Book Reviews: Pineapple Lies by Amy Vansant and Pineapple Mystery Box by Amy Vansant @AmyVansant @Rosemary_Benson

Pineapple Lies
A Pineapple Port Mystery #1
Amy Vansant
Amy Vansant, August 2015
Narrated by Rosemary Benson
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

Growing up in one of Florida’s age-55-plus communities, Charlotte never expected life to be wild. Golf cart racing with her surrogate mothers Mariska and Darla was about as nutty as life got… until she found the hot pawnbroker’s mom buried in her backyard.

Talk about making a lousy first impression.

Armed with nothing but her wits, Pineapple Port’s questionable cast of characters and a growing crush, Charlotte is determined to solve the mystery of Declan’s mother’s murder.

Hey, at least this guy’s skeletons aren’t in his closet.

Sometimes it takes me what seems like forever to get around to reading a book I really wanted in the beginning. It isn’t usually because I lose interest, although that occasionally happens. Mostly it’s because I am constitutionally incapable of controlling my TBR hoard, a victim of my own book greed.

The result of this is that, once in a while, I’m completely blown away by a book I’ve put off for no good reason other than having too many books to read (!) and then I kick myself for missing out for way too long and that’s what happened with Pineapple Lies. It took me approximately 30 minutes of the audiobook to decide this was going to be a terrific read for three reasons:

1. I love the players and the premise of a youngish woman who lives in a retirement community in Florida being the sleuth. I live in Florida (but not in a retirement village) so I was already predisposed to like the setting and Ms. Vansant has created a bunch of characters who are a little stereotypical but in a very good way and who each bring something to the table, so to speak.

2. The mysteries are entertaining puzzles with the main one, the discovery of the local pawnbroker’s mom buried in Charlotte’s yard, keeping my little gray cells working while the side threads provide plenty of humor and distraction. The author’s pacing is especially good and not once was I the least bit let down as the plot progressed. There’s a budding romance, too, but it’s not obtrusive.

3. I’ve found an audiobook narrator to add to my list of favorites. Rosemary Benson is, in a word, amazing. Her ability to create individual voices is beyond that of most truly good narrators and I’ve listened to some I consider among the best. I’m very sure I would have fallen in book love with Pineapple Lies anyway but Ms. Benson brings it all to life.

So, big kudos to both author and narrator—this book is going on my list of best books read in 2021 and now we’ll see if the trend continues with the second book, Pineapple Mystery Box.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2021.

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Pineapple Mystery Box
A Pineapple Port Mystery #2
Amy Vansant
Amy Vansant, January 2018
Narrated by Rosemary Benson
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

When a giant inflatable Halloween witch goes missing in the Pineapple Port retirement community, Charlotte’s eager to nab the culprit. Before she can lift a fingerprint, someone threatens to kill a new neighbor who looks like an adorable Pomeranian but possesses a disturbing talent for revenge. Moments later, a stranger demands the return of a mysterious wooden box – or else. 

Charlotte’s boyfriend, Declan, isn’t having a great morning either. His calculating ex-girlfriend has returned to claim she’s the rightful owner of his pawn shop. She’s livid he’s found a new lady, too.

Eh. Things could be worse. At least Charlotte doesn’t know that a mojito-swilling killer who fed his grandmother to a cat is on his way to Pineapple Port!

Some series suffer from sophomore slump but this one most certainly does not. Charlotte has decided that her calling is to be a private investigator after her achievements in the previous story and her senior citizen community is more than willing to send cases her way, things like who stole Darla’s Halloween witch and who is moving outdoor decor from one yard to another.

When pawnbroker Declan’s former girlfriend threatens to make his life miserable and a peculiar box draws unhealthy attention, he thinks things are weird enough but they can’t explain his uncle Seamus’s bizarre behavior. Throw in a potentially homicidal newcomer and Charlotte suddenly has a full detecting plate.

Following up on the first book, Pineapple Mystery Box is just as clever and filled with humor and I appreciated narrator Rosemary Benson’s talents every bit as much. I highly recommend this and I’ll soon be starting the next audiobook, Pineapple Puzzles.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2021.

Book Reviews: The Budapest Escape by Bill Rapp and West of Famous by Joni M. Fisher @JoniMFisher

The Budapest Escape
A Cold War Thriller #3

Bill Rapp
Coffeetown Press, November 2019
ISBN 978-1-94189-072-1
Trade Paperback

The novel is set in the 1950s in a time of great turbulence in the world. The Soviet Union is showing cracks in its leadership. Tensions between the world powers are still evident and relationships between Allied nations are still settling down. Life and routines in the relatively young Central Intelligence Agency are still often experimental and somewhat uncertain.

The novel’s protagonist is Karl Baier, a CIA agent attempting to maneuver himself into a higher-level position, possibly Chief of Station. Meanwhile, turmoil rises in the Eastern European nations; Baier worries about his assets in Hungary and determines to rescue one of them before the revolution occurs and destroys nearly all social routine.

The potential for this novel to be a truly action and intelligence-filled narrative are all there. Unfortunately, in spite of a high degree of authenticity, and historical accuracy, the novel reads like the kind of reports government bureaucrats too often file. It is mostly devoid of emotion and the tension-filled moments are too often seen as if being observed from behind a screen. The history and circumstances of life during this period are accurate and interesting, but I would have preferred more terror, emotion, and human mistakes.

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

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West of Famous  
Compass Crimes #3
Joni M. Fisher

Joni M. Fisher, February 2019
ISBN: 978-0-9972575-4-0
Trade Paperback

A handsome evocative cover introduces a riveting tale of kidnapping, identity mistakes, the internal power of a young woman and the kind of inevitable encompassing efforts of law enforcement when called on.

Martina Ramos, a bright college graduate student is immersed in the college grind of prepping for exams at Oxford. Her college friends believe her on break, her family thinks she’s studying, nose to grindstone. Certain other friends believe she’s taking a brief break from a chance encounter with a pop star. The pop star needed a favor, a stand-in to take her place for a few weeks on the party circuit in south Florida. Martina fits the role to a T.

When she awakens in the foul hold of a boat anchored somewhere off the Florida coast, the number of people who truly know where she is has been reduced to three or maybe four. And they are not Martina’s friends.

What follows is a carefully designed, increasingly tense and terror filled effort to find the kidnapped college student while keeping her true identity secret, because her family doesn’t have the kind of ransom money being demanded.

As Martina’s family, experienced law enforcement and military types, come together with a small cadre of FBI agents, plans are formed to rescue the girl before her true identity is discovered and before the looming deadline for delivery of the ransom money arrives. The plans and movements which form the bulk of this well-written novel are carefully and logically laid out. Meanwhile, readers are treated to the terror-filled existence of the young girl, contrasted with her tough-minded cautious efforts to extricate herself from the clutches of the kidnappers. The possibility of death for the unfortunate girl is well-explicated in both narratives, that of her searchers and her own interactions with her captors.

The novel is peopled with a range of interesting individuals and their interactions are both logical and well-reasoned so that readers will be eminently satisfied as the resolution looms ever closer. A thoroughly enjoyable crime novel.

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

A Passel of Teeny Reviews, Part 6 @nancyjcohen @JSpencerFleming @MinotaurBooks @CharlesFinch @BevLongBooks @HarlequinBooks @SusanSpann @SeventhStBooks

Once again, big surprise, I find myself with
an overload of books read but not yet reviewed
so I think it’s time for a roundup or two…

Easter Hair Hunt
A Bad Day Hair Mysteries #16
Nancy J. Cohen
Orange Grove Press, March 2020
ISBN 978-09997932-7-5
Trade Paperback

Marla Vail is visiting Tremayne Manor to do her hairstyling thing for Blinky Morris so she’ll be ready for the Easter egg hunt but, after the hunt when Marla is helping to look for unfound eggs, she finds something else, a dead body dressed as a bunny. When it’s discovered that Blinky is missing, the very pregnant Marla jumps right in to investigate,  as fans will expect. Her poor husband, homicide detective Dalton, is right by her side, knowing full well he can’t stop her.

Marla is a character that becomes more appealing with each adventure, largely because she’s an intelligent woman who takes things in stride and doesn’t continually do stupid things. Dalton is her equal and recognizes how good she is at sussing out the facts and following leads; he long ago gave up trying to keep her out of investigations and the pair make a good team. This time, they’re dealing with a plethora of clues and suspects and the twists and turns abound. I’ve followed this series from the beginning and I’m already anticipating the next book because Ms. Cohen never lets me down 🙂

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2020.

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Hid from Our Eyes
A Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne Mystery #9
Julia Spencer-Fleming
Minotaur Books, April 2020
ISBN 978-0-312-60685-5
Hardcover

It seems like years since the last Clare and Russ story because, well, it has been and when I first heard about this one, I was SO excited. I’m not the least bit surprised that Ms. Spencer-Fleming is still at the top of her game.

Three different but very similar cases over a period of many decades have involved three police chiefs but Russ, the current chief, was once accused of the second killing. As this third case ramps up, Russ is under enormous pressure to find the killer before suspicion focuses on him again. Are the three cases really connected in some way or could there be a copycat killer? Who were these young women and why were they targeted or is it possible one or more were, in fact, not murdered?

Russ’s wife, an Episcopal priest and mother of a new baby, has her own issues going on but of course she’s going to help Russ and she brings a lot of intelligence and creative thinking to this case, as she always does. The personal lives of Clare and Russ are given as much weight as the investigation, enough so that I felt like I was seeing old friends again but that didn’t take anything away from the mystery of these three deaths. Leads take them in all directions and I was forced—forced, I tell you!—to stay up late into the night to keep reading. An intriguing plot and great characters make for a story I can heartily recommend but readers new to the series will enjoy it more by starting with the first one.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2020.

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The Vanishing Man
A Charles Lenox Mystery #12
Charles Finch
Minotaur Books, January 2020
ISBN 978-1-250-31137-5
Trade Paperback

In this second prequel, Charles Lenox has recently become known as the young man who bested Scotland Yard in a perplexing case and he’s called upon by the Duke of Dorset to help with an art theft. It seems a second painting was left behind and the Duke is concerned the thieves will return and, if they do, it’s possible a family scandal will be revealed as well as an enormous secret involving a priceless artifact. It isn’t long before there are other crimes and Lenox must delve into long-kept secrets that threaten the family as well as himself.

Fortunately, Lenox has the assistance of his friend, Lady Jane, who once again proves herself to be an intelligent ally, and a coterie of secondary players who bring real depth to the story. This particular adventure drags a little here and there but it’s still an engaging puzzle, especially the question of why the more valuable painting really means so much to the Duke. Mr. Finch brings Victorian London and its people to life again and I really do think this is one of the very best series with the setting and time period.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2020.

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Ten Days Gone
An A.L. McKittridge Novel #1
Beverly Long
MIRA, February 2020
ISBN 978-0-7783-0958-1
Mass Market Paperback

Hunting a serial killer is no doubt one of the most difficult things a police department may ever have to do but, this time, detectives Rena Morgan and A.L. McKittridge are also faced with the nearly impossible task of preventing a fifth murder once the likely victim has been identified. Tess Lyons already suffers psychological damage from previous events and is anything but ready to understand her present danger. Meanwhile, leads in the case are sketchy at best and the detectives are caught up in a cat and mouse game with few obvious answers until they find a petition signed by all four of the murdered women. Figuring out why the petition and the ten day intervals are important may be their best chance to stop this killer.

A.L. and Rena are a well-matched partnership, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, and they complement each other in their search for a wily killer. The pacing is a little slow but Ten Days Gone shows promise and is the first in what I hope will be a long-running series.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2020.

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Ghost of the Bamboo Road
A Hiro Hattori Novel #7
A Shinobi Mystery
Susan Spann
Seventh Street Books, November 2019
ISBN 978-1-6338-8550-9
Trade Paperback

Even in 16th-century Japan, a list of agents, in this case the shinobi agents of Hiro Hattori’s own clan, can cause deadly problems if it falls into the wrong hands. Hiri needs to warn his clan that a rival warlord is in possession of the list so he travels to a small village where he believes a fellow agent to be on a mission. Accompanied by Father Mateo, the Portuguese Jesuit he protects, along with their housekeeper, Ana, and Hiro’s cat, Gato, he sees that the agent is missing. Hiro and Father Mateo are then drawn in to the investigation of multiple murders that are believed to have been caused by a ghost in the eerily half-deserted village but the situation becomes even more pressing when Ana is accused of stealing from the inn’s proprietor. And where is the missing agent?

Ms. Spann never fails to entertain me and educate me as well since her stories are full of medieval Japanese history. I love the primary characters and their interactions with each other; for instance, Gato always manages to get in the thick of things but Father Mateo can only suffer around him, being highly allergic. The two men have grown to be quite fond of each other (not that they would say so) and the priest accepts the shinobi’s protection as gracefully as he can manage while Ana is irascible and, yet, attentive. The author has a way with words and conveys the times and the setting vividly, so much so that I can practically smell the tea served in the teahouse. My only regret after reading this entry is for the too-long wait for the next book.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2020.

Book Review: Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson @JoshilynJackson @WmMorrowBooks

Never Have I Ever
Joshilyn Jackson
William Morrow, July 2019
ISBN 978-0-06-285531-2
Hardcover

Amy Whey is a happily married woman. She has a wonderful husband, a newborn son and a teenage step-daughter, all of whom she adores. She also has a group of woman friends in the neighbourhood. Her life is going well until a newcomer in the area joins Amy and her friends on their book club night.

Angelica Roux, or Roux as she insists they call her, charms the group and as the wine flows she suggests they play a fun game instead of discussing the chosen book. It’s a drinking game, a daring game, a game of revealing personal secrets.

At first it seems like harmless fun, but Amy senses something more is happening here and she grows increasingly uncomfortable as it turns serious. And later, after everyone heads home, Roux confronts Amy, telling her she knows all her personal secrets and will reveal them to her husband and friends unless Amy gives her what she wants; what she deserves.

Amy does have secrets and there is little doubt that Roux somehow knows what Amy did in the past, and if that knowledge is revealed, Amy is sure she will lose everything. Shocked and more than a little frightened, Amy is caught in a trap. Roux leaves, but not before telling Amy she’ll be back to let her know exactly what she wants.

Amy can’t imagine how Roux found out, but she is determined to find a way to protect her family and her marriage.

A cat and mouse game ensues. Amy manages to buy herself some time, counter-attacking as best she can, by doing some digging of her own in an attempt to neutralize Roux’s threat. As she’s struggling to keep her life on track, Roux seems to have the upper hand. The tension escalates. Amy feels she’s fighting a losing battle.

All the characters in this novel are well-drawn rounded people, especially Amy and I quickly got caught up in her predicament. I was on Amy’s side from the outset, anxious and eager for her to find a viable solution. There were many twists and turns to keep this reader turning pages. Amy’s determination and resourcefulness seemed to know no bounds, but Roux, a formidable opponent, was not about to give up.

The resolution was as stunning as it was unexpected, but none the less a fitting one.

I look forward to reading more from this author. Give this one a try, you won’t regret it.

Respectfully submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, February 2020.

A Trio of Teeny Reviews

Trimmed to Death
A Bad Hair Day Mystery #15
Nancy J. Cohen
Orange Grove Press, September 2018
ISBN 978-0-9985317-6-2
Trade Paperback

This is a series I’ve been enjoying ever since the author came to our store and, if I recall correctly, met with one of our book clubs. Nancy may have also participated in a big mystery authors gathering we hosted but I honestly am not sure about that and my records from back then are gone, burned up in a computer surge. At any rate, we go back to at least 2000 or 2001 and I haven’t missed a book since. There’s a reason for that—these are really good books with a protagonist I like a lot and, unlike some amateur sleuths, Marla Vail has a brain.

This time, hair salon owner Marla has entered a baking contest at a farm festival and joins in a scavenger hunt during the wait for the judging. As you might expect, Marla finds a body in the strawberry field, a competitor in the contest. Naturally, she’s compelled to investigate, especially after a friend asks her for help. Fortunately, her husband, Dalton, is tolerant of her stepping in even though he’s the investigating detective.

As Dalton says upon seeing the body, “Good God, Marla. Not another one.” Not a surprising comment after so many bodies over the years but at least he’s used to Marla doing her sleuthing thing 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2018.

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Bono
The Amazing Story of a Rescue Cat Who Inspired a Community
Helen Brown
HarperCollins/ABC
ISBN 978-0–7333-3804-5
Trade Paperback
ISBN 978-1-4607-0797-5
Ebook

Look at that cover—is that not just about the cutest cat you ever saw? Of course, that’s what I say about pretty much any cat I see, especially rescues, but there’s something about Bono that really catches the eye, right?

Helen Brown has written about cats before or, rather, cats and her own life, telling tales about how these little beasties have influenced her and made her life so much more complete. This time, Helen was talked into fostering a cat for just one month while visiting New York City but Bono turned out to be not at all like the sweet, docile sweetie she envisioned; instead, Bono was an opinionated, demanding guy with special needs, badly in need of a forever home.

Needless to say, Bono and Helen develop a fierce fondness for each other and their story is one of love and the search for Bono’s forever home. I cried and I smiled and fell in love with this beautiful Persian as I’m sure you will.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2018.

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Darkest Before the Dawn
A Sgt. Windflower Mystery #7
Mike Martin
Ottawa Press and Publishing, October 2018
ISBN 978-1-988437-13-2
Trade Paperback

There’s something about Canadian police procedurals that really appeals to me and I can’t really put my finger on it. Sure, I love the whole idea of red-jacketed Mounties on their grand steeds—who doesn’t?—but those guys don’t show up all that often and most of the procedurals are with cops and detectives that could just as easily be found in Phoenix or Cleveland. I do know one thing and that’s that Canadian police procedurals tend to have a gentler tone, easier on the psyche than many American books of the same subgenre.

Now, as it happens, Sgt. Windflower really is a Mountie based in a small village in Newfoundland. Even tiny towns in remote places have their issues with crime and, not surprisingly, this one is also dealing with the dissatisfaction of its youth. Still, life is pretty pleasant until Winston and his colleagues are faced with a a rash of violence and financial crimes and he starts looking into potential connections to the Dark Web.

On the whole, Darkest Before the Dawn and, I believe, the whole series, is a feel-good kind of story. Sgt. Windflower and his family, including Lady the Collie, have a happy life. Winston, a member of the Cree tribe, has dreams that he ties to his First Nation status and sometimes interprets in his criminal investigations and those investigations are good puzzles. At the same time, we get to spend a lot of time with the family and with Sgt. Windflower’s fellow officers, not to mention the townspeople. All in all, this was an exceedingly enjoyable read and I intend to go back to the beginning of the series.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2018.

A Trio of Teeny Reviews

Ain’t She a Peach
Southern Eclectic #4
Molly Harper
Gallery Books, June 2018
ISBN 978-1-5011-5133-0
Trade Paperback

Once again, the McCready family of Lake Sackett, Georgia, is back in fine fettle with their McCready Family Funeral Home and Bait Shop and, also once again, they’ve captured my heart. This time the focus is on Frankie, the youngish coroner/embalmer who considers herself well past the age of independence but her parents don’t know how to even begin to think of letting their precious only child spread her wings, so to speak. Sure, she sneaks off to Atlanta occasionally for a night of satisfying rowdiness but she can’t make herself move out (although she has disabled the location service they use to track her). There are very good reasons for this helicopter parenting but, really, she needs to grow a pair!

There’s a new Sheriff in town, Erik Linden, and while Frankie has a few, or a lot, of philosophical differences with Erik, including his queasiness around her dead customers, she’s finding it very hard to resist the man. Meanwhile, the rest of the McCready bunch are around and about and the town’s Halloween Trunk-R-Treat festival is coming up while a teenaged desperado has it in for Frankie for some reason.

The whole rambunctious McCready clan is a family I’d love to be part of and this fourth book in Molly Harper‘s series is just as much fun as all the others. Oh, I do hope there will be more!

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2018.

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Jurassic, Florida
Hunter Shea: One Size Eats All #1
Hunter Shea
Lyrical Press/Kensington, June 2018
ISBN 978-1-5161-0793-3
Ebook

LOL, I’m still chuckling over this book and I have only myself to blame for not having indulged in Hunter Shea‘s work before. Polo Springs, Florida, is a quiet little place but people are starting to notice that the lizard population, specifically small iguanas, seems to be popping up everywhere. Not just popping up—slithering and scampering and the little beasts apparently have lost all fear. Not so the humans in this town, folks like Frank who’s running from the mob and Ann Hickok, the very unlikely mayor who’s only 18 years old. Everyone in Polo Springs has stepped into their own Godzilla movie and the future’s looking very, very dim.

Polo Springs is about to get a rude awakening and they’ll wish they had those little iguanas back. In scenes that are alternately grisly and scream-inducing but also high camp, we learn the answer to the question: can anyone save this town from the invasion of giant people-eating critters?

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2018.

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In His Kiss
Neil Plakcy
Featherweight Publishing, March 2018
ISBN 978-1-64122-112-2
Trade Paperback

There’s nothing easy about high school, as most of us know, but senior Michael has it worse than some. First of all, he’s gay. No big secret there but he’s almost painfully shy and definitely insecure when it comes to actually finding “the right one” or even one who will do for right now. He’s also saddled with his younger brother, Robbie, aka the Big Mistake and family life pretty much revolves around Robbie with his multitudes of allergies and other issues. On the positive side, he has an awesome best friend, Brie, and she makes life in Stewart’s Crossing, Pennsylvania, tolerable although Michael is way past ready to get out of Dodge.

And then along comes Daniel Florez and life for Michael will never be the same again. Luckily for him, Daniel has a little more self-confidence—really, he’s almost oblivious to what’s not supposed to work or maybe his home life has just given him a thicker skin so he’s not quite as vulnerable. Whatever it is, Daniel is not afraid to make the first move and the second and the third… Suddenly, things are looking up for these two really nice kids and the future might be bright but there are some side effects, including resentment from Brie, but why are strange things happening to Michael, like awesome SAT scores? And, minor detail, why is the FBI hanging around spying on Daniel?

With a bit of fantasy and a lot of high school angst, not to mention lots of humor and love of all sorts, Neil Plakcy has created a story that had me smiling a lot and cringing just a little (in a good way) and I definitely want to know what Michael and Daniel are going to be up to next 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2018.

Book Reviews: Durable Goods by Patricia Hale and Your Robot Dog Will Die by Arin Greenwood

Durable Goods
The Cole and Callahan Thriller Series #2
Patricia Hale
Intrigue Publishing, April 2018
ISBN 978-1940758695
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Detective John Stark approaches the PI team of Griff Cole and Britt Callahan with a postcard he’s sure is from his estranged daughter, Kira. She’s been listed as a runaway for three years by Portland, Maine police but John isn’t convinced that her continued absence is by choice. As Stark’s long-time friends, Cole and Callahan agree to look into the postcard marked only with the letters OK. The postmark leads them to Oracles of the Kingdom, a farm where women sell fresh produce in return for a fresh start with God. But nothing seems right about the town or the farm and Britt goes undercover to look for Kira. Once inside, she realizes that Oracles of the Kingdom is not the refuge it appears.

I look forward to crime fiction that combines police work with private investigation because, while they’re very different occupations, they also are very complementary when each respects the other’s profession. A PI has limitations by virtue of not having access to national and international resources (unless it’s a huge security firm) while a police detective is restricted by laws intended to protect the public from overreach. That’s simplifying things, of course, but there’s no question that collaboration can make for a rich story.

When John Stark approaches his friends for help finding his daughter, it’s a logical thing to do. After all, his emotions and objectivity are compromised, just as a doctor’s would be if he tries to treat his critically ill child. Add to that, John has burned a few bridges in his department over the past three years that Kira has been missing and, when he finally gets a potential lead, he can’t drum up much interest in the police in localities near where he thinks she might be. Now, he’s come to Britt and Griff and they can’t turn him down; this man is too important in their lives. The plan they come up with will put all of them, especially Britt, in terrible peril.

Although the case in this book is very different from that in the first book, The Church of the Holy Child, the drama and emotion in that story are no less intense here and the subject matters, including sex trafficking, drugs and physical violence, are important topics in today’s world more than ever before. This is no tale for the squeamish but is nevertheless recommended.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2018.

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Your Robot Dog Will Die
Arin Greenwood
Soho Teen, April 2018
ISBN 978-1-61695-839-8
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Seventeen-year-old Nano Miller was born and raised on Dog Island: home to Mechanical Tail, the company behind lifelike replacements for “man’s best friend.” The island is also home to the last living dogs, all but extinct. When a global genetic experiment went awry and canines stopped wagging their tails, mass hysteria ensued and the species was systematically euthanized. Here, they are studied in a natural and feral state.

Nano’s life has become a cycle of annual heartbreak. Every spring, Mechanical Tail gives her the latest robot dog model to test, only to tear it from her arms a year later. This year is complicated by another heartbreak: the loss of her brother, Billy, who recently vanished without a trace. But nothing can prepare her for a discovery that upends everything she’s taken for granted: it’s a living puppy that miraculously wags its tail. There is no way she’s letting this dog go.

Take a good look at that doggie sitting next to you or at your feet and imagine, if you will, that you can only keep her for a year and then you’ll be given a replacement. Can you fathom the heartache? Would you even be willing to have a dog in your life?

Now, take it a step further—your dog is a machine, a robot, very cleverly built and every year’s model is better, more lifelike, than the last. Would you want your annual dog? Would you be as attached?

Nano is heartbroken when the “executioner” comes to end Derrick’s existence and brings her his replacement. Nano names this one Billy, for her brother who has been missing for a while. Nano and her friends, Jack and Wolf, grew up on Dog Island and have never left it. The few families on the island are kind of a marketing focus group that tests all the new mechanical dogs before they hit the shelves and they help look after the six remaining real dogs. When Nano discovers four living puppies, she hides one and what that act leads to will change life for every one, for better or worse to be determined.

On the surface, this seems like a fairly straightforward story but it actually has a lot of layers, so many that I don’t actually know what the author’s main intent was. Along with the idea of mechanical dogs, attention is given to the causes and repercussions of scientific experimentation, budding romance, severe drought, isolation, misguided societal control, the vegan lifestyle, euthanasia…the list goes on and one. Finally, I decided to not look for meanings and just enjoy this shaggy dog tale with a few twists.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2018.