Monday, October 3, 2016

Action Men and the Great Zarelda, Part 9

Continued from Parts 1,2,3,4,5,6,7, and 8...

My opportunity to slyly rescue the iPhone or any of the other items from the box prior to the performance never came. Zarelda and Kumar kept at their station near it until the last possible moment, and then there was hurried instruction to prepare to go onstage.

The show went smoothly, and I think I executed my part well. There were a few surprise elements. Zarelda made several costume changes. They were so quick that I wondered if she had a costumer's equivalent of a race car pit crew backstage. One of these costumes, had she worn it on the plane in place of the red dress, I would have been adequately satisfied that there was nothing amiss with her legs. It was cut high on both sides with plenty of leg exposed. Instead of looking like a suspiciously potential smuggler of parrots, she looked like an exotic bird of paradise herself. Iridescent crystals hung in tassels down her front and, while the white gown was cut high on the sides, long feathery extensions, like exotic plumage, dangled down the center of her gown as a skirt in both the front and rear.

Midway through the show, she performed a trick I had never seen in rehearsal. I knew about this only in part, that at this point in the program, she would do a trick that didn't require my involvement. She emerged in a flamenco dress like the one in which I had first seen her, only this one was in cobalt blue. Her near-hypnotic power I had felt on first seeing her now seemed to take hold of the entire audience. She took graceful flamenco steps as she twirled and stomped down center stage, her arms arcing and twisting above her head. “You must help me with this one,” she told the audience. “Dream of Brazil. Dream of the Amazon. Dream of Brazil. Say it with me.”

It was a chant as she twirled and stomped, and the audience joined in. It took on an almost creepy tone, like a cult leader directing her flock. As she twirled, and the audience chanted, she transmogrified. I saw, perhaps, some of the special lighting effects that required Kumar's help. The cobalt skirt rippled with her movement, and as she moved, a projection of a tall waterfall was made onto her skirt, and it seemed to take on life. I was mesmerized by her. She flicked her wrist in a dainty dance-like movement, and a macaw, the very variety Jack had displayed on his cell phone so many days ago, manifested itself suddenly, resting on her hand. I noticed no secret pockets, no hidden compartments. It happened in an instant. It was magic.

From my half-hidden position at the side of the stage, I looked out to the audience. Somewhere in the midst of that crowd was Jack. What was he thinking now, a great big “I told you so?” Zarelda flicked her opposite wrist, and a second macaw roosted on her hand, and then, just as quickly again, they vanished, but where? Her voluminous skirt? It was hard to tell. It was magic, and, at that moment, I was a believer in magic like any child.

There was nothing particularly menacing about Zarelda that night. She seemed charming, delightful, a flirt with the audience, and yet I couldn't push away a certain foreboding sense of premonition as the evening wore on. I looked out sometimes at the audience and wished I could discreetly signal Jack about my sense of unease. I could pull on my ear lobe like Carol Burnett, but what would that possibly accomplish? I could signal like baseball players, only we hadn't established any such system of communication, and my sense of self-dignity was too great to make myself quite that foolish looking, tapping and pulling at random parts of myself. I had read once about a hostage blinking SOS in Morse code on TV. Would Jack pick up that signal or would it simply look like I was having an episode of petit mal epilepsy? Really, the performance and my role in it took up so much of my concentration that I was unable to sufficiently come up with a plan that actually made sense, and I really had no idea what I was expecting anyway.

I successfully maneuvered my way out the escape hatch of the vanishing box for our final act. Zarelda joined me in this private space behind the contraption briefly before she would appear in my place. It wasn't until she reached her hand up to my shoulder and then my face almost tenderly that I caught a whiff of a chemical smell, and everything went black.

 To be continued ...

&© 2016 Susan Joy Clark

Woohoo! A Third Five Star Review from Readers' Favorite!

 I'm so happy to receive yet another terrific review from Readers' Favorite. I'm so delighted that readers enjoy my story. This model gracefully conveys what I'm feeling inside after reading this review. :)

Reviewed By Jack Magnus for Readers’ Favorite

Action Men with Silly Putty: A Jack Donegal Mystery, Book 1 is an amateur sleuth mystery novel written by Susan Joy Clark. Andy Westin and his boss, Jack Donegal, were toy men. They lived, breathed and played their occupation and had a great time doing it. It was during one of their business trips to the San Francisco Toy Fair that they came upon an auction where Jack was unable to resist the charms of a 1915 Steiff teddy bear. That bear had been part of the estate of a California wine heiress, Georgina Elwood, a recluse and collector. Immediately after taking possession of his new teddy, strange things started happening to Jack and Andy. First, Jack was assaulted by two armed men who thought he was someone else and threatened him with an ornately carved knife. Then his iPhone turned out to be missing. Not a problem for them as Andy had the Find My Phone app, but their misadventures were just beginning, and the two toy men were delighted to discover a mystery worthy of their complete attention.

Susan Joy Clark's private investigator mystery novel, Action Men with Silly Putty: A Jack Donegal Mystery, Book 1, will delight readers who enjoy a bit of humor mixed in with their sleuthing and pleasantly surprise those readers such as myself who are usually unaware of - or worse - unappreciative of comedic touches in their reading material. I had a grand time following Andy and his iconic boss, Jack, as they gallivanted around the Bay Area and Southern California and played at being detectives. Andy is the consummate narrator who, while completely authentic and original in his own right, agreeably reminded me at times of Nero Wolf's able and wisecracking sidekick, Archie Goodwin. Clark's story is breezy, fun and fast-paced, and her plot is inspired. Jack and Andy are two of the most intriguing new private eyes I've come across in quite some time, and I can't wait until their creator conjures up another irresistible conundrum for them to play with. Action Men with Silly Putty: A Jack Donegal Mystery, Book 1 is most highly recommended.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Two Great New Reviews from Readers' Favorite

Reviewed By Melissa Tanaka for Readers’ Favorite

Action Men with Silly Putty: A Jack Donegal Mystery by Susan Joy Clark centers on a man by the name of Jack Donegal, who is an eccentric toy inventor, and his colleague, Andy Westin. Jack becomes a target when he is mistaken for another man after purchasing an antique teddy bear at a toy auction. From there, the two men take the situation into their own hands and decide to investigate the mystery behind the teddy bear and the secrets that it holds.

The first person point of view makes it very easy for readers to become engaged in the story, quickly slipping into the mind of Andy as he helps his boss and best friend untangle the web of mysteries that surrounds the bear and the criminals pursuing it. Although Andy is much more relatable a character, Jack is an enigma to witness, whether he is pulling random tidbits of information from the depths of his brain or quickly splicing together various contraptions in order to save the day. The witty banter between the two men and their lack of experience in sleuthing endears them to the reader, and by the end of the first chapter you cannot help but root for them. They James Bond their way out of several different situations, resulting in hilarity and various degrees of success.

Action Men with Silly Putty is a dream come true for mystery fans, mixing comedy and suspense along with classic gadgets such as hidden cameras, recording devices, vibration sensors, and everything else a spy could possibly need. I absolutely loved this book!


Reviewed By Cheryl E. Rodriguez for Readers’ Favorite

Susan Joy Clark’s Action Men with Silly Putty: A Jack Donegal Mystery is a hilarious mystery adventure. Jack Donegal and Andy Westin are business partners and best friends. They are toy men, meaning that they are not short, but in the toy business. Jack is a quirky and zany inventor – a master of everything - a techno-geek! Andy is the grounded and sensible marketing manager. This dynamic duo is in a league all of their own. While attending an estate auction in San Francisco, Jack purchases an antique teddy bear. Turns out, this is not your normal teddy bear. Jack is mugged in a case of mistaken identity, which catapults the toy men into an unbelievable adventure. Jack is determined is to out scam the scammers and find the secret behind this mysterious bear. Together, Jack and Andy put together the pieces this implausible puzzle, one “strange piece at a time.”

Action Men with Silly Putty: A Jack Donegal Mystery is fun, engaging, and delightfully entertaining, you won’t want to put it down! Susan Joy Clark pens a mystery novel full of comedic escapades. The bungling Mr. Magoo combines with the eccentricity of Columbo in the main character of Jack Donegal. Clark’s narrative is witty, comical and adventuresome. The writing style is artfully imaginative, using amusing and uncanny descriptions. The story is written from the point of view of the side-kick, which is rare, but really works! The antics of the characters keep the action moving quickly.

The best description of this creative work is silly-serious; it encompasses both abstract and concrete, humor and mystery, famous artwork, secret societies, and dating advice. The villains are bad guys, thugs with slightly dark motives and criminal intentions, contrasting with the good guys who are out for justice, and motivated to do what is right. Action Men with Silly Putty: A Jack Donegal Mystery is a wild goose chase full of hare-brained ideas and geeky technology. It is a fun and enjoyable read from beginning to end.