Senior moments, travel mishaps and murder meet in Catch Me if Yukon.
Husband and wife team Etienne and Emily run Destinations Travel, a senior tour group out of Iowa. This trip is a twelve-day Alaskan bus tour. Along with their twelve regulars are seven new travelers from the same Iowan bookclub. It doesn’t take long before Bigfoot is spotted and one of the group is murdered, possibly by Bigfoot.
The feisty old ladies make for a humorous ride. It is nice to get a free travelogue along with your cozy mystery. My only complaint was that the conclusion was wrapped up a little too quickly for me. Catch Me if Yukon is an enjoyable cozy mixing senior humor and travel. 3 stars.
Thanks to Midnight Ink Books and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
Natalie and Will meet in law school, marry and have eleven-year-old Charlie when a family crisis threatens to break up their family in For Better and Worse.
Natalie is suspicious that Will is having an affair. He is criticizing her appearance and organizational skills constantly. Will has also lost weight and started working out. However, infidelity pales in comparison to their son’s revelation that his principal molested him. As a criminal defense attorney, Natalie knows how unfair the criminal justice system is to juvenile victims. She convinces Will their only option is to murder their son’s abuser without getting caught. Then things begin to spin out of Natalie’s control.
If you dislike unsympathetic narrators, For Better and Worse is not a good choice. By the conclusion, I disliked all the characters except the dog. Narration switches between the ultra-organized Natalie and her self-centered husband Will. While I raced through the first half in one anxious swoop, the conclusion seemed unbelievable and rushed. However, I adored the twist in the epilogue. For Better and Worse has the potential to be a series. If so, I would be interested to read the next in the series. 3.5 stars!
Thanks to Mira Books and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock is back in the absorbing Australian police procedural Into the Night.
Gemma has moved from her hometown and son, Ben, to Melbourne. Her relationship with Ben’s father, Simon, mutually ended after The Dark Lake. Gemma is falling into half-night stands with strangers picked up in bars despite having a nice man trying to be a part of her life. She is missing Ben but feels compelled to solve crimes regardless of the cost to her personal life.
Gemma’s first case with her new guarded partner, Nick Fleet, is a seemingly random stabbing of a homeless man. However, the murder of up-and-coming celebrity Sterling Wade while the cameras are rolling pulls all the police detectives into the high profile case. Sterling was making a zombie movie where extras were chasing and assaulting him when he is stabbed with a real knife later found at the scene. His girlfriend, Lizzie, realizes something is wrong and her screams bring help unfortunately too late. The camera footage is of little help as everyone around Sterling is dressed in masks as zombies. Who has a motive? Everyone and no one. Sterling is well-liked and respected. However, his wealth and fame present irresistible challenges to many of his co-workers, friends and family.
It is refreshing to see a female detective go through the same drinking and relationship issues so familiar to male detectives from Phillip Marlowe to Harry Bosch. Despite all her baggage, she is an excellent detective. All the clues are here for the conclusion but I didn’t guess whodunit. It was still nice to see the author twist together all the mystery’s strands into a surprising conclusion. I can’t wait for the next in the series! Into the Night is recommended for police procedural fans. 4 stars!
Thanks to Grand Central Publishing and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
The Mansion is haunted by ancient prohibition-era ghosts who seem to have possessed the house’s personal assistant, Nellie. The only hope for the inhabitants are psychic twin seven-year-olds conceived on the estate.
Billy and Shawn were best college buddies who spent the two years following college living in a rural hovel near Shawn’s family’s ruined inn in upstate New York. While there, they tried, and failed, to develop the world’s first intuitive personal assistant they nicknamed Nellie. Instead, they developed the first non-binary programming language, Eagle Logic. When Billy runs off with Shawn’s girlfriend, Emily, Shawn becomes a famous tech billionaire similar to Steven Jobs. Billy marries Emily. He then sues Shawn for his share in the creation of Eagle Logic, and loses. Billy begins to drink heavily bankrupting his family until he is forced to enter rehab.
Ten years after initially leaving the hovel and almost two years sober, Billy is summoned by Shawn. Shawn has remodeled the inn into a modern resort called The Mansion and added an ostentatious personal living space called the Nest. More importantly, he has completed Nellie and installed her throughout the Nest. When Shawn asks Billy to fix a few bugs in Nellie while staying isolated in The Nest with Emily over the winter, Billy is quick to accept. Especially after hearing how much money he will make even if he can’t fix Nellie–$50,000 per month tax-free.
There are three parallel plots: present day with Nellie, the time when Shawn and Billy were living in the hovel, and Shawn’s youth in the now burned caretaker’s cottage. It is fascinating to see them twist around each other as the conclusion is reached.
The Mansion is marketed as a horror thriller, where the horror is driven by technology. However, I think it is better described as three, almost gothic, mysteries. There was much more an atmosphere of dread rather than true horror within these pages. Also, the pacing is too slow and syrupy for a thriller. It’s more Daphne Du Maurier than Stephen King or Michael Crichton. Therefore, it is recommended for gothic mystery fans who want to read something more modern than rain swept cliffs and foggy downs. 4 stars!
Thanks to Emily Bestler, Atria Books and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
Set in the houses of Parliament in 1932, when it was also written, the Division Bell Mystery is the first mystery written by a female member of Parliament.
Someone is murdered. However, the focus is on British politics. Not being British, I had a hard time following the story. Those familiar with Parliament might enjoy the intrigue. However, I didn’t think the mystery was good enough to wade through all the politics. It is more of a curiosity than a good read. 2 stars.
Thanks to Poisoned Pen Press and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
Deep War is a war where everything is at stake—think the Somme or Stalingrad.
China has intervened in a skirmish between India and Pakistan. When the United States sent in a carrier battle group, China destroyed it with a nuclear bomb—killing all 10,000 people aboard.
It’s now year two of the war. In the US, the first and second amendments have been suspended as well as habeas corpus. A full draft has begun that includes woman for the first time. Due to Chinese hackers, only face-to-face and paper communications can be trusted. The US is seriously considering a confined nuclear solution. Later, China unleashes a new tech solution—an artificial intelligence called Jade Emperor that anticipates every move made by China’s enemies and how to counter them. There is also a renegade Navy Seal recruiting and training homegrown troops to infiltrate China on the CIAs behest.
Deep War is the 18th entry in the Dan Lenson series. However, it can be read as a stand-alone novel. It has something for everyone: military strategy, politics, and low and high tech solutions to war. This book is highly recommended for those who enjoy military fiction but also those who like tech will enjoy it. It is scarily true to life. 4 stars!
Thanks to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
Painter Iris rents a cottage on the grounds of famous mystery writer Dom’s large Hampshire family estate. Iris is deciding what to do about her verbally abusive husband and failing marriage. When Ariadne, Dom’s wife, hires Iris to paint his portrait, Iris is happy to comply. However, when Dom is found dead in the river, the police believe it’s suicide. Iris cannot picture the vain and self-centered author taking his own life so she investigates.
Iris is a refreshingly new detective. She uses her eye for visual details to solve the crime. However, Murder at the Mill cannot be compared to the tightly plotted Agatha Christie books. The author never used one adjective when a ten-word simile could be used. Every character has a multitude of secrets that are repeated over-and-over throughout the book. The plot goes down dead ends without explanation. This is the first book in a new series. I would read another just because of Iris. I pray the editing will be better in the next entry.
Murder at the Mill is recommended for readers looking more for atmosphere than plot. 3 stars!
Thanks to Minotaur Books and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
It’s 1969. Bryant and May are tasked with keeping a witness safe at an English Country House weekend. Unfortunately, the Army has closed the only exit road due to war games. There are nine suspects and more than one potential victim in this Hall of Mirrors.
Hall of Mirrors is the fifteenth entry in the Peculiar Crimes Unit series but the first I’ve read. It is a perfect entry point because it is a prequel of one of Bryant and May’s early cases. London in 1969 sounds like a groovy time, man. The setting of hippies, eastern spirituality and old staunch England all collide with humorous results. This book includes everything but the kitchen sink: mythical creatures, WWI heroes, innovative murder methods and motives. The conclusion was fabulous. I loved this book and will be looking for more from this series. It is highly recommended to armchair detectives and anyone looking for a challenging mystery. 5 stars!
Thanks to Ballantine Books and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
The Fog Amanda McKinney
(A Berry Springs Novel)
Publication date: December 4th 2018
Genres: Adult, Mystery, Romance
Former Marine turned ballistics expert, Wesley Cross is known around town for two things, his rugged good-looks and cocky attitude—until he finds his ex-girlfriend lying in a puddle of blood in his basement. The scene screams setup, but the discovery of a rare gem and a puzzling autopsy suggests the murder goes much deeper than that. Wesley will do whatever it takes to clear his name, including calling in a notoriously headstrong—and sexy—scientist.
While most little girls were playing dress up, Gwyneth Reece was digging in the dirt collecting bugs. Now one of the top forensic entomologists in the country, Gwen reluctantly accepts a job from a pushy cowboy and travels to the small, Southern town of Berry Springs. Heavy storms are brewing, and when she’s forced to check into the creepiest hotel she’s ever seen, she instantly regrets her decision to help out the former Marine.
Following up on a tip, Wesley heads to the Half Moon Hotel but quickly realizes his visit was not by chance. The killer lured him there, and suddenly everyone from the uptight bellman to the wealthy couple just passing through town become suspect. Bodies begin to disappear, and Wesley knows the killer will do anything to get to him…. including hurting the woman who’s kept his head spinning since he first laid eyes on her.
Award-winning author of romantic suspense and mystery, Amanda McKinney wrote her debut novel, LETHAL LEGACY, after walking away from her career to become a writer and stay-at-home mom. Set in small, Southern towns, Amanda’s books are page-turning murder mysteries peppered with steamy love scenes, and include the BERRY SPRINGS SERIES and the BLACK ROSE MYSTERY SERIES, with many more to come.
Senator Jim McVeagh is approached by President Mark Hollenbach at a journalists’ dinner and invited to a Night of Camp David the same evening. While there, the President states that using wiretaps on every phone in America is a good way to prevent crime. He then goes on a paranoid rant against his own Vice President, OMalley. He asks Jim what he thinks of various alternatives he is considering as running mates for his reelection campaign. One of the alternatives is Jim himself.
After returning home, Jim learns that others are concerned about the President’s paranoia too. When the President offers Jim the vice presidency, he accepts but doesn’t mention his long-time mistress, Rita. Soon afterwards, Jim breaks it off with Rita.
As the President gets increasingly paranoid, he floats many plans to remove rights from the American people beginning with freedom of the press. He also sleeps less and less while becoming moody. When he talks of merging with Canada and Scandinavia, Jim believes he speaking about conquering those countries. It is then that Jim concluded the President is insane.
Night of Camp David seems like it was written for our current political climate of a President who also appears to have “delusions of persecution and perhaps grandeur as well.” However, it was originally published in 1965 well before the Trump and Nixon presidencies it most resembles. It is still a topical book even if it is written in a slower pace than current thrillers. It’s worth a read for political junkies. 3 stars.
Thanks to Vintage Anchor Books and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
Cuckoo is an atmospheric gothic mystery set in a rural English house, where even the heroine doubts her sanity. Is she hallucinating? Are ghosts present or is it her memories coming back of her horrible childhood?
Caro is a starving artist in London when she is informed her stepmother has died. Caro and her older sister Steph will inherit the entire estate once it leaves probate. Steph, now a wealthy New Yorker, gives her share to Caro. Caro, soon to be homeless in London, decides to move into her old family home to clear out her stepmother’s paperwork and personal items. While in the house, a snowstorm forces her to stay inside where her memories of her hateful stepmother during her childhood return with a vengeance.
Cuckoo is reminiscent of golden age mystery writers like Mary Roberts Rinehart with her Had I But Known school of naive and trusting narrators. Caro total lack of faith in herself and continual bad choices began to annoy me around the midpoint. Basically, the clues were all there in plain sight but Caro just ignored them all. I did enjoy the dark English folk and fairy tales sprinkled throughout the book. I googled some of them and they are real—no wonder the English have such stiff upper lips if this is how they entertain their children!
If you enjoy slow-burning gothic reads with most of the action in the unreliable narrator’s head, you will enjoy reading Cuckoo. For me, the annoyingly dense heroine and an obvious twist makes this a 3 star read for me.
Thanks to the publisher, Avon Books UK, and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
Lowdown, a romantic thriller set in the world of New York City’s mafia families, has the best first paragraph I’ve read in a long time:
“The first seven years you’re in the can, all you can think about is revenge. The next seven years you crave freedom and things you remember from before. You want to get laid more than you want to get even. After that you’re not so sure. You know you want to be on the other side, but you don’t trust your memories. People have died, gone to prison, disappeared. Places you remember have closed down. Freedom is just a dream, something you imagine often but incompletely. Part of you is scared of it. Prison has become your life. You may hate it, but it’s home. You’re not even sure if you hate it anymore. That’s what twenty-five years in the calendar shop does to you.”
Jimmy, a made man, is finally getting out of prison. He states:
”You are outside the prison gates. You’re fifty-eight years old and a newborn.”
But this is not just Jimmy’s story about reinventing himself after being a stand-up guy for twenty-five years, it also the story of young Milena. Milena is only thirteen when her story begins. She is an Italian teenage girl in the 1970s. Against the background of notorious NYC serial killers and the Vietnam war, her role is to get married and have children. Milena rebels against this stereotype by making poor choices in men and getting involved in crime. Eventually, she marries a made man and they have children. Her husband pulls her into his world with varying results.
Forgive me for quoting so much of the book but the language used is part of the charm of Lowdown. While it has mob killings and rats, it is more a love story of two people in a difficult setting finding each other. I love mafia movies and was expecting something along the lines of The Godfather. This is similar to the life story of Kay Adams-Corleone (Michael’s wife played by Diane Keaton) written after divorcing Michael. It is definitely more of a romance than a mafia book. It is recommended for readers who want an original perspective on mob life. 4.5 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Permanent Press, and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
Like Columbo, Newcomer is a new approach to a police procedural. Eight stories each tell an investigative tale. By the last chapter, the detective has solved the crime.
Precinct Detective Sergeant Kaga is a new transfer to Tokyo’s police department investigating a murder. He is a self-effacing bumbler on the surface but in reality is as smart as a whip. Each of the eight individual stories are interesting for their captivating character studies. They show both the similarities and differences between life in Japan and in America. However, they also provide clues to the overall mystery, the murder of a recently divorced woman. For example, Kaga verifies a suspect’s alibi by whether the suspect was wearing his suit coat when he went to the rice cracker shop. In other stories, Kaga tracks down the sweet buns and kitchen scissors found at the scene of the murder. In all the stories, the people Kaga is interviewing, and the reader, do not know what or why he is investigating seemingly unrelated items.
I adored this delightful Japanese take on a police procedural! The character studies were interesting enough on their own to read the book. There were definitely clues to the murderer’s identity for the observant reader, which unfortunately was not me. However, I liked the challenge. Newcomer has my highest recommendation for anyone looking for something completely different that most mystery books. 5 stars!
Thanks to Minotaur Books and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
In My Sister, the Serial Killer, Korede is a good sister, who cleans up her younger sister Ayoola’s messes, literally. With bleach.
Ayoola, though beautiful, has man problems—she keeps killing them. As the book begins, Ayoola has just killed her third boyfriend. After googling the definition of serial killer, Korede realizes it fits her sister.
When Korede catches Ayoola trying to hit on Dr. Tade at Korede’s work, Korede tries to stop her involvement. None of Ayoola’s relationships end well for the man and Korede has her eye on Tade for herself. When Ayoola takes Korede’s words as a challenge, the fun begins.
If you like black humor set in exotic Lagos Nigeria, you will love My Sister, the Serial Killer as much as I do. It is hard not to sympathize with poor plain Korede’s plight. Her sister is obviously just using her and all her boyfriends. It is a fun read from a completely new perspective. 4 stars!
Thanks to Doubleday Books and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
Fans of the Limetown podcast rejoice! Many of your lingering questions are answered within these pages. Plus there are no spoilers for future podcasts.
Lia wants to be a reporter. Her first investigation is of the missing residents of nearby Limetown. She discovers that her Uncle Emile is somehow involved, which makes it personal. Her father and uncle’s origin stories are told in flashbacks. What type of experiments were done at Limetown? Who were the people behind the experiments? What were their motivations? Why was Lia’s family so intimately involved?
I had heard of the Limetown podcast but hadn’t listened to any episodes before acquiring this book. I had only read about 20% when I decided I couldn’t wait any longer and binge listened to season 1. The podcast is formatted as interviews with survivors of the Limetown disaster. This book starts before Lia is a reporter or Emile has joined the Limetown project. By looking back, the podcast is inherently more mysterious and shocking than the book that is more linear. However, they complement each other well regardless of the order they are imbibed.
If you like mysteries with a creepy scientific setting, both the Limetown book and podcast are highly recommended. 4 stars! If you are already a podcast fan, you have to read this book!
Thanks to the publisher, Simon & Schuster, and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
Another fun-filled romp from Vicki Delany! A Scandal in Scarlet is the fourth cozy in the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop mystery series.
Gemma is walking her dog late one night when she sees flames behind the window of the historic Scarlet Museum. A candle left burning is ruled the cause of the fire. Due to interior damage, Kathy and the rest of the museum’s Board decide to have an auction to raise money for repairs. Jayne, co-owner with Gemma of Mrs. Hudson’s Tea Shop next door to Gemma’s bookshop, volunteers to hold the auction.
Only one business refuses to donate an item for the auction, the uniformly disliked Maureen. When Maureen brings a truly hideous painting to donate the day of the auction, refuses to pay the entrance fee, and starts a loud fight with Kathy, Kathy’s day couldn’t get worse. But then she sees her recently ex-husband with his new older wife sitting in the back of the room. She goes into a backroom to recuperate after the two shocks. When she doesn’t come out to begin the auction, Gemna and Jayne find her in the back room strangled. The decorative cord used to kill her is missing from the front of the tea shop implying that one of the attendees did the crime. However, a back door to the alley was also unlocked so there was access from outside.
Kathy was not well liked by half of the museum’s Board and volunteers leading to plenty of disgruntled suspects. When Gemma is asked to help the hated Maureen to clear her name, she agrees and the game is afoot.
I adore this series! Gemma and Jayne are genuine, relatable, and seem like old friends. The mystery is rather difficult to solve, which makes this a great choice for armchair detectives. Gemma’s romance with handsome Detective Ryan is moved forward a bit as is her friendship with Grant. A Scandal in Scarlet has something for all cozy readers. 4 stars!
Thanks to Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.