Book Review: Dead Loudmouth by Victoria Houston

dead-loudmouthDead Loudmouth
Loon Lake Mystery Series #16
Victoria Houston
Tyrus Books, June 2016
ISBN: 978-1-4405-6845-9
Hardcover
ISBN 978-1-4405-6844-2
Trade Paperback

From the publisher: It’s a bright summer morning in Loon Lake when Police Chief Lewellyn (“Lew”) Ferris is called to the scene of a horrific accident that occurred in the dead of night at a local “gentlemen’s club.” The club is owned by one of the victims, a member of the private Deer Creek Fishing and Hunting Club and the scion of a wealthy Wisconsin family.  When the country coroner is unavailable due to a car accident, Chief Ferris deputizes her close friend and fellow fly-fisherman, retired dentist “Doc” Osborne, to step in.  Osborne’s discovery of mysterious footprints confirms Chief Ferris’ suspicions.  This is no accident; it’s murder.  Leaning on Doc Osborne for his forensic and interrogation skills, Lew also hopes to enlist the help of Ray Pradt, fishing guide and expert tracker.  But Ray’s time is limited as he is coaching Wisconsin State College’s fishing team in a muskie fishing tournament.  Things get complicated when Doc Osborne’s granddaughter disappears on the first day of the tournament.  Sunny June days turn dark as a desperate search ensues.

Lew’s ability to investigate the murders is hampered by the fact that she has only two full-time officers on her staff; and the assistance of Doc, Lew’s deputy coroner, is enabled primarily because he was the mayor’s brother-in-law. She finds no shortage of suspects, at least with regard to the dead woman; the second victim not so much.  The Deer Creek Club is a fascinating entity:  A private preserve, with three private lakes stocked with some of the Northwoods’ largest walleye and bass, it is off-limits to locals, including employees, it is comprised of over a thousand acres where never a living tree has been cut down.

The setting is lovingly made palpable.  Fishing is the background music running through the tale, as a preoccupation of the characters and most of the local residents.  The characters are wonderfully vivid as well, especially Doc’s 11-year-old granddaughter, Mason.  The plot is well-developed, and the novel as a whole is a perfect beach read; for those whose summer days include fishing, even more so.
Recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, June 2016.

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Book Review: Scorched Eggs by Laura Childs

Scorched EggsScorched Eggs
A Cackleberry Club Mystery #6
Laura Childs
Berkley Prime Crime, December 2014
ISBN 978-0-425-25559-9
Hardcover

A trio of likable characters—Suzanne, Toni,, and Petra– own the Cackleberry Club, a café in the small town of Kindred. While Suzanne is sitting in her red plastic chair getting her hair dyed Blond Bombshell No. 4, the county social services building next door goes up in flames. She watches, horrified, while the lifeless body of longtime county employee Hannah Venable is carried out. Sheriff Doogie lets it slip that the fire chief believes that the fire was intentionally set.

Suzanne and her friends investigate the crime. They can’t believe someone would have wanted Hannah dead, but realize that the arsonist must be someone they know. While they are investigating, they are committed to help with the wedding of Kit Kaslik, former exotic dancer and sometime Cackleberry employee who is marrying her fiancé Ricky Wilcox, due to be sent to Afghanistan.

Suspects are plentiful, and include Marty Wolfson, an angry man whose wife was rescued from the fire, Jack Venable, the husband of the victim, and Darrel Fuhrman, recently let go from the fire department. But at the wedding service of Kit and Ricky, the town is shocked by the arrest of the groom before he’s had a chance to say “I do.”

Childs includes all the elements that epitomize a cozy mystery—the small town setting, a cast of interesting characters, and a plot that can sustain interest throughout the book. Suzanne, a widow in her forties who has just started to date again, uses her skills and knowledge to help find the killer.

This is sixth in the Cackleberry Club mysteries. The author also writes the Tea Shop mysteries and the Scrapbooking mysteries.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, January 2016.

Book Review: How to Dine on Killer Wine

How to Dine on Killer WineHow to Dine on Killer Wine
A Party Planning Mystery #5
Penny Warner
Obsidian, July 2012
ISBN 978-0-451-23786-6
Mass Market Paperback

If you are a wine connoisseur, of even if you like to tipple, you will enjoy the setting, plot line, and ambiance of this delightful and fun filled mystery, How to Dine on Killer Wine.

Presley Parker is a new Party-Event-Planner, struggling to get her business off the ground. When asked to coordinate, cater and present an unusual launch party for a new wine at a famous Napa, California winery and California Culinary College, she believes it will provide an open door to the rich and famous in the wine world. And indeed, she meets an ex-Governor and other celebrities who plan to engage her future services. But, when a dead body appears under one of the serving tables, she sets about to prove the innocence of winery owner, Rob Christopher, accused of murder.

Delightful sub-characters include her eccentric Bingo-addicted mother, her part-time actress assistant and her boyfriend, Brad, who cleans up the blood at crime scenes. His connection with the Vallejo police department comes in handy when clues are normally withheld from the public.

It seems that the murder victim, JoAnne Douglas, has made so many enemies in the Napa Valley, that Presley is hard pressed to single out one from another. She has reason to suspect multiple friends and family near and dear to Rob Christopher, including his attorney, his wife’s sister and the guy at the rival winery next door.

Throughout the book, each chapter begins with a delightful tip of how to throw your own wine tasting event. Tip 7 –Chapter Seven: Don’t smoke, eat hard candy or mints or wear perfume. Keep your palate and nostrils free from taste-altering substances. Chocolate, however, is perfectly acceptable.

As the suspects multiply and Presley closes in on her prime suspect, she faces a desperate killer and barely escapes with her life…a true cozy mystery template ending, but all in all, a delightful read. Reading How to Dine on Killer Wine is a fun way to spend an afternoon with a good book, a chocolate bar and if you are so inclined, a glass of wine.

Reviewed by Elaine Faber, September 2014.
Author of Black Cat’s Legacy.

Book Review: Gossamer Ghost by Laura Childs—and a Giveaway!

Gossamer GhostGossamer Ghost
A Scrapbooking Mystery
Laura Childs
Berkley Prime Crime, October 2014
ISBN 978-0-425-26666-3
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Carmela Bertrand knows that Halloween in New Orleans means a week of rabble-rousing, costumed craziness—and she can’t wait to get the party started. But when a local antiques dealer turns up dead, Carmela suddenly finds herself in a real-life danse macabre…

An evening’s work deciding on the class schedule for her scrapbooking shop has put Carmela in the mood to kick up her heels. But after some strange noises draw her into Oddities, the neighboring antiques shop, Carmela’s night is abruptly put on hold when a bloody body falls out of a curio cabinet—and into her arms.

While shop owner Marcus Joubert was known for being an eccentric with a penchant for eclectic merchandise, Carmela never thought he was the kind of man who could inspire the passion required to kill. But when Marcus’s assistant—and fiancée—Mavis reveals that a priceless death mask was also stolen, it becomes clear that murder wasn’t the culprit’s sole intention.

Carmela can’t resist the urge to investigate the growing mystery, but as the list of suspects increases, she realizes it’ll take every trick in the book to unmask the killer thief before there’s another night of murderous mischief….

Carmela is one of those protagonists who appeal to me even while they sometimes make me gnash my teeth. In an earlier book, she plucked my last nerve with her reckless snoopiness but I continued to follow her adventures and became a bit more accustomed to her ways somewhere along the line. So, yes, she’s snoopy when she thinks something might be wrong in Marcus’ shop but I just rode along with all her excuses and thought nothing of it. And, don’t you know it, her nosiness turns out to be justified. I also enjoyed the thought of the body falling into her arms and I LOVE this—

And still Carmela continued to scream.

When nobody showed up to help, when nothing seemed to be accomplished by her loud screeches of protest, she let out a garbled cough and closed her mouth with a snap.

That is Carmela—scenestealing, loud, annoying, and then she pulls herself together for the job at hand. And with that, she calls her boyfriend, Detective Edgar Babcock, who just happens to be on the scrumptious side as well as eternally patient with his girlfriend, and then immediately dials her friend and sleuthing partner, Ava Gruiex.

So, why would anyone want to kill Marcus? Granted, he was kind of weird but was that enough, along with the theft of a priceless artifact, to make someone want him dead? Carmela being Carmela, this clearly calls for a little sniffing around and, next thing you know, she and Ava are mixed up with Carmela’s least favorite countess, an antiques dealer with a fake British accent and a shady pawn shop operator, not to mention the Zombie Crawl and the Witches Run.

Fans of Ms. Childs—and they are legion—will love this return to Carmela’s exploits. Besides a cracking good mystery and a lot of engaging characters, one thing I’ve always loved about this series is the setting in New Orleans and Gossamer Ghost is no exception. Ms. Childs has a deft and colorful hand with her descriptions and she transported me right to Halloween with all its festivities and joie de vivre. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting this wonderful city just once, many years before Katrina, and Gossamer Ghost reminds me of that time. Ms. Childs makes me want to go back and I think a Halloween trip might be in my future travel plans. I just wish Oddities, my kind of shop, really existed 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2014.

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You have two chances to enter the drawing
for a hardcover copy of Gossamer Ghost by
Laura Childs. Leave a comment below and
then again tomorrow, October 9th, after an
interview with Laura. Two winning names will
be drawn on the evening of October 12th.
Open to residents of the US.

Book Review: Cornered by Alan Brenham

CorneredCornered
Alan Brenham
Black Opal Books, July 2014
ISBN 978-1-626941-38-0
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

He’s haunted by the memory of a kidnapping case gone wrong…

Not wanting history to repeat itself, Detective Matt Brady struggles to solve the disappearances of seven young women, but he quickly finds himself pitted against a criminal organization that knows as much about police procedure as he does-an organization that will do whatever it takes to stay one step ahead of him. His troubles are compounded when a young veterinarian injects herself into the investigation and is targeted to become victim number eight. When he tries to protect her, he finds himself in the crosshairs of a professional cop killer. Can Brady solve the case in time to save his new love, or will this investigation be the death of both of them?

Kidnappings are often difficult to solve but when there is one after another with no real apparent connection other than the physical type of women involved, investigative leads are few and far between. Such is the case Brady finds himself up against and he has no idea going in of the damage that will be done or the manipulative brilliance he’ll have to somehow overcome.

Betrayal is at the core of Cornered, the kind of betrayal that evil-minded, greedy people are more than willing to carry out against others. Another kind of betrayal hits Brady close to home and could lead to the end of his career. Which betrayal is worse? Certainly, these young women suffer the most but the second type is more personal and can also have longlasting effects. Brady needs to be strong enough to not let his circumstances get in the way of bringing these horrific crimes to an end but he also has to acknowledge the part he has played in all this. An uncomfortable position to be in, indeed.

A few things pulled me out of the story  temporarily. For one thing, there really isn’t a whole lot of money being made by these criminals, nowhere near as much as I would expect considering what they’re doing. Also, a conversation between Brady and Detective Ruiz regarding Brady’s personal life didn’t ring true, mainly because her comments are ill-considered and unnecessarily mean with no provocation. Still, I enjoyed Cornered on the whole and will be interested in trying more of Mr. Blenham’s work starting with his first book, Price of Justice. (Note: these two books are both standalones at the present time but I understand Price of Justice is the first of a series and, in my opinion, Cornered has left Brady in position to return in future volumes.)

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2014.

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“Alan Brenham’s Cornered is a taunt thriller filled with murderous twists
and turns that will satisfy readers who love good crime fiction. As a cop
and a lawyer, Brenham has been there and done that and in this, his second
outing, the authenticity of his storytelling ability continues to shine through.”
– Michael McGarrity, New York Times Bestselling Author of Hard Country & Backlands

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About the Author

 

Alan BrenhamAlan Behr served as a law enforcement officer and criminal investigator for seventeen years before earning a law degree from Baylor University. After obtaining his law license, he worked as a prosecutor and criminal defense attorney for twenty-two years. His personal and official travels took him to several European and Middle Eastern countries, Alaska and almost every island in the Caribbean. He has lived in Berlin, Germany while working with US military forces. After retiring from government service, he has authored two crime novels – Price of Justice and Cornered – under the pen name of Alan Brenham. He is presently working on two more novels. Alan and his wife, Lillian, currently live in the Austin, Texas area.

 

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Teeny 5 Book Reviews

To Hell in a HandbasketTo Hell in a Handbasket
Beth Groundwater
Five Star, 2009
ISBN 1594147590
Hardcover

To Hell in a Handbasket by Beth Groundwater was good, but if you’re looking for a crafty mystery, this isn’t the one to pick. Now if you’re a skier or a mom with a daughter that’s leaving the nest, then this book might be for you. Claire Hanover is a gift basket designer and the mother of two grown children. In this book, Claire is on a ski vacation with her husband and daughter. Her daughter’s boyfriend and family are also vacationing at Breckinridge. When the boyfriend’s sister dies while skiing, Claire feels the need to learn more in order to protect her daughter.

Overall, the book was good. I thought it was slow at times and that the daughter could be annoying, but it kept me reading until the end.
Reviewed by Bonnie Platner, October 2010.

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The Viognier VendettaThe Viognier Vendetta
Ellen Crosby
Scribner Book Company, 2010
ISBN 1439163863
Hardcover (ARC)

Virginia vineyard owner,Lucie Montgomery,has lunch with an old college friend who later disappears. When Rebecca’s clothes are found the next morning in a boat on the Potomac,Lucie tries to find out what happened to her. The answer eventually involves many of Lucie’s friends and threatens her own happiness.

I liked the book because much of it took place away from the winery which was different from the other books I’ve read in the series. Also, Lucie’s accident and her damaged leg weren’t mentioned as much.

Reviewed by Anne Reaves, September 2010.

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I Survived the Sinking of the Titanic, 1912I Survived the Sinking of the Titanic,1912
Lauren Tarshis
Scholastic Press, 2010
ISBN 0545206871
Hardcover (ARC)
Also available in trade paperback

This historical fiction novel for 7-10 year olds is told by 10 year old passenger,George Calder. It is very accurate and has facts about the Titanic at the end. It is a very good introduction to the Titanic tragedy.

Reviewed by Anne Reaves, October 2010.

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Worst CaseWorst Case
James Patterson & Michael Ledwidge
Little, Brown and Company, 2010
ISBN 0316036226
Hardcover (ARC)

I enjoyed Worst Case by James Patterson & Michael Ledwidge.  It was an entertaining, thought provoking read that had suspense, humor,  romance, and a few good plot twists.  In it Michael Bennett, New York police detective, is back and working with Emily Parker who’s an Abduction Specialist with the FBI.  In this case, the killer is abducting teens from the wealthiest families and testing their knowledge concerning things like world poverty and the environment.  An incorrect answer is deadly.

Even though the book was darker than what I usually read, and there were a few things that struck me as improbable, I would still give it a thumbs up.

Reviewed by Bonnie Platner, October 2010.

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Touch BlueTouch Blue
Cynthia Lord
Scholastic Press, 2010
ISBN 0545035317
Hardcover (ARC)

Tess and her family live on an island off of the coast of Maine. When the state plans to close their school because of the low number of students, the islanders decide to take in foster children in order to increase their numbers. Tess’s family takes in Aaron. The adjustment is hard for everyone.

I enjoyed the book. It was very well written and showed how change is sometimes inevitable.

Reviewed by Anne Reaves, October 2010.