Book Reviews: Solving Cadence Moore by Gregory Sterner and 19 Souls by J.D. Allen @SternerGregory @aperturepress @JDAllenBooks @midnightinkbook

Solving Cadence Moore
Gregory Sterner
Aperture Press, November 2017
ISBN 978-0-9973020-8-0
Trade Paperback

An intense novel fashioned in a very creative and unusual way, Solving Cadence Moore struggles to match its creative vision. It is rooted in the modern radio podcast phenomenon. Charlie Marx, successful radio podcast creator and star has a fine and lasting career in a fairly volatile professional area. He’s progressed through solid talent and the support of a major broadcasting executive, but he wants more. He thinks he’s found a vehicle, a ten-year old mystery.

Young talented and striking-looking (cliché?) Candace Moore is at the beginning of her career as a star vocalist and song creator. When she disappears and no trace has ever been found of her, the mystery endures and grows. Marx believes he can solve the murder and he exaggerates his proof to his boss in order to gain permission to create a star series of podcasts.

Things begin to fall apart when production time is squeezed down and witnesses become reluctant. Marx endures long and tense confrontations with his boss, with members of his production team and with some witnesses he turned up.

The novel, frequently written as a radio script, is long, tedious at times and is shot full of disagreeable language, confrontation after confrontation, and little consideration for the reader. Nine chapters divide a 362-page story. Long involved arguments detailing strengths and weaknesses of character’s positions, often with little or no descriptive language tend to give the narrative a slow and steady progression. Readers will assume, perhaps correctly, that the profession of radio broadcasting, especially when focused on the dramatization of true events, is replete with the kind of competition and repetitive tests of wills fostered by strongly opinionated, testosterone supplied males.

In sum an excellent idea burdened by a limited exposition, resulting in relief that the novel is done, rather than disappointment for the final period.

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

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19 Souls
A Sin City Investigation #1
J.D. Allen
Midnight Ink Books, February 2018
ISBN 978-0-7387-5403-1
Trade Paperback

An interesting if troublesome book about the search for a deteriorating psychopathic serial killer. The story has several things going for it, an unusual killer, a raft of police and FBI characters, and at least three sort-of-legal private searchers. The least likeable of the three, a shambling, bumbling private investigator named Jim Bean works alone, except when he needs help, which is frequently. The other two, O, a bounty-hunter, and Bean’s obligatory cyber/research expert add a little to the narrative, although O adds the least.

The setup is excellent and would have been even better if Bean wasn’t portrayed as so constantly second-guessing himself. A woman hires him to find her long-lost brother. She promptly drugs and seduces Bean which interferes with Bean’s thoughts and emotions, often at crucial junctures.

The story takes place in Texas, Nevada, California and Indiana. As the target descends gradually, logically, and cleverly into madness, the tension rises and more bodies litter the ground. Largely well-written and edited there are a few point-of-view shifts that are momentarily confusing but taking it all together, the novel is worth its price.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, March 2019.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
Traces, Grand Lac, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Reviews: Death and the Viking’s Daughter by Loretta Ross and Ghosts of Guatemala by Collin Glavac

Death and the Viking’s Daughter
An Auction Block Mystery #4
Loretta Ross
Midnight Ink, February 2018
ISBN 978-0-7387-5237-2
Trade Paperback

Auctioneer Wren Morgan with her fellow workers is preparing for an auction of a strange night club that was constructed on the plans of a Cincinnati nightclub that was the scene of a disastrous fire. A small level of nervousness is apparent.

At about the same time, her fiancé Death (pronounced Deeth) Bogart is tasked by a museum director to look into an apparent theft of a painting, a painting worth more to the owners due to the subject than for its artistic merit.

While preparing the site for the coming auction, a resident collapses upon seeing a figure in the nearby woods who looks like his long-missing daughter. Meanwhile, Wren and Death (pronounced Deeth) are looking for a home to buy. They find one at the end of a roadway not far away where a man, name unknown, is buried beneath rosebushes in the yard.

Get the picture? This is not a complicated mystery, but it has several threads that are cleverly woven together in this carefully and very well-written novel. Eventually all these threads will come together, along with tension-filled meetings between Wren and Death’s parent groups.

The tranquil setting becomes well-used as a foil against the tension that builds up. Private investigator Death Bogart wends his careful way through a variety of interesting experiences all while worrying about presenting a positive image to his about-to-be in-laws. A fun and intriguing novel that I recommend especially for those readers who are not wedded to intense and brutal violence on the page.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, February 2019.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
Traces, Grand Lac, Reunion, Red Sky.

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Ghosts of Guatemala
Collin Glavac
NIMA, November 2019
ISBN 978-1-9991631-6-7
Trade Paperback

Here is a terrific idea with some interesting characters in imperfectly realized circumstances. The novel begins with a bang, the attempted assassination of a Guatemalan drug czar. The scene is potent, rife with tension and murderous action. Unfortunately, although the assassination is successful, the assassin also dies in the attempt.

We then switch to scenes of dissention, corruption, loss of confidence and general incompetence in an important US government agency, the Central Intelligence Agency. Then commences a long and wandering dissertation about the life and development of a Seal, one John Carpenter. Sometime later in his career, he is mysteriously detached from the Navy to become an agent for the CIA, specializing in Latin America.

He is tasked with retaliation against the Guatemalan drug cartel, an assignment which takes the narrative deeply and in considerable detail inside that country. The narrative is wordy, resulting in an overlong novel which levels criticism against the U.S. government, the CIA specifically and the American public in general.

A good editor would have reduced the novel by at least a third and in the process elevated the action and tension. While some of the characters are unusual and more than passingly interesting, the novel’s potential is largely obscured in wordiness and a somewhat negative attitude.

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

Book Review: Weycombe by G.M. Malliet @GMMalliet @midnightinkbook

Weycombe
A Novel of Suspense
G.M. Malliet
Midnight Ink, October 2017
ISBN 978-0-7387-5426-0
Hardcover

Weycombe is a novel of psychological suspense.  In it, Jillian, an American, who worked for the BBC in London until she was laid off (“made redundant” in British- speak) married a minor nobleman and moved to the tony gated village of Weycombe, is frustrated with her marriage, fearing that her husband no longer loves her.  When the village real estate agent, Jillian’s neighbor, is murdered Jillian decides to investigate in order to help the police who, by the way, are not especially interested in her help.  Then a shopkeeper is also murdered, and Jillian intensifies her efforts as do the police.  But clues are few and the police investigation is stalled.  Jillian, however, begins to suspect that her husband might be involved.

As Jillian talks to the various women in her neighborhood circle hoping something someone knows will help to discover the murderer, the police investigation seems to be going nowhere. Jillian reviews her list of suspects and the clues she has found but seems to be no further along than the police.

Weycombe is a fascinating novel of psychological suspense though some might be annoyed by long descriptions of events that deserve only a brief mention.  Readers with a great deal of experience with mystery novels will likely deduce the murderer’s identity; however, the author has planted clues throughout the book that will likely keep even the most skeptical reader at least interested in finishing it.  I enjoyed Weycombe very much and recommend it.

Reviewed by Melinda Drew, December 2019.

Book Review: Charity’s Burden by Edith Maxwell @edithmaxwell @midnightinkbook

Charity’s Burden
A Quaker Midwife Mystery #4
Edith Maxwell
Midnight Ink, April 2019
ISBN 978-0-7387-5643-1
Trade Paperback

The story opens as Quaker midwife Rose Carroll is called out to attend Charity Skells, one of her previous patients. The patient insists she’s having a miscarriage, but Rose sees a discrepancy in the woman’s symptoms. After all, Charity had just delivered a child a few months ago, when Rose had warned the father that his wife was too fragile to bear another child any time soon. Rushing the woman to the hospital where she bleeds to death, it soon develops that a botched abortion is involved. But abortion is against the law. Who can have done such a thing? At least two possibilities seem likely.

Rose feels she must take a hand, helping her good friend police detective Kevin Donovan solve the mystery. After all, it’s easier for a midwife to ask ladies personal questions. The list of suspects grows as she discovers Charity’s husband is involved with another woman. There is a substantial inheritance in the offing, as well. Jealousy and greed are powerful motives and Rose never hesitates when it comes to keeping her clientele safe.

The story is a historical gem where we learn about attitudes toward abortion, birth control, and family planning. Oh, and some pure evil. I was a little surprised by some of it but I must say my sympathies are all with the desperate mothers. Rose is a brave, compassionate soul and an excellent sleuth; a heroine well-worth reading.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, July 2019.
https://carolcriggercom.sitelio.me/
Author of Five Days, Five Dead, Hereafter and Hometown Homicide.

Book Review: Rhythm and Clues by Sue Ann Jaffarian @SueAnnJaffarian @midnightinkbook

Rhythm & Clues
An Odelia Grey Mystery #11
Sue Ann Jaffarian
Midnight Ink, November 2016
ISBN 978-0-7387-1885-9
Trade Paperback

This is the eleventh in Sue Ann Jaffarian’s popular Odelia Grey mystery series.  Odelia is a 220-pound, 5 ft. 1inch paralegal/amateur detective who, as far as I can  tell, doesn’t actually work at her paralegal job very much.  The story begins with Odelia having coffee at a Starbucks (where else?) with Shelita Thomas whose father, Art Franklin, lives in the Seaside Retirement Community where Odelia’s mother, Grace, also lives.  Shelita asked to meet with Odelia to discuss a phone call she received from the management at Seaside complaining that Grace and Art were repeatedly complaining to them about another resident, Bo Shank, who appears to have gone missing.  In fact, they have gone so far as to file a missing person report with the police.  Shelita wants Odelia to do something to stop her mother whom she believes is goading Art into taking action.  Odelia, quite sensibly it seems to me, believes they are both adults and there is nothing she can or should do to stop them from looking for their friend.

However, Odelia is drawn to the problem because Bo Shank happens to be the former lead singer of Acid Storm, a band Odelia adored when she was a teenager.  So, she agrees to help look for Bo.  And therein lies the story.  Odelia is assisted in her search not only by her mother and Art but also by her niece, Lorraine, a somewhat ditzy young woman who is visiting from Chicago.  When Grace and Lorraine go off without Odelia to sleuth they find a dead body and the chase is on.

Despite the dead body, this is an amusing mystery, fast-paced and full of memorable characters with the obligatory detective that Odelia does not get along with.  Rhythm & Clues is a great summer read!

Reviewed by Melinda Drew, July 2019.

Book Review: The Third Mrs. Durst by Ann Aguirre @MsAnnAguirre @midnightinkbook

The Third Mrs. Durst
Ann Aguirre
Midnight Ink, August 2019
ISBN 978-0-7387-6131-2
Hardcover

Marlena Altizer left home as soon as she could—she had a mother addicted to meth and younger brothers and sisters who had different fathers. The children often went hungry and Marlena was raped by one of her mother’s boyfriends when she was eleven. She scraped together enough money to buy a bus ticket to Nashville when she was sixteen and lived on the streets, where she met another teen runaway, Jenny Song. She caught the attention of a talent agent, who got her a modeling job. Her career took off, and she travelled to Europe for modeling jobs and attended classes at a Germany university.

Marlena was determined to find a rich and powerful man, and leave poverty behind. However, the man she found, Michael Durst, was rich and powerful but also cruel, controlling and sadistic. He concocted a false history for her, and arranged for her to be adopted by a Croatian couple. All her movements were watched by henchmen of her husband.  Marlena realized she was in over her head and she couldn’t see a way to escape.

While I enjoy a good tale of revenge, Marlena is not a very likable or sympathetic character. She uses her husband, who gets what’s coming to him, but she also manipulates her bodyguard in a cold and calculating way, who was one of the only people on her husband’s staff who was kind to her.   While she is loyal to her sisters and her friend Jenny, they also become entangled in the dangerous world of Michael Durst. A violent and gritty tale of deception and control.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, August 2019.

Book Review: The Time for Murder is Meow by T. C. LoTempio—and a Giveaway! @RoccoBlogger

The Time for Murder is Meow
A Purr N Bark Pet Shop Mystery #1
T. C. LoTempio
Midnight Ink, August 2019
ISBN 978-0-7387-6036-0
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Crishell “Shell” McMillan sees the cancellation of her TV series as a blessing in disguise. The former actress can now take over her late aunt’s pet shop, the Purr N’ Bark, and do something she loves.

While getting the shop ready for re-opening, Shell is asked to loan her aunt’s Cary Grant posters to the local museum for an exhibit. She finds the prospect exciting―until a museum board member, who had a long-standing feud with Shell’s aunt, votes against it. When she discovers the board member dead in the museum, Shell becomes suspect number one. Can she, her Siamese cat Kahlua, and her new sidekick―her aunt’s Persian Purrday―find the real culprit, or will her latest career go up in kitty litter?

A pair of cute felines are part and parcel of this fun cozy but fear not, those of you who cringe at the idea—they don’t really help solve the crime(s) unless you count some judicious nudges and they don’t talk to Shell 😉 That doesn’t mean she doesn’t talk to them; any self-respecting cat person knows that’s a given, right?

When Shell inherited her aunt’s pet shop, she fully expected a quiet life, much less stressful than her former acting world, but she didn’t allow for the animosity she encountered from Amelia Witherspoon. Shell never knew her Aunt Tillie had a feud going with Amelia but, then again, maybe Aunt Tillie wasn’t as invested in the feud as Amelia still is. This crabby woman won’t even allow the local museum to have a showing of the marvelous Cary Grant memorabilia just because the collection belonged to Tillie and Shell is determined to change the woman’s mind. Unfortunately, she won’t get the chance because somebody has done away with the woman and Shell is the popular choice as the murderer thanks to rumors and gossip. Meanwhile, why is the publisher/reporter, Quentin Watson, of the village rag so interested in her shop and why is he pointing the finger at Shell as the killer?

There are a number of likely suspects and, as you might expect, a potential love interest in Detective Josh Bloodgood who wisely doesn’t really believe she’s guilty but my favorite character is Gary, Shell’s former co-star, entirely because…well, you’ll see ;-). The mystery here is a bit lightweight, especially in Shell’s supposed motivation for the murder and I figured out who done it too early, but an appealing cast of characters and a healthy dose of humor make this a nice way to while away a few hours. I’m already looking forward to the next book.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2019.

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To enter the drawing for an Advance
Reading Copy of The Time for Murder is Meow
just leave a comment below. Two winning
names will be drawn on Wednesday evening,
August 7th. Open to the US and Canada.