Book Review: An Extravagant Death by Charles Finch @CharlesFinch @MinotaurBooks

An Extravagant Death
A Charles Lenox Mystery #14
Charles Finch
Minotaur Books, February 2021
ISBN: 978-1-250-76713-4
Hardcover

In Victorian London, Prime Minister Disraeli has asked Charles Lenox to cross the Atlantic to take on a diplomatic mission that concerns international crime. Upon completion, a knighthood is in store. Charles has been rethinking his course in life, which, as a detective, often puts him in danger and separates him from his wife, Lady Jane. Besides, he loves to travel and this may be his last chance to visit America.

Blithely, he sets sail, and soon is the toast of New York high society, partly because of his own reputation, and partly because of  Lady Jane’s societal position, renown on both sides of the Atlantic. He meets everyone of importance and is moving on to visit Philadelphia when he receives a telegram from his New York acquaintances calling him back. A young woman has died in a mysterious fashion. But how? And why? Can he help?

Taking on this case puts Charles in touch with highest New York society, but also makes him a target of a cold-blooded killer. Can he discover this murderer before he becomes the next victim?

The case moves slowly a good part of the time, but I didn’t find the mystery as interesting or as entertaining as the in-depth look at Victorian mores in 1878. From both sides of the pond, the differences are astounding. Plus, the author has given the reader a look from the differing viewpoints of highest rank with the most money, to the servant class who sees to their every need. The depiction of Caroline Astor’s party is a revelation.

This is a big novel well worth your time. The writing is excellent, the characters fully fleshed and believable.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, July 2021.
http://www.ckcrigger.com
Author of The Woman Who Built A Bridge (Spur Award Winner), Yester’s Ride,
Hometown Burning and Six Dancing Damsels: A China Bohannon Mystery

Book Reviews: Pineapple Lies by Amy Vansant and Pineapple Mystery Box by Amy Vansant @AmyVansant @Rosemary_Benson

Pineapple Lies
A Pineapple Port Mystery #1
Amy Vansant
Amy Vansant, August 2015
Narrated by Rosemary Benson
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

Growing up in one of Florida’s age-55-plus communities, Charlotte never expected life to be wild. Golf cart racing with her surrogate mothers Mariska and Darla was about as nutty as life got… until she found the hot pawnbroker’s mom buried in her backyard.

Talk about making a lousy first impression.

Armed with nothing but her wits, Pineapple Port’s questionable cast of characters and a growing crush, Charlotte is determined to solve the mystery of Declan’s mother’s murder.

Hey, at least this guy’s skeletons aren’t in his closet.

Sometimes it takes me what seems like forever to get around to reading a book I really wanted in the beginning. It isn’t usually because I lose interest, although that occasionally happens. Mostly it’s because I am constitutionally incapable of controlling my TBR hoard, a victim of my own book greed.

The result of this is that, once in a while, I’m completely blown away by a book I’ve put off for no good reason other than having too many books to read (!) and then I kick myself for missing out for way too long and that’s what happened with Pineapple Lies. It took me approximately 30 minutes of the audiobook to decide this was going to be a terrific read for three reasons:

1. I love the players and the premise of a youngish woman who lives in a retirement community in Florida being the sleuth. I live in Florida (but not in a retirement village) so I was already predisposed to like the setting and Ms. Vansant has created a bunch of characters who are a little stereotypical but in a very good way and who each bring something to the table, so to speak.

2. The mysteries are entertaining puzzles with the main one, the discovery of the local pawnbroker’s mom buried in Charlotte’s yard, keeping my little gray cells working while the side threads provide plenty of humor and distraction. The author’s pacing is especially good and not once was I the least bit let down as the plot progressed. There’s a budding romance, too, but it’s not obtrusive.

3. I’ve found an audiobook narrator to add to my list of favorites. Rosemary Benson is, in a word, amazing. Her ability to create individual voices is beyond that of most truly good narrators and I’ve listened to some I consider among the best. I’m very sure I would have fallen in book love with Pineapple Lies anyway but Ms. Benson brings it all to life.

So, big kudos to both author and narrator—this book is going on my list of best books read in 2021 and now we’ll see if the trend continues with the second book, Pineapple Mystery Box.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2021.

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Pineapple Mystery Box
A Pineapple Port Mystery #2
Amy Vansant
Amy Vansant, January 2018
Narrated by Rosemary Benson
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

When a giant inflatable Halloween witch goes missing in the Pineapple Port retirement community, Charlotte’s eager to nab the culprit. Before she can lift a fingerprint, someone threatens to kill a new neighbor who looks like an adorable Pomeranian but possesses a disturbing talent for revenge. Moments later, a stranger demands the return of a mysterious wooden box – or else. 

Charlotte’s boyfriend, Declan, isn’t having a great morning either. His calculating ex-girlfriend has returned to claim she’s the rightful owner of his pawn shop. She’s livid he’s found a new lady, too.

Eh. Things could be worse. At least Charlotte doesn’t know that a mojito-swilling killer who fed his grandmother to a cat is on his way to Pineapple Port!

Some series suffer from sophomore slump but this one most certainly does not. Charlotte has decided that her calling is to be a private investigator after her achievements in the previous story and her senior citizen community is more than willing to send cases her way, things like who stole Darla’s Halloween witch and who is moving outdoor decor from one yard to another.

When pawnbroker Declan’s former girlfriend threatens to make his life miserable and a peculiar box draws unhealthy attention, he thinks things are weird enough but they can’t explain his uncle Seamus’s bizarre behavior. Throw in a potentially homicidal newcomer and Charlotte suddenly has a full detecting plate.

Following up on the first book, Pineapple Mystery Box is just as clever and filled with humor and I appreciated narrator Rosemary Benson’s talents every bit as much. I highly recommend this and I’ll soon be starting the next audiobook, Pineapple Puzzles.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2021.

Book Review: Falling Into Crime by Penny Grubb @pennygrubb @Fantastic_Books

Falling Into Crime
Annie Raymond Private Investigator
The Annie Raymond Mysteries Books 1-3
Penny Grubb
Fantastic Books Publishing, June 2019
ISBN: 978-1-912053-93-3
Trade Paperback

Here’s a fascinating trilogy of stories that follow the burgeoning career of a fledgling private investigator in the United Kingdom. Annie Raymond is a sharp young girl out of a small town not far from the Scottish border, who looks at her contemporaries and yearns for something more. Now she’s in Hull, a small city just south of Scotland on the Eastern side of the U.K.

Her dad is a local cop and Annie’s desire is to have a career as a private investigator. She’s been recruited to a job in a tiny agency in Hull. It will be her introduction to life as an investigator and her training ground. This story is called Like False Money, the second which takes place several years later with a different cast of characters is called The Jawbone Gang, and the third,  set in a later time after Annie has moved to a larger agency in London, is called The Doll Makers.

Even though the three stories cover a span of many years, nearly all the action takes place in and around Hull. Annie Raymond interacts in meaningful and logical ways with youngsters, adults and even some on the verge of conclusions to their long lives. The crimes she investigates and solves are varied and unusual. There’s a lot of description of people and places in this book, all adeptly handled such that it adds to tension and the narrative pace. Never will you find characters misplaced or misread, the writing is strong, consistent and enthralling.

Annie Raymond is a fine investigator, and an excellent protagonist. There are additional volumes to her life and career and her stories are attractive and addicting. I have no hesitation strongly recommending Annie Raymond as a private investigator readers will enjoy coming to know and follow.

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

Book Review: Denied by Mary Keliikoa @mary_keliikoa @CamelPressBooks @tlcbooktours

Denied
A Kelly Pruett Mystery #2
Mary Keliikoa
Camel Press, May 2021
ISBN 978-1-60381-783-7
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

A high-risk pregnancy. A dangerous secret. When her case turns deadly, can this investigator avoid racking up a fatal debt?

PI Kelly Pruett’s search to locate a former classmate’s missing father ends in what appears to be a tragic accident. But putting the pieces together that led to that fateful night will require Kelly to play a high risk game of chance with a killer willing to gamble everything to win.

As private investigators go, Kelly Pruett has one quality that sets her apart to my way of thinking. Like Goldilocks and her bears, Kelly is not overwhelmingly good at her job nor is she TSTL. No, this lady falls right in the middle, meaning she has the smarts she needs most of the time but occasionally goes haywire. In other words, she’s normal and I really appreciate that.

Kelly was injured on the job in her first book and is still recovering but, let’s face it, an overload of cheating significant others can be a tad boring. Hearing from an old friend whose estranged dad is missing gives Kelly the chance to work on something a little more interesting. Little does she know this case is going to turn ugly all too soon and she’ll find herself up against the mob.

In this second adventure, Mary Keliikoa continues establishing Kelly as a woman of thought and determination, one who does her best to balance work with her personal life, especially her deaf daughter. I like Kelly and I’m already anticipating book # 3.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2021.

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Amazon // Indiebound

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About the Author

Mary Keliikoa is the author of the Lefty and Agatha award nominated PI Kelly Pruett mystery series and the upcoming Misty Pines mystery series featuring Sheriff Jax Turner slated for release in September 2022. Her short stories have appeared in Woman’s World and in the anthology Peace, Love and Crime: Crime Fiction Inspired by Music of the ‘60s. A Pacific NW native, she spent a part of her life working around lawyers. Combining her love of legal and books, she creates a twisting mystery where justice prevails.

When not in Washington, you can find Mary on the beach in Hawaii where she and her husband recharge. But even under the palm trees and blazing sun, she’s plotting her next murder—novel that is.

Find out more about Mary on her websiteInstagramTwitter, and Facebook.

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Book Review: Blood of the Dragonfly by Hawk MacKinney @iReadBookTours

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Title: Blood of the Dragonfly
Series: The Moccasin Hollow Mystery Series, Book V
Author: Hawk MacKinney
Publisher: Sage Words Publishing
Publication Date: February 17, 2021

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Purchase Links:
Books-A-Million // Amazon
The Book Depository // Indiebound

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Blood of the Dragonfly
The Moccasin Hollow Mystery Series, Book V
Hawk MacKinney
Sage Words Publishing, February 2021
ISBN 978-1732918269
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

While dangling a fishing hook from his flat bottom skiff before dawn, former SEAL-turned-PI Craige Ingram spots grey-black smoke coiling above the treetops across the river in the direction of the Georgia bayous and Corpsewood Manor. Bayou or bogs, fire in the uncut cypress and pines bodes a sense that the river is no barrier to the fire that threatens his ancestral home, Moccasin Hollow. Neither are the bodies later found in the burned mansion of Corpsewood Manor. Craige wastes no time in helping his ex-SEAL buddy Lt. Graysen MacGerald who is now Head of Buckingham Homicide Investigations by unofficially investigating the bodies and an exquisite dragonfly brooch found in the mansion with a reputation for evil, hauntings, and mystery.

The combination of a private investigator with a police detective has appealed to me for a long time and I’m always happy to find a new duo. Craige Ingram and Lt. Graysen MacGerald aren’t really new since this is the fifth series novel but they’re new to me and, going into this story, I was even more pleased to see that these two men were former SEALs. There’s something about SEALs that appeals to me, probably the thought that their extensive training and self discipline make them uniquely qualified for their chosen post-Navy careers (and I think the same can be said of their counterparts in other military branches like Rangers and Green Berets).

To my delight, Craige and Gray turned out to be just as compelling as I anticipated and it’s clear that Mr. MacKinney knows how to craft and develop strong, intelligent characters who, whatever their advantages, are also very normal; they’re people who certainly have more than a bit of baggage but have learned to cope and move on. I liked them a lot and wouldn’t mind having them on my side. Craige is the actual star of the show but I hope the sense of equal status that I got from them in this book holds true in other volumes because they’re so well-tuned and have such trust in each other.

They need those qualities as they work, in tandem and each in his own arena, to find the answers to a lot of questions in this case, a case that’s full of twists and turns that kept me guessing almost to the very end. At first, the threads are seemingly unrelated but, before long, they’re so interwoven only thoughtful instincts and intuitive detecting can bring it all together. To say I was well satisfied is putting it mildly and I’m looking forward to reading the four previous books.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2021.

About the Author

Hawk MacKinney began writing mysteries for his school newspaper, served in the US Navy for over 20 years, earned two postgraduate degrees with studies in languages and history, taught postgraduate courses in the United States and Jerusalem, authored professional articles and chordate embryology texts on fetal and adult anatomy, and is well known for his works of fiction. Moccasin Trace, a historical novel, was nominated for the prestigious Michael Shaara Award for Excellence in Civil War Fiction and the Writers Notes Book Award. Both his CAIRNS OF SANCTUARIE science fiction series and the MOCCASIN HOLLOW MYSTERY series have received worldwide recognition.

Connect with the Author:   Website  

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Giveaway

Win a $25 Amazon gift card courtesy
of Hawk MacKinney, author of
Blood of the Dragonfly

Enter here.

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Book Review: Mink Eyes by Dan Flanigan @_DanFlanigan

Mink Eyes
A Peter O’Keefe Novel #1
Dan Flanigan
Arjuna Books, February 2019
ISBN 978-1-7336103-0-8
Trade Paperback

Fraud, scams, a Ponzi scheme, magnificent scenery, murder, sex, drinking, drugs and assorted violence form the structure and content of this novel, a morass of failed relationships and get rich quick efforts.

Pete O’Keefe is a former marine, veteran of the war in Viet Nam. He drinks too much, avoids drugs, and struggles to maintain a relationship with his young daughter after being divorced. He runs a PI agency that works mostly in non-violence contexts, but things are not going all that smoothly.

When two investors in a down-country mink farm develop suspicions about the operation they turn to O’Keefe’s long-time buddy, a successful attorney who frequently hires O’Keefe’s detective agency and its cadre of part and full-time operatives.

O’Keefe agrees to look into the mink farm operation and the game is on. Apart from periodic discursions into philosophical ruminations, the author moves the story along at a good pace, but this is not high-tension thriller territory until we get to the last quarter of the novel. O’Keefe is an adept, mostly careful, ethical detective. He does his homework, listens to classical music, and ruminates on the ills and evils of the world.

There are a few bumps in the narrative, point of view shifts and some questionable grammatical constructions. Still, the novel is an interesting take on the somewhat troubled life of this vet and his efforts to get things right, maintain a positive relationship with his daughter, while solving crimes and presenting an interesting look at life.

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

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

The Boy from the Woods
Harlan Coben
Grand Central Publishing /Hatchette Book Group, March 2020
ISBN: 978-1-5387-4814-5
Hardcover

The story opens with a young girl, bullied at school and at home, wondering how to get through another day. Then she disappears and the only one who notices is a classmate, himself trying to fit in, who reports the incident to his grandmother. Grandma is Hester Crimstein, a high-powered attorney nobody wants to mess with. Tough, and a TV personality famous for the cases she takes on, she sets in motion a search that has unexpected, and dangerous, results.

Meanwhile, a man called Wilde, a name taken by a boy of unknown identity who simply walked out of the woods one day, is put in charge of discovering the facts behind the girl’s disappearance. Important people may be involved in a case of bullying that turns into something more far-reaching and serious. Hester and Wilde must work their way through an old mystery, even as the fate of the whole country is at stake.

Each of the characters are well-drawn, especially Hester and Wilde. Wilde’s past is an intriguing precept. How could a boy of about six years subsist in the wilderness alone for months—maybe for years? Even he doesn’t know how long he’d been there, nor does he remember his parents or his name. Supposedly, he managed to break into summer homes, find food, clothes, warmth, even watch TV and learn to speak as a tiny child. Frankly, I found the idea a bit unlikely, but hey, I like a good twisty yarn and this is one of them. However, from the first mention of his lost identity, I wondered why Wilde didn’t go the DNA testing route, but not until almost the end did the subject come up. Wilde may have found a clue at last and I can’t wait to read about it.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, December 2020.
http://www.ckcrigger.com
Author of The Woman Who Built A Bridge (Spur Award Winner), Yester’s Ride,
Hometown Burning and Six Dancing Damsels: A China Bohannon Mystery