Book Reviews: Love Lies Bleeding by Jess McConkey, Where All the Dead Lie by J. T. Ellison, Fever Dream by Dennis Palumbo, Collateral Damage by H. Terrell Griffin, and No Bells by F.M. Meredith

Love Lies Bleeding
Jess McConkey
William Morrow, July 2011
ISBN No. 978-0-06-199968-0
Trade Paperback

Love Lies Bleeding has a little bit of everything to offer.  A bit of mystery, a little bit of woo woo and a good cast of characters.

Samantha Moore has lived a very successful life.  Samantha holds a prominent position in her father’s company and is engaged to Jackson, a man who had presented her with a beautiful diamond and a promise of a wonderful life.

Then  tragedy hit. Samantha is attacked when leaving work and is in a coma for sometime.  When she awakes from the coma, she is quite a different person.  She repeatedly relives the attack and rebels against the medication prescribed for her.  The meds make her sick and forgetful.

Jackson and Samantha’s father decide that Samantha needs to spend some quiet time to recover and rent a cottage for her in a quiet town.  Spirits from the past seem to haunt the cottage and Samantha begins to believe that she is losing all control over her life.

When Anne Weaver decides to take the position as nurse to Samantha, both lives are changed. The two clash but soon find a middle ground and Samantha begins on her road to recovery.  Samantha also bit by bit pieces together the history of the cottage she is living in and reveals a long buried mystery.

The author, Jess McConkey, also writes under the name of Shirley Damsgaard.    I found this book to be a very fast read.  I will be anxious to read more stories by Jess McConkey.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, October 2011.

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Where All the Dead Lie
J.T. Ellison
Mira, September 2011
ISBN No. 978-0778312680
Trade Paperback

This is my first Taylor Jackson novel but it won’t be my last.  The story grabs the reader and doesn’t let go until the entire story is revealed.

Taylor Jackson is a Nashville, Tennessee homicide detective.  Taylor is recovering from a case where she was shot in the head and fellow officers were injured.  Taylor has lost her ability to speak.  It is unclear whether the loss of speech is caused by the injury or by the guilt Taylor is feeling because she didn’t do more to help her best friend who lost her child because of the case that brought about Taylor’s injury.

Against the advice of Taylor’s fiancée, Dr. John Baldwin, she accepts the offer of Memphis Highsmythe, an old friend, for Taylor to recuperate in his family’s estate in Scotland.  Taylor knows that Memphis has romantic feelings towards her but feels that she is strong enough to handle any advances he might possibly make.  Highsmythe is a detective inspector with the Metropolitan Police in London and Taylor and Memphis have a lot in common.

Memphis introduces Taylor to Madeira James, a doctor friend, in the hope that she can be of help to Taylor with the problem with her voice but Taylor begins to believe that Madeira is not to be trusted.

The trip to Scotland turns into a real adventure with even a ghost or two making an appearance.  Even though Taylor’s voice is giving her problems, she is able to sift through all the strange happenings and solve the puzzle presented to her in Scotland.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, November 2011.

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Fever Dream
Dennis Palumbo
Poisoned Pen Press, November 2011
ISBN No. 978-1590589595
Trade Paperback

“Treva Williams, the only hostage to be released, sat on the curb beyond the cordoned-off area, wrapped in an EMT blanket.”  This sentence is the opening line in Fever Dream and immediately captures the reader’s sympathy for Treva.

Meanwhile, Detective Eleanor Lowrey is on the phone to Daniel Rinaldi, psychologist.  Rinaldi is also a trauma expert and consults with the Pittsburgh police.  Detective Lowrey asks Rinaldi to come right away to the scene of a bank robbery that has gone bad.  The criminals are still inside the bank but one hostage, Treva Williams, has been released.   Treva is badly traumatized and Detective Lowrey is hoping that Rinaldi can perform some magic that will calm Treva and help the police in their handling of the standoff situation.

When Rinaldi arrives on the scene he is able to immediately connect with Treva and learn a little more about the situation inside the bank.  Then suddenly everything explodes as shots ring out and police converge on the scene.  Rinaldi promises Treva to ride to the hospital with her in the ambulance, though he is prevented from keeping that promise.

Rinaldi works with Detective Lowrey and Sgt. Harry Polk, another investigating officer, but Polk’s mind seems to be someplace other than the investigation and at times he drops out of sight and doesn’t appear where he is supposed to be.

When District Attorney Leland Sinclair receives a death threat, Rinaldi begins to wonder if there is a connection between the situation at the bank and the DA Sinclair’s current political campaign.  Rinaldi continues to stay in touch with Treva.   She is released from the hospital but Treva is still suffering from the traumatic events of the robbery, including the murder of her boyfriend, Bobby Marks, as she looked on.

The story is complicated but Dennis Palumbo pulls all the pieces together for an exciting and surprise conclusion.  This is the second book in the Daniel Rinaldi series.  I haven’t read Mirror Image, the first book in the series but I do intend to correct that soon.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, December 2011.

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Collateral Damage
Matt Royal Series
H. Terrell Griffin
Oceanview Publishing, December 2011
ISBN No. 978-1608090266
Hardcover

This newest addition to the Matt Royal series manages to keep the reader on pins and needles until the very end of the book.  Matt is an attorney living in Longboat Key, Florida.  Matt has pretty much given up the practice of law and is just enjoying a leisurely life.

Jim Desmond, a young groom,  is killed on the beach in Longboat Key the day following his wedding.  On the same day three other murders occur on a local dinner cruise.  Longboat Key detective and close friend of Matt, Jennifer Diane Duncan (J. D.) isn’t coming up with any answers.  The groom was from Atlanta.  One of the victims killed on the dinner cruise was a lawyer from Jacksonville, Peter Garrison.  Another victim was a twenty-five year old woman from Charlotte, North Carolina.  The third victim was the Captain of the dinner cruise.

Matt is puzzled by the deaths but has no reason to become involved until an old buddy from Matt’s years in VietNam  stops by for a visit.  Charles T. Desmond (“Doc”) reveals that the young man killed was his son.  Doc pressures Matt to file a civil case in order to gather evidence that the police can’t access and hopefully find out who killed Jim.  Doc agrees that any evidence that is turned up from the civil action can be turned over to the prosecutors.  Matt finds it difficult to say no to a man that saved his life so he agrees to take on the case.

Logan Hamilton and Jock Algren, Matt’s friends, join Matt  to help with the investigation and the clues keep Matt on the move.  More and more it seems that the deaths are part of some international plot.  Before Matt and his friends can discover what is really going on there are more unexplained deaths and Matt fears for the life of J. D.

This sixth addition to the Matt Royal series is very good.   It is not necessary to read previous Matt Royal novels prior to reading  Collateral Damage but each book in the series reveals more  about Matt Royal and the crew that usually steps up to help him out.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, April 2012.

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No Bells
F. M. Meredith
Oak Tree Press/Dark Oak Mysteries, March 2012
ISBN No. 978-1610090865
Trade Paperback

Gordon Butler is a member of the Rocky Bluff Police Department.  Nothing ever seems to go Gordon’s way.   He is single and previously lived with another officer on the force, Doug Milligan.  When Doug married Stacey Wilbur, Gordon moved in with Stacey’s parents.  Where relationships are concerned, Doug always seems to be on the outside looking in at other people’s happiness.  Not so in the latest Rocky Bluff mystery.  Doug finally works up the courage to ask Benay Weiss for a date and she accepts.  Now Gordon and Benay are spending a lot of time together.

Gordon receives an early morning phone call from Benay and she is very upset.  Her best friend Geri Rowe has disappeared.  Geri’s husband Philip called Benay to see if she had any information about Geri.

Gordon’s first case of the day takes him to the scene of a murder.  Some teenagers have found the body of a woman and Gordon immediately thinks of Geri.   The body does turn out to be that of Benay’s best friend.  As the investigation goes forward Gordon’s girlfriend, Benay, becomes the number one suspect.  Gordon knows in his heart that Benay couldn’t be guilty and he makes up his mind that he will find out the identity of the real killer.

Risking his reputation as well as his job, Gordon covers the calls assigned to him during working hours and spends his time off attempting to discover everything he can about Geri, her husband and who might have a motive to end Geri’s life.

There are some humorous sections in the book and updates on other members of the Rocky Bluff residents.  You will have to read the book to know if Gordon’s courageous efforts on Benay’s part bring him the respect and appreciation he deserves.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, June 2012.

Book Review: A Fair to Die For by Radine Trees Nehring—And A Giveaway!

A Fair To Die For
Radine Trees Nehring
Oak Tree Press, February 2012
ISBN No. 9781610091220
Trade Paperback

Carrie McCrite and Henry King have their own little patch of paradise in scenic Arkansas.  The couple are enjoying their early years of marriage although both are senior citizens.  They have a comfortable home, a close circle of friends and it would seem the couple is living a life that many would envy.

It comes as a shock to Carrie when she receives a phone call from a woman who identifies herself as Edie, Carrie’s cousin.  Edie asks for Carrie Culpepper, which is Carrie’s maiden name.   Carrie has no recollection of this woman but Edie plows ahead telling Carrie her name was Edith Embler and started explaining her connection to Carrie and how she had managed to trace Carrie.   Edie’s statements could be true but then again it might be a well-rehearsed story.  Carrie discusses the phone call with Henry and they decide to invite the woman to lunch and learn more about who she is and why she is contacting Carrie now.  The first thing Carrie begins to worry about is what to have for lunch.  Henry solved that little problem by contacting his friend Chef John Bohnert who offered several suggestions.

Edie arrived as agreed and attempted to explain her background and why she was in the area.  It seems that Edie’s father may have been involved in some illegal drug scheme.  Carrie had never used drugs nor had Henry who is an ex-police officer.  They are both shocked by what Edie has told them about her father.  Before Edie’s visit ends, Carrie and Henry are going to have a lot to be shocked about and find themselves in some very dangerous positions.

Although Edie is invited to stay with Carrie and Henry, she insisted that she had a reservation at a local hotel.   They made plans to meet the next morning and go to War Eagle Mill, a local attraction that is having a craft fair beginning the next week.

This simple lunch and plans to visit War Eagle begin a series of events that reveal “Cousin Edie” may be involved with some dangerous people and her connection to Carrie and Henry place the couple as well as some of their friends in danger.    Carrie helps her friend sell her wares at the fair and while helping makes some inquiries among the other vendors.  These inquiries lead some people to believe that Carrie knows more about their affairs than is actually the truth.

You will have to read A Fair To Die For to learn how Carrie and Henry manage to find out the real story behind “Cousin Edie”.  This is just one of the books in the series that take the reader into the world of Carrie and Henry.  Once you’ve read the couple’s story and meet their friends through the pages of Nehring‘s books you will want to visit the locations so wonderfully described in these books.  You will also want to read the entire series and wait impatiently for the next novel.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, May 2012.

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Book Review: Dumpster Dying by Lesley A. Diehl

Dumpster DyingDumpster Dying
Lesley A. Diehl
Oak Tree Press/Dark Oak Mysteries, 2011
ISBN 978-1-61009-006-3
Trade Paperback

Dumpster Dying by Lesley A. Diehl, is a smartly-paced page turner, with more attractions than a three-ring circus.  Ms. Diehl, who must be a juggler in her spare time, keeps many plates spinning in the air, in the form of plot twists and multi-layered character studies.

Diehl’s accomplishment lies in not making Dumpster Dying a confusing blur of people and situations, but in creating a solid backdrop of Central Florida life, a cowboy life that has all but faded into the past, paired with the golfing life of the country clubs of today, and then bringing out the foibles of the native flora and fauna, which both complement and conflict with one another.

Emily, a snowbird who is in peril from page one, is bar tending in order to eat and keep a roof over her head, while she fights in court over the contested will of her deceased life partner.  So much for what she thought would be her golden years.  Murder, the secret lives of close friends, and the unexpected arrival of adult children further complicate Emily’s life. The old south, and Florida is the old south, has its own way of taking care of business, as Emily and the reader soon find out.

Reviewed by Marta Chausée, October 2011.