Book Review: Premeditated Peppermint by Amanda Flower

Premeditated Peppermint
An Amish Candy Shop Mystery #3
Amanda Flower
Kensington Books, October 2018
ISBN: 978-1-4967-0643-0
Mass Market Paperback

New York chocolatier Bailey King has moved to Amish country to help her Amish grandmother with her sweet shop. It’s Christmas and the shop is terrifically busy, as this is the most profitable part of year. Tourists are lining up to visit the picturesque village. This rather frenetic time is rudely interrupted when an old flame of Bailey’s shows up. He’s supported by a film crew bent on taking over the candy shop to create a Christmas special TV show. Everything Amish is all the rage right now. Trouble is, Bailey’s and Eric Sharp’s break-up was not especially amicable, and she is not at all pleased to see him. And the fact Bailey’s new beau, Deputy Aiden Brody, might take offense is also a consideration. What a set-up, right?

Then the show’s producer is murdered in the town center and a plethora of suspects is rounded up. Chief among them is Eric Sharp. Everything points to him but, much as she now dislikes him, Bailey doesn’t think he did it, and sets out to discover the true murderer.

The story is filled with quirky characters. My personal favorite is Jethro. Uh, Jethro the polka-dotted pig. There are plenty of suspects to point a finger at, as well as plenty of regular folks. The plot is convoluted enough to hold your interest, and of course, the writing is excellent. For someone who doesn’t know a lot about the Amish and their customs, this is a way to provide some education in the best possible way–with a story.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, October 2018.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder, Four Furlongs and Hometown Homicide.

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Book Review: A Perfect Shot by Robin Yocum—and a Giveaway!

A Perfect Shot
Robin Yocum
Seventh Street Books, April 2018
ISBN: 978-1-63388-417-5
Trade Paperback

Fans of Chuck Logan may find this book an attractive addition to their library of crime thrillers. Yocum tends toward the more brutal and darker side of the genre, but there are definite similarities.

Decades after his last-minute basket to help the Mingo Junction Indians win the Ohio state high school basketball championship, Duke Ducheski has finally realized his dream—to open a fine restaurant in his home town and get out of the steel mill that dominates his home town. He also pledges to himself to avoid becoming involved with the nasty crime family that rules the valley.

Steel manufacturing in this Ohio valley is not the only enterprise dominating the town. The other presence is the mob, a tight-knit group of entrepreneurs who control the gambling, drug sales and prostitution action in town. The mob boss is aging Salvatore Antonelli. His principal enforcer is a local boy named Tony DeMarco.

When Duke opens his restaurant with some assistance from his long-time high school buddies Moonie and Angel, things are looking up for the forty-year old divorced mill worker, and then he disappears. His disappearance is triggered by an elaborate plan concocted by Duke to rid himself of the heavy arm of Tony DeMarco, and of other obligations. He enlists the aid of former school buddies and a grandfather-like figure who owns an established bar in town.

For anyone who has experienced small-town dynamics, long-time established disagreements and feuds, the slow revolutions of time and the maturation of certain individuals, rings true. The author has established a true town character, as well as the characters of both principal and peripheral players.

The novel is characteristic of the author’s work, painstakingly detailed, accurately nuanced, as is the dialogue. There are several violent encounters throughout the novel, most of which result in reduction of the population.

Everything in the book is true to the premise and well written. Fans of this style of crime fiction should be very happy and I recommend the novel.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, March 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.

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Book Review: Best Day Ever by Kaira Rouda

Best Day Ever
Kaira Rouda
Graydon House, September 2017
ISBN 978-1-5258-1140-1
Hardcover

From the publisher:   Paul Strom has the perfect life:  a glittering career as an advertising executive, a beautiful wife, two healthy boys and a big house in a wealthy suburb.  And he’s the perfect husband:  breadwinner, protector, provider.  That’s why he’s planned a romantic weekend for his wife, Mia, at their lake house, just the two of them.  And he’s promised today will be the best day ever.  But as Paul and Mia drive out of the city and toward the countryside, a spike of tension begins to wedge itself between them and doubts start to arise.  How much do they trust each other?  And how perfect is their marriage, or any marriage, really?  Forcing us to ask ourselves just how well we know those who are closest to us, “Best Day Ever” crackles with dark energy, spinning over tighter towards its shocking conclusion . . . . a gripping, tautly suspenseful tale of deception and betrayal dark enough to destroy a marriage . . . or a life.”

 

The novel begins at 9 AM on its fateful day, continues at intervals ranging from half an hour to an hour and a half, on that same day, with the penultimate chapter taking place at 4:45 AM the next morning, and the final chapter one year later, with Mia saying, a few pages before its end, “This day would forever be the start of the rest of my life.  The best day ever, in fact, just not the one Paul envisioned.”

An understatement, to say the least.

Paul and Mia have been together for nearly ten years, their youngest boy now six, and have what Paul deems to be a “traditional suburban household.,” with Paul as the breadwinner and Mia raising the boys and taking care of the house.  They have left their beautiful home in Columbus, Ohio for a somewhat earlier visit to their lakeside home in a town called Lakeside, located on a peninsula, halfway between Toledo and Cleveland, at the edge of Lake Erie, the shallowest Great Lake in the US, we are told, “in a place where nothing bad ever happens.”  And just the two of them, with the boys in the care of their sitter.  Perfection, it seems, until Mia tells Paul she is seriously considering accepting a job she has been offered, something totally unacceptable to Paul on so many levels.  Slowly things begin to disintegrate, and Paul finds himself undertaking “Operation Make Mia Love Me Completely Again Tonight,” something he never anticipated.  At dinner, he makes a toast:  “Happy best day ever.”  But things go downhill from there, including a couple of things the reader never could have guessed.

The book has been called “a riveting psychological thriller about the perfect marriage.”  The writing is gripping and suspenseful, with an ending you won’t see coming.  This is a well-written, fascinating novel, and it is recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, December 2017.

Book Review: A Welcome Murder by Robin Yocum

A Welcome Murder
Robin Yocum
Seventh Street Books, April 2017
ISBN: 978-1-63388-263-8
Trade Paperback

Steubenville, Ohio, residents come front and center in this engaging if somewhat rambling novel of drug dealing, infidelity, teen-aged pranks, civic wrong-doing and, of course, murder. Hence the title. While the title refers to a single death, several other characters would be cheerfully done away with by many readers.

That doesn’t take anything away from the delightful atmosphere created by the author with fine, accurate writing and an insouciance rarely found in crime fiction. Johnny Earl is a BMIT, a big man in town with a spectacular athletic career in high school and serious prospects for a pro career in baseball. A knee injury wipes that out and Earl returns to Steubenville where he fashions a new career selling cocaine and other illegal drugs.

Busted, he serves seven years. Now released, Earl returns to his home town intent on retrieving a large stash of cash he secreted in a bolt hole in case he had to leave town quickly, a plan interrupted by Earl’s arrest and imprisonment.

Several of his school classmates, a wandering wife or two and various law enforcement agencies tangle over his maneuverings and then, the man who nailed Earl is murdered. He is a most hated man and there are several suspects from the Sheriff, a classmate of Johnny, to the sheriff’s wife, Earl‘s lover, and two convicts Earl encountered while in prison.

Those two are neo-Nazis, planning to create a separate white male-dominated nation within the boundaries of the United States. They are after Johnny’s cash stash.

Eventually things get sorted, the FBI agents are sent packing, as are the nasty neo-Nazis, the killer is revealed, and….well, does Johnny get his cash? Read the book. I recommend it.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, August 2017.
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 Reviews: The Final Vow by Amanda Flower and Sip by Brian Allen Carr

The Final Vow
A Living History Museum Mystery #3
Amanda Flower
Midnight Ink, May 2017
ISBN 978-0-7387-4592-3
Trade Paperback

A hugely important wedding is taking place at the Barton Farm Living History Museum. Museum director Kelsey Cambridge is in charge of corroborating with the wedding planner to make sure everything goes smoothly. Tough times. Not only are they contending with a supreme bridezilla, but the wedding planner gets thrown from the church steeple.

Turns out Vianna Pine was not only rather unpleasant, but was almost as demanding as her clients. Not only that, she’d just found out she was the real heiress to the Barton Farm property and people are running scared. Plenty motive for murder.

Meanwhile, Kelsey is under time restraints to have the murder solved before the wedding and so, predictably, she takes a hand in the investigation. The catch? Her ex-husband is the bridezilla’s groom.

I admit I found myself annoyed with Kelsey. For a character supposedly in charge of a project like the living history museum, I thought she lacked backbone. I’d like to have seen her much stronger and more decisive. A great many of her employees, to whom she was so loyal, were thoroughly unpleasant. And the motive for the murder seemed too light. The chemistry between Kelsey and her boyfriend Chase was almost non-existent, seemingly thrown in because she needs a romantic interest.

Even so, the book moves along at a lively pace, and is clean fun read for a summer evening.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, August 2017.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder and Four Furlongs.

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Sip
Brian Allen Carr
Soho Press, August 2017
ISBN 978-1-61695-827-5
Hardcover

What a premise! Mr. Carr has an extraordinarily creative mind to have come up with the idea of people who get high by drinking their own shadow. A sort of disease afflicting one child quickly took over the world, with only small pockets of non-addicted people. Soon, certain factions moved into domes and shut the addicts out. Trains began running in circles⏤I’ve got to admit I never did figure out the purpose of this⏤and folks began cutting off limbs and drinking the shadows these arms and legs made. Violence, destruction, and death became commonplace. And apparently nobody cared.

Except Mira, whose shadow has been stolen, and is friends with Murk, who is an addict, and they are joined by Bale, a “domer” who was thrown off a train to die because he wasn’t murderous enough. Together, they go on a quest to discover a cure to the shadow addiction, but there’s a time problem. They have to find it before the return of Halley’s Comet in just a few days.

What did I think of this story? To tell the truth, I’m not quite sure. I keep asking myself why? Why would anybody do the things they do, or think the things they think. But then I turn on the news or read a paper and it all becomes almost logical.

The characters in this story are strong personalities, each and every one. The dialogue is sharp, the frequent obscenities seeming normal in context. There are twists and turns and puzzles at every point, so you don’t dare miss a word. And the end makes sense. Don’t expect this novel to give you the warm fuzzies, by any means. But be assured this is a book that will make you think, and that you won’t forget⏤ever.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, September 2017.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder and Four Furlongs.

Book Review: An Unconventional Mr. Peadlebody by D.L. Gardner

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Book Review: June by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore—and a Giveaway!

JuneJune
Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
Crown, May 2016
ISBN 978-0-553-44768-2
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Twenty-five-year-old Cassie Danvers is holed up in her family’s crumbling mansion in rural St. Jude, Ohio, mourning the loss of the woman who raised her—her grandmother, June. But a knock on the door forces her out of isolation. Cassie has been named the sole heir to legendary matinee idol Jack Montgomery’s vast fortune. How did Jack Montgomery know her name? Could he have crossed paths with her grandmother all those years ago? What other shocking secrets could June’s once-stately mansion hold?

Soon Jack’s famous daughters come knocking, determined to wrestle Cassie away from the inheritance they feel is their due. Together, they all come to discover the true reasons for June’s silence about that long-ago summer, when Hollywood came to town, and June and Jack’s lives were forever altered by murder, blackmail, and betrayal. As this page-turner shifts deftly between the past and present, Cassie and her guests will be forced to reexamine their legacies, their definition of family, and what it truly means to love someone, steadfastly, across the ages.

When I first started reading June, I have to admit I was thinking I might be sorry because the opening pages smack of magical realism and I REALLY don’t like that. Happily, though, I pushed on and the story soon became a pretty straightforward tale, albeit set in two time periods 60 years apart. The POV in 1955 is from a girl named Lindie whose best friend, and object of her affection, is June. In present day, the focus is on June’s grandaughter, Cassie. It’s during Lindie’s and June’s time that we get the first hint of the dark things that happened back then.

These three young women are each very interesting in different ways. June appears to be the proper daughter raised in gentility who never breaks the rules and always does what’s expected of her. Lindie is the girl exploring her lesbianism and she goes overboard in trying to make herself unattractive, perhaps an effort to play down her girlness. And then there’s Cassie who initially seems to be in the grip of a deep depression, unable to cope with the necessities of everyday life, but she’s soon rocked out of her somber, uncaring mood by the news that she has inherited a huge fortune from a man who claimed he was her grandfather.

The coming battle between Cassie and Jack Montgomery’s acknowledged family is just what you might expect but her search for the facts leads to answers she certainly never anticipated and it’s June’s and Lindie’s stories that are really compelling.

Beautifully written prose and easy transitions from one time period to the other and back add to characters who are as appealing as any reader could want. Author Miranda Beverly-Whittemore, unknown to me before now, already has a reputation as a fine writer and June should be seen as another feather in her cap.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2016.

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About the Author

Miranda Beverly-WhittemoreMiranda Beverly-Whittemore is the author of three other novels: New York Times bestseller Bittersweet; Set Me Free, which won the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize, given annually for the best book of fiction by an American woman; and The Effects of Light. A recipient of the Crazyhorse Prize in Fiction, she lives and writes in Brooklyn.

Connect with Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

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To enter the drawing for
a print copy of June by
Miranda Beverly-Whittemore,
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The winning
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This drawing
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