Sunday, August 18, 2019

Book Review: A Letter of Mary by Laurie R. King

A Letter of Mary
Author: Laurie R. King
Series: Sherlock Holmes/Mary Russell (Book 3)
Publication: Minotaur Books; 1st edition (August 24, 2010)

Description: The third book in the Mary Russell–Sherlock Holmes series.

It is 1923. Mary Russell Holmes and her husband, the retired Sherlock Holmes, are enjoying the summer together on their Sussex estate when they are visited by an old friend, Miss Dorothy Ruskin, an archeologist just returned from Palestine. She leaves in their protection an ancient manuscript which seems to hint at the possibility that Mary Magdalene was an apostle--an artifact certain to stir up a storm of biblical proportions in the Christian establishment. When Ruskin is suddenly killed in a tragic accident, Russell and Holmes find themselves on the trail of a fiendishly clever murderer. A Letter of Mary by Laurie R. King is brimming with political intrigue, theological arcana, and brilliant Holmesian deductions.

My Thoughts: This mystery begins with a visit from an old friend. Miss Dorothy Ruskin is an amateur archaeologist that Mary and Sherlock met when they were in Palestine. Miss Ruskin has an interesting gift for Mary. She has brought her a papyrus that is purported to me written by Mary Magdalene which shows that she was one of Jesus's apostles. This would be epic if it were true. The changes to the Christian churches would be immense. Miss Ruskin had shown it to two experts who declared it false but neither Miss Ruskin or Mary are willing to dismiss it. The papyrus is in an old Italian inlaid box which presents a mystery of its own.

A couple of days later, Sherlock reads a notice in a London paper asking if anyone knows the identity of a woman dead in a hit-and-run. It is Miss Ruskin which involves Mary and Sherlock in trying to find out if it was an accident or murder. And, if it was murder, finding out who murdered Mary's friend.

The suspects range from her family to the potential supporters of her next archaeological dig and may involve politics in Palestine. Mary and Sherlock call in Mycroft and the latest Inspector Lestrade to help them and each goes undercover to uncover the clues.

I enjoyed the setting. Many of the characters were interesting people including Colonel Dennis Edwards who is one of the group who were planning to support Miss Ruskin's next dig. Even though he couldn't be more misogynistic, Mary finds him attractive and somehow likable. I liked some of the walk-ons like a brief mention of Tolkien and possibly Lord Peter Wimsey. I also liked seeing how Holmes and Russell's marriage is progressing.

Favorite Quote:
The dead have a claim on us even heavier than that of the living, for they cannot hear our explanations, and we cannot ask their forgiveness.
I bought and read this one sometime before February 2008. I recently purchased the Kindle copy for my reread. You can buy your copy here.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

ARC Review: Stolen Things by R. H. Herron

Stolen Things
Author: R. H. Herron
Publication: Dutton (August 20, 2019)

Description: A sensational crime, a missing teen, and a mother and daughter with no one to trust but each other come together in this shocking debut thriller by R. H. Herron.

“Mama? Help me.”

Laurie Ahmadi has worked as a 911 police dispatcher in her quiet Northern California town for almost two decades, but nothing in her nearly twenty years of experience could prepare her for the worst call of her career—her teenage daughter, Jojo, is on the other end of the line. She is drugged, disoriented, and in pain, and even though the whole police department springs into action, there is nothing Laurie can do to help.

Jojo, who has been sexually assaulted, doesn’t remember how she ended up at the home of Kevin Leeds, a pro football player famous for his work with the Citizens Against Police Brutality movement, though she insists he would never hurt her. And she has no idea where her best friend, Harper, who was with her earlier in the evening, could be.

As Jojo and Laurie begin digging into Harper’s private messages on social media to look for clues to her whereabouts, they uncover a conspiracy far bigger than they ever could have imagined. With Kevin’s freedom on the line and the chances of finding Harper unharmed slipping away, Laurie and Jojo begin to realize that they can’t trust anyone to find Harper except themselves, not even the police department they’ve long considered family . . . and time is running out.

My Thoughts: Police dispatcher Laurie Ahmadi lives a parent's worst nightmare when she answers a 911 call and hears her daughter asking for help. JoJo is sixteen, she's been sexually assaulted and drugged, when she awakens in the house of pro football player Kevin Leeds. Laurie rushes to the scene, sure that Kevin is the one who raped her daughter. But JoJo is equally sure that he did not.

Kevin and JoJo became friends while they were volunteering for CapB - Citizens Against Police Brutality. JoJo has kept this secret from her police dispatcher mother and police chief father who have both told her to stay away from CapB. JoJo is also keeping secret that she and former friend Harper Cunnigham have rekindled their friendship.

While the body of Kevin's friend Zachary Gordon is stashed in a closet just feet away from where JoJo was, Harper is missing. With a blank space in her memory where the past evening should be, JoJo doesn't know how they got to Kevin's and where Harper could be.

The stress of the evening has caused Omar Ahmadi to have a heart attack which leaves no one to help Laurie investigate to find Harper and find out what happened to JoJo. Her investigation leads to all sorts of secrets and corruption in their police department and Laurie, JoJo, and Kevin are on their own because they don't know who can be trusted in the police department. Even Omar isn't in the clear!

This was a pulse-pounding, fast-paced thriller with intriguingly human characters. I couldn't put it down!

Favorite Quote:
"I'll help you kill him. If you need me to." Sarah cleared her throat. "Of course, let me state for the record that I'm joking."

Laurie knew she wasn't. "Thanks, friend."
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Edelweiss. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Friday Memes: Stolen Things by R. H. Herron

Happy Friday everybody!
Book Beginnings on Friday is now hosted by Rose City ReaderThe Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's Voice. Check out the links above for the rules and for the posts of the participants each week. Don’t dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.

Beginning:
No one ever called 911 because they were having a great day.

Well, sometimes Jocko Smith did, but he was a local drunk who didn't get along with his therapist, and 911 was free.
Friday 56:
White girl hurt, another one missing, black guy dead, infamous black superstar athlete at the middle of all of it -- it was on the front page of every local paper now, and by tomorrow it would hit the major media channels.
This week I am spotlighting a thriller I got from Edelweiss. Stolen Things is R. H. Herron's debut novel. Here is the description from Amazon:
A sensational crime, a missing teen, and a mother and daughter with no one to trust but each other come together in this shocking debut thriller by R. H. Herron.

“Mama? Help me.”

Laurie Ahmadi has worked as a 911 police dispatcher in her quiet Northern California town for almost two decades, but nothing in her nearly twenty years of experience could prepare her for the worst call of her career—her teenage daughter, Jojo, is on the other end of the line. She is drugged, disoriented, and in pain, and even though the whole police department springs into action, there is nothing Laurie can do to help.

Jojo, who has been sexually assaulted, doesn’t remember how she ended up at the home of Kevin Leeds, a pro football player famous for his work with the Citizens Against Police Brutality movement, though she insists he would never hurt her. And she has no idea where her best friend, Harper, who was with her earlier in the evening, could be.

As Jojo and Laurie begin digging into Harper’s private messages on social media to look for clues to her whereabouts, they uncover a conspiracy far bigger than they ever could have imagined. With Kevin’s freedom on the line and the chances of finding Harper unharmed slipping away, Laurie and Jojo begin to realize that they can’t trust anyone to find Harper except themselves, not even the police department they’ve long considered family . . . and time is running out.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Book Review: The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King

The Beekeeper's Apprentice
Author: Laurie R. King
Series: Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes (Book 1)
Publication: Minotaur Books; Special edition, 20th Anniversary edition edition (April 1, 2010)

Description: What would happen if Sherlock Homles, a perfect man of the Victorian age--pompous, smug, and misogynisitic--were to come face to face with a twentieth-century female? If she grew to be a partner worthy of his great talents?

Laurie R. King, whose very different first novel, A Grave Talent (SMP, 1993), drew rave reviews, read the Conan Doyle stories and wondered about such an imaginary encounter. And following through, she has written The Beekeeper's Apprentice.

1914, a young woman named Mary Russell meets a retired beekeeper on the Sussex Downs. His name is Sherlock Holmes. And although he may have all the Victorian "flaws" listed above, the Great Detective is no fool, and can spot a fellow intellect even in a fifteen-year-old woman.

So, at first informally, then consciously, he takes Mary Russell as his apprentice. They work on a few small local cases, then on a larger and more urgent investigation, which ends successfully. All the time, Mary is developing as a detective in her own right, with the benefit of the knowledge and experience of her mentor and, increasingly, friend.

And then the sky opens on them, and they find themselves the targets of a slippery, murderous, and apparently all-knowing adversary. Together they devise a plan to trap their enemy--a plan that may save their lives but may also kill off their relationship.

This is not a "Sherlock Holmes" story. It is the story of a modern young woman who comes to know and work with Holmes, the story of young woman coming to terms with herself and with this older man who embodies the age that is past.

My Thoughts: This is the first book in a series that began in 1994 and published the most recent entry - the fifteenth - in 2018. It introduces fifteen-year-old Mary Russell who is an orphan, an heiress, and a scholar. The story begins with her almost stepping on Sherlock Holmes when she is out wandering the Sussex countryside and reading Virgil. Holmes is watching bees and trying to track a new swarm for one of his hives.

Ostensibly retired, Holmes fills his time keeping his bees, doing a variety of experiments, and writing about various topics like footprints, tire tracks, cigarette ash, and blood. Their first meeting shows them that, despite their many differences, they share many characteristics too. Their hungry intellects, curiosity and deductive powers lead to a developing friendship.

Holmes takes Russell as his informal apprentice and Russell finds a home that is much warmer than the one provided by her guardian aunt. Gradually, Russell gains the skills Holmes is teaching which go along with her own interests in theology.

The story covers about four years of time with Mary growing from a precocious fifteen-year-old to a more worldly and educated nineteen-year-old who moves from apprenticeship to mastery of the arts of detection. She becomes a full partner and equal in the variety of cases that come to them. From an early case of the kidnapping of a six-year-old senator's daughter to a case with roots in Holmes' past, we can see the growth in their partnership and in Mary's skills.

I really enjoyed this rereading of a book I read more than 20 years ago. I loved the historical detail about a time of great change in Great Britain. I loved the contrast between a 20th Century young woman and a Victorian man. I also loved the way those two very different people had so many similarities. The mystery was engaging and complex. I didn't remember who the villain was and enjoyed watching Mary and Holmes follow the clues to discover her.

Now, I want to go on and read the rest of the series again so that I can watch Mary grow and her relationship with Holmes gain in depth and complexity.

Favorite Quote:
"That's what tears are for, you know, to wash away the fear and cool the hate."
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Book Review: A Fountain Filled with Blood by Julia Spencer-Fleming

A Fountain Filled with Blood 
Author: Julia Spencer-Fleming
Series: Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne Mysteries (Book 2)
Publication: St. Martin's Paperbacks; 1st Edition edition (April 19, 2004)

Description: Nestled in the heart of the Adirondacks, Millers Kill, New York is about as safe as it gets. That's why Episcopal minister Clare Fergusson is shocked when the July Fourth weekend brings a rash of vicious assaults to the scenic town. Even Clare's good friend, police chief Russ Van Alstyne, is shaken by the brutality of the crimes―especially when it appears that the victims were chosen because they are gay. But when a third assault of an out-of-town developer ends in murder, Clare and Russ wonder if the recent crime wave is connected to the victim's controversial plan to open an upscale spa in Miller's Kill. Not all things in the tiny town are what they seem―and soon, Clare and Russ are left to fight their unspoken attraction to one another even as they uncover a labyrinthine conspiracy that threatens to turn deadly for them both...

Julia Spencer-Fleming follows up her award-winning debut mystery, In the Bleak Midwinter, with the equally riveting A Fountain Filled with Blood.

My Thoughts: This is the second book in the Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne mystery series. Clare and Russ are trying to stay away from each other until the inappropriate feelings they are having for each other subside. Clare, as an Anglican priest, can't fall in love with very married Russ Van Alstyne despite the fact that they have so much in common and communicate so well and Russ's wife really doesn't understand him or care to try.

When the gay medical examiner is stopped and beaten nearly to death and the gay owner of a video store is also beaten, the idea of Millers Kill being an idyllic small town is showing its hidden darker side. But when the gay developer of the new Adirondack health club/spa that is promising jobs and prosperity is murdered Clare wonders if there is more to it than a few redneck homophobes. Russ doesn't want to publicize the possibility of hate crimes for a number of good reasons.

Clare and Russ keep running into each other as each pursues their investigations in their own ways. It just so happens that the niece of the local woman who is developing the property is about to be married at Clare's church which gives her an in to investigate.

The story centers around the murder investigation which has them looking into the new development which is bringing out a number of environmentalist protesters including Russ's mother Margy. He even arrests her and she spends the night in jail rather than letting him post her bail. This little episode added some humor to an otherwise tension filled story.

Speaking of tension, Clare needs to fly a helicopter to bring an accident victim to help as soon as possible. Russ has major issues about helicopters since a crash when he was in Vietnam but goes along despite his fears because it will take the two of them to get the victim to help. And then the helicopter crashes. Wow! Tension on tension and danger too.

This was another excellent mystery with intriguing characters and a great setting.

Favorite Quote:
"Yeah, but that's not as sexy as a young hip priest with--" Bensen broke off, his eyes thoughtful. "You aren't a lesbian, by any chance?"

"No!" she said, and immediately regretted denying it so fervently. "What I mean is, my sex life is private." Bensen looked very interested. She felt her cheeks getting pink. "That is, if I had a sex life. Which I don't. I'm practicing celibacy."

"I hate to interrupt this fascinating conversation, but I need to as Mr. MacPherson to spend a little time with Ms. Nguyen from the district attorney's office." Clare spun around and discovered she had been right to expect the police to be here. Chief Van Alstyne was standing in the doorway, eyebrows raised.
I bought this one March 25, 2009. You can buy your copy here.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Book Review: Nothing Stays Buried by P. J. Tracy

Nothing Stays Buried
Author: P. J. Tracy
Series: Monkeewrench (Book 8)
Publication: G.P. Putnam's Sons (August 1, 2017)

Description: The Monkeewrench crew returns to face the city of Minneapolis’s worst nightmare—a rampant serial killer on the loose—in this electrifying thriller from the author of The Sixth Idea.

When Minneapolis homicide detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth are called to a crime scene in a heavily wooded city park, everything about the setting is all too familiar. And when they discover a playing card on the victim's body, their worst fears are confirmed—there’s a serial killer operating in the city for the first time in years.

Across town, Grace MacBride and her unconventional partners at Monkeewrench Software find themselves at both personal and career crossroads. Weary of the darker side of their computer work for law enforcement, they agree to take on a private missing-persons case in a small farming community in southwestern Minnesota.

As the violence accelerates in Minneapolis, Magozzi and Gino soon realize their killer is planning to complete the deck, and they enlist Monkeewrench to help stop the rampage. As a baffling tangle of evidence accumulates, the cops and Monkeewrench make the unlikely connections among a farmer’s missing daughter, a serial killer, and a decades-old stabbing that brings them face-to-face with pure evil.

My Thoughts: There is a new serial killer terrorizing Minneapolis. His victims are brunettes who are running in parks. He leaves a playing card on his victims' bodies. Magozzi and Rolseth catch the case of the latest victim in Minneapolis. But he's also committing crimes in St. Paul.

Meanwhile, the Monkeewrench gang has decided to take a more personal case and look into the disappearance of a young woman from a small town in rural Minnesota. Strangely enough, these cases come together by way of drug cartels and long-past friendships and crimes.

I liked that Grace and Magozzi's relationship is getting closer now that Grace is nearly six months pregnant. I liked the Minnesota setting. I liked that some of the danger in the book come from Minnesota weather and summer tornadoes.

Favorite Quote:
As she had learned these past few years, things changed - life, people, animals - all without your permission, no matter how zealously you fought to maintain supreme control. 
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, August 12, 2019

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (August 12, 2019)

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is now hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date.

It’s Monday!  What Are You Reading is where we gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week.  It is a great way to network with other bloggers, see some wonderful blogs, and put new titles on your reading list.

I will be combining my YA and adult reading and purchases on this one weekly roundup.

Other Than Reading...

I didn't read as much as usual this week because I had company for four days and had a lunch gathering with 22 of my fellow 1968 graduates. I had a great time with both activities. My friend and I talked a lot, went out to eat a lot, and spent an afternoon at the casino. My classmates and I talked and talked and caught up on each other's lives.

The weather was great with lots of sunny skies and temperatures in the high 70s and low 80s. Our solar system produced 282 kWh of power.

Read Last Week

If you can't wait until the review shows up on my blog, reviews are posted to LibraryThing and Goodreads as soon as I write them (usually right after I finish reading a book.)

  • Dare You to Lie by Amber Lynn Natusch (YA; Mine) - This was a fast-paced thriller with a wonderfully, sarcastic main character and a cliffhanger ending. My review will be posted on Sept. 11.
  • Don't Say a Word by Amber Lynn Natusch (YA Review; Sept. 17) - Middle book in a trilogy that has a cliffhanger ending. It also has a fast pace and intricate plot. My review will be posted on Sept. 14. 


  • O Jerusalem by Laurie R. King (Mine) - This was a reread of a book I read before I began blogging. I love the characters and the historical detail. My review will be posted on Sept. 15.
  • Justice Hall by Laurie R. King (Mine) - This is also a reread of a book I read before I began blogging. It had wonderful writing, great descriptions, and great characters. My review will be posted on Sept. 22.

DNF

  • The Babysitters Coven by Kate Williams (YA Review; Sept. 17) - I read about 20% of this one but didn't like it. 

Currently

  • The Game by Laurie R. King (Mine) - I bought a used hardcover copy from Amazon Vine to replace my original paperback. I was surprised when I got to about page 70 to discover that someone had used a mint condition $2 bill as a bookmark and left it in the book. While still in circulation, it is still rather unusual to see one.

Next Week




Reviews Posted




Want to See What I Added to My Stack Last Week?

What was your week like?

Sunday, August 11, 2019

ARC Review: Cold Woods by Karen Katchur

Cold Woods
Author: Karen Katchur
Series: Northampton County (Book 2)
Publication: Thomas & Mercer (August 13, 2019)

Description: Buried bones of the past rise to the surface in this chilling mystery from the bestselling author of River Bodies.

When the long-buried bones of a man turn up in the middle of December, Pennsylvania homicide detective Parker Reed knows he’s in for a cold case.

Trisha and her friends were teenagers when Trisha’s stepdad went missing. Now, thirty years later, his remains have been found in the mountains. The women have always known there was more to his disappearance than meets the eye, and they must confront their grim past. Secrets can stay secret a long time in the lonely Appalachian foothills—but not forever.

When Parker and his partner identify the remains, their investigation leads them to Trisha’s childhood home. But the deeper Parker digs into the crime, the more he realizes that the truth isn’t always simple. In fact, it’s so complicated that even Trisha and her friends don’t fully understand what really happened in those cold woods.

My Thoughts: Homicide detective Parker Reed is called in when the long-buried bones of a man are discovered in the Pennsylvania woods. He gets the call because he's his lieutenant's last choice. He's still dealing with the trauma of an earlier case.

Meanwhile Trisha Haines has fled her husband and life in Las Vegas to come home for the funeral of the mother of one of her best friends. She wants to try to rebuild relationships with her mother and the best friends she hasn't seen since the Spring of her Senior year.

When they bones are identified as Lester Haines - Trisha's stepfather, Parker is busy trying to find out what happened thirty years ago. We, however, have a pretty good idea because the story flashes back to the 1980s and tells how Trisha met her friends Carlyn and Dannie and what happened to Trisha's low-life stepfather. But maybe our idea is wrong...

We do know that Trisha was sexually abused by her stepfather and that abuse colored her self-image such that she looked for a husband who would continue on the abuse. We know that Trisha has carried the belief that she caused her stepfather's death. But, why are the police focusing more on her mother? And what secrets are her friends and their mothers holding close?

This was an engaging and twisty thriller. The characters were interesting and well-rounded - also, damaged in various ways. I enjoyed the story with all its twists.

Favorite Quote:
The only clue Parker could ascertain that she was nervous was from the way she gripped the leather case in her lap. "There are very few surprises in life. Wouldn't you agree?" she asked Geena.

Geena didn't answer her one way or the other.

"People surprise the hell out of me every single day," Parker said.

The corners of Carlyn's lips turned up slightly.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

ARC Review: The Last Good Guy by T. Jefferson Parker

The Last Good Guy
Author: T. Jefferson Parker
Series: Roland Ford (Book 3)
Publication: G.P. Putnam's Sons (August 13, 2019)

Description: In this electrifying new thriller from three-time Edgar Award winner and New York Times bestseller T. Jefferson Parker, Private Investigator Roland Ford hunts for a missing teenager and uncovers a dark conspiracy in his most personal case yet.

When hired by a beautiful and enigmatic woman to find her missing younger sister, private investigator Roland Ford immediately senses that the case is not what it seems. He is soon swept up in a web of lies and secrets as he searches for the teenager, and even his new client cannot be trusted. His investigation leads him to a secretive charter school, skinhead thugs, a cadre of American Nazis hidden in a desert compound, an arch-conservative celebrity evangelist--and, finally, to the girl herself. The Last Good Guy is Ford's most challenging case to date, one that will leave him questioning everything he thought he knew about decency, honesty, and the battle between good and evil...if it doesn't kill him first.

My Thoughts: This thriller starts out like a 1940s, black and white movie with a client walking into the detective's office and then it quickly becomes very contemporary. Penelope Rideoout wants Roland Ford to find her missing fourteen-year-old sister Daley. Daley has entered that rebellious age and resents the control her older sister has over her life.

Roland takes the case and begins by investigating Penelope only to discover that she has been lying to him about her life. His investigation does lead to where Daley was and he finds the body of her much older boyfriend there. Neighbors saw her leave with a couple of guys from a SNR Security. Trying to find information on the company is almost impossible despite the latest technology.

As Ford tries to track down Daley and learn more about the security company, he follows a SNR car to an isolated date farm in the California desert. He is beaten by six helmeted men riding ATVs and needs rescue himself from one of his irregulars. The beating just makes him more determined to find Daley and learn what is going on at that date farm.

When he goes back to his client he hears yet another story. This time Penelope tells him that Daley is actually her daughter. When Penelope was fourteen she was groomed, drugged, and raped by a travelling preacher and found herself with his child. Currently the preacher has hit the big time and built an arena church near where Penelope lives. Not knowing what to believe about his enigmatic client, Ford begins investigating the church and Pastor Reggie Atlas.

It quickly becomes clear that there is a connection between SNR Security and Atlas that goes beyond hiring them to do security for his church. All of a sudden, Ford is looking into white supremacists and other groups that want to eliminate the "mud men" and bring racial purity back to supremacy. And he still doesn't know where Daley is or if his client's latest story is true.

This was an engaging story with a main character who is both mysterious and intriguing. It is the third book in the Roland Ford series and stands alone well. I would like to know more about Roland's backstory though.

Favorite Quote:
"Isn't my word good enough?"

"You've given me a lot of words, Penelope. Some are more truthful than others."
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Edelweiss. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Friday Memes: The Last Good Guy by T. Jefferson Parker

Happy Friday everybody!
Book Beginnings on Friday is now hosted by Rose City ReaderThe Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's Voice. Check out the links above for the rules and for the posts of the participants each week. Don’t dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.

Beginning:
There's this scene in the old detective movies where the investigator sits in his office, waiting for someone to come in and hire him. He's a capable-looking man. His face has character. His office is functionally furnished and poorly lit.
Friday 56:
Mike skipped another rock. Went three hops into the mouth of an oncoming wave. "This is what we do..."

"...and this is where we do it," I said.
This week I am spotlighting thriller The Last Good Guy by T. Jefferson Parker. I got this eARC from Edelweiss. Here is the description from Amazon:
In this electrifying new thriller from three-time Edgar Award winner and New York Times bestseller T. Jefferson Parker, Private Investigator Roland Ford hunts for a missing teenager and uncovers a dark conspiracy in his most personal case yet.

When hired by a beautiful and enigmatic woman to find her missing younger sister, private investigator Roland Ford immediately senses that the case is not what it seems. He is soon swept up in a web of lies and secrets as he searches for the teenager, and even his new client cannot be trusted. His investigation leads him to a secretive charter school, skinhead thugs, a cadre of American Nazis hidden in a desert compound, an arch-conservative celebrity evangelist--and, finally, to the girl herself. The Last Good Guy  is Ford's most challenging case to date, one that will leave him questioning everything he thought he knew about decency, honesty, and the battle between good and evil...if it doesn't kill him first.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Book Review: In the Bleak Midwinter by Julia Spencer-Fleming

In the Bleak Midwinter
Author: Julia Spencer-Fleming
Series: Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne Mysteries (Book 1)
Publication: Minotaur Books; Reprint edition (March 14, 2003)

Description: Heavy Snow...Icy Desires...Cold-Blooded Murder

Clare Fergusson, St. Alban's new priest, fits like a square peg in the conservative Episcopal parish at Millers Kill, New York. She is not just a "lady," she's a tough ex-Army chopper pilot, and nobody's fool. Then a newborn infant left at the church door brings her together with the town's police chief, Russ Van Alstyne, who's also ex-Army and a cynical good shepherd for the stray sheep of his hometown. Their search for the baby's mother quickly leads them into the secrets that shadow Millers Kill like the ever-present Adirondacks. What they discover is a world of trouble, an attraction to each other―and murder...

In the Bleak Midwinter was Julia Spencer-Fleming's first novel, and it won a Macavity Award, an Agatha Award, an Anthony Award, and a Dilys Award.

My Thoughts: This multi-award winning mystery introduces Clare Fergusson who is the new priest at St. Alban's Episcopal Church in Millers Kill, New York. Clare is an ex-Army helicopter pilot. When a baby is found left at the doorstop of her new church, Clare gets involved in trying to find the baby's mother.

Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne is also on the case. Like Clare, he is former Army who has come home to Millers Kill after his service. When the hunt for the baby's mother leads to a young woman found dead at the verge of the kill, the story gets more complicated.

The story doesn't get any clearer when the young woman (Katie) is identified as a resident of one of the poorer parts of town who had won a scholarship to a nearby university and should have been there. Also complicating things is a note in the box with the baby offering him to a couple of church members who had long been trying for a child. No one can figure out Katie's connection to the church and no one knows who the father of the baby is.

Katie's sister identifies the body and accuses her father of the murder. After all, he abused her for years until she could graduate from high school and get away from him. He sounds like a great suspect until he too is found murdered.

While Clare and Russ are investigating, they develop a strong friendship based both on their backgrounds and their current loneliness. The relationship could be edging into a romance but for the fact the Russ is married.

The writing was compelling and certainly didn't give any indication that this was a first novel. The pacing was great and the mystery complex. The story was filled with tension beyond Russ and Clare's personal relationship.

I really enjoyed this novel and look forward to reading more in the series.

Favorite Quote:
"It would be nice if you could have told me it was 'a left-handed man under five-feet-six who pumps iron, wielding a barbell,' but I'll work with whatever you give me."

"You don't want a pathologist, you want a game of Clue. It was Miss Scarlet, in the Conservatory, with a candlestick."
I bought this one March 27, 2009. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

ARC Review: Death in the Covenant by D. A. Bartley

Death in the Covenant
Author: D. A. Bartley
Series: An Abish Taylor Mystery
Publication: Crooked Lane Books (August 13, 2019)

Description: The growth of the Mormon Church has slowed. Young men are abandoning the Church, leaving their female counterparts unmarried and childless. Now, the Church is about to lose one more member…and it may be due to murder.

Detective Abish “Abbie” Taylor returned to the mountain town of Pleasant View, Utah, hoping for a quiet life. But that hope dissipates like a dream when she wakes to an unsettling phone call. Arriving at the scene of a fatal car accident, she discovers that the victim was one of the most beloved leaders of the Church―and an old family friend.

Abbie is skeptical when her father insists the death was not an accident, but in an attempt to patch up their relationship, she takes a few days off from her job as the sole detective in the police department, and heads to Colonia Ju├írez, a former LDS colony in Mexico. There, she uncovers a plan hearkening back to the Church’s history of polygamy. But Abbie knows too well that bringing secrets to light can be deadly. Is that why her father’s friend died?

Abbie realizes with a jolt that her investigation could cost her father his job and possibly get him excommunicated. Who is the murderous mastermind of this secret plot? Time is running out for Abbie to save her father’s position―and her own life―as dark forces close in, and the outlook for Pleasant View turns decidedly unpleasant.

My Thoughts: Abby Taylor has left the Mormon church that she was raised in after much soul-searching. Now, after some years away, she is back in Utah working as a police officer. When she is called to the site of an accident, she is disturbed to discover Heber Bentsen who is an old family friend and a higher up in the Church. She is even more distressed when she learns that Heber was murdered.

Abby immediately finds her investigation into his death hampered by her own boss at the police department and other leaders of the Church. They put pressure on Abby to declare the death an accident and end the investigation before the funeral. A talk with her father who was Heber's good friend points Abby in a new direction. Her father says that Heber was curious about the disappearance of a number of young women who were faithful members of the Church.

Abby's investigation leads her to Mexico where she learns that the long-outlawed practice of plural marriage might be being resurrected there. A recording of a meeting on the day of Heber's death confirms that leaders of the Church are floating the idea and that Heber was opposed.

This story is filled with looks inside the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints with all their secretive practices. Abby's father is a church scholar and a devoted member of the Church. Threats to excommunicate him weigh heavily on Abby and spur her on to solve the murder not only of Heber but of a young rock climber who saw the "accident" and a young graduate student who is part of a plural marriage.

This was a fascinating look at a strange culture filled with members who believe with blind faith and don't let little things like truth and evidence sway them. I liked the story but wasn't really satisfied with the ending that was at best detente.

Favorite Quote:
"If Heber suspected plural marriage was already being practiced..."

"Abbie, I listened to Brittany Thompson. I saw her children and I saw her pregnant belly. I have no reason to suspect her of lying, but I haven't spoken to President Bragg. There may be a perfectly reasonable explanation--"

"A perfectly reasonable explanation?" Her voice was rising, in volume and register. Breathe in. Breathe out.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

ARC Review: Death Comes to Dartmoor by Vivian Conroy

Death Comes to Dartmoor
Author: Vivian Conroy
Series: A Merriweather and Royston Mystery
Publication: Crooked Lane Books (August 13, 2019)

Description: The mist-shrouded moors of Devon proffer a trove of delights for two vacationing zoologists―but also conceal a hoard of dark secrets reaching down to the fathomless depths of the ocean.

Miss Merula Merriweather barely saved her uncle from the gallows after he was wrongly accused of murder―and now, she’s left the bustle of Victorian London to recuperate in the fresh air of Dartmoor with her fellow zoologist, Lord Raven Royston. The trip offers a unique treat, as they’ll be staying with a friend of Raven’s, who owns a collection of rare zoological specimens―including a kraken, a sea monster of myth and legend.

But all is not right in the land of tors, heaths, and mist. Their host’s maid has vanished without a trace, and the townspeople hold him responsible, claiming that his specimens are alive and roam the moors at night, bringing death to anyone who crosses their path. Merula and Raven are skeptical―but the accusations become more ominous when they find several specimen jars empty.

As the two hunt for clues across a desolate and beautiful landscape, a stranger appears bearing a shadowy secret from Merula’s past. Could there be a connection between her family history, the missing girl, and a fearsome monster that could be on the loose? The race is on to find the truth.

My Thoughts: Merula and Raven have come to Dartmoor to take some rest and recovery time after their first case. It should be time for quiet walks and scientific explorations of Raven's friend's collection of exotic creatures. But they arrive to find things in chaos. Raven's friend is raving, his maid is missing, and an angry mob is ready to burn the house down.

When the maid turns up dead, apparently strangled by the Kraken Mr. Oaks brought back from his travels, Raven and Merula have to find the real murderer before Mr. Oaks is executed for the crime. Between the Wreckmaster who is trying to hold onto his power and the new Guard who want to see the railroad come to the are bring tourists aplenty, Merula and Raven have lots of suspects.

Add in the stranger who seems to know about Merula's hidden past but who is unwilling to share what he knows with her. Merula has always felt an emptiness where her past is concerned. Left as a baby on her aunt and uncle's doorstep has strongly affected her life and choices. This is one mystery that she really wants to solve.

This was an entertaining story with lots of action as Merula and Raven investigate. This is the second book in a series and I think we are just beginning to understand Merula and Raven. Their characters are being gradually revealed both to each other and to the reader.

Favorite Quote:
Merula stared into his eyes, feeling the same sensation rush through her veins. Suddenly, despite the darkness outside, there come the joy and warmth of being with someone she trusted and with whom she'd be able to conquer any hurdle.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, August 5, 2019

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (August 5, 2019)

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is now hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date.

It’s Monday!  What Are You Reading is where we gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week.  It is a great way to network with other bloggers, see some wonderful blogs, and put new titles on your reading list.

I will be combining my YA and adult reading and purchases on this one weekly roundup.

Other Than Reading...

This was another mostly nice week. I celebrated my birthday on Friday. It was a quiet celebration. My brother and I had gone out to eat earlier in the week. But we did have pineapple upside down cake on the day.

We came out from the restaurant Wednesday to find someone waiting to talk to us. His wife had bumped my car when she was trying to get into a parking spot. We were legally parked and away from the car when the accident happened. So I spent part of the week talking to my insurance company and getting an estimate to repair the damage. My car is pretty new being a 2018 model so I don't like the idea that it was damaged. Since it is mostly paint scrapes, I likely wouldn't have done anything if they hadn't stayed and given me their insurance information. I carry a pretty high deductible. I'm told that my insurance company will be going after their insurance company to cover the whole cost. I'll be curious to see if it ends up costing me anything to fix it. We are just glad they stayed. We might not have noticed the damage for days since it was the driver's side front by the headlight. It seems that I mostly approach my car from the back both in my garage and when I park it in various parking lots. It would have been quite a mystery as to when it was damaged.

I don't know how much reading I'll get done next week. I have a friend coming to stay with me most of the week. My schedule otherwise is very open except for a lunch with about 25 of my fellow 1968 high school grads on Wednesday. It is nice to get a chance to see some of my schoolmates more often than our official reunions. It is at a restaurant I haven't been to in many years so I'm eager to go for that reason too.

Even with some cloudy and partly cloudy days this week, we still managed to produce about 256 kWh of electricity with our solar array. We've already produced 98 kWh in August and it is just Saturday noon.

July Reading Report

I read 31 books in July. Twelve were mine including two rereads. Eighteen were review books. One was borrowed from the Public Library. I read a total of 11,006 pages. Eight of the twelve I read from the TBR pile had been on the stack for at least six months. In fact, the first five books of the Julia Spencer-Fleming series had been on the stack since 2009.

I added 34 new books in July including 4 audiobooks from SYNC and fourteen review books. Twenty-two of the books were Kindle copies. Twenty-nine of the books are still unread.

Read Last Week

If you can't wait until the review shows up on my blog, reviews are posted to LibraryThing and Goodreads as soon as I write them (usually right after I finish reading a book.)

  • Fatal Cajun Festival by Ellen Byron (Review;  Sept. 10) - Entertaining contemporary mystery that is 5th in a series. My review will be posted on Sept. 5.
  • Written in Red by Anne Bishop 
  • Save Your Breath by Melinda Leigh (Review; Sept. 17) -This thriller is also the fifth in a series and was packed with suspense. My review will be posted on Sept. 10.


  • Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop
  • The Dry by Jane Harper - This was a great mystery set in rural Australia. I loved the characters. My review will be posted on Sept. 7.
  • Vision in Silver by Anne Bishop 



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What was your week like?