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Friday, December 19, 2014

What Strange Creatures By Emily Arsenault

by Sandra Murphy

Details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of the review.

Theresa Battle knows her family is–well–messed up would be the polite way to say it. She’s been married, divorced, has three cats and a dog, all while trying to finish a dissertation that so far has lasted seven years. It’s not happening. Instead of a degree, she has a copywriting job at a local candle company. The fun part is describing the various scents.

Her brother, Jeff, is a genius but works well below his potential. He’s basically wandering through his life without much of a path or purpose to follow. He did manage to attract a waitress, Kim, and she seems not to mind.

Kim has a weekend trip to take alone and Jeff volunteers Theresa to dog sit for Kim’s “puggle”(Pug/Beagle mix). Of course, he volunteered Theresa first and then asked if it was okay. Well, sure, how much trouble could one little dog be? And it’s just for the weekend.


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Kim doesn’t come home though. When her body is found, Jeff becomes the prime suspect. Used to disappointments is one thing but being accused of murder is beyond the pale. The evidence seems to be overwhelming, but Theresa is sure Jeff is innocent. The old “know the victim, find the killer” saying comes to mind and Theresa is off and running to learn about Kim’s life. How complicated could it be?

There’s a lot more to Kim than any one person knew. Each time Theresa thinks she has a handle on Kim’s personality her findings veer off on another tangent. Kim seems to have been a different person depending on who she was with. So what’s the right answer? Was she a fun loving waitress, a political supporter, a go-with-the-flow gal or ambitious to the point of obsession? Kim’s life was a lot more complicated than anyone suspected and she wasn’t’ always likable though most of the other characters are.

The truth involves a secret, the motive for many a murder. Politics, murder, scandal–it’s all part of the truths and lies Theresa discovers on her journey into Kim’s life. There’s even a potential romance for Theresa but will she survive to find out? In saving her brother, she might just be sacrificing herself.



Image source: William Morrow

Theresa and Jeff are great characters, realistic in their brother/sister relationship. Theresa investigates not only to protect him but to take her mind off the dissertation she no longer has any interest in. If she doesn’t finish, then what? Start another or take a new path? Stay at the candle company or move on?

In the end, the book is a satisfying read that will have you rooting for Theresa as she figures out not only Kim’s life but her own. Theresa is a character I’d like to see again.

Previous books by Arsenault include Miss Me When I’m Gone, In Search of the Rose Notes and The Broken Teaglass.

To enter to win a copy of What Strange Creatures, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Strange,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen December 27, 2014. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address.

Use this link to purchase this book and a portion goes to help support KRL & it supports an indie bookstore:

Sandra Murphy lives in the shadow of the arch, in the land of blues, booze and shoes—St Louis, Missouri. While writing magazine articles to support her mystery book habit, she secretly polishes two mystery books of her own, hoping, someday, they will see the light of Barnes and Noble. You can also find several of Sandra's short stories on UnTreed Reads including Bananas Foster.




Friday, December 12, 2014

The Last Alibi By David Ellis

by Sandra Murphy

Jason Kolarich is an attorney, a good one too. He pulls stunts in court that you just wouldn’t believe and wins his cases. James Drinker, on the other hand, is a loser kind of guy. He’s not much to look at, doesn’t have anything going for him. He does have a suspicion that he’s being set up for a series of murders.

James comes to Jason for legal advice. What should he do? He has no alibi for the nights in question, did have a passing acquaintance with the two girls who were murdered and all in all, would make a good suspect of the “He was a quiet neighbor, who would have thought?” kind.

Jason pretty much thinks James is fantasizing the whole thing in order to feel important. He gives him general advice and forgets their meeting–until a third and fourth murder occur. Now he’s worried. Is his client guilty or imagining it? It’s against attorney/client privilege to alert the police, but what if James is guilty and the killings keep happening?


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Jason finally decides to err on the side of caution, even if it could lead to problems with the Bar Association if he’s ever found out. He sends an anonymous message to the police and feels he’s done his part. Until…

James can figure out, if Jason is the only one who knew of the connection he had with any of the girls, Jason is the only one who could have pointed the police in his direction. Jason is forced to examine James’ life in detail to find out just how dangerous his client might be. Nothing is as it seems. What’s even worse, the frame isn’t around James’ neck–the man who is being set up for the murders is Jason.

The list of people who would want to do this is long since Jason has won so many of his cases, using whatever means possible. This couldn’t have come at a worse time either as his partner, Shauna, has a huge case of her own to win, really needs and has relied on getting, Jason’s help.

Jason is beyond helping her. He’s taking too many pills, focused on the frame up, waiting for the police to come for him. Without breaking attorney client privilege in court, which would get him disbarred, he’s pretty much unable to protect himself.



Image source: Berkley

Sure enough, the police come to interview and then arrest Jason for the gruesome murders. Shauna will represent Jason but his prospects are grim. It seems whoever’s behind the frame is very detail oriented and has thought of everything. In Jason’s impaired state, will he be able to win his freedom?

This is one of those books where you think you know what’s going on but really, you have no idea until the very end. It’s one you’ll want to read in one sitting because of the need to know what happens next and if Jason gets out of the murder charge. On the other hand, the book is so good you don’t want it to end. At 597 pages, each one filled with suspense, intrigue and complicated relationships, it’s a satisfying if frustrating read with all the twists and turns that Jason has to navigate. Be sure to take note of the chapter headings to see whose point of view is used, Shauna’s or Jason’s. Prepare for the ending. It will be a surprise for sure.

Previous Kolarich books include The Wrong Man, Breach of Trust, The Hidden Man, Eye of the Beholder, In the Company of Liars, Jury of One, Life Sentence and Line of Vision. Books written with James Patterson are Mistress and Guilty Wives.

Use this link to purchase this book and a portion goes to help support KRL & it supports an indie bookstore:

Sandra Murphy lives in the shadow of the arch, in the land of blues, booze and shoes—St Louis, Missouri. While writing magazine articles to support her mystery book habit, she secretly polishes two mystery books of her own, hoping, someday, they will see the light of Barnes and Noble. You can also find several of Sandra's short stories on UnTreed Reads including Bananas Foster.




Friday, November 28, 2014

Death by Blue Water: A Hayden Kent Mystery By Kait Carson

by Cynthia Chow

Details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of the review.

When paralegal Hayden Kent needs to get her head together in a place of peace, she looks to the water. So when her long-time boyfriend Kevin suddenly breaks off their relationship, Hayden convinces her commercial diving captain, Cappy, to allow her to dive alone at the Humbolt wreck off of Marathon, Florida.

The beautiful serenity is shattered when Hayden discovers a floating corpse, and although she manages to convince the suspicious Coast Guard and marine police that she isn't suffering from hallucinations induced by nitrogen narcosis, they immediately become more concerned with her migraines and the medications she takes to cope with them. While the body is real, the authorities have reasons to be concerned, as Hayden is hiding the fact that the debilitating migraine attack she suffered on the previous Friday had her blacking out with no memories until she woke up the next morning in a wet bathing suit.


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When it's discovered that the corpse was Kevin's brother Richard, who had planned on picking up Kevin's belongings until Hayden cancelled that Friday, she immediately becomes the number one suspect and Kevin’s testimony only condemns her further. Hayden's attempts to cover up her blackout definitely have the detectives' antenna quivering, and even her supportive friend and boss Grant Huffman at Huffman Koons becomes alarmed. Hayden learns that Richard's ex-wife is the sister of the marine patrol officer at the body recovery scene, and in Officer Janice Kirby she finds a reluctant ally as well as a glimpse into the very complicated world of Cuban immigration and those desperate to start new lives.

The tone is dark and somber as Hayden confronts her fears over being unjustly persecuted as well as the uncertainty over her blackout. The author definitely conveys Hayden's sense of desperation, and the reader empathizes with her need to prove her innocence. The debilitating migraines provide a unique glimpse into a terrifying world of pain and uncertainty, and adds a layer of vulnerability to a very likable character. Viewpoints shift with alternating chapters, adding a layer of mystery as characters become interpreted differently and this guarantees a surprise ending.



Image source: Henery Press

The highlights of this debut novel are the beautiful descriptions of the underwater dives as well the complicated details involved that protect the divers' safety. The author achieves in making the appeal and beauty of recreational diving worth the risk of danger, strengthening the heroine's character and making her a protagonist the reader will want to see succeed.

To enter to win a copy of Death By Blue Water, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Water,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen December 6, 2014. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address.


Cynthia Chow is the branch manager of Kaneohe Public Library on the island of Oahu. She balances a librarian lifestyle of cardigans and hair buns with a passion for motorcycle riding and regrettable tattoos (sorry, Mom).

Friday, November 21, 2014

Ensconced & Purged by M.E. May

by Sandra Murphy

Ensconced by M. E. May

Details on how to win a copy of both books at the end of the review.

Tyrone Mayhew is a Missing Persons Detective in Indianapolis. He’s a devoted family man, good co-worker and enjoys his job – until it messes with his family.

Ten years ago, Wendy Matherson and her car, disappeared without a trace. It was Tyrone’s first case as a detective. That kind of thing sticks with you. Now new evidence has come to light and with it, a ton of problems. Was the initial investigation thorough or was there something more going on that a rookie could easily miss?

Ben Jacobs is Tyrone’s partner (and friend) now. They sift through years of information – what else was going on in the area at the time, what other arrests made, what other crimes committed? It’s tedious work but in the end, it pays off.


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It looks like Wendy’s youngest son might be the best clue they have. However, he’s not been exactly stable since his mom’s disappearance. His dad and older brother seem to do everything they can to block the investigation. Why wouldn’t they want Wendy found?

Digging deeper might bring the kid’s memories to the surface but who’s going to be hurt by them? The kid is desperate to do something positive in his life and to end the years of nightmares. Tyrone wants to solve the case that’s haunted him since the beginning of his career. The closer Tyrone gets to the truth, the more dangerous it gets for all involved.

When Tyrone’s family is threatened and then hurt, it’s the last straw for Tyrone.



Image source: M.E. May

It’s a tangle of lies, misdirection and cover ups that make the case hard to solve. Tyrone has to put himself in danger to save his family and find out the truth as to what happened to the Matherson family, years ago.

The relationship between officers and detectives is a good one. Tyrone and Ben work well together. While I thought some of the suspects were too obvious to be the culprit, the ending was one I didn’t see coming. Now I’m left to wonder—what will be their next case?

Inconspicuous and Perfidy are the first books in the Circle City Mystery series. Ensconced focuses on the men in the department. Purged, the fourth book features the women officers. Tyrone, of course, gets a cameo appearance there as does Ben.

Purged By M.E. May

by Sandra Murphy

Warning: This is a book about a serial killer who preys on women. There is graphic violence –about the level of the television show Criminal Minds, not so much detail as Bones. Usually, I read a book straight through but for this one, I needed frequent breaks.


The previous book, Ensconced, is about the same police force in Indianapolis but this time the focus is on the female detectives, Chenelle and Erica. The first victim is a young woman, well-liked, found in the woods by a couple of teenagers who want to see “where the witches meet at night” who find more than they ever wanted to see.

Sasha and twelve other women, members of a Wiccan coven, met to celebrate Sabbat Samhain, on Halloween. Sasha stayed behind to make sure the campfire doesn’t have any live embers left. On her way back to her car, she was attacked and taken to a small cabin where the man tortured her so she would repent her sin of devil worship and sacrifice. When he felt that she did, he stabbed her through the heart and branded the word, forgiven, on her chest. There’s a second victim, an attempt on a third, two together after that and then the killer really steps up the pace. Some are “forgiven”, some not.


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Since the point of view shifts from the police detectives to the killer, this is not a “who-dun-it” and not even a “why-did-he?” It’s more suspenseful in following the anxiety level of the police as they try to get one step ahead of an invisible killer. Suspects include members of a church who strictly believe in the Bible and have protested about the “devil worshipers” over the past six months. The women lead very different lives, married, single, working, wealthy, so the coven is the only common denominator.

I found the subplots more interesting than the serial killer. For me, it’s about women taking risks. How much is acceptable and just how much is safe?

Chenelle dated Trevon, another detective, but broke up when she came home early one day to surprise him and did – as well as surprise his bed partner. Now he wants back in her good graces. Erica is about to move in with Detective Jacobs. She’s hesitated for a long time but now is willing and ready to take the plunge.



Image source: M.E. May

Anne Samuels is ready to take the test to become a detective. Chenelle has been mentoring her but has concerns about Anne’s home life. Her husband, Aaron, is an out of control gambler. He’s also abusive to Anne and their two boys. Anne doesn’t want the boys to be without a father, doesn’t want to disappoint her parents if her marriage fails and doesn’t want to start over and what other choice is there?

The members of the coven take risks too – some look safe but are they? Some are just foolish considering all that’s happened. When does “I can take care of myself” turn into “I should have listened”?

I did like the change from the men in the police department to the women, the relationships between them and the back story of their family lives which are as interesting as the police work.

To enter to win a copies of Ensconced and Purged, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “May,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 29, 2014. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address.

Sandra Murphy lives in the shadow of the arch, in the land of blues, booze and shoes—St Louis, Missouri. While writing magazine articles to support her mystery book habit, she secretly polishes two mystery books of her own, hoping, someday, they will see the light of Barnes and Noble. You can also find several of Sandra's short stories on UnTreed Reads including Bananas Foster.




Friday, November 14, 2014

The Deepest Dark by Joan Hall Hovey

by Marilyn Meredith

Details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of the review.

This is the story of an ordinary woman—the fact that she is a writer made it even more intriguing for me—who finds herself in the worst possible situation. Abby Miller is in the throes of depression because of the death of her husband and daughter in a traffic accident. Unable to write or find peace, she decides to go to the cabin on Loon Lake where the family enjoyed their last vacation together. She neglects to let anyone, not even her sister, know where she’s gone.

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Three prison escapees are loose in the area and have already killed an elderly couple. When they stumble upon Abby who is all alone, they take her hostage. Of course, the excitement and tension ramps up—making this reader read quickly. My heart beat quickened right along with Abby’s.



Image source: Books We Love

To me the best part of this tale is the strength and intelligence Abby uses to survive—despite all the odds being against her.

Yes, The Deepest Dark is definitely a thriller.

Hovey did a great job ramping up the suspense and developing a believable heroine.

To enter to win a copy of The Deepest Dark simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Dark,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 22, 2014. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address.


Marilyn Meredith is a Springville, CA mystery author of the Tempe Crabtree series and writing as F. M. Meredith, the Rocky Bluff P.D. series. Be sure to visit her website; fictionforyou.com

Friday, November 7, 2014

Murder 101 By Faye Kellerman

by Ted Feit

After 30 years with the LAPD, detective lieutenant Peter Decker takes retirement–and what does he do? He and his wife, Rina, move to a sleepy Hudson Valley village in upstate New York where he joins the local police department as a detective just to keep busy, on the theory that nothing ever happens there. Also, to be near their kids and grandkids in Brooklyn and Philadelphia, and after six months of rescuing cats from trees, it would appear that the assumption was correct.
Wrong.


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First off, there is a break-in at a mausoleum in the local cemetery where two of four Tiffany windows representing the four seasons were stolen, replaced with forgeries. Then a female art senior at a local college is found brutally murdered. Now Peter has something to dig his teeth into. Are the two crimes related? And when another murder of someone known to the co-ed occurs in a nearby suburb to Boston the plot thickens.



Image source: William Morrow

The novel is a straightforward summary of the ensuing investigation. There is little in the way of suspense, as the reader follows Peter and the others as they plod along. The conclusion is pretty far from what one would expect from what had preceded it. The book is smoothly written with some clever witticisms and cute characterizations to keep one’s interest.


Ted & Gloria Feit live in Long Beach, New York, a few miles outside of New York City. For 26 years, Gloria was the manager of a medium-sized litigation firm in lower Manhattan. Her husband, Ted, is an attorney & former stock analyst, publicist & writer/editor for, over the years, several daily, weekly and monthly publications. Having always been avid mystery readers & since they're now retired, they're able to indulge their passion. Their reviews appear online as well as in three print publications in the UK & US.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Black Karma: A White Ginger Novel By Thatcher Robinson

by Cynthia Chow

Details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of the review.

For a souxun, whose job is to find people, Bai Jiang questions how it is that she is so often alone. Her partner Lee does not share her wonderment, as he declares that Bai is surly, impatient, and sarcastic. The friend that she doesn't need is San Francisco City Police Department Inspector Kelly. He’s an obnoxious, burnt out drunkard intent on hiring Bai to find David Chen. Kelly claims Chen was involved in an undercover police operation that left three dead and a million dollars’ worth of heroin missing. Only the promise of locating Chen before vengeful and possibly lethal police officers has Bai agreeing—a previous case forced her to take two lives, causing her karma to become distinctly unbalanced.

Bai smells something fishy about Kelly's story. Her godfather as the head of a triad so there is no better source for information about China White. Godfather’s unexpected absence means she has to deal with his second in command—her ex, Jason, father of her child, the man she can't get over.


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Jason declares, curiosity is both Bai's strength and her weakness. She learns the seemingly simple assignment to locate Chen is far more complicated than she expected, leading her to the Berkeley University Campus, a fight gym, and a mercenary information broker. Bai has more than enough to distract her—she is raising her teenaged daughter and young girl she rescued on a previous assignment. In one of the few aspects that has Bai bending to traditional Chinese expectations, she finds herself forced to endure blind dates set up by her governess and mother figure.

This action thriller has a surprising amount of humor. Occasionally dark, frequently inappropriate, but always very funny, many laughs come from both Bai and Lee's acerbic commentaries. It’s a wit that that doesn't distract from their lethal fighting skills, strategic planning abilities, or their dedication. Bai's more-than-complicated relationship with Jason delights with their flirtatious banter as it forces her to examine her life and the violent path he has chosen of her. Far more unexpected is the blind date with a billionaire, as it soon transforms from horrifically awkward to tempting, compromising, and truly just horrific.



Image source: Seventh St. Books

The tone shifts dramatically as the violence becomes brutal, the body count rises, and Bai is shown just how truly vulnerable she can be. As connections are made and double crosses and identities revealed, the threads are pulled together in ways few readers could ever predict. As someone with Chinese ancestry, I was immensely pleased to encounter characters that defy the stereotypical depiction of Asians and reveled in Bai's complexity, likability, and extraordinary wit. Bai has a compelling need to rescue and protect the unconventional family she has created, even when she is forced to acknowledge that she is not indestructible. Bai is willing to sacrifice everything for those she loves.

To enter to win a copy of Black Karma simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Karma,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 8, 2014. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address.


Cynthia Chow is the branch manager of Kaneohe Public Library on the island of Oahu. She balances a librarian lifestyle of cardigans and hair buns with a passion for motorcycle riding and regrettable tattoos (sorry, Mom).