Review: WHITE WITH FISH, RED WITH MURDER by Harley Mazuk

51ZieRgHZBLWHITE WITH FISH, RED WITH MURDER by Harley Mazuk (A Frank Swiver Novel)

Released Feb 28, 2017 by Driven Press

Mr. Mazuk says he enjoys “old school” pulp and private eye fiction. Consequently, you know what to expect from his novels – fun noir – and you are not disappointed. His protagonist is private eye Frank Swiver, a connoisseur of wine, fine and not so, and big-breasted women, willing and not so. Hard-drinking, hard loving, rarely sleeping and being shot at all the time fills the bill with this noir. With characters reminiscent of Dashiell Hammett’s Maltese Falcon, they are all the more fun because Mr. Mazuk knows how to use them well. Along with a train car full of suspects, he sends the reader to the post-war world of Napa Valley wines. And we go willingly.

To his credit, Mr. Mazuk has created a protagonist who is his own person. Just when you expect Swiver to go one way, he goes another. He makes the unexpected choice or says the unexpected thing making his character seem more real and likable. He rescues a cat named Chardonnay because he feels he has to. Of course, the cat later dies – once again, in an unexpected turn of events – but the rescue is an interesting character beat.

Which leads me to my only criticism. The deceased cat seemed to be still laying in the trunk of his car at story’s end, which took place days later. I pondered on that. I think it’s better for a writer to complete or finish off a plot device – sometimes it only takes a sentence or phrase – rather than risk leaving a reader dangling with a ‘what happened to’ thought lingering in their minds.

But all in all, this is a good novel, with colorful characters, interesting dialog and a crackerjack plot. Frankly, it was a surprise to me who ‘did’ it. And that speaks well for any mystery.

Review provided by Heather Haven

Book Excerpt: HONEYMOONS CAN BE MURDER by Heather Haven

honeymoons1 copyHONEYMOONS CAN BE MURDER by Heather Haven / Mystery /  Released March 1, 2017 by Wives of Bath Press

When PI Lee Alvarez goes on her honeymoon with bridegroom, Gurn Hanson, they find a dead woman practically on their doorstep. Kauai breezes may be soft, but there are gale force winds of accusation against Gurn. Will Lee find the real killer before her new hubby gets sent to a Hawaiian hoosegow?

Chapter One 

“Gurn, darling, wasn’t that woman lying in exactly the same position when we left for breakfast?”

Shading my eyes, I looked in the direction of a chaise lounge about seventy yards away sitting half in the lapping waves of the Pacific and half on the warm sands of Hanalei Bay. Dragged into position by sunbathers looking to have the best of both worlds, it seemed to be a common practice on the island. Ten or fifteen others dotted the Hanalei Bay coastline near their respective beachfront rooms.

I’d noticed the woman around seven o’clock in the morning when I stepped outside with my coffee and the morning’s newspaper. I would have liked to take a run along the beach before breakfast, but was recuperating from a sprained ankle, so instead I read “USA Today” while slurping my latte. A poor substitute.

Our honeymoon bungalow was set off in a corner of the Royal Kauai Hotel’s expansive beachfront property. Other than the mandatory public access, which allowed for occasional wanderings by guests along the beach, it was private, quiet, and heaven.

The slender woman was lying on her back in a rather racy red bikini. Legs outstretched, arms by her side, large floppy black hat covering her face, neck and hair, she hadn’t moved in over three hours. I unwrapped myself from my own lounge chair and stood.

“She was, wasn’t she? In exactly the same position.”

My husband of less than a week remained seated in one of the two turquoise and white beach chairs on our lanai. But he leaned forward, removed his sunglasses, his grey-green eyes focusing on her.

“You could be right, but I wasn’t paying attention to her, not really.” He reached up and grabbed me around the waist, pulling me on his lap. “I only have eyes for you, sweetheart.” He then proceeded to kiss my neck with loud, smacking noises, intentionally more comical than romantic.

“Yes, darling,” I said, wiggling within his embrace. “But seriously, I don’t think she’s moved in hours.”

Gurn glanced in her direction in earnest. “She could be sleeping one off.”

“She could.” My tone was doubtful.

“You think she might be sick or something? Why don’t you walk down there and have a chat with her? But if you wake her up and she gets a mad on, remember I told you so.”

“Why don’t we go together?”

I flashed him what I hoped was a winning smile. It must have been along the winning lines because he let out a sigh of resignation and released me. I removed myself from his lap and got to my feet. Gurn looked at me, the lopsided smile springing to his face.

“You’re lucky you’re so gorgeous I’ll do anything you want. You and your twilight colored eyes,” he added.

“Aw, I’m not so gorgeous,” I said modestly, batting said eyes at him.

“If you say so.” He shrugged.

I feigned shock at his words, gave him a playful smack on the arm, and we both laughed. Gurn stood, and with a groan stretched his now tanned six foot one frame. We’d been married right after he returned from a covert mission a little on the banged up side. It was just a few scrapes, bruises, and a black eye, nothing serious, but he’d made one weird looking groom.

To civilians, he was known as Mr. Hanson, CPA extraordinaire and owner of Hanson Accounting Firm. To the U.S. Navy, he was known as Lt. Commander Hanson, ex-navy SEAL, often called away on highly classified and secretive missions. To me, he was Gurn, the man I loved.

In fairness, I was a little on the banged up side, too, having just completed a case where the villain was unwilling to see my side of things i.e. going to jail for murder. I was for; villain against. After a few rounds, I had my way but not without sustaining a sprained ankle and a black and blue hand. The ankle was currently embraced by a support boot. The hand was on its own. Everything hurt, so I was either icing various parts, taking Advil, or downing the occasional Mai Tai. Rum can be very medicinal.

I studied the lone woman lying on the chaise. So did Gurn. Without saying a word, we walked hand in hand in her direction. Actually, Gurn walked. I hobbled in the cumbersome boot I was relegated to wearing for the next four to six weeks.

Once there, we unlocked hands, Gurn going around to the far side of the lounge. I looked at him and he looked at me. Raising his forefinger, he tapped the air in the woman’s direction, indicating it was time for me to do something.

I cleared my throat.

Nothing.

“Ah, miss?”

Still nothing.

“Excuse me,” I said louder then waited.

“Miss?” This time I jostled the chaise lounge with my knee. The movement caused the sandal to drop off her left foot and land in the water. It bobbed on gentle waves.

Review: INHERIT THE BONES by Emily Littlejohn

51vnbqzmual-_sy344_bo1204203200_INHERIT THE BONES by Emily Littlejohn / A Detective Gemma Monroe Novel / Released Nov 1, 2016 by Minotaur Books

Review by Heather Haven

This is a debut novel, but you’d never know it by the writing. There is an ease and confidence to the story, characters, and prose that dominate the novel. Ms. Littlejohn has created real people and situations at once familiar, yet slightly off-kilter. On the surface, all seems normal. Almost. But then, how normal is murder?

The protagonist, Detective Gemma Monroe, is six months pregnant, filled with doubts about herself, her lover, her job, and the small Colorado town in which she lives. And then there are the dreams, the recurring dreams about children long dead. They call to her, taunt her, until the very end of the book. Then the truth is revealed in the most astonishing way. As the reader, we follow this storyteller, Emily Littlejohn, and become as haunted as Gemma by the past, present, and future. Such is the legacy of fine writing.