Tag Archives: mystery

Book Review: For Sissy – Fast as Lightning and Just as Brilliant

For Sissy

By A. H. Gilbert

Emerson is paying for the sins of his father. In hindsight, he made the mistake of his life by leaving his research work on invasive insects and coming to work for his father at the resort he was building. It seemed like the logical choice after his grant ran out and he discovered he is the father of six year old Courtney whom he met recently. Her mother was killed by a hit and run driver so now he has custody. But the worse turn of events was finding out his father used shoddy building materials, might have murdered someone and bilked others without Emerson’s knowledge. Since his father is gone, Emerson is now facing charges that may put him away for a long time even though he had no knowledge of his father’s crimes.

Just when Emerson assumes life cannot get any more complicated, the police have started questioning him in the recent attacks on young women. They seem to be connected to him so he is the logical suspect in their eyes. But there is a serial killer on the loose and he is hunting for Courtney, Emerson’s daughter. Courtney doesn’t fit his profile, but she is the only one that can identify him as the man she has had nightmares about since her mother’s death. Can Emerson stay out of jail long enough to keep her safe? Will the police listen to him when he thinks he has a stalker?

For Sissy is paced as fast as lightning and just as brilliant. The story picks up momentum like and approaching storm rumbling in the distance and doesn’t stop until it unleashes its fury. The page turning tension makes this a must read for all psychological thriller buffs. The story is solid, dropping clues like breadcrumbs for the reader to follow, ending with a shocking surprise at the end that I did not see coming.

I love everything about this book. The characters are multi-dimensional and believable, from the chilling calculations of the killer to the little girl. The bit players such as Emerson’s girlfriend and the police officers add richness and depth to the story. It kept me up late reading one more chapter to see what was going to happen next.

The is the first book I’ve read by A. H. Gilbert, but the second one he has written. I have already put his previous book, The Crandall Haunting at the top of my list of must read books.

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

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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

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Book Review: Murder from Scratch – Delicious Culinary Cozy

Murder from Scratch

By Leslie Karst

Restaurant owner, chef and part-time amateur sleuth Sally Solari is back and things are heating up both in and out of the kitchen. First of all, one of her cooks has an attitude. Brian has been on edge, and it is affecting his co-workers in a less than desirable way. Maybe he is worried about Sally going into joint ownership of Gauguin, the restaurant she inherited from her aunt, with Javier her head chef. And secondly, her father calls with an unusual request. Apparently a relative by marriage has been found dead by her twenty-year-old blind daughter Evelyn. Italian family ties are strong, even if you have not seen a relative in years, you still help them. So Sally’s dad brought Evelyn to his house because she has nowhere else to go. She is more than welcome, but her service dog has made Sally’s dad’s allergies kick into high gear. Of course Sally welcomes Evelyn and her dog into her home. She is looking forward to getting to know her better.

When Evelyn begins to tell Sally about her mother’s death ruled a suicide, the girls soon realize foul play is most likely what happened. Apparently Evelyn’s mom was a gifted chef and had recently struck out on her own, leaving a disgruntled boss behind.  Then there are the suspicious co-workers that might be hiding something. Before long the suspect list becomes longer than the specials menu at Gauguin and Sally is determined to prove her aunt’s death was not an accident or suicide, but a well-planned murder.

Detective Vargas warns Sally to stay away from her list of suspects, knowing it is futile. He just wants her out of harm’s way. When he asks her to call him by his first name, Sally wonders if he may want to have a more personal relationship. Speaking of personal relationships, her ex-boyfriend Max is apparently seeing someone. She has mixed feelings about the whole thing. They are just friends, right? Then why is she upset about him seeing another woman?

This is the fourth book in this series, but the third I have read. Somehow I missed the first one, but have added it to my reading list. There are references to the previous books, but reads fine as a stand-alone novel if you have not read the previous books.

If you read my reviews, you know by now I am a fan of cozy mysteries. I know they are not War and Peace, but no one ever intended them to be. Karst delivers an intriguing plot with lots of suspects, characters that come to life in the pages and a satisfying end to the story. It is all a reader can ask for and more. I learned many things in Murder from Scratch about how blind people navigate through their lives as well as what it is like to work in and run a restaurant. And as a bonus, there are recipes at the end of the book for some of the dishes discussed in the novel.

I highly recommend this series if you are a mystery lover, crazy for cozies or just love a good plot without the blood and gore. You will not be disappointed.

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: The Mystery of Ruby’s Mistletoe – Delightful Historical Cozy Mystery

The Mystery of Ruby’s Mistletoe

By Rose Donovan

Spending the holidays with the aunt that disowned her after her father’s death was definitely not on Fina’s list of things to do. But when the constable showed up at Oxford looking for her best friend Ruby, the girls need to get away from the college before one or both of them spend the holidays in jail even though neither of them has committed a crime.

Fina used to love her Aunt Millicent, known to most as Lady Shillington. But after Fina’s brother was wrongfully hanged for the murder of Fina’s father. Lady Shillington cut all ties with Fina and her mum after the trial, so it came as a surprise that she would invite Fina for the holidays.

Because Fina knows her brother was innocent, she and Ruby decide to find the real killer when visiting the village for the holiday. Unbeknownst to them, Lady Shillington has invited all of the people involved with the untimely deaths to celebrate the holidays at her home.

Fina, Ruby and their friend Pixley are locked in a snowbound mansion with the person or persons that are undoubtedly the murderer or murderers. Will someone else die before Christmas dinner is served? Fina and her friends must find the killer but who can they trust to help trap the guilty person or persons?

This historical cozy mystery set in the 1930s it is full of red herrings, twists and turns. Like all cozies, the murder is not graphic and the gumshoes are college students not police inspectors. But do not discount the detailed hunt for the killer using the only tools available to solve crime in the early 1900s, which pretty much amounts to good old brain power.

Reading Ms. Donovan’s book is reminiscent to one of my favorite authors, Dame Agatha Christie. Setting up the suspects in a snowbound house, asking them to meet in the drawing room and the cleverly satisfying conclusion was extremely satisfying. I can picture Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot nodding at Ms. Donovan saying “Well done!”

This is the sixth book in the Ruby Dove Mystery Series. It is the first one I have read. It works fine as a standalone novel, but there were some references to previous cases that escaped me. That is okay, because the reader in me will seek out the five previous books so that I can be privy to the inside jokes between Ruby and Fina as well as learn about their previous cases that were referenced in The Mystery of Ruby’s Mistletoe.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received an Advanced Review Copy (or ARC) on Reedsy Discovery in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Liar’s Child – Fast Paced Psychological Thriller

The Liar’s Child

By Carla Buckley

Living in a small town can be rough. Everyone knows your business. And when your business includes your wife leaving your young son in the back of the car on a sweltering day almost killing him small towns can be brutal.

Ever since that day, people averted their eyes whenever Whit and Diane walked down the street. As if making a horrible mistake was contagious. Diane didn’t help her cause by being confrontational, moody and actually acting a bit unstable. This was not the first time she did something questionable. She often takes off either with or without the kids, oftentimes calling Whit to rescue her from whatever crazy plan she started but could not complete. But this time she has been gone for too long without any communication with her family at all.

Since she left, Whit has been trying to work and take care of Cassie and Boon. After being released from the hospital, Boon is physically fine, but has emotional issues due to the trauma and now his mother abandons them, making him even more anxious. Cassie is out of control. She is only 12, but hanging with a much older crowd. Drinking, sex and Goth make-up accompanies a surly attitude beyond her years.

When Sara, a new neighbor that is in the witness protection program moves into the apartment next to the family, their lives will become hopelessly entangled. None of them want this, but circumstances warrant a strange alliance between Sara and the children. Secrets and lies swirl around them like bees waiting to sting the first one to make a wrong move.

Ms. Buckley’s fast paced plot has deliciously unexpected twists and turns. Just when I thought I knew what was going to happen, I was wrong. I love novels that can surprise me and give me that “ah” moment when I realize all the info was clearly there but I didn’t realize where the plot was headed.

The characters are interestingly flawed, making them real from the first pages. I loved Boon, he is a gentle little soul who only wants to get his mom back even though she is like a landmine waiting to go off at the slightest touch. Cassie is tough on the outside, but so vulnerable underneath I hoped she would find the right path. Sara has an agenda; Whit is just trying to make it through the day without another disaster. All of them are brilliantly portrayed.

This is the fifth book by Ms. Buckley. It is the first one I have read, but I will be searching out her previous books, because I really enjoyed this fast paced, well-written novel. All five of her novels are psychological suspense novels promising hours of page turning pleasure for her readers.

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: Foiled – Kid’s Action and Adventure Book Not to be Missed

Foiled

By Carey Fessler

Best friends cannot keep secrets from each other. That is why Billy has to show Kate, his next door neighbor and bestie what his dad brought him home from work. Kate is interested, but she is in trouble for not doing her chores and has to wait until later to see it. When she finally gets to see the pieces of foil Billy has, she is amazed that it flattens out by itself when either of them crumple it up. Billy’s dad is in the military, and swears Billy to secrecy because he wasn’t supposed to bring the foil home with him.

Little did they know those tiny pieces of foil would lead them on a wild adventure. They have to escape capture from an agent with the CIA, drive cars and fly an airplane. Will they ever be reunited with their families? Will the CIA agent catch them and take away the magic foil? Are there aliens involved?  There are so many questions, and all of them are answered in due time in this action filled story that will have kids and grownups cheering for the good guys and happy with the ending.

Foiled is set in the late 1940’s near Roswell, New Mexico. It is based on facts and spiced up with fiction. As a kid, I remember them talking about Roswell, the UFO and the aliens that everyone speculated had landed in the 40’s. It was still a mystery when I was a kid in the 1960’s. Today, it is still a mystery of sorts and the author explains the true facts she includes in her story and the things that are fiction at the end of the book.

I am far past 9 years old, but thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was interesting and fun to read. The throwback to party line phones, 4 digit phone numbers (yes, I remember my 4 digit number from those days) makes you realize you have traveled back in history. The lack of computers, cell phones, tracking devices and all other things that ruin good action novels these days are not included because they did not exist.

Per Ms. Fessler’s website, her books are action adventure books for children 9 and older. It is fabulous that she puts an approximate age range as a guide for parents and others who love and buy books for the young people in their lives. It makes it so much easier to choose a great book that the kids will enjoy.

This is Carey Fessler’s fourth book, but the first that I’ve read. I highly recommend it for the youngsters in your lives (be sure to borrow it after they are done).  Just imagine the great conversations you can have about history and what the world was like when you were growing up after you have both read 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 © 2019 Laura Hartman.

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Book Review: One Taste Too Many – New Culinary Cozy Series

One Taste Too Many

By Debra H. Goldstein

Sarah Blair’s ex-husband, Bill, is dead. The bigger issue is that her twin sister Emily has been arrested for his murder. The police think that she purposely fed him something that he was highly allergic to, then instead of attempting to save him like she claims, she watched him die. Sarah knows that is as far from the truth as it can get, so she is determined to find out if this was just a horrible accident or someone really did murder Bill and frame Emily.

But that isn’t her only problem. Sarah has custody of RahRah , the cat that her mother-in-law loved and Bill hated. Sarah and RahRah are two peas in a pod. RahRah is not a cat that loves many people, but he adores Sarah. The feelings are mutual and they are happy to have each other. That is until documents surface giving RahRah to Bills current girlfriend – who really doesn’t want him, but wants to collect the money specified in Bill’s will to care for the feline.

All of this turmoil is set during a food festival. Emily is a fantastic chef and Sarah can’t boil water without instructions. As the girls start investigating, another dead body turns up. Emily is targeted as the killer again. Sarah doubles her efforts to clear her sister’s name, get back her beloved cat and find the real killer. She will go to any lengths to accomplish her goals even if she has to do something she fears more than the killer’s revenge – cooking!

­One Taste Too Many is the first book in the new Sarah Blair Mystery Series. The cast of characters are interesting and diverse. It is fun to peek behind the kitchen doors of the chefs in the story. Because Sarah works for a lawyer, we get to see how justice is served as well.

I love a book that gives me so many likely suspects I cannot figure out who the murderer is until the last chapters. This is a culinary cozy that mystery lovers will enjoy. Cooks of all levels will enjoy the recipes at the end of the book.

Ms. Goldstein is an award winner author. One Taste Too Many is the third mystery she has written. She also writes short works of fiction that have been published. I’m looking forward to the next book in the Sarah Blair 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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