Category Archives: Suspense & Mystery Stories

Suspense & Mystery Stories

The Art Forger – book review

The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro is a fascinating novel about a beautiful young artist in Boston who makes a Faustian deal  to create and sell a forgery of a world famous masterpiece by Degas. The Art Forger raises the question of what makes a painting valuable. If a forger can create a piece identical to the “masterpiece” then why is the original artist considered great and the forger a pariah?

B.A. Shapiro author of The Art Forger

B.A. Shapiro author of The Art Forger

The Art Forger’s plot has intertwining mysteries of the present and past. It is a great detective novel, and also ends up educating the reader about the intricacies of the legal and illegal art world. For example, we learn of the great Dutch forger Hans van Meegeren, who sold forged paintings to the Nazis during World War II.

After the war, van Meegeren was charged with treason, for selling stolen Dutch masterpieces to Nazis. To defend himself, he had to prove the paintings were  actually his forgeries, and the only people he had betrayed were the Nazis. To prove his innocence, he had to reveal his techniques in detail in open court.  For the art world, this may not have been a good thing. Hans van Meegeren’s testimony was like a training manual for up and coming art forgers throughout the world. His methods were so ingenious that they are still followed by all modern forgers.

Hans van Meegeren on trial for selling stolen paintings to Nazis

Hans van Meegeren on trial for selling stolen paintings to Nazis

Claire Roth is a struggling Boston artist who is given a proposition by the city’s leading gallery owner, Aiden Markel. If Claire will create a forgery of a Degas piece, Aiden will give her a large amount of money and an exclusive show at his gallery for her own works. He is offering her fortune and a high place in the rarefied art society world.  The fact that Claire and Aiden also have an immediate sexual attraction to each other makes the deal irresistible.

Claire creates a wonderful Degas, following Han van Meegeren’s techniques. B.A. Shaprio describes this in fascinating detail which is enjoyable to read, even for those of us who know nothing about art.  Of course, creating a forgery is one thing. Selling it without getting arrested or even killed is quite another.

one of Degas' After The Bath paintings

one of Degas’ After The Bath paintings

Claire soon discovers that when she crosses the line from artist to forger, she enters an environment for which she is completely unprepared. The police, FBI, high society and even some very violent people take a dim view of art forgers. She is, after all, just a poor young woman in Boston, with nothing to protect herself except her vast knowledge of art and her exceptional talent.

We do not want to give too much away, for fear of spoiling the book. Suffice it to say that, we highly recommend The Art Forger, and hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

 

The Gift – a superb thriller with unexpected plot twists

The Gift  is the  2015 thriller in which the insults and hurts from childhood come back to sabotage the happy marriage of a successful couple. As William Faulkner once said, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

Rebecca Hall and Jason Bateman in The Gift

Rebecca Hall and Jason Bateman in The Gift

Simon (Jason Bateman) and his wife Robyn (Rebecca Hall) have moved from Chicago to Simon’s home town in California, where Simon has taken a new high-powered job. By chance they run into Gordo (Joel Edgerton), an old school acquaintance of Simon’s.  Gordo is thrilled to see them and begins showering them with housewarming gifts.

Gordo is obviously a lonely soul, and takes an immediate liking to the kind and gentle Robyn. He helps Robyn with the house, sets up the cable T.V. and continually stops by to lend a hand or just chat. At first it is nice, but after a while he begins to seem just a little too clingy and creepy.

Joel Edgerton as Gordo on The Gift

Joel Edgerton as Gordo on The Gift

Finally, Simon has had enough, and in a very cruel way tells Gordo  he doesn’t want him around anymore. That’s when bad things start to happen to Simon and Robyn. Their dog disappears, the fish in their Coy pond all die, and strange noises are heard at night.`

At this point, it seems like the movie is just going to morph into a  traditional horror movie, but then, exciting  plot twists occur. Robyn had liked Gordo and thought that Simon was unnecessarily brutal in dumping Gordo as a friend. She begins doing some detective work to find out what was the real nature of the past relationship between Simon and Gordo, and why Simon was so eager to force Gordo out of their lives The more she digs the more bizarre and frighting the past becomes.

It is difficult to describe just how good The Gift is without giving too much away and ruining the ending. When you see it, you will be glad we did not spoil anything.

We will simply say that The Gift is a a great mystery movie (NOT a horror movie), that has a completely unexpected double twist ending. The acting is fantastic. Rebecca Hall is perfect as the kind but fragile Robyn who begins to worry about the moral cost of success. Jason Bateman’s acting is superb  as her controlling husband.

Joel Edgerton is the complex Gordo who keeps us guessing as to whether or not he is a misunderstood nice guy or a psychopath. Joel Edgerton was also the writer, director and co-producer of The Gift. His talents are exceptional in all three fields.

The Suicide Tree

Alex hiked deep into the woods looking for the perfect place to kill himself. He carried no food or water. He would be dead long before thirst or hunger became a problem. He had no suicide note and had posted no video with final words. Alex knew that there was no point. As far as the rest of the world was concerned he had died long ago.

Christmas decoration in the deep woods

The suicide tree in the deep woods

At the busy mall where Alex worked he was completely invisible to everyone. He was the old guy behind the counter. He was of no more importance than the napkin dispenser or the soda machine. Alex was just an object. Alex could not remember the last time anyone  had looked him in the eye as he handed them the food. People did not even bother to glance up from their iPhones.

It had not always been like this. In what now seemed like a different lifetime, Alex had been the gorgeous guy all the girls turned their heads to see. Two hundred sit-ups every morning had given him the washboard stomach he had shown off at the pool every summer. Now he was almost out of breath from his long hike, and the days past when he had a perfect body seemed like something out of a dream.

Alex looked up and in the distance saw the place where he was meant to die. It was a dead cedar tree, denuded of bark, with a soft carpet of leaves and dirt under it. Alex reached in his pocket to make sure his suicide device was still with him. He pulled out a clear plastic bag, and a long length of twine.

Alex had thought for a long time about exactly how to commit suicide. He had no way to get a gun, and knives seemed so painful. Then he came up with the idea that was so simple he was amazed he had not thought of it before. He would put the plastic bag over his head, and use the twine to make sure it was air-tight.  Then he would lie down and let the peaceful sleep come to him.  In just minutes it would be over.

The weather was cold and there was supposed to be a deep snowfall that night. Alex had chosen this day on purpose. He wanted the deep snow to cover his body. He was hoping he would never be discovered.  Alex wondered about wolves, but then realized that no wolves had been in these woods for more than a century. Nothing left now but some deer and hundreds of chipmunks.

Alex reached the tree and lay down under it, exhausted by his hike. He lay flat on a pile of leaves and stared up at the cedar tree and the sky. Then he  noticed something odd. There was something blue and shiny on the tree. Alex stood up and saw it was a Christmas ball.

Alex looked around to see who might have put the decoration there, but he was alone in the woods. It had taken Alex  three hours of driving and two hours of hiking to reach this spot. Why was this decoration on this exact tree in this exact spot on the last day of his life?

He reached up and took the ball off the tree, and saw there was a tiny hand written note taped to the back. In beautiful cursive writing the note read;

“The woods are lovely dark and deep.

But you have miles to go before you sleep”

A shudder ran through Alex’s body. Who had written the note and why had the words of the Frost poem been changed? When Alex was a boy the old folks has told stories about witches in these woods. Had the stories been true all along?

Alex carefully replaced the Christmas ball on the tree. Then he searched through the woods until he found three lovely pine cones. He took the twine from his pocket, tied the pine cones together and hung them on the tree as another decoration.  He steeped back and admired his work. The pine cones  looked good next to the blue Christmas ball.

Alex was very tired and it took him almost three hours to hike back to his car. When he got back to the parking lot he took the plastic bag out of his pocket and threw it in a trash receptacle.

Alex got in his car and started him motor.  He looked at his watch and realized he had just enough time to go home, take a shower and then get to his night shift at the mall.

 

 

 

 

 

The Tattered Princess and Her Walk of Shame

Kirsten knew that the moment she stepped out onto the sidewalk in an evening dress, she would be labeled a slut. There were always paparazzi in front of this hotel. There was no way she could even make it to a taxi without at least 20 pictures being taken.

Kirsten lay naked in bed and looked at the clock. God, it was already 10:30am! Soon housekeeping would be knocking on the door. And where the hell was Richard? Then she vaguely remembered that he had left late last night to go home to his wife. At least he had booked the room in a fake name, and no one had seen her come in last nght.

For the hundredth time Kirsten wondered how stupid she could be to have an affair with a married man.  And how stupid was Richard’s wife? How many late night “production meeting” did she believe he really had?

Of course, if Kirsten was a different type of actress, none of this would have mattered. If she played the sexy tramp in movies, her off-screen affairs would have actually boosted her career.

Walk 1

But Kirsten’s persona was the “Good Girl”. In comedies she was the High School sweetheart. In horror films she was the virgin who stayed alive while the killer butchered the sluts. Of course, the biggest money makes were when she played magical princesses.  Kirsten’s slim features, small stature and sweet looks meant  that she constantly played characters 10 or 15 years younger than her real age of 28.

Kirsten got out of bed, put on her bra and panties, and considered her options. There was nothing in the room to wear except her floor length, black evening dress and  high heals. She could call the studio then decided against it. They had been looking for a reason to break her contract and bring in a younger less expensive actress. Kirsten was pretty sure there was a “morals clause” busied somewhere in her contract.

There was no way  Kirsten was going to break her contract. She loved the money, and there was no way she was going back to being poor.

Out of habit, Kirsten  picked up the remote and clicked on the T.V.  The channel that came on was the internal one showing all of the day’s events at the hotel. Kirsten sat on the bed and vaguely watched while she tried to think of a way out of her situation. Then as she read through the events, she had a Epiphany. She searched thought the closet and drawers of the hotel room until she found  what she was looking for. The hotel sewing kit was small and the scissors were tiny, but they would work.

“If they want me to be a princess, then I’ll be a goddamned princess!” Kirsten said to herself.

Later than evening Kirsten was alone in her apartment, feeling tired, but satisfied. She has made it through another day with her “good girl” image intact.  She sipped a glass of white  wine and turned on the local  news. She had to sit through 15 minutes of stories about fires and car wrecks until the program got to the “feel good” portion of the news.

The anchor woman read the story,

“Today children at the Excelsior Hotel got a thrill when Kirsten O’Reilly showed up at the annual fundraising event for underprivileged youth.  Kirsten was dressed as her famous character ‘The Tattered Princess’ complete with the magic cape and ripped beggar girl dress. Lovers of that movie will remember that the barefoot beggar girl in the ripped dress turns into a princess when she finds a magic cape.”

walk 3

Kirsten gulped down more wine as the news program continued. It showed Kirsten smiling to the kids and shaking hands while the fund raisers thanked her profusely for coming. The tattered dress was a $5,000 Versache gown she had cut to ribbons with the hotel scissors. The “magic cape” was the comforter from the hotel bed.

Kirsten shook her head when she realized how close her career had come to ending today. She vowed she would never have another affair. But the fundraiser had been hosted by a very handsome man named John Reynolds. He had invited Kirsten to go swimming at his place in The Hamptons that weekend.   John had also mentioned that his wife would be out of town for a few weeks. When no one else was looking he slipped Kirsten his cell phone number.

Kirsten reached for more wine and on the table saw the piece of paper with John’s cell phone number on it.  “I would have to be crazy to call him,” she said out loud.

Kirsten drank some more wine and then spoke to herself again. “Of course, the weather is going to be very hot this weekend, and The Hamptons are beautiful.” Then she sighed, and reached over for the slip of paper.

 

 

 

The Killer’s Wife – a novel of the “other victim”

Can you have sex with a man night after night and not suspect that he is a murderer? Why didn’t you notice the scratches on his body and the faint smell of still-fresh blood?  Was there anything you could have done to stop his killing spree? These are the questions that haunt Leigh, the heroine of The Killer’s Wife by Bill Floyd.

Can you really have sex with a killer and never suspect?

Can you really have sex with a killer and never suspect?

Six years after her husband was sent to death row for a series of brutal ritualistic murders, Leigh has tried to rebuild her life.  She got a divorce, legally changed her name, moved to a new State. But there is no escaping the past.

The father of one of the murder victims tracks Leigh down and exposes her to the community. Leigh is no longer the friendly co-worker and neighbor. Overnight she becomes the feared and despised wife of a sadistic deranged killer. Many people believe that Leigh is not really an innocent victim at all, but actually joined her husband on his killing rampages.

The Killer's Wife

The Killer’s Wife

When Leigh feels things could not get any worse, the nightmare begins again with a series of murders using the same horrible techniques. With her ex-husband in a maximum security prison who is the killer?

Author Bill Floyd

Author Bill Floyd

The Killer’s Wife is an extraordinarily well written debut novel of Bill Floyd. It is exciting throughout and would make an excellent movie. If you enjoyed The Girl On The Train, you will love The Killer’s Wife.

 

 

Blue Velvet movie review

I f you are in the mood for a strange, sexy and dark mystery movie, then we recommend the 1986 film Blue Velvet. It shows the bizarre underside of what at first appears to be an idyllic and peaceful suburban town. This facade is shattered when college student Jeffrey (played by Kyle MacLachlan) finds a severed human ear in a field.

Laura Dern and Kyle MacLachlan in "Blue Velvet"

Laura Dern and Kyle MacLachlan in “Blue Velvet”

Jeffrey, of course, turns this evidence into the local police detective. However, instead of leaving the matter to the police, Jeffrey and the detective’s daughter Sandy (played by Laura Dern) decide to start their own investigation. They are really just trying to have a little excitement and an excuse to spend time with each other. They are both too naive to understand just how much danger they are putting themselves into.

Isabella Rosselini and Kyle MacLachlan in "Blue Velvet"

Isabella Rosselini and Kyle MacLachlan in “Blue Velvet”

Since Sandy is still in high school, Jeffrey ends up doing most of the investigating himself. This brings him into contact with a beautiful and deadly lounge singer names Dorthy (planed by Isabella Rosselini).

Dennis Hopper and Isabella Rosselini in "Blue Velvet"

Dennis Hopper and Isabella Rosselini in “Blue Velvet”

Jeffrey becomes almost a Jekyll and Hyde personality. During the day he is with the innocent and pure Sandy, meeting in places like the local soda shop. But at night he keeps going back to the older and sexual Dorthy, despite the fact that he know this could put his very life in danger.

Dennis Hopper plays the local crime boss Frank Booth. As usual, Dennis Hopper plays a deranged character so well, you begin to wonder about the sanity of Mr. Hopper himself.

Laura Dern, Isabella Rosselini and Klye MacLachlan in "Blue Velvet"

Laura Dern, Isabella Rosselini and Klye MacLachlan in “Blue Velvet”

These two worlds, the innocent and the evil, finally come crashing together in a dramatic conclusion. Blue Velvet is a great film that will leave you wondering what really lies just below the surface of even the most peaceful of settings.

 

The Winter Goddess

The Winter Goddess stood in the snow and glanced in Eric’s direction. In his  delirious state, he knew she was the same  vision that Viking warriors must have seen hundreds of years ago just before they died of battle wounds.

Eric peered through the snow, but he just could not see her clearly. She was there, but somehow just out of focus – just out of reach. She looked directly at him and smiled. Her skin was incredibly pale and beautiful and her long golden hair moved slightly in the wind.  The Winter Goddess called out to him in in a soulful  soft voice, but he could not understand her. She was speaking some ancient dialect of long forgotten tribes of the far north.

Somewhere in the deep recesses of Eric’s mind was the vague realization that he was  in the final stages of hypothermia.  He had passed through the phases of shivering and dizziness and had entered the final  levels of confusion and rapid heart beat.

Eric’s heart was racing like a small engine about to explode. His heart was going at such a rate that he had stopped shivering. For the first time in many hours he felt comfortable. Then he actually began to feel warm and even hot.

As he walked towards the Winter Goddess Eric shed the clothing which was making him hot.  Off went the jacket, the sweater and shirt and finally the pants and underclothing. Eric strode confidently through the snow. He was warm and happy as he got closer to the Winter Goddess.

Miles away the searchers were looking in the wrong direction for Eric. The Norwegians were angry that they had to risk their own lives trying to find an American who was arrogant and foolish enough to go off alone in the Norwegian wilderness in Winter.

The American had left no note, no map of where he was going, not even a message with the innkeeper as to what direction he was headed. The searchers shook their heads in disgust at the lack of respect the American had shown for the wilderness.

But Eric knew nothing of the searchers anger or disgust. He had entered another realm; another level of existence.  He had finally reached the Goddess of Winter.  She smiled at him and took Eric into her arms. Her breasts felt warm against his chest.  Eric had expected her skin to be cold, but instead the Goddess of Winter’s skin was soft and warm as she gently caressed him.

Now that he had reached the Goddess, Eric could finally relax. He had been walking for so long and was so tired that it felt  wonderful to stop and relax.

The Winter Goddess whispered in Eric’s ear and gently stroked his hair.  Suddenly he could understand her language.  She was telling Eric that he was home now. That all his struggles were over and all his battles had been won. It was time to come in from the cold and feast at the long table with all the Gods and Goddesses.

Eric felt the peace and relaxation for which he had spent so many years searching. The Winter Goddess continued to hug him and keep him warm in the snow as his racing heart gradually slowed down and finally came to a smooth and wonderful stop.

 

Crimson Peak – movie review

“Its not a ghost story. Its a story with ghosts in it.” These are the words of Crimson Peak’s main character Edith Cushing as she tries to get publishers interested in her writing. These words very much reflect the movie Crimson Peak itself.

crimson 4

Set in 1901 America and  England, Crimson Peak is about a beautiful young America woman who wants to break the social bonds of women of that time. In addition to being lovely and intelligent, she is  tormented by the ability (or affliction) of seeing ghosts that other people do not.

She falls in love with a handsome young Barron from England, whose cold as ice sister is always at his side.

Crimson Peak  is a beautifully scripted and acted horror/drama, where the characters are more important than the special effects.  Mia Wasikowska is perfect as Edith Cushing. Edith is strong willed and smart, but soon finds that may not be enough against the physical horrors and challenges she must face.

crimson 3

Tom Hiddleston is Sir Thomas Sharpe. The  movie keeps the audience guessing as to whether he will be the  saving hero, or a violent evil devil.

crimson 1

Jessica Chastain is Thomas’ sister Lucille. Beautiful and talented, she has parts of her past that she keeps buried from everyone but her brother. This is a completely different role than we have see Jessica  Chastain in before; and she is fantastic in it.

Crimson Peak is very  much a story that Edgar Allan Poe would have enjoyed. It has the same complex characters, plot and dramatic ending that Poe himself put into his works.

We give Crimson Peak Four Stars ****

 

When I Met a Sadistic Killer

Have you ever met a murderer? I did, and it was only two days before he committed a disgustingly brutal murder.  The thing I remember most about him was that he was just so quiet. I know that sounds like such a cliche. How many times on the news have we all seen stories about a psycho-killer where the neighbors all say “but he was so quiet.”

His name  is Mark Masters and when I met him he was trying to become a professional photographer. The actual way he made a living was by driving a tow truck and doing various odd-jobs, but his dream was to be a photographer.

I worked  at American Healthcare Manufacturing, a  privately held company in New Jersey. The owner had hired Mark to prepare a new brochure for the company. The owner said it was because he wanted to give Mark a break. The real real reason was that Mark was willing to do the job for less than half the price anyone else had offered.

The photo shoot was to take place after-hours so as not to interfere with the regular business. It was not one of those exciting photo shoots with beautiful models in skimpy outfits. In fact, there were no people being photographed at all.

American Healthcare made products for hospitals.  The products were items such as surgical gloves, gauze bandages, wound dressing kits, etc. The brochure was just going to be pictures of these products, with the prices listed underneath.  It was not exactly Vogue magazine.

Somehow I got chosen to be the one to stay late to help the photographer. Mark came in and we set up everything in the big conference room. We covered the table with a green cloth and arranged the various products on the table.  Mark set up his camera equipment without saying a word.

It was really boring, since it was just Mark and I alone in the building.  I tried to get him involved in a conversation, but I could not get him to talk about anything. It was like his mind was somewhere else completely. He spoke so softly that I had to strain to hear him.

He did not initiate any conversations, and when asked a question, would only answer with a whispered “Yes” or “No”.

The whole photo shoot only took about two hours, but it was so uncomfortable being around him that it felt like it took days.  When he finally packed up his cameras and left I was glad to get back home, where people actually spoke.

Two days later, I was in the office when Brian, our sales manager, came in.

“Remember that guy who took pictures  for the brochure?” asked Brian.

“Yea sure. Why?”

“He killed his mother-in-law.  He strangled her. Then he cut off her hands and tried to flush them down the toilet.  Supposedly they all lived together and had been having arguments about who would get the house. He cut off her hands to make sure she did not get her hands on the house even after she died.”

I was shocked. I had been next to this guy for hours in a completely empty building in an isolated office park just two days before. Brian thought that was really funny. Brian has a weird sense of humor.  It did not seem amusing to me.

It’s hard to know what sort of lesson to draw from this. The only one I can think of  is that you never really know what is going on in another person’s soul.

When I do work late these days, I make sure there are a lot of other people in the building. I also find myself inadvertently checking out where the nearest exits are. Just in case.

 

 

Prison Dogs

Prison was not at all like Beth had expected. There were no gang fights, no racial problems, no weird prison tattoos. The prison was immaculately clean, but not in a nice way. More of  a hospital antiseptic type of clean.  There was just the same boring routine over and over. Every day was exactly the same as the day before, and the day after.

prison 2

The part  of the daily routine Beth hated the most was the group therapy session. A bunch of women sitting on chairs in a circle in a cold gymnasium talking about the problems that got them to prison.

The stories were all the same. Bad homes, bad boyfriends, bad decisions, bad drugs, bad booze all leading to the same place.

But the worst part of being in prison was the fact that you knew you were a Loser.  You always thought so before, but now it was official. For the rest of your life there would a be mark in your record that you had been in prison. A place for Losers surrounded by other Losers the good people of the country did not want anywhere near them. You were nothing and you knew it and now so did everyone else.

prison 1

Beth never spoke during the group therapy sessions. She knew that if she did she would end up just screaming at the other women and telling them all to shut up. Telling them all that they should just stop their whining and accept who they were. They were worthless and they should accept it and just shut up.

There were other things to do in the prison, but Beth had not signed up for any of them. Training programs that were supposed to prepare them for the “real world”. But those programs were voluntary and Beth decided not to volunteer for any of them. She would rather just sit in her cell and stare at the spotlessly clean wall.

Then one day she noticed that there was a program for prisoners to try to help train search and rescue dogs. Beth had no interest in it except for the fact that it would take place every day at the same time as Group Therapy. If she signed up for the dog thing, she would not have to attend therapy sessions.   So Beth signed up to help train the dogs.

ANIMALS 007

A week later she and two other women were standing in the prison yard with an enormously fat man named Wally who had brought 3 dogs with him and was explaining the techniques of how to train a search and rescue dog. It was a lot more complicated than Beth had thought.

Each of the women was assigned a dog to work with. Beth was given a large  Golden Retriever named Jumpy. He was named that for obvious reasons. He was a very friendly dog and was so happy to meet people that he had a tendency to jump on the person. The problem was that he was so big and strong that he sometime knocked the person right over. The other two dogs were a Beagle and a German Shepard.

Wally explained that these dogs had all already flunked out of the usual search & rescue training program. This was their last chance to try again to become useful search & rescue dogs.  If they could not make it they would go back to the animal shelters they came from.

Beth got it. These dogs were all Losers too. That was the only reason they had been brought here. A bunch of Loser dogs trying to be trained by a bunch of Loser prisoners.

It turned out that it was very hard work. Fat Wally was like a drill instructor. Every day he showed up at the prison with the  dogs and they all trained for 3 hours. He brought boxes and crates and set up the prison yard like a fake disaster scene. Then the dogs would have to search for “trapped” people. Sometimes there was no one to find. Sometimes Wally would get other prisoners to hide under the boxes and the dogs would find them. Jumpy got better and better as the weeks went by. He loved when he “rescued” someone.

Beth had never been close to anyone in her life. She had been with lots of boyfriends, but had never really shared her feelings with them. But she did with Jumpy. When they took breaks from training, Beth and Jumpy would sit on the grass apart from the others and Beth would talk to Jumpy. He would look at her with those dark soulful eyes intently listing to everything Beth said.

She knew he did not understand what Beth was saying, but it didn’t matter. Somehow she sensed that Jumpy related to the feeling of what she was saying, even if he could not understand the exact words. Beth told the dog all the things she had never told her mother or her boyfriends or the prison therapist.

One day Wally came up to them while Beth was talking to Jumpy. Beth was afraid that Wally was going to make fun of her. Instead he said,

“You know, I like dogs a lot more than I like people. Dogs have all the good characteristics which people pretend to have but really don’t. Dogs are loyal. They are truly brave, and they love you unconditionally.  I have never once had a dog betray me or tell me I should lose a little weight.”

As Wally walked away Beth looked at him like she was seeing him for the first time. She saw him as not just some fat guy with baggy clothing. She realized that he was that rarest type of man. He was a genuinely good person. He actually cared about the Losers of the world.

That night Beth was sound asleep when the bright lights sudden snapped on in her cell.  A guard came in and rushed her down to the Warden’s office without explanation.  Beth did not know what she had done wrong, but it must be something really bad.

When Beth arrived, the Warden’s office was crowded with people. There were police officers and fire fighters. She also saw Wally and the two other prisoners who were part of the dog training program.

Even though it was the Warden’s office, Wally seemed to be the person in charge. Everyone got quiet as he spoke.

“There was a gas explosion at an apartment building about 15 miles from here. The entire building has collapsed. The rescue workers think there may still be people trapped inside the rubble but they can’t find them. We are the only rescue dog team withing 500 miles so we are going in. Lets move!”

The next thing she knew Beth was in a convoy of rescue vehicles speeding along the highway with sirens blaring  and lights flashing. She and the two other prisoners were sitting in a crowded truck along with the three dogs four firemen.

When they arrived at the disaster scene it was chaos. An entire 5 story building had collapsed in a gas explosion and was in a heap of bricks and twisted metal. There were small fires everywhere and people who had escaped the collapse were being taken away in ambulances, or were wandering around in a daze wrapped in blankets.

Wally gathered the dog team in a circle. “You are going to split up and each search separately with your dog.  A firefighter will be teamed with you to take you to where they think there might be a trapped person. You are all good. I have seen you working with your dogs and I know you can do it. Remember; trust your dog.”

A young fireman lead Beth and Jumpy  to the corner of what used to be the building and said. “There is a woman who says her little girl never got out of the apartment which  was in this area. We have been over every square inch but can’t find anything.” He gave her a whistle and said “signal us if you find anything.” Then the fireman walked away and left Beth and Jumpy alone.

Beth nodded and then crouched down to speak to Jumpy. She  spoke to him in a soothing tone and calmed him down. Then she  put on his paws the little plastic booties that search dogs wear so that broken cement does not cut their paws.

The search began and Jumpy carefully began sniffing the ground.  His whole demeanor changed. He was not running around or nervously jumping like he usually did. It was like he knew this was a job and it was time to get to work.

Jumpy had been searching for almost 20 minutes and the Sun was beginning to rise. Then he suddenly stopped and cocked his head. He would not move from a particular spot. He looked at Beth and began barking. Beth blew the whistle with all her breath and the emergency workers came running over.

It took almost half an hour for the the rescue workers to carefully dig where Jumpy had indicated.  It turned out there was a hidden air pocket under the rubble.  The little girl was trapped but alive.  The little girl was pulled out covered with dust but breathing. Her mother came running over and was crying and laughing with joy at the same time. The girl was rushed to an ambulance and her mother rode away with her.

The fireman who had given Beth the whistle said to Beth, “That’s quite a dog you have there. Has he ever rescued anyone before?”

Beth reached down and patted Jumpy on the head.

“Me, ” Beth said. “He rescued  me.”

 

 

The Other Typist – book review

The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell  was published in 2013 and is a remarkably good mystery story for a first time novelist. The lead character is named Rose, and she is a drab unimaginative sort despite the fact that her job should be exciting. She works in the New York City police department in 1923 typing up the statements, lies and sometimes even confessions of the criminals the detectives bring in for questioning.

Rose’s world is completely changed with the arrival in the department of Odalie- “the other typist”. Odalie is everything Rose is not. She is glamorous and dresses in ways Rose at first finds scandalous. Unlike Rose, who keeps all the detectives at a safe distance, Odalie enjoys flirting and being the center of attention.

Rose is surprised and flattered that Odalie goes out of her way to make friends with Rose, and soon the two even become roommates.

But there is something about Odalie which never makes sense to Rose. What is Odalie really doing there? Why is she working as a typist when she seems to have tons of money and some sort of secret life?

Rose finds herself getting drawn more and more into Odalie’s secret world, and soon finds that each step off the straight and narrow path becomes easier and easier. Rose gets so far off the path you wonder if she will be able to make it back.

Suzanne Rindell has done an excellent job in this period piece mystery novel from the Prohibition days in New York. Mobsters, flappers and very tough cops make this an exciting and fast paced book.  It has an unexpected surprise twist ending that I have to admit I did not see coming, even though in classic mystery tradition the clues were planted throughout the story.

I eagerly look forward to the publication of Ms. Rindell’s next novel.

The Ex-Zombie Girl by Gregory Farrell

Allison was alone in her SoHo apartment when she went through her daily ritual. She stood naked in front of the full length mirror. She was not admiring her body, but was looking for any cuts or discoloration which would accompany the return of the virus. She took a small blood sample and put it in the meter and only relaxed when she got the green signal.

She never wanted to remember the time of the sickness, but she knew she could not forget it. She remembered using her teeth to tear into the raw flesh of other people; sometimes even people she knew. She remembered the taste of the blood and skin. The worst part was that she remembered the overpowering feeling of how much she had liked it. Every day she lived in  fear that the desire would return. Like a recovered drug addict who never truly trusted that the addiction was gone. Allison knew there was no such thing as a cured Zombie.

Of course, no one was allowed to use the “Z Word”. It was less than 18 months ago and the government had successfully been able to cover up almost all evidence of the outbreak. Stage 1 infected like Allison had been injected with the cure. Stage 2 & 3 had simply disappeared for good after the Special Forces picked them up. Rumor among the Cured like Allison was that it was just a matter of time until the government would decide to eliminate all chances of a second outbreak. One night the Cured would all disappear as well.

Allison got dressed and decided to go out for a walk to see if she could pass for a normal person. She walked all the way over to the NYU campus, expecting to get strange looks from the  students milling about, but got none.

She sat down on a bench near a food vendor’s cart. A slight breeze shifted and  she could smell the meat cooking on the grill. Allison shivered as she felt the change begin in her.  Suddenly Allison felt more hungry than she had ever been. The unbelievable strength returned to her muscles.  What seemed like a fog entered her brain, and a darkness descended on her soul.

A group of NYU students stood in a small circle talking excitedly about their classes and assignments. They paid no attention to the woman on the park bench 10 feet away, when she stood up and with a strange gait started to move towards them.

 

 

 

SoHo Instinct by Gregory Farrell

Maya and Charlie loved the  mornings in SoHo. They lived in an illegal apartment above an overpriced art gallery. For a monthly envelope of cash the manager of the gallery had given them the keys to what was zoned for an upstairs storage room.

Every morning they would get up early and walk up Greene Street while the store owners hosed off the slate sidewalks. Maya and Charlie had opposite personalities. Charlie was big and outgoing and friendly. Complete strangers would often smile and say hello; a real accomplishment in New York City. Maya, on the other hand, was shy and petite. With her small build and shoulder length auburn hair she looked younger than her 23 years. Sometimes she felt as if no one even noticed her unless Charlie was with her.

One day in late October, Maya just happened to wake up about an hour earlier than normal. It was just starting to get light , and the streets were still deserted; but Maya was full of energy and wanted to go outside. Charlie was always full of energy and of course insisted on coming along. They strode along side by side and Maya was swinging the little Louis Vuitton purse with the super long strap that her father had given her last Christmas.

They were just passing a construction site on Spring Street when the attacker struck. He ran up behind at full speed, pushing Maya down with one hand and grabbing her purse with the other. She fell forward and screamed as her head hit the cobblestone and began to bleed.

That’s when the change took place in Charlie’s brain. He was big and friendly and lived in an apartment, but in the far  far past his ancestors had been wolves. And after that, for thousands of years dogs had developed the instinct to defend the humans they loved.

When Maya fell she dropped Charlie’s leash. The attacker was running away fast, but a human in a pair of Nikes is no match for a 120 pound dog at a sprint. When Charlie reached full speed he leapt into the air. Dog’s don’t fight to win points or to apprehend a suspect. Their instinct is to kill. Charlie’s teeth sunk full force into the attacker’s neck and the two of them went crashing to the ground without Charlie letting go. When they landed Charlie held onto the neck with his teeth and shook his head back and forth in that incredibly fast motion that people think is so cute when dogs do it with a bathroom towel. The real purpose of the shake is to snap the neck of whatever animal the dog has its teeth into; and that’s exactly what happened to the neck of the animal that attacked Maya.

The attacker was dead long before the police arrived. Maya was taken to the hospital and Charlie to the animal shelter, where like any dog that had killed a human,  he was scheduled to be euthanized.  It would have ended badly except for the fact that a television commercial was scheduled to be shot on Spring the following week. The director was on the street early that day to get a good look at it before all the traffic and the people obstructed the view. He heard Maya scream and pointed his tablet camera in that direction and started filming. He captured most of it, and brought it to the T.V. station. When it was shown on the news that night, the public fell in love with Charlie; especially the part where Charlie ran back to make sure Maya was all right.

When the public heard that Charlie was to be put down, the Chief of Police actually received death threats. The Mayor did not really care about dogs, or the Chief of Police for that matter, but he knew if he allowed a hero dog to be put to death, then his re-election was in trouble. They Mayor made sure that when Maya and Charlie were reunited the Mayor was right in the middle for the T.V. cameras. There was even a great shot of Charlie licking the Mayor’s bald head.

Maya and Charlie still go for a walk every morning in SoHo. Charlie is still the main attraction, but sometimes people now ask Maya how she is feeling and if she needs anything. At the end of the walk Maya sits on a bench outside the coffee shop drinking her vanilla latte, while Charlie looks up at her with complete unconditional love.