Gerry B's Book Reviews

Lake on the Mountain: A Dan Sharp Mystery (Dan Sharp Mystery #1) by Jeffrey Round

Interesting Characters and engaging story

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Click on cover to order.

Click on cover to order.

Story Blurb: Dan Sharp, a gay father and missing persons investigator, accepts an invitation to a wedding on a yacht in Ontario’s Prince Edward County. It seems just the thing to bring Dan closer to his noncommittal partner, Bill, a respected medical professional with a penchant for sleazy after-hours clubs, cheap drugs, and rough sex. But the event doesn’t go exactly as planned.

When a member of the wedding party is swept overboard, a case of mistaken identity leads to confusion as the wrong person is reported missing. The hunt for a possible killer leads Dan deeper into the troubled waters and private lives of a family of rich WASPs and their secret world of privilege.

No sooner is that case resolved when a second one ends up on Dan’s desk. Dan is hired by an anonymous source to investigate the disappearance, twenty years earlier, of the groom’s father. The only clues are a missing bicycle and six horses mysteriously poisoned.

About the author: Jeffrey Round’s first Dan Sharp mystery, Lake on the Mountain, won the Lambda Literary Award in 2013. It was followed by Pumpkin Eater in 2014 and The Jade Butterfly in 2015. Jeffrey’s first two novels, A Cage of Bones and The P’town Murders, were listed on AfterElton’s Top 100 Gay Books. Jeffrey is also author of the Bradford Fairfax comic mysteries and a book of poetry, In the Museum of Leonardo da Vinci. His blog, A Writer’s Half-Life, has been syndicated online. He lives in Toronto.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

As you are probably aware, I am a great promoter of Canadian books and authors, and so when I saw that Lake on the Mountain: A Dan Sharp Mystery (Dan Sharp Mystery #1) by Jeffrey Round [Dundurn, February 21, 2012] was set in Ontario, I naturally had to read it.

prince edward countyFor those of you not familiar with Prince Edward County, it is an almost island community located on the north shore of Lake Ontario near Bellleville, Ontario. It dates back to the American War of Independence when The United Empire Loyalists fled north to receive land from the British government. It is a jewel of a community featuring wine and history in equal portions.

The story is told from the point of view of Dan Sharp, a private investigator specializing in missing persons, and a gay, single father to a teenage son, Ked.

What I like about Dan is that he is a good man with flaws, and that makes him credible in my mind – especially since many of his flaws are understandable. He is a former graduate of the school of hard knocks, growing up gay in Sudbury, to un-approving parents, and then escaping to the streets of Toronto. Therefore, one can forgive him for his edginess and over-indulgence at times.

His love life isn’t so hot, either. He has been dating a doctor for about a year, but the medic is a bit of a tramp with a taste for raunchy clubs and after-hours hangouts.

Through it all, Dan maintains his decency and his duty to Ked; even though Ked returns his support to his father as well.

The plot takes place during on a wedding cruise on Lake Ontario, when one of the guests disappears overboard, and Dan is called upon to investigate a suspected murder. Nonetheless, the murder mystery is really secondary to Dan’s coming to grips with his personal ‘demons,’ which he inevitably does.

Mention should be made as well of the interesting characters one meets along the way. Jeffrey Round has a talent for developing notable characters, and this is no exception. Four bees.

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May 11, 2015 Posted by | Canadian content, Gay fiction, Gay mystery, M/M love and adventure | Leave a comment

The Butcher’s Son (A Dick Hardesty Mystery #1) by Dorien Grey

In the style of Mickey Spillane –

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Click on  the above cover to purchse.

Click on the above cover to purchse.

Story blurb: Dick Hardesty is pressed into service when someone starts burning down gay bars all over town and the police chief (nicknamed ‘the butcher’) shrugs the whole thing off. Then drag queens and female impersonators get into the act and Dick is required to sleuth out who is hot and who is not.

Also available in audio-book format.

About the author: If it is possible to have a split personality without being schizophrenic, Dorien Grey qualifies. When long-time book and magazine editor Roger Margason chose the pseudonym “Dorien Grey” for his first book, it set off a chain of circumstances which has led to the comfortable division of labor and responsibility. Roger has charge of day-to-day existence, freeing Dorien—with the help of Roger’s fingers—to write. It has reached the point where Roger merely sits back and reads the stories Dorien brings forth on the computer screen.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I’m feeling lazy this week, so it’s time to dip into my reserve pile of authors and books that ‘go without saying.’

Dorien Grey is one such author, and the introduction to his Dick Hardesty series, The Butcher’s Son [Untreed Reads, January 20, 2015], is the novel I have chosen.

As I have implied above, you really can’t go wrong with a Dorien Grey novel. The plot is generally clever, with well-conceived twists and turns, and his insightful witticisms are scattered like pearls along the way, i.e. “The voice was warm, sincere, and confident – the kind of voice that makes me want to check and see if my wallet’s still there.” For those of you who share my vintage, this line could be right out of the style of Mickey Spillane.

High praise indeed, for in my opinion the really good, popular mystery-writer’s craft, ended with him.

In this story, Hardesty is hired by a rather pretentious PR firm to ‘package’ a homophobic cop seeking election to the governor’s mansion. Quite a package, since this cop’s background includes a gay son who was murdered for his gayness, and another son who is a hell-fire-and-brimstone preacher dead set against homosexuals.

The ‘hell fire’ in this case starts seeping out to burn some of the most popular gay bars in town, and so Hardesty is drawn in to investigating these occurrences as well.

Not surprisingly, the cop and his son are prima facie suspects, and so the juxtaposition of Hardesty the PR person, and Hardesty the sleuth, forms an interesting twist to the story.

Masterfully written, as one might expect, I rate it as four and one-half bees.

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Interested in Canadian history?

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February 23, 2015 Posted by | Dick Hardesty Series, Dorien Grey, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay mystery | 3 Comments

Third You Die (Kevin Connor Mysteries #3) by Scott Sherman

A good read: currently on sale at one of the major online retailers.

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three you die - coverFinally settling down with his hunky cop boyfriend, former callboy Kevin Connor is giving up the “oldest profession” for a new career: producing his mom’s TV talk show, “Sophie’s Voice.” But when their latest guest–gay porn sensation Brent Havens–ends up floating in the East River after vowing to blow the lid off the adult film industry, Kevin returns to the world of high-stakes sex to find out: Who killed the twink who had everything?

Was it the X-rated director who exploited his star–for his own desires? The bartender boyfriend who hustled more than just cocktails? Or the eye-candy co-star who left the sweet actor for a sugar daddy?

Either way, Kevin is zooming in on one twisted plot with no shortage of drama queens. But is he ready for his close-up. . .with a killer?

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Unbeknownst to myself, I settled on the 3rd in the three-part series, Third You Die (Kevin Connor Mysteries #3) by Scott Sherman. It stands alone quite well, however, but in reading the reviews of others I think it would be best if you read the series in sequence.

The blurb pretty well synopsizes the story, and not having reads books 1 and 2 of the series, I will focus on what I like and didn’t like about the story.

The plot line is good, nicely set up, and – except for the ending – it is quite well paced. It starts out as a domestic scene; Keven, the main character, has retired from his call-boy profession, and is now producing his mother’s television show. In turn, this sets up a murder connection when one of the guests is found murdered, and the rest is a who-done-it with Kevin trying to track done the killer.

The character are well drawn, both main and supporting characters, but in the relationship with Tony (Keven’s cop boyfriend) Kevin comes off as a bit of a wimp – which is not good for the main character.

The mystery I thought was quite well done, but it could have been tightened in places to make it more fast-paced.

On the other hand, the ending could have used some build up. It, as others have observed, came out of the blue.

Altogether a fairly good read. Presently on sale at amazon. Four bees.

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Interested in Canadian history?

Want to learn more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.  It is a collection of people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post: Pioneer Christmases… Before commercialism spoiled them.

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Notice to all those who have requested a book review Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer. Thanks again!

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December 29, 2014 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay mystery, M/M adventure | Leave a comment

One Boy’s Shadow, by Ross A. McCoubrey

A charming, feel-good story, from a first-time Canadian novelist…

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one boys shadow - coverStory blurb: Fifteen-year-old Caleb Mackenzie doesn’t put up a fight when his father announces the family is moving to Stapeton, Nova Scotia. In fact, Caleb looks forward to a fresh start in the scenic little area. Their new home, Wakefield House, sports large rooms, a big barn where Caleb can work on cars, and acres of forested land for privacy. But it also has a troubling past. In 1943, a boy who lived in the home vanished.

Caleb hears the stories about what may have occurred so many years ago, but he passes them off as folklore until one day he’s alone in the woods and hears the faintest whisper. Did someone in the distance just call his name? And what about his discovery in the hayloft? Could there be something to those old stories after all?

The initial need to dismiss everything as coincidence becomes a soul-searching journey into the past where Caleb is determined to uncover the truth about what really happened to the missing boy. And in the process, he learns even more about himself and what’s really important.

About the author: Ross A. McCoubrey was born and raised in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia. After finishing college, and beginning his full time job, he bought a home on the Bay of Fundy shore where he continues to reside. When not working he enjoys writing, camping, hiking, target shooting, and working on his truck. One Boy’s Shadow is his first novel.

Ross is using the profits from sales of One Boy’s Shadow to support LGBTQ youth organizations such as The Youth Projectwww.youthproject.ns.ca in his home province of Nova Scotia.

Please visit Ross’ Facebook page for great links and information about his work.www.facebook.com/rossmccoubrey

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Ever on the lookout for Canadian GBLT authors and stories, I pounced on this one the moment I saw ‘Nova Scotia.’ Ross A. Mcoubrey is a native Nova Scotian whose first novel A Boy’s Shadow  [iUniverse, May 24, 2012] is directed toward young adults, and yet it is both mature and charming enough to be enjoyed by adults as well.

The operative word is “charming.” I have often asked the question of why GBLT novels tend to be so dark and angst-driven, so to find one that is universally sweet and charming—even if it is a bit overly so—is somewhat of a treat.

The basic story revolves around the adventures of four teenage boys: 15-y.o Caleb, his brother Blake, and their best friends Shane and Ryley—oh, and a ghost named Toby. Although the plots are different, I couldn’t help equating them to The Hardy boys of yesteryear—that sort of comradeship that arises when boys set out to solve a mystery.

Caleb and Blake are resettled by their parents to a new (small) town and rambling old house with a name: “Wakefield House.” [All slightly scary houses should have a name!] One of the first people Caleb meets in town is a fellow teenager, Shane, who tells him the dark history of Wakefield House, and in particular the mystery surrounding Toby’s disappearance—apparently lost in the deep woods that surround Wakefield. Nonetheless, Toby has made his presence known to several inhabitants in the past, and he does so again with Caleb and the boys.

Love blossoms as well, when Caleb and Shane discover one another, but there is no hand wringing about it. Nor is there any turmoil when Caleb comes out to his brother and parents. Okay, you might ask, could it happen this way even in 2010? Probably not, but this is a story of inspiration and love, so bearing this in mind the reader will likely be inclined to believe it—‘rooting for the boys,’ so-to-speak.

Thereupon, the boys set about solving the mystery with clues being communicated from Toby until the mystery is solved in a happy-ever-after-ending.

I should mention that, while there is intimacy, it is mostly of the sentimental kind, and anything physical is generally left to the imagination.

Having said that, I observe that there is little to identify it as a ‘down-east’ novel unless you know the Nova Scotia people. I’m not all that well acquainted, but I have visited the east coast enough times to pick up on the subtle nuances that show up now and then. It is only an observation, but I would have liked to see more—as in the unique and charming dialect.

My main quibble, however, has to do with the inconsistency of voices. At the beginning we learn that Caleb is fifteen (almost), and so I set my expectations on how a fifteen-year-old might think and speak. Sometimes these were indeed consistent, but at other times it could have been a PhD in English. Nevertheless, this being the author’s first novel, it is a damned fine effort with considerable promise. Four bees for a charming, feel-good story.

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Interested in Canadian history? Want to know more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.`

 It is a collection of people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post:  Bill C-150 – Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1968-69: “There’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation” ~ Pierre Elliot Trudeau.

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If you would like to learn more about my other books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

                    

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Notice to all those who have requested a book reviewThank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer. Thanks again!

Thanks for dropping by! I’ll have another novel ready for next week, same URL, so drop back soon.

March 31, 2014 Posted by | Canadian author, Canadian content, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay mystery, gay young adult, Nova Scotia gay story | Leave a comment

The Serpent’s Tongue, by Dorien Grey

 An entertaining tale, written by a seasoned author, and bound to give you several hours of enjoyment.

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the serpent's tongue - coverStory blurb: When Dick Hardesty is hired to look into threats against former priest Dan Stabile, possibly from someone whose confession Dan heard while still in the priesthood, it’s just another case. Then, on a stormy Sunday, on a rain-slick road, Dan is killed, Dick’s partner Jonathan is severely injured, and suddenly, it’s personal. Was the accident really an accident…or murder? Dick learns Dan’s secret could involve a child murderer, and now it seems the man is stalking Joshua and tormenting Jonathan. The objectivity so vital to Dick’s role as a private investigator goes out the window as he pursues one lead after another, and it begins to look like Dan wasn’t the target after all.

About the author: If it is possible to have a split personality without being schizophrenic, Dorien Grey qualifies. When long-time book and magazine editor Roger Margason chose the pseudonym “Dorien Grey” for his first book, it set off a chain of circumstances which has led to the comfortable division of labor and responsibility. Roger has charge of day-to-day existence, freeing Dorien—with the help of Roger’s fingers—to write. It has reached the point where Roger merely sits back and reads the stories Dorien brings forth on the computer screen.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Reviewing a mystery novel is always a tricky business, especially one that has been so intricately constructed with plot and plot twists, etc. One is always afraid of giving out more than one should.

That is the case with Dorien Grey’s latest addition (#14, I believe) to the Dick Hardesty series, i.e., The Serpent’s Tongue [Zumaya Boundless, February 1, 2014]. Therefore, I will say in a general way that this is a good, solid mystery, superbly written (as are all of Grey’s stories), and clever enough to satisfy most mystery aficionados.

For those who are discovering the Dick Hardesty stories for the first time, this is a stand alone story that can be enjoyed on its own merits, and for those returning readers to the series, there are some character progressions that enhance what is previously known.

Bottom line: I found very little I could criticize about this story. It is an entertaining tale, written by a seasoned author, and bound to give you several hours of enjoyment. Five bees.

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Interested in Canadian history? Want to know more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.`

 It is a collection of people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post: Foster Hewitt, Hockey Night in Canada: “He shoots, he Scores.

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If you would like to learn more about my other books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

         

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Notice to all those who have requested a book review

Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer.

Thanks again!

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March 3, 2014 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay mystery | Leave a comment

Houseboat on the Nile (Spy vs. Spook #1) by Tinnean

A few leaks, but worth a look…

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houseboat on the nile - coverMark Vincent is WBIS—Washington Bureau of Intelligence and Security. Quinton Mann is staunchly CIA. Mark thinks the CIA is full of dilettantes who leave him and the rest of the WBIS to clean up their messes. Quinn thinks most WBIS agents are sociopathic loose cannons. So they don’t exactly get along.

Of course, just because they don’t like each other doesn’t mean they can’t play mind games on each other. Or sleep together. But when an explosion at Mark’s apartment sends Quinn to the morgue to ID a body, he has to reevaluate his position on denial.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

When the term “Nile” appears in the title of a book, as it does in Houseboat on Nile, by Tinnean [Dreamspinner Press, 2012], one immediately thinks of exotic places à-la-Agatha Christie and Hercule Poirot, etc. That was the first query I encountered with this story. It actually doesn’t have anything to do with the Nile. But, then again, the story blurb never said it did.

It’s a cloak-and-dagger-type mystery, written in a style that is reminiscent of Mickey Spillane—take away the 21st-century swearing. The characters are interesting, fairly well developed I’d say from the perspective of being distinct from one another, and the dialogue (although made repetitious more times than enough) is crisp and effective.

The basic plot has two men who dislike each other professionally, romantically drawn to one another in spite of their differences. It doesn’t help that they each refuse to give up their ingrained biases by playing head games until they are forced by romance and circumstances to join forces.

This is a fertile scenario for lots of twists and turns, and there are some good ones, but the waters are definitely muddied by a constantly shifting point of view regarding the exact same scene.

Now, I have read stories where a shifting POV works (reasonably well), but never as a refocus of the same scene. As an experiment I give the writer full marks for temerity, but as a reader I found it distracting to the point of frustration. Nonetheless, this is my opinion (as are all my reviews), for I have read others who found it a plus.

My rating – three bees.

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Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer.

Thanks again!

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Interested in Canadian history? Want to see more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.

It is a collection of little-known facts and events in Canadian history, and a bibliography of interesting books I have collected to date. Latest post: Overlanders of 1862.

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If you would like to learn more about any of my books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

      

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July 15, 2013 Posted by | Gay fiction, Gay mystery, Gay romance, M/M love and adventure | 1 Comment

Cards On The Table, by Josh Lanyon

Not too long, not too short, but just right!

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cards on the table - coverStory blurb: Fifty years ago a glamorous Hollywood party ended in murder — the only clue a bloody Tarot card. Timothy North is trying to find out what happened that long ago summer’s night, but when a Tarot card turns up pinned to his front door, the only person Tim can turn to for help is his ex-lover, Detective Jack Brady.

About the author: A distinct voice in gay fiction, multi-award-winning author JOSH LANYON has been writing gay mystery, adventure and romance for over a decade. In addition to numerous short stories, novellas, and novels, Josh is the author of the critically acclaimed Adrien English series, including The Hell You Say, winner of the 2006 USA Book News awards for GLBT Fiction. Josh is an Eppie Award winner and a three-time Lambda Literary Award finalist.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Although I have come across the name Josh Lanyon many times while searching through online bookstores, I had not read any of his books until I picked up Cards On The Table [Just Joshin, January 24, 2012], a short story but, oh, so satisfying.

Timothy North is a former reporter who has turned his hand to writing about an unsolved murder that is well and truly cold. However, as in all such cases, there is something intriguing about it; and sinister as well.

The next plot step up is that the case involved a beautiful Hollywood starlet and a bloodied Tarot card. However, as Tim digs further it becomes very evident that someone wants him off the case by pinning a sinister threat to his door—a Tarot card.

Wisely, Tim looks for support in the one person he knows can help—his ex-lover, Detective Jack Brady. The difficulty is that they parted under somewhat strained circumstances, so the question is: Can they warm up to before the parting?

With this twist we now have a second mystery running parallel to the first (in beautiful fashion), which only doubles the the reader’s already piqued interest.

It is subtle contrivances like these that separate the master mystery writer from the pack; this, and a list of eccentric suspects, mob connections, assorted dangers, and a cute cop with dimples thrown into the mix.

Altogether this story is a jewel; not too long, not too short, but just right. Five bees.

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In Praise of Canadian History.

fenian raidsAfter much difficulty convincing WordPress that it wasn’t a “get rich quick program”—most of my fellow authors will get a hoot out of that one—I am happy to announce a new blog. In Praise of Canadian History is dedicated to proving that Canada Does have an interesting history equal to any, and to commemorating little known events that prove it. Please help me make it a success. Thanks.

Fenian Raids (Battle or Ridgeway, Ontario) – June 2, 1866

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Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer.

Thanks again!

۩۩۩

If you would like to learn more about any of my books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

      

Thanks for dropping by. Your continuing interest is greatly appreciated.

June 3, 2013 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay mystery, Homoerotic | Leave a comment

   

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