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Friday, February 27, 2015

The Deep End: The Country Club Murders Mystery By Julie Mulhern

by Cynthia Chow

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

Who would have thought that swimming into the body of her estranged husband's bondage mistress would be the spark that would inspire Ellison Russell to finally take charge of her life and her future?

In 1974 Kansas City, Missouri, Ellison is married to a lout jealous of her successful career who forces her into submitting to his domination fantasies. Ellison isn’t divorcing Henry so she can keep her daughter from living in a broken home—and to escape the suffocating criticism of her own condescending mother. Madeline Harper’s murder reveals that Henry was just one among the many country-club husbands she had seduced.


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Henry goes AWOL, and Ellison is certain that he’s not a murderer. Despite the warnings of the suspicious (but surprisingly sympathetic) Detective Jones, Ellison decides to look into Madeline's rather disturbing life and discover if it’s a jilted lover, a vengeful wife, or even a socially blackmailed victim who killed her.



Image source: Henery Press

The author doesn't shy away from the graphic details of S&M clubs in this début mystery series, but the focus truly falls on Ellison's growth and her relationships with her family and friends. Mulhern crafts refreshing characters defying 1970s stereotypes and clichés. Grace is not presented as a typical selfish teenaged daughter (she’s Ellison's strongest advocate and actually encourages her mother to divorce), while Ellison's father is indulgent and loving–but never sees his daughter as an independent and strong woman.

The mystery itself is extremely complex, but what truly stands out is the development of Ellison as a realistic and likable character. There’s humor and wit along with a protagonist coming into her own as a compelling, funny, and very intelligent woman.

To enter to win a copy of The Deep End, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Deep,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen March 7, 2015. 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, January 23, 2015

House Immortal By Devon Monk

by Mary Anne Barker

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

A comet once crashed on the world where Matilda lives on an isolated farm, sometime in the undefined future in Devon Monk’s new dystopian urban fantasy novel. This comet changed this world in many ways. Like the creatures she cares for, Matilda has been “stitched” together from pieces and lives off the grid to stay unaffiliated with the ruling “Houses,” large corporate entities that rule the world and are served by the 12 “galvanized” immortal beings.

Matilda’s stitching appears to be different from that of the galvanized, and it’s putting her at risk. Meanwhile, her brother, Quinten, has been missing for three years and she’s concerned about him.


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A stranger called Abraham comes to her door with a warning for Matilda’s father … except that it comes years too late. When she was 12, Matilda saw two of the Houses come, kill her parents, and remove both their bodies. Now Abraham and Matilda are in danger and must fight for her future even as they begin the search for her missing brother.



Image source: Ace

The world-building is complex and consistent, and the characters original; it’s unclear who will become friend or foe to Matilda.

The book starts off a little slowly (though it has a really great opening line: “The way I saw it, a girl needed three things to start a day right: a hot cup of tea, a sturdy pair of boots, and for the feral beast to die the first time she stabbed it in the brain.”), but it’s worth sticking with it, as the pace soon picks up to a great rollercoaster ride. So sit down and strap in for the journey!

To enter to win a copy of House Immortal, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Immortal,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen January 31, 2015. 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:

Mary Anne Barker works at the Reedley Library. She loves books, TV and movies.




Friday, January 16, 2015

Killer By Jonathan Kellerman

by Ted Feit

After many years of training and working in hospitals, followed by establishing his private practice, Dr. Alex Delaware was contacted by a family court judge with a new approach: He was asked to undertake work ascertaining the facts surrounding divorce proceedings, evaluating the effects on children. Specifically a particularly complicated case. Alex was hesitant and struck a hard bargain, agreeing only to be employed by the courts, rather than serving on a panel of experts, employed b the attorneys for the parties to the cases, some of whom were mediocre and not up to his standards.


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Thus was the beginning of a new line of work for the psychologist, and one that led to a case in probate court, in which a childless sister was suing for custody of the 16-month daughter of her younger, flaky sister. When Alex wrote his report favoring the mother, the elder sister threatened Alex. And subsequently attempted to take out a contract on his life. As a result, the events stemming from the case had many ramifications including several murders.



Image source: Ballantine

An Alex Delaware novel usually combines a crime mystery with psychological overtones. And, includes, of course, Lt. Milo Sturgis, the gay LAPD detective, with whom Alex consults as well. Killer is no exception. The popular series is, as always, well-plotted and smoothly written.

Recommended.

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

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, January 9, 2015

Counterfeit Lottery By S. A. Stolinsky

by Sandra Murphy

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

Lily (that’s with one L, not two at the end) Handy is an actor. Unfortunately, her big break into a television series went down the tubes when the show was cancelled. And she had a speaking part! Grunting counts as speaking, right? What would you expect from a show about cavemen?

Well, nothing to do but make yourself feel better after a blow like that so Lily is off to the big department store to buy a bit of makeup. After all, you get a bonus gift when you do.

The store is running a promotion for the fine jewelry department. They’ve got a huge diamond on loan from the Smithsonian to display. There’s purple smoke, then a panic as people rush from the store and in the crush, someone hands Lily a cookbook of all things. Believe me; Lily can’t cook, even with the help of a good book.


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In spite of extra security, the stone disappears and when found, is in Lily’s pocket. She manages to return the stone (with a little help), get caught about the cook book, be a suspect in the diamond heist, get involved in murder and still keep her husband, George, happy.

The investigation moves from Los Angeles to Vegas and back before the case is solved. Be careful to pay attention to names as there are a lot of characters to keep track of—Lily’s acting class, the suspects, the staff at the store and the people (and mobsters) she meets in Vegas. Some use their correct names but some don’t. Some use both.



Image source: S. A. Stolinsky

Lily is as ADD as you can imagine. While investigating, she thinks she might give up acting and become a police officer, provided you can skip the academy and patrol parts and just start as a detective. She also gives some thought to becoming an FBI agent, or being in a movie. Usually, I read a book straight through but Lily wore me out. I had to take several breaks, just to keep up with her.

I hope Lily and the gang are back in more episodes but want the next book to have been edited more. There were places where it was hard to follow who was talking because of the page layout. There were also wrong words which implies a reliance on Spell-check. It’s a shame to be distracted from a good story because of such things.

To enter to win a copy of Counterfeit Lottery, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Lottery,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen January 17, 2015. 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 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).