Book Review: Death Rides the Ferry by Patricia Skalka

Death Rides the Ferry
A Dave Cubiak Door County Mystery #2
Patricia Skalka
University of Wisconsin Press, May 2018
ISBN 978-0-299-31800-0
Hardcover

Door County Sheriff Dave Cubiak becomes involved in a forty-year-old mystery when a woman no one knows is cleverly murdered. On a ferry crossing between Washington Island and the Door County peninsula, no less, which provides some difficult motive, means, and opportunity questions for Cubiak to solve. Her murder comes at a bad time, since the island is hosting an important music festival featuring the viola da gamba, an instrument similar to a cello. Forty years ago, during the first festival held on the island, an extremely revered instrument dating from the sixteenth century had been stolen. It isn’t long until Cubiak finds connections between this murder and that theft.

A second murder, perpetrated in the same odd manner, and also taking place on a ferry, draws in many of the same people from forty years ago. But when Cubiak’s wife, Cate, is threatened, the sheriff’s hunt for a murderer becomes personal.

Author Patricia Skalka is a master at evoking the atmosphere of a summer vacation island. One can almost feel the water lapping at one’s feet, and the mash of waves against a boat’s hull. The music, the vendors, and the diversity of people create an ambiance almost palpable.

The people, both victims and those who’d harm them, are not exactly bastions of society. Apparently everyone has secrets to hide and agendas they are determined to fulfill.

But Cubiak, his deputy, and his wife, Cate, are all tip-top people you’d want to know and root for. The personal life of Cubiak and Cate figure into the plot as well, so there’s something for everyone.

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

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Book Review: Head Wounds by Dennis Palumbo

Head Wounds
A Daniel Rinaldi Mystery #5
Dennis Palumbo
Poisoned Pen Press, February 2018
ISBN: 978-1-4642-0816-4
Hardcover

From the publisher:   Psychologist Dr. Daniel Rinaldi consults with the Pittsburgh Police. His specialty is treating victims of violent crime – – those who’ve survived an armed robbery, kidnapping, or sexual assault, but whose traumatic experience still haunts them.  “Head Winds” picks up where Rinaldi’s investigation in “Phantom Limb” left off, turning the tables on him as he, himself, becomes the target of a vicious killer.  “Miles Davis saved my life.”  With these words, Rinaldi becomes a participant in a domestic drama that blows up right outside his front door, saved from a bullet to the brain by pure chance.  In the chaos that follows, Rinaldi learns his bad-girl, wealthy neighbor has told her hair-triggered boyfriend Rinaldi is her lover.  As things heat up, Rinaldi becomes a murder suspect.  But this is just the first act in this chilling, edge-of-your-seat thriller.  As one savagery follows another, Rinaldi is forced to relive a terrible night that haunts him still.  And to realize that now he – – and those he loves – – are being victimized by a brilliant killer still in the grip of delusion. Determined to destroy Rinaldi by systemically targeting those close to him – – his patients, colleagues and friends – – computer genius Sebastian Maddox thrives to cause as much psychological pain as possible, before finally orchestrating a bold, macabre death for his quarry.  How ironic.  As Pittsburgh morphs from a blue-collar town to a tech giant, a psychopath deploys technology in a murderous way.  Enter two other figures from Rinaldi’s past:  retired FBI profiler Lyle Barnes, once a patient who Rinaldi treated for night terrors; and Special Agent Gloria Reese, with whom he falls into a surprising, erotically charged affair.  Warned by Maddox not to engage the authorities or else random innocents throughout the city will die, Rinaldi and these two unlikely allies engage in a terrifying cat-and-mouse game with an elusive killer who’ll stop at nothing in pursuit of what he imagines is revenge.

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The reader is put on notice of what awaits with a quote from no less a writer than Albert Camus:  “The desire for possession is insatiable, to such a point that it can survive even love itself.”

The Miles Davis reference, which is the first line in the book, is from a scene where Rinaldi is reading a 3-inch-thick dossier written about his late wife, hidden in the pages of which “was an overlooked or ignored piece of evidence proving that my wife’s death almost a dozen years ago hadn’t been what it seemed. That the gunfire that ended Barbara’s life was not the lethal result of a mugging gone wrong.  It was murder.”  Two bullets killed his wife, the third hitting him in the head.  The ensuing novel is all about finding the man who had killed his wife, who now wants him dead. He is now “working out my survival guilt.  A misguided attempt to make up for the fact that Barbara had died that fateful night and I hadn’t.”  It is an understatement to say that it is wonderfully well-written, suspenseful, and a complete page-turner.

The descriptions of Pittsburgh are terrific [to a lifelong New Yorker]:  “The Steel City continued to morph from a blue-collar, industrial town into a gentrified, white-collar hub of business and technology. . . Pittsburgh now boasted a new, modern skyline, no longer obscured by dark plumes of smoke from a hundred smokestacks.”  Rinaldi and his two comrades take on Maddox in an unpredictable chase that kept me glued to the page.

Another fascinating entry [the fifth] in a much-loved series, and one which is highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, June 2018.

Book Review: Murder in Keswick by William Todd

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Author: William Todd

Narrator: Ben Werling

Length: 2 hours 38 muntes

Publisher: William Todd

Released: Oct. 16, 2018

Genre: Mystery

While on a well-deserved holiday in the Lake District to get away from the toils and troubles of London, Holmes and Watson find no respite. As soon as they exit the train, they hear news of a grisly murder making its way around the murmuring commuters. A local aristocrat, Mr. Darcy, has been found missing his head!

And that very night, the wealthy widow finds a stranger in her home who, upon seeing her, abandons his plans and quickly leaves. She believes the intruder to be the murderer of her husband who is now after a large sum of cash she keeps in the house safe.

Unsure if the would-be thief is the murderer or an opportunistic burglar, Holmes devises a plan to catch the burglar, all the while investigating the murder of Mr. Darcy. Follow Holmes, Watson, and the local constable Mr. Wickham as they untangle the mystery surrounding a Murder in Keswick.

I have been writing online since the early 2000’s, primarily writing horror stories in the style of Poe and Lovecraft. I was the 2nd most popular author on the website storiesbyemail.com for two years before moving on. I had my first book, a Victorian era horror compilation called Bumps in the Night, published by Mystic Moon Press just a week before they closed their website and never saw my hard work pay off. Afterwards I took publishing into my own hands, became an Indie author and haven’t looked back. My first self-published book was Dead of Night, another compilation of Victorian horror stories, published September 2016 by Createspace and on Kindle by KDP. After its publication I left my comfort zone for mystery and wrote a short story about Sherlock Holmes in the Conan Doyle style. I loved it so much I then did a longer story A Reflection of Evil, both published in 2017 through Createspace and KDP. I have just release Beyond the Gossamer Veil, another compilation of both Victorian and modern supernatural/horror stories and am in the beginning stages of my third Sherlock Holmes installment.

Goodreads

Narrator Bio

Ben is an award winning actor and voice over professional, who has performed all across the United States. From Shakespeare to Neil Simon, he has displayed a versatility and diversity in the characters and dialects he has portrayed. Ben received the Joseph Jefferson Award for Leading Actor as abusive talk show host Barry Champlain in Eric Bogosian’s TALK RADIO, and was nominated for Best Supporting Actor as Prosecutor Villeforte in Alexander Dumas’ THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO, also in Chicago. He has worked with an extensive list of theaters in Chicago over the last three decades: Steppenwolf, Bailiwick, Famous Door, Next, A Red Orchid, Raven Theater, First Folio, Writer’s Theater, Buffalo Theater Ensemble, as well as Utah Shakespeare Festival, Illinois Shakespeare Festival, Indiana Repertory, Madison Repertory, and Allenberry Playhouse in Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania. He is an Ensemble member of Shattered Globe Theater in Chicago. For almost a decade he was the voice of the Adler Planetarium, hosting live shows and pointing out the stars, planets and constellations on the big dome. Ben has an eponymous weekly vlog on YouTube, that he films, produces, edits and narrates. He lives in Chicago with his wife Amy, two dogs and three cats.

Not everyone who wishes to add to the the Sherlock Homes pastiche can do so all that well but Mr. Todd pretty much nails it with Murder in Keswick. In fact, I think it might, in time, earn a place in the extracanonical body of work. Rather than the adventures of descendants of Holmes and Watson which have become so popular—and of which I’m very fond—this takes us back to the great detective himself and his companion.

The pair have set off for a vacation in the Lake District and Holmes is already bored without a worthy puzzle to solve so, when they step off the train in Keswick to hear talk about a headless body that’s been found, he can’t be happier. Who IS happier is the local constable, Mr. Wickham, who can’t believe he’ll be able to work with the famous detective.

Mr. Darcy, the victim, is naturally not happy without his head and the trio are soon hot on the trail of clues which, of course, only Holmes takes in but there are two women at the heart of the case, both very strongwilled and appealing. Could one of them be the killer? With a nifty twist near the end, all comes together…after Holmes shares his perspective, of course.

Ben Werling is a credible narrator who took me back to oldstyle Sherlock Holmes narrators, the best kind. He doesn’t differentiate voices all that well, especially females, but I actually don’t mind that. When I listen to a Sherlock Holmes story, I always hear Dr. Watson’s voice telling the story and I expect to hear him, not other characters. The only thing I didn’t care for in the production is the various background noises meant to enhance the settings; my hearing isn’t the greatest and I was distracted trying to figure out what I was hearing. I wouldn’t want them to be louder, just not there at all.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2018.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by William Todd. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

Q&A with Author William Todd
  • Tell us about the process of turning your book into an audiobook.
    • I never used to even think about how a book would sound as an audiobook…until I finally had one done. Now, I do. The story is most important, whether read or heard. I a bad story is a bad story. But I am more cognizant now when I write with how a phrase might sound read aloud. I think my audiobooks now are much easier on the ear then my first ones because of that. And my narrator, Ben Werling, I’ve used on every story. He’s great and has a wide vocal range. He makes turning a book into audio so much easier on me. I think we’re a good team. I basically give him my manuscript with some simple directions as to accents, maybe weird words that might pop up, since I write typically late Victorian era material, and he does the rest. He does a chapter at a time and sends them to me to okay. We rarely have to redo anything. I am truly lucky because the process, at least for me, is very simple with Ben at the helm.
  • Was a possible audiobook recording something you were conscious of while writing?
    • Because audiobooks are so prevalent and getting more and more popular by the day, I think you have to be conscious of it becoming an audiobook while writing, especially if you plan on using that format. And I think an author is selling himself short if he doesn’t at least consider putting his creations on audiobook. It is another channel to garner readers and followers…and revenue.
  • How did you select your narrator?
    • I put up three pages of my book for narrators to “audition”. I listen to each audition and pick the best one. But because Ben and I have such a good working relationship, ultimately, he gets my jobs. It is not only because he is such a good narrator. I write Sherlock Holmes and gothic horror. At least for the Holmes stories, I prefer having the same Holmes and Watson in each of my stories. Ben has been hands down the best Holmes and Watson I have found so why would I switch? I don’t think my readers would like that, and I know they would hear the difference.
  • Are you an audiobook listener? What about the audiobook format appeals to you?
    • I am. Until I land on the best-sellers list or get a movie deal, I have a job to pay bills and raise my family. I drive 45 minutes one way. Sometimes, that hour and a half is the only time I have to myself, and the perfect way to spend that time is listening to audiobooks. There are just times in this hustle and bustle life where cracking open a paperback is not possible. But your ears are always available to listen.
  • Is there a particular part of this story that you feel is more resonating in the audiobook performance than in the book format?
    • I might have to say all of it, but there’s a reason. Well, okay I’ll narrow it down to the final scenes of the book during a storm. But the reason I say all of it is because Ben employs subtle sound effects in the background much like the old radio stories. There is one part of the story where there is a storm, and the thunder and lightning in the background of the narrations lends itself perfectly to the feel of the scene.
  • If you had the power to time travel, would you use it? If yes, when and where would you go?
    • Oh absolutely. I would love to go back to say anytime between 1880 – 1915. The late Victorian era/ Gilded Age fascinates me. It was a time of extreme change, and those changes caused fear. I play off those fears in my horror stories, and Sherlock Holmes was the penultimate player in those times.
  • What gets you out of a writing slump? What about a reading slump?
    • For both it is the same–just do it. It is very easy for life to get in the way of writing. And it’s also very easy to fall out of the habit of writing. Mowing, cleaning, doing things with family, work, prepare for holidays, just plain being lazy (guilty as charged), etc. You have to make the time. This just happened to me where I wrote nothing for over two weeks, and I have deadline to have a Holmes story written by the end of the year for a publication next year. I had been under the weather and busy with life on top of that. There were times where I could have written but didn’t. The good habit of writing almost daily had been broken. But for me, all it took was forcing myself to sit at the lap top and writing a few sentences. Those few sentences ended at ten pages. Same with reading. Even if you have to force yourself, do it. If you love to read and love to write, just the mere act will set you right again. At least it does for me.
  • Have any of your characters ever appeared in your dreams?
    • That is where I usually get impetus for my stories, so yeah. Many characters I’ve come up with have appeared in my dreams. The trick is finding the story in which they will appear, especially when I might be working on more than one story at a time.
  • Do you have any tips for authors going through the process of turning their books into audiobooks?
    • Be picky in who you choose. The narrator is 50 percent of the audiobook, the other 50 percent being the story itself. I have heard many good stories butchered by bad narration.
  • What’s next for you?
    • I was approached by the editor of the MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes stories and asked if I would contribute a story to Volume XIII due out next summer, so I am honored to be one of the authors selected to add to that volume. It will be the first time that I am published with a traditional publisher but hopefully not my last.
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Dream Cast

Author William Todd’s Picks For Murder in Keswick
  • Holmes: Benedict Cumberbatch
  • Watson: Martin Freeman
  • Constable Wickham: Rupert Grint (AKA Ron Weasley of Harry Potter)
  • Mrs. Darcy: Catherine Bell (Hallmark’s The Good Witch)
  • Morwenna McGlinn: Emilia Clark (GOT)
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Giveaway

Prize: $20 PayPal Cash

Murder in Keswick Giveaway: $20 PayPal Cash

Dec. 4th:

Dab of Darkness Book Reviews

Dec. 5th:

Jorie Loves A Story

Dec. 6th:

Bound 4 Escape

T’s Stuff

Dec. 7th:

Lynn’s Romance Enthusiasm

What Is That Book About

Dec. 8th:

Lilly’s Book World

Dec. 9th:

Jazzy Book Reviews

Book Addict

Dec. 10th:

The Book Addict’s Reviews

Buried Under Books

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Book Review: The Second Goodbye by Patricia Smiley

The Second Goodbye
A Pacific Homicide Novel #3
Patricia Smiley
Midnight Ink, December 2018
ISBN 978-0-7387-5236-5
Trade Paperback

The Second Goodbye by Patricia Smiley is the third book in her contemporary police procedural series, featuring Detective Davie Richards in the Pacific Division of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Davie’s lieutenant is determined to clear the backlog of cold cases and has all his staff working them when current crimes do not occupy their time. He’s given Davie a case that was closed out as a suicide but the original case detective thought something was off about it and the lieutenant thought so too. He wants Davie to review and investigate to find sufficient grounds to re-open it. She also is looking for the drive-by shooter of a gang member, whose hard-working conscientious family is still distraught by their son’s death.

Sara Montaine’s death was ruled a suicide because no one was around her when she was shot in a gun dealer’s store. Davie can’t seem to get a fix on who the victim was. Her stepson thought she was a gold-digger, the animal rescue she supported and a neighbor thought she was wonderful. That she appeared to live comfortably without a job before she married also raised a lot of questions.

Not surprisingly, no one in the gang member’s circle is willing to talk to Davie about the drive-by shooting but she continues to ask questions of anyone who was even peripherally known to the victim, leading to a painful and anonymous assault in the yard of one of the apartment houses where she was interviewing potential leads.

I liked the unusual plot, which unfolds at a steady pace to reveal surprises throughout with a credible motive and solution at the end. Mostly the police procedure seems accurate. Davie took a chance or two too many in this book, operating on her own when she should have taken a partner and thereby putting herself in jeopardy a little more than she needed to. Still, overall solid entertainment and worth any mystery reader’s attention.

Reviewed by Aubrey Hamilton, October 2018.

Book Review: Waypoint by Deborah Adams and Kimberley Perkins

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Title: Waypoint
Series: Waypoint, Book One
Authors: Deborah Adams & Kimberley Perkins
Publisher: Rocket City Publishing
Publication Date: December 1, 2018
Genres: Science Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic

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

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Waypoint
Waypoint, Book One
Deborah Adams & Kimberley Perkins
Rocket City Publishing, December 2018
ISBN 978-1-7325071-0-4
Hardcover

From the publisher—

How far will they go to restore the power?

It’s been lights-out for three months and society is already falling into chaos.

Teenage tech-genius Simon Harper and his team of fellow gamers have been searching for the cause of the outage since it went down. Simon and his twin brother West are often at odds, but when the key to restoring power drops into their hands, they’ll risk everything and join forces to bring it back.

Mysterious deaths and disappearances are piling up, and unknown enemies are everywhere. As the brothers make their 500-mile journey to Waypoint they’ll have to decide who they can trust, and which secrets can be told.

At some time in the not too distant future, the powers that be decided that having one power grid would be a good idea. You know, consolidation of resources, leaner staffing needs, etc., and all that works just fine until the inevitable happens and the thing stops working. Oops, no Plan B.

Simon and West are twins by birth but that’s about the only thing they have in common. One is a hunky athletic type adored by all including himself while the other is your run of the mill gaming genius with no social skills and, somehow, they find themselves on a perhaps-hopeless quest to turn the power back on before humanity completely loses its you-know-what. Along the way, a couple of girls, Riya and Alex, join the boys and bring their own strong personalities to the splintered team.

A little romance, a lot of suspense and adventure to the max make Waypoint a fun read and it becomes especially page-turning when West and Simon get separated. I really enjoyed this and will wait with as much patience as possible for the next episode.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2018.

About the Authors

DEBORAH ADAMS and KIMBERLEY PERKINS are friends and coworkers. They share a love of coffee, literature, and teenagers saving the world. By day, they work for a defense contractor in Huntsville, Alabama as the HR Director and an Excel-wielding Analyst, respectively. By night, they build worlds with words and devour stories. For more information about Deborah Adams and Kimberley Perkins and their foray into writing, check them out on social media.

Website

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Follow the tour here.

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Book Review: The Devil’s Wind by Steve Goble—and a Giveaway!

The Devil’s Wind
A Spider John Mystery #2
Steve Goble
Seventh Street Books, September 2018
ISBN 978-1-63388-484-7
Trade Paperback

A second helping of pirate noir is served up by author Steve Goble. Former pirate Spider John signs on to an honest job on the ship “Redemption, ” but shortly after the ship puts out to sea, Captain Brentwood is murdered in his locked cabin. Spider John is joined on this ship by his ex-pirate friends, 15 year old Hob and one eyed Odin, who brags of sailing with Blackbeard, wrestling giant squid and screwing mermaids. The crew must avoid the Royal navy ships, who are pursuing Spider John and his friends for piracy and espionage, and evade the ruthless pirate Ned Low, on the prowl in these waters.

There are suspects aplenty in the other crew members and passengers: Sam Smoke, a pirate suspected of being a spy for Ned Low; Abigail, the captain’s beautiful daughter, who has caught the interest of Nicholas Wright, another sailor; Rufus Fox, an educated man and tinkerer; and Hadley, a former slave.

These are not the Disney-fied pirates of the theme park, but pirates who are scarred, filthy, and curse with a vengeance, ie “bubble headed lobcocks.” At one point Spider John muses, “He suddenly wished he owned all his fingers and all his teeth, and perhaps a razor and some soap.” No swashbuckling to be found in these pages, only a cast of interesting characters, lots of seaworthy action, and a right smart plot.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, October 2018.

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To enter the drawing for a print copy of
The Devil’s Wind by Steve Goble,
leave a comment below. The winning
name will be drawn on Thursday evening,
December 6th. This drawing is open
to residents of the US & Canada.

Book Review: Outrun the Wind by Elizabeth Tammi

Outrun the Wind
Elizabeth Tammi
Flux, November 2018
ISBN 978-1-63583-026-2
Trade Paperback

Never, ever forget to honor Artemis. This Greek goddess relishes revenge. With a fine-tuned, blood-curdling cruelty. One retaliation resulted in the creation of The Calydonian Boar. In an either epic display of ignorance, or a sick desire to taunt the deity, the very King that caused her anger, proceeds to order his son to select a hunting party to slay her beast.

Despite vehement opposition, Prince Meleager includes Atalanta. He knows she’s an asset as “…the fastest runner he’d ever heard of and the most precise archer he’d ever dreamed of,” but his comrades simply see a beautiful, but (by definition, useless) female.

Until the moment the boar is felled. And the men see Artemis, in her righteous rage and flanked by her huntresses, glaring at them over the corpse of her creation.

Then, the hunters happily give Atalanta full and complete credit for the kill. She has only one real option. Atalanta runs.

Fighting to make her own way (quite literally), Atalanta is followed by one of Artemis’ patronesses as her father frantically searches for her. Kahina, a natural huntress with hidden knowledge, makes it to Atalanta’s home first, and awaits her arrival.  It is when Atalanta and Kahina come together that the sparks really fly.

I’ve always been a fan of retold fairy-tales, so I was certainly psyched to check out mythology re-imagined. Ms. Tammi manages to stay true to themes; the lives of mere human beings are secondary to the quarrels among the gods and goddess, while keeping current with quick-witted, cutting dialogue. This is simply too good to keep to myself, so I’ll be sending my copy to my favorite classroom library. And I’ll be looking forward to more from Ms. Tammi.

Reviewed by jv poore, November 2018.