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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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.

Book Review: The Innocent Girls by B.R. Spangler @BR_Spangler @bookouture

The Innocent Girls
Detective Casey White, Book 2
B.R. Spangler
Bookouture, September 2020
ISBN 978-1-83888-258-7
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Tears stream down her face as she feels the cold blade press against her neck. The sweet scent of her daughter’s favorite strawberry pancakes all around, her last thought is for her beautiful girl. Please, please let Lisa have escaped.

When Detective Casey White is called early one morning to a beachside vacation campsite in the Outer Banks, she finds the bodies of Carl and Peggy Pearson side-by-side, their throats cut, and their thirteen-year-old daughter Lisa nowhere to be found. Haunted by memories of her own missing girl, Casey fears this could soon become a triple murder: because without the medication found in the bathroom cabinet, Lisa has just days to live.

As her team struggle to untangle the meaning of the cryptic symbol carved into the victims’ skin, Casey searches the area for signs of Lisa: and is rewarded when she finds her blistered and barefoot, staggering along the highway. The girl barely has breath left to whisper ‘he invited me’ before blacking out.

Days later, another couple is found murdered on a vacation yacht. A different symbol is etched on their bodies, and their teenage daughter is also missing. Casey’s only clue is an unsettling ‘invitation’ found on the girl’s phone, to a secluded building out in the cornfields.

Desperate to uncover who is luring these innocent families to their deaths, and certain forensics have missed something vital, Casey matches up the crime scene photos herself. The symbols combine to form an upcoming date. The killer is taunting them with the timing of the next murder.

Racing to follow the invitation in time, when Casey arrives she is shocked to glimpse not the missing girls from this case, but her own missing daughter…

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These days, fictional police detectives seem to be loaded down with a lot of baggage and that’s certainly the case here. Casey’s daughter vanished when she was a small child, a very difficult thing to live with, and now she has to deal with a double murder and missing teen.

This story doesn’t have quite the high-octane tension of most thrillers but there’s a good deal of suspense, particularly because of the problems any resort area police force would have when faced with serious crimes involving vacationers. The usual tactics of interviewing people the victims know back home aren’t as helpful and it’s unlikely that they have had enough time in town to create serious troubles with other people so Casey knows soon enough that the killer(s) are probably strangers. When the teen, Lisa, is found some of the initial pressure is relieved but then another parent is murdered and the daughter goes missing. As leads develop, it seems that a cultish church might have something to do with these crimes but Casey can’t be sure.

There are a few side issues involving Casey’s relationships with the former sheriff, the mayor and her colleagues on the force but she naturally dwells on what happened to her own daughter paralleling, in a way, with the current crimes. A questionable confession takes Casey down ever more twisty paths resulting finally in a diabolical solution.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2020.

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Apple
Google Play // Amazon // Indiebound

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About the Author

B.R. Spangler here. I’m a resident of Virginia along with my family, five cats, two birds, a hamster, and a lizard. During the day, I work as an engineer and spend my off hours writing, editing, and thinking up the next great story.

I split my time across pen names, writing crime thrillers, science fiction, horrors, paranormal and contemporary fiction.

Author Social Media Links:

To keep up to date, sign up for his newsletter by copying and pasting this link into your browser: https://brspangler.com/sign-up/

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/BR_Spangler

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/authorbrianspangler/

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Book Review: His & Hers by Alice Feeney @alicewriterland @MacmillanAudio

His & Hers
Alice Feeney
Narrated by Richard Armitage and Stephanie Racine
Macmillan Audio, July 2020
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the publisher—

There are two sides to every story: yours and mine, ours and theirs, his and hers. Which means someone is always lying.

When a woman is murdered in Blackdown, a quintessentially British village, newsreader Anna Andrews is reluctant to cover the case. Detective Jack Harper is suspicious of her involvement, until he becomes a suspect in his own murder investigation.

Someone isn’t telling the truth, and some secrets are worth killing to keep.

I haven’t read anything by Alice Feeney before but, oh my goodness, His & Hers will most certainly not be the last. There are serial killer books and then there are serial killer books but this one stands head and shoulders above many that I’ve read before.

I can’t say much without giving away important plot details but let me just say that the author has done a masterful job of creating characters of such depth that none are completely good or bad (or perhaps I should say most are not) and none can be 100% trusted (I was especially intrigued by Jack’s young colleague, Priya). Ms. Feeney has also developed a high-tension plot that has a dramatic backstory and is largely dependent on all the bodies that keep showing up; the reader has a pretty good idea of who is going to end up being those bodies but guessing the killer’s identity is something else entirely. Twice—twice!—I was sure I had the murderer pegged and, both times, I was wrong. Boy, was I wrong.

There are three points of view here and the narrators handle them beautifully, Richard Armitage for Detective Jack Harper and Stephanie Racine for TV news personality Anna Andrews. The third POV is that of the killer but that voice is cleverly disguised electronically so the listener can’t tell if it’s a man or a woman and also can’t tell if it might be one of the two protagonists. Nice touch!

Serial killer stories aren’t for everyone but if, like me, you find them interesting and compelling, His & Hers is one you won’t want to miss. As for me, I’m adding it to my list of Best Books read in 2020.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2020.