Book Review: Pay or Play by Howard Michael Gould @HowardMGould @severnhouse

Pay or Play
A Charlie Waldo Novel #3
Howard Michael Gould
Severn House, December 2021
ISBN 978-1-4483-0588-9
Hardcover

Charlie Waldo, formerly a detective in the LAPD, went to pieces when a case he worked on went awry due to his mishandling. Now living in the country and allowing himself only 100 possessions at a time, his PI girlfriend, Lorena, wants him to work with her. Run out of his California country home by wildfire, he joins her in the city where he’s soon swept up in a case. Or two cases, as it happens.

Charlie has the reputation of being a crackerjack detective. He becomes involved in solving a “maybe” murder and is charged with finding the murdered man’s missing dog. Actually, upon threat of Charlie’s life, it’s find the dog or else, as his client is a gangster. At the same time, he’s become enamored of a TV judge’s show, and when she asks for his help, he answers the call. Now he’s determined to discover the truth of whether a thirty-five-year-old death was an accident or murder. The more he learns, the more he wonders if the judge herself is guilty of murder.

Waldo is consumed by the effects of global warming, of saving the environment, is a fanatic recycler and even rides a bicycle everywhere he goes. Worthy endeavors, to be admired. That said, did I like him as a character? Let’s say, I found him quirky in the extreme and interesting.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, November 2021.
http://www.ckcrigger.com
Author of The Woman Who Built A Bridge (Spur Award Winner), Yester’s Ride,
Hometown Burning and Six Dancing Damsels: A China Bohannon Mystery

Book Review: Just Get Home by Bridget Foley @HarlequinBooks

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Title: Just Get Home
Author: Bridget Foley
Publisher: MIRA
Publication Date: April 13, 2021
Genre: Thriller, Post-Disaster Fiction

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble  // Kobo // iTunes // Amazon
Google // Indiebound // Harlequin
Books-A-Million // Walmart // Target

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Just Get Home
Bridget Foley
MIRA, April 2021
ISBN 978-0-7783-3159-9
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

When the Big One earthquake hits LA, a single mother and a teen in the foster system are brought together by their circumstances and an act of violence in order to survive the wrecked streets of the city, working together to just get home.

Dessa, a single mom, is enjoying a rare night out when a devastating earthquake strikes. Roads and overpasses crumble, cell towers are out everywhere, and now she must cross the ruined city to get back to her three-year-old daughter, not even knowing whether she’s dead or alive. Danger in the streets escalates, as looting and lawlessness erupts. When she witnesses a moment of violence but isn’t able to intervene, it nearly puts Dessa over the edge.

Fate throws Dessa a curveball when the victim of the crime—a smart-talking 15-year-old foster kid named Beegie—shows up again in the role of savior, linking the pair together. Beegie is a troubled teen with a relentless sense of humor and resilient spirit that enables them both to survive. Both women learn to rely on each other in ways they never imagined possible, to permit vulnerability and embrace the truth of their own lives.

A propulsive page-turner grounded by unforgettable characters and a deep emotional core, JUST GET HOME will strike a chord with mainstream thriller readers for its legitimately heart-pounding action scenes, and with book club audiences looking for weighty, challenging content.

Minutes, days, perhaps weeks after a major earthquake hits, every survivor’s story becomes a journey of one kind or another, a journey to get to a specific place or people. In Just Get home, we meet a teenager and an older woman who agree to help each other. They have nothing in common, really, other than a need to not be alone in this effort. If anything, the two don’t even share a goal; Dessa wants only to get home to her young child while Beegie has no true home and no one who really cares whether she lives or dies.

Dessa and Beegie are brought together randomly by, first, a vicious crime and then by another, circumstances that are not surprising following such a sudden disaster. As we all know, fear and uncertainty evoke the worst kind of behavior as well as acts of kindness and it’s the latter that initially create the bond between two such different women. Watching their connection grow during their struggles is a thing of emotional satisfaction and becomes the heart of Ms. Foley’s compelling tale.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2020.

An Excerpt from Just Get Home

Prologue

Assist the client in gathering possessions.

Beegie saw it written on a sheet Karen had in her folder. An unticked box next to it.

She knew what it meant. Stuff.

But it was the other meaning that soothed her.

The darker meaning. Possessions.

That was the one she worked over and over in her head.

Beegie imagined her case worker holding up a grey little girl, face obscured by black hair and asking, “This one yours?”  Beegie would nod. Yes, that’s my monster. Together they would shove one snarling, demon-filled person after another into the garbage bags they had been given to pack her things. Soon the bags would fill, growing translucent with strain. When they were done, she and Karen would have to push down on the snapping, bloody faces of Beegie’s possessions so they could close the back of the Prius.

But Karen’s box remained unticked. She didn’t get to help collect Beegie’s possessions, real or unreal, because Beegie’s stuff was already on the street when she got home.

Two garbarge bags filled with nothing special. Her advocate standing next to them with her folder and its helpful advice for what to do when a foster gets kicked out of her home.

Nothing special.

Just almost everything Beegie owned in the world.

Almost but not all.

Whatever.

After Karen dropped her off and Barb had shown her “Her New Home” and given her the rundown on “The Way It Works Here,” Beegie unpacked her possessions into a bureau that the girl who’d lived there before her had made empty, but not clean.

The bottoms of the drawers were covered in spilled glitter. Pink and gold. Beegie had pressed the tips of her fingers into the wood to pull it up, making disco balls of her hands.

But she failed to get it all.

Months later, she would find stray squares of this other girl’s glitter on her clothes. They would catch the light, drawing her back to the moment when she’d finally given up on getting the bureau any cleaner and started to unpack the garbage bags.

There had been things missing.

That Beegie had expected.

But what she had not expected was to find two other neatly folded garbage bags. These were the ones she had used to move her stuff from Janelle’s to the Greely’s. She had kept them, even though back then Mrs. Greely was all smiles and Eric seemed nice, and even Rooster would let her pet him.

Beegie had kept the bags because she’d been around long enough to know that sometimes it doesn’t work out.

In fact, most times it doesn’t work out.

And you need a bag to put your stuff in and you don’t want to have to ask the person who doesn’t want you to live with them anymore to give you one.

But when Mrs. Greely had gathered Beegie’s possessions, she had seen those bags and thought that they were important to Beegie. It made sense to her former foster mother that a “garbage girl” would treasure a garbage bag.

This got Beegie thinking about stuff. The problem of it. The need for things to hold your other things. Things to fix your things. Things to make your things play.

And a place to keep it all.

In Beegie’s brain the problem of possessions multiplied, until she imagined it like a landfill. Things to hold things to hold things, all of it covered with flies, seagulls swooping.

Everything she ever owned was trash or one day would be.

Seeing things this way helped. It made her mind less about the things that hadn’t been in the bag… and other things.

Beegie picked at ownership like a scab, working her way around the edges, flaking it off a bit at a time. Ridding herself of the brown crust of caring.

Because if you care about something it has power over you.

Caring can give someone else the ability to control you and the only real way to own yourself was let go.

So she did.

Or she tried.

Some things Beegie couldn’t quite shed. The want of them stuck to her like the glitter. The pain of their loss catching the light on her sleeves, flashing from the hem of her jeans. The want would wait on her body until it attracted her attention and then eluded the grasping edges of her fingers.

Excerpted from Just Get Home by Bridget Foley, Copyright © 2021 by Bridget Foley. Published by MIRA Books.

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About the Author

Originally from Colorado, Bridget Foley attended NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and UCLA’s School of Theater, Film & Television. She worked as an actor and screenwriter before becoming a novelist. She now lives a fiercely creative life with her family in Boise, Idaho.

Find the author:

Website // Goodreads // Instagram

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**A copy of this book was provided by the publisher
via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**

Book Review: The Law of Innocence by Michael Connelly @Connellybooks @littlebrown

The Law of Innocence
A Lincoln Lawyer Novel #6
Michael Connelly
Little, Brown and Company, November 2020
ISBN 978-0-316-48562-3
Hardcover

When Mickey Haller, The Lincoln Lawyer, is pulled over by the police after leaving a bar, he’s sure there’s nothing to worry about. But the cop seems intent on asserting his authority, telling Mickey his license plate is missing. Surprised, Mickey exits the vehicle, but when he’s asked to open his trunk he’s reluctant, sensing something’s up. He complies and that’s when things get decidedly worse. There’s a dead body in the trunk, a body that belongs to an old client of Mickey’s, a client who’d owed him money.

Because he’s a well-known lawyer with a reputation for getting criminals off, Haller isn’t exactly loved by the L.A. Police. He’s handcuffed, taken into custody and charged with murder. Bail is set at 5 Million and Mickey, opting to defend himself, is confident, with the help of his trusted team, he can sort this out. Housed meantime in downtown L.A,’s Correctional Facility, he is somewhat of a thorn in the eyes of the local Police and silently acknowledges that the DA, a long time adversary, is both confident and determined to make the charges stick.

Mickey’s in a difficult situation. He must exonerate himself, otherwise this charge will forever hang over him. He’s been framed, and working from his jail cell to prove his innocence is no easy task. His team, including his half brother Harry Bosch and his ex-wife, begin to investigate the charge intent on uncovering the real murderer.

The stakes are high and time is of the essence. He’s also aware of a threat to his own safety, not only from fellow prisoners, but also the guards. He has to use all his skills to walk a fine line and stay within the boundaries of the law.

Connelly does a masterful job of taking us through the investigation process, following leads that at times take him nowhere. Personally I would have liked to see more of Bosch, but of course he does get his own spotlight in the novel – Fair Warning.

This is another winner for Connelly and not to be missed…

Respectfully submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, December 2020.

Book Reviews: The Search for Baby Ruby by Susan Shreve and Hurricane Child by Kheryn Callender @AALBooks @kacencallender @Scholastic

The Search for Baby Ruby
Susan Shreve
Arthur A. Levine Books, May 2015
ISBN 978-0-545-41783-9
Hardcover

Jess has been looking forward to her oldest sister’s wedding, particularly being able to participate in the celebratory events surrounding it, for an entire year. Dressing for the rehearsal dinner in the swank Los Angeles hotel suite, she felt a mix of nerves and excitement.

Until her feckless brother barged in, Baby Ruby in his arms. To no one’s surprise, the babysitter he’d arranged did not show up. Danny was determined to attend the event, as he had a ‘very important’ speech to make. He needed Jess to stay in and babysit. She would miss the entire evening’s festivities.

To soothe her soul, Jess lets the baby stretch out on a blanket on the floor while she…admires…the intricately beaded wedding gown and gobs of brand-new make-up. In a typical, sulky-teen-kind-of-way, Jess quickly becomes distracted and is unsure of how much time has passed since she’s checked on Baby Ruby.

When she sticks her head out of the bathroom, she is shocked to see only wrinkles where Baby Ruby once was. The child is gone.

Jess pulls her shop-lifting-sister, Teddy, into her panic and the two pair up to find the infant before anyone else knows she’s missing. Unaware that housekeeping has alerted the authorities, the teen sleuths separate to search the hotel.

The Search for Baby Ruby by Susan Shreve is a Middle-Grade mystery with a quick start and fast, but not frantic, pace that makes for an engaging, effortless read.

Reviewed by jv poore, July 2020.

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Hurricane Child
Kacen/Kheryn Callender
Scholastic Press, March 2018
ISBN 978-1-338-12930-4
Hardcover

Sometimes I’m stunned by how hard a Middle Grade book can hit me. Hurricane Child by Kacen/Kheryn Callender serves as a stellar example.

Caroline is complex, particularly for an adolescent island-girl. She is carrying a bunch of baggage, and has no one to help with the load.

Years ago, an emptiness began to eat at her. Her mother inexplicably abandoned Caroline and her father. With her dad working all the time, and avoiding her questions when he was around, a frustration began to build and threaten to fill her completely. Nothing but negative emotions and absolutely not a soul to share with, Caroline was always angry and so very alone.

Until she meets Kalinda.

New students are rare in the tiny St. Thomas school, but Kalinda seems to handle being the center of attention easily. Caroline is immediately attracted to her confidence and poise and she quickly decides to befriend this intriguing young lady. As soon as possible.

Here, Ms. Callender considers the pseudo-taboo subject of sexuality. Simultaneously showing two sides of the same coin provides perspective and allows the reader to experience differing mind-sets, neutrally. The reason for her mother’s departure keeps me contemplative and has me considering various points-of-view.

Caroline’s stubborn and defiant actions almost over-ride the seriousness of some situations, making the punch a bit more surprising, thus proving to be more painful. And I mean that in the best way possible.

Reviewed by jv poore, April 2019.

Book Review: Fair Warning by Michael Connelly @Connellybooks @littlebrown

Fair Warning
Jack McEvoy #3
Michael Connelly
Little, Brown and Company, May 2020
ISBN 978-0-316-53942-5
Hardcover

Jack McEvoy is a reporter working for Fair Warning, an Internet news site dedicated to alerting the public to scams and schemes perpetrated by con men.  On arriving at his apartment, two LAPD Detectives approached and asked to speak to him.  Once inside the Detectives tell him they are from the Robbery-Homicide Division, and are working a homicide and Jack’s name had come up. Tina Portrero, a woman Jack had dated a year ago, had been found dead in her apartment.

The Detectives asked the usual questions re his whereabouts at the time of the murder and while he isn’t thrilled with their attitudes he agrees to give a DNA sample knowing full well the results would come back negative. He’d been on an assignment at the time of the woman’s death.

Jack is a credited reporter, is determined to find out what happened to Tina He tracks down her mother, who has arrived to identify the body and from their conversation learns that Tina was adopted and had recently sent a DNA sample to a local company in the hope of finding other siblings.

When the Detectives find out he’s pursuing the case they warn him off.  Refusing to be intimidated he continues to investigate, calling on Rachel Walling, an ex-FBI agent and one time lover to enlist her help.   As they delve deeper they begin to believe that a serial killer is at work.

I’m a fan of Michael Connelly, but in the beginning of this novel and for the first third of the book I was sorely tempted to set it aside. I was struck by the fact that the author seemed to be telling the reader step by step how a reporter tracks down information, somewhat elementary and unnecessarily frustrating leaving me with a strong urge to say ‘get on with it’… which eventually he did.

The pacing picked up in the second half of the book and raced to an exciting conclusion… well almost….

This wasn’t one of my favourite Connelly books….but no doubt worth a look especially if you are a fan….

Respectfully submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, June 2020.

Book Review: The Blues Don’t Care by Paul D. Marks—and an Excerpt @PaulDMarks @DownAndOutBooks

The Blues Don’t Care
Bobby Saxon, Book 1
Paul D. Marks
Down & Out Books, June 2020
ISBN 978-1-64396-050-0
Trade Paperback

The author is an experienced and winning author of thrillers. This novel, from its title to its epilogue shows the research and care directed to the details of such a story set in a previous century. The action takes place in Los Angeles in the 1940s. It was wartime and a period of active and intense musical development and interest as a counter to the war. Los Angeles was an important part of the home front during World War II.

Bobby Saxon is a recent graduate of a local high school. He’s a brilliant pianist and his goal is a gig with one of LA’s top blues and swing bands. That quickly introduces an important theme that affects everything that happens in the novel because Bobby is white and the band is black. The blues was dominated by black artists. Mixing the races in any way, including performing, was actively prohibited in that decade and Bobby has to deal with it. He has other secrets as well and while performing a guest gig with the band, he becomes involved in a murder that may involve another member of the band. Solving the murder, avoiding revealing personal secrets and finding his way through a city engaged in a war effort requires agility, naivety, flexibility, and a level of personal charm not usually found in such strength in a single individual.

The novel is long, fully engaged with its location and history, very well written, episodic in structure, logical and engaging. In the end, the author is right, the blues really do not care.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, August 2020.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
Traces, Grand Lac, Reunion, Red Sky.

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An Excerpt from
The Blues Don’t Care
by Paul D. Marks

The Blues Don’t Care uses the framing of device of a prologue and epilogue to bring the story into the present, show a little bit of who Bobby Saxon, the main character was – and who he became. In the prologue, Dianne, Bobby’s daughter, comes to L.A. and is intrigued by the person she thought was her father (and he was). But she begins to see another side of him as Booker begins relating Bobby’s story, much of which Diane didn’t know before. She’s drawn into his story, as I hope the reader will be and want to find out more about him, just as she does.

PROLOGUE

San Francisco—The Eve of the Millennium

The late-night phone call jangled Diane awake.

“Diane Saxon?” the officious voice on the other end said.

“Yes.” She tried to shake the sleep out of her voice.

“This is the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office—”

Paul D. Marks

In those few words, any leftover sleepiness Diane had escaped, replaced by dread.

She pressed the phone tighter against her ear. Squeezed the receiver until it nearly cracked in her hand. As soon as the phone rang, she knew it couldn’t be good news.

“Are you related to, um—” papers rattling “—Robert Saxon?”

“Yes, I’m his daughter. Did he—”

“I’m sorry to call you so late, but I’m afraid your, uh, father has passed away. Can you come down to L.A. to identify him?”

Diane looked at the clock. Midnight. Bobby would have appreciated that.

Los Angeles—The Next Morning

Diane walked the musty halls of Bobby’s house, killing time before her appointment at the coroner’s office. Bobby, so meticulous all his life—sometimes to the point of driving her crazy—had let things go in the last year or so.

She returned to the scrapbook she’d left on the dining table, turned the yellowing pages in the fragile book. A pristine shellac seventy-eight rpm record spun on an ancient but near-mint condition record player. This record had only been removed from its sleeve a handful of times over the years for fear of breaking the delicate material. “La Tempesta,” an allegro tune for two pianos—Bobby on one of them—spun its satiny web from the player’s speaker. The tune reverberated in Diane’s head; she’d heard it many times. She could picture Bobby wailing on the piano like a possessed demon.

The brittle scrapbook paper nearly crumbled in her fingers. Faded photographs, brown with age, stared up at her. Bobby from the forties, sitting at a grand piano in a snazzy wide-lapelled pinstriped suit. Bobby in a white jacket and bow tie in the fifties. Bobby in black tie and jacket in the sixties. Bobby in shirt sleeves barbequing in the backyard of the rented duplex on Edinburgh. Diane as a baby, on her stomach, feet in the air—cheesecake pose. Her sister Mindy on their favorite red rocking horse with painted on black saddle. Diane’s mom and Mindy’s mom—Diane and Mindy, sisters with different mothers. She sipped the Bubble Up she’d gotten from the fridge. Who knew if they even made that anymore? She wanted to keep turning pages but had an appointment to keep. She gently closed the cover on the scrapbook.

She walked to Bobby’s mirror—Bobby loved his mirrors—checked her makeup, grabbed her purse. She noticed his favorite cigarette lighter on the dresser, the one with the picture of that “Kilroy Was Here” guy on it, so popular during the war. She squeezed the lighter as if that could bring a memory from it, slipped it into her purse.

“Criminy,” she said, holding back a tear.

She had flown in from San Francisco, but Bobby’s old red-over-white sixty-one Corvette Roadster would take her where she had to go now, probably better than any new car. Bobby was a whiz with cars, always fixing them up and selling them. She headed out the door, “La Tempesta” still spinning its magic.

She drove past familiar haunts from her childhood, down the Miracle Mile, past the fabulous streamline May Company building, the La Brea Tar Pits, where Bobby had taken her and Mindy on picnics, and the old El Rey Theatre, where they’d gone to the movies. Oh boy, how Bobby loved movies. Past Bullock’s Wilshire, the art deco masterpiece, and by MacArthur Park, which Bobby insisted calling Westlake Park, even long after the name had been changed to honor the great World War II general. She jogged up and over, onto North Mission Road, looked for a place to park.

Heart tapping a hard four-four time in her chest, she walked toward the white-trimmed red brick building, beautiful despite its nature. It had been a hospital, once trying to save lives, now dealing with the remains. The green-and-white marble lobby seemed sober enough for its purpose. She did a double take at the Skeletons in the Closet gift store, a gift shop in the morgue that offered up all matter of items, from keychains to beach towels with body outlines on them, even body-shaped Post-it pads. Maybe she’d pick up a monogrammed body bag for some friends—enemies?—on the way out.

“May I help you?” a young man in suit and tie asked. He didn’t look ghoulish, but who else would want to work here?

“I’m here to identify someone’s remains.” Diane thought that’s how it should be put. She wished Mindy was here for moral support but she had refused to come. Some kind of ill-defined bad blood between her and Bobby. Something that neither could figure out how to resolve so they resolved to avoid each other, even though Mindy only lived an hour away from Bobby, up in Lancaster. Something that would never be resolved now.

The young man pointed her to the elevator in a small vestibule. The short trip seemed to take forever. A ride down, into the past.

She stepped out into a world that was more what she expected. Sterile, tile, gurneys. People in white smocks. An attendant escorted her to the viewing room. A spikey-haired doctor joined them.

“I’m Doctor Takamura. I’m sorry you had to come down here.”

“I guess it’s something that has to be done.”

“We don’t usually have people come down to the morgue to identify remains anymore. That’s just in the movies. But this was a special case.”

Diane wasn’t sure why Bobby was a special case. Maybe because he’d been a fairly well-known musician at one time, though that was long ago.

The doctor knocked on the glass. An attendant on the other side opened the blinds and pulled back the glaring white sheet. Diane walked closer to the window, almost pressing her nose against the glass. Bobby had almost made it. Today was the last day of the year; tomorrow would not only bring a new year but a new millennium, the twenty-first century. How Bobby would have loved to see it. He was always excited about things like birthdays and Christmas and New Year’s. Everyone had to die sooner or later, but she wished he could have lived just a few more days. Just long enough to be alive in the new millennium.

“Yes, that’s him. That’s my father.”

“Robert Saxon?” A look passed between the doctor and the assistant.

“Yes.”

“There’s something you should know,” the doctor said.

Before Diane could respond, an ancient black man entered the room. His dark blue double-breasted suit with padded shoulders and long drape was stylish, if out of date. And she hadn’t seen a Dick Tracy hat like that, well, since Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy. The fuchsia silk kerchief craning up from the pocket was just right. All topped off by an ebony cane with a gleaming pearl handle. “Help you?” Dr. Takamura said.

“Booker Taylor,” the man said, sauntering in, very haughty. Lots of bling sparkled from his fingers. Booker “Boom-Boom” Taylor. He was an old friend of Bobby’s. She remembered him from her birthday parties when she was very young. He would toss her over his broad shoulders and play horsey. It started trickling back, Bobby and Booker and several of Bobby’s other friends jamming at her parties. And she remembered a neighbor once remarking, why did Bobby have that colored fella over all the time?

“Are you sure you’re in the right place?” the doctor said. Booker ignored him.

“Diane. Look at you.” Booker’s eyes lit up. “All grown up and quite the lady.” He squeezed her hand. Turned to see Bobby through the glass. “Bobby, Bobby, Bobby.” A long sigh escaped his lips. He went to the door that led to the little room.

Dr. Takamura stepped in front of him.

“No, it’s okay,” Diane said, smiling at Booker. He looked too sad to smile back. “He knew my father. They were in the music business together.”

Booker opened the door and went inside, Diane trailing. He took Bobby’s hand, tenderly massaged it.

“We weren’t in the music business together. We owned it. We had this town of Los Angeles locked up tighter than a bass drum. And your pop, he really could have gone somewhere. And no one could tap the eighty-eights like he could.”

“Eighty-eights?” the assistant said.

“The piano, hon. Tickle the ivories. Back in the day, Bobby Saxon was the man. And he knew one thing better than anyone, that we’re all bluffing our way through life.” Booker tripped on his words as another man entered the room. Dressed casual-cool.

“Who’re you?” the doctor said.

“Irvin Hernandez, L.A. Times.”

“The Times—what does the Times want here?”

“This is Bobby Saxon, right?”

“Yes.”

“I want his story.”

“I didn’t know anyone remembered my father. He hasn’t played music in years.”

“You’re his daughter? You must have some story to tell.”

To Diane, Bobby was just dad. She didn’t have much to tell. Her puzzlement must have been clear to everyone in the room.

Booker sat on a chair in the corner, leaning his chin on his cane. “I have a story to tell,” he began. “It was the middle of the war when I met Bobby…”

Excerpted from THE BLUES DON’T CARE Copyright © 2020 by
Paul D. Marks Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

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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Follow the tour here.

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