Book Review: Crimes Past by Lauren Carr

Crimes Past
A Mac Faraday Mystery #13
Lauren Carr
Narrated by Mike Alger
Acorn Book Services, December 2018
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

It’s a bittersweet reunion for Mac Faraday when members of his former homicide squad arrive at the Spencer Inn. While it is sweet to attend the wedding of the daughter of a former colleague, it is a bitter reminder that the mother of the bride had been the victim of a double homicide on her own wedding night.

The brutal slaying weighing heavy on his mind, Mac is anxious to explore every possibility for a break in the cold case – even a suggestion from disgraced former detective Louis Gannon that one of their former colleagues was the killer. 

When the investigator is brutally slain, Mac Faraday rips open the cold case with a ruthless determination to reveal which of his friends was a cold-blooded murderer.

When Mac Faraday hosts a former colleague’s daughter’s wedding at the Spencer Inn, it’s not just because he’s being nice to Gina. For sixteen years, he’s been frustrated with his inability to solve the murder of Gina’s mother and her new husband on their wedding day, back when Mac was a homicide detective. Now, many of the same cops are gathered again and Mac hopes to ferret out the killer, most certainly one of his former colleagues.

Meanwhile, Mac’s German shepherd, Gnarly (who happens to be the mayor of Spencer) has apparently murdered one of the feral cats who lives next door and Mac has asked his brother, police chief David O’Callaghan, to get rid of the body before the crazy cat lady carries out her threats against Gnarly. It seems the woman hates Gnarly with a passion but David’s desk sergeant, Tonya, is on the case and soon sees what she believes is a murder…and the cat’s body is missing.

David’s long lost love, Hope, who happens to be in the military, has shown up with her fifteen-year-old son, the irrepressible Gabriel, in tow. Gabriel is quite sure not having a license shouldn’t stand in the way of driving a flashy Porsche and he’s surprisingly comfortable around all these former and current detectives, not so comfortable getting dressed up for a wedding.

So, there’s a lot going on in this story and, with her usual panache, Lauren Carr blends the grittiness of murder(s) with a good deal of humor, the latter revolving largely around Gnarly and David’s Belgian shepherd, Storm, who would much rather be couch potato-ing than anything involving exertion. Tonya also brings a certain levity to her determination to out a murdering fiend and Gabriel is a hoot. Still, the murders from the past are serious business and there may very well be more during this special occasion; every time I thought I had pegged the killer, Ms. Carr threw me off track and I would head off in another direction.

I’ve skipped around quite a bit in this series but that’s never kept me from loving each book I’ve read. I think it’s time I catch up on a few of the previous books and I’ll be doing audiobooks again because Mike Alger is absolutely perfect in his narration with a plethora of voices and great pacing.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2019.

Here’s the real life Gnarly!

The real-life Gnarly on his throne.

************

Purchase Links:
Audible // iTunes // Amazon

************

About the Author

Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Thorny Rose Mysteries—over twenty titles across three fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Now, Lauren has added one more hit series to her list with the Chris Matheson Cold Case Mysteries. Set in the quaint West Virginia town of Harpers Ferry, Ice introduces Chris Matheson, a retired FBI agent, who joins forces with other law enforcement retirees to heat up those cold cases that keep them up at night.

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

​Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, and three dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Connect with the author: Website // Twitter // Facebook // Instagram

************

About the Narrator

Channel 2 Meteorologist Mike Alger joined KTVN-TV in May, 1989. Prior to that Mike had worked at KNDU-TV in Washington. Mike has provided northern Nevada “Weather Coverage You Can Count On” during the 1990 President’s Day Blizzard, the drought in the mid- 1990s, the New Year’s Flood of 1997 and the historic Snowstorms of 2005.

Mike has been married for more than 30 years and has two grown children. His hobbies include golf, music, biking, tennis, scuba diving, writing. He has written and published one novel and is working on a second. He is also a narrator of several audio books, and his work can be found on Audible.com.

************

Follow the tour here.

************

Giveaway

Prizes: Win a $50 Amazon.com gift card
(open to wherever Amazon.com delivers)
(ends July 6, 2019)

Enter here.

************

Book Review: Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek by Terry Shames—and a Giveaway!

Dead Broke in Jarrett CreekDead Broke in Jarrett Creek
A Samuel Craddock Mystery
Terry Shames
Seventh Street Books, October 2014
ISBN 978-1-61614-996-3
Trade Paperback

This is a fun, Texas small town murder mystery, with a victim that lots of people have a reason to kill. It’s an engaging read and a quick one.

As a town, Jarrett Creek and many of its people have hit hard times. I don’t know if small towns really have that many people involved in so much mischief but Jarrett Creek seems to have very few honorable people living there and although it’s fun to read about, I certainly wouldn’t want to live there. I did like Samuel Craddock, the former Chief of Police, and found lots of the characters fun or interesting.

There is so much going on in Jarrett Creek that I did not guess the ending and that always pleases me. The only issue I had with the book was that too many characters are introduced too quickly – I counted 14 just in Chapter 1. The good news is that eventually all the names and backgrounds get straightened out for the reader and it soon becomes clear who is important to the story and who isn’t.

This is the third in the Samuel Craddock series but it is the first book in the series that I’ve read and it reads easily as a standalone.

Reviewed by Constance Reader, October 2014.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

To enter the drawing for a trade paperback
copy of Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek by

Terry Shames, leave a comment below. The
winning name will
be drawn Tuesday evening,
October 28th.
This drawing is open to residents
of
the US and Canada.

Book Review: The Avalon Chanter by Lillian Stewart Carl

The Avalon ChanterThe Avalon Chanter
Lillian Stewart Carl
Five Star, January 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4328-2804-2
Hardcover

I’ve never been a fan of the supernatural or paranormal novel. Too many times, in my reading experience, the authors allow defiance of corporal laws of physics to surmount plot difficulties or intellectual quandaries to be solved by the convenient appearance of an apparition. That being said, I have no difficulty believing in spirits or strange manifestations and in this novel, author Carl may have converted me.

In the English world there is hardly another set of legends that can match those of the Authurian. Sir Lancelot, King Arthur, Queen Guinevere, and Merlin and Mordred. Add the waves of religious recruitment and conversions. Then add the brooding, unforgiving land, peopled by hardy residents who remain close to the land and all that means.

To the legendary island of Small Farnaby off the coast of Northumberland comes American writer Jean Fairbairn with her retired Scot policeman, Alasdair Cameron. She is drawn there by a native-born archeologist who is planning to open a tomb in a medieval chapel and thereby prove her contention that the little island could very well be the Avalon of legend and thus solve some of England’s most enduring historical questions. When the tomb is opened, however, mysteries only deepen. Murder, chicanery, deep passions all rise from past to present and Jean Fairbairn’s husband is forced out of retirement to take control of an isolated police investigation.

The novel is beautifully written and whether you believe the ethereal singing of ancient Priory nuns is real or mere wisps from the fog-shrouded sea only enhances the brooding atmosphere of danger that pervades the pages of this novel. The family complications and old passions are complicated and carefully worked out to logical conclusions so that in the end, the resolution to mystery and murder is solidly satisfying. An  excellent novel that comes strongly recommended.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, December 2013.
Author of Red Sky, Devils Island, Hard Cheese, Reunion.

Book Reviews: A Killing at Cotton Hill by Terry Shames and Live and Let Fly by Karina L. Fabian

A Killing at Cotton HillA Killing at Cotton Hill
A Samuel Craddock Mystery
Terry Shames
Seventh Street Books, July 2013
ISBN 978-1-61614-799-0
Trade Paperback

Retired police chief Samuel Craddock is forced to step in when his friend Dora Lee Parjeter is murdered. Rodell, the present police chief of the small Texas town isn’t good for much except drinking and womanizing–mostly with the wrong woman–and is fond of taking the easy way out. In this case, he arrests the dead woman’s grandson, Greg, who lives on the farm with her. Why? Because he’s there. The evidence, let alone any  kind of motive, is lacking.

Samuel is still working through the loss of his dearly beloved wife, and finally taking an interest in outside things. This includes a casual friendship with Loretta, and a renewed passion for art. While trying not to let Rodell know what he’s up to, when he begins investigating Dora Lee’s death, he soon discovers her grandson is an extremely talented artist. It’s this talent, in part, that makes Samuel decide to take the case on. During the investigation, he becomes friends with attorney Jenny Sandstone, whom I feel certain we’ll see more of in the next Samuel Craddock mystery.

Samuel’s investigation places him right in the murderer’s headlights. His house, and his art collection, amassed with his dead wife, is nearly destroyed via an arsonist’s fire. Instead of discouraging the former policeman, the damage only makes him more determined to find the killer.

The plot moves right along. We get to know Samuel as a determined, dutiful man who isn’t quite ready to hang up his lawman’s hat, after all. All the characters are well-drawn, both the small-town folks, and the potential killers. A fine line to walk, that author Terry Shames manages very well indeed.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, October 2013.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Live and Let FlyLive and Let Fly
Karina L. Fabian
MuseItUp Publishing, April 2012
Ebook

Vern wasn’t your ordinary PI. For a start he was a dragon…and has a nun for a sidekick…and he lives in Los Lagos, Colorado. These days, he tries to solve crime rather than eating optimistic knights who really should have known better. But something’s come up. There’s a damsel in distress, a cataclysmic disaster about to unfold and Vern and Sister Grace are the only ones who can stop it. Will they save the world and prevent the next Ragnarok? Will they rescue the damsel and make it out alive? And most importantly, who’s going to sign off on their expenses?

I confess that the idea of a dragon being a successful PI is not an idea I thought I would have readily accepted. I was even more sceptical when I continually heard Vern talking like Jimmy Stewart in a ‘now look here see?’ kind of way. It reads like the old film noir classics where characters explained themselves to the camera and jazz music plinked in the background. But I guess that says more about me than it does about the book.

This is a decent enough title if you’re not averse to cliché filled prose and ridiculous setups. It is essentially a crime novel with an added element of fantasy thrown in but I felt that the book was too long winded to be truly enjoyable. I found myself willing pages to turn not because I wanted to know what happened, but more to just get to the end of the thing. It felt like it took me a fortnight to read and in fact, it did take a fortnight before I got through it all. If this were heavily edited, with most of the unnecessary scenes taken out, it would make for a much faster paced title. As it is however, it rather becomes an exercise in ‘goodness, what now?’ exasperation as you lurch from one disaster to another. While there are many humorous parts and some tongue-in-cheek references to religion, the book ended up being too cumbersome for my liking. A brave effort but unfortunately, this is one title that will not survive the dragon’s gaze.

Reviewed by Laura McLaughlin, June 2013.

Book Review: Don’t Ever Get Old by Daniel Friedman

Don’t Ever Get Old
Daniel Friedman
Minotaur Books, May 2012
ISBN 978-0-312-60693-0
Hardcover

Buck Schatz, an eighty-eight-year-old member of the “greatest generation” has, as ordered by his wife Rose, gone to the bedside of a dying comrade in arms—against his better judgment. Once there, his old army buddy, Jim Wallace, confesses he once took a bribe allowing the SS officer who ran their POW camp to escape. The bribe consisted of one gold bar, and according to Jim, there had been many more where that came from. What’s more, he knows the SS officer, Heinrich Ziegler, has lived all these years in the U.S. free as a bird. Who better, Jim demands, than the man who survived Ziegler’s worst brutalizations and who is a former police detective, to go after the war criminal. Oh, yes, and the gold, which he wants Buck to share with his family.

For such a supposedly well-kept secret, Buck soon finds just about everybody imaginable knows about the gold, and they all want a piece of it. Some want all of it. So Buck, suffering from increasing frailty and forgetfulness (he has to write himself notes about everything he wants to remember) is swept into one more case. He can’t count on the cops to be his allies, but his grandson Billy—under the nickname Tequila—becomes his sidekick as violent murder dogs his investigation.

I loved this book. Buck, with all his foibles and supposedly deteriorating mental acuity is a real kick in the pants. And the reader just knows that Tequila is sure to one day become as interesting as his grandfather. The mystery is good, but it’s the characters who make this book. Author Friedman brings them to life with sharp dialogue and just the right amount of description.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, July 2012.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.

Book Review: Don't Ever Get Old by Daniel Friedman

Don’t Ever Get Old
Daniel Friedman
Minotaur Books, May 2012
ISBN 978-0-312-60693-0
Hardcover

Buck Schatz, an eighty-eight-year-old member of the “greatest generation” has, as ordered by his wife Rose, gone to the bedside of a dying comrade in arms—against his better judgment. Once there, his old army buddy, Jim Wallace, confesses he once took a bribe allowing the SS officer who ran their POW camp to escape. The bribe consisted of one gold bar, and according to Jim, there had been many more where that came from. What’s more, he knows the SS officer, Heinrich Ziegler, has lived all these years in the U.S. free as a bird. Who better, Jim demands, than the man who survived Ziegler’s worst brutalizations and who is a former police detective, to go after the war criminal. Oh, yes, and the gold, which he wants Buck to share with his family.

For such a supposedly well-kept secret, Buck soon finds just about everybody imaginable knows about the gold, and they all want a piece of it. Some want all of it. So Buck, suffering from increasing frailty and forgetfulness (he has to write himself notes about everything he wants to remember) is swept into one more case. He can’t count on the cops to be his allies, but his grandson Billy—under the nickname Tequila—becomes his sidekick as violent murder dogs his investigation.

I loved this book. Buck, with all his foibles and supposedly deteriorating mental acuity is a real kick in the pants. And the reader just knows that Tequila is sure to one day become as interesting as his grandfather. The mystery is good, but it’s the characters who make this book. Author Friedman brings them to life with sharp dialogue and just the right amount of description.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, July 2012.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.

Book Reviews: County Line by Bill Cameron, The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes by Marcus Sakey, Camouflage by Bill Pronzini, Tigerlily’s Orchids by Ruth Rendell, and Hell Is Empty by Craig Johnson

County Line
Bill Cameron
Tyrus Books, June 2011
ISBN: 978-1-935562-52-8
Trade Paperback

Before even attempting to evaluate this novel, it must be pointed out that at the beginning and end of the book as well as in between segments there are QR barcodes, purportedly featuring bonus material and extras.  To do so, of course, one must own a smartphone and download an app to view the material.  Since I have no need or desire to own such an instrument (what’s wrong, am I anti-American?), I don’t know how much, if anything, I am missing, especially what the barcode at the end of and within the novel provides.   Since I had a feeling of incompleteness after finishing the book, I wonder.  And if that is information I need to judge the novel, then it not only is a disservice to the reader who chooses not to utilize it, but a poor gimmick to sell smartphones and cellular service.  As it is, I found it only a distraction, as well as questioning whether it was necessary for a full appreciation of the book.

As far as the novel is concerned, it is incisively written, with good character development.  It begins when go-getter Ruby Jane Whittaker, founder and owner of a three-store chain of coffee shops in Portland, Oregon, goes off on what is to be a two-week trip.  When she doesn’t return, two of her boyfriends take heed, and undertake to find her. The effort takes them to San Francisco to see her brother (who becomes a hit-and-run victim before their eyes), then to a small Ohio town where Ruby Jane grew up and then back to Oregon.  The effort raises more questions than it does answers.

Another section of the novel retraces Ruby Jane’s earlier life in Ohio, and provides some background to the mystery, which is finally brought to a violent finish, albeit leaving this reader wondering whether or not that really is the conclusion, or just laying the groundwork for the next book in this series.  If you own a smartphone, OK, you can take this as a recommendation.  If not – – well, the choice is yours.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, October 2011.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes
Marcus Sakey
Dutton, June 2011
ISBN: 978-0-525-95211-4
Hardcover

Daniel Hayes wakes up on a beach in Maine, half drowned and with a loss of memory.  This sets the stage for a slow, dramatic tale as he attempts to reconstruct his life.  He finds a car nearby which is apparently owned by someone named Daniel Hayes from Malibu, CA.  Is that him?

Then he decides to cross the country in an effort to find out who he is, after fleeing a cop attempting to arrest him in Maine. Dan is a scriptwriter, and his efforts are like episodes on a TV show.  When he gets to Malibu, he sneaks in to what turns out is his home.  So he has a name.  And a home.  Then he finds out a female character on a television show is his wife who apparently was killed when her car went over a cliff.  While he searches for answers, the plot thickens.

And quite a plot it is.  Interspersed with fairly crisp prose are simulated scripts, sometimes fantasy, others integral to the story line.  The reader is kept off-balance with the question of whether Dan fled to Maine because he killed his wife.  And when that question is answered, a whole new mystery arises to keep one turning pages.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, October 2011.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Camouflage
Bill Pronzini
Forge, June 2011
ISBN: 978-0-7653-2564-8
Hardcover

The Nameless Detective in this long-running series is supposed to have semi-retired.  It just isn’t so.  He’s still working four or five days a week, and it’s a good thing, because it makes for good reading.  In the first of two cases described in this novel, he takes on a new client with what at first appears to be a simple ‘trace’ case.  The oft-married client asks Nameless to locate his ex-wife so he can get her to sign a Catholic Church form to pave the way for an annulment, so he can marry the next, an apparently well-to-do prospect.  Tamara, who is now running the agency in wake of Nameless’ “semi-retirement,” locates the ex-wiife, and after she refuses to sign the papers the client visits her, after which he storms into the office saying that it’s the wrong person.  This leads to the ensuing mystery to be solved.

The second plot line involves Jake Runyon, Nameless’ partner, who has finally developed a relationship with a woman, Bryn, who has a nine-year-old son who is in her ex-husband’s custody.  It appears that the boy is being abused, but by whom?  The father, or his fiancée, who is living with him and the child?  The complication of the girl’s murder and the subsequent admission by Bryn of having committed the deed lays the groundwork for some detective work by Jake to find the real culprit.

As in the previous more than two score books in the series, the tightly written novel, accompanied by terse dialogue and seamless transitions, take the reader forward effortlessly.  The author’s eye for detail is penetrating, and the novel is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, October 2011.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Tigerlily’s Orchids
Ruth Rendell
Scribner, June 2011
ISBN: 978-4391-5034-4
Hardcover

Ruth Rendell novels are a study in human relationships, and this book is no exception.  It takes a look at an assortment of tenants living in an apartment house block in London, particularly one building, but also a couple of homes across the way.

An inordinate amount of space is devoted to one tenant, a young, handsome youth, Stuart Font, who recently inherited some money and bought his apartment.  He decides to have a housewarming and invite all the other tenants.  His married lover forces him to invite her, setting the stage for her husband to invade the apartment and harm Stuart, who is later found murdered in a nearby park.

The mystery, of course, is who the murderer is.  But it is almost superfluous since the interaction of the various characters is the prime focus of the novel:  One woman who is determined to drink herself to death; three young girls, students of a sort, one of whom falls in love with Stuart, who in turn is obsessed with a beautiful young Asian in the house across the street after discarding his married lover; an elderly couple who once had a one-night stand in their youth and find each other again; the caretaker couple, the husband of which enjoys spying on young girls and watching pornography on his computer.  Among others.

The author’s eye for detail is sharp, and the personality descriptions vivid.  For a crime novel, the mystery is virtually irrelevant, but certainly the character studies are vital.  For that reason alone, the book is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, October 2011.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hell Is Empty
Craig Johnson
Viking, June 2011
ISBN: 978-0-670-02277-9
Hardcover

This, the seventh novel in the Walt Longmire series, is perhaps the most harrowing.  It starts out simply enough, with Walt, the Sheriff of a Wyoming county, and his deputies transporting three murderers to a rendezvous with two other local Sheriffs and Federal officials.  One of the felons, a psychopath who says he hears supernatural voices, has indicated he killed a young Indian boy years before, and offers to locate the bones for the officials.  There is a rumor, also, that he has secreted $1.4 million, perhaps in the grave.

This sets the stage for a harrowing experience for Walt, as the convicts escape, killing FBI agents and taking two hostages with them as they climbed Bighorn Mountain.  A determined Walt follows under blizzard conditions, which almost kills him.

As in previous entries in the series, the geographical and environmental descriptions are awesome.  The reader can feel the cold and ice as they penetrate Walt’s body and inundate the mountain peak in glasslike cover and snow-filled mounds.  Another excellent book, full of Indian lore and supernatural phenomena.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, October 2011.