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No Way Home–abundant suspense!

No Way Home

by Annette Dashofy

No Way HomeNo Way Home combines elements of a cozy mystery with elements of a thriller, and the result is an excellent read. As a cozy, No Way Home’s main character is Zoe Chambers, a county EMS paramedic and Deputy Coroner, who gets involved in trying to solve a murder when a riderless horse returns to the stable she manages. She is also trying to help her friend Rose find her missing son Logan. Meanwhile, several young people have overdosed in her county, and Zoe’s boyfriend Pete, Chief of Police, is driven to find the dealer. In this book, there are all the components of a good cozy: a likable heroine, a love interest, and a fascinating mystery with lots of threads. In addition, we are exposed to Native American culture as found in the Four Corners area.

No Way Home is also a thriller, however. A crucial characteristic of a thriller is suspense. This book kept me interested and wanting more from start to finish and fearful of what  might happen next. The book has two contrasting settings as it bounces back and forth from Pennsylvania to New Mexico in such a way that the reader wants to keep going with each plot thread in turn, a thread which is dangling just out of reach. It is a book you won’t put aside easily or for long.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Henery Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery, General Fiction (Adult)

Notes: #5 in the Zoe Chambers Mystery Series, reads well as a standalone

Publication:   March 14, 2017–Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

He had an easy smile, a hearty laugh, and a talent for putting everyone at ease, whether they agreed with his politics or not. In addition, Dale was always happy to help with chores even if it meant getting dirty. Not what Zoe had expected from a well-to-do politician.

He held the phone away from his ear. At Rose’s current decibel level, Pete could almost hear her from New Mexico without the device.

Desert Vengeance–is revenge really sweet?

Desert Vengeance

by Betty Webb

desert-vengeanceThe first chapter of Desert Vengeance is a half page long without a wasted word. It grabs you and twists you with a hold so tight that you know you will keep reading. This book is the latest in a series of mysteries by Betty Webb about PI Lena Jones. It could easily be a successful standalone. Nuances of relationships are effortlessly grasped even without the backstory.  Lena’s professional status is clear.  In the process of the mystery unfolding, the reader learns what happened to Lena as she made her way through a series of foster homes and emerged with emotional scars, but a strong character.

The subject matter, child molestation, is a very difficult one, but is handled in such a way that the reader understands the trauma the children went through without an account of  the details of the abuse.  The mystery centers around two murders and there are multiple suspects with strong motives.  Lena finds through expert interviewing skills that not everyone is telling the truth. Some people have things to hide, even if it is not involvement in the murder.  Others don’t really want the murderer caught.

The setting is a very hot Scottsdale, Arizona, with some reprieve in Black Canyon Creek. Both are accurately depicted without lengthy passages, leaving the reader sweaty, dusty, and thirsty. The other characters are interesting and developed appropriately according to their contribution to the plot.

I highly recommend this book either as a standalone or as part of the series. I am looking forward to reading more books by Betty Webb who has eight more books in her Lena Jones Mystery Series and three books in a humorous series about a California zoo-keeping sleuth.  A former journalist, Webb deals with controversial topics in many of her books, but she approaches these difficult subjects through the lens of a consummate storyteller.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Poisoned Pen Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery, Thriller

Notes: Difficult subject matter, but handled respectfully

Publication: Poisoned Pen Press–February 7, 2017

Memorable Lines:

The world looks so hopeful at sunrise. The air is clean, birds sing, frogs hush their complaints, and coyotes stop their slaughter of innocent bunnies and head home to bed. It’s all a lie, of course. The world is as vicious in daylight as it is at night.

Admission of Guilt–a teacher tries to make things better for his students, but…

Admission of Guilt

by T. V. LoCicero

admission-of-guiltAdmission of Guilt by T.V. LoCicero is a page turning thriller set in a rapidly declining Detroit.  There is no easing into this story. The author immediately sets up his reader with sympathetic characters and then hits those characters and the reader with the reality of inner city life–poverty, children selling drugs, devastating budget cuts to education, gang warfare, and mafia control of the drug trade. Characters include an out of work teacher, a social worker, a P.I. and members of the country club set.

The characters find themselves making life and death decisions with moral, economic, and personal ramifications, and the reader is confronted with the age-old question of “does the end justify the means?” I guarantee lots of twists and turns to the plot that you just won’t expect and a book you won’t want to put down.

Admission of Guilt is Book 2 in The detroit I’m dying Trilogy but can be read as a standalone.

I would like to extend my thanks to the author, T. V. LoCicero, for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery & Thriller

Notes:  Warning–the language is not anywhere close to squeaky clean; it is appropriate for the characters in their culture and to change it would produce a dissonance between the characters and their reality.

Publication:   Smashwords–2013

Memorable Lines:

Spring leaves, already withering, scratched and whispered in the few Dutch Elms still standing on this dark, working-class street.  Birds chirped and chattered on the pre-dawn breeze, and a worn-out Plymouth whined slowly to a stop in front of one of these decrepit wood-framed flats.  A smallish figure slipped out, ran to a big front porch, then darted back to the street.

The Red Queen Rules–timely themes

The Red Queen Rules

by Bourne Morris

the-red-queen-rulesBourne Morris’ first mystery surprised her by becoming a trilogy. The Red Queen Rules is the third in the set of books called the Red Solaris Mystery Series.  The saga of Dean of Journalism Red Solaris could acceptably end at the conclusion of The Red Queen Rules, but with some persuasion the author could also reasonably extend the series.

Sexual slavery is one of the themes of this book as Red, so nicknamed for her red hair, tries to help a university student locate a cousin and persuade her to leave her pimp and enter rehab. Red’s hunky boyfriend goes undercover to help and all of the characters are in danger as they interact with the murky underworld of drugs and pimps.

Another theme deals with freedom of speech as a group called The Purists invite a radical leader to speak at their university.  Administrators, such as Red, have to deal with free speech issues versus hate speech.  They have to decide if students should be protected from differing ideas or taught to listen and respond constructively.

Danger lurks in every corner in this fast moving story.  Its characters are well-developed and its themes relevant. This is the second book I have reviewed this month that involves sexual slavery, an issue which until recently was ignored, distorted, or denied in many circles.  The story takes place in Nevada in a small university town as well as in Reno.

My only criticism is tongue in cheek. Just as the “Gilmore Girls” are always eating junk food, the characters in The Red Queen Rules are always drinking–coffee at a café, sodas and water at meetings, hot tea with friends, and the occasional glass of wine.  They never lack for a good beverage!

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Henery Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery & Thrillers

Publication: Henery Press–December 6, 2016

Memorable Lines: 

Three notions really bugged me.  The first was that college students were so fragile that they needed to be spared from hearing ideas and opinions that might offend their personal sensitivities. Second was the use of someone else’s race, religion, sexual orientation or physical appearance as a weapon in a dispute. And third was the difficulty too many people have distinguishing between one and two.

“College is supposed to be a place where you encounter upsetting ideas and theories. And learn to deal with them.”

IQ–psychological study wrapped in a mystery

 

iq

IQ

by Joe Ide

IQ is a novel about Isaiah, a very intelligent, young black man destined for greatness.  Unfortunately, he is sidetracked by a series of events, some of his own doing, but mostly outside of his control.  Through the deaths of family members he is left to fend for himself, finding his way through an urban jungle.  Operating on both sides of the law and seeing the devastating consequences of gangs and crime, Isaiah devotes himself to solving cases pro bono to help others and occasionally to make money to support a special crime victim.

The characters in IQ are well-developed, especially Isaiah and his crime and investigative partner Dodson.  The plot is developed almost as two separate stories which are in fact inseparable. The main focus, the mystery, is a rap singer who has a contract out on his life.  He hires Isaiah to find out who is trying to kill him. The other story, which is just as important, goes back in time and shares Isaiah’s journey from child being raised by his older brother to independent detective.  That road was neither easy nor pretty.  The back and forth in time could be confusing, but it is not.  The chapters are not only numbered, but also titled and, most importantly, dated.

Usually repetitive bad language causes me to dislike a book. I find IQ to be an exception.  When inappropriate language is not needed, it is not used. When the story is centered around the black gangsta, rapper culture, swearing and cussing are appropriate for the characters. If they sounded like preachers, the story would lose authenticity. Joe Ide, the author, is a good wordsmith.  I could feel this: “Isaiah and Dodson hadn’t spoke the whole way over, the tension like a stranger in the car.”

The plot has many twists and turns that kept me interested for the duration.  Isaiah is a complicated, resourceful character and I find him to be likable. I was rooting for a successful resolution to the mystery and to Isaiah’s struggles.  You’ll want to read this book yourself to see if either is achieved.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Mulholland Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

The Girl from Venice–WWII setting

The Girl from Venice

by Martin Cruz Smith

the-girl-from-veniceThe Girl from Venice is the tale of Cenzo, a very versatile and capable Italian fisherman, and Giulia, a young Jewish lady. Their lives intertwine in World War II in 1945 in Venice in the midst of conflicting players: Nazi soldiers, Mussolini’s Blackshirts, and the equally deadly Partisans.  This work of historical fiction is a combination of thriller and mystery with a little romance thrown in.

I had conflicting feelings about The Girl from Venice.  The plot has some interesting twists and turns. Part of this novel revolves around the many different ways of fishing in the lagoons near Pellestrina.  I thought the story was a little slow in its extended descriptions of the art of fishing, but many of the details were essential in the plot progression. They explain how Cenzo and Giulia were able to deceive the Nazis searching for Giulia as well as how Giulia transformed from a wealthy, highly educated Italian Jew into a skilled fisherman in her own right.

The author had a lot of decisions to make about the reader’s background knowledge concerning Italy and its politics in 1945.  He did a good job of supplying necessary details without oversimplifying or being pedantic.

The setting varies between city and fishing village.  There are complicated family relationships involving Cenzo, his mother, two brothers and sister-in-law, and through those relationships we discover more about each character.  The character of Giulia, however, is mostly undeveloped. We want to know more but are left  unsatisfied.

As the story ended, so did its unfulfilled promise.  The idea was a good one, the setting was interesting, but none of the characters were particularly engaging or well-developed.  There was one major twist in the plot, but otherwise it seemed to just keep plodding along.  It took me many days to read it just because nothing kept drawing me back. Not one to usually comment on a book’s cover, I must say the cover was outstanding–dramatic and perfect for this book.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Simon & Schuster for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Candidate–Echoes of today’s political climate and THEN…

The Candidate

by Lis Wiehl

the-candidateI read The Candidate with about twenty days left until the U.S. presidential election of 2016. As I began the book, there were certainly echoes of today’s political climate and I feared for a lack of originality.  I am pleased to say that the storyline quickly deviated into a very riveting, original plot while maintaining a theme of potential world domination that reflects the very real fears that many harbor today.

The main character is a top journalist with her own show, The Erica Sparks Effect. The author of The Candidate, Lis Wiehl, is a  lawyer as well as a legal analyst appearing on many TV shows as a commentator. She brings authenticity to her novel.  I admit going into the book with a bias against the media; there seems to be little integrity in the field today, little honest reporting. Those hired as “reporters” seem determined to opine outside the confines of an editorial piece. The fictional Erica Sparks, however, is different and refreshing. She sees her job as reporting the news, not making it or persuading others to view events through her political lens.

When some oddities appear in one presidential candidate’s campaign, she risks her life to discover the truth that could affect the nation and the world.  Even as she is immersed in these events, the private side of Erica Sparks is revealed as we see her struggle with balancing the work she thrives on with her desires to be a great mom to the daughter she adores.  She also has to work through feelings for Greg with whom she is trying to maintain a long distance relationship.

I recommend The Candidate. It has lots of twists and turns in the plot, a likable and well-developed main character, suspense, and political intrigue.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Thomas Nelson for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

DISILLUSIONED–Didn’t Disappoint This Reader

Disillusioned

by Christy Barrittdisillusioned

Disillusioned, a Christian thriller by Christy Barritt, plunges the reader into a tense scene of media pursuit. It then segues before the end of the first chapter into an attempt to coerce Nikki and her brother Bobby, a Navy SEAL, to accompany some armed men.  Are their attackers terrorists or feds? The action continues at a fast pace through the whole book with a cast of strong characters.

Interwoven with and integral to the main plot, in which Bobby is accused of being part of a Columbian terror group, are three major subplots. One deals with Nikki’s complicated romantic relationships.  Another with spiritual faith and trust issues Nikki has in the aftermath of several traumatic years.  The last is the mental state of her brother and the possibility that his years of captivity in Columbia have altered his character.

I strongly recommend this book on two levels.  As a thriller I find the ins and outs of the plot to be fascinating.  Except for the high stress level I occasionally needed to relieve, it is a book I didn’t want to put down.  As a Christian novel, I found the implicit challenge to be personal.  If confronted with the extreme difficulties and disappointments Nikki faced, would my faith in God remain strong? Would I remember that “God is on my side even when all seems lost.”?

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Waterfall Press for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

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