Review: WIN by Harlan Coben

Earlier this month, Harlan Coben’s latest mystery/thriller was released. A fan of the author’s earlier work, I was eager to read WIN and am happy to share my review with you today.

Description*

Over twenty years ago, the heiress Patricia Lockwood was abducted during a robbery of her family’s estate, then locked inside an isolated cabin for months. Patricia escaped, but so did her captors — and the items stolen from her family were never recovered. 

Until now. On the Upper West Side, a recluse is found murdered in his penthouse apartment, alongside two objects of note: a stolen Vermeer painting and a leather suitcase bearing the initials WHL3. For the first time in years, the authorities have a lead — not only on Patricia’s kidnapping, but also on another FBI cold case — with the suitcase and painting both pointing them toward one man.

Windsor Horne Lockwood III — or Win, as his few friends call him — doesn’t know how his suitcase and his family’s stolen painting ended up with a dead man. But his interest is piqued, especially when the FBI tells him that the man who kidnapped his cousin was also behind an act of domestic terrorism — and that the conspirators may still be at large. The two cases have baffled the FBI for decades, but Win has three things the FBI doesn’t: a personal connection to the case; an ungodly fortune; and his own unique brand of justice. 

* as appears on Amazon

My Review

In this novel, the story is told from the point of view of Win Lockwood, an enigmatic character who emerges from the shadows in several of this author’s Myron Bolitar novels, however whose backstory was never divulged. Win is a complex character – his violent nature and the liberties he takes in dispensing his idea of justice counter the traditional sense of what a good guy is. How can identify with a protagonist who has a thirst for violence, who leverages his wealth and social standing to get what he wants? Well, somehow as the story unfolds and we learn about his family and their past, and we view his actions on the backdrop of persons whose crimes and propensity for cruelty are truly unfathomable, our perspective shifts a bit. This book is all the multi-faceted Win – the good and the bad, the violent and the benevolent, and made for a fascinating read. The plot was fast-paced, with surprising twists and a healthy dose of tension that kept those pages turning.

FTC Disclosure: I received an advance reader copy of this book from Grand Central Publishing via NetGalley. This has not affected the content of my review in any way.

Review, Excerpt & Giveaway: DEAD IN A DUMPSTER by B.L. Blair

As part of a blog tour organized by RABT Book Tours, I recently read Dead in a Dumpster by B.L. Blair. Although it’s not a new release, this was my first time reading anything by this author.

About the Book

When Leah Norwood finds the body of Isabel Meeks in the dumpster behind her store, she can’t believe the police consider her a suspect. Sure, she didn’t like Isabel, but then again, neither did anyone else. Isabel had a condescending attitude and a bad reputation. As manager of the antique store, Patina, she had made a lot of enemies.

There is Patina’s assistant manager, the handsome and charming Trent. Isabel was blackmailing him. There is Patina’s owner, the aloof and influential Anthony Thorpe. Isabel was smuggling drugs through his store. And there is the entire drug dealing Cantono family. Isabel had lost a box containing heroin from one of their shipments. That is just to name a few and didn’t even include the stranger who was seen arguing with Isabel just hours before her death.

The police have too many suspects and too many soft alibis. Leah needs to prove to the sexy new chief of police that she had nothing to do with Isabel’s death.

Leah loves a good mystery. Can she find the killer before the police arrest her for murder?

My Review

Leah Norwood runs a small shop in a quaint town. She is a likable character with a more than healthy dose of curiosity and some great friends. Ironically, she’s more afraid she’ll be accused of murder than she is of the “bad guys” in the story. The tone of the writing was light, with Leah telling you the story as if you are one of her friends. A friend who doesn’t mind when she repeats herself. The plot was interesting, well paced at start and toward the end, however this reader found the middle a bit longwinded. A pleasant first in what promises to be a nice cozy series.

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

Read an Excerpt

It was a quarter to eight before I was finally ready to leave. I went to the bathroom, gathered up the trash, and headed out the door. The sleet was still falling, and I could feel the ice pellets hitting my head. I hurried over to the dumpster setting the trash down by the bin. I pulled back the large lid and propped it against the brick wall. As I reached down for the trash, I saw something out of the corner of my eye.

I looked into the dumpster and saw Isabel Meeks staring back at me. It took my brain a few moments to determine she wasn’t actually looking at me but sitting perfectly still, eyes wide open, a surprised look on her face, and a huge bloodstain on her chest. I had never seen a dead body outside of a funeral so I did what any rational, mature human being would do. I screamed. I then turned and ran as fast as I could back to the store. I fumbled with the lock a moment but finally managed to get the door open. I even disabled the alarm before stumbling to my chair. I sat there shaking and staring at the door trying to process the scene. An image of Isabel flashed into my head, and I bolted from my chair and to the bathroom where I promptly lost my lunch.

Still a little shaky and somewhat nauseated, I rinsed out my mouth and walked back to the chair. I don’t know why it took me so long, but it finally occurred to me that I probably needed to tell someone. So for the second time that day, I reached for my phone to call the police.

Giveaway

Enter a rafflecopter for you chance to win an Amazon gift card from the author.

About the Author

B. L. Blair writes mystery/romance stories. Like most authors, she has been writing most of her life and has dozens of books started. She just needs the time to finish them.

She is the author of the Leah Norwood Mysteries and the Lost and Found Pets Mystery Novellas. She loves reading books, writing books, and traveling wherever and as often as time and money allows. She is currently working on her latest book set in Texas, where she lives with her family.

 Contact Links

 Purchase Links

Review: PREJUDICE MEETS PRIDE by Rachael Anderson

Even this hard-core mystery lover has to read something else every now and then. I recently downloaded and read Prejudice Meets Pride, the first book in Rachael Anderson’s Meet Your Match series. No, it’s not a new release, but it was definitely a fun read. I just might have to check out more of this author’s books.

About the Book*

After years of pinching pennies and struggling to get through art school, Emma Makie’s hard work finally pays off with the offer of a dream job. But when tragedy strikes, she has no choice but to make a cross-country move to Colorado Springs to take temporary custody of her two nieces. She has no money, no job prospects, and no idea how to be a mother to two little girls, but she isn’t about to let that stop her. Nor is she about to accept the help of Kevin Grantham, her handsome neighbor, who seems to think she’s incapable of doing anything on her own.

Prejudice Meets Pride is the story of a guy who thinks he has it all figured out and a girl who isn’t afraid to show him that he doesn’t. It’s about learning what it means to trust, figuring out how to give and to take, and realizing that not everyone gets to pick the person they fall in love with. Sometimes, love picks them.

* As appears on Amazon.

My Review

An entertaining light read with relatable characters and a healthy dose of humor.  In this sweet romance, the characters start off by making assumptions about one another and letting those assumptions get in each other’s way.  Grant is quick to misjudge Emma, while she is too full of pride to accept his help. It was fun to see how Emma and Grant spar (verbally, of course) as they get to know each other, and gradually let their guard done. In many ways, they are polar opposites, but both of them are kind-hearted. And they both have a playful streak, which leads to a range of amusing antics on their parts. A pleasant diversion that had me smiling as I read.

Review: SERPENTINE by Jonathan Kellerman

A long-time fan of the Alex Delaware mysteries by Jonathan Kellerman, I jumped at the opportunity to read an advance review copy of Serpentine, the latest addition to the successful series.

Description*

Psychologist Alex Delaware and detective Milo Sturgis search for answers to a brutal, decades-old crime in this electrifying psychological thriller from the #1 New York Times bestselling master of suspense.

LAPD homicide lieutenant Milo Sturgis is a master detective. He has a near-perfect solve rate and he’s written his own rule book. Some of those successes—the toughest ones—have involved his best friend, the brilliant psychologist Alex Delaware. But Milo doesn’t call Alex in unless cases are “different.”

This murder warrants an immediate call. Milo’s independence has been compromised as never before, as the department pressures him to cater to the demands of a mogul: a hard-to-fathom, megarich young woman who is obsessed with reopening the coldest of cases—the decades-old death of the mother she never knew.

The facts describe a likely loser: a mysterious woman found with a bullet in her head in a torched Cadillac that has overturned on infamously treacherous Mulholland Drive. No physical evidence, no witnesses, no apparent motive. And a slew of detectives have already worked the case and failed. But as Delaware and Sturgis begin digging, the mist begins to lift. Too many coincidences. Facts turn out to be anything but. And as they soon discover, very real threats lurking in the present.

This is Delaware/Sturgis at their best: traversing the beautiful but forbidding place known as Los Angeles and exhuming the past in order to bring a vicious killer to justice.

*Description as appears on Amazon

My Review

Not known for playing well with fellow officers, Lt. Milo Sturgis is assigned a cold case. Ice cold. Despite the efforts of detectives who came before him, the circumstances surrounding the murder remain unclear. Furthermore, the reasons for reopening the case are unclear. So Milo recruits his psychologist pal, Alex Delaware, to help him puzzle through the scant evidence and identify the possible motives of those involved. They journey into L.A.’s past, with its rich womanizers and the young women who arrived in the city in search of fame and fortune, and more. And it soon becomes clear that somebody is not happy about their investigation. The plot developed at a nice pace, with twists and turns as Milo and Alex unroot the truth – which came as a surprise to this reader. An enjoyable read, for sure.

FTC disclosure: I received an advance review copy from the publisher via NetGalley. 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: THE FIRST TO LIE by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Having read one of Hank Phillippi Ryan’s previous books earlier this year, I jumped at the chance to read an ARC of her latest novel – The First to Lie – when I spotted it on NetGalley.

About the Book*

We all have our reasons for being who we are―but what if being someone else could get you what you want?

After a devastating betrayal, a young woman sets off on an obsessive path to justice, no matter what dark family secrets are revealed. What she doesn’t know―she isn’t the only one plotting revenge.

An affluent daughter of privilege. A glamorous manipulative wannabe. A determined reporter, in too deep. A grieving widow who has to choose her new reality. Who will be the first to lie? And when the stakes are life and death, do a few lies really matter?

Bestselling and award-winning author and investigative reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan delivers another twisty, thrilling cat and mouse novel of suspense that will have you guessing, and second-guessing, and then gasping with surprise.

* from Amazon

My Review

The main characters are unlike those in any other book I’ve read. Sympathetic and dislikable at the same time. Complex and full of surprises. The story is told from multiple points of view, and jumps back and forth between viewpoints and past and present. Yes, it can be a bit confusing at first. But, hang in there. It gets easier as you read on. The plot is intricate, with multiple twists and turns unfolding as the tension builds and the stakes rise, keeping those pages turning until the end.

This well-written story also provides an interesting glimpse into the ethical issues related to the marketing of pharmaceutical products and our vulnerability in taking meds without truly considering their potential side effects. A suspenseful read, served with food for thought..

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

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 

Click here to visit the tour page for more reviews, guest posts, and more.

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: 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.