Mystery Reviews

The Richebourg AffairTHE RICHEBOURG AFFAIR, by R.M. Cartmel (Crime Scene Books, 2014,$15.00) takes us to the Burgundy region of France, known for its superlative wine and long history of bloodshed. Commandant Truchaud finds both when he is called home to his brother’s funeral. He has questions that must be answered: what, exactly, was the cause of his brother’s death? Why is his neighbor so insistent on buying the family’s vineyards? The wine business is rife with corruption, and Truchaud must expose a fraudulent wine scheme and a family scandal before he’s finished. French policing is complex, but Truchaud is a dogged detective, who isn’t afraid to face his superiors when he knows he’s right. A tour of the French countryside, with murder and mayhem thrown in!

DamageFelix Francis has taken up where his father, Dick Francis, left off, covering the British horse-racing scene, and DAMAGE (Putnam, 2014,$24.95) deals with the changes in the system of regulating what has become a multi-national million-pound industry. The British Horse-racing Authority has replaced the aristocratic Jockey Club, which had the reputation of sweeping indiscretions under the upper-class rug, but skullduggery rears its head anyway. Horses are testing positive for forbidden substances, throwing racing results into chaos. Investigator Jeff Hinkley is called in to find out exactly what is going on. Are the test results accurate, or is it all a giant scheme to get blackmail money from the BHA? Who is behind the doping, if doping is going on? Why would a small-time crook murder a bookmaker in broad daylight at a race meet? Jeff uses all the tricks of his trade to find the answers, and comes up with a stunning discovery that leads to a thrilling chase and a final, devastating revelation.

The Long Way HomeTHE LONG WAY HOME, by Louise Penny (Minotaur, 2014, $24.99) continues the story of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, now retired to his idyllic village of Three Pines in Quebec, Canada. There he can enjoy his well-earned retirement and try to forget the devastating events that led to his leaving the Surite de Quebec. However, crime seems to follow Gamache, even to this remote village, and he answers the plea of his neighbor, Claire Morrow, when she asks him to find her missing husband. The trail leads from a college in Toronto to a desolate village at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River, where a vicious murderer lurks. A portrait holds a devastating secret in this psychological thriller, that reveals the depths behind the veil of Canadian politeness.

Keeping SecretsCathi Stoler’s KEEPING SECRETS (Camel Press, 2014, $14.95) takes us to New York City, where Laurel Imperiole and Helen McCorkendale find that love leads to murder, as they pursue a friend’s fiancé who seems to have multiple identities. Laurel’s love interest and Anne’s seem to connect with Mafiosi and a n elaborate scam involving politicians, cops, and identity theft. It takes more than New York’s Finest to untangle this web of intrigue! Laurel and Helen are a good team, but they have no luck with men, Stay tuned for more adventures for this New York duo.

Reviews provided by Roberta Rogow for her column Roberta’s Ramblings in the March 2015 issue of The Book Breeze.

Rogow Dobson Doyle DQC

Review” RISKY UNDERTAKING by Mark de Castrique

Risky UndertakingRisky Undertaking by Mark de Castrique

Poisoned Pen Press Mystery (Buryin’ Barry series)

The protagonist in the Buryin’ Barry series is delightfully different, beginning with his co-careers as an undertaker and part-time deputy and flowing through his unique way of viewing a murder scene and his interactions with his buddies and the townspeople. The book brought back memories of movies in the wild west of my childhood, oddly mixed with Miss Marple and Raymond Chandler’s books – all good things. Well-paced with dry humor and an absorbing story, the plot and sub-plots fueled my interest.

I don’t think Castrique missed any socio-economic group as he developed his thoroughly believable cast of unusual characters. Set in North Carolina, this unusual book incorporated Cherokee Indians, a Boston policeman, and a New Jersey hit man to take readers on more twists than a Chubby Checker record. A good read.

This review was provided by Mahala Church for her column Barefoot Reviews in the March 2015 issue of The Book Breeze.

Review: CAUGHT DEAD by Andre Lanh

Caught DeadCaught Dead by Andre Lanh

Poisoned Pen Press Mystery/Thriller (Rick Van Lam 1st in series)

For anyone who lived through the Vietnam War or is a student of its history, this first book of Andre Lanh (aka as Ed Ifkovic who writes absorbing mysteries) will ring true. The children—who had the misfortune to have a Vietnamese mother and U.S. father who disappeared when his tour was over—suffered innumerable assaults mentally and physically. Rick Van Lam, one of these children, was sent to a Catholic Charity organization at the age of five and found his way to America. Like all people, Rick carries the pain of his past with him, but for Rick, his lack of acceptance in the Vietnamese community in Connecticut too frequently summons bad dreams. He has done well for himself, teaching criminal justice at a community college and working as a private investigator for an insurance company, but he is still treated as part of the Yellow Peril. He works to find the killer of a Vietnamese woman at the request of his friend, Hank, who is full-bloodied Vietnamese and helps him navigate between two hostile worlds. Lanh’s characters expertly develop the hostilities and rivalries rife from page one. Detailed settings effortlessly drew me into the scenes. A well-thought out, somewhat complex book with a winning, new protagonist.

This review was provided by Mahala Church for her column Barefoot Reviews in the March 2015 issue of The Book Breeze.

Interview with author Colleen L Donnelly

CLDColleen L. Donnelly grew up in a rural environment, but during and after college she began to spread her wings to experience other places and other cultures. She finally realized she could have her cake and eat it too, by buying a place in the country and working for a college where every culture possible passes through. Even though Colleen was born with the creative urge to write, it wasn’t until after college and after kids that she finally sat down to take it on as a semi-career. True to what’s predicted for beginning writers, she had to write about five novels that were rejected, before her sixth was snatched up by a NY publisher. Still working and still writing and still lending a hand to now grown up kids, Colleen believes that life is good.

Your latest release is ASKED FOR. Tell us about it. “Asked For” is built around unraveling family morals, this one told from two points of view, Lana’s and James’, mother and son bound by a man who wanted neither one of them. Lana was a young girl when Cletus asked for her, full of dreams of someday being special when she became someone’s bride. James, Lana’s youngest son, dreamed of playing baseball and making his father proud if Cletus would ever come to one of his games. Cletus wanted only a wife, nothing so foolish as a bride, an uncomplicated woman who would give him sons. As Lana gave birth to more daughters than sons, last of all to James who looked nothing like Cletus, Cletus’ detachment and anger increased until it culminated in him deeming James as “That boy” the one who wasn’t even his. As Lana’s and James’ parts of the tale build from this family’s beginnings to the eventual climax where choices are revealed, we see everyone’s obstacles and the coping mechanisms they chose to survive what nature and nurture had unfortunately given them.

perf5.000x8.000.inddTell us about your characters. In “Asked For” Lana is almost a child when Cletus asks for her. She goes into an arranged marriage with illusions that turn into delusions even before her wedding night is over. Full of determination to do what’s right, the way her grandmother taught her, Lana gets little reward for her efforts. Buoyed by her love for her children, and the gentle reminder of her value offered by two men who see the beauty beneath her worn exterior, Lana marches forward gaining the strength she needs to not only endure, but to survive the life Cletus gives her. James knows the love of a mother, the moral support of a local businessman, and the rejection of the one man that matters – his father. As he grows, James untangles what is truly him from what isn’t. His needs suffer great disappointment, but in the end define who he truly is – whether he is “That boy” or Cletus’ son.

Why is the setting important? I have a tendency to write in the past. I love that setting because it forces my characters to act and grow without the aid of modern conveniences. I want them to get up, travel a path, chart a course through obstacles rather than receive a text message with an easy answer. I’ve been told that my settings become characters, and maybe this is why – so my heroes and heroines are forced to interact with their settings to achieve their goals.

Who were your heroes growing up and how do they affect our storytelling? I have to admit that villains in my life may have more to do with my storytelling than heroes, now that you ask. Hmmmm, that’s kind of embarrassing and I may have to ponder this some more. But I write from dilemmas, and the people who created those situations for me or those around me, have stuck in my mind and are now “types” in my novels. That said, who did I turn to as a child for help from these foes? Family members, a few close friends, teachers, and God – not necessarily in that order. I know that list seems cliché, so let me also say a large cast of fictional characters inspired me also – from movies and literature alike. I did learn, though, that heroes can’t and/or won’t always do what you want, but many times what we want isn’t what’s best. Darn.

Do you have a favorite mystery author? I’ve read Agatha Christie more than any other, but I’ve also read a fair amount from these authors – Wilkie Collins, Poe, Sue Grafton, John Sanford, and Janet Evanovich (when I need some comic relief).

perf5.000x8.000.inddWhat’s next for you? I’m in the final stages of editing my next book. As of now, it’s called, “Love on a Train,” but sometimes my working title vanishes right before I submit it to my publisher, and another, more creative title, takes its place. This tale is a post-World War II story of a young woman who falls in love on a train with a soldier who has recently returned from battle. The intensity of her passion for him causes her to write their story, a work of non-fiction that becomes fiction when she realizes he loves another. Her obstacles are the loss of that love, the family shame she creates by adding a fictionalized happy ending to her story and publishing it as romance, and the “good provider” she finds herself engaged to while her heart still belongs to the man she fell in love with on the train. After this book is out, I have a number of novels on my hard drive from the days I was learning to write. Good stories are buried in there, they just need matured and cleaned up, something I plan to do after “Love on a Train” is out.

Review: THE KILL SHOT by Nichole Christoff

The Kill ShotTHE KILL SHOT (Jaime Sinclair Novel) by Nichole Christoff

Random House LLC (March 17, 2015) Mystery

Jamie Sinclair’s father has never asked her for a favor in her life. The former two-star general turned senator is more in the habit of giving his only child orders. So when he requests Jamie’s expertise as a security specialist, she can’t refuse—even though it means slamming the brakes on her burgeoning relationship with military police officer Adam Barrett. Just like that, Jamie hops aboard a flight to London with a U.S. State Department courier carrying a diplomatic pouch in an iron grip.

And … she’s back! Jamie Sinclair takes on another case this time at the request of her father, and boy isn’t he just a bundle of warm fuzzies. As Jamie struggles to figure out who are the good guys and who are the bad, she battles through her emotions regarding her father, her be-still-my-heart boyfriend, Adam Barrett and someone from her past.

The Kill ListJust like her first novel, THE KILL LIST, Christoff delivers another fast paced, tight story with plenty of twists and turns and surprises. A definite must read.

And yes, there is a third book coming. I’m positively giddy.

Review: THE TRAGIC AGE by Stephen Metcalf

The Tragic AgeThe Tragic Age by Stephen Metcalf

St. Martin’s Press ~ March 2015 ~ 5 Stars

Well written with good descriptions, this book will appeal to older readers but isn’t for younger ones, especially since it deals with death, sexuality, suicide, crime, mature language. Billy Kinsey isn’t a typical character in a young adult novel. A struggling high school senior he can’t decide what comes next, perhaps because he’s an insomniac – someone who can’t sleep at home. He doesn’t take his prescribed meds and pretty much blames everything wrong in his world on the death of his twin sister. And there is a great deal that’s wrong in this teen’s world. He hasn’t learned that with life comes a certain amount of choices and that people are responsible for the choices they make. Instead, he’s opting to play the “blame game.”

His parents won the lottery and moved away from “real life” to a neighborhood that is more status conscious. Dad is a practicing alcoholic and Mom focuses on being one of the “girls” – playing tennis and doing Pilates with her friends. As long as Billy tells them what they want to hear, they are content with how he appears to be doing. And Billy knows this better than anyone. He is a cynical, jaded narrator who doesn’t always tell the truth or at least spins it into various “what if” scenarios.

This is one of those books that will undoubtedly end up as classroom literature in high school. It’s a train wreck in action and it becomes impossible to stop reading. Again, this book is exceedingly well written. The language flows. The descriptions are incredible for the most part. It’s a tragedy in several parts, but perhaps the hardest thing to deal with is the fact that there aren’t any likeable or sympathetic adults. Perhaps, this is another aspect of Billy’s own character – he can’t see any redeeming values in them. Yet, paradoxically one would think that there would be at least one “honest” adult in his world.

His friends are nearly as disconnected from each other and their families as the hero. At times the girls in this book feel one dimensional and a bit clichéd, especially when it comes to Denzie, the young, hot Latina. We also never really get to know Gretchen, the girl that Billy likes. Again, this could be directly attributed to the fact that Billy isn’t a reliable narrator, yet this remains one of the best, literary YA novels that I’ve read in a long time.

This debut novel may not be a comfortable read, but it will become a classic and it will be interesting to see what comes next from author, Stephen Metcalf.

This review was provided by Shannon Kennedy for her column Shannon’s Space in the March 2015 issue of The Book Breeze.

Review: LOVE LEAST EXPECTED

e Least ExpectedLove Least Expected (Anthology) Featuring Nine Authors

Publisher: Valerie Twombly (Feb. 3, 2015)

Love Least Expected is an eclectic collection of nine short romances with stories ranging from sweet to spicy. This collection is a great way to sample the distinct writing voices of nine authors and a variety of romance subgenres. Every story offers a place to find love unexpectedly—from a garden in India to the circus to a psychiatric hospital and everywhere in between.

There are two historical romance selections—Under the Mango Tree by Meredith Bond and Rolf’s Quest by Aubrey Wynne. Under the Mango Tree is a coming of age story set in 18th century India. Her story explores the differences in dating rituals between two cultures. Contrast that to Rolf’s Quest, an Arthurian tale of securing your heart’s desire without the benefit of magic.

The two Southern romances, Roses are Wrong, Violets Taboo by Kris Calvert and The Trouble With Never by Isabella Harper, are both glimpses into longer versions of the stories. Calvert manages to make feeding one another seafood a sexy encounter while Harper writes a very sensual scene at a barn dance.

Love’s Not Viral by Nessie Strange, Taking The Plunge by Kishan Paul, and Keep Calm And Eat Chocolate by Michaela Miles represent contemporary romance. In Love’s Not Viral, Strange concocted a scenario where a woman is held captive in her own home by a Hollywood star. The reader is willing to suspend belief long enough to buy into the plotline and watch the budding romance between the heroine and the Hollywood star’s brother. Taking the Plunge deals with addiction and guilt and protecting one’s heart. This story will also be continued in a future release. Miles sets her story in one of the most unusual places for a romance—a psychiatric facility. The hero and heroine both have to change in order to let go of their past lives.

The only fantasy selection, Alphabetical Disorder by Katie Stephens, takes place at the circus. It’s fanciful, fun, and downright imaginative.

ValerieTwombly offers up Fall into Darkness, a paranormal story to be continued later in 2015. The story centers on an angel who is stripped of his wings and sent back to earth to find his humanity. Twombly engages the reader with her expert world building and just right pacing.