Category Archives: Fiction-Mystery/Thriller

FIVE GREAT READS YOU DON’T WANT TO MISS!

FIVE READS
FIVE AUTHORS
FIVE GENRES

99p/99c

FIVE DAYS ONLY

Discover a new author? Try something different? All of the authors below are offering readers the chance to download one of their ebooks that has received great reviews and has a high star rating. For the next five days you can download and enjoy any of these titles for just 99p or 99c  (from 10th–15th June). Just click on the links to view any book on Amazon!

 

What Jennifer Knows
Contemporary women’s fiction

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“I started off liking What Jennifer Knows…I finished the novel loving it.” ~ Judith Barrow, author and creative writing tutor.

Sensitively drawn characters charm us… The shifting nature of loyalty and love is portrayed through searingly honest glimpses into the characters lives, both past and present.” ~ Jenny Worstall, author and musician.

Jennifer Jacobs unwittingly discovers a link between two of her friends. Should she speak out or stay silent?

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What I Did Not Say
Mystery/thriller

What I did not say cover

 

 

“Outstanding mystery/thriller. I was blown away by this novel…” ~ Babus Ahmed,  Amazon Top 1000 reviewer and prolific book blogger.

 “Part 2 was the trial, where the pace and tension were excellent. The pages seemed to  turn themselves.” ~ Amazon reviewer. 

Jessica Morley is on her way to meet with a man she has not seen for fifteen years. In her bag  there is a package she must deliver.

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The Sickness
Supernatural horror

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“If you like your supernatural horror to be dark, gruesome and unequivocally gory, then  this is the book for you. It is explosive, expertly written and riveting.” ~
Shelley Wilson, author of The Guardians, YA fiction novels.

“This book is subtly rather than in-your-face     creepy, and the story unfolds at a steady pace, building up to an explosive end; this is a  writer who totally ‘gets’ suspense.” ~
Terry Tyler, author of nine highly rated novels, including The House of York.

Forced home to attend his parents’ funeral, James Harris returns to a place of childhood  torment and gruesome horror.

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Death Times Three
Cozy mystery

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“Elinor (Gray) is a wonderful amateur sleuth—shes whip-smart and determined without coming across as nosy or arrogant.” ~ Elizabeth Maria  Naranjo. 

“I’m a sucker for stories involving a female who can’t resist sticking her nose into a  curious puzzle and the attractive man who can’t stop her.” ~ Terri Case.

A Las Vegas librarian trips over a murdered artist and an amateur sleuth is born. Two short  stories and a novella.

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The House of York
Contemporary family drama

House of York

 

 

 

“The ending to the story kept me thinking for days.” ~ Shaz Goodwin, book blogger and  Amazon Top 100 reviewer.

“Best book I’ve read this year.” ~ Joanne Phillips, top selling women’s fiction author.

Love, loss, jealousy, abduction and murderous intent form the basis of this highly acclaimed,  complex family saga spanning the years 1993 – 2014.

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Jackson & Washington’s DIAL L FOR LYNDA

* I received a copy of this book in return for a fair review.

Best friends turn detectives when one is arrested for the murder of her boss.

Dial L for Lynda (Linda & Lynda Detective Agency Book 1)

Dial L for Lynda

Having read a lot of Tracey Jane Jackson’s work, I was excited to learn that she was collaborating with Amanda Washington and branching into a new genre. DIAL L FOR LYNDA is a funny, sexy, well-plotted mystery. It might seem surprising to find wealthy, stylish Addison Allen’s best friend since childhood is a financially-strapped girl from the wrong side of the tracks. Harley James has been a hard worker from an early age and earned herself a scholarship to a pricey private school, which is where she met Addison and her twin brother Asher. They’ve been close ever since, though not as close as Asher would like. Harley keeps him at arm’s length as she tries to build a career that makes her feel more on his social/financial level. It’s her job that becomes the problem when she’d fired by her lecherous boss and then he ends up dead outside her apartment.

Jackson and Washington give us amusing, well developed characters who manage to get into all sorts of oddball scrapes as they try to find the real killer. Asher, a serious, sensible lawyer is a great foil for his emotionally overwrought sister. Whereas Asher tries to help Harley by becoming her legal advocate, Addie actually tries to get herself arrested so she can keep Harley company in jail over the weekend until a Monday bond hearing. And that’s just a taste of the lengths this wacky blonde will go to in order to protect her bestie. Though it doesn’t hurt that the lead detective is a tasty morsel who inspires all sorts of fantasies.

The comedy, mystery and romance are kept in fine balance. Jackson and Washington do a great job leading us through the tangled motives of the real killer, who came as a surprise to me, but is completely believable. Two small issues. The first was with Addie and Asher’s parents. They are a little too cliche “rich and snooty.” I would’ve liked more nuanced characterizations. Also the Linda/Lynda link seems a little forced. Even the authors can’t really explain the logic behind it. Harley’s middle name is Linn, and Lynda is the name Addie and Asher give to their GPS systems. Addie also uses it for a special phone line to throw off unwanted suitors.

Name confusion aside, DIAL L FOR LYNDA had me laughing out loud and reading way past my bedtime. Can’t wait for the next one.

NEW RELEASE! A NUN WALKS INTO A BAR

 

Release Blitz:
A Nun Walks into a Bar
by
Tracey Jane Jackson
Mar 29th
 

 

 

 

After growing up in an abbey, orphan
Sadie Ross becomes Sister Abigail Eunice. Her life and career are on track
until a chance meeting with a handsome stranger in a place no nun should ever
go.

Ryder Carsen’s sister is missing, and he doesn’t
have time for distractions. But when a pretty nun walks into his bar, he can’t
ignore his attraction to her, even though she’s not the “sister” he’s looking
for. He’s relieved when she walks out of his life for what he believes is
forever.

Sadie’s life takes a surprising detour when she
finds her path crossed with Ryder’s once again. When they are brought back
together, Ryder knows he’s found the only woman he’ll ever love, but time is
running out for his sister.

Will Ryder save his sister from the men who took
her?
When a source far too close to home threatens
Sadie, will she trust Ryder enough to let him save her too?
 

 

    

 

    

 

 

CHAPTER ONE
Sister Abigail Eunice
I HAVE BEEN told
I look like Mila Kunis, and you’d think this was a good thing, but in my line
of work, it’s more of a hindrance. You see, I’m a nun. Admittedly, I’m not a
very good one, but nonetheless, I am, in fact, a nun.
Which (in a very
roundabout way) led me to a tiny, hole-in-the wall bar at the edge of the Pearl
District in Portland, Oregon, on a quiet Wednesday night.
I was supposed to be
meeting my friend, Laura, for dinner, but as I stepped off the MAX, I realized
I’d gotten off at the wrong stop and, as was my luck, the small wet sprinkle
coming from the sky quickly turned into a downpour.
“Well, crap!” I
slapped a hand over my mouth and mumbled, “Sorry, Lord.”
Seriously, I was the
worst nun ever.
Unsure of which
street I was on, I took shelter under an awning next to a building with a frog
motif, but no other identifying information. Frustrated, I fished my phone out
of my purse and tried to figure out where I was. I had a missed call from
Laura, and a new voicemail, which I could only guess meant she wouldn’t be able
to make it.
“Hey, lady. I’m so
sorry, I’m stuck at work and I can’t get down to the Pearl for another hour. Do
you still want me to try or do you want to resched?” Yes, she said, “resched.”
“Anyhoo, text me and let me know what you want to do. Love ya, ’bye.”
Laura Chan was my
oldest friend. She was actually the only one who knew me before the nunnery,
and therefore knew me as Sadie Ross, not Sister Abigail Eunice. Laura’s parents
had moved from China, and into the house next door, the summer before second
grade. She’d spoken very little English, but we still managed to communicate
and we roamed the neighborhood, inseparable until my parents’ death. I adored
her, even though she wasn’t always reliable. Ever hopeful, however, I always
gave people the benefit of the doubt, so here I stood, only slightly protected
from the pouring rain. And it was pouring. I fired off a quick text to
Laura, pressing send… just as my phone died.
“Oh, holy mother of—”
I pulled my sweater closer around me and stepped toward the building’s entrance
so I could warm up and perhaps borrow a phone, but just as I moved away from
the wall, something came loose from above, dropping a bucket’s worth of
collected water on my head. I let out a quiet squeak and pulled off my now
soaked veil, yanking open the heavy wooden door and slipping inside.
“ID,” a gruff voice
demanded.
I nodded even though
I couldn’t see anything in the dark space, reaching into my purse and pulling
out my Oregon ID.
A large hand swiped
it from me then handed it back. “Sister Abigail, you look lost.”
I let out a snort.
“You have no idea. I’m stranded and my phone died.”
“Ryder can call you a
cab.”
“Ryder?”
“Owner.” He nodded
toward the back of the building. “He’s at the bar.”
“Do I really need to
go to the bar?” I asked.
“Lady, he’s got the
number for the only cab company he trusts and if I let you leave in one from a
company he doesn’t trust, he’ll be pissed.”
I gave him a look of
mock concern. “That sounds serious.”
Bouncer dude
chuckled. “Yeah, he’s got this weird thing about sweet women being protected.”
“What about women who
aren’t sweet?” I challenged.
“Those too.” The
bouncer laughed. “But the sweet ones always seem to get special treatment.”
I smiled. “Okay, I’ll
head to the bar.”
“Good plan.”
I walked past the
pool tables, dartboards, and a jukebox playing something with a heavy drumbeat
next to the bar, the counter of which ran the length of the building. There
weren’t a whole lot of patrons, just a few who looked as though they paid
weekly rent for their stools. However, I was surprised by the heart motifs
hanging and taped up in a few key places. I guess it made sense… Valentine’s
Day was tomorrow, so the bar was probably getting ready.
A tall man with his
back to me turned and I felt sucker punched. Like, as in, the breath left my
body.
His light-blue eyes
met mine and seemed to peer into my soul. I froze, unable to take one more step
under the weight of his scrutiny. He crossed his arms, keeping eye contact, and
I was drawn into his tractor beam-like pull. I inched forward, one baby step at
a time, taking in his light-blond hair, a full beard—not quite Portland hipster
full, but still sexy-as-heck full. When my gaze landed on his lips he gave me
this incredibly delicious sideways smirk, and Lord help me, I wanted him to
kiss me.
See? Worst nun ever.
“You lost, Sister?”
“How did you know I’m
a nun?” Without my veil, most people just threw pitiful glances at my clothes
as though I didn’t know how to dress in anything fashionable. I wore a sturdy
black wool dress, black tights, and a gray button-up cardigan.
“Couple years of
Catholic school. ’Course, I never saw a nun who looked like you, but it’s your
shoes that give you away. It’s always the shoes.”
“Oh.” I bit my lip,
glancing at my feet. “Well, you got that right. They call them sensible… I
call them ugly.”
“Not touchin’ that
one.” Ryder smiled. “You need directions?”
I shook my head. “I’m
that tale of woe, I’m afraid. My friend couldn’t make our dinner date and my
phone died.”
“You need a cab?”
“Yes, but do you mind
if I just warm up for a minute?”
“You want some tea?”
I couldn’t stop a
huge smile of relief as I sat on one of the stools. “I would love some
tea.”
“Give me your phone
and I’ll charge it for you.”
“No, that’s okay.” I
waved my hand dismissively. “I doubt you’ll have a charger that works.”
He chuckled. “You’d
be surprised.”
I pulled out my
six-year-old flip phone and slid it to him.
“Right,” he said.
“Solve that one,” I
retorted with a giggle.
“Oh, you don’t think
I can?” He pulled open a drawer next to the cash register. After testing
several cords against my phone, he let out a, “Gotcha!” and faced me again,
plugging my phone into the wall. “Found one.”
“How is that even
possible?”
He laughed. “We never
throw anything away and people leave shi—ah, stuff here all the time.”
I raised my hands and
gave him quiet applause. “Well done, sir. Well done.”
He grinned and handed
me a cup of hot water and a couple of tea bags. I was pleasantly surprised to
see he had my favorite licorice flavor and steeped it in the water while Ryder
went about his business.
“You look like you’re
gearing up for Valentine’s Day,” I said, and sipped my tea.
Ryder shook his head.
“Not my choice.”
“Aren’t you the
owner?”
He chuckled. “Doesn’t
mean I’m not ruled by my patrons.”
“Ah, so not a
romantic, then.”
“Just think men
should show their women they love ’em every day… not wait for one day out of
the year. The whole holiday is a farce, in my opinion.”
I smiled. Maybe he was a
romantic.
As he freshened my
hot water, I wondered what my fellow sisters would think about the predicament
I’d gotten myself into. Granted, they rarely left the abbey, but they also
didn’t have jobs like I did.
Being a fourth-grade
teacher and working for the Catholic school next to our living quarters was a
perfect setup for me. Lately, however, I’d been feeling restless and I know
Reverend Mother noticed. In fact, I had a meeting with her in the morning and
it sounded serious, so being late or tired would not be an option. Perhaps my
ill-fated evening was cut short for a very good reason. Mother always says God
works in mysterious ways.
“You ready for that
cab?”
Ryder’s question
pulled me from my thoughts and I smiled, shaking my head. “Is it okay if I
stick around for a little bit?”
“Knock yourself out.”
He glanced at his watch. “But you’re outta here within the hour. It gets a
little rowdy at night.”
“Your bouncer warned
me about you.”
“Yeah?”
I wrapped my hands
around the cup, warming them. “He said you’re very protective of women.”
He glanced behind me
and then met my eyes again. “Bennie talks too much.”
“Maybe so.” I
shrugged and then sipped my tea again.
“What do people call
you other than ‘Sister’?”
“Nothing. I’m Sister
Abigail Eunice. Although my parents named me Sadie.”
Now why did I share
that? I hadn’t used my real name in years.
He leaned against the
bar. “Pretty.”
My breath caught. “My
parents thought so,” I said once I could speak again.
“But not you?”
“No, I like it fine.
I guess I don’t really think about my name much.” I shrugged. “My students call
me Sister and I don’t have many friends outside of… well, outside.” I shook
my head. “Gosh, that sounds so narrow.”
Ryder grinned.
“Sheltered perhaps.”
“That’s very
gracious, Ryder.”
He cocked his head.
“Never been called gracious before.”
Elbow on the bar, I
settled my chin in my palm. “That surprises me.”
“Of course it does.
You’re a nun.”
“Meaning?”
“You’re gracious to
everyone, so you assume others will be gracious as well.”
“I’m not gracious to everyone.
I’m a nun, not perfect.”
Ryder shrugged. “Fair
enough.”
“I should go.”
“Probably a good
idea.” He grabbed his cell phone and put it to his ear. “Hey. Got time to drop
someone home?” He faced me. “Where do you live?”
“Beaverton.”
“Beaverton. Great.
Yeah, five minutes works. Thanks.” Ryder hung up and slid his phone back in his
pocket.
“You’re pretty
friendly with the cab company, huh?” I took the last swig of tea and set the
cup down.
“One of my guys is
taking you home.”
“I thought you were
calling me a cab.”
“Can’t let a nun pay
the cab fare all the way to Beaverton.”
I frowned. “You don’t
think I can pay for cab fare?”
“Not what I said,
Sister.”
“Wow, you really take
this whole I-am-man-hear-me-roar stuff, to a whole ’nother level, huh?”
His gaze went to
something (or someone) behind me and he nodded. “Ride’s here.”
I decided not to
argue; probably because it would do absolutely no good, and slid off my stool.
“Thanks for the tea.”
“Anytime, Sister.”
Somehow, him calling
me “Sister” felt lacking. I took a deep breath. Lordy, I was ridiculous… and
I probably needed to confess, but I knew I wouldn’t.
Again, worst nun
award goes to…
Ryder grabbed my
phone and stepped out from behind the bar. “My number’s in there if you need
anything.”
“What would I need?”
I asked, and took the phone from him.
He shrugged. “You
never know, Sister. It’s a resource. Feel free to use it.”
What a strange thing
to say.
“Thanks for
everything, Ryder,” I said, leaving my internal thoughts in my head.
“No problem.” He
nodded toward his friend. “This is Reese. He’s gonna take you home.”
Reese was tall, dark,
and handsome as they say, but he had an edge about him that made me a little
nervous. His hair was longer than Ryder’s and kind of shaggy, and he was quite
muscular. I was fairly confident he wouldn’t hurt me, but had I met him under
different circumstances, I might have declined a ride.
A warm hand settled
on my back and I felt a shiver steal down my spine.
“You okay, Sister?”
he asked.
“Yes, fine.”
“You’re safe with
him, yeah? You have any issues, you call me.”
“Okay.” I stepped
away from his touch and forced a smile. “Reese, it’s lovely to meet you. Thank
you for the ride.”
“No problem.” He
waved his hand toward the door. “This way.”
With a backward
glance and smile to Ryder, I followed Reese out to the car, grateful he wasn’t
a big talker. Our conversation consisted of him asking me for my address and me
giving it to him. The rest of the ride strictly featured me gripping the door handle
(as was my habit). I hated cars and avoided them whenever I could.
It didn’t take long
to arrive at the rectory and I thanked Reese and climbed out of the car, a
little taken aback when he followed. “I’m fine from here.”
“Ryder’d kick my
a—rear if I didn’t make sure you made it inside safely.”
“Right, his
protection fetish.”
Reese chuckled but
didn’t comment.
I led him up the
brick walkway and to the back of the building where I unlocked the door and
stepped inside. “Thanks again for the ride.”
“My pleasure, Sister.
Have a good night.”
He walked away, and I
closed and locked the door.

 

 

 

New York Times Bestselling Author,
Tracey Jane Jackson, was born and raised in New Zealand, and that’s where her
love of horses was formed. Her grandfather taught her to ride at four years
old, and she couldn’t get enough.
Her love and passion for Abraham Lincoln and the
entire Civil War era might have come from her American father, however, he lays
no claim to influencing her. Tracey’s mother used to tell her she was simply
born in the wrong place in the wrong time.
Tracey hasn’t always wanted to write. It took
her a long time to get started, but now she doesn’t seem to be able to stop,
the joy of escaping to the 1860s is too much fun.

She’s been happily married and gooey in love
with her husband for more than twenty years. They live in the Pacific Northwest
with their two sons.

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Meet Mystery Author Jamie Cortland

Author Jamie Cortland

Author Jamie Cortland

My Genre:

Romantic Suspense.

I started writing because:

I love to tell stories.

The best thing about writing:

The journey from the beginning to the end.

My favorite read:

The “Sixth Grave on the Edge” by Darynda Jones.  What a journey that is!

Weslynn McCallister, pseudonym, Jamie Cortland was born in Evansville, Indiana and raised in Roswell, New Mexico. Today, she lives in the southwest. A published novelist and an award winning poet, she is a member of Sisters in Crime, the Mystery Writers of America, and is a founding member of the Florida Writers Association.

Website URL: Weslynn McCallister, Author www.jamiecortland.com

Facebook URL: https//www.facebook.com/jamiecortland

Twitter: Weslynn McCallister@twitter

 

Dying to Dance 3D Book Cover

 

Buy Dying to Dance

Char and Diana Mansville, two sisters in their early twenties, lose their parents in a tragic accident. Finding themselves on the brink of financial disaster, they re-locate to southwest Florida to live with their aunt, a beautiful and wealthy ballroom dancer.
Once there, they meet handsome and charismatic Roland Donovan, who is a sociopath and involved in a deadly insurance scheme. Stricken by Diana’s beauty and charm, he sets his focus upon her and relentlessly begins his pursuit of her.

Review: MINE

A young woman whose marriage has hit a rough patch returns to her hometown and helps local authorities investigate a series of unexpected deaths.

Mine: a novella

Mine: a novella

Fiona Quinn manages to pack a lot of story into this novella without making the pacing feel rushed. Kate Hamilton, forced to leave her home in Boston due to her soldier husband’s PTSD, returns to the small Virginia town where she grew up at around the same time as her ornery Uncle Owen dies of what seems like a heart attack. Kate is there to work as a CSI intern with the local police department. Tim Gibbons, her supervisor, also happens to be her first love. He’s now married with children, but he’s still obviously attracted to her. Their history and a tangled situation with a neighbor interested in opening a lucrative mining operation mean that Kate is stepping into a snake pit of conflict and competing agendas. It’s against this chaotic background that she discovers suspicious connections between several recent deaths–including her Uncle Owen’s.

Scarborough is depicted with such detail that I felt I could locate the place on a map. All the quaint beauties of small-town life bump up against the seething resentments and never-ending feuds that often infect such insular places. The town is populated with a nice mix of expected southern characters–the rich girl whose sparkling life isn’t what it seems, the bigger-than-life politician who may or may not be for sale, the blustering high school bully who grew into a threatening schemer, the local busybody who spreads venomous rumors as unfounded as they are damaging.
Though readers will be familiar with all of these “types,” Quinn makes each one interesting and a bit more complicated than they might appear.

The romantic tension between Kate and Tim is perfectly balanced. We sense that there is something there, but this potential for sparks doesn’t undermine our belief in Kate’s feelings for or loyalty to Ryan, her troubled husband. Kate and Tim’s backstory feeds a lot of present tension. It would have been a little more exciting if we got to meet Tim’s insecure wife. She makes a brief appearance and is referred to, but that’s about it.

I’m on the fence about Quinn’s ending. I don’t want to spoil it for you. I’ll just say that I expected Kate to be the one who unveiled the killer. She closes on the How and the Why of the killings. The Who is discovered and neutralized by the least likely character in the book. Looking back, this is a clever move, as (along with Kate) we are forced to completely reevaluate our alliances. At the time I first read it, though, I felt a little cheated.
The discomfort was momentary.

MINE is a well-paced mystery packed with character and suspense.

Author Scott R. Kramer

Today author Scott R. Kramer discusses his political thriller False Pretenses.

photo of Kramer, Scott R.

Author Scott R. Kramer

Building Plot from Beginning to End
by Scott R. Kramer

I built my plot from the bottom, up. I had a story that interested me, and once I had the story, I knew how I wanted it to end.

As I started thinking about the path from beginning to end, I had to decide what characters would help me achieve my goal. Once I started writing, I tried to put myself into the story. I tried to imagine myself living the story, and watch it develop from the inside, taking the position of different characters in different scenes. That enabled the characters and story to take on a life of their own, which ultimately helped the story move in the direction that it did.

I would caution anyone wanting to write a novel (or any other piece of fiction), not to limit the characters and story line before allowing them to develop, because part of what I enjoyed most about the writing process was how they changed as the story developed.

 

False Pretenses book cover

 

About False Pretenses

A stolen election. Domestic terrorism. Extortion. Once in power, and consumed by greed, Pete Reeves will stop at nothing to have more of both. It’s a non-stop race around the world to prevent the President from going to war to further his own ambitions. Politics takes one unexpected turn after another in “False Pretenses,” the new political thriller by Scott Kramer.

Purchase False Pretenses at Amazon

False Pretenses Book Excerpt One

Lesser walked out into the room and all talking came screeching to a halt. The room got quiet and the silence was deafening. Lesser started to address the gathering. “I just got word from FOX News that, apparently, Michigan isn’t going to go to us, but rather to Reeves. If this is the case, so will the election.
“We’re trying to get some information right now that will either dispute their statement or corroborate it. All our information as of this afternoon indicated that Michigan should be ours, but in elections, anything can happen, and just might have tonight.

About Scott R. Kramer

Scott Kramer is a former investment advisor and now runs a manufacturing company. He grew up in New Jersey and has a Bachelors Degree and Masters Degree, both in finance. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and three children. False Pretenses is his debut political thriller.

Follow Scott on twitter: @scottrkramer

Review: THE LAST CONVERT

When the death of a family friend leads journalist Lukas Novak to investigate a cluster of strange deaths in a nursing home, he uncovers a diabolical scheme with roots deep in the past.

The Last Convert: A Lukas Novak Mystery (The HemiHelix Effect Book 1)

The Last Convert: A Lukas Novak Mystery

This is a prequel to Match Games, a full length Lukas Novak mystery. That book kept me on my toes from first page to last. You can read my review HERE.  The Last Convert has the same complex characterization and an equally intricate plot. We get to meet Lukas in a dark hour. His marriage is over and his wife is bent on alienating him from his children and ruining him financially. Poor guy can’t take a breath without fear that something negative will be reported back to her attorney and used to bankrupt him. To be fair, Lukas has spent his whole marriage hiding the fortune he inherited from his famous brother, a rock star whose recordings still bring in a tidy sum long after his unhappy death.

The point here is that Lukas is in a fragile frame of mind as the book opens during the funeral of a close friend. This emotional vulnerability clouds his judgement as he investigates the events surrounding the man’s death and the surprising beneficiaries of his will. I don’t want to tell too much. I’ll just say Lukas isn’t prepared for the extent of the conspiracy he’s stumbled upon. Nor is he aware how deep in the past the seeds of the crime are buried. The villain behind it all isn’t just some murdering con man out to get his hands on the victims’ worldly goods. There’s a deep pathology involved. A terrible history that will repeat and repeat unless Lukas can put a stop to it. And it’s not clear that he’ll be able to do that.

It’s amazing to me how much character and suspense Schirmer packs into this relatively short work. Yet the pacing is right on. There’s no sense that she’s cramming in plot points or forcing the action.

THE LAST CONVERT is a gritty and action-packed thriller that will keep your heart pounding until the very end.

Review: WITCH BAY

A troubled young woman returns to the seaside village of her childhood determined to discover the truth behind her aunt’s shocking death.

Witch Bay

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WITCH BAY captured my imagination on so many levels. The setting is beautifully rendered–a small village on the rocky coast of Wales. The atmosphere is heavy with dread from page one. It brought to mind the work of Daphne du Maurier. Especially her wonderful JAMAICA INN.
The characters are varied and quirky. You don’t know who to trust. I didn’t even fully trust Bethan. She’s an odd sort of heroine. Vulnerable but prickly. Earnest but perhaps not completely reliable. A woman of good intentions but questionable judgement. Gwyn, the local police officer, is just as layered. At first glance he seems the quintessential small village Bobby, but his easy-going demeanor masks a keen mind and powerful instincts. The sparks between Gwyn and Bethan take a little time to ignite, mostly because neither one seems to know what to make of the other.

The sense of time in the first few chapters is a little disorienting. At points Bethan’s childhood reflections get mixed up with her feelings about the present. It took me a little while to figure out how long her aunt’s been dead and when the last time Bethan saw her. Also, the book takes place in the mid 1980s, though you don’t learn this until chapter four. At first the author’s decision to set the book when she did seemed odd, but it makes sense once we discover details of the crime at the center of the mystery. I can’t go into specifics without spoiling the story, except to say that the plot likely would not have worked after the formation of the EU.

The mystery itself isn’t particularly complex. There are plenty of clues as to who is behind it, though one of the baddies did come as a major surprise. The fun is trying to figure out how all the pieces fit together. The item discovered under the floorboards, the local construction project that seems to have gone on forever, the seemingly random individuals who’ve gone missing over the past few years. The plotting is excellent, especially at the climax. I had no idea how Bethan was going to get out of the fix the villains had put her in.

I do wish that Crompton had been a bit more generous with her denouement. Another three to five pages would have been enough. Allow us the pleasure of seeing what became of some of the other characters involved that exciting final battle.

Overall, I had a good time with WITCH BAY. Crompton does a wonderful job mixing romance, suspense, and a good dose of humor. It’s a fascinating little world she’s created, and I enjoyed spending time there. I can definitely see myself giving this book a second read.

Review: JUMP THE LINE by Mary McFarland

A young criminal justice student working her way through school as an exotic dancer finds romance and danger when she becomes embroiled in the search for a serial killer.

Jump The Line (Toein' The Line Book 1)

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Alaina Colby has worked hard to distance herself from her family and their criminal activity. It’s been a struggle to put herself through college, especially when she’s also responsible for her younger brother whose drug addiction has already landed him in a heap of legal trouble. Now she’s nearing graduation and an end to her days wasting her dancing talent swinging topless around a stripper pole.

Only the universe has decided that it’s not playing nice.

Fellow strippers keep turning up dead behind the club where Alaina works. Not just dead. Chewed to pieces. Law enforcement is sniffing around. What’s worse, Alaina’s brother, who once dated the latest victim, has gone AWOL. Clearly, she needs to find out what she can about the killings…if only to protect what’s left of her family.

Jump the Line grabbed me from page one. Alaina is an intriguing character. She’s had a rotten life and has thrown up some thick walls. Yet her soft heart and…well…innocence shine through her gritty exterior. Her big dream is to make “Jump the Line” audition video for the Rockettes, though she knows a physical handicap has put professional dancing out of her reach. It’s such a childlike ambition, like the short girl entering the modeling competition or the kid with two left feet trying out for cheerleading. It makes her lovable and vulnerable. The sort of person who ignores her own well-honed instincts when the odd behavior of a friend sets off warning bells.

Detective Aidan Hawks certainly appreciates Alaina’s finer points. Another engaging character, Aidan talks like the worst sort of man-whore, yet he generally behaves like the gentleman his mom and two fathers (long story) would wish him to be. Aidan is determined to catch the killer. At first it’s a professional thing. Then he becomes convinced it’s a race to save Alaina. He has plenty of obstacles. This murderer is clever and closer to the action than anyone realizes. Aidan also has trouble within his own ranks. His chief can’t stand him. And his attractive new partner is after his collar–and his body.

There’s considerable violence in this book. The killer’s victims go through hell. So do Aidan and Alaina. By the climactic final showdown, both of them are at their physical and emotional breaking points. But there’s also forgiveness and the chance to heal old wounds. Light to balance dark. Sanity to balance madness.

McFarland uses an alternating first-person point of view that could have resulted in a disjointed narrative. However, though the POV shifts, it is always tightly controlled. We get a peek at how Alaina, Aidan, and the killer’s minds work without becoming muddled or learning so much about what’s going on that the story is spoiled. In fact, “delayed discovery” is used to keep the characters on the go and us readers frantically turning the pages. We may know more than any single character, but it’s exquisite torture as we wait for one of the gang to discover an important point or for a meeting/confrontation that we know is coming.

Jump the Line is chilling and fun and left me checking and rechecking that my door was locked.

Review: WORKMAN’S COMPLICATION

A way-way-off-Broadway actress inherits her father’s PI business and finds herself in the middle of the life insurance fraud investigation which led to his murder.

Workman's Complication (McCall & Company Book 1)

Workman’s Complication

Kate McCall is in her mid-forties and resigned to the fact that she’s never going to get her big break. This doesn’t dissuade her from continuing her acting career, much to the chagrin of her son, a NYC DA. As the novel opens, Kate has the lead in a campy vampire musical and subsidizes her professional gigs by managing the apartment building where she lives. It’s a bit of a patched-together existence, but Kate’s content. Then her father, a private investigator, is murdered in a gruesome manner and leaves her his business…including an open case involving a contractor whose whole family faces ruin thanks to a construction worker’s false injury claim. Kate doesn’t want anything to do with detective work, but the client is paying good money. At the same time, she begins investigating the circumstances surrounding her father’s murder.

With two separate mysteries to solve, Kate (and author Rick Leder) take on a lot. Luckily there’s a cast of unique and helpful characters from Kate’s theater company and her apartment building to lend a hand. Leder does a good job keeping the separate cases going without confusion, but the sheer number of characters (and associated back stories) can overwhelm at times. There were a couple of instances where I had to go back and remind myself which character grew pot in the apartment’s back garden and which had to pee in Gatorade bottles due to a perpetually non-functioning toilet.

The book is funny with a capital F and full of unexpected twists. Leder lands Kate in tight spot after tight spot and always manages to get her out in humorous yet believable ways. Several scenes stand out for me even weeks after finishing the book: Kate and a fellow actor posing as Feds and interviewing the “injured” construction worker’s grandmother, Kate and another set of actor friends infiltrating the office of a crooked doctor, the indomitable Fu rescuing Kate from certain death in a Queens bungalow. Each of these scenes ends with a bang of one sort or other–whether from a tea kettle, flying lawn furniture, or a mean right hook.

Kate is incredibly likable and it was a hoot how–thanks to decades in various small-time acting roles–she has a clothes closet full of wigs and costumes to draw upon when she has to impersonate a banker or a reporter or a sweet mid-westerner. It’s also refreshing to spend time with a heroine who is tipping into middle age. As bright and mature as she is, there’s also a freshness and vulnerability to Kate. It makes readers relate to her, but it also gets her into trouble.

The only issue I had with the book was how heavy it is with detail. Not only are there tons of characters (each with a story), every scene is filled with Kate’s impressions and ruminations. Every town she visits. Every person she runs into. It’s all material for her to chew over and expound upon. This slows the pacing down at times to the point where I caught myself skimming until the real action picked up again.

Still, WORKMAN’S COMPLICATIONS is a highly entertaining mystery full of great characters.