Tag Archives: Murder and Mayhem

Book Review: Red Lotus – New York Times Best Selling Author’s Latest Gem

The Red Lotus

By Chris Bohjalian

A bicycle trip takes Alexis, an ER doctor and her medical researcher boyfriend Austin to Vietnam. While both of them enjoy biking and the scenery, the trip is personal for Austin. His father was wounded and his uncle died in the very jungle they would bike through within the safety of the group.

Due to weather, things change a bit and Austin decides to go off on his own to complete the pilgrimage and closure he came for. When he doesn’t return, the local police are called in. His body is found, apparently the victim of a hit and run accident. But was it? Alexis has a feeling it was murder, but how can a doctor back in the states investigate a possible murder in a faraway country?

Soon she finds evidence that Austin has been lying to her. Even though their entire relationship was built upon these newfound lies, she is determined to find the truth and his murderer. Digging where someone doesn’t want you to find anything can be deadly, but Alexis and a PI she retains won’t stop until the answers they seek are revealed.

From the opening pages of this novel to the last, Bohjalian skillfully keeps the readers breathless with fear and the expectation of evil just around the corner for Alexis. She has her own demons to deal with as well as roadblocks by officials and Austin’s family throughout the book.

The reader is swept into the beauty of Vietnam’s jungles and the grittiness of the ER. The author paints us the picture of both with his words, juxtaposing the good and bad of both places throughout the novel.

I found this fast-paced mystery absorbingly interesting and was immediately hooked on the plot and characters. This is the first book I’ve read by New York Times Best Selling Author Chris Bohjalian, but not the last. Looking over his list of best-sellers it will be difficult to choose which one to read next.

 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 © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Shake Down – 5th Book in an Entertaining Cozy Series

Shake Down

The Elliott Lisbon Mystery Series #5

By Kendel Lynn

Daphne is missing. She never arrived at her best friend and roommate Juliette’s wedding shower and she is the maid of honor. Everyone is worried that something bad has happened to Daphne, but she has previously disappeared for a few days when she wanted clear her head. As the hours turn to days, the worry machine ramps up.

Enter Elliott Lisbon, PI-in-training and the director of the Ballantyne Big House. In addition to the private quarters, the Ballantyne is known for the charitable events it hosts. Now Elliot – known to her friends as Elli, has a huge event to orchestrate, Juliette’s wedding the following day and a new case – she has to find the missing maid of honor.

There is an interesting twist in the case involving Juliette, Daphne and Tucker, the groom-to-be. They are former contestants on a reality show, Down the Isle. That is where the trio met and Juliette “won” when Tucker chose her from all of the eligible young ladies on the show to marry. What are the odds of a TV reality show creating a happily ever after for two people who didn’t know each other before filming starts? Some of the relationships may work out, but others could turn deadly.

Sea Pine Island, South Carolina is the perfect setting for this cozy mystery. The small island feel as well as the nod to the preservation of sea turtle nests added depth to this cozy mystery. The twists and turns in the case were neatly wrapped up by the end of the book, which I really like even when it is part of a series.

As the fifth one in The Elliott series, the plot was easily a read-alone mystery. I was confused in the first few chapters because I couldn’t figure out if Elliott was a man or a woman. And her best friend Sid also confused me gender wise until I came upon the pronouns identifying them both as female. I can only assume other avid readers get a picture in their heads of the characters which is not easily done if you don’t know if they are men or women.

I am a true fan of cozy mysteries and Shake Down ticks all the boxes. The characters, setting and plot are engaging and interesting. I didn’t see the twist at the very end, so kudos to Ms. Lynn for her plotting expertise; delivering an “aha!” moment for her readers. This is the first book in the series and the first book written by Ms. Lynn that I have read.

 DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Edelweiss in exchange for a fair and honest review. https://www.edelweiss.plus/#sku=1635115876&g=4400&page=1

Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Courier – Heart Pounding Thriller

The Courier

By Gordon J. Campbell

To say Gregg Westwood is having a bad day is an understatement. His secure job as a medical supply rep in Japan has been abruptly terminated.  After the bad news, he stops at one of his favorite watering holes, the Officer’s Club on the United States Airforce base in Tokyo. Gregg joins a couple of acquaintances for a drink. This decision will change his life.

These two men purportedly working for the US government’s finance and accounting group are actually members of a US intelligence agency. Over lunch the next day they offer Gregg a job as a courier. It is fast and easy money for what they describe as a mini vacation, traveling to other countries business class, delivering parcels than returning home to his family.

Gregg accepts the offer and is soon off to deliver the package. What he hasn’t bargained for are the assassins on his tail. He has unwittingly become a huge part of stopping an international drug ring, having street thugs attempting to kill him and will be called on to rescue someone he dearly loves before his job is complete. Before the last pages, Gregg will transition from courier to mercenary out of necessity and self-preservation. This is the beginning of his new life.

To say The Courier is a fast-paced thriller does not do it justice. The action never ends and it perfectly compliments the plot. Just when you think Gregg is going to be captured or killed, he lives to fight another day like a modern-day James Bond.

The characters are diverse and engaging. Some of them are decidedly creepy and determined to get a literal boatload of illegal opioids into the US. Adding reality to the character’s profiles brings them to life on the pages.

The Courier is destined to become a best-seller and I envision a blockbuster movie in the future. As we all know the book is always better than then film, so enjoy the masterful story before it hits the big screen. This is the first book I’ve read by Campbell and the first book in a series. I cannot wait to read the next Gregg Westwood boo

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. See it here: https://reedsy.com/discovery/book/the-courier-gordon-campbell

Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Tracking Game – Latest in the Timber Creek K-9 Series

Tracking Game

A Timber Creek K-9 Mystery

By Margaret Mizushima

Deputy Mattie Cobb is called away from a community dance and the arms of Cole, the man she has fallen in love with, to investigate a suspicious fire. Upon reaching the scene, Mattie and her K9 partner, Robo, find something far more sinister. One of the locals is found dead next to his burning vehicle and another respected member of the community has a head injury after being hit with shrapnel from the explosive fire. To make matters worse, they soon discover this was no accident.

So begins the trail of lies and deceit that Mattie and Robo have to follow to bring the criminals to justice. Other crimes are revealed which leads to the Timber Creek sheriff’s department bringing Glenna Dalton, the new wildlife manager in their area, into the picture. It will take all of them working against the clock to prevent another killing, not to mention apprehending the person or persons responsible for all of these crimes.

Meantime, Mattie and Cole’s relationship has heated up. Not wanting to push her, Cole is patient but open about his love for her. Mattie knows she loves Cole, but cannot say the words he so longs to hear. Her family history has built a wall around her heart. She truly loves Cole and must learn to move beyond her past to take steps towards their future.

Tracking Game is a fast-paced mystery. The plot unfolds beautifully throughout the story, urging the reader to read just one more chapter late into the night.  I love mysteries with several viable suspects and this book delivers. Mizushima gives us suspicious locals and outsiders of the community. Any one of them could be the killer, but you will have to wait until the last chapters for the bad guys to be satisfyingly revealed.

This is the second book I’ve read in the Timber Creek K-9 Mystery series. Previously I read Burning Ridge, the first book in the series. Somehow, I missed the other books, but I did not feel confused by not having read the entire series in order. Tracking Game reads fine as a stand-alone. But if you love the plot and characters as much as I do, you will undoubtedly want to read all of the books in the 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 © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: My Fair Latte – Fabulous First in a New Cozy Series

My Fair Latte (The Café Cinema Mystery Series #1)

By Vickie Fee

Halley Greer’s Great-Uncle Leon bequeathed the Star Movie Palace to her. Far past it’s prime, the theater is a faded princess that time has not been kind to. But there is something about the small town of Utopia Springs and the hopes of reviving the theater that makes Halley want to stay. She has dreams of playing old classic movies and serving wine and coffees in the lobby. She is a great barista and wants to use her talents to support herself doing something she loves.

After a rocky start, she begins making friends and connections in the tourist laden town. When someone vandalizes her newly renovated theater, she begins to wonder if her dreams will be dashed, but she perseveres.  Having high hopes for opening night, Halley was elated when locals and tourists filled the theater. Unfortunately, during the intermission, one of the patrons was found dead in his seat.

When the police department focuses on her as their main suspect, Halley and her new friends begin a bit of sleuthing. Will she become the next victim by getting too close to the truth?

Ms. Fee drew me into the story immediately. The characters are quirky, funny and realistic. I was amused by the hotel owner who pretends to be British. And who doesn’t like a cat with the name Eartha Kitty? Like all cozies, there is a bit of romance flirting at the edge of the mystery. There is also a great historical twist featuring the infamous outlaw Jesse James that is totally plausible.

The small-town setting is perfect for a new cozy series. It is vintage but not old fashioned. There is entertainment for tourists and locals alike as well as eateries and shops. The nostalgic nod to the past with classic movies is interesting and fun. It reminded me of more than one classic film I would love to see again on the big screen.

Vicki Fee is the author of the A Liv and Di in Dixie Mystery Series. My Fair Latte is the first book in the Café Cinema Mystery Series and the first one I have read from this author. Her sharp wit, interesting story and fun characters are perfectly balanced and I am looking forward to reading more from this author.

 DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Edelweiss in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Takes One To Know One – Nail Biting Thriller

Takes One to Know One

By Susan Isaacs

Corie Geller never imagined the turn her life would take. As an FBI Special Agent, she has done things most people believe only happens in spy novels and blockbuster movies. Now her life revolves around her husband, Federal Judge Josh Geller and her young step-daughter, Eliza. Corie, fluent in Arabic, is now a freelancer for several publishers. She reads Arabic novels and makes recommendations as to which would translate and sell in English. She does the occasional job for the FBI, but keeps that life separate from her personal life as much as possible to keep her husband and step-daughter safe.

On a whim, she joins a group of suburban self-employed people that meet once a week for lunch. Thinking it would be stimulating, Corie soon learns that she does not really fit in well, but can’t really figure out how to leave the group. Then she starts noticing one of the members, Pete Delaney acting extremely strange. He is nondescript, but there is something about him that Corie senses is off. Is he an agent like her? Or is there something illegal going on?

She begins taking more notice of him. After finding out from another in the group that he has been seen acting oddly aggressive outside of the group, she quietly begins investigating him. She shares her thoughts with her father, a retired NYPD detective who agrees there is something going on.

Is he a drug runner? Is he an illegal arms dealer? Perhaps a kidnapper or killer – or just a boring guy who has anger issues? Corie is bound and determined to find out.

Acclaimed author Susan Isaacs has done it again. This page turner has mystery, intrigue and believable characters. The heart pounding action will not allow you to put it down. I particularly like the fact that the final confrontation was not the end of the book. Oftentimes books end with only a page or two of closure, but Isaacs gives readers a thorough ending that ties up loose ends. I really like that I am not left wondering what happened.

I highly recommend Takes One to Know One to all mystery and thriller lovers. Isaac’s never disappoints, she once again has written a fabulously intriguing book and with interesting characters.

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 © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Dark Oceans – Modern Day Search for an Ancient Relic

Dark Oceans

Or The Geometry of Chance

By Mark Macrossan

Thrust into the world of espionage, murder and mayhem, the spectrum of characters in Dark Oceans are all linked together, albeit tenuously. The common denominator is an ancient artifact, the Isfahan Decagon. It is famed to be the only one of its kind. The Decagon has perfect tiling with a perfect golden ratio. Not only that, the Decagon is said to have an infinite non-repeating pattern that surpasses anything created today, therefore making it the Holy Grail of collectors and museums around the world. It has been missing since at least the 1800’s. It may have been in a ship wreck, but has ties to Portugal, Western Australia as well as the English.

So begins the quest to find it. Dark Oceans takes the reader around the world in the search. The race to find the Decagon includes characters on land, sea and air, doing anything within their power to be the first to grab the prize.

Among the characters that are searching for the Decagon, are thieves, murders, organized crime minions and a few in law enforcement. It is difficult to tell who is good and who is bad until the end when all is revealed to the reader. My favorite characters are Jon and Alistair. Jon is a barrister who has had a windfall of a massive amount of cash. It appeared in his account without reason. He slowly begins to spend the money, but soon finds himself to be very unlucky. Or someone is trying to kill him. He is rescued by his quirky neighbor, Alistair and his cat. But they can’t keep Jon safe if he doesn’t stop jumping into dangerous situations far out of his league.

This fast paced thriller has more twists and turns and characters coming and going than summertime crowds at an amusement park. That is if the attendees of said amusement park allowed fire arms, garrotes and objects to bludgeon anyone that hops in line in front of them. At times it was confusing due to the sheer number of characters – most of them evil – that are weaving in and out of the story.

It is the first book by Macrossan that I have read. He is a playwright, short story and poetry writer. Formerly a barrister as well as a theater producer and film extra, he has traveled the world to gather fodder for his novel. Dark Oceans is his first.

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 © 2019 Laura Hartman

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