Book Review – Actually Two Reviews

Some time ago, before life threw me another curve, I was sent two books by Hollady House Publishing for possible review. Since then, other requests have come in, and I want to get as many reviews in as I can, especially if I like the books.

First up is Tidal Pools by Lawrence Thackston. The mystery features Tyler Miles, a newly recruited patrolman with the Galeegi Police Department who investigates the questionable suicide of Jaja, the prime suspect in a 40-year-old murder case. Jaja has just returned to the coast of South Carolina, where he had grown up, and is found dead in the lighthouse.

The old murder case was never solved, and it looks like this latest might not be either. Powerful and rich families will do anything to keep the truth from coming out, and as the book jacket description says, Tyler is soon “swept up in a tidal wave of violence and deceit that threatens to impact the entire Lowcountry.”

For the most part, the writing is excellent and the story is well-paced. There is also a strong sense of place, and there has always been something so alluring about that part of the East Coast that draws people. Tyler was a likeable character, as was Chief Tate, but Hank Johnson, the senior officer at the department, was a bit too stereotypical, bumbling and inept and treating Tyler like an incoming freshman being hazed by an upperclassman.

The publishing company is based in South Carolina, so it was not a huge surprise to get a second book set in that part of the country, The Handyman by Christopher Watson is billed as a mystery, and there is a bit of a mystery in the story, but the main focus is on John Wright who is trying to find a reason not to kill himself. A year ago, he was a successful construction contractor in Charleston, SC with a wife and a young daughter. Life was good, and looking better when he was about to get a big contract, but then the unthinkable happened. His wife and daughter were killed in an automobile accident.

Now, John is barely holding himself together as he struggles with PTS and drinks too much. He is seeing a therapist, but can’t bring himself to tell the therapist the awful thing that drives his terrible feeling of guilt.

When the story opens, John has decided to kill himself the following weekend, but first he has a job to do for a nice old lady, Mrs. Halford. He has been working as a handyman and has to take care of this one last thing. What he doesn’t count on is being pulled into her grief over her daughter’s apparent suicide, that she believes was actually murder.

While working in Mrs. Halford’s house, John starts seeing weird things and wonders if that is the result of too much bourbon. Then he hears voices; like the daughter is talking to him. But how can she? She’s lying in a hospital bed hooked to a ventilator – brain dead.

How John sorts this out and the people he meets along the way all make for a good story, but don’t expect the typical murder mystery. The real mystery is whether John will survive and will he ever be whole again.

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