Book Review: A Welcome Murder by Robin Yocum

A Welcome Murder
Robin Yocum
Seventh Street Books, April 2017
ISBN: 978-1-63388-263-8
Trade Paperback

Steubenville, Ohio, residents come front and center in this engaging if somewhat rambling novel of drug dealing, infidelity, teen-aged pranks, civic wrong-doing and, of course, murder. Hence the title. While the title refers to a single death, several other characters would be cheerfully done away with by many readers.

That doesn’t take anything away from the delightful atmosphere created by the author with fine, accurate writing and an insouciance rarely found in crime fiction. Johnny Earl is a BMIT, a big man in town with a spectacular athletic career in high school and serious prospects for a pro career in baseball. A knee injury wipes that out and Earl returns to Steubenville where he fashions a new career selling cocaine and other illegal drugs.

Busted, he serves seven years. Now released, Earl returns to his home town intent on retrieving a large stash of cash he secreted in a bolt hole in case he had to leave town quickly, a plan interrupted by Earl’s arrest and imprisonment.

Several of his school classmates, a wandering wife or two and various law enforcement agencies tangle over his maneuverings and then, the man who nailed Earl is murdered. He is a most hated man and there are several suspects from the Sheriff, a classmate of Johnny, to the sheriff’s wife, Earl‘s lover, and two convicts Earl encountered while in prison.

Those two are neo-Nazis, planning to create a separate white male-dominated nation within the boundaries of the United States. They are after Johnny’s cash stash.

Eventually things get sorted, the FBI agents are sent packing, as are the nasty neo-Nazis, the killer is revealed, and….well, does Johnny get his cash? Read the book. I recommend it.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, August 2017.
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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Book Reviews: The Thirst by Jo Nesbo and A Game of Ghosts by John Connolly

The Thirst
A Harry Hole Novel #11
Jo Nesbo
Translated from the Norwegian by Neil Smith
Knopf, May 2017
ISBN 978-0-385-35216-1
Hardcover

Harry Hole, Norway’s most experienced serial murder detective, is content to no longer serve on the murder squad, instead lecturing at the police college and living happily after marrying Rakel three years ago.  Unfortunately, such bliss is interrupted when evidence of a possible murder too difficult to solve leads the police chief to blackmail Harry into joining the hunt.  And then he jumps in with both feet.

It turns out that the villain in a previous novel in the series, Police, may be the sought-after culprit, especially when Harry recognizes the killer’s MO.  As the frustrating hunt continues, we learn more about vampirism than, perhaps, we’d like.  It appears that the murderer has a taste for drinking the victim’s blood.  And Nesbo delves into the subject deeply and often.

In this, the 11th Harry Hole novel, the author once again demonstrates why the series is so popular:  a plot so well-developed that the reader hardly notices the length of the book.  And the twist that draws the tale to an end certainly is an added fillip.  The Thirst demonstrates to what lengths Harry Hole will go to solve a case.

Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, May 2017.

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A Game of Ghosts
A Charlie Parker Thriller #15
John Connolly
Emily Bestler Books/Atria, July 2017
ISBN 978-1-5011-7189-5
Hardcover

This is Book #15 in the Charlie Parker series.  In it, Charlie has made a deal with Special Agent Ross and is on retainer to the FBI, and he is asked to find a private investigator, Jacob Eklund, also working for Ross, who apparently has disappeared.  With few facts, especially what the PI was doing for Ross, Parker begins his investigation.  And it leads him into the weirdest of investigations. It seems Eklund, on his own, was involved in tracking down a series of homicides and disappearances, each linked to extraordinary events or sightings.

Meanwhile, Parker is also facing pressure from Rachel, his onetime girlfriend and mother of his daughter, Sam; she is convinced Sam’s exposure to Parker places her in jeopardy.  This belief, reinforced by Sam’s abduction in a previous novel and possible harm, leads Rachel to seek judicial relief preventing direct contact between Parker and his daughter without direct supervision.

As the author acknowledges: “This odd book—if mine are not all odd books—is as much a product of a lifetime of reading ghost stories…”  And it is odd.  And it is filled with ghost stories.  It is an intriguing tale of the supernatural, together with a basic crime story.  It is one fascinating account and well-plotted, bringing together what amounts to a detective story and a ghost story, and it is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, August 2017.

Book Review: Lucky Penny by Ellie Ashe

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Title: Lucky Penny
Series: The Miranda Vaughn Mysteries #3

Author: Ellie Ashe
Narrator: Teri Schnaubelt
Publication Date: April 7, 2017

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Lucky Penny
The Miranda Vaughn Mysteries #3
Ellie Ashe
Ellie Ashe, April 2017
Narrated by Teri Schnaubelt
Downloaded Unabridged Audio Book

From the author—

A year after her acquittal on fraud charges, former financial analyst Miranda Vaughn is finally getting her life back. Not only does she have a chance for romance with her sexy neighbor, FBI Agent Jake Barnes, but she’s also got a new job…one that’s taking her to a vacation paradise!

Perched above the crystal blue waters of Lake Tahoe, the Whispering Pines Resort & Spa is a local landmark and a popular destination for the rich and famous who are stressed out from being rich and famous. And down on the water’s edge is the Lucky Penny Casino – an abandoned shell of a once-stylish casino. Max Emmerson, the owner of the Whispering Pines Resort, used to own the Lucky Penny, and he wants it back. Miranda’s job is to get Max’s finances in order so he can borrow the money to buy the casino, and make sure nothing jeopardizes his gaming license. Easy, right?

But the nice boring accounting job spirals out of control with the addition of a Hollywood film crew, an underground gambling ring, and Jake going undercover at the resort as a newlywed – with another woman. As Miranda and Jake each dive into their investigations, they can’t deny their growing feelings for each other. But it’s more important than ever that they keep their attraction hidden. Especially since someone at the resort is watching them very closely, and is willing to do just about anything to keep them from uncovering the truth.

Fair warning to readers new to the series: I had no trouble jumping into it with the third book but those who are chronologically-driven probably would prefer to read in order. I’m just sayin’  😉

Technically speaking, Lucky Penny is a cozy that doesn’t quite meet the so-called requirements because it doesn’t take place in a small town, most of the characters don’t start out as bosom buddies and the protagonist isn’t a cook, crafter, organic farmer, bookseller, yogi, petsitter, etc., etc., etc. So, let’s just call it a cozy chick-lit caper, OK?

Miranda is a very likeable character who got in some legal trouble a while back and, although she was acquitted, her career is in shambles so she takes on a freelance job at a casino, one that she might not have been offered in the past but it could be a real boon for her. Naturally, what seemed to be a pretty simple task, not to mention a free luxury vacation, turns out to be much, much more. Before she knows what’s happening, Miranda is in the midst of financial shenanigans, an illegal gambling investigation, the filming of a movie and a couple of twisty turny romantic developments.

I could do without the woman-has-to-choose-between-two-guys routine but the romantic elements weren’t too intrusive and the various mysteries were entertaining enough plus the main players are appealing. Bottomline, I liked the story and the narration of the audio edition was a big plus. Ms. Schnaubelt is a very good reader with an easy tone and excellent pacing, clear diction and she does different voices quite well. Her interpretation of Miranda is especially good, exactly the right touch to pull me into Miranda’s world. Both Ellie Ashe and Teri Schnaubelt bring Miranda and crew to life.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2017.

About the Author

USA Today best-selling author Ellie Ashe has always been drawn to jobs where she can tell stories—journalist, lawyer, and now writer. Writing quirky romantic mysteries is how she gets the “happily ever after” that so often is lacking in her day job.

When not writing, you can find her with her nose in a good book, watching far too much TV, or trying out new recipes on unsuspecting friends and family. She lives in Northern California with her husband and three cats, all of whom worry when she starts browsing the puppy listings on petfinder.com.

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About the Narrator

Teri Schnaubelt is a Chicago-based actor, voice actor and audiobook narrator with over 100 titles, including NY Times Bestsellers.

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Chasing the Dollar (Book 1)

Apr. 16: CGB Blog Tours (Spotlight & Audio Excerpt)

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The Book Junkie (Review)

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Book Review: Compromised by James R. Scarantino—and a Giveaway!

Compromised
A Denise Aragon Mystery #2
James R. Scarantino
Midnight Ink, February 2017
ISBN 978-0-7387-5040-8
Trade Paperback

The body of a teenage girl is found in a dumpster—she’s beautiful, even in death, and is surrounded by six dozen red roses. Santa Fe police detectives Denise Aragon and Rick Lewis , along with FBI Special Agent Tomas Rivera, investigate. Their job is complicated by the fact that their witness, former model Lily Montclaire, is not being entirely truthful with them. Montclaire is currently working for ruthless attorney Marcy Thornton, who is involved with Judge Judy Diaz. The detectives are sure that Thornton and Diaz used the victim for sexual purposes, but can’t connect her to the murder without Montclaire’s help. Montclaire only wants to save her own skin.

When the detectives contact the waste disposal company that owns the dumpster, E. Benny Silva Enterprises, they discover that Benny Silva and his twin brother are involved in a multi-million dollar lawsuit that they want to come to a speedy decision. Marcy Thornton and Judge Diaz are not moving fast enough for them.

Scarantino’s detective, Denise Aragon, is the character that makes the story breathe in jagged, sharp gasps. The reader slowly discovers her disturbing and violent backstory, and it puts her obsession with bodybuilding and Krav Maga, the Israeli self-defense system, into perspective. She is hard as nails, wears her hair shorn so that the scars on her scalp are visible, and her arms bulge with muscles she has worked obsessively to develop. Also proud of her heritage and her family’s ties to the Santa Fe area, she emerges proud and triumphant in the books final scene at the Santa Fe Fiesta. Compromised is the second book in the series, after The Drum Within.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, March 2017.

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Book Review: Convergence by Michelle Grey

convergenceConvergence
Long Shot Series, Book Three
Michelle Grey
CreateSpace, February 2016
ISBN 978-1530169436
Trade Paperback

Whether we call it a romantic suspense or a mystery/romance, the chase is on in Convergence. The plot and characters satisfy detective story lovers and also please readers of romance novels. It’s told from two points of view. Tori Whitlock, the beautiful, hard-nosed tornado chaser isn’t looking for commitment, and Jack Mathis, the hot FBI detective intends only to chase the serial killer threatening Tori’s life. Their worlds collide when the detective must take up residence in Tori’s home to protect her.

Tori has become a celebrity from her electrifying tornado chase videos, and she’s totally upfront about pursuing Jack for a roll in the sack. But she’s also running from demons and ready to lash out with her sharp tongue against the idea of being protected. Jack finds himself drawn to the intelligent, strong-willed lady but won’t let himself act unprofessionally. He’s also still healing from past heartbreak.

The detective fits right in with Tori’s tornado chase team, but he must investigate each member in case the killer of women meteorologists has infiltrated the group. The reader learns how chase teams work while following the increasing fearfulness and also the sexual tension. As soon as we think we don’t know much about the inner Jack or about Tori’s motivations, the author gives us more. Gradually, the characters become rounded until we care as much as they do.

Convergence gives us two main characters, two intertwined plots, and two climaxes (no pun intended). We turn pages to learn whether the serial killer will ever be identified and whether the protagonists will be able to share their feelings with each other. It’s a twisted path, but worth the turns.

Reviewed by Joyce Ann Brown, July 2016.
http://www.joyceannbrown.com
Author of cozy mysteries: Catastrophic Connections, Furtive Investigation and Nine LiFelines, the first three Psycho Cat and the Landlady Mysteries.

Book Review: Depraved Heart by Patricia Cornwell

Depraved HeartDepraved Heart
A Scarpetta Novel #23
Patricia Cornwell
William Morrow, October 2015
ISBN: 978-0-06-232540-2
Hardcover

Dr. Kay Scarpetta works out of Cambridge, Massachusetts these days. In Depraved Heart, she’s been called to a historic home where a woman has been found dead in rather gruesome circumstances. The death is supposed to be a straight forward accident, but of course, Kay finds much to rouse her suspicions. In the midst of this, a message arrives on her cell phone, consisting of video clips of her niece Lucy which would seem to make Lucy into an enemy of the state. No sooner has Kay watched the whole video (and it seems to take forever) than the whole thing disappears.

Kay is recovering from a near death harpooning and is still not at her best. She almost doubts herself, but surely Lucy is in danger. So Kay, aided by her raucous partner, Pete Marino, is out to save those she loves from a dangerous woman from the past. One who is supposed to be dead. As for the FBI, they appear to be as big an enemy as Carrie Grethen.

The plot is good, convoluted and devious, with surprises around every corner. Still, I’m sorry to say I don’t enjoy Scarpetta like I used to. The characters by whom she’s surrounded never seem like anyone I’d care to meet, let alone spend time with. Especially Lucy, who always plays such a large part in the stories. Kay herself spends a lot of time whining, always distrustful, even of those she should be able to count on. I thought this novel overwritten, rather slow moving, and with a lot of people saying the same things over and over.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, January 2016.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.

Book Review: Notorious by Carey Baldwin

NotoriousNotorious
A Cassidy & Spenser Thriller #3
Carey Baldwin
Witness Impulse, April 2016
ISBN 978-0-06-238709-7
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

The woman everyone loves to hate is dead.

Dallas socialite Cynthia Langhorne is infamous for her beauty, her philanthropy, and her home wrecking–until she’s found shot through the heart and posed nude at a fundraising ball. The case is high profile, and there’s a bigger problem: Cindy is the wife of a decorated FBI special agent–the prime suspect in her murder.

When the Bureau sends FBI profiler Atticus Spenser and forensic psychiatrist Dr. Caitlin Cassidy to Texas on behalf of Dutch Langhorne, the special agent-turned-suspect, they’re suspicious of the very man whose interests they’re supposed to protect. But with a psycho hitman on their heels and a trail of evidence leading up the food chain, it quickly becomes clear this is no ordinary case. The truth points to someone–or something–larger than Spenser and Cassidy ever thought possible. Solving this case is no longer a matter of clearing Dutch’s name–it’s a matter of national security.

A quick peek at the last few pages of Notorious tells you pretty much everything you need to know about the inner characters of Atticus Spenser and Caitlin Cassidy and why their story is worth reading if character is important to you as a reader. There’s some very strong plot here, too, but I really thought the players were the major draw. FBI/police tales can be exciting and full of suspense but, bottomline, the people can make an individual story stand out.

(Mind you, I’m not recommending you flip to the end because it would undoubtedly spoil the story for you. I’ve been known to do such things but it’s usually because I’m getting bored. No reason to worry about that here.)

Little touches in the plot of Notorious make a difference, too. As an example, it’s no surprise when the husband of the murder victim becomes the prime suspect but there’s a certain sadness in the lack of understanding between husband and wife. In those few moments before Cindy’s death, we see the longing for her husband’s attention and his seeming dismissal of her, his not caring that she’s probably heading to an assignation, but it soon becomes obvious that Dutch truly didn’t know how bad things had gotten between them. That’s probably one of the great truths of a failed marriage.

And, of course, Cindy’s murder is just the tip of a very large and dangerous iceberg as Caity and Spense soon find out. Asked to look into the situation because a colleague is involved, they discover that nothing is as simple as it first seems and the machinations and repercussions will reach the highest echelons of the FBI and beyond.

Carey Baldwin is an author I haven’t encountered before but I now know she’s got a sure hand with a thriller and she has also made me want to know more about Caity and Spense. Fortunately, there are two previous novels I can check out while I wait for a fourth.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2016.

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About the Author

Carey BaldwinCarey Baldwin is a mild-mannered doctor by day and an award-winning author of edgy suspense by night. She holds two doctoral degrees, one in medicine and one in psychology. She loves reading and writing stories that keep you off balance and on the edge of your seat. Carey lives in the southwestern United States with her amazing family. In her spare time she enjoys hiking and chasing wildflowers.

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