Friday, December 31, 2010

'Reticence of Ravens', 2010; M.M. Gornell, Aberdeen Bay

Hubert James Champion III is a melancholy man trying to escape California's Mojave Desert for the past year. He no longer works as a psychologist nor as an FBI consultant and now Hugh owns Joe's mini mart with variable opening hours. However he soon realizes tht he cannot get away when a 'special' young woman with red Medusa-like hair and covered in her father's blood is brought to him one Sunday evening. Turner Jackson has been murdered and LoraLee, his daughter, is the main suspect. Hugh is drawn into proving LoraLee's innocence, not realizing the extent of evil surrounding him. He cannot escape either his own past or trying to find the real murderer.

M.M. Gornell has written a complex plot that is solidly crafted with sub-plots. Her main charater, Hubert, is likeable despite his depression and beneath it all, Gornell has created a strong character. The storyline of 'Reticence of Ravens' is engrossing with many surprises along the way. Somehow Gornell has tied it all together with the insight and perception of her talent. A good read!

FTC: Book provided by author

'Sometimes A Great Commotion', 2010; Carolyn J. Rose, Mike Nettleton; Krill Press, LLC

Another catastrophe has hit Devil's Harbor, this time an environmental issue dealing with the water treatment plan and an antiquated sewage system. The mayor orders unprecedented water restrictions much to the complaints of the residents but they do comply. Local doomsayer Elspeth Hunsaker believes she has seen an etheral image scorched into a breaded crab cake at the Devil's Food Cafe and proclaims that it is a sign that Devil's Harbor must repent. As a result, a mass of pilgrims arrive to see this sign.
Selling lumber from the town trust land seems to be the only way to supply the funds to fix the sewer system. However the loggers are kept on hold by a tree-sitting activist; but someone takes a chainsaw to his perch and reporter Molly Donovan uncovers the real truth about his fall which puts a different perspective on the situation.

'Sometimes A Great Commotion' has a reliable and popular heroine with Molly Donovan in a town brimming with peculiar and quirky residents. Each character is well-developed and intriguing, producing a fun-filled secondary storyline. Rose and Nettleton have collaborated and given us a book that is quite enjoyable. At times you will laugh out loud. Enjoy!

FTC: Book provided by author

Friday, December 17, 2010

'Murder Most Civil', Karen Frisch, 2010;Mainly Murder Press, LLc

Boston, 1860, and Henrieta Newell Cobb, an older woman of society is told by her housekeeper of a murder on Beacon Hill. Then Henrietta is surprised by a woman visitor named Mrs. Myrh McLaren, wife of a controversial antislavery activist. She is seeking help because she thinks her husband has been murdered but does not want the police involved. Seems she and Freddy Newell have been having an affair for four months. Myrh's story seems less plausible and she evades questions or answers in a vague manner. At first Freddy defends her, but his sister Henrietta is trying to save her brother from being charged with murder. But secrets kept from long ago, slowly reveal themselves to the shock and surprise of many.

I believe I would have enjoyed 'Murder Most Civil' much more if more emphasis was written about the pre-Civil War days. Henrietta's salons were a bit boring and the storyline dragged at times. Some of Firsch's characters were on the stuffy side and not quite believable, especially Myrh. I never could figure out her antics. If, however,you peel the storyline down to a simple plot with more of the abolitionist involved, it would have been far more engrossing.

FTC: Book provided by author

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

'Thin Ice', 2010; Crime Stories by New England Writers; Eighth Annual Anthology; Level Best Books

'The Bank Job' by Bev Vincent is a very cleverly written plot with the story cetering on the power of loyalty and friendship among men. Vincent's story is one of my favorites and I thoroughly enjoyed the humor he injects in his cast of characters. The story sound so 'Jersey' I loved it! A quite unusual story.

Judith Green's 'A Good Safe Place' left me hanging in the end without closure or any hint of explanation, leaving me frustrated.

'Size Matters' by Sheila Connolly is a well written plot that is concise and uncomplicted with ordinary characters in an unusual situation. With her insight, Connolly has blended it all together for a delightful story with a great ending. One of my favorites!

Leslie Wheeler's 'Dead Man's Shoes' was probably my favorite. Filled with suspense and surprises to the very end. Wheeler has a special knack for portraying her characters with diversity and a little craziness. 'Dead Man's Shoes' kept me engrossed with the story line and such intriguing characters. This story was exceptionally different!!

FTC: Disclosure: Book provided by author

Saturday, November 13, 2010

'A Gift for Murder', Karen McCullough; 2011, Five Star Publishing, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning

As assistant to the director of the Washington,DC Market Show Center, Heather McNeil loves her job except for a one week-long stressful ordeal. The Gift and Home Trade show is the largest by far and this year's show is creating turmoil and many other problems than is the norm. When a murdered executive's body is discovered in a trash bin, Heather knows that this trade show has begun with a catastrophe that throws everyone and everything into confusion. The police suspect someone but Heather doesn't agree and sets out to find the murderer before the trade show is over and the guilty party will be free to kill again. Heather has help from a new security officer but she will be risking a job she loves as well as her own safety and well-being.

What a great character Karen McCullough has developed in Heather McNeil. She is genuine, likeable and a bit complex. In 'A Gift for Murder' McCullough has produced an appealing setting that reveals to the reader what occurs during a trade show. Her writing is concise; her characters skillfully portrayed and her storyline stays on track, creating a most enjoyable and interesting read. I thoroughly enjoyed every page.

FTC: Book Supplied by Author

Sunday, November 7, 2010

'Did Not Survive', Ann Littlewood; July 2010; Poisoned Pen Press

Near Vancouver, Washington is Finley Memorial Zoo, a small zoo that has two Asian elephant cows, Damrey and Nakri. Iris Oakley is a keeper in the bird section of the zoo, is pregnant and still recovering from her husband's murder. But early that morning she hears a rukus in the elephant barn and decided to investigate and with no elephant experience sees that she has to help her boss, Kevin Wallace from being mauled by Damrey. Damrey has never acted in any aggressive manner and has no motive, but Iris finds that there are others with motives to kill the foreman. Confused and dazed coworkers appoint Iris to find out what's going on. Soon Iris learns of feuds, secrets and adding to all the confusion, animal rights activists are picketing the zoo. Animals are disappearing; what about the improved exhibit that isn't even under construction as planned? Iris plunges in to solve the many mysteries surrounding the zoo.

Ann Littlewood's 'Did Not Survive' offers the reader an inside look at the day to day running of a zoo and the personalities of the employees a well as the animals. I found all this very informative and written with a well-crafted plot that keeps the reader's interest. Littlewood has given each character distinct personalities and is adept at keeping the mystery evolving while still presenting her wealth of knowledge about the zoo world, which I found fascinating. Animal lovers or not,this is a real eye opener that I thoroughly enjoyed.

FTC: Full Disclosure: Book provided by author

Friday, October 29, 2010

'Murder In La-La Land', LA Sisters in Crime Anthology, 2010, Top Publications, Ltd.

'Murder In La-La Land' is an anthology of twelve mystery short stories. The authors present an interesting assortment of their works. A common thread is a melding of science fiction, fantasy and thriller with mainstreaam fiction.
Of the twelve stories, four stand out for me:

'Just Like Jay', by Pam Ripling shows humanism with a most fitting ending.

'Blonde Have More Fun' by Jane DiLucchio was my favorite. Two friends Diega and Marjorie are out celebrating Marjorie's final divorce decree and they are at a gay bar. For a ten page story, this one has humor and a surprise ending which knocked my socks off. DiLucchio has written a concise story that truly holds your interest. I just loved this one!

'This I Know', by Kathy Kingston is a cleverly concocted story taking place at a Halloween costume party and Kingston has not given names to the main characters, a delightful change that really works. 'This I Know' deals with domestic violence and Kingston certainly pulls of a pleasant surprise in her story. Great work!

'Mrs. Spacek' by Lenore Carlson

Mrs. Spacek has just lost her son Bobby, who supposedly fell of a cliff he visited often. She is calm and beautiful and Detective Lim is quite impressed with her acceptance of her son's death. Seems Bobby was almost 20 and his girlfriend Isabel Garcia only 13. Strange. Justice is done in Carlson's story with perception and understanding. I especially enjoyed the portrayal of her characters who had great diversity as well as being compassionate.

'Average Monster, Gabriel Vazquez, left me hanging.
'Death is Golden', Jude McGee, had major revenge as its theme.

This is my first anthology review and it was a nice change of pace, especially the four I chose as my favorites.

FTC: Full Disclosure: Book Provided by one of the authors

Thursday, October 21, 2010

'Absolution', Susan Fleet; 2008, Self-Published

In New Orleans, a psychotic killer is murdering women and removing trophies from them. New Orleans Police Department homicide detective Frank Renzi joins up with Rona Jefferson, an African-American journalist in his determination to apprehend this monster. Rona believes that too many black males are immediate suspects of the police department. A tip leads them down an unusual and surprising road. When the police begin to close in on the murderer, he gets to know an emotionally broken and weak teenage girl whom he convinces to run away with him. So now they're on the run with the police in pursuit when things really heat up.

For me, it is hard to believe that 'Absolution' is a first novel for Susan Fleet. Her story pulses with the experience of a career author who has written many mysteries. In 'Absolution', Fleet skillfullly introduces topics of corruption in the NOPD, racial tensions and religious conflicts while still maintaining a solid, concise and fascinating plot. She goes inside the head of the killer with a rare talent. 'Absolution' has characters that are engrossing and diversified; Fleet has done an excellent job of writing an 'I couldn't put it down' thriller.

First class writing! Hope there will be more from Susan Fleet.

FTC: Book provided by author

Friday, October 15, 2010

'The Blue Virgin', M.K. Graff; 2010, Bridle Path Press, LLC

Bryn Wallace is a beautiful model who leaves the runway to pursue photography and has a relationship with Val Rogan, a textile artist. When Bryn's body is found at her apartment, Val becomes the main suspect for Detective Inspector Declan Barnes of the Criminal Investigation Dept. Bryn and Val were heard to be arguing the night before. Nora Tierney, a close friend of Val's, returns to Oxford to help prove Val's innocence; arriving with her is Simon Ramsey, illustrator of Nora's children's book. Nora quickly becomes immersed in the murder inquiry much to the apprehension of both Barnes and Simon. A story of love and intrigue, 'The Blue Virgin' has a compelling plot. Nora discovers that simple decisions can lead to disastrous ends.

In 'The Blue Virgin', M.K. Graff situates her story in Oxford and offers her readers an inside view of Oxford with all the beauty and history it contains. Her characters are diverse, intriguing and appealing. Graff's storyline is concise without a dull moment; she is adept at producing a clever plot that left me guessing until the very end. 'The Blue Virgin' is very well-written and I enjoyed it immensely! Hope to see more of her books.

Don't miss reading this one!!

FTC: Full Disclosure: Book provided by author

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

'Live Ringer', Lynda Fitzgerald; 2010, Crystal Dreams Publishing (a division of Multi-Media Productions, Inc.)

After her divorce, Allie Grainger inherits a beach house in Cape Canaveral from her Aunt Lou and the two were extremely close. Now she has moved back and needs time to mourn and grieve and settle into a home with special memories for her. But within a day, a woman's body is found in the water at the jetty. She renews her childhood friendships with close friends Joe and Sheryl who are on the police force and they discover similar murders along Florida's coast. All the women are about the same age, blonde and divorced and bear a strong resemblance to Allie. Between Joe and the two other men Allie meets,, she believes one is the killer and starts to think she could be his next victim. Finding courage from within, Allie decides to learn the truth but as circumstances heat up, she doesn't know whom to trust.

Lynda Fitzgerald displays her love of Central Florida through her main character, Allie Grainger. 'Live Ringer' is a well-woven story with something for everyone. Along with an interesting mystery, Fitzgerald adds charm with the conversations between Allie and her Aunt Lou. Romance appears as well, but with a dose of reality which keeps the story grounded. Fitzgerald's character descriptions are brought out in friendly narrations as she subtly exposes insight into her characters' moral values. Readers will love her addition of Spook, who steals the show at times and adds humor.
'Live Ringer' is an excellent display of smooth, well-versed writing; a most enjoyable read.

FTC: Full Disclosure: Book provided by author

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

'Cursed Blessing', J.M. LeDuc; 2009, Tate Publishing & Enterprises, LLC

In Palm Cove, Florida, Brent Venturi has inherited and happily runs the library that has been in his family for about five generations. One morning Lucille Conklin, a cultured and friendly older woman arrives at the library with two boxes of books left specifically to Brent from her late husband, Joseph. When Brent begins to open one of the boxes, he is stunned by the contents. Now his normal and regular schedule is a thing of the past and he find his life, physically and emotionally, turned upside down. Every fact leads to more secrets, doubts and questions in a whirlwind of suspense.

A Christian thriller, 'Cursed Blessings' has an incompatibility in the storyline. At times I felt that LeDuc was inserting religion more broadly that the story called for. The praying vs. the violence was in itself a contradiction and the praying a distraction. Less prayng would give more credence to an unusual and well-written plot.

FTC: Full Disclosure; book provided by author

Saturday, October 2, 2010

'Murder at Spouters Point', Leslie Wheeler; Oct., 2010, Five Star Publishing, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning

Miranda Lewis, a writer of American history books and her boyfriend Nate Barnes, a native Indian, are visiting their separate friends in Spouters Point on the Rhode Island coast. His friends are at a Native-owned gambling casino and hers are at the Maritime Museum so they are in different worlds. Erin Meloy is Miranda's close friend and engaged to George Kavanagh, a yachtsman. When George is found murdered, the lead policeman, Curtin believes that only an Indian could perpetrate such a horrible crime and casts his sights on Nate's close friend Jimmy. Nate believes his friend has been framed by prejudiced white people. Miranda's view and feelings are different leading to stress in their relationship. She seeks the truth which leads to a maze of secrets long-buried, lies and an encounter that almost costs her her life.

Leslie Wheeler offers us a look at an unusual subject: Indian-run casinos and a view of prejudice, whether in a relationship, or in general. She has writtten an intriguing plot with insight into her characters who are skillfully portrayed. 'Murder at Spouters Point' has much to offer in history, setting and relationships as well as a mystery brimming with surprises. Leslie Wheeler has written a very enjoyable book.

FTC: Full Disclosure: Book provided by author

'No Evidence of A Crime', S. Connell Vondrak; Aug. 2010, Oak Tree Press

Kathleen Jackson has been Jim Jarrod's partner in the Washington, D.C. Police Department for about six months when they are sent to investigate a homicide. The body is a beautiful young woman, a congressional aide who was shot near Capital Mall; but there are disparities with the evidence. A Glock is identified as the murder weapon, but a witness puts the shooter at too great a distance for a handgun. DNA results disclose that the woman was pregnant by a gang member yet she was well-dressed and her teeth and body in excellent condition, showing a degree of affluence. Jarrod and Jackson decide to bring in a forensic scientist and retest the samples. Now Kathleen and Jim need to discover who is meddling with the evidence and why.

Vondrak's plot in 'No Evidence of A Crime' clearly defines her knowledge of forensics and writes a fascinating story with twists and turns. She gives us a captivating, in depth and well-crafted theme offering real truths about the forensics world which I found riveting. A real page turner and a significant debut!

FTC: Full Disclosure: Book provided by publisher

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

'Fools Rush In', Sunny Frazier; 2010, Oak Tree Press

Office Assistant III Christy Bristol is at her desk in the sheriff's department substation on a sweltering hot day. Her ex-boyfriend, Wolfe, an undercover narcotics detective, arrives to ask for her help. Wolfe's snitch has been murdered and he wants her help to find the prime suspect, but he wants Christy to use her astrological skills. In the past, he always made fun of her charting horoscopes so she knows he is desperate. She agrees to help Wolfe but doesn't realize until it's too late the real danger she is in as well as her fearful, frightening introduction to narcotics traffiking. Christy sees the drug world up close and it is a place she never wants to revisit.

Sunny Frazier has introduced readers to the world of astrology in 'Fools Rush In', with Christy Bristol engaging in charting. Frazier depicts the decadence of the gloomy, dark world of drugs with intrigue and portrays a blatant disrespect of the underworld's moral values. I found 'Fools Rush In' a bit disturbing but I credit Sunny Frazier's skillful writing about this subject.

FTC: Full Disclosure: Book provided by publisher

Sunday, September 26, 2010

'Last Writes', Sheila Lowe; July 2010, Obsidian Div. of Penguin Group

Claudia Rose, a forensic handwriting expert,is looking at a photograph of an angelic looking toddler girl. Her friend Kelly Brennan has just found out that she has a niece from her half sister, Erin Powers, whom she has not seen in almost 20 years and arrives on her doorstep asking for help. Kylie Powers is the little girl in the picture; her mother and father have been members of the Temple of Brighter Light and living secluded lives in a compound. Now Erin's husband and daughter have disappeared leaving a mysterious note with a frightening message. Outsiders are rarely invited to the compound but Claudia makes an impression on Brother Stedman, the leader, at a rally and she and Kelly are invited to the compound. Claudia will be doing handwriting analyses for Stedman and hopes that between her and Kelly they will discover the truth about the disappearance of Kelly's niece Kylie.

'Last Writes' is a page turner that keeps the reader in suspense to the very end. Sheila Lowe has written a solidly crafted plot with intriguing characters in a complex mystery. Lowe delves into personalities through her handwriting analyses giving readers insight of the art. Lowe has filled 'Last Writes' with surprises throughout the book that caught me off-guard and intensified my interest. Sheila Lowe has a dynamic book with 'Last Writes'.

FTC: Full Disclosure: Book provided by publisher

Saturday, September 25, 2010

'A Sporting Murder', Chester D. Campbell; 2010, Night Shadows Press, LLC

Greg and Jill McKenzie are hired to investigate talk around Nashville that something illicit is implicated with a transaction to bring an NBA basketball team to Nashville. Their client is attorney Terry Tremont who is retained by a group of Nashville Predators' hockey fans that want to block the businessmen from bringing in an NBA team. The clients believe that football and hockey are enough teams. Greg receives a call from Arnold Wechsel, a nephew of an old Air Force colleague; Arnold wants to meet with Greg that evening and says he has information about the NBA matter that will blow Greg's mind. Greg has bad vibes about the call as well as the meeting that are verified when he discovers Arnold's body. Circumstances become more deadly and Greg believes that he and Jill's lives are in jeopardy. What a way to spend the week before Christmas!

Campbell's main characters, Jill and Greg, are a very likeable and sensible duo that the reader can connect with very easily. 'A Sporting Murder' has an uncommon plot that reveals the talents of Campbell as he weaves through his storyline with his wealth of information. 'A Sporting Murder' is aptly named and once again Chester D. Campbell is skillful at writing another first-rate mystery.

FTC: Full disclosure: Book provided by author

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

'Genteel Spirits', Alice Duncan, July, 2011, Five Star/Cengage

It's the Prohibition Era, 1922, in Pasadena, California, and Daisy Gumm Majesty's spritualist business is in a slump while her major client is out of town. Desdemona is her professional name which she gave herself at age 10. One evening Daisy answers the phone and Gladys Pennywhistle, with whom she had gone to school, is looking for Desdemona, the spiritualist. Daisy is shocked because she remembers Gladys as a very serious person with no sense of humor. Gladys works as secretary for Mrs. Lurlene Winkworth, an elderly southern belle, grandmother of movie star Monty Montgomery; Monty is a close friend of Harold Kincaid, Daisy's best friend. Lurlene wants to book Desdemona for a seance and Daisy accepts, excited at the prospect of meeting Monty and starlet Lola de la Monica who are in town for the filming of a movie at the mansion. Upon her arrival at the mansion for the seance, Harold meets her and tells her he needs her help before she goes to work. Monty has been getting threatening letters and they want Daisy to find the culprit before Monty's career is ruined. After the seance, Lola decides she wants Daisy to be her spiritual guide during the filming of 'The Fire at Sunset'. Daisy takes on the job which becomes more trouble than she ever bargained for; and she becomes more perplexed as additional threatening letters arrive.

In 'Genteel Spirits', Alice Duncan writes Daisy's story with simplicity, directness and no pretentions. Duncan once again produces a commentary of the times touching on social and cultural issues such as the effects of WWI on the average American family; the financial depression after the war; equal pay for working women and homosexuality. Alice Duncan is a sensation at portraying characters with heart, humor and who are genuine. The pleasure in reading Alice's books is meeting up with Daisy and her family and friends again. A truly enjoyable read!

FTC: Full Disclosure: Book provided by author.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

'Fallen Angels', Alice Duncan, May, 2011; Five Star/Cengage

Mercy Allcutt has just moved to Los Angeles from Boston and lives with her sister Chloe and her husband, Harvey Nash. Mercy has secured a position as secretary to Mr. Ernest Templeton, a private investigator, and she has helped Ernie solve a few murder mysteries so the thrill of being a 'co-investigator' is in her blood. She is the first woman in her family to obtain a job, much to her Bostonian mother's outrage.
When Mercy arrives at work on Monday, her boss has left her a note that he went to see a client. But he is late for a meeting with Phil Bigelow, a detective and friend from the LAPD. After hours of waiting go by and no Ernie, Mercy decides to go to the client's house where she not only discovers a body, but Ernie, bound and gagged in the upstairs bedroom. Ernie becomes a suspect of the LAPD when Detective O'Reilly, an adversary of Ernie's, takes over the case. Mercy becomes diligent about proving Ernie's innocence and finds herself in a tangled web of deceit.

Once again, Alice Duncan provides the reader a look at the social culture of the time. In 'Fallen Angels', Duncan portrays her characters skillfully and with humor. Her Boston society view vs. Los Angeles 'society' shows her insight and knowledge.

I'm an avid Duncan fan; in 'Fallen Angels' I thought the murderer was too obvious as the main suspect in this mystery. But I truly delight in Alice's ability to add a 'slice of life' to her books!

FTC Disclosure: Book provided by author

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

'Live Free or Die', Jessie Crockett, 2010, Mainly Murder Press, LLC

In Winslow Falls, New Hampshire, Gwen Fifield is the Assistant Fire Chief, a volunteer position. When she is called to the local museum fire, she does not expect to see the body of Beulah Price burned in the fire. The Fire Chief, Harold Seeton, had taken a look at Beulah's body and collapsed with a heart attack. Now Gwen is in charge, not what she expected at all in her so-called volunteer position. When Hugh Larsen of the Fire Marshal's office arrives, Gwen informs him of a rash of other fires in the past two months. She hopes he will take charge of the entire case, but he requires her help to learn about and investigate the villagers. A recently arrived immigrant family would be the suspects of choice for the residents; but Gwen is convinced that the murderer is a native as facts from the past emerge.

In 'Live Free or Die', a debut mystery for Jessie Crockett, she has written a well-plotted storyline that is compact and maintains constant interest and surprises for the reader to the very end. Crockett's characters are well-defined and very believable with lively dialogue that does not veer from the main plot. Gwen Fifield is a woman to be reckoned with and I hope to see her soon in another book.

A very enjoyable debut mystery from Jessie Crockett!

FTC: Full Disclosure: Book provided by author

Monday, August 2, 2010

'The Blue Shackle', Lillian Stewart Carl, Nov. 2010; Five Star Publishing/Gale, Cengage Learning

Jean Fairbairn and Alasdair Cameron are getting married in the incoming New Year. Alasdair's childhood friend, Fergus MacDonald, owns the deteriorating Dunasheen Estate on the Isle of Skye in Scotland where the wedding will take place in the chapel. Fergie is frantic to save his home and has opened the estate to paying guests for a Scottish New Year celebration and needs help from Alasdair and Jean regarding some artificats. But when a guest is murdered and the police disrupt the gathering, Alasdair and Jean realize that they also must investigate the case so the wedding can take place on time. Everyone is under suspicion; secret plans are revealed; bewilderment stalks our sleuths as they deal with the mysteries of the past to find today's killer.

Lillian Stewart Carl is very adept at placing her readers in her geographical settings. 'The Blue Hackle' takes us to Scotland and with Carl's descriptions you feel that you are right beside Alasdair and Jean. Carl weaves an interesting plot with myths, legends and the paranormal along with a secondary storyline for the upcoming wedding. In 'The Blue Hackle' each and every character is skillfully portrayed with diversity.

A most enjoyable read intertwined with Scottish history and geography.

FTC: Disclosure- Book provided by author

Friday, July 23, 2010

'It's Murder, My Son', Lauren Carr, June, 2010, Printed in U.S.A.

After a messy divorce has ended, Mac Faraday, a retired homicide detective in D.C., is trying to avoid a lawyer who keeps after him. But the attorney finally convinces Mac to listen to him and Mac learns that the mother who gave him up for adoption 40+ years earlier has died and left him her vast fortune. Mac moves to Deep Creek, Maryland where his mother, Robin Spencer was born and known as America's Queen of Mystery. When Mac moves into Spencer Manor, he learns that a neighbor, Katrina Singleton, was murdered three months earlier and her case file is still open. However, there are more suspicious deaths and Mac decides to use his investigative skills to discover secrets in this plush gated community and to follow clues to find Katrina's killer. Many surprises await Faraday in addition to his adjustment to an immense fortune.

In 'It's Murder, My Son', Lauren Carr has provided a complex plot with a diversity of characters that blend so well with the mystery. Lauren's dialogue is brisk, her setting beautiful and the addition of Gnarly is very clever. As I did, readers will love this overly intelligent dog and his antics. 'It's Murder, My Son' is a delightful read and I look forward to more of Carr's Mac Faraday mysteries.

FTC disclosure: Book provided by author.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

'Grave Doubts', John Moss, 2009, Dundurn Press

David Morgan and Miranda Quin are waiting for something to happen; the Toronto detectives are between cases; Morgan is restless and Miranda nervous. Quin delivers a manila envelope with photographs of two headless corpses from a crime scene, a man and woman embracing while wearing early Victorian clothes. Later they arrive where the bodies were found, an old cottage set for demolition. In the process, a hidden closet is found behind a hanging cabinet and the bodies seem well preserved. Morgan and Quin are soon immersed in unusual and contrived wickedness. Moss takes 'Grave Doubts' from Toronto, to a farmhouse on Georgian Bay, a neglected old church to an old shipwreck and each location becomes more puzzling and terrifying. Morgan and Quin are challenged at every turn and their powerful connection to each other is tested by the horrors of this case and the cleverness of the murderer.

In 'Grave Doubts', John Moss has written an 'I couldn't put it down' mystery. An incredible and unusual plot that portrays love, sex, deceit and death in a very different and interesting way. Moss has produced a page turner with his portrayal and insight of his characters, and a gripping plot that never loses a beat.

This is a winner!

FTC: Book provided by author

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

'Still Waters', John Moss, 2008, Dundurn Press

Toronto detectives David Morgan and Miranda Quin have been partners for ten years working the homicide division. Each balances the other quite well with their opposite approaches and thoughts dealing with a case. In the wealthy section of Toronto's Rosedale area, a man's body is found in a garden pond and his body is slowly turning. On this property there are ponds with Japanese koi fish and varieties of rare fish. A beautiful woman walks into the crime scene and casually admits that she is the dead man's mistress, and shows no remorse at his death. Our sleuths soon learn that this death is only the starting point; secrets are revealed and Miranda's long-buried past catches up to her and shocks her.

In 'Still Waters', John Moss weaves a most unusual plot connecting the past and the present. He produces unexpected events and hints of secrets hidden in the minds of his characters. Throughout the story Mosss delves inside the heads of Quin and Morgan exposing their inner thoughts and memories. At times I was lost with some of the references. 'Still Waters' deals with a serious issue and Moss uncovers our eyes to heartbreaking circumstances too often a part of real life.

'Still Waters' is not a lightweight mystery but Moss reveals his knowledge of philosophy, psychology and rare fish. Quite a combination.

FTC: Book provided by author

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

'Revenge For Old Times' Sake', Kris Neri; 2010, Cherokee McGhee, L.L.C

Non-conformist Tracy Eaton is an author married to a strait-laced attorney Drew, a junior partner in a law firm nicknamed SCREWED by Tracy's mother. When Tracy witnesses Drew punch his boss Ian Dragger in the nose, she is pleasantly surprised and proud of Drew. But when Ian's body is found in the Eaton's pool, Drew becomes the prime suspect and Tracy has plans to prove Drew's innocence quickly. Then support arrives - her mother, movie actress Martha Collins and Tracy's so-dignified mother-in-law Charlotte Eaton. Whenever Martha and Charlotte are together, the sparks fly constantly. Later another body is found in the pool and Tracy & Co. decide 'enough is enough' and take matters into their own hands. As events keep happening pointing to Drew, Tracy hopes her crazy plan will save him.

Kris Neri has fashioned a plot with many twists and turns in 'Revenge For Old Times' Sake'. Her character portrayal is outstanding, a hilarious mix of personalities that make you laugh out loud. Neri has represented her cleverness at plot with sparkling dialogue and a narration that is never boring. It takes a special talent to create characters so funny while maintaining a solid plot, but Kris Neri has done it.
A very enjoyable read!

FTC: book provided by author

Friday, July 2, 2010

'Murder on Elbrus', Charles G. Irion and Ronald J. Watkins, July, 2010; Irion Books

Scott Devlon is in southern Russia to observe a European Union conference. Acknowledged throughout the world as a master climber, he has not completely recovered from the disaster on Mt. Everest. Scott's assignment seems basic enough but circumstances turn fatal when a Russian official is murdered on Elbrus, Europe's highest mountain and one of the Seven Summits. Devlon meets up with Tom, Tarja and Natasha who were with him on Mt. Everest; Natasha is the ruling queen of the media world but Scott has doubts about her loyalty. When Devlon has to make a speedy escape, a Russian mobster, a Georgian nationalist and a tired CIA agent join him. With the Russian army on their trail, they travel across war torn Chechnya and Scott discovers the ethnic vendettas in each region and secrets are learned during their escape through the barren geography of the north Caucasus.

Irion and Watkins have set this story in an area unknown to most readers, so we learn and absorb the culture, geography and emotions of the people in the Caucasus area. 'Murder on Elbrus' is an exciting, fast-paced murder mystery and exposes the fear of ethnic groups and the greed of others for power and control. I learned quite a bit about these regions and their people while an absorbing mystery evolved. 'Murder on Elbrus' certainly grips your attention with political history threaded throughout!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

'How To Crash A Killer Bash', Penny Warner, Aug., 2010, Obsidian/Penguin Group

In San Francisco's Golden Gate Park area, Presley Parker is an event planner working on a mystery play for the de Young Museum fund raiser. Mary Lee Miller is the museum's major fund raiser and philanthropist who has hired Presley, but Parker finds Miller to be pompous, controlling and wants all the credit for herself. Presley has set the mystery theme with her decorating; the actors are in costume and the guests are to arrive dressed as their favorite sleuth. Mary Lee, who is playing the role of the victim is found murdered and Presley's friend, Delicia becomes the prime suspect. Distraught over her friend's predicament, Parker decides to put her investigative skills to work to prove Delicia's innocence. But as she uncovers secrets and pursues her sleuthing, she realizes that her probing could be deadly.

In 'How To Crash A Killer Bash', Penny Warner has written a concise plot with an appealing storyline as well as characters that capture your attention. Detective Melvin is portrayed as a thorn in Presley's side; her mother wins your heart with her likeability; Brad, Parker's neighbor and heart throb keeps you guessing about his intentions. Warner has produced a very enjoyable read with her talented narration.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

'Bury Your Dead', Louise Penny

In my review I neglected to acknowledge this: "FTC full disclosure - book provided by St. Martin's Press.

'Bury Your Dead', Louise Penny, Oct. 2010,St. Martin's Press/Minotaur Books

'Bury Your Dead' brings us to Quebec City where Chief Inspector Gamache is visiting his mentor Emile Comeau and attempting to deal with the sadness and guilt over those who died under his command. Flashbacks to the attack appear too frequently for Gamache. But before long a man who was a fanatic Champlain historian is murdered. His body is found in the basement of the library of the Literal and Historical Society. Inspector Langlois recognizes Gamache and requests his help to solve the crime. The main plot revolves Champlain including fascinating historical facts about Champlain, the past and present Quebec and the relationship between the separatists, French and the English.
Back in Three Pines, Inspector Belvoir, Gamache's second in command is conducting another investigation regarding the Hermit.

Louise Penny has three intertwined solidly crafted plots with history; at the same time she reveals that there truly are second chances in the world. For me, 'letting go frees you' is an undercurrent throughout the book and Penny skillfully alludes to it with her characters.

Penny never ceases to amaze me and 'Bury Your Dead' exceeded all my expectations. By far, her most intricate storyline complete with human emotions and history. I didn't want this book to end and yet I could not put it down. She has written a true page turner offering surprises and powerful characters with insight into their emotions. 'Bury Your Dead' is a stunning piece of literature and Penny delivers as only she can do. Amazing!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

'A Brewski For The Old Man', Sept.,2010, Phyllis Smallman, McArthur & Company

In the third Sherri Travis Mystery series, Smallman hits upon social issues in her narrative. Back in Jacaranda,Florida, Sherri has bought the Sunset Bar and has two renters. One is Rena who has a 16 year old daughter Lacey that helps her mother in the Beach Bag shop. Sherri notices that Lacey has an air of sadness about her that tugs at Sherri's heart. And too soon she learns why and sets out to give Lacey emotional support and some advice. Along the way, a murder occurs, Sherri unearths secrets and lies; and her father, Tully Jenkins reappears in her life. Father and daughter reconnect in an unusual way. All sorts of zany situations follow during Sherri's search for the truth. The plots intertwine and maintain interest.

Phyllis Smallman deals with a serious issue in her story but doesn't run away from it. She combines it with an absorbing storyline and captivating people. Her characters range from evil, creepy, eccentric and crazy to funny, thoughtful and engaging.

Another winner for Phyllis Smallman!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

'Pecos Valley Revival', 2011, Alice Duncan, Five Star/Cengage

In 1923 Annabelle Blue is 19 when she and her friend Myrtle watch the fall cattle drive coming through Rosedale, New Mexico. Ranches within hundreds of miles participate, culminating in a rodeo and big party that lasts for days. But this October there is another entertaining event in town, a tent revivalist; Rev. Milo Strickland and his sister Esther are the preachers. Myrtle has gone to some of the meetings as well as Phil Gunderson, Annabelle's 'boyfriend' and were 'saved' and are trying to convince Annabelle to go but she wants no part of the 'hell and damnation' preaching. Although Myrtle is quite captivated by the Stricklands and Phil seems interested in Esther, Annabelle just doesn't trust her and feels there is something strange about the preachers. The Gundersons will be hosting the rodeo and all the parties at their ranch and everyone in town is looking forward to it, especially Annabelle's 'obnoxious' 12 year old brother Jack. Annabelle notices strange situations occurring here and there at the ranch during the festivities and before long a cowboy gets very sick and dies; she learns that he was poisoned and Annabelle becomes even more watchful of the comings and goings of the people, but cannot prevent another murder.

Duncan has a unique flair for explicit characterization; each main character is described physically but the reader really gets to know them through dialogue, actions and substance. 'Pecos Valley Revival' shows Duncan's skillfulness with interweaving plots that hold your interest while enlighteming us about 1923 New Mexico and cowboys. Her writing in unparalleled for interest and quality.

I could not put this book down!

'The Pot Thief Who Studied Ptolemy', 2010, J. Michael Orenduff, Oak Tree Press

Herbert Schuze, our pot thief in Albuquerque has discovered that sacred pots were stolen from San Roque, a New Mexico pueblo not open to outsiders. So he makes it his quest to appropriate them and return them, which gives the thievery a charitable side. But he discovers that they are in a penthouse at Rio Grande Lofts, a building with high security. He attends a party in the building with his friend Susannah and runs into the gorgeous Stella on the elevator who foils his plan. A body is found and Herbert becomes a suspect; after all, he was in the room where the body was found. Now Herbert begins to delve further and prove himself innocent, stay ahead of Stella and retrieve the pots.

Orenduff added Stella as a character in this story and she brings humor and reveals a very different side of Herbert. She's funny and delightful; you will laugh out loud. Susannah, his best friend is solid and reliable and always ready to help Herbert. In 'The Pot Thief Who Studied Ptolemy', Orenduff offers up a book with entertaining characters, a beautiful setting and a true sense of the Indidan tribes with their unique talents. A learning experience!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

'L.A. Bytes', 2010, P.A. Brown, MLR Press, LLC

Chris Bellamere is a first class computer problem solver hired by the network manager at Ste. Anne's Medical Center to discover who has hacked into their computers. Chris believes the patient records could be compromised and that the attack came from inside the hospital's network. He leaves to pick up his husband and partner, Detective David Laine who is getting an allergy shot. After the shot is administered, David goes into anaphylactic shock; later Chris is back in the hospital's computers and sees that David received Amoxicillin rather than the anti-allergen that was prescribed and David is allergic to any form of penicillin. Other patients could be at risk and David, with all his expertise, decides to track down this knowledgeable hacker. But the hacker's plan goes far beyond the hospital's computer network and surprises Chris, David and the LAPD.

'L.A. Bytes' is filled with one event occurring after the other and at times on top of each other. Brown has written a book with a storyline that grips you from the very beginning and never loses its pace. Chris and David are solid, likeable characters and Brown has the presence of mind to offer the reader insight into the lives of this gay couple. 'L.A. Bytes' has balance, an intriguing, fast moving plot and a great portrayal of the characters. Brown has accomplished a fantastic job with 'L.A. Bytes'!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

'The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras', 2009, J. Michael Orenduff; "FTC - full disclosure-book provided by the publisher"

In Albuquerque's Old Town, Herbert Schuze owns a shop dealing mainly with old pots of Native American origin. He admits to being a pot thief, but that is not a true description. Prior to 1980 it was legal to dig up old pots from public lands for profit and fun but Herbert still feels the exhiliration of the find is the real reward. Carl Wilkes comes into the shop and wants Herbert to 'procur' a pot on display at the Valle del Rio Museum at the University of New Mexico and offers him $25,000 to get it. That amount would help Herbert with his back taxes he owes the IRS. So he decides to think about it and go check out the museum. Upon returning to his shop, Agent Guvelly of the Bureau of Land Management is there questioning him about a Mogollon water jug stolen in Bandelier - the 'other' water jug. Guvelly accuses Herbert of stealing it and soon the theft magnifies to murder. Stretching his reasoning skills to the limit and overcoming his nerves, Herbert sets out to clear himself.

Orenduff presents surprises from beginning to the very end and has invented an unusual plot that has humor, appealing characters and some zany ones as well as a memorable setting. Orenduff's familiarity with the Southwest in all its aspects really grasps your attention. 'The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras' offers the reader a delightful story, with history, art and some philosophy. It's a very enjoyable read and quite educational.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

'The Fat Lady Sings', 2010, Kit Sloane, Oak Tree Press; "FTC full disclosure - book provided by the publisher

Margot and her significant other Max, live in the Los Angeles area; Margot is a film editor and Max writes screenplays. While attending a college theatre performance of Gilbert & Sullivan's "Iolanthe", Margot meets Lenore Chambers, a singer appearing with the local G&S company, the Los Angeles Savoyards. About a month later Lenore sends Max and Margot flowers with tickets to "The Mikado"; Lenore is performing the part of Katisha in the production. Max decides against going so Margot invites her friend Sophie and as they approach the theatre, it is surrounded by police, a SWAT team and an ambulance ready for the stretcher with a covered body on it. They decide to go for a drink and Lenore calls Margot to tell her that their director, Graham Moody has been murdered. An explosive device has gone off in his desk. Lenore asks Margot to be the director for their upcoming play, "Patience" and Lenore and the cast have hopes that the production will be a finalist in the competition and then on to London and perform against the other companies. Later another body is found at Margot and Max's house and she begins having second thoughts about directing and is fearful for herself, the cast and the production.

Kit Sloane is very comprehensive with her knowledge of the theatre and film fields. Her characters in 'The Fat Lady Sings' are quite an assortment of personalities and Kit Sloane is very skillful at concocting them. The storyline unfolds leisurely offering the reader an interesting and informative story. I only wished that Margot and Max had done more sleuthing.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

'Motherhood is Murder', 2010, Diana Orgain, The Berkley Publishing Group/Penguin Group

Kate Connolly and husband Jim are on a San Francisco Bay dinner cruise, that Kate was invited to by a new-mommy club, Roo & You, that she joined. This was to be a night out for the parents to relax. One of the members is found dead at the bottom of the stairs on the cruise and soon Kate is trying her hand at being a PI and hopes to solve the case. She is a first-time mommy and feels she can work from home and take her 2 month old, Laurie, with her on stakeouts. All the guests are suspects and all seem to have motives, but Kate is determind to unravel the mystery. However, the killer is very sly and plans to stop Kate's investigation, no matter what.

Orgain has written a mystery with characters and incidents that make you laugh. Nevertheless, the murder plot is well thought out and weaves from one exploit to another keeping the reader interested and smiling, sometimes at the same time. 'Murderhood is Murder' is a credit to Diana Orgain who gives us an appealing and entertaining mystery. Let's hope for more of Kate!

Friday, April 23, 2010

'Dead On', 2009, Robert W. Walker, Five Star Publishing/Gale, Cengage Learning

Former Atlanta policeman Marcus Rydell has had a setback in his life and is trying his hand moonlighting as a PI. But his past won't let him go and he is considering suicide when he hears the screams of a child on the floor above him and rushes to help. At the apartment he meets Dr. Katrina (Kat) Holley, an attractive woman. Kat lures Rydell out of his suicidal despair by convincing him to go after a macabre murderer on the loose who has destroyed both their lives. Their journey takes them from Atlanta to the northwest section of Georgia in the deepest part of a dense forest. Kat and Marcus are hunting for this killer/maniac when they realize he is stalking them and the hunting game begins.

Walker has written a tension filled noir thriller that seizes you from the first paragraph. He expresses in depth perception of what Rydell is thinking and feeling to such a degree that the reader can truly get inside Marcus' head. 'Dead On' has an extraordinary plot filled with twists and turns. Walker inserts a subplot on the relationship between Kat and Rydell and adds humor as well. Will these two continue to work together?

'Dead On' is a true page turner bound to keep you immersed.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

'Midnight Fires', 2010, Nancy Means Wright, John Daniel & Co./Perseverance Press

Nancy Means Wright has situated her book in Mitchelstown Castle in County Cork Ireland, 1786, where the infamous Anglo-Irish Kingsborough family resides. Mary Wollstonecraft has been hired as a governess for some of the numerous children. On her voyage from England to Dublin Mary meet a sailor, Sean Toomey who gives her a letter to deliver to a 'Liam'. Within minutes she watches Sean go overboard with a knife in him. After a few days at the castle there is a so-called pagan bonfire and the illegitimate son of the Lord is murdered. Later the Irishman Liam Donovan is considered the prime suspect in the murder. Mary is determined Liam is innocent and is resolved to find the real murderer. She thinks the two murders are connected. Secrets and intrigue follow.

'Midnight Fires' is positioned at a time when the Catholics and Protestants were fighting for independence from England as well as battling against each other. Poverty is the life of the Irish working class and Wright presents a penetrating look at the difference in the social classes. She does this with memorable characters, their experiences and everyday reality in that time period. Nancy Means Wright gives us great insight into the history, both social and political, with great ease.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

'School of Lies', 2009, Mickey Hoffman, Dagger Books/Second Wind Publishing, LLC

Kendra Desola is a dedicated high school teacher in Special Ed. and finds that the politics in an academic setting can unnerve you. Vice Principal Zant is a thorn not only in Kendra's side, but all the Special Ed. faculty. When she opens her email one day, there is an attachment photo of four male students in a car and she is pictured in a compromising position with two of them in the back seat. Obviously an altered photo, but how can she prove it? Hoping to stop this fabrication before it spins out of control, she plans to find the culprit. But the suspicious death of a colleague prompts the police to start an investigation on campus. Kendra fears that the police will think she has a motive for murder because of the falsified photo and does not tell them.

'School of Lies' is full of lies, politics and deceitful co-workers. Hoffman delivers broad insight behind the workings of a high school and depicts each character with his/her own idiosyncracy in a clever way. I would have preferred more about the murder and less teaching details. However, 'School of Lies' is a very satisfying first novel for Hoffman. Her book certainly shows her knowledge of teaching.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

'Murder on Everest', 2010, Charles G. Irion & Ronald J. Watkins, Irion Books

One evening on Mt. Everest at 28,700 feet during a blinding blizzard, Scott Devlon is trying to help his friend Derek Sodoc down from the summit but Derek cannot get up,is close to death and Scott must leave and save himself. The expedition was sponsored by Derek's father, Michael, and his Sodoc Foundation and became the most publicized event in climbing history.

The following year Michael Sodoc, also owner of SNS (Sodoc News System) sets up another expedition with the same individuals from the previous year to recover his son's body. But there are other bodies up there - what about them? Scott and his friend don't like the idea nor the danger in the Death Zone with media filming the recovery. 'Murder on Everest' then follows this group and their guides on this expedition to hopefully find Derek and bring his body back down.

Irion and Watkins have woven quite a compelling story with diversity in their characters. A bizarre plot with on target descriptions not only of Everest, but the area and history surrounding it. Readers will feel the authenticity of the book with the portrayal of the weather and efforts of the climbers. An interesting look at people's emotions and needs in a dire location.

"FTC full disclosure - book provided by the publisher"

Friday, March 26, 2010

'Beyond Guilty', Richard Brawer, 2010, L&L Dreamspell

Eileen Robinson is an African-American teenager brought up in a middle class family in Houston, Texas. Her life goes up in smoke one night through a negligent act that causes the deaths of her two younger sisters. Filled with grief and estranged from her mother, she moves in with a drug dealer and at age 21 is the mother of two. Then she is wrongly convicted of murdering a senator's son and sentenced to die. How does Eileen escape from death row or does she?

I really don't want to reveal any more of the gripping story in 'Beyond Guilty'. Brawer writes a very unusual plot that is engrossing and intriguing. Eileen Robinson is a very resourceful character dealing with each and every adversity thrown her way. Brawer establishes Eileen as a realistic personality with resilience as well as a soft side. After I finished reading 'Beyond Guilty', I had to sit and contemplate the reality of it. Brawer writes spirited prose with authentic dialogue. 'Beyond Guilty' is a stunning thriller!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

'Cold Moon Home', Julia Pomeroy, 2007, Carroll & Graf Publishers

In a small town called Bantam in upstate New York, Abby Silvernale works as a waitress at the InBetween restaurant. Fall has come and business is slowing down so her hours are cut and Abby takes a part-time secretarial job for a 91 year old sculptor, Norman, who has a declining memory. Then flashy, beautiful Germaine LeClair, an author, flies into town and Abby learns that Germaine has a long background with Norman. However, Abby senses that she is not what she seems and that she is keeping a lot of secrets about her past. New workers are hired at the restaurant and odd events begin to evolve. Abby does not like or trust the new dishwasher, Fritz. Soon, the secrets of the past combine with a web of conspiracy, retribution and violence and Abby discovers she must struggle to live.

'Cold Moon Home' leaves the reader wanting more Abby. Pomeroy's book has depth with solidly crafted plots. Her endearing Abby is so believable as well as likeable. Pomeroy accomplishes making Bantam as genuine as the characters in her book. 'Cold Moon Home' has a literary style that grabs you and you find yourself in Bantam with Abby, cheering her on. Pomeroy has provided maximum enjoyment in her book with her convincing storyline and characters. Would like to see more books from her.

'Death on the Aegean Queen', Maria Hudgins, 2010, Five Star Publishind/Gale, Cengage Learning

The Aegean Queen cruise ship is leaving Piraeus Harbor in Athens with Dotsy Lamb and her two friends Lettie and Ollie Osgood accompanying her. Dotsy is also hoping to reestablish her relationship with Marco Quattrocchi, a Carabieneri captain she met several years ago in Italy. Dotsy and her friends meet George and Kathryn Gaskill from Indiana and Ollie and George join a poker game that evening. Later, George is missing and a pool of blood is found on the ship's deck with an odd note nearby. But no body. Ollie had lost a lot of money to George and he becomes the prime suspect. 'Death on the Aegean Queen has a focus on archaeology; many antiquities are exhibited in display cases on the ship; these could have been stolen from museums or maybe smuggled from their country of origin. In beautiful Mykonos another murder occurs; then Hudgins takes us to Crete where the mystery-murders-antiquities finally connect but not before more danger happens.

Hudgins has set her mystery in some of the most beautifully described places in Greece. She has added a bit of romance, humor and informal dialogue with history. 'Death on the Aegean Queen' ventures into fascinating information about antiquities while at the same time provides a solid plot(s). Not only is this a very favorable read, but the reader is exposed to fascinating history of places and things.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

'Uncle Si's Secret', M.M. Gornell, 2008, Aberdeen Bay/Champion Writers

In Cedar Valley, Washington on the Snoqualmie Valley Trail, Lana Norris is walking her dog Max, when she is murdered. Her last vision is of Uncle Si's Mountain. Belinda (Bella) Jones and her brother Bernard, have owned and run The Cedar Valley Residence for five years. They love what they do and genuinely care for their residents. When Lana's body is found near their property line, the residents are stunned and scared. Police arrest the husband, Kirby Norris, but his mother, Olive Norris strongly believes he is innocent. She asks Belinda, who has had success in investigative work, to find the real murderer. Since Bella and Bernard both believe Kirby to be innocent, Bernard convinces her to take the job. Once Bella undertakes the job, she is entangled in a puzzling maze with unpredictable and startling results.

In 'Uncle Si's Secret', Gornell takes us to the areas around Seattle with enjoyable scenic descriptions. She delivers inviting warm characters, as well as some unpleasant and cold ones. Gornell has a real knack for portraying her characters so readers can appreciate their personalities. 'Uncle Si's Secret' is an inviting mystery that will engage you.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

'Death of a Perfect Man', M.M. Gornell, 2009, Aberdeen Bay/Champion Writers

Jada Beaudine has left Puget Sound after her husband Terry was killed in a shocking boating accident and is headed to Atlanta to get away from the memories and live near Terry's family. However, she makes a wrong turn in the Mojave desert in California and finds herself almost out of gas and her anxiety escalates.In the middle of nowhere Jada stops at a peculiar place, the "Red Rock Inn & Cafe" and the owner Irina persuades her to stay the night. By morning an unusual murder has taken place and she is dragged into it; soon after another murder occurs. But Jada never realizes that she has been followed from Puget Sound by some quirky characters with their own devious plans.

Helping to solve murders is not new for Jada but her intuition soon tells her that she could very will be the next victim.

Gornell captures the feel of the barren desert and the isolated cafe so realistically. Her story grips you from the first to last page. Every character is diverse, plausible and contribute something unique to the story line. 'Death of a Perfect Man' is concise and exciting with an awesome plot. You will find this book hard to put down - a real page turner.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

'In Franklin's House', Beverly Lauderdale, 2010, Oak Tree Press, 'FTC full disclosure-book provided by publisher'

Kate and Dan Andrews have moved from Iowa to northern California hoping to start a new life together after Dan's affair with his partner's wife. Molly, their daughter, is in Iowa in her senior year in high school. Kate falls in love with a 100 year old Victorian house that Dan doesn't like because of the work involved. But Kate gets her wish. She is drawn to the north room of the house and feels its power and decides to claim it as hers for writing poetry.She decides to check out the closet and finds a hidden wall and discovers Amy Elliott's diary from 1906. In it, Amy writes of her dead husband Franklin visiting her. Along with the diary, Kate finds a rose bud necklace referred to in the diary; when Amy would put the necklace on, Franklin would appear to her. Kate is doubtful that this is possible. But is it?

Overall, I found Kate unbelievable, so needy and willing to leave her daughter behind and move across the country for Dan and his new job and the 'chance' for a new life. Lauderdale presents Dan as a more believable character, but not one readers will like.

'In Franklin's House' is for readers who enjoy fantasy with some history.

'An Axe To Grind', F.M. Meredith, 2010, Oak Tree Press, "FTC full disclosure-book provided by the publisher

Set in Rocky Bluff, CA, a body is found murdered and decapitated; Detectives Frank Marshall and Doug Milligan are on the gruesome scene. While searching the premises, they discover a wall of candid photographs of a young Hispanic woman. The victim, Kenneth Buchelo, was a possible stalker. Doug decides he will start by investigating the stalker's family and identify the woman in the photos.

Stacy Wilbur is engaged to Doug, works in Vice and identifies the woman, Rachel Rivera. Milligan and Marshall now add Rachel and her family to their list. When Doug decides to do a solo investigation, he disappears and Stacey is in a panic. Matters heat up in 'An Axe To Grind' and the pace quickens with many surprises.

One of my favorite characters was Gordon Butler,the newest officer in the police department; unpredictable events happen to him and he adds humor to the story. Meredith reveals some of the personal lives of the main characters, just enough to get to know them better.

'An Axe To Grind' is an easy read with an emphasis on normal police procedures. However, I felt that the book could have had more depth. An undemanding read and comfortable story line.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

'Gumbo Justice', Holli Castillo, 2009, Oak Tree Press

In pre-Katrina New Orleans, Ryan Murphy is an Assistant District Attorney who has been assigned to a week of crime scene duty and is called to another murder after a night of too much Tequila. Detective Anthony Chapetti, Shep, picks her up and they head to the St. Thomas Housing Development where she recognizes the victim, L'Roid Smith. Smith was set for trial that week for the murder of three opposing gang members. Bodies start showing up as 'gifts' to Ryan with anonymous phone calls to her announcing each murder. A deranged person is out to ruin Ryan Murphy's life and she is determined to find out why and who.

First in a Crescent City Mystery Series, Holli Castillo has a hit on her hands. She presents a revealing picture of the New Orleans Police Dept., the District Attorney's office and all the politics that go with them. Each character has clear definition with insight into their differences of thinking and their personalities. Castillo's storyline has sub-plots, some personal, that intertwine with the major plot so cohesively and she has a special talent to accommplish this.

'Gumbo Justice' is a book that is hard to put down - great authenticity and a convincing mystery. Readers will be addicted and waiting for the next in the series.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

'The Surest Poison', Chester D. Campbell, 2009, Night Shadows Press

Nashville and its surrounding areas are the setting for Campbell's mystery. Sid Chance is an ex-police chief working as a private investigator in Nashville. Attorney Arnie Bailey calls Sid to hire him to find a missing company regarding a chemical pollution case. Sid has been highly recommended by his good friend, Jasmine (Jaz) LeMieux. Bailey's client has inherited a pollution problem that was created by the former property owner. Jaz and Sid learn from a friend, Homicide Detective Bart Masterson, that a man who worked on a Metro garbage truck has been found shot 5 times. In their pursuit to find the real polluter, they are followed, people are murdered and others disappear.

Campbell's writing takes you to different areas in and around Nashville in an informative direction. His real talent lies in his compact plot that is unusual and intriguing. The chemical pollution aspect of "The Surest Poison' deals with a modern issue and Campbell inspires the reader to cheer for Sid and Jaz. The characters in this book are persistent in their goals, and on the personal side, Sid learns a lot about himself.

Very enjoyable and interesting read!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

'A Case of Infatuation', W.S. Gager, 2009, Oak Tree Press

Mitch Malone is a loner who works the crime beat for a West Michigan city newspaper. Choosing his own hours and always working alone, he is not happy when his city editor tells Mitch to take Patrenka Peterson with him on his rounds that night. Even though her beauty took his breath away, anger settles in. No interns for him, but he has no choice. They head to the police station and his friend Detective Dennis Flaherty, to see if there are any crimes to cover, and Mitch hears of a murder. When he and Patrenka arrive, the scene has the looks of a mob hit and Mitch unwillingly agrees to secretly take and hide a potential witness.

When the FBI accuses Mitch of murder, he goes into hiding with his silent intern and the witness. Terrorists, FBI and disappearances create a bizarre story that is a page turner.

This is a crime novel debut by W.S. Gager; 'A Case of Infatuation' is splendidly written. The plots and characters are solid and make for a great read.

An outstanding debut!

Friday, March 5, 2010

'The Big Grabowski', Carolyn J. Rose, Mike Nettleton, 2009, Krill Press LLC

Molly Donovan has taken a paid leave and vacation from her job with a daily newspaper in Albuquerque to come home to Devil's Harbor, Oregon to be with her father Mike, recovering from a heart attack. So she is working for 'The North Coast Flotsam' paper with no crime beat and only publishes twice a week. Needless to say, what happens next is right up her alley.

Near the sea lions, a body washes up on shore, none other than the unpopular land-grabber, Vincent Grabowski. He has upset almost every person in the harbor town with his land development gone bad as well as being environmentally unfriendly.

Rose and Nettleton present a cast of characters, so many of them questionable and also with a motive. However, the personalities are all unique and downright funny. The mayor is called 'His Pudginess' and the authors' descriptions are hilarious, including the places in Devil's Harbor. The story line progresses with no dull moments.

'The Big Grabowski' is a laugh out loud, well written mystery. I certainly enjoyed the read.

Monday, March 1, 2010

'The Proof Is in the Pudding', Melinda Wells, 2010, Berkley Publishing Group/Penguin Group

Della Carmichael is the star of a new cable cooking show, 'In The Kitchen with Della' and also runs a cooking school. Phil Logan is the head of publicity for the Better Living Channel and has come up with 'another great idea' for Della. On Wednesday night, there will be a Celebrity Cook-Off Charity Gala with 20 celebrities and 3 judges and Della will be a judge because one had to withdraw. Phil also informs Della that her partner in her mail-order fudge business, Eileen O'Hara, has been having an affair with one of the judges, Keith Ingram. Now it seems that Ingram has moved on to Tina Long, daughter of the owner of the hotel where the cook-off will take place. He warns Della that Keith has quite a reputation with young and inexperienced women and Phil is concerned about Eileen. Never having had children of her own, Eileen is like a daughter to Della and Phil considers Della family.

On the night of the cook-off, before any judges can taste the celebs' favorite recipes, a murder occurs and Della's friend and father of Eileen, John O'Hara, a policeman, is the primary suspect.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this Melinda Wells mystery with its plot full of twists and turns with appealing and believable characters, even the pets, Emma and Tuffy.

Wells spins a firm story that leaves you wanting to read more of her very well written mysteries.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

'The Charm Stone', Lillian Stewart Carl, 2009, Five Star Publishing/Gale, Cengage Learning

Jean Fairburn, journalist, teams up once again with her significant other, ex-Scottish policeman, Alasdiar Cameron. They have traveled to Williamsburg, VA, to represent Scotland at a posh affair honoring Lord Dunmore, the last British governor of Virginia. Alasdair is the chief of security at Protect and Survive in Scotland and before Jean and Alasdiar depart for the event, find out that the copy of the Dunmore Witch Box has been stolen from Blair Castle back home. The original is in a Williamsburg museum, but two hundred years earlier, a charm stone went missing from the original Witch Box. The plot of the story revolves around the famous stone.

At the beginning of the event which occurs on Halloween, a suspicious death is announced and Lillian Stewart Carl proceeds to unfold a story of ghosts, shadows and murder. She is adept in weaving in so many interesting characters as well as the history of Williamsburg and the detailed descriptions of so many historical buildings.

Legends, myths and truths abound in 'The Charm Stone' and Carl shows her expertise in them and her vast knowledge of American history.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

'Hungry Spirits', Alice Duncan, June 2010, Five Star/Cengage

Alice Duncan's main character, Daisy Gumm Majesty is a delight who pretends to converse with spirits and does it for a living. The setting is 1921 after the Great War; Daisy's husband Billy was in the war for one year before he came home injured from bullets and shrapnel. But the mustard gas had the worst effect on Billy; he is unable to walk, breathing is difficult and he is miserable. Daisy and Billy live with her parents and her Aunt Viola (who is an excellent cook) in a bungalow in Pasadena.

Daisy is a self-proclaimed terrible cook and is quite surprised when she is asked by friend Johnny Buckingham, a minister with the Salvation Army, to teach a cooking class for women who are poor and some are war refugees. What Johnny really wants is Daisy's personality-kind and gentle-to teach these frightened women. Because of what happened to Billy, Daisy does not like or trust Germans. Her cooking class leads her into a mystery but also becomes an eye opener for Daisy.

Alice Duncan has given us a slice of life book in post-wartime with an interlocking mystery. She delves into the feelings of the survivors and the families who lost loved ones. 'Hungry Spirits' has substance in the story line as well as in each character. This book taught me quite a bit about that time, peoples' emotions and what a hard time it was for so many.

A great change of pace book, thoroughly enjoyable with great writing that holds your interest throughout. I highly recommend it; it's good for the heart and soul!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Bolt from the Dead, Diane A.S. Stuckart, 2010,Penguin Group

It is spring 1484 in the Duchy of Milan and Leonardo da Vinci is court engineer to the Duke of Milan. The Duke asks da Vinci to invent a flying machine and Leonardo hires Angelo della Fazia, a master craftsman to help him.

Delfina della Fazia is a star apprentice to da Vinci and uses the name Dino to help disguise her sex. After Dino's father Angelo arrives, a fellow apprentice Constantin is murdered and now Leonardo's project is at risk as well as the threat of more murders and war.

Written about Renaissance Italy, Stuckart exposes the reader to the life, customs and the social system of that time while weaving her tale.

'A Bolt from the Blue' is a different take on a mystery mainly because of the characters. But I had a difficult time associating with either Dino or Leonardo because they weren't convincing enough for me.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Confessions of A She-Fan, Jane Heller, 2009, Rodale, Inc.

Finally! A woman's perspective of being in love with the New York Yankees!
Being a die-hard Yankee fan myself, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Jane Heller's book. The prologue had me laughing out loud with tears in my eyes.

Her story is an indepth look at her true feelings and devotion to the team. Early in the 2007 season, Jane decides to divorce the Bombers on grounds of mental cruelty and writes an article that gets published in the New York Times. It receives all sorts of reactions from ardent sports lovers everywhere. So Jane decides to find out whether she is a fair weather fan. Her journey takes her to every Yankee game after the All Star break and she regales us with the stories of this journey.

A great humorous read with insight into all the aspects of baseball that she experiences. I truly could not put this book down.

Wonder how Jane felt in Oct., 2009?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Duty to the Dead, Charles Todd, 2009, Harper-Collins

In his first of a new series, Todd introduces us to Bess Crawford, who joins the nursing corps at the beginning of the Great War. She gets a first-hand view of the war when she is sent to France and on the hospital ship Britannic.

Bess grows fond of a wounded lieutenant on the ship and promises to keep his dying wish by delivering a message to his brother. When she arrives at the family home in Kent, she is met with apathy from the entire family. A tragedy occurs that prevents Bess from leaving and leads her into a world of murder and secrets. Now her own life is at stake.

Charles Todd is a master of historical mysteries. His characters are so well reinforced that the reader can feel their pain, their losses and the desire for peace in a normal world.

His plot never wavers and his in depth descriptions totally hold the reader's interest. You will come away with an intense understanding of the people and the period.

If you have not read Charles Todd yet, you are missing some fascinating literature. I really enjoyed the start of this new series and look forward to more of Bess.

Todd's new book featuring Ian Rutledge in 'The Red Door' has just been published to the delight of all his fans.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Devils Island, Carl Brookins, 2010, Echelon Press

Mary Whitney and husband Michael Tanner are avid sailors living in Seattle on Puget Sound. They plan to go to Lake Superior and the Apostle Islands off the south shore of Wisconsin and charter a sailboat. Michael's business delays his departure and Mary flies off alone. When she arrives in the Apostle Islands she feels a lure to Devils Island, which is isolated, uninhabited and rocky.

Her turbulent relationship with her ex husband Edwin Tobias has been a problem and Michael is concerned about her being alone. But Mary is looking forward to her solo time on the water before he arrives, not expecting or prepared for the events to come.

Carl Brookins is certainly an expert on sailing from every perspective as well as the geographical areas the book encompasses. Mary's character is strong, independent and interesting. However, I would have preferred more intrigue earlier in the book to accompany the fast pace towards the end.

Friday, February 5, 2010

What Remains of Heaven, C.S. Harris, 2009, Penguin Books, Ltd.

Set in London in 1812, the Archbishop of Canterbury solicits Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, for assistance. Two brutal deaths have occurred in an ancient crypt and one of the deaths appears to be from the 18th century.

Sebastian begins delving into the situation and soon has a lengthy suspect list from the upper crust of London's society to the East End. He learns many secrets including those of his own family.

While she relates this story, Harris gives us insight into the social structure of the time, including clergy and lay people. The reader learns of the different personalities and how they deal with unearthed secrets and secrets they decide to keep.

'What Remains of Heaven' takes the reader to a time in history, Regency England, that is rarely explored in a mystery. Harris ties all the pieces of her plot together extremely well, building to a powerful ending. She takes us back in time and her presentation will appeal to readers.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Out of the Deep I Cry, Julia Spencer Fleming, 2004, St. Martin's Press

Claire Fergusson is an Episcopal priest at St. Alban's parish in Millers Kill in upstate New York. Not your ordinary priest by any means. She was a former army chopper pilot; a gutsy individual and her escapades annoy her bishop and at times she is called on the carpet. Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne receives help from Claire and the two of them are fighting against their attraction to each other.

Fleming's book travels between present day and back to the 20's, 30's and 50's. Jonathan Ketchem disappears in 1930 and he is never seen or heard from again. Now the clinic's physician disappears and Claire and Russ are thrown together again as another mystery unfolds. Is there a connection?

Fleming has a certain talent to be able to go back and forth and she does it very smoothly and holds the reader's attention. The plots are fascinating and woven together to capture a real feel for the characters.

Reading Fleming is a very satisfying experience.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sex In A Sidecar, Phyllis Smallman, 2009, McArthur & Co.

Hurricane Myrna is hovering south of Cypress Island, Florida, where Sherri Travis works as a bartender at the Sunset in Jacaranda. A suspicious death occurs and then murder and mayhem as Sherri tries to find answers to a multitude of unanswered questions. She is a lively and outgoing bartender and customers open up to her. And at times Sherri wishes they wouldn't confide in her.

The characters are quirky, funny and appealing which create a story that is never tedious but a pure delight. Smallman also knows hurricanes and I found that I learned a lot from this book, as well as enjoying it so much.

Phyllis Smallman's style of writing, which is to the point with great character definition will appeal to many readers.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

'The Little Death' by P.J. Parrish, 2009; Pocket Books-Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Palm Beach is the setting of this mystery/thriller that keeps you guessing until the very end. P.I. Louis Kincaid partners with his friend Mel to help prove Reggie Kent, Mel's friend, innocent of murder. This is Kincaid's first venture into the Palm Beach area and there are surprises everywhere.

The authors, who are sisters, reveal the glaring differences between North and South Palm Beach which are eye openers to the reader. There are no holds barred and the reading is thoroughly enjoyable as well as informative, which is such a plus.

So many fascinating characters appear in this book and it is done without excess which can easily lose a reader. One of my favorites was Margery Cooper Laroche whose persona was such a contribution to the story. Other interesting characters abound in the book.

'The Little Death' will grip you in so many ways - plot, characters, geography/setting - all in a mystery that never slows down. I truly enjoyed every facet of this book and highly recommend it.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

'The Violet Hour' by Daniel Judson, 2009. Publisher: St. Martin's Press-Minotaur

Judson, a Shamus Award winning author, introduces us to mechanic Caleb Rakowski who works at a car body shop set in the Hamptons. The shop is owned by his friend Eric Carver. Caleb is a 'good guy' who's looking after a pregnant friend with an abusive husband. Within 3 days, Caleb's life is out of control and he learns secrets that set his life in a tailspin.

'The Violet Hour' is fast moving and an action packed story. Judson is adept at looking at the dark side of his characters.

However, I did not find enough character development in this book. Perhaps that is why Caleb never seemed real to me. I never felt like I knew him.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Dead of Winter by Rennie Airth

Third in Airth's books, this setting is WW II London and once again we meet former Detective Inspector John Madden.

The victim is an employee of Madden, one of my very favorite British detectives. He sees situations differently than others and uses his thought process to help him delve into the details of the case.

A very gripping thriller with tensions mounting to the very end. Compelling writing and an outstanding British mystery.

If you enjoy British mysteries, put this on your list.

True Blue by David Baldacci

If, for some inexplicaable reason you have not read any of David Baldacci's books, you are missing out on some superior writing. Baldacci does an amazing amount of research when he writes a book and it shows. The plots are tight and his characters are unforgettable.

'True Blue' is his 18th book and Mason "Mace" Perry is a tough and determined D.C. cop who was framed for a crime she didn't commit. Tough and determined to clear her name, there are many obstacles put in her way, some lethal.

Baldacci's books always leave the reader wishing for more.

Cattery Row and Mew is for Murder

Being a cat lover, I had really looked forward to Clea Simon, an author I had not read before and had kitties in the stories.

Simon has cats in her stories and her protagonist, Theda Krakow has a cat called Musetta who will bring a smile to cat lovers.

In 'Mew is for Murder' I question the importance of the author taking us to so many clubs and styles of music. I felt that she went off the track with in depth descriptions I found completely unnecessary to the book.

In 'Cattery Row' Simon stays more focused on her story and it was an enjoyable read.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo & The Girl Who Played With Fire

Readers of Stieg Larsson are feeling the loss of a great writer, knowing that there are only 3 books written by him.

Set in Sweden, his books are page turners with precise character development and plots that weave together so naturally and leave you in awe of his writing.

I have read his first two books and I am addicted. He is a literary genius whose books grip you in every chapter, beginning to end.

What a loss for the literary world!