Book Review: The Lost Are the Last to Die by Larry D. Sweazy @larrydsweazy @FiveStarCengage

The Lost Are the Last to Die
A Sonny Burton Novel #2
Larry D. Sweazy
Five Star Publishing, November2019
ISBN: 978-1-4328-5723-3
Hardcover

Multiple award-winning author Larry Sweazy couldn’t write a bad book if he tried. This one lives up to his reputation, with the continuing story of former Texas Ranger Sonny Burton.

Sonny, who lost his right arm in a shoot-out with Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrows is still dealing with his clumsy prosthesis when he receives a message that his help is needed. A convict has escaped from Huntsville prison and, having taken the warden’s wife hostage, is on the run.

It was Sonny who put this particular convict in prison, after run-ins with him from the time Billy Bunson was a boy. Sonny had tried to talk with the boy then, but in the years since, Billy has turned into a cold-blooded killer. It begins to look like the reason for Billy’s escape is not so much just getting out of prison and acquiring a large ransom for Dolly, the warden’s wife, but also to draw Sonny in so he can kill him.

Sonny’s son Jesse, following in his father’s footsteps, is also a Texas Ranger, called in to aid in the hunt and for the first time, they work together. Then Billy goes after the landlady of the boarding house where Sonny is staying, and it’s finally time to bring Billy’s death spiral to an end.

The reader gets to see beyond superficial motivation as to why Billy is a killer, and why Sonny wants to help him, in a story that ranges in time from May, 1911, to October, 1934. The historical details of the book are riveting; the action enthralling. While not exactly a mystery, it is an excellent story of criminals and crime fighters and why they do what they do.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, March 2020.
http://www.ckcrigger.com
Author of The Woman Who Built A Bridge (Spur Award Winner), Yester’s Ride,
Hometown Burning and Five Days, Five Dead: A China Bohannon Novel

Book Review: Five Days, Five Dead by Carol Wright Crigger—and a Giveaway!

Five Days, Five Dead
A China Bohannon Novel #5
Carol Wright Crigger
Five Star Publishing, December 2018
ISBN 978-1-4328-4729-6
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Sepp Amsel, a fabulously successful gambling hall and saloonkeeper entrepreneur, is about to become the bridegroom in the most public wedding ever to take place in wild and woolly Spokane, Washington. He wants to engage China’s detective services when his fiancee’s sister is kidnapped and a substantial ransom demanded. There’s just one problem. The client thinks it’s possible he’s being bamboozled because things don’t quite add up. Only days remain for China to figure out why the sister was snatched and not the bride. But the clock is ticking. Worse, it isn’t long until murder becomes part of the equation. First a bellhop, then a tailor. Who will be next? China had better find out soon, before she, too, becomes a target for murder.

China Bohannon is a young woman blessed with determination, intelligence and the ability and desire to look out for herself quite well but, unfortunately for China, she lives in a time when those characteristics are not generally seen as positive virtues. She’d very much like to be a “real” detective in her uncle’s agency but Uncle Monk and his partner, Gratton Doyle (who is much too attractive), just can’t be convinced that this is work suitable for a woman so she snatches her chances when she can.

When Sepp Amsel walks into the Doyle & Howe Detective Agency, China is fortuitously the only one there and she’s intrigued by what he tells her, starting with the fact that he came to engage her in particular. Amsel is in the gambling and saloon business and there are only a few days to save the young woman who has been abducted for ransom. Time might be especially short as the kidnappers have taken the wrong woman.

An already suspicious situation becomes more so when the Austrian mail order bride, sister of the kidnap victim, is less than helpful and, of course, there’s a whole lot more to this case. When Uncle Monk and Gratton find out about it, they naturally try to take over but they get led astray and China soon finds herself in a world of trouble, largely because of her inexperience. With the help of a few friends and with her beloved Bedlington terrier, Nimble, by her side China manages to keep one step ahead of mortal danger while following leads through the seamy side of Spokane during a harsh winter spell. Bodies are accumulating, though, and she has a lot of clues to sift through. Eventually, the guys return and their assistance is not entirely unwelcome.

Will the plaque in the office window ever read “Doyle, Howe & Bohannon”? Only time will tell if the two men will eventually acknowledge her talents enough to take the big step but, in the meantime, China is honing her skills one case at a time. I hope she’ll attain her dream one day but I’m enjoying watching her learn how to be a proper detective and can’t wait for her next adventure. This one is going on my list of best books read in 2019.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2019.

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To enter the drawing for an Advance
Reading Copy of Five Days, Five Dead
just leave a comment below. The winning
name will be drawn on the evening of
Friday, July 26th. Open to the US and Canada.

 

Teeny Reviews: Joy to the Worlds by Maia Chance, Janine A. Southard, Raven Oak and G. Clemans, No Honor Among Thieves by J.A. Jance, Peril by Ponytail by Nancy J. Cohen, One Year After by William R. Forstchen, and Blonde Hair, Blue Eyes by Karin Slaughter

Joy to the WorldsJoy to the Worlds
Mysterious Speculative Fiction for the Holidays
Maia Chance, Janine A. Southard, Raven Oak and G. Clemans
Grey Sun Press, November 2015
ISBN 978-0-9908157-6-1
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

What do you get when you mix mystery and speculative fiction, then toss in the holidays for good measure? A mobster Santa, genetic hanky-panky, Victorian villages, time-travelling detectives, a Krampus, eerie bell spirits, and more–this collection of short cross-genre fiction is the perfect counterpoint to traditional holiday reading!

Joy to the Worlds brings together eight short works that explore mysteries across time and space. Ranging from dark dystopian worlds to comedic retro-futures, four diverse writers find new ways to combine these disparate worlds.

This collection stars national bestselling mystery author Maia Chance, who dazzles with humor and folklore; IPPY award-winning science fiction author Janine A. Southard beguiles with unexpected time-travel science; science fiction and fantasy bestseller Raven Oak offers a look into the gothic past; and for a whole new perspective, debut fiction author and art expert G. Clemans dives into the intersections of creativity and mystery.

Whether you enjoy science fiction, fantasy, mystery, Christmas, noir, gothic, or folktales—this collection has something for you.

I tend to shy away from anthologies because I don’t much like coming to the end of a short story I really like, wanting it to be a full-length novel, but Joy to the Worlds interested me on first glance because I knew and liked two of the authors’ work but had never tried the others. This seemed like a good opportunity to return to familiar writers and meet a couple more.

Tyson Wallenstein, a dead detective trying to prove himself—he’s only been dead a year so he’s the newbie of the group—sets out to investigate a man’s death without all the trappings of a living detective (no forensics, no DNA, etc.) in the first story and I was immediately captivated. Was it an accident? Murder? Is the prosthetic leg attached to a high heel a clue? Why does mistletoe seem to be everywhere?

In another story, a young American named Odysseus Flax is overcome with motion sickness while traveling by train through the Alps and jumps off the train in a little village called Kiefertal. There he encounters the underbelly of Christmas during Krampusnacht when a very rich man decides to scare his obnoxious little boy and Odysseus learns there is much he does not know about what’s real or not real in this picturesque little town.

Four authors with four very different choices of genre and style offer two stories each that entertain in an unexpected way, giving the reader a slightly askew look at the holiday season. What better way to be introduced to authors you haven’t tried before?

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2015.

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No Honor Among ThievesNo Honor Among Thieves
An Ali Reynolds/Joanna Brady Novella
J.A. Jance
Pocket Star Books, November 2015
ISBN 978-1-5011-3559-0
Ebook

From the publisher—

“A semi’s gone over the embankment.” The call wakes Sheriff Joanna Brady in the middle of the night, but what brings her fully alert is the rest of the story. The driver didn’t drift off to sleep and cross the center line—he was shot, multiple times, by someone with serious firepower. And when the truck crashed through the guardrail, its payload wound up scattered all over the road—boxes upon boxes of Legos.

Legos that are being tracked by B. Simpson’s security firm to reduce black market sales—and Ali Reynolds is just the woman to get to the bottom of the crime. She has the tech and the intel to follow the money (or, in this case, the Legos), which makes her a valuable asset to Joanna’s team. Soon these two strong women realize that they’re not just sharing a case, they’re kindred spirits—which is paramount, because the killer they’re up against is anything but child’s play.

A new Joanna Brady story is always a treat to my way of thinking and, in No Honor Among Thieves, we get the best of two protagonists, Joanna and Ali Reynolds. So much fun!

Other characters are just as enjoyable, Kendra, B. and Cami just to name a few. One of Ms. Jance‘s particular strengths lies in creating characters you can develop a connection with and I never feel overloaded with names to keep straight other than a few of the very minor players.

Who knew LEGOS are actually a hot product on the black market? Yes, those little plastic things you make cool stuff with go for high prices once a set is retired, much like other collectibles, and that’s what brings Ali into the investigation. Her husband’s security company has been hired to shadow LEGOS shipments to try to identify the sources of the black market commodities and B. sends Ali to the scene to check out the identification chips on the LEGOS packages, hopefully to figure out why a midsized truck was carrying the toys on back roads. What she and Joanna find, though, only adds to the puzzle of why someone wanted to kill the driver in such a spectacular fashion and, before it’s all over, a gigantic mistake is made.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2015.

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Peril by PonytailPeril by Ponytail
A Bad Hair Day Mystery #12
Nancy J. Cohen
Five Star Publishing, September 2015
ISBN 978-1432830984
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Marla and Dalton’s honeymoon at an Arizona dude ranch veers from dangerous to downright deadly faster than a horse headed to the corral. With her husband’s uncle–the resort’s owner–on the suspect list for murder, Marla races to prove his innocence. She hopes her blind trust isn’t misplaced, especially when she learns their relative has secrets he’d rather keep buried. As the bodies pile up, she digs deep to find the killer. With her new family in jeopardy, she’d better figure out who’s adding to the spirits haunting a nearby ghost town before someone she loves is hurt.

The very idea of the girly-girl Marla honeymooning at a dude ranch was funny enough to make me want to read Peril by Ponytail, latest in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries, and I found myself highly entertained by the scenario. Marla is her usual snoopy self (although, as can be expected, quite rational about it) and feels compelled to investigate when her uncle by marriage becomes a murder suspect in the midst of a series of mishaps at the ranch and a nearby ghost town.

The relationship between Marla and her police detective husband, Dalton, is appealing, partially because they respect each other’s abilities in investigating crime. Marla is no ditzy woman who thinks she knows better than the police; rather, they work together comfortably.

Secrets abound, motives keep cropping up and danger seems to be everywhere but there’s fun to be had watching Marla do her thing. She might want folks to think she’s annoyed by the interruption to her honeymoon but those of us who’ve been following her adventures for years know better, don’t we? 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2015.

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One Year AfterOne Year After
William R. Forstchen
Forge, September 2015
ISBN 978-0-7653-7670-1
Hardcover

From the publisher—

The story picks up a year after One Second After ends, two years since the detonation of nuclear weapons above the United States brought America to its knees. After suffering starvation, war, and countless deaths, the survivors of Black Mountain, North Carolina, are beginning to piece back together the technologies they had once taken for granted: electricity, radio communications, and medications. They cling to the hope that a new national government is finally emerging.

Then comes word that most of the young men and women of the community are to be drafted into an “Army of National Recovery” and sent to trouble spots hundreds of miles away.

When town administrator John Matherson protests the draft, he’s offered a deal: leave Black Mountain and enter national service, and the draft will be reduced. But the brutal suppression of a neighboring community under its new federal administrator and the troops accompanying him suggests that all is not as it should be with this burgeoning government.

Six years ago, I read One Second After by this same author and was struck by how well Mr. Forstchen created the world that would exist immediately after a devastating EMP attack and during the following year. Black Mountain, NC, became a microcosm of the self-destruction and the triumph over extreme adversity that would inevitably follow such an event, made even more realistic for me because I’ve been to the real Black Mountain and could easily “see” what went on. All these years later, it remains one of my favorite post-apocalyptic novels despite a few flaws and I hoped the author would someday let us know what happened to the survivors of Black Mountain.

Finally, I heard earlier this year that the sequel was coming out and I jumped right on it. Let me just say I was not the least bit disappointed and found the premise of a bureaucracy run amok to be completely credible. After all, there are many people in this world who think they should be in charge but I also have no trouble believing the people of a small town would come together in an effort to do what’s right and best for their neighbors while still trying to help those outside the community. Setting this story in a small town was the perfect thing to do because the reader really gets to know the people and develop a strong connection that isn’t as likely in a densely-populated area. This sequel focuses on what the survivors would do after the initial emergency, what choices they would make going forward. One Year After is a gripping novel although, by the nature of the beast, it doesn’t have the riveting impact of the first book. Still, I’m really anticipating the third book, Unite Or Die, due out in September 2016.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2015.

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Blonde Hair, Blue EyesBlonde Hair, Blue Eyes
Karin Slaughter
Witness Impulse, August 2015
ISBN 978-0-06-2442819
Ebook
Also available in mass market paperback

From the publisher—

“A beautiful young girl was walking down the street―when suddenly…”

Julia Carroll knows that too many stories start that way. Beautiful, intelligent, a nineteen-year-old college freshman, she should be carefree. But instead she is frightened. Because girls are disappearing.

A fellow student, Beatrice Oliver, is missing. A homeless woman called Mona-No-Name is missing. Both taken off the street. Both gone without a trace.

Julia is determined to find out the reasons behind their disappearances. And she doesn’t want to be next…

Karin Slaughter‘s name always comes to my mind when I hear the word “thriller”. She’s a bit too realistic for some readers but I love her work and had been anxiously awaiting her new standalone, Pretty Girls, when I saw that there was a prequel short story, giving us the backstory of one of the Pretty Girls characters. I tend to read prequels after the fact even when they’re actually offered before the primary novel so I was especially eager to grab Blonde Hair, Blue Eyes.

When bad things happen to young women, they’re frequently blonde with blue eyes as that seems to be a favorite type for bad guys. What’s interesting about this particular blonde is that she knows girls have gone missing and she’s frightened for herself, as any rational person would be, but she’s still determined to write the story that will focus attention on the supposed abductions. In doing so, Julia puts a target on her own back…or is it possible the danger is closer to home?

All in all, this is an excellent lead-in to Pretty Girls.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2015.

 

Book Reviews: Messages by Weyman Jones, Angel Lost by F. M. Meredith and Hell To Pay by Wendy Corsi Staub

Messages
Weyman Jones
Five Star Publishing, 2010
ISBN No. 978-1-59414-879-8
Hardcover

Mike Lyons cannot believe that his mother is guilty of murder but a jury says she killed her lover, Alex Reed.  He is so convinced that he decides that he will prove her innocence.  Mike’s mother owned a company called Power Meetings.   Alex worked for the company and traveled giving inspirational speeches to various groups.

Mike contacts his father who he has not communicated with for several years.   His conversations with his father reveal a side of his mother that comes as a surprise to Mike.  Mike knew that his mother had contacted his father when she arrived at her home and discovered the body of Alex Reed.   His father told her to call the police immediately but she didn’t do that and now she has been convicted of murder.

An animal rights group had threatened Mike’s mother and Mike feels sure that this group had something to do with the murder of Alex Reed.  Mike makes a decision to travel to the Caribbean resort, the last place Alex Reed was seen alive.

Messages has a number of strong characters and a lot of excitement.  The story is somewhat confusing at times but all becomes clear in the exciting conclusion.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, October 2011.

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Angel Lost
F. M. Meredith
Dark Oak Mysteries, February 2011
ISBN No. 978-1610090056
Trade Paperback

The small town of Rocky Bluff in Ventura County is abuzz with excitement.  An angel is sighted in the window of a downtown store.  Residents gather to view the angel and give their opinion as to the reason the angel has appeared.  Most agree that it is a miracle but no one knows how the angel happened to appear.

There’s also a lot of excitement regarding the forthcoming marriage of Officer Stacey Wilbur and Detective Doug Milligan of the Rocky Bluff Police Department.  The wedding has been planned down to the smallest detail with Stacey’s family and friends all pitching in to make Stacey’s wedding a day to remember.

Abel Navarro, Stacey and Doug’s fellow worker, has a lot on his mind.  Abel’s mother is beginning to show signs of Alzheimer’s.  The new addition to the Rocky Bluff Police Department, Vaughn Aragon, a transfer from Los Angeles, is having  second thoughts about requesting the transfer to Rocky Bluff.  Vaughn is haunted by a shooting that happened in Los Angeles but is not comfortable enough to share his experience with his fellow officers.

However, there is more going on than the angel miracle and the personal happenings of the officers in the close knit community.  The department has received several complaints about an early morning jogger who is flashing women on the beach.  When Stacy takes on the job of attempting to catch the jogger, she runs into more trouble than she ever expected.

This is the seventh book in the Rocky Bluff series.  The book can be read as a stand-alone.  Many of the characters have been highlighted in previous books in the series and readers will be glad to see their return.  Although a lot of the book dwells on happy events, there is plenty of crime going on in Rocky Bluff to keep the readers glued to the book.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, March 2011.

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Hell To Pay
Wendy Corsi Staub
Avon Books, September 2011
ISBN No. 978-0061895081
Mass Market Paperback

Jeremy Cavalon and Lucy Walsh Cavalon are happily married and expecting their first baby.  This should be a happy time for the couple whose past has brought much happiness to both the Cavalon and the Walsh families.  Someone from the couple’s past has plans for the new baby.  Jeremy and Lucy would be horrified if they had any hint of what was in store in the weeks ahead.

Jeremy’s grandmother, Sylvie Durand, recently passed away.  Sylvie’s body was discovered in the bathtub in her lavish apartment at The Ansonia in New York City.  It appeared that Sylvie just passed away while bathing.  There were no clues to lead anyone to believe that her death was actually a murder.

Jeremy and Lucy received an eviction notice and suddenly had to find a new place to live.  The eviction notice was unexpected and Christmas was just around the corner.   The couple decided to move into Sylvie’s vacant apartment.  There was no way of the couple knowing that the eviction had been carefully planned by someone who needed the couple in Sylvie’s apartment  and cameras had been set up in Sylvie’s apartment so that every move the couple made could be documented.

The person from the couple’s past is believed to be dead but that is far from the truth.   Not only is their stalker alive but also a mental case that feels God is giving directions and the stalker is merely doing God’s will.

This book is terrifying and the suspense builds to a dramatic climax.  The Walsh and Cavalon families were first introduced in Live To Tell.  Their story continued in Scared to Death.  If you haven’t read the first two books, the author gives enough background that Hell To Pay is an enjoyable read.  I’ve read all three books and can recommend the series as an exciting one with many surprises.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, October 2011.