Tag: murder mystery

Silver Anniversary Murder Book Review

Silver Anniversary Murder

Leslie Meier is the author of the Lucy Stone mystery series. Her 2018 release is titled Silver Anniversary Murder. Most of the series takes place in the fictional town of Tinker’s Cove, Maine. However, much of this installment takes place in New York City.

Like many authors, Meier relies on a familiar cast of characters. This creates an audience for future books. I discovered the Lucy Stone mysteries many years ago. The writing flows and allows one to escape real world stresses for a few hours.

New York City

The story line begins in Maine with a bickering but business minded couple dreaming up a themed weekend designed to attract tourists for a weekend. The couple, the Bickford’s, sell the idea to the Chamber of Commerce. Lucy is assigned to the story.

Before the plot becomes too involved, Meier switches the backdrop to Lucy’s hometown of New York City. The protagonist attends the funeral of an old friend. Naturally, the death is not straightforward. So Lucy makes a second trip to the city to investigate.

Thus, for the most part, the characters in this particular Lucy Stone murder are new to series devotees. Meier does a nice job of creating interesting characters. The old adage It’s Always the Husband is a bit complicated since the deceased was married four times.

One by one, Lucy seeks out each possible murderer. The ex-husbands leave a lot to be desired. Furthermore, any one of them could be the villain. Also thrown into the mix is a cross-dressing son with a beautiful voice and another former childhood friend.

Lucy Stone

Lucy has evolved over the years. So has Meier. Recent releases include commentary on current culture. Also, one gets the feeling that the author’s politics are a bit left of center. But neither circumstance distracts from the writing. Indeed the cultural references tend to provoke thought. Silver Anniversary Murder touches upon a range of societal ills. Included in the plot are over-prescribed drugs, human trafficking, fanatic cults and business corruption.

The main character sometimes needs help. But, for the most part, the writing includes quick thinking and action by the heroine to solve problems. Thus Lucy Stone does not always need rescuing.

As usual the major and minor story lines merge at the end. The denouement takes place back in Tinker’s Cove. The Silver Anniversary weekend serves as a lure. Finally, the reader discovers the truth.

The Mitford Murders Book Review

Book Cover of The Mitford MurdersThe Mitford Murders

The Mitford Murders is the debut novel from Jessica Fellowes. Sort of. Fellowes is also credited for producing five companion books to the Downton Abbey British television series. From my research, the collaboration on the series is with a family member.

I have not read (or even watched) any of the Downton Abbey series. But I enjoyed the Mitford Murders and think a series of books revolving around these characters is in order. Of course there needs to be demand for this first novel for that to happen.

Fellowes has combined two of my favorite genres in The Mitford Murders. First and foremost it is a murder mystery. However, two of the central characters enjoy a sweet romance. For those not in the business, a sweet romance is one that is chaste.

Cast of Characters

The book revolves around a handful of characters. The working class and gentry are both represented with some overlap. Guy Sullivan is railroad police who falls for Louisa Cannon at first sight. He has ambition, and very poor eyesight. Louisa has some secrets and a real need to escape her current place in life. Sullivan helps get her to an interview which will lift her out of her current circumstances.

Nancy Mitford is the teenage daughter of a Baron. It is into this household Louisa lands. The two females are close in age. One on the cusp of adulthood and the other just barely arrived. A stilted friendship forms. Stilted due to the class structure of the British aristocracy.

The novel takes place following the First World War. Some of the characters were actual people. For example, the victim of the crime, Florence Nightingale Shore. But the events described in the book are pure fiction. The book solves the mystery but in reality, Shore’s murder is an unsolved crime.

This is a well written debut novel. Hopefully many will follow. Mystery series’ are fun to read. The reader becomes comfortable with the characters. There is room for development from the large Mitford household. Plus, the kindling relationship of Louisa and Guy.

Put this on your list of must read if you are a mystery or romance fan.

City of Endless Night Book Review

City of Endless Night

City of Endless Night captivates the reader from the word go. Even for someone unfamiliar with the crime series involving FBI Agent Pendergast and NYPD Lieutenant D’Agosta. Although this was evidently not the first book in the series, it was the first time I had read anything by the writing duo of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. I am delighted by this discovery of a new to me writer combo in one of my favorite genres. However, long-time readers will remember I favorably recommended Child before in the review of Terminal Freeze.

The mystery opens up with the discovery of a headless body. This gruesome crime takes place in New York City. The victim turns out to be the daughter of a tech giant. D’Agosta takes Pendergast along to break the news to the father. Tech giant Anton Ozmian does not react well.

Then another headless body turns up. And another. These latter two involve older, wealthy men murdered in their ultra-secure homes. At least seemingly secure in their own homes. The M.O.’s differ enough from the first young victim to muddle the investigation.

New York Post

There are a handful of side stories mixed in. Most involve false leads. But one is crucial to the storyline. A reporter for the New York Post, Bryce Harriman ramps up the heat for Pendergast and D’Agosta. His dirt digging turns up a possible tie in of all three murders. He posits the theory of a vigilante murderer. One that goes after wicked members of the one per cent. In his reporting he coins the phrase City of Endless Night.

Of course his negative reporting of the first victim stirs the ire of tech father Ozmian. The sensational reporting also provides instant fame for Harriman. In an ironic twist, Harriman becomes greedy himself. But his greed is for fame not money. So he continues his zeal against the super rich. This includes continued mudslinging involving the young Ozmian. Then her father exacts revenge through digital methods.

Psychotic Villain

Meanwhile, the psychotic villain strikes some more. Even though the media, the public and even the NYPD have bought into Harriman’s theory, Pendergast has not. Unfortunately, he does not have an alternate theory. Hence, he and his colleagues fall into the trap of a man hunter.

The denouement actually takes place well before the end of the book. This allows the authors time for a thrilling hunt between good and evil. Thus, even though the reader discovers the killer, some suspense remains on the outcome.
City of Endless Night has a good amount of twist and turns. There are some exciting action scenes. In addition, the writers also offer commentary on culture today.

For the most part, this book stands on its own. However, as is the case in many series, some characters appear very briefly, yet the reader is expected to make a connection. In these cases, I think I would have benefitted from reading previous the previous books. I plan to read more of this series from Preston and Child in the future.

An Unwanted Guest Book Review

Shari Lapena’s An Unwanted Guest reminds me just how entertaining a mystery can be. I rank this book alongside the many Agatha Christie’s and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle novels. But the one thing missing is a single protagonist who figures out the crime.
An Unwanted Guest is a story with a large cast of characters. Each of the individuals is trapped by a winter storm. Some appear as couples, some are friends and there is an odd singleton or two. Added into this mix of strangers are the innkeeper and his son.

Plot

The tale starts on the road to the inn. Lapena introduces each character one at a time. This is very reminiscent of several of my favorite writers. When done well, the author hooks you in. Shari Lapena did an amazing job of hooking me.

In brief, an oncoming storm approaches at the same time as the hotel guests. Bad weather is the backdrop, trapping the guests inside as one after another turns up dead. Thus the theme is an old one, but Lapena makes it seem brand new.

An Unwanted Guest

Most of the characters assume the first death is accidental. But one of the more dominant individuals, David Paley, has his doubts. Yet he keeps quiet, just insisting the body stay front and center.

Shortly after the second death, evidence appears to point out the possibility of an unknown individual. This throws many into a panic. Tensions increase as the power remains off. Paley, tries to hold things together. He insists they all remain together. But there is a bit of a rebellion once his past is revealed. Then things go from bad to worse.

Sheri Lapena does an amazing job on two fronts. First, her writing allows you to know each of the characters. Second, she subtly leaves the clues to the mystery. Somehow, I missed the evidence. Perhaps after reading more of her work (and I plan to) I won’t be surprised by the end. But I did not figure out who killed everyone until the author’s reveal.

I highly recommend An Unwanted Guest. The denouement made sense. The reader is left wishing some of the characters have a happily ever after and knowing some won’t. The shades of evil are well painted. Lapena reminds us that ghosts from the past can haunt both the present and the future. If you like mysteries An Unwanted Guest is a must read.

Judgement Day Book Review

Judgement Day – A Television Show

Judgement Day is a Christian based murder mystery written by Wanda L. Dyson. Suzanne Kidwell is the character at the center of the story. She is a journalist in Washington D.C. with an expose style show called Judgement Day. Her show is top rated but her journalistic skills leave something to be desired. She often jumps to conclusions without verifying her sources.

Throughout Judgement Day, Suzanne’s life is in danger. Furthermore, she has been framed for a murder. Private investigators Marcus Crisp and Alexandria Fisher-Hawthorne are hired to find the truth. Complicating matters, Marcus and Suzanne were once engaged.

Suzanne has many enemies so Marcus and Alex have their work cut out for them. Most of their other cases are put on the back burner to help Suzanne. However, Alex continues to search for missing teenagers. Of course the two cases end up being tied together.

Suzanne had been working on a story which she blamed the teen disappearances not only on the wrong person, but also the wrong motive. Instead of the missing teams ending up in a sex related crime, the kids are kidnapped and used on the black market as organ donors.

Contrasting Characters

Dyson portrays Suzanne as very unChristian. She is not a like-able person. This is certainly a case of actions speak louder than words. Unlike her TV persona where she seems to champion the underdog and flesh out the bad guys, Suzanne manipulates all. She is self-centered and unkind to others.

In contrast, the actions of Marcus and Alex are very charitable. Marcus was betrayed by Suzanne long-ago yet he is willing first to clear her name and later to save her life. The character of Alex is used as a comparison to Suzanne. Her actions and personality are quite considerate towards Suzanne.

Two incidents change Suzanne. First she encounters a strange woman in her jail cell. The woman rambles scripture. The passages directly apply to Suzanne. Second she herself is kidnapped and readied for organ harvesting. I believe she achieves redemption.

Judgement Day speaks to all of us as well as the characters. Many of the characters confront their own Judgement Day. Some survive intact and become better people. Others have a less happy ending. The book has Christian overtones but an unusual cast of characters. Judgement Day hones in on the truism, you can’t judge a book by its cover. I am glad I checked this book out of the library and plan to look for other books by Wanda L. Dyson.

 

My Brother’s Keeper Book Review

My Brother’s Keeper by Donna Malane is a captivating picture of the world-wide drug crisis. Both Malane and the setting for My Brother’s Keeper are New Zealand based. But readers everywhere will be able to relate to the events. The novel falls into the category of murder mystery.

My Brother’s Keeper

Diane Rowe, the protagonist of the story, is an investigator specializing in finding missing persons. Her client, Karen Mackie hires her to find her fourteen year old daughter. Mackie has just been released from a seven-year prison stint. On the surface everything seems straightforward. Rowe is to find the daughter and report back how she is doing. No promise of a reunion is involved.

However, many intrigues pop up in My Brother’s Keeper. Malane uses flashbacks to tell the story and the scenes are very effective. The events which landed Mackie behind bars are seen through the eyes of a seven-year old. Without spoiling the story, heavy drug use is involved.

Complications arise for Diane Rowe. Some are connected to her background. She has an ex-husband who has remarried and he has forged a friendship with her new boyfriend. Both men are cops. Both are putting stresses on Rowe. Other problems stem from the life of the girl she traces. In the midst of all this intrigue is a murder.

Drug Epidemic

Life is not always what it seems. This is definitely the case in My Brother’s Keeper. The drug use of Karen Mackie destroyed her life. But she found religion in prison and came to terms with the past. Her wish is for the rest of the family to experience the same grace. The death of her youngest child was her awakening point.

Malane’s final twist is a heart breaker. I don’t know the author’s motivation, but her portrayal of the many damages of drug use is key to the story line. Mackie’s addiction affected multiple people, not just the lost child and herself. Families of addicts are impacted as much as the individual and My Brother’s Keeper is an excellent vehicle for this message. Fair warning, the ending brought tears to my eyes.

Drug use is showing up in quite a few of the books I have read recently. I am a firm believer that art reflects life.  My Brother’s Keeper takes place in New Zealand.  So drugs are all over the world. Hopefully, novels like this will make readers stop and see the far-reaching ramifications of drug use.

I highly recommend this book. The author uses Diane Rowe and Karen Mackie as mirrors. Both women have pasts that they wish to move on from. Some individuals end up with more regrets than others. My Brother’s Keeper shows how strong a mother’s love is as well as how destructive addiction can be. The novel paves a way for a future of redemption.

it’s always the husband Book Review

front cover
it’s always the husband
I debated with myself on whether to review it’s always the husband or not. Some of the content is R-rated and I try to keep this a G-rated site. So consider this fair warning. I believe this is a first novel for Michele Campbell. Her background, which can be found on her website, is as a prosecutor with much experience in narcotics. This may explain the heavy theme of drugs and alcohol in the book. The setting is a small New England campus, and while my alma mater is located in a neighboring state, we did not have nearly the drug use. Or perhaps I was oblivious.

The plot centers on three freshman roommates. However, Campbell hooks you right from the beginning with a potential murder of one of the roommates as a now pregnant 40-year-old. Some people have trouble with a now/then approach to writing but I think the set-up works for it’s always the husband.

Campbell does a wonderful job of creating both believable characters and a realistic story line. The backgrounds of the three freshmen run the gamut from the very rich to poverty level. While upbringings are disparate, similarities exist. Two of the characters share the pain of a parental death. Long-lasting bonds are created by shared experience of that first year at college.

Love-hate relationships naturally form. The age-old theme of boyfriend jealousy along with a rift over the drug and alcohol abuse is heightened by the theme of powerful money. Events come to a head at the end of the spring semester.

Railroad Bridge

An old railroad trestle serves as the background for death, twice. The first casualty, one of the boyfriends, dies under unusual circumstances. The death finalizes the past and ushers in the current mysterious death. A few new characters are introduced. All three roommates are now married. Thus the possibility of it’s always the husband could be true. Additionally, the current chief of police is from out-of-town.

Chief Owen Rizzo is a key figure in the story. He immediately suspects the husband. The situation appears open and shut. But it is not.

Campbell does an incredible job of casting suspicion in various directions. Old wounds are revisited and opened up. The characters are deep and compelling. I kept suspecting one individual and then another. Since I am not an end reader, I had no foresight into the identity of the murderer.

I strongly recommend it’s always the husband. Michele Campbell has created believable characters. A ring of truth strikes the reader throughout. We all know people in real life who remind us of each of the characters. But the best part of the book for me was not figuring out the killer before the author revealed what happened at the bridge.