Teeny Book Reviews: The Glass Thief by Gigi Pandian and Edisto Tidings by C. Hope Clark @GigiPandian @HeneryPress @hopeclark @Bellebooks

The Glass Thief
A Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery #6
Gigi Pandian
Henery Press, November 2019
ISBN 978-1-63511-555-0
Trade Paperback

When I read the first Jaya Jones mystery, I thought, “Aha, the lady version of Indiana Jones!” and I’ve been a big fan ever since. After that first book, I’ve gone on a number of adventures with historian Jaya and have enjoyed every one of them.

This time, our treasure-hunting, ghostbusting heroine gets dragged into a locked room mystery involving a French family with a sordid history of Cambodian treasure looting, a resident ghost and several murders that have all (coincidentally?) occurred in their mansion two nights before Christmas. Perhaps most puzzling, a famous novelist is writing a new book and needs her help in a very odd way. Not only that, Jaya’s boyfriend, Lane, throws her for a loop and may have brought their relationship to an abrupt end.

The story takes place in San Francisco, Paris and the exotic land of Cambodia and I felt like an armchair traveler the whole time because Ms. Pandian is so good with settings. Jaya is on the hunt for the elusive Serpent King sculpture which has mysteriously vanished from the Delacroix home and the twists and turns abound, enough to keep me on tenterhooks as I waffled from one possible solution to another. That’s another thing the author does well—dream up a boatload of threads that may or may not connect to each other.

As always, Jaya’s friends are appealing and as well drawn as you could possibly want although Jaya is on her own through much of the tale. By the way, anyone with a taste for scrumptious food will be drooling over the dishes the author has everyone chowing down on—as I write this, I’m craving some mouthwatering Indian delicacies 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2020.


Edisto Tidings
An Edisto Island Mystery #6
C. Hope Clark
Bell Bridge Books, October 2019
ISBN 978-1-61194-956-8
Trade Paperback

As you can see, I’m a little out of season with this book as the story takes place at Christmas but, never you mind, a good story is a good story no matter when, right?

And a good one this is. Police Chief Callie Morgan is called to the scene of a murder—or is it a murder? There’s a body for sure, and it was found on a vacant lot owned by a contentious local, but there’s a very personal twist in that the victim is her biological mother’s husband. Obviously, Sarah, Callie’s mother, has to be a prime suspect along with the lot’s owner who also knew the victim.

Meanwhile, Callie also has to deal with a number of thefts that seem to be perpetrated by Santa. Somebody is stealing Christmas presents but might have an altruistic if criminal purpose. The resort town’s short-term rental visitors will be leaving in a few days and, if any of them are involved in these crimes, Callie’s timing had better be good. Fortunately, some of her friends are quite helpful when it comes to solving crimes and the police department staff is intelligent and reliable.

I really like this series, largely because Callie is so normal; she’s not on a power trip, she has heavy-duty baggage but is coping as well as one could hope, she’s smart as a whip and she cares about her job and the people she serves. Callie is a former big city cop so she has some skills not always easily found in small town departments but she also knows that the people of Edisto Island are not the least bit backward or dumb. In other words, she fits in well.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2020.

Book Review: Dying on Edisto by C. Hope Clark


Title: Dying on Edisto
Series: The Edisto Island Mysteries #5
Author: C. Hope Clark
Publisher: Bell Bridge Books
Genre: Mystery


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Dying on Edisto
The Edisto Island Mysteries #5
C. Hope Clark
Bell Bridge Books, March 2019
ISBN 978-1-61194-942-1
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

One death. Two detectives. And unexpected backup.

When a renowned—and now dead—travel blogger washes ashore on the banks of Indigo Plantation, Police Chief Callie Morgan of Edisto Beach agrees to head the investigation as a favor to the county sheriff, whose reasons are as questionable as the death itself.

When death turns to murder and a watchdog from the county makes her investigation difficult, Callie reluctantly turns to Carolina Slade and Wayne Largo, vacationing agents with the Department of Agriculture. Because poison is growing on this plantation, and someone knows how to use it well.

When an author has two really good series, it’s nice when the main characters come together in a crossover as in Dying on Edisto which combines Callie Morgan of the Edisto Island Mysteries and Carolina Slade of the Carolina Slade Mysteries. This particular pairing works quite nicely and readers new to Ms. Clark’s work will find themselves enticed to try the two series after this one.

In any crossover, balancing the two halves can be a little dicey but I felt that Ms. Clark created a story that allowed me to get a good “read” on both Callie and Carolina aka Slade, not to mention Wayne, and their very different personalities kept me reading into a very late night. These people, strangers until now, eventually behave as though they’ve known each other for years and have become a well-oiled investigating machine after their initial mutual distrust but they still have moments of real conflict. After all, local law enforcement and the feds don’t always see eye to eye, do they?

With a plethora of leads and multiple potential motives, not to mention an obnoxious detective who actually has jurisdiction, getting to the truth behind travel writer Addison Callaway’s suspicious death proves to be a road full of potholes, if you will. Half the fun of this story lies in watching all these law enforcement folks follow the clues and try to maintain a more or less professional, if somewhat adversarial, professional détente. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and, although it’s supposed to be a standalone, I hope to see this crew together again sometime.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2019.

“Page-turning…[and] edge-of-your-seat action…crisp writing and
compelling storytelling. This is one you don’t want to miss!”
—Carolyn Haines, USA Today bestselling author


Excerpt from Dying on Edisto



BODIES WEREN’T foreign to me, but they weren’t commonplace either.

Trying to keep my feet out of the water, I stooped over, not too much, to study the corpse floating face down about three feet away. The ears were chewed on by some kind of creature. A denim shirt clung to a pudgy back, and the torso gently rocked though no boat stirred the South Edisto River.

The last body I’d discovered in Newberry, my most recent major case, made me vomit my breakfast burrito, and if I hadn’t skipped lunch today, I’d have upchucked here, too.

We were supposed to be on vacation. Or rather, I’d been ordered by my boss to take a vacation.

“Go take basket weaving or something,” he’d said, his way of telling me to get out of his hair for a while and quit finding investigations where there were none. Sorry, but when I thought there was a case, there usually was a case. My record proved it. He sort of pissed me off.

So I’d Googled basket weaving and South Carolina Lowcountry, and made reservations for a week at Indigo Plantation. I was from this piece of the state, and revisiting would be nice. Plus, I planned to make the biggest, gaudiest basket in the world, and set the damn thing on his desk when I returned.

Patiently, Wayne had stood guard on dry land, while I searched for the right grass for a basket, along the edge of the river. But as I waded calf deep in the water, a heavy something bumped me from behind.

Imagining a gator, I screamed, teetered, and fell, making the lawman come running.

Wayne saw the body before I did. “Don’t touch it, Slade!” he’d yelled.

From sitting waist deep in brackish water, slick mud under my butt, I scrambled like a crab at surf’s edge, putting distance between me and the dead man. “It touched me first,” I yelled back.

Gently but quickly, he rolled the man over and checked for a pulse.

I’m sure my eyes rolled. Skin color and missing eyelids told us what we needed. I couldn’t stop staring though I was sure I’d regret it in my dreams.

“Stay here and guard the scene,” Wayne said, in his federal agent voice, the boyfriend in him gone. “Don’t disturb anything. And don’t let anyone else disturb anything.”

Then off he waded to shore and left me. Just like that. Before I could ask what to do if the body tried to float off.


About the Author

C. HOPE CLARK has a fascination with the mystery genre and is author of the Carolina Slade Mystery Series as well as the Edisto Island Mysteries, both set in her home state of South Carolina. In her previous federal life, she performed administrative investigations and married the agent she met on a bribery investigation. She enjoys nothing more than editing her books on the back porch with him, overlooking the lake, with bourbons in hand. She can be found either on the banks of Lake Murray or Edisto Beach with one or two dachshunds in her lap. Hope is also editor of the award-winning FundsforWriters.com.

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“Her beloved protagonist, Callie, continues to delight readers
as a strong, savvy, and a wee-bit-snarky police chief.”
—Julie Cantrell, NY Times and USA Today bestselling author


Book Reviews: Desperate Housedogs by Sparkle Abbey and Get Fluffy by Sparkle Abbey

These two books were received as a two-book electronic set called The Pampered Pets Mysteries offered to reviewers.

Desperate Housedogs
Sparkle Abbey
Bell Bridge Books, October 2011
ISBN 978-1-61194-050-3
Trade Paperback

In a light-hearted tip of the hat to the excesses of the very rich, Sparkle Abbey (actually two authors writing as one) introduces Caro Lamont, human therapist turned pet behavioral counselor living in Laguna Beach, California, whose clients are pampered pooches with “issues”. Unfortunately for Caro, she becomes a suspect when the owner of a pair of agitated German Shepherds is found murdered soon after she made a house call to try to calm the dogs. The victim lived in a gated community so the list of potential suspects is very limited—or so everyone thinks.

Detective Judd Malone lends a touch of potential romance to the mix but said romance is likely to go nowhere when Caro is incapable of  keeping her nose out of the investigation. Meanwhile, Caro is determined to find out what secrets residents of the community are hiding and doesn’t hesitate to butt in, especially when her best friend is arrested for the murder. (I did wonder, though, why behaviorist Caro doesn’t quickly catch on to the unusual nervousness of so many of her four-legged clients.)

An amusing side story is the ongoing feud between Caro and her cousin, Mel, over a piece of jewelry left to “my favorite granddaughter”. Since both think they were Grandma’s favorite, both claim the brooch and resort to inventive snatch-and-run antics to possess it. This tends to ratchet up the hostilities but, at the same time, Caro and Mel are clearly bound by blood.

Desperate Housedogs is an entertaining romp but there is far too much attention paid to Caro’s and Mel’s backgrounds as Texas beauty pageant queens and the authors make a lot of assumptions about Southerners and Texas while clearly not knowing much about either. Also, solving the mystery is a bit difficult for the reader because critical information doesn’t appear until near the end of the book.  I’m intrigued, though, by the plan for one half of the author team to write each book with one of the cousins featured in each. I’ll be reading the next book to see how things are with Mel.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2012.


Get Fluffy
Sparkle Abbey
Bell Bridge Books, March 2012
ISBN 978-1-61194-121-0
Trade Paperback

In the second Pampered Pets Mystery, Melinda Langston, owner of a posh doggie boutique in Laguna Beach, California, for those folks with very pampered pooches and too much money on their hands, finds the dead body of a woman a lot of people disliked. Unfortunately, Mel is on that long list of potential suspects and, to make matters worse, the victim has left custody of Fluffy, her Emmy-winning Afghan Hound, to Mel. Fluffy is worth a fortune in her own right and is accustomed to star treatment, such as chauffered drives around town.

Mel has also been accused of having fleas in her shop and, to top things off, she’s embroiled in a grab-it-and-run feud with her cousin, Caro Lamont, over a garish brooch they’re both determined to possess. These two ladies are former beauty pageant queens with Texas society backgrounds and neither can ignore her upbringing even while engaging in breaking and entering with a spot of burglary.

Detective Judd Malone is back but the romantic interest here is Mel’s long-suffering fiance, undercover FBI agent, Grey Donovan. Determined to prevent her good friend from being arrested, she sets out to do her own snooping and soon finds herself in a world of trouble.

Much like the first book in the series, Get Fluffy is amusing and entertaining but there are problems. The authors’ lack of knowledge about Southerners and Texas continues and there is an irritating overabundance of designer namedropping. In addition, there are a multitude of construction errors in the electronic format with grammar and spelling as well as misplaced and incorrect words but it’s possible that a later edition has been corrected. Despite these shortcomings, I enjoyed this nudge at the Real Housewives of Orange County lifestyle and am looking forward to the third book, Kitty Kitty Bang Bang.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2012.

Book Review: Mai Tai One On by Jill Marie Landis

Mai Tai One On
Jill Marie Landis
Bell Bridge Books, July 2011
ISBN 978-1611940442
Trade Paperback

Emily Johnson needed to start a new life when her marriage broke up rather badly so she moved to Hawaii to help her uncle run his restaurant, the Tiki Goddess Bar, on the island of Kauai. Favored by locals and frequently drawing tourists under Em’s management, the restaurant has finally begun to come into black ink for the first time in quite a while.

Then the unthinkable happens. A cantankerous neighbor is found face down in the luau pit and the most likely suspects seem to be Uncle Louie, bartender Sophie and Em herself. Sophie has a past that puts a target on her back and Uncle Louie had a longstanding feud with the victim. Em doesn’t appear to have much of a motive but she finds herself in compromising circumstances more than once, leading the detective to be a bit suspicious.

The bar’s free entertainment is the Hula Maidens, a group of, shall we say, well-aged ladies who will perform whenever they get the opportunity and they’re not about to let the Goddess be put out of business by such a thing as murder.  The wheeling and dealing by the murdered man’s high-powered realtor niece who has inherited his house and wants to put up a high-value mansion isn’t going to endanger their beloved bar either so they swing into action to help Em solve the case.

Before their sleuthing gets very far, there’s another murder and Em disappears. Is this a sign of her guilt or is something more sinister going on?

Throw in a handsome fire dancing detective, a Liberace-like celebrity, a 95-year-old hula dancer in a mobility scooter and a parrot named David Letterman who frequently has to sleep off a hangover and the reader is in for a treat. The descriptions of this less-commercialized part of Hawaii are enticing, reminding me of why I wish I lived on a tropical island. The mystery itself is a bit lightweight—I identified the murderer early on— but there is plenty of humor and a bit of romance, making this an ideal beach read, and I’m looking forward to the next book in this new series. I do wish, though, that Ms. Landis would indicate on her website that her books are available in independent brick & mortar bookstores as well as the chains and online.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2011.

Book Review: Soul Catcher by Leigh Bridger

Soul Catcher
Leigh Bridger
Bell Bridge Books, 2009
ISBN 098217568X
Trade Paperback (ARC)

Do people and places really have souls? Could we all have lived before and been reincarnated? What if it is true and our soul mates were out there really searching for us? Not only does Leigh Bridger make this theory sound interesting, but possible as well in her urban fantasy Soul Catcher.

Livie (short for Olivia) Van Belane is plagued by dreams of demons and uses her only cure, learned in childhood, to get rid of them. She draws the demon then burns the drawling. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, one demon was too smart to be so easily burned away and escaped Livie’s drawling to enter the world.

Turns out this demon, nicknamed Pig Face, has been hunting Livie’s soul and killing her mortal body for the last two hundred years. Thankfully for Livie’s sake, she is not alone in her battle against the demon. Her soul mate, a soul hunter named Ian, wants to help (if only she will let him) and she has several other souls who have been her friends & family throughout the centuries. The location pogs (souls) also provide Livie help on her quest to figure out why this particular demon wants her dead again.

Soul Catcher is creative and full of reincarnation theory that allows Leigh Bridger to place the hand full of characters in different time periods, which she does through visions and dreams the main character has. There is a Harry Potter-like feeling to some of the creature descriptions but the profanity that is appropriately used ensures that readers will not think the man characters are running around in Potterville. The concept of a soul hunter (Ian) and a soul catcher (Livie) is interesting even though I feel that soul banisher might have been a more appropriate title. The struggle that Livie must go through personally to come to grips with the unseen (by most) world she now finds herself in and to learn how to reclaim her soul catcher abilities keeps the story moving forward. The book is fast paced and full of action that will keep you reading. If modern-time fantasy is your thing, then you will definitely want to pick up Soul Catcher.

Reviewed by Brenda Cothern, March 2011.