Thursday, March 22, 2018

Dennis Palumbo’s Daniel Rinaldi Reconciles His Past in Head Wounds

bookWe all look forward to the debut of a new Daniel Rinaldi novel and reunion with the psychologist we all would like to consult. Head Wounds (2018) is the fifth and latest in the Rinaldi series, and it does not disappoint. Rinaldi’s warmth and his tendency to run a bit afoul of the system is still evident and reading it is like welcoming back an old friend.

As Head Wounds begins, Rinaldi still cannot quite move on from the past. His wife’s murder has deviled him in every preceding book in the series. He cannot accept the conclusion that Pittsburg Police have agreed upon: Barbara Rinaldi’s death was a mugging gone wrong. Rinaldi nearly lost his own life in the attack and incurred infinite blame from Barbara’s father, who made his professional and personal life equally miserable. The irony is, of course, that Barbara’s father need not have bothered because no one could hold him more responsible than did Rinaldi himself. By this time, he has come closer to putting his life back together and taken up his practice. However, he has succeeded in resuming his life, survivor’s guilt has haunted him. Now it seems that a background investigation dossier from an outside source on Rinaldi himself has emerged reviving a hope that something new will emerge to further the investigation.

Now, years after the event, Rinaldi gets more than he bargained for when a person of interest emerges to finish what started that evening in a restaurant parking lot. We learn that Barbara’s past had complexities Rinaldi was ignorant of and that a quirk of fate kept Rinaldi in relative safety these past years. All bets are off as Rinaldi and his associates are harassed, threatened, and put in physical jeopardy while Rinaldi’s life threatens to unravel. We meet an adversary worthy of the term who has had the ensuing years to plan his revenge and is one or two steps ahead of Rinaldi at every turn. That this perpetrator does not quite have all the facts of Rinaldi’s life straight makes him unpredictable. That he is brilliant, egotistical, and relentless ups the stakes.

No small part of the pleasure in reading Head Wounds is reacquainting ourselves with Palumbo’s recurring characters in the police as well as in Rinaldi’s personal and professional life. We meet Harry Polk again who somehow makes irascibility and professionalism work in tandem to make him a better cop. It would be too easy to dislike Polk if not for the way his character develops in every novel. Very good to see him and his take on Rinaldi’s tormentor.

Also, back again is former FBI profiler, Lyle Barnes–he of the “night terrors” that still have not quite gone away. Barnes’s situational analysis, not to mention his many years of experience dealing with the most elusive and canny of the worst of the nation’s criminals, makes him a sterling cohort. Barnes knows all too well what the experience of having a clever, calculating murderer on his trail is like. Also back are Noah and Charlene who run the bar Rinaldi is particularly fond of and spends time in frequently to our delight. Besides being a big sweetie, Noah is a paranoid schizophrenic who stays on his meds and the straight and narrow thanks to his partner Charlene. I always look forward to Rinaldi’s down time at the bar not least because its informality encourages all the characters involved to speak their minds and reveal more than was intended—Rinaldi included.

So sit back and enjoy yourself welcoming back people who are part of your reading life. Is it too early to be anticipating the next Rinaldi novel?

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Sharon Tucker is former faculty at the University of Memphis in Memphis TN, and now enjoys evening supervising in that campus library. Having forsworn TV except for online viewing and her own movies, she reads an average of 3 to 4 books per week and has her first novel—a mystery, of course—well underway.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Meet the Author Alan Gibson March 29th!!


Join Alan Gibson for a book signing.
Thursday, March 29 at 7 pm
Four Seasons Bookstore 
Shepherdstown, WV

A famous award-winning Hollywood director has read Leave No Trace and already wants to direct it, so we're on track to turning it into a feature length film. 
I'll let you know what happens. 

In Leave No Trace, hi tech and low tech collide on the Appalachian Trail and in the town of Harpers Ferry.  There's plenty of intrigue, with trail name aliases, assassins, revenge and murder.

See you at the book signing.
-Alan Gibson

For more information about Alan Gibson and his books, visit
You can buy Leave No Trace at Turn the Page Bookstore in Boonsboro, MD
and at

Monday, March 19, 2018

A Bookaholic Swede Reviews Larry D. Thompson's White Witch

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I must say that White Witch is a truly interesting book that started off great with a flashback to Annie Palmer tyranny before the story turned its focus on the present time and the Maroons struggle with an American aluminum company that is after their land. For someone like with pretty little knowledge of the history of Jamaica was this book awesome to read. I love getting to know the history of the Maroons, how they fought both the Spaniards and the Englishmen for their freedom and won. Now they once again have to fight against a powerful enemy, a company after their land.

The beginning of the book really made it out to be more of a horror book than a thriller with a lot of strange things going on. I would have loved it to be more of a horror book than a thriller actually. Still, I found the plot to be interesting with murders being done with snake daggers, the same kind that is said that Annie Palmer, the White Witch, had used to kill with.

I also liked how ex-Navy SEAL Will Taylor and his team more and more realized that they are working for the wrong side and I liked this change and what it brought on as Will and Vertise Broderick, a journalist who is also a Maroon decides to hire an attorney to fight for their cause in the court. The question is will they be able to prove that the land is the Maroons?

White Witch is a book that gave me a lot in return. I got an interesting story and I also gained some insight into the history of Jamaica and the Maroons.

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Saturday, March 17, 2018

Naples: Elena Ferrante’s brilliant city

Fans of the writer’s Neapolitan novels are flocking to discover the south Italian city, whose personality is as important to the books as the protagonists.

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Second generation Italian-American Lisa Greco is about to receive the reward she's worked her head off for--but she's not sure it's what she wants anymore.

She's always postponed exploring her creativity, and discovering her Neapolitan origins. So she throws the dice, and goes to Naples where she meets a mysterious Japanese-Italian professor of mathematics and itinerant tenor who's in search of his own roots. This leads her to do something she's never done before. She takes his hand as he leads her into the darkest recesses of the ancient excavations that reveal the key to both their identities.

Like many tourists in Naples, I have only ever been there en route to somewhere else. For years the city has had a reputation for being dirty, dangerous and traffic-choked: why on earth would anyone choose to linger? But this has changed. Naples is becoming a destination in its own right, thanks in part to the huge popularity of the enigmatic author Elena Ferrante. And with the city’s rubbish-collection problem solved and new traffic restrictions in the centre, it is looking in better shape than it has done for decades.

Ferrante, who writes under a pseudonym, is the most important literary sensation to have emerged from Italy in a generation. Her quartet of Neapolitan Novels has sold more than 5.5 million copies worldwide. The New York Times observed that enthusiasm for the novels is so intense that it is being described in “epidemiological terms, making the phenomenon sound almost like an infectious disease”. Nor is Ferrante fever likely to cool any time soon: an Italian/American television adaptation of the first book My Brilliant Friend is under way. Filming starts in Naples next spring. The ultimate aim is to adapt all four novels over 32 episodes.

I came late to the books, prompted to pick up the first volume by the outrage around Italian reporter Claudio Gatti’s controversial unmasking of Ferrante’s supposed true identity. Needless to say, I loved My Brilliant Friend and devoured the next three, gripped by Ferrante’s rich portrait of the hard lives and intense friendship of the two protagonists – Elena and Raffaella (who call each other Lenù and Lila) – who grow up in a poor, violent neighbourhood against a background of mafia vendettas and social and political unrest in the 1960s and 70s.

    We stop at a traditional pastry shop like the one run by the Solara brothers for a coffee and a sfogliatella

Naples is as much a character in Ferrante’s writing as Lenù and Lila themselves. Her “dark streets full of dangers, unregulated traffic, broken pavements, giant puddles … clogged sewers” work their way deep into your imagination. So you finish the Neapolitan novels not only with a sigh of regret, but an insistent desire to get to know the city for yourself.

“People began asking hotels and tour operators in the area: ‘How can we find the locations in the novels?’” says Caterina dei Vivo of Progetto Museo, a Naples-based cultural heritage preservation group. “They wanted to see the stradone, the Vomero, the Rettifilo, the Corso Umberto.” Progetto Museo quickly launched a Ferrante tour of the city earlier this year and several others have jumped on board since then.

I decided to combine my tour with a few nights in Sorrento. A picturesque tumble of dark red villas and ochre hotels perched on the edge of the Bay of Naples, the town works as a base not only for visits to the city – about 50 minutes away by boat, or an hour by train – but for the Amalfi coastal path (the “pathway of the gods”), Campania’s hillside towns and the islands of Capri and Ischia, too. Pompeii and Heculaneum are an easy train ride away.

I was met off the boat from Sorrento by the impressively qualified Caterina, a Neapolitan with a PhD in the preservation of cultural heritage. Along with the two others in our group, I was keen to visit the working-class neighborhood where Lenù and Lila grow up: the Rione Luzzatti in the south of the city. Frustratingly, Caterina won’t take us there. Now mainly social housing, it has a reputation for crime and is apparently “too sad and depressing” for us. Instead, we set off into the old city where our first stop was Corso Umberto, known locally as the Rettifilo. This is the main street connecting the rione [administrative district] with the city, where Lenù and Lila first start going out alone with friends – with disastrous consequences one night when the Solara brothers pick a vicious fight with some obnoxious private school boys. It is also home to the bridal shops visited by 16-year-old Lila as she prepared for her lavish wedding to Stefano Carracci. Every window is awash with frothy white lace and rainbow-coloured bridesmaids’ dresses.

We turn left into the university district where Lenù found her first job in a bookshop and Nino, the love of her life, worked as a leftwing lecturer. As in the books, the lecture theatres are daubed with radical slogans – a “lotta dura” [a 60s political slogan, now more associated with football] here, a hammer and sickle there and students hand out revolutionary flyers to passersby. Next stop is Via dei Tribunale, where Lenù attended political meetings with her friends in the Red Brigades. We stop at a traditional pastry shop like the one run by the Solara brothers in the novels for a coffee and a sfogliatella, a shell-shaped pastry which originated in Naples, filled with vanilla, cinnamon and orange-flavoured ricotta.
Naples: what to see, plus the best restaurants, bars and hotels
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The city centre feels wonderfully unmodernised, its dark, narrow streets dripping with faded laundry, lucky bunches of dried red chillies outside every house and shop front. Walls are buried beneath layers of posters, stickers, graffiti and grime. Scooters zoom past, horns blare and truck brakes hiss. I’m struck by the absence of chains, such as Starbucks and McDonald’s. Caterina says the multinationals know they cannot compete with the street food of Naples: fried pizza, potato croquettes, courgette flowers in batter, fried anchovies and fried mozzarella are sold on every corner in brown paper cones – cuoppo – for just a few euros apiece. Pungent Neapolitan coffee likewise.

East of the dead-straight Spaccanapoli which bisects the city centre, giving away its Roman heritage, the streets widen out and the Via Toledo, one of the city’s main shopping streets, leads us out of old Naples. This is where the Solara brothers paraded in their Fiat 1100 during the evening passeggiata in My Brilliant Friend. It runs past the elegant glass dome of the 19th-century Galleria Umberto – where Tom Ripley and Dickie Greenleaf strolled in The Talented Mr Ripley – into the Piazza Trieste e Trento, home of the San Carlo opera house and the Gran Caffè Gambrinus, a Naples institution founded in 1860, which Lenù and her daughters visit with Gigliola in The Story of The Lost Child. The imposing national library, where she researched the city’s history towards the end of the book, is in the same piazza.

From there it is a short walk along the well-heeled Via Chiaia to the elegant Piazza dei Martiri, home to the Solara brothers’ shoe shop, where Lila hung a giant, disfigured wedding photograph of herself in her wedding gown and later conducted an affair with Nino. Staring into the windows of the handsome Salvatore Ferragamo store, you can imagine seeing Lila behind the till, or maybe it’s Alfonso, her closeted gay friend. The city opens up here to the sea and you become aware that you haven’t glimpsed the Mediterranean since morning. As Lenù often reflects, Old Naples keeps its back to the water, brooding and looking inward.

From the Villa Comunale, one of the city’s few green spaces, you can gaze towards Via Tasso, where Lenù rented an apartment while she was with Nino, and also fashionable Vomero, where a teenage Lenù attended an elegant party thrown by her professor and was amazed by her first insight into another, bourgeois world.

We returned to Sorrento exhilarated and completely sold on the concept of getting to know a new place through its literary characters. Where next? Dave Eggers’s San Francisco? Marlon James’s Jamaica? Elizabeth Strout’s Maine? The possibilities are endless.

Read more Lisa O'Kelly

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

A FIVE STAR : STARRED REVIEW for White Witch: Larry Thompson

Legends are often passed on from one generation to another as the opening scene in this powerful historical novel allows readers to meet Annie Palmer known as the “White Witch.” Cruelty, abuse, hatred for her own slaves, murdered her husbands and took pride on torturing others, Annie Palmer’s spirit haunts the grounds of Rose Hall Plantation near Montego Bay. Born in Haiti to and English mother and Irish father living most of her life in Haiti. Voodoo or magic became part of her life when her parent’s dies and her nanny taught the ways of magic. Moving to Jamaica she met John Palmer who owned Rose Hall and here’s where our story gets interesting as she murdered him and her next two husbands. Almost as you hear her voice in the opening pages you can tell that she enjoyed hurting those she felt not worthy and many slaves were added to her death list. But, when Rudyard could not stand it anymore and his own child was in danger, he took matters into his own hands and killed her. Annie Palmer, did she have tendencies towards sadism or lechery?

Will Taylor is brought to Jamaica in order to help her boss Alexa Pritchard the President of a ruthless American Aluminum Company create a bauxite mine and destroy the Jamaican Rainforest. Will as head of security of this company his goal was to deal with the Maroon Nation’s people descendants of escaped slaves over 300 years ago. Global American Metals is the company and as you get to know Alexa, her treatment of those working for her you the reader will decide just how ruthless and deadly she is and what will happen if she wins.

The Maroons were escaped slaves and they ran from their Spanish-owned plantations when the British took the Caribbean island of Jamaica from Spain in 1655. Cimarrones is the Spanish word for Maroon meaning mountaineers. They ran to the mountainous areas of Jamaica where it was hard for their owners to follow and catch them creating their own independent communities as free people.

Will did not come alone but he and his team would face great resistance from the locals and the Maroons. Violence and deaths would ensue before all was said and done and the vital issue as to whether they Global will be stopped will cost lives. Rodney was a computer geek, Manny and Kaven made up the rest of the team. Alexa Pritchard was ruthless, unfeeling and wanted her staff at her beckon call. Dealing with her you wonder why Will or anyone else bothered as he rules and requirements went above and beyond corrupt as she bribed people in order to get the permits needed to create the mines and bring in her men. Arriving in Jamaica on Cudjoe day to celebrate the anniversary of the day the Maroon Chief signed the treaty with the British. If Global Medal succeeds then the rainforest will be destroyed and plant life and more won’t exist but they will rake in billions.
History relates that slaves arrived from Africa to work on the plantations increasing their population on Jamaica. When any slave dared to try and disappear and manages to find themselves in the mountains and joined the Maroon communities as long as the White Witch or Annie Palmer didn’t get to them first. Battles between the British, the Jamaican Government hoping to stop and defeat the Maroons, as they were a treat to their government. But, this war was about who owned the land and the Maroons claimed to own 150,000 acres as far as the eye can see whereas the treaty stated 1500 and Global Metal was going to fight to the finish to get their mines completed at all costs.

As we get to know Will and his team we realize that there are many who want to stop them at every turn. Kaven falls prey to an old friend who warns him that he’s in danger and should carry a gun. But, as the head of detectives Harper relates anyone found with a gun will wind up in gun court or worse. He is the chief engineer and when the Maroons begin their protests against Global Medal he is forced to helicopter to their site and hopefully reason with them but things get violent and he barely makes it out as the tensions build and the inevitable has yet to occur.

Colonel Rafael Broderick is the man in charge of the Maroon Nation and when things got out of hand and the police had to rescue Kaven what happens next would shake both the Maroon communities and the Jamaican. No one was safe from the wrath of Alexa who abused her employees with verbal insults, long hours and expecting them to adhere to her wants and needs even if they were illegal. When Kaven winds up dead and the investigation points to the Maroons things get tense and another person comes into view, Vertise Broderick who works for the local paper and has been stirring up more hype to try and stop Global but will she succeed?

Annie Palmer is thought to have been buried in on the grounds of Rose Hill. According to local lore that states her tomb was supposed to be sealed with a voodoo ritual, but it was never completed. Throughout the novel you will find that events happen that will lead you the reader to believe as some of the characters do that she rises up and roams free at Rose Hall. Added in some claim to have seen her ghost riding her horse around the plantation as if she is looking for her next victim to kill or even someone to replace the husband or slave she killed.

While Kaven’s murder is investigated someone goes after Rodney who has too much to drink and someone offer to take him to his room but his life is in danger and he winds up in critical care in the hospital. Added in Alexa could care less about him and it’s at this point that Will and Vertise join forces, more articles come out in the paper and with the help of her father they form a plan to take on Global as soon as he resigns. Alexa is ruthless, cruel and self-absorbed and not in the best health as she is told she might have been cursed by the White Witch. However, her actions speak even louder than words when Will, Vertise and the Maroon nation decide to sue Global and take her on. The matter in question is the Treaty signed by Cudjoe and the British and the fact that the amount of land is off by some zeros, the signature or X that Cudjoe signed on several documents needs to be authenticated and the fact that the treaty was never ratified seems to be the primary argument of the other side.

Author Larry Thompson shares the history of the battles, the Second Maroon War and the 300 Maroons in Trelawney Town that held out against 1500 troops and 3000 local volunteer troops. The fighting lasted five months and the Maroons were undefeated and that is when they were offered a treaty. This was not over and the Maroons were arrested against the peace agreement they accepted and sent to Nova Scotia and then to Sierra Leone, West Africa. As in the book Leonard Parkinson was one of the leaders of the Maroons and the local police put a price on his head dead or alive. At this time he was known as the Captain of the Maroons.

Getting to know Broderick and Vertise we learn more about the history of the Maroons, the treaty and the fact that they hired Matilda Massengale a tough lawyer born and bred in Jamaica to take on Global Metal. The pretrial generated a lot of publicity but when Colonel Broderick was killed by a sniper things get more intense and just who was behind the death you can only predict. Thinking it was over and that since he was the custodian of the treaty, Alexa thought she won but never underestimate Vertise as her father took care of that and she would be the new custodian of the treaty and take on the role of being in charge of the Maroon Nation.

The trial of the century you might say as Matilda enters the courtroom and Justice will be done she says. Colonel Broderick is an imposing figure but when he’s gone and Vertise takes over the reigns Pritchard goes full blast with Thomas and Henderson thinking she has brought in the big guns until they get to know Matilda. She is strong, does not falter, waver and her questioning skills are better than most lawyers that you deal with today as author Larry Thompson brings his expertise as a lawyer into play and the questions and courtroom scenes are vibrant, vital and interesting. The judge on the case is fair-minded, listens to both sides and definitely no nonsense.

Judge Lancaster listened as evidence was presented that the treaty only allotted the Maroons 1500 acres but the Henderson tried to prove that the documents did not deed them this amount and the witness’s comments about Cudjoe indicating there are several typos in the treaty but it was probably 100 years before there was a custodian who could read or write. Cudjoe could do neither. But, this took place before Broderick was killed and while he testified. Randy Bailey was the expert that appeared and defused everything the other side said about the treaty and was able to authenticate each part and each document even though Henderson and Thomas thought their witness would change it all. Just what the outcome is and the startling verdict as author Larry Thompson takes us deep inside the anger, minds and revenge that the Maroons wanted to inflict on Alexa Pritchard win or lose. Just who was responsible for all of the deaths, the destruction and the equipment falling over the cliff and a train blowing up? Was it Global, the Maroons or both? The ending takes Vertise inside the mind of the White Witch as the final dagger is in question and the end result of where it winds up will shock you. Remember Kavan died at the hand of one dagger and someone else the second. When Vertise decides with some of the Maroons to take matters in her own hands where the Third Dagger winds up with its gleaming ruby eyes you won’t believe. Who is the reincarnation of the White Witch? The finale is vividly described, the traitors are revealed as one side wins and the other side learns the power of Annie Palmer, Vertise Broderick and the Maroon Nation: Which side? Find out when you read White Witch but beware: Annie is watching your every move!

Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ magazine