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Riley Spartz #4

Killing Kate

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Not all angels are divine…

As TV reporter Riley Spartz discovers a serial killer drawing chalk outlines shaped like angels around the bodies of his victims, she unearths an eerie legend dating back nearly a century. Tracking clues to an Iowa cemetery, Riley finds an infamous Black Angel monument that may be connected to the string of homicides throughout the Midwest. Now she is up against a delusional young man who believes the statue is urging him to kill.

The local police are convinced the killer has left their territory and Riley's boss is convinced viewers are tired of hearing about so much crime, but a personal connection with the latest victim, Kate Warner, makes Riley determined to solve the case.

Riley also gets the scoop on a dog left locked in a hot car. Her pet-loving news director is crazy about this story, but the dog owner goes crazy, too. Is he now stalking Riley? Or has the angel-killer put Channel 3's top investigator on his hit list? Yearning for love and ratings, it's unsure whether Riley will find either before the killer finds her.

When she meets a mysterious stranger, Riley must decide whether he is her guardian angel or an angel of death. The answer doesn't come until a graveyard confrontation where the dead are the only witnesses.


336 pages, Hardcover

First published July 26, 2011

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About the author

Julie Kramer

12 books194 followers
Julie Kramer has moved from journalist to novelist. She writes a mystery series set in the desperate world of television news—a world she knows well from her career working as a freelance news producer for NBC and CBS, as well as running the acclaimed WCCO-TV I-Team in Minneapolis.

Her thrillers, STALKING SUSAN, MISSING MARK, SILENCING SAM, KILLING KATE, SHUNNING SARAH and soon to come - DELIVERING DEATH (January 7) - take readers inside how newsrooms make decisions amid chaos. She's won the Minnesota Book Award and the RT Book Review's Best First Mystery. She has also been a finalist for the Anthony, Barry, Shamus, Mary Higgins Clark, Daphne du Maurier, and RT Best Amateur Sleuth Awards.

Julie grew up along the Minnesota-Iowa state line, fourth generation of a family who raised cattle and farmed corn for more than 130 years. Her favorite childhood days were spent waiting for the bookmobile to bring her another Phyllis A. Whitney novel. An avid reader, she tired of fictional TV reporters always being portrayed as obnoxious secondary characters who could be killed off whenever the plot started dragging, so her series features reporter Riley Spartz as heroine.

Julie lives with her family in White Bear Lake, MN.

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5 stars
168 (24%)
4 stars
259 (38%)
3 stars
214 (31%)
2 stars
29 (4%)
1 star
11 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 105 reviews
Profile Image for PamG.
762 reviews431 followers
January 30, 2019
This was the first book that I have read by this author, but it won't be the last one. The main character is an investigative reporter in Minneapolis, Minnesota. There are multiple story lines, but not all are resolved in this book. This is a fast-paced book with some twists and turns.
Profile Image for Jenna.
1,684 reviews18 followers
August 8, 2019
This one is a bit heavier & darker than the previous ones in the series though still smartly written.
I was intrigued by the mystery & trying to figure out who/why.

It was interesting to learn about tv news ratings as well.

big twists at the end that surprised me. wasn't expecting that to happen w/some of the characters.

Profile Image for Gayle.
124 reviews12 followers
March 2, 2012
Maybe I've been reading too much heavy stuff. Or maybe it was just
time for me to laugh a little. For whatever reason I found this book
to be exactly what I needed.
KILLING KATE is a mystery about Riley Spartz, a television investigative
journalist, who finds herself in the middle of a crime involving a serial

I understand this is the third or fourth book by Julie Kramer and I'll
certainly go back to read the ones that came before. In some ways I wish
I'd have read them in order, but no harm done.

There are sideline issues involving counterfeit money and a divorced
couple with a custody dispute over their dog.

Riley and her boyfriend amused me with their game of movie quotes. If
one drops a line into their conversation that is a movie quote, the other
one must recognize it as such and identify which movie star said it, which
movie it came from and the year the movie was released.

The mystery itself is very good with its twists and turns. It was impossible
to take it seriously because Riley is such an upbeat interesting character.

This book may never win any big literary prizes, but it will give many people
a few hours of lighthearted, good fun reading.

I'd love to give it five stars for the good it did me, but I'm trying to be

I saw several typos. I don't blame the author for these. She had a reputable
publishing company with an editor and someone else should have been more alert.

Do yourself a favor and get acquainted with the works of Julie Kramer.
October 8, 2022
The main woman character is just uuuugh. I find the characters to be based on horrible cliches. Y’all are grown ups, just use your words. Idk. Maybe I am expecting too much out of books but I want to see health adult communication dynamics.
Profile Image for Benjamin Sobieck.
Author 36 books55 followers
February 1, 2014
A murdered erotica writer with books of coded messages. An urban legend about a cursed angel statue in a cemetery. Chalk outlines of angels mysteriously appearing at crime scenes across the Midwest. What more could you want in a crime novel?

Julie Kramer delivers this and much more in her Minnesota-set Killing Kate crime novel. It's another in her series featuring TV journalist Riley Spartz.

I'd discovered Kramer through Delivering Death (there's that alliteration again that themes these titles), a crime novel that I thought packed all the right punches. Killing Kate was to be my confirmation that I could add author Kramer to my list of regular reads. (Note: Killing Kate comes before Delivering Death in the series, but reading out of order doesn't seem to mar the experience.)

Test passed. Killing Kate moves just as quickly and as smart as Delivering Death. The shift between third and first person POVs is there, as is a worthy adversary to match wits with Spartz.

I wanted so badly to give this five stars, but I'm going with four. Here's why.

Unlike Delivering Death, Kramer takes the wind out of her novel's sails by giving away the murderer early on in the novel. It's just a matter of time until the murderer and Spartz cross paths. We know it because Spartz is too smart not to put all the pieces together.

Watching Spartz do that is entertaining, but it felt dragged out. That there are B, C and D plots for Spartz to address just added to the wait.

Don't get me wrong. This formula (giving away the bad guy) can work if the suspense is cranked up. There seems to be an effort to do that, but Spartz's other commitments push the thrills to the background.

Even with this handicap, Kramer rescues the reader with her pure storytelling ability. If Spartz takes a few chapters to do a news story about a divorced couple fighting over a dead dog, the novel doesn't necessarily suffer. Kramer could make the ingredients list on a package of frozen waffles breathe to life.

That said, I'll continue reading Kramer and her Spartz series. They're easily my best find of 2014 so far.
Profile Image for Book Him Danno.
2,394 reviews54 followers
July 18, 2011
My edition is the ARC.

This is a fast paced book with great pacing, short chapters and memorable characters. Riley is an investigative reporter who is bold and resourceful. Her parents are great, I find myself laughing at their parts in her stories, and I can identify them with other people I know from this area. Her parents are protective and even a bit underhanded at time. I love the fact that she writes about Minnesota and Minnesota nice, even when mixed with murder and Iowa at times.

The mystery and murder keep you on your toes wondering whodunit. The small on-going plot weaved into her stories continues, even if it didn’t end the way I would have liked it to (actually I doubt if it is over and look forward to more in the next book.) Riley’s co-workers are unique individuals that have endearing and not so endearing qualities about them. Her characters feel real and as I read the book I could place many of my friends and acquaintances in their places making the book come to life and more interesting.

If you have never read Julie Kramer then start now, you will not be disappointed. Her mysteries are interesting and she uses real places in her stories, place you can visit if you feel so inclined to do. I have to say that I wish she wrote them faster, but then I wouldn’t want the quality to drop in the haste. This book is number 4 in the series and it will not disappoint. Go pick it up today.

But, I'm stopping in Iowa City my next trip to the in-laws to check out the Black Angel and the lore surrounding her. Very Spooky Stuff!
Profile Image for Mauoijenn.
1,127 reviews106 followers
October 23, 2011
Of course I grab a good book from the library.
Of course it's part of a series, that I have not even read nor heard of.
I swear. I need to pay attention more when I go to the library.
But I will look into starting at the start of this series.
One day. It was a good book. Nothing fantastic or special.
Profile Image for Nancy.
1,174 reviews40 followers
June 4, 2017
To me, this came across as a lifeless book. Bouncing between two narratives, the reader is either interested in Buddy, a dog that was left in an overheated car by an aggressive owner or a killer that is stalking waitresses in the Midwest.

Riley Spartz, an on air TV personality, is juggling two stories. The public is obsessed with the dog angle, yet a serial killer has met his match in Riley when his latest victim is an unassuming woman that has a secret life as a bestselling writer of erotica. Whereas the dog viewpoint will bring in many readers, it is not until the explosive end to that story where things get interesting. Yet, the dark angel and a family tree of homicidal killers is what kept my interest. Especially when you add in chalk outlines around the bodies in the shape of angels.

The Riley Spartz series is basically a big ball of fluff. There are no deep characters or interesting plot twists. Just straight forward writing that at times is completely skip worthy yet, there is something about Riley that makes me want to read the next book. If only Julie Kramer did not have to give so many camera angel notations. We get that Riley is an on air personality, but telling me what is going on with camera shots during her on air appearances was just annoying.
Profile Image for Mariah.
428 reviews5 followers
September 6, 2017
I read this book and I thought it was a mediocre book that was slightly boring. Some chapters tell the story of the killer and you would think this would have been thrilling, but it wasn't.

Riley Spartz the MN TV reporter who uncovers that her college roommate'a sister was murdered in her home. Turns out she has a secret life as an erotica novelist. Her sister, Laura is someone i couldn't stand. She lied about a college rape to preserve her religious image. Riley couldn't go along with the lie in college, and that broke up their friendship. Good riddance because that's awful behavior.

Than Laura gets killed, and the killer stalks Riley. This part of the story was predictable and I wasn't a fan. Yes Riley kills Karl Dozeal, but that wasn't even exciting.

This book was mediocre and I wouldn't read a book by this author again.

This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
1,884 reviews
July 4, 2017
As usual, coming to a series part way through. Oh, well, it didn't detract from the book.

Riley Spartz is a news reporter. She is off murder investigations, because of things that happened in the earlier books, but, somehow, she ends up on the case anyway.

The sister of a former best friend is found murdered. Because Riley recognized the address, she went to see what had happened and discovered a connection between this murder and previous ones.

She also fronts a story about a dog left in a car in a heat wave. The dog dies and there is some controversy over the custody of the dog between warring exes.

Interesting characters but I wasn't sold on the ending.
Profile Image for Elisabeth.
17 reviews1 follower
December 20, 2018
By far this is my favorite of this series so far!! A mystery novel to keep you on your toes and wondering what will happen next!! Twists upon turns! I love the narrator of this audiobook and I’m glad to have her back after the last one being read by someone else! This series is just getting better as it goes! And I can’t wait to start the next one! The characters are likeable and with the setting being familiar to me I can help but feel like I’m right there with them!!
701 reviews
October 31, 2017
I listened to this thinking it was by a different author. There was some new stuff in here as the twists of the murder mystery unfolded that were very inventive. I enjoyed it, and should perhaps start from the beginning of the series.
1,798 reviews14 followers
May 24, 2022
I find the Riley Spartz mysteries particularly entertaining because they are set here in Minneapolis. This book in the series is a little darker than usual, but has a nice balance with humor. Recommend the series. Kristi & Abby Tabby
Profile Image for Betty Day.
144 reviews
August 11, 2017
Lots of action . . . misdirection . . . impossible working conditions . . . TV news . . . likeable characters . . . on-again-off-again love interest . . . well-told tale
8 reviews
July 29, 2019
Loved it. Read it probably around 2011-2012
639 reviews2 followers
April 2, 2020
My first Kramer. Intestering reading it and watch Tiger King during the same time. A few similarities.
Profile Image for Gretchen Stein.
775 reviews
September 14, 2020
This one was definitely better than the last one. Riley's college roommate's sisters is found murdered, seems to be a serial killer on the loose.
Profile Image for Emily.
99 reviews6 followers
December 27, 2019
Riley was incredibly annoying in this one. She was such an asshole to her "friend" from college the whole time.
45 reviews
May 1, 2012
For most people, homicide never has an upside. For television reporter Riley Spartz, however, a homicide can mean a lead story on the evening news, a spike in ratings, or on occasion, a threat to her life. Although, that last one’s not really an upside.

Recently, it seems that every journalistic investigation Riley undertakes culminates with one of the previously mentioned threats on her life. Because of this, her animal-loving boss Noreen has forbidden Riley from doing any more stories on violent crimes, but when the body of Riley’s college roommate’s younger sister turns up, brutally murdered, she cannot help but launch her own inquiry into Kate Warner’s death.

When Riley learns that someone who was probably not a police officer left a chalk outline in the shape of an angel around Kate’s body, her inquiry leads her to a series of murders that might or might not be connected to Kate’s death. With nothing to connect the crimes except the thinnest threads of supposition, Riley dives headlong into an investigation determined to uncover the truth of what happened to Kate and if she can, raise her ratings as well.

In addition to looking into Kate’s secret life to try and find what got her killed, Riley is also dealing with a disgruntled and possibly dangerous dog owner who was the focus of a news story that resulted in a backlash of negative public opinion against him, and who puts all the blame squarely on her shoulders. With the murder investigation, the angry dog owner, and a YouTube video of her breaking down into sobs live on air going viral on the internet, Riley has more than enough to deal with without worrying about her parents, her boyfriend, her boss, or her former college roommate all needing her attention.

“Killing Kate” is the fourth entry in Julie Kramer’s Riley Spartz series, and while it might be helpful to start with the first book, “Stalking Susan” and read through “Missing Mark” and “Silencing Sam” it is not necessary to have read the previous titles to be able to keep up with “Killing Kate.”

Kramer has written another fast paced thriller with a clever plot that weaves together several storylines into an entertaining and exciting read. Her characters are endearing, her dialogue witty, and her plotlines intricate and intelligent. “Killing Kate” will keep any mystery fan turning the pages until late into the night.
Profile Image for Carl Brookins.
Author 26 books70 followers
December 28, 2015
One of the crucial elements of this series is its platform. It’s a platform the author knows well and uses to full effect. Her platform is the reality and atmosphere of a television news operation. In today’s broadcast television business, tension and often frantic pursuit of ratings, rules. Ratings are tied directly to advertisers and what they can be charged for air time. That’s the reality. This is the novel.

Riley Spartz, newshen of a local television station in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, sometimes is a bit of a loose cannon. It drives her bosses up the wall. On the other hand, she seems to get the important stories. Spartz is a veteran reporter, well aware that her skills and experience are being constantly measured against younger, cheaper, upcoming talent. It pushes her to extend herself and sometimes into mortal danger. Author Julie Kramer has a strong background in television new production and she uses that experience to excellent effect. The novel rings with authenticity.

Almost accidentally Riley discovers an odd chalk outline around the body of a dead woman in south Minneapolis. She’s chasing a solution to the murder of a young woman when Riley, against her boss’s wishes, learns of her own personal connection to the dead woman. That connection gives her more incentive to follow the story. Almost as an aside, on a hot day in Minneapolis she comes across a dog locked in a truck in a parking lot. Riley’s instincts kick in and a live feed from a liquor store parking lot sends ripples through the community and incenses the dog’s owner. Between the two stories, Riley has a lot to juggle And then violence flares all around her.

The novel is cleanly and smoothly written, with a powerful forward thrust that grabs the reader and contributes to its page-turning intensity. The characters are multi-dimensional and interesting. One of the author’s strengths is her ability to surprise us while retaining the essential dimensions of the characters. “Killing Kate” is a terrific novel and I’m looking forward to the next in this series.

Profile Image for Shelleyrae at Book'd Out.
2,419 reviews496 followers
July 22, 2011
I expected to enjoy this novel, it's a genre I like and hoped that I would find a new series to collect but sometimes you just don't click with a character and unfortunately that is the case for me in Killing Kate.
By the time I was barely a third of the way into the novel, my attention was wandering and by the half way mark I realised I really didn't like Riley much. The first person point of view revealed her very narrow ambition to 'scoop' a story at any cost. She seemed unable to separate the professional from the personal, and I thought Riley's behaviour was manipulative and selfish in both facets of her life. She showed contempt for almost everyone she interacted with, not only her interview subjects and her boss, but also her lover and the murder victim's sister, who had once been her friend. She sulked when her boyfriend refused to share details of the case with her, gave an ultimatum when Laura refused to be interviewed and adopted a superior tone with her colleagues and editor. It's possible that had I read previous books in the Rile Spartz series I may have been more understanding but unable to relate to Riley, my interest in the book quickly waned.
I think half way was the tipping point for me also because the motivations, methods and identity of the murder had already been revealed through alternate chapters in a third person narrative. There was very little tension left after that, that he would go after Riley was a forgone conclusion as was the fact that she would survive and the murderer would either be captured or killed.
Despite my loss of interest, I kept reading mainly to mark the book as finished but hoping for something to spark. I admit the conclusion of a minor storyline was a surprise but ultimately I'm sorry to say this just didn't work for me..that's not to say it won't work for you though.
Profile Image for Karen.
51 reviews1 follower
August 25, 2011
One of the great things about Julie Kramer's series is that she gives you enough information about the characters that you don't have to have read any of the previous works to fully appreciate and enjoy this one.

The mystery in KILLING KATE is based on a real-life legend of a Black Angel, who sits in an Iowa cemetery, her once brass color having turned to black over the years. Is it the natural process of oxidation? Or proof of dark deeds?

Riley Spartz finds herself in the middle of a murder mystery when the younger sister of a former college roommate is found murdered. Kate's murder reunites Riley with her old friend, Laura, and unravels a chain of secrets that ultimately puts Riley in the path of a serial killer.

Author Julie Kramer takes the story through alternating points of view. Most of it is told from Riley's first person perspective. But then Kramer deliciously dives into the mind of her antagonist, an unassuming legal assistant who believes family history has compelled him to become a killer.

Kramer writes fun and snappy dialogue with relationships and characters that come alive through perfect touches and details, without being overwhelming.

I was surprised by the ending, not because it was a surprise reveal. You know who the killer is fairly early on. Instead, I was surprised by the controversy of it, in an "I can't believe she went there!" kind of way. And after this novel, none of the characters will ever be the same.

I thoroughly enjoyed KILLING KATE.

(When you read that sentence out loud, it sounds totally wrong.)

It's a fun story, a juicy thriller, and a great summer read.
1,929 reviews38 followers
May 29, 2014
Killing Kate, by Julie Kramer, b-plus, Narrated by Bernadette Dunn, Produced by Dreamscape Audio, downloaded from audible.com.

For some reason, this book was not recorded until now. It’s out of sequence. This is #4 in the series, and I’ve already read #5 which was recorded soon after it was published. In this one, Riley is still working for Channel 3. The news director sends Riley on a dog rescue story sure to win over Minneapolis-St. Paul's viewers. It involves a man who left his dog in a very hot car. Initially the dog was rescued but he died of heat stroke. Riley actually shed tears on the air which she found quite embarrassing. The news director likes animal stories and thinks the biewers like them too, so when the Twin City's latest murder victim is someone from Riley's past, she can't stay away. Kate Warner was her college roommate's sister, and the killer's signature - a chalk outline of a winged
angel - links him to a string of homicides across the Midwest. Unearthing his agenda leads Riley to the legendary Black Angel statue in an Iowa City, cemetery
The news director isn’t happy that Riley has gone off after this story instead of piling on more stories about Buddy, the dog who died. But ultimately Riley finds herself in quite a situation. The “angel killer” is after her because she’s getting too close to finding out who he is. In the meantime, the man whose dog died is very angry with her, and may be setting out to kill her. There are lots of humorous moments in this book. It got a little bleak though as Riley made some decisions that she shouldn’t have made. It’s a pretty good book although I think the later ones are better.

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