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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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.

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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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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 Ornery Gene by Warren C. Embree @DownAndOutBooks


Title: The Ornery Gene
Author: Warren C. Embree
Publisher: Down & Out Books
Publication Date: April 27, 2019
Genres: Mystery, Western


Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Amazon
Indiebound // Down & Out Books


The Ornery Gene
Warren C. Embree
Down & Out Books, April 2019
ISBN 978-1-64396-012-8
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

When itinerant ranch hand Buck Ellison took a job with Sarah Watkins at her ranch in the Sandhills of Nebraska, he thought he had found the place where he could park his pickup, leave the past behind, and never move again.

On a rainy July night, a dead body at the south end of Sarah’s ranch forces him to become a reluctant detective, digging into the business of cattle breeding for rodeos and digging up events from his past that are linked to the circumstances surrounding the murder of Sam Danielson.

Working with his boss Sarah, her nephew Travis Martin, and the cook Diane Gibbons, Buck unmasks the murderer, but at the cost of learning the reality of past events that he chooses to keep to himself.

Now this was a refreshing change of pace in more ways than one. I don’t often read western-themed crime fiction, whether historical or contemporary, with the exception of some of the better known books and I found myself enjoying this one even though it’s a bit different.

Speaking of pace, that in itself is different from, say, Reacher or Longmire because those are more action-driven. There’s a good mystery here to be solved but it’s a pretty slow process, not that slow is necessarily a bad thing. I did think a little more oomph would be good but, at the same time, The Ornery Gene did bring to mind my own impression of cowboys as being somewhat laconic. That’s most likely an inaccurate assessment of cowboys considering how working on cattle ranches is not exactly living the life of Riley 😉

Another thing I appreciated was learning more than I already knew about breeding cattle and raising them for the rodeo. For those of us, like me, who live in a world pretty far removed from such things, the western way of life can be downright inviting.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2019.

An Excerpt from The Ornery Gene


Wednesday, 9:15 p.m.

Sam Danielson slowed his pickup to a stop beside an old cattle chute, switched off the engine, rolled the window all the way down, and listened. He absentmindedly counted the cricket chirps for ten seconds, added forty to the number of chirps and calculated it to be about sixty-five degrees or so outside. A trick his dad had taught him. It was a little chilly for July in this part of the hills, but he had heard the low rumbling of thunder on the drive out. It smelled like rain; there was a storm moving from the northeast that was cooling things down. There could even be some ice in it. He checked his watch: nine-fifteen. Just past twilight. He opened the pickup door and took a deep breath. He reached over, grabbed the flashlight from the glove box, and slid out of the driver’s seat onto the soft sand.

Off in the distance, he heard a mama cow lowing. This was the life he had chosen, and he had never looked back. It hadn’t been easy working for, and then with, his dad. They had gone back and forth on the best way to select the bulls and broncos they supplied for “rough stock” events at the rodeos in the Sandhills of western Nebraska. There was only one way for Dad. “You don’t have the feel for how much the bull don’t want rode,” his dad would say. But Sam had gone to school and studied twentieth-century methods of livestock rearing. For his dad it was a way of life; for Sam it was a business. Sam liked the numbers. He liked to narrow the odds by more than just a feeling. He had tried to show his dad the value in breeding techniques and genetic tracking in estimating the probability that a particular bull would do well in the arena. His dad would just laugh it off. “Show me the ornery gene,” his dad would laugh. “I’ll have five bulls picked before you decide on one.” But Sam knew his would be a better one than the five. He could prove the temperament of a bull before anyone tried to ride it. He had never convinced his dad. The ornery gene had been elusive, but not the genetic makeup of the ornery bulls. He had been right, and he had a genetically identifiable line of stock to prove it.

During his travels from his ranch outside of Laramie, Wyoming, Sam had been made aware of a genetic curiosity in one of the cattle he purchased in Colorado in the spring. Being off in the records would end up being off in the genetic makeup of the calves. There never was just one gene that made the difference. It was a matter of multiple generations. He had traced the lines that looked the most promising, and closely followed the leaders in the industry. Discovering that curiosity had led him into this part of the Sandhills of Nebraska. Talking about it at the bar had got him into an argument with the old cowboy, and listening to the old man had brought him to this particular spot.

“You’ll find what you’re looking for out there,” the old cowboy had said. “Then you’ll know I was telling you the truth.” Danielson switched the flashlight on and scanned the area around the cattle chute. He had let himself be convinced that the old man knew a thing or two about cattle breeding. What had surprised Danielson most was that the old man had known about the science behind modern breeding at all. The old cowboy looked more like he’d been “rode hard and put up wet” as his dad would have said: a man who had spent a hard life out in the sun and the rain and the snow. Danielson expected someone like that to know less about biogenetics and more about old school solutions. Like his dad.

The excitement the old cowboy had shown assured Danielson it would be worth his time to find out if he was headed in the right direction. But as he looked around the area, all he saw was a dump site for old batteries, tires, cook stoves, windmill parts, cans, bed springs, and used up corral panels. He saw nothing that would explain the old cowboy’s intensity. Now he was more curious to find out how the old cowboy would explain the genetic anomaly that he was so passionate about. It was one of those things his dad would say shouldn’t make a whole lot of difference in his deciding on a bull. It probably wasn’t all that important to breeders either. But he was curious, and keeping careful records was important to the integrity of breeding livestock.

It was a necessary component in the breeding business and his business. He was hoping he could find some answers out here as he tried to piece together the puzzle. He was determined to take some time to track it down to the source and maybe be able to verify when and where the mistake was made.

He had tried to be low-key when he was asking questions, but the speed at which the old cowboy had raised his hackles this afternoon showed Danielson just how hard that was going to be. He had touched the wrong nerve on the first try. He wasn’t sure whether he had asked the wrong question or his question had been taken the wrong way. It took a couple of beers and a good bit of time getting the old man calmed down. When it finally got friendly again, the old cowboy had told him about the spot out here in the hills. He gave directions and said he’d meet him out there around nine that evening.

As he waited for the old cowboy to show up, Danielson kicked at a broken pitman, picked it up, and used it to move around some cans at the edge of the dump site. He wasn’t terribly interested in getting bitten by a rattlesnake or a rat. It was a half-hearted effort. He sniffed the air again and caught the scent of pine and cedar trees this time. The hills hadn’t changed much from when he was a kid except the cedar trees. They were becoming a weed out in the hills. He shoved a wooden box with the pitman, then threw the stick of wood back into the pile. It was altogether possible that the old cowboy had sent him out on a snipe hunt. It just as well be. There was nothing he’d seen so far that was tied to the cattle breeding. If it were here, it wasn’t something obvious. What galled him was that he could be looking right at it and still not see it. For that matter, there could be nothing to it.

A loud clap of thunder caused Danielson to look up at the sky. In the southwest the clouds were fast turning to an ugly black. He saw the lightning streak across the sky and started counting. He reached fifty-two and he heard the thunder again. The storm was only about ten miles away. He didn’t want to get caught in the storm, and he hadn’t found anything yet. It wouldn’t be the first time he had gone on a wild goose chase.

He walked over to the rear of the pickup, pulled out a can of chewing tobacco from his back pocket, and stuffed a pinch in the back of his cheek. He put the can back in his pocket and picked up an old spur that was in the pickup box. He turned it over in his hand as he walked over to the chute—just an old spur. The old cowboy had given it to him, along with some old rodeo flyers, claiming he’d known Danielson’s dad and had got it from him. His dad had never been a bull rider, so the spur didn’t belong to him. He didn’t know whether someone had given it to his dad or his dad had simply found it tearing down after one of the rodeos they had supplied the bulls and broncs for. It reminded him that he needed to go through his dad’s things, a clutter of boxes, something he’d put off for ten years after his dad died. He tossed the spur toward the pickup box but hit the fender instead, bouncing the spur at an odd angle forward of the pickup. He walked over toward the cattle chute and battery and pointed his flashlight in the direction the spur had bounced.

Danielson caught the flash of lightning in the corner of his eye, heard a pop from behind him, then felt a sledgehammer hit him in the middle of the back. The strength drained out of his legs. He felt a sharp pain spring out from where the hammer had hit that seemed to rush through his torso. His legs gave out and he hit the ground, knees first, and then fell on his face. The pain was now a hot, burning sensation from the place where the hammer had hit and his back felt wet. He thought he had been struck with lightning, cursing himself for miscalculating the distance of the storm. He tried to use his arms to push himself up, but he couldn’t gather the strength. He dropped back down. He could feel that his back was soaked, but it hadn’t started raining yet.

From off to his right, he heard something moving cans around. It wasn’t the wind. It was deliberate. No animal would do that either. A few moments later, he felt someone kick his side. He grunted involuntarily, and then tried to roll over. His legs were a dead weight. He twisted his face away from the pickup, but couldn’t see anything. “He shot me,” he whispered. He tried to raise himself with his arms, but was light-headed now. I can’t believe he shot me. A few moments later rain poured from the clouds, diluting the blood from his back and mingling it with the sand.


About the Author

WARREN EMBREE and his wife grew up in the Sandhills of Nebraska. He did both farm work and ranch work during those years, and he still keeps track of what goes on in the hills. After leaving the area, he pursued an academic career in English, Classical Languages, and Divinity. He lectured at a couple of institutions and preached at a few churches, and he now works in Lincoln as a data analyst for the University of Nebraska. His knowledge and love of the unique culture of the Sandhills, his education in languages and literature, and his analytical skills contribute to his story telling. He and his wife currently live in Nebraska and have 3 grown children.

Catch Up With Warren Embree On:, Goodreads, & Facebook!


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This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime
Virtual Book Tours for Warren C. Embree. There will be two (2)
giveaway winners.  Each winner will receive one (1)
Gift Card. The giveaway begins on August 1, 2019 and runs
through September 2, 2019. Void where prohibited.

Enter here.


Book Review: Wishing Caswell Dead by Pat Stoltey

Wishing Caswell Dead
Pat Stoltey
FiveStar/Cengage, December 2017
ISBN 978-1-4328-3440-1

The story, set in the early 1800s, opens with the discovery of Caswell Proud’s body propped against a tree in the Illinois wilderness woods. Obviously murdered, his throat has been cut. Who has done it? Authorities, though lacking on the frontier, aren’t overly concerned because Caswell richly deserved to die. The suspects? Everyone in the small village of Sangamon, but especially his fourteen-year-old half-sister, Jo Mae. She is pregnant, Caswell having sold her body to nearly everyone in town from the time she was big enough to be used. Sadly, the young man’s mother had indulged his every whim and failed to protect her daughter.

But support for Jo Mae comes from unexpected sources. Has one of them carried the protective spirit all the way to murder? And how did anyone catch the wily Caswell off guard enough to get the drop on him, a man whom even a lightning strike couldn’t kill? Just know that with the universally hated Caswell dead, most everyone gives a sigh of relief, hoping now their worst secrets are safely hidden away. But are they?

The novel is filled with flawed characters, only a couple who have generosity of spirit and deserve sympathy. Caswell may not even be the worst of the lot. Readers will have to decide for themselves in this rock-solid, riveting tale.

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

Book Review: The Ballad of Black Bart by Loren D. Estleman

The Ballad of Black Bart
Loren D. Estleman
Forge, November 2017
ISBN: 978-0-7653-8353-2

From the publisher:  Between July 1875 and November 1883, a single outlaw robbed the stagecoaches of Wells Fargo in California’s Mother Lode country a record twenty-eight times.  Armed with an unloaded shotgun, walking to and from the scenes of the robberies for hundreds of miles, and leaving poems behind, the infamous Black Bart was fiercely hunted by James B. Hume, Wells Fargo’s legendary chief of detectives.  Between robberies, Black Bart was known as Charles E. Bolton, a distinguished, middle-aged man who enjoyed San Francisco’s entertainments in the company of socialites drawn to his quiet, temperate good nature and upper-class tastes.

One of the most entertaining of the many entertaining aspects of this novel is that, true to Black Bart’s talents and propensities [he signs himself “Po8,” after all], the author begins each chapter [26 in all], as well as the Afterword, with a four-line verse, wonderful creations all, as is the book itself.  I will quote only the first and last two of these.  Beginning the book, on the first page of Chapter One:  “This is the story of bandit Black Bart; who used the gold country to practice his art.  His brush was a shotgun, his canvas the road, as he painted his way ‘cross the Old Mother Lode.”  And he ends the book with another:  “So here I’ve stood while wind and rain have set the trees asobbin’; and risked my life for that damn stage that wasn’t worth the robbin.”  And before the Afterword:  “My tale it is finished, and my race it is run; but there’s one more confession I owe everyone.  I speak not of inventions, though admit to this crime; I own to the evils I’ve committed in rhyme.”  Everything in between is equally wonderful.

As the book begins, Charles Bolton is described thusly:  “Everything about this man was reserved … A man who drank rarely, smoked not at all, and spent his words as if they assayed out at sixteen dollars to the ounce, was regarded as some kind of sage.”   The man loved gambling, on horse races or prizefights.  That first chapter ends with a rhyme as well:  “Come listen to my story, I’ll not detain you long. A singing and a humming this simple silly song.  ‘Tis of the old ex-convicts, the men who served their time for robbing mountain stages of the old Wells, Fargo line.”

Charles E. Bolton was a mining magnate who knew him only in that capacity.  But one who clung to a shotgun, “a comforting weight in his hands,” when he sets out to rob the stagecoaches of that firm, referred to as “the Company,” of whom we are told “the frugality of Henry Wells and William Fargo was nearly as infamous as their business practices.” His object was only the ironbound strongbox held at the driver’s feet, never harming any passengers in the process.

Sheriff Benjamin Thorn, who’d held that position for 15 years, and Chief of Detectives James Hume are charged with hunting down the robber, and they prove to be worthy opponents of Black Bart.

Another excellent book from this author, and highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, November 2017.

Book Reviews: The Highwayman by Craig Johnson and Fallout by Sara Paretsky

The Highwayman
A Longmire Story
Craig Johnson
Penguin  Books, May 2017
ISBN: 978-0-7352-2090-4
Trade Paperback

The author prefaces this Longmire novel by stating he always wanted to write a ghost story.  And now he has, thrusting Walt Longmire and his friend, Henry Standing Bear, into the middle of an enigma.  At the request of the head of the Highway Patrol, Walt and the Bear seek to determine what is happening to Rosie Wayman, who patrols a stretch of highway in the Wind River Canyon, an area where radio communication is almost nonexistent.

On the other hand, Rosie begins receiving calls from Bobby Womack saying “officer needs assistance.”  The problem is that Womack, a respected highwayman who patrolled the same route, died 35 years previously.  Walt and the Bear have to determine whether Rosie really is hearing the signal, or is in need of psychiatric evaluation.  What follows during the investigation is a series of events which might be ethereal, or explained by logic in the real world.  It is up to the two men (along with the reader) to determine which.

It is a clever plot and, while it is a deviation from the 11 prior entries in the series, The Highwayman is a welcome addition to the earlier books, and it is recommended.

The 13th novel in the series, The Western Star, will be published by Penguin on September 5th!

Reviewed by Ted Feit, May 2017.


A V.I. Warshawski Novel
Sara Paretsky
William Morrow, April 2017
ISBN: 978-0-0662-584-2

It all begins in Chicago, and ends up in Kansas, but VI Warhawski needs more than ruby read slippers to return home.  Apparently, a black retired movie star decided on a moment’s notice to leave the Windy City, ostensibly to visit the town where she grew up, dragging a young man man along to film her reminiscences with stops along the way to Lawrence, KS.  When the two seem to disappear, VI is retained by the woman’s concerned neighbors to find them.  The young man also is a person of interest in a drug theft at his place of employment, and Vicky becomes more wary when she discovers his apartment ransacked.

So off goes VI on the long drive to Kansas, tracing the woman’s journey and attempting to pick up a trace of the pair.  She visits Fort Riley, where she learns they stopped, but little else.  So Vicky continues on to Lawrence, where she encounters all kinds of obstructions, and becomes involved in all kinds of side issues, other than her original purpose to locate the actress and her photographer.

The reader has to plow through a rather dry start to the novel, about one-third the length of the book, before the plot begins to develop.  Then it turns into a complicated story that probably could have served as the basis for one or more novels.    All in all, Fallout is an interesting work and can be recommended despite these reservations because the author and the series are so deservedly popular.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, June 2017.

Book Review: Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen

Wake of VulturesWake of Vultures
The Shadow: Book One
Lila Bowen
Orbit, October 2015
ISBN 978-0-316-26431-0

This was both a joyful and inspiring read.  With a fabulously frantic fast pace, the action-packed adventure to find and conquer the Cannibal Owl sucked me in and carried me along.  The variety of monsters that are encountered all along the way totally tickled my adoration of fantasy, while the main character, Nettie Lonesome, grounded me and filled me with hope and pride.

Nettie’s spunk, whole-hearted courage and unconditional admiration and adoration of all animals are delightfully demonstrated by her actions and blunt dialogue.  Her rough edges are only a thin disguise for her compassion and empathy, making her into the quintessential heroine, in my eyes.

“What if it was a good monster having a bad day?”

Already a huge fan of Delilah Dawson (aka Lila Bowen), I was nevertheless blown away by her clever capability of tackling serious social issues with subtle undertones in this captivating, compelling story.  I think Chuck Wendig summed it up best when he said, “WAKE OF VULTURES doesn’t just fly—it soars.”

“I ain’t white, and that’s all that seems to matter to folks.”

“Suicide was a pleasure she couldn’t afford.”

If you are looking for something completely different yet comfortable and familiar, this is the author for you.  Enjoy.

Reviewed by jv poore, March 2016.

Book Reviews: Three Seconds to Thunder by C.K. Crigger and Eggs in a Casket by Laura Childs

Three Seconds to ThunderThree Seconds to Thunder
C.K. Crigger
Oak Tree Press, June 2012
ISBN 978-1-61009-106-0
Trade Paperback

It’s a Victorian mystery with a twist; instead of being set in a city, the action takes place on  the northwestern inland frontier around Spokane, Washington.

China Bohannan, office manager to the private detective firm of Doyle and Howe, can handle a gun better than her typewriter, and would rather be out in the field than writing reports. When her Uncle Monk fails to report in while investigating the disappearance of a homesteader, China sets out with her terrier Nimble to search for him. The rough lumber towns  and homesteads are no place for a woman on her own, but China is not afraid to mix it up with the bad buys to rescue her uncle. Big lumber interests are buying up homesteads in the area, and if the homesteaders don’t want to sell, they are coerced or disappear.

China is also attracted to her boss, Gratton Doyle, who only seems interested in her ability to master the new typewriter. Readers who enjoy the historical mysteries of Miriam Grace Monfredo and Laurie King may enjoy the independent, spirited China, who puts fear into her opponents when she wields her hat pin.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, February 2014.


Eggs in a CasketEggs in a Casket
A Cackleberry Club Mystery
Laura Childs
Berkley Prime Crime, January 2014
ISBN 978-0-425-25558-2

Set in the small town of Kindred, Suzanne Dietz owns the Cackleberry Café with her friends Toni and Petra. The Cackleberry Café becomes the place to be, come mornings for town folk to socialize, gossip and gobble down home style breakfasts of Canadian bacon, cornbread and cranberry muffins. Suzanne is the sensible, stable voice of reason in their establishment. Toni, a bit more wild and adventurous and Petra, the main cook, is settled and wise in the ways of the world. Not to mention a terrific cook, able to sling an egg and bacon to warm the heart of the community, including the lovable, overweight sheriff, Doogie, and Suzanne’s sweetheart, Dr. Hazelet. Ms. Childs includes many of Petra’s recipes at the end of the book.

When a man is found murdered in the local graveyard, and Suzanne’s friend Missy, is accused, Suzanne and her friends take it upon themselves to find the killer.

What ensues is a delightful cozy mystery where Suzanne and Toni cavort through the county, questioning the local lawyer, mayor, the town recluse, the murdered man’s ex-wife, and just about everyone else in town, trying to  save Missy from taking the fall.

Adverse spring weather dampens the already dampened spirits as almost every clue seems to point back to Missy, or could someone be framing her with planted evidence? Then another townsperson connected to the investigation is attacked, and again, Missy is blamed. Despite Suzanne’s advice, Missy begins to make poor choices that suggest her complicity in the matter.

In the dramatic conclusion, hurricane winds and sluicing rain becomes the setting for Suzanne as she rides her horse through the woods in a desperate attempt to save her sweetheart. What she encounters at the end of her journey and the subsequent encounter with the unexpected killer brings the story to its exciting ending.

Eggs in A Casket is an easy read with a charming small town setting and delightful characters, just the kind of cozy mystery that bring readers back again and again to Ms. Childs’ books.

Reviewed by Elaine Faber, February 2014.