Search This Blog

Sunday, February 26, 2017


4 stars out of 5

This is the third book in the Under Suspicion trilogy, and it's a good one (as are the first two, both of which I read). The only thing that threw me for a loop is the ending - which was confusing and made me wonder what I missed. And alas, if this really is a trilogy, I guess I'm never going to find out.

As in the previous books, Lorie Moran is the producer of Under Suspicion, a reality TV show based in New York that showcases cold cases. This time, Casey Carter parks herself in Laurie's office after being released from prison, where she served 15 years. She was convicted of manslaughter in the death of her well-known philanthropist and well-connected fiance Hunter Raleigh III, and over all those years she's vehemently denied her guilt. Because Casey claims to have been in a drug-induced sleep in the living room while her fiance was shot upstairs in his bedroom, she's been dubbed the "Sleeping Beauty"killer."

But if Laurie will agree to do her story on the TV show, Casey believes, her innocence can be proved once and for all. Laurie is apprehensive, but Casey persists - even bringing in case files and naming five possible suspects who had motive and opportunity to kill Hunter. Learning that others, including Casey's mother, are apprehensive about putting the spotlight back on Casey, Laurie's doubts increase.

Besides that, she has another concern in that she's just lost her trusted and popular on-air host, lawyer Alex Buckley, who's also her boyfriend. Laurie's boss brings in Ryan Nichols, a former federal prosecutor whose know-it-all attitude rubs Laurie the wrong way right from the start. But finally, when Casey mentions a tidbit that wasn't in evidence nor mentioned at trial, Laurie decides Casey just may spent 15 years in jail for a crime she did not commit.

Of course, Casey and her capable crew gather information from the five suspects Casey mentioned as well as other family members, a few of whom reluctantly agree to be interviewed. As the facts begin to come together, though, Laurie starts to suspect Casey may not be as innocent as she claims.

Everything comes together at the end, of course (well, except for the part I mentioned at the beginning). Other than that, it's an intricately woven, intriguing story that won't give you nightmares and makes me sorry to see the series come to an end.

Check out my reviews of the first two in the series:

The Cinderella Murder

All Dressed in White

The Sleeping Beauty Killer by Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke (Simon & Schuster, November 2016); 320 pp.

Friday, February 24, 2017


As someone who was in the newspaper business for more than 16 years of my adult working life (and have continued since retirement on a freelance basis), any time I can get my hands on a story about someone else in the industry, I'll give it a serious look. Throw in a little mystery, a little murder, and by golly, bring it on. Such is the case here; lead character Julia Gooden is a successful crime reporter in Detroit, and murder makes headlines from the beginning. 

Early on, I was reminded how much life in the Motor City mirrors that of Youngstown, Ohio, where, ironically, the newspaper for which I served as managing editor for 14 years is located. Youngstown, too, was decimated by steep declines in the steel and auto industries and continues to struggle to get back on its feet. Ah, I said - another "connection" to this book solidified.

This is the second in what I presume will be a continuing series (I also read and enjoyed the first, The Last Time She Saw Him). Here, Julia is separated from her husband, Assistant District Attorney David Tanner, but in part because they have two young sons, they're trying to get back together. Julia has been chasing a story about elusive gangster Nick Rossi, and now, he's finally going on trial in a case her husband is prosecuting. But as a key witness for the prosecution is escorted up the courthouse steps to testify, a bomb goes off - killing the witness as well as several innocent bystanders and putting David in the hospital.

After that incident, Julia's boss orders her off the case, but she vows to keep investigating on her own with help from Detroit Police Department Detective Raymond Navarro (not incidentally, her boyfriend prior to her husband). She turns to her sources and ferrets out information on Rossi - she's convinced he ordered the bombing - that lead her to dangerous places and people who would be happy to see her rubbed out of the picture. Along the way, there's plenty of action (some of which, IMHO, seemed a bit too tightly choreographed, almost to the point of unbelievability). A number of nexpected twists, though, kept things very interesting.

In hindsight, despite our career and Type A personality similarities, I realized I never totally warmed up to Julia herself. Mostly, I think, that's because she insisted on putting herself in situations any other person as intelligent as she is would have had sense enough to stay away from (especially when she's got young kids). On the other hand, there's her friend Navarro; without question, he's a keeper.

In all, the book is well written and entertaining, and I'll be watching for the next installment. My thanks to the publisher for once again allowing me to read an advance review copy.

Duplicity by Jane Haseldine (Kensington, March 2017); 352 pp.

Monday, February 20, 2017


5 stars out of 5

Read: U.S. marshals Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch.

Think: John Sandford's Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers in the Old West, where horses are rode hard and put away wet, proper ladies wear long dresses bolstered by frilly petticoats and the new-fangled telegraph is considered a cut above carrier pigeon (albeit begrudgingly).

Add in cold-blooded killers, loose women and seasoned lawmen whose questions rarely exceed four words (answers, just one), and you've got the makins' for a mighty fine shoot-'em-up novel.

This is, I believe, the ninth in this series started by the late, great Robert B. Parker, who passed away in 2010. I admit it's only my second - I read Bull River in 2014 - and it was 4-star-worthy. This one is the better of the two, IMHO, although I warn readers it leans heavily toward the grizzly. No question that it held my attention throughout; I had to fight the urge to stay up an hour or so later than usual to get it finished in one day.

Virgil and Everett have settled down in the small western town of Appaloosa. Virgil is sweet on girlfriend Allie, though not to the point of tying the knot. Thanks to a generous out-of-town benefactor, Appaloosa is an up-and-coming place, and Allie has just opened a dress shop - calling it Mrs. French's because she believes her late husband's last name sounds elegant.

Meanwhile, a dastardly man who goes by the name of Driggs is languishing in solitary confinement in a prison not too much of a fer piece from Appaloosa. His only solace, as it were, comes from reading the Bible the prison warden's beautiful wife gave him (and other prisoners) - and his favorite is The Book of Revelation (aha moment: wherefore cometh the title of this book). Because of his reputation as a cold-blooded killer, the handsome, West Point graduate Driggs is given a wide berth by the other prisoners. But then one night the unthinkable happens; Driggs and a handful of other prisoners escape, kidnapping a woman in the process. Finally, he's free - and he's hell-bent on tracking down the men who, during a heist of major proportions, betrayed him, left him for dead and are the reason he's spent so many years behind bars.

It is then that Virgil and Everett are called in to take up the chase - and what a chase it is. Every single one of the escapees is as dangerous as they come, although clearly Driggs holds the top spot in the bad guy department. The two marshals will have to muster up all the investigative skills they have to find and capture their targets - and dead or alive matters not. Ultimately, the trail to Driggs leads back home, but can they get there in time? I won't spill the beans other than to say there's more than one twist near the end that I didn't see coming. 

Yee, haw!

Robert B. Parker's Revelation by Robert Knott (G.P. Putnam's Sons, February 2017); 333 pp.

Sunday, February 19, 2017


5 stars out of 5

Ah, it's great to welcome an old friend to my Kindle again. Actually, make that two old friends; after all these years (and something like 30-plus books), I've come to know both child psychologist Dr. Alex Delaware and Los Angeles Police Department detective Milo Sturgis pretty doggone well. Not nearly as well as they know each other, though; Alex is a fairly frequent consultant to the LAPD, mostly with cases Milo is honchoing - and they're now at the point at which meaningful conversation happens with just a shrug of a shoulder or lift of an eyebrow.

It's Alex who gets the ball rolling here. He gets an out-of-the-blue call from Thalia Mars, who says she's 99 years old and wants a consultation. No, she says, she's not concerned that his work is primarily with patients decades younger. A bit reluctant but intrigued, Alex agrees to meet her at her long-time home, a stand-alone cabin at a luxury hotel complex. She seems totally lucid and more than willing to part with a substantial retainer, but the questions she asks deal more with criminal behavior than her personal life. Promising to provide Alex with more details at the next visit, they agree on a follow-up visit the next morning.

But alas, it never happens. When Alex shows up, he finds an extremely upset housekeeper who found the nonagenerian lying in her bed quite dead. Nothing appears to have been stolen, and at first blush, it appears she may have died of natural causes. But further examination of the body tells another story - murder - and Milo is called in. 

The case goes nowhere fast; the old lady has no apparent heirs nor apparent enemies, and her considerable estate is being left entirely to charity. So who on earth would want to kill a woman who most likely wouldn't make it past another year or two at most? Clues lead all over the map - literally - as well as to long-closed cases and ages-old relationships that may or may not be connected. Finding out the truth, then, will put the investigative skills of Milo and Alex to the test.

Quite honestly, I enjoyed this one even more than the last two or three books. I will say, though, that while this one stands alone, there's not much background explanation on the characters - and I'm sure at least part of my enjoyment comes from being privvy to that. So if you've never read any of the books in this series before, you might want to go back a half-dozen or so to start. Hey, I'll bet you'll make a couple of friends you'll look forward to reading about, too.

Heartbreak Hotel by Jonathan Kellerman (Ballantine Books, February 2017); 368 pp.

Friday, February 17, 2017


5 stars out of 5

Since Jan. 1, I've read 17 books - five ahead of schedule to reach my goal of 100 by the end of 2017. Of those, six have been good enough to earn a five-star rating, the highest possible on the major book ratings sites. Now comes this, the 18th, and if I could give it six stars - seven, even - I'd do it in a heartbeat. The story is so intriguing, and the characters (and interaction among them) so captivating that I went so far as recording two favorite TV shows instead of watching them live because I couldn't wait to finish it. And that's a first for me.

Admittedly, some of my enthusiasm stems from the subject matter; I spent 16 years of my full-time working life in the news business - albeit the print side - and I'm fairly familiar with broadcast journalism as well. The combination of the TV news station setting and murder sounded right up my alley - and to that end, it couldn't have been more perfect. I will not, however, deem it a "thriller" by my definition; the story moves along at a fast pace and every single page kept and held my complete attention, but only a small section actually pushed me to the edge of my seat. 

The story begins as seasoned and highly capable TV news producer Virginia Knightly is notified that a young attorney from Georgetown has gone missing. That alone wouldn't be enough to cause her nose for news to twitch, but then clues begin to indicate that a closer sniff may be in order. The woman was last seen leaving an upscale restaurant - certainly not in a high-crime area - after reportedly having a row with her husband.  Besides that, the police seem to be treating the case as a high profile despite the lack of evidence that it qualifies (at least not yet). 

She's thwarted from the start, though, by change-ups in her newsroom; without warning, she's demoted from her top spot, and she's told her evening news anchor will be replaced, ostensibly in an attempt to boost ratings. Worse, the jobs of other colleagues she's used to working with and for whom she has the utmost respect are being threatened. If she ignores her boss's instruction and goes off on her own to dig up the story behind the missing woman, then, it's possible she'll put not only her job, but those of her good friends on the chopping block.

But investigate she does, and that puts her back in touch with old flame Michael Ledger, a detective with whom she had a fling not all that long ago. He dumped her, in fact, then got married, had a couple of kids and divorced, in that order. Back then, Virginia trusted him totally; but based on where the trail is leading now - through the sometimes shadowy halls of Washington, D.C., politics, business and law enforcement  - she isn't so sure that's a good plan. 

Brick walls spring up at just about every turn as Virginia and her team search for cooperative witnesses and second sources and honor  "off-the-record" agreements - all hallmarks of responsible journalism - to bring the truth to the viewing public (alternative facts? Let's not even go there). Getting an inside look at that process in and of itself makes this book a winner in my book (and it didn't hurt that for some inexplicable reason I envisioned Holly Hunter every time Virginia appeared). 

Bottom line? My thanks to the publisher, via NetGalley, for the opportunity to read an advance copy in exchange for an honest review. Highly recommended!

The Cutaway by Christina Kovac (Atria/37 Ink, March 2017); 320 pp.

Monday, February 13, 2017


5 stars out of 5

It's almost impossible to believe that this is the 44th book in the series featuring Lt. Eve Dallas. And given that way too many authors of other series start falling off their game after the first half-dozen or so, it's great to know this one continues to be steady as she goes. I suppose an argument could be made that they've become a bit formulaic, but honestly, that works just fine for me. Eve, her gorgeous hunk of a filthy rich Irish rogue husband and her co-workers at the New York Police Department are like old friends to me by now, and my only real concern is that one of them may at some point become expendable.

But thankfully, not here. This one begins in March 2061 with a near collision of the car Roarke is driving (with Eve a passenger) and a bloody, quite naked young woman who runs into the street. Turns out she and her husband - he a well-known orthopedic surgeon - were brutally attacked during the night; the husband is dead and his wife nearly so. 

Other than learning that the attacker was dressed like a devil and the dead husband was a control freak who at the very least browbeat his wife, virtually no clues turn up. Eve and her team begin to question guests and caterers at the dinner party the couple hosted earlier that evening, but those interviews aren't all that productive. Then, another couple is subjected to a similar fate - and suddenly, it appears a serial killer may be on a rampage. Can Eve, with the capable assistance of Roarke and her team, identify the culprit before he (or she) strikes again - perhaps closer to home? And throughout, the scenarios are reminiscent of horrors inflicted on Eve as a child, making it difficult for her to separate past and present and maintain her perspective as a police officer.

I'm also glad to see that Roarke, who seemed headed toward crossing the line from supportive to smothering in a few of the more recent books, has done a 360 in this (and the previous) installment. I know I'm not the only reviewer to point out the danger of heading in that direction, so my hope is that the author has listened. I do caution about swinging too far in the other direction, though; here, he seems almost apologetic when he gives Eve a gift or makes suggestions about what she might wear or eat. That's not his style at all, so there needs to be a happy medium.

Echoes in Death by J.D. Robb (St. Martin's Press, February 2017); 384 pp.

Saturday, February 11, 2017


5 stars out of 5

Fans of the author's Clifton Chronicles series, like me, may hate to see it come to an end - it's rather like losing an old friend. For those who aren't familiar with the series, though, my suggestion is to pass on this one (or better yet, go back and read at least a few of the previous six). Why? Because while the author does a great job of wrapping up all the loose ends in the lives of the main characters, I think enjoyment and appreciation of the final product just won't be as satisfying for those who haven't been following along.

And while I absolutely loved the book, I will note, as I've done in describing other of these books - it is reminiscent of the Stone Barrington series by Stuart Woods (even the Barrington name is common to both). Mostly, it's the matter-of-fact presentation; no matter what happens, no one gets excited, bent out of shape or otherwise emotionally unhinged. Lost your job and your fortune? Bloody sorry, old chap. Unmarried and pregnant? Dreadful. Do you prefer Earle Grey or camomile?

The prologue here takes place in 1978, followed by a section on Harry Clifton and his wife Emma from 1978 to 1979, and at the end are chapters on Harry and Emma in 1992. In between are looks what's happening in the lives of other characters like Sir Giles Barrington and his wife Karin, Sebastian, Samantha and Jessica Clifton and Lady Virginia Fenwick (when it comes to the latter, I'm sure most readers are hoping she finally will get her comeuppance - but whether or not that happens isn't for me to reveal).

Early on, Harry brings an end to his popular book series, deciding instead to turn his attention to writing his best-ever work. Emma, who's spent the last 10 years as chairwoman of the Bristol Royal Infirmary, gets a call from none other than Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who offers her a job. Sir Giles, meanwhile, is ramping up his efforts as a member of Parliament on the opposing side - pitting him squarely against his sister Emma.

One of the endearing points of this book to me, in fact, is the inside look at British politics, some of which, as a personal aside, could well be applied to the current state of affairs here in the United States. Sir Giles, for instance, quips to his wife Karin: " have to understand that being a scoundrel is simply part of a politician's job description."

Then there are flashes of the past; Sebastian, who while waiting to visit a jail prisoner, reads a copy of the Daily Mail filled with photos of Prince Charles and Lady Diana talking at a garden party. "Diana looked really happy, while the Prince looked as if he was opening a power station," the accompanying story noted.


This Was a Man by Jeffrey Archer (St. Martin's Press, November 2016); 432 pp.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017


4 stars out of 5

If nothing else, the story here is timely: At the heart of it all is "vlogging" - video blogging - plus more technology tricks for ferreting deleted information out of computers and cell phones than I ever dreamed existed. All in all, it's a very good debut novel, for which I thank the publisher (via NetGalley) for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

It begins when Ruby Day, a wildly popular vlogger, is reported missing by her distraught parents. The case lands at the feet of detective inspector Kate Riley, detective superintendent Zain Harris and the rest of the team from their newly formed department. Things take a nasty turn when a video is posted online depicting Ruby begging for her life, putting the detective team on high alert with the realization that they've got to move fast - but there are few clues to indicate where they should go next.

As team members put their technology talents to work, they begin to uncover information that points to Ruby's ex-boyfriend, vloggers who are being exploited by a less-than-honorable management company, misdeeds by a corporation that would be out of business in a heartbeat should the facts become known and dastardly cover-ups at the highest levels. Meantime, Ruby and Zain must deal with emotionally draining personal issues of their own - issues that simultaneously bring them together and drive them apart. In fact, that's true of several of the characters here; not only are they so seriously flawed that it's hard to tell the baddies from the goodies, but they're so many in number that I had a tough time keeping them straight in my aging head.

As the plot moves along, the investigation sort of splits in two directions, one of which is resolved (with several twists and turns) and the other not so much. Also left hanging are those complicated issues Kate and Zain have been dealing with for years, making me suspect this book may be intended as the start of a series. Whether or not that's true, bloggers, vloggers, gamers and technology buffs should be happy with this one (for the record, count me in two of those categories). And if I'm correct about a series, count me as one who'll be happy to sample the next one.

Cut to the Bone by Alex Caan (Skyhorse Publishing, March 2017); 440 pp.

Thursday, February 2, 2017


4 stars out of 5

When three women are attacked over a period of three days in the small city of Stockleigh, detective Eden Berrisford and her team on the relatively new Community Intelligence Team get serious about finding who's done them before someone else falls victim. Based on some of the terminology, I assume this is somewhere in the United Kingdom - my London-born-and-bred daughter-in-law provided answers straightaway to my questions about a couple. Who knew, for instance, that "bacon butties" and "chip butties" basically are sandwiches - one filled with a ton of bacon and the other with big fat fries (the skinny ones she's been subjected to now that she's living here in the states would never do, she emphasized).

Meantime, Eden helps her sister at a women's refuge, which provides shelter for those who have suffered from domestic abuse. There, she gets to know several of the here-and-gone-and back-again women such as Carla, whose husband, Ryan, just got out of jail. Carla has been forced to move several times since the death of their young daughter because Ryan has managed to track her down each time, but she's enjoyed a long respite while he was behind bars. Now, she's back to double-checking locks on doors and windows and looking over her shoulder at every step.

This is the second in the Eden Berrisford series, which I requested and received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Apparently, Eden's still-husband Danny unexpectedly walked out a couple of years earlier, leaving her with their daughter Casey (a situation I assume was outlined in greater detail in the first book). Now, Eden has found a significant other of sorts in Joe, although their relationship is a bit rocky - partly because Eden hasn't yet divorced Danny and partly because she throws her heart and soul into her work.

Chapters focus on the investigation into the attacks as well as what's going on (and happened previously) in the lives of the women at the shelter - complete with scenes that are rather graphic, for those bothered by such things. Readers also learn "secrets" in Eden's own life that she'd prefer to keep to herself. There's really nothing pleasant I can say about the story or any of the characters, except that the details of the investigation play out interestingly - with a few surprises tucked here and there - the action is pretty much nonstop (heating up near the end) and the whole thing is very well written. There's even an issue left dangling which, I presume, will be revisited in the next installment. I'm in!

Don't Look Behind You by Mel Sherratt (Bookouture, January 2017); 287 pp.