Book Review: Girl with a Gun by Kari Bovee @KariBovee @iReadBookTours

Join us for this tour from Jan 10 to Feb 4, 2022!


Girl with a Gun
An Annie Oakley Mystery #1
Kari Bovee
Narrated by Susanna Burney

Bosque Publishing, April 2020Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

She’s on the rise to fame and fortune, but her sudden notoriety comes with some deadly consequences.

Annie Oakley thrives as a sharpshooter in the Wild West Show. Finally, she has a chance to save her family’s farm—and make her dreams come true.

But her act misfires when she discovers her Indian assistant dead in her tent. Uncovering a shocking secret from her assistant’s past, the girl with the gun believes it’s murder. Determined to find the truth, she ruffles some horse feathers, making enemies along the trail.

But, when her prized gelding is stolen, Annie realizes she might have been the target all along.

Can Little Miss Sure Shot save her equine friend and find the killer before everything she’s worked for is destroyed?

If you like a cunning mystery, a feisty heroine, and a fast-paced plot that keeps the pages turning, you’ll love this wild ride with the iconic Annie Oakley in the saddle.

Kari Bovee’s first in the series is a charming introduction to the life and loves of Annie Oakley’s story, of course fictionalized but in such a way as to make the star of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show very real and accessible. Set in 1885, Annie is presented as just now meeting her eventual husband, Frank Butler, while the two were actually already married when they joined the show but this is, after all, a fictional account and the author has taken reasonable liberties with Annie’s history which is somewhat entangled with the tales she made up for her career.

At any rate, I enjoyed the author’s interpretation and spending time with such real people as Sitting Bull and Lillie Smith. There are several storyarcs, including Annie’s horse, Buck, being sick and the animosity of a few other show members towards the crowdpleasing Annie. Lillie is her primary rival in the shooting exhibitions and it’s fun to watch these two and Frank work out new exciting events.

Then there is the booklong mystery, the death of Annie’s friend and assistant, Kimi. Was her death natural, despite her young age, or was she murdered? If the latter, did someone hate her that much because she was an Indian or could there be some other reason? Annie suspects not all is as it seems and is determined to learn the truth. There are a variety of twists and turns but, on the whole, I felt as though the mystery took a back seat to everything else and could have been left out entirely. The other thing I want to mention is that I’ve seen reviews that pan the book for its non-PC elements such as the words used (squaw, for instance) and the apparent lack of caring for animals used in the shooting exhibitions but Ms. Bovee strikes a decent balance and I recommend that any reader remember that attitudes were very different in 1885.

The narrator, Susanna Burney, was new to me and I found her to be quite easy to listen to. Her evocation of various characters is stronger with the women than the men but that’s certainly not surprising and, when all is said and done, I think she brought the tale to life. Between her narration and the author’s imaginative story, I quite enjoyed Girl with a Gun.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2022.

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Also Available for Your Listening Pleasure:

Book Details:

Book Title: Shoot Like a Girl (A PreQuel Novella to Girl With A Gun) by Kari Bovee
Category:  Adult Fiction (18 + yrs), 84 pages
Length: 2 hrs, 14 minutes
Genre:  Historical Fiction, Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Bosque Publishing
Release date:   November 2019
Formats available for review: audiobook (audible download), MOBI (for kindle), EPUB, PDF)
Tour dates: Jan 10 to Feb 4, 2022
Content Rating:  PG + M for mature themes and some swearing (damn, bitch)

Book Description:

She would do anything for her loved ones, even if it meant she’d be lost to them forever.

Young Annie Oakley never expected to be saddled with responsibility so soon. Following her father’s sudden death, the spirited girl finds herself shipped to a nearby county working for a couple promising a good wage. But when she discovers they are not what they seem, Annie suddenly fears her life may be in peril.

Determined to help her mother and siblings, she endures the hardships and mistreatment from the couple. But when that cruelty is targeted at the beautiful Buckskin horse who is her only friend, Annie decides to take matters into her own hands.

Will the spunky teen return to her loved ones, or will her decision land her in jail?

Shoot like a Girl is the prequel novella to the Annie Oakley mystery series. If you like a fiercely loyal heroine who won’t be anyone’s victim, then you’ll love Kari Bovée’s thrilling story of America’s best-loved sharpshooting sensation.

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Audible ~ Amazon
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Book Details:

Book Title: Peccadillo at the Palace (An Annie Oakley Mystery) by Kari Bovee
Category:  Adult Fiction (18 + yrs), 332 pages
Length: 9 hours, 52 minutes
Genre:  Historical Mystery, Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Bosque Publishing
Release date:   April 2020
Formats available for review: audiobook (audible download), MOBI (for kindle), EPUB, PDF)
Tour dates: Jan 10 to Feb 4, 2022
Content Rating:  PG +M for mature themes, mild swearing

Book Description:

She’s outgunned her opponents at every turn, but will it be enough to solve a royal case of murder? Annie Oakley can’t believe her good fortune at an imperial invitation.

Queen Victoria wants Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show to perform for her Golden Jubilee. But during the voyage to England, a royal escort is murdered and the gun-slinging star finds herself at the center of an assassination plot against the crown.

Determined to catch the killer, Annie tracks down the clues. And by the time they reach London, she thinks she’s right on course. But when her husband falls mysteriously ill, and an assassination attempt is made on the queen, the sharpshooting amateur sleuth may find herself out to sea before her ship comes in.

Can the clever markswoman solve the double-barreled mystery before it’s too late?

Peccadillo at the Palace is the second novel in the Annie Oakley Mystery Series. If you like a fast-paced mystery with unexpected plot twists that will keep you guessing until the very end, you’ll love this riveting historical mystery featuring America’s favorite sure-shot.

 Buy the Book:
Audible ~ Amazon
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Book Details:

Book Title: Folly at the Fair (An Annie Oakley Mystery) by Kari Bovee
Category:  Adult Fiction (18 + yrs), 322 pages
Length: 9 hours, 48 minutes
Genre:  Historical Mystery, Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Bosque Publishing
Release date:   June 2020
Formats available for review: audiobook (audible download), MOBI (for kindle), EPUB, PDF)
Tour dates: Jan 10 to Feb 4, 2022
Content Rating:  PG +M for mature themes, mild swearing

Book Description:

She never misses a target. But unless she can solve this murder, she’ll become one…

Chicago World’s Fair, 1893. “Little Sure Shot” Annie Oakley is exhausted from her work with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. But when a fellow performer scuffles with a man who threatens her harm, she has to keep
her eyes peeled. And when the heckler is found dead under the Ferris Wheel, Annie won’t rest until she proves her defender is innocent.

Before she can rustle up any clues, an old friend asks Annie to protect her young daughter. And as more bodies turn up around the grounds, she’s going to need all her sharpshooting skills just to stay alive.

Can Annie live up to her reputation and put a bullseye on the killer?

Folly at the Fair is the third book in the Annie Oakley mystery series. If you like strong heroines, Wild West adventures, and suspenseful twists and turns, then you’ll love Kari Bovée’s fast-paced

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Audible ~ Amazon
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About the Author

When she’s not on a horse, or walking along the beautiful cottonwood-laden acequias of Corrales, New Mexico; or basking on white sand beaches under the Big Island Hawaiian sun, Kari Bovee is escaping into the past—scheming murder and mayhem for her characters both real and imagined, and helping them to find order in the chaos of her
action-packed novels. Bovee writes the award-winning Annie Oakley Mystery Series and the Grace Michelle Mystery Series, and has more ideas than time for many, many more.

Connect with the author: 

Website ~ Goodreads ~ Facebook ~
Twitter ~ Instagram ~ Pinterest


Tour Schedule:

Jan 10 – Mystery Review Crew – books spotlight / author interview / giveaway
Jan 10 – Rockin’ Book Reviews – audiobook review of GIRL WITH A GUN / giveaway
Jan 10 – StoreyBook Reviews – book review of GIRL WITH A GUN / giveaway
Jan 11 – Cover Lover Book Review – audiobook review of GIRL WITH A GUN / giveaway
Jan 11 – I’m All About Books – book series tour / giveaway
Jan 11 – Splashes of Joy – audiobook review of GIRL WITH A GUN / author interview / giveaway
Jan 11 – Lamon Reviews – book review of GIRL WITH A GUN / author interview / giveaway
Jan 12 – Kam’s Place – book series spotlight
Jan 12 – Celticlady’s Reviews – book series spotlight / giveaway
Jan 12 – History from a Woman’s Perspective – audiobook review of GIRL WITH A GUN
Jan 12 – 411 ON BOOKS, AUTHORS, AND PUBLISHING NEWS – book series spotlight / giveaway
Jan 13 – My Bookish Bliss – audiobook review of GIRL WITH A GUN / giveaway
Jan 13 – Rockin’ Book Reviews – audiobook review of SHOOT LIKE A GIRL / giveaway
Jan 13 – History from a Woman’s Perspective – audiobook review of SHOOT LIKE A GIRL

Jan 14 – Sefina Hawke’s Books – audiobook review of GIRL WITH A GUN
Jan 18 – Splashes of Joy – audiobook review of SHOOT LIKE A GIRL / giveaway
Jan 18 – She Just Loves Books – audiobook review of GIRL WITH A GUN
Jan 18 – History from a Woman’s Perspective – audiobook review of PECCADILLO AT THE PALACE
Jan 18 – Sefina Hawke’s Books – audiobook review of SHOOT LIKE A GIRL
Jan 18 – Literary Flits – book review of GIRL WITH A GUN / giveaway
Jan 18 – 
PuzzlePaws Blog – audiobook review of GIRL WITH A GUN / giveaway
Jan 19 – Rockin’ Book Reviews – audiobook review of PECCADILLO AT THE PALACE / giveaway
Jan 19 – Locks, Hooks and Books – book review of GIRL WITH A GUN / giveaway
Jan 19 – History from a Woman’s Perspective – audiobook review of FOLLY AT THE FAIR
Jan 20 – My Bookish Bliss – audiobook review of FOLLY AT THE FAIR / giveaway
Jan 20 – Locks, Hooks and Books – book review of SHOOT LIKE A GIRL / giveaway
Jan 21 – StoreyBook Reviews – book review of SHOOT LIKE A GIRL / giveaway
Jan 21 – Rockin’ Book Reviews – audiobook review of FOLLY AT THE FAIR / giveaway
Jan 21 – Faith And Books – audiobook review of GIRL WITH A GUN / giveaway
Jan 21 – Sefina Hawke’s Books – audiobook review of PECCADILLO AT THE PALACE
Jan 24 – Book Corner News and Reviews – book review of GIRL WITH A GUN / giveaway
Jan 24 – Sefina Hawke’s Books – audiobook review of FOLLY AT THE FAIR
Jan 25 – Book Corner News and Reviews – book review of SHOOT LIKE A GIRL / giveaway
Jan 25 – Splashes of Joy – audiobook review of PECCADILLO AT THE PALACE / giveaway
Jan 25 – Locks, Hooks and Books – book review of PECCADILLOW AT THE PALACE / giveaway
Jan 26 – Dab of Darkness Audiobook Reviews – audiobook review of GIRL WITH A GUN / author interview / giveaway
Jan 26 – Locks, Hooks and Books – book review of FOLLY AT THE FAIR / giveaway
Jan 26 – Chit Chat with Charity – audiobook review of GIRL WITH A GUN / author interview / giveaway
Jan 26 – Gina Rae Mitchell – book series spotlight / giveaway
Jan 27 – Deborah-Zenha Adams – book series spotlight / author interview / giveaway
Jan 27 – Dab of Darkness Audiobook Reviews – audiobook review of SHOOT LIKE A GIRL /  giveaway
Jan 27 – Literary Flits – book review of SHOOT LIKE A GIRL / giveaway
Jan 28 – Faith And Books – audiobook review of SHOOT LIKE A GIRL / giveaway
Jan 28 – Dab of Darkness Audiobook Reviews – audiobook review of PECCADILLO AT THE PALACE /  giveaway
Jan 28 – Books for Books – audiobook review of GIRL WITH A GUN
Jan 31 – Dab of Darkness Audiobook Reviews – audiobook review of FOLLY AT THE FAIR /  giveaway
Jan 31 – Books for Books – audiobook review of SHOOT LIKE A GIRL
Feb 1 – Buried Under Books – audiobook review of GIRL WITH A GUN / giveaway
Feb 1 – @twilight_reader – audiobook review of GIRL WITH A GUN
Feb 1 – Books for Books – audiobook review of PECCADILLO AT THE PALACE
Feb 2 – Chit Chat with Charity – audiobook review of SHOOT LIKE A GIRL / giveaway
Feb 2 – Adventurous Jessy -book review of GIRL WITH A GUN / giveaway
Feb 2 – @twilight_reader – audiobook review of SHOOT LIKE A GIRL
Feb 2 – Books for Books – audiobook review of FOLLY AT THE FAIR
Feb 2 – PuzzlePaws Blog – audiobook review of PECCADILLO AT THE PALACE / giveaway
Feb 3 – Westveil Publishing – audiobook review of GIRL WITH A GUN / giveaway
Feb 3 – Adventurous Jessy -book review of SHOOT LIKE A GIRL / giveaway
Feb 3 – @twilight_reader – audiobook review of PECCADILLO AT THE PALACE
Feb 4 – Splashes of Joy – audiobook review of FOLLY AT THE FAIR / giveaway
Feb 4 – Adventurous Jessy -book review of PECCADILLO AT THE PALACE / giveaway
Feb 4 – @twilight_reader – audiobook review of FOLLY AT THE FAIR


Enter the Giveaway:

 GIRL WITH A GUN (Annie Oakley Mystery) Audiobook Tour Giveaway



Book Review: The Bonnet Book by Nancy Menees Hardesty @YABoundToursPR


Check out my stop on the blog tour for
The Bonnet Book by Nancy Menees Hardesty!

Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // iBooks //
Smashwords // Amazon // Indiebound


The Bonnet Book
Diary of an Orphan Train Hatmaker
Nancy Menees Hardesty
Solificatio, August 2020
ISBN 978-0-9977619-4-8
Trade Paperback

From the author—

Sent away on an orphan train at fourteen, smart and lovely Blanche Spencer lands in St. Louis, Missouri as a nursemaid, wearing rags and sleeping in a pantry. To rise above her servitude, she begins a self-education program. A trade booth at the 1904 World’s Fair and a Cobden, Illinois apprenticeship launch her into a hat-making career, which she documents in a tiny diary, The Bonnet Book.

An early example of self-determination and girl power, Blanche—now Bonnie—travels alone to the Wild West, where she’s presented with the chance of a lifetime and the possibility of love—both rife with challenges that test her drive, purpose in life, and sense of self.

The Bonnet Book diary and other historical items in the novel are real-life touchstones in this gripping, inspiring story based on the life of the author’s grandmother.

Imagine being a 14-year-old girl living a simple life in a family much too large for the very limited income her father earns as a teacher. It’s the turn of the 20th century and these conditions are not terribly unusual but things are getting worse, economically, and hard choices need to be made.

Blanche is a very intelligent girl growing up in a family that loves her, especially her father, but that same father makes a life-altering decision with no warning, a decision that sends Blanche into a future bereft of everything and everyone she’s known her entire life. Did he know what was in store for her, the years of servitude, or did he really believe she would be placed in a loving home full of opportunities she would never have if she remained in Oraville, Illinois? That’s something we can only guess at but, by setting Blanche on this path, he certainly changed her future dramatically.

The Bonnet Book is the tale of how this very resilient girl rose above her travails through her own efforts, determined to educate herself and develop a worthy trade, that of hatmaking, and learned to cope with the pain of abandonment. Along the way, I discovered how Blanche became Bonnie and shared in her adventures in the Wild West of Oklahoma. Based on the life of the author’s grandmother, it’s a fascinating story and I was completely captured by the way Blanche responded to her new life and was honored to see bits and pieces of her Bonnet Book diary.

Ms. Hardesty’s notes at the end and the photographs scattered throughout the book are equally fascinating and bring a vibrancy to this tale of a most uncommon girl. This is the best kind of historical fiction, a foray into a “real” person’s life in times very different from our own.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2020.


An Excerpt from The Bonnet Book

Vinegar Dreams

Robey Household  •  St. Louis, Missouri

September 1902

A uniformed driver with a top hat steered the stylish carriage up Market Street, en route to the Robey household on West Bell Place.

Blanche watched her first city unfold before her blue eyes—tightly spaced buildings with unusual details; advertising services; a store with a carved fish over the entrance; a red-white-and-blue-striped pole at a barber shop; a ten-foot-high beer mug at a tavern. Their swift carriage followed other horse-drawn ones up the wide and busy boulevard. Sometimes they passed a double train car on a track in the center of the street. A city train, Blanche thought. None of what she saw seemed intimidating to her. It was just the first colorful page of her big-city adventure.

After twenty minutes, the carriage stopped at a three-story red-brick building with a glass vestibule. The building was much larger than a house, and it was in a cluster of eight similar buildings.

Blanche followed Mrs. Robey to the bathroom and closed the door. Just a few hours ago, she had seen a flush toilet and porcelain sinks for the first time. It was amazing how quickly one got used to these things! She came out feeling much refreshed.

“Blanche, Greta is cleaning the pantry for you. You can sleep there. You will have your own room for privacy, with a door and a light.” Mr. Robey closed the pocket watch and returned it to his vest pocket.

“Come, Blanche,” said Mrs. Robey. “Greta will walk you to the girls’ room to get your belongings. I have put your white dress in their closet. You can use your shawl as a bed cover.”

The two walked down the dark hallway, Blanche a few feet behind Greta.

As they returned to the kitchen, Blanche smelled the strong odor of vinegar coming from the pantry. Greta stepped aside as Mrs. Robey approached.

The pantry was only six feet wide, with floor-to-ceiling shelves and cupboards on both sides. It had no window and seemed airless. Opposite the pantry door was a built-in cabinet with a pull-out enamel surface for mixing dough. Below that were bins for flour and onions. Beyond the tall cabinet were two more cupboards containing baking supplies and bins of potatoes. The wall that backed the kitchen contained narrow shelves and was generously stacked with jars of jam, preserved vegetables, nuts, coffee, and spices. At the back wall were cleaning supplies, all stored neatly on old newspapers. This left a mere thirty-inch by six-foot space, with a floor drain in the middle. A single gas light hung by a bare cord from the ceiling.

“Well, here we are,” said Mrs. Robey.

Blanche saw a folded tarp with an old feather mattress over it. There was also a ragged pillow covered in purple floral fabric at the far end of the pallet, next to damp mops.

“You will be warm and dry here—much better than at the train depot. Greta will walk you to the bathroom, and then you can find your way back here on your own.”

“Yes, ma’am,” said a very tired Blanche.

Blanche finished her bathroom chores and found her way back to her bedroom, which she knew was really a kitchen pantry, not a bedroom. But on this first night, she was grateful for any safe place to sleep. She turned on the single dim light, closed the door, and took off her gingham dress, hanging it over the aprons. She got the pillow next to the wet mops and brought it over to the pantry door. The smell of vinegar and onions filled her nostrils. She turned out the light, leaned against the pantry door, and wiped a single tear from her cheek.

She thought about the day. She thought about the two sweet girls to whom she was assigned and their very reserved parents. She was in a home with nice furniture, lovely music, and good food. Maybe this was the beginning of “sweet hope” and new things to learn. But then here she was, about to sleep in an airless pantry.

It was not a happy space, but it was safe.

A sob came out as a choke.

Tonight I will have vinegar dreams, she thought. Sour and scary dreams.

She tumbled over and wrapped herself in the blue shawl.


About the Author

Nancy Menees Hardesty, born in Illinois and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, moved to San Francisco, California in 1969. Nancy spent six years researching and writing her debut novel, The Bonnet Book. She had various family journals and artifacts and the extensive help of her mother, Mary Kay Menees, who was the daughter-in-law of the book’s protagonist, Bonnie Spencer. The tiny “Bonnet Book” of hat sketches and the wooden hat-supply trunk featured in the book are still in the author’s possession.

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One print copy of The Bonnet Book

Enter here.


Book Review: Dark Deception by Nancy Mehl—and a Giveaway!

Dark Deception
Defenders of Justice #2
Nancy Mehl
Bethany House Publishers, June 2017
ISBN 978-0-7642-1778-4
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Kate O’Brien has been leading a quiet life in small-town Shelter Cove, Arkansas, for the past four years when her past suddenly comes roaring back to life. Four years ago, she and her twin sister were attacked by an elusive serial killer. Only Kate survived, and it was her drawing of the attacker–along with some last-minute evidence–that convicted the suspect.

She’s been in witness protection ever since, but new evidence suggests the convicted man isn’t the murderer and she’s been subpoenaed to testify in the new trial. Nervous about the risk, she’ll only agree if the same marshal who protected her during the original trial escorts her to St. Louis.

Deputy U.S. Marshal Tony DeLuca accepts the assignment to bring Kate to the trial, remembering how her strength impressed him. While in Shelter Cove, however, he gets a call from his chief, advising them to stay in Shelter Cove until a new development in the case can be straightened out. But when Kate’s safety is threatened, Tony must race against the clock to keep her alive and put this ugly case to rest before anyone else gets killed.

There’s nothing quite like a good serial killer story, you know? Well, yes, I know not everyone will agree with that assessment but I happen to like such things, whatever that night say about me or my reading taste 😉 Moving right along, Dark Deception has an extra added attraction, the white-knuckle effect of knowing said serial killer is out to get you, unlike being the usual random target.

Kate is a really likeable woman with the intent to do good but she also is intelligent enough to recognize danger and want to avoid it plus she’s willing to accept help when she needs it, especially from the marshal who looked after her the first time. For his part, Tony remembers Kate and her strengths and accepts his assignment most willingly. The two have a connection from the past and there’s more of that this time around but not so much as to overwhelm the core story.

In a way, the premise here is a little lacking, at least for me. The excitement of a serial killer kind of fizzles when the guy who’s after the heroine may not actually be a serial killer, just a run-of-the-mill wrongfully convicted guy out for revenge. On the other hand, that does mean Tony’s going to have to figure out the truth and I did appreciate that this element makes Dark Deception more intense than many romantic suspense novels.

Lots of twists and turns keep things moving at a good clip and I really enjoyed spending time with Kate and Tony. It’s been a while since I read anything by Nancy Mehl but that’s my mistake, one I plan to rectify ASAP 🙂

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2017.


Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Indiebound
Google Play // Amazon


About the Author

Nancy Mehl is the author of twenty-three books, including the Road to Kingdom, Finding Sanctuary, and Defenders of Justice series. She is a Carol Award finalist and writes from her home in Missouri, where she lives with her husband, Norman, and their Puggle, Watson.

Connect with Nancy

Website | Facebook | Twitter


Follow the tour here.


To enter the drawing for a print copy
of Dark Deception, leave a comment
below. The winning name will

be drawn Thursday evening, June 15th.
Open to residents of the US and Canada.


Book Reviews: A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny and A Bullet Apiece by John Joseph Ryan

A Night in the Lonesome OctoberA Night in the Lonesome October
Roger Zelazny
Chicago Review Press, October 2014
ISBN 978-1-55652-560-5
Trade Paperback

A quirky blend of horror, mystery, the story is narrated by Snuff, a dog. Jack the Ripper’s dog, although Jack is never quite identified. Nevertheless, he’s easily recognizable in a cast that somehow includes Sherlock Holmes, Dr Frankenstein, and Dracula, among others. Forgive me, but I’m not certain who “Jill” is, beyond an “opener.” Openers and closers being two supernatural factions who, during the month of October, gather creepy stuff to aid them in opening–or closing–the gates into the underworld.

Each of these characters has an animal companion. Jill has a cat, there’s a snake, a raven, a pack rat who’s a bit of a loose cannon. And they all speak. There are also monsters and “things” kept in mirrors and jars and old steamer trunks. Snuff is in charge of keeping them all safely corralled until the big night of October 31. Halloween.

Day-by-day, the tension mounts as the people go about collecting items needed for the opening–or closing–ceremony. Some people are friends, some dire enemies. Ditto their animal familiars. And once a night, Snuff is able to speak out loud to Jack, and so the story progresses.

As one might imagine, the finale is enough to make you shiver although, not to worry, the good guys win. Or do they? Since when is Jack the Ripper a good guy?

Since Roger Zelazny, in his last book, created this highly innovative story, which is complete with illustrations by Gahan Wilson. A perfect read for the month of October (or any month).

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, August 2015.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.


A Bullet ApieceA Bullet Apiece
Saint Louis Noir #1
John Joseph Ryan
Blank Slate Press, July 2015
ISBN: 978-1-943075-01-0
Trade Paperback

The novel is a comfort read. That is, if you are an inveterate reader of crime fiction, you can be comforted knowing that every joke, every bon mot, just about every cliché of the genre finds its way into the pages of this book. The dialogue ain’t far off, either.

Ed Darvis is a St. Louis PI with a main-floor office in a seedy part of town. The period is sometime after the end of the second world war. Across the road-I suspect it’s a paved street-is a charter school of some kind and while Mr. Darvis is currently idle, he spends time smoking cigarettes, observing the kiddies and ogling the teachers. And some of the parents.

One day, a leggy, seductive woman who drives a late-model Caddy coupe bursts from the school door in what our astute PI deduces is intense fear, “radiating off her like heat waves.” She roars off in a cloud of exhaust leaving one of the teachers, clearly agitated, standing at the schoolroom door. What we have is clearly a case of child abduction. Enter PI Ed Darvis, cigarette dangling, loaded .38 in his belt, ready and willing to find the child and bed either comely teacher or luscious mother, not necessarily in that order.

The dialogue is snappy and often cute, the action is rousing and predictable and the plot becomes surprisingly tangled. Whether the whole thing is a tongue-in-cheek put-on or a serious attempt at a novel is for readers to determine. This reviewer is persuaded the author invested a considerable effort to produce this story and it has its moments.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, November 2015.
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Reviews: Lost by S. J. Bolton, Murder Is a Piece of Cake by Elaine Viets, and The Boyfriend by Thomas Perry

S. J. Bolton
Minotaur Books, June 2013
ISBN:  978-1-250-02856-3

The current obsession of Barney Roberts, a bright young boy with OCD, is something with which many in London are currently preoccupied:  Five boys his age had disappeared in the last five weeks in South London, where Barney himself lives, their bodies turning up soon afterwards with their throats cut.  And as the book opens, the bodies are being found more and more quickly, the killer seemingly escalating.  Barney’s den is covered with posters, maps and photographs about each boy, his kidnapping, and his death.

The police investigation is headed up by D.I. Dana Tulloch, of Lewisham’s Major Investigation Team.  Sure of only one thing, that the killings will continue, they have no clues.  And someone, perhaps the killer, is taunting them online.  On the periphery of the investigation is D.C. Lacey Flint, still recovering from the horrific event of her last case, in the aftermath of which she is still seeing a psychiatrist twice a week, fighting her own demons, unsure of whether or not still wants to remain a policewoman.

Barney is the youngest of a small group of kids (five boys and one girl) who are brave, and foolhardy, enough to do some investigating of their own.  He also happens to live next door to Lacey Flint.  One day he works up the nerve to ask her to help him find his mother, who apparently left several years ago, when he was four years old, and he is determined to track her down, going so far as to use all his meager wages working for a newsagent to run anonymous classified ads in very methodically and geographically plotted newspapers in London and beyond.

The novel is but the newest of several suspenseful books from this author, and characters, plotting and tension seen in her prior work are fully present here.  The reader is never more than guessing at the possible identity of the killer, as are the detectives whose work is detailed here, knowing that if they do not succeed another boy will die.  Obsession is a constant theme.  This is another winner from S. J. Bolton, and is recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, June 2013.


Murder Is a Piece of CakeMurder is a Piece of Cake
Josie Marcus, Mystery Shopper Series
Elaine Viets
Obsidian, November 2012
ISBN: 978-0-451-23851-1
Mass Market Paperback

The newest book in the Josie Marcus, Mystery Shopper extraordinaire, has Josie tasked by her boss, “Harry the Horrible,” to mystery shop wedding flowers and wedding cakes for a St. Louis wedding website.  The timing couldn’t be better for Josie, who is in the throes of planning her own wedding.  The first of her mystery-shopper sites is Denise’s Dreams, where the sales associate who assists her is a young woman named Molly, who in the ensuing exchange divulges – – well, gushes – – that she is also about to get married.

Josie is a thirty-one-year-old single mom to Amelia, a ‘tween’ with the usual fast-changing sulky-to-“flawless!” mood changes.  Her life is about to undergo major changes, with her upcoming wedding to local veterinarian Dr. Ted, scheduled for the day after Thanksgiving, five weeks away as the story opens.  Their combined pets include Stuart Little, Josie’s shih tzu, her cat Harry, Ted’s cat Marmalade and his black Labrador, Festus.

One week later, shortly after Josie arrives at Ted’s veterinary clinic one morning, a surreal scene unfolds:  the self-same Molly, dressed in all her bridal finery, exits a Bentley and pushes her way into the clinic, claiming she’s there to pick up Ted en route to their wedding.  Clearly delusional, the scene ends with Molly picking up a scalpel and attacking Ted when he insists that he is indeed shortly to be married, but to Josie.  Ted’s mother, also present, disarms her, brandishing the pistol she always carried in her purse.  To cut to the chase, “mad Molly” is arrested and charged with assault.  She is soon released from jail by a sympathetic judge, but the melodrama continues when, continuing to stalk Ted, she is shot to death in her car in the clinic parking lot.  Things only get worse when Ted’s “Boca diva” mother is arrested, as her gun proves to be the murder weapon.

The book was a delightful change of pace for this reader, contrasted with other fare of thrillers and serial killers.  Besides an intriguing murder mystery with several possible culprits, it offers a few mouthwatering culinary tidbits, and culminates in several pages of shopping tips for wedding-related purchases, from flowers for various segments of the Big Day, bling, cakes, etc.  Following which is a peek at the next offering in Ms. Viets’ Dead-End Job Mystery series, Board Stiff, published by Obsidian in May 2013, which I have the good fortune to have in my towering TBR/R pile – – more to come on that soon!

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, May 2013.


The BoyfriendThe Boyfriend
Thomas Perry
The Mysterious Press, March 2013
ISBN 978-0-8021-2606-1

The protagonist and his adversary in this newest terrific, suspenseful read from Thomas Perry have many similarities:  Both Jack Till, retired LAPD homicide detective now working as a private investigator, and the man he nicknames The Boyfriend are both highly intelligent, patient, meticulous, proficient with various kinds of weaponry, and very lethal.  Mostly they are both loners.  Till, however, has a daughter with Down Syndrome of whom he is very protective.  His wife had left them and divorced him shortly after she was diagnosed, unable to cope.  Holly is now 28 years old, employed at a florist shop and living in a group home where she is well looked after.  Till had retired after 23 years as a cop, and now embarks upon a relentless search for a killer.

The man Till is seeking is completely cold-blooded.  He preys upon young, beautiful women, all of a very similar physical type, and all ‘working girls,’ albeit highly-paid escorts earning several thousand dollars a day, as opposed to streetwalkers.  And all very vulnerable to the young, good-looking charmer, to their peril.  He has apparently killed several of them in all different parts of the country.  He has come to Till’s attention when the parents of the latest victim seek his help, when the police have, literally, no clues as to his identity.  He agrees to take the case and undertakes the investigation, and soon uncovers the connection to the other murders.  After 23 years as a cop, he “had an instinctive sense that this man was something he hadn’t seen before.”

Thomas Perry is the author, among his 21 previous books, of the wonderful Jane Whitefield series, and his newest is as much a page-turner as were those novels.  He manages an ending that is wonderfully elegant.  This was a terrific read, and is highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, July 2013.

Book Reviews: Set the Night on Fire by Libby Fischer Hellmann and An Uplifting Murder by Elaine Viets

Set the Night On FireSet the Night on Fire
Libby Fischer Hellmann
Allium Press, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-9840676-6-4

In her first standalone novel, following her popular Ellie Foreman and Georgia Davis series, Libby Fischer Hellmann masterfully combines contemporary suspense and historical elements in equal parts.

Dar Gantner has just been released on parole after serving 40 years in prison for his part in a bomb attack in a Chicago department store which resulted in three deaths.  He immediately attempts to locate and contact the other members of a group of which he was part, young idealists turned social activists, forming a commune in those turbulent Vietnam-era days when everything was thought possible.  But that past comes back to haunt the present, when old secrets become a threat to someone from those chaotic times.  And soon the “accidents” begin, targeting those same group members.  Lila Hilliard, a financial planner from New York in her late thirties and the daughter of Casey Hilliard, once Dar’s best friend, very nearly becomes another victim when Casey and his son are blown up inside their home [in which Lila, only by a stroke of luck and circumstance, was not present].  But soon other attempts are made on her life.  When she meets Dar, the two try to track down who is responsible.

Present times account for about the first third of the book, which then goes back over forty years to the days of Woodstock, My Lai, The Black Panthers, Jimi Hendrix, Chappaquiddick, and the Chicago Seven. The six members of the eventual commune have gravitated to Chicago from places like Wisconsin, Iowa and Indiana, and all believe passionately in their cause:  to overthrow the “military-industrial complex [which] had imposed its will on a quiet little country with no provocation.”  Those days of turmoil are re-created in masterful fashion by the author, bringing them to vibrant life.

Ms. Hellmann, a Chicago native, captures its winters perfectly:  “A few snowflakes drifted down, dissolving on contact with the sidewalk, uncertain whether they wanted to be there at all.  Chicago winters were like that . . . furious blizzards followed by periods of apologetic calm.” She places an odd symbol, a “stylized Celtic knot,” randomly through the narrative, an important motif.

When the past has been filled in, and the reader is brought back to the present for the final portion of the book, the tension builds to ever greater heights, and the reader is carried along swiftly to the fully satisfying finale.  A terrific read, and one which is recommended.

[It should perhaps be noted that the book is also available in a trade paperback edition, ISBN 978-0-9840676-5-7, $14.99]

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, February 2011.


An Uplifting MurderAn Uplifting Murder
Elaine Viets
Obsidian, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-45123170-3
Mass Market Paperback

The sixth and newest novel in the Josie Marcus Mystery Shopper series delivers exactly what her fans are looking for:  a breezy murder mystery, on the light side, with just the right amount of danger, humor and romance.  Josie is still single, raising her 10-year-old daughter with the help of her 68-year-old mother, with both of whom she shares a home, and dating Ted, a hunky local vet.  [A shih tzu named Stuart Little and a tabby named Harry complete the household.]

Josie, who works for Suttin Services, has been assigned by her boss, “Harry the Horrible,” to mystery-shop a lingerie store in a high-end shopping mall, an “undercover underwear adventure.”  Job done, and within minutes of leaving the shop with her friend, Alyce, they discover the dead body of a woman they had just encountered in the store and with whom they had gone to high school – someone known to have engendered the enmity of all with whom she came in contact.  This naturally leads to a wide array of suspects.  The police, however, arrest Laura, the store manager [another of several old high school acquaintances Josie encounters during the course of the book].  But Josie feels a particular obligation to this one.

Josie, knowing that Laura has a daughter who is having a difficult time with her pregnancy, and convinced that she is innocent, vows to do whatever she can to find the real murderer.  She’s told “Leave the investigating to the pros.”  But she continues, reasoning:  “People tell me things because I don’t look important or official.  The police have to read people their rights or follow department procedure.  They can’t knock on doors and ask questions like I can.  Nobody’s afraid of me.  They tell me things.”  In so doing, of course, she manages to put herself in some dangerous situations, but that’s par for the course.

The book is a delightful addition to the series, and is sure to win Ms. Viets new fans, and it is recommended.  [There is an excerpt from a new entry in the author’s Dead-End Job Mystery series, Pumped for Murder, at the conclusion of this one.]

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, February 2011.