Category Archives: Mystery

The Mazatlán Showdown

The Mazatlán ShowdownWhat happens when your life is centered around the intent for revenge? How would you feel if your wish came true? Would it be as good as you thought? How would you live the rest of your life? How do you love and not let your desire for revenge sour you to the good things in life? Like a single mother’s love for the son born after the father’s murder? These questions are among those investigated in Patrick Weill‘s The Mazatlán Showdown.

Jeff Walker, a lifeguard in the San Diego area, recalls his love of the water…his single mom sitting watching him surf at a beach in Mexico. He thinks about how his mom worked more than one job to allow him to do that. The more he contemplates his and his mother’s loss, the more resentful he becomes. Revenge slowly eats him up. How will he react when he and his lifeguard buddies become involved with taking down a drug-smuggling gang whose leader is his father’s killer?

Patrick Weill does a fair job of portraying Southern California beach life. The group of lifeguards and the various policemen with whom they interact are well drawn. The few gang members are less well so; they seem common enough thugs.

Most of the story hinges on the revenge theme. Without giving anything away, I will only say that the novel loses some steam after the climax and coasts to the ending.

However, I enjoyed this outing with Weil and look forward to reading Bad Traffic, the next book in this series.

I received a copy of The Mazatlán Showdown in exchange for an honest review.

The Mazatlán Showdown
by Patrick Weill
(c) 2023
Weill & Associates

The Torso at Highgate Cemetery

The Torso at Highgate Cemetery and Other Sherlock Holmes StoriesThe Torso at Highgate Cemetery and Other Sherlock Holmes Stories by Tim Symonds has all the expected tropes, such as foggy London streets and fast hansom cab rides. From Highgate Cemetery to Holmes’ retirement bee farm in Sussex Holmes and Watson are “crammed into an agile hansom rattling off to Charing Cross Station [Watson’s] revolver tucked into a pocket.” One of the stories even has Watson in a prison in Istanbul! He even had a visitation from Mycroft Holmes and was sent to Crete to search for Holmes.

Things and times are more modern in some ways, too. Holmes has a telephone in the house at his farm. Modernity abounds as Holmes and Watson take a ride in a motorized hackney (i.e., an initial form of a car).

Overall, I liked these stories. Crisp writing enlivens them and causes tension. For example, in “The Torso at Highgate Cemetery,” Holmes and Watson indirectly cause the death of a Chinese scribe. Some oddities exist, too. In “The Mystery of the Missing Artefacts,” Watson had offered his services during World War I. While imprisoned, Watson received a telegram from Holmes to come assist him. As if Watson were casually sitting in his house in Marylebone. Upon Watson’s return, Holmes picked up relations with him as if Watson had been away on vacation. Really?!

Readers who enjoy works about the ever-popular Holmes and Watson, detectives extraordinaire, will be happy with this selection of short stories. From dealing with the ever-dangerous Colonel Sebastian Moran to scaring Dr. Watson with galloping knights and ghostly monks, things happen within these stories. Although some stories had sluggish spots; overall these six were enjoyable.

Not my favorite stories in the Holmes-Watson canon of pastiches. But, I would read other Holmes-Watson adventures written by this author.

I received a copy of The Torso at Highgate Cemetery and Other Sherlock Holmes Stories in exchange for an honest review.

LIES

LIESIn Seeley JamesLIES, Jacob Steane, expert spy for Sabel Security, hunts for pieces of the Chaac Project, a highly prized experiment. When together, the equation and the data will enable the possessors to build a world-changing meta capacitor. Also of immense importance is the knowledge that Betty Bardon, a physicist, has of the project. Those that had conceived of the project were all for broadcasting the information for free once everything was reviewed. But, in addition to Pia Sabel and the American government, the Russians and Chinese are after whomever has the disparate pieces.

Stearne, a decorated Army special ops veteran, is soon saddled with Symone Blackworthy. He rescues her from a brothel and later realizes she has PTSD and is rather of a drag on his way of life. But anyway, that doesn’t stop him. Nothing seems to stop Jacob. Not even dealing with an old love—Betty Bardon. Or a would-be new love—Symone. Jacob mostly adheres to his own survival code: “Paranoia is the result of acute situational awareness.”

LIES lives up to its name as an action thriller. It steamrolls along, enticing the reader with it. Jacob and the secondary characters are well drawn. A solidly believable book, with terse, but descriptive prose. Well done.

Take a look at my review of a previous Seeley James work: The Rembrandt Decision.

I received a copy of LIES in exchange for an honest review.

LIES
by Seeley James
© 2022
Machined Media

The Recollections of Sherlock Holmes

The Recollections of Sherlock HolmesIn London’s dark and foggy depths Holmes and Watson keep vigil against the various misdeeds of those gone astray and perpetrators who assume they can outsmart the Holmes and Watson dynamic duo. Snagging stalkers, blackmailers, mesmerists leave Holmes and Watson little time to enjoy Mrs. Hudson’s cooking or smoke a pipeful of shag tobacco. All of the recognizable tropes of the Holmes and Watson stories appear in The Recollections of Sherlock Holmes.

Arthur Hall‘s The Recollections of Sherlock Holmes hits all the right and best points for anyone who enjoys Holmes and Watson. Holmes accompanied by Watson and his service revolver seek clues in back alleys as well as posh surroundings. The duo are always on the lookout for new cases and experiences. Otherwise, Holmes exudes nervous energy and “abhorrence of inactivity. Of course, whenever a story involves a young woman, Watson delights in a pretty face and a shapely figure.

Whether catching jewel thieves red-handed or dealing with a case of a wife contracting with someone to kill her husband, Holmes is steady and calm in reading the clues and deducing the absolutely correct action. Of course, Watson is always up for an adventure and has Holmes’s back. The stories are engaging with spare prose that indubitably places Holmes and Watson in the center of any action. Criminals beware.

Arthur Hall is spot on with his choice of words to describe the pair and the setting. One can see the foggy streets with gas lamps gleaming faintly. One can almost smell Holmes’ shag tobacco as he ponders a problem. As always, sitting with his legs stretched out, Dr. Watson reads a medical journal nearby.

Always open to Holmes and Watson pastiches, whether full length or short stories, I liked this collection immensely.

I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

The Recollections of Sherlock Holmes
by Arthur Hall
edited by David Marcum
© 2023
MX Publishing

The Rembrandt Decision

The Rembrandt DecisionAt the outset of The Rembrandt Decision, by Seeley James, number 12 in his Pia Sabel mystery series, Phil Jacobsen, the murder victim, and how he died, is known. Why he was killed and by whom takes longer to unveil. Although James plays it close to his authorly vest with subtle clues, who committed the crime becomes increasingly obvious. The why of things takes most of the book to uncover.

Christine Jacobsen, one of the three narrators in this who-done-it, attempts to steamroll the investigation towards Al Devino, a relation, and also part of an organized crime family that wants to invade Deeping, Maine, a small, fictional town where everyone knows almost everyone else. Why doth she protest too much about Devino being the culprit? What further complicates the investigation is that her adopted son, Scott Jacobson, is the town’s police chief. Christine thinks Scott is still a small boy (she continues to call him Scotty) and that she can control him as well as the investigation.

Pia Sabel, of Sabel Security, is in town to investigate if Deeping is a good place to locate Sabel Research Center, a new wing of her conglomerate. Once Sabel offers to assist Scott with his investigation, Christine continually denounces Sabel’s help. Christine declares that Sabel will uncover the town’s “secrets,” even though no one else agrees or even mentions secrets. Christine originally provided the impetus for Sabel’s invitation to view the town, but once Sabel and Scott begin working together, Christine wants her to move on as quickly as possible. Why? What harm can Sabel cause the town by accelerating the pace of the investigation? Or more importantly, cause harm to whom?

Readers learn about Pia Sabel through the other two narrators: Isaiah Reddick, one of her advisors, and Scott Jacobsen, the police chief. Sabel comes across as extremely smart and observant. Very smart, Sabel seems to know something about almost everything. She can be likeable, but also an obnoxious know-it-all.

Subtexts

Although I enjoyed The Rembrandt Decision, it was slow moving for the first two-thirds of the story. For example, a long-winded conversation between Scott and Pia details adoption. This interaction helps Scott grow as a person/character. However, the mystery plot comes to a screeching halt. Similarly, an interaction between Scott, Isaiah and Kubari Eady (who are both Black), underscores white supremacy and how white police handle dealings with minorities. Rather heavy-handed. A third subtext involving unhoused/homeless people. The impression is that those unfortunate enough to have no place to live are either mentally ill or alcoholic, or both. These subtexts could have been treated differently and more succinctly.

The Rembrandt Decision may not be a favorite of mine, but I’ll read others in this series. I’ll also read James’s second series about Jacob Stearne.

I received a copy of The Rembrandt Decision in exchange for an honest review.

The Rembrandt Decision
by Seeley James
© 2022
Machined Media

Driven

DrivenIn Driven, by Dane Cobain, James Leipfold, a down-on-his-luck private investigator, sticks his nose into a strange hit-and-run case. A car strikes and kills Donna Thompson, a waitress walking home after hours. A driverless car, to be exact. Was it an accident? A software glitch? Or murder? Leipfold and Detective Inspector Jack Cholmondeley work on different aspects of the case and occasionally coordinate their findings. As Leipfold begins his investigation, he picks up Maile O’Hara, a computer whiz, as an unpaid assistant.

According to Cobain: “Maile and Leipfold live in a London that’s similar to, but not identical to our own. It’s a London where the villains are straight from the pages of a comic book, where the heroes are unusual (but normal) people struggling to do the best they can in the knowledge that life doesn’t always turn out like it does in storybooks.” Is this the reason that Leipfold feels like an intruder in his own neighborhood? And why he feels the people have changed? Certain characters in Driven are single dimension, underdeveloped stereotypes such as Eleanor Thompson, Donna’s mother. She is snarly and uncooperative, period.

Cobain creates a showdown scene towards the end of Driven similar to Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe series. The suspects, police, and press congregate for a confrontation with the “great” detective. Maile O’Hara functions in a similar fashion to Archie Goodwin in the Nero Wolfe novels. They are both actors in the crime detection but are kept in the dark by the detectives as to how the puzzle pieces fit together to corner the perpetrator.

There are a few inconsistencies – at one point, Leipfold surreptitiously records a conversation with Eleanor Thompson, a suspect – supposedly on a Dictaphone. Really? In the age of smartphones? A few pages later Leipfold is asked by James Cholmondeley, his police inspector friend, whether he recorded a conversation with Ms. Thompson (Donna’s mother). Leipfold then pats the “phone” in his pocket. Hmm. Later in the story, Leipfold texts Maile on his phone.  Yes, Dictaphone made, and most likely still makes, dictation equipment. But I doubt whether the company makes a voice recorder application or a texting application for smartphones, though I may be wrong.

On the whole, Driven held my attention and I look forward to Leipfold and O’Hara’s further adventures and development as well-rounded idiosyncratic characters and a dynamic detective duo.

Driven
by Dane Cobain
© 2019
Encircle Publications, LLC

In Bleak Midwinter

In the Bleak MidwinterWho would expect a former Army helicopter pilot to become an Episcopalian priest? Who would expect that priest to also be a female? And one who jumps into possibly dangerous situations first and asks questions later? These are some of the plot twists in Julia Spencer-Fleming’s In the Bleak Midwinter, first in the Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne series.

A baby abandoned behind St. Alban’s demands Reverend Clare Fergusson dive right into the thick of things assisting Chief of Police Russ Van Alstyne. They begin piecing clues together, first the identity of the baby’s mother, then the father. Deaths mount up as quickly as clues – first the baby’s mother, then the baby’s conniving, ne’re-do-well grandfather. All during a bleak Adirondack winter.

As the mystery thickens, so does the attraction between the priest and the married chief. Needless to say, feelings deepen between Russ and Clare as they work towards the denouement with the murderer.

Clare and Russ are well-drawn characters. However, some of the secondary characters are rather stereotypical, such as the vestry members and congregation at St. Alban’s – white and definitely WASP-ish. Any hint from Reverend Clare about helping young, unwed mothers to improve their lives gets her congregation all aflutter. Linda Van Alstyne, Russ’s wife, is a virtual nonentity, always in the background. All that’s mentioned about her is that she runs a business dealing with draperies and curtains. But still, her presence (or lack thereof) is like the silent sword of Damocles hanging over Russ and Clare and their budding friendship.

Similarly, the family of the baby’s mother are distinctly described as overweight and white trash from the wrong side of the tracks. So, of course, the family of the baby’s father look down their long, thin, patrician noses and attempt to distance themselves from baby Cody, his mother, and her family.

Overall, I liked this mystery with romance sprinkled in. In the future, I’ll gradually read the rest of this series. I’ll read at least one more helping of Clare and Russ this year – A Fountain Filled with Blood.

In the Bleak Midwinter
by Julia Spencer-Fleming
© 2002
Minotaur Books

Fool Her Once

 

 

 Book Details:
Book Title Fool Her Once (A Novel) by Joanna Elm
Category:  Adult Fiction (18 +), 416 pages
Genre:  Thriller
Publisher:  CamCat Books
Release date:   Feb, 2023
Content Rating:  PG-13 + MThere’s adultery, language, some sexual content, and violent crime, but no explicit descriptions of the crimes.

Book Description:

Some killers are born. Others are made.

As a rookie tabloid reporter, Jenna Sinclair made a tragic mistake when she outed Denny Dennison, the illegitimate son of an executed serial killer. So she hid behind her marriage and motherhood. Now, decades later, betrayed by her husband and resented by her teenage daughter, Jenna decides to resurrect her career—and returns to the city she loves.

When her former lover is brutally assaulted outside Jenna’s NYC apartment building, Jenna suspects that Denny has inherited his father’s psychopath gene and is out for revenge. She knows she must track him down before he can harm his next target, her daughter.

Meanwhile, her estranged husband, Zack, fears that her investigative reporting skills will unearth his own devastating secret he’d kept buried in the past.

From New York City to the remote North Fork of Long Island and the murky waters surrounding it, Jenna rushes to uncover the terrible truth about a psychopath and realizes her own investigation may save or destroy her family.

 

Meet the Author:

Joanna Elm is an author, journalist, blogger, and attorney. Before the publication of her first two suspense novels (Scandal, Tor/Forge 1996); (Delusion, Tor/Forge/1997), she was an investigative journalist on the London Evening News on Fleet Street in the U.K. She also wrote for British magazines like Woman’s Own.

Then, she moved to New York where she worked as a writer/producer for television news and tabloid TV programs like “A Current Affair.” She was also the researcher/writer for WNEW-TV’s Emmy-award-winning documentary “Irish Eyes.” In 1980, she joined the Star as a reporter, eventually becoming the magazine’s news editor and managing editor before moving to Philadelphia as editor of the news/features section of TV Guide.

After completing her first two novels while living in South Florida, (Nelson DeMille described Scandal as “fresh, original and unpredictable”) Joanna returned to New York, enrolled in law school, graduated summa cum laude, passed the NY Bar exam, and worked as a principal law clerk for an appellate division justice in the prestigious First Department. She has been married to her husband Joe for 35 years and has one son.

connect with the author: website ~ instagram twitter ~ bookbub goodreads

FOOL HER ONCE Book Tour Giveaway

 

Murder at Half Moon Gate

Murder at Half Moon GateA strong historical mystery, Andrea Penrose‘s Murder at Half Moon Gate leads us through the fog-filled streets of London on a merry chase. Penrose dispenses a great mix of mystery, death and romance in a Regency setting with unerring intent. This second offering in the Wrexford/Sloane series does not fall short.

Lord Wrexford and Charlotte Sloane make a formidable pair, reminiscent of Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne in the series by Julia Spender-Fleming. Speaking of other fictional detective duos, Wrexford and Sloane are more evenly matched than Holmes and Watson in analyzing clues and info. However, friends of Raven and Hawk (Charlotte’s wards) are a troupe of streetwise urchins similar to Holmes’ Baker Street Irregulars.

Wrexford and Sloane stumble across a number of deaths including the death of Elihou Ashton. On the verge of revolutionizing the steam engine, Ashton’s design would transform manufacturing. Both nobility and commoners were at the mercy of the unknown killer. Greed and blood lust mix and coalesce in a fiery brew among the swirling London fog before Wrexford, Sloane and their associates bring things to a full stop.

Secondary characters are given full measure in Murder at Half Moon Gate. From Jeremy Sterling, Charlotte’s long-time friend, to Tyler, Wrexford’s valet, to Christopher Sheffield, Wrexford’s friend, to McClellan, one of Wrexford’s maids. All did much to assist the investigation efforts.

I read, but didn’t review, Murder at Black Swan Lane, the first book in this series. For sure, I’ll be reading more of Penrose’s Wrexford and Sloane series in the future. Also, I’ll be checking out her other mystery series about Lady Arianna. Stay tuned for my reviews.

Forced Induction

Forced Induction

John Tyler, former Green Beret, attracts trouble like a magnet, no matter how hard he tries to stay away. But he remains upbeat and undeterred, even keeled and able to deal with whatever comes his way. With his ex-wife in jail, his daughter, Lexi, living with him, and a super girlfriend, Sara Morrison, in Forced Induction, by Tom Fowler, Tyler’s life seems to be on a smooth path. At least for the time being. Then guns go missing from Fort Bragg and Sara, a Pentagon executive gets involved. Tyler gets involved too, through a strange accident at his Special Operations Car Repair shop. Patrick Baker crashes his recent model Subaru in the parking lot next to Tyler’s shop. Why?

Along with the dynamic, descriptive scenes of the interactions between Tyler and various militias that are ready, willing and able to buy stolen Army rifles (thanks to Tyler’s brother-in-law) are charming scenes between Tyler and Lexi. The tension sizzles between Tyler and his ex-wife in the women’s correctional center as Tyler explains his killing of her brother.

Forced Induction is the fifth in Tom Fowler’s great series featuring John Tyler. Sufficient backstory is presented for Forced Induction to be read out of sequence. But I will read the previous installments to know the whole story.

See last week’s review of The Reluctant Detective (here), the first book in Tom Fowler’s CT Ferguson series. I’ll be reading and reviewing both of these series throughout this year, and probably beyond, as Tom Fowler is prolific.

I received a copy of Forced Induction in exchange for an honest review.

Forced Induction
by Tom Fowler
© 2023