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Monday, October 31, 2016


4.5 stars out of 5

Quandary time: I really enjoyed this book - in fact, perhaps more than the last two or three from this popular author. For openers, there's a noticeable absence of the industry-bashing that's been common of late (much to my dislike), and the focus is almost entirely on legal procedure that's reminiscent of earlier and, IMHO, more enjoyable works. 

On the other hand, it struck me as different enough that it may not sit well with die-hard fans. Can I call it, for instance, a "high-stakes thrill ride" as claimed in the description? Simply put, no.

Don't misunderstand; there's plenty of action, beginning the minute Lacy Stoltz, an attorney and investigator for the Florida Board on Judicial Conduct, is contacted by Greg Myers, a lawyer who claims that a Sunshine State judge is the most successful judicial thief in U.S. history. The judge, he reports, for years has been taking huge cuts from a large casino operated by the Tappacola Indian tribe, construction of which was financed by a secretive organization called the Coast Mafia. But there are complications; first, Myers was at one time disbarred, so his reputation is questionable. And, he's representing the whistle-blower only by way of an unknown intermediary, whose name he refuses to reveal (he insists he doesn't even know the name of the whistle-blower). Because of the threat to his own life, he's been on the lam for years (Myers isn't his real name); and he admits his only motivation for coming forward now is that he and his client stand to rake in millions by filing a complaint with the Board of Conduct.

Painfully aware of those limitations as well as touchy jurisdictional issues between Florida law enforcement and Native American property, Lacy and her partner, Hugo, tentatively begin to investigate. Some of the dirt they dig up early on suggests that the FBI should be called in to help, but Myers threatens to back out if that happens. So, the partners set off to learn what they can given the legal restrictions - and from the git-go run smack dab into a hornet's nest that quickly turns deadly.

As I said before, the action is pretty much nonstop after that. So why isn't it a nail-biter? I'm not sure, except to say it's the style of writing. Dialog makes the characters seem real, but everything in between is pretty much a narrative so matter-of-fact that it's almost - but not quite - to the point of bland. This "just the facts" approach keeps the plot interesting as all get-out to me, but at the same time I never felt any particular excitement or sense of imminent danger; in other words, nothing that put me on the edge of my seat. That said, though, I finished the book in a day and a half just because I didn't want to put it down - hence my dilemma in writing a review. 

In the end, I come down strongly on the side of well done. But in the final analysis, I guess other readers will just have to decide for themselves. Sorry, guys and gals, but it's the best that I can do.

The Whistler by John Grisham (Doubleday, October 2016); 384 pp.

Saturday, October 29, 2016


4.5 stars out of 5

Is this one good? Yes, actually - so much so that I read the whole thing on a day when we were having guests for dinner (well okay, it was just slow-cooker veggie-beef soup, crusty bread and store-bought brownies with ice cream washed down by easy peasy apple cider mimosas, but still...) 

Once I started, in fact, I really didn't want to put it down. So, it helps that it's under 300 pages which - according to the running tally on my Kindle Fire that turned out to be accurate - would take me just over 3 hours to finish. While I'm thinking about it, I'll give a big thank-you to the author and publisher (via NetGalley) for the opportunity to read an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

Amanda Sinclair is a lab technician at an on-the-brink of big-time breakout cosmetics company in Chicago. She loves her job, and she's happy that no one there knows her real identity: The daughter of a woman who murdered her young son (Amanda's brother). As a result, for the past decade, her mother has been confined to a psychiatric hospital. Then out of the blue, Amanda gets a dreaded phone call; apparently, despite the hospital's tight security measures, her mother has committed suicide.

As Amanda sifts through her mother's meager belongings, she finds a couple of items suggesting that her mother was upset about the upcoming parole of charismatic leader Patrick Collier, who was convicted of embezzling substantial funds from his cult to which her late mother, and Amanda herself, once belonged. Not a bad theory, obviously, but since this isn't the first time her mother has tried to kill herself, Amanda - and her mother's hunky psychologist - question how was she able to succeed on this  go-round.

Meanwhile, Amanda's work life is taking an unexpected turn as well, with questions arising about the efficacy (and safety) of an about-to-be-launched product that's been generating considerable buzz in the industry. Could it be that someone - one of Amanda's trusted co-workers, perhaps - is trying to put the kabosh on a potential company takeover that would mean a financial windfall for the entire team?

Needless to say, everything gets resolved in nail-biting fashion - but you'll just have to read it for yourself to learn the details because I'll never tell. FYI, Rendahl also writes under the names of Eileen Carr (romantic suspense) and Kristi Abbott (cozy mysteries). Well, guess that means I've got a few more of her books to check out!

Cover Me in Darkness by Eileen Rendahl (Midnight Ink, December 2016); 264 pp.

Friday, October 28, 2016


4 stars out of 5

As I've mentioned before, I'm always on the lookout for a good series; these books make great fill-ins when I want a break from tackling my ever-growing list of free-for-review books and standalones from favorite authors that I read just because, well, they're from my favorite authors. Besides that, I'm hoping to find a series that will appeal to my husband, who loves to read the same types of books I do but, for better or worse, is much harder to please.

When a friend made me aware of this series, then, I didn't waste much time grabbing this, the first one. Without question, I enjoyed it. And while the gory serial killer aspect probably won't entice my hubby to try it, I'm sure he'd like the main man, homicide Detective Robert Hunter (as did I, especially since he was a child prodigy who earned a degree in psychology at age 19 and a Ph.D. in criminal behavior analysis and biopsychology four years later). On top of that, any guy who loves single-malt Scotch can't be all bad.

This story begins with the discovery of a young woman's body; she's been gruesomely tortured, mutilated (all the skin was ripped off her face while she was alive, for instance, which gives you a good idea of the tenor of the book) and has a double cross design cut into the back of her neck. The latter is a huge cause for concern for Hunter; it marks the signature of a serial killer he helped capture two years earlier - a man who was executed for his grisly crimes. Hunter had a few misgivings back then, but now he's afraid the wrong person was convicted and the real psychopath is back plying his gruesome trade.

This time around, Hunter - who is dealing with issues of his own including doubts about his former partner's supposedly accidental death - is working with a newbie partner Garcia. The first chapter sets out what Hunter is up against, and from that point on, the action never stops. People are biting the dust right and left and Hunter and his partner are sure something "connects" them all; but how long will it take (and how many more murders) before can they find out what that is and correctly identify the killer this time around? 

To be honest, I had a few issues with the book, such as the occasional grammatical error and terms that are more British than American (the author lives in the U.K. but the story is set in Los Angeles, so there shouldn't be any language crossover). Another niggle is that all the characters are exceptionally well spoken, so every time the word "ain't" popped out of their mouths - which was quite often - it elicited a discord reminiscent of fingernails running down a chalkboard. But I also figure some of that goes with the territory for a series debut - and I'm confident the books will get even better as they go along (as of this writing, there are seven in all, I believe). Now, I just have to find time to read them! 

The Crucifix Killer by Chris Carter (Simon & Schuster UK, October 2009); 448 pp.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016


4 stars out of 5

To be sure, this is a solid, well-thought out and well-written debut novel that held my attention right to the end. There's plenty of action, and even some chuckle-out-loud lines.

But all those positives aside, at no time did I really "like" reading it.

That's largely because, for better or worse, the setting - high crime rate East Long Beach, California - is almost impossible for me, a WASP from America's heartland Midwest, to comprehend. I just can't relate to guys who frequently call each other the "n" word (which apparently can be both derogatory and a term of endearment, depending on who's talking to whom). I wrestled with concepts like the young man whose IQ is at near-genius level but who earns money by ripping off local shops and long-time friends whose loyalty disappears at the drop of a dime bag or a busty young woman's tube top.

No, this definitely isn't my world, nor, to tell the truth, is it a world I want any part of. But that doesn't change the fact that this is a really good book; if I could award it 4.5 stars, I would, and I thank the author and publisher, via NetGalley, for giving me the opportunity to read it in exchange for an honest review.

Chapters shift from past to present, serving up details of the coming of age, if you will, of Isaiah Quintabe - or IQ, as he's called - and other shifts take place within chapters. That made it a bit more difficult for me to follow, but in this case it's an effective technique. In the present, the high school dropout is a sort of problem-solver in the style of Sherlock Holmes - a self-made investigator when the need arises and the cops don't want to get serious (which can be often in this high-crime neighborhood). He's hired by a bigwig in the rap music industry who's richer than God but believes that someone is out to get him (and being attacked and nearly killed by a pit bull the size of Texas pretty much proves he's right). He's got a couple of henchmen/bodyguards/friends with questionable intentions; could one or both of them be behind the attack? Or maybe his clearly disgruntled ex-wife hired the hit. Or not. 

The flashback scenes take place a few years earlier, when Isaiah lived with his much-idolized older brother Marcus, who kept Isaiah rooted in normalcy and the hope of a better future. But then, the unthinkable happens; Marcus's life is tragically cut short and IQ is left to fend for himself. Paying for their apartment becomes almost impossible, so he finds a roommate in the not-so-upstanding Juanell Dodson. Tying in past and present, the former roommate is the one who talks Isaiah into taking the job for the music mogul.

For those who care about such things (I don't), the language is fairly graphic and the murders and near-murders are fairly grisly. But even to someone like me, who gets this kind of news only from the newspaper or NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, it all seemed very real. And that, if nothing else, makes this book worthwhile reading.

IQ by Joe Ide (Mulholland Books, October 2016); 337 pp.

Saturday, October 22, 2016


4 stars out of 5

Count me as one who's never been a fan of the political scene; I'd sooner pull my fingernails out one by one than watch more than a few minutes of a debate (never more true than in this election year). Still, the process is interesting to me if only because of my background in journalism and psychology, so the description of this book was too intriguing to pass up when I was offered the opportunity to read it in exchange for an honest review.

And my honest opinion is this: While the plot doesn't rank at the top of my believability scale, it's a fast-paced, suspenseful and well-written story that I had trouble putting down and polished off in a day-and-a-half of spare time. It is, I should add, the second featuring network news host Erica Sparks (it follows The Newsmakers). But while there are a few references here to events in the other one - and it's probably a good idea to read it first - this book stands on its own quite well.

Erica, it seems, is in the throes of a rather conflicted life. She loves her job, but her significant other is off building a TV network in a faraway country. Erica's 11-year-old daughter Jenny has agreed to leave her father and come to live with her, but especially because Erica's work takes her away so often, the two are having a tough time really bonding. That issue is exacerbated when, faced with a ratings drop and the need to land a really big story, Erica turns her attention to the Presidential election. Mostly to help with Jenny, she hires Becky, a young aspiring journalist, as her personal assistant.

One of the two candidates, Mike Ortiz, has capitalized on his war hero status to become the favorite. He's got a gorgeous, wealthy and never far from his side wife, Celeste, who in turn has a beautiful, powerful close friend and adviser, Lily Lau, who's a real piece of work (in the authors' words, "her sangfroid has sangfroid").

As the final debate of the campaign approaches, Erica begins to notice that something may be amiss in the interaction between Ortiz, his wife and Ms. Lau. As she investigates, questions also arise about what really happened to the candidate during the nine months he claims to have spent in the Al Qaeda prison. But as Erica lines up people who might offer insights, her efforts are thwarted by a string of unexpected deaths and questions about who can be trusted. In between are hints of media manipulation, mind control, conspiracy theories and, of course, the threat of personal danger to Erica and those she loves.

It's a thoroughly captivating story, though as I mentioned before, more than a little far-fetched. Erica's powers of perception go far beyond those of mere humans (even those of a seasoned journalist), and others around her are far too quick to buy into her suppositions. Toward the end, the pace picks up to get to the finish but crosses the line of credibility (well heck,  this is a work of fiction, after all). The bottom line is it's a fun, enjoyable way to spend a few hours, and I look forward to the next installment.

The Candidate by Lis Wiehl with Sebastian Stuart (Thomas Nelson, October 2016); 348 pp.

Thursday, October 20, 2016


4 stars out of 5

Three emotionally damaged characters: A female serial killer, a psychiatrist, and a detective, all driven to some extent by past personal trauma. The latter two want to catch the former; the psychiatrist in the hope of getting a new book out of it, and the other because he's convinced that she's having way too much fun to stop on her own.

But first, they have to find her. From the start, readers know that Sarah Silver is on the surface a highly successful U.K. hedge fund manager in who plies a very different trade in her spare time: hunting men and killing them. But she's no fool; she's changed her identity, her looks and her license plates so often that no one has a clue who she really is and certainly not what she does in her time off.

The psychiatrist, Karl Gross, has written best-selling books on serial killers. Whether it stems from jealousy or a perceived lack of professional ethics, though, he's far from the most popular brick in the medical chimney. The detective, Martin White, is watching his career and personal life go down the tubes (easing it along by guzzling alcohol and smoking pot), largely because he can't come to grips with things that happened to him in the past.

Somehow they all come together, crossing paths in ways that force them to deal with emotions they'd rather not acknowledge. They don't start out happy, nor do they end that way. But the in-between twists and turns of their "relationships" make for one heck of a good story.

Frequent scene shifts keep readers aware of what's happening from each of the character's perspectives - sometimes an effective technique but, at least in the early chapters of this book, seemed a little disjointed to me. I'm also not fond of fiction written in the present tense, but that's just a personal preference. 

The ending probably won't satisfy everyone (and some of the gory details aren't for the really squeamish). No problem on my end on either score, though - I found this to be a very engrossing debut novel. I thank the author and publisher, via NetGalley, for giving me the opportunity to read it in exchange for an honest review.

PsychoAnalysis by V.R. Stone (Silverwhite Press, October 2016); 312 pp.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


4 stars out of 5

This is the latest entry into the life of British Horseracing Authority investigator Jeff Hinkley, and it brings him to the U.S. shores "on loan" to help the U.S. Federal Anti-Corruption in Sports Agency find a mole in its organization. Apparently, someone is leaking confidential information that's giving horse owners and/or trainers a heads-up on planned raids and drug tests.

As the title suggests, the investigation begins at the Kentucky Derby, where yet another bust goes bad; worse, a human is murdered. On Derby Day, the unthinkable happens as three of the four most favored horses mysteriously fall ill and are scratched from the race. With two more legs left in the Triple Crown - the Preakness in Maryland and the Belmont Stakes in New York - Hinkley decides to go undercover [rather thinly] disguised as a groom, getting a job at Belmont Park where he can keep an eye on what's happening from the perspective of an insider. 

While there, he runs afoul of an exceptionally nasty groom who appears to be protecting his beautiful sister, who also works at the track, from nonexistent romantic advances from Hinkley (or perhaps there's another, more sinister reason for the attacks). Hinkley also runs into evidence confirming that the Derby horses didn't get sick by accident. But neither proving that nor uncovering the identity of the mole isn't a walk around the track; in fact, Hinkley finds himself in what could be the race of his own life. In short, it's an enjoyable and sometimes nail-biting romp through the ins and outs of the racing world.

As he works toward completion of his assignment in the United States, Hinkley begins to consider where his career will take him next and I, for one, rather hope it's not a permanent move to my side of the Pond. While I totally agree that everyone is entitled to his or her opinions, Hinkley's U.S.-bashing (as seen through the author's eyes, of course) really started to get on my nerves. Even so, I was able to overlook his anti-gun views, digs at the flaunting behavior of "rich" folks (especially at Triple Crown events) and the fact that we levy taxes on gambling/racing winnings whereas the U.K. does not. When he tasted grits for the first time, I actually chuckled when he proclaimed he'd rather chew on a rusty nail to get his quota of iron. I can even tolerate, though barely, his declaration that Americans are a "rum lot."

He crossed the line, though, when he declared that a U.S. TV show - a not-so-veiled reference to the long-running and extremely popular "Jeopardy!" - was so boring that it put him to sleep. Them are fightin' words, sir - and I have just three words in return: Kiss MY grits!

Triple Crown by Felix Francis (G.P. Putnam's Sons, October 2016); 382 pp.

Saturday, October 15, 2016


4 stars out of 5

By and large, I enjoyed this book. Now that I'm finished, though, I'm having a heck of a time coming to terms with what I read - but I'll give it the old college try. College, in fact, is a good place to start; that's where the four main characters - Meredith, Lilly, Jonathan and Julian - met as law students at McGill University in Toronto in the mid-1990s. Ten years later, they've graduated and, for the most part, have all grown up.

Now a prosecuting attorney, Meredith gets assigned to a grisly murder case, and surprise (or maybe not), the accused is old friend Julian, who is being defended by none other than Jonathan. Lilly, an attorney who works with Meredith, mostly stays behind the scenes to offer cryptic advice while Meredith grapples with her mixed feelings about the outcome. Will the talented Jonathan work his magic and get his client home free? Can Meredith prove her old friend is lying and convince the jury to return a guilty verdict? Perhaps more to the point, does she really want that to happen?

Chapters about the trial are interspersed with flashbacks to the friends' days as carefree students whose most pressing life question is, "Will that be on the test?" Gradually, readers get a fairly in-depth look at their individual personalities and rather complex interactions. Lilly and the off-kilter Julian, for instance, apparently are an item; Lilly is aloof and fond of bragging about her high IQ. Meredith, the only one who doesn't come from a monied background, seems stuck in inferiority complex mode -  likely contributing to the off, on, off, on ad nauseam relationship she's had with Jonathan lo these many years.

Although I never really warmed up to any of the characters, they're certainly interesting. The plot, too, is well crafted and intriguing; the courtroom preparation and procedures in particular really held my attention (but then it's rare for me to read a book with a legal or medical focus that I don't love). For whatever reason, I wasn't thrilled with the ending  - not the verdict, which I won't reveal, but the actual last page (nope, won't discuss that here, either). 

Then, when I read the author's notes at the end - the part where she explains why she wrote this book under the pseudonym Julie Apple - I realized that if I'd known that ahead of time, it probably would have greatly influenced my take on the book - and I'm not at all sure in a good way. The author does suggest reading another of her books, Fractured, hinting that it will shed some light on this one.

At any rate, I give this book as it stands 4 stars and, as I said before, I enjoyed it. If you want to see the author's explanation of how it came about, you don't have to wait to the end; turns out it's in the "From the Author" on the book's page at And if you want to read that other book first, that's your choice as well. As for me, I'm going back to trying to make a dent in my stack of to-read books, for now simply saying many thanks to the author and publisher, via NetGalley, for allowing me to read an advance copy of this one in exchange for an honest review.

The Murder Game by Catherine McKenzie writing as Julie Apple (Amazon Digital Services LLC, November 2016); 303 pp.

Thursday, October 13, 2016


4 stars out of 5

I'm still on the fence when it comes to the concept of BookShots, the project spearheaded by very prolific author James Patterson. The intent, I've read, is to produce thrillers that sell for around $4.99 and are no longer than 150 pages. Some are standalones, while others are rooted in some of Patterson's popular series including Alex Cross and, like this one, the Women's Murder Club.

My mugwump attitude isn't because I want to see the concept fail; in fact, as authors struggle to make anywhere near decent amounts for their writing efforts, I think it's a clever idea that has merit. The books are affordable and perfect, I'd think, for something to do while waiting in the doctor's office or catching a red-eye flight. But I've never been much of a short story fan - and when stripped down to the nitty gritty, that's pretty much what these are - so my personal enthusiasm isn't very high.

For the record, I read one, a standalone titled The Witnesses, back in July (it earned 4 stars from me as well). After I finished and had a better idea of how these books would play out, I first said that for me it would be one and done; later, I changed my mind and decided to someday try one involving my personal favorites just to test those waters. A few months later, I spotted this one, and away I went.

As I already knew, it's way too short for my liking - I polished it off in just under an hour (actually, just 85% of the book is the actual story; the remainder is a four-chapter "special excerpt" of another BookShots entry featuring Detective Alex Cross). Besides that, any sort of balance among the four Women's Murder Club members (San Francisco Medical Examiner Claire, attorney Yuki, hot-shot crime reporter Cindy and Detective Lindsay) is pretty much nonexistent. While Lindsay usually takes the center front stage, the others typically get fairly strong supporting roles; but here, not so much - hardly at all, in fact. 

On the other hand, as short stories go, I have to say it's pretty good. As regular series readers already know, Lindsay and her husband Joe have separated, although they still love each other and share a love for their young daughter Julie. When club members gather for one of their regular restaurant meetups, Lindsay gets a phone call from her partner Rich, who tells her the notorious Mexican gangster dubbed the Kingfisher is back in town. That's especially disturbing since, as far as the police are concerned, he's dead.

But surprise - he's not only very much alive, but apparently has committed two murders. He's then charged and is awaiting trial - a process that quickly goes to hell in a handbasket, turning the entire city upside down. 

Because it's so short, there's little more I can say without giving away too much (except that unlike a few other reviewers, I thought the ending was great). So for those who like a shorter format and Patterson's work, I'd say this one is worth a try. As for me, though, it's over and out.

The Trial: A BookShot: A Women's Murder Club Story by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro (BookShots, July 2016); 144 pp.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


5 stars out of 5

Wow! And when I add it to the other two books in the Promise Falls Trilogy, it's wow, Wow and WOW!

The title refers to the number 23, the number of a Ferris wheel car in which bloody mannequins were found, and on the back of a fiery bus (see Far From True, the first in the trilogy, and Broken Promise, the second. In this one, all hell breaks loose on May 23, when hundreds of Promise Falls residents are becoming violently ill - many dying - suspected to be a result of something nasty in the water. Test results are affirmative - someone who knew what he or she was doing definitely poisoned the city's water supply. A former mayor who's running for the office again owns a bottled water company and immediately offers free bottles to the residents (as long as someone from the media is present), making a couple of his opponents - including former journalist David Harwood, who now works for the ex-mayor - suspect he might have had a hand in the disaster.

But that's not all that's going down. A female student at Thackeray College is found murdered in a pattern similar to that of two other women (see previous books). Is there a serial killer in their midst? Could the murders somehow be related to the poisoned water? That's an answer Detective Barry Duckworth (and concerned readers) want to know. He's been working on solving the first two murders since Book One, and the latest prompts him to step up the investigation before someone else bites the dust.

As the end of this book approached, most of the loose ends were tied and cliffhangers resolved from the first two books. Great, I said, nodding my head vigorously - and then in the final couple of chapters came big surprise after big surprise, making my mouth drop as well. The ending left a bit of the future of Promise Falls and at least one major character to the imagination, but since this is the third book in the trilogy, I made an educated guess that there won't be any more and came to my own conclusions. 

A word to the wise on that score: I advise (make that strongly advise) reading all three books in order - and timewise, as close together as possible. I read the first two in succession, and when I was offered an advance copy in exchange for an honest review by the author and publisher (via NetGalley), I was elated. But as soon as I started it, I realized I'd forgotten a ton in the nearly nine months between it and the second one. Granted, I'm old and have to consult my computer to be sure what day it is, but I really struggled to remember what happened and who did it from the other two books even though the author does a pretty good job of providing background.

Bottom line? This is a don't-miss trilogy that, IMHO, ranks right up there with Stephen King's Bill Hodges Trilogy that got rolling with Mr. Mercedes back in 2014. 

The Twenty-Three by Linwood Barclay (Berkley, November 2016); 459 pp.

Sunday, October 9, 2016


5 stars out of 5

The most recent book in the long-running series featuring Special Agent A.X.L. Pendergast, Crimson Shore, ended with the eccentric, almost other-worldly agent missing and presumed dead. This one, not surprisingly, picks up where that one left off. And because it's the next in a series, it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that Pendergast somehow survived his ordeal on the shores of Exmouth, Massachusetts. 

Admittedly, the previous book didn't thrill me as much as I'd hoped; still, when I got a chance to read an advance copy of this one in exchange for an honest review, I jumped at it. And boy, am I glad I did; any shortcomings in that last one are made up for here in spades. It's not a short book at 560 pages, but I polished it off in three days just because it was too hard to put down.

It begins two weeks after Pendergast is lost, and his ward, the ageless Constance Greene, is beside herself with grief. She retreats to the catacombs beneath the house she shares with the agent, thinking life as she'd come to know it is over. Suddenly, she's apparently taken captive by someone familiar with the Pendergast mansion on Riverside Drive - someone thought to have been killed by Constance almost three years earlier. As Pendergast's "man" Proctor begins to track her down, he's attacked as well; when he picks up the chase once again, he follows "clues" that could lead him to Constance or, more likely, to meet his maker. 

As always, though, nothing is written in stone (well, actually, some of it is; the "obsidian" referred to in the book title is a glass-like volcanic rock formed by rapid solidification of lava without crystallization). Needless to say, it plays a central part in the story, which takes the characters and readers halfway around the world and back before coming to an end - with the requisite cliffhanger, of course. I wish I offer more details, but doing so undoubtedly would spoil things for those familiar with the series. 

For those who haven't yet had the pleasure, I'll say this can be read as a standalone, but your enjoyment will be enhanced if you read at least a few of the books that came before it (this is, I believe, the 16th in the series). In any event, kudos to the authors for dreaming up yet another intricate, intriguing plot!

The Obsidian Chamber by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child (Grand Central Publishing, October 2016); 560 pp.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016


5 stars out of 5

In my little world of mysteries and thrillers, what gives me the greatest joy? Easy: Characters I enjoy reading about and - be still my heart - discovering that I'll be able to read about them again and again as part of a series. So color me delighted to find this book, which introduces "heir hunter" Michael Flint.

Turns out he's a pretty cool character, with the requisite hard-scrabble secret agent background, deadly aim with just about every gun known to humankind and a tech-savvy female investigator pal who's got some fairly hefty baggage of her own. Like the sedimentary form of quartz with which he shares a name, Flint is hard-nosed and gets fired up when fired at - but underneath that shoulder holster is a layer of uncertainty born of a chaotic childhood.

When the book begins, Flint is busy trying to track down a painting that was stolen by the Nazis but now is "owned" by a man in hiding. That man ends up dead, forcing Flint to look for a relative who can sign the stolen painting over. Just as he's deciding where to go next, his destination is decided for him; he gets a call from Texas oil baron Sebastian Shaw, who demands that they meet immediately. Flint bristles at being ordered around, but then learns the command comes by way of his oldest friend, investigator Kathryn Scarlett (the oil baron, it seems, is her client). 

Capitulating to keep the peace and great working relationship with Scarlett, Flint meets with Shaw, who hires him to find a woman named Laura Oakwood. The woman, who Flint learns has been hiding in parts unknown for something like 28 years because of her involvement in an armed robbery and murder, won't be easy to find. But the oil baron has his heart and pocketbook set on buying lucrative mineral rights to land she inherited from her family - rights worth something like $50 million. Problem is, time is paramount; unless Shaw gets the signature within a few days, he'll lose his option, Oakwood will lose the money forever and (horror of horrors) the mineral rights will go to Shaw's arch rival, Felix Crane.

Shaw wants the woman found, while Crane's best interests lie in the opposite direction - and in that winner-take-all atmosphere, both men are willing to do whatever it takes to get the outcome they want. The chase runs from Texas to Canada and back, racking up all sorts of modes of transportation from helicopters, muscle cars, airplanes and machines that can navigate heavily snow-covered territory. At each stop along the way, layers are peeled back and secrets are uncovered that lead to an action-packed finish.

So what's next? No cliffhangers here, thankfully, but there are enough loose ends that could make good fodder for the next assignment, should the author decide to accept it. I'll be waiting! Meantime, I thank the author and publisher, via NetGalley, for the opportunity to read and review this one in exchange for an honest review.

Blood Trails by Diane Capri (Thomas & Mercer, October 2016); 330 pp.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016


5 stars out of 5

In the endless sea of oysters stocked with "girl"-titled books, this one's a pearl. In fact, despite my vow to eschew any and all with that word in the title for at least the next three years, I couldn't wait to dive into it. So what turned the tide? Well, it was a can't-miss combination: Favorite author, favorite series, and the chance to read an advance copy in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to the author and publisher for that invitation, BTW.

This is the fourth in the author's Tracy Crosswhite series, and like the others, it's a winner. I polished it off over the course of two days - not an easy feat when you've got a part-time editing job and a husband who could burn water if given half a chance (put another way, unless we eat out, dinner is on me).

Crosswhite, for those who don't already know, works at the Seattle Police Department's Violent Crimes Section and partners with Kinsington Rowe, aka Kins. She's in a serious relationship with Dan, an attorney, but psychological baggage carried over from her sister's death and the end of her first marriage keep her on the skittish side of any kind of formal hook-up. All that baggage also creeps into her work, as happens in this book.

It begins with the discovery of a female body in a crab pot - accidentally pulled out of the water by a kid trying to circumvent crabbing laws by placing and retrieving his pots under the cover of near-darkness. Identifying the victim, however, proves challenging; clearly, someone - perhaps the victim herself - has gone to great lengths to conceal who she is. Eventually, though, evidence points to a woman who went missing while mountain-climbing with her husband (a rather unsavory character who remains a person of interest in her disappearance but hasn't been charged as yet).

Needless to say, there's far more to the story. Quite a bit more, in fact; the intriguing plot, and the well-developed characters, seem a tad more complex than in previous books, with a few surprises (a couple of them whoppers). Failure to nail down what really happened and find the killer reminds Tracy of her own sister's murder, prompting her to keep plugging away when the going gets especially tough.

For those who already love this series, there's a downside; this latest installment isn't scheduled for release till January 24, 2017. But for anyone else, here's a suggestion: Although reading the first three books isn't a requirement for enjoyment of this one, why not spend the time reading the first three? In order of appearance, they are My Sister's Grave, Her Final Breath and In the Clearing. You'll be glad you did! 

The Trapped Girl by Robert Dugoni (Thomas & Mercer, January 2017).

Saturday, October 1, 2016


4 stars out of 5

Overall, my feelings about this book are mixed, quite honestly, but one thing I'll say for sure: It takes codependency to a whole new level. Normally, that would drive me more than a little bit crazy; but the "hero," Will Trent, is so likable that for the most part I just want to hug him (that is, when I'm not wanting to give him a good whack on the head).

Not so, however, for his relationship partner, Angie Polaski, who's worse than despicable and a sorry excuse for a human being. Yes, I know she had a traumatic childhood - as did Will; if you've been following this series (this is the eighth book), you know a good bit of the background. And if you don't, you'll get an eyeful here in almost excruciating detail. But in a nutshell, once Will and Angie hooked up as kids some 30 years ago, they formed a virtually unshakable and extremely unhealthy bond that's been impossible for Will to break (in fact, they once got married and remain legally attached to this day). 

The book begins with the discovery of a dead body - a former cop - in a construction site for a soon-to-be big-money development project. There's plenty of blood, but Sara Linton, medical examiner and Will's love for the past year or so, determines that most of it didn't come from the victim. Apparently, there was a female victim here as well, but she's nowhere to be found. Then comes awareness that the site belongs to a rich, powerful and connected pro basketball player who was exonerated of rape charges a few months earlier despite efforts by Will, an agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

That deep South setting, in fact, served up a delightful quote to which I, a person who turns into a shrew when temperatures climb much beyond 75 degrees, can relate:

"Going outside was like walking straight into the mouth of a yawning dog."

Well yes. Yes it is. But I digress.

The case herein takes still another turn for the worse when evidence links the crime scene to Angie, who for the most part has been staying under the radar ever since Will and Sara got together (a relationship Angie's clearly not happy about). That's about to change, though, forcing Will to deal with memories he's tried to sweep under his rug for years and now threatens to break the bonds that have tied him to the seriously messed-up Angie. Much of the rest of the book, I'll add, focuses on Angie and her background; Will is there, of course, but he almost seems to play second fiddle as her current actions and layers of the horrors of her past are peeled away. 

And I wish I could work up some sympathy, but after all these years of Will Trent books, that's not gonna happen. Throughout the whole thing - which not insignificantly is fast-paced, action filled and hard to put down - I kept the fingers crossed on the hand that wasn't turning pages on my Kindle that Angie would finally get her comeuppance (getting bumped off works for me) and Will would grow a backbone.

If you want to find out whether either of those wishes became reality, though, you'll just have to read the book.

The Kept Woman by Karin Slaughter (William Morrow, September 2016); 485 pp.