Nine One One By J.D. Webb

ONE
Nine One One By J.D. Webb
Publisher: Uncial Press
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (34 pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Jennifer Menlo loves her 911 dispatcher job, and especially loves helping people. But one desperate call from a brave seven-year-old leaves her with a yearning to do more, even though that’s strictly prohibited by the police department. The boy discovers his mother’s body and when he calls 911 for help Jen discovers the boy’s home is not far from where she lives. She doesn’t hesitate to offer more than a helping hand.
Little does she know that a murderer who has killed once will readily chose a second victim if that person threatens to reveal the killer’s identity.

There’s no such thing as the perfect murder. Anyone who tries to get away with this kind of crime is bound to leave a few clues somewhere. All Jennifer has to do is figure out where to look.

The first scene was such an intense and exciting way to introduce the main characters. Talking to a child who has just discovered that his mom had been violently attacked stay calm seems like it would be a huge challenge. I couldn’t wait to find out how Jennifer would react to that situation and if she’d be able to keep the boy distracted until the police arrived.

It would have been helpful to have more clues about who killed the victim. The narrator spent so much time describing other parts of the case that I was perplexed when the murderer was revealed. It felt like that section came out of nowhere. I’d really been enjoying the storyline up until that point, so it was a little disappointing to read that scene.

Jennifer’s backstory was well done. In the beginning I wondered why she seemed to know so much about how crimes are investigated and what kinds of things the authorities look for when trying to figure out what happened in a case. The answer to this question was definitely satisfactory, but it also made me want to know more about her past. She was such a smart and motivated character that I would have loved to spend more time listening to her talk about everything she knows.

Nine One One is a good choice for anyone who is in the mood for a fast-paced mystery.

Craving Justice by Fiona Archer

JUSTICE
Craving Justice by Fiona Archer
Sons of Sydney Book 1
Publisher: Self-published
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (276 pages)
Other: M/F, BDSM, Spanking
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Honeysuckle

A man branded by his past

Seth Justice is tall, daring and dangerous. The former street kid from Sydney owns a thriving technology company in Seattle. But he has bigger goals―or should that be ghosts?―that drive him harder. On the verge of selling his business for a fortune, he’s celebrating when Harper Fox, daughter of the buyer, tumbles into his arms. The curvy café owner enchants him with her sassy personality. Soon they move from easy banter to a night of passion that reveals a sweet vulnerability in the soft-hearted woman.

A woman determined to control her future

After a lifetime of her domineering father’s scorn and rejection, Harper dances to her own beat. She has her café and surrounds herself with a chosen family of her eccentric staff and close friends. While she’s mostly content… her heart aches for more. But Harper has been burned before and doesn’t trust easily. That is, until a man with a panty-melting Aussie accent and a commanding stare entices her to take a chance—on him. When Seth takes charge in the bedroom and ties her control in knots, he awakens a need in Harper that leaves her hungry for more.

A new beginning worth fighting for

When an unseen enemy attacks the new life Seth and his brothers have built, the ensuing disaster tests not only his developing relationship with Harper, but also threatens to sever the last remaining bonds with his brothers. As Seth struggles to protect everything and everyone he loves, he has to determine if Harper is his enemy’s target—or accomplice.

I walked away from Craving Justice craving the next book with a mad hunger!

Sometimes you find a new author or series and their voice just clicks with you as reader. That was me with Fiona Archer when I read the books in her King’s Bluff, Wyoming series. While I’ve always enjoyed reading a good Dominant Alpha male type hero, her heroes seem to always go just about a half step more towards the dark side of Dominance/submission in the most delicious ways.

Seth Justice is exactly the kind of hero I expected from this talented story teller. He has the tall, dark and handsome in spades but it’s more. He isn’t the broody male hero, though he has a brother or two that make up for how refreshingly open Seth is, especially with Harper. And then Ms. Archer goes and gives him and his brothers a back story that owned me hands down.

Harper Fox is a gem. She’s the kind of heroine that I can cheer for because she’s not perfect but she’s not down on herself about her imperfections, either. She’s confident in who she is but not so arrogant that having someone like Seth pursue her isn’t completely flattering. She isn’t afraid to stand up to him but she also isn’t afraid to give over control to him. It’s a nice combination.  I couldn’t help but love her.

There’s a mystery presented pretty early on in this story that totally drew me in. Who had it in for the Justice brothers and why? Who had the technology and capability to find information that should have been classified and is there one target or are they out to take down the whole family? This being book one in the series left the door open for so many possibilities and had me glued to the pages to see where it would go. I’m glad I didn’t have money riding on predicting the ending. I would have lost it all.

This story has a very satisfying conclusion for Harper and Seth but there’s obviously more in store for the rest of family. After having met Adam, Zach, and Heath, (and possibly Lincoln) I have no doubt their HEA is going to just as hard won as Seth’s and just as exciting. It’s possible I met one, maybe two, future Mrs. Justice in this book. Harper has some pretty awesome and loyal friends. These guys don’t stand a chance!

Just as an aside, if I wasn’t already a total Fiona Archer fan girl, she throws in some pop-culture references that would have won me for sure. Who doesn’t love a good Angel marathon and then showing some Firefly love? I was putty in her hands.

This book is for readers who crave more than a sweet, simple romance. This one is for the readers who want to be on the edge of their seat and breathless from the moment Seth and Harper set eyes on each other. Seth is intense when it comes to pleasuring Harper and most certainly when it comes to protecting her. He’s not perfect but he’s perfect for her. As this is the first story in the Sons of Sydney series, now is the best time to join the fun by picking up a copy of Craving Justice.

Blood Moon by Marilyn Todd

MOON
Blood Moon by Marilyn Todd
High Priestess Iliona #2
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (166 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

In a cave in the hills, seven candles burned, and tonight, when the moon was at its full, it would be time to light another. Oh, the Blood Moon was so aptly named…

Three ritual killings on the same night can’t be coincidence. More an attempt to sabotage the peace between Sparta and her new allies from across the Black Sea.

High Priestess Iliona has no wish to become embroiled in politics. Especially now. The son she gave up at birth has discovered her identity, and emotions she’d worked so hard to lock away have surfaced, raw and painful. But Lysander, commander of Sparta’s hated Secret Police, gives her no choice. And because she hopes that uncovering conspiracy, murder, kidnapping and adultery will help dull her pain, she fails to notice a killer on the loose with a pathological hatred of women.

Who’s picked Iliona as his next victim.

If only Iliona wasn’t such a good spy…

All Iliona wants is to serve in the temple of Eurotas and take care of the people who come to her for help. Unfortunately, she’s done an excellent job of spying for Lysander in the past, and now he has another job for her. Iliona would refuse if she could, but Lysander knows too many of her secrets. One word from him and her life could be forfeit. Iliona knows she has no choice, so she grudgingly agrees to help, but solving this mystery brings more pain that Iliona ever could have imagined.

I enjoyed getting to know Iliona better in this book. I read and enjoyed the first book in this series, but I felt that I didn’t know Iliona as well as I would have liked when I finished reading. I’m pleased to report Ms. Todd fleshes out Iliona’s character a bit more in this installment. After learning more about Iliona’s past and what she has survived, I like her even more.

While this book could possibly stand on its own, I do recommend reading the first book, Blind Eye, before attempting this tale in order to have a better feel for Iliona, Lysander, their history, and the world they live in. Also, Ms. Todd switched between a lot of viewpoints in Blind Eye, and she continues that pattern in Blood Moon. I feel I was better prepared for this having read Blind Eye first. I do think that the number of viewpoints could be whittled down a little. While the differing perspectives are interesting, I found myself wishing I could spend more time with Iliona and Lysander.

Lysander and Iliona’s partnership continues to be interesting. Iliona barely tolerated Lysander in Blind Eye, and her feelings for him haven’t changed. She definitely resents his presence in her life. That being said, I do think they worked together better this time around. Iliona seems to be developing a grudging respect for Lysander, and I daresay he is starting to like her. However, Lysander is a very secretive character, and I can never be sure what his true motivations are. I look forward to seeing what will happen to them in the next mystery.

Ms. Todd did an excellent job of weaving mysteries together. As I read, I enjoyed trying to figure out if various characters were connected or acting on their own and who the murderer was. I must admit that when the culprit was revealed, I was a little shocked with how Iliona chose to deal with the murderer. It was certainly a side of her I’ve never seen.

I truly enjoyed reading Blood Moon. It is an intriguing mystery sure to keep readers engaged. I’ll certainly be picking up the next book in this series.

The Other Side: Trent’s Story by Starr Gardinier

OTHER
The Other Side: Trent’s Story by Starr Gardinier
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (322 Pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Sorrel

Melinda James is finally out of Skyview Haven—an asylum where she was confined for years—and is living her life, free at last. However, things are not going as planned; harassed by unexplained paranormal experiences, she doesn’t feel safe in her own home. And when she turns to her best friend Trent for help and support, she is surprised to find her feelings for him have grown far beyond a simple friendship.

Trent Miller isn’t prepared to fight evil, but he will do whatever it takes to save Melinda from an evil entity that is seeking revenge for past events. Armed with knowledge gleaned from television shows, a team of paranormal investigators, and the prayers of family and friends, he is ready to face anything.

The question is, does he tell her about his feelings for her before or after he fights a battle with evil for Melinda’s very soul?

Love is Strong.

Nothing worth having is ever easy. This story shows that love can be strong and worth all of the bad we go through to find it.

Melinda has been out of the asylum, where she has been wrongfully admitted, for two years. She has her own house, a roommate and goes to university for her classes. However, her new life with Trent, who may or may not be the love of her life, comes with a couple of hiccups.

Trent and Melinda start experiencing events and accidents that are not only improbable but down right paranormal. They know that what they are experiencing is a paranormal event, they are being haunted or the house is haunted. When Melinda disappears, Trent knows that he has to get her back from where ever she is and he will do anything to bring her back alive.

Trent and Melinda are first shown as just friends. I just think it would have been nice to read about how they become friends and then how Trent fell in love with Melinda. This book did show their attraction towards each other and their concern or love for each other with a couple of almost kisses and a whole lot of heat between each other, perfect for readers who aren’t interested in being in the bedroom with the main characters.

The Other Side is a ghost story. The first half of the book was pure ghost story and slowly the story starts evolving and the other elements of the plot began to appear. Then it starts becoming more fantasy than ghost story. I think what surprised me was how much of fantasy elements I saw in this books because it is not what I expected.

My expectation was of a typical paranormal. The main characters are being haunted, threatened by unseen forces who want their death for some reason and they find a way to eventually save themselves. This book showed the other side to the haunting that I don’t normally get to experience in a book. I liked it. It was different. Readers who enjoy a good paranormal experience but want something new should give this one a try.

Shifting Focus by Cassidy McKay

FOCUS
Shifting Focus by Cassidy McKay
Publisher: Changeling Press, LLC
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Short Story (95 pgs)
Other: M/F
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

As a lion-shifter, EMT Sophia Lorello has spent her entire life suppressing her wild side. The animal inside her is not only deadly, she’s worse than a horny politician with an unlimited supply of Viagra. And once her lioness gets out, she doesn’t like to let Sophia — or her rules — back in. That’s not a risk Sophia’s willing to take again.

Sophia’s control flies out the window when Special Agent Griff Monroe is assigned to investigate a series of local murders. The fact that he’s dead-sexy, “erases” people for a living, and shifts into a big, scary gryphon could be a problem. Her lioness wants a new toy, and the battle-hardened agent is even harder to resist than catnip. It’s a pity that darned serial killer keeps getting in the way…

When the race to catch the killer rivals their race to the nearest bedroom, shifting focus could be their only hope of survival… if she doesn’t kill him first.

I like Ms. McKay’s stories because there’s always a real story with depth, characters with substance and a plot that keeps the pages flipping. The icing on the cake is the hot romance. The bedroom door is nonexistent insuring that readers feel the heat from the passion and sparks whenever Griff kisses Sophia into oblivion. The author delivers what erotic romance readers seek while giving readers who like more developed plots something to sink their teeth into. Everyone can be happy while reading Shifting Focus.

I liked how Sophia tried to restrain herself. She was an expert at corralling her inner lion but was helpless about resisting Griff. There’s a reason for that, a paranormal one, and it’s a reason she had no clue about. The why of that comes from reading about her history. It really is amazing that she has the job that she does especially when her family history is revealed to the hero and readers.

Griff is a great hero; very take charge, alpha and head over heels in lust with Sophia. I enjoyed watching it morph into something more. His buddy, Hunter, was a fun character. He’s a great side kick yet is just as alpha in his own way. I cracked up when I discovered the reason Sophia seemed to have a bad reaction anytime he was around.

I was most impressed by the humanity of the main characters in the novella. Sure, they’re shifters and can heal fast but Ms. McKay imbued her characters with relatable restrictions on their strength and power that made them seem more realistic, approachable and believable. It was a nice touch and it made their fighting the villain that much more suspenseful, exciting and engaging. I could not stop reading.

Although Sophia reveals a snippet about her family, I found it hard to believe that she knew absolutely nothing about anything with regards to her being a shifter, especially at the age she was when she made the choice she did. Most teenagers not only have a clue but think they know it all at that age. I didn’t feel I was given enough to believe in her self-induced phobia even though it clearly worked as a plot conflict.

The point of view is first person but the author took turns with Sophie and Griff so readers really do get an inside look as to their motivations, fears and the process of their falling in love. I liked that.

Shifting Focus might be short on pages but it delivers a full story, a wonderful romance, the solving of a murder mystery and plenty of sex to blow off steam. It’s a fast read that is perfect for a before bedtime Apéritif of words or a nice way to spend an hour or so in the afternoon. Enjoy!

Vacations Can Be Murder by Jane DiLucchio

MURDER
Vacations Can Be Murder by Jane DiLucchio
A Diega DelValle Mystery, #3
Publisher: Quest Books/ Regal Crest Enterprises
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (133 pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

When Diega DelValle and three of her friends go on an impromptu vacation in Talkeetna, Alaska, Diega envisions an enjoyable summer break from teaching along with time to heal from a break-up.

However, even before the friends arrive, this small town on the edge of Denali National Park becomes a less than idyllic vacation spot. Gail, a Talkeetna native, dies on the mountain. Melissa, Gail’s cousin and a former student of Diega’s, arrives in Talkeetna and raises doubts about the death being accidental.

Due to Melissa’s pleas for help, Diega and her friends are thrust into an investigation of a small town and its inhabitants-an unsavory pastime that turns deadly.

Not every vacation is necessarily relaxing.

All of the characters were incredibly interesting . I haven’t read the other books in this series yet, but I didn’t have any trouble figuring out who was who. Every one of them was so unique that I quickly formed mental images of them in my mind. From flirtatious to stoic, all of their personalities were delightful in their own ways. I also felt like I got to know several of the secondary characters nearly as well I did Diega herself which was wonderful.

There were pacing issues in the beginning. It took a while to introduce all of the characters and get them settled into the roles. While I enjoyed getting to know everyone so well, I would have liked to have at least a few clues about the murder early on. There was a lot of information to unpack in this case, and this reader would have preferred having more time to try to piece it all together before the plot thickened.

The dialogue felt natural. I liked the way the conversations flowed between Diego and her friends in particular. There were many references to things they’d done together in the past as well as to new developments in their personal lives. This made it easy to imagine that I was eavesdropping on a group of old friends as they chatted. I enjoyed that quite a bit.

I’d recommend Vacations Can Be Murder to anyone who is in the mood for a mystery that asks its audience to put in some work in order to solve the case.

A Covert Conquest by Ravenna Tate

CONQUEST
A Covert Conquest by Ravenna Tate
The Weathermen Book 7
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Short Story (124 Pages)
Other: M/F, BDSM, Spanking, Anal Sex
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Sorrel

When Rissa Kerry overhears harmful gossip about the CEO of the company she works for, she makes a phone call to Barclay Hampton. What follows is the adventure of a lifetime for Rissa as she becomes Barclay’s assistant in data recovery from a laptop that might reveal the hackers of The Madeline Project.

But she never counted on falling in love with the CEO along the way. Will she become his next flavor of the month, or this is the real thing for Rissa and Barclay?

Barclay is part of a group of friends financing the efforts to put a stop to The Madeline Project. The program now has a mind of its own, thanks to a virus called Tommy Twister. These men have power, resources, and money, but they’re as ruthless and possessive as the storms ravaging Earth.

“He’d cave one day, too, after the rest of them did.”

This is my first Ravenna Tate story and I loved it.

It has been some time since I read a science fiction story, and this was one that I couldn’t put down.

A Covert Conquest is the 7th book in the Weathermen Series, though it did not feel like this at all. It can definitely be read as a standalone.

This is not an over the top science fiction. The story is set in the future. Barclay is part of an elite group of men who wants to put a stop to the Madeline Project as soon as possible so they can go back to the life they had years ago.

When Rissa overhears a conversation that she thinks the CEO of her company, Barclay, should know about and will appreciate knowing about. It may at first seem that if she hadn’t informed Barclay about this conversation they would never have fallen in love. But I think if she had not informed about that conversation Barclay would have eventually found a way to meet her or be with her. They were meant to be together.

Rissa and Barclay have passionate chemistry, but that’s not only thing between them. Barclay understands her and how good her work is.

The only thing that I did not like was it was a little too short. It felt the beginning was a little rushed but at the end it did not matter at all. The story more than made up for it. This is a short story with a mystery and suspense that becomes a highlight at the climax. The Weathermen are closing in on the hackers. It’s a good time to join them on the hunt.

Blind Eye by Marilyn Todd

BLIND
Blind Eye by Marilyn Todd
High Priestess Iliona #1
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (173 pgs)
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

Blackmailed into spying for Lysander, head of the hated Secret Police, High Priestess Iliona discovers that the threat to her country doesn’t come from their archenemy, Athens. It comes from deep within Sparta itself.

But as she investigates, the same thread keeps turning up. Of a one-eyed giant who lives in the hills. The legendary Cyclops. So who is this man who inspires such fear? A freak? A fraud? A felon? And what does his arrival have to do with the disappearance of several young women?

The traitor lurks much closer than Iliona suspects.

Iliona works very hard serving in the temple taking care of those who come to her for help, even the “lowest of the low.” She has a good heart, and it is very easy to like her. Living is Sparta is very good in some ways, but very harsh in others, and Iliona does what she can to ease suffering when she sees it. Unfortunately, some of the things Iliona does to help the people could get her in serious trouble if brought to the attention of the authorities. Lysander has been watching Iliona closely for a long time, and uses his knowledge to trap Iliona into spying for him.

Lysander is a complicated individual. I disliked him immediately, but as the story progressed, Ms. Todd revealed some things about his history that made me rethink my original assessment. While I certainly don’t condone all his actions, I will admit that there is much more to Lysander than I thought. Iliona and Lysander spend most of their time fighting rather than working together. They barely manage to be civil to each other. Once the traitor has been dealt with, Iliona has no desire to ever see Lysander again. Unfortunately, Lysander knows too many of Iliona’s secrets, and he has no intention of letting her off the hook any time soon. I wonder what Ms. Todd has in store for this pair in the next book?

The viewpoint changes a lot over the course of this story. While seeing events unfold through different characters was interesting sometimes, it was also distracting at others. I could never be sure how important some of the things I was reading were. Also, since there are so many switches, I don’t feel as if I got to know Iliona as well as I would have liked. I think switching between two or possibly three viewpoints would have kept things interesting and would have fostered deeper character development.

There are several mysteries to solve in this tale, and most of them have satisfying conclusions. However, one of them ends up being completely dismissed without any serious investigation. I was a little bothered by that. I also felt that the plan to expose the traitor was overly complex. There seemed to be easier ways of discovering who the traitor was, but by the end of the story, I better understood why that particular path was chosen. I will say that Ms. Todd did an excellent job of keeping the identity of the traitor hidden. Iliona is certain for a long time that she knows who the culprit is. As I read, I was inclined to agree with her even though there were a few things that concerned me. However, I was truly surprised when the traitor’s identity was revealed.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Blind Eye. Iliona and Lysander are interesting characters, and I look forward to learning more about them. I’ll be picking up the next book in the series very soon.

Mountain Murder Mystery by Benjamin Dahlbeck

MOUNTAIN
Mountain Murder Mystery by Benjamin Dahlbeck
Publisher: DSP Publications
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (195 pages)
Other: M/M
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Lilac

The Severn family—Jeff and his wife Phyllis, Lynette and her new fiancé, and single Andy—has gathered at the mountain home of their grandmother, Mary Agnes Severn, to celebrate Thanksgiving and hear an announcement regarding their late grandfather’s will. With news of an escaped convict in the hills, everyone is barely settled in before a huge snowstorm strands them in the large old house with only gas lamps and lanterns to keep the darkness away.

Local sheriff Roger Dickerson arrives to check on the family and seek shelter from the storm. Sparks fly between him and Andy as long-held passions bubble just under the surface, but before they can address them, Mary Agnes’s three servants are murdered one by one. Who is the murderer? Is it the escaped convict? Is it someone in the house? Everyone has a motive, and everyone has the means. What’s going on between Andy and Marcus the handyman? What’s going on between Phyllis and Marcus? Is there something going on between Roger and Marcus? It’s (snow)bound to be a wild week of murder, mystery, and mayhem!

Ten people + one huge mansion up in the mountains + one blizzard + an escaped killer on the loose = classic murder mystery with plot twists and red herrings.

I admit, I was both pleasantly and unpleasantly surprised by this story. This has an old-fashioned feel to it à la Agatha Christie, and she’s even mentioned once. Basically, we’re not given the POV of any of characters in the story. Everything we learn from them we must deduce from their expressions, speech, and reactions. That seemed like a perfectly valid way of approaching a murder mystery.

The book’s written well. However, for the longest time, judging from the way people talked, I assumed this was an historical tale. Not until we get cell phones and modern day idioms that we realize this is a contemporary story after all. For a classic tale of who-dunit, that was both interesting and confusing. I like traditional murder mysteries, so the antiquated feel worked for me. The modern references worked at times, less in others, clashing with the classic feel. Nonetheless, this book had an appeal that made me read this in one sitting. The humor throughout, for example, seemed to fit with the narrative rather nicely. Except (and this seems to be the norm for this tale) for when it didn’t, such as joking about too much garlic in their food when there are two dead bodies chilling in the wine cellar. Inappropriate!

The cast is composed of family members, servants, and a sheriff. The two people providing the gay romance aspect are Andy Severn, one of said grandchildren, and Roger Dickerson, the sheriff. But, and I can’t emphasize this enough, this is most definitely NOT a romance. The two men aren’t often alone, and when they are, they talk loads and then gloss over every sensual scene. Obviously since no one’s inner thoughts are heard here it probably would have made those sex scenes awkward and impersonal, so I get why they were left out. But those of you who are expecting a classic murder mystery with some male heroes getting hot and heavy, look elsewhere.

As for the other characters, well, there’s the usual: The engaged couple who don’t know each other well yet, the married couple with straying eyes, the single gay guy with his bromance with his cousin and his other could-be romance with the sheriff, the eccentric matriarch of the family, two identical servant sisters, a flirtatious handyman, and so on. Their personalities came through loud and clear even though we don’t hear their innermost thoughts. They seemed such archetypal charaters that I was immediately drawn into the complex tale.

One big negative, however, is the family matriarch, Mary Agnes, with her quirky ways. At first, she was charming in that quaint way of hers, and I liked her. Then she smashed someone’s cell phone to pieces because she doesn’t approve of cell phones. What? Yeah, no. I don’t care who you are or how charmingly eccentric you are, you don’t destroy other people’s property for any reason. There went all my positive associations with her, and I wanted her to be one of the murder victims. Unfortunately, she wasn’t.

The other puzzling thing was Roger, the sheriff. He wasn’t a very good sheriff, considering three people get murdered on his watch, not to mention getting shot at, getting rooms broken into, etc. It might have been better to make him, say, a private investigator. That at least would have taken the pressure off from his sub-par performance as an officer of the law. Still, when he does take charge, he does so with authority. And if the deck wasn’t so stacked against him from the start, his strategies might even have paid off better.

Now, there are maps and floorplans at the back of the book. I strongly suggest you utilize them to figure out who was where when and doing what. Basic who-dunit puzzle solving. I was glad they were there because often I had trouble visualizing just what was happening. That was by no fault of the author and his writing capabilities, as he does a lot of descriptions, but purely my own forgetfulness.

Since there are so many people in the story and since we can’t hear their thoughts, it’s important to follow what people are saying. No, they don’t always tell the truth, but will their expressions betray them? I had fun trying to figure things out. As a classic-style murder mystery, this delivered rather well. I certainly enjoyed reading this.

Not to spoil the ending, I still have to say that I was quite confused with who did what to whom when. There are a lot of revelations toward the end, and I had some trouble following those conclusions to the end. Plus, if you expect the two gay heroes to solve the murders, you’re out of luck. They have virtually no role here other than as a two men who happen to be gay and who might be attracted to each other. I really wanted a gay guy to solve the crime. But… no, unfortunately we don’t get that.

So, overall this was an interesting change from the typical crime stories of today. The classic feel, the two-dimensional characters, the mystery solved solely through hints in words and actions, all that was promising. In some ways this delivered, in others it failed. I suppose the biggest question is, would I read this again? Very possibly, if just to see if I understood what was happening. Would I recommend this to lovers of M/M and murder mysteries? Yes, with the caveat that you should like the latter more because you won’t be getting much romance at all. Since the beginning, when no one’s POVs are given, I knew to expect less romance, so in that respect I got what I expected and wasn’t too disappointed. Would I read this author again? Sure. If writers take their craft seriously, they can only get better.

The Recipient by Dean Mayes

RECIPIENT
The Recipient by Dean Mayes
Publisher: Central Avenue Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Action/Adventure, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (416 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Casey Schillinge is a vivacious young woman on the verge of making her mark on the world. While backpacking, she is struck down by a tropical disease and suffers cardiac failure. But at the eleventh hour, Casey receives a life-saving heart transplant – and a rare second chance to begin again.

Three years later, Casey has become a withdrawn shell of her former self: she is estranged from her loved ones, afraid of open spaces and rides the line between legitimate and criminal work. The worst of her troubles come in the form of violent night terrors; so frightening that she resorts to extreme measures to keep herself from sleeping. When she can take no more, she embarks on a desperate search for the source of her dreams. In so doing, she makes a shocking discovery surrounding the tragic fate of the donor whose heart now beats inside her chest. As she delves deeper into the mystery of her donor, she realizes her dreams are not a figment of her imagination, but a real life nightmare.

Imagine the suspense that is behind the whole idea of the transference of knowledge or preferences going from the donor to the recipient. Isn’t that enough to peak your interest? The book title, the cover and the blurb all sparked my interest. From the blurb I thought perhaps the book had paranormal elements to it but once I saw that Casey Schillinge had visions in her nightmare and during the hypnosis is how she was able to see her donor’s last few moment alive.

The opening chapter was written with such care and detail that I couldn’t help but feel for the family in their time of distress. From chapter two until about 100 pages into the book it fell flat for me. It was a chore to make myself continue reading. I stuck with it and my hopes for the book to pick up and get better were not in vain. Once the book grabbed my interest again it didn’t take long for me to finish the book.

I really enjoyed the book and I am so glad that I didn’t give up on it. This is a book that has a very interesting plot with an original idea that started my imagination going. This wasn’t a predictable read and I was in suspense until the author revealed the finale.

For some reason in the back of my mind I kept wondering why it took Casey three years after receiving the donor heart to have these intense nightmares? Why did she choose to not seek help and opted to suffer alone? The Casey that was first introduced appeared too distant and isolated. For her to be so young she didn’t have any friends from school or her childhood to socialize with that kept in touch after her ordeal. But I guess the isolation was part of the preferences from the donor. I was happy to see by the end of the book she was a much stronger sociable and likable person. I enjoyed her determination once she had her mind set to resolve what happened to her donor. Her confusion and drive picked up the pace and gave the book life. I felt it odd that her and her mother did not get along and her dad seemed to be in between the two.

The writing is smooth with few edit oversights. The plot is excellent, even though it took a little long to get there. The characters were okay. I didn’t get any type of good or bad connection where as the story came to an end they would remain on my mind. However, I did wonder if the idea about the immigrants and what they were faced with could really have happened.

This would be a suggested recommendation for those that enjoy a ‘heart’ pounding tale filled with plenty of suspense and surprises.