Category Archives: Mystery

Book Review: Adrenaline – Medical Thriller Keeps You Guessing to the Last Page


John Benedict

Hospitals are institutions of healing. Not all patients can be saved, but the vast majority of patients are healed. In our current society, minor operations are considered routine.  Modern medicine trains doctors, nurses and techs with techniques and surgeries that were unheard of only a few years ago, and new strides are being made every day. This is true at most hospitals, including the setting of Adrenaline, Mercy Hospital.

Things are changing at Mercy Hospital. A merger is eminent and there may be cutbacks resulting in lost jobs for many areas, including anesthesiology. Depending upon the way the merge goes, the affect could be devastating to their department Dr. Doug Landry, one of the best in the department, feels a prickle of fear in the back of his mind whenever it is discussed.

Then patients begin dying in the O.R. during routine procedures. Seemingly healthy patients going in for minor surgeries are reacting badly to the anesthesia. The doctors are following all procedures, monitoring the patients carefully and pulling out all the stops when things go south, but nothing seems to be working.

Behind the scenes, these doctors, like many other humans have secrets. One is a sexual predator. He preys upon young interns and nurses abusing those who don’t have the power to fight him.

Another is not happy at home. Things have become routine, so when he gets encouragement from a co-worker, he might break more than one vow he has made.

Drugs have tempted another one. Will he risk his career and possibly his life to feed that monster?

Landry is at the center of all of this commotion. He isn’t perfect, but quickly figures out something is going on and it is a deadly game. As he works feverously trying to catch the person sabotaging the anesthesia department, which has resulted in the death of more than one patient, he finds himself in mortal danger. His race against time has become a race against life and death.

Adrenaline is Dr. John Benedict’s first novel. Appropriately named, it ramps up from a mysterious happening in the O.R. to a heart pounding conclusion.

I really liked the fast paced style of this novel. The sheer number of suspects kept me guessing until the final chapters. Benedict, who is a practicing anesthesiologist, brings all of his expertise to the pages to draw the readers into the O.R. I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series, The Edge of Death.


Copyright © 2016 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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review, Mystery

Wandering Weekends: Mystery Picture Putting Me Off

I was going to do today’s post on the Mannheim Steamroller concert last night, but I’ll save that for tomorrow.

The concert was ok, the venue is awesome. But as we were waiting to file out after the sold-out show, one of our group glanced down at floor of the row behind us and this is what they saw. They cracked up and had to share it with the rest of us.


Yup, there is a program from the performance, a an empty glass with a crumpled up napkin inside and a pair of men’s socks. Oh yeah,  a pair of socks!?! Did the guy behind us get hot during the performance? Did he have a spare pair in his pocket and drop them? Was he using them for mittens if he got cold? Were they in his wife’s purse in case of emergency and she accidentally dropped them when getting out a contraband box of Junior Mints???

So many questions and no answers. But we had a lot of fun imagining what happened. And why someone would bring AND drop a pair of socks at an indoor concert in a classic theater.

Do you have any ideas? Be sure to share your thoughts 🙂


Filed under Mystery, NaBloPoMo, socks, Wandering Weekends

Book Review: The Puffin of Death a Gunn Zoo Mystery

The-Puffin-of-Death-Catalog-180x276The Puffin of Death

Betty Webb

Theodora (Teddy) Bentley is off on an unwanted adventure. Her demanding boss at Gunn Zoo ordered her to fly to Iceland to pick up some animals that the Reykjavik Zoo is sending to live in California. Teddy is less than excited about the trip, but at least she has the Zoo credit card to pay for everything.

Iceland is an entirely different world than California – volcanos, ice flows, glaciers and a population that all seem to be related. Teddy is determined to make the best of her time there, viewing puffins in their native habitat as well as bonding with the orphaned baby polar bear she is bringing home to live at Gunn Zoo.

Teddy is staying with Bryndis, the zoo keeper that will help transition Magnus (the baby bear) as well as a pair of puffins and a pair of Icelandic foxes that will round out the new Northern Climes exhibit at Gunn Zoo. Bryndis is also a member of a band, giving Teddy an opportunity to experience night life in Iceland after the zoo is closed in the evenings.

While out enjoying the diverse island, Teddy accidentally stumbles upon a dead body. The puffin pecking at the corpse surely isn’t the murderer, but who would want to murder an American tourist?

Simon Parr, the corpse in question, is a member of a bird-watching group with millions of reasons people may want him dead. First of all, he is the all-time biggest lottery winner in history. He seems to have a snarky personality and most likely a lover or two that his wife may or may not know about.

Murders are rare in Iceland. But soon another bird-watcher from the group dies. Teddy doesn’t think it was an accident and finds herself in more hot water than she has bargained for. Even though she knows her fiancé Joe is too far away to help her and the local police have told her to keep her nose out of the murder investigations, she can’t help poking around, asking questions and irritating the remaining birders. Will she become the third victim?

I loved this book and Betty Webb’s writing style. It is a cozy mystery with lovable characters both human and animal. Teddy is flawed, makes bad choices when murderers are afoot and is easy to like. Her escapades are crazy, yet believable and that is what I find so endearing about her character.

Webb brings the flavor and people of Iceland to life for the reader without lecturing. She obviously did copious research to get the names, customs and environment correct. I also love the way she gives the reader an inside look at the animals and behind the scene info about zoos.

This is the fourth in her Gunn Zoo series. It was refreshing to have Teddy go to an exotic place to introduce new characters and keep the series fresh rather than have another murder within close proximity to her home. The Puffin of Death can easily be read as a stand-alone novel. There are a few references to the other books, but nothing that will be a spoiler if you read this one first – because I know you will want to read the rest of them as soon as you are finished.

Copyright © 2015 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.


Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review, books, cozy mystery, Iceland, Mystery, NaBloNoMo

Book Review: Wabanaki Blues by Melissa Tantaquidgeon Zobel – Magnificent YA Mystery

Wabanaki Blues

Melissa Tantaquidgeon Zobel

327 pages

Wabanaki BluesMona Lisa LaPierre is a complex teen. She is the daughter of a Native American mother, who has turned her back on tradition and her family. Mona’s father is older than her mother, is ignorant or oblivious to Mona’s needs, other than basic food and shelter.

The teen retreats into her music. She is a talented guitarist and blues singer, writing her own music, drawing from her own experiences. These experiences include hearing her dead grandmother’s voice advising her and seeing  a girl that was murdered years ago in her high school.

Mona is shipped up to New Hampshire to stay in a cabin with her grandfather, appropriately named Grumps while her parents go to an archaeological dig in Russia. Not only does she miss her high school graduation, but Grumps lives off the grid. No cell phone, no electricity, no Beetle (a guy she would love to spend more time with) and no one to talk to except Grumps. This is not how Mona planned to spend the summer after her high school graduation.

Things begin to look up for her when she meets Del, a guy her age. He plays in a band and asks her to jam with them, and surprisingly Grumps encourages them to hang out together.  When she discovers he is the son of the dead girl that has been urging her to bring her killer to justice, Mona becomes obsessed with the case. And she might just be falling for Del.

Danger lurks in the woods and in unlikely places that would normally be considered safe. Mona has angered people by uncovering long buried secrets. The deeper she digs the more help she needs from Grumps and her extended Native American family.

Zobel created one of the most memorable characters I’ve read about in a long time. Mona develops from a snarky teen to a mature young woman over the course of this novel – but she still has rough edges. She learns about herself while digging into her family’s history and culture.

This Young Adult Mystery was so much more than a “whodunit”. The mystery of the murder developed along with the characters, making Zobel’s novel fast paced and interesting. I loved the rich history and tradition that I learned along with Mona.  This is the first book in a trilogy, and I can’t wait to read the next two books.

Copyright © 2015 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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Blues, Book Review, Mystery, Native American, YA

Book Review: Butterfly Kills by Brenda Chapman

Butterfly Kills

Brenda Chapman

371 pages

butterfly kills

When a college student is brutally murdered, her co-workers in the office of the campus confidential helpline are scrutinized as possible suspects. Each of them has issues, but all claim they are not guilty. One of them is a troublemaker, one is possibly her married lover and one is an ex-boyfriend. There is always the possibility that one of the callers may have a secret worth killing for to keep it from seeing the light of day.

Simultaneously, police investigator Jacques Rouleau learns of another crime scene. A young mother has been raped by her estranged husband. It is a coincidence or extremely bad luck that two major crimes are committed in Kingston, especially because they are unrelated. Or are they?

Soon the investigations heat up as another body turns up and an assault puts everyone on edge. Enter Kala Stonechild – Rouleau’s former partner. Rouleau convinces a reluctant Stonechild to stay in town long enough to help him investigate the attacks because his plate is overflowing with investigating these crimes and worry about his ailing father.

There is chemistry between Rouleau and Stonechild that could easily ignite if they fan the spark. They are reluctant to risk the work relationship on what could be, but both seem interested. Enter Rouleau’s ex-wife. The woman that turned his world upside down by having an affair, is now jealously and possessively trying to step back into the role she gave up so easily for another man.

This plot is intricate and involved. Chapman does a great job of blending story lines, adding twists and turns without losing sight of the characters and their roles. As a reader, I like having a bevy of bad guys and not so bad guys to pin the murder on. Chapman provides a wide variety to choose from.

This is a solid mystery with interesting characters that I liked, loved or downright hated. The inspectors, Rouleau and Stonechild, have depth and back stories that are sufficiently told in this second novel featuring them that allowed me to feel like I knew them.

Butterfly Kills was not a fast read for me. But I am not sure it is meant to be. I had to slow down and pay attention to the clues and characters to really enjoy the rhythm of the story.  I’m glad I did.

Copyright © 2015 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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review, books, Mystery

Book Review: The Great Trouble – A Great Read for All Ages

The Great TroubleThe Great Trouble: A Mystery of London, the Blue Death & a Boy Called Eel

Deborah Hopkinson

234 pages

London 1854 is not a kind city for an orphan. Eel lives in a world where children live day to day in the filthy streets, sleeping under bridges, and begging, working, stealing for food. Eel has a steady job as an errand runner and a second job taking care of animals for Dr. John Snow a prominent London physician. Eel has it a bit better than other twelve-year-olds, but unfortunately he loses the errand job due to a thief and liar who has a grudge against him and the job with Dr. Snow does not pay him as much as he needs to make live.

Back on the streets, with a bad man from his past looking for him would seem like the worst thing that could happen. But Eel has a secret. This secret is costing him money each week that he does not have due to the boy that caused him to lose his job. His desperate attempt to make money forces him to make decisions that would terrify grown men, let alone a young boy.

With all of this going on, Eel goes to see a friend of his only to find the father of the family dying from “the blue death” which was cholera. The common theory is that this disease is spread by poisonous air, but Dr. Snow has a different theory. When he enlists Eel to help him investigate and support his theory.

Working against the clock amid the death knocking at almost every door in the neighborhood, Eel faces friends and foes to help the Doctor. This just might be the best thing that has ever happened to him.

This book was written for children 10 years and up. I am way past 10 and was thoroughly engrossed in this story. There was history, mystery, science, intrigue and relationships to wonder and worry about. The story is based on real people and the actual cholera epidemic in London.

I loved the way Hopkinson wrapped the true events in a great story that adds depth to the story to keep the reader’s interest high. As a bonus, at the end of the novel, she has biographical information on each of the characters that were based upon real people, including pictures of them. She also tells the reader about the books available for more information on the Broad Street cholera epidemic and the efforts of Dr. John Snow to stop the Blue Death from spreading.

I would recommend this book to adults and children that are interested in history and mysteries. It would be a great read-along for a classroom or with your child if it seems too long for him or her to read alone. The story will keep their interest.

If you don’t have any children to share this great book with, read it yourself. You won’t be disappointed.


Copyright © 2015 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


Filed under Book Review, books, children's books, history, Mystery, Science

Book Review: Sherlock Holmes The Missing Years: Japan


Sherlock Holmes The Missing Years: Japan

Vasudev Murthy

270 pages

Sherlock Holmes died at the hand of his arch nemesis Professor Moriarty. Much like Elvis, he is spotted in odd spots around the world afterwards, but his loyal friend and confidant Dr. John Watson has reconciled himself to the death of his dear friend and retired to the country with his wife. He has his papers and his memories as well as Holmes’ treasured Stradivarius, a thoughtful gift from Holmes’ brother Mycroft.

After two years he is comfortable with his life but a mysterious letter arrives beckoning him to Japan. It appears to be written by Holmes’ hand, in the brief style Holmes preferred. The entire message is as follows: “Watson, I need you. My violin, please. S. H.” . The envelop it arrived in also contains a first-class ticket aboard a merchant ship bound for Yokohama.

So begins Watson’s journey. Aboard the ship he encounters a deceptive bunch of characters. When his fellow passengers began dying, Watson jumps knee deep into the investigation, which unfortunately puts him on the murder’s radar.

After eluding total disaster, the very much alive Holmes and Watson begin a globetrotting race against time to get critical information to the Emperor of Japan to avoid disastrous events that may result in war. To compound the problem, Holmes can’t trust anyone because high ranking officials are colluding with Moriarty. The business of international drug smuggling is worth killing over, and the thugs involved are more than willing to execute anyone that gets in their way.

I love Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s books. Written from 1887 – 1927, are a hard act to follow. Murthy did an admirable job. The first half of the book was fabulous. It took me back to all of the original stories by Conan Doyle that I have read. The fast paced, smartly written, intriguing plotline had me turning pages to see what happened next.

Then the plot seemed to deviate a bit by adding long letters from others around Holmes during the missing years. Watson received them to fill in information he did not have first-hand knowledge of. These tended to be long-winded and dragged the forward motion of the book to a crawl. The footnotes about the editor (Murthy’s notes) were just a distraction.

The pace picked up a bit during the final chase and conclusion, but by then I was not as drawn to the plot as I was in the beginning.

If you are a Holmes fan, by all means read this book. It is well written with a solid storyline. The characters are interesting and are not at all who they seem to be, much to my delight. Thinking back over the cleverly subtle clues, all of the information needed to know “who done it” was there. But the number of red herrings rivaled those written by Conan Doyle – I’m sure he would have approved.

Copyright © 2015 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.

1 Comment

Filed under Book Review, books, Japan, Mystery, Sherlock Holmes

Book Review: Shadow of Seth – Strong Characters and Plot – A Must Read!

The Shadow of Seth coverThe Shadow of Seth

By Tom Llewellyn

174 pages

It is apparent from the first few pages that sixteen-year-old Seth Anomundy has been alone for years, despite the fact that he lives with his mother. She is a hard worker, but a free spirit. Often that freedom means making poor choices and either forgetting about Seth, or dragging him along on some adventure that isn’t necessarily one a kid needed to take.

Now that he is in high school, she works nights cleaning businesses, so he comes home to an empty apartment over a boxing gym in a less than desirable neighborhood. Seth is surprisingly ambitious and centered, willing to pick up jobs here and there to make a few dollars. He goes to high school, making decent grades and most of the time keeps out of trouble.

Then his world spirals out of control. When picking up a clock for repair from one of the wealthiest families in town, Azura Lear answers the door. She is rich, beautiful and wants to spend more time with him. Seth brushes her off, takes the clock back to Nadel, an old-fashion clock repair man to be fixed.

Azura won’t leave him alone. At school she flirts with him and shows up in the most unlikely places to see him. This infuriates her previous boyfriend, who now is out to teach Seth a lesson about dating rich girls that “belong” to someone else.

Then the tenuous thread of stability Seth has snaps. His mother is found dead and the police are not really concerned about another junkie biting the dust. All evidence points towards murder, but they have other cases to solve and figure she put herself in a bad situation one too many times, therefore not much effort was involved in the hunt for her killer.

The only suspect they have is the owner of a diner that his mother used to clean who has turned up missing. Therefore, the case is not being worked until they find Miss Irene. Seth is sure Miss Irene is not guilty, so he begins searching for her, on the assumption that she must know something about the real killer.

Seth’s troubles explode. One of the neighborhood bullies is out to kill him and he doesn’t know why. He is falling hard for a girl that wants to be with him, but her ex-boyfriend and father will do anything to keep them apart. And worst of all he has to figure out how to make enough money to stay in the apartment so he is not homeless.

So this sixteen-year-old’s life becomes a game of cat and mouse while he works in the boxing gym as a sparring partner, runs errands for the clock maker, works in the kitchen at Miss Irene’s diner and becomes the barista for Choo-Choo, the owner of the gym. All this is happening as he continues to search for his mother’s killer.

This fast paced novel turned and twisted through the rough areas of Tacoma, Washington faster than a freight train. Llewellyn takes the reader along for this gritty ride with interesting characters doing sometimes appalling and/or comical things.

Each character is constructed as a whole person, the backstories interesting as well as the mixture of jobs and interests of each. I was especially amused by the barista info. Seth is taught how to make a perfect cup of coffee, so the reader also learns. The little things are important when making an exquisite cup of brew and none of them are lost on Seth. The unlikelihood of the perfect coffee in a boxing gym – good enough for Choo-Choo to come back in the middle of the night to see if there is a cup left – puts such a realistic feel to this book I felt like I could go to Tacoma, find the gym and enjoy a cup with him.

This is a YA novel, but like so many these days, is well worth reading if you are 16 or 61. It is a great whodunit and so much more.

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 © 2015 Laura Hartman

1 Comment

Filed under Book Review, books, Coffee, Mystery, YA

Book Review: Night Country Nocturne – as many twists and turns as Lombard Street!

High Country Nocturne

High Country Nocturne

By Jon Talton

317 pages

David Mapstone is comfortable with his life.  He loves his wife, lives in a quiet old Phoenix neighborhood in Midtown and has a Private Investigating business with his friend Mike Peralta, the former Sheriff of Maricopa County. The problem is Peralta is missing as well as the diamonds he was hired to guard.

As with most cases, things are not always what they seem. Good guys are bad and bad guys are good. Mapstone needs to find where Peralta falls on that scale. Both eye witnesses and surveillance cameras show Peralta shooting the other security guard and making off with the suitcase containing the gems. Did he really flip from lawman to lawless? If so, what could possibly motivate him to do an about face and turn his back on all his beliefs, family and friends?

The clues Mapstone discovers just don’t add up to Peralta deciding to risk his life and those he cares about for money he doesn’t need. Then things go from bad to worse in Mapstone’s life as he tries to find Peralta before the cops do.

First, a mysterious woman is trying to kill him. She has impersonated a deputy, stalked him and is earning the nickname Mapstone gave her: Strawberry Death. When she gets too close to someone he loves, Mapstone realizes the stakes are much higher and more personal than he imagined.

Then he gets a call from the current Maricopa County Sheriff Christopher Melton. He is, from all reliable evidence, a dirty cop. As deadly as a scorpion, the sneaky Sheriff “Call me Chris” Melton makes an offer Mapstone can’t refuse. He cannot risk his wife’s reputation and safety, so he reluctantly agrees to work for Melton investigating a old cold case file. Mapstone was the first deputy on the scene of a suicide in the desert. Now Melton wants Mapstone to find out if this was really a murder.

Mapstone has so much on his plate he needs a platter.  He doesn’t need one more thing to complicate the mess he is trying to untangle with the missing diamonds and the cold case. But life keeps adding another heaping helping of trouble to the pile. His personal life is in disarray, he is working for a man he hates, his best friend might be an international jewel thief and his cold case might be heating up and somehow linked to his other problems.

This fast paced mystery is intricately woven to end up with a completely surprising, yet deliciously satisfying end. The main plot of finding Peralta didn’t mind sharing page space with the subplots. Strawberry Death and Sheriff Melton frequently took over demanding attention from Mapstone and the reader.

Talton made me hate some characters, like others and become very frightened for Mapstone when some showed up on the page. Only extremely talented authors can create characters that resonate so deeply with their new readers and he is one of them.

High Country Nocturne is the eighth book in the David Mapstone Mystery Series. Set in Maricopa County, Arizona It works very well as a stand-alone book, with just enough background without long flashbacks or walks down memory lane. This fast-paced novel is easy to read in spite of the twists and turns. I can’t wait to read the rest of this series.

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 © 2015 Laura Hartman

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review, books, Mystery, poisoned pen press

Book Review: Risky Undertaking – Action Packed Mystery

Risky-Undertaking-Cover-178x276Risky Undertaking

By Mark de Castrique

249 pages

Barry Clayton wears two hats in his hometown of Gainesboro, North Carolina. He is a part-time sheriff’s deputy and a full-time undertaker. In Risky Undertaking his two professions are on a collision course that can’t be stopped.

At a friendly poker game, Barry hears of an expansion deal on the local cemetery owned by Mayor Whitlock. Whitlock has called in the press, already excited about the grand opening of the newly acquired land. Unfortunately, at the groundbreaking ceremony dirt isn’t the only thing found in the posthole digger’s claws – bits of pottery and what appear to be human remains are unearthed also. The land is close to the Cherokee Reservation and all digging must be stopped until they can determine if this was once a sacred burial site.

The hiccup in Whitlock’s plan could not have come at a worse time. The Cherokee are upset about the possibility of a new casino coming in owned by the Catawba tribe. There have been protests both for and against the Catawba Casino due to the amount of money the Cherokee may lose to the competition as well as the amount of money the contractors may lose from the casino not being built.

If that isn’t enough going on in the town, dead bodies start to pile up. First a prominent woman dies of natural causes, but then a body is found on her grave by unnatural causes. A Boston hit man is seen at the Cherokee casino and a young boy goes missing.

Can the boy be found before he dies or is killed? Why has someone stolen an artifact collection? Will Burin’ Barry end up in one of his own graves? Whew – it is hard to turn the pages fast enough to keep up with the action!

This is the sixth novel in this series. It reads very well as a standalone, there is just the right amount of back story to get a new reader up to speed, yet not too much as to bore readers of his previous novels. De Castrique also has another series which “explores the rich history of Asheville from Tomas Wolfe to Carl Sandburg” that sounds intriguing also.

I love the afterword which tells the reader the facts behind the novel. He explains there is a new casino coming in that will diminish the number of people visiting the Cherokee cultural centers as well as impact the much needed revenue to the Eastern Band of the Cherokee. It saddens me to see what has happened to the native people in our country.

Even though the underlying cause and events are serious, this mystery is full of quips and smart dialog that make the reader smile and possibly chuckle out loud. Barry is an awful card player yet finds himself participating in several games. The Cherokee officer Barry is working with, Romero, calls the sheriff “Rooster” after Rooster Cogburn. It is a term of endearment, and amuses me – I think it will amuse you too.

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 © 2015 Laura Hartman

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review, Cherokee, Mystery, Native American, poisoned pen press