Book Reviews: No Substitute for Mimes by Carolyn J. Rose and Mental State by M. Todd Henderson @CarolynJRose @DownAndOutBooks

No Substitute for Mimes
Subbing Isn’t for Sissies #12
Carolyn J. Rose
Carolyn J. Rose, November 2019
ISBN 978-1-7342412-0-4
Trade Paperback

Set in the fictional town of Reckless River, Washington, residents are by turns, bemused, irked, and barely tolerant as their quiet town is besieged by a group of mimes.

Suddenly, they seem to be everywhere. And they are stealing things; small things, useless trinkets. But then, the stolen items reappear. Residents become increasingly bewildered and irritated, but that fails to suppress the turbulent life of substitute teacher, Barbara Reed. Her principal seems bent on handing her the most problematic assignments at the local school where she is a long-time fixture.

Reed’s life is crowded with a large number  of idiosyncratic individuals from a couple of cops, a wealthy retiree, some relatives and a host of friends. And there is a dog with few manners.

The novel is awash with incidents frequently involving several of Reed’s friends, especially local crime news reporter, Stan. People who like this kind of story in which the mystery or crime often takes a back seat to various social activities, will likely be enthralled.

The book is well-written, moves through town at a measured pace and arrives at a surprise ending that engages most of the town.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, March 2020.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
Traces, Grand Lac, Reunion, Red Sky.

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Mental State
M. Todd Henderson
Down and Out Books, May 2018
ISBN 978-1-948235-33-4
Trade Paperback

Royce Anderson, rogue FBI agent is on a personal crusade. He’s trying to nail the man who killed his brother Alex, a prominent professor of law at a prestigious law school in Chicago. Local police have tentatively ruled Alex’s death as a suicide. Royce is unbelieving, unimpressed, sure his brother would never have done such a thing.

But if Alex’s death wasn’t suicide, what was it? With almost no additional help, except that he sometimes receives along his troubled, occasionally stumbling way, the narrative wanders across the Eastern Seaboard. Indeed, because part of the story involves prior activities by the law professor, there are some undeveloped international elements as well.

The story follows a conflicted and disturbed agent, Royce Anderson, as he uses all his considerable skills and experience to confront and best some very evil and very well-connected people. There are some serious problems, not the least of which are interesting elements of the story which are undeveloped and some major jumps in points of view which may unnerve readers. The occasional political asides add little to what could have been a serious gripping thriller.

Nevertheless, readers with patience will be drawn to Royce’s side as he struggles to avenge his brother and save an innocent man, although at the price of several other lives hugely disrupted.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, February 2019.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
Traces, Grand Lac, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Review: A Texan Goes to Nirvana by Kelly Jackson @AnAudiobookworm

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Book Reviews: The Fourth Courier by Timothy Jay Smith and The Spying Moon by Sandra Ruttan @TimothyJaySmith @arcadepub @DownAndOutBooks

The Fourth Courier
Timothy Jay Smith
Arcade Publishing, April 2019
ISBN 978-1-94892-410-8
Hardcover

The author is a capable, experienced author and he fully understands and uses the techniques of the crime novelist. The novel reflects the author’s grasp of craft. Crimes happen early and more than once, from murder to adultery, to smuggling and other crimes, and multiple misdemeanors.

The search to identify and capture the many criminals is detailed and interesting. Several various interactions, sexual and ordinary, between various characters in this novel are also interesting.

The novel is set in Warsaw, Poland, in 1992. FBI agent Jay Porter is assigned to assist local law enforcement in a case of smuggling and multiple murder. The case has international implications because of connections of some characters to nuclear research laboratories in Russia. Remember that Communism has just departed Poland and the nation’s systems, including law enforcement, are still finding themselves and adjusting to the new era. The novel illuminates the difficulties of living and working under the Soviet and now Polish authority.

The local characters especially seem authentic and real. The descriptions of the city and countryside also seem carefully and accurately depicted. Although the novel addresses the emotional changes and connections of the characters more than the implied danger of smuggling nuclear components out of Russia, the tension is quite apparent. This is a thoughtful novel of connections and international undeclared warfare, well worth a  thoughtful read.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, December 2019.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

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The Spying Moon
Integrated Border Enforcement Team, Book 1
Sandra Ruttan
Down & Out Books
ISBN 978-1-948235-27-3
Trade Paperback

Mixed parentage doesn’t seem to hamper the career advancement of RCMP constable, Kendall Moreau. Even when she encounters a sexist constable at the entrance to her newly assigned post, Maple River, British Columbia. This had not been her plan and she was already irked. Now this man seemed to represent everything wrong with relations between men and women, in life, as in the law enforcement profession. She didn’t want to be here. Her belief was that she’d been assigned to Burns Lake, a small community many miles north, after an exemplary early career with the federal law enforcement agency.

Moreau was desperate to go to Burns Lake where a surprising number of women, including her mother, had been disappearing. It was not to be. The head of RCMP in Maple River needed a task force to deal with a growing drug distribution problem in the area so Moreau is abruptly reassigned. She discovers a morass of murder, drugs, corruption and a mélange of fascinating characters, in and out of law enforcement.

Readers will be drawn swiftly into the complicated taut relationships of the task force she abruptly joins. The puzzles she and her colleagues must solve, even for their own protection, are many and fraught, all set against a small city environment nearly surrounded by the Rocky Mountains.

Well written, the pace of the novel is maintained at an appropriate level as Moreau, a strong and realistic character, works to solve personal interactions and a growing list of crimes and infractions.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, January 2019.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

A Trio of Teeny Reviews @ajhackwith @AceRocBooks @DeanStPress @GrandCentralPub

The Library of the Unwritten
A Novel from Hell’s Library #1
A. J. Hackwith
Ace, October 2019
ISBN 978-1-98480-637-6
Trade Paperback

In a unique way of looking at what Hell must be like, there are books that never got finished, or even started, by their authors and someone—Claire—has to be in charge of those books. Why? Because the characters in those stories can escape and create havoc, of course 😉

When one particular hero goes on the run, looking for his creator, Claire is in hot pursuit along with her assistant and a demon. They all soon discover they’re really on a quest to find a particular powerful artifact, the Devil’s Bible, that Heaven also wants and a fallen angel is determined to redeem himself by recovering. If Claire and her crew don’t find it first, Heaven and Hell are likely to explode into war with Earth caught in the middle.

To put it simply, I loved this book that’s full of adventure, mystery, humor and a wealth of marvelous beings and, when it comes time to re-read it—and I’m very sure I will—I think I’ll try the audiobook for a fresh take.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2019.

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The Mystery of the Peacock’s Eye
The Anthony Bathurst Mysteries #3
Brian Flynn
Dean Street Press, October 2019
ISBN 978-1-913054-39-7
Trade Paperback

Gentleman sleuth Anthony Bathurst and Scotland Yard’s Chief Detective-Inspector Richard Bannister work together to discover how three separate cases are indeed not separate but intertwined to a fare thee well. Blackmail, murder, indiscretions, thievery, hidden identities and a “magnificent blue-shaded emerald”…all come together clue by clue in this delightful traditional mystery full of red herrings that had me coming and going, always eager to follow the next lead.

Aficionados of Golden Age mysteries will want to get their hands on this long-forgotten book as soon as possible. You might say it’s criminal that Brian Flynn‘s works fell into a black hole many years ago but, now that new editions of some of his titles are being released, we all have a chance to savor a journey back in time.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2019.

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Old Bones
Nora Kelly #1
Preston & Child
Grand Central Publishing, August 2019
ISBN 978-1538747223
Hardcover

We’ve met Nora Kelly before in some of the Pendergast novels and I’ve always liked her so I’m delighted she has her own series now. Along with Nora, we meet another character from the past, Corrie Swanson, who used to be a Goth teen with purple hair and attitude. Her connection to Pendergast when he hired her to drive him around during a case led her to become an FBI agent and she’s still trying to corral her mouthy rebellious streak.

When historian Clive Benton convinces archaeologist Nora Kelly and her employer, the Santa Fe Archaeological Institute, to undertake a search for and excavation of the Lost Camp, an offshoot of the Donner Party’s known snowbound locations, no one expects the FBI to intervene in the dig on site. Agent Corrie Swanson has been investigating the possible ties among a string of grave robberies and a missing person and has, perhaps precipitously, connected them to the dig. Her arrival at the site leads to a shutdown and murders and she and Nora are forced to work together to find the killer(s).

Although the identity of the killer(s) was a bit too predictable, I thoroughly enjoyed Old Bones and relish the promise of more collaborations between Nora and Corrie with a little Pendergast thrown in 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2019.

Book Review: The Wedding Crasher by Nikki Stern

The Wedding Crasher
A Sam Tate Mystery
Nikki Stern
Ruthenia Press, May 2019
ISBN 978-0-9995487-3-8
Trade Paperback

From the author—

A brunette in a bridal gown turns up in Pickett County, Tennessee, throat slit and ring finger missing. She’s the latest victim of the Wedding Crasher, a serial killer who murders women just weeks before their weddings.

Samantha Tate is Picket County’s yoga-loving, poker-playing new sheriff, a former Nashville homicide detective who struggles with her inner demons. To catch the meticulous murderer, Sam will have to follow her instincts and ignore her worst impulses. Can she stop the Wedding Crasher before another bride-to-be dies?

Nikki Stern ticks a lot of my boxes in The Wedding Crasher with a female lead who is in law enforcement, a non-urban police procedural, a Southern setting. Small wonder, then, that I enjoyed this book from beginning to end. Speaking of the beginning, this one is in your face as we meet Sam Tate at a gruesome crime scene, no footdragging leading up to it, and that’s another one of my boxes.

Sam has her own issues from the past but she focuses on this string of brutal crimes with the help of Abdi Issen, her lead detective, and FBI agent Terry Sloan who’s been working these cases for several years. The first four murders happened once a year in the spring but then the killer skipped a year. Why? Is there a connection with a trauma from Sam’s past?

That trauma comes out in dribs and drabs but it helps us see how Sam’s core has grown and changed over the years, making her who she is today. This sort of thing can dampen my enthusiasm for a character because it’s often overdone but Ms. Stern handles this part of the story with finesse.

All in all, this is an intriguing look at a serial killer investigation with a lot of twists and turns, always a plus in crime fiction, and I’m looking forward to Sam’s next story.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2019.

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Amazon // Indiebound

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An Excerpt from The Wedding Crasher

The dead woman lay in the clearing like a macabre version of Sleeping Beauty. She was dressed in a long-sleeved, high-necked ivory gown, set off by luminescent pearl drop earrings and a matching necklace that almost hid the dried blood around her throat. Her head rested on a satin pillow, her silky walnut hair spread behind her like a fan. The right hand held a bouquet of wilted flowers and rested on her chest underneath the left, absent the fourth finger. The ring finger.

Sheriff Sam Tate stood to one side of the grim tableau, arms folded, and took it all in: the victim; the tall white-haired man who knelt by the body; the deputy who walked the scene in throwaway boots, snapping pictures; the pale young man in running gear sitting on a rock, head almost to his knees; the uniformed officer who squatted beside him.

Sam had dressed in her standard uniform of pressed black slacks and a spotless white shirt. A shaft of early-morning sun bounced off the polished badge at her left breast pocket. On her right wrist, she wore a utilitarian watch. Three small studs twinkled along one earlobe, her single visible concession to a rebellious streak. She’d pulled her unruly dark locks into a tight braid. Ray-Bans shielded her green eyes, though not the line that formed between her brows.

One of the victim’s low-heeled white pumps had dropped off to reveal a slim ankle in hosiery. Stockings, not pantyhose, held up by an old-fashioned garter. Sam didn’t need to look.

He’s back, she thought, adding a curse for good measure.

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About the Author

Nikki Stern is the author of the inspirational HOPE IN SMALL DOSES, a 2015 Eric Hoffer Montaigne Medal finalist, and the thriller THE FORMER ASSASSIN, a 2018 Kindle Book Review category finalist. Her essays are included in three anthologies and she co-authored the interactive Café Noir murder mystery series, published by Samuel French. Eight of her short stories have been published in various online journals and she was a Mark Twain Royal Nonesuch finalist for her short story “Long Away and Far Ago.” Nikki is a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America.

Catch Up With Nikki Stern On:
nikkistern.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Twitter, & Facebook!

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Book Review: How It Happened by Michael Koryta

How It Happened
Michael Koryta
Little, Brown and Company, May 2018
ISBN: 978-0-316-29393-8
Hardcover

Inspired by an actual event in the author’s hometown, this novel recounts the ups and downs in the life of Rob Barrett, an FBI specialist in interrogations, who is sent to a little town in Maine years after the disappearance of a man and two women.  Barrett finally reaches a witness who confesses to having participated in the murder and disposal of the bodies of a man and a woman in a shallow lake. Unfortunately, when the lake is inspected, the bodies aren’t there.  Barrett insists he believes the confession, but the prevailing view is that it is unreliable because the confessor is a known liar and drug addict. Moreover, absence of the bodies where they’re said to be is further proof.

Barrett is sent to a remote FBI office in the Midwest in disgrace, but the confession still haunts him.  Eventually, he returns to Maine on his own nickel to find the truth, which, of course, is elusive. The story becomes more complex, as he investigates more deeply, and the scope widens.

Michael Koryta has written a gripping tale about a grisly murder and cover-ups and subterfuges to hide a variety of motivations as each layer of the story is unveiled.   It is a novel describing perseverance and investigative skill.  The novel has its origins in a murder investigation which the author covered for his hometown newspaper as a young reporter, and is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, August 2018.

Book Review: First Contact by Kat Green

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Title: First Contact
Series: Haunts for Sale #1
Author: Kat Green
Narrator: Kate Tyler
Publication Date: November 9, 2017

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Purchase Links:

Audible // iTunes // Amazon

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First Contact
Haunts for Sale #1
Kat Green
Narrated by Kate Tyler
The Wild Rose Press, November 2017
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the publisher—

Sloane Osborne is a paranormal real estate agent in the business of selling haunted houses, but, in truth, she’s only searching for one ghost. And her time is running out.

It’s the 366th day after her fiancé’s death. Michael used to like putting things off for “a year and a day” – so tonight’s the night. Sloane will do anything to make contact with him before the clock strikes midnight. When she gets a call to check out a home in Waukesha, Wisconsin, it’s the last place she thinks Michael would contact her.

Sloane is dead wrong.

This is one of those books that you just have to throw disbelief and credulity to the wind and enjoy the story for what it is. The good thing is it’s well-told and fun enough to keep me going.

Yes, it’s sadly true that the protagonist, Sloane, is TSTL and also driven by an obsesssion to see her fiance one last time before he leaves this dimension for the next because, you see, he died a year ago. To be more specific, he died 365 days, 21 hours and 36 minutes ago so she only has 2 hours and some minutes before his “year and a day” is up. This was my first hint that I was going to have some trouble with this book as obsession of any kind is a red flag for me. Add to that the location; Michael and Sloane didn’t live and he didn’t die in Wisconsin so why would his ghostly presence be there?

Sloane also is blind to all sorts of hints and clues that maybe, just maybe, she shouldn’t do certain things but, hey, that’s what TSTL is all about, right? Anyway, she stumbles into what could be a very dangerous situation when she discovers a house overflowing with ghosts and, at last, her obsession takes second place to trying to help these ghosts escape this mortal plane, hopefully before she becomes one of them. Oh, and there’s a potential romance in her future if her and Michael’s best friend, Jonah, can find her before it’s too late.

Seriously, I did enjoy this story (although I didn’t care for the graphic and unnecessary sex scene) and I especially liked the narrator, Kate Tyler. Her tone and cadence are really pleasing and she does different voices, male and female, quite well. The next book in the series, Second Sight, isn’t out in audio yet but I’ll be looking for it.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2018.

About the Author

Kat Green is really the alias of authors KAT de Falla and Rachel GREEN.

Rachel Green has always believed in ghosts but saw her first full body apparition while working at an old movie theater in college. When she met Kat de Falla at a writer’s workshop, she knew she’d met a kindred spirit – one who was also sensitive to the hereafter. And after bonding on a few ghost adventures, Kat Green was born.

Kat lived in a haunted house for too long. When things really heated up, she had several paranormal teams investigate, but things only got worse. When her mother suggested they contact a shaman, she agreed to come, saying she had been waiting for Kat’s call. The home was cleansed and sold. When she paired up with Rachel Green, the idea of co-writing a book with a paranormal real estate agent seemed perfect.

With their combined paranormal “experiences”, they decided to combine their creative mojo. That’s when Sloane Osborne, Paranormal Real Estate agent, and the HAUNTS FOR SALE series was born.

Website // Twitter // Facebook

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About the Narrator

Kate Tyler is an audiobook narrator and producer with several published audiobooks available on Audible, iTunes and Amazon.  A background in drama and a successful career in voiceover, Kate lives with her family in San Diego and enjoys swimming, running, cycling and stand up paddleboard.

Website

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Play an excerpt here.

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