The Dead Man Of Storr by JM Dalgliesh


The Dead Man Of Storr by JM Dalgliesh
Publisher: Hamilton Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Fern

Your past will find you… and it will kill you…
When the owner of a Portree gallery is found dead, lying in the snow at the foot of the Storr, D.I. Duncan McAdam and his small team must piece together what took him there… and who had a reason to kill him.

A man with a flirtatious eye and no lack of ambition, there is no shortage of people who would turn a blind eye if something happened to him… and many who would willingly kill him themselves.

As Duncan reveals the long-held secrets of the man’s life, he finds the ghosts of his own past coming back to haunt him. The course of the investigation will not only bring others into danger, but Duncan himself will have to face his own past… whether he likes it or not…

The owner of the local art gallery is found dead on the hiking path at the foot of Storr, and at first glance it appears like a tragic slip and fall in the untrustworthy weather. But DI McAdam and his team quickly realise that this was not an accident, but a very well thought out crime. As the look deeper into the owner and discover there are more than just a few people who wish him harm. Can McAdam and his team discover what really happened?

This is the second book in this Scottish police procedural series and I felt it was a solid and well written book. I must admit there were a few other strong sub-plots lurking around the edges of the main murder mystery and at a few points I wondered if they would over-shadow the police procedural and mystery element. While I do feel the author managed this balance very well, I have to admit I’m a little more interested in these subplots revolving around Duncan’s friends and past than this particular murder. I am very interested to see where the author takes this though so that’s proof that the writing and plotlines have certainly snared me.

I also really enjoy the setting of the Isle of Skye. It’s an interesting blend between small-town living and rural Scotland and I find it fascinating. It also adds an excellent atmosphere I feel and I’m very eager for more of this.

Readers who enjoy solidly written British (or Scottish in this case) police procedural stories should find this an excellent book and a good series to start. I also think readers who enjoy small-town mysteries or cozy mysteries should also find this book appeals. I didn’t think it was particularly gritty or dark (which a lot of British police procedurals can be sometimes) and so I do feel this book can cross over a few of the various mystery type genres. A really good book.

Breakout by Richard Stark


Breakout by Richard Stark
Publisher: The University Of Chicago Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

With Parker locked up and about to be unmasked, Breakout follows his Houdini-like escape from prison with a team of convicts. But when a new heist and new dangers—con artists, snitches, busybodies, eccentrics, and cops—loom among the dark alleys and old stone buildings of the big city to which they’ve fled, Parker soon learns that not all prisons have bars.

When a rope-in caused a pharmaceutical heist to go sour, Parker finds himself locked up. Segregated away from his two – far more reliable – co-conspirators Parker needs some luck and careful planning to select his next crew. A crew which will help him break out of the prison they all currently find themselves situated in. Can Parker turn his luck around?

I have enjoyed each and every novel in this series so far and I was thrilled that this book was no exception. Like all the other novels, this caper of Parker’s is written in a quite gritty, lean and hard-boiled manner – the story pared back to the basic essentials. And what a joy it is to find such a lean style of heist adventure. Absolutely none of the previous books are needed to be read to thoroughly enjoy this. I admit I adore this series and am glad to know all the history, but in this world of heists and criminals not much of a connection or history is needed between any of the characters really.

The plot itself is fairly simple, but I do love how Stark winds it all together and creates this vivid landscape with just the bare essentials. It’s a real talent and it’s a key element in all the Parker novels. I also really love how even though the characters work together, and there is a certain amount of loyalty there, at heart they are all individuals working toward a common goal or a shared venture. That dichotomy – separate and discreet people working cohesively together but at the same time each an island to themselves – is a real pleasure to read.

While the theme is fairly hard – there is no glossing over this is a bunch of criminals performing criminal acts – it still manages to be fairly clear and without much emotional baggage to weigh it down. There is no titillation or instability to the crimes and no glorifying or dwelling on the violence. And in many respects, I find that makes reading about it easier and nowhere near as heavy as it could be.

A classic hard-boiled style of heist novel, this is an excellent read and part of a larger series I absolutely love.

Wild Irish Yenta by Joyce Sanderly


Wild Irish Yenta by Joyce Sanderly
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Romance, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Do killers, stock manipulators, and kidnappers stalk the Temple? After the body of Roberto Gomez is discovered in Temple Israel’s parking lot, Patricia Weiss, nee Reilly, exchanges her suburban-mom sneakers for gumshoes to investigate the supposed hit-and-run. Inspired by her police detective dad, Patricia feels compelled to uncover who killed the hardworking custodian and why. Before she can progress with her investigation or work on problems in her difficult marriage to a busy cardiologist, and his controlling Jewish mother, she is plunged into the Temple’s troubles. Her mentor Rabbi Deborah, who has guided Patricia through her own recent conversion to Judaism, disappears after delivering a controversial sermon in support of interfaith marriage. Despite her husband’s concerns, Patricia joins forces with her buddy Brenda. Designating themselves The Yenta Patrol, they unravel the mysteries.

Not everything is as simple as it may first appear to be.

Patricia was a memorable and likeable protagonist. She was insatiably curious about the world around her, and sometimes this led her to making decisions that her cautious husband disagreed with. I appreciated the way the author shared both of their perspectives on what are and are not acceptable risks to take in life. It made sense given the cultural differences between Patricia and Michael, and it also helped me to understand her as a character better. No one is perfect, after all, but this flaw was a good way for the audience to understand where she was coming from and why she assumed the world was a much safer place than her husband did. Novels that encourage readers to pause for a moment and think about the assumptions we all make in life before going on to reveal what happens when two people have opposite reactions to the same situation are part of the reason why I have continued to review books for so many years. Reading and reviewing are excellent ways to explore the world through other perspectives.

As much as I enjoyed learning more about Patricia and her relationships with everyone around her, I struggled with the slow pacing of this book. More time was spent exploring what various members of the synagogue thought about each other than pushing the plot forward with more clues about why Roberto Gomez died or why Rabbi Deborah disappeared. This made it difficult at times for me to remain engaged with the plot since it often took quite a while for the next important twist to be revealed.

Some of my favorite scenes were the ones that showed the long process Patricia went through to convert to Judaism. There were classes to attend, holy texts to study, and cultural and religious traditions to start observing. What made it even more interesting to me was to see the wide range of reactions her conversion elicited from other members of her temple, from deep suspicions about her motives to total acceptance and everything in between those two possibilities. There was so much depth and emotion included in those passages that they sped up the reading process for me when they happened despite my earlier criticisms about the pacing.

Wild Irish Yenta kept me guessing.

*Liar’s Point by Laura Griffin


*Liar’s Point by Laura Griffin
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Romance
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Larkspur

Two homicide detectives must separate the puzzling truth from a growing web of lies while investigating a murder victim’s friends and lovers in Lost Beach, Texas.

Detective Nicole Lawson is fed up with her job and nonexistent love life. Her first date in months gets cut short by an urgent call from the chief of police. A body has been discovered at Lighthouse Point, and the medical examiner finds an array of strange clues. When the death is ruled a homicide, the news quickly reverberates through Nicole’s beachside hometown.

The Lost Beach police department swings into high gear. Leading the investigation is Emmet Davis, a veteran detective who is Nicole’s fiercest rival at work and also the man she has secretly harbored feelings toward for years. With Emmet calling the shots, Nicole sets out to search for leads, starting with the enigmatic yoga instructor who first discovered the body. Nicole is certain the witness knows more than she’s revealing and may even hold the key to unlocking the case.

When another person turns up dead under suspicious circumstances, Nicole sees a bizarre pattern, but no one believes her theory. Under the gun to solve the case, Nicole must put aside her tumultuous feelings and work closely with Emmet to figure out who is targeting her beloved hometown . . . before she becomes a target herself.

I’m always excited when Laura Griffin comes out with a new book because she is one of my favorite authors. She knows how to write intense, suspenseful stories that keep me quickly turning the pages to find out what will happen next.

Nicole and Emmett are the two main characters in her newest book, Liar’s Point. They are detectives working together on a case involving a murdered woman. Nicole and Emmett are dedicated and hardworking and although they are attracted to each other, they are afraid to admit their feelings.

I loved everything about this story, especially Nicloe. Nicole is a fearless and dedicated detective. She has to work twice as hard as her male peers but is still treated differently because she is a woman. She has had a crush on Emmett since high school, but she is afraid to act on her attraction because it could ruin her career.

All the characters in this story are interesting, the plot is riveting, and the writing is spot on. I enjoyed all of Emmett and Nicole’s interactions and felt the chemistry between them. This story kept me on the edge of my seat, and I wasn’t sure who the murderer was until the very end.

The Ares Virus by AP Bateman


The Ares Virus by AP Bateman
Publisher: Rockhopper Publishing (Kindle)
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

The gloves are off for Secret Service agent Rob Stone as his hunt for an assassin leads him to a deadly agenda too terrible to contemplate.

For years Isobel has been working as a senior lab technician at a secret government facility working with a team under her mentor’s leadership. They have finally had a breakthrough – confirming that Ares is a virus with the potential to be a game-changing weapon of mass destruction, but thrillingly also proving significant progress with Aphrodite. Aphrodite is the antidote to Ares, and has a nearly unlimited potential, possibly the answer to cure AIDS, cancer and who knows what else. But when Isobel’s mentor is killed and she uncovers a plot to use Ares in unfathomable ways, she knows it’s up to her to try and prevent this. Secret Service Agent Rob Stone is also investigating the suspicious death and he quickly realizes that Isobel holds the key to his case. Can Isobel and Rob work together to save the world?

I have to admit my taste for “world is threatened by a virus that can kill everyone” style of stories has greatly lessened since Covid, but there were just too many factors in this story that I usually love and so I was happy to give it a try. I’m quite glad I did. This is the first book featuring Rob Stone and so readers should definitely feel like they can just pick this up fresh and not worry about any links to anything previous.

Honestly, I felt the beginning was a little slow. There was certainly a lot of plot and story-arch stuff that needed to be set up, and I was hooked enough on the science and strong female lead in Isobel that I was happy to continue reading past the first few chapters. I could understand though if readers who are used to a quicker and more action orientated style of story might find their interest wane in the beginning of this book. I’d urge readers to stick with it though, I personally could feel even after the first few chapters that the pace was certainly increasing – along with the tension and sense of danger to Isobel. And once Isobel crosses paths with Rob the action really begins in earnest and the explosiveness of the plot ramps up to a crazy pace.

There were a few really good plot twists – some of which I guessed early on, some which I found to be a delightful surprise. There was a strong cast of main and secondary characters, both good and bad, and I felt the author did a good job balancing everything out and keeping all the different balls in the air. While I do feel there is nothing earth-shatteringly unique to this plotline, I do feel the author did an excellent job in making both Isobel and Rob;s characters relatable and realistic. Readers who enjoy a thriller style “race to save the world” sort of books should find this to be a book full of intrigue and one where you definitely want to keep turning the pages.

An action based, conspiracy style of virus full length novel, this is a good read from a new-to-me author. I’ll be checking out the next in the series.

Mrs. Holloway’s Christmas Pudding by Jennifer Ashley


Mrs. Holloway’s Christmas Pudding by Jennifer Ashley
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Historical, Holiday, Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

December 1882

When Cook Kat Holloway is blamed when a dinner guest mysteriously takes ill after eating one of her meals, she sets out to prove she had nothing to do with the gentleman’s sickness. She discovers a whole host of people who might wish to do away with the man, and she and her friends—Daniel McAdam, Lady Cynthia, Mr. Thanos, and various members of the household staff—begin to hunt for the would-be killer.

Simultaneously tasked with crafting the perfect Christmas feast, including the pièce de résistance, the Christmas plum pudding, Kat frantically works to finish all, fearing she’ll have to choose between stopping a murderer and cherishing her few precious Christmas moments with her daughter.

When a guess of her employer falls mysteriously ill, Mrs Holloway is irritated when her food is instantly blamed – despite the gentlemen being the only member of the dinner party having an adverse effect. Determined to not let any whispers grow and cause trouble, Mrs Holloway is determined to investigate what is really occurring. Can she and her friends work out what’s going on while Kat simultaneously plans and cooks the perfect Christmas feast and also attempts to spend a few precious moments with her young daughter.

This is the third short story I have enjoyed set in this historical world by the author. I have enjoyed them all and equally enjoy the fact that other than the same time setting they can easily be read and thoroughly enjoyed on their own merits, and they aren’t really linked other than the characters connections. While a little suspension of belief is required – I simply can’t imagine a cook interacting so freely and warmly with any of the above-stairs people, nor having the freedom of movement to investigate a crime nor make speeches about who the dastardly villain really is etc – I nevertheless found this a well-paced and thoroughly refreshing read. Kat and her love interest, Daniel were vibrant and very well written characters and with a strong cast of equally engaging secondary characters there was plenty to hook any reader.

I also feel readers who usually don’t enjoy historical stories should feel comfortable giving this book a try. The mystery is fairly simple, but there were enough layers and twists to keep me engaged and while the historical setting was lovely, I didn’t feel like our noses were pushed too hard into it. I really feel the author has done a commendable job balancing the characters, the plot and the pacing of this Christmassy story. The blossoming romance between Mrs Holloway and Daniel is quite chaste – merely a few kisses – so readers more used to reading mystery shouldn’t find the romance aspect to the plot too overpowering.

Readers who are unsure whether to dip their feet into the connected full-length series should absolutely give this novella a try – for the cheaper price and shorter length I think it’s a lovely gateway into the world and series by this author and is in and of itself a thoroughly enjoyable short story. Recommended.

Double Lives by Mary Monroe


Double Lives by Mary Monroe
Publisher: Dafina
Genre: Historical, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Since childhood, identical twins Leona and Fiona Dunbar have been getting in—and out—of trouble by pretending to be each other. Yet underneath, they couldn’t be more different. Outspoken Leona lives to break rules, have a good time, and scandalize their respectable hometown of Lexington. Fiona is a seemingly-demure churchgoing girl who is the apple of her domineering, widowed mother Mavis’s eye.

But together, the twins have fooled teachers, boyfriends, bosses, racist police—and most importantly, strait-laced Mavis. Even when Leona does jail time for Fiona, their unbreakable bond keeps them fiercely loyal. . . . So when Fiona feels stifled in her passionless marriage, and Leona is heartbroken over losing her one true love, it’s perfect timing to change places once again . . .

Leona is shocked to discover she enjoys the security of being a wife and homebody. And the unexpected spark between her and Fiona’s husband is giving her all kinds of deliciously sexy ideas. Meanwhile, Fiona enjoys being free, single, and reveling in the independence she’s never had. And the more she indulges her secret, long-repressed wild child, the more Leona’s ex-lover becomes one temptation she’s having trouble resisting . . .

As the sisters’ masquerade ignites desires and appetites they never expected, it also puts their most damning secrets on the line. Once the fallout rocks their small town, can Fiona and Leona’s deep sisterhood shield them from total disaster and help them reconcile their mistakes? Or will the trust between them become a weapon that shatters their lives for good?

Identical twins Fiona and Leona find it amusing and convenient to switch identities as it suits them, but could their harmless switching lead to serious trouble?

This 320-page historical fiction is a great example of why Mary Monroe is one of my favorite authors. Her unique writing style and engaging plots are always a guarantee that I will be drawn in for a thrilling read. The author masterfully developed Fiona and Leona’s story throughout, and lastly climaxed in a plot twist that I did not see coming.

Double Lives is a work of historical fiction that spans from 1901 to 1938 in a small, segregated country town in Alabama. Readers are introduced to identical twins Fiona and Leona Dunbar who find it amusing in ‘fooling folks’ by switching their identities. The narrative alternates between Fiona and Leona’s perspectives. The author’s signature style of creating characters that are intriguing and memorable resulting in this entertaining, and original plot. I found myself unable to put the book down, eager to see how the story would unfold.

The bond between the sisters is like no other. I found it disturbing the sacrifices Leona made for Fiona. It was even more unsettling that Fiona allowed her sister to take on a negative image while benefiting from their switching. In my opinion, Fiona was selfish, while Leona was naive and always ended up being the protector or scapegoat. This unfair dynamic between the sisters made me angry. Leona was also naive when it came to her friendship with Bonnie Sue. Bonnie Sue got on my nerves and was very much obsessed with Leona, but Leona could not see it.

Who wouldn’t want to trade places to get out of trouble or to get out of their current circumstances? Mary Monroe has written another captivating five-star book that tells the story of the Dunbar sisters’ masquerade, which ignites into something they may not be able to switch back from. I highly recommend it.

The Landscape Of Death by MS Morris


The Landscape Of Death by MS Morris
Publisher: Landmark Media
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

A Murder. A Homecoming. A Day of Reckoning.
A man’s body washes up on a beach on the North Yorkshire coast with a single gunshot wound to the chest. The only clue to the victim’s identity is a ring engraved with two names.

DCI Tom Raven is back in his hometown of Scarborough for the first time in over thirty years. When offered the chance to lead the murder investigation, he takes it.

Raven quickly discovers that the prime suspect is his once teenage friend, now a wealthy but shady businessman. He finds an ally in Detective Sergeant Becca Shawcross, but not everyone in the team is on his side.

As Raven delves into the case, he is forced to confront the events that drove him away from Scarborough so many years ago. Given a chance to undo past mistakes, he must make the biggest decision of his life. But first he must learn who he can trust. Because lies can kill.

DCI Tom Raven left his hometown of Scarborough more than thirty years ago. He swore he’d never return, but when his father dies Tom decides to take a short break from his job at The Met and bury the man he hadn’t seen in three decades. When a man’s body washes up on the North Yorkshire beach, Tom finds himself drawn to investigate. He’d never considered returning home, but with little outside work to draw him back to London, he finds himself tempted to stay and close this case.

I found this to be an interesting and very well written British police procedural style of book. There are a number of strong secondary characters, and I enjoyed how while some felt a little overblown to me, the main core of the police team seemed varied, interesting and mostly realistic. I also enjoyed the way the authors managed to balance some areas of cliché along with a few new twists and freshness. It helped keep the plot moving well to my mind and when I’d think I had a good idea of what was going to happen something would turn slightly and I’d be back eagerly turning the pages.

Readers who prefer a more action-orientated plot might find this pace a little slow, but I really did prefer how there was enough detail and clues that the reader really could follow along and put it all together with the main characters. I am eager to read the next in the series.

Dark Site by Patrick Lee


Dark Site by Patrick Lee
Publisher: St. Martin’s Publishing Group
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

On an otherwise normal morning, former Special Forces operative Sam Dryden is the target of an unsuccessful attempted abduction. Using his attacker’s cellphone, he learns that another person, a woman named Danica Ellis, is also being targeted. Dryden arrives just in time to save Danica from the assault team sent after her. But neither of them recognize the other, or have any idea why they are being targeted. The only clue is a heavily redacted, official-looking document given to Danica by her stepfather before he was killed.

Dryden immediately recognizes it as a “scrub file.” A scrub file is a record of what a subject knew before their memories were chemically destroyed. The redacted document refers to witnesses to a secret military site in Ashland, Iowa in 1989. Both Dryden and Danica Ellis lived in Ashland in 1989, when they were both twelve years old, though neither of them has any memory of the other.

Switching back and forth between the present day, when Dryden and Danica try to elude the forces that are after them, and the past in Ashland, Iowa, when both were twelve, making a discovery that forever changed their lives, this latest Sam Dryden novel proves yet again that Patrick Lee is one of the most original, compelling thriller writers today.

On what began as a normal morning has ex-Special Forces Sam Dryden fighting off an unsuccessful abduction attempt and then following the only link to a woman called Danica Ellis. Having never laid eyes on each other, Sam is astonished when moments after his arrival Danica also is nearly abducted by a unit eerily similar to the one who attempted to abduct him. Clearly the two of them are linked somehow – but if they’ve never met how can they be connected? As they each reach back into their pasts can they solve what’s really going on before it’s too late?

This is the third book featuring Sam Dryden and while they each are very self-contained with no real links between the stories they do each have a similar feel and pace to it. I feel anyone can pick this up by itself and thoroughly enjoy the suspense and action-orientated pacing of the plotlines. In this story I was pleased that the book bounces from the present (2018) back to 1989 when the main series of events leading to the current day occurred. As Sam and Danica discover more about the past it is merged quite well with these flashbacks so the reader learns of events and connections as the two main characters do. I felt the author did a good job with this balancing enough information to keep the plot moving but without the jarring quality flashbacks often seem to have. I thought this was well handled.

Readers who enjoy a solid mystery plot with elements of bio-warfare and military angles in it, along with a nefarious enemy lurking in the shadows should find that this sort of mystery really fits the bill. While the action keeps the pace moving at quite a solid clip the book didn’t come across to me as rushed and I had time to enjoy the unraveling of the plot. Readers who enjoy a faster pace to their stories should find this really appeals to them.

With a small cast of well-rounded and interesting characters plus an interwoven plot spanning the past and present times this was a good book and an author I enjoy.

Sinister Sort by L.M. Harper


Sinister Sort by L.M. Harper
Publisher: Self-published
Genre: Cozy Mystery, Contemporary
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Snowdrop

Miranda Vincent thought East Syracuse was the perfect place to sort out her life. A host of friends, both old and new, welcomed Miranda back to the town where she grew up. She landed a job in the mail room at Crane Community College and the perfect apartment.

Life is starting to look up for Miranda except for one major issue. Her new coworker, Hadley Mitchell, thought Miranda’s new job should have been hers and Hadley aims to cancel Miranda’s stamp. When Hadley turns up dead, all eyes are on Miranda.

Can Miranda figure out who killed Hadley and deliver justice? Or will she find herself in a permanent hold?

You know that uncomfortable feeling of getting a job that a current employee feels they should have gotten? Miranda was excited to get a job in the mail room, but Hadley was mad, really mad. Snotty and mean too. She was sure she was a shoo-in, then they hired Miranda, and she wasn’t even connected to Crane Community College. When things didn’t work out her way, Hadley did everything possible to undermine Miranda. Miranda was visibly aggravated about Haley and even though she shouldn’t have, she might have complained loudly to a lot of people. Then, when you’re found leaning over the body, it just doesn’t look good.

This is a quick, easy-to-read cozy. It’s a good mystery, and one of the reasons I enjoyed it the most was L. M. Harper’s characters. Well, maybe I didn’t like snotty Hayley but then again that’s good character definition too:)

This is your typical cozy with what I’ll call all the normal elements…an amateur sleuth, someone suffering from a love-life trauma, a handsome cop, a dead body, etc. It is not, however, a carbon copy of other cozies. It has dear friends, an adorable pet, a few more twists and turns, and it does leave you wondering who the bad guy/girl might be until the end.

A fun read. Looks like L.M. Harper only has one other book. Hope she writes some more.