mystery

Review of ‘Death and the Lucky Man’

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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.

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Review of ‘Murder in the Painted Lady’

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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’

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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’

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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’

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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’

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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’

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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’

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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’

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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.

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.