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Currently Browsing: mystery/suspense
Nov
6

Review: Ex-Con: Bad Boy Romance by M.S. Parker & Shiloh Walker

Review: Ex-Con: Bad Boy Romance by M.S. Parker & Shiloh Walker Ex-Con: Bad Boy Romance Author: M.S. Parker & Shiloh Walker Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Warning: Potential Spoilers. I absolutely love a good suspense wrapped around a fabulous romance. M.S. Parker and Shiloh Walker have created an intriguing story with a well-crafted plot that kept me riveted to the page. Ex-Con: Bad Boy Romance leads the reader down a trail, splits the path, and hops on a highway. The best kind of suspense. Carly grew up the daughter of a famous musician. I connected with her in a lot of ways—not that I have money or anything—but because she lived in a shadow, and had to put on a facade for the public. People didn’t *really* know who she was—only what she let them see. Watching her evolve from a cantankerous, saucy girl into a woman that cared deeply about things was one of the highlights of the book for me. Can’t discount Bobby though. After living through a stint in prison for killing a man—in a self-defense situation—he did his time and was paroled. Doesn’t mean it didn’t screw up his life. Doesn’t mean he didn’t have regrets. Doesn’t mean he didn’t still think he was a piece of crap, and didn’t deserve happiness. Bobby is the character I really connected with. As he grew through the book, learning to trust and learning his own value, he started to care for people. Sometimes, we don’t realize our own value. We don’t have to go through something like Bobby did—life just hands us a bad hand and we have to deal with it. And we have to deal with the aftermath. Taking a character that’s had it rough and persevered to become a beautiful person gives me hope with the students I teach, too. Watching Bobby and Carly develop as a couple was pretty spectacular, too. There’s one character, a father-figure for Carly, that we lose through the course of the story, and if you follow my reviews at all, I nearly had to put this title down. He dies from cancer, and that’s a HUGE trigger for me. We’re talking down the proverbial rabbit hole for days. I may have some fallout from that little foray, but it wasn’t a big part of the story (the cancer itself), so I’m thinking it’ll be okay. Probably. The reaction of Carly and Bobby to the death of this character was… unique. The suspense part… threats against an...
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Oct
12

Review: Lessons for Sleeping Dogs by Charlie Cochrane

Review: Lessons for Sleeping Dogs by Charlie Cochrane Lessons for Sleeping Dogs Author: Charlie Cochrane Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: While I was excited to have the opportunity to review a Cambridge Fellows mystery, I was also worried that my lack of familiarity with the series might impact my ability to lose myself in the story. Happily, that wasn’t the case at all, although I enjoyed the relationship between the two main characters a great deal and would like to read all the previous stories just to witness its evolution from the beginning. While there are plenty of tender moments between Jonty and Orlando, Lessons for Sleeping Dogs is well balanced throughout, and the mystery at the center of it all was very easy to become wrapped up in. Despite a few references to past cases, Lessons for Sleeping Dogs follows one specific case from beginning to end, and I had no trouble following along. The case itself I found thoroughly intriguing, and I enjoyed trying to puzzle through each new development as the narrative progressed. Both men brought different strengths to the process, and their continual efforts to out-theorize each other were highly entertaining. Although it started as a fairly clear-cut situation, the mystery kept shifting in increasingly unexpected directions, making the story as a whole a lot of fun to read. Of course, Jonty and Orlando’s relationship is the heart of the story, and it was a pleasure to see the obvious affection they share. There was a sweetness to their interactions that has clearly been borne of time, experience, and sacrifice, and, while I was certainly able to enjoy their sleuthing, it was apparent that I’d missed a lot between the two, which I truly regret. Easily shifting from teasing to concern, from flirtation to propriety, and so forth, theirs is a genuine partnership, the warmth they feel for one another achingly evident from the very first scene. Although there is no lack of passion in Lessons for Sleeping Dogs, the realities of the lovers’ circumstances are always present, and any scenes of a more carnal nature are more abstract than explicit—something that fit the narrative well, and added to my overall enjoyment of the story. Lessons for Sleeping Dogs was a wonderful introduction to the Cambridge Fellows mysteries, especially given my lack of familiarity with the series. While it stands alone well enough to enjoy without experiencing the series in its entirety, it was clear that I was missing a...
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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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