mystery

Review of ‘For Hire’

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Retired Denver cop, Pat Ruger, does freelance PI work. When an old friend, weed dealer, Angel, refers a young woman to him, and she asks his help finding her missing sister, suspected of being taken and radicalized by an extremist group, he finds himself up to his waders in drug dealers and terrorists—all out to kill him.
Pat Ruger for Hire by Jack Huber is a fast-paced mystery, laced with humor, spiked with deadly action, and with an explosive climax that will have you on the edge of your chair. While most of the characters are quite believable, I had to strain my brain to believe that Pat was as attractive to every female character he encountered, or that he could keep the pace he did, without eventually needing a pacemaker.
An interesting character, though, and I can imagine he’ll get up to some fascinating adventures in future offerings. I give it three and a half stars.

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Review of ‘Vegas Tabloid’

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Vegas Tabloid by P. Moss is an engagingly odd thriller with an even odder cast of characters. Jimmy Dot, a master con man, is the ringmaster for a circus of former criminals who make up one of Las Vegas’s most popular casino acts. Forced by an unscrupulous casino boss into a lucrative contract that he wants out of, Jimmy meets a disgraced scientist who once worked for a giant pharmaceutical company that’s about to release a drug to market that will kill thousands. Momentarily shelving his plan to con his way out of his contract, Jimmy decides that he will con the big pharma boss into revealing his duplicity in public. In the process, he finds himself in the crosshairs of a man who has no compunction about killing.

Each chapter in this book is like a scene in a retro movie, sometimes seemingly unconnected to what has gone before, but in the end, all the twisted pieces come together in a finale that the reader will find satisfying, in a bloody sort of way.

Not for the faint of heart, or readers who are offended by outrageous language and even more outrageous behavior. In this book, the bad guys are really bad, and the good guys are sort of bad as well. But, in the end, good wins out.

I received a free copy of this book. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘The Crime Gene’

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Jeannie Gee is a Vegas wedding photographer with a dysfunctional family—a forensics-obsessed mother and over-large older brothers who are always in trouble with the police. Against her better judgment, she accepts a last-minute request to videotape a wedding in a hotel room. Her better judgment proves right, when she arrives and finds a room that’s empty except for the bloodstains all over the place. When the corpse turns up later at her place of residence, she and the police know that this is no coincidence. Jeannie is being targeted by people from her family’s New Jersey past.

The Crime Gene by Joyce Nance is funny, tongue-in-cheek mystery with an eclectic—though somewhat loopy—cast of characters. A delightful, somewhat flawed, female main character, and a smorgasbord of supporting characters. It’ll keep you laughing.

I received a free copy of this book.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Murder in Little Venice’

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When a butchered body is found in Regent’s Canal in London’s Little Venice area, DCI Isaac Cook and his team of investigators are baffled. As they struggle to identify the body, Cook knows this is not the last body they’ll find, and he soon learns that some very high-level people are involved, greatly complicating efforts to solve the case.

Murder in Little Venice is book four in the DCI Isaac Cook mystery series by Phillip Strang, and it keeps to the standard set by its three predecessors. Detailed police procedure is merged with complex human interactions and spot-on dialogue and description, as the reader is taken on a whirlwind tour through London’s grimy underbelly of intrigue and deception.

A thorough page-turner, this one is a don’t-miss addition to your thriller bookshelf.

I received an advanced reader copy of this book.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Loose Ends’

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A young girl is kidnapped in broad daylight. Her mother hires California ‘Cal’ Corwin, an ex-cop turned PI, to find her. As Cal delves into the case, she finds herself in a face-off with a shadowy crime figure, and family secrets that someone might kill to keep secret.

Loose Ends by D. D. VanDyke is a fun read, with plenty of action, and a flawed protagonist who must struggle with her own demons as she works to rescue the kidnap victim before she becomes just another statistic, and others die. Hard-nosed dialogue and colorful settings will keep you reading until the climax. Corwin is a character that you might not like too much, but you’ll find yourself hard-pressed not to cheer for her as she fumbles and stumbles her way through a case that’s not what it seems at first.

I give VanDyke four stars for this one.

Review of ‘Big Numbers’

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Stockbroker Austin Carr is about to be killed in a most unusual way, he’s strapped into a deep-sea fishing rig, trussed and helpless, and about to be dragged to a watery grave by a giant bluefin tuna. In what’s also a somewhat unusual technique, the author, without identifying Carr’s assailant, flashes back three weeks and takes the reader through the events leading up to this in media res opening.

The reader learns that Carr’s wise mouth and often questionable choices during this time has created a rather long list of people who might want him dead, and it’s only as one approaches the last third of the book that the identity of the would-be killer becomes apparent, from which point, the story proceeds to a fairly satisfying conclusion.

Big Numbers by Jack Getze is the premiere offering in a mystery series about a wise-cracking stockbroker who can’t stay out of trouble, and who is just one step away from being a ‘broke’ stockbroker. The main character is flawed, and all too human, thus loveable, and the setting adds to the story.

An entertaining story. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Murder at the Bellamy Mansion’

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Historic preservationist Ashley Wilkes, honeymooning with her husband, Jon, agrees to take on the job of restoring the historic Bellamy Mansion. What should be a routine job turns deadly when a sniper shoots one of her contractors, and later, a body is found in the mansion’s old cistern. Someone’s stalking anyone trying to preserve the old mansion, but can Ashley determine who before she becomes the next victim?

Murder at the Bellamy Mansion by Ellen Elizabeth Hunter is a slow-paced, yet tense mystery, that moves with a southern rhythm, but stings like a yellow jacket. The settings are well limned, and the characters, from my own experience in that region of the country, credible.

This makes for a nice weekend read. I give it four stars.

 

Review of ‘Cleaver Square’

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On a bleak winter day, the body of a child is found near the Old River Lea. As DCI David Morton struggles to identify the dead child, he finds himself torn between doing what’s right and what’s legal.

Cleaver Square by Daniel Campbell and Sean Campbell is the second book in the DCI Morton series, and it continues the great storytelling that was the hallmark of the first book. Intense drama and thought-provoking situations will keep you reading, and will make you think.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Killer Music’

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PI Cooper Harrington met record company exec Grayson Taylor less than a day before he—Taylor—is found brutally murdered. Taylor’s widow hires Cooper to investigate in tandem with the Nashville police, and working with his friend, Chief of Detectives Ben Mason, he uncovers dirty dealings in the record industry, political corruption, and a murder who, if not caught, will kill again.

Killer Music by Tammy L. Grace is an interesting mystery that explores the sordid underbelly of the recording industry, and despite being a bit choppy in places, will keep you entertained from start to finish. There are plenty of red herrings and useless clues, until Cooper finds the crucial clue that holds the answers to the crime. His problem: he has little time to unmask the killer before someone else dies.

I received a free copy of this book, the author’s first in this series. I give it three and a half stars.

Review of ‘Digital Velocity’

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Police Detective Ethan McAllister is getting tips from an anonymous source that have helped him solve a number of crimes. He gets a tip, warning that an elderly lady is in danger, and when he and his partner arrive on the scene, they find her dead, and are confronted by the perpetrators who have not made their escape.

McAllister, who comes from a family of cops, is injured, and in addition to having to endure continued razzing from his older brothers, must decide what to do about his anonymous source, cyber expert Lexi Donovan, who discloses her identity when she visits him in the hospital, and protect her from his police colleagues aa well as a determined killer who seems to be stalking him.

Digital Velocity by Reily Garrett is an interesting book. Part police procedural, part mystery, it explores the outcome of criminals employing cyber techniques in their dastardly pursuits. Some interesting interpersonal and family dynamics, and lively dialogue. The cat-and-mouse play between the killer and the team of Ethan and Lexi makes this a worthwhile read all on its own.

I received a free copy of this book. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘In the Spirit of Murder’

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Claudia Hershey left her job as a homicide cop in a large midwestern city, and moved with her daughter to the sleepy town of Indian Run, Florida, to get away from the dirty underbelly of police work. Now, as the only detective on the small town’s police force, she has to deal with a murdered medium, and a killer with an agenda. Fighting her outsider status on the force and in the town, and having to contend with a thirteen-year-old who is in rebellion, Hershey dogged follows murky clues, that lead to an ex-con with issues, a powerful politician with secrets to hide, and a vicious killer whose motive for killing is a mystery. When he makes it personal by snatching her daughter, Hershey goes into overdrive, and finds that her cop instincts haven’t dulled after all.

In the Spirit of Murder by Laura Belgrave is a stunning mystery/police procedural that’s a cross between Mayberry, RFD and NYPD Blue, with a little Steven King occult horror thrown in for good measure. Even the good guys have flaws in this one, but it just makes them all the more believable.

Mystery fans will enjoy this book.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘A Trace of Death’

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Former college professor Keri Locke is now a rookie detective in the Missing Persons Unit of LAPD’s Homicide Division. Still haunted by the abduction of her daughter four years earlier, she throws herself into her cases, while still seeking answers as to her daughter’s whereabouts.

When a high school student, daughter of a US Senator, fails to arrive home from school, she and her partner investigate. They uncover secrets in the girl’s life that lead everyone else to believe she has merely run away, but Keri is unconvinced, and despite being told to drop it, continues to investigate.

A Trace of Death by Blake Pierce is a spine-tingling mystery/thriller that you absolutely will not be able to put down once you start reading. The way the author switches back and forth from Keri’s first person point of view to the kidnap victim’s third person view only adds to the suspense, and makes the denouement all the more satisfying.

I give this book four stars.

Review of ‘Murder on the Menu’

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Unlucky in love, Lizzie Carter left her high-powered PR job in London for small town life when her uncle died and left her his farm. Now, she spends her days trying to learn to bake, tending the farm, and working as a waitress for a celebrity chef who is a bit too hands-on with the female employees.
Then the grabby chef ends up stabbed in the kitchen of his restaurant, and Lizzie, the last known person to see him alive, is suspect number one. Jack Mathis, brother of a neighbor, a suspended special agent for a celebrity crimes investigation organization, swoops in and offers to help her clear her name—the last thing she needs is a man around, and a good-looking one at that, but she also doesn’t want to end up in jail, or worse, end up dead, as someone seems to be trying to kill her.
Murder on the Menu by Zanna Mackenzie is funny and frightening by turns—but, mostly funny, as you’d expect of a book classified as a humorous, romantic, cozy mystery. Clues are skillfully planted, alongside the red herrings that’ll send you off chasing wild geese (or other unfortunate puns and metaphors). But, in the end, you’ll have been thoroughly entertained. Mackenzie is a mystery author to watch out for. I give this one four stars.

 

Review of ‘Jammed’

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Charlie Cooper is not your everyday, average detective. In fact, she’s not a detective at all. She’s a 29-year-old, underpaid precinct secretary working for the Boston PD, with a ton of bills, a ratty car, and a nonexistent love life. Then, her boss asks her to go back to her hometown of Springston and snoop about to see if she can find out how her small town is tied up with a major Boston drug case.
Back home, she has to deal with her nutty family, a couple of wacky sidekicks, and a drop-dead-gorgeous undercover Springston cop who gets on her nerves—oh, and with someone who is trying to kill her.
Jammed by Deany Ray is a deliriously funny mystery with a wacky main character that you will fall in love with. Like war, which is hours of boredom interrupted occasionally by seconds of chaos and panic, this book is pages and pages of wackiness and humor, broken up with a few pages here and there of spine-tingling action.
If you like a laugh along with your mystery, give this one a try. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘The Carlswick Affair’

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Stephanie Cooper is an 18-year-old Kiwi in England to begin her studies in history at Oxford. She decides to spend her summer break with her grandmother at the old family home in Carlswick. There, she meets James Knox, lead guitarist in an indie rock band, who is also a member of a family that is involved in a seventy-year-old feud with the Coopers. Stephanie and James initially hit it off, but when she sees a painting in the library at the Knox estate that she recognizes as a piece of stolen Nazi art believed destroyed in WWII, their relationship hits a rocky patch.
Things go from bad to worse as she begins to suspect James older brother, Alex, of art smuggling, and then she learns that her father is also somehow involved.
The Carlswick Affair by S.L. Beaumont is a riveting mystery that follows Stephanie as she investigates not just the possibility of art smuggling, but looks into the death of her great-aunt Sophie seventy years earlier, that is somehow related to the painting.
A hard-to-put-down book that will keep you on the edge of your chair. I give this book four stars.

 

Review of ‘Southern Spirits’

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Verity Long, a freelance graphics designer, is out of work and, because of a vengeful ex-fiancé whom she left at the altar, and his mother, she’s in danger of losing her home. One day, she accidentally traps the ghost of a dead mobster on her property, setting off a chain of events that forever change her life.

The ghost, Frankie the German, enables her to see other spirits, and when Ellis Wydell, the sheriff of Sugarland, TN, and brother to Beau, her ex, asks her help in exorcising ghosts from a property he bought, her changed life gets dangerous. Not only must she contend with angry spirits capable of doing her great harm, but there’s a live person out there trying to kill both her and Ellis.

Southern Spirits by Angie Fox is the first book in a planned series featuring Verity and her sidekick, Frankie, dealing with wayward spirits and other assorted bad guys and gals. It’s well-paced mystery and to use a southern euphemism, as funny as a bucket full of crabs. Verity is a main character, a la Kinsey Milhone with ghosts and goblins thrown into the mix, who you simply cannot help but like. Even some of the vengeful ghosts arouse a certain amount of sympathy.

If you like stories about things that go bump in the night, and give you goose bumps, you’ll love this one. Can’t wait to read the next offering in the series.

An easy five-star rating.

Review of ‘Cliffhanger’

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Socialite Belinda Kittredge, returning to her hometown, Portside, RI, expected fun, sun, and sugar cookies. There to oversee her twin brother, Kyle’s, renovation of their parents’ home, she is also reconnecting with old high school friends. Immediately, though, a decade-old tragedy, the death in a boating accident of a friend and almost-boyfriend, intrudes. At a party, she’s approached by Jeff, witness to the old death, who wants to ‘talk to her about it.’ She also finds herself pursued by a teenaged neighbor who had an old crush on her and seems to want to revive it.

When Jeff is found dead at the base of a cliff, Belinda knows something is amiss. She finds it hard to concentrate on it, however, because of the heat emitted by Bennett Tate, an ex-cop turned event security expert, who is asked by a friend on the local police force to keep an eye on her—a task he finds most pleasant.

Things go from bad to worse, and Belinda finds herself the target of some weird attempts on her life, her brother accused of murdering Jeff, and an old classmate still carrying a grudge over something that is ten years in the past.

You might assume Cliffhanger by Amy Saunders is one of those books that ends on a cliffhanger, with many—or at least the main—issues unresolved. Wrong. The author wraps everything up nicely. Turns out, the title refers to the situations the main character constantly finds herself in.

One complaint about the book. The author uses characters names frequently, and I do mean frequently. Belinda’s name opens the first two paragraphs, and I stopped counting how many times her name was used in that chapter at ten—it was more. It’s nice to know which character is which, but there has to be a better way than using their name; three or four times in one paragraph is way too many. At that frequency it’s not informative, it’s intrusive.

So, here’s a book with a fascinating couple of main characters, the requisite volume of sparks flying between them, and a fairly interesting plot—marred by names, names, names. I give it three stars, and cross my fingers that this author—who shows great promise—will notice this and institute corrective measures in future books.

Review of ‘Saving Grace’

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Katie Connell is an attorney in a big Dallas law firm. After a particularly grueling case, she decides to get away to the island of St. Marcos and look into the suspicious deaths of her parents there. Once there, though, her addiction to Bloody Marys and a love life that is going sideways, lands her in hot water. She decides to buy a rundown haunted house in the rain forest, after she’s contacted by the spirit of the house. But then, her only friend on the island, Ava, is accused of murdering a local politician with whom she’s been having an affair. In her efforts to help her friend, Katie finds that she’s as much of a danger to herself as the island’s bad guys.

Saving Grace by Pamela Fagan Hutchins is an enjoyable mystery, with a touch of the paranormal, and a lot of hilarity as Katie bumbles and stumbles her way through life. The author has blended the supernatural into the story in such a way, one might think it’s just an alcohol-induced mirage. Katie is a well-meaning, but flawed (though not fatally) character who arouses mixed emotions. On the one hand, you want to slap some sense into her, but at the same time, you feel like taking her in your arms and comforting her, and assuring her that ‘tomorrow will be a better day.’

This one is a must-read for mystery fans. I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Ten Guilty Men’

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When an anonymous call leads police to a house where they find the body of famous photographer and notorious socialite, Ellis DeLange, DCI David Morton is assigned to investigate the case. With his serious crime unit, he begins to delve into the woman’s background, and the more he digs, the murkier it gets. The case includes just about everything but the kitchen sink; several people with opportunity, but no motive; people with motive, but no opportunity that he can see, a pretend lord, and a strange man seen leaving the premises in the middle of the night, completely nude.

Morton has to deal with all this, and the attendant publicity that such a high-profile case attracts, along with problems within his team, including one detective who, because of a stroke, has communication problems. Clues pile up, problems pile up, but bit by bit, Morton and his team whittle the list of suspects down to two, both with motive and opportunity, but which one did the crime—or, were they working together.

You will enjoy Ten Guilty Men by Daniel Campbell and Sean Campbell. It has suspense, it has humor, and it has a modicum of excitement—well, it is British mystery, and unlike their American counterparts, car chases and shootouts aren’t a staple of good mysteries. If you like well-rounded, but ultimately flawed, characters, tight plots, and good pacing, you’ll like the DCI Morton series.

I give this one four stars.

Review of ‘The Babbling Brook Naked Poker Club: Book One’

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When Josephine Bartlett’s husband was alive, he controlled every penny she spent—or, tried to—and, when he died, he left everything under the control of her son, Jeff, who was just as controlling as his father, going so far as to move her into Brookshire Retirement Community and selling her house. Josephine chafes at the environment, and has few friends, except for a crew that has roped her into a regular card game, which she, in a moment of madness, suggests be strip poker—with stories told rather than clothing removed.

When she and her friends discover that the community handyman, Eddie, is ripping people off, they investigate, and find that even bigger thefts are occurring. Unwillingly at first, Josephine befriends, Devi, a young woman who works there and who is being pursued by Eddie, and together they begin to piece together what’s really going on. The closer they get to the truth, the more danger they find themselves in, until the perps are finally all unmasked, to everyone’s surprise.

The Babbling Brook Naked Poker Club: Book One by Ann Warner is a hilarious cozy mystery featuring an unforgettable cast of characters. The author walks readers through the crime and its resolution quite smartly, taking little side trips along the way that fully explain each character’s motivation. I particularly liked the way she alternated character viewpoints to keep the mystery quotient high, while at the same time, providing information that would be impossible or forces if done from only one point of view.

I laughed all the way through this book. I give it five stars.