Book Review: A Heritage of Death by Alexa Padgett

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

Title: A Heritage of Death
Series: A Reverend Cici Gurule Mystery #2
Author: Alexa Padgett
Publication Date: October 23, 2018
Genres: Mystery, Thriller

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

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

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

A Heritage of Death
A Reverend Cici Gurule Mystery #2
Alexa Padgett
Sidecar Press, October 2018
ISBN 978-1945090233
Trade Paperback

From the author—

An unconventional pastor. A brutal murder. To solve the case, one reverend will look for help from beyond the grave…

Reverend Cecelia “Cici” Gurule dreams of a bruised and bloodied woman who looks alarmingly like Cici. She’d like to pretend the dream is a nightmare and nothing more, but there are too many coincidences in her waking life to write it off. Like the baby that turns up on her porch–a baby that disappeared weeks before.

Cici and Detective Sam Chastain race to find the woman, but the killer finds her first. As the trail grows cold, Cici’s only chance to solve the mystery before she becomes the next target may be a clue left by her ghostly twin.

A Heritage of Death is the second novel in a compelling female sleuth mystery series for fans of Ruth Ware and Gilly MacMillan. If you like convention-shattering heroines, vivid Southwest settings, and a touch of the paranormal, then you’ll love Alexa Padgett’s twisty mystery.

A Heritage of Death is billed as a paranormal mystery and that element is certainly here but Cici’s dreams are not the only thing to consider. Her deceased sister was her identical twin and there’s just no doubt that the link between twins, especially identicals, is preternatural and can’t be fully understood by the rest of us. At any rate, Cici’s sister, Aci, is an integral part of the story.

Although Cici is an ordained minister, not a profession that you might expect would be involved with murderous events, but here she is with dreams of a  battered woman who looks an awful lot like herself and then a baby is abandoned on her doorstep. She’s a very likeable protagonist as is her close friend, Santa Fe police detective Sam Chastain, who appreciates and accepts the dreams and visions Cici has, making good use of them in his official investigation. Cici and Sam set out to find a missing woman and answers about the baby’s abduction but are soon drawn into a much deeper and very dangerous case involving the deaths of Native American women.

I have not read the first book in the series but never felt anything was lacking so I think potential readers can enjoy this second book even though it’s out of order. Fans of the Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne series by Julia Spencer-Fleming will be glad to find a similar pair of main characters.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2018.

About the Author

With a degree in international marketing and a varied career path that includes content management for a web firm, marketing direction for a high-profile sports agency, and a two-year stint with a renowned literary agency, award-winning author Alexa Padgett has returned to her first love: writing fiction.

Alexa spent a good part of her youth traveling. From Budapest to Belize, Calgary to Coober Pedy, she soaked in the myriad smells, sounds, and feels of these gorgeous places, wishing she could live in them all—at least for a while. And she does in her books.

She lives in New Mexico with her husband, children, and Great Pyrenees pup, Ash. When not writing, schlepping, or volunteering, she can be found in her tiny kitchen, channeling her inner Barefoot Contessa.

Author links:

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

Follow the tour here.

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

Advertisements

Book Review: The Price of Vengeance by James R. Scarantino

The Price of Vengeance
A Denise Aragon Novel #3
James R. Scarantino
Midnight Ink, February 2018
ISBN 978-0-7387-5067-5
Trade Paperback

In this third book in the Denise Aragon series, the tough-as-nails Santa Fe police detective runs up against an unscrupulous United States Senator Sam Baca Valles. His family is being held hostage by Peter Cervantes, a contractor who blames the senator for the death of his two sons, by supporting political schemes.  Cervantes believes Valles is one of those people who make decisions other people pay for while he lives a comfortable life at a safe distance. Aragon had dinner with Cervantes and was overheard saying “take him out,” regarding the senator. She meant that Valles should be ousted in the next election, but that comment brought her to the attention of the FBI. The federal agents believe she is withholding information about Cervantes, and she is considered an accomplice to the kidnapping.

Aragon’s dislike of the senator goes back twenty years.  She knew Valles and his wife Patricia in college—Valles raped her friend who died shortly thereafter in a suspicious hiking accident. She has always blamed him for her death.

Valles, an opportunist who never misses a chance to make himself look good, has gathered a team around him to manipulate the kidnapping to fashion himself as a hero. He plans to rush to the house in an effort to save his family, only to be turned back. He considers having an FBI agent shoot him to add veracity to his effort, while leaving his wife and two sons to the kidnapper.

While Aragon is on another case, hunting for the killer of a Boy Scout, she discovers a meth lab, and she is seriously hurt while arresting the killers—she has no feeling in her legs. When she discovers that the FBI considers her a suspect in the Valles case, she starts her own investigation from her hospital bed.

The Santa Fe setting of this series is spectacular and is the perfect backdrop for the tough detective. Readers who enjoy a main character with nerves of steel and hidden depths, like J.D. Robb’s Eve Dallas or Ann Cleeve’s Vera Stanhope, should meet up with Denise Aragon.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, May 2018.

Book Reviews: Girl in a Bad Place by Kaitlin Ward and Code Red by Janie Chodosh

Girl in a Bad Place
Kaitlin Ward
Point, November 2017
ISBN 978-1-338-10105-8
Hardcover

Commune. A calm word, calling forth images of folks immersed in wilderness; frolicking with forest creatures, blissfully coexisting with Mother Nature. Idyllic, sure; but Mailee certainly didn’t anticipate the sad-looking metal shacks she saw upon arriving at the Haven. No matter how odd and uncharacteristic the visit to this remote area may be; she is determined to be positive; after all, this peculiarity is the only thing Cara has shown interest in all summer.

Mailee never expected a super-celebratory Senior year. The ache of Cara’s loss lingers and her home is still shrouded by a palpable dark cloud of sorrow and anger, sucking up all hope of happiness. Moreover, Mailee has noticed changes in Cara that cause concern. So, even though “…nature is gross. And filled with spiders,” Mailee is willing to make the pilgrimage as pleasant as possible.

The founder, a man dubiously dubbed Firehorse, seems more like a shifty, misogynistic pig than a peace-loving-Earth-boy and everyone else emanates a surreal, suspicious, semi-aggressive vibe. Initially surprised that Cara is smitten; Mailee is soon stunned by her best friend’s frenzied fascination of the creepy cooperative.

Maybe Mailee was willing to—temporarily—omit meat and dairy from her diet as a show of support; but as Cara raves, Mailee researches. The line between commune and cult begins to blur. Against her better judgment, Mailee agrees to attend a celebration at the commune with Cara. Guessing that she will need to provide more than moral support; Mailee has no idea how dangerous and dire the circumstances will be.

A bad place can be literal, figurative, or even both at once. Sometimes, as in Cara’s case, a metaphorical bad place leads to an actual bad place. In the same way that a phrase can mean more than one thing, this keep-you-on-the-edge-of-your-seat, compelling conundrum is not just a suspense-filled mystery, but also a survival story. One about learning to live in spite of loss, loyalty, and the immeasurable value of friendship.

Reviewed by jv poore, October 2017.

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

Code Red
A Faith Flores Science Mystery, Book Two
Janie Chodosh
Poisoned Pen Press, February 2017
ISBN 978-1-929345-28-1
Trade Paperback

Faith Flores is a bit of an atypical protagonist insofar as she’s somewhat rough around the edges. Of course, considering her circumstances, she’s a remarkably well-adjusted adolescent. Knowing the bare minimum about her father, really raising herself—while doing her best to take care of her addled, addicted mother—Faith’s occasional avoidance of silly social graces seems just about right. Above-average intelligence and a freaky-fast mind also, understandably, contribute to her curtness.

Having recently figured out ‘who-done-it’ when her mother was murdered (Janie Chodosh’s Death Spiral, A Faith Flores Science Mystery), Faith needs a change of scene as much as something to wholly occupy her inquisitive intellect. And so begins her internship in Santa Fe where she will be assisting in studies of genetically modified chiles. The fact that her always-absent-father supposedly inhabits this town certainly won’t distract her (she wishes) but the headline “A New Drug for Northern New Mexico” just might.

Smoothing the story with more than soul-soothing songs, we have violin virtuoso, Clem. Quite frankly, there is no going wrong with a dude named after Vassar Clements <bows deeply to Ms. Chodosh> and this young man is no exception. Aside from his evident awesomeness, for the first time ever, Faith feels a possible connection…perhaps he can identify with her “…own mixed race too-brown-to-be-white-too-white-to-be-brown ethnicity…”.

Santa Fe has several surprises in store for Faith and suddenly, her luxurious length of time here seems lacking. To focus on the inexplicably angry threats against her lab and GMO crops, grab a few minutes here and there with Clem, and attempt to take advantage of opportunities with new-found family; Faith definitively does not have time to delve into the intrigue of Liquid Gold, the latest in dangerous dope. Unless there’s a link that would render her choice irrelevant.

Reviewed by jv poore, November 2017.

*Not to go full-out-nerd on you but when I began writing this review I realized that I still felt relatively ignorant about the term “GMO” & the arguments against it. This Mental Floss article saved the day: What is a GMO?

 

 

Book Review: Compromised by James R. Scarantino—and a Giveaway!

Compromised
A Denise Aragon Mystery #2
James R. Scarantino
Midnight Ink, February 2017
ISBN 978-0-7387-5040-8
Trade Paperback

The body of a teenage girl is found in a dumpster—she’s beautiful, even in death, and is surrounded by six dozen red roses. Santa Fe police detectives Denise Aragon and Rick Lewis , along with FBI Special Agent Tomas Rivera, investigate. Their job is complicated by the fact that their witness, former model Lily Montclaire, is not being entirely truthful with them. Montclaire is currently working for ruthless attorney Marcy Thornton, who is involved with Judge Judy Diaz. The detectives are sure that Thornton and Diaz used the victim for sexual purposes, but can’t connect her to the murder without Montclaire’s help. Montclaire only wants to save her own skin.

When the detectives contact the waste disposal company that owns the dumpster, E. Benny Silva Enterprises, they discover that Benny Silva and his twin brother are involved in a multi-million dollar lawsuit that they want to come to a speedy decision. Marcy Thornton and Judge Diaz are not moving fast enough for them.

Scarantino’s detective, Denise Aragon, is the character that makes the story breathe in jagged, sharp gasps. The reader slowly discovers her disturbing and violent backstory, and it puts her obsession with bodybuilding and Krav Maga, the Israeli self-defense system, into perspective. She is hard as nails, wears her hair shorn so that the scars on her scalp are visible, and her arms bulge with muscles she has worked obsessively to develop. Also proud of her heritage and her family’s ties to the Santa Fe area, she emerges proud and triumphant in the books final scene at the Santa Fe Fiesta. Compromised is the second book in the series, after The Drum Within.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, March 2017.

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

To enter the drawing for a gently
used advance reading copy of
Compromised by James R. Scarantino,
just leave a comment below. The winning
name will be drawn on Tuesday night,
April 4th. This drawing is open
to residents of the US and Canada.

Book Review: Feliz Navidead by Ann Myers

feliz-navideadFeliz Navidead
A Santa Fe Café Mystery #3
Ann Myers
William Morrow, November 2016
ISBN 978-0-06-238231-3
Mass Market Paperback

From the publisher—

Holly, jolly, and downright deadly—the third Santa Fe Café mystery unwraps surprises both naughty and nice… It’s the most picturesque time of the year in Santa Fe, and Chef Rita Lafitte of Tres Amigas Café hopes the twinkling lights and tasty holiday treats will charm her visiting mom. Rita is also planning fun activities, such as watching her teenage daughter, Celia, perform in an outdoor Christmas play.

What she doesn’t plan for is murder.

Rita discovers a dead actor during the premier performance but vows to keep clear of the case. Sleuthing would upset her mom. Besides, there’s already a prime suspect, caught red-handed in his bloodied Santa suit. However, when the accused Santa’s wife begs for assistance—and points out that Celia and other performers could be in danger—Rita can’t say no. With the help of her elderly boss, Flori, and her coterie of rogue knitters, Rita strives to salvage her mother’s vacation, unmask a murderer, and stop this festive season from turning even more fatal.

If you ask me, a cozy is the best kind of mystery to read during the holiday season. Sure, murders don’t exactly go along with the program but, in a cozy, they’re a kinder, gentler sort, you know? There’s also humor, loyalty, friendship, family, the love of those friends and family and maybe, just maybe, a touch of romance. What more could we ask for in a season meant for comfort?

In addition to all that, a cozy gives us a puzzle to solve and Feliz Navidead is just the ticket. When Chef Rita reluctantly puts on her sleuthing cap once again, she at least has a little experience at such things, having solved one or two murders in the past. To help her investigate, Rita can count on a crew of elderly ladies who knit, purl and snoop up a storm and it’s these ladies I loved the most, especially because they are yarn bombers. We have one here in town and it’s loads of fun when we spot one of her creations on a road sign or a fence post. The Knit and Snitchers cracked me up and I quite simply fell in love with them.

Other characters like Rita’s boss, Flori, and Rita’s mom and daughter are not too shabby either, not to mention a food-stealing donkey, and Rita herself is intelligent, caring and very likeable. Getting to the solution of the crime leads Rita and the gang down a variety of danger-laden paths and I found myself pegging first this possible perp and then that one before the denouement.

One last note—Santa Fe is a lively and intriguing character itself and my years-long wish to visit is even stronger now. Besides getting a firm sense of setting and culture, the food in the Tres Amigas Café sounds divine and the author has very nicely included some scrumptious recipes.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2016.

 ************

Goodreads

Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Amazon

Indiebound // HarperCollins

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

An Excerpt from Feliz Navidead

Mom stopped mid-stroll, thumping one hand to her chest, gripping a hip-high adobe wall with the other.

“I need to catch my breath, Rita,” she declared, rather accusatorily.

I murmured, “Of course,” and issued my best good-daughter sympathetic smile. I did, truly, sympathize. At seven thousand feet above sea level, Santa Fe, New Mexico, can literally take your breath away, and my mother had flown in only a few hours earlier from the midwestern lowlands. Adjusting to high altitudes takes time. About a week, the experts say, although I’ve called Santa Fe home for over three years and still blame the paltry oxygen when I pant through my morning jog and puff under overladen burrito platters at Tres Amigas Cafe, where I’m a chef and co-amiga. I’ve even postulated that the thin air makes my thighs look larger. Lack of atmospheric compression, that unscientifically tested theory goes. The more likely culprit is my steady diet of cheesy chiles rellenos, blue corn waffles, green chile cheeseburgers, and other New Mexican delicacies.

Mom took deep breaths beside me. I wasn’t too worried. If Mom was at risk of anything, it was overacting. I strongly suspected she was making a point, something she likes to do indirectly and with drama.

Things Mom doesn’t like? High altitudes, dry climates, hot chiles, and disturbance of her holiday routine. I knew she wasn’t thrilled to spend Christmas away from home. My goal was to win her over, and lucky for me, I had Santa Fe’s holiday charm on my side.

I leaned against the wall, enjoying the warmth of solar-heated adobe on my back. A group of carolers strolled by, harmonizing a bilingual version of “Feliz Navidad.” String lights and pine boughs decorated the porticos along Palace Avenue, and pinon smoke perfumed the air. To my eyes, the self-proclaimed “City Different” looked as pretty as a Christmas card. Once Mom got over the initial shock of leaving her comfort zone, she’d come around.

I hoped . . . Mom reached for a water bottle in her dual-holstered hip pack. “Hydration,” she said, repeating a caution she’d first raised nearly two decades ago, when I embarked for culinary school in Denver and its mere mile-high elevation. In between sips, she reminded me that proper water intake was the key to fending off altitude-induced illnesses ranging from headaches to poor judgment. She tilted her chin up and assessed me through narrowed eyes.

“You’re not drinking enough, Rita. I can tell. Your cheeks look dry. Your hands too. And your hair…”
Mom made tsk-tsk sounds. “Perhaps a trim would keep it from getting so staticky. You do look awfully cute when it’s short.”

I patted my shoulder-length locks, recently cut into loose layers that emphasized my natural staticky waves. I could use a drink. A tart margarita on the rocks with extra salt would do. My mouth watered. Behave, I chastised myself. It wasn’t even two in the afternoon, way too early for tequila. Plus, I loved my mother and her cute silver-flecked pixie cut. Most of all, I was delighted that she’d come to visit me and my teenage daughter, Celia. It was nice of Mom. No, more than nice. The visit bordered on maternal sacrifice.

As far as I knew, my mother, Mrs. Helen Baker Lafitte, aged sixty-eight and three quarters, of Bucks Grove, Illinois, had never left home for Christmas before, nor had she wanted to. Mom is a retired high school librarian, a woman of card-catalog order and strict traditions, otherwise known as doing the same thing year after year. Under usual circumstances, Mom keeps our “heirloom” artificial Christmas tree perpetually decorated and stored in the garage until the day after Thanksgiving, when she takes it out, dusts it off, and installs it to the left of the living-room fireplace. She places electric candles in each front window, hangs a wreath on the door, and wraps the holly bush in tasteful, nonflashing white lights. All of her holiday cards are mailed by the twelfth of December.

Food traditions are similarly strict. The Christmas Day lunch begins promptly at noon and is typically attended by my Aunt Sue, Uncle Dave, Aunt Karen, and younger sister Kathy and her family. Kathy’s husband, Dwayne, watches sports in the den, while their three kids hover between completely exhausted and totally wired from their morning gift frenzy. My mother and aunts whip up a feast of roasted turkey and stuffing, scalloped potatoes, sweet potato casserole with mini-marshmallows, Tater Tot hot dish, amazing monkey bread, Aunt Sue’s famous (or infamous) Jell-O surprise featuring celery and cheese cubes, and my favorite dish: pie, usually apple, mincemeat, and/or pumpkin. It’s a lovely meal, which I truly miss when I can’t attend. However, I also love Santa Fe and want to make my own traditions here.

“That’s one benefit for your sister,” Mom said, polishing off her second water bottle. I swore I heard her stomach slosh. “The beach is at sea level.”

“Yep, that’s the beach for you,” I replied in the perky tone I vowed to maintain for the rest of Mom’s visit. “Kath and the kids must be loving it. What a treat! A holiday to remember!”

“I warned Kathy about jellyfish,” Mom said darkly. “Rip currents, sharks, sand, mosquitoes. . . . It simply doesn’t seem right to be somewhere so tropical for Christmas, but Dwayne went and got that package deal.” Mom’s tone suggested Dwayne had purchased a family-sized case of hives.

I gave Mom another sympathetic smile, along with the extra water bottle she’d stashed in my purse. Of course she was out of sorts. Once the kids learned that they’d get to open their presents early and go to Disney World and the beach, Mom and the holiday hot dish hadn’t stood a chance. I, meanwhile, saw my chance to get Mom to Santa Fe.

I employed some of the guilt she usually ladled on me, telling her truthfully that Celia and I couldn’t get away this year between my work and Celia’s extracurricular activities. Mom, the master of loving manipulation, countered with how much my Illinois relatives would miss us. I was also single, she needlessly pointed out, implying that I could easily uproot. Furthermore, I lived in a casita, a home with tiny in its very name. She wouldn’t want to put me out, she said. Mom then played her wild card, namely Albert Ridgeland, my junior prom date. Wouldn’t you know, Mom had said. She’d recently run into Albert and he was divorced just like me, and with his own successful dental clinic and a mostly full head of hair and he sure would love to catch up.

Mom might be indirect, but she’s never subtle. Ever since my divorce from Manny Martin, a policeman with soap-opera good looks and accompanying philandering tendencies, Mom’s been after me to move back “home.” She sends me clippings of employment ads and monitors eligible bachelors. Peeved that Mom had dragged a divorced dentist into the debate, I went for the guilt jugular, reminding Mom that she was retired yet hadn’t visited in nearly two years. My tactic worked, possibly too well. Mom was staying for nearly three weeks—to get her money’s worth out of the flight—and I’d feel terrible if she didn’t have a good time.

I looked over and saw Mom eyeing a brown paper lunch sack perched a few feet down the adobe wall. The bag was open at the top and slightly singed on the sides. I could guess the contents. A votive candle nestled in sand.

Mom stepped over to peek inside.“It’s a wonder this entire state doesn’t burn down,” she declared. “Remember when your middle school band director, Mr. Ludwig, put on that world Christmas festival in the gymnasium? He almost set the bleachers on fire with one of these . . .” She paused. “What do you call them?”

“A farolito,” I said, proud to show off my local knowledge. “Some people call them luminarias, but Santa Feans are very particular about terminology. Here, luminaria refers to small bonfires. Farolitos are the candles in paper bags. There are electric farolitos too. You’ll see a lot of those along the rooflines of hotels and businesses. They’re pretty but nothing compared to the real ones on Christmas Eve. You’ll love it, Mom. You’ve never seen anything like it.”

Mom shuddered, likely imagining Santa Fe bursting into a spontaneous inferno rather than aglow with thousands of flickering lights. I decided not to tell her about the amazing three-dimensional paper lanterns I’d once seen soaring above the adobe city, lifted by the energy of the candles burning inside them. I needed to work on Mom before I exposed her to flying flames or peppers for breakfast.

Mom was rooting around in her hip pack. “I thought I had a granola bar. This time change and the lack of air are making me light-headed. You need to keep eating too, Rita.”

Eating, I always had covered. I also had a better idea than a squished fanny-pack snack.
“It’s the holidays, Mom. Let’s get some pie.”

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

About the Author

ann-myersAnn Myers writes the Santa Fe Café Mysteries. The first book in the series, Bread of the Dead (2015), introduced café chef and reluctant amateur sleuth, Rita Lafitte. Rita and her friends stir up more trouble in Cinco de Mayhem (March 2016) and Feliz Navidead (October 25, 2016). Ann lives with her husband and extra-large house cat in southern Colorado, where she enjoys cooking, crafts, and cozy mysteries.

You can find Ann online on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AnnMyers.writer/ and her website http://www.annmyersbooks.com/

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

Follow the tour:

11/20 Review, Guest post, Showcase @ Lauras Interests
11/21 Showcase @ Books, Dreams, Life
11/22 Showcase @ The Reading Frenzy
11/23 Showcase @ A Dream Within A Dream
11/25 Review @ Book Reviews From an Avid Reader
11/27 Review @ Buried Under Books
11/28 Review @ Rainy Day Ramblings
11/29 Interview @ Writers and Authors
11/30 Review @ 3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy, &, Sissy, Too!
12/01 Showcase @ The Pen and Muse Book Reviews
12/05 Showcase @ Sapphyrias Book Reviews
12/06 Showcase @ Books Direct
12/07 Interview/Showcase @ CMash Reads
12/08 Showcase @ Lazy Day Books
12/10 Showcase @ A Bookaholic Swede
12/12 Review & Guest post @ Jane Reads
12/12 Review @ Writing Pearls
12/13 Review @ sunny island breezes
12/14 Review @ Hezzi-Ds Books and Cooks
12/15 Review @ Booked on a Feeling
12/16 Review @ Reading Authors
12/18 Interview @ Cozy Up With Kathy
12/19 Review @ Wall-to-wall books
12/20 Review @ Book Babble
12/21 Review @ Bookishly me
12/28 Review @ JBronder Book Reviews
12/29 Showcase @ Bound 2 Escape
12/31 Review & Guest post @ Brooke Blogs

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

Partners in Crime Book Tours