A Murder of Principle by Susan Coryell


A Murder of Principle by Susan Coryell
Publisher: Wild Rose Press
Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Contemporary
Length: Full length (275 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Snowdrop

A new principal takes Harding High by storm, wreaking havoc with every executive order and every decision, tearing apart the stellar school tenet by tenet.

Teachers, other administrators, students, parents, and the community at large increasingly react to the tremors shaking Harding High as Principal Wendy Storme churns a destructive path through their traditions, values, and protocol. Everyone associated with Harding has a valid motive for murder.

Determined to save her school and friends, English department chair, Rose Lane, and her rookie sidekick, intern Penny Bright, vow to move the hurricane-force Storme out of Harding for good…except somebody beats them to it with the decisiveness of murder.

What mystery about a school wouldn’t have a mean old principal? This one fits the bill starting with Wendy Storme the new mean principal hired to replace the retiring one. Though she is not necessarily eager to be placed in the position of saving the school, Rose, the new English Dept Head, decides to take on the role and show that new incorrigible principal what’s what. It is such a breath of fresh air to see the teachers (or some of them) portrayed in a good light in this mystery. While they may have been somewhat impolitely vocal about well…you already know who I mean…the mean old Principal, Wendy Storme, they are for the most part eager for their school and their students to do well.

I am not always in favor of books that open with the scene of the crime and then step back in time to describe how we got to that point. I’m not crazy about it at all and I was already set not to like Susan Coryell’s book. But then, she caught my attention and I couldn’t let go or at least not until I was all the way to the very end. Her characters were very clear and her school life description very distinct. In truth, what I thought was going to be a book I would not enjoy turned out to be well-written and very readable.

In summary, Put this one on your TBR list and check out her other books too.

Another Kind of Hero by Lynn Hesse


Another Kind of Hero by Lynn Hesse
Publisher: Desert Breeze Publishing
Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (114 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Snowdrop

At forty Helen Kendall is divorced, full-figured, and big-haired. She enjoys working at the Pick’n Pay and running the show until sleazy David Hoffman becomes the assistant manager. Helen’s plan to get David fired includes her older sister’s help. Mavis says, “No,” because the last fiasco infuriated her husband and tarnished her reputation at church. Mavis resists until her best friend, Wanda, communicates from the beyond concerned about her godson’s push-animal parties and a drug-related murder.

Unbeknownst to the Kendall sisters, undercover DEA Agent Dewey Blackmon is investigating the drug pipeline running through Forsyth off I-75. Dewey suspects David is laundering drug money through the Pick’n Pay.

These two events converge when a casket of money and drugs at the Pick’n Pay storeroom makes the body count rise. The loyalty and love between family, friends, and partners in small-town America is threatened when two strangers carrying guns come to Forsyth…

An interesting book, some told from the point of view of the dear departed (now a ghost) and other interesting characters of the human type. I had a difficult time getting started in this book. Truthfully, I couldn’t figure out which character was which. A new name would come up and I caught myself thinking “well, now, who is this? “

As I read on, the book seemed to move a little better, the ghost added a little humor and the plot became clearer. It may be that the plot was not clear until the characters became better developed and I began to identify with Helen and Wanda and the ghostly Mavis, the love interest Dewey, and many others. Those are of course the names of some of the good guys. Who remembers the names of the bad guys? Although, there were some true villains in this story. The other possibility of my feeling of confusion at first may be because this book is full of subplots. There were many crimes being committed by different crooks, everyone trying to cheat the other guy. That being said, what started out slowly may be the very type of book many people like to read.

Once the story sort of fell into alignment and I had the characters sorted, it piqued my interest and began to flow well. It became a book I was anxious to finish reading to discover who won. Lynn Hesse has another book and both of these have good reviews. I would suggest checking both books out.

Chesapeake Crimes : Fur, Feathers, and Felonies by/edited by Donna Andrews, Bob Goffman, and Marcia Talley


Chesapeake Crimes : Fur, Feathers, and Felonies by/edited by Donna Andrews, Bob Goffman, and Marcia Talley
Publisher: Wildside Press
Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Contemporary
Length: Full length (206 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Snowdrop

Thirteen members of the Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters in Crime spin tales crime around the theme of animals. A pet groomer. A pet crow. A dog named Rasputin. Exploding cattle. Even an octopus figures in a mystery. Contributors include: Chris Grabenstein (Introduction), Shari Randall, Carla Coupe, KM Rockwood, Alan Orloff, Eleanor Cawood Jones, Robin Templeton, Barb Goffman, Marianne Wilski Strong, Linda Lombardi, Josh Pachter, Joanna Campbell Slan, Cathy Wiley, and Karen Cantwell.

I am not normally a lover of short stories but these were so fun. Each story was long enough to have a plot, yet all were cute and easy to read. Even the table of contents page containing the title of each story was interesting enough to make you want to read them and at least give you a giggle. This is the perfect book to sit on your bedside table, or read on a short commute, or for a lunch break or stuck in with your books when you are supposed to be working on something.

These are all mysteries of a sort and yet each story has its own personality. Each story was complete with different “characters”, quite interesting characters at that. One aspect of this set of short stories is that while each story was complete in and of itself, the flow of the stories in the book was fluid. Nothing ever seemed jarring. It’s as if they are in the perfect order. I have often said I was jealous of an author’s ability to put their thoughts all in order to create a book. This has occurred here even in a book of short stories. I hope this will seem a compliment to both the editors and writers as that is how it is meant.

I’m sure these editors have more compilations in this “Chesapeake Crime” series and I think they are definitely worth checking out.

Gone on Sunday by Tower Lowe


Gone on Sunday by Tower Lowe
Publisher: eiffeltowerpublishers
Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Contemporary
Length: Full length (293 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Snowdrop

Polio disabled Cotton Lee’s leg, but not her sexuality, not her mind, and not her ability to connect the murder of her friend Little Mary in 1972 to that of Bead Baker in 1932. Gone on Sunday follows the lives of the Baker family, their black servants, and the townspeople they knew in Homeville, Virginia. Alternating between 1972 and 1932, Cotton Lee’s investigation into the murder of Bead Baker brings out secrets kept for decades. With suspects ranging from a housewife, to a cook, and even a rumored witch, Cotton Lee needs to find the solution to the first murder in order to know the history of the second.

Family can mean everything…or not.

Does saying I read this book in a day give you an idea how much I enjoyed it? Maybe not, but I read it in a day because I couldn’t put it down. I just had to know what happened. This is truly a “sit on the edge of your seat” crime mystery set in the deep South. While trying to solve a crime in 1972 a crime of a similar type in 1932 becomes of interest. This is a story about some realistic but ridiculous prejudices. Some were quite typical of the times. A southern small town full of prejudice and many secrets, mixed with people that like to tell secrets and hurt others can make quite a story. None of these were going to keep Cotton Lee from continuing to search for the murderers.

Really an enjoyable book with interesting and very likeable characters. I liked Cotton Lee. She’s strong, a little mouthy and a little over the top sometimes but she has more to prove than others might. There are also a few detestable characters as every good crime mystery should contain.

This book does switch decades of 1932 and 1972 from chapter to chapter. This is not written as you might think. It’s not the “oh no another flashback” type of story. While I did have to turn back a page to check what year I was in occasionally I can’t say this bothered me. Nothing ever seemed unclear and I think this is because Lowe has the characters so well-defined. It would be very difficult to mix up characters in this story as her plot made it very clear who was in what decade, what story, forty years apart. This is really two stories all about the same murders. Both entwined but never complicated.

This is Book 1 of the “Cotton Lee Penn Historical Mystery Series”. I am in great hopes there will be a Book 2.

Antiques Frame by Barbara Allan


Antiques Frame by Barbara Allan
Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corp.
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full length (240 pages)
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Snowdrop

With their reality TV series, Antiques Sleuths, Brandy Borne and her quaintly kooky mother, Vivian, have a real hit on their hands. But another “hit” enters the picture, after a rival bidder becomes a one-woman show at their televised auctions—and it’s the estranged wife of Brandy’s police-chief beau, Tony! Soon the fine art of murder colors the scene, fitting Brandy for an ornately elaborate frame.

But when you’re inside a frame, it’s difficult to make out the picture. That’s why Brandy’s mom—her daughter now wearing basic jailhouse orange—must sort through a rogue’s gallery of suspects including a too-friendly farmer’s wife, a ratings-happy TV producer, a questionable husband-and-wife auctioneer team, and even the chief of police himself.

Brandy and Vivian race to determine how an empty antique frame can hold a deadly portrait, a picture worth a thousand dangerous words. Aided only by Sushi, their loyal shih tzu, and police dog Rocky, the wacky mother-and-daughter sleuthing team must learn the killer’s identity before they become the subjects of another masterpiece of murder.

Sarcasm absolutely at its best

I know the proper terminology for a review is not “it’s just as fun as can be” but that’s really and truly the first thought that comes to mind. This book is full of humor plus a few tips on finding good buys on authentic antiques. A slightly off-center, well okay, a crazy mother and her somewhat depressed daughter deal in antiques and murder. This whole series is set in a small town called Serenity along the Mississippi River. The town is a wonderful place to go antiquing as there are two or three great stores and our stars, Brandy and Vivian, continue filming their reality show, Antique Sleuths.

This series is mostly pseudo-written or narrated by the daughter Brandy but Vivian, her mother, is now and then allowed to add a chapter. None of this is confusing. In fact, the play and dialog between mother and daughter make this really work. Amongst all of the fun, there are still plenty of twists and turns. The descriptive writing is done well as is the character development.

Painting a picture in words is an important skill for an author no matter what genre might be his or her forte. Throughout this series, the author has drawn not just a map in the front of her book but also has crafted a complete snapshot. You begin to see the delightful characters, the small town, and even the day to day workings of the community. It’s as if you’ve lived there. What that creates is a reader like me who never wants to miss a book in the series.

This is Book 11 of the series called “A Trash and Treasures Mystery”. This reviewer happens to know another book will be out in April 2018 because I can’t wait to read it.

Angelica by Clabe Polk


Angelica by Clabe Polk
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary
Length: Full length (400 pages)
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Snowdrop

A long time ago, Angelica Vicetti did some very bad things with some very bad men. Now she’s built a new life for her family, far from Las Vegas. Now it’s all about to come crashing down. Angelica Vicetti of Las Vegas has become Angela Cassetta of Poplar Bluffs, just outside Atlanta, Georgia. She’s built a successful real estate agency, and the son she rescued from Vegas when he was a youngster is now a high school baseball star and destined for great things. But the mob bosses in Vegas who forced her underground haven’t forgotten about her. A string of hit men come to town to kill her, but each time she saves herself and her son, with the help of her friends and Mike Eiser, a local Sheriff’s detective who has seen far worse. Then things get even more complicated, when one of the hit men changes his mind and becomes strangely important to Angela in a whole new way … and a team of Federal agents come to town and ratchet up the odds. Suddenly, sleepy little Poplar Bluffs is awash in blood. Angelica will have to take it all the way to the edge and beyond – into murder, kidnapping, and lying to the Feds – to save herself and her son. But … can she survive the fight for her family’s freedom?

Did you ever think you’d like to run away and start all over? What if it became a reality, a frightening one?

Angelica, the title of this book, is the lead character in this series written by Polk titled “The Detective Mike Eisner Series”. She really got swept into the wrong crowd of people and while you might think that’s each individuals own business, it’s different when you have a child.

This is a really good storyline; lots of action and action written so that you can “see” it; in other words so that you can follow and understand. Truly Crime Fiction involving a lot of mob type characters and also the best cop of course…Detective Mike Eisner and his soon to be wife. At least all of the couples around are hoping they will tie the knot. It was very amazing to me that Polk could involve so many of the good guys and the bad guys in this story, and yet make them be very clear to the reader. When an author is good at writing dialog it is quite an accomplishment and I think that is the key here. I think this author happens to be very good at writing dialog and without our realizing it, a good book and a good story has passed and we’re sad it’s the last page.

This is listed in his book as the 4th book in the “Detective Mike Eisner Series”. There are 5 titles in the series in his book. Let’s hope Clabe Polk is working on number 6.

Doubly-Dead Angel Thief by Marc Whelchel


Doubly-Dead Angel Thief by Marc Whelchel
Publisher: Open Books
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary
Length: Full length (243 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Snowdrop

Meet V.C. Almond, Mastermind Sleuth, Jack of Some Trades, and the Delmar Loop’s Private Investigator Ordinaire.

V.C. Almond’s life is in the gutter. Divorced and broke, he’s living in a rat trap apartment above the loudest punk music venue in the Delmar Loop. Worse, his dear friend Jake Kennedy, son of crime boss Big Jamie Kennedy, has just committed suicide.

The night of Jake’s funeral, V.C. returns home to find a surprise on his floor: Jake’s freshly murdered, bullet-riddled body. Soon realizing Jake’s double death appears destined to go unsolved, V.C. reluctantly agrees to help private detective Aldous Lewie crack the case.

Stumbling upon the body of a man who’s supposed to already be dead is just the first leg of V.C.’s journey down the rabbit hole.

A funny, sarcastic somewhat whimsical book

Very witty dialog coming out of funny, odd, one-of-a-kind characters. Nothing like having a friend die and then having him die again. Must be where the “doubly” in the title comes from.

I did think the story jumped around a little and the excerpts throughout the book made it a little hard to follow. But this is an eccentric type of story. You have to like the sort of nutty (or crazy) characters with their sarcastic and dry humor. The author has built his story line around a quick, back and forth dialog. I think this is something that is possibly enjoyed more by a specific type of reader. There are some off-color words in this story. Somehow it was not offensive to me. The language fits the funny characters and the dialog. It seems as if I’ve used every possible word to describe Whelchel’s characters but oddly enough, he did a wonderful job of developing them. I think that’s why they are so memorable to me. While this may be as I mentioned a little hard to follow, it is an interesting storyline. A sort of slap stick comedy in a noir mystery.

If slap-stick comedy is your thing, this is even a more modern use of it in a dialog. This is pulled together in a good storyline in a mystery that seems to move very quickly. Definitely worth reading.

Fire on the Mountain by Clabe Polk


Fire on the Mountain by Clabe Polk
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (265 pgs)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Snowdrop

The Havens, a family with roots growing deep in the muck of Southern mountain bootlegging have progressed from selling illicit corn whiskey through marijuana farming to (in the current generation) methamphetamine production. A set of triplets; Jack, a meth producer and wife of Susan, Jason, another meth producer, who hooks Susan to infuriate Jack, and Jake, a local handyman who creates unholy alliances against Jack and Jason…and a father playing each against the other for his own profit, combine to light a fuse destined to blow the Haven family apart. Two murder investigations; one by Detective Mike Eiser, and one by a detective in a neighboring county, coupled with a DEA clandestine drug lab investigation combine to pressure the Havens. Susan’s in the middle. Is she a victim? Is she a survivor? Or is Susan the flame that ignites the powder keg to blow the Haven family apart?

Bootleggers changing with the times, running drugs and keeping it in the family.

I really enjoyed this mystery. I liked the storyline starting with the history of the Haven family all the way back as bootleggers mixed in with the modern day cops. I really liked the cop Mike Eisner, the lead character in this series of books. This is true Crime Fiction in some ways. There is a lot of dialog; all interesting and easy to follow.

I did some research because you would think from the dialog that the author had experience in police work. He did not but he sure writers with a comfortable dialog that makes you feel as if you are right in the car with your partner or in the office with your boss. He also writes a lot of light and fun dialog between couples; lightning up or giving an additional hue to the story. His characters are all well-developed and there are quite a few in the story to be able to define to we readers. I think it is his excellent way of handling dialog. It gives us the flavor of each person therefore defining them in our minds.

In his book it lists this as the last of the series. It also lists 5 titles in this series, “Detective Mike Eisner Series”. It can easily be read out of order but don’t if you don’t have to, I bet they are all as good as this one.

Habitat for Human Remains by Scott A. Lerner


Habitat for Human Remains by Scott A. Lerner
Publisher: Camel Press
Genre:Contemporary, Horror, Paranormal, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full length (258 pages)
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Snowdrop

For the forces of evil, Sam Roberts is catnip. Even during periods of calm, Sam knows that evil is just biding its time before challenging him again. So when he is asked to defend a wealthy shut-in charged with murder, he is suspicious. Why is the largest and wealthiest law firm in town hiring an outside attorney who is a sole practitioner to represent Mr. Blake May? Sam’s client resides in the sublimely creepy Frost Home, a “haunted” mansion given a wide berth by the residents of Champaign, Illinois. The house has been engulfed in rumors of death, missing children, and mystery since before the Civil War. Blake May is accused of not only murdering his girlfriend but decimating the remains until they look like marinara. But the agoraphobic middle-aged man rarely, if ever, left his rooms. If he indeed killed Heather, why can’t the police find a murder weapon? Everyone seems to want Blake declared insane rather than acquitted. Sam and his buddy Bob Sizemore know that Heather’s grizzly fate can’t be blamed on something as mundane as murder. There is a force at work in the house, and it seems to emanate from the mirror hung in the room where the remains of the body were found. Can Sam and Bob end the Frost Home’s eerie legacy of evil?

A funny horror story? Well, it really is.

Good grief, this was a creepy-crawly story with a mystery and even a love story all mixed in together. I will tell you in advance that this is not usually a genre I would read but this was so funny I couldn’t stop. The dialog that was created between Sam, the lawyer and Bob, his friend, had me giggling out loud half the time. One funny character and one relatively serious one were great creations by Scott Lerner. Lerner also pokes a little bit of fun at his own profession here but the legal world is not the focus of his story.

This story is about an attorney being offered a big case by a big firm. He can’t let it pass because of… money, of course. Even while picking up the check he is wondering why the firm would farm it out to him. It has a huge scary haunted house in it that you can just picture. It’s about the lives of two guys still looking for love and yes, it has a little bit of horrid scary scenes. How Scott Lerner managed to put all of this together and have me reading every page, I can’t tell you. However, I can tell you that this is well-written and Sam and Bob become your friends. I have said many times that any author that can make characters your friends and/or your enemies is a talented writer. Once you are caught right up in a story with your buddies, you will never miss a word.

This one is Book 5 in his series titled “A Samuel Roberts Thriller”. Looks like Books 1 through 4 are rated really high too so they must be just as good or better. Let’s read them too and hope he’s writing Book 6.

Biscuits and Slashed Browns by Maddie Day


Biscuits and Slashed Browns by Maddie Day
Publisher: Kensington Publishers
Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Contemporary
Length: Full length (292 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Snowdrop

For country-store owner Robbie Jordan, the National Maple Syrup Festival is a sweet escape from late-winter in South Lick, Indiana—until murder saps the life out of the celebration . . .

As Robbie arranges a breakfast-themed cook-off at Pans ‘N Pancakes, visitors pour into Brown County for the annual maple extravaganza. Unfortunately, that includes Professor Connolly, a know-it-all academic from Boston who makes enemies everywhere he goes—and this time, bad manners prove deadly. Soon after clashing with several scientists at a maple tree panel, the professor is found dead outside a sugar shack, stabbed to death by a local restaurateur’s knife. When an innocent woman gets dragged into the investigation and a biologist mysteriously disappears, Robbie drops her winning maple biscuits to search for answers. But can she help police crack the case before another victim is caught in a sticky situation with a killer?

“I’m so hungry I could eat the north end of a south-bound mule.”

What a fun book full of colloquialisms like the one above. I can guarantee they are straight from Indiana because I grew up there myself. This was not taxing, just a truly enjoyable cozy. This series is set in Indiana, a great part of it in beautiful Brown County. A gorgeous place known for its charm, beautiful hills, Fall color, and artists on every corner. The tourism is very high and this makes the setting of a chef and restaurant owner fit into the story perfectly. Being familiar with Indiana does make this series fun to read but I think it would be enjoyable whether it was set on Cape Cod or in South Carolina. It’s just a really nice read.

Part of my reason for sounding so pleased with the book is that it is really well-written. It has a good plot; one that keeps you guessing. But it is her characters that make the book. Each one is not only well developed but is also an important part of the story. With all of their intertwining daily activity she creates a community we can see and one many of us can identify with.

This is Book #4 is this series called “Country Store Mystery” and Maddie has number 5 coming out at the end of July in 2018. While Book #4 could easily be read out of order, what I’d do is start on Book 1 now and get them all read up before Book 5 is out.