Book Review: Two Nights – Page Turning Gem


Two Nights

By Kathy Reichs

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley and the publisher.

Sunday Night just wants to be left alone. Recluse by choice, she prefers Bob the squirrel to most humans she encounters. So when she is asked to find a missing girl who is most likely dead, she is hesitant to say the least. It takes some convincing, but something about Stella, the missing teen seems to be calling her.

Night intuitively believes Stella is still alive. She worries that the kidnappers are going to kill her or do irreparable damage if someone doesn’t find her soon. Unfortunately, that would mean she would have to take the case. Stella’s grandmother is willing to pay her a boatload of cash to find the kidnappers. Grandma isn’t the snuggly type. She is the rich, entitled crusty old woman who wants revenge for her daughter and grandson’s murders that happened when Stella was abducted. It is assumed they are the same people holding the teen.

Against her better judgement, Night takes the case, in part due to a dark time in her past. Once she is on the hunt, she will stop at nothing until she finds the girl. The fact the abductors will pull out all stops to keep Night from stopping them doesn’t sway her from her mission. Working outside of the law she is in a race against time to find the group of people that have Stella and may be planning something much bigger. If they have their way hundreds, possibly thousands of people will die.

Reichs pulls the reader into the story immediately. Done in first person, the reader knows everything that Sunday Night is thinking. Her stream of thoughts gives you the feel of who she is immediately. Not always a likeable person, Night really tries to respond how she should when someone annoys her, not how she wants to. While this novel is not a comedy, I smiled and chuckled more than once over Night’s unfiltered thoughts.

In addition to unforgettable characters, the places they travel to and visit are described so vividly you are right there with the characters. I especially loved it when they were in Chicago. I recognized exactly where Night was because I have been there many times. Reichs paints the landscape with her words, such as “…hatted heads like dots in a Seurat landscape” and “…a barrier of scraggly crepe myrtles doing their best”. The reader immediately has the scene the characters moving through in their minds.

Kathy Reichs is an amazing story teller. It is no surprise that she has been winning awards for her books since the first one she penned in 1997.  Two Nights is a stand-alone novel but I selfishly want to read more books with Sunday Night as the main character. I hope Ms. Night is still whispering in Ms. Reichs’ ear so another novel featuring her will be coming soon.  I read this book in just over 24 hours because I could not put it down.

 

Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Beautiful Mess – Must Read Novel

Beautiful Mess

By John Herrick

Del Corwyn has been in the movie business since the 1950s. When he was 18 years old he was a lowly errand boy. But he was kind and compassionate even then, and caught the attention of one of the biggest stars of the era – Marilyn Monroe.

Marilyn was a troubled woman. Many around her were merely attempting to ride along on her coat tails of success. Del was different; he cared about her as a person. She grew to love him as a trusted friend. He knew her secrets and was not about to share them. Right before her death, she shared a script with him that she had written. She wanted him to keep it safe in case something happened to her. He carefully stored it, and then promptly forgot it existed.

He went on to work steady as an actor. In fact, he eventually became as star. He was nominated for an Oscar for best actor and he was ready to take Hollywood by storm. Scripts rolled in and he was invited to every party. Sadly, he did not win the golden statue. His plummet from the limelight was almost as fast as his ascent. It only took a few bad roles in films that didn’t really go anywhere for new scripts to dry up.

Del still kept up the hope for the next big role that would bring him back to the status he once held. He continued to live in his home that had a spectacular view, went to places to be seen by others in the business and exercised dilegently. It was hard to believe he was a 78 year old man still waiting for the studio to call him.

While spending time at one of his favorite haunts, Del meets Nora Jumelle. She is the newest A-list actress to come along. Her movies can be seen everywhere. The unlikely couple became close, but Del is worried. Nora seems to be on the same path as Marilyn. Will history repeat itself?

But Del has more than Nora to worry about. He has spent most of his fortune and with no work, he may lose everything. That is until he remembers the script Marilyn gave him. Could she be his salvation?

I loved everything about this book. The faded star still holding onto his dreams, the parallel of Marilyn and Nora and the personal growth of the characters, especially Del. To see him changing and choosing what path his life will take was emotional and powerful.

The setting of Hollywood was interesting and well done. It was like looking into the window of fabulous parties and restaurants I could never afford to go to. Herrick liberally sprinkles stars about to give the real feel of Del’s former fame. It was fun to rub elbows with them via the story.

John Herrick is the author of several works of fiction as well as a non-fiction book. This is the first book I’ve read by him, but I don’t think it will be the last. There is nothing better than reading a book of fiction that can take you places you have never been, yet you feel like you are right there with the characters. Herrick does this masterfully.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review. Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

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Book Review – Ten Dead Comedians – The Perfect Locked-Room Mystery


Ten Dead Comedians

By Fred Van Lente

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley and the publisher.

Van Lente has crafted the perfect locked-room mystery.  His stunning debut novel begins with nine comedians receiving invitations to come to an island retreat in the Caribbean. It is the home of renowned comedian Dustin Walker, who is beyond famous. Each guest hopes that Walker can do something to jump start their floundering careers. They were the next best thing at one time, but for most of them it was a flash in the pan. They plummeted from the spotlight as fast as they ascended, but with Walker’s help they all figure they will be back in demand again.

The only problem is, once they arrive on the island via boat with Walker’s assistant Meredith Ladipo, they find themselves stranded. Walker is nowhere to be found, the boat is gone, there is no WIFI and the caretaker is mysteriously absent. Ladipo assures them everything will be fine. They were uneasy, but were willing to wait it out due to the rewards Walker promised them. That was all good and well until the first murder occurred.

This brilliant mystery has the perfect setting for the crazy characters Van Lente created. Where else but a comedian’s island paradise house could hold such a cast? Each character has issues. One of them is an alcoholic; one is trying to be way younger than she really is with the use of cosmetic surgery and yet another did something in his career that will come back to haunt him.

Then there is the killer. Who is it? Since the island appears deserted, it must be one of the guests that came expecting to meet with Walker. Perhaps there is someone hiding on the property. Maybe it is an elaborate joke. How many will have to die before they are either rescued or find out who is behind all of this?

This book is the mystery lover’s dream come true. If you are a fan of stand-up comedians it is nirvana. I loved the plot, the surprises at the end as well as the characters in this book.

Between chapters, Van Lente has inserted stand-up bits from the characters. You can tell immediately which comic is performing before you see their name at the end of the bit because you will come to know each character intimately. Some of the bits are cutting, others bawdy and one is very sad. The author does a perfect job of pulling emotions out of the reader via his true-to-life characters and the perfect plot.

Ten Dead Comedians is a must read for mystery fans. I highly recommend it.

Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The 5 Manners of Death – Which One Will Be Next?

The 5 Manners of Death

By Darden North

There are said to be 5 manners of death. North’s characters explore each of them in his latest novel of the same name. They are as follows:

  1. Natural Death – due to disease or old age
  2. Accidental Death – most often by an accident or mishap, sometimes by overdoses or allergic reactions
  3. Suicide – intentionally taking one’s own life
  4. Homicide – murder
  5. Undetermined – could be any of the above, but the information isn’t clear enough to be definitive

As a surgeon, Dr. Diana Bratton often sees dead bodies. But when they start showing up in her personal life, she begins to get spooked. The victims are not especially close to Diana, but somehow she feels as though they are linked to her. She talks to her friend Key Martin, who happens to be the Chief of Police in their town. Diana helped him solve crimes before when he was a detective and she hopes to get his thoughts about the recent deaths she either witnessed or heard about after she crossed paths with the deceased.

Martin is more than willing to get any extra information from her, and will share a bit of his findings with her. As the story progresses, they find more pieces of the puzzle due to their collaboration. Unfortunately, the clues are leading them closer to people she cares about or cared about at one time.

Diana is determined to get to the bottom of the situation before it comes home to roost. After all, she has a teenage daughter to worry about as well as her Aunt Phoebe, the only two people she loves and cares about. There is a doctor that she fancies, but her involvement with the police does not sit well with him.

While the plot I just described may sound like a cozy mystery, rest assured The 5 Manners of Death is not. This fast paced crime novel alternates between 1965 and present day.  The events that occurred in 1965 come crashing to a halt on the doorstep of a present day murderer who will do anything to remain unidentified.

North expertly crafts the characters and settings to pull the reader into the story and holds you until the last pages bring the novel to a spectacular end. It is no surprise that Darden North is an award winning author. He paints landscapes and parlors with his words, filling every scene with lifelike characters that could be the people next door. Of course you might not want some of them as neighbors.

This is the first book by North that I have read, but I am looking forward to reading his previous books, House Call, Points of Origin, Fresh Frozen and Wiggle Room. I highly recommend The 5 Manners of Death to anyone that enjoys a great mystery with complex characters.

Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

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Book Review: River City Dead – Cozy Mystery in a Cool Setting

River City Dead

By Nancy G. West

Aggie is excited but nervous. Her boyfriend Sam has booked a suite in a hotel right on San Antonio’s River Walk during Fiesta Week. This is the first time they are going to actually spend the weekend together. Aggie cares for Sam and wants to be with him, but this is the first time she’ll actually be spending a night with a man since her ex, whom she refers to as Lester the Louse.

Sam is nothing like Lester. He is a San Antonio police detective. The bad news is Aggie keeps sticking her nose in cases that Sam is working on. The good news is he is allowing her to help out a bit on investigations. Both of them were hoping to avoid any kind of crime during their getaway, but it has a way of finding them.

This time it is really too close to home to ignore. A dead body is found in the suite they were supposed to be staying in this weekend and the victim is someone Aggie knows. Sam wants her to leave so she is out of harm’s way. Aggie is determined to stay and help find the killer.

The problem is Aggie may be getting in too deep. She starts hanging out with some of the girls that are there to perform as a group during Fiesta Week. There are several of these groups staying at the hotel and Aggie is sure someone in or connected to them could be responsible for the dead girl in the suite she should be staying in.

Aggie soon finds herself at odds with Sam. Is her relationship going to end before it goes any further? Will the killer target another one of the girls in the group, or possibly Aggie to keep her from finding out the truth?

River City Dead is a great cozy mystery. It has all of the essential elements. Sam, the hot detective is the perfect love interest for guy shy Aggie. The fact that he lets her help solve crimes, albeit grudgingly, makes them a dynamic duo. I loved the setting. I’ve been to San Antonio’s River Walk, but never during Fiesta Week. The bits of history add a nice element to round out the story.

This is the fourth book in the Aggie Mundeen Mystery Series. It is the first one I’ve read, which worked fine as a standalone mystery. I learned bits and pieces of Aggie and Sam’s history. It was enough to know what was going on, but my curiosity wants a bit more info. That is encouraging me to read the other books in Ms. West’s series to get the scoop.

Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

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Book Review – Isolation – A Captivating Mystery

Isolation

By Mary Anna Evans

Mary Anna Evans’ ninth Faye Longchamp Mystery begins on a somber note. Not only is one of her best friends murdered, but Faye is mourning another loss. Late in her pregnancy, she lost the baby girl she was carrying and will never be able to have another.

Faye is distracted and absent even when in the same house as her family. She has isolated herself from her work, her husband Joe and even her toddler son Michael. As often happens, the loss of her loved one rekindled the desire to learn more about her ancestors. In Faye’s case, she is becoming obsessed with Cally Stanton, the former slave that was her great-great grandmother. Every morning Faye leaves her home to randomly dig holes around Joysuse, the private island that her family has lived on for decades. Cally actually lived in Joe and Faye’s home and Faye is convinced she can find more evidence of her ancestor’s slave days if she just keeps digging, both figuratively and literally.

Faye doesn’t notice much of the world around her until one of her friends ends up dead. Her visiting father-in-law, now out of jail, is looking pretty suspicious. Joe is highly distrustful of the man who left his family years ago, but Faye isn’t really convinced he could have brought harm to the people she cares about.

When Joe realizes Faye may be the next target of the murderer, he has to take action. Both to convince the Sheriff of the threat to his wife and to protect the woman he loves. Joysuse is the perfect place to isolate yourself from the world and your pain, but it can become a trap with a killer on the loose.

This series is as fresh as an island breeze and the plot is as turbulent as stormy seas – the perfect balance for an outstanding mystery. The suspect list is not long, but each of them has reasons that are absolutely believable to have done the crimes. Each time I was convinced I figured it out; the next chapter made me question my deductions. The end was perfect for a mystery lover like me. It was full of breakneck action-filled suspense until the moment the killer was revealed.

Faye Longchamp-Mantooth is one of my favorite fictional characters. She reacts like a real person would given the situations she finds herself in. Joe is her perfect mate; he is patient, loving and willing to give Faye the space she needs even though he is in mourning for his loss too. He is terrified he will lose Faye to the demons inside her or the killer.

Evans is a master at showing the feelings of her characters. More than once I sniffled at the kindness and patience Joe exhibited towards Faye. When he cooked dinner for his wife, after she had not been eating for way too long was one of the sweetest interactions I have ever read.

This is the second Faye Longchamp Mysteries I have read. I found both of them to be smart, engaging and captivating. It was easy to immerse myself in the story and lives of the characters. It is no surprise that Ms. Evans is an award winning author. She has multiple degrees, is a professor and musician. Lucky for me and all mystery buffs, she combines all of her research and knowledge to create fabulous works of fiction for us to enjoy.

Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review

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Book Review: The Spring Cleaning Murders – #8 in Dorothy Cannell’s Cozy Series

The Spring Cleaning Murders

By Dorothy Cannell

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Net Galley and the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Ellie Haskell has discovered a book about cleaning, including recipes for DYI cleaning products  in her attic. It was written by one of her ancestors, and she is so excited about the find she decides to do a thorough spring cleaning. Now she is in a pickle. Ellie’s cleaning lady, Mrs. Malloy, quit because her newborn granddaughter needs a nanny. Mrs. Malloy hasn’t always been the most efficient employee, and now the situation has become awkward because Ellie’s cousin Vanessa married Mrs. Malloy’s son. Being related wasn’t the most comfortable situation, but Ellie really counted on the extra help around the house. The replacement cleaning lady is not exactly what Ellie was hoping for, especially after she turns up dead.

Was the death an accident or was it murder? Ellie has a feeling it was foul play, and she sets out to prove it.  Unfortunately, there are lots of obstacles along the way. First of all her husband has been a bit distracted because some activists have targeted his restaurant. Her gardener/handyman is not feeling well, and she is concerned that his age is finally slowing him down. Her twins are in a half day play school, but afternoons can be a hectic with them home, no help in the house and quite possibly a murderer on the loose.

The Spring Cleaning Murders is a cute cozy mystery.  Ellie and her family have been the stars of this and twelve others in the series. It has all the elements of a perfect cozy. The quirky characters are endearing, the group of cleaning ladies is eclectic and interesting and the list of possible suspects includes almost everyone Ellie encounters.  Will she be able to find out who the killer is before anyone else dies?

I loved the characters in this book. It was fun to try and figure out “who done it” with Ellie and her sidekicks. The bits of cleaning tips at the beginning of each chapter were a throwback to the past and fun to read. The end was cute with an unexpected twist.

There are thirteen books in the Ellie Haskell Mystery Series. this book is #8.

Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

 

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