Quick Listing

  • Jack Adler, Ditzy and Champion
  • Anastasia Amor, Adie Strum: A Corpse for Cozumel
  • Anastasia Amor, Adie Strum: Days of the Dead
  • Anastasia Amor, Adie Strum: The Curse of the Carnaval
  • Anastasia Amor, Adie Strum: Dead Delicious
  • Donna Andrews, Cockatiels at Seven
  • Janine Armin & Nathaniel G. Moore, TORONTO NOIR
  • Raymond Benson, DARK SIDE OF THE MORGUE
  • Baron R Birtcher, Angels Fall
  • Tony Blackman, FLIGHT TO ST ANTONY: AVIATION MYSTERY
  • Vickie Britton, THE DEVIL’S GATE
  • Kate Carlisle, HOMICIDE IN HARDCOVER: Bibliophile Mystery Series, Book 1
  • Jeffrey Cohen, A NIGHT AT THE OPERATION
  • Jeffrey Cohen, SOME LIKE IT HOT-BUTTERED
  • Michael W Davis, Tainted Hero
  • Shelley Dayton, Why Rita Hates Monkeys
  • Richard Doetsch, THE THIEVES OF FAITH
  • Robert Fate, Baby Shark's High Plains Redemption
  • Gwen Freeman, CRAZY FOOL KILLS FIVE: A FIFI CUTTER MYSTERY
  • John Gilstrap, NO MERCY
  • Robert Goldsborough, A DEATH IN PILSEN
  • Ellen Hart, The Mortal Groove
  • Colin Harvey, BLIND FAITH
  • Patrick Hyde, THE ONLY PURE THING
  • Julie Hyzy, STATE OF THE ONION
  • Bill Ison, KILLROD: The Cross of Lorraine Murders
  • Margot Justes, A HOTEL IN PARIS: A Minola Grey Mystery
  • Clare Langley-Hawthorne, THE SERPENT AND THE SCORPION
  • Sarita Leone, VINEYARD MAMBO
  • Kathryn Lilley, Dying to Be Thin (A Fat City Mystery)
  • Kathryn Lilley, A KILLER WORKOUT: A Fat City Mystery
  • John Lindermuth, CORRUPTION’S CHILD
  • Sheila Lowe, WRITTEN IN BLOOD A Forensic Handwriting Mystery
  • Gail Lukasik, Death's Door, A Leigh Girard Mystery
  • J. Bruce Monson, WHITE-METAL MURDERS
  • Sue Owens Wright, EMBARKING ON MURDER: A Beanie and Cruiser Mystery
  • Sara Paretsky, HARDBALL: A V. I. WARSHAWSKI NOVEL
  • Stefanie Pintoff, IN THE SHADOW OF GOTHAM
  • Neil S. Plakcy, MAHU FIRE
  • Neil S. Plakcy, MAHU VICE
  • Debra Purdy Kong, FATAL ENCRYPTION
  • E.J. Rand, SAY GOODBYE
  • T. A. Ridgell, FRACTURED SOULS
  • Allyson Roy, APHRODISIAC
  • Earl Staggs, MEMORY OF A MURDER
  • J.D. Webb, Smude
  • Karen Wiesner and Chris Spindler, Falcon's Bend Case Files Volume 1 (The Early Years)
  • Karen Wiesner and Chris Spindler, FALCON’S BEND SERIES BOOK 1: DEGREES OF SEPARATION
  • Karen Wiesner and Chris Spindler, TEARS ON STONE: FALCON’S BEND SERIES, BOOK 2
  • J.B. STANLEY, CHILI CON CORPSES
  • Elaine Viets, KILLER CUTS: A Dead-End Job Mystery
  • Terry Lloyd Vinson, SPECTRAL REWIND: THE CLASS OF ‘81
  • Larion Wills, MOURNING MEADOW
  • Sally S. Wright, CODE OF SILENCE: A Ben Reese Mystery
  • Vivian Zabel, Midnight Hours
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DITZY AND CHAMPION

By Jack Adler

How well do you know your cyber friend?

Ditzy is really Faye, married to Jeff, and living in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles.  She’s not really ditzy; it’s just a nickname her husband uses.

Champion is really Ray.  He’s single and a slight know-it-all…what else do you call someone who feeds their need to show how much they know and have read?

Chatting online is the new way to find old friends and make new ones.  It’s a great way to just relax and partake of a good discussion.  Like Ditzy and Champion do.

However, when Champion brings online life to Faye’s everyday life, that’s when things get out of hand.  Is he friend or foe?  Would a friend take photos of Faye’s husband giving another woman a kiss, and then send them to her?

“Ditzy and Champion” is a straightforward fairly simple story of two people whose lives cross and tangle.  How they untangle, if they do, you will have to read for yourself.

Mr. Adler has written an easy weekend book.  It will fulfill anyone’s need for a quick escape read containing a slight mix of tension and suspense.  He also offers a strange twist that I’m still not sure I agree with; however, sometimes it’s the twist that keeps an author in memory.

I would read another Mr. Adler book.  He writes a comfortable enjoyable story.

An Adie Sturm Mystery Book 1 - A Corpse for Cozumel

by Anastasia Amor

Blurb :

Sultry days and steamy nights—Cozumel. It was a simple enough plan but when murder and men are tossed into the mix, Adie Sturm’s life gets scrambled. Her missing friend is murder suspect “numero uno” but Adie knows different. When she starts digging, she finds that the dots connect straight to multi-millionaire Diego Alvarez.

In her investigation, Adie becomes the murderer’s target. Enlisting an ex-boyfriend’s help, Adie’s emotions somersault. Wolf Du Lac is a man like chocolate—creamy-rich and sinfully delicious. She doesn’t mind having his expertise in the bedroom, but follows her own instincts when it comes to the innocence of drop-dead sexy Diego. What she’s not prepared for is the intricate web of seduction he spins, just for her.

Adie is swept away into a dangerous cycle of events that spiral out of control before she confronts the murderer and chooses the man that captures her heart.

My Review:

I’ve decided to share my notes on this first Adie Sturm mystery. They’re quickie notes and very limited, well, I sort of got involved reading and forgot to make more.

***

Love a mystery, which starts with an unlocked door and police sirens. Let’s me witness how the heroine’s going to behave for rest of book. Adie’s spunky, funny, confident, and I like her.

I’m not sure about the character, Marg. I can’t help wonder if she’s as innocent as she’s letting on…could she really be so naïve?

You know I’m not a romance gal; however, the heat and connection between Adie and Wolf is connecting and even I can’t help but want them to get together.

***

As I said, I didn’t continue with making notes, I read.

Adie is also a little airy for me. Don’t get me wrong I like her, but she’s falling for two guys…the baddie or maybe-baddie, Diego and Wolf, which one is more dangerous and more not the best choice, I don’t know. Somehow she keeps getting into trouble and she’s not even the main one involved in the back-home-crime.

I did lose some connection to the exact nature of the crime and Marg’s part in it all. I wanted to know more about the backstory of Adie and Wolf, this actually felt missing.

There were a few plottings I wish were more fully explained, maybe have them move slower in the details. Ms. Amor does have the ability to bring in characters adding to the dimension of the story, adventure of the characters’ experiences, and as possible victims/villains. A few could have been dismissed. I’m also a little unsure of the connection to Adie’s confidants back home.

Sometimes not wanting to give away story and plot can get in the way of explaining one’s self. So, which plottings, which characters, and which connections…right? If I explained more, I know I’ll be letting too much out of the bag. You have to solve this mystery on your own…like I tried. I’m not exactly happy with the ending. Not totally convinced we had enough clues.

However, openings were left for more mixings and matchings and heat.

BTW, there is an attempted rape scene, more an attack with rape on the mind. Some heavy sexual scenes. Some mild language. All within context.

In the end, I’m glad to have visited A CORPSE FOR COZUMEL. I’m currently reading Adie’s second trip and adventure...DAYS OF THE DEAD.

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An Adie Sturm Mystery Book 2 - Days of the Dead

by Anastasia Amor

Blurb :

Rowdy drunks, pick-up lines and buckets of beer—all to be expected for a pre-trip get-together. What Adie Sturm doesn’t expect is murder. Death decides to come early. Her Days of the Dead tour has a killer on board.

A stolen statue brings Cozumel millionaire Diego Alvarez back into her life. He’ll give her anything--a private jet, a condo, and of course, himself.

And what about her ex? Wolf Du Lac is a man more delicious than chocolate but is he still hers?

Enemies creep out of the woodwork. Someone wants Adie dead. Danger and passion unite in the heat of the jungle. Two delicious men are rivals for her love. Adie wants nothing more than to find the murderer and hand him over to the police. Will she have that day in the sun with a sensuous lover or will the killer find her first?

My Review:

Adie’s back and so are her hotter than hot men, Wolf and Diego. Who will win this time? Adie for sure, if she can stay alive and out of trouble.

We’re back visiting Cozumel, but not before someone dies in Kitchener during Oktoberfest. A sad coincidence or will the killer follow Adie? Of course, there’s no coincidence and that’s all I’m going to tell you.

Ms. Amor has written another heated cat and mouse hunt for Adie, and Adie’s readers. The scenes between our heroine and her male admirers are just as steamy as book one and just as frustrating. I can’t figure out who I want Adie to end up with.

DAYS OF THE DEAD is pure escapism. While the mystery is interesting and I’m kept on my toes trying to put the puzzle pieces together, it’s the dialogue and personal interactions which hold me in.

Adie’s one romance female I can handle, she’s not all goo-goo brained over the guys. She’s smart. She’s self-aware. Adie is liberating and confident, yet she’s still questioning her reactions to Wolf, the man who broke her heart, and Diego, the man who may truly want to love her or just can’t deny the hunt.

Ms. Amor again brings in new characters, while not completely unique in standard characters traits; they each add and stand alone. Together they bring emotional levels to DAYS OF THE DEAD. Without them, you would feel something missing from the anger, laughter, silliness of vacation, and even confusion necessary for a successful mystery romp.

The Adie Sturm Mystery series continues to satisfy.

An Adie Sturm Mystery Book 3 - The Curse of the Carnaval

by Anastasia Amor

2011 EPIC Ebook Award Finalist

Blurb:

Carnaval---parties, sheiks and pirates. A killer behind a mask. When Adie Sturm discovers a bloody body she panics. Guilty until proven innocent. Justice…Mexican style. Adie Sturm is the prime suspect. Not even Wolf Du Lac can get her out of this fix. A Cozumel jail cell has Adie’s name on it unless millionaire Diego Alvarez pulls a few strings.

And what about Wolf? Is he really hers or does he have bonds with a woman from his past? With her life out of control, Adie Sturm investigates a nudist resort on the mainland. This romantic get-away proves to be a treacherous set-up. The walls close in. The police want to pin it on Adie.

A convoluted trail with everyone having an alibi. Someone is lying. A friend could be a murderer and a lover could betray her.

My Review:

Adie’s back and it’s hotter than ever, way hotter. And far more dangerous.

I couldn’t wait to open up THE CURSE OF THE CARNAVAL and revisit Adie. Ms. Amor does exactly what a read should do…takes me away from everything. This time my escape is with heat, murder, mystery, and oh no he isn’t.

It’s easy to retell what a book is about, but it can be extremely difficult to tell why you recommend it. This series is a fun getaway. There’s no pretense to being anything other than a good old-fashion romp…both romantic and adventure. I do hope Ms. Amor and her publisher takes this as the positive I mean it to be.

For me a book should entertain me. I should be able to hear, smell, feel the environment and hear the characters. Ms. Amor is successful in all these. I’ve not been disappointed and I look forward to more of these energy-charged reads.

Oh, and I’ve decided, I want Adie to pick Diego. He might only be interested in Adie because she won’t fall into bed with him, but I think there’s genuineness to him. Wolf, he’s a touch too easy with his dealings with those female barracudas chasing him.

Thanks for the escape, Ms. Amor.

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An Adie Sturm Mystery book 4 - Dead Delicious

by Anastasia Amor

BLURB:

SEDUCTION…GREED…REVENGE…in steamy Cozumel. When a dive group member dies, smart sexy Adie Sturm investigates. Dirty deals, crystal skulls and coded bank accounts connect to a killer. Delicious men like chocolate vie for her attention as the murderer targets the victims. Who can she trust? Martial artist Adie Sturm revs up her game only to get caught in a dangerous trap.

MY REVIEW:

Anastasia and Adie are at it again. Once again I lost myself in Adie’s descriptions of Cozumel, her eclectic group of tourist, her men (oh you’re so not going to believe what happens here) and let’s not forget murder.

When Anastasia contacted me with this new offering of her Adie Sturm Mysteries, I couldn’t say no. As you know, I don’t always mix with romances; however, there’s something enticing about Adie and Wolf…Adie and Diego…Adie and… Yes, things are heating up. Maybe cooling off?

Let alone the friendship between Adie and Carmelita.

Their friendship captures the best of female bonds. These two ladies never judge the other and are always supportive and honest with each other. Something you wouldn’t expect when your brother is lusting after a woman who is also lusting after another man. A wickedly sinful triangle.

Now there is one problem with this triangle. I can’t decide who makes the better match for Adie. Both men are beyond belief in looks, success, and plain ole general hotness. But…and there are plenty of cute butts (sorry, couldn’t help myself ;)…there’s always been something hidden with Wolf, for me. It’s not that he’s not honest or doesn’t have real feelings for Adie, but there are times I just don’t see him giving Adie the full attention Diego lavishes on her. Then again, real love isn’t a candle that burns at both ends 24/7. That candle will eventually burn itself out.

Diego hides nothing about who he is from Adie. Even his sister acknowledges Adie brings something different out of Diego. Plus there’s no sparring matches with any in-heat ex-wives. Think he could be a one-woman guy?

After writing this, I have to admit, I think I’m team Diego…for now.

Of course, Anastasia has to go and throw something new into the mix. Something that I’ve expected and was even hoping for…nope, won’t tell you. And then there’s…yeah, not going to share that either, but oyyyy boyyyy…wayyyy oyyyy boyyyy.

As always Anastasia delivers an entertaining read. One that’s perfect for a bitter cold winter’s evening or even a blistering hot summer one. If you think this is just another continuing…him/her or her/him, back and forth we go, again…you’ve thought wrong. This standalone story weaves through its own mystery while tying in past emotions and moving us in new possibilities.

What do you have in store for us next, Anastasia?

COCKATIELS AT SEVEN

By Donna Andrews

“Cockatiels At Seven” is a Meg Langslow mystery.  Meg is funny, loveable and this time her sidekick is a toddler.

An old, long-time-no-see, friend asks Meg for a small favour.  This is how, Meg, a blacksmith, and husband Michael, part of the Caerphilly College faculty, find themselves part-time parents to two-year-old Timmy.

When Meg’s friend doesn’t return, Meg sets out to find her.  Which leads to spending time getting into trouble with Chief Burke and his murder and embezzlement investigation.  Is Karen an innocent victim or behind it all?

I like “Cockatiels at Seven”.  I would classify this mystery as a cozy.  It is a pleasant easy-read entertainment, which made me laugh out loud.  Whether it is Meg’s self-talking and head-shaking go get’em attitude or her what-now eye rolling dealings with her family, I like Meg.  I like her batty world.

Which gives me the perfect lead-in to the animals in Meg’s world.  Her father, and his newly found father, constantly get into trouble over some animals’ welfare.  This time birds are the word.

Yes. I want more Meg Langslow mysteries.

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TORONTO NOIR

Edited By: Janine Armin & Nathaniel G. Moore

What is Noir?  One definition has it meaning a crime story with cynical characters, grim settings…a certain type of toughness.  One discussion described ‘noir’ as something more for cinema than books.  On that description I have to disagree.

Akashic Books has launched a series of books that each covers the darker side of different cities and their suburbs.  “Toronto Noir” is the first set in Canada.  Being Canadian and living in Hamilton (about one hour from Toronto) I wanted to say I loved this book.

What I have discovered is that I am not a true fan of noir.  I do believe those who are will find satisfaction in “Toronto Noir.”  The stories are both dark and secretive, but also sly in their conclusions.

I am constantly impressed with the Akashic Noir Series as each book enhances the city of choice utilizing it as its own unique character.

When I see the publishing name Akashic Books I know I am about to embark on a fascinating read.

DARK SIDE OF THE MORGUE
By Raymond Benson

Rock ‘n’ Roll and Murder, what could be better?

Spike Berenger and Suzanne Prescott are part of The Rockin’ Security team.  This time around they’ll travel to Chicago to discover who’s killing musicians from the Chicagoprog age.  Secrets unfold as personal pasts are judged and found wanting.

I did not mix with DARK SIDE OF THE MORGUE. I found the back history to the musical bands and other areas of information to be too much.  They distracted me from the story more than enhance the telling.  For me, these areas slowed down the story where I couldn’t connect with the characters, which were being killed.

I know there are fans of Mr. Benson who will disagree with me.  If you are interested in the inner relationships of musical groups and their world, along with murder and mystery, then you may enjoy DARK SIDE OF THE MORGUE.

Sadly, I didn’t connect.

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Angels Fall

Baron R Birtcher

Do we ever escape our past?

“Angels Fall” is the third novel in the Mike Travis series and another must have for my personal library.

Mike is as laidback as he is gritty.  He is looking for a slice of peace and calm among the islands of Hawaii, but in “Angels Fall” he finds a young useless death that only serves to wake his own painful teen memories.  Mike Travis is an ex-cop from Los Angeles who can’t seem to let go of his past profession…and we need him that way.

What sets Mike Travis apart from similar ex-detectives, well I guess he is like other ex-detectives and private investigators.  He has a painful past that has shaped him into the cop he was and the person he is.  He has a loyal set of friends that he protects.  Those same friends know more about who Mike is than he does, himself.  So why invest in this character and, of course, Mr. Birtcher’s books?

“Angels Fall” has a quiet pain to the story.  This pain felt like a separate character.  You will feel Mike’s pain, the pain of sisters trapped by their family’s strict unwavering beliefs, and the pain adolescents put each other through, even the pain of a people’s ancestors.  All pain caused by those who are blind to what they are doing.

As Mike Travis follows the trail of a missing girl, Mr. Birtcher uses this simple story to unravel Mike’s past.  We are allowed a glimpse into a part of Mike’s history that has shaped him and his relationship with his brother.  Between this and Mike’s relationship to his nephew…who showed up out of the blue…we discover a depth to who Mike is without laying it open to other characters.

As I read “Angels Fall” I could hear Mike’s voice.  And, for me, his voice went from a done-in tiredness to a dogged determination.  I did figure out the last surprise in “Angels Fall” but this surprise was both welcomed and, I think, very important to the character, Mike Travis.

Yes, there is a similar feel to Mike Travis; however, the depth of character Mr. Birtcher writes and the subject matter he opens up to the reader makes this series a valuable addition to anyone’s library.

FLIGHT TO ST ANTONY: AVIATION MYSTERY
By Tony Blackman

There’s more than meets the eye when investigating downed airplanes and Peter Talbert is the expert you want on your side.

Mr. Blackman’s knowledge of aviation is from his own life experiences as a Chief Test Pilot, among other ventures.  His character, Peter Talbert, is a combination of aviation insurance expert and detective rolled into one.  Using his skills, he unearths who is ultimately responsible for any liability, if that includes solving any side crime, so be it.

While not overly technical, I did find FLIGHT TO ST ANTONY to have too much procedural and aviation details.  I understand the main character’s job is to discover why, how, and who for a downed plane; however, I would have preferred a more compelling reason to care about the outcome.  Which is why I believe there is the criminal mystery as well, but again, I would have liked a bit stronger connection between the two.

As indicated, FLIGHT TO ST ANTONY, is part of the Aviation Mystery series by Mr. Blackman.  I cannot say how the characters and series work together, not with only reading one book.  However, I can say Peter Talbert, the main character, is fairly well developed and given the footnotes has quite a personal and professional history.

For those interested in aviation and the mysteries behind keeping planes airborne, along with general mysteries, this series may be what you are looking for.

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THE DEVIL’S GATE

By Vickie Britton

Coming home is never easy.

At age four, Anna’s parents died, that’s when Travis stepped in, now as he’s dying Anna rushes home to say goodbye.  Will her heart handle this lost?  Will her heart handle seeing her childhood love in another woman’s arms…his wife’s arms?  Will she survive the murderous cult of Akerra?

For me, “The Devil’s Gate” satisfies the mystery element completely.  I wasn’t quite convinced of the leading romance story.  Now, the secondary quiet romance storyline was something I did like.

Being a fan of westerns, I immediately felt at home at “The Devil’s Gate” ranch.  Ms.Britton’s writing places you squarely in the setting and feel of her world.  The heritage of the Basque (north-central Spain and south-western France) people is a realistic touch to the family and traditional values of the patriarch, Travis.

There are strong character twists to the story.  I was never quite sure who to believe and who was behind the terror.  All I can tell you about the ending is that I was quite satisfied.  There were no out-of-the-blue solutions, no left turns, and most importantly no sappiness.

“The Devil’s Gate” is a comfortable mystery read for everyone.  I look forward to reading more from Ms. Britton.

HOMICIDE IN HARDCOVER: Bibliophile Mystery Series, Book 1
By Kate Carlisle

Glue, leather, paper, the written word, they equal a bookbinder and restoration expert’s idea of heaven.  Add a dead body and a legendary cursed book and you have HOMICIDE IN HARDCOVER.

There is something comforting about a paperback from Penguin Books.  No matter the imprint name these books deliver time and time again whether you’re visiting an old friend or discovering a new favourite.

HOMICIDE IN HARDCOVER introduces us to author Kate Carlisle and my new favourite character Brooklyn Wainwright.  I’m already looking forward to book two in this new series.  HOMICIDE IN HARDCOVER is Ms. Carlisle’s first novel.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself.  Brooklyn is a trained bookbinder and book restoration expert who recently parted ways with her teacher and mentor.  This caused strained relations that hopefully would be patched at the celebration of his current restoration.  A restoration job that included a cursed copy of Goethe’s FAUST.  Was it the curse that caused her mentor’s death or was it plain murder?

Of course, it’s murder and the head security man suspects Brooklyn.  Or does he?  There’s something cozy going on between these two, well, at least, there should be.

I would place HOMICIDE IN HARDCOVER a little more than a cozy mystery due to very mild language, but this is sparingly used and fits the characters.  What also fits is the knowledge of bookbinding and how Ms. Carlisle uses it to uncover clues and tells us about her character, Brooklyn.

Humour is introduced via Brooklyn’s family.  Is it possible her hippie chanting mother is the murderer?  Brooklyn was raised on a commune up in Marin County across the Golden Gate Bridge, Dharma to be exact.  This little backwoods world is now a world of “chic shops” “art galleries” and “a world-class health and beauty spa” among other riches.  Brooklyn’s father runs the commune winery with her older brother.  It was here that Brooklyn developed her bookbinding love and here we may find more charming characters.

In HOMICIDE IN HARDCOVER Brooklyn is determined to finish her mentor’s work and solve his murder.  Does she succeed?  You know the answer, but the journey there is what makes the reading discovery so much fun.

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A NIGHT AT THE OPERATION
By Jeffrey Cohen

They’re divorced?  Sure could have fooled me.

I was thrilled to be offered Mr. Cohen’s third Double Feature Mystery book and am heading out the door to get his second.  Once I read SOME LIKE IT HOT-BUTTERED I knew I had found a new cozy favourite.  Now with A NIGHT AT THE OPERATION I have no doubts.

Mr. Cohen’s Elliot Freed is hilarious.  Elliot owns the Comedy Tonight Theatre and he still insists on showing the classic comedies, with a few modern ones.  He’s still in love with his ex-wife.  He is still at the mercy of his employees, which, I really don’t think he minds.  And, although, he may grumble he would be lost without his overly well-intentioned mother and handy helper dad.

This time around his world is completely turned upside down as his beloved ex-wife goes missing.  Not only is she missing, but some believe she killed a patient before disappearing.  What happens throughout A NIGHT AT THE OPERATION pages are enough to cause Elliot a near breakdown…his parents play pinochle with the ex-wife’s husband?

Being a cozy mystery means there are certain paths a story follows—humour, not too much violence (if any), nothing too complex in the plot, strength in carrying the logic of the mystery from start to finish—okay, so this can be put to any mystery.  However, we expect a cozy, well, to make us feel cozy and good when reading it.  A NIGHT AT THE OPERATION does this, so why this book and not another?

Mr. Cohen, that’s why.

Mr. Cohen links his love of comedy with his writing style.  His character, Elliot, gets away with lines I wish I could use.  Each book, the two I have read, weaves their title smoothly into dialogue.  I only catch it because I’m looking; it takes strength of writing to achieve this.  A character, like Elliot, could become a pain with such a quick-witted mouth.  Mr. Cohen stops just shy of this by using secondary characters who give Elliot a type of reeling in look.

For me, the best part of seeing Mr. Cohen’s name and “A Double Feature Mystery” is that I know what I’m getting and I can’t wait.

Book Four???

SOME LIKE IT HOT-BUTTERED

By Jeffrey Cohen

What could possibly go wrong showing classic comedies in a classic theatre?

Mr. Cohen knows.  And his loveable character, Elliott Freed, is about to find out.

Elliott bought the old Comedy Tonight theatre in order to bring back the joy of childhood memories.  Bring back the fun of going to a single screen theatre that had style, class, and substance.  And, at the same time, indulge in his favourite movie genre – the classic comedy.  Being a single adult with no commitments and little material needs, thanks to selling his family home and alimony from his doctor ex-wife, what better time to try his dream?

So, what’s a little murder and movie piracy, right?

This is a new series of cozy mysteries that will be a permanent part of my library.  Mr. Cohen’s writing is refreshing and fun.  His character, Elliott, isn’t weak, but very approachable and normal.  He’s humourous and you’ll find yourself laughing with him more than at him.  Elliott could be any one we know.  He’s the guy next door.

Each character is developed in that they are believable in themselves and in their actions and reactions.  Mr. Cohen offers relatable characters, something that is sometimes overlooked in a book’s secondary characters.

Mr. Cohen’s plot is twisting as it leads us to any number of plausible conclusions.  The final conclusion…well, I don’t want to even hint at it.  But I am very satisfied as well as a bit surprised.

I’m looking forward to more Double-Feature Mysteries.

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Tainted Hero

Michael W Davis

When’s a hero not a hero?

 Eric Emerson was in Special Ops.  His work with the government helps soldiers stay alive.  Uncovering poorly tested machinery will save more military lives.  He’s haunted by nightmares.  His wife’s jealously is killing their marriage.  Will he ever find the justice he demands?

 I am not sure about “Tainted Hero.”  It is a story with one man and three very different plots woven into one life.  Allow me to divulge just a little of each.

 Eric’s marriage is a sham.  His wife is openly having affairs, but has somehow convinced a marriage counsellor that the problems are all due to Eric’s military career taking him away when she suffered a miscarriage.  Now when any female who crosses her path, she screams Eric is sleeping with them, even his best friend and co-worker, Samantha Cassidy.  Will Eric and Sam end up together?

 Eric, in the course of his and Sam’s work, discovers the secret truth to a government study.  Is he the man to keep this secret and end up saving mankind?

 Throughout, “Tainted Hero” someone is playing judge, jury, and executioner.  Who?

 And somehow Mr. Davis makes these stories work.  But, still I don’t know if I like the character Eric Emerson.  You are expected to like the hero of the story, right?  Or, is that what “Tainted Hero” is all about.  The no easy answers some of us face, whether their effects are little or worldwide.

 There is a complexity to “Tainted Hero” and each reader will need to decide if they find the ultimate secret believable.  I’m afraid, I might.

 “Tainted Hero,” something to think about.

Why Rita Hates Monkeys

by Shelley Dayton

Blurb:

Three friends’ vacation from hell staggers through a jungle well seasoned with adventure, intrigue and humor.

When the ladies of Short Mountain Mortgage clock out, chaos clocks in. Why Rita Hates Monkeys follows Vicky, Rita, and Lynette as their vacation in a Mexican rainforest goes horribly wrong. The aggressive bats are frightening and nobody can identify the dinner meat, but the trip becomes a real adventure when a monkey flings a hand at them. Their guide Elsa asks them to find the hand’s owner.

Their options are to help, or a local tribe will have them for dinner. And then later for a midnight snack.

My Review:

I want to use the word quirky, which isn’t a bad thing. It can mean original, odd, unpredictable all perfectly good words to describe some of Ms. Dayton’s characters and plot points. To be honest, I giggled my way through this misadventure of Vicky and her friends. I certainly didn’t see the ending or how Ms. Dayton was pulling it all together.

Tell me who wouldn’t laugh at this line: “You are in luck, my friends!” Elsa said. “We just dug holes for the outdoor toilets!” I was very much like the characters…what have I gotten myself into.

Why Rita Hates Monkeys is a very short story, roughly 48 electronic pages, and while the editor in me questioned a couple of small areas, I had fun reading it.

Fun…that’s another word some people don’t like. I’ll never understand that thinking. When I read a book, fun fits. Writers and their words allow my emotions free reign, something in day-to-day life we try and maintain to a socially excepted level.

You want adventure, fun, mystery, and a monkey who gets away with everything…well, here’s the place.

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THE THIEVES OF FAITH

By Richard Doetsch

Anyone for breaking into the Kremlin, more specifically, under the Kremlin?

Michael St. Pierre was a thief.  Now he’s a grieving husband helping a friend.  Now he’s trapped into stealing a relic lost beneath the catacombs of the Kremlin.  If he doesn’t, the father he never knew will die.  If he does those he cares about will also be killed and he will have helped unleash an ancient curse.

Yes, I was reminded of “The DaVinci Code.”  However, just as Dean Koontz reminds me of Stephen King, Mr. Doetsch has his own tale to tell in his own voice.  A voice I appreciated reading and will read again.

Why should you give “The Thieves of Faith” a read?  It is adventurous.  The main character, Michael St. Pierre, is part rogue, part leading man, part treasure hunter, and all around hero.  The supporting characters are a fine mix of loyal friend, potential new love, questionable alliances, and Mr. Doetsch has you wanting them to stick around.  The antagonist has no redeeming qualities, no reason for you to cheer him on…the perfect foil for this type of adventure thriller.

Mr. Doetsch’s plot may seem far-fetched, but given the history and secret history of the Kremlin “The Thieves of Faith” offers a thrilling idea of what lies beneath the stronghold.

I am interested enough in Mr. Doetsch’s characters that I will be searching for his previous book “The Thieves of Heaven” and his future books.

Overall, “The Thieves of Faith” plays out as a literal movie that keeps you turning the pages.

Baby Shark's High Plains Redemption

by Robert Fate

Blurb

May 1957––When Kristin Van Dijk aka Baby Shark and Otis Millett are hired to deliver the ransom for redheaded Savannah Smike, the mysterious piano-playing girlfriend of an Oklahoma bootlegger, they find themselves involved in more trouble than they bargained for. It is kill or be killed from day one.

Who wants Savannah so badly they are willing to murder anyone who gets in the way? That is the mystery Kristin and Otis confront in what becomes a no-holds-barred struggle between two feuding outlaw clans.

This action-crime-adventure is quintessential Baby Shark. It careens across two states, leaving a trail of blood and destruction from the tough side of Fort Worth through the southern Ozarks of Oklahoma to the lonesome high plains of the Texas panhandle.

My Review:

This is my first time experiencing Mr. Fate’s writing and I feel I’ve come home. I’m a major fan of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, not that Baby Shark is Mike Hammer. No, I think Hammer would give this lady a wide berth. Kristin Van Dijk is no nonsense, tough, but never abrasive. Her loyalty to Otis and her reputation comes across clear and well-earned.

Baby Shark is not a cozy read. This is a gritty, time period, no punches pulled, out and out head on fight. The characters are no way sugar coated. Some might say the characters are stereotypes of perceived tough guys; however, stereotypes never read true. These are characters shaped by their experiences, those around them, and life in general. Mr. Fate’s writing is simply straightforward.

Because this is my first reading of Baby Shark, I am missing some background on her. Every series builds its characters, adds more, shows more. Some of Baby Shark I’ve had to fill in for myself and I don’t think I’ve been far off the mark. Mr. Fate’s secondary characters are…will fans get mad if I use the word, fun? They are, fun that is. The secondary characters are fun. I believe them and while I might not want to meet any in real life, here within the pages I like them.

This is a writer’s strength. Being able to bring any character alive and have the reader want them to be real. To forget they’re not.

Baby Shark isn’t going to be for everyone and even for me; I’ll read more cozies between each Baby Shark. Nevertheless, I’ll revisit and live precariously within Mr. Fate’s pages.

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CRAZY FOOL KILLS FIVE: A FIFI CUTTER MYSTERY
By Gwen Freeman

Misadventures of insurance adjustor, Fifi Cutter.

Fifi is funny, sarcastic, and caught up in messes of others’ making.  Normally, having your own home and own business would make you, the boss.  However, Fifi is at the mercy of her playboyish live-in-moocher brother, her anxiety-ridden lawyer friend, said friend’s domineering boss, and the sexy would-be boyfriend and/or killer lawyer from across the aisle.  All because some “CRAZY FOOL KILLS FIVE.”

Fifi starts as a normal independent insurance adjustor looking to take the perfect worker’s comp photo.  You know, the one showing the employee lifting the box of weights when he’s supposedly bed-ridden in dying pain.  Once this chance is shot to Hades, Fifi gains employment with her friend’s domineering boss becoming his document clerk sum slave/gal Friday on the largest settlement case her friend, Victoria Jane Smith, has ever worked.  It appears an angry (deranged?) ex-employee decided to take his grievances out while on board a private plane killing four in the air and one on the ground.  Now the lawyers play the ‘who is responsible’ game.  Who knew a simple liability case would grow into extortion, kidnapping, murder, and attempted murder?  With Fifi smack-dab in the middle.

For me, CRAZY FOOL KILLS FIVE was a lazy afternoon read.  The mystery presented was a bit confusing, as I did not grasp the relative need to connect murder and extortion with a simple liability case.  However, I like Fifi.

Fifi is the sanity among crazed laziness and career madness.  If those around her don’t get her killed, she just might make it.  She is the character that would know not to go down the dark steps during a mass murderer escape, but does so anyways—reiterating it is a dumb idea.  She’s nosey and has no shame in searching out the answers.

While I did not find CRAZY FOOL KILLS FIVE a must-not-put-down, it is an amusing read.  I would say, yes, to the next Fifi Cutter Mystery.

NO MERCY
By John Gilstrap

If you’re in need; if the need defies all chances; if you’re willing to ask no questions; Scorpion will help.

Jonathan Grave is a former Delta and the child of a shady Washington-investigated father.  Turning the family money toward good works is what the outside world sees of Jonathan Grave, as well as his role of private investigator and owner of Security Solutions.  To others, he is the silent specialist of covert rescues when legal methods are dangerously slow.  Jonathan, Digger, and his team are heroes in the shadows and my new favourites.

Jonathan’s latest rescue should have been simple.  Rescue the kidnapped geeky college boy from semi-bumbling brothers.  Once this is accomplished, three kidnappers are dead as well as Jonathan’s beloved ex-wife, her newshound husband, with Jonathan and his team on both sides of the corporate and governmental hunt.  No, I am not about to outline and divulge the secret behind NO MERCY.  What I will tell you, is I found NO MERCY to be a page-turner, non-stop, action-packed, character-driven joy.

NO MERCY is a book I would have picked for hubby and not for myself.  It’s former Delta Army, secret missions, and high placed Government contacts, above the law, almost super-human characters of noble loyalty.  However, (you did hear this coming, right?) it is also a mix of differences and contradictions.  Jonathan’s closest friend is Father Dominic, Dom, D’Angelo.  Not only a friend and confidant, Dom has complete access to Jonathan’s underground arsenal. There is a tunnel linking Jonathan’s old firehouse home to Dom’s St. Kate’s Catholic Church basement.  Following Jonathan through the firefights is Brian, Boxers, Van de Meulebroeke.  A semi-silent no nonsense strength, Boxers is the calm Jonathan needs in NO MERCY’s storm.  Venice (Ven-EE-chay) Alexander is their office/computer/intelligence/guardian angel.  I know there is more to her story.

Mr. Gilstrap’s other attention-grabbing characters are equally enterprising.  Some…well, I really shouldn’t give them away.

NO MERCY has placed Mr. Gilstrap on my to-be-read list.

NO MERCY, delivers.

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A DEATH IN PILSEN

By: Robert Goldsborough

Family is family, right?

Set in 1946, post-World War II, Steve “Snap” Malek is home from England, where he was a foreign correspondent, and back to his old beat, police reporter for the Chicago Tribune.  Back were his cronies and editors are glad to have him, besides the regular hours work better for a newly married man.

Mr. Goldsborough is an exceptional writer.  My favourite authors have been Louis L’Amour, Mickey Spillane, Rex Stout and Erle Stanley Gardner, to name just a few, as they all capture the atmosphere and characters.  They do not place you outside the story nor do you feel you are watching it unfold (which is still a good read), in their stories all your senses are involved, almost literally.  Mr. Goldsborough has accomplished these same strengths.

Mr. Goldsborough is a must for any mystery fan’s library.

“A Death In Pilsen” is a simple murder mystery.  Charlie Malek is arrested for murdering his British-born war bride.  Now it’s up to Snap to prove Charlie innocent.

A simple whodunit expertly written.

Mr. Goldsborough weaves his tale of murder as he shows us the dreams of the young women who were war brides.  He brings the real April 1946 tragic Burlington Line passenger train wreck to life, while engaging us with the biography of architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

And it was my pleasure to learn Mr. Goldsborough has written seven Nero Wolfe murder mysteries, bringing that series back to life.

Mr. Goldsborough is now a staple in my personal library.

The Mortal Groove

Ellen Hart

Loyalty at any cost…even murder?

Who knew that when restaurateur Jane Lawless’ father decided to run for the governorship of Minneapolis that it would bring murder to Jane’s circle of friends…and family.

“Mortal Groove” is another straightforward amateur sleuth story.  Someone surrounding Jane’s father’s campaign is responsible for a young woman’s death, from years ago.  Now as Jane goes about her daily life, this murder creeps closer and closer to Jane and, before another friend is hurt, she has to uncover the truth.

Everything here screams simple cozy mystery; however, there is so much more going on within the pages of “The Mortal Groove.”   Ms. Hart brings the story of a man who is a business success, but whose marriage is failing due to his younger self’s mistakes.  The same young man who was lauded as a war hero by his small town, but shunned by others…yes, a veteran of Vietnam.    As Ms. Hart asks – how does one cease being in the war zone, the mortal groove, and return home to supposed normalcy?  What is the cost of loyalty to those you fought beside, but are now strangers?

A good solid character is a good solid character, and that is Jane Lawless.  There is one very poignant scene in “The Mortal Groove” that speaks volumes and demands our attention.  And it’s a scene I absolutely love!  As any restaurateur would, Jane looks forward to having her newest club included in a major feature article.  She also realizes that due to her father’s campaign, there is an added reason to interview her.  What she didn’t expect was the closed minded rude invasion into her personal life.  Being a lesbian has no bearing on being a restaurateur nor does it have anything to do with her father.  Jane’s calm handling of the reporter’s thinly veiled ‘feature article’ questions is just plain fantastic.

And Ms. Hart doesn’t stop there.  She weaves the personal tales of the supporting characters seamlessly throughout “The Mortal Groove.”  Inside these pages you will discover someone’s haunted pain, another’s quest to ease that pain, how violence changes a person, love found, and the cost of personal redemption or would that be surrender.

I understand that “The Mortal Groove” is Ms. Hart’s 15th Jane Lawless mystery.  I plan on finding and reading the previous 14.  Ms. Hart is a must for my personal library.

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BLIND FAITH

By Colin Harvey

Sight isn’t everything.

Frances Dedman and Faith DuQuayne are the same person; just don’t tell them that.  Frances is blind.  Faith is not.

Confused?  Frances and Faith are the easy parts of “Blind Faith.”  Frances woke up one morning, as a young teenager, without the ability to see and with no reason why this had happened.  However, she can ‘see’ colours surrounding a person when they talk allowing Frances to see their emotions and parts of the area around them.

Faith is the personality who took over Frances’ life after an out of hand teenage prank.  Faith can see.  Faith is as wild and out of control as Frances is deliberate and controlled.  Even with no memory of her life as Faith, Frances is still paying the price for Faith’s ill choices.

“Blind Faith” is a detective story, a private investigator tale.  Frances works with her uncle, an ex-policeman.  They have been asked to find a missing fifteen-year old girl.

Simple?

No.  Frances finds herself recognized as Faith; finds herself facing an old nemesis; finds herself trapped within a cult; finds herself too close to death’s door; and finds herself needing Faith’s help to survive.

“Blind Faith” is not a cozy read.  At times it’s not even that pleasant a read.  “Blind Faith” is rough around the edges.  Frances/Faith is not an easy character to like.  Her barriers transcend the pages.

Colin Harvey has proven himself a masterful writer.  He has weaved a complex character idea into a very believable being.  His use of personality language adds depth and realism to characters.

“Blind Faith” is jarring in its telling.  I was not comfortable, at times, in reading “Blind Faith.”  Why didn’t I just stop reading it then?  I couldn’t.

Mr. Harvey’s writing demanded I continue to read and find out what happened to Frances/Faith.  “Blind Faith” demanded me to think about my reaction to it.

While I am not sure about “Blind Faith” and I am 100% sure about Mr. Harvey as a storyteller.

Whether it is fantasy, science fiction, or mystery, Mr. Harvey delivers.

THE ONLY PURE THING

By Patrick Hyde

Cleveland Barnes lives under the Key Bridge in Washington, D.C.  The night he steals Benny Batiste’s shoes is the night he’s arrested for decapitating Benny.

Stuart Clay is next up for the CJA defender call.  Cleveland is his new client.  From there Stuart is set for a whole mess of blind corners, multiple players, and nothing will ever be the same.

I am sorry to say, I did not mix with “The Only Pure Thing.”  Maybe I just don’t mix with legal thrillers?  I found the procedural aspects too dry and couldn’t get into the flow of the story’s environment.  Some of the story’s surprises, weren’t.  And others surprises just didn’t work for me.

I believe those who are more partial to legal thrillers, than I am, may find “The Only Pure Thing” to their liking.

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STATE OF THE ONION

By Julie Hyzy

So what’s so difficult working in a kitchen?  Try being the Assistant Chef in the White House kitchen.

Ms. Hyzy introduces us to her new character, Olivia Paras. In “State of the Onion” Olivia is hoping to become the new Executive Chef when her mentor, Henry, retires.  All she needs to do is out-cook her competition, not get fired for disobeying the Secret Service, and stay out of world-renowned assassin, Chameleon’s sight.  Not too much to ask for someone who took down a White House intruder with a frying pan, now is it?

Okay, so maybe you’re saying it sounds just a little far fetched.  Like, how would an Assistant Chef ever outdo the Secret Service?  Or, why would an assassin worry over an Assistant Chef?  But, that’s the fun and enjoyment of books.  They allow us to indulge in pure escapism fantasy.  And, besides, would any of us really ever know if something like this did or didn’t happen?

Outside of the general mystery and action of “State of the Onion” I found myself caught up in the day-to-day craziness of being part of the White House kitchen.  A kitchen that has to produce everyday food for the First Family as well as countless State Dinners with country, religious, and personal culinary restrictions.  All of which shines through via Ms. Hyzy’s vast research.

Yes, I like “State of the Onion.”  It’s different from other cozies because of its setting.  It’s more than a mystery due to its environment and the chaos of interacting with those who lead the United States and those who visit the White House.  I believe Ms. Hyzy could take Olivia and her readers through mysteries and thrillers to the plain ordinary craziness of everyday life while working in the White House.

I want to know what’s next for Olivia and that’s what a successful author should always do…make you want the next book.

KILLROD: The Cross of Lorraine Murders

By Bill Ison

Chance encounters turn deadly.

“Killrod” is the story of Hollywood sculptor, Hart St. James; an art that Mr. Ison shares with his character.  Hart is hired to work on, film star, Kelly Moran’s fireplace mantle.  Chance brings these two people together with both wondering if they can succeed where so many Hollywood relationships fail.

Before they can explore their new love, Kelly is murdered.  Murdered during the night, in bed with Hart.  Why was Hart not killed?

Was Kelly involved with something she shouldn’t have been or was it just Chance that made her a victim?  What part of did Chance play in creating the assassin, Monk?

Hart decides he must find Kelly’s killer, a search that takes him from the politics of Hollywood to the procedures of police departments to the politics of Washington.   Who is this Monk and what is the Chance he would have the same killing stick Hart made and used in Vietnam?

Mr. Ison’s premise is interesting.  His insight, based on his art of sculpting and sculpting for Hollywood are two examples of his book’s strengths.  I like his character, Hart.  I can’t quite put a finger on why I like this character as I have some difficulty with believing different aspects of this character.  However, there is something engaging with the character’s personality, if not abilities.

If I was a critique partner of Mr. Ison, I would point out where I found the book weak and/or unbelievable, here is not where that belongs.

Look up “Killrod: The Cross of Lorraine Murders” and decide for yourself.

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A HOTEL IN PARIS: A Minola Grey Mystery
By Margot Justes

Art, World’s Oldest Profession, and Murder, Interpol Inspector Peter Riley has his hands full with Minola Grey.

Minola Grey is an American painter who is staying in Paris.  She’s looking to rekindle her Muse, but ends up in the middle of a murder investigation.  Inspector Peter Riley assumes Minola is practicing the world’s oldest profession and she sees no reason to correct his arrogant behaviour.  Of course, there’s fireworks between the two.

It’s not that I disliked A HOTEL IN PARIS, but it wasn’t a book that captured my interest.  Minola Grey is humorous and doesn’t play absurd does-he-or-doesn’t-he games.  Peter Riley has a bit more of a silly egotistical mindset, until he lets go of it.

Maybe I expected more mystery and detection than the relationship building and character talk that A HOTEL IN PARIS favours.

This is Ms. Justes first novel and according to the back she is writing the second in this series.  If your flavour of mystery involves romantic couples…either developing their romance or long-standing relationships…you might find a new couple in A HOTEL IN PARIS.

I’m on the fence with this one.

THE SERPENT AND THE SCORPION
By Clare Langley-Hawthorne

When coincidence isn’t coincidence.

The year is 1911 when all ‘good’ women wouldn’t worry themselves over businesses, let alone the vote.  The place: England and Egypt.  The woman in question: Edwardian heiress Ursula Marlow.  The coincidence: Murder.

While remodelling and upgrading working conditions for her female employees, Ursula Marlow moves against Society’s grain as she takes the controls of her father’s business empire.  Granted she still must answer to Lord Wrotham, her trustee and society-crossed lover.  These are not the times for a freethinking woman.  Neither do they look favourable upon a woman who is determined to push for the solution to a plain working girl’s murder.

But, Ursula refuses to allow her worker’s death to go unsolved.  The young lady was killed and Ursula’s factory burned to the ground—why?  Following so closely on the heels of the murder of her new friend, Katya, Ursula has to have some reason for such random coincidences.

Are they random?

THE SERPENT AND THE SCORPION is the second novel in Ms Langley-Hawthorne’s Ursula Marlow Mystery series and on its strength I am going back for book one, CONSEQUENCES OF SIN, and looking ahead to Ms. Langley-Hawthorne’s next novel.

What makes a successful historical mystery, for me?  I need the main character to not only fit the time period, but to also fit themselves.  Every time period has Society requirements; however, during every time period there have been those who push against Society restraints.  If not, how else do we grow as a Society?  Ursula Marlow is such a character.  She is well aware of what Society deems—her place—however; she’s also someone who questions Society’s rules.  Ursula isn’t a character that brashly goes against Society’s rules.  She lives within its confines, if, at times, somewhat uncomfortably.  She does what she can, when she can and this finds her in trouble from both sides…Society and those who brazenly fight against it.

A historical mystery must also have a taste of the time period.  I do not need perfect period language words or phrases, a character’s tone or attitude or posture can give more to a setting than how something is said.  Not every reader will know the proper period phrasing; however, most readers will have a built in reaction to what feels correct and what jars them from the setting.  Ms. Langley-Hawthorne delivers.

And don’t forget the history in historical mystery.  Give me something that uses the time period that could only be told within this period of history.  Use the richness of history to weave your tale of intrigue.  Still, the most important aspect of a historical mystery is the mystery.  Here, again, Ms. Langley-Hawthorne delivers.

THE SERPENT AND THE SCORPION satisfies all my needs.  Frankly, I nearly read it in one sitting (time got away from me, another personal sign of a good writer) and can’t believe Ms. Langley-Hawthorne’s magnificent ending hook.  No, I’m not telling, but let’s just say it’s the main reason I’m eager for book three.

Off to check Ms. Langley-Hawthorne’s site for more information http://www.clarelangleyhawthorne.com/index.php  Care to join me?

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VINEYARD MAMBO
By Sarita Leone

Romance or mystery or family or murder?  How about all the above?

This, I hope, is just the beginning of a new cozy mystery series.  If so, Ms. Leone has started it perfectly.  There is a quiet slowness to the development of her characters, surroundings, and interactions.  Something I would like to revisit and see what’s next for them.

Anna is married to Tony.  They bought a fix-it-upper farmhouse and vineyard.  Tony’s grandfather (Nonno), Antonio lives in the small vintner’s cottage on their property.

Somehow Anna solves the murder mystery of the town’s least-liked couple.  I missed the clues.  I knew the clues and solution just as Anna related them all…okay, so I didn’t actually solve it before author, Ms Leone, revealed her conclusion.  BUT, everything made perfect sense and the clues were there.  Good job!

As I quickly mentioned, the mystery is a grisly murder of two disliked people.  This sends fear throughout the small community and sends Anna into question mode and Antonio into guarding mode (no one is going to hurt his Anna, he wants to bounce some great-grandbabies on his knee one day).

“Vineyard Mambo” is a lazy day read and I seriously hope Ms. Leone revisits.

Dying to Be Thin (A Fat City Mystery)

Kathryn Lilley

TV reporter dies at health farm…well, almost.

“Dying to Be Thin” is hilarious and its lead, Kate Gallagher, my new heroine.

Kate is a TV producer who wants to be in front of the camera, not behind.  She has the ‘face’ for the job, the brains for the job, but, using her words, “you practically have to be anorexic” to be in front of the camera.  So, after being laid off from one station, she decides a stay at the Hoffman Clinic is in order.  While there she’ll star in her own news story chronicling her weight loss.  One slight problem, someone at Dr. Hoffman’s famous “Fruit House” decided to fondue the doctor.  Looks like Kate’s personal story has become a murder investigation.

Kate is my kind of gal.  She’s intelligent.  She’s a quick wit.  There’s nothing about herself she wouldn’t laugh over.  She’s gutsy.  And, she has two very interesting and different guys wanting her.  What more could you ask for in a heroine?

Ms. Lilley is a clear and precise writer.  “Dying to Be Thin” isn’t filled with any unnecessary wordage or subterfuge.  What does fill “Dying to Be Thin” is humour, danger, secrets, flirtatious tension, some wacky characters, and a straightforward murder mystery.  A murder mystery that I did tend to forget because I became wrapped up in the characters and their happenings…forgot to try and solve the crime before the last page.

Now that’s a great summer read.  Yup, another author to join my personal library.

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A KILLER WORKOUT: A Fat City Mystery
By Kathryn Lilley

Welcome back Kate.

Kate Gallagher, who we first met in DYING TO BE THIN, is Channel Twelve’s investigative reporter who battles her weight as well as murderers, socialites, loan sharks, killer hikes, and television ratings.

This time around Kate is visiting her friend’s boot camp fitness retreat, Body Blast.  The workouts are brutal, the food awful, the roommate—dead.

Was it murder or accident?  And what’s up with sexy Detective Jonathan Reed?

Ms. Lilley has jumped onto the weight-obsessed wagon with intelligence, self-confidence, and laughing eye-rolls.  Her character, Kate, is plus size and understands the television game that demands toothpicks in front of cameras and who cares behind. While Kate plays the game, it is her style and determination that captures this reader.  She’s a newshound.

Don’t go thinking Ms. Lilley is making fun of plus sizes or taking advantage of a diet-crazed world.  According to her bio, http://www.kathrynlilley.com/author.html , she fought the same weight battle as Kate for the same reasons.  And Ms. Lilley’s setting is the self-named “Diet Capital of the World, Durham, North Carolina.

If you’re like me, you have expectations when seeing certain book shapes.  Penguin’s and its affiliates’ mass paperbacks are suppose to be cozy mysteries—easy go lucky, no cursing, no sex, just cozies.  A KILLER WORKOUT is a mass paperback, but it’s not exactly a cozy.  It’s in the middle ground between cozy and realism…not that cozies don’t have a sense of reality.  There’s a little heat, a little curse (so little I can’t find the page again) but still a whole lot of fun.

Given the compactness of Ms. Lilley’s story, it is hard to tell you much more about the plot and characters without giving everything away.

When I finish reading A Fat City Mystery I walk away having had my mystery read satisfied.  I’ve chuckled and wondered with Kate as she’s raced against murders and deadlines.  Her love of whoopie pies rival my cheesie cravings.

I look forward to meeting up with Kate Gallagher again.

CORRUPTION’S CHILD
By John Lindermuth

Another visit with former chief Daniel “Sticks” Hetrick in rural Pennsylvania; another twisting murder mystery by John Lindermuth.

“Corruption’s Child” is not a cozy mystery.  It isn’t graphic or offensive; however, it is unsettling due to the cruelness of the human minds explored.

Sticks and Chief Aaron Brubaker cases include murders, robberies, and internal police theft.  Their suspects run the gambit of crooked antique dealers, members of the Amish community, a drug addict, and one of their own.  Are the cases connected?

Mr. Lindermuth delivers “Corruption’s Child” with rough edges built on basic human greed.  What judgements do we place on someone simply on an outer appearance?  How wrong can those judgements be?  At its end “Corruption’s Child” dares you to ask – who is responsible for another’s actions, those that are present, those who turn away, or both?  Or are we truly our own responsibility?

Is this too deep for a mystery book?  It’s where my mind wandered as I thought between the lines of Mr. Lindermuth’s story.  Maybe I’m thinking too much?  I am sure there is always slightly more to Mr. Lindermuth’s tales than harsh reality in rural Pennsylvania.

Mr. Lindermuth’s Hetrick series does make me uneasy; however, he constantly delivers a solid mystery that leaves me guessing, “Corruption’s Child” is no different.

Enjoy.

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WRITTEN IN BLOOD A Forensic Handwriting Mystery
By Sheila Lowe

It has been said the eyes are the windows to the soul; however, it’s your writing that can give you away.

Claudia Rose is a forensic handwriting expert.  Using her skills and scientific technology she bets her reputation on her findings.  It is her reputation that brings Paige Sorensen to Claudia’s door.

Paige is the recent widow of a much older, and richer, gentleman.  His children are contesting their father’s will, insisting Paige forged his signature.  A simple assignment, until Claudia becomes personally involved.

WRITTEN IN BLOOD is another semi-cozy mystery.  There is mild language and mild hanky-panky; however, this brings reality without losing the cozy feel.

Ms. Lowe creates a steady pacing which slowly brings the full mystery into play, about midway.  For a paperback mystery, this may seem too long, but Ms. Lowe makes it work.  By the time the mystery sneaks up, the reader is engaged in the characters and their outcome.

And what is the mystery?  This is where cozy meets complex.  The simple story would be—did Paige forge her husband’s signature?  Did Paige steal a fortune and an exclusive girls’ school on old family property out from under her older stepchildren’s noses? But, how does a young suicidal girl fit in, whose father is a notorious filmmaker?  Then there’s the property development, kidnapping…murder?  Too complex for a cozy?  Yes and no, Ms. Lowe creates a platform for Claudia’s future that further draws her readers into wanting the next book. This storyline (you’ve given up on expecting me to tell, right) should unite the series and still keep each complete solid reads.

WRITTEN IN BLOOD’s book cover tells us of Claudia’s intrigue over “real-life soap opera” and Claudia has definitely stepped into a mix bag of lies, secrets, and pain.  Her survival is questionable, the saving grace is knowing this is a series…surely Ms. Lowe wouldn’t kill her leading lady?

A cozy with attitude and heart.

Death's Door, A Leigh Girard Mystery

by Gail Lukasik

Blurb:

On the eve of tourist season in the resort community of Door County, Wisconsin, a killer is targeting young blond women, leaving their strangled bodies along the desolate Mink River. The killer ritualistically arranges the bodies to mimic sleep, except for the long blond hair, brushed over their faces. And his deadly calling card— a purple ponytail band wound around the victim’s ring finger—a macabre symbol of love.

Leigh Girard, former Chicagoan and reporter for the Door County Gazette, is pulled into the murder investigation when she finds the first victim. Haunted by the grisly crime, she decides to write a letter to the killer begging him to stop. After the letter is printed in the Gazette, Leigh’s nightmare really begins.

The killer breaks into her house and leaves a cryptic letter on her bed, hinting at his identity with literary clues. After the police arrest a young fisherman for the murders, Leigh discovers another anonymous letter slipped into her mailbox. With the police convinced they have the murderer, and Leigh convinced they don’t, she races against time to decode the killer’s literary clues before he kills again.

Not until Leigh’s life is in jeopardy, does she discover the horrifying truth: the killer has been living on the peninsula for years, dormant and waiting for the right catalyst to unleash his murderous compulsion.

With as many twists and turns as the Mink River, Death’s Door is an eerie mystery thriller set against the wild beauty of the Door County peninsula in springtime.

My Review

The killer eluded me.

This doesn’t happen often. Rarely, in fact. Ms. Lukasik, you won.

DEATH’S DOOR isn’t your easy breezy read. At times the main character, Leigh Girard, didn’t sit too well with me. She reminded me of the friend we’ve all known who is just slightly rough around the edges. Not the “bad” rough, the socially awkward, not quite grounded, type of rough. Not too blunt and in your face, but just a touch too honest in her thoughts. Maybe this is partially due to Leigh’s profession…reporter. Or, maybe because she recently faced death. Or, it could be the end of her marriage and uncertainty of her current love life. Leigh isn’t a one-sided character.

She is determined. Nothing and no one will stop her from discovering Door Country’s murderer. Is it because she can’t let go of a news story? I think it’s more finding one young girl’s body and the death of another, one she spent time talking with, that’s driving Leigh.

While I can clearly see the countryside and surrounding environment of her world, at times I’m not fully enveloped with her characters. However, Ms. Lukasik writes a character driven story. I know this sounds contradictory. How can the story been moved via the characters and still not fully engage me? The characters could very well be any of our neighbours or family. They’re not perfect or have any magical insight or extra hidden knowledge. They’re plain everyday people. Some you like; some you don’t think twice about. Their actions, or the actions Ms. Lukasik has written, are at times logical and illogical. Don’t think for a minute, though, that Ms. Lukasik’s writing is all over the place and doesn’t make sense. Her story logic is sound and solid.

Why read DEATH’S DOOR? For the mystery, of course. Let me know if you solve this serial killer…with the reasoning as well, not just who did it.

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WHITE-METAL MURDERS

By J. Bruce Monson

What good is a private eye if he has amnesia?

Pretty dang good if he's Max Gumpers, yup that's his real name and he's not much to look at, but I like him.

Max wakes up in a strange bed with a naked goregous blonde and from there his life gets stranger.  Who is Janet and why does she insist on calling him, Boopy?  For that matter why does a murder man's face look familar to, Boopy?  And who keeps knocking him on the head every time he learns something new?

“White-Metal Murders” is a simpe detective story.  The P.I. is hired to find out who killed the President and Production Manager of a car model company.  Hence the title “White-Metal Murders,” white-metal is the term some car model aficionados use to refer to the light colour of the cast metal cars when in their bare-metal state.  Keep an eye on the cars.

I enjoyed “White-Metal Murders.”  The character, Max, reminded me of some P.I. from the early Humphrey Bogart movies.  Max is a basic gumshoe.  There are no fancy gadets or lightening-quick solutions.  Right now, I'm thinking Mannix and Canon, characters that use their brains, nothing flashy.  The supporting characters would make any P.I. proud and any reader entertained.

The murder mystery is simple and well played.  I really can't remember if I figured the story out, because I was having too much fun reading.  No one should miss the 'chase' scene.

Actually, no one should miss “White-Metal Murders.”  Thank you, Mr. Monson, here's to many more Max Mysteries.

EMBARKING ON MURDER: A Beanie and Cruiser Mystery
By Sue Owens Wright

Monsters, treasures or bodies, Lake Tahoe keeps its secrets.

Beanie, aka Elsie MacBean, is celebrating her 50th birthday.  A cruise on Lake Tahoe having dinner with her daughter and their long time friend, Sheriff Skip Cassidy, sounded great until Skip nearly drowned and someone else did.  Just because the victim, trophy wife Ivy, was seen and heard arguing with her much older husband and his angry older-than-her children doesn’t mean anyone pushed her overboard.

Is Beanie’s reporter mind or writer’s imagination playing with her or was Ivy really murdered?

Then there’s Professor Crispin Blayne.  He’s gorgeous and Beanie’s caught his eye, wonder what Skip thinks about that?  Blayne is studying Lake Tahoe and the secrets of her depths, maybe he will uncover the strange creature that’s been spotted; maybe he’ll find Ivy’s body.

EMBARKING ON MURDER is my first Beanie and Cruiser mystery and there’s something charming about this widow and her basset hound, Cruiser.  EMBARKING ON MURDER is definitely a cozy mystery; think along the lines of MURDER SHE WROTE.  Beanie is part Washoe and her memories of her great-grandmother, along with Beanie’s love of the Lake Tahoe area, makes the environment a living character.  This enhances the setting of the book as well as gives Beanie a history without boring information dumps.

EMBARKING ON MURDER’s dialogue opens after Beanie’s adventure has concluded—picture yourself sitting over coffee with a friend as she tells you of her latest trip, all the while reliving it so you’re right there with her.

If you don’t know Beanie, check her out, you may discover a new cozy mystery friend.

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HARDBALL: A V. I. WARSHAWSKI NOVEL
By Sara Paretsky

The truth is never simple.

My father was great at remembering historical events and their implications, sometimes I doubted whether they were his interpretations or something historians deciphered.  But, always, dad taught me that somewhere between my side and the other is the truth.  HARDBALL is a trip through a city’s history and family truths.

I have loved V. I. Warshawski for years.  I never miss a Warshawski novel.  However, there is always a concern when reaching towards a new tale with a favourite character written by a favourite author…will this one be just as good as the previous ones?

HARDBALL is the best.

Ms. Paretsky still delivers the Vic we all know and love.  There is still the troublesome mystery that Vic cannot drop.  Vic is still getting on everyone’s nerves.  However, Ms. Paretsky adds an emotional depth I’ve never read before within her pages.  Vic looks to reconcile who she is, what she believed, and how she thought her future would be.

HARDBALL and Vic’s journey starts when she ends up saving a homeless man’s life, Elton.  The hospital chaplain, Karen, who looked after Elton, quietly asks Vic if she would help two elderly sisters find their lost son/nephew.  Karen never mentions the son/nephew went missing in 1967.

Vic’s search takes her back to the Chicago Race Riots, the Anaconda street gang and their notorious leader, Johnny Merton, and her father’s life as a cop during that turbulent year.  What decisions had her beloved father, Tony, made when faced with the toughest times in his career?

Can a child, a father’s daughter, realize that her first hero may have had feet of clay?  Can a daughter forgive and accept the hard choices her father had to make?  Can she forgive herself?

These are questions Vic and her young cousin, Petra face in HARDBALL.

Ah, Petra.  So full of youthful energy and innocence.  So excited to be working on Brian Krumas’ race for the Senate.  Brian is the son of Petra’s father’s boyhood friend Harvey.  Friends: what we do for them, with them and because of them.

What could Vic’s simple case unearth that would (a) nearly kill her (b) kill a nun (c) threaten Petra’s life?

Emotions run very high in HARDBALL.  Never quite healed scars are ripped opened.  Family secrets are thrown into the light of uncertainty.  Foes trust each other, for a moment.  Lies surface and keep surfacing.  No one is untouched.

Yet, there is discovery.  What does Vic finally learn of herself and her father?  What becomes of her mother’s one musical recording?

Ms. Paretsky’s HARDBALL is power.

It reached deep and released every emotion within me.  Yes, I wept.  I wept for a city’s, a country’s, history.  I wept for the fictional lives of fictional characters because I know in fiction there is reality.  I wept because I am a daddy’s girl and though he is gone, he’s still my hero.

Thank you, Ms. Paretsky.

IN THE SHADOW OF GOTHAM
By Stefanie Pintoff

Murder most profiled.

Ever wonder how police found their murderers before today’s CSIs technology?  I just googled ‘fingerprinting started’ and learned the U.S. Army started using fingerprints in 1905 (http://www.onin.com/fp/fphistory.html )

IN THE SHADOW OF GOTHAM the year is 1905 and Detective Ziele is charged with finding the murderer of Sarah Wingate.  The daring killer shamelessly killed Miss Wingate in her own bedroom, in the middle of the afternoon with her aunt and cousin just outside gardening.  No one gets murdered in Dobson, New York, especially someone from a prominent family.

Enter Alistair Sinclair.  Mr. Sinclair is a professor at Columbia University and a self-acclaimed criminologist.  Think early profiler.  He reminds me of Sherlock Holmes, in a way.  Both have a network of informants; both know more than they are willing to share; both have an intelligent ego that is hard to deny; both are fairly likeable despite their idiosyncrasies.

However, Detective Ziele is not a Dr. Watson or Inspector Le Strade.  Detective Ziele is a modern 1905 police detective who uses his brain, life experience and new scientific techniques to track down each clue and witness.

Sinclair’s interest?  He thinks he knows the killer.  Seems Sinclair was working with—studying—a gentleman whose fantasies were too similar in nature to Detective Ziele’s murder scene.  A gentleman who is now missing.

In the end, will Sinclair’s secrets help or hinder Detective Ziele’s investigation?  What does Sinclair value more…justice or reputation?

Together Ms. Pintoff has created a unique team reminiscent of Holmes and Watson or Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin.  Balance and counter-balance to the other’s strengths and weaknesses.

Ms. Pintoff’s IN THE SHADOW OF GOTHAM was awarded The Mystery Writers of America’s First Crime Novel Award.  I found her debut novel to be a cannot-put-down read.  Her opening sequences captured my interest and locked Detective Ziele’s voice.

The uncertainty of Sinclair’s role in the murder investigation is one of the elements that kept me glued to Ms Pintoff’s story.  The other is Ziele.  Here is a character on the brink between historical police detective and our current police show detectives, a touch of the best of both worlds.

I look forward to reading Ms. Pintoff’s next novel.

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MAHU FIRE

By Neil S. Plakcy

Warning: Sexual scenes within context of storyline.

 

Righteous acts all in the name of extreme religion?  No, more likely in the name of hate and fear and old-fashioned murder.

Police Detective Kimo Kanapa’aka has finally come to terms with who he has always been – a gay man.  It hasn’t been easy, but he “…considered it a mark of my fellow officers’ comfort level with me when they were able to return to treating me as just another cop…”

“Mahu Fire” is a strong novel.  Mr. Plakcy takes his readers through the dangers of natural bush fires to arson to hate crimes to family prejudices to murder and back to the strength of family love, friendships, and new love.  Mr. Plakcy writes with precision while bringing genuineness to his characters.  His story, back-story, and twists are engaging.  Although, his culprits were pretty obvious, they’re own motive was unusual (to my reading experience).

I like Kimo.  Every time I use the word ‘like’ I am taken back to grade school and a teacher who told us time and time again – do not use the word ‘like – as she said it was weak.  Sorry, I don’t believe that.  The character, Kimo, is someone I want to read again and again.  I want to know his prior stories – Mahu, Mahu Surfer – and his future – Mahu Vice.  I like him and want him in my library.

“Mahu Fire,” at its base, deals with the battle for and against legalizing same-sex marriage in Hawaii.  Someone is burning businesses either run or owned by those who are gay.  When one firebomb comes too close to killing Kimo and his family, Kimo is takes the case.

“Mahu Fire” is a mystery for all mystery lovers.

MAHU VICE
By Neil S. Plakcy

Warning: Some sexually explicit language and sexual encounters within story context.

Kimo is back, but where’s Mike?

According to MAHU VICE’s back cover, Mr. Plakcy’s “MAHU FIRE won the 2009 Hawaii Five-O Award for best police procedural” also “MAHU FIRE and MAHU SURFER were both short-listed for the Lambda Literary Foundation award for the best gay men’s mystery.”  Whether short-listed or winning, Mr. Plakcy’s Mahu/Kimo series wins me.

Mr. Plakcy’s stories are pure police detecting and clear-cut crime.  MAHU VICE centers on the fire destruction of a shopping centre, Kimo’s father’s first centre.  This suspected arson case brings firefighter, Mike, back into Kimo’s life.  Yes, Kimo and Mike did break up.

If only Kimo’s life was this simple…working with his ex-lover.

When Kimo and Mike ended, Kimo went a little nuts—a little sexually out of control on a downward pain-filled spin.  His spin took him to the darkest corners of behaviour and punishment, which is awkwardly connected to his current case.  How much of Kimo’s private life will he be able to keep private?  Is he innocent of bad judgement or guilty of something more?

MAHU VICE is grittier than MAHU FIRE, the first Kimo book I read.  This time around my dark side comfort zone was pushed and as I wanted to pull back, I wanted to pull Kimo back with me.

There are three basic reasons why I am a fan of Neil Plakcy’s Hawaiian mysteries: (1) plain ole police/crime mystery; well-written and enjoyable to read (2) Mr. Plakcy’s characters and Kimo’s familial relationships; trusting, loving, supportive, and so very real (3) the love story between Kimo and Mike.

Yes, I have found a love story that has me hooked and caring.  Maybe it is because this relationship isn’t a same old/same old does s/he or doesn’t s/he game playing/too scared to act storyline.  It could be because I just like the Kimo character.  Kimo isn’t a stereotype—neither too macho nor too sensitive, he’s a balance of good instincts, intelligence, and resourcefulness.  Mr. Plakcy allows you to feel Kimo’s love of family, and their love towards Kimo, while he makes you watch Kimo’s pain and loss.

I’m not concerned over Kimo hurting Mike; I don’t want Mike to hurt Kimo, again.  Yet, nearing the end I want these two together.  Kimo feels like family.

I’ve spoken about a writer’s ‘honesty’ in their character or story telling and admit this can sound flippant; however, Kimo’s honest admittance to his own errors and what he deeply wants pulls me to him.  Kimo’s a fictional character that I would like to have in reality…all due to Mr. Plakcy’s writing.

Mr. Plakcy has discovered the perfect balance between police detective drama and character-driven fiction.

What’s next, Mr. Plakcy?

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FATAL ENCRYPTION
By Debra Purdy Kong

Caught in the middle, again, will Alex Bellamy’s computer skills keep him out of trouble?

His younger (okay only eight years, but they’re a big eight years) girlfriend dressed him up as Kermit for Halloween and wants him to work for her bosses, the McKinleys.  She would be his secretary and they could spend all their time together.

Alex isn’t having a good night.

Zachary Ternoway is having a worse one.  Someone’s just killed him.

How is murder and working for the McKinleys related?  Someone can and is locking up their ancient computer system and is holding it for ransom, either they pay ten million dollars by December 1st or bye-bye business.  All the suspects knew Zach.

Alex will be having quite a few unpleasant nights.

“Fatal Encryption” is an amiable read.  A little long for a lazy afternoon or rainy day read (take a week to fully enjoy) it would fulfil anyone’s need for mystery solitude.

Alex is a relatable character.  He’s looking for a career of his own making, he realizes his relationship isn’t working (but how to break it off); his family stresses and depresses him (he’s lacking self-confidence due to not being in the family hotel business) and his new bosses, The McKinleys, are driving him nuts.  Who couldn’t relate to at least some of Alex’s life?

Ms. Kong’s cast of murder suspects is long and intertwined.  There are secrets everywhere, yet everyone seems to know them…except for Alex.  By the end of the novel, I couldn’t figure out who was the guilty party, heck I thought maybe they all were and that was the only secret no one knew about.  Thanks for the spin, Ms. Kong.

Is “Fatal Encryption” a success?  Yes.

Would I read another Alex Bellamy mystery?  Yes.

SAY GOODBYE

By E.J. Rand

Who knew murder could lead to a second love?

Certainly not Gary Kemmerman.  Gary is E.J. Rand’s reluctant sleuth, the hero of a new mystery series.  “Say Goodbye” is the first in the series.  Mr. Rand has the start of what could be a solid Sunday afternoon reading series.  While I wasn’t knocked off my feet, I wasn’t disappointed.  I would read the next reluctant sleuth to see how the characters are developed and what trouble Mr. Rand finds for Gary.

This time around Gary’s neighbour, Norman Lyons, is killed in a car accident.  Was it really an accident or did Norman see something at work he shouldn’t have?  When Norman’s wife, Hannah, asks for Gary’s help, all Gary can hear is his deceased wife’s words “Don’t be Mr. Logic with friends.  Friends help friends.”  Falling in love with Becca Strassberg, the sole witness to Norman’s accident, wasn’t in the plans.  Who knew his questions would put them both in danger?

“Say Goodbye” was a pleasant read.  While there weren’t many surprises (this time around) the balance of ‘what next’ were enough to be engaging.    I am curious as to where Mr. Rand will take his characters.

As said, “Say Goodbye” makes an easygoing Sunday afternoon read.

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FRACTURED SOULS

By T. A. Ridgell

Not your average stalker mystery.

“Fractured Souls” is a mixed read, for me.  I expected a mystery in and about a geologically dig involving jealous rivals, so when it moved back to Gainesville, Florida I was shocked.  Having this action take me out of the story, I had a few pages of readjusting to work through.  Now the story was more centred on the romance between Dr. Benita Kyser and Sean Turner and who was stalking “Beni.”

Dr. Benita “Beni” Kyser is brilliant in her field; she can find the rocks/minerals where everyone fails.  Sean Turner is a private security and investigation agent.  He’s been sent to bring Beni’s finds home safely, only he thinks Dr. Ben Kyser is a crusty old man.  When Beni doesn’t fall for Sean’s flirtatious nature, she sets his world upside down.

They all assume environmentalists are making the threats against Beni’s dig, but when the threats continue and become deadly it’s soon realized the threats are against Beni.  Can’t tell you the reasons for the threats.  Can’t tell you the suspects.  I can’t even tell you if there are any twists or turns.  I’ll be giving too much away, and where’s the fun in doing that.

While “Fractured Souls” was a mixed read, I did enjoy it.  I found the interaction between Beni and Sean refreshing.  I appreciate the flaws in Beni and her understanding of them.  I felt sorry for Sean as Beni pegged him correctly, but for all the wrong reasons.  And, again can’t quite tell you any details, I knew I was emotionally drawn into the story when at one part I wanted to strangle Ms. Ridgell for doing something to one of her characters.  Ms. Ridgell, you made me care for your characters.

“Fractured Souls” is a good wind-down book.

APHRODISIAC
By Allyson Roy

WARNING:  Sexual language used via humour and threats within context of characters.

Saylor Oz is a sex therapist and a Do-Me-Good sales representative.  She’s barely five feet tall and quite the character.

The bare basis of APHRODISIAC is simple, Saylor’s friend, Gwen Applebee, is dead.  Whether it was suicide or murder is Saylor’s question.  Gwen would never have worn a fanny pack, which is what she was wearing when they pulled her out of the brink.  Also, Saylor’s been approached by Gwen’s killers—find the missing magic potion or die, very unpleasantly, very slowly, and a tad more hands-on than anyone would want.

Missing potion?  They must mean Gwen’s newest perfume attempt.  But how would Saylor know where Gwen hid it or its recipe?  What’s so special about this perfume and will Saylor find it in time?

You probably already know the answer—will she find it in time—but the journey is what makes the read.

So, how did I mix with so much blatant sexual joking, references, and sometimes uncomfortably crude remarks?  Overall, pretty good, APHRODISIAC is a perfect example of accepting a character’s personality and development.  Saylor is a sex therapist and is very comfortable in her own sexuality.  Any talk about toys, turn-ons, libidos, how much or how little, is natural to her.  Ms. Roy also uses sexual references as tools for her villains.  Not only will Saylor meet the same fate as Gwen, but not before certain areas of her are thoroughly abused.  Again, a good use for intimidation and character definition.

With that said, there does come a time when you reach a saturation point.  The sexual references/remarks did get a little tiring for me.

What really struck me was the reference to scents.  Saylor is a woman who loves her perfumes.  Each brings a different meaning and emotion to her, as well as playing a major role in the mystery of Gwen’s murder.  Ms. Roy reminds us that our sense of smell is one of our important powers.  Think on how many times you have reacted to a scent quicker than to a sight or sound.

I’m not 100% convinced regarding the full story outcome—Gwen’s mystery perfume.  However, it did make for an uncommon plot and motive.

APHRODISIAC offered me something distinct in my mystery reading and I’m always opened to that.

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MEMORY OF A MURDER

By Earl Staggs

Memory is such a fickle thing.

“Memory of a Murder” is basically a whodunit with a slight twist or two.  Former Federal Agent, Adam Kingston, is asked to discover whether or not a homeless man committed a murder.  First twist, it is the homeless man who is doing the asking…he has amnesia.

Second twist, and it is this subject that has been debated by many, Adam Kingston is psychic.  Not the woohoo, mumble jumble, all-seeing, take-the-customer-for-a-ride type psychic.  Adam is sometimes able to gleam images from holding someone’s belongings.  Sometimes he succeeds and sometimes the images make sense, and, well, sometimes he gets nothing.  All this started twelve years ago when Adam nearly died.  Now, he’s a consultant for those who ask, mostly law enforcement agencies, but at times he’ll help civilians, like the homeless man, Chip Weathers.

Now there is something else that’s happening in “Memory of a Murder,” someone is trying to kill Chip.  However, this someone has left a trail from Baltimore to Ocean City, which brings Detective Brenda McCort into Adam’s life.

“Memory of a Murder” is the second story I’ve read this month to include psychic abilities, and I have to say Mr. Staggs handles this topic realistically.  I do believe in these abilities, too many coincidences not to…in my opinion.  What I enjoy about “Memory of a Murder” is that the psychic abilities used here do not hand deliver the solution.  It is still up to good old-fashion mind work to figure out the clues offered.

I found Adam to be a funny likeable character.  He’s a loyal friend…a pain in the butt at times friend, but loyal, just ask his friends.  I really can’t tell you exactly why I like this character, I just do.  And I hope for more stories with Adam and friends.

I enjoy Mr. Staggs’ storytelling.  He has kept it fast paced and comfortable, using language and actions to define his characters.  The challenge within “Memory of a Murder” is the very nature of how memory works, and it is here that you will find the muted context hidden throughout.

Well done, when’s the next one?

Smude

by J.D. Webb

From J.D.'s website: My newest book is Smudge. A different book for me. The protagonist is female and there is no male lead character. It has a smidgen of romance but is mainly an action adventure. Trish Morgan a small-town paralegal goes to her ATM one nasty night and wipes a smudge off the screen. It's blood. She hears a moan and discovers a dying woman in the alley next to her bank. The woman sneaks a DVD into Trish's purse and the next day the murderer calls Trish at work, demanding the return of the DVD or else. What does she do? Go to the police? She lives in a small town where two officers make up the entire force. Why not just turn it over to the guy on the phone? It's not that simple. And could her husband really be involved?

Review:

Once again, J.D. delivers a story of everyday people caught in webs of trouble beyond what they thought was possible. Okay, I admit the use of 'webs' with J.D.'s name is a bit wordplay overkill. But, it's true, the character, Trish, is caught up in a life upheaval. The upheaval that always comes when you're least prepared.

There are a number of elements I like about SMUDGE. Trish isn't a super woman. She's not perfect. Her husband is a donkey. A controlling abusive donkey; however, we meet Trish as she's reaching the end of putting up with him.

Which leads us to Bob. Ex-high school boyfriend and current cop. The cop who came to her rescue the night she found the dead woman. The night she's passed the object the killer's after. I enjoy how J.D. didn't push the developing re-relationship between them. You can see it coming, expect more, but are taken to knowing it's around the end page and it works.

I have to admit it's a secondary character who is my favourite...Heather. This gal is spunky.

SMUDGE is a comfort read.

SMUDGE is the read you want when you want to relax. J.D. is the author who gives you straightforward, uncomplicated enjoyment. In a time when everyone is rushing around reaching for the fastest, more this, more that, complicated twists and turns, J.D. gives you the quiet peace you need.

If you're reading this as a negative or lukewarm review, nope, not at all. In today's crazy world of the 'right now' we all need some quiet peace.

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Falcon's Bend Case Files Volume 1 (The Early Years)

by Karen Wiesner and Chris Spindler

Blurb via author’s site:

Bugs: A partially digested body is found in the oxidation ditch at the Falcon's Bend Wastewater Treatment Plant. Was it an accident...or is new Falcon's Bend Investigator Pete Shasta facing his first murder?

Broken Wings: Just two months ago, a runaway daughter Keith Pierce never knew he had landed on his doorstep. Seventeen years earlier, Keith Pierce had a brief, intense affair with a woman on the lam. When Keith returns to Kat's hometown of Falcon's Bend to find his daughter's mother, he discovers that Kat disappeared shortly after giving birth to Quinn. Investigator Pete Shasta solves a decade and a half old missing-person case that's about to turn into murder.

Obsessions: A newborn baby is stolen from Falcon's Bend Community Hospital's maternity ward...and Lt. Pete Shasta's only lead is to the Liace Adoption Agency, which set up the open adoption of the unmarried mother's baby. Case Representative Lisa Mercer is as suspicious and defensive as she is beautiful. Pete finds himself breaking the cardinal rule of investigation--never get emotionally involved with anyone even remotely associated with a case. With a kidnapper who seems to believe there's nothing left to lose and potentially everything to gain, and his own uncontrollable feelings for Lisa, Pete's about to learn just how dangerous obsessions can be.

Blind Revenge: For the first three years of her life, Lindsay Bronwyn had nightmares about a witch who wanted her eyes. Nineteen years later, those nightmares have come true when she's found murdered on her kitchen floor, her eye sockets empty. Falcon's Bend Investigator Danny Vincent faces the supernatural to get at a chilling flesh and blood truth.

Fixated: Someone has been following new Falcon's Bend citizen Risa Nitzberg for the past few weeks. Victor Brooks, her neighbor from across the street who's become fixated with Risa from afar, steps in when Risa's creepy stalker decides to get up close and personal.

My Review:

I’ve mentioned before that reviewing anthologies, short story collections, or any short story is different and slightly more difficult than reviewing a larger piece. The reason being with less material there’s a greater chance of giving the story and ending away.

Now, less material does not mean less story, less impact, less craft. No, there are times when a short story will pack more punch than any full length novel.

I discovered Falcon’s Bend a few years back through a previous publisher and am glad to see the series thriving and growing. Listed as a Mystery/Police Procedural this series as the feeling of a cozy…coming home to a familiar setting and character-friends. The difference between Falcon’s Bend and cozies is its boldness.

The authors have found a balance of small town closeness and strong edged crime, murder, and mystery. With a touch of the extra…see story Blind Revenge.

Other aspects of collections/series are the similarities within each story. Not that authors copy or repeat themselves, but plot patterns can be found, story rhythms felt as you read each book. Falcon’s Bend doesn’t quite fit this scenario. The main characters follow their established behaviours and so far they haven’t veered off illogically. The plots vary. However, the action centres on the main police characters more than anyone else in Falcon’s Bend. It’s not the community I know, it’s the detectives. Well, the exception might be in the short…Fixated. Here we visit through the other side of the crime.

With this all said and done, the bottom line is…when you’re searching for a solid police character driven mystery, Falcon’s Bend is the place.

For me, it’s been too long and I’m glad to be back. What’s even better is I have a few more books, a few more stories to visit.

FALCON’S BEND SERIES BOOK 1: DEGREES OF SEPARATION

By Karen Wiesner and Chris Spindler

Yes!  A new series for my collection.

 Ms. Wiesner describes her and Ms. Spindler’s new series the following “None of the Falcon’s Bend Series books are cozies.  They’re all Mystery/Police procedurals.  All are whodunnits except….” I’ll keep you in suspense as to the “except.”

 I agree completely.  There is something gritty and basic about Falcon’s Bend.  While set in Wisconsin, Falcon’s Bend, isn’t some cliché filled “one-horse town.”  Lieutenant Pete Shasta and his partner Danny Vincent are not bumbling, overly polite, happy go lucky, perfect officers.  They’re cops.  They have a murder (or two) that needs solving and like dogs with old bones they’re not letting go.

 They are flawed; they are human.  Pete’s failed first marriage haunts his new marriage…will he get past that Lisa isn’t his first wife.  Lisa understands and supports Pete, she may not like Pete’s long dedicated hours, but she knew this when she married him.  Danny’s the ladies man (a nice guy ladies man, but a ladies man) but when he falls for a suspect, well that just might cause some trouble.

 I like Pete and Lisa and the challenges facing them.  Pete and Danny have a presence here, but it's subtle and knowing there's four other books my gut tells me the complexity of the characters will show more as the series moves along.

 “Degrees of Separation” surrounds the murder of a stripper.  Nothing unusual or different, right?  Have you ever heard of a men’s club where all the strippers live with their boss and his wife?  That one stripper, Cherry, is the wife’s twin sister?  Why did they all move from Los Angeles to Falcon’s Bend, Wisconsin?  Their parents really named them: Cherry, Teresa (okay this one doesn’t count) Deidre aka Dee (okay same here) Vanessa, Lacey, Sugar, and wife, Melody?  All right, their names might not be that out of it, but come on--they’re all twenty-one?

 Boss, Andre Trelawney is guilty of something, but is it murder?

 Something strange is going on at the Danse de Minuit.

 One character’s abuse history did get to me, pushed my comfort levels, but not enough to turn me against story.  Sadly, it was needed for this character’s realistic development.  Behind every face there’s a story and reason why they are who they are and how the monsters find them.

 Did I solve the murder mystery?  Sorta.  Given the quality of writing, I knew Ms. Wiesner and Ms. Spindler wouldn’t throw their readers an out-of-the-blue-unwarranted solution.  However, they offered enough evidence that I could have been wrong.

 The ending left me well satisfied.  As the title might suggest to you, “Degrees of Separation,” we’re all linked and our lives change by degrees.  Take a left here; make choice A over B; one misunderstanding and our lives change.  Each solution fit the individual with only the minimum fairy tale ending.  Hey, even a realistic police mystery deserves at least one happy ending.

 A potentially strong series that I suspect will have a few surprises.

 I’m visiting Falcon’s Bend again and again, but you’ll have to come back for those.

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TEARS ON STONE: FALCON’S BEND SERIES, BOOK 2
By Karen Wiesner and Chris Spindler

Ms. Wiesner and Ms. Spindler ask, “Is Murder ever justified?”

I do not know.  After reading, “Tears on Stone” I still do not know.

This time around we visit Lieutenant Pete Shasta’s brother, Jordan.  Jordan’s childhood crush, MaryEmma Gold, is back in town and something is definitely wrong.

MaryEmma has secrets.  Ever since her, her sister, and their mom left Falcon’s Bend MaryEmma has been beaten.  First by her stepfather, then brutally attacked by her brother-in-law.  After their father’s death, school counsellor, Pam Garland became their guardian.  She tried to protect ‘her’ girls, but Shelley (MaryEmma’s sister) was only happy on a man’s arm, any man…the wrong man.

“Tears on Stone” is disturbing.  Ms. Wiesner and Ms. Spindler quietly explore the issue of abuse while putting the spotlight on recognizing and surviving abusive relationships.  But, what happens when one sees abuse around each corner, in every relationship, with every man?

Is there a link between MaryEmma’s and Shelley’s father’s death and the death of Shelley’s husband?  Is there a link between the deaths of known abusers whose wives are members of SOS (Society of Survivors)?  Is Pete’s partner, Danny Vincent, becoming too controlling of his new wife, Melody?

Is murder ever justified?

Reading “Tears on Stone” I felt the underlying pain and new found happiness of the characters.  The lostness of MaryEmma’s niece hurt this mother’s heart.  Do I believe Shelley?  Sadly, I do.  I have known those women who measure themselves successful, happy, worthy only when with a man.

“Tears on Stone” is a part of the Falcon’s Bend series; however, it does not fit the standard mystery series.

“Tears on Stone” is a powerful standalone novel.

CHILI CON CORPSES

BY J.B. STANLEY

What is a Supper Club Mystery?  Ms. Stanley has developed five very distinct characters who, I am assuming, joined together to lose weight and in the process have their share of trouble.  This time around James, Bennett, Lindy, Lucy and Gillian have decided to take up cooking and wind up with a dead classmate.

Was the victim’s murder, a twin, a case of mistaken identity?  Was it a case of competition?  Who benefited from the victim’s death?  Will James and Lucy remain together?

Do you really think I’m going to answer those questions?

I enjoyed “Chili Con Corpses.”  While it took me a chapter to get into the feel of the group, I ended up caught up in their lives, current, past, and what the future holds.  I can’t say that Ms. Stanley includes recipes in the previous Supper Club Mysteries; however, here she does and their appearance at the end of chapters are a change from other books that save them for the end of the book.  I may even try a few.

Once in the mystery, I found “Chili Con Corpses,” for me, to be a one-day start to finish read.  It provided an entertaining escape from the chaos of the holidays.

Ms. Stanley wrote a mystery that I could not decipher.  I won’t say she pulled any fast moves, but my suspicion was roused at one point that could have ruined the final reading.  However, Ms. Stanley curved the story just enough for me to question my solution.

Bon appetit.

 

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KILLER CUTS: A Dead-End Job Mystery
By Elaine Viets

When you’re hiding you stumble upon the most interesting people and events.

In Ms Viets 8th Dead-End Job mystery, Helen Hawthorne currently works for Miguel Angel in his high-class, celebrity-filled hair salon.  The tips aren’t bad, the job is pretty easy, fantastic hair benefits, but the murder at the wedding was a tad too much.

Because I haven’t read any previous Dead-End Job books, I wasn’t aware of Helen’s history, who she’s running from and why.  I’m not sure I fully understand, but I gather she’s on the run from a court order to pay her ex-husband undeserved monies.  Then there’s the question about whether she has her divorce decree putting a damper on her own wedding.

It’s this back history that has Helen working dead-end jobs and falling into murder and mayhem.  How do you connect with a character that isn’t exactly innocent herself?  Without reading the previous novels, it’s difficult to judge if Helen is justified or if this is her flaw.

KILLER CUTS is not a cozy mystery.  There is nudity, sex, and some language—all within normal reality situations.  The characters are a little out of the norm; call them quirky.  Truthfully, I found KILLER CUTS a little quirky, too…a good quirky.

Its ending leads into Ms. Viets next Dead-End Job mystery, but I’m not sure I’m engaged enough to follow.  This is just me because I know people who would connect with KILLER CUTS and its characters.

Feel free to email me your opinions on KILLER CUTS and Helen’s other ventures.

SPECTRAL REWIND: THE CLASS OF ‘81

By Terry Lloyd Vinson

Would your high school graduating class make an interesting documentary?  What if your twenty-fifth reunion was…murder interesting?

 Matt Kirby is a documentary filmmaker who proposes to tell the story of one small town success stories.  Four graduates all made it big, The Infamous Four.  Peter Vincent went from class clown to stand-up comedian and character actor in low budget movies.  Brenda Jamison went from being dead poor to being a U.S. Senator.  Christopher Greene was the quiet star athlete who ended up writing successful books under a pseudonym.  High school’s Most Beautiful cheerleader, Lisa Monroe Clarke turned model then opened her own modeling agency.  All from the same small Alabama town; all in the same graduating class.

 What will be remembered more--the accomplishments or the murders?  Matt wants to showcase the successes, but knows he will have to show the chilling unsolved murders and his new producer wants more death and less success.  The townsfolk want peace.  They don’t want any more Vengeful Phantom theories.

 At first “Spectral Rewind” reads similar to “The Blair Witch Project.”  However, there is far less jumble and more suspense.  “Spectral Rewind” is a page-turner.  It is as simple and straightforward as any suspense mystery can get.  It is subtly powerful.

 Mr. Vinson uses Matt’s voice to bring the action and setting alive.  Matt’s narrative breaks the fourth wall to make an intimate connection with this reader.  Mr. Vinson uses straight story writing along with an interview format to unfold his mystery.  This smoothly breaks the reading into snippets of current action and remembered experiences through other characters. 

 I could not put “Spectral Rewind” down.  I could not uncover the conclusion even with all the pieces presented.  I would read Mr. Vinson again…and again.

 More, please.

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MOURNING MEADOW

By Larion Wills

Isn’t a house just a house?  Not when it is a haunted mansion.

Stephen Chase wrangles an invite to view the famous Fulton DeBain’s Morning Meadow mansion; all he’s hoping for is a chance to talk the owner into developing it into something worth millions…for them both.  What Stephen gets is a strange mix of socialites, an even stranger lady in the form of Kari, ghosts, secrets, and nearly killed.

What do we, Ms Will’s readers, get?  Yet another terrific read with more twists and turns and switches than I can ever begin to tell you about here.  As if I even could tell you more, doing so would give too much away as Ms. Wills is still writing a close knit story that unravels in her own unique way…one that keeps me guessing.

I have been trying to figure out what I can tell you about “Mourning Meadow.”  There are family secrets and strained relationships.  There are lies and misunderstandings and surprisingly, romance from the most unlikely pairing.  And underlying it all is an unbreakable will that will drive someone to murder.

What else…yes, Ms. Wills still uses her words to clearly paint the picture of her settings.  There are no wasted descriptions or thrown in information, everything has its reason…even when you don’t catch it the first time around.  Ms. Wills’ characters are interesting as they hide behind their own facades.

I have one complaint, Ms. Wills, your “Mourning Meadow” kept me up to 3:00am and the only reason I didn’t finish it that night was because I fell asleep…glasses on, light on, book open, dreaming “Mourning Meadows.”

Still, in the end, Ms. Wills throws yet another curve.  Makes me wonder if a revisit to “Mourning Meadows” is needed.

Another success.

CODE OF SILENCE: A Ben Reese Mystery
By Sally S. Wright

Is there a time limit on spying?

CODE OF SILENCE opens in 1947 when a young linguist, Miriam Gold, discovers her lover is spying for the other side.  Ten years later her murder, and the spy who killed her, will be exposed.

Have you ever read a book that was far more than what was written on its cover?  For me, CODE OF SILENCE is that book.  I am having difficulty explaining the casual complexity of the character relationships and how they mould together.

Ben Reese was a behind-lines-scout during WWII.  He has recently lost his wife and their premature son.  Currently, he works as an archivist for the local university.  His friend, Richard West, convinces him to once again attend the symphony, if only to get out and visit with their acquaintance, Carl Walker.

It is here the complexity sets in.  Miriam and Carl worked together at Arlington Hall.  Carl recently discovered the secrets Miriam left him, in a box of books, and he’s determined to bring her murderer to justice.  However, Carl realizes he needs to leave his own trail and sends cryptic messages for both Ben and Richard to follow.

Everything about CODE OF SILENCE hooked me.  From page one, this game of cat and mouse felt right. The opening pace was urgent and tense.  Ben and Carl’s separate grief was tangible and Ms. Wright captured the physical being grief can be.

The camaraderie between Ben and Richard balances between easy-going to kick-your-butt-as-needed to yes-we-both-know-but-won’t-let-on-we-do.  By the end of CODE OF SILENCE you can feel Ben’s grief healing.

Ms. Wright has done her homework (listed in the back of the book) even her historical notes peak my curiosity.  Her ending to this cold war espionage murder mystery satisfied me.

Will it satisfy a true lover of espionage books?  I believe it will.

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Midnight Hours

Vivian Zabel

Chats will never be the same.

 Martin Rogers is a cop.  Doesn’t matter he’s on sick leave; he’s still a cop.  Doesn’t matter he’s regaining his legs after being shot; he’s still a cop.  Doesn’t matter he’s fallen for an online poker playing female, he’s still suspicious; he’s still a cop.

 There’s something about the lady, Midnight.  She’s too good to be true.  She’s mysterious and teasing.  She’s only online at midnight.  Her picture was found with a dead (murdered?) man.  The face in the picture belongs to someone else.

 Oh yes, there’s something about the lady, Midnight.

 And, there’s something about “Midnight Hours,” a serial murder mystery that left me wavering back and forth again and again over just who Midnight was.

 Ms. Zabel’s story takes place over a course of months, seamlessly.  The friendship between Martin and his fellow officers is the perfect compliment to the egotistical know-it-all consultant.  The coolness of an officer under the gun and gentle strength of the new assistant district attorney are a perfect blend of female character qualities, and a good balance to the male dominated story.

 “Midnight Hours” is a cat and mouse game that spellbound me in both its simplicity and its intricacy…and kept me up well pass midnight reading it.  Well done!