Book Review: Mother May I by Joshilyn Jackson @JoshilynJackson @WmMorrowBooks

Mother May I
Joshilyn Jackson
William Morrow, April 2021
ISBN 978-0-06-285534-3

Bree Cabbat is happily married with a handsome and loving husband, Trey, who is a lawyer.  She also has two teenage daughters, and a brand new baby boy, Robert.  While helping out at the Private School her daughters attend where her eldest Anna-Claire is rehearsing for the upcoming adapted school version of  the musical “Grease”,  Bree sets baby Robert, asleep in his car seat, on the floor, at the rear of the Balcony.

It seems like only minutes later Bree’s nightmare begins.  She glances behind her to check on her son, only to find the car seat empty. Robert has vanished. He’s been kidnapped. Left behind on the Balcony floor is a note telling Bree not to speak to anyone, but to go home immediately where she’ll be contacted.

At home she finds a small bag with a cell phone and a small package of pills, hanging on her front door.  The cell phone rings and Bree answers. The woman on the other end of the phone tells Bree if she follows her instructions to the letter, and completes the task she sets, her son will be returned to her.  The caller adds that someone will be watching her and reminds her that if she contacts the Police or her husband or anyone she’ll never see her baby again.

Bree has no option but to agree. The task, while a little unusual, seems harmless.  What choice does she have?  To her horror the result is heartbreaking and devastating, thrusting her into a minefield of guilt and pain.

It’s only been in the last year that I’ve been introduced to this author.  I’ve read two other titles,  Almost Sisters and Never Have I Ever.  In each of her novels the characters are well drawn, strong, emotional and likeable people.

The reader is quickly pulled into Bree’s story.  The welfare and safe return of her son is the driving force behind her actions, nothing else matters.   But as the chilling reason behind the kidnapping is revealed her world is turned upside down.

This will be on my Top Ten books of 2021.  Check it out… I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Respectfully submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, May 2021.

Book Review: Flowers over the Inferno by Ilaria Tuti

Flowers over the Inferno
A Teresa Battaglia Novel #1
Ilaria Tuti
Translated from the Italian by Ekin Oklap
Soho Crime, April 2019
ISBN 978-1-64129-068-5

Set in a quiet village in a small community in Northern Italy, the naked body of a man has been found with his eyes gouged out. Detective Superintendent Teresa Battaglia is sent to investigate. A woman in her mid sixties, Teresa has earned a reputation as a highly experienced detective and profiler. But Teresa is beginning to feel the pressures of ailing health. She has Diabetes, and of late she has been dealing with periods of mental fatigue, and wonders if this is a portent of worse things to come.

A new assistant has been assigned to Teresa and she’s not sure whether to trust him or not. The local police try to downplay the death of one of the locals, but she is sure there is something sinister lurking beneath the surface and she intends to pursue the case.

Several children in the village have been aware of sinister happenings as well as experiencing strong feelings of being watched. More victims have the authorities wondering if a serial killer is on the loose. And when an infant is kidnapped the urgency to find the child escalates.

I found Detective Battaglia interesting and very human. Her concern for the victims is uppermost in her thoughts as she digs into the strange history of the area. And while finding the infant alive is her priority, she is also questioning her own state of mind and whether she will succeed. I thought at times the plot wandered somewhat without focus and direction. But the climax and ending worked well as the secrets of the past were revealed.

Detective Battaglia may possibly return in another tale as this is possibly the first in a proposed series.

Meanwhile…check it out….

Respectfully submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, May 2019.

Book Review: You’ll Never Know, Dear by Hallie Ephron

You’ll Never Know, Dear
Hallie Ephron
William Morrow, June 2017
ISBN 978-0-06-247361-5

You’ll Never Know, Dear by Hallie Ephron is a stand-alone contemporary suspense novel that could just as easily be labeled women’s fiction. This book explores the long shadows and altered relationships that follow a child kidnapping. Forty years ago 7-year-old Elisabeth (Lis) Woodham was supposed to be watching her 4-year-old sister Jane. She was distracted as children that age can be and when she returned, Jane was gone along with the handmade porcelain doll she was playing with. No trace was ever found of her. Their mother began offering a reward for the return of the doll annually on the anniversary of the disappearance, thinking that whoever had the doll would know where her daughter was. While inevitably dolls of all kinds were offered every year in hopes of obtaining the reward, none of them were credible until this year, when a young woman showed up with a tattered doll that might well be the right one.

Within hours of seeing the doll and meeting the young woman a chain reaction of events occurs. Both Lis and her mother are hospitalized with carbon monoxide poisoning and the kiln in her mother’s workshop that she used for years explodes and sets their house on fire, bringing Lis’s daughter Vanessa home from New England where she is doing post-doctoral sleep research and escaping from her mother’s overprotectiveness. Together Vanessa and Lis investigate this present-day puzzle that reaches far into the distant past for answers.

The mother and daughter relationship and its variations over time are a major theme in this book. How they annoy each other and misunderstand each other and protect each other and need each other is shown over and over.  Lis and her mother, Lis and her daughter, the young woman with the damaged doll and her mother, the familiar ideas take clear human form here.

I generally dislike thrillers and mysteries based on harm to children and avoid them. I can think of nothing worse for a parent than to lose a child through kidnapping. To use it as the plot of a story, even as realistically and tactfully as this one does, seems to trivialize a horrific occurrence. To minimize the tragedy Ephron, a skilled writer, focuses on the lost doll, not the lost child. In the back of the reader’s mind, the lost doll equals the lost child but the discussions among the characters concentrate directly on the doll, which I thought was an excellent way of downplaying the calamity. A smooth, fast-moving read.

Reviewed by Aubrey Hamilton, January 2018.

Book Review: The Innkeeper’s Sister by Linda Goodnight

The Innkeeper’s Sister
A Honey Ridge Novel #3
Linda Goodnight
HQN Books, July 2017
ISBN 978-0-373-79947-3
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Welcome to Honey Ridge, Tennessee, where Southern hospitality and sweet peach tea beckon, and where long-buried secrets lead to some startling realizations…

Grayson Blake always has a purpose—and never a moment to lose. He’s come home to Honey Ridge to convert a historic gristmill into a restaurant, but his plans crumble like Tennessee clay when the excavation of a skeleton unearths a Civil War mystery…and leads him back to a beautiful and familiar stranger.

Once a ballet dancer, now co-owner of the Peach Orchard Inn, Valery Carter harbors pain as deep as the secrets buried beneath the mill. A bright facade can’t erase her regrets any more than a glass of bourbon can restore what she’s lost. But spending time with Grayson offers Valery a chance to let go of her past and imagine a happier future. And with the discovery of hidden messages in aged sheet music, both their hearts begin to open. Bound by attraction, and compelled to resolve an old crime that links the inn and the mill, Grayson and Valery encounter a song of hurt, truth…and hope.

In a nicely flowing blend of past and present, two stories intertwine after a skeleton is found beneath the old gristmill. Both stories revolve around a missing child, one a slave sold away from his family and white friend, the other Valery’s nephew, abducted years ago. Could these bones belong to that child, Mikey? The possibility sends Valery into a maelstrom of new grief as well as guilt that have lain just under the surface all this time, but it’s just as likely that this is someone else, someone from the farm’s Civil War-era family.

Secrets abound in both times and, in some ways, love is what holds the families together, if only by a thread. To be sure, the mystery of the discovered bones needs to be solved, but the growing connection between Valery and Grayson may very well bring the peace they so need. At the same time, the inn, once a farm, has its own colorful and emotion-wrought history and it’s the past and present of Peach Orchard that caught my attention the most.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2017.


Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Books-A-Million
Amazon // Indiebound


About the Author

NY Times and USA Bestseller, Linda Goodnight writes novels to touch the heart as well as to entertain. Her emotional stories of hope have won the RITA, the Carol, the Reviewer’s Choice, and numerous other industry awards. A small town girl, Linda remains close to her roots, making her home in rural Oklahoma. She and husband have a blended family of eight, including two teenagers recently adopted from Ukraine. Many of her books are about family and children and rightly so, as she draws her deeply emotional stories from her surroundings, her great love of family, and from personal experiences as a nurse and teacher.

Connect with Linda:

WebsiteFacebook | Twitter


Follow the tour:

Tuesday, July 11th: Mama Vicky Says – excerpt

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Friday, July 14th: Reading is My SuperPower – excerpt

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Tuesday, July 18th: Black ‘n Gold Girls Book Spot – excerpt

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Wednesday, July 26th: Written Love Reviews

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Monday, August 7th: The Romance Dish

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Wednesday, August 16th: A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, August 17th: Steph the Bookworm

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Book Review: One Kick by Chelsea Cain

One KickOne Kick
A Kick Lannigan Novel
Chelsea Cain
Simon & Schuster, August 2014
IBSN 978-1-4767-4978-5

The author is an experienced, acclaimed thriller writer. This eighth novel is the debut of yet another protagonist for her. As a big thriller with a hot, tough, protagonist, Elizabeth (Kick) Lannigan, deals with one of the nastier aspects of our society, pedophilia and child abduction, and this novel is destined for highly popular ranking.

It’s been called brilliant, outstanding, and masterful. I agree. I particularly enjoy the voice of the author, her writing style is unusual and slick. Which is not to say the book is smoothly written. The plot, on the other hand, is truly original and masterfully conceived, developed and resolved. The main characters are nicely handled and with some exceptions develop appropriately. The structure of the novel is excellent. The prologue avoids revealing too much so we are intrigued, wonder about significant omissions and are pulled into the story. We want to know more about this girl, rescued by the FBI after many years of captivity and forced bondage. This is not a novel for the faint of heart.

Kick Lannigan was abducted as a child, forced into unspeakable circumstances. After her rescue she becomes an avenging angel, determined to help wipe out an international network of child stealers and molesters. She learns and teaches herself more ways to kill than is possible to recall. She prides herself on physical agility and toughness of mind. Yet she is apparently seriously deficient in her ability to retain control of some dangerous situations, situations which result in grievous injury and, not incidentally, propel the plot into interesting episodes.

The novel is a fast read, well-thought-out and carefully concluded. Still there were times when I wanted to grab Lannigan by the neck and shout at her when I saw her letting down her guard, making mistakes that, in real life, would have undoubtedly resulted in instant termination.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, September 2014.
Author of Red Sky, Devils Island, Hard Cheese, Reunion.

Book Review: The Vanishing Point by Val McDermid

The Vanishing Point
Val McDermid
Atlantic Monthly Press, October 2012
ISBN 9780802120526

From the publisher—

Young Jimmy Higgins is snatched from an airport security checkpoint while his guardian watches helplessly from the glass inspection box. But this is no ordinary abduction, as Jimmy is no ordinary child. His mother was Scarlett, a reality TV star who, dying of cancer and alienated from her unreliable family, entrusted the boy to the person she believed best able to give him a happy, stable life: her ghost writer, Stephanie Harker. Assisting the FBI in their attempt to recover the missing boy, Stephanie reaches into the past to uncover the motive for the abduction. Has Jimmy been taken by his own relatives? Is Stephanie’s obsessive ex-lover trying to teach her a lesson? Has one of Scarlett’s stalkers come back to haunt them all?

There are certain authors I always can count on to provide me with an excellent read, a brief escape into a world I can laugh at or be mesmerized by, a world that shakes me to the core for one reason or another. I understand, though, that many of those authors whose work I admire so much might stumble now and then. The Vanishing Point is Val McDermid‘s stumble.

Ms. McDermid is a wonderful writer—I have enjoyed everything of hers I’ve read until this one—and even this has some redeeming aspects. It’s not a BAD book; it just doesn’t rise to the level of her usual top notch work and that becomes evident early in the story.

Most of the disappointment I had was in regard to the credibility of the story. For a woman who shows a lot of inner strength and is clearly able to take care of herself, Stephanie seems too insecure, beyond what could be attributed to her past relationship. More importantly, what happens in the airport just isn’t believable enough. Stephanie knows she will have to be screened or patted down because of the metal in her leg so why wouldn’t she make sure the child stayed close by? As much as we, the public, dislike the behavior of a few TSA employees (and as much as we may hate the whole system), I have a hard time believing they would so totally dismiss her screams for help when she sees what’s happening. And, when it becomes obvious that time is critical, no FBI agent would allow Stephanie to go on and on with the backstory, nor would Stephanie want to blather on while little is being done to find Jimmy. The last straw for me was when I realized that she was inexplicably hesitant to tell the FBI agent about the person who is very likely to be behind the kidnapping.

Unfortunately, with such plot holes early on, I found it hard to engage with the story or even take it as seriously as such a topic deserves but I did finish the book, hoping Ms. McDermid would pull it together. To a certain extent, she did, but the twist ending was too little too late.  I have no doubt the author will get back on track with the next book and I’m certainly going to look forward to it but, sadly, this one is not a keeper for me.  Our reactions to books are very personal, though, and many of her devoted readers will like it.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2012.

Book Reviews: I’d Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman, The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes by Marcus Sakey, A Bitter Truth by Charles Todd, The Boy in the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnette Friis, and Dark Mind by Jennifer Chase

I’d Know You Anywhere
Laura Lippman
William Morrow Paperbacks,
ISBN 978-0062070753
Trade Paperback

Eliza Benedict and her family have recently moved back to the United States after living several years in England.  The move was brought about by Eliza’s husband’s employment.  The children are just adjusting to the move. Eliza’s daughter Isobel (Iso) and her son Albie are in new schools and attempting to get used to life in the states after being gone so long.

Eliza’s ordinary life is suddenly interrupted when she receives a letter from Walter Bowman, a death row inmate.  Walter had spotted Eliza’s picture in a magazine and his letter states “I’d know you anywhere”.  Walter had kidnapped Eliza when she was only 15 years old.  Walter held Eliza hostage for40 days before she was finally released.  This is a part of Eliza’s life that she hasn’t shared with her children.

Eliza’s full name was Elizabeth Hortense Lerner prior to her marriage.  After her abduction, her parents moved and she entered a new school under the name of Eliza.  Only her parents, her sister Vonnie and Eliza’s husband are aware of the past circumstances until a woman who has taken up Walter’s cause finds Eliza and encourages her to talk to Walter.  Eliza finally decides after discussing the matter with her husband that she will speak with Walter. She installs a new telephone line and instructs Walter that the only hours she will be willing to answer the phone is during the time her children are away at school.  Walter wants Eliza to visit him on death row.  Eliza isn’t the only girl he kidnapped but she is the one who lived.  He indicates if she will only visit him, he will reveal information to her about the other that he has previously refused to discuss.

The story of the kidnapping is told in flashbacks.  It seems there were many times Eliza had the opportunity to escape but fear that Walter would carry out his threats to harm Eliza’s family held her back.  Eliza remembers the many days she was held by Walter and her methods of coping with a horrible situation.

This is a book that I very much enjoyed and would highly recommend.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, June 2011.


The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes
Marcus Sakey
Dutton, June 2011
ISBN 978-0525952114

The story begins with Daniel Hayes washed up on the beach, half dead and thousands of miles away from home.  Daniel is alone except for a car parked on the beach and abandoned.  Of course, Daniel has no idea that he is Daniel Hayes.  He has amnesia and no idea of how he arrived in the water off the coast of Maine.  The car is a BMW.  The registration says Daniel Hayes.  The clothes in the trunk happen to fit.  The gun in the glove compartment is a big surprise.  With no other options, he starts driving the BMW headed across the country. The registration says California so that is his destination.  Is he Daniel Hayes or someone that just washed up on the beach and lucked into a good car with clothes, cash, maps and even a nice Rolex watch.  He wonders how he knew the watch was a Rolex and was surprised he liked the taste of the whiskey left in the car.  With no other options available at the moment, he decides he will be Daniel Hayes – at least until he finds out something different.

As he tries to retrace his life, he finds many surprises.    He has a wife but she is dead.   Or is she dead?  That is just another story he needs to unravel.  As Daniel struggles to make sense of his life, he finds himself right in the middle of a situation that is extremely dangerous but not one that he fully understands.

The struggles Daniel goes through to regain his memory and understand his life that went before he wound up half dead on a beach in Maine is a thriller that keeps the reader on edge up to the very last page.

Marcus Sakey’s previous novels have been very successful and this one is sure to be a winner.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, June 2011.


A Bitter Truth
A Bess Crawford Mystery
Charles Todd
William  Morrow and Company, August 2011
ISBN No. 978-0062015709

Bess Crawford is a nurse currently stationed in France.  When she is granted leave to return to England for the Christmas holidays she welcomes the break from the war zone and looks forward to visiting her family.  Bess shares an apartment with some other nurses and it is not uncommon for her to have the place to herself since her roommates all have assignments.  Upon arriving at her apartment building, Bess finds a young woman huddled in the doorway.  The woman is well dressed and appears to be bruised as well as suffering from the cold.    Her clothing is not designed to keep her warm.  Bess convinces the woman to take refuge in her apartment.

The young woman finally confides in Bess that her name is Lydia Ellis and she resides in Sussex.  She had quarreled with her husband, Captain Roger Ellis, and Captain Ellis had struck her.    Eventually after hearing bits and pieces of Lydia’s story Bess convinced her to return to her home in Sussex and attempt to work out her problems.  Lydia’s husband was home on compassionate leave due to the illness of his brother Alan.  Alan had recently passed away.

Lydia begged Bess to return to Sussex with her to Vixen Hill the Ellis family home.  Bess agrees although Simon Brandon was not thrilled with the idea. Simon is a long time family friend who had served with Bess’ father and is very protective of Bess.  On arrival at Vixen Hill, Bess finds that plans are underway for a memorial service for Alan and family members are gathering.  Bess learns of the tragic death of Roger’s young sister years ago, a death from which none of the family seems to have completely recovered.

Soon there is another death to be investigated when a friend of the family who was staying at Vixen Hill is found murdered.  Bess is drawn into the investigation and soon learns more about the family than she ever wanted to know. Lydia has heard rumors that her husband had a child with a woman in France and that the child is the image of his dead sister.  Lydia begs Bess to look for the child when she returns to France.

Bess makes no promises but when she returns to France, she does make inquiries.  Bess confides in a soldier from Australia who takes up the search for the child.  In war torn France there are hundreds of orphans and many of the Sisters carrying for them have to move from place to place due to the war.

The story jumps back and forth between the war front and England and there is no lack of excitement on either front.  This is a good addition to the Bess Crawford mysteries and there is more than one puzzle to solve.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, September 2011.


The Boy In the Suitcase
Lene Kaaberbol and Agnette Friis
Soho Crime, November 2011
ISBN 978-1569479810

When Nina Borg, a nurse, agrees to do her friend Karin a favor and pick up a suitcase from a locker in the Copenhagen train station, she thought it would be a simple errand. The errand turned out to be far from simple and extremely dangerous.  When Nina opened the suitcase, she found a small boy, naked and drugged.  Should she call the police and turn the child over to the authorities?  This is the question she kept asking herself but finally determined that the authorities might not do what was in the boy’s best interest.

Meanwhile, the boy’s mother, Sigita was frantic.  Sigita woke up in a hospital with no idea how she got there but is told that she was found in a drunken state after falling down the steps from her apartment.  All Sigita knew was that she did not drink to excess, she has no memory of drinking or falling and her child, Mikas, is gone.  A neighbor tells Sigita that the boy’s father had picked him up but when Sigita is finally able to reach Mikas’ father she finds that he knows nothing about where his son might be.

Nina finally finds out where Karin is and goes to meet her.  When Nina gets to the cabin where Karin is staying, she finds that Karin has been murdered.  There is no clue as to the boy’s identity or why Karin asked Nina to pick up the suitcase.   Nina is quick to realize that agreeing to do a favor for a friend has placed both her and the boy in danger.

The story turns into a race against time with Nina trying to find any clue to help her identify the boy and return him to his family while ignoring her own husband and children who are concerned for Nina’s whereabouts.

Sigita who has reported her child’s loss to the authorities goes about her own investigation into his disappearance and is doing everything she can think of to find her son even though she senses that time is running out.  Sigita was forced to give up her first baby and now to think of losing her son is too horrible to imagine.

The puzzle of why Mikas was abducted and the purpose behind the abduction is one that remains a secret until the surprise ending of this novel.  Finally, it all comes together and makes for a very exciting book.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, November 2011.


Dark Mind
An Emily Stone Novel
Jennifer Chase
JEC Press, November 2011
ISBN No.978-0982953648
Trade Paperback

This third addition to the Emily Stone series finds Emily and Rick Lopez on the beautiful island of Kauai in the Hawaiian Islands.  Rick has given up his position as a police officer to join Emily in her undercover operation tracking serial killers with the emphasis on child abductors.  Emily was a former police officer.

Rick and Emily are able to rescue a child that was kidnapped by slave brokers.  When the police arrive at the scene, the couple meets Sergeant Lani Candena of the local police department.

The couple feel their trip has been successful and decide to stay on the island and enjoy a little vacation time.  It isn’t long before they hear rumors of a vicious murder.  Rick and Emily go to the scene of the crime and wait for the police to leave. Rick and Emily take a look at the scene.  Once again they run up against Sergeant Lani Candena of the of the local police department.

Lani is an ambitious officer and when there is a second murder, he feels sure that he has a serial killer on his hands.  The killings are staged in a horrible manner and Emily and Rick are convinced the killer must be a local resident.  Lani’s superior officers in the department are more interested in making a profit for themselves in the shady deals they are involved in than finding the killer.

Derek McGraw, an old friend of Rick and Emily, joins the couple on the island.  The three of them work on putting the few clues they have been able to put together in an attempt to locate the killer.  Sgt. Candena is aware that the trio is very interested in the murders.  He eventually convinces the group to work with him in an attempt to hunt down the killer.

The action in Dark Mind is non-stop.   Emily is lucky to survive the hunt.  This novel can be read as a stand-alone but I would also recommend Compulsion and Dead Game, the two previous Emily Stone novels.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, January 2012.