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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 »

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 »

Searching for Gatsby: A Ronnie Lake Murder Mystery (An Accidental Lady Detective, A Private Investigator Crime Series) (Volume 3) by Niki Danforth

Reviewed by Teri Davis

Searching for GatsbyRonnie Lake is a fifty-six-year-old woman beginning her new business as a private investigator. While at a party sponsored by some wealthy friends, she listens to her friend, Marilyn’s suspicions about whether her husband Win, is having an affair. She is a little hesitant accepting the position being that she is friends with both Win and Marilyn. Marilyn is suspicious of a gorgeous woman, Katya Alessandro who just left the party.

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Frank, Ronnie’s brother and Juliana seem like they are still honeymooners. Frank’s first wife, Joanie died, and his new wife appears to fulfill all her brother’s dreams and wishes.

Ronnie still has the grief of having a son die in Afghanistan. Fortunately, she adopted her son’s K-9 partner from the military. Warrior is very protective of her and is a great partner in sharing their sorrow.

Jamie Gordon has a charismatic quality attracting Ronnie as he joins the party. His handsomeness certainly draws everyone’s attention.

Suddenly a commotion is outside with the sound of breaking branches as an older man dressed in black falls through the dogwood tree. While hanging in the tree, while moaning, Frank calls 9-1-1 just as the branches again break dropping him to the ground, The man looks at Jamie and whispers, “The book.”
“I always said…if it was the last thing…I ever did…” These are the man’s last words. Why? What did the burglar steal upstairs while the people were enjoying the elaborate party downstairs? Read the rest of this entry »

Bone White: Mundy’s Landing Book Three by Wendy Corsi Staub

Reviewed by Suzanne Odom

Bone WhiteWendy Corsi Staub is back with the third in her newest series set in Mundy’s Landing, New York. Flashback to 1666 where all but five of the colonists died from starvation. The remaining five are from the same family and they somehow survived the bitter, cold winter and the lack of food. The parents of this family are accused of murder and eventually are executed leaving their three children orphans. These children lived out honorable lives in the town, Mundy’s Landing that was named after their family. They swore that they would never reveal the secret that died with their parents.

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Fast forward to the present day. After her father’s death, Emerson Mundy has flown across the country to learn about her ancestors. She was raised in California, far away from her relatives and heritage and really didn’t know much about her family. When she arrives in Mundy’s Landing, she is finds long, lost relatives and a welcoming home. Perhaps she will stay here as it seems this is where she belongs. Read the rest of this entry »

Gone by Jonathan Kellerman

Reviewed by Allen Hott

GoneStarting with a half -naked woman running across the highway up in the hills of California which almost causes an old man to run off the mountain. It turns out that the girl and her boyfriend were abducted and carried up into the woods by an unknown kidnapper. Oh, wait a minute. That is just what is thought at first and that is what brings Alex Delaware, the psychologist, into the story.

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But as you read further you find out that kidnapping didn’t really happen as Alex finds out. Rather it was two hopeful actors acting out a situation and hoping to gain some notoriety by doing so. They are part of a acting school run by a rich young lady, Nora, who along with her two brothers, Brad and Billy, appear to have more money than anyone can need. However Billy is somewhat mentally retarded and as the story goes forward it appears the other brother, Brad, (who is actually a cousin but adopted into the family) is living very “high on the hog” while taking care of the slower one and minding the school’s finances. Read the rest of this entry »

Playing with Fire (A Daniel Jacobus Mystery) by Gerald Elias

Reviewed by Teri Davis

Playing with FireWhy did you purchase a musical instrument? Did you dream of playing music? Could you imagine yourself in Carnegie Hall playing to standing room only audience embracing the melodies and enriching every listener to a once-in-a-lifetime experience?

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Surprisingly, not everyone views the purchase of a musical instrument this way.
Daniel Jacobus is a crotchety blind violinist. Years ago, he lost his vision just as the opportunity for greatness opened for him. Perhaps there is a reason for his being upset with life.

Christmas Eve is a special time at Daniel’s home with his good friends, Yumi, a concertmaster and masterful violinist, Nathaniel, a longtime friend who works as a musical instrument and art fraud and theft agent, along with Trotsky, his temperamentally huge bulldog. Read the rest of this entry »

The Shattered Tree (Bess Crawford Mysteries) by Charles Todd

Reviewed by Teri Davis

The Shattered TreeBess Crawford is a hard-working battlefield nurse. It is October of 1918 and working in a field hospital in France is exhausting as well as dangerous with combat nearby.

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For one soldier, it is even stranger. One single soldier is holding onto a single tree. Somehow, a man is hiding behind a battered-up tree with no shoes and with little left of his uniform. The rescuers have to pry his fingers from the bark of the tree. Not knowing whether the man is dead or alive, they place him on a stretcher, covering him with a blanket. Read the rest of this entry »

Protect and Defend (Center Point Platinum Mystery) by Vince Flynn

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Protect and DefendHe’s back! Yes, Vince Flynn has Mitch Rapp back in another CIA type thriller that he is well known for. I am not sure how, when, and where Rapp got his training but he not only got it but he seems to improve upon it in every new story that Flynn brings forward.

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If you have read any of these stories you know that Rapp works for the CIA but doesn’t really report to them or anyone….not even the President! When he is out on some type of assignment he goes about the business of doing what has to be done in the Rapp fashion. And that fashion does not always set well with some of the higher authorities in the government. I suppose they control him to a degree but they also realize that he is in the field, on the spot, knows the situation, and has always completed the task that he has been given. No doubt that he is meaner, tougher, and quite likely to go outside the lines of code of conduct that those authorities do not necessarily want him to go outside of. BUT he gets the job done! Read the rest of this entry »

The Pursuit: A Fox and O’Hare Novel by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg

The PursuitNow this is quite a story. First one of the Janet Evanovich novels that I have ever read. It is a pretty fast read and covers a lot of characters, situations, and ground.

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Nick Fox is a con man who after being arrested by the FBI has been kind of put in the loose custody of Kate O’Hare, a top flight FBI agent. Together they go after con artists whomever, whenever, and wherever the FBI instructs them to do so.

However Nick was taken away from the Oahu beach house where he and Kate had been staying. He was abducted and taken away by Dragan Kovic, the leader of a group of thieves called the Road Runners. They took Nick to Belgium where Kovic is planning to use Nick in helping them pull off a huge heist of diamonds. He is more than willing to pay Nick (or so he says but in reality he plans to kill him after the job is done). Read the rest of this entry »