Book Review: Salvation Station by Kathryn Schleich—and a Giveaway! @authorkschleich @shewritespress

Salvation Station
Kathryn Schleich
She Writes Press, April 2020
ISBN 978-1-63152-892-7
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Despite her years of experience investigating homicides for the force, Captain Linda Turner is haunted by the murders of the Hansen family. The two small children, clothed in tattered Disney pajamas, were buried with their father, a pastor, in the flower garden behind a church parsonage in Lincoln, Nebraska. But Mrs. Hansen is nowhere to be found—and neither is the killer.

In St. Louis, the televangelist Ray Williams is about to lose his show—until one of his regular attendees approaches him with an idea that will help him save it. Despite his initial misgivings, Ray agrees to give it a try. He can’t deny his attraction to this woman, and besides, she’d assured him the plan is just—God gave her the instructions in a dream.

Multiple story lines entwine throughout this compelling mystery, delving into the topics of murder, religious faith, and the inherent dangers in blindly accepting faith as truth. While Reverend Williams is swept up in his newfound success and plans for his wedding, Captain Turner can only hope that she and her team will catch the Hansens’ cunning killer—before more bodies surface.

Creepy cover, right? There’s something about a beat up, abandoned doll baby that immediately captures the  eye and the imagination and we know we’re in for an emotionally difficult read. Sure enough…

Linda Turner has seen a lot in her years on the Lincoln, Nebraska, police force but the discovery of the three bodies in the backyard of the pastorage and the seeming abduction of the pastor’s wife is a kicker and it’s hard to know where to begin her investigation. The missing woman is the primary concern, of course, since she might still be alive but the killings of the children, in particular, make this a high profile case. It’s always possible, of course, that Nicole Hansen is involved in the murder of her family but all anyone knows at first is that they had been expected on a missionary trip but had never arrived.

Meanwhile, another pastor, one who’s much more visible than Pastor Hansen, is ending his televangelist program in St. Louis because the revenue just isn’t supporting the expenses. Ray Williams’ heart was in the right place but he never managed to make a real success of this venture. When he’s approached by Susannah Baker, a fairly recent member of the church, with a potential plan to grow the ministry, Ray is initially disturbed by the appearance of fraud but Susannah does seem to believe in what she’s saying. Not far away, a mother and daughter have a disagreement about the mother’s attachment to Reverend Ray.

Early on, the reader learns who Susannah really is and the story arc lies in how Captain Turner will put the apparently unconnected pieces together. Linda is a woman of character, intelligent and driven by the search for justice, but can she get to the truth in time to prevent more tragedy? On the opposite end of the spectrum is Susannah, a manipulative, vicious woman compelled by greed and lacking any conscience. Blind faith plays a big part in her machinations and shines a light on how so many people are drawn into religious operations that may or may not be legitimate. Whether Linda can stop this unusual serial killer also involves a bit of blind faith of another sort.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2020.

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Giveaway

To enter the drawing for an advance
reading
copy of Salvation Station,

leave a comment below. The
winning name will be drawn on
Sunday evening, May 24th.
Open to residents of the US and Canada.

Book Review: Miss Julia Knows a Thing or Two by Ann B. Ross—and a Giveaway! @VikingBooks

Miss Julia Knows a Thing or Two
Miss Julia Series #21
Ann B. Ross
Viking, April 2020
ISBN 978-0-525-56051-7
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Miss Julia has decided to turn over a new leaf. It’s time to stop meddling in other peoples’ lives, she thinks–but her hands are full before long! Her neighbor Mildred is sent into a tizzy when a grandchild she’s never met shows up on her doorstep. And Mildred’s husband keeps forgetting who she is, so she’s all on her own. Meanwhile, Etta Mae is worried about losing her job now that the Handy Home Helpers is up for sale. Luckily, Miss Julia has experience dealing with children dropped on doorsteps, and sweeps in to lend a hand. But there’s something missing in that child’s life, and Miss Julia knows exactly what it is.

Living in small towns such as Abbotsville, NC, tends to make people a little busybody-ish and Miss Julia has recognized in herself an inclination towards being overly critical and obdurate so she’s decided to make an effort to be more open to other ideas, more sensitive and less prideful, especially after what’s been going on with her friend and next door neighbor, Mildred Allen. Poor Mildred really has a lot on her plate right now.

Mildred is coping, not very well, with her husband, Horace’s, growing cognitive impairment while her son, Tony, has recently become estranged, following his transition to daughter, Tonya. Then, out of the blue, a previously unknown grandchild shows up practically on Mildred’s doorstep. What is the beleagured woman supposed to do? Well, quite naturally, she seeks out advice from her friend and it doesn’t take long for Miss Julia to realize that things are more than a little suspicious and her tendency towards snoopiness aka sleuthing rises to this new challenge.

While Mildred’s problems are absorbing much of Miss Julia’s time and effort, she’s also concerned about Etta Mae Wiggins who may be about to lose her Handy Home Helper job for dubious reasons. Miss Julia’s determined to ferret out some truths so her good intentions of becoming more conscious of how she can rub people the wrong way just might have to wait. On top of all this, the Christmas holidays and all that entails are fast approaching and demanding her attention.

The mystery elements are lightweight here but that’s not really what the Miss Julia stories are all about—enjoy this for the appealing characters and setting as well as the warm-hearted, enjoyable read.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2020.

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Giveaway

To enter the drawing for an advance reading
copy of Miss Julia Knows a Thing or Two,

leave a comment below. The
winning name will be drawn on
Monday evening, April 20th.
Open to residents of the US and Canada.

Book Review: Who Rescued Who by Victoria Schade—and a Giveaway! @VictoriaSchade @BerkleyPub

Who Rescued Who
Victoria Schade
Berkley, March 2020
ISBN 978-0-593-09883-7
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Where can you turn when the world turns against you? When Elizabeth Barnes’ life fell apart she never imagined that she’d be rescued by a new friend on four paws.

The plan was simple: Elizabeth would ignore the fact that she was unjustly fired from her dream job, fly across the pond to settle an unexpected inheritance in her father’s home country and quickly return to reclaim her position among the Silicon Valley elite.

But when Elizabeth stumbles upon an abandoned puppy, she’s shocked to realize that her brief trip to England might turn into an extended stay. Her strict itinerary is upended completely by the pup’s dogged devotion, and soon the loveable puppy helps her to connect with a tight-knit community of new friends on two legs and four, from the aunt and uncle she didn’t know existed, to a grumpy coffee shop owner to two very opinionated sheep. Along the way Elizabeth is confronted by long-kept family secrets, hard truths about her former life and a new romance that might lead her to question everything she knows about love. Because sometimes rescue magic happens on both ends of the leash.

Just a couple of months ago, a story about someone who rescues a pet would have been very heartwarming, of course, a feel-good tale to pass a few hours of comfortable reading. That’s all true with Who Rescued Who but life today gives it a whole new meaning and, while I’m sure there are other newly-released animal rescue books, this is the one that came to my attention and I’m SO glad it did.

Besides the obvious attraction of a cute puppy, Ms. Schade has created a really good tale full of what makes family and friends mean so much to us and we’re treated to a bit of mystery, romance and family secrets along the way. Bess is an especially appealing protagonist, one we can really sympathize with when she’s faced with more than her share of angst-causing adversity and the people and animals, especially Georgina, that soon surround her are just as engaging. I loved watching Bess come to terms with the past and learn to be the person she’s meant to be. Perhaps best of all, we get to escape our current health/economic/political crisis for just a little while and, these days, that’s a very good thing. Ms. Schade and her publisher had no way of knowing how timely this would be but we readers surely do benefit from serendipity.

We’re a household of four rescues, including three cats and one dog, and the pup on the cover of this book reminds me of our Rosie even though they don’t look at all alike. What they do have in common is an intense stare, as though they don’t want to miss even a nanosecond of their humans’ attention. Rescues KNOW they’ve found a forever home and love their people just as much in return, certainly more than some humans do. If you can, please consider rescuing a critter—of any kind—and help out an overwhelmed shelter at the same time, won’t you? 🙂

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2020.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Giveaway

To enter the drawing for an advance
reading copy
of Who Rescued Who,

leave a comment below. The
winning
name will be drawn on
Sunday evening, April
19th.
Open to residents
of the US and Canada.

Forgive Me! It’s a Writer Thing—and a Cover Reveal!—and a Giveaway! @TheMysteryLadie

Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, Chris Matheson
Cold Case, and Thorny Rose Mysteries—over twenty-five titles across three fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr’s seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, crime fiction, police procedurals, romance, and humor.

A popular speaker, Lauren is also the owner of Acorn Book Service, the umbrella under which falls iRead Book Tours. She lives with her husband and two spoiled rotten German Shepherds on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Visit Lauren’s websites and blog at:

E-Mail: writerlaurencarr@gmail.net
Website: http://mysterylady.net/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/lauren.carr.984991
Gnarly’s Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/GnarlyofMacFaradayMysteries
Lovers in Crime Facebook Page:
http://www.facebook.com/LoversInCrimeMysteries?ref=ts&fref=ts
Acorn Book Services Facebook Page:
https://www.facebook.com/AcornBookServices?ref=hl
Twitter: @TheMysteryLadie
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/themysteryladie/

Okay! I’m throwing up my hands. I can’t help myself.

In January, I was minding my own business―working on Came Upon a Midnight Murder, the upcoming Mac Faraday Mystery―when she came into my mind.

I tried to ignore her, really I did. Readers have been asking for the next Mac Faraday mystery. I had already delayed it once for The Nutcracker Conspiracy. I couldn’t delay it again. But she kept whispering in my ear—begging me to write her cozy little mystery. Leaving me no choice, she promised that it would not take long.

It’s a writer thing.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I had an imaginary friend when I was growing up. His name was Sam. My mother said Sam and I were buddies from the time I could talk until I started school and made real friends. Don’t get scared. None of my imaginary friends have coerced me into robbing banks or committing murder. Basically, they just tell me stories. Eventually, I started writing these stories down.

That is how writers are born.

Writers know that their characters aren’t real people. But they do come to life and, like real people, they can nag you until you feel compelled to give into them.

This occurrence was captured very well in a movie that was released a couple of years ago. The Man Who Invented Christmas told the story of how Charles Dickens came to write A Christmas Carol. In this movie, Dickens was thinking and reworking the plotline for A Christmas Carol. He declared that if you come up with the right name, the character will come to life.

In the scene, which is featured in the movie trailer, Dickens rambled through various names for his main character until he said, “Scrooge.” Suddenly, there is a gust of wind. Off-screen, you hear Christopher Plummer (the actor who played Scrooge) say, “Close the window. I’m not made of money.”

Dicken’s eyes light up and he turns around.

Ebenezer Scrooge stood before him.

For authors, that is precisely how a character comes to life.

No, there is not a real-life flesh and blood person standing before the writer. But they do come to life. They have their histories, their loves, their hates, their issues. Some characters are laid back and will patiently wait their turn for the author to get to them and their story. (Chris Matheson has been quite patient for me to get to the next Geezer Squad mystery.)

Others don’t know the meaning of patience. Such is the case of Nikki Bryant. I wasn’t even looking for a new character for a new book. I was already working on one in progress. Just suddenly, one afternoon while writing a scene in Came Upon a Midnight Murder, I turned around and there she was with her boxer dog Elmo!

While her tendency to bend or even break the rules has earned her journalism awards, Nikki’s foot-on-the-gas nature does get her into trouble. Even after two decades, folks in her small town of Pine Grove still remember that wherever Nikki Bryant goes, Trouble is close behind.

Nikki’s homecoming is not without trepidation. Her world travels were not so much to chase one story after another as it was to run from the one case that she feared facing the most—her father’s unsolved murder.

Now in her mid-thirties, Nikki refuses her mother’s request to return home to take over the family business, a local television station. She is quite content working for a major news station in Las Vegas and curling up at night with her Elmo, a social media influencer.

But then, a friend of hers on social media named NerdyGuy suggests a pact: Reconnect with their first loves. If she goes home to face the man she had left behind, NerdyGuy will reconnect with his first love and tell her how he still feels.

NerdyGuy has Nikki’s number. Never one to back down from a challenge, Nikki packs up Elmo and returns home to Pine Grove—with Trouble right behind her.

Killer Deadline
A Nikki Bryant Cozy Mystery
Release Date April 23, 2020

Synopsis:

Nikki Bryant Comes Home to a Killer Deadline!

Folks in Pine Grove, Pennsylvania, claim that where Nikki Bryant goes, trouble is not far behind. Her refusal to back down from a challenge has made Nikki Bryant one of the best investigative journalists in her field.

When an online friend nudges her to join him in a pact to reconnect with their first loves, Nikki and her boxer dog Elmo leave the bright lights of Las Vegas for the charming town of Pine Grove. There, she must face the biggest challenges in her career and life—the first love she had left behind and her father’s unsolved murder.

But before she has time to unpack her car, Nikki stumbles upon the dead body of local news anchor, Ashleigh Addison, her childhood rival. Could Ashleigh’s death be connected to an explosive news story that she had teased about airing live? Did that explosive story have anything to do with the murder of Nikki’s father?

With the clues in her father’s cold case hot again, Nikki aims to chase down the story of her life until she catches his killer—no matter what it takes.

Pre-order — 99¢
https://amzn.to/3dOs7x9

 

Giveaway

To enter the drawing for a digital
ARC—your choice of epub, mobi
or pdf—just answer this question:

How are you entertaining yourself
during Social Distancing?

Three winning names will be drawn
on Monday evening, April 6th.

Book Review: Turn to Stone by James W. Ziskin—and a Giveaway! @Jameswziskin @SeventhStBooks

Turn to Stone
An Ellie Stone Mystery Book 7
James W. Ziskin
Seventh Street Books, January 2020
ISBN 978-1-63388-552-3
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Florence, Italy, August 1963. In Italy to accept a posthumous award for her late father’s academic work, “girl reporter” Ellie Stone is invited to spend a weekend outside Florence with some of the scholars attending the symposium. A suspected rubella outbreak leaves the ten friends quarantined in the bucolic setting with little to do but tell stories to entertain themselves. Deciding to make the best of their confinement, the men and women spin tales, gorge themselves on fine Tuscan food and wine, and enjoy the delicious fruit of transient love. But the summer bacchanalia takes a menacing turn when the man who organized the symposium is fished out of the Arno. “Morto.” As long-buried secrets rise to the surface, Ellie must figure out if one or more of her newfound friends is capable of murder.

Ellie Stone is a young reporter for a small, local paper, not a common employment in the early 1960’s for a woman but certainly not unheard of in a time when the younger generation was beginning to flex its muscle and reaching for more societal freedoms. She’s been doing this job for several years now, long enough to have established herself as an investigative photojournalist with some credibility although some no doubt see her as just a nosy female.

Right now, though, Ellie isn’t in search of a newsworthy story back home in upstate New York. Her late father, a well-regarded academic, is being given a posthumous award in Florence, Italy, at a conference and she’s there to receive it. Despite her expectations, Ellie finds herself enjoying some of her father’s colleagues but she certainly wasn’t expecting to be quarantined with them during a possible rubella outbreak (this story takes place about 5 or 6 years before a vaccine was developed for this disease that is especially dangerous for pregnant women). Still, what could go wrong with spending a few days in the Italian countryside?

Well, it seems that plenty can go wrong and, soon enough, this handful of academics and Ellie, along with the villa’s owner and his wife, are experiencing their own sort of locked room mystery because the man who arranged the symposium and the retreat was found dead in the river before anything gets started. Was it murder, suicide or just an accident? The police are on it but, of course, the intrepid reporter can’t not do her own investigating. Before long, Ellie turns up connections to Fascist Italy and the deaths of thousands of Jews but she needs to winnow through the past to find the present-day truth. While that’s going on, the group whiles away the hours with their own version of the Decameron, a 14th-century collection of tales told by Florentines to pass the time during a plague.

Mr. Ziskin’s background in Italian studies shines through in what I can only call a love letter to a beautiful country and language; Italy as a setting is itself an important character in the tale both in its history and its culture. Along with that, the author offers an intriguing puzzle set in two periods of history and the result is, once again, a charming, intelligent crime novel.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2020.

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Google Play
Amazon // Indiebound

“TURN TO STONE is a thoughtful mystery that questions
whether forgiveness is always possible” — Foreword Reviews

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About the Author

James Ziskin is the author of Turn to Stone (Jan 21, 2020; Seventh Street Books), the latest in the Anthony® and Macavity Award-winning Ellie Stone Mysteries. His books have also been finalists for the Edgar®, Barry, and Lefty awards.

A linguist by training, Ziskin studied Romance languages and literature at the University of Pennsylvania. After completing his graduate degree, he worked in New York as a photo-news producer and writer, and then as Director of NYU’s Casa Italiana. He spent fifteen years in the Hollywood postproduction industry, running large international operations in the subtitling/localization and visual effects fields.

His international experience includes two years working and studying in France, extensive time in Italy, and more than three years in India. He speaks Italian and French, and currently lives in Boston.

Website // Twitter // Facebook // Goodreads

“Original and compelling—and a brilliant twist on the beloved locked
room mystery. The incredibly talented James Ziskin has combined the
lure of 1963 Florence, a love of Italian literature, and an homage to the
classics. But Ziskin doesn’t stop there—TURN TO STONE is a touching and
important exploration of history, with a series of life-changing consequences
that will keep you riveted to the page. James Ziskin is a knockout storyteller.”
—Hank Phillippi Ryan, Nationally best-selling author of The Murder List

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Giveaway

To enter the drawing for a print copy of Turn to Stone,
leave a comment below. The winning name will be drawn
on Friday evening, January 24th. Open to residents of the US.

 

Book Review: Justice by Joseph Badal—and a Giveaway! @JoeBadal @suspensemag

Justice
The Curtis Chronicles #3
Joseph Badal
Suspense Publishing, November 2019
ISBN 978-0-578-55928-5
Trade Paperback

A lot of action, a lot of characters, a tight story and several clichés. For anyone looking for an action-packed beach-read here’s one that should fill the bill. The story is tight, cleanly presented and nicely resolved. It spans the Western Hemisphere from the United States to Nicaragua and back.

Mathew Curtis and his wife, Renee, travel the globe. He’s a medical man, a former doctor, who travels the world lecturing about his company’s orthotics products. His wife often travels with him, in part because they have been targeted in the past by a smart but deranged human trafficker.

Lonnie Jackson is a wealthy, evil schemer with a world network of drug dealers and smooth-talking recruiters of young women, ostensibly for low-level but honest jobs in western cities. The reality, of course, is quite different. Jackson blames Matt and Renee for his family’s deaths and has waited years for revenge.

Jackson is living and thriving in Nicaragua. Matt Curtis comes to Costa Rica next door for a medical conference. Jackson plans a vicious kidnapping and murder. Meanwhile in Washington and Bulgaria, plans and events crawl toward a vortex of insane violence. The question is always, will Renee and Matt survive and be reunited?

The pace of the novel is relentless, the writing is strong and spare. For some readers, the patterns will be a problem. The bad guys have rotten teeth and terrible breath, the CIA and most of the U.S. government is corrupt to some degree, the good-looking and smartest, most adept, people are the small group of Matt’s friends, former military men, who come together to help in the direst of circumstances, using all their skills and expertise.

There are a couple of interesting twists toward the end of the story which are truly unexpected. They provide an intriguing basis for later novels, grab reader’s attention and remain just out of reach for fans of this novelist.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, January 2020.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

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Giveaway

To enter the drawing for a print copy
of Justice by Joseph Badal, leave
a comment below. The winning name
will be drawn on Monday evening,
January 20th. Open to residents
of the US and Canada.

Book Review: Spirit Wind by Marilyn Meredith—and a Giveaway! ‎@MarilynMeredith

Spirit Wind
Tempe Crabtree Mystery Series #18
Marilyn Meredith
Marilyn Meredith, March 2019
ISBN 978-1092112086
Trade Paperback

From the author—

A call from a ghost hunter changes Deputy Tempe Crabtree’s vacation plans. Instead of going to the coast, she and her husband are headed to Tehachapi to investigate a haunted house and are confronted by voices on the wind, a murder, and someone out to get them.

Marilyn Meredith has been writing the Tempe Crabtree series for a long time and this one is every bit as good as those that preceded it and just as fresh. Tempe herself is an appealing police officer but the Native American elements add a special touch, not to mention Tempe’s ability to communicate with ghosts. Not only do we get an entertaining police procedural, we also actually have the chance to learn something about tribal life and customs in today’s world.

This time, a haunted house adds to the allure and spirits play an integral part in the search for a murderer as well as the truth about what happened to a woman who walked out of an earthquake-damaged prison into oblivion. Tempe and her husband, Hutch, intend to help the local police without stepping on toes but soon become potential victims themselves; perhaps the biggest puzzle is figuring out why a spirit is in the house and what it really wants.

Spiritual beliefs often play a part in Tempe’s investigations but they’re particularly important in Spirit Wind and blending them with modern police work, always tempered with the culture of the surrounding area and people, makes for an especially intriguing case and, once again, I was drawn in to a story that’s compelling in many ways. The next Tempe Crabtree mystery can’t come soon enough for me 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2019.

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Giveaway

To enter the drawing for a very gently
used print copy
of Spirit Wind,

leave a comment below. The winning
name will be drawn on Friday evening,
December 20th. Open to residents
of the US and Canada.