Gambling with Murder: A Southern California Mystery by Lida Sideris – #BookReview – #TuesdayBookBlog

Book Blurb:

Gambling with Murder by Lida SiderisA late-night call is all it takes for rookie lawyer Corrie Locke to kiss her day job at the movie studio goodbye, and do what she does best: flex her sweet P.I. skills and go undercover to find a senior who’s missing from a posh retirement community. One small stumbling block: skirting past security to gain inside access to the exclusive Villa Sunset. Time to call in the heavy artillery. Besides former security guard turned legal assistant—now wannabe P.I.—Veera, Corrie relies on a secret weapon: her mother, a surprisingly eager addition to Corrie’s team. Armed with enough pepper spray to take down a band of Navy Seals, Mom impersonates a senior to infiltrate the Villa, Corrie and Veera in tow. Turns out the job’s not as easy as they’d thought. These seniors have tricks tucked up their sleeves and aren’t afraid of using them.

The action gets dicey when the missing senior case turns into attempted murder by a criminal mind who’s always one step ahead. Corrie’s hot on the trail, but finds more than she bargained for…when her mother becomes a target.

My Review:

Oops! The fifth in the series and my first. I think I may have missed something. Wannabe PI Corrie Locke (also a newly minted lawyer) is trying her chops at finding a missing person. Villa Sunset is an exclusive retirement home in Santa Barbara and, yes, that is a gorgeous, very expensive area of southern California. The author sets the reader up for beautiful views, ocean-scented air, and palms swaying in the gentle breeze.

Gambling with Murder by Lida SiderisThe novel is a cozy mystery and moves at a laid-back pace. Corrie is joined by her best bud, Veera, a former security guard, and apparently this entry to the series, Corrie’s mother, who proves to be the interesting character (for me). Because it’s a senior community, they need her mother to be their “in.” It appears to work as she is readily accepted and they “temporarily” tag along.

It is supposed to be a senior community, but these seniors are apparently not only “active” but bored and tend to come off more as “geriatric delinquents” than seniors. But nothing is simple, even in a cozy mystery, and things begin, slowly, to become more complex adding characters to the plot, threads, and twists.

The author writes with wit, coining some interesting and funny phrases:

“…he regarded me with the disdain reserved for a virgin eggnog.”

“I can spot a liar like a hawk can spot a grasshopper.”

“I’m not doing it. I’d stick out like a raisin in a jar of mayonnaise.”

At about seventy percent, the narrative begins to heat up and the pacing finds the gas pedal. At this point, there are a lot of issues to clarify which do get ironed out in conclusion following a fairly low-key climax.

I’m not sure whether it was because I started well into the series or there was just too much minutia that didn’t help keep the plot on track, but I found it too slow for me. The dialogue could be humorous at times, however, there were occasions when action got a bit over the top and the residents too juvenile. I am a senior but these characters didn’t ring true for me.

I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the author and publisher through @NetGalley that in no way influenced this review. These are my honest thoughts.

Rosepoint Rating: Three-point Five Stars 3 1/2 stars

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Book Details:

Genre: Women Sleuths
Publisher: Level Best Books
ASIN: B09QYW2VYG
Print Length: 318 pages
Publication Date: March 29, 2022
Source: Publisher and NetGalley

Title Link(s):

Amazon   |   Barnes & Noble  |  Kobo

 

Lida Sideris - authorThe Author: Lida Sideris first stint after law school was a newbie lawyer’s dream: working as an entertainment attorney for a movie studio…kind of like her heroine, Corrie Locke, except without the homicides. Lida was one of two national winners of the Helen McCloy Mystery Writers of America Scholarship Award for her first book and a Killer Nashville, Silver Falchion Award Finalist for her fourth book – Slightly Murderous Intent. Lida lives in the northern tip of Southern California with her family, rescue dogs and a flock of uppity chickens.

“A smart caper with a heroine to match.” – Kirkus Recommended Review

“…An excellent read. It has everything needed for a cozy afternoon curled up on the sofa – murder, mystery, humor, and plenty of action. The plot is extremely detailed and so well written that I found myself hooked on page one.” – Readers’ Favorite

Bio for The Cookie Eating Fire Dog:

Lida Sideris loves baking and eating all kinds of cookies. Never, ever leave her alone with a batch of fresh baked cookies…if you want any left for yourself. She is the author of a Southern California Mystery series. This is her first book for children. When she’s not writing, she’s running a legal non-profit in Southern California. Lida is a lawyer and mother of two human and two canine kids. She is an avid supporter of the three R’s: reading, writing and rescue dogs.

“The story is charming and readers will love Dan.” – Readers’ Favorite

“If you have any little aspiring firefighters at home, Lida Sideris has penned an adorable and motivating tale that is just perfect for them…the lesson is solid, and as Dan learns the value of selfless acts, so will many young readers” – IndiesToday

©2022 – V Williams V Williams

#TuesdayBookBlog

The Necklace by Matt Witten – #BookReview – #TuesdayBookBlog

Trigger Warning: Sexual Abuse, Murder of a Child 

Book Blurb:

The clock ticks down in a heart-pounding crusade for justice

The Necklace by Matt WittenSusan Lentigo’s daughter was murdered twenty years ago—and now, at long last, this small-town waitress sets out on a road trip all the way from Upstate New York to North Dakota to witness the killer’s execution.

On her journey she discovers shocking new evidence that leads her to suspect the condemned man is innocent—and the real killer is still free. Even worse, her prime suspect has a young daughter who’s at terrible risk. With no money and no time to spare, Susan sets out to uncover the truth before an innocent man gets executed and another little girl is killed.

But the FBI refuses to reopen the case. They—and Susan’s own mother—believe she’s just having an emotional breakdown. Reaching deep, Susan finds an inner strength she never knew she had. With the help of two unlikely allies—a cynical, defiant teenage girl and the retired cop who made the original arrest—Susan battles the FBI to put the real killer behind bars. Will she win justice for the condemned man—and her daughter—at last?

My Review:

Susan Lentigo has spent twenty miserable years following the kidnap, rape, and murder of her seven year old daughter. The death of her daughter understandably changed her life and as much as she tried, and failed, to move on, she is finally to witness the execution on death row of the man convicted for the brutal murder.

The Necklace by Matt WittenAt the time, she carried a rage for the man convicted, and asked of the judge the death penalty. (Susan later harbors nagging doubts regarding the man she was sure responsible. Something just wasn’t right.) It was a heinous crime, a necklace homemade by Susan and her daughter still missing, thought to be a trophy.

Okay, back up.

She is still in the same house, the same waitressing job, and as broke as ever since her husband left her within the year of their daughter’s death. The little town kicked off a fundraiser to supply funds for the trip to North Dakota to witness the execution. She’ll take a bus and the fundraising covers the fare with some expense money left over.

Susan blew hot and cold for me—I could understand her anger, the emotionally charged forthcoming event, but some of her snap decisions left me wondering about her objective decision-making. The money given to her was stolen, leaving her broke and at the generosity of people, some of whom made for amazing support characters. I got tired of her alternate rude behavior, however, lashing out with foul language, or withdrawal. Her trip got sidetracked.

She begins to rack up some clues, flaming her doubts again about the condemned man, but the person of interest instead now is even more devastating. Susan determines she must prove her theory. Fortunately, she can ally with the former FBI agent involved in her daughter’s case and he’ll help with DNA analysis of her clue.

After a somewhat sullen, somber start, the pace revs up and by the time they arrive at the prison to witness the execution, the fast-pace swings into high gear and demands full on attention, gripping, and riveted to the conclusion.

Well, and then, the conclusion—while satisfying on the surface—neglected to complete a few minor details. That, along with a couple plot holes, contradictions, pushed me off a higher star rating. Yes, I was kept glued during the latter third (quarter?), but pushed just a bit beyond disbelief a couple times as well. 3.5 stars

I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher and NetGalley and these are my honest opinions. Currently on pre-order.

Rosepoint Rating: Three point Five Stars 3 1/2 stars

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Book Details:

Genre: Amateur Sleuth Mysteries, Psychological Thrillers
Publisher: Oceanview Publishing
ASIN: B08SR91BD4
Print Length: 259 pages
Publication Date: To be released September 7, 2021
Source: Publisher and NetGalley 

Title Link(s):

Amazon   |   Barnes & Noble  |  Kobo

Matt Witten - authorThe Author: [Matt Witten] I’ve written in all kinds of genres: TV shows, stage plays, novels, and movies.

Novels: My thriller THE NECKLACE will come out in September, 2021, published by Oceanview Publishing. It’s optioned for film by Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way and Cartel Pictures. Lee Child says: “This is as fast and tense as a great thriller should be, but it’s full of warmth and humanity too – one small-town woman’s quest for the most poignant kind of justice you could imagine. Buy it today and read it tonight!” For more info on the novel you can check my website, mattwittenwriter.com.

I’ve written four mystery novels starring amateur sleuth Jacob Burns. These books were all originally published by Signet; now they’re all available on Kindle. The first novel, BREAKFAST AT MADELINE’S, received the Malice Domestic Award. The Library Journal called BREAKFAST AT MADELINE’S “the perfect antidote for a rainy day.” Publishers Weekly, reviewing GRAND DELUSION, said “Witten delights with his charming characters, especially Burns himself.” The Romantic Times said, “Told with warmth and wit, STRANGE BEDFELLOWS is a wry story that packs a wallop of an ending.” Murder Express called THE KILLING BEE “a fast, witty, thoroughly engrossing novel that I was sorry to see end.”

TV: I’ve written for House, Law & Order, Pretty Little Liars, Medium, Homicide, CSI: Miami, Judging Amy, Supernatural, and other shows.

Plays: My published plays include The Deal, Washington Square Moves, and The Ties That Bind. They’ve been produced in theatres all over the world.

Movie: My movie DRONES, directed by Rick Rosenthal and starring Matt O’Leary and Eloise Mumford, premiered in 2014 at the London Film Festival, the Austin Film Festival, and the AFI Fest. It’s available at Amazon.

So that’s my professional life in a nutshell! My wife Nancy Seid teaches at Crossroads School in Santa Monica, and our sons Zack and Jacob do machine learning, CRISPR, and all kinds of amazing stuff.

©2021 V Williams V Williams

The Secret Staircase: A Mystery (Victorian Village Mysteries Book 3) by Sheila Connolly – #BookReview – #TuesdayBookBlog

Rosepoint Publishing: Five Stars 5 stars

Book Blurb:

From New York Times bestselling author Sheila Connolly, The Secret Staircase is the third Victorian Village Mystery, which finds Kate Hamilton discovering a long-dead body in a hidden staircase.

The Secret Staircase by Sheila ConnollyKate Hamilton is feeling good about her plans to recreate Asheboro, Maryland as the Victorian village it once was. The town is finally on her side, and the finances are coming together.

Kate’s first goal is to renovate the Barton Mansion on the outskirts of town. Luckily, it’s been well maintained in the century since the wealthy Henry Barton lived and died there. The only substantial change she’s planning is to update the original kitchen so that it can be used to cater events in the building. But when the contractor gets started, he discovers a hidden staircase that had been walled in years earlier. And as Kate’s luck would have it, in the stairwell is a body.

After her initial shock wears off, Kate is relieved when the autopsy reveals that the man had died around 1880. Unfortunately, it also reveals that his was not a natural death—he was murdered. And serious questions remain: who was he and what was he doing there?

Kate begins a hunt to identify the man and figure out what he was doing at the Barton Mansion. But when a second body is found—this time from the present day—Kate realizes that real dangers lie in digging up the past…

His Review:

A forgotten estate on a large parcel of land has been designated a historical landmark. Kate Hamilton is a city girl who has come back to her home town of Asheboro to make a tourist attraction of the Henry and Mary Barton mansion and grounds. Local donors and the Mid-Atlantic Power Company have provided funds for the renovation and refurbishing. Overall, the “bones” of the property are sound.

The Secret Staircase by Sheila ConnollyThe property was last lived in over 110 years ago and was basically locked and abandoned. Henry Barton had left an endowment to maintain the property and the grounds. One of the town mayors absconded with the money and the property has fallen on hard times. Kate loves her hometown of Asheboro and sets out to recreate the properties grandeur and opulence. She will work on the physical property and her good friend Carroll Peterson will research the history of the property and the family that lived there.

Henry and Mary Barton were the only couple to occupy the mansion. There is little record of them in the community although Henry was a captain of industry in the town, helping to employ most of its’ residents. First a shovel company and then a lighting factory soon gave the community a robust economy. Mary and Henry were reclusive and not much is known about them. Kate and Carroll set out to change that and develop a tourist attraction to help revitalize the community.

Sheila Connolly develops her characters well and attaches mystery and drama to the story. A hidden staircase is found behind a false wall in the kitchen and the drama blossoms. A hundred plus year old mummified corpse is found inside the staircase and the mystery begins to unfold. CE Williams

This story takes you on a rollercoaster ride of historical secrets. How did the body get there and who was the victim? Can the answers be found and the mansion turned into a city attraction? Read the story and see if you are satisfied by the outcome. 5 stars – CE Williams

We received a complimentary review copy of this book from the author and publisher through NetGalley that in no way influenced this review. These are his honest opinions. The book is set to release next Tuesday. [Note: I’ve read two other novels by this author, each in a different series: Digging Up History, and The Lost Traveller but wasn’t quite as thrilled as was the CE with this one.]

Book Details:

Genre: Amateur Sleuth Mysteries, Amateur Sleuths, Cozy Mystery
Publisher: Minotaur Books
ISBN: ‎ 1250135907
ASIN: B0818PKLL1
Print Length: 299 pages
Publication Date: August 24, 2021Source: Publisher and NetGalley
Title Link: The Secret Staircase [Amazon] 
Barnes and Noble
Kobo

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Sheila Connolly - author
Sheila Connolly

The Author: After collecting too many degrees and exploring careers ranging from art historian to investment banker to professional genealogist, Sheila Connolly began writing in 2001, and has now published over thirty traditional mysteries, including several New York Times bestsellers.

Her series include the Orchard Mysteries (Berkley Prime Crime), the Museum Mysteries (Berkley Prime Crime), The County Cork Mysteries (Crooked Lane Books), the Relatively Dead Mysteries (Beyond the Page Press), and beginning in 2018, The Victorian Village Mysteries from St. Martin’s Press.

Her first full-length, standalone ebook, Once She Knew, was published in October 2012.

Connolly has also published a variety of short stories: “Size Matters” appeared in the 2010 Level Best Anthology, Thin Ice; “Called Home,” a short prequel to the Orchard series, was published by Beyond the Page in 2011; and “Dead Letters,” an e-story featuring the main characters from the Museum series, will be published by Berkley Prime Crime in February 2012. Beyond the Page also published “The Rising of the Moon,” and another Level Best anthology includes “Kept in the Dark,” which was nominated for both an Agatha award and an Anthony award for 2013.

She is passionate about genealogy, both American and Irish, and is a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Society of Mayflower Descendants. She is also an Irish citizen and owns a cottage in West Cork.

She lives in a too-big Victorian in southeastern Massachusetts with her husband and three cats. Find out more about her at her website, http://www.sheilaconnolly.com

©2021 CE Williams – V Williams – V Williams

The Vineyard Victims by Ellen Crosby – #Audiobook Review

The Vineyard Victims by Ellen Crosby

Book Blurb:

The death of a former presidential candidate in a fiery car crash at her Virginia vineyard has ties to a 30-year-old murder, as well as to Lucie Montgomery’s own near-fatal accident 10 years ago, as she searches for a killer who now may be stalking her.

When Jamison Vaughn – billionaire real estate mogul, Virginia vineyard owner, and unsuccessful US presidential candidate – drives his gold SUV into a stone pillar at the entrance to Montgomery Estate Vineyard, Lucie Montgomery is certain the crash was deliberate. But everyone else in Atoka, Virginia, is equally sure that Jamie must have lost control of his car on a rain-slicked country road. In spite of being saddled with massive campaign debts from the recent election, Jamie is seemingly the man with the perfect life. What possible reason could he have for committing suicide? Or was it murder?

Before long, Lucie uncovers a connection between Jamie and some of his old friends, an elite group of academics, and the brutal murder 30 years ago of a brilliant PhD student. Although a handyman is on death row for the crime, Lucie soon suspects someone else is guilty. But the investigation into the two deaths throws Lucie a curve ball when someone from her own past becomes involved, forcing her to confront old demons. Now the race to solve the mystery behind the two deaths becomes intensely personal as Lucie realizes someone wants her silenced – for good. 

My Review:

Book 8 in the Wine Country Mystery series, I reached back aways for this one. I’ve enjoyed the Wine Country series and the aura, mystique, and history of the Virginia vineyards and countryside. There is always more to learn about the craft of wine making.

The Vineyard Victims by Ellen CrosbyIn this installment, Lucie Montgomery witnesses a horrific accident at the same location she experienced the accident that resulted in her permanent disability. She tries to rescue billionaire and unsuccessful US presidential candidate Jamison Vaughn but was driven back by the flames. The accident—or was it an accident?—starts an investigation into his death that ultimately reaches back thirty years. Something he said to her before Jamie died—and she’s promised to deliver the message.

This particular entry became multi-layered, tying not only the former presidential candidate, but her own past. She has never forgiven her ex-boyfriend for the accident and her injuries and it still weighs heavily on her.

When she gets closer to the secrets held so long, people told her to back off. But she wouldn’t and didn’t and with the help of her fiancé Quinn, discovers the shocking truth. In so doing, she may have found, at long last, the way to ease her burden as well.

This entry just didn’t grab me as well of two previous reads, The Angels’ Share and Harvest of Secrets. I suspect because of the complexity involved in the plot, the normal share of history and wine making secrets devolved well into the background and concentrated instead on the mystery.

I’ve tended to jump around and borrowed whatever I could and each have been interesting though obviously I have my favorites. It’s a series I’ll continue reading or listening to.

Book Details:

Genre: Amateur Sleuth Mysteries, Cozy Mysteries, Women Sleuth Mysteries
Publisher:  Blackstone Audio
ASIN: B0778Z14SP
Listening Length: 7 hrs 57 mins
Narrator: Christine Marshall
Publication Date: November 14, 2017
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: The Vineyard Victims [Amazon]

Rosepoint Publishing:  Three point Five of Five Stars 3 1/2 stars

Ellen Crosby - authorThe Author: Ellen Crosby is the author of the Virginia wine country mysteries, two mysteries featuring international photojournalist Sophie Medina and MOSCOW NIGHTS, a standalone. THE FRENCH PARADOX, the 11th book in the wine country series will be out 1/29/21 in the UK, 4/6/21 in the US and 3/1/21 as an ebook. Before writing fiction, Crosby–who has lived in England, France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, and the former Soviet Union–worked as a freelance reporter for The Washington Post, an economist at the US Senate, and Moscow reporter for ABC Radio News. Visit her website at http://www.ellencrosby.com and follow her (very) occasionally on Facebook at EllenCrosbyBooks, sometimes on Twitter at @ellencrosby–but mostly on Instagram at ellencrosbyauthor. She also writes an erratic (but interesting) newsletter.

 

Christine Marshall - narratorThe Narrator:  Christine Marshall is an actress, director, and designer who makes her home in Maine. She is a member of the Mad Horse Theatre Company and the Maine State Ballet, works on many independent Maine theater projects and films, and appears regularly on local commercial television. As a narrator, she recently won her first Earphones Award from AudioFile magazine for her work on Dancer.

©2021 V Williams V Williams

#ThrowbackThursday – A View to Die For by Richard Houston

Throwback Thursday - featuring A View to DIE For

Renee began the #ThrowbackThursday meme on her blog, It’s Book Talk to share some of her old favorites as well as sharing books published over a year ago. Hopefully, you’ll find either a story or author that interests you and you’ll check them out. And, if you’d like to join the fun, you’re welcome to use Renee’s pic from her website. Just provide the link back to her please).

This week I am highlighting Richard Houston, another terrific, prolific author who wrote A View to Die For, #1 in the series, which I reviewed on Goodreads. He has actually written a number of books in the Books To Die For series. I also read #2, A Book to Die For (also downloaded from BookBub). If you’ve been reading this blog for any period of time, you know I’m a sucker for dog pics or doggy stories. Read this for the dog, Fred. (I hoped he lived more than two books. To see why, read the review that follows.) This novel was published on October 8, 2012. Houston consistently runs approximately four stars for any of his books sold on Amazon. Just look at that face!

Originally posted May 29, 2014

Continue reading “#ThrowbackThursday – A View to Die For by Richard Houston”

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