The Osgood Casebook: The Nurseryland Mysteries by Herschel Cozine

The Osgood Casebook: The Nurseryland Mysteries by Herschel Cozine
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (62 pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Nathaniel P. Osgood III, Nurseryland’s one and only private eye, makes his living by investigating and solving nursery rhyme and fairy tale mysteries as only he can do. Get the story behind the terrible fall of Humpty Dumpty, the brutal murder of Cock Robin, the attack of the blackbirds, and other mysteries surrounding Nurseryland.

A lot can happen between now and happily ever after.

“The Shady Snow White” barely needs an introduction at all. In it Nathaniel P. Osgood III is hired by seven irritated little men to figure out what really happened with Snow White. I can’t share what was annoying them without giving away spoilers, but this twist on the original legend was clever and entertaining. It’s the sort of idea that works great for something this length but would also be interesting to see expanded into a novella or full-length book.

There were times when some of these stories felt too cluttered with characters. “A Sheep’s Tale” caught my attention right away because I’ve always been partial to the Little Bo Peep rhyme. The mystery itself in it was fun, but the plot was often distracted by references to the other characters who live in this universe but who weren’t closely involved in what happened to Bo Peep’s sheep. While I understand that all of these short stories are supposed to be connected to one another, the pacing would have flowed more smoothly had there been fewer attempts to show how everyone interacts.

“The Porridge Incident” describes what happened when Greta Goldilocks is accused of breaking into the Bear family home and causing some damage to their property. The concept was as clever as it’s ending. I especially enjoyed seeing how Nathaniel reacts to the famous Nurseryland characters he interviews along the way.

Longterm fans of this series will find a few playful references to earlier works along the way, but you don’t actually need to know anything about Nathaniel P. Osgood III or his community in order to enjoy this collection.

The Osgood Casebook: The Nurseryland Mysteries is a good choice for anyone who is fan of modern twists on traditional nursery rhymes.

Landslide by Robin Mahle

Landslide by Robin Mahle
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (172 Pages)
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Cyclamen

In the sprawling suburbs of Seattle, Claire McKenna finds solace in her perfectly ordinary life. With the daily strain of raising a family and climbing out of debt, she and her husband Colin, work hard to hang on to what they’ve got.

So when Claire is offered an incredible opportunity to rise in the ranks of her firm, she jumps at the chance. Her joy, however, is short lived at the discovery that her close friend and colleague, Beth Graves has just been accused of embezzlement.

Compelled to see Beth’s name cleared, Claire soon stumbles on a larger, more dangerous conspiracy at the firm. One that involves people she once trusted. One that threatens to destroy her ordinary life.

Landslide has a plot which is intricate with many twists and turns. I was hooked from the very first page, and as the suspense built, I couldn’t stop reading. My afternoon plans changed as I read until I reached the end, an end which has its own twists.

Claire McKenna is a strong main character, fully realized with both strengths and weaknesses. One of her greatest strengths is her loyalty to her friends, especially Beth Graves who has been framed for embezzlement. However, Claire is soon in over her head, working with the FBI, but with a boss who always gets what he wants.

The world of high finance is revealed in full details, and I learned a lot while I was trying to figure out just how far the schemes ran. Claire is forced to endure a lot in her efforts to protect her family as well as clear her friend. There seem to be no limits to the power of those she must fight. The events test her on every level, but she refuses to stop. She has to reveal the full truth no matter what.

I really liked Agent Gordon Sanchez of the FBI. His character was well developed and he came across as intelligent and compassionate. He assures Claire that he knows Beth has been set up, but unless actual proof can be found, Beth could still go to jail.

Claire has to help her husband deal with the events. Colin is suspicious of Claire’s promotion and the speed with which she is being moved up in the firm, but he knows they need the money. However, when Claire starts working for the FBI, he tries to stop her. Colin is a bit of a stereotype of the overprotective husband, but certainly he has legitimate reasons for his concerns.

Landslide certainly lives up to its name. Once the action starts there is no stopping it. Mystery lovers are sure to find this to be a thrilling read.

Flesh Failure by Sèphera Girón

Flesh Failure by Sèphera Girón
Publisher: Samhain Publications
Genre: Historical, Paranormal, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Short Story (84 pgs)
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Thistledown

From out of the grave.

London, 1888: Agatha drags herself from a shallow grave to roam the fog-shrouded streets of the dark city, trying to piece together what happened. Her new friends, the ladies of the night, live in terror of Jack the Ripper, while Agatha persistently searches for what she discovers she needs to stay alive—electrical charges.

As her memory grows stronger, the hazy images from her past come into focus, but questions remain. Do her answers lie in the shadows of the streets, the hidden corridors of London Hospital, or someplace far more frightening?

Waking up dead makes for a very bad day.

Agatha awakens buried in the earth. Her mouth filled with dirt and mud, she crawls from the filth to rejoin the living. Naked and covered in disfiguring scars, she is a horror to all who meet her. A blind gypsy takes her in and gives her clothes and she finds her voice and her way. She must return to the city and find who did this to her-who make her the way she is.

Her body oozing puss and a foul odor of the dead, Agatha knows she is different from other girls and when a prostitute rescues her from the streets of Whitechapel, she learns skills to keep herself alive. Can she find the men who made her into a monster that other women fear? Will she become a freak at a side show or exact her revenge?

This story had many elements of Frankenstein and Jack the Ripper that blended well together. The concept of a woman being brought back to life in the fashion of Mary Shelley’s epic tale and then discarded before the authorities could be alerted to the monstrous nature of the experiment were well suited to the time. Women were second class citizens and in this tale it takes an even darker turn.

While I enjoyed the overall idea of the story, some points in the execution left something to be desired. The repetition of words and awkward phrasing made a good portion of the book difficult to get through without wincing. I rooted for the girl who rose from the dead and wanted her murderers to get their due, but I strong bit of editing on this story would have gone a long, long way.

All in all, I enjoyed the mix of rotting zombie and Jack the Ripper. What a lovely idea that the two could remotely even be related. There is a definite spark of genius, but like all writers, an editing hand is worth much.

Read this one in the light and be careful who you meet just outside the gates of the local graveyard.

Absence of Reason: A Hilary Adams Mystery by Linda Y. Atkins

Absence of Reason: A Hilary Adams Mystery by Linda Y. Atkins
Publisher: Turquoise Morning Press
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (231 Pages)
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Cyclamen

When a friend is accused of murder, a feisty attorney will have to outsmart a serial killer if she wants to prove her client’s innocence—and stay alive.

Criminal defense attorney, Hilary Adams, is about to tackle the case of her career—defending an accused serial killer. In each murder, the evidence gathered against her childhood friend, Professor Tom Blackstone, was overwhelming; the motive obvious, at least to the police and the local prosecuting attorney. But to Hilary, nothing in this case has been right from the beginning. It has all the earmarks of someone systematically setting up her client. But who would want to and why? Coeds, sexually assaulted and murdered, are turning up everywhere. Time is short and the list of suspects even shorter. Hilary has to act fast to save her client and in the end to save herself.

Hilary Adams is a very strong main character, who seems very real. She is whip smart, knows the law inside and out, and is determined to defend a childhood friend, Professor Blackstone, from charges of murder.  Combined with sexual assault, the charges could result in the death penalty if proven. Hilary seems to be the only one who doesn’t believe in the overwhelming evidence against her client. And her client isn’t helping her, as he slides into self-pity and depression. But Hilary can save him if indeed anyone can.

The supporting characters are also very well defined. There is Sam Monroe, ex-FBI and now a PI, who has a long friendship with Hilary. He does his job, even though he thinks that Hilary is blinded by her friendship with her client. Lieutenant Peter Elliott is certain that he has arrested the right man, but as things heat up and he is pressured to move faster than he feels is prudent, he begins to wonder about the case. He is in love with Hilary, although she isn’t ready for a steady relationship, but he also really respects her abilities as a lawyer. He agrees with her that the important thing is to catch the right murderer. Even the minor characters have depth, such as Hilary’s secretary Annie.

This is the first in a series, and I’ve already read the second, third, and fourth. Since this is the first, I was prepared that it might not be quite as strong as the others. I couldn’t have been more wrong. This is a very strong story which has been effectively crafted for maximum suspense. One technique that I found especially helpful in involving the reader and building suspense is the way the murderer’s point of view is used, not often, but most dramatically. I knew even before Hilary did that Blackstone was innocent. But I didn’t have a clue as to the identity of the real murderer until nearly the end. This meant that I was all but pushing Hilary, Sam, and Peter, in the directions they should go. As the suspense built, I found that the book was impossible to put down.

Mystery lovers are sure to enjoy Absence of Reason. In fact, I highly recommend the entire series of now four novels, a series which I hope continues to grow as I’m definitely a fan of Hilary Adams.

Deadly Influence by Lynde Lakes

Deadly Influence by Lynde Lakes
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (170 pages)
Heat Level: sensual
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Thornapple

Laced with romantic intrigue, Air Force Intelligence Lieutenant Jay Corning, and his grandmother’s bodyguard, Lisa Dixon, struggle to keep their attraction for each other in check while they work together to uncover the evil soul trying to kill the strong-willed matriarch.

Danger closes in from the dark corners of the small community, stirring fears and steamy emotions. The heat rises at the Corning Estate, drawing Lisa and Jay closer, while a mysterious force threatens to drive them apart.

This is a very twisty story full of greedy, selfish characters, a cool grandmother, a hot military guy and a strong leading lady.

When Lisa’s career as a police officer didn’t work out, she goes into the private sector. She is now a bodyguard for an elderly woman someone wants dead. But, who? Why? Lisa begins to care for Meta just like she was her own grandmother. Meta’s two grandsons are another matter entirely. Dealing with Bud is a pain but when Meta’s other grandson, Jay arrives, Lisa finds him even more infuriating, and not only that, too attractive and not as easy to blow off as Bud.

Jay returns home from his military duties to see what has been going on with his grandmother after he is informed there has been an attempt on her life. He is very uneasy and angry to learn that the nurse, Lisa, has ensconced herself firmly into Meta’s life, and has even been included in his grandmother’s will. But when another attempt is made on Meta’s life, Jay gets an up close and personal introduction to the real Lisa…and a gold digger she is not.

Although there were some areas in the plot that were transparent in regards to the whodunit part of the story, there were still twist that took me by surprise. The action and shoot outs make up for any predictability. While the story was equal parts suspense and romance, Jay and Lisa’s saga was the best part for me. I couldn’t believe what was happening with them and wanted to somehow reach into the book and punch a certain master manipulator in the mouth. Grrrrr!!

What I liked the most about the story was the subtle message about our own individuality. Jay and Lisa had to come to the realization that they were nothing like their parents and didn’t need to worry about carrying their parent’s undesirable traits themselves.

This book was a quick and entertaining read and I would recommend to romantic suspense fans.

Night Watch: An Em Ridge Mystery Book One by Linda Hall

Night Watch: An Em Ridge Mystery Book One by Linda Hall
Publisher: Alexandria Publishing Group
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (273 Pages)
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Cyclamen

Desolate Maine shores… Murder… And peace slipping away on the outgoing tide…

For yacht delivery captain, Em Ridge, having a billionaire’s daughter go overboard on her first captaining job is not a good beginning. The sailboat is new, state of the art, her crew on this trip include two close sailing friends. But an unknown fourth, who can’t even tie a bowline, and the unruly owner’s daughter turn the idyllic trip into an adventure not wanted.

Two years ago Em buried her husband, her soulmate, her sailing buddy, and with him buried a secret. As hours on the open seas slide by, secrets are resurrected that tie Em’s past to a present, awash with murder and deception.

Will Em’s career go overboard? Will the investigating detective help her or hurt her? Any why does the best boat delivery captain on the east coast pull at her heart strings?

The oft foggy coast of Maine holds secrets it does not want to give up, and a lot of bodies can be hidden in The Pine Tree State’s largest city.

Captain Em Ridge is thrilled to have her first job since she got her Coast Guard captain’s license, but after a week underway, it looks as if it might be her last. A billionaire’s daughter, Kricket, goes overboard and if that weren’t bad enough, she was dead before she hit the water, killed by mushroom poisoning.

The plot takes a number of unexpected turns, which include Em’s discovering that her husband’s death two years earlier, supposedly from a kayaking accident was no accident. Was her husband having an affair? Was everything she thought she knew about him a lie?

Em is a very strong character, well-defined, with strengths as well as weaknesses. She really resonated with me and I was hooked from the opening of the novel when Em is wakened from a dream about her dead husband to discover that Kricket is missing.

I learned a lot about boats, small and large, power and sail, and all the details added to the authenticity of the tale. The mystery is very well crafted, with plenty of suspects, so that Em is caught wondering just whom to trust. She takes on more of the investigation than is safe, but she is so worried about her husband’s death that she keeps searching, keeps asking questions, keeps getting in deeper and deeper.

The pacing is excellent, as the tension builds bit by bit. We see Em as she interacts with a number of people, so I felt as if I really got to know her. And I liked her neighbors, the sisters who argue, the aged widower, and others. They lent an authenticity and believability to the entire story.

The setting is very well-drawn and the fact that Em lives on a remote piece of land which requires a ferry at high tide adds not only realism but suspense. She doesn’t live far from Portland, Maine, but the geography becomes an added character in the story as Em has to navigate the terrain.

Mystery lovers are in for a real treat with Night Watch, which is promised to be the first in a series. I sure hope more books follow quickly as I really want to travel the seas with Em again soon.

Deadline for Murder: The Hilary Adams Mystery Series

Deadline for Murder: The Hilary Adams Mystery Series by Linda Y. Atkins
Publisher: Turquoise Morning Press
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (384 Pages)
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Cyclamen

Defending a crime reporter accused of a double-homicide puts Hilary Adams to the test once more. Can she meet the deadline for murder?
Attorney Hilary Adams makes the difficult decision not to run for another term as Louisville’s top prosecutor. She’s determined to return to the defense side of the justice system. The only hitch is that her newfound resolve isn’t resonating too well with her husband Peter Elliott, Louisville’s police chief.

On the first day after her incumbency has ended, Hilary receives an unexpected and very hard to resist offer from Winfield Bennett, the managing partner of Louisville’s biggest white-shoe law firm. He wants her to head up a newly formed criminal litigation division. Unable to turn down such a prestigious position and the obscene salary package that accompanies it, Hilary accepts. She soon realizes, however, that the job comes with a hefty price tag—take on every case Win throws her way, including the representation of his old college chum, journalist Blake Hunter, a happily married man who can’t seem to remember how he woke up that morning in a seedy motel room with a very dead young woman.

Then, in quick succession, another murder victim turns up. Blake’s new boss is found brutally beaten and stabbed in exactly the same manner as the young woman. Evidence, including DNA left at each of the crime scenes, points to only one person as being the culprit in both slayings—Hilary’s errant client, Blake Hunter.

As always, Hilary has her work cut out for her. Once again, she’s up to the challenge.

Hilary Adams has just left her position as the Commonwealth Attorney in Louisville, Kentucky after she decided not to seek re-election. Instead she accepts an offer to head up a new criminal litigation division at a very prestigious law firm. Her first case is to defend a prominent journalist, Blake Hunter, from a murder charge after he wakes up one morning in a seedy motel totally unable to remember how he got there.

Hilary is a very smart lawyer and she is now married to Peter Elliott, Louisville’s police chief. He’d wanted her to run for re-election since it made sense to him that both of them would be on the same side, namely the prosecution of crimes. Hilary loves Peter, but finds it unfair that he should expect her to change her career. I thought that the interactions in this complex issue were handled very realistically and sensitively and it was fun to watch the two of them work this out. This side issue made the characters much more real and three dimensional.

The plot is very well-developed and Hilary has to match wits with a sociopath who has worked out what appears to be a full-proof plan to frame Blake Hunter. I was especially impressed with the way the tension developed, with excellent pacing, so that by the end, events reached the point of sheer terror.

The shifting point of view from Hilary to the murderer is extremely well done. The reader can see what’s happening, although the who is kept well concealed, and I was on the edge of my seat trying to ‘will’ Hilary to the solution. I needn’t have worried. She is well equipped to handle the situation even with a number of side distractions.

Deadline for Murder is the fourth in the Hilary Adams series, but it works fine as a standalone. I highly recommend it, and indeed the entire series. Linda Y. Atkins has crafted a fine main character with lots of interesting supporting characters in a deviously fiendish murder mystery.

Death Takes a Mistress by Rosemary and Larry Mild

Death Takes a Mistress by Rosemary and Larry Mild
Publisher: Magic Island Literary Works
Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (246 pgs)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

After twenty-three years, the daughter of a mistress seeks revenge from the murderous lover who killed her mother and deserted her at age three months. Ivy, the daughter, follows the cold case clues from London, England to Annapolis, Maryland where she discovers that her father and killer belong to one of four families. But which one? Ivy seeks employment as a clerk at The Olde Victorian Bookstore where she finds friendship, advice, love, and caution from Dan and Rivka Sherman, the booksellers. The Shermans use their old connections at Scotland Yard to obtain Ivy’s mother’s diary, but it is soon stolen. Will they get it back? Does it contain the clues they need? Will Ivy cause fear and havoc in the four families-enough to put her own life in jeopardy?

If I only had four words to describe Death Takes a Mistress they would be “what a fun book”. It reminded me of a whodunit of days gone by with an interesting plot peppered with a host of equally interesting characters.

This was the first book I’d read by the authors and my first introduction to their sleuths Dan and Rivka Sherman. They run a bookstore which I felt like I was actually in and snooping around. They are likeable, well developed characters who I’d like to read more about in the future.

The secondary characters in this book were also well developed. Some were more likeable than others but all had an interesting story to be told which kept me turning the pages. As the story progressed I found myself reading on trying to figure out whom Ivy’s father was and if he had in fact, murdered her mother.

The setting of this story is great too and I liked the sub-plot of the mystery writing group. As with all fun whodunnits there are some clues that lead you off track and a good sprinkling of humor.

During the last five chapters or so I kept reading to see if I figured out correctly who the guilty person was. It had a satisfying ending and a nice closure for Ivy. It has left me eager to see what the authors have in store next for Dan and Rivka.

If you like a classic whodunit I think you’ll enjoy this one.

Atlantia by Ally Condie

Atlantia by Ally Condie
Publisher: Dutton
Genre: Action/Adventure, Historical, Paranormal, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (298 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Lupine

Can you hear Atlantia breathing?

For as long as she can remember, Rio has dreamt of the sand and sky Above—of life beyond her underwater city of Atlantia. But in a single moment, all her plans for the future are thwarted when her twin sister, Bay, makes an unexpected decision, stranding Rio Below. Alone, ripped away from the last person who knew Rio’s true self—and the powerful siren voice she has long hidden—she has nothing left to lose.

Guided by a dangerous and unlikely mentor, Rio formulates a plan that leads to increasingly treacherous questions about her mother’s death, her own destiny, and the complex system constructed to govern the divide between land and sea. Her life and her city depend on Rio to listen to the voices of the past and to speak long-hidden truths.

I’m a big fan of Ally Condie, and could wait to dive into this book.

Though I appreciate Ally Condie’s amazing writing, there was a lot in the book that I really didn’t enjoy but I understand why it was needed. I’d like to start with the setting, as it was amazingly described and written. Though there is more than one places in the book, Above and Below, and they were written in such detail that I was taken aback at how excellent they were. I did struggle with the pacing a little since it was a little difficult to get around the complex world building and into the main plot of the story. It dragged quite a bit for me, but the thoughts that were always running through Rio’s mind sort of kept me focused and on track.

I appreciated that Rio showed so much dedication to her sister and that was never broken, even with the introduction of the love interest. Speaking of which, I wish that there had been more romance between Rio and the boy…it seemed that she was so focused (and rightly so, don’t get me wrong) on getting to her sister that the cuteness of the two of them together was thrown in the corner.  Also, can I add in a personal thought – I was so happy to read about a tall, largely built heroine. It appealed to me because she was something different than the average petite thing that a man has to protect in times of trouble.

Also, I’d like to interject on how much I liked the ending parts of the book and, though I wished there had been more to the conclusion, it was very well done and beautiful.

Whispers from the Grave by Kim Murphy

Whispers from the Grave by Kim Murphy
Publisher: Coachlight Press
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (286 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

The Virginia Plantation Poplar Ridge is sprawling, secluded, and foreboding. Chris Olson is immediately swept into its somber history and an inexplicable, electrifying passion for Geoff Cameron, her best friend’s brother. Dreams of a Confederate soldier who strongly resembles Geoff and a haunting one-eyed scout cloud her mind further. Through the eyes of the long-dead Margaret, Chris witnesses mysterious events shrouded in the conflict of the Civil War, until little by little, she uncovers Margaret’s dark and terrible secret–and Geoff’s connection to the enchanting woman from the past.

Some pain doesn’t end at death. It can live on to haunt later generations. Margaret has a story to tell or could her motives purely be to haunt those that hurt her?

I found the excerpt from the book titled Whispers from the Grave to be one that I would enjoy since it was from a historical aspect. The author has a voice for expressing description of details. The landscape, the trees, the house all were painted with words into vivid pictures. I enjoyed the over all story but it took patience to get there. To me there was too much going on and it took away from a beautiful story.

The opening for the year 2004 Christine “Chris” Olson was in route from Boston to Virginia to visit her friend, unfortunately she has a flat tire. I would assume she didn’t have a car charger for her cell phone because when her cell phone went dead and she didn’t even attempt to charge it, nor did she try to change the flat tire. But all that is fine because her blond haired knight shows up just in time to change the flat for her. Geoff Cameron is the brother of her friend Judith. Chris is there to visit Judith but spends more time with her brother, Geoff. I found it odd that Chris and Judith didn’t have any girl time together to go shopping, staying up late catching up on old times, none of that type female reunion.

The book had many slow parts that watered down a beautiful story as I mentioned before. The character Chris wasn’t displayed as a strong character. She also seemed more focused on Geoff and then when he started having seizures the book went on and on about his seizures and Chris treating him like a child. She was quick to act on her attraction to Geoff and just as quick to hop in his bed. Like I said she spent more time with Geoff than she did with her friend Judith who she initially came to visit. Chris was quick to say she loved Geoff; I was left feeling puzzled because I missed them building a relationship and feelings for one another. The qualities of them growing fond of each other and getting to know each other were omitted. I would have liked to have felt some kind of growing connection between the two, besides the time spent in the bedroom.

I enjoyed the story of George and Margaret, though it was a sad one, I felt the connection and love between the two. Their story was a story of dedication, heartbreak and survival during a time of war and hardship. The author did a fabulous job in telling the story of George and Margaret in 1867. I was enthralled with the mystery of how a tragic event built into a crescendo of secrets, and pain that left the Cameron family torn.

During Chris’s visit she keeps having visions of people she did not know: George, Margaret and Catherine. I tried not to put too much reasoning and thought into understand how three people of that era could still haunt the people living in the home now. Maybe I could understand Margaret’s soul being unsettled but I didn’t understand why Catherine and George were still around.

The historical events are more real and relatable. Margaret’s story is one I am sure many women of that time can relate to. A woman committed to her man and determined to stay true. But the cruel world rapes her, literally robbing her of a future where she can only see a bleak existence. Torn but also wrapped in a filth she can’t seem to get away from when the desolate act of rape gives her daily reminders. Margaret was displayed as a woman that was strong and that could survive. I didn’t see those qualities in Chris or Beth. The twist to the story of Margaret and her baby was unexpected and kept me reading to see how the author played it out. Margaret couldn’t be judged for the acts that she committed or for the choices she made to not tell George all that happened while he was away.

This is a good pick for anyone looking for a historical mystery with a current day flair.