Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A Muddied Murder

Title: A Muddied Murder
Author: Wendy Tyson
Published: March 29th 2016 by Henery Press
Format: eBook, Paperback, 288 pages
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Source: My thanks to Netgalley and Henery Press for an opportunity to read an advanced copy of this book.
Series: A Greenhouse Mystery #1

I admit that I was a bit apprehensive when it came to yet another cozy mystery series by an unknown to me author. I tend to stick with those that I have liked in the past and a new untried writer was a pond that I did not want to step in to.

Wendy Tyson pleasantly surprised me -- she did not present the usual fluff that new writers to this genre tend to do. Her characters were engaging without being foolish. There were multiple plot lines that kept the reader engaged with an ending that was not apparent from the beginning.

Less than two years ago, Megan Sawyer was tied to a desk in Chicago defending big companies from environment claims. Today she is in Winsome, a rural Pennsylvania town where she is running an organic gentlemen’s farm and supplying the local farmers market and a new store and cafĂ© with her goods.

Simon Duvall is found dead in her barn and word is trickling down to her that her farm, Washington Acres was supposed to be sold to the Winsome Historical Society. This was never in her plan, the farm had been in her family’s name for over seventy-five years and there was rumor that George Washington had once stayed on this property. With fingers being pointed and the identity of the killer in question, Megan is determined to figure this out and finally answer why her farm is being targeted.

As I said, the who and why in this story is not obvious from the start and the author does take the reader on a winding road, but in the end it was well explained and the reader is introduced to memorable characters that I hope will make reappearances in future books.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Rogue Lawyer

Title: Rogue Lawyer
Author: John Grisham
Published: October 20th 2015 by Doubleday
Format: Hardcover, 344 pages
Genre: Legal Thriller

This one did not work for me. I could not connect with Sebastian Rudd even though he was technically on the right side of the law; he still came across to me as a bit smarmy. Sebastian does not fit the typical attorney profile, there is no big office with shiny furniture and clients with the proper pedigrees – he represents the kind of people that forces him to work out of a customized bulletproof van with a driver that is also his bodyguard and paralegal.

The beginning of the book throws a couple of clients at the reader and you are not sure if these are characters that will stay or just a slight glimpse of what is to come. By the end, you will see that each case Sebastian takes is only a small vignette of his life. The cases and the people that make his life a bit unstable and the reason why his ex-wife is constantly dragging him back to court over custody of their son.

Rudd does not have to take the cases that he does, he is very talented but there is an adrenaline rush that he gets from taking on the dirtier sides of life. Much like the MMA fighters that he sponsors, the courtroom is his cage and this is where the adrenaline flows and he is able to prove his worth.

This is not Grisham’s best novel. There are better but still the reader makes it to the end. Take it for what it is – a legal thriller that only Grisham can tell.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Murder House

Title: The Murder House
Author: James Patterson and David Ellis
Published: September 28th 2015 by Little, Brown and Company)
Format: Hardcover, 451 pages
Genre: Suspense

The locals know 7 Ocean Drive in the Hampton’s as the murder house. It has been the scene of multiple murders over the years. The most recent deaths involve a Hollywood producer and his girlfriend.

Jenna Murphy has returned to the area for a fresh start. She was a detective in New York City and after an unfortunate incident, the only job that she can get is with her uncle at the Southampton Town Police Department –the same jurisdiction as the murder house. The last time that she was here was as a young girl, she did not know why her family had never come back and no one thought to give her the answer. That is until after her uncle’s untimely death and the nightmares once again take over Jenna’s life.

Noah Walker, described as a combination of Matthew McConaughey and surfer Jesus, is charged with the deaths and as Jenna digs deeper, she realizes that the stories are not adding up. This writing team throws in enough twists that the reader begins to questions who are the good guys in this tale. Jenna tells us early on that she is always attracted to the bad boys, but with so with many to choose from, the reader is bouncing back and forth with multiple possibilities. From Noah, to Issac to Aidan to that other guy, the reader is constantly putting on their Sherlock Holmes deerstalker hat trying to figure this all out.

As I reached the end, I was hoping for one last twist, one seemingly out of left field moment and I was not disappointed. I had wondered if this was a possibility, but thought that maybe there was something else. Something that could otherwise explain what had happened years before.

Patterson books can be hit or miss with me and this definitely was a hit. Good characters, good plot and just enough twists to keep me reading.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

She's Not There

Title: She's Not There
Author: Joy Fielding
Published: February 23rd 2016 by Ballantine Books
Format: ebook; Hardcover, 368 pages
Genre: Suspense
Source: My thanks to Netgalley and Penguin Random House for the opportunity to read an advanced copy of this book.

Taking its opening notes from the Madeleine McCann abduction of 2007, Joy Fielding takes her readers down a lackluster path of an abducted child while on a family vacation in Mexico.

From the outside, the Shipley’s appear to have it all, to celebrate their anniversary, Hunter has planned a dinner for Caroline with a few friends a short distance from their Rosarito hotel room. When their babysitter does not arrive, instead of canceling, Hunter convinces Caroline that their daughters will be fine in their room. They will check every 30 minutes and they can continue with their plans. Unfortunately, Hunter did not live up to his end of the bargain and as the couple returns to their room at the end of the evening, two-year-old Samantha has vanished without a trace.

Years of anguish and torment follow Caroline – that is until the fateful phone call. “I think my real name is Samantha. I think that I’m your daughter.” Caroline is now plunged back fifteen years. She has followed leads in the past, there is no reason to follow another, but yet, there is a pull here. Her daughter Michelle is trying to derail the inquiry and since she has always been a difficult child, Caroline is at a turning point. Does she take one more gamble and risk losing her remaining child or walk away as Michelle wants?

Maybe it is my overly inquisitive natures, but I thought that the responsible party was a little too obvious. Granted, I might have thought that it was the “other person” in the web, but I was darn close. Joy Fielding, gave you the clues all along, but it was not until the end that the full picture was drawn. Regrettably, it was too late. The road to the end was too long and meandering and there was not one character that I was drawn too. You would think that a mother could relate to the anguish of another, but I found myself bored.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

On Borrowed Time

Title: On Borrowed Time
Author: Jenn McKinlay
Published: Published November 4th 2014 by Berkley
Format: Paperback, 304 pages
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Series: Library Lover's Mystery #5

Sleepy coastal towns do not usually have this much excitement, but ever since Lindsay Norris became the director of the Brian Creek Library, there has been nothing but excitement. So when she opens up an office door expecting to see her brother, that she left there moments ago, she was unprepared when a totally different person, now lay dead on the floor and Jack is gone.

Turns out the very personable Jack Norris has once again gotten himself involved with some questionable people and has come to Lindsay for help. Instead of letting the police handle this by themselves, since Lindsay is unsure of her brother’s full involvement, she calls upon two love interests, Robbie Vine and Sully Sullivan, and her crafternooners group to solve the mystery of what happened to Jack and the dead man on the floor of her meeting room.

How Jack manages to get himself into the middle of numerous escapades is usually the big question since he is the numbers guy. The advisor that is called in to assistance companies on budgets and investments.

As Lindsay digs deeper into Jack’s business dealings too much is rising to the surface and now both Jack and Lindsay are in deep. It is up to the ladies of her craft group, and the men in her life, to ride in and save the day. As Jenn McKinlay said, “Who would have guessed that a love of books, food and crafts would forge a bond so strong among such a disparate group of women?”

Though the book follows the usually cozy mystery format, there is enough humor to keep the reader following along. Sometimes it is ridiculous, but that is ok, the characters are moving forward from book to book and there is just enough atmosphere to keep you turning the pages.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Visitor

Title: The Visitor
Author: Amanda Stevens
Expected Publication Date: March 29, 2016
Format: eBook
Genre: Modern Gothic
Source: My thanks to Netgalley and Harlequin for an opportunity to read an advanced copy of this book.
Series: Graveyard Queen #4

I have been waiting four long years for the next installment and I can say that I was not disappointed.

After the devastation that Amelia Gray underwent in “The Prophet”, she is back to her day job as an archaeologist turned cemetery restorer. That is until a stereoscope is found in her basement with a peculiar old photo of a woman that looks too much like her to not be a relative. Unfortunately, this blind entity is now not only in her dreams but has found a way to cross the veil and is haunting Amelia.

After being warned by her father to follow the rules and be very cautious of gifts left by entities, since she does not want it to be construe that she is welcoming them into her life, a trio of keys appear on her nightstand she knows that there is more to this story. This is very difficult ground for her. Her legacy runs deeper than the ability to see spirits.

As the story of the stereoscope unfolds, Amelia is drawn into the world of Ezra Kroll – the founder of a mysterious commune, which accounts state, ended in a mass suicide. Now Ezra’s sister Louvenia Durant is requesting help to rejuvenate the Kroll cemetery, a strangely beautiful place where each grave is marked with a number and key. A puzzle or riddle that no one has been able to solve.

This is an odd and eerie book. I was concerned that since it had been so long since the last that I would have lost my place, but Amanda Stevens does an excellent job in reminding the reader whom everyone is, their past, and how their stories interrelate. The end is left very open-ended, I for one cannot wait to see what is in store since Amelia Gray and readers are now beginning to wonder whom exactly John Devlin is.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

The Widow

Title: The Widow
Author: Fiona Barton
Published: February 16th 2016 by NAL
Format: eBook, Hardcover, 336 pages
Genre: Suspense
Source: My thanks to Netgalley and Berkley Publishing Group/Penguin Group for an opportunity to read an advanced copy of this book.

I need to stop believing hype about books. From the very beginning, the reader could see the road that this book was going down and by midway through, I had actually put it down to go read others. Feeling an obligation to finish what I had started, I picked it up again only to find myself trudging to the end. Granted, the last twenty percent of the book was good, but it is still not a book that I would recommend to anyone else.

Young Bella was taken from her front garden while her mother was distracted and to this day Detective Bob Sparkes has not let the case go. Glen Taylor was brought up on charges but the case was not proven. Now that he has died and no one is grieving, his widow Jeanie Taylor, a decent woman totally dominated by her husband, is left to tell the story. Throughout the book, the reader is not fully sure of what that story will be. There are crumbs left and false trails for the reader, but in the end, there is only one case to follow and either you are completely on board with what you are being told or you have lost faith in the story.

Each chapter is told from differing perspectives – The Report, The Detective, The Mother, and changing time frames and grittier parts, which might turn the stomachs of sensitive readers. By the end, you begin to wonder if Jeanie will have a chance to be her own person, or if her own slow unraveling will leave her with no other choice.

The Widow is another in the long list of Gone Girl / Girl on a Train type of books. The current marketing trend seems to be pushing unreliable narrators and that is what you get with this book. A cat and mouse game from the beginning that will appeal to some and bore others.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

NYPD Red 4

Title: NYPD Red 4
Author: James Patterson and Marshall Karp
Published: January 25th 2016 by Little, Brown and Company
Format: Hardcover, 368 pages
Genre: Suspense
Series: NYPD Red #4

NYPD Red is an elite task force that is in existence solely to protect the rich and famous of Manhattan. Detectives Zach Jordan and Kylie MacDonald have their own style that does seem to antagonize both those that they are protecting and their Captain.

During a movie premiere, an eight million dollar necklace is stolen and the young actress who is wearing it is killed. During that investigation, they are also called in to investigate stolen hospital equipment. Not to be out done by a simple who-done-it, the reader must also tag along on their interpersonal relationships and you will have the newest installment of the Red team.

Writing reviews for Patterson books is a bit tricky since there is a great deal going on but no real depth. It is too easy to give too much of the story line away. If I say any more about the stolen necklace, it becomes transparent as to who is behind it even if that part does get a bit twisty. If I mention the hospital equipment you will quickly see that underlying agenda. If I talk too much about Zach’s live in girlfriend then you might see the flaws in their relationship and then there is Kylie and her drug-addicted husband and you will quickly see that no good can ever come of their relationship.

Even though the books are light reads I still enjoyment. They are easy to pick up and put down without having to go back a couple of chapters to resituate yourself. The reader can take their time or finish them within a couple of hours. Either way, you will be easily entertained without a huge investment in either time or concentration.