Book Review: A Heritage of Death by Alexa Padgett

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Title: A Heritage of Death
Series: A Reverend Cici Gurule Mystery #2
Author: Alexa Padgett
Publication Date: October 23, 2018
Genres: Mystery, Thriller

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A Heritage of Death
A Reverend Cici Gurule Mystery #2
Alexa Padgett
Sidecar Press, October 2018
ISBN 978-1945090233
Trade Paperback

From the author—

An unconventional pastor. A brutal murder. To solve the case, one reverend will look for help from beyond the grave…

Reverend Cecelia “Cici” Gurule dreams of a bruised and bloodied woman who looks alarmingly like Cici. She’d like to pretend the dream is a nightmare and nothing more, but there are too many coincidences in her waking life to write it off. Like the baby that turns up on her porch–a baby that disappeared weeks before.

Cici and Detective Sam Chastain race to find the woman, but the killer finds her first. As the trail grows cold, Cici’s only chance to solve the mystery before she becomes the next target may be a clue left by her ghostly twin.

A Heritage of Death is the second novel in a compelling female sleuth mystery series for fans of Ruth Ware and Gilly MacMillan. If you like convention-shattering heroines, vivid Southwest settings, and a touch of the paranormal, then you’ll love Alexa Padgett’s twisty mystery.

A Heritage of Death is billed as a paranormal mystery and that element is certainly here but Cici’s dreams are not the only thing to consider. Her deceased sister was her identical twin and there’s just no doubt that the link between twins, especially identicals, is preternatural and can’t be fully understood by the rest of us. At any rate, Cici’s sister, Aci, is an integral part of the story.

Although Cici is an ordained minister, not a profession that you might expect would be involved with murderous events, but here she is with dreams of a  battered woman who looks an awful lot like herself and then a baby is abandoned on her doorstep. She’s a very likeable protagonist as is her close friend, Santa Fe police detective Sam Chastain, who appreciates and accepts the dreams and visions Cici has, making good use of them in his official investigation. Cici and Sam set out to find a missing woman and answers about the baby’s abduction but are soon drawn into a much deeper and very dangerous case involving the deaths of Native American women.

I have not read the first book in the series but never felt anything was lacking so I think potential readers can enjoy this second book even though it’s out of order. Fans of the Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne series by Julia Spencer-Fleming will be glad to find a similar pair of main characters.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2018.

About the Author

With a degree in international marketing and a varied career path that includes content management for a web firm, marketing direction for a high-profile sports agency, and a two-year stint with a renowned literary agency, award-winning author Alexa Padgett has returned to her first love: writing fiction.

Alexa spent a good part of her youth traveling. From Budapest to Belize, Calgary to Coober Pedy, she soaked in the myriad smells, sounds, and feels of these gorgeous places, wishing she could live in them all—at least for a while. And she does in her books.

She lives in New Mexico with her husband, children, and Great Pyrenees pup, Ash. When not writing, schlepping, or volunteering, she can be found in her tiny kitchen, channeling her inner Barefoot Contessa.

Author links:

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Book Review: Mercy’s Chase by Jess Lourey

Mercy’s Chase
A Salem’s Cipher Novel #2
Jess Lourey
Midnight Ink, September 2018
ISBN 978-0-7387-5755-1
Hardcover

I became a fan of Jess Lourey’s series last year when I was privileged to review Salem’s Cipher. Salem Wiley, half-Persian, half-Irish, agoraphobic genius whose special talent is cracking ciphers and codes so difficult even the most sophisticated computer programs can’t do it, is now working for the FBI. She’s also perfecting a special computer program of her own, one that plays an important role in this story.

Posted to England, Salem’s first fieldwork comes when tasked with investigating a mysterious, and very old, miniature copy of Stonehenge an Irish farmer lady has found. What is it’s meaning? Is it something to do with the Order, a group of men with an unlimited desire for wealth and power? Or does it concern the women whom since ancient times have had to hide their own wealth and intellectual property from these men?

In the previous novel, Salem became a sort of guardian to a young girl, Mercy, when the girl’s brother was murdered helping Salem. She cares deeply for the child, and when Mercy is kidnapped and threatened with death, Salem is pitted against some of the worst the Order has to offer in a quest to discover the origins of Stonehenge..

The story will keep you guessing. Who can be trusted and who cannot is another cipher Salem must solve, and the answers may come as a surprise. Meanwhile, Salem grows in both her intellectual strength and her psyche as she fights her own fears to save Mercy. Recommended.

Action-packed, great writing taut with suspense, an appealing main character to root for–who could ask for anything more?

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

Book Review: Scar Tissue by Patricia Hale

Scar Tissue
Cole and Callahan #3
Patricia Hale
Intrigue Publishing, September 2018
ISBN 978-1-940758-85-5
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Track star, Ashley Lambert, has just been accepted into the prestigious Johns Hopkins University, so when she jumps eighteen stories to her death her parents hire the PI team of Griff Cole and Britt Callahan to find out why. The investigation exposes a deeply disturbed family hiding behind a façade of perfection and follows Ashley’s descent into performance enhancing drugs and blackmail. Ashley’s coaches, peers and even her parents come into question. The disturbing truth behind Ashley’s death is testimony to lines crossed and allegiances sworn…. in the name of love.

Meanwhile, things don’t add up next door. Britt’s working overtime researching their new neighbors whose one-year-old son disappeared four years ago. Rhea McKenzie has a secret and bruises aren’t the only thing she’s trying to hide. When an off-hand comment discloses a connection to Ashley Lambert the two cases become entwined, setting off an unstoppable chain of events. Britt is sucked into an alliance with Rhea and driven to make decisions that challenge her ethics, threaten her relationship and in the end, push her over a line she never thought she’d cross.

With each Cole and Callahan story, I become more and more enthusiastic about this series. Griff and Britt are a pair that works as a professional private investigation duo but also as a couple and, with each book, Ms. Hale develops their working and personal relationships a little more.

Britt and Griff have just bought their first house and, right off the bat, Britt has a feeling that something is not right with the neighbors. Their son went missing several years ago so they certainly have reason to be “off” but she’s sure there’s more to it. Griff would rather she stay out of whatever drama is going on but she can’t make herself ignore the bruises she saw on Rhea.

When Ashley Lambert’s parents approach Cole and Callahan, it’s because they are absolutely positive the medical examiner’s determination that she committed suicide is wrong. After all, she would never do such a thing to her father and, with that revelation, Greg Lambert shows what a control freak he is. Living with the pressure of never letting her parents down could have been enough to make her jump but, reluctantly, they agree to take the case. It isn’t long before some dire secrets begin to come out and, the two cases begin to show signs there may be connections.

Once again, Patricia Hale has crafted a story full of suspense and vivid characters and I’m already looking forward to the next book.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2018.

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Purchase Links:
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An Excerpt from Scar Tissue

“I don’t believe my daughter jumped. She wouldn’t have done that. I told the police, but they dismissed me. Evidently, they knew my daughter better than I did.”

“What’s your feeling on that, Mrs. Lambert?” I asked. Parents don’t always share perspectives on their children.

When she looked at me, her eyes were moist. She cradled the columbine in her palm. “Call me Gwen.”

I nodded.

“Ashley was a good girl. She worked very hard at everything she did.”

“She was the best, always. She made sure of it,” Greg chimed in.

Or else you did, I thought.

“It would have gone against her nature to jump off that building. It just wasn’t her way,” Gwen added.

“Her way?” Greg squinted at his wife, his face twisted in disgust as though studying an insect on flypaper. “What the hell does that mean?” He stood and walked around the circumference of our seating arrangement and then came back and took his chair again. “My girl did as she was told. And only what she was told.”

“It’s not always easy to tell a senior in college what to do,” I said. “At some point they start making their own choices even if some are ones their parents might not like.”

“Not my girl.” Greg shook his head, knocking my theory out of the park. Dismissed as impossible.

I couldn’t help but notice he kept referring to Ashley as my girl not our girl as though he’d created her, given birth and raised her throughout her short life singlehandedly. I didn’t like him. My assessment of Gwen was still up in the air, but she was wrapped so tight I couldn’t get a glimpse inside. It’s never easy to work for someone you don’t like, but Ashley’s case held the interest factor. Why had this seemingly perfect child jumped to her death?

“She was a star athlete at the top of her class and a week from graduation,” Greg continued. “She’d been accepted at Johns Hopkins Berman Institute for Bioethics. And you’re telling me that’s a kid who makes bad decisions? I don’t think so, Ms. Callahan.”

Okay, he shut me up. (A momentary lull.)

“Mr. Lambert,” Griff spoke up. “I have a daughter. I can’t imagine what you must be going through dealing with all this. What is it you think we can do for you?”

“I told the police and the medical examiner that my daughter wouldn’t take her own life. Cops shook their heads, said it wasn’t their call to make. The medical examiner said it presented as a cut and dried suicide.”

“And what do you say, Mr. Lambert?”

“My daughter was murdered.”

I glanced at Gwen. “Do you agree, Mrs. Lambert?”

She raised her eyes, glanced at her husband and then to me. “I’m not convinced, but I do agree that suicide doesn’t fit with who my daughter was.”

Griff kept his focus on Greg. “What makes you think someone would have killed your daughter? Did she have enemies that you’re aware of?”

“No, no enemies that I know of, but her jumping makes no sense. She had everything going for her and absolutely no reason to end her life. She would never have done that to me.”

Strike two. The selfish bastard assumed his daughter’s tragic death had more to do with him than whatever had driven her to that fateful state of mind. “Suicide is about what’s going on within the person themselves,” I said trying not to let my voice betray my disgust. “I doubt Ashley was consciously doing anything to you at the moment she jumped. If she jumped.”

“She knew the goals we’d set,” he said dismissing my remark. “And she had every intention of attaining them.”

“Goals?” I asked.

“Johns Hopkins, her PhD, an Olympic gold medal.”

“Had she been accepted to compete in the Olympics?” Griff asked.

“It was in the works,” he said annunciating each word as though we were hard of hearing.

“Did you let the medical examiner know how you felt?”

“Of course, I did.”

“And was an autopsy performed?”

Greg Lambert glanced at his wife. She looked away. Touchy subject, I gathered.

“Useless,” he said. “They found nothing.” He turned to Gwen. “Go get my checkbook.”

She rose and disappeared inside the house without a word, still holding the columbine in her hand.

I caught Griff’s eye and he raised his eyebrows as though asking, should we? “Look Mr. Lambert,” he said. “Britt and I like to discuss a case before we

commit to it. We want to feel some degree of surety that we can help you before money changes hands and we sign a contract. Give us time to talk it over and we’ll get back to you tomorrow.”

Gwen reappeared holding a large, black-spiraled checkbook. Greg took it from her along with the pen she offered and flipped open the front of the book. He looked at Griff. “How much do you want?” he asked.

“Mr. Lambert, I…” Griff started.

“We’ll give you the information you need to get started. I don’t have any doubt you’ll see it my way. What’s the retainer?” He held the pen poised over the checkbook.

“Five thousand,” Griff said.

I thought that was a little high. He must be thinking about the pool we wanted to install.

“And a list of names. Professors, coaches and friends,” he added.

Greg pointed to his wife. “Put that together.”

Dismissed, Gwen went inside to gather what we needed.

Once we had the necessary information from Gwen, and Greg’s check was folded inside Griff’s pocket, Carole stepped onto the deck and offered to show us out.

“We’ll be in touch,” Griff said. He stood extending a hand toward Greg.

Greg Lambert rose from his chair and placed his hands on his hips. “When?”

“As soon as I have something to tell you,” Griff said lowering his arm.

Griff’s ability to come off unfazed by blatant rude behavior is beyond me. I couldn’t get off that porch fast enough. If I’d lingered I would have placed a well-directed snap kick to Greg Lambert’s groin.

We followed Carole to the front door. She swung it wide and stepped with us outside then pulled the door closed behind her. On the front step she glanced from one of us to the other then dropped her head and stared at the granite, clearly trying to make up her mind. We waited. When she looked up she extended her arm toward Griff as though intending to shake.

“Look,” she said. “I’m probably way out of line here and dipshit in there will have me banned if he knows I’m talking to you. I’m already on probation around here so whatever I say stays between us, all right?”

Griff nodded and reached for her hand, keeping his eyes on her face.

She slipped a folded piece of paper into his palm. “I’m Carole Weston, Gwen’s

sister. Call me,” she said. “There’s more to this. A lot more.”

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About the Author

Patricia Hale lives in Standish, ME with her husband. She is a graduate of the MFA program at Goddard College, a member of International Thriller Writers, Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance and the NH Writers Project. Scar Tissue is the third book in the Cole & Callahan thriller series. When the computer is off, you can find Patricia on the sideline of her grandsons’ sporting events or hiking the trails near her home with her German shepherd and one very bossy Beagle.

Catch Up With Our Author On:

Website, Goodreads, Twitter, & Facebook!

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Book Review: The Negotiator by Brendan Dubois

The Negotiator
Brendan Dubois
Midnight Ink, August 2018
ISBN 978-0-7387-5401-7
Trade Paperback

The Negotiator by Brendan Dubois brings an interesting new anti-hero to our attention. The protagonist, who uses many names but we never learn any of them, has an uncanny gift of estimating the market value of anything, like a handful of stolen diamonds or a pallet of merchandise that fell off a truck. This useful ability has allowed him to earn a living in the shadows of the crime world, where he is the middleman between a potential buyer and the hopeful seller, the cost of his services being part of the final agreed-upon purchase price. While he himself has committed no crime, those he does business with have and, since he knows one murder more or less means nothing to them, he takes appropriate steps to protect himself. Among other rules he has instituted, he won’t wait long for either party to arrive at the appointed time and place, and he never goes to a private residence to arrange a transaction.

The promise of a very large commission makes The Negotiator break his rule when he’s asked to serve as the go-between for the sale of what appears to be an authentic Old Master oil painting. He and his bodyguard show up at a nice house in an established neighborhood instead of a public place, where they are greeted by an older couple with an offer of lemonade and cookies. Lulled into accepting the situation for what it appears to be, The Negotiator is completely off guard when the older man pulls a gun and kills the bodyguard. The Negotiator escapes, barely, and sets off to discover who the killers are, to understand the motive for the unexpected attack, and to obtain revenge. Like the opening scene of the eventual bloodbath, many of the characters are not who or what they seem to be and sorting them all out takes every bit of skill The Negotiator can summon.

The Negotiator is a fine, fast-moving story with plot twists aplenty, right up to the last page. This book is especially for anyone who misses the Parker saga by Donald Westlake writing as Richard Stark or enjoys the Wilson series from Mike Knowles. While The Negotiator isn’t quite as cold-blooded as Wilson or Parker — he prefers to avoid guns — he can still toss an inconvenient character under the proverbial bus without a qualm. I am hoping for a sequel.

Reviewed by Aubrey Hamilton, September 2018.

Book Review: Star of the North by D.B. John

Star of the North
D.B. John
Crown Publishing, May 2018
ISBN 978-0-525-57329-6
Hardcover

Three plot lines run through this contemporary thriller, sometimes in parallel and sometimes converging. The overarching framework of the story is Jenna’s search for her Korean American twin sister, kidnapped from the Korean peninsula. Her sister was believed dead for a long time until Jenna receives evidence that she is alive in North Korea. She manages to join the CIA, the only mechanism she knows of that will allow her to execute her plan to rescue her sister and exact revenge. The tangled path to her sister ends in her dining alone with Kim Jong Il.

Accompanying subplots involve Mrs. Moon, an enterprising peasant who begins a profitable black market business with contraband, and Colonel Cho Sang-ho, a highly regarded North Korean official who learns he is descended from traitors to the regime. Their subsequent captures, arrests, and brutal imprisonment in the coal mines of North Hamgyong Province make for painful reading.

This chilling and timely novel about North Korea has received accolades from every major reviewing outlet, including starred reviews from Booklist, Publishers’ Weekly, and Library Journal.

D.B. John was born in Wales and now lives in London. He has lived in South Korea and Berlin and is one of the few Westerners to have visited North Korea. He co-authored The Girl With Seven Names, Hyeonseo Lee’s New York Times bestselling 2015 memoir about her escape from North Korea. His first thriller was Flight from Berlin (2012).

Reviewed by Aubrey Hamilton, September 2018.

Book Review: Burning Ridge by Margaret Mizushima

Burning Ridge
A Timber Creek K-9 Mystery #4
Margaret Mizushima
Crooked Lane Books, September 2018
ISBN 978-1-68331-778-4
Hardcover

Mattie Cobb is a Deputy Sheriff in Timber Creek, Colorado, with a special talent. She’s a highly accomplished K9 officer. With her faithful Shepherd, Robo, she’s trained and refined both her own and the dog’s capabilities to a very high level. The pair provides a rich vein of activity, characterization and plot movement. She’s of mixed ethnic heritage and though she spent early years in a troubled household, her grasp of right and wrong are strong. Timber Creek lies in the Redstone Ridge area, an immensely beautiful vista of rugged mountain, plains and streams, much of it covered with dense forest.

When she and a close friend find a partially burned body with signs of restraint and possible torture, Mattie begins a search that develops into a strange journey for her involving family, her law enforcement community and her future emotional life. The plot is intricate, the setting excellent and the tension rises on a continuum that almost compels readers to continue turning pages, exactly what every thriller author strives to accomplish.

As the story progresses, more and more intriguing, carefully delineated, characters are introduced. And, as Mattie and Robo draw ever closer to the answers she finds her family somehow entangled, as well. There are several violent scenes and a forest fire, all of which serves the story well. If there is any flaw here it is in the unwinding of some of the puzzling aspects of the plot. That takes somewhat more time than one would like but it is a small price to pay for an enthralling thriller of a crime novel peopled with varied and interesting characters.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, August 2018.
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 Review: Echoes by Alice Reeds

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Title: Echoes
Author: Alice Reeds
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Publication Date: August 7, 2018
Genres: Mystery, Thriller, Young Adult

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Indiebound // Entangled Publishing

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Echoes
Alice Reed
Entangled Teen, August 2018
ISBN 978-1-64063-247-9
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

They wake on a deserted island. Fiona and Miles, high school enemies now stranded together. No memory of how they got there. No plan to follow, no hope to hold on to.

Each step forward reveals the mystery behind the forces that brought them here. And soon, the most chilling discovery: something else is on the island with them.

Something that won’t let them leave alive.

Well, my goodness. To say I was surprised by this book would be a mild understatement. I thought it sounded like it could be good—otherwise, I wouldn’t have signed on to review it for this blog tour—but this is better than good. This is the Young Adult thriller that might just convert some of those adult readers out there who think YA isn’t interesting enough or able to grab their attention.

The stakes are high from the very first page when Fiona is relating the abject fear setting in on Miles and herself as their plane begins to go down and the tension never really lets up from then till the end. Sure, there are some quiet moments, but here they are on an island, all alone with no idea where they are or if anyone knows the plane crashed. Survival has to come first but little hints here and there pull them hither and yon as to what’s real and what isn’t, all while these two teens who really don’t like each other have to learn to get along. If they don’t, the consequences could be deadly.

Or might the truth be something else entirely? An alternate timeline weaves in and out and we don’t know any more than Fiona and Miles do. That, my friends, is a perfect setup to mess with your minds as well as theirs and I promise you’ll be scratching your head the whole time.

Fiona and Miles are not my favorite characters ever and, truthfully, there are flaws in this story plus I could do without some of the teen angst, but I truly do think this is a tale worth a few hours of a reader’s time. Fair warning, though—you won’t get all the answers you want and I, for one, am certainly hoping a sequel is in the works 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2018.

About the Author

Alice Reeds was born in a small town in Germany but spent her first eight years in Florida, USA. Later on, she moved back to Europe, where her family moved around a lot. She was raised trilingual and has a basic understanding of Russian, read and spoken. After getting her International Baccalaureate Diploma, Alice is studying English Language and Literature at University. In her free time Alice mostly writes, reads, figure and/or roller skates, or watches countless let’s plays and figure skating videos.

Author Links:

Website // Goodreads // Twitter

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Giveaway
3 print copies of Echoes (US only)
Enter here.

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