Book Review: Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith @RGalbraith @mulhollandbooks

Troubled Blood
A Cormoran Strike Novel #5
Robert Galbraith
Mulholland Books, September 2020
ISBN 978-0-316-49898-2
Hardcover

For those familiar with this series by Robert Galbraith, aka J.K.Rowling, this is Book #5. While I would suggest reading them in order I believe that this 944 page hardcover book can be read on its own.

Cormoran Strike is a Private Detective and his Partner in the Detective Agency is Robin Ellacott. Due to their success in solving previous cases, Strike and Robin have gained something of a reputation. They now have a receptionist Pat, and two investigators, Morris and Hutchins. At the outset of the series Robin had been the sole employee, but having helped Strike in all the previous cases he offered her a partnership in the business.

They are asked to take on a Cold Case, the disappearance forty years ago of a young mother and doctor. Margot Bamborough disappeared without a trace one evening on her way to meet a friend for a drink. At the time Margot’s daughter Anna was a toddler, but she has always wondered if the speculation that her mother was just another victim of a serial killer named Dennis Creed was true. Creed is in jail for the kidnapping and murder of a number of young women, and has neither acknowledged nor denied any connection with Margot’s disappearance.

Intrigued, they decide to accept the challenge, but tracking down the people in Margot’s life from 40 years ago, two doctors, a nurse and a receptionist, a gardener and an office cleaner, not to mention friends and a few patients she had seen on that fateful day, is a daunting task.

Troubling, however, is the fact that Strike is dealing with some personal issues. His Aunt Joan, who lives in Cornwall and was like a mother to him when he was a child, is fighting a battle with cancer. She means a great deal to him and he is torn between his work in London and spending as much time as he can with her. And Strike’s father, a famous Rock Musician who has barely acknowledged Strike’s existence wants to meet and talk to him.

Robin does her best to pick up the slack, but she is caught emotionally drained trying to finalize her divorce, as well as some tension in the office.

As you may have gathered there is a lot going on in this 944 page novel, nonetheless the reader is in good hands, and quickly gets caught up in the various cases as they unfold.

With slow and painstaking work Strike and Robin make a little headway with the Cold Case, locating and meeting with some of the staff who worked at the Medical Practice all those years ago. But with each interview they hear conflicting stories about Dr, Margot Bamborough, and the events leading up to her disappearance, which frustratingly results in more questions. But nothing deters these investigators in their pursuit of the truth.

A remarkable story, hard to put down. Check it out… You won’t regret it.

RespectfulIy submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, October 2020.

Book Review: Upstaged by Murder by C.S. Challinor

Upstaged By Murder
A Rex Graves Mystery #9
C.S. Challinor
Midnight Ink, July 2018
ISBN 978-0-7387-5647-9
Trade Paperback

It’s opening night for a play by a local playwright that brings together five celebrated British literary sleuths to identify the murderer of a glamorous young woman, occupant of a luxurious manor house. At the end of Act 1, Lady Naomi Grove is scripted to be killed. Shockingly, a single shot rings out, killing the actress behind a theatre scrim.

In the audience is a well-known Scottish barrister and private detective, Rex Graves. He’s enjoying a short vacation with his new wife, Helen. His natural curiosity and reputation draw him to offer his services to the local policeman tasked with finding the real killer.

With Graves, readers will be treated to an interesting twisting trail through the lives of the amateur players, all of whom are initial suspects. The community is naturally enthralled by the dramatic circumstances and nicely used by the author as the broader setting for the detection. Red herrings will mis-direct readers at crucial points throughout this cozy mystery and the relationships between Graves, his new bride and the constabulary are well-thought-out and presented.

For mystery readers who are fans of cozy murder mysteries, this novel will provide a fine weekend of enjoyable recreation beside a nice wood fire.

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

Book Review: Derailed by Mary Keliikoa @mary_keliikoa @CamelPressBooks @partnersincr1me

Derailed
A Kelly Pruett Mystery #1
Mary Keliikoa
Camel Press, May 2020
ISBN 978-1-60381-706-6
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

A dying wish. A secret world.

Can this grieving investigator stay on the right track?

PI Kelly Pruett is determined to make it on her own. And juggling clients at her late father’s detective agency, a controlling ex, and caring for a deaf daughter was never going to be easy. She takes it as a good sign when a letter left by her dad ties into an unsolved case of a young woman struck by a train.

Hunting down the one person who can prove the mysterious death was not just a drunken accident, Kelly discovers this witness is in no condition to talk. And the closer she gets to the truth the longer her list of sleazy suspects with murderous motives grows. Each clue exposes another layer of the victim’s steamy double life.

Can Kelly pinpoint the murderer, or is she on the fast track to disaster?

It all begins with a secret.

Kelly Pruett may be relatively inexperienced as a private investigator but that doesn’t mean she’s out of her depth. Before her father’s death, she worked alongside him and completed the requisite 1,500 hours of training. She just hasn’t taken on any “real” cases, until the day that Georgette Hanson walks through the door. The grieving mother wants someone to look into her daughter’s death a few weeks earlier when she was hit by a train and Kelly agrees to do so, prompted by the enigmatic letter her father left behind, somehow connected to this woman.

In addition to tracking down the truth about Brooke’s death, Kelly has plenty going on in her personal life what with her ex and his mother continually meddling in the raising of her deaf child but it helps that she has Floyd, a Basset Hound who always seems to know when a little comforting attention is in order. Of course, otherwise, he’d just as soon be napping, thank you very much. Floyd is one of my favorite characters, not that he helps out with the sleuthing, mind you; no, he’s just a good ol’ dawg.

Even a seasoned PI would be distracted by all the convoluted leads and deep, dark secrets Kelly soon discovers but she won’t be deterred and, in the end, learns a lot about Brooke and her shadier side and also about what it means to be a legitimate private investigator. This is a well-conceived and well-written debut and I like Kelly very much with all her normal, human shortcomings plus I’m happy to have another strong, intelligent woman on the job 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2020.

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Bookshop // Amazon

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An Excerpt from Derailed

CHAPTER 1

Portland, Oregon has as many parts as the human anatomy. Like the body, some are more attractive than others. My father’s P.I. business that I’d inherited was in what many considered the armpit, the northeast, where pickpockets and drug dealers dotted the narrow streets and spray paint tags of bubble-lettered gang signatures striped the concrete. In other words, home. I’m Kelly Pruett and I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.

I’d just finished invoicing a client for a skip trace and flicked off the light in the front office my dad and I used to share when a series of taps came from the locked front door. It was three o’clock on a gloomy Friday afternoon. A panhandler looking for a handout or a bathroom was my best guess. Sitting at the desk, I couldn’t tell.

Floyd, my basset hound and the only real man in my life, lifted his droopy eyes to meet mine before flopping his head back down on his bed. No help there.

Another rap, louder this time.

Someone wanted my attention. I retrieved the canister of pepper spray from my purse and opened the door to a woman, her umbrella sheltering her from the late October drizzle. Her angle made it hard to see her face, only the soft curls in her hair and the briefcase hanging from her hand. I slipped the pepper spray into the pocket of my Nike warmup jacket.

“Is Roger Pruett in?” she asked, water droplets splatting the ground.

She hadn’t heard the news and I hadn’t brought myself to update R&K Investigation’s website. I swallowed the lump before it could form and clutch my throat. “No, sorry,” I said. “My dad died earlier this year. I’m his daughter, Kelly.”

“I’m so sorry.” She peered from under the umbrella, her expression pinched. She searched my face for a different answer.

I’d give anything to have one. “What do you need?”

“To hire a P.I. to investigate my daughter’s death. Can you help me?” Her voice cracked.

My stomach fluttered. Process serving, court document searches, and the occasional tedious stakeout had made up the bulk of my fifteen hundred hours of P.I. experience requirement. Not that I wasn’t capable of more. Dad had enjoyed handling cases himself with the plan to train me later. In the year since his death, no one had come knocking, and going through the motions of what I knew how to do well had been hard enough. Now this lady was here for my father’s help. I couldn’t turn her away. I raked my fingers through the top of my shoulder length hair and opened the door. “Come in.”

“Bless you.” She slid her umbrella closed and brushed past me.

After securing the lock, I led her through the small reception area and into my office. A bathroom and another office that substituted for a storage closet were down the long hallway heading to the rear exit. Floyd decided to take interest and lumbered over. With his butt in the air, he stretched at her feet before nearly snuffling my soon-to-be client’s shoe up his nose. She nodded at him before vicious Floyd found his way back to his corner, tail swaying behind him. Guess he approved.

The woman looked in her mid-sixties. She had coiffed hair the color of burnt almonds, high cheekbones, and a prominent nose. She reminded me of my middle school librarian who could get you to shut up with one glance. “Would you like coffee, Ms…?”

“No thank you. It’s Hanson.” She settled in the red vinyl chair across from my dad’s beaten and scarred desk. “Georgette Hanson.”

My skin tingled when she said her name.

“My condolences on your father,” she said.

“Thank you.” Her words were simple, and expected, but her eyes held pain. Having lost her daughter, she clearly could relate.

“How did it happen?” she asked.

I swallowed again. With as many people as I’d had to tell, it should be getting easier. It wasn’t. “Stroke. Were you a former client of my father’s?”

She waved her hand. “Something like that.” She lifted the briefcase to her lap and popped the latch. Her eyes softened. “He was a fine man. You look just like him.”

My confident, broad-shouldered, Welshman father had been quite fit and handsome in his youth. Most of my adult life he’d carried an extra fifty pounds, but that never undermined his strong chin, wise blue eyes, and thick chestnut hair. I’d been blessed with my Dad’s eyes and hair and had my mom’s round chin. But since I’d ballooned a couple of sizes while pregnant with Mitz, I knew which version she thought I resembled. “What were you hoping he could do for you with regards to your daughter?”

“Find out why she’s dead.” Georgette shoved a paper dated a few weeks ago onto the desk and snapped the case lid closed.

A picture of a young woman with a warm smile, a button nose, and long wavy brunette hair sat below the fold on the front page under the headline: WOMAN STRUCK BY MAX TRAIN DIES.

I winced at the thought of her violent end. “I’m sorry. Such a pretty girl.”

“She was perfect.” Georgette pulled off her gloves, her eyes brimming. “The train destroyed that. Do you know what a train does to a hundred-pound woman?” Her voice trembled.

To avoid envisioning the impact, I replaced it with the smiling face of Mitz, my eight-year-old daughter. Which made it worse. If anything ever happened to her… How Georgette wasn’t a puddle on the Formica eluded me. I took a minute to read the story. According to the article, Brooke Hanson fell from the sidewalk into the path of an oncoming MAX train downtown at Ninth and Morrison Street. The police reported alcohol was a contributing factor. “They detained the sole witness who found her, Jay Nightingale. Why?” I set the paper down.

Georgette brushed her hair away from her forehead flashing nails chewed to the quick. “At first, the police thought he had something to do with her fall. He told them he’d seen my Brooke stumble down the sidewalk and teeter on the edge of the curb. Supposedly, he called out the train was coming and she didn’t hear him. He made no effort to get her away from those tracks. When the autopsy showed she’d been drinking, they wrote her death off as an accident, released Mr. Nightingale, and closed the case.”

Their decision couldn’t have been that cut and dry. “How much had she been drinking?”

“You sound like the police.” Georgette lifted her chin and met my gaze. There are many stages to grief. One of them anger, another denial. Georgette straddled both, something I knew plenty about. “Not sure…exactly. You’ll have to check the report.”

I scanned her face for the truth. “You don’t know or you’re afraid to tell me?”

She massaged the palm of her hand with her thumb. “The bartender at the Limbo said she’d had a few before he’d cut her off and asked her to leave. None of that matters because Nightingale’s lying. He had something to do with her fall. He may have even pushed her. At the very least, he knows more than he’s telling.”

My eyebrows raised. The police weren’t perfect, but they had solid procedures in death investigations. They would have explored that angle. “What are you basing that on?”

“My gut.”

A mother’s intuition while undeniable, alone didn’t prove foul play. “Did the MAX operator see Mr. Nightingale next to her at any point?”

“He didn’t even see her because the area wasn’t well lit.”

“Do you have his name?”

“Chris Foley.”

I jotted the information down. “What do the train’s cameras show?”

“There weren’t any. And no passenger statements because the train was done for the night. But Brooke shouldn’t have even been in the vicinity of that train.”

“Where is the Limbo located?”

“Ten blocks from where she was hit.”

A half mile, give or take. “Could she have been heading to catch the MAX to go home?”

“Brooke detested mass transit. The people who ride during the day scared her. She wouldn’t go there at night. Besides, she lived south of town. The train wouldn’t have taken her there.” She sighed. “I’m telling you, she wouldn’t be that far from the bar unless someone…” She closed her eyes.

Georgette talked in circles attempting to make sense of it all, but I had first-hand knowledge of drunk people doing things out of character. Given what she’d described, I could understand why the police had closed the matter. Even so, her devastation gripped my heart. And something had brought her out on this rainy Friday. “What are you holding back, Ms. Hanson? Why do you feel so strongly Mr. Nightingale was involved that you’d come to my dad for help?”

She stared at her hands as if they held the answers. “Brooke had changed in the last year. Become more distant. Not visiting. Missing our weekly calls.” The corner of her mouth turned upward in a sad smile. “We used to go for pie once a month. She loved pie. Apple pie. Cherry pie.” Her smile melted. “One day she was too busy and couldn’t get away. When she did, she didn’t look well. Stressed.”

“Did she say what was bothering her?”

“No. She shut me out, which she’d never done before. Now to have been killed by a train downtown when that Nightingale fellow was close enough to stop it from happening? He’s involved. I can feel it.” She straightened. “Until I know what happened that night, I won’t rest.” Georgette reached into her purse and produced an envelope grasped in her right hand. “Here’s three thousand for you to find the truth. Please say you’ll help me.”

Despite steady work from a few law firms around town, and an adequate divorce settlement, being a single mom often meant more month than money. Georgette was offering twice what I made in a good month of process serving and that would go a long way in taking care of my little girl. Not needing to ever rely on my ex would have been incentive alone, but there was more to it than that.

I’d recognized Georgette’s name the moment she’d said it. At the reading of my dad’s will, his lawyer had handed me a handwritten letter. It was a request from my dad that if a Georgette Hanson ever came to his door asking for help, I should assist and not ask questions why. It had meant nothing at the time. I’d figured it was due to his unending dedication to his clients.

Because Georgette had a connection to my dad in some capacity, that sealed my decision to at least try and help her. While I’d been directed not to ask questions, even he would have needed the obvious one answered before he took her money.

“You said she’d changed. Is there any chance she might have…I mean, was she depressed? Could she have stepped…”

Georgette cut me off. “Stop.” Her eyes grew wide with denial and the damn broke. Tears poured over her cheeks; her shoulders shook, buckling from the weight of her anguish. The anger and determination she’d used as a mask crumbled, and each passing second exposed another layer of her gut-wrenching grief.

I shifted at witnessing her raw emotion, bracing myself against my own around my father, and my thoughts on Mitz. Tears stung my eyes, unsure how to comfort my client when I struggled to do that for myself.

She muffled a wail with the back of her hand and finally drew in deep breaths until the sobs subsided.

I grabbed a box of Kleenex behind me. She already had a handful of tissue ready from her purse. I’d back off the notion of suicide—for the moment. The woman didn’t need any more distress than she’d already endured.

She sniffed hard a couple of times and sopped up her face with the tissue. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be.” I swiped under my eyes with my fingers, gaining control over my thoughts. “I’m not sure I’ll uncover anything new, but I will look for you.”

“Thank you.” She composed herself and stuffed the tissue back in her purse for the next inevitable breakdown.

I handed Georgette one of my dad’s old contracts, explaining my hourly rate, and a couple of authorization forms that might come in handy if requesting any case files was necessary.

She signed her name without bothering to read the fine print. She stood, the vinyl chair screeching against the hardwood floor startling Floyd. Her expression softened. “How old are you?”

“Thirty-two.”

“Brooke was a couple of years older, but pretty, like you and with the same flowing brown hair and kind eyes.” She sniffed. “I came to Roger because he could get to the heart of things. If you’re like him, you’ll find out what happened to my baby.”

I’d never be as good as my dad, but I did possess his mule-like stubbornness to get to the bottom of things. My ex could attest to that. “I’ll do what I can.”

She nodded. “Brooke was a good girl. She loved animals, ran every morning, and worked for the law firm Anderson, Hiefield & Price. She was the head accountant there.” Her face beamed with pride before her chin trembled again, but she held it together.

“It might help if I get a better sense of who she was.” I slid the legal pad to her. “If I could get her address, I’d like to start there.”

Georgette jotted the information down and pushed it back to me. She dug into her purse and produced the key. “I haven’t brought myself to go there yet.”

I gave her a sympathetic smile. “Are there family or friends I should start with?”

“Besides my husband, Chester, there’s just her sister, Hannah, who lives in Seattle. They weren’t close.” Georgette cleared her throat. “She never spoke to me about friends or boyfriends. Honestly, with her work schedule, she didn’t have time for any.”

With my own social life lacking, I related. “Do you have her cell? I’d like to check who she had on speed dial.”

She shook her head. “It wasn’t among her belongings.”

What thirty-something didn’t have their phone glued to them? Unless the impact of the train threw it. Another image I pushed away. I rounded my desk and walked her out of my office.

“Please keep in touch on how the investigation is going,” she said.

I assured her I would. She squeezed my arm to thank me as she left. With a twist of the deadbolt, I rested my shoulder against the door and closed my eyes. Mitz would get hugged a little closer tonight.

At my desk, Floyd trotted over and sat at my feet. He rested his chin on my lap while I added a few more notes. His sixth sense of when I needed him never faltered. I tucked the notes, along with a couple of divorce petitions into my bag to serve in between outings with Mitz.

It was early enough to get to Brooke’s place, about twenty minutes away, and to the grocery store so Mitz and I weren’t eating PB&Js for dinner. The faster I got started and found answers, the sooner Georgette could begin healing. If I was lucky, Brooke’s phone would be sitting on her nightstand waiting to be found.

Before getting up, I pulled the letter from my dad out of the top drawer and unfolded the paper. I traced the ruts in the desk we shared with my finger as I read his words. Georgette’s name was there in black and white. I had wanted to ask her more about how she knew my dad, but he’d been explicit in his request. He was a good man, albeit a tough man that I didn’t question. Nor had I ever felt the need to. It hadn’t been easy for him after my mom died, and we became the Two Musketeers. We may have run out of time for him to teach me everything he knew about being a P.I., but I’d learn as I went. I had no other choice. Helping Georgette was the last thing I could do for him. And I would.

“Ready to boogie, Floyd?” I flicked off the lights and Floyd padded behind me down the narrow hall to the backdoor.

We jogged to my yellow 1980 Triumph Spitfire, a gift from my dad when I graduated. “You know the routine, buddy.” Floyd stretched himself halfway into the car, and with a grunt, I lifted in his other half. He tripped over the manual gearshift and settled into the passenger seat as I slunk behind the wheel. The engine started right up, for a change.

Brooke was a couple of years older than me—far too young to die. Was Nightingale involved in her death? Did he know more than he was telling? Or was he just a helpless bystander who could only watch Brooke fall because she was drunk off her ass? I had a feeling I’d be returning the bulk of Georgette’s money after putting in some legwork. With a case the Portland police had already closed and an eyewitness who’d already been cleared, what other possibility was there?

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About the Author

Mary Keliikoa spent the first 18 years of her adult life working around lawyers. Combining her love of all things legal and books, she creates a twisting mystery where justice prevails. She has had a short story published in Woman’s World and is the author of the PI Kelly Pruett Mystery Series.

At home in Washington, she enjoys spending time with her family and her writing companions/fur-kids. When not at home, you can find Mary on a beach on the Big Island where she and her husband recharge. But even under the palm trees and blazing sun she’s plotting her next murder—novel that is.

Catch Up With Mary Keliikoa:
MaryKeliikoa.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Instagram, Twitter, & Facebook!

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Follow the tour here.

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Giveaway

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by
Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for
Mary Keliikoa. There will be 2 winners of one (1)
Amazon.com Gift Card each. The giveaway
begins on September 1, 2020 and runs through
October 2, 2020. Void where prohibited.

Enter here.

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Book Review: 15 Minutes by Larissa Reinhart @LarissaReinhart @AnAudiobookworm

Title: 15 Minutes
Series: Maizie Albright Star Detective, Book 1
Author: Larissa Reinhart
Narrator: Joan Dukore
Publication Date: May 28, 2020
Genres: Mystery, Cozy

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Synopsis

She played a detective on TV, but now that her life depends on it, can Maizie Albright play a detective for real?

Three Teen Choice Awards, one Emmy nomination, and several Maxim covers later, Maizie Albright was an ex-teen star, stuck in reality show hell, and standing before a California judge. She has one chance for a new life: return home to Black Pine, Georgia, and get a job that has nothing to do with show business. So why not become a private detective – the person she played during the happiest days of her life?

Maybe because…

First: She’s got 10 days to get and keep the job.

Second: She has to convince the only private investigator in town to hire her.

Third: She lost the client’s wife on the first day. (And the woman may be dead…)

Fourth: She just might be falling in love with her new boss. And she just might have lost him his business.

But what has she got to lose, other than imprisonment, her dignity, and possibly, her life?

For fans of romantic comedy mysteries like Meg Cabot’s Size 12 Is Not Fat and Stephanie Bond’s Body Movers, The Wall Street Journal best-selling author Larissa Reinhart brings her listeners the first in the Maizie Albright Star Detective series, Hot Mystery Reviews’ “Top 10 Mysteries for Book Clubs”.

”Child star and hilarious hot mess Maizie Albright trades Hollywood for the backwoods of Georgia and pure delight ensues. Maizie’s my new favorite escape from reality.” (Gretchen Archer, USA Today best-selling author of the Davis Way Crime Caper series)

Start the Wall Street Journal best-selling series and download 15 Minutes today! 

“Sassy, sexy, and fun, 15 Minutes is hours of enjoyment.” (Phoebe Fox, author of the Breakup Doctor series)

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My Review

There are times when I need a few good laughs with a book and I had more than a few with Maizie and everybody else in 15 Minutes. The premise of a young actress, a former teen reality star, being effectively sentenced to get a new life is unique and the author made the most of it, sending Maizie off to her dad’s town, Black Pine, Georgia, where the donuts are hot and the private investigator she’s about to meet is equally hot.

A celebrity doesn’t naturally fit well in a small town but Maizie is determined and what better way to fulfill her obligation than to become a real-life private eye? After all, she played one on TV so it can’t be all that hard. Needless to say, mayhem ensues shortly after Wyatt Nash, her new and reluctant employer, assigns her to follow a client’s wife and Maizie loses her but she didn’t realize she’d also have to deal with her momager who wants her back where she belongs in LA. Even that irritation is topped, though, when bodies begin to turn up. The missing woman’s husband is one of the victims so maybe Maizie can redeem herself by finding the woman. Piece of cake! Or donut 🙂

This story is full of charm and humor as well as a good puzzle and narrator Joan Dukore brings it all to life. Truthfully, her voice grated on me a little, sounding kind of screechy, but I think the problem was in my own hearing and Ms. Dukore certainly did a terrific job with her pacing and comedic sense. I’m looking forward to more of Maizie’s adventures.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2020.

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Purchase Links:
Audible // Amazon

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The Characters of 15 MINUTES
from an Audio Perspective

By Larissa Reinhart

In the past when my other books became audiobooks, my publisher took care of all the details. Basically, I signed a contract and months later I was given a copy of the audiobook. 15 MINUTES was my first experience working with an actress and producer, and I loved the collaboration. My narrator, Joan Dukore, has been a dream. She’s professional, prompt, and engaging. Fabulously funny, Joan understands comedic timing. I love her version of Maizie Albright and I love the way the book (books, actually, since she just finished the second) sound.

I prepared a small character profile with the audition script that accompanied short excerpts from the three scenes I chose. This was all Joan had to go on, so you can see below the challenge presented in her audition. Just the basics for the main characters. And of course, she nailed these voices.

●     Maizie Albright: a twenty-five-year-old actress born in Georgia but raised in LA (heroine/first person). She’s insecure but optimistic. A buxom redhead like she walked out of a noir detective novel, but with the personality of rom-com heroine.

●     Wyatt Nash: a thirty-two-year-old private investigator from Georgia. Looks like Dwayne Johnson. A little rough, capable and confident, and has a soft spot (and growing attraction) for Maizie that he hides. Mainly because he doesn’t want to admit it to himself.

●     Lamar: an ex-police officer and Nash’s friend. He owns the building and donut shop below Nash’s detective office. Lamar’s an older African-American man from Georgia. Confident and curious. He likes Maizie immediately.

●     Vicki Albright:  Maizie’s stage-monster mother. She’s a beauty queen originally from Black Pine, Georgia (but wouldn’t have an accent). Cool, confident, and ruthless. Her phrases are crisp and often sarcastic.

●     Jolene Sweeney:  Nash’s ex-wife from Georgia. A businesswoman. Detests Maizie. Mean like a hellcat, thirtyish.

●     Giulio Belloni: an Italian man in his early thirties. He’s Maizie’s ex-costar and her sort-of ex-fiance. He’s very dramatic and self-obsessed but still charming and friends with Maizie. He used to star in Italian soaps.

●     Lucky is her childhood dirt bike she drives after her car is repossessed.

●     Most of the characters are from Georgia. The books are set in Black Pine, a mountain and lake resort town. However, the characters shouldn’t have strong or twangy Southern accents.

Nothing I hate more than Southerns portrayed with a strong or twangy accent.

Before Joan started the actual recording, I gave her a more detailed character profile for the main characters in the entire series. I wrote Joan a note that said, “As an actress, I know you need to develop the character as you hear them, too, but I hope this is helpful. If you want more backstory notes, let me know.”

Here you can see a little more of backstories and appearances but not much. I wanted her spin on the characters. The profiles were just to create boundaries so she’d be free to range within.

Maizie — 25, lived in LA for most of her life. She should sound young and bubbly and a little insecure. No discernable accent. I imagine a young Christina Hendricks. The series is a long character arc for her, so she grows more confident in each book.

Nash — 32, from Georgia. Big guy with a deep voice, a little gruff. Kind of like Dwayne Johnson. No heavy Southern accent, just speaks slower, likes he’s slowly simmering beneath the surface. Usually with impatience. Sometimes with heat. He doesn’t suffer fools.

Lamar — approaching 60. He sounds like Morgan Freeman in my head. 😉 He’s the voice of wisdom.

Vicki Albright — around 50 (antagonist). Maizie’s stage mother grown into tv/film producer. She speaks in crisp, short sentences. I always hear Jessica Walter’s characters, Lucille Bluth on “Arrested Development” or Meryl Streep’s in The Devil Wears Prada. Even though she’s an ex-beauty queen from Georgia, she abandoned her accent to adapt to LA and the industry.

She’s Machiavellian, but I think she does care about Maizie, even though it appears Maizie’s become the means to her own end. The entire series has a mother-daughter theme.

Boomer Spayberry — 50ish. He’s Maizie’s father and a hunting apparel tycoon. He’s very “old boy.” Big guy with a big beard. Deep voice, but a little like Sam Elliot or Tommy Lee Jones. He’s self-made, practical, and stubborn. A little narrow-minded. Remarried. He has no patience with Maizie’s old lifestyle and harbors a lot of resentment toward Vicki, his ex-wife who left him when she took Maizie to LA for her career.

Remi Spayberry — 6, Maizie’s half-sister. A country girl, very independent, smart, and speaks her own mind. She reminds me of Tatum O’Neil’s character, Addie Loggins, in Paper Moon.

Guilio Belloni — He’s Italian, so his name is pronounced Julio with a hard J sound. I take some of his affectations from Bruno Tonioli of “Dancing With the Stars” even though Guilio is a lot younger. He speaks fast. When he’s in trouble or trying to get away with something, his accent is more pronounced on purpose. His first career was in Italian soap operas, so he’s like an Italian Telenovela star.

Tiffany and Rhonda at LA HAIR — both are young, around Maizie’s age, and working class.

Rhonda — is African American with a soft Southern accent, like a young Octavia Spencer or Raven Goodwin. She’s friendly, warm, and excitable.

Tiffany — is sarcastic and practical, tiny and sharp. Squints when she talks (I don’t know if that’s helpful, but that’s how I imagine her).

Jolene — Nash’s ex-wife (antagonist).  A bit of a femme fatale. She’s smart and successful, vindictive, and very jealous of Maizie. She’s mostly in the first 2 books and more in reference or short scenes in the other ones. Her Southern accent shouldn’t be too strong because she wouldn’t want to appear too “townie.”

I hope these profiles give you as listeners/readers an indication of the personalities at work in the Maizie Albright Star Detective series. I had a lot of fun creating the characters and hope you have as much fun meeting them! Thanks so much for having me here today.

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About the Author

The Wall Street Journal bestselling author Larissa Reinhart writes the award-winning Cherry Tucker Mystery, Maizie Albright Star Detective, and Finley Goodhart Crime Caper series. She loves to tell funny stories about women, looking for love (and sometimes dead bodies) in all the wrong places.

Larissa, her family, and Cairn Terrier, Biscuit, lived in Nagoya, Japan, but have returned to Peachtree City, Georgia. You can see them on HGTV’s House Hunters International “Living for the Weekend in Nagoya” episode. Larissa loves books, food, and traveling with her family. You can often see her adventures on Instagram (and her little dog, too).

Visit Larissa’s website to join her VIP Readers email group and get the free prequel to The Cupid Caper plus other exclusive bonus content! www.larissareinhart.com

Website // Facebook // Goodreads // Instagram

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About the Narrator

Born in Honolulu, HI, Joan DuKore began her performing career as a ballet dancer, and attended Virginia School of the Arts to continue her education. Her hobby of magic later became her profession, and she continues to perform in Las Vegas and around the world. Her love of reading eventually led to voice acting. She has produced over 30 audiobooks in numerous genres such as thrillers, romances, memoirs, mysteries and fantasies. She loves locking herself in her booth and living in the worlds that authors create.

Website // Twitter // Facebook

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Play an excerpt here.

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Follow the tour here.

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Book Review: The Boy From The Woods by Harlan Coben @HarlanCoben @GrandCentralPub

The Boy From The Woods
Harlan Coben
Grand Central Publishing, March 2020
ISBN 978-1-5387-4814-5
Hard Cover

At the start of this novel we are introduced to the boy referred to in the book’s title.  Thirty years ago, Wilde, as he is now known, was discovered living in the woods in a rural area of New Jersey.  According to the police there was never any report of a missing child. No relatives ever came forward to claim him.

Intriguing as that opening of Coben’s new stand alone is, the novel moves to the present and concerns another child who has gone missing. Her name is Naomi Pines and she’s a teenager who attends a local high school in the town of Westville, New Jersey.   Matthew, a  fellow student, is concerned for Naomi’s welfare.  He’s contacted his grandmother, Hester Crimstein, a well-known New York criminal attorney to enlist her help.

Hester sets things in motion in the search to find Naomi, calling on the local police and contacting Wilde, who’d been befriended by Hester’s son David, Matthew’s father, years ago.

The relationships in this novel are complicated and there are a few more characters  to meet who are involved in a political plot pertaining to a candidate running for President of the United States.

I’m sure you’ll agree that this might be hard to keep track of,  but rest assured you are in the hands of a well known and loved Master.  Jump in…you’ll be glad you did.  I thoroughly enjoyed this and hope Mr. Coben will return to with a sequel so that we might learn more about the Wilde boy from the woods.

Respectfully submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, May 2020.

Book Review: Trafficked! by Thomas A. Burns, Jr. @3Mdetective

Trafficked!
A Natalie McMasters Mystery #3
Thomas A. Burns
Tekrighter LLC,  April 2019
ISBN 978-0-578-44718-6
Trade Paperback

Natalie McMasters is a private investigator trainee and the narrator of this emotional, terror-steeped and frank novel of love, loss, desperation, enslavement and retribution. She’s good at surveillance, patient, calm and alert. She hasn’t had much training or experience in developing projects that consider all possible events and outcomes, so she travels on grit and instinct.

She’s married, to a young Latino lady who is in the states illegally and thus has no standing with ICE. When ICE comes looking, Lupe runs, leaving a distraught Natalie to wonder about the future. Natalie’s decision, after very little consideration, is to go looking for Lupe. The trail leads to New York where Natalie becomes tangled with city law enforcement, a gaggle of street people, a detective from her hometown, and finally, an evil band of Albanian sex traffickers.

This explicitly written novel starts slowly and ramps up to a frenetic pace almost immediately as Natalie and her detective friend wander through some of the seamier sections of New York and encounter interesting characters on both sides of the law. Scenes are well developed and often gripping in substance. The author captures a good sense of the scenes and characters in the city and on the Albanian’s ship, in a very adult and explicit fashion.

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

Book Reviews: Death and the Viking’s Daughter by Loretta Ross and Ghosts of Guatemala by Collin Glavac

Death and the Viking’s Daughter
An Auction Block Mystery #4
Loretta Ross
Midnight Ink, February 2018
ISBN 978-0-7387-5237-2
Trade Paperback

Auctioneer Wren Morgan with her fellow workers is preparing for an auction of a strange night club that was constructed on the plans of a Cincinnati nightclub that was the scene of a disastrous fire. A small level of nervousness is apparent.

At about the same time, her fiancé Death (pronounced Deeth) Bogart is tasked by a museum director to look into an apparent theft of a painting, a painting worth more to the owners due to the subject than for its artistic merit.

While preparing the site for the coming auction, a resident collapses upon seeing a figure in the nearby woods who looks like his long-missing daughter. Meanwhile, Wren and Death (pronounced Deeth) are looking for a home to buy. They find one at the end of a roadway not far away where a man, name unknown, is buried beneath rosebushes in the yard.

Get the picture? This is not a complicated mystery, but it has several threads that are cleverly woven together in this carefully and very well-written novel. Eventually all these threads will come together, along with tension-filled meetings between Wren and Death’s parent groups.

The tranquil setting becomes well-used as a foil against the tension that builds up. Private investigator Death Bogart wends his careful way through a variety of interesting experiences all while worrying about presenting a positive image to his about-to-be in-laws. A fun and intriguing novel that I recommend especially for those readers who are not wedded to intense and brutal violence on the page.

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

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Ghosts of Guatemala
Collin Glavac
NIMA, November 2019
ISBN 978-1-9991631-6-7
Trade Paperback

Here is a terrific idea with some interesting characters in imperfectly realized circumstances. The novel begins with a bang, the attempted assassination of a Guatemalan drug czar. The scene is potent, rife with tension and murderous action. Unfortunately, although the assassination is successful, the assassin also dies in the attempt.

We then switch to scenes of dissention, corruption, loss of confidence and general incompetence in an important US government agency, the Central Intelligence Agency. Then commences a long and wandering dissertation about the life and development of a Seal, one John Carpenter. Sometime later in his career, he is mysteriously detached from the Navy to become an agent for the CIA, specializing in Latin America.

He is tasked with retaliation against the Guatemalan drug cartel, an assignment which takes the narrative deeply and in considerable detail inside that country. The narrative is wordy, resulting in an overlong novel which levels criticism against the U.S. government, the CIA specifically and the American public in general.

A good editor would have reduced the novel by at least a third and in the process elevated the action and tension. While some of the characters are unusual and more than passingly interesting, the novel’s potential is largely obscured in wordiness and a somewhat negative attitude.

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