Tag: murder mystery

Book Review:   The Echo Man, by Sam Holland

Image belongs to Crooked Lane Books.

Title: The Echo Man
AuthorSam Holland
Genre:  Thriller
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Detectives Cara Elliott and Noah Deakin are on the case of a series of seemingly unconnected murders, each different in method, but each shocking and brutal. As the body count increases, they can’t ignore the details that echo famous cases of the past—Manson, Kemper, Dahmer, and more. As Elliott and Deakin get closer to unmasking the killer, the murders are moving closer to home.

 Meanwhile, Jessica Ambrose is on the run. She’s been implicated as the arsonist who killed her neglectful husband and injured her young daughter. With the help of disgraced and suspended detective Nate Griffin, Jess discovers a shocking link between her case and that of the ultimate copycat killer working on his horrifying masterpiece.

In the name of transparency, I’ll tell you I almost put this down at 10%. I didn’t find Jessica very likable at all to start with, and that trait in an MC is an almost guaranteed DNF for me. But I’m glad I persevered. Jessica improved a lot, and it was fascinating trying to figure out who the killer was. This is a very bloody and dark novel, so if you have a weak stomach, you might want to pass, but it ended up being pretty riveting as things progressed.

Sam Holland loves the dark and macabre. The Echo Man is his debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Crooked Lane Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour:  Crimson Summer, by Heather Graham

Image belongs to Harlequin/MIRA.

Title: Crimson Summer
Author:    Heather Graham
Genre:    Thriller
Rating:  4 out 5

They’re not going down without a fight.

 When FDLE special agent Amy Larson discovers a small horse figurine amid the bloody aftermath of a gang massacre in the Everglades, she recognizes it immediately. The toy is the calling card of the apocalypse cult that Amy and her partner, FBI special agent Hunter Forrest, have been investigating, and it can only mean one thing: this wasn’t an isolated skirmish—it was the beginning of a war.

 As tensions between rival gangs rise, so does the body count, and Amy and Hunter’s investigation leads them to a violent, far-right extremist group who are in no hurry to quell the civil unrest. With a deadly puppet master working to silence their every lead, it’s a race against the clock to figure out who’s been pulling the strings and put a stop to the escalating cartel turf war before the Everglades run red.

I’ve really enjoyed the Larson & Forrest books so far. Just creepy enough to keep my attention without being gory enough to gross me out. The characters—both the two main characters and the supporting characters—are solid and interesting, and I love how they work out exactly what’s going on with the crimes. I’d definitely recommend this!

Heather Graham is a bestselling author. Crimson Summer is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/MIRA in exchange for an honest review.)

 

Book Review and Blog Tour:  The Sorority Murder, by Allison Brennan

Image belongs to Harlequin Trade Publishing.

Title:   The Sorority Murder
Author:   Allison Brennan
Genre:   Fiction
Rating:  4.0 out of 5.0

Lucas Vega is obsessed with the death of Candace Swain, who left a sorority party one night and never came back. Her body was found after two weeks, but the case has grown cold. Three years later while interning at the medical examiner’s, Lucas discovers new information, but the police are not interested.

 Lucas knows he has several credible pieces of the puzzle. He just isn’t sure how they fit together. So he creates a podcast to revisit Candace’s last hours. Then he encourages listeners to crowdsource what they remember and invites guest lecturer Regan Merritt, a former US marshal, to come on and share her expertise.

 New tips come in that convince Lucas and Regan they are onto something. Then shockingly one of the podcast callers turns up dead. Another hints at Candace’s secret life, a much darker picture than Lucas imagined—and one that implicates other sorority sisters. Regan uses her own resources to bolster their theory and learns that Lucas is hiding his own secret. The pressure is on to solve the murder, but first Lucas must come clean about his real motives in pursuing this podcast—before the killer silences him forever.

I enjoyed this read. I wouldn’t say the killer’s identity was well-hidden, but I still enjoyed finding out all the details of Candace’s murder—and the other things it’s connected to. I liked Regan’s point-of-view more than I did Lucas’s, and I’d enjoy reading more things about her. This was a solid read!

Allison Brennan is a bestselling author. The Sorority Murder is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin Trade Publishing in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review:  The Girl in the Ground, by Stacy Green

Image belongs to Bookouture.

TitleThe Girl in the Ground
Author:   Stacy Green
Genre:   Mystery/thriller
Rating:  3.8 out of 5

She was beautiful: shiny blond hair, crystal blue eyes and the widest smile Nikki had ever seen. She thought back to what she had seen in the ground, the dirt that caked the white bones. All that remained of her now was the silver locket that was still around her neck…

 When construction workers unearth a girl’s skeleton in Stillwater, Minnesota, Special Agent Nikki Hunt is called to the scene by her boyfriend Rory. Nikki knows instantly that the girl was murdered, but she is shocked when Rory immediately recognizes her. The victim was his childhood sweetheart, Becky, and he was the last person to see her before she went missing twenty-four years ago.

 With the love of her life now a potential suspect, Nikki is forced to take a step back from the case. But then her colleague Liam finds lies in Rory’s statement – it appears that Becky may have been carrying Rory’s child when she was killed. Despite this, Nikki still thinks he could be innocent, and knows she must find the real killer herself if Rory stands any chance of walking free.

 When Nikki finds a potential link to two pregnant girls who were found murdered years before it’s clear that this is the most twisted killer that she has ever faced. And then another girl goes missing from Stillwater. Can Nikki unearth the truth and protect the man she loves? And will she find the missing girl in time to save her life?

I read this entire book before I realized I was ambivalent about Nikki. I didn’t dislike her, but I didn’t actually care about her, either. This was a solid read, but I don’t know that I’d pick up any more books in the series. That is clearly just my own personal issue, not a testament to the writing quality. There’s a lot going on here, and sometimes I felt like the connections didn’t quite make sense, but it did keep my attention.

Stacy Green lives in Iowa. The Girl in the Ground is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Bookouture in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review:  The Witching Tree, by Alice Blanchard

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title The Witching Tree
Author:   Alice Blanchard
Genre:   Mystery/thriller
Rating:  4 out of 5

As legend has it, if you carve your deepest desire into the bark of a Witch Tree, then over time as the tree grows, it will swallow the carvings until only a witch can read them.

 Until now.

 Detective Natalie Lockhart gained unwanted notoriety when she and her family became front and center of not one, but two sensational murder cases. Now she’s lost her way. Burned out and always looking over her shoulder, Natalie desperately thinks that quitting the police force is her only option left.

 All that changes when a beloved resident–a practicing Wiccan and founder of the town’s oldest coven–is killed in a fashion more twisted and shocking than Natalie has ever seen before, leaving the town reeling. Natalie has no choice but to help solve the case along with Detective Luke Pittman, her boss and the old childhood friend she cannot admit she loves, even to herself. There is a silent, malignant presence in Burning Lake that will not rest. And what happens next will shock the whole town, and Natalie, to the core.

I’ve read the first book in this series, but I missed the second. I did enjoy this one, but it felt far too much like an advertisement for Wicca or I would have rated it higher. Seriously. You cannot tell me every single person in a group is good/peaceful/gets along with everyone (or, alternately, bad/racist/horrible/whatever adjective of choice) and expect me to believe you. If I leave out the pro-Wicca-all-of-us-are-peaceful-angels slant (which accounts for a good third of the book), this was an enjoyable mystery and thriller. But as is, the town of Burning Lake comes off a little too good to be true.

Alice Blanchard is an award-winning author. The Witching Tree is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Pup Fiction, by Laurien Berenson

Image belongs to Kensington Books.

While usually protective, Melanie feels comfortable sending her sons to the Graceland School’s summer camp for two reasons: The institution is well-regarded and proprietor Emily Grace is a trusted friend. But Emily has been acting strange since three rambunctious Dalmatian puppies suddenly appeared on her doorstep. The unusual arrival marks the first of several mysterious happenings at camp, each more intense than the last. Emily’s rough streak takes a frightening turn with a discovery in the nearby woods—the body of her estranged ex-husband.

As suspicions rush in, proving that Emily didn’t murder her biggest mistake will be about as easy as raising prize-winning show dogs. Realizing she’s the only one who can prove her friend’s innocence and keep the Graceland School from shutting down, Melanie dives into an investigation on the victim’s whereabouts leading up to his demise. With a few spotty clues and Aunt Peg’s growing curiosity about the Dalmatian pups’ origins, Melanie must name the culprit before good intentions come back to bite!

Is it bad if I say the thing I enjoyed the most about this book was the dogs? Because it was. Solid writing and storytelling, but I was never that invested in what was going on—and the stakes really didn’t seem that high. I never felt any tension in the mystery. Also…there were all these red herrings about other characters, but the real culprit(s) weren’t the slightest bit suspicious until about the 85% mark, so the reveal felt a bit forced and out-of-nowhere. Just my two cents, though. This wasn’t a bad read. Just not a good fit for me.

Laurien Berenson is a bestselling author. Pup Fiction is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Kensington Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: A Distant Grave, by Sarah Stewart Taylor

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Long Island homicide detective Maggie D’arcy and her teenage daughter, Lilly, are still recovering from the events of last fall when a strange new case demands Maggie’s attention. The body of an unidentified Irish national turns up in a wealthy Long Island beach community and with little to go on but the scars on his back, Maggie once again teams up with Garda detectives in Ireland to find out who the man was and what he was doing on Long Island. As the strands of the mystery lead Maggie to a quiet village in rural County Clare and back to her home turf, they also lead her in range of a dangerous and determined killer who will do anything to keep the victim’s story hidden forever.

I’ve really enjoyed both books in this series! Maggie is a great character, a flawed character, making her head a fascinating place to live for a while. Of course, I love the Irish connection, but there were so many layers to this mystery! I read this, thinking, “I’m not smart enough to have figured that out!” all through the book.

The characters are great, even the secondary ones, and the settings are so vivid I felt like I was there—and I’ve never been to Ireland or Long Island. I will definitely continue reading these books!

Sarah Stewart Taylor lives in Vermont. A Distant Grave is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Abduction of Pretty Penny, by Leonard Goldberg

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Press.

Joanna and the Watsons are called in by the Whitechapel Playhouse to find Pretty Penny, a lovely, young actress who has gone missing without reason or notice. While on their search, the trio is asked by Scotland Yard to join in the hunt for a vicious murderer whose method resembles that of Jack The Ripper. It soon becomes clear that The Ripper has reemerged after a 28-year absence and is once again murdering young prostitutes in Whitechapel.

Following a line of subtle clues, Joanna quickly reasons that Pretty Penny has been taken capture by the killer. But as Joanna moves closer to learning his true identity, the killer sends her a letter indicating her young son Johnny will be the next victim to die. Time is running out, and Joanna has no choice but to devise a most dangerous plan which will bring her face-to-face with the killer. It is the only chance to protect her son and rescue Pretty Penny, and save both from an agonizing death.

This is the first book in this series I’ve read…and I’m not sure I’ll read more. Solid writing and interesting characters, but it just didn’t keep my attention. I was never that invested in what happened to Pretty Penny—I didn’t feel a connection to her at all—and the POV was very distant for the other characters, so I felt like I was watching a TV show, not actually involved. And, frankly, I felt like the resolution—despite the Jack the Ripper mystery—was a bit of a let down.

Leonard Goldberg is a physicist and professor of medicine The Abduction of Pretty Penny is his newest novel, the newest installment in the Daughter of Sherlock Holmes series.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Dead Sprint, by Caroline Fardig

Image belongs to the author.

TitleDead Sprint
AuthorCaroline Fardig
Genre:  Thriller
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Criminalist Ellie Matthews has turned over a new leaf. For the first time in her life, she’s working on herself and putting the past behind her with the encouragement of the new man she’s seeing, FBI Agent Vic Manetti.

Her first attempt at competitive running is cut short when a woman is found dead along the trail. At first, the case seems to be open and shut. But when a gruesome photo of the victim goes viral, tagged with a chilling caption threatening more violence, Ellie must delve into the mind of a deranged killer to get to the truth.

Though Ellie’s relationship with Detective Nick Baxter has been strained to its breaking point, the two find themselves teaming up once again in a race to bring down the killer before he takes another life.

I really like this series, and I was excited to read this third installment. Ellie is an interesting, flawed character, and it was good to see her working on herself and trying to overcome her issues (those chocolate binges were so relatable).

I’m not the biggest fan of Vic. I think he’s arrogant and condescending, if basically a nice guy, and my opinion didn’t change any with this read. I always enjoy a thriller when I don’t figure out the culprit halfway through the book, and I never did figure this one out, making it even more enjoyable. The banter with Nick, as always, was my favorite part.

Caroline Fardig is a bestselling author. Dead Sprint is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Death with a Double Edge, by Anne Perry

Image belongs to Ballantine Books.

TitleDeath with a Double Edge
AuthorAnne Perry
Genre:  Mystery
Rating:  4 out of 5

When junior barrister Daniel Pitt is summoned to the scene of a murder in the London district known as Mile End, he knows only that the victim is a senior barrister from the same firm. To Daniel’s relief, it is not his close friend Toby Kitteridge, but the question remains: What was this respected colleague doing in such a rough part of the city? The firm’s head, Marcus fford Croft, may know more than he admits, but fford Croft’s memory is not what it used to be, and his daughter, Miriam–Daniel’s friend and sometime sidekick–isn’t in the country to offer her usual help. And so Daniel and Kitteridge must investigate on their own, lest the police uncover something that may cast a suspicious light on the firm.

Their inquiries in Mile End lead them to a local brothel and to an opium den, but also–unexpectedly–to a wealthy shipbuilder crucial to Britain’s effort to build up its fleet, which may soon face the fearsome naval might of Germany. Daniel finds his path blocked by officials at every turn, his investigation so unwelcome that even his father, Special Branch head Thomas Pitt, receives a chilling warning from a powerful source. Suddenly, not just Daniel but his whole family–including his beloved mother, Charlotte–is in danger. Will Daniel’s devotion to justice be the undoing of his entire life, and endanger Britain’s defense at sea?

I haven’t read a single book of this series, or the long-running series about Daniel’s father, but I had no trouble stepping into it and feeling at home. I enjoyed the setting and the characters, although I felt just as confused as Daniel 99% of the time. Murder mysteries set in the past are difficult to do well, but this one was well-done, without an obvious villain. I did find the ending a tiny bit too easy, but it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the novel.

Anne Perry is a bestselling author. Death with a Double Edge is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Ballantine Books in exchange for an honest review.)