Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Hooked on Ewe by Hannah Reed

Hannah Reed's latest atmospheric mystery takes readers to the Scottish Highlands of sheep dog trials, charming pubs, and the Northern Lights. Throw in a murder just to stir up trouble, and you have the cozy mystery, Hooked on Ewe.

As American aspiring romance writer, Eden Elliott, settles in for her six-month stay in Glenkillen, she's eager to assist at the charity sheep dog trials. That doesn't mean she wants to be a volunteer under the watchful eye of Isla Lindsey, the termagant in charge of the welcoming committee. So, she quickly agrees when Detective Inspector Kevin Jamieson asks for a word with her. And, she's eager to accept when he recruits her to be a special constable, knowing that there's never any serious crime in the small village. Of course, that's before Eden opens the door of a van, and Isla's body tumbles out at her feet.

Inspector Jamieson might have thought Eden would be easier to work with than his previous special constable, Sean Stevens. Yes, the self-deprecating author is quite different. While Sean quakes at the sight of the body, Eden pulls herself together and takes charge. And, her interview style is purely American. Instead of slowly leading up to her questions, Eden rashly, and sometimes rudely, forces the issue. But, it isn't long before her actions bring results as she discovers lies and half-truths from the people who could have killed Isla Lindsey.

It's fun to follow Eden Elliott's thoughts as she debates whether she should allow the take-charge part of herself to take over as she enthusiastically investigates, or the "saner part" of herself that realizes she's a romance novelist who knows nothing about murder investigations. Reed's mystery includes light-hearted moments such as Eden's introspection and a few scenes of romantic interest. At the same time, the author instructs readers about the customs such as sheep-shearing and the sheep dog trials. And, she still manages to stress that the victim, no matter how dislikable, was the mourned victim of a killer.

The Scottish Highlands is a romantic setting for the story of an American writer caught up in her own dreams, finding friends, and discovering a passion for justice in Hooked on Ewe.

And, I'm giving away one copy of Hooked on Ewe. Email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com by 6 PM CT on Thursday, July 9. Your subject heading should read "Win Hooked on Ewe." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Hannah Reed's website is www.hannahreedbooks.com

Hooked on Ewe by Hannah Reed. Berkley Prime Crime. 2015. ISBN 9780425265833 (paperback), 294p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.

Monday, July 06, 2015

The Fraud by Brad Parks

Our carefree investigative reporter Carter Ross has become a little more responsible now that there's a baby on its way. That doesn't mean Carter doesn't get in trouble, as shown in the opening chapter of Brad Parks' The Fraud, when he says in forty-three hours he has to walk into a room with two dangerous people in it, hoping to save his unborn child.

When the mother of Carter's child, managing editor for local news for the Newark Eagle-Examiner, Tina Thompson, asks him to look into a story about a carjacking and murder, Ross objects. Why does the paper only care when a well-off white man is killed? So, he goes digging into recent carjackings and finds a fifty-four-year-old Nigerian immigrant who was killed two weeks earlier. Both men were driving expensive cars. And, the two men had played golf at an exclusive country club just a few weeks before the first carjacking. Carter starts digging around, in his inimitable way, stirring up trouble and calling on all his resources in the newsroom and around Newark. It's a story that will put his career, his life, and that of his unborn child at risk.

The suspense and anxiety intensifies in Brad Parks' latest story, as the story drives to an emotional conclusion. Once again Parks manages to present an intricately plotted crime novel while allowing Carter Ross, the likable reporter, to relate his story candidly, revealing his flaws and his wrong turns along the way.

There's a reason Parks has won Shamus, Lefty and Nero awards for the books in this series. These are thought-provoking books.They are stories about the gritty streets of Newark, the crimes and the criminals who see no way out. At the same time, the stories are narrated by a character who has matured over the course of the series while still managing to stay mischievous and witty.  And, despite all the stories Carter Ross covers in the course of his career, he manages to remain a caring, optimistic character who wears his heart on his sleeve. He may be covering The Fraud, but Carter Ross is the real thing, a man with a conscience.

Brad Parks' website is www.bradparksbooks.com

The Fraud by Brad Parks. Minotaur Books. 2015. ISBN 9781250064400 (hardcover), 384p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Someday Home by Lauraine Snelling

Although I read Lauraine Snelling's Someday Home for a review for a journal, and found the story itself enjoyable, I had one big problem with the book. Why would anyone refer to women of 47, 51, and 52 as old or aged?

Lynn Lundberg's husband dropped dead one year and nine months earlier. Now, her sons want her to sell the house and move next to the oldest one. But, Lynn prays over it, and, instead, comes up with an alternative. There's a new trend called "shared housing". Two or three people share a house, people who have careers, but find it financially convenient to share a house. Lynn doesn't want to give up her beloved house, so she waits for the right women to come into her life.

On the eve of their 25th wedding anniversary, Angela Bishop's husband, Jack, says he wants to find himself. Now, Angela, who remade herself to suit Jack, dieting and finding a job in real estate, now has to find out who she really is when she's not living for Jack.

Judith Rutherford was shocked to learn that her father had left their family home in Minnesota to a trust. She had left college and moved home to take care of both of her parents. For years, she did everything for them, only to lose it all when her father died. Now, at forty-seven, she had little college education, and little preparation for a career.

These three women agree to try living together. That experiment has its ups and downs, as any situation does when people are living together, especially people who have been living independently for years. But, Someday Home is a warm story of support and growing friendship.

Someday Home is also Christian fiction. I'm not a big fan of prayers throughout a novel, so the presence of prayers will help determine whether or not you read this book. What bothered me most, though, as I said earlier, were the comments that referred to these three women as aged. Bah, humbug. And, Lauraine Snelling should know better.

Lauraine Snelling's website is www.laurainesnelling.com

Someday Home by Lauraine Snelling. Faith Words. 2015. ISBN 9781455586302 (paperback), 368p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I was sent the book to review for a journal.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

The Silenced by Heather Graham

I'm a sucker for Heather Graham's Krewe of Hunters books. These novels feature a special team of FBI agents who have some sort of paranormal ability, usually the ability to see or hear dead people. In the course of the book, they use their connections to track serial killers. And, because these are romantic suspense novels, there is a romance, usually between two agents. The Silenced is no exception.

Lara Mayhew worked for Congressman Ian Walker until she quit after a disagreement, and disappeared the same night. But, she left a confusing phone message for her best friend Meg Murray. Meg, who had just graduated from the FBI academy, turned for help to Adam Harrison, the man who founded the Krewe of Hunters. He matched her up with Agent Matt Bosworth on a hunt for Meg. Everyone was worried because, not only had Meg disappeared, but she bore a remarkable resemblance to two young women whose bodies had just been found, both probably victims of the same killer. When Meg sees Lara in her mirror, she fears she's dead, but Matt guesses that Lara is reaching out to Meg for help. As the two trace Lara's past, looking for answers in Richmond, Harper's Ferry, and Gettysburg, they manage to pick up a victim's dog, and discover their own attraction to each other.

Everything in The Silenced is fast-paced, including the romance. The reader not only follows Meg and Matt on the trail of the killer, but also experiences the killer's viewpoint, and Lara's. And, the suspense just intensifies as the story heads to a climax before a battlefield speech.

Unlikely? Yes. And, there's no great depth of character in these books. But, Graham's Krewe of Hunter books, including The Silenced, capitalize on great settings, intense suspense, and a paranormal element. The books are just fun, quick reads.

Heather Graham's website is http://www.theoriginalheathergraham.com

The Silenced by Heather Graham. MIRA. 2015. ISBN 9780778317982 (hardcover), 299p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Friday, July 03, 2015

Winners and Florida Law & Order Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Lynn L. from Rio Linda, CA won Carolyn Hart's Don't Go Home. Anne Hillerman's Rock with Wings is going to Judy S. of Hazel Green, AL. The books will go out tomorrow.

We have two crime novels this week that are set in Florida. Let's start with Paul Levine's Bum Rap. NFL linebacker-turned-lawyer Jake Lassiter has had it with a legal system out of control, and he's thinking about leaving Miami and never looking back. Then he gets a call from Victoria Lord of hot local legal team Solomon & Lord. Her partner in life and law has been arrested for murder, and the only person who can clear him has fled. Now, Jake and Victoria have to track down the witness before she's roped in by the feds or eliminated by the Russian mob.

Or, you could win one of my favorite crime novels of the year, James O. Born's Scent of Murder. Deputy Tim Hallett has been assigned to a special K-9 unit, teamed with the best partner he ever had, a Belgian Malinois named Rocky. While searching for a kidnapper, Rocky locks on to the scent of a predator. And, the more Hallett digs, the more it seems to be connected to the case that nearly destroyed his career. With its focus on the K-9 team, it's a terrific crime novel.

Which crime novel would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject heading should read either "Win Bum Rap" or "Win Scent of Murder." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The giveaway will end next Thursday, July 9 at 6 PM CT.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

August Treasures in My Closet - Part 2

Today, I'm leading off the August releases with my personal pick. But, Louise Penny's eleventh Chief Inspector Gamache novel would be my personal pick no matter what month it came out. I'm prejudiced, though.

In The Nature of the Beast, Penny introduces us to a nine-year-old boy who cries wolf, making up stories of invasions in Three Pines. When the boy disappears, though, the villagers, including the now-retired Gamache, realize one of the boy's tall tales might be true. It's a story that leads to murder, to an old crime, to betrayal, and to an old poet. (Release date is Aug. 25.)

Journalist and former Parade editor-in-chief, Janice Kaplan, writes of one year being grateful in The Gratitude Diaries. On New Year's Eve, she vows to take a year to be grateful and look at the bright side of everything. As she gets advice from psychologists, academics, and writers, she takes readers on her journey. (Release date is Aug. 18.)

The second nonfiction entry is Alex Kershaw's Avenue of Spies. The author tells the true story of an American doctor and his family in Paris, and their heroic espionage efforts during the Second World War. As the war raged, all three Jacksons were drawn deeper into the Resistance, although almost every building on their exclusive residential block had been commandeered by the Nazis. And, when their secret was finally discovered, they were forced to undertake a dangerous journey across the war-torn continent. (Release date is Aug. 4.)

Sophie Littlefield's The Guilty One is a novel about the damage people can do to each other, and the resilience they find in themselves. Maris' world was shattered when her daughter was murdered, presumably at the hands of the young woman's boyfriend. Now, Maris herself holds a man's life in her hands. At the other end of the phone is the boyfriend's father. He's standing on the Golden Gate Bridge, poised to jump, if Maris tells him to. (Release date is Aug. 11.)

James Marrison introduces us to a new police inspector in his debut novel, The Drowning Ground. Chief Inspector Guillermo Downes, a native of Argentina, now heads up the police department in the English Cotswolds. When a young girl disappears, the second girl in two weeks to go missing, Downes makes a rash promise to the child's mother to find her no matter what. Ten years later, the promised is still unfulfilled. And, then a local man, once suspected of killing is wife, is found dead. And, the dead man might have a connection to those missing girls. (Release date is Aug. 25.)

The Intruder is Hakan Ostlundh's crime novel about betrayal and dark secrets. The Andersson family is being sent scary letters without a sender's name. Gotland policeman Fredrik Broman and his colleagues take the threats seriously, but they don't rule out a tasteless joke. When the threats escalate, and the couple's daughter disappears, all doubts vanish. And, the disappearance is only the beginning. (Release date is Aug. 18.)

Blind psychiatrist Mark Angelotti is faced with his most troubling case yet in Lynne Raimondo's  Dante's Dilemma. Asked to evaluate the estranged wife of a slain University of Chicago professor, he's forced to help the prosecution. And, his evidence all but convicts her. When a tip connects the case to another suspected murder and evidence that she may not be guilty, Angelotti discovers someone will do anything to guarantee that she takes the fall. (Release date is Aug. 4.)

Inspector Alan Banks returns in Peter Robinson's In the Dark Places. It's a double mystery. Two young men have vanished, and the investigation leads to two troubling clues in two different locations. And, then a freak truck accident leads to the discovery, not only of the driver's body, but also of a body that was dead before the crash. As snow falls, the body count rises in Banks' complex case. (Release date is Aug. 11.)

James Sie's debut novel is Still Life Las Vegas. Walter Stahl's life will always be marked by the day his mother disappeared when he was five, driving off, never to return. Even though he never even saw a picture of her, twelve years later he continues to watch for her in the groups of tourists he caters to in his dead-end job along the Vegas Strip. Then, as he searches for clues as to her disappearance, he's forced to face the truth about himself and his family history. (Release date is Aug. 11.)

 Here's an unusual viewpoint. Bradley Somer's Welcome to the Fishbowl features a goldfish named Ian. Longing for adventure, Ian escapes his bowl and finds himself plummeting twenty-seven stories toward the street below. As he descends, he witnesses the lives of the Seville on Roxy residents, each facing a decision that will affect the course of their lives. (Release date is Aug. 4.)

Denise Grover Swank's first Rose Gardner mystery is being re-issued in hardcover. Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes introduces the employee of the DMV. She's had plenty of visions, but this one is unique. She's seen herself dead, but her overbearing momma winds up murdered instead of Rose, making Rose the prime suspect. With her death looming, Rose lists twenty-eight things she wants to accomplish before her vision comes true. And, as things get worse, she realizes she has bigger things to worry about than her list. (Release date is Aug. 11.)

Former Sports Illustrated reporter and editor Bill Syken's fiction debut, Hangman's Game, is set in the world of pro football. Nick Gallow lost his starting position as a college quarterback, turning himself into a punter who made it to the pros. But, after five years, his career no longer looks bright. But, he's unexpectedly thrust back in the spotlight when he witnesses the murder of the new all-star draft pick. Nick doesn't plan to get involved until a second attack hits closer to home, and the police go after the wrong man. Nick finds himself driven by the chance to be a hero again. (Release date is Aug. 18.)

Brian Thiem brings his experience, twenty-five years with the Oakland Police Department, to his debut novel, Red Line. When a teenager from a wealthy suburb outside of Oakland, CA is dumped at an inner city bus stop, homicide detective Matt Sinclair catches the case. It's his first since being dumped to desk duty for a bust that went south. It's the worse kind of case, and it only gets worse as the bodies start to pile up - first at the same bus bench, then around the city. Sinclair is unable to link the victims to each other, and the killer is just getting started. (Release date is Aug. 11.)

And, the last novel is Gabriel Urza's All That Followed. Auriga, a quiet town in Spain's northern Basque Country, has more secrets than residents. Five years after the kidnapping and murder of a young local politician, but, now the townspeople want answers. Everyone knows who pulled the trigger five years earlier, but is the young man behind bars truly to blame. The story peels back the layers of a crime complicated by history, love, and betrayal. (Release date is Aug. 4.)

I know which books I'm anticipating in August. Which ones do you want to read?

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

August Treasures in My Closet - Part 1

Prepare yourself. August has innumerable book releases, and I have quite a few of them for the Treasures in My Closet posts. There's something here for everyone, I hope. Let me know which forthcoming books you find exciting.

I'll lead off with my personal pick, Linda Fairstein's Devil's Bridge. Detective Mike Chapman is spotlighted in this one when he has to investigate the disappearance of Alex Cooper. There are some complications. Coop's put countless criminals behind bars in her decade of work. There's been a recent security breach. And, there's the change in her relationship with Mike, who will do anything to get Coop back. (Release date is Aug. 11.)

This time, Meg Langslow has to save Halloween in Lord of the Wings by Donna Andrews. The mayor of Caerphilly, Virginia is turning the town into Spooky City, USA. When a suspicious fire burns down the Haunted House, Meg agrees to lend her home for the replacement. But, when a real body turns up, Meg has to save the holiday. (Release date is Aug. 4.)

Egypt's most popular novelist, Alan Al Aswany, brings us The Automobile Club of Egypt. It's the story of a family caught up in the social unrest in post-World War II Cairo. The Automobile Club is a place of refuge and luxury for its European members, but Egyptians are only servants there. When politics leads to social upheaval, the Egyptians of the Automobile Club have two choices: live safely but without dignity as servants, or fight for their rights and risk everything. (Release date is Aug. 18.)

Susan Barker's The Incantations weaves Chinese folklore, history, and literary classics into the story of a taxi driver, Driver Wang. While driving in Beijing during the preparations for the 2008 Olympics, the first letter falls into his lap as he flips down his visor. The writer claims to be Driver Wang's soulmate, someone who continues to send more letters telling stories of their lives, bound together over centuries of betrayal and intrigue. Driver Wang becomes convinced someone is watching him, someone who is getting closer. (Release date is Aug. 18.)

In Paula Brackston's latest novel, Lamp Black, Wolf Grey, a young artist goes to the Welsh mountains in search of love. Laura Matthews and her husband move to an ancient house in the hills, hoping to inspire her to produce her art, and hoping for the baby they both want. But, Laura discovers a charismatic man who pursues her, a wise old woman who talks in riddles, and a mysterious man from the past, Merlin himself. (Release date is Aug. 4.)

I'll be honest and say, not having read Brene Brown's Rising Strong means the summary of the nonfiction book sounds a little unusual. It's a book about vulnerability. "If we are brave enough, often enough, we will fall." It's a book about what it takes to get back up, "and how owning our stories of struggle gives us the power to write daring new endings." Dr. Brown covered this topic in a 2010 TED talk, "The Power of Vulnerability", and she now writes about it. (Release date is Aug. 25.)

Dale Brown returns with a military thriller, Iron Wolf. A resurgent Russia inflames sectarian unrest and violence in Ukraine and Poland, setting off a stealth robotic war and escalating an international crisis. When NATO refuses to act in response to Russian actions, the former U.S. president and the Polish president launch Operation Iron Wolf without the knowledge of the Americans or their NATO partners. It's a battle to determine the fate of Eastern Europe. (Release date is Aug. 25.)

Here's one of the debuts for August, Ellen Byron's Plantation Shudders, a Cajun Country mystery. Prodigal daughter Maggie Crozat returns home to her family's plantation-turned-bed-and-breakfast in Louisiana just in time for the local food festival. And, she's just in time to become a murder suspect when two guests, a couple, keel over dead within minutes of each other. In order to clear her name and hold the family business together, Maggie investigates, uncovering decades-old secrets. (Release date is Aug. 11.)

Dead Soon Enough by Steph Cha finds Juniper Song, a licensed private detective, handling her most unusual case yet. Rubin Gasparian hires her to follow her cousin,  Lusig,a surrogate carrying Rubina's baby. Lusig might be endangering the baby as she hunts for her best friend who is missing, a woman involved in the battle to erect an Armenian genocide memorial. Juniper's search leads her deep into a tight-knit immigrant community and the groups opposed to it. (Release date is Aug. 11.)

Stephanie Clifford's novel, Everybody Rise, is a story of social climbing and entrenched class distinctions. In 2006 in Manhattan, money and ambition consume the city as a new generation jockeys for social power. Class, especially on the Upper East Side, is still important, and Evelyn Beegan really wants to work her way up the social ladder. In order to pass as upper class, she has to lie about her background. And, it won't be long until those lies start to give way. (Release date is Aug.  18.)

In Douglas Corleone's Gone Cold, former US Marshal Simon Fisk searches from the U.S. to the UK and Ireland for his missing daughter. Twelve years after his six-year-old daughter Hailey was abducted, Simon finds an urgent message comparing two images, a computer-generated image of Hailey, and the sketch of a young woman wanted for murder in Ireland. Fisk goes hunting for the people responsible, and hopes to find Hailey. (Release date is Aug. 18.)

I always look forward to Bill Crider's new Dan Rhodes mysteries. Between the Living and the Dead finds Clearview, Texas Sheriff Dan Rhodes dealing with ghost hunters, runaway bulls, and assorted low-level crimes, including prosecuting people who don't use their turn signals. It promises to be another fun mystery. (Release date is Aug. 11.)

Jennine Capo Crucet's debut novel, Make Your Home Among Strangers, is the story of what it means to be an American today. Lizet, the daughter of Cuban immigrants, is accepted into an elite college, although her parents are furious at her decision to leave Miami. And, then her home life in Miami unravels, as her parents divorce and her father sells her childhood home. (Release date is Aug. 4.)

No Virgin Island is C. Michele Dorsey's mystery debut. Sabrina Salter traded a high-pressure job for life as an inn-keeper on St. John. Then, Sabrina finds a guest dead, murdered, and she was the last person to see him alive. With Sabrina's checkered history, the police mark Sabrina as the prime suspect, so she has to find the true killer. But, Sabrina's search catches her up in a net of adultery, kidnapping, identity fraud and murder. (Release date is Aug. 11.)

Philip Mercer, geologist with a taste for international adventure, returns in Jack Du Brul's The Lightning Stones. Mercer rides an elevator two thousand feet into the earth of a Minnesota mine, just in time to hear automatic gunfire, and find his mentor and an entire research team brutally executed. Mercer's hunt for revenge and the killers sends him on an international chase, one that involves the rare and powerful crystals, lightning stones, rumored to have been on Amelia Earhart's plane when it vanished in 1937. (Release date is Aug. 11.)

What a difference a year makes in Lauren Fox' Days of Awe. One year, Isabel Moore was married, adored by her ten-year-old daughter, and thought she knew everything about her best friend. A year later, her husband has moved out, her daughter is a moody insomniac, and her best friend was killed in a single car accident. All of her relationships changed in that year. Now, who is Isabel Moore? (Release date is Aug. 4.)

You might want to try Eli Gottlieb's Best Boy if you were a fan of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. Todd, an autistic man in his 50s, tells his story. He's been in his current group home for decades, and he's pretty happy there. But, then a new menacing staff member arrives, and he finds a new love interest who convinces him to stop taking one of his medications. They both serve to shake him out of his complacency, and set some events in motion that stir up family secrets and memories. (Release date is Aug. 24.)

Joshua Hood's Clear by Fire is a military thriller about an American hero, Mason Kane, who, in order to clear his name, must take down a highly classified band of solders that has gone murderously rogue. Kane is a proud member of the elite, off-the-books Anvil Program, a group of black ops soldiers who wage war from the shadows. But, Kane refuses to obey his commander when the team is ordered to kill an innocent Afghan family in order to force America's continued involvement in the Middle East. Hunted by his former comrades, Mason's mission is to unravel a conspiracy that reaches into the President's inner circle, and stop the world's most dangerous soldiers from completing their plan. (Release date is Aug. 18.)

In Alaric Hunt's Godless Country, Clayton Guthrie and Rachel Vasquez must track a gruesome stalker in New York City. Guthrie is a private fixer for the aristocracy of New York City. His latest job is to protect a Manhattan heiress from a dangerous talker. Hiring a retired bodyguard to protect her, Guthrie teams up with his young operative, Rachel Vasquez, to run a trap operation as they pursue the stalker. (Release date is Aug. 25.)

So, the colors of August appear to be blues and shades of orange and gold. It's easy to judge the covers; not so easy to judge the books. Are there titles here that appeal to you? If not, check back tomorrow for August Treasures in My Closet, Part 2.