A Game of Greed and Deception by John Matthews

GREED
A Game of Greed and Deception by John Matthews
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (186 pgs)
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

She is young and beautiful, and recently married to a very wealthy middle-aged man who considers her to be the ultimate woman for him and holds her out as a model for his beloved 10-year-old daughter. They travel to a mountain hideaway to celebrate their first year together as a family when things begin to unravel. Her husband goes missing after a treacherous car accident, and the wife and daughter seem trapped and isolated, and stalked from both inside and outside the cabin.

What ensues is the story of a woman driven by her soulless greed and self entitlement, and a man who is wronged and apparently out to get revenge. This deadly game of cat and mouse will keep you on the edge of your seat. The macabre scenes include deadly traps and medieval torture devices, hidden doors, secret rooms, and an underground labyrinth of torture chambers. Add in the legend of a hoard of pure gold bars, and it becomes clear that someone has a much bigger plan in mind and will let nothing get in their way. But who? This is the story of a plot so devious that it is set up to fool the State police investigation. But can it fool you? Keep guessing until the final scene as to what is really going on and let your intuition guide you.

Greed is the main theme of this novel with violence and confusion to help it along its way.

From the first it is obvious the wife has married for money and to get everything she plans a murder. I read on eager to see if she succeeded in her aim, or her tricks were discovered before she could kill her husband.

Tammy, Stephen and Maria, Stephen’s ten year-old daughter, travel to a remote cabin in snow covered mountains where the husband disappears leaving Tammy to pretend she’s frantic with worry. She also has to convince Maria her only worry is Stephen has become lost in the snowstorm. Strange happenings convince her that Stephen is still alive and trying to frighten her, while Maria tries to discover where her father is.

The concept of this story is excellent, and intriguing for suspense and mystery buffs. Unfortunately my eagerness to read the book faded as the story jolted from one point of view to another creating confusion and interrupting the flow to a point where II therefore found it difficult to get involved in the storyline.

Gore, suspense and mystery are all present in this book, and with a polish it would be a very good book.

Rocky Point Road by Joseph Allen

 

ROAD
Rocky Point Road by Joseph Allen
Publisher: Rogue Phoenix Press
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (158 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

When his ex-wife drowns in a hot tub in California, Denis Rosa sets out to bury her and sell the house. He confronts her philandering history and her fixation on young chicano boys, and is the victim of a vicious attempted murder without ever knowing why. The house on the cliffside on Rocky Point Road holds a ghost, a hidden treasure of some kind, and decades of memories for the Rosa family. When Detective Sue Mason is assigned to the case, her son and his soon-to-be husband and two dogs move into the house with Denis to protect him from further attacks. Is it drug-related? The wife was alcoholic and smoked grass, but nothing hard. Denis confronts his ghosts as he finds himself attracted to Sue. The key to the plot is found when Denis slides off the edge of the cliff.

Every death leaves behind unanswered questions and unfinished work, but some deaths have more of these than do others.

Denis’ character development was strong. His strengths and weaknesses were woven seamlessly into the plot. Seeing how they affected everything that was going on was interesting. I really enjoy stories that are so sensitive to how the main character reacts to what is happening to him or her. It makes reading them even more enjoyable than it might have been otherwise.

I would have liked to see more time spent developing the other characters in this book as well. While I wouldn’t expect everyone to be as three-dimensional as the protagonist, I did have some trouble figuring out their personalities. Their speaking styles tended to blend in together with one another. This was especially noticeable with Detective Sue Mason given how much time Denis spent going over the case with her. The background information I was given about her wasn’t quite enough for me to form a mental image of what she was like.

The question of what really happened to Denis’ wife wasn’t at all easy to answer. Many of the clues he uncovered could have been interpreted in more than one way, and some of them needed serious thought before I could interpret them at all. I appreciated needing to spend so much time on it as I have a strong preference for mysteries that require the reader to pay close attention to small details in order to solve it. One definitely needs to do that for this story.

Rocky Point Road is a good choice for anyone in the mood for a challenge.

Tequila Dirty by Mickey J. Corrigan

 

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Tequila Dirty by Mickey J. Corrigan
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery, Action/Adventure
Length: Short Story (72 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Something bad has happened (again) in Dusky Beach. And Rita Deltone, a tough talking waitress from Lemon Run, Florida, is smack in the middle of it. She knows all too well the dirt road she took to get down so low, but she takes the long way ’round in the telling.

Liam Donell is the new detective in town. His partner is on vacation so he has to handle all the dirty work. But this Rita chick is pretty cute. He’s not making the best decisions regarding the case. Soon enough, it turns ugly.

An unlikely couple, Rita and Liam try to make the best of a bad situation. With hot, hilarious, and surprising results.

Tequila Dirty opens up with Rita Deltone being questioned by Detective Liam Donell concerning the murder of two men. Rita is in the hospital with a gash on her head that required several stitches. Will Rita be able to help the detective solve this case?

The plot is interesting along with the author’s writing style a reader can’t help but be drawn in. Rita seems like a character that trouble seems to find and the kind of person that has an interesting life. I like the set-up of how the story is told from Rita and then later from Detective Donell. Rita’s story is one almost of humor in the way that she tells it, it almost makes you forget about the seriousness of the two murders. I felt sorry for Detective Donell, because seeing Rita at her worst he was taken by her, which leads him to not follow job protocol that could have very well opened up a can of worms that he isn’t quite able to deal with.

I’m thinking the sentencing style is along the lines of how Rita and Detective Donell would actually talk, but after so many choppy sentences it came to be a nuisance. To read. Like the editor missed checking a few sentences. That could have read smoother if they were in the proper format.

Tequila Dirty is a quick read that has a nice unpredictable twist at the end that I didn’t see coming. Though the story was short the author did a good job in building the characters and having a developed and complete plot.

The Sisters: A Mystery of Good and Evil, Horror and Suspense by Don Sloan

 

SISTERS
The Sisters: A Mystery of Good and Evil, Horror and Suspense by Don Sloan
(Book One of the Dark Forces Series)
Publisher: Self-published
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery, Horror, Paranormal, Historical, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (266 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

In this book, written in the style of Stephen King, two young people on vacation in a small New England seacoast town battle unspeakable horror and solve a hundred-year-old mystery. Fourteen Victorian mansions whisper dark secrets among themselves, and a dangerous shadow roams up and down the wide, wintry boulevard in search of new prey.

Imagine what old buildings would say if they had a way to share what’s really happened behind their closed doors over the years.

There’s something slightly eerie about owning a house that has been passed from one family to the next for generations. Stories that explore why this can be so potentially creepy are among my favorite ones in the horror genre. Having so many of these homes included in the same tale, then, was a real treat for me. I was able to explore multiple histories instead of only one.

I had some trouble warming up to the beginning of this novel. The pacing of the plot was slow and uneven due to the inclusion of multiple flashbacks to things that happened in and nearby the houses many years ago. It also took me some time to figure out what was happening when the narration temporarily switched over to the houses’ perspectives. I found the writing styles of those sections confusing even after I knew how to interpret them because of how informally they used punctuation marks.

Wow, the antagonist was seriously frightening! One of the reasons why I was so freaked out by this villain is that the plot danced around the topic for such a long time. Wondering who or what Nathan and Sarah might be facing took up a great deal of time because there were so few clues about what was really going on.

The narration regularly switched between the present and past tense. The past tense was used for the contemporary scenes, and the present tense was used for events that happened in the houses a long time ago. While it was an interesting way to differentiate between various points in history, I did find it distracting to switch between the tenses so often. Sticking with one of them would have made my reading experience more comfortable.

Sometimes dreams feel like they’re actually happening. At other times real life can be as hazy as a dream. One of the things I appreciated the most about this book was how easily it was able to capture this uncertainty. It worked well for the premise and kept me on my toes as the characters continued to try to figure out what was happening.

The Sisters: A Mystery of Good and Evil, Horror and Suspense is a good choice for anyone who likes the dark, gory side of science fiction.

Due for Discard: An Aimee Machado Mystery by Sharon St. George

DUE
Due for Discard: An Aimee Machado Mystery by Sharon St. George
Publisher: Camel Press
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (342 Pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Cyclamen

Aimee Machado is thrilled to be starting her first job as a forensic librarian at the medical center in the town of Timbergate, north of Sacramento, California. Her ebullient mood is somewhat dampened by her recent breakup with her former live-in boyfriend, Nick Alexander. And then there’s a little matter of murder: on Aimee’s first day on the job, a body is found in the hospital Dumpster, soon identified as her supervisor’s wife, Bonnie Beardsley. Aimee’s heartbreaker of a brother and best friend, Harry, just happens to be one of the last people to see Bonnie alive, but he is hardly the only suspect. Bonnie was notorious for her wild partying and man-stealing ways, and she has left a trail of broken hearts and bitterness. Aimee is determined to get her brother off the suspect list. Aimee’s snooping quickly makes her a target. Isolated on her grandparents’ llama farm where she fled post-breakup, she realizes exactly how vulnerable she is. Three men have pledged to protect her: her brother Harry, her ex, Nick, and the dashing hospital administrator with a reputation for womanizing, Jared Quinn. But they can’t be on the alert every minute, not when Aimee is so bent on cracking the case with or without their help.

Aimee Machado lands the perfect job, as a forensic librarian at Timbergate Medical Center in Northern California. She is living in a converted bunkhouse above her grandparents’ barn because she’s broken up with her boyfriend and still has graduate school loans to pay off. But this new job is just what she needs. Everything is going well until her boss’ wife is found murdered and her brother, Harry, becomes the prime suspect. Aimee will do anything to save her brother.

Aimee is young and inexperienced, but she is also very determined. Not only does she care about her brother, but also she feels responsible for the fact that he is the main suspect. The police investigator, Marco Bueller, is determined to pin something on Harry because Harry had stopped Marco’s brother, Tango, from raping Aimee, resulting in Tango being sent to prison. While Marco isn’t in charge of the investigation, he is influencing Connie Keefer, the DA. Aimee is sure that no other suspects are even being considered, so she starts investigating.

While this is a fun cozy mystery, I wish that the characters had more depth. It took me quite awhile to get hooked into this story and I’d figured out much of the mystery early on. There were a lot of details that I didn’t know, but it wasn’t hard to figure out the bad guys. In addition, lots of action is just reported after the fact. It would have been nice to experience more of it.

The final capture is dramatic, with good tension and excitement. I also loved all the animals, especially the llamas, the cat, Fanny, and the cockatiel, Bosco. I never realized that llamas were such good watch animals.

Fans of the cozy mystery will enjoy watching Aimee as she hunts for clues and suspects, putting herself in danger, as she works to uncover the truth.

Last Words-A Coleridge Taylor Mystery by Rich Zahradnik

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Last Words-A Coleridge Taylor Mystery by Rich Zahradnik
Publisher: Camel Press
Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (237 pgs)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

In March of 1975, as New York City hurtles toward bankruptcy and the Bronx burns, newsman Coleridge Taylor roams police precincts and ERs. He is looking for the story that will deliver him from obits, his place of exile at the Messenger-Telegram. Ever since he was demoted from the police beat for inventing sources, the 34-year-old has been a lost soul. A break comes at Bellevue, where Taylor views the body of a homeless teen picked up in the Meatpacking District. Taylor smells a rat: the dead boy looks too clean, and he’s wearing a distinctive Army field jacket. A little digging reveals that the jacket belonged to a hobo named Mark Voichek and that the teen was a spoiled society kid up to no good, the son of a city official. Taylor’s efforts to protect Voichek put him on the hit list of three goons who are willing to kill any number of street people to cover tracks that just might lead to City Hall. Taylor has only one ally in the newsroom, young and lovely reporter Laura Wheeler. Time is not on his side. If he doesn’t wrap this story up soon, he’ll be back on the obits page—as a headline, not a byline.

If you like your mysteries on the gritty side I’d say this one’s definitely for you. The opening drew me in with the down on his luck, Coleridge Taylor finding what could be his ticket out of writing obituaries for his employer. He’s easily likeable and along with this main character you start to think something isn’t right when he stumbles across the body of a teenager who supposedly froze to death…but did he?

From that moment on I was hooked. All the characters are well-drawn and although I’m not always a fan of mysteries with a corruption and hit-list type theme, this one did keep me reading just to find out if I was right about my theories as to how far the corruption went and would Coleridge pay the price for his inquisitiveness.

Mr. Zahradnik did a great job portraying the color and culture of the time. If you want to read about a slice of New York history during the 1970s then you’d probably enjoy this mystery for that reason alone.

It’s fast paced and the dialogue is natural sounding and I felt true to that era. With so many books now set during modern times with its cell phones and all the new gadgetry that can help a sleuth solve the crime, I found this one a refreshing change and will look for more in this series.

The Harvest Club by Iona Morrison

CLUB
The Harvest Club by Iona Morrison
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (323 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

Jessie Reynolds has no idea when she moves to Blue Cove, that she will be sharing her life with a ghost. A young pastor has been murdered, and Jessie finds herself following the trail of that death into the dark and deadly world of organ trafficking.

Jessie is soon introduced to the detective in charge of the case. Matt Parker is a tall, scruffy, ruggedly handsome man who takes an instant dislike to her and the feeling is mutual. He wants her out of his case and she finds herself entangled in it. The tension between them mounts and so does the attraction.

Blue Cove isn’t quite the tranquil escape Jessie is hoping for.

Jessie is a successful and well liked reporter in New York, but city life isn’t for her. When an opportunity to move to Blue Cove presents itself, Jessie takes it. I could practically see the stress melting off of Jessie as she drove to Blue Cove and made her dreams of living in a town by the sea a reality. From the moment Jessie arrives in Blue Cove, it becomes clear that it is not as peaceful as it seems. Something sinister is happening in Blue Cove, and Jessie has landed right in the middle of it. Can Jessie use her investigative skills to solve the mystery before she becomes the next target?

I really felt sorry for Jessie. She was looking for a more relaxing lifestyle when she moved to Blue Cove and all she found was trouble. Fortunately, Jessie is a tough woman. Whether it is a ghost seeking justice or a hired thug, Jessie takes everything thrown at her in stride and always remains focused on her mission of discovering the truth. While it is very easy to like Jessie, I do think she is too perfect. Literally everyone in town likes her, except the villains she was attempting to unmask. I understand that some people have magnetic personalities, but I think Jessie would have seemed more real to me if she would have had more flaws.

Jessie’s only flaw seems to be her desire to control everything in her life. Romance wasn’t something she was looking for, and certainly not with Matt, a bossy detective. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of Matt and Jessie’s relationship, or lack thereof. They truly seem to get on each other’s nerves and most of their exchanges end in arguments. In private, they both profess to find the other attractive, but it takes a while for this to become evident in their actions. Even though I would have liked to see more tender interactions between them, I still enjoyed watching them slowly grow into a good couple.

The suspense regarding how and when Jessie and Matt put all the clues together was very well done. Ms. Morrison did an excellent job of revealing the puzzle piece by piece through Jessie’s investigative work. Though Jessie and Matt are both very smart, they almost didn’t solve the mystery before it was too late. I had some suspicions regarding one of the last hidden members of The Harvest Club, but I can honestly say I wasn’t completely sure until the very end.

Overall, I enjoyed reading The Harvest Club. The pacing is well done, and Jessie is a smart and sweet heroine. I recommend it to anyone looking for a mystery that alternates effortlessly between being chilling and heartwarming.

Relief Valve by JL Merrow

VALVE
Relief Valve by JL Merrow
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense, Action/Adventure
Length: Full Length (280 pgs)
Other: M/M, Anal Sex
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Cactus

If you dig up the past, be prepared to get dirty.

It hasn’t been all smooth sailing since plumber Tom Paretski and P.I. Phil Morrison became connected at the heart, if not always at Tom’s dodgy hip. Neither of their families has been shy about voicing their disapproval, which hasn’t helped Tom’s uneasy relationship with his prickly older sister, Cherry.

But when Cherry is poisoned at her own engagement party, the horror of her near death has Tom’s head spinning with possible culprits. Is it her fiance Gregory, a cathedral canon with an unfortunate manner and an alarming taste for taxidermy? Someone from her old writers’ circle, which she left after a row? Or could the attack be connected to her work as a barrister?

Phil is just as desperate to solve the case before someone ends up dead-and he fears it could be Tom. At least one of their suspects has a dark secret to hide, which makes Tom’s sixth sense for finding things like a target painted on his back…

Meeting your partner’s family is never easy, especially when their sister is poisoned. Tom and Phil have been dating for several months when Tom’s sister, Cherry, calls with a problem. An old neighbor that Tom stayed friendly with through the years has died and left Tom a behest. While brother and sister are renewing their acquaintance Cherry invites Tom and Phil to her engagement party, also to get to know Phil better. Unfortunately at the party Cherry is poisoned and Tom hires Phil to look into the mystery. With no shortage of suspects from the entire county to Cherry’s pastor fiancé, Tom isn’t sure what’s going on but he’s determined to figure out who’s trying to off his sister. She may be annoying but only he gets to kill her.

Relief Valve is book two in the Plumber’s Mater series by JL Merrow. It’s easily strong enough to stand on it’s own but there are a few details and backstory that make more sense when read in conjunction with the first book. So I’d recommend this mostly for readers already familiar with the series. Picking up a few months where the last book left off finds Tom and Phil in a mostly easy relationship though they’re navigating some sticky waters. Tom isn’t sure how to tell Phil he loves him or even if he should say it and there’s the matter of giving Phil a key, which is confusing all on its own. When Tom’s sister Cherry is poisoned at her engagement party, this gives both men focus and a mystery to solve together. The whodunit is decent and helps carry the book forward, although the final revelation ties in with the subplot of Tom’s behest from the neighbor. Here is where the book stumbles some. This subplot feels clunky and awkward. There’s a definite purpose revealed at the end but I’m sure the author could have found a better way to include that information.

That’s a minor complaint, though, in an otherwise entertaining story. Tom and Phil never seem to tire of innuendos and inside jokes. Their relationship feels very typical guy in the awkward way they can’t seem to communicate their feelings, mostly Tom, and the humorous mumbled assurances they offer each other. The vast cast of characters and possible culprits helps give the book its character and life with no shortage of eccentricities. I didn’t like this book as well as the first book, possibly because the mystery is interesting but not gripping. There’s no life and death question even though Cherry was unfortunately poisoned, it didn’t feel that dramatic. Partly because Tom kept thinking she was just drunk or pregnant, which took the severity from the scene and made me question Tom’s intelligence.

Once again Merrow writes elegantly in what feels quintessential British prose. It’s refreshing and enjoyable entertainment that is always easy to recommend. This series is no different. I’d say start at the first book but definitely continue with Relief Valve. Humor and attempted murder over takeaway and heavy drinking, what more could a reader want?

Doppelgänger by Sean Munger

MUNGER
Doppelgänger by Sean Munger
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: Historical, Paranormal, Suspense/Mystery, Horror
Length: Full Length (208 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Thistledown

The house of madness!

Transplanted from her native Sweden to the drawing rooms and gas-lit parlors of Gilded Age New York, Anine Atherton will want for nothing in the lavish row house her rich new husband bought for her. But Anine’s house doesn’t seem to like people. The caretaker hangs himself in the entryway. The maid drops dead her first day on the job. Anine herself is becoming anxious and terrified, and not just because of the ghostly laughter she hears in the middle of the night. Her gentle, charming husband is slowly turning into a domineering brute. And whatever shadowy entity lives in her house, it can read Anine’s mind and use her darkest secrets against her. The last woman to live in the house went insane. Will Anine be next in line?

A house that madness built…

Anine Atherton marries a wealthy American and he whisks her off to New York in The Gilded Age. She will want for nothing. Money is no object but when the couple arrives at their newly purchased home they discover something is terribly amiss. The caretaker hired to spruce up the house is found dead and hanging from the stairs, leaving nothing behind save a cryptic diary filled with nonsensical gibberish and self-incriminating information. What drove him to suicide and what is the terrible history of this cursed house?

Their first night there at their new home, Anine is uneasy and thinks she hears movement and laughter coming from the hall outside her room. The next morning another servant turns up dead and thus begins a descent into madness. Every sound is suspect. No servant will apply for the vacant positions until a negro woman takes a chance, much to the anger of Anine’s husband. He begins to change in violent and negative ways and little by little her perfect new world begins to crumble all around her. Snubbed by polite society without a reason why, she despairs of ever fitting in. Her house, she is certain, is haunted and there is not a moment’s peace to be had.

When Anine learns how her husband acquired the house she is mortified. She begins to take steps to counter the growing aggression in the man she thought she loved and attempts to get him to sell the house back to the original owner with some unforeseen consequences that will rock her world to the core.

This book was a page turner from the first. From the ghost story in Sweden to the haunted New York property, author Sean Munger does an amazing job of capturing the feeling of the time and the characters. The psychological aspects of the story were amazing. What is a dooplegänger and what does it have to do with the Athertons? You must read on and see for yourself.

If you love horror with a touch of the past, then this is the bedtime story for you. I just wouldn’t recommend turning out the light.

Chaysing Memories by Jalpa Williby

MEMORIES
Chaysing Memories by Jalpa Williby
Chaysing Trilogy Book 2
Publisher: Outskirts Press
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (348 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Sorrel

Even if your mind forgets, will your heart remember?

They say you can’t beat Fate.

She has the power to fill your heart with happiness or shatter it into a million pieces.

Too many lies, too many secrets. Tess’s perfect little world is now nothing more than chaos. She is determined to find inner strength, happiness, and peace. And yet, she can’t remember some of the most crucial events of her life, including the man she once fell in love with. Will she be able to trust her instincts and listen to her heart before it’s too late?

Chayse has given up his life for her. And he would do it again. A man, once powerful and fierce, now has lost control of everything around him. Can he hang on to the slim hope that somehow Tess will be able to find him and save him from his hell, even though she has no idea who he is?

They say you can’t beat Fate. Maybe they’re right.

What would you do if you can’t remember the one person in your life that means the world to you? What if you don’t have any of his memories?

Chaysing Memories feels so personal. I think this is where I congratulate the author. Though the first book was good, this second book was incredible. The writing was exceptional, emotional and descriptive.

Tess doesn’t remember Chayse but her world comes crashing down when she realizes she has lost three weeks of her life. From then on starts a fight where life and happiness is at stake. Chayse is trapped in hell and the only person who can save is the one who does not remember him.

Maybe I am being a little cheesy but this story shows you the power of love and of the mind and how fate has a hand in our lives.

A lot of secrets in her life are unraveled. A myriad of different events occur that will make her much stronger. The plot was well developed and the author made sure the mystery and suspense element of the book stayed through until the end.

I loved every part of this, from the beginning to the end. My heart went out to them every time it felt like they are going to lose each other. But they stayed strong until the end. The ending….I was surprised. I think that’s all I can say without giving something away.

For readers, I would very much recommend they read from book 1 first. l loved the second book. It made me cry and hope for more of this story to come. Those who love an epic love story should check this series out.