Book Review: A Fine Year for Murder by Lauren Carr @TheMysteryLadie @BooksbyAcorn @iReadBookTours


Title: A Fine Year for Murder
Series: Thorny Rose Mystery Series #2
Author: Lauren Carr
Narrator: C.J. McAllister
Publication Date: February 6, 2017


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A Fine Year for Murder
Thorny Rose Mystery Series #2
Lauren Carr
Narrated by C.J. McAllister
Acorn Book Services, February 2017
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

After ten months of marital bliss, Jessica Faraday and Murphy Thornton are still discovering and adjusting to their life together. Settled in their new home, everything appears to be perfect … except in the middle of the night when, in the darkest shadows of her subconscious, a deep secret from Jessica’s past creeps to the surface to make her strike out at Murphy.

When investigative journalist Dallas Walker tells the couple about her latest case, known as the Pine Bridge Massacre, they realize Jessica may have witnessed the murder of a family while visiting family at the winery near-by, and suppressed the memory.

Determined to uncover the truth and find justice for the murder victims, Jessica and Murphy return to the scene of the crime with Dallas Walker, a spunky bull-headed Texan. Can this family reunion bring closure for a community touched by tragedy or will this prickly get-together bring an end to the Thorny Rose couple?

Nightmares or even normal dreams can tell a lot about a person, especially if they seem to be repetitive as in Jessica’s case. The fact that she strikes out at Murphy meant more to him than her at first but I was glad that he didn’t just dismiss what was happening. When they learn from investigative journalist Dallas Walker what might be the root of Jessica’s night terrors, finding out if she really did witness the murders becomes paramount and off they go with the unusual Dallas to do some after-the-fact sleuthing.

Jessica and Murphy visit her ultra-wealthy father, Mac Faraday, and it was a real pleasure to me to spend time with Mac and other family members and friends along with assorted pets that steal the show every time they step on the page. I hesitate to choose favorites because each one is wonderful but I do lean towards tv-obsessed couch potato Newman, Murphy’s Basset hound mix, and Mac’s German shepherd, Gnarly, at least this time. Added to the lighter side of things is the introduction of Nigel, Jessica’s and Murphy’s virtual butler, who is developing an attitude.

The extended Faraday-Thornton family has connections to the Riva family that owns the winery where the killing occurred and that’s why the young Jessica was there to see the teenaged Ava be so brutally murdered. The fact that she repressed the memories all these years isn’t at all surprising; the question is can she remember enough to help Sheriff Tim Taylor clear his friend’s name since it’s now clear to him, from a new discovery, that Curt Browning didn’t kill his sister, father and grandmother. To make things more difficult, there is a plethora of possible perpetrators and motives to muck it up, not to mention more unsolved crimes.

Jessica is no frail damsel in distress and she’s unafraid, if leery, to learn the truth about that frightening night. With a set of great characters by her side –or not– she will confront her demons and get to the facts. The reader who is not so familiar yet with these people will learn a lot about them in A Fine Year for Murder. Adding to that pleasure and a fascinating story, C.J. McAllister does a fine job with the narration and helps the listener distinguish between the players with little difficulty. I do want to mention that, although this is a pretty “clean” read, there are some very bad people and violent scenes that make this what I would call a traditional mystery, not a cozy unless you want to label it as cozy noir.

Next up, Murder by Perfection, and I can barely wait to get started 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2020.

About the Author

Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, Chris Matheson Cold Case, and Thorny Rose Mysteries—over twenty-five titles across three fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr’s seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, crime fiction, police procedurals, romance, and humor.

​A popular speaker, Lauren is also the owner of Acorn Book Service, the umbrella under which falls iRead Book Tours. She lives with her husband and two spoiled rotten German Shepherds on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

​Connect with the author: Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook  ~  Instagram


Follow the tour:

May 4 – Hall Ways Blog – series spotlight / giveaway
May 4 – She Just Loves Books – series spotlight / giveaway
May 4 – Elizabeth McKenna – Author – series spotlight / giveaway
May 4 – Rockin’ Book Reviews – review of Kill and Run / giveaway
May 4 – Michelle L. Bloodworth – Goodreads – review of Kill and Run
May 5 – Michelle L. Bloodworth – Goodreads – review of A Fine Year for Murder
May 6 – Buried Under Books – review of Kill and Run / giveaway
May 6 – Michelle L. Bloodworth – Goodreads – review of Murder by Perfection
May 7 – A Mama’s Corner of the World – series spotlight / guest post / giveaway
May 8 – Rockin’ Book Reviews – review of A Fine Year for Murder / giveaway
May 11 – Locks, Hooks and Books – series spotlight / guest post / giveaway
May 11 – Jazzy Book Reviews – series spotlight / author interview / giveaway
May 11 – Merlot Et mots –series spotlight / giveaway
May 12 – Laura’s Interests – series spotlight / giveaway
May 12 – Rockin’ Book Reviews – review of Murder by Perfection / giveaway
May 13 – Bookish Quest – review of Kill and Run / giveaway
May 13 – Blooming with Books – review of Kill and Run / giveaway
May 13 – Lamon Reviews – series spotlight / guest post / giveaway
May 14 – Buried Under Books – review of A Fine Year for Murder / giveaway
May 15 – Sefina Hawke’s Books – series spotlight
May 19 – Rockin’ Book Reviews – series spotlight / guest post / giveaway
May 19 – Rosepoint Publishing – review of Murder by Perfection / giveaway
May 20 – Stephanie Jane – book spotlight / giveaway
May 20 – Bookish Quest – review of A Fine Year for Murder / giveaway
May 20 – Blooming with Books – review of A Fine Year for Murder / giveaway
May 21 – Books for Books – review of Murder by Perfection
May 21 – La libreria di Beppe – series spotlight / giveaway
May 22 – fundinmental – series spotlight / author interview / giveaway
May 25 – Buried Under Books – review of Murder By Perfection / giveaway
May 25 – T’s Stuff – series spotlight / author interview / giveaway
May 26 – Dab of Darkness Audiobook Reviews – series spotlight / giveaway
May 27 – Bookish Quest – review of Murder by Perfection / giveaway
May  27 – Blooming with Books – review of Murder by Perfection / giveaway
May 27 – Books for Books – series spotlight
May 28 – Bookish Quest – series spotlight / author interview/ giveaway
May 29 – Mystery Suspense Reviews – series spotlight / guest post
Jun 1 – Thoughts in Progress – series spotlight / giveaway
Jun 2 – Svetlana’s reads and views – series spotlight
Jun 2 – Kristin’s Novel Café – series spotlight
Jun 3 – Buried Under Books – series spotlight / giveaway
Jun 3 – Blooming with Books – series spotlight / giveaway
Jun 4 – Rosepoint Publishing – series spotlight / giveaway
Jun 4 –Splashes of Joy – series spotlight / author interview / giveaway
Jun 5 – The avid reader – series spotlight / giveaway



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Book Review: No Saints in Kansas by Amy Brashear

No Saints in Kansas
Amy Brashear
Soho Teen, November 2017
ISBN 978-1-61695-683-7

In your debut novel, do you dream of going up against somebody like Truman Capote and his seminal novel, In Cold Blood? I don’t think so. I also don’t think you take your story to a Young Adult level and tell the story through the eyes of a deeply distressed teen aged girl who is a relative newcomer to a small Kansas town named Holcomb.Well, author Amy Brashear has done exactly that in her stunning debut novel. Through the persistent and sometimes blurry eyes of Carly Fleming, a horrible multiple murder of a farmer family near the town upends many of the town’s long-time relationships. The principal player in the novel is Carly, relative newcomer to Holcomb, transferring with her criminal defense attorney father from the big city of Manhattan, NY.

Carly’s transition to small town life is not without trouble and as she proceeds into the mid-levels of high school, things become less placid. She has few friends, her brother has problems with his athletics, and Carly’s persistent nosiness is becoming a hindrance.

And then, the multiple murders happen. Carly’s inquisitive nature irks the local sheriff, leads her into multiple fraught situations, attracts and repels her classmates and drives her family nuts.

Carly is a very real rural teen who jumps off the page almost immediately. The author, probably drawing on her own teen experiences, has almost perfectly created a charming, irritating, typical teen-aged girl on the verge of womanhood who will persist in her attempts to solve the crime and live through her father’s experience as the hated defense attorney for a killer.

The atmosphere is true and relevant, Carly’s language and that of her friends and high school adversaries is real and the shifting reactions of the community as the search for a killer and the resulting trial is also real. This is a fine young adult novel that will appeal to a wider adult audience. It is true, there are no saints in Kansas.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, March 2018.
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Reviews: Where Hope Begins by Alysia Sofios with Caitlin Rother and A Conspiracy of Ravens by Terrence McCauley

Where Hope Begins
Alysia Sofios with Caitlin Rother
Pocket Books, September 2009
ISBN: 978-1-4391-3150-3

This is an interesting and at the same time, an appalling story. How is it that even relatively uneducated people, mostly women, can succumb to such abuse for years without speaking up? After all, this family, under the destructive thumb of their patriarch, Marcus Wesson, wasn’t living in some isolated desert camp. They lived in a home in an urban center, Fresno, California. Some of them worked, even if most never went to school and while they were obviously in thrall to an evil man, some of them, especially Marcus’ wife, Elizabeth, should have spoken out.

It is also hard to accept that this “family” was not known to local authorities.

Reporter Alysia Sofios is assigned to a case of mass murder of nine children in their home. She soon breaks protocol by becoming intimately involved with the surviving family, helping them create a more normal life. The book is the story of that deepening involvement and the reporter’s gradual entanglement with the Wessons. Finally, although her intentions are benign, echoes of Marcus Wesson’s control and manipulation of his offspring seem to be descending on Alysia and her decisions regarding the family going forward.

Ultimately, the emotional/straightforward style of the narrative becomes a little tedious. Still this is a story well-told and should be examined by members of every social service agency in the country where suspicions of out-of-the ordinary family situations arise.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, August 2017.
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.


A Conspiracy of Ravens
James Hicks Series #3
Terrence McCauley
Polis Books, September 2017
ISBN: 978-1943818716
Trade Paperback

A classic thriller from an experienced, award-winning thriller writer. This is by no means McCauley’s first rodeo. I do confess that while the link of the title to an earlier book, A Murder of Crows, is apparent, the meaning of the title in the context of this novel is obscure to me.

The story is another fraught episode in the continuing saga of James Hicks, now Dean of a super-secret intelligence operation, privately funded, operating as much as possible in secret from somewhere in the Northeast. The group is called The University. Most of the operatives and executives are labeled with college-centric titles. Hence, the former Dean of the agency is called the Trustee.

Mr. Hicks leads a rambunctious organization of marvelously talented shooters, mission planners, analysts, translators and the most advanced technicians in the world. This University operates a highly sophisticated satellite system designed to monitor and counter both friendly (CIA) and unfriendly (China, Russian GRU) computer and surveillance, banking and law enforcement systems.

Ducking drone-carried bombs, machine and shotgun-toting killers, Hicks zooms about the world, thwarting killers, meting out hard-fisted lethal justice, all with the help of a wonderfully varied cadre of close and talented associates.

The characters are distinct, consistent, lethal and fit into the thriller mode comfortably. For fans of this kind of crime novel, everything is presented in plain, straightforward, brutal and realistic language. The one truly intriguing and off-kilter character, Roger Cobb, plays an unusual, really close, friend of Dean James Hicks, a character worth a closer look.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, November 2017.
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Review: The Devil’s Triangle by Howard Owen

The Devil’s Triangle
Willie Black Series #6
Howard Owen
The Permanent Press, June 2017
ISBN: 978-1-57962-499-6

The eponymous area of Richmond, Virginia had had an unsavory reputation, although not so much in recent years. The opening lines of the book are quite attention-getting:  “In the flaming hell that used to be one of my watering holes, last call came about eight hours early.  You don’t really expect a twin-engine Beechcraft to crash through the plate-glass window during happy hour.”

The author doesn’t really lose that initial grab of the reader’s attention through the remainder of the book, with tight plotting and wonderful writing, complete with sympathetic main characters, especially the protagonist, one Willie Black, a newspaperman of mixed race in a dying profession, one of many in a “dystopian march to obsolescence marked by layoffs, furloughs, and shortened hours.”    We are told that more “staples of twenty-first century print journalism are on the way.”  We meet Mal “Wheelie” Wheelwright, the editor, and the “print journalists” of which Willie is one.  Willie says they “have to be like sharks. Keep moving or die. Either take a promotion or move to a bigger paper. . . At fifty-six, you want to be the SOB, not the person who works for SOBs. You aren’t likely to fire yourself.”  Especially so for those in the “Fatal Fifties – – too young to retire, too old to outwork or underbid the damn millennials and their younger siblings.”

There is initially the suspicion that the “tragic air disaster in Richmond” was the work of foreign terrorists.  The reporters on The Triangle go to the scene of the crime, where Willie finds Larry Doby Jones, the chief of police, standing “half a block from the carnage.”  Of course, TV reporters were there en masse, as were print journalists from every paper from the Washington Post on down.  We soon meet Willie’s family:  His mother Peggy, 74, whose significant other is referred to simply as “Awesome Dude;” his daughter Andi, and grandson, William, typically, it would seem, a young boy born out of wedlock, as is Willie himself.  Willie is renting a place from his third ex-wife, Kate, and lives there with his current romantic attachment, Cindy.

From the publisher:  The obvious answers, though, just don’t pan out.  All the shoot-from-the-hip purveyors of vigilante justice have to stand down when it becomes clear that the pilot of the suicide plane was a disaffected former Richmonder, David Biggio, with no known links to any terrorist organizations, foreign or domestic.  For Willie Black, the daily newspaper’s hard-charging, hard-drinking night cops reporter, the question still remains:  Why?

The story soon seems apparent:  “Crazy guy gets crazier when his wife leaves him and takes his only child.  He steals a plane and makes some kind of cataclysmic statement a few blocks from where his former family lives.”  The number of dead reaches 25.  The tale follows Willie’s investigation and its culmination, where every loose end is neatly tied up.   This is the author’s fifteenth novel, and the sixth in the Willie Black series.  It is really a page-turner, and I can’t wait for the next in the series. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, July 2017.

Book Review: An Unsettling Crime for Samuel Craddock by Terry Shames

an-unsettling-crime-for-samuel-cradddockAn Unsettling Crime for Samuel Craddock
A Samuel Craddock Mystery Prequel
Terry Shames
Seventh Street Books, January 2017
ISBN 978-1-63388-209-6
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

When the Jarrett Creek Fire Department is called to douse a blaze on the outskirts of town, they discover a grisly scene: five black young people have been murdered. Newly elected Chief of Police Samuel Craddock, just back from a stint in the Air Force, finds himself an outsider in the investigation headed by the Texas Highway Patrol. He takes an immediate dislike to John Sutherland, a racist trooper.

Craddock’s fears are realized when Sutherland arrests Truly Bennett, a young black man whom Craddock knows and respects. Sutherland cites dubious evidence that points to Bennett, and Craddock uncovers facts leading in another direction. When Sutherland refuses to relent, Craddock is faced with a choice that will define him as a lawman—either let the highway patrol have its way, or take on a separate investigation himself.

Although his choice to investigate puts both Craddock and his family in danger, he perseveres. In the process, he learns something about himself and the limits of law enforcement in Jarrett Creek.

It’s the early 1980’s, a time we like to look back on as more enlightened than the Vietnam War era but, in a rural Texas town, racism is still very much in the open, whether blatant or subtle.

I’ve had a remarkably hard time getting started with this review and it’s because Terry Shames has really plucked my emotions and, in some ways, memories. Samuel Craddock is one of my very favorite lawmen and his series is, I think, very tough to beat; An Unsettling Crime for Samuel Craddock may just be the best installment yet (and will be on my list of favorite books for this year).

In the early 1980’s in a small town in Texas, nothing much happens but there’s a pretty severe drug problem, particularly among the younger set. In fact, Samuel was appointed chief of police, with no experience or training, because the city administrator thought his youth and brains were better suited to coping with the issue than the current chief. So far, he hasn’t really made inroads but then a terrible thing happens, a fire with five fatalities.

The house was located in Darktown, the community where all the local black people live. This is segregation, of course, but it’s not talked about or even acknowledged and racism is alive and well. Unfortunately, Samuel is officially kept out of the investigation since, according to state law, the highway patrol has jurisdiction over suspicious deaths in small towns, and then the Texas Rangers also become involved. Samuel keeps a hand in peripherally while also looking into what he believes may be a connection between the drug situation and whatever led to the killings.

Besides the arson, murder and drug investigations, we also meet Jeanne, Samuel’s beloved wife who wishes he hadn’t taken this job and his brother and sister-in-law who are never going to be named Parents of the Year. Local reporter Bonnie Bedichek will become an important, if annoying, aide in Samuel’s plans and Truly Bennett, an enterprising young man, is helping Samuel learn how to work with his brand new 20 head of cattle, Samuel’s personal dream. These people, along with many other characters, are so well-drawn that they come to life on the page and you can’t help having an emotional attachment to them, thanks to Ms. Shames‘ fine hand.

Because this is a prequel, it’s not a bad place to start the series but I think readers will do just as well to read the five books published earlier from the beginning. One way, you meet Samuel in the early days before he really knew what he was doing but was honorbound to try, and you get a taste of what influenced his later years. The other way, you learn to truly appreciate this man’s abilities, his experience, his grace, if you will, before finding out what he was like as a young, untried lawman. Take your pick—you can’t go wrong 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2017.

Book Review: The Murder Farm by Andrea Maria Schenkel

The Murder FarmThe Murder Farm
Andrea Maria Schenkel
Translated by Anthea Bell
Quercus, June 2014
ISBN 978-1-62365-167-1

From the publisher—

The Murder Farm begins with a shock: a whole family has been murdered with a pickaxe. They were old Danner the farmer, an overbearing patriarch; his put-upon devoutly religious wife; and their daughter Barbara Spangler, whose husband Vincenz left her after fathering her daughter little Marianne. She also had a son, two-year-old Josef, the result of her affair with local farmer Georg Hauer after his wife’s death from cancer. Hauer himself claimed paternity. Also murdered was the Danners’ maidservant, Marie.
An unconventional detective story, The Murder Farm is an exciting blend of eyewitness account, third-person narrative, pious diatribes, and incomplete case file that will keep readers guessing. When we leave the narrator, not even he knows the truth, and only the reader is able to reach the shattering conclusion.

If someone were to ask me for a list of depressing books, I’d be hardpressed not to put The Murder Farm at the top of that list. Rarely have I come across a story in which I universally disliked every single character, no matter how insignificant, and this fictional recreation of an unsolved mass murder that actually occurred serves only to demonstrate how uncaring people can be, simply because they can’t be bothered to get involved.

The author won first place in the German Crime Prize for The Murder Farm and the Friedrich-Glauser Prize as well as garnered plenty of admiring reviews and I have to say I have conflicting feelings about it getting so much praise. I’m not actually sure why Ms. Schenkel chose to write about this particular crime or why she elected to change it’s occurrence to the mid-fifties instead of the 20’s when it really happened. Both periods are post-war but does the author find more significance in the aftermath of World War II than than that of World War I? It doesn’t seem so as the characters spend very little time or energy reflecting on the war. I also don’t know why an unsolved crime meant more to the author than one that had been neatly tied up. Was it because she wanted to highlight the villagers’ behavior rather than the crime itself?

Constantly changing POV and tense—3rd person singular present and 1st person singular past tense—keep the narrative on edge as does the reader’s growing sense that something is wrong, something beyond the bare facts of the horrific crime. This “something” is the crux of what makes this tale so depressing, the notion that absolutely no one who knew the victims cared, not one little iota, not even when they sensed in earlier times that a different sort of horrific crime was already happening. All those who noticed chose to do precisely nothing about it.

In today’s world, we’re not terribly surprised when people see or hear a crime and don’t even bother to call 911 so similar behavior in this story is certainly not unheard of. The real shocker, to me, is that an entire village could be so callous for so many years all because no one wanted to upset the applecart, so to speak. Perhaps that’s because they were just too emotionally worn out by the war?

Whatever the case may be, I won’t read this again because I’ve been depressed enough by one reading but The Murder Farm by Andrea Maria Schenkel will undoubtedly stick in my mind for a long, long while. Perhaps anyone with the slightest interest in the human psyche would do well to take a hard look at this crime and all its underpinnings.


Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2014.

Book Review: Louder Than Words by Laurie Plissner

Louder Than WordsLouder Than Words
Laurie Plissner
Merit Press, December 2012
ISBN 9781440556654

What a cool, and very sneaky book!  It begins with our main character, Sasha, reliving a terrible accident that ripped her from a normal life; leaving her a shell of a person, with no parents or siblings, no childhood memories, and no voice.  As if the perils of adolescence aren’t challenging enough, Sasha uses a “speak box” to communicate.

Before too much sympathy can be evoked, we learn that Sasha chooses to use the robot-voice on her voice box, rather than trying out the human-esque voice choices.  Despite being an adorable teenager, she balks at fashion, existing in sweats and tees.

Like it or not, she attracts attention.  As she walks home from the library one evening, four male classmates surround her.  It can’t be good.  Enter our amazingly dreamy male lead, Ben.  Well, technically, he entered at the library about an hour ago, but this is more dramatic.  Not only is he hot, but he happens to be on his way to martial arts class.  Through a few well-placed punches and kicks, he convinces the boys to move on.

Oh, okay, it is going to be a romance….I’m down with that.  Of course Sasha and Ben are immediately attracted to each other, when it becomes clear that Ben has an extra ability, above and beyond his black belt.  Ah, intrigue…..this is going to be more than a romance!

As Sasha finally begins to live again, memories begin to surface.  Was the car wreck really an accident?  Of course, slick roads, going too fast, it made sense; but didn’t feel right.  Sasha risks a visit to the crash site to find white tulips and very bad poetry.  The remnants of older bouquets are there, as are more cryptic notes.  No.  Not an accident.  Someone tried to kill her entire family.  But, why?  Now that Sasha knows, won’t she be targeted?

Aha!  We have a mystery.  This story keeps giving.  The tumultuous journey to unravel the mysteries is absolutely riveting.  Now, you won’t be able to put the book down.  It’s okay, it’s totally worth it.  Skip your chores and finish the book right now.

While, I (clearly) enjoyed this book, there is one thing I feel I would be remiss if I left out.  Sasha and her best friend speak rather frankly about sex—not actually having sex, just the stuff a typical teen would find in a Cosmo; however, it is enough (in my humble opinion) to leave out a younger audience. Without the sex-talk, I would easily recommend this to young teens.  I would even suggest it for Middle School, Jr. High and High School libraries; but with the sexual language, I feel that I can really only recommend it to high-school students.  This makes me sad, because it is such an amazing story, and I really didn’t feel that those conversations added anything.

Reviewed by jv poore, November 2012.