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Category: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

Review: The Heist by Daniel Silva

[ 2 ] September 14, 2014

51LEPFYYjRLReviewed by Caleb Shadis

The Heist is the 14th Gabriel Allon book and I enjoyed this one even more than the last couple I’ve read.  Some of the books, especially the ones with Ivan, can get a bit on the gruesome side with very detailed accounts of all the nasty things people can do to each other. This one skips over most of the gore and it’s much more an international spy thriller–James Bond meets Mission Impossible.

Gabriel has been collecting a large list of ‘friends’ whose sense of right and wrong and what laws to abide by vary greatly. This time around he gets them all to help him pull off the worlds biggest heist. He started it all because his friend Isherwood happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Julian Isherwood went to a villa in Italy to discuss the sale of some artwork and what he found was artwork of a different kind. The man he went to see had been beaten to death by professionals. This put Julian in a bad spot and it was used to get Gabriel to look into the matter. Apparently the dead man was a fence for priceless stolen paintings, and the rumors were he was selling a very sought after piece, which might have had something to do with his demise. Someone has been buying up all the stolen artwork they can lay their hands on and this is a common way for the rich to hide money for safekeeping.

Gabriel gets all the criminals he has had associations with together to put on a sting like none other. The first order of business is to try and identify this mysterious buyer.  To do so, Gabriel needs a very tempting piece of artwork and the easiest way to get a stolen painting to sell is to steal one.

While I like all of the Gabriel Allon books I have read, this is one I’ve enjoyed reading the most.  I don’t mind the dark ones, with the gruesome details of death and torture, but this one proves Gabriel doesn’t need it. I do like how each book in the series targets people and places to showcase the terrible things governments and other groups do to people because they can. Silva is trying and I believe succeeding in bringing to light many atrocities that have and continue to happen around the globe.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Caleb is a software engineer and amateur woodworker living in southern Minnesota. He has more hobbies than he has time or money for, and enjoys his quiet time reading.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Harper. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Doing It at the Dixie Dew by Ruth Moose

[ 2 ] September 8, 2014

Doing It at the Dixie DewReviewed by Charity Lyman

When I was given the opportunity to review Doing It at the Dixie Dew, I jumped at the chance. After all, a good mystery combined with a southern town and unique characters is something I always enjoy. I have not read anything else from Ruth Moose before but have heard great things about this new book and decided to jump right in!

The book opens with Lavinia Plum dying in a bed and breakfast. Yep, an eye opener on that one! The bed and breakfast is run by Beth McKenzie. The mansion originally belonged to her grandmother, Mama Alice and she grew up in it. But now she wants to turn it into a comfortable place for visitors or people passing through Littleboro, North Carolina. Of course, that all depends on if she can actually keep them alive. Because soon after Lavinia checks in, she checks out for real. As in cashes in her chips and moves on to the great beyond. Then not three days later Father Roderick is strangled in his own chapel. What has the town of Littleboro come to! As Beth unravels the mystery she realizes that her own life is in danger and she wonders if she will make it through.

The town of Littleboro is quaint and charming though there is evil lurking in the air. Beth is joined by some wonderful and amusing characters including Scott, her handyman who is helping restore the mansion, Reba, who is a bit crazy and often wanders into peoples homes in their absence and takes a bath, Verna, her friend and shocking neighbor, and Malinda, her best friend at the drug store. I thoroughly fell in love with all of them even though some are a bit strange. The only thing I didn’t like was the language. There were several swear words throughout the book–just a heads up for those who want to know. I am not talking just a few nor are they in every chapter but there were more than I expected. There was also one scene that was somewhat intimate–not explicit but still there. Overall, an interesting book with an ending I did not quite see coming. I enjoyed visiting the town of Littleboro, North Carolina for a while. Maybe I can return sometime!

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Charity lives in Illinois and is the oldest of 6 children. The family also has 3 dogs and a cat. Reading is a hobby when not cooking, baking, sewing or enjoying music. She reads many different genres but Christian fiction is a favorite. Charity can be found often at her blog, Giveaway Lady.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Minotaur Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Everybody Has Everything by Katrina Onstad

[ 3 ] September 6, 2014

Everybody Has EverythingReviewed by Rachel Mann

Lately, I’ve been reading a bunch of young adult dystopias and contemporary romances. It seemed like a perfect time for something different and a return to modern literary fiction. The lucidly written Everybody Has Everything, by Katrina Onstad, is a fine example of this genre. Unlike the protagonists of a romance or YA dystopia (in the latter, the world might be ending but there’s usually room for a good love triangle), Onstad’s characters aren’t as concerned with finding their true loves, living happily ever after, or saving the world. In this kind of story, it’s hard enough to save oneself.

Parental love overshadows romantic love in this text; indeed, a phrase from the book’s first line, “become parents,” is like an engine generating the whole story. This parental transformation occurs when a toddler named Finn comes to live with main characters Ana and James for an unspecified period; a car accident has killed his father and seriously injured his mother. (The paperback’s back cover has a great non-spoilery interpretation of what “becoming parents” does for its protagonists.)

But work helps to define James and Ana, too. When the novel begins, James has recently lost his TV journalist job, which he’d thrived upon. He’s struggling to find his way, and becoming responsible for Finn gives him purpose he lacks. Ana, in contrast to James, is a research lawyer who’s happier the more she works. She sees the work and worry around raising a child in a way James doesn’t. They both seemed very real to me, and I found myself sympathizing with both of them—or at least understanding where they were coming from—when they disagreed.

Onstad divides the novel into sections according to times of year, beginning in the autumn and jumping forward across months. The strength of her writing is underscored by the way each title resonates with the events of its corresponding section. The first section’s title, “The Day After Labor Day,” also brings out many of the book’s themes. It honors workers; it implies a return to work; and it can be a reminder of the many kinds of work related to parenting, from the work of childbirth to the work of raising a child.

The final irony of Everybody Has Everything is the title phrase isn’t true for these characters. No matter how much they do have or achieve, each of them is missing something, or someone, vital. It seems to me the book’s title is an inverted description of the characters’ lives: everybody does not have everything. Nor does everything come easily.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Rachel, who has a Ph.D. in English, is a freelance writer/editor and a voracious reader. You can talk to her about books at http://twitter.com/writehandmann.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Grand Central Publishing. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Unnatural Murder by Connie Dial

[ 1 ] September 5, 2014

18619651Reviewed by Jessa Larsen

There’s a high profile homicide on the streets of Hollywood with dozens of witnesses, but nobody seems to have seen anything of importance. At least nothing they’re admitting to seeing. Honestly, Captain Jose Corsino isn’t surprised. This is the slums of Santa Monica Boulevard, not the high end glitz of Hollywood. You’re more likely to see prostitutes, drug addicts, gang members, and runaway teens than glamorous celebrities or politicians. Unless, of course, those penthouse tenants turn out to have secret lives as transvestites. But that causes it’s own set of problems for the Captain, because the very people that rubbed shoulders with the victim seem determined to leave the case unsolved.

Mere hours after the discovery of the first dead transvestite, another homicide in the same neighborhood turns this sticky case into an absolute disaster. No matter where they look, they can’t seem to get any closer to solving either case. As they delve deeper and deeper into this bizarre world of cross dressing secrets, the mystery just gets stranger and stranger.

Captain Josie Corsino is back and she has the responsibility of handling the case, her subordinates, and her own messy personal life. Her husband has left her, her son has moved out, and she still can’t seem to figure anything out. Things get even more interesting, and potentially complicated, when an old friend comes back to town to help with the current case. Will she rise above it? Or will it trap her and drag her completely under?

I love just about anything by Connie Dial and Unnatural Murder was no exception. I wouldn’t say that cop dramas or mysteries are typically my genre of choice, but something about how Dial puts it all together just works and works very well. I like to think I’m pretty clever and I usually smell the rat from a mile away (or in this case, before I get halfway through the book), but Dial’s clever twists and turns kept me guessing until the final reveal at the end. I love that she took a potentially hot topic and kept it appropriately intriguing. I feel like Dial just knows reality and weaves a little bit of it into her fiction, making it exciting and giving me characters to fall in love with. I will continue to follow Captain Josie Corsino wherever she ends up going next.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Jessa lives in Utah with her husband, 2 sons, 2 dogs and a cat called Number One Boots Kitten. She is a full time mom and enjoys writing short stories in her spare time. She also likes watching anime, reading books, and playing video games.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by The Permanent Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Sniper’s Honor by Bob Lee Swagger

[ 0 ] August 31, 2014

18668498Reviewed by Caleb Shadis

I found Sniper’s Honor to be a very good read. I do tend to enjoy a book that tells a story of the past and the present in tandem. Here we have Bob Lee Swagger, a rather famous contemporary sniper who learns about Milli Petrova, a WWII Russian sniper who killed Nazis and then disappeared. We get the two stories in parallel–Bob trying to find out what happened to Milli and Milli’s story.

Swagger’s friend Kathy Reilly, a reporter for the Washington Post, sent him an email asking about an old Russian sniper rifle. It peaks Bob’s interest, especially when she mentions it’s in relation to a Russian sniper who disappeared from all the records. A beautiful woman sniper.

Swagger decides to hop a plane and go help his friend do a little snooping to see if between them they can find out what happened to Milli. After they meet up and start poking around, Bob is surprised when a car almost runs him and Kathy down in the road. That’s when he starts wondering if someone was still trying to hide whatever it was that happened to Sergeant Petrova.

What we learn is that she was betrayed by someone in her own government to the Nazis. Stalin sent her to assassinate a man that a high ranking Nazi spy couldn’t afford to have killed. So he betrayed her and did his best to erase her from the record books. This makes Bob and Kathy’s job much more difficult.

I really enjoyed reading this book. There was a lot of good information about snipers in general as well as Russian WWII snipers in particular. I also enjoyed learning about some of the battles that happened on the Russian side against the Germans. Most history classes I’ve had focus on the Western European battles. They leave the Russian side as mostly throwing lots of troops at the Germans to win by extremely superior numbers, like trying to breach a wall of a fortified city. I liked the story on both ends, and I thought it was very well written. It was certainly very engaging and I plan to be reading more Bob Lee Swagger books in the future!

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Caleb is a software engineer and amateur woodworker living in southern Minnesota. He has more hobbies than he has time or money for, and enjoys his quiet time reading.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Simon & Schuster. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Queen of Hearts by Rhys Bowen

[ 4 ] August 29, 2014

Queen of HeartsReviewed by Caleb Shadis

Queen of Hearts is the 8th book in the Royal Spyness Mysteries. While you really don’t need to read these in order, I would recommend reading at least one of the previous books before diving in here. In my opinion, Queen of Hearts is where prior stories are becoming more important.

This time Georgie’s mom is doing something nice for her, though like everything else Claire Daniels does, it’s still mostly for herself. Whatever the reason, Georgie is more than happy to accept an all expenses paid trip, first class to America. More specifically to Reno, Nevada where Mummy is planning to get a quiet divorce from her millionaire Texan husband so she can marry Max, her German millionaire boyfriend.

Like everywhere else Georgie goes, excitement follows. While on-board the ship to America, she witnesses what appears to be a body tossed over the side, and a famous ruby is stolen from an Indian princess. And to her good fortune, Darcy happens to be on the ship, though she wasn’t supposed to know. Turns out he’s sent to chase down a jewel thief that seems to always show up wherever the actress Stella Brightwell is attending social gatherings. So he’s been trailing her, hoping to find some clues to who and how.

While on the ship, Cy Goldman and Stella convinced Georgie’s mum to be Queen Mary in a Hollywood film. It was going to be a love story, where Mary and Elizabeth are fighting over King Philip of Spain. Elizabeth as the younger sister was going to be played by Stella. A lot more drama was going on behind the scenes for the movie than was being captured on the film. Georgie was mostly enjoying herself and going along for the ride. Eventually someone is murdered and Georgie steps in to help find the killer.

This series is moving high on my list of favorites. They are fun reads and definitely fall into the cozy English murder mysteries. Georgie gets into more trouble because of her naivety which just increases the humor of it all. I do highly recommend this series and I continue to look forward to the next book–it’s still going strong after eight!

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Caleb is a software engineer and amateur woodworker living in southern Minnesota. He has more hobbies than he has time or money for, and enjoys his quiet time reading.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Berkley. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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