Tag Archives: Murder and Mayhem

Book Review: V.E.N.O.M. – Explosively Excellent Thriller

V.E.N.O.M

By Ty Mitchell

The mysterious death of an older Chinese couple in the Catskills has multiple law enforcement agencies scrambling for answers. By all accounts the two had several children living with them that are now missing. The reference to a group calling themselves V.E.N.O.M. comes into play.

New York City detective Jake Penney is called to work the case. He was a great cop at one time. The death of his family and subsequent spiral into alcohol and drug abuse has all but robbed him of his job. Hanging on by a thread, his CO decides that investigating the murders away from NYC may be the change of scenery he needs. The outcome of the case could determine the path his life will take, either with or without the NYPD.

As soon as Jake arrives he butts heads with the locals. Enter Special Agent Ethan Parker, an investigator that is pulled into the case from parts unknown. Parker recognizes the skill and knowledge Jake possesses and latches on to him. Parker uses tactics that are barely above the law to get information from suspects, which makes Jake more than uncomfortable. Parker is willing to go to any length to find the golden grail – a Catalogue containing details of deals and debts, assassinations and assassins spanning the globe. He explains to Jake that V.E.N.O.M. stands for The Veiled and Exclusive Nation of Organized Mercenaries – for a price the best assassins in the world will do your bidding.

Meanwhile, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Zasha Avery gets wind of the events in New York. Living and working in Miami will not stop her from following the case in the Catskills. She smells a story and is determined to be the one to investigate and write another award winning series before anyone else. She hones in on Jake and Parker, realizing that they are the ticket to the ride she wants to take no matter the consequences.

V.E.N.O.M. is a fast paced action novel with no shortage of character development. Jake, Parker and Zasha, the trio of main characters, are complex and flawed, often exploding on the pages for the reader’s enjoyment.

The fast-paced plot is twisted in the perfect way to keep readers breathless as the tension builds. By the last pages all has been revealed – or has it? The last pages tie up all loose ends.  Lucky for the reader, this appears to be the first in a series and I for one cannot wait for the second book in the series.

If you are a fan of Marvel characters and movies, you will love this fast-paced thriller. I see great things in Mitchell’s future, be sure to be along for this ride.

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review

Book Review: We Were Killers Once – A Haunting Thriller

We Were Killers Once

By Becky Masterman

Truman Capote is famous for his “fictional novel” In Cold Blood. Becky Masterman will soon be known for her novel, We Were Killers Once. Capote writes of two men that worked together slaughtering two families for no discernible reason. Masterman tells of a third man that could have been the instigator and true killer during robberies gone bad.

First of all, Masterman acknowledges We Were Killers Once is a work of fiction. But, she has also done copious research of the murders of the Clutter family and the Walker family in 1959. There is mention of an unnamed boy in the records of the two famous murders. This boy, Jackson Beaufort, is the focus of Masterman’s novel.

Bridget Quinn, former FBI Agent is obsessed with the murders of the Clutter and Walker families. She is only six-years-old when she first hears about the deaths and time has only increased her obsession. Her husband Carlo also has a tenuous link to Hickock and Smith from when he was a priest working in the prison system. Little do they know  their lives may be in danger from the very man that had a part in these brutal murders.

Jeremiah Randolph Beaufort is getting out of jail. He has been incarcerated on and off since he was twelve and shot his little brother. He claimed the killing was an accident, but no one believed him. After reform school his parents would not let him come home, so he lived with his grandfather before striking out on his own and hooking up with two men, Richard Eugene Hickock and Perry Smith when he is barely in his teens.

After his time with Hickock and Smith, he becomes a drug dealer/thief until the “three strikes “ law puts him behind bars for life. His good behavior set him free as an old man. On a mission to make sure the new DNA tests don’t put him back behind bars or on death row, Beaufort needs to find documents that Hickock and Smith may have left behind that could tie him to the 1959 murders.

Beaufort, Bridget and Carlo will intersect and then collide with one another as the story heats up. This page turning thriller will keep you up at night both reading and wondering about the true story behind the fiction.

Be sure to read the Author’s Note at the end of the book. Masterman explains the parts of her story that are based on facts and what is pure entertaining fiction. She has researched documents from the crimes and shares what she has learned. She also recommends further reading because We Were Killers Once will undoubtedly spark your interest about the events in 1959. I read In Cold Blood in the 1960’s but am going to listen to it again on audible. There are several other books, films and even a crime series that was aired in 2018 about these murders. I find myself thinking about this book wanting to know more – you will too. It is a puzzle unlikely to be solved, but you can draw your own conclusions after diving into these books.

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review

Book Review: Under a Dark Sky – Everyone Has Secrets – Some of Them are Deadly

Under a Dark Sky

By Lori Rader-Day

When Eden Wallace finds out her late husband had a reservation for their tenth year anniversary at Straits Point International Dark Sky Park, conflicting emotions boil inside her. Leaving Chicago to travel to a place where the night was king was not something she wanted to do. Since Bix died, she could not be in a dark room and venturing outside after dusk was physically impossible for the young widow.

Out of a sense of duty, like the military wife she had been, she decides to spend the week her husband mysteriously planned for them before his death. Upon her road weary arrival, she finds another couple in the house Bix reserved. That is when they all find out that the house has been rented to Eden as well as six strangers, who were college friends, for the next week. With night drawing near, Eden cannot drive back to Chicago, but plans to leave first thing in the morning. Unfortunately, one of the seven occupants in the house is murdered that night, most likely at the hand of one of the remaining six.

As the outsider, Eden is immediately under suspicion. The local police begin questioning her and each of the friends. They are not under arrest but must remain together in the house until things are sorted out. When tragedy strikes again, the tenuous link between all of them begins to crumble and secrets come to light.

Under the Dark Sky has everything a reader needs and more. The characters are engaging and realistic. I loved the way bits of the characters’ back stories are parceled out to the reader. The timing is perfect and just like meeting someone new, you only know what that character wants to share with you until they begin to open up. Everyone has secrets, some of them deadly. And last, but certainly not least, the setting is absolutely perfect. Not only the home that the seven main characters are thrust into sharing, but the Dark Sky Park itself plays a major role in the mystery.

This is the first book I have read by author Lori Rader-Day, but is the fourth one she has written. Under the Dark Sky is deservedly nominated for several awards. I highly recommend this book and would give more than five stars for this page turning mystery if that were possible. As the characters tell us in the book, there are an infinite number of stars in the sky. This author has earned them.

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

Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review

Book Review: Murder in the Manuscript Room – Delightfully Twisting Tale

Murder in the Manuscript Room

By Con Lehane

Raymond Ambler doesn’t want to be involved with murder. He is a librarian, not a cop. But when it hits close to home, he is not only upset, he is driven to help his buddy NYPD Detective Mike Cosgrove work the case. Cosgrove doesn’t always welcome Ambler’s assistance, but the homicide detective realizes quickly that Ambler is invaluable to the investigation since the body was found in his library and he knows all of the suspects.

Unfortunately, Cosgrove and other police officials don’t always listen to or appreciate Ambler’s take on the case. Knowing he is just an amateur detective, most of the time Ambler is good with that, but when it gets too close, he has no choice. What Ambler doesn’t bargain for is his personal, professional and amateur sleuthing worlds colliding with such force. Threats are being made and chances are being taken that only police professionals should be involved in, not librarians. Should Ambler back off or is it too late?

Lehane’s story could be ripped from today’s headlines. One of the suspects is under scrutiny because he is Islamic. It doesn’t matter that he is a scholar; the authorities are suspicious of him and possibly rightly so. The resulting fallout could seriously affect the relationship Ambler has with his friend Adele Morgan. She sympathizes with the suspect, maybe a bit too much and Ambler is a little jealous of the two of them.

I love the writing style as well as the characters. The story is an intricate web but never confusing. It took me less than 48 hours to finish it because I absolutely had to know what was going to happen next. Don’t confuse easy reading with simplicity. Lehane knows how to draw his reader in and keep them wanting more throughout the entire book.

Murder in the Manuscript Room ticks all the boxes for a cozy mystery. Raymond is the curious librarian that helps solve murders that he quite accidentally encounters. But it is much meatier than most cozies. It is like comparing a 99 cent burger from a nationwide chain to a specialty burger bar that has fresh beef, caramelized onions, homemade sauces and artisanal cheeses. They are both burgers, but occasionally you really love to be treated to the surprise of flavors you enjoy with that specialty – in this case Lahane’s fabulous book.

I am delighted that this is a series. This is the first I have read, but it was not confusing in the least and easily works as a stand-alone novel. That being said, I am going to put the first in the 42nd Street Library mystery series Murder at the 42nd Street Library, on my list to read. Outside of the series, Lahane has published three other mysteries.

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review