Review: Murder, Madness & Love, Yolande Renee (2013)

YolandeWealthy Businessman Dies in Car Crash … BLACK WIDOW SUSPECTED!

Graphic images swirl through her head and a tear rolls down her cheek. She drifts toward an easel and a trembling hand dips a sable brush into a palette of paint.The Westminster doorbell chimes. The brush slips and blood-red paint stains the floor.

Detective Steven Quaid waits. His Tlingit, Indian features carved from granite, mask his Irish passion … Will he arrest her this time?

All fingers point to her guilt.

But, is she guilty of this cunning plot? Or just a victim of circumstantial evidence?

Thank you to Curiosity Quills for offering me this book for review.

Set in Alaska and Seattle mosly, the book features Sarah Palmer who has moved home after the death of her husband, Michael. Sarah’s accused of murdering Michael for his millions. She says no. The evidence hints otherwise but isn’t convincing enough for an arrest warrant.

In Alaska, she heads up her husband’s corporation and sets up his new Foundation. However, with their wedding anniversary coming up on Valentine’s Day, women start to end up dead. Each time, Sarah gets a Valentine’s note beforehand. And, each time, the woman has a connection to Sarah.

There’s an array of characters – good friends John and Eddie and their respective partners, work colleagues Jonathan, Karen, and Gerald, housekeepers, security guys, and, of course, the cops.

Enter Steven Quaid, the Alaskan detective, who’s fighting his feelings for Sarah and his concerns about her guilt or innocence.

This book is an accomplished run out. Plenty of characters, strong plot lines, unexpected ending. On the downside, (as an editor) I felt it could have done with a good ol’ edit, with some of the dialogue polished off, some of the characters made a little more rounded (including Sarah), and a little more showing, not telling us about emotions and developments.Those irritations aside, I stuck with it because I was curious to see exactly who was committing all these murders. There are plenty of red herrings, and the book is a decent starting point for future work.

Review: Sweet Dreams Boxed Set (2014)

sweetdreamsThis is a great read – with all proceeds raised from the sale of this boxed set of 13 thrillers donated to the US Diabetes Research Institute.

I’ve taken the summary of the books from Goodreads and just given a one-liner feedback to each one. But I was delighted to come across this and have discovered several new authors.

AIM TO KILL by NYT bestselling author Allison Brennan: When disgraced former cop Alex Morgan is shot saving the life of California’s Lieutenant Governor, she doesn’t expect to be caught in the middle of a deadly conspiracy, an FBI sting, an old rivalry … and cold-blooded murder. ~ Liked it, new author for me, will read again

NYT bestselling author Cynthia Eden invites readers to enter a world of darkness and obsession in her new romantic suspense tale, UNTIL DEATH. ~ Liked it, new author for me, will read again

From NYT bestselling author J.T. Ellison comes the long awaited prequel to her Taylor Jackson series. CROSSED, the story of a madman trying to create his own end-of-days apocalypse, introduces Lieutenant Taylor Jackson to the young, troubled FBI profiler Dr. John Baldwin. ~ Liked it, second read of this author for me, will read more

In TOYS IN THE ATTIC from NYT bestselling author Heather Graham, Michael Quinn is accustomed to dealing with the deadly, the dangerous, and the extreme—but a haunted spinning wheel? And on the eve of his wedding? He’ll have to risk his life, limb and soul for love to save Danni Cafferty from the cursed creation if he’s ever to get them both to the church on time—and live. ~ Not for me, I’m afraid

J.J. Graves and Jack Lawson investigate a ritualistic murder while on their honeymoon in DIRTY DEEDS by NYT bestselling author Liliana Hart. ~ Liked it, new author for me, will read again

From NYT bestselling author Alex Kava comes the prequel readers have been waiting for, and the case that destined Special Agent Maggie O’Dell to a career of chasing killers. ~ One of my fave authors

From NYT bestselling author CJ Lyons: When workaholic FBI Agent Lucy Guardino takes her daughter on vacation, the last thing she expects is to become embroiled in a murder—or for her teenaged daughter to play amateur sleuth with disastrous consequences. ~ Liked it, new author for me, will read again

When her twin sister disappears, Ellen Galway enlists the help of a Texas Ranger in SECRET HIDEAWAY, a story of love, danger and revenge from NYT bestselling author Carla Neggers. ~ Liked it, new author for me, will read again

HANOVER HOUSE, from NYT bestselling author Brenda Novak, features Evelyn Talbott, a psychiatrist who studies serial killers at a revolutionary new medical health center in remote Hilltop, Alaska. Evelyn’s determined to unlock the mysteries of the anti-social mind, even if it kills her—and being surrounded by men who feel no remorse means it just might…~ Liked it, new author for me, will read again

NYT bestselling author Theresa Ragan’s newest suspense, DEAD MAN RUNNING, is set in motion when an accused murderer escapes prison in a body bag and sets out to prove his innocence. ~ Liked it, new author for me, will read again

From NYT bestselling author Erica Spindler comes the prequel to her exciting new series starring reformed southern belle turned kick ass cop, Michaela Dee Dare. In RANDOM ACTS, Micki must uncover the link between a series of bizarre and seemingly random murders in New Orleans. ~ One of my fave authors

Someone is slaughtering homeless people in WITHOUT MALICE, Jo Robertson’s latest suspense-thriller. It’s personal to Parole Officer Santiago Cruz because the targets are his parolees. With no motive or murder weapon, but with help from prison doctor Frankie Jones, Cruz must trace the brutal killings back to their tragic origin. ~ Liked it, new author for me, will read again

Before Kathleen, there were just two brothers: Blane and Kade. One bonding trip to Vegas later and Sin City will never be the same in TURN THE TABLES, prequel to the Kathleen Turner Series by Bestselling Author Tiffany Snow. ~ Not for me, I’m afraid (less)

Review: Eric Van Lustbader, Last Snow (2010)

Eric Van L_Last SnowAn American senator, supposedly on a political trip to the Ukraine, turns up dead on the island of Capri. When the President asks him to find out how and why, Jack sets out from Moscow across Eastern Europe, following a perilous trail of diplomats, criminals, and corrupt politicians. Thrust into the midst of a global jigsaw puzzle, Jack’s unique dyslexic mind allows him to put together the pieces that others can’t even see.

Having been disappointed by Linda Fairstein’s Terminal City and Lee Child’s Personal (Jack Reacher), I was really looking forward to (and desperately needed) a new author.

I thought I had found my new author when I read Nelson de Mille’s testimonial on the front of this book: ‘Last Snow catapults high above the bar of great thrillers.’

Not IMHO!

So, the US President’s trusted aide, Jack McClure, is dispatched to the Ukraine to find out how and why a US senator was murdered. He ends up being saddled with the First Daughter and a rogue Russian agent.

Those three alone are fine, actually, with many redeeming characteristics – each has been damaged by their pasts (Jack’s dead daughter was best friends with Alli, the First Daughter; Russian agent Annika has a past whose layers are peeled back like an onion).

Then there’s a dizzying array of US, Russian, and Ukrainian characters, some with back stories, some without. The plot itself, about Russia’s interests in the Ukraine was interesting to me precisely because of Russia’s annexation there in the recent past. Add in US interests in the region and it made for an interesting geopolitical exploration – if you like that sort of thing. I could tolerate it, I must say.

However, for me, the dialogue is very wooden – at one stage, an American woman utters that most Jeeves and Wooster phrase: ‘You unspeakable toad!’ Seriously, how likely is that. And that is just the tip of the iceberg with the dialogue – there were whole phrases and sentences that just didn’t flow as natural dialogue at all.

And, yet, I kept reading. As any creative writing class will tell you, you must make the reader care about the characters and it was that trinity – Jack, Alli, and Annika – who sustained my interest. But only for them, I would have quit half way through.

Not a repeat author for me, I’m sorry to say.

Suggestions, please!

 

 

Review: Ryan David Jahn, The Dispatcher (2011)

RD Jahn The DispatcherIan Hunt is the police dispatcher for the small town of Bulls Mouth, Texas. Just as his shift is ending he gets a call from his fourteen-year-old daughter, Maggie. Maggie, who has just been declared dead, having been snatched from her bedroom seven years ago. Her call ends in a scream.

The trail leads to a local couple, but this is just the start of his battle to get his daughter back. What follows is a bullet-strewn cross-country chase along Interstate 10, from Texas to California.

This is a great premise for a novel – your daughter’s on the phone, except she’s been missing for seven years and you attended a funeral for her four months ago so her mother could get ‘closure’.

Jahn’s novel sort-of lives up to its promise – it took me a while to adjust to the staccato style of his writing. In parts, I felt the novel read like a film script, with detailed descriptions of each move made in a particular sequence by a particular character. What kept me engaged was the freshness of those descriptions – and the hope that time wouldn’t run out on the father-daughter chance of a reunion.

The central character, Hunt, is a police dispatcher, a ‘sort of’ cop, with three ex-wives behind him and who can’t move on from the kidnapping of his daughter. The story is told from his perspective, with contributions from Maggie herself who’s caught in the Nightmare World, and from her kidnapper.

It’s a classic road movie style scenario, with stopovers in cheap motels with willing waitresses and greasy burgers. It’s also a tale of how far you would go to find your daughter once you’ve readjusted your thinking from the gone-but-not-forgotten notion to the now-she’s-alive-OMG nuclear option. In Hunt’s case, he’s prepared to go all the way, and it’s a very bloody way. Plenty of bodies and mutilation here, so not for the faint-hearted.

My litmus text for any novel is whether I want to add the book to my bookshelves. In this case, I’m not too bothered. Nor am I tempted to read any other of Jahn’s novels.

Did I enjoy it? Yes.

Do I miss the characters now that I’m finished the novel? Not really.

Review: Mary Higgins Clarke & Alafair Burke, The Cinderella Murder (2014)

M HIggins Clarke The Cinderella MurderTelevision producer Laurie Moran is delighted when the pilot for her reality drama, Under Suspicion, is a success. Even more, the program—a cold case series that revisits unsolved crimes by recreating them with those affected—is off to a fantastic start when it helps solve an infamous murder in the very first episode.

Now Laurie has the ideal case to feature in the next episode of Under Suspicion: the Cinderella Murder. When Susan Dempsey, a beautiful and multi-talented UCLA student, was found dead, her murder raised numerous questions. Why was her car parked miles from her body? Had she ever shown up for the acting audition she was due to attend at the home of an up-and-coming director? Why does Susan’s boyfriend want to avoid questions about their relationship? Was her disappearance connected to a controversial church that was active on campus? 

This can’t be my first Mary Higgins Clarke though I’m hard pushed to remember the title of any previous novels of MHC that I have read. And, if anything, it may be better if I read her earlier work than her later work, judging by other reviewers’ comments on her style over the years.

I’ve said before on this blog that I judge a book by whether I’ll add it to my bookshelves when I’ve finished reading it – or pass it on to a second-hand charity/thrift shop. This one will be filed under Thrift Shop, I’m afraid.

I should add that I do keep books, just not the last few I’ve read and reviewed. Among my keepers are David Baldacci, Karin Slaughter, Karen Rose, Lisa Gardner, Meg Gardiner, Sheila Bugler, Mo Hayder, Harlan Coben, Mark Billingham, Jane Casey, David Hewson, Linwood Barclay, Nicci French, Sophie Hannah. Over the years, I’ve ‘gone off’ Michael Connolly, Faye and Jonathan Kellerman, Dean Koontz and probably a few more.

So, back to this novel: it’s the second in the Under Suspicion series and a first in MHC’s link up with Alafair Burke (whom I haven’t come across). Styled as a reality TV show investigation rather than a cop investigation, it’s an interesting approach to solving crime. Here producer Laurie teams up with defence attorney Alex to revisit cold cases and bring closure to the families through, hopefully, solving the crimes.

And, as with cold crime cases, the passage of time helps to loosen tongues, fracture old loyalties, and let old memories rise to the surface now that perceived threats/fears at the time of the investigation have dimmed.

And so it is that the old suspects are revisitied – the college roommates, the old boyfriend, the college colleagues and friends, the alternative church led by a now-wealthy man with little regard for threats to his ‘kingdom’. As the death toll rises, people’s memories shake loose along with their alibis. And in the middle of it all is an only child whose future was robbed, but whose fate was sealed by those who had information but chose not to reveal it for personal gain ….

Review: Tami Hoag, Secrets to the Grave (2010)

Tami Hoag Secrets to the GraveMarissa Fordham is dead, but her daughter is found at the crime scene, injured but alive. Now sheriff’s detective Tony Mendez and child advocate Anne Leone begin to peel back the layers of Marissa’s life. And the shocking truth they discover puts them directly in the sights of a killer with a stunning secret to keep; because Marissa Fordham never existed…

Tami Hoag is a novelist I haven’t given a whole lot of attention to, and it seems that this book may not have been the best one to revisit her work. I had read Dark Paradise (1994) previously and kept it on my bookshelves, but this book won’t be joining it, I’m afraid.

In her author’s note, Hoag outlines why she set this series of Oak Knoll novels in the mid-1980s. It was before DNA evidence, and an era when HIV/AIDS was an issue and single pregnant women were considered scandalous, according to Hoag. So, setting a crime novel in this timespan seemed like an interesting premise.

Retired FBI profiler Vince Leone is lending a hand to the local police force and enjoying new married life with wife Anne, who is a child advocate. Anne was also the victim of an attempted murder in the previous novel and seems to have a habit of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The premise for the novel sounds good: a woman who doesn’t officially exist ends up murdered, with her young daughter pointing the finger at ‘daddy’. Unfortunately, the little girl calls all of her mother’s friends ‘daddy’, so the list of suspects becomes unwieldy. There’s a teacher with a reputation to maintain, a wannabe politician with a reputation to maintain, a lawyer who’s cheating on his wife, a weird nieghbour with a reputation to be maintained by his assistant.

Then there’s the murder victim’s mentor, wife of a well-to-do mostly absent businessman, who supports Marissa’s artistic endeavours. And Gina, her friend from the ‘old days’ before Marissa arrived in Oak Knoll.

Then there’s Vince’s wife, Anne, who’s acting as a child advocate for crazed kid Dennis, whose role in the novel is never quite clear, frankly.

And that’s the trouble with this novel – there’s so much going on and so much mud being thrown at different characters, and so many blind alleys and tangents that’s it’s hard to care how it all works out in the end. On top of that, there’s a certain clumsiness about the Mills and Boon-ness of Detective Mendez’s crush on the suspect lawyer’s wife and Vince and Anne’s relationship that takes from the novel.

So, a promising concept that just failed to deliver, I’m afraid.

Review: Alex Kava, Breaking Creed (2015)

alex kava breaking creedWhen dog handler Ryder Creed and one of his dogs are called in to search a commercial fishing vessel, they discover a secret compartment. But the Colombian cartels’ latest shipment isn’t drugs. This time, its cargo is human. To make matters worse, Creed helps one of the cartel’s drug mules escape. Meanwhile, FBI agent Maggie O’Dell is investigating a series of murders and uncovers a hit list with Creed’s name on it. 

I’ve been a fan of Kava’s Maggie O’Dell series since I discovered it and was intrigued to see that she was shaking things up a bit by introducing a Ryder Creed (not sure I like the name!) thread. Creed had been introduced in a previous novel so, potentially, this is an interesting avenue to follow.

By it’s nature, the novel needs to introduce us more to Creed, his business partner, Hannah, his team of dogs, and his home base. Equally, it gives quite a lot of time to Maggie and her perspective as their two separate cases inevitably come closer to collision.

For me, the most interesting strand of the novel was the child trafficking and drug mule element. Amanda is 14, American born, but travelling between Colombia and the US carrying drug balloons for a drugs cartel. The child trafficking element alone would have made a substantial storyline but it wasn’t really capitalised on, I felt.

Elsewhere, we didn’t really get to delve as deep into O’Dell’s psyche as usual. And, maybe, Kava has said all she wants to say with O’Dell and, in her notes before the novel, admits that the dog handler character is a labour of love, based on her own love of dogs.

For me, I’d give this three stars. I read it on the Kindle and couldn’t believe how quickly I was getting through the book. I’d love to see more depth and less hopping around different storylines in the next novel. Worth a read, yes, but better if you’ve read some of the previous O’Dell books cos there were great.