Review: DAMAGING SECRETS by Carolyn Ridder Aspenson

I was browsing the mystery offerings on NetGalley in search of something different (translation: not my usual cozy fare) and spotted Damaging Secrets, the first book in a new series from Carolyn Ridder Aspenson, featuring Detective Rachel Ryder. This interesting police procedural/thriller releases today!

Description

New to town and a little rough around the edges, Detective Rachel Ryder finds herself on the receiving end of a suspicious person’s call in Hamby, Georgia. When the call turns out to be a dead body, the medical examiner is quick to rule the death a suicide. But was it something more sinister?

Everyone in the small department believes the case is closed—except for Rachel. The sudden passing of a local politician during the mayor’s run for Congress strikes her as a little too coincidental, and Rachel is eager to follow her instincts. Her partner, Rob, a 30-year veteran, isn’t the type to disobey his boss or ruffle any feathers, but he can’t convince strong-willed Rachel to let it go.

Obsessed with finding out the truth, Rachel begins to examine the evidence and drags her reluctant partner along for the ride. But the clues are confusing. Nothing is adding up.

Puzzled and running out of time, Rachel and Rob rush to work every angle and bring the elusive killer to justice before someone else ends up dead.

*as appears on Amazon

My Review

Rachel Ryder is a strong, complex female character.  The seasoned Chicago detective is having a hard time adjusting to life in a small town in Georgia where the “old boys” club rules and male chauvinism runs rampant.  Her in-your-face, outspoken approach is at times annoying and it is easy to see how she manages to  alienate the chief of police, the mayor, and her fellow officers when she insists that the deceased, a prominent citizen, did not commit suicide. Of course, the fact that she’s a woman plays no small part in their reactions. Still, she is relentless in her determination to uncover the truth, despite orders to  leave it alone.  Her partner, Bishop, is a good guy, who is hesitant to defy orders, but she  gradually wins him over.  Their relationship grows as they establish mutual trust.  They make a good team.  No spoilers here, so suffice it to say that the plot had a good level of complexity and enough tension and twists to keep those pages turning.  A commendable start to a new series.

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

Review: PAPER, SCISSORS, DEATH by Joanna Campbell Slan

Having enjoyed the Cara Mia Delgatto series by Joanna Campbell Slan, I decided to give her Kiki Lowenstein books a try.   And, yes, I’ll readily confess the gorgeous Great Dane on the cover is what reeled me in. 

Description*

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JUST BECAUSE HER HUSBAND’S NAKED, DEAD, AND IN A HOTEL BED…
… it might not be what it seems. But there’s that scarf in his mouth. Of course it is.

Given the situation, Kiki Lowenstein can’t help remembering that her (late) husband got her pregnant while cheating on his girlfriend.

True, he did the right thing at the time, and their much-loved daughter Anya is now eleven years old. But suddenly he’s dead, and Kiki’s financially embarrassed—that jerk disinherited his own family!

Time for the timid to toughen up. Passive Kiki transforms herself into a fighter, walking right out of her luxurious life and into a scrapbooking store, where she deftly turns a hobby into a moneymaker. Her new gig goes slightly awry when her late husband’s not-so-ex-girlfriend insults her in public, but that’s just the beginning. The hurts keep piling up. How much can one woman stand?

As her husband’s secret life explodes before her eyes, Kiki discovers that their daughter has a shocking secret of her own. Then the cops come for Kiki. And Family Services comes for Anya. No more Mrs. Nice Guy. Kiki has to fight for all she holds dear, and her quest must start with tracking down her late husband’s killer. Hope arrives for Kiki in the twin forms of a hot, homicide detective and her own newfound ability to cope.

*Description from Amazon

My Review

I liked Kiki and her relationship with her daughter and with her close friends. Her marriage worked, even if it was mostly based on co-parenting. The four-legged character is a charmer, as is the detective. The underlying mystery was interesting, and the culprit was not obvious (a plus). On the downside, the book tended to describe into the art of scrapbooking in far greater detail than this non-scrapbooker enjoyed. I found myself skipping over much of it.  A pleasant light read, likely to please fans of cozy crafts mysteries.

Review & Giveaway: THE LIGHT CATCHER MURDERS by Jo Cassie McRae

As part of a virtual tour organized by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, today’s post introduces a new mystery author – Jo Cassie McRae – and her debut novel, The Light Catcher Murders.

About the Book

Kate Atherton’s idyllic retirement is going well…if you don’t count the two murders, the mysterious drone, and her photographer friend who manages to poke a hornet’s nest of criminal activity, that is.

Nestled in the scenic Texas Hill Country, the cozy town of Wheaton Creek seemed to Kate Atherton an idyllic place to escape the world’s harsh realities. And then there was the first murder.

Kate once enjoyed a long, successful career with a specialized, highly secret federal intelligence agency. Crises in both her personal and professional life drove her to early retirement and, ultimately, to Wheaton Creek, the perfect place for her and her former-military husband to escape what had come to feel like a world made up of wars, hatred, fear, and untimely death. And, at first, the escape was all Kate had hoped for. Then murder came to Wheaton Creek—a crime that a corrupt county sheriff seems determined to pin on Kate’s photographer friend, Lucy Celek.

Lucy’s work has been chosen to appear at a prestigious photography festival, a festival that could take her from amateur to professional standing. All goes well until the gallery displaying her work is broken into, and one of Lucy’s photographs is vandalized. A week later, the man Lucy suspected of destroying her photograph—a fellow photographer who was angry that his own work was not chosen by the festival committee—is murdered. Faced with a sheriff who shows little interest in expanding his list of suspects beyond Lucy, Kate feels she must dust off her puzzle-solving skills to find the real killer. Murder is just the beginning, though, as Kate’s amateur sleuthing begins to reveal a tangled web of crimes that go beyond anything she could have imagined.

My Review

Set in a small Texas town, this mystery introduces Kate Atherton, a retiree, and her husband (also retired). It soon becomes obvious that both have military training, though the exact nature of Kate’s past position remains a mystery in itself. But she definitely has skills. And she is willing to use those skills to find out who is behind the vandalism in the art gallery and who killed Lucy’s rival. Kate makes for an interesting and likable protagonist.

Photography is central to the story and the mystery touches lightly on ethical and legal questions regarding the growing use of cameras and drones in today’s world. The author does a nice job of presenting an interesting story. Although the pace felt slow at first, it did pick up as the story progressed. Some aspects of the plot resolution were somewhat predictable, however the identify of the culprit and motive was not.
A promising debut for a new author.

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

Giveaway

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

About the Author

Jo Cassie McRae is a native Texan who has lived near Austin on the edge of the Texas Hill country for over 30 years.  In addition to writing, McRae loves to read, garden, and cook.  Like Kate Atherton (The Light Catcher Murders), McRae’s bookshelves overflow with history books, biographies, historical fiction, and mystery novels.  Unlike Kate, McRae does not have a mysterious, secret former career, having worked instead as a rather ordinary legal assistant at an Austin law firm.

Author Links:

Purchase Link – Amazon

Visit other stops on this tour for additional reviews and excerpts.

Review & Giveaway: SLIGHTLY MURDEROUS INTENT by Lisa Sideris

As part of a blog tour organized by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, I recently had the opportunity to read an advance copy of Slightly Murderous Intent. This new release by Lida Sideris is the fourth book in her Southern California Mystery series.

About the Book

There’s a shooter on the loose who keeps missing his target. But that doesn’t stop him from trying again…and again. It’s up to Corrie Locke, rookie lawyer and spunky sleuth, to find the gunman before he hits his mark, Assistant Deputy D.A. James Zachary, Corrie’s hunky and complicated frenemy.

When Corrie is stuck with more questions than answers, she enlists a team with various strengths, from weapons to cooking skills, to help her find the shooter. Her computer whiz boyfriend Michael is onboard. So is former security guard Veera. Toss in an over-the-hill informant and a couple of feuding celebrity chefs and Corrie’s got her very own A-Team. Okay, maybe it’s more like a B-Team.

Can Team Corrie hunt down the shooter before he scores a bulls-eye?

My Review

In this fun read, Corrie continues to vacillate between what should be a somewhat conventional job as a lawyer and her sense of adventure and aptitude for investigation.  As a witness to the would-be assassin’s initial attempt to kill a member of the D.A. Office’s team, it is only natural she would insert herself into the investigation. After all, the potential targets include people she cares about.

She is aided in her search for the truth by Michael, her amazingly supportive boyfriend, and her uniquely skilled co-worker, Veera. Together they manage to figure out who did it what and why – and keep their friends alive. Of course, it’s not that simple, they face a variety of hurdles, near misses, false leads, and twists along the way. Narrated in a light conversational tone, this well written, fast-paced mystery made for an entertaining read.

FTC Disclosure:   I received a complimentary copy of this book as part of this blog tour.  This has not affected the content of my review in any way. 

Giveaway

Enter the rafflecopter for your chance to win one of three copies of Slightly Murderous Intent: A Southern California Mystery from the author.

About the Author

Lida Sideris is an author, lawyer, and all-around book enthusiast. She writes soft-boiled mysteries and was a recipient of the Helen McCloy Mystery Writers of America scholarship award. Slightly Murderous Intent is #4 in her Southern California Mystery series, published by Level Best Books. Lida lives in the northern tip of SoCal with her family, rescue dogs and a flock of uppity chickens.  To learn more, please visit: www.LidaSideris.com

Author Links

Purchase Link – Amazon 

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Review: NINJA SCHOOL MUM by Lizzie Chantree

Today’s post features an enjoyable read that combines humor, action and romance – Ninja School Mum by Lizzie Chantree.

About the Book*

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Obsessive-compulsive school mum, Skye, is a lonely elite spy, who is running from her past whilst trying to protect the future of her child. She tries hard to fit in with the other parents at her son’s new school, but the only person who accepts her unconventional way of life is new mother, Thea.

Thea is feeling harassed by her sister and bored with her life, but she suspects that there is something strange about the new school mum, Skye. Thea has secrets of her own and, although the two become unlikely friends, she hesitates to tell Skye about the father of her own child.

Zack’s new business is growing faster than he could have dreamed but, suddenly, he finds himself the owner of a crumbling estate on the edge of a pretty village, and a single parent to a very demanding child. Could he make a go of things and give his daughter the life she deserved?

When three lives collide, it appears that only one of them is who they seem to be, and you never know who the person next to you in the school playground really is.

*from the book’s Amazon webpage

My Review

Skye is a good mom – she’s just not your typical mom. Not at all. She has unique skills and a mysterious past. Her reasons for arriving in the country village emerge as the story develops, as does the nature of her former occupation and its impact on her relationships with others. For her son’s sake, she does everything in her power to move on and keep him safe. Over time, she forges a close friendship with Thea, another reclusive mom, and with Zack, who owns the cottage where she lives. All seems to be going well in what felt mostly like a romance, until a major plot twist turned the tables on this unsuspecting reader.

The author’s style was mostly light and enjoyable. Having read works by British other authors, I wasn’t surprised by the slightly longer-winded writing style and most of the slang was familiar to me or could be understood within context.

An enjoyable read that combines humor, action and romance.

Review: TWO REASONS TO RUN by Colleen Coble

As part of a virtual tour organized by Partners in Crime, today’s post introduces a recent release from Colleen Coble – Two Reasons to Run – the second book in the author’s Pelican Harbor Series.

About the Book

Police Chief Jane Hardy is still reeling from the scandal that rocked her small-town department just as she took over for her retired father—the man who wrecked her life with one little lie. Now she’s finally been reunited with her presumed-dead fifteen-year-old son, Will, and his father, documentarian Reid Bechtol.

A crisis looms.

When a murder aboard the oil platform Zeus exposes an environmental terrorist’s plot to flood Mobile Bay with crude oil, Jane and Reid must put their feelings for each other behind them and work together to prevent the rig from being sabotaged.

A killer targets her son.

Then the terrorist puts her son Will’s life on the line. Protecting him could be the common ground they need . . . but then ghosts from the past threaten to ruin Jane and Reid for good. She’s got plenty of reasons to run. But what if she stays?

My Review

This was an intriguing read. Both Jane and Reid are challenged by the ghosts of their shared past as children of cult members and their shared parenting of their son, Will. They are loving parents and though they are not a couple, they clearly have unresolved feelings for each other. Family dynamics play a key role in the story.

I must say that when a book’s description talks about the need to foil a terrorist plot, I kind of expect it to be a main focus of the drama that runs alongside the elements of romantic suspense. However this book was more about the complicated relationship and romantic tension between Jane and Reid than about the plot to blow up the oil rig, which could have been better developed.

Note: I dove into this book, without reading the first book in the series and thus found myself playing catch up on the back story. Might be best to read them in order.

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 a chance to win a copy of ONE LITTLE LIE by Colleeen Coble.

About the Author

Colleen Coble is a USA TODAY bestselling author and RITA finalist best known for her coastal romantic suspense novels, including The Inn at Ocean’s Edge, Twilight at Blueberry Barrens, and the Lavender Tides, Sunset Cove, Hope Beach, and Rock Harbor series.

Catch Up With Colleen Coble:
ColleenCoble.comGoodreadsBookBubInstagramTwitter, & Facebook!

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | ChristianBook.com | Goodreads

Review: DON’T LOOK FOR ME by Wendy Walker

For a chance of pace, this post introduces someone new (at least new to me).  I was browsing the mystery selections on NetGalley when this thriller called out out to me.  Good choice. Well written and suspenseful thriller. And it just released today!

Description*

51hfleyizalIn Wendy Walker’s thrilling novel Don’t Look for Me, the greatest risk isn’t running away. It’s running out of time.

One night, Molly Clarke walked away from her life.
She doesn’t want to be found.
Or at least, that’s the story.
The car abandoned miles from home.
The note found at a nearby hotel.
The shattered family that couldn’t be put back together.
They called it a “walk away.”
It happens all the time.
Women disappear, desperate to leave their lives behind and start over.
But is that what really happened to Molly Clarke?

*Description from Amazon

My Review

At the heart of this story is the troubled relationship between Molly and her daughter, Nicole.  The author skillfully alternates between the two women’s points of view – exposing their emotional underbellies and the chain of events that led to a rift in their family years earlier. But that’s the backstory. Now they each face a greater challenge.

Nicole is determined to find her mother and in the process puts herself at risk. It is through her eyes that the reader becomes acquainted with the townspeople and the pool of potential suspects. With each bit of information she uncovers, a new suspect comes into play.  Molly doesn’t know her captor’s name and only describes his appearance in general terms, thus giving the reader no clue as to his identity.  She is determined to get away, even if it means manipulating the emotions of his young child.

A clever plot with an abundance of twists made for a fast-moving, page turner  with an ending I didn’t see coming.  A well written and suspenseful thriller.

FTC disclosure:  I received an advance review copy from NetGalley.  This has not affected the content of my review in any way.

Review & Giveaway: CASTING CALL FOR A CORPSE by Heather Haven

CASTING-CALL-FOR-A-CORPSE-BANNER-2-184

As part of a blog tour organized by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours,  today’s post introduces the Casting Call for a Corpse, a recent addition to the Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries series by Heather Haven.  

About the Book

CASTING-CALL-FOR-A-CORPSEA DETECTIVE AGENCY WITH HEART.
AND A WEDDING ANNIVERSARY!

Super sleuth, Lee Alvarez, finds a dead man wearing a tuxedo in a friend’s bathtub during a soiree for San Francisco’s VIPs. And not just any friend, but an internationally acclaimed actress who recently came to live in San Francisco. And not just any bathtub, but a bathtub residing inside one of Alamo Square’s famed Painted Ladies, recently bought by said actress.

The police believe it’s the actress friend who done the man in. After all, it’s her house and her tub. And another man died under suspicious circumstances around her recently. Both romantic encounters, doncha know. The actress must be guilty.

Or is she?

For ace detective Lee Alvarez, the timing couldn’t be worse. She is supposed to go off in celebration of her 6-month wedding anniversary with her hunky hubby. Paris is calling!

Or is it?

Her long-time friend, plus her mother – She Who Must Be Obeyed – thinks she should stick around and find out who the real killer is. So Lee, family, handsome hubby, and Tugger, the cat, are on the job. But Lee’s nose is itching. Which means not one of the suspects is telling the truth.

Or not all of it. Lee soon uncovers threatening letters, sullen playwrights, dead bodies, and a criminal web of jewel thieves, all treading the boards of her friend’s latest musical. This is showbiz?

Author Haven pulls out all the stops in a cozy fan’s delight about a charming, and unconventional Palo Alto detective family who get their man or woman, as the case may be. Book Seven follows its tradition of the Bay Area’s favorite PI, who rolls over with all four paw in the air when it comes to her darn near perfect mother. But with the help of her computer geek brother and handsome hubby, Lee works to solve the case in time to celebrate her own 6-month wedding anniversary.

My Review

Told from the candid perspective of Lee Alvarez, the narrative has a natural, conversation feel to it, which soon made Lee seem like an old friend (even though I hadn’t read previous books in the series).   She is spunky and impulsive, a good friend and a loving wife, with a sense of humor.  And she is complemented by an interesting cast of family and friends.  

There was never a dull moment in this entertaining cozy mystery, which includes plenty of action,  a well balanced range of  twists and turns, and even a few laugh out loud moments. The 7th in a series – it can easily be enjoyed as a standalone.  I might have to go back and read the others when I get a chance. 

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

Giveaway

To celebrate the release, the author is giving a handmade, one of a kind purse (U.S. ONLY).  Click here to enter the rafflecopter. 

About the Author

Heather_115114102_stdHeather moved to the Bay Area and studied creative writing at Stanford University. Previously, several of her comedy acts and plays were performed in NYC. Her novels include the humorous Silicon Valley-based Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries, Manhattan-based Persephone Cole Vintage Mysteries, Love Can Be Murder Novellas, Snow Lake Romantic Suspense Series and standalone mystery noir, Murder under the Big Top, based upon her mother’s stint as a performer with Ringling Brothers’ Circus. There is also her anthology, Corliss and Other Award-Winning Stories. Her favorite protagonist is in Corliss, one of the featured short stories, but don’t tell anyone!

Author Links  

Purchase Link – Amazon 

Visit the tour page to check out the other stops on this tour for more reviews, interviews and guest  posts. 

Review: SAVE HER SOUL by Lisa Regan

This summer as I spent oodles of time at home reading,  I downloaded a review copy of Save Her Soul (Detective Josie Quinn Book 7) from Net Galley.  Of course, like other books in this series the cover is gorgeous.  And it’s a good read, too.

Description*

51grgnhqxlJosie flinches as she takes in the faded blue sports jacket wrapped around the girl they just pulled from the water. Josie knew someone who’d once owned that jacket. He had died in her arms five years ago.

Heavy rain pours on the small town of Denton causing the riverbanks to break and the body of a young girl to float quietly to the surface. With no crime scene to examine, the odds are against Detective Josie Quinn and her team. Mercifully, the victim’s body is perfectly preserved, right down to the baseball patch on the jacket she was wearing. Josie can’t hide her devastation—her dead ex-husband, Ray, owned one just like it.

Following the trail back to her high school, Josie identifies the girl as Beverly Urban, a troubled student rumored to have been dating Ray before she left town for good. It looks like a tragic accident until the autopsy reveals a bullet in her head and the heart-breaking secret she was keeping.

Josie visits the salon where Beverly’s mother used to work, believing she was at the heart of a terrible scandal around the time her daughter’s life was taken. With the Denton wives remaining tight-lipped, Josie’s only hope is a secret meet-up with a terrified woman willing to talk. But she is murdered moments before giving Josie crucial information. It’s clear that someone is prepared to keep on killing to stop the truth from getting out.

Digging deep into memories of her own past with Ray is the only advantage Josie has on this twisted killer… but at what cost?

* Description from Amazon book page for Save Her Soul

My Review

For Josie, this case is different. It is personal and brings with it no small amount of emotional upheaval for the seasoned detective.   Josie may not have been a fan of the victim when they were in high school, nonetheless she is determined to find out how she met such a terrible fate. Josie is very relatable and her recollections from years earlier provide insight into her character. The investigation takes off at a slow pace – with few immediate findings, however it builds in intensity as information is uncovered and events unfold, with unexpected discoveries keeping the detectives and the reader guessing at the truth.  An enjoyable read.

FTC Disclosure:  I received an advance review copy of this book via Net Galley. This has not affected the content of my review.

Review and Giveaway: RISKY WHISKEY by Lucy Lakestone

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As part of a blog tour organized by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, it is my pleasure to tell you about a new cozy mystery series.  Risky Whiskey is the first book in a the Bohemia Bartenders Mystery series by Lucy Lakestone.

About the Book

Stirring up trouble in New Orleans …

RISKY-WHISKEYEager to shake up her drinks and her life, mixologist Pepper Revelle jumps at an invitation to join the elite Bohemia Bartenders. Leader Neil thinks she’ll be the perfect advance gal for his team at a colorful cocktail convention in her hometown of New Orleans, but the job turns out to be more bananas than a drunk monkey. Setting up the key tasting for their distiller client, she and Neil discover their whiskey has gone dangerously bad. But how? And was this shocking poisoning more than an accident?

As Pepper and Neil try to figure out what happened, keep the drinks flowing and help distiller Dash Reynolds survive the weekend, they find themselves the target of increasingly scary attacks. Maybe it’s the danger, or maybe it’s the drinks, but Pepper also can’t help an inconvenient attraction to cocktail nerd Neil as they stir up trouble and try to figure out who’s out to get them — before they’re sliced and squeezed like a lemon twist in a Sazerac.

Risky Whiskey is the first book in the Bohemia Bartenders Mysteries, funny whodunits with a dash of romance set in a convivial collective of cocktail lovers, eccentrics and mixologists. These cozy culinary comedies contain a hint of heat, a splash of cursing and shots of laughter, served over hand-carved ice.

My Review

Given the title and description, it was no surprise that there was a whole lot of drinkin’ going on at the Cocktailia competition.  Pepper is excited to be there as part of a top-notch team of bartenders from Bohemia, Florida.  But not all is at it seems. A batch of tainted whiskey threatens to spoil the party and Pepper and her team boss, Neil, are soon swept into investigating suspicious events related to the whiskey and its creators, while fighting the temptation to be swept into each other’s arms.   Each discovery brings with it new suspects and plot twists, and the identify of the culprit remains unclear until the final reveal.  A solid start to what promises to be a light-hearted, fun series.

FTC disclosure: I received an advance review copy of this book as part of  this blog tour.  This has not affected the content of my review in any way.

Giveaway

Click to enter a rafflecopter for your chance to win some really Bartender-themed goodies from this author – including a beautiful bartender kit, Bohemia Bartenders swag, and more (US only).

About the Author

LUCY-LAKESTONELucy Lakestone is an award-winning author who lives on Florida’s east central coast, among the towns that serve as an inspiration for the hot romances of her Bohemia Beach Series and the jumping-off point for the Bohemia Bartenders Mysteries. She’s been a journalist, photographer, editor and video producer but prefers living in her imagination, where the moon is full and the cocktails are divine. Learn more at LucyLakestone.com.

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