Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Recent Reads: Trinity Kevin World Lawyer

The Trinity Game
Loved it!!!!  Brilliant premise, speedy pace,  terrific settings, a likeable protagonist - it's all there!  A better page-turner - by far - than The Da Vinci Code.  High Five!!!!

We Need to Talk about Kevin
Absolutely hated it.  Indulgent.  Pretentious.  Pointless.   One of the worst books I've ever read.  Horrible. 

The World Without Us
A clever idea, looked at via several lenses.  Well written and solidly researched.  I learned a lot from this book, and highly recommend it.

The Street Lawyer
I hadn't read a Grisham novel in ages, and this was like getting together with an old friend.  You know what to expect with Grisham, and he doesn't disappoint.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Blood & Groom - sample #3

Continued from 2 previous posts...

If there was such a thing as a down-to-earth blueblood,
then Rebecca Blackmore was it. Think Noxzema girl meets
Dolce and Gabbana. Contrary to the outdoorsy, all-natural
glow, she was the cosmetics manager at Chadwick’s, an
├╝ber-snooty fashionista store where I couldn’t even afford
to window-shop. I felt completely inadequate in my
Birkenstocks and jean jacket, but the early spring warmth
had inspired me to ditch my full-length mink.


The glass doll looked up from the counter. “Yes,
what may I do for you?” Although she was speaking at a
normal volume, her voice unrolled in a melodic whisper.

“I’m Sasha Jackson. Can I chat with you for a

“Certainly. Are you interested in a makeover? I can
book you an appointment.”

Didn’t my cheeks already have a healthy glow?

“Actually, this might be best in private. It’s about your
cousin, Gordon. Do you have a break soon? Maybe we
can have a coffee?”

“It’s quiet right now. Amanda can keep an eye on
things. Let me get my purse and I’ll meet you at the coffee
shop in the food court.”

I had grabbed a seat at the quietest table I could find.
When Rebecca joined me, she gracefully crossed her legs
and sat so perfectly postured she looked like an entrant
in a dressage competition.

She spoke very slowly. “Yes, Gordon and I were very
close. We’re three months apart. What do you want to know
about him?” She sniffed and brushed the tip of her nose. I
offered to get her some tissue, but she said no thanks.
“My allergies seem to be acting up,” she said.

I launched into an impromptu spiel. “I’m a
psychology grad student at the University of Toronto.
I’m looking at the long-term effects of violent deaths on
the mourners.”

I had honed my ad-libbing skills during my rocker
chick band days. Nothing was more embarrassing than
forgetting the lyrics to someone else’s top-ten song.
There was also nothing less satisfying than playing other
people’s hits to rooms full of drunk guys who wanted to
hit on you because they thought you made eye contact
with them during that romantic/sexy song at last call.
When it came to bullshit, I had the market cornered.

Rebecca took a dainty sip of her latte, and I tried to
picture her hurling a drink in Christine’s face the night
before. It didn’t compute. This was a classy chick, and if
not exactly congenial, she was certainly cordial. Drink
tossing seemed beneath her.

“Well, it’s really hard when death is sudden like

Her soft voiced cracked a bit, but there was no
way this model of privileged decorum would have an
emotional meltdown in public. She took another tiny sip
and carried on.

“You never expect a murder to happen to someone
in your own family.” She paused for a moment as if
lost in a fuzzy old memory. “It’s supposed to be some
nameless face in the newspaper. But then suddenly your
world explodes and you have this never-ending hole. You
feel suspended. You never get to say goodbye.”

“I suddenly lost someone, too, and I understand
how hard it can be. Maybe that’s why this field of study
appeals to me. It’s a kind of closure in a way.”

God strike me down for telling that whopper. I felt
uneasy about telling such a creepy lie, and the superstitious
side of me felt paranoid now for having tempted fate. I
made a mental note to call Dad later today.

Rebecca continued. “I think my mom had given up
hope on having a second child. Mind you, she was only
thirty-three, but my brother, Darren, was already eight
years old, and they wanted to give him a little brother or
sister to grow up with.” She paused for another sip, and
I waited for her to continue.

“By that time, no one expected my Aunt Maureen —
she’s my mother’s older sister — well, no one expected
Aunt Maureen to have a child, either.” Rebecca sniffed
and brushed her nose again. “But then, surprise, both
sisters were pregnant at the same time. Aunt Maureen was
thirty-nine when she had Gordon, and my mom had me
three months later. Gordon and I were inseparable from
day one. We were in the same classes from kindergarten
right through high school. Darren is so much older than
I that I’ve always felt Gordon was more like my brother
than Darren.”

Rebecca’s cell phone twittered to life. She glanced
at the call display. “It’s the store. Just give me a moment
please.” She went off to one side of the food court and
then stepped out of view.

Okey-dokey. I had twenty seconds, max. I dug right
into her purse. Even though the topic of our discussion
was sad, Rebecca had shown no signs of tears. That
sniffling and twitchy nose had me and my suspicious
nature wondering about drugs. Cocaine was and always
had been the preferred recreational escape among people
with the money to indulge in it.

Keys, Percocet, condoms, breath mints, sunglasses,
OxyContin, tissues, Paxil, Percocet, nail file, lipstick,
lip balm, Vicodin, and wallet. I flipped open the wallet.
Forty dollars. Some business cards, miscellaneous
memberships, and the usual plastic. Well, the mood-altering
prescription narcotics certainly explained the
stoned Mona Lisa serenity.

Not willing to press my luck any further, I closed the
bag, but not before lifting her wallet and sticking it in my
pocket. I was the picture of innocence when she returned
to our table a moment later.

“Sorry about that. I’ll have to go in a minute. One of
our distributors is on her way, and she has samples of the
new summer colours. Anyway, where were we?”

“Gordon’s murder must have been hard to deal
with.” I had all the finesse of a jackhammer.

“It was twice as hard because Christine got away
with it.” Nose twitch and sniffle number five.

“Why do you think she was the killer? I understand
the police questioned her and checked her alibi. They
never charged her.”

Rebecca sprinkled a bit of cinnamon on her java, then
absently swirled the stir stick in the foamy beverage and
watched the powdery grains disappear. “She’s slippery.
Christine would never pull the trigger, but I believe she
pulled the strings. It would be darn hard to convince me
of anything else.”

“What would her motive be?”

“Revenge, because Gordon broke off their
engagement.” Another pause. “Thank goodness he
did. He was too good for her. I never liked her, and she
knows it.”

 “So you convinced him to end it?”

“Yes. Gordon and I had a heck of a fight about it. I’d
also fought with Christine about their relationship. She
treated him like dirt. I told her I’d stop the wedding one
way or another.”

“Then Christine knows he called it off because of

“Absolutely. She mailed me a sample of the invitation
a couple of days earlier. I know this was catty, and I
shouldn’t have done it, but after they broke up, I wrote ‘I
told you so, now go to hell’ on the invitation and mailed
it back to her.”

“Not to be crass, but that seems more like a motive
for her to kill you, not Gordon. What does your brother

“Darren and I haven’t really talked about it much.
My family’s very much the British-stiff-upper-lip kind.
We don’t discuss emotions or unseemly topics. It just
isn’t done.”

“I see.” Right, a murdered relative was so unseemly.
Whatever would people think? “Well, were Gordon and
Darren close?”

“Darren and Gordon were good friends once they
became adults. They skied together and went to the club
sometimes. They weren’t as close as Gordon and I were,
but they were solid. With eight years between them, it
took a long time for them to be on the same footing, if
you understand what I mean. They had little in common
as a ten-year-old and an eighteen-year-old. The difference
was less significant once they were in their twenties and
thirties, all grown up as they say. And, of course, they
worked together, too.”

“What kind of work did they do?”

“They played the stock market, financial planning
and investments, that kind of thing. Darren still handles
all the portfolios for their clients.”

“Would you mind if I talked with Darren?”

“Of course not.”

“What’s the best way to reach him?”

“If you give it half an hour, you can find him at
Pockets. It’s a billiard club at Spadina and Wellington.
He plays there every afternoon from about two till four
or five. He calls the place his second office.”

The broker with the pool cue in the billiard hall?
What next? Colonel Mustard in the conservatory with
the candlestick? If Darren went there every day, his
business had to either be doing exceptionally well or
exceptionally poorly.

“I guess I’m headed there next. Thank you. And
I know it doesn’t mean much, but I’m sorry for your

“Thank you. Would you like to come to Chadwick’s
and see the new summer line? The distributor always
brings several testers and demo products.”

“Nah. I’ll finish my coffee and then head down to
Pockets.” But not till I’d emptied and filled my own

On my mark, get set, go. 

I ran a block down the street to an
office supplies store and copied the contents of Rebecca’s
wallet. I placed all the business cards, receipts, dry-cleaning
slips — everything — face down on the photocopier. Then
I did the same with the credit cards and ID.
I might burn in hell some day, but I’d have an
interesting time on my journey there.

A few minutes later warm black-and-white copies
were stuffed in my pocket, and the wallet looked just as
it had when I’d pilfered it. I detoured by the shop and
told Rebecca she must have dropped it.

“Why, thank you. I never even noticed.”

That was the point.

Get BLOOD & GROOM on Amazon/Kindle  CLICK HERE 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Blood & Groom - sample, part 2

Continued from previous post...

“So the police must have checked out your story,”
I said.

“Of course, they did, and it’s not a story. It’s the
truth. My mother and I go to the Crystal Cove spa on
the first weekend of every month. We go early Saturday
morning, get the seaweed wrap, chemical peel, and mud
bath, and then we have a facial and mani-pedicure.

“Sounds like perfect mother-daughter bonding.”

Not something that appealed to me, since my mother
had been out of my life since I was two. And not a way
I’d choose to spend a weekend. Too expensive and too
chi-chi for me.

“Then a Shiatsu massage and Bikram yoga in the

“I’m sure it’s lovely.” I could never see the point of
yoga as a part of a fitness regime — too passive, and too
easy to slip into a coma and call it a workout.

“The spa does a weekend cleansing and detoxification,
so we get there at eight on Saturday morning and leave
Sunday afternoon. We drink twelve litres of water, plus
some restorative beverages and a couple of herbal teas.
You should try it.”

“Only if they spike the tea with vodka.”

She raised an eyebrow at me. “We leave refreshed,
and about two or three pounds lighter, though you
obviously don’t need to worry about your weight.
Anyhow, they know me and they’ll tell you I was there
that weekend like usual.”

“Of course. Mud baths are important.”

“Exactly. So that’s my alibi.”
“Well, then if you didn’t kill him, who do you
think did?”

“I have no idea, and I don’t care, except maybe to
thank them, and to bitch them out for making it look like
I did it. Mostly to thank them, though.”

“Like I said, if not you, then who?”

She examined her cuticles and seemed to silently
condemn the manicurist who had performed her latest
claw sharpening. “There were people who didn’t like
him, and people who did, like with most people.”
Eloquence was clearly not her forte. “I can’t think of
anyone who would’ve wanted him dead, though, except
me. He dumped me, completely embarrassed me, and
made a fool of me four months before our wedding. I’d
already been fitted for the dress — a Vera Wang, with a
sweetheart neckline, made of hand-beaded pure silk.”

“You can use it next time.” Something told me
that Christine would probably have enough husbands
throughout her life to start her own baseball team.

“Good God, no. It’s cursed now, so I put it in a
consignment store to recover some of the cost, but it still
hasn’t sold.”

“It’s just waiting for the right bride-to-be.”

 “The invitations had just come from the print shop
two days before Gordon lost his mind and turned into
an asshole. I was about to mail them out, but still hadn’t
decided whether or not to invite Mindy Melnyk, who
used to be my best friend in high school, but —”

“Can you fast-forward? I don’t really care about
Mindy.” Boy, did that interruption net me a dirty look.

“Anyway, Sasha, after he dumped me, I never really
spoke to him again. I had nothing more to do with him
or his family and I steered clear of his friends, so I don’t
know what could’ve happened to him in that time to
make someone want to kill him.” Christine was now
briskly pacing my office as she spoke. The rhythm of her
steps echoed the brusque, staccato delivery of her story.

“Do you think the reason he dumped you had
anything to do with the reason he was killed?” I asked.

“I don’t know. He never gave me any real explanation,
except that he wasn’t ready.”

I could think of any number of reasons why Gordon
might have dumped Christine, and most of them also
pointed to motives for him to have killed her, not vice

“I’ll want to talk to the people who were close to
him. Where does the drink thrower —”


“Right. Where does Cousin Rebecca work?”

Anyone bearing such strong animosity toward
Christine would be interesting to talk to.

“At Chadwick’s in Yorkville. She thinks she’s hot
shit, but really, she’s nothing more than a sales girl.”

My office was only a short walk north to Yorkville,
Toronto’s toniest shopping mecca, which was the polar
opposite of the sleazy area south of Bloor, off Yonge,
where my office was located. Instead of having a view
of the Beautiful People walking past marble-fronted
centres of conspicuous consumption, my office window
overlooked a dollar store, a body piercing shop, a tattoo
parlour, and a Money Mart.

“I guess I’ll get right on this and go talk to her.”
I figured there was no time like the present to find out
what investigating a murder was supposed to feel like.

You can get BLOOD & GROOM on Amazon/Kindle.  CLICK HERE.