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Shortcut (The Cut Series Book 2) by Arnold Eslava-Grunwaldt

Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

ShortcutA road less taken leads to murder and a lot more in Short Cut, the newest addition to Arnold Eslava-Grunwaldt’s thrilling, Cut crime fiction series.

As the second book in this compelling crime drama series, the book does well with furthering the story of the Hamilcar Ham Hitchcock and his squad of dedicated detectives from the Yonkers police department, as they are once again called into action to investigate when death rears its head in Yonkers.

Continuing his tradition of remarkably written crime fiction populated with varied characters that are complex, consistent, well-developed, and still fascinating, author Grunwaldt brings readers another truly compelling read. The suspense begins to build immediately when detective sergeant Hitchcock and the Yonkers general assignment team start out investigating not one but two deaths each initially seemingly coincidentally consecutive but unrelated. Things begin with Detective Hamilcar Hitchcock being called to the scene of a newly discovered body; that of seventeen year old Jenny Franklin who took a shortcut on her way home which unfortunately proved fatal. Meanwhile, as Ham and the team are enmeshed in the throes of investigating the death of the Franklin girl another body is discovered; however, there are obvious evidentiary elements that give the appearance that this death could be an accident. However, the story grows in suspense-filled complexity as deliciously plotted twists and turns, and additional deaths, artfully present the possibility that something more sinister may be at work. With few viable leads, multiple potential suspects and bizarre pieces of evidence, Ham and his team have their work cut out for them as they struggle to get to the truth of both deaths. Read the rest of this entry »

Mayhem, Murder and Marijuana: The Los Angeles Marijuana War by Arik Kaplan

Reviewed by Ray Palen

Mayhem, Murder and MarijuanaThe back cover of this novel tells a story almost as chilling as the one found between the covers. The author — Arik Kaplan is a pseudonym to maintain his true identity— literally lived this story. In 2011, immediately following the relaxing of laws in the State of California allowing medicinal marijuana dispensaries to open, he began aggressively purchasing legal medical marijuana locations in Los Angeles county.

The problem with things that sound too good to be true is that they usually are — or, at the very least, they come at a big price. ‘Kaplan’ found out that his involvement in this new industry was the literal equivalent of drawing a target on his own back. If he went through even a smidgen of what the characters in his novel experience it is indeed a wonder he lived to tell this tale.

MAYHEM, MURDER AND MARIJUANA: The Los Angeles Marijuana War makes “Boyz In the Hood” look like an episode of “Sanford and Son”. The fact that our humble author has received death threats at the mere thought of revealing what is contained in this book speaks to his and the stories credibility. Read the rest of this entry »

The Last Stand by Mickey Spillane

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Having been a Mickey Spillane fan back in the 40s and 50s I was looking forward to The Last Stand when I read about how the manuscript supposedly was found in good condition and ready to be published. I feel certain that there was some work done to it by Max Collins who wrote the introduction.

Overall the book is pretty good but not exactly what I expected. To begin with it is in fact two separate stories. The first one, A Bullet for Satisfaction, is a Spillane type and basically centers around a police officer, Captain Dexter, who is heading up an investigation into the killing of a major political figure. Dexter and his partner, Fred Jenkins, begin digging into the case and find several attorneys who are politically active seem to have had some encounters with Mayes Rogers, the murdered politician. Read the rest of this entry »

In Plain Sight: The Kaufman County Prosecutor Murders by Kathryn Casey

Reviewed by Vickie Dailey

In Plain SightIn Plaint Sight is the true crime story of the Kaufman County Prosecutor Murders.

It is a well written story with great background research on the killer and victim. While not familiar with the case, I found it interesting that the killer Eric Williams and one of his victims, Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse, had similar lives and careers until one lost it and veered into murder.

This book has many great reviews for good reason – it is that good.

Noir by Christopher Moore

Reviewed by Laurie Weatherlow

NoirFirst things first, I love the cover of this book! Do you ever pick a book because of the cover? I do and I would grab this one in a heart beat. The pin up girl in bright red and the two men in black suits and fedoras screams 1947. The golden gate bridge is also displayed lending a hint to the setting of the story. There is a snake and a green three fingered hand resting on the title that adds a bit of mystery to the overall design. This is cover love at it’s finest.

In the summer of 1947, San Francisco is changing. The war is over and work is hard to come by. Sammy “Two Toes” Tiffin is a bartender at a seedy gin joint when one night a dame named Stilton, aka the Cheese, walks in and Sammy falls hard. They spend time together and enjoy some razzmatazz until one night the Cheese goes missing. Sammy sets out to rescue her and save her from the two mugs in black suits. However, what he finds he never expected. With a colorful cast of characters and bountiful twists and turns down dark alley’s, we are off on an adventure. Read the rest of this entry »

Illegal Holdings (A Valentin Vemeulen Thriller) by Michael Niemann

Reviewed by Jud Hanson

Illegal HoldingsGlobal Alternatives is an NGO funding agricultural improvements in Mozambique by a small charity named Nossa Terra. Trouble brews when a nearly 5 million dollar outlay from Global is suddenly nowhere to be found. Nossa Terra insists they never the full amount, while Global claims the opposite. Since the original source of the funds is the United Nations, the Secretary General sends in veteran investigator Valentin Vermeulen to determine what happened to the money. It isn’t long before Vermeulen realizes that Nossa Terra is correct and that something very irregular is happening. As Vermeulen doggedly pursues the truth, he becomes the target of someone who doesn’t want Vermeulen to succeed and will try to stop him at any cost.

Illegal Holdings by Michael Niemann is the third book in the Valentin Vermeulen series and the first one that I have read. Niemann is a new author for me and one that I will be returning ­ to in order to read his other books. I believe that this new series has great potential because Niemann draws on his real life experiences, both as a child in Germany and in academia from his work on South Africa. This allows him to create characters and plots that are both engaging and realistic. I look forward to future books in this series and give this one 4/5 stars.

*A copy of this book was the only consideration given in exchange for this review.*

The Gate Keeper An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery (Inspector Ian Rutledge Mysteries)by Charles Todd (Review #2)

Reviewed by Jud Hanson

The Gate KeeperInspector Ian Rutledge is a troubled man. He remains haunted by his experiences in the war and it is starting to impact both his personal and professional lives. While on a solo drive in rural England after his sister’s wedding, Rutledge nearly hits a car stopped in the middle of the road. To his surprise, there is a young woman standing by a man’s body, her hand’s covered in blood. Despite appearances, she is adamant about her innocence, leaving Rutledge uncertain as to what to do next. It turns out that the deceased individual is from the village of Wolf Pit and by all accounts is very well liked by nearly everyone in Wolf Pit. Despite being something of a witness to the crime, Rutledge is given approval by the Yard to lead the investigation, which heats up when a second murder occurs and then a third. In order to solve these crimes, Rutledge must pry into the past of the original victim to determine what the common thread is before the killer strikes again. Read the rest of this entry »

The Other Mother: A Novel by Carol Goodman

Reviewed by Caryn St. Clair

Daphne Marist, suffering from postpartum depression after the birth of her daughter Chloe is delighted when her husband signs her up for a mothers day out type group led by a free spirited woman named Esta. She’s even more pleased when Laurel, the “super-star” mother of the group befriends her after the first session. The two women clicked almost immediately finding that the had many more things in common than both having daughters about the same age maned Chloe. Before long though, Daphne begins to see that Laurel’s life isn’t as perfect as it seems and so she begins to urge Laurel to go back to work at least part time. Daphne goes so far to even research online for potential jobs for Laurel which as readers will see later backfires on Daphne.

The book opens with Daphne arriving with Chloe in tow at a new job as an archivist for a well known author’s papers. This is a job that Daphne found while searching for possible jobs for Laurel, but instead, Daphne applies and gets the job using Laurel’s identity and credentials. At the time readers are left to wonder how this came to be, and frankly it took way to long for us to find out the how and why this ocurred.

The rest of the book is mostly given to readers from various characters’ journals and leads to us getting the story in bits and pieces. While this approach certainly builds suspense and makes the book hard to put down it also makes it a little bit hard to follow. For instance, are readers sure the woman who took the job is Daphne or is this really Laurel? There are things in the various journals that point both ways. Read the rest of this entry »

The Rooster Bar by John Grisham

Reviewed by Allen Hott

The Rooster BarWriting about young law students or those just recently admitted to the bar has always been a good stomping ground for Grisham. And The Rooster Bar really fills the bill!

A group of law students attending Foggy Bottom Law School basically get together on several evening meetings and begin discussing the Foggy Bottom Law School. One of them especially has been looking into some strange things about the school as far as placement of graduates and also failure rates etc. He is determined that something is not right so he tells his two buddies and his girlfriend that he is putting together a study to either prove or disprove his theory.

Basically he finds in his studies that the bulk of the lower rated law schools, such as Foggy Bottom, not only produce fewer top graduates. But also strangely enough many of these lower rated schools appear to be owned by a group of industrialists who would not appear to have any interest particularly in further education and definitely not in law degrees. No one takes his findings too seriously but he continues with his theories. Read the rest of this entry »

Quicksand (Eve Duncan) by Iris Johansen

QuicksandEve Duncan is still trying to find the person who killed her young daughter, Bonnie, years ago. And because it is still causing her some mental problems it is also bothering her forever lover, Joe Quinn. Joe and Eve had gotten the names of three potentials that seem to fit in as possible killers of Bonnie from a gentleman named Montalvo that had used Eve to do a forensic sculpting. Montalvo works in Columbia as a detective type in the military.

Joe, who is a former Navy seal and nationally known Atlantic detective, receives word from the sheriff of Bloomburg, Illinois that Henry Kistle, a fugitive and one of Joe’s three potentials is in Bloomburg. Joe takes off immediately for Kistle’s location but before he gets there Kistle somehow is able to capture and kill the sheriff.

And then Eve receives a phone call that begins with, “Do you still miss your little Bonnie?” The call comes from the sheriff’s phone. She knows right away that someone is aware of what happened to Bonnie and Eve immediately assumes it is the killer. While talking with Eve he admits to killing the sheriff and also admits his name is Henry Kistle.

Kistle does take off and is quickly being hunted in the woods outside of Bloomburg when both Joe and Montalvo with his aide get word from the local sheriff that they have tracked him that far. However even with all their accumulated forces they are unable to get him and he also kills the sheriff’s chief deputy.

When it appears he is still in the woods, Eve flies also to Bloomburg to be of any help that she can. However as part of the story it turns out that Montalvo has developed some sort of a crush on Eve and although she is fighting it she also has developed feelings for him. Her feelings however do not replace her feelings for Joe. What she feels for Montalvo (at least she believes) are because of his extreme care for her loss of Bonnie which Joe has never been able to develop.

From here Johansen has built an interesting story as the entire group of Eve, Joe, Montalvo, and his top aide join forces with legal forces chasing Kistle. Kistle makes many of the moves you would expect in a story of this type as he continues to not only run and hide but also he kidnaps a young girl. He knows that this will really get to Eve so he constantly phones her to tell her where he and the kidnapped youngster are.

If you read Johannsen’s stories about Eve Duncan you know that she is mentally upset and has been for years not only over the loss of Bonnie but also the fact that she has never been able to catch the killer. She never gets much help from Joe in this problem because he never knew Bonnie and isn’t overly sympathetic to past occurrences.

Will Montalvo’s caring cause a split with Eve and Joe? Will they finally catch Kistle? The only way to find out these answers is to read Quicksand. You will not regret doing just that!

Proof of Life: A J. P. Beaumont Novel by J.A. Jance

Reviewed by Suzanne Odom

Proof of LifeJ. P. Beaumont is recently retired and experiencing some boredom. He had been a homicide detective for so long that now he is not sure what to do to keep himself busy. His wife, Mel Soames, is busy with her job as the police chief in Bellingham, Washington. Spending his days watching TV and reading is not always enjoyable to Beau and he jumps at the chance to spend time with his son and drive him home from a dental procedure. In addition, he is always looking for ways to spend more time with his increasingly busy wife.

While dining with his wife, Maxwell Cole, a crime reporter for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and someone of whom Beau is not fond, approaches Beau. They make idle chit chat and then Max Cole goes on his way. Soon after this chance meeting, Cole is found dead in his home, in an apparent accidental fire. Was it really an accident or was it murder? Soon Erin Kelsey Howard, whose life Beau once saved, contacts him. She does not believe that the fire that killed her godfather Max was an accident. She asks Beau to investigate his death after she reads a letter from Max instructing her to seek him for help. Max had been writing a book on corruption at a high level, a possible reason for his death.

In another plot, Beau soon finds himself the foster parent of an Irish Wolfhound named, Lucy. Having never owned a dog before, Beau is not very confident that he could be a dog owner even though his wife suggested they get a dog. The dog once belonged to a family where domestic abuse was at play. One of Mel’s officers is involved in a shooting with the husband in this family. His wife and children are taken to a shelter, but the dog is not allowed. Therefore, Mel brings Lucy home to foster her. Lucy soon grows on Beau and he and the dog adjust to each other.

Beau works the Maxwell Cole case and discovers many other deaths connected to Max and proves that he is just as good a detective post retirement.

The story is full of intriguing plots and twists that are sure to keep the reader interested and guessing to the end. A surprise at the end paves the way for more J. P. Beaumont novels. Perhaps we will even see more of Lucy. Jance gives fans of Beau another great book.