Thursday, October 29, 2015

Touch & Go

Title: Touch & Go
Author: Lisa Gardner
Published: February 5th 2013 by Dutton
Format: Hardcover, 423 Pgs
Genre: Suspense
Series: Tessa Leoni #2

At first, I wondered why I picked up Touch & Go, book number two in the Tessa Leoni series when I did not have favorable things to say about “Love You More”. I am glad that I did. I actually loved this book. Lisa Gardner gave you a big picture and then slowly narrowed down the possible suspects in a way that reminded me of a playoff schedule. All the likely suspects are lined up and as their story is pitted against their opponent, then one is discarded. The only difference being, you do not want to be the winner. Then, as you get down to the final four, Ms. Gardner throws in a wildcard or two and the reader is bouncing back to the coulda-shoulda-woulda’s.

Justin Denbe inherited his father’s twenty-five million dollar construction company and is quickly turning it into a two-hundred million dollar premier building empire. They do not do the little stuff, they handle the large jobs like prisons and hospitals and the like. As the company grows, Justin and his wife Libby are hitting the rough years in their marriage. Their daughter Ashlyn is fifteen and everyone is just walking around each other, but their daughter is seeing everything. To the outside world the facade is working - that all ends the night that Justin and Libby return home from date night to Taser wielding home invaders who are dragging their daughter down the stairs. The family is now being held hostage, but the terms do not make sense. Where is the ransom demand?

Tessa Leoni, now a corporate investigator, has been hired by Denbe Construction and is working closely with New Hampshire officer Wyatt Foster to get to the bottom of this abduction. The parts are not coming together. Why was the whole family abducted when it is clear that Justin is the only one worth a financial payoff? This is starting to look like someone from within Denbe is behind this, but whom?

At the same time, truths are coming out about Denbe Construction and the on goings there pale in comparison to the messy lives that Justin, Libby and Ashlyn are leading. As the chapters unfold, the reader is shocked by what comes next. Not that some of it was not foreseeable, but there were definite gasp aloud moments.

Unlike other books, Lisa Gardner does not present her main characters as demi-God’s with all the right answers in the nick of time. They are just as confused and wondering as the reader is. Their light bulb moments are actually based in facts that have been presented to the reader.

Unfortunately, you will have to read book number one to understand Tessa, but just grin and bear it knowing that book number two so is worth it.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

No Honor Among Thieves

Title: No Honor Among Thieves
Author: J. A. Jance
Expected Publication: November 16th 2015 by Pocket Star
Format: eBook
Genre: Mystery Novella
Source: My thanks to Netgalley and Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books for an opportunity to read an advance copy of this book.
Series: Ali Reynolds #10.5
In the world of smuggling, who would have thought that you would end up with eight dead bodies all over LEGO’s, yes, those little plastic building blocks? In No Honor Among Thieves, J.A. Jance brings together two of her female characters. Joanna Brady and Ali Reynolds team up to solve the “Great LEGO Caper”.

Ali’s husband B. and his High Noon Enterprises, a security consulting company, have been hired by the toy company to track missing shipments of their famous sets. When a driver is found dead with boxes tumbling out of his truck, B. and his gang are called in to investigate which put this interesting group of women, including newest computer nerd Cami, together.

I have never read a Joanna Brady novel, but she does seem like an interesting character that I should look for. Ali will never change and always seems to have the right solution for each situation. I would love to see more of Stu in future books since his quirkiness always seems to entertain me.

This book may have moved the Brady series further along with an interesting revelation for the police chief, but for the Ali Reynolds’s series, there is nothing new here other than a brief chance to bring these two characters together.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Read it and Weep

Title: Read it and Weep
Author: Jenn McKinlay
Published: November 5th 2013 by Berkley
Format: ebook, Paperback pgs 304
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Series: Library Lover's Mystery #4

Oh, tell me that I am not the only one that did not see that coming. Jenn McKinlay drew a very definitive picture so it did not occur to me that she was going to change it up. Rarely am I surprised in a cozy mystery, but she had me there. I am not saying the culprit that was obvious early one, but more of a surprise near the end.

Briar Creek Community Theatre is putting on a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The town’s people have auditioned for their parts and front and center in the character of Puck will be Robbie Vine, a Broadway actor and best friend of retired actress and local Violet La Rue.

Not everyone is happy with the production with one parent in particular that is completely against her son having anything to do with the play or the people involved. He has much better things going on in his life to waste it on this play. To the absent father of another local woman - who just happens to be the daughter of Violet - who has threatened Violet’s reputation to the point of hiring a critic to write bad reviews?

With no acting skills, Lindsey Norris the town’s librarian has volunteers for costuming and it is in this position that she is able to see everything that is going on. From a prop that has fallen and injured Robbie’s knee, to an stabbing that has in turn revealed a major clue, to the poisoning that has removed an actor from the production.

Add to this Sully, Lindsay’s boyfriend, has taken a step back from her life to give their relationship room that she had not asked for and in turn allows for Robbie’s very forceful wooing of her. Lindsay is in for a confusing couple of weeks.

All the usual characters from this series are here including a very interesting relationship for the sour Ms. Cole. By the end, Lindsay seems to have put all the pieces in the right order but will it be in time before another life is destroyed. On the other hand, was it just in time for a new and wonderful life to begin?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015


Title: Beewitched
Author: Hannah Reed
Published: February 4th 2014 by Berkley
Format: ebook, Paperback, 304 pages
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Series: Queen Bee Mystery #5

A twisty maze feel complete with witches was a perfect autumn read.

First off, thank goodness this series dropped the text speak, that was almost the series breaker for me. Now if we can get Hannah Reed to drop the bullet points, I would be a much happier reader.

Moraine, Wisconsin does not try to hide the fact that you either belong or you do not, so when “witch” Dyanna Crane moves into the neighborhood, people start their chatter. The way this town is reacting you would think that it was Salem in the sixteen hundreds. Things get a little dicer when another member of her visiting coven is murdered.

Claudene Mason has ties to Moraine, she grew up there and her estranged brother still owns the farm outside of town; since that is where her body was found in a corn maze, the town is in a twitter as to who did it. It would be so much easier to blame a member of the coven than one of Moraine’s own, but sometimes tragedy hits closer to home and since Claudene was the cause of a boy’s death years ago, this might be the perfect time for revenge.

Story Fischer owns the local market, The Wild Clove, and since it is known as a “hotbed of gossip and innuendo”, it only makes sense that she jumps into amateur detective mode to get to the bottom of this. Not only is she lying to the police chief about her involvement, she is lying to her boyfriend Hunter Wallace, the detective on the case.

With fingers pointing and stories flying, it is surprising that this book actually nailed down the culprit. The reader might wonder about this person in the beginning, but with so many other things going on the ruse was very good.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

All I Want for Christmas is Fudge

Title: All I Want for Christmas is Fudge
Author: Nancy Coco
Published: September 29th 2015 by Kensington
Format: ebook only, approx. 50 pages
Genre: Short Story; Cozy Mystery
Series: Candy Coated Mystery

Told in the perspective of Jenn Christensen, Allie McMurphy’s best friend, who has recently returned from Chicago, where she had spent a couple of months on a job only to realize that she misses her EMT beau Shane. She is back for Christmas week and while participating in the Santa Fun Run on Mackinac Island, where she stumbled across a dead body in a snow bank dressed as Santa.

Following his usual trend, police chief Rex Manning jumps to the conclusion that Jenn is responsible for the murder and has used it as a ruse to recapture Shane’s attention. Turns out that was not the case. Apparently, not only did dead Santa aka Tim Slater have a stalker, there was trouble much closer to home.

Writing a novella or short story is an art. The author must get to the point quickly without repetition and being able to tie the ending up with all the questions answered. This did not happen with "All I Want for Christmas is Fudge". The conclusion was reached with no substantiation. The sudden blurting of “I know who did it”, just does not work.

With stilted writing and downright ridiculousness – what company would change their toll free number because of a stalker, would not a new number be easily found on their website? Nancy Coco made an error in putting out this book. The series was gaining traction, but this novella was a waste.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Any Other Name

Title: Any Other Name
Author: Craig Johnson
Published: May 13th 2014 by Viking
Format: Hardcover, 319 pages
Genre: Western Fiction
Series: Walt Longmire #10

The case of three missing women and one contract on the life of Walt Longmire.

Just because Cady is due to have a baby in Philadelphia within days does not mean that Walt does not have time to help his former boss Lucian Connally solve a case. Really, how long could it take to find three missing women, discover the reasoning behind the suicide of a detective, chase bad guys into the deep snow, get tangled up in a herd of buffalo, get shot and beaten up, have conversations with dead people, race trains, bad weather and a coal chute. Really, if you have not been reading the Longmire series, you just have no idea what this man is capable of.

As Walt digs deeper, he is not sure what he is looking at. Are the women victims of a serial killer or is there something more unsavory going on. Dragging Lucian and Henry Standing Bear with him, he is determined to figure out this whole mess before he has to deal with one more panicked phone call from Cady.

The humor in this series is what keeps me coming back. Whether it is Walt’s self-deprecation or Victoria Moretti’s strong cynical stance or Henry’s “this is what it is” approach, I am entertained from beginning to end with this trio.

Walt is a brilliant man who glosses over his intelligence by making subtle comments as to how his father had a photographic memory and he got a slight touch of it. A man that leaves no stone unturned and will literally battle a blizzard to seek justice. A man that can find redeeming qualities in the most horrendous of people and at the end of the day just wants to settle down with his dog and a Rainier.

As the book ends, the reader is reminded of the escapades that were involved in a previous book “A Serpent’s Tooth” and now Walt knows, without a shadow of a doubt, that there really is a contract out on his life. Boy Howdy is this going to get messy.

As I have said in the past, the Longmire television program may have brought more recognition to this book series, but it does not hold a candle to the writing and humor that is found within the pages. If you have to pick one over the other, choose the books you will not be disappointed.*

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Murder in the Paperback Parlor

Title: Murder in the Paperback Parlor
Author: Ellery Adams
Published: August 4th 2015 by Berkley
Format: Paperback; Pgs 304
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Series: Book Retreat Mystery #2

Though many of the same elements of a cozy mystery are here, Ellery Adams breaks off a bit with the inclusion of quotes from classic books and poetry. I am not going to say that others have not done this, but considering that the story takes place at Storyton, an estate that was brought over from England to Virginia one stone at a time to create a heaven on earth for bibliophiles it is the perfect addition.

Storyton has a deeper secret that is not revealed to the guests. It houses an extensive collection of books, manuscripts and unfinished documents that have been kept from the public’s eye for centuries. There is a secret guard called the Fins that are responsible to protect the Steward Family and the guardian of the library.

Jane Steward is the current guardian and in addition to that stressor, she is a single parent to twin boys and is running a hotel that caters to a very select clientele. This week, she is hosting a “Romancing the Reader” event. Envisioning a lovely, festive and harmonious times did not prepare her for the body that was found.

Apparently, romance writers can have a mean side and when they start bickering amongst themselves and threats begin with uncovering a charlatan, Jane is working double time to keep the event on track. Then when a writer introduces a new book with a character that is offensive to some, there is no telling who exactly is responsible for the death.

There are many subplots in the book and that keeps the reader bouncing along. Some are interesting but when you begin to put all the fragments together, it is obvious early on what direction Ellery Adams is going but that is okay since there is enough side adventures to the reader engaged.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Dead Wake

Title: Dead Wake
Author: Erik Larson
Published: March 10th 2015 by Crown
Format: Hardcover, Pgs 430
Genre: History, Non-Fiction

Dead Wake “a maritime term that describes the fading disturbance that lingers on the surface of a body of water long after a vessel (or torpedo) has passed.”

What started out as a very boring history lesson turned real once the R.M.S. Lusitania was hit by a torpedo. The people became real. The horrifying situation for those onboard became a twisted nightmare. Lies are told and history will forever have multiple tellings of this story. Fingers may be pointed but in the end, you have to remember that nearly 1,200 people died.

On May 7, 1915, the Lusitania was traveling from New York to Liverpool when it encountered the German Submarine U-20. What is at question is if the submarine commander Walther Schwieger knew it was the passenger ship Lusitania. What he did know, was that a ship of this size was going to make the largest strike of his career. This would definitely put his tonnage numbers over the top. The post investigation said that two torpedoes hit the ship; Schwieger claims that it was only one. What is not in question is that there was a secondary explosion that caused the ship to list. What exactly was the Lusitania carrying? At the time, it was known that some passenger liners were conveying munitions, but to what degree has always been in question - but for a four-funnel, 787-foot superliner to sink in 18 minutes, is it possible that there was more in the cargo hold than was previous stated in the ships manifest.

Conspiracy theories still cling to this ship. What was the ship carrying that might have caused the secondary explosion? Why was there no escort when the area was known to have hostile factors? Most importantly, what did Churchill know? Was the sinking of the ship just a ruse to get the United States into the war? If so, it worked, two years after the sinking of the ocean liner full of innocent civilians, America finally entered the First World War.

There was a tremendous amount of research put into this book. There are certain parts that are as dry as a textbook, but then interspersed are the stories of the people. I do not feel that Erik Larson imparted too much of his own personal beliefs. He does not go off on diatribes of the “could haves” and trying to explain the unexplainable. He delivers facts. There is no proof of the ammunition, and the secondary explosion just might have been the result of the main steam line being ruptured from the torpedo that had torn a 40’ by 15’ hole in the side of the steam liner.

The title is two-fold. Not only does it describe what lingers on the surface of water after a vessel passes, it also describes what is left in the historical wake of the R.M.S. Lusitania disaster.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Dishing the Dirt

Title: Dishing the Dirt
Author: M. C. Beaton
Published: September 15th 2015 by Minotaur Books
Format: Hardcover, 304 pages
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Series: Agatha Raisin #26

Scattered. I think that is the best word to describe this book. The Agatha Raisin series has been going downhill for years, so I take each one for what they are. I have been invested in these characters for years and I cannot look away when a new one comes out.

The Agatha Raisin books are very easy reads considering M. C. Beaton has a habit of doing a mid-book recap. Dishing the Dirt begins with the murder of a therapist that has a history of being a hooker when she lived in Chicago. Still not sure why that was even mentioned since the idea was not fully developed into anything other than maybe her past had caught up with her; personally, I believe it was thrown in for some sort of shock value. The people in Carsely went to her for counseling even though no one could actually prove that she was qualified, they just needed someone who would listen. A man is snooping around and is murdered. So is another. Listening devices are found in Agatha’s cottage. Then another woman is murdered. Wolfsbane is suspected. Yada, Yada, Yada. Turns out the real killer was even more diabolical than Agatha realized.

Curious that in this book, both James and Charles see Agatha in a new light. At one point, the reader wonders if James could change his mind about having divorced Agatha, but that all blows up in a little squabble. Then you have Charles wondering how he could ever live without Agatha. Very odd and very curious indeed. All the while, Agatha is blindly obsessed with one character as the murderer but many names are bandied about and until the reader reaches the end, you had no idea as to which characters you needed to pay attention to. Bumbling. Almost to the point where it felt as if the author was just making it up as she went with no clear path.

The books ends quite abruptly and then the reader is thrown into an epilog that actually ends the book properly. Properly that is for Agatha Raisin, meaning that there is dangling intrigue that involves a new man. A man that Mrs. Bloxby is quite taken with and Agatha cannot quite stop herself from chasing after.