Book Review: The Gone Dead Train by Lisa Turner

The Gone Dead Train
Detective Billy Able Series #2

Lisa Turner
William Morrow, July 2014
ISBN 978-0-06-213619-0
Trade Paperback

Memphis detective Billy Able investigates the death of two legendary bluesmen—sax player Little Man Lacy and Red Davis. Little Man falls into a construction dig and Red Davis dies waiting for a train—he is found dead on a bench outside the station.  An incompetent detective, a year away from retirement, caught the case and he’s not interested in a couple of old men who were staying at the local homeless shelter. A voodoo bag was found on Davis and female patrol officer Frankie Malone, who grew up in Key West and is familiar with the Santeria religion, sees a connection between the religion and the deaths.

Able, who is returning to active duty after an extended leave, is contacted by a friend, former St. Louis Cardinal’s catcher Augie Poston. Poston, whose career was cut short by mental illness, contacts Able about investigating the death of his mother.  Augie’s mother Dahlia Poston was a civil rights worker who died not long after the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. Supposedly she was killed trapped in a burning car, but Augie wants to know more about her death. He found scrapbooks of his mother and he hired an investigative journalist to look into her death.

Much of the action takes place around the blues clubs and bars of Beale Street. Readers of Kris Nelscott, Walter Mosley, and Robert Crais may want to check out Detective Billy Able’s latest adventure.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, May 2017.

Book Review: Beware the Wild by Natalie C. Parker

Beware the WildBeware the Wild
Natalie C. Parker
HarperTeen, October 2014
ISBN 978-0-06-224152-8
Hardcover

Swamps make stellar settings for the spookiest of stories. “The meanest swamp in Louisiana” however, disdainfully dismisses “spooky”. This arrogant, angry bog is far more frightening than the orneriest of angry alligators. A petulant presence, tinged with wicked lurks within.

Following an epic sibling squabble, Sass’s revered brother, Phin, belligerently explodes from the sanctity of their backyard into the eagerly awaiting quagmire. She dreads the worst. Not “the worst” as it relates to the average, hazardous marsh. It isn’t images of the one person she loves unconditionally, who loves her right back: sinking into quicksand, being bitten by a venomous snake, hopelessly lost, slowly succumbing to the elements that plague her.

Whispered legends. Volumes of collected Swamp Stories. Knowing looks exchanged over children’s heads. The unimaginable horror that is never actually addressed, always alluded to. These fears fill her mind and freak her out. As if insulted by her tame, unimaginative worries, the glade grabs Sass by her chin, jerks her head up and shoves the unspeakable, tortuous cruelty into her stunned face.

Ms. Parker explodes into the Young Adult literary world, boldly and courageously with an authority that won’t be denied. I’m a little bit in love with her and I’m pretty sure she had me in mind with the shout out to my beloved Phish and the perfect use of a term that needs to come back: spaz attack.

Amid a tale that unapologetically reaches out and with a quick tug, pulls the reader into the sticky, steamy swamp; enters dark-skinned Abigail, the “girl who prefers girls” in a very small town. This diversity is not gratuitous nor is it the point of the story. Rather, Ms. Parker’s natural inclination to include characters of differing ethnicities and sexual orientation seems simply indicative of her norm; yet feels utterly refreshing.

Superbly depicted southern stereotypes lend a feel of authenticity while the dynamics among the characters enrich this brilliantly written, compelling, creepy and captivating story. Absolutely, all-the-way awesome, Beware the Wild is a book that I look forward to re-reading and sharing with my bookish pals both Young and Not-So-Young Adults.

Reviewed by jv poore, August 2015.

Book Review: Charlotte’s Story by Laura Benedict—and a Giveaway!

Charlotte's StoryCharlotte’s Story
A Bliss House Novel #2
Laura Benedict
Pegasus Crime, October 2015
ISBN 978-1605988788
Hardcover

From the publisher—

The fall of 1957 was a seemingly idyllic, even prosperous, time down in southern Virginia. A young housewife, Charlotte Bliss, lives with her husband, “Press” Bliss, and their two young children, Eva Grace and Michael, in the gorgeous Bliss family home. On the surface, theirs seems a calm, picturesque life, but soon tragedy befalls them: four deaths, with seemingly simple explanations.

But nothing is simple if Bliss House is involved.

Charlotte, nearly crippled with grief, feels more and more isolated from everyone around her. The only thing that brings her solace is going through the old photos and curiosities left behind by her mother-in-law. Then she makes a startling discovery that points not to tragedy, but to murder. How far will Charlotte go to discover the truth? And how far will she get without knowing who her real enemy is?

Not for the faint of heart, or those disturbed by sexual situations and violence, Charlotte‘s Story injects new levels of horror into the classic Southern gothic.

When I was first offered the opportunity to review Charlotte’s Story, I jumped right on it. I was unfamiliar with Laura Benedict or the first book in the trilogy, Bliss House, but I was immediately captivated by the notion that the setting for the house in question is Virginia, my home state. I’m happy to report that I wasn’t disappointed 😉

Melding a ghost story with a mystery and a far-reaching, torturous family dynamic is pretty much the essence of a Southern gothic and Ms. Benedict does this quite well. Almost from the first page, there’s an aura of creepiness rather than fright and, as the word indicates, the feeling creeps up on the reader more and more as time goes on till you find yourself mired in a sense of doom and total sympathy for Charlotte, a woman being driven to madness. There’s also a lot of sadness here, not only with multiple deaths but also in the downward spiral of love and trust.

I did feel that the story is too slow to develop and I put the book down a couple of times. Still, I couldn’t just walk away from it and I’m glad I stuck with it. The pace does pick up and, long before I reached the very unexpected ending, I was madly turning pages to see what would happen next. Appropriately, Ms. Benedict left me wishing the third book, The Abandoned Heart, was ready to read but, alas, I’ll have to wait a while.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2015.

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About the Author

Laura BenedictLaura Benedict is the author of Charlotte‘s Story and Bliss House, the first two novels in the Bliss House trilogy, as well as several other novels of dark suspense. Her work has appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and numerous anthologies. She lives with her family in Southern Illinois. Visit laurabenedict.com.

Connect with Laura on Facebook and Twitter.

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Leave a comment below to enter
the drawing
for a print or ebook
copy, winner’s choice, of the first

novel in the trilogy, Bliss House by
Laura Benedict. The winning name
will be
drawn on Saturday evening,
November 21st. Print is
open to residents
of the US, ebook is open internationally.

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“Expertly paced revelations help build a sense of encroaching horror.
A satisfyingly creepy tale for a rainy night.”—Publishers Weekly

“An evocative, frightening and flawless gothic, Charlotte’s Story 
is guaranteed to send a delicious chill down your spine. Nobody
does more for the modern southern gothic than Laura Benedict.” 
—J.T. Ellison, New York Times bestselling author of What Lies Behind

“Laura Benedict spins an ever-shifting web of shadow and light.
A thrilling read. Benedict writes with passion and authority. 
Charlotte‘s Story is not to be missed.” —Carolyn Haines, author
of the Sarah Booth Delaney mysteries, and The Seeker

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