Tag: murder mystery

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.)

Book Review and Blog Tour: Tell No Lies, by Allison Brennan

Image belongs to Harlequin/MIRA.

TitleTell No Lies
AuthorAllison Brennan
Genre:  Thriller, mystery
Rating:  4 out of 5

Something mysterious is killing the wildlife in the desert hills just south of Tucson, Arizona. When Emma Perez, a college-intern-turned activist, sets out to collect her own evidence, she too ends up dead. Local law enforcement seems slow to get involved. That’s when the mobile FBI unit goes undercover to infiltrate the town and the copper refinery located there in search of possible leads. Costa and Quinn find themselves scouring the desolate landscape that keeps on giving up clues to something much darker—greed, child trafficking, other killings. As the body count continues to add up, it’s clear they have stumbled on more than they bargained for. Now they must figure out who is at the heart of this mayhem and stop them before more innocent lives are lost.

I don’t think I’ve read the first book in this series—yet—but I thoroughly enjoyed this one. The desert setting is vividly drawn and almost becomes a character in the story, both its beauty and the darkness hidden within it. I liked the whole undercover team, but the two MC and their interactions were the best. I can’t imagine pretending to be someone you’re not like that, but their viewpoints made it make sense, and I was totally invested in their investigation.

Allison Brennan is a bestselling author. Tell No Lies is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: Danger in Numbers, by Heather Graham

Image belongs to Harlequin/MIRA.

TitleDanger in Numbers
AuthorHeather Graham
Genre:  Mystery/thriller
Rating:  4 out of 5

On the edge of the Everglades, a brutal murder and an eerie crime scene set off an investigation that sends two agents deep into a world of corrupted faith, greed and deadly secrets.

A ritualistic murder on the side of a remote road brings in the Florida state police. Special Agent Amy Larson has never seen worse, and there are indications that this killing could be just the beginning. The crime draws the attention of the FBI in the form of Special Agent Hunter Forrest, a man with insider knowledge of how violent cults operate, and a man who might never be able to escape his own past.

The rural community is devastated by the death in their midst, but people know more than they are saying. As Amy and Hunter join forces, every lead takes them further into the twisted beliefs of a dangerous group that will stop at nothing to see their will done.

This was a solid thriller read, as Graham’s novels usually are. The setting was vivid enough to give me the creeps—no thank you to living in a small town on the edge of the Everglades—with or without the creepy cult nearby. I like both of the main characters, and I’d definitely read the next book in the series.

Heather Graham is a bestselling author. Danger in Numbers is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Every Last Fear, by Alex Finlay

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

TitleEvery Last Fear
AuthorAlex Finlay
Genre:  Thriller
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

After a late night of partying, NYU student Matt Pine returns to his dorm room to devastating news: nearly his entire family—his mom, his dad, his little brother and sister—have been found dead from an apparent gas leak while vacationing in Mexico. The local police claim it was an accident, but the FBI and State Department seem far less certain—and they won’t tell Matt why.

The tragedy makes headlines everywhere because this isn’t the first time the Pine family has been thrust into the media spotlight. Matt’s older brother, Danny—currently serving a life sentence for the murder of his teenage girlfriend Charlotte—was the subject of a viral true crime documentary suggesting that Danny was wrongfully convicted. Though the country has rallied behind Danny, Matt holds a secret about his brother that he’s never told anyone: the night Charlotte was killed Matt saw something that makes him believe his brother is guilty of the crime.

When Matt returns to his small hometown to bury his parents and siblings, he’s faced with a hostile community that was villainized by the documentary, a frenzied media, and memories he’d hoped to leave behind forever. Now, as the deaths in Mexico appear increasingly suspicious and connected to Danny’s case, Matt must unearth the truth behind the crime that sent his brother to prison—putting his own life in peril—and forcing him to confront his every last fear.

I enjoyed this read! Solid writing and not too heavy-handed with the trail of clues. I liked Matt and the Misfit Toys a lot. They gave this a fun edge, despite the intrigue and danger. I did figure out whodunit, but it wasn’t because the foreshadowing was too much or anything, just a lucky guess. There’s a lot going on in this novel, but it was a good and engrossing read.

Alex Finlay lives in Washington, D.D. Every Last Fear is Alex’s debut novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: Aftershock, by Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell

Image belongs to Harlequin/Hanover Square Press.

Title:  Aftershock
Author:  Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell
Genre:  Mystery
Rating:  4 out of 5

There’s a body crushed under a load of pipes on a San Francisco construction site, and medical examiner Dr. Jessie Teska is on call. So it’s her job to figure out who it is—and her headache when the autopsy reveals that the death is a homicide staged as an accident.

Jessie is hot on the murderer’s trail, then an earthquake sends her and her whole city reeling. When the dust clears, her case has fallen apart and an innocent man is being framed. Jessie knows she’s the only one who can prove it, and she races to piece together the truth—before it gets buried and brings her down in the rubble.

I enjoyed this second entry into the Dr. Jessie Teska Mystery series, although I have to say, for a smart person, Jessie does some really stupid stuff. Although I don’t understand some of her choices, she’s a vivid character and one I enjoy reading. There are a lot of quirky things that make this series unique and enjoyable, from where Jessie lives to her background and family. This is a solid mystery read.

Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell are New York Times bestselling authors. Aftershock is their newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/Hanover Square Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Deep into the Dark, by P. J. Tracy

Image belongs to Minotaur Books.

Title:  Deep into the Dark
Author:  P. J. Tracy
Genre:  Mystery
Rating:  4 out of 5

Sam Easton—a true survivor—is home from Afghanistan, trying to rebuild a life in his hometown of LA. Separated from his wife, bartending and therapy sessions are what occupy his days and nights. When friend and colleague Melody Traeger is beaten by her boyfriend, she turns to Sam for help. When the boyfriend turns up dead the next day, a hard case like Sam is the perfect suspect.

But LAPD Detective Margaret Nolan, whose brother recently died serving overseas, is sympathetic to Sam’s troubles, and can’t quite see him as a killer. She’s more interested in the secrets Melody might be keeping and the developments in another murder case on the other side of town.

I haven’t read anything from this author, but I enjoyed this read. Excellent writing, fascinating characters, and a realistic setting all made this an engrossing book. Sam proves to be an unreliable narrator, which is hard to pull-off, but it’s well-done here. I didn’t figure out who the killer was until just before the characters did, and it wasn’t what I was expecting at all. I’d definitely read more of this series.

P.J. Tracy is an award-winning author. Deep into the Dark is her newest novel, the start of a new series.

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