A Murder in May by C. L. Shore

A Murder in May by C. L. Shore
Publisher: Wings ePress
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full length (352 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Snowdrop

When she learns about the murder of her childhood best friend, a nun join forces with a detective to find the killer. Their teamwork leads to progress on the case, but the killer proves elusive. Detective Jed McCracken sets a trap, and Sister Lucie becomes the bait. Will Sister Lucie outwit the murderer…or become the next victim?

A nun and a detective. Quite a combination.

This is almost what I’d call Crime Fiction since it involves a Detective using a nun to help him and the police with a case. A wife new to the convent having lost her husband in the line of duty teams up with her husband’s former partner. Makes for an interesting read.

My first thought about this book was that it seemed long. It is 352 pages and it did take me a little longer to read than other books. Could I say that there were a few “scenes” in this novel that could have been cut? Maybe so. On the other hand, I cannot say I was ever bored. In fact I was surprised that I was always eager to get back to it. There are not a lot of characters which makes it seem to me that the three that were in the spotlight could have been a little more developed. But they were each enjoyable and there was a lot of good dialog. It usually seems implausible that the police would work with a nun and a young lady working in a hotel but somehow this came across okay. I think this worked because it was well-written.

Since the characters were so likable, it seems that if they were fleshed out a little more, this would make a good series. Let’s hope we see book two.

Death of a Gossip by M. C. Beaton

Death of a Gossip by M. C. Beaton
Publisher: Warner Books
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (179 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

When society widow and gossip columnist Lady Jane Winters joined the fishing class, she wasted no time in ruffling the feathers-or was it the fins?-of those around her. Among the victims of her sharp tongue and unladylike manner was Lochdubh Constable Hamish Macbeth. Yet not even Hamish thought someone would permanently silence Lady Jane’s shrills-until her strangled body is fished out of the river. Now with the help of the lovely Priscilla Halburton-Smythe, Hamish must angle through the choppy waters of the tattler’s life to find the murderer. But with a school of suspects who aren’t ready to talk and dead women telling no tales, Hamish may be in over his head, for he knows that secrets are dangerous, knowledge is power, and killers usually do strike again.

Deep in the Scottish Highlands is a quaint little village called Lochdubh. Now that fishing season has opened, there are new recruits to the fishing school run by John and Heather Cartwright. When one of their students turns up murdered, the mystery falls to Constable Macbeth to solve. Is one backwoods constable equipped to solve a murder?

I find it highly amusing that, from the very beginning you know exactly who is going to get murdered. Why? Because she was the most annoying character I’ve ever encountered and I very well may have stopped reading if she’d survived. Lady Jane Winters, a nasty gossip columnist, doesn’t seem to have a decent bone in her body, letting everyone’s secrets slip in the most public of ways. I’m actually rather surprised that it took someone as long as it did to kill her. She made no friends during her visit to the fishing school.

Hamish Macbeth is hands down the best thing about this entire story. He’s quirky, he’s funny, and he absolutely aggravates every last person in Lochdubh. Even better is that he doesn’t care. He simply carries on with his day and mooches as many cups of coffee and free meals as he can. The tactics he employs are outlandish and suspect, but in the end, he gets the job done, all while aggravating Chief Inspector Blair, sent down from the larger city of Strathbane.

Cozy mysteries are quickly becoming a favorite go-to on my bookshelf. Death of a Gossip wasn’t the most gripping mystery, but it certainly was the funniest. I don’t know about you, but there is definitely a place for a laugh-out-loud mystery in my life. Jam packed with odd and sometimes annoying characters, Death of a Gossip is a quick and easy read that will bring you more than a taste of mystery.

Doomed Voyage by Bill Russell

Doomed Voyage by Bill Russell
Publisher: Class Act Books
Genre: Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (324 Pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Cyclamen

Adrift on the vast Pacific in a small boat with only a dim prospect of rescue, private investigator Toby Grant questions his wisdom in taking on such a whacky assignment. It sounded so easy coming from his natty little client. All he had to do was transport a bunch of supposedly phony diamonds across the ocean to Hong Kong as a decoy for the real shipment. In his mind, it was a chance for a free cruise and there was even a buck to be made. Who cared about the danger? Even Pam, his new wife cottoned to the idea. Turned out she was as big a thrill seeker as he. Now they are on an endless ocean in a leaking lifeboat, miles off the normal sea-lanes. Can things possibly get any worse?

Toby Grant gets hired to transport fake diamonds to Hong Kong, and he decides that the trip would make a wonderful vacation for him and his wife, Pam, a honeymoon, since they’d only been married for a few weeks. They would sail on the Pacific Empress which was best described as “a freighter that carried a few passengers.” She’d “started life as the S.S. Jacob Stearling, a ship built in 1942 and a veteran of both the North Atlantic run and the Normandy invasion.” Toby and Pam knew they weren’t going to have a luxury cruise, but still, it was a chance to see a bit of the world and make some money as well. Or so they thought.

Doomed Voyage is an action-packed story set in the years immediately following World War II. As the novel’s blub says, they end up trying to survive in a leaking lifeboat miles from the regular shipping lanes, but before they reach that desperate point, lots of things have happened. The ship has a crew of twenty and there are sixteen other passengers whom Toby and Pam have to investigate. I found that there were a lot of characters to keep straight, but the author used the dinner table assignments to introduce characters in smaller groups. Toby and Pam have dinner with a different pair each night, which allows the reader to get to know the supporting characters more slowly.

I really liked Toby and Pam and they seemed very real. The other passengers come from a cross-section of personality types and they are well-drawn. There are some who are easy to like and others who are asking to be kicked. The tension builds relentlessly as the ship leaves San Francisco and heads towards Hawaii.

The setting was well constructed. The era of the late forties was nicely captured and the atmosphere aboard the freighter seemed very realistic. The chief villain was relatively easy to spot, but many of the sub-plots were intricate and fascinating. The interaction between various characters was handled very deftly and I truly felt as if I was right there with Toby and Pam as the sharks, human and non-human, circled.

If you are looking for an historical mystery with lots of interesting characters and a complex plot, this might just be what you are looking for.

Shifting is for the Goyim by Elizabeth Zelvin


Shifting is for the Goyim by Elizabeth Zelvin
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Holiday, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (23 pages)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Home for Passover with the family? Or a full-moon run with a werewolf pack? When Amy Greenstein, aka Emerald Love, nice Jewish girl and rising country music star, says good-bye to her boyfriend after a show in Nashville, she doesn’t know she’ll never see him again. Good thing she’s a shapeshifter. She’ll need to use her paranormal skills to find the killer of the man she loved.

Emerald is a popular singer, but at home she’s just a nice Jewish girl called Amy. Home for Passover, Amy hides the truth of her relationship with Michael, her lead guitarist who is also her song writer. This is not her darkest secret and she hopes her family never find out the truth. When word comes Michael is dead, Emerald hurries to the scene of his death and discovers many unusual facts to do with his world and death which confuse her even more.

This story may be short but it is packed with emotion, mystery and action. In Amy/Emerald’s world shifters are accepted as part of the Goyim (non Jews) but there will never be a Jewish shifter. It’s just not possible. Her parents have decided it’s time their daughter is married and invite a nice Jewish boy to the Passover meal. So what does Amy/Emerald do? Am I being mean when I say read the story to find out?

The interaction between the characters in this book is paranormal but in an unusual way. A great mystery with an unexpected twist, something that always adds a bit of spice to a story. Good read for lovers of paranormal.

Curse of the Opal

Curse of the Opal

Opal is the birthstone for the month of October. You may have heard that the opal brings bad luck and is an evil stone. Some people claim that’s not true, while others know better. I was born in October and you’re safe—for now. A poem in honor of my latest release — Opal’s Disappearance.

Curse of the Opal
A Beautiful Opal
Burns With Fire
The Brilliant Colors
Like New Lovers Desire
Hot Glowing Color
From A Rainbow Of Hue
Given By An Admirer
Whose Heart Is True
A Gift From The Heart
To One That Is Loved
The Sparkle So Pure
Like The Stars Up Above
The Stars With Their Sparkle
That Dance Round The Moon
The Rainbow Of Colors
Could Spell Pending Doom
The Opal Is Worn
By Only A Few
And Worn Without Fear
If Your Birthmonth Is True
Do Not Try To Lie
Do Not Try To Cheat
The Curse Of The Opal
Is Bittersweet

Westerns – Dead? … or Forever in our Hearts? … Meg Mims

 First of all, Happy Anniversary to LASR!! Party hearty! 
Belly up to the bar if that’s your thing, order what you will. Pardon the peanut shells crunching underfoot and duck when you hear a gunshot. Don’t get your corset strings in a knot. The Old West Saloon is a friendly place. Cross my heart and hope not to die.
My book, DOUBLE CROSSING, is a “historical western romantic suspense” – try saying that with a mouthful of salty nuts. Double Crossing is my version of “True Grit” except on the Iron Horse. It’s quite a bit different from the Charles Portis novel, however: a murder arranged as a suicide… a missing deed… and a bereft daughter whose sheltered world is shattered…
August, 1869: Lily Granville is stunned by her father’s murder. Only one other person knows about a valuable California gold mine deed — both are now missing. Lily heads west on the newly opened transcontinental railroad, determined to track the killer. She soon realizes she is no longer the hunter but the prey. As things progress from bad to worse, Lily is uncertain who to trust—the China-bound missionary who wants to marry her, or the wandering Texan who offers to protect her … for a price. Will Lily survive the journey and unexpected betrayal?
Are westerns dead? Contemporary novels have flooded the genre market for years. But to me, a historical setting brings the past to life. I’ve always enjoyed researching details and incorporating them into my novels. Readers can learn a bit of history while enjoying a solid, entertaining story. And westerns, from favorite TV shows like Gunsmoke, Bonanza, The Rifleman and others to movies like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, True Grit and even Cowboys and Aliens, will always have a place in Americans’ hearts. Nowhere else in the world can boast our unique western history! So if you’re not a fan, start reading westerns!
Where do we get our ideas? For me, I had the germ of this idea the minute I sat down in a theater to watch Kim Darby, John Wayne and Glen Campbell in the original 1969 True Grit. Odd how that release was exactly 100 years after my chosen time setting for Double Crossing!
I fleshed out my characters by choosing images to help get a “fix” on them. I found a photo of an early silent film star, Mary Miles Minter, for Lily Granville – she looked mysterious.

Mary played a role in the scandalous unsolved murder of William Desmond Taylor, a famous film director. For my rough-and-tumble hero, I chose another tragic actor – Pete Duel, whose troubled life may have ended by his own hand. I remember watching him in a television western, though, and I loved his smile. Together these two make an interesting pair. They may be gone, but they spurred a fresh twist for my story. 
Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to comment on the blog posts – each one earns a chance to win the fantastic prizes from Long and Short Reviews. Best of luck!
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About the author: An avid reader of mystery and suspense, Meg Mims believes in justice being served in the end. She lives in Michigan with her husband, a black cat and a white ‘Make My Day’ Malti-poo. Meg earned an MA at Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction program, loves NCIS, Remington Steele and Sherlock Holmes, and visiting Victorian tea rooms.

A Matter of Justice by Steve Alcorn

A Matter of Justice by Steve Alcorn
Publisher: Mundania Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 4.5 Suns
Review by Snapdragon

Dani Deucer is a precocious twelve-year-old girl who wants to be a detective. She and her sister Stephanie are spending the summer in Three Rivers, California when Dani meets hobo Mott Simon. At first Dani is afraid of Mott because he’s different – he spends most of his time digging up the town’s flowerbeds! But when Mott is accused of murder Dani sets out to prove that sometimes first impressions can be wrong.

Like Harper Lee’s classic To Kill A Mockingbird, A Matter of Justice is a young girl’s exploration of what it means to be different. It’s also an exciting mystery that will keep readers guessing to the last page.

Book lover Dani can’t help but be a little distracted by the weirdo adult Mott Simon, when he happens to cross her path. She compared him to a river rat and thought he smell like peat moss, and every once in a while, she worried he might not really be a very nice man. Still, she hadn’t been brought up to make fun of people. And she had bigger worries, like what on earth will she do when she actually finishes every worthwhile read in the tiny library? If Dani’s summer sounds a little boring to you, imagine how she feels about living it.

Dani is twelve but she has a strong sense of justice. When Mott lands in trouble, she’s sharp enough to know there’s something fishy about the accusation–even if Mott’s behavior used to “give her the willies.” Let’s face it, and old hobo that likes to dig up flowers-–he’s an easy target for somebody. Dani realizes if she doesn’t help him, no one else will. More, his predicament is an opportunity; an opportunity for Dani to practice her best Nancy Drew type detecting, and figure out what really happened. She has a whole lot of curiosity to focus on something, and figuring out what really happened sure beats following chipmunks around.

Dani has to take on adults and along the way accept a little unexpected help from sister Stephanie. All together, summer in the California town of Three Rivers turns into a real who-dunit for Dani. The mystery takes a while to build into action, but Dani is so amusing, she carries the plot along until stuff happens.

I love the Three Rivers descriptions, from the little town and library to the mountain scenes. Dani and her family are such regular people, they could be anyone’s family. Stephanie is the oh-so typical sister, but still sometimes surprising. Sudden and unpredictable things happen, like a near hit-and-run accident. We know something more is going on in Three Rivers than meets the eye.

Fun and engaging from start to finish, you won’t be able to put down Alcorn’s A Matter of Justice.

Larklight by Philip Reeve

Larklight by Philip Reeve (David Wyatt, Illustrator)
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Genre: Action/Adventure, Historical, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full (400 pages)
Age Recommendation: 10+
Rating: 5 Suns
Review by: Orchid

Arthur (Art) Mumby and his irritating sister Myrtle live with their father in the huge and rambling house, Larklight, travelling through space on a remote orbit far beyond the Moon. One ordinary sort of morning they receive a correspondence informing them that a gentleman is on his way to visit, a Mr Webster. Visitors to Larklight are rare if not unique, and a frenzy of preparation ensues. But it is entirely the wrong sort of preparation, as they discover when their guest arrives, and a Dreadful and Terrifying (and Marvellous) adventure begins. It takes them to the furthest reaches of Known Space, where they must battle the evil First Ones in a desperate attempt to save each other – and the Universe.

Recounted through the eyes of Art himself, Larklight is sumptuously designed and illustrated throughout.

The back cover of this book states Larklight is “A Rousing Tale of Dauntless Pluck in the Farthest Reaches of Space”. This statement is intriguing and made me want to find out more.

First I had to put aside everything I’d heard about traveling or living in space, it didn’t apply here. Then I had to set my imagination free to fully enjoy the story.

This tale of space, adventure and mystery is set in Victorian times. The story is told by twelve year old Arthur (Art) Mumby and (from Art’s point of view) his irritating older sister Myrtle—or to be more accurate her diary. They live with their father in a house which is in orbit around the moon. Autoservants look after their needs and a gravity generator keeps all in place. The only thing they lack is their mother who died several years before in a spaceship accident.

Different species inhabit the planets and travel through the ether by wooden spaceships. Alchemists perform the “chemical wedding” of the alembum to enable the ship to move through space.

Art is a superb storyteller and relates how spiders cocoon Larklight in a gigantic web and destroy his father. He and his sister escape by lifeboat and land on the moon where they meet the fifteen-year-old pirate Jack Havock and his crew of aliens. The siblings are separated, reunited and separated again as Art and his friends attempt to alert the British Government to the danger coming towards Earth. Their journey takes them around the solar system until they eventually arrive in London in time for the opening of the Crystal Palace.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It has everything one could wish for. Humor, fainting ladies, horrible nasty creatures, dashing young heroes, and fantasy in a very unusual form. There are battles both in space and on planet surfaces and Art and his friends make discoveries which are totally unexpected. They rocket through space chased by the baddies and the goodies—aka the British Empire Space Navy—and become embroiled with an ancient race that seeks to take over the solar system.

Larklight is unique in its setting and the author and artist have collaborated on a further two books in the series taking the tale of Art and his family to further heights. This book is suitable for Middle Grade and Young Adults and I am positive Adults would enjoy reading it too. I have no hesitation in giving Larklight 5 suns as it is a book I would be happy to see my children to read.

Under the Waterfall by Sally Odgers

Under the Waterfall by Sally Odgers
Publisher: Devine Destinies
Genre: Contemporary, Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full (312 pages)
Age Recommendation: Not specified
Rating: 5 Suns
Review by: Orchid

Someone is out to kill Corrie. Athen Bard offers to help her, but why does he look so much like her disabled brother, Ethan? Why does everybody but Athen despise her? If Corrie is to survive, she needs to solve the mysteries, fast.

Athen Bard is amazed to meet a strange girl who looks just like his dead sister, Corrayo. In the world of Sisterin, women rule and men are unimportant. How can Athen deal with a girl who says she comes from another world?

“Be careful what you wish for, it might come true.” This phrase is often heard by young people when they are complaining about something not going their way. Unfortunately for Corrie, her wish did come true.

Three years after Corrie’s younger brother Ethan is badly hurt in an accident he still hasn’t fully recovered. Corrie usually accepts his slowness, but occasionally she feels stifled by the restraints her parents put in place to protect Ethan. A family holiday at a quiet campsite turns into a life threatening journey for Corrie when she swims through a waterfall and finds herself in another world.

The first person Corrie meets looks exactly like her brother, but his name is Athen. The language is slightly different but she discovers she has arrived in a world where women are in control. By a weird coincidence she discovers Athen’s sister Corrayo died in an accident three years before.

Everyone in Sisterin has a crede. Crede’s can be clothers, bards, scryers, seers, weavers or a member of one of the many other credes. Nullards have no creed and are considered too lazy to work. Males are bois who the women consider to be lesser citizens.

Athen, the bard, looks after the creedless Corrie. Despite several attempts to swim back through the waterfall, Corrie is unable to escape Sisterin and instead joins Athen in a visit to a seer who she dubs Weird Sarah. Corrie is overcome by sickness and even the slightest mishap affects her like a major accident. What awaits them at the seer’s will affect the future of Athen, Corrie and the seer.

Under the Waterfall catches the attention from the first page and continues to hold the reader right through to the last page. At first it seems Corrie will return home quite quickly, but when her attempts fail she is faced with a dilemma. Should she resign herself to a life in Sisterin? Or should she keep trying to get home. The similarities between her world and Athen’s cause her some confusion and at times put her in danger, but with Athen’s help she keeps trying to overcome the difficulties. The journey to the seer makes Corrie realize something more sinister is creeping up on her, threatening to destroy her completely.

The similarities between Athen and her brother Ethan, and herself and Athen’s dead sister, make Corrie take a good look at herself. She doesn’t like all that she sees but from what Athen tells her she thinks Corrayo was definitely the nastier one. Right to the very end there is no indication that Corrie will be successful in her attempt to return home. She even begins to doubt her very existence.

Ms Odgers has built a brilliant world and society, one which her main character could easily understand once she had overcome the initial strangeness. This is a strong story and it was a pleasant surprise to find the tale did not rely on elves, magic or ogres to carry it along. Well done Ms Odgers. This is definitely a book I am happy to recommend as a good read.