Book Reviews: Cold Cases Solved by Robert Keller and Cemetery Girl by Joseph Cognard @rkeller_author @JosephCognard

Cold Cases Solved: Volume 1
Robert Keller
Robert Keller, February 2021
ISBN 979-8705110858
Trade Paperback

Cold Cases Solved: Volume 1 by Robert Keller is a succinct, true-crime collection of eighteen murder cases. By “succinct” I mean to say that when the book arrived, I was a bit bummed by the size. I thought that “Volume 1” must be only the first case.

Happily, I was wrong.

Mr. Keller really can (and does) aptly convey the circumstances of each situation in fewer than two hundred pages. His writing reminds of Ann Rule’s, in that we know what went down and are affected by the actions, but are spared gratuitous, graphic details. Also, there is little, if any, cursing which can broaden my scope of students that I can share with.

Speaking of sharing this with my students, these chapters are perfect for the self-professed “non-reader”. As previously mentioned, they are short. And contain small sections that seem to eliminate the intimidation of big books with tiny font.

Although I read, listen to and watch enough true-crime to be alarming, I was only familiar with a couple of these felonies.

Many cases seem to go cold due to determined presumptions. This is the first time I’ve heard of someone confessing because of found evidence assumed to seal his fate, only to later realize it had no relation to him or his crime.

I had never heard that taking someone’s life, while committing another crime against said person, equates to murder.

One criminal was able to commit his heinous act because only two days prior, he was acquitted of rape. Found “not guilty by reason of insanity”.

As an aside, I also learned about The Melbourne Cup, an Australian much-more-than-a-horse-race festivity dating back to 1861.

I will certainly be searching for further volumes of Mr. Keller’s Cold Cases Solved, for my own entertainment and edification and to share with “my” students.

Reviewed by jv poore, April 2021.


Cemetery Girl
Joseph Cognard
Joseph Cognard, April 2012
ISBN 978-0615624006
Trade Paperback

A single cemetery evokes a variety of emotions.

Vanessa feels that a graveyard does not serve as the grooviest hang-out spot, even if it is private. Bobby sees the tombstones as mini history lessons, where Keith certainly seems to be searching for some kind of connection. But to Janie, the Cemetery Girl, comes comfort…even if the tombs tend to tickle a sort-of sixth sense.

None of the friends are wrong. Inside of the fence, there are stories to be shared. Sadly, the souls with so much to say cannot communicate with the family and friends that need to hear these messages. Maybe they haven’t found the right medium.

While I’ve devoured and delighted in tons of tales centered around tombstones, The Cemetery Girl by Joseph Cognard presents a premier plot. And one I’m particularly pleased with. Sneaky subtleties slowly show that the puzzle the kids are trying to solve is actually only one part of a much larger portrait.

I really enjoyed the character interactions and the layers that wove the story together, and wrapped it up, leaving just enough left-over to have me hoping for more.

Reviewed by jv poore, April 2019.

The Dust of Wrath

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 tell us about a time when a different kind of immigrant came to California.

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

They stood at the border and gazed upon the Golden State. Their journey was long, their money short, their hopes high. Blocking their way were angry Californians, adamant about keeping them out.

No, this is not 2021. The year was 1930 and the migrants were American. They came from what is now called the Dust Bowl. An estimated 2.5 million trekked west from Texas to Nebraska seeking work.

Quick synopsis of the Dust Bowl history. During WWI there was a huge need for wheat. Farmers planted nothing else. It wore out the soil. A decade of drought and winds came. With nothing to tether the dirt, dust buried everything, including the spirits of the people. The Great Depression would soon follow.

How bad was it? Photos show the Black Blizzard where for 5 days a cloud of dust 2 miles high flew east for 2,000 miles and covered the Statue of Liberty. People contracted dust pneumonia and starved.

I bring this up because I just finished reading the best seller, The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah. It’s Grapes of Wrath from a woman’s point of view. Also, I live in a small town with a history tied to the migration.


Lemoore is in the San Joaquin Valley, the vast space between San Francisco and Los Angeles. It’s mainly agricultural. Rumors spread that California had streets of gold and plenty of farm work. Of the 400,000 migrants, 70,000 flooded into the Valley. What they found was hatred and discrimination.

When I moved here in the 60’s, calling someone a “DBO” was an insult. It wasn’t until I read The Four Winds that I understood it meant “Ditch Bank Okies” because migrant camps sprouted near ditch banks, their source of water. Men, women and children worked the fields in terrible conditions and little pay. Steinbeck wrote their story. The government put together a program to document the era. Photographer Dorthea Lange became famous because of her photos.

Credit Dorothea Lange

My other connection with the Depression is from my father. FDR created the Civilian Conservation Corps to put young men to work. My uncle was sent to the Northwest and worked as a logger. My father, 18, was closer to home in North Carolina. I have his diary from that time. They were paid $30 a month but were required to send $25 home. At the start of WWII, the CCC was disbanded and most of the men went into the military.

Young men from Camp F-24 in the Civilian Conservation Corps clear rocks from a truck trail in Snoqualmie National Forest, Washington. | Location: Snoqualmie National Forest, Washington, USA. (Photo by © CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

To this day, the Dust Bowl has a strong influence in this area. Bakersfield, where oil rigs provided work, roots go deep. Merle Haggard sings of being “An Okie From Muskogee.” Dwight Yoakam sang of “The Streets of Bakersfield.” Buck Owens built the Crystal Palace where country musicians performed.

Growing up, I remember eating at Okie Frijoles. If you’re going to be politically incorrect, why not double down and insult two groups at once? The food was great, fried chicken and gravy, tacos and salsa. It didn’t discreetly disappear like Sambo’s restaurant; they just changed the name to Ole Frijole.

Happily, the people who fled the Dust Bowl were assimilated and became important to the growth and culture of towns such as Lemoore. In fact, in Turlock in 2009, the Dust Bowl Brewery opened up. It’s first brew? “Hops of Wrath.”

Book Review: Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardner @LisaGardnerBks @DuttonBooks

Before She Disappeared
Lisa Gardner
Dutton, January 2021
ISBN 987-1-5247-4504-2
Hard Cover

Lisa Gardner is a prolific writer with an on-going mystery series with Boston Detective D.D. Warren. She’s also written several stand-alones.

Before She Disappeared is a stand-alone and well worth a read. I devoured it in a couple of days.

Frankie Elkin is a recovering alcoholic who spends her days searching for missing people, people the police have given up searching for after months of no new info or clues. Frankie believes not being associated with the police gives her an edge, allowing her to approach family and friends of the missing person, meeting them on a less pressure-filled level, to possibly unearth a snippet of new information that might lead to a breakthrough.

She’s come to Boston, to an area known as Mattapan, the largest Haitian neighbourhood, to meet the aunt and brother of Angelique Lovelie Badeau, a teenager who, after leaving school one Friday afternoon eleven months ago hasn’t been seen since.

Frankie gets a job as a bartender at Stoney’s, a local popular hangout. The job comes with a room above the pub. Eager to get started she makes her way to the apartment where Guerline Violette, Angelique’s aunt and brother lives. After initially meeting some resistance, Guerline agrees to talk to her.

Frankie doesn’t ask for money, she only asks for truthful answers to her questions. Aware she’ll get some push back, she also insists on contacting the Detective in charge of the case. Frankie makes no bones about the fact that she might not find anything, but she begins with Angelique’s High School best friends, Kyra and Marjolie. After talking to the two girls Frankie is sure they know more than they are saying.

As her investigation proceeds, with a possible sighting of Angelique… another teenage girl goes missing raising the stakes. While Frankie steadily makes progress, she is painfully aware that there are forces working against her, who are prepared to do anything to stop her.

Frankie is a strong, brave yet conflicted woman, carrying some painful baggage she’s unwilling to share, which makes it easy to get swept along with her as she fights to uncover the truth.

Like me, you’ll probably read late into the night to the exciting conclusion.

Check it out…. You’ll be glad you did.

Respectfully submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, February 2021.

And Now for Something Completely Different @JMmystery

Jeanne Matthews is happy to announce the arrival of a new historical mystery, Devil by the Tail, scheduled for release in July 2021.  Jeanne has a yen for travel and a passion for mythology, which she works into her novels whenever she can.  Originally from Georgia, Jeanne lives in Washington State with her husband, a law professor, and a Norwich terrier named Jack Reacher.  Information about her books, including the Dinah Pelerin international series, can be found on her website.  

I set my first book in Australia, the second in Hawaii, the third in the Norwegian Arctic, the fourth in Greece, and the fifth in Berlin.  In my new mystery, I travel back in time to 1867 and the city of Chicago.  My protagonists are Quinn Sinclair, the young widow of a Union soldier, and Gabe Garnick, an ex-Confederate prisoner of war who lost his wife while incarcerated in that city’s disease-infested Camp Douglas.  Quinn’s husband died without having made a will, leaving her homeless and dependent on the grudging charity of in-laws.  Her emancipation comes when she forms her own detective agency with Garnick as an equal partner.

According to the Illinois Supreme Court of the day, “The natural and proper timidity and delicacy which belongs to the female sex unfits it for many of the occupations of civil life.”  Quinn could not disagree more fiercely, but it takes nerve and inventiveness to defy prevailing social attitudes.  To maintain a vestige of respectability, she uses the alias “Mrs. Paschal” and Garnick has to assume the role of frontman to lend credibility to the new agency.  Garnick and Paschal have a natural gift for solving crimes and in the years following the Civil War, there is no more crime-ridden place on the planet for them to hang out their shingle than the Windy City.

Post-war Chicago was a boomtown – a tumultuous mix of commerce and industry, wealth and squalor, political corruption and cultural aspiration.  Its waterways and rail system made it the transportation hub of the nation.  Impressive engineering feats transformed its water and sewer systems.  New businesses produced fortunes.  Theaters, fine hotels, and dining establishments flourished.

Men poured into the city to fill jobs of processing grain, meat, and lumber and saloons and gambling parlors sprang up to relieve them of their hard-earned wages.  Irish and German immigrants arrived by the thousands, intensifying anti-immigrant prejudice.  Ramshackle shanties occupied certain quarters while mansions arose in others, but the stink of pollution was impartial and universal.  For all its achievements, the city was dangerous, dirty, and beguiling – especially for women.

“Nice women” didn’t work outside the home.  Poor women had no choice.  Immigrant girls took jobs in cigar factories and laundries. Destitute girls from outlying prairie towns drifted into town looking for any way to support themselves and their families back home.  Too often these vulnerable young women were seduced and abandoned.  Circumstances forced some into prostitution to make their living.  Others, penniless or pregnant, ended up in the almshouse or threw themselves in the Chicago River.

In January, 1867, the Opera House staged a production of a play about Medea, the mythical Greek sorceress who was the wife of Jason.  After she saves Jason’s life and helps him acquire the golden fleece, he casts her aside in a foreign country so he can marry the daughter of the king.  Devastated by his betrayal, Medea wreaks vengeance by burning his bride and her father to death.  But the playwright portrayed Medea in a sympathetic light – as the victim of male arrogance, false promises, and cruelty.

The woman who was to become Quinn’s and Garnick’s client attended the play with her own faithless lover who soon thereafter deserts her to marry a rich woman.  Without money or friends, she seeks refuge in a brothel.  Later, when a mysterious arson fire kills her former lover’s new wife and her father, sensationalist news stories liken the murders to those committed by Medea.  It seems a simple case of “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”  But Quinn is convinced there’s a man behind the curtain, a cunning manipulator intent on making her client the scapegoat.

Chicago owes its reputation for corruption in large part to its lurid history of prostitution, a vice from which many in the police department and the city council also profited.  The detectives’ investigation leads them into some of the city’s most notorious brothels, introduces them to shameless madams and embroils them in the complicated, precarious lives of so-called “fallen women.”  But as Quinn and Garnick soon discover, respectability isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  Everyone has a guilty secret – the smooth-talking lawyer, the urbane mayor, the charming widower, the murdered wife.  Even Garnick has his secrets.  In a town where innocence is a matter of degree, Quinn can take nothing for granted, least of all her own safety.

Researching and writing about a time when women had so few rights and faced so many obstacles was a completely different experience from my previous books.  Even so, I still managed to work in a bit of mythology while gaining a greater appreciation of the price paid by females of the 19th Century who refused to conform.

Devil By The Tail is currently available for pre-order from the publisher at a 30% discount.

Spotlight on Silent Altitudes by Michael James Emberger @MEmbergerAuthor @prismbooktours


On Tour with Prism Book Tours

(Affiliate links included.)

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Silent Altitudes
By Michael James Emberger
Christian Sci-Fi, Cl-Fi
Paperback & ebook, 270 Pages
March 30, 2021 by Ambassador International

The world looks up to the sky in hopeful anticipation as the Pennychuck Atmospheric Carbon Reduction System comes online. Finally the chance to eliminate global warming will be obtainable.

Within moments, something goes terribly wrong. Dr. Milford Pennychuck races to find the underlying problem that caused so much destruction. Yet when an assassination attempt and system sabotage blindsides him, he has to rely on a surprising ally. Together they delve into a conspiracy deeper than they can fathom. As the system operates at progressively higher altitudes, the two scientists must find a way to shut it down…or die trying.


An Excerpt from Silent Altitudes

Katherine walked over and looked at the terminal and then at her watch. “It’s 10:05. The reaction should occur any minute, if it works.”

“If wh-what works?” Barry said. “What just happened here?”

A phone started ringing, and Katherine answered it. “Hello? Gunshots? No, I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t know—the door won’t open. What? What? You’re breaking up. What was that?”

The walls of the bunker were thick, but a staticky hissing sound was getting louder outside. Barry turned his attention back to Valentina. The gauze had soaked through, so he added more and continued putting pressure on the wound. He could feel the rise and fall of her chest and the thrum of her heart beating, but she remained unconscious.

“The phone line went dead,” Katherine said. “What is that sound? It’s getting louder.”

“I don’t know. I need help!”

Katherine went to the window. “What are they looking at?”


“The protesters. The media. They’re all looking at the sky and covering their ears. Why are they doing that?”

Barry didn’t know. It was all happening too fast. Why was she asking him? He glanced at Katherine for a moment. Wasn’t she going to help him? Maybe not. She was watching the crowds. He had to focus. He turned his back to Katherine and the world outside the window, and then a flash filled the room, erasing Valentina from his vision.


About the Author

Michael James Emberger is an author of thrillers and suspense, and he resides in Wilton, New Hampshire. He enjoys weaving narratives of conspiracy and misguided intentions around divisive topics. Where there is debate, there is always room for a villain with goals far out of alignment from either side. Michael is a graduate of Messiah College, where he studied Engineering and met his wife racing solar cars cross-country. When he’s not working on home renovations or writing, he enjoys visiting the ocean and exploring the majesty of God’s creation on the summits of New Hampshire’s Mountains.

Find the author:


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Book Review – When The Stars Go Dark by Paula McClain #BookReview #BookBlogger #suspense

This book has been on my wishlist for quite a while
and now I want it even more thanks to Shalini’s review!

Shalini's Books & Reviews

This post contains affiliate links for products and services I recommend. If you make a purchase through those links, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.


Missing child arc is one of my favorite. This had the children at the core along with on-a-break Detective Anna Hart offering her instincts to help find Cameron, a lost teen.

My first book by author Paula McClain, I was so pulled by the cover. It was as if the words in it were calling out my name. Then came the story and plot arc. A damaged cop was done many times in practically most police procedural, but here Anna had a rawness in her. Her pain held my heart a hostage.

The story was all about careful joining the lines between clues. Anna’s way of getting to the root of the statements from various people…

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