A Cate Kensie Mystery Book 1
Nellie H. Steele
A Novel Idea Publishing, November 2019
About the Author
Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!
Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!
Title: Killer Deadline
Series: A Nikki Bryant Cozy Mystery #1
Author: Lauren Carr
Narrator: Anita Alger
Publication Date: August 5, 2020
From the author—
Folks in Pine Grove, Pennsylvania, claim that where Nikki Bryant goes, trouble is not far behind. Her refusal to back down from a challenge has made Nikki Bryant a top investigative journalist.
When an online friend nudges her to join him in a pact to reconnect with their first loves, Nikki and her boxer dog Elmo leave the bright lights of Las Vegas for the charming town of Pine Grove. There, she must face the biggest challenges in her career and life—the first love she had left behind and her father’s unsolved murder.
But before she has time to unpack her car, Nikki stumbles upon the dead body of local news anchor, Ashleigh Addison, her childhood rival. Could Ashleigh’s death be connected to an explosive news story that she had teased about airing live? Did that explosive story have anything to do with the murder of Nikki’s father?
With the clues in her father’s cold case hot again, Nikki intends to chase down the story of her life until she catches his killer—no matter what it takes.
Lauren Carr has several popular series and releases numerous books every year but, apparently, she isn’t busy enough because here she is starting another one 😉 I love those other series that are what I consider traditional mysteries with various elements of law enforcement and, although Killer Deadline is very different, being a true cozy, I do believe Ms. Carr has come up with another fun series.
There are two things I can always expect from a Lauren Carr book, a good deal of humor and one or more very appealing pets, and Killer Deadline has both; surely Elmo the boxer has established himself as one of my favorites and the author’s brand of humor is unforced and understated with none of the silliness often found in cozies. Nikki is a sleuth who comes by it naturally, being an investigative journalist from a big city, and she’s drawn to looking into her own father’s murder years before, especially when an old rival is murdered soon after Nikki comes home. Everything seems to revolve around the local TV station owned by Nikki’s family and both deaths, including the new one, are rooted in the past.
Elmo, meanwhile, is busy being a social media icon and Nikki is second guessing her decision to move back home and run the TV station but, at least, there’s potential for a romance with her old crush, Ryan. Add in investigating murders, running a top-rated TV station and coping with the eccentricities of a small town and Nikki is a very busy lady. I’m looking forward to more of her adventures.
This was also my introduction to Anita Alger as a narrator and I thought she did it well, with good tone and pacing. Her male vocalizations were a bit lacking but I think she’s fairly new at this and reading in the other gender isn’t easy. I’m sure she’ll continue to strengthen that aspect of her narrations.
Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2020.
Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, Chris Matheson Cold Case, and Thorny Rose Mysteries—over twenty-five titles across three fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!
Killer Deadline marks Lauren’s first venture into mystery’s purely cozy sub-genre with a female protagonist.
Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr’s seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, crime fiction, police procedurals, romance, and humor.
A popular speaker, Lauren is also the owner of Acorn Book Service, the umbrella under which falls iRead Book Tours. She lives with her husband and two spoiled rotten German Shepherds on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.
Sep 21 –Locks, Hooks and Books – book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
Sep 22 – Books, Tea, Healthy Me – audiobook review / giveaway
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False Flag in Autumn
Josie Kendall Washington Crime Stories #2
Farragut Square Publications, October 2019
When reading detective/thriller/political fiction, one likes to believe that the author did adequate serious research or has reasonable experience or understanding of the primary field. Here is a novel that demonstrates such deep dives into political research, and apparent extensive knowledge of the political scene in the United States, it is just a little scary.
Josey Kendall is political spinmeister working for a small agency in Washington, D.C. She’s young, experienced and possessed of sometimes amazing and practical understanding of the way politics work in the modern republic. Ms Kendall not only understands how connected to media campaigns must be, but often how to manipulate that same media to achieve desired results. Kendall’s problem, if she has one, is her basic honesty sometimes gets in the way of the objectives her company’s clients desire.
Louisiana has one Congressman who is beholden to no one more than himself and is willing to do almost anything to stay atop the money machine. The novel begins with a contract for Josie’s company to frighten the aforesaid Congressman Bilbo into line with certain corporate interests by establishing a viable opponent for his re-election. Josie accomplishes the goal with alacrity and moves on but the untimely death of a local hood at Bilbo’s hand and the apparently botched investigation of the shooting bothers her. Circumstances draw Josie and her husband Raf more and more into the dim world of alternative and dark politics where they gradually discover not just the event referred to in the title, but something far more dangerous. The swamp was never deeper nor slimier.
The writing is crisp, fast moving, and frequently acerbic with well-placed caustic observations. The narrative is a fine commentary on modern politics and it moves with ever growing tension. The characters are many and varied and carefully drawn. Never do they step outside their roles.
In sum this novel will appeal to fans of the author, to political junkies, and to readers of detective fiction everywhere.
Footprints in the Butter
An Ingrid Beaumont Mystery #1
Delphi Books, 1998
Re-issued by Worldwide Library, October 2004
Mass Market Paperback
I think you have to come at this book with the right frame of mind and stay in it until you are finished. Ingrid Beaumont and her ganglionic mutt are all over the murder of Wylie Jameston, who is anything but—wily. Remember that phrase, ganglionic mutt. The author uses it a couple of times and it appears on the jacket as well.
A wisecracking artist who constantly tells riddles and elephant jokes is murdered at a reunion of his high school class, of which the amateur sleuth, Ingrid, is also a member. With little discernible reason, Ingrid decides to charge in with Hitchcock, the mutt of reference above, and solve the murder, since it appears to her the cops are never going to manage that task.
There are lots of characters in this book and several scenes which by turns will make you laugh and shake your head or grind your teeth in frustration. The solution is complicated and there are lots of characters to keep track of. At times an unfocused sub-plot involving Ingrid’s ex, who may or may not be her ex, threatens to obscure the main theme which is that high school reunions can be hell.
I laughed some, ground my teeth a good deal, and wished the author had had an editor with a firmer hand at times. There’ll be more adventures with Ingrid and her ganglionic mutt. In spite of its problems, this is the kind of mystery and engaging writing which will attract a large and loyal following.
Blood and Wisdom
The Wild Rose Press, July 2018
Aria Piper runs a New Age Spiritual Center near Santa Cruz, California. Karl Gatlin is a private investigator but has training as a counselor. The two are connected because they were both interns at the same center, though Karl decided he was much more cut out for a career as a PI than counseling people through their personal troubles. However, when Aria begins receiving threats and a beheaded body turns up at Aria’s center, she turns to Karl to investigate. That is the basic set up for the book, however, if readers are expecting a straight forward PI book, they are in for a surprise or two as this is a book that never quite settles on what sort of a book it wants to be. It has a little bit of something for just about everyone, but I was left wondering if there was enough of any one thing to satisfy anyone.
The number one strength of the book is the character development. What an interesting cast of characters Darrow has given readers! First we have a main character who is a PI with psychotherapy training, a second main character who is running a spiritual center which might or might not be a cult, some sort of flaky “enlightened” folks, some seriously bad dudes and lastly my favorite, Larry the dog who has so many human traits it is sometimes hard to remember he is a dog.
The second strength is the off beat humor in the book. This is really not my favorite type of book (think Carl Hiaasen or Tim Dorsey), but I do appreciate their craft and Darrow has the skills to carry this type of humor off.
I would like the author to firm up what genre he is writing though. Suspense, thriller, PI novel, or something completely different. Also, as fascinating as the odd set of characters were, sometimes their idiosyncrasies became a distraction from the plot.
Blood and Wisdom is the debut book for author Verlin Darrow. While I did have some issues with the book, there is definite potential for him as an author. It will be interesting to see what the next book brings.
Reviewed by guest reviewer Caryn St. Clair, August 2018.
Scents and Sensibility
A Chet and Bernie Mystery #8
Atria Books, July 2015
If there’s anyone out there in Readerland who hasn’t tuned into the Bernie and Chet mysteries, I’ve got one thing to say to you: Why not?
Okay, so the adventures are written up by Chet, the dog—also known as Chet the Jet for his unique abilities—and he sometimes has memory problems, but don’t let that stop you. Chet can’t count beyond two, either, but it doesn’t keep him from being an Einstein of sorts. Anyway, Chet and Bernie Little are partners in the Little Detective Agency, and when these two are on a case, you can be sure the perp is going to wind up breaking rocks in the hot sun, often with tooth marks on his ankle. I didn’t say the path to justice runs easy for this pair. There’s always someone trying to take them out, and in Scents and Sensibility, they’re both in for a hard time.
Bernie and Chet have been away from their California desert home, solving tricky cases in Louisiana and Washington D.C. Now they’re back, only to find their neighbors, an old couple named Parsons, in deep trouble. Mrs. Parsons is in the hospital in a bad way when the cops arrest Mr. Parsons for stealing, and transplanting a giant saguaro cactus into his yard, the saguaro being a protected species. The person in charge isn’t about to give the old man a break, either. But is he the real criminal? As if that isn’t enough, Chet smells his best friend’s, Iggy Parsons, a little dog, scent in his house. And then he and Bernie discover their most valuable object, an antique watch, is missing. How this all intertwines when they find the officer murdered is a real puzzler. Good thing Chet and Bernie are up to the task.
I adore this series. Great characterization—yes, even of the dog. Especially of the dog. I love the way it shows the mutual bond between man and his partner canine. The underlying mystery is, as always, center stage. There’s always derring do and great peril. And in this story, the ending will leave you on pins and needles, panting for the next one. I, for one, can hardly wait.
Reviewed by Carol Crigger, September 2015.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.
A Night in the Lonesome October
Chicago Review Press, October 2014
A quirky blend of horror, mystery, the story is narrated by Snuff, a dog. Jack the Ripper’s dog, although Jack is never quite identified. Nevertheless, he’s easily recognizable in a cast that somehow includes Sherlock Holmes, Dr Frankenstein, and Dracula, among others. Forgive me, but I’m not certain who “Jill” is, beyond an “opener.” Openers and closers being two supernatural factions who, during the month of October, gather creepy stuff to aid them in opening–or closing–the gates into the underworld.
Each of these characters has an animal companion. Jill has a cat, there’s a snake, a raven, a pack rat who’s a bit of a loose cannon. And they all speak. There are also monsters and “things” kept in mirrors and jars and old steamer trunks. Snuff is in charge of keeping them all safely corralled until the big night of October 31. Halloween.
Day-by-day, the tension mounts as the people go about collecting items needed for the opening–or closing–ceremony. Some people are friends, some dire enemies. Ditto their animal familiars. And once a night, Snuff is able to speak out loud to Jack, and so the story progresses.
As one might imagine, the finale is enough to make you shiver although, not to worry, the good guys win. Or do they? Since when is Jack the Ripper a good guy?
Since Roger Zelazny, in his last book, created this highly innovative story, which is complete with illustrations by Gahan Wilson. A perfect read for the month of October (or any month).
Reviewed by Carol Crigger, August 2015.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.
A Bullet Apiece
Saint Louis Noir #1
John Joseph Ryan
Blank Slate Press, July 2015
The novel is a comfort read. That is, if you are an inveterate reader of crime fiction, you can be comforted knowing that every joke, every bon mot, just about every cliché of the genre finds its way into the pages of this book. The dialogue ain’t far off, either.
Ed Darvis is a St. Louis PI with a main-floor office in a seedy part of town. The period is sometime after the end of the second world war. Across the road-I suspect it’s a paved street-is a charter school of some kind and while Mr. Darvis is currently idle, he spends time smoking cigarettes, observing the kiddies and ogling the teachers. And some of the parents.
One day, a leggy, seductive woman who drives a late-model Caddy coupe bursts from the school door in what our astute PI deduces is intense fear, “radiating off her like heat waves.” She roars off in a cloud of exhaust leaving one of the teachers, clearly agitated, standing at the schoolroom door. What we have is clearly a case of child abduction. Enter PI Ed Darvis, cigarette dangling, loaded .38 in his belt, ready and willing to find the child and bed either comely teacher or luscious mother, not necessarily in that order.
The dialogue is snappy and often cute, the action is rousing and predictable and the plot becomes surprisingly tangled. Whether the whole thing is a tongue-in-cheek put-on or a serious attempt at a novel is for readers to determine. This reviewer is persuaded the author invested a considerable effort to produce this story and it has its moments.
A Killer Retreat
A Downward Dog Mystery #2
Midnight Ink, January 2015
We forgive the faults of those we love, a theme throughout this humorous amateur sleuth mystery, becomes clear as the cast of characters evolve through a ton of conflicts. The murderer could be any one of a number of them.
Kate, a Seattle yoga instructor, is invited to teach classes at a Canadian vegan retreat for a week. Her students will be guests of the owners, a couple about to be married. Kate’s German Shepard with an autoimmune disease requiring a disgusting special diet, her wants-to-get-too-close boyfriend, and her secretive best friend and husband join her at the beautiful, secluded site. From the start, incredible clashes and mishaps plague the trip. The one-hundred-pound dog drags Kate through mud, rain, and animal doo, among other places, and into a fight with the owner of a yappy terrier. Kate forgives the dog all. He is her main squeeze and the one she rushes to be with when excuse time comes.
It’s Kate’s hot temper and smart tongue, though, that make her the primary suspect for the murder of the unruly terrier owner, a woman everyone dislikes. It’s the kind of behavior Kate displays over and over in the story. (And it might be a little beyond this reviewer’s ability to suspend disbelief about a boyfriend who would put up so long with the way she treats him. It’s a lot even for a loved one.)
If you enjoy nonstop action, funny lines, tons of suspects, and a surprise twist during the revelation of the murderer, you’ll like this story. There are references to the first book in the series, but A Killer Retreat works as a stand-alone.
Reviewed by Joyce Ann Brown, October 2015.
Author of cozy mysteries: Catastrophic Connections and Furtive Investigation, the first two Psycho Cat and the Landlady Mysteries.
Chicken House, March 2015
Combining enthralling elements from Greek mythology to the mafia, including a mysterious abandoned mansion haunted by a WWII ghost story, while touching on friendship, loyalty, roofies and perspective along the way seems a daunting, laborious chore….that probably won’t end with something super-fun to read. And yet, Ms. Doyle tossed all of these captivating, compelling themes into a hat, waved a magic wand and viola! Vendetta!
I love this book so very much, that writing this review has been a bit of a challenge. So, instead of fighting my urge to chatter excitedly like a ten-year-old-boy that hit his first out-of-the-park home-run, I’m just going to have to gush.
Weaving a bit of the story around the name Persephone pleased me immensely. Enough of the Greek myth seeped through for subtle suggestions, yet Sophie’s story is completely her own. Perfectly paced unraveling of back-story made this a page-turner….so much so that I wished I had blocked out time to read it straight from cover to cover.
Sophie’s foundation has been rocked by the removal of her father from the family home. With walls crumbling all around her, watching her mom silently shrink into herself, rumors swirling and only one friend left, this chick should be jaded, pissed and out for vengeance. She is no ordinary almost-seventeen year old. She has a super-power: her determinedly stubborn faith in mankind. Sophie’s genuine and utmost conviction that, basically people are good, and absolutely everyone should behave well in society, is so strong, unyielding and uncontrollable that Sophie absolutely, always speaks her mind. Written any other way, this character could seem confrontational….a disingenuous bitch. Ms. Doyle reveals Sophie’s heart and soul with crystal clarity, making her the scrappy underdog that the reader just has to cheer for.
Sophie fights….furiously. Not for herself, but for her mom…who’s barely holding it together now, and for Millie, the one friend that stuck by Sophie when no one else would. For those two people, solely so that they weren’t faced with losing absolutely everything….Sophie would fight.
When five brothers move into the aforementioned abandoned dwelling, Sophie’s vehement dislike of Luca, the very person that seems to strike fear in all other living beings, along with her willingness to call him out and remind him that she “has no respect for his authority” is such a fun and honest twist. It is a groovy way to remind the reader of Sophie’s toughness and determinedness for that which is good and right, while providing a bit of comic relief and a sneaky glimpse that Luca may have a soul after all.
Vendetta is packed with fabulous dialogue; colorfully complete and embraceable characters and a simply beautiful story. I’ll happily recommend this to most readers, Middle Grade and beyond and I’ll most certainly grab anything and everything I can find that Ms. Doyle has written.
Reviewed by jv poore, August 2015.