FISTFUL OF RAIN – Baron R. Birtcher

A JIM NESBITT REVIEW – GRITTY AND GRACEFUL:

 BIRTCHER’S TRUE WEST NOVEL HAS INSIGHTS FOR TODAY’S TURMOIL.

fistful of rainYou’d be well-advised to never use that creative pejorative — sequel — anywhere near Baron R. Birtcher’s latest modern-day Western thriller, Fistful of Rain, because this vividly-told tale is everything all those flop Hollywood follow-ups are not — a robust success that stands on its own merits.

In Ty Dawson, an Oregon rancher, Korean War vet and reluctant sheriff, Birtcher has created a durable and winning character with the values and virtues of an Old West lawman struggling to deal with the chaos and turmoil of America in 1975 — a nation battered and bitterly divided by the upheaval of the Vietnam War and Watergate and the tarnished myth of the American Dream.

Dawson, who readers first meet in Birtcher’s excellent South California Purples, is a traditionalist, a third-generation cowboy who still saddles up to help his hands work the cattle on his family’s Double Diamond ranch and wants to protect his county and his people from the destructive forces ripping America’s social fabric.

But he’s also an independent thinker with integrity and a deep-seated sense of fairness and an ornery contempt for political hucksterism and demagoguery. He’d prefer to be left alone on his ranch, but his sense of duty and growing awareness of the evil sweeping into fictional Meriwether County won’t let him.

This makes him the perfect protagonist for a crime thriller with social and political overtones that may be set in the post-Vietnam years, but have still have powerful resonance today. The violent mystery Dawson has to solve initially centers on a sheep rancher named Harper Emory, who claims he was beaten by members of a neighboring hippie commune, Rainbow Ranch, when he tried to find some missing sheep that he claims they stole.

The commune is run by a dark and charismatic Svengali type who attracts runaways like Tennessee teenager Mila Kinslow and a sweet-souled L.A. musician named Peter Troy. Many of the good citizens of the county, stirred up by Nolan Brody, a pompous county council chairman Dawson can’t stand but has to deal with, view the commune folk as dangerous outsiders who no doubt deal drugs, practice free love and otherwise threaten their way of life with who-knows-what other acts that decent folks abhor.

Emory, who first makes his claim public at a county council meeting, adds fuel to the fire. He’s a bitter man, angry about the loss of his son, killed in Vietnam but whose body was never found. Backed by Brody, he rails against the hippies, demanding Dawson do something — like drive them out. Dawson refuses, but doesn’t much care for the commune’s leader and some of his hard-ass lieutenants.

Those are the early battle lines, echoing the social and political turmoil of the era. And then the crime wave hits — vandalism of the commune’s sandwich shop, arson of an old building. Then the first of nearly a dozen murders and killings, including the brutal slaughter of an elderly doctor who was the town’s icon — the bloodshed escalating rapidly, spiraling beyond Dawson’s control.

baron bircher

Baron R. Birtcher – author

Birtcher masterfully weaves terse descriptions of hard-boiled violence and tense confrontations with lyric passages about Dawson’s war experiences and his thoughts about the turmoil of the times invading his corner of country heaven.

It is in these passages where the author rises above the back-and-forth of a modern Western whodunit, striking an insightful chord that is, at times, exquisitely elegant. It is also where Birtcher etches a reminder straight from today’s headlines about those who use hate-mongering and demagoguery to point at a scapegoat in order to divert attention from their own evil deeds.

A previous review compares the author’s passages about post-Vietnam America to the writings of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson. While there is a cursory and superficial similarity, chiefly because of shared subject matter, Birtcher has a distinctly different voice that offers his own unique view of those turbulent times. This makes Fistful of Rain all the more of a jewel to read.

 

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MURDER by PROXY – Sandra Olson

murder by proxyA highly competent nurse in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit seems to always be on hand to coolly save babies lives when emergencies arise, almost before the doctor in attendance has a chance to give orders, everything is on hand with a competent efficiency that brings admiration from staff and parents alike.

Joyce Lattimer, a new nurse on the staff, thinks she sees an adult dose being administered when an infant’s dose is called for. That causes her to wonder if something weird is going on. When other babies die unexpectedly, she starts to wonder if the nurse is so perfect, after all.

Her investigations just might be the death of her as well.

Enjoyed this very tense first half, and Sandra Olson’d medical expertise is not belaboured. However, then her romantic novelist takes charge and the action slows down to a snail pace with too much detail absolutely not pertinent to the plot except that it describes the wedding of the protagonist. I confess I skipped a lot here to get to the essential dramatic confrontation and conclusion.

sandra olson

Sandra Olson – author

Thanks to Prolific Works for this free-to-download. https://www.prolificworks.com

BOOK POSTMORTEM does not buy crime fiction, but we do know how important reviews are to authors, and we encourage every reader to give their take on their reads on Amazon, Goodreads and other platforms, especially in recognition of free downloads. Authors featured on BOOK POSTMORTEM are free to send follow-up material to us for review, although we don’t guarantee to review everything.

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WHERE THE WICKED DWELL – Michael Parker

where the wicked dwellThe exciting plot is entwined, but plausible if the reader is okay with the validity of the power of Voodoo. As a South African, I have experienced at least the power of the belief in witchcraft; and it seems to be the belief itself that empowers the evil, and sometimes the good, of the spirit world.

Sir Giles Cavendish heads a clandestine unit that metes out terminal deletion of problem people whom the normal pillars of justice let slip through the net due to corruption in high places, or lack of evidence – deliberate or otherwise. Sir Giles, suspecting that a British Cabinet Minister’s suicide is murder, asks Marcus Blake, a private investigator to confirm his evaluation.

Blake gets a glimpse of the plans of the ring of Satanists that include men of vast power and warped taste. Not least is a clinic where a talented doctor is dabbling into genetic engineering. When he visits the clinic with his Caribbean secretary, he all but signs her death warrant. And his own.

This is a gripping tale. Maybe not one that one will make a lasting impression, but is certainly a good few hours of un-put-downable crime fiction pleasure.

Thanks to Prolific Works for this free-to-download. https://www.prolificworks.com

BOOK POSTMORTEM does not buy crime fiction, but we do know how important reviews are to authors, and we encourage every reader to give their take on their reads on Amazon, Goodreads and other platforms, especially in recognition of free downloads. Authors featured on BOOK POSTMORTEM are free to send follow-up material to us for review, although we don’t guarantee to review everything.

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POLAR BEAR DAWN – Lyle Nicholson

polarbear dawn

A very involved exciting tale, as stockbrokers plot to bump the oil price with pipe-line disruption in the minus forty temperatures of northern Alaska and Canada. There is a huge cast of characters as the baddies commit their heinous deeds and the goodies try to track them down.

Mr Nicholson defies the rules of fiction by not only the huge amount of characters who appear briefly in split side stories, he switches Point-of-View in the blink of an eye. We see more of other characters than we do of Detective Bernadette Callahan who is supposed to be the hero of the piece where this is supposed to be #1 in the Detective Bernadette Callahan Series.

Amazingly, despite these transgressions, and the hugely convoluted plot, this is still a very entertaining read. Thanks to Prolific Works for this free-to-download. https://www.prolificworks.com

BOOK POSTMORTEM does not buy crime fiction, but we do know how important reviews are to authors, and we encourage every reader to give their take on their reads on Amazon, Goodreads and other platforms, especially in recognition of free downloads. Authors featured on BOOK POSTMORTEM are free to send follow-up material to us for review, although we don’t guarantee to review everything.

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IN THE TICK OF TIME – P.D.Workman

in the tickAt the Department of Health’s vector-borne disease division, Matt Malloy is battling a sleep deprivation caused by a bash on the head, but he knows there is something amiss with a concentration of Buffalo Head infections. Nobody believes him, putting his obsession down to his condition.

I enjoyed this unusual tale of revenge and determination. It ticks all the tension and excitement boxes. Ticks?

Murder by disease.

p d workmanThank you for this Instafreebie offering. Please, all you readers out there, especially those who benefit from the free reading pleasure of Prolific Works and similar free offerings, place a review, however brief, on GOODREADS or AMAZON.  For authors starting out, it can make the difference between success and throwing in the towel…

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SMOKE & MIRRORS – Angus McLean

smoke and mirrorsEx-SAS soldier, Craig Archer, in the employ of The Service, starts pursuing links to international terrorism across the world after a planned snatch goes wrong. Soon, he finds he can trust nobody when it becomes evident that the British, the Americans and the Saudis all have their own targets and agendas.

A dynamic action tale of tense action; very readable and pretty believable. Keep going, Angus McLean.

Thank you for this Instafreebie offering. Please, all you readers out there, especially those who benefit from the free reading pleasure of Prolific Works and similar free offerings, place a review, however brief, on GOODREADS or AMAZON. It can make the difference between success and throwing in the towel…

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BECOMING QUINN – Brett Battles

becoming quinnA thriller of note. A cleaner is a person who removes bodies, and other evidence from a crime scene in such a way as to turn a homicide into an accident, or a suicide. My introduction to a cleaner named Jonathan Quinn is this sequel. Jake Oliver is a rookie cop with an overblown sense of curiosity and an eagle eye for detail that disturbs the comfort of the cleaner who has arranged a scene in a burning barn that satisfies the local PD. Drug-buy-gone-wrong, is what they deduce when a body, shot in the face, is found in the ashes.

The cleaner, who under extreme duress has hastily set the scene, is concerned when Officer Oliver keeps probing. His superior orders Oliver’s demise, but the cleaner is reluctant to waste such promising talent, and thus begins the transformation in profession from cop to cleaner.

brett battles

Brett Battles – author

Highly recommended, if you like a nail-biting thriller series. The great thing, for my part, is the thought that there is a whole lot of unread Quinn out there waiting for me. Bravo, Mr Battles. Thanks for the freebie; Book Postmortem does not buy books, but I’ll review all you send me.

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THE ANNA BURGIN SERIES – David Bradwell

InTheFrameThe Prequel – IN THE FRAME, (Anna Burgin #3)

This tale was a welcome e-freebie which introduces us to budding photography student Anna, accused of stealing two expensive cameras from the stores. A chance meeting with another student, Danny, gives her the only friend who professes to believe in her as she battles to clear her name and understand the skulduggery behind the frame-up. It is a fun piece, although labelled #3, giving the background to the peculiar friendship that develops between the two characters that become fondly, and frustratingly, friends of the reader.

 

Cold PressThen COLD PRESS, Anna Burgin #1 Reviewed 20/10/2018.

https://bookpostmortem.wordpress.com/…/cold-press-anna-burgin-1-david-bradwell/

OutOfTheRedfollowed by OUT OF THE RED (Anna Burgin #2)

The enigmatic Clare Woodbrook reappears in the lives of Danny and Anna, to the latter’s resentment as it is evident that Danny has always been smitten with his ex-boss, whose position in the investigation unit of the Echo newspaper he now holds.

DCI Graham March is alive and well and reinstated in the Metropolitan Police where he can manipulate evidence to suit his own agendas, with his fingers very much into all sorts of illegal pies including people trafficking. His determination to exact revenge on Danny is matched only by Danny’s pursuit of the bent copper, except that, without Clare’s help and dubious resources, Danny would not have a prayer against the ruthless cop with friends in high places.

FadeToSilence.jpgThe series completed, presumably, by FADE TO SILENCE. (Anna Burgin #4) although I would not place money on it.

Clare Woodbrook, the mysterious manipulator of millionaire gangsters, semi-good and mega-bad alike. Walks a tightrope in her negotiations with several forces from the Balkans and Germany, and their go between, DCI Graham March, who smugly plays one of them against the other. And, once again, Danny and Anna are caught in the middle.

When a banker is murdered, March quickly arrests the widow, but Danny is not convinced. Hounded by his Echo editor to leave his vendetta against March alone and bring in copy for other investigations, he and Anna try following the cop to find out what he is really doing. He in turn employs some pitiless killers to get rid of the pair.

And in the meanwhile, a huge shipment of weapons is heading for Britain…

Frustratingly, and almost beyond belief, Danny is still unaware that Anna is madly in love with him, convinced the relationship is strictly platonic. In desperation, Anna dates a seemingly accidentally-met man who has orders to get rid of her. (A spoiler, I suppose, but, come on! Who wouldn’t guess?) Still, the whole series is riddled (haha) with twists, so who knows?

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The BAD SHEPHERD – Dale Nelson

The Bad ShepherdIf there is any scenario that has my heart rate doing double time, it is treachery and betrayal, especially when the characters have wormed their way under my skin. Tight as a drum, this is the tale of two LAPD undercover narcotics detectives; fast friends until an incident fractures their mutual trust. One takes the fall and gets dismissed from the service, but he can’t let go of his obsession to take the drug gang down. He can’t do it alone and needs his ex-friend to make it happen. The suspicion and tension between the two men is brilliantly handled as they edge towards the explosive finale.

Some place a higher value on the David & Jonathan scenario than others. Mr Nelson appears to be one such, and the emotional impact of a friendship under threat is very well explored here. His talent is on the threshold of great impact in the world of thriller fiction.

Dale M. Nelson

Dale M. Nelson

This was an Instafreebie gift, so thanks to them and the huge contribution they make to us thriller junkies. We authors appreciate reviews immensely. They can make a world of difference to make or break success in our chosen passion. Book Postmortem does not buy books, but crime authors needing a review may request one and send the material. If the tale impresses, it will find its way here.

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PAST TENSE (Jack Reacher #23.) – Lee Child

Not as good as The Midnight Line, but I did enjoy this Reacher tale more than a few previous which I felt were just a tab flat.

Past TenseTwo story lines eventually collide; but actually the non-Reacher thread was more gripping that that of our super hero.

A Canadian couple heading for a new start in California in a semi wreck of a car, grind to a halt at a motel in the forests on New Hampshire. The owner and his three helpers assess the couple and decide that they are perfect for their purposes. Young and sturdy and fairly resourceful, they slowly realise that they, the only guests there, are not going to be allowed to leave.

Lee Child builds these two characters beautifully as we get to know and like the solid Shorty and the brighter Patty. Their love and loyalty for each other becomes apparent as their efforts to escape are thwarted one by one. Then other guests begin to arrive, and the reason for their incarceration comes into focus with horrifying detail.

Who? Oh, yes, Reacher.

Well, the big dangerous hero is in the nearest small town, trying, out of curiosity, to find out more about his father, Stan Reacher, who, now dead for thirty years, was believed to have come from there. His research leads him, via some more interesting characters, to an overgrown tin mill where Stan’s father had been a foreman in the 1930s. He has a run-in with some guy, molesting a woman near his room in the middle of the night. This guy gets the Reacher treatment and some broken bones, which attracts the attention of some Boston hoodlums as well as the local police who want him to leave town before more trouble starts.

Lee Child 1

Lee Child – author

I liked the interaction between Reacher and a female cop, an ex military policeman like Reacher himself, as well as the local lawyer, the helpful file clerk, and the elderly census specialist whose loyal assistance goes well beyond the call of duty.

Eventually, looking for a place to spend the night, Reacher is directed to the same motel, in time to affect the outcome, of course…

Sadly, a contradiction or two spoil a good story just a little, but far be it for me to spoil that for the reader. See if you can spot them?

Thank you, Penguin Random House, South Africa, for this ARC.

ISBN 9780593078204

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