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Category: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

Review: After Her by Joyce Maynard

[ 5 ] August 21, 2013

AfterHer_hc_revisedReviewed by Nina Longfield

Joyce Maynard’s novel, After Her, is so much more than just another mystery thriller. Within the pages, the reader is entangled in an intricate tale of family secrets, coming of age, rebellion, teenage dreams, and over everything is the menacing presence of an unknown serial killer.

After Her is the story of Rachel and Patty growing up in Marin County, north of San Francisco. The story is told from Rachel’s point of view looking back thirty years to hers and her sister’s lives during the time of the Sunset Strangler. Rachel and Patty enter the story as two young teens discussing boys, Patty’s desire to play women’s professional basketball, and their hopes, all while traipsing over the mountain behind their home looking for excitement to enter their lives. Until they find it with dangerous, life changing consequences through an encounter with a man simply known at the Sunset Strangler, a serial killer prowling the mountains of Marin County to the beat of “My Sharona”.

Rachel has visions and she claims to witness via her hallucinations the crimes of the Sunset Strangler. She is repulsed and, at the same time, riveted by her dreams of these atrocious murders. Rachel’s and Patty’s father, Detective Tony Torricelli is lead investigator of the Sunset Strangler case, and it is their fateful decision to help their father that may have led to his untimely downfall and release as detective on the case. It takes Rachel thirty years of moving away before she looks back to her time on the mountain at the time of the Strangler case with clearer, investigative eyes.

After Her was a difficult book to set down. Maynard’s writing style is fluid and her characters compelling. The story comes to us from Rachel’s memories, yet Maynard seamlessly transitions from the reflections of an adult Rachel to the teenager’s mind giving the reader a keen insight into Rachel’s fourteen year old thoughts. With each turn of the page, I was led deeper into the labyrinth of Rachel’s tale. I kept reading wanting to know what was happening around the next bend of the story.

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 William Morrow. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Blog Tour & Giveaway: Mystery Girl by David Gordon

[ 16 ] August 17, 2013

images (1)Please join David Gordon, author of Mystery Girl, as he tours the blogosphere with TLC Book Tours.

Enter to win a copy below – open to US and Canada!

Reviewed by Marcus Hammond

Mystery Girl by David Gordon is a complexly written and enjoyable comedic mystery that involves intrigue, humor, and deep character reflection. Sam Kornberg, a failed experimental novelist, who has recently separated from his wife and is struggling to find an identity, narrates the story.

In trying to meet his wife’s lofty demands to become more motivated and successful, he takes a job assisting an obese, eccentric private detective. Completely out of his element, Sam fumbles around LA trying to follow a mysterious and beautiful young woman. The young woman he is charged to investigate may or may not be missing, may or may not be mixed up with a litany of indecent, despicable, and dangerous characters from Mexico to California, and may or may not be the answer to Sam’s romantic woes.

There are a lot of layers to this novel that make it intriguing. Sam deals with the chaos of his life with critical self-reflection that can only come from learning lessons through failure. In one instance Sam reflects on the how many laws he is breaking as he crouches in dog excrement outside the window of the beautiful mystery girl’s house. In another instance he explains the importance of authors like James Joyce and Marcel Proust to the literary tradition. Sam’s scattered thoughts are laughable and totally believable. The odd combination of Sam’s bumbling, freshman detective mishaps and his insightful, educated musings about literature and movies provide likable and relatable character development.

The large cast of secondary characters that surround Sam also help define him as a regular guy with an extraordinary, disaster-prone life. Among the different personalities Sam has to deal with are his adulterous, condescending wife, a snobby movie lover, a bi-sexual former bookstore owner, and his obese employer. All of these characters allow Sam to see his past and present with a clarity that can only be achieved through hindsight.

There are a lot of moments throughout the novel that will make the reader laugh out loud, which compliments the noir grit of the mystery aspect perfectly. At one point, as Sam tails his mystery girl, he dons a blonde wig to become unrecognizable in an upscale, sex shop. The absurdity of the disguise and the entire situation proves just how out of his element Sam is as a detective.

David Gordon’s writing style is emotional, realistic, and enjoyable, though he does have a distinct love for lengthy, run-on sentences that can feel overwhelming. With that aside, Mystery Girl is a surprisingly funny, gritty, and at times shocking mystery that could make a lazy weekend pass by quickly.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

After obtaining a Masters in Liberal Arts and Literature Marcus has dedicated most of his time to teaching English Composition for a community college in the Midwest. In his down time, he spends time avidly reading an eclectic selection of books and doing freelance writing whenever he gets the chance. He lives in Kansas with his wife.

Review and giveaway copies were provided free of any obligation by New Harvest. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Reviver by Seth Patrick

[ 2 ] August 10, 2013

imagesReviewed by Amanda Farmer

Reviver is Seth Patrick’s debut novel and I have to say it’s a pretty good start to a wonderful trilogy. Readers will find themselves following Jonah Miller as he confronts a dark “passenger”. Jonah is a reviver, someone who is able to bring back the dead briefly for the family to say a final goodbye or for the police to find out what happened to them. During a few of Jonah’s last revivals, he has started noticing lingering memories from the deceased and a feeling of something dark and sinister watching and following him.

Jonah meets Annabel (daughter of the first journalist to write about revivers) and their lives are thrown into a whirlwind of conspiracies, complicated friendships, and something much more dark and deadly than either could have imagined.

I loved reading this first book and cannot wait for the second one to be released. I enjoyed reading about the concept of revivers and how they changed how death was viewed by most. There are some who believe that the dead should be allowed to rest and dislike revivers. I was immediately along on the ride with Jonah, Annabel, Jonah’s friend Never (who never gives up on Jonah), and Michael Andreas (one of the first to work with revivers and make a profit from them). Reviver had me guessing all the way to the end about what was going to happen next and why. And the ending…let’s just say there is much more to the story than I ever expected.

Overall, this is a well written book that doesn’t let up until the end. I highly recommend this story to all who like a good murder mystery, some paranormal thrown in, and a dash of forensics. As a side note, there are rumors that this book might become a movie. I would definitely watch it.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Amanda loves spending time at home with her husband and their dog, Oreo. She loves reading, playing puzzle games, beading and watching movies. When she’s not reading, she’s working on her Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by St. Martin’s Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Fleeting Note by Sherban Young

[ 1 ] August 8, 2013

images (5)Reviewed by Jennifer Jensen

Fleeting Note, the third novel in Sherban Young’s light-hearted mystery series featuring Enescu Fleet and John P. Hathaway, brings the two sleuths together once again when Enescu invites Hath to attend a dinner party in honor of Romanian composer George Fleet–someone whom Enescu is not even related to. Each of the central characters has his or her own reasons for attending the party, but what no one expected was a dead body to “drop in” during dinner.

With his dying words being “Frank Sinatra,” John and friends find themselves with one potential clue and a murderer to catch. Could it have been Victoria, whose eyes are as blue as the crooner’s? Or Henry Pratt, whose mannerisms strongly resemble Frank Sinatra’s? Or what if the victim meant something else by his last words altogether?

While murder is no laughing matter, Young’s caper is filled with clever turns of phrase. As with Fleeting Memory, the first novel I read by Sherban Young, Fleeting Note has plenty of quirky characters, an intriguing mystery, and several side arcs to keep readers on their toes. I was especially amused by a musician who changed his name to something more exotic, and the kidnapped Maltese.

One of my concerns with reading Fleeting Memory had been some light punctuation errors, and I was pleased to see that Fleeting Note was nearly flawless. A great proofreader/editor helped make a good book even greater.

I recommend Sherban Young’s mystery caper series to readers who haven’t yet tried the genre, are looking for unique and fresh story lines, or who love to laugh out loud and who won’t get upset if they can’t figure out the killer’s identity before the sleuthing duo. I normally love to try to figure out “whodunnit,” but Hathaway’s narrative and his back-and-forth with Enescu is far too entertaining to simply gloss over; I like it so much I often have to back track to find out what happened with the killer.

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 Sherban Young. Compensation was received but in no way influenced the thoughts and opinions expressed in this review.

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Blog Tour & Giveaway: The Tudor Conspiracy by C.W. Gortner

[ 19 ] August 6, 2013

The Tudor Conspiracy USPlease welcome C.W. Gortner, author of The Tudor Conspiracy, as he tours the blogosphere with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours!

Enter to win a copy of the book below – open to US and Canada residents.

Reviewed by Colleen Turner

It’s the winter of 1554 and Mary Tudor is now the queen of England. While she took her throne with the support of her subjects, the fact that she is now contemplating marriage to the Catholic Prince Philip of Spain does not sit well with many. Many would rather see Mary’s half sister, the Protestant Princess Elizabeth, as queen and it is this fact that allows the seeds of doubt and betrayal to ferment in Mary. These doubts are helped along by the Spanish ambassador Renard who will stop at nothing to see Philip on the English throne and Elizabeth in her grave. So when Elizabeth is ordered to come to court and put under close watch, her adviser William Cecil must send someone to protect her.

Brendan Prescott has been living quietly at Hatfield House in Elizabeth’s employ since nearly losing his life in protecting Mary and Elizabeth from the schemes of the now-dead Duke of Northumberland, the man who attempted to steal the throne from Mary and proclaimed her cousin, Jane Grey, as queen. But having sworn to serve Elizabeth, Brendan must return to the dangerous court he hates to protect his mistress once again. His job will be anything but easy, however, when he finds himself a double agent, working for Mary to try and find evidence that Elizabeth is plotting with others to place herself on the throne while trying to keep Elizabeth safe. In a world where it seems no one’s loyalty can be trusted, Brendan must use his skills as an intelligencer to try to not only discover the truth but to keep his mistress, himself and those he loves alive, something that will prove harder than he ever thought possible.

The Tudor Conspiracy is the second book in C.W. Gortner’s The Spymaster Chronicles and I would highly recommend anyone interested in this series start with the first book, The Tudor Secret. Without first reading The Tudor Secret the intricate and weaving relationships between the characters cannot be fully appreciated. Hinted at past wrongs and the heartfelt reunions just don’t seem as poignant when you haven’t read what happened before. For me, I like to feel fully absorbed in what is going on. And this is a great series to become absorbed in!

While Brendan Prescott is fictional he is a wonderfully entertaining character to have as that crucial person able to go between Mary and Elizabeth’s intimate circles as well as into the underbelly of London. He is intelligent, tough and snarky when he needs to be and it seems like he can blend in to most surroundings, even when he becomes increasingly injured in his dealings with those that would happily see him and the woman he serves dead. He is able to witness people in different lights – whether vulnerable behind closed doors or strong and determined in front of others – and this well rounded view allows the reader to see that most people Brendan comes into contact with are usually not all good or bad. This also makes it harder to determine who is telling the truth and who isn’t, as well as why they might be lying, all of which adds to the suspense and mystery permeating the story.

So much is written about the Tudors and it can be hard to find stories that haven’t been told a hundred times before. The Tudor Conspiracy deals with the immediate time before, during and after the Wyatt Revolt of 1544, a time and situation that has been discussed in other books I’ve read but not used as the central conspiracy. There is so much to love here, with suspense, action, history, intrigue and even a little bit of romance that it would be hard not to find something to enjoy. This is a must read for anyone who loves a dramatic Tudor story.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Colleen lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband, son, their dog Oliver and their fish Finn. When not working or taking care of her family she has her nose stuck in a book (and, let’s face it, often when she is working or taking care of her family as well). Nothing excites her more than discovering a new author to obsess over or a hidden jewel of a book to worship.

Review and giveaway copies were provided free of any obligation by St. Martin’s Griffin. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro

[ 8 ] August 2, 2013

9781616203160_p0_v2_s260x420Reviewed by Jax Kepple

Beware of the sexy, charismatic gallery owner! Claire Roth, clawing her way back into the lowest rungs of the art world after a humiliating incident with her former artist boyfriend and the MoMa, gets an enticing offer from Aiden Markel that she cannot refuse. Only when she learns exactly what is needed of her does she question her talent, her ambitions and her place in the ever-fickle Boston creatives.

Years ago, Claire Roth took credit for a painting submitted by her then-boyfriend Isaac. When her talents were rejected as authentic, she hit rock bottom, living in her artists studio on a mattress on the floor and painting copies of famous paintings for As part of the agreement for her to work at that site, she agrees to an interview that praises her for being an expert copyist for paintings by Edgar Degas. This article piques the interest of Aiden Markel, her previous boyfriend’s art dealer who comes to her with an offer that plunges her into the high brow art world.

In 1990, a theft at the Isalbella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston resulted in several famous pieces of artwork worth hundreds of millions disappearing into thin air. In The Art Forger, one of these painting is the fictional Edgar Degas After the Bath that suddenly reappears out of nowhere when Markel asks Claire to paint a forgery of it for an international buyer.

The Art Forger was an engaging, interesting read that made the technical aspects of painting and forging painting easy to follow for non-artists. Author B.A. Shapiro expertly moves the story along, while intertwining letters from the gallery owner to her niece and retelling exactly what happened three years earlier with Isaac. Claire is a very likable main character, with just enough faults to make her believable. The ending, with one final twist, was great and kept me guessing until the big reveal.

I did feel as though the Markel character was a bit too good to be true, but he made for the perfect antagonist for Claire, who was completely satisfied in her middle-of-the-road existence before he came along and made her push her boundaries. All in all, a very enjoyable read.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Jax is in an accountant at a hedge fund. She resides in NYC with her husband.

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

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