Dr. William Abbey’s trouble is threefold. First, he is a mediocre doctor at best in 1884. Much better at diagnosing disease than curing it. Second, he falls in love with a woman above his station, leading to debts and eventually exile to South Africa. While there, he watches the execution by fire of a young native boy, without comment. The boy’s mother curses the doctor for not stepping in to save her son. This leads to his third trouble, the Pursuit of William Abbey by the shade of the murdered boy. When the boy touches the doctor, one-by-one those the doctor loves most are killed. Dr. Abbey also now has the ability to read the inner thoughts of other nearby men. This ability attracts the attention of the British government, who have found others with his affliction and see him as a useful asset—rather than a broken man.
The Pursuit of William Abbey is a thought-provoking historical fiction slash horror slash espionage thriller. It is definitely a plot you have not seen before. The language used is perfect for this slow-boil of a novel moving steadily to an unknown conclusion as the boy chases the doctor around the world. My only complaint was that it had some parts in the middle where the pace might have been a bit too slow. Otherwise, if you are looking for something completely original, this book is a great choice. 4 stars!
Thanks to Orbit Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Haunted House Ghost: Death At The Fall Festival (Braxton Campus Mysteries) by James J. Cudney
It’s Halloween and Professor Kellan is renovating his newly purchased rundown mansion in the Haunted House Ghost.
A current mystery and a historic one compete for Kellan and his potential girlfriend, Sheriff April’s attention. Between that, a Fall Festival, a ghost, home renovations, a psychic, and a skeleton, no wonder Kellan and April can’t even find the time to go out on a date!
Good thing there is a guide to Who’s Who in the front of the book. This book has the largest cast of any tale shorter than a 19th-century Russian novel. Luckily, you don’t need to memorize them all. The Haunted House Ghost quickly narrows down to a handful of suspects. Kudos to the author for making me second guess my thought on who was the murderer—multiple times right up to the reveal. Overall, an enjoyable cozy mystery. 4 stars!
Thanks to the author and Great Escapes Blog Tours for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
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It’s Halloween, and excitement is brewing in Braxton to carve jack-o’-lanterns, go on haunted hayrides, and race through the spooky corn maze at the Fall Festival.
Despite the former occupant’s warnings, Kellan renovates and moves into a mysterious old house. When a ruthless ghost promises retribution, our fearless professor turns to the eccentric town historian and an eerie psychic to communicate with the apparition. Meanwhile, construction workers discover a fifty-year-old skeleton after breaking ground on the new Memorial Library wing.
While Kellan and April dance around the chemistry sparking between them, a suspicious accident occurs at the Fall Festival. Soon, Kellan discovers the true history and dastardly connections of the Grey family. But can he capture the elusive killer – and placate the revenge-seeking ghost.
About James J. Cudney
James is my given name; most call me Jay. I grew up on Long Island and currently live in New York City, but I’ve traveled all across the US (and various parts of the world). After college, I spent 15 years working in technology and business operations in the sports, entertainment and media industries. Although I enjoyed my job, I left in 2016 to focus on my passion: telling stories and connecting people through words. My debut novel is ‘Watching Glass Shatter,’ a contemporary fiction family drama with elements of mystery, suspense, humor and romance. To see samples or receive news from my current and upcoming books, please subscribe with your email address at my website: https://jamesjcudney.com
What do I do outside of writing: I’m an avid genealogist (discovered 2K family members going back about 250 years) and cook (I find it so hard to follow a recipe). I love to read; between Goodreads and my blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, I have over 900 book reviews which will give you a full flavor for my voice and style. On my blog, there is humor, tears, love, friendship, advice and bloopers. Lots of bloopers where I poke fun at myself all the time. Even my dogs have segments where they complain about me. All these things make up who I am; none of them are very fancy or magnanimous, but they are real and show how I live every day.
The Shape of Night is an abrupt departure from this author’s usual police procedural. It’s an atmospheric gothic romantic suspense story with some modern twists thrown in.
Ava has a terrible guilt-driven secret. In addition, she is over a year past the publisher’s deadline on her latest cookbook. Hoping to escape her guilt, Ava rents a remote old house on the windswept Maine coast. The house is incredibly cheap because it is still undergoing renovation and the previous tenant left without giving notice.
Ava soon sees the ghost of the former owner of the house, 1800s Sea Captain Brodie. When he appears in her bedroom, they start a unique relationship involving Ava’s guilt and the Captain’s unusual method of helping her get over it. Will he really never hurt her in his house as he promised? Or is there something darker afoot?
The entire plot of the Shape of Night is unexpected. It is a slow-burning gothic suspense novel mixed with a modern amateur sleuth story. There are actually three mysteries involved. What is Ava’s secret? Who or what is Captain Brodie—a benevolent ghost or a vindictive demon? What caused the previous tenant of the house to run away one night never to return?
I thought that the atmospheric gothic feel of the novel was pitch-perfect. I had some issues with the mysteries. One was too easy to figure out. Another was wrapped up too quickly at the end of the book—though in an exciting way. The other was never clearly answered.
Surprisingly, since I am a mystery reader, I enjoyed the paranormal aspects of this novel the most. That part of the plot was engrossing making this book a compelling page-turner. However, the mysteries left me underwhelmed for the reasons I stated above. Because of that schism, it is hard to rate this book. However, since I love genre mash-ups, I’ll round up to 4 stars!
Thanks to Ballantine, Random House and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
The Immortal Prudence Blackwood is a historical police procedural with a paranormal/fantasy twist.
Prudence Blackwood is a barren and abandoned twenty-six-year-old when she stumbles into a mysterious and ancient hall in 1785. After cutting her finger on the wall, Prudence dies. Two days later, she arises out of her grave and returns to her family home. Except for her ten-year-old niece, her family rejects her, calling her a demon. After learning she is an immortal, and not the only one, she vows to help her family and their descendants. When Jack the Ripper kills her last remaining descendant in 1888, Prudence decides her new mission is to kill serial killers beginning with Jack.
By 1947, Prudence has learned survival skills and killed at least two other killers. But a new serial killer is stalking Washington DC. When the junior detective on the case hears about Prudence, they work together to find the perpetrator.
I loved the strong female character of Prudence. However, she wasn’t in the book very much. Much more time was spent describing the real serial killers’ cases. I also want to know more about the other immortals and where their power comes from. Luckily, the book’s conclusion hints strongly at a future series. I will definitely read it when it is released. My rating for the Immortal Prudence Blackwood, mainly because of the loss of focus on Prudence, is 3 stars.
Thanks to BHC Press and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
It seems like the Ghost of Hollow House may have been Agatha Christie as this tale fits right in her wheelhouse.
In Victorian England, Mina uncovers fraudulent mediums. She also writes fictional mysteries that include spiritual elements. When she is asked to uncover the reason for the haunting of a newly married friend’s mansion, she is skeptical. But when she sees a mysterious lady in white in the window when first arriving at Hollow House, she becomes intrigued. Perhaps this haunting will bring her real evidence from the other side.
Mina is a great character. Her ability to press past her disabilities and the oppression of females prevalent in Victorian times is empowering.
The mystery was challenging as well. Though I didn’t figure out whodunit or why until after the intrepid Mina, I clearly saw the clues in hindsight.
Ghost of Hollow House did resemble Agatha Christie’s mysteries in both its complexity and portrayal of English village life. I would have liked slightly more backstory for the main characters. I’ll be looking for the previous three books in this series, as well as any future entries, when I feel like reading a jolly good mystery. 4 stars!
Thanks to Sapere Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
The Invited is a ghost story of multigenerational family drama rather the mystery I expected.
Helen and Nate decide to quit their teaching jobs and move to rural Vermont. They buy a large parcel of land and begin building their house. The land includes a bog where a suspected witch, Hattie, was hanged ninety-one years earlier. Hattie had told her twelve year old daughter, Jane, to hide in their house’s root cellar until she came back, which now she would never do.
Fourteen year old Olive lives next to Nate and Helen. Ostracized by the town, she wants the new neighbors to go back to the city. Olive is also haunted by her mother’s disappearance one year earlier.
The Invited has many plot threads that are conveniently, maybe too conveniently, wrapped up by the end of the book. While there are mysteries here, the book is really a ghost story that includes many characters that have precognition. If you are in the mood for an atmospheric ghost story, this book is a good choice. However, the mystery’s solution is easily guessed. 3 stars.
Thanks to Doubleday Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Priest holes, mysterious ghosts, secret passages and skeletons figure prominently in Footsteps in the Dark.
Siblings Peter, Celia and Margaret inherit the Priory, a large ancient country estate, from their Uncle. They, along with Celia’s husband Charles, decide to move in.
Footsteps in the Dark was originally published in 1932. It was the first thriller by an author who was most famous for her historical romances. I think that was my issue with the book. It was a fun read. However, it seemed as if the author was trying to use every overused thriller cliché. The local police are incompetent bumblers. The recently inherited country estate is haunted. Some of the “surprises” during the conclusion were obvious from almost the beginning of the book.
Overall, Footsteps in the Dark is more a curiosity than a good thriller. It is only recommended for fans of British Golden Age mysteries who are trying to read everything still in print from that era. All others should steer clear. 2 stars.
Thanks to Sourcebooks Landmark for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
Southern paranormal cozy mystery with ghosts, witches and a murder or two.
Hope, Faith and Charity plan to open a Wiccan school and white witches’ potion shop in rural Sunflower County Mississippi. Sarah Booth Delaney and her partner in the Delaney Detective Agency, Tinkie Richmond, are paid to dig up some dirt on the three newcomers. The witches cast a spell to make Tinkie pregnant and Sarah Booth hook up with the hunky Sheriff Coleman. Soon, someone is killed. Was the victim scared to death by the mysterious force in the apple orchard?
Charmed Bones is #18 in the series but it reads fine as a standalone. Reading the synopsis above, the plot sounds overblown but it is totally believable while immersed in the book. I found the quirky Southern characters were the best part of Charmed Bones. By the end of the book, all seemed like genuine friends that I wanted to spend more time with. Now I just have to decide to continue the series from here or start at #1. This entry deserves 4 stars!
Thanks to Minotaur and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
An eerie ambience suffuses The Broken Girls. It is a mystery wrapped in a ghost story or perhaps the other way around. “Ghosts and dead babies and murdered girls. What next?”
Roberta, Katie, Cece and Sonia were all dumped at Idlewild Hall, an all-girl boarding school in 1950 Vermont. Roberta is a victim of a traumatic family event. Katie was a troublemaker. Cece was born on the wrong side of the blanket to her rich father’s maid. Sonia has nightmares about her childhood during WWII. Along with indifferent teachers, the roommates have to deal with Mary Hand, who haunts the school by bringing up each girl’s worst nightmare.
In 2014, reporter Fiona is still shell shocked by her sister’s murder on the abandoned Idlewild grounds 20 years before. When a mysterious elderly woman begins to restore the school, Fiona decided to investigate.
There are many plots running concurrently. There are the 1950 roommates, the 1994 sister, the 2014 investigation and the ghost story shown in alternating chapters. It sounds confusing but it works seamlessly together.
The Broken Girls works as a “Northern Gothic” but also as a straight mystery. It is highly recommended for fans of mysteries with paranormal twists. I did not see the end coming at all, which is great! 5 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Berkley, and Edelweiss for a copy.
Lydie is a short tear-jerker that rewards readers with beautiful artwork and a compelling plot.
Set in a French cul-de-sac in an unnamed French town, Lydie tells the story of a set of neighbors that band together to help Camille, a mentally impaired French girl, in a very unusual way. The street is nicknamed mustachioed baby court due to a graffitied baby on a soap billboard at the end of the street. There are many points-of-view depicted in Lydie including from a statue of the Virgin Mary located on one of the buildings.
Set in 1932, life was both harsher and more neighborly than it is today. Camille loses her baby named Lydie during childbirth. A few months later, Camille believes that angels have brought back her child from heaven. First her father and then all her neighbors support Camille’s fantasy. By speaking to an invisible child who grows increasing older as the novel continues, the neighbors help Camille deal with her grief of her dead child. The end of this novel is the best part of all.
Since this graphic novel vividly depicts life in all its harshness, it is recommended only for adults. While it is ultimately a feel-good plot, it is also a true tearjerker. The artwork is very good too. 4 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Europe Comics, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Formulaic mystery with a small town atmosphere and a refreshing romance.
Amy Webber has run back to her aunt’s house in small town Taylorsford Virginia following a disastrous and public breakup with her boyfriend. Her job as a public library Director with only one employee, Sunny Fields, is fun but not high-paying. When a person is found murdered in the library’s archives the game is afoot for Amy and Sunny. Amy also stumbles upon an old family secret and a possible town scandal.
I enjoyed the romantic aspect of Murder for the Books much more than the three mysteries within the plot. One problem with setting mysteries in small towns is that there are not enough suspects to make the mystery difficult to solve. Plus it seemed as though the debut author, Victoria Gilbert, tried to shove too many plots into one book. There were the three mysteries, romances for three couples in town, and even a potential ghost story within this short book. Hopefully, the next entry in the Blue Ridge Library series will limit its focus by including only one romance and mystery while also using the unique rural library setting much more.
While I was underwhelmed by the mystery plots, I totally enjoyed Amy and Richard’s romance especially how the body issues were handled. Therefore, I recommend Murder for the Books more for romance readers than mystery ones. However, I will read the next book in the series, Shelved Under Murder, to see where the author leads the characters after its publication in July 10, 2018. 3 stars.
Thanks to the publisher, Crooked Lane Books, and NetGalley for an advanced review copy.
Beware, you may not sleep well after reading Kill Creek!
Kill Creek begins with four horror novelists agreeing to a live-streamed interview in a long abandoned haunted house in Kill Creek, Kansas. The interviews are held on Halloween night and the novelists stay overnight within the house. All the novelists have different styles from a Stephen King-type horror veteran to a R.L. Stine-type Young Adult horror novelist. To say much more about the plot would spoil it. However, the aftermath of the interview is the best part of this excellent book.
Kill Creek is definitely not for the faint-of-heart. There is a lot of violence. However, the story is very innovative. It is clear that the author has a love of all things horror. There is even a section that echoes a scene in the movie, Murder by Death. The book is both intelligent atmospheric horror and plain scary. Think of the first Saw movie. I finished reading Kill Creek at night on my Kindle with all the lights off and no one else awake in the house. I couldn’t fall asleep until dawn! However, I also just couldn’t stop reading! I love the insertion of a mystery within the horror genre. Kill Creek is highly recommended. 5 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Inkshares, and NetGalley for an advanced review copy.