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Friday, December 19, 2014

What Strange Creatures By Emily Arsenault

by Sandra Murphy

Details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of the review.

Theresa Battle knows her family is–well–messed up would be the polite way to say it. She’s been married, divorced, has three cats and a dog, all while trying to finish a dissertation that so far has lasted seven years. It’s not happening. Instead of a degree, she has a copywriting job at a local candle company. The fun part is describing the various scents.

Her brother, Jeff, is a genius but works well below his potential. He’s basically wandering through his life without much of a path or purpose to follow. He did manage to attract a waitress, Kim, and she seems not to mind.

Kim has a weekend trip to take alone and Jeff volunteers Theresa to dog sit for Kim’s “puggle”(Pug/Beagle mix). Of course, he volunteered Theresa first and then asked if it was okay. Well, sure, how much trouble could one little dog be? And it’s just for the weekend.


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Kim doesn’t come home though. When her body is found, Jeff becomes the prime suspect. Used to disappointments is one thing but being accused of murder is beyond the pale. The evidence seems to be overwhelming, but Theresa is sure Jeff is innocent. The old “know the victim, find the killer” saying comes to mind and Theresa is off and running to learn about Kim’s life. How complicated could it be?

There’s a lot more to Kim than any one person knew. Each time Theresa thinks she has a handle on Kim’s personality her findings veer off on another tangent. Kim seems to have been a different person depending on who she was with. So what’s the right answer? Was she a fun loving waitress, a political supporter, a go-with-the-flow gal or ambitious to the point of obsession? Kim’s life was a lot more complicated than anyone suspected and she wasn’t’ always likable though most of the other characters are.

The truth involves a secret, the motive for many a murder. Politics, murder, scandal–it’s all part of the truths and lies Theresa discovers on her journey into Kim’s life. There’s even a potential romance for Theresa but will she survive to find out? In saving her brother, she might just be sacrificing herself.



Image source: William Morrow

Theresa and Jeff are great characters, realistic in their brother/sister relationship. Theresa investigates not only to protect him but to take her mind off the dissertation she no longer has any interest in. If she doesn’t finish, then what? Start another or take a new path? Stay at the candle company or move on?

In the end, the book is a satisfying read that will have you rooting for Theresa as she figures out not only Kim’s life but her own. Theresa is a character I’d like to see again.

Previous books by Arsenault include Miss Me When I’m Gone, In Search of the Rose Notes and The Broken Teaglass.

To enter to win a copy of What Strange Creatures, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Strange,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen December 27, 2014. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address.

Use this link to purchase this book and a portion goes to help support KRL & it supports an indie bookstore:

Sandra Murphy lives in the shadow of the arch, in the land of blues, booze and shoes—St Louis, Missouri. While writing magazine articles to support her mystery book habit, she secretly polishes two mystery books of her own, hoping, someday, they will see the light of Barnes and Noble. You can also find several of Sandra's short stories on UnTreed Reads including Bananas Foster.




Friday, December 12, 2014

The Last Alibi By David Ellis

by Sandra Murphy

Jason Kolarich is an attorney, a good one too. He pulls stunts in court that you just wouldn’t believe and wins his cases. James Drinker, on the other hand, is a loser kind of guy. He’s not much to look at, doesn’t have anything going for him. He does have a suspicion that he’s being set up for a series of murders.

James comes to Jason for legal advice. What should he do? He has no alibi for the nights in question, did have a passing acquaintance with the two girls who were murdered and all in all, would make a good suspect of the “He was a quiet neighbor, who would have thought?” kind.

Jason pretty much thinks James is fantasizing the whole thing in order to feel important. He gives him general advice and forgets their meeting–until a third and fourth murder occur. Now he’s worried. Is his client guilty or imagining it? It’s against attorney/client privilege to alert the police, but what if James is guilty and the killings keep happening?


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Jason finally decides to err on the side of caution, even if it could lead to problems with the Bar Association if he’s ever found out. He sends an anonymous message to the police and feels he’s done his part. Until…

James can figure out, if Jason is the only one who knew of the connection he had with any of the girls, Jason is the only one who could have pointed the police in his direction. Jason is forced to examine James’ life in detail to find out just how dangerous his client might be. Nothing is as it seems. What’s even worse, the frame isn’t around James’ neck–the man who is being set up for the murders is Jason.

The list of people who would want to do this is long since Jason has won so many of his cases, using whatever means possible. This couldn’t have come at a worse time either as his partner, Shauna, has a huge case of her own to win, really needs and has relied on getting, Jason’s help.

Jason is beyond helping her. He’s taking too many pills, focused on the frame up, waiting for the police to come for him. Without breaking attorney client privilege in court, which would get him disbarred, he’s pretty much unable to protect himself.



Image source: Berkley

Sure enough, the police come to interview and then arrest Jason for the gruesome murders. Shauna will represent Jason but his prospects are grim. It seems whoever’s behind the frame is very detail oriented and has thought of everything. In Jason’s impaired state, will he be able to win his freedom?

This is one of those books where you think you know what’s going on but really, you have no idea until the very end. It’s one you’ll want to read in one sitting because of the need to know what happens next and if Jason gets out of the murder charge. On the other hand, the book is so good you don’t want it to end. At 597 pages, each one filled with suspense, intrigue and complicated relationships, it’s a satisfying if frustrating read with all the twists and turns that Jason has to navigate. Be sure to take note of the chapter headings to see whose point of view is used, Shauna’s or Jason’s. Prepare for the ending. It will be a surprise for sure.

Previous Kolarich books include The Wrong Man, Breach of Trust, The Hidden Man, Eye of the Beholder, In the Company of Liars, Jury of One, Life Sentence and Line of Vision. Books written with James Patterson are Mistress and Guilty Wives.

Use this link to purchase this book and a portion goes to help support KRL & it supports an indie bookstore:

Sandra Murphy lives in the shadow of the arch, in the land of blues, booze and shoes—St Louis, Missouri. While writing magazine articles to support her mystery book habit, she secretly polishes two mystery books of her own, hoping, someday, they will see the light of Barnes and Noble. You can also find several of Sandra's short stories on UnTreed Reads including Bananas Foster.




Friday, November 28, 2014

Death by Blue Water: A Hayden Kent Mystery By Kait Carson

by Cynthia Chow

Details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of the review.

When paralegal Hayden Kent needs to get her head together in a place of peace, she looks to the water. So when her long-time boyfriend Kevin suddenly breaks off their relationship, Hayden convinces her commercial diving captain, Cappy, to allow her to dive alone at the Humbolt wreck off of Marathon, Florida.

The beautiful serenity is shattered when Hayden discovers a floating corpse, and although she manages to convince the suspicious Coast Guard and marine police that she isn't suffering from hallucinations induced by nitrogen narcosis, they immediately become more concerned with her migraines and the medications she takes to cope with them. While the body is real, the authorities have reasons to be concerned, as Hayden is hiding the fact that the debilitating migraine attack she suffered on the previous Friday had her blacking out with no memories until she woke up the next morning in a wet bathing suit.


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When it's discovered that the corpse was Kevin's brother Richard, who had planned on picking up Kevin's belongings until Hayden cancelled that Friday, she immediately becomes the number one suspect and Kevin’s testimony only condemns her further. Hayden's attempts to cover up her blackout definitely have the detectives' antenna quivering, and even her supportive friend and boss Grant Huffman at Huffman Koons becomes alarmed. Hayden learns that Richard's ex-wife is the sister of the marine patrol officer at the body recovery scene, and in Officer Janice Kirby she finds a reluctant ally as well as a glimpse into the very complicated world of Cuban immigration and those desperate to start new lives.

The tone is dark and somber as Hayden confronts her fears over being unjustly persecuted as well as the uncertainty over her blackout. The author definitely conveys Hayden's sense of desperation, and the reader empathizes with her need to prove her innocence. The debilitating migraines provide a unique glimpse into a terrifying world of pain and uncertainty, and adds a layer of vulnerability to a very likable character. Viewpoints shift with alternating chapters, adding a layer of mystery as characters become interpreted differently and this guarantees a surprise ending.



Image source: Henery Press

The highlights of this debut novel are the beautiful descriptions of the underwater dives as well the complicated details involved that protect the divers' safety. The author achieves in making the appeal and beauty of recreational diving worth the risk of danger, strengthening the heroine's character and making her a protagonist the reader will want to see succeed.

To enter to win a copy of Death By Blue Water, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Water,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen December 6, 2014. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address.


Cynthia Chow is the branch manager of Kaneohe Public Library on the island of Oahu. She balances a librarian lifestyle of cardigans and hair buns with a passion for motorcycle riding and regrettable tattoos (sorry, Mom).

Friday, November 21, 2014

Ensconced & Purged by M.E. May

by Sandra Murphy

Ensconced by M. E. May

Details on how to win a copy of both books at the end of the review.

Tyrone Mayhew is a Missing Persons Detective in Indianapolis. He’s a devoted family man, good co-worker and enjoys his job – until it messes with his family.

Ten years ago, Wendy Matherson and her car, disappeared without a trace. It was Tyrone’s first case as a detective. That kind of thing sticks with you. Now new evidence has come to light and with it, a ton of problems. Was the initial investigation thorough or was there something more going on that a rookie could easily miss?

Ben Jacobs is Tyrone’s partner (and friend) now. They sift through years of information – what else was going on in the area at the time, what other arrests made, what other crimes committed? It’s tedious work but in the end, it pays off.


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It looks like Wendy’s youngest son might be the best clue they have. However, he’s not been exactly stable since his mom’s disappearance. His dad and older brother seem to do everything they can to block the investigation. Why wouldn’t they want Wendy found?

Digging deeper might bring the kid’s memories to the surface but who’s going to be hurt by them? The kid is desperate to do something positive in his life and to end the years of nightmares. Tyrone wants to solve the case that’s haunted him since the beginning of his career. The closer Tyrone gets to the truth, the more dangerous it gets for all involved.

When Tyrone’s family is threatened and then hurt, it’s the last straw for Tyrone.



Image source: M.E. May

It’s a tangle of lies, misdirection and cover ups that make the case hard to solve. Tyrone has to put himself in danger to save his family and find out the truth as to what happened to the Matherson family, years ago.

The relationship between officers and detectives is a good one. Tyrone and Ben work well together. While I thought some of the suspects were too obvious to be the culprit, the ending was one I didn’t see coming. Now I’m left to wonder—what will be their next case?

Inconspicuous and Perfidy are the first books in the Circle City Mystery series. Ensconced focuses on the men in the department. Purged, the fourth book features the women officers. Tyrone, of course, gets a cameo appearance there as does Ben.

Purged By M.E. May

by Sandra Murphy

Warning: This is a book about a serial killer who preys on women. There is graphic violence –about the level of the television show Criminal Minds, not so much detail as Bones. Usually, I read a book straight through but for this one, I needed frequent breaks.


The previous book, Ensconced, is about the same police force in Indianapolis but this time the focus is on the female detectives, Chenelle and Erica. The first victim is a young woman, well-liked, found in the woods by a couple of teenagers who want to see “where the witches meet at night” who find more than they ever wanted to see.

Sasha and twelve other women, members of a Wiccan coven, met to celebrate Sabbat Samhain, on Halloween. Sasha stayed behind to make sure the campfire doesn’t have any live embers left. On her way back to her car, she was attacked and taken to a small cabin where the man tortured her so she would repent her sin of devil worship and sacrifice. When he felt that she did, he stabbed her through the heart and branded the word, forgiven, on her chest. There’s a second victim, an attempt on a third, two together after that and then the killer really steps up the pace. Some are “forgiven”, some not.


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Since the point of view shifts from the police detectives to the killer, this is not a “who-dun-it” and not even a “why-did-he?” It’s more suspenseful in following the anxiety level of the police as they try to get one step ahead of an invisible killer. Suspects include members of a church who strictly believe in the Bible and have protested about the “devil worshipers” over the past six months. The women lead very different lives, married, single, working, wealthy, so the coven is the only common denominator.

I found the subplots more interesting than the serial killer. For me, it’s about women taking risks. How much is acceptable and just how much is safe?

Chenelle dated Trevon, another detective, but broke up when she came home early one day to surprise him and did – as well as surprise his bed partner. Now he wants back in her good graces. Erica is about to move in with Detective Jacobs. She’s hesitated for a long time but now is willing and ready to take the plunge.



Image source: M.E. May

Anne Samuels is ready to take the test to become a detective. Chenelle has been mentoring her but has concerns about Anne’s home life. Her husband, Aaron, is an out of control gambler. He’s also abusive to Anne and their two boys. Anne doesn’t want the boys to be without a father, doesn’t want to disappoint her parents if her marriage fails and doesn’t want to start over and what other choice is there?

The members of the coven take risks too – some look safe but are they? Some are just foolish considering all that’s happened. When does “I can take care of myself” turn into “I should have listened”?

I did like the change from the men in the police department to the women, the relationships between them and the back story of their family lives which are as interesting as the police work.

To enter to win a copies of Ensconced and Purged, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “May,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 29, 2014. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address.

Sandra Murphy lives in the shadow of the arch, in the land of blues, booze and shoes—St Louis, Missouri. While writing magazine articles to support her mystery book habit, she secretly polishes two mystery books of her own, hoping, someday, they will see the light of Barnes and Noble. You can also find several of Sandra's short stories on UnTreed Reads including Bananas Foster.




Friday, November 14, 2014

The Deepest Dark by Joan Hall Hovey

by Marilyn Meredith

Details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of the review.

This is the story of an ordinary woman—the fact that she is a writer made it even more intriguing for me—who finds herself in the worst possible situation. Abby Miller is in the throes of depression because of the death of her husband and daughter in a traffic accident. Unable to write or find peace, she decides to go to the cabin on Loon Lake where the family enjoyed their last vacation together. She neglects to let anyone, not even her sister, know where she’s gone.

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Three prison escapees are loose in the area and have already killed an elderly couple. When they stumble upon Abby who is all alone, they take her hostage. Of course, the excitement and tension ramps up—making this reader read quickly. My heart beat quickened right along with Abby’s.



Image source: Books We Love

To me the best part of this tale is the strength and intelligence Abby uses to survive—despite all the odds being against her.

Yes, The Deepest Dark is definitely a thriller.

Hovey did a great job ramping up the suspense and developing a believable heroine.

To enter to win a copy of The Deepest Dark simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Dark,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 22, 2014. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address.


Marilyn Meredith is a Springville, CA mystery author of the Tempe Crabtree series and writing as F. M. Meredith, the Rocky Bluff P.D. series. Be sure to visit her website; fictionforyou.com

Friday, November 7, 2014

Murder 101 By Faye Kellerman

by Ted Feit

After 30 years with the LAPD, detective lieutenant Peter Decker takes retirement–and what does he do? He and his wife, Rina, move to a sleepy Hudson Valley village in upstate New York where he joins the local police department as a detective just to keep busy, on the theory that nothing ever happens there. Also, to be near their kids and grandkids in Brooklyn and Philadelphia, and after six months of rescuing cats from trees, it would appear that the assumption was correct.
Wrong.


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First off, there is a break-in at a mausoleum in the local cemetery where two of four Tiffany windows representing the four seasons were stolen, replaced with forgeries. Then a female art senior at a local college is found brutally murdered. Now Peter has something to dig his teeth into. Are the two crimes related? And when another murder of someone known to the co-ed occurs in a nearby suburb to Boston the plot thickens.



Image source: William Morrow

The novel is a straightforward summary of the ensuing investigation. There is little in the way of suspense, as the reader follows Peter and the others as they plod along. The conclusion is pretty far from what one would expect from what had preceded it. The book is smoothly written with some clever witticisms and cute characterizations to keep one’s interest.


Ted & Gloria Feit live in Long Beach, New York, a few miles outside of New York City. For 26 years, Gloria was the manager of a medium-sized litigation firm in lower Manhattan. Her husband, Ted, is an attorney & former stock analyst, publicist & writer/editor for, over the years, several daily, weekly and monthly publications. Having always been avid mystery readers & since they're now retired, they're able to indulge their passion. Their reviews appear online as well as in three print publications in the UK & US.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Black Karma: A White Ginger Novel By Thatcher Robinson

by Cynthia Chow

Details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of the review.

For a souxun, whose job is to find people, Bai Jiang questions how it is that she is so often alone. Her partner Lee does not share her wonderment, as he declares that Bai is surly, impatient, and sarcastic. The friend that she doesn't need is San Francisco City Police Department Inspector Kelly. He’s an obnoxious, burnt out drunkard intent on hiring Bai to find David Chen. Kelly claims Chen was involved in an undercover police operation that left three dead and a million dollars’ worth of heroin missing. Only the promise of locating Chen before vengeful and possibly lethal police officers has Bai agreeing—a previous case forced her to take two lives, causing her karma to become distinctly unbalanced.

Bai smells something fishy about Kelly's story. Her godfather as the head of a triad so there is no better source for information about China White. Godfather’s unexpected absence means she has to deal with his second in command—her ex, Jason, father of her child, the man she can't get over.


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Jason declares, curiosity is both Bai's strength and her weakness. She learns the seemingly simple assignment to locate Chen is far more complicated than she expected, leading her to the Berkeley University Campus, a fight gym, and a mercenary information broker. Bai has more than enough to distract her—she is raising her teenaged daughter and young girl she rescued on a previous assignment. In one of the few aspects that has Bai bending to traditional Chinese expectations, she finds herself forced to endure blind dates set up by her governess and mother figure.

This action thriller has a surprising amount of humor. Occasionally dark, frequently inappropriate, but always very funny, many laughs come from both Bai and Lee's acerbic commentaries. It’s a wit that that doesn't distract from their lethal fighting skills, strategic planning abilities, or their dedication. Bai's more-than-complicated relationship with Jason delights with their flirtatious banter as it forces her to examine her life and the violent path he has chosen of her. Far more unexpected is the blind date with a billionaire, as it soon transforms from horrifically awkward to tempting, compromising, and truly just horrific.



Image source: Seventh St. Books

The tone shifts dramatically as the violence becomes brutal, the body count rises, and Bai is shown just how truly vulnerable she can be. As connections are made and double crosses and identities revealed, the threads are pulled together in ways few readers could ever predict. As someone with Chinese ancestry, I was immensely pleased to encounter characters that defy the stereotypical depiction of Asians and reveled in Bai's complexity, likability, and extraordinary wit. Bai has a compelling need to rescue and protect the unconventional family she has created, even when she is forced to acknowledge that she is not indestructible. Bai is willing to sacrifice everything for those she loves.

To enter to win a copy of Black Karma simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Karma,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 8, 2014. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address.


Cynthia Chow is the branch manager of Kaneohe Public Library on the island of Oahu. She balances a librarian lifestyle of cardigans and hair buns with a passion for motorcycle riding and regrettable tattoos (sorry, Mom).

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Corpse with the Platinum Hair: A Cait Morgan Mystery By Cathy Ace

by Cynthia Chow

Details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of the review.

It’s Miss Shirley in the casino dining room with a skewer, in this locked-room mystery that has the suspects locked in with a murderer who seems to be systematically reducing their numbers before they can either identify the culprit or manage their release.

Psychologist and University of Vancouver Professor Cait Morgan had hoped to celebrate the birthday of her boyfriend Bud Anderson, a retired Vancouver Police Department homicide detective and RCMP officer, with an elaborate dinner at the Las Vegas Tsar! Casino and Hotel. A sudden security system alarm abruptly ends that though, knocking out the lights and securing all of the doors. When the emergency lights are restored, the diners are shocked to discover the body of the casino owner and Marilyn Monroe-esque Miss Shirley, stabbed through her seat with a saber just minutes after a deadline that had her inheriting her late husband’s Tsar! majority ownership.


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When the legal counsel Julie Pool fails to enter the proper security codes, all of the diners are locked into the dining room for twelve hours until the automatic reset, a time during which they could spend either hiding out from one another in anxiety or conducting a covert investigation into which of the thirteen – well, now twelve – was motivated to commit such a brazen act of murder. Without an outside phone line or Wi-Fi, tensions mount among the increasingly tense prisoners, whose number includes the overridden business partner, Miss Shirley’s stepson and probable heir, an operatic Diva, several attorneys, and a promising chef whose connection to Bud was the reason for his and Cait’s presence. The suspects are many, but their is growing alarmingly fewer fast as the mortality rate increases and the twelve hour deadline becomes entirely too literal.



Image source: Cathy Ace

In this fourth mystery of the series featuring victim profiler Cait Morgan, she continues to use her unique skills that connect a victim’s life to his or her eventual death. It’s an intriguing premise, especially considering how the criminologist turned victimologist was herself once profiled as a murderer and so implicated by British tabloids that she fled for British Columbia. In the classic tradition of locked-room mysteries, Cait and Bud question each of the guests and slowly everyone’s secrets are revealed. The author plays entirely fair with the clues and readers will enjoy unraveling the mysteries alongside this mature and savvy couple. Although they are locked in without power or resources, having a chef on hand along with the leftover meals means that foodie Cait will have ample opportunity to revel in and provide detailed descriptions. Traditionalists will enjoy this mystery that plays with classic mystery conventions while also celebrating everything that makes Las Vegas so unique.

To enter to win a copy of The Corpse with the Platinum Hair, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Hair,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 1, 2014. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address.


Cynthia Chow is the branch manager of Kaneohe Public Library on the island of Oahu. She balances a librarian lifestyle of cardigans and hair buns with a passion for motorcycle riding and regrettable tattoos (sorry, Mom).

Friday, October 17, 2014

Finding Sky By Susan O’Brien

by Cynthia Chow

Details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of the review.

When a pregnant 18 year-old with a history of running away goes missing, not even her parents are concerned enough to involve the police. Although Beth agreed to give her baby up for adoption, her parents were strongly against it. No one seems surprised the girl may have changed her mind and fled.

Kenna hoped to adopt Beth’s child and is frantic to find the girl. She calls best friend Nicki Valentine for help. A stay-at-home mother of two wouldn’t seem to be the best choice, but considering Nicki’s fascination with crime, her degree in forensic psychology and enrollment in a private investigation class, Nicki has the enthusiasm, if not the experience, of any professional. Fortunately, she has the supervision and advice of her instructor, Dean.


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Nicki learns that Marcus, Beth’s ex-boyfriend and likely father of her child, has gang ties. She’s in the middle of a gang shooting, has her car shot at and becomes embroiled in a battle over drugs and gang territory. One might question why she would continue to endanger herself and her family, but Kenna’s desperation to find Beth and the baby, keeps her going. With her mother as a reliable babysitter, Nicki uses her son’s Scholastic Scooby-doo binoculars to follow suspects as she sucks down juice boxes and animal cookies on stakeouts, and even squeezes in a preschool pizza party.

While a thirty-six year-old woman’s ability to blend in with a crowd of teens does strain the limits of believability, Nicki gets a pass with sunglasses and a questionable wardrobe, given the intoxication level of the partygoers. Her lack of judgment is more of a concern, as she risks breaking-and-entering into a home and takes her children on investigate outings.



Image source: Henery Press

It would be oversimplification to call this “Mom Lit,” yet this novel has one of the more realistic portrayals of juggling work with home life. Finding a reliable babysitter is just as important as researching the background of a gangbanger, although Nicki does find that carting around children works as camouflage when interrogating neighbors. Nicki’s support system provides assistance when experience fails. The too-perfect Dean (he rides a motorcycle and drives an Aston Martin, for heaven’s sake) offers his considerable skills as he distracts with his charm.

This debut mystery offers menace without violence, intrigue and a realistic depiction of a single parent struggling to find an identity outside of motherhood. The hint of romance and element of humor further ensures that this novel will attract a following of cozy-reading fans for the upcoming sequel, Sky High.

To enter to win a copy of Finding Sky, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Sky,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen October 25, 2014. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address.


Cynthia Chow is the branch manager of Kaneohe Public Library on the island of Oahu. She balances a librarian lifestyle of cardigans and hair buns with a passion for motorcycle riding and regrettable tattoos (sorry, Mom).

Friday, October 10, 2014

Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek: A Samuel Craddock Mystery By Terry Shames

by Cynthia Chow

Details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of the review.

The economy has not just hit Jarrett Creek, Texas hard, it has completely decimated it. A bad water park investment bankrupted the county, with no funds to support even its tiny sheriff’s department. Deputies are resigning but the new mayor has a plan to reappoint Samuel Craddock Sheriff’s even though he retired and recovering from knee surgery. The mayor’s meeting doesn’t go as smoothly as expected. The murder of the loudest opponent of the reappointment pretty much assures Craddock will be back on the job. With a dollar-a-year salary Craddock’s priority will be to investigate Gary Dellmore’s death. He was a less than successful executive at the bank owned by his father. Dellmore’s good looks and Lothario tendencies toward female employees point suspicion to jilted girlfriends, a wife, and numerous angry husbands. His involvement in the shady investment that destroyed the town reveals an even wider circle of those with murderous motivations.


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Craddock feels the separation from his neighbors the moment he resumes office. Everybody has something to hide or feel guilty about. Poking sleeping dogs is part of his job so Craddock questions the very man who hired him; the mayor’s daughter may have been a little too friendly with her boss. Money and love are the usual motivations behind murder. There are a plethora of suspects as Craddock must investigate a wealthy land owner and his country-singing wife, the owner of Jarrett Creek’s bank, a seemingly cheerful widow, and more than one mistress.

Author Terry Shames captures the voice of the stoic, compassionate and canny Craddock. While he respects the power of gossip, he refrains from gossip himself in spite of nosy inquiries by friends and neighbors. Craddock finds this case hits him to the core. He resents men who take their wives for granted and cheat on them, as he mourns his late wife.



Image source: Seventh St.

This novel emphasizes love, marriage and the compromises people make in order to retain one, if not both. Craddock is feeling his age. Although his knee surgery was successful, he can’t help but be aware of fragility of his health.

This third in the series will appeal to fans of both Craig Johnson and C.J. Box. Readers will find themselves unable to put down this well-crafted mystery, full of sly dialogue and smart characters. This is one of my favorite new mystery series. I continue to look forward to novels that highlight the both the goodwill and darkness that inhabits a small Texas town.

To enter to win a copy of Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Broke,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen October 18, 2014. U.S. residents only.


Cynthia Chow is the branch manager of Kaneohe Public Library on the island of Oahu. She balances a librarian lifestyle of cardigans and hair buns with a passion for motorcycle riding and regrettable tattoos (sorry, Mom).

Friday, October 3, 2014

Emerald By Garner Scott Odell

by Terrance Mc Arthur

Details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of the review, along with a video interview with Garner.

What do you need in a suspense thriller?
• A man you can root for…or a woman…or a man and a woman (but if you have a man and a woman, you know that will cause complications).
• A man you can hate (well, it could be a woman) who has some force driving him to do things that are considered evil.
• A goal (world domination, a priceless treasure) that is so desired that people would die or kill for it. Alfred Hitchcock referred to it as the McGuffin, based on an old joke (the McGuffin was used to hunt lions in the Sahara Desert. Wait; there aren’t any lions in the Sahara. That’s the McGuffin!).


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In Emerald by Garner Scott Odell, David and Miriam are agents of Israel’s secretive Mossad. He can’t stand her, even though he knows she’s a better marksman than he is. She finds him cocky and undisciplined and he snores. When two characters grate on each other that much, you know what’s going to happen, right? Uh-huh.

David and Miriam are chasing Hans Huber, son of the bodyguard of Adolf Eichmann, the notorious Nazi who was captured by Israeli agents. Hans’ father was killed (and Hans was injured) during the abduction, so he hates the Jews and loves everything his father, Eichmann, and Hitler stood for. He kills, and enjoys killing, marking his victims with the sign of the Nazi SS. He’s not a nice guy, but he is fascinating.



Image source: Garner Scott Odell

The goal Huber chases is a fabulous, hen’s- egg-sized emerald, a jewel that goes back to the time of the conquistadors. Huber’s family owned it for a while, and Hans believes it belongs to him by right, and he will do anything to make it his, even if…especially if it means murder. The inspiration for the book’s jewel was a real emerald that vanished from history around the 1930s.

Odell’s world travels as a cruise-ship chaplain are reflected in his sense of history and his careful use of details create a crystalline vision of the times and settings. The characters are colorful, from a tongue-less African to a half-Chinese mob employee, to a passel of international law enforcement officials who try to aid the Israelis in their work. The pace and tension keep growing higher. Who ever thought a high-class auction house would be a setting for a high-stakes thriller?

There are some proofreading problems, but this Emerald is a gem.

Video Interview with Garner Scott Odell:


To enter to win a copy of Emerald, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Emerald,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen October 11, 2014. U.S. residents only.


Terrance V. Mc Arthur is a Community Librarian for the WoW! (WithOut Walls) Division of the Fresno County Public Library, roaming the Valley to meet the public's information needs.

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Bad Wife By Jacqueline Seewald

by Sandra Murphy

The good news is Kim Reynolds is in love with police officer, Mike Garnder. He loves her too as do his two daughters. His ex-wife moved out of town and except for an occasional phone call, is out of the picture.

The bad news is, she comes back to see her girls, or so she says. Her acting career isn’t going anywhere for the moment so she thinks a bit of surgery will enhance things enough to get her jobs again. For that kind of surgery, you need money and she doesn’t have any. What she does have though, are her copies of the divorce papers—unsigned after all this time. It seems Mike signed his copies and never checked to see if she followed through.


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Kim refuses to see Mike while Evelyn is staying at the house, supposedly to be with their daughters. One girl is glad she’s back and maybe even hoping they’ll get back together. The other knows that won’t happen and SAYS that their mom will just up and leave again.

Mike is a teller of bad jokes. When he meets Kim at the grocery store, he tries one or two but they fall flat. It just hurts too much for Kim to see Mike and not be able to be with him. Frustrated, Mike says maybe he should just go home and shoot his wife so she’ll be out of the way once and for all. The poor stock boy who overhears him say it is bound to remember so when Evelyn is found dead, it’s a sure bet Mike will be a prime suspect.

He didn’t want Evelyn there, was betrayed by her continued refusal to sign the divorce papers, doesn’t like her influence on the girls and only wants to marry Kim. Any one of the reasons makes him a good bet for the killer.



Image source: Perfect Crime Books

Kim knows him though and is sure he’s innocent. In every scene it's apparent that Kim loves Mike and his kids, but is torn up because the divorce was never finalized.

Evelyn didn’t have any friends—she used people too often for that to happen. Mike isn’t allowed near the investigation since it’s his family so Kim tries to find out more about Evelyn herself. It’s hard to say if the murder happened because of old wrongs or current problems as Evelyn wasn’t above blackmailing those nearest and dearest to her or at least nearest and dearest to her bank account.

There are other suspects. Evelyn slept with husbands other than her own, a man followed her to town from Hollywood and basically, she was a mooch. If only Kim can narrow the prospects down to one…

The Drowning Pool and Truth Sleuth are two of the previous books in this series.

Sandra Murphy lives in the shadow of the arch, in the land of blues, booze and shoes—St Louis, Missouri. While writing magazine articles to support her mystery book habit, she secretly polishes two mystery books of her own, hoping, someday, they will see the light of Barnes and Noble. You can also find several of Sandra's short stories on UnTreed Reads including Bananas Foster.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Murder In Mariposa By Sue McGinty

by Sandra Murphy

Details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of the review.

In her third Bella Kowalski Mystery, author Sue McGinty treads an area of the California Central Coast she knows well. Although she has changed the names of regional landmarks (to protect the innocent?), the cover art shows the distinctive features of Morro Rock. Familiar with local color and concerns, McGinty weaves them into the plot, including a controversial sewage system haunting the coastal community for years.

Bella is an ex-nun, her husband Mike is an ex-Chicago cop. Bella now works for the local paper as the obit editor and Mike has a septic service business. These seniors aren't beyond a romantic get-away, especially now that Bella's mother has moved in. Their favorite destination is the Mariposa Inn, but they discover it has fallen on hard times. Bella notes a strange recognition pass between the check-in clerk and her husband, but he denies knowing the man.


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When the clerk is found dead the next morning, Mike tells the police he doesn't know the man. Later, he confesses to Bella that the victim was a crooked cop he knew on the force. Then she spies him passing a red notebook to a woman. Ten days later he has packed his clothes and split. The cryptic note he leaves behind tells her not to contact law enforcement. Keeping her in the dark is his way of protecting her.

Does Bella follow his instructions? Nope. Instead, she allows her imagination to run wild. Was her husband kidnapped? Did he run off with the strange woman? And why is his notebook in the mansion of an elderly Detroit mobster?



Image source: Sue McGinty

Convinced the notebook holds clues to her husband's disappearance, this ex-nun is not above a little breaking and entering. She barely escapes getting apprehended. But Bella is not one to throw in the towel and continues in her pursuit of the truth.

Mixing humor with clues, murders and a ghost or two, McGinty opens her world and Bella's for our entertainment.

To enter to win a copy of Murder in Mariposa, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Mariposa,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 27, 2014. U.S. residents only.

Sandra Murphy lives in the shadow of the arch, in the land of blues, booze and shoes—St Louis, Missouri. While writing magazine articles to support her mystery book habit, she secretly polishes two mystery books of her own, hoping, someday, they will see the light of Barnes and Noble. You can also find several of Sandra's short stories on UnTreed Reads including Bananas Foster.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Prescription for Murder By E. E. Smith

by Sandra Murphy

Details on how to win an ebook copy of this book at the end of the review.

Lexie Smith, the private investigator aka Girl Gumshoe, is back. This time she’s vacationing in Majorca with the delectable Harry from Scotland Yard. It’s a romantic setting, blue water and sky, warm sun, and finally, time alone. When Harry proposes, Lexie says yes in spite of previous misgivings about the suitability of marriage in general and a trans-Atlantic marriage in particular. After all, her agency, Discreet Inquiries, is based in Sacramento, California. The plan is to be married immediately and worry about the rest later.

Even as Lexie gets dressed in her wedding finery, a telegram arrives that will change everything. It says come quick, Mother’s ill and is signed Mary. On the face of it, that makes sense. Unless you know that Lexie hasn’t spoken to her sister Mary in a year or so and their mother died three years ago.


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The wedding is off and so is Lexie–off to Sacramento, that is. Who sent the telegram and why? When Mary’s found, she denies all knowledge of the message. She’s quit school, isn’t paying the bills (like the electricity) and has put the family home up for sale.

It turns out the message was sent with the purpose to intrigue, by Lexie’s old friend, Nikki. It seems that Nikki was heard to threaten a US Congressman who conveniently (or maybe not) turns up dead within a few days. He’s been poisoned and Nikki’s fingerprints are at the scene.

The Congressman was a big backer of internment camps for the Japanese during the war. Nikki, being Japanese, was not. Is it enough of a motive for Nikki to kill him? There are other suspects–like the Irish Mob who had a great interest in how the Congressman voted. His wife loved him but knew of his affair. The cad spent most of his (their) money on his mistress and made no secret of it.



Image source: Phoenix International, Inc.

When a second death occurs, things just get more complicated. Mary, who could be mistaken for Lexie unless they are standing side by side, is kidnapped by the Mob as an encouragement for Lexie to do a job for them. It seems that Boyo, the Mob’s enforcer, has fallen in love with an Irish lass named Maureen. She has red hair, green eyes and pale skin, so could Lexie go to Belfast and bring her back to marry Boyo? With that tiny bit of information to go on, what could possibly go wrong? An awful lot.

With plane trips back and forth, the appearance of “Kit” Carson, FBI agent who thinks Lexie should be the white-picket-fence-and-lots-of-kids kind of girl instead of a Girl Gumshoe, Mary, the sister no one knew she had, Daisy the dog (ever so popular and a good tracker), Maureen, a dock workers strike and poor Harry, left at Scotland Yard as well as at the altar, it’s no wonder Lexie is rethinking her choices. What’s next for her? Readers can only hope for another book to tell all.

To enter to win an ebook copy of Prescription For Murder, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Prescription,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 20, 2014. U.S. residents only.

Sandra Murphy lives in the shadow of the arch, in the land of blues, booze and shoes—St Louis, Missouri. While writing magazine articles to support her mystery book habit, she secretly polishes two mystery books of her own, hoping, someday, they will see the light of Barnes and Noble. You can also find several of Sandra's short stories on UnTreed Reads including Bananas Foster.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Midnight Crossroad By Charlaine Harris

by Terrance Mc Arthur

I’m a big fan of Charlaine Harris. I’ve read all the Southern Vampire mysteries (the basis for the True Blood TV shows) and the Sookie Stackhouse short stories, the Harper Connelly corpse-finding mysteries, the anthologies she has co-edited, and some of the Aurora Teagarden and Lily Bard books.

In Midnight Crossroad, Harris has moved her interests to the sun burnt spaces of West Texas and the not-quite-dead town of Midnight, at the crossroads of Witch Light Road and the Davy Highway, where there is at least one inhabitant who is quite dead. Manfred Bernardo, who runs an online psychic service, is the new kid in town, and finds that he is surrounded by family secrets.


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Across the street is a witch who gives classes in female affirmation, the local minister runs a wedding chapel and a pet cemetery, a gay couple sells antiques and does nails, the delectable girl at the convenience store has a father who forbids all outside contact for his children (No Facebook!), and Manfred’s landlord, Bobo, rumored to be heir to his white-supremacist grandfather’s cache of extra-military weapons, runs a pawnshop with a vampire as the night manager.

But all is not well in Midnight. There is a murderer among them, and the legend of the hidden munitions has brought dangerous interest from nearby paramilitary groups. Of course, it is never a good idea to attack a place where a vampire lives, especially one with a girlfriend with a background of mystery that seems to include archery, martial arts, and arson.



Image source: Ace

Manfred was introduced in a Sookie Stackhouse story from the Games Creatures Play anthology. He has psychic abilities, but sometimes he uses the skills of a scam artist, telling people what they are likely to believe. He likes girls a lot, and he is aware of being short and skinny in the middle of bigger-than-life Texas. He isn’t always brave, and he makes mistakes when he deals with women. I like him.

Midnight Crossing is like a better-looking Addams Family–a little bit creepy, often cooky, definitely mysterious, but ooky? I’m not even sure what that is! Sink your teeth into this book…before it sinks its teeth into you.


Terrance V. Mc Arthur is a Community Librarian for the WoW! (WithOut Walls) Division of the Fresno County Public Library, roaming the Valley to meet the public's information needs.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Seat of Magic By J. Kathleen Cheney

by Terrance Mc Arthur

Details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of the review.

Political thriller, serial-killer mystery, gaslight alternate history, paranormal romance—J. Kathleen Cheney’s The Seat of Magic is all of these.

Set in a magical version of 1902 Portugal, this page-turner has selkies (seal-people who can attract people with little effort—it’s a musk thing), healers (with powers to cure and kill), seers (truth-finders, seekers, and trouble-detectors), sereia (multi-toned sirens with webbed hands and big feet), otter-folk, family secrets (who is related to whom, who has what non-human ancestors, why people really left the homeland), mad monarchs, and a book that shouldn’t exist. Oriana (once a sereia spy) and Duilio (a part-time investigator with selkie and witchly heritage) have been separated by law (non-humans are banned, but some hide in the Golden City), but the young man races to the rescue of Oriana, an unknowing pawn in political schemes. Together with a close cousin, he investigates the mutilation-murders of young women.


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In and out of palaces, morgues, and accountant’s offices they go to ferret out the facts, source the sorcery, and plug the powerful. All the while, Duilio seeks to woo and win Oriana, only to find that her culture does things a little differently than his.

This is not your everyday paranormal mystery-thriller. It has a sinuous charm that wraps itself around the reader, soft but impressive. The level of the puzzle is engaging. The world-building is never jarring, yet there is a strong current of the not-like-our-reality. Portugal is seldom used as a world-base, so there are soft touches that build into a believable—yet fanciful—environment. The romance elements have a courtliness that is lacking in modern cultures, and the language only slides into semi-mild oaths, rather than the look-how-many-naughty-words-i-can-say style that is frequently used to make characters seem tough. Cheney isn’t interested in tough. These characters glisten with humanity, even if they aren’t really human



Image source: Roc

This is the second book in the series, following The Golden City, which goes into “How Diulio Met Oriana” territory. I didn’t have trouble understanding the world without previous exposure to it. However, you might seek out the first book, but this is a volume that will stand on its own merits.

To enter to win a copy of The Seat of Magic, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Seat,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen August 23, 2014. U.S. residents only.


Terrance V. Mc Arthur is a Community Librarian for the WoW! (WithOut Walls) Division of the Fresno County Public Library, roaming the Valley to meet the public's information needs.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Deadline Yemen By Peggy Hanson

by Sandra Murphy

Details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of the review.

Washington correspondent for the Tribune, Elizabeth Darcy has been in the Middle East before. Now she’s received a call from her friend, Hamila, one of the country’s forward thinking leaders. It simply says, “Come. Please.”

Back during the war, Hamila had rescued Elizabeth from prison so now Elizabeth doesn’t hesitate but heads for Yemen and her friend. Enroute, she meets a man on the plane but he doesn’t offer her a ride to the hotel, even after the conversation and flirting that went before. It’s late and no time to worry about it. It is strange though that Hamila didn’t send a driver or come to the airport herself.

Still, it’s good to be back in Yemen. Elizabeth fell in love with the country during her first visit, in spite of the SCUD missiles and shooting. She’s remembered and welcomed at the hotel and once in her room, visited by a pregnant calico cat who she calls Mrs. Weston—Elizabeth is a Jane Austen fan.


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Tracking down Hamila isn’t easy. The office is closed and padlocked, her phone call cut short. All she can do is wait. To keep busy, Elizabeth walks through the town, takes photos and writes background pieces for the newspaper.

Michael, the flirting man from the plane, and Richard (he barely spoke enroute), are both at the same hotel. Elizabeth has lunch with Michael at Nello’s an Italian restaurant she discovered during her first visit. It seems everywhere she goes, she runs into Richard as well.

When Michael’s body is found in his hotel room, stabbed with a traditional sword, it’s a shock. Richard was seen near the room. Michael had mysterious meetings. The police suspect Elizabeth as her room is down the hall and she’d been seen with him. Then there are the two men who follow her wherever she goes—friend or foe?

When she is finally able to meet with Hamila, she is appalled to find out that Ali, Hamila’s younger brother, has joined what most would call a cult and some would say is a terrorist group. The family is desperate to bring him home. Elizabeth, as a foreigner, is able to move about the country more freely than a local woman who is not allowed to travel alone, look a man in the eyes, be dressed in less than the head-to-toe black or be touched by a man not in her immediate family.



Image source: Wildside Press

Her search for Ali, the truth behind Michael’s murder and the true identity of Richard, lead Elizabeth on a cross-country chase. Cryptic clues, old acquaintances, new friends all make for an exciting if nerve-wracking time. Hamila’s cousin, Ahmad, is able to help although he believes the women should sit at home and wait while men handle the situation.

Deadline Yemen gives the reader a fascinating look into another culture during a time when Bin Laden is just coming to power. Clinton is still in office and a reporter is basically on her own. Elizabeth is not sure she can even trust Embassy personnel.

It’s easy to see Hanson loves the country and knows the people. Her first book in the series is titled Deadline Istanbul. She is currently at work on book number three, Deadline Indonesia. Personally, I hope Richard is able to travel to Indonesia. There was more than a spark between he and Elizabeth. A little update on Mrs. Weston and her five kittens, left in care of the hotel and Nello, wouldn’t be amiss.

To enter to win a copy of Deadline Yemen, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Yemen,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen August 16, 2014. U.S. residents only.

Sandra Murphy lives in the shadow of the arch, in the land of blues, booze and shoes—St Louis, Missouri. While writing magazine articles to support her mystery book habit, she secretly polishes two mystery books of her own, hoping, someday, they will see the light of Barnes and Noble. You can also find several of Sandra's short stories on UnTreed Reads including Bananas Foster.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Games Creatures Play Anthology

by Terrance Mc Arthur

I like short-story anthologies. They’re like the all-you-can-eat buffet of the publishing world. You get to sample all sorts of things. Authors you know bring out dishes that may be familiar, but with different ingredients. Unfamiliar writers are like foods you’ve never tried before, but you can scoop up a small serving of short stories without having to commit to the whole meal of a novel.


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Charlaine Harris (the Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire mysteries that inspired the True Blood TV series) and Toni L. P. Kelner have made a cottage industry of themed horror anthologies, featuring some popular writers and some wanna-become-popular writers. They have tackled everything from education to home improvement, birthdays to vacations, coming up with some fascinating collections of short stories. What have they come up with next? Sports and games.

Games Creatures Play brings together fifteen authors and their stories, taking a swing at recreational activities from graceful ice skating to brutal lacrosse, traditional baseball to unconventional versions of hide-and-seek, sophisticated fencing to down-and-dirty roller derby.



Image source: Ace

Some are funny, some are scary. Some are gruesome, and some are fairly tame. Each story has its own charms and will attract its own set of fans, but this umpire found a few that hit home runs:

• Scott Sigler’s “The Case of the Haunted Safeway” mixes Ghostbusters with Field of Dreams on the site of a former ballpark in San Francisco, where an eighty-year-old tragedy is re-enacted in ways that the frozen food section was never built to accommodate. It includes pleas for tolerance and how families must learn to accept and nurture the capabilities of their children.
• “Hide and Shriek,” by Adam-Troy Castro, comes off as H. P. Lovecraft horror as it might be told by Douglas (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) Adams, where all=powerful creatures compete childishly to destroy worlds and are embarrassed by the results. It is raucous and silly—I liked it.
• “Dead on the Bones” is a no-rules, river-bottom fight that starts out as a community entertainment with a bit of voodoo, until it turns into revenge. Written by horror master Joe Lonsdale, it’s big on atmosphere and strong medicine.
• Caitlin Kittredge’s “The Devil Went Down to Boston” combines traditional Celtic lore with typical bar games and a deal with a demon into a winning deal.
• “On the Fields of Blood” offers time travel and lacrosse, and delivers a frightening, violent tale by Brendan DuBois.
• Mercedes Lackey penned “False Knight on the Road,” which pits moonshine runners against something else, a vehicle that might have origins beyond their understanding.

The editors have their stories, too. Harris returns to Sookie Stackhouse to introduce Manfred Bernardo, a character from her next series of books, in “In the Blue Hereafter.”


Terrance V. Mc Arthur is a Community Librarian for the WoW! (WithOut Walls) Division of the Fresno County Public Library, roaming the Valley to meet the public's information needs.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The White Magic Five & Dime By Steven Hockensmith and Lisa Falco

by Cynthia Chow

When loan modifications officer Alanis MacLachlan receives a call concerning her mother, the only question is does she need money or has she died? After not having communicated with her mother for the past twenty years, Alanis is relieved to know that it is the latter. Apparently, Athena Passalis, aka Barbra Harper, interrupted a burglary in her tarot shop and Alanis is now the sole heir of the White Magic Five and Dime New Age store in Berdache, Arizona.


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Alanis, as Sophie Harper, was raised in casinos and trained by her con artist mother to view everyone as either a con or as a mark whose emotions were a weakness to be exploited. As a result, the news that Alanis has also inherited Clarice Stewart, a seventeen year-old tenant and store clerk, is neither welcome nor a sentimental souvenir of her mother’s life. Further bad news arrives in the form of Josh Logan, a Berdache detective who has his suspicions about Alanis's legal intentions as well as her possible involvement in the murder. While she doesn't have any fuzzy memories or good feelings towards her mother, Alanis does feel that she owes her mother justice.

Studying the hilarious and rather informative how-to tarot book, Infinite Roads to Knowing by Miss Chance, Alanis takes over her mother's clients in the hopes of determining who may have been unhappy enough with her predictions to want her dead. As she investigates, Alanis discovers while Athena always had her eyes on the prize, she also brought a surprising amount of peace to her clients.



Image source: Midnight Ink

The author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and the Holmes on the Range series places his trademark of twisted humor, wordplay banter, and acerbic wit on this absolutely delightful mystery. Alanis protects herself with a shield of whip-smart sarcastic wit and a brash, jaded attitude. The narrative reveals the true tragedy of Alanis's past, from her lonely early training in the art of the con to the fate of her surrogate father. The authors seamlessly blend this with humor, very human characters, and an intricate plot to ensure readers will be thoroughly entertained. This is a mystery like no other, an ending no one can predict, and a heroine who is as savvy, funny, and strong as she is vulnerable.


Cynthia Chow is the branch manager of Kaneohe Public Library on the island of Oahu. She balances a librarian lifestyle of cardigans and hair buns with a passion for motorcycle riding and regrettable tattoos (sorry, Mom).

Friday, June 20, 2014

Fleur de Lies: A Passport to Murder Mystery By Maddy Hunter

by Cynthia Chow

As owner of Destinations Travel Company with her new husband Etienne, Emily Miceli is charged with herding her geriatric tourists through various locations with a minimal loss of life or sanity. Her track record's been pretty abysmal on this though, as death seems to always follow. Accompanying a tour group of funeral planners does seem to tempt fate.


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With Etienne at home in Windsor City, Iowa, Emily is on her own with her troupe of septuagenarian, octogenarians, and nonagenarians. At least her Nana is along as they traverse through the World War II sites vital to both France's and America's history. Less helpful is the presence of Emily's ex-husband Jack Potter, now Jackie Thum, fully a lady and a representative of Mona Michelle, the cosmetics company whose sellers are as cutthroat as they are beautiful. Jackie may be experienced in cosmetics and fashion but she is an infant in the art of warfare of Mean Girls cliques.

When a death occurs and Jackie assumes that she was the target, Emily and her phone-addicted twittering herd of seniors are on the case as they visit historically sites between rushed runs on the buffet. Emily’s patience may be tested by her senior sleuths, but they always have her back and prove to be resourceful social media fiends.



Image source: Midnight Ink

The fun of this mystery comes in the twists and turns crafted by a talented author. Just when I thought I identified both murderer and motive, the rug was pulled out from under me with a surprising ending. The author a plays fair though in this humorous mystery filled with eccentric characters. The mystery remains logical as the beauty and history of France shines through. The strong writing and hilarity never overshadow the sentiment or realism of a powerful mystery. Fun and entertaining, Hunter fills this series with characters who may try Emily's patience and test her sanity but whose loyalty to their guide never waivers.


Cynthia Chow is the branch manager of Kaneohe Public Library on the island of Oahu. She balances a librarian lifestyle of cardigans and hair buns with a passion for motorcycle riding and regrettable tattoos (sorry, Mom).

Friday, June 13, 2014

Reckless Disregard: A Parker Stern Novel By Robert Rotstein

by Cynthia Chow

Details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of the review.

Civil litigation hit the digital age when Hollywood mogul William “The Conqueror” Bishop files a lawsuit against the pseudonymous game designer “Poniard,” claiming that the video game Abduction! enacts a scenario libelously accusing Bishop of murdering a long-missing starlet.

Breaking into Judicial Alternative Dispute Solutions’ internal chat server, Poniard demands that Parker Stern represent him against Bishop’s lawsuit to shut down the game along with claims for punitive damages. Since the death of his mentor, the once dazzling litigator suffers from paralyzing panic attacks in the courtroom and now limits himself to arbitrations. However, Poniard refuses to take no for an answer and threatens to reveal Parker’s dark past as a child star if he refuses to take the case.


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Feeling cornered and still protective of the past he has attempted to put behind him, Parker takes the case that directly pits him against Lovely Diamond, one of Bishop’s attorneys and, as her name might suggest, a woman with her own scandalous past. That she happens to also have recently broken Parker’s heart makes the case even messier, especially when she is aligned with Parker’s nemesis Louis Frantz. Along with the anti-anxiety drugs that allow him to enter a courtroom, Parker engages the unorthodox aid of JADS case assistant Brenda Sica and paralegal/computer-hacker sexagenarian Phillip Paulson. Parker will need all of the help he can get, as he will face a less-than-helpful client with a cadre of dress-up followers, an opposing attorney who knows too many of his secrets, and a movie mogul whose power stems from his ruthlessness.



Image source: Seventh St. Books

Utilizing snappy dialogue, dexterous courtroom manipulations, and skillful interrogatories, Parker and his team are the underdogs who battle against the dark crimes of Hollywood, all the while continuing to entertain readers with their jaded humor and perseverance.

The sarcastic wit and humor that made the first Parker Stern novel, Corrupt Practices, so enjoyable continues to be present here and prevents the novel from descending into a dark tone despite the focus on victimization and powerlessness. Intersecting chapters narrated from the viewpoint of a young boy playing the Abduction! game elaborates on Parker’s own first person narration without distracting or disrupting the pace. Equally fascinating are Parker’s real childhood ties to an abusive cult and the role-playing, cult-like followers of Poniard and his games. Entertainment attorney Robert Rotstein once again incorporates his knowledge and experience into this very fun courtroom thriller that succeeds in making court depositions as riveting as the corruption and perversity of Hollywood.

To enter to win a copy of Reckless Disregard, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Reckless,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen June 21, 2014. U.S. residents only.


Cynthia Chow is the branch manager of Kaneohe Public Library on the island of Oahu. She balances a librarian lifestyle of cardigans and hair buns with a passion for motorcycle riding and regrettable tattoos (sorry, Mom).

Friday, June 6, 2014

Death Runs Adrift: A Gray Whale Inn Mystery By Karen MacInerney

by Cynthia Chow

Some of the best decisions Natalie Barnes ever made were to quit her job in Parks and Recreation, leave Texas, and move to Maine to open the Gray Whale Inn as a bed and breakfast on Cranberry Island. Natalie is now engaged to handsome handyman and woodworker John, and is making plans for their wedding in Florida. Her future mother-in-law Catherine’s unexpected move into the carriage house worked out well, although Natalie is nervous about living together and moving into John's home. Now if only there weren't so many murders...


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A set of unidentified bones were discovered during the excavation of a swimming pool for Murray Selfridge, the local real estate mogul who’s intent on developing the island into a destination resort, closing the schools, and lowering his own tax burden. He is disliked by nearly everyone on the island; everyone except for Catherine, whom he is currently dating. Unfortunately, it's a set of more recent remains that disrupt Natalie's peace of mind. While picking blueberries, Natalie stumbles across a body in a boat. Early suspicion falls on the boyfriend of Natalie's artistic niece. Certain the hard-working lobsterman is innocent, Natalie questions the victim's family. She uncovers drug use on the island, competitive lobstermen, and a surprising connection between the island and prohibition. It's a balancing act between hosting guests, preparing meals and planning her upcoming nuptials. Wedding stress always lies in the back of Natalie's mind, especially when a disaster completely upsets plans for a small, intimate ceremony.



Image source: Midnight Ink

In this sixth Gray Whale Inn Mystery descriptions of absolutely delectable foods are seamlessly incorporated into the story, enhancing the novel without distracting from the plot. Recipes are included at the end, but the details of Natalie's preparations are enough to satisfy the most dedicated of foodies. Natalie's good humor, loyalty to her friends, and relentless pursuit of the truth continue to keep this a very strong series that remains fresh and allows for growth in the characters; all the while revealing the darkness that continues to intrude on their beautiful island.


Cynthia Chow is the branch manager of Kaneohe Public Library on the island of Oahu. She balances a librarian lifestyle of cardigans and hair buns with a passion for motorcycle riding and regrettable tattoos (sorry, Mom).

Friday, May 2, 2014

Rescue by Earl Staggs: A Short Story Featuring Tall Chambers

by Sandra Murphy

You know the feeling you get when a book is so good you don’t want it to end? On the other hand, you just have to know who did what and if they got caught. You want more, right away but the author is still writing the next book and then you have to wait and wait for the editing, printing, distribution–and like cotton candy, that one is gone too fast too.

Well, good news for fans of Earl Stagg’s Tall Chambers (Justified Action, reviewed at KRL). To tide you over until the next book comes out, Staggs has written a long short story (seventeen pages or so) so you can get your fix.

It starts with a bus enroute to Abu Dhabi. Muslim terrorists plan to enter the crowded street festival and open fire. Tall’s mission is to put a stop to that plan before it even starts. The terrorists will be given the option to surrender. If they choose to die for their beliefs, who is Tall to deny them?


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The bus is stopped by the simple expedient of exploding a bomb in the road just as the bus comes along. One of the terrorist, a woman, shows no fear and jumps out to threaten Ben, Tall and the rest with an eight inch knife. Really, a knife to a gun fight? But like I said, she shows no fear and frankly, looks more than a little crazy. Before Tall can say anything, his phone vibrates an incoming call. Talk about bad timing! When the President of the United States calls or in this case, his representative, you answer! I won’t ruin the rest of the scene except to say, in the midst of a scary situation, there’s a good bit of humor.

Tall’s agency is made up of twenty-five operatives and a half dozen computer experts, most ex-military. Whenever, wherever, terrorists are due to strike and kill innocent bystanders, Tall’s teams are ready to stop them–by whatever means necessary.
The phone call was about a terrorist who was set to defect but somehow got hold of weapons. Now there’s a standoff. Tall’s team is ready to move within minutes. It’s a hostage situation.



Image source: Earl Staggs

To say much more would be to give too much of the story away. There’s a twist at the end, lots of shooting, a hint of romance and a darn good story. The characters are people you’d like and even better, want to know they have your back. There’s a lot of action, gunfire and people are killed but that’s not explained in detail, thankfully.

If you, like me, are waiting for the next installment of Tall’s story and need a little something to tide you over, this will hit the spot. Until then, all I can say is, Earl, write faster!

Earl Staggs earned a long list of Five Star reviews for his novels Memory of a Murder and Justified Action. He has twice received a Derringer Award for Best Short Story of the Year. He served as Managing Editor of Futures Mystery Magazine, as President of the Short Mystery Fiction Society, is a contributing blog member of Murderous Musings and Make Mine Mystery and a frequent speaker at conferences and seminars. Email: earlstaggs@sbcglobal[dot]net Website: earlwstaggs.wordpress.com

Sandra Murphy lives in the shadow of the arch, in the land of blues, booze and shoes—St Louis, Missouri. While writing magazine articles to support her mystery book habit, she secretly polishes two mystery books of her own, hoping, someday, they will see the light of Barnes and Noble. You can also find several of Sandra's short stories on UnTreed Reads including Bananas Foster.