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.

Review: Shamed: A Novel of Suspense by Linda Castillo

Reprinted from Kevin’s Corner
Initially posted on August 15, 2019

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Review: Shamed: A Novel of Suspense by Linda Castillo

Kate Burkholder, Chief of Police of Painters Mill, Ohio, is back in Shamed: A Novel of Suspense and dealing with a murder and subsequent nightmare of a missing child. The old Schattenbaum place hasn’t been lived in since the flood of 1969 damn near took everything. Before the flood, as a child, Mary Yolder was out there all the time. She still comes back to wander the abandoned property in order to cut flowers and harvest the walnuts that fall from nearly a dozen trees. These days Mary Yolder is a widow, sixty years old, and grandmother and she keeps the collecting of walnuts tradition going with her grandkids. On this day she is out there with her five year old granddaughter, Annie, and her seven year old sister, Elise.

Long before the day is done, Mary Yolder is dead by the work of an angry and vicious killer and Elise has been taken by that same person. Annie is left behind, badly traumatized, and of little help to Chief Burkholder or to her sister.

A kidnapping is always difficult to deal with, but especially in the Amish community where privacy is highly valued. The family is a respected pillar of the community, but it seems pretty clear as the initial hours pass, that they are keeping secrets. Secrets that may or may not have a role in the horrific crimes that have rocked everyone in the area.

Shamed is the latest in the long running mystery series that began many years ago with Sworn to Silence. The latest read is another solidly good read. It is also one that could be read by readers new to the series as the references to earlier cases are kept to a minimum. For those of us old hands at this great series, author Linda Castillo weaves another tale of mystery and intrigue and does so with all the usual series regulars and a few new folks one is glad to meet. Shamed is another good book in a great series and well worth your time.

For another take on the book, make sure you read Lesa Holstine’s review from July.

Shamed: A Novel of Suspense

Linda Castillo

http://www.lindacastillo.com

Minotaur Books (St. Martin’s Publishing Group)

http://www.minotaurbooks.com

July 2019

Hardback (also available in audio and eBook formats)

304 Pages

$26.99

Material supplied by the good folks of the Dallas Public Library System. My library copy came from the Forest Green Branch.

Kevin R. Tipple ©2019

Book Review: Curried Away by Gail Oust

Curried Away
A Spice Shop Mystery #4
Gail Oust
Minotaur Books, December 2016
ISBN 978-1-250-08125-4
Hardcover

Small towns have character…And characters. Southern ones seem to have more outgoing and colorful ones. It might be a combination of the heat, humidity and sweet tea. In this entry in the author’s Spice Shop mystery series, protagonist Piper Prescott is trying to get back on her emotional and financial feet following her divorce from her slick lawyer husband CJ. He’s on his way to marrying his new arm candy, while Piper is trying to figure out where she stands with local veterinarian Doug Winters. Things seemed to be heating up until his teen daughter came to live with him and started building a wall between them. To put it succinctly, Piper feels like a wallflower at a high school prom.

Speaking of sayings, this story has them in abundance. Some are trite, while others are very witty, spicing up the dialogue and offering readers interesting mental images of situations and inhabitants of Brandywine Creek. When the story opens, most of the women in town are up in arms over the dictatorial behavior of Sandy Granger, who is directing Steel Magnolias at the town playhouse, although she seems to be spending more time angering cast members than doing her job. One of the affected cast members is Piper’s best friend, hairdresser Reba Mae Johnson.

Shortly after Reba is heard to say she’s tempted to wrap her hands around Sandy’s neck, someone goes one better and strangles the director with her own scarf. That brings the production to a screeching halt, fires up the town gossip machine and lights a fire under the mayor’s backside because he hoped the play would bring lots of visitors to town. While Piper and Reba play amateur detective, the local sheriff, who alternately intimidates and attracts Piper, depending on the moment, seems intent upon nailing Reba for the crime. What ensues is a classic cozy, with more small town intrigue and doings than actual crime. However, the eventual unmasking is done nicely, with Piper and Reba running the evil doer to ground. My only criticism of this fun to read story is that there are times when so many different characters show up at the same moment or event, keeping track of them is challenging.

Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS, May 2019.

Book Review: Veil of Lies by Jeri Westerson

Veil of Lies  
A Crispin Guest Novel #1
Jeri Westerson
Minotaur Books, October 2008
ISBN 978-0-312-37977-3
Hardcover

Not being a fan of medieval crime fiction, I approached this story with a small amount of trepidation. By the time I reached page fifteen, I was hooked. The author invites us back in time to the late Fourteenth Century in England, specifically, London. A young Richard is on the throne and our protagonist, who backed the wrong horse in a recent scrum over ascension to the English throne, is making a new life for himself.

Crispin Guest is a defrocked knight who escaped his mistake at court by the merest margin of luck and the backing of his patron, the Duke of Lancaster. Without that support Crispin Guest would be dead. But here he is stripped of everything, struggling to make his way on the mean and cold and rainy streets of the city.

Now called the Tracker, Guest is tasked by a wealthy merchant to prove whether or not his wife is unfaithful. It’s a small task and Crispin is quick to the task. But the mystery explodes in his face when he returns to report to the merchant and discovers him dead. In a room locked from the inside with no key.

If one can find fault with this steady intriguing narrative which is full of interesting and unusual characters, it is the bad weather, the extensive descriptions and the length of the narrative. But if readers are even slightly interested in the life and times of the English people, as different from the royals and the gentry, the vivid tasty narrative will take them deep into the mean and dangerous streets of ancient London. Crispin, with help from various street people and even the Lord High Sheriff of London, solves the mystery and expands his lower class reach and influence. Recommended.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, March 2019.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.