The Whole Art of Detection by Lindsay Faye

Chupa sitting proud.

Narrator: Simon Vance

Publisher: HighBridge (2017)

Length: 11 hours 15 minutes

Author’s Page

This collection of Holmes & Watson stories is charming, entertaining, and fulfills my need for stories of this great literary duo. The book is divided into 4 parts. Before Baker Street has stories of the time before the two met each other but they are told in a style that shows the two men know each other now and are sharing these past adventures.

In The Early Years part, Watson and Holmes have their first cases together, still working out their professional relationship and building a friendship.

The Return shows us Watson’s anger and distress at over losing both Holmes to Reichenbach Falls and his beloved wife Mary to illness, yet to find out that Holmes was still alive is well done. I don’t believe I have ever seen Watson so hurt and angry, and rightly so!

Finally in The Later Years, these stories feel like the traditional Doyle stories where Watson and Holmes work well together, have a solid friendship, and can still irritate one another from time to time.

feel like the traditional Doyle stories where our heroes are master sleuths and get along well with each other’s peculiar quirks.

The Case of Colonel Warburton’s MadnessWatson is attempting to entertain Holmes with a tale of his past before he met him. Set in the Wild West, Watson describes some strange goings on with Colonel Warburton and how this upsets his doting daughter. I really enjoyed this tale as I would like to see some alternate history where Watson and Holmes spend years in the desert Southwest solving cases. 5/5

The Adventure of the Magical MenagerieHolmes really does have a heart and it shows in this one. We can also see why he keeps it tucked away most times. Definitely an interesting way to hide your illegally gotten goods! It wasn’t my favorite but it was still good. 4/5

The Adventure of the Vintner’s CodexThis story really felt like a match for the original Doyle collection. Holmes can be a complete irritation to Watson and his way of ‘apologizing’ is to tell Watson a tale of stolen music. Parts were charming and heartfelt and a few times I chuckled. 4/5

The Adventure of the Honest WifeI really enjoyed this one! Sure, Holmes sometimes goes on about the ‘weaker sex’ and yet he often tries to set aside his harsher self to help a lady out.. unless he thinks her faithless. Watson notes how Holmes has an aversion for the female gender entirely. There were some great twists in this one. 5/5

The Adventure of the Beggar’s FeastThis was also a favorite story of the batch. I have often wondered what it would be like if Holmes was a father figure for someone and this story helps to answer that. I love that he was a bit flustered when Watson figures out what he was doing. I can even picture Holmes blushing. 5/5

Memoranda Upon the Gaskell Blackmailing DilemmaThis is one of the tales told from Holmes’s point of view and I get such a chuckle out of his straight forward, honest, and yet often acerbic observations of people and their activities. While Watson is off dealing with the hounds on the moors of Baskerville, Holmes has to sort out a blackmailer. There were some surprises to this one. 5/5

The Lowther Park MysteryOK, this one was just cute. It was fun but went by really fast. He’s been maneuvered into attending a social dinner party that’s brimming with important people. Watson gently teases him over his distaste of socializing. Engineering a charade, he uses that distraction to foil the plans of some nefarious people. This story also introduces Holmes’s brother Mycroft. The plot was a bit light on details. 4/5

An Empty HouseLestrade makes an appearance in this sad tale. It’s from Watson’s journal during the time shortly after his wife passed away. It’s a weighty piece, probably being the saddest story in the bunch. 4/5

The Adventure of the Memento MoriThis story showed the depths of the friendship between Watson and Holmes and also how hurt Watson was over Holmes’s presumed death. There’s acknowledgement, regret, and acceptance. Of course, there’s this deliciously creepy mystery going on as well. 5/5

Notes Regarding the Disappearance of Mr. James PhillimoreThis was a quick and fun tale. I guessed early on what was going on but it was interesting to see Watson put it all together. I do believe that Holmes had guessed the truth of the matter early on but was letting Watson gather up evidence to support his supposition. 4/5

The Adventure of the Willow BasketIt’s interesting to see Holmes’s rationale for handing off credit for solving various mysteries to Lestrade. Not that Lestrade is stupid but sometimes he portrayed as heavy-handed or a bit bumbling. I liked Faye’s take on his character in this story. Leeches. Gotta watch out for those leeches! 4/5

The Adventure of the Lightless MaidenThe Victorian age was in love with the supernatural and it’s quite fun to see what Holmes and Watson make out of a case that apparently involves a ghost. I enjoyed the technical aspects to it. Photography was really coming into it’s own at this time as well. 4/5

The Adventure of the Thames TunnelFor some reason, this one didn’t really stand out to me yet I don’t know why. Usually I enjoy tales that feature a shadowy organized criminal element, such as the Iron Hand in this story. There’s a jewel thief dead in the Thames Tunnel and our hero duo has only questions to get them started on the mystery. There’s revenge at the heart of the matter. It was fun but not one that stood out for me.  3/5

The Adventure of the Mad BaritoneThis was an unexpected one. It was a bit twisted and I totally agreed with Holmes’s anger over how the homeless opera singer was treated and a distressed woman was tricked and cheated. Holmes and Watson were very decent in how they revealed the truth to the woman and also assisting the singer. 5/5

Notes Upon the Diadem Club Affair Here we have the second story told from Holmes’s point of view, which I really enjoyed. In fact, I wish we had more stories from his point of view. Watson is always so polite and usually kind, so I enjoy these tales that shine a harsher light on all the participants. The mystery was OK but the story was pure fun. 5/5

This is a pretty good collection of Holmes & Watson stories. While there is no one central female character of note (though Mrs. Hudson puts in a few appearances), the female characters come from a variety of backgrounds and with varying degrees of intelligence. Even when I felt this or that character was rather gullible, they were still very human. The ladies weren’t merely filler or someone to be saved or assisted. Often they added to the mystery.

It was really great to see Watson’s medical expertise come into play more than once. Some authors give this skill set a mere nod or simply pass it on by. Not so here, thankfully! Watson worked hard for his medical knowledge. It should be put to use.

All together, I enjoyed this collection of stories more than I expected. This anthology provides depth to the beloved duo.

I received a free copy of this book through LibraryThing.

The Narration: Simon Vance is absolutely lovely to listen to. I loved his clipped voice for Holmes and his warm, caring voice for Watson. He had a variety of accents and his female voices were mostly believable. He kept all the characters distinct and did a great job portraying the emotions of Watson and Holmes.

What I Liked: The stories cover the many years of their friendship and then some; a dabble of the paranormal; Sherlock’s secret heart where it concerns wronged women and homeless kids; Watson’s anger and sadness over losing his wife and Holmes; healing the rift between the two; helping Lestrade build his career; the stories from Holmes’s point of view.

What I Disliked: I would have enjoyed a few more stories from Holmes’s point of view.

What Others Think: 

The John H Watson Society

Reading Reality

Book Page

Criminal Element

The Baker Street Babes

Rhapsody in Books

Historical Novel Society

Booker Worm

20 Something Reads

It’s Murder, My Son by Lauren Carr

Narrator: Janean Jorgensen

Publisher: Books in Motion (2010)

Length: 11 hours 2 minutes

Series: Book 1 Mac Faraday

Author’s Page

Mac Faraday receives the best news of his life on the toughest day he’s had yet. Just finalizing his messy divorce, he learns that his deceased birth mother who put him up for adoption has left him a fortune. Now Faraday has moved to Spencer Manor in an effort to connect with the mother he never knew. But murder lurks just around the corner and Mac puts his DC detective skills to use.

I’ve been listening to several of the Mac Faraday books recently and I love that they can be explored as stand alones. It was great to go back to Book 1 and see how things got started for Mac, how he met Archie, learned about his mom, and adopted Gnarly dog. While this isn’t my favorite book of the series, it’s a solid start to an entertaining murder mystery series.

Set in Spencer, Maryland, the Spencer Manor sits next to the lake in a gated community that harbors many secrets. Mac is new to wealth and he finds it takes some skills to navigate this new economic reality he’s landed in. It’s good that Archie is there to help him fit in. She was Robin Spencer’s assistant and lives in the guest cottage.

A few months before Mac moved in, a neighbor in the area was strangled to death. Katrina was a very charming woman who had a stalker. Of course, the husband Chad has to be cleared first but after 3 months, there are few clues to David (the local police officer) to continue on with the investigation.

I really enjoyed learning about David in this book. He’s the legitimate child of Robin Spencer and Mac’s younger half-brother. The two have never met and it’s a bit awkward. Toss in David’s current problems with his boss, Chief of Police Roy Phillips, and David’s got a few reasons to be angry. Things get even more aggravating for the two experienced investigators when Phillips brings in his ‘expert’, a crime fiction author. Awkward, indeed!

Gnarly was the star of the show once again. He has his own insecurities and is something of a klepto. Mac has to learn about this the hard way and Archie does her best to keep Gnarly out of trouble. Of course, that all goes out the window when Gnarly turns up with a human skull. Good boy! Er… maybe not. Where did you get that? No! You can’t eat it! Here! Have my breakfast instead.

There are lots of characters in this novel and I sometimes had trouble keeping up with all of them. I think it could have been slimmed down a bit and the plot would have been less tangled. I also would have liked a bit more Archie. I feel she’s underutilized even though I know she comes into her own later in the series. Still, it’s an entertaining read and I’m glad I skipped back to this book to see how things got started for Mac.

I listened to this book for free with Kindle Unlimited. However, as of this posting, it no longer seems to be available.

The Narration: Janean Jorgensen was OK for this book. She does a decent Archie and she was really good at the jerk Chief of Police. However, most of the characters are men and she only had so many male voices that at times I had to pay attention closely to follow who said what.

What I Liked: Mac’s beginning at Spencer Manor; meeting David, Archie, and Gnarly with fresh eyes; Gnarly stole the show with his thieving ways; David dealing with his jerk boss.

What I Disliked: The plot was a bit tangled; lots and lots of characters; Archie is underutilized.

What Others Think:

Kelly’s Lucky You

Mystery Suspense Reviews

JAQUO

Book’d Out

An Uncollected Death by Meg Wolfe

Publisher: Wolfe Johnson (2014)

Length: 373 Pages

Series: Book 1 The Charlotte Anthony Mysteries

Author’s Page

Set in Indiana, Charlotte Anthony is looking at having to downsize from her lake-side house to a small apartment in nearby Elm Grove. Her daughter is off in Paris continuing her education. She’s recently become unemployed since the magazine she’s edited for has had to close down. Luckily, her friend Helene has a sister who needs an editor for a semi-autobiographical work. Unfortunately, Charlotte finds her new employer Olivia dead on the first day with plenty of questions to be answered.

It took some effort to get into this book. I liked that Charlotte was going through this major shift in her life. She had become comfortable and then her stability is gone and she has to pare down her life. Yet the paring down part was mostly long lists of things in her kitchen or clothes closet. That was so tedious I almost gave up on the book. The story went on and on about minimalist lifestyle and how to achieve it, why it’s good for you, etc. It was really harped on and while I like the idea, I didn’t need a step by step tutorial on how to get there.

I liked Helene and even Olivia, who dies early on but we have bits and pieces of her life through these notebooks she left behind. Charlotte has been tasked with finding all these notebooks in Olivia’s cluttered house and then editing them into a publishable book. There are several long info drops when it comes to most of the characters. It’s like I was reading the authors own detailed description notes. This made for boring reading at times.

I did enjoy the treasure hunt for Olivia’s notebooks. She would fill each one, hide it (because she had a disapproving and controlling husband), and begin a new one, starting with a clue as to where she hid the previous one. So while Charlotte and Helene (and sometimes Helene’s photography friend) hunt for these notebooks, someone else keeps coming in at odd hours and stealing small items. Olivia’s estranged son Donovan is the obvious culprit but there’s more to it (which I liked).

Much of the book is focused on Charlotte as she goes through this midlife crisis. The murder mystery is secondary. I wanted to like Charlotte but at times the story was really angsty and that kept putting me off. I wanted to sympathize with Charlotte, but I also felt that she repeatedly sold herself short. She has skills, connections, and resources. She’s not that bad off yet she felt like her life was falling into the gutter. She went from upper middle class to average middle class. It felt like a great fall to her but for many folks, her final landing place would be a step up. So the angsty stuff made it difficult to connect with Charlotte.

In the end, I wanted more mystery. I would have enjoyed reading more about Olivia’s life as an author in Paris during and after WWII. The romance for Charlotte was sweet but also an extremely slow burn. I did like the cat that adopts her.

What I Liked: Olivia’s hidden journals; Helene’s character; Charlotte’s core character; the final wrap up; Charlotte’s new cat friend.

What I Disliked: Lots of long info drops; the long, long lists of Charlotte’s stuff (just not that interesting); the often angsty bits.

Bookish Giveaway & Review: Deadly Shore by Andrew Cunningham

Scroll to the bottom for the giveaway!

Narrator: Greg Hernandez

Publisher: Andrew Cunningham (2017)

Length: 6 hours 46 minutes

Author’s Page

Set on Cape Cod island just after July 4th, plenty of folks are heading home after the holiday weekend. Terrorists put an end to their fun by cutting the island off from the mainland killing several and threatening more damage. On top of this, Hurricane Chad is about to hit land and hit it hard.

This was a fast-paced fun action read. There’s Marcus, a CIA operative, who’s been following a suspicious crew and ended up saving Seth’s life. Seth has a key to the terrorists’s plans. Meanwhile, disgraced ex-police detective Sara has noticed Marcus skulking around and the two have to decide whether to work together on this major threat or work independently. Then there’s Joe Doyle who made a very questionable decision to steal from his boss, but he got more than he bargained for and now he’s on the run for his life. With the island cut off, he decides to hide in a little tucked away place, taking the elderly Anne hostage.

I love big weather events and how they impact humans, so the hurricane element of this story was a lot of fun for me. People have to prepare for it. Well, the smart people prepare for it. Hopefully the authorities prepare for it. It was interesting to see how having the island completely cut off affected this aspect of the story. Now the folks on the island can’t expect supplies and recovery crews to come in right after the storm. So they have to adjust, stretching out the supplies they do have to last longer.

My favorite character in this tale was Anne. She’s in her 80s and has weathered many a storm on the island. She’s gone the shelters before and found them wanting so some years ago she made the decision to wait out any storm at home. She’s smart enough to prepare her home for the fury of Mother Nature and has laid in supplies and boarded up windows. But she wasn’t expecting a desperate Joe to show up at her door. I like her response to this situation though I felt that Joe’s ineptness was a bit overplayed. He’s in his mid 30s and yet he acts like he’s in his 20s. Anne treated him like a wayward kid that just needed some guidance, but I think there comes an age where very few of us can pull off being simply a wayward kid who just needs a little push in the right direction.

The back and forth between Sara and Marcus was OK. I liked Sara’s backstory but I found her acceptance of Marcus (who she just witness kill someone with a silencer) to be a little too quick. I don’t recall anyone at any time during the story independently verifying Marcus’s credentials. Seth was a bumbling idiot who was used by the terrorists but he helped move the plot forward.

The plot pulls in many threads. The US President made a promise 3 years ago to spend the weekend at a certain key supporter’s house on the very weekend of the attack. Then there’s anthrax, which may or may not be more of problem with the hurricane coming in. Then a lost valuable that belonged to a murdered priest turns up. The mastermind behind it all has a personal vendetta with a Cape Cod family. All these little strings got pulled into the overall plot and some of them mattered and some of them didn’t go anywhere at all. for instance, I would have liked a line or two to wrap up the ending for the murdered priest.

All together, it was a fun action flick with some interesting characters. I would like to see Sara and Marcus team up again. I hope Anne gets a chance to have a little vacation in Bermuda.

I received a free copy of this book via The Audiobook Worm.

The Narration: Greg Hernandez was OK. While he was good with some emotions (excitement, surprise, anger), he didn’t really have distinct character voices. I had to pay close attention during dialogue sections to keep track of who said what. His female voices weren’t particularly feminine. His pacing was good and the volume level was steady all the way through.

What I Liked: Hurricane Chad; Anne was my favorite character; how the island was cut off; Sara and Marcus working together.

What I Disliked: It was hard to think of Joe as some wayward kid that just got in over his head; anthrax seems dated; some threads weren’t neatly tied off.

Check out more reviews on the blog tour.

About Author Andrew Cunningham:

I was born in England, but have spent most of my life living in the U.S.—including  25 years on Cape Cod before moving to Florida. A former interpreter for the deaf and long-time independent bookseller, I’ve been a full-time freelance writer and copy editor for many years. A 4th-degree Master Blackbelt in Tang Soo Do, I finally retired from active training when my body said, “Enough already! Why are you doing this to yourself?” I’m married, with two grown children and two awesome grandsons. My wife and I spend as much time traveling as we can, and are especially fond of cruising the Caribbean.

​I have been gratified by the response to my books. When I published Eden Rising back in the spring of 2013, I had no idea what to expect. When I sold my first few copies, I was excited beyond belief that someone was willing to take a chance on it. Numerous books and thousands of copies later, I am still humbled by the emails I get from readers telling me that my books kept them up late into the night.

In October of 2014, Wisdom Spring made me an official Amazon Bestselling author, a thrill I never thought would happen. But it still comes down to being able to bring a few hours of escape to a reader. That’s what it’s all about for me.

Website ~ GoodReads ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Amazon

Synopsis of Deadly Shore:

It’s July 5th, and the Cape Cod roadways are clogged with tourists heading home from the holiday weekend and trying to outrun an approaching potentially catastrophic hurricane. But in the blink of an eye, their lives are thrown into chaos when terrorists bring down the bridges to the Cape. Instantly, a half million terrified people have no way to escape. And when the terrorists threaten to release anthrax on the captive population if their demands aren’t met, fear turns to all-out panic.

With time running out, Marcus Baldwin, a private investigator and former CIA operative, and Sara Cross, a disgraced ex-homicide detective, are brought together by a sole clue to the identity of the terrorists. They quickly realize that they may be the only ones with even a chance at stopping the plot before it’s too late.

With Hurricane Chad barreling up the coast on a path for a direct hit on Cape Cod, it becomes frighteningly clear to everyone trapped on what has now become an island – one way or another they are probably all going to die.

Audible ~ Amazon

About Narrator Greg Hernandez:

For more than 20 years I worked as a radio news reporter and news writer.  I spent half of my broadcasting career at ABC News Radio in the Washington, D.C., bureau.  I covered all the federal agencies as well as Congress and the White House.  I reported on a wide range of stories during my career, including financial and entertainment industry news.

I have worked as a federal government spokesman at three separate agencies for more than 20 years.  At the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA, U.S. Commerce Department), I introduced podcasting in 2005 just a few weeks before Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast of the United States.  The 19 podcasts I narrated and produced from August 2005 to June 2007 were downloaded more than 600,000 times during that period.  They’re still online at the following link.

http://www.noaa.gov/podcasts/podcast-archive.html

I enjoy narrating audio books because it gives me great satisfaction bringing to life books of all genres, especially mysteries and thrillers.

Twitter ~ ACX

GIVEAWAY!!!

The giveaway is for a $50 Amazon gift card. Open internationally! Ends June 28th, 2017.
Deadly Shore Giveaway

Garden of Fiends: Tales of Addiction & Horror, edited by Mark Matthews

Narrator: Rick Gregory

Publisher: Wicked Run Press (2017)

Length: 8 hours 29 minutes

Editor’s Page

This anthology focuses on addiction, mostly drug and alcohol addiction. They range from science fiction to horror to the paranormal. The editor opens with a short foreword about addiction and his hopes that this anthology will provide some insight into the struggle of addicts and hopefully bring about some compassion for those suffering from addiction. Even if this anthology doesn’t do that for you, it’s still quite entertaining, insightful, riveting, sometimes disgusting, usually disturbing, and chock full of examples of bad decisions made.

A Wicked Thirst by Kealan Patrick Burke

Melinda and this guy, our unnamed narrator of this story, meet at a bar. They go back to her place and have sex, sort of. Then he wakes up out in the street being drowned in a rainwater puddle. A specter of Steven Carver, his former AA sponsor, reminds him of his failures. The timeline jumps around a little as our alcohol-sodden character tries to muddle through the night. What’s real, what’s not? What’s in the present and what’s in the past? This tale did a great job of showing the inner confusion of someone deep in the clutches of alcoholism. There’s this scene where this guy is burying his daughter’s dead cat and he cries, not for the cat, not for his daughter, but for himself and stuff that happened during his own childhood. This scene really brought home how this character has so much stuff that’s left unresolved in his life. 5/5

The One in the Middle by Jessica McHugh

Set in a future 2080s Patterson Park in Baltimore, the new drug of choice is Atlas. Heavy users like to inject it directly into their genitals, giving them a long-lasting incredible high. Perry Samson is still obsessed with his ex-wife Serina. He watches her from afar and thinks of her when he masturbates. He needs another high but his junkie friend Loshi thinks it’s high time Perry be the one to score and share. The author shows us the keen edge of depravity in this story. The Atlas junkies are willing to sell their flesh for a hit and some cash. Meanwhile, the rich who can afford the delicacy of well prepared human meat enjoy it in swanky restaurants. It reminded me of high school and college students who would sell plasma to go buy some pot. This was my favorite story in the bunch easily. I love the future SF setting (there’s TVs spread throughout the park showing The Wire reruns with all the hopeful scenes cut out) and yet we still have this drug culture, one in which there’s those who suffer and those who profit from it. 6/5

Garden of Fiends by Mark Matthews

Terra Snyder is in Narcotics Anonymous, living with her parents and trying to get her life back together. Then her former boyfriend Brett unexpectedly shows up. He’s in the Work Release Program while in prison. Against her better judgement, she goes with him to Russell’s place where they used to buy their drugs and hangout. The author shows us step by step how easy it is for someone to be roped back into the users lifestyle. The point of view bounces back and forth from Terra to her dad Gregory throughout the story. Gregory, Heather, and their daughter Terra (somewhat reluctantly) have been working on this urban farm in the middle of Detroit. Heather is one of those always upbeat, optimistic types who would never give up on her kid. Gregory, while not a perpetual optimist, would do anything to keep his daughter safe. This tale really showed how the blame game turns into an excuse to either shuck responsibility for past bad deeds or to commit more bad deeds. 5/5

First, Just Bite a Finger by Johann Thorsson

This bit of flash fiction dealt with a different kind of addiction, but I feel the spirit of it (exploring a new-to-you high) could be applied to any new addiction. Julia, 39, went to a party, buzz wearing off, so she’s looking to try something new. This guy Toussaint bites off the tip of his pinky finger. Julia thinks it’s a trick. However, as the week goes on Julia notices bits missing from her friends. This little horror flick ended a bit too soon for me. I felt there was more for Julia to tell us. 4/5

Last Call by John FD Taff

Ted is in AA but he keeps falling off the wagon, going from group to group. His sponsor Sam reluctantly sends him to a liquor store with a special card, telling him to ask for the last bottle he will ever need. The store owner gives him a little lecture about choosing life or death. The unlabeled bottle is referred to as a shortcut, which I thought was a great way to show later on that there is no shortcut when it comes to dealing with addiction. The story leaps forward 5 years here, 10 years there, etc., showing how Ted’s life has changed and yet how this shortcut bottle is still tucked away, hiding in his closet. The ending is left dangling and I would have liked a line or two to close it out. It would have made the story more poignant or hopeful depending on how things ended. 4/5

Torment of the Fallen by Glen Krisch

Maggie is headed from Phoenix to Aurora, IL to hunt down her long-lost father, Desmond Gabriel. She can see demons and her online paranormal activities, where she goes by Jenny Halloween, have finally given her a hint as to where her father is. Her father, a homeless man, was mentioned on a paranormal chat site, Torment of the Fallen. She meets a short man that goes by Cheddar near the supposedly haunted house where her father sometimes crashes. I enjoyed this story because it had that urban fantasy feel to it where demons were being investigated and a lost person would be found, hopefully. If this story wasn’t in an anthology that focused on addiction, I wouldn’t necessarily have picked up on those elements of the story. I hope we see more of Jenny Halloween in the future. 5/5

Everywhere You’ve Bled and Everywhere You Will by Max Booth III

Jeremy, 26, is bleeding from his urethra. Perhaps the hepatitis is getting to him though he asks his lover Eliza if she bit him. He hasn’t told her about his hepatitis yet. At work, it gets worse so he goes to a clinic where he runs into Nick, a former junkie friend. He has one confrontation after another and things get worse and worse for him. Let me just whisper it to you – spiders. Yep. This was easily the most creeptastic and scary story of the anthology! I don’t even have a penis or hepatitis and it made me shudder. 5/5

Returns by Jack Ketchum

In this short tale, Jill Hunt’s husband’s spirit returns from the dead. She’s been drinking since he was run over by a cab. He thinks he’s returned to help Jill get past his death and not succumb to alcoholism. She can see and hear him but she thinks it’s all in her head. This little story was rather sad as it involved a pet and this failed relationship. I felt that things were left a bit unresolved as I wanted to know what ultimately happened to Jill or her husband’s spirit. 4/5

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Rick Gregory did a pretty good job with this anthology. There was a lot of ground to cover, that’s for sure! His female voices were pretty good. Melinda and Terra sounded like women. For the most part, he had distinct characters though in the story Garden of Fiends he occasionally sounded a bit mechanical and the characters weren’t distinct (I had to follow closely the dialogue between Brett and Terra to keep straight who said what). In the entire book, I only caught a single mispronounced word – conflagration. It just happens to be one of my favorite words and that’s why the butchering of it stood out. The pacing and volume were all well done. Over all, a well-done narration.

What I Liked: The variety of substances abused; the different genres; the various tones; spiders!; genital drugs!; great cover art; pretty good narration.

What I Disliked: Nothing, it was an interesting, enlightening, and entertaining anthology.

What Others Think:

Grim Reader Reviews

Horror After Dark

The Horror Bookshelf

Horror Novel Reviews

Book Den

Lee Murray

Bark’s Book Nonsense

Campanelli: The Ping Tom Affair by Frederick H. Crook

Narrator: Tom Cooper

Publisher: Frederick H. Crook (2017)

Length: 2 hours 29 minutes

Series: Book 1 Campanelli

Author’s Page

Set in Chicago in 2109, Detective Frank Campanelli and his partner Detective Marcus Williams are investigating the death of two men. One is identified as a son, Wong, of a leading Chinese criminal family. The crime scene is lacking the expected amount of blood and this simple clue sets Campanelli and Williams on a hunt for a killer. Hopefully they will be able to catch the perpetrator before a war can break out between the lead criminal families of Chicago.

First, I really enjoyed Frank Campanelli. He’s blind and uses cybernetic implants to mimic eyesight, allowing him to live an independent and pretty normal life. This gives him a little different way of looking at some things, giving him the occasional edge in his work. He’s chosen to stay on Earth while much of the population has left for another habitable planet, Alethea. The whole story has a noir detective feel but it’s set in this kind of grungy future Chicago with cool SF tech. This mash up works really well for me.

Campanelli isn’t new to the area. He has contacts and relationships with people in the area, including Lei Wong, whose son has just turned up dead. He knows the best forensics people and his partner, Williams, is a gengineered navy SEAL. Despite Lei Wong being this crime boss, the author makes him very human. Campanelli has to deliver news of his son’s death. Despite Lei’s need to keep a strong face on, Campanelli can still see how this news pains him.

Now, there are few ladies present in this story and I wish there were a few more and they were doing something besides being romantic interests. Tam, Frank’s part-time girlfriend, has potential to be more in future books. I did like the main forensics lady and her geeky ways. The pacing of the story and the mystery were all good until right at the end. Now I didn’t mind the whodunit part but I did feel that the big reveal was rushed and it was very convenient for a character to provide all the answers. I would have liked the detectives to have sorted most of it out for themselves.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Tom Cooper did a pretty good job with this book. He’s great at playing a male noir detective. He also had a decent voice for Marcus Williams. I did have a little trouble hearing distinctions between the characters here and there, especially with minor characters. He was good at an elderly Lei Wong and his pacing was good as well. His female characters could use a bit more femininity.

What I Liked: The cover art; main character with disability; cybernetics!; noir detective in future Chicago; the murder mystery itself.

What I Disliked: Few female characters; final wrap up was rushed.

What Others Think:

Windy City Reviews

The Green Pearl Caper by Phyllis Entis

Narrator: Tom Lennon

Publisher: Quintzy Press (2016)

Length: 7 hours 30 minutes

Series: Book 1 Damien Dickens Mysteries

Author’s Page

Set in and around Atlantic City in 1979, private investigator has been arrested in connection with the murder of Celine Sutherland, one of three adult daughters of a local well-connected and rich family. Now he’s been bailed out by the youngest daughter, Susan, and he has to work hard to clear his name.

Parts of this book felt like they were set in the golden age of black & white movies and noir detective stories (perhaps the 40s or 50s) and some parts definitely feel solidly centered in 1979. The blend worked well with this story since our hero, PI Dickens, is a bit of a stereotype. It’s this well-known stereotype that let me slip into Damien’s life easily and pick up on the mystery right away instead of worrying about what he was all about. The cliche is complete with beautiful, efficient, and single secretary Millie Hewitt, who has a thing for her boss. Which brings me to the part that didn’t work so well with this 40s mashed up into 1979 – gender roles. I would have been happier with a bit more depth to the ladies in this tale.

Many years ago, Damien saved a young Celine Sutherland, and it’s a bit of a tragedy for Damien that she is now dead by his gun, with him neatly framed for it. With big money in play, there’s a list of potential culprits. Tracking down clues is a challenge in 1979 without computerized records, the internet, or cell phones. I quite enjoyed watching Damien and Millie do their best to dig up info without getting on the bad side of the law or a solid beat down from questionable parties interested in the case.

I did get a little chuckle out of some of the character names. Like Damien Dickens made me wonder if the author is a Dickens fan. Then we have Detective James Holmes, who makes me wonder if the author is a Sherlock Holmes fan as well. It was fun to see these little potential nods to other great authors.

The mystery itself was pretty good with enough hints to guide me in the right direction but not so many as to narrow down the choices to one person over the rest. At least, not until the big reveal near the end.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Tom Lennon did an OK job. First, he’s perfect for Damien Dickens. He sounds like a hard used PI who’s down on his luck. His female voices could use a bit more femininity. There were a few times where the volume of the narration changed, and while these variations weren’t enough to damage your hearing, I prefer a smooth recording.

What I Liked: Quintessential PI story; the setting of 1979 Atlantic City; Damien has past history with the victim; Millie is great at her job; the mystery itself and how it unfolds.

What I Disliked: Sometimes the story felt more 1940s than 1979 and sometimes this worked and sometimes this didn’t work (like with gender roles).

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Giveaway & Review: Shades of Murder by Lauren Carr

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Narrator: Mike Alger

Publisher: Acorn Book Services (2016)

Length: 5 hours 25 minutes

Series: Book 3 Mac Faraday

Author’s Page

Note: Even though this is Book 3 in the series, it works just fine as a stand alone.

Mac Faraday, a retired cop and the unexpected inheritor of a famed mystery writer’s fortune, decides to delve into a cold case file when a long-lost painting comes into his possession. With the help of his girlfriend Archie, his dog Gnarly, and his half-brother cop David, they may be able to untangle this cold case. Meanwhile in Pennsylvania, lawyer Joshua Thornton has agreed to look into yet a different cold case, one that nearly everyone assumes was committed by a serial killer who has been behind bars for years. Detective Cameron believes him and offer her aid along with a bit of mutual affection.

I really enjoyed this addition to the Faraday/Thornton murder mystery series. It was great seeing how Joshua’s and Cameron’s relationship got started. Cameron’s cat Irving was also a lot of fun and Joshua’s initial response to this ‘detective’ cat was amusing. Honestly, I love how forward Cameron is about everything. She makes no excuses or apologies for her cat and she gets her job done even if it means pissing off management. It’s great that she was the first to show real interest in starting a relationship.

I’ve read several Lauren Carr mysteries by now and I was guessing that the two cold cases were probably related somehow but the link between the two was not immediately obvious and for a good chunk of the tale, I thought that perhaps this book would be the odd ball. No worries! It’s not and I enjoyed how the author tied the two together.

In this particular book, Mac reveals that he’d like a little more out of his relationship with Archie and he doesn’t understand why she doesn’t sleep over, or why he’s not invited to sleep over at her place. After all, they have a fully affectionate relationship otherwise. The answer at the end of the book was amusing and I’m glad these two worked it out.

The murder mysteries themselves were very interesting. Initially, I was more interested in Joshua’s since it involved a serial killer, who is in prison, making a heartfelt plea to the lawyer to look into this particular Jane Doe, swearing he had nothing to do with her. That definitely piqued my interest. Faraday’s mystery took me a little longer to get interested in simply because it looked like so much was known about it all those years ago. However, it turns out that it’s not that simple. There’s plenty there for Mac and Archie to piece together.

I received a free copy of this book via iRead Book Tours.

The Narration: Mike Alger was a good fit for this tale. I liked his voice for Cameron quite a bit as he managed to sound like a mature yet playful woman who knows her mind. I also liked his voice for Mac, sounding decisive. He was great with the humor as well. I did feel his accent for Greta could have used some polishing.

What I Liked: Cold case murders; how Joshua & Cameron got together; Irving’s need for company all the time; Gnarly’s love of beach towels; famous artwork; a serial killer’s plea.

What I Disliked: Nothing – I really liked this one!

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Darktown by Thomas Mullen

Narrator: Andre Holland

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio (2016)

Length: 11 hours 47 minutes

Series: Book 1 Darktown

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Set in post-WWII 1940s Atlanta, the police department has hired it’s first Black police officers. Tensions are high within the Atlanta PD but also across political lines throughout the city. A young Black woman is found dead and few seem willing to follow up on it.

This was an excellent read, drawing together a murder mystery, racial intolerance, the progressive movement to integrate the police department, and the upcoming generation. The author did a great job of portraying the politics of the day while also giving us a gripping mystery. The main characters, Black officer Lucius Boggs and young Denny Rakestraw, show us the various view points about integration throughout the story.

I most fascinated by the Black officers. They have limited authority within the police department. They aren’t allowed to drive the squad cars and the can’t enter the front door of the police station. Yet they have one of the toughest beats as well. There’s an unwritten division with the police department where the Black officers are expected to police Darktown (the area of Atlanta that is primarily populated by Blacks) and the White officers will police the rest of the city. This sets up a dynamic that is rich for missteps, over-reaching, and bigotry.

Meanwhile, Boggs and his partner Tommy Smith fly under the radar (mostly) to investigate the death of the young Black woman Lily Ellsworth. Since she was last seen in a car in the company of a White man, they have to be very careful about how they investigate.

Young Rakestraw is partnered with an older cop, Lionel Dunlow. Now Dunlow is an open and active racist and many of his usual ways of doing business strike Rakestraw as unfair at the best of times and downright criminal at the worst of times. I wanted to root for Rakestraw, hoping he would find a way to push back on Dunlow’s brutal ways. However, pushing back on Dunlow means pushing back on a good chunk of the PD. So Rakestraw has to pick his battles.

The mystery itself was excellent. There’s a twist near the end that neatly tied everything together and once revealed so many little hints clicked into place. I was engrossed in this book and thoroughly pleased with the ending. I greatly hope for more stories about Boggs and Rakestraw. My one quibble is that I would like to see more female characters and not just as murder victims or romantic interests.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Andre Holland did a fantastic job. He was just excellent at the nuanced local accents. He was also great with all the emotions the various characters go through in this book.

What I Liked: The setting; how the racial tensions are handled; learning about the Atlanta PD in the late 1940s; the murder mystery itself; the main characters Boggs and Rakestraw; excellent narration.

What I Disliked: Could have used a few more female characters.

What Others Think:

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The Black Echo by Michael Connelly

Narrator: Dick Hill

Publisher: Brilliance Audio (2008)

Length: 13 hours 49 minutes

Series: Book 1 Harry Bosch

Author’s Page

Set in Los Angeles in perhaps the early 1990s, Harry Bosch is on the case of a dead man found in a drainage pipe. In fact, he identifies the victim, having served with him in Vietnam. Internal strife in the LAPD and the involvement of the FBI make life hard for Harry.

While this book did have many cliched plot points, I still enjoyed it. In fact, I think the tried & tested cliches made it easy to slip into the book. Harry has a chip on his shoulder and not much going on outside of his job. He smokes, doesn’t eat healthy, and drinks beer. He seems to be in trouble all the time. Either his lieutenant is yelling at him or the Internal Affairs office is threatening him. Now that his old Vietnam buddy, Billy Meadows, has been found dead, his PTSD is stirred up.

This story is rather light on female characters and when we do get an interesting one, Elizabeth Wish with the FBI, she’s quickly turned into a romantic interest. Still, she has her secrets and this gave her a little depth. I hope the author can do more with her character in future books.

Despite the typical plot points for this genre, Harry stands out for a few things. His mother was a prostitute who was murdered. Harry doesn’t hate prostitutes and seems to have a protective streak in general for women. He’s got a lovely house because a movie company paid him handsomely to use his name in a movie that was loosely based on a case he was involved in. So I really liked that he’s this older cop (early 40s) whose got this interesting past and knows that he truly wants to be in law enforcement.

The mystery itself was interesting for the most part, though there were times I felt that Harry or another character did something out of character just to up the drama or move the plot forward. In general, it’s a decent start to a series and I will probably check out more books by this author.

The Narration: Dick Hill is a favorite go-to narrator for me. He did a good job here, keeping all the male characters distinct. His female characters could use more femininity. I especially liked his ability to portray Harry’s emotions.

What I Liked: It was easy to slip into the story; Harry is a fully formed character with a past; Elizabeth Wish has potential to become a major character; the mystery of dead Billy Meadows.

What I Disliked: Plenty of cliches made much of this book predictable; few female characters; does Elizabeth have to be a romantic interest so soon? Sigh…

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