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Category: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

Review: Sister Eve, Private Eye by Lynne Hinton

[ 4 ] December 8, 2014

sister eve private eye book coverReviewed by Caleb Shadis

Sister Eve, Private Eye is the first book in a new series and I consider this a very promising start. Sister Eve has been a nun for the last 20 years. Her father was a police officer and after retiring years earlier he started his own detective agency. He also happens to be a diabetic with complications and is about to get his leg amputated below the knee. Eve finds out while he’s on his way in to surgery. Since it’s only her, her dad and her sister (who has a new job and can’t get away), it is up to Eve to help her dad recover and get back on his (remaining) foot.

Prior to his surgery, Sister Eve’s dad was working on a missing person’s case. Chaz Cheston, a rather famous director, disappeared and his rather famous movie star mistress, Megan Flint, wanted to find out what happened. By chance, Chaz is found by a rancher who gives trail rides to both those who love horseback riding and to those who don’t know which end of the horse to feed. They stopped to observe a beautiful scenic overlook when one of the guests spotted a body down below and then fainted and fell into a soft spot on the trail provided by her own horse…

After the discovery of the body, it became a murder investigation and Megan became the number one suspect. She had had a fight with Chaz before his disappearance and she lied about where she was and when she was there.

Instead of going back to the convent, Eve keeps finding excuses to stay and help her dad. She doesn’t want to admit it, but she really likes the detective work and is becoming disillusioned with her job as a nun.

I found this to be a great book and I certainly hope that the series continues. It falls fairly close into the cozy mysteries with no gratuitous sex or violence. The mystery was a decent one and the writing was good. Sister Eve is human and she has a lot of things to deal with and taking care of the old man seems to be making her face some of them. I highly recommend this mystery.

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 Kelley and Hall Publicity. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The Heiresses by Sara Shepard

[ 3 ] December 1, 2014

the heiresses book coverReviewed by Carrie Ardoin

The Heiresses was a little Kardashians meets Gossip Girl with elements of a whodunit mystery thrown in for good measure. Usually, this type of book wouldn’t appeal to me, but getting to know the Saybrook heiresses was quickly intriguing, and I had to find out why this seemingly perfect family seemed to have a curse surrounding them.

The Saybrooks are that one family who is rich beyond measure and always seems to be in the public eye (Kardashian-esque, right?). The family owns a large jewelry corporation, and there are five young ladies who stand to take over the business and inherit it all. The five cousins couldn’t be any more different but all four look up to oldest cousin, Poppy. Poppy has always been the portrait of poise, kindness, and grace–so why does end she end up murdered, the latest victim of the Saybrook curse?

The reader gets to know the four remaining Saybrook heiresses through short chapters with rotating points of view. Rowan is a lawyer, businesslike and perpetually single. Corinne is planning a wedding to a man she thought she was in love with, until someone from her past comes back into her world. Aster, Corinne’s sister, is a wild child party girl, but she has to put her childish ways aside when the family becomes targeted. Natasha, the youngest, has disinherited herself and distanced herself from the family, but comes back when she hears about Poppy’s death. Though these women are family, they definitely don’t always get along, and ugly secrets tend to come to light when they all get together.

A mystery does lie at the heart of the plot, but the most fascinating part of reading was getting to know each woman individually. That doesn’t mean each of them was likable though. More than once, they would make bad decisions or just not care about the consequences of what they did. A couple of the girls are young–that doesn’t really excuse them but it makes the things they do more understandable.

I can honestly say that when the truth came out about the murders and everything else, I didn’t see it coming. I did not suspect the true murderer at all! This is a sign of good writing, and the fact that the reader and the Saybrook girls suspect nearly everyone BUT this person is pretty amazing.

The Heiresses does have several unanswered questions which I won’t spoil, but the ending of the book seems to imply that it will be the first in a series. I feel like this isn’t necessary, simply because the market is overflooded with series right now but I will probably be adding the next book to my reading list anyway.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Carrie runs the blog Sweet Southern Home, and is a stay at home wife and mom to one little boy. When she’s not reading, she’s usually watching Netflix with her husband, playing outside with her son, or baking. Her family would describe her as sometimes annoyingly sarcastic, but mostly lovable. 

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

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Review: The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain

[ 10 ] November 26, 2014

the silent sister book coverReviewed by Colleen Turner

When Riley MacPherson returns to her home town of New Bern, North Carolina after her father’s death she assumes it will only take a week or two to put her father’s affairs in order and sell her childhood home. However, as she meets with her father’s attorney for the reading of the will and begins the painful process of emptying his house, she discovers evidence and information that contradicts everything she believed about her family. At the center of the mysteries is the fact that her older sister, Lisa, whom Riley had always been told committed suicide when Riley was very young, might in fact be alive and living under a new identity. But this discovery brings up more questions than answers and as Riley sets out to unravel the mysteries surrounding her family she discovers the truth is something she could never have imagined.

Diane Chamberlain has become an author I search for whenever I go looking for an enjoyable book to read, one with complex characters and storylines unraveling to expose the mysteries hiding around every corner. The Silent Sister lives up to what I now expect from her excellent storytelling. I could not help but feel sorry for Riley as she continued to unravel the lies her life had been built on and protective of her as she had to deal with those around her using their knowledge of her family’s history for their own selfish reasons. Then there was her distant and angry brother, Danny, scarred from his own dealings with their family and his time serving in Iraq. For much of the novel it is hard to decide who is being honest with Riley and whom she can trust but once all the pieces fall into place I felt satisfied that Riley had learned the truth and would be able to move on with her life as it now stood.

Most of the novel is from Riley’s point of view but scattered throughout the middle is Lisa’s story, giving the reader a better understanding and justification for the events that took place. While I didn’t end up agreeing with all of Lisa’s actions by the last page I could understand her motives as well as the motives of her parents, giving a nice rounded feeling to the narrative. None of these characters are perfect and that is exactly what made them feel so real and relatable.

My only real issue with the story was the sporadic references to Riley’s recent breakup with her married boyfriend. I didn’t feel this had a place in the story and, while it doesn’t detract from it, it also doesn’t add any real depth or development to her character or her motivations. It just felt superfluous.

Diane Chamberlain is a prolific and much loved author and anyone who already enjoys her books will no doubt love this one as well. For those who haven’t discovered her yet this is a wonderful book to start with. Just be prepared to want to read all her other novels once you start!

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

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Review: Weirdo by Cathi Unsworth

[ 3 ] November 25, 2014

weirdo book coverReviewed by Melanie Kline

Weirdo was a completely appropriate title for this book. The weirdo was supposed to be the main character, Corinne Woodrow, but I found the real weirdo to be the author of the book who thought the story made any sense at all and who made it at least 200 pages too long.

Corinne was convicted of the ritualistic murder of one of her classmates. Many years later, Sean Ward – former detective with the Metropolitan Police – reopens the case. He does not believe that Corinne acted alone. DNA testing showed that there was at least one other person at the scene and he is intent on proving her innocence. Corinne refuses to talk about the case and who may or may not have been there with her.

Weirdo jumps around different times and events so as to completely confuse you as to whether things are happening in real time or in the past. There are so many characters involved that it is almost impossible to keep track of who is currently fighting with who, what they are fighting about and the whole storyline altogether. Teenagers come with a lot of drama, but I honestly could not keep up with the antics in this story.

Typical of this sort of book, Sean Ward receives conflicting information from the police, classmates and everyone he talks to and he knows that they are holding information back from him, but can do nothing but try to find the truth between the cracks. Weirdo reads exactly like every TV crime series you can tune into without the “personalization” of the characters. Weirdo was half chaos and half a completely transparent storyline.

I would not recommend Weirdo to anyone who is not stuck somewhere with absolutely nothing to do except read this book. The climax of what really happened came so far into the book that it was almost the ending and it was the absolute most ridiculous event I’ve ever read. This book was nowhere near ready for publication and over half of it should have been cut completely out.

Rating: ½☆☆☆☆ 

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

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Review: Lock In by John Scalzi

[ 1 ] November 21, 2014

lock in by scalzi book coverReviewed by Caleb Shadis

Lock In by John Scalzi was much better than I expected. In fact, it was a very good book. The audiobook I listened to was read by Wil Wheaton and he did an excellent job as the narrator as well. This book takes place in our not so distant future–about 30-35 years after a terrible calamity had struck.

The story starts about 25 years after the pandemic that eventually comes to be called the Hadens Syndrome. It started as a serious flu which was just as deadly as most others, only more virulent.  It also had a long gestation time; those sick and spreading it were not aware of doing so until it was too late. Some recovered like normal and others experienced a second stage of meningitis like symptoms. Of those that survived a small percentage suffered the lock in. Lock in was basically like being a conscious person stuck in a comatose body. No body movement, no eye blinking, nothing.

The name Hadens was attached to the disease after President Haden’s wife suffered through the lock in. The President initiated a full blown effort on finding ways to help the millions of people suffering from lock in. After about two years it really paid off. Those afflicted with lock in were fitted with neural nets that allowed them to send and receive input from different devices, and controllable robots were made to fill a need. Along with the robots, they had web based system that allowed them to communicate with each other.

Now to the present day–Chris Shane is starting his first day on the job as an FBI agent just as millions of Hadens are taking to the streets in protest over a bill that was passed cutting funding to a program that subsidized health care costs. Chris and his partner Leslie are part of the FBI Haden specialist team. Anytime a Haden is involved in a crime it falls into their jurisdiction since a Haden can be across state lines when actually committing the crime. Chris’ first crime scene is at a hotel where a loveseat was thrown from a window and a deadman and a Integrator are found in the room.

This is the start of a rollercoaster ride for Chris’ first week of work. He travels across the country to investigate and even spends some time on the Navajo reservation. There is a big conspiracy going on with a lot of money behind it. Not everything is as it seems and known ‘truths’ are needing to be questioned. Hadens appear to be behind the crimes, but who, how, and why are all tough questions to answer and they are running out of time.

I thought Lock In had a great storyline; it brought up a lot of issues around the treatment of minorities as well as how we all treat and view each other. The mystery was less of a who did it and more of a how was it done. I really liked the social commentary because it was so well blended in as part of the story. Great job by both John Scalzi and Wil Wheaton.

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

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Review: Weapon of Vengeance by Mukul Deva

[ 2 ] November 19, 2014

weapon of vengeance book coverReviewed by Cal Cleary

Peace between Israel and Palestine hinges on a secret conference to be held in India in just ten short days. Ravinder Gill, a hyper-competent security agent who hates the political games you have to play to rise higher in government, has been put in charge of securing the event. He has no lead time, a meddling superior, an incompetent but politically connected lackey constantly trying to go over his head, and a long-lost daughter from his first marriage who has only recently reappeared in his life. Who appears to have some ties to MI6. Whose mother and uncles were all Palestinian extremists. Who just might be the woman spearheading the expected terror attack on the Peace Summit.

Weapon of Vengeance author Mukul Deva, an Indian counterterrorism professional, has imbued this book with a lot of specificity that helps sell some of its more outlandish elements. There has been a lot of press surrounding the book highlighting its technical specificity – the tactics, the weapons, the bureaucracy – and that will definitely help it stand out. But I also appreciated its cultural specificity. Weapon of Vengeance tackles terrorism and the Middle East from an Indian perspective, and whether Deva is talking about the way marriage works among Indians of royal descent or the dangers of working security in an environment like this, the book manages to feel considerably different from similarly-themed British and American thrillers.

But Deva is not a writer by trade, and it shows. The plot is incredibly thin, which hampers a bit of the ‘thrill’ you’d expect from a thriller – everything plays pretty much straight, with every lead taking Ravinder in the right direction and every decision further damning would-be terrorist Ruby. The female characters are pretty roundly awful – Ruby is a nervous extremist constantly pining for daddy to hold her, her mother is shrill and deceitful, and the American CIA agent is almost staggeringly incompetent, too busy preening for the attention of her hunky British counterpart to notice when she literally stumbles into the middle of an active terror plot. And Ravinder is idealized to an absurd degree; no character is more competent, more morally pure, smarter, or quicker, all of which takes a little bit of the wind out of the sails here.

Authenticity is nice, but it has to be paired with solid, basic storytelling in order to be effective (see: The Battle of Algiers), and that’s where Weapon of Vengeance falls perilously flat. There is a lot of neat cultural specificity that lends the book a considerable charm, and the detailed nature of the thriller plot (when the thriller plot is actually doing anything) will likely win over strategy-nuts, but there are far, far better terrorism thrillers available. A far-too-thin plot and a gaggle of spectacularly insipid female characters mar an otherwise interesting (and incredibly timely!) thriller with a decent hook and enough emotional realism to help offset the expected genre conventions.

Rating: ★½☆☆☆ 

Cal Cleary is a librarian, critic and writer in rural Ohio. You can find more of his work at read/RANT and Comics Crux.

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

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