Book Review: The Innocent Girls by B.R. Spangler @BR_Spangler @bookouture

The Innocent Girls
Detective Casey White, Book 2
B.R. Spangler
Bookouture, September 2020
ISBN 978-1-83888-258-7
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Tears stream down her face as she feels the cold blade press against her neck. The sweet scent of her daughter’s favorite strawberry pancakes all around, her last thought is for her beautiful girl. Please, please let Lisa have escaped.

When Detective Casey White is called early one morning to a beachside vacation campsite in the Outer Banks, she finds the bodies of Carl and Peggy Pearson side-by-side, their throats cut, and their thirteen-year-old daughter Lisa nowhere to be found. Haunted by memories of her own missing girl, Casey fears this could soon become a triple murder: because without the medication found in the bathroom cabinet, Lisa has just days to live.

As her team struggle to untangle the meaning of the cryptic symbol carved into the victims’ skin, Casey searches the area for signs of Lisa: and is rewarded when she finds her blistered and barefoot, staggering along the highway. The girl barely has breath left to whisper ‘he invited me’ before blacking out.

Days later, another couple is found murdered on a vacation yacht. A different symbol is etched on their bodies, and their teenage daughter is also missing. Casey’s only clue is an unsettling ‘invitation’ found on the girl’s phone, to a secluded building out in the cornfields.

Desperate to uncover who is luring these innocent families to their deaths, and certain forensics have missed something vital, Casey matches up the crime scene photos herself. The symbols combine to form an upcoming date. The killer is taunting them with the timing of the next murder.

Racing to follow the invitation in time, when Casey arrives she is shocked to glimpse not the missing girls from this case, but her own missing daughter…

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These days, fictional police detectives seem to be loaded down with a lot of baggage and that’s certainly the case here. Casey’s daughter vanished when she was a small child, a very difficult thing to live with, and now she has to deal with a double murder and missing teen.

This story doesn’t have quite the high-octane tension of most thrillers but there’s a good deal of suspense, particularly because of the problems any resort area police force would have when faced with serious crimes involving vacationers. The usual tactics of interviewing people the victims know back home aren’t as helpful and it’s unlikely that they have had enough time in town to create serious troubles with other people so Casey knows soon enough that the killer(s) are probably strangers. When the teen, Lisa, is found some of the initial pressure is relieved but then another parent is murdered and the daughter goes missing. As leads develop, it seems that a cultish church might have something to do with these crimes but Casey can’t be sure.

There are a few side issues involving Casey’s relationships with the former sheriff, the mayor and her colleagues on the force but she naturally dwells on what happened to her own daughter paralleling, in a way, with the current crimes. A questionable confession takes Casey down ever more twisty paths resulting finally in a diabolical solution.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2020.

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Apple
Google Play // Amazon // Indiebound

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About the Author

B.R. Spangler here. I’m a resident of Virginia along with my family, five cats, two birds, a hamster, and a lizard. During the day, I work as an engineer and spend my off hours writing, editing, and thinking up the next great story.

I split my time across pen names, writing crime thrillers, science fiction, horrors, paranormal and contemporary fiction.

Author Social Media Links:

To keep up to date, sign up for his newsletter by copying and pasting this link into your browser: https://brspangler.com/sign-up/

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/BR_Spangler

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/authorbrianspangler/

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Book Review: The Wild One by Nick Petrie @_NickPetrie_ @PutnamBooks

The Wild One
A Peter Ash Novel #5
Nick Petrie
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, January 2020
ISBN 978-0-525-53544-7
Hardcover

This is Nick Petrie’s fifth novel in the Peter Ash series. Ash has been likened to Lee Child’s character Reacher and there are some similarities. Ash, like Reacher, has a Military background. He was a soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan but suffers from PTSD, which takes the form of what he describes as white static inside his head, along with a bad case of claustrophobia. But like Reacher, Ash’s efforts to help anyone in trouble often result in fistfights, and gunfights.

In this novel we find Ash on a plane bound for Reykjavik, Iceland. Planes are not his favourite form of transportation…and he grows agitated, feeling claustrophobic and panicky. He manages to fight through it, relieved when the plane finally lands. But his ordeal isn’t over, as he is taken to a small interrogation room, where a man from the American Embassy asks him why he has come to Iceland. After a brief exchange Ash is told he is not welcome in Iceland and must return to America on the next plane. The next flight to the USA, however, isn’t scheduled to leave for several days.

Ash leaves the airport wondering why so much attention is being paid to him. While he’d told them he was simply a tourist, in actual fact he’d been hired by Catherine Price in Washington, D.C. to find her son-in-law Erik Grimsson and her 7 year old grandson, Oskar. The police in America believe Erik murdered his wife Sarah a year ago and ran off with Oskar.

Unfazed by the fact that he has been ordered to return to the USA in a day or two, Ash is determined to find and talk to Erik’s cousin, Bjarni Bergsson. Ash visits the local Bar where Bjarni works and enjoys a drink while he waits. Bjarni doesn’t show and Ash, unaware his drink has been drugged, ends up being beaten and left in the snow.

Stubborn and annoyed at being duped, he continues his search and quickly comes to realize he’s not the only one looking for Erik and Oskar. But who is looking for them and why?

The winter weather in Iceland becomes a big part of the plot when a horrendous snow storm forecast for the area makes an appearance. Ash’s stamina and resourcefulness are put to the test in a plot that is both multi-layered and intriguing. You’ll be holding your breath as you turn the pages to its satisfying conclusion.

Respectfully submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, May 2020.

Book Review: Lost Hills by Lee Goldberg @LeeGoldberg

Lost Hills
Eve Ronin #1
Lee Goldberg
Thomas & Mercer, January 2020
ISBN 978-1542091893
Trade Paperback

Deputy Eve Ronin’s has only recently joined the Robbery-Homicide Division of Lost Hills, L.A.  She’s partnered with Duncan Pavone and they’ve been called to attend a homicide, but  after some argument with their adjoining district detectives already on the scene…LAPD agrees the homicide is in their jurisdiction.  Eve hides her disappointment, but on their way back to the Precinct a call from Dispatch sends them to a nearby location, to another possible homicide.

At the address they are met by a woman who explains her friend Tanya was supposed to pick her up that morning. The two of them were going to be extras in a movie shoot.  Concerned, the friend had come by to check on Tanya and noticed through the window, what looked like blood on the floor. She also mentions that Tanya, who has two children, has been talking recently about leaving her boyfriend.

Eve and Duncan check the house and find signs of what appears to be an attempt to clean up a lot of blood. Continuing their search Eve notes Tanya’s car is missing and there are more blood droplets in the garage.

This is the start of an unusual and interesting case.  Where is Tanya?  Where are her children? Are they alive? What happened in the house?  Eve is determined to find the answers to these challenging questions.

Eve Ronin is a great character and this reader was quickly swept up in her investigation.  Eve wants badly to be accepted by the guys she works with but knows she has to earn their respect.  Finding out what happened to Tanya and her children becomes a priority.  Eve doggedly pursues every avenue as she attempts to find the killer, and bring him to justice.

Does Eve find the killer?  You’ll have to check it out for yourself.. And believe me you won’t be disappointed.  Eve is tenacious and determined and leaves no stone unturned in her efforts to solve the mystery, even putting herself in grave danger.

While this author has an impressive number of titles, this was my first introduction but I assure you it won’t be my last.

Highly recommended.

Respectively submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, April 2020.

Book Reviews: Where the Rock Splits the Sky by Philip Webb and The Man Who Was Poe by Avi @chickenhsebooks @avi3writer @avonbooks

Where the Rock Splits the Sky
Philip Webb
Chicken House, March 2014
ISBN 978-0-545-55701-6
Hardcover

Mr. Webb’s Where the Rock Splits the Sky is a stellar sci-fi, dystopian story beyond my wildest imagination. Perhaps because I could not fathom a unique paranormal situation which essentially creates chasms, both metaphorical and literal, all over the continental United States. Rather than banding together, people pretend to be in some sort of survival mode. In reality, society splintered and regressed to the ways of the “wild, wild west.”

Everyone can see that an invasion is underway, but only a select few know why. The Navaho people had prayed to the White Shell Woman believing her to be a goddess; Wife of the Moon, Mother of the Navajo people. They are honest and trusting people but the she is an unabashed liar, master manipulator and nothing resembling a goddess.

In the chaos, Megan’s father is missing. She knows, with an inexplicable certainty, that he is trapped in The Zone. She has yet to learn that she is the only person on the planet capable of freeing him and Megan may never be ready to understand why. Shoving doubt aside, she saddles her horse to head into The Zone.

In a rush, but feeling she owes her best bud an explanation, she makes a quick stop. Since Luis is easily as stubborn as she is, Megan isn’t really surprised when he insists on accompanying her. She’s just not sure how she feels about it. Their old, but seemingly uncertain, friendship may not be destined to survive the journey, even if they do find Megan’s father and miraculously make it out alive.

Once inside The Zone, they encounter Kelly. Determinedly cheerful, Kelly announces her intent to join the duo on their quest. Not a problem for Luis, he always believes there’s room for one more. Megan is not so quick to accept a new acquaintance.

Kelly is a large presence with plenty to say and not too much time for politeness. Her overwhelming attitude has Megan and Luis independently soul-searching and even reevaluating their relationship. The dynamic among the three solidified this sweetly-strange little story. I admit, I did not fully understand exactly what was happening or where the story was heading, but I was absolutely invested enough to be shocked, then tickled by a sneaky twist.

Reviewed by jv poore, September 2019.

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The Man Who Was Poe
Avi
Avon, July 1997
ISBN 978-0-380-73022-3
Trade Paperback

I have just “discovered” the author, Avi. Meaning, of course, that one of “my” students brought him to my attention. I had asked the students to fill in a wish-list of books to be added to their classroom library and someone requested a book by Avi. The name stuck with me, and wouldn’t you know, after digging through my stacks o’ books, I actually had something from this very author!

Not just any book, either. This casts Edgar Allan Poe as a supporting character. Famous in his own rights, Mr. Poe is almost legendary here in Richmond, VA, where he occupies a predominant place in history. Clearly, I had to read The Man Who Was Poe right then. Fortunately, this Juvenile Historical Fiction was a fast read.

There’s something completely quirky about enjoying the interactions between two totally different types of people, neither of which I would expect to covet as a companion in real-life. In Avi’s world, however, it is the perfect plot presentation. This mystery moves quickly, even with the hair-pin twists and turns. I wanted to sympathize with young Edmund, or at least his pathetic predicament; but, he’s simply too tenacious and tough to pity. After all, this kid continues to go toe-to-toe with Edgar Allan Poe.

Reviewed by jv poore, January 2019.

Book Review: Vegas Lies by Andrew Cunningham @arcnovels @GH_Narrator @AnAudiobookworm

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Book Review: Dark Places by Reavis Z. Wortham

Dark Places
A Red River Mystery #5
Reavis Z. Wortham
Poisoned Pen Press, September 2015
ISBN: 978-1-4642-0422-7
Hardcover

Names come to mind when I read another Wortham Red River novel. Names and words like Rooster Cogburn and John Wayne and fundamental American attitudes. This author taps all those and more. His observation and understanding of how ordinary everyday American folk, the roots and bedrock of our nation, react in extraordinary circumstances; how they cope with subtle and alarming evil forces. Law enforcement? Sure, but developed from the very same basic beliefs and attitudes of the wider populace. This is a series of novels that will revive readers’ beliefs in the rock-solid foundations of the American way of life.

That said, Pepper and Top, the teen-agers being followed in this series, are restive. Close cousins for years, we find Pepper pulling away and longing for new horizons, such as running away to San Francisco to be a flower child. Without Top. It was a time of the rise of the hippy culture, free love and drugs.

Meanwhile, as storm clouds gather over Texas, murder, robbery and wholesale manipulation take place in the county. Ned Parker, Pepper’s granddad, leaves his constable’s post in Center Springs, Texas. He’s still troubled by a slow-healing stab wound in his belly, but when Pepper disappears, likely with a poorly thought of local boy, Ned decides to find her and bring her home. This chase forms the core of the novel which contains another thick plot line about the disappearance of two visiting businessmen looking to buy land in the area. Pepper’s uncle, currently the sheriff, is on this one.

The rain comes to the region and the law enforcement attempts to find the two missing men and deal with various other problems are hampered by frequent heavy rain. The author masterfully weaves the weather and other climate systems into the narrative and while this novel progresses more slowly than earlier novels, the level of satisfaction readers receive is substantial. In sum, a most satisfying and involving read, crowded with well-developed fascinating characters.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, July 2018.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Review: Desolation Mountain by William Kent Krueger

Desolation Mountain
Cork O’Connor Mystery #17
William Kent Krueger
Atria Books, August 2018
ISBN 978-1-5011-4746-3
Hardcover

Stephen O‘Connor, Cork O’Connor’s young son, has always had visions presaging tragedies.  This novel is based on one in which he sees an eagle shot from the sky and a menace he can’t identify at his back.  And then a plane carrying a U.S. Senator and her family crashes on Desolation Mountain.  Cork and Stephen subsequently join others attempting to find survivors and clues.

Soon, some of the first responders go missing, and father and son begin to investigate.  Then Cork inadvertently meets Bo Thorson, a character from a long ago novel, then a secret service agent, now a private investigator.  They join forces, but soon Cork begins to doubt Bo’s role.  The area is overrun with representatives of various federal agencies and is cordoned off.

The plot centers on the meaning of the vision and solution of the cause of the crash.  This is the 18th novel in the series, and provides, for the first time, a deeper look into Cork and Stephen’s relationship.  As is a constant in the series, it is well-written, and the descriptions of the North Country graphic and excellent.

Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, August 2018.