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Reviews of what you should be reading next.

Tag: murder mystery

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!

Burning Ridge by Margaret Mizushima

Featuring Mattie Cobb and her K-9 partner Robo, Burning Ridge by critically acclaimed author Margaret Mizushima is just the treat for fans of Alex Kava.

On a rugged Colorado mountain ridge, Mattie Cobb and her police dog partner Robo make a grisly discovery—and become the targets of a ruthless killer.
Colorado’s Redstone Ridge is a place of extraordinary beauty, but this rugged mountain wilderness harbors a horrifying secret. When a charred body is discovered in a shallow grave on the ridge, officer Mattie Cobb and her K-9 partner Robo are called in to spearhead the investigation. But this is no ordinary crime—and it soon becomes clear that Mattie has a close personal connection to the dead man.
Joined by local veterinarian Cole Walker, the pair scours the mountaintop for evidence and makes another gruesome discovery: the skeletonized remains of two adults and a child. And then, the unthinkable happens. Could Mattie become the next victim in the murderer’s deadly game?
A deranged killer torments Mattie with a litany of dark secrets that call into question her very identity. As a towering blaze races across the ridge, Cole and Robo search desperately for her—but time is running out in Margaret Mizushima’s fourth spine-tingling Timber Creek K-9 mystery, Burning Ridge.

 

Thanks to Netgalley for this advance reviewer’s copy! This is Margaret Mizushima’s fourth book in this series, and I’m happy to say that it’s holding my interest just as much as the first one did.

Mattie and loyal K9 partner Robo are handling a crime that hits too close to home. Mattie is slowly coming out of her emotional shell, but still has a long way to go when it comes to opening her heart to veterinarian Cole Walker. As she is preparing to reconnect with her brother, whom she has not seen in many years, she becomes involved with a body that is found deep inside the forest. Is she really surrounded by people that she can’t trust – or does she need to let her guard down and see what happens?

Mizushima’s characters are true to life and nuanced. Mattie is definitely more emotionally grounded, but still views her German Shepherd, Robo, as her closest ally. Robo is superb as the K9 officer, who can alternatively tug at your heartstrings when he plays with Mattie or make you cheer as he takes down the bad guy. We should all have a dog as loyal and supportive as he is.

Twists and turns kept me reading for hours – I didn’t want to put it down! This police procedural is just the right mix of action, dialogue, canine antics, and suspense. Most of the suspense comes in the last 20% of the book, but it’s worth waiting for. Robo’s skills are put to the test as he handles his most daunting task so far, and I held my breath to see what would be happening next. Mizushima’s writing is easy on the brain, despite some plot nuances and characters that appear in the beginning, only to disappear, then pop up again. The love the author has for the Colorado mountains and forests is evident in her thorough description of Mattie’s surroundings. I felt as if I were right alongside the characters, fully immersed.

The only concern I have is early on, when veterinarian Cole shows up at his clinic early in the morning. Some patients stayed overnight, and they are described as just waking up from anesthesia. It’s not proper medical practice to leave a patient unattended immediately after anesthesia, much less overnight without care. Yes, the procedure was a “routine” spay – but there is no mention of any veterinary nurses other than Cole’s coworker. This was jarring to me and it took me a while to get past that. Every other instance of veterinary work was perfect, and an excellent layer to the book. Note to the author: add more veterinary scenes to your book! It’s always a good thing to have the public see how hard vets and nurses work to care for pets and livestock.

If you have not read any Timber Creek mysteries yet – pick this up! To better gain an understanding of Mattie and what makes her tick, start with the first book. This one could stand alone, but the backstory will help some of the details make more sense.

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

Twisted Prey by John Sandford

Lucas Davenport confronts an old nemesis, now more powerful than ever as a U.S. senator, in the thrilling new novel in the #1 New York Times-bestselling Prey series
Lucas Davenport had crossed paths with her before. A rich psychopath, Taryn Grant had run successfully for the U.S. Senate, where Lucas had predicted she’d fit right in. He was also convinced that she’d been responsible for three murders, though he’d never been able to prove it. Once a psychopath had gotten that kind of rush, though, he or she often needed another fix, so he figured he might be seeing her again.
He was right. A federal marshal now, with a very wide scope of investigation, he’s heard rumors that Grant has found her seat on the Senate intelligence committee, and the contacts she’s made from it, to be very…useful. Pinning those rumors down was likely to be just as difficult as before, and considerably more dangerous.
But they had unfinished business, he and Grant. One way or the other, he was going to see it through to the end.

Thanks to Netgalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review!

Twisted Prey is the 28th book in the bestselling series by John Sandford. The teaser here is that Federal Marshal Lucas Davenport may finally be able to put paid to the evil Taryn Grant, who got away a few books back (see Silken Prey). An “accident” involving a US Senator is brought to Davenport’s attention, and soon enough, all the wonderful characters of Sandford’s imagination come out to play. I especially enjoyed reading the pithy cop talk between officers Bob and Rae; the scene with the donuts was spot-on!

Taryn Grant is quite the narcissist in this book, as she manipulates others to do her bidding. Despite Davenport’s more-than-a-hunch feelings that she is the bad guy, there is no clear evidence linking her to the accident in the beginning of the book. She’s got plenty to hide, though, and does it well. Shame that such a smart female character has to be so evil. She is not my favorite bad character – despite her ambition she seems too flat for my liking.

There was a bit too much politics in this installment to be perfect; all the discussion of defense contracts and the like bogged the story down a bit. This was a middle-of-the-road book; familiar characters doing familiar things, yet it took just a touch too long to wrap up. This may be due to the setting being Washington, DC – when the stories take place in Minnesota there is something oddly comforting about the location. I wonder how much of the story was written out of inspiration vs having to wrap up the Taryn Grant situation?

However, no Prey book is truly heinous. We also find that Davenport isn’t untouchable, as an encounter with some bad guys leaves him screaming like a little girl (one of the funniest vignettes in the book). He is getting older and feeling it, which is a refreshing touch.

Twisted Prey is an enjoyable way to spend a few hours of your time, however, long time Sandford fans may feel a little let down with the heavy concentration on the politics. Let’s see what happens in the next installment – maybe Lucas will be back on his home turf again.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up on Amazon.

A Painting To Die For by Joan C. Curtis

Jenna’s quiet weekend turns upside down when she returns home to find her house totally ransacked, and the police uncover a dead body with her name in its possession. Meanwhile her long-lost cousins show up on her doorstep with stories about stolen paintings, hidden masterpieces—worth millions, Mafia friends, and much more.

While Jenna questions the motives of her dead father in connection to the stolen art, the police find a second body with Jenna’s name in its possession, and she becomes the primary suspect in two murder inquiries. Sidestepping the police and dodging the mob, she and her best friend, Quentin, embark on their own investigation to save themselves and Jenna’s lying, double-crossing cousins from untimely deaths.
A Painting to Die For forms a web of deceit that leaves Jenna doubting everything she believes about her father and his Italian family.

Thank you, Joan, for the review copy!

A PAINTING TO DIE FOR is amateur detective Jenna Scali’s third outing.

She is back at it again, when she gets dragged into another mystery – this time by her duplicitous cousins asking her help to locate a missing painting. Before you know it, she is getting involved with another kind of Family and dragging her best friend Quentin along with her on a wild goose chase. She is as stubborn as ever, hiding her activities from her cop boyfriend as needed. She is also very patient – I would have walked away from her crazy cousins without a second glance. This is where most of my frustration with this story lies; the dialogue and actions of her family are circuitous and vague. I understand that is all with the intention to further the plot, and I will say if Curtis’ intention was to make the reader want to shake Joey & Co until their teeth fell out, she has succeeded! However, it is my opinion that some of the round and round could have been trimmed and the plot wouldn’t have suffered one bit.

I did enjoy the bits of art and Italian history mixed in – it shows that the author has done her research. We also get to learn more about Jenna’s heritage, which makes her character more familiar to us. She is becoming more mature also, as we see her concentrating on her schoolwork and career. Curtis has done an excellent job giving Jenna another layer of personality. A character that doesn’t grow in a series is dull and makes all the books the same. She is still the same sarcastic girl we know and love! Quentin and Starr seem to have taken a back seat to the rotten cousins, which may be why this book seemed different to me. Jenna is still supported by her co-stars, but they don’t seem to be shining through as with the other adventures.

There were some suspenseful parts towards the end, and a few twists that always make for good reading. That being said, I was happy to see her cousins in the rear view mirror at the end of A PAINTING TO DIE FOR. I’d love to see what Jenna will get herself mixed up with in the next installment!

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”B0762D2X2Z” locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

 

When Bunnies Go Bad by Clea Simon

bunnies

Winter is hard in Beauville, where the melting snow can reveal much more than last season’s dead leaves. So when a wealthy, obnoxious tourist and his ski bunny girlfriend surface in Pru Marlowe’s little Berkshire town, she knows she should stay out of their way. The bad-girl animal psychic has to focus on more immediate concerns, including a wild rabbit named Henry, supposedly tamed and illegally living with an eighty-four-year-old lady in her home. Henry, who seems to be acting out and hiding, avoids responding to Pru. Yet when Pru discovers the tourist murdered and his girlfriend’s high-maintenance spaniel falls to her care, she gets dragged into a complicated case of crime and punishment that involves some new friends, an old nemesis, and her own shadowed past. A recent museum art heist draws the feds into the investigation along with a courtly gentleman radiating menace, who represents secretive business interests in New York and shows a surprising awareness of Pru. Her on-again, off-again romance with police Detective Creighton doesn’t stop him from warning her to steer clear of the inquiry. The spaniel, however, lures her in. Pru lives in a world where only her crotchety tabby Wallis knows the whole truth about her past, her flight from Manhattan, and her unique gift that surfaced abruptly one day. Fearing the worst, Pru now comes dangerously close to being exposed. With everything in motion, Pru, Wallis, and everyone they hold dear will be lucky to escape by a hare.

Many thanks to NetGalley and the author for the ARC!

The Queen of Pet Noir is back! BUNNIES is a little darker outing this time, with Pru choosing to do most of the work herself, with minimal input from Wallis. It also seemed that everyone was untrustworthy – whatever things seemed to be on the surface turned out to be the opposite.

Author Simon has a lot going on in this tale, and at times I felt it took a while for the plot to advance. Pru struggles with understanding the “why” and “who”, despite a seemingly simple murder. In the beginning, things appear to be just another murder. But just as snow will melt away, uncovering more detail underneath, the murder turns into two, Pru’s cop beau is taken off the case, and a mysterious gentleman gangster keeps showing up.

For those that haven’t read the first few installments of the Pru Marlowe story, things may not make sense quickly. However, as you read, you will see Pru become more aware of where she is in her life, and what she has become due to her dubious “gift” of being able to communicate with animals.

She learns to accept that things don’t always go as they should; and becomes even closer in a way to those animals that identify as prey. Gangster Benazi continues to keep Pru off balance as he continually alludes to her “gift” – and refers to it openly, much to her dismay.  She is terrified of anyone finding out the truth about her, and through these thoughts Pru understands how prey animals must feel.

It takes a strong person to let your vulnerability show – and Simon shows us Pru in all her incarnations. We see not just a cute story about a woman who can talk to animals; we can see the character evolving and growing into someone more aware of her place in the bigger picture of the world.

Enjoyable as always are the regulars: Growler, Frank, and of course Wallis. We also meet a sweet spaniel who just wants to be next to the man he loves – if only Pru could figure out who he is!

Simon dangles some interesting things in front of us at the end, leaving things open for another book. I know her many fans will be grateful for this, including me!

Want  your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”1464205353″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

The Blue Journal by L.T. Graham

blue journal

When one of Randi Conway’s psychotherapy patients is found dead of a gunshot wound, the investigation is turned over to Lieutenant Anthony Walker.

Formerly a New York City cop, Walker now serves on the police force of an affluent community in Fairfield County, Connecticut.  He lives among the privileged gentry, where he understands that appearances are often far removed from reality.  This certainly proves to be true in the death of Elizabeth Knoebel, when Walker discovers that she had been keeping a private journal entitled “SEXUAL RITES”.

In her diary, Elizabeth was recording the explicit details of her sexual adventures with various men, many of whom were married to the women in her therapy group.  Elizabeth was a predator bent on seducing and, in some instances, humiliating these men, obsessed with a perverse mission that Walker believes led to her murder.

As Walker uncovers the secrets of Elizabeth’s memoir, he becomes convinced that her killer is another of Randi Conway’s patients.

But which one?

 

Thanks to the author for gifting me this book in exchange for an honest review.

This is the first book in a new series by LT Graham (pen name of an undisclosed successful suspense writer). The subtitle is “A Detective Anthony Walker novel”,  hinting that he will continue to be the main character around which the stories will be structured. Graham has done a good job with this one, and I’ll probably look for the second book once it comes out.
The plot is simple: a manipulative woman named Elizabeth Knoebel is murdered, and there is a large cast of characters who are suspects. Her husband is cold and hard to read; her therapist is legally obligated to not disclose anything she’s learned through therapy; and it comes out that Elizabeth was vilified by the other members of her therapy group.
There is some salacious content in the form of a journal that Elizabeth was writing, and the plot revolves around these questions: who are the men (and women) that she seduced, and who hated her enough to kill her?
THE BLUE JOURNAL is a basic police procedural, no fancy words, minimal blood and gore…but lots of suspense and red herrings. All the characters look guilty at one point or another in this book which means the solution is not obvious until the end. Walker is an amiable enough guy, and his background gradually becomes revealed to the reader, making him somewhat of a sympathetic character. There are a few other characters who are perhaps destined to be regulars in this burgeoning series as well, such as the police chief, at odds with Walker’s detective work; and Walker’s sidekick Kovie.
The beleaguered therapist, Randi Conway, seems to have no other patients except her marriage counseling group—they barge in and out of her office at will, and at times she feels that she’s lost control of the therapy. It got annoying to me that she was in such control of her emotions, or perhaps it just seemed that way, compared to Elizabeth’s lusty and conniving behavior.
Graham’s writing style is competent; there are a few loose ends that are not tied up at the end of the book, but that really doesn’t detract from the book as a whole. I would have liked to learn more about Elizabeth’s motivation, why she was writing that journal, why she was playing the games that she did. Her character is killed within the first few pages, and is only mentioned in recollection. The reader mainly gets to know her via her own words, as parts of her journal are included here and there. The x-rated content of the diary seems to be in harsh juxtaposition to the rest of the writing.  I know that the author framed the story this way to give us some insight into Elizabeth’s character, but after the first few times the action was broken up to switch to a journal entry, it just became repetitious. That’s really the only complaint I have about THE BLUE JOURNAL.
All and all, a solid first outing from this mystery writer. We shall see if Graham can keep the momentum going with the next book. Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”1633880605″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

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