Book Review: Tornado Weather by Deborah E. Kennedy

Tornado Weather
Deborah E. Kennedy
Flatiron Books, July 2017
ISBN 978-1-250-07957-2

A wonderfully complex, startling, complicated debut novel that examines a small town and its inhabitants from a variety of viewpoints. A child named Daisy goes missing and the event shakes up the people who live and interact in the community. Their collective loss of this handicapped little girl are played out in myriad manifestations over months and years. The scenario allows the author to walk unseen and unknown among a racially and economically diverse population, observing and commenting on the individual and the collective.

Tornado Weather is not your typical mystery, nor does it fit comfortably into any of the usual crime fiction categories. It is an extensive and lengthy character study of a small town in Indiana. There are so many characters, one could read the story twice in short order and thus discover more surprises about characters one had thought were fully revealed.

The characters range from venal to exalted, from truthful and forgiving to criminal and nasty, exactly what one might expect to find in any middle-class community. Their actions likewise range from pure to the nastiest, racially biased criminal one might expect.

The story moves deliberately through the dining rooms and bedrooms and businesses of the residents, all affected in ways large and small by the sudden disappearance of Daisy Gonzales. Finally, of course, the mystery is solved and readers will have to decide whether the solution to this intense novel’s mystery is worth the ride. To most, I suspect, the answer will be  yes.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, January 2018.
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.


Book Review: Water Signs by Janet Dawson

Water Signs
A Jeri Howard Mystery #12
Janet Dawson
Perseverance Press, April 2017
ISBN 978-1-56474-586-6
Trade Paperback

Methodology is at the forefront of this story. There’s really never any doubt as to who the criminals are. The problem PI Jeri Howard has to work through is proving what happened to her friend Cal Brady who was discovered drowned in the Estuary. Why would anyone want to murder a lowly security guard? Well, unless he’s seen something he shouldn’t have and begun investigating it. Because when thugs turn to murder, there must be more at stake than keeping the homeless off a building site.

I think this story might find its audience with native Oaklanders. The book is filled with local political agenda items. I admit to skipping much of the driving directions and what building is on what corner and which business faces onto the Estuary and such. I’ve never been there, probably never will be there, and beyond a general setting, really didn’t care about reaching the closest Starbucks in the least time. IMO, all this doesn’t add to the plot, unless perhaps you live in Oakland.

That said, I sympathize with the problems of gentrification and can certainly see, with the big money involved, how it could lead to criminal activity. In fact, there’s probably not too much fiction in the plot. It’s all happened at one time or another.

But I wanted to read about Jeri solving her friend’s murder. The investigation sometimes got lost in the details. Besides, Jeri will go broke handing out all those business cards.

Even so, Jeri is sharply drawn. The reader definitely knows what makes her tick. I liked her friends. I liked the way she worked her way to the truth, and I  liked the way she took the murderers down, even though it happened a little fast at the end. Go Jeri!

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, August 2017.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder, Four Furlongs and Hometown Homicide.

Book Review: Frosted Kisses by Heather Hepler

Frosted Kisses
Cupcake Queen Series #2

Heather Hepler
Point, October 2015
ISBN 978-0-545-79055-0

Penny and her mom moved from Manhattan to a small town following her parents’ divorce. Hog’s Hollow is quite different than the big city, but some things don’t change. School bullies and cliques are everywhere, teens have secrets everywhere, and crushes happen everywhere.

Fortunately, Penny made friends with Tally who is a big time animal lover. She talked her new friend into helping raise money to restore/repair the animal shelter where she volunteers. On the opposite side of school society is Charity, daughter of the town banker and as mean as they come. For reasons unfathomable to Penny, Charity has it in for her at every opportunity. It’s gotten so bad Penny cringes in fearful anticipation every time Charity is in her vicinity.

When Esmeralda comes to stay with Charity, Tally’s immediately put off by her, but Penny’s conflicted. Remembering her own experience coming to a new school makes her want to give the extremely attractive Parisian girl the benefit of doubt, but when Esmeralda starts tutoring Marcus, who Penny likes big time, trusting either of them gets pretty difficult.

The plot gets much thicker, both literally and figuratively after aging surfer Dutch moves back to town, agitating Penny’s grandmother. Tally and Penny start to realize Gram’s upset has something to do with what happened between them years ago, just about the time they come up with a dazzling way to raise lots of money for the animal shelter during the winter festival. Add in the challenge of Penny trying to figure out whether Marcus reciprocates her feelings, helping Gram put up the county-wide famous Christmas light display at their house, having to accept that her father isn’t able to be reliable, Tally’s own secret anguish over her family mess, who really is the evil girl at school and how that person is outed in a very public way, and you have a very entertaining story.

I’ve read the author’s other books and enjoyed them a lot. This is both entertaining and meaty in terms of how the two best friends deal with bullying, trust and family dysfunction.

Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS, January 2018.

Book Review: Fox Hunter by Zoe Sharp

Fox Hunter
A Charlie Fox Thriller #12
Zoë Sharp
Pegasus, August 2017
ISBN 978-1-6817-7438-1

From the publisher:  Zoë Sharp’s tough-as-nails Charlie Fox returns this summer in the latest thriller in this energetic series:  Fox Hunter, which finds the indomitable ex-special forces soldier on a mission into the Iraqi countryside to track down a missing comrade-in-arms.  Special forces soldier-turned-bodyguard Charlotte “Charlie” Fox can never forget the men who put a brutal end to her military career, but a long time ago, she vowed she would not go looking for them.  Now she doesn’t have a choice.  Her boss, Sean Meyer, is missing in Iraq, where one of those men was working as a private security contractor.  When the man’s butchered body is discovered, Charlie fears that Sean may be pursuing a twisted vendetta on her behalf.  Charlie’s “close protection” agency in New York needs this dealt with – – fast and quiet – – before everything they’ve worked for goes to ruins.  They send Charlie to the Middle East with very specific instructions: Find Sean Meyer and stop him – – by whatever means necessary.  At one time Charlie thought she knew Sean better than she knew herself, but it seems he’s turned into a violent stranger.  He was always ruthless, but is he capable of such savage acts of slaughter?  As the trail grows ever bloodier, Charlie realizes that she is not the only one after Sean and, unless she can get to him first, the hunter may soon become the hunted.

In its early pages, this newest Charlie Fox novel describes a series of suspense-filled, exciting chase scenes, the initial outcome not a good one.  We are allowed to see occasional displays of Charlie’s vulnerability, especially apparent where Sean is concerned.

The only blurb on the front cover, from Lee Child, captures her completely:  “If Jack Reacher were a woman, he’d be Charlie Fox.”  What more can – or needs to – be said?

Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, September 2017.

Book Review: Escape Claws by Linda Reilly

Title: Escape Claws
Series: A Cat Lady Mystery #1
Author: Linda Reilly
Publisher: Lyrical Underground/Kensington
Publication Date: December 26, 2017
Genres: Mystery, Cozy


Purchase Links:



Escape Claws
A Cat Lady Mystery #1
Linda Reilly
Lyrical Underground/Kensington
ISBN 978-1-5161-0419-2
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Here, killer, killer, killer . . .

For the first time in sixteen years, Lara Caphart has returned to her hometown of Whisker Jog, New Hampshire. She wants to reconnect with her estranged Aunt Fran, who’s having some difficulty looking after herself—and her eleven cats. Taking care of a clowder of kitties is easy, but keeping Fran from being harassed by local bully Theo Barnes is hard. The wealthy builder has his sights set on Fran’s property, and is determined to make her an offer she doesn’t dare refuse.

Then Lara spots a blue-eyed ragdoll cat that she swears is the reincarnation of her beloved Blue, her childhood pet. Pursuing the feline to the edge of Fran’s yard, she stumbles upon the body of Theo Barnes, clearly a victim of foul play. To get her and Fran off the suspect list, Lara finds herself following the cat’s clues in search of a killer. Is Blue’s ghost really trying to help her solve a murder, or has Lara inhaled too much catnip?

When Lara goes back to Whisker Jog (don’t you just love that name?) for a short visit, it’s mainly because an old friend has let her know that her aunt needs help and Lara decides it’s time to get past all the years they’ve been out of each other’s lives. Soon after arriving in town, Lara learns that, besides Fran’s physical troubles, she’s also being bullied by a land developer who wants her property.

As it turns out, the bully is murdered and there are legitimate reasons for both Fran and Lara to be prime suspects. Since Lara really doesn’t know who can be trusted, it’s natural that she’d set out to do her own sleuthing, with a little help from Blue, a cat only she can see. This is no easy investigation with its multitudes of possible killers and plenty of red herrings.

A nice touch is the cast of characters…feline characters, that is, and it’s needed because there are so many of them and, as you might anticipate, they demand attention. The pacing of the story is a bit slow but, since character development is so important in a cozy, I kind of expect an author to focus on that in the first book. I liked Lara and Fran but I did wonder at first why Lara would ignore her “beloved” aunt for so long yet stay in touch with an elementary school friend. Ms. Reilly settled my misgivings about that as the tale progressed and, at the end, I was ready for more adventures with these people and cats, not to mention the charming town of Whisker Jog.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2018.


Over the low clamor sifting through the coffee shop, a
feminine voice suddenly rang out from the doorway.
“Cheer up, everyone—don’t look so glum. Theo Barnes is dead!”


About the Author

Armed with a degree in Criminal Justice, Linda Reilly once contemplated a career in law enforcement. But life took a twist, and instead she found her niche in real estate closings and title examinations, where the dusty tomes in the Registry of Deeds enticed her into solving mysteries of a different sort. A dyed-in-the-wool New Englander, Linda lives in New Hampshire with her husband, who affectionately calls her “Nose-in-a-Book.” A member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America, she loves solving mysteries of the cozy type. When she’s not pounding away at her keyboard, she can usually be found prowling the shelves of a local bookstore or library.

Website // Facebook Author // Facebook CLM // Twitter

Pinterest // Bookbub // Amazon // Goodreads


A thread of unease wound through Lara. She wasn’t sure why, but
she couldn’t help thinking that the driver of the black car had been
watching her before he took off. Unfortunately, through the car’s
tinted windows, Lara hadn’t been able to get a glimpse of his face.


Follow the tour here.



Three opportunities

Enter here


Hope for 2018

Returning guest blogger Sunny Frazier, whose first novel in the Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries, Fools Rush In, received the Best Novel Award from Public Safety Writers Association, is here today to share her concerns about today’s America and her hopes for better times.

The third Christy Bristol Astrology Mystery, A Snitch in Time, is in bookstores now.   //

Forty-two years ago I traveled to London. It was the time dubbed “the Troubles,” dubbed when the Irish Republican Army was fighting in the streets of Belfast and Londonderry. Everywhere I traveled my backpack was searched for weapons. It was a time of civil terrorism.

A few years back I was invited to Puerto Vallarta to speak at a writers’ conference. I saw Federales with machine guns on street corners. It was frightening. The locals didn’t seem to notice. It was de rigor for the city.

I never thought this would happen in my country. I’ve always felt safe, untouched by conflict around the world. Although Vietnam brought home PTSD, soldiers affected by Agent Orange, protestors who called those who served “baby killers,” the fighting itself was far away in a land we’d never heard of.

Now my bags are screened and searched for bombs and there are armed security patrols in public areas. Dogs are trained to sniff our baggage for drugs and weapons. Events that attract large crowds have become shooting galleries. You can ask why countries around the world hate us or do we hate ourselves? It’s Americans attacking churches, schools, workplaces, concerts, cars and randomly shooting people on the streets.

What I experienced in other countries has become our norm. We distrust neighbors, the news, our government and nuclear war. We have lost our status of Gatekeepers of the World and are now Barbarians at our own Gate.

2018 will hopefully be better. We can only pray it’s so.

Spotlight on Sapphire Pavilion by David E. Grogan—and a Giveaway!


Title: Sapphire Pavilion
Series: A Steve Stilwell Thriller #2
Author: David E. Grogan
Publisher: Camel Press
Publication Date: May 1, 2017
Genres: Mystery, Thriller


Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Amazon // Indiebound



Steve Stilwell’s former Navy JAG Corps buddy Ric Stokes has
been jailed for possession of heroin in Vietnam. He was found in
the same room with his traveling companion Ryan Eversall, who
died of an overdose in the company of a prostitute. Steve knows his
friend is a straight arrow. Was he set up? If so, for what reason?
Steve travels to Ho Chi Minh City in search of the truth.

In no time Steve is targeted by the people who framed his friend.
A beautiful young American businesswoman insinuates her way
into the case. Can she really help, or is she just a dangerous distraction?
Ric and Ryan came to Vietnam in search of an Air Force transport
plane that disappeared in 1968. The pilot was Ryan’s father. Before
the heroin bust, they had located the wreckage. Ryan’s notebook, which
Steve manages to obtain, spells out the exact location. Ryan’s widow
has given Steve’s associate Casey another piece of valuable evidence,
a file labeled “Sapphire Pavilion.” Someone is willing to go to
any lengths to steal both the notebook and the file.

From Virginia and Texas to DC and Vietnam, powerful, all-seeing
forces with unlimited resources are determined to bury the truth about
Sapphire Pavilion. But they have grossly underestimated Steve Stilwell
and his associate Casey, a former Army pilot who lost her leg in a helo
accident. And the ability to inspire loyalty wherever you go can
come in handy when danger lurks behind every corner.


About the Author

David E. Grogan was born in Rome, New York, and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. A certified public accountant and an attorney with a masters degree in International Law, Grogan served on active duty in the U.S. Navy for over 26 years as a Navy Judge Advocate. His experiences abroad and during the course of his career influence every aspect of his writing. Grogan currently resides with his wife in Virginia. They have three children. You can find David online at

Website // Twitter // Facebook // Goodreads


Sapphire Pavilion is dedicated to Wounded Warriors and Vietnam War
veterans. Military Times included the novel in their Fall 2017 Reading Guide:

This past fall Grogan launched a new feature on his website called
Voices to Veterans: -veterans


To enter the drawing for paperback
copies of the first and second Steve
Stilwell thrillers, The Siegel Dispositions
and Sapphire Pavilion, by David E. Grogan,
leave a comment below. One winning name
will be drawn Thursday evening, January 18th.
This drawing is open to residents of the US.