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Thursday, September 29, 2016


4 stars out of 5

This book is my introduction to Scottish barrister Rex Graves. In fact, I was surprised to learn after I'd finished that it's something like the ninth book in the series. That said, it stands alone well; yes, I might have gained a few insights by reading previous editions, but at no time did I feel disadvantaged.

Also after the fact, I also noticed the words "cozy mystery" in the description of the series - and that doesn't surprise me. This book, and I assume all the others, is written in a rather mild-mannered, laid-back style. At several points, I was reminded of the Stuart Woods Stone Barrington series; no matter what happens, nobody gets terribly excited about it (that's an observation, not a criticism, by the way).

The book begins as the esteemed Rex learns that a former judge, Lord Gordon Murgatroyd, has died. Known as "Judge Murder" because of his severity on the bench, he's not missed by many - but along the way he did, for some reason, befriend Rex. Because of that (and perhaps a because of a personal interest in the presumably unattached Rex), the judge's daughter Phoebe calls him in when she suspects her father's death was anything but natural.

Rex complies with her request, but he's not totally convinced that the judge was murdered (and, since he's engaged to the woman he loves, he's less than thrilled to think Phoebe has set her romantic sights on him). But then he's attacked by a suspect with whom he agreed to meet, and he and his very proper but likable friend Alistair decide to investigate further. Besides that, a young girl has been abducted - perhaps tied to an earlier murder of another abducted girl. Are the cases related? Rex looks into the possibility, putting his own life on the line in the process.

It all comes together in the end, of course, making for a rather fun, easy read. Many thanks to the author and publisher, via NetGalley, for providing me with an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

Judgment of Murder by C.S. Challinor (Midnight Ink, November 2016); 216 pp.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016


5 stars out of 5

Are you a caregiver for a relative, perhaps an elderly parent? Might that a possibility in upcoming years? Do you want to take steps now to prepare for your own future so no one will have to fill that role when you no longer can care for yourself? If any of these scenarios set off alarm bells in your head, this book is an important tool. If they don't, it's probably even more important.

In the interest of full disclosure, I requested (and received, thank you) an advance copy in exchange for an honest review because I'm already involved in senior health issues, albeit from a different perspective. Since I retired from going to a workplace every day back in 2002, I've been a state-certified volunteer long-term care ombudsman for Ohio. Each week, I visit my assigned facility to talk with residents and help make sure their rights are being upheld (and, if not, do what I can, together with the local Area Agency on Aging, to facilitate positive change). Any book that deals with the topic of long-term care, then, is of great interest to me - not just because I'm always eager to learn but because, if it's well done, I can recommend it to others who may need it.

And recommend it I most certainly do. The goal, the author says, is to make readers "feel more powerful" and let them know they may have many options. It shows caregivers ways to save time, money and energy and have a personal life. "Caregiving is like a muscle that can be developed and strengthened," the author writes, and her book is designed to help with that. Following a "boating" theme, she tackles really tough issues such as "promises" we may make (think assuring your mother you'll never, ever put her in a nursing home) to whether it's a good idea to quit your job and take over full-time care of a loved one (and how to deal with it if that's what your loved one expects you to do).

Best of all, it's not just platitudes and lip service; options are presented for each topic, and chapters include "course corrections," or steps to take if you're already halfway down the wrong path. Everywhere are examples, checklists, worksheets and questions to answer that will help you make the best decisions for yourself and for (and with) your loved ones. Still other chapters focus on expectations and realities of the health-care system (i.e., Medicare and Medicaid), the ramifications of dementia and - not insignificantly - what you need to do now to prepare for the time you may need some type of care yourself.

Even if you're not performing a direct caregiving function - or one of your loved ones already is in a long-term care facility - there's plenty of good information here for you. I'm always surprised, for instance, when a resident of "my"nursing home - or someone in their family who's visiting and is concerned about some issue - tells me he or she had no idea the local Area on Aging even exists, much less what services it provides. At the end of the book is a comprehensive list of resources; depending on where you are on the caregiver continuum, you can look them up immediately or stash them away for future consultation.

Cruising through Caregiving: Reducing the Stress of Caring for Your Loved One by Jennifer L. FitzPatrick (Greenleaf Book Group Press, September 2016); 375 pp.


4 stars out of 5

Much as I love to read about grisly murders and psychological drama, every now and again, my head needs a break and I look for something on the lighter side. When I saw the description of this cozy mystery - the first of a series - it sounded great on several levels. As the title suggests, it's centered around books and a group of rather stuffy women who get together to read and discuss mysteries as part of the Agathas Book Club - and as an avid reader of that genre, it couldn't be more perfect. Adding to the appeal is that the book is set in Oakwood, Ohio - a Dayton suburb quite familiar to me for the first 18 years of my life as I grew up on a farm perhaps 45 minutes away. I didn't hesitate to request an advance copy in exchange for an honest review, and I was elated when that request was approved.

And all things considered, it served all its intended purposes. I enjoyed glimpses of places I've been, books I, too, have read, and the respite from head games as the story played out in a somewhat predictable manner (as cozy mysteries are wont to do). The heroine, Charley Carpenter, is a character with whom I could be friends (well, on most days, at least), and certainly one I'll be willing to read more about as the series continues.

Charlie, it seems, owns an antique clothing store; in the hope of boosting sales, she joins the Agathas Book Club even though she has a tough time relating to most of the other members - the "elite" of Oakwood and their boring, one-upwomanship club lunches. She maintains her sanity through close relationships with best friend Frankie, fashion-conscious hairdresser Dmitri, her ailing father and his caretaker, Lawrence (who has "...biceps the size of first graders...") And of course, there's the requisite love-hate-love relationship with gorgeous and single police detective Marc Trenault. 

But then, murder happens - and it's someone connected to the book club members. Not long after, another one bites the dust, and clues lead to passages from book club selections and the suspicion that both dirty deeds were done by the same hands. Fingers begin pointing toward another of the club members, so over Marc's objections, Charlie's valuable insights translate to her acceptance on the investigative team. Finally, she even convinces him to let her use her knowledge and skills as an inside-the-club informant in the hope of ferreting out which is the killer. Of course, that puts Charlie squarely in the crosshairs of someone who will do anything - including kill again - to keep from being identified.

In the end, of course, all's well that ends well, and I'm happy to had the opportunity to read it. That said, though, a few things bothered me a titch. First, enough already with the boy names for girls: Charlie? Frankie? Ronnie? Wilson? Jelly (well, I suppose that one could shake out either way). And how on earth does a person officially arrested for murder (which wouldn't happen without that person being taken into custody) get back home with no mention of help from an attorney, no hearing or no bail?  

Ah well, I'll never know. I do know that this is the start of a promising series, and I look forward to the next installment.

The Book Club Murders: The Oakwood Mystery Series by Leslie Nagel (Alibi, September 2016); 271 pp.

Sunday, September 25, 2016


4 stars out of 5

Ever heard of Metamora, Indiana? Well, join the club. But because I was born and lived in the Hoosier State for the first eight years of my life, I've always been proud of my Bobby Knight country roots, so the setting for this book is what first got my attention. Turns out, according to Google Maps, that it's a tiny but historic canal town about a 66-minute southwesterly drive from my home town of Union City. That, and the fact that it's a cozy mystery - the kind of thing I enjoy reading in between those mess-with-your-head whodunits - prompted me to ask for (and was granted, thank you) this book in exchange for an honest review.

On the subject of location, I got more than my money's worth. Turns out that lead character Cameron Cripps-Hayman is new to Metamora, coming from Columbus (Ohio); reminiscing over her past life, she mentions several places I know well and love there, like the Short North district. The jackpot, however, came when she sat in on a class at Ivy Tech in Richmond, Indiana - the community college at which my late father taught business law for several years.

Of more import to the rest of the reading world is that this is a very good story. Cameron, recently separated from her husband Ben (Metamora's only police officer), finds a body floating in that aforementioned canal. When it's discovered that the dead woman has ties to both Cam and Ben, they become suspects - and Cam vows to do whatever it takes to find out who really did the deed. Along the way, she takes in the now-ownerless dogs that belonged to the victim (leading to the possibility of a business venture). She's also been providing telemarketing jobs for a group of people who have been ordered by the court to do community service, so she switches gears, dubs them the Metamora Action Agency and puts them to work on solving the case (much to Ben's dismay).

In between, she must deal with Ben's teenage daughter Mia, who could use an attitude adjustment (or better yet, a couple of slaps upside the head) and his snobby mother, Irene (ditto). As might be expected, Cam's relationship with Ben is on again, off again; also predictably, Cam goes off on her own despite warnings from Ben and a neighboring police chief to keep her nose out of the investigation. Is she successful? Will she and Ben patch things up or go their separate ways? Will the domineering mom-in-law and stepdaughter get their comeuppance? My lips are sealed, of course, but keep in mind that this is a cozy mystery, where, in the end, God's in his heaven and all's right with the world.

Good job! 

Deadly Dog Days by Jamie M. Blair (Midnight Ink, November 2016); 240 pp.

Friday, September 23, 2016


5 stars out of 5

Ever since the first book I read in the John Jordan series by Michael Lister, I've been a huge fan. Admittedly, I've read only three prior to this one, but I'm far from done. This one, which is the seventh in the series, easily gets 5 stars from me once again - and it also has the distinction of being one of the saddest books I've ever read.

Although the author says it's best to read them all in order (a piece of advice with which I always agree), he adds that each can stand alone (I agree with this as well). That's perhaps even more true of this one; it's written as a prequel that takes readers back to Jordan's very first investigation - one that had a profound impact on the who and what he was to become. We see Jordan as a young man trying to sort out his intense interest in becoming a chaplain or a law enforcement officer and exploring whether combining the two would be a possibility. For the time being, he's left home for Atlanta - in the progress ignoring his police officer father's wishes for the first time in his life - to enroll in a church-run school for ministers.

Actually, the story began when John was 12, when he bumped heads with a man who was convicted of murdering some children in Atlanta. Never quite certain of the man's guilt, when John returned to Atlanta for school, he vowed to investigate further. As he gets started, he gets a call and a bit of advice from none other than Harry Bosch, a friend of his father (and, for those who might not know, the character in a best-selling series by Michael Connelly).

In Atlanta, he befriends a couple of disadvantaged boys as well as the owner of a local daycare center whose young son was snatched from her back yard and murdered several years earlier. Her daughter, the boy's older stepsister, also works at the center; all I'll say about that is that the course of true love never runs smooth. As he learns more about the situation - including a suspicion that all the murders may be somehow connected -  John vows to keep investigating until he finds the murderer. The course of that, too, is far from smooth, putting him at odds with some nasty characters and taking his mind to some very dark places.

The ending is both surprising and definitely not pleasant for readers and disturbing, to say the least, to John. All in all, the book is a crucial part of the series and one that shouldn't be missed.

Innocent Blood by Michael Lister (Pulpwood Press, February 2015); 264 pp.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016


4 stars out of 5

Forewarned is forearmed: Major cliffhanger here. Put another way, if you want to find out how (or whether) lead character detective inspector Helen Grace gets out of the tangled mess she's in at the end of this one, you'll have to wait till the next installment is published. 

I must say that ending, or the lack thereof, rather annoyed the heck out of me. But other than that, this is a doggone kick-butt book. In fact, I had a hard time putting it down. Thankfully, the chapters are short so it's easy to get in one or two while the coffeepot finishes up or even during commercials as I watched a favorite TV show. It's a fast-paced plot with enough murders to make the Boston Strangler wish he'd lived in merry old Southhampton. 

The plot also smacks of kinky; in fact, it begins with a murder in a popular S&M club called the Torture Rooms. How bad? Well, I know I'm not fully cognizant of the words and phrases common to this fetish, but I admit to having to look up the definition of one or two. Understandably, secrecy is the order of business here; and when Helen sees the victim and realizes they knew each other, she nearly panics. That's a part of her life she really doesn't want revealed, but she knows keeping her proclivities to herself will become more difficult as the investigation progresses. Then, the unthinkable happens: Another murder, and once again, the victim is connected to Helen.

Clearly, Helen has issues - some of them whoppers - but then so does just about every person she works with in the department. And that doesn't count a bulldog-like journalist, once Helen's friend, who's sniffing in all the corners and under the beds in hopes of making Helen suffer and landing the scoop that will boost her career to the stratosphere. 

This is, for the record, No. 5 in the series; I've read (and enjoyed) one other, so I was delighted to be approved by the publisher to read it in exchange for an honest review. For the most part it stands alone, although it was clear here and there that I'd have had a better understanding of some things had I read earlier editions. For that reason, I'll give the same advice I always do to readers of books in any series: For best results, start from the beginning. 

Little Boy Blue by M.J. Arlidge (Berkley, October 2016); 393 pp.

Sunday, September 18, 2016


4 stars out of 5

Let me get this out of the way up front: I'm giving this book 4 stars because of its interesting, fast-paced plot. But when it comes to character development in the style of the late, great Robert B. Parker, I'd be hard-pressed to give it 3. Conclusion? If you haven't read Parker's books featuring small-town police chief Jesse Stone (this is the 15th, I believe), it's likely you'll enjoy this. If, like me, you've been a Parker fan for many years, maybe not so much.

This book does stand on its own well, although I'm sure I got more out of it because I've read others. And therein, I think, lies part of the problem: Knowing the characters so well from Parker's writing makes it harder to accept them as written by a "new" voice. But that aside, the voices here seem, well, bland. To be sure, Jesse is older and, if possible, mellower; he's pretty much settled into his role in the small community of Paradise, stopped drinking, come to terms with his co-dependent relationship with former wife Jenn (who's about to get remarried), and enjoying the heck out of a woman he's pretty sure he loves more than his ex. Gone, though, is his short, droll style of conversation - replaced by more lengthy ruminations that threaten to bog down the progress of the story.

Ah, but on to the plot - and it's a killer right from the git-go. As Jesse enjoys quality time with his love, former FBI agent Diana Evans, the worst thing going on in Paradise is that some crazy is running around shooting out tires. But then comes the unseemly demise of a Boston crime boss with whom Jesse has enjoyed a tenuous friendship - and the tide turns. It was murder, Jesse believes - done by a never-caught psycho the police have dubbed Mr. Peepers because he resembles Wally Cox, star of the old TV show of the same name that ran from 1952 to 1955. Not all that long ago, the criminal caused major trauma to Jesse and his deputy, Luther "Suit" Simpson. When they prevented one of his murder attempts, Mr. Peepers set his sights on getting even.

Needless to say, Jesse will do whatever it takes to bring him in dead or alive, and the chase leads to Dallas. That's where Jenn soon will wed her filthy rich fiance (Mr. Peepers, you see, has put Jesse, and everyone he works with and has ever loved, on his hit list, and apparently Jenn's name is at the top). But in Jesse's world, things are never quite that simple; will he be able to get his man before the man gets his revenge? I'm not about to tell - read it and find out for yourself.

Robert B. Parker's Debt to Pay by Reed Farrel Coleman (G.P. Putnam's Sons, September 2016); 349 pp.

Saturday, September 17, 2016


5 stars out of 5

Okay, 'fess up time: I've been officially (and happily) retired for just over 13 years now. But while I no longer go to an office five days a week, nor work closely with and supervise other people, I've continued to work from home on a limited basis just to keep my skills alive. More to the point, I expect to never lose interest in self-development and the "people" part of leadership. So when I was given the opportunity to read an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, I didn't hesitate to go for it.

The book puts heavy emphasis on the self-awareness and self-development side of the equation: "New Alphas strive for excellence in all areas of their lives and can bring big ideas to life," the author writes. Often, she adds, they are "...the best and most inspiring leaders."

Thus, her New Alpha program is designed to help people (in the case of the book, readers) make the most of human potential - their own and that of those with whom they interact as a leader ("At its best, leadership is about becoming the best version of yourself in order to maximize your positive impact in the world," she writes). 

At its heart, the book serves up a hands-on, step-by-step program for learning who you are, who you want to be, where you want to go and what it takes to get you there. It's filled with self-assessment tools, tracking systems, quizzes and worksheets for time-honored processes like goal-setting, decision-making, prioritizing and communicating as well as plenty of other concepts and principles that can help boost your confidence, feelings of self-worth and, of course, leadership potential. Major sections include Personal Excellence, Personal Leadership and Team and Organizational Leadership; many of the tools are in the book and still others are downloadable.

If you're the kind of person who wants to make the most of yourself and help others make the most of themselves - whether or not you get out of bed in the morning and head to a workplace - this book provides an excellent guide. That said, a word of advice from one who has conducted her fair share of employee development workshops on a number of topics included herein: In this book, as in life, there's a direct correlation to what you put in and what you get back out. If you follow through on what's presented in these pages, I'm pretty sure your experience will be enlightening and yes, empowering.

The New Alpha: Join the Rising Movement of Influencers and Changemakers Who are Redefining Leadership by Danielle Harlan (McGraw-Hill Education, September 2016); 288 pp.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016


5 stars out of 5

I really, really didn't want this one to end. Yeah, it's a bit of same old, same old - but for the most part, therein lies the attraction. I may be counting wrong, but I think this is the 43rd book featuring New York police lieutenant Eve Dallas. Set in the not-all-that-distant future - 2060 give or take a few -  it's always interesting to learn about the technology (the ability to "program" meals into a machine that spits them back at you at exactly the proper temperature and wands that sweep away bruises is a bit mind-boggling).

And then there's Roarke. Who can resist the hunky, richer-than-God Irish former criminal who's now married to Eve and is a police consultant? Certainly not me; the only downside is that the criminals Eve and her team must deal with almost always end up targeting Eve or someone close to her, and every time I start a new book I'm terrified something bad will happen to him.

As this starts, Eve is called in when three people - a young girl, a doctor and a teacher - are shot and killed at an ice-skating rink in Central Park. There's no apparent connection among them, and it appears that the shots were made by a sniper from a considerable distance away. It's clear the killer is exceptionally skilled, but beyond that there are few clues. Enter Roarke, who uses his special talents to create a computer program that narrows down the possible location from which the shots were fired.

Zeroing in, Eve's team finds the place, discerning that there were two people involved - most likely one older and the other a much younger boy or girl. As they ponder what that could mean, another sneak attack takes even more lives. Now, time is of the essence; it's a virtual certainty that the killer or killers aren't about to stop any time soon. As the investigation continues, the unsettling thought strikes Eve that she and the killer share a number of experiences that shaped who they have become. 

One of my concerns in recent books is that Roarke's wholehearted devotion to Eve was beginning to cross the line from supportive to controlling. Not so here. Yes, he still "takes care" of her - making sure she eats and rests when she should but won't if left to her own devices - but they've returned to a more give-and-take, equal partnership kind of relationship. And that's a good thing.

Here's another: I won't have to wait an entire year or more to read the next one. Echoes in Death is scheduled for release on Feb. 7, 2017. Count me in!

Apprentice in Death by J.D. Robb (Berkley, September 2016); 382 pp.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


5 stars out of 5

When I first heard about this book, I knew right away it was perfect for me. As a long-time writer, news reporter and copy editor (and now that I've pretty much settled into retirement, an avid reader), I figured getting a mere 150 words correct would be a no-brainer.

Was I right? Well, not exactly. 

These words range from "acai" to "zydeco" and are, the brother-and-sister authors say, words that will, if you pronounce them incorrectly, make you sound like an ignoramus. That's something, of course, we all want to avoid at all costs. By the end of the book, I learned that my vocabulary words fall into three major categories, beginning with those I absolutely nailed (like "gnocci" and "Louisville"). Those two I attribute to spending nearly 50 years of my life in the middle of what I fondly call the Little Italy of northeast Ohio and the fact that when I was growing up, the great state of Kentucky was but a little over an hour's drive away (even at 1950s speeds). 

On the other hand, I was humbled by words I've apparently been screwing up for most of my life, among them "detritus," "kibosh," "liqueur" and (gasp!) the name of a favorite author of children's books - Dr. Seuss. And third, I learned how to pronounce words I never even knew even existed and am quite certain I'll never use in a sentence for the rest of my natural life: "Antipodes?" "Chiaroscuro?" The ever-popular "foevvre?"

Joking aside, the book makes for quite an interesting and informative experience. Not only do we learn proper pronunciation (shown phonetically), we learn their definitions, etymology and, in many instances, related tidbits that often are amusing. The authors also make distinctions among words that are correctly uttered only one way, those that have two or more acceptable pronunciations and those that are territorial (meaning they're okay said one way in Seattle but not when you're in Tallahassee).

Scattered in between are "sidebars" of pronunciations of terms on a related subject, like travel, fashion and wine (I'll have you know I aced that latter category), adding even more enlightenment. Reading it for me provided not only positive mental exercise but a bit of the physical; by the time I'd passed "C," I started to really get into it - nodding my head enthusiastically when I got a word right and slapping myself upside the head when I didn't.

The extensive amount of research it took to compile all this makes it well worth 5 stars in my book, and the fact that it's done in an entertaining fashion makes it a shoe-in. If you're a bit of a wordsmith like me or just want to expand your knowledge base, this one is well worth consideration. Many thanks to the authors and publisher (via NetGalley) for the opportunity to read an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

You're Saying It Wrong: A Pronunciation Guide to the 150 Most Commonly Mispronounced Words - and Their Tangled Histories of Misuse by Ross Petras and Kathryn Petras (Ten Speed Press, September 2016); 192 pp.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The 7th CANON

5 stars out of 5

After reading just two books by Robert Dugoni, I've become a fan; so when I got the chance to read an advance copy of this one in exchange for an honest review, I jumped. It's a standalone that's not part of either his Tracy Crosswhite or David Sloane series, though, so I crossed my fingers that my high expectations would be justified.

They were uncrossed by the end of the first chapter; when I got near the end, they were holding my Kindle so tightly that no one could possibly pry it out of my hands until I finished. Not that it's a problem at our house; the only other person here is my sweet hubby of 54 years, and he knows better than to try, bless his heart.

The story begins when a teenage boy is found murdered in a shelter for boys. Father Thomas Martin, the priest who found him - who runs the facility in a run-down, dangerous part of San Francisco - is charged with the murder. As a friend of the local Diocese, attorney Peter Donley's uncle Lou, for whom he's been working for the past three years, asks him to look into the situation. Evidence that may have been obtained illegally, a priest who vehemently refuses to plead guilty in exchange for a reduced sentence and his uncle's sudden health crisis prompt Peter to take the case even though he's not totally convinced of Father Tom's innocence.

Peter has a wife and young son and is debating whether to move on to a job with more money and more potential for career advancement. But for now he's got a client, and with that comes an obligation to follow the 7th Canon from the American Bar Association Code: "A lawyer should represent a client zealously within the bounds of the law." So, he begins to prepare a defense; and the more he delves into the lives of the priest, the victim and a hell-bent for power district attorney, the more convinced he becomes that his client isn't a killer. Proving it, though, won't be easy; ultimately, the only way to clear the priest's name may be to find the real killer - and that could mean putting his own life in danger.

Early on, I said this book is a standalone; but honestly, I'd be very happy to see the "good guys" again. The characters are both likable and capable, and the potential for a new series stuck in my thoughts throughout. How about it, Mr. Dugoni? I'm ready if you are!

The 7th Canon by Robert Dugoni (Thomas & Mercer, September 2016); 334 pp.

Friday, September 9, 2016


5 stars out of 5

My, oh my - what a delight! What's even better is that this is the first book in a series. After finishing this one, it's a sure bet I'll be in the queue for the next installment.

See what I did there? The book, featuring Senior Investigator Joanne Stuart, takes place in merry old England, where they're wont to say things like "queue" instead of "line," get things "sorted" rather than "straightened out" and insist on putting an extra "e" in "judgment."

What happens in the story, though, is anything but merry. Jo has been assigned to the National Crime Agency's Behavioural Sciences Unit in Salford Quay, Manchester, where a body has been unearthed - literally - in a wooded area outside the city. Turns out it's a man who's been missing for 10 years, and (gulp!) he was tied up and buried alive. The investigative team also finds a strange character carved into a nearby tree, adding another dimension to the very cold case.

There are few clues to follow, but Jo is committed to getting to the truth - in part to help justify her new assignment and gain approval of her new team. Together, they chip away at new leads and find a few connections with the past disappearances of other men. Then comes a second, brand-new murder - bringing with it the probability that they're dealing with a serial killer. Finding the real connection to the deaths, however, proves elusive until some of the clues begin coming together. Where they point is not only disturbing, but as Jo inches closer to the truth, puts her very life on the line. 

The plot moves along quickly, and the characters - Jo in particular - are well developed. In that regard, while Jo's life with her female partner plays a role in the emotional turmoil she faces every day, it never becomes a "gay" issue at home or at work. Rather, it's dealt with in the same matter-of-fact manner as any other male-female relationship would be. How refreshing!

Many, many thanks to the author and publisher (via NetGalley) for giving me the opportunity to read this terrific book in exchange for an honest review. Do I hope to be on the list for the next one? Yes, please!

The Pick, The Space and The Crow by Bill Rogers (Amazon Digital Services LLC, September 2016); 364 pp.

Monday, September 5, 2016


5 stars out of 5

Wow - two for two! The author's first book featuring defense attorney Samantha Brinkman, Blood Defense, was fantastic. If anything, this one, of which I also received an advance copy courtesy of the publisher, is even more so. If I could give it 6 stars, I would!

This installment, for the record, can stand on its own, but I'm sure I got a bit more out of it by reading the other one first (always my advice when dealing with a series, by the way). "Friends" from the first book return; Samantha, of course, and her longtime friend Michele and hacker-investigator Alex, both of whom work at Sam's law firm. The story begins when Sam is asked to look into the gruesome murder of a father and son and near murder of the mother, who's in the hospital and in a coma, on behalf of their adopted daughter Cassie. She was, it seems, a witness at the murder scene and is understandably traumatized. 

Almost from the beginning, Sam feels a certain kinship with Cassie and signs on to help. But as more details of the murders unravel, Sam runs head-first into a psychological dilemma of tremendous magnitude. Is Cassie telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?

While that case becomes ever more complex, issues from a couple of other cases rear their ugly heads - possibly putting Sam in the crosshairs of some especially nasty people. And in any of the case scenarios, including Cassie's, things could (and most likely will) head south at the slightest turn of events. All the main characters get a goodly amount of face time (perhaps with the exception of Michelle), and we learn of their strong points and peccadilloes. Samantha, in particular, comes from a lurid background and has, probably as a result, what I'll term a quirky side; she's almost as prone to ignoring the law as she is to breaking her neck trying to get her clients acquitted whether or not they're guilty. 

The result is plenty of twists, turns and deadly serious head games that kept me hanging on just about every word. As I neared the end, in fact, anyone attempting to pry my Kindle out of my hands would have felt a wrath greater than that which I bestow on those who unwittingly expect me to speak to them before I've had my first cup of coffee in the morning.

In short, whew! Super book, super series. More, please?

Moral Defense by Marcia Clark (Thomas & Mercer, November 2016); 426 pp.