Tag Archives: mystery

Book Review – Star Trek: Death Count by L. A. Graf

Amazon.com: Death Count (Star Trek: The Original Series ...

Last week we stopped off in the Marvel Universe for a fun trip down memory lane. Today’s destination promises to be fairly exciting, even though it is a voyage forward rather than backward in time. Once again we return to the Federation of Planets for another adventure aboard the famous U.S.S. Enterprise, readers!

Aboard Sigma One, a space station a few days from the Federation/Orion border, Captain Kirk has gone out to dinner. Scotty and McCoy have whisked him off to a Scottish restaurant aboard the station in order to help him unwind. For the past three days, which were supposed to be used for shore leave by the crew, the men and women aboard the Enterprise have been pestered almost to death by four auditors from the Auditor General.

It seems the Auditor General has teams of auditors surprising starships throughout the fleet with on-site inspections. For the last three days the crew of the Enterprise has been running efficiency drills to prove they are following the regulations properly and can react to a stiuation as fast as possible, with the clipboard-wielding inspectors looking over their shoulders the whole time. In the process these four individuals have, unsurprisingly, made themselves an enormous nuisance to the crew.

This has put everyone aboard the ship on edge, meaning those who can grab shore leave are not letting it pass them by for any money. While Scotty and McCoy help Kirk relax, Chekov has convinced Sulu to help him try and beat a record set by another ship’s crew on the station’s piloting simulator. After failing the simulator’s sixth level, the door opens automatically, allowing Uhura to ask how much longer the two men plan to continue playing.

My Star Trek Scrapbook: Sulu and Chekov...BFF!

Sulu answers the question by getting out before Chekov can reactive the machine. He then leads his two best friends to a plant shop he has already visited three times so far. On the way there the three bump in to some Orion police officers in riot gear. Since they are out of uniform, the men merely push past them instead of goading the Starfleet officers into a fight. Not long after they enter the plant shop, however, an Orion policeman comes to “inspect” the premises for something/someone.

His “inspection” consists mostly of wrecking the store owner’s property. This infuriates the businessman, who attacks the alien with a broom. Chekov and Sulu intervene on the man’s behalf after he is tossed across the room, earning the latter a free gift of plants, pets, and the lily pond they need to survive and be happy. Unfortunately, Chekov’s gift is entirely different; the Orions cast his actions as assault, leading Sigma One’s security forces to throw him in the station’s brig.

Meanwhile Kirk, Scotty, and McCoy’s relaxtion proves to be premature. Like a troubadour leading his not-so-merry band, the head auditor arrives at the restaurant, fuming about being barred from the Enterprise. Kirk is sanguine until he learns that he has new orders to go to the Andorian/Orion border – with the inspectors in tow.

Tense once more, Kirk goes to speak to the commodore in charge of the station, a friend whom he helped to promote to his current position. The commodore explains that since an Andorian scientist named Muav Haslev – who was developing some kind of technology for the Andorian military – disappeared from their space, the Andorians have blamed the Orions for the incident. The Orions claim they had nothing to do with his vanishing act, but no one believes them. And even without definitive proof, the Andorians are spoiling to pick a fight with the Orions. The sector between the two is heating up and threatening to embroil the Federation in a war with Orion, which is a neutral stellar nation.

Kirk is fine with this part of the assignment; he has done this kind of thing before, and knows how to handle it. His problem is the auditors. While traveling to the Andorian/Orion border is dangerous enough for him and his crew the way things stand now, taking four civilians (one of whom is extremely annoying and has a superiority complex) into a possible war zone isn’t his idea of a smart move.

Dog Star Omnibus: Captain's Blog pt. 92: The Enterprise ...

But as he soon learns, neither assignment is negotiable. The ship that was supposed to take the auditors next and deal with the Orion/Andorian issue at the same time recently suffered a containment breach of its warp core. Though the damage could have been much worse, it is bad enough; the vessel may never be spaceworthy again. She’s barely able to limp to Sigma One with the help of tug shuttles.

This leaves Enterprise to carry out the mission – exasperating auditors and all. Once Chekov gets out of the brig and boards the Enterprise with Sulu and Uhura, the ship heads for the border….

…Only to be struck by a burst of radiation that sends her instruments haywire. Sulu just barely manages to keep the starship from warping straight through Sigma One after the radiation scrambles the helm. The computer turned the Enterprise back toward the station thinking it is open space.

Returning to their normal course, the Enterprise gets under way at last, only to be intercepted a short time later by a disguised Orion destroyer. Following on its heels is an Orion police cruiser, whosse captain is intent on arresting Chekov for the incident back at the station. Upon learning the details of the confrontation on Sigma One, Kirk realizes the Orions set him up to get his security officer. After a brief word with the Orion commander, he has the Enterprise continue on to the border.

As he knows all too well, though, missions that begin this badly don’t get any smoother the longer they last. So when a transporter accident turns out to be a triple murder, Kirk isn’t really surprised, just angry and determined to find the culprit. But how can he catch a sabatour while keeping four number-crunching civilians determined to nose their way into vital systems safe and out of the way? The answer is…

An Oral History of Star Trek | pufflesandhoneyadventures

…Not for me to tell! If you want to know how Death Count ends, you will have to read it yourself. It is a good book, but unlike most L. A. Graf novels, it doesn’t include Uhura’s direct perspective of events. The three points-of-view explored in this novel belong to Sulu, Chekov, and Kirk. That is a fairly unusual choice for L.A. Graf. Normally, the writers using this pan name include Uhura’s viewpoint along with Sulu’s and Chekov’s to explore their characters, while giving fans a view of life from “below decks.” Kirk’s POV is included to show how he regards the three younger members of the “Enterprise Seven” as officers and people.

For some reason, Death Count breaks this pattern. While it is not irritating or a loss in any sense of the word, it does make one wonder. I only note it for the curious and for those L.A. Graf fans who have not managed to acquire this story yet.

Until next time, readers: “Second star to the right and straight on til morning!”

Death Count (Star Trek, #62) by L.A. Graf

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Book Review: The Innocence of Father Brown

Father Brown's Innocence

Due in part to sullysgirl’s comment on one of my posts many moons ago, I picked up and began reading several Father Brown stories. Written by G. K. Chesterton, the stories focus on the crime-solving adventures of the intrepid Father Brown. Unlike “high-functioning sociopath” Mr. Holmes, Father Brown is approachable and friendly – but he has steel in his bones and a keen mind to match, or perhaps even outmatch, Mr. Holmes.

The volume of Father Brown material that I first read was, naturally, The Innocence of Father Brown. I enjoyed several stories more than the others and, though it has been some time since I last clapped eyes on a Father Brown tale, I think I can remember my favorites well enough to sketch an outline of them for you, readers.

The first Father Brown mystery I fell in love with is the first story G. K. Chesterton ever wrote for the daring little priest: The Blue Cross. Throughout the tale a French investigator tracks a famous French art thief named Flambeau through London since he received a tip that he will be there to steal a valuable artifact. A series of strange accidents – salt in the sugar containers at a restaurant, an upset cart of fruit, a broken window at a post office – lead him to two clerics walking through a park.

Other stories I enjoyed in the volume were The Queer Feet and The Flying Stars. In The Queer Feet, Father Brown must stop at the club of the Twelve Fisherman, a gentlemen’s association with some bizarre (to me, at least) dining habits. For instance, the group eats with gold utensils that have a pearl set in each piece of cutlery’s handle. These are stolen and subsequently rescued by Father Brown.

In The Flying Stars, at Christmas Father Brown visits a well-to-do family. The patriarch happens to be hosting a relative from Canada at the same time he (the patriarch) is holding in his possession three very valuable diamonds. The diamonds are called the Flying Stars because they have been stolen so often. The merrymaking for Christmas Day begins when the visitor from Canada suggests a pantomime – then disappears, as do the Flying Stars!

More stories in the volume which I enjoyed were The Invisible Man and The Hammer of God. I cannot recall much about why I enjoyed these, since The Invisible Man was about a postman who committed some crime (it may have been murder, I cannot recall now) while The Hammer of God was about a Minister who, while praying in the loft of his church, saw his brother of ill repute preparing to meet a married lady.

The final two stories in The Innocence of Father Brown which I found enjoyable are The Eye of Apollo and The Three Tools of Death. In The Eye of Apollo a man claiming to be a priest of the sun god Apollo takes up residence in an office building in London. Flambeau, now an honest tradesman, happens to be working in the building as a private investigator. Ever a gallant fellow, he has made the acquaintance of two young women who work in the building as well. The two are sisters.

But what sisters! The older woman is beautiful, forceful, and a follower/paramour of Apollo’s new priest, while the younger sister wears glasses and hunches over her work at her desk, bullied by her older sister. Flambeau likes the older sister very much, and is stunned when she falls to her death in an elevator shaft at the same moment Apollo’s priest has gone out on the balcony to publicly worship the sun.

In The Three Tools of Death a famous philanthropist and eternal optimist is found dead. His daughter’s fiancé is accused of murdering him, as he was found apparently trying to kill him with a knife, a pistol, and a noose. Who can read such a riddle? Father Brown sits down with the young fiancé, surrounded by the police, and finds the truth.

Some stories, readers, like good wine, get better with age. G. K. Chesterton’s Father Brown mysteries are such stories. I greatly enjoyed them, and I would hereby like to take the time to publicly and heartily thank sullysgirl for setting me on the road to reading them!

Until next time, readers!

The Mithril Guardian