about drilling for minerals in the cove, and Tsukuhara, a retired detective from the Tokyo Police Department. The detective ends up dead, his body on the rocks over the sea wall. At first it’s thought to have been an accident, but it is soon found to be carbon monoxide poisoning. The mystery begins there and four groups start investigating: the Hari police, the prefectural police (more or less equivalent to state police), the Tokyo police, who believe the death may be related to a case he once had, and the physicist aided by young Kyohei. Yukawa, the physicist, it turns out, is known to the police as Galileo, a nickname, and is the brains of the outfit. He has helped the police before. The groups don’t always share their information with each other so we are seeing parallel investigations go on and get clues from each.

This is exactly my kind of book: a true whodunit solved with brainwork. The plot is devilishly clever and the suspense builds slowly as we get more clues that lead to the surprise ending. The reader is given a fair chance to solve it himself (or herself). There is no wasted space; every scene turns out to be important. The plethora of Japanese names may confuse the western reader, but it helped that I spent a few months in Japan as an exchange student. Re-experiencing that culture was a big plus for me with this book. I also liked that there was no foul language, gore, or sadism/cruelty. The reviews on this book haven’t been all that strong, the chief criticism being that it moves too slow and is thus boring. It definitely moves at a more languid pace that the typical western mystery. The science in it is important, though, so don’t ignore it. If you’re looking for an action thriller, this ain’t it. There’s no sex in it, either. Deal with it.

I’m very impressed with the translation. It seems very smooth, colloquial and credible, as though written originally by a native English speaker. I thought this book was great and I’m giving it my top rating.

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Pudd’nhead Wilson by Mark Twain

This book revealing the endemic racism in American society of yesteryear seems especially timely right now, although that’s purely coincidental.

The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead WilsonThe Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson by Mark Twain
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In an antebellum Missouri a slave woman who is only 1/16 black has a child by a white man. At the same time, the mistress of the house gives birth to another baby and dies. Roxy, the slave/mother, raises both while the absentee father can’t tell them apart. She switches the two babies, both blond and blue eyed, during infancy so that her baby will grow up with the privileges of a white man and not be sold down the river. Her scheme backfires since her son grows up to be a nasty, spoiled character who despises her. The white baby ends up as a kitchen slave.

If this were a modern novel the “black” baby, known as Tom throughout most of the book, would turn out to be a fine stalwart young man in order to show that African-Americans are just as inherently intelligent and of as good character as whites. Political correctness would dictate it. Instead, Roxy and, apparently, Twain, attribute Tom’s evil character to that word-a-white-guy-can’t-say blood. The book is a tough read because of the blatant bigotry and unappealing characters. Tom is by far the main character, yet the book is named after the secondary character, a white lawyer, who eventually uncovers the truth. Perhaps these choices were mandated by the political correctness of the day, but they still grate. Even so, Twain is known to historians as an adamant abolitionist.

Perhaps I had a romanticized recollection of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, which I think I read as a child, but I may even be remembering the Disney movies. I thought Twain was satirizing the racism and humanizing the black characters in those, and perhaps he was, but the same cannot be said for this one. It is also just not as well-written as those. Wikipedia attributes this to the rush of his impending bankruptcy, but critics seem to agree with me that it is poor from a stylistic standpoint. Even so, it serves as a stark reminder of how far we’ve come in the area of civil rights, and perhaps suggests that we could do better than we have.

The reader did an excellent job despite how difficult it must have been to speak the racially offensive dialect with appropriate enthusiasm and sincerity.

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A Ragtime Nightmare – guitar arrangement

Okay, not everybody can be Ton Van Bergeyk, but if you love ragtime guitar as I do you can find a way to play some of his masterpieces. I had no chance of playing it as written on the tab, so I simplified it enough so that I could hack it out but it’s still fiendishly difficult, at least for me. You sure don’t see a lot of other guitarists putting up videos of this piece, so I don’t feel so bad that I’m sloppier on this one than on my other videos. I learned this years ago, but let it go forgotten for a long time until I revived it recently. This is my Taro resonator. The tuning is drop D. If you want to see and hear the full arrangement played flawlessly search the name Johnson Hogg on YouTube.

A Ragtime Nightmare by Tom Turpin

The Lightless Sky by Gulwali Passarlay

The Lightless Sky: A Twelve-Year-Old Refugee's Harrowing Escape from Afghanistan and His Extraordinary Journey Across Half the WorldThe Lightless Sky: A Twelve-Year-Old Refugee’s Harrowing Escape from Afghanistan and His Extraordinary Journey Across Half the World by Gulwali Passarlay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This first-hand non-fiction account of an Afghan refugee’s journey from the land of the Taliban to the safety of the UK is both shocking and inspiring. Only twelve months old when he was sent forth by his mother into the hands of smugglers, he was a scared boy who became a man on his year-long journey. I was tempted to call it an adventure but that would put an unwarranted gloss on the hellish endurance race. At various times he was cheated, jailed, starved, beaten, robbed, held hostage, and shoved into poisonous chemicals that left him permanently scarred. It is a near miracle he made it to the UK, or even survived for that matter. He gives us a credible and very different view of life in an Afghan village and the views and attitudes of other Afghans. He also recounts many tales of kindness, bravery, and loyalty that allowed him to survive and ultimately reach the end of his flight.

This is the third non-fiction book I’ve read by authors who were there in Afghanistan’s war-torn regions. Two of them, there is no goat and Red Platoon: A True Story of American Valor, were by U.S. military personnel. These three were written from very different political points of view, but one thing appears to be a common thread: the U.S. should not be there. We are doing no good for the people of Afghanistan and in fact are damaging our own security by bombing and other military action that serves only to help the Taliban and Al-Qaeda recruit future terrorists who hate the U.S. Nation-building in our democratic model simply does not work in that culture. The Afghans, at least the ones in the mountain areas controlled by the Taliban, do not want western values. Life was stable and good under Taliban control before the U.S. came. Of course there were some atrocious events like the stoning of women who were accused of some immorality, but the number of deaths and maimings and other atrocities there, such as bombings of hospitals and innocent family homes, has increased greatly under the U.S. occupation. At the same time we are putting the lives of U.S. service personnel at risk for no useful purpose, and every year producing a new crop of full body bags and limbless veterans with PTSD.

The author had a co-author, but the story is his. The writing would be remarkably good for someone of his background had he been the sole author, but it was still rather dull and repetitive with a generally whining I’m-a-victim tone to it. The co-author should have taken more of a lead role in cleaning it up. The author is clearly highly intelligent and his smarts played a big role in his success in getting to the UK, but he still seems to be carrying demons from his experience. I get the feeling he is still suffering from PTSD, although that is not mentioned in the book. His education and life in the west have clearly broadened and matured him. The chip has finally fallen from his shoulder, or so it seems. Yet there is still a part of him that hates the U.S. and the UK for their roles in bringing chaos to his world and his family with their invasion. He admits that had a few things gone differently he might very well have become radicalized and joined the terrorists.

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