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Murder on the Metro by Margaret Truman and Jon Land

Reviewed by Russell Ilg

“You need to get somewhere safe,” one character tells another late in MURDER ON THE METRO, to which the other responds, “I don’t think there is such a place anymore.”

That should come as no surprise, given that Jon Land has picked up the writing duties in this 31st book in the New York Times bestselling Capital Crimes series originally conceived by Margaret Truman. After all, Land is no stranger to high stakes thrillers in which the country, or entire world, hang in the balance. In MURDER ON THE METRO, those stakes include the United States government which is about to be overthrown. Read the rest of this entry »

Windfall: A Henry Lysyk Mystery by Byron TD Smith

Reviewed by Daniel Ryan Johnson

Windfall: A Henry Lysyk Mystery is a well-researched story interweaving real-world intrigue into a fictional tale full of questions. Windfall is not an over the top mystery thriller where every moment is filled with high suspense and the pressing need for action. Instead, it quietly tells a tale about an unassuming former banker, who is somewhat reluctantly drawn into the maze by a love for puzzles and at the urging of his precocious niece and captivating neighbor. The distraction might be exactly what our protagonist needs to pull him out of a dark period in his life – unless the danger catches up to him.

While the book may move at a more casual pace than many modern mysteries, which feel the need to fill every page with excitement, that does not mean it is lacking in tense moments of suspense. The first chapter of the book will hook you before the following chapters reel you into the world surrounding one of the most infamous unsolved crimes. Author Byron TD Smith does a terrific job of balancing these moments with wonderful character development, that leaves the reader feeling connected to those who live between the pages. All the characters feel real, and their actions are believable, which is not often something you find in the genre.

Mr. Smith’s writing flows smoothly across the pages and can make it difficult to find a place to pause your reading session. This can pose a hazard for late-night readers as they may find a short sleep ahead of them. Smith doesn’t rely on the high-octane world of sex, drugs, and rock & roll to sell the reader on his story, although all three do lurk around the edges. Instead, he relies on the compelling storylines and mildly eccentric characters he has created to keep readers engaged. He doesn’t attempt to write down to the reader to appeal to a larger audience, nor does he alienate readers with overembellished sentences.

After finishing the book, I was surprised to discover that Windfall was Mr. Smith’s first novel. The polished storytelling and literary presence read like an author who has honed his craft for years. I look forward to seeing what he will bring us next, and based on the subtitle am hoping to meet up with Henry and his friends again before too long.

Stargazer: A Leaphorn, Chee & Manuelito Novel (A Leaphorn, Chee & Manuelito Novel, 6) by Anne Hillerman

Reviewed by Carol Smith

    Summary

The setting is the Navajo Nation in New Mexico; the month is October.

The story begins when Officer Tara Williams at Socorro County Sheriff’s Department receives the call about a young boy finding a dead man inside a car near highway MN 169. She embarks on the assignment and begins her work creating a crime scene.

Stargazer is the story of Officer Bernadette Manuelito working with her police colleagues in the Navajo Nation of New Mexico. It is more than a murder mystery or investigations of crime. It is about the people who work inside law enforcement in the Navajo Nation coping with the pitfalls of budget shortage, staff shortage and other obstacles. Some episodes include mention of missing and exploited indigenous women and children as a prime problem although not the focus of the story.

Tara Williams is contacted by Officer Bernadette Manuelito regarding a missing woman in Socorro. Her name is Maya Kelsey. Tara immediately makes the connection, the woman named Maya Kelsey is married to the man found dead in his car. Maya Kelsey, reported missing, shows up at the police department confessing to the murder of her husband, Steve Jones.

Together, the two police women begin a long journey of investigating the murder of the dead man, Steve Jones, Ph.D., a scientist who works at the VLA. The VLA is an actual real-life astronomy observatory located in central New Mexico. The author makes an interesting note of this observatory at the end of her book.

Throughout the book the haunting experiences of death and suicide experienced by folks in police work surface in various characters. They carry on in-spite of it. It makes the story authentic.
The author includes colorful descriptions in her scenes that create picturesque moments for the reader. They will feel present.

Officer Bernie’s dedicated, hard work causes her to solve the mystery and find the “real killer” of Steve Jones and also solves the mystery of why his wife, Maya Kelsey, confessed to a crime she did not commit.

This story is action-packed with a lot of movement and interaction between characters. It is a very multi-faceted, enjoyable read.

Editorial Review

Hillerman’s gift of creating alliteration in various sentences adds strength and enhances reader impact. In one scene taking place in the wilderness, the alliteration in “coyote chorus” causes the reader to relax in the midst of a violent episode.

The phrase “Tsunami of sadness” cleverly inserted in a very emotive scene is an alliteration used to soften the powerful word “Tsunami” placed before the emotional word “sadness”. It is intended to galvanize the reader.

Descriptions of police characters definitively depict that of tough, dedicated folks who are on task.

Anne Hillerman performed an outstanding job creating the character of Bernadette (Bernie) Manuelito. Throughout the book she remains focused on her police work and connects with husband Sergeant Jim Chee. She has a natural inclination that causes her to see patterns, missing pieces, and the ability to notice what does “not add up”. Bernie’s actions show respect for her superiors. Her chary attitude saves her in a violent scene.

“No stone is left unturned” under her watch. The character of Officer Bernadette is believable because of Hillerman’s ability to build her personality into that of a bona fide police woman.

The author’s prose often includes words that describe the usual sights and sounds of the natural world we live in. E.g., “The morning light gave the grass a golden glow as it shimmered in the autumn breeze”. The euphony invites the reader to be present in scene.

The sound of Navajo words such Ghaaji” for October and other Navajo words are often used throughout the book. It marks the importance of American Indians clinging to their native language and customs while living in a modern-day society. There is mention of some primitive conditions such as many homes on the Navajo Nation still lacking electricity.

Hillerman is very adept at connecting all the dots in a mystery. She is an excellent mystery writer.
Quite a bit of Navajo history and present-day problems are mixed into the plots. Because of this, the story would appeal to Native American Indians and other races who are genuinely interested in the history and present day life of the American Indians.

The Fiancèe by Kate White

Reviewed by Lily Andrews

The Fiancèe is a mystery thriller novel by one of the best-selling authors, Kate White. The plot revolves around the Keaton family of Ash Keaton, Claire Keaton, and their four sons: Gabriel, Blake, and fraternal twins, Marcus and Nick.

The author uses the first-person narrative through one of the characters, Summer, who is Gabriel’s wife. The Keatons hold extravagant and lovely vacations in their family home but on this particular vacation, Summer feels uneasy and anxious as she, Gabriel, and her step-son, Henry make their way to the Keatons. As the get-together begins, Nick introduces his fiancee, Hannah, to the family during one of their dinners in the evening. Everyone is utterly surprised that Nick, known for his usual casual flings, wants to settle down with a woman he has hardly known for two weeks. The matriarch of the family, Claire, whom all her stepdaughters find controlling and judgemental except for Summer, is particularly not pleased with the announcement. Read the rest of this entry »

Leave the World Behind by Ruumaan Alam

Reviewed by Teri Takle

New York City residents, Amanda and Clay, need a vacation. Life can be tedious with having a teenaged boy and a daughter. They lead the busy lives of a white middle-classed American family. Amanda selected the perfect vacation home on Long Island in a remote and luxurious area, renting a house with a pool for one week. The home is lovely and better than she had expected.

Their time on Long Island is enjoyable until there is a knock on the door. An older black couple is waiting to enter the house while claiming that this is their home and they want the family to leave.

They will even refund their week’s stay in cash, even doubling it. They claim that strange things are happening in the city, so they jointly decided to go back to their own home.
Wait! The week is not over. Do you leave? Do you demand a refund? Are they the actual owners? Is this some scam? Do they believe the couple? Are they criminals?
Would you? What would you do? Read the rest of this entry »

Slip Out the Back, Jack: A bone-chilling gritty serial killer thriller (Jack Ryder Book 2) by Willow Rose

Reviewed by Allen Hott

An interesting but somewhat confusing book by one of the busiest writers in the marketplace right now. Willow Rose is a Scandinavian writer by birth but now resides in the United States and has had over 125 books published in this country. She writes Mystery, Thriller, Paranormal, Romance, Suspense, Horror, Supernatural thrillers, and Fantasy.

Slip Out the Back, Jack is somewhat of a combination mystery thriller with some romance interspersed throughout. One of the first

chapters tells of a surprise gun attack in a crowded theater but it takes several more chapters before the reasons for that in this book to become apparent. Following the flow of the total story takes some work by the reader as there are several different occurrences that have to come together to make it a complete story.

But as these things happen Jack Ryder, a detective, is a major part of the entire book as he tries to live his life solving mostly murders while he raises his children, at least partially, as his separated wife also does her part in this job. Read the rest of this entry »

Twenty: A Jack Swyteck Novel by James Grippando

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Jack Swytek, one of Grippando’s favorite characters, is pulled into quite a tale in this one. Swytek, a defense attorney, gets the call to defend Xavier Khoury, an eighteen-year-old high school student who has been charged with a deadly shooting in a Florida school. Ironically, Jack’s wife, Andie who is an FBI agent was on the scene because she was taking their daughter to school. Neither Andie nor her daughter were hurt but twenty casualties did occur.

Xavier was immediately identified as the shooter because the gun found by his side had his dad’s name on it. Since Andie was friends with his mother, she was brought in to help on the arrest and detainment. Upon arrangement Xavier blurted out, “Mom, it’s ok..I did it”.

Andie stays with the mother to help her and Jack is called in immediately to serve as the defense lawyer for the boy. No one can figure out why he would do it even though his father is a devout Muslim. But the heart of the story now becomes the fact that Xavier refuses to talk to anyone. He won’t even talk with Jack who is trying to defend him. The only reason that Jack gets so tightly involved in the case is that the daughter of a close friend of his was killed in the shooting. Read the rest of this entry »

Bank Shot (The Dortmunder Novels Book 2) by Donald Westlake

Reviewed by Allen Hott

This is a book from the 70s but is well worth reading because it is one of the funniest books that you will read. And it is all clean fun without sex or cussing. Just a great storyline that will keep your interest.

It all begins with Dortmunder (one of Westlake’s best characters) selling encyclopedias door to door. In fact he is just taking deposits and the books will never be delivered). However on this current attempt he manages to discover that the woman he is trying to “bamboozle” has called the cops on him. Out he goes as fast as he can and meets up with Kelp, one of his associates. They get away from the scene quickly and have no problems.

Little does he know that meeting Kelp is about to begin one of the biggest happenings of his life. Kelp introduced Dortmunder to his nephew, Victor, who was a former FBI agent. The two of them take Dortmunder to see a nearby bank that appears to be being torn down. Next to it sat a huge mobile home mounted on some type of foundation. Read the rest of this entry »

The Killing of Faith: This is a suspense/thriller you won’t soon forget by William Holms

Reviewed by Timea Barabas

If you are looking for a fresh suspense/thriller, you should look no further than “The Killing of Faith” by William Holms. This book will take you on a thrilling journey of the rise and fall of a woman.

It all starts and ends with Faith. The story, narrated in the first person by Faith herself, opens to a very grim but vague present setting. A setting that is periodically revisited throughout the chapters and which is in stark contrast to the past. She takes us back to her childhood and patiently goes through the main events of her life: engagement, marriage, motherhood.

Faith is the kind of beautiful girl that is well aware of her good looks and does not hold back from using this to her advantage. She finds little interest in school, instead, she prefers hanging out with her friends, shopping, and boys. One boy in particular. So, she enters into a tumultuous relationship that eventually leads her to drop out of school and move out from her parents’ place to a different city. Faith leaves everything for a man and a fresh start. But she doesn’t get either. Her dreams crumble and so does she. At least until another man walks into her life and she rebuilds herself through him. This becomes a pattern that repeats with some minor variation. Faith seems to have an innate drive to seek out completion in somebody else and this drives her to the edge of life.

The brilliant thing about the book is its growing suspense. And this suspense is a testament to the skills of William Holms. It all starts with the title, “The Killing of Faith”. So, naturally, the reader expects Faith to be killed at some point. But there are so many questions that arise: why? How? By whom? And as the pages of the book seem to run out and Faith is still very much alive, one starts to wonder if it will still actually happen or was it all just a ruse. This tense anticipation is the main driving force that keeps you flipping page after page.

This is not one of those books that get you hooked by a nurtured love for the main character, quite the contrary… yet the author manages to elicit feelings of sympathy and compassion for Faith as she is met with hardships. Also, her childish naiveté remains an endearing quality. The character carefully balances on the verge of a charicaturistic depiction of women and this is one of the elements that awaken such strong feelings of ambivalence toward her.

The Killing of Faith” is a captivating read, but it is not a book for all ages, as there are some explicit scenes and vulgar language. What is more, the sequel is already in preparation by William Holmes.

Buried (Hush Collection) by Jeffery Deaver

Reviewed by Allen Hott

I am not exactly sure why Jeffery Deaver decided to write a short story with this one but not only he did and he did a great job. It involves a man who gets kidnapped and then put away in a basement type prison. Funny thing is as the story goes along he isn’t really the main premise behind the story.

In fact the story is about a person called The Gravedigger who does all sorts of criminal activities and then usually leaves notes of some type for the police to use as they hunt sometimes for the bodies but all the time for The Gravedigger.

While this part of the story is moving along Edward Fitzhugh a longtime newspaper reporter is about to retire but he is so interested in writing the story and hopefully even helping the police that he almost puts off his retirement. (And he actually does but in another fashion). Read the rest of this entry »