J. David Core’s Lupa Schwartz Series

jdcoreAbout the author:

Born: 1962, Toronto, Ohio

Education:

Art Institute of Pittsburgh

Website: http://lupamysteries.blogspot.com/

Thriller Sub-genre: Mystery and crime thriller

Publisher: Self-publishes

The Simon Review

The first thriller I read was Dan Brown’s, The DaVinci Code, and that’s when I discovered I was a fan of thrillers, but it wasn’t until James Rollins’ Map of Bones that I really became addicted to the thriller genre. I love that “on the edge of your seat- hanging by a thread” plot that keeps me up at night or makes me miss my bus stop. Many of the thrillers that I read are mysteries and I do like a good mystery, as long as it is a thriller. Unfortunately, because I am high on thrillers, I don’t appreciate the more subtle mysteries better known as cozy mysteries. A friend of mine knew that I liked murder mysteries and gave me a couple of books from Lilian Jackson Braun’s The Cat Who series, and as a lover of Siamese cats, I really thought I would like these books. What I found instead was that I struggled to get through each novel, falling asleep while still holding the book, so it became clear to me that I am not a cozy mystery fan. When indie writer J. David Core approached me to review his Lupa Schwartz series, I assumed that they were thrillers, but with the exception of one of the books in the series, I would say that all the other novels in the series are cozy mysteries. There are five books in this series and I found it difficult to get through them, but I did. So now I must review a series that I am not all that excited about and that puts me in a bit of an awkward situation, but I am a professional and I know that there are many fans out there that love cozy mysteries and my friend is one of them, so I am not going to be snarky about it, which would be my natural inclination, but I am going to review this series as if I am a lover of cozy mysteries (I hope).

Lupa Schwartz is a private investigator in the Sherlockian style, who has numerous quirks but is brilliant at solving crimes.   Cattleya ‘Cat’ Hoskin is the narrator in the series and is Schwartz’s ‘Watson’. Hoskin hooks up with Schwartz based on a historical relationship between Schwartz’s grandfather, who was a great detective, and Hoskin’s father who was his associate. Hoskin is a writer for Gamut Magazine, and takes on a full time assignment to write about Schwartz’s escapades and chooses to help Schwartz in his sleuthing as well. She lives at Schwartz’s Victorian mansion along with Schwartz’s full time cook, Beverly Seanesy, and full time auto mechanic, Mia Geovani.

Schwartz quirkiness includes letting the air out of tires from cars whose owners have violated some kind of parking offense. He does not carry a cell phone or own any other communication device because he has a problem with the Communication Commission ignoring his recommendation to solve the growing problem in the lack of available telephone numbers and exchanges. Schwartz is independently wealthy and owns a fleet of expensive cars which is why he has a full time mechanic. He is particular about the food that he eats and prefers to eat only what his cook prepares for him. He has a love of bad comedies and loves being around women. Schwartz is intellectually arrogant and though raised Jewish is an outspoken atheist. It is Schwartz extreme arrogance along with his obnoxious stand on atheism that makes it difficult for me to like this character at least early in the series.

Now this is not to say that I don’t like arrogant characters, Sherlock Holmes and Jeffery Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme are intellectually arrogant and I truly enjoy these characters, but both of these characters also have flaws, Holmes’ heroin addiction and Rhyme’s physical disability. It is these flaws that make an exception to their arrogance because it makes them human and therefore makes their arrogance tolerable. But Schwartz doesn’t have much in the way of flaws and therefore his arrogance is not as endearing. Combine this with his outspokenness on his atheism, for example, mentioning that he wouldn’t be involved with Wanda, the coroner, because he thought she was not an atheist in Extreme Unction, as well as his very public display of his atheism while protesting the inappropriate ringing of church bells by a local church in the second novel Common Sense, makes this character very difficult to like.

I find it interesting that Core made Schwartz into an extreme atheist, as one of Core’s running themes throughout the series is religious tolerance to one’s belief or lack of belief in a God. Schwartz is conflicting as he does have a certain amount of tolerance for those of faith, such as Beverly’s devout Catholicism and his Rabbi step-brother’s Judaism but at the same time shows disdain and even looks down on those that have religious affiliations. I have no problem with a character being atheist, I just have a problem when the atheist begins to see others that do not share their idealism as being intellectually inferior, and referring to individuals that believe in a religion as delusional or an agnostic as a coward. Being a scientist, I do not like it when atheist use science to base their atheism, as there is nothing in science that proves or disproves the existence of a divine presence. At the same time, I also have a problem when the religious ignore science based on their interpretation of scripture.

With that being said, Schwartz’s character does improve and becomes more likeable as the series continues. Starting with Shared Belief, the Schwartz that I did not like in the previous books in the series gets a bit of a makeover as he must now deal with a serial killer, which means he has to put aside some of his arrogance in order to catch the killer. Shared Belief is also the only book in the series that I would consider to be a thriller, which is why it is probably my favorite. The latest book in the series Five Secrets, takes off where Shared Belief ended and is considerably more of an adventure than the previous books in the series but still has a cozy mystery feel to it.

Then there is our narrator Cattleya Hoskin. I like Hoskin, she is level headed and more importantly she wants to outstep Schwartz in every investigation and occasionally she does. She is not happy just being an observer in Schwartz’s investigations but wants to be a participant which isn’t easy. However, I do have to give Schwartz credit, because he does, for the most part, realize Hoskin’s potential and accepts her advice. Hoskin takes a significant role in Shared Belief as she struggles to find her own answers to the riddle of faith. I hope to see Hoskin’s character develop more as well as Schwartz’s character being humbled as the series continues.

If you are into cozy mysteries and you like religious debates and historical references to religious ideologies, then you will probably enjoy this series. The first three books could be read as standalones, and the third book in the series, Fair Play, is an anthology of three short stories entitled, Overlord, Counterfeit, and Confession of the Cuckold. Shared Belief and Five Secrets should be read together and in order.

Simon’s pick:

Most Favorite Novel in the Series-Shared Disbelief- because this novel is the closest to being a thriller.

Least Favorite Novel in the Series-Fair Play- because I couldn’t get past the lengthy description of Hoskin’s solving a logic puzzle.

What about the science? There is not much in the way of science throughout the series but Core , for the most part, accurately presents the science.

The Technical Word in Review: Pokeweed- scientifically known as Phytolacca americana, is native to North and Central America and is a common weed which can grow up to ten feet in height. Pokeweed is a fascinating plant with a double-edged sword. Some consider it a nuisance weed, while others will see it as a beautiful ornamental, but its chemistry is what makes this plant really wondrous. On one side of the coin, digesting pokeweed especially the root can be quite deleterious to one’s health which minimally will cause severe diarrhea and vomiting, to a more severe reaction that leads to convulsions followed by death due to respiratory failure. There are several toxins involved that result in poisoning, one is an alkaloid called phytolaccine which causes gastrointestinal irritation, as well as other compounds including phytolaccatoxin, a resin and phytolaccigenin, a saponin. However, the most powerful toxin is pokeweed lectin.

Lectins are proteins that bind to carbohydrates often found on the surface of cells. In animals, lectins promote cell to cell interactions but in plants their function is unknown but may be a form of defense against insects and other pests. In microorganisms, lectins are used to facilitate binding to cell surfaces of a host. Plant lectins, also known as phytohemagglutinin because they are known to cause aggregation of red blood cells, and are some of the most lethal toxins known to man, such as the lectin from the seed of the castor oil plant known as ricin and abrin from the seed of the jequirity pea. The lectin from pokeweed is known as pokeweed mitogen and also as pokeweed antiviral protein. A mitogen is a chemical, usually proteins, that induce a cell to divide and in the case of the pokeweed mitogen, induces division of lymphocytes or white blood cells. The pokeweed lectin also has the ability to stop protein synthesis and was given the name pokeweed antiviral protein (Domashevskiy, et al) because of the ability to inhibit viruses from multiplying by preventing protein synthesis.   So the pokeweed lectin is the double edged sword, in higher doses it is a deadly toxin but in lower doses it could possibly be an effective tool in treating leukemia and lymphomas as well as treating viral infections such as HIV.

Pokeweed
Ripe pokeweed berries (Wikimedia Common)

Wanda shook her head. “No, I’d have to say that a dose that high would be too great for any tolerance level. Now, it is possible to develop a tolerance to pokeweed. Even after only one minor exposure, the body can build up a resistance to the phytolycines, glycoproteins and saponins which make up the toxin. However, not in the quantity that this victim ingested” Okay scrap that new theory, leaving me back to my original surmise.Fair Play


Core most likely meant phytolaccines in this passage not phytolycines.

Books in the Series by Order:

For the time being I am not going to list the most and least popular book of the series because the total number of ratings in Goodreads, Amazon, Library Thing, and Barnes and Noble add up to less than 100 which means statistically they don’t really have any meaning. So read the books and give a rating.

extremeunction2#1 Extreme Unction- 2013

First Line:

Entering Pittsburgh, PA at night via the Ft. Pitt Tunnel is an awe inspiring sight.


Characters

Lupa Schwartz: Renowned private investigator, Jewish by culture and a self-professed atheist

Cattleya “Cat” Hoskin: Writer for Gamut Magazine and Schwartz’s protégé

Mia Geovani: Schwartz’s auto mechanic

Beverly Seanesy: Schwartz’s cook

Father Mike Coneely: Priest accused of performing euthanasia on a member of his congregation

Vincent Hanson: The murder victim

Trevor Johns: Pittsburgh Police Department homicide detective


The Setting

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvannia


Cattleya Hoskin, journalist for Gamut Magazine, has come to Pittsburgh determined to get that interview with Lupa Schwartz, the grandson of the great detective her father once worked for as “leg man,” gumshoe, and chronicler. Now that Schwartz is carrying on the legacy and has built a reputation as a masterful sleuth in his own right, the idea that she should write a piece on him seems organic to her. Schwartz has never shied from the press before, so why is he being such a cold fish toward her?

Nothing in Schwartz’s attitude changes when Cattleya arrives unannounced on the famous detective’s doorstep until a case he doesn’t want also arrives unbidden and unwelcome right behind her. Coerced into investigating the poisoning death of a local Catholic who passed just after receiving the sacrament of last rights from a well-known Catholic priest and euthanasia advocate, Schwartz and Cattleya team up to write the case study that will establish her career once-and-for-all.


Schwartz turned to Coneely and pointedly said, “Very well, we’ve tentatively established that somebody else could have had an opportunity, and that some of his children may have had the motive of wishing to end his suffering. However, that is not enough to vindicate you. If it is true that anybody on the premises might have had opportunity to return to the sick room and discharge the poison, I need to know the circumstances that followed your administering extreme unction.”


Looking for a review of Extreme Unction?  Check out:

Sasha Jackson Mysteries


Amazon Rating-US: 4.01 out of 5 stars based on 14 ratings

Amazon Rating-UK: 4.00 out of 5 stars based on 2 ratings

GoodReads Rating: 4.19 out of 5 stars based on 16 ratings

Library Thing Rating: not rated

Total Score 4.09 (updated 10/21/17)

poison

 

commonsense2#2-Common Sense- 2014

First Line:

Why don’t I remember more about that moment?


Characters

Lupa Schwartz, Cattleya “Cat” Hoskin, Mia Geovani, Beverly Seanesy, and Trevor Johns

Dave Hoskin: Cat’s ex-husband who has been murdered


The Setting

Mississauga, Ohio


Common sense tells Cattleya Hoskin that her reporter ex-husband wouldn’t have gone out night-fishing by himself in the middle of an investigation. The unaccommodating local authorities see it differently. In an effort to prove them wrong, Cattleya enlists the help of her private investigator friend, Schwartz, to follow through with Dave’s investigation—theft from the power grid in a small Ohio town.

The inquiry is complicated by crooked contractors, a menacing white van, and some long-abandoned coal mines and antebellum tunnels. Aggressively loud church bells and the amorous advances of a bounty hunter Schwartz brought in to help add to an already convoluted situation. Yet Cattleya feels she owes it to Dave to figure out what happened to him, for better or for worse.


“The solution seems obvious and simple, but the actual solution is much more complicated. People often confuse simplistic reasoning for common sense.”

“So how does the Monty Hall problem go?”

“Assume you’re a contestant on a game show. The host tells you that you can choose from three curtains, but only one conceals a valuable prize. The other two are what they refer to as zonks. Once you choose a curtain, the host reveals a zonk behind one of the two remaining curtains. He then gives you the opportunity to switch or retain your choice. Is there a benefit to switching?”

“No”, I insisted. “At that point it’s fifty/fifty.”

“That’s what common sense tells you, right? Unfortunately, it’s wrong.”


Looking for a review of Common Sense?  Check out:

Mary Ann Miller’s- It’s Not All Gravy

Article 94

Kristie Bryant


Amazon Rating: 4.67 out of 5 stars based on 3 rating

Amazon Rating-UK: not rated

GoodReads Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars based on 4 ratings

Library Thing Rating: not rated

Total Score 4.43 (updated 10/21/17)

stab

 

fairplay2#3-Fair Play- 2014

First Line:

“They’re not going to let you in with that, Cat,” Mia said pointing to the near-full foam cup of hot chocolate.


Characters

Lupa Schwartz, Cattleya “Cat” Hoskin, Mia Geovani, Beverly Seanesy and Trevor Johns

Ulric Devaki: Rabbi and love interest of Hoskin’s


The Setting

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvannia


Overlord: When a contestant on a popular reality game show dies live on the air, Cattleya Hoskin pushes for Lupa Shwartz to get involved and solve the case before the rest of America beats him to it.


“Hey wasn’t that something about Myron from Overlord?” Overlord was a reality style TV game show.

“Didn’t you hear?” Beverly asked tossing her head and flipping her blond pony-tail excited at the chance to tell the story. “He died this afternoon; poison. Somebody fed him pokeweed.”


Counterfeit: Lupa Schwartz needs Cattleya’s help to go undercover as a convenience store employee to solve a real-world logic puzzle and expose a killer.


“Well, I think I know how the counterfeit money got in the store, and I think I know who killed Brenda, and I don’t see any reason to think the two cases intersect.”


Confessions of the Cuckold: The last person Eric Dadjov would have expected to confide in was the bounty hunter sent to take him to court, but his wife has betrayed him leaving his life in shambles. A careless moment purging his anger has led to formal charges, so when he learns that he might have more in common with the forlorn bounty hunter than he thinks, a frustrated Eric just begins venting. Gradually, the details of Dadjov’s story begin to suggest that he has a sinister plan for revenge brewing. Is the bounty hunter complicit, a dupe, or is he the next victim of the cuckold?


Amazon Rating-US: not rated

Amazon Rating-UK: not rated

GoodReads Rating: 2.00 out of 5 stars based on 1 ratings

Library Thing Rating: not rated

Total Score 2.00 (updated 10/21/17)

gun

 

shareddisbelief2#4-Shared Disbelief- 2015

First Line:

I’d always known that this obsession of his was going to get him in trouble one day.


Characters

Lupa Schwartz, Cattleya “Cat” Hoskin, Mia Geovani, Beverly Seanesy, Trevor Johns and Ulric Devaki


The Setting

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvannia


Pittsburgh PI Lupa Schwartz is out of his element, coerced into helping local police flush out a serial killer re-enacting the history of human sacrifice and martyrdom. Lacking the right skills to handle the case alone, he has been forced to give his chronicler a much larger and more dangerous role than her normal one as his Watson.

Gamut Magazine reporter Cattleya Hoskin has covered Lupa’s work on many occasions, but his dependence on her in this case is unsettling. Asked to help subvert the FBI’s interference with the case, and further taunt the killer by using her media contacts, her professional ethics are stretched to the limit.

With a killer bent on attacking religion by literally attacking the religious, Lupa and Cattleya face their hardest and most draining case yet. Relying on their individual strengths as much as each other, they’re determined to put an end to the murders for good – even if it means crossing lines that should never be crossed.


Looking for a review of Shared Disbelief?  Check out:

Buttonholed Book Reviews

Mary Ann Miller’s- It’s Not All Gravy


Amazon Rating-US: 4.15 out of 5 stars based on 7 rating

Amazon Rating-UK: not rated

GoodReads Rating: 4.17 out of 5 stars based on 6 ratings

Library Thing Rating: not rated

Total Score 4.15 (updated 10/21/17)

fingerprint

 

fivesecrets2#5-Five Secrets- 2015

First Line:

“The God I realized I believe in is hidden for a very different reason,” I said from my hospital bed.


Characters

Lupa Schwartz, Cattleya “Cat” Hoskin, Mia Geovani, Beverly Seanesy, Trevor Johns and Ulric Devaki


The Setting

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvannia


After surviving a vicious attack, magazine reporter Cattleya Hoskin learns that her ex-boyfriend, Ulric, has gone missing having left only a coded message the police cannot decipher. Digging deeper, she learns that he’d been working with the man who got her injured on the last story she covered, Pittsburgh PI Lupa Schwartz. The two men had been trying to covertly unravel a centuries-old scheme, but the conspirators found him out and drove Ulric underground. To complicate matters, a mystery woman arrives with a tale of peril linking her to the same nefarious plot.

In order to protect this client and Ulric, Cattleya and Schwartz delve into the mysteries of sacred geometry and a genetic line that traces back to Charlemagne and beyond. Now the pair must work together to expose an ancient secret before being thwarted by the agents of a shadow government which has been secretly operating since Mesopotamia.

If they succeed, they just might topple an empire. If they fail, there may be no place for them in the New World Order — or anywhere else.


“Well, all you need to know for now is that the Seekers have five secret hiding places scattered around the city. Each of us is assigned one as a safe house, and from that safe house we can access three others. In times of emergency, we are to get to our starting base, and then leave our car and flee to a second site from our list selected at random.”


Looking for a review of Five Secrets?  Check out:

Undeniably Addicted to Books


Amazon Rating-US: not rated

Amazon Rating-UK: not rated

GoodReads Rating: 4.00 out of 5 stars based on 1 ratings

Library Thing Rating: not rated

Total Score 4.00 (updated 10/21/17)

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