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Tag: "mystery"

Review: Delia’s Shadow by Jamie Lee Moyer

[ 4 ] January 28, 2014

10576071Reviewed by A.D. Cole

It is 1915, the year of the San Francisco World’s Fair when Delia Martin returns home. She’s immediately thrust into her duties as maid of honor for her best friend. She also helps take care of the dying woman who had been a mother to her when her own parents died in the great earthquake. But none of this is the reason for Delia’s sudden return from New York.

Gabriel is a man on a mission. Amidst the massive comings and goings of the World’s Fair, a serial killer is on the loose. Lieutenant Gabriel Ryan is determined to catch the killer before he can hurt anyone else and before knowledge of his movements in the city becomes public. The hunt has been largely in vain, but he finds a sudden and strange source of information in his best friend’s fiancée’s maid of honor.

Delia has been recently haunted by a ghost she calls Shadow. It is this ghost who has compelled her home to San Francisco. She and Gabe quickly realize that her ghost is directly connected with his investigation. As the two of them dig deeper into the case, the murderer becomes bolder and more personal. Now, with their lives and the lives of their loved ones in danger, Delia and Gabe must reach deeper into the spirit world to find the villain.

Based on the title and cover, I was expecting a ghost story with some murder mystery thrown in. But the ghosts in this book were a given thing. Nothing mysterious about them. I would call this a historical thriller with some ghosts thrown in. There’s not a thing wrong with that, I just had to adjust my thinking a few pages in. But then I thoroughly enjoyed the ride. There were hauntings and séances, but these were all for the purpose of finding the serial killer and I didn’t really feel spooked by any of it.

So, if you’re a fan of historical thrillers in the vein of Matthew Pearl’s The Dante Club, or Caleb Carr’s The Alienist, then I think you’ll like this book as well. Unless you have a strong aversion to the supernatural.

All of the characters were well-drawn and interesting, even the smallest, side characters. I enjoyed the mystery, though I didn’t find myself shocked by any sudden twists. Mostly what I enjoyed was the hunt for the killer and the relationship between Gabe and Delia.

Delia’s Shadow was a well-written and entertaining novel. I can’t say that it blew me away or anything, but I did enjoy it and would recommend it for fans of historical crime thrillers.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

A.D. Cole is a homeschooling mother and aspiring romance novelist. She lives in the Ozark foothills and spends her free time reading, writing, baking and pondering life’s little mysteries.

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

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Blog Tour & Giveaway: The Harlot’s Tale by Sam Thomas

[ 24 ] January 20, 2014

The-Harlots-TalePlease welcome Sam Thomas, author of The Harlot’s Tale, 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 Caleb Shadis

Excellent! I really enjoyed The Harlot’s Tale and will be looking up the first book in the series, The Midwife’s Tale. This book was a bit like the other historical English mysteries but it was also surprisingly close to the feel of the Shardlake mysteries–minus the brutality. Maybe because it takes place only about 80 years later. Or because it has that feeling of a time when people had their place and were expected to act accordingly.

Lady Bridget Hodgson is a midwife. The trade was passed down to her from her second mother-in-law. Her mother-in-law knew her son well and suspected that the young Lady Hodgson might eventually be in need of a profession. About a year ago, Lady Hodgson took on an apprentice, Martha, and the two of them are a formidable pair at what ever task they take on.

The ‘godly’ are currently in power in York and a loud fire and brimstone preacher has shown up in town. It happens to be the hottest summer that anyone can remember on record and there doesn’t appear to be any relief in sight. This gives the preacher an excellent pulpit from which to condemn the sinners. God is punishing the city with the unbearable weather because of the faults of sinners like the fornicators and the whores.

Alas, someone seems to take the preacher’s sermon to heart. The city’s harlots are being murdered, sometimes while with their client. Edward Hodgson, Lady Hodgson’s brother in law, is in charge of finding the murderer and stopping the murders. He brings Lady Hodgson to the first crime scene because of help she provided in the past. When Bible verses are found clutched in the hands of the dead, he tells her to leave it in his hands. Of course, she doesn’t.

I thought this was a very well told tale and our two main protagonists were well drawn, with their shortcomings and all. I think the time was depicted very well and the feel of the place and time was amazingly vivid. I highly recommend this book to historical mystery buffs. Well worth the time!

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 and giveaway copies were provided free of any obligation by Minotaur Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The Devil’s Playground by Cynthia Sens

[ 0 ] January 10, 2014

9781491711835_p0_v1_s260x420Reviewed by Lauren Cannavino

Mel Taylor is a genealogist who has anything but a normal career and past. This abnormal past that Mel can never quite escape includes the fact that he is really ninety-five years old vs. the forty-four year old that everyone in his life really thinks that he is. The year is 2011 and Mel survived World War II, but he did not survive the memories and haunting images that accompanied his life then. The time travel for Mel was possible thanks to his possession of a holy relic known as the sapphire staff. The staff may be hidden in Mel’s office, his true age concealed, but no one is ever completely free from the past or the secrets that it contains.

Mel finds all of this out when his friend Joseph passes his number along to a man who is desperate to locate his missing son. Mel is reluctant at first, but finally decides to help the man out. When the past begins to unfold through confirmed suspicions and the research of Mel’s assistant Emily, it seems that the Nazis of Mel’s World War II past may in fact be in the same situation he is in. And, they may not only be connected to the disappearance of the young boy in question, but they are also hot on Mel’s tail. When Mel begins digging more deeply, his research takes him to the cornfields of Iowa and quickly puts everyone that he cares about in deep danger. Overcoming his own fears, his demons of the past and embracing the power of the sapphire staff seem to be the only way that Mel can beat his old foes and their very old game. While the time travel aspects of the novel are a bit far fetched, the story contains modern twists that make the time travel only a part of the story, rather than the entire premise.

Mel is an easily relatable character and one that Cynthia Sens makes very easy to root for. His character is a bit guarded though and his true emotion is a bit hard to pick through at times. There is to be more books in the Sapphire Staff Series and hopefully Mel will continue to unfold in these following novels. The end of the story was dramatic, but pieced together neatly and allowed for a seamless transition for the rest of the series. I do wish, however, that Joseph and Emily were a bit more developed in the story. They were main players and were very active in the story, but there didn’t seem to be much to them. Joseph had an interesting back story and was a character that was also easy to warm up to so more development for him would have really made The Devil’s Playground shine. I would be interested in reading the other books in the series in order to see how Sens continues the story, particularly with the recognition of Mel from someone very close to his past and deeply entwined in his present.

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 Cynthia Sens. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The Execution by Dick Wolf

[ 2 ] January 10, 2014

ce8f82bddbb92700480f6a706700f21aReviewed by Amanda Schafer

Cecelia Garza has worked for years as a detective with the Mexican police and has been tracking down a mass murderer who carves a hummingbird into his victims. This killer, Chuparosa, leaves his victims headless by using a specific type of blade that leaves an indentation in the ground where he kills them. With very little to go on, Garza constantly finds herself one step behind Chuparosa until she finds out that he’s been in New York City.

Jeremy Fisk is a Detective with the New York Police Department’s Intelligence Division (which is basically New York City’s own CIA) and is working on overcoming his own personal grief. During United Nations week in New York, security detail is at its highest and tensions are even higher. The FBI and the NYPD work together to keep the dignitaries safe but to also keep the citizens of New York safe from terror threats. In the middle of the hyped-up security process, there is a report of a mass grave at Rockaway Beach and Fisk finds himself involved in the investigation. When Fisk meets Garza he immediately feels that she’s hiding something and the only way to find out what is to do more digging on these dead bodies and how they ended up in NYC.

After one of Garza’s own men is killed, she and Fisk determine to work together to find Chuparosa. When Fisk figures out where Chuparosa is hiding out, he goes after him alone and is injured in the process. But because of his detective skills investigators retrieve a videotape of Chuparosa laying out his plan. Fisk has to act quickly if he’s going uphold true justice.

The Execution is the first Dick Wolf novel I’ve read and I’m hooked! I want to go back and read the first Jeremy Fisk novel, but don’t feel like I have to in order to continue on with the story line. The greatest part of this book was that I could picture every aspect of the story as though I were watching it on TV or in the theater. If someone can write so that I can picture scenes that vividly, they are definitely on my list of authors to follow.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Amanda lives in Missouri with her engineering husband, two sons, and one daughter. In between homeschooling and keeping up with church activities she loves to read Christian Fiction, Women’s Fiction, and any Chick-Lit. She never goes anywhere without a book to read!

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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Review: Behind the Shattered Glass by Tasha Alexander

[ 3 ] December 29, 2013

Behind the Shattered GlassReviewed by Christen Krumm

I have been captivated by Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily Mysteries since I picked up book one a few months back at the recommendation of a friend. Described as Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice with an added murder mystery, this series will surely enchant you as well.

Behind the Shattered Glass is Tasha Alexander’s eighth Lady Emily mystery — and while you do not necessarily need to read the seven books that come before, I highly recommend it if only to know the back story of how Emily and her current husband, Colin, came to be (it is quite the romance let me tell you). Behind the Shattered Glass literally starts out with a bang and sucks you right into the story when the Marquess of Montagu and the Hargreaves’ neighbor, stumbles into the family dinner party at Anglemore Park, the Hargreaves’ ancestral home, and dies on the spot leaving Emily and her hunky, mystery solving husband, Colin, to solve the latest mystery that has fallen into their laps. Who had motive for murdering the young aristocrat? Who was the mysterious woman seen walking with him moments before he was brutally attacked? The answers will surely surprise you!

I love Alexander’s web of mystery. Every time I thought I had figured out who killed the Marquess, another flag would raise up doubts and point towards someone else. And when the murderer is finally revealed in the last chapters, your jaw may very well drop (it is not who you think it is!) Another interesting spin on Alexander’s eighth book is the telling of the story not only from Lady Emily’s first person view, but also in the view of the “downstairs help”. It was a slight switch as you were not in Lady Emily’s head the entire story as you are with previous Lady Emily mysteries, but hearing the story from the servant’s eyes was an aspect that I enjoyed. It also gave the book a slight Downton Abbey feel as you were able to get to know the help and their feelings on the murder that happened within their own walls.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Christen is an aspiring author, book lover, and coffee drinker. She lives in Arkansas with her superhero husband and 2 mini people. Connect with her at her blog: or Twitter @christenkrumm.

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: Isabel’s Skin by Peter Benson

[ 2 ] December 17, 2013

isabels-skin_thumb[1]Reviewed by Cal Cleary

David Morris is satisfied with his quiet life. A book valuer based out of London, Morris is incredibly passionate about his work, and when he’s given the opportunity to visit and value the famed personal library of a recently deceased nobleman, he leaps at the opportunity. But something is deeply wrong in Somerset. The housekeeper is jumpy and judgmental, strictly enforcing odd, inexplicable rules. The townsfolk are reluctant to approach, and won’t go anywhere near the house once night falls. And in a small cottage owned by a visiting academic, David sometimes hears the piercing, shrieking cries of a woman in pain.

The first half of Isabel’s Skin – basically, everything up to the cottage – is fantastic. Moody, evocative, and undeniably memorable, the book’s atmosphere is heavy, pulsing with inhuman life. Benson’s prose contributes a lot to that, creating and maintaining a lot of the tension that drives the early, less overtly exciting chapters. Because, indeed, not a lot happens in the book’s opening chapters, but Benson does a fantastic job of making it feel alive, feel real and as visceral as your fear of the dark. More than real; portentous.

Which is why it’s a shame that the book becomes such a typical potboiler in its back half, dropping its atmosphere of creeping dread and becoming a far less engaging thriller. Its characters remain compelling, but it is a disappointing conclusion to a book that starts as strong as Isabel’s Skin does. The world shrinks, much of the (already small) cast disappears, and any lingering darkness dissipates as Benson shines a light in every dark corner of the book.

Despite Benson’s vivid prose and the book’s strong narrative voice, the further it slipped from its weird, chilling origins, the less I found it holding my attention. In its best moments, Isabel’s Skin is a thoroughly realized recreation of gothic horror storytelling. But its chilly foreshadowing soon gives way to something more predictable, and it follows that path to the end.

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 Alma Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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