Book Review: Murderous Mayhem at Honeychurch Hall by Hannah Dennison and Bad Boy Boogie by Thomas Pluck

Murderous Mayhem at Honeychurch Hall
A Honeychurch Hall Mystery #4
Hannah Dennison
Minotaur Books, May 2017
ISBN 978-1-250-06549-0
Hardcover

From the publisher—

When the only copy of Ravished, Iris Stanford’s new manuscript, never arrives at her London publisher’s office, her daughter Kat investigates the tiny local village post office, where it appears the package never left the building. Iris is on tenterhooks―not only is her novel gone with the wind, but she’s deathly afraid that Muriel Jarvis, the postmistress and notorious busybody, will expose her secret identity as the bestselling romance writer Krystalle Storm. Meanwhile, Muriel has her own problems with the sudden death of her husband Fred, which has left her heavily in debt. In the spine-tingling climax, both past and present collide as Kat fights for her life and those she holds most dear, dancing once again with the dark forces lurking behind the grandeur of Honeychurch Hall.

I think I’ve found my new one-of-my-favorites British cozy/traditional series (although I’m apparently the last in my local book club circle of cozy readers to get around to trying it). I’m not bothered by reading out of order and, while I expect my purist friends would disagree with me, I really think this is a good starter. The author does a nice job of dropping in those little tidbits you need to understand prior activities and her characterizations of the people are as full as I could ask them to be. These people are just downright funny and a little bit crazy.

However, murder has been done and somebody has to pay attention. Since Kat is one of the very few levelheaded folks around, the task naturally falls to her. There’s a local copper (named Cropper), of course, but he’s overrun by Lord Rupert as well as Kat and her mum, Iris, when it comes to looking into the death of the centuries-old skeleton found in a sewer line trench. It’s all curiously coincidental considering the upcoming English Civil War re-enactment and, before long, Kat finds herself in the midst of a plethora of mysteries including Iris’ missing manuscript, a suspiciously behaving man in possession (momentarily) of a vastly expensive doll, a prison escapee, and, oh, another body.

There’s a good deal of silliness here—how can there not be with such wacky villagers—but I truly loved this book. Kat’s a great sleuth, although there are no easy denouements, and she has mastered the art of dealing with all these people. I can just imagine driving through the countryside and coming across this lovely little place. What fun!

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2017.

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Bad Boy Boogie
A Jay Desmarteaux Crime Thriller
Thomas Pluck
Down & Out Books, March 2017
ISBN 978-1-943402-59-5
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

When Jay Desmarteaux steps out of from prison after serving twenty-five years for murdering a vicious school bully, he tries to follow his convict mentor’s advice: the best revenge is living well.

But questions gnaw at his gut: Where have his folks disappeared to? Why do old friends want him gone? And who wants him dead?

Teaming with his high school sweetheart turned legal Valkyrie, a hulking body shop bodybuilder, and a razor-wielding gentleman’s club house mother, Jay will unravel a tangle of deception all the way back to the bayous where he was born. With an iron-fisted police chief on his tail and a ruthless mob captain at his throat, he’ll need his wits, his fists, and his father’s trusty Vietnam war hatchet to hack his way through a toxic jungle of New Jersey corruption that makes the gator-filled swamps of home feel like the shallow end of the kiddie pool.

This is one of those times when you can’t help sympathizing with the bad guy; after all, he’s served his time so why is he now facing these unexpected troubles? And since law enforcement isn’t interested in helping him find answers, how is he going to? Clearly, he’ll have to form what current slang would call a posse and what a group of misfits these are!

To understand Jay, we’re taken back to his unhappy childhood that, even so, had times of normalcy—young love and friendships as well as conflicts with bullies—and we learn what caused the teenaged Jay to commit the ultimate act of violence. Perhaps the “friends” that didn’t support him then are the ones that want him out of town now, except for the mayor who has his own reasons. A bright point, maybe, is the connection he makes with high school sweetheart Ramona but Jay is driven by a need to settle things in New Jersey before he heads to Louisiana, the place he really wants to be.

Jay is a complex man and the author truly brings him to life, this ex-con with a hard outer shell that’s slightly penetrated by the life he finds on the outside after 25 years on the inside. There’s a considerable amount of graphic violence, including sexual, here but it’s understandable although this man’s sense of justice is often very different from yours and mine. This is a book that could have resided in the old black & white, hardboiled days just as well as today and I suspect I’ll remember Jay and his story for a long, long time.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2017.

Book Reviews: Thorns on Roses by Randy Rawls, Nightwatcher by Wendy Corsi Staub, Fatal Induction by Bernadette Pajer, and A Dead Red Heart by R.P. Dahlke

Thorns On Roses
Randy Rawls
L&L Dreamspell, 2011
ISBN No. 978-1-60318-375-8
Trade Paperback

Currently Tom Jeffries is a private investigator.   Jeffries is an ex-Special Forces operative and an ex-Dallas police officer.   Jeffries is also on retainer with an elite Florida law firm. Jeffries has a habit of leaving his business card in various places.  He has a note on the back “If I can help, call me.” and he signs the card.  The police found a body of a girl and Jeffries is contacted to identify the body.  Jeffries is called because one of his business cards is clutched in the hand of the victim.  While at the morgue Jeffries states that he can’t identify the body and does not reveal that he knows the identity of the victim.

Jeffries’ best friend Charlie Rogers has been in contact with him regarding the disappearance of his stepdaughter, 17-year old Mary Lou Smithson.  Now Jeffries must make a call to Charlie to tell him the girl’s body is at the morgue.    Several weeks ago, Jeffries had given Lonnie, Mary Lou’s Mother, some of his cards.  Lonnie was concerned about her daughter, Mary Lou, who had taken a part time job at a supermarket chain.  Since Mary Lou had been working, she had been breaking rules and Lonnie could not seem to halt the rebellion and then she disappeared.

One clue on the body is a tattoo of a rose.  The tattoo is a connection to a gang operating in the area.  Jeffries vows to seek revenge for Mary Lou and so begins an exciting chase but the police do not appreciate his involvement in the case.  The law firm that Jeffries works for is afraid his vendetta will create bad publicity for the firm.  Abby Archer, an attorney, is assigned the job of watching over Jeffries and reporting back to the firm.  The relationship between the two is interesting to say the least.

This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. The characters are good, the story is excellent and there is never a dull moment.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, June 2012.

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Nightwatcher
Wendy Corsi Staub
Harper, August 2012
ISBN No. 978-0062070289
Mass Market Paperback

Terrifying in more than one way, this novel holds the interest of the reader from the very beginning and just does not let go.  The book begins the night before the terrorist strike on New York on September 11, 2001.

Allison Taylor lives in Manhattan and loves it.   Allison is a style editor at 7th Avenue Magazine. Kristina Haines lives in the apartment above Allison’s and the two are neighbors.  Kristina is an aspiring Broadway actress.  The two visit in the laundry room from time to time and have exchanged keys to their apartments with each other in case of emergency.

Jerry Thompson is the maintenance man in the apartment building.  Kristina tells Allison that Jerry is creeping her out.  She says he is always watching her.  Allison assures Kristina that Jerry is harmless.  Jerry is a little slow but Allison feels that he would not hurt anyone.

Suddenly terrorists strike New York. The city is in a shambles.  All members of the police departments and the fire departments are called to the scene.  Many are trying to find friends and family of their own as well as looking for survivors.  Allison is forced to walk most of the way home from a late party.

Allison hasn’t seen Kristina since the tragedy and thinks perhaps she went to stay with a friend but when she goes to Kristina’s apartment to check she finds that Kristina has been brutally murdered.  Detective Rocko  Manzillo is in charge of the investigation.  He explains to Allison that although the department is short-handed the police will be at the apartment for quite some time investigating the murder.  Allison tells Detective Manzillo about Kristina’s fear of Jerry but Allison doesn’t even know his last name or where to find him.

This novel gives people who did not live in New York a better view of the city after the tragedy.  The murder investigation goes on in spite of Detective Manzillo being short-handed and working almost around the clock.  I am ready to read the next Wendy Corsi Staub novel called Sleepwalker.  There is an excerpt from the next book at the end of Nightwatcher.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, July 2012.

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Fatal Induction
Bernadette Pajer
Poisoned Pen Press, May 2012
ISBN No. 978-1-59058-614-3
Trade Paperback
Also available in hardcover

Mystery, science, gypsies, and the assassination of President McKinley all play major roles in this novel.  Benjamin Bradshaw is a Professor of Electrical Engineering and is currently involved in an electrical competition.  The contest winner’s telephonic system will deliver music from the Seattle Grand theatre to homes throughout the city.  The reader can only imagine what this would mean to people sitting at home and able to hear music from the theater.

Bradshaw is sidetracked a bit when he finds a gypsy peddler cart abandoned behind his home.  The cart advertises “Ralph’s Redeeming Restorative, the Romany Remedy that Really Works”.  The inside of the cart revealed a little girl’s doll.  Bradshaw brings the doll in the house where he lives with his housekeeper, Mrs. Prouty, and his son Jason who is in the third grade.  Mrs. Prouty is indignant because the horse attached to the wagon has been busy in her garden.  Bradshaw is upset because he feels that the missing little girl may have witnessed a murder.

The city is in shock over the death of President McKinley.  The police department, many of whom are corrupt, could care less about a missing gypsy and the little girl who owns the doll.  Bradshaw decides that he is going to locate the child and goes to great lengths to search for her putting himself in danger.  At last he devises a scheme that will set a trap that he hopes will catch the killer.

This is the second book in the Professor Bradshaw series.  It is not necessary to read A Spark of Death, the first book in order to enjoy Fatal Induction.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, July 2012.

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A Dead Red Heart
R. P. Dahlke
Dead Bear Publishing, 2011
ISBN No. 9781463582814
Trade Paperback

Lalla Bains is an ex-model and Aero Ag pilot and a wonderful character that I am looking forward to getting to know better. After giving up her modeling career as well as giving up a couple of husbands, Lalla is back in Modesto, California.

Lalla’s father is in bad health and so is his crop dusting business.  Crop dusting does not sound like a very complicated business but I soon found out that it is a very complicated business particularly when someone is sabotaging your company.

Sheriff Caleb Stone is the main man in Lalla’s life but when Billy Wayne Dobson, a man who is self-medicating his post-traumatic stress disorder, begins to stalk Lalla, she decides to take matters into her own hands rather than allow Caleb to handle the problem.  Caleb is talking restraining order and Lalla just can’t bring herself to allow the restraining order to be issued.  Billy Wayne is shy and easily startled and Lalla feels that she is better equipped to deal with Billy Wayne.

Mr. Kim’s Chinese restaurant is where Lalla locates Billy Wayne who appears to be in a drunken stupor.  When Lalla tries to wake Billy up he rolls over and she sees the blood stains spreading across his shirt.  Billy Wayne manages to give Lalla a cryptic message just before he dies.

The author introduces the reader to a number of characters that make this book a great read.   Rather than trust Sheriff Stone and his staff to find the murderer Lalla begins her own investigation into Billy Wayne’s death as well the problems behind her father’s crop dusting business and generally gets herself in a ton of trouble.

If Lalla pulls into your town in her vintage cherry red Cadillac, get ready for a lot of excitement.  This is the second book in the series but it is not necessary to read the books in order.  I look forward to reading more books by R. P. Dahlke.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, October 2012.