Review: UNNATURAL HISTORY by Jonathan Kellerman

A long time fan of Jonathan Kellerman’s Alex Delaware mysteries,I was happy to accept and read an advance copy of the next book in the series. Unnatural History is scheduled for release on February 7, 2023.

Description*

Los Angeles is a city of stark contrast, the palaces of the affluent coexisting uneasily with the hellholes of the mad and the needy. That shadow world and the violence it breeds draw brilliant psychologist Dr. Alex Delaware and Detective Milo Sturgis into an unsettling case of altruism gone wrong.

On a superficially lovely morning, a woman shows up for work with her usual enthusiasm. She’s the newly hired personal assistant to a handsome, wealthy photographer and is ready to greet her boss with coffee and good cheer. Instead, she finds him slumped in bed, shot to death.

The victim had recently received rave media attention for his latest project: images of homeless people in their personal “dream” situations, elaborately costumed and enacting unfulfilled fantasies. There are some, however, who view the whole thing as nothing more than crass exploitation, citing token payments and the victim’s avoidance of any long-term relationships with his subjects.

Has disgruntlement blossomed into homicidal rage? Or do the roots of violence reach down to the victim’s family—a clan, sired by an elusive billionaire, that is bizarre in its own right?

Then new murders arise, and Alex and Milo begin peeling back layer after layer of intrigue and complexity, culminating in one of the deadliest threats they’ve ever faced.

*As appears on Amazon.

My Review

As typical of this series, Det. Sturgis calls in his good friend, Alex Delaware, to help with a puzzling case. The victim is a young photographer of considerable means who had a fascination with the city’s homeless. Donny’s intentions were good, however may have been a key factor in his demise. He is an interesting player, identifying a variety of suspects and motives along the way, Although the pace builds as the story progresses, the level of tension and suspense seemed tamer than in other works I have read by this author. Nonetheless, a well-written and interesting read that highlights the plight of the homeless, a real-life topic many prefer to ignore.

FTC disclosure: I received an advance review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This has not affected the content of my review.

Review: MURDER UP TO BAT by Elizabeth McKenna

I read and enjoyed the first book in the Front Page Mystery series by Elizabeth McKenna, so I looked forward to reading this next in series. Needless to say, I was happy to accept and read an advance review copy of Murder up to Bat.

About the Book

After falling in love with the quiet lake life and a certain police detective, former Chicago Tribune reporter Emma Moore trades interviewing jocks for chasing champion cows at the county fair. As a small-town newspaper reporter, she covers local topics both big and small, but when her friend Luke is arrested for the murder of the head coach of his club softball team, she’ll need to hone her investigative skills to clear his name. Emma calls up best friend Grace for help, and together the women go up against cutthroat parents willing to kill for a chance to get their daughters onto a premier college sports team.

The game is tied with bases loaded, and murder is up to bat. Can Emma and her friends bring the heat and win the game?

My Review

In this well-written mystery, reporter-turned-amateur-sleuth Emma Moore is trying her best to figure out who killed the kids’ softball coach and why. The characters in general, and Emma in particular, are likeable and relatable. Suspects abound, from romantic entanglements to overly involved parents of the team players who are uncompromising in their determination that their children be selected for sports scholarships.  The suspect pool is slow to drain, leaving the identity of the killer a mystery until almost the end.   

I enjoyed this nicely paced mystery, with its unique backdrop and subject matter, which is likely to please fans of cozy mysteries.

FTC disclosure: I received an advance review copy from the author. This has not affected the content of my review.

For my review of The Great Jewel Robbery, the first book in the series, click here.

About the Author

Elizabeth McKenna’s love of books reaches back to her childhood, where her tastes ranged from Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys to Stephen King’s horror stories. She had never read a romance novel until her sister gave her the latest bestseller by Nora Roberts. She was hooked from page one (actually, she admits it was the first love scene).

Her novels reflect her mercurial temperament and include historical romances, contemporary romances, cozy mysteries, and dark mysteries. With some being “clean” and some being “naughty,” she has a book for your every mood.

Elizabeth lives in Wisconsin with her understanding husband and Sidney, the rescue dog from Tennessee. When she isn’t writing, reading, editing, or walking the dog that never tires, she’s sleeping.

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Review & Giveaway: DIAL M FOR MEOW by Ruth J. Hartman

As a bookwom and a confessed fan of almost all things furry, I was happy for the chance to read Dial M for Meow, a recent release by Ruth J. Hartman, and the first book in the new Bookshop Kitties Mysteries.

About the Book

When children’s book author, Christy Bailey, receives a call from her aunt Betty to help out at her bookshop, she drops everything to go. Christy packs up her two cats—Milton and Pearl, the stars of her children’s mystery books—and leaves busy Philadelphia for tiny Green Meadow, Indiana. The timing of the call is perfect, as Christy’s letch of an ex-boyfriend has just cleaned out her savings, leaving Christy with a pile of unpaid bills and a desire to start over. And what better place to do that than a charming small town in Middle America?

But when Christy reaches her aunt’s bookshop, instead of small town hospitality she finds a dead body! Even worse, her aunt is passed out in the corner, hands covered in blood. The dead woman is an old frenemy of her Aunt Betty, and while Christy knows her aunt is innocent, the local detective isn’t so sure. With Milton and Pearl prowling for clues, Christy is determined to find the real killer and clear her aunt’s name… before her story ends in tragedy!

My Review

Christy has only just arrived when a body is found in her aunt’s apartment. Predictably, she is determined to provide her Aunt’s innocence. In the course of her investigative efforts, she becomes acquainted (in some cases reacquainted) with the key players in the small town. Christy is strong willed and decidedly enamored of her real-life cats, who happen to star in her children’s books as well. With the help of friends, she discovers several persons who were quite happy to see Nan dead and buried, suspense builds, and the identify of the killer remains a mystery until almost the very end.

Overall, the story is well written. I loved the cats and their antics, but I think some of the cat-centered narrative could have been trimmed down to focus more on the mystery and its human characters and improve the overall place and flow of the book.

Cat lovers will particularly enjoy the personalities of Milton and Pearl, playful kittens who do their part in bringing the culprit to justice in what I found to be an enjoyable mystery.

FTC disclosure: I received an advance review copy of this book from the publisher. This has not affected the content of my review.

Giveaway

Enter a rafflecopter for your chance to win one of four copies of Dial M for Meow from the author.

About the Author

Ruth J. Hartman spends her days herding cats and her nights spinning mysterious tales. She, her husband, and their cats love to spend time curled up in their recliners watching old Cary Grant movies. Well, the cats sit in the people’s recliners. Not that the cats couldn’t get their own furniture. They just choose to shed on someone else’s.

Ruth, a left-handed, cat-herding, farmhouse-dwelling writer uses her sense of humor as she writes tales of lovable, klutzy women who seem to find trouble without even trying.

Ruth’s husband and best friend, Garry, reads her manuscripts, rolls his eyes at her weird story ideas, and loves her despite her insistence all of her books have at least one cat in them. See updates about her cozy mysteries at Ruthjhartman.com.

Author Links

Purchase Link – Amazon 

Review: THE GIRL WHO COUNTED NUMBERS by Rosalyn Bernstein

Time for a change in pace. A historical novel that takes you back to Israel in the 1960s and the trial of Adolf Eichmann.

About the Book

Susan Reich has spent her whole childhood in a small neighborhood near New York City, living comfortably with her father. At seventeen, she decides to turn away from the neatly plotted out life ahead of her and confronts her father about taking a gap year. The two are at odds until he proposes a way for them to both get what they want: Susan can postpone college so long as she spends her gap year abroad in Israel searching for her long-lost uncle.

The Girl Who Counted Numbers is the story of an independent, Jewish-American girl who leaves for Israel to solve a family mystery. The hunt for any evidence of her uncle takes her to unexpected places where she must confront parts of the past she never knew. With the infamous Adolf Eichmann trial happening in the backdrop of The Girl Who Counted Numbers, Susan begins unraveling these complex layers of history and is drawn into the tense political climate of a post-Holocaust Israel. As she gets more and more involved in the struggles of her Israeli and Jewish-Moroccan friends, she explores awakening emotions and discovers her own interest in truth, justice, and activism.

The book is available on Amazon.

My Review

Susan in no hurry to start college so her father decides to send her to Israel to try to find out what became of his older brother who remained in Poland after the rest of the family had migrated to New York before World War II.

This novel takes the reader back in time to Israel in the 1960s. A time when refugees from all over the world were establishing their homes here. A very complicated time period. The cultural divide between the Ashkenazi (European) immigrants and the immigrants from non-Ashkenzi (e.g., Moroccan, Egyptian, Yemenite) backgrounds was a real thing. The author does an excellent job conveying the plight of Morrocan Jewish immigrants – the rampant prejudice they faced and their economic plight. At the same time, the book highlights the Eichmann trial and the atrocities inflicted on Europe’s Jewish population. To this American who first visited Israel in 1974, the backdrop rang true. The setting and history were clearly well researched by the author.

Susan’s journey is an interesting one – she learns a lot about Israel, the Jewish people, and herself as she is exposed to both sides of the cultural divide. She is bright, open-minded, and able to identify with the plight of the Morrocans she meets. She is also moved by the holocaust survivors’ testimonies broadcast daily on the radio. Finding information about her uncle’s fate is no easy task. But in the end, the truth is revealed, bit by bit, with more than a few surprises in store.

FTC disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher. This has not affected the content of my review.

About the Author

In 1961, author Roslyn Bernstein spent 7 months in Jerusalem. She was present during part of the Adolf Eichmann Trial—often cited as the event that sparked public awareness of the atrocities committed during the Holocaust— and listened to the stories of immigrants and survivors and daydreamed about their meanings. Her trip was a source of inspiration for The Girl Who Counted Numbers. Susan’s story, while fictional, is heavily influenced by real issues of politics, history, and identity that permeated Israel in the aftermath of the Holocaust and even today. The Girl Who Counted Numbers is a nuanced, thrilling tale about discovering a past and confronting one’s identity.

Release Spotlight: MARRIAGE, MALICE & MURDER by Christa Nardi

I can honestly say I have read and enjoyed all of the books in the Stacie Maroni mystery series by Christa Nardi, which features a strong woman at a crossroads in her life who works with victims of domestic violence. And the eighth book in the series is now available.

About the Book

Love is in the air on what should have been the perfect day for a wedding, that is, until someone offs the wedding planner.

The wedding planner had done a great job. Predictably, he did his best to jack up the price with extras to please the mother of the bride who insisted on a traditional, monochromatic wedding. Even so, the bride prevailed and Trina and Bill’s wedding burst with color.

The victim also worked as event planner at the local country club, where he was popular with the men for his organizational skills and with the ladies for other reasons. Due to special circumstances, a detective is called in from county to run the investigation. Everyone is treated as a suspect – including Stacie, momzilla, the wedding party, and all the guests. With happy and less happy clients, an ex-wife, and more, the suspect pool seems endless.

As the investigation goes sideways, Stacie’s instincts kick in as she tries to identify the killer on her own. As a result, a series of suspicious incidents ensue with Stacie as the target. Can she figure out who killed the wedding planner?

The book is currently available on Amazon for just $0.99.

About the Author

Christa Nardi is an accomplished author of cozy mysteries. She has always loved mysteries – reading them, writing them, and solving them Christa’s background is in higher education and psychology, much as her protagonist, Sheridan Hendley in the Cold Creek mystery series. Christa also authors the Stacie Maroni Myseries and the Izzie Di Sante mysterries. She is a member of Sisters in Crime. When not writing or reading, Christa and her husband enjoy travel, three grandchildren, and their dogs.

Spotlight, Review & Giveaway: THE DOC’S HOLIDAY HOMECOMING by Virginia McCullough

Time for a chance of pace. I took a break, albeit a short one, from my usual mystery fare. Today’s post features a contemporary (and clean) romance, The Doc’s Holiday Homecoming is the second book in the Back to Adelaide Creek series by Virginia McCullough.

About the Book

Could her closed heart…

Still have room for him?

Olivia Donoghue’s life has turned a corner. The radiologist’s eleven-year-old daughter is finally healthy, and she just moved to her best friend’s dreamy hometown of Adelaide Creek, Wyoming. If only her friend’s prodigal brother, Jeff Stanhope, wasn’t complicating matters.

It’s clear Jeff’s kindness knows no bounds, having taken in his late roommate’s teenage son and also offering her a cabin to stay in, but Olivia’s heart is already full…and safe. Is the former rancher worth the risk?

Giveaway

Enter a rafflecopter for your chance to win a $50 ETSY gift card from the author.

My Review

In this wholesome romance, Jeff returns to his hometown after a long absence and self-imposed alienation from his sister. He soon meets her best friend, Olivia, and is drawn into the push-pull dynamic typical of a romance. What sets this story apart is a strong underlying theme – giving. The make up of Jeff’s and his sister’s families is atypical – they have willingly taken on the love and care of children not biologically their own. All of the main characters are generous and loving.

Overall, the book was well written and well-paced though, in the first chapter, the introduction of so many characters at the same time was a bit confusing. Hang in there; everything soon sorts itself out. You will soon become immersed in Jeff’s and Olivia’s tale as it winds its way to a happy ending.

FTC disclosure: I received an advance review copy from the publisher. This has not affected the content of my review.

About the Author

Virginia McCullough is thrilled to share her eighth Harlequin Heartwarming release with readers. The Doc’s Holiday Homecoming, available November 29th, is the second book in her Back to Adelaide Creek series. Like all of Virginia’s romances, this holiday story comes straight from the heart and features characters who could be your neighbors and friends struggling with everyday life issues.

Born and raised in Chicago, Virginia spent years as a ghostwriter, producing more than one hundred books for physicians, business owners, professional speakers and many others with information to share or a story to tell. She’s moved around a lot, and a few years ago she landed in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where she enjoys hanging out with other romance writers, walking on trails, and downing mugs of dark roast at local coffeehouses. Her other award-winning romance and women’s fiction titles include The Jacks of Her Heart, Amber Light, and The Chapels on the Hill. Virginia is always working on another story about hope, healing, and second chances.

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Spotlight & Giveaway: DUMPSTER DYING by Michelle Bennington

Today’s post showcases the first book in a new cozy mystery series by an accomplished author – Michelle Bennington. I haen’t had a chance to read Dumpster Dying: A Hazardous Hoarder Mystery yet, but it sounds like a fun read to me.

About the Book

Birdie Harper is a widowed hoarder who lives with her husband’s ghost. The only thing she enjoys more than a good yard sale is a good dumpster dive. When she finds her latest treasure—a ceramic angel— she knows just who to bring it to.

Jenna Lawson is a cashier at the Blue Market convenience store where Birdie often shops. The two women have formed a strong bond to assuage the losses in their lives, and Birdie thinks of Jenna like the daughter she lost long ago. So, when Jenna goes missing, Birdie is determined to find out what happened to her.

As she works to unravel the mystery, a man at church, Neville Miller, shows interest in Birdie, leading her to wonder if the lonely days are finally coming to an end. But her ghostly husband, Walter, sure isn’t going to like it.

Birdie is on a hunt that may claim the ultimate price—her own life.

Giveaway

Enter a rafflecopter for your chance to win an amazing prize package from the author: A mug, a paperback, candy, pen, and a home-made candle!

About the Author

Born and raised in the beautiful Bluegrass state of Kentucky, Michelle Bennington developed a passion for books early on that has progressed into a mild hoarding situation and an ever-growing to-read pile. She delights in spinning mysteries and histories. Find out more on her website: www.michellebennington.com

Author Links

Purchase Link – Amazon 

Review: EXERCISE IS MURDER by Bruce Hammack

Exercise is Murder. Well, I think so, too. That might be why this title caught my eye. Of course, it’s not really about exercise. Instead, this first book in the Smiley and McBlythe Mystery series by Bruce Hammack features an unlikely team investigative duo, a blind homicide detective and his new partner.

Description*

Found at the bottom of his exercise pool, police believe the death of Steve Smiley’s friend is an accident. Smiley doesn’t buy it.

There are a lot of things a blind man can do, but solve a murder alone isn’t one of them. He needs a partner… one who knows their way around a crime scene. In walks Heather McBlythe. She can help him solve the crime, but can she keep him out of danger? Steve doesn’t have a choice. Without her someone will get away with murder.

Armed with years of experience as a homicide detective and his new partner, Smiley sets out to find a killer. He knows he’s on the right trail when a bullet whizzes past his ear. Will Steve resurrect his life as a master crime solver, or will his sleuthing get them both killed?

*Description and cover from Amazon

My Review

This mystery features a blinded homicide detective Steve Smiley who teams up with a new partner, Heather McBlythe, to investigate the suspicious death of a friend.  The pair are interesting as characters and make an unusual team, a twist in and of itself.  Despite their many differences (he dislikes cats, for one), they work well together as they doggedly investigate every aspect of the case, and the banter between them is humorous and provides insight into their personalities. The murder mystery itself was a good one, with the requisite twists and turns en route to a satisfying resolution.  An enjoyable, well-paced read. 

Tip:  The last time I checked this book was free on Amazon.

Spotlight, Excerpt & Giveaway: BODY SNATCHED by Ana Diamond

About the Book

What’s worse than losing a body from a funeral home? Losing two. But mortician and amatuer sleuth, Lily Reynolds has a hunch. The new visitor in town, Rick Drakon, may have charmed his way into her life but she’s not fooled by his smooth talking ways. Problem is, Rick is a long-time friend of Lily’s new husband, Detective James Rivers. While James is busy convincing her to look elsewhere, Lily embarks on a dangerous path toward uncovering the truth. Will this case come between the couple or will Lily find herself closer to evil than ever before?

Excerpt

Black River reminded James of one thing: murder.

 

Hidden in dense foliage, the river stretched out far beyond his view and also happened to be a perfect spot to dump a body. He had no doubt there had been many missing people over the years who wound up weighed down by rocks at the bottom of the river until their flesh disintegrated into nothing.

His boss, Donald Abrams had a bad habit of telling him about their worst cases, probably to freak him out. The sicko with the garden of people floating upright like weeds was particularly gruesome. The chills he got from that one made the hairs on his neck stand up. However, since Manorview’s crime rate was low, James wasn’t entirely sure if the stories were folklore or not.

“Congrats on your last case. I heard you’re a big boss detective now,” Rick said as he reeled in his empty line.

James impaled a worm on his hook and swung the line out into the water. “Thanks. I wouldn’t say big boss though. More like maybe I’ll get to keep my job.”

“Have you ever caught anything here?” Rick asked.

“No, but I hear there’s trout.”

And bodies.

Giveaway

Enter a rafflecopter for your chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card from the author.

About the Author

When Ana Diamond isn’t writing about tough gals finding love in unexpected places, she’s at work by day in the medical field. She writes romantic cozy mystery novels with feisty strong women and alluring men who can’t resist them. Her books are fast paced, entertaining and heartfelt all at once.

Ana is a 2020 Tara Contest Finalist for Body Conscious and 2015 Melody of Love contest finalist. She lives in New York with her husband, two children and two needy but wildly entertaining kitty cats.

Author Links

Guest Post, Release Spotlight & Giveaway: DEATH ON A DEADLINE by Joyce St. Anthony

It’s always a special treat when a fictional sleuth stops by to visit. Today’s post features a new release from Joyce St. Anthony – Death on a Deadline with the main character of her Homefront News Mysteries, Irene Ingram, as my special guest. Enjoy.

From the desk of Irene Ingram – A Character Guest Post by Joyce St. Anthony

Hello everyone!

I’m Irene Ingram, editor-in-chief of the Progress Herald in western Pennsylvania. My pop left me in charge when he wrangled a gig as a war correspondent. He’s in the Pacific somewhere and so far he’s staying safe. Mom, my kid sister Lily, and I all worry about him, especially since a war death has hit so close to home. I was shocked when a neighbor boy I’d know all my life was killed at Midway when his plane was shot down. I have a feeling there will be a lot more of that before this war is over. I’m thankful my fiancé, Bill is still in training with the Third Armored Division. There’s talk they’ll be sent to Africa soon.

Fortunately the county fair is coming up. This year actors from the Hollywood Victory Caravan are coming to put on a war bond drive. Ava Dempsey, town beautician and all around busy-body is positive Clark Gable is going to be among the stars. Apparently her younger sister (who knew she even had a sister?) is an actress and Ava swears her sister knows what she’s talking about. Frankly, I’ll believe it when I see it. 

My sister Lily will be helping out at the cotton candy booth at the fair. I did the same thing when I was her age and can’t stand the smell of that spun sugar to this day. Lily is excited but I doubt she’ll feel the same way by the last day of the fair. 

I’ll be covering the fair for the Herald along with my best friend Peggy, Ken—our sports reporter and Peggy’s fiancé, and the other reporters Rex and Frank. Other than the usual war news, it’s been kind of quiet news-wise in Progress. After everything that happened last month at Tabor Ironworks and the murders, I’m glad for the break. I just hope nothing goes wrong with the fair. With Hollywood stars in town for a week, though, who knows what could happen?

About Death on a Deadline

Editor-in-chief Irene Ingram pencils in her newest mystery in Joyce St. Anthony’s second captivating Homefront News mystery, perfect for fans of Anne Perry and Rhys Bowen.

As World War II rages in Europe and the Pacific, the small town of Progress is doing its part for the soldiers in the field with a war bond drive at the annual county fair. Town gossip Ava Dempsey rumors that Clark Gable will be among the participating stars. Instead of Gable, the headliner is Freddie Harrison, a B-movie star. When Freddie turns up dead in the dunk tank, Irene Ingram, editor-in-chief of The Progress Herald, starts chasing the real headline.

There are plenty of suspects and little evidence. Ava’s sister Angel, who was married to the dead actor, is the most obvious. The couple had argued about his affair with the young starlet Belinda Fox, and Angel was the last person to see Freddie alive.

Irene discovers there’s more than one person who might have wanted Freddie dead. As Irene draws on her well-honed reporter’s instincts to find the killer—nothing is what it seems in Progress, and now her own deadline could be right around the corner.

Giveaway

Enter a rafflecopter for your chance to win a copy of Death on a Deadline from the author.

About the Author

Joyce St. Anthony was a police secretary for ten years and more than once envisioned the demise of certain co-workers, but settled on writing as a way to keep herself out of jail. In addition to the Homefront News Mysteries, she is the author of the Brewing Trouble Mysteries and the upcoming Cider House Mysteries written under her own name, Joyce Tremel. She lives in the beautiful Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania with her husband.

Author Links:

Purchase Links: Amazon – B&N – Kobo – Penguin Random House