Tag: 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 and Blog Tour: The House Guests, by Emilie Richards

Image belongs to Harlequin/MIRA.

TitleThe House Guests

AuthorEmilie Richards

Genre:  Fiction

Rating:  4.5 out of 5

In the wake of her husband’s sudden death, Cassie Costas finds her relationship with her teenage stepdaughter unraveling. After their move to historic Tarpon Springs, Florida, Savannah hates her new town, her school and most of all her stepmom, whom she blames for her father’s death. Cassie has enough to contend with as she searches for answers about the man she shared a life with, including why all their savings have disappeared.

When Savannah’s rebellion culminates in an act that leaves single mother Amber Blair and her sixteen-year-old son homeless, Cassie empathizes with the woman’s predicament and invites the strangers to move in. As their lives intertwine, Cassie realizes that Amber is hiding something. She’s evasive about her past, but the fear in her eyes tells a darker story. Cassie wonders what the woman living under her roof is running from…and what will happen if it finally catches up to her.

This book wasn’t what I expected—in a good way! I enjoyed both Cassie’s and Amber’s viewpoints and stories, but I found Savannah more than a touch annoyingly selfish and oblivious (although there was character growth, thankfully). The friendship that developed between the two women was believable and realistic—no insta-best friends here.

The unraveling of the two mysteries was well-done, leaving the reader intrigued and curious, with no dumping of information to overwhelm the senses. I think the best part of the story was the Greek family and culture layered in, not to mention the descriptions of food. The author juggled all the different plotlines fantastically, bringing them all together into one tidy and fascinating package.

Emilie Richards is a bestselling author from Florida. The House Guests is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/MIRA 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: The Time for Murder Is Meow, by T. C. LoTempio

Image belongs to Beyond the Page Publishing.

When her TV series is canceled, struggling actress Shell McMillan considers it a blessing in disguise. A beloved aunt who recently died left her a pet shop in her will, and she sees it as the perfect chance to walk away from Hollywood and make a fresh start in the sleepy town of Fox Hollow.

But adjusting to small-town life won’t be easy, as Shell realizes when the head of the museum board is found murdered not long after Shell had a very public argument with her. And when the new kid in town is fingered for the crime, she’ll have to rely on her own wit and pluck and the kindness of strangers to get herself off the hook.

Desperate to exonerate herself and catch the real culprit, Shell begins digging into the lives of the local residents, and she quickly discovers that the victim had no shortage of enemies. As the suspect list grows and time runs short, Shell and her cats will have to claw their way out of danger—and it’s meow or never . . .

This was an okay read, the beginning to a series I won’t be reading any more of. I’ve read some enjoyable cozy mysteries featuring pets, but this one…well, for one thing, the cats are too humanized. I’ve had cats my entire life, and I have yet to have one point at something. Repeatedly. Talk back, yes, but actually point at things? No.

The characters were also just so-so to me. Shell has a tendency to completely overreact to things, and that she got so angry at the museum board for not wanting to sue her aunt’s memorabilia was a little too over-the-top to me. This just wasn’t a good fit for me.

T. C. LoTempio lives in New Jersey. The Time for Murder is Meow is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Beyond the Page Publishing in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour: You Will Remember Me, by Hannah Mary McKinnon

Image belongs to Harlequin/MIRA.

TitleYou Will Remember Me
AuthorHannah Mary McKinnon
Genre:  Mystery/thriller
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

Forget the truth.

Remember the lies.

He wakes up on a deserted beach in Maryland with a gash on his head and wearing only swim trunks. He can’t remember who he is. Everything—his identity, his life, his loved ones—has been replaced by a dizzying fog of uncertainty. But returning to his Maine hometown in search of the truth uncovers more questions than answers.

Lily Reid thinks she knows her boyfriend, Jack. Until he goes missing one night, and her frantic search reveals that he’s been lying to her since they met, desperate to escape a dark past he’d purposely left behind.

Maya Scott has been trying to find her estranged stepbrother, Asher, since he disappeared without a trace. Having him back, missing memory and all, feels like a miracle. But with a mutual history full of devastating secrets, how far will Maya go to ensure she alone takes them to the grave?

I feel like it’s usually kind of pointless to read a mystery or thriller where you already know who the culprit is. That being said, I never had much doubt who, exactly, was the bad guy in this story. With the multiple POVs in this story, there wasn’t much hidden about that—and sometimes the author was pretty heavy-handed about it as well.

I also feel like an author makes certain promises to the reader with the setup of a novel, and, frankly, I felt like the author broke those promises with the ending. That may just be me, but I doubt I’ll ever read anything from this author again.

Hannah Mary McKinnon was born in the UK and lives in Canada. You Will Remember Me is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/MIRA 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: The Last Thing He Told Me, by Laura Dave

Image belongs to Simon & Schuster.

TitleThe Last Thing He Told Me
Author: Laura Dave
Genre:  Mystery/Thriller
Rating:  4 out of 5

We all have stories we never tell.

Before Owen Michaels disappears, he manages to smuggle a note to his beloved wife of one year: Protect her.

Despite her confusion and fear, Hannah Hall knows exactly to whom the note refers: Owen’s sixteen-year-old daughter, Bailey. Bailey, who lost her mother tragically as a child. Bailey, who wants absolutely nothing to do with her new stepmother.

As Hannah’s increasingly desperate calls to Owen go unanswered; as the FBI arrests Owen’s boss; as a US Marshal and FBI agents arrive at her Sausalito home unannounced, Hannah quickly realizes her husband isn’t who he said he was. And that Bailey just may hold the key to figuring out Owen’s true identity—and why he really disappeared.

Hannah and Bailey set out to discover the truth, together. But as they start putting together the pieces of Owen’s past, they soon realize they are also building a new future. One neither Hannah nor Bailey could have anticipated.

This was an interesting read. Hannah’s job as a woodturner was quirky and one I’d never read about, so I was fascinated by that part of it. I had no opinion through most of the book on if Owen were guilty or not, but the reason he ran wasn’t what I expected at all. I enjoyed the not-knowing and was invested in the characters and what was happening, so this was a solid, engrossing read.

Laura Dave is a bestselling author. The Last Thing He Told Me is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Simon & Schuster in exchange for an honest review.)

Blog Tour: Local Woman Missing, by Mary Kubica

Image belongs to Harlequin/Park Row.

TitleLocal Woman Missing
AuthorMary Kubica
Genre:  Mystery/thriller
Rating:  DNF

People don’t just disappear without a trace…

Shelby Tebow is the first to go missing. Not long after, Meredith Dickey and her six-year-old daughter, Delilah, vanish just blocks away from where Shelby was last seen, striking fear into their once-peaceful community. Are these incidents connected? After an elusive search that yields more questions than answers, the case eventually goes cold.

Now, eleven years later, Delilah shockingly returns. Everyone wants to know what happened to her, but no one is prepared for what they’ll find…

I read about 20% of this before giving up. The writing was solid, but the style just wasn’t for me. I found the switches between timelines and points-of-view to be clunky and confusing, and I just didn’t feel a connection to any of the characters.

Mary Kubica is a bestselling author. Local Woman Missing is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: A Tale of Two Cookies, by Eve Calder

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

TitleA Tale of Two Cookies
AuthorEve Calder
Genre:  Cozy mystery
Rating:  4.0 out of 5

Pastry chef Kate McGuire is loving life on the laid-back island of Coral Cay, Florida. As junior partner in a bakery renowned for luscious desserts–especially her cookies–life is pretty sweet. So when an old friend arrives and announces a spur-of-the-moment beach wedding, that’s just the icing on the wedding cake.

But the groom vanishes right as a television crew descends on the town to film a hot, new realty show. Is there a connection? Is her friend Desiree somehow involved? Or did groom Judson simply get cold feet? The bride and groom were paired better than warm cookies and cold milk, so Kate doesn’t buy it.

As the show’s cast runs amok on the island and the investigation into Judson’s disappearance heats up, Kate and her pal Maxi, along with town dog Oliver, will brave the rambunctious world of reality TV and a wedding weekend gone awry, in an all-out effort to find the missing groom.

Warning:  do not read this if you’re trying to give up sugar or carbs! Because dang, the cookies and cakes described in this book sound fantastic.

This was a quick, fun read. I’ve really enjoyed this series so far and can’t wait to read more. The quaint tropical setting is great, and the characters are quirky and memorable—even the dog. I honestly had no idea who the culprit was until the big reveal, and that made this even more fun. I also like that, three books into this series, we’re not already emmeshed in a romance, which is pretty common for cozy mysteries. I’m not opposed to that, but it’s nice to read a series that isn’t focused around that.

Eve Calder is from Florida. A Tale of Two Cookies is her newest novel.

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