Book Review: Murder Off the Page by Con Lehane @clehane @MinotaurBooks

Murder Off the Page
The 42nd Street Library Mysteries #3
Con Lehane
Minotaur Books, November 2019
ISBN 978-1-250-31792-6
Hardcover

When Raymond Ambler, librarian in charge of the crime fiction collection at the 42nd Street Library, and his friend and co-worker Adele Morgan are out for a drink one evening, they see an attractive and somewhat drunk woman in her early thirties, surrounded by a group of men harassing her. Adele recognizes the woman—she had been at the library earlier in the day. The woman notices Adele, and comes over to join their table, sitting on Ambler’s glasses, which he left on a stool. She introduces herself as Shannon Darling. Bartender McNulty steps in, and insists on taking her back to her hotel room.

Shannon told Adele she was writing a book on women mystery writers, focusing on Jayne Galloway. She seemed to be an inexperienced researcher, unfamiliar with how to do archival research, and appeared at the library more elegantly dressed than most researchers. Adele suspects Shannon is hiding something.

When a man is discovered shot in a hotel room registered to Shannon Darling, NYPD detective Mike Cosgrove investigates. He discovers that during Shannon’s visits to the city, she has bouts of uncontrolled drinking and one-night stands with men she meets in the cocktail lounges of posh hotels. Bartender McNulty and Shannon both disappear, and become suspects in the case.

Ambler and Adele investigate, wanting to clear the name of their friend McNulty. What they discover is that Shannon seems to be leading a double life. When not in the city she is a doctor in the suburbs with an upscale Greenwich Connecticut home and a successful husband and a young daughter.

For mystery readers that enjoy librarian amateur sleuths and lots of New York City color, this is reminiscent of Michael Jahn’s Bill Donovan series. This is the third book in the series.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, July 2020.

Book Review: A Death at the Yoga Cafe by Michelle Kelly

A Death at the Yoga Café
Keeley Carpenter #2
Michelle Kelly
Minotaur Books, January 2017
ISBN 978-1-250-06738-8
Hardcover

Michelle Kelly’s book has all the elements a reader expects in a cozy mystery. Keeley Carpenter, the main character, has returned to her hometown after years away in the big city, and opens a vegetarian café and yoga studio in the building that used to house her father’s butcher shop. Her mother, who shows up for a visit a week before she is expected, is a perfectionist and constantly criticizes Keeley.  Keeley’s boyfriend Ben, is a good-looking detective on the local police force.

Keeley witnesses an argument between the town’s mayor and his newest girlfriend, who is a business rival of Keeley’s and who was the “mean girl” in high school. Unfortunately, this mystery also includes some of the cozy mystery clichés. The girlfriend begs Keeley to investigate the death, instead of hiring a lawyer. Why would someone facing arrest for a murder beg for help from a yoga teacher that she bullied in school? And why would the yoga teacher confront the killer alone, without telling the police her suspicions.

The book contains recipes and instructions on how to do select yoga poses. While the premise of the book shows promise, it fails to deliver on a satisfying conclusion to the mystery.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, March 2020.

Book Review: Charity’s Burden by Edith Maxwell @edithmaxwell @midnightinkbook

Charity’s Burden
A Quaker Midwife Mystery #4
Edith Maxwell
Midnight Ink, April 2019
ISBN 978-0-7387-5643-1
Trade Paperback

The story opens as Quaker midwife Rose Carroll is called out to attend Charity Skells, one of her previous patients. The patient insists she’s having a miscarriage, but Rose sees a discrepancy in the woman’s symptoms. After all, Charity had just delivered a child a few months ago, when Rose had warned the father that his wife was too fragile to bear another child any time soon. Rushing the woman to the hospital where she bleeds to death, it soon develops that a botched abortion is involved. But abortion is against the law. Who can have done such a thing? At least two possibilities seem likely.

Rose feels she must take a hand, helping her good friend police detective Kevin Donovan solve the mystery. After all, it’s easier for a midwife to ask ladies personal questions. The list of suspects grows as she discovers Charity’s husband is involved with another woman. There is a substantial inheritance in the offing, as well. Jealousy and greed are powerful motives and Rose never hesitates when it comes to keeping her clientele safe.

The story is a historical gem where we learn about attitudes toward abortion, birth control, and family planning. Oh, and some pure evil. I was a little surprised by some of it but I must say my sympathies are all with the desperate mothers. Rose is a brave, compassionate soul and an excellent sleuth; a heroine well-worth reading.

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

Book Review: Deadly Aim by Paty Jager

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Title: Deadly Aim
Series: Shandra Higheagle Mysteries, Book 3
Author: Paty Jager
Narrator: Ann M. Thompson
Publication Date: July 21, 2017

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Deadly Aim
Shandra Higheagle Mysteries, Book 3
Paty Jager
Narrated by Ann M. Thompson
Patricia Jager, July 2017
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

The dead body of an illicit neighbor and an old necklace send potter Shandra Higheagle on a chase to find a murderer. Visions from her dead grandmother reveal Shandra is on the right path, but the woods are full of obstacles; deadly ones.

Detective Ryan Greer believes Shandra’s dreams will help solve the mystery, but he also knows the curious potter could get herself killed. He’s determined not to let that happen.

Until he’s blind-sided. Are Shandra’s powers strong enough to save them both, or will the murderer strike again?

Big game hunters are not the most popular figures in the real world or in fiction so it isn’t easy to have much sympathy when Shandra finds J.W. Randal’s animal-ravaged body on her property. Perhaps it would be better to say my sympathy was with Shandra, first for finding another body on her Huckleberry Mountain and second for her finding out she had such a reprehensible neighbor. I guess this just goes to show that large properties can make it hard to know your neighbors. At any rate, finding a body on her own land at least provides some justification for Shandra sticking her nose in where it doesn’t really belong.

It’s fortunate for Shandra that the deputy sheriff, Ryan, is not averse to her sleuthing and, in fact, he respects her spiritual connection to her Nez Perce ancestry and the dreams that seem to lead them to important hints. What occasionally gets in the way is the growing romance between the two and their “mating dance”, if you will. I appreciate the way Ms. Jager is allowing a natural growth of their mutual attraction rather than the instalove we see too often. I was happy to learn that they still haven’t told each other their deepest secrets but that seems to be coming soon.

Meanwhile, back to the investigation…clues begin to mount that point in different directions including potential bad blood in the game hunting business and a possible illicit liaison. Most intriguing is a particular necklace whose provenance is difficult to track down .and this part of the hunt brings Shandra’s particular creative expertise to the forefront. When things come to a head, though, there’s more than one surprise

In this entry, a bit more editing could have been useful as occasional flaws are more obvious than in previous books in grammar and word choices as well as in shifting points of view. Also, while Ann M. Thompson is a better than average narrator, she did pull me out of the story every now and then with mispronunciations and odd pacing. Still, an interesting mystery and Ms. Thompson’s reading made this an appealing tale.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2019.

Purchase Links:
Audible // iTunes // Amazon

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About the Author

Paty Jager is an award-winning author of 35 novels, 8 novellas, and numerous anthologies of murder mystery and western romance. All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. Her Shandra Higheagle mystery series has been a runner-up in the RONE Award Mystery category, and a finalist in the Daphne du Maurier. This is what Mysteries Etc says about her Shandra Higheagle mystery series: “Mystery, romance, small town, and Native American heritage combine to make a compelling read.”

Website // Twitter // Facebook // Goodreads // Pinterest

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About the Narrator

Audiobook narrator and voice over artist Ann Thompson continues to work in radio and TV news broadcasting as she has done for the past 25 years. Her work has been recognized by the Associated Press and Society of Professional Journalists. A-P has named her “Best Reporter” for large market radio in Ohio. She has won awards from the Association of Women in Communications and the Alliance for Women in Media. Ann reports regularly on science and technology. Once she even rode the “Vomit Comet” to simulate zero gravity in a KC-135. Thompson has reported from India, Japan, South Korea, Germany and Belgium as part of fellowships from the East-West Center and RIAS. She values author partnerships like the one with Paty Jager for the Shandra Higheagle series.

Website

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Play an excerpt here.

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Giveaway: $50 Amazon Gift Card

Enter here.

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Follow the tour here.

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Book Review: Tarnished Remains by Paty Jager

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Title: Tarnished Remains
Series: Shandra Higheagle Mysteries, Book 2
Author: Paty Jager
Narrator: Ann M. Thompson
Publication Date: April 14, 2017

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Tarnished Remains
Shandra Higheagle Mysteries, Book 2
Paty Jager
Narrated by Ann M. Thompson
Patricia Jager, April 2017
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

Murder…deceit…greed….

Shandra Higheagle is digging up clay for her renowned pottery when she scoops up a boot attached to a skeleton. She calls in Weippe County detective Ryan Greer. The body is decades old and discovered to be Shandra’s employee’s old flame.

Ryan immediately pegs Shandra’s employee for the murderer, but Shandra knows in her heart that the woman everyone calls Crazy Lil couldn’t have killed anyone, let alone a man she loved.

Digging up the woman’s past takes them down a road of greed, miscommunication, and deceit. Will they be able to prove Crazy Lil innocent before the true murderer strikes again?

When Shandra digs up the boot with a bone in it, the discovery naturally leads to an entire body and its identity doesn’t take too long. What’s surprising is Lil’s response to the news and her attitude is what leads the county’s detective, Ryan, to suspect that she may have killed the man for very personal and emotional reasons. That’s when Shandra feels the need to step in because she just doesn’t believe that her ranch hand is either guilty or crazy.

Fortunately for all three, Ryan doesn’t mind—although he has a few qualms—Shandra inserting herself into the investigation. He knows from a previous experience that Shandra is unusually intuitive and thoughtful and, in fact, he respects the dreams she receives through her deceased Nez Perce grandmother. It also doesn’t hurt that Ryan and Shandra are engaging in a bit of a romantic connection.

As pieces of the truth behind the cowboy’s death come to light, the attention points in an entirely different direction that has a lot to do with very dysfunctional family issues as well as Lil’s love for the late lamented Johnny. Along the way, light is shed on the reasons behind Lil being called “Crazy Lil”.

Ann M. Thompson does a fine job with the narration, using distinctive voices for various characters, and her tone is appropriately nuanced to emphasize stress and emotion. Occasionally, I heard a little hiccup, for lack of a better word, in the narration but certainly not enough to bother me much.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2019.

Purchase Links:
Audible // iTunes // Amazon

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About the Author

Paty Jager is an award-winning author of 35 novels, 8 novellas, and numerous anthologies of murder mystery and western romance. All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. Her Shandra Higheagle mystery series has been a runner-up in the RONE Award Mystery category, and a finalist in the Daphne du Maurier. This is what Mysteries Etc says about her Shandra Higheagle mystery series: “Mystery, romance, small town, and Native American heritage combine to make a compelling read.”

Website // Twitter // Facebook // Goodreads // Pinterest

************

About the Narrator

Audiobook narrator and voice over artist Ann Thompson continues to work in radio and TV news broadcasting as she has done for the past 25 years. Her work has been recognized by the Associated Press and Society of Professional Journalists. A-P has named her “Best Reporter” for large market radio in Ohio. She has won awards from the Association of Women in Communications and the Alliance for Women in Media. Ann reports regularly on science and technology. Once she even rode the “Vomit Comet” to simulate zero gravity in a KC-135. Thompson has reported from India, Japan, South Korea, Germany and Belgium as part of fellowships from the East-West Center and RIAS. She values author partnerships like the one with Paty Jager for the Shandra Higheagle series.

Website

************

Play an excerpt here.

************

************

Giveaway: $50 Amazon Gift Card

Enter here.

************

Follow the tour here.

************

Book Review (Audio): Double Duplicity by Paty Jager

Double Duplicity
Shandra Higheagle Mystery, Book One
Paty Jager
Narrated by Ann M. Thompson
Patricia Jager, February 2017
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

On the eve of the biggest art event at Huckleberry Mountain Resort, potter Shandra Higheagle finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation. She’s ruled out as a suspect, but now it’s up to her to prove the friend she witnessed fleeing the scene is just as innocent. With help from her recently deceased Nez Perce grandmother, Shandra becomes more confused than ever, but just as determined to discover the truth.

Detective Ryan Greer prides himself on solving crimes and refuses to ignore a single clue, including Shandra Higheagle’s visions. While Shandra is hesitant to trust her dreams, Ryan believes in them and believes in her.

Can the pair uncover enough clues for Ryan to make an arrest before one of them becomes the next victim?

Shandra Higheagle literally comes across a dead body accidentally and things begin to happen with meteoric speed for this small town. Actually, the name Huckleberry Mountain Resort is a bit misleading because while “Huckleberry” implies very rural and homespun, this is a ski resort with tourists and money to spare, not to mention multiple art galleries, and the upcoming art show is a premier happening. It’s in Detective Ryan Greer’s best interest to solve this murder quickly and he’s not averse to a little assistance.

Shandra and Ryan are both intelligent, attractive people and the almost instantaneous spark between them is perhaps not surprising. It’s more apparent at first to Ryan than to Shandra but, once she gets it, she’s not entirely above using her “influence” to get away with a bit of investigating on the side. Unfortunately for her, she doesn’t always make the brightest decisions and can be accused of a tiny bit of TSTL behavior. Never mind, I still like her and I also like Ryan, especially because he gives credence to the visions Shandra has apparently inherited from her Nez Perce grandmother.

A fair amount of comic relief comes from the very young and very untried police officer, Blane. As so often happens with someone new to any position of authority, poor Blane is overeager and way out of his element with Shandra who can pretty much put him in his place, especially when he’s determined to treat her as a suspect. Blane is a likeable overgrown kid and his enthusiasm helps make up for a lot. The other secondary character who got my attention (in a good way) is Shandra’s hired ranch hand, Lil, who you might say is the female version of the crusty oldtimer.

Ann M. Thompson is a good narrator, giving warm, earthy tones to Shandra and handling other voices with noticeable differences from one character to the next. In particular, I immediately picked up on Blane’s immaturity and brashness just from Ms. Thompson‘s interpretation.

Double Duplicity is the first of eight books in the series but, so far, only this one and the second are in audiobook format. That will not stop me from continuing on with this entertaining series but I do hope more audio editions will become available before too long. Not only do I like Ms. Jager‘s stories but I also enjoy Ms. Thompson‘s narration and that’s a pleasant combination.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2017.

Book Review: American Nights by Gerrie Ferris Finger

American NightsAmerican Nights
A Moriah Dru / Richard Lake Mystery #6
Gerrie Ferris Finger
Five Star, August 2016
ISBN 978-1-4328-3221-6
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Saudi Arabian prince, Husam al Saliba, hires child-finder Moriah Dru to find his missing wife, Reeve and daughter, Shahrazad.

The inquiry begins with Husam tells Dru of falling in love with Reeve, of turning his back on his ascendancy to the Saudi power structure for the woman he loves. He talks of his king’s disapproval of him marrying and siring an infidel.

But there are cracks in his story. At times he seems to long to return to the good graces of the royal family and marry cousin Aya and be an heir to kingship. Sometimes Dru thinks she’s fallen into a fairy tale, since the prince is fond of telling tales from the Arabian Nights.

Her search for mother and child had just begun when Reeve’s parents, Lowell and Donna Cresley were killed. They hated their prince son-in-law for fear of losing their grandchild to the land of his ancestors and for a generally racist attitude. The prince is immediately suspected when the Atlanta police, in the person of Dru’s lover Lt. Richard Lake, come into the case.

It’s soon evident infidelity abounds and everyone has something dreadful to hide.

When a four-year-old child and her mother go missing and a Middle Eastern prince hires Moriah to find his wife and daughter, she’s initially perplexed. This clearly is not the kind of abduction she would have expected involving Saudi law and religion and, with a French-born child and American mother, Interpol and a US federal agency should be looking for the pair. What makes it even more puzzling is that the prince insists that the investigation remain private. Moriah agrees to look into the matter but with one caveat…she must be allowed to discuss the case with her other half, Atlanta police lieutenant Richard Lake, although the APD will not be involved.

Most surprising of all is that, upon first meeting Prince Husam, he doesn’t seem very concerned, just slightly impatient that Reeve and Shara have been gone longer than usual. Still, it’s apparent that their disappearance could be connected to the king’s disapproval of the marriage and the need for a successor, most likely Husam.

When Reeve’s parents are murdered, the case takes on an entirely new aspect with hints of bigotry and infidelity and their hatred of Husam, leading Moriah and Lake in several directions. Every theory and idea they have, though, goes right out the window when Moriah learns that Husam is not at all who he purports to be and that he has some very powerful secrets.

As always, I enjoyed spending time with Moriah and Lake and this case takes them far beyond the norm. This is a couple I really like, largely due to the respect they have for each other and the way they can share information openly because of the absolute…and warranted…trust. They’re a power couple in their own way and about as appealing as can be. Ms. Finger has given us another winner 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2016.