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.

Book Reviews: Britain’s Forgotten Serial Killer by John Lucas and Phoenix Burning by Isabella Moldonado @johnlucas_news @penswordbooks @authorbella1 @midnightinkbook

Britain’s Forgotten Serial Killer
The Terror of the Axeman
John Lucas
Pen & Sword Books, September 2019
ISBN 978-1-52674-884-3
Trade Paperback

In 1975 a young, deeply troubled alcoholic boy, came before the court in London, charged with three brutal murders. Two were elderly women, one a neighborhood priest. The youth charged with their murders, Patrick MacKay, was twenty-two at the time and had a criminal career stretching back eleven years.

Journalist John Lucas has written a sober, detailed biography of this Nazi-obsessed youth, speculating over eight other similar murders of which Mackay might reasonably be accused, making him one of the most prolific and dangerous serial killers ever experienced in England.

At the time of his trial, Mackay was dubbed The Axeman, The Monster of Belgravia and the Devil’s Disciple. He never held a regular job for more than a few days, he was committed numerous times to psychiatric and other mental institutions for evaluation and treatment, but he was always released after short treatment or simply left the institution. Early on, a number of omissions, errors and missteps by various law enforcement agencies allowed Mackay to escape arrest and thus eight brutal murders attributed to him remain unresolved.

The book is evenly written with comprehensive research clearly presented. One of the most interesting aspects of the case of Patrick David MacKay is the number of citizens with whom he interacted and even occasionally lived with who, despite his erratic behavior, never saw clues to his murderous behavior. The book contains an extensive index, bibliography and several photographs of some of the principal characters.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, May 2020.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
Traces, Grand Lac, Reunion, Red Sky.

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Phoenix Burning      
A Veranda Cruz Mystery #2
Isabella Maldonado
Midnight Ink Books, March 2018
ISBN 978-0-7387-5102-3
Trade Paperbacks

This is a novel of crime, of brutality, of family secrets, of conflicts and of resolution. It is also a novel rich in a variety of good and evil characters, of violence expertly described and of characters conflicted, misunderstood and striving for their goals, personal and social.

In Phoenix, Homicide detective Veranda Cruz with her partner riding shotgun races to connect with an important drug dealer. As she dodges mid-day traffic on a busy street she worries about the unusual timing of the contact and immediately discovers her instincts are still working well when her vehicle is intercepted and the drug dealer is killed. She and partner Sam Stark pursue the killer into a crowded mall.

Thus begins a fast-paced, terror-filled novel that carries the talented Cruz through incident after incident, some fraught and dangerous, others poignant and emotional, all thoughtful and often original in design and result. Phoenix is the site of most of the action with a few side trips to somewhere in Mexico and the summer season is recognized if not belabored. The novel is a judicious blend of modern electronic uses and mis-uses, and good-old-fashioned policing, mostly the action is physical, dangerous and logical. The pace can be best described as fast and furious, interspersed with more normal family-based rhythms and interactions.

Cruz’s target is a powerful Mexican drug cartel of epic proportions and ruthless actions. Her partners in a monumental effort to take down the cartel represent every available local and federal law enforcement agency, requiring negotiation skills beyond belief, almost.

In sum, the novel careens to an unusual if satisfying ending leaving multiple traces of future possibilities. For fans of violent crime novels, this is a definite winner.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, March 2019.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
Traces, Grand Lac, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Review: Closer Than She Knows by Kelly Irvin @Kelly_S_Irvin @ThomasNelson @partnersincr1me

Closer Than She Knows
Kelly Irvin
Thomas Nelson, June 2020
ISBN 978-0-7852-3186-8
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Teagan O’Rourke has always loved murder mysteries. In her job as a court reporter, she has written official records for dozens of real-life murders. She’s slapped evidence stickers on crime scene photos. She’s listened to hours of chilling testimony. But she’s never known the smell of death. And she never thought she might be a victim.

Until now.

A young police officer is murdered just inches away from her, and then a man calling himself a serial killer starts leaving Teagan notes, signing each with the name of a different murderer from her favorite mystery novels.

Panicked, Teagan turns to her friend Max Kennedy. Max longs for more than friendship with Teagan, but he fears she’ll never trust someone with a past like his. He wonders how much of God’s “tough love” he can take before he gives up on love completely. And he wonders if he’ll be able to keep Teagan alive long enough to find out.

As Teagan, Max, and Teagan’s police officer father race to track down the elusive killer, they each know they could be the next victim. Desperate to save those she loves, Teagan battles fears that once haunted her in childhood. Nothing seems to stop this obsessed murderer. No matter what she does, he seems to be getting closer . . .

Teagan O’Rourke’s calm, safe life is upended with a vengeance when a young police officer is murdered right next to her while the two are transporting evidence in a court case. Teagan’s job as a court reporter—and growing up in a family full of law enforcement—helped turn her into a fan of crime fiction and that and the court reporting have given her a bit of a leg up on solving fictional crimes but now she has to aim her talents at solving this very real one.

Panic sets in when someone starts sending her threatening messages, each one referring to a murderer in one of those novels and the implication is obvious, that this person knows her all too well. Now, this has all become very personal even while other people are being killed and she enlists the aid of her father, a retired police officer, and her friend, Max, who has a less than savory past of his own but is now a youth pastor and recovering alcoholic. Teagan and Max have been circling around each other romantically without really moving forward because of various issues but the three are determined to find this stalker.

I’m not a huge fan of romance or romantic suspense but, in this case, the romance is handled naturally and is not “in your face”. Much more attention is paid to the criminal elements and finding a vicious killer, as it should be, and there were quite a few likeable characters, family as well as friends. I found a lot to enjoy in Closer Than She Knows, my introduction to Kelly Irvin’s work.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2020.

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Purchase Links:
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An Excerpt from Closer Than She Knows

“We’re almost there, Ms. O’Rourke.” Officer Moreno came to a full stop at the corner of Park and Academic Court, where the glass-covered police department recruitment center and property room facilities glinted in the late-afternoon sun.

A smile brought out dimples on Moreno’s cherub-cheeked face. Her assignment to escort a court reporter and the evidence to the property room was almost to the halfway point. Teagan had told Moreno to call her by her first name, but the patrolwoman couldn’t seem to manage it. “I’ll get us through security, we’ll stow the evidence, and I’ll have you back to your car in a jiffy.”

Did people still say “in a jiffy”? Teagan’s grandma might, but this woman was no more than twenty-four. A couple of years younger than Teagan. She studied the officer’s face as she turned onto Academic Court and accelerated. The woman was for real. A straight shooter determined to be successful in a man’s world.

Teagan smiled, but Moreno had already returned her gaze to the road, hands at the proper ten and two positions on the wheel. “I know there’s plenty of other things you’d rather do than babysit evidence—”

The driver’s side window exploded.

The force knocked Teagan’s head against her window. Sudden pain pricked her face. Fragments of glass pierced her cheeks and forehead.

The car swerved, jumped the curb, and crashed into the wrought-iron fence that protected the academy.

Was this what Mom felt the day she died? The inevitability of it?

Air bags ballooned.

Teagan slammed back against her seat.

I’m sorry, Max.

I’m sorry I never said it.

A second later the bag deflated. The smell of nitrogen gases gagged her. Powder coated her face. The skin on the back of her hands burned.

Time sped up in an odd, off-kilter tick-tock.

Teagan struggled to open her eyes. Pain pulsed in her temple. Her stomach heaved. Waves of adrenaline shook her body as if she’d grasped a live electrical wire.

I’m alive. Today’s not my day to die.
The evidence. Protect the evidence.

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About the Author

Kelly Irvin is a bestselling author and two-time Carol Award finalist. She is a former newspaper reporter and retired public relations professional. Kelly lives in Texas with her husband, photographer Tim Irvin. They have two children, three grandchildren, and two cats.

Visit her Online:

KellyIrvin.com // Goodreads
BookBub // Instagram
Twitter // Facebook

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Closer Than She Knows
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