Free Kindle Book

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Yesterday I posted that a  revised version of Alex Kertész mystery Death of a Gypsy is now available on Amazon.  I can now add that it’s also free (Amazon couldn’t make up its mind about that for a while).

In this adventure Alex is asked to shepherd an old Gypsy from Transylvania to meet his long-lost sister in Paris.  The Gypsies in Transylvania speak Hungarian, which is Alex’s native language, so this should be simple.  It becomes complicated when Alex has to undertake a mission to an isolated mountainous region of Albania.  He’s with his son, an American woman, and two of the Romanian Gypsies.  None of these people speak Albanian, and although one of the Gypsies has an idea of what they will find in Albania, he has no intention of telling the others.

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Great Writers are Great Psychologists

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Great writers are great psychologists.  Aside from command of language, imagination, etc., the best writers have the ability to submerge their own personalities completely and create consistent characters wholly unlike themselves.  In the second rank of talented writers who don’t pretend to be great are those with likable personalities that come through to readers and help to make their books enjoyable.

Dick Francis is an example of the latter, a good writer whose kind, brave, and gentlemanly personality shines through and makes the reader care about his heroes.  As shown by “Triple Crown”, published by Felix Francis in 2016, Felix, who was a co-writer on his father’s later books, doesn’t quite come up to the mark.  Of course he’s a generation younger, but his updating of the formula doesn’t add anything worthwhile.  He abandons his father’s old fashioned sensibilities regarding coarse language and bathroom humor, to no positive result. The one major female character has sex appeal but no personality, and protagonist Jeff Hinkley isn’t particularly admirable or likable.

One good quality of the Dick Francis books that Felix has adopted is doing his homework.  Dick Francis was able to speak knowledgeably about horse racing and training, newspaper writing, and running a charter air company, but often chose other lines of work for his protagonists, always learning enough about them to be convincing.  For Triple Crown, Felix Francis has learned a lot about the transmission and effects of equine viruses.

The plot takes British Horseracing Authority investigator Hinkley to the U.S. to hunt corruption in the competition for the Triple Crown, and is quite good.

Note:

Mystery Time will be offered as a free Kindle book on Amazon from June 26th to June 30th.  In this Alex Kertész mystery, a colleague dies in Alex’s arms at a biochemistry congress in Prague and an old watch may have mysterious powers.

Isolated: Reaction of a Picky Reader

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I just finished reading the Kindle book “Isolated: A Jason King Thriller”, by Matt Rogers.  It only cost 99 cents and was moderately enjoyable, so I’m not complaining, but several comments come to mind.

First of all, the English grammar is sketchy, to say the least.  Some of it might have been on purpose, with the idea that special-forces type Jason King would express his thoughts that way.  If that was the idea, I think it was a mistake and just made him sound dumb.  Probably it was  due to inadequate proof reading.

Another odd thing about Jason King – he often repeats, in his thoughts or to others, that his amazing talents and extensive experience make it impossible for an enemy to sneak up on him (then someone comes up behind him and bashes him on the head).  He also asserts that his instincts and experience enable him to know when his enemy is out of bullets (just before said enemy takes a shot that almost kills him).  I don’t think this was meant to be funny, but it was amusing because Rogers has King dwell on his experience and talent so much, apparently not trusting the reader to get it after one or two mentions.

I assume that Rogers knows all about various types of guns, cars, and planes, but unless he’s willing to do his homework he should stay away from microbiology.  His villain here has a stock of white powder that after a single glance, King can say is anthrax spores.  A little later he calls anthrax a virus.

The appeal of this book is the non-stop action, with King mowing down bad guys right and left, some of the time with a beautiful woman at his side.  But there was a jarring note here, too.  When he first met this woman and she didn’t answer his questions, he decided that he would just have to kidnap her.

The villain supposedly was after money.  Why did that make him want to decimate the population of an Australian city with anthrax?  And although he’s provided with a motive for being annoyed with Jason King, it’s hard to see why he wanted King around, sometimes trying to kill him and at other times keeping him alive?

Summary:  Jason King is a  (very) poor man’s Jack Reacher.

Note:  The Kindle version of  Murder with a French Accent, the second Alex Kértesz mystery  will be free on Amazon from April 19th through April 23rd.

University research laboratories commonly take on applied research projects to bring in grant money to support the lab.  In this case, Alex’s lab has created a genetically engineered bacterium that could save many tons of stored grain and be worth millions to agribusiness.  His university has sold the rights to a small French biotech company that hopes the investment will raise them to a new level, but only if production goes smoothly.  The university has agreed to send Alex to Toulouse to help get things started, but the problems he encounters at Agrogénie are far from technical.  Their advertisement of their great new product has attracted a lot of attention, and not all of it from prospective buyers.

Fear the Worst

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Fear the Worst, published by Linwood Barclay in 2009, is a well written mystery/thriller based on two popular themes.  One much-loved type of story features an every man who rises to the occasion when things get tough and performs as well as a professional detective.  Tim Blake is such an every man, someone who is perfectly suited to the life he used to have, namely making a modest living selling cars.  His comfortable life begins to unravel when his wife decides that if he’s good at selling cars, he can just as well run a dealership or several and make more money.

This reasonable sounding but unfortunately flawed idea eventually leads to failure and divorce, providing the introduction to the second popular theme explored in this book, namely, a series of relatively innocuous actions leading to catastrophe.  Only in this variation it’s not even anything that Tim or his now ex-wife do that puts their lives in danger, but mistakes made by two of their teenage daughter’s friends.  One of them is a nice boy who’s good with computers and is tempted to make some easy money to finance a new laptop.  The second is a girl who has been raised by a negligent, alcoholic mother and would really like to have a dad.

There is also a third theme, which I suspect is less a useful fictional device than an actual fact of life.  I’m talking about the almost obligatory part of any murder mystery where the police suspect the first person they see.  I find this plausible because of my belief in the law of averages, in the sense that just as naturally most people are average, members of any given profession tend toward the average.  In the case of police detectives, someone of average dedication and talent will find it easier to suggest some sort of motive to fit a person who’s at hand than to start from zero and discover motive, suspects, and opportunity.

If I ever stumble across a body, I’ll be seriously worried.

p.s.  From Wednesday, September 14 through Sunday, September 18, the Kindle version of The Wish to Kill, the first Alex Kértesz mystery will be free on Amazon.  This is the book that introduces the Hungarian-born Israeli scientist and presents his first challenge to solve a murder, if it is a murder.