Thursday, September 28

One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson

Review by Gloria Feit 
 

"A coincidence is just an explanation waiting to happen," states one of the main characters in this novel.  And that observation pretty much sums up this intriguing book, which begins when a rented Peugeot stops short to avoid hitting a pedestrian on an Edinburgh street and a blue Honda slams into its rear.  The driver of the second car jumps out with a baseball bat and bashes the head of the front driver.

 

In the crowd witnessing this road rage are various people who play a vital role in the story, including a writer of banal crime novels who takes it upon himself to slam the second driver with his laptop to prevent him from killing his victim, among others.  The novel slowly builds from that point with facts and stories and relationships and family histories intertwining as the tale begins to unfold in unexpected twists to a fitting conclusion.  It is a story well-told.

 

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, September 27

Four Kinds of Rain by Robert Ward

Review by Gloria Feit 

Bob Wells, a liberal and social activist from the old school, is a practicing psychologist in Baltimore without much of a practice, known to his patients, some of whom even pay a fee, as Dr. Bobby.  His ex-wife has dumped him for one of their old school buddies who now has a nationally syndicated radio show, he has gambled away his life savings [hastening the breakup of his marriage], and is deep in a state of depression and bitterness.  He has now met a young woman with whom he has fallen in love, who tells him that she loves him too but fears repeating the mistakes of her first marriage to a complete loser, and he finds himself contemplating the previously unthinkable:  Stealing a legendary and apparently priceless mask supposedly worth millions from one of his patients, a wealthy man who, Bob reasons, will collect the insurance anyway, leaving only the insurance company as a 'victim.'  

So ends Part One of this new book by Robert Ward, whose previous book, Red Baker, garnered excellent reviews.  The current novel has a protagonist with whom one can almost sympathize, but only 'almost.'   Bob's thoughts go from very positive and upbeat, honest and unselfish, one moment, to the pits of self-pity and –hatred and, for that matter, hatred of [most of] his fellow man, completely self-absorbed and cynical, the next.  His changing moods and mind-sets fairly cry out for a shrink of his own.  As Bob puts it, he no longer plays by the rules of the civilized world.  Oh, and the priceless mask that started it all?   It's an ancient Babylonian mask of the god of vengeance and justice. 

By turn comic, dark and disturbing, Four Kinds of Rain is an offbeat and interesting noir tale.

Tuesday, September 26

Dead Center by David Rosenfelt

Review by Theodore Feit

Laurie Collins is now ensconced in her native Findlay, Wisconsin, as acting police chief.  Andy Carpenter is still moping in Paterson, New Jersey, when he gets a phone call from Laurie.  She has arrested a young man for murder—but she believes him innocent.  Reluctantly, Andy rides to the rescue.

In a change of pace, the murder trial never takes place, and we only see Andy's legal talents flourish in pre-trial efforts.  Accused of stabbing to death two co-eds, one his ex-girlfriend, Andy's client is released when the current boyfriend appears to have hung himself leaving behind a suicide note confessing to the murders.  End of story?  Not quite.  Return to Paterson, not quite.

Unlike the previous four novels in the series, Andy now gets to play detective to learn the truth, instead of lawyering.  Plotting an writing are of the usual high standards, the quips regular and amusing, and the book is the accustomed excellent read.

Monday, September 25

Reviews by Stephen Blackmoore

Dying Light by Stuart MacBride

Reviews by Diana Bane

Blood of the Lamb by Michael Lister

The Case of Emily V. by Keith Oatley

The Sorcerer's Circle by Michael Siverling

Reviews by Flood Gondek

Flood Gondek interviews aspiring writers on her blog, FlashFlood and her work has appeared in Flashing in the Gutters.

Murder Without Pity by Steve Haberman

The Scout Master: A Prepared Death by Luisa Buehler

The Falls by Joyce Carol Oates

Review by Claire McManus
 
My book club's book for the month of August was The Falls, by Joyce Carol Oates.  While we discuss predominantly mysteries, we thought this book would have enough mystery elements to warrant discussion.   
 
First off, we discussed how ubiquitous Joyce Carol Oates is, and how all of us had managed to read her at one time or another over the past twenty years.  Interestingly, it seemed that no two of us had read the same book, probably because of Oates' legendary ability to produce multiple volumes in one year.
 
The story revolves around Ariah Littrell, a woman who is jilted on her honeymoon when her new husband kills himself at Niagara Falls.   Soon christened "The Widow Bride of the Falls," she finds herself getting remarried rather quickly.  We watch as her marriage dissolves and as she raises her three children in a sort of genteel poverty.
 
There are indeed some mystery elements—we wonder why Ariah's first husband commits suicide (and we do find out), and we never know for sure if Ariah's younger son Royall uses a gun to exact a sort of revenge on a person who has wronged his family.   But the strongest mystery in the book is Ariah herself, a high-strung, intelligent, "difficult" woman.  Interestingly, we were divided on the character's likability and believability.   The men in the group didn't like her, found her difficult and cruel, while the women had more sympathy for her while seriously questioning her mothering skills.   One woman in the group who had read We Were the Mulvaneys for Oprah's book club said this felt like a sequel.
 
We agreed, though, that the very best part of the book has to do with the Love Canal suit.  A large part of the story takes place in a time when Ariah's lawyers husband takes on the case of Nina Olshaker, one of the first people to bring suit against the city for poisioning the land that came to be known as " Love Canal."  Oates writes with great power about the poor and working class people who have been done horribly wrong by wealthy businessmen and powerful magnates.   It is worth reading this book if only to learn more about Love Canal.
 
Overall I would say we enjoyed this book but I think we were disappointed that we didn't choose one of Oates' "Rosamund Smith" or "Lauren Kelly" books, which are more specifically mystery/suspense books.   I have since read "Double Delight," written under the Smith pseudonym, and I enjoyed it greatly…very creepy suspense.

Sudden Death by David Rosenfelt

Review by Theodore Feit

 

In this, the fourth in the Andrew Carpenter series, the author deviates from his usual basic pattern in a plot which introduces an unexpected situation.  It seems Laurie Collins, Andy's investigator and love of his life, has been offered a police department captaincy in her native Findlay, Wisconsin, with the prospect of becoming chief of police in the near future.  She contemplates that chance for the entire book, keeping Andy on edge throughout, not reaching a decision until the conclusion of a sensational murder trial.

 

A star running back for the New York Giants is arrested for the shooting murder of his friend, a wide receiver for the Jets, whose body is found in the closet of his home.  He fends off arrest by firing a pistol at arriving police.  He calls for Andy to represent him, and we embark on the trials and tribulations of another high-profile murder contest, with the prosecution having a slam-dunk case and Andy and his team without the foggiest idea on how to defend.

 

The novel moves forward, without much of the wisecracks exhibited in the earlier books, but with the same intensity and inventiveness.  The conclusion of the trial, of course, is foregone, but the author gives us a twist that cannot and should not be anticipated.  The quality is up to the level which the first three books give rise to, and now, for this reader—onto the fifth.

The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy

Review by Gloria Feit

 

It has been nigh onto impossible lately to avoid reading about The Black Dahlia, the much-publicized [and widely panned] film version of the book by the same name written in 1987.  The book, very well received at that time, has now been reissued shortly in advance of the film's release [with a new Afterword by the author].  For some reason I had never read the book, but am very happy the reissue brought it to my attention and that I have been able to correct that oversight.

 

The actual event about which the book revolves is the still-unsolved, very brutal murder in LA in 1947 of Elizabeth Short, a beautiful young woman, 22 years old, given to wearing all black and thus dubbed The Black Dahlia by the tabloids.  As is widely known and as is the subject of the Afterword, eleven years after Elizabeth Short's death the author's mother was also murdered in LA (which killing likewise was never solved), obviously the seminal event of his life, and the book is dedicated to her.

 

The book takes guise of a memoir written by a fictional LA cop in on the case from the day the body was discovered, who describes himself as 'the only one who does know the entire story.'  The body is discovered on page 69 of the book, the preceding pages allowing the reader to get to know the persona of the protagonist who at some point becomes the author's alter ego

 

The racist and otherwise politically incorrect language is jarring albeit almost undoubtedly the norm for the time and it is all the more authentic for that.  The author does not need this reviewer to praise the wonderful writing:  James Ellroy may not have been the first to write LA noir, and some may have done it equally well, but nobody's done it better.

The Case of Emily V. by Keith Oatley

Review by Theodore Feit

This is the second novel read in recent weeks in which Sigmund Freud plays a major role. Of course the other book, The Interpretation of Dreams, is being backed by a half-million-dollar marketing campaign. In contrast, this novel, which first appeared in hardcover in Great Britain in 1993 and in paperback in Canada in 1994, is just now making its appearance in the United States with a modest initial print run of 5,000. The publisher is to be praised for bringing it to the U.S. and let’s hope for a larger second printing—the novel deserves a wider readership. I should state that the only similarity between the two novels is that Interpretation takes place in 1909 and this one in 1903.

Divided into three books, The Case of Emily V. recounts the case of a young lady who was sexually abused by her guardian for four years from the age of 14. Book One alternates between case notes by Dr. Freud while treating Emily, and her journal. In this section we learn that she is ill because she has caused the death of her guardian while repulsing his advances, this after he chased her from Philadelphia to Vienna where she then taught at a girl’s school after hiding her whereabouts from him for several years. We learn of her feelings of guilt while keeping essential facts from Freud’s psychoanalysis.

Book Two introduces Sherlock Holmes, with Dr. Watson recounting his activities. It seems Emily’s guardian was a British diplomat charged with a secret mission to deal with Germany’s aggressive policies. Holmes’ older brother has just become the head of a newly established OSS/CIA/MI5-type organization and has retained his younger sibling as a consultant to investigate whether the diplomat was assassinated by the Germans. He travels to Vienna and even meets Dr. Freud at Watson’s behest, after the latter attended one of the psychiatrist’s lectures in which he described the Case of Emily V.

Book Three basically is a series of entries into Emily’s journal and tying all the loose ends together, including Emily’s fears at discovery over the murder, her mental health and steps taken toward her recovery of sorts. A postscript by psychologist Dr. Ellen Berger attempts to help explain various issues, including the mystery.

The novel is an award-winning psychological thriller which keeps the reader’s interest from the first page to the last. Well-conceived and -written, it takes the form of previously “undiscovered” manuscripts. This book was 11 weeks on the bestseller list [of the Globe and Mail] and was reprinted four times before being issued in paperback. Let’s hope history repeats itself in the United States.

The Mission Song by John Le Carre

Review by Theodore Feit

 

You can't tell a book by its cover, it's said.  And you can't tell Le Carre by this book.  It is quite unlike anything in his past work.  It still contains the various elements of his craft--intrigue, suspense, deft twists—but is a far cry from the Cold War novels.

 

This is the story of the bastard son of a Catholic Missionary and an African woman, who grows up with an excellent ear for language.  He is brought to England and trained to hone his skills in the various African dialects, and has command of English and French.  He becomes the top interpreter in the service of Her Majesty's Government.   One day he receives an assignment to provide translation of participants in a secret meeting.

 

The ostensible purpose of the meeting is to solidify agreement between three conflicting groups in the eastern Congo to form an alliance to bring about the installation of a "savior" to end the exploitation of the region's natural resources, foster "democracy" and benefit the population.   Sponsor of the effort is an anonymous syndicate, proposing to sponsor the "event" in return for six months worth of exports.

 

In the performance of his duties as interpreter, Bruno Salvador ("Salvo") learns the result will be a war, and the death and destruction will be followed by business as usual, with graft and corruption as side deals.  He steals tapes of conversations proving the subterfuge and retains his copious notebooks and returns home.  There are 12 days until the kickoff of the putsch, and he attempts in various ways to head it off.

 

The story includes Salvo's own conflicts as a half-white/half-black, a meaningless marriage and a newfound love in an African nurse.  As it moves to an unexpected conclusion, the plot takes various turns as Salvo (and his paramour) try to get the evidence in proper hands to prevent the coming conflict.  It is a tale worthy of Mr.  LeCarre writing as only he can.

Fear of the Dark by Walter Mosley

Review by Gloria Feit

 

Walter Mosley seamlessly recreates, in his customary fashion, the Watts/South Central area of LA circa 1956.  This is the third book by Mr. Mosley to feature Paris Minton and his 'associate' and best friend, Fearless Jones, the latter described as 'tall and thin, jet of color, unafraid of death or love, threat or imprisonment.'  When Paris' cousin, Ulysses S. Grant IV, called Useless by one and all, 'a petty thief, a liar, a malingerer, and just plain bad luck,' shows up at the door of Paris' bookstore one day, Paris knows he's in trouble.  When Paris turns down his cousin's plea for help and sends him away, it's only a matter of time before Paris' aunt, Three Hearts, Useless' mother, comes looking for her son, and Paris has to try to find him.  In so doing, he finds more than he bargained for: blackmail, cheating business partners, jealous boyfriends, and murder.  One incident in particular, brought about by Paris' sexual propensities and appetites, gives him good reason for the phobia of the title, among other fears that plague him. 

 

As in this author's prior books, Fear of the Dark is fast-moving and well-plotted.  The racism that was such a taken-for-granted part of the era is clearly depicted, e.g., "You know we always on the edge, brother.  You don't have to do sumpin' wrong for the cops to get ya and the judge to throw you ovah.  All you got to do is be walkin' down the street at the wrong minute.   Shoot, Paris.  You always got to be ready to run."  As Paris says at one point, "I sat there thinking how the life I was living would be better in the remembering than it was while it was going on."

 

Recommended.

Wednesday, September 20

Murder in Jerusalem by Batya Gur

Review by Theodore Feit

 

This novel is the sixth and last Michael Ohayon Mystery (the author died last year).  Having not read the previous five entries, it is possible only to look at this one as a standalone, without reference to the past.  The idea for this book grew out of the author's screenplays for a miniseries on Israel's Channel Two.  Of course, Channel One is the official government-sponsored television station, which is the setting for this story.

 

From this reader's point of view, the overwhelming detail throughout about the operations of a television station is overdone, as are the characterizations of the various correspondents, directors and secretaries at Israeli Television.  Repetition and overbearing descriptions merely bog down the reader.  On the other hand, the insights into the politics and complex world or contemporary (and past) Israeli society are fascinating and realistic.

 

The tale begins with the death of a scenic designer one midnight, at the station.  It appears to be an accident (or murder?), soon  followed by a series of  other deaths of station personnel.  Enter Inspector Ohayon and his police assistants to piece the story together: the relations, fears, loves and complexities that make the station function.  The investigation brings to the fore the ideals of the nation and raises the specter of past national crimes.

 

After the slow start, the book gathers momentum and swiftly moves to a fascinating and enlightening conclusion.

Monday, September 18

Monkey Man by Steve Brewer

Review by Gloria Feit

"Nothing interrupts a nice chat like the arrival of a gorilla" the opening line of Monkey Man and an indication of the slightly whacky and offbeat [in a good way, mind you] novel to follow. The circumstances of the "chat" in question? A meeting in a café between Bubba Mabry, of Bubba Mabry Investigations, with a potential client seeking to hire him with regard to suspected malfeasance leading to the death of an inordinately large number of animals of the zoo in Albuquerque, New Mexico where he is employed. (The suspected plot kinda gives "endangered species" a whole new meaning.) But the meeting is interrupted when the aforementioned man in the gorilla suit pulls a gun and shoots the whistleblower dead.

Having decided he has no further obligation in the matter, Bubba is forced to change his mind when the dead man's fiancee hires Bubba to investigate, reasoning that if they find out what secret‚s being covered up, they'll find out who the killer is. Despite his reluctance, Bubba agrees, and that resolve is only bolstered when, shortly thereafter, someone else who had just been speaking to Bubba is killed - Bubba, feeling guilty, becomes determined to find the perp, if only for his own peace of mind, all coercion and threats if he pursues that course notwithstanding.

Bubba, who is self-described as suffering from "genetic gullibility", nonetheless asks enough questions of enough people to flush out the culprit[s]. Along the way he gives the reader a fast and enjoyable read. Monkey Man is the latest in the Bubba Mabry series, one I'm glad to have been introduced to.

Steve Brewer is also the author of the Drew Gavin series, in addition to the recent standalone Whipsaw, much enjoyed by this reviewer.

Friday, September 15

Bitter Sweets by G.A. McKevett

Review by Dawn Dowdle

Savannah Reid has finally established herself as a P.I. in San Carmelita, CA.  She gets her first case.  She is to find the long-lost sister for her brother.  Things are not what they seem, and soon Savannah finds out that she has been double-crossed and she must relocate the sister and her daughter before they are killed.   

Savannah puts all of her Moonlight Magnolia Detective Agency to work on this case.  Dirk, her old partner with the police, is also working this case.  Unfortunately Savannah did not leave the force with the brass liking her.  She is hauled in for questioning and becomes the prime suspect in this case. 

Savannah and her team uncover plenty of suspects.  Can she determine who the real killer in time before he/she kills again?  And can she do that without putting herself in harm's way? 

I love Savannah.  She is such a likeable character.  She is a sexy, southern, black belt woman who isn't a small petite thing.  She likes to cook and eat.  Her granny is very important to her.  Even though she often gets on Dirk, she cares about him, too.  John and Ryan are great peripheral characters as well.  I love Tammy.  Savannah has put together a great staff for her agency.  Working with Dirk in the police department gives her the ability to do things others might not be able to accomplish. 

I highly recommend this book and the whole series. 

Thursday, September 14

Witch Way to Murder by Shirley Damsgaard

Review by Dawn Dowdle

Ophelia Jensen feels guilty because she couldn't save her friend a few years ago.  Ophelia has psychic powers, but she tries to ignore them.  She just wants to do her job as librarian and nothing more. 

When a good-looking stranger comes to town claiming to be a chemical salesman, Ophelia tries to ignore him.  He keeps coming around asking about thefts of fertilizer that have plagued the town.  When he tries to go meet her grandmother Abby, Ophelia steps in to stop him.  Abby is a witch, and the last thing she wants is that news broadcast.  Who is this stranger and what does he want?   

When a body is dumped in Abby's backyard, Ophelia and Abby decide they'd better figure out what is going on before someone else is harmed.  Can they discover who murdered this man and why without putting themselves or others in harm's way? 

I was very skeptical when I started reading this book as I had recently read another cozy about a witch that I didn't like.  I loved this one.  I can't wait to read the next book.  Ophelia and Abby are such likeable characters.  The witchcraft is truly kept to a minimum and is not the main focus of the story.  The small town location is wonderful as well.  I highly recommend this book.

Death Climbs a Tree by Sara Hoskinson Frommer

Review by Dawn Dowdle

Joan Spencer is the manager of the local civic symphony. Right before the big children’s concert, Sylvia, who plays first violin in the symphony, tells Joan that she can’t perform in the big concert because she’ll be up a tree to protest a construction project that will remove a lot of trees.

Joan’s son Andrew assists in taking food and other items to Sylvia on a regular basis. Joan ends up helping him now and then. One day when they are delivering food to her, Sylvia comes crashing out of the tree. After her seventy-foot fall, she is unconscious and later dies.

Andrew takes her place in the tree. Joan and her new husband Fred, a detective lieutenant in the local police force, can’t talk him out of it. They aren’t happy but hope he’ll come to his senses soon.

After Joan discovers evidence that Sylvia was murdered, she fears for Andrew’s life. Plus she’s still searching for a replacement first violinist for the concert and dealing with other issues in the symphony as well as at the senior center where she works.

Can the killer be found and caught without Andrew being harmed? And can Joan stay unharmed as well?

I had never read anything by this author before. I really enjoyed this book and hope to read others by her. Joan is such a great character. Her husband Fred, while he’s a cop and gone a lot, he is also a great guy and portrayed well. I liked all the symphony members as well. Some of them were obnoxious, but they were supposed to be that way. The small town setting was wonderfully done. I highly recommend this book!

Dead Wrong by J.A. Jance

Review by Dawn Dowdle

I devoured this book in two days!  I loved it! 

Joanna is 8 ½ months pregnant and finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation that takes many twists and turns.  Bradley Evans, an ex-con convicted for murdering his wife and baby, is found murdered.  Even though he confessed years ago, the bodies were never found of his wife and newborn child.   

As Joanna and her investigators follow the evidence, they find it linked to a prominent Arizona judge.  Plus Joanna discovers that her father was involved in arresting Bradley for his wife and child's murders so many years ago. 

Joanna has recently been re-elected sheriff, and she realizes this is no longer just a job.  She can't see herself doing anything else. 

Butch is off to a writer's convention promoting his upcoming book.  Joanna and Jenny are trying to hold down the fort, but Joanna is putting in some late nights on this case.  Frank, her fight hand man in the department, wonders if Joanna will be able to let go long enough for her maternity leave. 

Plus one of Joanna's animal control officers is beaten and left for dead.  Already stretched thin, her office has to add another investigation into the mix. 

I love how J. A. Jance intertwines multiple investigations.  It flows wonderfully.  The many police officers and investigators are crafted so well that I often forget I'm just reading a story.  I find myself pulled into the story.  So much so that I just can't put it down! 

I wish J. A. Jance could write them as fast as I can read them!  I highly recommend this book, this whole series, and all of J. A. Jance's mysteries.  Keep them coming!

Love You Madly by Linda Palmer

Review by Dawn Dowdle 

Link Ramsey, leading man on Love Of My Life, the daytime drama Morgan is head writer for, has a problem.  A woman is stalking him.  She doesn't seem to be able to tell the difference between fact and fiction.  Morgan must help keep him safe.   

Link's apartment is ransacked.  Morgan moves him out with a friend.  Then Morgan discovers someone is also following her. 

As the cast prepares for a big promotional trip to Las Vegas, the threats keep coming.  Can they keep Link safe during this trip?  Will Morgan be able to stay safe?  Plus, Morgan is coping with some new twists in her life as well.  Will she be able to stay focused on work and tracking a killer? 

I love this series.  Morgan is a great character.  You can tell the author knows about the behind the scenes issues in daytime drama.  It is very believable and because of that, I often forget it's just a story. 

The issue of a stalker is so real as well.  Happens quite often with stars from what we hear on the news.  I highly recommend this book and the whole series!

Death in the Cards by Sharon Short

Review by Dawn Dowdle 

Josie Toadfern owns the local laundromat and is a stain removal expert.  Not only does she get to see everyone's dirty laundry, she gets to know many of their dirty secrets. 

Everything is going along well in Josie's life.  Her romance with Owen Logan, a local professor, seems to be blossoming.  She enjoys visiting her cousin, and she has recently rented out the second apartment above the Laundromat to a couple that own a New Age bookshop in town for extra money. 

Josie's borders are sponsoring the upcoming "Psychic Fair," and that has put a local evangelist and his followers up in arms.  Tensions are running high.  A psychic in town for the fair stops Josie on the street and warns her of impending doom.     

Josie and Owen end up stumbling over a body in the dark.  Can she help find the killer before he/she kills again?  Can Josie keep herself from being the next victime? 

Josie is such a fun character.  Her laundromat is a great setting for her to be in contact with most of the town and to hear what is going on.  The small town in Ohio is such a great place for this series.  The author has done a great job creating it and all the characters in the series.  I highly recommend this book.

A Blush with Death by India Ink

Review by Dawn Dowdle

Persia and Aunt Florence are struggling to keep Venus Envy open.  Why?  Bebe Wilcox has opened her own boutique and is hell bent on putting everyone else out of business.  She and her workers stop at nothing.  They steal and sabotage without so much as a second thought. 

Then one of Bebe's pushy saleswomen ends up dead.  The "game" has advanced to a new level. 

In an attempt to save Venus Envy, Persia and her aunt stage a public falling out.  Persia applies at Bebe's Boutique and is hired.  Can she snoop around without getting caught?  Can she find the stolen goods and enough evidence to put Bebe away and close down her shop for good?  Can she do all this before the killer finds out and comes after her? 

I like Persia.  She is a fun character and very well constructed by the author.  She is three-dimensional and her friends and aunt are terrific as well.  I love the small-town feel of this book.  The boutique is a great setting for the story.  The feud between the two boutiques is very believable and there are plenty of twists and turns in the plot to keep you guessing.  I highly recommend this book.

Two Wrongs by Morgan Mandel

Review by Dawn Dowdle

Danny Callaway's sister has been killed.  He knows who did it.  He testifies and helps is sending Kevin Green to prison.  That should satisfy him, but it doesn't.  He wants to see him dead.  Since he didn't get the death penalty, Danny decides to take matters into his own hand. 

Danny puts himself into basketball and ends up making it to the pros. 

Kevin becomes a hardened criminal in prison.  He is bent on revenge. 

Danny starts losing family members.  This really takes its toll on him.  Soon Danny finds it hard to continue towards his quest.   

The choices each man makes affects the other. This was a very interesting story.  It is told from two different points of view.  The plot is well-written and provided enough twists to keep me reading.  I recommend this book.

Ghost Across the Water by Dorothy Bodoin

Review by Dawn Dowdle 

Joanna Larne, a Gothic novelist, is almost run off the road on her way to her new cottage at Spearmint Lake.  She is shaken but unharmed.  Later, after settling into her cottage, she helps a woman who has been shot in the local cemetery.  Wondering about the community she is vacationing in, she learns about Lieutenant Ned Seymour, a policeman who was murdered twenty years ago.  His murder has never been solved, and people often see his ghost. 

Joanna is having strange happenings at her cottage.  She keeps hearing water when none is running.   

As she gets to know more people in the community, she finds herself getting deeper and deeper into the investigation.  Can she figure out what is going on without putting herself in danger? 

I enjoyed this book.  Joanna is a wonderful character.  There is plenty of suspense without any gore—my kind of suspense mystery!  The pace of the story kept me wanting to read more.  I found there to be plenty of red herrings to keep me from determining the killer.  I highly recommend this book.

Wednesday, September 13

The Hayloft by Alan Cook

Review by Dawn Dowdle

Gary Blanchard has been kicked out of school after the first two weeks of his senior year.  His parents send him to live with his aunt and uncle and attend their local high school.  This is the school where his cousin Ralph mysteriously died six months before.  It was labeled an accident, but as Gary gets to know the students and discusses it, he begins to wonder. 

Could Ralph have found the diamond necklace his new cousin Ed has been talking about?  Ed and his family have come from England recently.  The necklace was supposedly stolen from Dutch royalty by an ancestor and then lost for many generations.  Gary had never heard of the necklace before. 

Gary is able to assist Sylvia and Natalie and thus meets many students and gets a lot of information.  But could his association with Sylvia cause problems and get him kicked out of yet another school? 

This is a great novel set in the 1950s.  The author has really captured the time period.  I liked the characters and found myself fully engrossed in the story.  There are plenty of twists and turns in the plot to keep you guessing.  I highly recommend this book.

Murder Passes the Buck by Deb Baker

Review by Dawn Dowdle 

Gertie Johnson doesn't think her son Blaze, the sheriff of their backwoods community in the upper peninsula of Michigan, is fully investigating the death of her neighbor Chester Lampi.  He was shot in his hunting blind on opening day of deer hunting season.   

Blaze does things by the book, but Gertie is afraid he's dropping the ball on this one.  He has ruled it as an accident.  Gertie is sure that it wasn't an accident.  So she sets out to investigate on her own.  Since she can't drive, she gets her grandson, Little Donny, to drive her around.  Her best friend Cora Mae assists her, and Kitty wants to be her bodyguard.   

Gertie and her friends have many wild adventures along the way.  In the meantime, Blaze files to become Gertie's legal guardian.  She tries not to let this keep her from her investigation.  But can she keep herself and her friends safe while on the trail of a killer?  Is the killer someone they know and trust? 

I really enjoyed this book.  Gertie is such a fun character.  Her friends are a hoot as well.  I found myself laughing out loud.  The predicaments they got themselves into!  I look forward to reading the next book!  Plus this author has another series starting that I am anxious to try. 

I highly recommend this book!

Feint of Art by Hailey Lind

Review by Dawn Dowdle

Annie's ex-boyfriend Ernst Pettigrew asks her to check out a fifteen million dollar Caravaggio painting to determine whether it is authentic.  With her checkered past, she can tell a fake.  Even though it has been appraised by others as real, but Annie knows immediately that it's a fake.  The only way Ernst could get Annie into the museum to look at the painting was to bring her in at midnight.  They set up to meet at a coffee shop a few minutes away as soon as he can lock up.  He never shows. 

The museum janitor is found murdered and Ernst is no where to be found.  An well-known art dealer takes off with quite a few valuable Old Master drawings.  In their place are forgeries.  Annie is asked to find the originals for a finder's fee.   

Plus Annie has a new landlord for her faux finisher business.  He's raising her rent and always complaining.  How can she appease him until she can find the drawings and pay the rent increase? 

Will she be able to find the drawings without getting killed?  She ends up in situations which are sometimes funny but often dangerous. 

I loved this book.  I can't wait to read the sequel, Shooting Gallery, that just published.  Annie is a great character.  Her struggles to keep her business going and to figure out what is going on with the paintings and drawings is well balanced.  There are plenty of twists, especially with Michael, are well written and kept me guessing.  The San Francisco location enhanced the story as well. 

I highly recommend this book.

Murder by the Book by D. R. Meredith

Review by Dawn Dowdle

After an old abandoned car surfaces due to a bad drought, Megan wants to find out who the Depression-era car belonged to.  She tries to get her book group to assist her as they have in the past.  But most of them decline. 

Then Megan stumbles over some dead bodies.  So much so that the police think she is the prime suspect in the slayings.  They look ritualistic and she seems to have the only knowledge to understand the markings.   

As she looks into events of the past, she finds more than she bargained for.  Could one of the members of her book club be the killer?  Can she tie up both the current murders and the past without ending up in jail or putting herself and those she cares about at risk? 

I like Megan and Ryan and most of the book group.  The author has assembled a good cast of characters.  I especially like the book group setting.  Their interest in mysteries makes them naturals at investigating crimes. 

The only thing I don't like is that the story is told from many perspectives.  I much prefer cozies to be told from one point of view.  That way I really get to know one character.  This format gives you insight into the two main characters, but I found it confusing at time as to who was speaking and thinking. 

I recommend this great cozy series.  I also recommend this book!

Driven to Murder by Judith Skillings

Review by Dawn Dowdle 

In this newest book by Judith Skillings, Rebecca Moore is off to Indianapolis to join the pit crew of driver Ian Browning.  He is driving a vintage Formula One car and since she is a classic car restorer, it makes sense she would jump at the chance to join his pit crew. 

Being the only female in the crew doesn't phase her, but when a bullet whizzes past her head, she takes notice.  Even though the owner refuses to notify the police, Rebecca begins to question what is going on.  Then Mick Hagan shows up to keep an eye on her, thanks to Jo.  After Rebecca discovers a body in the cockpit the day before the race, she is thankful to have his help. 

Rebecca is a well-developed character and her past continues to haunt her.  I really liked this book.  Even though Rebecca was not at home and we had many new characters, I felt it was superbly crafted and had plenty of twists and turns to keep my attention.  I liked how the author interspersed calls with Jo to bring the home front into the story.  Have Mick join her helped as well. 

I can't wait to read the next book in this series.  I highly recommend this book and the complete series!

High Rhymes and Misdemeanors by Diana Killian

Review by Dawn Dowdle 

Grace Hollister, an American schoolteacher and literary scholar, has come to England's Lake District to visit the old haunts of her favorite poets.  While there, she stumbles upon the body of Peter Fox laying face down in a stream.  Thankfully he isn't dead. 

Soon after saving Peter's life, she finds herself being chased by two thugs after the gewgaws Peter, a local antiques dealer, is hiding.  One problem.  Peter doesn't have any idea what the gewgaws are, let alone have them.   

The two begin searching for answers and end up chased by the thugs in the process.  Eventually they discover the gewgaws have something to do with Lord Byron.  Can they find them and solve the mystery without getting themselves killed? 

Normally I don't like mysteries set in England, but I loved this book.  I can't wait to read more in this series.  Grace and Peter make a terrific pair.  They are constantly finding themselves in trouble and Peter's dark past lends itself to the mystery as well. 

The setting is terrific and there are lots of red herrings to keep things interesting.  I highly recommend this book.

The Cameo Clue by Dorothy Bodoin

Review by Dawn Dowdle

Katherine Kale has purchased the elegant blue Victorian on Walnut Street in Maple Creek, Michigan.  She will soon be teaching in a local school.  Not long after moving in, strange things start happening. 

Not long after meeting her, Cora Valentine is poisoned at the annual Apple Fair, and Katherine is almost poisoned as well.  Maybe Maple Creek isn't the perfect town after all. 

Katherine finds a damaged antique cameo while planting chrysanthemums in her backyard.  Accidents start happening to Katherine.  Garth, her new friend and possible love interest, always seems to show up to help out at just the right time.  Could he be involved?  Then there is Lieutenant Dalton Gray of the local police department.   

Does everything relate to Cora's death, or is this something larger than that?  Katherine is determined to find out.  But can she do it without putting herself at peril? 

I enjoyed this book.  The twists in the plot kept me wondering who did it and why.  I liked Katherine and thought she was a determined woman, but the author kept a good balance with the investigation and the love interest.  I highly recommend this book.

Power in the Blood by Brenda Robertson Stewart

Review by Dawn Dowdle

Lettie Sue Wolfe is a forensic sculptor, but most of the town is unaware of her profession.  When local children find a human skull in a sinkhole, Lettie is asked to reconstruct the face. 

Lettie is shocked to find the face of her childhood friend's sister's face staring at her when she finished.  The sister had been missing for thirty years.  She decides to try to discover what happened to her friend's sister.  She uncovers information people would rather not be made public.  She finds herself in some sticky and dangerous situations 

She hires a distant friend who is a private investigator to help her discover the truth.  But can they find the truth without becoming the killer's next victims? 

I really enjoyed this story.  I found it difficult to put the book down.  There was enough suspense to keep me guessing.  It's a great cozy suspense.  I found the forensic matter to enhance the story, and the author did a great job of not going into too much detail.  It was just enough. 

I highly recommend this book and look forward to reading more from this author.

Sunday, September 3

Dying Light by Stuart MacBride

Review by Andrea Maloney

Detective Sergeant Logan MacRae finds himself moved into D.I. Steel's "Screw Up Squad" after the raid he lead into a warehouse rumored to be full of stolen property ends up with no arrests, no stolen property and one officer critically injured.  D.I. Steel's team is made up of the most inexperienced and/or worthless members of the homicide department.  

Logan is desperate to show that he doesn't belong on this team and he will do anything to make sure he isn't there very long including working long hours on two brutal cases. One the police are desperate to solve is the high priority case of the murder by arson of six people including a baby.  The second case is not high priority compared to the fire but still needs a resolution and that is the beating death of a prostitute down at the docks.  Soon though the second case becomes a much higher priority when a second prostitute is found brutally beaten to death.

Both cases seem simple on the surface. Yet the more MacRae investigates the more he finds that everything isn't as simple as it seems.

Throughout all this MacRae finds himself at odds with everyone he knows including D.I. Steel, D.I. Inch, his girlfriend Jackie Watson and his friend Colin Miller. Trying to juggle his personal life while dealing with murder and mayhem at work is a daunting task one which MacRae isn't sure he is up for. Despite the overwhelming odds he is determined to get to the bottom of these brutal murders and also get himself out of the "Screw Up Squad"

Stuart MacBride has written another thrilling entry in his DS Logan MacRae series. Darkly brilliant, Dying Light, pulls you in from the very first page and you'll find you won't be able to put it down until the taut and gripping ending. Don't start this late at night unless you are prepared to not get any sleep.

MacBride's dark sense of humor adds fire to the crackling dialogue, brilliant descriptive detail pulls you deeply into the city of Aberdeen and a storyline full of unexpected twists will leave you chilled and thrilled to the bone.  A compelling read that will leave you looking forward with great anticipation to MacBride's next entry in this outstanding series.

Snow Blind by P. J. Tracy

Review by Andrea Maloney

The holidays are over and it looks like it will be a long, cold winter in Minneapolis. But this is Minneapolis and they love the snow so they sponsor a good, old fashioned snowman building contest.  Everything is going along delightfully until two of the snowman are revealed to contain the bodies of two police officers. Suddenly what was a fun filled event turns into a nightmare for Detectives Magozzi and Rolseth.

Meanwhile the next day, the brand new sheriff of Dundas County, Iris Rikker, comes across another body in another snowman and soon it is feared a serial killer is on the loose.  

Afraid that the new sheriff will be unable to handle the investigation, Magozzi and Rolseth head to Dundas County in a blizzard to help out.  Soon they find themselves in need of help from Grace MacBride and her crew at Monkeewrench to search the web for clues to help them solve this horrible killing spree.

The mother and daughter writing team known as P.J. Tracy have done it again. Snow Blind is another thrilling installment in the Monkeewrench series with a taut and exciting storyline, beloved characters and humor sprinkled liberally throughout.

With Detectives Magozzi and Rolseth in the lead this time you get a wonderfully developed police procedural storyline with terrific character interactions, witty dialogue and woven throughout are social issues that will leave the detectives with an ethical dilemma showing that life isn't just black and white but sometimes filled with shades of gray.

P.J. Tracy has done a marvelous job of continuing the evolution of these wonderful characters and I for one am looking forward with great anticipation for the next installment in this delightful series.

The King of Lies by John Hart

Review by Andrea Maloney

Jackson Workman Pickens, known as Work, is going about his life with little passion or hope. His business is failing, his marriage is passionless and his life in general is just unfulfilling. A little over a year ago his mother died and on the same night his father, Ezra Pickens, vanished. Ezra was a brilliant lawyer who created a legal empire that Work is now trying to carry on with but failing miserably.

Then suddenly everything changes when the murdered body of Ezra is discovered and Work finds himself to be a prime suspect along with his sister, Jean. For it turns out Work has been left a vast fortune by Ezra which the police see as a huge motive for murder.

Work's life was always overshadowed by Ezra, his domineering father, who did everything he could to keep Work under his thumb. While Work lived his life under this father's eagle eye his sister Jean's life was practically destroyed by Ezra but was it enough for her to have killed him?

Fearing the worst about Jean, Work is determined that she not spend a day in prison so he sets about his own investigation.  He finds himself at odds with the power-hungry detective investigating the murder who already has him convicted in her mind. Soon rumors start to fly and Work finds damning evidence that he is determined never comes to light.

Jean emotionally starts to crumble as the evidence against Work comes to light and he finds his own emotions bubbling up as he fights finally to get out from under Ezra's domination and become his own man.  He finds himself in a  desperate battle to save his sister, free himself from the accusations flying about him and finally win back the love of a woman he has loved for most of his life.

John Hart's The King of Lies is an amazing debut novel from an author who is one to watch. It is far more than a mystery, it's the story of one man's odyssey to find himself and the life which was taken from him at a young age. Hart's writing pulls you into this powerful story with abundant descriptive detail, crisp and powerful dialogue and characters that are rich and full of life.

It's at once a thrilling mystery and a poignant and heart wrenching story of a man who finds himself outside looking into a world he once thought was his own. As Work questions everything about himself and his life you will find yourself unable to put this novel down until you reach the emotional and electrifying ending.