Category Archives: Mystery

Drums of War

Drums of WarThe tension that was building between the Parliament (led by the Puritans) and King Charles 1st in Michael Ward’s Thomas Tallant series boils over in his newest addition, The Drums of War. (See my reviews on his first two Tallant novels, The Rags of Time and The Wrecking Storm). Chaos in London’s streets and elsewhere is a main weapon of Parliament’s supporters, at least so far. Often brutal chaos erupts – breaking and entering, jewel theft, riots in the street. Then the hell of war breaks loose.

While Sir Ralph Tallant refuses to take sides, Tom and Elizabeth both help, each in their own way. Tom joins the Trained Bands. Elizabeth does research and detective work to help friends and acquaintances track thieves and burglars; then helps tend the wounded as skirmishes begin.

Ward’s characterization is perfect. Thomas Tallant is smart and patriotic. His dislike of war doesn’t prevent him from taking sides, albeit reluctantly. Meanwhile, his father insists on riding the fence. His excuse is that he’s on the side with whomever seems to allow his business to continue.

Smart and courageous describe Elizabeth Seymour. Her interests include astronomy, science, medicine and detection. Elizabeth is a good foil for Tom. She’s mentally strong, helping William Harvey tend the wounded at a primitive MASH site close to skirmishes between the king’s supporters and Parliament’s supporters. When the supplies she brought ran out, she just “soldiered on.” As she thought about the wounded she’d already tended to, “she laughed bitterly at the memory of those who said the war would be over after one encounter. She always thought it a forlorn hope…she knew it for what it really was – a bloody fool’s dream.”

Even secondary characters, such as Jake Dibden, a sailor who works on the river, are well executed. Visualization of Dibden, with his strong arms and shoulders, rowing Tom downriver to search for caches of gunpowder stored for the king’s army, comes easily with Ward’s erudite description.

Ward’s descriptions of the chaos amid fog off the Thames during skirmishes of the civil war are exceptional. The Drums of War is excellent reading. Lovers of historical fiction and mysteries will be speedily drawn in.

Bad Fortune

Bad FortuneBad Fortune by Thomas J. Thorson is so hot, it sizzles in your hand. This fourth book in the Malcom Winters Mystery series grabs you within the first few pages.

We get to learn more about Rebecca and also about Leo’s real family. Family members usually stick together, right? Not so in this case. Far from it, in fact.

Strange things start happening to Rebecca, such as someone hacking her credit card. And someone attacks Leo. What does this have to do with Sara, an ex-friend of Rebecca? Who would want to attack Malcom and Vinn’s friends? What can Malcom and Vinn do to help?

Thorson fills out the depiction of Leo and Ted/Rebecca to some degree. Maybe someday we’ll learn a bit more about Malcom Winters and V. N. (Vinn) Achison. Why did Malcom assume the name of another person? This was discussed briefly in Heirs Apparent, the first book in this series. (See my review of Heirs Apparent). Let’s hope for more personal background on Malcom and Vinn in future outings .

In my view, letting us into Mal and Vinn’s previous lives, even a tad, would add oomph and intensity to these two characters and their blossoming love affair. As it is, sometimes they seem a little superficial. Both Malcom and Vinn have secret past lives. Will the reader ever learn the how, where and why of their earlier lives? Let’s hope that we get at least a tiny peek behind the curtain in future additions to this enjoyable series.

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

Bad Fortune
by Thomas J. Thorson
© 2022
Thorshammer Books

Knock on the Door

Knock on the DoorRoberta K. Fernandez’s A Knock on the Door ramps up the mystery and the suspense. Three murders in three months. All employees of SpringWare, a software and gaming development company. What was it about the National Security Agency’s (NSA) software project that was getting so many of SpringWare’s employees killed? Who would be next?

Rita Johnson, personal assistant to SpringWare VP Mark Mason, and previously to Jack Crawford, was one of the first to smell a rat. Especially when she went to download files for a certain project from Crawford’s computer after his death. Jack’s death was labeled an accident, but was it really? Why were some encrypted? Why was Mason being so secretive about this project?

Needless to say, Rita’s curiosity got the best of her, and she made a copy of the files for herself. She uncovered a connected, unrelenting, deadly series of events. Whom could she trust?

Tension and suspense mount slowly and steadily as Rita uncovers what’s happening with help from Lori, widow of Jack, Jacob Browning, another SpringWare employee, Nathan Schilling, a reporter for a local paper, and eventually Matthew Abernathy, a local police officer. These amateur sleuths begin getting closer to the truth about SpringWare’s project for NSA and Mason’s relationship with Carl Baxter, the NSA director. Then even Rita is murdered in what was meant to look like a hit-and-run accident. Who would be next among the seekers-of-truth group?

Fernandez starts the suspense early and continues to ramp it up with this apparent first novel in a series. Her characters are well drawn, and the amateur sleuths become a tight-knit group as the action advances.

I received a free copy of A Knock on the Door via www.ireadbooktours.com in exchange for an honest review.

Lies at Her Door

Lies at Her DoorLies at Her Door, by A. A. Abbott, seems to be a novel dealing with characters whose lives are not what they seem or had envisioned. Who, if anyone, is telling the truth? The mystery at the center seems to highlight what’s missing from the lives of Neil Slater and Lucy Freeman. And even Sebastian and Dan Freeman. Lucy wishes she was thinner and not responsible for the care of her invalid mother. Lucy feels unloved—her mother calls her a pig and fat, and otherwise derides her daughter. Jennifer and Sebastian, Lucy’s parents used to deride her for the inability to keep a pet alive for even a short while. But Lucy cooks for the household and helps dress and assist her mother since her mother contracted Parkinson’s. Why the derision of a daughter who is competent, kind, and at least nominally pretty? Is something else at work?

Why does Dan, Lucy’s brother, stay away from home? Is it just that he enjoys the superstar lifestyle since his band became popular? Or is there something more sinister? Why does he live alone with just a bodyguard?

Neil wishes his girlfriend, Gemma, would move in with him. But Gemma professes that she loves living in the country. Neil’s job as a detective keeps him in Bristol.

Jason Jardine, one of Dan’s fellow band members, goes missing. Lucy even gets blamed for Jason’s disappearance. Then Jason’s skeleton is found in a collapsed cellar only accessible from the Freeman house. When Lucy finds her mother’s diaries while clearing off a bookshelf, she hopes to find out the truth of what happened. But Sebastian disposes of the diaries before Lucy can read them. Why?

Why is Lucy Freeman the nexus in the mystery of Jason’s death? Neil think Lucy is the murderer. Why? Does Neil even remember that Lucy babysat him once when he was four? And supposedly gave him a drug-laced brownie? Drugs meant for the members of Dr. Sweet, Dan’s band. Was Lucy even aware of the drugs in the brownies? Why does Lucy remember almost nothing from the last time she saw Jason?

Lies at Her Door is a slow, but inexorable crawl to the denouement in the search for Jason’s killer. Lucy is a well-drawn character. Her father, a professor, is fairly well drawn. Jennifer, Lucy’s mother is just a shell of a woman for the majority of the novel due to her illness. But she impacts the story, nonetheless. The plot, although a bit slow, benefits from Abbott’s tight, straight on prose. Alternating the narrative from the perspective of both Lucy and Neil provides more information than would otherwise have been possible.

This was a fairly good read.

I received a free copy of this book from ireadbooktours.com in exchange for an honest review.

Lies at Her Door
By A. A. Abbott
© 2022
Perfect City Press

Shadow of Murder

Shadow of MurderWhen and where does it take a village to solve a murder? In Lauren Carr‘s Shadow of Murder. That’s where. What happened to Konnor Langston? Why did she suddenly disappear while helping Larry Donahue clean out his deceased father’s house?

Beware. There are lots and lots of characters in this lengthy tome. This is really an affair involving a good chunk of the village of Spencer, including the mayor, Gnarly (a German shepherd). And the villagers all know one another, and most are somehow related to each other.

I enjoyed the characterization. Although there was a multitude of characters, many “on stage” together, most of the characters had their own personality. But I chafed when I had to keep referring to the Cast of Characters list at the beginning of the novel to keep everyone straight and remind myself of who was who, as most are related to each other in some way, as previously mentioned. This slowed down my reading of the novel to a large extent and took away from the enjoyment of the story. In fact, the interactions between certain groups of characters detracted from the sense of mystery. At times, this seems like a novel about the village characters, especially during the first 25 percent of the novel.

Another minor irritation was the food fight scene at the Spencer Inn. It reminded me too much of Keystone Kops slapstick-style comedy. But once the story got rolling it became more engrossing.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Shadow of Murder. I look forward to reading more from Lauren Carr.

Lauren Carr

Lauren CarrI’ve just discovered Lauren Carr, a prolific author of cozy mysteries as well as other genres. In the near future, I’ll be reading and reviewing a few of Carr’s mysteries.

Gnarly is a character that appears in a few of the books in Carr’s Mac Faraday series.

Enjoy this preview of what’s ahead.

Ten Things You May Not Know about Gnarly
by Lauren Carr

Gnarly is a canine genius. In It’s Murder, My Son, Mac has Gnarly evaluated by a dog expert who determines that the German shepherd has reasoning and planning capability, which is why he doesn’t always listen to humans.

Gnarly is a kleptomaniac. When he gets bored, he plans and executes heists—just to see if he can get away with it.

Gnarly is a West Virginian. He was born at Beck’s Kennels in Inwood, West Virginia. His parents still live there.

Gnarly is lactose intolerant. Mac Faraday only recently made this discovery.

Gnarly was not in the first or even second draft of It’s Murder, My Son. While Mac Faraday had a dog, it was not become an actual character until a much later draft.

Gnarly has a squirrel friend named Otis. Occasionally, he and Gnarly will have spats. In Old Loves Die Hard, Otis threw acorns at Gnarly, hitting David’s police cruiser.

Gnarly was inspired by Lauren’s son’s Australian shepherd, which was given to him by a woman during halftime at a football game. Her big sales pitch: “You can keep him. He’s free!” The next day, the free puppy chewed through a $65 power cord.

There is a real Gnarly. After the success of the Mac Faraday Mysteries, Lauren got a real German shepherd and named him Gnarly, after his fictional counterpart. He was kind enough to model for the fictional Gnarly’s campaign posters.

The real Gnarly can open doors—even doors with round doorknobs like his fictional counterpart. For this reason, Lauren has to lock the door when she wants Gnarly to stay outside. He hasn’t conquered picking locks yet; but give him time. Most of Gnarly’s misbehaviors are based on real-life incidents involving Lauren’s dogs or dog stories supplied to her by fans.

While the fictional Gnarly is un-neutered, the real life Gnarly is. A friend of Lauren’s wanted to breed Gnarly with her purebred German shepherd, but before the “wedding” could take place, Gnarly developed an unhealthy obsession with a footstool. For the sake of her sanity, Lauren decided to get Gnarly altered. Luckily, Lauren’s friend understood.

Bones of Amoret

Bones of AmoretNoah Travis Grady, the narrator of The Bones of Amoret by Arthur Herbert, is the typical, old-fashioned town doctor. Or maybe not so typical.

Noah is multifaceted, full of kindness and standing firm for what he thinks is right. He helps immigrants who cross the southern border illegally. Two of those immigrants were Angelica, whom he marries, and her son, both of whom he loves with a passion. He helps Francis Barnett with his AIDS, And he’s good at keeping secrets. Like his 20-year affair with Blaine Beckett’s wife. Now he is focused on finding out how Beckett has disappeared and why. And who killed his adopted son. Or so he says. Is all of Noah’s kindness and bonhomie real or just a mask?

But is Noah a reliable narrator? He is retelling a large chunk of his, and others’, personal history in an interview with an unnamed female journalist. The events he’s relating happened about 40 years in the past. So, he’s now a bit older. How accurate is his memory? In fact, Noah apologizes to the reporter: “Sorry, ma’am, there I go wandering off again. You’ll have to excuse an old man his indulgences.”

For example, Noah recounts that during one mission to assist those wanting to cross the border he got shot through the leg and part of his hand was destroyed. Yet, after his wife patched up his hand and leg, he is sitting nonchalantly with his legs crossed beside Francis Beckett as he’s dying from AIDS. And Noah flips through an Oscar Wilde novel that the young man had been reading. All this as if nothing had happened to him. As if he hadn’t lost a lot of blood just the day before.

Likeable Narrator

In spite of this, I really like Noah Grady. Whether his reminiscences about his past experiences are exactly how the events really occurred doesn’t matter. Noah is a likeable narrator and storyteller. His gripping storytelling engendered joy or sadness in me dependent upon what he was retelling. Arthur Herbert also makes fully concrete the other, secondary characters. All were fully fleshed out and fit well into the story arc.

The Bones of Amoret held my attention to the end. I will be reading other works by Arthur Herbert.

I received a free copy of this book from ireadbooktours.com in exchange for an honest review.

The Bones of Amoret
by Arthur Herbert
© 2022

Sherlock Holmes: The Persian Slipper

Sherlock Holmes: The Persian Slipper and Other StoriesIn Sherlock Holmes: The Persian Slipper and Other Stories, Brenda Seabrooke does an excellent job of recreating Arthur Conan Doyle’s brisk, steady pacing. Seabrooke shows all sides of the famous duo. From Sherwin Soames, a tall lad interested in chemistry interacting with a Scottish lad, Ian Dotson, to John Watson helping solve one of the first cases he encounters early in his friendship with Holmes. Although uneven, these stories entertain.

Even as a young lad, Sherwin Soames, Seabrook’s protagonist in “The Marzando Matter,” has the markings of the adult we know from Conan Doyle. In this story, Soames admits he has already studied thieves, pickpockets, cut-purses and the like. Soames concludes: “The human mind is capable of almost anything and once set on a path is unlikely to change it unless or until it is expedient to do so.” “The Persian Slipper” lacks strength. Why would Holmes just insert himself into a case without being asked? The client had sought out Dr. Watson. Why would Holmes suggest that he and Watson use aliases while they were at the home of the fiancé of the client’s sister? And before he knew much of the facts in the case. Why would George Spencer-Hytton (the fiancé) suddenly show marked improvement when Dr. Watson had barely begun treatment?

Somewhat better is “The Curse of Barcombe Keep.” Sherlock Holmes lets on that he believes in curses to route out the murderer. Although why the staff were so shaken by an apparent curse that affected only the members of the Northington family, owners of the house, one can only guess.

Believable Protagonists

Seabrooke creates a believable pair in her rendition of Holmes and Watson. As usual, Holmes is a step or two ahead of Watson in interpreting clues and witnesses. Seabrooke’s Watson demonstrates a sense of humor. At the beginning of “The Persian Slipper,” Watson grumbles about the heat while observing Holmes watching ice slivers in separate teacups. Smoke is rising from one of the cups. After a moment, Watson says, “I say – your ice is afire. It’s so hot even the ice is burning up.” Turns out, the cup contains a sliver of dry ice. Holmes is comparing the melting of that versus real ice.

I received a free copy of Sherlock Holmes: The Persian Slipper and Other Stories by Brenda Seabrooke from reedsy.com/discovery in exchange for an honest review.

Sherlock Homes: The Persian Slipper and Other Stories
by Brenda Seabrooke
edited by David Marcum, Derrick Belanger and Brian Belanger
© 2022
MX Publishing

Grace Among Thieves

Grace Among ThievesIn Kari Bovée’s Grace Among the Thieves, Grace finally gets to meet her father. Why had her father waited so long to contact her? She thought he was dead. Many years dead. When had he remarried? When had he become a heroin addict, and why?

Who would beat Anna Ivanova almost to death for a mysterious package? Valentina Baklanova, Ivanova’s niece, draws Grace into the investigation. Baklanova works at the same Hollywood studio as Grace.

The pressure on Grace and her friends ramps up when Madeleine, her father’s second wife, is kidnapped, and a note left about the same mysterious package.

Grace and Chet, her husband, are faced with keeping their circle of family and friends safe as murders and break-ins abound. Will they be successful and find the package? And learn what it contains? Will they succeed and beat the clock?

Why does Grace remain fixated on her sister four years after her death? Including still wearing Sophia’s dressing gown in the evenings and mornings. Grace now has a loving husband, a promising job as a clothes designer and as a costume designer for Ambassador Studio. As well, she and her husband care for a few teenage orphans.

Likeable Characters

In this third entry in the Grace Michelle Mystery series, Kari Bovée succeeds in growing Grace in confidence and likeability. The plot moves along at a fair pace. However, the supernatural aspect, in the form of Grace’s dreams and voices initiated by Sophia, her deceased sister, leaves a lot to be desired. Those aspects slow the plot and are not really believable. Sophia’s ghost does a lot of the heavy lifting in the hunt for the package and the crime’s solution. She provides connections and hints that could have been better provided through other, natural, means.

I have read the first and third installments in Grace Michelle Mystery series. I’m not sure I will read other books in this particular series. Although I like the characters more in this book than in Grace in the Wings, the plot in Grace Among Thieves had aspects that were less than credible.

See my review of Grace in the Wings, here.

I received a free copy of Grace Among Thieves from ireadbooktours.com in exchange for an honest review.

Grace in the Wings

Grace in the WingsFlorenz “Flo” Ziegfeld, Jr., Fanny Brice, Mary Pickford, Hedda Hopper. These are a few of the famous Broadway and Hollywood names from the early 20th century mentioned in Kari Bovée’s Grace in the Wings. But this name dropping gets the story off to a very sluggish start.

Grace Michelle, the smart, beautiful, younger sister of Sophia, one of Ziegfeld’s stars in the eponymous Follies, works as an assistant costumier there. After Sophia’s death, Grace is thrown into a number of unusual circumstances, including trying to determine if, and how, Sophia was murdered.

Flo Ziegfield masterminds making Grace the star of his Follies to replace Sophia. He also masterminds sending her on a whistle-stop, cross-country train trip to drum up business for his show. The publicist, Donovan Green, sent along to assist, nearly gets Grace killed during this trip. “How did I get into this mess? All I want to do is design and sew costumes.”  Thus muses Grace to Chet Riker, her bodyguard and new love interest. Did Sophia commit suicide or was it murder? And why would Chet mislead Grace when she asked questions about her sister’s death and the police report?

Change in the Wings

Also, Grace is innocent and naïve at the beginning of Grace in the Wings. For someone orphaned and homeless at a young age, and who then led a life in the theater, she’s too innocent and naïve. Did Grace never wonder what Sophia did to keep them alive while they lived on the street and after Flo Ziegfeld took them under his wing. However, Grace does change and mature as the novel progresses.

I was gradually drawn into Grace in the Wings, even though the plot was sluggish in spots. But tension and suspense did ramp up. Bovée provides great characterization of Grace, Flo Ziegfeld, Fanny Brice and some of the minor characters. Grace, especially, comes into her own.

I look forward to reading other installments of the Grace Michelle Mystery Series.
I received a free e-book copy of Grace in the Wings from ireadbooktours.com in exchange for an honest review.

Giveaway:

Enter to win a $35 PayPal gift card, autographed copy of GRACE AMONG THIEVES, and gift basket containing mouse pad, mug, and tote bag courtesy of the author of the Grace Michelle Mysteries! (one winner/USA only) (ends April 4)

https://gleam.io/0V9S1/grace-among-thieves-grace-michelle-mysteries-tour-giveaway