mystery

Review of ‘The Daemoniac’

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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.

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Review of ‘Caribbean Shuffle’

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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’

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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.

Review of ‘Regan O’Reilly: Private Investigator’

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Although she comes from a family of cops, in 1942, the only police job open to Regan O’Reilly, or any other woman, is a desk job. So, instead, she becomes a private investigator. As a PI with her own agency, she’s pretty much free to live life on her own terms, until she meets an insurance adjudicator, Mark Harris, a widower with a young son, Patrick, both of whom stir feelings in Regan that she’d rather not have to deal with.

Regan O’Reilly: Private Investigator by Margaret Lake is an interesting novella, although, it’s a bit misnamed. Written in the noir mystery style of the 1940s, it’s an intriguing story, but, it’s a romance story, not really a mystery. Interesting characters, and relatively fast-paced action, it follows Regan as she strives to reconcile her work with her growing feelings for Mark and Patrick, ending on a somewhat unsettled note as she prepares to go off on a hazardous undercover assignment just as she’s about to come to terms with the growing personal relationship.

I’m still unsure about this series, but curious to see what’s next for the heroine. I’ll give this one a provisional four stars.

Review of ‘Northern eX’

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Kicked off the Leeds police force after 18 years of service, ex-cop Vince McNulty spends his time visiting massage parlors where he’d formerly worked undercover. When young girls from the parlors start turning up missing, his life takes a fateful turn, and then, when one of them is found dead, thought to have been killed by a regular customer, he becomes the number-one suspect.

Northern eX by Colin Campbell is a mystery in the style of 50s pulp fiction, with a totally flawed hero who is willing to bend the rules in the pursuit of justice, and thoroughly villainous villains. This one pulls the reader deep into the murky underbelly of the city and doesn’t let go until the conclusion.

I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Not Before Midnight’

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Lake County, Oregon Sheriff Bud Blair is in the dumps. His dog, Molly, is dying, and Nancy Sixkiller, his fiancée, has dumped him. When his friend and old partner, Del BeBe, needs his help to protect a preacher who is being targeted by Muslim radicals, he comes back to life. Bullets fly and emotions are aroused as Bud and Del team up with the new and old women in their lives, and have to deal with FBI agents (some crooked) and a rogue biker gang bent on murder.

 

Not Before Midnight by Rod Collins is the fifth book in the Sheriff Bud Blair series, and it is a great read if you want to be entertained with a fast-paced mystery that combines epic descriptions of Oregon’s  high country, old-west attitudes, and exciting gunfights.

 

I received a free copy of this book, and give it a resounding four stars for the sheer entertainment value.

Review of ‘Extreme Heat Warning’

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FBI agents Roger Dance and Paul Casey must reopen what they thought was a closed case. Killers, James Devon and William Patterson, with high-level help, have escaped on the eve of their trials, and their trail leads to the teeming streets and steaming swamps in and around New Orleans. The two agents, with the help of a band of angels, must brave voodoo, corruption, and doubt as they pursue two of the deadliest perps they’ve ever encountered.

Extreme Heat Warning by Vicki Graybosch, et al follows them as they cope with things they were never taught at Quantico. This is book 2 of the Shallow End Gals series, and I have to admit the plot is fascinating. The prose, however, tends to choppiness, and the switches from third to first person are confusing at first. A bit too much telling, and not enough showing for a story that begs to be ‘shown,’ with the exotic locales and quirky characters—main and supporting.

I worked my way through it, and, unfortunately, found the ending a bit too murky for my taste. I give this one three stars, but must admit, it does show promise.

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.

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.