mystery

Review of ‘A Date to Die For

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Gaylene B. Corben’s A Date to Die For is a well crafted mystery about two police detectives, Joe Patterson and Tessa Mariani, on the trail of a serial killer who is using a dating site to lure his victims, young, attractive women, to their doom. The killer leaves a taunting note and a white rose with each victim, and our two detectives find themselves racing the clock after three kills and one near kill, while at the same time dealing with the demons in their own lives.

     Corben has crafted a near-perfect mystery, with plenty of red herrings and false trails to keep the reader guessing, but a story line that leads unerringly to the killer in one of those ‘my goodness, why didn’t I think of that’ moments.

     The author sets the perfect tempo in this, her debut book, like a heartbeat, speeding up when the tension level rises and then slowing down when things seem to be getting quiet. With characters you can’t help but empathize with and care about and enough surprises to keep you on the edge of the chair, this is one you don’t want to miss.

     I received a pre-publication copy of this book for review and my advice is go to your nearest book selling site and pre-order it, so you don’t miss out. An author to keep an eye on, I give Corben five stars for her first effort.

Review of ‘Double Indemnity’

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Heartland Insurance Company and its founder, Jared Finch, have a unique business model. They buy the insurance policies of elderly people and in exchange for becoming the beneficiary, pay out money to the insured. The problem is that Finch is one of those people for whom money is everything and no amount he earns is ever enough. He has found a way, a diabolical way, to make sure he is getting more money than he’s paying out. People are dying soon after he buys their policies, sooner than any actuarial tables say they should be dying.

     When three die, including one apparent burglary turned deadly, New Orleans Police detective Jo Crowder is assigned to investigate and she first determines that only the apparent burglary involved foul play and there is no leads to a suspect. When a young man dies of an apparent drug overdose, the case also lands on her desk, but the man’s sister claims that he didn’t use drugs. Jo is leery of all four cases, but the evidence available to her, in abundance, supports the appearances . . . until FBI agent Alex Hill shows up and informs her that the drug OD is not what it appeared because the victim was his informant and he knows for a fact that the man was clean

     Jo and Alex then join forces to look into all cases, and while the bodies continue to pile up, they come to the conclusion that they’ve been led down the primrose path by a sinister cabal of greedy, totally immoral people for whom human life is meaningless.

     Double Indemnity by Richard Zappa is a chilling crime thriller that will keep you on the edge of your chair from start to finish. The subplots are nested like Russian dolls, with red herrings and false trails a-plenty, and an eminently satisfying conclusion. A thrilling roller coaster ride of greed, deceit, and murder; a book that you can’t put down.

It’s scheduled for July publication. Don’t miss it.     I received an advance review copy of this book for review and give it five stars without hesitation.

Review of ‘The Mad Days of March’

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Terry March is something of a non-entity. Married to a woman who can’t cook and who also sleeps around, his sex life consists of . . . well, nothing, and their relationship consists of her lambasting him at every opportunity, when she’s not out having fun.

     Life begins to change when Terry helps an old man dump a blood-stained carpet into the recycling bin, then he meets a women at the pub who can’t get her electric lights to work and when he shows her how easy it is, she offers to ‘reward’ him but he turns her down.

     If this sounds like a crazy story, that’s because it is. Philip Catshill’s The Mad Days of March is a murder mystery, madcap romp, and a mind-boggling tale of one man’s miserable, messed-up life during a maniacal month of March. Told almost tongue in cheek, this story will grab you by the curiosity and squeeze until you moan, and then make you explode with mad mirth.  Catshill knows how to give the reader a roller coaster ride on anticipation and keep that reader interested until the ride comes to a gliding stop.

     A fun read that should not be missed. I was provided with a complimentary copy for review. I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Irma’

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Hurricane Irma hit Naples, Florida in 2017, causing immense damage, especially to beachside condos. But the true damage didn’t surface until two years later when a woman whose husband had recently died confessed to the police that he had stolen some jewels from one of the damaged condos. Detective Sam Randazzo calls on his friend Frankie Armstrong to do a little unofficial investigating to look into the woman’s story. Frankie very quickly finds himself up to his chin in more criminal activity and dangerous characters than he can handle.

Irma by Kerry Costello is an interesting mystery that follows Frankie as he dives into the labyrinthine pathways of theft, fraud, and murder. A bit choppy in places with a confusing cast of characters, but still a nice story.

I received a complimentary review copy of this book. I give it three stars.  

Review of ‘Condo’

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Frankie Armstrong, and expat Brit owner of a UK-based security company, is living in a rented second-floor condo in Naples, Florida with his dog, Charlie. He/s in Florida partly because the warm Gulf Coast weather is preferable to England’s wet fog, and mainly to get some distance from his estranged wife. Things are going well for him until one night he witnesses what appears to be an argument between a man and a woman near the condo’s dock, resulting in the woman falling, or being pushed, into the bay; He rushes down when he hears screams, but finds no one. Later, when police find a severed arm in the bay, it’s identified as belonging to Ava Ledinsky, a beautiful resident of the condo who teaches piano. Further investigation indicates it’s a possible homicide, and that Ava has a sketchy history, possibly of blackmailing married men with whom she’s having affairs. When Ava’s sister, Lisa, comes to settle her affairs and find out what happened to her sister, she too is killed, and Frankie becomes a prime suspect.

 

Condo by Kerry Costello is a fast-paced murder mystery with no shortage of suspects—in addition to Frankie, every man in the Condo is a potential suspect—and more red herrings than a London fish market. The killer, though not identified, is introduced early on, and the reader is kept guessing as to who he is. This story has more twists and turns than a Coney Island roller coaster, and will keep you guessing, probably wrongly, until all the gators have been wrestled into submission.

 

I received a complimentary copy of Condo, and found it quite entertaining. I give it three and a half stars.

Review of ‘Mink Eyes’

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Peter O’Keefe, owner of a PI agency, is a man with issues. After his wartime tour as a marine, he flirted with drugs and alcohol, before his friend Mike Harrigan talked him into become a gumshoe, a gig that ended up with him running an agency, doing odd jobs for Mike’s law firm, while at the same time, trying to maintain a relationship with his 10-year-old daughter, and a failed marriage.

When Mike introduces him to two men, investors in a mink farm who believe that they’ve been victims of a Ponzi scheme, and they want Peter to find the con man who bilked them and see if he can recover their money.

Peter finds the mink farm, and much more. The scam artist, Lenny Parker, is missing, and his wife, a spoiled woman who happens to be the daughter of one of Peter’s clients, is busy selling their assets and preparing to disappear as well. As if that’s not problem enough, Peter stumbles into a gruesome murder of the two remaining workers at the farm, and the dreadful realization that Parker’s wife is next on the hit list. His efforts to save her then puts him directly in the cross hairs of the mob boss who has been funding Parker’s scam with heavy influxes of cash—and cocaine.

Mink Eyes by Dan Flanigan is a hard-boiled PI novel in the style of the pulp mysteries of the 40s and 50s, with enough gun battles, car chases (and horse chases), and bloody bodies to keep even the most jaded mystery fan satisfied until the stunning climax.

I received a complimentary copy of this book, and give it five stars for its sheer chutzpah.

 

Review of ‘Courage Betrayed’

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When a man seems to be admitting to a murder while talking in his sleep, his wife hires PI Ray Courage to investigate. As Ray digs deep into the man’s dark past, more things come to light than he expected.. R. Scott Mackey hits another one out of the park with Courage Betrayed. Though shorter than previous offerings, the author still manages to pack a lot of punch in the few pages. Don’t miss this one.

 

I received a complimentary copy of this book. It gets five stars from me.

Review of ‘The Forgotten Painting”

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A painting, lost during WWII when it was taken by a Nazi officer, comes up for auction. The son of its original owner, along with Jack Rogan, an Aussie investigator, played a large role in bringing this event about. The Forgotten Painting is a novella by Gabriel Farago that introduces Rogan and some of the author’s other works. A great way to get to know this iconic character, but also great stand-alone reading.

 

Highly recommended. I received a complimentary copy of the book. I give it five stars.

Review of ‘The Tipping Point’

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When Garth Wainwright and his lawyer girlfriend go skiing in Aspen with Thomas Burke and his wife, Burke is killed in a freak accident, that Garth is convinced was not really an accident. As he delves into the mystery, Garth learns that things at CapVest, the high-end property sales and development company he works for, are not all as they seem. Underhanded corporate dealings are taking place, and when other people start dying, hostile corporate takeover takes on a whole new meaning.

 

The Tipping Point by Walter Danley is a down-and-dirty look at the shady side of the corporate world, where power corrupts everyone and everything, and the quest for power and money makes people do the most incredible things. The author writes about the corporate world with authority, and does a credible job of weaving in the non-corporate factors, although, I found his Israeli hitman a bit off the mark. But that’s just me. I’m sure most readers will find this a great read—I know that, for the most part, I did.

 

I received a complimentary copy of this book.

 

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Paranormal Nonsense’

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Tempest Danger Michaels is a man who not only has an unusual name; he has a most unusual occupation. He’s a paranormal investigator. It’s a field he got into by mistake, when he decided to become a private investigator after getting out of the army, and the newspaper copy editor, looking at the name of his new agency, Blue Moon Investigations, placed it under paranormal investigations instead of private investigations. Even though he does not believe in the paranormal, when this turned out to be a lucrative sideline, he stuck to it.

Now, a third body with its throat slashed has been found, and the media is calling it the work for a Vampire Killer, a perfect job to enhance his reputation, if he can solve it.

In Paranormal Nonsense by Steve Higgs, Tempest takes on the vampire case pro bono, while concurrently looking into a room-wrecking poltergeist, solving a Big Foot sighting, and juggling a hectic love life—oh, and dealing with a runaway dog.

Funny, frightening, and full of surprises, this is the first book in a series that I predict will be a big hit with mystery fans.

I give Higgs four stars for this fine first effort.

Review of ‘Train Games’

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Rhona Boroff, clad in her red vinyl coat, takes the subway to work at the literary agency, and on the train, plays a game. She identifies a likely male, gets his attention, and then invites him to meet her later that evening at a local watering hole. During the meeting, where she gives a false name, she initiates intimacy, induces the man to pleasure himself manually, and provides him with a lubricant to facilitate such manipulation. There is, however, a problem. The lubricant contains the poison thallium, which is fatal when ingested, and very, very uncomfortable when absorbed through the skin.

 

Unknowingly, Rhona’s therapist, in trying to pull her out of her social isolation, is enabling this activity. When the first victim shows up at the ER, and the poison is luckily diagnosed, the police are on the case. When a second victim shows up and has been poisoned under almost identical circumstances, they know they have a potential killer on their hands.

 

Train Games: The Girl in the Red Vinyl Coat by Claude Brickell is an interesting story. It starts off well, and builds the suspense chapter after chapter, especially after it appears that the police are closing in. The dialogue and situations all fit the mood of the story, but I feel that the author cheats a bit with the inconclusive ending—particularly after the police detective in charge of the case has actually made contact with Rhona, and is pretty sure she’s the perpetrator. Up until the last four or five paragraphs, this was a first-rate story, and while some might not find the ending jarring, I did. For that reason, I can only give this story three and a half stars, but that’s just a personal bias I have against bad guys getting away when all the evidence points at them. Had the cop not laid eyes on her, the ending would’ve been less jarring.

 

Despite my rating, I still recommend the book. Except for that one thing, it’s extremely well done, and worth reading. I received a complimentary copy of this book, with no request for or guarantee of a review.

Review of ‘The Water’s Fine’

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Excerpt from The Water’s Fine
“Polo likes to tell stories about the Sea of Cortez. His favorite is about El Lavadero, Las Animas. Las
Animas is named after the church bells which ring to summon the lost souls, and El Lavadero means the
washing machine. The dive site is oftn referred to as the washing machine of lost souls.
Before we dove at El Lavadero one morning, I overheard Polo telling Bertie that the thousands of silver
jacks schooling in the water are the lost souls. She twisted her ring and looked spooked while our group
waited its turn to descend at the site. I thought maybe she wouldn’t come, but she did. Afterwards, she
told me that when she saw the mass of circling jacks and thought of them as lost souls, she felt more sad
than scared. I knew what she meant. I always say a prayer when I see the swirling fish, the sun glinting
on their silver scales
My Review

Catalina Rodriguez and Bertie Clark have nothing in common but a love of scuba diving when they meet on the Calypso for a diving trip in the Sea of Cortez, but a tragedy during the trip, when another member of the party, Gordon Baker, on the trip with his wife and two daughters, dies during their last dive. As the dive master, Catalina feels responsible for his death, even though she learns later that he was suffering from a terminal disease, and chose to die. A certified rescue diver, Bertie also feels a sense of guilt for not doing something to prevent the tragedy. The two women have bonded during the trip, and even after Catalina gives up diving and returns to her home in San Diego, they stay in touch by phone.

Shortly after returning home, Catalina begins to suffer a string of seemingly unrelated catastrophes, but attributes them at first to stress as she tries to cope with the Calypso incident. But Bertie thinks otherwise, and is determined to help her get to the bottom of what’s going on.

The Water’s Fine by Janice Coy is a subtle, but intriguing story that defies neat categorization. The author moves readers slowly through a chain of events that become more deadly with each occurrence, weaving a deft mystery that will keep the reader guessing until the startling climax. I was put off at first by the switch from first person point of view (Catalina) to second person (Bertie), but as I continued to read, I discovered that this only heightened the tension, as I tried to solve the mystery ahead of the author’s disclosure. I failed, and the author succeeded. The answer to Catalina’s problems came as a surprise—a delightful, and skillfully-done surprise.

I received an advance review copy of this book, and I recommend it highly, even if you’re not a mystery fan. A true page-turner, it will grab your attention and hold it until the end.

I give Coy four stars for an entertaining read.

 

Review of ‘The Spirit of Prophecy’

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Rosetta Barrett is a psychic detective, but she can’t tell her family or the public. Then, when a young girl and a horse are brutally killed by an aggressive driver, and it looks like it was a deliberate assassination attempt, her skills are tested to their limits. The Spirit of Prophecy by J. J. Hughes is a mystery with a bit of a paranormal and sci-fi twist—well, actually, more than just a bit. It involves a centuries-old atrocity that took place across the ocean from England, in New Mexico during the 1870s, has alien visitors with unknown agendas, and pits Rosetta against her husband who, after divorcing her, arranged to keep her away from her children.

I suppose I’d call this a piece of experimental fiction, given the fusion of genres. The author takes the reader through the story from multiple perspectives, and keeps one guessing until all—or, almost all—is revealed.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. It was an enjoyable read that engaged me from the start. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Waiting For You’

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If you’ve read Lynda McDaniel’s Appalachian Mountain mystery trilogy, you’ll enjoy her prequel, which gives the back stories of Vester Junior ‘Abit’ Bradshaw and Della Kincaid. Waiting For You is a short read, spanning the years 1981 to 1983, giving the background on Abit, resident of the small North Carolina mountain town of Laurel Falls, and Della, a free lance writer from Washington, DC. Abit is a bit slow, so his father takes him out of school because he decides that it’s a ‘waste of time,’ leaving Abit nothing to do but sit in a chair outside his father’s general store and watch the world go by. Della, recently divorced, is tiring of being the ghoul friend, who finds herself writing nothing but stories about the darker side of life, and is coping with the suicide of her best friend.

The two stories proceed side-by-side, independent of each other, but moving inexorably toward an encounter between the two when Della decides to see ‘in the flesh’ an area she’s previously written about through long-distance research.

There’s no mystery here—after all, it’s a prequel, right—but it will still grab and hold your interest. If you’ve not read the trilogy, Waiting For You will only make your introduction to the trilogy all the more pleasurable.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. Like the trilogy, it is masterfully written, and despite being short, packed with profound insights into the human condition. Don’t miss it. Oh, and I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Blame the Devil’

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DI Julian Fleetwood is assigned the case when the blood-drained corpse of a schoolgirl is found in London. In the course of his investigation, he meets Varya Dean, the daughter of a slain police officer, who has a brilliant mind, but troubled emotions. Working together, they discover a dangerous cult which threatens not just their lives, but their sanity.

Blame the Devil by L. K. Moore is a riveting mystery with more than a slight touch of the paranormal that will hook you from the opening paragraphs, and not let go until you reach the surprising ending.

For either mystery or paranormal fans, this is a must read.

I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Crime: A Small Town With Big Secrets’

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Crime: A Small Town With Big Secrets by Michael Ace Smith starts with a fascinating premise: an English family, the Kings, with deadly secrets they wish to conceal, relocate from the UK to a small town in the US. Soon after they arrive, there is a strange murder, and somehow, they are linked to it, and their lives begin to unravel.

Like I said, a fascinating premise. Unfortunately, there was entirely too much telling and not enough action and showing to really hold my interest. I found it difficult to keep reading, but kept hoping things would perk up somewhere, anywhere, in the book. Alas, they never did. And, even though there was a good surprise ending, it would’ve been so much better if I hadn’t had to wade through the heather to get to it.

I give this one three stars, with a prediction that this author will improve with experience and one day will surprise us.

Review of ‘The Immortal Gene’

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An ace homicide detective with a great partner, and about to get married, Jake Wood has it all. But, when a friend is in trouble in the Amazon, Jake goes to his rescue, only to be injured and wake up from a coma 18 months later, changing—not just into someone else, but something else. He learns that his fiancée has married and his partner transferred, so he sells his house and moves on. But, the past catches up with him. Someone is after him, and his old partner is asking for his help to catch a vicious serial killer. In the process, he finds out that he has been experimented on, and now those who did want to erase him.

The Immortal Gene by Jonas Saul is an interesting read. Though billed as a mystery, it’s actually more science fiction thriller. Fairly well written, but the inconclusive ending—possibly a teaser for the sequel—feels like a cheat.

I enjoyed it, though not as much as the author’s previous book. I received a complimentary review copy of this book. I give it three and a half stars.

Review of ‘Death by Honeymoon’

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While on their honeymoon in Barbados, Cindy and Clint’s idyllic interlude is interrupted by tragedy when Clint is found drowned in the surf. The local police quickly call it an accident, but Cindy’s not so sure. Back in New York, facing off with Clint’s family, who had objected to the marriage, and some of his friends who don’t seem to care much for her, she discovers that there were things about her new husband she didn’t know—dark secrets that could have caused someone to kill him—and she’s determined to discover the truth. She soon finds herself targeted, so she goes back to Barbados to do her own investigation, not just to honor Clint, but to save her own life.

Death By Honeymoon by Jaden Skye is a romantic mystery that, though it is a bit heavier on the romance than some mystery fans will prefer, will still, I believe, please. Some of the mystery elements are too obvious but given that the main character is a total amateur, it somehow works.

A nice read during the turbulent, indecisive summer weather currently plaguing both coasts.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘The Orange Curtain’

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People are being killed in an affluent high-rise known as the Orange Curtain. Homicide Detective Max Cusini finds a perplexing situation—his main suspects don’t match the description of the killer or killers, and when a murder takes place that doesn’t match the M.O. of the first killings, he finds himself looking down a rabbit hole, and his life—and sanity—at risk.

The Orange Curtain by Chris D. Dodson is an interesting mystery, marred only by an overabundance of typos and generally choppy pacing.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. I made my way through it, despite the typos, and sadly can only give it three and a half stars.

Review of ‘Just Different Devils’

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A sassy, irreverent Texan, Hetta Coffey lives on the edge of legality on a boat in Mexico. When she’s offered a mysterious charter, she talks her best friend Jan into coming along for the ride. The two soon find themselves face to face with Hetta’s bete noir, Nacho, a man for whom she has conflicting feelings. He’s up to something, but they can’t figure out what. Oh, and there are missing mariners, oysters full of pearls, a murderous giant squid, an amorous dolphin, and a sexy kilt-wearing Scot making Hetta’s life even more complicated than it normally is.

Just Different Devils by Jinx Schwartz is funny, provided you can laugh when dismembered corpses are being described in gruesome detail. Well, maybe not so much detail, but what is described is gruesome. And, did I mention that while you fight to keep from spewing your lunch, you’ll be laughing your hind end off? You will, I promise. Hetta is my kind of hero, heroine, or whatever the proper term is. She lives life to the fullest, takes no prisoners, and makes no apologies. Yay, Hetta!

Loved this book, and I’m willing to bet that, unless you’re brain dead and totally without a funny bone, you will too.

I give it four and a half stars.