Category Archives: Private Investigators-Fictional

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 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)

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Last Call by Cathi Stoler

Last Call by Cathi StolerWho can you trust, if not your friends, drinking buddies, and regular customers? That’s the question stumping Jude Dillane and Thomas “Sully” Sullivan, her landlord and friend. The dumpster behind The Corner Lounge, Jude’s bar/restaurant hides a body. Turns out, it’s the recently arrived brother of one of Jude’s regular customers, Art Bevins. Who would want him dead, and why? Who among the “10th Street Irregulars,” Sully among them, would have the guts to do such a thing? Last Call by Cathi Stoler keeps the reader guessing.

When Elaine Garlinger, an FBI agent, takes charge of the case, she starts talking about a serial killer. Because of the murder weapon and the physical appearance of the victim, Garlinger connects the current crime to the New Year’s Eve Killer.  And things really heat up for Jude. The killer begins leaving her threatening notes, both at The Corner Lounge and slid under her apartment door. How does he know where she lives? And how does he get into the building, anyway? Why is he so interested in Jude? Does the killer think she’s seen him or knows his identity in some way?

Believable Characters Attract

Believable, likeable characters entice the reader in Last Call by Cathi Stoler. The reader meets characters first seen in Bar None, such as Dean Mason, Jude’s hunky bartender; Sully Sullivan; Tony Napoli (who is this guy anyway?!); and Pete, Jude’s chef and co-owner of The Corner Lounge. Eric, Jude’s new boyfriend, earns a larger part in this second book of Stoler’s Murder on the Rocks series.

I’ve read three of the four books in the Murder on the Rocks series. All of them held my interest based on characterization and, to a lesser extent, plot. I want to read further in this series and look forward to the next installments. See my reviews of Bar None and Straight Up.

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

Last Call
By Cathi Stoler
© 2020
Level Best Books

Bar None

Bar NoneWe meet Jude Dillane in Bar None, the first installment in Cathie Stoler‘s Murder on the Rocks series. Jude is co-owner of The Corner Lounge, She’s the smart and savvy narrator of this cozy mystery.

Stoler creates likeable characters who have all-too-human flaws and blind spots. Jude is a bright 34-year-old up-and-coming entrepreneur who can’t see that Roger, her current boyfriend is a predator. Sully, an ex-marine is tough and smart except for his choice of the women for whom he falls. Dean, The Corner Lounge’s premier bartender, is handsome and good at his job, but wants to be an actor. So, who knows how long he’ll work at The Corner Lounge. And Peter, the chef/co-owner of The Corner Lounge, creates all kinds of off-beat entrees for the restaurant. All of these characters are memorable and work well together.

When Ed, who works at the Big City Coop with Sully, indicates to him that things aren’t financially correct at the co-op, Sully and Jude begin to nose around. Especially when Ed was killed in Sully’s apartment. When George, another worker at the co-op, has a fatal car crash, things really heat up for Sully and Jude. Who shot Ed? Who pushed George’s car off the road? In fact, who smashed the front window of The Corner Lounge?

Stoler’s meticulous prose keeps the action going at a steady pace and the tension high. But there are three places where the prose is not at its best. For example, when Jude finds Ed-dead in Sully’s apartment, Stoler described the scene as: “Ed was there all right, and he was as dead as the empties from the bar at last call.” Really?

Another miss is when Jade depicts the view from a window in her apartment: “…gazing at the midnight blue sky dotted with stars. They were as bright and unfathomable as the ones that often filled my head.” How many stars can you see from the middle of a large city? Not that many, I think. Too much ambient light.

A third instance was Jude’s description of the traffic sounds she could hear from her apartment. “Like a long and lonely spiral of some long forgotten soulful jazz melody that no longer existed, it wafted up and into my mind.” This is a bit clichéd.

As a whole, I was pleased with, and entertained by, this initial offering in Stoler’s Murder on the Rocks series. Characters are believable and the plot moves along at an even pace.

I look forward to reading the second book in this series. For my review of Straight Up by Cathi Stoler, click here.

I received a free copy of Bar None from booksirens.com in exchange for an honest review.

Straight Up

Straight UpMoney helps. “It makes everything better.” That’s how Cathi Stoler begins Straight Up. This third novel in Stoler’s On the Rocks series continues the story of Jude Dillane co-owner of The Corner Lounge. Narration switches between Jude and Dolores Castel, a shady female on the prowl for a rich third husband.

Tension arises when Dolores sets her sights on Thomas “Sully” Sullivan as her next catch. But she has to deal with Jude, who’s Sully’s best friend as well as his tenant. Tension also heats up Jude’s world when Art Bevins, a serial killer previously known to Jude, comes hunting for her again. Not to mention that Jude’s boyfriend, Eric, has left her. So, Jude and her crew have to stick together. Not to mention help from some FBI agents assigned to protect Jude until the killer is found. Stoler maintains and heightens the edginess and suspense by alternating narrators at key, strategic points in the plot. Stolen successfully keeps the reader on edge until the end.

Stoler’s well-defined prose helps keep Straight Up moving at a quick, even, pace. well-rounded characters with human quirks and failings as well as likeable qualities populate this novel. Dillane and Sully, Peter and Dean, Ari Maguire and Elaine Garlinger, even Dolores Castel and Art Bevins, are people you’d love or love to hate.

This is the first work by Cathi Stoler that I’ve read. Straight Up can be read as a stand-alone work but does make references to plot points from the previous two works in this series. Those references did not hinder my enjoyment of the book or understanding the plot. My enjoyment of this work will lead me to read other books by Stoler. I’ll especially read the first two installments in the On the Rocks series, Bar None and Last Call.

I received a free copy of this work from booksirens.com in exchange for my voluntary, honest review.

Straight Up
by Cathi Stoler
© 2021
Level Best Books

Napa Noir

Napa NoirMany people might think that wine making is all about growing the right grapes in the right environment. Then sitting back to watch the grapes grow and the money roll in. Not so. Tax evasion, stealing grapes, mislabeling wine, selling cheap wine at higher prices, murder. All of these illegal tidbits make Peter Eichstaedt’s Napa Noir an excellent, thrilling read.

Dante Rath works for the Santa Rosa Sun. He writes “The Grapes of Rath,” the newspaper’s wine column about Northern California’s extensive upscale wine industry. A real come-down for a hot-shot, award-winning investigative journalist. Or so he thinks. Until, that is, two men are shot and killed at a Napa Valley winery. Was it for money? Or is there more involved? Rath jumps in to investigate for the paper rather than the regular newbie crime beat reporter. Told from Rath’s point of view, we get to hear his thoughts on his fact finding and exploration of the murder story. We are also privy to his thoughts about his deceased wife and his withdrawal from dating and a love life after her death.

Wine, Women and Money

From his anxiety-caused indigestion and digestive upset to his renewed interest in women, Rath is a likeable and believable narrator and protagonist. We learn of Rath’s panning of the wines of the largest winery in the area, run by wealthy entrepreneur Riccardo Santos. Also, we watch his courting of Carmen Carelli, an ambitious lawyer representing some of the elite in the California wine industry. Rath is definitely relatable.

Peter Eichstaedt’s Napa Noir is an enjoyable, fast-paced read. In addition to Rath and Carelli, supporting characters are well-rounded. Mei Ling, Marvee McGregor, and an African-American cab driver help bring this murder mystery to life.

I look forward to reading any future books that Eichstaedt adds to this first of his Wine Country Mysteries

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

 

Napa Noir
by Peter Eichstaedt
© 2018
Wild Blue Press

The Game’s Afoot: A Holmesian Miscellany

The Game's Afoot: A Holmesian MiscellanyBooks about fictional detectives—especially Sherlock Holmes—keep reproducing in my pile of books to be read. Much the same way as tribbles did in the original Star Trek TV series. (Anyone remember that besides me? Or am I really dating myself?) Novels, anthologies, what have you, about Sherlock Holmes multiply while I’m not watching. One such book is a slim short story collection by Bradley H. Sinor entitled The Game’s Afoot: A Holmesian Miscellany.

Three stories in this collection do not feature Holmes or Watson at all but feature other characters in the Holmes milieu. One such story includes Colonel Sebastian Moran, erstwhile associate of Professor Moriarty. Two other tales highlight Mycroft Holmes as detective/spy master. All of the adventures are of sufficient length and detail to give the reader an enjoyable view into the world of Holmes, Watson, et al. Unusual subject matter, such as vampires and alternate universes, enlivens a few of the tales. In “The Other Detective,” Holmes and Moriarty switch roles as the World’s First Consulting Detective and the Napoleon of Crime.

Precise prose enables these adventures to move along at a steady clip. Holmes inhabits his position as a man of few words but is somewhat less curmudgeonly than in Conan Doyle’s canon. Watson, a widower in these stories, meets the woman of his dreams for a second time in one of these narratives.

The Game’s Afoot: A Holmesian Miscellany is a nice change of pace considering the subject matter and change of worlds and lead characters in some of the stories.

The Game’s Afoot: A Holmesian Miscellany
by Bradley H. Sinor
© 2016
Pro Se Productions, LLC

Additional Investigations of Sherlock Holmes

Additional Investigations of Sherlock HolmesThe Additional Investigations of Sherlock Holmes is a repackaging of seven tales written by Arthur Hall, a British author. David Marcum, a noted writer and editor of Sherlock Holmes pastiches, novels and anthologies, edited this volume. The specific stories contained in this volume were previously published in various editions of The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories.

Although “The Adventure of the Disappearing Prisoner” is rather straightforward and offers a minimum of mystery, some of the other stories are more curious and puzzling. “The Adventure of the Drewhampton Poisoner” includes an Asian poison with which Holmes is unfamiliar, which is quickly rectified. Holmes’ familiarity with tattoos and the inks used in such also plays a role in that story. “The Adventure of the Returning Spirit” reveals Watson as a widower. This story incorporates an attempt to deceive him into believing his wife’s ghost had returned. Holmes, of course, debunks that theory. This adventure encompasses pure Watson and Holmes with Watson acting as a decoy while accompanying Lestrade in his duties. Holmes, meanwhile, follows in disguise.

Admirable Depiction of Holmes and Watson

Hall portrays Holmes and Watson in a fashion similar to Conan Doyle. Watson narrates the tales and shines a complimentary light on Holmes. Both characters are well-rounded, intelligent, and well-defined. The adventures are fairly quick reads and entertaining. The precise prose of Arthur Hall recalls the clear-cut, decisive prose of Conan Doyle. Most of Hall’s adventures elicit the same enjoyment at the denouement as the stories in the original canon. Such is the case in “The Adventure of Miss Anna Truegrace,” for example. With an unexpected twist, this case illustrates Holmes capturing a murderer involved in a very cold case. Thus, the seven cases rereleased as The Additional Investigations of Sherlock Holmes deserve a second reading if you’ve enjoyed them in their previous incarnations. They most definitely deserve a first reading if you are new to Arthur Hall’s incarnation of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson.

I received a free copy of this book from www.reedsy.com/discovery in exchange for an honest review.

The Additional Investigations of Sherlock Holmes
By Arthur Hall
Edited by David Marcum
© 2022
MX Publishing

Gunslinger

Gunslinger by Jeff Ridenour

Gunslinger by Jeff Ridenour sizzles. One murdered bookstore owner, two disgruntled employees, and rumors of more extramarital affairs than you can shake a cactus at. Petra Barcotti, owner, with her husband, Antonio (Tony), of It’s A Mystery! Bookstore in Scottsdale, AZ, is murdered. Was it because she refused to take Preston Silvernale, an employee, on as a partner in the bookstore? Or was it because of the affairs in which she engaged? Did a jilted lover see red enough to bludgeon and shoot Petra? Or was it someone or something else? Suspects abound, including two detectives with the Scottsdale Police Department. Also among the suspects is Petra’s husband, Tony, who makes plans to marry Vera Crenshaw, Petra’s sister, before Petra is barely cold in her grave.

Ridenour sets the right pace with his easy, spare prose. His characters are believable, especially Stu Fletcher, the private investigator brought into the current case by a local detective. Fletcher sums up the suspects and other locals he meets with considerable insight. He catches the murderer through the process of elimination and ingenuity. He also catches the eye of a few of the local women. That makes his stay in Scottsdale more enjoyable. This is the fourth installment in Jeff Ridenour’s Stu Fletcher series. But it’s the first one I’ve encountered. I enjoyed Gunslinger enough to find and read the first three books in this appealing saga.

I received a free copy of Gunslinger from www.readersfavorite.com in exchange for an honest review.

Sirgrus Blackmane Demihuman Gumshoe

Sirgrus Blackmane Demihuman Gumshoe & The Dark-ElfLooking for a well-written mystery mixed with some fantasy? Then Sirgrus Blackmane Demihuman Gumshoe & The Dark-Elf by William Schlichter is a must read. Sirgrus Blackmane, dwarf, war veteran, and detective, seeks the murderer of Craig Mason. Although Mason is human, Blackmane and Mason fought the orcs together in the world war and subsequently open a detective agency as partners. After Mason’s death, Blackmane investigates a case concerning Doris, a dancer whose death may have been suicide, or murder. Was this death linked to Mason’s death?

Blackmane has a slightly twisted sense of humor. When interacting with a rock giant at The Dark-Elf (a bar), Blackmane thinks, “They’re immune to magic-edge weapons, and I left my howitzer in my other coat.” Blackmane is also an unreliable narrator. He says, “I don’t speak about the war.” But illusions to the Great War are forever creeping into his narration of the story. In fact, it inhabits a lot of the story. Blackmane also declares he hates magic. But magic, in the form of FBI Agent Edgeangel, a mage, helps him solve his cases.

Great Mix of Real and Fantasy Worlds

Schlichter does well at mixing the real world with his created fantasy world. America is a land of humans and demihumans and other creatures. Dwarves, mages, fauns, trolls and other creatures inhabit this world with humans. Although no specific time frame is mentioned, there’s been a world war and Prohibition is still in full effect. Segregation rules, with races confined to different sections of the city where Blackmane resides. Interactions between the demihuman, magical creatures and humans are natural and convincing. Even down to stereotypical attitudes so similar to the ones in our current culture. Schlichter’s solid prose and good characterization kept the plot moving and my interest level high. I look forward to reading more about Sirgrus Blackmane, demihuman gumshoe, in the future.

I received a free copy of Sirgrus Blackmane Demihuman Gumshoe & The Dark-Elf from www.readersfavorite.com in exchange for an honest review.

Sirgrus Blackmane Demihuman Gumshoe & The Dark-Elf
by William Schlichter
©2021
BHC Press