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Friday, September 26, 2014

The Bad Wife By Jacqueline Seewald

by Sandra Murphy

The good news is Kim Reynolds is in love with police officer, Mike Garnder. He loves her too as do his two daughters. His ex-wife moved out of town and except for an occasional phone call, is out of the picture.

The bad news is, she comes back to see her girls, or so she says. Her acting career isn’t going anywhere for the moment so she thinks a bit of surgery will enhance things enough to get her jobs again. For that kind of surgery, you need money and she doesn’t have any. What she does have though, are her copies of the divorce papers—unsigned after all this time. It seems Mike signed his copies and never checked to see if she followed through.


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Kim refuses to see Mike while Evelyn is staying at the house, supposedly to be with their daughters. One girl is glad she’s back and maybe even hoping they’ll get back together. The other knows that won’t happen and SAYS that their mom will just up and leave again.

Mike is a teller of bad jokes. When he meets Kim at the grocery store, he tries one or two but they fall flat. It just hurts too much for Kim to see Mike and not be able to be with him. Frustrated, Mike says maybe he should just go home and shoot his wife so she’ll be out of the way once and for all. The poor stock boy who overhears him say it is bound to remember so when Evelyn is found dead, it’s a sure bet Mike will be a prime suspect.

He didn’t want Evelyn there, was betrayed by her continued refusal to sign the divorce papers, doesn’t like her influence on the girls and only wants to marry Kim. Any one of the reasons makes him a good bet for the killer.



Image source: Perfect Crime Books

Kim knows him though and is sure he’s innocent. In every scene it's apparent that Kim loves Mike and his kids, but is torn up because the divorce was never finalized.

Evelyn didn’t have any friends—she used people too often for that to happen. Mike isn’t allowed near the investigation since it’s his family so Kim tries to find out more about Evelyn herself. It’s hard to say if the murder happened because of old wrongs or current problems as Evelyn wasn’t above blackmailing those nearest and dearest to her or at least nearest and dearest to her bank account.

There are other suspects. Evelyn slept with husbands other than her own, a man followed her to town from Hollywood and basically, she was a mooch. If only Kim can narrow the prospects down to one…

The Drowning Pool and Truth Sleuth are two of the previous books in this series.

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, September 19, 2014

Murder In Mariposa By Sue McGinty

by Sandra Murphy

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

In her third Bella Kowalski Mystery, author Sue McGinty treads an area of the California Central Coast she knows well. Although she has changed the names of regional landmarks (to protect the innocent?), the cover art shows the distinctive features of Morro Rock. Familiar with local color and concerns, McGinty weaves them into the plot, including a controversial sewage system haunting the coastal community for years.

Bella is an ex-nun, her husband Mike is an ex-Chicago cop. Bella now works for the local paper as the obit editor and Mike has a septic service business. These seniors aren't beyond a romantic get-away, especially now that Bella's mother has moved in. Their favorite destination is the Mariposa Inn, but they discover it has fallen on hard times. Bella notes a strange recognition pass between the check-in clerk and her husband, but he denies knowing the man.


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When the clerk is found dead the next morning, Mike tells the police he doesn't know the man. Later, he confesses to Bella that the victim was a crooked cop he knew on the force. Then she spies him passing a red notebook to a woman. Ten days later he has packed his clothes and split. The cryptic note he leaves behind tells her not to contact law enforcement. Keeping her in the dark is his way of protecting her.

Does Bella follow his instructions? Nope. Instead, she allows her imagination to run wild. Was her husband kidnapped? Did he run off with the strange woman? And why is his notebook in the mansion of an elderly Detroit mobster?



Image source: Sue McGinty

Convinced the notebook holds clues to her husband's disappearance, this ex-nun is not above a little breaking and entering. She barely escapes getting apprehended. But Bella is not one to throw in the towel and continues in her pursuit of the truth.

Mixing humor with clues, murders and a ghost or two, McGinty opens her world and Bella's for our entertainment.

To enter to win a copy of Murder in Mariposa, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Mariposa,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 27, 2014. U.S. residents only.

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, September 12, 2014

Prescription for Murder By E. E. Smith

by Sandra Murphy

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

Lexie Smith, the private investigator aka Girl Gumshoe, is back. This time she’s vacationing in Majorca with the delectable Harry from Scotland Yard. It’s a romantic setting, blue water and sky, warm sun, and finally, time alone. When Harry proposes, Lexie says yes in spite of previous misgivings about the suitability of marriage in general and a trans-Atlantic marriage in particular. After all, her agency, Discreet Inquiries, is based in Sacramento, California. The plan is to be married immediately and worry about the rest later.

Even as Lexie gets dressed in her wedding finery, a telegram arrives that will change everything. It says come quick, Mother’s ill and is signed Mary. On the face of it, that makes sense. Unless you know that Lexie hasn’t spoken to her sister Mary in a year or so and their mother died three years ago.


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The wedding is off and so is Lexie–off to Sacramento, that is. Who sent the telegram and why? When Mary’s found, she denies all knowledge of the message. She’s quit school, isn’t paying the bills (like the electricity) and has put the family home up for sale.

It turns out the message was sent with the purpose to intrigue, by Lexie’s old friend, Nikki. It seems that Nikki was heard to threaten a US Congressman who conveniently (or maybe not) turns up dead within a few days. He’s been poisoned and Nikki’s fingerprints are at the scene.

The Congressman was a big backer of internment camps for the Japanese during the war. Nikki, being Japanese, was not. Is it enough of a motive for Nikki to kill him? There are other suspects–like the Irish Mob who had a great interest in how the Congressman voted. His wife loved him but knew of his affair. The cad spent most of his (their) money on his mistress and made no secret of it.



Image source: Phoenix International, Inc.

When a second death occurs, things just get more complicated. Mary, who could be mistaken for Lexie unless they are standing side by side, is kidnapped by the Mob as an encouragement for Lexie to do a job for them. It seems that Boyo, the Mob’s enforcer, has fallen in love with an Irish lass named Maureen. She has red hair, green eyes and pale skin, so could Lexie go to Belfast and bring her back to marry Boyo? With that tiny bit of information to go on, what could possibly go wrong? An awful lot.

With plane trips back and forth, the appearance of “Kit” Carson, FBI agent who thinks Lexie should be the white-picket-fence-and-lots-of-kids kind of girl instead of a Girl Gumshoe, Mary, the sister no one knew she had, Daisy the dog (ever so popular and a good tracker), Maureen, a dock workers strike and poor Harry, left at Scotland Yard as well as at the altar, it’s no wonder Lexie is rethinking her choices. What’s next for her? Readers can only hope for another book to tell all.

To enter to win an ebook copy of Prescription For Murder, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Prescription,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 20, 2014. U.S. residents only.

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, September 5, 2014

Midnight Crossroad By Charlaine Harris

by Terrance Mc Arthur

I’m a big fan of Charlaine Harris. I’ve read all the Southern Vampire mysteries (the basis for the True Blood TV shows) and the Sookie Stackhouse short stories, the Harper Connelly corpse-finding mysteries, the anthologies she has co-edited, and some of the Aurora Teagarden and Lily Bard books.

In Midnight Crossroad, Harris has moved her interests to the sun burnt spaces of West Texas and the not-quite-dead town of Midnight, at the crossroads of Witch Light Road and the Davy Highway, where there is at least one inhabitant who is quite dead. Manfred Bernardo, who runs an online psychic service, is the new kid in town, and finds that he is surrounded by family secrets.


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Across the street is a witch who gives classes in female affirmation, the local minister runs a wedding chapel and a pet cemetery, a gay couple sells antiques and does nails, the delectable girl at the convenience store has a father who forbids all outside contact for his children (No Facebook!), and Manfred’s landlord, Bobo, rumored to be heir to his white-supremacist grandfather’s cache of extra-military weapons, runs a pawnshop with a vampire as the night manager.

But all is not well in Midnight. There is a murderer among them, and the legend of the hidden munitions has brought dangerous interest from nearby paramilitary groups. Of course, it is never a good idea to attack a place where a vampire lives, especially one with a girlfriend with a background of mystery that seems to include archery, martial arts, and arson.



Image source: Ace

Manfred was introduced in a Sookie Stackhouse story from the Games Creatures Play anthology. He has psychic abilities, but sometimes he uses the skills of a scam artist, telling people what they are likely to believe. He likes girls a lot, and he is aware of being short and skinny in the middle of bigger-than-life Texas. He isn’t always brave, and he makes mistakes when he deals with women. I like him.

Midnight Crossing is like a better-looking Addams Family–a little bit creepy, often cooky, definitely mysterious, but ooky? I’m not even sure what that is! Sink your teeth into this book…before it sinks its teeth into you.


Terrance V. Mc Arthur is a Community Librarian for the WoW! (WithOut Walls) Division of the Fresno County Public Library, roaming the Valley to meet the public's information needs.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Seat of Magic By J. Kathleen Cheney

by Terrance Mc Arthur

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

Political thriller, serial-killer mystery, gaslight alternate history, paranormal romance—J. Kathleen Cheney’s The Seat of Magic is all of these.

Set in a magical version of 1902 Portugal, this page-turner has selkies (seal-people who can attract people with little effort—it’s a musk thing), healers (with powers to cure and kill), seers (truth-finders, seekers, and trouble-detectors), sereia (multi-toned sirens with webbed hands and big feet), otter-folk, family secrets (who is related to whom, who has what non-human ancestors, why people really left the homeland), mad monarchs, and a book that shouldn’t exist. Oriana (once a sereia spy) and Duilio (a part-time investigator with selkie and witchly heritage) have been separated by law (non-humans are banned, but some hide in the Golden City), but the young man races to the rescue of Oriana, an unknowing pawn in political schemes. Together with a close cousin, he investigates the mutilation-murders of young women.


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In and out of palaces, morgues, and accountant’s offices they go to ferret out the facts, source the sorcery, and plug the powerful. All the while, Duilio seeks to woo and win Oriana, only to find that her culture does things a little differently than his.

This is not your everyday paranormal mystery-thriller. It has a sinuous charm that wraps itself around the reader, soft but impressive. The level of the puzzle is engaging. The world-building is never jarring, yet there is a strong current of the not-like-our-reality. Portugal is seldom used as a world-base, so there are soft touches that build into a believable—yet fanciful—environment. The romance elements have a courtliness that is lacking in modern cultures, and the language only slides into semi-mild oaths, rather than the look-how-many-naughty-words-i-can-say style that is frequently used to make characters seem tough. Cheney isn’t interested in tough. These characters glisten with humanity, even if they aren’t really human



Image source: Roc

This is the second book in the series, following The Golden City, which goes into “How Diulio Met Oriana” territory. I didn’t have trouble understanding the world without previous exposure to it. However, you might seek out the first book, but this is a volume that will stand on its own merits.

To enter to win a copy of The Seat of Magic, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Seat,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen August 23, 2014. U.S. residents only.


Terrance V. Mc Arthur is a Community Librarian for the WoW! (WithOut Walls) Division of the Fresno County Public Library, roaming the Valley to meet the public's information needs.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Deadline Yemen By Peggy Hanson

by Sandra Murphy

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

Washington correspondent for the Tribune, Elizabeth Darcy has been in the Middle East before. Now she’s received a call from her friend, Hamila, one of the country’s forward thinking leaders. It simply says, “Come. Please.”

Back during the war, Hamila had rescued Elizabeth from prison so now Elizabeth doesn’t hesitate but heads for Yemen and her friend. Enroute, she meets a man on the plane but he doesn’t offer her a ride to the hotel, even after the conversation and flirting that went before. It’s late and no time to worry about it. It is strange though that Hamila didn’t send a driver or come to the airport herself.

Still, it’s good to be back in Yemen. Elizabeth fell in love with the country during her first visit, in spite of the SCUD missiles and shooting. She’s remembered and welcomed at the hotel and once in her room, visited by a pregnant calico cat who she calls Mrs. Weston—Elizabeth is a Jane Austen fan.


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Tracking down Hamila isn’t easy. The office is closed and padlocked, her phone call cut short. All she can do is wait. To keep busy, Elizabeth walks through the town, takes photos and writes background pieces for the newspaper.

Michael, the flirting man from the plane, and Richard (he barely spoke enroute), are both at the same hotel. Elizabeth has lunch with Michael at Nello’s an Italian restaurant she discovered during her first visit. It seems everywhere she goes, she runs into Richard as well.

When Michael’s body is found in his hotel room, stabbed with a traditional sword, it’s a shock. Richard was seen near the room. Michael had mysterious meetings. The police suspect Elizabeth as her room is down the hall and she’d been seen with him. Then there are the two men who follow her wherever she goes—friend or foe?

When she is finally able to meet with Hamila, she is appalled to find out that Ali, Hamila’s younger brother, has joined what most would call a cult and some would say is a terrorist group. The family is desperate to bring him home. Elizabeth, as a foreigner, is able to move about the country more freely than a local woman who is not allowed to travel alone, look a man in the eyes, be dressed in less than the head-to-toe black or be touched by a man not in her immediate family.



Image source: Wildside Press

Her search for Ali, the truth behind Michael’s murder and the true identity of Richard, lead Elizabeth on a cross-country chase. Cryptic clues, old acquaintances, new friends all make for an exciting if nerve-wracking time. Hamila’s cousin, Ahmad, is able to help although he believes the women should sit at home and wait while men handle the situation.

Deadline Yemen gives the reader a fascinating look into another culture during a time when Bin Laden is just coming to power. Clinton is still in office and a reporter is basically on her own. Elizabeth is not sure she can even trust Embassy personnel.

It’s easy to see Hanson loves the country and knows the people. Her first book in the series is titled Deadline Istanbul. She is currently at work on book number three, Deadline Indonesia. Personally, I hope Richard is able to travel to Indonesia. There was more than a spark between he and Elizabeth. A little update on Mrs. Weston and her five kittens, left in care of the hotel and Nello, wouldn’t be amiss.

To enter to win a copy of Deadline Yemen, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Yemen,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen August 16, 2014. U.S. residents only.

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, July 18, 2014

Games Creatures Play Anthology

by Terrance Mc Arthur

I like short-story anthologies. They’re like the all-you-can-eat buffet of the publishing world. You get to sample all sorts of things. Authors you know bring out dishes that may be familiar, but with different ingredients. Unfamiliar writers are like foods you’ve never tried before, but you can scoop up a small serving of short stories without having to commit to the whole meal of a novel.


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Charlaine Harris (the Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire mysteries that inspired the True Blood TV series) and Toni L. P. Kelner have made a cottage industry of themed horror anthologies, featuring some popular writers and some wanna-become-popular writers. They have tackled everything from education to home improvement, birthdays to vacations, coming up with some fascinating collections of short stories. What have they come up with next? Sports and games.

Games Creatures Play brings together fifteen authors and their stories, taking a swing at recreational activities from graceful ice skating to brutal lacrosse, traditional baseball to unconventional versions of hide-and-seek, sophisticated fencing to down-and-dirty roller derby.



Image source: Ace

Some are funny, some are scary. Some are gruesome, and some are fairly tame. Each story has its own charms and will attract its own set of fans, but this umpire found a few that hit home runs:

• Scott Sigler’s “The Case of the Haunted Safeway” mixes Ghostbusters with Field of Dreams on the site of a former ballpark in San Francisco, where an eighty-year-old tragedy is re-enacted in ways that the frozen food section was never built to accommodate. It includes pleas for tolerance and how families must learn to accept and nurture the capabilities of their children.
• “Hide and Shriek,” by Adam-Troy Castro, comes off as H. P. Lovecraft horror as it might be told by Douglas (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) Adams, where all=powerful creatures compete childishly to destroy worlds and are embarrassed by the results. It is raucous and silly—I liked it.
• “Dead on the Bones” is a no-rules, river-bottom fight that starts out as a community entertainment with a bit of voodoo, until it turns into revenge. Written by horror master Joe Lonsdale, it’s big on atmosphere and strong medicine.
• Caitlin Kittredge’s “The Devil Went Down to Boston” combines traditional Celtic lore with typical bar games and a deal with a demon into a winning deal.
• “On the Fields of Blood” offers time travel and lacrosse, and delivers a frightening, violent tale by Brendan DuBois.
• Mercedes Lackey penned “False Knight on the Road,” which pits moonshine runners against something else, a vehicle that might have origins beyond their understanding.

The editors have their stories, too. Harris returns to Sookie Stackhouse to introduce Manfred Bernardo, a character from her next series of books, in “In the Blue Hereafter.”


Terrance V. Mc Arthur is a Community Librarian for the WoW! (WithOut Walls) Division of the Fresno County Public Library, roaming the Valley to meet the public's information needs.