The Walls by Hollie Overton


The Walls by Hollie Overton
Publisher: Century
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (416 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by: Cholla

A heart-stopping psychological suspense novel about a Texas prison official driven to commit the perfect crime, by the author of the international bestselling thriller Baby Doll.

WOULD YOU KILL TO PROTECT YOUR FAMILY?

Working on death row is far from Kristy Tucker’s dream, but she is grateful for a job that allows her to support her son and ailing father.

When she meets Lance Dobson, Kristy begins to imagine a different kind of future. But after their wedding, she finds herself serving her own life sentence—one of abuse and constant terror.

But Kristy is a survivor, and as Lance’s violence escalates, the inmates she’s worked with have planted an idea she simply can’t shake.

Now she must decide whether she’ll risk everything to protect her family.

Does she have what it takes to commit the perfect crime?

For as long as she can remember, it’s been her, her dad, and her little boy. So, when Kristy Tucker meets Lance Dobson, she’s wary at first, but is soon won over by his charm and gregarious nature. But is he too good to be true or are years of having to survive on her own dragging her down?

Kristy Tucker has worked hard to give her son, Ryan, everything he needs. She hates her job working in public information officer for the Texas Department of Corrections, but it pays well and helps her get what she needs. Even though her job is difficult on both physical and mental levels, Kristy always manages to give her family and the inmates she’s responsible for one hundred percent of her best effort. She’s an extremely complex character who has a lot going on internally.

I think it’s easy to see that there’s something very wrong with Lance from the beginning. Anyone who has managed to develop as much blind devotion as Lance has is a giant red flag. You can’t fault Kristy for wanting to believe, however. She’s a loving and devoted wife and daughter and deserves a little happiness for herself. Lance makes sure to take every ounce of it away in the end.

Although there were many times when Lance came across as over the top, he remains frightening and intense throughout the entire novel. Thankfully, I’ve never been in this kind of situation so it’s hard for me to judge whether he’s overly dramatic or if this is possibly real life. When Kristy finally makes her decision to stand up for herself, protect not just her own life but those of her loved ones, I found myself all in with her crazy plan. While I don’t think it would have succeeded in real life, it still took guts to do what needed to be done for everyone involved.

The Walls is an interesting look into death row in Texas as well as an intense rollercoaster ride of a story. One of the best books I’ve read this year and had me turning the pages as fast as I was able.

River City Dead by Nancy G. West


River City Dead by Nancy G. West
Publisher: Henery Press
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (224 pgs)
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

Advice columnist Aggie Mundeen and SAPD Detective Sam Vanderhoven plan their first rendezvous at a San Antonio River Walk hotel during Fiesta Week—sumptuous sights, sounds, and festivities in the middle of America’s Venice. A vacation from crime and a reset for their tumultuous relationship.

But murder descends on the Casa Prima Hotel. Disturbing revelations surface about the Fabulous Femmes, Aggie’s new friends holding a convention. Evil emerges at parties in La Villita. Calamity plagues Aggie’s debut dance performance at the Arneson River Theater, the celebration skewed by carousing, crazies, and corpses. Even in idyllic River City, crime complicates relationships.

All Aggie wants is a quiet vacation cozied up to her new boyfriend, Sam. With the relationship still fresh and new, she wants to spend some quiet time with Sam and get to know him better. But when you’re dating a cop, things don’t always work out the way you had planned. Case in point: when a woman is murdered in the hotel you’re staying in, your boyfriend tends to get really busy really quickly. Not that Aggie is about to let that stop her fun.

Aggie Mundeen is an advice columnist who takes her real life experiences and uses them to guide others. I was amused that the letters from her readers were included in the story, giving us a little insight into Aggie’s downtime rituals. Her boyfriend, Sam Vanderhoven, is also an interesting character. Although he’s a rather typical cop-like character, his frustration and affection for Aggie make him a more complete character. That he knows he wants to keep her safe and yet realizes at the same time that he’ll never get her to heel, is both sweet and reassuring.

I really enjoyed the setting in Austin, Texas. It’s a city I hear so many good things about and yet have never visited, despite having lived in Houston for a year. The characters are also very interesting and likable, despite Aggie’s penchant for getting herself into trouble, even though her boyfriend and cop, Sam, warn her to stay out of it. That said, if every lead in a cozy mystery took that advice, we’d never have any novels, right? At times I felt like the dialogue was a bit stilted and awkward, but the overall story was entertaining and engaging. I’m going to hunt down the prior three books in this series now and find out how it all began. A story with a few twists and turns and an unforgettable cast.

Sacrificial Lam by Gary Guinn


Sacrificial Lam by Gary Guinn
Publisher: Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (268 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Stargazer

When English professor Lam Corso receives a death threat at work, he laughs it off. A liberal activist at a small Southern conservative college, he’s used to stirring up controversy on campus. It’s just part of the give and take of life. Even when violently attacked, Lam is convinced it must be a mistake. He can’t imagine anyone who would want to kill him for his beliefs.

When his home is broken into and his wife’s business vandalized, Lam is forced to face the truth. His wife—a passionate anti-gun crusader—is outraged when Lam brings a gun into the house for protection. The police can’t find a single lead. Left to their own devices, Lam and Susan are forced to examine their marriage, faith, and values in the face of a carefully targeted attack from an assailant spurred into action by his own set of beliefs.

What will it cost to survive?

Sometimes your job forces you to push on the limits of society.

Lambert Corso is an individual with just such a job. As an English professor with very liberal views teaching at a religious college, Lam has stepped on his fair share of toes. Suddenly unnerving written threats against his life and then physical attempts against both Lam and his family cause a deeper concern for what is happening at the university. Lam is suddenly forced to question everyone and everything in order to protect his own family.

Sacrificial Lam is an enveloping story told from the viewpoint of Lambert Corso and his wife Susan. The story highlights the various types of personalities that exist on a college campus as well as the frustrations that occur from being the voice for those oppressed when the majority of those on campus have very opposing views.

The threats and Lam’s reaction to the increased threats are understandable and realistic, given Lam’s history and views. The dialogue is smooth and concise and the descriptions of work, personality conflicts, student concerns and the main plot line of fear and mystery focused on Lam and his family weave together to form a great mystery!

I really enjoyed the various conflicts and frustrations that Lam encountered, both internally and externally. Lam’s marital concerns and even his stress impacting his parenting of his two sons speak volumes into the psychology of the storyline. The depth of human nature and our response to external stress is a great pivotal point in the story.

If you enjoy suspense and mystery stories, be sure not to miss Sacrificial Lam!

Gone in the Night by Anna J. Stewart


Gone in the Night by Anna J. Stewart
3rd book in the Honor bound series
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (288 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

A childhood terror rears its ugly head in USA TODAY bestselling author Anna J. Stewart’s latest Honor Bound romance. Psychologist Allie Hollister is still haunted by the unsolved death of her childhood best friend. She never expects her past to meet her present when a young patient is abducted and the cold case is reopened. Allie knows she shouldn’t get involved, but the child’s uncle, firefighter Max Kellan, needs her as much as she needs him. Once, Max simply wanted to put his past to rest; now he demands nothing short of justice. As he and secretive, sexy Allie track a lethal criminal, their chemistry is an undeniable adrenaline rush. Their attraction will be put to the test when they confront their most dangerous threat yet: the truth.

Aaaaaaaaah!! Thank you Anna J. Stewart for writing yet another spectacular book! I was combusting with excitement as I read Gone in the Night. It was so awesome!!

Gone in the Night is the third book in the Honor bound series written by Anna J. Stewart. The first was More than a Lawman and the second was Reunited with the P.I. All three can be read as standalones however it is much more fun to read them all in consecutive order. I was fortunate to be able to do just that.

Anna J. Stewart is a consistent writer. All three books are riveting! I’m talking about the kind of book that is impossible to put down once you start. Since I knew this I didn’t even start reading Gone in the Night until I had a rainy day so I could just sit and read it all in one sitting. I was not disappointed at all. Reading Gone in the Night was just as unpredictable and complex as the other books in the Honor bound series. Suspense that was thrilling! Romance that was passionate!

More Than a Lawman ended with one case solved and one unresolved. The unresolved one continues to be threaded through out Reunited with the P.I. along with a new case. The new case gets resolved but left the unresolved still unresolved. Gone in the Night finally resolves the unresolved case! Yahoo!! It was worth the wait!!

Aden, Simone and Allie are three best friends that share a childhood trauma that unites them in an unbreakable bond of friendship that has lasted into their adult lives. More Than a Lawman was Aden’s story. Reunited with the P.I. was Simone’s story and Gone in the Night is Allie’s story.

I couldn’t wait to read Allie’s story. All three leading ladies were relatable and I loved all three but Allie was my favorite. I was able to relate to her difficult childhood. I found Allie to be intelligent, strong and witty. She was perfect for Max, the hero. Oh my Gosh, Max. I loved the banter they had going with each other throughout the book. They had this ongoing guessing game that was so much fun to read. I loved Allie and Max! Max was my dream guy and I definitely have a book glow going on.

The final culmination of the unresolved case was epic! I did not see that ending coming. What a lovely final twist. I was left feeling completely satisfied. I am so happy for Allie that she found a happily ever after with Max. I loved how all the plot threads were tied this time. I would encourage anyone who loves suspense/mystery romance to pick up all three books in the Honor Bound series. Heck, I just might read them all again, they were that good!

A Measure of Murder by Leslie Karst


A Measure of Murder by Leslie Karst
Publisher: Crooked Lane
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (336 pgs)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

Sally Solari is busy juggling work at her family’s Italian restaurant, Solari’s, and helping Javier plan the autumn menu for the restaurant she’s just inherited, Gauguin. Complicating this already hectic schedule, Sally joins her ex-boyfriend Eric’s chorus, which is performing a newly discovered version of her favorite composition: the Mozart Requiem. But then, at the first rehearsal, a tenor falls to his death on the church courtyard–and his soprano girlfriend is sure it wasn’t an accident.

Now Sally’s back on another murder case mixed in with a dash of revenge, a pinch of peril, and a suspicious stack of sheet music. And while tensions in the chorus heat up, so does the kitchen at Gauguin–set aflame right as Sally starts getting too close to the truth. Can Sally catch the killer before she’s burnt to a crisp, or will the case grow as cold as yesterday’s leftovers?

In a stew of suspects and restaurateurs, trouble boils over in the second in Leslie Karst’s tasty and tantalizing Sally Solari mystery series, A Measure of Murder.

I grew up reading cozy mysteries and jump at any chance to read one. A Measure of Murder has everything that’s fun to read about in this genre. It’s peppered with characters, any of which could have committed the crime, an easy to like sleuth, and clues that have you guessing about which one should I follow and which one’s a red herring.

This was a new to me author but I knew this is the second book in the Sally Solari mystery series which is centered around cooking and restaurants. And who doesn’t enjoy a good culinary mystery? This one also focuses on music, classical music to be exact. When a tenor falls to his death and no, it wasn’t by accident, it sets in motion a determined lead character to find out who did it and why.

This is a fast paced story with enjoyable characters and has me wanting to go and seek out the first book to learn more about sleuth Sally Solari. I don’t think you need to read the first one before this installment because I had no trouble figuring how who she was or what she did for a living.

If you like quick paced mysteries with some humor thrown in, and of course a recipe or two, then this might be one to add to your end of summer reading.

Mothers and Other Strangers by Gina Sorell


Mothers and Other Strangers by Gina Sorell
Publisher: Prospect Park Books
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (320 pgs)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

“My father proposed to my mother at gunpoint when she was nineteen, and knowing that she was already pregnant with a dead man’s child, she accepted.”

Thus begins this riveting story of a woman’s quest to understand her recently deceased mother, a glamorous, cruel narcissist who left her only child, Elsie, an inheritance of debts and mysteries. While coping with threats that she suspects are coming from the cult-like spiritual program her mother belonged to, Elsie works to unravel the message her dying mother left for her, a quest that ultimately takes her to the South African family homestead she never knew existed.

I don’t know where to start on my review for this book. The author’s writing style captured me from the very start of the novel. This is a well written book that includes a wondrously structured plot of suspense. I couldn’t help but feel for Elsie as she opened up revealing various pains that all seem to have generated from the soiled relationship with her mother. Elsie has made the best of her life, but with the recent death of her mother, Rachel, old wounds start to open up and Elsie is challenged to face not only her demons but also her mother’s.

Elsie is a strong young lady who, even though she lacked her mother’s love and approval, still seemed to get through life. No, she wasn’t perfect and she had her faults but I guess that’s what made her so easy to connect with. She was a teen performance dancer, she dealt with being anorexic, she loses her best friend but gains the lead dance role. Any mother would be proud to have a daughter with such a successful early career. That’s one thing, even after finishing the novel I still didn’t understand why Elsie’s mother treated her like she did. She was her mother’s only child and yet in a way Elsie was motherless. Elsie’s self-pity is so strong that she’d rather be alone in the world; pushing away the one man that loves her beyond measure.

Elsie’s ex-husband Ted is her stronghold and voice of reason. I enjoyed reading their story. I was sad to read that Elsie’s willingness to give up and free Ted, but I was glad and found it touching that Ted’s love continued during the bad. I was glad Ted is true and consistent in Elsie’s life and that even though they are divorced he still took time to answer her calls and to help her when he could.

I enjoyed the writing style and the voice of Elsie as she looked for answers in finding herself and along the way making sense to find answers to her life. Her mother’s death didn’t necessarily mean an end, but it seemed to give Elsie strength and purpose. As I mentioned earlier, I still didn’t understand Elsie’s mother’s reasons for her actions and way of mothering. The many years that her mom had ties with the Seekers was strange to me. This part of the story is different and I tried thinking of some other reason that could put a wedge between a mother and a daughter; I guess Rachel’s deep involvement with the Seekers is good enough reason for a wedge. Reading about a cult-like religion is something new to me and it worked for this story.

I highly recommend this story for readers who enjoy going deep into a character’s emotional life where their story remains long after the you’ve turned the last page.

Where Danger Lies by Donna Del Oro


Where Danger Lies by Donna Del Oro
The Jake Bernstein FBI Series, Volume 3
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Suspense/Mystery
Rating: Spicy
Length: Full (278 pgs)
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Poppy

FBI Special Agent Jake Bernstein is recruited to help investigate two apparently unrelated cases while on medical leave in San Diego. A female officer assigned to Naval Base Coronado has been killed and a Muslim woman is viciously beaten and left for dead.

Meg Larsen is in San Diego pursuing additional teaching credentials but is interested in becoming an active volunteer and helping Jake in his investigations. She’s more than ready for Jake to commit to her and give her a reason to alter her career plans but also gets drawn into the danger that surrounds his cases.

Jake must use his training and skill to keep everyone safe but there’s a chance that even if he’s successful in solving the cases, his relationship with Meg may be a fatality.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this book. I haven’t read the first two in the series, so I worried a bit about being able to understand the undercurrents between characters and the backgrounds and such. While I do think my experience with the story might have been richer if I’d read the others, and I would have understood Meg and Jake’s relationship more fully, I never felt lost during my reading of this book.

The plot was solid and interesting. The author does a good job with red herrings and mysteries and leaves the reader wondering just which way is up. There are plenty of misleading clues, along with solid ones, so we are just as deceived and confused as Jake and his NCIs are. It takes some sorting and sleuthing to figure it all out, but the mystery definitely comes to a satisfying ending.

The romance, for me, wasn’t the strongest part of the book, and this may be where my not having read the first two stories may have put me at a slight disadvantage. In the beginning, it seems as if Meg doesn’t trust Jake (she grills him a bit about whether he was with another woman when he traveled for work) and that made me not like her as much as I wanted to. Of course, we’re in Jake’s POV and can see that he wasn’t being unfaithful, and can also see how he feels about Meg, so that may be part of that, too. I was already on his side and didn’t like Meg questioning his loyalty.

There were some odd word choices, and some phrasings throughout, that were a bit awkward for me. It’s very likely a personal issue and may not bother most readers, but they did pull me out of the story on occasion.

That said, I really did like Jake and enjoyed watching him (with help from a few other folks) unwind the mystery of the murder and assault. He’s a good, honorable guy with plenty of smarts (and looks) and made a great hero for this romantic suspense novel.

All-in-all an enjoyable read. I do wish I’d read the first two books, but only because I really liked Jake and wanted to know more about him and his background. My TBR pile is incredibly tall, but I may have to add the first two Jake Bernstein books to the top!

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Everything We Left Behind by Kerry Lonsdale


Everything We Left Behind by Kerry Lonsdale
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (327 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

Two months before his wedding, financial executive James Donato chased his trade-laundering brother Phil to Mexico, only to be lost at sea and presumed dead. Six and a half years later, he emerges from a dissociative fugue state to find he’s been living in Oaxaca as artist Carlos Dominguez, widower and father of two sons, with his sister-in-law Natalya Hayes, a retired professional surfer, helping to keep his life afloat. But his fiancée, Aimee Tierney, the love of his life, has moved on. She’s married and has a child of her own.

Devastated, James and his sons return to California. But Phil is scheduled for release from prison, and he’s determined to find James, who witnessed something in Mexico that could land Phil back in confinement. Under mounting family pressure, James flees with his sons to Kauai, seeking refuge with Natalya. As James begins to unravel the mystery of his fractured identity, danger is never far behind, and Natalya may be the only person he can trust.

This story is the sequel to Everything We Keep and I’m glad the author chose to write Aimee and James’ story from his perspective because I’d been fascinated to know what really happened to him.

All is answered in this book. James is now Carlos, a widower with two boys and living in Mexico. As the story unfolds…it’s told in both the present and past as we learn what happened and how he ended up in a fugue state.

Aimee is now married with a child and I thought perhaps the story would focus on their reconnecting but instead it takes different course and the suspense deepens when his brother is released from prison. He was the catalyst for the drama surrounding James’ disappearance and in this book; he’s trouble with a capital T.

I thought this had more of a page turning quality to it than the first one and found myself reading more as I got farther into the book. It’s got a ticking clock quality to it and I found the characters really compelling

I obviously won’t give away the ending but let’s just say these two books have turned me into a die-hard fan of Ms. Lonsdale.

I strongly suggested reading the books in order to appreciate the sweeping and suspenseful story line.

Pretty Masks by C. A. Bell


Pretty Masks – A Twisted Tale of Revenge by C. A. Bell
Publisher: Self-published
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Short Story (120 pgs)
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Masking a problem doesn’t fix it. No matter how long you keep it covered.

We all hide behind masks. Whether that be a forced smile to a loved one after a long day. A sympathetic frown of concern to someone that doesn’t really matter to you. Or a professional face at work after an almighty row at home. The fact is, we all do it. We do it because we want to be prettier on the outside than we truly are on the inside. We do it to hide the cracks that have formed due to life. But what about the people who are forced to wear masks? The people who are forced to hide their true colours because society says so?

Life has thrown its fair share of crap at Lois Johnston, and the one thing that has kept her sane and going for the last seven years is her husband, Nathan. But what happens when the one person that is keeping you safe from yourself leaves, taking not only your heart, but your sanity with them as well?

For the first time in a long time Lois is about to remove the mask that was forced upon her years ago. But what’s matured underneath after years of heartache and hiding is something even uglier than before. Life has twisted her into a monster, and she’s about to set it free.

The book started off okay. Lois Johnston is waiting for her husband Nathan to come home, she had plans to greet him with a romantic dinner that she has made. Coming home late for the last four month, Nathan placates Lois by telling her that they will take a romantic trip soon. Lois doesn’t come across as a strong woman to me. Her husband basically showed her by his actions that she wasn’t a priority, that their marriage wasn’t a priority. It is sad that she is in a marriage where she is unseen and neglected. I didn’t like that the author didn’t give Lois a life. There wasn’t any mention of any close friends. I didn’t see Lois as a fully developed character for these reasons and that her story focused more on her tragedy and disorder and not on her as a woman.

The story does alternate from Lois’s past and present. Her past gives a glimpse of how she got to where she is in the present. The glimpses of her past do help to show how her disorder developed.

I understand the Dissociative Identity Disorder to a small degree and it was disclosed that she dealt with traumatic abuse, but I didn’t understand how if Lois has been doing fine with her disorder but all of a sudden she loses control of herself and starts her journey into a world of revenge and madness. I am not familiar with what brings about DID triggers nor did I expect the dark tale of sex and murder that personality X brought to the story. I am not sure how I feel about X standing up for Lois. I want Lois to be strong and take control of her fears and life, but not by a means of violence. I wanted her husband Nathan to reap what he sowed for hurting and neglecting Lois. I guess X made him pay by her standards of punishment and I couldn’t expect a happy or satisfying ending for someone dealing with impulsive behavior.

This is a short story that is sure to keep your attention as it takes you on a ride on the many faces of Lois. This is a good, quick read that delivers the dark side of Dissociative Identity Disorder and what could possibility be the devastating results.

August Mystery/Suspense Book of the Month Poll Winner ~ The Rose in the Wheel by S.K. Rizzolo


The Rose in the Wheel by S.K. Rizzolo
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Genre: Historical, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full (310 pgs)
Rated: 5 stars
Review by Rose

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

This well imagined, carefully detailed, and cleverly plotted debut draws on actual historical events of 1811 London.

Regency London knows Constance Tyrone as the conspicuously celibate founder of the St. Catherine Society, dedicated to helping poor women. One wet November evening a carriage mows down Constance outside her office. Why was a gentlewoman abroad in the night? And if she died under the wheel, whose hands bruised her neck and stole her monogrammed crucifix?

Dismissing the idea of an accident, Bow Street Runner John Chase forms an unlikely alliance with Penelope Wolfe, wife of the chief suspect. A young mother paying the price for an imprudent marriage, Penelope is eager to clear her husband Jeremy, a feckless portrait painter whose salacious drawings of the victim suggest an erotic interest. Barrister Edward Buckler, drawn despite himself to Penelope, shakes off his habitual lethargy to join the investigation.

As horrifying murders on the Ratcliffe Highway claim all London’s attention, the trio discovers that it won’t be easy to unravel the enigma of Constance Tyrone, a woman who revives the legend of martyred St. Catherine.

READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE!