Category Archives: Suspense & Mystery Stories

Suspense & Mystery Stories

Need To Know – the spy in the family

Need To Know by Karen Cleveland is spy novel about a CIA analyst caught between loyalty to family or country, when she discovers that her own husband is a long-time Russian sleeper agent. Vivian Miller , the CIA analyst, has created a sophisticated software program, theoretically allowing her to hack into the computers of suspected Russian control agents.  If the program works, the CIA will be able to see what spies Russia has working in America.

Need To Know

Need To Know

No one at the CIA really expects the computer program to work. Vivian has been tinkering with it for months with no success. Then one day during testing, Vivian is able to hack into the computer of a top level Russian spymaster. This will be the crowning  moment of her career and assure her a promotion.

Inside CIA headquarters

Inside CIA headquarters

Vivian finds a file on the spy master’s computer, with photographs of all the agents he is controlling in America. She is ecstatic until she sees that one of the photos is of her own husband Matt.  They have been married for years and have 3 children. He can’t possibly be a spy for the Russians. But the more she tries to convince herself that Matt is not a spy the more she realizes he is.

Memorial honoring CIA agents who died serving The United States. No names are displayed as they lived and died in secret.

Memorial honoring CIA agents who died serving The United States. No names are displayed as they lived and died in secret.

The correct course of action would be for Vivian to immediately notify her superiors. However, she knows that the second she does that, her life as she knows it will be over. Matt will go to jail, possible for life. Vivian will be suspected of being a traitor herself. Even if she is not arrested her career as a trusted CIA agent will be ruined. What will happen to her kids?

In a moment of panic, Vivian deletes Matt’s picture fro the Russian spymaster’s computer. In that one second she realizes that she moved from a woman with a dilemma, to an actual traitor to the United States.

The plot of Need To Know then follows the complex story of what to do next. Vivian realizes that she has dug herself a hole that may lead her to prison for life.   Can she save herself, her family and still be loyal to America? As a computer analyst herself, she understands that it is only a matter of time until both the Russians and the Americans will zero in on her tampering.

"Need To Know" author Karen Cleveland

“Need To Know” author Karen Cleveland

Karen Cleveland is an excellent writer and Need To Know is her first novel. Karen Cleveland herself is a former CIA analyst (whose husband is not a Russian spy). She has a Masters  degrees from Trinity College in Dublin in international peace studies, and a degree in public policy from Harvard University.

Like John  Le Carrie, Karen Cleveland zeros in on the emotional and personal aspects of spying, rather than political implications. Need To Know is a fast moving novel with an unexpected ending. We look forward to reading Karen Cleveland’s next book.

Michael Flynn’s Crazy Plot to Kidnap Turkish Dissident Fethullah Gulen – A perfect comedy movie

Michael Flynn’s alleged plot to kidnap Turkish dissident leader Fethullah Gulen reads like a cross between a James Bond novel and a Monty Python skit. Michael Flynn supposedly was willing to risk life imprisonment  for Kidnapping, or even a possible death sentence for Treason, all for the potential of collecting a $15 million bounty the Turkish government has offered on Fethullah Gulen.

Michael Flynn was allegedly willing to commit treason for $15 million

Michael Flynn was allegedly willing to commit treason for $15 million

Normally East Coast Stories reviews movies and books, but the plot of this story is so bizarre, we simply could not resist detailing all the flaws in this moronic plan. It is sort of like revealing  all the plot errors in a really badly written spy novel. Of course, Mr. Flynn denies vehemently the charges, so when Hollywood  make a movie about this, it  will have to use the phrase “inspired by true events”, which is Hollywood’s way of saying, “may or may not be true”

Gulen relaxes at home, safe in Pennsylvania

Gulen relaxes at home, safe in Pennsylvania

Allegedly, the conspirators met at the famed 21 Club in New York to discuss the details of the kidnapping. You don’t have to be criminal mastermind to know that perhaps a crowded restaurant is not the best place to openly plan a Federal crime of the highest magnitude.

To succeed, Flynn would have had to kidnap Fethullah Gulen from Gulen’s  home in Saylorsburg Pennsylvania. This is not just some ordinary American Home. Fethullah Gulen’s house is actually a guarded compound  watched 24 hours a day by teams of FBI agents. All traffic in and out is photographed and the license plates cross-checked against a national database.

Jim Carrey, who will play Michael Flynn in our movie "Kidnapping Gulen"

Jim Carrey, who will play Michael Flynn in our movie “Kidnapping Gulen”

Flynn’s plan was to recruit a team of ex-military people, storm the compound  in Pennsylvania guarded by FBI agents and kidnap Gulen. Flynn’s commando team would then have to somehow get to a private airport and get on to a private jet capable of crossing the Atlantic ocean at the very least.

Johnny Depp will play an over the top President Erdowin

The stupidest part of the plot is that it would probably have been a money loser, even if the Turkish government could have been trusted to actually pay the $15 million. Just the cost of the  the commando team, the jet pilots and the jet itself would have been a lot of money. Then, of course, there are the huge bribes needed for  airport officials, police, government agents, air traffic controllers and customs agents.

Turkish news reporter Tijen Karas

Turkish news reporter Tijen Karas

The chance that not a single person involved would leak the plot  before the event would be  virtually zero. How exactly do you recruit a team of ex-military people and ask them to help you commit treason; hoping  that none of them turns you in to the police? American military men and women are known for their loyalty to the rule of law and something called the Constitution. Flynn assumed he could get an entire team to go against everything they believed in, just for some money. Let’s  face it, if money was the main motivating force in their lives, they would not have chosen the military as a career in the first place.

Turkish actress Naz Elmas will play newscaster Tijen Karas in the movie "Kidnapping Guen"

Turkish actress Naz Elmas will play newscaster Tijen Karas in the movie “Kidnapping Guen”

So, as a movie action/spy story, we have to give Michael Flynn’s idea to kidnap Fethullah Gulen a bad review. However, it might work as a comedy. Jim Carrey would be perfect as Michael Flynn. Jim Carrey has the same skinny goofy looks as Michael Flynn, and is perfect at playing characters who are completely oblivious to how stupid their ideas really are.

Johnny Depp will make the comeback of his career by playing a completely “over-the-top” version of Turkish President Erdowan. It may sound crazy, but Erdowan himself must be a little cracked.  Only an insane Turkish  leader would finance such an attack on its friend The United States. Did Erdowan think the U.S. would just “let it go” if the kidnapping was successful?

Erdowan & Gulen waging a battle for Turkey on 2 continents

Erdowan & Gulen waging a battle for Turkey on 2 continents

Of course, a beautiful woman is required to keep the audience’s interest. Here we would cast Turkish actress Naz Elmas to play the newscaster Tijen Karas, who is desperately trying to keep some semblance of professionalism in reporting the events in modern day Turkey.

We are interested in this story because East Coast Stories has a huge readership in Turkey. We are not really sure why.  Perhaps it is because so many of Turkey’s own writers, journalists and even book reviewers have been arrested and jailed for “high treason”. So to all our readers in Turkey –  Remember this. You are not forgotten . We admire the courage you have to read and write and say whatever you want – no matter what the consequences. No doubt in Turkey, our little story making fun of Flynn and Erdowan’s plot to kidnap Gulen would have gotten East Coast Stories shut down and all of us jailed.

In real life, the alleged Flynn plot to kidnap Fethullah Gulen never got off the ground. Perhaps people Flynn spoke to told him how insane the idea was. Of course, in the movie, the kidnapping will go full scale, with explosions car chases, gun fights and beautiful damsels in distress.

The plot will ultimately fail, however, due to one simple fact. Michael Flynn forgot about the fact that the average citizens in rural Pennsylvania are armed to the teeth. Flynn’s group gets past the FBI, only to be defeated by the brave citizens of Saylorsburg Pennsylvanian,  These good citizens simply will not stand for anyone harassing their neighbor Mr. Gulen.

At the end of the movie, the town of Saylorsburg put up a monument to the victory in their town square, with the following poem.

Good Will On Earth And Peace To Men.

Do not try to harm Gulen.

Americans have guns and guns galore. And every day we buy some more

If you send goons to Gulen’s door. American guns will make them sore.

By the way, if any Hollywood produces actually do  make this film, remember that you owe East Coast Stories some big bucks.

Happy New Year to the brave people of Turkey.

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 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.

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.