Thursday, June 23, 2016

Book Review: THE NEIL MARSHALL MYSTERIES


 
Book 1
If Wishes Were Horses...

" Neil Marshall is a graduate student in the University of Houston’s creative writing program and a promising young poet. However, facing a financially and emotionally draining divorce has him worried about more than paying tuition. So to make ends meet, Neil moonlights as a chef for a high society caterer.  Just when Neil’s life seems bleakest, his oldest friend, racehorse breeder Jason Keys, is murdered. And Neil becomes the prime suspect.  To avenge his friend, clear his name, and rescue a missing championship thoroughbred, Neil infiltrates the dark underworld of horse theft and illegal breeding. Neil’s friends—his attractive writing teacher, his cooking colleagues, and a freckle-faced teenage horsewoman—offer their support. But their cheers quickly turn to gasps when Neil becomes the hunted."

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Book 2
A Whisper Of Rage

"Graduate student and part-time chef Neil Marshall only wants to go for an early morning run.  Instead he witnesses the near-fatal shooting of legendary Houston private eye C.J. McDaniels, and he fears the gunmen can identify them. Before long, Neil finds himself in the eye of a hurricane, his quiet academic life ripped apart as he rides a swath of violence that cuts across a mansion in River Oaks to an eerily silent suburban home, from a secret hospital room to the bed of a fascinating woman.  In Houston's sultry summer heat a deep-rooted rage is building from a whisper to a roar."



Tim Hemlin is a graduate of the University of New Hampshire, having studied with poets Charles Simic and Mekeel McBride.  He has published in poetry journals, anthologies, and magazines--most notably in Ellery Queen.  Currently he has six published novels, two short stories and is included in an anthology.

By day he is an educator; however after teaching ELA for 22 years he decided to put his master's degree to work and is now a high school counselor.  In addition, he is an avid marathoner, fly-fisherman, and outdoorsman.  He lives just outside Houston, Texas with his wife Valerie, two dogs and a cantankerous cat.

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Find all of Tim Hemlin's Books Here


These first two books in The Neil Marshall series were originally published about twenty years ago in mass market paperback format. The second editions have recently been published and are now available as ebooks. They still have an up-to-date feel to them.

I definitely suggest reading If Wishes Were Horses first. In this book, the murder of one of Neil Marshall’s close friends and his involvement in settling the estate pushes him to help find the murderer at any cost. He finds himself surrounded by several potential suspects, including some believed to have mob connections. What ties most of the players together is their involvement with breeding thoroughbred horses.

Although A Whisper of Rage reads well as a stand-alone novel, it is the second in the series. Because I had already read the first book, the few references to what had taken place in Neil's earlier life felt seamless to me. While out jogging, Neil foils the attempted murder of a private investigator. As he becomes involved with C.J. McDaniels and the man’s daughter, Linda, he finds himself a target. This leads to him joining their investigation whether he is wanted or not. What should have been a simple assignment was actually anything but with a lot of twists and surprises along the way.


I greatly enjoyed the main character in these books, Neil Marshall. He is an aspiring poet who supports himself by working as a chef for an upscale catering company--when he is not recuperating from being on the receiving end of some form of mayhem. Since the author is a poet and has worked as a catering chef, the details in his portrayal of Neil Marshall’s everyday life when he is not acting as amateur sleuth provided a realistic and insightful touch to the stories.


Neil Marshall is an accidental detective, stumbling into situations and pursuing the truth out of loyalty to friends and a desire for follow-through, not to mention a healthy curiosity. He is a self-depreciating hero, well aware of his failings, yet he forges forward often much to the chagrin of others. Then there are the complications of his ex-wife, Susan. I love how the author used short, choppy sentence structure to add the “feel” behind the words describing Neil’s thoughts and feelings.

Reader, be aware. When I was asked to read this series for a book review, I was told the language was mild. That is not the case. The books include a frequent use of f-bombs and taking God’s name in vain along with the other usual "language." The use of profanity in this manner was common—indeed, expected—by mainstream publishers twenty years ago when these books were first published. Readers like me who prefer to not read works full of this kind of language will want to weigh that preference against the desire to read two engaging, suspenseful and well-written mysteries with the third book now available on preorder and due out in September, 2016.



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1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your thoughtful review. You're right! If Wishes Were Horses should be read first! Funny thing is that I wrote A Whisper of Rage first, but my editor wanted a prequel, so I gave him one, in one summer! I definitely spent more time on A Whisper of Rage and I think it shows. I was sorely tempted to re-write, but in homage to my younger self, I resisted. Thanks again for your time and the lovely review!

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