Book Review: Maxed Out by C.S. McDonald @CSMcDonald7 @iReadBookTours

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Title: Maxed Out
Series: The Owl’s Nest Mysteries #2
Author: C.S. McDonald
Publication Date: May 2, 2021
Genres: Mystery, Cozy

Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Amazon

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Maxed Out
The Owl’s Nest Mysteries #2
C.S. McDonald
McWriter Books, May 2021
ISBN 979-8745992988
Trade Paperback

From the author—

The Owl’s Nest Couturier Shoppe is a huge success! Business is booming and Alexa Owl’s love life is heating up. Yet much to the seamstress’s dismay, Detective Bobby Starr is suddenly back again! Bobby isn’t your everyday gumshoe. Rather, he’s an angel who’s trying to earn a place in Saint Peter’s Guardian Angel Squad. He’s required to solve murders he had left unsettled from when he walked the earth in order to be accepted into this prestigious group. Of course, they will need to return to the time period in which the murder took place, and again, Alexa is a reluctant time traveler. Oh, and there’s one more little problem—this time, Bobby’s brought along a friend, Maxi Krogen, and she’s no angel!

Bobby Starr was a good enough detective during his time as a living, breathing human back in the 1950’s but he’s an angel now and really wants to become a member of the elite Guardian Angel Squad. To do so, he has to solve three of his old cold cases assigned to him by St. Peter. Maxed Out is the tale of the second case and, once again, he’s recruited shopowner Alexa Owl to help.

When Bobby shows up in Alexa’s life again, he’s not alone; tagging along is Maxi Krogen who spent years in prison for murdering her husband but she’s not exactly angelic, at least not in the pleasant way you might expect. No, Maxi is rude, cranky, secretive and anything but a cooperative ghost.

Modern day Pittsburgh gives way to the city of the 1950’s as the trio goes back in time to look for clues. Before long, they find themselves running into the mob and an apparent takeover of a popular pizza parlor but will they be able to ferret out the real killer?

This is a fun story and the reader who wholeheartedly throws out any sense of disbelief will have a thoroughly good time with these appealing characters and an intriguing puzzle. Note to self: go read the first book PDQ 😀

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2021.

About the Author

For twenty-six years C.S. McDonald’s life whirled around a song and a dance. Classically trained at Pittsburgh Ballet Theater School, The Pittsburgh Dance Alloy, and many others, she became a professional dancer and choreographer. In 2011 she retired from her dance career to write. Under her real name, Cindy McDonald, she writes murder-suspense and romantic suspense novels. In 2014 she added the pen name, C.S. McDonald, to write children’s books for her grandchildren. In 2016 she added the Fiona Quinn Mysteries. Presently, the Fiona Quinn Mysteries has nine books.

Cindy’s newest venture is The Owl’s Nest Mysteries. Once again, she has set her cozy mystery in Pittsburgh. The Owl’s Next Mysteries has a little grit, a little time travel, a little romance, and a whole lot of cozy!

Cindy resides on her Thoroughbred farm known as Fly by Night Stables near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with her husband, Bill, and her poorly behaved Cocker Spaniel, Allister.

Connect with the author:  Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook

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Autographed copy of MAXED OUT, plus
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Book Review: Head Wounds by Dennis Palumbo

Head Wounds
A Daniel Rinaldi Mystery #5
Dennis Palumbo
Poisoned Pen Press, February 2018
ISBN: 978-1-4642-0816-4
Hardcover

From the publisher:   Psychologist Dr. Daniel Rinaldi consults with the Pittsburgh Police. His specialty is treating victims of violent crime – – those who’ve survived an armed robbery, kidnapping, or sexual assault, but whose traumatic experience still haunts them.  “Head Winds” picks up where Rinaldi’s investigation in “Phantom Limb” left off, turning the tables on him as he, himself, becomes the target of a vicious killer.  “Miles Davis saved my life.”  With these words, Rinaldi becomes a participant in a domestic drama that blows up right outside his front door, saved from a bullet to the brain by pure chance.  In the chaos that follows, Rinaldi learns his bad-girl, wealthy neighbor has told her hair-triggered boyfriend Rinaldi is her lover.  As things heat up, Rinaldi becomes a murder suspect.  But this is just the first act in this chilling, edge-of-your-seat thriller.  As one savagery follows another, Rinaldi is forced to relive a terrible night that haunts him still.  And to realize that now he – – and those he loves – – are being victimized by a brilliant killer still in the grip of delusion. Determined to destroy Rinaldi by systemically targeting those close to him – – his patients, colleagues and friends – – computer genius Sebastian Maddox thrives to cause as much psychological pain as possible, before finally orchestrating a bold, macabre death for his quarry.  How ironic.  As Pittsburgh morphs from a blue-collar town to a tech giant, a psychopath deploys technology in a murderous way.  Enter two other figures from Rinaldi’s past:  retired FBI profiler Lyle Barnes, once a patient who Rinaldi treated for night terrors; and Special Agent Gloria Reese, with whom he falls into a surprising, erotically charged affair.  Warned by Maddox not to engage the authorities or else random innocents throughout the city will die, Rinaldi and these two unlikely allies engage in a terrifying cat-and-mouse game with an elusive killer who’ll stop at nothing in pursuit of what he imagines is revenge.

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The reader is put on notice of what awaits with a quote from no less a writer than Albert Camus:  “The desire for possession is insatiable, to such a point that it can survive even love itself.”

The Miles Davis reference, which is the first line in the book, is from a scene where Rinaldi is reading a 3-inch-thick dossier written about his late wife, hidden in the pages of which “was an overlooked or ignored piece of evidence proving that my wife’s death almost a dozen years ago hadn’t been what it seemed. That the gunfire that ended Barbara’s life was not the lethal result of a mugging gone wrong.  It was murder.”  Two bullets killed his wife, the third hitting him in the head.  The ensuing novel is all about finding the man who had killed his wife, who now wants him dead. He is now “working out my survival guilt.  A misguided attempt to make up for the fact that Barbara had died that fateful night and I hadn’t.”  It is an understatement to say that it is wonderfully well-written, suspenseful, and a complete page-turner.

The descriptions of Pittsburgh are terrific [to a lifelong New Yorker]:  “The Steel City continued to morph from a blue-collar, industrial town into a gentrified, white-collar hub of business and technology. . . Pittsburgh now boasted a new, modern skyline, no longer obscured by dark plumes of smoke from a hundred smokestacks.”  Rinaldi and his two comrades take on Maddox in an unpredictable chase that kept me glued to the page.

Another fascinating entry [the fifth] in a much-loved series, and one which is highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, June 2018.

Book Reviews: Can’t Look Away by Donna Cooner, Phantom Limb by Dennis Palumbo, and The Bones Beneath by Mark Billingham

Can't Look AwayCan’t Look Away
Donna Cooner
Point, August 2014
ISBN 978-0-545-42765-4
Hardcover

From an outside perspective, Torrey Grey is your typical 16 year old in today’s age. She thrives to be popular, focuses her time on fashion and makeup, and social media are her go-to’s. But when her sister is killed by a drunk driver while filming her latest video blog – and the worlds finds out – she discovers celebrity status on the internet can make you or break you.

When I first started reading Donna Cooner‘s book, I was apprehensive about reading a modern day take on a teenager’s life. But as I continued, there are so many themes that Cooner covers. Sisterhood is a main theme, as Torrey is trying to hold on to the memories of her sister, Miranda. By combining in the celebration of the Spanish holiday el Dia de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead), Cooner shows that grief and acceptance of the loss of a close family member as Torrey’s family try to pick up the pieces of their life after moving from Colorado to Texas. One of Cooner‘s bigger themes is the presence of bullying and cyberbullying, from students making fun and commenting on a student who may be seen as different to the norm of society, to strangers blaming Torrey for the death of her sister when a video leaks of the moments before the accident. Torrey deals with all of these themes as she struggles to decide if popularity and being seen with the right cliques are really the most important things in her life anymore.

While some of the characters seem “too-good-to-be-true,” Cooner manages to keep her main themes alive throughout the novel and presents a solid take on a teenager living in today’s world. I enjoyed the book more than I expected to, and was glad to see somebody take on these heavy themes and relate them to issues many teenagers may be going through today.

 

Reviewed by Kristina Akers, September 2014.

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Phantom LimbPhantom Limb  
A Daniel Rinaldi Mystery
Dennis Palumbo
Poisoned Pen Press, 2014
ISBN 978-1-4642-0254-4
Hardcover
Also available in trade paperback

Author Dennis Palumbo is an experienced writer of screen plays, short stories and crime novels. It shows in this episodic story that features his protagonist, Dr. Daniel Rinaldi, a licensed psychologist and consultant to the Pittsburgh, PA police department. This fourth adventure pits the good doctor against a macho cabal of former military who formed up in Afghanistan and took many of their less savory skills into the criminal culture of Western Pennsylvania.

Dr. Rinaldi has an initial session with the younger wife of a local extremely prominent businessman. She professes a need and a decision to commit suicide that very evening. Dr. Rinaldi, in attempting to dissuade the woman, is drawn instantly into a convoluted interesting plot to extract millions of dollars from her wealthy husband. Inevitably, Rinaldi is required to deliver the ransom and things go seriously awry.

There are some stalwart continuing characters who return from earlier books in this novel. There are some predictable scenes. Overall the novel is very well written and there are several scenes of excruciating high tension and exciting action. There are clever lines and some well-thought-out twists, and, unfortunately for this reviewer, just a little too much predictability in the structure of the plot. I really like Daniel Rinaldi. I like his style, his attitudes and the moral strengths displayed in this novel. And I like the books of his creator.

 

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, September 2014.
Author of Red Sky, Devils Island, Hard Cheese, Reunion.

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The Bones BeneathThe Bones Beneath
A Tom Thorne Novel
Mark Billingham
Atlantic Monthly Press, June 2014
ISBN: 978-1-8021-2248-3
Hardcover

Tom Thorne returns in the twelfth novel in this series.  Most of the action takes place over a period of three days, set in a remote, isolated and nearly inaccessible island off the Welsh coast, said to be the resting place of 20,000 saints (in addition, that is, to King Arthur).  (This appears to be a very real location, one ‘steeped in myth and legend,’ and is a very real presence in the novel.)  Tom is brought here as part of a very ‘un-spiritual pursuit of long-dead murder victims,” a prisoner escort operation.

Many years ago, and only briefly, the island was the site of a home for young offenders.  Two of these were 17-year-old Stuart Nicklin, and one Simon Milner, the latter of whom never left the island alive. His murder was never solved, and only now Nicklin has claimed to have killed him, and offered to lead the police to the place where Simon’s bones were buried so long ago.  The condition being that the man who had arrested him ten years earlier, Tom Thorne, be the one to take him there to identify the site. Nicklin is thought to be one of the “most dangerous and manipulative psychopaths” the police had ever encountered.  The suspense inherent in the situation leaves the reader waiting for the other shoe to drop.  And waiting.  And waiting.

Somewhat jarringly at first, there are flashbacks to the time, twenty-five years earlier, when the seeds of the current action were laid, and when the boy whose bones were at the core of their search was killed.  And there are also scenes, at the outset in a Prologue and then every hundred pages or so, that appear to be contemporaneous, their connection to the main plot difficult to discern.

It may be obvious that I felt that the book could have benefited from some tightening, but in retrospect perhaps I should have had more confidence in the author, because the conclusion was very exciting and unexpected.  It may be that the bar being set so high by this author in the preceding books made it a tough act to follow.  My current reservations aside, I will certainly look forward to the next Tom Thorne book.

 

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, June 2014.

Book Reviews: Resolve by J.J. Hensley, A Delicate Truth by John Le Carre, and Deadly Harvest by Michael Stanley

ResolveResolve
J.J. Hensley
Permanent Press, April 2013
ISBN: 978-1-57962-313-5
Hardcover

This debut novel probably tells the reader more than he/she wants to know about running a marathon and the various Pittsburgh neighborhoods in which it is run, but it ties together the plot of several murders. Dr. Cyprus Keller is the protagonist.  He is a professor at a relatively undistinguished Steel City university and is one of several academics forming a running group in addition to their teaching responsibilities.

When one of his students is found murdered, he becomes part of the police investigation.  And then several more murders occur, and he is a common denominator.  Deeply involved, he undertakes his own investigation into the crimes, and as a result is an active participant in the developments that arise.  Early on, he discloses that he will murder one person during the marathon, and as the race progresses, the reader awaits the act and how Keller proposes to get away with the deed.

Each chapter begins with a description of the various phases of the 22.2 mile race, sometimes dropping a clue, others just describing the neighborhood or the pain of running.  The summary is then followed by a narrative of events leading up to the novel’s denouement. It is an interesting technique.  While a reader can become bored by a lot of minutiae, the novel is cleverly written and for a first effort deserves praise.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, August 2013.

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A Delicate TruthA Delicate Truth
John le Carre
Viking, May 2013
ISBN: 978-0-670-01489-7
Hardcover

In the present atmosphere of clandestine operations, the result of which the public has been ill-informed and too often kept in the dark, John Le Carre has fashioned a novel built around a bungled black op covered up for three years.  The story begins with the hatching of “Operation Wildfire,” comprising British special force soldiers and American mercenaries employed by a private company.  The aim is to capture an arms dealer who, according to intelligence, is to visit the British colony of Gibraltar.

A Foreign Office functionary is selected to be the on-the-spot eyes-and-ears for a minister of Her Majesty, nominally in charge of the operation.  Like many such actions, it results in failure, but is declared a total success, despite the fact that two innocents are killed and the subject never captured.  Three years later, various persons, directly or tangentially, separately begin to question the silence and attempt to uncover the facts.  The promised “transparency” never seems to arrive.

After a somewhat muddled beginning, in which Mr. Le Carre jumps all around, a bit confusing to the reader, he begins to move the plot straightforwardly and with dispatch.  The author raises the basic question of right and wrong, also lambasting the use of private armies to wage “little wars” around the globe and old boy networks where mistakes are covered up and witnesses bought off.  A topic that is, unhappily, very timely.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, September 2013.

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Deadly HarvestDeadly Harvest
Michael Stanley
Bourbon Street Books/Harper Paperbacks, May 2013
ISBN: 978-0-06-222152-0
Trade Paperback

In this, the fourth Detective Kubu mystery, a new character, detective Samantha Khama, joins the Botswana CID, the only female on the police force.  And immediately shakes things up, insisting on an investigation into the disappearance of young girls.  After initial misgivings, Kubu takes her under his wing, and together they uncover what appears to be the harvesting of human parts for muti, a witch doctor’s potion customarily made with plants and herbs and possibly animal parts, which is supposed to enhance a person’s power or luck.

The plot follows one murder after another beginning with that of a leading opposition politician, followed by that of two young girls. Obviously a serial killer is at large, and Kubu and Samantha have their work cut out for them.

This is a grisly story, rich in detail.  Written by a team of two that is quite knowledgeable of southern Africa, they have created a memorable cast of characters, and it remains to be seen how they will develop this latest, terrific, addition to the Kubu series.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, October 2013.

Book Reviews: Quinn by Iris Johansen, Fever Dream by Dennis Palumbo, The Confession by Charles Todd, The Impossible Dead by Ian Rankin, and Back of Beyond by C.J. Box

Quinn
Iris Johansen
St. Martin’s Press, July 2011
ISBN: 978-0-312-65121-3
Hardcover

This is the second volume in a trilogy [the first was Eve, and the next Bonnie], wrapping up the mystery of the disappearance of Eve Duncan’s seven-year-old daughter who was presumably murdered.  This novel gives a lot of background on how she and Quinn came to meet, fall in love and come together.

Of course, it has to begin with Quinn near death in the hospital from a knife wound, but making a superhuman effort to get out and rejoin the hunt for Bonnie’s killer, aided by CIA agent and friend Catherine Ling.  [None of this is a spoiler, please be assured – it’s all revealed on the book cover.]

I had the feeling that a lot of this book was mere padding, an effort to fill out the three-volume “conclusion,” and bringing to an end one aspect of it:  the quest for the truth about Bonnie’s disappearance. The writing and tension keep the reader turning the pages, but wasn’t completely fulfilling for this reader, having not read any of the previous novels.  Of course, I can’t really comment fully on this observation, nor judge its accuracy.  The book is recommended, but I would suggest that at least the first book of the trilogy be read first.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, November 2011.

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Fever Dream
Dennis Palumbo
Poisoned Pen Press, November 2011
ISBN: 978-1-59058-957-1
Hardcover

In the beginning, we had Alex Delaware, psychologist and sometime police consultant.  Now we also have Daniel Rinaldi, psychotherapist and part-time police consultant.  There, of course, the similarities end.  Whereas the Kellerman protagonist is more cerebral, the Palumbo creation is more physical, in keeping with his background as a Golden Glover from the mean streets of Pittsburgh.

This novel, the second in which Rinaldi is involved in a murder mystery which endangers his life (multiple times), begins when he is called by a Pittsburgh detective following a bank robbery, to treat the sole surviving hostage (all the others were shot).  From that point, a series of events takes place, fast and furious.  In the midst of everything, there is a gubernatorial campaign in which the D.A. is running as a tough law-and-order candidate, complicating the police efforts and raising other concerns.

The complex plot proceeds apace, with scant clues but much physical action, especially a few murders and lots of firepower. The only criticism I have about an otherwise entertaining novel is Rinaldi’s omnipotence, allowing him to merely espouse solutions to the various mysteries without any preceding facts in the narrative (maybe that’s the way motion picture scripts are written – – the author formerly was a Hollywood screenwriter).  Nevertheless, the book is very enjoyable, and is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, December 2011.

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The Confession
Charles Todd
William Morrow, January 2012
ISBN: 978-0-06-201566-2
Hardcover

This latest in the long-running Inspector Ian Rutledge series finds him in his office shortly after the end of World War I listening to a man calling himself Wyatt Russell confess to murdering his cousin years before..  The man tells Rutledge he has stomach cancer and just a very short time to live but wanted to “clear his conscience.”  Little did he know that he would be shot in the head and left in the Thames in just a matter of days.  Now the Inspector has more than one murder to solve, and embarks on a quest that takes him to a little fishing village north of London in Essex where he encounters many more mysteries.

Rutledge learns that the man was not who he claimed to be, and that was but the first thing he had to unravel.  Then to discover the meaning of the only clue he had: a gold woman’s locket with the picture of a young girl, found around the man’s neck.  Without the sanction of an official inquiry, the Inspector proceeds to develop the facts, despite the uncooperative and even hostile reception he receives in the village where additional murders and deaths occur.

A novel written by the mother-and-son team writing under the nom de plume Charles Todd, Confession is up to the high level of its predecessors: the plot is tightly woven, the characters well-drawn and the reader is drawn forward anxiously waiting to find out what comes next.  Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, December 2011.

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The Impossible Dead
Ian Rankin
Reagan Arthur Books / Little, Brown & Co., November 2011
ISBN: 978-0-316-03977-2
Hardcover

Ian Rankin usually lays a foundation of current and past events in his novels.  And, in this second Malcolm Fox mystery, he creates a tale reaching back a quarter of a century, when agitation and violence marked efforts for a separate Scotland.  Fox, who made his debut in The Complaints, grows exponentially as a protagonist, along with his sidekicks on his Internal Affairs team, Tony Kaye and Joe Naysmith.  They are worthy successors to the now retired Rebus, although more subtle in the presentation.

This murder-mystery has its beginnings in an investigation of fellow cops who may have covered up for a corrupt co-worker, Detective Paul Carter, who had been found guilty of misconduct.  The original accuser was Carter’s uncle, an ex-op himself.  When the uncle is found dead, perhaps murdered with a pistol that theoretically did not exist for it should have been destroyed by the police in 1985, and Carter himself dead by drowning shortly afterward, Fox is drawn into his own inquiry outside the aegis of a Complaints review, resurrecting the turmoil of the past and terrorist threats of the present.

Rankin also demonstrates his trademark attention to character development, concentrating much of the story on the deterioration of Fox’ father’s physical well-being and his relationship with his sister, each with sensitivity and care.  At the same time, the author shows his talent for integrating the setting, plot and theme, tightly intertwining the various elements.  Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, December 2011.

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Back of Beyond
C.J. Box
Minotaur Books, August 2011
ISBN: 978-0-312-36574-5
Hardcover

Against the vastness and isolation of Yellowstone Park, C.J. Box has once again created a suspense-murder-thriller novel using the natural environment as a backdrop.  Cody Hoyt, a rogue cop who first appeared in Three Weeks to Say Goodbye, returns once again, as he is called in to investigate the death of a man shot in the head and burned in his half-destroyed mountain cabin, later identified as Cody’s AA sponsor, making the case very personal to the detective.

In the course of his investigation, Cody discovers that the murderer has joined a group on a multi-day wilderness horseback trip in a remote part of the park.  Adding incentive, Cody learns that his son is part of the group on the trip, so has to not only find the murderer but save his son.

The author then takes the reader on a wild ride, never once giving much away in clues as bodies and riderless horses start turning up along the trail as Cody, who now is suspended and AWOL from the Sheriff’s Department, tries to close in on the remaining group.  The descriptions are sweeping, the character development deeply absorbing.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, December 2011.

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 Reviews: Every Bitter Thing by Leighton Gage and Critical Condition by CJ Lyons

Every Bitter Thing
Leighton Gage
Soho Crime, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-56947-845-5
Hardcover

On the opening page of Leighton Gage’s newest book, the fourth in his series featuring the Brazilian Chief Inspector Mario Silva, the reader is introduced to Jonas Palhares, a petroleum engineer who is very soon after brutally murdered in his Ipanema apartment.  This is but one of several murders committed in the same manner, and with the same weapons.  A famous social psychologist is soon found dead in Sao Paulo State.  But when the next victim is the son of the Venezuelan foreign minister and former ambassador to Brazil, the political implications become quickly obvious, and the investigation goes into high gear.

Silva, chief inspector for criminal matters with the Federal Police, is described as “a repository of totally useless information,” but self-described as possessing “occasionally amazing” instances of insight.  He teams up with the head of the Brasilia civil police, as well as his usual team members, including Arnaldo Nunes and Haraldo Goncalves, nicknamed “Babyface” and known as the Federal Police’s Lothario.  The body count rises, and the cops are frustrated by the fact that there seems to be no common denominator among the victims.

The author provides another glimpse into a world and a country with which this reader and I suspect many others are unfamiliar [despite my having traveled there twice, but I’m pretty sure tourism doesn’t count].  We are given examples of  “. . . how things work in this country . . . how the rich and powerful get justice and the rest of us can go to hell.”  The investigation proceeds rapidly to try to find the killer before more bodies appear, and the ending is as logical as it is unpredictable.  A thoroughly satisfying novel, and recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, February 2011.

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Critical Condition
CJ Lyons
Jove, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-515-14868-8
Mass Market Paperback

The fourth and apparently last novel in this well-written series finds a changed dynamic in the relationships among the various protagonists, all health care workers at the fictional Angels of Mercy Medical Center in Pittsburgh.  Those changes are brought about by the events that took place in the closing pages of the prior book, Urgent Care, culminating in the shooting of one of them, nineteen days before the start of the present book. That one was Detective Jerry Boyle, whose fiancée, Dr. Gina Freeman, now finds herself taking care of him instead of the other way around.

After having been in a coma for three days after having been shot in the head and abdomen, he is now recovering at Angels after having a blood clot and a bullet removed from his brain, and is being tended to by Gina and the other friends/colleagues at the hospital:  Amanda Mason, Gina’s roommate and a fourth-year medical student; Lucas Stone, Amanda’s fiancé and Jerry’s neurologist; Nora Halloran, the by-the-book ER charge nurse; her fiancé, Seth, a surgical resident; Trey, district chief of Pittsburgh’s EMS; and Lydia Fiore, the ER charge nurse who was the real target that night.  All the action – and there is plenty of it! – takes place within the hours surrounding New Year’s Eve, making their only New Year’s resolution as basic as a determination to simply live through the night.

Lydia has a secret, arising from her mother’s murder eighteen years ago when she was only twelve, which led to her now being targeted by a hit man, and though they all escaped that event with no loss of life other than that of the hired killer, the danger still exists, and there are still killers out there determined not to let her get away again.  Compounding this is that as they descend on Pittsburgh, so does a blizzard, which effectively shuts down the city when all power goes out and the roads are closed.  With virtually all hospital staff and patients held hostage until Lydia is found and turned over to the killers, the ingenuity of all are tested.  The author has again created a tension-filled narrative, and the life-and-death scenario kept me completely engaged right up until the exciting conclusion.  It has been a treat to meet this ultra-competent group, and the series will be missed.  Recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, March 2011.