February Mystery/Supense, Sci-Fi/Fantasy Book of the Month Poll

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

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Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Genre: Contemporary, Horror, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (436 pgs)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

In the frigid pre-dawn hours, in a distressed Midwestern city, hundreds of desperate unemployed folks are lined up for a spot at a job fair. Without warning, a lone driver plows through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes, running over the innocent, backing up, and charging again. Eight people are killed; fifteen are wounded. The killer escapes.

In another part of town, months later, a retired cop named Bill Hodges is still haunted by the unsolved crime. When he gets a crazed letter from someone who self-identifies as the “perk” and threatens an even more diabolical attack, Hodges wakes up from his depressed and vacant retirement, hell-bent on preventing another tragedy.

Brady Hartfield lives with his alcoholic mother in the house where he was born. He loved the feel of death under the wheels of the Mercedes, and he wants that rush again.

Only Bill Hodges, with a couple of highly unlikely allies, can apprehend the killer before he strikes again. And they have no time to lose, because Brady’s next mission, if it succeeds, will kill or maim thousands.

Mr. Mercedes is a war between good and evil, from the master of suspense whose insight into the mind of this obsessed, insane killer is chilling and unforgettable.

There aren’t many books that have scared the crap out of me, but this book is right at the top of this list.

I’ve only read a few books that didn’t just stay with me, but haunted me. Mr. Mercedes is one of them. The scene with the car running into the crowd of people isn’t just freaking scary…it’s scary because it really could happen. In this day an age, this is something you can see on television and experience in your own town. This really hit home for me because I’ve been in large crowd situations. What if one of those situations ended with a Mercedes being driven into the crowd?

Stephen King always writes books with a twist. There are so many in this book, it was hard to keep up. I’m not complaining, though. I liked being kept on the edge of my seat. Every time I thought, okay, this will happen…it didn’t. That’s one of the marks of a great book.

Although he’s not a typical hero character, I liked Hodges. He’s a former detective and hard-boiled for sure, but he’s worth rooting for. Jerome was my other favorite. I loved his savvy. I think the one I liked the best was Holly. She seems like she’d be a completely secondary character. You’ll have to read the book to find out what happens, but I guarantee its worth it. I couldn’t put the book down and when I got to the end, I read as fast as possible.

If you want a book that’s scary, life-like and spooky, then this is the book you’re looking for. Recommended.

Pressure Head by JL Merrow

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Pressure Head by JL Merrow
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (260 pgs)
Other: M/M, Anal Sex
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Cactus

Some secrets are better left hidden.

The Plumber’s Mate, Book 1

To most of the world, Tom Paretski is just a plumber with a cheeky attitude and a dodgy hip, souvenir of a schoolboy accident. The local police keep his number on file for a different reason—his sixth sense for finding hidden things.

When he’s called in to help locate the body of a missing woman up on Nomansland Common, he unexpectedly encounters someone who resurrects a host of complicated emotions. Phil Morrison, Tom’s old school crush, now a private investigator working the same case. And the former bully partly responsible for Tom’s injury.

The shocks keep coming. Phil is now openly gay, and shows unmistakable signs of interest. Tom’s attraction to the big, blond investigator hasn’t changed—in fact, he’s even more desirable all grown up. But is Phil’s interest genuine, or does he only want to use Tom’s talent?

As the pile of complicated evidence surrounding the woman’s murder grows higher, so does the heat between Tom and Phil. But opening himself to this degree exposes Tom’s heart in a way he’s not sure he’s ready for…while the murderer’s trigger finger is getting increasingly twitchy.

Finding hidden things can be a gift worth killing over. Tom has a knack for finding old, hidden things. Not just anything, but objects with great emotion attached to them: secrets, bodies, and the ability to find leaks, which is handy in his day job as a plumber. On the side he occasionally helps the police find missing persons. In the latest case he found the dead body of a young woman that was dating a childhood friend of his. That friend hired another childhood associate turned private investigator, Phil. Phil and Tom have a sordid history as teens that ended in Tom having a permanent limp. The two somewhat reluctantly team up to find out the truth about the murder but can’t stop their personal feelings and past from interfering.

Pressure Head is the first in a new series by JL Merrow. Merrow is a great author and definitively one of my favorites for her sense of humor and distinctly British flair. There’s no question her books take place in the UK and it lends another layer of detail and interest to the story. There are so many mentions of specific neighborhoods and highways that I feel as if I could map the physical steps Tom and Phil take to solve the murder, which is simply delightful. Additionally the language, terminology, and British euphemisms make the story entertaining when they’re not commonplace to my very American sensibilities. It’s a very nice contrast to the usually bland backgrounds of contemporary books set in a familiar but unrecognizable setting.

The characters have incredible rapport and it’s to the story’s credit that they can make a romance and furthermore a relationship viable given the past between the two men. They come across as well developed, interesting, and complex in their own ways. I wish we’d gotten more insight into Phil’s thinking and motivations but Tom is a charming and engaging narrator. His humor and quick wit are sometimes over the top, I wish he’d stop with the quips on occasion, but I found him engrossing. Likewise the murder story offers a solid mystery with a seemingly endless option of culprits. The ending was over the top for me but nothing that detracted from my enjoyment. I found the explanation rational and believable, which made me like the story that much more.

I was surprised how quickly I read the story given that there isn’t a lot of action. However the budding romance between Tom and Phil as they stutter, stop, reverse, and step forward through the rocky path to their relationship offered a lot of interest. Additionally there is a whole cast of characters that are interesting in their right and help keep the story moving between the actual investigating. I especially liked that Tom seemed to really work at his day job as a plumber while trying to sleuth and have a social life. It made the story believable. This is an easy story to recommend for both mystery and romance fans as it satisfies on both levels and with the distinctly British flair it has a lot to engage even jaded readers.

The Boys Club by Angie Martin

 

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The Boys Club by Angie Martin
Publisher: Indie World Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery, Action/Adventure
Length: Full Length (241 pgs)
Heat: Sweet
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Growing up a homeless juvenile delinquent left its mark on Gabriel Logan. He lived a throwaway existence until a former FBI agent recruited him for a fringe organization for boys like him, ones who could operate outside the law for the sake of justice. As an adult, he sets an example for the others and is slated to take over their group, until his work results in the murder of his pregnant wife.

Going through the motions of everyday life, Logan does only what’s required of him with one goal in mind: kill Hugh Langston, the man responsible for his wife’s death. When he’s handed the opportunity to bring Langston down, he jumps at the chance, but the job will challenge him more than anything in the past. Not only does he have to save Langston’s daughter from her father’s hit list, but the job seems to have come to them a little too easily. Logan must find a way to not only rescue the one woman who can take down his biggest enemy, but also look into the men he trusts most to discover which one of them is betraying The Boys Club.

Assisting the law by using their own method of justice, The Boys Club has an evoking plot that drew me into the suspense in the first chapter.

Gabriel Logan’s life has been the definition of unfortunate circumstances. One of those earlier unfortunate circumstances is what leads him to meet Jim Schaffer, which ultimately introduced him into the boys club. The Boys Club is an organization created to help troubled young men and put them on the right side of the law.

When his life seems to have taken a turn for the better, his world is shattered when his pregnant wife is killed. Years later Logan still hasn’t dealt with the lost of his wife. He is still heartbroken and the break is even deeper knowing the man that killed his wife is still free. Has his chance for vengeance drawn near when he is assigned to protect the daughter of man who killed his wife?

The Boys Club is well written in a writing style that I enjoy. It’s a great story that isn’t wordy or filled with unnecessary dialogue and description. This is the second book I’ve read by this author in which I enjoyed her writing in that novel as well, Conduit. Her writing is satisfying. Her stories flow and have a sense of realness. The character she create have personality and feelings. This type of writing is one that I enjoy and find pleasure in reading.

For some reason I thought there would have been more action; maybe the title, the awesome book cover or the line of work that Logan is in gave me that impression. But personally I found this book to be a heavy percent more geared towards romance. Not saying that as a bad thing because the author’s writing is written where I could see the actual scenes played out as I was reading. And yes the book did include some action scenes that I had to squint my eyes while reading. There also was a scene where I noticed my heart rate increased in anticipation of how things would play out. I wanted new love to prevail and the bad guys were interfering with the ‘happy ever after’ ending I had in my mind for the main character.

With the attraction between two lost souls I couldn’t help but find myself hoping the best out come for them. Sara Langston is pretty much a loner besides her best friend, Mary Flynn. Sara is the daughter of a wealthy and powerful man, Hugh Langston. With an arranged marriage lined up and a job picked out for her along with her own personal security detail, Sara longs to rebel at being controlled so much by her father and fiance. Now that her wedding day is approaching she is hesitant and questions herself about the marriage and the future that has been planned out for her. Will she stand up and voice her true feelings before it is too late?

I enjoyed Sara’s character because I felt she was a strong woman, but she was unsure of how to cut the string that her father had on her. For some reason I thought Logan could have been stronger; it seemed he was wallowing in grief still and not really dealing with his pain. Meaningless sex, risking his job, for a moment I thought that he would lose his sorrows in temporary satisfaction of the bottle. I was glad to see that Sara opened up places in his heart that only his wife touched. He was dealing with unresolved pain, and obviously he had a void in his life that he was trying to fill.

I enjoyed the story and for some odd reason I can see a series continuing The Boys Club, with the life of Logan and Sara as their story continues on.

Cardinal Desires by Linda Nightingale

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Cardinal Desires by Linda Nightingale
Publisher: Double Dragon Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (283 pgs)
Other: M/F
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Sorrel

How can Katy McCaully resist Sterling Fox? In her early teens, she fell in love with a thirteenth century warrior in a painting, and Sterling is the image of that Novgorodian knight. He definitely has the keys to her chemistry set, but she mustn’t succumb to his charms. She’s a forensic psychiatrist working with Scotland Yard. He’s a high-profile journalist who invades the underworld for a story or broadcasts live at the scene of the world’s worst tragedies. Police and media do not mix. They are both trying to capture the animalistic killer the newspapers have dubbed the Vampire Slayer. Modern London doesn’t know that the Slayer has also killed four vampires.

You are the first…and you will be the last.

This new case has Katy, a forensic psychiatrist, in a loop not only because the key points in this case are strange but also because she’s attracted to a high profile journalist that could give her answers to her questions and fulfill every one of her dreams.

Katy has a painful past that she tries to move on from. Even her dream man, straight out of a portrait, has his own personal demons to handle. It was an interesting journey to see how they cope with their pasts and learn to trust each other and learn to love.

As I have said Katy had a painful past that has created a barrier which stops her from trusting someone. It is a slow process for her. For me it was annoying at times but I still can understand her tendency to try to protect her heart from any damage or hurt.

The author did a great job in trying to involve readers in the story. I understood the motivations of both of them perfectly well. Katy is a psychiatrist but in her love life she is not able to follow her own advice. While Sterling, the high profile journalist has lost so much that he’s willing to do anything in order to save the love of his life when she’s in danger.

There is mystery and suspense in healthy doses for any mystery lovers.

Island of the Forbidden by Hunter Shea

ISLAND
Island of the Forbidden by Hunter Shea
Publisher: Samhain Publishing Ltd
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (214 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Sometimes, the dead are best left in peace.

Jessica Backman has been called to help a strange family living on a haunted island in Charleston Harbor. Ormsby Island was the site of a brutal massacre two decades ago, and now the mysterious Harper family needs someone to exorcise the ghosts that still call it home. The phantoms of over one hundred children cannot rest.

But something far more insidious is living on the island. When the living and the dead guard their true intentions, how can Jessica discover just what sort of evil lurks on Ormsby Island? And why is Jessica the only one who can plumb its dark depths?

Island of the Forbidden serves up a chilling mystery that is made for an episode of paranormal reality television.

What evil lurks beneath the facade of the well known Ormsby mansion; a mansion with a history though out Charleston Harbor for its haunting family massacre? Jessica Backman and Eddie Home have been summons by the new owners to investigate strange happenings on the Ormsby Island. and they will soon discover the horrific events that will leave readers with goose-bumps.

Jessica seems to be running from her past when she hesitates to return Eddie or her Aunt Eve phone calls. I am not sure if there was a novel before this one, but the relationship between Jessica and Eddie feels like they had a shaky past working as a team before. There is a lot of reference to a previous event but only hints of it, no details as to what actually happened that made them so stand-offish towards each other. For something that was mentioned quite a bit I found it strange that the full details of what happened was not revealed some time during this read.

The book did seem to have a few slow parts of just watching and discussing what the EBs (energy beings) were doing. The island is known for having a horrific past, so of course Jessica did her research on the island history and what happened there but they didn’t seem to have devised an immediate plan of action to take. Then, unbeknownst to Jessica and Eddie, psychic medium Nina D’Arcangela shows up at the house. The additional people being invited brings about a different view of the owners agenda. Not knowing who to trust, Jessica and Eddie decide to leave the island, but the EBs doesn’t like this idea and will insure that Jessica and Eddie stay to get justice for the Last Kids. Once Nina and the team starts stirring up the EBs emotions, this is when the action picks up and Jessica and Eddie’s investigation starts to move along. This was my favorite part of the book. The way the author tells the story with such details and the characters all in motion delivers such an explosive ending.

The plot was well developed and written in a chilling manner. The author has a talent for writing that flows and tells a story of interest, along with building a creative story with high levels of hair-raising eerie feelings that comes along with reading such sinister subject matter. Eddie’s ability to see the dead around him left me with a ‘somebody’s watching me’ feeling. The cold temperature of the island and how the EBs drew Jessica’s power left me with chills.

Island of the Forbidden is a paranormal read that I would recommend.

Under the Full Moon and Other Stories by Charles Schilling

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Under the Full Moon and Other Stories by Charles Schilling
Publisher: Self-published
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery, Historical, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (52 pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

A collection of short stories that roams through several genres from comedy, drama, fantasy and suspense. There are a couple of whimsical looks at murder, a tragic game of hide and seek, a lesson on when not to make a slip of the tongue and a look at what happens when you break 113 out of 206 bones.

Not everything is always as it appears at first glance.

“Tourist Trap” begins with a confused man named Arnold whose travel plans have been seriously disrupted. He’s not a patient person, so trying to get the clerk to explain all of his options is only making Arnold more angry. This was by far my favourite story in the collection due to how the main character’s predicament was revealed so quickly. The already intriguing premise was made even stronger by keeping the pacing fast and the ending under wraps until the last possible moment.

I predicted the twists in a few of these tales immediately. “To Thine Own Self Be True” is one example of this. It begins with a young woman who was standing next to the ocean and grieving the loss of her husband when a stranger approached her. My first assumption about what was happening was the correct one. While the writing style was engaging, I would have preferred to have far fewer clues about what was coming. Knowing how it would end so soon dampened my enthusiasm for finishing this piece.

“In Silence Sealed” follows Ben’s train of thought. His wife, Emily, has been extremely talkative throughout their marriage. He resents her constant commentary on everything she’s seen and done and wishes he could have a few hours of silence. What I enjoyed the most about getting to know this couple was how much I figured out about them by reading between the lines. By paying attention to what they left unsaid I was able to pinpoint the genre this story is best suited for. That information wasn’t immediately obvious, but piecing together all of the hints was definitely worthwhile.

Under the Full Moon and Other Stories is a good choice for anyone who likes to dabble in more than one genre. There’s something here for fans of the science fiction and mystery genres alike.

Lethal Dose of Love by Cindy Davis

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Lethal Dose of Love by Cindy Davis
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (389 Pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Cyclamen

Payton Winters thinks she’s leaving her skeletons behind when she starts a new life in Sackets Harbor, NY. But starting over isn’t as easy as changing hometowns. An errant word or action can spawn gossip and trouble. Big trouble. In Sackets Harbor, that trouble comes in the form of the handsome Sean Adams. With Sean around, no secret is safe. When he dies, no one is surprised. Neither does anyone mourn.

The surprise is that Sean was poisoned with monkshood. And the only place in town to buy it is Payton’s new exotic plant shop. Can Payton clear her name before she is handed an orange jumpsuit? She looks awful in orange.

Claire Bastian has a secret, a secret which torments her as she watches Sean Adams destroying the dreams and hopes of the small community of Sackets Harbor, NY. Finally, after nearly a year of planning, she decides to take action. She feels responsible for Sean because he is her son, given up for adoption at birth. When he grows up to be so evil, Claire feels horrible guilt, as if it were all her fault.

The first part of Lethal Dose of Love is told from Claire’s point of view and I watched as she plans and carries out her deadly scheme. But did she succeed? So many residents of Sackets Harbor want him dead and when he does die, it is on his boat during a race, his fellow sailor dying also. Suspicion falls on everyone whom Sean had wronged, especially the women since he was poisoned.

Payton Winters is still grieving for her husband, who was murdered in a home burglary. She moved to Sackets Harbor in an effort to heal, but now this murder has brought back all her memories of her beloved husband’s murder, a murder which was never solved. On top of that, the plant used to poison Sean came from her new exotic plant shop. Payton can’t face the memories from her past, but she finds some healing energy from trying to solve Sean’s murder, little realizing that she herself could become the next victim.

The characters are well defined and very believable. The small town of Sackets Harbor seems real as well, with the quirks expected from such a community. My only complaint with this novel is that it could have used another round of editing, with special attention paid to the use of pronouns. Sentences such as “she’d come to patch things up between she and Helen” are very jarring and pulled me out of the story. Thankfully, there were not many of these, but some editing would help.

The plot moves well, and there are a number of excellent action scenes. I didn’t figure out the murderer until the very end. Those who love cozy mysteries will certainly enjoy trying to figure out who gave Sean his just desserts.

The Organ Takers by Richard Van Anderson

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The Organ Takers by Richard Van Anderson
Publisher: White Light Press
Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (292 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

Failed surgeon David McBride is in exile from the surgical community after making a costly error in judgment. Down but not out, he perseveres and is given a second chance to establish a career in surgery. But, as McBride stands on the threshold of a new life, the malignant underside of his fellow man intervenes. Under the threat of violence, David is forced to perform illegal organ harvests in a makeshift operating room hidden in a dilapidated meatpacking warehouse in lower Manhattan. Unable to resolve the excruciating moral dilemma faced each time he invades the body of an unwilling victim, David McBride fights to free himself from the situation and in the process, loses everything. When he finally loses the last shred of his humanity, he seeks revenge with surgical precision … and instrumentation.

Readers who like the sort of story that puts them on a roller coaster from beginning to end will probably enjoy The Organ Takers. Having been a fan of both the book and movie, Coma by Robin Cook, I was eager to read this one which has a similar theme of human organ trafficking.

The story kicks off high in suspense when a homeless man collapses and is taken to the ER where he dies. This is the catalyst for the whole story. The bad guys are worried the trail will lead back to them and when a second homeless man wanders into the ER with a recollection of being operated on, a nurse gets suspicious and contacts the police.

And then there’s the main character, David McBride, outcast from the medical community and unfortunate enough to be drawn into the shady world of black market organ donation. I kept pulling for him hoping things would turn in his favor but the author did a great job upping the conflict and soon David’s pregnant wife is drawn into the deadly game and things kick into high gear.

Another character I liked in this book was the detective, Kate D’Angelo, who is trying to solve the mystery of the homeless man in the ER and find out what really happened to him. I felt like I wanted to cheer her on but knew if she achieves her goal than David’s in big trouble. The conflicting goals of this two characters was what made this book so enjoyable to read.

It’s fast paced and during the last ten chapters or so I found myself reading on to see the outcome which I have to say wasn’t how I expected. It’s now left me wondering if all these characters will be back for an encore.

If like me, you enjoy medical thrillers and race against the clock time suspense then this one’s worth checking out.

Peril in the Park: A Jamie Quinn Mystery by Barbara Venkataraman

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Peril in the Park: A Jamie Quinn Mystery by Barbara Venkataraman
Publisher: Amazon
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Short Story (146 Pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Cyclamen

There’s big trouble in the park system. Someone is making life difficult for Jamie Quinn’s boyfriend, Kip Simons, the new director of Broward County parks. Was it the angry supervisor passed over for promotion? The disgruntled employee Kip recently fired? Or someone with a bigger ax to grind? If Jamie can’t figure it out soon, she may be looking for a new boyfriend because there’s a dead guy in the park and Kip has gone missing! With the help of her favorite P.I., Duke Broussard, Jamie must race the clock to find Kip before it’s too late.

Jamie Quinn, a family lawyer, seems to find trouble outside of work without any effort at all. She has to figure out who is playing pranks in the Broward County parks, and more importantly, who is following and threatening her, if her boyfriend, Kip Simons, doesn’t do what a powerful local developer wants.

Jamie is very likeable. She does try to figure things out, but without the help of her P.I. friend, Duke Broussard, she’d really be in trouble. And she tends to panic under pressure, but wouldn’t we all. She is an easy character for the reader to like and identify with. I also liked Duke, and he brings a very different and helpful perspective to the mystery. He is right there to help when Kip goes missing and the clock is running out.

The mystery is well-paced and exciting. There were a number of possibilities for the bad guys, and I didn’t get all the pieces put together until the end. The suspense builds nicely and I didn’t want to stop reading until the end.

There were a few minor typos, and in one place, Jamie says she’s stopping for coffee on her way home when she is actually on her way to work. There are some side plot lines and the solution to one of them seemed a bit too pat and simplistic. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, and this wasn’t a huge issue, and maybe since Jamie had enough on her plate, one pat solution wasn’t all bad. However, a bit more complexity would have added to the novel.

Peril in the Park is a delightful cozy mystery, an enjoyable read, that I’m sure mystery lovers will enjoy. It is the third in the Jamie Quinn series and I hope there will be many more adventures with Jamie in the future.