Book Reviews: See Also Deception by Larry D. Sweazy and Called to Justice by Edith Maxwell

See Also Deception
A Marjorie Trumaine Mystery #2
Larry D. Sweazy
Seventh Street Books, May 2016
ISBN: 978-1-63388-127-3
Trade Paperback

I’ve read recommendations to read the first book of this series, See Also Murder, before starting the second. While I’d be happy to get my hands on the introductory book, I had no problem catching up with Marjorie Trumaine and her husband, Hank.

Set in the North Dakota of 1964, Marjorie is a farm wife whose husband has been paralyzed and blinded in a hunting accident. But just to show a farm wife should never be underestimated, she is also an indexer for a prestigious publisher of scholastic books , a job requiring strenuous attention to detail. Most of all, she’s Hank’s loving caregiver. Let’s not end there. In the first book, Marjorie solved a series of murders, and now, her suspicions are aroused when she receives news her friend, the local librarian, has been found dead, an apparent suicide. Marjorie can’t believe it.

Things don’t add up, in Marjorie’s opinion, although the sheriff and his deputy refuse to listen to her doubts about Calla’s death. Then things begin happening to Marjorie, and her worries about Hank grow. He, he says, wants to die. She cannot bear to let him go.

At last there is another death, this one clearly murder, and the authorities finally begin to believe Marjorie’s claim that Calla was murdered. Predictably, she may well be the next slated to die.

This story is much more than a murder mystery, although it is, and it’s a good one. But it’s also a look back at the sixties, historical for some, nostalgic for other readers. It is a story of a woman’s love. Of her fortitude, and her strength. I found Marjorie Trumaine a truly worthy heroine and human being.

The writing is strong, yet sensitive. The story fast-paced. See Also Deception is one of the best books I’ve read this year, not perhaps surprising as Mr. Sweazy has won many well-deserved national awards for his stories, including Western Writers of America’s Spur Award.

And the ending? Well, it’s sure to yank your heartstrings, and if you’re like me, you’ll be waiting impatiently for the next book in the series.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, October, 2016.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder and Four Furlongs.

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Called to Justice
A Quaker Midwife Mystery
Edith Maxwell
Midnight Ink Books, April 2017
ISBN 978-0-7387-5032-3
Trade Paperback

This historical mystery, set twenty years after the Civil War, realistically portrays how even Northerners and Union veterans were quick to point fingers and proclaim guilt due to the color of one’s skin.

Rose Carroll is a Quaker and a midwife. Her patients are from all walks of life, Quaker or not. A young woman named Hannah Breed has come to Rose because she’s pregnant. Hannah works in the local mill and is not only a fellow Quaker, but a friend of Rose’s sister. Hannah is unmarried and frightened. With good cause, as it turns out, because she is shot and killed during the local Fourth of July celebration. Was it an accident or was it murder? Whichever, a finger soon points at a freed slave, Akwasi Ayensu, who is also a Quaker and Rose’s friend. Even Rose’s good friend, Officer Guy Gilbert who is under pressure to quickly solve the case, accepts meager false proof of Akwasi’s guilt. Determined to prove Akwasi’s innocence, Rose will also be in danger as this mystery plays out.

I very much enjoyed learning about the Quaker beliefs, as well as midwifery as practiced in the late 1800s.  The mystery itself is well done, with plenty of false trails and twists. The novel is set in Amesbury, Massachusetts, the home of fellow Quaker and poet John Greenleaf Whittier who also plays a part in the story. Authenticity shows the research author Edith Maxwell has put to good use.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, March 2017.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder and Four Furlongs.

Book Reviews: Daughters Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics and Kittens Can Kill by Clea Simon

Daughters Unto DevilsDaughters Unto Devils
Amy Lukavics
Harlequin Teen, September 2015
ISBN: 978-0-373-21158-6
Hardcover

Isolation in a small cabin on a mountain during a very harsh winter would make anyone a bit strange, but in the late 1800s it’s worse. When sixteen year old Amanda Verner has to endure the additional stress of watching her pregnant mother thrash and moan for months after getting sick, the birth of her deaf and blind baby sister, Hannah, has her on the edge, alternating between guilt and anger…Anger at how unfair life is and guilt because of her wish that Hannah was dead. When she looks out the window and sees a demon coming toward the cabin, it tilts her over the edge.

As spring comes, Amanda isn’t feeling much better, but has decided to lie, particularly to her younger sister Emily, so she won’t be constantly confronted about her strangeness which hasn’t abated since she saw the demon. When she meets Henry, a boy who makes a living delivering things, it doesn’t take long for her to start having sex with him in the forest. It makes her feel wanted and drives tormenting thoughts away, but when she becomes pregnant herself, things go back to awful as she tries to hide her condition and keep the lies going.

After her father returns from the nearest town and tells his family that another harsh winter is predicted, he also tells them that he heard of empty and larger cabins on the prairie and has decided to move his family there. Amanda, grateful for a temporary reprieve, is hopeful that the move will somehow allow her to find a way to tell the family about her condition.

The cabin they find looks good from the outside, but the interior has a torn up floor and reeks of rotting blood. Even so, the family camps on cut grass outside while working to clean things up. There’s a working water pump behind the house and they soon learn that it’s being used by Zeke, a boy about Amanda’s age and his physician father who live a couple miles away. Zeke tells Amanda, Emily and their two younger siblings, Joanna and Charles, ghost stories that have some eerie similarities with ones Henry told Amanda before the family came to the new home.

From that point on, there’s no break and no peace for Amanda and her family. Horrible things follow one another involving demons and natural disasters, leaving it up to Amanda and Emily to assume responsibility at a level well beyond their years. This is a grand debut novel that’s horror at its best. Teens who love creepy and unexpected will devour this one. The blurb on the cover is completely accurate when author Cat Winters says: “Imaging Stephen King writing Little House on the Prairie.”

Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS, October 2015.

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Kittens Can KillKittens Can Kill
A Pru Marlowe Pet Noir #5
Clea Simon
Poisoned Pen Press, March 2015
ISBN 978-1-4642-0358-9
Hardcover

This is the fifth book in the Pru Marlowe Pet Noir Series. So far, Simon has written about dogs, cats, parrots, panthers and now for #5, we have kittens. If it’s hard for you to turn down a kitten who may be a witness or the cause of death, I think you will enjoy this book.

The animals in this book communicate with Pru, an animal behaviorist who hides her ability, from the kitten to Pru’s own cat, Wallis, and the animals in the animal hospital. Unfortunately for Pru, the animals (not to mention, some of the humans) are very cryptic with what they are willing to share. And Pru gets to put it all together after she finds a kitten next to the wealthy dead lawyer, David Canaday.

A pet peeve of mine (no pun intended, well, maybe) is when several of the character names in a book begin with the same first letter. It only increases the difficulty of keeping them straight in the reader’s mind and I don’t know why an author would want to do that. Yes, I think it’s a little cute if a parent wants to name their children in that fashion – as in Kittens Can Kill, the sisters are: Jackie, Judith and Jill but it probably is misguided and should have been resisted. Don’t parents want to encourage their kids’ individuality? Don’t authors want the same for their characters?

Anyway, since that’s all I found to complain about, I would definitely recommend this book. It was my first in the series and I didn’t feel I was beginning in the middle. It’s an easy, quick, and pleasurable read.

Reviewed by Constance Reader, November 2015.