Book Review: The Breakdown by B. A. Paris

The Breakdown
B. A. Paris
St. Martin’s Press, July 2017
ISBN 978-1-250-12246-9
Hardcover

From the publisher—

If you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust?

Cass is having a hard time since the night she saw the car in the woods, on the winding rural road, in the middle of a downpour, with the woman sitting inside―the woman who was killed. She’s been trying to put the crime out of her mind; what could she have done, really? It’s a dangerous road to be on in the middle of a storm. Her husband would be furious if he knew she’d broken her promise not to take that shortcut home. And she probably would only have been hurt herself if she’d stopped.

But since then, she’s been forgetting every little thing: where she left the car, if she took her pills, the alarm code, why she ordered a pram when she doesn’t have a baby.

The only thing she can’t forget is that woman, the woman she might have saved, and the terrible nagging guilt.

Or the silent calls she’s receiving, or the feeling that someone’s watching her…

It used to be that when a book was labeled as a thriller, I knew exactly what I was about to read, a pulse-pounding story full of action and with danger chomping at the heels of the good guys at every turn but without a lot of introspection. Short chapters and a frenetic pace would keep me flipping the pages as fast as I could. Nowadays, though, the term has become so loosey-goosey that it means almost nothing and I have to wonder what I’m going to get.

The Breakdown is not a thriller but it can fairly be called suspense. Yes, there is a sense of danger but we also spend a lot of time in the protagonist’s head (amplified by the first person present tense narration) trying to figure out what’s going on, stressing out over every little thing, suffering guilt over whether she might have been able to prevent the murder and obsessing over the possibility she has started early onset dementia. That last is frightening all by itself and made me feel very uneasy for Cass but it was hard to relate it to the core mystery of the story until certain things started to become pretty obvious.

I have mixed feelings about this book because, while I found it too predictable and I really don’t like first person present tense in crime fiction, I still enjoyed it enough to keep reading. I was relatively sure early in the story what was happening but I wanted to see how Ms. Paris would get me there because she has such a command of words, a nice turn of phrase, if you will, that the simple act of reading her work is a pleasure.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2017.

Book Review: Betrayal at IGA by Susan Spann—and a Giveaway!

Betrayal at IGA
A Hiri Hattori Novel #5
A Shinobi Mystery
Susan Spann
Seventh Street Books, July 2017
ISBN 978-1-6338-8277-5
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Autumn, 1565: After fleeing Kyoto, master ninja Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo take refuge with Hiro’s ninja clan in the mountains of Iga province. But when an ambassador from the rival Koga clan is murdered during peace negotiations, Hiro and Father Mateo must find the killer in time to prevent a war between the ninja clans.

With every suspect a trained assassin, and the evidence incriminating not only Hiro’s commander, the infamous ninja Hattori Hanzō, but also Hiro’s mother and his former lover, the detectives must struggle to find the truth in a village where deceit is a cultivated art. As tensions rise, the killer strikes again, and Hiro finds himself forced to choose between his family and his honor.

One of the most delightful private eye duos is back! I know it’s only been a year since their last appearance but it seemed like eons because I love them so much.

Hiro and Father Mateo are a most unusual pair, this Japanese shinobi and Portuguese priest that are linked together by contract. Hiro was assigned the task of protecting the Jesuit from all the dangers that can befall a foreigner in the midst of feudal Japan and he has done so with honor and careful attention to the things that could get Father Mateo in trouble. A very large pitfall is the culture and societal demands of this world of shoguns and samurais and Hiro is particularly concerned that the priest understand how to behave as they approach Iga, Hiro’s home. It’s Father Mateo’s first visit and Hiro himself hasn’t been home in some time.

Adding to the potential problem is the enormous tension that’s palpable in the feasting room when they arrive slightly late. A group of delegates from the Koga clan has come, supposedly to seek common ground with the Hattori clan to prevent war but at least one in the visiting group is overtly hostile and suspicious. Fuyu’s attitude of extreme distrust seems warranted when another member of his clan falls over, clearly dying from poison moments after beginning the feast.

In what is essentially a locked room mystery, in this case a locked compound, Fuyu immediately accuses the Hattori clan of murder and hostilities escalate until this room full of trained assassins are all prepared to kill each other. Hattori Hanzo, host and commander, suggests that Hiro and Father Mateo be appointed to solve the crime and bring the killer to justice but they have only three days to do so. The prime suspect? Midori, the woman who prepared the feast, Hiro’s mother.

This entry in the series is my favorite so far for a lot of reasons. Emotions run high, the tension is at breaking point and the pressure on Father Mateo and Hiro has never been so intense but we also get a good look at Hiro’s background and family, the forces that made him who he is. Family and an old love are at the core of the story and the closed community of medieval Japan is immensely interesting but, as always with this pair, the investigation is enlightening in many ways, especially considering the lack of modern-day crime solving forensics. The intriguing 16th-century setting and Ms. Spann’s knowledge of the era and place are the icing on the cake for this addition to my list of best books read in 2017.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2017.

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Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Books-A-Million
Amazon // Indiebound // Seventh Street Books

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About the Author

Susan Spann is a transactional publishing attorney and the author of the Shinobi Mysteries, featuring ninja detective Hiro Hattori and his Portuguese Jesuit sidekick, Father Mateo. Her debut novel, CLAWS OF THE CAT (Minotaur Books, 2013), was named a Library Journal Mystery Debut of the Month. Susan has a degree in Asian Studies from Tufts University, where she studied Chinese and Japanese language, history, and culture. Her hobbies include cooking, traditional archery, martial arts, and horseback riding. She lives in northern California with her husband, son, two cats, and an aquarium full of seahorses.

Connect with Susan

Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Follow the tour:

Monday, July 10th: Suzy Approved – author guest post
Tuesday, July 11th: In Bed With Books
Thursday, July 13th: Clues & Reviews
Monday, July 17th: Reading Reality
Tuesday, July 18th: Broken Teepee
Wednesday, July 19th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Thursday, July 20thBuried Under Books
Monday, July 24thWrite Read Life
Tuesday, July 25thAll Roads Lead to the Kitchen
Wednesday, July 26thMama Vicky Says
Thursday, July 27thPatricia’s Wisdom
Friday, July 28thHoser’s Blook
Monday, July 31stBewitched Bookworms
Tuesday, August 1stA Dream Within a Dream
Wednesday, August 2ndJathan & Heather
Thursday, August 3rdOpen Book Society
Friday, August 4thBook Dilettante

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To enter the drawing for a
print copy of Betrayal at Iga
by Susan Spann, just leave

a comment below. The winning
name will be drawn on Monday
night, July 24th. This drawing is open
to residents of the US and Canada.

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Book Review: Bad Blood by Brian McGilloway

Bad Blood
DS Lucy Black #4
Brian McGilloway
Witness Impulse, June 2017
ISBN 978-0-06-268455-4
Ebook
Available in paperback late July 2017

From the publisher—

A young man is found in a riverside park, his head bashed in with a rock. One clue is left behind to uncover his identity—an admission stamp for the local gay club.

DS Lucy Black is called in to investigate. As Lucy delves into the community, tensions begin to rise as the man’s death draws the attention of the local Gay Rights group to a hate-speech Pastor who, days earlier, had advocated the stoning of gay people and who refuses to retract his statement.

Things become further complicated with the emergence of a far-right group targeting immigrants in a local working-class estate. As their attacks escalate, Lucy and her boss, Tom Fleming, must also deal with the building power struggle between an old paramilitary commander and his deputy that threatens to further enflame an already volatile situation.

As the entire world knows, the US is going through some real upheavals these days with very little “DMZ”—we’re becoming more polarized with each new jawdropping revelation or open-mouth-insert-foot blunder. What’s most disturbing to many of us is the seeming rollback in behavior towards others, particularly minorities, the LGBTQ community, the disadvantaged. I actually believe that’s not a change but, rather, evidence that those who are so hostile to others have always been so and have been hiding it until now when they feel emboldened by some of our leaders.

It’s kind of a relief to see such behavior front and center in Bad Blood although I’m well aware that these issues are not new anywhere but are symbolic of societal unrest that has been simmering for many years in much of the world. It’s a relief because, for just a few hours, it’s possible to tell oneself, “See, it’s not just us, thank heavens”. No, that’s not the most enlightened outlook but there it is, another reason to like this very good police procedural beyond all the bookish reasons.

Northern Ireland is an intriguing setting in many ways, not least of which are the Troubles and lingering ills that have so much effect on the people. Detective Sergeant Lucy Black and her colleagues have much to deal with beyond the simple facts of crime with vicious attitudes of hatred and racism making those crimes so much more intense. In this pre-Brexit atmosphere, you can feel the roiling emotions on both sides of the issue and the way murders and assaults are affected along with the added pressure to Lucy and others in law enforcement.

Besides being a bright woman dedicated to good, honest police work, Lucy is kindhearted, an attribute that stands her in good stead in her position with a unit that specializes in crimes against those who are disadvantaged. Working with her boss, Detective Inspector Tom Fleming, Lucy’s latest case is the murder of a teen, coming just after vandals graffitied the home of a Roma family. Before it’s all over, corruption in the police rears its very ugly head and some very disparate cases begin to intertwine.

This fourth in the series was my introduction to DS Lucy Black and I’m very glad to have made her acquaintance. Mr. McGilloway includes some in-depth looks at Lucy’s personal life as well as her work and I feel as though I know her quite well already but I’ll enjoy spending more time with her in her three earlier books.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2017.

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Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Amazon

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An Excerpt from Bad Blood

The hall was already packed by the time Detective Inspector Tom Fleming arrived. The air was sweet with perfume and talc and, beneath that, from the farmers still wearing their work clothes, the scent of sweat and the smell of the earth.

The congregation were on their feet, being led in the opening hymn by Pastor James Nixon. Fleming smiled apologetically at those he squeezed past to get to a free seat in the third row from the back. The hymn finished, the assembly took their seats just as Fleming reached his, and settled to listen to the words of Pastor Nixon.

‘My brothers and sisters, it is a great honour to be here with you this evening and to see so many of you have taken the time to come and pray with me.’ His voice was strong despite his age, a rich baritone still carrying the inflections of his native Ballymena accent.

‘But it is a time of great challenge for us all. Daily, all good people face an assault on their morality with the rampant homosexual agenda that assails us and belittles everything we hold to be true and dear. Men of conscience are tried for refusing to make a cake celebrating homosexuality or print leaflets and posters furthering that agenda. And on the other side of the border, the Irish Republic has voted to allow homosexuals to marry, as if two women playing house is no different to the consummated union of a man and a woman. As if it is not a perversion which shames us all.

A few voices appended his comment with ‘Amen’.

Nixon raised his hands, acknowledging their support. ‘There are those who would silence me, silence us. They tell us we must accept homosexuals in our town, our shops, allow homosexual bars and public houses to operate on our streets. We must allow sodomites to teach our children and to corrupt our young. We must stay silent while a new Gomorrah is built next to our homes and farms, our shops and schools. They say I am dangerous. They say I preach hatred. They say I should be silent. But I say this: I say that there is no danger in truth. I say that there is no hatred in goodness. And I say that I will not be silent.’

Another chorus of ‘Amens’ greeted his proclamation, accompanied by a smattering of applause which began at the front and rippled its way through the hall.

‘I will not stand idly by as our families are exposed to sin and depravity. I will not countenance the laws of the land being used to protect profane persons, allowing them to indulge their lustful practices, forcing those of us with consciences to humour this lifestyle. It is an abomination. The people who practise it are abominations and, like those before them, they will end in fire and brimstone.’

Fleming glanced around at the others in the congregation. While one or two shifted uncomfortably in their seats, for the most part the listeners sat intently waiting for Nixon to continue.

‘Friends, only last week, I read of an African nation – a heathen nation, a Godless nation – who arrested two men for homosexual acts. One of these men was sixteen. Sixteen! And do you know what they did to the pair of them? They stoned them. They took them out of the town and they threw rocks at them until the pair of them were dead. And do you know what I thought? Shall I tell you?’

An elderly lady in the front row called out ‘Yes’, to the amusement of those around her. Nixon smiled mildly at her, as if indulging her.

‘Stoning was too good for those men. Every rock that struck them was a just reward for their sinfulness, their immorality, their ungodly behaviour. Every drop of their blood that stained the ground was a reminder that they deserved to die. It was the wages of their sin!’

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Excerpt from Bad Blood by Brian McGilloway. Copyright © 2017 by Brian McGilloway. Reproduced with permission from Witness Impulse. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

Brian McGilloway was born in Derry, Northern Ireland. After studying English at Queen’s University, Belfast, he took up a teaching position in St Columb’s College in Derry, where he was Head of English. He is the author of the New York Times bestselling Lucy Black series, all to be published by Witness. Brian lives near the Irish borderlands with his wife and their four children.

Catch up with the author:

Website // Twitter // Facebook // Goodreads

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Follow the tour:

 6/26 Interview/Showcase @ CMash Reads
6/28 Review @ Book Reviews From an Avid Reader
6/29 Guest post @ Writers and Authors
6/29 Showcase @ The Bookworm Lodge
6/29 Showcase @ Thoughts in Progress
7/01 Guest post @ Mythical Books
7/03 Interview @ A Blue Million Books
7/06 Review at Tales of a Book Addict
7/07 Review @ Bless their hearts mom
7/07 Showcase @ Bound 2 Escape
7/10 Showcase @ Bookalicious Traveladdict
7/11 Interview @ Cozy Up With Kathy
7/12 Review @ Blogging with A
7/13 Showcase @ The Reading Frenzy
7/14 Review @ The Book Divas Reads
7/15 Review @ Cheryls Book Nook
7/17 Review @ Buried Under Books
7/18 Showcase @ Curling Up by the Fire
7/24 Review @ Rabid Readers Book Blog
7/25 Showcase @ The Pulp and Mystery Shelf
7/26 Showcase @ Celticladys Reviews
7/27 Guest post @ Loris Reading Corner
7/28 Review @ A Bookaholic Swede
7/31 Guest Post at Romance Under Fire

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Book Review: Deceptive Cadence by Kathryn Guare

Continue reading

Book Review: Blood Red, White and Blue by Kathleen Delaney

Blood Red, White and Blue
Mary McGill Canine Mystery #3
Kathleen Delaney
Severn House, July 2017
ISBN 978-0-7278-8689-7
Hardcover

From the publisher—

It’s the 4th July and the town celebrations have gone off without a hitch. Except for the body in the oak grove, shot in the back. The unfortunate victim was a visitor to the town. Mary McGill and her cocker spaniel Millie had seen him only that morning, staring in the window of Lowell’s Jewellery store, his German Shepherd, Ranger, at his side. Could the diamond and sapphire necklace which caught his attention have some connection with his untimely death? What brought him to Santa Louisa in the first place?

Having agreed to look after Ranger temporarily, Mary is unwillingly drawn into the murder investigation. She never dreamed that her enquiries would lead her into serious danger … and more murder.

Santa Louisa’s 4th of July celebrations are underway when Mary and Millie have a casual meeting with Ian Miller and his German Shepherd, Ranger, in front of the jewelry store. Everything is pleasant among humans and dogs and, certainly, Mary has no inkling that the next time she sees him, Mr. Miller will be dead. The only good thing about it is that the glorious fireworks show went off without a hitch but, of course, it’s probably those very fireworks that covered up the shot.

Mary and her “crew” are soon doing what they do so well, sniffing out clues and even being a fair amount of help to Mary’s nephew-in-law, Police Chief Dan Dunham. Dan is a police chief with sense, recognizing that there are some things civilians can do better than the police can while he’s also cognizant of the dangers inherent in murder investigations. Mary is the one who’s most likely to figure things out with the information that comes her way but she couldn’t do it without the help of her family and close friends.

Mary is such a delight, thoughtful and intelligent without being ridiculously nosy, and she never lets the routines of life get pushed aside by snooping. Instead, she does much of her thinking about a crime while having her morning coffee or taking Millie for a walk. This time, there are repercussions beyond the community because it turns out that Ian was with the California Bureau of Investigations and was in Santa Louisa following up on leads about a series of jewelry store robberies. His death naturally brings state investigators to town, some helpful, some not but, once Mary suddenly sees the truth, it’s Ranger who becomes so very important.

Spending a few hours with Mary McGill and her friends and family is always so nice and I have fun with these people while I appreciate the camaraderie and the feelings they all have for each other, canines as well as humans. Kathleen Delaney‘s series is one of my favorites and I really, really wish that I could have their next adventure right now 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2017.

Book Review: A Talent for Murder by Andrew Wilson

A Talent for Murder
Andrew Wilson
Atria, July 2017
ISBN 978-1-5011-4506-3
Hardcover

From the publisher—

“I wouldn’t scream if I were you. Unless you want the whole world to learn about your husband and his mistress.”

Agatha Christie, in London to visit her literary agent, is boarding a train, preoccupied with the devastating knowledge that her husband is having an affair. She feels a light touch on her back, causing her to lose her balance, then a sense of someone pulling her to safety from the rush of the incoming train. So begins a terrifying sequence of events—for her rescuer is no guardian angel, rather he is a blackmailer of the most insidious, manipulative kind.

“You, Mrs. Christie, are going to commit a murder. But, before then, you are going to disappear.”

Writing about murder is a far cry from committing a crime, and Agatha must use every ounce of her cleverness and resourcefulness to thwart an adversary determined to exploit her expertise and knowledge about the act of murder to kill on his behalf.

Real people have been featured as characters in works of fiction before now, pretty frequently, in fact. Having Agatha Christie be the central figure in a murder is taking things a step further considering who she was and her undoubted mind for crime and her well-known yet unexplained disappearance is the perfect backdrop to such a scenario. As a longtime Christie enthusiast, I couldn’t help wanting to see what Andrew Wilson would do with this idea and I was rewarded, with some reservations.

Solving the puzzle of where Dame Agatha was during those few days is one of the holy grails of the mystery world and, hey, this could have happened, right? If anybody was ever born to successfully commit murder, she’s the one, but I think I know too much about her persona and her life to fall completely for the plot. Still, I think Mr. Wilson showed restraint in not letting the premise go too far and become laughable, proving his true regard of this remarkable woman.

The style of this mystery is just right for the times and the then-existent quirks of society with a despicable villain, a wandering husband, a shameful mistress and a heroine who’s not exactly helpless. Think about it—who better to contemplate doing murder and then work to figure a way out than the Queen of Mystery?

Hesitations put aside for the nonce, I let myself go with the flow and found this to be a highly entertaining “what if”. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate this wonderful author, can you?

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2017.

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Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Books-A-Million
Google Play // Amazon // Indiebound

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“In a stranger-than-fiction spin, crime novelist Agatha Christie
went missing for 11 days in 1926. Author Andrew Wilson uses
that real-life mystery as a starting point for a whodunit
as gripping as Christie’s own beloved writing.”
Coastal Living, 50 Best Books for the Beach This Summer

“It’s a real-life mystery that has never been explained: In 1926,
mystery writer Agatha Christie left her house, abandoned her
car and disappeared for 11 days. Christie, in her mid-30s at the
time, claimed that she had amnesia and couldn’t remember what
had happened or why. Now, nearly 100 years later, Andrew Wilson
has written a novel that imagines what might have happened to
her in that missing chunk of time – a story based partly
on research and partly on his imaginings.”
Houston Chronicle, Summer Reading List: 15 Anticipated
Books for the Long, Hot Days Ahead

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About the Author

Andrew Wilson is the highly-acclaimed author of biographies of Patricia Highsmith, Sylvia Plath, Alexander McQueen, as well as Shadow of the Titanic: The Extraordinary Stories of Those Who Survived. His first novel, The Lying Tongue, was published by Atria in 2007. His journalism has appeared in The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The Observer, The Sunday Times, The Daily Mail, and The Washington Post.

 

Website // Twitter

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Agatha Christie never spoke of her ten-day disappearance in the
winter of 1926, and it has remained one of the most intriguing
mysteries of modern times. She eventually turned up in a seaside
hotel, registered under the name of her husband’s mistress. 

The official statement released by the family was that Christie
suffered a sudden episode of amnesia as the result of a car crash.
She rarely talked about the experience, and omitted its
mention entirely from her autobiography.

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“Wilson (The Lying Tongue) effectively imagines a different
scenario in this twisty thriller… Wilson fully realizes
the potential of this ominous setup.”
Publishers Weekly 

“A most ingenious homage, solidly researched…
Christie would have applauded its intricacy.”
—Andrew Taylor, author of The Ashes of London

Book Review: Another Man’s Ground by Claire Booth—and a Giveaway!

Another Man’s Ground
Sheriff Hank Worth Mysteries #2
Claire Booth
Minotaur Books, July 2017
ISBN 978-1-250-08441-5
Hardcover

From the publisher—

It starts out as an interesting little theft case. Branson, Missouri’s new Sheriff Hank Worth is called out to look at stands of trees that have been stripped of their bark, which the property owner had planned to harvest for the booming herbal supplement market. At first, Hank easily balances the demands of the investigation with his fledging political career. He was appointed several months earlier to the vacant sheriff position, but he needs to win the fast-approaching election in order to keep his job. He thinks the campaign will go well, as long as he’s able to keep secret the fact that a group of undocumented immigrants – hired to cut down the stripped trees – have fled into the forest and he’s deliberately not looking for them.

But then the discovery of a murder victim deep in the Ozark backwoods sets him in the middle of a generations-old feud that explodes into danger not only for him, but also for the immigrants, his deputies, and his family. He must rush to find a murderer before election day, and protect the vulnerable in Branson County, where politicking is hell and trespassing can get you killed.

When I discover a new—or, new to me—author and they knock my socks off, I’m always a little trepidatious that the next book will let me down, be a bit disappointing. That sad occurrence has happened more often than I like to think but, happily, I had no need to worry this time. The Branson Beauty was a wonderful book and it made my 2016 Favorite Books list; Another Man’s Ground is every bit as entertaining and Sheriff Hank Worth is still one of my best-loved smallish-town cops.

Hank is a man who loves what he does, protecting and defending others besides using his considerable intellect to solve crimes. He left the Kansas City police department in hopes of finding a more congenial place for his family and, indeed, he did but detective work is in his blood and he enjoys being Sheriff. Not so enjoyable is the campaigning he has to do for the upcoming election and looking into what he thinks is a fairly simple theft is a welcome distraction but, of course, it’s anything but simple.

Claire Booth brings the Ozarks to life and, in what I can only call a touch of love, she lets us come to know the people of this rural area as far more perceptive and quick-witted than stereotypes from the past persisting today would lead us to believe. The good folk of Branson and its environs are likeable and intelligent and its criminals have their own brand of cleverness. On the other hand, the notion of a decades-long feud is straight out of the hills and adds an element of curiosity and intrigue to what should have been, as I said, a simple theft.

With a little help from a deputy named Sheila Turley and not so much from the DEA and some US Marshals, Hank brings sanity back to Branson but it’s Guapo, a kind of ridiculous dog, who steals hearts on the campaign trail and all the townfolks together make me add this to my favorite books read in 2017. And now I’m really curious about what’s in store next time for Guapo and friends 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2017.

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Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble // Kobo // iTunes
Amazon // Indiebound // Books-A-Million

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About the Author

Claire Booth spent more than a decade as a daily newspaper reporter, much of it covering crimes so convoluted and strange they seemed more like fiction than reality. Eventually, she had enough of the real world and decided to write novels instead. Her Sheriff Hank Worth mystery series takes place in Branson, Missouri, where small-town Ozark politics and big-city country music tourism clash in, yes, strange and convoluted ways.

For more about Claire, her books, and some of the true crimes she’s covered, please visit www.clairebooth.com, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

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Follow the tour here.

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“The second in Booth’s regional crime series … is both an
excellent police procedural and a surprisingly humorous
look at politics and family feuds.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Booth’s affectionate treatment of the decent and shrewd
people of Branson and Worth makes this a series
worth following.” – Publishers Weekly

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To enter the drawing for a print copy
of Another Man’s Ground, leave a
comment below. The winning name will
be drawn Saturday evening, July 15th,
and the book will be sent after the tour ends.

Open to residents of the US and Canada.

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