Book Review: Dead at First Sight by Peter James @peterjamesuk @panmacmillan

Dead at First Sight
Roy Grace #15
Peter James
Pan Macmillan, August 2019
ISBN 978-1-5098-1641-5
Hardcover

Peter James is a well known British mystery/thriller writer. Detective Superintendent Roy Grace is the protagonist in his fifteen and counting series set in Sussex, England. While it’s generally a good idea to start a series from the first book,(Dead Simple), I’ve been reading them in no particular order…

His latest, Dead at First Sight, deals with a crime that has recently been in the news all over the world. You may you have heard of On-line Dating websites where men and women search for a soulmate or a companion. The crime that is being perpetrated is one where a con-man or woman responds to someone on one of these sites and over messages and emails a relationship is started. It doesn’t take long for the con-man or woman to earn the trust of their victim and in a very short time the victim is agreeing to help their new friend by sending money to the con-man/woman. Over a period of weeks or months the amounts steadily increase, with the promise of repayment, but instead the victim is taken to the cleaners.

In this novel D.S. Grace is called to investigate the suicide of a woman in Brighton. As D.S. Grace investigates her death, a man comes forward to inform the police that his identity and photograph has been used to scam a number of local women, on a dating site. The cases begin to merge and it isn’t long before D.S. Grace realizes that his suicide victim might well have been murdered possibly after realizing she had been duped by the man she thought would be the answer to her romantic dreams.

D.S. Grace soon learns that he is dealing with much more than one con-man, and that there is in fact a whole network of criminals who will do anything to avoid the police and who won’t think twice to use deadly force to silence their victims and stop the police from finding them and ending their lucrative scam.

Peter James weaves an exciting and intriguing tale. D.S. Roy Grace is a strong, well drawn character and spending time with him as he unravels this complex plot is well worth the time.

Respectfully submitted,

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, January 2020.

Book Review: Death on Nantucket by Francine Mathews @FMathewsAuthor @soho_press

Death on Nantucket
A Merry Folger Nantucket Mystery #5
Francine Mathews
Soho Crime, June 2017
ISBN 978-1-61695-737-7
Hardcover

Spencer Murphy is a Pulitzer prize winning foreign correspondent. The book that won him his fame tells of his escape from captivity in Laos during the Vietnam war. He made millions on his books and television appearances in subsequent years. But he is sinking into dementia, and is reported missing by his family.

He lives alone is a big house in Nantucket with only a housekeeper who comes in during the day. His adopted daughter Nora, who has been living in Asia, turns up for a visit and is discovered dead a month later on the rooftop deck. Spencer’s two sons, David and Elliot, haven’t heard from their sister in years, David is a recently divorced lawyer who continually criticizes his twenty-something daughter Laney.

Elliot and his partner Andre are the target of homophobic barbs from David and occasionally even from Spencer when his dementia tightens
its grip.

When Nora’s body is discovered, police detective Merry Folger investigates. It’s either suicide or an accident, the preliminary investigation shows. Nora has ingested enough apricot seeds in a cup of coffee that she died of cyanide poisoning. Merry’s boss is still convinced that it’s not murder, and he seems to have it in for her—after all, his predecessors as chief of police were Merry’s father and grandfather. Also, It’s high tourist season Nantucket with thousands of drunken college students invading the island and the police force is spread thin. But before the investigation concludes, there’s another death in the family and there’s no doubt that this time it’s murder.

Not quite a locked room mystery but a traditional mystery with a limited pool of suspects. There’s an abundance of description and backstory, sometimes too much, and it slows down the plot. While the culprit is discovered, there are enough red herrings and smart plotting to make it a surprise. It’s the fifth book in the series.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, January 2020.

Book Review: Tracking Game by Margaret Mizushima @margmizu @crookedlanebks

Tracking Game
A Timber Creek K-9 Mystery #5
Margaret Mizushima
Crooked Lane Books, November 2019
ISBN 978-1-64385-135-8
Hardcover

Deputy Mattie Cobb is at a local gathering enjoying an evening with Cole Walker the local vet, when there is an explosion nearby.  As they rush to the site they find a van on fire and a dead body, a body with two bullet holes.  The body is that of Nate Fletcher married to the daughter of Doyle Redman from a nearby ranch.

Who would want to kill Nate Fletcher? As the investigation quickly gets underway Mattie and her K-9 partner Robo make a few important discoveries including finding the gun used to kill Nate.

As the local police, along with Mattie and Robo focus on unravelling the mystery, another body turns up. The case grows ever more complicated as questions regarding possible drug running and other dangerous activities slowly surface.

This one started with a Bang, literally. The pace slowed somewhat during the investigation.  Mattie is dealing with some personal issues regarding her relationship with Cole, but she determinedly sets those aside to focus on finding the perpetrator or perpetrators.  There are a number of viable suspects and the mystery takes an unusual turn that sends Mattie, Robo and Cole on a tracking mission up into the mountains.

This is the fifth book but my first introduction to the Timber Creek Series, and even though there is back story regarding Mattie’s past referred to in the book, I didn’t feel I was missing too much and enjoyed meeting Mattie and her very smart K-9, Robo.

I was drawn in reading how Mattie and her K-9 worked together.  The author also vividly captured the beauty as well as the danger of the Timber Creek landscape.

Respectfully submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, January 2020.

Book Review: A Risky Undertaking for Loretta Singletary by Terry Shames @TerryShames @SeventhStBooks

A Risky Undertaking for Loretta Singletary
A Samuel Craddock Mystery #8
Terry Shames
Seventh Street Books, April 2019
ISBN 978-1-63388-490-8
Trade Paperback

This is the eighth book in the series with Chief Samuel Craddock.  Chief Craddock lives in the small town of Jarrett Creek, a rural community where, for the most part, the residents all know each other.  Recently, Samuel has noticed that his friend and neighbour, Loretta Singletary, has changed her hairstyle, has been wearing new clothes, and he’s more than a bit surprised to learn she’s signed onto an online Dating site.

The next day Samuel still hasn’t seen his friend and he’s beginning to worry.  He talks to several of her friends but no one has seen Loretta.  That’s when he decides to call her son. But he hasn’t seen her either. And when someone mentions they’d read of women being duped out of money, or worse,  by men they met on a dating site, Samuel decides it’s time to open an investigation.

When a woman’s body is found on a road leading to a nearby town, a woman who had also recently joined the same Dating site, Samuel is alarmed and the search for Loretta begins in earnest.  But unaccustomed with the internet Samuel quickly grows frustrated with his efforts, but he pushes on, worried that Loretta might suffer a similar fate.

Spending time with Chief Craddock is always a treat.  Check him out.

Respectfully submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, November 2019.

Book Review: How the Dead Speak by Val McDermid @valmcdermid @LittleBrownUK

How the Dead Speak
The New Tony Hill and Carol Jordan Thriller #11
Val McDermid
Little, Brown (UK), August 2019
ISBN 978-1-4087-1225-2
Hardcover

If you are familiar with Val McDermid’s novels you probably know the characters Tony Hill and Carol Jordan. And if, like me, you are a fan of these two; Tony a profiler and criminal psychologist who works with Carol the head of a special Police team, you probably remember the outcome of their previous collaboration in the novel Insidious Intent where Carol’s and Tony’s lives changed dramatically.

In How the Dead Speak, the newest entry in the series, Tony is in prison and Carol has resigned from her job of running an elite Police Force ReMIT – Regional Major Incident Team. Tony is in a rather hostile environment trying to stay out of trouble, while Carol is suffering from PTSD unwilling to seek help.

When a construction company starting work on a project at a local Convent and School now closed down uncovers a gravesite with a large number of skeletal remains, possibly young girls, the ReMIT team, under new leadership, is called in to investigate. When a second gravesite is found on the same premises with more than six male bodies wrapped in plastic, murder is the most the obvious cause.

Meanwhile, Tony’s mother Vanessa pays him a visit, insisting he help her recover money stolen from her by a man using a Ponzi scheme. While Tony has no love for his mother, she orders him to ask Carol to locate the man who has run off with her money. Knowing Vanessa will use every means she can to further ruin his and Carol’s life if he refuses, he agrees to ask Carol to look into the matter. Vanessa then pays Carol a visit, relaying the message from Tony, leaving Carol with no option but to find the man Vanessa is seeking.

As the storylines kick into gear, chapters switch between multiple points of view, from members of the ReMIT team as they investigate the deaths of the young girls and the murdered men, to Tony as he tries to find a way to come to terms with his incarceration, and Carol in her search for the perpetrator of the Ponzi scheme.

Carol and Tony’s relationship has at times been tumultuous throughout this great series. In this novel we watch with interest as they each deal with the problems they face in vastly different circumstances. Though they are not working together this time, McDermid keeps the reader turning pages eager to reach the conclusion of the engaging plot-lines.

I particularly enjoyed the brief and succinct paragraphs at the heading of each chapter, which are bites from one of Tony Hill’s books.

Grab this one… It’s a must read.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, December 2019.

Book Review: Spirit Wind by Marilyn Meredith—and a Giveaway! ‎@MarilynMeredith

Spirit Wind
Tempe Crabtree Mystery Series #18
Marilyn Meredith
Marilyn Meredith, March 2019
ISBN 978-1092112086
Trade Paperback

From the author—

A call from a ghost hunter changes Deputy Tempe Crabtree’s vacation plans. Instead of going to the coast, she and her husband are headed to Tehachapi to investigate a haunted house and are confronted by voices on the wind, a murder, and someone out to get them.

Marilyn Meredith has been writing the Tempe Crabtree series for a long time and this one is every bit as good as those that preceded it and just as fresh. Tempe herself is an appealing police officer but the Native American elements add a special touch, not to mention Tempe’s ability to communicate with ghosts. Not only do we get an entertaining police procedural, we also actually have the chance to learn something about tribal life and customs in today’s world.

This time, a haunted house adds to the allure and spirits play an integral part in the search for a murderer as well as the truth about what happened to a woman who walked out of an earthquake-damaged prison into oblivion. Tempe and her husband, Hutch, intend to help the local police without stepping on toes but soon become potential victims themselves; perhaps the biggest puzzle is figuring out why a spirit is in the house and what it really wants.

Spiritual beliefs often play a part in Tempe’s investigations but they’re particularly important in Spirit Wind and blending them with modern police work, always tempered with the culture of the surrounding area and people, makes for an especially intriguing case and, once again, I was drawn in to a story that’s compelling in many ways. The next Tempe Crabtree mystery can’t come soon enough for me 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2019.

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Giveaway

To enter the drawing for a very gently
used print copy
of Spirit Wind,

leave a comment below. The winning
name will be drawn on Friday evening,
December 20th. Open to residents
of the US and Canada.

Book Reviews: The Fourth Courier by Timothy Jay Smith and The Spying Moon by Sandra Ruttan @TimothyJaySmith @arcadepub @DownAndOutBooks

The Fourth Courier
Timothy Jay Smith
Arcade Publishing, April 2019
ISBN 978-1-94892-410-8
Hardcover

The author is a capable, experienced author and he fully understands and uses the techniques of the crime novelist. The novel reflects the author’s grasp of craft. Crimes happen early and more than once, from murder to adultery, to smuggling and other crimes, and multiple misdemeanors.

The search to identify and capture the many criminals is detailed and interesting. Several various interactions, sexual and ordinary, between various characters in this novel are also interesting.

The novel is set in Warsaw, Poland, in 1992. FBI agent Jay Porter is assigned to assist local law enforcement in a case of smuggling and multiple murder. The case has international implications because of connections of some characters to nuclear research laboratories in Russia. Remember that Communism has just departed Poland and the nation’s systems, including law enforcement, are still finding themselves and adjusting to the new era. The novel illuminates the difficulties of living and working under the Soviet and now Polish authority.

The local characters especially seem authentic and real. The descriptions of the city and countryside also seem carefully and accurately depicted. Although the novel addresses the emotional changes and connections of the characters more than the implied danger of smuggling nuclear components out of Russia, the tension is quite apparent. This is a thoughtful novel of connections and international undeclared warfare, well worth a  thoughtful read.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, December 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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The Spying Moon
Integrated Border Enforcement Team, Book 1
Sandra Ruttan
Down & Out Books
ISBN 978-1-948235-27-3
Trade Paperback

Mixed parentage doesn’t seem to hamper the career advancement of RCMP constable, Kendall Moreau. Even when she encounters a sexist constable at the entrance to her newly assigned post, Maple River, British Columbia. This had not been her plan and she was already irked. Now this man seemed to represent everything wrong with relations between men and women, in life, as in the law enforcement profession. She didn’t want to be here. Her belief was that she’d been assigned to Burns Lake, a small community many miles north, after an exemplary early career with the federal law enforcement agency.

Moreau was desperate to go to Burns Lake where a surprising number of women, including her mother, had been disappearing. It was not to be. The head of RCMP in Maple River needed a task force to deal with a growing drug distribution problem in the area so Moreau is abruptly reassigned. She discovers a morass of murder, drugs, corruption and a mélange of fascinating characters, in and out of law enforcement.

Readers will be drawn swiftly into the complicated taut relationships of the task force she abruptly joins. The puzzles she and her colleagues must solve, even for their own protection, are many and fraught, all set against a small city environment nearly surrounded by the Rocky Mountains.

Well written, the pace of the novel is maintained at an appropriate level as Moreau, a strong and realistic character, works to solve personal interactions and a growing list of crimes and infractions.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, January 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.