mystery

Review of ‘Big Numbers’

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

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

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

An entertaining story. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Murder at the Bellamy Mansion’

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

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

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

 

Review of ‘Cleaver Square’

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

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

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Killer Music’

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

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

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

Review of ‘Digital Velocity’

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

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

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

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

Review of ‘In the Spirit of Murder’

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

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

Mystery fans will enjoy this book.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘A Trace of Death’

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

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

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

I give this book four stars.

Review of ‘Murder on the Menu’

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

 

Review of ‘Jammed’

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

Review of ‘The Carlswick Affair’

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

 

Review of ‘Southern Spirits’

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

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

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

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

An easy five-star rating.

Review of ‘Cliffhanger’

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review of ‘Saving Grace’

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

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

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

Review of ‘Ten Guilty Men’

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

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

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

I give this one four stars.

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

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

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

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

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

Review of ‘TheTables Have Turned’

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Lorna Tymchuk, a PR Strategist, has a secret, one that she must keep from her fiancé Mitch Morgan, an undercover cop, for fear that he might have to arrest h er. When a neighbor and friend is murdered, Lorna is framed for it, and Mitch learns that the murder and his insurance fraud investigation are linked, they must come to grips with their feelings for each other.

The Tables Have Turned by Lori Power is a powerful romantic mystery, with a strong, independent female principal character arrayed against a powerful male character, and neither Lorna nor Mitch are prepared to take prisoners in their quest for justice and truth. Well plotted with a diverse cast of characters, and a deft job at foreshadowing and dropping clues that wary readers will pick up—at least, some of them. There are a few surprises awaiting, though, in this story that I prefer to categorize as a mystery. I mainly just skip the romance parts—just kidding. This author knows her stuff, and she makes even those move the story along rather than just being bodice-ripping diversions.

I received an advance review copy of this book, and I recommend it for romance and mystery fans.

I give her four stars for this one.

Review of ‘Dog Gone Lies’

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Former sheriff Ray Pacheco, now retired, has decided to take up fishing to pass the time. Ignorant of the activity, he seeks help, and finds it in the guise of Big Jack, a bait shop owner and sometimes philosopher, and Tyee Chino, an Apache fishing guide who is drunk most of the time. Around the same time, a show dog shows up at Ray’s house, but its owner is missing. Anxious to return the dog to its owner, he goes looking for the missing woman. When corpses start turning up, Ray realizes that this is more than a simple missing persons case, and he enlists Big Jack and Chino in a quest that pits him against the local sheriff, the mayor, and the FBI.

Dog Gone Lies by Ted Clifton is the first book in a new series, but the character, Ray Pacheco was first introduced in an earlier book, when he helped bring down a crooked sheriff, so in actuality, this is a second book—but, let’s not quibble. The interplay between and among the characters, especially Ray, Chino, and Big Jack, and the subtle dance that goes on between Ray and Sue, a waitress at his favorite diner stand out for me as undeniably the best parts of the book. The action’s not bad, and Bruce, or Happy, as Ray calls him, even though he’s just a dog, is a scene stealer.

Small-town law enforcement and small-town culture form the backdrop for what promises to be an interesting series.

I give Clifton four stars for this one.

Review of ‘The Friday Edition’

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When reporter Samantha Church’s sister Robin plunges to her death the police rule it suicide, but Samantha is not convinced. She’s certain her sister was murdered. When she begins receiving strange text messages to that effect, she’s determined to find out who did it. Her sister, an assistant DA, was working on a big drug smuggling case, and Samantha’s convinced that’s why she was killed. But, in order to find the killer, she has to face a vicious drug cartel as well as her own addiction to alcohol, an addiction that has already cost her a job, her marriage, and loss of custody of her daughter. Determined to avenge her sister and rebuild her life, she sets out to conquer every demon in her path—but, the demons are close to home; hiding in plain sight.

The Friday Edition by Betta Ferrendelli is the first book in the Samantha Church mystery series. Featuring a heroine who is decidedly unheroic and almost fatally flawed, it moves along with the speed of an Indy racer and the force of an 18-wheeler to a stunning climax that you won’t have anticipated. While some of the police procedures seem a bit off, even for a small town, you’ll be so engrossed with Samantha and her challenges, you might not even notice.

A satisfying read.

I give it four stars.

 

 

Review of ‘Bluegrass Undercover’

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Cade Davies, an ex-SF soldier, a science teacher and assistant football coach at the high school in his home town, is pressed into service as head coach when the incumbent resigns. Faced with having to learn how to be a head coach and rebuild the inexperienced team, he finds that some of his players are probably using performance enhancing drugs that endanger their lives.

Annie Blake is a buxom, gorgeous DEA agent with anger management issues, who is reassigned to work undercover in Keeneston, KY to bust the ring that’s selling this new, and highly dangerous drug. Before anyone accuses me of sexism, this description of Annie is important, because it plays a key part in the story that unfolds.

Cade and Annie meet when she steps between him and a student who’s about to take a swing at him, thinking he needs her to defend him. Their relationship takes a downhill turn from there, until they learn each other’s backgrounds—and, helped immeasurably by Cade’s family and everyone else in town determined to get him married off, along with his other (single) brothers. His mother despairs that his younger sister will be the first of her children to marry.

Along with this sometimes-hilarious matchmaking, Cade and Annie have to contend with a blood-thirsty drug gang that won’t hesitate to kill one or both of them to keep them from interfering with an extremely lucrative trade. Behind all this is a mysterious mastermind, who is even more bloodthirsty than the clumsy thugs sent to intimidate Cade and Annie.

By turns funny and scary, Bluegrass Undercover, book one in the Bluegrass Brothers series by Kathleen Brooks is a perfect book to read on a rainy day. When the weather’s gloomy, this is just the tonic you need to brighten your mood.

I give Brooks four stars for this one.

Review of ‘Death on Demand’

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Edwin Murphy, editor of The Impartial, is a driven man who devotes more time to his career than his family. When his wife files for divorce and threatens to take their daughter to New York, and his American editor fires him because of declining ad revenue, Edwin decides it’s time to rid himself of at least one of his problems. He concocts a convoluted plan involving the dark web to have his wife killed. That murder, however, leads to the necessity of others in order to effectively cover his tracks, so he orchestrates a series of killings that have Inspector David Morton, head of London’s Murder Investigation Unit puzzled. Everyone who has a motive for any of the killings has an iron-clad alibi, and none of the victims are related.

Dead on Demand, by Sean Campbell and Daniel Campbell is book one in the DCI Morton series, with a most convoluted plot as Edwin matches with David, London’s top cop when it comes to solving crimes. As the bodies pile up, though, and David faces the reality that his age is beginning to pose a handicap to his desire to avoid desk duty, the stakes get higher.

The authors, even though, the brains behind the killings is known from the beginning, do a good job of keeping the reader in suspense. The ending, I promise you, will come as a complete surprise.

I give the authors four stars for this one.