The Missing Sister by Elle Marr – a #BookReview #thriller

Did CE, the Vicarious Blogger* love this one?

Book Blurb:

An Amazon Charts bestseller.

The Missing Sister by Elle MarrIn Paris, her twin sister has vanished, leaving behind three chilling words: Trust no one.

Shayna Darby is finally coming to terms with her parents’ deaths when she’s delivered another blow. The body of her estranged twin sister, Angela—the possible victim of a serial killer—has been pulled from the Seine. Putting what’s left of her life on hold, Shayna heads to Paris. But while cleaning out Angela’s apartment, Shayna makes a startling discovery: a coded message meant for her alone…

Alive. Trust no one.

Taking the warning to heart, Shayna maintains the lie. She makes a positive ID on the remains and works to find out where—and why—her missing sister is hiding. Shayna retraces her sister’s footsteps, and they lead her down into Paris’s underbelly.

As she gets closer to the truth—and to the killer—Shayna’s own life may now be in the balance…

My Thoughts 

Debut author Elle Marr apparently hits it out of the ballpark with The Missing Sister.

Officially released on April Fool’s Day, she has garnered more than 3,000 ratings on Goodreads but at less than a 3.61 average. At kinder, gentler Amazon, just over 500 ratings (as of April 2) with a 3.9 average rating (one day after release). Someone did one bang-up job of promoting and marketing because it certainly had the buzz before it hit the official board.

The location of Paris is a crucial component of the well-plotted suspense identical twin device. Shayna, the twin purportedly favored by their parents for being the serious goal-driven half, has come to identify and return home with the body of her sister. But the message she finds in Angel’s apartment contradicts that the body they possess at the Paris morgue might be she. Trust no one should mean that…but Shayna is also the damaged twin.

It is Angela that received the wild side, at times pushing her twin well beyond her boundaries. Angela appears to have found a more accepting “family” in the Parisian academic scene, where she was pushing through a doctoral degree. It would seem she had a comfortable safe location close to her studies and specifically the catacombs underneath the city–until she disappeared and “found” days later in the River Seine.

Here is my problem: Shayna has a finite amount of time to either claim the body and return home with it, or, feeling she would have “felt” it if her sister died, has the same short time to find her alive. But why would she be hiding? And the pace slows

Shortly upon her arrival, the reader is introduced to the first of a number of suspicious characters, red herrings, lovely jaunts through the city and atmospheric street-side cafes. (Brought back so many memories, though most of ours consisted of the cathedrals since that was where we were singing.) In between the sojourns, she digs into Angela’s papers, belongings, anything looking for additional twin-type clues. She finds an occasional clue, but they come painfully slow. The process doesn’t get really serious until near the conclusion and Shayna makes some bad choices in between.

There is shared history to examine, the relationship between the twins (as with my own father, the identical twin deemed the bad one), and the secret–that awful secret between them that drives what appears to be a permanent wedge. (In the case of my dad and uncle also a permanent one. I never understood that, until additional information came out long after his death.) In this case, I couldn’t identify with either Shayna nor Angela, and while I enjoyed the travelogue, didn’t the French characters. The big reveal doesn’t exactly come as a shock–you might have guessed it all along–but I did enjoy the hair-raising climax and finally getting the real skinny.

A meaningful effort for a debut and I can see where this author will grow into a compelling storyteller–this was a good start. Just wish it hadn’t been spoon-fed quite so sparingly. This is one you’ll either connect with or won’t, but may provide some entertainment in the meantime. I received this digital download from the publisher through NetGalley and greatly appreciated the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of a name you’ll see on award lists. 3.5/5 stars

His Thoughts

The Missing Sister by Elle MarrIdentical twins are at times a psychological mystery. Elle has wrapped this up masterfully in this tale of intrigue and suspense involving identical twins. They have many of the characteristics I have read about including developing their own language and calligraphy.

Families always seem to have dominant and recessive individuals within siblings. Our twins, Shayna and Angela, are no exception to the rule. Angela is the strong dominant twin and Shelby is the recessive twin, or is she? A death of both their parents while Angela is completing a Doctorate at the Sorbonne in Paris puts this conjecture to the test.

Angela is missing! Shayna is called to Paris to identify a body in the morgue and possibly send it back to San Diego, California for burial. The morgue is closed for the weekend so Shayna goes to her sister’s apartment to pack her things.

The psychic alarm in Shayna’s head has not gone off! She is certain that were her sister dead she would have felt something in the ether. Thankfully Angela’s boyfriend Sebastian is there to help her pack and go through Angela’s things. A whiteboard in Angela’s apartment has a cryptic message in their personal script, “Alive: Trust No One!”

CE WilliamsOur author, Elle Mann, develops twists and turns more explosive than a roller coaster. Who can she trust to help her solve the mystery of her sister’s disappearance? Skillfully the reader is drawn into intrigues which include over two hundred miles of catacombs under Paris. Read this book and enjoy the intrigue which is “The Missing Sister!” 5 stars CE Williams

Book Details:

Genre: Kidnapping Thrillers, Women’s Detective Fiction, Women Sleuths
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
ISBN: 1542006058
ASIN: B07QYMXX41
Print Length: 294 pages
Publication Date: April 1, 2020
Source: Publisher and NetGalley
Title Link: The Missing Sister (Amazon)

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Rosepoint Publishing:  Four point Two Five of Five Stars Four and One Quarter Stars

Elle Marr - authorThe Author: Originally from Sacramento, debut author Elle Marr explored the urban wilderness of Southern California before spending three wine-and-cheese-filled years in France, where she earned a master’s degree from the Sorbonne University in Paris. She now lives and writes outside Portland, Oregon, with her husband, son, and one very demanding feline. Connect with her online at http://www.ellemarr.com, on facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

©2020 CE Williams – V Williams V Williams

*As coined by Nina of The Cozy Pages

Statue of Limitations (A Goddess of Green St. Mystery Book 1) by Kate Collins #BlogTour #BookReview #Giveaway

Statue of Limitations by Kate Collins

What a fun, fast, and delightful read and I am so excited today to provide reviews for you at my blog stop for Statue of Limitations by Kate Collins on the Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour. Scroll down to enter your chance to win the Giveaway!

Book Details

Statue of Limitations (A Goddess of Greene St. Mystery)
Cozy Mystery
1st in Series
Publisher: Kensington (January 28, 2020)
Mass Market Paperback: 336 pages
ISBN-10: 149672433X
ISBN-13: 978-1496724335
Digital ASIN: B07R8QWPTN

Book Blurb

In this delightful new series by the New York Times bestselling author of the Flower Shop Mysteries, Athena Spencer comes back home to work with her crazy big Greek family at their garden center. But she never expected a return to her roots would mean protecting her family from murder . . .

After her divorce, Athena has returned to coastal Michigan to work in her family’s garden center and raise her son, while also caring for a mischievous wild raccoon and fending off her family’s annoying talent for nagging. Working alone at the garden center one night, Athena is startled by a handsome stranger who claims to be the rightful owner of a valuable statue her grandfather purchased at a recent estate sale.

But she has even bigger problems on her plate. The powerful Talbot family from whom her pappoús bought the statue is threatening to raze the shops on Greene Street’s “Little Greece” to make way for a condo. The recent death of the family’s patriarch already seemed suspicious, but now it’s clear that a murderer is in their midst. Athena will have to live up to her warrior goddess namesake to protect her family from a killer and save their community from ruin . . .

My Thoughts

Statue of Limitations by Kate CollinsWhat a delightful romp into the outrageous tumult of a strongly knit family tightly bound by their Greek enclave in this touristy coastal village of Sequoia, Michigan. Divorcee Athena Spencer has returned home with her son to the welcoming arms of her parents who own Spencer’s Garden Center in the heart of “Little Greece.”

To save a little of her sanity, Athena (Thenie) has created a blog she calls “It’s All Greek to Me” by Goddess Anon in which she vents some of her frustration from time to time. Tidbits of comedy. The rest of the family has no idea she is writing it and they love to read and comment.

She is writing on her blog one night at the garden center after it’s closed when she confronts an intruder–not Oscar the raccoon–it’s Case Donnelly and he’s come to claim the statue that her grandfather had purchased in an auction from the local money mogul Talbot Sr. Receipt and all.  All legal, fair and square.

The Talbots (senior and junior) want to raze Little Greece to build a condo, but senior changes his mind. The problem is, he died in a suspicious accident about the same time as his signed document disappeared. It’s not long before an additional death occurs, but caught on home security video is Case Connelly.

…Uh oh…

This is an amusing and immersive start to a new series. Momma is the epitome of a matchmaker and Athena also contends with her three sisters, aunts and uncles, the food, customs, and the language (which she steadfastly refused to learn). Strongly character-driven while hatching red herrings, twists, and some amazingly bizarre scenarios. She and Case (now Dimitri) are full-on trying to keep him out of jail while getting to the bottom of the whodunit.

Well, of course, we know whodunit, but not all the reasons why or how. Enter more absurd characters. (Sometimes I almost expected to hear a laugh-track.) When Athena makes another remarkably dumb decision that then forces her to just dig in deeper, she still manages to make the best of it.

So, can they expose the real perp, save Little Greece, and manage to keep their beloved, but very valuable, statue? I thoroughly enjoyed the narrative right through the conclusion and the climax definitely heated up pretty good. (I love a good damsel in distress scene.)

V WilliamsWe received this digital download by the publisher through NetGalley for this blog tour and really appreciated the opportunity to read and review. Light, fun, hoot of an entertaining read and I’m looking forward to the second in the series. Highly recommended.

His Thoughts

A Greek statue and a mysterious stranger poking around grabbed my imagination. This book does not disappoint. Add in a bit of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”, and you get a flavor of this quick read. My being a romantic certainly added to the enjoyment of this romp.

Protagonist Athena is a young woman who has tried to escape the bonds of her family. Not an easy task when your family is Greek and they are very possessive of each other. As the plot develops you begin to realize that being in a large Greek family has some serious pitfalls.

A number of nosy siblings salt and pepper the plot with aggravating interference. The locale is a small coastal town and the antagonist is a super spoiled rich brat who cannot wait to get his hands on the family fortune. The small Greek enclave is being threatened with possible total destruction and the loss of their community and livelihood. People wind up in the morgue and the police have jumped to conclusions without really following the evidence.

CE WilliamsI enjoyed the repartee between the heroine and her motivator. Kate Collins adds a bit of sexual tension in her novels and I cannot wonder if this is a mirror of her life.  Beyond that, I really enjoy her writing and would recommend it to anyone who is looking for happy escapism. 5 stars CE Willliams

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Giveaway

Sign up for your chance to win one of three (3) Print Books of the Statue of Limitations (A Goddess of Greene St. Mystery) by Kate Collins (U.S. ONLY) in this Rafflecopter giveaway

About the Author

Kate Collins - authorKate Collins is the New York Times bestselling author of the Flower Shop Mystery series. After publishing numerous historical romances, Kate penned the long-running mystery series, three books of which were made into Hallmark movies starring Brooke Shields. An Indiana native, Kate graduated from Purdue University with a master’s degree in education. When not growing roots at her computer, Kate loves to garden. Other passions include yoga, reading, spending time with family and friends, sampling great wines and fine dark chocolate, and enjoying every moment of life. Kate lives in Northwest Indiana and Key West, Florida. Visit her online at KateCollinsBooks.com.

Author Links

Website http://www.katecollinsbooks.com/

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kate-Collins/49648459004

Purchase Links  – Kensington – Amazon – B&N   – Kobo

Thank you for visiting my stop on the tour and please visit the other stops listed below!

Tour Participants:

January 28 – The Power of Words – REVIEW
January 28 – Paranormal and Romantic Suspense Reviews – SPOTLIGHT, EXCERPT
January 28 – Diane Reviews Books – SPOTLIGHT
January 29 – The Pulp and Mystery Shelf – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
January 29 – Laura’s Interests – REVIEW
January 29 – Lisa Ks Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT, EXCERPT
January 30 – View from the Birdhouse – SPOTLIGHT
January 30 – Ruff Drafts – SPOTLIGHT
January 30 – I Read What You Write – REVIEW, EXCERPT
January 31 – Christy’s Cozy Corners – REVIEW
January 31 – TBR Book Blog – REVIEW
January 31 – Books a Plenty Book Reviews – REVIEW
February 1 – Gimme The Scoop Reviews – REVIEW
February 1 – Readeropolis – SPOTLIGHT
February 1 – StoreyBook Reviews – REVIEW
February 2 – Brooke Blogs – SPOTLIGHT, EXCERPT
February 2 – A Blue Million Books – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
February 2 – Maureen’s Musings – SPOTLIGHT
February 3 – The Avid Reader – REVIEW, EXCERPT
February 3 – Literary Gold – CHARACTER GUEST POST
February 3 – My Reading Journey – SPOTLIGHT
February 4 – Rosepoint Publications – REVIEW
February 4 – Cozy Up With Kathy – REVIEW, AUTHOR INTERVIEW
February 4 – Devilishly Delicious Book Reviews – REVIEW
February 4 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – REVIEW
February 5 – Socrates Book Reviews – REVIEW
February 5 – A Wytch’s Book Review Blog – CHARACTER INTERVIEW
February 5 – This Is My Truth Now – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
February 6 – Melina’s Book Blog – REVIEW
February 6 – I’m All About Books – SPOTLIGHT
February 6 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT Great Escapes Book Tours

 Thanks to Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours for the opportunity to read and review this cozy mystery!

©2020 V Williams

A Field Guide to Homicide (A Cat Latimer Mystery Book 6) by Lynn Cahoon – a #BookReview #cozymystery

A Field Guide to Homicide by Lynn CahoonBook Blurb:

Cat Latimer and her writer’s retreat group go on a hiking trip—but a murderer has been lurking off the beaten path . . .
 
Cat’s sweetheart, Seth, is going all out on an outing into the local mountains—for the benefit of the writing group Cat’s hosting at her Colorado B&B. But when they try to identify some plant and animal life, they find death instead. The body belongs to a man with a gold claim a few miles away. Instead of striking it rich, he’s been struck down.

To his surprise, Seth recognizes the victim from his military days—and up to now believed he’d already died during his last tour of duty. Now Cat has to solve this mystery before the killer takes a hike . . .

My Review:

Loved the concept of a writer’s retreat for authors, written by an author, about authors learning to be authors. Or readers who enjoy reading about it! It’s bound to be a cozy narrative in a beautiful locale in a small town setting.

Cat (Catherine) Latimer has the perfect location and large home remodeled as a B&B and found her niché, the writer’s retreats. (She is a successful writer, formerly teacher.) Full when she wants, quiet when she needs it to be. Covington College is located within walking distance and accommodates Cat’s guests in the library. She has an amazing best friend, Shauna, a buddy from California who moved back to Colorado to help with the B&B, cook amazing meals, and cleans the rooms. Cat has a boyfriend, Seth, a first love from high school and an uncle who is a police detective.

A Field Guide to Homicide by Lynn CahoonIn Book 6, Seth discovers that the body Cat finds with her group while hiking is a former Army buddy of his. There is only one problem: he was supposed to have been killed while they were still in Germany, and that was ten years ago. Seth had joined the Army thinking they’d wed when he returned. In the meantime, however, Cat marries Michael who was full of surprises. She receives the house after his untimely death.

As a character-driven cozy, the mystery trundles along while Cat discovers her new group is unique–two couples and one college student. The latter doesn’t exactly fit in and almost immediately the two couples click and proceed to produce activity separate from Cat’s usual agenda. There is the hike, but it ended with the discovery of the body. I don’t see her providing guidance in a lot of group discussions or learning moments and it’s handy she has Shauna who handles the bulk of the physical work. But Shauna has a problem of her own, providing a separate little (almost) sub-plot. Then there is the tension between her and Seth and my question, does she really love him or not? Given the little time they have to be together, she doesn’t exactly jump to take advantage of it.

There seemed a few plot holes; missing elements. (Was it because this is my first experience with the author and the series?) Seth didn’t want to introduce his Army buddies to Cat, which I found rather odd, so we don’t know much about them. Cat manages to get a name she can investigate and discovers the deceased had a local girlfriend that she was able to interview. She manages to glean a few tidbits and coordinates with her uncle.

We really don’t get development of the guests with the exception of the college kid and she did impart some wise writerly wisdom to him. (One of the couples takes snide verbal pot-shots at each other.) Uncle Pete plays a large part as does his sweetheart, an ex-cop who flies in to see him but is caught up in his absence with the murder investigation. There are red herrings that have you focusing first on one possible perp, then another, none quite making sense. The why is a biggee: how did he manage to leave Germany, come back to Colorado and be living off grid for so long? Ah, yes, but then we get little off-hand remarks that drop clues like crumbs leading back to the who. Did you pay attention?

I enjoyed the author’s writing style, but not the length of time that it took to lay all the elements to examine. There were quotables and old sayings, “We work in fact here, not maybes.” And “…make sure she knows that no is a complete sentence.” (Loved that one!) “A high tide floats all boats.”

The novel takes some time to get into, moving rather slowly for me and appeared to be one that suggests the reader might be better served to begin with Book 1 of the series. The conclusion wraps up loose ends and confirms the motive, which became obvious earlier, and has Seth taking the next step with Cat. (Perhaps that’s a step he should reconsider.) I received this digital download from the publisher and NetGalley and appreciated the opportunity to read and review and these are my own opinions.

Book Details:

Genre: Amateur Sleuth, Cozy Animal Mystery
Publisher: Kensington Books
ISBN: 149671685X
ASIN: B07R9SXCQ8
Print Length: 290 pages
Publication Date: Happy Publication Day! January 28, 2020

Source: Publisher and NetGalley
Title Link: A Field Guide to Homicide
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Lynn Cahoon - authorThe Author: Get a free story at http://www.lynncahoon.com.

Lynn Cahoon is the author of the NYT and USA Today best-selling Tourist Trap cozy mystery series. She also pens the Cat Latimer series available in mass market paperback. And, because she can’t help telling stories, she also writes the Farm to Fork series. Romance novels are published under the pen name, Lynn Collins. She lives in a small town like the ones she loves to write about with her husband and three fur kids. Sign up for her newsletter at http://www.lynncahoon.com

©2020 V Williams V Williams

Shattered Justice (A Bone Gap Travellers Novel Book 3) by Susan Furlong – a #BookReview #thriller

Gritty, raw, and unrelenting but war-damaged ex-Marine Irish Traveller. Where is the justice?

Shattered Justice by Susan FurlongBook Blurb:

In the Appalachian town of Bone Gap, Tennessee, backwoods justice is more than just blind. It’s swift, silent, and shockingly personal. Especially for Irish Traveller turned deputy sheriff Brynn Callahan . . .
 
“Hear No Evil.”

The first message is found in a playground. A few feet away, a  pair of human ears hang from the monkey bars. Deputy sheriff Brynn Callahan isn’t sure what to make of this grisly scene. Do the ears belong to a murder victim? And if so, where is the body? One thing Brynn is sure of: the earring on one of the earlobes belongs to a man she met at a party the previous night.  . .
 
“Speak No Evil.”

The second message is discovered next to a human tongue on a park pavilion. Once again, no body is found. Brynn can’t help but wonder if the crimes are rooted in the town’s long-simmering tensions between Bone Gap locals and the barely tolerated Travellers who’ve settled there.
 
“See No Evil.”

For Brynn, the investigation hits too close to home—forcing her to confront the demons of her own past. But time is running out. Brynn has to track down the culprit before a third message is delivered—and a third victim is claimed. Rich, atmospheric, and brilliantly chilling, Shattered Justice is the third Bone Gap Travellers novel from the acclaimed author of Splintered Silence and Fractured Truth.

My Thoughts

Shattered Justice by Susan FurlongAnother intense, book-hooking entry to the Bone Gap Travellers series that has you alternately cringing and then reading faster. Ex-Marine Brynn Callahan returned to her family home after an IED ended both her tours and that of her cadaver dog, Wilco. But it wasn’t easy to return to the Appalachians with her Irish Travellers (or Pavees) and assume a job with local law enforcement (the “settled”), straddling both sides from a community that keeps to themselves and wields their own sense of law enforcement.

Brynn is still suffering from PTSD, as is her dog, and daily struggles with staying clean of the relief she found in dealing with the pain and trauma of those horrific scars. Her first-person dialogue plops you squarely in her head and the fight is unrelenting. Brynn languishes on the fringe between the settled, answering to Pusser who directs her investigations as she deals at home with her own tight-knit neighbors.

Obviously, this novel sets the old saying on edge as ears are found followed by a severed tongue, but the plot won’t be that simple and soon revisits the closely held secret of her beloved Gran setting a strong distraction.  There must be two bodies, but they are missing. Are they connected to the Pavee brought in, Mo’s husband?

The author has an amazing writing style, often producing quotable moments, “…gray, that undefined color in between black and white, the color of limbo, the zone between life and death,” and

“Did you learn anything from your slip, Brynn?” My eyes snapped back to Margaret…Why, yes, Margaret, I learned that Black Label whiskey is worth every damn penny…”

“And when they surface, we suddenly know: we are all victims of our past and vulnerable in our present.”

Brynn is intelligent, flawed, and damaged but between her investigation and Wilco’s help, she’ll ferret out the truth, as deeply buried as it is. The well-developed support characters provide a graphic mindset along with descriptions of the deeply wooded mountains, foreboding and sinister, hides more than the Travellers. A profoundly disturbing depiction moves forefront along with some stomach-turning descriptions. The dialogue is brutal, many times raw, threatening, and the tension builds to a massively intricate conclusion and one you won’t guess. Actually, it could be assumed you stopped trying and just raced through to the heart-stopping climax.

I was given a digital download by the publisher and NetGalley and am extremely grateful for the opportunity to read and review my third book in this series–and looking forward to Book 4. Recommended to any looking for a unique premise and genuinely engaging mystery. This might standalone, but you’ll miss a lot of backstory if you don’t start at the beginning. 4.5/5 stars

His Thoughts

Justice in the backwoods of Tennessee. Can there be such a thing? Ms. Furlong writes a compelling novel about just such a query. This novel is fast moving and at times graphically gruesome. Add a war broken detective and a three-legged dog and you have a read hard to put down!

Brynn is the detective who is scarred from three tours with the US Marines. She has internal demons as well as the perpetrators she is working to bring to justice. She and her dog are both victims of an IED (improvised explosive device). Pain pills and other drugs as well as alcohol are also demons that must be defeated by our detective.

The perpetrators are a related family of women who work to bring justice to their part of the world. A moral code inherent in this society of misfits called Travellers or Pavees cloud the investigation. The women show extraordinary abilities to evade their pursuers.

The layout of the book and the end result left a little to be desired. The reason for the violence is a thread throughout the book which seems apparent. One suicide which was not a suicide, inept police work and inter-clan justice and you have a web full of holes.

Following the clues to the killer or killers is not easy. Ms. Furlong throws in the struggles that many returning military face trying to meld back into society. I found some of them to be red herrings that tended to leave my crime-solving forensic training yelling “WHAT?!”

As with many cozy type mysteries, I find the denigration of the males in the police force a little tedious. Certainly one would expect clashes between the male and female detectives, but not to the extent posed by Ms. Furlong and Harris. It is a common perception by society and the interaction of men and women in the work force. However, this seems a little gratuitous. As society evolves, the movement to have total equality in all areas seems contrived. The issue is well developed in Ms. Furlong’s plot.

The ending of the book is why I did not give it five stars. Out of nowhere another antagonist emerges. Again, a female who seems to be as bent on justice as the primary villain. This is a serious blindsiding in the development of the plot and its’ conclusion. The gruesome crimes seemed overdone and the end story left me asking the question, WHY? Associate Reviewer - C E Williams

Ms. Furlong’s discussion narrative at the end of the novel is a good planning tool. It certainly helps to develop the overall novel in the reader’s mind. I can see where a group discussion may very well lead to a better understanding of the issues and problems faced by veterans in general. My hat is off to her as a very good writer and an understanding human being. 4/5 stars CE Williams

Book Details:

Genre: Psychological Thrillers, Women Sleuths
Publisher: Kensington Books

  • ISBN-10:1496711726
  • ISBN-13:978-1496711724
  • ASIN: B07NX1X3HP

Print Length: 304 pages
Publication Date: Happy Publication Day! December 31, 2019
Source: Publisher and NetGalley
Title Link: Shattered Justice

+Add to Goodreads 

Susan Furlong - authorThe Author: Susan Furlong the author of several mystery series including the acclaimed Bone Gap Travellers series. She also contributes to the New York Times bestselling Novel Idea Mysteries under the pen name Lucy Arlington. She has worked as a freelance writer, academic writer, ghost writer, translator, high-school language arts teacher, and martial arts instructor. She and her family live in central Illinois. Visit her on Facebook or at http://www.susanfurlong.com.

©2019 V Williams V Williams

Paw of the Jungle (A Paw Enforcement Novel Book 8) by Diane Kelly – a #BookReview #cozydog

Enjoy this K-9 service dog, police procedural, cozy animal mystery series.

Paw of the Jungle by Diane KellyBook Blurb:

Police officer Megan Luz and her K-9 partner in crime, Brigit, are on all fours as they try to solve their latest Lone Star mystery.

AT THE ZOO
The weather is beautiful, work is slow, and her canine colleague could use a walk. What better day for Megan to take Brigit to the Fort Worth Zoo, where they can let loose and witness the law and order of nature unfold? But what begins as a fun field trip turns serious when a pair of rare hyacinth macaws named Fabiana and Fernando goes missing. Is the new custodian, a gentle soul who happens to be an ex-convict, to blame? Or is something far more sinister afoot?

AND ON THE HUNT
The birds are worth thousands of dollars, and the list of people on the premises who might have stolen them is long. Soon other animals start disappearing. . .and Megan and Brigit have their hands and paws full of suspects. But when a rare black rhino is taken from the zoo, presumably for its black-market-friendly horn, time is of the essence. Can Megan and Brigit find out who’s behind the mystery—before they too become prey?

My Review:

I was introduced to this author and series last year when I was lucky enough to receive The Long Paw of the Law (see my review here). Fort Worth Texas officer, Megan Luz is back with her K-9 service dog, Brigit. Her favorite guy, Seth, also has a service dog, a yellow Lab named Blast. Seth is a bomb squad technician and firefighter.

Paw of the Jungle by Diane KellyOnce again, the story is told in multiple POVs, one being protagonist Megan, along with Brigit, and the antagonist, dubbed The Poacher, whose elevator never reaches the top floor. There are a number of great support characters, along with Derek, the “Big Dick” Mackey (“The donkey wasn’t the only jackass here.”), and Detective Bustamente. There is a little romance, the (male) Lab adores Brigit, and the romance between Seth and Megan doesn’t over-power the well-plotted mystery.

In this series entry, a number of valuable rings go missing about the same time as a pair of Hyacinth macaws go missing from the zoo. It is nearing Christmas and the mall is full, people in a rush and Megan isn’t sure that the ring owners haven’t just misplaced them. But the birds? No way could the regular zoo staff have allowed them to escape. Unfortunately, it’s not long before a member of the antelope family similarly goes missing. And then it just gets worse.

In the meantime, the reader is treated to a wealth of information regarding laws of hunting in Texas, game ranches and animal poachers, as well as ex-con recidivism rates depending on available prison rehab classes. I love the chapters devoted to Brigit and her take on humans, as well as the little hints of reading dog body language. (In 2015, law enforcement officers in Texas began receiving training in canine encounters, reducing the number of unnecessary canine deaths.) And always, the author’s sense of humor shines through, often injecting thought-provoking LOL moments.

In regard to using online tutorials to learn welding: “I’d used online tutorials myself. But despite watching three makeup lessons, I’d yet to master the smoky eye.”

The narrative grabs your attention immediately and keeps a fairly steady pace with the exception of explanatory bits noted above. Megan is working hard to test for detective grade and in the meantime the series has built an engaging set of characters you can’t help investing in. Entertaining atmospheric setting coupled with an intelligent and anthropomorphic glimpse into the psyche of a magnificent, intelligent canine partner.

I was given this digital download by the publisher and NetGalley and was thrilled to have the opportunity to read and review. Recommended for any who enjoy K-9 associated books, police procedurals, suspense, and sweet and easy pseudo cozy. Looking forward to Book 9!

Book Details:

Genre: Cozy Dog Mysteries, Police Procedurals
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
ISBN: 1250197376
ASIN: B07P9LPNHB
Print Length: 365 pages
Publication Date: To be released November 26, 2019
strong>Source: Publisher and NetGalley
Title Link: Paw of the Jungle
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[Rosepoint Publishing: 4.5 of Five Stars 4.5-stars

Diane Kelly - authorThe Author: A former tax advisor, Diane Kelly inadvertently worked with white-collar criminals on multiple occasions. Not surprisingly, Diane decided self-employment would be a good idea. Her fingers hit the keyboard and thus began her Death and Taxes romantic mystery series. A graduate of her hometown’s Citizen Police Academy, Diane Kelly also writes the hilarious K-9 cop Paw Enforcement series and the new House Flipper cozy mystery series.

Diane’s books have been awarded the prestigious Romance Writers of America Golden Heart® Award and a Reviewers Choice Award.

Try a sample of Diane’s work, along with works by other cozy mystery authors, by checking out “Cozy Case Files” for free on Amazon Kindle.

Be the first to receive book news by signing up for Diane’s newsletter at http://www.dianekelly.com/ “Like” Diane on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/dianekellybooks. Follow her on Instagram at dianekellybooks and on Twitter @dianekellybooks.

©2019 V Williams V Williams

Fatal Cajun Festival by Ellen Byron – a #BookReview #cozy

Love that sound, love that food, and the Mardi Gras atmosphere.

Fatal Cajun Festival by Ellen Byron

Fatal Cajun Festival: A Cajun Country Mystery by Ellen Byron

Book Blurb:

USA Today bestselling and award-winning author Ellen Byron cranks it up to eleven in the fifth fast and funny Cajun Country mystery.

Louisiana B&B owner Maggie Crozat kicks up her heels at a country music festival–but she’ll have one foot in the grave if she can’t bring the killer of a diva’s hanger-on to heel.

Grab your tickets for Cajun Country Live!, the pickers’ and crooners’ answer to the legendary New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Maggie Crozat, proprietor of the Crozat Plantation B&B, plans to be in the cheering section when her friend Gaynell Bourgeois takes the stage with her band, Gaynell and the Gator Girls.

The festival’s headliner, native daughter Tammy Barker, rocketed to stardom on a TV singing competition. She has the voice of an angel…and the personality of a devilish diva. But Maggie learns that this tiny terror carries a grudge against Gaynell. She’s already sabotaged the Gator Girls’ JazzFest audition. When a member of Tammy’s entourage is murdered at the festival, Tammy makes sure Gaynell is number one on the suspect list.

Gaynell has plenty of company on that list–including every one of Tammy’s musicians. Posing as a groupie, Maggie infiltrates Tammy’s band and will have to hit all the right notes to clear her friend’s name.

My Review:

Fatal Cajun Festival by Ellen ByronA cozy mystery with recipes, my first with the author and the series, and you know what? I really enjoyed it! I know what you’re thinking–Rosepoint Pub has had one too many and who is covering for her? Au Contraire, lovely readers, and I appreciate your concern!

First, you are wondering, “yeah, but it’s number five of the series” (with an adorable cover). Take heart. Although I’m sure you’d enjoy reading 1-4, this one functioned fine for me as a standalone for several reasons: (1) Locale driven but enough info about the main and support characters without doing a complete backstory, and (2) multi-layered and complex storyline that kept your attention. (Oh, and I might mention a complete listing of characters appears at the beginning and if I didn’t get lost, you shouldn’t.)

(Magnolia) Maggie Crozat is proprietor of the Crozat Plantation B&B in Pelican, Louisana. Her fiancé is Bo, Detective Bo Durand. And then there is Gaynell Bourgeois, Maggie’s best friend and soon to be person of interest. Lest I am to blame for confusing you, I’ll only further mention Tammy Barker, the local girl country star gone big time come back to gloat.

It is Maggie’s Grand-mère (Charlotte Crozat) who suggests the little town have a Cajun Country Live! Festival to catch music fans on their way to the larger fest in New Orleans. In the meantime, widow Grand-mère is off on a “death cleaning” and discovers something in the process she can’t ignore. Maggie must gear up her booth with Pelican Pralines as well as offer her paintings. (She also holds a new position as Doucet’s art collection specialist.)

Being a headliner, Tammy arrives amid huge pomp with her entourage, totally over-shadowing another local (lesser successful but talented) musician, Gaynell. Well, you know how musicians are. There is bound to be a clash and Gaynell and her Gator Girls land in the middle. Tammy’s manager is soon discovered in some bushes. Dead. Before Tammy’s group moves on to the Jazz Festival, Maggie will have to move fast to clear Gaynell’s name.

Boy, I do love the music, and add Cajun or Zydeco to the mix is probably the only place left where an accordion sounds GOOOOD with a washboard! Grab some crawdads, shrimp, and Cajun spice and you have a festival! This book just exudes that enthusiastic feel-good time. And then there is the mystery–mercy that gets complicated–but then you’re immersed in the whole atmosphere of the Louisiana Cajun Country. (Also, there is the Reader’s Digest explanation of Cajun vs Creole.) This is fascinating stuff, people!

Zydeco musicians at the Cajun Zydeco Festival
Photo Attribute: Cajun Zydeco Festival photo by Cheryl Gerber

The dialogue is peppered with a mix of French and Cajun patois. Maggie is interesting, but it is the history and tidbits of the area that I most appreciated and invested. It is well-paced and I must admit I didn’t guess either the perp or the reason, which provides a fascinating twist, even entirely plausible. There are bits of humor along the way; one of my favorites describing a cluster of teens.

“A giggle,” Maggie said. “I think you’d call it a giggle of girls.” (Yup!)

The conclusion came on the heels of another of Maggie’s open mouth, insert foot moments. She did annoy me a couple times. Also, I stumbled over Gaynell’s name more than once, wishing it were something else; Jane even, but Gaynell(?). Still, her character was fully engaging. I loved the recipes (and you remember I don’t usually look at them). They seemed geared to feed the entire southern militia, but that won’t stop me from trying a couple and the ingredients are already on my shopping list!

I received this digital ebook from the publisher and NetGalley and was thoroughly entertained, grateful to have the opportunity to read and review. I’m totally onboard for Book 6! Recommended to those mystery fans who don’t always get a culinary cozy and to anyone looking for an entertaining read. (Eat first.)

Book Details:

Genre: Cozy Culinary Mystery, Cozy Craft and Hobby Mystery
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
ISBN: 1643851292

  • ASIN: B07NKW8WMY

 Print Length: 298 pages
Publication Date: Happy Publication Day! September 10, 2019
Source: Publisher and NetGalley
Title Link: Fatal Cajun Festival 

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

Ellen Byron - authorThe Author: Author of MARDI GRAS MURDER, the 2018 AGATHA AWARD winner for Best Contemporary Novel.

Ellen Byron writes the USA Today bestselling Cajun Country Mysteries. MARDI GRAS MURDER won the Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel and was nominated for a Best Humorous Mystery Lefty Award by Left Coast Crime. A CAJUN CHRISTMAS KILLING and BODY ON THE BAYOU, both won the Lefty Award for Best Humorous Mystery, and were nominated for Agatha Awards in the category of Best Contemporary Novel. PLANTATION SHUDDERS, the first book in the series, was nominated for Agatha, Lefty, and Daphne awards. Cajun Country Mysteries offer “everything a cozy reader could want,” according to Publishers Weekly, while Library Journal says, “Diane Mott Davidson and Lou Jane Temple fans will line up for this series.” HERE COMES THE BODY, the first book in her Catering Hall Mysteries will launch in March 2020 under the name Maria DiRico.

Ellen’s TV credits include Wings and Just Shoot Me; she’s written over 200 magazine articles; her published plays include the award-winning Graceland and Asleep on the Wind. She is a native New Yorker who lives in Los Angeles and attributes her fascination with Louisiana to her college years at New Orleans’ Tulane University. She also worked as a cater-waiter for Martha Stewart, a credit she never tires of sharing. Have an early copy of Martha’s first book, ENTERTAINING? Ellen’s standing right next to her in the group shot.

©2019 V Williams V Williams

29 Seconds by T M Logan – a #BookReview

This may be old news and controversial but can still grab the headlines.

29 Seconds by T M LoganBook Blurb:

“Give me one name. One person. And I will make them disappear.”

Sarah is a young professor struggling to prove herself in a workplace controlled by the charming and manipulative Alan Hawthorne. A renowned scholar and television host, Hawthorne rakes in million-dollar grants for the university where Sarah works—so his inappropriate treatment of female colleagues behind closed doors has gone unchallenged for years. And Sarah is his newest target.

When Hawthorne’s advances become threatening, Sarah is left with nowhere to turn. Until the night she witnesses an attempted kidnapping of a young child on her drive home, and impulsively jumps in to intervene. The child’s father turns out to be a successful businessman with dangerous connections—and her act of bravery has put this powerful man in her debt. He gives Sarah a burner phone and an unbelievable offer. A once-in-a-lifetime deal that can make all her problems disappear.

No consequences. No traces. All it takes is a 29-second phone call.

Because everyone has a name to give. Don’t they?

My Review:

29 Seconds by T M LoganSometimes I feel like a salmon swimming upstream, battling against the fish ladder trying to get where the run will all be happily waiting for me. I see this one had good reviews. I was supposed to like it but I was a little more meh than ack! Or groan than eek? We are talking about Sarah, a young professor working hard to become permanent. Unfortunately, her boss is Alan Hawthorne (or Lovelock–I must have missed the explanation for the interchangeable name) and he’s made it plain there is only one way for her to achieve that goal. And the thing is, he’s left a trail of his conquests, not like this is new, only his latest.

He’s brilliant, manipulative, charming, successful, and powerful. He brings in the major bucks to the university and they like that. Well, guess that’s nothing new. So far, she’ been successful at rebuking his advances but he’s getting more worse, his last leaving her furious and impotent. She is fuming when a chance presents itself to DO something–anything (see synopsis), and she saves a young girl from an apparent kidnapping. The girl’s father is even more powerful–and very grateful.

The reader is positive she’d take the opportunity but suddenly she’s impotent again.

“You give me one name. One person. And I will make them disappear. For you.”

“I don’t have a name to give you. There isn’t anyone.”

“Nonsense. Everyone has someone they would like to punish. To have just a little bit more just in the world.”

“Maybe I’m the exception.”

Uh huh, sure. But she has 72 hours and within that time things go from bad to worse with good old Dr. Hawthorne. Now she’s really, thoroughly, beyond pissed, and makes the call. Then wakes the next morning all “what have I done?” It was explained–there is no going back. But now it’s killing her. (And I suspect would be normal for most people.) In the meantime, her two young’un’s are still fighting and squabbling, her father is still patiently there for her, and her two close friends are yet to be determined. Hubby wasn’t in the picture as he’d had to go “find himself” with someone else. She’s totally not playing this with a full deck. You’d have to wonder how she’s gotten this far.

Sarah’s running through all the scenarios–what could she do? She isn’t the brightest and comes close to telling. Telling??!! (Gimmee a break! Seriously?) But then the super baddies mess up and Hawthorne is rescued. Oh yeah, now on top of everything else, he can blackmail her into playing because of course, he knows. HE’s not stupid. (Anybody remember what Clint Eastwood said in a mess up like this one? Yeah–it’s a CF.) Sarah is fleshed enough to be annoying, the support characters about the same, less annoying. Hawthorne is just nasty.

She develops a plan to take care of him once and for all and it’s also looking like a groaner. Okay, then there is a twist at the end–a pretty good one–and I’ll assume Sarah didn’t work that one out. Dialogue works well, but the reader can’t be sure who to trust, nor is the plot unique. Neat twist at the end, but in the meantime you have had to choke a lot back, including disbelief.

So I have to ask, did you read this? If so, how did you see it? Did it aggravate you?

I received this digital download from the publisher and NetGalley and always appreciate the opportunity to read and review a topical contemporary fiction. You may see this one in a whole nother light and if so, I’d love to hear about it.

Book Details:

Genre: Psychological Thrillers, Crime Thrillers
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

  • ISBN-10:1250182301
  • ISBN-13:978-1250182302
  • ASIN: B07NTQ8HP7

Print Length: 356 pages
Publication Date: Tuesday, September 10, 2019
Source: Publisher and NetGalley
Title Link: 29 Seconds

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Rosepoint Publishing:  Three of Five Stars 3-stars

T M Logan - authorThe Author: Bestselling author TM Logan was a national newspaper journalist before turning to novel-writing full time. His debut thriller LIES was one of Amazon UK’s biggest ebooks of 2017, selling 350,000 copies and gathering more than 1,400 5-star reviews so far. It was published in the USA in September 2018 and has also come out in South Korea, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Poland, Hungary, Serbia, Romania and the Netherlands.

His next thriller, 29 SECONDS, is a psychological thriller set against the backdrop of the #MeToo movement. What if someone offered you a solution to the biggest problem in your life – would you take it, if you knew you’d never be found out? Even if you knew it was wrong? What if a 29-second phone call could change your life forever?

29 SECONDS is due to be published in the USA by St Martin’s Press on September 10, 2019.

Tim lives in Nottinghamshire, UK, with his wife and two children.

For exclusive writing, new releases and a FREE deleted scene from Tim, sign up to the Readers’ Club: http://www.bit.ly/TMLogan. You can also follow him on Twitter @TMLoganAuthor, find him on Facebook at /TMLoganAuthor or on his website at http://www.tmlogan.com

©2019 V Williams V Williams

Life and Other Inconveniences by Kristan Higgins

Life and Other Inconveniences by Kristan Higgins

Life and Other Inconveniences by Kristan HigginsBook Blurb:

Emma London never thought she had anything in common with her grandmother Genevieve London. The regal old woman came from wealthy and bluest-blood New England stock, but that didn’t protect her from life’s cruelest blows: the disappearance of Genevieve’s young son, followed by the premature death of her husband. But Genevieve rose from those ashes of grief and built a fashion empire that was respected the world over, even when it meant neglecting her other son.

When Emma’s own mother died, her father abandoned her on his mother’s doorstep. Genevieve took Emma in and reluctantly raised her–until Emma got pregnant her senior year of high school. Genevieve kicked her out with nothing but the clothes on her back…but Emma took with her the most important London possession: the strength not just to survive but to thrive. And indeed, Emma has built a wonderful life for herself and her teenage daughter, Riley.

So what is Emma to do when Genevieve does the one thing Emma never expected of her and, after not speaking to her for nearly two decades, calls and asks for help?

My Review:

Life and Other Inconveniences by Kristan HigginsThis book for some unfathomable reason is classified as comedic drama, among the others I’ve listed below. Humorous? No. Raw, emotional, dramatic, yes. The primary or main character here is Emma London, a 35-year-old single mother booted from Genevieve London’s (her grandmother) home when she divulged that she was (at 18) pregnant. She had been dumped on her grandmother’s doorstep after her father who lost his wife to suicide determined he could no longer care for her and her grandmother fed, clothed, and fostered her for ten years–sans love.

Fortunately, Emma could go to Pops and he would take her in, helping with the baby and providing a roof over her head while she struggled through school eventually becoming a therapist. The daughter she bore, Riley, became the light of her life, her ever-driving force, and she determined to be the best mother ever. She has, however, been left with a monumental school tab and now faced with her daughter looking at her last year of high school and college is struggling with the specter of her education as well.

After seventeen years with no communication from Genevieve, Emma suddenly gets a call that she is dying and would like to see Emma again and meet her great-granddaughter. Emma had an extremely contentious relationship with the extremely-rich Genevieve and normally would have nothing to do with her again, except that Genevieve sweetens the pot by offering to pay for Riley’s college expenses–if they’ll only stay for the summer at Sheerwater (pretentious mansion) so Genevieve won’t have to die alone.

Told in the POV of Emma, Genevieve, Riley, and Miller (a neighbor), it is Miller with whom I most invested. He is desperately sad, exhausted, and emotionally engaging. He lost his wife to childbirth and now the three-year-old rules with an iron fist. He’s beyond wit’s end. I also greatly appreciated a couple of the support characters, one being her grandfather, Pops, who decides he’ll accompany Emma and Riley in the move to the Long Island Sound in Connecticut in spite of his active contempt for Genevieve. Genevieve lost her beloved Sheppard, her oldest son, and a year later her husband; and she hasn’t gotten over it and is still bitter.

Genevieve is spiteful, nasty, loveless, and spares no one her thoughtless barbs. Emma disappointed her and she doesn’t miss a chance to say so. Riley, at sixteen, is almost syrupy sweet, too perfect to be a real sixteen year old and bounces in to charm Genevieve. There are many peripheral characters, including Emma’s dad, and Riley’s baby-daddy, Jason.

The author’s writing style hooks the reader almost immediately. It’s contemporary dialogue easily believable, sometimes profound and emotive. I found Emma on the neurotic side (perhaps that is understandable) but at times seemed to need therapy herself. I could almost buy the relationship between mother and daughter, they only have each other and Pops, but still, it slid over the top a few times. It seemed the most genuine is Miller and he is also the most sympathetic.

It’s a study in family dynamics, the little each member actually knows where the other is coming from, particularly separated by generations. Back story into each character at times lent another peek and allowed character growth, though first impressions usually remained about the strength (or lack thereof) of the person and twists or red herrings didn’t change where this storyline would venture. It is the how or why that keeps the reader gripped and turning pages. Why, why? Yeah…you know why. All along you knew why.

If you appreciate the fabric that holds families together, in spite of the warts, the secrets, tragedies, or perhaps because of the tragedies, you’ll appreciate this powerful narrative. While you may think it’s predictable, you’ll appreciate the artful way Higgins weaves her tale in and out as well as the satisfying conclusion, laying everything softly to rest–er…so to speak.

I received this beautiful print book from a Giveaway I won at Stephanie’s Novel Fiction with no expectation of a review. These are my own opinions and mostly, I loved it. You can connect with her also at #stephlvsbooks. Thank you again, Steph! I’ve become a Kristan Higgins fan and will look for additional books from the author.

Book Details:

Genre: Mother’s and Children’s Fiction, Contemporary Literature & Fiction
Publisher: Berkley

  • ISBN-10:045148942X
  • ISBN-13:978-0451489425
  • ASIN: B07KDWT4PY

Print Length: 448 pages
Publication Date: August 6, 2019
Source: Giveaway at Stephanie’s Novel Fiction
Title Link: Life and Other Inconveniences

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Rosepoint Publishing:  Four of Five Stars 4-stars

Kristan Higgins - authorThe Author: Kristan Higgins is the New York Times, USA TODAY, Wall Street Journal and Publishers Weekly bestselling author of 19 novels, which have been translated into more than two dozen languages and sold millions of copies worldwide. Her books have received dozens of awards and accolades, including starred reviews from Kirkus, The New York Journal of Books, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, People and Booklist. If you want to keep up with Kristan’s new releases and get a free short story, sign up for her mailing list at http://www.kristanhiggins.com.

Her books regularly appear on the lists for best novels of the year. Kristan is also a cohost of the Crappy Friends podcast, which discusses the often complex dynamics of female friendships, with her friend and fellow writer, Joss Dey.

The proud descendant of a butcher and a laundress, Kristan lives in Connecticut with her heroic firefighter husband. They own several badly behaved pets and are often visited by their entertaining and long-lashed children.

©2019 V Williams V Williams