Book Review: The Sinners by Ace Atkins

The Sinners
A Quinn Colson Novel #8
Ace Atkins
Putnam, July 2018
ISBN: 978-0-399-57674-4
Hardcover

Quinn Colson finally is going to tie the knot, but events tend to interfere with the planning, much less the ceremony itself.  It’s a good thing Maggie Powers, his betrothed, is an understanding woman.  As sheriff of Tibbehah County, Mississippi, Colson is hoping for some quiet, but an invasion of a couple of gangsters, a drug war and assorted underworld internecine strife tends to interfere.

Moreover, Quinn’s best man, Boom Kimbrough, gets a job driving trucks for a shady outfit that traffics in drugs and women.  When a couple of wannabes, the Pritchard brothers, who grow the best weed, want to branch out and hijack Boom’s semi, the gangsters blame Boom as a conspirator and almost kill him, giving Quinn additional incentive to take action.

The latest in this long-running series, the novel is written in the inimitable style Ace Atkins has developed to portray the south inhabited by the characters he writes about.  The series consists of excellent crime novels, filled with colorful characters.  Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, September 2018.

Book Review: Another Man’s Ground by Claire Booth—and a Giveaway!

Another Man’s Ground
Sheriff Hank Worth Mysteries #2
Claire Booth
Minotaur Books, July 2017
ISBN 978-1-250-08441-5
Hardcover

From the publisher—

It starts out as an interesting little theft case. Branson, Missouri’s new Sheriff Hank Worth is called out to look at stands of trees that have been stripped of their bark, which the property owner had planned to harvest for the booming herbal supplement market. At first, Hank easily balances the demands of the investigation with his fledging political career. He was appointed several months earlier to the vacant sheriff position, but he needs to win the fast-approaching election in order to keep his job. He thinks the campaign will go well, as long as he’s able to keep secret the fact that a group of undocumented immigrants – hired to cut down the stripped trees – have fled into the forest and he’s deliberately not looking for them.

But then the discovery of a murder victim deep in the Ozark backwoods sets him in the middle of a generations-old feud that explodes into danger not only for him, but also for the immigrants, his deputies, and his family. He must rush to find a murderer before election day, and protect the vulnerable in Branson County, where politicking is hell and trespassing can get you killed.

When I discover a new—or, new to me—author and they knock my socks off, I’m always a little trepidatious that the next book will let me down, be a bit disappointing. That sad occurrence has happened more often than I like to think but, happily, I had no need to worry this time. The Branson Beauty was a wonderful book and it made my 2016 Favorite Books list; Another Man’s Ground is every bit as entertaining and Sheriff Hank Worth is still one of my best-loved smallish-town cops.

Hank is a man who loves what he does, protecting and defending others besides using his considerable intellect to solve crimes. He left the Kansas City police department in hopes of finding a more congenial place for his family and, indeed, he did but detective work is in his blood and he enjoys being Sheriff. Not so enjoyable is the campaigning he has to do for the upcoming election and looking into what he thinks is a fairly simple theft is a welcome distraction but, of course, it’s anything but simple.

Claire Booth brings the Ozarks to life and, in what I can only call a touch of love, she lets us come to know the people of this rural area as far more perceptive and quick-witted than stereotypes from the past persisting today would lead us to believe. The good folk of Branson and its environs are likeable and intelligent and its criminals have their own brand of cleverness. On the other hand, the notion of a decades-long feud is straight out of the hills and adds an element of curiosity and intrigue to what should have been, as I said, a simple theft.

With a little help from a deputy named Sheila Turley and not so much from the DEA and some US Marshals, Hank brings sanity back to Branson but it’s Guapo, a kind of ridiculous dog, who steals hearts on the campaign trail and all the townfolks together make me add this to my favorite books read in 2017. And now I’m really curious about what’s in store next time for Guapo and friends 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2017.

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Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble // Kobo // iTunes
Amazon // Indiebound // Books-A-Million

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About the Author

Claire Booth spent more than a decade as a daily newspaper reporter, much of it covering crimes so convoluted and strange they seemed more like fiction than reality. Eventually, she had enough of the real world and decided to write novels instead. Her Sheriff Hank Worth mystery series takes place in Branson, Missouri, where small-town Ozark politics and big-city country music tourism clash in, yes, strange and convoluted ways.

For more about Claire, her books, and some of the true crimes she’s covered, please visit www.clairebooth.com, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

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Follow the tour here.

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“The second in Booth’s regional crime series … is both an
excellent police procedural and a surprisingly humorous
look at politics and family feuds.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Booth’s affectionate treatment of the decent and shrewd
people of Branson and Worth makes this a series
worth following.” – Publishers Weekly

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To enter the drawing for a print copy
of Another Man’s Ground, leave a
comment below. The winning name will
be drawn Saturday evening, July 15th,
and the book will be sent after the tour ends.

Open to residents of the US and Canada.

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Book Review: Buffalo Jump Blues by Keith McCafferty

Buffalo Jump BluesBuffalo Jump Blues
A Sean Stranahan Mystery #5
Keith McCafferty
Viking, June 2016
ISBN 978-0-5254-2959-3
Hardcover

From the publisher:  In the wake of Fourth of July fireworks in Montana’s Madison Valley, Deputy Sheriff Harold Little Feather and Hyalite County Sheriff Martha Ettinger investigate a horrific scene at the Palisades cliffs, where a herd of bison [a/k/a buffalo] have fallen to their deaths.  Are they victims of blind panic caused by the pyrotechnics, or a ritualistic hunting practice dating back thousands of years?  The person who would know is beyond asking, an Indian man found dead among the bison, his leg pierced by an arrow.  Farther up the valley, fly fisherman, painter and sometime private detective Sean Stranahan has been hired by the beautiful Ida Evening Star – – a Chippewa Cree woman who moonlights as a mermaid at the Trout Tails Bar & Grill  – to find her old flame, John Running Boy.  The cases seem unrelated, until Sean’s search leads him right to the brink of the buffalo jump.

This is the fifth entry in the series, and to call it eclectic would be an understatement.  Both the fishing and wildlife aspects of it, which predominate in the early sections, are entirely foreign to this reader, whose usual preference is for character-driven novels.  But the header for Chapter 8, “A Mermaid, an Arrowhead, and True Love,” captures the elements of most of the rest of the book.  The aforementioned Ida is the first of these, the arrowhead a piece of evidence in the search for the murderer of the Indian Man, and true love is – well, as Sean says: “True love knows not logic nor lust, but the synchronized bearing of hearts.”

The bison was the “icon of the West” that only a century ago had stood at the brink of extinction.  When Harold comes upon the first body, he puts the dying animal out of its misery.  He muses, “The irony of what he had done, killing the first bison to have returned to these ancient hunting grounds in one hundred and fifty years, was not lost on him.”  But he had done what he had to do, and cannot second-guess himself.  Shanahan is a terrific protagonist, of whom Martha says “You’re what I call a Montana Renaissance man.  You have about five different jobs and still you have to stick a hose down a gas tank to siphon up enough fuel to get to the store.”  (He guides during the trout season, writes for fishing magazines and paints in the winter (or when he gets a commission).  He says of himself “I’m a better artist than I am a detective.  Or fishing guide.”  But he is selling himself short, as he demonstrates during the ensuing investigation, assisting Martha in the search for the man or men behind the events.  The geography of Montana is vividly presented.  The writing is terrific and filled with humor, e.g., “Fishermen are born honest, but they get over it.”  The beauty of Montana is vivid, and that and the wonderful writing have pointed me to the fourth novel in the series which I had somehow missed, Crazy Mountain Kiss, next up for this reader.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, June 2016.

Book Review: The Branson Beauty by Claire Booth—and a Giveaway!

The Branson BeautyThe Branson Beauty
Sheriff Hank Worth Mysteries #1
Claire Booth
Minotaur Books, July 2016
ISBN 978-1-250-08438-5
Hardcover

From the publisher—

The Branson Beauty, an old showboat, has crashed in the waters of an Ozark mountain lake just outside the popular tourist destination of Branson, Missouri. More than one hundred people are trapped aboard. Hank Worth is still settling into his new role as county sheriff, and when he responds to the emergency call, he knows he’s in for a long winter’s day of helping elderly people into rafts and bringing them ashore. He anticipates a lot of anxiety, many arguments, and extra costs for emergency equipment that will stretch the county’s already thin budget to the breaking point. But those are the least of his worries after he discovers high school track star Mandy Bryson’s body locked inside the Captain’s private dining room.

Every now and then, I entertain myself by trying to figure out which subgenre of crime fiction I like best. Why I do this I have no idea since I NEVER come to a successful conclusion because there are so many subgenres and then those are further modified by all kinds of nuances. There are a few I don’t particularly care for but way too many I like to be able to pick one favorite. So, I give up the quest until the next time I decide to think about it.

What can I say? I’m easily amused 😉

Police procedurals are definitely in my positive column and The Branson Beauty pushes a whole lot of my hot buttons. I really REALLY like rural or semi-rural sheriffs and deputies, small or smallish towns, humor without sappiness, clues that the cop in question actually has a good family life and that he has avoided the stereotypical alcoholism or PTSD and is intelligent and perceptive, i.e., good at his job, but I want some edginess because, after all, murder is a serious business.  In this case, there’s a bonus….a showboat! Just thinking about showboats takes me back to earlier times with a touch of romance and adventure, not to mention a terrific movie 😉

Hank is a smallish-town sheriff, actually a county sheriff, but he came from the Kansas City police department so hard crime, including murder, is not a huge surprise to him. The same can’t be said for his fellow citizens, some of whom kind of go off the deep end when, first, the boat crashes and they have to figure out how to get a lot of people off of it and, second, a very dead murdered body is found. Fortunately, Hank has at least one pretty capable deputy. A Company Man tries to throw his weight around….hence the caps….in a semi-friendly fashion, hoping to avoid a public relations nightmare and a widow with a police scanner, Lovinia Smithson, is the first to arrive when Hank sends out the call for help, ensconcing herself on a nearby rock to watch the festivities. The Company Man’s boss turns out to have a stick up his butt and the emergency district chief can’t resist whistling the theme from “Gilligan’s Island”.

And then a rather important piece of evidence disappears, in a manner of speaking.

Quite honestly, I love this book and everything about it and it will be going on my list of favorite books read in 2016. All the characters are finely developed and much more human than many fictional people and the investigation had me guessing , surprising me more than once. Most of all, I enjoyed the relationships between Hank and his family and between Hank and his colleagues. I’m sorry I now have to wait for a second book and I’m not even sure one is planned, but I can hope. Ms. Booth, please give us more!

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2016.

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“This contemporary take on a locked-room puzzle
is chilling, compelling and completely entertaining,
and Claire Booth is a wonderful new voice
in crime fiction.” – Hank Phillippi Ryan, Agatha,
Anthony and Macavity award winner

Goodreads

Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble Buy Button     Kobo Buy Button     Amazon Buy Button

Books-A-Million Button     Indiebound Button 2

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About the Author

Claire BoothClaire Booth spent more than a decade as a daily newspaper reporter, much of it covering crimes so convoluted and strange they seemed more like fiction than reality. Eventually, she had enough of the real world and decided to write novels instead. Her Sheriff Hank Worth mystery series takes place in Branson, Missouri, where small-town Ozark politics and big-city country music tourism clash in, yes, strange and convoluted ways. For more about Claire, her books, and some of the true crimes she’s covered, please visit www.clairebooth.com.

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“With nuanced characters and an intricately unfolding
plot – and a bone-deep sense of cold in this snowy
Ozark setting – this novel is reminiscent of William Kent
Krueger or Giles Blunt. Claire Booth is a writer to watch.”
– Anthony and Agatha award winner Sara J. Henry

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Follow the tour:

Monday, July 18th: A Chick Who Reads

Tuesday, July 19th: BookBub Blog – author guest post

Wednesday, July 20th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Monday, July 25th: Mockingbird Hill Cottage

Wednesday, July 27th: Write Read Life

Monday, August 1st: Bewitched Bookworms

Thursday, August 4th: Kahakai Kitchen

Thursday, August 11th: Buried Under Books

Thursday, August 18th: Joyfully Retired

Monday, August 22nd: All Roads Lead to the Kitchen

Tuesday, August 23rd: FictionZeal

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TLC Book Tours Button

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To enter the drawing for a print
copy of The Branson Beauty
by Claire Booth, just leave a
comment below. The winning

name will be drawn on
Sunday
night, August 14th.
This drawing
is open to residents
of the US and Canada.

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“Claire Booth hits the ground running in this debut
novel set in the Missouri Ozarks. She writes with the
assurance and clarity of a more seasoned pro.”
– Edgar award-winning author Margaret Maron

Book Review: Dry Bones by Craig Johnson

Dry BonesDry Bones
A Longmire Mystery #11
Craig Johnson
Viking, May 2015
ISBN 978-0-525-42693-6
Hardcover

Who doesn’t love a Wyoming dinosaur, although. . . turtles? Not so much. Especially after picking up Dry Bones, the latest in Craig Johnson’s Longmire mystery series.

The complete skeleton of a T. Rex, nicknamed “Jen” after the woman who, thanks to her dog, discovered it, is found on land owned by an elderly Cheyenne. Who knew dinosaur fossils were worth so much money? But just who owns the fossil, and has the right to sell it is questionable after Danny Lone Elk is found dead in a turtle pond. Murdered, as it turns out, and Walt has plenty of suspects. As usual in a Longmire story, some politics are involved, along with the FBI, local cops and tribal police. Messy.

Complications galore arise, including a death in the family, which includes Walt’s friends, his co-workers, and even the previous sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming.

We’re getting along in years with Walt Longmire, but Walt, Henry, Vic, and even Dog never age. They never become boring, either, which has as much to do with Craig Johnson’s voice and writing skill as Longmire’s actual investigations.

Some things I noticed:

Johnson’s writing has a warmth to it that always sucks you in. Reading a Longmire novel is like visiting with a group of friends or family. Only Walt lives a much more exciting life than I do.

The subject matter, as usual, will probably teach you a little something. That never hurts.

A lively bunch of suspects to choose from, and every one a three-dimensional character.

You’ll love the way this one turns out. I promise.

Stay tuned. I can’t wait for the next book.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, March 2015.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.

Book Review: Nora Bonesteel’s Christmas Past by Sharyn McCrumb—and a Giveaway!

Nora Bonesteel's Christmas PastNora Bonesteel’s Christmas Past
A Ballad Novella
Sharyn McCrumb
Abingdon Press, October 2014
ISBN 978-1-4267-5421-0  Hardcover

From the publisher—

When someone buys the old Honeycutt house, Nora Bonesteel is glad to see some life brought back to the old mansion, even if it is by summer people. But when they decide to stay through Christmas, they find more than old memories in the walls.

On Christmas Eve, Sheriff Spencer Arrowood and Deputy Joe LeDonne find themselves on an unwelcome call to arrest an elderly man for a minor offense. As they attempt to do their duty, while doing the right thing for a neighbor, it begins to look like they may all spend Christmas away from home.

Two companion stories that really are not related except that a few of the people know each other and they’re in the same mountain location offer a brief but gentle look at the Christmas season. Sheriff Spencer Arrowood and his deputy, Joe LeDonne, are tasked with arresting a traffic offender on Christmas Eve with snow approaching and the elderly Nora Bonesteel, who has the Sight, is asked by a “snowbird” neighbor to find out why peculiar things are happening with her Christmas decorations.

Both stories, on the surface, would seem to be rather simplistic and they actually are but there’s a kernel of meaning in each that reflects the best of home and hearth, so to speak. At times, the stories drag a little but it’s nice to spend time again with Nora and the Sheriff and Joe (as cranky and cynical as the last might be) and absorb some of the Appalachian sensibility Sharyn McCrumb conveys so well. Is there mystery here or perhaps fantasy? Yes, in a very mild way, but it’s far more about the characters and the setting. The appeal is in these people and their community and I always enjoy returning to Appalachia and, in particular, to Ashe Mountain.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2014.

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To enter the drawing for a hardcover
copy of Nora Bonesteel’s Christmas Past
by Sharyn McCrumb, leave a comment
below. The winning name will be drawn
Tuesday evening, November 25th.
This drawing is open to residents of the US.

Book Reviews: Skeleton Picnic by Michael Norman, Hand for a Hand by Frank Muir, and Wrong Hill to Die On by Donis Casey

Skeleton PicnicSkeleton Picnic
Michael Norman
Poisoned Pen Press, April 2012
ISBN No. 978-1-59058-551-1
Hardcover
Also available in trade paperback

Roland (Rolly) Rogers is a retired Kanab High School teacher and an avid pot hunter.  He is anxiously waiting for his wife Abby to get home from work so the couple could begin their weekend searching for artifacts to add to their collection.  When Abby finally gets home the couple begin their last pot hunting adventure. The couple travel into Arizona and drive into a remote area that they discovered the previous fall.

When the couple fails to show up at church their daughter, Melissa, contacts Charlie Sutter, the Kane County Sheriff.  A missing persons report is taken when Melissa says her parents left on Friday and had planned to return on Saturday night.  Sheriff Sutter phones J. D. Books, a ranger with the Bureau of Land Management, and asks that he check out the Rogers residence since it is close to him.  Books is having coffee with Ned Hunsaker, a close friend and his landlord.

Books and Hunsaker go to the Rogers’ residence only to find that someone has broken in through the patio doors. When Books gets inside, he finds that the Rogers cat has been killed and is lying in a pool of blood.  The display case for the antiquities that Rogers has collected over the years is broken and the contents have been removed.

A search discovers the Rogers’ truck and trailer at an abandoned campsite near an excavated Anasazi ruin.  Footprints and other evidence indicate that the Rogers couple had visitors at their campsite.

Inquiries bring to light the fact that law enforcement authorities in the area have identified several unsolved missing person cases involving pot hunters who have gone missing.  Books along with Sheriff Sutter and his young deputy, Beth Tanner, begin the investigation and soon find that they are treading on dangerous ground.

Skeleton Picnic is an exciting mystery with strong characters that keep the story flowing.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, August 2012.

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Hand for a HandHand For A Hand
Frank Muir
Soho Press, Inc., November 2012
ISBN No. 978-1616951818
Hardcover

DCI Andy Gilchrist became a new favorite for me just a few pages into Hand For A Hand.  A dismembered hand is found on the golf course in St. Andrews, Scotland.  The hand grips a note addressed to Andy.  This first note is only the beginning of the terrors that Andy must face as the body parts and the notes with the strange messages continue to make their appearances.

Andy is divorced with two grown children, Jack and Maureen.  It is a puzzle as to why the murderer is targeting Andy with a personal note.  Andy realizes that the victim could be someone close to him.  He leaves an urgent message for his daughter Maureen requesting that she contact him immediately.  When he reaches his son, Jack, Andy learns that Jack had a disagreement with his girlfriend, Chloe, and doesn’t know where she is now.

To make matters even worse, Ronnie Watt is assigned to the case.  Because of an incident in the past involving Ronnie and Andy’s young daughter Maureen, Andy despises Ronnie, doesn’t trust him, and feels that Ronnie will be a detriment rather than an asset in the investigation.  Although Andy complains to his superior, he is told that Ronnie will remain on the case in spite of Andy’s feelings.

When what appears to be paint is found on the severed hand Andy’s fear increases.  Jack’s girlfriend Chloe is an artist.  When the next body part is found along with a message for Andy, Andy becomes convinced that the victim must be Chloe.

With the assistance of DS Nancy Wilson, Andy works to decipher the meaning of the notes addressed to him but before he can come up with the answer his daughter Maureen disappears.  So begins a race to find Maureen before the killer can deliver the final blow to Andy and his loved ones.

Any reader who enjoys Police Procedurals will instantly become a fan of T. Frank Muir.  I am looking forward to the next book in this series.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, November 2012.

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Wrong Hill to Die OnWrong Hill To Die On
Donis Casey
Poisoned Pen Press, November 2012
ISBN No. 978-1464200465
Trade Paperback
Also available in hardcover

In 1916 Alafair and Shaw Tucker’s ten year-old daughter Blanche is suffering from a disease of the lungs.  No matter what Alafair or the doctors tried Blanche did not improve.  Alafair’s youngest sister Elizabeth lives in Tempe, Arizona.  Alafair cannot pass up the opportunity to see if the dry air will cure Blanche’s health problems while visiting her sister.  Shaw decides that the older children are capable of handling the farm and all the responsibilities while he accompanies his wife and daughter on their trip.

Blanche begins improving almost immediately when they arrive in Arizona.  Elizabeth is married to a lawyer and has a six-year-old son Chase.  Chase is a terror and Elizabeth seems to have no control over him whatsoever.

Elizabeth plans a welcome party for Alafair and Shaw.  The Tucker’s are introduced to Elizabeth’s neighbors and friends.  The party is okay, but Alafair soon realizes that all is not well with her sister.  Elizabeth’s marriage does not appear to be in the best of shape, the community is talking constantly of Pancho Villa’s raids, and tensions are high between the Anglo and Latino communities.

The morning after the party Alafair discovers a body in a ditch.  Most of the community knows the victim but no one knows or will admit to knowing the reason for his murder.  Alafair’s detective instinct moves into high gear and in spite of warnings from Shaw she immediately begins her own investigation.  The fact that there is a movie company from Hollywood in Tempe making a film adds another element to the puzzles Alafair is trying to solve.

Wrong Hill to Die On is a great addition to the Alafair Tucker series.  It is not necessary to read the previous books to enjoy this current novel.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, January 2013.