Tag Archives: mystery

Book Review: Two Nights – Page Turning Gem


Two Nights

By Kathy Reichs

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley and the publisher.

Sunday Night just wants to be left alone. Recluse by choice, she prefers Bob the squirrel to most humans she encounters. So when she is asked to find a missing girl who is most likely dead, she is hesitant to say the least. It takes some convincing, but something about Stella, the missing teen seems to be calling her.

Night intuitively believes Stella is still alive. She worries that the kidnappers are going to kill her or do irreparable damage if someone doesn’t find her soon. Unfortunately, that would mean she would have to take the case. Stella’s grandmother is willing to pay her a boatload of cash to find the kidnappers. Grandma isn’t the snuggly type. She is the rich, entitled crusty old woman who wants revenge for her daughter and grandson’s murders that happened when Stella was abducted. It is assumed they are the same people holding the teen.

Against her better judgement, Night takes the case, in part due to a dark time in her past. Once she is on the hunt, she will stop at nothing until she finds the girl. The fact the abductors will pull out all stops to keep Night from stopping them doesn’t sway her from her mission. Working outside of the law she is in a race against time to find the group of people that have Stella and may be planning something much bigger. If they have their way hundreds, possibly thousands of people will die.

Reichs pulls the reader into the story immediately. Done in first person, the reader knows everything that Sunday Night is thinking. Her stream of thoughts gives you the feel of who she is immediately. Not always a likeable person, Night really tries to respond how she should when someone annoys her, not how she wants to. While this novel is not a comedy, I smiled and chuckled more than once over Night’s unfiltered thoughts.

In addition to unforgettable characters, the places they travel to and visit are described so vividly you are right there with the characters. I especially loved it when they were in Chicago. I recognized exactly where Night was because I have been there many times. Reichs paints the landscape with her words, such as “…hatted heads like dots in a Seurat landscape” and “…a barrier of scraggly crepe myrtles doing their best”. The reader immediately has the scene the characters moving through in their minds.

Kathy Reichs is an amazing story teller. It is no surprise that she has been winning awards for her books since the first one she penned in 1997.  Two Nights is a stand-alone novel but I selfishly want to read more books with Sunday Night as the main character. I hope Ms. Night is still whispering in Ms. Reichs’ ear so another novel featuring her will be coming soon.  I read this book in just over 24 hours because I could not put it down.

 

Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

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Book Review – Ten Dead Comedians – The Perfect Locked-Room Mystery


Ten Dead Comedians

By Fred Van Lente

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley and the publisher.

Van Lente has crafted the perfect locked-room mystery.  His stunning debut novel begins with nine comedians receiving invitations to come to an island retreat in the Caribbean. It is the home of renowned comedian Dustin Walker, who is beyond famous. Each guest hopes that Walker can do something to jump start their floundering careers. They were the next best thing at one time, but for most of them it was a flash in the pan. They plummeted from the spotlight as fast as they ascended, but with Walker’s help they all figure they will be back in demand again.

The only problem is, once they arrive on the island via boat with Walker’s assistant Meredith Ladipo, they find themselves stranded. Walker is nowhere to be found, the boat is gone, there is no WIFI and the caretaker is mysteriously absent. Ladipo assures them everything will be fine. They were uneasy, but were willing to wait it out due to the rewards Walker promised them. That was all good and well until the first murder occurred.

This brilliant mystery has the perfect setting for the crazy characters Van Lente created. Where else but a comedian’s island paradise house could hold such a cast? Each character has issues. One of them is an alcoholic; one is trying to be way younger than she really is with the use of cosmetic surgery and yet another did something in his career that will come back to haunt him.

Then there is the killer. Who is it? Since the island appears deserted, it must be one of the guests that came expecting to meet with Walker. Perhaps there is someone hiding on the property. Maybe it is an elaborate joke. How many will have to die before they are either rescued or find out who is behind all of this?

This book is the mystery lover’s dream come true. If you are a fan of stand-up comedians it is nirvana. I loved the plot, the surprises at the end as well as the characters in this book.

Between chapters, Van Lente has inserted stand-up bits from the characters. You can tell immediately which comic is performing before you see their name at the end of the bit because you will come to know each character intimately. Some of the bits are cutting, others bawdy and one is very sad. The author does a perfect job of pulling emotions out of the reader via his true-to-life characters and the perfect plot.

Ten Dead Comedians is a must read for mystery fans. I highly recommend it.

Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The 5 Manners of Death – Which One Will Be Next?

The 5 Manners of Death

By Darden North

There are said to be 5 manners of death. North’s characters explore each of them in his latest novel of the same name. They are as follows:

  1. Natural Death – due to disease or old age
  2. Accidental Death – most often by an accident or mishap, sometimes by overdoses or allergic reactions
  3. Suicide – intentionally taking one’s own life
  4. Homicide – murder
  5. Undetermined – could be any of the above, but the information isn’t clear enough to be definitive

As a surgeon, Dr. Diana Bratton often sees dead bodies. But when they start showing up in her personal life, she begins to get spooked. The victims are not especially close to Diana, but somehow she feels as though they are linked to her. She talks to her friend Key Martin, who happens to be the Chief of Police in their town. Diana helped him solve crimes before when he was a detective and she hopes to get his thoughts about the recent deaths she either witnessed or heard about after she crossed paths with the deceased.

Martin is more than willing to get any extra information from her, and will share a bit of his findings with her. As the story progresses, they find more pieces of the puzzle due to their collaboration. Unfortunately, the clues are leading them closer to people she cares about or cared about at one time.

Diana is determined to get to the bottom of the situation before it comes home to roost. After all, she has a teenage daughter to worry about as well as her Aunt Phoebe, the only two people she loves and cares about. There is a doctor that she fancies, but her involvement with the police does not sit well with him.

While the plot I just described may sound like a cozy mystery, rest assured The 5 Manners of Death is not. This fast paced crime novel alternates between 1965 and present day.  The events that occurred in 1965 come crashing to a halt on the doorstep of a present day murderer who will do anything to remain unidentified.

North expertly crafts the characters and settings to pull the reader into the story and holds you until the last pages bring the novel to a spectacular end. It is no surprise that Darden North is an award winning author. He paints landscapes and parlors with his words, filling every scene with lifelike characters that could be the people next door. Of course you might not want some of them as neighbors.

This is the first book by North that I have read, but I am looking forward to reading his previous books, House Call, Points of Origin, Fresh Frozen and Wiggle Room. I highly recommend The 5 Manners of Death to anyone that enjoys a great mystery with complex characters.

Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

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.

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Book Review: River City Dead – Cozy Mystery in a Cool Setting

River City Dead

By Nancy G. West

Aggie is excited but nervous. Her boyfriend Sam has booked a suite in a hotel right on San Antonio’s River Walk during Fiesta Week. This is the first time they are going to actually spend the weekend together. Aggie cares for Sam and wants to be with him, but this is the first time she’ll actually be spending a night with a man since her ex, whom she refers to as Lester the Louse.

Sam is nothing like Lester. He is a San Antonio police detective. The bad news is Aggie keeps sticking her nose in cases that Sam is working on. The good news is he is allowing her to help out a bit on investigations. Both of them were hoping to avoid any kind of crime during their getaway, but it has a way of finding them.

This time it is really too close to home to ignore. A dead body is found in the suite they were supposed to be staying in this weekend and the victim is someone Aggie knows. Sam wants her to leave so she is out of harm’s way. Aggie is determined to stay and help find the killer.

The problem is Aggie may be getting in too deep. She starts hanging out with some of the girls that are there to perform as a group during Fiesta Week. There are several of these groups staying at the hotel and Aggie is sure someone in or connected to them could be responsible for the dead girl in the suite she should be staying in.

Aggie soon finds herself at odds with Sam. Is her relationship going to end before it goes any further? Will the killer target another one of the girls in the group, or possibly Aggie to keep her from finding out the truth?

River City Dead is a great cozy mystery. It has all of the essential elements. Sam, the hot detective is the perfect love interest for guy shy Aggie. The fact that he lets her help solve crimes, albeit grudgingly, makes them a dynamic duo. I loved the setting. I’ve been to San Antonio’s River Walk, but never during Fiesta Week. The bits of history add a nice element to round out the story.

This is the fourth book in the Aggie Mundeen Mystery Series. It is the first one I’ve read, which worked fine as a standalone mystery. I learned bits and pieces of Aggie and Sam’s history. It was enough to know what was going on, but my curiosity wants a bit more info. That is encouraging me to read the other books in Ms. West’s series to get the scoop.

Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

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.

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Book Review – Isolation – A Captivating Mystery

Isolation

By Mary Anna Evans

Mary Anna Evans’ ninth Faye Longchamp Mystery begins on a somber note. Not only is one of her best friends murdered, but Faye is mourning another loss. Late in her pregnancy, she lost the baby girl she was carrying and will never be able to have another.

Faye is distracted and absent even when in the same house as her family. She has isolated herself from her work, her husband Joe and even her toddler son Michael. As often happens, the loss of her loved one rekindled the desire to learn more about her ancestors. In Faye’s case, she is becoming obsessed with Cally Stanton, the former slave that was her great-great grandmother. Every morning Faye leaves her home to randomly dig holes around Joysuse, the private island that her family has lived on for decades. Cally actually lived in Joe and Faye’s home and Faye is convinced she can find more evidence of her ancestor’s slave days if she just keeps digging, both figuratively and literally.

Faye doesn’t notice much of the world around her until one of her friends ends up dead. Her visiting father-in-law, now out of jail, is looking pretty suspicious. Joe is highly distrustful of the man who left his family years ago, but Faye isn’t really convinced he could have brought harm to the people she cares about.

When Joe realizes Faye may be the next target of the murderer, he has to take action. Both to convince the Sheriff of the threat to his wife and to protect the woman he loves. Joysuse is the perfect place to isolate yourself from the world and your pain, but it can become a trap with a killer on the loose.

This series is as fresh as an island breeze and the plot is as turbulent as stormy seas – the perfect balance for an outstanding mystery. The suspect list is not long, but each of them has reasons that are absolutely believable to have done the crimes. Each time I was convinced I figured it out; the next chapter made me question my deductions. The end was perfect for a mystery lover like me. It was full of breakneck action-filled suspense until the moment the killer was revealed.

Faye Longchamp-Mantooth is one of my favorite fictional characters. She reacts like a real person would given the situations she finds herself in. Joe is her perfect mate; he is patient, loving and willing to give Faye the space she needs even though he is in mourning for his loss too. He is terrified he will lose Faye to the demons inside her or the killer.

Evans is a master at showing the feelings of her characters. More than once I sniffled at the kindness and patience Joe exhibited towards Faye. When he cooked dinner for his wife, after she had not been eating for way too long was one of the sweetest interactions I have ever read.

This is the second Faye Longchamp Mysteries I have read. I found both of them to be smart, engaging and captivating. It was easy to immerse myself in the story and lives of the characters. It is no surprise that Ms. Evans is an award winning author. She has multiple degrees, is a professor and musician. Lucky for me and all mystery buffs, she combines all of her research and knowledge to create fabulous works of fiction for us to enjoy.

Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

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

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Book Review: Bookshop at Water’s End – Great Summer Read

The Bookshop at Water’s End

By Patti Callahan Henry

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

Lainey and Bonnie have been best friends since they were children. Bonnie’s parents owned a summer vacation home on a tidal river that surrounds a small town. Lainey’s family spent vacations with Bonnie’s family at the River House . As youngsters, they fancied themselves as a pair of modern day Nancy Drews. During their explorations around the tiny town they made notes in a notebook of unsolved mysteries and clues as to what and why things happened. The thing they never could fully explain was why Lainey’s mother had disappeared one night at the River House, never to return.

Fast forward to adulthood – Bonnie has become a renowned doctor and Lainey is a celebrated artist. They live on opposite sides of the country, but keep in touch. They rarely see one another. When Bonnie’s world comes crashing down around her ears, threatening everything she values, she calls Lainey to join her at the River House.

Lainey, fighting the demons from her past, agrees to come. She is bringing her small children with her. Bonnie is bringing her reluctant daughter Piper along to help her restore the River House for sale. Home from her first year of college Piper does not want to go, or babysit Lainey’s kids, but Bonnie has promised her services.

Ghosts from the past are stirring. They seem to arrive with the tides. When the past collides with the present, will Lainey and Bonnie survive? Will the answers they have searched for since childhood finally become clear?

The bookshop owner Mimi has an integral role in The Bookshop at Water’s End. She supplies the background narrative in many places to add depth and important facts about the past. Expertly spun together, the past and present emerge as one like the tributaries of the tidal river that flows around the town.

The realistic characters had flaws. Not just a little added issue, but real, glaring flaws. That brought them to life. Just like real people that have secrets, bad relationships and make mistakes – big mistakes that could be life changing. I loved that about them, all humans make bad decisions that seemed like a good idea at the time.

The story is deep and rich, without being heavy. It is a perfect summer (or anytime) read. The mystery isn’t the focus of the plot, but is always popping up as it colors the thoughts and actions of the main characters. This is not a cozy, but more of a women’s fiction with a vein of mystery running throughout.

Patti Callahan Henry is a New York Times bestselling author. This is the first book I’ve read of Ms. Henry’s but it will not be the last.

Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Bronx Kill – Revenge Can Be Murder

The Bronx Kill

By Philip Cioffari

It is said you can never go home again. Home is where you should feel safe, even when ghosts from your past attempt to haunt you. Ghosts may give you nightmares, but family members out for revenge can kill you.

The Renegades, a motley crew of five friends from the Bronx, were inseparable five years ago. That was up until the night they decided to do a dangerous stunt that resulted in one death and one missing person. Charlie is the only one in the old gang left in the neighborhood. Johnny left for the Seminary and Danny moved away to try and forget the event that the remaining Renegades swore to never speak of again.

The old gang is reluctantly being reunited in the Bronx because Johnny has left the Seminary to marry his high school sweetheart. Before the pending nuptials arrive, the guys find themselves in a life and death confrontation with someone who cannot leave the past behind. He has been plotting and planning revenge and is in a position to make good on his threats. If he has his way, there will be funerals instead of a wedding.

The Bronx Kill is a mystery wrapped in revenge. I loved trying to guess the details which were delightfully parceled out until the last chapters. If someone was going to die, would it be one or more of the Renegades? Would it be the man who could not let go of the past? At times I wasn’t sure who, if any of them would survive.

The plot alternates between the past and present until it comes crashing together at the end of the book. The action moves quickly, but it always stays true to the story.

The characters are so well developed, that I think I knew some of these kids in high school. The supporting characters have great balance as well. I knew enough about them to understand what made them tick, but not enough to overshadow the main characters. Every time the bouncers showed up, I had to read a little faster to see what those creeps were up to.

Overall this is a great book. I enjoyed the story and characters. It is the first book I’ve read by award winning author Philip Cioffari. Additionally, Coiffari is a Professor, a short story author with publications in magazines and anthologies and a Playwright. He has also directed for Off and On Broadway. I am going to seek out more of this talented author’s work and I suggest you do too, right after you read The Bronx Kill.

Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

 

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.

 

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