Book Review: The Hostess with the Ghostess by E. J. Copperman

The Hostess with the Ghostess
A Haunted Guesthouse Mystery #9
E. J. Copperman
Crooked Lane Books, January 2018
ISBN: 978-1-6833-1450-9
Hardcover

Alison Kerby returns in the 9th book in the Haunted Guesthouse Mystery series by E.J. Copperman.  Alison, a single mother in her late thirties, runs a guesthouse in her childhood hometown of Harbor Haven, on the Jersey Shore, inhabited by her and her precocious thirteen-year-old daughter, as well as Maxie Malone, Alison’s resident Internet expert, and Paul Harrison, an English/Canadian professor turned detective, both of whom have lived there since before their deaths, and her deceased father.  It would seem that Alison, her daughter and her mother are the only ones who can see the ghosts.  She now acknowledges the ghostly residents, and advertises the inn as a Haunted Guesthouse, specializing in Senior Plus Tours which include twice-daily ‘spook shows.’   From the publisher: Things are never quiet for long at the Haunted Guesthouse.  Right as Alison Kerby finally gets some peace, long-time deceased Paul Harrison’s recently murdered brother, Richard, shows up looking for the ghostly detective.  But Paul has left for parts unknown months ago – – and Alison doesn’t know how to find him.  As she searches for Paul, Alison discovers that Richard, who was a lawyer, was working a case about a woman accused of murdering her stepfather.  It quickly becomes clear that Richard was getting too close to the truth and was forcibly kept quiet.  Now as Alison continues her investigation, she gets a creeping sensation that the murderer doesn’t appreciate her snooping around.  And if she doesn’t stop, she’ll be next . . .

I found it very helpful to have a “Cast of Characters” on the page before page 1 of the book.  I also loved the first paragraph:  “’Something’s missing.’  I was sitting on a barstool next to the center island in my kitchen, having a conversation with five other people, two of whom were alive.”  But Alison, whose quote that is, quickly goes on to explain, and to introduce those with her, both living and otherwise.  After getting divorced from her 1st husband, who she not-so-lovingly refers to as “the Swine,” she returns to her hometown of Harbor Haven, on the “deservedly famous Jersey Shore,” where she opens her guesthouse. Her euphemisms for the ghosts who reside there, after she introduces the “alive people in the room,” range from “non-living” to those who have been “deprived of life,” but they definitely come to life in this delightful, wholly entertaining book. There is also Maxie’s ghost husband, Everett, who still spends time at the local gas station, where he died. He thinks of it as standing guard at his post.

When first meeting the aforementioned Richard, her “first thought was, “I wonder if he’d do some spook shows.”  Alison et al agree to search for his missing dead brother, who she refers to as her “conscience. He was the Jiminy Cricket of ghosts.”  Alison has now been remarried for four months, to one Josh Kaplan.  Also added to the mix is her daughter Melissa’s little adopted ghost dog, destined to “always be a puppy,” of course.  I loved the comment made when Melissa’s interactions with Alison prompts the latter to think that she couldn’t even be grumpy, which puts “something of a damper on my day.  If you can’t be grumpy, what’s the point of being from New Jersey?”  The plot moves nicely into the investigation inhttp://www.ejcopperman.com/to the murders, which is resolved with contributions from the ghosts, of course.

As I have said in the past about the Copperman books, and it remains just as true, the writing is wonderful, with the author’s s trademark laugh-out-loud wit and intelligence, well-plotted mystery and very well-drawn characters, alive or otherwise.  My preference in mystery genres generally does not include either “cozies” or books dealing in the supernatural (not that there’s anything wrong with those, and many of my best friends love them, I hasten to add).  But this author’s writing overcomes any such reluctance on my part – – his books are always thoroughly delightful, and highly recommended.  His dedication to several brilliant comics of years past ends with the words “there aren’t enough funny people in the world,” a deficit which he certainly helps to overcome.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, January 2018.

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Book Review: A Strange Scottish Shore by Juliana Gray

A Strange Scottish Shore
Emmeline Truelove Series #2
Juliana Gray
Berkley Trade Paperback, September 2017
ISBN 978-0-425-27708-9
Trade Paperback

If you’re a fan of historical fiction, especially if the story veers toward the mythical and takes place on one of Great Britain’s coasts, you’ve probably heard of selkies, a seal-like creature that comes ashore, sheds its skin and lives like a human. At least for a while, until the sea calls it back.

A Strange Scottish Shore opens when a wall in an ancient Scottish castle is breached and a box is found which contains a suit of peculiar texture. The year is 1906, and while the suit seems to be of a modern rubberized fabric, researchers Maximilian Haywood and his assistant, Emmeline Truelove, ascertain it is the skin of a selkie who in ancient times came ashore from the sea and married the first laird.

But then weird things begin happening. People appear and disappear. Emmeline’s “special” friend Lord Silverton disappears one night. A strange, evil seeming young man appears, and Emmeline meets and speaks with an oddly familiar young woman who gives her a warning. Who are these people? What do they want? Where do they come from, and where do they go so suddenly? It’s a mystery that will take Max, Emmeline, and Silverton from the present, into the past as well as into the future, with danger dogging their steps at every turn.

The unique story premise is intriguing, to be sure. The characters, for the most part, are strong. The dialogue seemed a bit wordy to me, and sometimes, a bit superfluous. A reader will find many twists and turns, and effortlessly, which is the best way, learn a bit about old Scottish castles, the lives of our ancestors, and even the myths they believed in. The ending holds a bit of a surprise, and I think you’ll find it all to the good. As to where the selkie skin (or suit) came from, and to whom it belonged, well, you’ll just have to read the story to find out.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, January 2018.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder, Four Furlongs and Hometown Homicide.

Book Review: Down to No Good by Earl Javorsky—and a Giveaway!

Down to No Good
Charlie Miner Book 2
Earl Javorsky
The Story Plant, November 2017
ISBN 978-1-61188-253-7
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Private investigator Charlie Miner, freshly revived from his own murder, gets a call from Homicide Detective Dave Putnam. Self-styled “psychic to the stars” Tamara Gale has given crucial information about three murders, and the brass thinks it makes the Department look bad. Dave wants Charlie to help figure out the angle, since he has first-hand experience with the inexplicable. Trouble is, Charlie, just weeks after his full-death experience, once again has severe cognitive problems and may get them both killed.

Charlie Miner is a most unusual man. He’s a private investigator, a single father to a teenaged girl, a drug addict and, oh yeah, he can’t die. That last is because of an experimental therapy that resulted in a very unexpected side effect. Not many people know this about Charlie but his friend, Dave, does and has pretty much accepted this state of affairs even if he doesn’t understand it and finds it really hard to believe. Dave has his own failings but he and Charlie are good friends.

Dave asks Charlie to help him look into a psychic, Tamara, who has raised red flags about herself with her statements about some murders. When another investigator who may have had information about Tamara is murdered, the stakes get higher and Charlie’s ability to leave his own body may be just what is needed to get to the bottom of who Tamara is and the truth behind several killings.

One of my biggest pet peeves about crime fiction comes into play when the tale is told in first person present tense and that’s the case here. It’s impossible for me to become really engaged because I’m so distracted at the idea that I’m supposed to believe the protagonist is telling me what’s happening in real time. What, is he speaking to me as he goes about his investigative business? Because of this, I can’t say I was totally enthralled but I did like Charlie and Dave and their weird story. In fact, I’d say the author’s strength really lies in his characters, likeable and not.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2017.

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Purchase Links:

              

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An Excerpt from Down to No Good

Chapter 2

Wednesday, August 31

Dave Putnam had been a cop for over thirty years, but nothing had prepared him for the last thirty-six hours.

The whole fiasco had started with Charlie Miner, whom he had known and even occasionally worked with over the years, calling him and asking for a favor. Offering him a deal. Twisting his arm a bit with a preposterous story, telling him he’d prove it and that Dave could take several murders off the books. Celebrities. Big money. An investment scam.

And, against his better judgment, Dave had gone along. Two days ago, he had transported Charlie’s daughter over the border from Tijuana—the favor—and that night met Charlie at a restaurant to hear him pitch his case. Later, when he got Charlie’s text, he went to the agreed-upon location to back Charlie’s play and round up the perpetrators.

In the meantime, he’d had a few too many. It made him sloppy, and it made him late. So, instead of calling for backup and showing up fresh and ready, he played cowboy. He took his biggest gun, an unregistered Desert Eagle .50 caliber that his father had given him, out of his trunk and left the restaurant parking lot with the gun on the passenger seat, squinting out at the road and concentrating on staying in his lane.

He got lost in Santa Monica Canyon and had to backtrack to the Coast Highway and try again. This time he wound up on Amalfi Drive, heading up toward Pacific Palisades. The frustration called for a hit off the pint he kept under the seat.

When he finally got to the site, he came around the side of the house and saw a man with a silenced gun standing over two bodies. One of them was Charlie Miner’s. When he saw the silencer swing up to point at him, Dave fired. The bullet blew the man into a hole that had clearly just been dug in the yard. The noise was ridiculous, but it clarified the situation: Dave hoisted Charlie’s body over his shoulder and started back toward his car. As an afterthought, he went back and picked up one of several SentrySafe H2300 cases nestled in the dirt.

^
Now he was sitting in his apartment, watching Charlie Miner’s corpse, studying it as if for a clue, an answer, perhaps, to the mystery of why he, Dave, had behaved so badly. Leaving the scene of an officer-involved shooting. Stealing from a crime scene. Hiding a body.

The first two he could justify: he was tanked, and the case he took out of the ground just looked interesting.

But taking Charlie Miner’s body, with three bloody holes in its face, and dumping it in the back seat of his car, and then driving home and carrying it to his apartment—there was no explaining that.

Except . . .

Dave had known there was something off about Charlie. Not just off, but weird. More than weird—inexplicable. Dave had dug up morgue photos of an unidentified DOA, gunshot wounds, that had somehow disappeared. And though he had denied it, Charlie Miner was the guy in the photos.

And so the vigil. Turn the phone ringer off. Stick to beer. Wash the blood off Charlie’s face. Watch the body. Nod off now and then.

Watch the body.

It happened at noon. He was about to doze when he saw a finger twitch. Then the fingers on both hands flexed, curled into fists, and flexed again.

Excerpt from Down to No Good by Earl Javorsky. Copyright © 2017 by Earl Javorsky. Reproduced with permission from The Story Plant. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

Daniel Earl Javorsky was born in Berlin and immigrated to the US. He has been, among other things, a delivery boy, musician, product rep in the chemical entertainment industry, university music teacher, software salesman, copy editor, proofreader, and author of two previous novels, Down Solo and Trust Me.

He is the black sheep of a family of high artistic achievers.

              

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Follow the tour:

10/30 Showcase @ The Book Divas Reads
10/31 Guest post @ Mythical Books
11/02 Showcase @ Chill and read
11/03 Excerpt @ Suspense Magazine
11/06 Guest post @ Writers and Authors
11/06 Showcase @ The Bookworm Lodge
11/08 Showcase @ The Pulp and Mystery Shelf
11/09 Reviewe @ Cheryls Book Nook
11/10 Guest post @ Loris Reading Corner
11/12 Review @ Buried Under Books – GIVEAWAY
11/14 Interview @ Cozy Up With Kathy
11/15 Showcase @ 411 on Books, Authors, and Publishing News
11/17 Showcase @ Aurora Bs Book Blog
11/20 Review @ CMash Reads
11/21 Interview @ CMash Reads
11/26 Review @ The World As I See It
11/27 Blog Talk Radio w/ Fran Lewis
11/27 Review @ Just Reviews
11/29 Interview @ A Blue Million Books
12/01 Review @ Its All About the Book
12/01 Review @ The Literary Apothecary
12/05 Review @ Quiet Fury Books
12/06 Review @ Lets Talk About Books
12/12 Review @ Lauras Interests
12/30 Review @ Bound 4 Escape
01/05/18 Review @ Celticladys Reviews

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Giveaway

To enter the drawing for an ebook
copy of Down Solo, 1st in the
series,
leave a comment below.
The winning
name will be drawn
Wednesday evening,
November 15th,
and the book will be
sent out after
the tour ends in early January.

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Book Reviews: The Thirst by Jo Nesbo and A Game of Ghosts by John Connolly

The Thirst
A Harry Hole Novel #11
Jo Nesbo
Translated from the Norwegian by Neil Smith
Knopf, May 2017
ISBN 978-0-385-35216-1
Hardcover

Harry Hole, Norway’s most experienced serial murder detective, is content to no longer serve on the murder squad, instead lecturing at the police college and living happily after marrying Rakel three years ago.  Unfortunately, such bliss is interrupted when evidence of a possible murder too difficult to solve leads the police chief to blackmail Harry into joining the hunt.  And then he jumps in with both feet.

It turns out that the villain in a previous novel in the series, Police, may be the sought-after culprit, especially when Harry recognizes the killer’s MO.  As the frustrating hunt continues, we learn more about vampirism than, perhaps, we’d like.  It appears that the murderer has a taste for drinking the victim’s blood.  And Nesbo delves into the subject deeply and often.

In this, the 11th Harry Hole novel, the author once again demonstrates why the series is so popular:  a plot so well-developed that the reader hardly notices the length of the book.  And the twist that draws the tale to an end certainly is an added fillip.  The Thirst demonstrates to what lengths Harry Hole will go to solve a case.

Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, May 2017.

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A Game of Ghosts
A Charlie Parker Thriller #15
John Connolly
Emily Bestler Books/Atria, July 2017
ISBN 978-1-5011-7189-5
Hardcover

This is Book #15 in the Charlie Parker series.  In it, Charlie has made a deal with Special Agent Ross and is on retainer to the FBI, and he is asked to find a private investigator, Jacob Eklund, also working for Ross, who apparently has disappeared.  With few facts, especially what the PI was doing for Ross, Parker begins his investigation.  And it leads him into the weirdest of investigations. It seems Eklund, on his own, was involved in tracking down a series of homicides and disappearances, each linked to extraordinary events or sightings.

Meanwhile, Parker is also facing pressure from Rachel, his onetime girlfriend and mother of his daughter, Sam; she is convinced Sam’s exposure to Parker places her in jeopardy.  This belief, reinforced by Sam’s abduction in a previous novel and possible harm, leads Rachel to seek judicial relief preventing direct contact between Parker and his daughter without direct supervision.

As the author acknowledges: “This odd book—if mine are not all odd books—is as much a product of a lifetime of reading ghost stories…”  And it is odd.  And it is filled with ghost stories.  It is an intriguing tale of the supernatural, together with a basic crime story.  It is one fascinating account and well-plotted, bringing together what amounts to a detective story and a ghost story, and it is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, August 2017.

Book Review: Death Overdue by Allison Brook

Death Overdue
A Haunted Library Mystery #1
Allison Brook
Crooked Lane Books, October 2017
ISBN 978-1-68331-386-1
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Carrie Singleton is just about done with Clover Ridge, Connecticut until she’s offered a job as the head of programs and events at the spooky local library, complete with its own librarian ghost. Her first major event is a program presented by a retired homicide detective, Al Buckley, who claims he knows who murdered Laura Foster, a much-loved part-time library aide who was bludgeoned to death fifteen years earlier. As he invites members of the audience to share stories about Laura, he suddenly keels over and dies.

The medical examiner reveals that poison is what did him in and Carrie feels responsible for having surged forward with the program despite pushback from her director. Driven by guilt, Carrie’s determined to discover who murdered the detective, convinced it’s the same man who killed Laura all those years ago. Luckily for Carrie, she has a friendly, knowledgeable ghost by her side. But as she questions the shadows surrounding Laura’s case, disturbing secrets come to light and with each step Carrie takes, she gets closer to ending up like Al.

Carrie has itchy feet, never staying in one town very long, and she’s just about ready to take a hike again when the library director in Clover Ridge offers her a full-time position to head up programs and events. Her immediate reaction is that she doesn’t want to be tied down but a ghostly voice in her ear prompts her to at least ask for details. When Evelyn Havers reveals herself to Carrie, it’s all Carrie can do to not freak out but she’s really distracted by the frightening idea of actually settling down.

So, when Carrie decides to stay in town and accept the job, she jumps in with enthusiasm, taking on the position’s pleasures as well as its normal glitches plus some pointed small acts of sabotage by the woman who wanted the job. Carrie finds a way, with Evelyn’s help, to get Dorothy to stop and peace descends on the library, at least momentarily, until guest speaker Al Buckley, a former police detective, drops dead during a presentation regarding new evidence in the cold case murder of Laura Foster fifteen years earlier. Carrie immediately suspects foul play, contrary to her boss’s belief, but it’s days later before the police say that Al was poisoned.

As with many cozies, Carrie really hasn’t got any valid reason to investigate but that’s OK with me. I enjoyed going along as she followed one clue after another to finally get to the truth and she’s smarter than many amateur sleuths, avoiding the TSTL syndrome although she does suffer from running her mouth too much 😉 A plethora of potential murderers keep her busy as does a bit of romance but even that has its own surprises. Speaking of surprises, I was more than a little bemused by Carrie’s reaction to having a ghost in her life.

With Halloween right around the corner, the timing couldn’t be better for this supernatural cozy and, while Carrie can be abysmally self-absorbed and downright immature, I do like her and I adore Evelyn. The icing on the cake is the library setting, my second favorite book-related backdrop, and Carrie is actually a pretty good sleuth with this first case…or, two cases, in reality. I’m going to be eagerly awaiting the next adventure hoping especially to spend much more time with Evelyn.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2017.

Book Review: The Elusive Elixir by Gigi Pandian

The Elusive Elixir
An Accidental Alchemist Mystery #3
Gigi Pandian
Midnight Ink,  January 2017
ISBN 978-0-7387-4236-6
Trade Paperback

Who isn’t interested in Alchemy? Can there be anything more intriguing than the ability to transform one thing into something completely different? Lead into gold is probably the conversion of matter most people know of–not that in reality anyone has ever succeeded. But close to that is the search for an elixir to make a living person immortal. And there begins the story.

Zoe Faust, who is 340 years old but appears 30ish, has found the way to transform her own life while keeping her age secret. She moves frequently when her lack of aging becomes too obvious. She states she’s a granddaughter of the original Zoe. And now she’s on a quest to preserve her friend, Dorian Robert-Houdin, a gargoyle who came to life, from turning back to stone. Zoe travels to France, where she once lived, to discover someone from her past, an old lady who says that as a child, she knew Zoe. She also tells Zoe that the police want her for the murder, during WWII, of the man who ran Zoe’s shop and was burned beyond recognition when the shop fell victim to arson.

Zoe flees, which lands her in a peck of trouble when more people from her past follow her to her home–and right to Dorian. These people expect her to provide an old book they believe will show them the way to make the elixir of life–except the elixir needs the sacrifice of a living person. Who will they chose to be this sacrifice? That’s what Zoe has to find out  and prevent. Complicating all she does is the relationship she has with a lover, a partner after more than one hundred years. If he finds out what she really is, what will happen?

This is a good plot. I greatly enjoyed Dorian (although his “brother” not so much) and most of the rest of the cast are good, too. Given her great age, sometimes Zoe struck me as insipid. Well, maybe because of her great age, yes? Some passages are quite repetitive, as well, but overall, I did enjoy the book.

As for alchemy, Dorian is a marvelous cook. He’s found a way to transform common vegan ingredients into wonderful meals. His greatest discovery? Avocado! The book contains the recipe for his special chocolate mousse, which I actually made and found it pretty darn good!

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, March 2017.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder and Four Furlongs.

Book Review: The Thirteenth Gate by Kat Ross

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