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Book Review: Claws for Concern – Cute Cat Cozy Mystery

Claws for Concern  (Cat in the Stacks #9)

By Miranda James

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Penguin First to Read in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Retiree and amateur gumshoe Charlie Harris and his famous Maine Coon cat Diesel are back in the ninth episode of their adventures. Harris is minding his own business as a volunteer at the library when he notices a stranger. It is not unusual for people to seek shelter from the heat in the public library, but this fellow seems different.

As it turns out he is a distant relative of Harris with a shady past. Why has he felt the need to make contact now? Harris feels a tenuous connection as well as an obligation to help the stranger. But the more he finds out about him, the more uneasy Harris becomes.

Coincidently, an author of true crime books contacts Harris requesting to write about some of the crimes he has helped solve in the past. Reluctant at first, he is unsure about returning the author’s calls. Eventually, his curiosity gets the better of him, so he agrees as long as the author gives credit to the police department as the real heros. This arrangement with the author pulls Harris into a new investigation of an old crime that may have a big connection to the newly found relative.

James’ characters are delightful. How could you not love a Maine Coon cat that is as big as a bobcat and a perfect judge of character? It amuses me that Harris has to find a cat sitter because Diesel did not like to be home alone. The entire Harris family weaves in and out of the story adding depth, emotion and humor. I can’t wait to see how little Charlie grows in the next book. Harris’ friends and love interest pop on and off of the pages as well as his delightful house keeper Azalea.

The plot is interesting and holds a few surprises, ticking all the boxes of a great cozy mystery, Claw for Concern has a super supporting cast as well as interesting main characters. This is the first book I have read in the series, even though it is the ninth in the series. I was not confused or lost at any point during the tale as it works well as a stand-alone cozy mystery.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Phantom Limb – Brilliant Psychological Mystery

Phantom Limb

By Dennis Palumbo

Daniel Rinaldi is a private psychologist that also consults with the Pittsburg Police Department when needed. In the past, this has brought trouble to his doorstep. Unfortunately, this time things could get deadly for him.

His new patient was a Playboy model and starred in some sketchy films. Returning home to Pittsburg she is now married to a very rich man with questionable activities. These activities get her snatched right after her first session with Rinaldi.

This plunges Rinaldi into the case as well as into danger. Happenstance puts him in even more danger with the kidnappers; he is tagged to be the one to deliver the ransom to the bad guys. Will he be able to save the young woman he just met or will her secrets be too much for the kidnappers to chance letting her go at any price? Either way Rinaldi feels he has to help her. Unfortunately for him, his involvement is becoming more treacherous with each passing hour. He may not be able to save her or himself from the psychopath behind the whole scheme.

Palumbo’s gripping tale is a nail-biting, page turning mystery that pulls the reader along for the ride. The witty banter and complex characters round out this fantastic read. The unexpected twists and turns kept me guessing until the last pages – a perfect mystery in my opinion.

As a former Hollywood screenwriter and licensed psychotherapist he brings firsthand knowledge to the pages along with his amazing fiction, making the perfect combo for great mysteries. This is the first book I have read in the Daniel Rinaldi Mystery series, but the fourth book in Palumbo’s series. It works perfectly as a stand-alone book if you choose to read it first. He has published a mystery collection, From Crime to Crime and has had short fiction published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.

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 © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: A Police Action – A Vietnam Era Love Story

A Police Action

By AA Freda

Army draftee James Coppi is headed for Vietnam. Tension is high in his Colorado barracks. Coppi and his comrades are training to fight a war in the jungle, and with only ten months left of his tour he just wants to live long enough to muster out and go home to the Bronx. Coppi’s decision to go into town with the others his first Friday night becomes a major turning point in his life.

He meets Samantha (Sam), a woman that catches his eye. Disregarding all the pitfalls associated with becoming involved with Sam, Coppi jumps into a relationship with her immediately. The fact that she has a major problem that needs to be dealt with as well as his impending departure for war adds layers of complexity to their feelings about each other that may be misconstrued for love. And if it is love, will it survive until they are reunited?

Freda writes about war with the knowledge of someone who has lived those horrible minutes, days or years. He brings the intensity of war to life bringing the reader into the jungle with him. The sounds, smells, heat and fear are felt with every word. The horrors of battle are not whitewashed; Coppi’s and possibly Freda’s feelings about the war the government referred to as a Police Action are evident.

The relationship between Sam and Coppi seems superficial. Perhaps it is the characters themselves. Coppi admits he is a con man and not necessarily a good person. Yet he steps in taking care of Sam when he doesn’t even know her. He is difficult to like because he is basically a loan shark, does not pay any attention to his superiors, ignores little things like getting back to base on time and yet seems to save the day every time. Somehow I find it very unlikely that he would have gotten by virtually unscathed after being AWOL several times in the span of a month. The Lieutenants, Majors and Sergeants give him a wink every time he does something stupid just because he can’t seem to follow direct orders. That is the only part of the military segments that was unrealistic to me.

Sam alternates between an efficient woman and a whiny girl. The conversations she has do not sound like a grown woman, yet she is working, living on her own and has been on her own before she meets Coppi. The fact that she conveniently brings God into the mix at times does not ring true. She admits to partying and picks up Coppi and sleeps with him the day they meet. The character is like two different people, making the reader question who she really is. Unfortunately her shallowness became really annoying.

I recommend this book for those who are interested in reading fiction about Vietnam by an author with first-hand knowledge. If you are looking for a love story, A Police Action has all of the elements, but I am not convinced the execution is satisfying to the reader.

 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 © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Naked We Came – Compelling Mystery

Naked We Came

By Robert Lane

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

Jake Travis is a haunted man. When he was seven years old his sister was abducted while on a family vacation. This life changing event was compounded by the reality that her body was never found and the person that committed this heinous act has never been brought to justice. It is no surprise that this shaped him into the man he is today. He only allows people to see what he wants them to, never getting close enough to find the truth of the guilt he has harbored since he was a child.

When the man Jake suspects of her death washes up close to his dock, Jake is immediately under suspicion for the death. Jake realizes that person who was trying to frame him for this murder must be involved in the death of his sister. Jake will stop at nothing to get the answers he has waited twenty years to hear, but he must do so as he is wanted for questioning by the authorities. His decision puts friends old and new in jeopardy. But Jake is relentlessly pursuing the truth of what happened and will not stop at any cost.

Lane is a masterful writer. He paints descriptions pulling the reader into the scenes with his characters. Bits of literary beauty are tucked in this gritty mystery. Much like Dean Koontz, Lane adds quotes such as one from Picasso and words that enhance the reader’s experience and enjoyment. For instance, “gibbous moon” had me clicking the dictionary feature on my Kindle.

This is the fourth Jake Travis novel I have read. I love Lane’s style of writing as well as the depth and growth of his characters. The plot-line of Naked We Came explains so much of how Jake reacts in the previous novels when confronting criminals. He is relentless – undoubtedly he sees his sister’s abductor in them. Like the previous novels in this series, Naked We Came is a fast-paced, complexly interesting mystery. I highly recommend this series.

Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Right Handed Lefty – Powerful YA Novel

Right Handed Lefty

By Ryan Coughlin

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

Twelve year old Native American Ellis Sayer is different from other kids. He knows he is different and feels as though no one really wants him. Orphaned as a baby, he was adopted by a family that returned him. Now he lives with Marty and Suzanne who adopted him to fill the void in their lives that was created when their son died.

Ellis has two friends. Both of them are quirky but they get by a bit better than he does. Like other teens Ellis falls for a girl that currently hates him, and she is the cousin of one of his two only friends. The lives of the three boys turn upside down after an incident at school. They band together for a noble cause that pits them against an evil man that holds the power to destroy them. Now they only have each other to depend on in the life and death situation life that has been thrust upon them. They feel the only available option is flight.

Ellis is an interesting character. He is trying his best to fit in. He knows he is different and that the other kids don’t like him. He just tries to keep his head down and not get hurt. He breaks my heart for all of the kids that don’t feel like they fit in. This amazing YA novel will have you cheering for the misfits. Against all odds they must work together with a clear plan to accomplish their goal of staying alive.

Coughlin’s first novel is captivating. The parallel story lines of a Native American from years ago struggling with his identity and Ellis struggling with fitting in are expertly woven together to create a beautiful story. He addresses racism, the ostracizing of people who are different and acceptance of the world as it is, not as we would like it to be. He helps the reader realize that love can’t cure all evils but it helps make the evils a bit less painful.

Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Little Broken Things – Memorable Characters, Compelling Plot

Little Broken Things

By Nicole Baart

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley, Killer Nashville and Atria Books in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Little Broken Things begins with Nora Sanford cutting and dying the hair of a child she obviously loves, but is not hers. There is a sense of danger and impending disaster if she doesn’t change the little girl’s appearance and move her to a safe place before the unknown disaster befalls both of them.

Nora whisks her off and dumps her unceremoniously at her sister Quinn’s home. Without a clue as to who the child is, or why Nora drops her off without any explanation, Quinn is angry at her sister but fearful because Nora begged her not to let the child out of her sight. And more importantly, she was not to let anyone know the child was there. That is more than difficult because Quinn’s artist husband is living in the house with her. Her domineering mother, Liz, owns the house and lives right across the lake from them in the home that Nora, Quinn and their brother JJ grew up in. How can she keep a five year old secret in this little town of gossips? As the plot swirls around the little girl, with eminent danger closing in, there are no straight answers about her or her parents available to those who were given the impossible task of keeping her safe.

Nora has brought this to her family’s doorstep, but this is not the only secret her family has been pretending isn’t there. On the outside they were a solid, happy family but even as young children, the three Sandford kids knew how to keep secrets. Such as the happy family life they portrayed was often far from it. Even after the recent death of her husband, Liz followed the Sandford “rules” put in place by her domineering husband that often affected her children even though they are grown. They must find a way to work together to save this child no matter who she really is, even if it goes against everything they have been taught to do.

Baart brings so many elements in to bring her characters to life I felt as though I knew each of them. There were several things that brought them together. Art plays a huge but subtle part in the storyline. Motherhood also plays a huge role in Little Broken Things.

I really enjoyed Little Broken Things. It is smart, suspenseful, heartbreaking and written so well I was holding my breath praying for the safety of the little girl at the heart of the mystery. When an author can make me care that much for the characters she has created I know she will deeply touch the hearts of all of her readers. This is the first book I have read by Nicole Baart, but it will not be the last.

Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

 

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Book Review: Desert Kill Switch – Killer Classic Cars and Murder – Great Who Done It

Desert Kill Switch

By Mark S. Bacon

Former cop Lyle Deming is now a cabbie at a new theme park located in Arizona appropriately named Nostalgia City. His life is much calmer now that he left the force, and he likes it that way. Unfortunately for him, things are about to change for the worse.

While driving home with his daughter, he sees a vintage car on the side of the road and next to the classic Firebird is a body. A very dead body full of bullets. He hustles back to his Mustang, the main thing on his mind is keeping his daughter safe if the killers are still around.

He phones the local police, but when they get to the spot, there is no car, no body and no evidence of a crime. Deming knows he wasn’t hallucinating, so he begins investigating the crime and the missing victim on his own. Before he can get a good handle on what happened he is called to Reno because a close friend and coworker, Kate Sorensen is in trouble.

Kate, PR director of Nostalgia City, is manning a booth at a huge classic car event. Reno’s Rockin’ Summer Days is a great place to advertise Nostalgia City where the only cars allowed in the park are vintage rides. When one of the big wigs in charge of the event ends up on the wrong end of a knife, Kate is the prime suspect because she is found with the dead body and rumor has it she is trying to get the event moved to Nostalgia City.

Deming has to help her find the real killer before she is arrested, because the evidence points at Kate. He believes her innocence, but no one else does. So the two co-workers that seem to want to be more than friends are playing hide and seek with the cops, trying to find a killer and most importantly stay alive. After all, there is a killer on the loose who would love to see Kate in jail for the crime he or she committed.

There are so many suspects with plausible reasons to kill Al Busick it was fun to find out who finally did it. He was a conniving man, a car dealer with questionable morals and undeniably hated by many. It was fun to be twisted and turned by the plot. The characters are interesting and varied, each playing a vital role no matter how big or small.

Desert Kill Switch is a fast read, but don’t confuse that with a simply written story. Bacon’s descriptions are a thing of beauty. When looking for a suspect, Deming is driving down a desert road. The dust his tires are kicking up is described as “…ghosts following his car…” And the reader knows that Deming is well read when he quotes Dickens.

From the descriptions of Nostalgia City, I would love to have someone build this blast from the past theme park. I am sure it would be a big hit with baby boomers as well as those a bit younger.

Bacon’s second Nostalgia City Mystery is the first I have read. It is fun, suspenseful and impossible to put down once you crack the spine. I am going to search out the first in the series and keep an eye out for the third which is promised to be published soon.

I highly recommend this book to anyone that loves an easy to read, well written novel with an intriguing plot. It is a must read for mystery loving vintage car fans.

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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