Book Review: Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Dust by James Lovegrove

Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Dust
James Lovegrove
Titan Books, July 2018
ISBN 978-1-7856-5361-2
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

It is 1884, and when a fellow landlady finds her lodger poisoned, Mrs Hudson turns to Sherlock Holmes.

The police suspect the landlady of murder, but Mrs Hudson insists that her friend is innocent. Upon investigating, the companions discover that the lodger, a civil servant recently returned from India, was living in almost complete seclusion, and that his last act was to scrawl a mysterious message on a scrap of paper. The riddles pile up as aged big game hunter Allan Quatermain is spotted at the scene of the crime when Holmes and Watson investigate. The famous man of mind and the legendary man of action will make an unlikely team in a case of corruption, revenge, and what can only be described as magic…

Mrs. Hudson, Sherlock Holmes’ landlady, asks for his help when a friend is suspected of killing her lodger and he and Dr. Watson are happy to jump in, having no idea what they’re about to get into. When the legendary Allan Quatermain, the Victorian version of our Indiana Jones, comes on the scene, everything becomes a great adventure.

The murdered man had, by his own telling, recently been in a civil servant position in Calcutta but Sherlock quickly determines that to be a lie and that he was, in fact, in Africa. Moreover, Sherlock questions the man’s very identity and, even more intriguing and disturbing, a stranger follows Holmes, Dr. Watson and Mrs. Hudson when they leave her friend’s house. That individual is soon revealed to be the aged Allan Quatermain, famous big game hunter in Africa, and he delivers a warning that delving into the mystery of the murdered man is very dangerous and should be dropped.

Naturally, that warning falls on deaf ears and Holmes and Watson are soon deeply involved in the case beginning with a fruitless trailing of Quatermain. Deducing that a journalist is somehow involved, the pair are off in pursuit of the truth behind the lodger’s murder.

The setting of this story really evoked the Sherlock Holmes era and environs plus it offered a strong sense of the reach and effect of the British Empire. James Lovegrove is an author with a special interest in Sherlock Holmes and he has developed a very credible pastiche with a variety of novels. He has a fine touch, an understanding of Holmes and of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s style and creative bent; I’m going to check out his other Sherlock Holmes offerings.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2018.

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Book Review: Shares the Darkness by J.R. Lindermuth

Shares the Darkness
Sticks Hetrick Murder Mystery #7
J.R. Lindermuth
Torrid Books, September 2016
ISBN 978-1-68299-196-1
Ebook

The title of this interesting crime novel is from a line by Edna St. Vincent Millay, quoted in an opening page just before the novel opens. Flora Vastine, a police officer about to leave for duty is interrupted by a neighbor who complains that her adult daughter, Jan Kepler, is missing. Jan is a teacher at the local school and an inveterate birder. But Mrs. Kepler is very worried. Flora agrees to check at police headquarters.

The novel spins through a number of crimes in the small town of Swatara Creek and Officer Vastine is at the center of most of them, while the search for Jan Kepler continues. Expertly interspersed with the crimes, perhaps a few too many for such a small town at once, are some personal relationship crises which serve to balance the crimes and provide readers with a sometimes intensive look into the workings of small town police departments and of small towns more generally.

The pace is generally leisurely and insightful but readers will be compelled to follow the characters and the developments in a realistic small community where the final solution to the murder reveals more about the living than it does about the dead woman. An excellent and thoughtful novel.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, August 2018.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Review: The Negotiator by Brendan Dubois

The Negotiator
Brendan Dubois
Midnight Ink, August 2018
ISBN 978-0-7387-5401-7
Trade Paperback

The Negotiator by Brendan Dubois brings an interesting new anti-hero to our attention. The protagonist, who uses many names but we never learn any of them, has an uncanny gift of estimating the market value of anything, like a handful of stolen diamonds or a pallet of merchandise that fell off a truck. This useful ability has allowed him to earn a living in the shadows of the crime world, where he is the middleman between a potential buyer and the hopeful seller, the cost of his services being part of the final agreed-upon purchase price. While he himself has committed no crime, those he does business with have and, since he knows one murder more or less means nothing to them, he takes appropriate steps to protect himself. Among other rules he has instituted, he won’t wait long for either party to arrive at the appointed time and place, and he never goes to a private residence to arrange a transaction.

The promise of a very large commission makes The Negotiator break his rule when he’s asked to serve as the go-between for the sale of what appears to be an authentic Old Master oil painting. He and his bodyguard show up at a nice house in an established neighborhood instead of a public place, where they are greeted by an older couple with an offer of lemonade and cookies. Lulled into accepting the situation for what it appears to be, The Negotiator is completely off guard when the older man pulls a gun and kills the bodyguard. The Negotiator escapes, barely, and sets off to discover who the killers are, to understand the motive for the unexpected attack, and to obtain revenge. Like the opening scene of the eventual bloodbath, many of the characters are not who or what they seem to be and sorting them all out takes every bit of skill The Negotiator can summon.

The Negotiator is a fine, fast-moving story with plot twists aplenty, right up to the last page. This book is especially for anyone who misses the Parker saga by Donald Westlake writing as Richard Stark or enjoys the Wilson series from Mike Knowles. While The Negotiator isn’t quite as cold-blooded as Wilson or Parker — he prefers to avoid guns — he can still toss an inconvenient character under the proverbial bus without a qualm. I am hoping for a sequel.

Reviewed by Aubrey Hamilton, September 2018.

Book Review: Star-Crossed by Pintip Dunn

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Title: Star-Crossed
Author: Pintip Dunn
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Publication date: October 2, 2018
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Amazon // Entangled Publishing

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Star-Crossed
Pintip Dunn
Entangled Teen, October 2018
ISBN 978-1-63375-241-2
Hardcover

From the publisher—

In a world where nutrition can be transferred via a pill, and society is split into Eaters and Non-Eaters, seventeen-year-old Princess Vela has a grave dilemma. Her father, the king, is dying, and only a transplant of organs from a healthy Non-Eater boy will save him.

Vela is tasked with choosing a boy fit to die for the king, which is impossible enough. But then Carr, the boy she’s loved all her life, emerges as the best candidate in the Bittersweet Trials. And he’s determined to win, because by doing so, he can save the life of his Non-Eater sister.

Refusing to accept losing the boy she loves, Vela bends the rules and cheats. But when someone begins to sabotage the Trials, Vela must reevaluate her own integrity—and learn the true sacrifice of becoming a ruler.

Although Star-Crossed is reminiscent of The Hunger Games with its trials, Ms. Dunn has added a dollop of freshness with the concept of people being divided into Eaters and Non-Eaters. Woe to the Non-Eater who loses a trial because the consequences are dire but the truth is no one has a comfortable position in this world that’s focused on fighting off starvation. One facet of the society’s attention to food made me think of how certain “improvements” in our own food supply has led to our acceptance of a loss of taste in some instances. For example, the food gods apparently decided that watermelons need to be seedless but have you really compared the taste of seedless (which is not truly seedless) to seeded, the kind with those big black seeds that are great for spitting? I have to say I have very little interest in the seedless variety because they just don’t have any flavor, a perfect example of improvement gone awry.

At any rate, Vela and the rest of her people are colonists on a distant planet and their original supplies were destroyed, making food the most critical need. In an odd scientific endeavor, they developed a genetic change that enabled some people to consume copious quantities of food and process it to share with others in the form of pills. Now, a new problem has arisen in that the king, Vela’s father, may die and the succession is in question. Vela has to find a way to save the boy she cares for from the ultimate sacrifice while at the same time securing her place and future and her compassionate nature makes her choices even more difficult.

The real question is, when is sacrifice taken too far with the cost being so high that the intended benefit is no longer enough? The young princess is faced with dilemmas that are nearly impossible to resolve without possibly losing a piece of her soul and I empathized with her completely. I simply can’t imagine having to pit the survival of my father against that of the boy I loved but becoming a true queen worthy of the title does require a surrender of personal wants and needs.

I’ve enjoyed Ms. Dunn’s work before and this is no exception; as a standalone, there won’t be any sequel but I’ll eagerly await her next book, whatever it may be.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2018.

 

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About the Author

Pintip Dunn is a New York Times bestselling author of young adult fiction. She graduated from Harvard University, magna cum laude, with an A.B., and received her J.D. at Yale Law School.

Pintip’s novel FORGET TOMORROW won the 2016 RWA RITA® for Best First Book, and SEIZE TODAY won the 2018 RITA for Best Young Adult Romance. Her books have been translated into four languages, and they have been nominated for the following awards: the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire; the Japanese Sakura Medal; the MASL Truman Award; the Tome Society It list; and the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award. Her other titles include REMEMBER YESTERDAY, THE DARKEST LIE, GIRL ON THE VERGE, STAR-CROSSED and the upcoming MALICE.

Website // Twitter // Facebook // Instagram
Goodreads // Amazon // Entangled Publishing

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Book Review: Don’t Eat Me by Colin Cotterill—and a Giveaway!

Don’t Eat Me
A Dr. Siri Paiboun Mystery #13
Colin Cotterill
Soho Crime, August 2018
ISBN 978-1-61695-940-1
Hardcover

Talented author Colin Cotterill has done it again. He’s put his quirky characters into the most devastating of circumstances, and managed to make this reader laugh her head off. Dr. Siri Paiboun and his friend, Comrade Civilai, have smuggled a movie camera into Laos with the intention of writing and filming an epic history of the nation. Since the year is somewhere south of 1980, the recent history is particularly harrowing and the communists, of course, have a strict, one might even say stifling, set of rules about what the film can include. The two, along with Madam Daeng, Siri’s wife, and their friend, the newly promoted chief inspector, Phosy, who is perhaps the only honest policeman in the country, will have a time sneaking the film through inspection. Complications include subject, stars, location, and most importantly, someone who knows how to turn on the camera.

A farce, for sure, except our heroes are dealing with the serious matter of murder and horrifically appalling and cruel animal trafficking. You’d be surprised what an important role an inoperable camera can play.

From the opening few pages where Siri and Civilai are smuggling the camera across the Mekhong River from Thailand, to the final courtroom scene, I promise you’ll be enthralled. Cotterill’s imagination knows no bounds and if the plot in this one seems farcical at first, it has a monstrous situation at the core that is treated very seriously indeed. Unforgettable characters, a plot to draw you in . . . what more could anyone want? This one is highly recommended.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, October 2018.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder, Four Furlongs and Hometown Homicide.

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To enter the drawing for a print
advance reading copy of

Don’t Eat Me by Colin Cotterill,
leave a comment below. The winning
name
will be drawn on Friday evening,

October 12th. This drawing is open
to residents of the US & Canada.

Book Review: Robert B. Parker’s Little White Lies by Ace Atkins

Robert B. Parker’s Little White Lies
A Spenser Novel #46
Ace Atkins
Putnam, May 2017
ISBN: 978-0-399-17700-2
Hardcover

For some reason I had not read this entry in the Spenser series created by Robert B. Parker, but have finally caught up to it, I’m delighted to say.

From the publisher:  Connie Kelly thought she’d found her perfect man on an online dating site.  He was silver-haired and handsome, with a mysterious background working for the CIA.  She fell so hard for M. Brooks Welles that she wrote him a check for almost three hundred thousand dollars, hoping for a big return on her investment.  But within weeks, both Wells and her money are gone.  Her therapist, Dr. Susan Silverman, hands her Spenser’s card.  A self-proclaimed military hotshot, Welles had been a frequent guest on national news shows, speaking with authority about politics and world events.  But when he disappears, he leaves not only a jilted lover but a growing list of angry investors, duped cops, and a team of paramilitary contractors looking for revenge.  Enter Spenser, who quickly discovers that everything about Welles is phony.  His name, his resume, and his roster of associates are nothing but an elaborate fraud.  But uncovering the truth won’t be easy, as he’ll have to keep his client from falling back into the mystery man’s tangled web, all while staying a step ahead of trained killers.  As the trail winds from Boston to the back roads of Georgia, Spenser will need help from trusted allies Hawk and Teddy Sapp to make sure Welles’s next con is his last.

 

The author has captured many of the expected patterns of Robert B. Parker’s writing. (Mr. Parker died in January 2010.)  But Mr. Atkins, besides giving us a very absorbing tale, has retained some of the most typical Parker patterns, e.g., nearly every character’s choice of clothing and headgear is noted, particularly caps declaring the owner’s love for a particular local sports team, whether Braves or Red Sox.  Connie Kelly’s early appearance notes that she “was dressed in a white sleeveless silk top with a black pencil skirt adorned with chrysanthemums and a pair of black open-toe heels that highlighted her shapely calves. Her toes had been painted a festive red.”  In her next appearance “she wore a very short red floral dress and black tights with black suede booties,” with a purple cardigan.  She explains what attracted her to Mr. Welles thusly:  “I wanted a tall, successful, and interesting man.  Someone who liked to travel and took time to enjoy sunsets.”  Well, she got all of that and a lot more that she could have done without.  Spenser is now living in the area of the Charlestown Navy Yard, where Pearl the Wonder Dog keeps him delightful company.

This is another exciting entry in the series, thoroughly entertaining, and highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, May 2018.

Next up for this reviewer is the next in the series by Mr. Atkins, another Spenser novel, Old Black Magic.

Book Review: Beneath by Maureen A. Miller

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Title: Beneath
Series: Beneath, Book 1
Author: Maureen A. Miller
Narrator: Brandy Skelly
Publisher: Maureen A. Miller
Publication Date: August 17, 2018

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Purchase Links:
Audible // iTunes // Amazon

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Beneath
Beneath, Book 1
Maureen A. Miller
Narrated by Brandy Skelly
Maureen A. Miller, August 2018
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

It was Stella Gullaksen’s final break before starting her freshman year at college. Joining her best friend Jill and Jill’s family aboard the Starkissed, Stella wakes up to a violent storm that capsizes the boat over a hundred miles off the New Jersey shore.

As the waves pull her under, Stella knows that she is going to die. Instead, an unusual current drags her deep into the underwater canyons of the Atlantic Ocean. Powerless against the raging waters, she is suddenly sucked into a ventilated cave. One by one, Jill and her family also emerge in the sunken cavern. With only a faulty diving flashlight to keep oblivion at bay, Stella and her best friend’s brother Colin search the cave in hope of finding a way back to the surface. What they discover, however, is that they are not alone. There are other survivors in this subterranean grotto – survivors spanning decades of maritime disasters.

Will this discovery prove salvation, or have they all been condemned to the same fate? A grim finale at the bottom of the sea? On an alliance forged by friendship and attraction, Stella and Colin battle to escape the danger that lies beneath.

I’ve always been fascinated by the Bermuda Triangle; is the phenomenon pure fantasy or science fiction or perhaps even real? No one has the definitive answer but there is no question that a lot of boats and planes have been found on the bottom of the Atlantic and disappearances continue to happen. The premise that Ms. Miller suggests in Beneath is not all that bizarre considering the oddities of the Triangle, is it?

Now, just suppose such a thing happened to you and you found yourself in a vast undersea cave system with other people who had been “saved” over a period of many years. You’d be filled with questions as are Stella and Jill’s brother, Colin, and no one would be surprised when they act on their curiosity, going in search of answers. They find some of those answers, leading to even more, but perhaps the biggest is, are they condemned to remain here until…

Stella is a likeable character—as is Colin but he’s less vibrant—and I had no trouble believing in her personality, her attitudes and her determination to brave the unknown. I’m glad, actually, that her story isn’t over yet and that a sequel is coming.

Brandy Skelly brought Stella to life for me even though there were moments when her narration wasn’t entirely successful. Between Ms. Miller’s intriguing story and Ms. Skelly’s telling of that story, Beneath is a tale worth hearing.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2018.

 

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About the Author

USA TODAY bestselling author, Maureen A. Miller worked in the software industry for fifteen years. She crawled around plant floors in a hard hat and safety glasses hooking up computers to behemoth manufacturing machines. The job required extensive travel. The best form of escapism during those lengthy airport layovers became writing.

Maureen’s first novel, WIDOW’S TALE, earned her a Golden Heart nomination in Romantic Suspense. After that she became hooked to the genre. In fact, she was so hooked she is the founder of the JUST ROMANTIC SUSPENSE website.

Recently, Maureen branched out into the Young Adult Science Fiction market with the popular BEYOND Series. To her it was still Romantic Suspense…just on another planet!

Website // Twitter // Facebook // Goodreads // Instagram

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About the Narrator

Brandy Skelly studied theatre in college, and even participated in storytelling festivals when she was growing up. She’s a practicing attorney, and loves to participate in ACX projects to keep her creative side happy and fulfilled. She can perform fiction and non-fiction, in neutral-American or Southern-American accents.

Brandy lives in North Carolina with her husband, toddler, and pound puppy. She has a soft spot for romance and she loves a good laugh!

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Play an excerpt here.

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