Book Review: Among the Shadows by Bruce Robert Coffin @coffin_bruce @WitnessImpulse @HarperCollins

Among the Shadows
A Detective Byron Mystery #1
Bruce Robert Coffin
Witness Impulse, September 2016
ISBN 978-0-06-256947-9
Trade Paperback

Set in Portland, Maine, Among the Shadows is the first in a series of which, so far there are three. I’ve read them all…. Book 2, Beneath the Depths (2017), and Book 3, Beyond the Truth (2018). Update! The 4th in the series Within Plain Sight is available now!

It’s the Fall and Detective Sergeant John Byron is assigned a case concerning the murder of a retired Portland Officer. Meantime Byron is in the middle of some personal upheaval, his wife has left him, he’s drinking too much, and he’s having problems with his Superiors.

He typically throws himself into the investigation, determined to solve the murder of one of their own, and when a second ex-Portland PD Officer dies under suspicious circumstances, he realizes there is much more to these deaths than meets the eye.

Detective Diane Joyner, the first female African-American detective in the department, and his partner begin to delve into these men’s pasts, and uncover the fact that these two policemen and several others in the department were working on a case where a a substantial amount of money disappeared. In digging up the old files, Byron and Joyner wonder if more policemen are in danger.

John Byron’s character is not without flaws. He is drinking too much, ignoring calls and messages from his wife in an attempt to avoid facing the possible end of his marriage, and his bosses are watching him closely. Tensions quickly rise and Byron uncovers a truth that escalates his efforts to bring the perpetrator to justice.

It was hard to put this one down… and I quickly got my hands on Books 2 and 3 of this very enjoyable series.

Respectfully submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, November 2020.

Book Review: The Long Call by Ann Cleeves @AnnCleeves @panmacmillan @MinotaurBooks

The Long Call
The Two Rivers #1
Ann Cleeves
Pan Macmillan, April 2020
ISBN 978-1-5098-8956-3
Trade Paperback
Minotaur, July 2020
ISBN 978-1-250-20445-5
Trade Paperback

Ann Cleeves is the well known author of two very popular mystery series; Shetland with detective Jimmy Perez, and Vera, with Detective Vera Stanhope. Here in The Long Call we meet a brand new Detective, DI Matthew Venn. Matthew has returned to Barnstaple in North Devon where he grew up. His father died recently but Matthew hadn’t seen or spoken to his parents since he began attending university, unable to conform to the strict evangelical group they belonged to known as the Barnum Brethren.

The body of a man with no identification has been found on the beach. He’s been stabbed and DI Venn’s first task is to identify the victim. It isn’t long before they learn he’s Simon Walden, a secretive man with mental issues and a relative stranger to the area.

As DI Venn, along with detectives DS Jen Rafferty and DS Ross May, begin their murder investigation we meet a number of the locals as they are interviewed. Widower Maurice Braddick and his thirty year old Down Syndrome daughter Lucy who attends the Woodyard Centre; Hilary and Colin Marston who have recently moved to the area and might have seen the victim prior to his death; Gabby Henry an artist who teaches painting at the Woodyard Community Centre, who isn’t telling the whole truth, and Caroline Preece with whom the victim had been staying.

There are a few more players in this intriguing mystery including DI Venn’s mother who reaches out to Matthew when her friend’s daughter Christine Shapland, Lucy’s friend and another Down Syndrome girl, disappears. Lives are in danger as the perpetrator attempts to stop the police from uncovering the truth and solving the murder.

Ann Cleeves is a master at portraying these small towns and the people who live in them. They are an endless source of interest as inevitably behind closed doors all is not what it seems…

I highly recommend this mystery and hope it’s the first in a new series featuring DI Matthew Venn. I was happy, however, to see a reference to a new title in Vera Stanhope’s series – The Darkest Evening – due out later this year.

Respectfully submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, June 2020.

Book Review: Blood Family by Jacqueline Seewald @JacquelineSeewa @encirclepub

Blood Family
A Kim Reynolds Mystery #5
Jacqueline Seewald
Encircle Publications, May 2020
ISBN 978-1-64599-043-7
Trade Paperback

When people delve into their own pasts, they sometimes get much more than they bargained for and that’s definitely the case when librarian Kim Reynolds goes in search of her biological father. Just when she finds James Shaw, he passes away unexpectedly but this was no ordinary death. Not only that, Kim learns that her newly-discovered family has a litany of problems and now she’s been drawn into the middle of it all.

Claire, Kim’s very needy half-sister, is the one who pulls Kim into the mess and, to make matters worse, her wealthy biological father named her in his will, putting a target squarely on her back. That, and a strong element of family mystery over and above her father’s death, compel Kim to delve into whatever has been going on in this troubled, dysfunctional family. As an academic librarian, she’s no stranger to research and mental investigating but that might not be enough and it’s a good thing that her fiance, police lieutenant Mike Gardner, and his partner, Sergeant Bert St. Croix, are watching her back as well as doing their jobs. The three of them make an effective team.

Ms. Seewald has been known for her strong characterizations and tight plotlines and Blood Family is certainly no exception. Kim, Mike and Bert, as well as Bert’s SO, Fred, are very easy to like and each brings something different to their investigations while the plot itself is full of what seem to be minor hints here and there that, at the end, add up to a satisfying conclusion.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2020.

Book Review: Beneath the Surface by Mike Martin @mike54martin @AnAudiobookworm

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Title: Beneath the Surface
Series: Sgt. Windflower Mystery Series, Book 3
Author: Mike Martin
Narrator: Francis G. Kearney
Publication Date: May 14, 2020

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Beneath the Surface
Sgt. Windflower Mystery Series, Book 3
Mike Martin
Narrated by Francis G. Kearney
Mike Martin, May 2020
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

Beneath the Surface is the third book in the Sgt. Windflower Mystery Series set in Newfoundland on the East Coast of Canada.

Sgt. Windflower is back, and as usual, he’s loving life on the East Coast. He may be a long way from his home in Northern Alberta, but he has been adopted by the locals as almost one of their own.

He has a good life, good work with the RCMP, and a good woman that he has grown closer to in his years on the southeast coast of Newfoundland.

But trouble is brewing just beneath the surface of this calm and charm-filled existence.

The Newfoundland Mounties have returned and I’m so glad they have! Mike Martin’s series featuring Sgt. Winston Windflower, who is part First Nation, specifically Cree, as you can tell by his last name, has become one of my favorites over the past few years and I’m always happy to welcome Windflower back along with his girlfriend, Sheila Hillier, close friend Herb Stoodly, and colleagues Corporal Eddie Tizzard and Betsy Molloy.

Sidenote: Are Canadians as enamored with the Mounties as so many Americans are?

The suspicious death of a rower, a university student in St. Johns, doesn’t actively involve Windflower in his temporary Marystown post but his interest is piqued because she grew up in Grand Bank, Eddie’s territory. Sheila knew and liked Amy Parsons, another reason for Windflower to want to look into the incident but, before he can, he’s surprised to find his Uncle Frank ensconced in his house, unannounced but clearly settled in, even wearing Windflower’s own longjohns. This is a problem in all sorts of ways but takes a backseat to what Windflower begins to learn about Amy’s murder, especially a possible connection to human trafficking.

It was nice, as always, to learn a little about life in Newfoundland and Winston’s Cree background and everything was enhanced by Mr. Kearney’s performance. His narration has been growing on me with each audiobook and I particularly enjoy his accents, which sound authentic to me. Once again, an appealing story with engaging narration, just what I like.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2020.

Purchase Links:
Audible // iTunes

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About the Author

Mike Martin was born in Newfoundland on the East Coast of Canada and now lives and works in Ottawa, Ontario. He is a long-time freelance writer and his articles and essays have appeared in newspapers, magazines and online across Canada as well as in the United States and New Zealand. He is the author of Change the Things You Can: Dealing with Difficult People and has written a number of short stories that have published in various publications including Canadian Stories and Downhome magazine.

The Walker on the Cape was his first full fiction book and the premiere of the Sgt. Windflower Mystery Series. Other books in the series include The Body on the T, Beneath the Surface, A Twist of Fortune and A Long Ways from Home, which was shortlisted for the Bony Blithe Light Mystery Award as the best light mystery of the year. A Tangled Web was released in 2017 and the newest book in the series is Darkest Before the Dawn which won the Bony Blithe Light Mystery Award as the best light mystery of the year.

Mike is currently Chair of the Board of Crime Writers of Canada, a national organization promoting Canadian crime and mystery writers.

Website // Twitter // Facebook

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About the Narrator

Following college and many years as a local entertainer and actor I eventually entered the business world and a career of building and selling multiple successful enterprises.

In 1985 I purchased an aviation business and while building a very successful business also earned multiple movie credits as a helicopter camera ship pilot – https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0443932/?ref_=nv_sr_1 – among other services, and flew the camera helicopter for London Weekend Television’s mini series “Piece of Cake” in 1988. I have an extensive aviation background from helicopters through turboprop and jet aircraft, and a deep knowledge of all things aviation.

I have always been an insatiable reader with a love of history – the ultimate story, and anything military – especially if it flies. My evolution into narration and the joy of storytelling is the culmination of many years of a life fully lived, and is reflected in a voice of experience.

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Play an excerpt here.

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Follow the tour here.

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Book Review: Malice by Pintip Dunn @pintipdunn @EntangledTeen @The_FFBC

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Title: Malice
Author: Pintip Dunn
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Publication date: February 4, 2020
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // iTunes // Google Books
Amazon // Book Depository // Indiebound

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Malice
Pintip Dunn
Entangled Teen, February 2020
ISBN 978-1-64063-412-1
Hardcover

From the publisher—

What I know: a boy in my class will one day wipe out two-thirds of the population with a virus.

What I don’t know: who he is.

In a race against the clock, I not only have to figure out his identity, but I’ll have to outwit a voice from the future telling me to kill him. Because I’m starting to realize no one is telling the truth. But how can I play chess with someone who already knows the outcome of my every move? Someone so filled with malice they’ve lost all hope in humanity? Well, I’ll just have to find a way—because now they’ve drawn a target on the only boy I’ve ever loved….

Pintip Dunn has a knack for coming up with young adult science fiction stories that are interesting and creative but are not hardcore science fiction so they appeal to a wider readership that prefer scifi-lite, so to speak. That doesn’t mean they’re weak, by any means, just more accessible and I appreciate that.

The beauty of time travel is that there’s so much you can do with it, so many ways to make it the core of an intriguing tale and that’s true here. By offering a look at certain characters during different stages of their lives that haven’t happened yet, the focus can be on those characters and not so much on the setting or worldbuilding.

Alice is a perfectly normal teen or, at least, as normal as possible for a girl whose mother disappeared years ago and whose father has been emotionally distant ever since. In fact, Alice is the steady one in this family, especially in looking after her older brother, Archie, a prodigy who definitely has a few screws loose and a deep distrust of people. These two and a boy named Bandit are all crucial to the plot and, although I pegged the future creator of the global virus early on, that certainly didn’t keep me from wanting to see how everything would pan out.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2020.

About the Author

Pintip Dunn is a New York Times bestselling author of young adult fiction. She graduated from Harvard University, magna cum laude, with an A.B., and received her J.D. at Yale Law School.

Her novel FORGET TOMORROW won the 2016 RWA RITA® for Best First Book, and SEIZE TODAY won the 2018 RITA for Best Young Adult Romance. Her books have been translated into four languages, and they have been nominated for the following awards: the Grand Prix del’Imaginaire; the Japanese Sakura Medal; the MASL Truman Award; the TomeSociety It list; and the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award.

Her other titles include REMEMBER YESTERDAY, THE DARKEST LIE, GIRL ON THE VERGE, STAR-CROSSED, and MALICE.

She lives with her husband and children in Maryland.

Website // Twitter // Facebook // Instagram // Goodreads

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Follow the tour here.

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Giveaway

Win (1) of (2) copies of MALICE by Pintip Dunn (US Only)

Starts: 4th February 2020  Ends: 18th February 2020

Enter here.

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Book Review: The Quiet You Carry by Nikki Barthelmess @nikkigrey_ @fluxbooks

The Quiet You Carry
Nikki Barthelmess
Flux, March 2019
ISBN 978-1-63583-028-6
Trade Paperback

Teens face many troubles. From typical to uniquely terrible, talked-to-death to barely touched; there is a tie that binds: this part of life is a different kind of tough.

The Quiet You Carry ponders points that may not be particularly prevalent in publishing yet, but actually affect many children today. Certainly domestic-abuse situations are beginning to be addressed and recently, I’ve read about characters in foster-care and adoption. Still, I’m admittedly overwhelmed with what I’ve learned here and a bit ashamed of my ignorance. Taboo topics turn to thoughtful talking points when Ms. Barthelmess brilliantly blurs lines.

Contrary to popular belief, first impressions are not always accurate. The very person that seems aloof and uncaring may have the biggest heart. Only, it has been so badly broken, on multiple occasions, that it has hardened in self-preservation. After all, enthusiasm and an earnest need to make a difference can definitely be dampened by a laborious, under-staffed system. Add in the horror humans inflict on one another, and that intuitive good nature is bound to become buried beneath metaphorical armor in a vain effort to hold onto the very last bit of a kind, caring and conscientious soul.

Abuse does not need to be physical to invoke very real pain and suffering. Victoria’s story is not just about how her father changed after her mother’s death. Equally important examples of manipulation in her parents’ marriage paint a bigger picture. Accompanying this sweet, sheltered teen through her trials and tribulations evokes every kind of tear, from heartache to hope. Being that teens tend to be resilient creatures; bending, never breaking, there is also some humor.

I cannot imagine a better way to enlighten and empower our adolescents.

Reviewed by jv poore, March 2019.

Book Review: Blood by Maggie Gee @maggiegeewriter @FentumPress

Blood
Maggie Gee
Fentum Press, July 2019
ISBN 978-1-909572-12-6
Trade Paperback

Albert Ludd is a physically and verbally abusive dentist, who also cheats the National Health Service and forces his patients to have sex with him. He has six children, who all hate him in different ways. When the book opens, his youngest son Fred, has been killed in Afghanistan. His father bullied him into joining the Army, and when there was a memorial gathering for Fred, dad didn’t bother to show up.

Daughter Monica, a six foot tall, awkward, teacher, is irate at their father for skipping the get-together, and buys an axe before having a showdown with dad. She finds him, battered and bloodied, in his home. Believing that she killed him, she abandons her car and runs off through the neighborhood before the police track her down.

The book is told from the points of view of Monica, a wildly unreliable narrator, and Adoncia, one of the dentist’s patients and rape victims. The author poses the question: can the victims of bullying men fight back against them and their violence? Full of dark humor and contemporary British slang, this book may not be everyone’s cuppa.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, August 2019.