Category: Mystery & Thrillers

Christmas Cake Murder
September 30th, 2018 by diane92345

The Christmas Cake Murder turns the clock back to before Hannah opened her bakery, The Cookie Jar.

In a short prequel set before the rest of the books in the series, Hannah returns home from college to attend her father’s funeral. Her mother, Delores, is understandably depressed so she is given a task to take her mind off her troubles. She is asked to help a local older woman, Essie, who has broken her hip. Essie wants to return to her youth by recreating the old-fashioned Christmas Cake Ball. Delores, Hannah and her sisters work together on the project by renovating an old ballroom and baking lots of cakes. Most of the cake and frosting recipes are shared with the reader.

Meanwhile, Hannah decides to drop out of college and forego her dream of becoming a college professor. Why quit college? Over a man (foreshadowing the issues many had with the previous book in the series). Also, the family reads a unfinished crime novel by Essie they find in her room.

The mystery in the Christmas Cake Murder is painfully obvious from the beginning. However, Essie’s crime story is good and drives readers to finish the book. It was also nice to hear why and how Hannah started her business. In addition, there is a heartwarming Christmas story ending. However, the lack of any mystery in a cozy mystery is a serious plot problem. For completists out there (like me) who have read the entire series, this is an interesting read. For others, I wouldn’t recommend it. Do not start the series here—start at the delightful series beginning. 2 1/2 stars.

Thanks to Kensington Books and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

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Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: ,

Premeditated Peppermint
September 29th, 2018 by diane92345

Another murder for Bailey to solve in the excellent cozy mystery, Premeditated Peppermint, the third entry in the Amish Candy Shop series.

Bailey works with her Amish grandmother and cousin in her deceased grandfather’s candy shop, Swissmen Sweets in rural Ohio. When Bailey’s NYC ex-boyfriend hits town, he asks her for help in filming the local Harvest Christmas Market for his reality series. Bailey has a table at the Market featuring peppermint candy.

When the series’ producer ends up dead with Eric as the prime suspect, Bailey investigates. Meanwhile, the mother of Bailey’s boyfriend, Deputy Aiden, asks Bailey for help making her pet pig, Jethro, a movie star.

I loved this series from the beginning. However, this entry is the best yet. It is a perfect blend of kooky locals, light romance, a pleasant setting, a tasty sounding recipe for Peppermint Bark and humor within an intriguing mystery.

Because the story moves forward in each entry in the series, it is best to read them in order. However, there is enough back story quickly presented in this book to allow Premeditated Peppermint to be read as a stand-alone too.

I can’t wait to read Toxic Toffee, the next series entry in the series, previewed in this book! Premeditated Peppermint does not disappoint. It is highly recommended to cozy mystery fans. 4 1/2 stars!

Thanks to Kensington Books and NetGalley for an advance copy.

Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: ,

Silver Anniversary Murder
September 28th, 2018 by diane92345

There are two mysteries in the Silver Anniversary Murder.

The first is the death of Lucy’s old friend Beth. Beth’s jump from her penthouse’s balcony is ruled a suicide. But Lucy, a reporter in small town Maine, doesn’t believe it. After all, Beth has three ex-husbands and one almost ex who all had motive to kill her.

The second is why Warren and Sylvia Bickford are having a town-wide celebration of their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. Sylvia is constantly putting Warren down in public. Could it just be a publicity stunt for her wedding shop and his limo service?

The Silver Anniversary Murder is the 25th book in the Lucy Stone series. I disliked the last entry, the Turkey Trot Murder, intensely. My 1 star review is here. I’m glad to report this entry has returned to form. It is recommended to cozy readers who want a nice simple evening’s entertainment. 3 stars!

Thanks to Kensington Books and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: ,

Ghost and the Bogus Bestseller
September 24th, 2018 by diane92345

“Your eyes are bigger than a hooch hound at a hop joint” says Jack in the Ghost and the Bogus Bestseller. That perfectly describes my feelings when I saw this delightful series return after a ten year long Big Sleep.

Penelope runs a bookstore with her aunt Sadie in Quindicott, Rhode Island. A widow, after her husband’s suicide, Penelope returns to her hometown with her eleven year old son. While renovating the bookstore, she disturbs Jack, the ghost of a 1940s hard-boiled detective. Jack offers Penelope much unsolicited advice in the patois of his time.

At the bookstore, new customer, Emma, sees an author photo on a steamy novel that disturbs her. While the author’s name is not familiar, the author’s photo is. It’s Emma herself! Without paying, Emma races out with the book in hand.

Penelope uncovers Emma’s address and goes there after work to recover the book. She finds the door unlocked, rare books everywhere and Emma dead of an apparent suicide. When incompetent Chief Ciders refuses to look into the case as a suspicious death, Penelope and Jack investigate.

I read most of this series as they were published in the 2000s. I always enjoyed the gentle joshing of Sam Spade type detectives. The Ghost and the Bogus Bestseller carries on seamlessly in this tradition. Despite his language and tough guy attitude, Jack seems like a real and caring person. Emma is an excellent amateur detective who rarely makes a wrong move—mostly because of Jack’s help.

The Ghost and the Bogus Bestseller is highly recommended for cozy mystery readers looking for something a bit different. There are plenty of suspects and deaths to keep armchair detectives busy. 4 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, Berkeley Books, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books, Paranormal Tagged with: ,

Suicide Gene
September 23rd, 2018 by diane92345

Dr. Emma Rose is convinced that there is a Suicide Gene that makes some families, like the Hemingway’s, more likely to kill themselves in this introspective thriller.

Emma is a psychiatrist counseling the McKinney family before one of their members commit suicide. Emma struggles with her own marital and psychological issues. She was adopted and her birth files have mysteriously disappeared. Her lifelong obsession with genetics leads her to conclude that her patients are her long-lost siblings. The McKinneys have a history of suicide, depression and infidelity. Emma has been mistaken for them on several occasions due their physical similarities. At the same time, Emma suspects that her husband, Josh, is cheating on her.

There is a swirling mishmash of plots circling the possibly unreliable narrator. Emma and most of the other characters are very unsympathetic and cold. It is hard to care much about what will happen to them. However, the two mysteries found within Suicide Gene are intriguing enough to keep the reader moving forward. This is an extremely dark story. Readers with a history of suicidal thoughts, family Alzheimer’s or breast cancer will probably not enjoy this book. However, it is very different from most thrillers or mysteries so those looking for something unique will enjoy it. 3 stars.

Thanks to the publisher, Wild Rose Press, Inc., and NetGalley for a copy in an exchange for my honest review.

Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: ,

Ancient Nine
September 19th, 2018 by diane92345

A thrilling chase for a secret buried for decades enlivens the Ancient Nine.

The Ancient Nine is a rumored fraternity inside a fraternity inside Harvard. Legend states they protect a secret called Harvard’s Holy Grail. Investigating the Grail has already cost one student his life.

Spenser Collins receives a mysterious invitation to join the esteemed Delphic Club at Harvard. Spenser, a poor basketball scholarship recipient from the South side of Chicago, is stunned. He immediately calls his best friend, Dalton, a fifth generation Harvard scholar with an uncaring father but oodles of money, for help. Dalton has an Uncle who was a member decades ago before lung disease and forgetfulness struck. The two friends investigate the club and the Grail as Spenser moves closer and closer to becoming a Delphic member himself.

The Harvard history is fantastic. Each building is described in detail and sounds beautiful. There is also much detail about the history of fraternities on the Harvard campus. Combining a tale set in 1927 with one in 1989 is brilliant. Seeing research done with books and in person was refreshing.

The Grail mystery is good though the book’s pacing seemed a bit slower than most thrillers. It is hard not to compare the Ancient Nine with other “reveal the secret” books/movies like the DaVinci Code and National Treasure. This book is not quite as good as those. I’m sure a good script writer could tighten up the plot and make this a 5-star movie. The Ancient Nine as written is a solid 4 stars!

Thanks to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for an advance copy.

Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: , ,

7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
September 17th, 2018 by diane92345

Innovative plotting and world building fill the 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle.

What would make the replay of a day over and over immeasurably worse? How about also waking up as different people each time you fell asleep?

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a clever blend of fantasy and Agatha Christie. Not only does our first person narrator have to figure out how and why he keeps jumping from one person to another repeating the same day. He also must solve a murder that appears to be a suicide, while also racing against several other jumpers to win his freedom from the endless repetition. There are also mysterious players outside the action who may be friend or foe.

The mystery of Evelyn Hardcastle is relatively easy for armchair detectives to solve. However, the mystery of how and why the actions replay is more of a puzzler. The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is recommended for amateur detective fans jaded by reading too many similar books. It is stunningly original though the middle dragged for me a bit. Still 4 1/2 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, Sourcebooks Landmark, and NetGalley for an advance copy.

Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: ,

Lies
September 16th, 2018 by diane92345

Everyone Lies in this fast-paced rollercoaster ride of a thriller.

Joe and Mel have an ideal life. Happily married for almost ten years with a perfect young son, William. When Joe and William see Mel turn into a hotel garage, they follow. Joe sees her sitting in the hotel restaurant with her best friend’s upset husband, Ben.

Fearing the worst, Joe waits with William in their car for Mel to emerge. However, she drives away so quickly that Joe misses her. Instead he attempts to talk to Ben. Ben, still angry, pushes the larger Joe against the car. When Joe pushes Ben back, he stumbles and falls unconscious to the ground. Because William has come to see what is taking his Dad so long, he sees the blood seeping from Ben’s ear, which triggers an asthma attack. When Ben rushes back to the car, he can’t find an inhaler and so rushes home to get one.

Mel gives Joe an explanation of a freelance work project for Ben. Joe believes her. Joe decides to return to the hotel to ensure Ben is safe. Both Ben and his car are gone. However, Joe realizes so are his distinct leather bracelet and cell phone. When Joe’s Facebook is hacked, he suspects alpha male Ben. He changes his password, turns off the cell phone and assumes the problem is fixed.

The next day, Ben’s wife, Beth, comes to warn Mel and Joe that Ben came home late the previous night drunk, furious at Joe and vowing revenge. And he took one of the couple’s guns. So starts this mile-a-minute thrill ride.

I tore through Lies as fast as possible because I adored all the quick twists and turns. It’s a great read that is highly recommended to Gone Girl fans. 4 stars.

Thanks to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

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Malice Aforethought
September 15th, 2018 by diane92345

Malice Aforethought is a great British golden-age mystery with a killer twist.

Mrs. Julia Bickleigh was born into wealth and minor aristocracy. When her father blew the family fortunes before his death, Julia was forced to marry a common doctor. She never let her husband, Dr. Edmund Bickleigh, forget he was a worm well below her status.

“Dr. Bickleigh’s reactions to his wormhood were perfectly normal. He accepted it as one accepts a scar on the face. It was a pity, but there it was and it could not be helped.”

One day, the worm turned and the doctor began plotting his wife’s murder. He already had her replacement in mind, the extremely rich Miss Madeleine Cranmere. But first he must rid himself of his mistress.

Malice Aforethought was originally published in England in 1931. It had innovative plotting for its day with the whodunnit resolved on the first page leaving only the how to the rest of the book. After watching years of Columbo, the plot device seems rather creaky. However, the powerhouse ending makes up for it. If you like British golden-age mysteries, this is an excellent choice. It is also recommended to fans of Alfred Hitchcock films. 4 stars!

Thanks to Dover Publications and NetGalley for an advance copy.

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Read and Gone
September 14th, 2018 by diane92345

Where are the haunts in Read and Gone, the second book in the Haunted Library series?

Carrie has her life on track. She has a boyfriend, a job as a library events coordinator and a cute cottage where the rent is cheap. So she isn’t happy when her thieving ex-con father, John, reappears one night after breaking into her house.

Within 24 hours, John is a person of interest in both a murder and a million dollar jewel heist. When he gets left for dead in a parking lot, he is hospitalized with a concussion for a week. John asks Carrie to find both the murderer and the gems stolen by the victim.

Since this is the second in the Haunted Library series, I expected more interaction with the resident ghost. She has basically a walk-on part. Her frequent clothing and hair styles changes are discussed. She dispenses some obvious advice and vanishes. Not having read the first in this series made it difficult to understand the motivations of the multitude of characters. I would highly recommend reading this series in order.

The lack of a paranormal plotline and an overly familiar mystery plot made Read and Gone a miss for me. 2 stars.

Thanks to Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for an advance copy.

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Guess Who
September 13th, 2018 by diane92345

Guess Who is a mash-up of Saw and The Game, where nothing is what it appears.

Sheppard, a famous true crime television detective, wakes up handcuffed to the bed in a hotel room. He remembers nothing of how he arrived there. With him are five strangers: Mandy, Alan, Ryan, Constance and a nameless teenage girl wearing headphones. Worse, there is a dead body in the bathroom.

A mysterious horse-masked man appears on the television. He gives Sheppard three hours to determine which of the room’s occupants is the murderer. If he fails, the hotel will be destroyed.

As Sheppard investigates he realizes the game master knows more about him than is publicly known. Due to his drug and alcohol withdrawal symptoms, Sheppard struggles to solve the crime.

Guess Who reads like a movie script. It alternates between the present and the immediate past. The plot including the many twists and the ultimate reveal is good. However, the point of view changes abruptly toward the end from third person limited (Sheppard) to third person omniscient. Sometimes it was difficult to determine whose underlying motives were being revealed necessitating rereading. This threw me out of the story right before the climax. Also, some of the characters motivations were too over-the-top and unbelievable. For these reasons, 3 stars.

Thanks to the publisher, Hanover Square Press, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

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#FashionVictim
September 12th, 2018 by diane92345

Hilarious serial killer thriller where no one wants to be the next #FashionVictim.

Everyone fantasizes about how to kill their office rivals (or maybe that’s just me). Few carry those fantasies out in real life. Anya is prepared to kill an intern for a pitying look. When the intern is found dead by shoe, Detective Hopper, who looks like a Calvin Klein model, investigates. In the meantime, La Vie (sounding suspiciously like Vogue) staffers are instagramming selfies with the corpse with #DeathbyAccessories, #KillerShoes and of course, #FashionVictim hashtags.

OMG, #FashionVictim is hilarious! It is perfect for Devil Wears Prada fans jaded by social media. It is also similar to American Psycho as you are dropped into a psychopath’s thoughts by the use of first person narration. 5 stars!

Thanks to Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for an advance copy.

Posted in Humor, Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: ,

Echo Room
September 12th, 2018 by diane92345

Rett and Bryn continually awaken in the apocalyptic future in the Echo Room.

Step 1: Rett wakes up in a locked metal room with no memory of how he got there. He has blood on his clothes and hands. Soon he sees Bryn, who is also locked in the room with no memory of how she got there. As they talk, they discover they are both from the government-run shelter for abandoned youth, Walling House. Rett tries to discover a way out of the room.  He finds a broken lock on one door.  He finds hidden doors to two other rooms.  However, there is no food or water immediately available—just a bin filled with empty water bottles and another with strangely glowing green tubes. The only clue is the phrase “SCATTER 3” on one of the walls.

Step 2: Explore. Get scared. Repeat Step 1. Rett and Bryn learn a bit more with each repetition.

The mystery is intriguing. The setting in a wrecked near future world is eerily unsettling. Even though it’s marketed as young adult science fiction, the Echo Room works well as an adult thriller too. While the pacing slowed a bit in the middle, the plot kept the reader engaged. The book will make a great movie someday. It is perfect for fans of puzzles and intriguing situations like in the Maze Runner.

A sequel is hinted at toward the end. I’m looking forward to that book. This one deserves 4 stars.

Thanks to the publisher, Tor Teen, and NetGalley for an advance copy.

Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, Science Fiction, Teen & Young Adult Tagged with: , ,

Forbidden Door
September 10th, 2018 by diane92345

The Jane Hawk series finally hits its stride with its fourth entry, The Forbidden Door.

The Techno Arcadians are upping their game by accusing Jane on a 60 Minutes-style show of murdering her beloved husband Matt and faking his suicide. The Arcadians set in motion a plan to kidnap or kill everyone dear to Jane. Ancel and Clare Hawk, Jane’s in-laws, must flee their farm. Jane and Matt’s five-year-old son, Travis, must flee across the desert. Even Jane is tracked by one of the Techno Arcadians as the net around Jane and all her loved ones is slowly tightened.

The villain this time is Egon Gottfrey. Egon believes in radical philosophical nihilism. Nothing is real. Only his mind exists guided by an Unknown Playwright. Why is he scarier than most villains? Because he has no fear of death. “Gottfrey has no objection to a shootout. His physical existence is an illusion; he can’t be killed.” Egon is also a vicious killer, who kills total strangers for fun. All without a nanobot implant. He is a world-class antagonist and the perfect foil to Jane’s over-the-top bada$$ery.

It is hard not to see the extremes of good and evil plus Jane’s incredible skills as a superhero tale. Finally, a Joker has been set against Jane’s Batman. This entry in the series is definitely the best so far. I would even recommend just reading this one rather than beginning with the first in the series. It is perfect for thriller fans. However, it would also work for superhero comic fans too. The Forbidden Door would make a great movie. Hopefully, it has already been optioned by someone. 5 stars!

Thanks to Bantam Books and NetGalley for an advance copy.

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Die Me a River
September 8th, 2018 by diane92345

In Die Me a River, the small rural town of Scumble River is still recovering from the tornado in the last book in this cozy mystery series.

The town is abuzz with complaints about the shady practices of Homestead Insurance. Claims are being reduced, denied and seldom paid timely. When their insurance inspector turns up dead in a bombing, Police Chief Wally must investigate a plethora of suspects. Wally would much rather be at home with his school psychologist wife, Skye, and their still unnamed newborn twins. Skye is on maternity leave. She is seemingly being stalked by a new town resident, Millicent Rose, who just wants to go the twins’ baptism. According to their priest, Millicent has gone to both of the other baptisms since she arrived in town and gave each baby some type of verbal gift.

Die Me a River is the second in the rebooted Scumble River series. However, there were nineteen books in the original series too. Despite never reading any of those books, I had no trouble catching up with the character’s backstories. This works well as a stand-alone.

Most readers, and I include myself, read cozies more for the ambience and characters than for the puzzle. This book does a great job pulling the reader into small town Illinois life. While there are a lot of characters here, each has such a diverse personality it is is easy to keep them separated.

The two mysteries are well-presented. I actually liked the fairy godmother sub-plot better than the insurance main plot but that was just personal preference. I enjoyed the minor mystery around the naming of the babies too.

Die Me a River is a great, relaxing cozy mystery. It is recommended for anyone wanting to immerse themselves in someone else’s life for a day. 4 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, Sourcebooks Landmark, and NetGalley for an advance copy.

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Boy at the Keyhole
September 7th, 2018 by diane92345

Boy at the Keyhole is a suspenseful psychological thriller by a debut author.

In 1961, nine-year-old Samuel is at home in England with his housekeeper, Ruth. His father is dead and his mother is searching for business investors in America. Samuel is concerned because his mother has been gone four months. Her only contact are bi-monthly postcards from America. Ruth tries to cut expenses as much as possible but the home’s artwork is being sold to pay the bills. Where is Samuel’s mother and why isn’t she sending money home? Why does Samuel suspect foul play and especially that Ruth is the killer?

Boy at the Keyhole slowly builds suspense and dread about what happened to Samuel’s mother. The atmosphere is really the star here. A paranoid nine-year-old is an unexpected choice as an unreliable narrator. Are the clues he sees as facts really just his childish imagination? The penultimate twist is a true surprise. However, I hated the inconclusive finale. 3 stars but I am looking forward to the next book by this debut author.

Thanks to Hanover Square Press and NetGalley for an advance copy.

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