Book Review: 15 Minutes by Larissa Reinhart @LarissaReinhart @AnAudiobookworm

Title: 15 Minutes
Series: Maizie Albright Star Detective, Book 1
Author: Larissa Reinhart
Narrator: Joan Dukore
Publication Date: May 28, 2020
Genres: Mystery, Cozy

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Synopsis

She played a detective on TV, but now that her life depends on it, can Maizie Albright play a detective for real?

Three Teen Choice Awards, one Emmy nomination, and several Maxim covers later, Maizie Albright was an ex-teen star, stuck in reality show hell, and standing before a California judge. She has one chance for a new life: return home to Black Pine, Georgia, and get a job that has nothing to do with show business. So why not become a private detective – the person she played during the happiest days of her life?

Maybe because…

First: She’s got 10 days to get and keep the job.

Second: She has to convince the only private investigator in town to hire her.

Third: She lost the client’s wife on the first day. (And the woman may be dead…)

Fourth: She just might be falling in love with her new boss. And she just might have lost him his business.

But what has she got to lose, other than imprisonment, her dignity, and possibly, her life?

For fans of romantic comedy mysteries like Meg Cabot’s Size 12 Is Not Fat and Stephanie Bond’s Body Movers, The Wall Street Journal best-selling author Larissa Reinhart brings her listeners the first in the Maizie Albright Star Detective series, Hot Mystery Reviews’ “Top 10 Mysteries for Book Clubs”.

”Child star and hilarious hot mess Maizie Albright trades Hollywood for the backwoods of Georgia and pure delight ensues. Maizie’s my new favorite escape from reality.” (Gretchen Archer, USA Today best-selling author of the Davis Way Crime Caper series)

Start the Wall Street Journal best-selling series and download 15 Minutes today! 

“Sassy, sexy, and fun, 15 Minutes is hours of enjoyment.” (Phoebe Fox, author of the Breakup Doctor series)

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My Review

There are times when I need a few good laughs with a book and I had more than a few with Maizie and everybody else in 15 Minutes. The premise of a young actress, a former teen reality star, being effectively sentenced to get a new life is unique and the author made the most of it, sending Maizie off to her dad’s town, Black Pine, Georgia, where the donuts are hot and the private investigator she’s about to meet is equally hot.

A celebrity doesn’t naturally fit well in a small town but Maizie is determined and what better way to fulfill her obligation than to become a real-life private eye? After all, she played one on TV so it can’t be all that hard. Needless to say, mayhem ensues shortly after Wyatt Nash, her new and reluctant employer, assigns her to follow a client’s wife and Maizie loses her but she didn’t realize she’d also have to deal with her momager who wants her back where she belongs in LA. Even that irritation is topped, though, when bodies begin to turn up. The missing woman’s husband is one of the victims so maybe Maizie can redeem herself by finding the woman. Piece of cake! Or donut 🙂

This story is full of charm and humor as well as a good puzzle and narrator Joan Dukore brings it all to life. Truthfully, her voice grated on me a little, sounding kind of screechy, but I think the problem was in my own hearing and Ms. Dukore certainly did a terrific job with her pacing and comedic sense. I’m looking forward to more of Maizie’s adventures.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2020.

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Purchase Links:
Audible // Amazon

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The Characters of 15 MINUTES
from an Audio Perspective

By Larissa Reinhart

In the past when my other books became audiobooks, my publisher took care of all the details. Basically, I signed a contract and months later I was given a copy of the audiobook. 15 MINUTES was my first experience working with an actress and producer, and I loved the collaboration. My narrator, Joan Dukore, has been a dream. She’s professional, prompt, and engaging. Fabulously funny, Joan understands comedic timing. I love her version of Maizie Albright and I love the way the book (books, actually, since she just finished the second) sound.

I prepared a small character profile with the audition script that accompanied short excerpts from the three scenes I chose. This was all Joan had to go on, so you can see below the challenge presented in her audition. Just the basics for the main characters. And of course, she nailed these voices.

●     Maizie Albright: a twenty-five-year-old actress born in Georgia but raised in LA (heroine/first person). She’s insecure but optimistic. A buxom redhead like she walked out of a noir detective novel, but with the personality of rom-com heroine.

●     Wyatt Nash: a thirty-two-year-old private investigator from Georgia. Looks like Dwayne Johnson. A little rough, capable and confident, and has a soft spot (and growing attraction) for Maizie that he hides. Mainly because he doesn’t want to admit it to himself.

●     Lamar: an ex-police officer and Nash’s friend. He owns the building and donut shop below Nash’s detective office. Lamar’s an older African-American man from Georgia. Confident and curious. He likes Maizie immediately.

●     Vicki Albright:  Maizie’s stage-monster mother. She’s a beauty queen originally from Black Pine, Georgia (but wouldn’t have an accent). Cool, confident, and ruthless. Her phrases are crisp and often sarcastic.

●     Jolene Sweeney:  Nash’s ex-wife from Georgia. A businesswoman. Detests Maizie. Mean like a hellcat, thirtyish.

●     Giulio Belloni: an Italian man in his early thirties. He’s Maizie’s ex-costar and her sort-of ex-fiance. He’s very dramatic and self-obsessed but still charming and friends with Maizie. He used to star in Italian soaps.

●     Lucky is her childhood dirt bike she drives after her car is repossessed.

●     Most of the characters are from Georgia. The books are set in Black Pine, a mountain and lake resort town. However, the characters shouldn’t have strong or twangy Southern accents.

Nothing I hate more than Southerns portrayed with a strong or twangy accent.

Before Joan started the actual recording, I gave her a more detailed character profile for the main characters in the entire series. I wrote Joan a note that said, “As an actress, I know you need to develop the character as you hear them, too, but I hope this is helpful. If you want more backstory notes, let me know.”

Here you can see a little more of backstories and appearances but not much. I wanted her spin on the characters. The profiles were just to create boundaries so she’d be free to range within.

Maizie — 25, lived in LA for most of her life. She should sound young and bubbly and a little insecure. No discernable accent. I imagine a young Christina Hendricks. The series is a long character arc for her, so she grows more confident in each book.

Nash — 32, from Georgia. Big guy with a deep voice, a little gruff. Kind of like Dwayne Johnson. No heavy Southern accent, just speaks slower, likes he’s slowly simmering beneath the surface. Usually with impatience. Sometimes with heat. He doesn’t suffer fools.

Lamar — approaching 60. He sounds like Morgan Freeman in my head. 😉 He’s the voice of wisdom.

Vicki Albright — around 50 (antagonist). Maizie’s stage mother grown into tv/film producer. She speaks in crisp, short sentences. I always hear Jessica Walter’s characters, Lucille Bluth on “Arrested Development” or Meryl Streep’s in The Devil Wears Prada. Even though she’s an ex-beauty queen from Georgia, she abandoned her accent to adapt to LA and the industry.

She’s Machiavellian, but I think she does care about Maizie, even though it appears Maizie’s become the means to her own end. The entire series has a mother-daughter theme.

Boomer Spayberry — 50ish. He’s Maizie’s father and a hunting apparel tycoon. He’s very “old boy.” Big guy with a big beard. Deep voice, but a little like Sam Elliot or Tommy Lee Jones. He’s self-made, practical, and stubborn. A little narrow-minded. Remarried. He has no patience with Maizie’s old lifestyle and harbors a lot of resentment toward Vicki, his ex-wife who left him when she took Maizie to LA for her career.

Remi Spayberry — 6, Maizie’s half-sister. A country girl, very independent, smart, and speaks her own mind. She reminds me of Tatum O’Neil’s character, Addie Loggins, in Paper Moon.

Guilio Belloni — He’s Italian, so his name is pronounced Julio with a hard J sound. I take some of his affectations from Bruno Tonioli of “Dancing With the Stars” even though Guilio is a lot younger. He speaks fast. When he’s in trouble or trying to get away with something, his accent is more pronounced on purpose. His first career was in Italian soap operas, so he’s like an Italian Telenovela star.

Tiffany and Rhonda at LA HAIR — both are young, around Maizie’s age, and working class.

Rhonda — is African American with a soft Southern accent, like a young Octavia Spencer or Raven Goodwin. She’s friendly, warm, and excitable.

Tiffany — is sarcastic and practical, tiny and sharp. Squints when she talks (I don’t know if that’s helpful, but that’s how I imagine her).

Jolene — Nash’s ex-wife (antagonist).  A bit of a femme fatale. She’s smart and successful, vindictive, and very jealous of Maizie. She’s mostly in the first 2 books and more in reference or short scenes in the other ones. Her Southern accent shouldn’t be too strong because she wouldn’t want to appear too “townie.”

I hope these profiles give you as listeners/readers an indication of the personalities at work in the Maizie Albright Star Detective series. I had a lot of fun creating the characters and hope you have as much fun meeting them! Thanks so much for having me here today.

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About the Author

The Wall Street Journal bestselling author Larissa Reinhart writes the award-winning Cherry Tucker Mystery, Maizie Albright Star Detective, and Finley Goodhart Crime Caper series. She loves to tell funny stories about women, looking for love (and sometimes dead bodies) in all the wrong places.

Larissa, her family, and Cairn Terrier, Biscuit, lived in Nagoya, Japan, but have returned to Peachtree City, Georgia. You can see them on HGTV’s House Hunters International “Living for the Weekend in Nagoya” episode. Larissa loves books, food, and traveling with her family. You can often see her adventures on Instagram (and her little dog, too).

Visit Larissa’s website to join her VIP Readers email group and get the free prequel to The Cupid Caper plus other exclusive bonus content! www.larissareinhart.com

Website // Facebook // Goodreads // Instagram

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About the Narrator

Born in Honolulu, HI, Joan DuKore began her performing career as a ballet dancer, and attended Virginia School of the Arts to continue her education. Her hobby of magic later became her profession, and she continues to perform in Las Vegas and around the world. Her love of reading eventually led to voice acting. She has produced over 30 audiobooks in numerous genres such as thrillers, romances, memoirs, mysteries and fantasies. She loves locking herself in her booth and living in the worlds that authors create.

Website // Twitter // Facebook

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Play an excerpt here.

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Book Review: The Second Goodbye by Patricia Smiley

The Second Goodbye
A Pacific Homicide Novel #3
Patricia Smiley
Midnight Ink, December 2018
ISBN 978-0-7387-5236-5
Trade Paperback

The Second Goodbye by Patricia Smiley is the third book in her contemporary police procedural series, featuring Detective Davie Richards in the Pacific Division of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Davie’s lieutenant is determined to clear the backlog of cold cases and has all his staff working them when current crimes do not occupy their time. He’s given Davie a case that was closed out as a suicide but the original case detective thought something was off about it and the lieutenant thought so too. He wants Davie to review and investigate to find sufficient grounds to re-open it. She also is looking for the drive-by shooter of a gang member, whose hard-working conscientious family is still distraught by their son’s death.

Sara Montaine’s death was ruled a suicide because no one was around her when she was shot in a gun dealer’s store. Davie can’t seem to get a fix on who the victim was. Her stepson thought she was a gold-digger, the animal rescue she supported and a neighbor thought she was wonderful. That she appeared to live comfortably without a job before she married also raised a lot of questions.

Not surprisingly, no one in the gang member’s circle is willing to talk to Davie about the drive-by shooting but she continues to ask questions of anyone who was even peripherally known to the victim, leading to a painful and anonymous assault in the yard of one of the apartment houses where she was interviewing potential leads.

I liked the unusual plot, which unfolds at a steady pace to reveal surprises throughout with a credible motive and solution at the end. Mostly the police procedure seems accurate. Davie took a chance or two too many in this book, operating on her own when she should have taken a partner and thereby putting herself in jeopardy a little more than she needed to. Still, overall solid entertainment and worth any mystery reader’s attention.

Reviewed by Aubrey Hamilton, October 2018.

Book Review: A Major Production by Thomas B. Sawyer

A Major Production
A Barney Moon, P.I. Mystery Thriller 
Thomas B. Sawyer
Tom Sawyer Productions, Inc., April 2018
ISBN 978-1-7320918-0-1
Trade Paperback

What could be an entertaining caper story is marred by inattention to formatting and editing details. Barney Moon is an irascible New York private investigator sent on a case to Los Angeles, his least favorite city. Since he doesn’t drive, he teams up with college student Melodie Seaver, who drives him  while he investigates an inept scheme by a couple of disgruntled federal agents, the murder of a mobster’s wife, and a threat to Barney himself.

The reader is distracted by the unconventional punctuation and formatting. Business names and agencies are italicized, generic nouns are capitalized, and some words are both italicized and underlined. There is an overly generous use of hyphens, dashes, and ellipses. Compound nouns are hyphenated, as are some nouns and their modifiers. Some of this can be explained by the author’s background, which includes many years of screenwriting. Emphasizing words by italics and bolding may be a common practice in screenwriting, but it’s not the norm for novel readers, who can find it distracting. There are also numerous other errors which should have been corrected in proofreading. Not recommended.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, October 2018.

Book Reviews: IQ by Joe Ide and Righteous by Joe Ide

IQ
An IQ Novel #1
Joe Ide
Mulholland, September 2017
ISBN: 978-0-3162-6773-1
Trade Paperback

From the publisher:  East Long Beach.  The LAPD is barely keeping up with the neighborhood’s high crime rate.  Murders go unsolved, lost children unrecovered.  But someone from the neighborhood has taken it upon himself to help solve the cases the police can’t or won’t touch.  A high school dropout, Isaiah Quintabe has an unassuming nature that disguises a ferocious intelligence.  Most people call him IQ.  Word has gotten around:  If you’ve got a problem, Isaiah will take care of it, his rates adjustable to your income or lack thereof.  Because of his unconventional business model, cash is getting tight for Isaiah, forcing him to take on the case of a rap mogul whose life is in danger.  The list of suspects includes a socially inept marksman who never misses, a crew of hangers-on that conceals that one man with a dangerous agenda, and an attack dog the size of a horse.  IQ finds his investigation encompassing much more than he bargained for.  No one expects a kid from East Long Beach to have what Isaiah’s packing – – a blistering intellect, an incredible sense of percepti9on, and some serious skills behind the wheel.  It all adds up to one major advantage:  When you come from nothing, nobody sees you coming.

 

This is the first in a very original new series from Joe Ide, an author of Japanese-American descent, who has created an even more original protagonist in IQ, in a book which won the Macavity Award for best first novel.

The year is 2013.  In the opening pages, we meet Isaiah, an unlicensed detective described as six feet tall and rail thin, his roommate, Juanell Dodson, 17, who has been sharing IQ’s apartment since the death of the latter’s beloved brother, Marcus, 25 years old, in a hit-and-run incident in 2005 which completely devastated IQ. We also meet Juanell’s sometime girlfriend, an innocent teenage girl named Deronda. We are told that IQ had more work than he could handle but not many who could pay him.   A client who could “pay his per diem gave him enough income to support himself” but often the only compensation given him would be “with a sweet potato pie or cleaning his yard or one brand-new radial tire if they paid him at all.”  In one instance payment came in the form of a chicken named Alejandro.  After his brother’s death IQ dropped out of school and quit the academic decathlon team he was on.

IQ likes rap because “music without words let him fill his head with images of his own making or no images at all.”  Juanell brings IQ a new case, if they can split the fee, the client being one Calvin Wright, a rapper known as Black the Knife. Juanell tells IQ “you lucky you got skills, son, ‘cause if you had to survive on your personality you’d be working at the morgue with dead people.”  But the team does just fine.

The author creates some fascinating characters here, primarily of course IQ, and a book that won’t soon be forgotten.  One of the many glowing reviews of this book [from fellow author Ben Winters] ended with the words “you’ll be as excited as I am for a sequel.”  I couldn’t, and can’t, disagree, and when that sequel was published, less than a month ago, I read it as soon as I could, the result of which can be found in the review which will be written as soon as this one concludes – it’s every bit as excellent as is this debut novel and, like this one, is highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, November 2017.

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Righteous
An IQ Novel #2
Joe Ide
Mulholland Books, October 2017
ISBN: 978-0-3162-6777-9
Hardcover

From the publisher:  Ten years ago, when Isaiah Quintabe was just a boy, his beloved brother was killed by an unknown assailant. The unsolved crime has gnawed at his gut and kept him up nights, boiling with anger and thoughts of revenge.  The search for the killer sent him plunging into despair and nearly destroyed his life.  Now, Isaiah has a flourishing career, a new dog, and a near-iconic status as a PI in his hometown of East Long Beach, but a chance encounter reopens a wound that never fully healed.  He has to begin the hunt again – – or lose his mind.  A case takes him and his skeptical don’t-call-me-a-sidekick partner, Dodson, to Vegas, where Chinese gangsters and a terrifying seven-foot loan shark are stalking a beautiful DJ and her deadbeat boyfriend.  If Isaiah doesn’t find the couple first, they’ll be murdered.  Awaiting the outcome is the love of IQ’s life:  fail, and he’ll lose her.  Isaiah’s quest is fraught with treachery, menace, and startling twists, leading to the mastermind behind his brother’s death, Isaiah’s own sinister Moriarty.  Rich with action, suspense, and ingenious surprises, Righteous confirms Joe Ide as one of crime fiction’s most exciting new voices.

 

To say that Marcus was “the best person in the world” is only an understatement to Isaiah.  He’d never gotten over his brother’s death, which haunts him more each day, and he is determined to track down the person responsible.  Everything that follows in this second book in the series stems from that.  And this book is everything that the initial book led the reader to expect from this author.  And the more he discovers leads him to only one conclusion:  “This was no accident.  This was a hit.”

Chapter One introduces Janine Van, a young Asian woman working as a DJ, whose name as a DJ is Dama, so chosen because “it was different and the Chinese word for weed.”  Only 21 years old, she gets paid $750 a set, and plays 2 sets a week, but the gambling she does in her hometown of Vegas eats up her paychecks very ably. Now she and her boyfriend Benny are deeply in debt; the 20% vig has now raised that debt to $9,000, $1400 for the vig alone.  She loved Benny, but he was a lousy gambler, “More than half the debt was his.”  The loan shark is getting very impatient for his money, Janine and Benny were living out of a seedy motel room, “a dump to begin with,” and the collector, a man named Balthazar, was seven feet tall, from Saskatchewan, “right across the border from Montana.”  Their reaction to the unpaid debt is to dump Benny in a 360 acre, 200 foot deep landfill, threatening to give the same punishment to Janine if the debt isn’t paid by the end of the week.

The author has a new assortment of fascinating characters to whom his readers are introduced in this book, including Sarita, a young woman who had been Marcus’ girlfriend “back when Isaiah was in high school, and he’d always had a crush on her.”   The bad guys in this series entry are pretty frightening, and there’s a great deal of violence and gunplay, reader be warned.  But the tale is brilliantly told, Isaiah a fascinating protagonist.  Can’t wait for the next in the series!  And this entry, as was the first one, is highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, November 2017.

Book Review: Pacific Homicide by Patricia Smiley

Pacific Homicide
A Pacific Homicide #1
Patricia Smiley
Midnight Ink, November 2016
ISBN: 978-0-7387-5021-7
Trade Paperback

Pacific Homicide introduces LAPD Homicide Detective Davie (Davina) Richards, a newly promoted officer with a reputation for getting the job done no matter what it takes. She is also the daughter of a former LAPD officer whose last case led to the embarrassment of the District Attorney who now oversees “officer involved shootings.” This sets up the first of two plots in Pacific Homicide.

While her dad is now retired, the attorney has set his sights on Davie as a way to get his personal revenge for his embarrassment. Before her promotion, Davie shot a suspect to save her partner’s life. The shooting was ruled justifiable, but now, the DA has  reopened the investigation of the shooting.

The first case she catches in homicide as lead detective is of a badly decomposed body of a woman found in the sewer system. The case leads Davie into the world of Ukrainian immigrants which although not a new plot in crime fiction is done well in Pacific Homicide.

There are several things that are especially likable in this book. First, Davie is a great protagonist. She’s passionate and hard working. She goes on with her job regardless of the investigation that could end her career. Secondly, the police procedural details ring true. The author seems to know her way around a police department.

Also, the pace of the book is perfect. The author gives the reader enough new material frequently enough to keep us guessing while we try to solve the young woman’s death. And she plays fair. I was surprised at how the case was ultimately resolved, but thinking back over the book, the clues were there.

I would recommend this book for people who enjoy strong women protagonists, police procedurals, books set in Los Angeles.

I had assumed that this was to be a series, and indeed, I checked and the second book in the series, Outside the Wire was just released.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Caryn St. Clair, November 2017.

Book Review: The Girl with Kaleidoscope Eyes by David Handler

Continue reading

Book Review: Room for Doubt by Nancy Cole Silverman

Room for Doubt
A Carol Childs Mystery #4
Nancy Cole Silverman
Henery Press, July 2017
ISBN 978-1-63511-235-1
Trade Paperback

 

From the publisher—

When radio reporter Carol Childs is called to a crime scene in the Hollywood Hills at five thirty in the morning, she’s convinced it must be a publicity stunt to promote a new movie. That is, until she sees the body hanging from the center of the Hollywood sign. The police are quick to rule it a suicide, but something doesn’t add up for Carol. Particularly after a mysterious caller named Mustang Sally confesses to the murder on the air and threatens to kill again.

With the help of an incorrigible PI, her best friend, and a kooky psychic, Carol is drawn into the world of contract killers and women scorned. As she races to find the real killer, she finds herself faced with a decision that will challenge everything she thought she knew.

Journalists of one sort or another are always good mystery protagonists, aren’t they? Naturally nosy, they’re in a profession that gives them a modicum of justification to be in the middle of an investigation and they almost always have access to resources the typical cozy sleuth doesn’t have. They also have a built-in platform, assuming some editor or producer doesn’t put the kibosh on things. Carol Childs is just such an amateur sleuth.

When Carol’s boss sends her to the scene of a death by hanging, it’s more to simply report rather than a true investigation but she can’t help thinking the police detective jumped to the wrong conclusion when he calls it a suicide. She doesn’t have any real evidence, just a gut feeling, but a local private investigator, Gerhardt Chasen (Chase), soon convinces her there might be a whole lot more to this story.

Along with her investigating what turns out to be quite a controversial set of killings, Carol has a personal side that’s an equally important part of the story and I enjoyed my first adventure with her. She’s one of those people with a kind of glamorous job but a pretty run-of-the-mill home life, warts and all, and I found myself quite comfortable with her. In fact, she reminded me a little of myself at her age for some reason although I didn’t have a psychic hanging around or, for that matter, a PI hooked on lollipops.

Without giving anything away, I should warn readers that this particular mystery doesn’t end the way you might expect but you’ll have to make your own decision about whether the ending is satisfactory. It was for me, even though it wasn’t exactly right, and I appreciate the author’s willingness to go a ways out on a limb. We crime fiction readers don’t see this sort of thing every day 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2017.