Tag Archives: Murder and Mayhem

Book Review: Spent Identity – Solid Mystery with a Side of Romance

3.25.20Spent Identity

By Marlene M. Bell

Annalisse Drury needs the fresh air and open places that her brownstone in Manhattan cannot provide. Luckily, she has the perfect outlet, the family farm she grew up on in Goshen. As a small child her parents died, so she came to live with her beloved Aunt Kate. Unfortunately, when she lived with them, Kate’s now dead husband and two obnoxious children reminded her constantly that she would never be a part of their family, no matter how much Kate cared and loved her.

When she arrives at the farm for the weekend, Annalisse realizes that something is bothering Kate. Annalisse finds a letter from Kate’s son stating he is selling the family farm out from under his mother. Heartbroken and furious, Annalisse vows to stop him. Unfortunately, when a dead body is found in the barn by the hired hand, they all must leave the farm per the sheriff until the investigation is complete. They head over to Annalisse’s boyfriend’s estate, which is fairly close to the farm. Kate disappears right after she and Annalisse arrive. Annalisse and Alec, her boyfriend, are soon on the hunt to find her missing aunt. Luckily, Alec is wealthy. He calls in a private investigator to assist in the search. Annalisse and Alec soon realize they are also in danger. Will they live to find Kate? Who is behind the killing and kidnapping? Are the two crimes related?

This fast-paced mystery combined with the slow burn of romance features a solid plot and interesting characters. Revenge is served up with a side of tension, twists and turns making readers fear for the outcome, all the while trying to figure out what would happen next. Ms. Bell serves up a surprising and satisfying ending that mystery lovers will adore.

Spent Identity is the second book in this series, but the first one I’ve read. In the first few chapters, the author summarizes the background needed to make sense of the relationships between the main characters. It works well as a stand-alone novel, I was not confused or lost. I recommend Spent Identity to everyone that loves mysteries, thrillers and a bit of romance.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Reedsy Discovery (https://reedsy.com/discovery/book/spent-identity-marlene-bell) in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Murder of a Needled Knitter – Honeymoon and Homicide!

Murder of a Needled Knitter

By Denise Swanson

Newly married Skye Denison Boyd and Wally, her brand-new husband have set sail on a romantic honeymoon cruise. The two of them are happy little love birds until they realize that there are a group of knitters on the cruise with them. Knitting doesn’t bother either of them, but they didn’t realize that Skye’s overbearing mother May is part of the knitting group and her father Jed has joined her. When they also see Skye’s friend Trixie and her husband aboard ship, the newlyweds realize they are sailing into different seas than they imagined.

When an obnoxious knitting instructor is found dying by Skye and Trixie, they realize a murderer is also aboard the ship. The bad news is, May is the lead suspect. The good news is Wally is a member of the police force back home and this isn’t the first dead body Skye and Trixie have stumbled upon. The three of them team up with a little help from Skye’s parents and Trixie’s husband to find the real killer before they reach the end of the cruise so May can go home instead of being remanded to FBI custody.

I love cozies, and Swanson is a master of this genre. Murder of a Needled Knitter has all of the elements cozy readers love. Amateur sleuths, hot hubbies and boyfriends, just enough bloodshed, but not too much and a solid plot that wraps up splendidly in the end. Swanson’s books are fun to read and beautifully written. The descriptions of the food on the cruise ship made me hungry and phrases like, “Rumors were spread like suntan lotion at the pool—thickly and with little regard for the slippery consequences.” made me chuckle.

This is not the first book I have read in the Scumble River Mystery Series. Denise Swanson is one of my favorite cozy writers. Since I live close to where the series is set, it is fun to read about places the characters go that I have been to myself. But you certainly don’t have to live near Chicago to relate to this fabulous cozy series. I highly recommend any and all of Denise Swanson’s books to readers who love a well-written cozy with interestingly engaging characters.

Copyright © 2020 Laura Hartman

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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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