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Archive for March, 2018

Dead Calm (A Mattie Winston Mystery) by Anneliese Ryan

Reviewed by Caryn St. Clair

Dead CalmDead Calm opens with Mattie Winston and her new husband Steve Hurley’s life is anything but calm. As readers of the series know, they are recently married, are in the process of building a larger home, have a two year old and to cap it all off Steve’s teenaged daughter has recently come to live with them. Add to that, Mattie’s office is short handed requiring her to work long hours. Dead Chaos comes closer to describing their life. However, readers who have not read the series before will have no trouble jumping right in. The author uses parts of the first few chapters to give readers a bit of background on their lives. Read the rest of this entry »

Murder on Black Swan Lane (A Wrexford & Sloane Mystery) by Andrea Penrose

Reviewed by Caryn St. Clair

Murder on Black Swan LaneMurder on Black Swan Lane is the debut book in a historical mystery series set in Regency England. The series brings together one of the most unusual pair of protagonists found in the mystery genre. The Earl of Wrexford is, besides a wealthy nobleman, a chemist. His soon to be counterpart is about as unusual as one can imagine. Charlotte Sloane is a poor widow making ends meet by masquerading as a political cartoonist under her late husband’s pen name A.J Quill. And readers here might ask what would bring people from such different world together? Fate I suppose, but really it is human nature, the cause of so many problems.

The Earl of Wrexford’s comfortable life allows him plenty of time to enjoy his interests, one of which is chemistry. Life should be good. His unseemly behavior combined with his fiery personality however brings trouble to his door. Such is the case when Reverend Joseph Holworthy, a local and rather overly pious man of the cloth decides to publicly call out the Earl on his sinful ways. The Earl responds and so the public back and forth between the two becomes a bit of entertainment for the public to follow. The widow Sloane, acting under her late husband’s pen name begins drawing cartoons lampooning the battling pair. But when the Reverend is found murdered in his church with chemical burns the fun is over. The Earl is in serious trouble. The Earl eventually discovers who the cartoonist really is, but rather than exposing her, he enlists her help in exposing the reverend’s shadowy activities involving pseudo science. The two team up and manage through science and intuition uncover the real murderer. And the team of Wrexford and Sloane is born. Read the rest of this entry »

Kill Me by Stephen White

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Kill MeDr. Alan Gregory, one of Stephen White’s favorite main characters, has his hands full in Kill Me. An extremely wealthy gentleman (whose full name we never know) schedules two appointments in one day. Dr. Gregory, a clinical psychologist, has never had this happen before but he accepts the man’s story and meets up with him.

Then Stephen White basically tells the story of Kill Me from that patient’s viewpoint. And it turns out to be quite a story. The gentleman lives a rather wild life in that he takes all sorts of chances with his life such as skiing in some not so ski worthy sites and other things. He is full of life and even reckless because he also has a friend and a brother who are basically living as vegetables due to illnesses. Our hero does not want to live that type of life. Read the rest of this entry »

Violets are Blue by James Patterson

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Violets are BlueMr. Patterson has put one of his aces, Alex Cross; into quite a mess in Violets Are Blue. This time Cross, a detective living in Washington, D.C., is called in to help out Kyle Craig, a top FBI agent, as the entire United States quivers under the threat of Vampires! Kraig uses Cross quite often and has been in several earlier books. Supposedly he is in the running to be top dog at the FBI.

Vampires! That is right. It appears that people all over the country are not only being killed but they show all signs of vampire style murders. Not only are they found with severe bite wounds but in most all cases their blood has been pretty well drained out!

Cross isn’t exactly happy to be called in on this case because another of his female associates has just turned up murdered. This is the third one in recent years. And they always seem to be somehow connected to The Mastermind. The Mastermind is a mysterious person who constantly calls and taunts Cross either about someone he has just killed or one of Cross’s cases that is bugging him.
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Little Boy Lost by J.D. Trafford

Reviewed by Caryn St. Clair

Little Boy LostAt first glance Little Boy Lost seems to be a regional novel written after Ferguson to put a fictional spin on the racial discord in the St.Louis, Missouri region which brought about the conditions that ultimately caused “Ferguson” to happen. And it is on one level, but with a closer look one sees this book’s story of throw away kids, bad apples in the departments that are supposed to help citizens and the general failing of the justice system to be color blind is far from limited to the Metro St.Louis area. The plot of this book resonates across America.

As the book opens readers find Attorney Jason Glass with a struggling law practice on the Northside of town. His clientele is mostly black and all poor. This is not the future that was meant for him. The son of a Congressman, grandson of a judge and a member of a prominent family, he was meant for bigger things. He was raised in two worlds, that of his black father and his white grandfather and had successfully walked on both sides. His life seemed to be on track, he married, has a daughter and was a member of a prominent law firm. And then his wife died and so did his ability to live. Soon his fancy law practice was gone, he moved into the carriage house of his grandfather’s home and barely went through the motions of daily life. Read the rest of this entry »

Murder with Fried Chicken and Waffles (A Mahalia Watkins Mystery) by A.L. Herbert

Reviewed by Caryn St. Clair

Murder with Fried Chicken and WafflesMurder With Fried Chicken and Waffles was first released in 2015, but has been re-released this year in mass paperback form. I don’t know how I missed this book the first time around but I am glad I caught it now. The author, A.L. Herbert has given readers a mystery with a likable protagonist in Mahalia Watkins.

Halia, as she’s known to her friends, took a chance and opened an upscale restaurant serving soul food in Prince George’s County Maryland. Being a life long resident of the county she wanted folks to be able to go out for a nice meal without having to drive into Washington. By all appearances, her gamble has paid off. Mahalia’s Sweet Tea is packed most days for both lunch and dinner. They come for the fried chicken and waffles, macaroni and cheese, corn casserole and airy light biscuits and stay for the banana pudding and red velvet cake. The fly in the ointment was that Mahalia had to borrow some money from one smooth talking Marcus Rand to open her restaurant. This leaves her at his beckoned call. So when Marcus comes by asking for special dinner items for his guests, no matter how inconvenient she feels she must oblige.

If only the special menu items were the only problems Marcus brought down on Mahalia’s Sweet Tea. But sadly it isn’t. That fast talking smooth operator ended up dead on the kitchen floor of the restaurant apparently clunked on the head by one of Mahalia’s heavy duty cast iron skillets. If the body is found in the restaurant, the restaurant might be closed for days as a crime scene. And the customers! Would people still come to a place where a person was found murdered? On impulse, Mahalia and her cousin Wavonne lug the body outside and down the alley to behind the bookstore. Problem solved right? Wrong. From there the story takes off with plenty of twists and turns until Mahalia figures out who killed Marcus. Read the rest of this entry »

Two Kinds of Truth by Michael Connelly

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Two Kinds of TruthHarry Bosch is really divided in this one. First off he finds out that the DA from Los Angeles is coming to see him (Bosch now lives and works in San Fernando). What the DA was coming for was to advise Bosch that the LAPD was reopening a case that Bosch had solved many years ago. The case involved a guy named Preston Borders whom Bosch arrested for murder. Borders is serving a life sentence and the DA is looking to overturn that sentence, get Borders free, and then Borders will be paid handsomely for the wrong conviction and the time he spent in prison. The DA would get the notoriety and one of his attorneys would get a huge payment from the Borders’ payback.

Bosch immediately smells a rat and wants to go back and see what they feel was incorrect. However before he can get too involved with the digging into that old case he is called upon by the SFPD (for whom he works part time) to hunt for two murderers who entered a drug store and shot the owner and his son. As Harry watches the tapes taken from cameras in the drug store he feels immediately that though the owner (a pharmacist) was shot first, his son (also a pharmacist) was gunned down in a very horrible fashion. The owner was only shot once while the son, attempting to get out the back door, was shot three times even though it appeared the father tried to help him get away. Read the rest of this entry »

Written in Blood by Layton Green

Reviewed by Caryn St. Clair

Written in BloodIn Written in Blood, author Green introduces readers to Detective Joe “Preach” Everson. Following a common path, Green has given readers a flawed protagonist, though Preach’s baggage goes well beyond the ordinary. After suffering a tragedy as a young man, he had a sort of breakdown and fled his hometown of Creeksville, North Carolina. His life path from then until the book opens took him to Bible college, time as a church preacher, a prison chaplain and then as a police officer in Atlanta, where another incident led to another breakdown.

Here we reach the first thing about the novel that just doesn’t quite work. Pearch has returned to his hometown and has been hired as a police detective even though he has not been cleared to work from his breakdown. He promises to see a therapist who happens to be a relative. One has to question what police force would hire an emotionally unstable person as a detective and what therapist would risk his or her reputation and licensing to sign off on a deeply troubled soul who has suffered at least two emotional breakdowns to serve as a detective. But let’s accept this as written for the sake of the story. Read the rest of this entry »

Warning Light by David Ricciardi

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Warning LightThis is quite a story for those of us who enjoy adventure and also enjoy hearing and reading about the military, espionage, and all things tied to those areas of our lives.

Zac Miller, traveling as a technology consultant, is flying to Singapore when the aircraft is diverted due to mechanical problems (the Warning Light). Zac and the other passengers end up landing in Sirjan in the Republic of Iran. Walking from the aircraft, which was forced to land quite a distance out on the runway due to its size, Zac begins taking some pictures of the land behind the airport.

As they get to the terminal Zac is stopped and taken into a room where his camera is taken from him and he is in fact taken prisoner. The Iranians then take him to Colonel Arzaman of the Revolutionary Guards. Here he is questioned and realizes that Arzaman is going to hold him and further attempt to find out about Zac, his background, and what he is doing in Iran. Also at the same time unbeknownst to Zac, a young man matching his build looks, and attire takes Zac’s place on the plane. This is going to be a big part of the story later on. Read the rest of this entry »

The Undertaker’s Daughter by Sara Blaedel

Reviewed by Caryn St. Clair

The Undertaker's DaughterThe Undertaker’s Daughter introduces Ilka Jensen, a middle aged protagonist who has struggled with the loss of her father for most of her life. When she was seven, her father up and left moving to Racine, Wisconsin, never to be heard from again. That is never heard from again until now. Word comes that her father has died and named Ilka in his will. His estate cannot be settled until she signs off on the will Rather than leaving this to her attorney to handle for her, she decides to travel to Wisconsin and handle it herself. Of course things turn out to be more complicated than she expected. She finds her father has left everything to his current wife and two American daughters except his business, a failing funeral home. While I generally liked Ilka and found the book interesting, it was quite a bit different than I would expect from a Scandinavian crime author.

The first thing that struck me a bit out of the ordinary, was except for the very beginning of the book, when readers meet Ilka and her mother in Copenhagen, the entire book takes place in Wisconsin. I suppose there are other Scandinavian writers who set an occasional in America, but I found this an interesting way to start what appears to be a series. Read the rest of this entry »