Friday, July 22, 2011

El Secreto Submergido

El Secreto Sumergido
by Cristian Perfumo

(Amazon Digital Services / Kindle Edition B004VS7LMC / (no date of publication) / 341 KB / $2.99)

Reviewed by Dr. Al Past for PODBRAM

Although my last class in literature in Spanish was 40 years ago, I undertook to read this El Secreto Sumergido because the subject matter interested me, and I thought it would be a good review for me. It was worth it. I like a good adventure story and I like a mystery, and I particularly like stories connected with the sea. El Secreto Sumergido was both, with the dividend that it offered a glimpse into a part of the world that I was barely aware of: Patagonian Argentina. As a bonus, the unpleasantness of the "Falklands War," as the English speaking world knows it, that is, the dispute between England and Argentina over the possession of Las Islas Malvinas, in the south Atlantic east of Argentina, also figures in, mainly in the epilog.

Basically, a high school student in the (real) town of Deseado learns of a (real) British shipwreck 200 years earlier on the rocks of the mouth of the river where his town is located. As a new but enthusiastic SCUBA diver, he decides to investigate, and perhaps locate the wreck. When the retired seaman who provides him with early documentation of the wreck is mysteriously murdered, that sets off a train of events that the young man and his friends pursue to their violent end. It is a rollicking tale.

Keeping in mind that my skills in Spanish are a bit rusty, I will say that I found the book well and cleanly written. As a former non-SCUBA diving officer in the American surface navy, I'll add that the details of diving in the cold tidal waters of the mouth of a river, and of the hazards of undersea salvage, struck me as accurate.

The English-dominant reader who is intrigued by the book and who has some skill in Spanish and a decent desk dictionary should enjoy El Secreto Sumergido as much as I did.

Dr. Al Past is the author of the five Distant Cousin novels, a popular adventure/romance/sci-fi series, the photographic collaborator for Barry Yelton's On Wings of Gentle Power, the author of a book of treble clef duets from Charles Colin, a reviewer for PODBRAM, and a member of the Independent Authors Guild. He lives on a ranch in south Texas.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Uncle Denny

Uncle Denny
by Don Meyer

(Two Peas Publishing / 0-984-07739-1 / 978-0-984-07739-7 / June 2011 / 318 pages / $14.95 paperback / $11.66 Amazon / $7.99 Kindle / $14.36 B&N / $7.99 Nook)

Uncle Denny is Don Meyer's completion of the Sheriff Tom Monason Trilogy, a series of crime thrillers set in an unnamed ski town high in the mountains of California. The sheriff is an experienced cop from the big city, now nearing semi-retirement age and running a tiny, informal police department in what should be a sleepy town, but rarely is, sort of like Paradise MA or Cabot Cove ME. As you may have already guessed, most of the charm of Don's trilogy comes from his quiet town of amiable characters. The main distinction from those similar settings of novels and television is that blizzards and heavy snow often play key parts in the crimes solved by Sheriff Monason, and the plot of Uncle Denny is no exception.

Key storyline elements from Winter Ghost and McKenzie Affair have been woven into this third book, but the story pretty much stands alone for any reader who has not read the earlier books. You can read my reviews of these earlier two by clicking the links, and I highly encourage you to do so, since I am not repeating much of that material here.

I personally enjoyed McKenzie Affair the most of the three, and Uncle Denny the least. This is the direct result of so much of this newest storyline surrounding two groups of feuding mobsters in Chicago. Mr. Meyer explains this concept in closing remarks at the end of the book. The author describes how he spent most of his life in Chicago and that he wanted at least one part of the trilogy to evolve from this experience. That is fine if you like mobsters, but these sorts of characters have little appeal to my tastes. Maybe yours are different. I have memorized all the Andy Griffith reruns, but I have never watched The Sopranos. Enough said?

The title derives from a mispronunciation of a lead character's name, that of a Russian mobster. An FBI agent phones Sheriff Monason to explain that several criminals from Chicago are headed to Monason’s town. Because of a severe blizzard in the area, FBI personnel cannot reach the scene quickly enough, so the sheriff and his few deputies need to head off the mobsters at the pass, as they used to say in old westerns. The reader is introduced to the malicious modus operandi of Uncle Denny early in the story, and then the plot begins to unroll.

Don Meyer writes in a very direct, concise manner, telling his story mostly through incisive dialogue with little extraneous descriptive detail. Uncle Denny is a somewhat satisfying read, but proper editing and punctuation are sorely lacking. There are way too many repeated phrases. A few examples are that cell phones are always pinched closed and Sheriff Monason’s desk chair always squeaks; however, I was most annoyed that Uncle Denny always drives a big black SUV. It is never a sport utility vehicle, a Cadillac, an Escalade, a truck, a snow-covered vehicle, or even a black SUV or a big SUV. An editor should mention these to you. Do you get my snowdrift, Don? I really like your settings, plotlines, and most of all, your folksy characters, and I think most readers will, too.

See Also: Winter Ghost at Amazon
McKenzie Affair at Amazon
The Protected Will Never Know
Don Meyer's website