Book Review: Outsider by Linda Castillo @LindaCastillo11 @MinotaurBooks

Outsider
A Kate Burkholder Mystery #12
Linda Castillo
Minotaur Books, July 2020
ISBN 978-1-250-14289-4
Hard Cover

This is the 12th Kate Burkholder mystery novel and it’s another winner.

On a snowy winter’s night, Gina Colorosa, a police officer from Columbus, is on the run, pursued by some of her fellow officers.  Gina knew they’d be coming for her and she’d made plans, but she barely escapes with her life.  After several hours of driving she turns off the highway, and soon realizes she isn’t far from Painters Mill where her one time friend Kate Burkholder is Chief of Police.  But the storm intensifies making her quest to reach Kate impossible.  She loses control of her truck and lands in a ditch.

She is rescued by an Amish widower, Adam Lengacher, out for a sleigh ride with his three children. He takes her to his farm and contacts the Police Chief.  Kate arrives and is surprised to see Gina Colorosa, fellow police officer and once her best friend. They had attended the police academy together and after graduating had both been rookie cops in Columbus. They’d parted ways and hadn’t seen each other since.

Kate is more than a little wary at Gina’s unexpected appearance. While Gina explains that some fellow officers are taking bribes, and tampering with evidence, and it is this knowledge that  has put her in danger, Kate isn’t sure Gina is telling her everything.The blizzard rages on dumping more snow and Kate, her own vehicle now stuck in a snowdrift, has no choice but to accept Adam’s hospitality and stay at his farm.

Kate calls her lover and partner, State Agent Tomasetti, and explains what has happened and asks if he can somehow make discreet inquiries and find out whether Gina is telling the truth.

Meanwhile several police officers are indeed searching for Gina.  As they expand their search and ask questions of the locals in Painters Mill they are soon on Gina’s trail.

Kate has a dilemma. She and Gina had been through a lot together, supporting each other during those early days as police rookies. But their friendship had ended on a sour note.  While seeing Gina brings back some good memories, Kate is also aware that, if Gina is in danger, her presence at the Lengacher farm is putting Adam Lengacher and his children at risk.

Kate, with Tomasetti’s help, uncovers more information about the corruption involving the police in Columbus. The storm and snow add another dimension to the tension rising as Gina’s pursuers set in motion their plan to deal with her.

You’ll have to check out this novel if you want to find out just how it ends.  It’s worth the effort.  A great read!

Respectfully submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, August 2020.

Book Review: The Split by Sharon Bolton @AuthorSJBolton @TrapezeBooks @MinotaurBooks

The Split
Sharon Bolton
Trapeze/Orion Publishing, June 2020
ISBN 978-1-4091-7419-6
Hardback
Minotaur Books, May 2020
ISBN 978-1-250-30005-8
Hardcover

I’ve been a fan of Sharon Bolton’s for a number of years. She started out writing as S.J. Bolton no doubt because initials didn’t give away the fact that she was a woman. At any rate The Split is her newest standalone and in truth I have mixed feelings about this book. It’s opening quickly draws you in as we meet Felicity Lloyd who is a glaciologist working on the remote Island of South Georgia in the Antarctic Circle.

Felicity is worried, very worried. A cruise ship, the last of the season, is arriving and she soon learns that one of the passengers, Freddie, is the man she’s been running from for close to a year. She believes he wants to kill her, but she has no idea why.

To find out the reason behind her fears we jump back in time, to nine months previously. Felicity is in Cambridge, England. She has been found, her clothes torn, her face and body bruised and bleeding, with no memory of what happened to her. She is now undergoing a psychiatric assessment, that’s why she’s in Dr. Joe Grant’s office. She needs to pass this assessment in order to return to work.

Joe has his own problems but he likes Felicity and wants to help. For the next third of the book we get to know Felicity a little more. Strange things keep happening to her. She is attacked and she’s also sure someone is getting into her house while she sleeps. Her car goes missing and her fear and tension steadily escalates, leaving her petrified that she’s going insane.

Several street people, people Felicity knows, have gone missing and a body is found. Is Felicity involved? She doesn’t know for sure and neither does Joe, who is growing more anxious about his patient. Joe’s mother, Delilah, is a detective who is certain Felicity knows more than she is saying, and might well be a suspect.

I read a review of this book (after I’d finished it), and had to agree with the reviewer, who praised Sharon Bolton’s meticulous research, but wondered, as I did, that it seemed obvious what was happening to Felicity. That Joe and his detective mother should have reached a similar conclusion within the story.

This didn’t stop me from reading its thrilling conclusion.

But I’m still thinking and wondering about it. But while I came away feeling a little disappointed, I’ll certainly check out her next book.

Respectfully submitted,

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, July 2020.

Book Review: Murder Off the Page by Con Lehane @clehane @MinotaurBooks

Murder Off the Page
The 42nd Street Library Mysteries #3
Con Lehane
Minotaur Books, November 2019
ISBN 978-1-250-31792-6
Hardcover

When Raymond Ambler, librarian in charge of the crime fiction collection at the 42nd Street Library, and his friend and co-worker Adele Morgan are out for a drink one evening, they see an attractive and somewhat drunk woman in her early thirties, surrounded by a group of men harassing her. Adele recognizes the woman—she had been at the library earlier in the day. The woman notices Adele, and comes over to join their table, sitting on Ambler’s glasses, which he left on a stool. She introduces herself as Shannon Darling. Bartender McNulty steps in, and insists on taking her back to her hotel room.

Shannon told Adele she was writing a book on women mystery writers, focusing on Jayne Galloway. She seemed to be an inexperienced researcher, unfamiliar with how to do archival research, and appeared at the library more elegantly dressed than most researchers. Adele suspects Shannon is hiding something.

When a man is discovered shot in a hotel room registered to Shannon Darling, NYPD detective Mike Cosgrove investigates. He discovers that during Shannon’s visits to the city, she has bouts of uncontrolled drinking and one-night stands with men she meets in the cocktail lounges of posh hotels. Bartender McNulty and Shannon both disappear, and become suspects in the case.

Ambler and Adele investigate, wanting to clear the name of their friend McNulty. What they discover is that Shannon seems to be leading a double life. When not in the city she is a doctor in the suburbs with an upscale Greenwich Connecticut home and a successful husband and a young daughter.

For mystery readers that enjoy librarian amateur sleuths and lots of New York City color, this is reminiscent of Michael Jahn’s Bill Donovan series. This is the third book in the series.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, July 2020.

A Passel of Teeny Reviews, Part 6 @nancyjcohen @JSpencerFleming @MinotaurBooks @CharlesFinch @BevLongBooks @HarlequinBooks @SusanSpann @SeventhStBooks

Once again, big surprise, I find myself with
an overload of books read but not yet reviewed
so I think it’s time for a roundup or two…

Easter Hair Hunt
A Bad Day Hair Mysteries #16
Nancy J. Cohen
Orange Grove Press, March 2020
ISBN 978-09997932-7-5
Trade Paperback

Marla Vail is visiting Tremayne Manor to do her hairstyling thing for Blinky Morris so she’ll be ready for the Easter egg hunt but, after the hunt when Marla is helping to look for unfound eggs, she finds something else, a dead body dressed as a bunny. When it’s discovered that Blinky is missing, the very pregnant Marla jumps right in to investigate,  as fans will expect. Her poor husband, homicide detective Dalton, is right by her side, knowing full well he can’t stop her.

Marla is a character that becomes more appealing with each adventure, largely because she’s an intelligent woman who takes things in stride and doesn’t continually do stupid things. Dalton is her equal and recognizes how good she is at sussing out the facts and following leads; he long ago gave up trying to keep her out of investigations and the pair make a good team. This time, they’re dealing with a plethora of clues and suspects and the twists and turns abound. I’ve followed this series from the beginning and I’m already anticipating the next book because Ms. Cohen never lets me down 🙂

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2020.

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Hid from Our Eyes
A Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne Mystery #9
Julia Spencer-Fleming
Minotaur Books, April 2020
ISBN 978-0-312-60685-5
Hardcover

It seems like years since the last Clare and Russ story because, well, it has been and when I first heard about this one, I was SO excited. I’m not the least bit surprised that Ms. Spencer-Fleming is still at the top of her game.

Three different but very similar cases over a period of many decades have involved three police chiefs but Russ, the current chief, was once accused of the second killing. As this third case ramps up, Russ is under enormous pressure to find the killer before suspicion focuses on him again. Are the three cases really connected in some way or could there be a copycat killer? Who were these young women and why were they targeted or is it possible one or more were, in fact, not murdered?

Russ’s wife, an Episcopal priest and mother of a new baby, has her own issues going on but of course she’s going to help Russ and she brings a lot of intelligence and creative thinking to this case, as she always does. The personal lives of Clare and Russ are given as much weight as the investigation, enough so that I felt like I was seeing old friends again but that didn’t take anything away from the mystery of these three deaths. Leads take them in all directions and I was forced—forced, I tell you!—to stay up late into the night to keep reading. An intriguing plot and great characters make for a story I can heartily recommend but readers new to the series will enjoy it more by starting with the first one.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2020.

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The Vanishing Man
A Charles Lenox Mystery #12
Charles Finch
Minotaur Books, January 2020
ISBN 978-1-250-31137-5
Trade Paperback

In this second prequel, Charles Lenox has recently become known as the young man who bested Scotland Yard in a perplexing case and he’s called upon by the Duke of Dorset to help with an art theft. It seems a second painting was left behind and the Duke is concerned the thieves will return and, if they do, it’s possible a family scandal will be revealed as well as an enormous secret involving a priceless artifact. It isn’t long before there are other crimes and Lenox must delve into long-kept secrets that threaten the family as well as himself.

Fortunately, Lenox has the assistance of his friend, Lady Jane, who once again proves herself to be an intelligent ally, and a coterie of secondary players who bring real depth to the story. This particular adventure drags a little here and there but it’s still an engaging puzzle, especially the question of why the more valuable painting really means so much to the Duke. Mr. Finch brings Victorian London and its people to life again and I really do think this is one of the very best series with the setting and time period.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2020.

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Ten Days Gone
An A.L. McKittridge Novel #1
Beverly Long
MIRA, February 2020
ISBN 978-0-7783-0958-1
Mass Market Paperback

Hunting a serial killer is no doubt one of the most difficult things a police department may ever have to do but, this time, detectives Rena Morgan and A.L. McKittridge are also faced with the nearly impossible task of preventing a fifth murder once the likely victim has been identified. Tess Lyons already suffers psychological damage from previous events and is anything but ready to understand her present danger. Meanwhile, leads in the case are sketchy at best and the detectives are caught up in a cat and mouse game with few obvious answers until they find a petition signed by all four of the murdered women. Figuring out why the petition and the ten day intervals are important may be their best chance to stop this killer.

A.L. and Rena are a well-matched partnership, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, and they complement each other in their search for a wily killer. The pacing is a little slow but Ten Days Gone shows promise and is the first in what I hope will be a long-running series.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2020.

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Ghost of the Bamboo Road
A Hiro Hattori Novel #7
A Shinobi Mystery
Susan Spann
Seventh Street Books, November 2019
ISBN 978-1-6338-8550-9
Trade Paperback

Even in 16th-century Japan, a list of agents, in this case the shinobi agents of Hiro Hattori’s own clan, can cause deadly problems if it falls into the wrong hands. Hiri needs to warn his clan that a rival warlord is in possession of the list so he travels to a small village where he believes a fellow agent to be on a mission. Accompanied by Father Mateo, the Portuguese Jesuit he protects, along with their housekeeper, Ana, and Hiro’s cat, Gato, he sees that the agent is missing. Hiro and Father Mateo are then drawn in to the investigation of multiple murders that are believed to have been caused by a ghost in the eerily half-deserted village but the situation becomes even more pressing when Ana is accused of stealing from the inn’s proprietor. And where is the missing agent?

Ms. Spann never fails to entertain me and educate me as well since her stories are full of medieval Japanese history. I love the primary characters and their interactions with each other; for instance, Gato always manages to get in the thick of things but Father Mateo can only suffer around him, being highly allergic. The two men have grown to be quite fond of each other (not that they would say so) and the priest accepts the shinobi’s protection as gracefully as he can manage while Ana is irascible and, yet, attentive. The author has a way with words and conveys the times and the setting vividly, so much so that I can practically smell the tea served in the teahouse. My only regret after reading this entry is for the too-long wait for the next book.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2020.

Book Review: A Death at the Yoga Cafe by Michelle Kelly

A Death at the Yoga Café
Keeley Carpenter #2
Michelle Kelly
Minotaur Books, January 2017
ISBN 978-1-250-06738-8
Hardcover

Michelle Kelly’s book has all the elements a reader expects in a cozy mystery. Keeley Carpenter, the main character, has returned to her hometown after years away in the big city, and opens a vegetarian café and yoga studio in the building that used to house her father’s butcher shop. Her mother, who shows up for a visit a week before she is expected, is a perfectionist and constantly criticizes Keeley.  Keeley’s boyfriend Ben, is a good-looking detective on the local police force.

Keeley witnesses an argument between the town’s mayor and his newest girlfriend, who is a business rival of Keeley’s and who was the “mean girl” in high school. Unfortunately, this mystery also includes some of the cozy mystery clichés. The girlfriend begs Keeley to investigate the death, instead of hiring a lawyer. Why would someone facing arrest for a murder beg for help from a yoga teacher that she bullied in school? And why would the yoga teacher confront the killer alone, without telling the police her suspicions.

The book contains recipes and instructions on how to do select yoga poses. While the premise of the book shows promise, it fails to deliver on a satisfying conclusion to the mystery.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, March 2020.

Book Review: The Hollows by Jess Montgomery @JessM_Author @MinotaurBooks @TLCBookTours

The Hollows
The Kinship Series, Book 2
Jess Montgomery
Minotaur Books, January 2020
ISBN 978-1-250-18454-2
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Ohio, 1926: For many years, the railroad track in Moonvale Tunnel has been used as a shortcut through the Appalachian hills. When an elderly woman is killed walking along the tracks, the brakeman tells tales of seeing a ghostly female figure dressed all in white.

Newly elected Sheriff Lily Ross is called on to the case to dispel the myths. With the help of her friends Marvena Whitcomb and Hildy Cooper, Lily follows the woman’s trail to The Hollows―a notorious asylum―and they begin to expose dark secrets long-hidden by time and the mountains.

The Appalachians are a vast and very old area covering all or parts of thirteen states in the eastern part of the US plus some of eastern Canada, a system that includes a variety of mountain ranges, and the descendants of its original settlers are a different breed from most of us. Take it back almost a hundred years and the people are even more distinctive, a blend of European and Native American backgrounds with their own culture, who lived simply, apart from “mainstream” America by choice. In The Hollows, Ms. Montgomery has captured the beauty of this one small portion of the Appalachians and the unique inhabitants of the period.

There are also secrets to be discovered by Lily and her friends, along with the reader, as well as immersion into the racial divides, labor organizing and societal inhibitions that plagued women at the time and the mystery of what really happened to the old woman. The word “hollows” carries a double meaning here, referring to a geographical distinction found in the mountains but also, in this case, to what turns out to be an insane asylum as dark as anything you’ve ever heard of. Meanwhile, Lily is running for re-election against great odds and the Women’s Ku Klux Klan, the auxiliary of the better-known men’s organization, is creating trouble in the community.

A book like this one appeals to me greatly because I came away from it knowing a bit more about our American history and, along the way, enjoyed a journey through a beautiful and compelling setting. The characters are vivid and fully fleshed out, the three women in particular, and they created in me a strong empathy for them. I haven’t yet read the first book, The Widows, but I’ll be doing so forthwith and, in the meantime, I’m adding The Hollows to my list of best books read in 2020.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2020.

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // iTunes
Books-A-Million // Amazon // Indiebound

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About the Author

JESS MONTGOMERY is the Literary Life columnist for the Dayton Daily News and Executive Director of the renowned Antioch Writers’ Workshop in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Based on early chapters of The Widows, Jess was awarded an Ohio Arts Council individual artist’s grant for literary arts and the John E. Nance Writer-in-Residence at Thurber House in Columbus. She lives in her native state of Ohio.

Jess Montgomery showcases her skills as a storyteller in The Hollows: a powerful, big-hearted and exquisitely written follow-up to her highly acclaimed debut The Widows.

Connect with Jess:
Website // Twitter // Facebook // Instagram

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Follow the tour here.

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Book Review: Shamed by Linda Castillo @LindaCastillo11 @MinotaurBooks

Shamed
A Kate Burkholder Mystery #11
Linda Castillo
Minotaur Books, July 2019
ISBN 978-1-250-14286-3
Hard Cover

Chief of Police Kate Burkholder is called to an abandoned farm where an Amish grandmother is found brutally murdered and one of her grandchildren is abducted. The search for the missing 7 year old girl becomes a high priority.

I’ve been a fan of this series for some time and enjoy visiting Kate and the people of Painters Mill. Kate grew up in this Amish community but left as a teenager. She is now the Chief of Police and has a strong knowledge and understanding of the Amish people in this small town. Time is of the essence in cases of abducted children but the murderer/kidnapper seems to have vanished into thin air and after talking to the missing child’s family, Kate gets the impression they are keeping secrets.

The investigation takes her to a nearby Amish community but the killer is watching, intent of reaping revenge. Kate has her work cut out trying to piece together the mystery that appears to have a connection to the past, a past no one is willing to reveal. After finding another victim, Kate is attacked but the killer escapes and seems determined to punish those he believes ruined his life.

Linda Castillo continues to write taut suspenseful novels with a protagonist who is compassionate and caring with an inner strength she struggles at times to maintain. Over the ten previous novels I’ve learned a lot about the Amish and Kate Burkholder’s personal history and while each novel can stand alone, I’d highly recommend you start with the first, Sworn to Silence.

Respectfully submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, August 2019.