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.

Spotlight & Giveaway: A DEADLY EDITION by Victoria Gilbert

As part of a blog tour organized by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, today the spotlight light shines on a new release from Victoria Gilbert – A Deadly Edition (A Blue Ridge Library Mystery).

About the Book

‘Til death do us part” could be closer than the bride realizes in Victoria Gilbert’s tantalizing fifth Blue Ridge Library mystery.”

The pursuit to acquire a rare illustrated book turns deadly, and on the eve of her upcoming wedding, library director Amy Webber is drawn into a web of treachery and betrayal that could derail her happy day–and maybe just claim her life.

Planning a wedding can be murder–sometimes literally. At a party celebrating their upcoming nuptials, Taylorsford, Virginia library director Amy Webber and her fiancé Richard Muir discover the body of art dealer Oscar Selvaggio–a bitter rival of their host, Kurt Kendrick.

Both had been in a heated battle to purchase a rare illustrated volume created by William Morris’s Kelmscott Press, so suspicion immediately falls upon Kurt. Amy knows that Kurt has a closet-full of skeletons from his past–but she can’t believe he’s guilty of murder.

Amidst an avalanche of wedding preparations, Amy begins an investigation with the help of her aunt Lydia Talbot and the new mayor of Taylorsford, Sunshine “Sunny” Fields. Much to Lydia’s dismay, her boyfriend, art expert Hugh Chen, becomes convinced of Kurt’s guilt and launches an investigation of his own. As the case hits painfully close to home, the stakes become impossibly high–and the danger all too real.

Giveaway

Enter a rafflecopter for your chance to win a print copy of  A Deadly Edition: A Blue Ridge Library Mystery from the author.

About the Author

Raised in a historic small town near the Blue Ridge Mountains, Victoria Gilbert turned her early obsession with books into a dual career as an author and librarian.

Victoria writes the Blue Ridge Library Mystery series, the Booklover’s B&B series, and the upcoming Hunter and Clewe traditional mystery series for Crooked Lane Books. She has also published fantasy with Snowy Wings Publishing.

A member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, Victoria is represented by Frances Black at Literary Counsel. She lives near Winston-Salem, NC with her husband, son, and some very spoiled cats.

Author Links

Blue Ridge Library Mystery series:

Booklover’s B&B series:

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.

Spotlight & Giveaway: OPEN FOR MURDER by Mary Angela

As part of a blog tour organized by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, today’s post features a new release from Mary Angela – Open for Murder (A Happy Camper Mystery), the first book in her new cozy mystery series.

About the Book

Deep in the heart of touristy small-town Spirit Canyon, South Dakota, former journalist Zo Jones runs the Happy Camper gift shop, where she sells everything from locally made souvenirs to memorabilia. She even rents out mountain bikes, and dabbles in the adventure industry—and sleuthing . . .

It’s Memorial Day weekend in Spirit Canyon, and for Zo that means the return of summer shoppers. It also means the return of her good friend Beth, who’s moved back to the area to reopen her family’s premier hotel, Spirit Canyon Lodge. Beth and Zo spent many childhood summers there and Zo can’t wait to reconnect and celebrate the Grand Opening. But the festivities go from bad to worse when a power outage knocks out the lights—and morning reveals a competitor’s dead body found on the premises . . .

Soon enough, Beth is the prime suspect in the suspicious death. Fortunately, Zo isn’t afraid to put her investigative skills to work and prove her friend’s innocence. To start digging for information, she appeals to Max Harrington, a local Forest Ranger and unlikely ally. Though they’ve argued about Happy Camper’s tours, in this case they agree on one thing: Beth isn’t a murderer. Stranger things have happened than their collaboration. After all, this is Spirit Canyon. But as the list of suspects grows, Zo will have to keep her guard up if she doesn’t want to be the next lodge guest to check out . . .

About the Author

Mary Angela is the author of the Professor Prather and Happy Camper cozy mystery series. When Mary isn’t penning heartwarming whodunits, she’s teaching, reading, traveling, or spending time with her family. She lives in South Dakota with her husband, daughters, and spoiled pets. You can find out more about her loves, including her writing, at MaryAngelaBooks.com.

Author Links 

Purchase Links  – Amazon – Apple – Google – Kobo – B&N

Giveaway

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

Visit other stops on the tour for reviews, guest posts and more.

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.

Guest Post & Release Spotlight: ANONYMOUS

As part of a blog tour organized by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, I am pleased to have as my guest, Elizabeth Breck, author of the recently released ANONYMOUS, a Madison Kelly Mystery. While she’s here to visit, she’s going to tell us a bit about her inspiration in creating Madison Kelly.


Will the Real Kinsey Millhone Please Stand Up?
Elizabeth Breck

Kinsey Millhone is a fictional private investigator who stars in twenty-five novels penned by the late great Sue Grafton, spanning thirty-six years and the alphabet from A to Y. I was already a state of California licensed Private Investigator when I read my first Sue Grafton novel, and I gobbled them up.

What I liked best about the books was the accuracy of the investigative details. Kinsey investigated insurance fraud, and so did I. Kinsey had to travel to courthouses and halls of administration to get public records about her subjects, and so did I. Kinsey sat for hours in a dark car, bored and hungry, until her subject moved—at which point it was an adrenaline rush of fear and suspense as she tailed without being seen. This was my life. We were both young, female, unlikely private investigators, and I reveled in our similarities. Sue Grafton wrote what it was really like to be a PI.

Until she didn’t. Sue Grafton made the choice to leave Kinsey in the 1980’s so that she wouldn’t age; Grafton was a very successful author so it is hard to argue with any of her choices. But how we investigated changed greatly in the 1990’s and 2000’s. With the advent of the internet, a real-life private investigator went from visiting court buildings to searching for records on computer. And for me, as the accuracy of investigations in Grafton’s writing faded with the passing years, so with it went my interest (it is a testament to her writing that I stuck with her as long as I did, even as I argued with the books). My love of mysteries took me from Agatha Christie to Janet Evanovich to Thomas Perry, but I still had a soft spot in my heart for Kinsey, who had been left in the past by her creator.

In 2015 I returned to school and earned a bachelor’s degree in Writing. I began writing about my alter-ego, Madison Kelly, during my writing workshops, and I discovered I was able to write a mystery series that I’d always wanted to read: one where the details of being a female PI were accurate. Madison Kelly lives in a small apartment by the beach in the Windansea section of La Jolla, California, just like I did in my thirties. In Anonymous, Madison races to figure out who left a threatening note on her door warning her to stop investigating him. Since she hadn’t been investigating anyone—she’d been taking time off to figure out what to do with her life— she has to do exactly what the note is telling her not to do: investigate. Finding the Anonymous note-leaver takes her straight into the middle of an investigation of two missing women. Throughout this thrilling mystery, Madison is involved in real-life events that have actually happened to me: high speed tails, night surveillance where one is left with only one’s thoughts and the music on the radio, and the never ending challenge of proving yourself as a woman in a predominantly male field. The accuracy of what it is to be a female P.I. is back, along with what might happen if she began investigating a killer who had made her his target: she uses her experience and determination to figure out who he is before it’s too late.

So I guess the answer to the question I posed with the title is: I am the real Kinsey Millhone. I’m starting a journey with my alter-ego, Madison Kelly, but I walk in the footsteps of the greats who came before me.


About ANONYMOUS

The note was threatening enough–but its link to two cold cases and a sinister unseen presence sends P.I. Madison Kelly on a frantic search for the truth.

Madison Kelly, a San Diego private investigator, arrives home to a note stabbed to her front door: Stop investigating me, or I will hunt you down and kill you. The only problem? Madison hasn’t been investigating anyone–she’s been taking time off to figure out what to do with her life. But how does she prove a negative? The only way to remove the threat is to do exactly what “Anonymous”, the note writer, is telling her not to do: investigate to see who left it. Could this have something to do with the true crime podcast she’s been tweeting about, and the missing girls?

The girls went missing, two years apart, after a night at the clubs in San Diego’s famed Gaslamp Quarter, and Madison had been probing the internet for clues. She discovers that someone has been one step ahead of her, monitoring her tweets to prevent her from getting too close. Soon Madison’s investigation brings up more questions than answers: are the disappearances connected? Are the girls dead or did they just walk away from their lives? And who is Anonymous, the person who will stop at nothing to keep Madison from learning the truth?

As she closes in, so does Anonymous. Set against a backdrop of surfer culture and coffee houses of San Diego, Anonymous follows Madison as she confronts the reality of the girls’ disappearance in a terrifying climax where the hunter becomes the hunted–and Madison is running for her life.

Giveaway

Click here to enter the author’s rafflecopter.

About the Author

ELIZABETH BRECK is a state of California licensed private investigator. A native Californian, she had read Harriet the Spy twenty times by the time she was nine, so it was no surprise when she grew up to become a PI. She has worked mainly in the field of insurance investigations, making her the real-life version of Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone. In 2013, she decided to go back to school, earning a bachelor’s degree in writing, summa cum laude, from the University of California San Diego. Anonymous is her first novel. She lives with a black Labrador named Hubert who is her best friend.

Author Links

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

Click here to visit the tour page for additional posts, including reviews, interviews and more.

Book Blast: THE SINISTER SUPERYACHT by Ana T. Drew

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions to showcase Ana T. Drew’s upcoming release – The Sinister Superyacht, the third book in her Julie Cavallo Investigates series. And, set in France, this new cozy mystery promises the chance to travel without leaving the comfort of your home.

About the Book

French tycoon Jean-Louis Ponsard is having a bad year.
Unwise investments, canceled orders, deals falling through…
In the thick of it, his yacht becomes the scene of a suspicious death, and his year of misfortune hits the bed of the Mediterranean Sea.
To make matters worse, the victim isn’t just anybody.
She’s his much-hated mother-in-law.This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is bookcover_the-sinister-superyacht.jpg

Onboard, caterer Julie Cavallo and her quirky grandma Rose do some poking around.
But every luxury cabin hides a secret.
Every passenger has an alibi or no reason to want the victim dead.
Discretion rules. The crew keeps mum.
So do the marble countertops, gem-incrusted walls, and gold sinks.
When the cops take charge, things go to pieces, and not only for the Ponsard family.

Can Julie dive to the murky bottom of the sea, unravel the case, and come back up still breathing?

About the Author

Ana T. Drew is the evil mastermind behind the recent series of murders in the fictional French town of Beldoc. This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is authorphoto_thesinistersuperyacht.jpgWhen she is not writing cozy mysteries or doing mom-and-wife things, she can be found watching “The Rookie” to help her get over “Castle”. She lives in Paris but her heart is in Provence.

>>> Visit ana-drew.com for a free cookbook and a game!

Amazon Pre-order/Buy Link: https://www.amazon.com/Sinister-Superyacht-Provence-Mystery-Investigates-ebook/dp/B0882J3652/ref=sr_1_1

Giveaway

Enter a Rafflecopter giveaway for your chance to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card from the author.

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.

Blurb Blitz & Giveaway: PUMPKIN PIES & POTIONS by Polly Holmes

As part of virtual book blitz organized by Goddess Fish Promotions, and just in time for Halloween, today’s spotlight shines light on a spooky new paranormal cozy mystery – Pumpkin Pies & Potions (Melting Pot Café Book 1)  by Polly Holmes.

About the Book

Witches, cats, pumpkin pies and murder!

I’m Evelyn Grayson and if you’d told me by the time I was 23, I’d have lost both my parents in a mysterious accident, moved in with the coolest Aunt ever, lived in a magical town, and I was a witch, I would have said you were crazy. Funny thing is, you’d be right.

Camille Stenson, the grumpiest woman in Saltwater Cove is set on making this year’s Halloween celebrations difficult for everyone, but when she turns up dead and my best friend is on the suspect list, I have no choice but to find out whodunit and clear her name.

Amongst the pumpkin carving, abandoned houses, and apple bobbing, it soon becomes apparent dark magic is at play and I must use all my newfound witches’ abilities to find the killer before another spell is cast.

Step into Evelyn Grayson’s magical world in the first book of the Melting Pot Café series, a fun and flirty romantic paranormal cozy mystery where the spells are flowing, and the adventure is just beginning.

If you like witty witches, cheeky talking cats, and magical murder mysteries, then you’ll love Polly Holmes’ light-hearted Melting Pot Café series.

The book is available on Amazon.

Giveaway

Enter a rafflecopter for your chance to win a $20 Amazon or B&N Gift Card from the author.

Release Spotlight: HOLIDAYS, HIJINKS & MURDER by Christa Nardi

In recent years, a trend has emerged whereby authors publish holiday-themed fiction month’s before the holiday season. Today’s post turns the spotlight on one such book — a new Stacie Maroni cozy mystery by Christa Nardi — Holidays, Hijinks & Murder.   A fun holiday read. 

About the Book

51nfz6pnylDeck the mall with boughs of holly – until shots ring out.

Attempts to get Stacie in the holiday spirit fall flat when Santa’s elf finds herself in a shooter’s crosshairs. As Stacie and friends help the elf and deal with the potential witnesses, a man in the crowd stands out, the lapels of an old wool coat obscuring his face. Ignoring police demands, he disappears into the crowd only to reappear at strategic times. When the elf recovers and Santa is killed, initial theories go up in smoke and the search is on for the true motive. Faced with relationship turmoil and a killer on the loose, Stacie embraces her ‘bah humbug’ perspective as she seeks to identify the culprit.

Let this cozy holiday mystery novella with Stacie and her friends get you in the holiday spirit.

Get your copy on Amazon!

About the Author

51gp3thyh-l._us230_Christa Nardi is an accomplished writer and an avid reader. Her favorite authors have shifted from Carolyn Keene and Earl Stanley Gardner to more contemporary mystery crime authors over time, but she still loves a good mystery. Christa has authored the Cold Creek Cozy Mystery Series, the spinoff Sheridan Hendley Mystery Series, and the Stacie Maroni Mystery Series. 

She co-authors the Hannah and Tamar Mystery Series. When not reading or writing, Christa enjoys travel with her husband, and playing with her dogs and three grand-daughters.

Christa Nardi is a member of Sisters in Crime and Writer’s League of Texas.

Connect with Christa: