What You Don’t See (The Chicago Mysteries Book 3) by Tracy Clark – a #BookReview

A top vanity magazine owner didn’t get to be a media empress without stepping on a few toes.

Book Blurb:

What You Don't See by Tracy ClarkVonda Allen’s vanity magazine has taken the Windy City by storm, and now she’s on her way to building a one-woman media empire. Everybody adores her—except the people who work for her. But who’s sending her flowers with death threats?

As Vonda’s bodyguard, off-duty cop Ben Mickerson could use some backup—and no one fits the bill better than his ex-partner, Cass Raines. But when two of Vonda’s staff turn up dead, Ben and Cass are suddenly locked in battle with an unknown assailant. And when Ben is attacked in the media chaos of a public appearance, Cass is left to find out what secrets Vonda is keeping, who might want her dead, and how she can bring Ben’s attacker to justice.

My Review:

Oh yes, had to grab this one–a mystery, an ex-(female)cop from the Chicago PD. I’m still fascinated with the love affair so many seem to have with Chicago–having moved to “Chicagoland” myself a few years ago and almost nightly tune in to distressing news–I’m amazed there are still people who view the Windy City with affection. (No worse than any large city, I guess, and my son certainly loves working there.) Still so much to learn, however, and the city is pretty amazing.

Cassandra (Cass) Raines is a former Chicago Police Officer now private investigator. She’s been approached by her former partner, Ben Mickerson, pulling off-duty cop assignments, to join him in what is supposed to be an easy, but very profitable assignment. Vonda Allen made it to the top publishing her vanity magazine, but now seems to have garnered the animosity of someone who is sending flowers with death threats. Someone doesn’t like her.

What You Don't See by Tracy ClarkUnfortunately, their first outing with the narcissistic publisher at a bookstore ends in a life and death struggle with Ben ending in the hospital. She failed to follow the assailant, opting instead to stay with Ben in an attempt to save his life. But now it’s personal. She quits Vonda and while Ben is still being stabilized in and out of complications, there are two deaths in connection to the publisher. Cass begins her own investigation.

First, it’s obvious the author has an intimate knowledge of Chicago and I loved the ride-alongs. Cass is streetwise, complex, takes no s**t from anyone. Still, she might go home and dissolve into tears, her tender side overwhelming her. She is sympathetic and compassionate. A survivor. A defender. Dialogue is smart, sassy, and peppered with bits of sharp-witted retort. Also, she has a new love interest.

Characters range from the loathsome (the cop who almost got her killed) to immensely empathetic. I really enjoyed the author’s descriptive writing style.

“My eyes narrowed to reptilian slits.”

“…then fought the cars full of sugared-up shorties streaming into the zoo’s parking lot before naptime.”

In particular, I enjoyed the snappy repartee between Cass and Angela Dotson-Hughes. Dotson-Hughes is a majorly fun character, someone easily pictured in the role she was playing. Unnecessary to know what color she is, she is fun, sharp, fast, serious. Cass continues to search for clues and makes gradual headway even as the well-plotted narrative gathers steam.

There are red-herrings, and I loved the unexpected twist near the conclusion, spiking into a well-crafted climax. Oh, that was neat! Cass’s “family” provides a strong emotional backdrop for her, including an introduction to the father who abandoned her when she was twelve–just a couple little sub-plots here–all neatly tied together. I love it when the conclusion melds so beautifully, leaving the reader with a satisfied smile.

I received this digital download from the publisher and NetGalley and greatly appreciated the opportunity to read and review. My first experience with the series and author, but felt it can work fine as a standalone. Oh, yeah, I’m hooked and looking forward to Book 4. Engaging, entertaining, clean, sweet read. Coming up on release date–look for it!

Add to Goodreads

Book Details:
Genre: Private Investigator Series, Women Sleuths
Publisher: Kensington
ASIN: B07TT3WSQH
Print Length: 352 pages
Publication Date: To be Released May 26, 2020
Source: Publisher and NetGalley
Purchase Link(s):

Amazon   |   Barnes & Noble

 Rosepoint Publishing:  Four-point Five of Five Stars 4.5-stars

Tracy Clark - authorThe Author: Tracy Clark works as an editor in Chicago. In addition to her Cass Raines novels, she has had a short story published in the anthology “Shades of Black: Crime and Mystery Stories by African-American Authors.” A native Chicagoan, she is currently working on her next mystery.

[Author photo and bio from Goodreads] Tracy Clark, a native Chicagoan, is the author of the Cass Raines Chicago Mystery series, featuring ex-cop turned PI Cassandra Raines, Her debut, BROKEN PLACES, made Library Journal’s list of the Best Crime Fiction of 2018 and was short listed in the mystery category on the American Library Association’s 2019 Reading List. CrimeReads also named Cass Raines Best New PI of 2018. The novel was nominated for a Lefty Award for Best Debut novel, an Anthony Award for Best Debut Novel and a Shamus Award for Best First PI Novel. Her second Raines novel, BORROWED TIME, was nominated for the 2020 Lefty Award for Best Mystery Novel. She is the winner of the 2020 G.P. Putnam’s Sons Sue Grafton Memorial Award. You can visit Tracy on Facebook, or go to her author website at tracyclarkbooks.com.

©2020 V Williams V Williams

Past Deeds (Brandon Fisher FBI series Book 8) by Carolyn Arnold – a #BookReview

Book Blurb:

Past Deeds by Carolyn ArnoldThe sun was just coming up, and the sniper’s hands were sweaty as she looked through the rifle’s scope to the streets eight stories below and point eight miles away. In mere minutes, the target would be dead.

A prosecuting attorney is murdered in a sniping that takes place in Arlington, Virginia, less than fifteen minutes from Washington. FBI Agent Brandon Fisher and his team with the Behavioral Analysis Unit are called in to investigate the threat level and to determine if the lawyer was targeted. The FBI hadn’t anticipated previous victims stretching from coast to coast.

The team splits up across the country, but more than jet lag is getting to Brandon. As their profile on the shooter takes shape, their one theory on motive strikes too close to home and has him battling with regret over a past decision. He comes to discover some choices not only haunt us but can have long- and far-reaching repercussions we couldn’t even begin to imagine. Will Brandon be able to set aside his personal issues for long enough to stop a serial killing spree before there’s another victim?

Past Deeds is a gripping psychological crime thriller that will have you flipping the pages as you try to put the clues together faster than the FBI. To stand a chance, you’ll need to unravel the psyche of a killer. This mystery will also make you think and reflect—and you just might wonder if any past decisions you’ve made are stalking you, ready to strike.

My Review:

Special Agent Brandon Fisher and new member Kelly Marsh up from the Miami PD, and Paige Dawson, join Special Agent in Charge Jack Harper of the Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) to investigation the sniper shooting of a prominent prosecutor. There are several POVs; Fisher is first person. Brandon is paired with Paige, which brings back painful memories of their short-lived liaison while Brandon was still married. Jack pairs with Kelly and makes sure he’s constantly on her for speaking up or volunteering any opinions. He’s over-the-top rude, cryptic, and short on directions for a newbie, preferring instead just to throw her in the water to see if she can swim with the sharks.

Past Deeds by Carolyn ArnoldThe case proceeds with tiny new crumbs leading to a possible lead and the agents split after they bring in Nadia, the technie, who discovers there were three other identical deaths spread over the US. What follows is SOP for police procedural, interviews, and making connections.

Brandon Fisher and Paige seem to be reverting to he-said/she said to settle the feelings between each other. Jack is just nasty. Kelly fills the insecure newbie role, second-guessing each of her actions and eventually being reticent to promote any new scenario.

My problem was the shifting of POVs, at times leaving me wondering who was speaking, or even what gender the person was. They didn’t feel like a “unit,” more a disjointed group muddling through personal dilemmas. Seems like they would put forth a theory and then rediscover the same possible theory several pages later.

The antagonist is ex-military, obviously suffering PTSD, but loaded with an additional “trigger” mechanism forcing the mission. The conclusion was contrived and a grievous error given the information they had on the unsub. (In the military, they would call it a “CF.)

I did enjoy a couple quotes, “Not his monkeys, not his circus…” and “‘Fortuna favet fortibus!’ Fortune favors the strong.”

My second experience with this author, the first with this series. While there was an interesting storyline, I couldn’t get into the characters and perhaps I’m just not the right person for this author. There are, however, many others who enjoy the writing style–you might be one.

Book Details:

Genre: Serial Killers, Hard-Boiled Mysteries
Publisher: Hibbert and Stiles Publishing Inc

  • ISBN-10:1988353971
  • ISBN-13:978-1988353975
  • ASIN: B07YNWNYT9

Print Length: 378 pages
Publication Date: Feb 18, 2020
Source: Publisher and NetGalley
Title Link: Past Deeds (Amazon link) 

+Add to Goodreads

Rosepoint Publishing:  Three point Five of Five Stars 3.5-stars

Carolyn Arnold - authorThe Author: CAROLYN ARNOLD is an international bestselling and award-winning author, as well as a speaker, teacher, and inspirational mentor. She has four continuing fiction series–Detective Madison Knight, Brandon Fisher FBI, McKinley Mysteries, and Matthew Connor Adventures–and has written nearly thirty books. Her genre diversity offers her readers everything from cozy to hard-boiled mysteries, and thrillers to action adventures.

Both her female detective and FBI profiler series have been praised by those in law enforcement as being accurate and entertaining, leading her to adopt the trademark: POLICE PROCEDURALS RESPECTED BY LAW ENFORCEMENT™.

Carolyn was born in a small town and enjoys spending time outdoors, but she also loves the lights of a big city. Grounded by her roots and lifted by her dreams, her overactive imagination insists that she tell her stories. Her intention is to touch the hearts of millions with her books, to entertain, inspire, and empower.

She currently lives just west of Toronto with her husband and beagle and is a member of Crime Writers of Canada and Sisters in Crime.

©2020 V Williams V Williams

Here Comes the Body (A Catering Hall Mystery) by Maria DiRico – a #BookReview – #Cozy

Book 1 of a Quirky New Series!

Book Blurb:

Here Comes the Body by Maria DiRicoAfter her philandering husband’s boat went down, newly single Mia Carina went back to Astoria, the bustling Queens neighborhood of her youth. Living with her nonna and her oversized cat, Doorstop, she’s got a whole new life—including some amateur sleuthing . . .
 
Mia is starting work at Belle View, her father’s catering hall, a popular spot for weddings, office parties, and more—despite the planes that occasionally roar overhead on their way to LaGuardia and rattle the crystal chandelier. Soon she’s planning a bachelor party for a less-than-gentlemanly groom. But it goes awry when the gigantic cake is wheeled in and a deadly surprise is revealed . . .

Since some of her family’s associates are on the shady side, the NYPD wastes no time in casting suspicion on Mia’s father. Now, Mia’s going to have to use all her street smarts to keep him out of Rikers Island . . .

My Review:

Here Comes the Body by Maria DiRicoI didn’t connect the author’s name right away with Ellen Byron who wrote one of my happy favs last year regarding the Cajun/Bayou mystery Fatal Cajun Festival, but I recognized the author photo. Now here is Book 1 of a new series with another magnetic setting and premise–her father, former mafioso, is trying to go legit with a catering business. She will function as his event planner/sales/manager. The Belle View Banquet Manor is in Astoria (Queens in NYC) near La Guardia Airport. Window-rattling planes coming in for a perfect landing and, thankfully, this building has good bones and in spite of the planes, the land a good location.

The protagonist Messina (Mia) Carina returned from Florida after her no-good husband disappeared in a boating accident leaving her a widow…maybe or maybe not (? She was eventually cleared of being a suspect in his disappearance). Now Mia is sharing a two-family structure in a Queens neighborhood with her grandmother. Nonna lives in one unit with Hero, her dog, while Mia shares her quarters upstairs with the Abyssinian cat she named Doorstop. DOORSTOP?! Knew I was going to love this one right there! A cat named Doorstop. Now that’s funny, y’all. And that is an indication of the subtle shades of humor sprinkled through this delightful romp into the catering business backed by a “GodFather.”

The support characters are wildly unique, full of personality, and utterly engaging. Genuinely Italian, the author develops Nonna beautifully, right down to “hi…are you hungry?” Being a daughter of a (ex?) mob boss has definitely given Mia a persona she’d been happy to discard, but now finding it necessary to reassess. She is close friends with the son of another in the “Family,” and is startled to realize she might have more than friendly feelings for him but then discovers Jamie apparently has a girlfriend. Her brother, Posi, is cooling his heels in the slammer.

While Mia is coordinating her first event, the body found in the cake that was supposed to have been a stripper at the bachelor party wasn’t the stripper but definitely wouldn’t be jumping out of anything anymore. Unfortunately, she’d seen this woman before and there is an apparent connection to her dad, who swears he’s out of the business. His reputation precedes him, however, and the police are quick to jump–in his direction.

Mia, for the most part, seems to have her head on straight. She’s intelligent and handles her clients with a “deal they can’t refuse.” She manages to satisfy even the most outrageous requests. I really liked the characters of Jamie, Nonna, and her dad and the inclusion of the Mafia connections–handled delicately and respectfully. The police in charge of the investigation is not the best and brightest of the force, an old device in cozies and one of my few complaints.

The well-plotted mystery sped up heading into the conclusion and included a rather hair-raising climax although I must admit the final reveal set my head spinning. Still, overall this is a most entertaining debut for this series and I’m keen to continue as I can see there are endless possibilities where these characters might go.

I was given this digital ARC download in exchange for an honest review and greatly appreciated the opportunity to read. This is going to be a fun, engaging series with a compelling setting that I’m looking forward to continuing. Recommended to those who enjoy a good cozy mystery and, by the way, do you know what Cookie Cup Shot Glasses are? There is an amazing recipe for this most unusual cookie/liquor/liqueur/milk dessert at the back of the book.

Book Details:

Genre: Amateur Sleuth Mysteries, Cozy Culinary Mysteries
Publisher: Kensington Books

  • ISBN-10:1496725344
  • ISBN-13:978-1496725349

ASIN: B07R8WYLSC
Print Length: 304 pages
Publication Date: To be released February 25, 2020
Source: Publisher and NetGalley
Title Link: Here Comes the Body
+Add to Goodreads 

Rosepoint Publishing: Four Point Five of Five Stars 4.5-stars

Maria DiRico - authorThe Author: Maria DiRico (the pen name of award-winning author Ellen Byron) was born in Queens, New York, and raised in Queens and Westchester County. She is first-generation Italian-American on her mother’s side. On her father’s side, her grandfather was a low-level Jewish mobster who disappeared in 1933 under mysterious circumstances.

While growing up in Queens, Maria/Ellen’s cousin’s uncles ran the Astoria Manor and Grand Bay Marina catering halls. MARDI GRAS MURDER, the fourth book in Ellen Byron’s bestselling Cajun Country Mystery series, won the 2018 Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel. The series has also won multiple Best Humorous Mystery Lefty awards from Left Coast Crime. Fun fact: she worked as cater-waiter for Martha Stewart, a credit she never tires of sharing. Maria/Ellen loves to translate what she learned from Martha into recipes for her books.

©2020 V Williams V Williams

Lion on Fire – a #BookReview

Lion on Fire by Ted Galdi

Title: Lion on Fire: a Casino-Heist Thriller by Ted Galdi

Genre: Currently #13 on Amazon Best Sellers Rank in Kindle ebooks, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Crime Fiction, Heist, and #25 in Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Crime Fiction, Organized Crime

Publisher: Precipice Books

Publication Date: December 12, 2017

Source: Direct author request

Title and Cover: Lion on FireCover carries the title theme

Little brothers can be a real trial! (Mine kept our entire family hopping.) Brian Rolson, the protagonist/hero in this novel has the same problem that many of us have faced with younger siblings. Brian’s younger brother Kip has gotten himself into a world of trouble–this time selling illegal drugs. Having extra money made him loose and careless and now he is in a world of hurt. Continue reading “Lion on Fire – a #BookReview”

The Secret of the Lost Pharaoh – a Book Review

The Secret of the Lost Pharaoh by Carolyn ArnoldTitle: The Secret of the Lost Pharaoh (Matthew Connor Adventure series-Book 2)

Genre: Currently #1342 on Amazon Best Sellers Rank in Kindle eBooks, Literature & Fiction, Action & Adventure, Men’s Adventure

Publisher: Hibbert & Stiles Publishing Inc.

Publication Date: To be released April 17, 2018

Source: Request from Senior Book Publicist, Hibbert & Stiles Publishing Inc.

Title and Cover: The Secret of the Lost Pharaoh – Beautiful cover holds promise

“In Egypt’s Western Desert lies the tomb of an unnamed pharaoh that hides a secret so powerful, it could destroy the world as we know it.”

This is the second in the new series with protagonist archaeologist and adventurer Matthew Connor. He’s very successful at finding legends long thought forgotten or lost. Flirting with a power from the Emerald Tablets that promises knowledge of the universe, he MUST accept a former colleague’s invitation in the search. She has stumbled upon an Egyptian hieroglyphic map that is sure to lead them to a pharaoh’s tomb and the Emerald Tablets. Matthew’s only demand for acceptance is that his best friends (romantic interest) Robyn Garcia and Cal Myers accompany the team. Of course, it isn’t long before they realize that recovering the tablets won’t be easy and they are no longer the only ones looking for the tablets. Continue reading “The Secret of the Lost Pharaoh – a Book Review”