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Currently Browsing: mystery/suspense
Mar
27

Review: The Mourning Bells by Christine Trent

Review: The Mourning Bells by Christine Trent The Mourning Bells Author: Christine Trent Reviewer: Una Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: The Mourning Bells, the fourth installment in the Lady of Ashes Mysteries, is haunting and gripping.  Though Violet seemed a bit slow on the uptake on some of the clues in this novel, she continues to be a gripping, unique, sensitive, and unconventional sleuth. First off, I continue to love Violet.  She is a fairly down-to-earth woman, for the Victorian era.  I love that she fusses over her appearance (and the extra pounds she seems to be fighting).  These qualities help to humanize her and allow me to truly connect to her.  Despite her insecurities, she possesses determination and steadfastness for the dead and those under her care.  Her worry over Inspector Hurst’s interest in Mary, the bit of lackluster in Susanna’s personality as of late, and her husband Sam’s continued attempts to secure a loan for his coal mining venture all distract her while she tries to figure out why such strange things seem to be occurring.  Though she seemed to be slow at picking up what seemed to be to be fairly obvious clues, she does eventually catch on. Even though the clues were there, seemly obvious, the main villain wasn’t.  I enjoyed how clues were strung so plainly but the path connecting them was so twisted and hazy.  I seriously thought I had it all figured out only to be thwarted at the end when I realized how wrong I was.  This is what I truly love about this series, no matter how the clues fit together, there is always something minute I miss that turns it all around.  The nemesis in The Mourning Bells was very clever, extremely greedy, and very secretive as it turns out.  His unveiling was captivating and excruciatingly nail-biting. There are several things going on when the novel concludes.  These threads leave me wondering what is next for Violet.  I worry about Susanna and how she will do once she returns to Colorado.  Sam’s venture and the Queen’s request for Violet and Sam to join her for the opening of the canal loom in the future.  Not to mention Hurst’s continued pursuit of Mary – there is much I am anticipating in the next Lady of Ashes Mystery.  Whatever it is, you can bet I will be reading it. If you haven’t tried this series and enjoy historical mysteries with unconventional sleuths, pick up the first book,...
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Mar
17

Review: Tempest by Lisa Henry & J.A. Rock

Review: Tempest by Lisa Henry & J.A. Rock Tempest Authors: Lisa Henry & J.A. Rock Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Picking up right where Merchant of Death left off, Tempest begins at a sprint and doesn’t slow down for the duration of the story. Agent Ryan “Mac” McGuinness, not quite formerly of the FBI, and Henry Page (aka too many aliases to list), along with Henry’s twin sister, Viola, are running for their lives and heading to the only safe place Mac can think of: his parents’ farm in Altona. Again. But, with few allies and even fewer clues as to who is setting them up, getting their happy ending will take more than even the most fitting Shakespeare references can do. While I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all of the stories in the Playing the Fool series, I definitely liked Tempest best. It has just the right amount of everything I appreciate about the quirkier tales I’ve had the opportunity to read. Suspenseful and exciting, Tempest makes good use of simultaneous, yet disparate, scenes that put relatively pleasant happenings on a collision course with those filled with tension or danger, resulting in a fast-paced chain of events that kept me turning pages as quickly as I could. Each main character has evolved a great deal since the first story, and, while not as obvious as Henry’s, I think that Mac’s transformation has been just as pronounced. Having admitted his feelings for the other man, at least to himself, he seems warmer and more balanced, even though his life has erupted in utter chaos with the addition of Henry. Now that Mac’s a fugitive, too, he’s become more empathetic about Henry’s circumstances, which, in turn, lends him more credibility with the very reluctant con man. Extra kudos also go to Mac for wanting to truly understand Henry, a development that provides more frustration for Henry, but, in general, is a better situation for them both. Henry continues to be an ever more winsome and fascinating character, even more so than in the first two stories. Caring about Mac is a mixed bag for Henry, but the relationship really is exactly what he needs, no matter how much he wants to run from it sometimes. Tempest is precisely that for Henry, with threats and losses hitting him from all sides; the life he’d fought to build for himself crumbling down around him. I found it impossible not to ache for him. Even though this is an understandably more somber...
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Feb
11

Review: The Merchant of Death by Lisa Henry & J.A. Rock

Review: The Merchant of Death by Lisa Henry & J.A. Rock The Merchant of Death Author: Lisa Henry + J.A. Rock Rating: A- Reviewer: B. What I’m Talking About: Picking up immediately where Two Gentlemen of Altona ended, The Merchant of Death takes us even deeper into Henry’s world, even though Mac still has plenty to worry about, too. After nearly arriving at a temporary, but seemingly acceptable, understanding about their growing attraction to one another at the end of the previous story, both men were left shaken when Henry was abruptly called away again. By the time they are reunited, along with mutually vehement expressions of “I wish I hated you” borne on a wave of fury and kisses, Mac knows he’s in serious trouble—on several fronts. We’re also introduced to Viola, Henry’s twin sister, and through her, we see the existence that he has made for himself since living on his own after their mother died. It’s not a pleasant picture, as Mac has begun to discover. Though she is now in need of full-time care, Viola is exceptional in her own right, and has a unique way of looking at her life, which is full of complexities she’s not often given credit for navigating as well as she does. Another of my favorite things about The Merchant of Death is that the fire that exists between Mac and Henry is still building, a fact that I was very relieved to see, especially after having caught up on the first book. They’re a particularly riveting couple when Henry is flirting with Mac while wearing a wig and a thin, summery dress. Or, a floral babydoll. Or, black chiffon, come to that. Mac is hilariously dumbfounded quite a bit of the time as a result, but the denial and accompanying inability to help themselves is lovely. Despite both Henry and Mac’s determination for much of the series that they are polar opposites, by the end of The Merchant of Death, they are forced to accept the fact that things aren’t that tidy anymore. As their worlds appear to merge, it seems as if it’s really just the two of them being pushed away from everything they know, and trying to gain some middle ground as they’re caught by one another’s pull. With no safe haven left, traitors all around them, and killers on their trail I’m not sure how they’ll manage to make it through. But, I can’t wait to find out. My Rating:  A- Enjoyed A Lot About the...
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Feb
11

Review: Two Gentlemen of Altona by Lisa Henry & J.A. Rock

Review: Two Gentlemen of Altona by Lisa Henry & J.A. Rock Two Gentlemen of Altona Authors: Lisa Henry + J.A. Rock Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: I actually read the second story in this series, The Merchant of Death, before going back and reading Two Gentlemen of Altona because I found Henry and Mac’s situation so intriguing that I needed to know more. Taking place during the course of the investigation of a mob boss by the FBI in Indianapolis, Indiana, this is a fast-paced, exciting tale of confusion and attraction, which tend to occur simultaneously, in this case. Additionally, several mysteries emerge during the narrative, including the identity of a mole within the FBI, an ongoing collection of threats against one of the main characters, and the biggest question, who on earth is Henry Page? Henry Page is a con man, but, for him, it’s a matter of survival, and not just his own. With at least three aliases in this story alone, he is keenly observant, lies without really lying, and yet truly seems to enjoy it when he helps others feel better—even though it also makes them easier to manipulate if they like him. While he never means to harm most people, he does what he has to in order to remain free, flawlessly becoming whomever he needs to be to get by. Henry’s self-loathing permeates virtually every scene he’s in, however, and his fear of being trapped by his own truths is an ever-present entity. Ryan “Mac” McGuinness, on the other hand, is awkward and growly, and doesn’t fit in, which he keeps telling himself is just fine. He’s a professional, after all. That he also seems troubled, if not outright resentful, about the fact is a notion that he savagely beats back with an “I don’t care” attitude that fools nobody. Especially Henry. Where Henry is elusive, mysterious, and frustrating, Mac appears to be completely transparent, and Henry’s ability to expose him so quickly and thoroughly makes him feel comically homicidal. Except that he finds Henry so vivid, mesmerizing, and alive that he can’t seem to resist the man. It’s an unaccountably charming situation, at least from my perspective as a reader, and I found Mac’s squirming and conversation-halting outbursts very entertaining. There’s so much going on in Two Gentlemen of Altona that the entire narrative could easily unravel if not for the authors’ adept handling of all the various threads being woven together. Not only is the story suspenseful and romantic, but...
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Feb
5

Review: Master of Plagues by E.L. Tettensor

Review: Master of Plagues by E.L. Tettensor Master of Plagues Author: E.L. Tettensor Reviewer: Gikany & Una Rating: A- What We’re Talking About: Gikany and Una have been on pins and needles, anxiously awaiting Master of Plagues.  Ms. Tettensor did not disappoint!  Though this mystery was a bit different from the first, we still enjoyed the mythology, the world, and the twists and turns of this tightly woven story. The novel opens as a plague is starting to decimate one of the outlying areas of Kennian.  Lenoir and Kody are called in to determine if the epidemic was intentionally caused and if so who might have orchestrated it.  As the clues are slowly uncovered, our heroes find themselves in the sights of the mastermind of it all. Without spoiling the novel, let us just say it was great.  Master of Plagues takes place in the wonderfully gray world of Darkwalker.  This alternate world fascinates us with its combination of different cultures and politics.  Although the paranormal aspect that we loved in the previous novel was absent in this one, we still found it engrossing.  The prejudices that exist between the Adali and Kennians were even more poignant in this story.  The Adali have the ability to cure the plague, but the physicians dismiss their treatment as witchdoctor rubbish.  Watching as Lenoir works to ease the prejudices enough that some cooperation can exist was fascinating. What truly sets off this gray world is the contrast we have between Kody and Zach.  Kody is one of the few people who still sees the world as black or white.  He is young and idealistic – reminding Lenoir of who he once was and will never truly be again.  Zach, on the other hand, can see all of the shades of gray.  His understanding of how the world works allows him to survive and yet still dream of being a hound.  Zach adds the bulk of humor and innocence to this story.  The contrast of Kody and Zach helps to highlight the changes in Lenoir. Upon the conclusion of Darkwalker, we wondered what character growth would manifest in Lenoir as Master of Plagues unraveled.  When Una mentioned to Gikany that Lenoir seemed almost just as he was, her response was, “you were looking for miracles?”  Despite Lenoir appearing almost unaffected by his experiences, there were minute changes that could be easily overlooked.  Without Lenoir’s inner monologue, we would have continued to believe, as those around him do, that he is...
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Jan
20

Review: Dead Simple by Shirley Wells

Review: Dead Simple by Shirley Wells Dead Simple Author: Shirley Wells Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Dead Simple is the last Dylan Scott Mystery, which saddens me greatly. So it is appropriate that for his final tale, Dylan heads back to Dawson’s Clough, where the series and his career as a private investigator began. He’s decided to find out who killed Stevie Greenwood, a simple-minded local who helped Dylan solve his first case. He’s doing this one out of personal motivation, driven to fill the huge void in his life left by the sudden death of his beloved wife, Bev. Dylan is a different man than he was those few years ago. He’s aged, matured, and grown a bit wiser. This is reflected in how he views Dawson’s Clough; seeing changes in the town or noticing bits and pieces he hasn’t before. Ever the astute investigator, Dylan finds a way to get the information he needs to solve his case. And this time around, he’s even willing to break a few laws to give Stevie’s memory some justice (and work out his own demons). As always, Ms. Wells creates a complex, fact-driven, detail-filled world that captivates me from the get go. Building the case from the first words on the page, she never shares extraneous information, but certainly can lead readers astray. And while it is Dylan’s tale, the story is told from multiple perspectives, which not only gives the reader a better sense of the grand picture, but creates more than one suspect and motive for the crimes. While searching for the truth about poor Stevie’s demise, Dylan stumbles onto a couple other crimes in progress – ones that even the police don’t know about. I enjoyed the multiple storylines, especially how the author ties them together rather than forces each one to stand alone. And I love reading Dylan’s train of thought – how he puts together pieces of the puzzle so logically. It’s both thrilling and nerve-wracking to see where his ideas take him. One of the best aspects in each Dylan Scott mystery is the intermixing of Dylan’s personal life with the overall story. Over the course of eight books, I’ve come to know Dylan and his family, his hopes and dreams, his fears and vices. In the previous book, Ms. Wells tossed a major curveball into Dylan’s life with the death of his wife. Left to raise his children and move on through his grief, Dylan...
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Dec
30

Review: Catching a Man by Elizabeth Corrigan

Review: Catching a Man by Elizabeth Corrigan Catching A Man Author: Elizabeth Corrigan Reviewer: Una Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Catching A Man is the new alternate world detective drama by Elizabeth Corrigan.  After reading two of her previous works, I was intrigued by the premise of this one.  Ms. Corrigan did not disappoint in her new Valeriel Investigations series. This world is familiar, yet different.  It feels like the roaring 20’s mixed with the 50’s in an alternate British empire like setting.  I really enjoyed the politics that play along with the societal norms in this different world.  What makes it more poignant is the juxtaposition of our heroine, Kadin.  She is a more modern woman trapped in a world where her intellect and honesty aren’t valued.  She tries to follow the expectations of her gender even though she longs for something different.  There are several moments that had me laughing out loud because of her uniqueness.  The story is completely told from her perspective allowing us to really see this world through her.  Her views are fairly balanced because we experience her struggle between trying to fit in to society expectations and being herself. The supporting characters add a richness to the world.  Between her friends and her family, it is no wonder Kadin is torn.  Her best friend, Trinithy is perky, beautiful and everything that a woman in this world is supposed to be.  Everything except married – but she is working feverishly for it.  Her other friend is Olivan, Ollie for short.  He also is working diligently to see Kadin happily settled so she no longer has to live under her sister-in-law’s thumb.  The two of them are hilarious together and compliment Kadin’s personality.  Her SIL, Octavira, wants Kadin out of the house, but while Kadin is there, she treats her almost as a servant.  Though her brother places no expectations or financial obligations on her, Octavira more than makes up for it.  While demanding assistance with the children and chores, and having Kadin occasionally purchase things for Octavira, she belittles Kadin and her skills. Kadin’s brother, Tobin, would happily have his sister live with them forever.  He feels she is special and should not be forced to follow society’s expectations.  This causes tension between Octavira and Tobin, which may explain Octavira’s resentment and thus poor treatment of Kadin.  Octavira uses the burden of having to care for Kadin as a reason to complain that they would be better off if...
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Oct
31

Review: A Virtuous Death by Christine Trent

Review: A Virtuous Death by Christine Trent A Virtuous Death Author: Christine Trent Reviewer: Una Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: A Virtuous Death is the third novel in the enchanting Lady of Ashes Mysteries.  Although this novel had a slightly different feel from the previous ones, I thoroughly enjoyed this mystery and the continuing insights into Violet. The novel unwinds slowly.  Violet is still stuck in England and is anxious to return to America to see her daughter, Susanna, get married.  Her husband, Sam, is researching the possibility of starting a dynamite plant in Wales.  As he enters the train station to return to Violet, a massive uprising occurs between the coal miners and the police.  A poor young innocent woman is caught and killed in the crossfire.  Although Sam tries to help her, he is only able to provide comfort while she passes.  This moment appears to be the catalyst to a more sinister plot later, however all is never as it seems. Violet has become someone the Queen relies on; not only in the fond remembrance of her husband, but the Queen admires the way Violet has been able to unravel mysteries with tact and discretion.  Although Violet wouldn’t agree with the Queen’s assessment, she dutifully follows the Queen’s directive.  It appears that Mr. Brown, the Queen’s ghillie (outdoor servant), has discovered, through tarot card readings and séances, a plot within the palace and the spirits are telling him that only Violet can sort it out. As the novel progresses, Violet’s personal life becomes a bit mixed up.  Although she is trying to get things in order to return to America, it seems destiny is flat against it.  I love how Violet’s personal life is entwined with the mystery. She is an odd duck, but in a good and independent way.  I enjoy Violet’s outlook in life along with her wit, loyalty and the strength of her character.  She is delightful, and I wish I could join her for a cup of tea.  However, in this mystery it felt as if she bumbled more than ever.  Although the murder mystery was just that subtle, it caught me by surprise, even though I knew who it wasn’t. Although we are given more points of view through this novel, there were not too many.  It was well-balanced.  While giving more information and background they also helped to keep the reader from figuring out who the true villain was.  I may be dating myself, but I...
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Sep
2

Review: Forged by Desire by Bec McMaster

Review: Forged by Desire by Bec McMaster Forged by Desire Author: Bec McMaster Reviewer: Jen Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: The Nighthawks have been the stable blueblood (think vampire) police force for forty years, but their founder and longtime leader, Sir Jasper Lynch, recently stepped down to assume his role among the Echelon (My Lady Quicksilver). Now Garrett Reed, second in command of the Nighthawks steps into the role of Master, yet he has not yet been appointed by the Echelon. As Garrett accustoms himself to this new title, he finds that he is haunted by the recent memories of his long-time friend and partner, Perry, dressed seductively when the pair recently went undercover. Both Perry and Garrett realize that something changed that night, even though they never even so much as kissed. Now with Garrett’s craving virus levels increasing dangerously high, he cannot confide in his long-time friend. Perry has a secret that she’s been hiding for nine years as she made her way up the ranks of the Nighthawks. But when two young debutants are discovered murdered and missing their hearts, Perry realizes her former life has come back to haunt her and will end life as she knows it. Now Perry must decide if saving the innocent is worth the cost of her own freedom, and the loss of the one man she’s ever loved. I cannot say enough praises for the London Steampunk series and specifically, Forged by Desire. The mystery and intrigue built into the superbly crafted plot kept me engrossed and excited throughout the entire book. Yet it is the love story of Garrett and Perry that provides immense satisfaction and emotional gratification. With its unusual mix of paranormal, steampunk, historical, and mystery elements, the author creates a unique setting and world with an honest to goodness romance at the core. You really should be reading this series! The intermixing of the mystery, Perry’s past, and the romance is wonderfully done; it is well-balanced, and I found myself ensnared by the intricacies of each plot line. Perry and Garrett make a wonderful friends-to-lovers pair, with incredible sexual tension and mutual admiration. The hiccups along the way are created out of genuine care for the other, and only once did I get really frustrated with Perry’s stubbornness. 🙂 Both Perry and Garrett are complex, caring, and stubborn characters, which makes emotional break-throughs absolutely rewarding. There were multiple times during the book where I found myself dabbing tears from my eyes...
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Sep
2

Quickie Review: The Curious Case of the Clockwork Menace by Bec McMaster

Quickie Review: The Curious Case of the Clockwork Menace by Bec McMaster The Curious Case of the Clockwork Menace Author: Bec McMaster Reviewer: Jen Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: The Curious Case of the Clockwork Menace is a wonderful whodunit mystery set in Bec McMaster’s London Steampunk world. It is listed as book 3.5, but story does go back 3 years in time. The book shares the story of one of Perry and Garrett’s cases, one of some significance that is mentioned in book #4, Forged by Desire. It can be read as a stand alone story, or in conjunction with Forged, and in fact, I didn’t ever read it until after I finished Forged by Desire. In the context of the series, it is a great piece of backstory, and is clearly an event that helped bring Perry and Garrett together in Forged. The nighthawks are commissioned by Lord Rommell after his lead actress and mistress Nelly Tate goes missing. Soon detectives Perry, the lone female nighthawk, and Garrett find themselves with a handful of suspects, one dead shop owner, and an impatient member of the Echelon, wanting this all put behind him. What the pair wasn’t expecting was a growing tension which develops between the longtime partners and friends. The mystery of what happens to Nelly Tate is involved and engrossing. As the plot thickens, the author provides additional clues and diversions to keep the detectives, and this reader, guessing up until the end. And while the story would stand on its own merits with the mystery alone, Ms. McMaster expertly weaves a budding awareness of something more than friendship between long-time friends. Please note: this is NOT the story of Perry and Garrett’s romance; their story is told in Forged by Desire. Having read Perry and Garrett’s story in Forged by Desire first, I enjoyed learning about this event, which is mentioned a few times within Forged. However, it is a well-written stand alone mystery. I was riveted to the book; engrossed by the details and unfolding plot. The pieces of the puzzle were all there, it was just a matter of putting them in place. The mystery is superbly executed, and I enjoyed trying to figure it all out. My Rating:  A- Enjoyed A Lot About the Book: Friends, partners, and professionals. So just why is this case coming between them? In a Victorian London ruled by the blood-drinking elite, Perry Lowell is a logical and accomplished Nighthawk: a rogue blue blood who tracks murderers and thieves...
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