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Category: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

Review: The Unholy by Paul DeBlassie III

[ 1 ] January 6, 2015

the unholy book coverReviewed by Nina Longfield

Paul DeBlassie’s novel, The Unholy, begins in an unknown past. A young, unnamed girl watches a horrific event. On a dark night in the wild mountains, amongst the horror that she witnesses, there is magic in the night to protect her. The novel shifts to a contemporary scene and introduces Claire Sanchez, director of mental health workers at the Ecclesia Dei Psychiatric Hospital on the Aztlan Plaza.

The Unholy is a novel of haunted souls. Claire Sanchez is intelligent, insightful, difficult to know, and evading both her past and her future. She lives on the Aztlan Plaza at the base of the high-mountain desert, considered by natives to be the naval of the world. It is here in Aztlan that varying cultures come together, some blend, some resist, some conflict. Claire’s past leaves her wary of the priests of the Ecclesia Dei. These are the men in black requiring complete obeisance and monetary salvation. The Ecclesia Dei is led by a cunning, sharp thinking, ruthless Archbishop Anarch. The Archbishop is a man of determination. He builds a holy empire within the Aztlan helping the poor but also living a luxuriant life on his holy rewards.

Claire’s guardian, Francesca, is an Aztlan medicine woman, mestizas, like Claire’s mother, Lucia, was. Francesca guides Claire and gives Claire grounding as the conflicting forces of Claire’s life threaten to destroy her. Francesca is wise in the ancient teachings of the mestizas and waits patiently as Claire determines her destiny. It is Francesca who warns Claire that Archbishop Anarch is seeking information about her and begins to shows Claire a mystery surrounding the Ecclesia Dei.

The Unholy is an intriguing story melding together the mythology of Aztlan medicine women, the mystery of a past event with the contemporary work of a young mental health worker, and a secret surrounding the wealthy priestly order of Ecclesia Dei. Paul DeBlassie III has a keen eye for detail describing the characters and settings of his novel, The Unholy, with deft skill. This descriptive imagery is also at times a downside to the novel as the descriptions of every detail removes the reader from the immediacy of the building action. These scenes resolve themselves as the story continues leading deeper into the story and the reasons behind the mystery.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Nina Longfield is a writer living in Oregon’s fertile wine country. When she is not reading or writing in her spare time, Nina enjoys hiking in the hills surrounding her cabin.

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

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Review: Die Again by Tess Gerritsen

[ 4 ] January 3, 2015

die again book coverReviewed by Jessa Larsen

Homicide detective, Jane Rizzoli, and medical examiner, Maura Isles, have arrived at the latest crime scene and are greeted by a crime scene worthy of the king of the jungle, including claw marks on the victim’s body. But, due to the manner in which the corpse was left, it has been determined that only a sinister monster could have taken the infamous big-game hunter, Leon Gott, and left him hanging like one of his own trophies. Did Gott piss off the wrong animal rights activist? Or perhaps the renowned hunter eventually became the hunted?

As Rizzoli and Isles examine the crime scene, they soon realize that Gott is not the first victim and, if they can’t find the killer, he won’t be the last. Based on hunches and incredible instincts, they slowly link this recent murder to a slew of unsolved homicides across the country, including a cold case file in Africa from six years ago when a group of safari tourists fell prey to a killer in their midst. Maura and Jane wonder if the killer has found a new hunting ground and are working on a plan to lure him out of the shadows, before someone else gets hurt.

I didn’t realize, until after reading the snippet on the back of this book, that the TNT series of Rizzoli & Isles was based on a series of novels. I have to admit that the fact made me cringe a little and I wasn’t expecting to enjoy Die Again as much as I did. That being said, I may or may not have to indulge and see what I think of the TNT version of this fabulous duo.

I love a good detective thriller that can actually stump me and Tess Gerritsen did just that. And not only did I get a great thriller but it was also clever and subtle in its big reveal, leaving me surprised and satisfied with the conclusion. I hate when the big “twist” just smacks you in the face and loved that the one in Die Again treated me well. As I mentioned before, I don’t watch the TNT series, but I’m curious enough to possibly check it out. Either way, I definitely want to pick up another novel in the series and have some more adventures with Rizzoli and Isles.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Jessa lives in Utah with her husband, two kids, two small chihuahuas, and a cat called Number One Boots Kitten. She balances her work as a website admin with her hobbies of watching anime and playing video games.

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

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Blog Tour & Giveaway: The Unquiet Bones by Mel Starr

[ 13 ] January 2, 2015

unquiet bones book coverPlease join Mel Starr, author of The Unquiet Bones, as he tours the blogosphere with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Enter to win a copy below – open to U.S., Canada and Great Britain!

Reviewed by Caleb Shadis

The Unquiet Bones is the first book in the Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton and the next six books are already written! I think that is great news and have already put the next two on my wishlist. I also  received the seventh book, The Abbot’s Agreement, to review and it was just as good as the first. So I have high hopes for the intervening five!

Hugh Singleton has a couple older brothers and as such is expected to go out into the world and make his own way. He is smart so his first idea is to join the church and study. But by a twist of fate, he is given a book on medicine and decides to study to become a surgeon instead of a priest. He even travels to Paris to learn the latest techniques and theories.

Hugh uses up the last of his allowance from his father’s estate to learn and get back to England. He sets up shop on a street in Oxford and scrounges for enough to keep himself fed. He has just enough income to keep his belly and his landlord happy until one day he witnesses an accident in the street out front–a noble gets his thigh cut badly from a servant’s horse rearing.

After fixing up the noble, Hugh tells him that in a few weeks he will remove the stitches. He also advises him to watch for specific signs that would require his immediate attention. The wound heals well and when Hugh travels to check up on his patient, he is offered a position in the local village. He is honored and readily accepts. Hugh is soon given the opportunity to prove his worth; when a skeleton is discovered in the castle cesspit Hugh is tasked with investigating.

I thought this was a very well written book and I really enjoyed reading it. For those that have read Sister Fidelma I think these books will fit right in. There is less history and law but still a great story and a pretty good mystery. It’s also hard not to like Hugh de Singleton as the modest hero of the story.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

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 by Mel Starr. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The House on the Cliff by Charlotte Williams

[ 2 ] December 31, 2014

house on the cliff book coverReviewed by Jennifer Jensen

Charlotte Williams attracted me to The House on the Cliff with the lure of famous actor Gwydion Morgan connected to the mysterious death of his au pair decades earlier, and his therapist, the protagonist Jessica Mayhew, involved in her own issues, including a cheating husband and a daughter going through a rebellious stage.

All of these elements had the makings of a brilliant thriller, but the novel fell flat for me. I sympathized for Jessica, whose husband had a one-night stand with a co-worker, but I began to think much less of her later on in the book when she jeopardized her practice by having an entanglement with Gwydion, her client. I know very little about the protocol with therapy, but the one thing I do know is that there is doctor/patient confidentiality. I was completely shocked at how little Jessica seemed to respect Gwydion as a client; she shared far more with her husband and her friend, Mari, about Gwydion’s case than I felt she should have. Also up for scrutiny are Jessica’s parenting skills. When her daughter, Nella, becomes involved with an ex-client, Jessica does not become as involved in protecting her daughter as she should have.

By far the most intriguing aspect of the novel was the cold case involving Gwydion’s au pair, his disturbingly close relationship with his mother, and Jessica’s husband’s possible involvement with the drowning. I admit that I’m not always right in guessing the identity of the culprit, but this mystery was far too easy to solve, and I had it figured out well before the climax of the novel.

Williams’ writing was certainly fine in terms of pacing and structure, but the fact that I could not connect with her main character or her plausibility as a capable therapist distracted me from the entertainment value that The House on the Cliff may have otherwise provided me.

It’s possible that I may consider reading other works by Charlotte Williams in the future, but if they feature Jessica Mayhew or any of the other characters introduced in this book, I will absolutely have to pass.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Jennifer graduated from the University of Utah with a BA in English. She occasionally dabbles with her own fiction writing, particularly with the Young Adult and Paranormal genres. She currently resides in Utah with her husband and daughter.

Review copy was provided by Bourbon Street Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: A Witness Above by Andy Straka

[ 2 ] December 31, 2014

a witness above book coverReviewed by Sarah McCubbin

Meet Frank Pavlicek, a former New York City police detective currently working as a private investigator. As a young detective, his career in police work ended after a teenager and a police officer were both killed. Years later, that fateful day still hangs over his head. In A Witness Above – the first book in the Frank Pavlicek Mysteries – by Andy Straka, the reader is introduced to Frank while he is out falconing one morning. In the middle of nowhere, he manages to nearly stumble over a decomposing body. As an experienced PI, he quickly checks for clues and flips through a wallet near the body. Inside he happens to find his daughter’s phone number on a slip of paper, leaving him with a mystery to unravel.

What follows is the tale of Frank’s investigation as he seeks to find the connection between his daughter and the dead man, an apparent drug dealer. He finds himself working against the clock as the local authorities try to pin serious charges against his daughter. While working the case, Frank finds himself navigating his relationship with his ex-wife and her husband as well as his daughter all while under the scrutiny of small town living. Amidst the current murder investigation, Frank finds a connection that solves the NYC murder from years before when he was a police detective.

While this mystery lacks a lot of suspense, it does have a solid story line. The author does an excellent job of weaving together details and by the end, I was surprised to discover who actually committed the murder in question.

I did enjoy learning quite a bit about falconry as part of the storyline. Additionally, as Frank has to interact with local law enforcement officials, there are a lot of details and information on police procedure as well. A Witness Above is Straka’s debut book in the series. It is a strong beginning as the first in a series of Frank Pavlicek Mysteries. I enjoyed the audio version of this book narrated by Eddie Frierson and found his reading to be clear and even semi dramatized at times.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Sarah McCubbin is a homeschooling and foster mom in NE Ohio where she resides with her husband and 7 children. In addition to reading great books, she enjoys gardening, traveling and blogging at Living Unboxed.

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

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Review: And the Dark Sacred Night by Julia Glass

[ 5 ] December 29, 2014

and the dark sacred night book coverReviewed by Rachel Mann

Before I picked up And the Dark Sacred Night, I’d read several other books by Julia Glass, including Three Junes and The Whole World Over. Both of those are on my books-to-keep-forever shelf. This was enough to make me grab her latest novel without even needing to know its scope, and I’m so glad I did. The connections between And the Dark Sacred Night’s characters are numerous and fine, and to talk too much about the plot threatens to give the book’s darkness and sweetness away. It was a luxury to start reading this book without knowing spoilers: to discover its connections and be surprised by them as I read in real time.

So, I’d rather not focus on the plot. Instead, I’d prefer to leave others the possibility of finding these links between the book’s characters while they read, not before. The pleasure in this discernment is more than sufficient without the context of Glass’s other books; with that context, such links become even more poignant.

The book begins with a boy and a girl. Malachy and Daphne, teenagers at a music camp, are on the precipice of what seems like young love. I would have happily read a whole book with them as the protagonists, but that’s not the intention of the plot, although the two end up being crucial to the entire story.

The next section moves to a young family made up of a struggling couple, the unemployed Kit and his long-suffering wife Sandra, and their twins (Will and Fanny). Glass then swoops back to Malachy and Daphne. Following a brief scene with the two of them, Glass presents us with the wonderful character of Jasper, an older man who wears many hats, and—in just one of the novel’s many overlaps—is Kit’s stepfather. (I could read an entire book about Jasper, too!)

And the book continues with this interwoven structure. Daphne and Malachy appear at regular interludes, which soon reveal themselves to be taking place at a different time than the action in the book’s other, longer sections. After each interlude, the narrative shifts back to the relative present with Kit, Jasper, and other characters. Some of these people, like Fenno, will be familiar to those who have read Three Junes. (I was thrilled to see these Three Junes characters emerge again in And the Dark Sacred Night’s past and present, in others’ memories and as themselves.)

And the Dark Sacred Night is complicated and beautiful. The construction of the plot, and the layering of events and characters’ relationships to one another, is superb. My only question is to whom I should lend my copy. I can think of several people who would enjoy this book as much as I did.

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

Review copy was provided by Random House. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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