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

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.

I absolutely LOVE English mysteries– movies, books, TV shows — you name it, I’m willing to give it a shot. So when thihs book became available to review, I jumped at it, and I’m so very glad I did.

With it being a debut novel, I was prepared for a few issues and, with it also being the first book in a series, there was the very good chance that it might be a little slow in places as the author introduces her characters. What a surprise when none of those expectations came to pass. The book kept me intrigued to the point where anytime I had a few minutes, I picked my reader up to read another few pages.

The characters are wonderfully drawn, and I really enjoyed the chemistry between them. I’m looking forward to reading more and seeing how their relationships grow in future books. One of my very favorites is Penelope’s daughter, Sarah. Children are sometimes hard to capture, but she is just adorable.

The pacing moved right along without feeling rushed, and the mystery itself was very neatly solved with true detection and “putting the puzzle together-ness” that was refreshing. Often a mystery will be solved through a series of coincidences and pure luck, and it’s not the case here. All the clues are there for the reader to see, and this reader was surprised at the culprit. Always the mark of a good mystery, in my book.

I would love to see this series wind up on BBC (are you listening?)… it’s that good.

I’ve already downloaded the next book in the series, and I can wait to jump back in the world of Chase, Wolfe, and Buckler. Kudos, Ms. Rizzolo– you are now on my auto-buy list, so I hope you have many more books in store for us.

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Riverside Lane by Ginger Black


Riverside Lane by Ginger Black
Publisher: Momentum Books
Genre: Mystery
Length: Full Length (260 pages)
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

After arranging a house swap with a debonair antiques dealer, a darkly handsome American named Luca Tempesta arrives in a quaint English village. Tempesta, who claims to run a detective agency in Los Angeles, is supposedly on holiday – but the inhabitants of the village are unconvinced.

Yet, as they attempt to solve the mystery of the stranger in their midst, it gradually transpires that there are more than enough secrets to go around in the village itself, harboured by the local MP and his uptight, ambitious wife; the has-been former game show host; the respectable couple with the jailbird son; the hometown journalist, striving for a scoop that will rescue her from debt; and so on. The place is revealed as a labyrinth of deception masquerading as a picture-postcard hamlet; tension begins to mount in between the dinner parties and evenings at the pub, and soon culminates in an unexpected death.

Behind perfect privets and brightly painted front doors, the lives of Riverside Lane’s residents slowly unravel. Tempesta, guarding his secrets with a vengeance, is suddenly threatened with exposure by the elderly religious zealot Ivy Midwinter, whose own past involved keeping professional confidences. When she challenges him in church, she learns that Tempesta will stop at nothing to protect his privacy …

Set against the exquisite backdrop of a gastronomic village by the Thames, Riverside Lane is a tautly paced page-turner that also gently satirises middle- class English manners: the upstanding denizens of the village watch and whisper behind a mask of English hauteur, whilst their own fragile lives come undone.

I love English movies- especially mysteries – and I really enjoy the ones that give us a slice of British life along with the mystery. If you’re like me, you should give Riverside Lane a try. At first glance, you are presented with a slight mystery to tantalize the inhabitants of Riverside Lane when an American shows up as part of a house swap. It soon becomes evident, though, that there is more to this American than meets the eye, and we also are drawn into the undercurrents that are part of English village life.

Not only does the American have secrets, we soon find that every member of the village does as well. Ms. Black does a masterful job of bringing those secrets out and letting us have a glimpse of them.

It is very character driven, and we get to know the good, the bad, and the ugly about them. It’s true that you never know what goes on behind closed doors, and this is amply illustrated in this book.

Kudos to Ms. Black. This is my first time reading this author, but it definitely won’t be my last.

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A Cunning Heist by Astrid Arditi

A Cunning Heist by Astrid Arditi
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full (320 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rated: 5 stars
Review by Rose

Sloane Harper has sworn off men—for her sanity, and her safety. But with or without men, trouble always seems to find Sloane.

When her ex’s ex-mistress comes knocking for help, Sloane does what she does best : she helps way more than she should. As she investigates London’s art scene, Sloane runs into a very handsome but very shady artist, a quirky bunch of thieves, and a cunning old flame. Perhaps Sloane should have sworn off playing private detective instead of men.

I absolutely loved this book and the characters! It’s the second in the series, but there was no trouble following the story. I am going to get the first book as well, though, just because the writing and the main characters are that appealing.

The main character, Sloane, is a fairly recent divorcee with two girls and a maid who does very little. She also had a relationship with Ethan Cunning (see what she did there?) in the last book and helped him solve a crime. He’s been MIA for a while now, though, and Sloane has decided he was just using her. Fine, she’d just concentrate on her children and get on with her life.

Then, Kate (her ex-husband’s ex-lover who was also very involved in the first story) asks for her help, and Sloane just can’t say no, which plunges her into some very madcap adventures (I’ll never be able to look at kibbeh the same way again).

The action is non-stop, the mystery is intriguing, the emotional aspects of Sloane’s life are all top-notch! Ms. Arditi, you nailed this one, and I can’t wait to go back and read the first book as well as add you to my auto-buy list.

An Unwilling Suspect by Jo A. Hiestand


An Unwilling Suspect by Jo A. Hiestand
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full (155 pages)
Rating: 4 stars
Review by Rose

McLaren’s fiancée tragically died one month ago. Trying to heal emotionally from her death, McLaren settles into a rented farmhouse in the woods near picturesque Lake Windermere, in Cumbria. But he’s barely had a chance to rest when Helen, the woman in the neighboring cottage, is killed…and is discovered near his front door.

Because McLaren had spent much of the previous day with her, and his snowy footprints lead to and from her house, he becomes the prime murder suspect in what the police label a frustrated romantic advance.

Motives for Helen’s murder are as chilling as the outdoor temperature. There’s the hands-on garage mechanic who’d like to put his hands all over her, the affluent fishing guide, and Helen’s former boyfriend who wanted to renew the relationship.

Can McLaren find the killer before the police jail him for murder?

This is the 7th book in the McLaren mystery series, and they just keep getting better and more intense. This volume begins with McLaren mourning the death of his fiancée—and his friends are worried about him. He is offered a place of refuge where he can deal with Dena’s death (and where there aren’t so many memories). What is supposed to be a quiet, restful time, however, turns out to be anything but when a neighbor he had helped gets murdered, and the clues point squarely at McLaren.

McLaren is at his best when he’s solving a problem, and here he has a doozy of one! Having once been a policeman, he knows how to deal with the locals when they come by, and he, along with his friend Jamie, sift through what they know and what they can learn in order to find out who killed Helen and who is trying to frame (and possibly kill) McLaren himself.

Ms. Hiestand does a wonderful job with the emotional and physical aspects of grief—I could feel the pain McLaren was going through. Her descriptions of the area as well are so well-drawn that I could picture myself right there.

If you’ve not tried the McLaren mysteries before, don’t hesitate to pick this one up. Even though it is part of a series, I don’t think a new reader would have any trouble getting involved in the book. 4 stars, Ms. Hiestand, and good job.

The House on Devil’s Bar by Jessie McAlan


The House on Devil’s Bar by Jessie McAlan
Publisher: Cousins House
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/suspense
Length: Full (161 pgs)
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

The police verdict of a woman’s accidental drowning in the Mississippi River does more than set tongues wagging in the small Missouri town of Klim; it starts a flood of cancellations that threaten to sink Rona Murray’s bakery and events business. And blacken her good name. Determined to save both, she starts her own investigation to prove she and her property are blameless. Barbara Lindborg had stopped by Linn House to consider renting it for a party. Yet, when Rona returned from accepting a delivery, the woman had vanished.

Rona’s preliminary search for Barbara yields nothing more than suggestive footprints on the Bar. Did the woman accidentally fall into the river? Was she pushed – and if so, why? A later hunt reveals Barbara’s cell phone in the woods. How did it get halfway up the hill if the woman drowned a hundred feet below? The phone’s camera holds snaps of Klim, its residents, and the Bar. Do any of these hold a clue to her death? Or did her and Rona’s earlier conversation about history and treasure have a different meaning?

Suspects and motives pop up like bubbles in yeast. Is Matt, an employee, still bitter about his and Barbara’s divorce? What about Rona’s own ex, Johnny? Is he trying to drive her out of business, or is his current girlfriend, Crystal, jealous of their relationship and trying to eliminate the competition? A bit like calling the kettle black, for Crystal seems very friendly with Frank, the bad boy neighbor. Frank isn’t lily-white, either. He dislikes Rona; is he behind the pranks on her property or mixed up in Barbara’s death? It isn’t until Rona’s life is threatened one stormy night that she learns the killer’s identity and her true feelings about Johnny.

This is the debut of author Jessie McAlan, the first book in a series, and I’m already looking forward to the next one. I love amateur detective stories, and this one hit all the right notes for me. A spunky hard-headed heroine (who sometimes gets a little too independent and thus gets herself into trouble), a great cast of supporting characters, and a mystery for us to puzzle out along with her. And, she did a good job with this one—there were plenty of red herrings for us to follow and, I have to admit, I was surprised at the “bad guy.”

There were a couple of inconsistencies within the book but not bad enough to mar my enjoyment of the book (the curse of being an editor in a former life). Being the first in a series that centers on a small town, there was a lot of introducing of characters which is necessary and was well done so as not to overwhelm the reader, yet I got a little confused when the heroine, Rona, used a nickname while speaking to her best friend, but used her given name the rest of the time. At first I thought she had introduced a new character.

The house on Devil’s Bar and the river itself were almost characters in the book themselves. I wish there had been more information about the house itself. Maybe it will play a larger part in subsequent books. I liked Rona a lot and absolutely loved her ex-husband, Johnny. It sounds as if their divorce was a matter of act in haste and repent in leisure, because they still very definitely have unfinished business. I’m also looking forward to getting to know the other residents of Klim better.

Kudos, Ms. McAlan.

A Talent for Murder by Andrew Wilson


A Talent for Murder by Andrew Wilson
Publisher: Atria Books
Genre: Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (320 pgs)
Rating: 5 stars
Review by Rose

Discover the real-life mystery centered on the queen of crime herself: Agatha Christie. In this tantalizing new novel, Christie’s mysterious ten-day disappearance serves as the starting point for a gripping novel, in which Christie herself is pulled into a case of blackmail and murder.

“I wouldn’t scream if I were you. Unless you want the whole world to learn about your husband and his mistress.”

Agatha Christie, in London to visit her literary agent, is boarding a train, preoccupied with the devastating knowledge that her husband is having an affair. She feels a light touch on her back, causing her to lose her balance, then a sense of someone pulling her to safety from the rush of the incoming train. So begins a terrifying sequence of events—for her rescuer is no guardian angel, rather he is a blackmailer of the most insidious, manipulative kind.

“You, Mrs. Christie, are going to commit a murder. But, before then, you are going to disappear.”

Writing about murder is a far cry from committing a crime, and Agatha must use every ounce of her cleverness and resourcefulness to thwart an adversary determined to exploit her expertise and knowledge about the act of murder to kill on his behalf.

In A Talent for Murder, Andrew Wilson ingeniously explores Agatha Christie’s odd ten-day disappearance in 1926 and weaves an utterly compelling and convincing story around this still unsolved mystery involving the world’s bestselling novelist.

I am a big fan of Agatha Christie’s work and, indeed, of the author herself, so when I had the chance to read this book pre-release I jumped at. The disappearance of Ms. Christie has always intrigued me, and this novel presents a well-thought out explanation for what might have occurred. The author takes events that actually happened, and he has spun a tale to fit them. He even gives us the true facts in an afterword. We can never know what truly happened during those ten days, but who is to say that this story might not be far from the truth.

Mr. Wilson has obviously done his homework and captures not only the essence of Ms. Christie’s character, but of her work. One could almost forget she was not reading the story of what happened as written by the author herself!

One element I particularly liked was the appearance of a character in the book, “…a small birdlike woman I knew I had been introduced to but whose name eluded me….”. This brief mention reminded me of one of Ms. Christie’s best loved characters, Miss Jane Marple, who coincidentally did not appear in any of Ms. Christie’s works until AFTER her disappearance. Kudos to Mr. Wilson for that.

A sequel to the book is planned for next year, and I’m anxiously awaiting the release of A Different Kind of Evil which takes Ms. Christie on another adventure.

Icarus by David Hulegaard


Icarus by David Hulegaard
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Historical, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full (271 pgs)
Rating: 5 stars
Review by Rose

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

It’s the winter of 1947 in Ashley Falls, West Virginia, and a teenage girl has gone missing. Local private detective Miller Brinkman takes the case, quickly uncovering a string of bizarre clues. A hidden diary, cryptic riddles, and buried secrets all pique Miller’s interest, but one key detail gives him pause: the girl’s parents haven’t reported her disappearance to the authorities.

As the case deepens, Miller’s investigation begins to poke holes in the idyllic picture of his beloved hometown. No longer certain whether anyone in his community can be trusted, Miller dives headfirst into a desperate search for the truth that extends far beyond the borders of Ashley Falls. He soon discovers that his missing persons case is not an isolated incident, but part of an otherworldly mystery—one that, if confronted, may threaten the very future of humanity.

This is my first book by this author, and it will definitely not be my last. I have already bought the second book of this series, and I can’t wait to read more of it.

Miller Brinkman is a private detective in his small hometown of Ashley Falls, WV, in the late 1940s and is happy staying right where he is—mostly because he suffers from anxiety attacks. His anxiety accounts not only him staying in Ashley Falls, but also explains why he is still single.

He becomes involved in a missing persons case which takes him out of his comfort zone – leading him to Washington DC and Maryland. It also leads him back to his ex-love, who helps him in his investigations.

Icarus is full of adventure, twists, mystery, and thrills – keeping me on the edge of my seat. The tone is definitely “noir”, reminding me of some of the hardboiled detective shows from the same era. It’s hard to tell much about the book without getting into spoilers, but there is a definite shift towards the end of the book, and I’m looking forward to discovering more about the bigger story involved.

The characters are wonderfully drawn—Miller, his ex-love Charissa, a mysterious stranger who leaves Miller clues, and even the “bad guys.” Although Miller has his weaknesses and second-guesses himself, he has a great deal of integrity and wants to do what’s right–not only for Jane, the missing girl, but for other people who have also been affected.

Kudos, Mr. Hulegaard, and I’m looking forward to reading the next book.

Surviving the Fatherland by Annette Oppenlander


Surviving the Fatherland by Annette Oppenlander
Publisher: self
Genre: Historical
Length: Full (355 pgs)
Rating: 5 stars
Review by Rose

Spanning thirteen years from 1940 to 1953, SURVIVING THE FATHERLAND tells the true and heart-wrenching stories of Lilly and Günter struggling with the terror-filled reality of life in the Third Reich, each embarking on their own dangerous path toward survival, freedom, and ultimately each other. Based on the author’s own family and anchored in historical facts, this story celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the strength of war children.

SURVIVING THE FATHERLAND is a sweeping saga of family, love, and betrayal that illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the children’s war.

This historical novel is based on the author’s parents and what they went through as children in Germany during the Second World War. As the wife of a history buff, I’ve seen a great many movies and heard a lot about the soldiers during that war, but except for The Diary of Anne Frank I’m not familiar with what the children had to go through. This book is eye-opening and heartbreaking, and I would recommend it to anyone with the slightest interest in the war.

Lily and Gunter grew up in the same city, but their lives during the war took very different routes. The book is told from each of their points of view- the hardships they had to face and the struggles to stay alive.

My heart broke for Lily as her mother so obviously preferred her younger brother and worked her like a slave, even turning a blind eye to potential dangers to Lily in order to make life more bearable for herself. It’s hard for me, as a mother, to understand Mutti’s reaction to her daughter, which cannot be blamed on the war as she was already disengaged from Lily at the beginning of the story. Her father lied to the family, telling them he had been drafted, but he is full of enthusiasm to do his part in Hitler’s war.

We first meet Gunter as he takes part in the local youth drill that all the young men had to join—training children to one day be soldiers. Once his father is drafted, life is different for him as well as supplies become short, and he is forced to do whatever he can to help keep his family together.

When Lily and Gunter met, the war was over but they each had to deal with the baggage they gathered during it. They fell in love, but the path of true love, in their part, didn’t run smoothly. I enjoyed the way they were together as they each worked through their own demons.

This family saga is wonderfully written and, aside from the emotional ramifications, very easy to read. I stayed up too late a couple of nights reading it. I was really invested in the characters and wondered what was going to happen to them next. Knowing it was based on the author’s parents, it was obvious they would get together at the end, but there were still moments I wasn’t sure how it was going to work out.

I highly recommend this book!

An Unproven Concept by James Young

An Unproven Concept by James Young
Publisher: self
Genre: Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full (370 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Review by Rose

In the year 3050, the Confederation of Man finds that there are indeed things that go bump in the night:

Aboard the starliner Titanic, Chief Security Officer Marcus Martin must choose between rescuing his vessel or the love of his life from creatures that are the stuff of nightmares.

Commander Leslie Hawkins must make a Hobbesian decision between human decency…and humanity itself. Facing overwhelming odds, she must use the obsolescent destroyer Shigure to buy that most precious of resources: time.

Captain Mackenzie Bolan has no decision. His unproven vessel and her crew are the closest rescue the Titanic and Shigure have. The only question will be can the Constitution arrive in time.

This book drops you right in the middle of the action with chapter one as the ship exits hyperspace nearly on top of another one. Nothing like immediate danger to get your blood pumping! I loved the illustrations included in this book as well. They were lovely and helped me picture the details in the story. I admit, I’m not terribly technically minded, so some of the information at the start was a bit confusing, but the story itself as well as engaging characters, really kept me turning pages. I quickly realized this was so much more than just another space opera.

The characters (of which there are many—so beware) are well-drawn and three dimensional. I really began to care about them and their relationships. This led to a bit of consternation for this reader as I discovered that not everyone was going to make it through the battles!

Speaking of battles, the action scenes are very well done and keep the book moving at a fast pace. There may have been moments throughout that the scientific details were a bit much for me, but for readers who thrive on a more technical SF read, it will be a plus.

I really enjoyed the writing and am looking forward to reading more of this author’s work.

The Congressman’s Wife by Charlene Keel and Arie Pavlou


The Congressman’s Wife by Charlene Keel and Arie Pavlou
Publisher: Red Sky Presents
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full (277 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3.5 stars
Review by Rose

All Eden Bancroft has ever been to her high-profile politician husband is a trophy wife, born and bred for the part. She believes she has no choice but to play it—until she meets a talented chef and restaurant heir who shows her the real meaning of love.

The more her husband uses and belittles her, the more deeply Eden falls for Kaleb. Even with Mitchell’s congressional campaign in full swing, the lovers manage to find brief stolen moments together. When her husband is wounded by a bullet from an angry lobbyist, Eden must stay by his side. What she learns can set her free, if she has the courage to take a stand.

This is a well-written story that revolves around Eden Bancroft and Kaleb Stravos and their relationship. Throw in a bit of suspense surrounding her husband and his campaign and the story was interesting enough to hold this reader’s attention.

However, the beginning of the book I had issues with and it took me a while to warm up to Kaleb. I have an issue with the whole falling in love at one glance trope to start with, and Kaleb’s actions at the beginning of the story came across, to me, as a bit stalkerish. I didn’t care for him at all. However, I have to admit that he grew on me. And, he can cook… I was hungry through most of the book because of the amazing foods he would cook. I do wish the authors had spent more time developing their relationship, though. That is my main problem with the book.

Eden—I loved her and, although I am definitely not a fan of the whole infidelity storyline, if there ever were a case where it was okay, this is it. Her reaction to Kaleb was a bit more believable. She admittedly had an attraction to him, but it took her more than one glance to fall in love.

One of the best parts of the book was the election shenanigans. I’m a fan of the TV show Scandal and, at times, I was reminded of that, albeit on a milder note. It was interesting to see how all that played out.

I could see this as a movie—there were some really neat locations. If you don’t have an issue with love at first sight, you will probably really enjoy this book. There are some neat things going on and the writing is good.