Book Reviews: Cold Cases Solved by Robert Keller and Cemetery Girl by Joseph Cognard @rkeller_author @JosephCognard

Cold Cases Solved: Volume 1
Robert Keller
Robert Keller, February 2021
ISBN 979-8705110858
Trade Paperback

Cold Cases Solved: Volume 1 by Robert Keller is a succinct, true-crime collection of eighteen murder cases. By “succinct” I mean to say that when the book arrived, I was a bit bummed by the size. I thought that “Volume 1” must be only the first case.

Happily, I was wrong.

Mr. Keller really can (and does) aptly convey the circumstances of each situation in fewer than two hundred pages. His writing reminds of Ann Rule’s, in that we know what went down and are affected by the actions, but are spared gratuitous, graphic details. Also, there is little, if any, cursing which can broaden my scope of students that I can share with.

Speaking of sharing this with my students, these chapters are perfect for the self-professed “non-reader”. As previously mentioned, they are short. And contain small sections that seem to eliminate the intimidation of big books with tiny font.

Although I read, listen to and watch enough true-crime to be alarming, I was only familiar with a couple of these felonies.

Many cases seem to go cold due to determined presumptions. This is the first time I’ve heard of someone confessing because of found evidence assumed to seal his fate, only to later realize it had no relation to him or his crime.

I had never heard that taking someone’s life, while committing another crime against said person, equates to murder.

One criminal was able to commit his heinous act because only two days prior, he was acquitted of rape. Found “not guilty by reason of insanity”.

As an aside, I also learned about The Melbourne Cup, an Australian much-more-than-a-horse-race festivity dating back to 1861.

I will certainly be searching for further volumes of Mr. Keller’s Cold Cases Solved, for my own entertainment and edification and to share with “my” students.

Reviewed by jv poore, April 2021.

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Cemetery Girl
Joseph Cognard
Joseph Cognard, April 2012
ISBN 978-0615624006
Trade Paperback

A single cemetery evokes a variety of emotions.

Vanessa feels that a graveyard does not serve as the grooviest hang-out spot, even if it is private. Bobby sees the tombstones as mini history lessons, where Keith certainly seems to be searching for some kind of connection. But to Janie, the Cemetery Girl, comes comfort…even if the tombs tend to tickle a sort-of sixth sense.

None of the friends are wrong. Inside of the fence, there are stories to be shared. Sadly, the souls with so much to say cannot communicate with the family and friends that need to hear these messages. Maybe they haven’t found the right medium.

While I’ve devoured and delighted in tons of tales centered around tombstones, The Cemetery Girl by Joseph Cognard presents a premier plot. And one I’m particularly pleased with. Sneaky subtleties slowly show that the puzzle the kids are trying to solve is actually only one part of a much larger portrait.

I really enjoyed the character interactions and the layers that wove the story together, and wrapped it up, leaving just enough left-over to have me hoping for more.

Reviewed by jv poore, April 2019.

Book Review: Alabama Noir edited by Don Noble @AkashicBooks

Alabama Noir
Edited by Don Noble
Akashic Books, April 2020
ISBN 978-1617758089
Trade Paperback

Yet another in the successful and popular series from this publisher, Alabama Noir contains pieces by sixteen fine authors who have, based on the works herein, fully grasped the meaning of “noir.”

The stories, all set in areas of a state sometimes considered perplexing and “different,” range from deeply dark and fraught to some definitely tongue-in-cheek and mildly humorous. Some, like Ace Atkins “Sweet Baby,” come with a surprising twist, others like “Exhaustion,” by Anita Miller Garner, are more straight-forward in their dark plotting.

The book is organized by the editor into four sections: COLD COLD HEART, YOUR CHEATING HEART, I’M SO LONESOME I COULD CRY, and THE ANGEL OF DEATH. A following section provides pictures and short biographies.

As with all the noir series from Akashic, every fan of dark, fraught, short stories will find several pleasurable stories well worth their time.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, January 2021.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
Traces, Grand Lac, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Review: The Usual Santas, Foreword by Peter Lovesey

The Usual Santas
A Collection of Soho Crime Christmas Capers
Foreward by Peter Lovesey
Soho Crime, October 2017
ISBN 978-1-61695-775-9
Hardcover

Here’s a collection that is sometimes amusing, sometimes dark, sometimes teaches a lesson, and is always entertaining. Set in most time periods, the stories will take the Christmas season all around the world. Thieves, murderers, revenge seekers and even cranky old women take their turns in making a memorable holiday.

In an outstanding collection, to my personal taste (yours most certainly may differ), some stand out. In a book with three different sections, the first being “Joy to the World: various acts of kindness at Christmas,” the lead-off story is a hoot. Suffice it to say, “don’t mess with ninety-year-old ladies. In “An Elderly Lady Seek Peace at Christmastime” by Helene Tursten, Maud is sick of the man in the apartment upstairs abusing his wife. The blows, the cursing, the sobbing destroy every vestige of her peace. And so, she takes matters into her own hands.

All the stories in this section are surprising. With a cast of authors like Timothy Hallinan and Teresa Dovalpage, among others, it’s what you can expect.

The second section is “Silent Night: the darkest of holiday noir.”  My favorite—or perhaps I should say, most standout story, one that stays with me, is by James R. Benn titled “Red Christmas.” The tale involves a discharged soldier arriving in a small town to give details of his friend’s death in a North Korean POW camp to the parents. He just doesn’t quite know how to begin. As he remembers back to their time in the POW camp, the events are dark indeed. Colin Cotterill, one of my favorite authors, also has a story in this section, as do Henry Chang,   Ed Lin, Stuart Neville, and Tod Goldberg.

The final section, “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, and other Holiday Secrets,” will certainly give a fresh slant on cozy kisses, peace on earth and all the other tropes whether 1920s  Bombay with Sujata Massey or Niccolo Machiavelli and Cesarev Borgia, those fine sons of Italy, with Gary Corby.

The foreward by Peter Lovesey, along with the final story in the book, gives fair warning. Be prepared to see the season in a whole new light. Could it be the Christmas star? Because every story is a shining star.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, April 2020.
http://www.ckcrigger.com
Author of The Woman Who Built A Bridge (Spur Award Winner), Yester’s Ride,
Hometown Burning and Five Days, Five Dead: A China Bohannon Novel

Book Review: Copper and Goldie by Rosemary and Larry Mild

Copper and Goldie
Rosemary & Larry Mild
Magic Island Literary Works, September 2019
ISBN 978-0-9905472-5-9
Trade Paperback

On the cover of the book it states – 13 Tails of Mystery and Suspense in Hawai’i.  In the first of the 13 short stories we meet Sam Nahoe, a Detective Sergeant  in the Homicide unit of the Honolulu Police Department, who with his partner have been called out to check on a man who his neighbour says hasn’t been answering his phone or her knocks on his door. The detectives break into the apartment and find the man is dead, shot in the back while sitting at his desk.

The Detectives call in the forensic team and then proceed to check the  apartment for clues.  The following day, armed with evidence, they return to the apartment building, but things go awry and in an attempt to save his partner from being shot, Sam takes the bullet.

After months of rehab Sam has to make a difficult decision which sets him on a new path.

Each story involves Sam, now a cab driver with a new partner, Goldie, a Golden Retriever.  He and Goldie drive around town in search of fares and find themselves dealing with a variety of people including robbers, kidnappers and vengeful wives.

Together Sam and Goldie are up to the challenge and the stories of their encounters with various criminals and how they deal with them is light-hearted fun and an easy read.  Perfect to pass the time on a plane, bus or train ride. And what could be better than taking a few cab rides around the beautiful island of O’ahu solving mysteries.

Respectfully submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, January 2020.

Book Review: Crime Travel edited by Barb Goffman @BarbGoffman

Crime Travel
Edited by Barb Goffman
Wildside Press, December 2019
ISBN 978-1-4794-4838-8
Trade Paperback

A collection of fifteen short stories which feature crimes committed, prevented, or solved by time travel. The writing is uniformly excellent and the stories give way to flights of imagination, but always grounded in the reality of a crime. Some of the time travel is accomplished by time machine, some by supernatural methods, and some by original and surprising methods.

In Cathy Wiley’s “And Then There Were Paradoxes,” two detectives travel back in time to consult Agatha Christie on a puzzling locked room murder.

A boy discovers how his parents died in an accident ten years earlier, and wonders if there is any way to prevent their deaths in “Alex’s Choice,” by Barb Goffman.

Heidi Hunter’s story, “No Honor Among Thieves,” features a crook who gets an assist from time travel to thwart her partner, and to avoid sharing the spoils of their treasure hunt.

In “Living on Borrowed Time,” Melissa H. Blaine’s protagonist discovers a couple of teenage time travelers who are visiting all the crime sites of the infamous Fifty-State Stabber, and she realizes she will become one of the victims. Is there a way to foil her fate?

Fans of mystery short stories will find this an enjoyable collection of unusual and thought-provoking time travel tales.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, December 2019.

Book Review: Deadly Southern Charm ed. by Mary Burton and Mary Miley

Deadly Southern Charm
A Lethal Ladies Mystery Anthology
Edited by Mary Burton and Mary Miley
Wildside Press, March 2019
ISBN 978-1-4794-4839-5
Trade Paperback

The Sisters in Crime – Central Virginia Chapter has been releasing anthologies for quite some time and, for this latest volume, a few “friends of the family” have joined in on the fun.

The stories included here all have two things in common—they revolve around a mystery in some way and they’re set in the South. I’m not generally a fan of short stories unless they’re by an author whose work I already like a lot but I’m a pushover for Southern fiction so reading Deadly Southern Charm was a no-brainer.

As you might expect, I didn’t unreservedly love every single story but each one did have something I appreciated and I had some favorites. Country Song Gone Wrong by Sherry Harris had some surprising moments and Frances Aylor’s The Girl in the Airport tickled my fancy while Deadly Devonshire by Samantha McGraw reminded me of a cozy series I’m fond of. On the grittier side, Burn by K.L. Murphy satisfied my need for a little darkness and Ronald Sterling’s Just Like Jiminy Cricket was creepy enough to set my Spidey sense on high alert.

All in all, Deadly Southern Charm is an entertaining compendium of stories that whiled away a couple of rainy days for me, a most satisfying read that I can wholeheartedly recommend.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2019.

Contributors—Frances Aylor, Mollie Cox Bryan, Lynn Cahoon, Judy Chalkley, Stacie Giles, Barb Goffman, Libby Hall, Bradley Harper, Sherry Harris, Maggie King, Kristin Kisska, Samantha McGraw, K.L. Murphy, Genille Swope Parente, Deb Rolfe, Ronald Sterling, S.A. Warwick, and Heather Weidner.

P.S. Disclaimer: Until January of this year, I was a non-author member of the chapter, only giving it up when I moved from Richmond, VA, to St. Augustine, FL. I do admit to a certain predilection for the organization and its members but I’ve done my best not to let that creep into my reading/reviewing of Deadly Southern Charm 😉

Book Review: Chesapeake Crimes: Homicidal Holidays ed. by Donna Andrews, Barb Goffman, and Marcia Talley

Chesapeake Crimes: Homicidal Holidays
Edited by Donna Andrews, Barb Goffman, and Marcia Talley
Wildside Press LLC, June 2014
ISBN 978-1-4794-0309-7
Trade Paperback

As Rhys Bowen says in her introduction to this collection of holiday short stories, “Who hasn’t wanted to commit a murder at a family holiday celebration?” If these fourteen stories are any indication, I think she must be right.

When I read the book’s title, Homicidal Holidays brought Christmas to my mind, but come to find out, Halloween is actually more popular⏤at least when it comes to crime.

Even “Talk Like A Pirate Day” is represented in the collection. Cathy Wiley has penned a clever little mystery that asks the question, did the pirate reenactor who stepped off a pier in the midst of a staged sword fight commit suicide, or was he murdered? “Dead Men Tell No Tales”–or do they?

You might not think Groundhog’s Day a subject for criminal activity, until a man becomes so bedeviled by his town’s resident groundhog’s always accurate weather predictions, that he is moved to kidnap Missisquoi Moe. This fine tale is by Barb Goffman.

In addition to the above authors, look for stories by Rosemary and Larry Mild, E.B.Davis, Shaun Taylor Bevins, Art Taylor,Shari Randall, Meg Opperman, Carla Coupe, Timothy Bentler-Jungr, Linda Lombardi, Debbi Mack, Clyde Linsley and Donna Andrews.

Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, and St. Patrick’s Day all come in for rousing good stories, and with five Halloween and four Christmas stories, you’re in for a few hours of good fun.

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