Book Review: Outsider by Linda Castillo @LindaCastillo11 @MinotaurBooks

Outsider
A Kate Burkholder Mystery #12
Linda Castillo
Minotaur Books, July 2020
ISBN 978-1-250-14289-4
Hard Cover

This is the 12th Kate Burkholder mystery novel and it’s another winner.

On a snowy winter’s night, Gina Colorosa, a police officer from Columbus, is on the run, pursued by some of her fellow officers.  Gina knew they’d be coming for her and she’d made plans, but she barely escapes with her life.  After several hours of driving she turns off the highway, and soon realizes she isn’t far from Painters Mill where her one time friend Kate Burkholder is Chief of Police.  But the storm intensifies making her quest to reach Kate impossible.  She loses control of her truck and lands in a ditch.

She is rescued by an Amish widower, Adam Lengacher, out for a sleigh ride with his three children. He takes her to his farm and contacts the Police Chief.  Kate arrives and is surprised to see Gina Colorosa, fellow police officer and once her best friend. They had attended the police academy together and after graduating had both been rookie cops in Columbus. They’d parted ways and hadn’t seen each other since.

Kate is more than a little wary at Gina’s unexpected appearance. While Gina explains that some fellow officers are taking bribes, and tampering with evidence, and it is this knowledge that  has put her in danger, Kate isn’t sure Gina is telling her everything.The blizzard rages on dumping more snow and Kate, her own vehicle now stuck in a snowdrift, has no choice but to accept Adam’s hospitality and stay at his farm.

Kate calls her lover and partner, State Agent Tomasetti, and explains what has happened and asks if he can somehow make discreet inquiries and find out whether Gina is telling the truth.

Meanwhile several police officers are indeed searching for Gina.  As they expand their search and ask questions of the locals in Painters Mill they are soon on Gina’s trail.

Kate has a dilemma. She and Gina had been through a lot together, supporting each other during those early days as police rookies. But their friendship had ended on a sour note.  While seeing Gina brings back some good memories, Kate is also aware that, if Gina is in danger, her presence at the Lengacher farm is putting Adam Lengacher and his children at risk.

Kate, with Tomasetti’s help, uncovers more information about the corruption involving the police in Columbus. The storm and snow add another dimension to the tension rising as Gina’s pursuers set in motion their plan to deal with her.

You’ll have to check out this novel if you want to find out just how it ends.  It’s worth the effort.  A great read!

Respectfully submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, August 2020.

Book Review: The Man in Milan by Vito Racanelli @racanelliauthor @PolisBooks

The Man In Milan
Vito Racanelli
Polis Books, November 2020
ISBN 978-1-951709-27-3
Hardcover

On an April evening at Sutton Place in New York City, NYPD detective Paul Rossi finds a well-dressed dead man in the gutter. He’s been terminated by two carefully placed bullets, one in the chest, the other to the back of his head. It’s obviously an execution. Turns out the deceased is a former fighter pilot from the Italian Air Force.

The murder, then the precision-like burglary and destruction of the pilot’s estranged wife’s apartment, lead the detective team of Rossi and partner Hamilton P. Turner, into a morass of international intrigue, corruption, and more death.

Rossi, Italian-American and Detective Turner, a multi-talented African-American poet, opera buff and former lawyer are sent to Rome, following leads and beset by a nasty reporter from a New York rag who had been contacted by the dead pilot. The question is why?

The answers apparently lie in an old mystery. And while the story winds its convoluted way through Italian society, several more deaths occur, including three women who are casually cast aside, leading, I suspect, some readers to question the attitude of the author to the values of women in the story line.

The plot moves at a reasonable pace, logically follows discovery after discovery, with some clever bits to strengthen the narrative, to a rational conclusion. The narrative concludes with the open possibility of further adventures of these two detectives.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, December 2020.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
Traces, Grand Lac, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Review: The 19th Christmas by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro @JP_Books @littlebrown

The 19th Christmas
Women’s Murder Club #19
James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
Little, Brown and Co., October 2019
ISBN 978-0-316-42027-3
Hardcover

Lindsay Boxer has only one Christmas wish: to spend the day with her husband, daughter and their beloved Border Collie. She’s been with San Francisco Police Department long enough to know that “wish” is the right word.

Accustomed to the typical increase in crimes during the holidays, Boxer and her partner fully expect a frenzy the few days before Christmas. But, even their combined experience in law enforcement did not prepare them for the full-out chaos created by the most unassuming of men.

This recent addition to The Women’s Murder Club Series by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro embodies everything I’ve come to expect from this righteous writing team.  Flipping pages fast enough for paper cuts, I was mentally juggling the balls being hurled at Boxer—not in a confused way, but in a wholly engrossed, moral-support sort of way.

If you are already a fan of the four brilliant, hard-working women that make up the self-dubbed Murder Club, The 19th Christmas is sure to hit the spot when you reach for your next fast-paced, suspense-filled read. But, there’s no need to have read the previous stories, this series can be started at any point…but you may not be able to stop.

Huge thank-you to Goodreads First Reads & Hachette Book Group for this copy!

Reviewed by jv poore, January 2020.

Book Reviews: The Guilty Die Twice by Don Hartshorn and Hell for the Holidays by Chris Grabenstein @donhartshorn @TCKPublishing @CGrabenstein

The Guilty Die Twice
Don Hartshorn
TCK Publishing, March 2020
ISBN 978-1-63161-073-8
Trade Paperback

An emotional, intense, persistent battle between attorneys who are brothers. Jake Lynch is the fictional District Attorney in Austin, Texas. His younger brother, Travis, also an attorney, struggles to make ends meet as the novel opens. Texas is a capital punishment state and part of the novel deals forcefully and thoughtfully with that issue.

The story is not, however a sociological or psychological treatise on the rights and wrongs nor on the social implications of an existing approach to capital murder. This is a bare-knuckle, stirring confrontation between opposing points of view in the persons of Travis and Jake.

The well written narrative switches between a decades old execution of a truly evil and unrepentant character and the truly awful results of the penetration of the modern drug culture into every aspect of Austin’s society. And while the well-defined characters raise several important tragic issues in the investigations and trials of some of the characters, the pace of the novel drives the narrative in relentless fashion through personal, political and even racial aspects.

Readers can ignore the sociological aspects and read the novel as a fine fascinating adventure. Or one could use the story as the basis for thoughtful debate. Either way, I recommend the novel without reservation.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, March 2020.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
Traces, Grand Lac, Reunion, Red Sky.

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Hell for the Holidays
A Christopher Miller Holiday Thriller #2
Chris Grabenstein
Carroll & Graf, November 2007
ISBN 978-0-7867-2060-6
Hardcover

Snappy dialogue and spare, economical writing characterize this thriller. So why is it 400 pages long? The answer is that this is a marvelously complicated novel with many parts playing out simultaneously in various locations around the country. The essence of the story is the smuggling into the U.S. of a stinger missile with the aim of blowing up an airliner operated by an emerging African nation. The smugglers, naturally enough, are white bigots. The hard-to-read jacket copy invokes the Oklahoma bomber, Timothy McVeigh. I’d choose, instead, the young sniper who terrorized Washington D.C. environs recently.

FBI agent Christopher Miller, an engaging protagonist, chases the terrorists aided and hindered by friends and antagonists in various local and federal law enforcement agencies. We get a wide range of issues from career CIA bureaucrats to dedicated cops who’ll unhesitatingly put everything on the line to thwart the criminals. The action takes place in several high-interest locations from a championship mid-Atlantic college football game to port-side freight operations, to a major international airport.

Apart from the two principal groups of characters, there’s a host of bit players who are logical, real, and who function almost exactly as you expect they should, given the circumstances.

The development and resolution of the story depend, not only on the plotting, the moves and counter moves of police, but on small mistakes
by people on the periphery. And these seemingly insignificant details are, for me, the real strength of the novel. Whether you buy the basic
premise or not, once in the story, readers will be hard-pressed to find places where they’ll rear back in disgust and say, “give me a break!” Hell for the Holidays is a terrific read. An outstanding novel of its type.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, June 2019.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
Traces, Grand Lac, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Review: A Litter of Bones by JD Kirk @JDKirkBooks @ZertexMedia

A Litter of Bones
A DCI Jack Logan Novel #1
JD Kirk
Zertex Crime, April 2019
ISBN 978-1-912767-12-0
Trade Paperback

There are eight books in the series – and to date I have read four of them. I bought them for my Kindle as they were all reasonably priced ( Book 8 is due out in a few weeks) and all are around 300 pages in length.

I’ve read the first four to date….and really enjoyed them all…. They are set in Scotland, in and around Fort William and Inverness.  I’m originally from Scotland and relatively familiar with the area so that struck a chord with me. Jack Logan is a great character. He’s a Detective Chief Inspector, big, brawny and not to be trifled with.  He was married and he has a daughter… but his work has taken precedence at the cost of his marriage.

A Litter of Bones is the first book in the series.

When a young boy goes missing in the Scottish Highlands DCI Logan is sent to take the lead in the case due to the fact that he’d recently had success in apprehending and prosecuting a man who’d kidnapped and killed several children.  But when similarities to the previous missing children’s cases surface, it isn’t long before the local press begin to question whether DCI Logan had arrested and charged the wrong man.

Logan has his own misgivings but pushes his colleagues to their limit determined to find the missing boy alive. When one of his Detectives is attacked while checking out an abandoned house and forensics later find indications that the missing boy was indeed being held there…the tension quickly escalates, as hopes of finding the missing boy alive slowly diminish.

I  enjoyed getting to know DCI Logan and the local detectives and police.  The race to catch the kidnapper kept me eagerly turning pages.   I highly recommend this book and the next three in the series… JD Kirk is the pen name of Barry Hutchison who has written a number of children’s  books and as he puts it ‘is meantime enjoying murdering people’ in this mystery series.

Check them out!  You’ll be glad you did!

Respectfully submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, September 2020.

Book Review: Winter Witness by Tina deBellegarde @tdbwrites @levelbestbooks @partnersincr1me

Winter Witness by Tina deBellegarde Banner

 

Winter Witness

by Tina deBellegarde

on Tour November 1-30, 2020

Synopsis:

Winter Witness by Tina deBellegarde

When a beloved nun is murdered in a sleepy Catskill Mountain town, a grieving young widow finds herself at the center of the turmoil. Bianca St. Denis is searching for a job and seeking acceptance in her new home of Batavia-on-Hudson. Agatha Miller, the nun’s closest friend and the ailing local historian everyone loves to hate, shares her painful personal history and long-buried village secrets with Bianca. Armed with this knowledge, Bianca unravels the mysteries surrounding the death while dealing with the suspicions of her eccentric neighbors.

 

However, Bianca’s meddling complicates the sheriff’s investigation as well as his marriage. Can Sheriff Mike Riley escape his painful past in a town where murder and infighting over a new casino vie for his attention?

 

Danger stalks Bianca as she gets closer to the truth. Can the sheriff solve the mystery before the killer strikes again? Can the town heal its wounds once the truth has been uncovered?

Book Details:

Genre: Traditional Mystery Published by: Level Best Books Publication Date: September 29, 2020 Number of Pages: 282 ISBN: 978-1-947915-76-3 Series: Batavia-on-Hudson Mystery, #1 Purchase Links: Amazon | Apple Books | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Goodreads | Oblong Books and Music

My Review

A bone-chilling mountain winter takes the front seat in deBellegarde’s debut that’s full of vivid characterizations that evoke not only the charm of a small town but also its unique atmosphere and secrets. Bianca is new to town but is drawn into the investigation, along with Sheriff Mike Riley, at least partly because of her journalistic background but it’s also an escape from the grief that surrounds the young widow. Her story is a compelling one but so is Mike’s with his troubled marriage and his PTSD-driven flight from the big city to this seemingly peaceful village. No less interesting is Sister Elaine; why on earth would anyone want her dead?

Batavia-on-Hudson is a town I’d like very much to visit, to get to know its townsfolk with all their failings and endearing idiosyncrasies. Villages like this one can seem like a fishbowl where everyone knows every detail about your life but, in fact, one can never truly know one’s neighbor or the shopkeeper on the village square or the librarian. The author’s deft touch with the underlying murder investigation is intriguing but its her characters who really come to life and I already want to know what will happen with them in the next book.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2020.

Read an excerpt:

CHAPTER ONE
Thursday, December 15 She could have been sleeping, were it not for the gaping gash in the back of her head and the bloody stone next to her limp body. Sheriff Mike Riley stood alone on the shore of the near-frozen lake. At his feet, Sister Elaine Fisher lay face down, ice crystals forming around her body where it met the shoreline. The murmuring water of the nearby stream imparted a peacefulness at odds with the scene. In the waning winter light, he paused ankle deep in the snow illuminated by the beat of red strobe lights. Murder seemed so extreme. The villagers would be baffled. Murder didn’t happen in sleepy Batavia-on-Hudson. An occasional stolen bicycle, some were paid off the books, but that was hardly worth mentioning. Lately, there had been a handful of amateur burglaries. Murder was another story altogether. But there was no denying it. Elaine’s body was there before him, lifeless on a cushion of snow at the edge of the lake. Sheriff Riley ran his chapped hands through his salt and pepper hair. A knowing person might have noticed that he used this motion to disguise a quick brush at his cheek, to eliminate the one tear that slipped through. He feared this day, the day his lazy job would bring him face to face once again with the ugly underbelly he knew existed even in a quiet place like Batavia-on-Hudson. Mike Riley wasn’t afraid of death. He was afraid of the transformation a village like this was bound to go through after an act of murder. He cried for Elaine; though he barely knew her. But also, he cried for the village that died with her that morning. A place where children still wandered freely. A village that didn’t lock doors, and trusted everyone, even the ones they gossiped about. Now, inevitably, the villagers would be guarded around each other, never quite sure anymore if someone could be trusted. He thought he could already hear the locks snapping shut in cars and homes as word of the murder got out. Mothers yanking children indoors, hand-in-hand lovers escaping the once-romantic shadows of the wooded pathways, and old ladies turning into shut-ins instead of walking their dogs across the windy bluff. Sheriff Riley steeled himself not just to confront the damaged body of the first murder victim of Batavia in over seventy years, but to confront the worried faces of mothers, the defeated faces of fathers and the vulnerable faces of the elderly. He squatted in the slush, wincing as his bad knee rebelled, and laid his hands on Elaine’s rough canvas jacket, two-sizes too big—one of her thrift shop purchases, no doubt. As reverently as was possible in the muddy snow, Mike Riley turned over her body to examine the face of a changing village. Sister Elaine had no one left, she had no known siblings and of course, no spouse or children. Only Agatha Miller, her childhood companion, could have been considered next of kin. How Elaine had tolerated her grumpy old friend was a mystery to everyone. The sheriff knew that Elaine’s death would rock the community. Even a relative outsider like Mike understood that Elaine had been an anchor in Batavia. Her kindness had given the village heart, and her compassion had given it soul. No one would be prepared for this. Mike knew from experience that preparation for death eases the grief. You start getting ready emotionally and psychologically. You make arrangements. You imagine your life without someone. But Mike also knew that when the time comes it still slaps you in the face, cold and bracing. And you realize you were only fooling yourself. Then somehow, in short order, work becomes demanding, bills need to be paid and something on the radio steals a chuckle right out of your throat. For a brief second you realize that there are moments of respite from your grief and perhaps someday those moments will expand and you may be able to experience joy once again. But for now, Elaine’s death will be a shock. No one had prepared for her death, let alone her murder. *** Excerpt from Winter Witness by Tina deBellegarde. Copyright 2020 by Tina deBellegarde. Reproduced with permission from Tina deBellegarde. All rights reserved.

 

Author Bio:

Tina deBellegarde

Tina deBellegarde lives in Catskill, New York with her husband Denis and their cat Shelby. Winter Witness is the first book in the Batavia-on-Hudson Mystery Series. Tina also writes short stories and flash fiction. When she isn’t writing, she is helping Denis tend their beehives, harvest shiitake mushrooms, and cultivate their vegetable garden. She travels to Japan regularly to visit her son, Alessandro. Tina did her graduate studies in history. She is a former exporter, paralegal, teacher, and library clerk.

Catch Up With Tina deBellegarde: tinadebellegarde.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Instagram, Twitter, & Facebook!

 

Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!

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Enter To Win!:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Tina deBellegarde. There will be 6 winners. Two (2) winners will each win one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card; two (2) winners will each win one (1) physical copy of Winter Witness by Tina deBellegarde (U.S. addresses only); and two (2) winners will each win one (1) eBook copy of Winter Witness by Tina deBellegarde The giveaway begins on November 1, 2020 and runs through December 2, 2020. Void where prohibited.

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Book Review: The Preserve by Ariel S. Winter @ArielSWinter @AtriaBooks

The Preserve
Ariel S. Winter
Emily Bestler Books/Atria, November 2020
ISBN 978-1-4767-9788-5
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

The near future has been decimated by plague (sound familiar?), and the human population is now a minority. Robots—complex AIs almost indistinguishable from humans—are the ruling majority. Nine months ago, in a controversial move, the robot government opened a series of preserves, designated areas where humans can choose to live without robot interference. Now the preserves face their first challenge: someone has been murdered.

Chief of Police Jesse Laughton on the SoCar Preserve is assigned to the case. He fears the factions that were opposed to the preserves will use the crime as evidence that the new system does not work. As he digs for information, robots in the outside world start turning up dead from bad drug-like programs that may have originated on SoCar land. And when Laughton learns his murder victim was a hacker who wrote drug-programs, it appears that the two cases might be linked. Soon, it’s clear that the entire preserve system is in danger of collapsing. Laughton’s former partner, a robot named Kir, arrives to assist on the case, and they soon uncover shocking secrets revealing that life on the preserve is not as peaceful as its human residents claim. But in order to protect humanity’s new way of life, Laughton must solve this murder before it’s too late.

There’s nothing much more satisfying than a good police procedural in a futuristic setting and this book filled my craving quite nicely. The idea of humanity taking a back seat to robots quite peacefully and without a war going on is intriguing in itself and I applaud the author for making the scenario work naturally.

Character development takes precedence over plot although the murder investigation is well done and left me wondering for a long while. The relationships here are the real story, those between Jesse and his wife, the two of them and their child and, most compelling, Jesse and Kir. The latter is a dynamic partnership that evokes a real friendship between man and machine and I want to know much more. I really hope there will be a sequel to continue and expand the tale.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2020.

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Bookshop.org
Amazon // Books-A-Million // Indiebound

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…one of the last human police officers must use the creativity
bots haven’t yet discovered how to mimic in order to solve the crime.
“The Most Anticipated Crime Books of Fall” CrimeReads