From page one of Betty Webb’s involving mystery, nothing is ever what it seems. The book pushed all my “I like to read” buttons with strong female chaFrom page one of Betty Webb’s involving mystery, nothing is ever what it seems. The book pushed all my “I like to read” buttons with strong female characters, an injured Yorkie, and teens in trouble. How can you ignore the opening line of the Prologue: “The first thing Ali saw when she came through the door was the blood. The next things she saw were the bodies. ‘Why’d you kill my dog?’ she asked Kyle.” Why indeed?
Webb’s desert series set in Arizona is ripe with delightful inconsistencies that knit and purl and weave a composite picture of people with more secrets than reliability, more lies than honesty, and more immorality than fidelity. All of these mores make for an absorbing story that surprised me with one of my favorite human assets—integrity, a much sought after commodity these days—making a valuable appearance. Webb spends pages explaining the bizarre and horrendous relationship of Ali and Kyle, but less would have been more. At times, it slowed the story perceptively. That said, this book reveals effectively many of today’s societal problems, including political graft, illegal drug use, alcoholism, children left to raise themselves, isolation, and love gone wrong, that need to be talked about and improved. This is a good introduction to that discussion. ...more
Tina Whittle has a gift for writing tense scenes and troubled characters. Tai Randolph, the young protagonist, and her love interest, Trey Seaver, anTina Whittle has a gift for writing tense scenes and troubled characters. Tai Randolph, the young protagonist, and her love interest, Trey Seaver, an ex-FBI agent, who suffers from PTSD after a critical head injury add an undercurrent to the story that effectively builds tension throughout the book. Tai has inherited her uncle’s Atlanta gun shop and worked hard to get it back on its feet, no thanks to her neighboring shop owner, who throws one obstacle after another at Tai to force her to move on. Trey installs security systems, which don’t always live up to their hype. The gun shop caters to Civil War enactors, a unique group of people who add an extra dimension of history to this well-written story. When a Civil War hero’s ancient grave is tossed by a tornado that sets down in North Georgia, more than skeletal remains are sent flying. Plot twists reign in this mystery/thriller as Trey approaches the annual anniversary that usually sends him spiraling into chaos, the gun shop is almost destroyed, the rich, a prominent Southern family fights the investigation, a little grave complicates things, and a young, unexpected visitor keeps you on your toes. Whittle is a pro at revving up the tension and pacing it just right to keep the readers attention. It certainly kept mine engaged. ...more
This second book in the Milds’, successful Sherman Mystery Series again shows their ability to create a good cozy mystery. Death Takes A Mistress doesThis second book in the Milds’, successful Sherman Mystery Series again shows their ability to create a good cozy mystery. Death Takes A Mistress does a good job of getting into and out of the backstory in an active scene set in 1982 London, England. By chapter two, the story shifts promptly to the meat of the story in 2005, introducing the murdered woman’s daughter, Ivy, who had the good fortune to be left with a kind and loving babysitter at the time of the murder. The babysitter and her husband raise Ivy. Now, twenty-three-years old and graduating from college, Ivy is determined to reopen the case of her mother’s death, which, everyone but her seems to have forgotten. Following the few clues—1982 police reports, a journal of her mother’s, and a box from the crime scene with an Annapolis, Maryland address, Ivy is off the United States tout de suite. The pacing is well done in this book, and as any lover of a good cozy knows, it delivers what Ivy needs in the way of a support system. She finds a job on her arrival in Maryland in The Olde Victorian Bookstore replete with the eccentric couple—pseudo sleuths—who own it, Dan and Rivka Sherman. The Milds, once again, treat us with their strong ability to create and make us believe in their fictional characters—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Solving this crime will not be easy, even with the help of the Shermans’ connections at Scotland Yard in England. Clues are found and stolen, four families filled with likely suspects present themselves, attempts are made on Ivy’s life, and the Sherman’s get a shock or two along the way. A good read. ...more
I received this book as a Goodreads book giveaway. Set against the angst of the Civil War in the United States, this book brings a message just as timI received this book as a Goodreads book giveaway. Set against the angst of the Civil War in the United States, this book brings a message just as timely today as 150 years ago. Those who stay behind when their loved ones head off to protect their country carry special burdens to keep the home fires burning.
Eliza's husband has joined the Union Army and left her to care for their farm and two children, who she is thankful are old enough to help her with crops, animals, firewood, and the many other chores to keep them alive and warm. The group of women she has quilted with for years meet monthly to work on quilts, sharing a deep camaraderie that helps to sustain them emotionally.
As the war advances, Eliza is asked to hide an escaped slave on the underground railroad. Terrified, she follows her heart and the beliefs of her husband who fights on the side of the Union and faces her fear head-on, hiding the ailing woman. Eliza soon finds herself the focus of slave hunters who believe she is hiding someone, which puts her children in danger. Complicating things, a confederate soldier brings the Christmas quilt she made for her husband to the farm, and she takes him in to work for her, incensing her neighbors and quilting group, as well as her son.
Things get very complicated before they get better as Eliza strives to carve out a new life for her family, now that she knows her beloved husband has been killed. A well-written plot with believable characters that carries the message of the Christmas Season to dissuade people from prejudice and hatred and strive for understanding and compassion. ...more
I received this book as a giveaway on Goodreads. It's a lovely book that reminds us what reaching out to others with no hidden agenda can do.
From theI received this book as a giveaway on Goodreads. It's a lovely book that reminds us what reaching out to others with no hidden agenda can do.
From the hyperactive triplets to the withdrawn Avery to the reluctant mother-to-be at sixteen Kaylee, they all face a confusing Christmas. With the help of the "every day" people who pass through their lives, the mysterious wonder of Christmas moves into their hearts. One small church and one small Christmas pageant transform the future for one large group of people....more
Jeffrey Siger weaves together a sophisticated plot and subplots in Sons of Sparta that drive home the historical significance of unique areas in GreecJeffrey Siger weaves together a sophisticated plot and subplots in Sons of Sparta that drive home the historical significance of unique areas in Greece—mountainous Peloponnese, desolate Mani, and metropolitan Athens.
The non-forgiving codes of honor and vendettas among the residents of Mani who haled from pirates and highwaymen and evolved into 21st Century crime families threaten to destroy the small community. When outsiders try to buy land in the area for a hotel and golf course, old allegiances begin to falter with greed. When Special Crimes Division’s Detective Yiannis Kouros is called to Mani by his uncle—an uncle infamous for his cruelty as boss of Man’s crime syndicate—family secrets and breaches of loyalty begin to emerge.
The book is rich with obscure facts about the region that create unknown settings and homes built in Mani to serve more as fortresses than homes. The intricate political climate is fascinating and, with the physical settings, builds a complex environment that Siger skillfully walks the reader through, causing very little confusion in such a complex location and byzantine plot.
While Kouros is absorbed in the building intensity among his relatives, his boss, Chief Inspector Kaldis, is embroiled in the chaos of government corruption. His investigation drives directly to Mani and the maze Kouros is caught in. With each step they take forward, something happens to send them two steps backwards.
Reigning in his family bent on revenge is a full-time job, while trying to figure out exactly what his uncle was doing sends Kouros in circles. The good working relationship between Kouros and Kaldis quickly becomes fractured as they struggle to determine who is lying and where the truth is.
A well-paced book with interesting characters and a killer setting. ...more
Bernadette Pajer’s historical fiction is filled with known and obscure historical fiction that make reading her Professor Bradshaw series enjoyable. TBernadette Pajer’s historical fiction is filled with known and obscure historical fiction that make reading her Professor Bradshaw series enjoyable. The famous Thomas Alva Edison makes an appearance early in the book and lends substantial tension to the story as it unfolds. I wonder how many people know that Edison “was a ruthless businessman, intent on furthering his patents and General Electric and beating rivals like Nikola Tesla and Westinghouse.” I have to admit that I did not know this about the man that we revere for bringing us the light bulb.
In this early stage of electricity - 1903 - an electrician is found dead in a Bon Marche Department Store window where he was working with the newfangled strings of Christmas lights invented by Edison. Couple his murder with an invention that has been lost in the Elliott Bay off Seattle, an invention that Edison is determined to have regardless of the shady circumstances, and Professor Bradshaw is back on the job as an amateur sleuth.
Bradshaw is determined to thwart Edison’s efforts to find the deadly lost device, which was created by an anarchist. Edison attempts to use Bradshaw for his own selfish reasons, but he is caught off guard by Bradshaw’s intelligent and illusive actions to obstruct his plans.
The device is at the bottom of the bay and all attempts to find it have been as futile as Bradshaw’s attempts to bring closure to the problems between himself and Missouri, the young woman he loves, a winning subplot. Bradshaw’s trusted partners in solving crime and uncovering mysteries, novice investigator, Henry Pratt, and police Detective O’Brien, are on the job and wondering why Bradshaw doesn’t face his personal problems with Missouri realistically.
A well-constructed mystery loaded with tension—professional and personal—multi-dimensional characters, and excellent pacing. ...more
Louise Penny took a big chance in this novel, moving a giant step away from her well-known investigational style and into the depths of philosophicalLouise Penny took a big chance in this novel, moving a giant step away from her well-known investigational style and into the depths of philosophical and emotional exploration. Gamache and his wife have retired to the beautiful, tucked away village of Three Pines in south Quebec where Gamache spends his time ruminating about the horrible events that led to his early retirement. Of course, Penny cannot leave her characters alone to ponder life; they need to be busy solving mysteries, so the scattered, yet successful artist, Clara, draws Gamache back to the work he knows so well.
Several books back in the series, Clara’s husband, Peter disappeared. Also an artist, Peter was unable to handle the sudden and surprising success of his wife. Before she was discovered, she kept her talent as well hidden as the peaceful Three Pines, but when Clara seeks help from Gamache, he rises to the occasion. Forcing himself from his musings, he reaches out to his connections in the police world to find Peter. Those simple requests lead the team of devoted and bizarre neighbors from Three Pines to a quest into Scotland and lands beyond.
Exploring the art world, visiting a commune of sorts, and gathering a blend of fairy tales and gossip eventually lead the intrepid, mismatched team closer to the elusive Peter. He has been around the world on his personal search of discovery, finding danger and far more than he anticipated.
The past has a sinister way of sneaking up on people when they least expect it, and with Penny’s expert pen, she creates a convoluted plot bristling with intrigue and history that shatters beliefs and fidelities with bold strokes. Within the confines of each character’s profile lurks the richness that make Penny’s novels so personal. The characters is this series are a delightful blend of reality, imagination, and ingenuity ripe with emotion that make flipping the page a pleasure.
The books in this series artfully blend humor, tension, and mystery, but this book has an extra dose of humor from Gamache that made me laugh aloud at times. The people of Three Pines give each other space to explore their individual interests and private moments, but they are always watching, ready to step in to help each other. Have a tissue handy for a touching end to this story.
Harper seems to be fascinated with the number three as she penned this first book in a trilogy about three very different sisters, three very differenHarper seems to be fascinated with the number three as she penned this first book in a trilogy about three very different sisters, three very different men, and three very different missing children. Even the weird religious sect in a compound outside town has thirteen families. A clean mystery/thriller, Shattered Secrets deals with the difficult issues of child abuse and stolen children and the commensurate trauma for themselves and their families.
The protagonist, Tess, was abducted and kept captive for eight months eighteen years before returning to the small town of Cold Creek, Ohio, to settle her mother’s estate. She just wants to sell the house and get out of town as fast as possible. Her abduction almost two decades earlier split her family into pieces, and they remain estranged. Her childhood friend, Gabe, was suspected of being involved in her abduction and is now the sheriff. They are all stunned when two girls disappear shortly after Tess’s arrival in town.
Gabe’s ghosts from serving in Iraq haunt him, adding to the rising conflict in the story. The town is in shock, and Tess is sent reeling backwards as the mothers of the girls pressure her to remember anything from her abduction to help them find their children. Another girl was stolen ten years ago and has never been found, adding to the tension. Tess suffers from amnesia and has never recalled what happened to her during her eight-month absence. The last thing she remembers was running through a cornfield when a monster grabbed her. That eight-month void shaped her life and now threatens to destroy her as she is stalked through the same cornfields that snatched her life away as a child.
The book is a neatly packaged, well-written adventure filled with tension and terrifying threats, leading to more murder and more suspects as the plot unfolds. The setting is ripe for conflict with children missing, a too odd veterinarian with his own pet cemetery and his widowed sister, a local who calls himself Bright Star Monson and has seduced Tess’s relatives into a religious commune, stalkers, wandering weirdoes, drugs, meth labs—a cornucopia of peculiar. Thankfully, Gabe and the ancient librarian are there to calm Tess and help her find her sanity. Be prepared for macabre surprises. ...more
The phrase, Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, could have been the title of Murphy’s, well-written,I received this book as a Goodreads giveaway.
The phrase, Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, could have been the title of Murphy’s, well-written, superbly plotted, debut novel. It is an intimate look at three women, who discover they are all married to the same man, Oliver Lane, a wealthy lawyer. When he is shot to death at his summer rental with original wife, Diana, and their twelve-year-old, precocious daughter, Picasso, the secrets of this sociopath tumble from every closet and chest and wife.
The story is told from multiple points of view by well-developed characters, takes an unusual turn when Oliver—from the grave—tells his story in just one chapter. Picasso and the puzzled detective, Kyle Kennedy, are the primary storytellers and keep the story moving at a nice clip. Picasso’s fascination with words gets a bit tiresome with the detail in her definitions, but she is a delightfully whimsical child who quickly masters the game of espionage, drawing Kyle into her tiny circle of confidantes. Wise far beyond her years, she watches the adults squirm under police scrutiny.
The challenge of solving the crime falls to the police on a tiny island on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. The charming setting adds to the confusion with a police force of less than five people, limited access to the mainland, and a small pool of witnesses and possible assassins. Bringing the past forward, Murphy’s backstory is never boring and adds substance as she builds her novel to a crescendo. I enjoyed her markedly different wives and the insights from Oliver towards the end of the book, all of which keep you busy trying to solve the crime. Jennifer Murphy is a welcome addition to the writing world. ...more
The first paragraph of Emily Arsenault’s What Strange Creatures sets the tone for the entire book. “WhatI received this book as a Goodreads giveaway.
The first paragraph of Emily Arsenault’s What Strange Creatures sets the tone for the entire book. “What are you supposed to do on the second night your brother is in jail on a murder charge? Should you watch The Colbert Report? Should you clean the black crud from behind your kitchen faucet? Should you make yourself a smoothie with protein powder?” The protagonist doesn’t get much further than that in making decisions or solving problems. I suppose, at its best, the book’s humor is considered rather avant-garde. On the other end of the scale, it is rather trite, trying too hard to be funny.
This book—less mystery than expose about a family of misfits with lackluster dreams and a weak work ethic—had a hard time holding my interest. I wanted the characters to do something interesting, to prove me wrong, to reveal a literary mystery worth reading. Lines like “I was in my kitchen buttering my toast when I saw a woman…” and “It was tough. I had to speed a little. Out of my comfort zone.” had me shaking my head, wanting to breathe life into it. The plot is predictable and pedestrian. The protagonist, who has made a career of seeking her Ph.D. (seven years) plays with an old knit glove, unraveling the knots in the knit, when she is nervous, which is fine as tics go. Unfortunately, she does it in public, in meetings, with strangers, and no one calls her on it. Maybe they think she has a screw loose. Maybe she does.
I am a devotee of literary fiction and adore a good character study, the ordinariness of life, the interplay of relationships. This book did not give me what I wanted. On a side note, I kept flipping back to look at the cover, searching for the relationship between the cover picture and the story. I never found one. ...more