Book Review: Dead Ringer by Kat Ross @katrossauthor @PublishingAcorn @XpressoTours

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Title: Dead Ringer
Series: Gaslamp Gothic #5
Author: Kat Ross
Publisher: Acorn Publishing
Publication Date: December 13, 2019
Genres: Dark Fantasy, Mystery

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Dead Ringer
Gaslight Gothic #5
Kat Ross
Acorn Publishing, December 2019
ISBN 978-0-9997621-6-5
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

A poisonous secret. 
A terrifying curse. 
And a client she’d just as soon see dead in a ditch…. 

Summer 1889. Harrison Fearing Pell hoped for adventure when she signed on with the Society for Psychical Research as an occult investigator. Slogging through New York’s sewers in pursuit of a “mud man” wasn’t exactly what she had in mind. But the reeking monster terrorizing the dance halls of the Tenderloin leads her to an even more peculiar mystery — and the last man on earth Harry wishes to become entangled with. 

James Moran is a prodigy in music, mathematics . . . and crime. Harry’s older sister, the famed detective Myrtle Fearing Pell, has vowed to put him behind bars. But Harry owes Moran a personal debt, so when he demands her aid she can hardly refuse. It turns out that the brilliant black sheep of New York Society is part of a secret club at Columbia College whose members have started dying in bizarre ways that may not be accidents. 

Thus begins one of the strangest cases of Harry’s career, a tale of murder, cold-blooded revenge and fairytale bogeymen to make the Brothers Grimm shudder. As the bodies pile up, each preceded by sightings of the victim’s doppelgänger, Harry and her stalwart friend John Weston must race against time to save a man who arguably deserves his macabre fate.

When I first picked up this book, I was confused because the main characters and the setting seemed so familiar but “Gaslight Gothic” did not. I soon realized that I had indeed met Harry and her family and friends before; the series name had changed from “Dominion” to “Gaslight Gothic”. I’ve been delighted to spend time with these charming folks again. I also like the way the author mixes and matches various characters throughout the series so we don’t always see the same ones.

Harry is off on another strange case with a little help from her friends and, this time, her client is one she’d really prefer not to be working for but his request/demand is more than she can resist. It’s a tale of murder and doppelgangers that is well beyond anything she and John have encountered before and they’re determined to stop this string of killings. Their special abilities have never been so necessary to solving such a dark fairytale.

Along with truly appealing characters, Ms. Ross continues to enhance a unique and compelling setting in an 1889 New York City that took me right back to that period albeit with a paranormal twist. In fact, I’d say this city is in itself a character, one that’s equally important as the humans and mythical beings. As with the first two books, The Daemoniac and The Thirteenth Gate, I sank right into the story and now I need to go back and find the missing pieces, A Bad Breed and The Necromancer’s Bride. They’ll help keep me busy till the next book comes out 🙂

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2020.

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About the Author

Kat Ross worked as a journalist at the United Nations for ten years before happily falling back into what she likes best: making stuff up. She’s the author of the Fourth Element and Fourth Talisman fantasy series, the Gaslamp Gothic paranormal mysteries, and the dystopian thriller Some Fine Day. She loves myths, monsters and doomsday scenarios. Check out Kat’s Pinterest page for the people, places and things that inspire her books.

Author links: 
Website // Twitter // Facebook // Goodreads

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5x ebook copies of A Bad Breed

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Book Review: Mercy’s Chase by Jess Lourey

Mercy’s Chase
A Salem’s Cipher Novel #2
Jess Lourey
Midnight Ink, September 2018
ISBN 978-0-7387-5755-1
Hardcover

I became a fan of Jess Lourey’s series last year when I was privileged to review Salem’s Cipher. Salem Wiley, half-Persian, half-Irish, agoraphobic genius whose special talent is cracking ciphers and codes so difficult even the most sophisticated computer programs can’t do it, is now working for the FBI. She’s also perfecting a special computer program of her own, one that plays an important role in this story.

Posted to England, Salem’s first fieldwork comes when tasked with investigating a mysterious, and very old, miniature copy of Stonehenge an Irish farmer lady has found. What is it’s meaning? Is it something to do with the Order, a group of men with an unlimited desire for wealth and power? Or does it concern the women whom since ancient times have had to hide their own wealth and intellectual property from these men?

In the previous novel, Salem became a sort of guardian to a young girl, Mercy, when the girl’s brother was murdered helping Salem. She cares deeply for the child, and when Mercy is kidnapped and threatened with death, Salem is pitted against some of the worst the Order has to offer in a quest to discover the origins of Stonehenge..

The story will keep you guessing. Who can be trusted and who cannot is another cipher Salem must solve, and the answers may come as a surprise. Meanwhile, Salem grows in both her intellectual strength and her psyche as she fights her own fears to save Mercy. Recommended.

Action-packed, great writing taut with suspense, an appealing main character to root for–who could ask for anything more?

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, July 2018.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder, Four Furlongs and Hometown Homicide.

Book Review: Salem’s Cipher by Jess Lourey

Salem’s Cipher
A Salem’s Cipher Mystery #1
Jess Lourey
Midnight Ink, September 2016
ISBN 978-0-7387-4969-3
Trade Paperback

Here’s a beauty and a brawn novel with a twist⏤they’re both women. Best friends from childhood, Salem Wiley is a well-known genius at codebreaking, and Bel Odegaard is an FBI agent with special abilities. Bel is both the beauty and the brawn. Salem is an overweight woman of Persian heritage  who hardly ever leaves her house. Besides being best friends, the two have another bond. Their mothers belong to a secret society determined to bring down a worldwide conspiracy group known as “the Heritage,” one of whose main aims is to keep women always in secondary positions of power. Right now, the Heritage plans on assassinating presidential candidate Senator Gina Hayes, who, on the cusp of the election, is already considered the winner.

This is a convoluted story supposedly hundreds of years in the making, with an unbreakable code floating around that leads to a treasure of jewels and money and wonderful artifacts. The discovery would break the Heritage if found by outsiders. Alternatively, it would fill their coffers if they found it first. Salem provides the key.

The first scene depicts the murder of one of the young women’s mothers, and the capture of the other. Salem and Bel are the next targets. As Salem and Bel crisscross the country,they find some wonderful allies, some horrendous villains, and some who might be either.

The characters here are well-drawn and interesting. The dialogue is good and draws the story forward. The plot moves quickly from one catastrophe to another, and even though  at 460 pages it’s a fairly long book, you’re never going to be bored by repetition or a slowing of the action. An excellent thriller all around.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, October 2017.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder, Four Furlongs and Hometown Homicide.

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: The Odd Fellows Society by C.G. Barrett

The Odd Fellows SocietyThe Odd Fellows Society
C.G. Barrett
Ink & Image Media II, November 2015
ISBN 978-0-9884419-3-4
Trade Paperback

A thriller that begins and ends with a chicken is something that has to capture your attention. Santiago Torres, a Jesuit priest in Washington, D.C., is supposed to meet his historian friend, Jasper Willoughs one February evening, but is instead handed a live chicken by an Asian woman. Since Jasper is notorious for being impulsive and late, Santi is at first more concerned that it looks like snow – and what on earth to do with the chicken –  than he is about Jasper’s well-being. Exasperated and cold, Santi leaves the meeting place, because as headmaster of a prestigious private school, there’s no way he can miss the parent-teacher meetings he has scheduled. But sadly, it turns out that this time Jasper is a no-show because he has died.

I think it would be impossible to read this book without thinking about The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown. There are many similarities: an overt society, the Jesuits, are heavily manipulated by a covert shadow group, the Stewards; Jasper has left treasure hunt style clues for Santi to follow; there is a gorgeous and clever love interest; there’s a focus on research and academia; and interesting facts about the history of Washington and its monuments and buildings are woven into the storyline.

The Odd Fellows Society has a much more good-natured and humorous tone interspersed with all the drama, though, and I felt much of its strength came from its warmth. It’s a complicated thriller, not just because of the mystifying clues that Jasper has left, but also because of all the different themes and sub-plots that Barrett packs into the narrative. During the course of his adventure, Santi struggles to understand his difficult relationship with his FBI brother, Nico, and he tries to battle the seemingly unchangeable racism within his school. As well, Santi experiences constant tension in his role as a priest versus his obligations as a teacher and an employer, and especially in his long-time romantic love for his old friend, Abby.

This book was a lot of fun. Santiago was a very human character, doing his best but often baffled about what his next steps should be, and so easy to relate to. Next to Santi, my favourite characters were his blunt secretary, Pearl, and her irreverent computer whiz son, Bradley. This is an ambitious novel that avoids being sprawling, or too much like a comic book, because it’s filled with romantic yet imperfect characters doing unexpected things. Barrett successfully combines seriousness and entertainment in a very fast-moving thriller in The Odd Fellow Society, where nothing is exactly what it seems – not even the chicken.

Reviewed by Andrea Thompson, June 2016.

Book Review: The Society by Jodie Andrefski

The Society Tour Banner

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Title: The Society
Author: Jodie Andrefski
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Publication Date: May 3, 2016
Genres: General Fiction, Young Adult

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The SocietyThe Society
Jodie Andrefski
Entangled Teen, May 2016
ISBN 978-1-63375-318-1
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Welcome to Trinity Academy’s best-kept secret.

The Society.

You’ve been handpicked by the elite of the elite to become a member. But first you’ll have to prove your worth by making it through Hell Week.

Do you have what it takes?

It’s time to find out.

Samantha Evans knows she’d never get an invite to rush the Society―not after her dad went to jail for insider trading. But after years of relentless bullying at the hands of the Society’s queen bee, Jessica, she’s ready to take down Jessica and the Society one peg at a time from the inside out.

All it’ll take is a bit of computer hacking, a few fake invitations, some eager rushees…and Sam will get her revenge.

Let the games begin.

Teen bullying has become more widely talked about in the last few years than ever before, rightfully so, and many young adult novels have focused on the topic. This is a good thing because it helps shine a light on a serious problem but making such novels fresh and different has come to be more difficult as time goes by. It’s similar to some other book themes that seem to lose their punch as too many authors and publishers jump on the bandwagon,

Sam has suffered at the hands of a former friend, Jessica, and Jessica’s treatment of Sam can’t be justified in any way even though the reason behind it is understandable. Sam’s eventual decision to take revenge, on Jessica and on the school’s higher society, is at the core of the problem for me because, to my mind, Sam becomes every bit as mean-spirited and unlikeable as Jessica.

The Society is well-written, don’t get me wrong, but I had trouble empathizing with Sam once she set out on this path to get even although I fully understand the realities of human nature and the desire to get back at the people who’ve hurt us. Although I think this is a good book, I just didn’t quite connect with Sam or her story but I think many other readers will.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2016.

About the Author

Jodie AndrefskiJodie Andrefski lives in a tiny town in PA that no one has ever heard of with her teenage daughter. She received her BS in Secondary English Education from Penn State, then taught a few years before changing focus and going back to school for her Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling.

Andrefski always loved both reading and writing, and wrote for several websites and magazines before deciding to write novels. She writes YA Contemporary, most of which involves at least some kissing. The Society is her second novel with Entangled Teen.

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Book Review: A Fatal Family Secret by Samantha Marks

A Fatal Family SecretA Fatal Family Secret
The Morphosis.me Files Book One
Samantha Marks
Samantha Marks, May 2015
ISBN 978-1943406012
Trade Paperback

From the author—

If you could change anything about yourself, what would it be? On the first day of high school, Kayleigh wishes she could be taller, curvier, and cooler. But when she discovers she’s a shape-shifter, she bites off more than she can chew. Overnight, she becomes a target, and surviving the school-year means defending herself against cyber-bullies, learning to control her new-found powers, and hiding from the ancient secret society that kidnapped her mother. Morphing has consequences, and Kayleigh begins to realize that being able to change into anything can mean losing herself in the process.

High school bullying is a fairly common topic these days, rightfully so, but we don’t often see it woven into a dark fantasy tale. At first, I wasn’t sure how this was going to work but it didn’t take long for me to get invested.

Kayleigh is just starting high school, at a time in her life when she’s suffered more tragedy than most since her mother was abducted a couple of years earlier. All young teens go through major life changes during puberty and this girl is no different; she makes the perfect victim for bullies. Sometimes, she’s a little too much of a victim but I never felt her reactions were abnormal especially given her circumstances. If anything, she’s searching for comfort and security and it was a pleasure going on this journey with her.

A Fatal Family Secret is an entertaining jaunt through the fantasy world with a dose of mystery thrown in and those aspects of the story shine a much-needed light on how kids have to cope with the loss of a parent. In this case, there are causes and effects we’ll never have to confront but the whole shapeshifting thing really sort of emphasizes the normal challenges that life brings us. Ms. Marks has done a really nice job of presenting teen issues in a very readable way and I’m looking forward to the second book, A Treacherous Social Game, already available.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2016.