Tag: murder mystery

Book Review: Murder Over Mochas, by Caroline Fardig

Murder over Mochas
Image belongs to Random House/Alibi.

Caroline Fardig is the USA Today bestselling author of the Lizzie Hart Mystery series, the Java Jive series, and the Ellie Matthews novels. Murder Over Mochas is her newest novel, the fifth and final story in the Java Jive series.

Juliet Langley finally has her life all sorted out. Sort of. In addition to working at Java Jive, she’s also a private investigator, and is happy with that choice. She just needs to figure out how she feels about Ryder, her sexy ex who is now dating her friend. Her best friend Pete is acting like he wants to be more than friends…maybe. And her cheating, stealing ex-fiancé, Scott, is back and wants to talk to her. So maybe Juliet’s life isn’t quite so sorted out.

But when Scott begs for her help because he’s afraid for his life, then drops dead in front of Juliet, she’ll have to drop everything else to keep herself—and Pete—from becoming murder suspects. Again. Because Juliet’s history with Scott is anything but friendly, and it looks like she’s not the only one with hard feelings against him. She’ll need Ryder’s help to solve this case, and to keep herself and Pete out of jail.

I’ve been fortunate enough to review all the Java Jive series, and I’m sad to see it end. Juliet is a fantastic character:  smart, resourceful, and with a temper and a lack of impulse control that frequently gets her in trouble (I feel her pain). Her friendship with Pete is great; they’ve been through so many ups and downs and have always been there for each other. All the characters add so many layers to this series, and if Java Jive existed, I’d be there every day to hang out. If you want a funny, light read with shades of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, definitely give these a read!

(Galley provided by Random House/Alibi via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)


Book Review: Bitter Past by Caroline Fardig

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00074]
Image belongs to Caroline Fardig.
Ellie Matthews teaches forensics at a private college now, but she used to be a crime scene investigator, until one horrifying murder case turned personal. Now she teaches aspiring CSI students, and dotes on her young nephew. Then she finds the body of a murdered student, and suddenly her world is in chaos.

Ellie’s mentor asks her to consult on the case, and soon Ellie is in the thick of a murder investigation in which her closest academic colleague is the chief suspect. While Ellie races to make sense of the evidence and identify the killer, more bodies pile up, and soon Ellie has no idea who she can trust.

I’ve read—and loved—all the Java Jive books, so I was excited to read Caroline Fardig’s newest endeavor, and I was not disappointed. Ellie is a complex character, and her past haunts her, no matter how much she tries to pretend otherwise. She likes her quiet life as a professor, but her past as a CSI calls to her as well. I had to keep changing my guesses as to who the murderer was, and I didn’t quite get it right. I loved the premise, and the setting, and I look forward to reading more of Ellie’s adventures.

Caroline Fardig is the best-selling author of the Lizzie Hart Mysteries and the Java Jive Mysteries series. Her newest novel, Bitter Past, is the first book in the Ellie Matthews series.

(Galley provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Innkeeper’s Sister, by Linda Goodnight

the innkeeper's sister
Image belongs to Harlequin.

Grayson Blake and his brother have come home to Honey Ridge, Tennessee to turn an old gristmill into one of their up-and-coming restaurants. Grayson has a strict schedule he plans to stick to, no matter what. Time is money, after all. But when an old skeleton is found in the basement of the mill, his schedule comes to a screeching halt.

Valerie Carter is a former ballet dancer and now co-owner of a charming inn in Honey Ridge. The secrets from her past haunt her, as does the love of the dance she still yearns for. Regret and memories threaten to overwhelm her, when she meets Grayson and finds herself swept into a Civil War-era mystery that ties the skeleton in the mill with her beloved Peach Orchard Inn.

I didn’t realize The Innkeeper’s Sister was part of a series when I started reading. Fortunately, it’s also a standalone, so readers who haven’t read the other books will be fine. I’m from the South, and this novel is Southern through-and-through, from the sweet iced tea to the everything-is-perfect façade put on by Valerie’s mother. Both Grayson and Valerie have faced tragedy in their lives, tragedy they are still struggling to overcome. There are two storylines here:  the modern-day one of Valerie and Grayson, and the Civil War one that tells the story of the skeleton in the mill. Both lend depth to each other, and strengthen the family bonds of the Carters. An uplifting story about characters that are flawed and struggling to find their strengths while overcoming their weaknesses.

Linda Goodnight is a best-selling and award-winning fiction writer. Her newest novel is The Innkeeper’s Sister, part of the Honey Ridge series.

(Galley provided by Harlequin via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Murder on Black Swan Lane, by Andrea Penrose

murder on black swan lane
Image belongs to Kensington Books.

The Earl of Wrexford isn’t your average aristocrat:  for starters, he has a keen scientific mind and an interest in chemistry. Secondly, he has no time for fools and doesn’t care what the rest of society thinks of him. When Reverend Holworthy publicly condemns him for his wickedness, he retaliates, and the war of words escalates, and cartoonist A.J. Quill uses the feud as fodder, drawing even more attention. Then the reverend is found dead, with chemical burns, and Wrexford finds himself the primary suspect.

Charlotte Sloane is a talented artist, but knows the public would never follow a female cartoonist, so she uses her late husband’s pen name to put food on the table…at the expense of the rich and famous she scathingly depicts. When the Earl of Wrexford figures out her identity, she’s afraid he’ll expose her. Instead, he seeks her help in solving the mystery of the reverend’s death before he swings for the crime. But the crime has roots in dark secrets, and the perpetrator will stop at nothing to see that they fail, even adding more victims to the list.

Murder on Black Swan Lane is a richly-detailed story set in Regency England. Charlotte is an engaging character, full of curiosity and a secretive past, but determined to make her own way in the world. Wrexford is fascinating, with his dry sense of humor, brilliant mind, and disdain for traditions. Together, the two of them enter a dark and twisted world full of secrets that takes them places they’d never imagined.

Andrea Penrose is a romance author who writes under several pen names. Murder on Black Swan Lane is her newest book, the first book in the Wrexford & Sloane Regency series.

(Galley provided by Kensington Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Sixth Victim, by Tessa Harris

the sixth victim
Image belongs to Kensington Books.

Tessa Harris is a journalist who writes crime fiction set in the past. Her newest novel is The Sixth Victim.

Jack the Ripper stalks the street of the Whitechapel district of London, leaving women afraid to be on the streets at night. Constance Piper fears the Ripper, but she has other worries as well, like the odd things that have been happening to her, making her question all she’s ever known. If only her mentor, Emily Tindall, was around to give her advice.

But Emily is gone, returned to Oxford, they say, so Constance is on her own to deal with the sudden influx of clairvoyants, all offering to talk to the murdered girls. The gossip is about the latest horrifying remains found, and a lady tracks Constance down and asks for her help, afraid the latest victim is her missing sister. Constance agrees, and soon finds herself on the receiving end of help that makes her question everything she ever thought she knew about the world around her.

The Sixth Victim is a well-researched look into the famous serial killer of the 1800s. It depicts the squalor of Whitechapel, through the eyes of a character who wants more than the life she’s living, and who finds out that what she thought of the world isn’t quite true. At turns creepy and gruesome, the novel explores one of the greatest unsolved mysteries in history.

(Galley provided by Kensington Books.)

Fatal Option, by Chris Beakey

Image belongs to Post Hill Press.

Chris Beakey’s newest novel is Fatal Option.

Five Months ago, Stephen Porter’s wife died mysteriously in a car crash on the side of a mountain. Tonight, his 17-year-old daughter, Sara, calls in the middle of the night, crying hysterically, stranded on that same mountain in a blinding snowstorm. Stephen just went to sleep after binge drinking his wife’s death from his mind, and he knows he’s in no shape to drive. But he has no choice, so he sets off to bring Sara home.

Kieran O’Shea is also out in the snowstorm:  to bring his autistic brother, Aidan, home. Kieran is all Aidan has, but Kieran is afraid that he’ll lose Aidan if anyone ever finds out about the voices in his head. Then there’s the three murdered women… Soon Stephen and Kieran are on a collision course with disaster, one that will bring dark secrets to life, and reveal the truth of Stephen’s wife’s death. Sometimes, there are no easy choices.

This was a hard book to read. It isn’t easy. There are no clear-cut “good” guys or “bad” guys. You’ll feel sympathy for every single character…but disgust and probably anger as well. In the end, Fatal Option is about choices, and how they change us.

(Galley provided by Post Hill Press.)

Unpunished, by Lisa Black

Image belongs to Kensington.

Lisa Black has worked as a forensic scientist. Unpunished is the second novel in the Gardiner/Renner books.

Maggie Gardiner is investigating the death of a copywriter at The Cleveland Herald, whose body was found late one night hanging from the printing machinery. Instead of a suicide, like first suspected, the death turns out to be murder, and is followed quickly by others, leaving Maggie no choice but to put her trust in the one person she doesn’t want to:  detective Jack Renner, whose dark secret haunts her every second.

For Maggie knows this dark secret:  that Jack is behind the vigilante killings that have eliminated murderers and other horrible criminals, criminals the law never gave justice to. But Maggie insists Jack stay on the right side of the law now, a pact that may haunt her, as Jack’s abilities may be the only thing that helps them solve the newspaper murders.

Unpunished was a new-to-me series. I love crime/forensic novels, and enjoy guessing the most unlikely characters as the murderer. While this novel had an interesting backstory, I think I probably would have enjoyed it more if I’d read the first one.

(Galley provided by Kensington.)

Two Days Gone, by Randall Silvis

Image belongs to Sourcebooks Landmark.)

Randall Silvis is the award-winning author of more than a dozen novels, a play, a screenplay, and numerous essays. His newest novel is Two Days Gone.

Thomas Huston is a best-selling author, a respected professor, and an involved family man. He’s invested in the community, and people love him. So, when everything changes in an instant, and his wife and three kids are found brutally murdered and he vanishes—making him the prime suspect—detective Ryan DeMarco wants to know why:  why would this man, who seems to have everything, suddenly snap?

DeMarco knows Huston, and doesn’t believe the man capable of the brutal murders. But if Huston is innocent, where is he? Why is he hiding? And what did he uncover while researching his newest novel? The questions far outnumber the facts as DeMarco races the clock to uncover the truth about the life of Thomas Huston.

Two Days Gone has the lyrical feel of literary fiction, yet it’s also a murder mystery. Thomas Huston is an enigma; driven and loving in his life “before,” haunted and determined in the “after.” The characters live and breathe on the page, and had me up late into the night to see where the story was headed.

(Galley provided by Sourcebooks Landmark.)

Don’t Tell Anyone, by Eleanor Gray

Image belongs to Midnight Ink.

Don’t Tell Anyone is the newest novel from Eleanor Gray.

Grace Neville lost her teenage daughter, Tara, months ago in a brutal murder. Now she watches numbly as Jordan Dukes is sentenced for the crime. While Grace still struggles to adjust to her new life, Jordan’s father approaches her, claiming that his son is innocent and that justice has landed on the wrong person. Jordan’s violent history in a gang makes Grace skeptical…until someone breaks into her home and goes through Tara’s things.

Now Grace is asking questions, questions that hint at dark secrets she never imagined. And someone will do anything to keep those secrets from getting out.

Don’t Tell Anyone is a fast-paced, engrossing read. Grace is a character I truly cared about, deeply scarred and struggling to find her way to shore before hidden secrets drag her back under. I was not prepared for the revelations she uncovered.

(Galley provided by Midnight Ink via NetGalley.)

No Witness but the Moon, by Suzanne Chazin

Image belongs to Kensington books.

Suzanne Chazin is the award-winning author of the Fire series and the Jimmy Vega novels. Her newest novel is No Witness but the Moon, the third Jimmy Vega novel.

Police detective Jimmy Vega is called to the scene of an upscale home invasion and sees a man fitting the description of the armed invader fleeing into the woods. Jimmy follows, and when the suspect reaches into his pocket, is forced to make the decision no good cop wants to make:  to shoot or not to shoot.

Jimmy’s choice upends lives in the New York community, as well as Jimmy’s relationship with his girlfriend, Adele, head of a local immigrant center. Jimmy’s investigation uncovers links between the dead man and his own mother’s brutal, unsolved murder, and Jimmy’s status as a disgraced cop only lends further scrutiny to his action. Jimmy’s discovery of shocking evidence makes him realize that someone doesn’t want the truth about what happened out there, and that someone will do anything to stop him finding out.

No Witness but the Moon is fiction about the issues of today, including racial profiling, immigration, and cop shootings. As such, it feels very relevant and on-point, but it also explores the way the media portrays events to suit its need for a sensational story…not the need to tell the truth. Jimmy Vega is a good character:  he’s a good cop forced to make a hard choice, and dealing with the consequences of his actions as he accepts the responsibility while also struggling to find out the truth.

(Galley provided by Kensington via NetGalley.)