Book Reviews: Last Call by Elon Green and Thirteen Chairs by Dave Shelton @elongreen @CeladonBooks @DaveShelton @DFB_storyhouse

Last Call
A True Story of Love, Lust and Murder in Queer New York
Elon Green
Celadon Books, March 2021
ISBN 978-1-250-22435-4
Hardcover

The world was not warm or welcoming for gay men in the 1980s. Discrimination, bias and inexplicable hate made for an uncomfortable existence, at best. Not only was homosexuality grossly misunderstood; but AIDS was becoming a familiar fear for everyone.

Repercussions could be very real for any openly-gay man. Life turned from unpleasant to terrifying with the discovery of a dismembered male body. And later, another grisly, heart-wrenching find. More would follow.

Law enforcement was not convinced that the scarily-similar manner of disposal connected the crimes. Faint lines leading to New York City piano bars— where gay men felt somewhat safe—seemed more than a stretch.  Prejudices towards the victims’ “life-styles” and the lack of a crime scene, coupled with “dump sites” in different jurisdictions, meant that these crimes were not priorities.

Family members, friends, Lesbian and Gay Advocate Groups would not allow these deaths to be ignored, though. Patrons, pianists, and bartenders all mentioned one man, in particular. The suspect was a nurse at a NYC hospital, but no one knew more than that.

In the same way that stellar wait-staff are inconspicuous when their service is spot-on, Mr. Green simply sets everything up, almost allowing each man to tell his own story.

This review was written by jv poore for Buried Under Books, with a huge “Thank You!” to Celadon Books for the Advance Review Copy, which I will donate to my favorite high-school classroom library.

Reviewed by jv poore, February 2021.

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Thirteen Chairs
Dave Shelton
David Fickling Books, September 2015
ISBN 978-1-910-20044-5
Trade Paperback

Inside of a dilapidated, abandoned home— that is most assuredly haunted, per the neighborhood children—one room appears to be in use. A long table is set with flickering candles, casting strange rays on the oddly assembled group gathered around.

Jack had heard the wicked rumors; but standing outside and seeing a soft light within, his curiosity has passed piqued. Compelled, he enters the house and follows the glow. He is welcomed to the table, where there is, uncannily, one empty chair.

Each person has a story to share and every one of the scary shorts could stand alone. Some of the narrators appear to know one another quite well, while others seem less comfortable with the eclectic individuals sharing their space. Jack is clearly the freshest face to the table, and perhaps, he has the most to fear.

Reviewed by jv poore, July 2019.

Book Review: Eventide by R.L. Ryker

Eventide
A Chief Mattson Mystery #1
R.L. Ryker
R.L. Ryker, April 2021
ISBN 979-8723281097
Trade Paperback

A well-written, carefully plotted novel of murder and solution by confident organized small-town cops. The story line follows returning home-town boy, Brandon Mattson, who goes up the west coast from Seattle, where he became an experienced homicide investigator, back to Forks, Washington, as the new Chief of Police.

Brandon’s younger brother, also a cop, was murdered there. Now Brandon as the newly hired Chief of Police, faces old friends, lovers and the usual suspicions. He’s cleverly faced with an array of other difficulties as a former-new resident.

An old lover and a new possibility vie for his attention, as does the problem of his teen daughter who is fighting with Brandon’s ex. Although he’s been hired as the new Chief, forces in the town of Forks and among members of local law enforcement rise and fall, creating additional concerns. Layered on his personal concerns is the murder on the beach of a young woman. Mattson faces serious pressure to solve the crime quickly to avoid disrupting important civic plans.

The novel is nicely written, logical, clean and very realistic. From the very beginning the book feels small-town-comfortable with the tension from civic leaders who are watching his performance to the resistance and support of the cadre of local cops. Eventide is a competent, well-designed logical story with just the right elements of description, tension and resolution.

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

Book Review: A Slaying Song Tonight by Fran Stewart

A Slaying Song Tonight
Fran Stewart
My Own Ship Press, September 2019
ISBN 978-1-9513680-1-2
Trade Paperback

Set in 1932, Susannah Lou Packard is on trial for the murder of a state representative, the son of a state senator who she murdered several years previously for which she is now serving a life sentence.  Nancy Lou Remington, a young reporter for a local newspaper,  having talked her editor into letting her interview Packard, visits her in the prison where she is being held to try and uncover the details of Packard’s vicious crimes.  The woman Nancy finds is not at all what she expected but after a few opening skirmishes, driven by Packard’s need to establish who is in charge, they begin talking.  The first thing Packard does is set some ground rules including that she will tell Nancy her whole story uninterrupted and Nancy can ask her questions only after she is done.  She also extracts Nancy’s promise not to talk to any of her family until the story is complete.  Reluctantly, Nancy agrees because she really wants the story and she feels that if she can get to Packard’s motives, a potential Pulitzer Prize may be in her future.

As the story unfolds, Nancy is drawn more and more into Packard’s life as Packard tells her that the two murders Packard admitted to committing are not her only crimes.  Nancy soon fills several notebooks with details of Packard’s crimes but is left to wonder at some discrepancies that creep into the stories.  But whenever Nancy tries to explore those, Packard insists that Nancy keep to the deal she made – no questions until she is finished.  Eventually Packard’s trial and her stories come to an end at which point Nancy visits Packard’s sister who helps clear up some of the discrepancies with information that astonishes Nancy.

In A Slaying Song Tonight, Stewart has painted a detailed portrait of a woman obsessed with killing and with making sure that the details of her chilling crimes are told.  For those who are not completely freaked out by serial killer stories I think you will find this book and the mind of a murderer fascinating.

Reviewed by Melinda Drew, January 2021.

Book Review: The Puppet Show by M.W. Craven @MWCravenUK @LittleBrownUK

The Puppet Show
Washington Poe #1

M.W. Craven
Constable/Little, Brown Book Group, January 2019
ISBN 978-1-4721-2745-7
Trade Paperback

Winner of the 2019 CWA Gold Dagger Award

As mentioned above this book is already a winner and after reading it I’m not at all surprised.

Set in the Lake District, someone is burning people alive and leaving the bodies amid one of the many prehistoric stone circles found in the area.  On the third charred body a name has been carved.  That name is Washington Poe.  Poe is  a member of a special group of investigators known as The National Crime Agency.  Poe is meantime on suspension due to conduct in a previous investigation, but the powers that be are anxious to stop this killer and Poe is called back in, and quickly brought up to speed.  The murders are obviously the work of a serial killer.

When a fourth body is discovered,  Poe, together with who the book jacket describes as  “the brilliant but socially awkward civilian analyst Tilly Bradshaw head out to where the newest victim has been found.  Poe’s method of investigating is somewhat unorthodox and often reactionary, and with Tilly’s help they uncover a number of leads that take them slowly but surely closer to identifying this killer.

Poe and Tilly work together well and this working relationship is an interesting aspect of this story.  But Poe is beginning to question whether  the clues he and Tilly find are specifically meant for him.   Is the Killer deliberately enticing Poe into a trap?  Is he somehow connected to the killings?

This is a terrific read.  Unputdownable!  The graphic descriptions of the murders might not be for everyone, but the writing is compelling, as is the twisted plot.  I devoured this book over the course of a couple of days and can hardly wait to catch up with the next in the series, Black Summer.

Respectfully submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, November 2020.

Book Review: Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith @RGalbraith @mulhollandbooks

Troubled Blood
A Cormoran Strike Novel #5
Robert Galbraith
Mulholland Books, September 2020
ISBN 978-0-316-49898-2
Hardcover

For those familiar with this series by Robert Galbraith, aka J.K.Rowling, this is Book #5. While I would suggest reading them in order I believe that this 944 page hardcover book can be read on its own.

Cormoran Strike is a Private Detective and his Partner in the Detective Agency is Robin Ellacott. Due to their success in solving previous cases, Strike and Robin have gained something of a reputation. They now have a receptionist Pat, and two investigators, Morris and Hutchins. At the outset of the series Robin had been the sole employee, but having helped Strike in all the previous cases he offered her a partnership in the business.

They are asked to take on a Cold Case, the disappearance forty years ago of a young mother and doctor. Margot Bamborough disappeared without a trace one evening on her way to meet a friend for a drink. At the time Margot’s daughter Anna was a toddler, but she has always wondered if the speculation that her mother was just another victim of a serial killer named Dennis Creed was true. Creed is in jail for the kidnapping and murder of a number of young women, and has neither acknowledged nor denied any connection with Margot’s disappearance.

Intrigued, they decide to accept the challenge, but tracking down the people in Margot’s life from 40 years ago, two doctors, a nurse and a receptionist, a gardener and an office cleaner, not to mention friends and a few patients she had seen on that fateful day, is a daunting task.

Troubling, however, is the fact that Strike is dealing with some personal issues. His Aunt Joan, who lives in Cornwall and was like a mother to him when he was a child, is fighting a battle with cancer. She means a great deal to him and he is torn between his work in London and spending as much time as he can with her. And Strike’s father, a famous Rock Musician who has barely acknowledged Strike’s existence wants to meet and talk to him.

Robin does her best to pick up the slack, but she is caught emotionally drained trying to finalize her divorce, as well as some tension in the office.

As you may have gathered there is a lot going on in this 944 page novel, nonetheless the reader is in good hands, and quickly gets caught up in the various cases as they unfold.

With slow and painstaking work Strike and Robin make a little headway with the Cold Case, locating and meeting with some of the staff who worked at the Medical Practice all those years ago. But with each interview they hear conflicting stories about Dr, Margot Bamborough, and the events leading up to her disappearance, which frustratingly results in more questions. But nothing deters these investigators in their pursuit of the truth.

A remarkable story, hard to put down. Check it out… You won’t regret it.

RespectfulIy submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, October 2020.

Book Review: Now I See You by Shannon Work @TheWorkFamily @SDSXXTours

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Title: Now I See You
Series: Mountain Resort Mystery Series, Book 1
Author: Shannon Work
Publication Date: September 15, 2020
Genres: Mystery, Suspense

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

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Now I See You
Mountain Resort Mystery Series, Book 1
Shannon Work
Shannon Work, September 2020
ISBN 978-1-7354353-0-5
Trade Paperback

From the author—

Two murders. A terrified mountain resort. Can a daring reporter help stop an avalanche of dead bodies?

Celebrity TV anchor Georgia Glass wants out of Denver and far away from her obsessed fan. Set to host her own investigative crime show in LA, she’s surprised to inherit a Victorian house in Aspen from a mysterious uncle she never knew. But while exploring the gothic property, she discovers the frozen corpse of a missing heiress.

Georgia’s journalist instincts kick in and she is determined to help police track down the killer. But by investigating the murder, has she made herself the killer’s next target?

Can Georgia help solve the case before she becomes the next victim? Or will the stalker that followed her to Aspen get her first?

Now I See You is a fast-paced whodunit set amidst the spectacular scenery of Aspen, Colorado, and the first book in the suspenseful Mountain Resort Mystery series.

Georgia Glass is an interesting woman and I was particularly struck by a random thought she has, that she has “vague memories” of her visits to Aspen after just ten years. That makes her seem rather shallow but I actually think it might be a kind of commentary on so many people today whose lives are so filled with information flooding their brains from all directions. TV journalists especially may find their attention and focus driven from one story to the next, causing memories to be more fleeting than in less frenetic times. Hmm…something I’ll want to think more about.

Besides finding a body in her newly inherited property, Georgia is also recovering from the stress of having a devoted fan who turned into a stalker. That situation seems to be under control but no journalist worthy of the name could resist looking into the presence of a dead body practically at her feet. She’s new in town but makes connections quickly, including with a local police detective and it isn’t long before she comes to the attention of a serial killer who already has committed several murders.

I figured out most of the salient facts faster than I expect to in a true whodunnit, as this has been billed, but the author has crafted a nicely suspenseful story. Detective Jack Martin will be back in the next book, set in Vail, and I’m looking forward to seeing him again.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2020.

About the Author

Shannon Work grew up in Del Rio, a border town in the dusty wilds of West Texas. When she graduated from high school, she moved east to College Station and graduated from Texas A&M University with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and a master’s degree in Land Economics and Real Estate.

Most of her working life has been spent developing real estate, earning a national Best in America Living Award for one of her developments. After two failed starts at writing a novel while raising three kids and working, she retired to pursue her dream of writing mystery novels full time.

Shannon and her husband are recent empty nesters and split their time between Houston, Texas and Telluride, Colorado. Always with their laptops and dogs in tow.

Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Bookbub * Amazon * Goodreads

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Follow the tour here.

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Giveaway

$50 Amazon Gift Card

Enter here.

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Book Review: Fair Warning by Michael Connelly @Connellybooks @littlebrown

Fair Warning
Jack McEvoy #3
Michael Connelly
Little, Brown and Company, May 2020
ISBN 978-0-316-53942-5
Hardcover

Jack McEvoy is a reporter working for Fair Warning, an Internet news site dedicated to alerting the public to scams and schemes perpetrated by con men.  On arriving at his apartment, two LAPD Detectives approached and asked to speak to him.  Once inside the Detectives tell him they are from the Robbery-Homicide Division, and are working a homicide and Jack’s name had come up. Tina Portrero, a woman Jack had dated a year ago, had been found dead in her apartment.

The Detectives asked the usual questions re his whereabouts at the time of the murder and while he isn’t thrilled with their attitudes he agrees to give a DNA sample knowing full well the results would come back negative. He’d been on an assignment at the time of the woman’s death.

Jack is a credited reporter, is determined to find out what happened to Tina He tracks down her mother, who has arrived to identify the body and from their conversation learns that Tina was adopted and had recently sent a DNA sample to a local company in the hope of finding other siblings.

When the Detectives find out he’s pursuing the case they warn him off.  Refusing to be intimidated he continues to investigate, calling on Rachel Walling, an ex-FBI agent and one time lover to enlist her help.   As they delve deeper they begin to believe that a serial killer is at work.

I’m a fan of Michael Connelly, but in the beginning of this novel and for the first third of the book I was sorely tempted to set it aside. I was struck by the fact that the author seemed to be telling the reader step by step how a reporter tracks down information, somewhat elementary and unnecessarily frustrating leaving me with a strong urge to say ‘get on with it’… which eventually he did.

The pacing picked up in the second half of the book and raced to an exciting conclusion… well almost….

This wasn’t one of my favourite Connelly books….but no doubt worth a look especially if you are a fan….

Respectfully submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, June 2020.