Bitter Rain (Kate Fox Book 3) by Shannon Baker – a #BookReview – #mysteries

“A lump the size of a Bartlett pear made its way down her throat.

Book Blurb:

Bitter Rain by Shannon BakerSheriff Kate Fox is still settling into her new role when Deputy Kyle Red Owl’s sister, Shelly, vanishes from the nearby Lakota reservation. Convinced it’s an “Indian issue,” neighboring sheriffs are reluctant to get involved. Tempers flare—and Kate knows things are bound to get even more heated.

But when Kate and Kyle start to gather evidence, they realize the case isn’t at all what it seems.

Their search for Shelly has uncovered deep-buried family secrets, and soon, Shelly isn’t the only one in danger.

As Kate struggles to nail down a suspect—and with the truth seeming just out of reach—the new sheriff knows she’s running out of time.

And then she makes a big mistake. Can Kate right the wrong in time to save the life that’s hanging in the balance? 

My Review:

The storyline centers around the Nebraska Sandhills across the South Dakota state line and the crushing poverty level of the Lakota at the Antelope Ridge Reservation. I enjoy books about the Midwest and any parts east of my native California—always so eye-opening. The Sandhills situate in an area of low population, cattle outnumbering humans by approximately fifty to one.

Bitter Rain by Shannon BakerIn this episode of the series, Sheriff Kate Fox is called to the site of an apparent accident but finding no one there except Sheriff Lee Barnett on scene from a different county is sent away with the explanation it must have been an auto from the local rez and whoever was driving had someone pick them up. It’s obviously good ole boy territory and as a newly elected female sheriff, she’s not totally accepted, particularly when it appears to be an Indian issue.

But Kate had gotten a call from a terrified young female pleading for help. And she is one who listens to her gut feeling. The missing female turns out to be her own Deputy’s sister, Shelly, and now Deputy Kyle Red Owl is also heavily drawn into the search.

Turns out, she is pretty much blocked in her investigation at every turn, but she does manage a small lead every now and then only serving to further muddy the waters.

In the meantime, the area not known for friendly rain is experiencing one gully washer after another, which doesn’t help.

Further hampering interview efforts besides the divisive racial issue is her own family. As the middle child with seven brothers and sisters (or is it nine?), either the oldest, youngest, or any in between is constantly intruding on her time. It doesn’t help that her immense family and familial obligations and expectations seem to override pretty much any other minute she isn’t thinking about her missing niece. Well, bring it on!

The conditions of the people populating the reservation describes conditions beyond dismally, buying into the old stereotype, and painting a crushing scene of desperation.

A lot going on in this novel, the mystery, the family sub-plot, and the deeply descriptive prose of the area. The author is nothing if not full of analogies and has one for every occasion:

“We stood as natural as ketchup on ice cream.”
“To say I was relieved to wish them a fun day would be like calling Lake Michigan a puddle.”

 Philosophical thoughts:

“It was the face of fake compassion I hated worse than cooked cabbage.”
“It’ll be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”
“It’ll stop hurting when the pain goes away.”

As a newly elected sheriff, Kate has a lot to prove—not just to the county apparently—but also to her family. A rather unique writing style that cried “tilt” as often as it spoke a deeply meaning thought. A theme of hanging in there, overcoming, concessions, and adapting.
The conclusion included a twist I certainly didn’t see coming, although all the leads were to the over-obvious. Interesting, thoughtful, deeply disturbing, and also engaging and entertaining.

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher and NetGalley. It appears this novel was previously released in 2018, new cover, but I’m in for a penny, in for a pound, and looking forward to Book 4.

Rosepoint Rating: Four stars 4 stars

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Book Details:

Genre: Women’s Detective Fiction, Amateur Sleuth Mysteries, Mystery Series
Publisher: Severn River Publishing

  • ASIN : B08PDVXL26

Print Length: 276 pages
Publication Date: February 9, 2021
Source: Publisher and NetGalley 

Title Link(s):

Amazon   |   Barnes & Noble   |   Kobo

Shannon Baker - authorThe Author: Shannon Baker is author of the Kate Fox Mystery series. Set in rural Nebraska cattle country, according to a starred review in Library Journal, “Baker’s writing evokes the beauty of the Nebraska Sandhills, and her colorful cast of secondary characters adds a depth of charm.” Now a resident of Tucson, Baker spent 20 years in the Nebraska Sandhills, where cattle outnumber people by more than 50:1. Shannon is proud to have been chosen Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ 2014 and 2017 Writer of the Year.

Baker also writes the Nora Abbott mystery series, a fast-paced mix of Hopi Indian mysticism, environmental issues, and murder. The first in the series, Height of Deception, is set in Flagstaff, AZ, where she lived for several years and worked for The Grand Canyon Trust, a hotbed of environmentalists who, usually, don’t resort to murder. It is a 2013 finalist in the New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards.

A lover of the great outdoors, she can be found backpacking in the Rockies, traipsing to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, skiing mountains and plains, kayaking lakes, hiking, cycling, and diving whenever she gets the chance. Having the desert for a backyard is a daily thrill, bringing javelinas, rattlesnakes, zillions of birds, and spectacular sunsets every day.

Arizona sunsets notwithstanding, Baker is, and always will be, a Nebraska Husker. Go Big Red.

©2021 V Williams

Mystery at the Old Mill (An Eve Mallow Mystery Book 4) by Clare Chase – a #BookReview – #cozy mystery

“…a huge flock of widgeon rose to the sky, changing its shape like a dense collection of iron filings pulled by a magnet.” 

Book Blurb:

When the calm of Saxford St Peter is disrupted by a deadly fire at the Old Mill, amateur sleuth Eve Mallow finds herself investigating a most surprising mystery!

Mystery at the Old Mill by Clare ChaseEveryone in Saxford St Peter is desperate to know more about Harry Tennant, the newcomer who owns the Old Mill. He usually keeps himself to himself, but he’s finally invited the villagers round for drinks, and Eve Mallow isn’t the only one looking forward to having some questions answered.

But two days before the party, a terrible fire sweeps through the mill, and Harry is found dead. When Eve passes the burned remains of his beautiful house, she can’t resist the call to investigate. Especially when it turns out quiet, charming Harry was living a double life as the famous advice writer Pippa Longford. Eve has to wonder what revelations were contained in the letters he received… and whether one of them was worth killing for.

Accompanied by her reliable dachshund sidekick Gus, Eve starts digging. She soon realises Harry was at the centre of a web of lives – and lies. There’s an uncle desperate to inherit, two women who thought they were his one and only, not to mention everyone who shared their darkest secrets with him. Was one of those strangers much closer to home than Harry knew? And can Eve untangle the truth before she finds herself face to face with a killer?

My Review:

My second excursion into an Eve Mallow mystery. I did enjoy Book 1, Mystery on Hidden Lane, which as the first of the series developed the character of Eve apparently as by Book 4, there is little further fleshing of Eve as there is of Gus, her companion Dachshund.

I was intrigued in Book 1 by the idea of a freelance obituary writer, an easy cover for her sleuthing activities when something happens. In this entry to the series—the death of a man living in the Old Mill in Saxton St Peter, Suffolk village.

Mystery at the Old Mill by Clare ChaseThe victim, Harry Tennant, is an “agony aunt,” that is, an advice columnist. Unfortunately, he is passed off as a woman, and very few knew that he is actually Pippy Longford. And fewer still that the local citizens of the community were writing to someone right there in their midst. Interesting premise!

Harry is not a nice man. (“He’d fought bullying by becoming a bully”…and it worked for him.) Heaven knows he has lots of advice—for everyone—about everything. His columns are not always helpful—but, hey, that’s what sells. When his old mill burns down with him in it, it is established that it wasn’t accidental.

I’m not quite sure what to think about Book 4. Obviously, I missed Books 2 and 3, but Book 4 does not redux the character of Eve sufficiently, other than she is still working with her BFF, Viv in her tea shop. Eve takes to discussing the threads of the case with Gus, who eyes her appropriately depending whether or not he gets to go on her interviews.

I had difficulty getting into the rather drawn out plot, well-plotted though it was, just a bit slow for me and my attention lagged more than once. Who knew Tennant’s alter-ego and who was it who might have been harmed by a juicy tidbit he was set to announce at the open house he’d planned to reveal the night following his death?

His isn’t the only body to fall by the wayside in the ensuing investigation and there are a number of red herrings. Eve had a way of seriously ticking off her interviewees, curtailing any further discussion. Several possible perps rise to the top of the list and the atmosphere becomes tense.

Seems the more obvious suspects are too obvious and in the end, the conclusion is enlightening as well as surprising. In the meantime, I enjoyed the little tidbits about the frigid location by the North Sea and the country lanes with their very colorful names: i.e., Blind Eye Lane, Haunted Lane, Old Yard Lane. If you are a fan of the author, I’d suggest you begin this series with Book 1, as I felt a bit lost in Book 4. Must have missed something and perhaps would not function as a standalone.

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the author. These are my honest thoughts.

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

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Book Details:

Genre: Women’s Detective Fiction, Cozy Mystery, Christian Suspense
Publisher: Bookouture

  • ASIN : B08CBHCRSG

Print Length: 317 pages
Publication Date: To be released December 7, 2020
Source: Publisher and NetGalley 

Title Link(s):

Amazon   |   Barnes & Noble

Clare Chase - authorThe Author: Clare Chase writes classic mysteries. Her aim is to take readers away from it all via some armchair sleuthing in atmospheric locations.

Her debut novel was shortlisted for Novelicious’s Undiscovered Award, as well as an EPIC award post-publication, and was chosen as a Debut of the Month by LoveReading. Murder on the Marshes (Tara Thorpe 1) was shortlisted for an International Thriller Writers award.

Like her heroines, Clare is fascinated by people and what makes them tick. Before becoming a full-time writer, she worked in settings as diverse as Littlehey Prison and the University of Cambridge, in her home city. She’s lived everywhere from the house of a lord to a slug-infested flat and finds the mid-terrace she currently occupies a good happy medium.

As well as writing, Clare loves family time, art and architecture, cooking, and of course, reading other people’s books.

You can find Clare’s website and blog at http://www.clarechase.com

©2020 V Williams V Williams

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