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.