Thursday, December 15, 2011

Murder in the 11th House

Murder in the 11th House, by Mitchell Scott Lewis, is more than a mystery novel. It's a work of fiction skillfully woven in intricate patterns from the science of Astrology.  It also provides a thought provoking link to political and social woes of the world of 2011.

The book, standing alone, is well plotted with just the right amount of 'is she innocent?' or 'is she guilty'? Did the mouthy, crusty, young barmaid, who calls herself 'Johnny' Colbert, hate Judge Farrah Winston enough to blow her and her car into infinite pieces? Johnny certainly had the skill and knowledge, as well as the motive. Her pro bono attorney, Melinda Lowell, just happens to be the daughter of David Lowell, famed astrologer and owner of the Starlight Detective Agency. Together they call on the 'stars', as in astrological signs, to solve the murder and in doing so put themselves and their employees in grave danger.

The characters in the book are well crafted. I especially liked David Lowell, some of his qualities reminiscent of  the famous Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot. His fastidiousness, manner of dress, eating habits, and razor sharp intuitiveness spoke of Christie's creation in a modern setting.

I was amazed at how much knowledge can be gleaned from a person's birth chart. The book, Murder in the 11th House, has interesting sidelines regarding the lottery, and the general well-being of our nation. It also has a humanitarian quality rare in works of fiction. Well worth the read-for the information on astrology, and for the storyline. I'm looking forward to the next book in this new series.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

When Pigs Fly

When Pigs Fly, by Bob Sanchez,  is the most unorthodox book I've ever read. I'm not referring to the religious connotations of unorthodox, but to the fact that the book is totally unconventional. It's hysterically funny and at the same time truly disgusting.

The 'Mystery' hinges on a lottery ticket and ceramic urn filled with a dead man's ashes. The villain, Diet Cola, is every person's worst nightmare. A horrible slob, without an ounce of conscience. The characters that cross his path are a outlandish group. Ace and Frosty, two Abbott and Costello criminals, do have a conscience although it doesn't always get in the way of their petty crimes. Elvis Hornacre believes he is the real 'King' (Elvis Presley) and dresses accordingly. He literally lets it all hang out. Calliope Vrattos is a former barmaid with a purse full of common but potentially lethal weapons, like a hairbrush and tampons. Carrick and Brodie Durgin are a slightly-senile geriatric couple going blithely through life, aiding and abetting even wounded criminals, while their son, Mack Durgin, retired cop, seems to be one of the more sane people occupying the pages of the book. Mack does, however, talk to his dead friend's ashes and has an unfortunate one-night-stand with someone he visualizes as Mae West. Her boyfriend, called Zippy, because he has a zipper tattooed over his brain, takes exception and - well - it all comes together in one rollicking, fascinating wedding adventure atop the Grand Canyon where Diet Cola shows up in nothing but a classic, patient hospital gown. I'll leave you now to either read the book, or try to make sense of this review. Before I go, I must mention the most important character; Poindexter the pig. Do pigs really fly? Sometimes. But only when decked-out in sequins.

So, if you aren't offended by smelly arm-pits, rapid rise testosterone, and other bodily functions, I think you'll enjoy this raunchy, highly entertaining offering by Bob Sanchez. I promise you won't read another quite like it!

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Hollow House

From the first sentence; “I decided to use the name Geraldine Brunton” this work of fiction snares the reader and drops them into a convoluted, sometimes bizarre, whirl of adventure. 

Who killed Annie the enterprising Irish maid?  Was old Jamie’s ‘accident’ really an accident?  What’s Mrs. Stubbs hiding except her contraband physician’s tonic and arsenic-laced vitamin pills?

Denver, Colorado, in 1919, was a city ‘bustin’ its britches’ to become civilized after an influx of major money from the silver mining hey-day.  The woman calling herself Mrs. Burnton, was reared and educated in the posh, elite society of New York City.  So, why was she applying for the position of lowly companion to a wealthy widow of a hard-scrabble silver-miner?   Could she survive in a household of suspicious characters, poison, greed, and deranged delusions of grandeur? 

The Hollow House is a delightful read filled with larger-than-life characters, puzzling incidents, and an achingly real story behind the story.   Janis Patterson is a gifted writer who knows how to twist and turn a plot until its revelation surprises even the most practiced reader of mysteries.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Cemetery Girl

What cost does a bereaved father pay to learn the truth about his abducted daughter? David Bell's book, Cemetery Girl, explores the depth of emotion and mental anguish a four year absence of a man's only child can wreak on his own stability. 

Where had Caitlin Stuart gone when the twelve year old disappeared from walking the dog near a local cemetery? What had she endured, and why, after mysteriously reappearing four years later did she refuse to tell her father what happened? The intrigue and agonizing suspense of this compelling piece of fiction calls every man, or woman, to explore what's inner most in their minds when it comes to a missing child.  Caitlin wasn't happy about her homecoming. Abby Stuart had erected a monument to her missing daughter, in the very cemetery where she was last seen, ready to begin life without hope. Tom Stuart never gave up.  Did his estranged half-brother have anything to do with Caitlin's disappearance? Ready to do anything to learn the truth Tom Stuart became a haunted man on a mission. . .the ultimate sacrifice he was willing to make will give you pause for thought.


Monday, October 3, 2011

Under the Dog Star

Do you love dogs? Would you, like Veterinarian Rachel Goddard, risk your own life to save abandoned and stolen pets? Under the Dog Star, fourth in the Rachel Goddard series, by Sandra Parshall, brings to the reader a combination of emotions-outrage, compassion, terror and, at times, hopelessness. A five-star cast of characters move across this book like a well-directed motion picture. Rachel, and the love of her life, Deputy Tom Bridger, are caught up in an all too familiar scenario of feral dogs, former pets that are 'dumped' in the countryside and form a pack for food and protection. Farmers are complaining, townspeople are gathering for mass slaughter. When prominent physician Gordon Hall is killed on his own lawn, by having his throat ripped out, the problems escalate. Was it a fatal attack by the dog pack? Or just one, highly trained, killer canine?

Suspicion of illegal dog fighting comes to the foreground as Rachel and her friends prepare a rescue haven for the dogs from the pack. Soon both she and Tom become targets of a methodical murderer. Gordon Hall's oldest son comes under scrutiny, as does his daughter and her boyfriend. The three adopted Hall children have secrets to tell-especially the beautiful, sad, little girl who Rachel tries to befriend. 

Parshall's journalist background is evident in her novels. Straight forward, fast paced, yet laced with a healthy dose of haunting prose. There is one particularly eerie, and unforgettable, scene of a crashed car in a ravine. Another tense and emotionally riveting portrayal of Rachel's compassion is depicted in a cave, rescuing a frightened, starving dog. 

Complicated plot, great characters, and lots of surprises are in store for the reader of Under the Dog Star.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Seance In Sepia

 Seance In Sepia, by Michelle Black, is an extraordinaire novel. Spanning two worlds it guides the reader from present to past in a deft and enchanting chapter by chapter narrative. 
Flynn Keirnan, a woman helping her father purchase merchandise for his Antiquarian bookshop, discovers a old photograph in one of the volumes. It's not an ordinary sepia picture but a Victorian 'spirit photograph'. A local antique dealer offers Flynn a nice price for the the photo but she decides to try her luck on eBay, little knowing that she is generating a firestorm that will alter her life forever.

Who are those tragic, ghost-like images looking outward from the fading photo? Are they subjects of a bizarre and notorious murder trial held in Chicago in 1857 that the press dubbed 'The Free Love Murders'?  Would Victoria Woodhull, a popular spiritualist of that time, decipher the true answers in a seance? Was it murder, or suicide?  And, how does Flynn cross the boundaries of time to resolve old issues? Seance In Sepia is a mystery and a romance, both old and new.  A fascinating read, peeking into private thoughts found in an old journal, reading the actual trial transcript and pursuing notes of the famous feminist Victoria Woodhull. 

Seance In Sepia has not yet been released but can be reserved on Amazon.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Guest Review - The Black Heart Crypt

What might be unusual for most people is nothing out of the ordinary for Zack Jennings, a sixth grader who has the ability to see ghosts. So when Zipper, his pet dog, chases a demon dog back to Haddham Hill Cemetery, Zack takes it in stride.
In the fourth installment of the A Haunted Mystery Series, by Chris Grabenstein, titled The Black Heart Crypt, Zack’s talent for spotting specters comes in handy when thirteen sinister spirits from the Ickleby family are released on Halloween. These ghostly beings have a long-standing vendetta against the Jennings clan and it is up to Zack to defend the family.
            Luckily for him, his three Great Aunts are there to help, cats in tow (much to the distress of poor Zipper). They have had experience with the Ickleby ghosts since they were the ones who locked them in their crypt in the first place.
          Mayhem abounds as the Ickleby family finds a descendent to possess, giving life once again to Crazy Izzy Ickleby, a bootlegger from the 1930's, and a child- snatching highwayman.
            This book is a delightful read, with colorful characters (both living and dead), and a fun, twisted plot. There is quite a bit of violence in the story, however, with at least two murders and the vengeful highwayman out to kill Zack. If you’re not faint at heart, then this is definitely worth reading.
Anathea Williams

My guest blogger, Anathea Williams, is my granddaughter. She writes for children and is working on a young adult novel. Check out her blog
The View From My Padded Cell

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Champagne for Buzzards

Spunky, smart-mouthed, Sherri Travis just blew into town in her Big Red shiny pickup truck with a trail of black, ugly buzzards in hot pursuit. So, who put the dead body in the back of Big Red? Sherri really doesn't want to know since she is focused on giving her boyfriend, Clay Adams, a surprise birthday party at his Riverwood Ranch. Guess what? Sherri winds up right in the middle of another kind of surprise - the unpleasant kind.

Champagne for Buzzards is the fourth book in the Sherri Travis series written by Phyllis Smallman. It's no wonder that Smallman was placed in the top six mystery authors, for summer reads 2010, by Good Morning America. Her 'trailer-trash' character is bigger than life even when she tries to clean up her act and put on a veneer of respectability.

In the company of her father, Tully, Uncle Ziggy and best friend Marley, Sherri takes up temporary residence at Clay's ranch. She encounters a diabolical horse, a seven foot snake and a mongrel dog but that isn't the worst of her troubles. Something strange is going on in the woods that surround the ranch house. Four-wheelers are roaring through the peaceful landscape, loaded rifles laying across their handle bars. Psychotic next door neighbor, Boomer Breslau, has taken a perverted fancy to her. Sherri's mouth and actions inflame his obsession until he vows to not only kill her - but everything on Riverwood. His cousin is the sheriff so when things turn nasty there is no place for Sherri to run.

High tension, wonderful descriptions of the Florida countryside, and a very real, heartbreaking theme of man's inhumanity toward man makes this book a must read.  

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

No Rest for the Wicked

Are you under the impression that working in a book store is boring? Then you have never visited Thornton's Books in Juniper, Oregon and met Jane Serrano. Forty-three, widowed, the mother of a beautiful daughter, Jane does more than shift dusty tomes from shelf to shelf - she solves murders.

Elizabeth C. Main has created an unorthodox cast of characters in her No Rest for the Wicked.  Jane's daughter, Bianca, the brightest star of the aging group, Alix, a cynical multi-married owner of an upscale wedding boutique, Bible quoting, cake baking, Minnie, young Tyler and his crusty grandfather, shy, retiring Velda and long-suffering love interest Nick; just to name a few. Oh, and lest I should forget, there's Wendell the Wedding Dog.  His services are a bit pricy but he looks great in a tux. He'll do almost anything you ask at your nuptials unless an uninvited porcupine crashes the party.

Main writes a true 'cozy' mystery drawing her story and characters from real life, skillfully putting them on the page for mystery readers to follow with delight. But don't let their playfulness fool you - there's a good mystery here. A charming, womanizing, con-man who targets the elderly is the current corpse. Jane Serrano, from the first book in this series, Murder of the Month, has been established as the amateur sleuth of choice and when the body is discovered she and her crew gear up to go after the murderer, especially since one of their own has been hauled off to jail as prime suspect. Their investigation leads Jane and Minnie straight into a locked cellar with an armed killer on the other side. Taunt and dramatic, funny and warm, Main is an author who entertains.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Fallen From Grace

Arahpot, Pennsylvania, the setting for J. R. Lindermuth's book, Fallen From Grace, is a peaceful town in the early 1900's. Far removed from the wild, wild west Arahpot is civilized and up to date in all the newfangled  amenities like a telegraph office. Sheriff Sylvester Tilghman has little to occupy his time except drive around in his spanking new Sears and Roebuck buggy and wonder if his lovely Lydia will finally accept his proposal of marriage or, more importantly, if she will invite him to supper. That is - until a teamster delivers a badly wounded man to Doc Mariner's door. It turns out to be murder. 

Who was this man and what connection, if any, did he have with the newly arrived Delbert family? During the course of the investigation the suspicious Valentine Delbert drops dead of - natural causes? That remains to be seen. Did the beautiful new wife poison her obese husband? And what was going on with the girls that worked at Matilda's boarding house? Were they just house maids, with the occasional entertainment assignment, or innocent bystanders?

'Rubbing salt in a raw wound' as Sheriff Tilghman would no doubt say was the appearance of the lovely Lydia's charming cousin, Cyrus Gutshall. Lydia is determined that he will make the ideal deputy for the sheriff and Tilghman is just as determined to stay far away from the obnoxious interloper. But when Tilghman's life is on the line will Gutshall help or hinder?

Fallen from Grace is a delightfully easy read with fascinating characters and a true sense of place. It is also a good mystery with plenty of suspects and enough twists in the plot to offset its leisurely pace. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Learn more about J. R. Lindermuth at Village of Mystery

Thursday, June 9, 2011

An Uncertain Refuge

 Carolyn J. Rose is a brilliant author. In her latest book, An Uncertain Refuge, she strums tension as taunt as a tight-rope walker's wire, leaving the reader ready to gasp at every misstep.

   An Uncertain Refuge  is not your traditional mystery, it is more a statement on the horrific and tragic lineage of domestic violence. It is, at times, a painful book to read. Kate Dalton, her own childhood marred by a different sort of trauma, is caught in a web of incontrovertible revenge as she strives to shield the child, Way-Ray, from the raw abuse and terror his mother endured. It is a story of courageous love and bitter hatred. The characters clearly crafted from the handicapped, alcoholic handyman, the compassionate motel maid, to the strange old woman who cares for wounded animals.

It is a book hard to put down, especially when dreaded events occur and the human master of violence unleashes its wrath.  It is also a book that will, for a long time, haunt your memory. 


Village of Mystery

Monday, June 6, 2011

Old Loves Die Hard

On the day of his divorce retired homicide detective, Mac  Faraday, learned  he had inherited a multi-million dollar estate from his famous birth mother.  He was just settling into his new lifestyle when his ex-wife knocked on the door of the mansion begging him to take her back.   Faraday soon discovered that Old Loves Die Hard when Christine, the ex, and her lover, were both found brutally murdered in Faraday’s private penthouse suite.The main suspect?  Mac Faraday. 
In this second book of the series, continuing from, It’s Murder My Son, Lauren Carr weaves a tight and challenging tale of Washington DC politics, less than scrupulous attorneys, court judges, and an intrigue of justice served that has the reader engaged in guessing games.  Murderers had escaped punishment, only to become victims. Who killed them – and why was Christine involved?  Or was she? Who was Nita, the mysterious Spanish speaking maid?  No one is above suspicion.  It takes everyone, Mac, his secretary Archie, his half-brother David and even Gnarly the kleptomaniac German shepherd to fit together the pieces of this puzzle.  

Monday, May 23, 2011

Under the Gun - Again!

This wasn't the post I intended to write this morning. I put some more mystery writers and their new releases on Village of Mystery yesterday and was going to tell you about that.  However, my heart is heavy, my mind not functioning on the business of the day. I am still searching for friends and relatives that lived in the Joplin Missouri area. There has been, so far, no word from them. If you missed the news 25 percent of Joplin was destroyed by a massive tornado about 5 p.m. yesterday. 

To make matters worse this part of the state is under severe weather alerts for the next two days. Right now black clouds are hovering overhead and the weather radio indicated our county is in the path of a thunderstorm that may, or may not, produce a tornado. On that note I'll let you go - until next time.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Dying for a Date

'If I’d known my clothes would be covered in blood by the end of the evening, I probably wouldn’t have agonized over my wardrobe selection.' 

This is the opening sentence for the book, 
Dying for a Date, by Cindy Sample. The main character, Laurel McKay, thirty something, divorced, mother of two is talked into joining the Love Club. Her first date is a handsome CPA who, in self-defense, she slugs with a cell phone only to find out the next morning that the man was found dead in his car. Can you kill someone with a cell phone? That's the question asked by Detective Tom Hunter as he tries to ascertain if Laurel is a serial killer, or just a victim of poor judgement and ridiculous circumstances. 

Disastrous dating is the overall theme of this very funny, highly entertaining novel. I found myself saying, "Yeah, that would be what would happen to me." There are many laugh-out-loud lines but there is also some jaw-dropping action. Lots of suspects, including the ex-husband, and a triage of plot complications. A delightful read.  Oh, and you will learn a new acronym; PTDMSS.  No, I'm not going to tell you what it means - you'll have to read the book!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Under the Eye of Kali

Under the Eye of Kali is a beautiful book; the cover, the writing, the obvious knowledge of India and her culture. Set in the tourist town of Kovalan, Susan Oleksiw, introduces us to Anita Ray, a half-Indian, half-American photographer.

Anita is the manager of her Auntie Meena's Hotel Delite and in that role becomes involved in an American tourist mystery. Four American women meet at the hotel, each traveling different paths. Jean comes up missing - Emily desperately ill. Anita takes it upon herself to unravel the mystery surrounding these guests. 

If you have always wanted to know India; the food, the customs, the legends linked to Kali, then by all means read this book. Oleksiw has traveled extensively in that country and shares her experience in wonderful detail. I confess to having a problem following the main plot. The undertow of subplots and agendas seemed to distract. Aside from that it is a book of excellent literary skill and an interesting read. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Night of the Living Deed

Are you afraid of ghosts? After reading The Night of the Living Deed by E. J. Copperman, you might change your mind. It's a romp of a read taking you through a hundred year old mansion on the New Jersey coast. Introducing you to characters, both living and dead, that will entertain, delight and generally make you laugh out loud.

Alison Kerby and her nine year old daughter, Melissa, have purchased the old house in order to begin life anew after Alison's ex 'The Swine' has packed his bags for brighter country. They have dreams of renovating the mansion and making it a year round guesthouse. That is, until they discover they are not living there alone.

Paul, a young private detective and his client, Maxie, are permanent residents. They both died in the house and find it impossible to leave. They need to know who killed them. The list of suspects is long - from the mayor, to a big time amorous real estate developer, to an overzealous history teacher. Who sent Maxie threatening emails? Why is Alison receiving similar ones?  And, what's this about an old document? The newly positioned chief of police would also like answers to questions but she and Alison seem at odds, especially when the chief is forced to visit the haunted house. You've got to love Alison's Mom and her solution to a dangerous scenario in the town cemetery.

One of the quirky little things I loved about this book is that E. J. Copperman has re-invented a very old ploy - talking directly to the reader. I found it amusing. The whole book was a fast, fun read. Not in the least bit scary except many when Tony, a friend and helper, gets his first 'ghostly' kiss. Now, that would be unnerving.
The Night of the Living Deed is the first in the Haunted Guesthouse Mystery Series.

I know most of my readers are too young to remember Jimmy Durante and his infamous 'Miss Calabash' but for those of you who do remember - 'Goodnight, E.J. Copperman, who ever you are.'

Friday, April 8, 2011

Those Who Fight Monsters - Tales of Occult Detectives

Are there really gnomes living in underground sewers? Do they steal and 'dust' little girls? Are there monsters masquerading as humans that kill unborn babies? Who do you contact when you've made a pact with the Devil? Fourteen short stories, edited by Justin Gustainis, explore the possibilities of all things supernatural and embraces the courage and resourcefulness of  the occult detectives who protect the world and its inhabitants. 

From Kate Conner's Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom to Pete Caldecott's Black London Series, stories of the bizarre, the incredulous and 'down right creepy' come to life in Those Who Fight Monsters. Be warned - it may keep you up past your bedtime.

 Urban fantasy, which is the term for this type of storytelling, is relatively new but tales of monsters and monster hunters predate the famed Frankenstein and Dracula. There has always been an interest in the unknown and there have always been writers who scale the pinnacle of their imagination to create horrendous creatures that must be pitted against larger forces and superior intelligence. Gustainis, in this book has brought together fourteen, including himself, excellent storytellers.

I admit this is not normally a book I would read. If the use of raw language offends you, or you have a squeamish stomach you might want to give it a pass. But if you are up for something different - pick up a copy of Those Who Fight Monsters and get to know these incredible occult detectives.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Deadly Cliche

'As good as it gets' is the appropriate cliche for 'A Deadly Cliche' by Ellery Adams. This the second book in the Bay Mystery series, but the first read by this author for me. When I met the main character, Olivia Limoges, I was less than impressed. Too rich, too pretty, too spoiled, too perfect - until the chinks began to show. Olivia is more than she seems to be on the surface. There is a reason for her tough exterior.

A Deadly Cliche is more of a book about character than crime although there is enough mystery and untimely death to make the plot spin. The author's rich portrayal of people in Oyster Bay from the roller skating dwarf at Bagels 'n' Beans, to the sassy 'goth' barmaid who writes fantasy fiction, the reader is sure to identify with, or admire, at least one of the quirky, endearing creations by Adams.

Deciphering the cryptic meaning behind hints at cliches left behind at crime scenes occupies Olivia and her Bayside Book Writers group as they come to the aid of Chief Sawyer Rawlings; detective, artist, writer and maybe someone special.

Deadly Cliche is a book within a book.The reader is privileged with brief samples of the Bayside writer's creative endeavors. They are offered an emotional view of Olivia's past and present. Family secrets, friendships, love interests, this book has it all. And did I mention one of the most beloved characters? Captain Haviland is a standard size black poodle who is Olivia's constant companion. He plays his part in the capture of the criminals and not without peril. An effective scene for anyone who has cared deeply for a pet. 

Plus a wonderful 'feel good' ending that makes you want to revisit Oyster Bay again and again.

Friday, March 11, 2011

It's Murder. My Son

Who is Mac Faraday? Is he a topnotch homicide detective from Washington D.C., or is he Mickey Forsythe, a character from his famous birth mother's mystery novels? The people of Deep Creek Lake can't seem to make up their mind in It's Murder, My Son the premiere Mac Faraday novel by Lauren Carr. 
 Mac is recently divorced, and retired, when he learns he has inherited a multi-million dollar estate from the woman who gave him life. Along with a mansion and all the amenities that entails he is also the owner of a five-star lodge. Plus, he gets to keep Gnarly, an ex-GI canine with a dishonorable discharge. Couple this with the attractive woman editor, Archie, that lives in the guest cottage and you have the makings of a first rate mystery with a humorous bent. 
There are plenty of dead bodies, lots of suspects, hidden rooms, gangsters with big city gangs and a rampant 'thief' who is finally nabbed in the act. Carr has peppered this mystery with something for everyone - even a little romance. 
My only comment (and this is personal pet peeve) is I don't like epilogues. They always seem to take away from the magic of the book. Carr also seemed to mix up some of her facts in the last chapters but overall it's a great read. Light, humorous, with enough twists and turns to keep the reader engaged and looking forward to the next Mac Faraday Mystery.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Dogs Don't Lie

Dogs Don't Lie by Clea Simon is the first in a new 'pet noir' series featuring Pru Marlowe an animal psychic. Everyone who loves animals, or even likes them, knows they communicate with their human counterparts. But, can they actually talk? Wallis, Pru's amazing feline not only speaks but has a real attitude! Wallis contends that all dogs lie but is Lily, the beautiful white pit bull dog lying?  Lily's person, Charles, is dead. Lily is covered in his blood and conveys to Pru terror and confusion. Is the pit bull a victim, or a killer?
When Pru Marlowe lets herself open to a unique psychic ability, being able to not only 'hear' an animal's thoughts, but to feel their fear and pain she didn't realize how much this was going to change her life.No longer able to live in the city because of her 'gift' she made the choice to go home. Quiet little towns are not always what you remember then to be and Beauville was no exception. The opening of this series proves to be an interesting new concept in solving mysteries.With the help of Wallis, Lily, a ferret named Frank, a stressed out Persian cat, and a Bichon, Pru learns more about the people involved in this grisly affair than the police detective who is trying to solve it. It is through her special powers that she finally understands what happened - a real shocker. 
If you have always wondered what your cat, or dog, was thinking you will want to read this book, meet Pru Marlowe, and find out that usually, Dogs Don't Lie.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Margarita Nights

Margarita Nights, the first of the Sherri Travis mystery series by Phyllis Smallman introduces the reader to a character, Sherri Travis, chiseled from real life. Although not the brightest crayon in the box Sherri holds true to her trailer camp background and heart of gold attitude instilled by her bartender mother, Ruth Ann. Sometimes you want to reach between the covers of this book and give Sherri a shake of the shoulders. Her persistence that her 'godawful' estranged husband, Jimmy, didn't blow up with his boat and the subsequent events caused mostly by Sherri's ability to talk to the wrong people at the wrong time make this book an exciting read. The police want to know who killed Jimmy, if he's dead, and Sherri is the prime suspect. When another close friend is murdered the plot becomes more tangled.
Sherri and Ruth Ann are characters you won't forget after the last page. There are very effective scenes played out between the two that make them larger than life. The mother-in-law, Jimmy's mother, who doesn't, even remotely, come from a trailer camp background is convinced that everything that happened to her son is Sherri's fault. Her grimace when she opens the door to her less than perfect daughter-in-law speaks volumes. But Sherri has always been 'Jimmy's girl' whether she admits it or not. 
All the characters in this book, although numerous, are all well crafted and defined. You won't want to miss the 'reunion' at the Sunset Bar when the people of Sherri's life sort out their individual parts. Smallman describes it as 'The air was charged with energy as if an electrical storm was about to crack open the room'.
All of this, plus a great look at the Florida coastline and surrounding towns ensure a very enjoyable read. You can visit Sherri again in the sequels. Smallman's series was chosen by Good Morning America as one of the top six mystery series for 2010.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Drive Time

What really happens when the parking valet gets in your car and drives off? Is the car you just rented really safe?  Hank Phillippi Ryan, author of Drive Time is an investigative reporter for a major television station. The main character in her books, Charlotte McNally, becomes a mirror image of Ryan by pursuing criminal elements in everyday life. Drive Time, the fourth book of a series  deals with a valet parking scheme, unscrupulous rental car owners, and the general public that chooses to ignore car manufacturer recalls. Top that with mysterious deaths at her soon to be step-daughter’s exclusive school, a deal of a lifetime offer for her career, last minute nerves about her upcoming marriage and you have a real show-stopper of a book.
Fast moving, arm chair gripping car scenes, and a particularly effective dark, parking garage element sets the tone for exciting reading. Danger calls again as McNally decides to investigate the deaths and finds herself face to face with a demented blackmailer and confessed killer.
Should she get married, or stay single and take the job offer? Should she get married, take the job offer, and try to make it work? All will be revealed in the pages of Drive Time, a good read with lots of thoughts provoking situations.