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Tag: "mystery"

Review: Parker Field by Howard Owen

[ 2 ] April 25, 2015

parker field book coverReviewed by Melanie Kline

Les, a former minor league baseball player in his seventies who does not seem to have any enemies, is shot with a high powered rifle and is lying in a hospital bed clinging to life. It is discovered that an addled former military man, now homeless, has broken into a vacant condo and shot him. Les’ sort of adopted son decides to investigate and figure out why anyone would want to harm such a quiet, harmless man.

Willie Black is a newspaper man, heavy drinker and three time loser in the marital game. Listening to Les’ buddy, Jimmy, talk about the old days and the team members and a team groupie, not so affectionately called Fannie Fling, Willie decides to do a piece on the old starting line up of Les’ old team, the Richmond Vees. He soon discovers that a number of the old guys are dead. Their deaths, in some instances, were rather premature and in others, somewhat suspicious.

Connecting with the younger sister of one of his boyhood friends, Cindy Peroni, Willie heads out to interview the kids, widows and ex-wives of some of the deceased as well as the one other remaining Vee. What he discovers brings him to death’s door and the solution to a puzzle he didn’t know existed.

There are too many characters in Parker Field and names being mentioned throughout. And because a lot of them are baseball players, they also have nicknames. About 25 or 30 pages into this, my head started to spin. I found it next to impossible to keep everyone straight and spent a lot of the story completely lost as to what was going on.

I wouldn’t recommend Parker Field to anyone as I did not enjoy anything about it and found the storyline entirely too difficult to follow. I believe that the book has great potential if it were rewritten minus many of the extra characters and events that are not relevant to the actual storyline. I was very disappointed as I was really looking forward to reading this book.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆ 

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: The Diabolical Miss Hyde by Viola Carr

[ 4 ] April 22, 2015

diabolical miss hyde book coverReviewed by Amanda Farmer

The Diabolical Miss Hyde was my first book by Viola Carr–pen name for Erica Hayes. I will admit that I was drawn to this book by its cover; I found it to be gorgeous and fitting for the story. The Diabolical Miss Hyde is a wonderful blend of steampunk, mystery, Penny Dreadful (TV show), murder, magic, and romance all entwined into a fast paced story. I loved how Carr wove all of the characters in the story and left it open for a sequel, which I cannot wait for.

The Diabolical Miss Hyde is about Dr. Eliza Jekyll, daughter of the famous Dr. Henry Jekyll. She is a crime scene investigator searching for the “chopper” (a murderer who is killing young women and slicing off their limbs). She is also a doctor for the mentally ill in the insane asylum and is researching ways to cure them with alchemy. She does all this in a world driven by men who look down upon her for being a woman and for doing things differently. She risks being arrested for her ways like her father before her and being burned at the stake by the Royal Society. The other side of her is Lizzie Hyde, the daughter of the famous Mr. Hyde. She is Eliza’s wilder, darker half, who is set free by her Dr. Jekyll’s famous elixir. Throughout the story they battle one another until they realize that they need one another to survive.

Throughout the story we are introduced to a number of characters. My favorites were Hippocrates, Eliza’s faithful mechanical pet/assistant; Inspector Harley Griffin, detective for the police and friend to Eliza; Remy Lafayette, who has a dark past; Sweeney Todd (Malaghi Todd), who is as dark and twisted as ever; and her mysterious benefactor, A.R., who has a secret of his own.

Carr does a wonderful job of incorporating the Jack the Ripper London with the Fey, who are seen as lesser individuals and looked down upon by society. I loved how the story wove everything neatly from the murders to the alchemy to the steampunk London. Readers will love Eliza and Lizzie’s banter and enjoy seeing the events from both point of views.

I will definitely be on the lookout for the sequel because I have to know what happens next. I flew through this story in a matter of days. Once I started it, I couldn’t put it down. I felt like I was in an episode of Penny Dreadful, which I also love. I would definitely recommend this story to all who love steampunk and enjoy a good monster or two in their story. I will be looking for more books by Viola Carr/Erica Hayes.

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 HarperCollins Publishers. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Blog Tour: Inspector of the Dead by David Morrell

[ 3 ] April 20, 2015

inspector of the dead book coverPlease join David Morrell, author of Inspector of the Dead, as he tours the blogosphere with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours!

Reviewed by Caleb Shadis

Inspector of the Dead is the second book in the De Quincey murder mystery series. Thomas De Quincey was a real person in the British empire in 1855 and a rather infamous one at that. This is a fictional account of the man, but the author tried to make the character act as close to his namesake as possible.

Thomas De Quincey, author of the infamous autobiography Confessions of an English Opium-Eater and the scandalously titled Postscript (On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts), is in London getting ready to go back home to face his creditors, to the relief of his temporary  benefactor Lord Palmerton.

Before his departure, De Quincey goes to church with his daughter Emily and two policemen (detectives Ryan and Becker). They befriended the policemen earlier when Emily helped to nurse them back to health. Just as the service is beginning, a murder appears to happen right under the nose of the presiding minister. No one saw the murderer come or go, but there is a dead woman with her throat cut and plenty of blood all around. The two police officers take charge of the situation and with the help of the famous war hero, Colonel Trask, they are able to question everyone about what they witnessed, which isn’t much.

Becker is sent to the home of the victim to notify the relations of the murder, only to find a slaughterhouse. This turns out to be just the beginning.  Not only that, but it looks like Queen Victoria was supposed to be the final target of a serial killer out for revenge.

De Quincey doggedly followed the clues, both physical and psychological, to try and track down the brutal killer.

I found this to be a great murder mystery and thought it was very well done with a lot of research into London of the time period. The author even had a map of London from that time period so that readers could accurately follow characters through Victorian London. I very much plan to read the first book, Murder as a Fine Art, and will also keep my eyes open for any further adventures of this sleuth.

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 by Hachette Book Group. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The Devil You Know by Elisabeth de Mariaffi

[ 3 ] April 18, 2015

devil you know book coverReviewed by Len Steiner

Initial general comments: The Devil You Know is a debut novel by Canadian short story author and short story collection prize nominee Elisabeth de Mariaffi. The story is based loosely on the Bernardo Investigation Review – Report of Mr. Justice Archie Campbell that involved a fictional depiction of a killer of two girls that were held prisoner before their murder and that is believed to still be at large. The story revolves around the fictional obsession of a rookie crime reporter to find out the true facts of the case. There are a number of odd conclusions involved that are frustrating and hold the readers interest to a certain extent. The author does state that “the Bernardo case served as a backdrop but is not a factual description of police procedural events at the time.”

Specific comments: The author’s narrative and sentences are a little extensive at times as she inserts some extraneous details and descriptions that seemed to extend her sentences to make them too long and somewhat unrelated. One example: “There was a dull pain through my teeth and I noticed how hard I was clenching my jaw, or maybe had been all day, thinking of these things, and I worked to focus on the task at hand: the spinach I was picking over, and the promise of hot food.” Also: “So the girl’s nipples will stand out. It’s strategic. There’s a direct correlation between Tawny’s Kitaen’s nipple definition and album sales. I’m pretty sure you can read the stats on this. There’s pie charts, David said. He had the camera over one eye. It made him look squinty. I dropped my arms.”

Some sentences and descriptions contained phrases that were difficult to follow and to discern the meaning behind them. Finally (with unnecessary profanity included that might offend some readers): “Jesus Fuck! Patton tried to get a hold on the knife and I bore down with all my weight on the butt of the handle, keeping it there, hammering it into the counter. I wanted to pin him down. He jacked his other elbow up against my shoulder, sending me back a few steps.”

What is the best part of the book?: The last quote above could have been some of the best part of the book since it depicts violent action and conflict if it had been described better and the religious profanity omitted.

What are the issues to address or that will detract from the readers’ enjoyment of the book?: The book has a lot of potential and could be an excellent thriller. However, I found that I got bogged down in some of the narration and long sentences and descriptions. I even thought that some details that were introduced were totally unnecessary from a reader’s viewpoint. Many writers do employ these methods and are very successful. Hemingway used a lot of long sentences with a lot of “ands” between and we all know about his success. I also had some problems with extraneous profanity that seemed to be inserted maybe to add some spice to the book; especially when it is combined with religious names that might offend certain readers.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Len is a published writer, is retired military, and lives in Alabama. He also worked for fifteen years in government and private industry as a Senior Technical Writer. He is an active member of three writer’s organizations.

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

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Review: The Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney

[ 4 ] April 7, 2015

long and faraway gone book coverReviewed by Lauren Cannavino

Oklahoma City in 1986 might seem like forever ago to some, but for the characters of Lou Berney’s The Long and Faraway Gone, that period of time is forever burned in sharp memories. Wyatt Rivers, a private investigator from Las Vegas, is brought back to Oklahoma City on a job to discover who is harassing a local club owner and finds that in the process, he must face his own harassing memories of a time long ago. For the beautiful nurse Julianna, there was never an escape from the city and as a result, she has never been able to escape from the recollections and wonderings of her beautiful older sister Genevieve’s disappearance from a local fair all those years ago.

Wyatt was a young man working at a movie theater in 1986, the only survivor of a robbery that claimed the lives of five of his coworkers and friends. He can’t shake his survivor’s remorse, paired with the unanswered question of why he was spared, and all of his past comes flooding back to him as he finds himself tangled up in his Oklahoma City past. For Julianna, there are more questions than answers regarding her sister’s disappearance at the fair and she soon finds that she will face no limit too great, in trying to get to the bottom of what really happened to her sister that day. When the main suspect in the case, a seedy carnival worker named Crowley, comes back into the picture, Julianna finds herself thrown into a new level of obsession regarding her sister’s case.

Wyatt and Julianna do cross paths, but the novel is woven through with both stories, flush with memories, action, painful memories of fear and piled high with questions that no one can answer. The Long and Faraway Gone mixes the young versions of Wyatt and Julianna with their older selves and lets the past bleed into the present beautifully. Events often do shape lives and for these two characters, their pasts are very much a part of not only their presents but also are responsible for the way they view and live their lives.

Each chapter of the story is broken into character sections and while there is an urgency at times to reach the next unfolding of a particular plot within the text, there is no disconnect or lags in the novel as it switches perspectives. Author Lou Berney does an excellent job of breathing life into his characters and their pain, wonder, confusion and stress all come forth in engaging ways. The book acts as a reminder that relationships and the hardships people all face, past and present, all somehow end up connected and remain part of life no matter how much time has passed. Berney crafts a soulful story that connects all dots, but shows that sometimes even with answers, voids may still remain.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Lauren Cannavino is a graduate student, freelance writer, wine lover, and avid reader. Random musings can be found over at

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

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Blog Tour & Giveaway: Vostok by Steve Alten

[ 3 ] March 26, 2015

vostok book coverPlease join Steve Alten, author of Vostok, as he tours the blogosphere with iRead Book Tours!

Enter to win a copy of the book below – open internationally

Reviewed by Caleb Shadis

Vostok is the second book featuring Zachary Wallace, and large parts of it takes place in Antarctica, below the frozen ice cap, in a liquid lake, Vostok.  Steve Alten appears to like the idea of ancient Miocene predators and other animals hiding in the dark places of the ocean. This isn’t the only series he has dealing with supposedly long extinct species and there is a little cross-over with the others.

I will say that Alten does a pretty poor job when it comes to real science and double checking facts used in the story. I really started taking notice when he converted -25C to -87F in a conversation and no one seemed to notice the huge error (-25C is -13F…).  The next big error was saying that high energy electromagnetic waves (ultraviolet – x-ray, etc.) have longer wavelengths than red and infrared. This is completely backwards and would only take a quick Google search to validate. Then there is a marine biologist grad student discussing evolution with our Dr. Zachary (another marine biologist) and claiming that it is much more likely that whales evolved from large fish like sharks instead of ‘bears like Darwin postulated’ based solely on the similarity of size. There are so many things wrong with this statement that I almost stopped reading the book.

Dr. Zachary Wallace is considered to be the ideal candidate to travel all the way to the other end of the earth to Antarctica, where he will be sent under two miles of ice to explore a lake that has been covered for eons. It is a trip of a lifetime. It is also incredibly dangerous and has a smaller chance of success than everyone realizes.

The first issue is the variety of life they find left over from the Miocene, much of it dangerous to their small three person submarine. When they are coming through the ice they miss their mark and land a long way from anywhere useful to get themselves back. After they arrive at an ‘island’ – one of their objectives on the mission – things start getting strange. Wallace has an encounter that changes his life forever.

This book had more holes in it than a Dan Brown plot, however, despite all the issues I had with the the biology and physics, Alten can still tell a good attention grabbing yarn. Even with its faults, I give this book 3.5 stars. Vostok will definitely be more enjoyable for someone who doesn’t care about the science. A little fact checking can go a long way!

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 Rebel Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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