Sister Eve, Private Eye
A Divine Private Detective Agency Mystery #1
Thomas Nelson, December 2014
Sister Eve has been a Benedictine nun for twenty years, but changes in Church policy are making her question her vocation. When she learns that the Captain, her detective father, is about to lose a leg to diabetes, she takes a leave to nurse him, whether he likes it or not. The irascible Captain–a retired police officer–was hunting for a missing movie producer when his illness spiraled out of control. The discovery of the man’s body and Sister Eve‘s conviction that his client, the producer’s mistress, did not kill him, leads her to join in the investigation.
I like Sister Eve, the Captain, Meg Finch, his client–all of the characters feel real to me. I love the Southwest setting. The plot twists around nicely, and I didn’t spot the killer. I spotted the clues after I finished the book.
I can see no easy answer to Sister Eve‘s spiritual dilemma. Her talent for and love of detecting call her one way, her Community calls her another. Her family needs her, but so does her Church. The situation isn’t resolved in this book, so I’m really glad that it’s the first in a series. I hope there will be many more.
Reviewed by Marilyn Nulman, October 2015.
Speak of the Devil
Anna Curtis #3
Touchstone, August 2013
Anna Curtis, a tough sex-crimes prosecutor in Washington D.C., is in the process of asking her lover to marry her when she’s notified of a horrific murder and mutilation case. Assigned the investigation, she soon finds even the victims who lived through the attack are unwilling to testify. Why? Because “the Devil,” leader of the wicked MS-13 street gang, will retaliate, and he is brutal beyond compare.
The story sweeps the reader along with Anna as she builds her case, finds her witnesses and, as the gang leaders come to trial, almost becomes another of the Devil’s victims. I thought Ms. Leotta did a particularly good job of showing the reader how certain gang members became murderers and rapists, among their other crimes, whether that was their nature or not.
Even as all of this is going on, Jack, who first turns down Anna’s proposal, turns the tables and asks her to marry him. She says yes, but troubles are on the horizon, partially because Jack is African-American with a young daughter from a previous marriage.
The rest of the tale gets messy (in a good way) and I’m not giving out any spoilers here. The twist at the end is quite emotional. The plot, pacing, and characterization in the story are excellent. There is one rather graphic sex scene that would’ve been better omitted, in my opinion. Otherwise, this is a most satisfying book.
Reviewed by Carol Crigger, December 2015.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.
The Black Stiletto: Endings and Beginnings
The Black Stiletto #5
Oceanview Publishing, November 2014
Prolific crime writer Raymond Benson has a genuine flare for the use of words. He demonstrates that talent many times in this overlong tale. He also is talented in his ability to translate narrative and dialogue into the flavor of words and phrases that might be used by a young troubled girl growing up in Texas in the latter half of the Twentieth Century
A lot of girls grew up in Texas during that era but none of them had the kind of family represented by the mystery woman known as the Black Stiletto. She was a woman who traveled fast and quietly, associated with gangsters and cops and carried a very sharp knife. She embodied the legend of Lilith, the first woman. A woman who could take a life when necessary.
This novel moves effectively back and forth between time periods, delineates characters precisely and often wittily, and drives the twisted complicated plot and its many intertwined relationships to final fruition with multi-generational windings. It’s a fascinating novel, well-done in nearly every aspect and will undoubtedly expand the legion of followers.
Reviewed by Carl Brookins, December 2015.
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.