Tag Archives: mystery

Book Review: Fake – Mystery Ripped From Today’s Headlines

Fake

By John DeDakis

White House Correspondent Lark Chadwick has seen more than her fair share of dead bodies. But when Rose Gannon, the First Lady of the United States drops dead during an interview with Lark, it is beyond horrific. It was just bad luck that Lark was present at the time of Mrs. Gannon’s collapse, but she didn’t have to snap a picture of the President trying to revive his wife to no avail. Once the picture hit the papers, Lark’s life became more complicated than even she could have imagined.

Soon she again finds herself on the front pages, this time not as a reporter, but as the subject of a national controversy. She is accused of having an affair with President Gannon. Becoming a victim of the fake news stories her former colleagues post in the papers and on social media about her, losing her job in the story’s aftermath. Lark is determined to find out who leaked personal information which became the basis of the fake news story.

Much like the headlines of today, the stories bring strong feelings about Lark from friends, strangers and colleagues. Many feel as if they know the story and Lark without getting the facts. Becoming the judge, jury and jailer, some of the general public hates Lark without ever meeting her. Will someone take matters into their own hands?

Lark’s story could be taken from today’s headlines. She is merely doing her job to the best of her ability. Getting caught up in the court of public opinion to the point of being in danger is the last thing she imagined for her life.

DeDakis brilliantly combines the current trend of the general population’s personal feelings about public figures as well as the personal side from the accused point of view. The real consequences to the lies that have been published change lives.

The characters in Fake are brought to life in the realistic setting DeDakis creates. From the insider look into the lives of the White House press contingency to the appointments with a grief counselor, the characters are interesting and quickly become real to the reader. He touches on many hot topics in addition to the fake news thread that runs throughout. Sex abuse, the ethical decisions journalists make and the personal effects half-truths have on the characters are all brought to the reader to think about long after the last pages are read.

I love a book that is current and relevant in addition to telling an interesting story. Fake makes the reader think about the nightly news in a different, more personal way. The mystery of who leaked personal information was an additional layer of interest. Hopefully we will see more of Lark Chadwick in the future.

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: Toxic Octopus – Interestingly Informative Novel Wrapped in Fun

Toxic Octopus

By Lisa Haneberg

Xena Cali is a private investigator. She also owns Paradise Lost Spy Shop on Galveston Island.  Conveniently, she employs Sparky and Dora, the other members of her team. When a member of a local privately funded non-profit organization BARL is murdered Xena and her team are called in after the police determine Fred, a male octopus killed Dr. Jane Moore. Ari, the manager of the cephalopod lab, is sure Fred is not guilty and Xena agrees with him, especially after meeting Fred.

So begins the bizarre investigation including spy cams, Segway Personal Transporters and more danger than Xena could imagine when she agreed to take the case. Soon there is an additional murder that is linked to the case. She will have to use every trick in the book and several of the items she sells in her Spy Shop to catch the real killer and keep herself from being the third victim.

Toxic Octopus is an interestingly informative novel wrapped in fun. I learned more about octopuses than I could have imagined. Yes, the plural of octopus is really octopuses. I also found out that sadly, after mating, the male octopus dies and after laying her eggs the female octopus dies. I also learned all about freerunning, which is also called parkour. Xena practices this art of efficient movement adding ninja like fun to some very dangerous situations.

The plot moves along quickly, building tension until the killer is revealed. One of vehicles carrying the book is the characters’ quick wit and humor. Haneberg made me laugh out loud more than once, especially when Xena gives everyone she meets a different reason for the fashion choice she wears to a gala. There are times when Xena talks directly to the reader, much like the characters in the TV series Scrubs, and it absolutely works.

If you are a fan of Christopher Moore, you will love Toxic Octopus. Haneberg’s style is fun and informative – perfectly balanced with a solid plot and intriguing whodunit. This is the first book in the Spy Shop Mystery Series. The second book, Dead Pelican is available now. I cannot wait to read it.

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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Book Review: The Whisper Man – Haunting Thriller

The Whisper Man

By Alex North

Neil Spencer has a less than ideal life. The six-year-old has two alcoholic parents and he is left on his own devices all too often. When his father decides to let him walk back to his mother’s house alone, it is the last time he was seen. He is not the first missing child Detective Inspector Pete Willis has searched for and won’t be his last.

The small town had a serial killer targeting children years ago, but Frank Carter, aka The Whisper Man, had been caught and was in prison. But Neil’s disappearance was eerily similar to the Whisper Man cases. Some of the children’s bodies have not been found and continue to haunt DI Willis. He is determined to find Neil before he became another unsolved mystery.

Meanwhile, another family in this small town is troubled. Tom lives with his young son, Jake, in the home in which Tom’s wife/Jake’s mother tragically died. Jake is understandably troubled. He has an imaginary friend that he talked to all the time. The small family decides to find a new home so that they can move on. After the move, he tells his father that a man is whispering to him telling him to unlock the door of the new house and let him in.

Understandably Tom was distraught. He contacts the local police, who at first don’t really believe anything is amiss, especially because Jake is known to have imaginary friends. Once DI Willis hears about the whispers, he immediately knows it has to be The Whispering Man’s accomplice. Would he be able to keep young Jake safe? Would they finally locate the other missing boys’ remains?

The Whisper Man is a haunting thriller that skillfully pulls the reader into the story from the first pages. At times I couldn’t stop reading, and was holding my breath as the plot unfolded. North created characters that came alive on the pages. When I read lines such as “…grief is a stew with a thousand ingredients, and not all of them are palatable…” they stick in my mind long after the last page. This was so much more than a mystery, reminiscent of Dean Koontz, thought provoking descriptions and beautiful turns of phrase keep readers slowing down to enjoy the journey of the fast paced plot.

If you are a fan of mysteries, thrillers and heart stopping plot twists, this is the book for you. Alex North is a pen name, so I’m not sure if I’ve ever read anything else that was written by him. If anything else he’s written is as intensely engaging as The Whisper Man, I will be the first to get a copy.

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: The Body in the Gravel – Sexy Cozy Mystery

The Body in the Gravel

A Jazzi Zanders Mystery

By Judi Lynn

Cousins Jazzi and Jerod, along with Jazzi’s fiancé Ansel are house flippers. They do most of the work themselves. They depend on others for things that are not in their wheelhouse, such as delivery of gravel and concrete as well as furnace replacement. Luckily they have a close friend, Thane that happens to be living with Jazzi’s sister Olivia, who is a whiz when it comes to heating and AC. But when Thane and Darby, the cranky old buzzard that delivers their gravel meet up at the reno house, Ansel and Jazzi discover a long lasting feud between the two men. They didn’t know that Thane’s best friend, Walker is Darby’s son. Walker and his mother fled from the abusive Darby two years ago without a trace. Thane thinks Darby killed them.

When Darby ends up dead in a load of gravel dumped at the house Ansel and Jazzi are working on, Thane is at the top of the list. But soon the list of suspects is broadened to the guys that worked for him, family members and all of his friends – who are more like enemies due to Darby’s volatile nature. When another person connected to Darby is found dead, and a presumed dead person is found alive the case becomes even more complicated.

Jazzie is determined to help Detective Gaff find the murderer. He is more than willing to have her input, as they have worked several cases together in the past. But she has more than a murderer to worry about. She and Ansel are getting married in a few weeks and she doesn’t even have her wedding dress yet!

I love cozy mysteries. Of course they are not War and Peace, but no one wants them to be. They are fun, fast reads with interesting elements. The house flipping factor is fun, especially if you are a fan of HGTV like I am. Another element that I love is the delicious foods Jazzi and Ansel cook and bake. They are a couple of foodies, sharing their love of food with us. As a bonus to the readers, a few of their recipes are included.

The other element that was a bit different from most cozy mysteries is the romance between Jazzi and Ansel. Most cozies have the on again/off again boyfriends that never seem to be resolved. The sexy but never explicit interactions between the main characters was not frustrating or irritating to me like the traditional cozy plot lines of never committing in the relationship. Kudos to Ms. Lynn for having her characters have a happily ever after – with a side of murder.

This is the third book in the Jazzi Zanders cozy mystery series and the first one I have read. It works well as a stand-alone novel. The only time I was confused was the first few chapters as there are several characters that are introduced from the previous novels. But I soon knew who everyone was and the role they played in the plot.

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: Jordan by Victoria Landis – Fast Paced Engaging Novel

Jordan

By Victoria Landis

Out of the blue, a woman appears in the park across from Petra Simmons’ chocolate shop. She seems to be in distress, so Petra and her brother Andy rush to her, only to discover she doesn’t have a clue to her own identity. Luckily, Petra’s boyfriend Ben is a Sheriff’s Deputy. When she calls him in to help the mysterious woman that is now in her apartment, he quickly finds out her identity. She is Jordan Crissman, a very wealthy young woman that disappeared without a trace three years ago.

Jordan’s family wants to bring the media into the situation, but she is not willing to cooperate. She leaves the attention grabbing family to go stay with Petra. Her family doesn’t really care that she is gone, and they still are searching for their five minutes of fame, with or without her.

Unfortunately, Jordan unwittingly becomes the object of every media outlet around when it appears she has healed a little girl who could not walk. With the ever present press hounding her, people swarm to see her to be cured from whatever ails them. But on the darker side, a contingent of religious zealots and civil instigators begin to protest. The three groups gather outside the apartment building that houses Jordan and Petra demanding healing, interviews and most disturbing, Jordan’s presence to “find the truth”.

The only thing Jordan wants to do is help people, but now that violence has come to their front door, the four of them have gone into hiding. Could they be running away from danger or into the lion’s den?

Landis’ characters leap from the pages into the reader’s heart. Jordan is sweet, but strong in the abilities and conviction that she is doing the right thing by helping others no matter what. Petra is strong, but still mourning the death of her parents several years ago. Andy is her little brother, but doesn’t need her mothering him anymore. They are close and will always be a big part of each other’s lives. Lastly, Ben agrees to put his life on hold to help Jordan and Petra.

Jordan is a fast paced, engaging novel. I needed to know what happened next. The story is deep, yet easily read and extremely interesting. While Jordan is a standalone novel, I feel as though the last chapter gave the author room for a sequel. I, for one, will be first in line if and when one is written.

Ms. Landis writes, edits and is an artist. Jordan is her third novel, following Blink It Away and Alias: Mitzi & Mack. She also writes a humor column entitled A Little Bit Sideways. This is the first book I’ve read by Landis, but definitely will not be the last.

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: 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

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Book Review: Longevity – Would You Extend Your Life No Matter the Cost?

Longevity

By Rolf Margenau

How would you like to live an extra thirty or even 50 years or so beyond your life expectancy? Doctor Lucy Mendoza and her company have developed a pill that can extend lives to well over a hundred years old. On the surface, the pills seem to be rejuvenating the test group, but at what cost? Critics claim it is not the physical aspect of the Longevity project that bothers them. It is the moral and socio-economic ramifications that are destine to cause problems.

Several of these factions are doing their best to thwart the success of the Longevity project. These include some that have covertly infiltrated the company. Others have taken to the airwaves, especially the religious sector. They state that it is against God’s will. Demonstrators picket the front entrance of Dr. Mendoza’s building as well. When all of those actions are unsuccessful, those plotting against the Longevity project decide that nothing short of murder will end the Longevity trial, and they are willing to take matters into their own hands.

Enter Grant Duran, a man from Lucy’s past. He has been hired to work security for her. His resume includes several years in the military as well as special ops. But it also includes the feelings they once had for each other long ago. Can they both get past them? Lucy is willing to hire him because he is the best man for the job and she feels an instant attraction that cannot be denied.

Longevity has an interesting premise and raises all of the ethical and medical questions for the reader to consider. That being said, there are so many characters doing different dirty deeds at the same time, it is difficult to keep them straight.

The plot moves a bit too quickly. I would have liked to see the characters and the scenes to have played out a bit more. Within a few pages someone commits a crime, flies to two countries and dies accidentally. As a reader, I need more flesh on these bones to pull me into the action. It is a short book, under 200 pages, and that is not enough to tell this story with all of the characters involved. To keep my interest, it would have been better to connect with the characters a bit more. I did enjoy the one character that seems to be mild mannered that is kinky and more than a little crazy. My favorite character is Wylie Cypher. He is an older gentleman that is part of the Longevity project test group. I would have loved to see him pop up more often in this book.

This is the first book I have read by Rolf Margenau. He has written several other works of fiction including five novels as well as two photography books. The novels feature Wylie Cypher. I just might check out the first one to see what Wylie is up to in his 20’s.

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

Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

 

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