Book Reviews: Britain’s Forgotten Serial Killer by John Lucas and Phoenix Burning by Isabella Moldonado @johnlucas_news @penswordbooks @authorbella1 @midnightinkbook

Britain’s Forgotten Serial Killer
The Terror of the Axeman
John Lucas
Pen & Sword Books, September 2019
ISBN 978-1-52674-884-3
Trade Paperback

In 1975 a young, deeply troubled alcoholic boy, came before the court in London, charged with three brutal murders. Two were elderly women, one a neighborhood priest. The youth charged with their murders, Patrick MacKay, was twenty-two at the time and had a criminal career stretching back eleven years.

Journalist John Lucas has written a sober, detailed biography of this Nazi-obsessed youth, speculating over eight other similar murders of which Mackay might reasonably be accused, making him one of the most prolific and dangerous serial killers ever experienced in England.

At the time of his trial, Mackay was dubbed The Axeman, The Monster of Belgravia and the Devil’s Disciple. He never held a regular job for more than a few days, he was committed numerous times to psychiatric and other mental institutions for evaluation and treatment, but he was always released after short treatment or simply left the institution. Early on, a number of omissions, errors and missteps by various law enforcement agencies allowed Mackay to escape arrest and thus eight brutal murders attributed to him remain unresolved.

The book is evenly written with comprehensive research clearly presented. One of the most interesting aspects of the case of Patrick David MacKay is the number of citizens with whom he interacted and even occasionally lived with who, despite his erratic behavior, never saw clues to his murderous behavior. The book contains an extensive index, bibliography and several photographs of some of the principal characters.

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

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Phoenix Burning      
A Veranda Cruz Mystery #2
Isabella Maldonado
Midnight Ink Books, March 2018
ISBN 978-0-7387-5102-3
Trade Paperbacks

This is a novel of crime, of brutality, of family secrets, of conflicts and of resolution. It is also a novel rich in a variety of good and evil characters, of violence expertly described and of characters conflicted, misunderstood and striving for their goals, personal and social.

In Phoenix, Homicide detective Veranda Cruz with her partner riding shotgun races to connect with an important drug dealer. As she dodges mid-day traffic on a busy street she worries about the unusual timing of the contact and immediately discovers her instincts are still working well when her vehicle is intercepted and the drug dealer is killed. She and partner Sam Stark pursue the killer into a crowded mall.

Thus begins a fast-paced, terror-filled novel that carries the talented Cruz through incident after incident, some fraught and dangerous, others poignant and emotional, all thoughtful and often original in design and result. Phoenix is the site of most of the action with a few side trips to somewhere in Mexico and the summer season is recognized if not belabored. The novel is a judicious blend of modern electronic uses and mis-uses, and good-old-fashioned policing, mostly the action is physical, dangerous and logical. The pace can be best described as fast and furious, interspersed with more normal family-based rhythms and interactions.

Cruz’s target is a powerful Mexican drug cartel of epic proportions and ruthless actions. Her partners in a monumental effort to take down the cartel represent every available local and federal law enforcement agency, requiring negotiation skills beyond belief, almost.

In sum, the novel careens to an unusual if satisfying ending leaving multiple traces of future possibilities. For fans of violent crime novels, this is a definite winner.

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

Book Review: No One Saw by Beverly Long @BevLongBooks @HarlequinBooks

No One Saw
An A.L. McKittridge Novel #2
Beverly Long
MIRA, June 2020
ISBN 978-0-7783-0965-9
Mass Market Paperback

From the publisher—

Detective team A.L. McKittridge and Rena Morgan are back on their beat after solving the brutal Baywood serial killings, but crime doesn’t rest for long in their small Wisconsin town. In book two of Beverly Long’s electrifying A.L. McKittridge series, NO ONE SAW (MIRA Mass Market Paperback; June 30, 2020; $7.99), a child seemingly vanishes from a day care into thin air and A.L. and Rena must race to bring her home before time runs out.

Baywood police department detective A.L. McKittridge is no stranger to tough cases, but when five-year-old Emma Whitman disappears from her day care, there isn’t a single shred of evidence to go on. There are no witnesses, no trace of where she might have gone. There’s only one thing A.L. and his partner, Rena Morgan, are sure of—somebody is lying.

With the clock ticking, A.L. and Rena discover their instincts are correct: all is not as it seems. The Whitmans are a family with many secrets, and A.L. and Rena must untangle a growing web of lies if they’re going to find the thread that leads them to Emma… before it’s too late.

There’s nothing much worse than a missing child and, when A.L. and Rena catch this case, they’re 100% focused on finding little Emma. The circumstances seem to be unusual as her grandmother says she dropped her off at daycare that morning but no one working there admits to having seen the little girl…and no one’s really giving the detectives all the cooperation they need.

The detectives are already eleven hours behind, a critical loss of time in a missing child situation, and it’s made even worse by all the lies coming from witnesses and family members. So much deception leads them down more than one rabbit hole and causes further delays in the investigation. Along the way, I was just as puzzled and anxious as our two main characters and found myself pinpointing and then discarding one potential suspect after another.

When I read the first book in the series, I thought the pacing was a bit slow but that doesn’t hold so true in No One Saw. Truthfully, the chase to find Emma built at a moderate tempo until it reached a riveting stage and I kept turning the pages, caught up in the tension and the unwavering determination of these partners to separate all the lies from the truth. I also found A.L.’s and Rena’s personal stories engaging; yes, they have baggage but none of it is abnormal and they work together with intelligence and creative thinking. Well done, Ms. Long!

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2020.

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Powell’s
Amazon // Books-A-Million // Harlequin

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An Excerpt from No One Saw

One

With a week’s worth of mail in one hand, A.L. McKittridge unlocked his apartment door with the other. Then he dragged his carry-on suitcase inside, almost tripping over Felix, who had uncharacteristically left his spot by the window where the late afternoon sun poured in. He tossed the collection of envelopes and free weekly newspapers onto his kitchen table and bent down to scratch his cat. “You must have missed me,” he said. “Wasn’t Rena nice to you?”

His partner had sent a text every day. Always a picture. Felix eating. Felix taking a dump. Felix giving himself a bath. No messages. Just visual confirmation that all was well while he was off in sunny California, taking a vacation for the first time in four years.

I can take care of your damn cat, she’d insisted. And while he hadn’t wanted to bother her because she’d have plenty to do picking up the slack at work, she was the only one he felt he could ask. His ex-wife Jacqui would have said no. His just turned seventeen-year-old daughter, Traci, would have been willing but he hadn’t liked the idea of her coming round to an empty apartment on her own.

Baywood, Wisconsin—population fifty thousand and change—was generally pretty safe but he didn’t believe in taking chances. Not with Traci’s safety. She’d been back in school for just a week. Her senior year. How the hell was that even possible? College was less than a year away.

No wonder his knees ached. He was getting old.

Or maybe it was flying coach for four hours. But the trip had been worth it. Tess had wanted to see the ocean. Wanted to face her nemesis, she’d claimed. And she’d been a champ. Had stood on the beach where less than a year earlier, she’d almost died after a shark had ripped off a sizable portion of her left arm. Had lifted her pretty face to the wind and stared out into the vast Pacific.

She hadn’t surfed. Said she wasn’t ready for that yet. But he was pretty confident that she’d gotten the closure that she’d been looking for. She’d slept almost the entire flight home, her head resting on A.L.’s shoulder. On the hour-plus drive from Madison to Baywood, she’d been awake but quiet. When he’d dropped her off at her house, she hadn’t asked him in.

He wasn’t offended. He’d have said no anyway. After a week together, they could probably both benefit from a little space. Their relationship was just months old and while the sex was great and the conversation even better, neither of them wanted to screw it up by jumping in too fast or too deep.

Now he had groceries to buy and laundry to do. It was back to work tomorrow. He grabbed the handle of his suitcase and was halfway down the hall when his cell rang. He looked at the number. Rena. Probably wanted to make sure he was home and Felix-watch was over. “McKittridge,” he answered.

“Where are you?”

“Home.”

“Oh, thank God.”

He let go of his suitcase handle. Something was wrong. “What’s up?” he asked.

“We’ve got a missing kid. Five-year-old female. Lakeside Learning Center.”

Missing kid. Fuck. He glanced at his watch. Just after 6:00. That meant they had less than two hours of daylight left. “I’ll be there in ten minutes.”

The Lakeside Learning Center on Oak Avenue had a fancier name than building. It was a two-story building with brown clapboard siding on the first floor and tan vinyl siding on the second. There wasn’t a lake in sight.

The backyard was fenced with something a bit nicer than chain link but not much. Inside the fence was standard playground equipment: several small plastic playhouses, a sandbox on legs and a swing set. The building was located at the end of the block in a mixed-use zone. Across from the front door and on the left were single-person homes. To the right, directly across Wacker Avenue, was a sandwich shop, and kitty-corner was a psychic who could only see the future on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

A.L. took all this in as he beached his SUV in a no parking zone. Stepped over the yellow tape and made a quick stop to sign in with the cop who was at the door. The guy’s job was to ensure that there was a record of everybody who entered and exited the crime scene.

Once he was inside, his first impression was that the inside was much better than the outside. The interior had been gutted, erasing all signs that this had once been the downstairs of a 1960s two-story home. There was a large open space to his right. On the far wall hung a big-screen television and on the wall directly opposite the front door were rows of shelves, four high, stacked with books, games and small toys.

It was painted in a cheery yellow and white and the floor was a light gray tile. There was plenty of natural light coming through the front windows. The hallway he was standing in ran the entire length of the building and ended in a back door.

There was a small office area to his left. The door was open and there was a desk with a couple guest chairs. The space looked no bigger than ten feet by ten feet and was currently empty.

He sent Rena a text. Here.

A door at the far end of the hallway opened and Rena and a woman, middle-aged and white, dressed in khaki pants and a dark green button-down shirt, appeared. Rena waved at him and led the woman in his direction. “This is my partner, Detective McKittridge,” she said to the woman. She looked at A.L. “Alice Quest. Owner and director of Lakeside Learning Center.”

A.L. extended a hand to the woman. She shook it without saying anything.

“If you can excuse us,” Rena said to the woman. “I’d like to take a minute and bring Detective McKittridge up to speed.”

Alice nodded and stepped into the office. She pulled the door shut but not all the way. Rena motioned for A.L. to follow her. She crossed the big room and stopped under the television.

“What do we have?” he asked.

“Emma Whitman is a five-year-old female who has attended Lakeside Learning Center for the last two years. Her grandmother, Elaine Broadstreet, drops her off on Mondays and Wednesdays between 7:15 and 7:30.”

Today was Wednesday. “Did that happen today?”

“I have this secondhand, via her son-in-law who spoke to her minutes before I got here. It did.”

The hair on the back of A.L.’s neck stood up. When Traci had been little, she’d gone to day care. Not at Lakeside Learning Center. Her place had been bigger. “How many kids are here?” he asked.

“Forty. No one younger than three. No one older than five. They have two rooms, twenty kids to a room. Threes and early fours in one room. Older fours and fives in the other. Two staff members in each room. So four teachers. And a cook who works a few hours midday. And then there’s Alice. She fills in when a staff member needs a break or if someone is ill.”

Small operation. That didn’t mean bad. “Where are the other staff?”

“Majority of the kids get picked up by 5:30. According to Alice, she covers the center by herself from 5:30 to 6:00 most days to save on payroll costs. Emma Whitman is generally one of the last ones to be picked up. Everybody else was gone tonight and she’d already locked the outside door around 5:45 when the father pulled up and pounded on the door. At first, she assumed that somebody else had already picked up Emma. But once Troy called his wife and the grandmother, the only other people allowed to pick her up, she called Kara Wiese, one of Emma’s teachers, who said that Emma hadn’t been there all day. That was the first time Alice had thought about the fact that the parents had not reported an absence. She’d been covering for an ill staff member in the classroom that Emma is not assigned to.”

Perfect fucking storm.

Excerpted from No One Saw by Beverly Long, Copyright © 2020 by Beverly Long.

Published by MIRA Books

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About the Author

Beverly Long’s writing career has spanned more than two decades and twenty novels, including TEN DAYS GONE, the first book of her A.L. McKittridge series. She writes romantic suspense with sexy heroes and smart heroines. She can often be found with her laptop in a coffee shop with a cafe au lait and anything made with dark chocolate by her side.

Connect with Beverly:

Website // Twitter //

Facebook // Goodreads // Instagram

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All is not as it seems…

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Book Review: Beneath the Surface by Mike Martin @mike54martin @AnAudiobookworm

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Title: Beneath the Surface
Series: Sgt. Windflower Mystery Series, Book 3
Author: Mike Martin
Narrator: Francis G. Kearney
Publication Date: May 14, 2020

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Beneath the Surface
Sgt. Windflower Mystery Series, Book 3
Mike Martin
Narrated by Francis G. Kearney
Mike Martin, May 2020
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

Beneath the Surface is the third book in the Sgt. Windflower Mystery Series set in Newfoundland on the East Coast of Canada.

Sgt. Windflower is back, and as usual, he’s loving life on the East Coast. He may be a long way from his home in Northern Alberta, but he has been adopted by the locals as almost one of their own.

He has a good life, good work with the RCMP, and a good woman that he has grown closer to in his years on the southeast coast of Newfoundland.

But trouble is brewing just beneath the surface of this calm and charm-filled existence.

The Newfoundland Mounties have returned and I’m so glad they have! Mike Martin’s series featuring Sgt. Winston Windflower, who is part First Nation, specifically Cree, as you can tell by his last name, has become one of my favorites over the past few years and I’m always happy to welcome Windflower back along with his girlfriend, Sheila Hillier, close friend Herb Stoodly, and colleagues Corporal Eddie Tizzard and Betsy Molloy.

Sidenote: Are Canadians as enamored with the Mounties as so many Americans are?

The suspicious death of a rower, a university student in St. Johns, doesn’t actively involve Windflower in his temporary Marystown post but his interest is piqued because she grew up in Grand Bank, Eddie’s territory. Sheila knew and liked Amy Parsons, another reason for Windflower to want to look into the incident but, before he can, he’s surprised to find his Uncle Frank ensconced in his house, unannounced but clearly settled in, even wearing Windflower’s own longjohns. This is a problem in all sorts of ways but takes a backseat to what Windflower begins to learn about Amy’s murder, especially a possible connection to human trafficking.

It was nice, as always, to learn a little about life in Newfoundland and Winston’s Cree background and everything was enhanced by Mr. Kearney’s performance. His narration has been growing on me with each audiobook and I particularly enjoy his accents, which sound authentic to me. Once again, an appealing story with engaging narration, just what I like.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2020.

Purchase Links:
Audible // iTunes

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About the Author

Mike Martin was born in Newfoundland on the East Coast of Canada and now lives and works in Ottawa, Ontario. He is a long-time freelance writer and his articles and essays have appeared in newspapers, magazines and online across Canada as well as in the United States and New Zealand. He is the author of Change the Things You Can: Dealing with Difficult People and has written a number of short stories that have published in various publications including Canadian Stories and Downhome magazine.

The Walker on the Cape was his first full fiction book and the premiere of the Sgt. Windflower Mystery Series. Other books in the series include The Body on the T, Beneath the Surface, A Twist of Fortune and A Long Ways from Home, which was shortlisted for the Bony Blithe Light Mystery Award as the best light mystery of the year. A Tangled Web was released in 2017 and the newest book in the series is Darkest Before the Dawn which won the Bony Blithe Light Mystery Award as the best light mystery of the year.

Mike is currently Chair of the Board of Crime Writers of Canada, a national organization promoting Canadian crime and mystery writers.

Website // Twitter // Facebook

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About the Narrator

Following college and many years as a local entertainer and actor I eventually entered the business world and a career of building and selling multiple successful enterprises.

In 1985 I purchased an aviation business and while building a very successful business also earned multiple movie credits as a helicopter camera ship pilot – https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0443932/?ref_=nv_sr_1 – among other services, and flew the camera helicopter for London Weekend Television’s mini series “Piece of Cake” in 1988. I have an extensive aviation background from helicopters through turboprop and jet aircraft, and a deep knowledge of all things aviation.

I have always been an insatiable reader with a love of history – the ultimate story, and anything military – especially if it flies. My evolution into narration and the joy of storytelling is the culmination of many years of a life fully lived, and is reflected in a voice of experience.

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Play an excerpt here.

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Follow the tour here.

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Book Review: Gone to Darkness by Barbara Nickless @BarbaraNickless

Gone to Darkness
Sydney Rose Parnell #4
Barbara Nickless
Thomas and Mercer, June 2020
ISBN 978-1542092869
Trade Paperback

Sydney Parnell is the youngest homicide detective in the Denver’s Major Crime Unit. She’s an Iraqi war vet and has also worked as a railway cop along with her K9 partner Clyde, a Belgian Malinois who was by her side during her time in Iraq.

Sydney is meeting up with another officer to investigate a possible jumper from a train. When she arrives she finds Officer Heinrich unconscious and bleeding from a head injury. Sydney calls for back up and an ambulance and while she waits, she and Clyde take a look around. Nothing seems amiss but a fog descends which renders the scene rather eerie. Near the tracks she spots a medallion smeared with blood. Further searching uncovers paper clips shaped like a cross.

Her gut instinct is telling her something strange is going on. A Forensic team is sent out to the area and Sydney insists that the train that recently passed through the area be searched. During the search the mutilated body of a young man is found.

The victim turns out to be well known among local graphic artists using his talents to draw superhero comics. He was also known to the immigrant workers and was a member of group calling themselves The Superior Gentlemen.

The investigation seems to be getting nowhere and reluctantly Sydney reconnects with another case she’s been assigned regarding the rapes of women in nursing homes. DNA collected from the train matches that found at the rapes, a strong indication the two cases are connected.

The plot is strong, complex and intriguing. Sydney is a likeable well rounded character. I really liked her connection with Clyde, her dog, as well as her relationship with her mentor, Detective Len Bandoni. Some of the descriptions of victims are harsh and brutal and may be a problem for some readers.

This is the fourth novel from Barbara Nickless in this series. I haven’t read the others but I had no problem keeping up.

All in all … A great read!

Respectfully submitted,

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, June 2020.

Book Review: The Nutcracker Conspiracy by Lauren Carr @TheMysteryLadie @BooksbyAcorn @iReadBookTours

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Title: The Nutcracker Conspiracy
Series: Thorny Rose Mystery Series #4
Author: Lauren Carr
Narrator: Mike Alger
Publication Date: January 30, 2020

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Purchase Links:
Audible // iTunes // Amazon

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The Nutcracker Conspiracy
Thorny Rose Mystery Series #4
Lauren Carr
Narrated by Mike Alger
Acorn Book Services, January 2020
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

Three years ago, the nation gasped in horror when the President of the United States barely escaped an assassination attempt that left two dead—the vice president’s wife and the attempted assassin.  Even after numerous investigations proved otherwise, conspiracy theorists argue that the assassin was acting on orders from the CIA, FBI, and every federal agency within a hundred miles of the capital.

Aspiring Author Dean Conway is the last person Lieutenant Commander Murphy Thornton wants to spend his Saturday afternoon when they end up at the same wedding reception table. While their wives tend to bridesmaid duties, Murphy is trapped listening to Dean’s latest work-in-project—completing the manuscript of an investigative journalist who’d disappeared months earlier.

“She was number twelve,” Dean says.

“Twelve?” Murphy asks.

“Twelve witnesses connected to or investigating The Nutcracker shooting have died either in an accident or suicide.”

Two days later, Dean dies suddenly―but not before sending a text message to Murphy:

 “13”

Unlike most of Lauren Carr’s books, The Nutcracker Conspiracy features one body after another after another and it’s no wonder that Dean Conway believes a conspiracy is tying so many of these deaths together. It all started with an attempt on the President’s life that actually claimed two other lives and it’s only natural to think that such an assassination attempt must have involved one federal agency or another, maybe more than one. Murphy Thornton didn’t pay much attention to Dean’s theory, that is, until Dean himself was blown up by a bomb.

Since Dean’s wife, Amy, is a close friend of Jessica’s, the latter is drawn into Murphy’s investigation when Amy is pegged as a prime suspect in the bombing. With a little help from Jessica’s brother, Tristan, and Nigel, the Thorntons’ very efficient AI butler, not to mention even more family members and friends, Murphy and Jessica start down a very complex trail of clues, theories, motives and potential perpetrators that lead them to a multitude of puzzle pieces. Putting the puzzle together kept me listening into the night hours while the couple worked as hard as they ever have to catch the killer…or maybe more than one.

As it happens, Jessica’s dad’s dog, Gnarly, is visiting—he needed to get out of town for a while till the furor dies down—and he’s settled right in with the other two dogs, Newman and Spencer. Newman is perfectly happy with the visitor as long as Gnarly doesn’t mess with his TV remote and Spencer seems to have a bit of a crush on the German Shepherd but Gnarly is more interested in continuing his life of minor crimes and misdemeanours, a habit that doesn’t fit well with his position as elected mayor of the town of Spencer. You can imagine, I’m sure, the chuckles and outright guffaws that ensue when these pups are on the page.

Mike Alger continues his stellar performance as narrator of so many of Ms. Carr’s books and he really has become one of my favorite readers; Mr. Alger has a way with words and vocal personalizations, not to mention a clear sense of mood and pacing. Between his narration and Ms. Carr’s deviously tangled plot and vivid characters, a listener/reader won’t be the least bit disappointed in this latest Thorny Rose adventure.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2020.

About the Author

Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, Chris Matheson Cold Case, the Thorny Rose, and now the Nikki Bryant Cozy Mysteries—almost thirty titles across five fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr’s seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, crime fiction, police procedurals, romance, and humor.

​A popular speaker, Lauren is also the owner of Acorn Book Service, the umbrella under which falls iRead Book Tours. She lives with her husband and two spoiled rotten German Shepherds on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Connect with the author: Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook  ~  Instagram ~ Books on Audible

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Follow the tour

June 8 – She Just Loves Books – audiobook review / giveaway
June 9 –Mystery Suspense Reviews – audiobook review / giveaway
June 9 – Mystery Suspense Reviews – book spotlight / guest post
June 10 –Rockin’ Book Reviews – audiobook review / guest post / giveaway
June 10 –T’s Stuff – audiobook review / guest post / giveaway
June 11 –Sefina Hawke’s Books – audiobook review
June 11 Bound 4 Escape – audiobook review / giveaway
June 11 – Rosepoint Publishing – audiobook review
June 12 –Splashes of Joy – book spotlight / guest post / author interview / giveaway
June 12 Nighttime Reading Center – book spotlight / giveaway
June 12 – Locks, Hooks and Books – book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
June 15 –Buried Under Books – audiobook review – giveaway
June 16 – Dab of Darkness Audiobook Reviews – audiobook review /giveaway
June 17 – Jazzy Book Reviews – book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
June 17 – Blooming with Books – audiobook review / giveaway
June 19 – Stephanie Jane – book spotlight / giveaway
June 22 – Hall Ways Blog – audiobook review / giveaway
June 23 – Books for Books – audiobook review
June 24 – JBronder Book Reviews – audiobook review / guest post / giveaway
June 25 – Thoughts in Progress – audiobook review / giveaway

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Giveaway

Win a $50 Amazon gift card courtesy
of
Lauren Carr, author of 

The Nutcracker Conspiracy.

Enter here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2020.

Book Reviews: That Left Turn at Albuquerque by Scott Phillips and Where Privacy Dies by Priscilla Paton @soho_press @priscilla_paton @CoffeetownPress

That Left Turn at Albuquerque
Scott Phillips
Soho Crime, March 2020
ISBN 978-1-64129-109-5
Hardcover

The author has assembled here an engaging and substantial cast of characters. That he is able to keep track of their criminal activities and their attitudes toward their fellow humans, as well as their active lives is quite impressive.

Most of the characters engage in illegal and scurrilous acts without apparent concern for the morality or humanity of their lives. Or for the impact their actions have on others, often innocent others. That most of their criminality is directed at other criminals may be seen by many readers as a mitigating factor. A significant number of the characters are imbued with some level of humor and see their fellow humans as actually funny at times.

Central to the story is down and out attorney, Douglas Rigby. His small, now solo practice is falling to pieces and he engages in several illegal enterprises in his attempts to stave off bankruptcy and total ruin.

Readers will be treated to bare-knuckle humor, tongue in cheek satire, up-tempo action, murder, mayhem, and a good deal of action. A somewhat peculiar, jaundiced look at society, propels the book from start to finish.

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

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Where Privacy Dies
A Twin Cities Mystery #1
Priscilla Paton
Coffeetown Press, May 2018
ISBN 978-1-60381-665-6
Trade Paperback

From the striking cover to the final resolution of murky death and the corruption by power and money of numerous characters, this rich and at times difficult novel will attract, enthrall and sometimes irk readers. Central to the story is the gradual growth of understanding and appreciation of two detectives in a Twin Cities law enforcement force titled G-Met. It’s an intriguing amalgam of special cops whose franchise covers multiple jurisdictions in the metropolitan region of East Central Minnesota. It’s an authorial creation with much interesting and intriguing potential.

Lead detective is tall lanky Erik Jansson, divorced father of a young son. He is not a typical cop one frequently finds in this genre. He’s paired with a new hire from a small city in southern Minnesota, Deb Metzger, a six-foot plus lesbian, who could competently handle the physical requirements of a corporate bodyguard. The two are not instantly simpatico and thereby inhabit a running source of minor conflict and mutual support which adds a fine level of benign conflict to the novel.

Although the title of the novel is a quickly understood clue to an important dimension of the mystery, this story turns on the deviousness and sometimes nasty inclinations of human beings who have enjoyed a high degree of success without the leavening factor of ethics and moral suasion. The narrative is tight, solid and delves neatly into ego, intrusion of technology, moral failure and the entanglement of those who would ignore their childhood schooling. A multiplicity of characters, crisp dialogue and an absence of unnecessary description adds to the richness of the novel. The novel competently reveals a fresh voice and a thoughtful look into the modern world of computer crime and our almost universal entanglement therein. I recommend this fine novel.

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