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Reviews of what you should be reading next.

Category: Murder Mystery (page 1 of 6)

Murder on Pleasant Avenue by Victoria Thompson

 

When Gino Donatelli is accused of a brutal murder, beloved sleuths Sarah and Frank Malloy have to catch a killer who is out to destroy their innocent friend’s life in the latest installment of the national bestselling Gaslight mysteries.

A victim is found, brutally murdered and the police are certain they’ve caught the killer. Their only suspect: Gino Donatelli.

Frank and Sarah know Gino is innocent but the police have a one-track mind. Once Frank struck it rich and left their ranks taking Gino with him, there has been a simmering resentment in the department. And now, someone has pulled out all the stops to make it look like Gino is the only one who could have committed the crime.

With the clock ticking and evidence mounting against their friend, Sarah and Frank will try to unravel a treacherous plot before Gino is sent up the river for good.

 

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

Once again Sarah and Frank get mixed up in a murder case; in this one Gino is accused of killing a member of the Black Hand and they must clear his name. We see a lot of Maeve in this story, especially in the interactions with Gino. I enjoyed reading their dialogue and loved to picture them flirting with each other. I also got a kick out of Maeve sitting forlornly at her typewriter, practicing her typing while wishing all the while for an interruption.

One thing you can always count on is getting some history while hearing of Sarah and Frank’s adventures. The setting for this story is Italian Harlem, and the author paints a wonderful picture of how the inhabitants lived (and died). This is one of my favorite aspects of the Gaslight Mysteries: Thompson always makes me feel like I have been taken back in time and am living right alongside all her characters. One point of interest is that the author doesn’t censor the seedier parts of the period. We get to see the homeless, we hear about abortions, and we get to experience tenement life. Thompson does her best to make nearly everyone sympathetic, so this makes the story friendlier, and the book very readable as well.

Speaking of characters, some new ones are introduced in this book. We meet Teo, Gino’s sister-in-law, as well as the rest of Gino’s family. One of the funnier sequences in the book is when Maeve needs to go to Gino’s house; her family misunderstands her reason and want to get her out of the house. Thank goodness Maeve is able to straighten everyone out!

I was unable to figure out who dunnit, and that was a plus. It can get frustrating when you know who the bad guys are before the main characters do. My guess was between two characters, and I was surprised to finally learn who it was. As always, the story gets tied up neatly, with the last page a portent of what is to come in the next installment. I enjoyed this book very much and am looking forward to her next one. You can pick up your copy here. 

Masked Prey by John Sandford

Lucas Davenport investigates a vitriolic blog that seems to be targeting the children of U.S. politicians in the latest thriller by #1 New York Times-bestselling author John Sandford.

The daughter of a U.S. Senator is monitoring her social media presence when she finds a picture of herself on a strange blog. And there are other pictures . . . of the children of other influential Washington politicians, walking or standing outside their schools, each identified by name. Surrounding the photos are texts of vicious political rants from a motley variety of radical groups.

It’s obviously alarming–is there an unstable extremist tracking the loved ones of powerful politicians with deadly intent? But when the FBI is called in, there isn’t much the feds can do. The anonymous photographer can’t be pinned down to one location or IP address, and more importantly, at least to the paper-processing bureaucrats, no crime has actually been committed. With nowhere else to turn, influential Senators decide to call in someone who can operate outside the FBI’s constraints: Lucas Davenport.

 

Thanks to NetGalley for this review copy!

Lots of politicking and Nazi alt-right groups in this Davenport outing. Lucas is still smarting from the bullet he took a few months ago, so when he gets a call from Washington demanding his presence, he is not all that eager to go. What he finds when he gets there is a twisted plot that takes nearly the entire book to resolve.

In the meantime, we have favorite characters Bob and Rae, lots of dialogue which moves the book along, and more information about alt-right groups that you never wanted to know. The book shifts back and forth between multiple subplots, which makes the book a bit draggy in places. Towards the end the action ramps up so that the pages are turning a lot quicker.

Bob and Rae are solid as usual, cracking wise and kicking ass. The scenes in which they help Davenport are some of the most entertaining ones in the book. However, it seems that Lucas was affected by the shooting in which he was wounded, and it shows. He is more thoughtful and less raw. He’s not happy about dealing with the Washington crowd, but handles it with diplomatic aplomb. Is this the start of an older, wiser Lucas Davenport? According to Goodreads at the time of this writing, MASKED PREY was a solid 4 stars. I’m not sure why this book didn’t get that fifth star, unless it was the “new” Lucas.

I enjoyed the book well enough, but I’m going to give it four stars as well. There was a bit too much politics. 20% into the book, when Davenport meets alt-right expert Charles Lang and his assistant Stephen Gibson, Lang reminded me a tiny bit of Hannibal Lecter, but without the shock factor and the gore. Lang seemed to thrive on information, and he was hungry for some all throughout the book. I found those interactions a bit creepy. Now that I think about it, both Lang and Gibson did need to be in the book under the guise of plot thickening, but I still don’t like Lang.

Davenport fans should enjoy this albeit a bit mildly. Hardcore readers will gobble this up and look for more, while first time readers may find it a bit dry. I fall between those groups…that said there is nothing like a good Prey novel to while away the hours. MASKED PREY filled a few hours for me, and I enjoyed it more than mildly….yet not 5 stars worth.

You can pick up your copy here.

Killer Soul Mate by Anne Rothman-Hicks and Kenneth Hicks

Jane Larson is back, and trouble abounds on New York’s Upper East Side!

A new client, Jasmine, hires Jane to undo the terms of a matrimonial agreement with her ex-husband, the owner of a prosperous hedge fund who does not like to lose. At the same time, Jane’s landlord is working to evict her from the storefront law office where her mother had practiced for many years, and Jane is forced to fight to save her mother’s legacy. However, it seems there is no way she can win.

All too soon, the bodies begin to pile up and Jane has to figure out who is responsible before she becomes one of the victims. Meanwhile, a guy named Gary is trying to worm his way into her life, and, even though she thinks he is much too young for he, she starts to fall for him. The problem is that he has a habit of showing up where the murders occur. Can she trust him?

Thanks to the authors for this review copy!

Jane Larson is feeling tired and old. To make matters worse, she is served with papers declaring to evict her from her storefront law office. There is also a younger man named Gary flirting with her at the local Y; Jane keeps telling him to scram. And the current case she is working on is a matrimonial one with ironclad clauses, enough to keep her busy. Her client Jasmine is making sure Jane gets paid top dollar – something she is not used to with her regular clients. Suddenly Gary appears in her office bearing papers discussing legal action against him. Jane just doubled her client load, even if the second client is flirty Gary.

More cases come to Jane quickly, and soon she is super busy. Suddenly Jasmine’s ex-husband’s lawyer Kevin is found dead, and his daughter claims foul play. Jane is drawn into a murder investigation, and that is where things really take off. Flirty Gary seems to always be in the middle of things, whether it’s on the same subway train as Jane, or a bar when Jane and Jasmine are hanging out. What is his deal? And who killed Kevin?

This is Jane Larson’s fourth mystery; she was the main character in WEAVE A MURDEROUS WEB, among others, a few years ago. She is still the same feisty woman that we know and love, however, she is slightly softer and more emotional in this book. I liked how the authors gave her more dimensions here.

There are many characters in KILLER SOUL MATE but they are easy to keep track of, and the twisty plot will keep you turning the pages. Towards the end the action ramps up to tie the loose ends together; once the book ends you will wish it didn’t. I hope the 5th installment of Jane’s adventures comes soon, as this one was fantastic reading.

I loved this book! The authors have a great style of writing that draws you into the story quickly, and they make you truly care about Jane and her clients. The dialogue is captivating, and the character development is thorough; I could picture each one in my head as I raced through the book. I was very invested in Jane and the other characters and was super curious to see how each subplot would be resolved.  I especially enjoyed that the romance between Gary and Jane was kept light; there is nothing that bogs down a good murder mystery than a heavy romance. Kudos to the authors!

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

Good Girls Lie by J.T. Ellison

Perched atop a hill in the tiny town of Marchburg, Virginia, The Goode School is a prestigious prep school known as a Silent Ivy. The boarding school of choice for daughters of the rich and influential, it accepts only the best and the brightest. Its elite status, long-held traditions and honor code are ideal for preparing exceptional young women for brilliant futures at Ivy League universities and beyond. But a stranger has come to Goode, and this ivy has turned poisonous.

In a world where appearances are everything, as long as students pretend to follow the rules, no one questions the cruelties of the secret societies or the dubious behavior of the privileged young women who expect to get away with murder. But when a popular student is found dead, the truth cannot be ignored. Rumors suggest she was struggling with a secret that drove her to suicide.

But look closely…because there are truths and there are lies, and then there is everything that really happened.

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

This book was a conundrum. On one hand, the setting was full of promise: a Gothic prep school filled with overachieving rich girls. On the other hand, we have lots of internal dialogue and chapters that switch POV’s rapidly, causing confusion. There was also a slow start to the book, and it seemed to drag on towards the middle. This was almost a DNF for me, but I kept going.

The last 20% of the book is filled with rapid-fire twists and turns, and all the questions (and there are plenty!) are answered. There are some (more) deaths but I felt the conclusion was satisfactorily drawn. Ellison’s characters are typical boarding-school-with-money types, and there are a lot of familiar tropes (secret societies, girl drama, rich girls behaving badly) that will warm the heart of the reader that loves this type of thing.

I am unsure how to classify this book – is it YA or not? I feel it fits either category; the writing style is easy to read, if a little drawn out. I think each chapter would have benefitted from naming the narrator right at the beginning so the reader would immediately know who is speaking. However, this may have been done deliberately by the author to cause confusion and increase the intrigue.

My favorite character was Becca – she was an apt Head Girl, hiding her loneliness under a harsh and demanding exterior. I also felt sorry for the Dean, who was constantly under the thumb of the previous Dean (who just happened to be her manipulative mother).

All in all – an uneven but mildly pleasant read. Stick with it through the slow portions and you will be happy you did. You can pick up your copy here.

Bloody Genius by John Sandford (Virgil Flowers #12)

Virgil Flowers will have to watch his back–and his mouth–as he investigates a college culture war turned deadly in the latest thriller from #1 New York Times-bestseller John Sandford.

At the local state university, two feuding departments have faced off on the battleground of PC culture. Each carries their views to extremes that may seem absurd, but highly educated people of sound mind and good intentions can reasonably disagree, right?

Then someone winds up dead, and Virgil Flowers is brought in to investigate . . . and he soon comes to realize he’s dealing with people who, on this one particular issue, are functionally crazy. Among this group of wildly impassioned, diametrically opposed zealots lurks a killer, and it will be up to Virgil to sort the murderer from the mere maniacs.

Thanks to NetGalley for this review copy!

No one is getting Virgil’s jokes. This is because he is knee-deep in academia land, investigating the murder of a well-respected but also generally disliked professor. Apparently those who work at the University of Minnesota do not have a well-rounded sense of humor.

Virgil teams up with Detective Trane from the Minnesota police department, a partnership that starts out shaky but solidifies when Virgil proves himself to be an affable companion. Trane is at a dead end until Virgil discovers some evidence that starts the ball rolling, leading to some of the strangest characters ever seen in a Flowers novel.

I felt that the book was slow going until the last third, when the action started to pick up a bit and the loose ends started to come together. There are a lot of characters and subplots, and unless you keep them straight it will end up being confusing.

The plot blurb notes there is an interdepartmental feud going on, but I found that portion of the story a bit underwhelming. There is less going on there than the publisher would have you believe. I feel it would have benefitted the book to have noted there was a murder on campus and Virgil had to deal with a lot of functionally crazy people; after all, the murder does take place in the beginning of the book and the rest is just smoke and mirrors until the end. At times I wanted to skip ahead, looking for more action and less talking, but I was afraid I would miss something.

Flowers novels are like pizza – it may not always be the best tasting, but it’s pizza. Despite the flaws I noted above, it is always good to see what Virgil is doing. Hopefully the next outing will be more suspenseful and action packed.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

Tracking Game by Margaret Mizushima (Timber Creek K-9 #5)

Two brutal murders, a menacing band of poachers, and a fearsome creature on the loose in the mountains plunge Mattie Cobb and her K-9 partner Robo into a sinister vortex.
An explosion outside a community dance sends Mattie Cobb and Cole Walker reeling into the night, where they discover a burning van and beside it the body of outfitter Nate Fletcher. But the explosion didn’t kill Nate–it was two gunshots to the heart.
The investigation leads them to the home of rancher Doyle Redman, whose daughter is Nate’s widow, and the object of one of their suspect’s affection. But before they can make an arrest, they receive an emergency call from a man who’s been shot in the mountains. Mattie and Robo rush to the scene, only to be confronted by the ominous growl of a wild predator.

As new players emerge on the scene, Mattie begins to understand the true danger that’s enveloping Timber Creek. They journey into the cold, misty mountains to track the animal–but discover something even more deadly in Tracking Game, the fifth installment in Margaret Mizushima’s Timber Creek K-9 mysteries.

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

This is another winner for the author! I’m a big fan of the series about troubled cop Mattie Cobb and her K9 partner, Robo. The love and respect Cobb has for her dog shines through in each book and this one was no exception.

A twisty murder mystery is the setting for this latest installment, with the backdrop of the Colorado mountains looming large as usual. Unique to this story was a subplot of big game hunting and a ferocious big cat on the loose. Mattie must depend on Robo to keep her safe from both human and animal as they track a killer.

We learn a bit more about Mattie’s past – the author loves to peel back the layers bit by bit in each book, which helps develop the character, as well as adding to the reader’s kinship with Mattie. She is a troubled soul, fiercely independent and devoted to her canine companion Robo. The ways in which Mizushima describes their interactions is both heartwarming and jaw-dropping – this German Shepherd is such a smart dog!

I was also happy to see Mattie’s romance with veterinarian Cole Walker developing some more – there is a lot of chemistry between them and he is so good for Mattie’s wounded soul. In fact, there are a few ways that Mattie overcomes some of her fears in TRACKING GAME – I was proud of her for getting out of her comfort zone.

If you love backcountry mysteries, you will love the Timber Creek series. There is just enough fast-paced intrigue plus a little romance to keep nearly every reader interested. This book could be read as a stand-alone, but some of the references will go over the heads of readers. This will not detract from the plot or outcome, but it is always recommended to start with the first book and go from there. I am anxiously awaiting the next mystery from Mizushima; she is one of my favorite authors and I’m always ready to dive into her next work. Grab your copy here!

One Night Gone by Tara Laskowski

One sultry summer in the 1980s, a teenage girl arrived in the wealthy vacation town of Opal Beach to start her life anew—to achieve her destiny. But before the summer was up, she vanished.
Decades later, when Allison Simpson is offered the opportunity to house-sit in Opal Beach, it seems like the perfect chance to regroup and start fresh after a messy divorce. It’s the off-season, after all, which means peace and quiet, and more importantly for Allison, safety.
But when Allison becomes drawn into the story of a girl who disappeared from town thirty years before, she begins to realize that Opal Beach isn’t as idyllic as it seems. Beyond the walls of the gorgeous homes hide dark secrets. And as Allison digs deeper into the mystery, she uncovers not only the shocking truth, but finds herself caught in the middle of a twisted plot.

Part electric coming-of-age story and part breathtaking mystery, One Night Gone is an atmospheric, suspenseful novel about power, privilege, and ultimately, sisterhood.

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

This dark story takes place in Opal Beach, a Jersey Shore-like town with authentic details such as the Boardwalk, carnivals, and winter residents (who hate the summer with a passion). These residents are insular and secretive with good reason – a girl went missing years ago and no one knows what happened to her.

When Allison, a disgraced meteorologist, scores a house-sitting job in Opal Beach she discovers just how insular the townfolk can be. The story is told from various points of view, with the main story being that of Allison and her demons. Maureen, the vanished girl, has demons of her own but has a youthful optimism that makes her more appealing than Allison. I was instantly on Maureen’s side and was hoping for a good outcome for her. Allison had her moments, but it seemed that she was slow to make a move due to past events. I understand how she was written, but I wanted her to have a little more backbone. Perhaps she was outshone by the brightness and promise of Maureen. I absolutely loved, loved, loved that Maureen considered herself a mermaid, with her tail flapping at times when she was most confident. It’s too bad that some of that confidence didn’t rub off on Allison.

Allison is befriended by a few friendly residents of Opal Beach and shunned by others. As the plotlines converge and we see characters commit actions in their youth, the reader will find out that what happens in the 80’s does not stay there. The author is skilled at creating the carefree attitude of summer down the shore, both in her character description and the environment. Laskowski is adept at setting a mood with weather; I wondered if that was a subtle nod to Allison. Maureen’s weather is mostly warm, sunny, and full of promise, while Allison’s is bleak and cold. There has been quite a lot of books written with converging multiple points of view, and I may be growing weary of that. However, the author managed to keep my interest going until the plot twists captured my attention – then I didn’t put the book down until it was finished.

The themes of sisterhood and betrayal illuminate just how brutal it can be when women turn on each other. Women grab onto their anger and never let go until the death, either literally or figuratively. ONE NIGHT GONE places the reader firmly in the middle of this anger and doesn’t let go.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

Old Bones (Nora Kelly #1) by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

 

The first in the groundbreaking Nora Kelly series from #1 bestselling authors Preston & Child blends the legend of the Donner party with a riveting suspense tale, taking the dynamic duo’s work to new heights.

Nora Kelly, a young but successful curator with a series of important excavations already under her belt, is approached by the handsome historian, Guy Porter, to lead an expedition unlike any other. Guy tells his story–one involving the ill-fated Donner Party, who became permanently lodged in the American consciousness in the winter of 1847, when the first skeletonized survivors of the party stumbled out of the California mountains, replete with tales of courage, resourcefulness, bad luck, murder, barbarism–and, finally, starvation and cannibalism.

Captivated by the Donner Party, Nora agrees and they venture into the Sierra Nevada in search of the camp. Quickly, they learn that the discovery of the missing starvation camp is just the tip of the iceberg–and that the real truth behind those long-dead pioneers is not only far more complex and surprising than they could have imagined…but it is one that puts them both in mortal danger from a very real, present-day threat in which the search for the lost party, and its fabled fortune in gold, are merely means to a horrifying end.

 

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

OLD BONES is the first of the Nora Kelly series. As you may recall, Nora was the intrepid curator/archaeologist in some of the early Pendergast novels. The authors have decided to give Nora her own series, minus the usual Pendergast characters save one. Newly minted FBI agent Corrie Swanson is here also, investigating a murder.

Nora is on site excavating remains found of the famous Donner Party of 1847. What begins as a typical excavation turns into terror when members of their dig turn up dead. Corrie and the FBI are investigating these murders because they took place on Federal land, plus they tie in with another investigation involving grave robbing. Apparently, the robbed graves were descendants of a member of the Donner Party – but why the interest in them all of a sudden?

The premise sounds thrilling, but the telling of the tale is middling. Much of the action takes place on the dig and seems repetitive. Nora and Corrie butt heads during the course of the investigation and Corrie has to deal with the “good old boys” of law enforcement who mock her lack of experience.

The winning points of OLD BONES are the strong female characters – Nora, Corrie, and Nora’s boss Dr Fugit. It seems as though their characters are drawn well with good backstory, while the men are secondary. You won’t hear a complaint from me; I appreciate the authors giving Nora and Corrie their feisty personalities and strong work ethic.

Most of the book reads like a weak version of a Pendergast novel. I did keep expecting him to pop up somewhere to save the day. Final verdict – not the worst thing by far I’ve read, but just sort of dull. The best parts were the history, albeit gory, of the Donner Party and how they managed to survive.

Nora is a great character and I am looking forward to seeing her handle her next adventure. Perhaps the authors will hit their stride in the next book. Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

 

Neon Prey by John Sandford (Davenport #29)

Lucas Davenport pursues a prolific serial killer who has gone undetected for years in the newest nail-biter by #1 NewYork Times bestselling author John Sandford.

It was a relatively minor criminal matter, all things considered, but enough that the US Marshals obtained a warrant to enter the home. They didn’t expect to unearth trophies from a score of killings.

Now Davenport is on the trail of a serial murderer, one who was able to operate for years without notice or suspicion. But there’s even more to this killer than meets the eye…

 

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

It’s hard to believe that this is Davenport’s 29th adventure. He’s gotten shot, stabbed, punched numerous times, and suffered various other indignities. In NEON PREY he and his fellow Marshals Bob and Rae are hot on the heels of a cannibal. Multiple bodies have been found in the yard of Clayton Deese, and the Marshals want to ask him some questions. Deese, however, is not cooperating.

When Lucas and Co. discover that the livers from the bodies are missing, and the barbeque grill from Deese’s house has been used, they realize that they are not looking for a typical run-of-the-mill killer. Bob, Rae, and Lucas share the spotlight equally, which is different from previous books. It almost seems as though Lucas is part of the supporting cast rather than the main character. Even his “cop talk” is secondary to that of Bob and Rae.

Las Vegas is a quirky setting that provides both sparkle and squalor. There is a section of the book where Deese and his crew hang out at a friend’s ramshackle trailer. As I read on, I could hear the banjos from “Deliverance” in the background – it was that eerie!

My thoughts on this one is that it’s a firm middle-of-the-road Prey novel. What stood out for me was that Davenport seems to be feeling his age (both mentally and physically) here. No spoilers; but I was not ready for some of the plot twists. Kudos to the author for keeping his characters human with relevant emotions.

I’d love to know what you think of #29 – leave me a comment with your thoughts. You can pick up your copy here.

 

The Suspect by Fiona Barton

The new must-read standalone crime thriller from the author of Sunday Times bestseller, The Widow, and the Richard & Judy No. 1 bestseller, The Child – featuring unforgettable journalist, Kate Waters.
The police belonged to another world – the world they saw on the television or in the papers. Not theirs.
When two eighteen-year-old girls go missing on their gap year in Thailand, their families are thrust into the international spotlight: desperate, bereft and frantic with worry.
Journalist Kate Waters always does everything she can to be first to the story, first with the exclusive, first to discover the truth – and this time is no exception. But she can’t help but think of her own son, who she hasn’t seen in two years since he left home to go traveling. This time it’s personal.
And as the case of the missing girls unfolds, they will all find that even this far away, danger can lie closer to home than you might think . . .

Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC!

Fiona Barton still has the touch in this latest Kate Waters mystery. We become a little more acquainted in Kate’s personal life while she is investigating a story of how two girls go missing during a trip to Thailand. During a series of plot twists, Kate becomes part of the journalist’s fodder and experiences what it is like from the other side – knocks on your door day and night, having to hide from the press, and looking over your shoulder all the time.

One of Barton’s hallmarks is that some of her characters are unreliable narrators. Sometimes you don’t find out who is unreliable until you have finished half the story, other times it is painfully obvious. THE SUSPECT is a tale that shifts your perspective on the reliability of a character multiple times. Are the good guys really good? Are you supposed to read between the lines of one girl’s email to her best friend, or is she just sharing her innermost thoughts?

Set in the UK with flashbacks of the girls’ trip to Bangkok, the story unfolds as Kate ingratiates herself with the girls’ parents and tries to uncover what happened to them. Once certain details come to light, Kate is removed from the case and becomes a pariah. The author leads you down a path that makes you certain you know the truth…then swiftly changes the course of your journey.

More sensual tension simmers between Kate and Detective Bob Sparkes, despite the fact that his wife is expected to die from cancer within a few months. His character is wonderfully written, full of conflict, regret and fatigue.

The parents of the missing girls are all rage and accusation, blaming each other even as they cling to the small hope that their daughters are still alive. They turn on each other like vipers, then close ranks against the journalists who seek to create a story out of their pain.

The seedy atmosphere of Bangkok’s underworld is a perfect setting. If I were a parent, I would never want my daughter taking a trip there, regardless of how many friends she had with her. Some other reviews note that there is really nothing good mentioned about Thailand; I feel that is to make the story a bit darker and have the actions of the characters appear insidious.

I’d be interested to see if Barton includes some of the characters from this book in a future one. This was definitely an enjoyable read.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

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