Saturday, February 22, 2020

Firewatching by Russ Thomas

I've been a fan of Ann Cleeves' series for years. Now, Russ Thomas' debut, Firewatching, introduces a police procedural with characters that are as tortured as hers, and complex plots that remind me of Cleeves' books. I'm already a fan of Detective Sergeant Adam Tyler.

Tyler often wondered if the one-man South Yorkshire Cold Case Review Unit was actually expected to solve cases, or if it was just a PR stunt. However, he had solved a few of those cases, so he pushed his way into one that could be high-profile. When builders knocked down a wall in an old house, they found a skeleton behind the wall. Until DNA results came in, they could only assume it was Gerald Cartwright, a prominent businessman who disappeared six years earlier. Detective Inspector Doggett already has a suspect in mind. Unfortunately, it's Tyler's one-night stand from the night before, Cartwright's son.

Tyler knows he'll be off the case if he reveals he knows the suspect. And, he desperately wants to work this case. So, he doesn't reveal his secret, although it won't take long for a smart detective to figure it out. But, Adam Tyler isn't the only one with secrets. Two elderly women, Edna and Lily, with connections to the Cartwrights, have secrets. Lily is even receiving blackmail notes saying "I know what you did." But, Lily herself doesn't remember what she might have done.

While the investigating team's interest is in the murder, a fire investigator brings multiple local fires to Tyler's attention. He's convinced those fires are connected to a fire six years earlier at the Old Vicarage, the house where the victim's body was found. But, what none of them know is the person setting the fires is building up to a dramatic conclusion while writing about each blaze and the history of fires on a blog. By the time they figure that out, their crime scene, suspects, and Adam Tyler may all go up in flames.

Firewatching is a dramatic story combining tortured characters, murder, and arson. Tyler himself is one of those troubled figures, tortured by his father's death and mother's disappearance. Those incidents are eerily similar to ones in the present investigation. But, he's a fascinating figure, another one of those detectives who lacks social skills while possessing keen investigative instincts.

If you appreciate Ann Cleeves’ intricately plotted stories with complicated protagonists, you'll welcome another British series into that collection. Tortured characters and the fires ignite a dramatic debut in Firewatching.

Firewatching by Russ Thomas. G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2020. ISBN 9780525542025 (hardcover), 368p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Winners and a Lying Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last giveaway. Charlotte W. from Covington, GA won The First Mistake. Dianne C. will receive the copy of First Cut. The books are going out in the mail today.

This week, I'm giving away crime novels about liars. Christina McDonald's book is Behind Every Lie. "If you can't remember it, how do you prove you didn't do it?" Eva Hansen wakes up in the hospital after being struck by lightning, and learns her mother, Kat, has been murdered. Eva was found unconscious down the street, but she can't remember what happened. Then she learns the police suspect her. It's only when she heads to her mother's former home to unravel her secrets that she realizes someone doesn't want her to know the truth. Eva doesn't know who to trust. Least of all herself.

In Joanna Schaffhausen's All the Best Lies, FBI agent Reed Markham is haunted by one unsolved mystery, who murdered his mother years earlier. Baby Reed lay in his crib near his mother when she was stabbed to death more than forty years earlier. The trail is so cold that the Las Vegas Police Department has given up on the case. Then a shattering family secret changes everything Reed knows about his origin, his mother, and his adoptive father, a state senator. Unable to trust his family, Reed enlists a friend, suspended cop Ellery Hathaway to join his quest in Vegas. Far from home, the two rely only on each other to trace Reed's twisted family history, knowing they'll uncover a vicious killer who has been hiding in plain sight for forty years.

Which crime novel would you like to win? You can enter to win both,  but I need separate entries. Email me at Your subject heading should read either "Win Behind Every Lie" or "Win All the Best Lies." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end Thursday, Feb. 27 at 5 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

What Are You Reading?

Thursday. How many times have I told you it's my favorite day of the week? Let's talk about what we're reading this week.

Today was my deadline for reviews, so I'm reading nonfiction. It's a break from a straight crime fiction diet. I'm reading Janice Kaplan's The Genius of Women: From Overlooked to Changing the World. Kaplan is the author of The Gratitude Diaries. Naturally, I haven't had much time to get into it, but  it's a little startling. How about the comment that 90% of Americans believe that geniuses are always men? Or, when asked to name a genius, people mentioned Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, Steve Jobs. Great women? In one survey, the only female genius anyone named was Marie Curie. I'll admit, I'm as guilty as others on that last one. But, I certainly wouldn't have said geniuses are always men. I think this book is going to be an eye-opener. In just looking at chapter headings, Kaplan mentions RBG, women scientists, Nobel Prize winners, and Geena Davis. The book is quite readable, too.

So, what are you reading this week? I'm sure I'm not the only one who is curious.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Tina Kashian, Guest Author

Tina Kashian, author of the cozy mystery, On the Lamb, in guest author today. Although I reviewed it on Monday, here's the blurb for the book. And, don't forget to check below the recipe for a giveaway!

Lucy Berberian is busy preparing her family’s Mediterranean restaurant for Easter on the Jersey Shore—but a batch of sweets is to die for . . .

Bikers are thundering into the seaside town of Ocean Crest for the annual Bikers on the Beach gathering that raises funds for injured veterans. It’s a big boost for the Kebab Kitchen, as well as for local businesses like Melanie Haven’s candy shop. But Melanie is about to find herself in a sticky situation.

When Melanie and Lucy attend a beach bonfire, a local landlord is found dead after apparently choking on a piece of salt water taffy. Melanie, who was known to have a contentious relationship with the victim, is quickly skewered as the prime suspect. But Lucy is determined to prove her friend’s innocence before the real killer coasts free . . .

Thank you, Tina, for taking time to write a post today.

Thank you for inviting me to chat with your readers about my new release, “On the Lamb.” It’s the
fourth book in my Kebab Kitchen Mediterranean mystery series.

I grew up in a family-owned restaurant in New Jersey, and my Kebab Kitchen Mystery Series is set in a Mediterranean restaurant at the Jersey shore. In “On the Lamb,” Lucy Berberian is a recovering lawyer who returns to Ocean Crest, NJ and her family’s restaurant, Kebab Kitchen. Managing a restaurant is hard work and when Lucy is invited to a beach bonfire with friends, she’s excited for a night out.

But things take a turn for the worse when a disliked, local landlord shows up on the beach and gets in a screaming match with one of Lucy’s friends, Melanie Haven, owner of Haven Candies on the boardwalk. And when that same landlord is found dead on the beach after apparently choking on a piece of Melanie’s salt water taffy, Melanie is in a sticky mess of trouble. It’s up to Lucy to investigate and help her candy maker friend before salt water taffy disappears from the boardwalk forever.

Many scenes in the series take place on the Jersey shore boardwalk. I vacationed at the Jersey Shore as a kid and we continue to visit with my two girls every summer. Which made me wonder about the history of salt water taffy. 

This type of candy is a favorite on the Jersey shore boardwalk and originated in Atlantic City. Salt water taffy doesn’t include any salt water, but is made from lots of sugar, butter, corn syrup, and flavoring. It’s cooked, cooled, and then pulled and stretched to make the candy softer. During a storm in 1883, the name, salt water taffy, was coined after David Bradley’s candy shop was flooded with ocean water and all the taffy was soaked in seawater. Bradley told a customer that all he had was “salt water taffy,” and the name stuck.

When we visit the Jersey shore boardwalk every summer, we watch the taffy stretching machine in the window of the boardwalk candy stores. The two original candy stores, Fralinger’s and James’ candy shops, are still in business, and we buy salt water taffy and fudge from each every summer.

I’m sharing a Mediterranean recipe for lamb kebabs from my own family’s restaurant below (the lamb is featured in “On the Lamb” as well!)

Angela’s Lamb Kebabs with Tomato Sauce
2 pounds leg of lamb or beef tenderloin, boned, with fat removed, and cut into 1-inch cubes
2½ tablespoons tomato paste
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper to taste
2½ tablespoons lemon juice or red wine vinegar
1 onion sliced

Tomato Sauce
4 tablespoons butter
1 diced onion
2 beefsteak tomatoes, seeded and diced
¼ teaspoon paprika
Salt and pepper to taste

Place meat in bowl. Add tomato paste, oil, paprika, cayenne, lemon or vinegar, and onion. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

To prepare the tomato sauce, heat butter in a skillet. Sauté onions till lightly golden. Add tomatoes. Cook for 10–15 minutes. Add paprika, salt and pepper.

Thread meat onto skewers. Grill the skewers over a charcoal fire. Turn the skewers until the meat is cooked on all sides. Pour warm tomato sauce onto a platter and place cooked kebabs on top. Enjoy!

For a chance to win a signed, print copy the first book in the series, HUMMUS AND HOMICIDE, please share. What is your favorite candy? (U.S. Residents only to win).

Buy Links:
Barnes & Noble:
Google Books:

Author Bio:
Tina Kashian, previously published as Tina Gabrielle, is a bestselling author, an attorney, and a mechanical engineer whose love of reading for pleasure helped her get through years of academia. Tina spent her childhood summers at the Jersey shore building sandcastles, boogie boarding, and riding the boardwalk Ferris wheel. She also grew up in the restaurant business, as her Armenian parents owned a restaurant for thirty years. Tina’s books have been Barnes & Noble top picks, and the first book in her Kebab Kitchen Mediterranean mystery series, Hummus and Homicide, spent six weeks on the B&N bestseller list. Please visit her website at to join her newsletter, receive delicious recipes, enter contests, and more!

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

The Lucky One by Lori Rader-Day

You know what I like about Lori Rader-Day's suspense novels? She takes ordinary women, and puts them in unusual situations, but gives them the intelligence and abilities to solve their own problems. The Lucky One introduces two lost young women who find unexpected answers in the middle of lies.

Alice Fine was a victim, but she survived. She was kidnapped as a child, but her policeman father rescued her that same afternoon. He packed up the family, though, and moved them from the small Indiana town to Chicago, and he changed careers. Now, he's co-owner of King & Fine, a construction company, and Alice works in the office. Her father has always been there for her, hovering over her, and protecting her. However, after her broken engagement, Alice is chafing under the restraints of her father's watchfulness.

Alice spends her spare time browsing a website called The Doe Pages, looking for clues to missing people. She knows she was the lucky one, found and rescued while she was still alive. There are so many unidentified people out there. But, she recognizes one of them on the site. A missing man looks like the man she remembers as her kidnapper. So, she turns to her co-voluntteers on The Doe Pages to help her find answers.

Merrily Cruz is also looking for answers, after the police take her from her workplace to ask her about a missing man, one she only knows as Uncle Rick. She, too, has more questions than answers, and her mother won't tell her anything about the one afternoon she remembers when they visited Uncle Rick in Indiana.

What do two young women actually know about their distant childhoods? When Alice and Merrily actually meet, both women are reluctant to accept the other's reality as truth. What if everything you've ever believed about your own life is a lie? Who do you trust?

Rader-Day's protagonists are always ordinary women. Neither of them have superpowers or strengths to extract themselves from unusual situations. They rely on their own skills and a great deal of questions to find answers. And, they're unwilling to quit until they find satisfactory answers, even if the truth is uncomfortable. Once again, in her latest suspense novel, The Lucky One, Rader-Day has introduced unforgettable characters.

Lori Rader-Day's website is

The Lucky One by Lori Rader-Day. William Morrow, 2020. ISBN 9780062938077 (paperback), 400p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.

Monday, February 17, 2020

On the Lamb by Tina Kashian

I remember when I read Tina Kashian's first Kebab Kitchen mystery, Hummus and Homicide. At the time, I felt as if she ticked off all the boxes for a cozy mystery. Now, with the fourth in the series, On the Lamb, it's a polished mystery. Kashian does an excellent job with an appealing cast of characters and a charming small town, touristy setting. If you're a fan of Jenn McKinlay's Cupcake mysteries, check out this series with its equally enjoyable cast.

Lucy Barbarian is the manager of her family's Mediterranean restaurant, Kebab Kitchen, at the Jersey shore. She's dating the chef, Azad Zakarian. But, she really needs an apartment that is not a bedroom in her best friend's home. Her brother-in-law, a realtor, finds an upstairs apartment in a house.The apartment with a view comes with a few strings attached. One is Eloise Lubinski, the eccentric landlady. The other is Eloise's smarmy nephew, Gilbert, who wants to put his aunt in assisted living so he can take over the house.

Lucy meets Gilbert for the first time when he shows up on the day she's moving in, accusing her of moving in on his aunt. The second time is at the bonfire on the beach during the annual Bikers on the Beach motorcycle rally to raise money for injured veterans. Gilbert causes a scene, demanding money from one of Lucy's fellow store owners. Melanie Haven, owner of Havens Candies, seems to hate Gilbert. But, when the man is killed on the beach that same night, Lucy knows Melanie didn't do it. She tops the police suspect list, though, and begs Lucy to find the real killer.

Even with Lucy's best friend, Katie, as her partner in criminal investigation, it's not easy to question all the business owners who seem to have a grudge against Gilbert. His personal and business life is strewn with enemies, from his wife who was on the verge of divorce, to his tenants in his condo complex, to his aunt. With all the clues pointing to Melanie, though, Lucy has her work cut out for her.

Now, the Kebab Kitchen series is just what it should be. By the fourth book, we're past that initial stage when the amateur sleuth is always a suspect. Now, it's just what I like, a cast of interesting friends, community members, and suspects in an enjoyable mystery. On the Lamb is a story of a small community turned upside down, then righted again when a killer is found. And, what can be any better for an ending that a celebratory dinner with family and friends?

To top it off, Tina Kashian shares her own family recipes at the end of the book. Those Armenian American recipes are as enticing as this mystery itself. I hope you accept my invitation to return on Wednesday when Tina Kashian is guest blogger.

Tina Kashian's website is

On the Lamb by Tina Kashina. Kensington Books, 2020. ISBN 9781496726056 (paperback), 352p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The author sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

The Duke and I by Julia Quinn

I actually had no intention of reviewing Julia Quinn's historical romance, The Duke and I. However, there are several reasons to discuss this one. It's an older book that originally came out in 2000, although this edition has the added 2nd epilogue. So, I was pleasantly surprised that the featured duke deals with a stuttering disorder that is an essential element of the plot. It's the first in the Bridgerton series. And, that eight volume series will appear on Netflix in 2020 as the Bridgerton series, under Shonda Rimes production company. Rimes is responsible for Grey's Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away with Murder. Julie Andrews will voice the unseen role of Lady Whistledown, whose scandal sheets are fun and important in the books. The Netflix connection is important enough that I thought I'd mention The Duke and I.

Simon Basset didn't return to England until his father died, and Basset became Duke of Hastings. Although the older duke had wanted an heir, when his son didn't speak until he was four, and then he stuttered, the duke rejected Simon. As much as the young man struggled and wrote letters to his father, and tried to speak properly, the few times they met the meetings were so stressful that both left, one in anger, the other feeling rejected. By the time Simon returned, his best friend from school, Viscount Anthony Bridgerton, warned him he would be a catch for every husband-hunting debutante and their mother. Anthony knows, as the oldest of eight in the family, and a man with four sisters.

One of those sisters, Daphne, has been out for two years to the despair of her mother. Oh, the men like her, but as a sister or friend. They don't see Daphne as a romantic interest or prospect for marriage. After they both had some dreadful moments at a ball, Daphne and Simon hatch a plot. They're going to pretend to form an attachment. So, Simon will be safe from designing mothers because he has no intention of marrying. And, Daphne will attract other suitors. If a duke is interested in her, maybe they should be, too.

It's easy to see a problem coming along. Daphne starts to fall in love with Simon. Although he never wants to marry, Simon finds that he's jealous when other men court Daphne. Oh, there are going to be problems.

The characters are absolutely delightful in the first in the series. With such a charming family, it's easy to see why the series was picked up by Netflix. But, I'd rather read the books. It's fun to see the protective older brothers. Violet, the Bridgerton mother, is a force to be reckoned with. She's smarter and funnier than her children give her credit for. The chapter notes from the scandal sheet, "Lady Whistledown's Society Papers", give forewarnings of what's going to happen. Those are witty and clever, and everyone in the ton, in society, eagerly awaits the gossip. And, of course, there's Simon Basset. The messages in this book about children who stutter and how they suffer are powerful messages. With this edition, and the inclusion of the 2nd epilogues telling about the characters twenty years later, that message is enforced, with notes about love and patience.

I'll be returning to the Bridgertons world. It's timely to review Julia Quinn's The Duke and I.

Julia Quinn's website is

The Duke and I by Julia Quinn. Avon, 2000, 2015. 408p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book