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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GIVEAWAY!!!

One winner will receive a $100 Amazon gift card (Open internationally). Ends July 9th, 2017.

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Giveaway & Review: Kill and Run by Lauren Carr

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Narrator: C. J. McAllister

Publisher: Acorn Book Services (2016)

Length: 11 hours

Series: Book 1 thorny Rose Mysteries

Author’s Page

Set in modern day Washington D.C., a serial killer has just taken out five women. As Murphy Thornton digs into it, more possible victims are discovered as the pattern becomes clear. He will need the help of his stepmom Cameron Gates to untangle this mess!

While there were plenty of things I liked about this book, I often felt that I needed two maps – one for the family tree of all the relatives involved in this story and the second for all the different military and state police groups involved. Basically, I could tell that our main characters had to be very careful of stepping on toes no matter what they did.

Now that I have that little criticism out of the way, here’s the good stuff. I really liked how deep this mystery went. There were plenty of people involved and the events span years. Now there’s a young girl, Izzy, in danger. She was a real treat, being the animal lover that she is. I was on the edge of my seat sometimes hoping things would work out ok for her.

There’s a little romance here as there are a few couples involved in solving the crime. Murphy, who is working with the NCIS, and his wife Jessica Faraday are newlyweds and still figuring out some of their longer term goals. Incidentally, Jessica is related to the main Faradays in Carr’s other mystery series – The Mac Faraday Mysteries.

Cameron Gates, a police detective, lost her first husband to a hit and run many years ago. She since has remarried to Joshua Thornton (a JAG lawyer), Murphy’s dad. As that hit and run is revisited, Cameron and Joshua are drawn into this mystery as well. Cameron and Joshua have their own mystery series that I am sorely tempted to check out – Lovers in Crime Mysteries.

With this talented cast, we need equally devious and dedicated criminals to make a good story and Carr doesn’t disappoint there. A string of rapes is soon connected to certain men rising in the military. Now some of those women are dead. There’s a killer on the loose who is also a sexual predator. It was pretty intense towards the end complete with car chases.

I liked that not every thing came out all rosy. The true villains at the hear of it got most of what they deserved but the good guys didn’t get all they asked for. I like how that reflects life sometimes. With yet another generation of this tangled family setting up for a love match, I had the distinct feeling the author was prepping us for another spinoff mystery series. Hooray!

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

The Narration: C. J. McAllister did an OK job. The narration started off pretty bland but got better throughout the book. At first, the narrator sounded a bit bored but later on he seems to get into the story and the narration picks up. Also, from the voice acting I thought Murphy was much older and then his dad Joshua is brought into the story and Joshua’s voice sounded about the same or younger to me. The ladies voices were distinct and a somewhat feminine. He did do a really good job with young Izzy.

What I Liked: A deeper mystery; ties in characters from other mystery series; the ending isn’t all roses; Izzy stole the show.

What I Disliked: I needed a family tree to keep it all straight; I needed a military/state jurisdictional map.

Check out more reviews, interviews, spotlights, and more on the blog tour.

 

Synopsis of Kill and Run:

Five women with seemingly nothing in common are found brutally murdered in a townhome outside Washington, DC. Among the many questions surrounding the massacre is what had brought these apparent strangers together only to be killed.

Taking on his first official murder case, Lieutenant Murphy Thornton, USN, believes that if he can uncover the thread connecting the victims, then he can find their murderer.

The case takes an unexpected turn when Murphy discovers that one of the victims has a connection to his stepmother, Homicide Detective Cameron Gates. One wintry night, over a dozen years before, her first husband, a Pennsylvania State trooper, had been run down while working a night shift on the turnpike.

In this first installment of the Thorny Rose Mysteries, the Lovers in Crime join newlyweds Lieutenant Murphy Thornton and Jessica Faraday to sift through a web of lies and cover-ups. Together, can the detectives of the Thorny Rose uncover the truth without falling victim to a cunning killer?

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About the Author Lauren Carr:

Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Thorny Rose Mysteries—over twenty titles across three fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr’s seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, romance, and humor.

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, son, and four dogs (including the real Gnarly) on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter

GIVEAWAY!!!

One winner will receive a $100 Amazon gift card (Open internationally)

Ends April 22

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The Secret Life of Anna Blanc by Jennifer Kincheloe

Check out the tour page for more reviews, interviews, and more. 

Narrator: Moira Quirk

Publisher: Jennifer R Kincheloe LTD (2016)

Length: 12 hours 44 minutes

Series: Book 1 Anna Blanc

Author’s Page

Set in 1907 Los Angeles, Anna Blanc is at the top of the social ladder. She has pretty French clothes, a handsome fiance, in vogue friends, and fancy makeup. Yet she longs for more. She secretly reads detective novels and desperately wants to have at least one murder mystery adventure before her life is sealed with a wedding. She comes up with a scheme to become an assistant police matron at the Los Angeles police department, assuming an alias (Anna Holmes) and a rough spun ugly uniform that doesn’t quite hide her lovely form. Pretty soon, Anna learns that this is more than just a fancy whim of hers; real people need her help and are affected by what she does or doesn’t do. However, if she’s discovered by either her father or her fiance, she stands to lose quite a bit. She has to choose between being an obedient daughter and fiance or catching a killer who is murdering prostitutes.

This was such a delightful book! I really enjoyed it. I thought it would be a bit intense, it being a murder mystery and historical fiction. The book does have those qualities, but the author took things a step further and threw in plenty of well-timed humor. First, Anna’s character is a strange yet compelling mix of innocence, curiosity, determination, and sleuthing ability. She’s had a mostly sheltered life so the salty atmosphere of the mostly male police force and the even saltier streets continuously fascinate her. She’s quick to learn, except when it comes to deciphering the reasons for the scowls she gets from certain coworkers.

There’s plenty of sexual innuendos throughout the story. Anna, being nearly completely innocent, misses the full meaning of most of them. Occasionally, another character will take a bit of pity on her and explain things. I also loved the hit and miss budding romance between her and fellow police officer Joe Singer. She first meets him when he’s dressed as a woman and very obviously drunk. Meanwhile, she has to be all proper when passing time with her fiance, Edgar. She wants him to be a little naughty and steal a kiss or two, but he’s all about being proper even when no one’s looking. I especially loved the arrow collar man advertisements and the interesting bit about how hysterical women are clinically treated. Funny and also a little window into the past.

As for the murder mystery, that had me guessing right up to the end. I felt like I had good company though as Anna was guessing up to the end as well. There was also a side mystery concerning a serial rapist that Anna helps close. These mysteries provide a backdrop to show how men and women were treated quite differently in the early 1900s, no matter their social status or skills. For instance, I didn’t realize that women could be arrested for smoking in public at that time. The humor keeps this from being a brow beating on social justice for women.

I’m definitely looking forward to Book 2. By the end of this book, Anna’s life has quite changed from where she started out. She’s a determined young lady but also still a bit prim, a bit focused on expensive girly things, and a bit innocent on how the majority of people live. I’m sure finding out how she handles a bit more first-hand knowledge will make a good story.

I received a free copy of this book via The Audiobookworm.

The Narration: Moira Quirk did an excellent job with this book. She was perfect for Anna. I loved how she handled the humor and the innuendos. I would love to hear her blooper reel on this one! I also thought she did a great job with the regional accents, giving a stiff upper lip to the socialites and a more salty accent to masses.

What I Liked: The setting; educational and funny!; great narration; Anna is such a fun character; the budding romance; I didn’t guess the killer until Anna did; great ending setting Anna up for some interesting life lessons in Book 2.

What I Disliked: Nothing – I thoroughly enjoyed this novel!

About the Author Jennifer Kincheloe

Jennifer has been a block layer, a nurse’s aid, a fragrance model, and on the research faculty at UCLA, where she spent 11 years conducting studies to inform health policy. A native of Southern California, she now lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband and two teenagers. She’s currently writing book three in the Anna Blanc Mystery series. Book two, THE WOMAN IN THE CAMPHOR TRUNK, is coming out in Fall of 2017 from Seventh Street Books.

Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Goodreads ~ Pinterest

About the Narrator Moira Quirk

Moira grew up in teeny-tiny Rutland, England’s smallest county, which is fitting as she never managed to make it past five feet herself.  Moira’s work spans the pantheon of the voiceover world: plays for BBC radio, plays for NPR, video games, commercials, television promos, podcasts, cartoons, movies and award winning audiobooks. She’s won Multiple Audie Awards, Earphone Awards, as well as Audible’s prestigious Book-of-the-Year Award. She has lately set foot in front of the camera again, appearing in “Pretty: the Series” and the Emmy-winning “Dirty Work.”

Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Website

Book Blurb for The Secret Life of Anna Blanc

It’s 1907 Los Angeles. Mischievous socialite Anna Blanc is the kind of young woman who devours purloined crime novels, but must disguise them behind covers of more domestically-appropriate reading. She could match wits with Sherlock Holmes, but in her world women are not allowed to hunt criminals. Determined to break free of the era’s rigid social roles, Anna buys off the chaperone assigned by her domineering father and, using an alias, takes a job as a police matron with the Los Angeles Police Department. There she discovers a string of brothel murders, which the cops are unwilling to investigate. Seizing her one chance to solve a crime, she takes on the investigation herself. If the police find out, she’ll get fired; if her father finds out, he’ll disown her; and if her fiancé finds out, he’ll cancel the wedding. Midway into her investigation, the police chief’s son, Joe Singer, learns her true identity, and shortly thereafter she learns about blackmail. Anna must choose – either hunt the villain and risk losing her father, fiancé, and wealth, or abandon her dream and leave the killer on the loose.

Audible ~ Amazon

House of Cuts by June Gillam

GillamHouseOfCutsWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Ginny Harman

Publisher: June Gillam (2013)

Length: 6 hours 34 minutes

Series: Hillary Broome Novels

Author’s Page

Hillary Broome, a reporter for a California paper, lands in the middle of a serial murder investigation. The murderer is targeting managers of big box stores and leaving their bodies in disturbing positions. Detective Ed Kiffin reluctantly teams up with Hillary to try to track down the killer.

This was a fun fast-paced murder mystery. I quickly became invested in the characters and even came to understand the killer’s motives (even as I don’t condone his actions). The point of view switches from Hillary to Ed to the killer throughout the story.

Hillary has some parental issues as her father recently died and her mother abandoned both of them when she was quite small. She recently left a bad relationship back east and she has some secret from that time period she doesn’t want her current colleagues to know about. Detective Ed is also an interesting character. He knows he should give up smoking but still can’t do it. His wife left him after their daughter died in an unsolved hit and run accident.

Initially, I wasn’t sure who the killer was even though we get to ride around in his head. As the story moves along it becomes apparent who it is to me as the reader, but I still quite enjoyed watching Hillary and Ed try to figure it out. It’s obvious with the first body that the killer has some experience butchering large animals. So the police suspect he is perhaps a hunter or a professional butcher. I really appreciated the few accurate butchering details the author included, which made the plot that much realer.

The suspense winds up as Hillary pieces the clues together and decides to follow her guesses. She has a need to make sure her new friend is OK and ends up confronting the killer. Honestly, I was biting my nails at this point since Ed and the police force seemed pretty behind on the chase. I was very pleased when Hillary had a hand in saving the day even as the police finally showed up. It was a fun, sometimes intense, story and I look forward to more Hillary Broome novels.

I received a copy of this audiobook from the author (via iRead Book Tours – thanks!) at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

Narration: Ginny Harman was a good pick for this book. She had clear, distinct voices for all the characters. Also, her male voices were good. There was even a little singing that was done well.

What I Liked: I became attached to the main characters; Hillary has issues from her past still haunting her; Ed has issues as well; the killer has something to say about big box stores; the suspense throughout winding up to the climax; the butchering details; the ending where Hillary takes a hand in saving the day. 

What I Disliked: Nothing – it was a fun read. 

What Others Think:

Olio by Marylin

The Cleaner by Paul Cleave

CleaveTheCleanerWhere I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: Paul Ansdell

Publisher: Dreamscape Media, LLC (2015)

Length: 11 hours 36 mins

Series: Book 1 The Cleaner

Author’s Page

Note: This book can be read as part of the bigger series of crime novels that all take place in Christchurch, New Zealand. Some characters from those other novels are mentioned here but you don’t have to have read them to understand the context. It works just fine as a stand alone.

As we all know from the book’s description, Joe is the Christchurch Carver, and 7 killings have been attributed to him. But he only killed 6, so he is determined to hunt down this copy cat killer and punish him for overstepping. Right away, I had a little evil chuckle over the idea that serial killers have a code of polite behavior among themselves. Later on, the reader meets Melissa, another killer, and she’s pretty miffed at Joe for breaking her ideas of polite behavior as well. Obviously, things would go much easier for Joe if he had a rolodex of the local killers in Christchurch and could coordinate such things. Alas, to be a serial killer is to be a loner.

Joe likes to play the mentally retarded janitor and that’s how he got the job at the Christchurch police headquarters. This allows Joe all sorts of access to the investigation into his killings. For much of the book, no one is aware of what Joe is. Detective Schroeder, who we’ve seen in other Christchurch crime novels by this author, is unaware of Joe’s real abilities. Even his mother, who is verbally and sometimes physically abusive, finds him subservient. It was a delicious kind of agony to know that Joe is this vicious killer!

The author did a great job of balancing the story – I wanted Joe caught, but not so soon or not so easily because I wanted an interesting tale. The violence is, for the most part, referred to instead of portrayed in grim detail. Though there is one scene where Joe suffers a significant injury that was graphic but since he’s the evil serial killer, I was fine with that.

Joe’s mom was excellently done. She’s into memorizing the grocery store ads and puzzles and she’s not a very good cook but thinks she is. In some eerie ways, she reminded me of my own mom. Not that I’m going to turn into a serial killer because of it or anything. 😉

Then there’s Sally, a maintenance worker at the police precinct. She had a brother who passed away and Sally becomes a bit fixated on Joe, wanting to help him. She plays a key role later on in the book that I won’t spoil, but her character went from being pretty mellow boring to rather interesting. She’s got her own hang ups and parental issues.

One of the things I really enjoyed about this book is that I kept questioning whether or not Joe was mildly retarded (and he just didn’t accept that) or if he was really delusional about some things. He’s obviously a planner and can blend in when he decides to do so. I liked that I kept questioning his IQ throughout the book. Over all, it was pretty thrilling to watch a serial killer go on the hunt for another killer, working outside legal limits.

Narration: Paul Ansdell was, once again, a good fit for the main character. He had a variety of British accents, making it easy to keep the characters straight. His female voices were believable and I especially liked his eerie crazy voice for Melissa. He did a great job switching between regular Joe and retarded Joe.

What I Liked: A serial killer hunting a copy cat!; Joe’s disguise & how long it works; Sally and her history; Melissa and her short term goals; Joe’s mom; great cover art.

What I Disliked: Nothing – I really enjoyed this book.

What Others Think:

Crime Watch

Reviewer’s Choice

Buried Under Books

AustCrime

Blood Men by Paul Cleave

CleaveBloodMenChupaWhere I Got It: Won a copy

Narrator: Paul Ansdell

Publisher: Dreamscape Media, LLC (2015)

Length: 10 hours 9 mins

Series: Christchurch Mysteries

Author’s Page

Note: This book is part of the Christchurch Mysteries series but it works just fine as a stand alone. It does reference the main character in the Theodore Tate mysteries in a few small ways and chronologically, happens after Book 1 (Cemetery Lake).

Edward Hunter lost his father when he was 9 years old. The man was a serial killer and he was finally caught and imprisoned. Edward has tried very hard to forget him ever since and be his own person. Now, decades later he has a wife (Jody) and a young daughter (Sam) and a successful job (as an accountant). But a bank robbery turned bloody will bring cruel violence back into Edward’s life, affecting those he loves the most. Once again, the ugly question of whether or not Edward is like his father will be raised.

I’m totally going to love on this book. I really enjoyed it, even more so than Cemetery Lake. Set in modern day Christchurch, New Zealand, Edward is a very interesting character and we get to see him during his worst hours. I really felt for the guy. First he has this horrible family history that’s full of tragedy. Then he has is own little demon to contend with, one he thought he had beaten down many years ago. Finally, he has the worst week of his life during the length of this book. He goes through quite the range of emotions.

The author pulls in characters from the Theodore Tate novels, specifically Detective Schroeder. He’s cynical and sharp and married to doing the right thing (and doing it by the books as much as possible). In fact, the book opens with him and his guys looking into the death of a man in a trench coat and large suction cups. Yeah, I giggled too. Schroeder is quickly pulled off this case to attend to a bank robbery, the same one that Edward is caught in the middle of.

After the robbery is all said and done, Edward feels he must find the bandits. His father, who is still in prison, gives him a call and asks him to visit. That really starts the slippery slope for Edward. What follows is a mix of righteous payback, a struggle against Edward’s baser desires, and Edward coming to terms with who he is (including his relationship with his father). Be prepared for a respectable body count on this one.

Some animals suffer in this book. The author provides one clear, detailed example and then alludes to the others without giving specifics. These episodes are used sparingly and definitely add to the character’s dimension; these scenes aren’t here merely to up the horror level of the book.

The story held my attention all the way through and I finished it in three days. The novel brings up questions of inner evil and what constitutes free will versus a mental illness. The main characters are well done. There’s some interesting twists that kept me guessing as to where the author would take the story.

I won a copy of this book from The Audio Book Reviewer) with no strings attached.

Narration: Paul Ansdell was a great voice for both Detective Schroeder and Edward Hunter. I liked his slightly gravelly voice for the older, jaded Schroeder. He did a great job of portraying Edward’s many emotions throughout the novel. His female voices were believable. I wonder, as I did with Cemetery Lake, why no New Zealand accents? Perhaps this was the publisher’s direction, but I don’t really know.

What I Liked: The the book cover; fascinating main character Edward; several twists I wasn’t expecting; Detective Schroeder is great; the Christchurch setting; great narration.

What I Disliked: Why didn’t the narrator use NZ accents? I wonder if that was per the publisher’s direction….

What Others Think:

Crime Watch

AustCrime

Beth’s Book Reviews

The Audio Book Reviewer

Blueblood by Matthew Iden

IdenBluebloodWhere I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: Lloyd Sherr

Publisher: Matthew Iden (2014)

Length: 6 hours 36 minutes

Series: Book 2 Marty Singer

Author’s Page

Note: While this is Book 2 in the series, it works just fine as a stand alone.

Marty Singer returns to more private investigation work. His last case was forced upon him and he’s reluctant to take on this new case. He’s still fighting cancer and wants to focus his time and energy on that and enjoying what he can of his early retirement. But an aging cop, Sam Bloch, asks for his help in looking into four seemingly unrelated murders scattered across a few precincts. Right away, Marty is intrigued. On the surface, nothing appears to link the cases. Yet as he digs into the details, he begins to wonder if he isn’t dealing with a serial cop killer.

Once again, Matthew Iden delivers a captivating murder mystery. I really enjoyed Book 1 (A Reason to Live) and this book continues the same quality entertainment. Marty is a bit of a history buff, a little bit of  a wise ass, and a sometimes lonely man who has his heart in the right pace. Amanda Lane, who we met in Book 1, continues to be his surrogate daughter. She’s graduating and has started applying for jobs, some of which could take her out of the DC metro area. Poor Marty has a little heart ache over that but would never ask Amanda to take a job closer to home if it’s not what she wanted.

The murder mystery itself was fascinating. There are details in each case that fit the theory of a serial cop killer, but then there are also a few details in some of the cases that don’t fit. So it’s a bit of a jumble upon first inspection. I really enjoyed watching Marty dig into these cases. The cops were undercover, incorporating themselves into various gangs in the area. The author did a great job of showing how that undercover work affected the cops’ families.

There’s some nitty gritty goodness for this story and it gave this almost hard-boiled cop ambiance to the plot. I like that things are messy and that Marty has to keep reminding himself that not everyone (outside of certain professions like cops and medical personnel) can look at crime scene photos the way he does. While the gruesome violence is made crystal clear to the reader, the author doesn’t linger over it. This isn’t a horror flick; it’s a great PI crime story with a few horrific details.

The ending was satisfying. The murder mystery had me guessing at the details until the big reveal. Marty experiences some danger and putting the killer away is a little slice of bitter justice. All in all, an excellent read.

The Narration: Lloyd Sherr continues to be an excellent pick for Marty Singer. I like his voice for wise-ass Marty. He has distinctive voices for all the other characters, doing a very good job with the female character voices as well. He tossed in several regional accents which was great.

What I Liked: The murder mystery was pretty fascinating and kept me guessing to the end; Marty is still fighting his cancer; Amanda Lane plays surrogate daughter; justice can be a bitter pill to swallow.

What I Disliked: Nothing – it’s a worthy addition to the murder mystery genre.

What Others Think:

A Kindle & Kittens

Ami’s Hoard

Splinter the Silence by Val McDermid

Tofu was napping.
Tofu was napping.

Where I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Gerard Doyle

Publisher: HighBridge Company (2015)

Length: 11 hours 45 minutes

Series: Book 9 Tony Hill & Carol Jordan

Author’s Page

Note: Even though this is Book 9 in the series, it works mostly fine as a stand alone novel.

Former British crime investigator Carol Jordan has a drinking problem and it finally leaves her in a jail cell, needing to be bailed out. She’s had a long, mostly successful, career and now some superiors want her to head up a task force that spans over various precincts. She has to make her choice right quick so that they can put things in motion. She chooses the new job assignment and starts pulling together her old team – a psychologist (Tony Hill), a computer specialist, and some seasoned detectives. It’s quite a varied crew, which I really enjoyed. They decide to do a practice project first, to work out all the kinks, deciding to look into the suicide of a successful, outspoken woman. But as they dig deeper, they find other women who were loud and proud of their causes that mysteriously turned melancholy and killed themselves.

I liked watching Carol struggle to get her legs back under herself. At first, she doesn’t believe she has a drinking problem but her long time friend Tony won’t back down on this one. In fact, he brings over his Xbox to give her a new addiction while she battles the alcoholism. It was great to have this personal battle running in the background even as our heroes track down an unusual serial killer.

The point of view bounces around from the killer to Carol to Tony and then a few side characters. It was well done. From the first, we readers know the supposed suicide is really a murder but we don’t know who is doing it nor his full motivation. I liked that we got into the mind of the killer from the beginning but didn’t have his identity.

I think I would have enjoyed this book quite a bit more had I read the previous books in the series. There’s plenty of references to past relationships, etc. that come across as excess fluff in this book. I think I would have cared a lot more about the side characters had I come to know them previous to this installment in the series. However, this is my only criticism of the book. It’s well written, the pacing is great with a mix of action and contemplation, loved the cat and mouse aspects too.

The murders bring to light the rising issue of cyberstalking and trolls gone out of control. The author did a great job of showing how various people react to internet threats (some people are insensitive and blow it off and others take it seriously) and then also showing how it affects the lives of those targeted. I liked that she gave some great, very visceral examples but didn’t linger over the threatened violence.

 

I received a copy at no cost from the publisher (via LibraryThing) in exchange for an honest review.

The Narration:   The narrator… hmmm.. well, I have loved Gerard Doyle’s work for The Grim Company (an epic fantasy) and the retelling of Odysseus through the eyes of boy slave (Torn from Troy is Book 1 in that series). He does young male voices really well, having a kind of funny filled-with-wonder voice. However, I had a hard time getting use to his voice for a hardened serial murderer or a brittle, angry lead detective. It took me about 3 CDs to finally settle into the book because of the narrator. But once I got use to his voice, he did have multiple accents, keeping each character distinct. His female voices were believable.

What I Liked: The lead character has alcoholism; the serial murderer is clever in his killings; brings up cyberstalking and trolls that our out of control; a varied cast.

What I Disliked: It took me a while to get use to the narrator; I think I would have enjoyed this book much more had I read the previous ones in the series.

What Others Think:

The Scribble Bug

Debbish

Book’d Out

Crime Fiction Lover

Liz Loves Books

The Botanist by L. K. Hill

HillTheBotanistWhere I Got It: ARC for review

Publisher: Jolly Fish Press (2015)

Length: 475 pages

Author’s Page

 

Set in the modern day Utah desert in and around the small town of Mt. Dessicate, Detective Cody Oliver has his hands full as lead detective on what may be the biggest serial murder case the state has ever seen. The graves are adorned with blue-tinted tulips, which aren’t native. He only has a handful of clues to go on, including the eye witness report of Alex Thompson, who reported a man in a cop’s uniform acting vaguely aggressive on a certain stretch of highway. It’s not much to go on, but when this unknown killer takes further action, the Mt. Dessicate police department gets desperate and comes up with a rather risky plan to draw the killer out.

This book caught and held my attention. First, I love the Utah desert scene. Lots of mysteries and secrets and, apparently, bodies are hidden in the Utah desert. It’s hot and dry and that adds a little bit to how things happen in the book – everyone gets sweaty, people need to carry water around, etc. Also, there’s the terrain and how that enables the killer to effectively hide while stumping the searchers.

Second, there’s the big mystery of the serial killer, but then lots of little mysteries that may or may not pertain to the killer. Cody has to sort through these to find the truth. I really liked how these wrapped around each other. My main criticism is that not all of these smaller mysteries were fully wrapped up. By the end of the book, I still had questions, lots of them, and mostly pertaining to these smaller details. Now I know that in real life, we don’t always get all the answers to such a mystery, and I think I would have been OK with that if some knowledgeable character, like Cody or his Captain, acknowledged that and purposefully shelved tying off these minor mysteries. I would have been even more happy if they could have been neatly wrapped up, because this is fiction and we can get away with that.

We only have a handful female characters in this book. Alex Thompson is smack in the middle of the mystery so she gets the most page time. At first, she was OK as a character. At one point she’s having this internal debate about whether or not she has the emotional fortitude to kill a serial killer and I thought she was rather daft for even questioning it, given the circumstances. But she rallies and becomes a character who helps move the plot along and makes decisive choices that defy the bad guy. Even though she had to be rescued a few times, I grew to like her. All the other ladies are mothers, grandmothers, a woman who one of the detectives was dating, wives, nurses. There’s also Rose who works for the police department answering phones and doing paperwork. While a few women have some little nibblet that pertains to the investigation, none of them are plot integral. Also, I want to note that none of the detectives nor any of the police that come from surrounding cities and states to assist are female, which I found odd. So I would have liked to see a few more ladies doing something besides being wives and mothers.

Still, with those two negatives, it was a nail biting detective story. There is so much going on with this tale because the killer has been active for so long. A private investigator, Lars Stieger, starts looking into the land the bodies were found on, and the history starts to unfold. Because there is this wealth of backstory for our heroes to uncover, there was always some new bit for me to gasp over. As things start to close in on the killer, the stakes get higher. Not everyone gets out alive. Folks will be mourning. I liked that the author did not shy away from this as it gave the story more weight.

There’s also some mild humor throughout. The detectives are kind of big boys in the office, razzing each other and throwing things. Tom and Frank are older than Cody, and there’s a fourth detective who is younger but I forget his name. The Captain (Brecken, I think?) looks on their horseplay like a stern benevolent uncle. He never takes part in it, but he allows the boys to blow off steam this way.

Over all, it was a worthy read and kept me entertained throughout. I would have enjoyed an additional chapter to wrap things up a bit more, but that won’t keep me from reading other murder mysteries by this author.

I received an ARC of this book at no cost from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

What I Liked: Great setting; the big murder mystery; several smaller mysteries that may or may not tie into the big one; the camaraderie among the detectives; Alex eventually rallies and becomes a force to be reckoned with; not everyone gets out unscathed.

What I Disliked: I would have liked another chapter to wrap up all the lose ends; could have used more female characters.

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Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin

FranklinMistressOfTheArtOfDeathWhere I Got It: Own it

Narrator: Rosalyn Landor

Publisher: Penguin Audio (2007)

Length: 13 hours 12 minutes

Series: Book 1 Mistress of the Art of Death

Author’s Page

 

Set in medieval Cambridge, children keep turning up dead. The local Catholics begin to blame the local Jewish community and then the local law must lock up the Jews for their own safety. However, this is not a tenable situation that can last for long. King Henry II wants to continue to receive his Jewish taxes, and for that to happen, his Jewish constituents must be free to work and trade. He contacts his cousin in Sicily and asks for an expert on the art of death to help clear matters up. What he gets is the highly trained and skilled Adelia.

This was a fascinating murder mystery and historical fiction.  First, I think like many folks, I once had this idea that the medieval ages were somewhat dark dreary, except for the tourneys. The ideas of medical degrees and college attending women are not what usually jumped to the forefront of my brain when I heard the word ‘medieval’. So right off I was caught up in what Adelia was doing in this story. Yes, she had to push to be allowed to go to university in Sicily and she had a fair amount of bullying from idiot men, but she persevered and got her medical degree. Now, she is a medical examiner of the dead.

Yet here in Cambridge, where very few people have any education at all, she has to cloak her skills in the role of assistant to the ‘real doctor’, her male travel companion. Cambridge is full of superstition and bad blood between rivals. There’s so many pitfalls for Adelia as she tries to go about her gruesome work. And gruesome it is indeed! Unfortunately, these children did not have an easy death and studying the remains is difficult work on several levels.

As she and her companions narrow in on the killer, things get more dangerous. Not everyone gets out unscathed and that was a definite sorrow. However, it added weight to the story and reminded Adelia that she and her group were not untouchable.

I loved all the medical stuff too. It’s very interesting to me what people can deduce and analyze when they have so little to go by. It’s not like Adelia has an 18th century lab to tinker around in. Nope. She’s got a cold stone slab in a chill room with a few candles, a handful of medical instruments, and her own wits. It was a pleasure to watch her work. Definitely looking forward to Book 2!

Narration: Rosalyn Landor was a great choice for this audiobook. Her voice for Adelia is both rich and compassionate. She brought the right amount of emotion to any situation in this book. Her accents were well done and all her characters were distinct.

What I Liked: A deep mystery; religious politics; Adelia’s degree; medical stuff; the Cambridge medieval setting; the story has weight; a satisfying ending.

What I Disliked: Nothing – a very good book.

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