Book Review: Aftershock by Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell @drjudymelinek @TJMitchellWS @HarlequinBooks


Title: Aftershock
Series: A Dr. Jessie Teska Mystery #2
Authors: Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell
Publication Date: January 19, 2021
Genre: Mystery, Police Procedural


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A Dr. Jessie Teska Mystery #2
Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell
Hanover Square Press, January 2021
ISBN 978-1-335-14729-5

From the publisher—

When an earthquake strikes San Francisco, forensics expert Jessie Teska faces her biggest threat yet in this explosive new mystery from the New York Times bestselling authors of Working Stiff and First Cut.

At first glance, the death appears to be an accident. The body is located on a construction site under what looks like a collapse beam. But when Dr. Jessie Teska arrives on the scene, she notices the tell-tale signs of a staged death. The victim has been murdered. A rising star in the San Francisco forensics world, Jessie is ready to unravel the case, help bring the murderer to justice, and prevent him from potentially striking again.

But when a major earthquake strikes San Francisco right at Halloween, Jessie and the rest of the city are left reeling. And even if she emerges from the rubble, there’s no guaranteeing she’ll make it out alive.

With their trademark blend of propulsive prose, deft plotting and mordant humor, this electrifying new installment in the Jessie Teska Mystery series offers the highest stakes yet.

By the time the dead body under the construction pipes has been identified, it was clear to me that “hostility” was going to be the word of the day among all parties. Dr. Jessie Teska is short-tempered with nearly everybody, she and Detective Keith Jones obviously have low opinions of each other, the construction workers are about as belligerent as they can be, the crime scene unit is snarky with Jessie and the death scene investigators…the list goes on. It all left me a bit unsettled and wondering if I would end up liking this prickly medical examiner.

The earthquake that strikes adds a level of tension not usually present in a police procedural and it certainly impedes Jessie’s investigation. It also brings her somewhat reckless behavior to the forefront. She probably would have been that way in normal circumstances but the earthquake makes things more lively.

Jessie is, at heart, a snoop, unable to let others do the investigating and that makes for a more interesting story but it also seems a little unorthodox. Still, a plethora of red herrings and misdirections entertained me till the end and I also appreciated the authors’ attention to Jessie’s personal life including her particular baggage and her relationship with her boyfriend, Anup. She’s definitely not the most likeable character I’ve come across but she’s not boring and I’ll be reading the first book as soon as I can.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2021.

About the Authors

Judy Melinek & T.J. Mitchell are the New York Times bestselling co-authors of Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner, and the novel First Cut. Dr. Melinek studied at Harvard and UCLA, was a medical examiner in San Francisco for nine years, and today works as a forensic pathologist in Oakland and as CEO of PathologyExpert Inc. T.J. Mitchell, her husband, is a writer with an English degree from Harvard, and worked in the film industry before becoming a full-time stay-at-home dad to their children.

Judy: Facebook // Twitter // Instagram // Goodreads

T.J.: Twitter // Goodreads


**A copy of this book was provided by the publisher
via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**

Book Reviews: The Weight of Souls by Bryony Pearce, Breeding Ground by Sally Wright, and The Bughouse Affair by Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini

The Weight of SoulsThe Weight of Souls
Bryony Pearce
Strange Chemistry, August 2013
ISBN 978-1908844644
Trade Paperback

Taylor Oh, at 15 years old, is very popular…with the dead. A social outcast at school, she has only one friend left but soon, even she will give up on her. The Darkness doesn’t give her much time to leave the mark of the dead on those that deserve vengeance. But what will she do when the school bully leaves his own mark on her?

I really enjoyed reading this book and managed to devour it in one sitting. The storyline was of a familiar set, social outcast is bullied by the popular set while harbouring a family hardship. But that’s not to say that there’s nothing new to enjoy here. This title comes with a twist that will keep you on the edge of your seat as Taylor races against time to track down the people responsible for the death of a local teenager.

The writing is great, full of detail and depth with a rich cast of characters that you can really get into and care about. Complex relationships are teased out and there’s a nice twist added in to give some flavour to the family history. This is a story that I think young adults will enjoy and the ending leaves a possibility that there could be more in the future, but maybe I’m just getting my hopes up. I would certainly recommend The Weight of Souls to younger readers and at the moment, I plan to check out Bryony Pearce’s other title. Two thumbs up!

Reviewed by Laura McLaughlin, January 2014.


Breeding GroundBreeding Ground
A Jo Grant Mystery
Sally Wright
Sally Wright, December 2013
ISBN 978-0-9827801-4-5
Trade Paperback

Jo Grant is an architect but she has little time to focus on her career or herself. After nursing a beloved horse through a long illness, she saw her mother through an exhausting bout with cancer. When her brother Tom is killed in a motorcycle accident, it’s almost more than she can bear. She plans to settle her brother’s affairs at the Kentucky brood mare ranch he ran with their uncle Toss before she takes off on a long awaited trip to Europe to view its architectural wonders.

But there are complications. Should she sell the horse that was Tom’s favorite, the one that had meant so much to him? Tom left Jo a tape for her to listen to after his death; it refers to his wartime activities in the OSS, the predecessor to the CIA. But it’s twenty years later—1962—and Jo gets in touch with Alan Munro, who served with her brother. Alan refuses to tell Jo about their war time work with the French Resistance, but then Jack Freeman, another former OSS agent, turns up on the farm, looking for Tom.

There are a lot of plots jostling for space in this book. Will Jo keep an interest in the family business or continue her architecture career?  What did Tom, Alan, and Jack do in the OSS,  and what does it matter twenty years later? There are also parallel plots about two neighboring businesses dealing with horses and a subplot about a groom looking for work.

It’s an insider’s look at the world of thoroughbred horses and the related economy. The author evokes a feeling of a Jane Smiley novel. But some plots are never resolved, and characters are left hanging. There is an epilogue that explains that readers may want to know what happened to the characters. “It won’t get written here,” says Jo. “It’ll take another book, or two. Or maybe even three.”

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, March 2014.


The Bughouse AffairThe Bughouse Affair
A Carpenter and Quincannon Mystery
Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini
Forge, November 2013
ISBN 978-0-7653-3174-8

Billed as the first in a new series by this talented writing duo, The Bughouse Affair introduces ex-Pinkerton operative Sabina Carpenter and her partner, ex-Secret Service agent John Quincannon. This unlikely pair has set up a private detective agency, and the story has the two embarking on separate investigations.

Sabina is on the hunt for a pickpocket who chooses her victims in populated areas such as amusement parks, markets, and parades.  Quincannon is attempting to trace an elusive housebreaker who targets homes of the wealthy, and who seems to have an uncanny sense of when the houses will be unguarded.

One might think these cases could not possibly be connected but as Sabina and Quincannon pursue their suspects, it soon becomes clear they are when the detectives find themselves working along the same routes. And when Sherlock Holmes arrives on the scene and manages to turn the American detectives on their ear, sparks are certain to fly–and not just the sparks between Sabina and Quincannon who are constantly trying to out-do the other.

The depiction of historical San Francisco is fascinating. One can’t doubt the accuracy of Muller and Pronzini‘s research into the era. I was taken back in time without a single jolt and since the 1890s  is one of my favorite historical periods, I found the setting especially enjoyable. From the clothes the characters wear, to the food they eat, to the societal pastimes, it was as though I was in a time machine.

The characters are well delineated. I, personally, found Sabina to be the stronger character as I thought Quincannon a bit overbearing and stuffy upon occasion. Other readers may differ. All in all, the mystery is good, the characters are interesting, and the setting is great. I’m looking forward to the next book featuring these detectives.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, October 2013.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.