Posted in Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: The Peaceful Valley Crime Wave by Bill Pronzini

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*No Major Spoilers*

Nothing much happens in Peaceful Valley, Montana. And that’s just how Sheriff Lucas Monk likes it.

Aside from the occasional drunken brawl or minor disturbance out on the reservation, he hasn’t had to resort to his fists or sidearm in years.

That is, until mid-October, 1914, when the theft of a wooden cigar store Indian sets off a crime wave like nothing Lucas has ever seen. Teenager Charity Axthelm goes missing, Reba Purvis’s housekeeper is poisoned with cyanide Reba is sure was meant for her, and Lucas’s gut tells him that this is only the beginning.

It’s not long before the first corpse shows up, bringing the peace in the valley to a thundering end.

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I have read and reviewed a few Westerns on this blog before. Some include The Ballad of Black Bart by Loren D. Estleman, The Hunger by Alma Katsu, Holmes on the Range by Steve Hockensmith, and recently, Modo: Ember’s End by Arthur Slade. Let’s return to the frontier in The Peaceful Valley Crime Wave by Bill Pronzini! 

I enjoyed how the book starts with the theft of the local cigar store Indian, and the chaos grows from there. Sherriff Monk takes the chaos in stride and does his best to investigate with the clues the case threw at him. Next, the attempted murder of a local busybody and her housekeeper. Finally, the murder of a local young woman who supposedly ran away with a traveling merchant.

First of all, I fell in love with Sherriff Monk. I agreed with his idea of justice and doing things more or less by the book. His dry sense of humor had me chuckling along as he’s questioning witnesses and looking for clues. He is honest, and he’s willing to let his deputies participate in the investigations. 

Out of the three central mysteries, I think the attempted homicide by poisoning ended up being my favorite. I think the idea of a murderess killing wealthy bachelors and taking their money and moving to a new town to start again is fascinating. The case reminded me of the frontier serial killer, Belle Gunness.

Overall, I enjoyed The Peaceful Valley Crime Wave. There was plenty of action, mystery, and old fashioned justice. What caused this sudden and brief crime wave Sherriff Monk isn’t sure of by the time the last case wraps up. Maybe Montana is just dull enough to cause people to go a little batty. 

I would recommend this novel for lovers of westerns, mysteries, and historical fiction. I think you should give this a read if you’re looking for a great western mystery. The Peaceful Valley Crime Wave is an entertaining read that I enjoyed from beginning to end.

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Posted in Book Reviews, Graphic Novels

REVIEW: Modo: Ember’s End by Arthur Slade

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*No Major Spoilers*

Based on the world of Arthur Slade’s Hunchback Assignments, Modo: Ember’s End follows the titular character on a new adventure. Modo has been trained by the British to be a secret agent and is about to find more action than he can handle in the wild-west town of Ember’s End.

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I was browsing the virtual library, and the cover of Modo: Ember’s End caught my eye. I thought it would make for a fun and entertaining read. Now that I’m finished reading the novel let’s look at this graphic novel.

First off, I am a fan of westerns with a sci-fi twist; steampunk. I have reviewed other novels of this subgenre, which you can check out here when you’re finished reading this review. Modo: Ember’s End makes it’s way to a family-friendly subgenre with plenty of western hijinks and adventure.

One nitpick I had was how Octavia was portrayed as a dumb brutish blonde. I am not familiar with the Hunchback Assignments series, so I don’t know if Octavia is a returning character or if she only appears in this spinoff. However, either way, it’s nothing major that takes away from this story.

Overall I had fun with the story. I loved the humor the author put into this story, and I think this graphic will be fun for the whole family. I’d recommend Modo: Ember’s End if you’re looking for a family-friendly western for all ages.

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Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: Boneyard (Deadlands #3) by Seanan McGuire

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*Spoilers at the very end of the review*

Step right up to see the oddities and marvels of The Blackstone Family Circus and Travelling Wonder Show! Gasp at pit wasps the size of a man’s forearm. Beware the pumpkin-headed corn stalker, lest it plants its roots in you!

Annie Pearl is the keeper of oddities, the mistress of monsters. Her unique collection of creatures is one of the circus’s star attractions, drawing wide-eyed crowds at every small frontier town they visit. But Annie is also a woman running from her past . . . and the mother of a mute young daughter, Adeline, whom she will do anything to protect.

Hoping to fill its coffers before winter sets in, the circus steers its wagons to The Clearing, a remote community deep in the Oregon wilderness, surrounded by an ominous dark wood. Word is that a traveling show can turn a tidy profit at The Clearing, but there are whispers, too, of unexplained disappearances that afflict one out of every four shows that pass through the town.

The Clearing has its secrets, and so does Annie. And it may take everything she has to save her daughter―and the circus―from both.

I’ve been interested in reading this novel for a while now, it’s been on my ‘to be read’ list for a few years. I felt like it was finally time to jump into this Weird Wild West novel.

Annie’s trailer of oddities made me realize just how far we’ve advanced in science and biology. Her “nibblers” are piranhas, she owns a pet lynx named Serenity, and other monstrosities of nature.

Overall I enjoyed this weird wild west tale. It had plenty of spookiness, horror, action, and adventure. It was worth the wait to be able to add this to the “weird wild west” subgenre.

Here’s a short story collection of Weird Wild West

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

In this story, wendigos are the main antagonists, other than the town itself they are a threat to the circus. The wendigos weren’t something to be taken lightly, the town had made a deal with them to keep them from eating the townsfolk during the harsh winters and to keep outsiders away. The wendigos would attack any outsider that came to the town by either killing them on the spot, kidnapping them and taking them back to their lair to save for later. Which I felt like a convenient circumstance so we can have somewhat of a happy ending to the story.

I first heard of wendigos when I was watching a playthrough of the video game “Until Dawn”. With that said, when I found out the wendigos were a supernatural based entity I did plenty of research on them because they captured my interest. I found them unique and fascinating compared to other supernatural beings and entities talked about in average lore.

This is a book I’d recommend to anyone interested in wendigos, the supernatural, circus stories, and mysteries. It is definitely worth a read, whether you get it from your local library or you buy it, it’s definitely an excellent story.

Posted in Book Reviews

REVIEW: Holmes on the Range (Holmes on the Range #1) by Steve Hockensmith

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*No Major Spoilers*

1893 is a tough year in Montana, and any job is a good job. When brothers Big Red and Old Red Amlingmeyer sign on as ranch hands at a secretive ranch, they’re not expecting much more than hard work, bad pay, and a few free moments to enjoy their favorite pastime: reading stories about Sherlock Holmes.

When another hand turns up dead, Old Red sees the perfect opportunity to employ his Holmes-inspired “deducifyin'” skills and sets out to solve the case. Big Red, like it or not (and mostly he does not), is along for the wild ride in this clever, compelling, and completely one-of-a-kind mystery.

“You can follow a trail without even knowing you’re on it. You start out just ambling, maybe get to thinking you’re lost–but you’re headed somewhere all the same. You just don’t know it until you get there.” – Holmes on the Range by Steve Hockensmith

As much as you hear about how Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictional detective Sherlock Holmes affected pop culture, you really don’t see it much outside of the United Kingdom. I am thrilled to see a western twist on the Sherlockian mystery subgenre. It makes the western genre unique and intriguing, not knowing who’s behind the murder until the unveiling at the end of the novel.

The Amlingmeyer brothers are just trying to survive in the late 1800’s America. When they stumble unto a murder mystery too difficult to ignore, they are in for an adventure. Lives and reputations are at stake as Old Red starts to meddle in places where he doesn’t belong.

The unlikeliness of a poor ranch hand solving an intricate mystery made the Amlingmeyer brothers’ struggle to solve the mystery all the more difficult. Old Red was more of an illiterate Sherlock Holmes and Big Red more of a brother trusting his kin. Big Red and Old Red is the only family they have left, so there’s no other choice but to stick together when things get dicey.

I would highly recommend this novel for lovers of westerns, mysteries, and Sherlockian style storytelling. This novel will leave you guessing until the big reveal, and even then you may be surprised to learn the answer to the mysteries.

Posted in Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: Red River (Edge #6) by George G. Gilman

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*No Major Spoilers*

It was a jagged rip in his memory. In jail for a killing he didn’t commit, Edge is puzzled by the prisoner in the next cell. Where had they met before? Was it at Shiloh, or in the horror of Andersonville? This is the sequel to Killer’s Breed, an earlier volume in this series. We revisit the bloody days of the Civil War and incredible scenes of cruelty and violence as our young nation splits wide open, blue armies versus gray armies, tainting the land with a river of blood. And Edge was there.

My dad loves westerns, as I’ve stated in past reviews. This novel caught my attention because of the artwork on the cover and the fact that I grew up near the Red River that borders Oklahoma and Texas. I am not a Civil War history buff, but I thought I’d give it a try.

The title is more of a metaphor for how bloody and brutal the Civil War actually was. I’ve learned in college that the Civil War was more complicated than just the argument over slavery. It was about the seemingly unbalance between the northern and southern states.

I liked how Edge (Hedge in the flashbacks) was always getting into tight scraps, like being captured by Confederate soldiers and being taken to Andersonville. Through the horrors he and a few of his comrades had witnessed, Edge was able to trick his way out of the death camp.

The current day storyline was also enthralling as well. A double homicide, one of which just happened to be bad luck, and gambling don’t mix well. Edge is facing being hanged unless he can prove that he didn’t pull the trigger. That’s not the only obstacle in his way. People with power and big bank accounts want to see Edge hang for the deaths as well.

Overall, this was a nice and enjoyable short story. There was plenty of action, mystery, and Civil War history. I would recommend this novel for lovers of old westerns, historical fiction, and Civil War-related fiction. Even though this novel is older, I think copies can still be found.

Find More of George G. Gilman’s Works Here!

Learn More About Andersonville Here