Book Review: Something Fishy by Lois Schmitt @schmittmystery @encirclepub @partnersincr1me

Something Fishy
A Kristy Farrell Mystery #2
Lois Schmitt
Encircle Publications, July 2019
ISBN 978-1-948338-79-0
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

When attorney Samuel Wong goes missing, wildlife magazine reporter Kristy Farrell believes the disappearance is tied into her latest story concerning twenty acres of prime beachfront property that the Clam Shell Cove Aquarium hopes to purchase. Sam works for multi-millionaire land developer Lucien Moray who wants to buy the property for an upscale condominium. The waterfront community is divided on this issue like the Hatfields and McCoys with environmentalists siding with the aquarium and local business owners lining up behind Moray.

Meanwhile, a body is found in the bay. Kristy, aided by her veterinarian daughter, investigates and discovers deep secrets among the aquarium staff–secrets that point to one of them as a killer. Soon the aquarium is plagued with accidents, Kristy has a near death encounter with a nine foot bull shark, and a second murder occurs.

But ferreting out the murderer and discovering the story behind Sam’s disappearance aren’t Kristy’s only challenges. When her widowed septuagenarian mother announces her engagement, Kristy suspects her mom’s soon to be husband is not all he appears to be. As Kristy tries to find the truth before her mother ties the knot, she also races the clock to find the aquarium killer before this killer strikes again.

With all the attention in recent years on environmental issues, Something Fishy is topical as well as entertaining. It also happens to be a very good puzzler for mystery fans who love to do a little detecting along with the protagonist.

Aided and abetted by her daughter, veterinarian Abby, magazine reporter Kristy sets out to do two things, find the missing Sam and figure out who killed the fish keeper and why. Had Jack gotten too deeply involved in the contention between the aquarium and a developer over a piece of prime real estate? Before long, the duo come up with some intriguing leads but then another body turns up. In the meantime, Kristy is also highly suspicious of her mom’s new fiance who surely is too good to be true.

Enjoyable characters and a thoughtful plot made this a story I didn’t want to put down and I was actually kind of sorry when I came to the end. Other than occasional word or phrase choices that are a little odd, Something Fishy is well written and free of the flowery language so often found in cozy mysteries; in fact, I found myself enjoying the simple and comfortable flow of Ms. Schmitt’s prose. This book is my introduction to the author and I intend to go get the first one, Monkey Business, but I don’t know if she intends to write more in the series. I hope so!

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2021.

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

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An Excerpt from Something Fishy

CHAPTER ONE

 

“Something bad happened to Sam. I know it.”

Katie Chandler’s sea green eyes filled with tears. A sea lion trainer at the Clam Shell Cove Aquarium, Katie had been my daughter’s college roommate.

“Maybe Sam worked late and forgot to call,” I said.

Katie shook her head, her chestnut hair flying in the bay breeze. “No. He hasn’t answered my texts or phone calls. I stopped by his house twice too. No one’s home.”

Silence. I tried thinking of something helpful, or at least hopeful, to say.

“I called the police, Mrs. Farrell. The officer said being stood up for a dinner date isn’t enough for a missing persons case—that maybe it was Sam’s way of breaking up.”

I shifted my gaze to the whitecaps on the bay while Katie’s statement sank into my brain.  Perhaps the officer was right. I knew from my daughter Abby that the relationship between Katie Chandler and Samuel Wong had hit a rough patch.

The conflict: Katie, who served as executor of her late grandmother’s charitable trust, was donating six million dollars of this money to the aquarium’s expansion project, which included the acquisition of twenty acres of adjacent land. Sam worked as executive assistant to multi-millionaire developer Lucien Moray who wanted to buy the bay front property for luxury condominiums. What started off as friendly bantering between Katie and Sam had escalated into explosive arguments that had become increasingly personal.

But Katie and Sam weren’t the only ones embroiled in this controversy. The community at large had become like the Hatfields and McCoys. Environmentalists wanted the property to go to the aquarium where it would be used for breeding grounds for endangered species, an aquatic   animal rehabilitation center, and a research camp for marine scientists. Local business owners sided with Moray, hoping high end condo owners would bolster the area’s economy. I was writing an article on this for Animal Advocate Magazine. That’s why I was at the aquarium today.

Katie continued, “No matter what happened between us, Sam would never stand me up. He’s my fiancé not someone I picked up a few hours ago at a bar. Besides, Sam came around to my point of view. He had it with Lucien Moray. He hadn’t told anyone but me yet, but he was quitting his job at the end of the year.”

“I’ve an interview later this morning with Moray,” I said. “I’ll check around and see what I can find out. Someone in Moray’s office may know Sam’s whereabouts.”

“What if no one does?”

“Let’s take it one step at a time.” I glanced at my watch, then pushed myself off the rock where I’d been sitting, a task that would have been easier if I were ten years younger and twenty pounds lighter. “Speaking of interviews, my appointment with your aquarium director is in five minutes, so I better head inside. I’ll call you tonight.”

Katie sighed. “Thanks. I should get back to my sea lions too. We’ve a show at eleven.” She rose and stretched her small wiry body. “After the show, I’ll stop at Sam’s house again.”

Katie, shoulders slumped, wandered off in the direction of the outdoor sea lion amphitheater. I stood for a moment, inhaling the salt air while watching a seagull dive into the bay and zoom back to the sky with a fish in its mouth. As the autumn wind sent a sudden chill down my spine, I wrapped my arms around my body, thinking back to when Katie and my Abby attended college. Abby often acted impulsively, out of emotion, but Katie had always been levelheaded, never someone to jump to conclusions. What if Sam is really in trouble? The thought nagged at me as I trekked up the sandy beach and stepped into the building that housed the indoor exhibits.

I made my way down a long corridor, surrounded by floor to ceiling glass tanks housing ocean life from around the world. I paused at the shark tank and marveled at the grace and beauty of these fearsome predators gliding silently through the water, causing hardly a ripple. I would be back here soon. In addition to my article on the land expansion, I was writing a story on ocean predators.

I veered down the administration wing. When I came to a door marked  DIRECTOR, I glanced again at my watch. Ten-thirty. Right on time. I knocked.

“Enter,” a booming voice responded. I pulled open the door and stepped inside.

Standing in front of me was a man who appeared to be in his mid-fifties. Noting his polished wingtips, sharply creased trousers, navy blazer, crisp white shirt, and perfectly knotted tie, I wished I’d dusted the sand off my shoes.

We stood face to face. Actually, it was more like face to chest. I was only five feet tall and this man towered over me by at least a foot and a half.

“Commander Conrad West,” he said, extending his arm. His handshake was firm and strong. “You must be Kristy Farrell, the reporter from Animal Advocate Magazine.”

Conrad West stood ramrod straight, probably a throw-back from his military training. A former naval commander—the youngest African American to be appointed a commander in the navy’s history—he had started his career as a medical corpsman. He had been director of the Clam Shell Cove Aquarium since his retirement from the navy last year.

He walked behind his desk and positioned himself in a large swivel chair.

“You may sit,” he said, pointing to a straight back chair facing him.

I slid into the chair, suppressing the urge to playfully salute.

He went straight to the point. “I understand you’re writing about the land acquisition. Have you seen our expansion plans?”

“Yes, and they are impressive. But how will the aquarium come up with the money to buy this land?” I asked, fumbling through my bag for my pad and pen. “You’re competing with the bottomless pockets of Lucien Moray.”

Commander West leaned forward, his hands clasped in front, as if praying that what he was about to say would come true. “The current property owner, Stuart Holland, is a business man who’s not about to forgo a profit. But he’s also an active conservationist and a lifelong resident of this area who would like to see the land used in an environmentally friendly manner. He’s kept it vacant until recent financial loses forced him to put it up for sale.”

The Commander leaned back. “There’ll be no bidding war. He set a price—ten million dollars. The land is worth more, but Stuart wants it to go to us, so he set a price he feels we can reach. If we can raise the money by next summer, the land is ours.”

“Ten million is a high goal.”

He nodded. “More than half of the funding will come from a trust set up by Alicia Wilcox Chandler. We also have one million in reserve that we accumulated during the past few years. Of course, we’re still three million short, but our new development officer is planning an aggressive fundraising campaign with—”

A loud knock on the door interrupted the conversation.

Commander West scowled. “Enter.”

A plump woman with a bad case of acne barged into the room. She wore jeans and a light blue shirt with an aquarium patch on the upper left pocket identifying her as Madge.

“Commander,” she said, slightly out of breath. “We have a problem. The sea lion show is in ten minutes, and Katie just ran out.”

“What do you mean she ran out?”

The woman shrugged. “She took a call on her cell phone, then flew out of the amphitheater.

“Didn’t she say anything?” The scowl hadn’t left his face.

The woman paused, furrowing her eyebrows as if deep in thought. “Oh, yeah. But I don’t know if it had to do with why she left.”

“What did she say?” He appeared to be talking through gritted teeth.

“She said two fishermen found a body floating in the inlet.”

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About the Author

A mystery fan since she read her first Nancy Drew, Lois Schmitt combined a love of mysteries with a love of animals in her series featuring wildlife reporter Kristy Farrell. She is a member of several wildlife and humane organizations as well as Mystery Writers of America. Lois worked for many years as a freelance writer and is the author of Smart Spending, a consumer education book for young people. She previously worked as media spokesperson for a local consumer affairs agency and currently teaches at Nassau Community College on Long Island. Lois lives in Massapequa with her family which includes a 120 pound Bernese Mountain Dog. This dog bears a striking resemblance to Archie, a dog of many breeds who looks like a small bear, featured in her Kristy Farrell Mystery Series. Lois was 2nd runner up for the Killer Nashville Claymore Award for Something Fishy.

Catch Up With Our Author:

LoisSchmitt.com // Goodreads // Twitter // Facebook // Instagram

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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 Lois Schmitt. There will be TWO winners.
TWO (2) winners will each receive (1) Amazon.com Gift Card
of varying amounts. The giveaway begins on June 1, 2021
and ends on July 1, 2021. Void where prohibited.

Enter here.

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Book Reviews: Amnesty by Aravind Adiga and All the Way Down by Eric Beetner @AravindAdiga @ScribnerBooks @ericbeetner @DownAndOutBooks

Amnesty
Aravind Adiga
Scribner, February 2020
ISBN 978-1-9821-2724-4
Hardcover

Danny, an undocumented Sri Lanken living in Australia, has gradually fashioned for himself a satisfactory life. He has acquaintances with whom he socializes and a woman friend about whom he is serious. And now he has a problem. He may have important information that will help local police solve a nasty murder. If he steps forward as his world view requires, he may be deported because he’s illegally in the country. On the other hand, he may hold the one fact that will solve the case.

The novel is not so much a murder mystery or thriller as a thoughtful if sometimes wandering essay on the life of honest hard-working illegals and the pressures and vicissitudes of that life. There is little overt drama in the story, rather a character-peopled tale in which the author adeptly channels his protagonist Danny into more and more tension as he wrestles with a decision which will, in either path, affect a great many people.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, February 2021.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
Traces, Grand Lac, Reunion, Red Sky.

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All The Way Down
Eric Beetner
Down and Out Books, January 2019
ISBN 978-1-64396-010-4
Trade Paperback

This enthralling crime novel starts with a bad cop called on the carpet. Dale Burnett, risen to detective grade, has allowed his need for money to gradually bend his ethics, in a city already badly out of tune with ethics and morality. He assumes the worst but is given one chance at redemption.

It turns out, the Mayor’s daughter has been captured and is being held by one of the city’s most dangerous and brutal gang leaders. Since Burnett is now known to the gang, law enforcement believes an alternative to a frontal assault is a better option. Burnett is tasked with going into gang headquarters and rescuing the young woman.

Of course, Burnett takes this limited opportunity to risk death and retrieve his good standing. What follows is a rousing and ever more dangerous series of encounters with the gang leader and his murderous minions. With the considerable assistance of the mayor’s able daughter, Burnett engages the forces of evil.

The scene is very limited, all the action takes place inside a single large former factory building, so some of the common characteristics of action novels such as weather, are missing. Nevertheless, the pace is relentless, the tension high and the outcome uncertain until the very end.

All The Way Down is a fine thriller of a novel with surprises on almost every page, sustained action and relevant character development. The mayor’s daughter is a strong, important component of the fabric of the story.

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

Book Reviews: The One That Got Away by Joe Clifford and Murderabilia by Carl Vondereau @joeclifford23 @DownAndOutBooks @CarlVonderau @midnightinkbook

The One That Got Away
Joe Clifford
Down & Out Books, December 2018
ISBN: 978-1-948235-42-6
Trade Paperback

An upstate small town where almost everyone has at least one scurrilous or dangerous secret, is the fall setting for this story. Alex Salerno is the flawed, inept and persistent hero of this long and winding tale.

A decade ago she was one of several girls in the town, located in upstate New York, who was abducted and held for unnamed assaultive practices in a dark space. Waiting there, she knew the other girls had been killed. And then, a small miracle, she is rescued by the local detective who becomes her lover. Her abductor now resides in prison.

The experience, naturally, has permanently damaged Alex’s psyche and her life in New York State, at least as she relates it, is fraught, unrooted and filled with booze, drugs and impermanence. For uncertain reasons she has now returned to her home town to meet a reporter who may or may not be preparing a story for the local paper on the history of that time when so many young women and girls had been abducted and murdered.

She knew her abductor was in jail and the reporter was focusing on the later disappearance of another teenager named Kira Shanks. The rambling torturous plot is further obscured by the belief in some corners of this conflicted community that the man now held in a nearby mental institution was not responsible for Kira Shanks disappearance.

As the plot slowly unwinds and layer after layer of a depressing community are revealed, against her better judgement and with menace ever closer, Alex Salerno persists in sticking her nose in unwanted sometimes dangerous places. She is physically and mentally abused and even her tenuous family ties in the town are stressed. The narrative blends the viewpoints of several characters and at times readers may be confused as to who is speaking. Ultimately some of the mysteries and secrets of this town are resolved but one is left wondering about the future life of Alex Salerno.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, January 2020.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

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Murderabilia
Carl Vonderau
Midnight Ink Books, July 2019
ISBN 978-007387-6130-5
Trade Paperback

A dark, intense story of murder and family destruction, this novel, after a slow start, will engage readers in a way that will leave them in thoughtful contemplation of family relationships.

Will McNary has a successful career as a private banker who works with individual clients on their financial investments and other monetary activities. He’s married with two young children and living in San Diego. His life is generally calm and ordinary, although he’s feeling a little heat in the form of competition from other officers of the bank. His sister Polly and their aging mother share an unsettling secret.

When Will was a child of only eight, his father was sent to prison for murdering and butchering several women. He compounded his heinous crime by posing and photographing the women, pictures that were circulated and sold on the underground market. McNary’s father was convicted and when the novel opens, has been in prison for more than thirty years. Now, a copy-cat killer linked to Will’s father has emerged, one who appears to be targeting Will and his family.

The story follows Will along a sordid twisting trail as he attempts to protect his loved ones, help law enforcement find the vicious copy-cat, and plumb the emotional depths of the knowledge that he is the son of an incredibly twisted killer.

The novel is well-written and once moving along its trail, enthralling. I hesitate to call it a page turner, however, for those readers attracted to the truly dark side of humanity in several of its manifestations, this carefully crafted story is insistently engaging.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, January 2020.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Review: The Black Kachina by Jack Getze

The Black Kachina
Jack Getze
Down & Out Books, August 2017
ISBN 978-1-943402-69-4
Trade Paperback

San Diego Reporter Jordon Scott finds himself on the trail of a hot story involving a missing bomb, a terrorist and falling in love with a tough military officer at the same time. These are the interesting plot lines in this unusual novel. Author Getze is a former LA Times reporter so he knows the territory and if the activities of this fictional reporter at times get a little questionable, well, this is realistic fiction, after all. Scott is a bright, good-looking, aggressive reporter who, while pushing leads on the loss of an aging USAF bomber in the mountains of southern California, encounters Colonel Maggie Black, USAF.

Black is an intriguing character. A former combat pilot—unusual in itself—she can no longer fly due to loss of one arm, but she’s actively working with a secret unit of the service on special weapons. She’s bright, good-looking, aggressive and dedicated to her assignment. While monitoring a test flight carrying her experimental weapon, she discovers the flight has crashed and her weapon is missing.

Then we have the third character in this novel, he of the title. Kachina’s are an intimate part, along with their influences, of the lives and lore of southwestern native tribes and bands. Whether or not they, like other religious icons, were real, their influence is wide and important. Asdrubal Torres believes in Kachina and he comes to believe, aided by his hatred for the white man, that he is destined to return the Salton Sea and surrounding area to its original state as the huge Lake Cahuilla in the Santa Rosa Mountains. Asdrubal Torres will become a modern Kachina.

How these forces maneuver their complicated way through the limitations and dangers of modern technology and personal relationships forms the texture, structure and movement of this interesting and intriguing thriller. I recommend it.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, November 2017.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Review: Room for Doubt by Nancy Cole Silverman

Room for Doubt
A Carol Childs Mystery #4
Nancy Cole Silverman
Henery Press, July 2017
ISBN 978-1-63511-235-1
Trade Paperback

 

From the publisher—

When radio reporter Carol Childs is called to a crime scene in the Hollywood Hills at five thirty in the morning, she’s convinced it must be a publicity stunt to promote a new movie. That is, until she sees the body hanging from the center of the Hollywood sign. The police are quick to rule it a suicide, but something doesn’t add up for Carol. Particularly after a mysterious caller named Mustang Sally confesses to the murder on the air and threatens to kill again.

With the help of an incorrigible PI, her best friend, and a kooky psychic, Carol is drawn into the world of contract killers and women scorned. As she races to find the real killer, she finds herself faced with a decision that will challenge everything she thought she knew.

Journalists of one sort or another are always good mystery protagonists, aren’t they? Naturally nosy, they’re in a profession that gives them a modicum of justification to be in the middle of an investigation and they almost always have access to resources the typical cozy sleuth doesn’t have. They also have a built-in platform, assuming some editor or producer doesn’t put the kibosh on things. Carol Childs is just such an amateur sleuth.

When Carol’s boss sends her to the scene of a death by hanging, it’s more to simply report rather than a true investigation but she can’t help thinking the police detective jumped to the wrong conclusion when he calls it a suicide. She doesn’t have any real evidence, just a gut feeling, but a local private investigator, Gerhardt Chasen (Chase), soon convinces her there might be a whole lot more to this story.

Along with her investigating what turns out to be quite a controversial set of killings, Carol has a personal side that’s an equally important part of the story and I enjoyed my first adventure with her. She’s one of those people with a kind of glamorous job but a pretty run-of-the-mill home life, warts and all, and I found myself quite comfortable with her. In fact, she reminded me a little of myself at her age for some reason although I didn’t have a psychic hanging around or, for that matter, a PI hooked on lollipops.

Without giving anything away, I should warn readers that this particular mystery doesn’t end the way you might expect but you’ll have to make your own decision about whether the ending is satisfactory. It was for me, even though it wasn’t exactly right, and I appreciate the author’s willingness to go a ways out on a limb. We crime fiction readers don’t see this sort of thing every day 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2017.

Book Review: Haunting Investigation by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

Haunting Investigation
A Chesterton Holte Mystery #5
Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Smoke & Shadow Books, December 2015
ISBN: 978-1-943052-01-1
Hardcover

First of all, detective Chesterton Holte is a ghost, and only newspaper reporter Poppy Thornton can see or hear him⏤aside from her Aunt Jo’s old dog and the cat. And the only reason he’s haunting her is because he directly led to her father being executed as a spy during World War I and this is his way of making it up to her.

The year is 1924 and the country is still reeling not only from the war, but from the millions of lives lost to the Spanish Flu. Women are taking jobs usually considered the male prerogative and Poppea Thornton is one of them. She is a budding newspaper reporter, up to now assigned to the society pages as she is one of Philadelphia’s upper crust. But when one of society’s own is murdered, Poppy, to her satisfaction, receives the job of reporting the news. In her duties, she meets a handsome police detective, which serves her well when she becomes the murderer’s target, but it is the ghost, Chesterton Holte, who helps Poppy root out the clues.

Against a whole lot of opposition, Poppy works hard and diligently to make her way in a man’s world.

I liked the characters. I formed good pictures of Aunt Jo, cousin Stacy, the widow, and all the others. The setting is well done. I enjoyed the descriptions of the cars, the attire of the day, and especially, the food and drink⏤lots of drink. And during prohibition, too, wink, wink. However, the murder methods seemed odd to me. Also, there didn’t seem to be any real resolution to the story, ending more with a whimper than a bang. Even so, I enjoyed the journey with Poppy and Holte and Detective Loring. One assumes it is to be continued.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, October 2016.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder and Four Furlongs.

Book Review: Peak Season for Murder by Gail Lukasik

Peak Season for MurderPeak Season for Murder
A Leigh Girard Mystery #3
Gail Lukasik
Five Star, September 2013
ISBN 978-12-4328-2729-8
Hardcover

Door County, Wisconsin, is a vacation spot known for art galleries, live performances, and trendy restaurants. It’s a place where the well-heeled summer people and tourists meet with the locals who live there year round. Leigh Girard, Door County Gazette reporter, is investigating the death of a formerly homeless man, Brownie Lawrence. Brownie’s friend, Ken Albright, is accused of his murder, and while Leigh attempts to prove his innocence, she discovers Brownie had assumed another man’s identity.

The Bayside Theater is a Door County institution, and this season’s cast seems to be shadowed by a past mystery. Twenty three years ago local actress Danielle Moyer vanished after starring in a play. Her body was never found. Nina Cass, the theater’s owner and actress, has hired her ex-husband, actor Nate Ryan, for the season. Ryan, who was one of the players when Danielle Moyer disappeared, is out of rehab and still a heartthrob but his good looks are fading. Former ballerina Gwen Shaw is also one of the players, along with Shakespearean stage actor Julian Finch, and young actress Harper Kennedy.

Leigh is interviewing the cast members for an article, but a series of misfortunes haunt the theatre. On the opening night of the first play, a swarm of bats converge on the stage, causing Gwen Shaw to trip and break her arm. During rehearsal for “Merchant of Venice,” a real knife is substituted for a prop, and Julian is cut.

This is the author’s third Leigh Girard mystery. She has a wonderful feel for language and uses it well to describe the characters and the setting, but doesn’t neglect the plot. Leigh is a character with a lot of backstory, but it is revealed a little at a time, as you come to appreciate her perseverance and curiosity.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, October 2015.