Book Review: Aftershock by Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell @drjudymelinek @TJMitchellWS @HarlequinBooks


Title: Aftershock
Series: A Dr. Jessie Teska Mystery #2
Authors: Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell
Publication Date: January 19, 2021
Genre: Mystery, Police Procedural


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A Dr. Jessie Teska Mystery #2
Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell
Hanover Square Press, January 2021
ISBN 978-1-335-14729-5

From the publisher—

When an earthquake strikes San Francisco, forensics expert Jessie Teska faces her biggest threat yet in this explosive new mystery from the New York Times bestselling authors of Working Stiff and First Cut.

At first glance, the death appears to be an accident. The body is located on a construction site under what looks like a collapse beam. But when Dr. Jessie Teska arrives on the scene, she notices the tell-tale signs of a staged death. The victim has been murdered. A rising star in the San Francisco forensics world, Jessie is ready to unravel the case, help bring the murderer to justice, and prevent him from potentially striking again.

But when a major earthquake strikes San Francisco right at Halloween, Jessie and the rest of the city are left reeling. And even if she emerges from the rubble, there’s no guaranteeing she’ll make it out alive.

With their trademark blend of propulsive prose, deft plotting and mordant humor, this electrifying new installment in the Jessie Teska Mystery series offers the highest stakes yet.

By the time the dead body under the construction pipes has been identified, it was clear to me that “hostility” was going to be the word of the day among all parties. Dr. Jessie Teska is short-tempered with nearly everybody, she and Detective Keith Jones obviously have low opinions of each other, the construction workers are about as belligerent as they can be, the crime scene unit is snarky with Jessie and the death scene investigators…the list goes on. It all left me a bit unsettled and wondering if I would end up liking this prickly medical examiner.

The earthquake that strikes adds a level of tension not usually present in a police procedural and it certainly impedes Jessie’s investigation. It also brings her somewhat reckless behavior to the forefront. She probably would have been that way in normal circumstances but the earthquake makes things more lively.

Jessie is, at heart, a snoop, unable to let others do the investigating and that makes for a more interesting story but it also seems a little unorthodox. Still, a plethora of red herrings and misdirections entertained me till the end and I also appreciated the authors’ attention to Jessie’s personal life including her particular baggage and her relationship with her boyfriend, Anup. She’s definitely not the most likeable character I’ve come across but she’s not boring and I’ll be reading the first book as soon as I can.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2021.

About the Authors

Judy Melinek & T.J. Mitchell are the New York Times bestselling co-authors of Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner, and the novel First Cut. Dr. Melinek studied at Harvard and UCLA, was a medical examiner in San Francisco for nine years, and today works as a forensic pathologist in Oakland and as CEO of PathologyExpert Inc. T.J. Mitchell, her husband, is a writer with an English degree from Harvard, and worked in the film industry before becoming a full-time stay-at-home dad to their children.

Judy: Facebook // Twitter // Instagram // Goodreads

T.J.: Twitter // Goodreads


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

Book Review: Charity Island by Dennis Collins

Charity Island 
Dennis Collins
Dennis Collins, August 2016
ISBN 978-0-692-76295-0
Trade Paperback

Rick Todd has an ideal—well, sort of—job as the caretaker on a lonely but idyllic island in Lake Michigan. It’s not far from the shores of Michigan and when he stumbles across the body of a young woman on the beach he realizes that his peace and quiet are going to be disturbed. He does the right thing, he calls the local authorities. What he doesn’t realize is how lengthy and complicated the search for answers to this simple appearing death will become.

The local medical examiner arrives on the Sheriff’s patrol boat and soon determines that the woman didn’t drown after falling off a passing boat, she was strangled. What’s more, she has an Adam’s apple. Sidney Benson is a middle-aged doctor, comfortable in his active role as the county medical examiner and he has carefully protected eyes for his secretary, Jennifer.

These two become the central law enforcement characters in this story which, while it is certainly a police procedural in most ways, it also features several chapters in which readers are treated to the dark maneuverings of Sammy, the local drug czar and his thugs. Their attempts to keep track of Sid and the rest of the county law forces and the violent way Sammy solves small problems is interesting and will keep readers turning the pages.

The characters are nicely described and the narrative moves forward in a way to keep readers’ interest. There are a few brief digressions into politics, but nothing to distract readers. A fun and interesting story.

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

Book Review: The Silent Girl by Tess Gerritsen

The Silent Girl
A Rizzoli and Isles Novel #9
Tess Gerritsen
Ballantine Books, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-553-84115-2
Mass Market Paperback

An interesting departure from the usual circumstances in this powerful series. The novel begins in San Francisco when an unknown woman stalks a teenaged girl. We learn quickly that the stalker has benign designs on the girl. She is challenged to become a warrior child.

The novel switches to Boston, home of the main protagonists of this series. Maura Isles faces an unusual situation. As the Medical Examiner for the city of Boston, she must testify against the actions of one of Boston PDs most revered officers, a circumstance which causes her considerable anxiety and difficulty with the thin blue line, as well as distance with her friend, detective Jane Rizzoli.

A local boy, Billy Foo, who chooses to conduct paid walking tours of the central city of Boston, often takes groups to the site of a nineteen-year-old multiple murder, the Red Phoenix restaurant. And then, as night falls, one of the tour members discovers a freshly severed hand, lying in the alley beside the building housing the closed Red Phoenix. Murder, mystery, perplexing clues pile up and the atmosphere woven by this master storyteller grab readers forcefully.

This story examines in a thoughtful way some of the interesting and complicated and ancient mythology of the Asian world. But it is important to note that the author has not fashioned a fantasy. This novel is carefully rooted in the real and dangerous world.

The principal characters, as always, are exceedingly well and carefully drawn, the action persists in a steady drumbeat of action and reaction, interspersed with quiet intellectual or social scenes. The result is a fine strong novel that should satisfy any Gerritsen fan and bring her new devotees.

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

Book Review: The Kept Woman by Karin Slaughter

the-kept-womanThe Kept Woman
The Will Trent Series #10
(including 2 novellas)

Karin Slaughter
William Morrow, September 2016
ISBN 978-0-06-243021-2

From the publisher—

With the discovery of a murder at an abandoned construction site, Will Trent of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is brought in on a case that becomes much more dangerous when the dead man is identified as an ex-cop.

Studying the body, Sara Linton—the GBI’s newest medical examiner and Will’s lover—realizes that the extensive blood loss didn’t belong to the corpse. Sure enough, bloody footprints leading away from the scene indicate there is another victim—a woman—who has vanished . . . and who will die soon if she isn’t found.

Will is already compromised, because the site belongs to the city’s most popular citizen: a wealthy, powerful, and politically connected athlete protected by the world’s most expensive lawyers—a man who’s already gotten away with rape, despite Will’s exhaustive efforts to put him away.

But the worst is yet to come. Evidence soon links Will’s troubled past to the case . . . and the consequences will tear through his life with the force of a tornado, wreaking havoc for Will and everyone around him, including his colleagues, family, friends—and even the suspects he pursues.

If you ask me—and you know you want to ;-)—there is no better thriller author writing today than Karin Slaughter. When I first encountered her work years ago, I was completely blown away and she has never once let me down. The first few pages of The Kept Woman assured me that Ms. Slaughter is in fine form once again.

Those first paragraphs (a prologue of only three pages) set the tone with two women clearly in danger, not only of dying but of further attack, and I was riveted within seconds. That’s one of the author’s real strengths, that she can pull the reader in with a vengeance almost immediately and, for me, I know I’m about to get a great story full of suspense. It doesn’t hurt that I also adore the two protagonists, Will Trent and Sara Linton, and I appreciate that their personal story always gets advanced in some way without the author focusing too much on their relationship.

When Will is called in to investigate the death of a former cop, he’s already a bit hampered by an adversarial connection with the owner of the property, one who enjoys a certain amount of political protection, but that’s just the tip of a very nasty iceberg and Will himself will be caught up beyond his control. More than ever before, his past and present will collide and leave his life and emotional stability in turmoil.

I have to restrain myself from saying much about the plot because there’s so much going on that it would be all too easy to fall into the spoiler trap. Suffice it to say the police work aided by forensics drive the reader inexorably through one twist after another on the way to getting to the truth. A word of warning, though….if violence and gruesome crime scenes are really not your cup of tea, you probably won’t want to read this (but you’ll be missing out on a stellar crime fiction series).

And, so, she’s done it again, much to my delight. Ms. Slaughter’s ability to weave a story full of tension and surprise with characters who show both strength and vulnerability (especially female characters) never seems to fade, even a little, and I’m a happy fan once again.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2016.



Purchase Links:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound


About the Author

karin-slaughter-2Karin Slaughter is the #1 internationally bestselling author of more than a dozen novels, including the Will Trent and Grant County series and the instant New York Times bestselling standalones, Cop Town and Pretty Girls. There are more than 35 million copies of her books in print around the world.

Find out more about Karin at her website and connect with her on Facebook.



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Tuesday, September 20th: Kahakai Kitchen

Wednesday, September 21st: The Book Bag

Thursday, September 22nd: Buried Under Books

Friday, September 23rd: Books and Bindings

Monday, September 26th: Read-Love-Blog

Tuesday, September 27th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Wednesday, September 28th: A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, September 29th: Kritters Ramblings

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Wednesday, October 5th: Vox Libris


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Book Review: Depraved Heart by Patricia Cornwell

Depraved HeartDepraved Heart
A Scarpetta Novel #23
Patricia Cornwell
William Morrow, October 2015
ISBN: 978-0-06-232540-2

Dr. Kay Scarpetta works out of Cambridge, Massachusetts these days. In Depraved Heart, she’s been called to a historic home where a woman has been found dead in rather gruesome circumstances. The death is supposed to be a straight forward accident, but of course, Kay finds much to rouse her suspicions. In the midst of this, a message arrives on her cell phone, consisting of video clips of her niece Lucy which would seem to make Lucy into an enemy of the state. No sooner has Kay watched the whole video (and it seems to take forever) than the whole thing disappears.

Kay is recovering from a near death harpooning and is still not at her best. She almost doubts herself, but surely Lucy is in danger. So Kay, aided by her raucous partner, Pete Marino, is out to save those she loves from a dangerous woman from the past. One who is supposed to be dead. As for the FBI, they appear to be as big an enemy as Carrie Grethen.

The plot is good, convoluted and devious, with surprises around every corner. Still, I’m sorry to say I don’t enjoy Scarpetta like I used to. The characters by whom she’s surrounded never seem like anyone I’d care to meet, let alone spend time with. Especially Lucy, who always plays such a large part in the stories. Kay herself spends a lot of time whining, always distrustful, even of those she should be able to count on. I thought this novel overwritten, rather slow moving, and with a lot of people saying the same things over and over.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, January 2016.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.

Book Review: Killer Instinct by Robert W. Walker

Killer InstinctKiller Instinct
Instinct #1

Robert W. Walker
Read by Brian Nishii
Instinct INK Books, October 2013
Unabridged Downloaded Audio Book
Also available in trade paperback (2013) and ebook (2009)
Originally published in mass market paperback (1992)

From the author—


A brilliant and determined FBI medical examiner, she was an expert student of the criminal mind who thought she could face anything.

That was before Wisconsin. Before she saw one of his victims…


The FBI agent had a special code name for his unusual method of torture: Tort 9, the draining of the victim’s blood. The newspapers called him the Vampire-Killer. But his own twisted love letters were signed “Teach”… and were addressed to the one woman he wanted most of all: His hunter, his prey, Dr. Jessica Coran.

There are some authors who earn the designation “prolific” quite honestly and Robert W. Walker is one of them for sure. Last time I looked, he had something like 75 books published under the Walker name and various pseudonyms, not to mention a lot of nonfiction and short stories. The man makes me exhausted just thinking about it. Anyway, I first met Rob way back when my bookshop handled sales for the mystery authors (and some others) at the Virginia Festival of the Book. I think it may have been the 2007 festival but, whenever it was, he had a ton of books even then and I found him to be a most engaging person although some would call him curmudgeonly these days 😉

I had already read a couple of his books and my interest grew after meeting him so I dove into quite a few more but the demands of a bookstore and the need to read across a broad spectrum pulled me away and I never got back to Mr. Walker‘s books until I heard that he had developed audio editions. I love audio books inordinately and his news piqued my interest right away. I’d already read Killer Instinct in print years before but, let’s face it, I rarely remember details of a book—can count on my two hands the ones that have really stuck with me—and re-reading presents no problems at all.

Re-reading Killer Instinct was a real pleasure. From the vantage point of so many years, I can see flaws more readily especially since this book came pretty early in the author’s career, but they didn’t detract from the core story too much. I was kind of disgusted, for one thing, by the “petite skirt” at a crime scene; I’ve come to expect that nonsense on TV but would like to think authors know better than that (while reminding myself that this was first published in a very sexist 1992). Also, Jessica does do one or two pretty dumb things that put her perilously close to the TSTL line and I really couldn’t buy into the romantic element. I did think that Jessica is not as interesting as Teach at first and that’s not surprising in itself because the villain is often the more fascinating personality in books as in real life. That said, I do think Jessica is very engaging, capable, strong-minded and (mostly) highly intelligent.

Serial killers tend to be very nasty people and there is no lack of nastiness in this book. In fact, if you’re easily nauseated by gruesome violence, I’d suggest you go read something else. Bloodletting is only the beginning here.

And what does it say about me that I’m not usually nauseated by such things?

Now, as to the audio, I can’t say I thought it was great. This narrator comes across as inexperienced (although he’s not) and he makes quite a few pronunciation errors as well as being overly dramatic at times. However, I became more and more accustomed to his style as the recording moved along and I thought he did the different voices pretty well, well enough that I almost always knew which character was speaking. Mr. Nishii is not the worst I’ve ever listened to by any means and his being the narrator would not put me off trying other books. He’s the kind of narrator that I suspect would grow on me.

So, have I been pulled back into the Robert W. Walker fold? Why, yes, I believe so and I’ll be trying another audio edition sooner rather than later.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2015.


Book Reviews: Agent X by Noah Boyd, Little Girl Lost by Brian McGilloway, The Devil’s Edge by Stephen Booth, Call Me Princess by Sara Blaedel, and Where All the Dead Lie by J.T. Ellison

Agent X
Noah Boyd
Harper, August 2011
ISBN: 978-0-06-182703-7
Mass Market Paperback

Kate Bannon, the Assistant Director of the FBI who readers, and ex-FBI Agent Steve Vail, first met in this author’s The Bricklayer, returns, in fact, in the first sentence on the first page of this, the second in the series.  And a most welcome return it is, of those protags and the series itself. I am delighted to report that all the taut writing, suspense and wonderful characters of the initial book in the series are abundantly present in Agent X as well.

Vail, a maverick who can’t/won’t confirm to rules, was fired by the FBI five years previously.  He has since then been working at least nominally as a bricklayer [thus the title of the first book] and had met Kate in LA when they worked together on a case which had a successful conclusion, mostly due to his efforts.  [He was an ‘independent contractor’ of sorts in that instance for the FBI.]  They had dated for a while, until Kate broke it off.  Beyond the delightful banter, the two make for a terrific team as the FBI persuades Vail to head up their investigation into finding a number of agents to whom vital US secrets are just a commodity to be bartered.  As if that weren’t enough, Steve is asked by an agent who had been Vail’s partner several years back to assist with a case involving the disappearance of a female intelligence analyst.  As the tale unfolds, one thing becomes clear:  Very little is as it seems.

The Vail/Bannon relationship is an ambivalent one.  As is the Vail/FBI deal.  Bannon tells Vail:  “You have advanced degrees.  The director has offered you complete autonomy if you’ll come back to the Bureau, but instead you choose physical labor just so you won’t have to take orders. . . Not everyone who takes orders for a living is a mortal enemy of Steven Vail.”  The cleverly constructed sleuthing [which was a challenge at times for this reader, I must admit], and the occasional philosophical ruminations, make for a fascinating read.


Reviewed by Gloria Feit, July 2011.


Little Girl Lost
Brian McGilloway
Macmillan, May 2011
ISBN: 978-0-230-75336-5
Trade Paperback

[This title is presently only available in/through the UK,  not yet available in the US or Canada]

D.S. Lucy Black, of the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the daughter of police officers, in the midst of a search for a young girl, Kate McLaughlin, whose father is a prominent businessman, stumbles [almost literally] upon another young girl, wandering in what is termed an ‘ancient woodland,’ suffering severe hypothermia among other things due to her prolonged exposure to the elements in the brutal winter cold and snow.   The latter child is unidentified, and remains so despite pleas to the public and circulation through print media and televised press conferences of her information and photograph.  The only one to achieve any response from the girl, and that very limited, is Lucy.

Chief Superintendent Travers, of the CID, transfers Lucy, despite her desire for a post in the CID, to the Public Protection Unit “for the foreseeable future,” and assigns her to the case of the unidentified child.  Her position is made more complex than it otherwise might be by virtue of the fact that her mother is the Assistant Chief Constable.  Only in the division a month, Lucy has taken pains to keep that information hidden, made easier by the fact that her mother reverted to her own name when her parents divorced 14 years earlier.  The two investigations proceed side by side, the lines at times crossing from one to the other.  As the tale goes one, the heart-tugging stories of more than one other Little Girls Lost arise.

Lucy’s personal life intrudes on her work:  She had requested her present assignment because her father, an ex-cop for over twenty years, is now increasingly suffering from dementia, if not actually Alzheimer’s, and she has moved back to Derry after many years away.  Her relationship with both her parents is strained, to say the least, and becomes more so as the novel proceeds.  Derry is cited as “the birthplace of The Troubles,” and however long ago that era was, perhaps inevitably its presence is still very much a force in the lives of those who lived through it.  A fascinating novel, and recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, July 2011.


The Devil’s Edge
Stephen Booth
Sphere, April 2011
ISBN: 978-1-84744-479-0

[This book is presently available only in/through the UK/CA, not yet available in the US]

Devil’s Edge is a fairly insular world, defined, geographically at least, by the cliff edges which surround it.  This book is, in a similar way, equally circumscribed.  As the reader is told on the opening page, “It was one of the drawbacks of living in the countryside.  Too much of the outside world intruding.  Too many things it was impossible to keep out.”  In this novel, the outside world, and the aspects of it one would most like to keep out, intrudes in the worst way.  On the eastern fringe of the Peak District, in the village of Riddings, in rural Derbyshire, there has been a rash of break-ins.  The burglars have been dubbed The Savages by the press. The newest incidents escalate the anxiety when they suddenly turn deadly.  The author speaks of the residents having sought sanctuary in the rural haven, noting, however, that “everyone had monsters in their lives.”  Suspicion turns from looking for an outside group of burglars to someone from within the community, targeting the victims, for reasons far more personal. Recently promoted D.S. Ben Cooper is assigned the investigation.  He, particularly, believes it is not the work of The Savages, being much more meticulously planned and leaving no trace of the culprit[s].

D.S. Diane Fry, formerly with the West Midlands Police “in the days before she transferred to yokel land,” is brought back into the squad to take over the investigation after an almost unimaginable turn of events changes Ben Cooper’s life forever.  Despite the past ambivalence of their relationship, where they were both vying for the same promotion, their usually well-concealed respect for each other is here on display.

The author’s descriptions bring the land to palpable life, e.g., “the distant rocky outcrops seemed to change shape.  They slid slowly sideways, merged and divided, their outlines shifting from smooth to jagged to a distinctive silhouette.  It was all the effect of altering angle and perspective.  With each step, a transformation took place inthe landscape, a gradual reveal like the slow drawing aside of a curtain.  At a point halfway across the flats, a split rock he hadn’t noticed before came into view.  As it emerged from behind a larger boulder, its two halves slowly parted and turned, like the hands of a clock creeping past noon.”  Simply gorgeous.  [The landscape, and the writing, that is.]


Reviewed by Gloria Feit, October 2011.


Call Me Princess
Sara Blaedel
Pegasus Crime, August 2011
ISBN: 978-1-60598-251-9

Though Sara Blaedel is the author of several books, and her novels are apparently consistently on the bestseller lists in her native Denmark and elsewhere, this book represents her American debut.  And an auspicious one it is.

Assistant Detective Louise Rick, of the Copenhagen Police Department, is assigned the case of a 32-year-old woman who was raped and brutally attacked.  When the body of another young woman is found, having been similarly brutalized but hadn’t escaped with her life, the police believe they have a serial criminal on the loose.  Other women with similar stories of brutal rapes over the past couple of years are soon linked to the same man.  The only common thread is that the women all apparently met their attackers online.

Louise has been with the homicide division for the past four years. Her best friend, Camilla Lind, is a reporter who has the Copenhagen crime beat at a local newspaper, and that turns out to be both a blessing and a curse, because the help of the newspaper in getting the description of the man the police are hunting out to the public can be a good thing, but too close an involvement with the latest victim by a reporter not so much, and Louise finds it hard to keep a professional distance.

Louise ultimately needs to familiarize herself with the world of online dating.  Her six-year-long relationship with the man she’s been living with has become rocky, and she is ambivalent about the research she needs to do.  The suspense mounts as she tries to identify the rapist.  The author explores the devastating effects on his victims, and I found it hard to keep reading at times, but harder to put the book down.  The author’s next book, Only One Life, is due out in July of 2012 from Pegasus, and I for one can’t wait.


Reviewed by Gloria Feit, December 2011.


Where All the Dead Lie
J.T. Ellison
MIRA Books, October 2011
ISBN: 978-0-7783-1268-0
Trade Paperback

As this newest entry in the Taylor Jackson series opens, although the serial killer whose death ended the last book, So Close the Hand of Death, is no longer around to continue his terror campaign, his legacy is very much alive:  Both Nashville homicide lieutenant Taylor Jackson and her closest friend, medical examiner Dr. Samantha Owens Loughley [“Sam”] are still traumatized by the events which led to his death at Taylor’s hand, one month earlier.  [The two women’s jobs are described by the author thusly:  “Taylor protected the living inhabitants of Nashville; Sam uncovered the secrets of its dead.”] Taylor suffers from a combination of PTSD and guilt, in addition to the aftermath of the gunshot to the head which she sustained, following which she was put in a medically induced coma and then didn’t waken for another week; Sam had been horribly tormented and brutalized.

The series should probably be read in order, as there are a lot of backstory references and characters: The mysterious man known as Atlantic, the whole history of The Pretender [the aforementioned serial killer], etc.  This book has an unexpected change of venue, from Taylor’s native city to the UK, when her erstwhile suitor, James “Memphis” Highsmythe, the Viscount Dulsie, invites her to spend the holidays in his castle [yes, ‘castle!’], to help her recover from her emotional, physical and psychic wounds.  Since she is experiencing some unexpected ambivalence in her relationship with Dr. John Baldwin, to whom she is now engaged – –  some friction has developed over an issue having to do with his son, another part of that backstory – – she decides to accept his invitation.

Once Taylor arrives in Edinburgh, she finds that Memphis, a Detective Inspector with the Metropolitan Police, is in the midst of investigating a series of disappearances:  three teenage girls have gone missing in London, and he is in charge of the case.  Much of the rest of the tale deals with that investigation, as well as Taylor’s attempts at recovery and the complications caused by her relationship with Memphis, a recently widowed man equally mired in grief over his wife’s somewhat mysterious death as with his passion for Taylor.

Another well-written and engrossing entry in a terrific series, this one is also recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, February 2012.