Saturday, April 25, 2015

A Face Turned Backward - Lauren Haney

    2009; 308 pages.  Book 2 (out of 8) of the Lieutenant Bak series.  New Author? : No.  Genre : Murder-Mystery; Historical Fiction.  Overall Rating : 8*/10.

    Someone has been smuggling goods – including very valuable ivory tusks – from below the southern borders of Egypt and up into the eastern Mediterranean lands.  That means they’re traveling through Egypt without its ruler, Lady Maat, receiving any customs money from those transporting them across her borders.  The Vizier and Viceroy are not pleased.

    Someone else has been killing people, shooting them in the back with arrows.  Multiple times, from considerable distance, and with admirable accuracy.  The local people are concerned.

    Lieutenant Bak has been assigned to investigate both issues, and to solve them both by the time the Vizier shows up on an official visit in just a couple days.

    And frankly, if he can only resolve one in that short amount of time, his superiors would prefer that it be the smuggling issue.

What’s To Like...
    I started reading Lauren Haney’s Lieutenant Bak series as a result of an e-book library “if you liked that, then you’ll like this” recommendation, and so far it’s been a treat.  The other book I’ve read in the series,  is reviewed here.   The historical details about the series' ancient Egypt setting are given in that review.

    As a piece of historical fiction, A Face Turned Backward is top-notch.  The text can get meticulously descriptive at times, but that just helps sell the “realness” of the setting, and I always like that.  My previous read in the series, A Curse of Silence, was set “out in the boondocks”.  This one is set in a slightly more-civilized locale, a fortress called Buhen.

    A number of themes and storylines are woven together here – an assault, several murders, the smuggling of both ivory and animals, and the distinct disadvantages you have if you’re poor and widowed, poor and feeble, and/or poor and in love with someone in a higher class.

    Once again, there is a very handy Cast of Characters at the start of the book.  The meaning of “A Face Turned Backward” isn't revealed until 98% through the book, and curiously it has nothing to do with the main plotline.  Maybe the author was desperate for a title.  This is a Police Procedural, which is always a delight for me; but there’s enough action interspersed along the way to keep the interest of readers who like their mystery to have some pizzazz.

    The ending, the last 15% or so of the book, is particularly exciting and fast-paced.  I thought the overall structure of the storyline was done quite well.  This is a standalone novel.

Kewlest New Word...
Delimiting (v.) : determining or establishing the limits or boundaries of.  (That seems counterintuitive to me.)

    “The path leads to the wreck?”
    “An easy walk beyond the village, yes.”
    Bak pressed the rudder, guiding the skiff closer to shore.  “And it’s from here you stole this boat?”  The words slipped out as smooth as a dagger from a well-fitted sheath.
    Tjanuny tensed for an instant, the relaxed.  His face took on a wide-eyed look of honesty and candor.  “I borrowed it.”  (loc. 744)

    “I’ll not withdraw what I’ve said before, Lieutenant.  I’m responsible for this garrison; therefore, I’m the man who must sit in judgment on all who err along this sector of the river.”
    Bak braced himself, expecting the worst.
    “That’s not to say my officers can’t now and again use their own discretion.”  Thuty paused, added in a dry voice, “As you’ve done in the past, and will no doubt continue to do in days to come.”
    Bowing his head, hiding a relieved smile, Bak murmured, “I’ll not abuse the privilege, that I promise.”
    “Humph!”  (loc. 4446)

Kindle Details...
    A Face Turned Backward sells for $0.99 at Amazon, and four of the other five e-books available from this series go for the same amount.  That is a fantastic price.  For some unfathomable reason, two of the books in the series have not yet been digitalized.

“Tales have a tendency to swell in direct proportion to the wishes of the one who listens.”  (loc. 3547)
    The Murder-Mystery portion of A Face Turned Backward is okay, but not spellbinding.  There are several nits to pick.  The plot isn’t very twisty, and Bak’s initial investigation – the assault – never ties into the main storyline; nor does it ever get resolved.  Maybe it was intended as a red herring.

    The mechanism for smuggling the tusks is blatantly obvious, and I rarely figure those sorts of things out before the protagonist does.  The identity of the bad guy felt a bit arbitrary, although to be fair, when Bak is faced with 5 equally-likely suspects, he devises a clever way to flush the culprit out of the pack.  The biggest quibble is the violation of Murder-Mystery Cliché  #1, which is given in the comments to avoid spoilers.

    8 Stars7 stars for the Murder-Mystery, 9 stars for the Historical Fiction.  But don't let my personal quibbling dissuade you from picking up this book.  It was still a very enjoyable and worthwhile read, especially if you're a history buff.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Stingray Shuffle - Tim Dorsey

   2003; 367 pages.  New Author? : No.  Book 5 (out of 19) in the Serge A. Storms.  Genre : Humor; Crime Fiction; Florida Noir.  Overall Rating : 8½*/10.

    Briefcase, briefcase; who’s got the briefcase?  You know, the silver one with the five million dollars in it.  Well, right now Paul and Jethro have it, but their possession of it is rather tenuous, since Serge A. Storms, our psychopathically-crazy protagonist, can track them via GPS.   Also, there’s the Russian mafia and the Mierda cartel.  They too are after the money, and what they lack in competency, they make up for in perseverance.

    But Fate has a fickle sense of humor, and who knows who’s going to end up with the cash?  Plus, silver metallic suitcases are rather common and it’s easy for them to get mixed up in the confusion.

What’s To Like...
    The Stingray Shuffle is the third book in the mini-trilogy “Suitcase saga” within the Serge A Storms series.  Curiously, it’s book 5 in the series, but story-wise it follows books 1 and 2, which are reviewed here and here.

    Tim Dorsey deftly interweaves three plotlines:  The Suitcase Chase, a book (“The Stingray Shuffle”) that jumps from obscurity to best-selling for no discernible literary reason; and an interactive role-playing whodunit game on an Amtrak train (“The Silver Stingray”) going from New York to Florida.   This may sound cluttered, but it really isn’t.

    There’s lots of action, the pacing is brisk, and Dorsey’s wit is laugh out loud funny.  The characters aren’t deep, but they are all fascinatingly unique.  The book is for mature audiences – there’s cussing and sex (except for Johnny Vegas, the “Accidental Virgin”), and a couple of Serge’s trademark grisly executions. 

    Everything builds to an exciting climax, and I defy you to predict what ultimately happens to the money.  Tim Dorsey gives  a backstory on pages 26-27 for those who haven’t read the earlier installments of the trilogy.  I happened to have accidentally read them in order, but The Silver Stingray can also be read as a standalone novel.

Kewlest New Word ...
Weltschmerz (n.) : a feeling of melancholy; world-weariness  (a Germanism)
Others : Propinquity (n.)

    “Your Honor, he gets on these compulsive tangents,” said the public defender.  “He has to find out every single thing there is to know about a subject, talk to as many experts as he can, see and touch everything . . .”
    “I object!” said Serge, jumping to his feet.  “He’s making it sound weird.”
    “Weirdness isn’t grounds for an objection,” said the judge.  “And that’s your own attorney.”
    “Then I respectfully withdraw.”  Serge sat back down and turned to the public defender.  “Proceed.”  (pg. 89)

    Eugene Tibbs was blue.  That was his job.
    He had always been blue.
    “He was blue back in his days on the Mississippi Delta, in those cotton fields, and he was blue in Memphis, on Union Avenue, recording for Sam Phillips at Sun Studio.  He was blue after selling his soul to the devil late one night at the crossroads.  And he was blue because he didn’t sell his soul for talent and fame but for a sandwich.  That’s what cheap liquior will do to you.  That’s what the blues does to you.  (pg. 261)

 “I discovered something new about rental cars.  (…)  The trunk is a self-draining cooler.”  (pg. 136)
    I read three books in this series back in 2010.  I thought the first one was so-so, mostly because I had trouble accepting Serge and his gruesome-yet-inventive ways of offing people.   Once I got over that, I ate up the next two books.

    I don’t know why it’s taken me 5 years to read another book in the series.  Most likely, it’s a case of “so many books, so little time”.  In any event, I’m glad I did, and although I read the mass-market paperback version, it should be noted that my local digital library offers the whole series as both audiobooks, which I don’t do, and e-books, which I do.

    8½ Stars.  Highly recommended if you’re looking for a light, quick-moving, low-brow read, and like authors who aren’t afraid to put the “hot” back into “psychotic”.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Song of the Quarkbeast - Jasper Fforde

    2011; 289 pages.  Book Two  (out of 3) in The Last Dragonslayer series  New Author? : No.  Genre : YA; Fantasy.  Overall Rating : 9½*/10.

    In the Ununited Kingdom, Kazam and iMagic have long been competitors in the Wizardry business.  Now King Snodd IV has decreed that the rivalry shall be settled once and for all via a bridge-building contest, with the losers being assimilated into the winning company.

    Kazam isn’t worried.  It has five wizards to iMagic’s three, and more overall wizardly talent.  Even three on three would be no problem.  One on three might be a bit dicey, but hey, that would only happen if the iMagic baddies stooped to skullduggery.

    And they wouldn’t dare to that without royal consent, would they?

What’s To Like...
    The Song of the Quarkbeast is the sequel to The Last Dragonslayer (reviewed here), and once again is told in the first person POV by the foundling, Jennifer Strange.  This time the focus is on her job as business agent for Kazam, not on her being the Last Dragonslayer "chosen one".  And while she’s still the main protagonist, the sorcerers she manages are now highlighted more.  If you like Rincewind and the rest of the lovably zany Discworld wizards, you’ll like this group too.

    The dragons from the first book take a break, but the quarkbeasts are back, along with Mysterious X, Hector the Transient Moose, and a kewl new critter called a memory-dog.  The reason behind the title doesn’t show up until 84%-Kindle, but it’s worth the wait.

    There’s a lot more ink given to spellcasting here, and the mechanics of the magic system are fleshed out in greater detail.  The Ultimate Evil dude does not disappoint in his badness, but he is also conniving, resourceful, and diabolically charming.

    The ending is stellar.  Every time you think Evil has been vanquished, Jasper Fforde contrives to turn the tables on our heroes, with the situation turning increasingly dire.  Yet the tone remains light throughout, as would be expected of a YA novel, and this is a “clean” tale – no cussing, alcohol, etc.  The closest we get to romance and sex is Jennifer almost getting to go on her first date.

Kewlest New Word...
Squiffy (adj.) : crooked; askew; awry  (a Britishism; the more common definition is “slightly drunk”)

    “You’re going to have to find the ring within thirty seconds,” announced Lady Mawgon, “and since it might be tricky to find in the rank, fetid, disease-ridden, muddy water, you’ll need my help.”
    “You’re coming down, too?”
    “Good Lord, no.  What do you think I am?  An idiot?”
    “I’m not sure it would be healthy for me to answer that question,” replied Tiger carefully.  (loc. 321)

    The King stepped up to the royal microphone and made a long, rambling speech about how proud he was that the hard toil of a blindly trusting citizenry kept him and his family in the lap of luxury while war widows begged on the streets, and how he thanked providence that he had been blessed to rule over a nation whose inexplicable tolerance toward corrupt despots was second to none.  The speech was well received and some citizens were even moved to tears.  (loc. 2125)

Kindle Details...
    The Song of the Quarkbeast sells for $6.15 at Amazon.  Book One, The Last Dragonslayer, sells for $2.80.  Book Three, The Eye of Zoltar, goes for $9.99.

“Do I have to go down a well upside down while being sarcastic with a shoe tied around my neck?”  (loc. 318)
    I can't think of anything to quibble about in The Song of the Quarkbeast.  Both the writing and the storytelling are topnotch.  Some characters are lost, some are found, and at least one is found temporarily and lost again.  The pacing is quick, there’s plenty of action, and as always, Fforde’s wit will keep you chuckling.

    The worst I can say is that the writing of this series delays more books in the Thursday Next, Nursery Crimes, and Shades of Grey (not to be confused with Fifty Shades of Grey) series.

    9½ Stars.  Highly recommended as a fun, light, exciting read for both young and adult readers.  I’ve yet to be disappointed by anything written by Jasper Fforde.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Time After Time - Allen Appel

    2009; 320 pages.  Book 1 (out of 5) of the Pastmaster series.  New Author? : Yes.  Genre : Time-Travel; Historical Fiction.  Overall Rating : 8½*/10.

    Alex Balfour is having a nightmare.  He’s in the World War 1 trenches, with the Russian army, and getting pummeled by the advancing Germans.  One of his comrades is dying from a bullet wound in the stomach, his blood dripping out onto the ever-present mud.  Alex is trying to escape the bombardment, crawling away through the muck and mire, but it appears hopeless.  He tries to help the mortally wounded soldier, but both know it will be to no avail.

    Thankfully, the dream ends there, and Alex wakes up, back in his own apartment, albeit sore and stiff from sleeping too long in a chair.  He’s had these oh-so-real types of dreams before, and they seem to be getting more frequent.  Thank goodness this one’s done.

    But a question lingers.  If he's been dozing in a chair all evening, how is it that his jeans and shoes are caked with mud?

What’s To Like...
    If you’re a history buff, particularly if the Russian revolution interests you, then Time After Time is going to thrill you.  Allen Appel seems to have thoroughly researched the tumultuous events going on in 1917 Russia, and presents a great “feel” for the lives of the people suffering through the upheaval.  It was nice to see the Zimmerman Telegram get some ink, and I found the reference to (the siege of) Akhulgo particularly enlightening.

    This is also a Time-Travel book, so Apple drops one modern-day, young, plucky, nerdy History Professor into the mix who will have to use his wits to survive the harsh conditions.  Well, his foreknowledge of what’s going to happen might come in handy as well.

    The mechanics of the Time-Travel reminded me of those used in The Time Traveler’s Wife, and the additional details given at about 92% in the e-book were quite intriguing.  The “instant foreign language mastery” may seem a bit far-fetched, but it has the advantage of making the story flow at a crisp pace.  This isn’t an Alt-History story.  This book is more about experiencing the Russian revolution, not changing it.  Nevertheless, Alex manages to alter a few of the historical details through his meddling, but in the end History will have its way.

    I liked the characters.  It was especially neat to watch Alex evolve from a somewhat "soft" academic to a hardened realist with leadership qualities.  There's a bit of a romance, or maybe two, but no one would call this a Romance novel.

    There is some cussing, primarily the use of the F-word; and some sex, although nothing lurid.  There’s also some violence, but you’d expect this in a book about the Russian revolution.  Despite being the start of a 5-book series (with rumors of a sixth book in the works), this is a standalone novel, with a good ending.

Kewlest New Word...
Knout (n.) : in Imperial Russia, a whip used to inflict punishment, often causing death

    “What happened to you last night?  Was that a normal occurrence, or did it have something to do with my company?”
    “Rest assured that it had nothing to do with you.  I was very unhappy when I felt it coming on.  It’s sort of a migraine; I’ve had them since I was a kid.  When they start, the only thing I can do is lie down until it passes.”
    “I don’t remember you having migraines.”
    “It’s a fairly recent reoccurrence.”
    “Don’t you take anything for it?”
    “Whiskey, generally.”   (loc. 886)

    What was she supposed to do, date?  She could have some wonderful conversations: “Well, my real boyfriend isn’t around at the moment; he’s a time-traveler and he’s in Russia right now, probably fighting in the Revolution or something; but when he gets back, we’ll be getting back together again, so don’t get your hopes up or anything.”  (loc. 3105)

Kindle Details...
    Time After Time sells for $0.99 at Amazon.  The other four e-books in the series all sell for $2.99, which is frankly a great price.  Allen Appel has several other e-books available, ranging from $2.99 to $7.99, and several novellas for $0.99.

“I see you’ve been out playing with the other little boys.  Shot any autocrats this evening?”  (loc. 4703)
    Issues exist, the biggest of which are the huge numbers of typos present.  These are not the usual “spell-checker” typos (fro/for, affect/effect, you're/your, lose/loose, etc.); instead they felt like scanner errors: comer/corner, pig/big, I/1, tum/turn, if/it, etc.  The frequency of these seriously disrupted the flow of the story.  I’ll forgive the scanner; who knows what font it was trying to ‘read’.  But hiring a proofreader would’ve been a prudent investment.  We won’t even mention the time slip regarding the date of Rasputin’s death.

    Everything else is minor.  The author gets overly descriptive at times, especially about food and clothes.  And the supposed “Ich bin ein Berliner” gaffe has pretty much been relegated to being a wing-nut urban legend.

    But I quibble.  I love to read both Historical Fiction and Time-Travel stories, and Time After Time was a thoroughly delightful treat in both genres.

    8½ Stars.  Subtract 1 star if you were hoping for an Alternate History story.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Black Notice - Patricia Cornwell

   1999; 527 pages.  Book #10 (out of 22) of the Scarpetta series.  New Author? : Yes.  Genre : Murder-Mystery; Thriller.  Overall Rating : 7*/10.

    The freight ship Sirius has just arrived in Richmond harbor from Antwerp, and has some curious cargo to declare.  A body, quite decomposed, is lying in one of the shipping containers.

    Kay Scarpetta, Chief Medical Examiner, has the unenviable task of securing and investigating the crime scene, collecting the body, transporting it to the morgue, and trying to determine the cause of death.  And while she’s at it, see if she can determine the identity of the victim.

    She does have one clue already, though.  A message, presumably from the killer, scrawled on the inside of the container.  It reads “Bon voyage, le loup-garou”.  French, eh?  I wonder what a loup-garou is.

    Oh crap, it means “werewolf”.

What’s To Like...
    There are three storylines to keep track of in Black Notice.  There’s the crime investigation itself, which is why people read Patricia Cornwell books.  There’s Scarpetta’s personal life, which is why people read the Scarpetta series in order.  And there’s the “office politics” tale, which involves petty thefts, bogus e-mails, and backstabbing bosses and coworkers.

    All the characters were new to me, since I haven’t read any other books in this series.  Scarpetta is the protagonist, of course, but I suspect Lucy and Police Captain Marino are recurring characters.   Marino has the ability to be both annoying and charming at the same time.

    I especially liked the technical parts of Scarpetta’s job.  I was reminded of the old Jack Klugman TV series Quincy M.E., but television has to present “sanitized” versions of things like autopsies.  Here, we get to “see” the real life of a Medical Examiner.  Ripping open chest cavities, removing and weighing organs, inserting rectal thermometers, etc.  Fun times.

    This is a first-person POV story.  Scarpetta and Marino do a lot of smoking and drinking, which seemed to fit with the setting.  Ditto for the frequent cussing.  Since it was written in 1999, some of the details are outdated – businesses use AOL as their e-mail service provider, the Concordes are still flying, and faxing is the best way to send documents to someone else.  Wowza.  And FWIW, the syndrome featured here, hypertrichosis, is a real, albeit rare, malady.

Kewlest New Word  ...
Soporific (adj.) : tending to induce drowsiness or sleep.
Others : Avulsed (v.)
    “What time did Detective Anderson show up this morning?” I asked him.
    His answer was to go around flipping on light boxes.  They glowed blankly along the upper walls.
    “Sorry I’m late.  I was on the phone.  My wife’s sick,” he went on.
    He has used his wife as an excuse so many times by now that she was chronically ill or a hypochondriac, had Munchausen syndrome or was almost dead.  (pg. 107)

    ”You’ll really like this café,” he said.  “It’s a secret.  You’ll see.  No one in here speaks anything but French and if you don’t speak French, you have to point on the menu or get out your little dictionary, and the owner will be amused by you.  Odette is very no-nonsense but very nice.”
    I was scarcely hearing a word.
    “She and I have a détente. If she’s pleasant, I patronize her establishment.  If I’m pleasant, she lets me patronize her establishment.”  (pg. 443)

 “You think we might ever convince Dr. Carmichael that ‘cardiac arrest’ is not a cause of death?  Everyone’s heart stops when he dies.  The question is why did it stop.”  (pg. 92)
    There were some slow spots.  In the first half of the book, most of the attention is on the office politics angle and the stress in Kay’s personal life.  If you’re reading the book for the murder-mystery, things will drag at times.  Just hang in there; the second half is all about the killer and his bloody spree.

    The main disappointment for me with Black Notice was its ending, which felt rushed and clunky.  Our killer is on the loose, with Richmond’s finest searching for him, so where does he go?  You guessed it, Scarpetta’s house, where our plucky ME handles him with tension-lacking ease.  To boot, the resolution of the office politics storyline is abrupt and unbelievably convenient.  It’s almost as if the author got tired of the story around page 500, and decided to wrap things up as quickly as possible.

    Nevertheless Black Notice was a page-turner for me, which says something about Cornwell’s writing ability.  And who knows, maybe I just picked one her weaker storytelling efforts to start with.  I don’t think I’ll commit to reading the other 21 books in order, but Kay Scarpetta is sufficiently intriguing to merit reading some more books in the cases.

    7 Stars.  Add 1 star if you are reading this series in order.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

McNally's Puzzle - Lawrence Sanders

   1996; 311 pages.  Book #6 (out of 15) of the Archy McNally series.  New Author? : Yes.  Genre : Crime-Humor.  Overall Rating : 8*/10.

    It’s a puzzling thing.  Hiram Gottschalk is elderly, wealthy, and the owner of Parrots Unlimited, a pet shop in south Florida that specializes in imported parrots.  He’s convinced someone wants to kill him, and he tells Archy McNally why he thinks so.  Someone slashed a photo of him and his late wife, stole their favorite LP, taped a “Mass Card” (it’s a Catholic thing) to his closet door, and strangled his pet mynah.

    But three people from his family and household staff tell a different story – the old man is going dotty.  The photo was dropped and broke.  Hiram imagined the album and Mass Card.  And the mynah died of natural causes.

    The issue eventually resolves itself when somebody murders Hiram by stabbing him in both eyes with a stiletto (ouch!).  But who did it, and why?  It’s kind of funny that so many people who were related to or worked for Hiram tried to dissuade Archy from taking Hiram’s fears seriously.

    It’s McNally’s puzzle now.

What’s To Like...
    This is a new author and murder-mystery series for me.  Archy McNally is kind of an improved blend of P.G. Wodehouse’s Bernie Wooster, and George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman, with Lawrence Sanders taking the best from each of those.  Archy is a bit less obnoxious than Flashman, and a bit less clueless than Bernie.

     The story is written in a first-person POV, and Archy chronicles his investigation with an abundance of wit and Woosterian pseudo-wisdom.  This is also a vocabularian’s delight; see below for just a few of the marvelous words encountered here.

    It’s a  relatively “clean” story – no cussing, sex scenes, etc.  But I can’t quite call it a cozy because there’s a lot of smoking and early-in-the-day drinking, and a couple implied adult situations.  Some of the characters seemed irritatingly stereotyped – the gays, blacks, Asians, etc. – but the author tackles the subject of bipolarity with admirable insight.

    The ending is just so-so; to me it felt a bit contrived and clunky.  But at least Sanders doesm’t use the trite “the parrot squawks the killer’s name” device.

Kewlest New Word. . .
Logy (adj.) : sluggish; dull in thought or action (due to tiredness, etc.  (a Yankeeism)
Others : Bubeleh (n., Yiddishism); Fillip (n.); Megrims (n.); Prolixity (n.);  Bumf (n., Britishism); Adytum (n.); Spavined (adj.); Somnifacient (adj.); Contretemps (n.); Bibulous (adj.); Beamish (adj.); Psittacine (adj.); Chatelaine (n.); Dragoman (n.); Pourboire (n.); Brobdingnagian (adj.); Strigiled (adj.)

    “Archy,” he added soulfully, “I’m in love.”
    “Oh?” I said.  “Which parrot?”
    “No, no.  It’s Bridget Houlihan.”
    “Ah,” I said.  “The Hibernian crumpet.  Fancy her, do you?”
    “She’s such a marvelous female,” he enthused.  “Sweet and charming.  And talented.  She plays the tambourine.”
    “Binky,” I said, “I’m not sure one can play a tambourine.  Don’t you just shake it or bang it?  I mean Brahms never wrote a lullaby for tambourine, did he?”  (pg. 42)

    She finally emerged from the briny and strigiled water from her torso and legs with her palms.
    “That was divine,” she said.
    I was happy she approved of the Atlantic Ocean.
    She strolled ahead of me back to our spread.  I studied her lilting walk in the minuscule bikini plastered to tanned and glistening hide.  Poetry in motion?  Yes indeedy.  But whether it was a sonnet or a limerick I could not have said.  (pg. 114)

 Didn’t someone once say you can cure a man of any folly except vanity?  (pg. 217
    It took me a while to cotton to Archy until about halfway through the book, mostly because of his upper-class attitudes and somewhat cocky wit.  But either Lawrence Sanders “softened” Archy’s demeanor along the way, or I became charmed by his inept yet persistent efforts to get to the bottom of the murder-mystery.  We shall see.  I have another book from this series on my TBR shelf, and there are lots of Lawrence Sanders novels available (both e-book and book-book) at my local library..

    McNally’s Puzzle is Book #6 in this 15-book series.  Lawrence Sanders passed away after writing Book #7; the rest are written by one Vincent Lardo.  I don’t know if this was one of Sanders’s weaker efforts; I picked it up as a $1-Hardback at the local library’s annual book sale.

    8 Stars.  The plusses outweigh the minuses here, and I am sufficiently intrigued to read a couple more books in the series.  I would not be surprised if I warm to Archy even more as I get used to him.  That's how it was with Flashman and me.