Book Review: Gone to Darkness by Barbara Nickless @BarbaraNickless

Gone to Darkness
Sydney Rose Parnell #4
Barbara Nickless
Thomas and Mercer, June 2020
ISBN 978-1542092869
Trade Paperback

Sydney Parnell is the youngest homicide detective in the Denver’s Major Crime Unit. She’s an Iraqi war vet and has also worked as a railway cop along with her K9 partner Clyde, a Belgian Malinois who was by her side during her time in Iraq.

Sydney is meeting up with another officer to investigate a possible jumper from a train. When she arrives she finds Officer Heinrich unconscious and bleeding from a head injury. Sydney calls for back up and an ambulance and while she waits, she and Clyde take a look around. Nothing seems amiss but a fog descends which renders the scene rather eerie. Near the tracks she spots a medallion smeared with blood. Further searching uncovers paper clips shaped like a cross.

Her gut instinct is telling her something strange is going on. A Forensic team is sent out to the area and Sydney insists that the train that recently passed through the area be searched. During the search the mutilated body of a young man is found.

The victim turns out to be well known among local graphic artists using his talents to draw superhero comics. He was also known to the immigrant workers and was a member of group calling themselves The Superior Gentlemen.

The investigation seems to be getting nowhere and reluctantly Sydney reconnects with another case she’s been assigned regarding the rapes of women in nursing homes. DNA collected from the train matches that found at the rapes, a strong indication the two cases are connected.

The plot is strong, complex and intriguing. Sydney is a likeable well rounded character. I really liked her connection with Clyde, her dog, as well as her relationship with her mentor, Detective Len Bandoni. Some of the descriptions of victims are harsh and brutal and may be a problem for some readers.

This is the fourth novel from Barbara Nickless in this series. I haven’t read the others but I had no problem keeping up.

All in all … A great read!

Respectfully submitted,

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, June 2020.

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 Reviews: Killer in the Band by Lauren Carr and The Root of Murder by Lauren Carr @TheMysteryLadie @BooksbyAcorn @iReadBookTours

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Title: Killer in the Band
Series: A Lovers in Crime Mystery #3
Author: Lauren Carr
Narrator: Mike Alger
Publication Date: January 26, 2017

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Purchase Links:
Audible // iTunes // Amazon

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Killer in the Band
A Lovers in Crime Mystery #3
Lauren Carr
Narrated by Mike Alger
Acorn Book Services, January 2017
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

Summer of Love & Murder

Joshua’s eldest son, Joshua “J.J.” Thornton Jr., has graduated at the top of his class from law school and returns home to spend the summer studying for the bar exam. However, to Joshua’s and Cameron’s shock and dismay, J.J. moves into the main house at Russell Ridge Farm, the largest dairy farm in the Ohio Valley, to rekindle a romance with Suellen Russell, a onetime leader of a rock group who’s twice his age. Quickly, they learn that she has been keeping a deep dark secret.

The move brings long-buried tensions between the father and son to the surface. But when a brutal killer strikes, the Lovers in Crime must set all differences aside to solve the crime before J.J. ends up in the cross hairs of a murderer.

Much of Killer in the Band revolves around family issues, specifically Joshua’s disapproval of J.J.’s decision to move in with a woman who’s much older. It’s a very unusual pairing and Joshua can’t help believing it’s inappropriate even when his son repeatedly insists he and Suellen truly love each other.

Years ago, Suellen was part of a rock band that broke up rather unexpectedly when the lead singer announced he was leaving to start a solo career. Since then, no one in the band has had any contact with him. Suellen now owns the family dairy farm, a very successful operation and J.J. is helping her run it along with Clyde Brady, the farm manager whose wife was recently murdered. Cameron has been working that case, without much success, when she gets called in to a very cold case, one that is going to become dangerous to people in the present day even after all these years.

As so often happens in a Lauren Carr mystery, the threads here begin to multiply and weave together until it all seems impossible to see the truth but that’s also what had me so engrossed I had to keep going to discover, along with Cameron and Josh, where all this was going to end…and I thoroughly enjoyed the ride. Oh, and we’re introduced to a new character who just might become rather important; she fits right in with all the animals, especially various horses.

Mike Alger continues to make me feel as though I’m right in the thick of things and I love his interpretation of the many characters. He’s a gem of a narrator.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2019.

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Title: The Root of Murder
Series: A Lovers in Crime Mystery #4
Author: Lauren Carr
Narrator: Mike Alger
Publication Date: May 31, 2019

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Purchase Links:
Audible // iTunes // Amazon

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The Root of Murder
A Lovers in Crime Mystery #4
Lauren Carr
Narrated by Mike Alger
Acorn Book Services, May 2019
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

Homicide Detective Cameron Gates learned long ago that there is no such thing as a typical murder case. Each mystery is special in its own right—especially for the family of the victim.The homicide of a successful executive, husband, and father seems open and shut when the murder weapon is found in his estranged son-in-law’s possession. The circumstantial evidence is so damning that when her step-son, J.J. Thornton, agrees to act as the defendant’s public defender, he assumes his first murder case will be a loss. Only the report of a missing husband proves that this case is not as open and shut as it seems. Strap on your seat belts for a wild ride in this mystery rooted in decades of deception that sprouts into murder.

When a burning body is found in a farming couple’s field, that turns out to be just the tip of the iceberg and there is no simple resolution to be found. The accused son-in-law is a mess of a human being, drowning in substance abuse to the point that he can’t possibly help with his own defense and Cameron has a niggling feeling that something isn’t right with this case. Considering the shortcomings of most vastly overworked public defenders, criminal attorney J.J. agrees to offer his services as public defender for Derek Ellison’s case.

Then a husband is reported as missing and there are hints that there could be a connection to the murder. Cameron and her new partner, Tony, are led hither and yon following improbable paths that are as convoluted as clues can get. Fortunately, author Lauren Carr has method in what looks like madness so I was never too far behind; still, I didn’t identify the killer till near the end.

Meanwhile, the Thornton family is wrapped up in J.J.’s and Poppy’s upcoming wedding, especially the search for the dress of Poppy’s dreams. The hardcore crime fiction reader might think that’s unnecessary fluff but, trust me, it isn’t and we learn a lot more about this appealing family and their love for one another, underpinning the deep professional trust between Joshua and Cameron. They’re all much more fortunate than the other families in this story and this is a compassionate look at what can go wrong…and, ultimately, how things can be made right. (I also thoroughly enjoyed spending time with Admiral, the Great Dane-Irish Wolfhound, Maine Coon Irving, and especially Charley, a rooster with attitude.)

I’m running out of ways to say how much I like Mike Alger as the narrator but the truth is he’s top-notch with various voices and interpretations of tone and emotion. He never seems to hit a weak spot 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2019.

About the Author

Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Thorny Rose, Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Chris Matheson Cold Case Mysteries—over twenty titles across four fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, crime fiction, police procedurals, romance, and humor.

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, and two spoiled rotten German shepherds on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Connect with the author:
Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook  ~  Instagram

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About the Narrator

Channel 2 Meteorologist Mike Alger joined KTVN-TV in May, 1989. Prior to that Mike had worked at KNDU-TV in Washington. Mike has provided northern Nevada “Weather Coverage You Can Count On” during the 1990 President’s Day Blizzard, the drought in the mid- 1990s, the New Year’s Flood of 1997 and the historic Snowstorms of 2005.

Mike has been married for more than 30 years and has two grown children. His hobbies include golf, music, biking, tennis, scuba diving, writing. He has written and published one novel and is working on a second. He is also a narrator of several audio books, and his work can be found on Audible.com.

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Follow the tour here.

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Giveaway

Win a $50 Amazon gift card courtesy of
Lauren Carr, author of the
The Lovers in Crime Mysteries.

Enter here.

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Book Reviews: Dead on Ice by Lauren Carr and Real Murder by Lauren Carr @TheMysteryLadie @BooksbyAcorn @iReadBookTours

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Title: Dead on Ice
Series: A Lovers in Crime Mystery #1
Author: Lauren Carr
Narrator: Mike Alger
Publication Date: November 23, 2016

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Purchase Links:
Audible // iTunes // Amazon

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Dead on Ice
A Lovers in Crime Mystery #1
Lauren Carr
Narrated by Mike Alger
Acorn Book Services, November 2016
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

Dead on Ice is the first installment of Lauren Carr’s new series (Lovers in Crime) featuring Hancock County Prosecuting Attorney Joshua Thornton and Pennsylvania State Police homicide detective Cameron Gates. 

Spunky Cameron Gates is tasked with solving the murder of Cherry Pickens, a legendary star of pornographic films, whose body turns up in an abandoned freezer. The case has a personal connection to her lover, Joshua Thornton, because the freezer was located in his cousin’s basement. It doesn’t take long for their investigation to reveal that the risqué star’s roots were buried in their rural Ohio Valley community, something that Cherry had kept off her show business bio. She should have kept her hometown off her road map, too—because when this starlet came running home from the mob, it proved to be a fatal homecoming.

A homicide detective and a prosecuting attorney are almost what you might consider a dream team when it comes to law enforcement and it’s certainly true in this series but, since Cameron and Josh don’t officially work together, we also frequently get the benefit of seeing investigations go in different directions. Certainly, that’s beneficial when the body-containing freezer is found in a hoarder’s house and, not long after, a bomb goes off.

Obviously, the first question is how did the porn star end up in the freezer followed by how did that freezer end up in Joshua’s cousin’s basement? Throw in the bomb element and connections between two cold cases and the hunt for clues is on. A plethora of characters, some of whom may very well be suspects, lead Cameron and Joshua on a compellingly twisty road to find final justice for these victims and many of these characters, such as the feuding church ladies, kept me wondering.

As always, the author introduces a few animals in the protagonists’ home life and, this time, the star is a wonderful Maine Coon named Irving. I have one of these delightful felines myself and am madly in love with this loving but curmudgeonly fluffybutt whose black and white coloring is decidedly not random splotches or the tuxedo effect 😉

Mike Alger continues doing a fine job with narration and I do hope he’ll always be the voice of Lauren Carr’s delightful mysteries.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2019.

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Title: Real Murder
Series: A Lovers in Crime Mystery #2
Author: Lauren Carr
Narrator: Mike Alger
Publication Date: January 10, 2017

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Purchase Links:
Audible // iTunes // Amazon

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Real Murder
A Lovers in Crime Mystery #2
Lauren Carr
Narrated by Mike Alger
Acorn Book Services, January 2017
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

When Homicide Detective Cameron Gates befriends Dolly, the little old lady who lives across the street, she is warned not to get lured into helping the elderly woman by investigating the unsolved murder of one of her girls. “She’s senile,” Cameron is warned. “It’s not a real murder.”

Such is not the case. After Dolly is brutally murdered, Cameron discovers that the sweet blue-haired lady’s “girl” was a call girl, who had been killed in a mysterious double homicide.

Meanwhile, Prosecuting Attorney Joshua Thornton is looking for answers to the murder of a childhood friend, a sheriff’s deputy whose cruiser is found at the bottom of a lake. The deputy had disappeared almost twenty years ago while privately investigating the murder of a local prostitute.

It doesn’t take long for the Lovers in Crime to put their cases together to reveal a long-kept secret that some believe is worth killing to keep undercover.

Ah, what harm could there be in listening to an old lady who keeps looking for someone to find out who killed her girl? Cameron is about to realize that there’s a whole lot behind Dolly’s querulous requests, especially after the woman is found murdered. Meanwhile, Josh is off on his own pursuit of truth after a friend from his childhood, a deputy who disappeared years ago shortly after talking to Josh, is found in his cruiser in a lake.

In a mystery that is chock full of connected threads, ominous notes from the past, evidence leading in many directions and a crazy quilt of possibilities, Cameron and Josh—and the reader—are led on a wild chase for the truths of the past and today. Every single time I thought “Aha!”, I was proven wrong and that, of course, propelled me down a mindbending path in search of answers, right along with our sleuthing duo.

This time around, we get a good look at relationships, not only between Joshua and Cam (and the fabulous Irving who is anything but a humdrum kitty) but also in other families. An interesting thread has to do with the tension between Josh’s daughter and Cameron, offset by the cheerful acceptance of a stepmother by Josh’s teenaged son, Donnie. This attention to family dynamics really enhanced the investigations and made me even more invested in the outcome.

Many of the players in this book were vividly brought to life by the narration by Mike Alger and I have to say his talents really shine here, particularly with regards to his evocation of tones and emotions. Anyone looking for their new favorite voiceover performer will be happily surprised by Mr. Alger.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2019.

About the Author

Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Thorny Rose, Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Chris Matheson Cold Case Mysteries—over twenty titles across four fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, crime fiction, police procedurals, romance, and humor.

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, and two spoiled rotten German shepherds on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Connect with the author:
Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook  ~  Instagram

************

About the Narrator

Channel 2 Meteorologist Mike Alger joined KTVN-TV in May, 1989. Prior to that Mike had worked at KNDU-TV in Washington. Mike has provided northern Nevada “Weather Coverage You Can Count On” during the 1990 President’s Day Blizzard, the drought in the mid- 1990s, the New Year’s Flood of 1997 and the historic Snowstorms of 2005.

Mike has been married for more than 30 years and has two grown children. His hobbies include golf, music, biking, tennis, scuba diving, writing. He has written and published one novel and is working on a second. He is also a narrator of several audio books, and his work can be found on Audible.com.

************

Follow the tour here.

************

Giveaway

Win a $50 Amazon gift card courtesy of
Lauren Carr, author of the
The Lovers in Crime Mysteries.

Enter here.

************

Book Review: Dig Your Grave by Steven Cooper

Dig Your Grave
A Gus Parker and Alex Mills Novel #2
Steven Cooper
Seventh Street Books, October 2018
ISBN 978-1-63388-480-9
Trade Paperback

This is the second mystery involving Phoenix police detective Alex Mills and his psychic friend, Gus Parker. The 25th anniversary of the disappearance of a university student while on spring break in Mexico is approaching. A young woman went to a party and never returned. But now men are dying, found in cemeteries in graves they have dug for themselves. Cryptic notes, which they wrote, are with their bodies. Moreover, these dead men aren’t just anybody. They’re all extremely wealthy men, prominent in the community. It’s Gus, with his paranormal abilities, who makes a connection between the men and the girl’s disappearance, but it’s Alex who breaks the case.

Meanwhile, Gus is happy with his girlfriend, famous musician Billie Welch. But someone keeps poking around her fabulous house, breaking through the security. Threats are made. But are they aimed at Billie or at Gus?

Material is often humorously posed in Cooper’s novels, but it’s all serious stuff. The story proceeds at a good pace, the characters for the most part are compelling, although some of the rich men’s wives seemed a little stereotyped to me. And the end comes to a satisfactory conclusion, as all books should do.  But even so, there’s something about this one that keeps me from totally believing the premise and freely suspending my disbelief. Bad people a little too wonky and over-the-top? Maybe not a lot of sympathy for college kids on benders? Someone waiting twenty-five years to make a move? I’m not sure. If any other reader out there can put her finger on it, let me know. That said, I truly did enjoy the book and can recommend it.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, April 2019.
https://carolcriggercom.sitelio.me/
Author of Five Days, Five Dead, Hereafter and Hometown Homicide.

A Passel of Teeny Reviews, Part 4

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…

Unsub
Unsub #1
Meg Gardiner
Dutton, June 2017
ISBN 978-1-101-98552-6
Hardcover

If you’re ever in the mood for a nail-biting, gut-wrenching tale of police work, this is it. Detective Caitlin Hendrix comes very close to her own kind of obsession that plays like a counterpoint to the unsub’s sick and deadly obsession and, at times, it’s a little difficult to tell them apart. I don’t mean that literally—on the page, of course you know who is who—but the emotional turmoil that each feels has a sort of certain similarity and you can’t help wondering just how much the killer is affecting her, perhaps even twisting her mind, not to mention the agitation stemming from her own baggage. This unsub is pretty well terrifying and Ms. Gardiner had me flying through the pages.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2018.

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Poor Things
Daniel Barnett
CreateSpace, June 2016
ISBN 978-1533613080
Trade Paperback

Are you ready for some creepy vibes of the horror variety? From the opening scene of a deer dying on the road, I had a sense of what the title might refer to in a vague sort of way but I wasn’t prepared for how much I would like these characters, especially Joel and a new friend, Ash, a tomboy with an inner strength and a no-nonsense attitude. A high school superjock, Joel is typically obnoxious and a bit of a bully towards his kid brother but his life changes in an instant. He’s naturally full of anger and resentment but a kernel of compassion is there. All he can really hope for is to find acceptance for his new circumstances and, just maybe, a little happiness.

Too bad there’s something evil beginning to stir, maybe the end of the world…

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2018.

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Renting Silence
A Roaring Twenties Mystery #3
Mary Miley
Severn House, December 2016
ISBN 978-0-7278-8653-8
Hardcover

Jessie Beckett isn’t really a private investigator but she seems to have a knack for it so, when Mary Pickford asks her to look into a starlet’s death, she agrees, having no idea where her search for the truth will take her. Vaudeville’s colorful past, blackmail, an impending death sentence…all come into play but will these varying pieces lead Jessie to Lila Walker’s real murderer before Ruby Glynn hangs?

The mystery here is topnotch but it’s Ms. Miley‘s evocation of Hollywood in its early days that’s really the star of the show, pun intended. Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Myrna Loy, Zeppo Marx,  even Rin Tin Tin fill the pages with so much history and fun it’s easy to become mesmerized. I thoroughly enjoyed this episode in Jessie’s life and will be staring the next book, Murder in Disguise, as soon as I can.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2018.

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Resurrection Mall
A Penns River Crime Novel #3
Dana King
Down & Out Books,
ISBN 978-1-943402-65-6
Trade Paperback

A town that’s down on its luck, economically speaking, is ripe for drug trade and mob activity along with a rise in petty crime and that’s what’s happened to Penns River, leading to corruption on multiple fronts and a police department that’s sorely tested. The “Resurrection Mall” of the book’s title actually is a shopping mall, one that’s being refurbished by a minister trying to help the community or so he says.

Doc Dougherty, the quintessential cop we all want on our side in a crunch, still goes home for Sunday dinner because that’s the kind of guy he is, rooted in family and the truly important things in life. Police work in Penns River is generally not exactly unusual but this time it most certainly is, beginning with the mass murders of five top level members of the drug trade.

Resurrection Mall is a little more dismal than I usually like but Mr. King‘s elegant writing, his plot development and his characters (who are refreshingly normal) all kept me going because I became invested in this Rust Belt community and in Doc. There are two earlier books and I think I’m going to have to check them out.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2018.

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Crimson Earth
Modi Series #2
Anna Soliveres
Anna Soliveres, December 2015
ISBN 978-0-9960149-3-9
Trade Paperback

Aeva is a most unusual girl, even in her world that’s so different from our own, and is currently passing as the missing Queen Violet. Aeva is also right in the midst of the fight against a man who is obsessed with power, no matter what he has to do to obtain it and Aeva’s people look to her intelligence and strength to protect and lead them in this time of crisis. To do that, this remarkable young woman has become the strong, self-reliant heroine she was destined to be.

Crimson Earth is the sequel to Violet Storm which I read and enjoyed more than three years ago (https://cncbooksblog.wordpress.com/2014/09/24/book-review-violet-storm-by-anna-soliveres/). I didn’t feel quite the same connection to this second installment but I blame myself for not re-reading the first book before getting into this one and I really do recommend reading them in order to get the full effect of a really well-conceived dystopian tale.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2018.

Book Reviews: Sleep Like a Baby by Charlaine Harris and Hair Brained by Nancy J. Cohen

Sleep Like a Baby
An Aurora Teagarden Mystery #10
Charlaine Harris
Minotaur Books, September 2017
ISBN 978-1-250-09006-5
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Robin and Aurora have finally begun their adventure in parenting. With newborn Sophie proving to be quite a handful, Roe’s mother pays for a partially trained nurse, Virginia Mitchell, to come help the new parents for a few weeks. Virginia proves to be especially helpful when Robin has to leave town for work and Roe is struck with a bad case of the flu.

One particularly stormy night, Roe wakes to hear her daughter crying and Virginia nowhere to be found. Roe’s brother Philip helps her search the house and they happen upon a body outside… but it isn’t Virginia’s. Now, not only does she have a newborn to care for and a vulnerable new marriage to nurture, Roe also has to contend with a new puzzle — who is this mystery woman dead in their backyard, and what happened to Virginia?

Roe seems to be in the midst of a lot of relatively new life experiences, what with a fairly recent marriage, a younger brother who hasn’t been in the picture all that long, a brand new baby and, now, a new dead body. Goodness, what’s a sleuthing librarian to do?

When Robin has to leave town for a few days and Roe is sick, they call for help from Virginia who had been a nanny/housekeeper/mother’s aide after Sophie’s birth and she’s happy to come do night duty. Roe’s much younger half-brother, Philip, who lives with them now, will help out in the daytime as much as he can so Roe feels comfortable sending Robin off to his book convention. That comfort is, of course, the trigger for dastardly things to start happening. This time it’s a double whammy when Virginia goes missing and there’s a strange woman lying dead in Roe’s backyard. Obviously, the police have to be called but this IS her backyard and her missing nanny so, naturally, she’s going to do some investigating on her own, right? One of the first things that comes to light is that the dead woman is no stranger and then the clues begin to mount.

Now, I’ve been making a little fun of Roe and her latest exploits but the truth is she’s one of my go-to amateur sleuths when I’m feeling the need for some light mystery reading. Roe is a smart woman, well-educated, and she has the chops to do the snooping what with her amateur criminology background. Belonging to a club of people who like to solve mysteries gives her a one-up on most sleuths and some cops. And Robin, well, he’s one of the very good guys and I appreciate their relationship and their respect for each other even though I sort of wish they hadn’t gotten married. I also am not thrilled with her having a baby.

Robin and Sophie kind of throw this series into the land of those TV shows where we wait for years for that special relationship to happen and when it does everything starts to go flat. That hasn’t happened yet but there’s no doubt Roe’s behavior and perspective are different now and the family issues were a bit too front and center. Still, I really did enjoy this book and I’ll just have to see where things go from here.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2017.

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Hair Brained
A Bad Hair Day Mystery #14
Nancy J. Cohen
Orange Grove Press, September 2017
ISBN 978-0-9970038-8-8
Trade Paperback

From the author—

Was the car crash an accident or a deliberate attempt to run Marla’s friends off the road?

When hairstylist Marla Vail’s best friend is hurt in a suspicious car accident, Marla assumes guardianship of her infant son. No sooner does Marla say, “Baby want a bottle?”than she’s embroiled in another murder investigation. Her husband, Detective Dalton Vail, determines the crash may not have been an accident after all. But then, who would want Tally–or Ken in the car with her–out of the way? As Marla digs deeper into her friends’ lives, she realizes she didn’t know them as well as she’d thought. Nonetheless, it’s her duty as their son’s guardian to ensure his safety, even if it means putting her own life at risk. Can she protect the baby and find the culprit before someone else ends up as roadkill?

Marla and Dalton have been struggling with the idea of having a baby—he wants one, she doesn’t—so it’s fortuitous, if unhappily, that Marla takes guardianship of her best friend Tally’s four-month-old son when Tally and her husband, Ken, go missing. Having little Luke around might give their dilemma a bit of clarity but the reason for his presence is ominous.

Marla had already been thinking that Tally had recently been a little reserved and uncommunicative as though there was something she wan’t prepared to share with Marla. Now, she has to consider that this secret, if that’s what it is, has something to do with the disappearance. A lot about the couple going out makes no sense even though it was New Year’s Eve; they hadn’t planned on an outing so why did they suddenly change their minds just because Ken got a business call? When Marla and Dalton learn that Tally was hurt and Ken killed in a car accident, their immediate attention is on Tally’s survival and what they can do for her and the baby but then they find out the accident may have been no accident after all.

Spending time with Marla and Dalton is like visiting old friends and I think Hair Brained is one of Ms. Cohen‘s better entries in the series. The mystery itself and their investigations are absorbing and the baby issue is a question that confronts many couples that are in a more “settled” time in their lives. Marla is directly invested in this particular case and rightfully so, creating a natural rationale for her sleuthing. With the story concluding in an open-ended fashion, I can’t wait for the next book.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2017.