Trouble on Treasure Island

Trouble on Treasure Island: A Beach House MysteryAn easy-going romance-mystery, Trouble on Treasure Island: A Beach House Mystery is a lighthearted read with an undercurrent of sinister. Seth Sjostrom establishes the right tone for a mystery-romance set at a beach house on the Gulf Coast of Florida.

Kate Harper, a well-to-do realtor, works for a real estate management company specializing in high-end rentals, mostly on beaches throughout the United States. As she inspects a house on Treasure Island near St. Petersburg, FL, her foot goes through a rotten board on one of the decks facing the ocean. A surfer using the beach access easement next to the property, comes to her aid. Turns out, he’s a handyman. So, Kate hires him. Nick Mason, the surfer-handyman, becomes friendly with Kate as she finds more jobs for him to do.

One night, Kate witnesses some unusual activity on the beach—two shadowy figures, one chasing the other—she hears a scream before the figures disappear along the shoreline. Kate exits the house to give chase but finds nothing but an engagement ring along the path the figures had taken. What follows is the discovery of Joann Marrs murdered further along the beach. The police investigation, with much input from Kate and a reluctant Nick, consumes the rest of the novel.

Lighthearted Romance-Mystery

I enjoyed this lighthearted read. Sharp-eyed and perceptive describe Kate. She easily interprets what she sees and hears concerning the murder and the police investigation. She puts herself out there to move the investigation along. Nick, it turns out, is a non-practicing lawyer as well as surfer and handyman. He is no slouch as a handyman, who can put together an intricate alarm system in the beach house for Kate. He’s a gentleman, who also knows the best local places to have great food. But he could be more well-rounded, not just a love interest for Kate.

And that’s another thing—to a large extent, Kate seems a little oblivious to the effect she’s having on Nick. Kate is also unaware of the effect she has on Detective Connolly, the policeman in charge of Joann Marrs’ murder investigation. All in all, more could be made of this emergent love triangle than what happens throughout the book. That might be a missed opportunity to ramp up the novel’s tension in a different direction.

Another potential shortcoming is that it takes about one-third of the book before it begins to ramp up. The beginning encompasses a lot of stealthy, creeping intruders who slink around Kate’s beach house, but don’t do much to move the plot along. Nor do they create the brooding atmosphere for which Sjostrom strove.

Sjostrom does do a great job of characterizing Frank Driscoll. Driscoll, a private investigator hired by someone in Charleston with an interest in the murder of Joann Marrs. Assigned to keep an eye on Kate, Driscoll uses various not very effective disguises to do so. He adds a delightful air to the mystery.

All things considered, Trouble on Treasure Island: A Beach House Mystery is a great romp on the gulf coast. The scenery, the restaurants, the marinas and the house at the center of this mystery all delight the reader as do the main characters: Kate Harper, Nick Mason and Detective Connolly.

If you want to purchase a copy of this book, click here. I receive a small commission if this product is purchased.

I received a copy of Trouble on Treasure Island: A Beach House Mystery and gave a fair review.

Trouble on Treasure Island: A Beach House Mystery
by Seth Sjostrom
© 2023
wolfprintMedia, LLC

Sherlock Holmes Audiobook

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

As you all know, I’m a diehard Sherlock Holmes fan. Whether the original canon or modern versions, I love the gas lights and foggy London streets of Victorian and Edwardian London. So, I’ve just come across an audiobook version of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Simon Prebble narrates this audiobook–one of my favorite voice artists. Mr. Prebble narrated quite a few audiobooks that I’ve enjoyed over the years.

The stories in this audiobook take the reader back to London and the timeless duo of Holmes and Watson as envisioned by Doyle, the author of the illustrious and long-lived detective duo. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes presents such well-known stories such as “A Scandal in Bohemia” in which Holmes is bested by Irene Adler. “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle” in which a rather dilapidated bowler hat and a fat goose figure rather prominently. In “The Adventure of the Copper Beeches” Holmes’ client crops her luxuriant auburn hair short as part of her new job as a governess. Why? These stories and more entice the reader onwards on the heels of Holmes and Watson.

You can pick up The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Download as a digital download.

I receive a small commission for any purchases made via the above link.

 

The Further Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes

The Further Adventures of Sherlock HolmesCaiden Cooper Myles strikes the absolutely correct tone in The Further Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. Miles’s prose rolls smoothly along—highlighting gas-lit, foggy London streets as well as the firelight in the sitting room of that famous duo—Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson. The reader can see the yellow, swirling fog with gas lamps glowing dimly without casting much light.

In “The Adventure of the Sinister Correspondent,” coded messages under stamps reminds me of “The Adventure of the Dancing Men” in that secret coded messages portend problems for the recipient. “The Problem of Hazelwood Grange” reminds me of The Hound of the Baskervilles in that Holmes sends Watson in his place to help gather clues, view the scene of the crime, and report back to Holmes. Watson purports himself well in this story. He is a well-drawn character in this story, as well as the rest of the tales. “The Adventure of the Drury Lane Pawnbroker” brings to mind “The Red-Headed League” because it deals with pawnbrokers and the misappropriation or mishandling of money. “The Adventure of the Naval Architect” recalls “The Adventure of the Naval Treaty.” Both involve stolen military secrets.

The author of these further adventures strikes the right note with both Holmes and Watson’s characterization. Watson always has an eye for women, as, in “The Adventure of the Braden Park Bench,” Watson notes, “She had dark hair, bright blue eyes, and an air of confidence beyond her years. I was immediately struck by her beauty.” On the other hand, Holmes stands as a more intellectual plateau in the same story about Braden Park. For example, “Mid-morning the following day, Holmes and I found ourselves in Amberley. It was a charming village which appealed to me but it did not appeal to my friend whose love of Mother Nature was largely limited to her poisons.”

Illustrations in this anthology are not the best. The frontispiece illustration before “The Adventure of the Sinister Correspondent” has Holmes in a too-small puffy chair . A puffy, gummy bear chair that looks like it will swallow him.

Caiden Cooper Myles demonstrates a knowledge of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Holmes canon. I mentioned a few similarities between Myles’ stories anthologized in The Further Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes and Doyle’s stories. Similarities may exist for the other stories as well. But significant time has elapsed since I’ve read the original Holmes canon for me to be forgetful. These similarities in no way detract from Myles’ stories themselves or of my enjoyment of them. In fact, the faint similarities enhanced my appreciation of Myles’ writing style. Myles takes his version of Holmes and Watson in a new direction, including some modernizations such as Holmes’ use of a telephone. Myles’ stories are in no way derivative. They stand alone, a well-done addition to the contemporary Holmes canon.

I received a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Click if you wish to purchase The Further Memoirs of Sherlock HolmesI receive a small commission if a purchase is made.

Two Lists

In Two Lists, Malcom “Mal” Winters and his close friend, V. N. “Vinn” Atchison, confront a series of bizarre murders. Staged crime scenes laugh at them, daring them to connect the dots. And solve the crimes before someone else is murdered. Oddly, the murders seem to follow two lists created in the psychology field about those who would be most, and least, likely to commit murder. With each murder, props meticulously set the stage that indicate two different careers. And all the suspects congregate at Puzzlers Anonymous. What is it with that, anyway?

Mal and Vinn move as fast as they can with the help of Rebecca and Leo, Mal’s tenants. But not fast enough. Among the victims – their young friend, Maggie, the journalism student.

Mal and Vinn’s mounting frustration is sharply depicted in this latest from Thomas J. Thorson. When Mal and Vinn must take justice into their own hands, how will they react? Will they kill again, like in their previous lives? Even for justice? As Mal says, “it’s a slippery slope…Over time, your become immune to the emotional effect of holding a knife to someone’s throat or putting a gun to her head, and it becomes easier each time to follow through. At some point you actually begin to relish the rush…”

Also, see my reviews of Thorson’s previous Mal Winters books: Bad Fortune, The Cosmic Killings, The Connubial Corpse, and Heirs Apparent.

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

Get a copy of Two Lists by Thomas Thorson.

(I receive a small commission if you purchase the book using the above link.)

Two Lists
by Thomas J. Thorson
© 2023
Thorshammer Books

Coastal Conspiracy

Coastal Adventure Series, book 1Do you have a favorite place, or places, to visit? I have a few. One of them is the Delmarva peninsula, which forms the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay. Don Rich‘s Coastal Conspiracy is set in the portion of Virginia that forms the tail and tip of the Delmarva peninsula. This is an area where fish and crabs rule.

With Rich’s descriptions in Coastal Conspiracy (the first book in the series), I can see the charter boats and skipjacks. And taste the crab cakes and soft-shelled crabs. And hear the back-and-forth banter between the group of friends that make up the characters in the series.

In Coastal Conspiracy, Michael “Murph” Murphy and his girlfriend, Lindsay Davis, plan to purchase a run-down marina in Virginia, near the southern tip of the Delmarva peninsula, or Eastern Shore Virginia (ESVA) as this portion is known. Their plans are small because of a lack of enough funds to do an extensive expansion. When Casey Shaw, Murph’s friend, and a real estate investor, hears about the project, he is all in and uses his resources and his staff’s knowledge to greatly enhance the extent of the project.

When Bill Cooper, Marlin Denton, Kim Collier, and Timmy O’Shea, charter boat captains who currently lease slips at the marina, hear of the extended plans, they get nervous. That is until someone tries to stop the purchase and renovation. Even to the point of trying to kill Murph and Lindsay. The captains, along with Casey and Dawn Shaw, jump into action. Who is behind the violence, and why?

Straightforward prose enlivens the action in this series debut. Action scenes and scenes on the Chesapeake thrum with spot-on descriptions. I will definitely read further into the Coastal Adventure Series.

Traversing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel has been a goal of mine for a while. When I, one day, actually do travel across the bridge, I will always think of the characters in this series.

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

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

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