Category Archives: Books

Hit and Run by Sandra Balzo

Hit and RunHit and Run by Sandra Balzo is the third book in the “Main Street” murder mystery series. Publisher: Severn House Publishers, July 2014

Journalist AnnaLise Griggs’ return to her hometown in North Carolina’s western mountains has led to some unexpected surprises – most notably the discovery that legendary womanizer Dickens Hart is her birth father, and she an heir to Hart’s huge fortune.

Founder of the White Tail Lodge – a High Country knock-off of the Playboy concept – Hart now claims he wants to ‘do right’ by any other children he may have fathered. To that end, he’s invited all his former lovers and potential heirs, including AnnaLise and her own mother, Daisy, to what Hart envisions as a festive Thanksgiving weekend at the sprawling lakeside mansion.

But not everybody is in a celebratory mood, and when a body is discovered dead in the bed, AnnaLise is left with the impossible task of identifying the killer.

I really love this evenly paced and well-executed drama with its comfortable tone and a small town southern atmosphere. This light whodunit was hard to put down, as I had to know who did what to whom in this darling of a mystery. The author did a great job in pulling it all together with a bevy of suspects who could have done the dastardly deed and I was a bit surprise not at who did it, but at how and why it was done. AnnaLise who tries to do the right thing, does a good job at solving this puzzle, is supported by a quirky cast of characters that includes her mother, her mama and her best friend Joy who is an absolute hoot. I look forward to more adventures with AnnaLise in the next book in this delightfully charming series.

Deception in Strange Places by Judy Alter

Deception in Strange PlacesDeception in Strange Places by Judy Alter is the fifth book in the “Kelly O’Connell” mystery series. Publisher: Turquoise Morning Press, July 2014

A woman desperately seeking her biological mother, a televangelist determined to thwart that search, a hired hit man, and in the midst of it all, a reclusive diva. Kelly has gotten herself involved in a dangerous emotional tangle this time, and Mike doesn’t tell her to back off, even when events take them from Fort Worth to San Antonio.

I enjoyed the latest adventures with Kelly and her friends in this suspense-fully-driven and fast-paced drama that made me feel like I also part of the action. I liked how the mystery was not who did it, but how they catch the villain and bring him to justice. The build-up, with its intensifying moments, to the climatic conclusion was nicely done and I applaud the author in how it all turned out. With a comfortable tone, a small-town atmosphere, great dialogue and a wonderful cast, this was one of the best books in the series and I can’t wait to see what capers are in store Kelly and her friends.

Designated Daughters by Margaret Maron

Designated DaughtersDesignated Daughters by Margaret Maron is the 19th book in the “Deborah Knott” mystery series. Publisher: Grand Central Publishing, August 2014

When Judge Deborah Knott is summoned to her ailing Aunt Rachel’s bedside, she assumes the worst. Thankfully when she arrives at the hospice center she learns that Rachel hasn’t passed; in fact, the dying woman is awake. Surrounded by her children, her extended family, and what seems like half of Colleton County, a semi-conscious Rachel breaks weeks of pained silence with snippets of stories as randomly pieced together as a well-worn patchwork quilt. But the Knott family’s joy quickly gives way to shock: less than an hour later, Aunt Rachel is found dead in her bed, smothered with a pillow.

Who would kill a woman on her deathbed? Was it an act of mercy, or murder? As Deborah and her husband, Sheriff’s Deputy Dwight Bryant, investigate they cross paths with an unlikely set of suspects: Rachel’s longtime minister; her neighbor, the respected local doctor; the friendly single father who often sought her advice; and perhaps the most puzzling party of all, the Designated Daughters, a support group for caregivers that Rachel’s own daughter belongs to.

Soon Deborah and Dwight realize that the key to solving this case is hidden in Rachel’s mysterious final words. Her mixed-up memories harbored a dark secret-a secret that someone close to them is determined to bury forever.

Who murdered Aunt Rachel? What words did she speak that caused someone to kill her? How did her Uncle die? Is there a connection? That’s what Dwight and Deborah set out to find in this character-driven drama that I could not put down until it was over. I love the comfortable tone and the way the book pulls me into the storyline, as I’m right there with the Knott clan. The mystery was good with plenty of suspects, who could have done the deed, and it was fun watching it all play out with secrets exposed and especially with the revelation of the killer’s identity. Boasting a great cast ensemble with engaging dialogue and the feel of good old-southern hospitality, this well-written drama is one of the best yet in this terrific series and I look forward to spending more time with Deborah Knott and her family and friends in their next adventures.

A Little Night Murder by Nancy Martin

A Little Night MurderA Little Night Murder by Nancy Martin is the 10th book in the “Blackbird Sisters” mystery series. Publisher: Obsidian, August 2014

Murder under the stars….
Nora Blackbird—pregnant at last!—is spending summer afternoons wallowing in the Bucks County pool of her best friend, Lexie Paine, who has just been released from prison. At night, Nora is covering Philadelphia’s high-society events for the local newspaper. And this time she doesn’t have to look far for a good story.

Next door, a Broadway show is in rehearsal at the estate of Toodles Tuttle, the long-deceased but ever-legendary composer. Reigning over the estate is Toodles’s diva widow, Boom Boom. The demanding old broad still rules with an iron fist, and considering the chorus line of enemies she’s racked up over the years, her death has been a hotly anticipated event. So imagine everyone’s dismay when it’s her beloved daughter, Jenny, who drops dead—from a cause that is anything but natural—just as the lights are set to go on for the lucrative new Toodles musical.

Yet murder is only an overture to the drama to come….
Nora’s sister Libby, a soon-to-be-grandmother, has gotten herself into a sticky situation, wooed by both a lowly bug exterminator and a cheesecake-loving Broadway impresario. Edgy sister Emma has a dangerous new boyfriend who may jeopardize her show-jumping exploits. And the love of Nora’s life, Mick Abruzzo, has been desperate to prevent Nora from meeting the most notorious member of his mobbed-up family—his mother.

Now Nora has to deal with the bump-and-grind of her personal life, and also bring the curtain down on a daring killer—before he forces her to exit stage left, permanently.

I love it. Nancy has done it again by delivering a wonderfully crafted novel that I devoured from beginning to end. The mystery kept me interested as there were plenty of suspects to ferret but it was everything else that surrounded Nora and her pending motherhood that engaged and entertained me. The author did a great job in creating an atmosphere that made me feel that I was part of the drama unfolding within the pages of this delightfully friendly story. There were some surprises in store for Nora in this tome, but the biggest surprising twist came at the end and wow, that I never saw coming. The Blackbird sisters are back and doing what comes naturally to them; Mick is Mick and with Lexie back in the game and Bridget arriving on their doorstep, I can’t wait for the next book in this fantastically delightful series.

The Feathers by Cynthia Lott

The FeathersThe Feathers by Cynthia Lott is the first book in a crime thriller suffused with the supernatural. Publisher: Piscataqua Press, August 2014

Thomas Carpenter – dead for 100 years – returns in 1978 to avenge his murder. He proves a challenge for a New Orleans novice detective Brenda Shapira and her senior partner, Roy Agnew. When 35-year old Shapira discovers the first victim in the historic Garden District, the beginning of 1978 will be anything but ordinary. As she unravels this long ago mystery steeped in New Orleans history and the Yellow Fever epidemic, Brenda realizes that she may be Carpenter’s next victim.

The drama, the mystery, the murder, the significance, the need to know kept me glued to the pages as every action unfolded, whether in centuries past or present day 1978 in a grippingly display of a provocative thriller. The author did a great job in keeping the suspense high with every page turned. With a good plot, amid a backdrop of New Orleans, this was a good read.

The Cat, The Vagabond and The Victim by Leann Sweeney

The cat, the vagabond the victimThe Cat, The Vagabond and The Victim by Leann Sweeney is the sixth book in the “Cats in Trouble” mystery series. Publisher: Obsidian, August 2014

Heir of the cat…

When Clyde the cat travels two hundred miles back home only to find his former owner dead, the story makes national news. While everyone seems eager to tell Clyde’s incredible tale, someone needs to step up to care for him. Because the media attention is creating chaos at the local shelter, cat quilter Jillian Hart agrees to foster the loyal orange tabby, hoping his location is kept secret.

But while the media circus around Clyde continues, Jillian learns the real story behind his owner’s death—he was murdered. Why would an eldery man already dying from a serious illness become a murder victim? As the local police search for an answer, Clyde makes another escape. Jillian is drawn into the case when she finds Clyde has returned to his home again—and he’s found another body. When the motive behind these murders is finally revealed, Jillian understands Clyde is in danger of becoming the next victim, and she must help find the killer before the claws really come out.

Leann continues to deliver a dynamic and light whodunit that always leaves me filled with warmth towards a diverse cast of characters that engaged and entertained me from the first page to a finale that I wanted to re-live over and over again. The tone was very comfortable and refreshing and I liked how easily the chapters flowed from one scene to the next in this mystery were the suspects were few with some surprises that culminated in an ending that picked up speed as the story came to a close. The small town atmosphere adds to the warmth of this character-driven drama as well as the dialogue between Jillian and those she encounters. This is the best one yet and I’m thrilled there is another book forthcoming in this delightfully charming series.

Expedition Indigo by Stacy Allen

Expedition IndigoExpedition Indigo by Stacy Allen is the first book in the new “Riley Cooper” mystery series. Publisher: Fiery Seas Publishing, August 2014

Archaeologist Riley Cooper is offered the chance of a lifetime: a chance to find the Crux Fidelis, the coronation cross of Charlemagne. Under Water Sea Adventures members believe they have found remains of the Indigo, a heavily laden cargo ship commissioned by Charlemagne and presumed lost on its maiden voyage off the coast of southern Italy in the early 800s. If Riley can find the cross, it will prove Charlemagne’s coronation as the First Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Leo III on Christmas Day had not been a spontaneous act, but rather a desperate political maneuver by a Pope in need of protection.

When Riley joins UWSA off the coast of Sorrento, Italy, tensions and tempers fly as a competing team arrives in search of the treasure and an approaching hurricane gains strength and heads straight toward the dive site. And when one of the crew is murdered, Riley must find the strength to fight back and keep the treasure out of the other team’s hands.

I like it. This was a nicely paced drama that the more I read, the more I became involved in the storyline that started in the States and ended on an oceanic dive in the Mediterranean filled with the intrigue of a treasure yet to be discovered as Riley Cooper explored nature’s beauty. The unfolding exploits kept me glued to the pages and that one twist that I did not see coming, made the story even more exciting as I had to know how it was all going to play out in the end. The author did a great job in visually describing each scene, putting me right in the middle of all the action as the frantic search and recovery hasten the plot to a crescendo above the ocean floor. The was a great read and I look forward to more exciting adventures with Riley.