Tag Archives: mystery

Bookreview: Please See Us – Must Read Debut Novel

Please See Us

By Caitlin Mullen

Women are dead and hidden in plain sight, but no one sees them. Atlantic City isn’t the bustling place it used to be. Casinos have closed and shops are boarded up. The darkened streets breed vermin that walk on four legs and two. Women walk the streets turning tricks and dreaming of a different life, like the dead women once did – who will be next?

Teenage Clara dreams of leaving the life of stealing and scamming and finding her mother who she hasn’t seen in years. Living with her aunt, she reads palms and Tarot cards for the tourists and locals. She isn’t a total scam. Visions come to her about people, mostly unbidden, but it helps reel them in for a reading.

Lily returns home to Atlantic City after heartbreak in New York. She needs to get away from her cheating boyfriend but that comes with a price. Her rising career as a Soho gallery girl comes to a screeching halt and she finds an awful job at a drowning spa. When her path intersects with Clara they begin an unusual partnership that leans toward an awkward friendship. They may be the only two people concerned enough about the missing women.

Please See Us is a brilliantly layered thriller. The indifference and absence of the police throughout the novel works extremely well. Most crime novels have a huge police presence, but Mullen skillfully keeps them in the wings throughout most of the story. Lily is running away from her life, yet a part of her wants to go back and forgive and forget. Clara can’t escape, yet longs for it with all of her being. Luis, a young deaf mute whose life intertwines with Lily and Clara, also weaves his story into the fabric of the novel in unexpected ways.

This is Caitlin Mullen’s debut novel. Her attention to detail creates a setting and characters that come alive on the pages. The characters are complex and interesting and relatable even though most readers hopefully have not experienced the traumas they have endured. She wowed me with the depth of the plot that moved so quickly I found myself reading it late into the night to see what happened next.

I highly recommend Please See Us to anyone who likes psychological thrillers, mysteries and novels featuring strong, unforgettable characters. If you like Gillian Flynn or Paula Hawkins Girl on a Train, you will love Please See Us.

 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 © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Murder Off the Page: A Full Serving of Who Done it with a Side of Cozy Mystery

Murder Off the Page

By Con Lehane

Raymond Ambler and his close friend Adele have solved a few murders before. This time the amateur sleuths are taking it personally. One of their close friends, bartender Brian McNulty, is wanted for murder and is on the lam. They are certain McNulty is innocent, but Mike Cosgrove, the officer in charge of the case, thinks differently. To complicate matters, Cosgrove, Ambler and Adele are more than acquaintances, they have “worked” other cases together, much to Cosgrove’s displeasure.

McNulty contacts Amber, asking him to look in on his elderly father and gives him little to no information other than he is innocent. As more bodies pile up, it is beginning to look worse for McNulty by the day. The dead woman at the center of all this has led a secret life in the open confusing police and McNulty’s friends. Her husband claims to know of her infidelities and looks the other way. Suspects are piling up like cord wood and the deeper Cosgrove and Ambler dig, the more disturbing the victim’s life becomes. Unfortunately, McNulty isn’t off the hook. He refuses to turn himself in and is on a personal mission to find the real killer himself.

Murder Off the Page is the third book in the 42nd Street Library Mystery Series. Both Adele and Ambler work in the Library and the plot winds in and out of the Special Collections reading room, painting the picture of a place I want to visit. Even though it only exists in Lehane’s pages, the Library is another character I adore.

Ambler and Adele are cantankerous and charming respectively. They have a close friendship and at times are on the verge of a deeper relationship. Miscues and misunderstandings have left them as close friends for the time being. I love the way that their interactions adds to the plot. Murder Off the Page is a full serving of who done it with a side of cozy mystery.

This is the second Lehane book I have read. Previously I read and thoroughly enjoyed Murder in the Manuscript Room which is the second book in the series. Both of the books read well as standalone novels, but I am sure you will enjoy reading this entire series, and like me, search out his other works, a trio of mysteries featuring bartender Brian McNulty that were written before the 42nd Library Mystery Series.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy from publicist Maryglenn McCombs in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Between a Rock and a Deadly Place – Debut Cozy Series a Must Read

Between a Rock and a Deadly Place

Cedar Fish Campground Series: Book One

By Zoey Chase

Thea Pagoni’s decision to leave her law practice and take over her grandparent’s campground surprised the locals and maybe even Thea herself. She needs a change after the ugly divorce from her husband. So, after the death of her beloved grandmother, the fond memories of Cedar Fish Campground from her childhood brought her back for that fresh start. What she didn’t count on was the poor condition of the campground, the lack of competent help and the murder that happened within days of her arrival.

The police don’t seem to care about finding the murderer. The locals are full of gossip about the dead woman, which leads to bad publicity for Cedar Fish Campground. Thea and Hennie, who seems to be a fixture at the campground, decide to do a bit of investigating on their own. Lucky for them, Nolan Cade. the newly hired handyman/security guard is a former cop as well as former military. The fact that he is drop dead gorgeous was not missed by either of the women.

The plot thickens when Thea receives a threat to stop sticking her nose in where it doesn’t belong. She is close to finding the murderer, and is determined to find him or her. She has to do this in order to carry on her family’s legacy, but will she live to bring the campground to its former glory?

Between a Rock and a Deadly Place is a fast-paced cozy mystery with a cast of interesting characters. There are secrets in Thea’s past that haunt her, but she is doing her best to work through them. Hennie is a hoot – she has many surprising characteristics that amused me as I got to know her. Nolan, like Thea, has a history he is trying to get past. Don’t overlook his brilliant mind because beneath the good looks is a smart, caring man.

There is humor laced throughout the book. Small towns are often known for their quirkiness and Outer Branson is no exception. Ricky, the baby racoon, is adorably naughty adding to the comedic side of the solid story.

his is Zoey Chase’s first book. I assumed she was a seasoned cozy author with dozens of books  penned because Between a Rock and a Deadly Place is the perfect mix of mystery, romance, quirky characters and an interesting setting. I can’t wait for the next book in her series as well as many more to follow.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Reedsy Discovery (https://reedsy.com/discovery/book/between-a-rock-and-a-deadly-place-zoey-chase) in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Too Close To Home – Intriguing Mystery Series

Too Close To Home

By Andrew Grant

Working at the New York County Courthouse as a janitor, Paul McGrath is invisible to almost everyone he encounters. That is how he likes it. While doing his job, he is also on a personal mission. Formerly Military Intelligence, he is looking for justice for his father and along the way he cannot help but step in where he sees injustice, all the while focusing on his goal. Alex Pardew is walking the streets a free man. A file of key information went missing during his trial so Pardew, the man responsible for his father’s untimely death, has been released. Righting this wrong will allow McGrath to move on.

Hooking up with a former MI veteran John Robson was a good decision. They live together in the huge old brownstone left to McGrath by his father. This allows them to work the case day and night until they find the missing evidence that will provide them with the truth in his father’s case as well as a few others. But these cases are not simple. There is an underlying conspiracy that will have to be shattered before justice will prevail.

McGrath is a complex character. At first, I thought he was a vigilante, but he is so much more then the surface look provides. He and Robson get things done in unusual ways, oftentimes with a wink and a nod to laws. These modern-day Robin Hoods stand up for those who cannot speak for themselves and get the job done.

Too Close to Home is a fast-paced page turner. The mystery of McGrath’s father’s death is only one surprise for the reader. The plot is intriguing and is laced with beautiful bits of description, such as: “…we paused at the cross streets and then were pulled back into motion as if by the city’s own heartbeat”. Along with enjoying this solid story, take time to savor the words Grant has written.

This is the second book in the Paul McGrath series, but the first one I have read. It works perfectly as a stand-alone novel, as a matter of fact, I didn’t even know it was a series until I looked it up. Fans of Michael Connelly will love this book.

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 © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Murder, She Encountered – Fun and Informative Historical Cozy Mystery

12.25.19Murder, She Encountered

By Peg Cochran

Elizabeth Adams, is a woman before her time. She is a crime photographer at the Daily Trumpet in New York City and works closely with veteran crime reporter Ralph Kaminsky. Today no one would blink an eye at a woman photographer, but in 1939 that is virtually unheard of. She is a career woman when almost all women married and stayed home to raise children.

The reporter and his photographer are on the way to the World’s Fair, where a robbery has just been committed. But when they arrive to get the details for a story, a dead body is found. Is this crime connected to the robbery or is it unrelated? Both Biz (as Kaminsky calls Elizabeth) and Kaminsky are on the trail. The story takes them in and around the World’s Fair as well as New York City.

While working the clues to the crimes at the World’s Fair, Kaminsky has a health scare. Unlike other women of the day, Elizabeth jumps right into the investigation, much to everyone else’s dismay. They might just be right when she puts herself in danger. Hopefully the reporter and his favorite photographer will live to write another story.

All of the details Cochran adds to this historical cozy mystery are fascinating. From the nickel and dime subway rides to the high heels Elizabeth wears to crime scenes, the reader is pulled into the past. The setting of this novel is brilliant. Bodies among the new inventions that we now consider relics of our past really pulls the reader into the past and the story. I love learning new facts about the World’s Fair that Cochran tucks in this perfect cozy mystery.

This is the third book in the Murder She Encountered Series. It is the first book I have read in the series, and I found it fun and interesting. I was not confused or lost by jumping in the middle of the series. It is also the first book I have read by the prolific cozy author, Peg Cochran. She is the author of several cozy mystery series. I am excited to read the others in this series.

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 House on Maple Street – Spectacular New Author

The House on Maple Street

By Heidi Slowinski

Student Hillary Altman procrastinated until two weeks before school started to find housing. Fueled by waning options and a tight budget, she was excited to see two signs as she cruised around the small town. “Maple Street Boarding House” read the sign by the curb and a hastily written “room for rent” in the window made her stop. The creepy landlord almost made her change her mind, but the charm of the home overrode her anxiety.

Settling in with the other boarders came easily, but she avoided Keith, the landlord. Evelyn, an older woman that actually worked at the college Hillary was to attend, is diving into the layers of the history of the Maple Street home and shares the fascinating facts with the other boarders. Dr. Immerman also works at the college as head of the history department. Then there was Robert. Hillary met him on the day she moved in and became infatuated with the handsome man who seemed rather shy. He doesn’t join them for dinner in the evening and, as a matter of fact, none of the other tenants have seen or talked to him. In addition to the boarders, Beatrice takes care of the home. She cooks and cleans for them and is related to Keith, the landlord.

Shortly after moving in, Hillary encounters a woman and her young son in the home. Apparently, Keith has a family. Sadly, Hillary overhears the fights and sounds of abuse from Keith’s rooms. No one else seems to know anything about it but she is determined to help, even if it puts her in danger.

The House on Maple Street on the surface is a well-done mystery. As the pages unfold, the reader is pulled into a story that is multi-layered with a delightfully surprising ending. Just when I thought I had it all figured out, I was surprised to find out I was totally wrong even though all the clues were there for me to see. Kudos to Ms. Slowinski for creating an unexpectedly spectacular twist in the final chapter.

This is the first book written by Ms. Slowinski. It is exciting to find a new author that jumps out of the gate to lead the pack. I highly recommend The House on Maple Street. This fast-paced book engages the reader immediately and is  must read for anyone who loves a mystery.

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. https://reedsy.com/discovery  Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Courier – Heart Pounding Thriller

The Courier

By Gordon J. Campbell

To say Gregg Westwood is having a bad day is an understatement. His secure job as a medical supply rep in Japan has been abruptly terminated.  After the bad news, he stops at one of his favorite watering holes, the Officer’s Club on the United States Airforce base in Tokyo. Gregg joins a couple of acquaintances for a drink. This decision will change his life.

These two men purportedly working for the US government’s finance and accounting group are actually members of a US intelligence agency. Over lunch the next day they offer Gregg a job as a courier. It is fast and easy money for what they describe as a mini vacation, traveling to other countries business class, delivering parcels than returning home to his family.

Gregg accepts the offer and is soon off to deliver the package. What he hasn’t bargained for are the assassins on his tail. He has unwittingly become a huge part of stopping an international drug ring, having street thugs attempting to kill him and will be called on to rescue someone he dearly loves before his job is complete. Before the last pages, Gregg will transition from courier to mercenary out of necessity and self-preservation. This is the beginning of his new life.

To say The Courier is a fast-paced thriller does not do it justice. The action never ends and it perfectly compliments the plot. Just when you think Gregg is going to be captured or killed, he lives to fight another day like a modern-day James Bond.

The characters are diverse and engaging. Some of them are decidedly creepy and determined to get a literal boatload of illegal opioids into the US. Adding reality to the character’s profiles brings them to life on the pages.

The Courier is destined to become a best-seller and I envision a blockbuster movie in the future. As we all know the book is always better than then film, so enjoy the masterful story before it hits the big screen. This is the first book I’ve read by Campbell and the first book in a series. I cannot wait to read the next Gregg Westwood boo

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. See it here: https://reedsy.com/discovery/book/the-courier-gordon-campbell

Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Tracking Game – Latest in the Timber Creek K-9 Series

Tracking Game

A Timber Creek K-9 Mystery

By Margaret Mizushima

Deputy Mattie Cobb is called away from a community dance and the arms of Cole, the man she has fallen in love with, to investigate a suspicious fire. Upon reaching the scene, Mattie and her K9 partner, Robo, find something far more sinister. One of the locals is found dead next to his burning vehicle and another respected member of the community has a head injury after being hit with shrapnel from the explosive fire. To make matters worse, they soon discover this was no accident.

So begins the trail of lies and deceit that Mattie and Robo have to follow to bring the criminals to justice. Other crimes are revealed which leads to the Timber Creek sheriff’s department bringing Glenna Dalton, the new wildlife manager in their area, into the picture. It will take all of them working against the clock to prevent another killing, not to mention apprehending the person or persons responsible for all of these crimes.

Meantime, Mattie and Cole’s relationship has heated up. Not wanting to push her, Cole is patient but open about his love for her. Mattie knows she loves Cole, but cannot say the words he so longs to hear. Her family history has built a wall around her heart. She truly loves Cole and must learn to move beyond her past to take steps towards their future.

Tracking Game is a fast-paced mystery. The plot unfolds beautifully throughout the story, urging the reader to read just one more chapter late into the night.  I love mysteries with several viable suspects and this book delivers. Mizushima gives us suspicious locals and outsiders of the community. Any one of them could be the killer, but you will have to wait until the last chapters for the bad guys to be satisfyingly revealed.

This is the second book I’ve read in the Timber Creek K-9 Mystery series. Previously I read Burning Ridge, the first book in the series. Somehow, I missed the other books, but I did not feel confused by not having read the entire series in order. Tracking Game reads fine as a stand-alone. But if you love the plot and characters as much as I do, you will undoubtedly want to read all of the books in the 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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Book Review: False Flag in Autumn

False Flag in Autumn

By Michael Bowen

Josie Robideaux Kendall, Louisiana born and bred, has had aspirations for years to work in the White House. She has jumped into everything surrounding politics in Washington DC with both feet in the meantime. She is a “hard-nosed political apparatchik* who can make things happen”. She knows who to call and what to do to make things happen or not happen – depending upon who she is working for. But her usual job of getting someone elected has taken a turn.

There is some convincing evidence that a heavy hitting politician used a spin on a murder that he most likely committed himself to get elected. Rafe, Josie’s husband, encounters the revelation from one if his cronies in DC so she knows it is credible. Now what will she do with the information?

So begins the heart-pounding twists of events that takes Josie from coast to coast. Not only is she working to get the probable murderer out of office, Josie steps into a bigger situation that will have global impact. Not only is the President of the United States a target, but she is now on the assassin’s radar. Putting herself in mortal danger isn’t what she bargained for, but she has never shirked her duty or compromised her convictions.

False Flag in Autumn is an interesting romp in politics. It gives outsiders like me a fascinating glimpse inside a world that I will never be a part of but find interesting. The action heats up as Josie pulls out all the stops, no matter what the personal price, to save the President.

Michael Bowen, recently retired from a lengthy career as a trial lawyer. He is a prolific and critically acclaimed author of 19 books. They range from thrillers such as False Flag in Autumn to political satire. This is the first book I have read by Bowen and thoroughly enjoyed it.

*Yes dear readers I had no idea what a political apparatchik meant so – per Google: “An apparatchik is someone who works for a government or a political party and who always obeys orders” – now we both know (unless you already did) if so, kudos!

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: She’s Out – Is a Felon Ever Truly Free?

She’s Out

By Linda La Plante

You can let a person out of jail, but can said person ever truly be free? Dolly Rawlins was a model prisoner that stuck to herself. Imprisoned for murdering her husband, she paid her debt to society and had lofty dreams of opening a home for orphans. She knew it would not be easy, but having worked with young mothers while in prison and watching the system take away their babies, she knew she wanted to turn her life around by giving back to those who needed her the most.

A group of former inmates have a different plan. Dolly is rumored to have a cache of diamonds hidden from a heist that she was suspected of stashing before her arrest and they wanted a piece of that haul. Hiding their motive by generously offering Dolly a place to stay while she gets back on her feet, each of women dreamed of wealth. Dolly is a smart cookie, realizing the women are plotting something. She is cunning enough to know she needs a place to stay under the radar. When one of the women offers to sell her the old Victorian Grange Manor House, Dolly jumps at the chance. On the surface, it seems perfect to spruce up and turn into a home for children. Unfortunately, the authorities are not on board with a house that used to be a brothel used to house children. Coupled with Dolly’s past, they dashed her dreams.

Dolly still has the diamonds, kept safe by an old acquaintance – or so she thinks. When she begins to make inquiries, Dolly finds out she has been double crossed. Then she comes to the realization that society will never forget her past or allow her to move on. A heist of monumental proportions is the only thing that will set her free.

She’s Out is an intriguingly intricate tale of women that each have their own agenda. They agree they don’t necessarily like each other, but need each other. The story pulled me in immediately, and by the end of the novel, the page-turning plot was impossible to put down until the last words were read. Some novels keep popping up in my mind long after the last pages – this is one of them.

The last book in a trilogy, She’s Out reads perfectly as a stand-alone novel. I have not read the previous two books, but did not feel lost or confused at any point in the book. Ms. La Plante is an acclaimed writer, screenwriter, actress and producer. Her books have been adapted to movies as well as television series.  Bibliophiles who love fabulously written fast-paced thrillers and have not read her works should dive into one of her books. If you are already a fan, She’s Out is a must read. I cannot wait to read her new book, Buried, which is coming in March 2020.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Bookish First (https://www.bookishfirst.com/)in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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