Book Reviews: Hawaii, New Mexico, The South, and Neurotica

Some people take exception when I say a face devoid of makeup is a “naked face.”
Some people are assholes.

The Cypress Trap
How sad would your life be if everything depended on a good-luck charm?
After a prologue of kids jumping into a watering hole somewhere in the South, we’re taken to a failing marriage on a fishing vacation, with both still trying to recover from the death of their child. It’s been said that in such situations it’s more likely for the couple to split up rather than stay together, and though she’s trying her hardest, it looks like this is heading that way. . . which confuses me, because this protagonist is no great prize. He calls his recent life “an extraordinarily atrocious run of bad luck,” when in reality it’s more like incredible stupidity and stubbornness.
The couple and their friend are chased by bad teens, though no one believes them. Finally the sheriff helps her out, except we never find out what happens to him, other than the implication he was killed by the bad teens. I was feeling sympathy for her, but now she seems as dumb and self-centered as her husband. Unfortunately the sheriff’s simply forgotten and we’ll never know.
There are some reasons a dog might change allegiances, even a brutal attack dog. Being hit on the head is not one of them.
Because there had to be a reason for the prologue, I wasn’t surprised when that person showed up; still, I think the author cheated a little with that. Hard to believe someone could get so hung up on a good-luck charm, but then there’s plenty of crazy to go around.
The worst part for me was how the main character’s injury left his leg too shredded to walk, and yet without any medical care later in the book he’s able to fight off some bad guys and survive being thrown in the lake. Or perhaps the worst part is at the end I really wasn’t shook up at all about the deaths.
Though the writing was enjoyable, these several huge inconsistencies in the plot mentioned above doomed it for me.
2/5

A Bundle of Neurotica
A collection of six short stories featuring a young college professor and her evil twin, who wants to make her sister’s life better by showing her how to have fun—or taking her place to protect her from the arrogant jerks around her—and only makes things worse.
I was sadly surprised by how bored I was despite the fun premise. There isn’t even that much erotica in it, except for some spankings and the evil twin picking up some anonymous guy in a bar. The only thing that kept it interesting enough for me to make it to the end was the evil twin’s snark.
At one point I actually wondered if, instead of an evil twin, she had a split personality, but no, the evil gal is real. . . I think.
All in all, pretty disappointing.
2/5

Tropical Judgments
A local—as in Hawaiian—musical legend is killed in a mugging, and a black kid who’s led the most heartbreaking life you’ve ever heard, as well as suffering from fainting spells, is accused. A local lawyer, himself the victim of fainting spells, is forced to defend him in a story that’s part detective and part courtroom drama.
This was a surprisingly easy read, with a flow that kept me going for far longer than I would have thought, once I glanced at the clock. The Hawaii setting—anything but a paradise—was intriguing, especially the racism. I found the characters well-drawn and distinctive, except for there being too many people to keep track of in the crime family.
Not that it was perfect, though. The one bad guy’s excuse of “family” sounded particularly false, considering he was betraying his real blood relatives. At one point the prosecutor, who up to then had been a relatively good guy, uses the “if the criminal didn’t do this, he probably did something” crap, which surprised the hell out of me, and disappointed me as much as the defense lawyer. The dif is I was disappointed in the author for scuttling the character. And as far as the writing, smooth as it was, there were too many chapters for how short it was.
Some questions remained. Did the police—corrupt as they are—try to trace the death threat phone call? What about the witness who saw the bad cop with the real killer? Perhaps those will be explained in the next book.
3.5/5

Spectre Black
A female cop in New Mexico is chased out of her home in the middle of the night; then the scene switches to a guy in San Clemente, California. Quick introductions, though that might be understandable considering this is not the first book in this series.
Rushing to New Mexico at her SOS, the protagonist finds himself quickly immersed in all the nefarious activities of the small town where she was a detective. Before he knows it he’s being seduced by a black widow of an FBI agent—how the hell was she posted so close to home?—and set up for murder, thrown into jail where he’s fully expected to be killed.
And then somewhere in the middle the plot turns into something much different; how the heck is it suddenly about cloaking technology? And then our bright hero, with the help of a friend, decides the smart thing to do is go undercover with a militia; yeah, that’ll end well.
Just to confirm their evilness, the half-siblings—the obviously schizophrenic youngster and the FBI agent—are in an incestuous relationship.
When the main character finds the cop he came to save alive and well and living it up on a houseboat, the fast pace slows down dramatically, almost like a whole new book. They plot to take down the bad guys in numerous ways, none of them very convincing. What could have been a very good story gets bogged down in a plot too intricate to really enjoy.
3/5

;o)

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