Night Unbound by Dianne Duvall

UNBOUND
Night Unbound by Dianne Duvall
Publisher: Zebra Books, Kensington Publishing Corp.
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Paranormal, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (425 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

For centuries, Lisette d’Alençon has been a warrior against the dark. She fights alongside her brothers and comrades. But when the dreams start coming, she can’t bear to confess them to the Immortal Guardians’ command. Dreams of a dark-haired man with soft eyes and brutal wounds, a man her heart aches for–and a man she knows has been declared a traitor.

Zach is an exile, a loner. He won’t defend himself against false accusations or grovel to those who should have faith in him. But he’ll damn sure defend the woman who kept him sane against a plague of super-vamps that seems to have appeared from nowhere. The Guardians will blame him, and that will make Lisette suspect, too. With life, death and eternity on the line, who can they really trust?

Fans of paranormal romance who haven’t discovered this series yet are really missing out on something extraordinary. Ms. Duvall has consistently proved her talent with every installment by delivering heart stopping action, thrilling escapes, sizzling romance and heroes and heroines that touch and engage the emotions of a reader. Every single book so far has been almost impossible to put down once I started and Night Unbound continues the tradition. I read it in one day, all 400+ pages. It was that compelling.

If readers like a bad good guy who is misunderstood, Zach is their man. If readers are looking for a romance that embraces sweet and naughty, that can be tender or frenzied, and defies all odds, including threat of death, then this is the book to read. If a race against time and the drama and suspense and all that that entails piques your interest, then a reader should feel right at home. If reading about a strong man who is not intimidated by a strong woman but is turned on by it, who acts like an adorable puppy with the heroine but can wield power better than Darth Vader, then Zach might be the man of your dreams. Zach’s personal growth in this story is tremendously painful but worth every angst filled page. What he turns into is worthy of a swoon – and a rousing cheer.

Lisette is the heroine who teaches Zach to crave a woman’s touch. She’s a warrior and has a wicked talent with swords. She’s also a very brave woman because she stood up to the threat of death in order to be with the man she loved. At no time did the author fall into the trap of making Lisette less than what she started off to be – a strong, independent woman with a confidence to match. Doesn’t mean she doesn’t make mistakes. But the make-up sheet fun was worth reading; every single scene. Well, there was that part that some would consider embarrassing, but I found tremendously funny. I don’t think her brother will recover any time soon. I giggle every time I remember that part.

Secondary characters are too numerous to mention. Perhaps a new reader might get lost when it comes to some of the deep emotional undercurrents between them, mostly because they are much more effective if a reader has the background. But Ms. Duvall did include enough backstory in the natural telling of this tale to catch a reader up to speed so I’m not too worried about calling this a standalone read. In any event, the secondary characters to keep an eye on for future stories are Seth and Aiden. I don’t know too much about Aiden yet but I recognize a wonderful hook when I see one. But Seth, Seth is special. In this novel readers will find out more about him then they ever dreamed they would all in one book. Now I know he is a man in need of love even more than the men I’ve met so far. It’s not too strong of a statement to say that I’m enamored of this series. It’s so rich and meaty!

As for bad guys, Ha! Get ready to be turned around upside down. I was as discombobulated as Zach and as frustrated as Seth. Who could do the impossible and do all that was done? The suspense and mystery of it all had me gripped by my short hairs. I’m still reeling from the ramifications. It was awesome writing.

Night Unbound isn’t just a story, it’s a profound experience. The editing, the characterization, the dialogue, the pace and delivery of the plot and all its environs were simply spot on. I am hard pressed to find anything that didn’t work for me. I adored how Lisette and Zach were together – watching their love grow made me happy. There is sadness too, and tenderness and even hope and joy woven in to keep things balanced. Night Unbound has everything a paranormal romance reader could possibly wish and then some. I cannot express enough my pleasure and satisfaction from having read this book but I encourage readers to discover the unique richness that abounds in Ms. Duvalls books. This book and the rest are treasures.

Guarded by Mary Behre

GUARDED
Guarded by Mary Behre
Publisher: Berkley Sensastion
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Paranormal, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (293 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

She’s given up on finding love…

Veterinarian Shelley Morgan has always preferred animals to humans, and not simply because she can communicate with them psychically. Unlike most people she’s known, animals have never broken her heart. But after six months in her new town, some of her favorite four-legged companions begin disappearing from the local zoo. Determined to track down the animals and their thief, the telepathic vet decides to investigate, unknowingly delving into a deadly mystery…

He’s ready to make her heart go wild…

Although his bear-like physique has been an advantage in the Tidewater Police Department, Dev Jones’s size often intimidates people. Only Shelley has seen past his massive build to the intelligent man inside, but that was years ago. So when she contacts him requesting his help to solve a series of animal kidnappings, he’s eager to reconnect with her. But the thefts escalate to murder and all the evidence points to Shelley as the killer, and Dev faces a devastating choice: forsake his career or risk losing the woman he’s grown to love…

This book surprised and confounded me. When the villain was revealed you could have put an apple in my mouth and knocked me over with a feather because I was so stunned, all I could do was gape and stare. AWESOME!

Guarded picks up where Spirited left off – with another sister discovered. The Scott sisters have some unique paranormal gifts. Although these types of gifts have been used before in other romances, Ms. Behre has placed her own imaginative and creative mark on them. This time around it’s being able to speak to animals and it comes with all the mayhem and unique crises that can arise from it. It made perfect sense to me that Shelley was a veterinarian.

Even though I didn’t rate this story quite as high as the first book, which continues to blow my mind when I remember how cool it was, Guarded is still a high recommend. I think I was confused quite a few times because there was SO much action and frenetic responses to the drama and suspense mixed in with a rather large cast of characters, I found myself lost on just who was who speaking to whom and doing what. It caused me to reread parts just to get it straight.

There is no doubt in my mind that readers who enjoyed Spirited are going to be equally enthralled with Ms. Behre’s latest mystery. There are red herrings and villains who they’ll figure out but it’s the one that remains a true mystery until the big reveal that could leave them as amazed as I was. The intricate web of revenge the author wove is truly mind boggling because now that I know the end results, I remembered certain ‘meaningful’ moments that actually had a more profound impact than what I initially read. Being able to weave those kinds of details in is talented writing.

Part of a diabolical mystery is the fact of casualties. I almost stopped reading this book because of one certain death. The author had introduced a character that she imbued with enough heart, dreams and the feelings of strong emotion that when the secondary character met a bad end, I was heartbroken. It affected me greatly. You do know what that means, right? Ms. Behre did her job. If the character was a one dimensional throwaway person, I wouldn’t have cared. I would have shrugged and say, “Okay, that’s just to show how far the bad guy will go,” and that would have been that. Instead, I was so shocked I almost couldn’t go on. But of course, I did … a couple of weeks later, but I did restart reading. I’m very glad I did. The death was not in vain and for that I applaud the author. From that point on, the action and pace picked up even more and I never stopped reading until the end of the epilogue. Guarded is a mind bending roller coaster of a read.

Remember earlier I said that I was confused because of too many characters on scene? Wait until you get a load of Ryan and Ian. There was something about those guys that intrigued my ‘yummy meter’. I cracked up when a monkey took something away and their reaction to the zoo situation was priceless. They are two secondary characters that would make ideal heroes in future books. I hope they do. I liked meeting them, even if so briefly and during so crazy a pace. Then, there is Seth and Jules from Spirited, and the sheriff and other town characters and talking animals and the cutest ferret I’ve ever read about. It’s quite the menagerie but every single person or animal, or ghost, played a role that was pivotal, sentimental, sweet or surprising, not to mention fascinating.

Here is where I must thank the author profusely. She made her male characters smart. And I mean awesome smart, quick on the uptake, it’s a clue and they GOT IT, smart. I knew what happened to Shelley. I understood it immediately but she brushed it off. I was yelling at her, “No! Don’t just disregard this, it’s a clue, you have a clue!” But of course, she can’t see what a reader can see. But the guys did. I was so happy that I wanted to hug all of them. As it was, I did a happy chair dance. Because one was a marine, the other a cop and the other, I think a P.I., the author had them living up to their professions. I am impressed. They were heroes!

There is so much more to talk about but I have to reign myself in. Guarded is definitely a standalone story, it has a sweet happy ever after, it has some hot and sexy exchanges between Shelley and Dev, and it ends with a perfect hook. Of course it won’t come as a surprise that they get a lead on Shelley and Jule’s final sister but it’s the other discovery they made in this novel that indicates that this may not be the end after all. And that’s a wonderful thing. This really has been an amazing series so far and I highly recommend reading both Guarded and Spirited because they are both excellent reads. True keepers because their stories are so chock full of details and dialogue, I’m sure I missed something the first time around. This is worth re-reading, guaranteed.

Fire Sign by M.A. Petterson

FIRE
Fire Sign by M.A. Petterson
Publisher: Self-published
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (44 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

A beautiful forensic engineer hiding a tragic past reluctantly teams up with a troubled cop to stop a serial arsonist targeting churches.

Dr. Anja Toussaint believes that her own dreadful youth foretells who the arsonist is and the shocking motive behind the fires. But Detective Gil Dolan stubbornly sets his sights on a white supremacist previously convicted of arson and just released from prison.

Unfortunately, when Anja blocks his efforts the arrogant cop sets his own plan into motion that leads them both into a fiery trap.

Some cases literally heat up the longer they go unsolved. Will Anja be able to figure out who has been setting all of these fires before one of them turns deadly?

Anja’s strong personality and tendency to say exactly what on her mind threw me off at first, but I soon grew to appreciate her preference for simple, clear communication. She isn’t necessarily the friendliest forensic engineer I’ve ever met, but there was something irresistibly intriguing about her self-confidence and dedication to her work. It seems that this is the beginning of a new series, so I’ll be interested in seeing what cases she tackles next.

This plot is jam-packed full of characters. In something full-length it would make sense to introduce so many people who only have a tangential relationship to what was going on, but there were a few too many of them for a short story of this size. I had trouble keeping all of the characters straight due to the large number of them.

With that being said, the mystery itself was fun to unravel. I’ve never read anything in this genre about arson or insurance fraud. It was a nice change of pace from the typical murder plots I normally read in this genre. Exactly enough clues were provided to give me a good idea of what might happen next, but I was still surprised by how the author tied certain things together.

I’d recommend Fire Sign to anyone in the market for a creative spin on the mystery genre.

Conduit by Angie Martin

CONDUIT
Conduit by Angie Martin
Publisher: Indie World Publishing and Author Services
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Suspense/Mystery, Action/Adventure
Length: Full Length (308 pgs)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

How do you hide from a killer when he’s in your mind?

Emily Monroe conceals her psychic gift from the world, but her abilities are much too strong to keep hidden from an equally gifted killer. A savvy private investigator, she discreetly uses her psychic prowess to solve cases. When the police ask her to assist on a new case, she learns the killer they seek is not only psychic, but is targeting her.

The killer wants more than to invade her mind; he wants her. Believing they are destined for each other, he uses his victims as conduits to communicate with her, and she hears their screams while they are tortured. She opens her minds to help the victims, but it gives him a portal that he uses to lure her to him. With the killer taking over her mind, she must somehow stop him before she becomes his next victim.

Conduit is an entertaining novel with a very good plot that would be perfect for the movie screen. Though it may sound kind of warped I couldn’t put the book down when the killer was stalking his next victim. The book kept my interest and had me ready to see what would happen next. Angie Martin shows her talent and her skills as an author in this well crafted novel of a serial killer’s psychotic mind and the trail of bodies he leave in order to get to the woman he wants. I found the book easy to read. The author has a way of writing that flowed, and gave a visual that I could actually picture as I read. The characters were well developed and likable. The villain of the novel, David Noakes is well developed with a believable malicious and satanic mind.

There is no mystery in the novel as to who the killer is, we already know. It’s more about will the killer get to his intended target? This is a novel of kidnapping, torture and murder so this type of subject matter may not be for the faint of heart.

I enjoyed the clean storyline and how the author did not fall into societies trend of boy meets girls, and they jump into bed. I appreciated reading a book where the couple obviously has a very strong attraction between each other but were willing to wait before introducing the physical part into their relationship. I enjoyed the relationship between Detective Lionel Edwards and his wife Barbara. They have been married for years, and being in the line of work as a detective the life span of a marriage isn’t that long. But Lionel and his wife have found a balance that works for them. They also were an example to the other couples in the book.

Conduit is a filling novel that an avid reader like myself enjoy finding. I am a happy reader that will be looking to see what else Angie Martin has written and I definitely will be adding her to my authors to follow list.

You wouldn’t want to miss out on this great read, so be sure to get a copy!

Northern Lights by Sharon McGregor

LIGHTS
Northern Lights by Sharon McGregor
Publisher: Prism Books
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Short Story (64 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Maddie Smart is at a crossroads. Her job and her relationship have both suddenly ended. On the advice of a friend she flies to a northern fishing lodge to recoup and plan her next move. Here she meets fishermen who don’t fish, a policeman who does, a man who says he’s seen Sasquatch and a lodge owner who sets her pulses racing.

She finds herself running headlong into danger with no idea of who she can trust. Her feelings for Lodge owner Rupert are clouded by his hot and cold moods, and her growing suspicions of his right hand man’s involvement in a bear part harvesting ring. Maddie must face her deepest fear before she can find answers. She also must learn to trust again before she can find her own happy ending.

Have you ever been to Alaska or other north country? Maddie hasn’t. But when she loses her job and her boyfriend on almost the same day, it seems like a good idea to make a fresh start. After all, it’s only a temporary job and she’ll be back home soon. It sounds like a good place to think.

This author writes an interesting tale of a city girl in the country. She’s afraid of bears and sasquatches, she doesn’t trust fisherman who don’t fish and why is the RMCP undercover?

She finds her new boss attractive, but he’s hot and cold. One minute he’s kissing her, the next he’s mad at her because she’s been wandering around alone outside. He claims he’s worried about bears, but she thinks there is more to it than that.

When someone pushes her off the edge of the watchtower, she knows it for sure. Rupe didn’t like her looking info up on the computer about the lodge and the environment, but he’s there to save her from a fall. He still doesn’t want to tell her anything. She’s upset because she saw his right hand man meeting in an old cabin with one of the non-fishing fishermen, and she thinks he’s up to something. Rupe says no. But what else would he say if he’s involved in it?

This is a busy story with both good and bad characters. Ms. McGregor uses bear poaching and organ harvesting as the crime, and this is a real problem. If you’re not familiar with it, just do an internet search. That’s how Maddie became aware of it. The romance is a bit rushed: at first they don’t trust each other, and then they have wedding plans. However, I believe in love at first sight, so I can accept that.

Why don’t you take a walk in the woods with Maddie? Just don’t notice the Sasquatch. That will help chill the rumors.

Split Second by David Baldacci

SPLIT
Split Second by David Baldacci
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (512 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

Michelle Maxwell has just blown her future with the Secret Service. Against her instincts, she led a presidential candidate out of her sight to comfort a grieving widow. Then, behind closed doors, the politician whose safety was her responsibility vanished into thin air.

Living a new life on a quiet lake in central Virginia, Sean King knows how the younger agent feels. He’s been there before. In an out-of-the-way hotel eight years earlier, the hard-charging Secret Service man allowed his attention to be diverted for a split second. And the presidential candidate Sean was protecting was gunned down before his eyes.

Now Michelle and Sean are about to see their destinies converge. She has become obsessed with Sean’s case. And he needs a friend—especially since a series of macabre killings has brought him under suspicion and prompted the reappearance of a seductive woman he’s tried hard to forget.

As the two discredited agents enter a maze of lies, secrets, and deadly coincidences, they uncover a violence that shattered their lives were really a long time in the making – and are a long way from over.

Michelle Maxwell has just made a decision that will change her life forever, ending her stint with the Secret Service. It’s set her on a new path she never expected. Sean King has been there and done that once already. As a former Secret Service agent himself, he’s screwed up and recovered, making a happy new life for himself. However, when King and Maxwell’s worlds collide, more than sparks are going to fly.

Sean King is a fascinating and aggravating man. He’s been where Michelle is now and is both sympathetic to her plight as well as slightly obnoxious at the same time. Despite his ability to completely rile her, I loved him from the moment I met him. He carries the arrogance gained while working for the Secret Service, a trait you no doubt need to keep important people safe, but tempers it with humor and seductiveness that not even calm, cool, and collected Michelle Maxwell can resist. Sean is also intelligent, resourceful, and loyal, three things Michelle needs now more than anything.

On the other hand, Michelle Maxwell is young and upcoming in the Service, right until the moment she makes a fatal mistake. By letting a presidential candidate out of her sight for mere moments, he’s kidnapped and her life comes to a standstill. To her credit, she doesn’t curl up in a ball and cry. Quite the opposite. With the help of Sean King and his years of experience, they come together and discover more than what happened to Michelle’s charge.

Split Second was an intense ride taking us through both Michelle’s current situation and running headlong into the incident many years past that caused Sean’s stint with the Service to come to an abrupt end. The way that the two stories come together in the end is both satisfying and exciting. If this first novel in the King & Maxwell series is any indication, the ones that follow are going to be one heck of a roller coaster of action and suspense. I am eagerly anticipating getting to know these two better in the future.

Dream Huntress by Michelle Sharp

DREAM
Dream Huntress by Michelle Sharp
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (335 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Hawthorn

Detective Jordan Delany has a gift. Through her dreams, she connects with dead victims of violent crimes. Her isolated life as a drug cop is perfect for hiding the freakish visions, until her newest investigation has her posing as a cocktail waitress in a down-and-dirty strip club. When she’s saved from a drunken customer by a handsome stranger, the heated chemistry is exactly why she intends to keep Mr. Arrogant at bay. But learning he’s the new bouncer for the corrupt club she intends to bust just might be the one reason why she can’t.

Tyler McGee suspects a drug ring operating out of the local club is flooding the streets of his hometown with heroin. Determined to get answers, he plays the part of a fallen cop and lands the job of head bouncer. What he discovers is that the club owner isn’t the only deadly obstacle he’s facing. His attraction to an intriguing cocktail waitress with a penchant for danger just might kill him first.

Dream Huntress is a suspenseful read that you won’t want to put down.  The biggest reason for that are the very convincing main characters and the chemistry between them. Jordan is written as a feisty, ingenious and independent woman whose dangerous job keeps her busy enough to distract her from her demons. I liked how she feared no one and gave back as good as she got.

Similarly, Tyler is a man who is sure of himself and his male charms but in a fun, down-to-earth way that doesn’t make him seem arrogant. The quick-paced romance between Jordan and Ty made for an enticing, fast read. Jordan’s struggling with her emotions and the need to keep Ty at a distance was completely believable, although perhaps mentioned a few times too many. Bahan, Jordan’s boss, was another intriguing character, well-portrayed and interesting.

The romance part of the novel was far more interesting than the plot with the police chasing the drug dealers. That was too simple since practically nothing happened in that regard until the very end. When Jordan had a vision of the final conflict, she was convinced the other cop in the diner was corrupt even though there was no proof – he might have pointed his gun at Ty because he didn’t know Ty was an undercover cop and he was waving his gun around in a diner. Also, Ty and Jordan kissed way too many times at the Buck’s bar parking lot and it seemed highly unlikely that no one noticed them.

Despite the fairly simple undercover investigation plotline, the novel is compelling because of the relationship between Ty and Jordan. Their relationship repeatedly made them deliriously happy on one page and brokenhearted on the next, and it was complex enough to enthrall me.

The undercover stint is a great background to the hot romance between two cops who can’t fight the attraction between them despite the dangers a relationship entails.

Unlucky 13 by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

13
Unlucky 13 by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (416 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

The Women’s Murder Club is stalked by a killer with nothing to lose.

San Francisco Detective Lindsay Boxer is loving her life as a new mother. With an attentive husband, a job she loves, plus best friends who can talk about anything from sex to murder, things couldn’t be better.

Then the FBI sends Lindsay a photo of a killer from her past, and her happy world is shattered. The picture captures a beautiful woman at a stoplight. But all Lindsay sees is the psychopath behind those seductive eyes: Mackie Morales, the most deranged and dangerous mind the Women’s Murder Club has ever encountered.

In this pulse-racing, emotionally charged novel by James Patterson, the Women’s Murder Club must find a killer–before she finds them first.

After all the chaos surrounding her daughter’s birth, and subsequent illness, things in the Boxer-Mollinari household are finally settling down. That’s what she’s hoping for anyway, until a killer from her past resurfaces – Mackie Morales. If that were the only issue Lindsay was dealing with, she might be okay, but with two of her best friends in scary, improbable situations, she finds herself being torn in seven different directions at once. Who will she help first and how will it all turn out?

Lindsay Boxer has been my favorite character from the beginning of this series. I’ve loved her drive, her determination, and her ability to keep moving forward when everything else around her is falling apart. To see her finally get her man (and not have him die on her) and find happiness has been a relief to me. As awesome as her dog, Martha, is, a girl needs something more sometimes. And Joe is that something.

As far as the rest of the Women’s Murder Club goes, I’ve also always adored Claire’s character. The motherly, always enthusiastic medical examiner is there whenever you need a bit of levity – or motherly advice – thrown into a situation. That said, it’s taken me awhile to get used to Yuki. Even now, she has her moments when she makes me a bit crazy, but what she goes through in this book makes her a little less needy and more tolerable. Cindy, on the other hand, continues to grate on my nerves. She’s reckless, she’s selfish, and she’s seemingly consumed with a desire to get her man back, after she threw him away to begin with. I keep hoping she’ll grow up and become an adult, but it hasn’t happened yet.

I’ve been a long-time reader of this series and anxiously await each new installment in the Women’s Murder Club series. I will admit, I was a bit wary when approaching this newest novel simply because the last couple haven’t really been up to caliber of the earlier ones. However, I was pleasantly surprised with Unlucky 13. James Patterson’s knack for creating intense, intricate storylines is back full force. Even though one of the three plot lines was a bit more exaggerated than I expected, I still think it worked out well and really kept the level of intensity high throughout. Unlucky 13 was an enjoyable, fast read that kept me on the edge of my seat – and rather unwilling to eat another fast food hamburger ever.

But Names Will Never Hurt Me: A Hilary Adams Mystery by Linda Y. Atkins

NAMES
But Names Will Never Hurt Me: A Hilary Adams Mystery by Linda Y. Atkins
Publisher: Turquoise Morning Press
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (317 Pages)
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Cyclamen

Hilary Adams, a talented criminal defense attorney, receives a late night phone call from her friend, Judge Susan Emmett-Bradley, who has found her estranged husband, John Bradley dead—viciously murdered.

In defending the judge, Hilary finds herself catapulted into a tangled web of deceit, corruption and infidelity. John Bradley clearly wasn’t whom she thought he was, and the unknown side of him gets creepier by the minute. And what’s worse, Susan doesn’t seem herself either, and her secrets can make her defense very difficult. When Lieutenant Peter Elliot starts asking the hard questions, Hilary will have to do everything she can to stop him from sending the wrong person to trial.

I’m sure we’ve all gotten caught up in books we couldn’t put down. For me, But Names Will Never Hurt Me is such a book and my six fur friends were not happy that their dinner ended up late as a result.

The plot is complex and fast-moving. Just when I though I had things figured out, another twist would take me in a new direction. The clues were all present. The author plays fair with her readers. Nevertheless, I couldn’t figure it all out until the end.

Hilary Adams is a wonderful, strong, well-defined character and I liked her from the moment I met her, as she was awakened from a deep sleep in the middle of the night by a phone call from her friend Judge Susan Emmett-Bradley. Susan’s husband, John Bradley, has been viciously murdered and Susan has found him.

From the moment Hilary arrives on the scene, she discovers that things are not what they seem. It also doesn’t help that Lieutenant Peter Elliot is in charge of the investigation because Peter and Hilary were involved and then Hilary backed off from the relationship, feeling that it was too soon after the death of her husband. That added dynamic enriches the plot and causes both Hilary and Peter to react in ways that they might normally not have done.

Hilary is very smart and she is going to need every ounce of her intelligence and her detective skills to defend a client who is less than truthful, a friend who has been keeping some pretty major secrets from her. I really didn’t like Susan much and there are a number of other suspects who were equally unappealing personally, but they definitely ramped up the suspense and made Hilary’s job harder.

If you’re a mystery fan, looking for a riveting tale which can’t be put down, then this might just be what you’re looking for. But do feed any fur friends first.

No Last Tattoo by Isabel Chloe

TATTOO
No Last Tattoo by Isabel Chloe
Publisher: Self-published
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (92 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Paige Steward had met a mystic woman in the antique market on a cold January weekend. This woman brought her questions that overwhelmed her with pain and led her to a destructive path. This early summer night, Paige and the mystic woman were more than two thousand miles apart and recalling all their meetings on their own terms. Each of their meetings was related to one brutal crime in the past four and half years. However, there were more secrets behind these crimes than anyone involved imagined. Who was truly responsible for these crimes? Who was completely innocent and who was truly guilty? More surprises awaited these two women. Death was preying on them to become new victims. Would they suffer like their victims in the past? Who would be the next sacrifice to the cruelty of fate? Only one thing was certain. A new death was guaranteed very soon. Who would be allowed to survive?

Revenge is a dish best served on your own terms, whatever those terms may be.

I couldn’t predict any of the plot twists in advance, and that isn’t something that normally happens to me due how familiar I am with the mystery genre. It was a lot of fun to be kept guessing until the very end. Ms. Chloe has a vivid imagination and she clearly took full advantage of it when writing this tale.

The pacing felt disjointed. It’s divided up into a few different sections that almost seem to function as their own stories. While each section moved along fairly smoothly, transitioning among them was sometimes bumpy due to how many different time the perspective switched from one character to the next. I appreciated the backstory that later sections provide, but it was a little too detailed for something this length.

In the beginning I was sure I had Paige figured out. The hints about her past are illuminating, but no sooner did I think I’d pieced them all together correctly than another twist would knock them apart again. I enjoy meeting protagonists who defy categorization and make their own rules. Paige is definitely a complex woman, so it was rewarding to figure out what makes her tick and why she behaves the way she does.

I’d recommend No Last Tattoo to anyone who likes mysteries that are not easily unravelled. There are a lot of tantalizing clues here to be discovered, but none of them are easy to fit together!