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Book Review: Amicus Knot Investigates a Murder in San Francisco – An Interesting Amateur Sleuth Novel

By Rick Hubbard

When someone steals a jump drive that holds all of the information of the World’s Digital Currency, the authorities are baffled. How did someone get away with it and what is their end game plan?

Enter two unlikely amateur sleuths. The first is Amicus Knot. He refers to himself as a “Systems Scientist and Itinerate Investigator” but should also add “loves cats and cookies”. His unlikely partner is the ex-star of a popular television series, Krys Barr. She also happens to be his best friend. She is gorgeous, which helps open doors that would normal be shut during their investigations.

When the two self-proclaimed investigators witness a murder near their docked sailboats, they jump into the investigation with both feet. Soon it becomes apparent that both crimes, the murder as well as the theft of the jump drive are connected. The authorities are not sold on Amicus and Krys’ theory, but the two amateurs are relentless in pursuit of the thieves. No matter what happens to them, they are determined to retrieve the jump drive that could ruin countless people if used by the person or persons involved.

The international feel to this novel is aided by the variety of foreign players that soon become suspects. The list of suspects also has numerous ties to the U.S. as well. The characters are interesting and multifaceted. My favorite has to be Krys, she is much more than

an actress playing the part – she lives it. A noteworthy bit player is Eldon, a former Sargent, who now finds himself homeless. I want to hear more about him.

The story is solid, giving readers all the clues to solve it by the end (which I didn’t see coming). I did get a bit put off by all of the ruminations of Amicus. He thinks out loud and takes the long – very long – route to the point he is making. Oftentimes it was just too much for me to read a page of his rambling on. Often, I felt there were too many explanations before getting to the point – or waiting until further along in the story. Amicus would dismiss Krys without clarification, by leaping into action. Unfortunately, this also dismisses the readers waiting for the rest of his thoughts about the investigation.

This is the first book I have read by Rick Hubbard. It is labeled as a cozy mystery as well as an amateur sleuth book. I agree with the later, but not the former. In my opinion, cozy mysteries are much easier to read (way less technical) and have a love interest. Neither of them is emphasized in this book. Amateur sleuth is much more appropriate. If you love a solid mystery with quirky characters, this book is for you.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Reedsy Discovery in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Copyright © 2021 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Daughter – Is Everything in Her Life a Lie?

by Kate McLaughlin

To say Scarlet’s mother is overprotective is an understatement. Even though she is almost 18, her mom wants to know who, what and where she is going every minute of the day. That doesn’t stop Scarlet from doing a bit of drinking and weed with her friends. She kind of gets it. They have no relatives and her mom doesn’t want to talk about her past. Even though she chafes at the boundaries her mom imposes, she really does love her. It has always been the two of them against the world.

That world crumbled the day the FBI came knocking on their door.  Scarlet is not who she always thought she was and her mother certainly isn’t either. Suddenly, her mother’s smothering caution makes sense. With her world crashing down, she is asked to do something a grown person would balk at doing, but realizes it is the only way for her and her mother to be free of the shackles that they have been dealing with for her entire life.

Daughter grabbed me in the first chapter and did not let me go until the final pages. The characters are believable and some of them made me shudder as they are pure evil. McLaughlin skillfully brings the reader along as Scarlet learns the ugly truth that has been hidden from her for years. We see her working through her new reality, struggling to find herself amidst the turmoil. I also really agree with the message sent by the author via Scarlet, that the victims of crime should be the ones we hear about, not the perpetrators.

This is the first book I have read by Kate McLaughlin and highly recommend it. While it is written for young adults, I really enjoyed it as a much older adult. Ms. McLaughlin has a previous book, What Unbreakable Looks Like, which I am adding to my TBR stack.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2021 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Perfect Bind – A Perfect Cozy Mystery

A Perfect Bind                      

by Dorothy St. James

Assistant librarian Trudell Becket is frustrated. Her beloved library in the tiny town of Cypress has changed – and not for the better. All. Of. The. Books. Are. Gone. They have all been replaced with electronics. Tablets, computers, e-readers and crazy enough, a café and yoga classes now fill the rooms instead of actual books. While there is a time and place for new technology, Tru feels the loss of books is blasphemy and has taken secret steps to keep readers in touch with a secret library. Housed in the basement beneath the library, a chosen few have access to real books and research materials. If Mrs. Farnsworth, the head librarian, finds out about the hidden library, surely Tru will lose the job that she loves.

Keeping it secret is vital, but someone has discovered the library. Tearing down shelves and ripping books and papers, an unknown vandal has been striking at night when the library is closed. It saddens and puzzles Tru. Who is getting in, why are they destroying books and most of all how are they gaining access? Tru loves mysteries – one of her mottos is “What Would Miss Marple Do?” so she begins poking around in places that might get her in trouble. Or possibly killed!

When a body is found behind the library, Tru’s old flame from high school starts poking around. Jace once was a detective in NY, but has returned to the Cypress police department. He flusters Tru in more ways than one. As her secret crush in high school, she has always held a torch for him. He has feelings for her, but she is afraid to take their friendship to a different level. With him on the case, it is more than difficult to keep the secret library under wraps. When the case heats up, Tru and her band of amateur detectives may have bit off more than they can chew, hopefully it will not get anyone killed.

A Perfect Bind is a delightful cozy mystery. The plot is very well written, and the killer was not who I expected. The red herrings were perfectly placed to throw readers off the trail. Quirky, small town characters perfectly accompany the plot, and are fun and interesting. The bit of humor is also a welcome element. If you have read any of my reviews, you’ll know without me saying I am a huge fan of cozies, and this one hits all the marks to make it very enjoyable.  

This is the first book I have read by Dorothy St. James, but Ms. St. James has written several cozies. A Perfect Bind is the second book in the Beloved Bookroom Series, the first is A Broken Spine. I plan to read it, as well as her other cozies in the near future.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2021 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Interesting Whodunit

Surreal Absurdity

By Jim Lively

Jamie Simon attempted to kill Charles Pierce with an overdose of stolen ketamine. The whole affair disconcerted Pierce, but he wanted to put it behind him, so he never reported her to the police. Unfortunately, Ms. Simon decided to confess to police. Thus, the investigation and trial began, pulling Pierce into court and into the news. Unfortunately, this ultimately changed his life – and not in a good way.

Having retired from practicing law, Charles now spent his days painting. He was surprisingly good, so when he rented a space to paint from an art gallery, he quickly became a part of the art scene. Again, bad luck follows him. Random attacks on the gallery seem to be targeting him and as if that isn’t bad enough, he is implicated in a murder.

He quickly realizes he is in grave danger, and so begins his quest to find out just who is behind the attacks. But the police don’t believe him, in fact, they suspect he is the one who is on a murderous spree. Hopefully he can convince them otherwise and they will apprehend the real killer before it is too late.

For me there was too much dialog, not enough descriptions in this book. At times there were pages of dialog, just back and forth without setting information to give me a full picture of who, what, where and when. I am not saying the dialog was bad. For me, I needed something to see, hear or smell along the conversation. I enjoyed the information imparted regarding the wine tastings, the art and the gallery, I just needed more to get deeper into this novel. On the plus side, it is a super-fast read because of the pages of dialog.

This fast-paced mystery was interesting. The clues were all there and yet I didn’t realize who the killer was until the last pages. I liked this book but did not love it. The end especially disappointed me. It seemed as though there was more information readers needed to know. It ended abruptly, seemingly the end of a chapter, not a book. Perhaps there will be another novel in this series of two, but it leaves the readers hanging in the meantime.

This is the first book I have read by this author. Like his main character, Mr. Lively was a lawyer and is now a contemporary visual artist as well as a filmmaker. His second novel won the 2016 Merrimack Media Outstanding Writer Award. Surreal Absurdity is a sequel to Aberrant Behavior, which I have not read.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Reedsy Discovery in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Copyright © 2021 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Death of a Red-Hot Rancher – Intriging New Cozy Mystery

Brody Pierce is a sight to behold. Every female in the small town of Tinker’s Creek, Ohio takes notice of this tall piece of eye-candy when he comes to town. He made his fame and fortune in Hollywood as the hunky, rough and tumble actor in a truck commercial. This allowed him to purchase a ranch in Tinker’s Creek where he raises bison.

Lizzie Hale, the owner of the most successful romance bookstore in the Midwest, is not immune to Pierce’s rugged good looks, but tries to remain calm when he enters her store. All of her female customers, including her aunt, Charmaine, practically swooned at his feet. Yes, everyone loved and admired him – with the exception of at least one person. The one that killed him.

Unfortunately, Lizzie is the one that finds his body. She is obviously upset, but it is evident this is a murder and now she is in the thick of it. Quietly tallying up the clues she has observed, Lizzie begins to do a bit of sleuthing. Unfortunately, the clues start to point at one of the people in town she knows and cares for.

The setting of this small town and the bookstore Lizzie owns enhances the depth of characters and plot. It was quite enjoyable picturing the rooms in the bookstore as well as the bison ranch. The extra touch of Lizzie taking care of Brody’s orphan dog was heartwarming. Even though he left dog hair every place they traveled together. The requisite touch of romance is present in this cozy and I am looking forward to see how the characters develop in future books in this series.

This fast-paced cozy mystery is full of twists and turns. Usually, the killer is easy to spot, but there are so many people that had it out for Pierce, it was impossible to figure out who the killer was until the final chapters.

Mimi Granger aka Connie Laux is a new author to me as this is the first book of hers that I have read. She is an established mystery writer, and Death of a Red-Hot Rancher is the first book she has written as Mimi Granger, one of her many pen names. This is the first cozy mystery she has written, previously focused on romance novels. If you love cozies, you will love this book. I’m looking forward to more books in this series.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2021 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Till Daph Do Us Part – Perfect Cozy Mystery

As Daphne and John Jones make their way to a wedding that Daphne is going to officiate, she reflects on how much she loves her new job as an officiant for weddings and funerals, Her website has filled her calendar with future nuptials and new places to see as she and John travel in Bluebell, their caravan (a camper to us in the States).Daphne muses that weddings bring out the best and the worst of people.

Unfortunately, this wedding also brings a murder. Keen to find out what happened, Daphne begins to investigate on her own. She has observed the feud between the bride and groom’s families. Apparently, it has gone back several generations and doesn’t seem it will be forgotten anytime soon. How many people will end up dead before Daph (as she likes to be called) can climb back safely into Bluebell and drive off, leaving the feud and deaths behind her? Will she be on the killer’s list as well?

Till Daph Do Us Part is set in Australia. Author Phillipa Nefri Clark strives to give readers a true Aussie/British English experience. In my estimation she has done a smashingly good job of bringing readers into the caravan with Daphne and John Jones.

Like all cozy mysteries, Till Daph Do Us Part has an amateur gumshoe on the case. Dogging suspects and digging in the past, Daph wiggles her way into the investigation. The local police are kind and allow her to give them her thoughts and suggestions but warn her to stay away from potentially fatal situations. Of course, she carries on.

This is the first book in the Daphne Jones Mystery Series. The setting and characters are fun and interesting. It is brilliant that Ms. Clark has them traveling in the caravan so the murders take place in different towns and settings, allowing readers to come along on the adventure. This is the first book I have read by this author. She has written several other mysteries, suspense and romance novels. I am anxious to check them out as well.

If you like Murder She Wrote, you will love Till Daph Do Us Part. It is a fun cozy mystery, plotted perfectly and always interesting to have the main character born in my generation, proving retirees can do crazy things including solve murders. I can’t wait to check out her other books, including the next two books in this series.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Reedsy Discovery in exchange for a fair and honest review. You can find it here:

Copyright © 2021 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: You Can Run – Fabulous Fast Paced Thriller

by Karen Cleveland

You Can Run is a fast-paced thriller that will leave you breathless. Jill Baily was a CIA operative before she had her son, Owen. While still working for the organization, she now sits at a desk vetting new sources. Much different, and safer, she no longer puts herself or her family in danger. Or so she thinks.

Every day during her lunchbreak, she watches the live cam of her son at daycare. But today she is horrified to see he isn’t there. When her cell phone rings and she hears “We have your son” her world collapses. She must do as they say if she ever wants to see Owen again. She is instructed to verify a source without vetting him within three minutes. It is against all of her training, but she will do anything to get her baby back – even though she is compromising the country she vowed to protect.

So begins her life on the run. Terrified to even tell her husband, she insists they move to another state. Her husband goes along with the move, and quietly Jill scrubs her identity. All is well, she has another child and the past is gone but not forgotten. Until the day she sees someone following her and the children. Her world comes crashing down again, but this time she is going to fight for her family with every fiber of her being.

The chilling theme of someone holding an infant hostage ramps up You Can Run to a whole different level. The characters are interesting, scary, intriguing and realistic. Even though Jill is a CIA agent, she is a wife and mother, so she is relatable on many levels. The last few chapters will leave you breathless and unable to stop reading until the end. I loved it.

Karen Cleveland is a former CIA counterterrorism analyst, which brings a scary realism to her novels. She has written two previous books, Need to Know and Keep You Close, both of which are New York Times bestsellers. I have read and thoroughly enjoyed Need to Know. Thriller fans will love You Can Run as well as the other books she has written.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley and the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2021 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Complicit – Riveting Thriller

Complicit: by Amy Rivers

Forensic psychologist Kate Medina quit her job with the correctional department, fleeing from the job and life she loved after a brutal attack. Settling back in her hometown, Kate finds a job as the psychologist in the high school she and her sister attended. Helping teens has helped her, but the past is never far from her mind.

When one of the girls she is counseling disappears, Kate is determined to help the students deal with the trauma of the event as well as helping the police with the investigation. But digging into the life of the missing girl unwittingly puts her in danger. The lead detective on the case, coincidentally her ex-boyfriend, Roman Aguilar, contacts Kate to see if her counselling sessions hold any clues about the missing student. Kate is compelled to help, but her unresolved feelings for Roman keep getting the way.

As the investigation unfolds, it is evident that the missing student is just the tip of the iceberg. There is a sinister group behind the missing girl’s disappearance that involves sex trafficking, kidnapping and murder. Will Kate and Roman find those responsible before one or both of them die? And, as if she didn’t have enough on her plate, her father is diagnosed with a terminal illness. This results in a visit from her long absent sister, who grudgingly appears at the family home when she hears he is sick.

Complicit is a fast-paced thriller and full of twists and turns that exposes the underbelly of human trafficking that is happening in the United States today. I literally could not put it down. The realistic characters and realization that these events could be pulled from today’s headlines is chilling. I loved the plot and characters, each of them fully developed and their transition thorough the pages was realistic and believable.

I highly recommend Complicit. Ms. Rivers, in addition to being an outstanding author, is the Director for the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) and has worked with law inforcement on cases much like this work of fiction. By bringing the issue of human trafficking to light, she is helping others speak up and hopefully get the help they need. I cannot wait to read the next book in the series.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy from publicist Maryglenn McCombs in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2021 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Eternal – Must Read Historical Fiction

By Lisa Scottoline

Marco, Sandro and Elisabetta’s carefree lives as teenagers is about to change. Still in high school, one dreams of becoming a writer, one dreams of becoming a scholar and the other dreams of becoming more than the cyclist his father wants him to become. The love triangle between the three creates a bit of tension and a lot of playful flirting. But it is 1937, and unbeknownst to them, Italy is on the verge of war. This will dash their dreams and take away everything, even loved ones, in a tragic turn of fate.  

Survival is paramount. It is growing harder to find essentials as the war begins. While Marco and Elizabetta are struggling, things are exponentially harder for Sandro. He and his family are Jewish. When the Nazis arrive, many in their community will lose their jobs, homes and lives. The three friends are thrust apart by the war and by the choices they have made. At the beginning of the novel, the reader knows that at least one of them has survived. But what about the other two? You must read it to find out.

The plot is an engaging mix of true history and fiction. It reads like a novel, fast-paced and very interesting. But the underlying chill of the war, death and devastation is very real both in life and on the page. It is very sobering.

The characters are interesting and not always likeable, but I feel that is the author’s intent. Life doesn’t always have a happily ever after, but the characters growth and changes during the course of the war are realistic. The ending is very satisfying, staying with the reader long after the last pages are read.

Ms. Scottoline has skillfully taken us back into these dark times in Italy. She has carefully researched, bringing the reader into the events that happen with her realistic characters. Be sure to read her author’s note at the end of the book. There she differentiates between fiction and fact in the novel. Most of the characters are fiction. She states: “But much of what transpires in these pages is true to the past”. It is heart wrenching to read about Jewish families being rounded up and sent to Auschwitz like cattle, especially knowing that this is history, not fiction. But it is also a story that must be told so it is never forgotten or repeated.

I am a huge fan of Lisa Scottoline, having read many of her books. She is the best-selling, award winning author of over 30 books, and is known for her fabulous legal thrillers. There is a reason she is the beloved of many. Eternal is different than her other books, but is not to be missed; I highly recommend it.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2021 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Something In The Water Book One: Drowning by Dean Comyn

The newly formed task force, MCU2 (Major Crime Unit), is in charge of keeping a visiting Health Ministry virologist, Dr. Nicholas Veda, and his date safe while they are in the UK. Now they are both missing. Did they slip away or is this a kidnapping? Dr. Veda and his date disappeared from the Opera House in London without a trace, leaving Chief Inspector John C. Wayne of the MCU2 in a bad situation. Wayne and his team have to find Veda before his disappearance becomes an international incident. Not to mention could easily blow up all hopes of anyone in authority taking MCU2 seriously.

Wayne has assembled his squad carefully, recently adding Canadian Charles Burns to his roster. Even though Burns is a Training Specialist in his previous job, he is told to watch and listen, but not to involve himself in discussions or missions other than just observing. His resolve lasts a New York minute when Burns could not help but insert himself into the mission. Soon bullets are flying, the CIA becomes involved and Burns is playing a huge role in attempting to find Veda.

If you are a fan of James Bond, you will love Charles Burns. He doesn’t have the luck Bond has with ladies, nor the gadgets, but does have the quick thinking, fast action of Ian Fleming’s beloved secret agent.

This fast-paced thriller is full of page-turning action. The twists and turns take the reader on a breathtaking ride. I read it in a few days, because putting it down during the action was impossible. I highly recommend this book to anyone that enjoys thrillers, action and plot twists. It is exciting to know this is the first book in a series, so readers will see Burns and Wayne again.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Reedsy Discovery in exchange for a fair and honest review. You can find it here: Copyright © 2021 Laura Hartman

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