Diversion Books, August 2017
From the publisher—
Raised in an elite foster center off the California coast, sixteen-year-old Tabitha has been protected from the outside world. Her trainers at the center have told her she’ll need to be in top physical condition to be matched with a loving family. So she swims laps and shaves seconds off her mile time, dreaming of the day when she’ll meet her adoptive parents.
But when Tabitha’s told she’s been paired, instead of being taken to her new home, she wakes up immobile on a hospital bed. Moments before she’s sliced open, a group of renegade teenagers rescues her, and she learns the real reason she’s been kept in shape: PharmPerfect, a local pharmaceutical giant, is using her foster program as a replacement factory for their pill-addicted clients’ failing organs.
Determined to save the rest of her friends at the center, Tabitha joins forces with her rescuers, led by moody and mysterious Gavin Stiles. As they race to uncover the rest of PharmPerfect’s secrets, though, Tabitha finds herself with more questions than answers. Will trusting the enigmatic group of rebels lead her back to the slaughterhouse?
I’d like to say the idea of raising children for organ harvesting is a shocking idea but it isn’t entirely when you think of those families that have a child to harvest the stem cells for an older child. The big difference is that those families mean no ill will towards that younger child, unlike the drug company in Body Parts. Just imagine the betrayal Tabitha feels when she learns the truth. For 10 years, she has believed that her foster home guardians have her best interest at heart and that all the hard work getting and keeping her mind and body in top shape will win her a place with a loving family.
The time is about 2030 (based on a reference to a tv show), not so far in the future. When Tabitha first learns the truth, she isn’t at all sure who she can trust but, clearly, it isn’t the adults who’ve been involved in her “care” all these years and she fears for the friends still at the Centre. The tension at this point is high but then it sort of slides into a muddle of romantic confusion that, to my way of thinking, is neither necessary nor logical, given the need to concentrate on saving the kids left behind. When Tabitha accepts the reality of what’s going on, she becomes driven to join in on missions to rescue others but she isn’t really qualified.
Overall, this story is a good one and, while I can’t say I formed any real attachment to Tabitha or any of the other characters, the premise did provoke a bit of thinking. The real discomfort, to me, comes from the knowledge that we in developed countries are becoming much too reliant on pills and potions to make everything better, to “preserve” ourselves, if you will. Perhaps we should pay attention to the possible dangers that might seem like pure fiction.
Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2017.
A Rabbi Aviva Cohen Mystery Book 3
Aakenbaaken & Kent, December 2016
From the publisher—
No time is ever good for a family emergency, but for a rabbi the period just before Yom Kippur is especially difficult. Yet even though the Holy Day is approaching, Rabbi Aviva Cohen rushes off to Boston to be at the bedside of her mother, who was found unconscious in her apartment at an assisted living facility. The big question is: was it an accident or an attack? The search for the truth uncovers everything from old grudges to family secrets to fraud – and possibly murder.
When you, or someone close, reach a certain age, assisted living facilities loom large and, for the responsible family members, safety is a major topic of conversation and research. However, murder or even the perception of murder, is not usually in the list of things to look out for. Small wonder, then, that Rabbi Aviva’s suspicions are aroused and she heads right to Boston to see about her mother, accompanied by her ex-husband, Steve Goldfarb, who just happens to be acting chief of police in their New Jersey town. Of course, she doesn’t immediately suspect attempted murder. After all, senior citizens fall a lot so why should her sleuthing senses be alerted? When she does begin to look at things askance, her snooping—for that is what it is—seems at least moderately appropriate because this is her mother. Besides, rabbis (and other religious professionals) do have a way of encouraging people to talk, don’t they?
Aviva is an engaging character, one that brought a smile to my face quite often, and a lot of the others also appealed to me, especially Steve, who’s not as much of an ex as you might expect, and Aviva’s fabulous mom. Since the author is Rabbi Ilene Schneider, I think it’s safe to say Aviva’s background, beliefs, behavior, etc., are as accurate as it’s possible to be within the confines of fiction and I appreciate that because my knowledge of the Jewish faith is limited. I learned things about Judaic customs and certain religious periods to add to my small collection of facts and that added to my overall enjoyment of this lighthearted, intelligent mystery.
Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2017.
Title: Killer Party
Series: A Tourist Trap Mystery #9
Author: Lynn Cahoon
Publisher: Kensington Publishing
Publication Date: July 11, 2017
Genres: Mystery, Cozy
From the publisher—
For a gang of old college buddies, the quaint resort town of South Cove, California, is the perfect spot for a no-holds-barred bachelor party. But for Jill Gardner—owner of Coffee, Books and More—this stag party is going to be murder . . .
After a few months of living with her boyfriend Greg, Jill is still getting used to sharing such close quarters, but she’s got no hesitation about joining him for a weekend at South Cove’s most luxurious resort. While Greg and his college pals celebrate their buddy’s upcoming wedding, Jill intends to pamper herself in style. But when the groom is found floating facedown in the pool, Jill must find the killer fast, or she might not have a boyfriend to come home to any more . . .
When I posted a long-overdue review of the third book in this series, If the Shoe Kills, I promised myself to go back to the beginning and catch up but, as so often happens with best-laid plans, it didn’t happen. I still have Guidebook to Murder waiting for me. Sigh…
So, does it matter that I had only read #3 before starting this, the 9th book? Not in the least. It helps that I don’t generally care about reading mysteries in order but this series has the extra added attraction of a protagonist who owns a bookshop and she’s got more than half a brain. It was easy to slide right into this new adventure and adventure it was as Jill jumped right into sleuthing. This time, boyfriend Greg can’t do his usual police chief detecting thing since he has to be considered a suspect in the murder of his best friend.
Sleuthing, in true Jill style, means enlisting the help of family and friends around town and I really enjoyed seeing these familiar folks plus a few who’ve come to South Cove since the last time I “visited”. There’s even a brand new shopkeeper who’s causing a bit of mystery of his own and suspicions about who he might really be.
Lynn Cahoon has the enviable ability to keep a long-running series fresh but, as I can attest, she manages to make individual books provide just enough backstory to make the reader comfortable without being infodumps. As for the mystery taking place in Killer Party, this is a whodunit in the best sense, with plenty of red herrings keeping me guessing all the way. Fair warning, though—we’re left with a bit of a cliffhanger that won’t be resolved till the next book is out so write faster, please Ms. Cahoon!
Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2017.
About the Author
New York Times and USA Today best-selling author Lynn Cahoon is an Idaho expat. She grew up living the small town life she now loves to write about. Currently, she’s living with her husband and two fur babies in a small historic town on the banks of the Mississippi river where her imagination tends to wander. Guidebook to Murder, Book 1 of the Tourist Trap series, won the 2015 Reader’s Crown award for Mystery Fiction.
Photo Credit Angela Brewer Armstrong at Todd Studios
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Blood Red, White and Blue
Mary McGill Canine Mystery #3
Severn House, July 2017
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.
Matrimony in Miniature
A Miniature Mystery #9
Perseverance Press, September 2016
Matrimony in Miniature, the ninth book in the Miniatures series, finds protagonist Gerry Porter hustling to wrap up plans for her wedding to Henry Baker. Or, more to the point, her friends are hustling while Gerry pretty much goes about business as usual. The couple agreed to a small, low key wedding, but Gerry is beginning to suspect that with her friends involved, there will be all sorts of added frills. She is okay with that as long as the wedding happens and everyone involved has a good time. However, Gerry’s hopes for that diminish considerably when she receives a phone call from the wedding’s venue alerting her that there has been an accident on the premises. Of coarse the accident turns out to be a murder and Gerry being Gerry, she is soon nosing around to see what she can find out. This leads to her granddaughter Maddie also becoming involved.
It’s always good to visit Lincoln Point, California and the cast of characters who range from police officers to small town business owners to the crafting group who meet regularly at Gerry’s craft store. While I am not into miniatures, I am fascinated with the ongoing project in each of the books. In Matrimony in Miniature, Maddie and Henry’s granddaughter Taylor are working on Maddie’s science fair entry, a miniature water treatment plant, while Gerry is working on a new Victorian home. I am forever impressed by the creative use of everyday things in making props for miniature models and houses.
The murder in this book was a bit more personal to Gerry than in some books as it occurred at the location that was to host her wedding and the victim was the wife of one of her craft group. Those connections give Gerry a reason to be more than a bit anxious to have the case solved. She does try to discourage Maddie from becoming involved, but Maddie has picked up the “investigator bug.” I hate seeing children in peril. Author Grace skirts dangerously close to that but manages to keep Maddie safe.
The one thing that is a bit of a distraction with this series and seemed especially so in this book, is that the author in an effort to portray the characters’ lives gives the readers a bit too much of their comings and goings. My head hurt from all of the shuffling back and forth of the girls to and from school, Henry’s house and so forth. It seemed like every time the plot was humming along, there would be paragraphs of interruptions while Gerry, Henry or both drive back and forth and numerous phone calls to coordinate the driving. It is a small quibble, but this reader found it distracting.
I suppose it wouldn’t be necessary to have read any of the previous books in the series to enjoy this one. Certainly a lot of the characters’ backstories are given to readers along the way, but I suspect if readers jump into the series with this book they will find themselves seeking out the earlier books.
Reviewed by guest reviewer Caryn St. Clair, June 2017.
CreateSpace, November 2015
If you asked me for a book that you could really sink your teeth into—a murder-mystery with just a hint of romance—one that is a delight to read, but not “light reading”…..you know, something that keeps your eyes glued to the pages you are frantically turning and sneaks into your thoughts at random times; but doesn’t necessarily rip out your heart & run away with it–I’d happily hand you Stolen Memories.
1928 was a fabulous time to be a young woman in Europe. It was particularly exciting and opportunistic for the intelligent, courageous woman carving a path for her own independence and paving the way for others to follow. Eva Johnson, however, is not that woman. Rather, she is a self-serving, manipulative, nasty thief who has no problem spilling a bit of blood along her way.
When she awoke under the concerned eyes of a doctor in France, Eva had no idea what landed her in a hospital bed. She has no memory, at all. She surely does not remember marrying that angry giant hulking around her bedside. More importantly, she can’t fathom being married at all. Even in the absence of her memories, she’s sure there’s been a huge mistake. This initial unease and uncertainty perfectly set the tone for her tale.
Eva desperately wants to regain her memory to reclaim her true self, nothing about being a part of this eccentric family feels relatable. Those around her share her goal, but for very different reasons. Deciding who to trust is a daily challenge. Information is fed to her intermittently and often, inaccurately. Her every move is watched and scrutinized.
Under such close inspection, we begin to see some interesting things. While some may simply want to recover their stolen property, someone wants her dead. Further muddying the waters, Eva is just not herself. With seemingly natural inclinations towards kindness, she stuns her family. It is particularly entertaining to watch a mystery unravel while the participants continue to be puzzled. The many moving parts make for a quick, compelling read.
Reviewed by jv poore, September 2016.
Counting by 7s
Holly Goldberg Sloan
Puffin Books, September 2014
This is one of those treasures recommended for ages 10 and up that I believe everyone can thoroughly enjoy, not just older elementary and middle-grade people.
I can’t imagine the person who would not be charmed, then completely smitten with young Willow, who at the tender age of 12 has her world shattered. An admirable and awe-inspiring person Before, her strength, courage and resolve After show the reader what a real-life super-heroine is all about.
Even cooler, we see her spirit, determination and natural kindness pour out and touch so many. Those touched by Willow intuitively and impulsively stand a little straighter, try a little harder and become more generous.
Few books have the ability to render sobs, then a smile, but this one does. I would chastise myself for letting this sit on my shelf for so long instead I’m going to consider the timing serendipitous, because now I can pass this jewel on to my son’s middle-grade classroom library.
Reviewed by jv poore, September 2016.
Bloomsbury, March 2017
From the publisher: The novel begins with the body of a dead man lying “face up on the grassy riverbank, legs together and ankles crossed, arms spread-eagled above his head with palms upturned and fingers curled, in a grotesque parody of the crucifixion.” The victim, Martin Torrey, according to public opinion, is not a victim but instead the lead suspect in an on-going investigation of four brutal rapes and assaults against four women taken place in the span of four months, each more violent than the last. Tasked with solving the rapes and finding the murderer of Martin Torrey, chief Griffin Kells and detective Robert Ortiz are placed under increasing pressure from the public at large and from an over-ambitious Mayor. As a result, everyone is a suspect. As the story unfolds, readers find themselves in a guessing game trying to deduce who done it? Was it one of the rape victims or was it one of their friends or family member? Told in multiple perspectives, everyone is a suspect. Everyone had opportunity, and everyone had motive, even Martin’s widowed wife.
From the author of more than eighty novels, this most recent standalone from Mr. Pronzini is right up there with the best of them. The p.o.v. changes from chapter to chapter, e.g., Chapter I of Part I is told in first person by Liane Torrey, the wife and now widow of the murdered man, the next chapter by the police chief Kells (only the 2nd homicide during his seven-year tenure as chief), the next by the politically ambitious Mayor Hugh Delahunt, the next by Ione Spivey, one of the rapist’s victims, and on and on – – I must say that each was conspicuously in the believable voice of the speaker, not an easy task!
There had been four assaults in four months, “despite increased police patrols, stepped-up neighborhood watches, public warnings to women not to go out alone at night and to take security precautions when home by themselves. And each one committed without leaving a single solid clue to his identity.” The cops obviously have their work cut out for them, their job made that much harder with the firestorm of negative media coverage seeking to oust the chief.
A subplot concerns Robert Ortiz, who admittedly has “no difficulty commanding men, but no aptitude for administrative duties and little for public relations, and I do not suffer fools well,” whose Hispanic heritage does not help his “goal is to become a high-ranking detective with the state police or the police department of one of the larger cities.”
The multiple p.o.v. chapters include other victims and their spouses, each one entirely true to their characters (as I’ve already mentioned), and the case becomes dramatically more difficult with another attack, making it rather obvious that the dead man was surely not the man responsible for the first four. The entire tale takes place in just over a week, the suspense rising as the hunt for the attacker/murderer goes on. An excellent addition to this author’s oeuvre, it is highly recommended.
Reviewed by Gloria Feit, March 2017.