Category Archives: eReaders

Mystery Monday Book Review — Neptune’s Ridge by William Florence

Neptune’s Ridge — Murder on a Cruise Ship

My good friend, and fellow mystery author, William Florence has done it again. He has produced yet another superlative mystery novel for his Max Blake Mystery series, this time aboard the cruise ship Bonanza. This adventure is book nine in a series of entertaining and fun novels, and it’s titled Neptune’s Ridge. Indeed, every Max Blake/Caeli Brown mystery Bill writes has “Ridge” somewhere in the title. Bill also has a series of Max Blake Westerns, but the Max Blake in that 19th century setting is a distant forebear to the Max Blake in his 21st century mysteries — a bit like how Britt Reid (The Green Hornet) is the grandson of Dan Reid, who was the murdered brother of John Reid (The Lone Ranger). Anyway, you get the picture — Bill’s Westerns have a distant connection to his modern mysteries.

Neptune’s Ridge is a direct descendant of that wonderful English literary invention known as the cozy mystery. It’s fun, and Max Blake is the type of sarcastic and witty type of protagonist that I just love. If you’re a fan of Nelson DeMille‘s John Corey then you’ll feel right at home in this novel. The characters possess the perfect blend of whimsy (the two little old ladies who insist upon helping the investigation), menace (Bonanza‘s security officer and his loyal henchmen), reluctant allies (Bonanza‘s I.T. expert, the captain, and the ship’s doctor), and enough suspects and misdirection to keep you guessing for much of the novel.

The setup:

Former journalist/retired journalism professor/true crime author Max Blake and his adventurous wife and fellow former journalist Caeli Brown are on a month-long cruise to Hawaii and destinations in the South Pacific. With them are Max’s publisher “Bulletproof” Bob Beauvais, his good friend retired Portland, Oregon chief of police Bill Kohlmeyer and Bill’s wife Skyla, and fellow author and friend Peter Eichstaedt. Max and Peter are traveling gratis because they’ve been lassoed by Bulletproof Bob into participating in a series of authors forums for their fellow passengers. Also aboard is … well, let me just quote this from the novel’s Cast of Primary Characters in the front matter — R. Doug Wicker: Noted Author and Peter’s friend. No. I’m not making that up. I’m in on the mystery. Bill twisted my arm. By “twisted” I mean he asked, and I was greatly honored to acquiesce to his generous request.

The plot:

Bonanza sets sail in early 2020, and it isn’t long into the voyage before the first body shows up — an inconspicuous college professor who has been poisoned. Max and Caeli are pressed into investigative service, and things start going rapidly downhill from there. En route to Hawaii more poisonings and other mayhem occur, and an epidemic has erupted from China and is rapidly encircling the globe. Yes… it’s that epidemic — Covid 19.

The fun:

Max and Caeli must reveal the culprit before Bonanza makes Hawaii and the killer escapes. Clouding the issue are a multitude of suspects, multiple motives, menacing and malignant crew, and a foreboding sense that the two detectives might just be next on the killer’s List of Greatest Hits. For me, the real fun was the Epilogue: An Opulent Feast; this is where I found out what fate awaited me as Bill tied up the few remaining loose ends from Chapter Thirty-Seven: Cleanup on Deck 4.

Cozy mysteries are great fun. They’re perfect for the beach or by the fireplace, quick reads, and, most importantly, they’re entertaining. And Bill has mastered the formula to perfection while modernizing that formula for today’s audience. His plotting is tight. His protagonists are fun and witty. His villains are menacing and motivated. His herrings are the appropriate shade of red. For a mere $2.99 (Kindle price) you can’t do much better for several hours of engaging fun.

Who know? If you give this a try you might just have found a new favorite author, because Bill’s talents will definitely have you coming back for more.

A little background on Bill and me: We met online way back in early September 2009. We are both Walther enthusiasts, and he was a super moderator for Walther Forums. When he gave up that position, he asked me to take over his duties, which I did for quite some time. Even though Bill quit visiting Walther Forums, as have I, we’ve remained in touch and we occasionally compare notes on cruising and international travel. I look forward to the four of us (including our wives, of course) meeting up one day and cruising together to some exotic locale. How about it, Bill?

By the way, I included that tidbit about Walther Forums and moderating a firearms site because it’s relevant to Wednesday’s article — a rant on bad moderation and blatantly dangerous advice from a self-proclaimed “expert” who directly contradicts instructions set forth in owner’s manuals as set forth by the true experts who actually design, test, and manufacture the guns in question.

Слава Україні! (Slava Ukraini!)



Filed under Author, Books, eReaders, Opinion Piece, R. Doug Wicker, Writing

Book Review — Outside Looking In: High-functioning autism from one mother’s perspective

In August a fellow author asked me to beta-read and review her book. I was a bit hesitant, as the subject matter was something that normally would not interest me. Well, I’m glad I consented to the review, which you’ll see in just a moment. What I will tell you is this — if you have in your circle someone who is searching for information on raising a child on the autism spectrum, this is the book you need to recommend.

The book is Outside Looking In: High-functioning autism from one mother’s perspective, and it was a finalist for the Parenting & Family category of the 2020 Best Book Awards sponsored by American Book Fest.

Alas, Vivian’s book did not win, but the mere fact that it was one of the seven finalists to make the cut is indeed impressive. So, without further ado, here is my review of this delightfully wonderful read:

* * *

Outside Looking In: High-functioning autism from one mother’s perspective
Vivian M. Lumbard

Outside Looking In is an entertaining and very enlightening look into raising a child with autism. This book belongs in the collection of anyone in the educational system, as it provides in exquisite detail the aspects of accommodating the needs of an autistic student. At the very least, a copy should find its way into every teachers’ lounge and school library in the country.

But while educators will find much meaningful information in this book, the target audience will gain even more. Outside Looking In contains myriad tales of life with an autistic child beginning from before the first correct diagnoses through adolescence and into preparation for college and beyond. If you know someone raising a child with this condition, you simply must consider steering them toward a copy. The style of writing is at times fun, occasionally humorous, frequently insightful, always informative, and never dull. The charming family anecdotes sprinkled throughout provide wonderful incentive to propel the reader forward into tackling this sometimes-difficult topic. I learned more about autism from this single source than I have reading countless articles over the course of my lifetime.

As a bonus, the back-of-book material cites many resources for additional information for anyone wanting to learn more on this subject, or for any family who finds themselves raising a child diagnosed anywhere within the autistic spectrum.

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Filed under Author, Books, eReaders, Opinion Piece, R. Doug Wicker

The World, inspiration for The Globe, is removed from service

As many of you may know, the world’s largest private ownership residential cruise ship MS The World was the inspiration for my murder mystery The Globe. Yesterday MS The World was removed from service, her residents disembarked, and her crew reduced to bare minimum.

MS The World

It saddens me that it has come to this, but where can she dock on a voyage? Nowhere, currently.

MS The World

In case you’re wondering where I got these photos, I stumbled across MS The World in Barbados, well after I’d written and published The Globe.

MS The World

Let us hope that MS The World sets sail again in the near future, but that may be optimistic. At any rate, she’ll probably be back at some point.

MS The World

Since MS The World is laid up indefinitely, why not try an exciting excursion aboard her literary sister, The Globe?

The Globe, a murder in luxury by R. Doug Wicker

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Filed under Books, eReaders, R. Doug Wicker, Writing