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Kings River Lite:

KRL is a California Magazine with Local Focus and Global Appeal.
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Thursday, July 2, 2015

Death at Gills Rock by Patricia Skalka

by Sandra Murphy

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

Dave Cubiak did such a good job solving the last murder that he’s now the official sheriff … not that there’s a lot of crime in town. That means, he’s got time to devote to Butch, the pregnant dog he took in, and her subsequent puppies. He’s kind of seeing Natalie the veterinarian, too, and not just for free consults about the dogs. Of course, there’s Cate, but she’s gone and no one knows when—or if—she’s coming back. Mostly it’s the death of Dave’s wife and child that keeps him from a new relationship.


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The town is coming up on a celebration to honor three local war heroes. They’re all successful businessmen, married, and living large. Their weekly poker games, hunting and fishing trips and hikes are legendary.

The men receive an advance copy of the newspaper about their war exploits and decide to celebrate. The poker games are held in a cabin so as to not disturb anyone else with the drinking, smoking, and laughing that goes on. It’s a shock when all three are found dead the following morning. It looks like carbon monoxide poisoning, but the Big Guy was a stickler for checking for clogged vents, so maybe not.

It doesn’t seem like anyone had a grudge—not to mention means, motive, or opportunity to kill them. Still, the situation doesn’t sit right with Dave. The more he looks into the past, the more he finds that things are not always what they seem.



Image source: University of Wisconsin Press

Another death occurs on the day of their funeral. This time it’s a clear case of murder: a man is shot by his wife who admits to doing the deed for “reasons of her own.” Does this help Dave’s investigation, or just make it harder?

Once Dave gets past the veneer of polite society, he discovers secret after secret, all with far-reaching consequences that blow the suspect pool wide open. It’s up to Dave to wade through the clues and red herrings to find the truth, if there’s any truth to be found.

As a nice contrast in mood, Bathard and Sonia are getting married. He’s Dave’s good friend, an older man who found happiness after the death of his first wife. Dave’s not sure how he can do that. Barhard’s not, either, and says he and Sonia will probably still be debating the wisdom of their marriage as they walk toward the minister. Still, it’s a great example for Dave, showing there’s life after the death of a loved one.

Skalka’s books are so rich in detail about the area that Door County becomes a character without intruding on the rest of the story. Butch and the puppies are too cute for words—how will Dave be able to find homes for the pups? I like watching Dave move closer to life again. He’s past the don’t-care-if-I-live-or-die stage of grief and starting to ease his way back to living. This was a great mystery, full of twists and turns, real clues and false leads, an unusual but satisfying ending—and, all the way, full of heart.

I can’t wait for Book Three. Death Stalks Door County was the first and was reviewed for KRL.

To enter to win a copy of Death at Gills Rock, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Gills,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen July 11, 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, June 26, 2015

Violent Departures by F.M. Meredith

by Diana Hockley

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

Marilyn Meredith’s (aka F.M. Meredith) novels are always good value and this one didn’t disappoint. A teenager disappears in the blink of an eye from her car in her grandmother’s driveway. The search is started immediately, because this girl wouldn’t just “run off” the way so many police departments appear to like writing off missing teen girls. Besides, the engine of her car is still running and all her things are still on the front seat, including her cell phone!


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Fortunately, a car not normally seen in the neighborhood is observed speeding off, giving the detectives the first clue. Classmates and the girl’s boyfriend are questioned and investigated.



Image source: Oak Tree Press

The leading character, Detective Milligan, is a likable person who, having moved with his wife into a new house, has to suspend disbelief and accept a ghost! Along with his work partner, Detective Felix Zachary, Milligan finds his attention required not only in the urgent inquiry into the disappearance of Veronica Randall, but other cases as well.

The feature of this novel is the solid, in-depth, and interesting police work, the believable characterizations, and the terrific twist at the end. I certainly would never have guessed “whodunit”!

This is another goodie in the stable of Marilyn Meredith, which is well worth seeking out and purchasing!

To enter to win a copy of Violent Departures, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Violent,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen July 4, 2015. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address.


Diana Hockley is an Australian mystery author who lives in a southeast Queensland country town. She is the devoted slave of five ratties & usually finds an excuse to mention them in her writing, including her recent novel, The Naked Room. Since retiring from running a traveling mouse circus for 10 years, she is now the mouse judge for the Queensland Rat & Mouse Club shows. To learn more, check out her website

Friday, June 19, 2015

Cantua Crossing By Mary Martin Benton

by Marilyn Meredith

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

The story opens in 1871 with rancher Harry Caldwell greeting a rider coming onto his property. Tolbert Hughes brings the message that another stage has been robbed by the Vasquez gang. Tolbert’s Aunt Cora Belle was on the stage, but is now missing. Caldwell and Cora Belle have a bit of romantic history, and he sets out to find her.


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Set in California’s Central Valley, most particularly in and around Visalia, Cantua Crossing is an intriguing adventure loaded with little known historical tidbits. Yes, there is a mystery to unravel as Caldwell tries to find out where and why Cora Belle has disappeared. There is also the matter of some missing money and who the rightful owner is.



Image source: Mary Martin Benton

As Caldwell makes his way on horseback to locate the woman, he finds the Vasquez gang hideout, is imprisoned, falls for a beautiful senorita, hunted down by the bandidos, and is in a gunfight.

All is not as it seems, many obstacles are put in his way, but nothing deters Caldwell from his mission.

To enter to win a copy of Cantua Crossing, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Crossing,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen June 27, 2015. 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, June 12, 2015

The Ultimate Writer's Workbook By Serita Deborah Stevens


by Lorie Lewis Ham

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

According to the author, Serita Stevens, The Ultimate Writer's Workbook for books and screenplays is based on her years of teaching at USC, UCLA and other schools as well. The book includes tips on writing both fiction and non-fiction.


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This book does an excellent job of covering almost everything a beginning writer should know, and makes for a great refresher for the more seasoned writer. Unlike most writing books, this one doesn't focus on just one type of writing--it shares tips about writing just about every genre, as well as writing different types of non-fiction books, and screenplays. It takes you from the very beginning, through dealing with writer's block, to sending out queries, to publicity for that final published piece of work. It also includes resources on self-publishing, which has become very popular, and much easier, over the last several years. And it has the value of being a workbook and including a lot of helpful examples.



Image source Motivational Publishing

Not only does Serita have a lot of teaching experience behind her, she also has an impressive list of writing credits, which include numerous screenplays, over 30 books, and short stories.

So if you always wanted to be a writer and didn't know how to start, or maybe you're going back to writing and could use a refresher course, or you want to try writing something different, don't miss this very informative and helpful book!

To enter to win a copy of The Ultimate Writer's Workbook, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Workbook,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen June 20, 2015. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address.


Lorie Lewis Ham is KRL's editor-in-chief/publisher. She has published in many venues through the years and has 5 published mystery novels. You can learn more about Lorie's writing on her blog Mysteryrat's Closet.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Murder with a Twist: A Nic and Nigel Murder By Tracy Kiely

by Cynthia Chow

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

Nicole and Nigel Martini are in New York for Christmas, but also (and more importantly for the Martini family) to celebrate Nigel’s cousin Audrey’s twenty-fifth birthday. It seems that the party may be put on hold, however, as Audrey's Lothario husband has once again gone missing and she is threatening to cancel the event. The last thing Aunt Olive Beasley will tolerate is the humiliation of uninviting socially prominently New Yorkers to the Christmas party, so she orders former NYPD detective Nic to find Leo and drag him home. Nic may have retired after being shot on duty (and marrying former playboy Nigel Martini), but she’s lost none of her professional skills and quickly discovers Leo is up to his neck in debt and organized crime.


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A classic movie buff, Nigel restores and preserves films in Los Angeles, and his charming lackadaisical attitude perfectly balances out Nic's far more grounded personality. That she accepts his impulsive adoption of a two-hundred-pound bull-mastiff puppy (he thought it was a better choice than the piranha) is a sign of their love—and how Nigel brings out her hidden lighter side. Nic can handle and stare down shady crime figures, but when it comes to her husband's former playboy ways and his social-climbing aunt, it's obvious where Nic feels more comfortable.

"So why are we having dinner with your aunt and uncle again?"
"For the good company, of course."
"Is that a new catering company?"
"No."
"Then try again."



Image source: Midnight Ink

The author of the delightful “Elizabeth Parker” novels that celebrate her obsession with Jane Austen, Tracy Kiely's modern twist on the Nick and Nora detective duo proves to be similarly charming and clever. Although it’s definitely a case of opposites attracting one another, playboy Nigel and grounded Nora have an undeniable love and smoldering chemistry when together. Their witty banter is fast, sexy, and feels entirely natural. Nic’s interrogation of menacing New York crime figures intersperses with obligatory Martini family events that are just as perilous (to Nic's sanity, at least).

The novel is original, well-written, and absolutely fun to read, speeding toward a conclusion that is as satisfying as it is unpredictable. This debut series by a skilled writer seamlessly blends humor, danger, and romance with compelling family drama and secrets.

To enter to win a copy of Murder with a Twist, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Twist,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen June 13, 2015. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address.

Use this link to purchase the book & a portion goes to help support KRL & to indie bookstore Mysterious Galaxy:



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).

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Dying Brand: An Allison Campbell Mystery By Wendy Tyson

by Cynthia Chow

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

Image consultant Allison Campbell specializes in helping clients reinvent themselves while projecting confidence and charisma. That’s the last thing Allison is feeling, though, when she receives a call from Leah Fairweather. Not only does this blast from the past announce that Leah’s husband Scott was murdered, but Leah drops the bomb that Allison was Scott’s last appointment on the day he died. Scott was a regrettable mistake Allison had made four years ago when she crossed a line with a client during a troubled time in her marriage. She’s only glimpsed him briefly since then, so learning that he may have tried to contact her is upsetting.


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Far more disturbing are the explicit photographs that begin to be dropped off, first at her home and then her friends’ homes, which reveal a side to Scott she never knew existed. After a tragedy destroyed her marriage, Allison and her ex-husband have begun to repair their relationship, but that’s in jeopardy now. To protect her future, Allison is forced into exploring whether she ever really knew Scott, and why someone seems determined to ruin her life again.

It’s not surprising that Allison created a career helping others forge new lives for themselves, as she too has remade her own to escape the past. Allison’s mentally ill mother is disintegrating with Alzheimer’s and her abusive father remains cold and distant. Everything changes, though, with the reappearance of the substance-abusing sister who ran away fifteen years ago, bringing with her a secret that could surprisingly save their fractured family.



Image source: Henery Press

Narratives alternate in this continually shifting novel as characters evaluate their relationships with old lovers and are surprised by new ones. The main plot holds all of the stories together, and it’s Allison who drives the mystery with her compulsions and vulnerability. Despite her strong exterior, Allison has never felt secure in her own happiness and she’s haunted by the fear that it could be taken away at a moment’s notice.

Allison’s support system includes her mentor and former mother-in-law, Mia; her business manager/partner, Vaughn; and her boyfriend/ex-husband Jason. While each has their own challenges and flaws, together they’ve become a family far more real than her own. This is a unique and enjoyable series of reinvention and—oddly enough—acceptance.


To enter to win a copy of Dying Brand, 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 June 6, 2015. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address.

Use this link to purchase the book & a portion goes to help support KRL & to indie bookstore Mysterious Galaxy:



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, May 22, 2015

The Hard-Boiled Detective by Ben Solomon

by Sandra Murphy

Solomon has written a collection of eleven stories of about twenty pages each. Each features a hard-boiled detective. What makes the stories stand-out-different is the lack of details considered standard fare by other writers.

The detective’s name is never given. Nor is his location, although from some of the street names, you’d get a good hint. What year is it? Most any year you’d like, pre- cell phone and political correctness. What’s spectacular is that Solomon pulls it off without the reader even noticing right away.


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The stories are written as statements the detective gives the police. He explains what the problem was, what he thought happened, and how it really turned out. Being noir, there’s always a twist the reader never sees coming.



Image source: Ben Solomon

“It’s bad business to plug your client” is the start of one story that takes the reader back to black-and-white movies, Jimmy Cagney and days when cops and PIs worked together but not without suspicion on the part of each about the other.

This is the most consistently noir example of writing since the classic 1940’s tales of murder and mayhem, with a goodly dose of betrayal thrown in. If you’re looking for complex stories, intriguing characters, and a gritty dose of reality, this is a book you’ll enjoy—not just once, but again and again. Like the prologue says, in these stories, the victims outnumber the winners.

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.