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Half-Cut (The Cut Series Book 1) by Arnold Eslava-Grunwaldt

Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

Half-CutA police thriller that is as clever as it is suspenseful; Half-Cut makes a noticeable entrance into the ever-growing genre of police thrillers. Author Arnold Eslava-Grunwaldt delivers with this debut novel, which is a well-orchestrated thriller that builds in intrigue, portrays sympathetic characters, and introduces readers to central character Detective Sergeant Hamilcar “Ham” Hitchcock, a seasoned and wise detective on the Yonkers, NY police force.

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Readers will find themselves immediately drawn into the intense world of Detective Sergeant Hitchcock, as he finds himself called to the residence of Bernard “Barney” Bloemker. At first glance, it appears that Barney died of a heart attack. However, something seems out of place with the corpse when it is noted that half his head has been shaved bald. Barney’s unconventional haircut did not match the plain interior set up within his apartment. The mystery continues to grow, as another oddity about poor Barney’s corpse arises. The medical examiner notices a telltale sign of arsenic poisoning indicating that a much more sinister scenario was beginning to unfold; Bloemker’s death may have been murder. Read the rest of this entry »

Exiles: A Mystery in Paris (The Daniel Levin Mysteries Book 1) by Lawrence J. Epstein

Reviewed by Timea Barabas

Exiles:  A Mystery in ParisAlthough the title of the novel by Lawrence J. Epstein reads Exiles: A Mystery in Paris, in fact there are several types of mysteries tackled on various levels. The readers are invited to explore these and see beyond the shadow of the murder case which reigns over the plot.

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It all unravels in Paris, 1925 – a period marked by recovery, vitality and hope. It is the hope of a fresh start that pushes Daniel Levin to leave his home and venture into a foreign land to try and accomplish his dream of becoming a writer. While he quickly befriends the right people and receives a lot of help from them, he still has to face a lot of obstacles alone. Some of these are regarding his literary carrier, some even threaten his life.
Soon after his arrival, a murder takes place in his vicinity. The audacity of the crime and the fame of the victim guarantee the headlines. While he begins as merely a keen observer, his status will shift as he will find himself ever more involved in the case. Meanwhile, he is also faced with the mystery of love and its many masks. Levin thus has the opportunity to discover a city like Paris through a woman. As a bonus, the pages of the book are spiced with the appearances of famous characters of the likes of Sylvia Beach, Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein, all of who are strongly portrayed and bring an extra layer of complexity to the novel. Read the rest of this entry »

Tightening the Threads (A Mainely Needlepoint Mystery) by Lea Wait

Reviewed by Teri Davis

A true friend is there when you need them.

Tightening the ThreadsSarah Byrne is in a situation where she needs the friendship of Angie Curtis. The two have discovered their mutual love of antiques and needlepoint.
Sarah recently found her real heritage. Since a single-mother in Australia raised her, she valued her short time with her. When her mother died, she moved in with her grandmother in England. It was wonderful for her to be in a loving relationship again. Fortunately, her grandmother also shared the information leading her to her silent father in Maine. This was the first time his identity was revealed to her. Her plan was to again move to another continent to meet her father. Unfortunately, he died just months earlier.

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Sarah discovered a love for her new home, Haven Harbor, Maine and decided to open her antique business in her new home, the home of her father.
How does anyone inform the surviving members that she is also part of the family?

Finding her uncle without revealing her true identity was difficult, but Ted Lawrence quickly figured out her true identity. Ted wisely insisted on a DNA test as proof for the rest of his family. This wasn’t for either Ted or Sarah but the expected disbelief and doubt from Ted’s children.

Ted has cancer and knows that he does not have long to live. He has called his children together. Ted plans a family reunion including each of his three children’s families. His hope is to mend fences, reveal then new relative and to discuss his intended changes to the will. His expectations quickly become an impossible task.

Ted’s father, Robert Lawrence had been an outstanding artist. Teaching many of the techniques to Ted as he grew. Ted is now a reputable artist but will never be the legend of his father.

Sarah is apprehensive about meeting Ted’s three grown children. She knows that the do not get along and their lives take them in varying directions. For support, her friend Angie agrees to go along and assist in any way she can. So how would you react to a new will that is now going to include a new cousin? Apparently, this means that each of them will now receive less inheritance.

Surprisingly Ted dies from possibly eating a bad clam. Did one of his children purposely give him a clam from a restricted area? Did Ted complete the new will? What will happen to the paintings he gave to Sarah?

Lea Wait writes from what she knows. She lives on the Maine coast and is a fourth generation antiques dealer, much like her characters. Her mystery series, Shadows Antique Print have been nominated for the Agatha awards.
Tightening the Threads is a fast-paced cozy mystery that is fun to read. The story is viewed through Angie’s eyes as she unweaves the complex lives of Ted and his children. As an outsider, she does not have the long history of their animosity towards each other.

Tightening the Threads is a fun, quick, and enchanting mystery woven into a marvelous tapestry.

Rain Gods: A Novel (A Holland Family Novel) by James Lee Burke

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Rain GodsI suppose Mr. Burke has left New Orleans to write about a happening in Texas. Usually he is in Louisiana but no matter because wherever he sits up a story it all works out! And Rain Gods is proof of that.

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Hackberry Holland, a Texas sheriff, responds to a 911 call and finds a mass grave. Upon digging into the spot he discovers nine women who have been shot to death by what appears to be a machine gun. Closer examination later by the coroner shows that they each were carrying a plastic bag of drugs in their stomach. The 911 call happened to come from a former GI who heard the shooting and went too late to the scene. He and his girlfriend then decided to head out because of what they feared would happen next. Read the rest of this entry »

Through a Yellow Wood (Catskill Mountains Mysteries Book 2) by Carolyn J. Rose

Reviewed by Teri Davis

Through a Yellow Wood‘She was a reminder that there are a hundred little forks in our roads every day and each choice can affect the next one. If we don’t think before we step, we might end up a long way from where we intended to be – from where we wanted to be.’

Sometimes you are just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Imagine a small New England town where it seems as if everyone is related to each other.

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Dan Stone is asked to check-in on Clarence Wolven, his mother’s second cousin. Since Clarence always came into town in the first, he is now two days overdue, and that was odd for him. Also, his phone line is dead.

Dan finds Clarence dead on his front steps. Also dead are the dogs Clarence was training, except for one small pup who is hiding in the back of his kennel.
Dan arranges the funeral since Clarence had no close relatives and took the dog to the vet, who amputates a leg. Read the rest of this entry »

The Cold Moon by Jeffery Deaver

Reviewed by Allen Hott

The Cold MoonMr. Deaver has put a full load into the works this time for Lincoln Rhyme. Rhyme is the paralyzed former New York Police officer now working as a homebound investigator for the NYPD. He works with his female aide, Amelia Sachs, who is still employed by the NYPD and several other aides. Most of their work is centered around Rhyme’s meticulous and very observant style. He uses those assets from his wheelchair while the others patrol the various crime scenes and feed him info as they probe.

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This time he is locked in with the Watchmaker, a very sharp bad guy, who is also deeply into clocks and watches. These he uses in his crimes and usually leaves one of some sort at the scene of the crime.

In the beginning the Watchmaker and his accomplice are targeting a group of people who have a strange sort of relationship. He appears to be killing them, and then after leaving various clues moves on to the next. With the help of Sachs, other investigators, and Kathryn Dance they are able to solve the first Watchmaker case or so they think. Read the rest of this entry »

Kale to the Queen: A Kensington Palace Chef Mystery by Nell Hampton

Reviewed by Caryn St. Clair

Kale to the QueenThe basic plot of Kale to the Queen is this. The protagonist, Carrie Ann Cole, has an incredible bit of luck and meets the Duchess of Windsor in New York. Because of this meeting, Carrie Ann is offered the position of personal chef for the royal family in Kensington Palace. When Carrie Ann arrives jet lagged, late and soaking wet from a down pour, she finds that she is in charge of food for a children’s party that very day. So Carrie Ann is off and running in he new career without having time to catch a breath little lone settle in. Not the greatest of beginnings. Things get considerably worse when she finds one of her assistants dead in the kitchen green house and is questioned by the police. Because Carrie Ann is the protagonist, of course she starts nosing around the investigation and finds out some things that others would like to remain hidden. In the end, things work out for Carrie Ann and presumably we’ll see more of her each Spring for the foreseeable future. This is is a good thing. For while the book and Carrie Ann fall into some of the traps of cozy type mysteries, for the most part this is a solid first book leaving at least this reader wanting more.

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Kale to the Queen is the first mystery the author has written. This is an important point because there are a lot more things that can go wrong in writing mysteries versus other types of fiction. For the most part, Hampton was up to the task. In a mystery the characters, even the minor ones, need to be fairly well developed to make them believable as witnesses and potential suspects. This was done quite well. The plot needs clues for the readers to follow. The author needs to “play fair” with the readers. This was done well. Going right along with that, the plot needs some unexpected twists to keep the readers on their toes and again, this was done, though this could be improved on. Also there were red herrings, but not really enough to camouflage the solution. This left the reader with a good puzzle but maybe not a great one to solve. Hopefully, now that Carrie Ann and the supporting cast are established, there will be more details to the mystery in following books. The one truly troublesome aspect of this book is that Carrie Ann falls into the “cozy mystery trap” of telling too much to too many people. Not only could this have gotten her hurt or possibly killed, in the real world would probably have resulted in her being fired. As for the standard elements of cozies, yes there are recipes, but just three and at the end of the book not sprinkled throughout the story. I personally MUCH prefer the recipes at the end. No Carrie Ann does not have a pet. Yes, there is a potential love interest-both a boyfriend left behind in Chicago and some potentials in England.

I assume I will not not the only reader who from the first page of the book looks for comparisons to Julie Hyzy’s delightful White House Chef books with Ollie Paras as the protagonist. And indeed, there are some easy comparisons to make. Both chefs cook in very high profile positions and are surrounded by tight security measures. Both have some issues with fellow staff members feeling like the chef is not quite up to the position-in Ollie’s case because she is a woman, in Carrie Ann’s case because she is an American. Both protagonists have high demand jobs so much of the action takes place in and around their jobs unlike many cozies where the protagonists seem to be free to treat their jobs more like hobbies than a professions. Also, both protagonists tend to rush into things and share information that perhaps should be given only to the police. By the end of the book though, Carrie Ann has established herself and her series. I look forward to reading many more adventures of Carrie Ann Cole.

The Forgotten Man by Robert Crais

Reviewed by Allen Hott

The Forgotten ManCops are called to a crime scene in Temecula, California where they find a man, his wife, and teenage son all appeared to be beaten to death with something like a baseball bat. A very young girl appears to have hidden in a closet and was not touched in the horrific murders of her family.

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Years later Elvis Cole, one of Crais’ favorite private investigators is called by a Los Angeles police officer who had found a dead man in an alley. The police officer Detective Kelly Diaz called Cole to ask him to please come and identify the man as he was carrying paperwork that identified him as Cole’s father. At first Cole is completely against even going because he has not seen his father since he was a very young boy when his father took off leaving Cole pretty much alone since his mother was somewhat mentally unstable. As Cole tries to tell Diaz that he isn’t interested she also says that when she found the man he was still alive and he stated that Cole was his son. Read the rest of this entry »

Mississippi Blood by Greg Isles

Reviewed by Laurie Weatherlow

Mississippi BloodThe conclusion of Greg Iles’ Natchez Burning trilogy is spectacular. He weaves a tale of destruction and revenge at the hands of the Double Eagles and it has hit the Cage family relentlessly. In order to survive they must stand strong and find the truth to what has happened not only in recent months, but also forty years ago.

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Mississippi Blood is everything an exceptional southern novel should be. In-between the covers, there burns mystery, murder, deceit, racial tensions, adultery, violence, crimes and a trial that is not to be missed. You will be captivated by the excellent interconnection that Greg Iles has set before you. A story teller of the highest regard.

I am devastated that this in the final book in the Natchez Burning series. I have come to know and love all the characters in Natchez, Mississippi. This quote is the heart and spirit of each character that Isles’ has breathed life into.

“Mississippi blood is different. It’s got some river in it, Delta soil, turpentine, asbestos, cotton poison. But there’s strength in it, too. Strength that’s been beat but not broke. That’s Mississippi blood.”

All three of the books in the trilogy are long. Don’t let that intimidate you. I suggest starting with Natchez Burning, then The Bone Tree. The conclusion in Mississippi Blood will moor you to Natchez and you will not want to leave. Now, the withdrawal begins.

Alaskan Queen by Richard A. Heininger

Reviewed by Teri Davis

Alaskan QueenLieutenant Cody James is living his dream. He is a U. S. Navy Officer who has the responsibility of following ships via GPS throughout the world.
Throughout the years of military schooling, his dream changed from being a pilot. His moral character drove him to continue to succeed, just in a different field.

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Now Cody is on loan to the U. S. Coast Guard to assist in the development of a global fleet tracking navigational system. The focus is the Caribbean Sea. The system follows the usual paths of various legitimate shipping routes and is searching for anything the could be involved with smuggling or a terrorist attack. Read the rest of this entry »

Bone Box: A Decker/Lazarus Novel (Decker/Lazarus Novels)

Reviewed by Caryn St. Clair

Bone BoxWhile Rina is hiking, she finds some bones which turn out to be human and have been in the ground for a few years. While investigators are combing the area looking for evidence, they find the remains of a couple more bodies which appear to have been buried within a couple of years of the first set of bones. All of the bodies were buried before the hiking trail was opened. Since the remains were found very close to each other and had been buried within a few years of each other, Decker is left with trying to determine if what he is dealing with is a serial killer in the past, or someone who is still active but who was forced to move his burial site after the trail opened. Two things shake up the investigation. The first is that it turns out that one of the potential victims may have escaped and is still alive. If this is true, then Decker needs to find her. The second thing is one of the current college students goes missing. As is often the case with college students, the frantic parents aren’t aware of some of their daughter’s activities making it harder for Decker to track her movements. Even though it is several years later, could this girl’s disappearance be linked to the bones found along the trail?

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I enjoyed this book. The case was interesting and took some unexpected turns. There were a couple of odd things though. A few times in the book the characters shifted where they were with no transition at all. For instance, on one page they are having dinner with their friends in California, and the next page they are back at their day-to-day lives in New York. And then there is the ending. I don’t want to spoil it, so I’ll leave it with saying that I was not satisfied with the ending. Not at all. It will be interesting to see where the next book begins.

Bone Box is the twenty-fourth book in the Decker/Lazarus series by Faye Kellerman. While the main characters are the same, nearly everything else in the series has shifted over the last few books. Some of those changes are expected, some are more puzzling.

The most obvious change is that Decker and Lazarus moved from California to upper state New York a few books ago. The move was logical as it puts them closer to one of their sons and his family and allows them to lead a slower paced life. Another logical change is the shift in characters. Their children are grown so readers don’t see them as much. Kellerman has filled that gap by having Decker’s partner/intern/law student from Harvard, become almost an adopted son. In this book Tyler McAdams is a major character.

The two glaring shifts in the series that are a little harder to understand is Rina Lazarus’s role. The earlier books tended to have two distinct plots, one with Rina and one with Decker. Often along the way the two stories merged with Decker’s part being the police procedural and Rina’s being the “human interest” side. Now, the books are basically all police procedurals featuring Decker’s cases. In this book, Rina’s role is reduced to cooking-for McAdams and Decker and also copious quantities of food for the Jewish holiday parties she has volunteered to host for the college students.

The other shift, one that I find most puzzling and one that makes me sad is that in the beginning and through most of the “California” books, Rina’s Orthodox Judaism played a huge role in the book. It set the tone of the books and lent a background story to how the characters interacted not only with each other, but how they viewed society in general. It was the play between Decker’s very secular view of things and Rina’s very religious view that made the books captivating. Now? It seems that Rina’s religion is all about cooking and jokes about McAdams joining the “tribe.” The Jewish rituals seem more forced than part of the flow of their lives.

In spite of the odd ending and the shifts in the series, I still love the books but I look on them differently now.

The Company She Kept: A Joe Gunther Novel (Joe Gunther Series) by Archer Mayor

Reviewed by Allen Hott

The Company She KeptThis is a first time read for me by this author and I was pleasantly surprised. He really keeps the story moving, holding the reader’s interest all the way to the end. And I mean ALL the way to the end. Doubt that more than 2 percent of those reading this one will figure out who the murderer is until the last chapter. Great job.

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A man and his wife out taking pictures in the mountains alongside the Connecticut River find a purse lying on the ground that appears to be dropped by someone who was there prior to them. They start looking around to see what else is perhaps there and whoa! Looking up the side of the cliff beside their walkway is a woman’s body hanging from a rope. The rope was entangled in the wire mesh that was being used as a preventative curtain to keep the cliff from breaking apart and falling below.

Joe Gunther, a squad leader for the Vermont Bureau of Investigation, receives a phone call from Gail Zigman, governor of Vermont. She and Joe had been a romantic duo some years before and shortly after she had been raped. And also before she had become a politician and then become the governor. Gail tells Joe that Susan Raffner was the woman that had just been found on the mountainside and rather going through the normal channels Gail wants Joe to get into the investigation immediately. Read the rest of this entry »