Book Reviews: Dead on Ice by Lauren Carr and Real Murder by Lauren Carr @TheMysteryLadie @BooksbyAcorn @iReadBookTours

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Title: Dead on Ice
Series: A Lovers in Crime Mystery #1
Author: Lauren Carr
Narrator: Mike Alger
Publication Date: November 23, 2016

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Purchase Links:
Audible // iTunes // Amazon

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Dead on Ice
A Lovers in Crime Mystery #1
Lauren Carr
Narrated by Mike Alger
Acorn Book Services, November 2016
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

Dead on Ice is the first installment of Lauren Carr’s new series (Lovers in Crime) featuring Hancock County Prosecuting Attorney Joshua Thornton and Pennsylvania State Police homicide detective Cameron Gates. 

Spunky Cameron Gates is tasked with solving the murder of Cherry Pickens, a legendary star of pornographic films, whose body turns up in an abandoned freezer. The case has a personal connection to her lover, Joshua Thornton, because the freezer was located in his cousin’s basement. It doesn’t take long for their investigation to reveal that the risqué star’s roots were buried in their rural Ohio Valley community, something that Cherry had kept off her show business bio. She should have kept her hometown off her road map, too—because when this starlet came running home from the mob, it proved to be a fatal homecoming.

A homicide detective and a prosecuting attorney are almost what you might consider a dream team when it comes to law enforcement and it’s certainly true in this series but, since Cameron and Josh don’t officially work together, we also frequently get the benefit of seeing investigations go in different directions. Certainly, that’s beneficial when the body-containing freezer is found in a hoarder’s house and, not long after, a bomb goes off.

Obviously, the first question is how did the porn star end up in the freezer followed by how did that freezer end up in Joshua’s cousin’s basement? Throw in the bomb element and connections between two cold cases and the hunt for clues is on. A plethora of characters, some of whom may very well be suspects, lead Cameron and Joshua on a compellingly twisty road to find final justice for these victims and many of these characters, such as the feuding church ladies, kept me wondering.

As always, the author introduces a few animals in the protagonists’ home life and, this time, the star is a wonderful Maine Coon named Irving. I have one of these delightful felines myself and am madly in love with this loving but curmudgeonly fluffybutt whose black and white coloring is decidedly not random splotches or the tuxedo effect 😉

Mike Alger continues doing a fine job with narration and I do hope he’ll always be the voice of Lauren Carr’s delightful mysteries.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2019.

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Title: Real Murder
Series: A Lovers in Crime Mystery #2
Author: Lauren Carr
Narrator: Mike Alger
Publication Date: January 10, 2017

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Purchase Links:
Audible // iTunes // Amazon

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Real Murder
A Lovers in Crime Mystery #2
Lauren Carr
Narrated by Mike Alger
Acorn Book Services, January 2017
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

When Homicide Detective Cameron Gates befriends Dolly, the little old lady who lives across the street, she is warned not to get lured into helping the elderly woman by investigating the unsolved murder of one of her girls. “She’s senile,” Cameron is warned. “It’s not a real murder.”

Such is not the case. After Dolly is brutally murdered, Cameron discovers that the sweet blue-haired lady’s “girl” was a call girl, who had been killed in a mysterious double homicide.

Meanwhile, Prosecuting Attorney Joshua Thornton is looking for answers to the murder of a childhood friend, a sheriff’s deputy whose cruiser is found at the bottom of a lake. The deputy had disappeared almost twenty years ago while privately investigating the murder of a local prostitute.

It doesn’t take long for the Lovers in Crime to put their cases together to reveal a long-kept secret that some believe is worth killing to keep undercover.

Ah, what harm could there be in listening to an old lady who keeps looking for someone to find out who killed her girl? Cameron is about to realize that there’s a whole lot behind Dolly’s querulous requests, especially after the woman is found murdered. Meanwhile, Josh is off on his own pursuit of truth after a friend from his childhood, a deputy who disappeared years ago shortly after talking to Josh, is found in his cruiser in a lake.

In a mystery that is chock full of connected threads, ominous notes from the past, evidence leading in many directions and a crazy quilt of possibilities, Cameron and Josh—and the reader—are led on a wild chase for the truths of the past and today. Every single time I thought “Aha!”, I was proven wrong and that, of course, propelled me down a mindbending path in search of answers, right along with our sleuthing duo.

This time around, we get a good look at relationships, not only between Joshua and Cam (and the fabulous Irving who is anything but a humdrum kitty) but also in other families. An interesting thread has to do with the tension between Josh’s daughter and Cameron, offset by the cheerful acceptance of a stepmother by Josh’s teenaged son, Donnie. This attention to family dynamics really enhanced the investigations and made me even more invested in the outcome.

Many of the players in this book were vividly brought to life by the narration by Mike Alger and I have to say his talents really shine here, particularly with regards to his evocation of tones and emotions. Anyone looking for their new favorite voiceover performer will be happily surprised by Mr. Alger.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2019.

About the Author

Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Thorny Rose, Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Chris Matheson Cold Case Mysteries—over twenty titles across four fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, crime fiction, police procedurals, romance, and humor.

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, and two spoiled rotten German shepherds on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Connect with the author:
Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook  ~  Instagram

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About the Narrator

Channel 2 Meteorologist Mike Alger joined KTVN-TV in May, 1989. Prior to that Mike had worked at KNDU-TV in Washington. Mike has provided northern Nevada “Weather Coverage You Can Count On” during the 1990 President’s Day Blizzard, the drought in the mid- 1990s, the New Year’s Flood of 1997 and the historic Snowstorms of 2005.

Mike has been married for more than 30 years and has two grown children. His hobbies include golf, music, biking, tennis, scuba diving, writing. He has written and published one novel and is working on a second. He is also a narrator of several audio books, and his work can be found on Audible.com.

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Follow the tour here.

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Giveaway

Win a $50 Amazon gift card courtesy of
Lauren Carr, author of the
The Lovers in Crime Mysteries.

Enter here.

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Book Review: Ice by Lauren Carr @TheMysteryLadie @BooksbyAcorn @iReadBookTours

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Title: Ice
Series: A Chris Matheson Cold Case Mystery #1
Author: Lauren Carr
Narrator: Mike Alger
Publication Date: April 25, 2018

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Purchase Links:
Audible // iTunes // Amazon

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Ice
A Chris Matheson Cold Case Mystery #1
Lauren Carr
Narrated by Mike Alger
Acorn Book Services, April 2018
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

When Sandy Lipton and her unborn child disappeared, the court of public opinion found young Chris Matheson guilty. Decades later, the retired FBI agent returns home to discover that the cloud of suspicion cast over him and his family has never lifted. 

With the help of a team of fellow retired law enforcement officers, each a specialist in their own field of investigation, Chris Matheson starts chipping away at the ice on this cold case to uncover what had happened to Sandy and her baby and the clues are getting hot!

When Chris Matheson’s wife was killed, he was left with three young daughters to raise, a difficult thing to do under any circumstances but much worse when you’re an active FBI agent. Chris retired and moved the family home to Harper’s Ferry, WV, to live with his mom, director of the town library. A few months later, his mother, Doris, decided he needed something to do with his time, to get him out and about, and the perfect thing for him is the mystery book club that meets at the library. Reluctant at first, Chris finally succumbs to the pressure and, once again, his life takes a significant turn.

This is not your normal mystery book club, you see, but a group of retired law enforcement who, on their own, look into cold cases. Known as the Geezer Squad, they’re reluctant, at first, to accept Chris into their ranks because, well, he’s not qualified because he’s not a geezer so he doesn’t have the experience needed to ferret out the truth of long-dormant cases. That irritates Chris, of course, but they work out their differences and set out to solve some cases. One of them is the case of the pregnant Sandy Lipton who went missing years ago and Chris was initially a prime suspect.

Multiple murders, truly appealing characters, cunning investigating, and sly humor, not to mention a bunch of highly entertaining animals (including a retired law enforcement canine), make this a terrific piece of crime fiction. It’s made even better by the narration by Mike Alger who does a wonderful job with various voices and intonations. I actually listened to the second book in the series before this one — https://cncbooksblog.wordpress.com/2019/05/28/book-review-winter-frost-by-lauren-carr/ — and my high opinion of Mr. Alger has only been solidified. Ice will be on my list of best books read in 2019 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2019.

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ICE is a strong start to a new series that will have fans of
Lauren Carr thrilled to be introduced to another set of memorable
and entertaining characters. Carr’s Geezer Squad has brought
sexy back to mature men and women, whose kickass attitude
and smarts sizzle as they melt the clues to those cold cases!”
Laura Fabiani, Library of Clean Reads

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About the Author

Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Thorny Rose, Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Chris Matheson Cold Case Mysteries—over twenty titles across four fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, crime fiction, police procedurals, romance, and humor.

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, and two spoiled rotten German shepherds on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Connect with the author:
Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook  ~  Instagram

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About the Narrator

Channel 2 Meteorologist Mike Alger joined KTVN-TV in May, 1989. Prior to that Mike had worked at KNDU-TV in Washington. Mike has provided northern Nevada “Weather Coverage You Can Count On” during the 1990 President’s Day Blizzard, the drought in the mid- 1990s, the New Year’s Flood of 1997 and the historic Snowstorms of 2005.

Mike has been married for more than 30 years and has two grown children. His hobbies include golf, music, biking, tennis, scuba diving, writing. He has written and published one novel and is working on a second. He is also a narrator of several audio books, and his work can be found on Audible.com.

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Follow the tour here.

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Giveaway

Win a $50 Amazon gift card courtesy of
Lauren Carr, author of the
The Chris Matheson Cold Case Mysteries.

Enter here.

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“For the whodunit mystery buff who loves ever-increasing
suspense and danger, Lauren Carr’s newest series offers up
a big dose of both. Murder and mayhem seem to be Chris’s
new companions after returning home following the loss
of both his wife and his father. Juggling the parenting
responsibilities of his three daughters with his mother is not
something Chris was expecting at this point in his life,
but life isn’t something that goes as planned.”
5-Star Review at Blooming with Books

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Book Review: Speak No Evil by Liana Gardner @lkgg @VesuvianMedia @partnersincr1me

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Title: Speak No Evil
Author: Liana Gardner
Publisher: Vesuvian Books
Publication Date: October 1, 2019
Genres: Mystery, Young Adult

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Amazon // Indiebound

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Speak No Evil
Liana Gardner
Vesuvian Books, October 2019
ISBN 978-1-944109-36-3
Hardcover

From the publisher—

What if every time you told the truth, evil followed?

My name is Melody Fisher. My daddy was a snake handler in Appalachia until Mama died. Though years have passed, I can still hear the rattle before the strike that took her from me.

And it’s all my fault.

Since then, I’ve been passed around from foster home to foster home. I didn’t think anything could be as bad as losing Mama.

I was wrong.

But I will not speak of things people have done to me. Every time I do, worse evil follows. Now, the only thing I trust is what saved me years ago.

Back when I would sing the snakes calm …

There’s a certain vibe that comes with the mere idea of snake handling, a vibe that is a mix of religious fundamentalism, backwoods living and a touch of macho man. Most of us can’t begin to really understand why people engage in the practice but there’s no doubt we’re fascinated by it.

The young Melody is a tragic figure whose life has been in a downward spiral ever since her mother was killed by one of her father’s snakes and, through backflashes, we see what has happened to this child over the years. It’s not surprising, really, that Melody has stopped speaking, especially since her voice, as beautiful as it is, has not served her well. Can she find a way to explain why she stabbed a classmate and will she find release in the music she has always loved?

Ms. Gardner spins a tale that is full of emotion of all sorts and I found an immediate connection to this young girl. Various subject matters could have been overwhelmingly dark but the author finds the right amount of light and I think I’ll remember this book for a long time.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2019.

An Excerpt from Speak No Evil

Uncle Harlan slammed my bedroom door open. “You’re going to learn to show the Lord respect, girl.” He grabbed my neck and forced me to walk in front of him.

My neck hurt where he dug his fingers in.

He took me outside and shoved me toward the shed. He slipped the key in the lock and removed it from the hasp. The door creaked as it opened and then he thrust me through.

“I’m not going to allow you to follow your mother’s footsteps. You’ll learn to make peace with snakes and not show them any fear. Or else.”

He grabbed a snake case from the shelf, put it on the ground, and opened it. He stepped backward out of the shed and swung the door shut. The latch clicked. Uncle Harlan on one side of the door, and the snake and me locked inside.

“I’ll come get you in time for school in the morning.”

His footsteps receded.

Light filtered through the cracks in the shed slats. In the dim light, the snake coiled in the corner, its tongue flicking out periodically. I slowly lowered to the ground and hugged Raksha Waya tight.

The inside of the shed was slightly warmer than outside. Staying warm might be a bigger problem than keeping the snake calm. It ignored me and remained coiled, but the cold seeped into my bones. I scanned the shelves. There had to be something in here I could use to help keep warm.

A tarp sat on a shelf on the opposite side of the shed from the snake. But I might not be tall enough to pull it down. Standing on tiptoes, I grabbed a corner and tugged. My fingers slipped. I set Rakkie on a lower shelf, then reached with both hands and tugged.

The weight of the tarp almost knocked me over as I caught it.

Making sure to keep my movements small so I didn’t threaten the snake, I unfolded the tarp and spread it out. Then I grabbed Rakkie and carefully crawled under a corner. Once settled with Rakkie on my lap, I pulled it over us and tucked it under my chin.

The hours passed as the light changed and moved through the shed. My tailbone ached and my back hurt from sitting still for so long. Twilight came. Surely Uncle Harlan didn’t really mean to leave me here with the snake all night.

When the darkness was complete and I could no longer see my hand in front of my face, I faced the hard truth—Uncle Harlan meant it. I’d spend the night locked in a small space with a pit viper.

While my toes still felt frozen, the rest of me was warmer with the tarp. My eyes drooped and closed. Then I heard it.

Hiss. Rattle. The whisper of something dragging across the floorboards.

The snake was on the move. The slight rattle as it slithered through the shed made my heart pound. I froze.

About the Author

Liana Gardner is the multi-award-winning author of 7th Grade Revolution (most recently the recipient of a 2018 Nautilus Book Award) and The Journal of Angela Ashby. The daughter of a rocket scientist and an artist, Liana combines the traits of both into a quirky yet pragmatic writer and in everything sees the story lurking beneath the surface.

Liana volunteers with high school students through EXP (expfuture.org). EXP unites business people and educators to prepare students for a meaningful place in the world of tomorrow. Working in partnership with industry and educators, EXP helps young people EXPerience, EXPand, and EXPlore.

Engaged in a battle against leukemia and lymphoma, Liana spends much of her time at home, but her imagination takes her wherever she wants to go.

Liana is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Catch Up With Liana Gardner On:
lianagardner.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Twitter, & Facebook!

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Follow the tour here.

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Giveaway

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted
by
Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours
for
Vesuvian Books and Liana Gardner.
There will
be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com
Gift Card and
2 winners of a signed print copy
of Speak No Evil
by Liana Gardner. The
giveaway begins on October 1, 2019
and
runs through December 2, 2019. Open to

U.S. addresses only. Void where prohibited.

Enter here.

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Book Reviews: State University of Murder by Lev Raphael and Cattle Kate by Jana Bommersbach @LevRaphael @PPPress

State University of Murder
A Nick Hoffman Mystery #9
Lev Raphael
Perseverance Press, April 2019
ISBN 978-1-56474-609-2
Trade Paperback

Satirical, amusing, sometimes funny, scalpel sharp and relentless, this Nick Hoffman murder story will engage most academics, offend a few and, in the bargain, offers up a classic who-dunnit. Raphael’s writing, as always, is incisive, often cutting and mostly to the point.

The author provides an extensive context of the lives of the two principal characters, Professor of Literature, Nicholas Hoffmann, a semi-professional investigator and his marriage and life partner, Stefan, also a professor at the State University of Michigan (SUM) and a highly thought-of successful crime novelist.

Their department has recently been renamed English and Creative Writing, in the apparently usual manner, by Trustees of the University with little or no faculty consultation. This gives the author opportunity to swing wider his cleaver of criticism, aimed at all members of the academic community, top to bottom. A new chair has also been named, a flamboyant, self-centered, egotistical man of letters from France. He endears himself immediately to all full-time and adjunct faculty by making a series of unilateral decisions without consultation, thus raising to untold levels the ire of the department. Hoffman deplores the new office spaces as well.

The author carefully introduces us to many department members and sets the stage for murder, pointing to faculty jealousies and resentments which abound on this campus. The story moves along at a reasonable pace, with many side trips to drinks, dinner, a dog and social activities. All of it is precisely and clearly written with many quips and even sarcastic references to the world at large.

The story is well-placed in the world of today and reflects accurately the author’s world view and that of a more compressed academic community. The mystery is solved, the murderer arrested and the academics return to their emotionally fraught tasks of educating eager young people.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, October 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.

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Cattle Kate
Jana Bommersbach
Poisoned Pen Press, October 2014
ISBN 978-1-4642-0302-2
Hardcover

Award-winning journalist and author, Bommersbach brings to this moving thoughtful novel, years of careful research, good writing and yes, a jaundiced eye. Those attributes are particularly important for this project because the author is directly confronting long-standing scurrilous myth about the subject of the novel, a woman named Ella Watson, and about the mythology of the settlement of the west.

Every child alive in America today as well as previous generations grew up on stories of the men who settled the western plains of North America in the years following the Civil War. There were strong mountain men, trappers, taciturn cowboys, sodbusters and cattlemen. Mostly missing from the narrative are the stories of the strong women who proved up on land grants, herded cattle and made homes for the men in their lives.

This is the story of once such strong woman, secretly married, who owned land in Wyoming Territory and was murdered, along with her husband on a July day in 1889. The couple was murdered by several landowners who claimed, along with help from local newspapers, that she was a pimp and a prostitute and a cattle rustler. Her attackers simply wanted her land and water rights.

The author meticulously tells the story of Ella Watson from her early life in Canada and Kansas to her death. Bommersbach’s canvas is broad and richly colored with the times, the trials and the triumphs of so many women on the frontier. The characters are clever and vividly portrayed. The pace at times slows to a thoughtful meander, but never loses focus. Here is a novel of the true old west to be read, savored and read again.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, December 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.

The Conviction of Cora Burns by Carolyn Kirby @novelcarolyn @dzancbooks

The Conviction of Cora Burns
Carolyn Kirby
Dzanc Books, March 2019
ISBN: 978-1945814846
Trade Paperback

Set in 1880s England, this is a rather horrifying story featuring chronic liars, the murder of a child by a child, of experimentation both mental and physical on unwilling victims, overwork and near starvation…in other words, a story of almost no hope. Sound depressing? Well, yes. But at the same time, it is a study in possible redemption. Is the violence within a convicted killer hereditary, or is it caused by being born in jail and the conditions of life following? Either way, can someone with a history like this change?

That’s what Cora Burns sets out to learn. But first, Cora will need to dig into a past that haunts her as she takes a job in the household of a gentleman-scientist making a study of these very questions. Most of all, Cora will have to discover if she can grow beyond her sordid past.

The book is well-written, well-paced, with excellent dialogue to carry the story along. The grim history of orphanage/workhouse/goal situations seems spot-on. Even the descriptions of pseudo-medical experimentation during those years strikes a chord and is well-researched. But it’s also a sad commentary on the human condition. Be prepared.

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

Book Review: Below the Radar by Dana Ridenour @ridenour_dana @Wiseink

Below The Radar
The Lexie Montgomery FBI Series #3
Dana Ridenour
Wise Ink Creative Publishing, August 2019
ISBN 978-1-63489-224-7
Trade Paperback

FBI Special Agent Lexie Montgomery is still recovering mentally from her previous undercover assignment. But when she is asked to take on a new one, her therapist, Dr.Levering, doesn’t think Lexie is ready to return to action. Lexie assures her she’s fine, adding she’s the only Agent available with the experience to take on this assignment. A Dutch Police Officer, working undercover with a group of eco-extremists, has gone missing and Lexie, who has worked and lived with a similar group in a previous undercover operation, knows their mindset and methods.

While her immediate supervisor isn’t pleased with her decision, Special Agent Adam Harper is eager for her to take this on and return to the field. Special Agent Harper has also been assigned Agent Blake Bennet, mainly for the purpose of keeping an eye on Lexie.

The Agents meet and Lexie fears that two people trying to infiltrate a terrorist group will make the operation more difficult, but Agent Harper is insistent. Two days later they are on their way to the Hague. After being briefed, Blake and Lexie travel to Amsterdam where they meet up with a man who will take them to the Gathering (a meeting of protestors,) and introduce them to a few members of the eco-extremeists and persuade them they are as eager to join their group with the hope they will find out what has become of the missing Police Officer.

Blake and Lexie play their part well and are invited to join the inner group at their private camp. At this camp their phones are confiscated, but as they settle in and meet the other members of the group, there is no sign of the missing Policeman. Lexie seems to have a better handle on how to behave and the leader of the group, Holden, takes a fancy to her. Blake, however, finds himself on the outs with the possibility that he might be sent packing.

Initially the assignment to find and hopefully rescue the missing policeman had a certain urgency. And while there was a level of tension in the story once Lexie and Blake arrived at the inner camp, little progress was made. Whatever the extremists were planning came across as vague. Yes, they were up to something…but with little detail of their plan the urgency was lost.

While I understand that any type of undercover is undoubtedly a slow process, this story seemed to be going nowhere. Initially the assignment had seemed urgent to find the missing policeman, I never fully engaged in the plot and the ending came across as rather flat.

Just My Humble Opinion.
Respectfully submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, August 2019.

Book Review: A Baby’s Bones by Rebecca Alexander @RebAlexander1 @TitanBooks

A Baby’s Bones
Sage Westfield Book 1
Rebecca Alexander
Titan Books, May 2018
ISBN 978-1-7856-5621-7
Trade Paperback

Archaeologist Sage Westfield is excavating a sixteenth century well near a listed building, Bramble Cottage, on the Isle of Wight. Expecting to find only some pieces of pottery and maybe some animal bones, she and her two students, Elliott Robinson and Stephanie Beatson, uncover human bones. Two skeletons, that of a woman and an infant, are covered under a pile of rubbish. The bones are at least four hundred years old, and Sage is curious to discover how they ended up in the well. There are tales of witchcraft and a haunted house on the property, and a grave with the inscription “Damozel” hidden in the woods.

While Sage works on the dig, she is also facing problems in her personal life. Six months pregnant, she has recently broken up with her married lover, and is planning to raise the child on her own. Marcus, her lover, has other ideas, and keeps inserting himself into her life. While on the dig, she meets the local vicar, Nick Haydon. and can’t help thinking about him.

Told in alternating chapters—the contemporary story of the dig and the story from the 1500s about Lord Banstock’s daughter Viola’s wedding preparations—this book will appeal to readers of Barbara Mertz, Dana Cameron, and Lyn Hamilton. Alexander has a particularly deft way with description; the vicar is described as “handsome in a 1950s, knitting pattern way.”

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, August 2019.