Tag: mystery

Book Review: Broken, by John Rector

Image belongs to Thomas & Mercer.

Title: Broken
Author:  John Rector   
Genre: Fiction, thriller
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Welcome to Beaumont Cove, a slowly decaying tourist town at the edge of the world, and the place where Maggie James’s worst fears for her estranged twin sister, Lilly, have come true.

Lilly is dead, and Maggie has arrived to identify her body.

Lilly’s husband, Mike, is in custody for her murder. With his long history of abuse, no one in town is surprised at the inevitable end to their stormy marriage, least of all Maggie. All she wants is to clean up her sister’s affairs, see Mike punished, and get out of Beaumont Cove.

With the help of the local sheriff, a retired private investigator, and a strange but friendly carnival psychic, Maggie begins to uncover the truth about what really happened to her sister. But the truth comes at a price, and soon Maggie finds herself walking a dark path toward the same deadly trap that killed Lilly.

The more Maggie discovers about her sister’s final days, the more she realizes that nothing is as it appears in this strange boardwalk town.

This novel is technically sound:  solid writing, unique characters, an interesting setting. But there was nothing unexpected here. I found it basically predictable—yes, even the carnival psychic—with just a tiny bit of creepy due to the setting (empty tourist town).

Maggie was not a likable character to me at all. Hateful, judgmental, and a liar, to boot. (Yes, I know what Mike was a horrible person to her sister, but still, what she did to him was Wrong.) I ended up feeling little to no sympathy for her, and that made the whole book just “meh.”

John Rector lives in Nebraska. Broken is his newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Thomas & Mercer in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Before She Was Helen, by Caroline B. Cooney

befor she was helen
Image belongs to Poisoned Pen Press.

Title: Before She Was Helen
Author: Caroline B. Cooney  
Genre: Fiction, mystery
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

When Clemmie goes next door to check on her difficult and unlikeable neighbor Dom, he isn’t there. But something else is. Something stunning, beautiful and inexplicable. Clemmie photographs the wondrous object on her cell phone and makes the irrevocable error of forwarding it. As the picture swirls over the internet, Clemmie tries desperately to keep a grip on her own personal network of secrets. Can fifty years of careful hiding under names not her own be ruined by one careless picture? 

And although what Clemmie finds is a work of art, what the police find is a body. . . in a place where Clemmie wasn’t supposed to be, and where she left her fingerprints. Suddenly, the bland, quiet life Clemmie has built for herself in her sleepy South Carolina retirement community comes crashing down as her dark past surges into the present.

The description of this novel didn’t give me a clue of the confusion that came along with it. Because Clemmie is only Clemmie in her own thoughts and in her memories. She goes by Helen in her life and that’s what everyone knows her as. And her niece and nephew are clueless and selfish and get her into heaps of trouble with their thoughtlessness—but who would ever have suspected “Helen” was hiding secrets like this?

I liked the idea of this “helpless” little old lady being a disguise for someone who went through a terrible ordeal fifty years ago, but it just wasn’t very realistic to me. And the busybodies at the retirement community…no, thank you. I’d have moved just to escape from them.

Caroline B. Cooney started writing stories when she was in the sixth grade. Before She Was Helen is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: The Case of the Killer Divorce, by Barbara Venkataraman

the case of the killer divorce
Image belongs to the author.

Title: The Case of the Killer Divorce
Author: Barbara Venkataraman
Genre: Fiction, humor
Rating: 4 out of 5

Reluctant lawyer, Jamie Quinn, has returned to her family law practice after a hiatus due to the death of her mother. It’s business as usual until a bitter divorce case turns into a murder investigation, and Jamie’s client becomes the prime suspect. When she can’t untangle truth from lies, Jamie enlists the help of Duke Broussard, her favorite private investigator, to try to clear her client’s name. And she’s hoping that, in his spare time, he can help her find her long-lost father.

This is another solid, quick read in this series, with bits of humor and some mystery to keep it interesting. Duke is again over-the-top but lovable, and Jamie is dealing with a mystery of her own:  finding her father, as well as a new love interest. If you’re looking for just a fun read without a big time commitment, this is a good pick.

Barbara Venkataraman is a lawyer and mediator.  The Case of the Killer Divorce is the second book in the Jamie Quinn Mystery series.

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

Book Review: Death by Didgeridoo, by Barbara Venkataraman

death by didgeroo
Image belongs to the author.

Title: Death by Didgeridoo
Author: Barbara Venkataraman
Genre: Fiction, humor
Rating: 4 out of 5

Reluctant lawyer, Jamie Quinn, still reeling from the death of her mother, is pulled into a game of deception, jealousy, and vengeance when her cousin, Adam, is wrongfully accused of murder. It’s up to Jamie to find the real murderer before it’s too late. It doesn’t help that the victim is a former rock star with more enemies than friends, or that Adam confessed to a murder he didn’t commit.

I enjoyed this cozy mystery. Jamie Quinn has a wry sense of humor—and she’s not afraid to poke fun at herself, always letting the reader be in on the joke. This wasn’t full of legal terms or tiny details to get bogged down on, settling instead on the broader picture and getting to know the characters.

Grace, Jamie’s best friend, was a lot of fun, but Duke was probably my favorite character. He’s a PI with a penchant for drinking and over-the-top flirting, and he really made me laugh.

Barbara Venkataraman is a lawyer and mediator.  Death by Didgeridoo is the first book in the Jamie Quinn Mystery series.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: Someone’s Listening, by Seraphina Nova Glass

someone's listening blog tour

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Image belongs to Harlequin/Graydon House

Title:   Someone’s Listening
Author:  Seraphina Nova Glass
Genre:   Thriller
Rating:   4 out of 5

Dr. Faith Finley has everything she’s ever wanted: she’s a renowned psychologist, a radio personality—host of the wildly popular “Someone’s Listening with Dr. Faith Finley”—and a soon-to-be bestselling author. She’s young, beautiful, and married to the perfect man, Liam.

Of course Liam was at Faith’s book launch with her. But after her car crashes on the way home and she’s pulled from the wreckage, nobody can confirm that Liam was with her at the party. The police claim she was alone in car, and they don’t believe her when she says otherwise. Perhaps that’s understandable, given the horrible thing Faith was accused of doing a few weeks ago.

And then the notes start arriving—the ones literally ripped from the pages of Faith’s own self-help book on leaving an abusive relationship. Ones like “Secure your new home. Consider new window and door locks, an alarm system, and steel doors…”

Where is Liam? Is his disappearance connected to the scandal that ruined Faith’s life? Who is sending the notes? Faith’s very life will depend on finding the answers.

This one took me a while to get into. I almost stopped reading about 15% in because I didn’t like Faith very much. It ended up improving, but I still didn’t care for Faith. I felt like she was either just letting life happen to her, or she was making colossally stupid decisions that even she knew were a bad idea at the time. Neither of those things make me like a character, and if I don’t like a character, what’s the point in reading?

I think the mystery was well-done, with a nice red herring thrown in at the end. I didn’t figure out who did it, possibly because I was distracted by all my other guesses. In the end, this was a solid read, but yeah, still didn’t like Faith.

Seraphina Nova Glass is an Assistant Professor of Instruction and Playwright-In-Residence at the University of Texas, Arlington where she teaches Film Studies and Playwriting. Someone’s Listening is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/Graydon House 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 and Blog Tour: No One Saw, by Beverly Long

No One Saw Banner

NoOneSawCover
Image belongs to Harlequin/MIRA.

Title:   No One Saw
Author:   Beverly Long
Genre:   Suspense
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

Baywood police department detective A.L. McKittridge is no stranger to tough cases, but when five-year-old Emma Whitman disappears from her day care, there isn’t a single shred of evidence to go on. There are no witnesses, no trace of where she might have gone. There’s only one thing A.L. and his partner, Rena Morgan, are sure of—somebody is lying.

With the clock ticking, A.L. and Rena discover their instincts are correct: all is not as it seems. The Whitmans are a family with many secrets, and A.L. and Rena must untangle a growing web of lies if they’re going to find the thread that leads them to Emma… before it’s too late.

I enjoyed the first book in this series, Ten Days Gone, and this one was right up there with it for suspense, keeping me guessing, and having me racing through it to figure out who had taken Emma. There’s a lot of red herrings and false trails that kept the detectives—and me—guessing.

I love reading series and getting to see how characters grow and change throughout, and although this is only the second book of the series, there has already been change and events to keep up with. The writing here never pulled me out of the story at all—a sure sign this is a winner!

Beverly Long wrote her first book when she was in the fourth grade. No One Saw is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/MIRA 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: Death of a Wandering Wolf, by Julia Buckley

death of a wandering wolf
Image belongs to Berkley.

Title:   Death of a Wandering Wolf
Author Julia Buckley
Genre:   Mystery
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

Hana Keller is enjoying a day off from serving up tea and delicious pastries at her family’s Hungarian Tea House when her downtime turns deadly….

The only thing Hana loves more than a good cuppa is finding a delicate porcelain treasure to add to her collection. She’s usually on the hunt for teacups but when she spots a rare wolf figurine at a local yard sale, she knows it’s her lucky day. Hana also knows the wolf is valuable and tells the seller that he’s charging too little for it. His reaction is peculiar–he says he received the wolf from someone he doesn’t trust and he just wants it out of his life.

Hana is inspecting her new prize when she finds a tiny microchip attached to the bottom of the porcelain wolf. When she shows the figure to her police detective boyfriend, Erik, Hana is shocked to learn that the chip is actually a tracking device. They decide to confront the seller about the sneaky sale but when they arrive at his house, they find him dead. Erik and Hana now must hunt a calculating killer who has no intentions of crying wolf when it comes to murder…

I haven’t read the first book in this series—but I will! I thoroughly enjoyed this from the very first page. I relished the look at Hungarian culture here, as I haven’t read much within that context. Hana’s family is fantastic, and Eric’s is a bit scary, but I loved the whole three-ring circus.

I loved the feel of this novel so much. The voice is casual and friendly and draws you right into the action, and Hana’s personality was so much fun to read. This is a perfect read to take your mind of a bad day—or a bad year.

Julia Buckley is a writer and a teacher. Death of a Wandering Wolf is her newest novel, the second in the A Hungarian Tea House Mystery series.

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

Book Review: The Last Curtain Call, by Juliet Blackwell

the last curtain call
Image belongs to Berkley.

Title:   The Last Curtain Call
Author Juliet Blackwell
Genre:   Cozy Mystery
Rating:   4 out of 5

Mel Turner can’t resist the chance to bring the Crockett Theatre, a decrepit San Francisco art nouveau movie palace, back to life. But there’s a catch for Turner Construction: Several artists are currently squatting in the building, and they aren’t the only ones haunting the once-grand halls of the historic theater….

When one of the squatters is found dead, the police department has a long list of suspects to investigate. Meanwhile, Mel and her fiancé, Landon, are remodeling an old house for themselves, and Mel finds it more challenging than she expected to be on the other side of a home renovation project.

When Mel discovers that the original owner of the Crockett Theatre died under mysterious circumstances, and that there just might be a connection to the ghost haunting her own attic, the case takes a new turn–one that could bring down the curtain for the last time.

This was my first foray into the Haunted Home Renovations Mystery series, but I had no problems feeling caught up on things. The novel’s voice is breezy and fun, and this was a quick, light read with some funny moments and a bit of a chill at times. Nothing deep or complex here, just a fun read.

Juliet Blackwell is a bestselling author. The Last Curtain Call is her newest novel.

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