mystery

Review of ‘The Plant Lady Grows a Pear’

Posted on Updated on

Eden Tywyn, plant lady at Packard Falls’ Cambridge Mall, hopes she can finally get some rest. Her back-from-the-dead husband, Calib, after assaulting her, is finally behind bars, facing a long prison sentence on federal fraud counts, and she and her friend, Veronique, have survived being kidnapped and nearly killed. But, along with a hangover, she is depressed, because her vindictive mother-in-law, Camille Thorne, continues to be a thorn in her side. Camille is determined to develop the mall for profit and blames Eden and Veronique for blocking her. In addition, she seems to be engaged in a personal vendetta against Eden.

The Plant Lady Grows a Pear by Gwen Pankhurst is the third book in the Plant Lady series, following the misadventures of Eden and her eclectic set of friends as they face off against unbridled greed backed by great wealth. Action, introspection, and evil deeds are woven in a tapestry of entertaining reading—and, for dog lovers, a valiant dog who saves Eden’s life in more way than one.

This series just keeps getting better. I particularly like how the author wraps up most of the loose ends of the story; yet leaves an opening for further adventure. I received and advance reader copy of this book.

Another five-star presentation by Pankhurst.

Review of ‘Suitcase Girl’

Posted on Updated on

When a young girl is left in a suitcase outside the FBI building in San Francisco, FBI agent Abby Kane is intrigued—not just at the unusual way the girl was delivered, but because she is a carbon copy of Abby at that age, almost a clone. Even though there’s no clear FBI interest in the case, Abby arranges to get custody of the girl in order to find out what’s going on, and what she finds has chilling implications, for national security, and for Abby’s own survival.

Suitcase Girl by Ty Hutchinson is a continuation of the Abby Kane mystery series, and also book one of a trilogy that promises even more exciting adventures. Follow Abby as she turns over rock after rock, finding slimy, frightening things under each one.

This one will cause you sleepless nights, and not just from the fact that it’s hard to put down once you start reading. The cliffhanger ending is a bit of a turn-off, but as disappointing as it is, I’m still curious to find out what happens next.

I give it four stars. It would have been five if not for the cliffhanger ending.

Review of ‘Death by a Dead Man’s Hand’

Posted on Updated on

Released after serving 17 years for the murder of his brother after a gold heist gone awry—from which half the loot was never recovered—Ethan Mitchel is killed in a church, and the evidence initially indicates that his murderer is his dead brother. DCI Keith Tremayne is not fooled. He knows that dead men don’t kill. The problem, though, is that he has too many possible suspects, and no real evidence against any of them.

Death by a Dead Man’s Hand by Phillip Strang is another offering in the DCI Tremayne series, and it continues the tradition of good British mysteries. Good descriptions of police procedure without burdening the reader with excessive detail, and well-developed characters with whom we can relate. Oh, and a well-plotted, tightly paced story that holds your interest for page after page.

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

Review of ‘Courage Lost’

Posted on Updated on

Retired college professor turned PI Ray Courage is hired by an attorney to find the son of a billionaire couple who’s been missing for twenty years. As he begins to dig, and eventually discovers that the missing heir is dead, Ray unearths an even murkier mystery, one that, if he’s not careful could end up with him being dead.

Courage Lost by R. Scott Mackey is yet another offering in the Ray Courage mystery series, and it’s just as good, if not better than the previous stories. Follow Ray as he burrows into a devious plot that twists and turns from central California to Honduras and back, and he has to deal with skeptical cops, murderous street gangs, and greedy grifters—all the while trying to make sense of his arid love life. This one’s a page-turner that you won’t want to miss.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. It’s a five-star one for sure.

Review of ‘Death at Coombe Farm’

Posted on Updated on

The view was idyllic, but with a body that’s been trampled by horses, DI Keith Tremayne is not appreciating it. There’s more in the village of Coombe than meets the eye, and he’s determined to get to the bottom of it. Death at Coombe Farm by Phillip Strang is another offering in the DI Tremayne series that will keep you thrilled from the very first page. The author has an amazing ability to pack tons of procedural details and background information into the story in a way that’s interesting rather than boring, and keeps the reader guessing until Tremayne eventually stumbles—plods—into the truth.

I received a complimentary copy of this book, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Three Strikes, You’re Dead’

Posted on Updated on

At a rustic resort outside Leavenworth, Washington, PI Eddie Shoes is looking forward to enjoying a weekend getaway with her mother, Chava. Out for jog, she runs across an injured man. Then a forest fire starts, and the man dies before she can get him to safety, and she comes very close to being consumed by the fire herself. Before he died, though, he asked her to find his ‘abducted’ daughter. What is Eddie to do? In order to honor the dying man’s request, she has to defy local law enforcement, and work with her father, a mob ‘clean-up’ man. But, that’s Eddie, she always keeps a promise, even if it kills her.

Three Strikes, You’re Dead by Elena Hartwell is an exciting read. Eddie’s race against the all-consuming flames was so deftly written I could feel the heat, and boy, does this author know how to throw curve balls in the clue department. There was no cheating, though, because the real culprits were introduced early. It’s just that she planted enough false, but credible, clues to keep you looking in the wrong direction.

As I said, it’s an exciting and fun read (well, I didn’t say fun, at first, but it was). Don’t miss this one. I received a complimentary copy of this book. I give it four and a half stars.

Strangely, for the second time, Amazon.com is rejecting reviews of a book, with the notice that there was strange reviewing behavior. I wonder if this has to do with the publisher or the author. I’d appreciate hearing from any readers who’ve had similar experiences.

Review of ‘One Shot’

Posted on Updated on

Jack Shot is a young man without a care in the world. He has a job as a bartender, lives in one room above the bar, and his biggest challenge is whether or not to let his beautiful co-worker know that he has the hots for her. Then, his life takes a left turn and is never the same. A poem he wrote for his co-worker has changed into an enigmatic riddle. When the riddle later is shown to correspond to real life events, Jack finds that he’s somehow been tapped to be made privy to future events, which he must stop, or people will die. As the mystery deepens, he finds that he must confront demons of his past to stop the most horrific event, and he only gets one shot at it.

One Shot by Brian Gates is, in a word, entertaining and amusing—no, wait, that’s three words, or two if you ignore the ‘and.’ Confused? This story will do that to you. Funny and frightening in turn, it’ll keep your interest right up to the last word of the last page (actually, the period, which is the last thing in the book). Gates knows how to pique your interest and keep you guessing—and reading.

Received a free copy of this book. Loved it.

For some strange reason, I was unable to post a review on Amazon.com–something about possible strange review behavior. Not sure what’s happening, but hope it won’t affect availability of what I found to be a thoroughly entertaining read.

I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Puzzle of Death’

Posted on Updated on

On the eve of the untimely demise of an unpleasant, puzzle-loving scientist, envelopes containing puzzle pieces, and a challenge to locate a missing chemical formula and ten million dollars he’s taken from his bank and hidden somewhere are sent to a number of people. But, then, the letter recipients begin to turn up dead, killed by an unknown assailant, or assailants. One of the recipients is Jake Wade, a PI with a checkered record and a propensity to hit back at anyone threatening him.

The action starts with a bang, literally, as a bullying football player is dispatched, and just keeps getting louder and bloodier with each turn of the page, and throughout, Wade is right in the thick of things, trying to find the missing loot, stay one step ahead of whoever is trying to kill him, and investigating the killings, including the one he’s responsible for.

Sound confusing? It is, but in a nice way. Puzzle of Death by Donahue B. Silvis is an action story with so many twists, turns, red herrings, and counterplots, you almost need to keep a chart to keep from losing your place. An anti-hero main character with almost as many flaws as the bad guys—and gals—he’s chasing, that you’ll nonetheless cheer for. A tantalizing story, marred only by the author’s tendency in places to mix past and present tense in the same sentence—I can forgive him for that, I suppose, but hope he’ll take it to heart and not do it in future offerings.

I received a complimentary review copy of this book. I found it a bit choppy in places; not unusual for a first novel, and not a fatal flaw. I give it three and a half stars for effort.

Readers of this blog who would like to enter a raffle for a chance at winning a free copy of the book are invited to go to:

https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/e23ee71d1130/

Review of ‘Murder in Notting Hill’

Posted on Updated on

Two women are murdered, in the same manner, within an hour of each other. One, a wealthy white socialite in upscale Holland Park, the other, a black cleaning woman in the crime-riddled, working class neighborhood of Notting Hill. DCI Isaac Cook knows the two crimes are connected, but is pressed to determine how. He and his team have to deal with the area’s street gangs, the bizarre secrets of the upper crust, and the byzantine maneuvering of London’s police hierarchy, as bodies begin to accumulate.

Murder in Notting Hill by Phillip Strang brings DCI Cook and his team back with a vengeance, as the erstwhile homicide investigator navigates the murky waters of gang warfare, class conflict, and the intrigues within the police bureaucracy. The action moves at a frenetic pace, as Cook and his crew engage in a multi-front struggle to bring the guilty to justice—regardless of their station or class.

This book is, like the first five in this series, a real page-turner, mixing police procedure with insightful looks into the personal lives of the protagonists. I received a free copy of this book, and I give it a solid four stars.

Review of ‘Death and the Lucky Man’

Posted on Updated on

Alan Winters came from a not-so-lucky family, with a neglectful mother, and brothers in prison. His luck seemed to turn, though, when he won 68 million pounds in the lottery—but, not for long. Alan ended up naked, with his throat slashed, on the Altar Stone at Stonehenge. DCI Keith Tremayne and his partner, DS Clare Yarwood investigate the strange death, each having also to face pasts that in some ways were best forgotten.

Death and the Lucky Man by Phillip Strang is another fascinating adventure with Tremayne and Yarwood and the denizens of their working-class English environment. The author takes you effectively behind the curtain in a story that will delight.

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

Review of ‘Murder in the Painted Lady’

Posted on Updated on

Peyton Brooks and her partner, Marco D’Angelo, are two of SFPD’s top detectives. No case is too hard for them to solve, until a real estate agent is murdered in a high-end SF property, a painted lady, and there’s no motive, no useful evidence, and no real suspects. Peyton and Marco are working against the clock, trying to catch the killer before he or she strikes again.

Murder in the Painted Lady by M.L. Hamilton is a real nail-biter. Down-to-earth characters in the well-limned setting of San Francisco—from Knob Hill to Fisherman’s Wharf—this is one you won’t be able to put down. A novella, this is a prequel to the Peyton Brooks mystery series, introducing a quirky, but strong female character.

I give this one four stars.

Review of ‘Bloody Mary’

Posted on Updated on

Jacqueline ‘Jack’ Daniels is a tough Chicago cop, she has to be, as the highest ranking female detective on the force. When body parts start showing up in the morgue, she and her partner get on the chase of a deadly serial killer, who, for some reason, has Jack in his sights. The case is complicated by Jack’s personal life—in shambles, and a homicidal cat.

Bloody Mary, book 2 in the Jack Daniel’s series by J. A. Konrath, is a fascinating read. A strong, but nearly fatally flawed, female lead, tons of clues, most leading down blind alleys, and spot-on dialogue, will keep you flipping pages, your head spinning, and will completely surprise you when you learn the identity of the killer. I particular like the way the author takes you on a roller coaster ride when the killer is caught, gets off on a technicality, about three-quarters through the book, and then takes our hero on another bloody journey for the rest of it.

Trust me; you won’t be able to put this one down. I give it a resounding five stars.

Review of ‘Declaration of Liberty’

Posted on Updated on

When police detective Brad Hamilton finds an old letter at a murder scene, he has to call on history professor, Connie Cobb, and her sister, Rebecca, for help. The letter, which refers to the famous Mecklenburg Declaration, a declaration of independence from England by the government of Mecklenburg, NC, supposedly dated two years before the Declaration of Independence, suspicion falls on historical document validators in the area who might have wanted to take it from the victim.

Declaration of Liberty by Lisa Walker is the second novel in the Cobb Sisters mystery series, that follows Connie, Rebecca, and Brad as they undertake two lines of investigation; one to try to determine the identity of the killer, and the other to determine the authenticity of the letter. While it contains interesting historical information, including historical flashbacks relating to the individuals mentioned in the letter, and police procedure as Brad and his fellow officers trace the victim’s movements in the days before his murder, the pacing of the narrative is rather monotonous, and the flashbacks misleading—and, called into question by the final test of the document’s authenticity.

Although an interesting story with an interesting cast of characters, and not too bad, it could have been much better without the flashbacks.

I give the author three stars for the promise shown.

Review of ‘Flapjack’

Posted on Updated on

Roger Murphy and Dan Galveston decide to chuck their mind-numbing cubicle jobs and start their own investigation agency. Using often questionable tactics, they succeed in getting ever higher-paying jobs, until a computer hack on behalf of a toy company plunges them into a job that threatens not only their livelihoods, but their lives. A seemingly simple computer break-and-enter job turns up a connection to a shady security company that Galveston once worked for, and a plot to manipulate the world’s energy supplies, taking our erstwhile heroes on a chaotic journey to the far corners of the globe as they struggle to stay one step ahead of forces that threaten to eliminate them.

Flapjack by Daniel Ganninger is the first book in the Icarus Case Files series. The madcap adventures of two sometimes bumbling detectives who go up against a determined band of bad guys, relying on their wits—and a lot of luck—to prevail. There are a few rough spots, like the main character’s name being changed momentarily early in the book—a problem often encountered in a story with a large list of characters—but, despite a few proofreading glitches, it’ll keep you entertained until the end.

I give this premiere story three and a half stars, with the feeling that it’ll only get better with time.

Reveiw of ‘Family Matters’

Posted on Updated on

After her aunt’s funeral, Gracie Andersen’s alcoholic uncle gives her an odd gift—a collection of old books that includes the diary of her cousin who had been killed in a hit and run accident 20 years earlier. It is clear to her that he wants her to find the truth of the ‘accident,’ but before she can get more details from him, he’s killed in a suspicious ‘accident.’ To add to her troubles, her dog kennel is suffering one tragedy after another, and someone wants her to stop prying into the past; chief among them, her annoying cousin, Isabel.

Family Matters by Laurinda Wallace is an interesting cozy mystery that follows Gracie as she begins to uncover family secrets that Isabel wants to keep hidden. She and Isabel have never gotten along, but she’s shocked to learn that, not only is Isabel somehow involved in the 20-year-old death, but the death of her uncle as well. The closer she gets to the truth, the more dangerous her life becomes, until the case reaches a conclusion that will come as a complete surprise.

A well plotted mystery, but the author could have done a better job of pacing, rather than the rather monotonous rhythm throughout. Not a bad first book, that I give three and a half stars. The author shows promise.

Happy holidays to everyone.

Review of ‘Death and the Assassin’s Blade’

Posted on Updated on

DI Keith Tremayne and his partner, DS Clare Yarwood are attending a local theatrical group’s performance of Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar,’ When the actor portraying Caesar is stabbed in Act 3, and the body is removed from the stage, little do the two cops know that they have just witnessed an actual murder. There were seven actors on the stage, and Tremayne soon realizes that two of them are killers, but which two? When more members of the troupe die, the stakes are pushed up, and he and Yarwood have to work overtime to nab the killers before even more people die.

Death and the Assassin’s Blade by Phillip Strang is a tense thriller. Clues abound, as do suspects, but it takes some dogged police work, and lots of luck to catch the killers. As you follow along, you’ll be subject to the same misdirection as our protagonists, and, in the end, be just as surprised as they are.

A great read for a cold winter’s day. I received a free copy of this book. I give this one four stars.

Review of ‘Murder in the Mind’

Posted on Updated on

Called to an isolated max-security hospital for the criminally insane, DI Skelgill catches the eye of a notorious female serial killer. When the killer, a nurse who was accused of killing scores of her patients, escapes, taking her psychologist with her, Skelgill and his crew undertake a plodding, systematic chase, culminating in a surprise ending that caught me completely unawares.

Murder in the Mind by Bruce Beckwith is a classic British murder mystery, written in an almost dry, nonchalant style—matching the principal protagonist’s personality—with plenty of red herrings and wry observations. It starts slow, as British mysteries are prone to do, but keeps moving relentlessly until the good guys prevail, and the bad ones are put where they belong.

I give this one four stars.

Review of ‘The Daemoniac’

Posted on Updated on

Young Harrison ‘Harry’ Fearing Pell, 19-year-old sister of famed detective, Myrtle Pell, is left alone in New York with her friend, medical student Thomas Weston, while her parents tour Europe and her sister is off to the west coast on a case. A couple show up at the home seeking help finding a missing friend, and Harry, not bothering to tell them that it’s her sister, not she, who is the detective, takes the case.

Soon, bodies start showing up, killed and staged in such a way as to suggest some kind of demonic possession, and causing the press to dub the killer, Mr. Hyde. But, Harry is convinced that the killer is a flesh and blood human with a real mental problem—and, she’s determined to solve the case.

Daemoniac by Kat Ross is a riveting mystery, in a style that’s a fusion of Conan Doyle and Poe, with a determined and skillful ‘Holmes-like’ main character, and the perfect foil in Thomas Weston. The reader is introduced to New York City in the late 1800s, from the grimy slums to the ritzy, often corrupt Fifth Avenue.

Once you start reading this one, you won’t be able to put it down.

Review of ‘Caribbean Shuffle’

Posted on Updated on

Retired police detective, turned private eye, Pat Ruger joins his ex-partner, Jimmy Stewart, and his wife, on a Caribbean cruise. A widower with an FBI-agent girlfriend who has moved from Denver to NYC to take a plum job, Pat finds himself being pursued by multiple women, and unsure how to deal with it. When he’s seduced and robbed by a beautiful young woman on the cruise ship almost before it leaves port, and she later turns up murdered, his life takes a dramatic, and decidedly odd, turn. Pat and Jimmy are asked by the ship’s captain to try and identify the murderer before they reach their next port of call. What should be a relatively simple investigation, however, becomes immensely more complicated by a pirate raid and a tense naval standoff, with Pat and Jimmy sitting squarely on ground zero.

Caribbean Shuffle by Jack Huber is the second book in the Pat Ruger mystery series. While this one contains a lot more action than the first, in my humble opinion, the author overloaded it, sacrificing some character development in the process. Don’t get me wrong, it was still a thoroughly entertaining read, and there was some character development, but the plot complications could’ve stopped when the naval standoff was settled. The little secret agent shuffle near the end, with the wild ride from Colombia to Venezuela, while interesting, could have probably been left out.

I’m still a fan of the series, though, and look forward to Pat and Jimmy’s future adventures.

I give Huber three and a half stars for this one.

Review of ‘Dark Paradise’

Posted on Updated on

When a contestant on a popular reality show is found dead on an isolated island off Australia’s coast, Detective Charlie Cooper and his partner, Joe Quinn, are sent to investigate. The victim, not popular with anyone associated with the show, was suffocated in her bed, and Cooper and Quinn learn that everyone is a suspect. The popularity of the show has drawn attention from their higher-ups and the media, and the pressure is on them to solve the case quickly.

Dark Paradise by Catherine Lee is a novella that follows their investigation as they painstakingly piece together clues and eliminate suspects, one-by-one, until they focus on the one most likely. The problem; they have no proof, and the clock is ticking.

While there is some focus on police procedure, the main focus in this entertaining little tale is the mental processes the two heroes follow as they zero in on the main suspect.