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John Florio, BLIND MOON ALLEY

Jersey Leo is an albino born of a black man and a white woman living in the 1930’s.  As if that isn’t enough of a problem for Jersey, he is also involved with evil women, mobsters, and crooked cops.  When a childhood friend escapes from death row where he is about to be executed for killing a crooked cop, Jersey feels obligated to help him, and this leads Jersey into a complicated web of deceit and death.

Written in lively period dialogue, this is a book that will hold your attention from beginning to end as Jersey attempts to help his friend, save his own life, and finally begin living the life he desires. I look forward to reading future books in this series.

Louise Penny, A GREAT RECKONING

Armand Gamache has taken over as head of the Surete Academy in an effort to root out the last vestiges of the pervasive corruption that had infected the Surete Quebec under its previous chief. Soon Gamache has on his hands a dead professor, an odd map found in the walls of the bistro at Three Pines that is somehow related to the murder, and four suspicious cadets, one of whom seems to be related to his own past.

Plots, sub-plots, and sub-sub-plots are all part of the richness of Penny’s books, and having it all tie together in the end is one of the pleasures of reading her. This works better in some stories than in others, but generally I would consider this one a success.

I have often thought that if Penny’s characters talked directly and honestly to each other without being quite so oblique, cryptic, and clever, the crimes would be solved much more quickly.  But I suppose all of this obfuscation is also part of the charm of her writing.  This is a good novel that her many fans will enjoy.

C.J. Box, OFF THE GRID

Joe Pickett and Nate Romanowski are together again, at least eventually, in this recent effort from Wyoming crime writer C.J. Box. This is a thriller rather than a mystery, in which Joe and Nate gradually find themselves drawn down different avenues into the heart of a terrorist conspiracy.

A picky reader might find the plot a bit coincidental and consider prophetic dreams eerie rather than realistic. But the story is engrossing, and the action scenes are seat-of-the-pants exciting. One can admire the rugged individualism of Box’s protagonists but still find his demonizing of the federal government and eastern elites tiresome. Especially since it is the two entities that eventually save our heroes’ bacon.

When all is said and done, however, this is another fine story from a distinctly American voice.

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