Book Review: Night Rides by Carole T. Beers

Night Rides
A Pepper Kane Mystery, Book #4
Carole T. Beers
W & B Publishers, May 2019
ISBN 978-1-63554-161-8
Trade Paperback

For this adventure, former crime reporter Pepper Kane, along with her friend and business partner, Tulip Clemmons, is in Seattle. They’re riding in one of the northwest’s most important horses shows. A lot is at stake as riders compete not only for money, but prestige and reputation. The competition, we discover, is not always friendly.

On the first night, the women, accompanied by Pepper’s lover, Sonny Chief, are returning to Pepper’s on-site living quarters, when, after checking on her horse, she needs the fancy public restroom. While at first apparently deserted, she hears noises, moans, screams, thumping, scratching–all the sounds of a rather violent sexual encounter. She calls out, but there is no answer. Wondering if there was more going on than just sex, she reports what she heard to security, leaving a message when no one answers the emergency number.

Next day, a man, one of the judges in the competition is found dead⏤murdered. Pepper, not only fretting at the seeming inaction of the police, especially when they don’t seem interested in her report, but having a bit of detective type experience, soon takes a hand. When a second person is murdered⏤neither of them the most sympathetic of victims⏤what happens next has you wondering if she’d been better off to back away.

Odd things happen. Something as simple as a mug being stolen from a transgender competitor. An expensive bracelet Pepper’s daughter Chili has for sale in their store is stolen, and to wind things up, Chili is kidnapped and faced with certain death.

Well-written, snappy dialogue draws the reader forward. The action keeps one turning pages to find out what happens next. Pepper takes what seem like a few wrong turns, but always works toward an action-filled and twisty conclusion. The characters are well-fleshed out, but to me, in this particular story, the best part is when we are with the horses, riding in the ring, feeling the excitement and thrill of the show.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, April 2019.
Author of Five Days, Five Dead, Hereafter and Hometown Homicide.

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Book Review: Dead If You Don’t by Peter James

Dead If You Don’t
Roy Grace #14
Peter James
Pan McMillan, July 2018
ISBN 978-1-5098-1635-4
Hardcover

Two nightmares face Detective Superintendent Roy Grace almost immediately in the latest novel in this wonderful series of police procedurals.  First is a bomb threat in the Amex Stadium, the new home of the Albion football team in the first game in the Premier Leagues. Roy is attending with his son Bruno and notices an unattended camera in an empty seat a few rows in front of him.  Acting intuitively he grabs the instrument with merely seconds left on a timer and rushes out of the arena, tossing it as far as he can.  It doesn’t explode, but is meant to reinforce an extortion demand.

The second is the disappearance of a young lad while his father met and spoke with a client at the match.  Later, he receives a ransom demand for a quarter of a million pounds.  Grace spends the rest of the novel attempting to save the boy, while any number of murders and other mishaps arise under the purview of his High Crimes Unit.

The Roy Grace novels specialize in the meticulous attention to the investigative process in solving crimes, and Dead if You Don’t carries on this tradition.  It sometimes seems tedious, but that’s what police procedurals are all about (and give authors the chance to introduce all kinds of red herrings).  Perhaps, in this novel, this technique is carried a bit too far, with solutions offered with merely a second or two before it is too late, but we can recommend it nevertheless.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, June 2018.

Book Review: Mercy’s Chase by Jess Lourey

Mercy’s Chase
A Salem’s Cipher Novel #2
Jess Lourey
Midnight Ink, September 2018
ISBN 978-0-7387-5755-1
Hardcover

I became a fan of Jess Lourey’s series last year when I was privileged to review Salem’s Cipher. Salem Wiley, half-Persian, half-Irish, agoraphobic genius whose special talent is cracking ciphers and codes so difficult even the most sophisticated computer programs can’t do it, is now working for the FBI. She’s also perfecting a special computer program of her own, one that plays an important role in this story.

Posted to England, Salem’s first fieldwork comes when tasked with investigating a mysterious, and very old, miniature copy of Stonehenge an Irish farmer lady has found. What is it’s meaning? Is it something to do with the Order, a group of men with an unlimited desire for wealth and power? Or does it concern the women whom since ancient times have had to hide their own wealth and intellectual property from these men?

In the previous novel, Salem became a sort of guardian to a young girl, Mercy, when the girl’s brother was murdered helping Salem. She cares deeply for the child, and when Mercy is kidnapped and threatened with death, Salem is pitted against some of the worst the Order has to offer in a quest to discover the origins of Stonehenge..

The story will keep you guessing. Who can be trusted and who cannot is another cipher Salem must solve, and the answers may come as a surprise. Meanwhile, Salem grows in both her intellectual strength and her psyche as she fights her own fears to save Mercy. Recommended.

Action-packed, great writing taut with suspense, an appealing main character to root for–who could ask for anything more?

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, July 2018.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder, Four Furlongs and Hometown Homicide.

Book Review: Baby’s First Felony by John Straley

Baby’s First Felony
A Cecil Younger Investigation #7
John Straley
Soho Crime, July 2018
ISBN 978-1-61695-878-7
Hardcover

Baby’s First Felony brings back Cecil Younger and the wonderful setting of Sitka, Alaska.  Before even starting the book, I would strongly urge readers to turn to the end and read through the A Guide to Avoiding a Life in Crime. The rules as outlined are referenced frequently, so you might want to keep a book mark there as well.

Cecil is called to the jail to arrange bail for a client who asks that he go pick up a box containing things that will prove her innocence which she left with friends. Two things about this cause Cecil angst. First, the box contains money. Lots of money. And secondly the place she left the box is the house where a friend of Cecil’s daughter’s friend is now living and a place that his daughter Blossom has run off to when her mother gets on her nerves. But that is just the beginning of Cecil’s problems. There are drugs, a kidnapping and a murder to contend with causing Cecil to break nearly every one of his rules as outlined in the book.

Along with the criminal plot is an interesting side story involving the use of humor as therapy for autism leading the book to be packed with jokes as told by Todd, the sort of adopted son of Cecil. Some of these are really pretty funny. There is a very brief note at the end of the book lending credence to this as a real therapy. This also brings in the very real issue of who has a right to post someone’s comments on line.

It has been a very long time since the last of the Cecil Younger book was published so it was especially fun to catch up with Cecil and life in Sitka, Alaska.  Perhaps an odd benefit of the long delay in bringing Cecil back to print is that it gives readers new to the series a chance to jump in as Baby’s First Felony does not rely on past plots and Straley does an excellent job of giving readers what little back story is necessary. Hopefully we’ll be seeing more Cecil very soon.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Caryn St. Clair, July 2018.

Book Review: The Quiet Child by John Burley

The Quiet Child
John Burley
William Morrow Paperbacks, August 2017
ISBN: 978-0-06-243185-1
Trade Paperback

This is not a novel for the faint of heart. Dark, moving, at times excruciating, the pain author Burley evokes from his characters is a palpable presence through the entire novel. One wonders how many readers have ever been faced with the community disdain and rejection based, not on race, but on more common attributes. And a reader wonders what the response might have been.

In Cottonwood, California, multiple unexpected deaths are occurring. The family of Michael and Kate McCray are beginning to feel isolation as it grows, the odd looks, the loss of friendly interactions, the murmurs behind their backs. McCray is a valued teacher at the local high school. He and Kate have two sons, Danny and Sean. Danny, the youngest, is the focus of the growing community concern. He doesn’t speak. At all.

Kate is becoming ill and the doctors are worried but non-committal. The novel moves smoothly back and forth in time which can at times confuse a reader, but the technique works extremely well to heighten the tension and overall feeling of dread.

One evening, Michael drives the boys to a nearby convenience store and with a startling suddenness the tension rises. The boys are kidnapped. The rest of the story concerns the police attempts to find the boys and rescue them, Kate’s accelerating deterioration, and the rising suspicions from the community.

Ultimately, of course, there are resolutions, nearly all of which are unforeseen and startling in their placement and evolution. Enthralling, mesmerizing and surprising, a dark, moving thought-provoking experience.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, April 2018.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Review: Murder on the Left Bank by Cara Black

Murder on the Left Bank
An Aimée Leduc Investigation #18
Cara Black
Soho Crime, June 2018
ISBN 978-1-61695-927-2
Hardcover

When a dying man shows up in Eric’s offices asking for help to right wrongs of the past by delivering a ledger to authorities, against his better judgment Eric agrees to help. Really his task is pretty simple. He would have his nephew deliver the ledger to the designated person and that would be the extent of his involvement. But from the beginning things go wrong. The nephew was on his way to meet his girlfriend so instead of making the delivery, he hid the ledger and went to meet his girlfriend.  They were attacked and the nephew was killed. The room was tossed, but the ledger wasn’t found,  Now Eric wants his nephew’s murders found and the notebook delivered.

Aimée Leduc has more than enough to keep her busy between raising her daughter as a single parent and running her private investigation business. After her father’s death, Aimée pledged to stick to cyber crimes and security problems, but when Eric Besson shows up in her office seeking help locating a missing ledger which may contain information that would implicate her now deceased father she is drawn into another dangerous case.

Aimée tracks down the surviving girlfriend and numerous other people who might have insight as to the ledger’s location. Before long, she realizes she is being followed putting everyone she speaks to in danger. It was when it became clear that her own daughter was now fair game to those seeking the ledger that Aimée agrees to have her daughter’s father and Aimée’s estranged mother whisk her daughter away for safety.

There is a high body count in the book but in the end, things work out and Aimée finds out a little bit more about her father’s life in the police.

This was one of my favorite books in the series so far.

Aimée Leduc returns in Murder on the Left Bank, the eighteenth book in the series.  Readers who have followed Aimée from the beginning must be pleased with how the series has evolved over the years keeping the stories fresh. For readers who have never sampled the series, Murder on the Left Bank is a fine place to start. There is a back story, but readers are given enough to not feel left behind.  Either way, enjoy!

Reviewed by guest reviewer Caryn St.Clair, June 2018.

Book Review: Judgment of Murder by C.S. Challinor

Judgment of Murder
A Rex Graves Mystery #8
C.S. Challinor
Midnight Ink, November 2016
ISBN 978-0-7387-5009-5
Trade paperback

For a mystery, this British entry into the field is so low key that I think even I might have a more exciting life. Scottish barrister Rex Graves’ old mentor, Lord Murgatroyd–also known as Judge Murder, has passed away. Phoebe, his daughter, thinks he may have been murdered, although the evidence is flimsy. An unlocked window? A not very valuable stamp album gone missing? None of it seems very convincing, but Rex travels from Edinburgh to Canterbury upon her invitation to see what he makes of the situation.

Not much, as it turns out. But he makes a few phone calls when he gets back to Edinburgh, and oddly enough, is put in danger by a man the judge had put in prison, but who has been released.

Meanwhile, a schoolgirl from the area has been kidnapped and is feared dead. It happened not far from the judge’s house, and is a subplot that runs through the story. Actually, it’s the most interesting part, as the characters in this story did not intrigue me, nor were they particularly sympathetic. The most interesting is Rex’s pal Alistair, who also has the most action. Turns out the judge’s daughter is a tippler and a would-be man eater, not that that sort of thing works on a man like Rex.

The dialogue seemed mundane to me, and old-fashioned in the extreme for people who carry mobile phones and drive a Jaguar, but it does get the job done. In the climax, all the ends are tied, the plot holes explained, and everyone gets their due.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, April 2018.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder, Four Furlongs and Hometown Homicide.