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.

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Purchase Links:

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

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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

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Follow the tour here.

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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.

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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.

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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.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
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

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

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.

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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.

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

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
Hardcover

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.

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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.