Sunday, November 20, 2011

Author Dennis Palumbo has fashioned a dark, twisted tale of political chicanery of the finest order.  Dan Rinaldi, a Pittsburgh-based psychologist, is on call to the city police department. He helps interact with citizens who have experienced severe trauma, but may have vital information that will help the police solve the latest affront to society.  When the story opens, a bank robbery has gone terribly wrong.  Death has occurred and one of the robbers has apparently escaped.  The only eyewitness insight into the  sequence of events and then the current situation when Rinaldi arrives at the bank, seems to be the witness of a traumatized woman named Treva Williams.

At the request of detective Eleanor Lowery, Rinaldi does a curb-side interview with Williams, sitting on the curb in Pittsburgh’s blazing summer heat. He then then joins the SWAT team inside the bank.  By the time readers join the major characters in the bank, we are already tangled in a cleverly constructed plot with more than the usual twists and surprises. Each of the characters is nicely identified and each is maintained in a consistent manner, which adds immeasurably to the enjoyment of the novel.

 There are more than a few twists and cliff hangers in this  novel, as well as a couple  of subplots that have little to do with the main thrust of the story, other than to fill out the characters of some of the characters.  All in all, a nicely packaged story with enough bumps and twists to satisfy the most demanding reader. I expect to see more strong crime fiction from this author.

Sunday, November 06, 2011


The Lost Women of Lost Lake 
by Ellen Hart
ISBN: 978-0-312-61477-5
2011 hardcover release from
Minotaur Books, 320 pgs.

It is interesting how these things come in multiples. Libby Hellmann recently released a novel with its genesis in the riotous summer and fall of 1968. The Minnesota History Center has just opened an elaborate exhibit focused on 1968, and the History Theater in Saint Paul has mounted an original play, “1968, The year That Rocked The World.” And now here we have a powerful, emotionally intense novel by that excellent Minneapolis writer, Ellen Hart. It is a story of two women who are unable to divorce themselves from that same year, 1968 and the decisions and actions they took then.

The story is another event in the evolving saga of Minneapolis restaurateur, Jane Lawless. This time she and bosom chum Cordelia take what they intend to be a short vacation trip into Minnesota’s benign northern wilderness to the Lawless family lodge on a lake north of the Twin Cities. It’s a common enough activity, and bucolic time on placid water amid peaceful forests is expected to provide calm and rejuvenation. Jane is trying to decide whether she can commit to working with a close friend toward becoming a professional private investigator.

The peaceful appearing forest, like so many lives, conceals dark doings and Jane is drawn into a maelstrom of murder, revenge, drugs and double dealing. The multiple threads of this complex story intersect, divide, and then reweave. At times the action is high with tension, the pace frantic. At other times, the story becomes thoughtful, calm, like the smooth waters of the lake itself, allowing readers moments to reflect, perhaps, on their own lives and paths not taken. The women of lost lake, must, in the end, decide for themselves, and take for themselves the heart-rending consequences of their lives.