Tag: murder mystery

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.)

Book Review: Murder is a Must, by Marty Wingate

Image belongs to Berkley.

Title: Murder is a Must       
Author: Marty Wingate
Genre: Cozy mystery
Rating: 4 out of 5

Hayley Burke, curator of Lady Fowling’s collection of first edition mysteries, is settling into her position at the First Edition Library in Middlebank House. She’s even made progress with Lady Fowling’s former secretary, the ornery Miss Woolgar. The women are busily preparing for an exhibition that will showcase Lady Fowling’s life and letters. Hayley knows the exhibition is a huge undertaking and decides, against her better judgement, to hire Oona Atherton, her former boss from the Jane Austen Centre to help with the planning.

Oona is known for being difficult, but all seems to be going swimmingly until she and Hayley uncover a one-page letter that alludes to a priceless edition of MURDER MUST ADVERTISE signed by several Golden Age of Mystery authors. Oona feels this book could be the focal point of the exhibition and becomes obsessed with finding it.

When they find clues that appear to point to the book being somewhere in the First Edition Library, Oona is certain she’s unraveled the mystery and texts Hayley the good news, but upon arriving back at Middlebank, Hayley finds her old boss dead at the bottom of the stairs. Did her discovery of the rare book get her killed or was it some angry shadow from her past? Hayley must read between the lines to catch a malicious murderer.

I hadn’t read the first book in this series, but that wasn’t a problem. This was a solid cozy mystery read, but not a surprising one. I’ll admit the over-the-top character in the teal suit was a bit eccentric, but there really had to be one colorful character in this novel, didn’t there? This was an entertaining and fun read.

Marty Wingate is a bestselling author. Murder is a Must is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: No Woods So Dark as These, by Randall Silvis

no woods so dark as these
Image belongs to Poisoned Pen Press.

Title: No Woods So Dark as These
Author: Randall Silvis
Genre: Thriller
Rating: 4 out of 5 

Former Sergeant Ryan DeMarco’s life has been spent in defiance–he’s defied death, loneliness, and betrayal all while fighting the worst parts of humanity. He’s earned a break, and following the devastation of their last case, DeMarco and his girlfriend Jayme want nothing more than to live quietly in each other’s company. To forget the horrors they’ve experienced and work on making each other whole again.

But dreams of a peaceful life together are shattered when two bodies are discovered in a smoldering car in the woods, and another is found brutally mutilated nearby. Much as he’d like to leave the case to his former colleagues, dark forces are at play and DeMarco cannot escape the vortex of lies, betrayal, and desperation. He and Jayme are dragged back into the fray, where they must confront the shady dealings of a close-knit rural community.

I’ve enjoyed all the books in this series, and I enjoyed this one as well, although there was quite a bit more introspection from the characters than in the previous novels—which seems a bit odd for a thriller. Facing mortality after the events of the previous novel, maybe?

Silvis’s writing is sharp and solid as always, but this book seemed to be more about DeMarco’s mental struggles than the actual case. Jayme is also struggling, but Ryan is the focus here, which I enjoyed.

Randall Silvis is an award-winning author. No Woods So Dark as These is his newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Poisoned Penn Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Cut to the Bone, by Ellison Cooper

cut to the bone
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   Cut to the Bone
Author:   Ellison Cooper
Genre:   Thriller
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

After grieving the death of her fiancé and almost losing her job, Agent Sayer Altair is finally starting to rebuild her life. Her research into the minds of psychopaths is breaking new ground and her strange little family is thriving. But Sayer’s newfound happiness is threatened when she is called in to investigate a girl’s body left inside a circle of animal figurines below a cryptic message written in blood. When they discover that the dead girl is one of twenty-four missing high school students, Sayer quickly realizes that nothing in this case is what it seems.

As the investigation draws her in to a tangled web of fake identities and false leads, the trail soon begins to point directly to her own life. Now, Sayer must confront her painful past to uncover her connection to the deranged killer if she hopes to save the missing teens and protect everything that she loves.

I haven’t read either of the previous books in this series—yet!—but that didn’t really prove to be a problem. I was drawn into the action on the very first page, and it kept me riveted until the very end.

Sayer was an interesting character to me. She almost comes across as unemotional in her single-minded focus on the case—although I can see why, considering what I learned about her past. I fully intend to go back and read the fist two books in the series, as I enjoyed this one so much.

Ellison Cooper is a dual Irish/American citizen. Cut to the Bone is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: The Finders, by Jeffrey B. Burton

the finders
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   The Finders
Author Jeffrey B. Burton
Genre:   Mystery
Rating:   4.2 out of 5

Mason “Mace” Reid lives on the outskirts of Chicago and specializes in human remains detection. He trains dogs to hunt for the dead. Reid’s coming off a taxing year—mourning the death of a beloved springer spaniel as well as the dissolution of his marriage. He adopts a rescue dog with a mysterious past—a golden retriever named Vira. And when Reid begins training Vira as a cadaver dog, he comes to realize just how special the newest addition to his family truly is…

Suddenly, Reid and his prize pupil find themselves hurled into a taxing murder case, which will push them to their very limits. Paired with determined Chicago Police Officer Kippy Gimm, Mace must put all his trust in Vira’s abilities to thwart a serial killer who has now set his sights on Mace himself.

I definitely enjoyed reading this! Mace is kind of bumbling through his personal interactions, but I found it very endearing. I enjoy reading mysteries and trying to figure out who the culprit is, but the author did a great job of playing things close to his vest and not giving anything away here.

Vira is her own special character, and I loved her from the beginning, when she was a depressed and scared puppy. Seeing how she developed was fascinating, and I’m looking forward to reading more of her adventures.

Jeffrey B. Burton lives in Minnesota. The Finders is his newest novel, the first in the Mace Reid K-9 Mystery series.

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

Book Review: The Mountains Wild, by Sarah Stewart Taylor

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

Title:   The Mountains Wild
Author:   Sarah Stewart Taylor
Genre:   Thriller
Rating:   4 out of 5

Twenty-three years ago, Maggie D’arcy’s family received a call from the Dublin police. Her cousin Erin has been missing for several days. Maggie herself spent weeks in Ireland, trying to track Erin’s movements, working beside the police. But it was to no avail: no trace of her was ever found. 

The experience inspired Maggie to become a cop. Now, back on Long Island, more than 20 years have passed. Maggie is a detective and a divorced mother of a teenager. When the Gardaí call to say that Erin’s scarf has been found and another young woman has gone missing, Maggie returns to Ireland, awakening all the complicated feelings from the first trip. The despair and frustration of not knowing what happened to Erin. Her attraction to Erin’s coworker, now a professor, who never fully explained their relationship. And her determination to solve the case, once and for all.

I was engrossed in this novel from the very beginning. I loved that most of it was set in Ireland, and the author managed to capture the unique beauty and charm of the country. The parts set in Maggie’s past were a bit frustrating, as she kept poking her nose into all sorts of things when she shouldn’t, but her determination to find her cousin was strong.

Excellent and evocative writing, with Ireland itself coming to life on the page, as well as the characters. I never did figure out who was behind it all, so I was just as surprised as Maggie with how it played out. Definitely a solid and thrilling read.

Sarah Stewart Taylor grew up on Long Island. The Mountains Wild is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: A Study in Murder, by Callie Hutton

a study in murder
Image belongs to Crooked Lane Books.

Title:   A Study in Murder
Author:   Callie Hutton
Genre:   Mystery
Rating:   4.2 out of 5

Bath, England, 1890. Mystery author Lady Amy Lovell receives an anonymous letter containing shocking news: her fiancé, Mr. Ronald St. Vincent, has been dabbling in something illegal, which causes her to promptly break their engagement.

Two evenings later, as Lady Amy awaits a visit from Lord William Wethington, fellow member of the Bath Mystery Book Club, her former fiancé makes an unexpected and most unwelcome appearance at her house. She promptly sends him to the library to cool his heels but later discovers the room seemingly empty–until she stumbles upon a dead Mr. St. Vincent with a knife in his chest.

Lord Wethington arrives to find Lady Amy screaming and sends for the police, but the Bobbies immediately assume that she is the killer. Desperate to clear her name, Lady Amy and Lord Wethington launch their own investigation–and stir up a hornet’s nest of suspects, from the gardener who served time in prison for murder to a vengeful woman who was spurned by St. Vincent before he proposed to Lady Amy.

Can they close the book on the case before the real killer gets away with murder?

I don’t think I’ve ever read any of Callie Hutton’s novels, but I found this one charming and engrossing. Amy—and her aunt, too—is a fascinating, quirky character, independent and strong-willed, but smart enough to know sometimes she has to fulfill conventions.

I was just as invested in their unofficial murder investigation as Amy and William were, and I disliked the police just as much, too. I’ve always enjoyed characters who flout convention and society’s rules, so Amy was a great, fun character, and I recommend this delightful read.

Callie Hutton is a bestselling author. A Study in Murder is her newest novel, the first in the A Victorian Book Club Mystery series.

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

Book Review: The Girls Weekend, by Jody Gehrman

the girls weekend
Image belongs to Crooked Lane Books.

Title:   The Girls Weekend
Author: Jody Gehrman
Genre:  Suspense/thriller
Rating:   4.0 out of 5

Their reunion just became a crime scene . . .

June Moody, a thirty-something English professor, just wants to get away from her recent breakup and reunite with girlfriends over summer break. Her old friend and longtime nemesis, Sadie MacTavish, a mega-successful author, invites June and her college friends to a baby shower at her sprawling estate in the San Juan Islands. June is less than thrilled to spend time with Sadie–and her husband, June’s former crush–but agrees to go.

The party gets off to a shaky start when old grudges resurface, but when they wake the next morning, they find something worse: Sadie is missing, the house is in shambles, and bloodstains mar the staircase. None of them has any memory of the night before; they wonder if they were drugged. Everyone’s a suspect. Since June had a secret rendezvous with Sadie’s husband, she has plenty of reason to suspect herself. Apparently, so do the cops.

I feel like this is the sort of situation I would get myself into: it starts with an invitation I really have no desire to accept—but I do because I get guilt-tripped into it—I’m miserable at the event because I really don’t even like these people, and, just my luck, someone winds up dead. And we’re all suspects. Yep. Just my luck.

I was just as much in the dark as the characters were about what had actually happened. Except…I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have cleaned up the crime scene or not told the cops we thought we’d all been drugged. So that bit was a touch hard to believe. Other than that, I really had no idea who did it, as everyone had a motive for wanting Sadie dead—she was that unlikable.

Jody Gehrman is a professor of English and Communications. The Girls Weekend is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: This is How I Lied, by Heather Gudenkauf

this is how i lied
Image belongs to Harlequin/Park Row.

Title:  This is How I Lied
AuthorHeather Gudenkauf
Genre:  Thriller
Rating:  4 out of 5

Tough as nails and seven months pregnant, Detective Maggie Kennedy-O’Keefe of Grotto PD, is dreading going on desk duty before having the baby her and her husband so badly want. But when new evidence is found in the 25-year-old cold case of her best friend’s murder that requires the work of a desk jockey, Maggie jumps at the opportunity to be the one who finally puts Eve Knox’s case to rest.

Maggie has her work cut out for her. Everyone close to Eve is a suspect. There’s Nola, Eve’s little sister who’s always been a little… off; Nick, Eve’s ex-boyfriend with a vicious temper; a Schwinn riding drifter who blew in and out of Grotto; even Maggie’s husband Sean, who may have known more about Eve’s last day than he’s letting on. As Maggie continues to investigate, the case comes closer and closer to home, forcing her to confront her own demons before she can find justice for Eve. 

I didn’t really feel a connection with any of these characters. Not even pregnant and struggling Maggie. Especially not Nora, who was vicious and crazy. And, it seems, everyone in the book was a liar, so there’s that. Unreliable narrator, anyone?

I actually didn’t figure out what had happened 25 years ago—how is 1995 twenty years ago!—and the action and tensions kept increasing, making this quick to read, but my dislike of the characters killed a lot of my enjoyment of the read.

Heather Gudenkauf is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. This is how I Lied is her newest novel.

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