Saturday, February 28, 2015

A Lord and His Lady Team Up to Fight Crime at New Scotland Yard

Kathleen Doyle, recently promoted to detective sargent and married for less than a year to Chief Inspector, Lord Michael Acton, is learning about her job and how to be successful in marriage. After a dangerous adventure in the previous book that involved jumping off a bridge, Doyle is acquiescing to her overly protective husband's demands and going through cold case files.

Going through the cold cases lands her in the case of a serial killer who is murdering people who got away with murder. Acton has his problems also. A reporter is bent on exposing some of Acton's dangerous activities. and there is someone in the department who is furthering the case. Doyle becomes caught up in the case when a criminal Acton prosecuted tries to ensnare her in the plot.

This is an enjoyable read. Doyle and Acton are amusing, trying to juggle professional and personal life. There are plenty of interesting minor characters like Detective Sargent Munoz, who is Doyle's rival, and Williams, a newly minted detective inspector, who is Doyle's ex-boyfriend and now friend.

There were, however, some things I didn't like about the book. The investigation of the cold case murders has a number of threads and while the case is resolved at the end, I didn't feel that enough clues were given during the story. Too many other threads distracted from the crime and these didn't all get resolved at the end.

Another petty annoyance is Doyle's use of 'my friend' as a tag when speaking to almost anyone. The book was written from her point of view, and I often felt her thoughts were too self-referential and not related to crime solving. I also found Acton's over protectiveness disturbing. He was constantly tracking her by her cellphone, to the extent she had to leave it with other people to evade him.

However, if you like a mystery with not much bloodshed, and with likable characters, this is a good choice. Since this is the third book in the series you two other chances to get to know the characters' history.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Mind of an Assassin

Jon works for the Tattooed Man as a hit man. Because he's good at his job and does whatever the Tattooed Man assigns, he lives well, but he's a loner. When he meets up with Andy, an old school friend, that changes. Andy is out of work, and he has a wife a baby.

Jon realizes that his friend has something he doesn't, and he wants to help him. This is the beginning of real changes in his life. When he does the bidding of the Tattooed Man, he functions as a slave, but now he has a chance to act on his own.

This is a very psychological book. Jon is a complex character. Cross does a good job of presenting Jon's background and development without overdoing the backstory. Andy is also a well done character moving from being a loser to losing himself.

If you enjoy psychological novels, I recommend this book. It deals with an interesting interpretation of what it means to be free or a slave.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.

A Fast Paced Fantasy Adventure

Neil Vapros, a member of the powerful Vapros family, wants to be an assassin to impress his father. He is assigned to kill the grandfather, titular head of the Taurlum clan. Once in the Taurlum mansion, he looks for the grandfather, but instead runs into two young Tarulum brothers, Darius and Michael. They give chase and Neil is barely able to escape.

The three primary families of Altryon: Vapros, Taurlum, and Celerium, have been given special powers designed to help protect the city from the dangers of the world outside the city walls, but for years they have been fighting each other using their powers to kill each other. Now there is a powerful emperor, but instead of fostering peace among the families, he appears to be encouraging the feud.

Young adults, teens and preteens, should enjoy this book. It's filled with action, battles, and magical encounters where young people fight to protect their families. The book focuses on plot and action and does it well. However, there is little character development. Neil does grow as he faces the forces arrayed against him, but the other characters remain static.

I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys fast paced action with a touch of magic.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A Federal Judge, Kidnapping, and a Baby

Federal Judge Diane Manchester, pregnant with her first child, is presiding over the trial of a Colombian drug lord. During the morning's session Escalante threatens her and her baby. Diane refuses to be intimidated, goes to lunch alone, and is kidnapped and dragged into a white van. Billy Manchester, her husband and a brilliant attorney, immediately puts his investigator, PI Max Freeman, on the case.

Although it seems that the Colombian connection is very strong, some things don't add up. There is no ransom demand, or demand to extradite Escalante. Max works his sources on the streets while Billy works his contacts in South America. They are coming up empty and eight-month pregnant Diane's time is running out.

This is the first Max Freeman novel I've read, and I enjoyed it. The case is interesting. Although there are clues, it's hard to figure out who is responsible.

The story is told from different perspectives, Diane, Max, and a girl named Rae who is working with the kidnappers. Diane is a great character. I can hardly imagine how frightening it must be to be kidnapped, kept in a dark hood, handcuffed, and unable to even touch your stomach to verify that the baby is all right.

Rae is also a good character. She doesn't want to be assisting the kidnappers, but what choice does she have?

Max and Billy are also believable. I particularly liked the ending where Max goes deep into Florida in an effort to rescue Diane before it's too late.

If you like mysteries with good characters and an interesting plot, you'll enjoy this book.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.

An Affluent Suburb Reels from Finding a Dead Baby

Ridgeway NJ, a university town with an affluent population, is not a place where you expect to find an infant buried beside a creek. The creek runs behind the university and twenty years earlier another suspicious death occurred there. The baby's death awakens interest in the old case, and three women are particularly affected.

Molly is recovering from a bout of depression occasioned by the stillborn death of her baby two years ago. She is working as a reporter for the Ridgeway Reader and beginning to find herself again when a coincidence gives her the assignment of the story on the dead baby. Her husband is worried that it will cause a relapse, but Molly knows she needs to pursue this mystery.

Sandy, a high school dropout with an out of control mother, is also affected by the death, but her major worry is that her mother has disappeared, and they are being evicted from their apartment. Sandy is very much alone trying to get her life back in order.

Barbara, married to the chief of police, is trying to be the perfect mother, but her children, particularly her son are having problems, and her husband is preoccupied with the baby's death.

The story is told from the perspective of these three women. The author does a good job of giving each woman a voice and a personal point of view. I liked Sandy. She is a resilient, tough kid given a hard life. Molly was not my favorite character. She was so unsure of herself that she became annoying. I didn't like Barbara at all, but her character was designed to be a bitch.

The plot is well done. Clues are dropped along the way, but you probably won't figure out what happened until the very end. This is a mystery that's quick to read and enjoyable

I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Murdered Aboriginal Chief in London

The Kus are a tribe displaced from their native jungle during WWII and relocated to a large house in London. Although they are living in London and the younger members are beginning to assimilate into the new culture, the tribe has retained many of their aboriginal customs.

Aaron, the chief, has been murdered. Since the house is locked up at night, it looks as though one of the Kus committed the murder. When Detective Superintendent Pibble gets the case, he is surprised by the unusual nature of the community. The house has been modified to accommodate tribal customs. The women sleep in one large room, the women's hut. The men sleep and spend a great deal of time in a comparable room, the men's hut.

This unusual society exists by the largess of Dr. Ku, a Scottish anthropologist, who married into the tribe. She and her husband Paul, an artist and her former houseboy, are the most assimilated into the London world, but also strangely connected to tribal customs.

I enjoyed this novel. The characters from Dr. Ku to Robin, a second generation boy who straddles the two worlds, and Bob Caine, the next door neighbor who was selfishly responsible for the decimation of the tribe during WWII, are unusual and fascinating. The mystery keeps you guessing with clues suggesting that the murderer must be a Ku, but also pointing to an outsider.

I highly recommend this novel if you like a good mystery with unusual characters and imaginative background.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.

A Master Impressionist Loses Himself

Giovanni has a talent for mimicking people that as a child often lands him in trouble. The only person who understands him is his smothering mother. She encourages the talent that  leads to his success and eventual downfall.

He is leading an ordinary life as a ticket agent when Max. a rather sleazy talent agent, spots him, puts him on the stage, and changes his life. From the stage he gets into movies and even a political run, but the threads of his life unravel and the ending is quite sad.

The blurb on this book calls it “A hilarious and dazzling debut novel.” Personally, I didn't find it either hilarious or dazzling. The first chapters were relatively interesting. Giovanni's childhood and later discovery by Max are a rather fascinating character sketch. However, as the novel progresses into his later success and eventual downfall, I thought the author was trying to build a short story into a novel.

This is an almost totally character driven story. The setting is sketchy. Giovanni moves from town to city, but we never have a clear picture of his surroundings. I enjoy novels that have attractive background. This book disappointed in that area.

I can't recommend this book unless you love long character studies. I found it hard to get into and the three divisions didn't help the flow of the narrative.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Murder, Mystery and Romance in the Old South

Celia Browning anxiously awaits the return of her childhood sweetheart, Sutton Mackay, from Jamaica where he has spent the last two years. Sutton has not yet proposed, but Celia is hopeful that he will when he returns.

Although the Browning family is one of the most prominent in Savannah, Georgia in 1858, a cloud hangs over the family. Twenty years ago a member of the family committed suicide in the house, or was it murder, and a servant died in the coach house. Savannah society has forgotten the incident until a newspaperman, Leo Channing, comes to town. He hopes to make a name for himself by raking up the old tragedy.

Leo Channing isn't the only problem for the Brownings. The Civil War is looming and Celia's father is not well. In addition, the MacKays have lost one of their ships which is a severe economic blow. Then Celia receives a bracelet. She's delighted thinking the bracelet is from Sutton until she realizes that the order of the stones spells out DEAD. Someone is trying to frighten her.

One of the best parts of this book is the historical detail. Love paints a realistic picture of Savannah before the Civil War. The addition of a mysterious death and the attempts to frighten Celia make for a page turner.

The romance and the characters are not as well done. Celia and Sutton are stock romantic characters. Sutton is a dream lover, too good to be true. Celia becomes more interesting when instead of worrying about her romantic prospects she tries to solve the mystery.

If you enjoy historical romance with a tinge of mystery, you'll like this book. Although the characters are stereotypical, as they worked
to solve the mystery, I became engaged with their fate.

I reviewed the book for Thomas Nelson's BookLook Bloggers

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Murder Squad Again Faces A Deranged Killer

In The Devil's Workshop, Detective Inspector Walter Day and his partner, Nevil Hammersmith suffered at the hands of Jack-the-Ripper. Both are now recovering from their wounds, but neither man is happy. Day has been relegated to a desk job. Hammersmith has been fired for his own good.

Day's wife has given birth to twin girls and his in-laws have moved in to take care of them putting the Days in a very uncomfortable position. Hammersmith is still anxious to find the Ripper. Although he no longer wears a badge, he continues to follow clues to find the deranged murderer.

In addition to the Riper, another insane murderer is terrorizing London. The Harvest Man is searching for his parents. He's convinced they're hiding behind masks, so he follows couples to their homes and cuts up their faces trying to find his parents faces.

In addition to these murderers, there may be a third murderer taking off from the crimes of the Ripper. He's killing women using the same techniques as the Ripper.

I enjoyed this mystery. The gory murders are interspersed with quiet domestic scenes primarily form the Day's home. It makes a nice contrast to the violence. The major problem with the book is that so much is dependent on what happened in the previous novel. Sometimes it makes it hard to follow the relationships between the characters.

If you enjoy historical mysteries, this is a good one. It's set in the 1890s and the background is well described and suitable to the era. The characters come across as real people. I particularly enjoyed Claire Day and Fiona Kingsley. They were representative of their time, but struggling against society to be their own person.

I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Theological Page Turner

In this sequel to Judas the Apostle, Dr. Cloe Lejeune is enjoying a quiet academic life in Louisiana after finding an ancient copy of the Judas Gospel in the oil jar willed to her by her father. She's hard at work trying to reconstruct a document found in pieces in a second oil jar. Although loathe to leave her quiet life, Cloe travels to the Vatican at the request of the monsignor and the Pope.

Although the Kolector is dead, his organization is alive and still trying to find the cave where the oil jars were stored. This organization seeks the jars to use the contents to discredit the church. Cloe feels she has no choice but to help find the cave where Thib, her father, found the first oil jar. Again she's helped by her son, J.E. and the monsignor.

This sequel is primarily a chase scene where Cloe and her friends are in a race with the remnants
of the Kolector's organization to find the cave and save the jars and their contents. There's plenty of action much of it with high powered weapons. If you like excitement, you'll enjoy this book.

I found it less interesting than the first book. There's less historical information. The characters are again stock characters and in some cases their actions are quite unbelievable except in the service of the plot. I can recommend this if you like Christian adventure, but not if you want a character driven novel.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A Theological Thriller

Dr. Cloe Lejeune's quiet academic life as an expert in ancient languages is upended when her father is murdered. Although she and her father have been estranged for many years, she returns to Louisiana for the funeral. The reading of the will brings even more uncertainty into her life. Her father has willed her an ancient oil jar that he discovered during WWII when he parachuted into the Atlas Mountains of Tunisia and fell into a cave.

Even more surprising than the bequest of the jar is the presence at the reading of the will of Father Aloysius and a mysterious monseigneur from the Vatican. Cloe is unsure what to do with her bequest, but the priests convince her to take it to Louisiana State University to be evaluated and find out what is contained in the jar. This becomes increasingly dangerous because some unknown people, probably the ones who killed her father, are after the jar.

This fast paced suspense novel is based on the finding of the Gospel of Judas and its publication in 2006. I found the novel fascinating raising the questions of whether Judas was a traitor, as portrayed in the Bible, or whether something else was going on that led him to act the way he did.

The best part of the novel was the interweaving of the actual gospel with the fictional drama. The discussions of how the finding of the gospel affect Christianity are well done
. For me, the weakest part of the book is the characters. They are stock characters whose emotions seem forced. However, if you like an adventure novel based on history, you'll enjoy this book.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

A Gentle Love Story Set in Charleston

Eliza lives in London with an upper-class boyfriend and good prospects for a career in the art world. She grew up in Charleston but has no intention of going back. Then her secure London life is shaken first by meeting Henry, an old boyfriend, and then by agreeing to return to Charleston for her step-sister Sara's d├ębutante party. Once back in Charleston, the city and surrounding countryside reawaken her love for the area, and being with Henry rekindles their relationship.

This is a lovely story of unfolding love both of an area and a man. It's not an exciting romance; it's gentle and quiet without much happening except the flowering of a love affair. The author does such an excellent job describing Charleston and the surrounding area that sometimes I wondered whether the love affair was with the area or the man.

I thoroughly enjoyed the descriptions of Charleston, the stories, and the odd characters. For me it made the book. I found the love affair a little too mundane. It reads like just living your life day to day. This isn't terrible, but if you like more excitement and romance, this may not be the book for you.

I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Courtroom Drama and Racial Tension

It's 1964 in Justice, Mississippi and racial tension is high. Calvin Ross, a black college student, is accused of murdering a young white girl. The white community thinks this is an open and shut case, but Calvin's aunt, Hattie Ross, believes he couldn't have done it.

Hattie convinces Cooper Lindsey, a young attorney, to take the case. He was born in Justice, the son of the preacher, and has just returned home to practice law. Coop doesn't want to take the case. He knows it will put him and his family in danger from an outraged white community, but he remembers his father's sermons about the Good Samaritan. Because of his belief in justice and being his father's son, he agrees to represent Calvin.

Fifty years later, Coop's grandson returns to Justice to find out what happened to his grandfather after the end of the case. It's now 2014 and Justice is an integrated community. In fact, many of the officials are now black. Another case is coming to trial when the younger Coop arrives. This time a white teenager is accused of killing a black teenager. Like his grandfather, the younger Coop becomes involved in this racially tense case.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The plot is fast paced, full of twists and courtroom tension. The author has done an excellent job of capturing the tone of the community in both time frames. The characters, particularly the older Coop and his grandson, are people you can't help but root for. The villains are clearly evil. In fact, the characters could have been more nuanced, but since this was a story of good and evil rather than a character study, it wasn't bothersome.

I highly recommend this book if you enjoy legal thrillers with a Christian background.

I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program.