Saturday, December 19, 2009

Three Trailers Down by Douglas Chandler Graham

Having reviewed the prequel to this book called Smoke and Murders (March 2009), I was pleased to have a chance to read and review Three Trailers Down. The prequel fictionalized the true story of the Hodges family, brutally murdered in Vinton, Virginia in 1994. Three Trailers Down picks up the story in the months following the conviction of Adam Bracket for the slayings.

Author Douglas Chandler Graham spends the first dozen or so chapters introducing us to new characters and reacquainting us with a few from Smoke. There is no clear protagonist or villain as this is truly an ensemble cast of intriguing, well-developed players.

We return to small town Virginia near Vineyard, a resort town called Bondurant where the Bondurant family serve only the wealthy elite in the Bondurant Lodge. Some twenty years previous, a hit man killed three people there, and sixteen year-old Amanda Bondurant ran away, never to be seen or heard from again.

From the well-to-do of the Lodge, we visit Newberry Suggs and his rundown trailer park. Despite the reputation of trailer parks and the people who reside in them, Suggs does his best to keep respectable tenants in and the police out.

Vineyard Police Lieutenant Bill Kenny has just been fired after years of illegal and corrupt practises. After the suspicious death of his wife, he finds his way to Bondurant Lodge for the possibility of work. State police inspector, Bernard "Bear" McNutt, the cop responsible for the arrest and conviction of Adam Brackett in the prequel, is investigating the death of Bill's wife, Camilla Kenny.

This book could have easily been called Sex and Murder, as so many of the players are either sleeping with someone or killing them. Bill Kenny is hired to find Amanda Bondurant and her jealous husband is set on finding her as well. A restaurateur with mob connections puts a hit man on Kenny's tail. All the players make their way to the Suggs Mobile Home Village where Amanda has been in hiding as she considers contacting her nearby family.

Author Graham sets us up for a gripping climax at the trailer park and doesn't disappoint. He uses tension, conflict, realistic dialogue and a captivating collection of unique characters to weave an entertaining and satisfying, quick read. I recommend Three Trailers Down. If you enjoyed Smoke and Murders you won't want to miss the exciting conclusion.

280 pages
Xlibris Corporation (October 21, 2009)

by William Potter for Reader's

Dead Wreckoning by Sylvia Dickey Smith

Dead Wreckoning is the third book in the Sidra Smart series. Author Sylvia Dickey Smith describes and develops her protagonist so well, that those who have not read the prequels will quickly feel as though the private investigator is an old friend. It is a time for fresh starts. Sidra has just received her P.I. licence and is ready to take on cases without the assistance of her friend and mentor, George Léger. After 30 years in a stifling marriage to a pastor, Sidra is newly divorced and recently engaged to her adoring boyfriend. She has inherited her late brother's detective agency and is rebuilding her office after a firebombing.

A former client, Durwood, visits Sidra and presents a potential case. Durwood's friend, Boo Murphy, has been accused of murdering her cousin's husband, a man named Zeke. Boo has a history with Zeke, as she once fired her gun in his direction. With the climbing costs of rebuilding her office, Sidra has no plans to take on a pro-bono case. Nevertheless, the plight of Boo, the cantankerous senior, catches Sidra's interest. Especially when Boo recounts a fantastic story about seeing an old, lost pirate ship in a Texas swamp and climbing aboard the once sunken vessel. The sheriff doesn't care about pirate treasure or lost ships...he is out to catch a murderer and is certain Boo is the killer.

In her quest to clear Boo of homicide, Sidra must find the lost schooner. Along the way, she uncovers evidence that her mentor George Léger is involved in illegal activities, as well as centuries-old family clan wars, smugglers and the spirit image of eighteenth century pirate queen, Mary Anne Radcliff, aboard a ghost ship. Throw in narrow escapes after several attempts on her life and you have an exciting, page-turning thriller.

Many modern mystery writers use brutal violence, sex, and coarse language to hold readers' interest. Sylvia Dickey Smith has no need for such. She keeps us captivated from beginning to end with her unique humour, knowledge of South East Texas and its history, well-drawn characters, ample conflict, and dialogue realistically suited to her setting. She has penned an entertaining and satisfying read that is sure to keep her fans happy, while undoubtedly gaining her many new admirers. I highly recommend Dead Wreckoning and I look forward to reading more from this author.

by William Potter for Reader's Choice Reviews

252 pages
L & L Dreamspell (March 11, 2009