Sunday, February 22, 2015

Book Review: Mercedes Wore Black by Andrea Brunais

Mercedes Wore BlackMercedes Wore Black by Andrea Brunais

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Andrea Brunais has jumped into the realm of Florida-based mysteries with a well-written, finely-plotted addition to the subgenre. Along with Randy Wayne White, Carl Hiaasen and John MacDonald, Brunais has her own cast of quirky Florida characters, environmental issues and a mystery what leaves the reader wondering what is going to happen until the very end.

Janis Pearl Hawk, newly fired from her job on a central Florida newspaper, needs work. When a friend offers her a chance to write a blog covering everything from local politics to corruption to environmental issues, she leaps on the opportunity. She meets with her friend, Mercedes of the title, who tells her all about the candidate for governor she works for.

Enter the potential hunky maybe love interest in the guise of the gubernatorial candidate. When he offers her a job on his staff, she faces an ethical dilemma: should she give up her new-found freedom to pursue corruption or work for the man who shares much of her worldview.

Tallahassee politicos, sleazy political influencers, a gay best friend and fellow journalist, several committed ecologists who are too afraid of the special interest groups provide a cast of characters that keep the reader turning pages until the grand reveal at the end. One can only hope that this is the first in a series of great Florida mysteries, this time with a female sleuth.

Monday, February 9, 2015

RedeploymentRedeployment by Phil Klay

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

While Klay may have won the National Book Award for fiction with this short story collection, he breaks no new ground it. War stories abound from WWI to Iraqistan. Some offer deep insights into the life of a soldier. Some are blatantly anti or pro-war. Some exalt warriors as heroes. Some are well written; some aren't.

Had my book club not selected this work, I might not have finished it. The language in one story was little more than a list of acronyms a non-military reader wouldn't understand. I didn't "get" it. Some were little more than rehashings of Vietnam-era motifs with the desert substituted for the jungle.

One touched my heart. The last one focused on a young Marine in a battery company whose long-range artillery had taken out a nest of insurgents. Or had it? The Marine's battery mates discuss how many bad guys it had killed. One wanted to see the bodies for proof. The narrator goes on a search for the dead insurgents, only to find that the hospital on his base only handled coalition casualties. The closing scene with soldiers standing silently while a fallen comrade is carried past for transport home borders on the maudlin, but just misses it.

Had I not had to finish the book, I would have missed what I consider the one gem in it.