Tag Archives: mystery

Book Review: Right Handed Lefty – Powerful YA Novel

Right Handed Lefty

By Ryan Coughlin

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

Twelve year old Native American Ellis Sayer is different from other kids. He knows he is different and feels as though no one really wants him. Orphaned as a baby, he was adopted by a family that returned him. Now he lives with Marty and Suzanne who adopted him to fill the void in their lives that was created when their son died.

Ellis has two friends. Both of them are quirky but they get by a bit better than he does. Like other teens Ellis falls for a girl that currently hates him, and she is the cousin of one of his two only friends. The lives of the three boys turn upside down after an incident at school. They band together for a noble cause that pits them against an evil man that holds the power to destroy them. Now they only have each other to depend on in the life and death situation life that has been thrust upon them. They feel the only available option is flight.

Ellis is an interesting character. He is trying his best to fit in. He knows he is different and that the other kids don’t like him. He just tries to keep his head down and not get hurt. He breaks my heart for all of the kids that don’t feel like they fit in. This amazing YA novel will have you cheering for the misfits. Against all odds they must work together with a clear plan to accomplish their goal of staying alive.

Coughlin’s first novel is captivating. The parallel story lines of a Native American from years ago struggling with his identity and Ellis struggling with fitting in are expertly woven together to create a beautiful story. He addresses racism, the ostracizing of people who are different and acceptance of the world as it is, not as we would like it to be. He helps the reader realize that love can’t cure all evils but it helps make the evils a bit less painful.

Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

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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

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Lisa Gardner’s Right Behind You Now Out in Paperback!!

If you haven’t read this yet, it is a gem. Now out in paperback! Check out my review below if you missed it. 

Right Behind You

Lisa Gardner

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from the publisher in connection with NetGalley in return for my review. Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

Lisa Gardner’s beloved characters, Rainie and Quincy are back in action. This time it is personal. Of all the unlikely couples in the world to adopt a troubled girl, it is them. They fostered her after she bounced from home to home. She didn’t seem to fit anywhere, most likely due to her past. Now she could be targeted by a killer.

Sharlah has had a rough start in life. Daughter of alcoholic/drug addict parents, she was raised by her brother. He was only a few years older than she was when he had to take charge of her wellbeing. He fed her; made sure she got to school on time and protected her. Even when he had to use deadly force, he did what he had to do to keep her safe.

It has been years since they have seen each other. Sharlah doesn’t let anyone get close to her since the night her parents died which was the last day she saw her beloved brother. The only breathing thing she has let herself get close to is Luka. A year after arriving at Rainie and Quincy’s as a foster child, he brought the retired police dog home to Sharlah. She and Luka are inseparable and the love they have for each other is evident. Sharlah loves her foster (soon to be adoptive parents) but has a much harder time showing them the affection that comes easy for her with Luka.

Then the fragile world they have created begins to cave in. Sharlah’s brother Telly Ray Nash could be in trouble. Serious trouble. Trouble so serious that the local authorities have called in Quincy to help find Telly even though he is a retired FBI profiler.

Rainie and Quincy are both concerned for the safety of the community and even more concerned for Sharlah. They can only hope he isn’t coming for Sharlah next.

Right Behind You is action packed with twists and turns that surprised me until the very end. Just when I thought I had this fast-paced novel figured out, a new wrinkle in the plot would take me down a different path. It was a fabulous read for any suspense lover.

Her characters are so real I expect to see some of them on the street. The setting was familiar due to my travels in the Northwest, I especially loved the reference to the cheese factory as I’ve been there several times just like the tourists in the story.

Lisa Gardner never fails to deliver, and this book is no exception. It is obvious to see that she has earned the crown as the #1 best-selling New York Times author of suspense. This is the eighth novel in her FBI Profiler Series. I have read a few of them, as well as several of her other books. Her books intrigue and entertain, if you haven’t read her novels, Right Behind You will make you an instant fan.

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Book Review: Deep Freeze by John Sandford – Needs More Than 5 Stars!

Book Review: Deep Freeze

By John Sandford

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

BCA Agent Virgil Flowers is back in the tenth book in the #1 New York Times best-selling series. Flowers would rather be photographing wild life as a freelance photographer instead of solving a murder. But unfortunately his much needed vacation has been cut short by a call asking him to investigate a murder in the tiny town of Trippton, Minnesota.

Not only does this put an abrupt halt to his much needed rest and relaxation, it also pulls him away from his girlfriend and his dog. The prospect of going back to Trippton in the middle of winter isn’t very appealing, even though he has friends there since he previously solved a case there.

After a Class Reunion meeting held at the home of the richest woman in town, she turns up dead. The murder happened minutes after the meeting, so one would assume the killer is one of her classmates. Unfortunately, almost everyone in the small town disliked the victim and more than a few had a solid motive. Virgil knows how catting people can be; especially those with a history.

The townspeople mostly like Virgil, for an outsider that is. He has a few true friends in the snow covered town, Johnson Johnson being at the top of that list.  Johnson is happy to see him and more than willing to help him get information that Virgil may have trouble getting on his own.

Then, as if Virgil needed more irritation, enter Margaret Griffin. She has been sent by a major toy manufacturer to serve cease and desist orders to someone in Trippton because they are making “modified” dolls of an x-rated nature. Someone in high places within the state wants the little homegrown shop closed, so Virgil is also asked to give Griffin a hand. Unfortunately for him, that results in more problems than the murder investigation.

When an attempt is made on Virgil’s life, he isn’t sure if it is the people in the town that depend upon the illicit income from the modified dolls or the murderer feeling the heat.

I loved everything about this book. The humor, the twists and turns, the characters and interestingly entertaining plot add up to another best seller. As a longtime fan of Sandford’s writing, I was not disappointed.

The engaging plot had me reading “just one more chapter” late into the night. Sandford skillfully pulls the reader into the story and holds you there in the bitter cold of Minnesota right there with his characters.

Virgil is an interesting man. He seems laid back, but looks can be deceiving. His mind is always turning and moving towards the goal of finishing up the cases and getting back home. The reader can tell he is smart, savvy and more than a little compassionate for the plight of those who need help, even if they are on the wrong side of the law.

There is a reason Sandford is a best-selling author. His books are interesting, funny and easy to read. Don’t confuse “easy” with simple. Deep Freeze is a complex story told in a laid back manner that keeps readers turning the pages.

I am sorry to say I have not read one of Sandford’s books for several years. Conversely, I am excited to have rediscovered his masterful prose and will be catching up with some of the previous adventures of Virgil I have missed. I highly recommend this book to thriller fans as well as anyone who loves a well written book with a fabulously entertaining plot.

Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

 

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Book Review: Brew or Die – A Java Jive Mystery – Caffeinated Cozy Fun

Brew or Die – A Java Jive Mystery

By Caroline Fardig

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

Juliet Langley is pumped! She has been an amateur sleuth for a while, but now she has worked hard and earned her private investigator license. Pete, her best friend and owner of Java Jive Coffee Shop, is happy for her, but has serious reservations. She has been known to take risks that scare Pete and put her in more hot water than she would like to admit. Besides, they are attracted to each other, but are afraid to jeopardize their friendship by becoming a couple so he is afraid of losing her.

Juliet assures Pete that working for her friend, Maya Huxley, the owner of a private investigation agency, will keep her safe. In fact, she will start out doing the boring part of investigations, like surveillance. The other thing that makes Pete apprehensive is that Julie is the part time manager at Java Jive while he works as an audio engineer for a studio in Nashville. How will she do both jobs without one or the other getting short changed?

The first case seems simple enough. Photographing a cheating husband’s clandestine meeting with his paramour should be a snap. Juliet watches, waits, takes the pictures to prove his infidelity and then abruptly gets mixed up in an attempted murder. Much to her dismay, her boyfriend, cold case Detective John Stafford comes to her rescue. Even worse, her ex-boyfriend Detective Ryder Hamilton finds out about the incident. They had a bad breakup and she has been avoiding him ever since. Now Juliet is back on his radar, and it is making her crazy.

Then Java Jive’s cook has a personal tragedy. His girlfriend is found dead of a suspected overdose, but he is convinced it is murder. Pete begs Juliet to help investigate the case even though the police have ruled it an accidental death, not murder. Juliet agrees, and reluctantly allows Pete to help her. This pulls both of them into a crazy situation full of models, parties and recreational drugs.

Meanwhile, Juliet is assigned to a new case, involving possible money laundering and theft. Again she crosses paths with Hamilton. She is angry and hurt but since it is beneficial to the case, she agrees to work with him as long as he keeps it strictly business. Things are getting tricky in her personal life and new profession. She is on the wrong side of a millionaire and is having trouble keeping her personal feelings out of her investigations. Is she in more danger than she can handle? Which one of the men in her life will help her and which ones will hurt her? The bodies are starting to stack up!

The characters in this series are well developed and interesting. The fact that they have troubles in their personal lives but carry on their jobs makes them easy to relate to and identify with. The relationships between Juliet and the men in her life are amusing and heartbreaking at the same time. She is always getting in too deep, but seems to be able to swim her way out of the situation. Her spunky attitude makes her the perfect star of this cozy mystery series.  I really enjoy reading about Juliet and the men in her life, as well as life in the coffee shop with a side of murder served up sprinkled with a side of romance.

Brew or Die is the fourth book in Carolyn Fardig’s Java Jive Mystery Series. Previously I read and enjoyed the second book in the series, Mug Shot. Both of them are solid cozy mysteries with all the elements cozy readers enjoy. I highly recommend this series as well as the others written by Ms. Fardig.

Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: A Measure of Murder – Cute Culinary Cozy

A Measure of Murder

By Leslie Karst

Sally Solari has more on her plate than the delicious meals she is serving at Gauguin, the restaurant she recently inherited. Her schedule is full with the management of Gauguin. She is also helping her father at Solari’s, the restaurant her family has owned for years. Sally is slowly trying to find a replacement for herself so she can focus more on Gauguin, but her father is resisting her efforts. He is sure no one can take his daughter’s place in their family’s Italian restaurant.

Even though Sally loves the restaurant business, she decides to carve out a bit of her precious free time to do something for herself. Deciding she will spend some of the precious few hours of her free time by joining a local chorus that needs members.

Like any social group, the choir has personality conflicts, but overall they are a great bunch of dedicated vocalists that enjoy each other and their craft. The director has found fame with the discovery of some sheet music by a famous composer making the pull to be a part of the choir more desirable. Unfortunately their first rehearsal ends in tragedy. One of the tenors falls to his death. His girlfriend seeks out Sally and asks her to investigate the accident because she is sure it was murder.

The police have closed the case, but Sally agrees to switch her chef’s hat for a deerstalker a la Sherlock Holmes because she doesn’t think the evidence adds up to an accident. That means that one of the members of her choir could be a murderer. Let’s all hope Sally isn’t the next victim.

Karst writes a meaty cozy mystery. Her characters are strong, multi-faceted and interesting. Sally juggles her career and personal life just as most of us. She loves the restaurant business, her family and friends. It is refreshing to read a cozy mystery without the main character being a bit ditzy. Her father and grandmother enforce the family values she believes in as well as adding humor to the story.

The plot is interesting and solid. There are several suspects, all of them likely killers. As Sally quietly works the case in her spare time, the motives are varied and believable I was convinced I knew who the killer was until a new theory was introduced that was as likely as the previous one making me change my mind in an instant.

A Measure of Murder is the second Sally Solari Mystery by Leslie Karst. It is the first one I have read, but it worked well as a stand-alone novel. That being said, I enjoyed it so much I plan to read the first in this series, Dying for a Taste. It was really a sweet treat to get to the end of the book and see that some of the delicious recipes discussed in the novel were in the final pages. All of them look delectable. I can’t wait to try the Grilled Salmon with Papaya and Avocado Pico de Gallo.

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

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Book Review: The Prom Dress Killer – The Latest Detective Al Warner Suspense


The Prom Dress Killer

By George A Bernstein

Miami is home to a lot of people. Most of them are good, hardworking people just trying to make their way through life. Unfortunately there are a few bad apples and these are the few that Homicide Detective Al Warner has to deal with on a daily basis. Keeping the people of Miami safe and the bad guys behind bars is his mission in life.

Unfortunately for Warner and his city, there is a new serial killer on the loose. He has been dubbed the Prom Dress Killer because after he murders the young women, he dresses them up in fancy vintage prom dresses and leaves them in a place where they will be found. Warner pulls the case because he has the reputation of finding this elusive breed of murderer, bringing them to justice and in the process bringing closure to the families of the victims.

Warner is hot on the trail of the maniac that seems to be targeting young, attractive redheads. He is pulling out all of the stops to catch him before another woman is murdered. Unfortunately for Warner, the Prom Dress Killer is always one step – and one body – ahead of the cop that desperately wants to stop the killings.

The reader is reminded several times in the book just how good Warner is at his job. Almost to the point of me wanting to say “I got it!”. I understood that Warner is a hard-boiled, old fashioned cop that has solved multiple serial killings and put the bad guys where they belong. I really didn’t need that many reminders. Warner’s dialog was great, in the moment and moved the story forward. But I got really tired of every word ending in “ing” was written as “in’ ”. A few would have been ok, but to me it got in the way of the story.

The serial killer himself is well written. Everything is not as it seems to be, so kudos to Bernstein for crafting the character and situations that are downright page turning. I held my breath a few times wanting to tell the red haired women that are in the story not to be so stupid, but just like good horror movies, they didn’t listen.

Bernstein’s plot was solid. There were a few red herrings, which were really great plot twists. But sometimes the way in which the story was told actually got in the way of the plot. Sometimes overuse of a word or two can put the reader off. When I read “akimbo” at least three times in the first 100 pages, I wanted to suggest a thesaurus.

If you are a fan of Philip Marlow, there are shadows of this kind of PI in The Prom Dress Killer, you might enjoy this series. This is the third book in the Detective Al Warner suspense novels and the first one I’ve read. Bernstein had a top 100 novel on Amazon with his first book Trapped (not part of the Warner 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 © 2017 Laura Hartman

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