The Protector by Dee Henderson

The Protector

Plot: I found this book in our car; I have no idea to whom this belongs. I know two things for sure though: It was in our car for weeks, and I was bored so I started reading it. 🙂

As it turns out, (of course I found out at the end of the book) this book is four in a series about the O’Malley family. Thankfully, as far as I can tell, you do not need to read the first to read the forth; each book is about one of the seven different children in the O’Malley family.

This book happens to be about Jack O’Malley, a firefighter with Ladder 81, a fire station that also investigates arson fires. His boss, Cole, and he are very concerned about one arsonist that keeps setting fires at the edge of the district and leaving popcorn behind as a sign. It takes them longer to reach each fire as the arsonist sets them at the edge of the district, where there are closed fire stations. Oddly enough, Cole figures out that each arson fire is set whenever Jack is on duty. Fighting fires does not bother Jack, but being a target does.

The story also revolves around Cassie, a fire woman burned badly in a retirement home fire, and is now unable to fight fires. Jack visits Cassie often, he is determined to make her laugh and come away from the grief of her accident.

A romance sparks between Jack and Cassie, but Cassie is a Christian and Jack is not. The subject of religion is a sore area for conversation; Jack listens willingly, yet cannot bring himself to believe in the resurrection of Christ. This causes Cassie much stress, knowing that Jack could die at the arson fires and not be in heaven.

Jack has this and his sister, Jennifer’s cancer weighing on his shoulders, not to mention the arsonist who persists in setting fires and writing notes on walls. In one fire, Cassie happens to catch a glimpse of the arsonist, before he fades from sight. Sure that she could recognize him on sight again, Cassie takes Cole’s offer to join the fire fighters once more. She is only allowed to watch and help clean up, but Cassie still enjoys being back on the job.

Following the arsonist sighting, Cassie also seems to become a target, leaving Jack to become a protector, willing to risk all to save her.

Positive: This book had great Christian content, our hero and heroine were lovable characters and the plot kept moving with no slow. Well written, this book kept me guessing until the end, and it was very surprising then. No swear words that I recall. The author’s style is very engaging, and she draws you into the characters and helps you feel their pain and joy.

Negative: Nothing really, this one man committed suicide, and another keeps setting fires.

Overall: I hardly dared put this book down I enjoyed it so much. The mystery, storyline and character kept me in the book. I recommend this book to all, it is very clean and a wonderful read.


101 Years’ Entertainment: The Great Detective Stories of Over A Century Edited by Ellery Queen (Part 4 of 6: Criminals Win)

101 Years' Entertainment: The Great Detective Stories of Over A Century

Part 4 of 6: Criminals Win

I’m not big on short stories, mysteries excepted. Unfortunately, this anthology includes a selection of “mystery” stories that are more like horror, or fairy-tales gone amok; so I can’t recommend the whole batch of 50. That said, there are too many stories for one review: this is review 4 of 6, the ten short stories in which the thief is our hero and/or is not brought to justice. Some of these I enjoyed to one degree or another, and where I recommend them, it is so noted. I object in principle to the whole idea of the thief as hero, so unless its circumstantially explained away, I vote no to the whole genre.
• The Red Silk Scarf, by Maurice LeBlanc, Arsene Lupin. A well-known crook gives a police detective all the clues he needs except one. Said crucial clue threatens to unravel all the hard work of the police, because said crook won’t give it up until the other half (of this red silk scarf) is found. Very clever, if unacceptably and overwhelmingly bumbling policemen weren’t the main feature of the story. The resolution, also, uses a bit of dues-ex-machina that’s not set up well and therefore unbelievable.
• The Cyprian Bees, by Anthony Wayne, Dr. Hailey. Average writing, stellar if rather scary mystery. So well wrapped is the plot hat explaining any of it requires SPOILERs; a doctor/beekeeper wants an inheritance and if he doesn’t get it, no one else in the family will either. END SPOILER Not A Night Read.
• Arsene Lupin in Prison, by Maurice LeBlanc, Arsene Lupin. For all the faults of this one, it was one of the genuinely humorous mysteries in the book (despite having a chapter by that title, there were very few that made me laugh out loud. This one succeeded). The whole thing is so clever one can almost forgive the thief for being a protagonist; almost.
• Blind Man’s Bluff, by Fredrick Irving Anderson, The Infallible Godahl. Another genuinely funny one. Godahl is a member of an elite social club that plays mean pranks for laughs on its stage. (Our thief, being also the hero, naturally, is disgusted with his clubmates and doesn’t like them.) This round it’s a blind black magician who happens to be a fellow thief of our hero. When the magician shows up for a show, our hero isn’t among the crowd, and soon, neither are everyone’s wallets. The ending line needs to be read twice for full appreciation; recommended.
• The Stolen Romney, by Edgar Wallace, Four Square Jane. Clever, if somewhat contrived story of a female thief who uses the stolen goods to make donations to charity, and the police are baffled by her most recent heist: a painting, stolen in broad daylight, that could not possibly have left the museum.
• Paris Adventure, by Leslie Charteris, The Saint. Interesting story along the lines of Edgar Allen Poe in that it’s a character study more than a mystery (which makes it worth recommending despite the “hero”); a famous thief is on the lam when he meets a lady in a bar (further details would spoil the story, but trust me, its really complex and fun). Recommended
• The Eleventh Juror, by Vincent Starrett. A man is about to be convicted of murder and the jury must convince our narrator to vote him guilty or else he’ll escape the electric chair (and may I say, this one also qualifies for “Most Poorly Executed”; the author wrote himself into a hole and then just pulls the plug on realism).
• A Chess Problem, by Agatha Christie, Hercule Poirot. A chess genius dies two minutes into a tournament, his partner having just returned from iron-curtain Russia; who is the real victim, and why? Its Hercule Poirot’s job to find out, and I have to say, SPOILER if he’s such a great detective as he keeps telling us he is, why does the murderer get away with a fortune? END SPOILER not recommended; anyone know of a good Agatha Christie short story?
• The Sweet Shot, by E.C. Bentley, Philip Trent. This last is a truly ingenious mystery, with sublte turns of plot unraveled in true British style, over a tea at a golf club. A quietly nasty member of the community has no enemies but winds up dead, struck by lightening on a cloudless day, which blew him up but left his golf club untouched.
• The Criminologist’s Club, by Raffles A well known thief is invited to a dinner by London’s most distinguished detectives, to discuss the most recent criminal affairs of the city. Will they entrap him into confession, or will current criminal activity overtake them?

Overall, the thief stories were not my favorite. If you must find a guilty pleasure in criminal success, read the Artemis Fowl series, The Saint (mentioned above), or The Infallible Godahl (also mentioned above) for a more morally acceptable version of a good steal.

101 Years’ Entertainment, Edited by Ellery Queen (Part 3 of 6: the blah club)

101 Years' Entertainment: The Great Detective Stories of Over A Century

Part 3 of 6: the blah club

This is the interesting part about an anthology of so many different authors: some are great, others just don’t stand out in the crowd. Not bad, not exceptional, here are is the mediocre of the crop of mysteries…
• The Puzzle lock, by R. Austin Freeman, Dr. Thorndyke. A big gang bust is in the air for the police, but first, they must find the criminals, who have mysteriously disappeared. The whole city ahse been searched, except the room behind one particular locked door…
• The Secret Garden, by Bilbert K. Chesterton, Father Brown. A gathering at the constable’s house turns deadly, and even the victim is not all he seems. Father Brown is a very boring person to listen to, full of half ideas that only come to fruition after the murderer has accomplished all his ends.
• The Man Who Spoke Latin, by Samuel Hopkins, Average Jones. A truly average mystery, with some fun twists and several missing plot points (and, for those of you who know Latin, even more plot holes). A new man in town cozies up to an eccentric professor and claims to have woken from a Coma speaking only Latin.
• The Long Dinner, by H.C. Bailey, Mr. Fortune. A disappearing artist, a orphan’s boarding school, and two dead children are connected across the English Cahnnel. The idea is interesting, but the red herrings prove gruesome, and the eternal yaking between the two protagonists is futile as regards enlightenment or entertainment.
• The Tragedy At Brookbend Cottage, by Enerst Bramah, Max Carrados. A woman’s isster is caught in a loveless marriage to a… you know the story. Our author tries to add a twist of tragedy to cliché, but its really quite insulting to feminity (and therefore not in the “Great” section).
• The Borderline Case, by Maragary Allingham. A man is shot from a window at a club he wasn’t near, with no apparent witnesses. The mafia rule the town on this one, as is made clear at the beginning, and we end with the same murkiness that borders on stupidity but just manages to be above it somewhere in the realm of annoying.
• The Mystery of Mrs. Dickenson, by Nicholas Carter, Nick Carter. The editorial comments on this one (to the effect that Nick Carter is infamous) seem unfounded, but whatever his reputation, it’s a rather mediocere storyline. A con is being pulled, in a rich
• The Doomdorf Mystery, by Melville Davisson Post, Uncle Abner. The twists and turns in the story are clever, as is the (also clever but very much impossible) climax. It’s the blathering boredom of Abner and his sidekick talking the whole story long that leaves you sleepy.
• Introducing Susan Dare, by Mignon Eberhart, Susan Dare. Another whodunit where all but the crucial clues are withheld, and the reader is, in the end, left thoroughly confused as to why the who and how the dun it.
• The Tea Leaf, by Edgar Jepson, Ruth Kelstern. A by now very cliché story of a murder without a weapon, a lover without an alibi, and a controlling father who can’t let go even in death.
• The Mackenzie Case, by Viola Brothers Shore, Gwynn Leith. Written in classic format, our heroine must navigate a series of differing clues on her cruise ships’ most interesting personalities: a millionaire and his companion, washed overboard one at a time in Cuba’s warm waters.

Overall, an unprepossessing group. I must say, in writing this review, I was struck by how unfun it is to write a lukewarm review. The truly pathetic are rife with sarcastic availability, while the great rise above in praiseworthy verbage; but there just isn’t much to say when its lukewarm middle-of-the-roadness all around. It brought to mind that scripture about being more desireable to God as hot or cold water (lukewarm being just no use : the Supreme writer of His Story would know that feeling.

101 Years’ EntertainmentEdited by Ellery Queen (Part 2 of 6: Most Poorly Executed)

101 Years' Entertainment: The Great Detective Stories of Over A Century

Part 2 of 6: Most Poorly Executed

I’m not big on short stories, mysteries excepted. Unfortunately, this anthology includes a selection of “mystery” stories that are more like horror, or fairy-tales gone amok; so I can’t recommend the whole batch of 50. That said, there are too many stories for one review: this is review 2 of 6, the nine short stories with the most plot holes /poorest writing.
• Ransom, by Pearl S. Buck A little boy is kidnapped, and we spend a lot of time looking for him but its not clues that solve this mystery, its luck. Unluckily, it comes too late into the story for us to care about the boy, much less his parents (who we have to endure for most of the story); all are stock figures of bored brat and panicked adults, respectively.
• The Treasure Hunt, by Mary Roberts Rinehart, Tish This story has a great set-up: a charity fund-raiser, a night-time treasure hunt, lots of racing cars, and a townful of odd Joes and Janes. Too bad the writing is so poor we never get beyond names for any of the characters except Tish (our lady detective whose key characteristics are vandalism, stealing, and beating up her fellow charity-gala-attendees in life-threatening ways. Charmed, I’m sure).
• The Owl At The Window, by G.D.H. and M. I. Cole, Superintendent Wilson, 1923. A man is found dead, in his own home, the only suspect having just arrived and left late the night before while the man was clearly still alive. An original murder method, if you can endure the meandering and red herrings of ten too many pages.
• The Pink Edge, by Frank Forest and George Dilnot, Inspector Barraclough, 1915. A missing millionare’s daughter, a forgery trial, and randsom notes with pink edges. Excellent plot development, but most of the connecting plot points are simply missing, leaving the reader to wonder how we got from A to D when not even the end’s expounding mentions B and C.
• The Absent-Minded Coterie, by Robert Barr, Eugene Valmont, 1906. The literary founder of Hercule Poirot, this author has a great idea in the beginning, but the plot holes are so gapingly large that the ending falls through. So, *SPOILERS* the hero just waltzes into the bad guy’s office, is told he’s out of line (not having a warrant or police authority or even retaining a single clue), and stays around arguing long enough for all the evidence to be destroyed. Really annoying, this one. *END SPOILERS*
• The Perfect Crime, by Ben Ray Redman, A detective with a big ego, a keen-eyed scientist, and a long evening of friendly conversation. This isn’t as much a mystery as a recounting of past mysteries, which recreates the atmosphere of the night-time so successfully I was bored to sleep. The title is explained by the end of the story, though its got to be the least reasonable crime (motive and means are equally unexplained) ever, and far from perfect (an investigator “in”hibits the search for evidence).
• The Hands of Mr. Otter-mole, by Thomas Burke, is well written in the technical sense, but the plot leaves much to be desired, deliberately not telling us why the murders happen or how the detective solves it. This might be a philosophical point but it isn’t stated and was really annoying, so I’m including it on grounds of poor plotting.
• The Mystery of the Missing Wash, by Octavus Roy Cohen, Florian Slappey, A washerwoman, recently divorced, is losing her commissioned clothes and will soon lose her clientele if the their isn’t found. This one isn’t so much bad writing as it is laziness. The author writes himself into a corner, then suddenly, whoosh, we’re at the end, mystery solved, and the reader is left scratching her head.
• The Mad Tea Party, by Ellery Queen, Ellery Queen, A crazy architect is murdered, and a whole host of things go missing while our detective, the arcitect’s adulterous wife, and few other random and convenient guests lock themselves in and start to go crazy. If you enjoy mind benders without solutions, you’ll love this.

OVERALL: The mix wasn’t entirely boring to read, but generally by the end it got tiresome and or downright annoying. “Most Poorly Executed” definitely.