Teeny Book Reviews: The Glass Thief by Gigi Pandian and Edisto Tidings by C. Hope Clark @GigiPandian @HeneryPress @hopeclark @Bellebooks

The Glass Thief
A Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery #6
Gigi Pandian
Henery Press, November 2019
ISBN 978-1-63511-555-0
Trade Paperback

When I read the first Jaya Jones mystery, I thought, “Aha, the lady version of Indiana Jones!” and I’ve been a big fan ever since. After that first book, I’ve gone on a number of adventures with historian Jaya and have enjoyed every one of them.

This time, our treasure-hunting, ghostbusting heroine gets dragged into a locked room mystery involving a French family with a sordid history of Cambodian treasure looting, a resident ghost and several murders that have all (coincidentally?) occurred in their mansion two nights before Christmas. Perhaps most puzzling, a famous novelist is writing a new book and needs her help in a very odd way. Not only that, Jaya’s boyfriend, Lane, throws her for a loop and may have brought their relationship to an abrupt end.

The story takes place in San Francisco, Paris and the exotic land of Cambodia and I felt like an armchair traveler the whole time because Ms. Pandian is so good with settings. Jaya is on the hunt for the elusive Serpent King sculpture which has mysteriously vanished from the Delacroix home and the twists and turns abound, enough to keep me on tenterhooks as I waffled from one possible solution to another. That’s another thing the author does well—dream up a boatload of threads that may or may not connect to each other.

As always, Jaya’s friends are appealing and as well drawn as you could possibly want although Jaya is on her own through much of the tale. By the way, anyone with a taste for scrumptious food will be drooling over the dishes the author has everyone chowing down on—as I write this, I’m craving some mouthwatering Indian delicacies 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2020.

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Edisto Tidings
An Edisto Island Mystery #6
C. Hope Clark
Bell Bridge Books, October 2019
ISBN 978-1-61194-956-8
Trade Paperback

As you can see, I’m a little out of season with this book as the story takes place at Christmas but, never you mind, a good story is a good story no matter when, right?

And a good one this is. Police Chief Callie Morgan is called to the scene of a murder—or is it a murder? There’s a body for sure, and it was found on a vacant lot owned by a contentious local, but there’s a very personal twist in that the victim is her biological mother’s husband. Obviously, Sarah, Callie’s mother, has to be a prime suspect along with the lot’s owner who also knew the victim.

Meanwhile, Callie also has to deal with a number of thefts that seem to be perpetrated by Santa. Somebody is stealing Christmas presents but might have an altruistic if criminal purpose. The resort town’s short-term rental visitors will be leaving in a few days and, if any of them are involved in these crimes, Callie’s timing had better be good. Fortunately, some of her friends are quite helpful when it comes to solving crimes and the police department staff is intelligent and reliable.

I really like this series, largely because Callie is so normal; she’s not on a power trip, she has heavy-duty baggage but is coping as well as one could hope, she’s smart as a whip and she cares about her job and the people she serves. Callie is a former big city cop so she has some skills not always easily found in small town departments but she also knows that the people of Edisto Island are not the least bit backward or dumb. In other words, she fits in well.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2020.

Book Reviews: Black Site by Philip Mudd and November Road by Lou Berney @RoguePhilMudd @LiverightPub @Lou_Berney @WmMorrowBooks

Black Site
The CIA in the Post-9/11 World

Philip Mudd
Liveright Publishing, July 2019
ISBN 978-1-63149-197-9
Hardcover

Here is an eye-opening, compelling inside narrative of our premiere intelligence agency during one of the most upsetting periods in the life of our nation. Remember that the Central Intelligence Agency was not very old when Al-Qaeda flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and literally shocked the American public to its core. In intelligence and political circles especially, the question arose: is there a plan to protect us against a second attack?

None of the law enforcement and counter-intelligence operations in our government could answer that question with any assurance and the political organizations of the nation were peopled with a lot of very nervous individuals.

Written in the third person, by a former executive in the CIA and at the White House, and also at one time an executive at the FBI, the author has a deep experience with the changing mores and culture of the intelligence world pre- and post-9/11 world. He draws on his knowledge of the important players at all levels from the Oval Office to some of the regular workers at Langley, striving to make sense of ever-increasing flows of information.

The Central Intelligence Agency was never planned as a keeper of prisoners. It had no jails and it had no protocols to deal with high or low value prisoners who had been members of the CIA’s principal target, Al-Qaeda. Author Philip Mudd follows the torturous path of interrogation techniques through the Department of Justice, the politicians and the operators, agents and analysts of the agency, the creation of black site jails and much of the rising and falling tension and shifting attitudes throughout the nation.

From it’s very first incident to the final conclusion this is a riveting exploration of the secret and the prosaic world of intelligence gathering.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, August 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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November Road
Lou Berney
William Morrow, October 2018
ISBN 978-0-06-266384-9
Hardcover

A powerful, engaging crime novel of unusual breadth and perception: the story is a kind of road novel, involving a savvy canny New Orleans mob facilitator named Frank Guidry and an ordinary Oklahoma housewife and mother of extraordinary grit and talent.

Charlotte, mother of two small girls, is married to a husband who seems stuck in a bottle of booze and she’s frustrated with her work limitations and life in general.

It’s November 1963, and readers may remember what happened in Dealey Plaza in Dallas. The assassination of President Kennedy sends Guidry to Dallas to retrieve an unused get-away-car he assumes was parked there to be used by an assassin. Real life interfered with mob plans and Guidry is expected to clean up loose ends. He divines that he is a loose end to the New Orleans mob and takes a runner.

In Oklahoma, one more drunken episode with her husband and a putdown by the local newspaper editor is the final insult and Charlotte packs up her children and departs for the west coast.

Weather and fate bring these two adults together down the road and new adventures ensue as Charlotte and Frank meet and grow ever closer. The time period is the weeks immediately after the Kennedy assassination and Charlotte still plans to make it to Los Angeles with her daughters. Of course, other forces are at play, other characters have different plans. Carefully and thoughtfully with excellent attention to pace and environment, the author carries readers along and steadily draws us into his unique world.

This is an excellent crime novel in every aspect. NOVEMBER ROAD is not a bang-bang-shoot-up with ever increasing time-sensitive tension. The tension, and there is plenty, lies in the author’s attention to important detail and the smooth artistry of his narration as well as the thoughtful and understandable conclusions.

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.

Book Review: Forty Dead Men by Donis Casey

Forty Dead Men
An Alafair Tucker Mystery #10
Donis Casey
Poisoned Pen Press, February 2018
ISBN 978-1-4642-0937-6
Hardcover

This latest of the Alafair Tucker mysteries sees Alafair’s son, Gee Dub, home from WWI.  Unfortunately, although he reconnects with his large family and puts on a good face, Alafair knows something is wrong with her strong, quiet son. When he finds a young woman in a field behaving oddly and brings her home to his mother, the situation only grows worse. Alafair befriends the woman, but then a murder is committed and suspicion falls on Gee Dub. Even Alafair has her doubts when she finds an ammunition case that generally holds forty bullets, but now holds only one, which then goes missing.

Soldiers have always suffered from PTSD. In WWI it was called shell shock and Gee Dub has more reason to suffer from it than many. He often struggles with what is real and what is not, but even so, this story holds some surprising twists and turns.

This is a powerful story of family, love and kindness, and hardship, too. Not to be missed.

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

A Passel of Teeny Reviews Part 1

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.

Don’t Get Mad, Get Even
Colin Goodwin
2QT Limited, July 2015
ISBN 978-1-910077-60-3
Trade Paperback

This book had me chuckling quite a bit with its premise—blackmailing an English village’s cricket club to either win  a trophy or lose its playing ground. Along with this audacious crime, we have village ladies who truly appreciate the hired ringer’s skills and a shady real estate development plan. It’s all great fun even with sabotage and perhaps a little murder.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2017.

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Cat in an Alphabet Endgame
The Midnight Louie Mysteries #28
Carole Nelson Douglas
Wishlist Publishing, August 2016
ISBN 978-1-943175-05-5
Trade Paperback

I confess, I put off reading this as long as I possibly could, so long I’m really embarrassed but I just did NOT want to see the end of this series I love so much. I didn’t want to know who Temple would marry, didn’t want all the little loose ends tied up in neat bows. Midnight Louie is the alpha and omega of feline sleuths and I adore his hardboiled, attitudinous self and, even knowing he was going to continue in different adventures sometime in the future, letting go was so very hard. But…I eventually had to give in and, of course, I enjoyed this book as much as all the others. Temple is distracted by thoughts of saying yes to one guy or the other, the mob has reared its ugly head, there are hints of terrorism and Louie and his Cat Pack are on the case(s). When it’s all said and done, Louie leaves us—and multitudes of Las Vegas felines—with a rousing speech and an offer of appetizers. Ah, Louie, Temple and the rest, I’m going to miss you (until you show up again).

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2017.

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Memory
Sharon Ervin
The Wild Rose Press, March 2017
ISBN 978-1-5092-1290-3
Trade Paperback

Mistaken identity takes on a whole new meaning when a woman is killed and everyone thinks it’s Memory Smith. She hasn’t been run over but somebody certainly has thrown a punch at her and Assistant DA Mac McCann wants to know what’s going on with his former classmate. Did someone really mean to kill her? Memory is an odd woman but Mac is drawn to her and the mystery surrounding her supposed death. As you might expect in romantic suspense, an emotional attachment between the two of them soon takes on a life of its own but Memory may not survive long enough to see what might develop with Mac.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2017.

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Crepe Factor
A Scrapbooking Mystery #14
Laura Childs with Terrie Farley Moran
Berkley Prime Crime, October 2016
ISBN 978-0-425-26670-0
Hardcover

Ms. Childs and Ms. Moran continue their collaboration in a charming mystery featuring the death by fork of a food critic (stick a fork in me, I’m done, anyone?) practically right in front of Carmela and Ava, sleuthing duo extraordinaire. Carmela’s previous relationship with the #1 suspect makes sticking her nose in a little dicey and her current boyfriend, police detective Edgar Babcock really wants her to stay out of his investigation but she and Ava can’t resist. A nifty whodunnit and characters that feel like old friends, not to mention a few recipes and scrapbooking tips round out this entertaining entry in the series. I always enjoy these two, especially the slightly loony Ava, and for a few hours while I’m reading one of these books, I can’t help wishing I had the patience and dedication to get into scrapbooking…but the urge passes until the next book 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2017.

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The Locket
On Dark Shores #0
J.A. Clement
Weasel Green Press, December 2016
Ebook

Every child gets excited and exceedingly nosy when Yuletide approaches and the seven-year-old Nereia is no exception. Her father has brought her a special surprise, her Godmother, stopping off for a visit before returning to her diplomatic duties in the midst of war and a beautiful silver locket marks Nereia’s first time taking part in the Yule ceremony. This is a sweet story, very short, and a prequel to Ms. Clement‘s On Dark Shores fantasy series. I think I would have gotten more out of it if I knew anything about the series and I don’t understand the description’s reference to “there is mystery in the air…” but I spent a pleasant few minutes with this small family.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2017.

Book Review: Convergence by Michelle Grey

convergenceConvergence
Long Shot Series, Book Three
Michelle Grey
CreateSpace, February 2016
ISBN 978-1530169436
Trade Paperback

Whether we call it a romantic suspense or a mystery/romance, the chase is on in Convergence. The plot and characters satisfy detective story lovers and also please readers of romance novels. It’s told from two points of view. Tori Whitlock, the beautiful, hard-nosed tornado chaser isn’t looking for commitment, and Jack Mathis, the hot FBI detective intends only to chase the serial killer threatening Tori’s life. Their worlds collide when the detective must take up residence in Tori’s home to protect her.

Tori has become a celebrity from her electrifying tornado chase videos, and she’s totally upfront about pursuing Jack for a roll in the sack. But she’s also running from demons and ready to lash out with her sharp tongue against the idea of being protected. Jack finds himself drawn to the intelligent, strong-willed lady but won’t let himself act unprofessionally. He’s also still healing from past heartbreak.

The detective fits right in with Tori’s tornado chase team, but he must investigate each member in case the killer of women meteorologists has infiltrated the group. The reader learns how chase teams work while following the increasing fearfulness and also the sexual tension. As soon as we think we don’t know much about the inner Jack or about Tori’s motivations, the author gives us more. Gradually, the characters become rounded until we care as much as they do.

Convergence gives us two main characters, two intertwined plots, and two climaxes (no pun intended). We turn pages to learn whether the serial killer will ever be identified and whether the protagonists will be able to share their feelings with each other. It’s a twisted path, but worth the turns.

Reviewed by Joyce Ann Brown, July 2016.
http://www.joyceannbrown.com
Author of cozy mysteries: Catastrophic Connections, Furtive Investigation and Nine LiFelines, the first three Psycho Cat and the Landlady Mysteries.

Book Review: Beulah’s House of Prayer by Cynthia A. Graham—and a Giveaway!

beulahs-house-of-prayerBeulah’s House of Prayer
Cynthia A. Graham
Brick Mantel Books, July 2016
ISBN 978-1-941799-33-8
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Some storms bring destruction. Others bring salvation.

In 1934 the tiny town of Barmy, Oklahoma, is in desperate need of a miracle. The cows are hungry, the rain won’t fall, most of Main Street is boarded up. Young aspiring trapeze artist Sugar Watson is dumped unceremoniously into this bleak setting with little money and only one thing on her mind—escape. Beulah Clinton, a Holy Ghost preacher, has dedicated herself to helping the distressed in this ragged little wasteland, and Sugar soon finds herself thrown in with Marigold Lawford, the simple-minded widow of the richest man in town, and Homer Guppy, a boy trouble follows like dust after a wind.

Despite Sugar’s immediate distaste of Barmy, Beulah’s patience, Marigold’s kindness, and Homer’s unconditional love make her reconsider the meaning of home.

On Black Sunday, the worst dust storm in history brings with it a choice: Sugar must decide whether or not to return home, leaving the hospitality—and love—of Barmy’s inhabitants. A stunning Depression-era literary novel with a touch of magical realism, Beulah’s House of Prayer captivates until the very end.

When I first began hosting stops on blog tours, it was because I wanted to participate in the broader community of people who love books and want to spread the word. A side benefit is that I’ve been introduced to a lot of authors and books I probably wouldn’t know anything about without these tours and some of them have really blown me away. When I reviewed Cynthia A. Graham’s Beneath Still Waters back in February, I knew I’d found a real gem and I feel even more strongly about that now that I’ve read Beulah’s House of Prayer.

Once again, Ms. Graham takes us back to earlier times, to a period significant in our past, and she pulled me right into the center of this dusty town called Barmy and into the lives of a collection of people who completely stole my heart, each in his or her own way. Beulah is an elderly woman who has decided to settle in this town that she believes needs her ministry and her first “parishioner” is a boy named Homer who will go to nearly any lengths to show the town what a delinquent he can be. Homer has reasons to be the way he is, particularly considering his parentage, and it’s easy to understand and sympathize with his deep-seated pain and the way he copes. Beulah is out to save this young man before the devil wins his soul and nothing will stand in her way; Homer has no idea how this old woman is going to impact his life.

Marigold Lawford has also been trampled by life and she has her own way of getting along, mainly just by accepting the lousy hand she’s been dealt. When Beulah offers her a place to sleep. Marigold has no real options and moves in but she’s soon joined by 15-year-old Sugar Watson who’s landed in town with a few dollars and a coffin holding her circus performer father. And thus begins a story of desperation and love and redemption.

I can’t speak highly enough of Ms. Graham and her ability to write her story and her characters with a passion that drew me in till I felt surrounded by this town and its inhabitants. In her beautiful use of language, she made me experience the dust and the overwhelming destitution as well as the hope that never quite dies, and Beulah’s House of Prayer will be joining Beneath Still Waters on my list of favorite books read in 2016. I hate that I have to wait to see what this wonderful author will offer us next 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2016.

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Goodreads

Purchase Links:

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Beulah’s House of Prayer blends the stark reality of
Steinbeck and the grace and imagery of Willa Cather
into a beautifully-rendered story of struggle and faith
in Depression and Dust Bowl era Oklahoma a place
where ‘communion is the wheat I grow and the blood
I sweat.’  Steeped in metaphor, this moving novel is at
once compelling and poetic. It is the kind of story that
often finds its way onto the big screen. One heck of a good
read!” —Dixon Hearne, author, From Tickfaw to Shongaloo
and Delta Flats: Stories in the Key of Blues and Hope

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About the Author

Cynthia A. GrahamCynthia A. Graham is the winner of several writing awards, including a Gold IPPY and a Midwest Book Award for Beneath Still Watersand her short stories have appeared in both university and national literary publications. She attained a B.A. in English from the Pierre Laclede Honors College at the University of Missouri in St. Louis. Cynthia is a member of the Historical Novel Society, the St. Louis Writers’ Guild, the Missouri Writers’ Guild, and Sisters in Crime. She is the author of two works of historical mystery: Beneath Still Waters and Behind Every DoorBeulah’s House of Prayer is her first foray in the land of magical realism.

Connect with Cynthia

Website Button     Twitter Button     Facebook Button     Goodreads Button 2

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Follow the tour:

Tuesday, September 6th: Bewitched Bookworms
Wednesday, September 7th: SJ2B House of Books
Friday, September 9thBuried Under Books
Monday, September 12thMockingbird Hill Cottage
Thursday, September 15thKahakai Kitchen
Monday, September 19thFictionZeal
Wednesday, September 21stWrite Read Life

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To enter the drawing for a print
copy of Beulah’s House of Prayer
by Cynthia A. Graham, just leave
a comment below. The winning

name will be drawn on Monday night,
September 12th. This drawing
is open
to residents of the US and Canada.

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Book Review: Whose Names Are Unknown by Sanora Babb

Whose Names Are UnknownWhose Names Are Unknown
Sanora Babb
University of Oklahoma Press, February 2006
ISBN 978-0-8061-3712-4
Trade Paperback

It’s 1938 and a young talented, adventurous woman from the Oklahoma panhandle lands a job with the Farm Security Administration in California, working with the refugee farmers from her home state. These were the people of the high plains who saw their farms and their lives blown away in the horrendous dust storms of the nineteen thirties. The camps in California were one legacy of the Dust Bowl.

Out of that experience, those associations, Sanora Babb fashioned this novel, a first-hand up-close story with intense empathy and understanding for the people. The novel has an interesting and unfortunate history. In 1939 the author submitted her manuscript to a New York publisher, Random House. The publisher’s editor, Bennett Cerf, called the novel an exceptionally fine piece of work and planned to publish it. A few months later, publication was halted in the face of the huge success of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath.

Sanora Babb went on to a strong literary career, authoring five books and numerous shorter pieces published in the top literary magazines of the Twentieth Century. Now finally, sixty-five years late, this moving, intimate novel is seeing daylight. Is it as good or better than Steinbeck’s? Read it for yourself and judge. This is no grand pronouncement to illuminate the scope of what we know as the Dust Bowl Years. Whose Names are Unknown looks poverty and deprivation in the face and deals with the lives and deaths of those most materially affected.

Babb’s writing is clean, she wastes no words and the narrative voice brings her fascinating characters to the pages in a way that will remain with the reader for some time. This is truly a novel to savor.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, December 2015.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.