Sunday, August 19, 2018

Have You Heard? Victoria Laurie's A Glimpse of Evil

It's time to share another one of Sandie Herron's reviews for those of you who enjoy audiobooks. This time, it's the eighth in Victoria Laurie's Psychic Eye series, A Glimpse of Evil. Thank you, Sandie.

A Glimpse of Evil                                                     

Series:  Psychic Eye Mystery Book 8
Written by Victoria Laurie
Narrated by Eileen Stevens
Unabridged Audiobook
Listening Length: 8 hours and 28 minutes
Publisher: Audible Studios
Release Date: July 6, 2010
**** stars

It's almost too much to believe that Abby and her FBI boyfriend Dutch would both find jobs in the same FBI office in Texas as opposed to Michigan AND be followed individually by home contractor Dave, Dutch's old best friend from the police department, while Candace preceded them there and had already bought her condo as had Bryce, Dutch and Abby's boss. They all arrived separately but coincidentally for all different reasons.

It felt a lot like old home month, but the office was a new environment for Abby. She was working with the cold case squad, and by weeks' end had reached the group's goal for the year! Abby didn't do that alone nor did she claim to. However, her boss Bryce, also Candace's boyfriend although they both were too unsteady to admit that, changed the group's methodology in that same first week.

Bryce immediately saw the value in Abby's skills. He had her prepare a lecture/lesson for the squad to show and teach her intuitive ways. No one showed up. However, they all went the following week when she taught them how to gain access to their own feelings. With the interactive fashion of "show and teach," the group was much more enthusiastic.

Candace and Abby began working a case of three missing and likely dead pre-teen girls. It became entangled in a dangerous accident, distraught friends, and an ex military man. A group back at the squad was working another case that Abby also felt was at some turning point at the same time. The excitement and anxiety ratcheted up and up.

I can only tell you that the solution caught the eye of several higher ups who want Abby to save her country. How? I think we have to read onward to find the answer.

Sandie Herron

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett

I think I'm getting a little tired of the escapades of Stephanie Plum-like characters. Although Kellye Garrett's second Detective By Day mystery,Hollywood Ending, is set in Hollywood, apprentice private eye Dayna Anderson and her best friend, Sienna, are a little too Stephanie and Lulu for me.

After solving a hit-and-run case, former commercial spokesperson Dayna Anderson wants to become an apprentice in training to cop turned private investigator Aubrey Adams-Parker. She thinks she’s found the perfect case when Lyla Davis, spokesperson for the upcoming Silver Sphere Awards event, is killed at an ATM. Dayna’s boyfriend, hot actor Omari Grant, had been at that ATM just minutes earlier. Dayna teams up with her best friend, Sienna Hayes, a reality star wannabe, and uses her wiles and connections to probe the social media secrets of Hollywood’s biggest stars. Some people have secrets worth killing for, and Lyla Davis seems to have known them all. Dayna’s soon caught up in Hollywood gossip, while trying to push Aubrey to become licensed as a PI so she can continue her own adventures. Dayna’s schemes are sidetracked when she realizes she’s picked the wrong person as a killer. In Hollywood, what’s one more false story?

In Hollywood, everyone has an angle. Sienna always wears red, and even hires a paparazzi to follow her around and take pictures. It's all about publicity, gossip blogging, who's dating who. And, so much of the world is pretend. All the deception makes it hard for Dayna to get an angle on the killer. Then, there's the mysterious Z who keeps showing up "to help" as Dayna's investigating.

Fans of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum will feel right at home with the outrageous mistakes and sexy men. Garrett spent eight years working in Hollywood, including writing for Cold Case. The author’s insider knowledge of Hollywood adds to the humor. Maybe I'm just not interested in clothes and shoes and makeup and Hollywood celebrities. I'm the wrong audience for Hollywood Homicide.

Kellye Garrett's website is

Hollywood Ending by Kellye Garrett. Midnight Ink, 2018. ISBN 9780738752976 (paperback), 312p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received Hollywood Homicide to review for a journal.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Winners and Story Collections

Congratulations to the winners of the last giveaway. Jane N. from Vashon, WA won These Honored Dead. Suzanne R. of Nashville, TN will receive A Tale of Two Murders. The books will go out in the mail today.

This week, I'm giving away two interesting collections - mystery stories. The first one, The Night of the Flood, is a novel told in stories. E.A. Aymar and Sarah M. Chen edited the collection about the night Maggie Wilbourne was to be executed in Pennsylvania. A group of women protesting the execution struck, blowing up a local dam and flooding the town of Everton. Fourteen new authors wrote chapters in this engrossing book, authors such as Jenny Milchman, Wendy Tyson, Alan Orloff and Hilary Davidson.

Ten Year Stretch celebrates a decade of crime fiction at CrimeFest in England. Twenty brand new stories were commissioned to celebrate the anniversary. Martin Edwards and Adrian Muller edited the collection. The original stories were written by authors such as Maj Sjowall, Simon Brett, Lee Child, Ann Cleeves, Ian Rankin and Jeffery Deaver.

Which collection 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 The Night of the Flood" or "Win Ten Year Stretch." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end Thursday, August 23 at 5 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

What Are You Reading?

I really only read the first two pages of this book. I'm reading mysteries again for next Wednesday's deadline. But, I started Jonathan Santlofer's memoir The Widower's Notebook. It's not going to be easy to read the story of his wife Joy's sudden death, and his attempt to push through the grief. There are eleven quotes from other authors at the front of the book. Andrew Solomon's comments were the ones that summed up the book I'm expecting to read. "The Widower's Notebook is a searing rendition of the complex relationship between men and grief - an intense despair that is too often starved for words. This chronicle of devastation is itself devastating, a deeply powerful and unflinchingly honest report of how painfully and strangely life continues in the wake of a sudden, tragic death."

I don't mean to start your day on a somber note. But, that's what I'm starting to read. What are you reading or listening to this week?

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

An Interview with Paula Matter, author of Last Call

I've been waiting to read Paula Matter's debut mystery, Last Call. Readers of the blog know my schedule -  read frantically for deadlines; crash; read for myself for about a week; repeat. I'm looking forward to getting to this book. In the meantime, I asked Paula if she'd answer interview questions. She was kind enough to agree. Thank you, Paula. (And, if you read the entire interview, you'll discover an opportunity to receive a signed copy of Last Call.)

Paula, would you introduce yourself to readers?    

Hi Lesa, thanks for having me visit your awesome blog! I guess I’ll just offer my official bio: Paula Matter is the author of the Maggie Lewis mysteries which take place in a small town in North Florida. Paula’s short crime fiction stories have been published in USA and German anthologies. After losing her job as a catering server, Paula decided instead of getting yet another job as a waitress/bartender/activities director/etc., she’d tackle her mystery novel again. Last Call is her debut novel.

Originally from Miami, FL, Paula kept moving north until she settled in north central Pennsylvania. A proud mom of one son, she lives with her husband The Saint, and worthy-not-spoiled rescue dog in a valley surrounded by beautiful mountains.

Tell us about Maggie Lewis.

Maggie is younger, taller and nicer than I am. Actually, we were the same age when she appeared in another novel I’d written some years ago. My critique group loved Maggie, who was a somewhat minor character. She was funny and feisty. My agent at the time couldn’t sell that book. When I came up with the general idea for Last Call, I knew Maggie had to be front and center.  Readers of Last Call are saying they like how real she is, and how she develops from being sort of surly and sad to having more control over her life. 

Tell us about Last Call, without spoilers.

The story takes place in North DeSoto, FL (a fictional town based on a few places in Florida I love) where VFW bartender Maggie Lewis is framed for the murder of her least favorite customer. Financially strapped, Maggie's suspended from her job after being questioned for the murder of tattle-tale Korean war veteran Jack Hoffman. She's not taking any chances on the police looking too hard for the real killer. They still haven't solved the last murder in town: Maggie's husband's. Maggie must produce enough evidence to clear her name, get her job back, and find the real killer--or she'll end up behind the wrong bars.

What can you tell us about the next Maggie Lewis book?

In Last Supper, Maggie will be working as a cook at Sally’s Diner. If you’ve read Last Call, you’ll appreciate the irony.  Despite some minor mishaps in the kitchen and money still being tight, Maggie starts to regain her sense of security…until her least favorite customer persnickety spinster Helen Pritchard comes down with food poisoning after eating at Sally’s Diner. When an outbreak of salmonella sickens several patrons, and the Health Department shows up at their door, it becomes clear that someone is out to sabotage Maggie’s boss and close down the diner. With the help of her tenant, newly licensed PI Michael Bradley, Maggie must track down the culprit before he kills more than just the business.

Midnight Ink is a well-respected publisher. Tell us about your publishing journey. Everyone’s is different. How did you learn they were going to publish Last Call?

Oh, what a fun journey this has been! I still pinch myself. I’m waiting for the call or email that says, “Oh, we’re sorry. We meant to publish Paul Mather’s book.”

My fabulous editor Terri Bischoff rejected it , but with a list of suggested revisions. If I revised and resubmitted, she’d take another look. I revised, sent it back to her. Six months later, Terri emailed me saying she wanted some more info that she could share with the acquisitions team. I responded very professionally with “Wait, what?! You liked it?” Then I sent her what she wanted. A few weeks later, I received a three book contract. 

What has been the most exciting moment in relation to your book?

A dear friend took a photograph of Last Call on a bookstore shelf. She--if I’m allowed to name drop, Ramona DeFelice Long--then posted the photo on Facebook. It was my first “in the wild” sighting! I’d love to see more of them. Whoa. Lesa, may I have a giveaway? I’ll give one person (US only, please) a signed copy of Last Call if a photo of my book is taken and posted on my Facebook author page.  Include your name and the location of where the photo was taken. I’ll leave it up to you if you want to take a selfie with the book. The winner will be randomly selected within one week after this interview is up on Lesa’s blog and the giveaway starts.  

What authors influenced you?

Oh, what a difficult question to answer! There are so many for different reasons. In no particular order: Hallie Ephron, Lisa Gardner, Lisa Scottoline, S.J. Rozan, Carlene Thompson, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Linwood Barclay are the ones who come immediately to my mind. The suspense, settings, characters are all well written. 

What author do you think is underappreciated?

Annette Dashofy. Her Zoe Chambers books are magnificent.

I’m a public librarian, so I always end interviews in the same way. Tell us a story about your experience with a library or a librarian.

Oh, I wish I could remember her name. I’ve wanted to contact her over the years to thank her for contributing to my love for reading. She was the librarian at my elementary school. After I had read every single age-appropriate book on the shelves, my teacher took me by the hand and led me to the librarian. She spent so much time with me looking for just the right book. I remember vividly the smile on her face when she pulled the book off the shelf. The book was Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski.

Thank you, Paula! 

Paula Matter's website is

Last Call by Paula Matter. Midnight Ink, 2018. ISBN 9780738757827 (paperback), 288p.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Trust Me by Hank Phillippi Ryan

I'm breaking all my own blog rules by reviewing Hank Phillippi Ryan's standalone two weeks before release date. But, Trust Me, you're going to want to pre-order this suspense novel. If it's handled correctly, this should be this summer's Gone Girl. Ryan has been on the bestseller lists, but Trust Me should be her breakout novel, the one readers will remember.

With that kind of lead-in, now I have to say Trust Me is a difficult novel to summarize without spoilers. It's been over a year since Mercer Hennessey's husband and daughter were killed in a tragic accident, but she's still in mourning. So, it comes as a shock to her when her former editor, Katherine Craft, calls her and asks her to take on a book assignment. She wants her to watch the trial of Ashlyn Bryant, a mother accused of killing her toddler daughter, once known as "Baby Boston" when the body was still unidentified. If Ashlyn is found guilty, and everyone seems to assume she will be, Mercer will have just a short time to finish the book. Katherine wants her to tell a narrative nonfiction story, as Truman Capote did with In Cold Blood.

Can one grieving mother tell the story of one who doesn't seem to show any remorse or grief? It's a difficult assignment for Mercer, one that brings back so many of her own memories of her husband Dex and daughter Sophie. But, who better to tell the story of Ashlyn and Tasha Bryant?

Ryan expertly manipulates the characters and the reader in this unconventional, disturbing novel. The complex characters drive the story of twisted truth. What is truth? Ashlyn Bryant, the accused murderer, talks about that. "What she said was the truth as she understood it. I understand it kind of seems like two truths. But two truths can exist at the same time, you know? It's true to her, if she truly believes it."

"Two sides are offering different versions of the same story." Trust Me. The reader has to turn pages rapidly, hunting for the final answers to this complicated story with so many possibilities. Hank Phillippi Ryan's latest novel deserves accolades. Trust Me.

Hank Phillippi Ryan's website is

Trust Me by Hank Pihllippi Ryan. Forge, 2018. ISBN 9780765393074 (hardcover), 400p.

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

Monday, August 13, 2018

Wicked Deeds by Heather Graham

I can always count on one of Heather Graham's Krewe of Hunters suspense novels to drag me back into reading. I should just stockpile the books so that I know I have something I'll always want to read. I'm a little behind, but it doesn't matter.Wicked Deeds is one of my favorites in the ongoing series.

Special Agent Griffin Pryce and historian/writer Vickie Preston are meandering their way to Alexandria, Virginia. They have a little time before Vickie reports to Quantico for training. She's going to join the FBI, and then the elite team of agents who make up the Krewe of Hunters. The agents all have some sort of paranormal abilities, to see or connect with the dead, and they use those abilities in solving crimes.

Vickie has already been involved in several cases. In the first, as a teenage babysitter, she was saved by the ghost of the older brother of the boy she was babysitting. He sent her straight to a young cop named Griffin Pryce. Nine years later, she's been instrumental in solving cases in Boston and Salem. Vickie's special ability? She can communicate with the dead in visions while she's sleeping. In Baltimore, in a historic inn, it seems appropriate that Vickie should see Edgar Allan Poe in her dreams.

Nothing is by chance when it comes to the Krewe of Hunters. Although they're on a romantic trip, Griffin and Vickie are the closest to an unusual crime scene. Franklin Verne, a famous action and horror novelist, has been found dead in the wine cellar at the Black Bird Restaurant. It's a restaurant devoted to Poe, and Griffin and Vickie had dinner there the night before. They're not suspects, although the restaurant staff and members of a Poe-related group, the Blackbird society, are. And, the list of suspects is only narrowed by one when another writer is found murdered, in another death similar to one Poe used in a story.

Wicked Deeds is a complex suspense story. While the current crimes with the connections to Poe are interesting, what is even more fascinating is Poe's own story. Historian Vickie Preston teams up with Poe to discover what really happened in his last days alive. Wicked Deeds indeed.

While I've enjoyed all of the Krewe of Hunters stories, Graham's recent books involving a historian and the paranormal are the most satisfying. History and ghost stories seem to go hand-in-hand. There's so much we don't know about the past. And, Poe is the perfect subject for a haunting tale of evil.

Heather Graham's website is

Wicked Deeds by Heather Graham. MIRA, 2017. ISBN 9780778331063 (hardcover), 315p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Sunday, August 12, 2018

The Man Who Couldn't Miss by David Handler

Fans of Stewart "Hoagy" Hoag will be delighted that he's in a good place in David Handler's latest mystery, The Man Who Couldn't Miss. And, theater fans will enjoy the homage to the greats of the past because it's time to save a historic theater. "Hey, let's put on a show!"

In the summer of 1993, Hoagy is living in his ex-wife's guest cottage on her Connecticut farm, writing away. He's had writer's block for ten years, and he's finally writing something he's happy with. And, of course, he and Lulu, the basset hound, are close to Merilee.

Merilee is directing a one-night only production of Noel Coward's "Private Lives". She's brought in some of her award-winning former classmates from Yale School of Drama for a fundraiser. They hope to save and restore the dilapidated Sherbourne Playhouse, where Katherine Hepburn first performed. Hoagy says it was an "uncommonly gifted class". The former classmates all admit that Robert John Romero, R.J., was once the most gifted of all of them, "the man who couldn't miss". But, R.J. is now blackmailing others, including Merilee.

Nothing goes right before opening night, but the stars all show up, including Katherine Hepburn, to support the show. And, it's a stellar performance, until the curtain has to go down in Act II, when one of the performers is found dead. Now, Hoagy and Lily are on the case, with Hoagy's witty comments and Lulu's noise as weapons.

Fans of the series will welcome Hoagy's wit and his dapper choice in clothing. There's always a great deal of humor in these books, thanks to Hoagy. And, the grand reveal is pulled off with the assistance of the police, not by the sleuth alone.

The Man Who Couldn't Miss is definitely a period piece, featuring celebrities of the early '90s and timely connections that can't be revealed without spoiling the plot. It's Hoagy, Lulu, theater, and The Man Who Couldn't Miss.

David Handler's website is

The Man Who Couldn't Miss by David Handler. William Morrow, 2018. ISBN 9780026412850 (paperback), 256p.

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

Saturday, August 11, 2018

The Coroner by Jennifer Graeser Dornbush

I wonder if I can entice you to try a debut mystery called The Coroner by telling you about the author. The author's bio on the back of the book says, "Jennifer Graeser Dornbush is herself the daughter of a medical examiner, whose office was in her home. She investigated her first fatality, an airplane crash, when she was ten years old. Sine that first case, she has had decades of on-site experience in death investigation and 360 hours of forensic training through the Forensic Science Academy." I think she's at least qualified to write about the medical examiner aspects of this mystery.

Emily Hartsford, a third year surgical resident in Chicago, is accepting a marriage proposal from a fellow surgeon when her cell phone goes crazy. Finally, she takes one of the calls and learns her estranged father had a heart attack. Of course, Emily heads to Michigan to the hospital.

She finds all kinds of surprises when she arrives in her hometown after a twelve-year absence. She didn't even know her father had just remarried. Emily's high school sweetheart, Nick, is now the county sheriff. With her father, the county medical examiner laid up, Nick desperately needs her help to investigate the death of a state senator's daughter, Julie.

Until Emily's resentment about secrets surrounding her mother's death drove her away at age sixteen, Emily hoped to follow in her father's footsteps. Now, when she steps in to help, the autopsy reveals Julie was murdered. What led to the murder of this promising young equestrian? Emily and Nick uncover threats made to the girl, and stories of teen drug use.

Emily is a realistic, believable character who is struggling. When her fiance doesn't rush to join her, and makes assumptions about their future together, she wonders if she made the right decision. She and her father still clash over her mother's death. And, her worries about her return to her hometown are not alleviated when the story ends with a possible tragedy.

The Coroner is a solid debut, an intense, riveting story that combines the coziness of small town familiarity with the sobering reality of drugs and murder. The author's background as the daughter of a medical examiner, and her knowledge, is evident in this novel that leaves room for a sequel.

Jennifer Graeser Dornbush's website is

The Coroner by Jennifer Graeser Dornbush. Crooked Lane Books, 2018. ISBN 9781683316237 (hardcover), 336p.

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

Friday, August 10, 2018

Winners & Historical Sleuths

Congratulations to the winners of the last giveaway. Anita A. from Bellevue, NE and Cindi S. from Greenfield, WI will receive the copies of The Race to Save the Romanovs. I'll put the books in the mail tomorrow.

This week, I'm giving away two mysteries with sleuths from history. A Tale of Two Murders by Heather Redmond introduces Charles Dickens as a sleuth. When two young women are murdered, a year apart, Dickens enlists the help of a fellow journalist and a young woman he's attracted to, his boss's daughter. There are traces of Dickens' future books in the first in a new series.

These Honored Dead is Jonathan F. Putnam's first Lincoln and Speed mystery. Joshua Speed, the enterprising son of a wealthy plantation owner, has struck off on his own, opening a general store in Springfield, Illinois. When an orphaned girl is found murdered, Speed's former girlfriend is the primary suspect. Speed enlists the help of a new friend, a newly minted lawyer named Abraham Lincoln.

Which book would you like to win? You can enter to win both books, but I need separate entries. Email me at Your subject heading should read either "Win A Tale of Two Murders" or "Win These Honored Dead." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end Thursday, Aug. 16 at 5 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

What Are You Reading?

I had an off week for reading this week, just couldn't get into anything new. I'm still reading Helen Rappaport's The Race to Save the Romanovs, which is good, just slow-paced. I have a new box of mysteries to read for review though, and there are some good-looking ones in that box. It will keep me reading.

So, what are you reading or listening to this week? I hope you didn't get bogged down as I did.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

A Tale of Two Murders by Heather Redmond

Heather Redmond launches a new mystery series with Charles Dickens as the amateur sleuth. Dickens, who is working as a journalist, with his eye on a writing career, is a fascinating character in A Tale of Two Murders. It appears that the series will be called "A Dickens of a Crime".

Dickens is at dinner with the Hogarths, his editor's family, when they hear women screaming. Dickens, Hogarth, and the eldest Hogarth daughter, Kate, rush next door where a widow lives alone with her two children. They find Christiana Lugoson so sick that Dickens carries her to her room, and he and Kate tend the ailing young woman. But, Christiana dies within twenty-four hours. The death of a seventeen-year-old bothers Dickens, but he has no proof that something was wrong about the scene. It's only when another journalist mentions a similar death exactly a year earlier that Dickens suspects murder. With his editor's permission, he makes inquiries. He and Kate spend a lot of time together on the investigation. Interviews of young women and their mothers takes a woman's touch. But, the two also use the investigation as an excuse to spend time together.

Redmond who is the author of a romance series, emphasizes Dickens' courtship with his future wife in the first in this historical mystery series. The mystery is convoluted, but the details of Dickens' life and the Victorian world stand out in a the book, although it drags at times. Dickens' interactions with his younger brother, his family, and his fellow journalists is reminiscent of some of his books.

I spent time checking background and Dickens' biography to match the novel with the facts. It's probably an issue when writers use an actual person as the amateur sleuth. Fans of Charles Dickens' works will appreciate the foreshadowing of future writings; character names, plot ideas, and the warm family environment at the Hogarths'. Although readers will understand where the title A Tale of Two Murders comes from, I was more interested in the connections to A Christmas Carol.

Heather Redmond's website is

A Tale of Two Murders by Heather Redmond. Kensington Books, 2018. ISBN 9781496717153 (hardcover), 320p.

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

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Under a Dark Sky by Lori Rader- Day

Darn that Lori Rader-Day. I am not a night person, but once I started Under a Dark Sky, I had to stay up and finish it. It's the story of a troubled woman, caught up in an Agatha Christie nightmare. And, it's just right.

Eden Wallace's husband, Bix, a war hero, has been dead for nine months when she uses his reservation at Straits Point International Dark Sky Park in Michigan. She's hated the dark for years, but, after Bix's death, she's terrified. The stay at the park may send her screaming back to Chicago, or help her find solutions to her fears. But, Eden's reservation at the park isn't what she anticipated, a few nights all to herself in a guest house. Instead, she's just one of seven guests in the house. Yes, she has the suite to herself, but her fellow guests are three couples in their mid-twenties. Five of them went to college together, and it's an anniversary that reunites them.

When one of Eden's fellow guests is murdered in the middle of the night, the police consider all of them suspects. Eden's a stranger, so all the young people view her with suspicion. As she sees it, she's the only one with no motive. Now, she has two mysteries on  her hands. The most immediate mystery is which of the other guests is a killer?

Eden's other mystery is one that has troubled her for nine months. Although she claims Bix made the reservations at the park as an anniversary present, he knew she didn't like the dark and had little interest in the stars. Why is she here? And, what's the truth behind her marriage? She isn't even sure they would have made it to ten years with Bix' PTSD, and other issues. As she observes the relationships between her fellow guests, Eden recalls stories and incidents that help her identify her own feelings towards her late husband, the past, and the future.

As in The Day I Died, Rader-Day introduces an intriguing protagonist with a complicated past. She slowly reveals Eden's story to the reader, through conversations and memories. While there's a locked-room mystery, and Eden is "mixed up in some Agatha Christie shit", as her sister says, Eden herself is the most fascinating part of the story. She's an awkward, haunted woman, trying to find the courage to live with herself.

Rader-Day's skilled use of darkness is so subtle it's only afterwards that the reader notices it.  Eden moves from the darkness of her own soul-draining despair, its isolation, to a murder scene under the beauty found in a dark sky park. There are degrees of darkness in this novel.

Under a Dark Sky is another intense, compelling mystery from an author who excels in placing unconventional characters in dramatic, disturbing situations. To say it's a page-turner is an understatement. Lori Rader-Day's latest book will keep you reading into the dark.

Lori Rader-Day's website is

Under a Dark Sky by Lori Rader-Day. William Morrow, 2018. ISBN 9780062560308 (paperback), 416p.

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

Monday, August 06, 2018

Beyond the Grave by Judy Clemens

Judy Clemens' fifth Grim Reaper mystery, Beyond the Grave, is creepy, disturbing, and darkly humorous. And, it's not the Grim Reaper who makes the novel creepy and disturbing. In fact, he's the comic relief, although he's also a thoughtful entity.

Casey Maldonado is still haunted over two years later by the deaths of her husband and young son. She's been traveling ever since, accompanied by Death, in the form of the Grim Reaper. Or, sometimes, he changes clothes to fit whatever is happening. The Grim Reaper is particularly fascinated by clothes in movies, including Murder on the Orient Express in an early chapter. But, Casey gets off the train because she's desperate to escape all the young children on it. If Casey is looking for peace, she isn't going to find it in Idaho.

In Beltmore, Casey is attacked by three men, but fends them off and flees for shelter to a church. It's there she meets Pastor Sheila, who wants help in cleaning up the evil in the area. She can only trust a female officer because others have ties to the men who attacked Casey. After she makes her report, Casey heads on, ending up in Armstrong, Idaho. From the frying pan into the fire. Armstrong - "It's a strange town with dark undertones. Lots of old grudges, unsolved mysteries, and layers of resentment."

Casey finds a place to stay, with Vern and Dottie, owners of Vern's Market. But, because she's part of their lives, she finds herself caught in the center of the town's troubles. "Something's festering in this town." Although Casey thinks she's moving from town to town to find peace in her own life, she actually ends up taking care of the people around her. And, there's a lot to clean up in this little area of Idaho.

There's a menacing sense of foreboding in Judy Clemens' Beyond the Grave. There's a strong sense of place with the isolated, semi-rural location, and that creates a brooding atmosphere. Only the Grim Reaper provides the humor needed to alleviate the darkness of these towns. Clemens' fifth in the series is an intriguing novel that's hard to put down.

Judy Clemens website is

Beyond the Grave by Judy Clemens. Poisoned Pen Press, 2018. ISBN 9781464209888 (paperback), 280p.

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

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Blessed Be the Wicked by D.A. Bartley

D.A. Bartley's Blessed Be the Wicked may be a debut mystery, but she brings a knowledge of Mormon history and traditions to this intriguing story. The background, as well as the well-developed character of Abish Taylor, combine for a fascinating debut.

Abish Taylor is from a respected Mormon family. Her father is a professor of Church History and Doctrine at Brigham Young University. Yet, she had her reasons for leaving the Church. She moved to New York City, became a police detective, and had a loving, successful marriage. But, her husband's death devastated her, and she moved back to Utah, hoping to reconnect with her family and  nature. Now, she's the only detective on Pleasant View's police force. And, she's viewed with suspicion by all the Mormon men on the force, including her boss, Chief Henderson.

All the insiders keep secrets from Abbie, even at the scene of Steven Smith's death. The men don't really want to investigate when Smith is found dressed in his Temple clothes with his throat slashed. Henderson would like to believe it's suicide because the ritual appearance is reminiscent of blood atonement traditions in the history of the Mormon Church. Despite the opposition from her boss, Abbie and her young partner, Jim Clarke, find multiple reasons someone might have wanted Smith death. They investigate Smith's financial problems, his numerous trips out of the country, and his surprising relations with a young woman. When there's another death, Henderson pressures the two to come to a quick resolution so as not to embarrass the Church. And, Abbie faces additional pressure when her own father asks her not to push the investigation.

Abish Taylor is a believable, authentic character in an environment that readers will find fascinating because many of us lack knowledge of the history and traditions of the Church of Latter-Day Saints. She's in a awkward position, the daughter of a respected man, yet she left the Church. She's considered an outsider, but she must investigate the death of an insider who had a prominent role in the local Church. Abbie has to deal with her rocky relationship with her father, and the lack of understanding from most of her family. She blames herself when the second death occurs. And, she shares her self-awareness. "She clocked in and clocked out...Mostly, though, Abbie could come in, do her work, and leave without having to spend any emotional energy. She'd come back to Utah to escape the memories that ambushed her everywhere in New York. She'd come back to spent time outside. She'd come back to figure out how to be part of her family again. She hadn't come back to face real cases and real work."

In Blessed Be the Wicked, Abish Taylor has to "face real cases and real work". She has to deal with a male hierarchy, one that keeps secrets, and protects its power and traditions. It's an awkward situation for any police detective. It's a wonderful situation for a reader.

D.A. Bartley's website is

Blessed Be the Wicked by D.A. Bartley. Crooked Lane Books, 2018. ISBN 9781683317203 (hardcover), 336p.

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

Saturday, August 04, 2018

September Treasures in My Closet

So, I'm a few days late with Treasures in My Closet. Blame it on not having Internet all of last weekend. It takes time to write up this list. But, you didn't miss anything since these are all September releases. You can still pre-order them or place holds at your local public library.

In Pat Barker's The Silence of the Girls, The Booker Prize winner "turns her attention to the timeless legend of the Iliad, as experienced by the captured women living in the greek camp in the final weeks of the Trojan War. (Release date is Sept. 4.)

Of course Andrea Carter's Death at Whitewater Church caught my attention. It's the first in a series of mysteries set on the Inishowen Peninsula in County Donegal, Ireland. Solicitor Benedicta "Ben" O'Keeffe is acting for the owners of a deconsecrated church when a skeleton is found in a hidden crypt. While everyone  is convinced the bones must be those of a local man who disappeared on his wedding day, the postmortem says otherwise. Ben is fascinated by the cold case. (Release date is Sept. 4.)

One of my favorite books on this list is Cleo Coyle's The Ghost and the Bogus Bestseller. I've waited almost ten years for the next Haunted Bookshop Mystery. Coyle was writing this series under the name Alice Kimberly. This new title is written as Cleo Coyle and it brings back bookshop owner Penelope Thornton-McClure and the ghost of 1940s private investigator Jack Shepard. People are dying to read the biggest bestseller of the year - actually dying. First one customer, then another has a fatality connected to the book. Pen and Jack must solve the real-life cold case. Those of you who haven't read the series might be interested to know the author was inspired by  the movie "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir". (Release date is Sept. 25.)

Secret Undertaking is the latest in Mark de Castrique's Buryin' Barry series. When someone shoots at the Grand Marshal in Gainesboro, North Carolina's Apple Festival Parade, funeral director and part-time deputy Barry Clayton, Sheriff Tommy Lee Wadkins and local insurance agent Archie Donovan, Jr. find themselves caught up in big-time crime involving the U.S. Marshals and the Witness Protection Program, as well as food stamp fraud. (Release date is Sept. 4.)

In Dark Sky Island by Lara Dearman, an inspector and journalist join forces to uncover long buried secrets, simmering resentments, and a chilling murder in a remote island in the English Channel. The tiny island of Sark is the world's only Dark Sky Island. It may be a picture of tranquility, but at its hearts lies a web of murder, deceit, and hidden danger. When an elderly resident is murdered, and bones are discovered, DCI Michael Gilbert from the nearby island of Guernsey is called to tackle the case. Joining him is newspaper reporter Jennifer Corey, whose father died in a mysterious drowning off the island. Together, they must discover the truth. (Release date is Sept. 11.)

Hank Green's debut novel is An Absolutely Remarkable Thing. "The Carls just appeared. April May stumbled upon one of them in Manhattan at three in the morning. Gleaming. Regal. Terrifying. She makes a video with her friend Andy. She didn't know there would be more. She never thought her video would launch her to international stardom. She couldn't have predicted that the Carls were part of something bigger, and stranger, than anyone could have possibly imagined. And soon, she will be too." (Release date is Sept. 25.)

Phillip Rochester made their lives a living hell. Now, in Jo Jakeman's The Exes' Revenge, three women will get their revenge in a gripping and darkly satisfying thriller. (Release date is Sept. 11.)

When I read Sofie Kelly's last book, I was surprised to find I actually enjoyed the magical cats Hercules and Owen. They're back, along with library Kathleen Paulson in The Cats Came Back.  When a singer's best friend is found dead, and the two look similar, the question is, who was the intended victim? (Release date is Sept. 4.)

In Archer Mayor's latest Joe Gunther novel, Bury the Lead,  Gunther and the Vermont Bureau of Investigation are investigating a murder and an arson case - both may be related to a potential outbreak of ebola. (Release date is Sept. 25.)

Hitting the Books is Jenn McKinlay's new Library Lover's Mystery. Librarian Lindsay Norris is standing at the window when she sees a car appear to deliberately hit the local tennis coach. While everyone seems to love the woman, when there's a second attempt on her life, questions come up. Is she the target, or is someone out to hurt her wealthy fiance? (Release date is Sept. 11.)

Mary McNear continues her Butternut Lake series with The Secrets We Carried. These books are only loosely connected by the location, with a few characters overlapping, but you can read them as standalones. After ten years away, journalist Quinn LaPointe returns to her hometown when there is a ceremony to dedicate a memorial to classmates who died when they were seniors. Quinn, who still blames herself for the tragedy, is only one of a handful of people who think they could have prevented the deaths. (Release date is Sept. 25.)

Margaret Mizushima brings back Officer Mattie Cobb and her K-9 partner Robo in Burning Ridge. When first one body, and then another, are found on Colorado's Redstone Ridge, there's a terrible connection to Mattie and the past she really doesn't know. She and the rest of the police department investigate, along with veterinarian Cole Walker. But, Walker has to team up with Robo when Mattie goes missing. (Release date is Sept. 11.)

A Borrowing of Bones, Paula Munier's debut mystery, introduces two heroic dogs as well as their owners. Retired soldiers Mercy Carr and Belgian Malinois dog Elvis discover a baby in the woods on 4th of July weekend. The incident brings Game Warden Troy Warner and his search and rescue dog Susie Bear into the story. And, then it becomes a case because Elvis finds a body nearby. Now the four must work together to track down a missing mother, solve a cold-case murder, and keep the citizens of Vermont from a dangerous holiday. (Release date is Sept. 11.)

Gabrielle Zevin, author of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, uses five words to describe Rebecca Serle's novel The Dinner List. "Wistful. Delicious. Romantic. Magical. Love." We've all played the game, who would you invite to a dinner party, dead or alive. In this one, Audrey Hepburn is one of the guests. (Release date is Sept. 11.)

P.J. Tracy's Monkeewrench novels are some of my favorite ones, combining police procedural with computer technology and personal connections.  The Guilty Dead is one of the best in the series as Minneapolis detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth look into the death of a philanthropist while the Monkeewrench team try out a new program that shows a possible terrorist attack right downtown. (Release date is Sept. 11.)

Ashley Weaver takes readers back to 1930s London in the latest Amory Ames mystery, An Act of Villainy. Amory and her husband Milo run into a wealthy investor and actor, Gerard Holloway, who invites them to the dress rehearsal of his new play. Amory is shocked to discover he's cast his mistress, Flora in the lead. And, Gerard actually invited them so they could discover who has been sending Flora threatening letters. Despite her misgivings, Amory and Milo try to find a killer after the threats escalate. (Release date is Sept. 4.)

And, more! Here are the books I didn't summarize. They all have September release dates.

Ackerman, Elliot - Waiting for Eden (Sept. 25)
Akhtar, Amina - #Fashion Victim (Sept. 11)
Brackmann, Lisa - Black Swan Rising (Sept. 8)
Buzzelli, Elizabeth Kane - In Want of a Knife (Sept. 11)
Carlisle, Anna - In the Darkest Hour (Sept. 11)
Edugyan, Esi - Washington Black (Sept. 18)
Gayle, Stephanie - Idyll Hands (Sept. 4)
Gertcher, Frank L. - The Dark Cabin Murders (Sept. 1)
Kalteis, Dietrich - Poughkeepsie Shuffle (Sept. 11)
Klinenberg, Eric - Palaces for the People (Sept. 11)
Logan, T.M. - Lies (Sept. 11)
Lourey, Jess - Mercy's Chase (Sept. 8)
Noreback, Elizabeth - Tell Me You're Mine  (Sept. 4)
Oleksiw, Susan - Below the Tree Line (Sept. 8)
Saviano, Roberto - The Piranhas (Sept. 4)
Shteyngart, Gary - Lake Success (Sept. 4)
Today, Daniel - Boomer1 (Sept. 18)
Wassmer, Julie - Murder on the Pilgrims Way (Sept. 18)
Wortham, Reavis Z. - Gold Dust (Sept. 4)

Friday, August 03, 2018

Winners and a Russian Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last giveaway. Nancy H. of White River Junction, VT won Fiction Can Be Murder. Jeannette G. from Benicia, CA will receive Broken Places. The books will go out in the mail today.

This week, I have two copies of Helen Rappaport's nonfiction title, The Race to Save the Romanovs. It's subtitled "The Truth Behind the Secret Plans to Rescue the Russian Imperial Family". I haven't finished my copy yet, but it's a fascinating examination of the connections between the royal families of Europe, and the politics that prevented a rescue attempt. Rappaport, who is also the author of The Last Day of the Romanovs and The Romanov Sisters, includes information in the text about her research, and, sometimes, the inability to access papers.

If you'd like to win a copy of The Race to Save the Romanovs, email me at I'll make it easy to enter. Your subject line should read "Win Romanovs." Please include your name and mailing address. The contest will end Thursday, Aug. 9 at 5 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Thursday, August 02, 2018

What Are You Reading?

Have you had time to read or listen to books this week? What are you reading?

I'm reading a fascinating book of history and politics, with a little bit of speculation thrown in. It's Helen Rappaport's The Race to Save the Romanovs. It's about the interconnected royal families in Europe, and the plots and plans to try to save the Russian Tsar and his family at the time of the Russian Revolution. I can tell you that the overall conclusion is that Nicholas and Alexandra did not want to leave their beloved country. I'll be giving away copies of this book, either this Friday or next.

And, I just finished a book that was a gift from a friend who knows how much I love Ireland. It's called The Feckin' Book of Everything Irish by Colin Murphy and Donal O'Dea. It has some crude humor, but also includes a glossary, words to Irish songs, and Irish recipes. It was fun.

What are you reading this week?

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

A Gathering of Secrets by Linda Castillo

Linda Castillo knows how to put a twist in a story. Poor Kate Burkholder, Police Chief of Painters Mill, Ohio, has a number of twisted tales and statements to try to tie together in A Gathering of Secrets.

Within six months, two Amish teenagers die tragically. It's not until Daniel Gingerich is murdered, locked in a barn when the barn is set on fire, that Burkholder learns of the earlier death. In the course of the investigation into Daniel's death, someone mentions Emma Miller. The young woman hanged herself six months earlier. It's unusual for the Amish community to have two violent deaths in such a short time.

Although Daniel appeared to be a golden boy, well thought of by all the adults in the community, some of the younger people, even his former best friend, tell a different story. Kate knows there are secrets that led to the young man's death. And, as she probes into his past, Kate finds too many similarities to the tragedy of her own youth. Those similarities haunt her, cause nightmares, and she finds herself making bad decisions at times, based on her past experiences.

Castillo's novels have always included the patient gathering of evidence. While I wouldn't call Castillo's books police procedurals, the reader follows along as Burkholder questions witnesses, follows clues, discusses the case. In A Gathering of Secrets, her significant other, John Tomasetti, from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, steps up to the plate to listen and be there as Kate struggles with the case, her past, and her own conflicted feelings about the victim.

There's always been a family atmosphere with Burkholder's small group of police officers. That's part of the enjoyment of these books, observing the close-knit group of officers as they come together to support each other in good times and bad. There are both in this book. If you follow the series for the return of this team, you'll appreciate this story. And, of course, the setting in Ohio's Amish country, with the information about the people, is appealing.

If the commentary on A Gathering of Secrets doesn't seem to say too much about the book, there's a reason. Although there are twists, the ending didn't come as a surprise. There were signs that pointed in the direction of the conclusion of the case. But, I can keep a secret, as so many of the characters in the book try to do. And, I don't want to spoil the ending for those who have waited a year for the return of Kate Burkholder, Tomasetti, and her team. Just know, there are a number of threads to tie together in Castillo's latest intriguing novel, A Gathering of Secrets.

Linda Castillo's website is

A Gathering of Secrets by Linda Castillo. Minotaur Books, 2018. ISBN 9781250121318 (hardcover), 320p.

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