Courage Lost by R. Scott Mackey


Courage Lost by R. Scott Mackey
A Ray Courage Mystery, Book 5
Publisher: Solstice Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full length (258 pages)
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Snowdrop

Private Investigator Ray Courage returns in his most complex case yet, one that readers and critics are heralding as the best in the hugely popular mystery series. Billionaires Isabella and Wyatt Carlyle have been estranged from their son for twenty years. With Isabella at death’s door, she wants to bring her son back into the family. Ray’s search for the now forty-year old son takes him to Monterey, California, where he encounters a cast of seedy characters more than eager to lead him to the heir of the Carlyle fortune. But his search is complicated by the seemingly unrelated murder of a rival private eye. At the same time, a young man is brutally attacked in Honduras and left for dead. Does this relate to Ray’s case? With a cast of memorable characters and Mackey’s graceful prose, this gripping page-turner delivers on every front and will have you guessing until the final page.

From the moment Ray Courage said “I smiled stupidly. Perhaps my signature expression.” I was curled up and ready to read this book.

I like my private investigators kind of caring, a little sarcastic, with a sense of humor and a little bit of a smart mouth. If you agree, you’ll like this story. I loved it. This book has pretty well everything you want in a mystery. There are of course, your standard good and bad guys; moments that make you smile and those that make you mad. There are plenty of twists and turns you did not expect here but all are quite plausible. A better way to say this is if you like Harry Starke or Michael McLaren or even Travis McGee you are going to like this book as much as I did.

This book was what I call a clean read. By that I’m not referring to the editing although I will say the editing in this book was superb. What I mean by “clean” is that everything fit together, the storyline flowed through the whole book. There was never a dull moment. This book makes your mind work and its characters are really well-defined. It makes you want to like the good guys and catch the bad ones. All of these many aspects existed in this book by R Scott Mackey.

I was very lucky to be the one to review this book about Ray Courage. This is book five. I sure intend to read the other four.

Lullaby for My Sister by Nancy Barone


Lullaby for My Sister by Nancy Barone
Publisher: Tirgearr Publishing
Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Contemporary
Length: Full length (310 pages)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Peony

When Valentina and Lucy Mancino’s mother died, and their father turned to alcohol to cope, Valentina quickly understood it was up to her to run the household and take care of her little sister. But Valentina was only nine years old. And when their new step-mother moved in, along with her two sons, Val also knew things were about to change for the worse.

Fifteen years later, while Lucy is flailing in life, Val is running a successful career, but she’s also hiding a terrible secret. She soon discovers that her former home is suppressing secrets of its own—many unspeakable truths are dying to be told.

Heartache and hope will keep you turning the pages of Nancy Barone’s Lullaby for My Little Sister. What can only be described as an emotional ride, kept me hooked from start to finish with a plot that extends in the past and present both full of realistic joy and anguish. Nancy is an author with a lot of experience in the romance genre, but with this book tries something new, telling a mystery full of themes of family, love and trauma. The initial promise of a book about the connections between two sisters share goes well beyond this and explores many themes that feel very real and visceral to keep you reading till the end.

Lullaby for My Little Sister is a tear jerker right from the get go. You’re faced with the loss of family, but the well of grief doesn’t end there. Rather than gloss over or focus on one tragedy as the focal point, this story weaves itself around the cascade of other problems one loss can bring. The book is almost entirely internal, but there are actions associated with the emotions, even though most of it is musing from the part of the lead. Perhaps more external narrative could have given the book a better pacing, because it is quite slow to start, but the narrative style isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just prepared for a slow burn.

This book has a very strong family element and a cultural aspect of Italians living in the US. Anyone who’s read a book from this cultural viewpoint may find it familiar, even if it isn’t a culture like their own. The pains taken by the author to incorporate the family culture into the book is extremely helpful in creating a sense of immersion and filling in some of the blanks for how the characters interact with each other. Unfortunately, the other side to the cultural portion of the book is the stereotypes that go along with it. There were many parts where I just felt like I was reading something from a mob story, even if the mafia have no part of the book.

Another neat thing this book does is how the acts the characters are engaging in become allegorical for the story at large. The act of cleaning becomes one of cleaning one’s life and these themes remain constant through the book. By telling the story literally but also figuratively at the same time, the author manages to tell the story in more than one way. This aspect of the writing is very hard to explain but it worked very well and I rather enjoyed it. Perhaps this could be described as one of the strongest hooks the book has.

There are some triggers that you as a reader should be aware of before starting this book. Themes of sexual assault and loss of parents do come up and while I won’t spoil how or for whom, I will say that they become unavoidable in the story at large. If these are the sorts of things that you might struggle with then be aware they’re there. Additionally, child abuse comes up in this book and like the other themes, cannot be skipped. While these themes are treated with the weight and magnitude they deserve, for some they may hit a little too close to home.

Despite all the strong emotional storylines and clever figurative moments this story has, there is one thing that harmed the immersion if just a little. Nothing in this story was particularly out of the realm of reason, but the sheer volume of misunderstandings and shocker twists that occur started to at times feel like a soap opera. There really isn’t anything wrong with soap operas, they are hugely popular and for a good reason, but not every reader is going to find that to their taste. Personally, though not a consumer of soap operas, these instances in the story were little more than a small stumbling block I could easily get over and move beyond. It would be a shame to skip this story over something like that, but at the same time it is good to know it’s there.

Perhaps not everyone should read this book, those that have certain triggers from their own past trauma might want to take a pass and anyone who really isn’t interested in high drama may likewise find this too dense. For me personally this book was one of the most emotional investments I’ve undertaken in a while and it was hard not to appreciate all of the aspects of family, love and overcoming issues that come up in the story. For anyone looking for a book that expertly mixes the good and the bad should probably pick this book up as soon as possible. You won’t be disappointed.

Cupid Mislaid by P G Barker


Cupid Mislaid by P G Barker
Publisher: Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full length (285 pgs)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Snowdrop

Carolyn Cotter, talented big-city ad executive, confuses the house number of her destination with that of a famous music mogul on the same street. Suddenly she finds herself embroiled in a police investigation regarding a missing platinum statue.

Simon Bergman, an accountant for the music mogul, is pleasantly surprised to meet such a charming young woman at his boss’s party. He is less pleasantly surprised when she dashes off without a farewell. Finding her again, he becomes her ally in seeking out the real culprit.

Will what they learn about themselves and about life land them in jail, or in love?

Could you mistake a farewell party for a funeral? Depends on the circumstances doesn’t it?

This is a story of people and their jobs and the ups and downs of everyday life. This is also a story about the way we all know people can act when we need them; some let us down and some support us. Sort of like life. This was a good read that really had its twists and turns and sure surprised me.

I liked this author’s characters, the closest ones were really fleshed out. I often define this kind of character development as a good “picture”. It’s important to me to have a sense of their personalities and maybe even an idea of what a few of them look like, in my mind at least. I did feel as if a few “scenes” were somewhat repetitive in this book. It seemed to bog down a little in the middle but the author’s style was clean and there was a clarity in the storyline I enjoyed. The book did keep my interest and seemed to pick up quickly.

There was a little humor in this book. The kind I always enjoy, that somewhat sarcastic making fun of oneself in a narrative sort of way. The author did it here utilizing the main character, Carolyn, and did it very well. This was a fun book to read.

The Silver Mosaic by Michael McMenamin and Patrick McMenamin


The Silver Mosaic by Michael McMenamin and Patrick McMenamin
Publisher: First Edition Design Publishing
Genre: Historical, Thriller, Mystery/suspense
Length: Full (442 pgs)
Rated: 5 stars
Review by Rose

March, 1933. The weak German economy is in peril. Winston Churchill wants to push it over the cliff with a boycott of German exports and take with it the new Nazi government whose brown-shirted SA thugs are terrorizing Germany’s Jews.

Working with Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver, Churchill enlists the help of his goddaughter, Hearst photojournalist Mattie McGary, and her fiance, the lawyer and ex-Army intelligence agent Bourke Cockran. Mattie’s task is to find out how the Nazis plan to defeat the boycott. Cockran’s assignment is to recover microfilm containing sensitive commercial information on German exporters compiled by German patriots opposed to the Nazis. With it, the exporters’ competitors will be able to steal Germany’s foreign customers with comparable goods at lower prices.

The Nazis are determined to fight back. To oppose the boycott, they find two unlikely allies. One is the Jewish Authority in Palestine who is negotiating with the Nazis to sell out the boycott in exchange for the Nazis allowing German Jews to emigrate to Palestine with funds in excess of German currency controls. The negotiations are top secret and when Mattie gets too close to the truth, both the Nazis and their Jewish allies in Palestine are determined to stop her at any cost.

The second Nazi ally is FDR and the U.S. government who also oppose the boycott because of the damage it will do to American investors. When American agents learn of Cockran’s quest for the microfilm, they team up with Hitler’s black-clad SS and Jewish agents from Palestine to stop him and get the microfilm.

The deadly battle between Churchill’s agents, Mattie and Cockran, takes them from New York to London, Paris, Berlin, Budapest, Prague, Copenhagen, and Stockholm pursued by the strange bedfellows of Nazi, Jewish and American agents working together. Finally, at Mattie and Cockran’s wedding in Scotland, their enemies kidnap Cockran’s son and Churchill’s daughter and offer to trade their lives for the microfilm.

I was excited to be able to review this next volume in the Churchill Thriller series – the fifth in the series. The action takes place shortly after the adventures in the previous volume, The Berghof Betrayal (you can see our review of it here).

It was good to visit with some old friends and to meet new characters. The authors did another masterful job at blending historical figures (Churchill, Einstein, Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver, etc.) with fictional characters such as Mattie McGary and Bourke Cockran.

The action is non-stop, and the amount of historical research that this father/son writing team does is incredible. The books can be read in any order plot-wise, but it might help the new reader understand and perhaps keep up with all the characters if the previous books have been read.

While long and at times violent (it IS set during a pretty violent period of time, after all), the book is a pleasure to read. I’m looking forward to the release of their next book in this series.

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Shrouded Memory by Krista Wagner


Shrouded Memory by Krista Wagner
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (249 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Snowdrop

What You Don’t Remember Can Hurt You

After surviving a shark attack, Marine Biologist Rian Field becomes haunted by disturbing memories of a past traumatic incident and begins to suspect that the assailants may be those closest to her. But more chilling is her fear that they are somehow connected to the shark attack and want her dead. Rian must overcome her fear of sharks and uncover the truth before the past drags her into its shadows.

Can a large whale be dangerous in an estuary?

Estuaries are places where the salt water meets the fresh water. A place that holds all sorts of weird species. Why would Rian Field get her PhD in Marine Estuarine & Aquatic Life Studies in a place like this? She was even a little afraid of water. For that matter, why would she want to see and study the Great White shark? But…many of us have seen the movie Jaws and thoughts of such a movie have stayed with us for years. Rian Field had been fascinated with sharks ever since she saw the movie.

Just like I seem to know Rian and her thoughts, the author also did a good job with development of many of the characters. While I enjoyed reading this book, it does have a lot of flashbacks in the form of dreams, “bad guy thoughts” and memories. Sometimes that can be hard to follow or throw off the flow of reading. It was handled pretty well by this author. One thing that helped ease the flow of reading was that dreams, thoughts of the “bad guy” and regular prose were all done in different fonts. This made Shrouded Memory much easier to read than many books of its type.

This is a book full of relationships, good friends, and intrigue. I read it very quickly but not because it was easy. It was because I didn’t want to put it down.

Too Beautiful for Words by Ronald M. James


Too Beautiful for Words by Ronald M. James
Publisher: James Milward
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full length (388 pgs)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Snowdrop

Private Investigator, Sammy Shovel, finally gets the client of a lifetime and rushes to claim his jackpot, but he soon discovers—wealth and pearl coincide.

Beloved Golden Opportunities, founder and CEO, Joel Ceja, is found murdered one foggy morning.

Three months after Joel’s death the police are stumped, they still have no clues in the case. Golden Opportunities’ employees feel they’re being stonewalled and decide to hire detective Sammy Shovel to assist the police. Meeting the Golden executive congregate, Sammy learns real wealth has money trees to burn, but they want results. His shabby clothes are no concern for they think it’s part of a disguise for another case, not knowing he’s bordering on destitution.

Sammy accepts the case, figuring it was nothing more than a local homicide.

However, in no time at all, he’s mired in international quicksand filled with a worldwide assassination ring, and wants out of the contract.

Sammy learns that gold teeth, with the inscription R & M, are major facts in the case.

But greed overcomes his common sense, and is embroiled in a well-organized gang of hit men. He runs from firefight to firefight to get to the truth, but his adversaries dupe him time and again with lies and trickery.

In Mazatlan Sammy discovers the truth about the initials R&M, they’re tied to a band of Seventeenth Century assigns, who would murder each other with any hint of betrayal.

You may deceive Sammy—some of time. But when he put’s it altogether—run bother, run for we all know Sammy’s a shoot first and ask questions later kind of guy.

Sammy Shovel sure isn’t your everyday P.I.

If you enjoy a good gumshoe turned P.I. book, this is one for you. The characters were well-developed but none as well as Sammy Shovel, P.I. Is that the perfect name for a stumbling, bumbling, smart as a tack P.I. or not?

This is a 2nd edition by a different publisher, James Milward. The author, Ronald James, was born during the time of the Depression. However, this book is set in today’s era. The plot is conceivable and there is a lot of interplay between Sammy and the local cops, some friendly and of course…some not. There are definitely enough twists and turns to keep you guessing. Still, the storyline in this book is constructed well enough to never lose you in those twists and turns. No turning back a few pages to see “who was who” in this book. Most of this book is written in first person narrative. It is Sammy’s view of himself and his sarcastic and somewhat naïve mind that makes this book fun to read.

I must say if typos or grammar errors bother you, be advised this book needs some editing. I must also tell you that they drive me nuts and I would normally put a book down immediately. I couldn’t put this book down. Had to finish it. And that says volumes about the story.

The Tell All by Libby Howard


The Tell All by Libby Howard
Publisher: Self-published
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (137 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Life at sixty isn’t quite what Kay Carrera expected. She’s working as a skip-tracer for a PI who is desperate to land his own reality TV show. She has a new roommate who arrived with more than the usual amount of baggage. And her attempts at knitting are less than stellar – way less than stellar. Worse, the cataract surgery that restored her sight has also delivered an unexpected and disturbing side-effect. Kay sees ghosts. And when the dead turn to her for help, she just can’t say no.

It’s hard to have a peaceful life when the dead keep trying to get your attention.

Kay was a well-developed and quite likeable main character. Her intelligence was what caught my eye first. She wasn’t the kind of person who would ever make a big fuss over something like this, but I enjoyed seeing her quietly figure out how to get through sticky situations and solve mysteries that didn’t give her a lot of clues to work with at first. Her flaws were written nicely as well. They showed me sides of her personality that I wouldn’t have otherwise seen. Noticing them only made me like her more than I already did because of how much they humanized a woman who was so sweet, gentle, and interested in making her home an oasis for everyone who lived there.

The pacing issues were what prompted me to choose the rating I did. As much as I enjoyed getting to know the characters, it took a while for the plot to pick up speed and even more time for Kay to realize that the shadowy figures her optometrist thought were a side effect of cataract surgery were actually real spirits. It would have been nice to have more time to explore what was happening and to have more clues about the case earlier on.

Once the mystery was revealed, though, I dove straight into it. There was far more going on than Kay originally thought, so I was curious to see how she’d react to all of the new information she found as she probed more deeply into the case. It didn’t take long for her to follow the clues she was given. I was intrigued by how persistent she was and how she reacted to certain surprising plot twists.

The Tell All was a cozy story that I’d recommend to anyone who is in the mood for a fairly quick read.

October Mystery/Suspense Book of the Month Poll Winner ~ Passport to Murder by Mary Angela


Passport to Murder by Mary Angela
Publisher: Camel Press
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (249)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Stargazer

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Start with an unlucky number. Throw in a romantic location. Include a dashing Frenchman and an uncompromising professor. And you have all the ingredients for a passport to murder.

This semester, it seems that Professor Prather’s dreams are about to come true. Ever since she was a young girl, she’s imagined going to France, and her French colleague, André Duman, has finally made that trip possible. Over spring break, she and André are to lead a group of students and faculty to Paris to explore the City of Light. But before she can utter her first bonjour, a professor dies, and they are stuck in Minneapolis. She returns to Copper Bluff with an unstamped passport and a mystery to solve.

When André becomes the prime suspect, Emmeline puts her research skills to good use, determined to find out who really killed the professor and spoiled their spring break plans. With thirteen travelers assembled, the possibilities are varied and villainous. Luckily, her dear friend and sidekick, Lenny Jenkins, is close by. Together, they will sort through the conflicting clues even if it costs them time, trouble, or tenure.

READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE!

Passport to Murder by Mary Angela


Passport to Murder by Mary Angela
Publisher: Camel Press
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (249)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Stargazer

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Start with an unlucky number. Throw in a romantic location. Include a dashing Frenchman and an uncompromising professor. And you have all the ingredients for a passport to murder.

This semester, it seems that Professor Prather’s dreams are about to come true. Ever since she was a young girl, she’s imagined going to France, and her French colleague, André Duman, has finally made that trip possible. Over spring break, she and André are to lead a group of students and faculty to Paris to explore the City of Light. But before she can utter her first bonjour, a professor dies, and they are stuck in Minneapolis. She returns to Copper Bluff with an unstamped passport and a mystery to solve.

When André becomes the prime suspect, Emmeline puts her research skills to good use, determined to find out who really killed the professor and spoiled their spring break plans. With thirteen travelers assembled, the possibilities are varied and villainous. Luckily, her dear friend and sidekick, Lenny Jenkins, is close by. Together, they will sort through the conflicting clues even if it costs them time, trouble, or tenure.

Have you ever wondered how crime is solved in the world of Academia? With the assistance of Professor Prather of course!

Passport to Murder is an engrossing story that will pull the reader in from the first page. While taking a once in a lifetime class trip to Paris, there is a death of one of the faculty members during the flight causing an immediate change of plans and cancelling this amazing opportunity for everyone. What occurs after this murder is where the story really heats up, both literally and figuratively.

Passport to Murder is the second story of the Professor Prather series. You do not need to read the first book, An Act of Murder, to feel caught up since Mary Angela does an excellent job at keeping new and returning reader up to speed. The core events of the first story are reviewed within Passport to Murder without causing the reader to feel guilty about missing out if they had not read the first book.

Emmeline Prather and her colleague Lenny Jenkins team up after some more puzzling questions arise regarding the death of the beloved professor on the plan. The mix of characters, including police officers, students and faculty all make for a fun interactive adventure for the reader. The great conversations and in-depth descriptions bring the reader directly into the mix-making the story flow smoothly and enveloping the reader into the world of Emmeline Prather.

As the story progresses and the questions regarding the beloved but very outspoken professor begin to circulate once again, another mysterious tragedy suddenly appears to take Copper Bluff by storm. Emmeline and Lenny begin connecting the dots to find out that this new development is most likely related to the professor’s death. Just when the reader began to believe that life was moving forward for the characters, this new development sets off even more questions and suspicions.

If you are a fan of mysteries, especially those that occur in the world of academics, make sure you don’t miss Passport to Murder by Mary Angela!

Laked by J L Wilson


Laked by J L Wilson
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (214 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

Vivian DuLac, shop owner of Curiosity’s Curios and Collectibles, has come into possession of an old sword that Arthur (“Able”) Leroy wants. But that’s not all that Able wants. He wants Vivian and her connections to her ex-husband, CEO of a large software company.

Able follows Vivian to northern Minnesota where her ex-husband is meeting to discuss a merger with another company. It’s the one that Able used to own and the one taken from him by his scheming stepsister, Faye Morgan.

When Faye dies under unusual circumstances, everyone associated with her comes under suspicion, including Vivian and Able. On a storm-shrouded night, Vivian finds out if she can trust Able. And they both find out if an ancient sword is worth Vivian’s life.

If you ever watched the TV show Matlock or the TV show Murder, She Wrote and enjoyed them, then that gives you an idea if you will enjoy this book or not. I loved those television shows and therefore enjoyed reading this book. The synopsis sounded intriguing to me and I wasn’t disappointed.

It’s not very often I read a book that the hero and heroine were “older”. It did put a different perspective on things but in a good way. They were mature, established and still young enough to have some romantic chemistry.

Vivian DuLac, the heroine, was a strong, independent, successful business owner. She was past the age of worrying what other people think of her. She said what she thought regardless of the outcome and was still well liked and respected by others. She could protect herself from danger when needed. Vivian was intelligent but a bit gullible and easily trusted others. I found Vivian’s characteristics easy to relate to.

Able, the hero, was complex and I can’t say much about him because he’s a huge part of the suspense/mystery plot. He has secrets and motives that made the book worth reading. He was strong, handsome and kind. He possessed the qualities of a heroic leader.

As a couple, their relationship worked considering the intricate plot. Between the sword, the history of the sword, the merging of the companies, the mysterious death of the character, Faye, there was a lot of depth to this story. Vivian and Able have individual past histories that are intertwined in this swirly plot. It was all fascinating how the writer master planned this elaborate story and still incorporated a budding romance between the lead characters. I particularly got a hoot over their love scene. That was the most unique love scene I’ve ever read.

There are several side characters but I didn’t get lost or confused. They each had a relevant existence to the evolving story line. Together they created a well gelled cast of characters. I enjoyed reading the setting as it was described at a lake. I’ve been to Lake Winnipesaukee once and we rode in a boat all over that lake. With that personal experience I was able to vividly imagine the setting in my mind.

The writing style was creative, unique and polished. I already mentioned how the lead characters were “older” as in old enough to be in their menopausal stage of life. I haven’t googled J L Wilson therefore I have no idea how old the author is. Yet, I feel like I definitely heard the author’s unique voice when Vivian spoke. Vivian spoke of a woman of her age. The love scene alone vindicates a unique writing style. The specifics in the story made it tangible and believable, such as the footprints in the snow. The details added to the quality and made for a concrete plot. The piece written about the sword was another example of a creative writing style, especially near the end. Very dramatic!

The pace consistently flowed at a moderate speed thanks to the combination of mood and emotional provoking plot threads. As these elements were implemented throughout in the dialogue, setting and action, it made the suspense/mystery riveting. I was on the edge of my seat wondering where this point was going to go. With several suspects and narrative twists I found this story unpredictable.

Whenever my father would eat something that he really liked he’d say, “You know what this taste like?” I’d say “What?” and he’d say “It tastes like MORE”. He’d say “more” all drawn out while laughing. I fell for it every time.

This book was like that joke. I wanted more. It had an abrupt ending without an epilogue. I’m sitting here still in a state of surprise. I point this out for the future reader to brace themselves for the unexpected brusque ending. With that being said it’s important to point out that there are no loose threads or a cliff hanger. I wanted to rave that this was the best book ever but I can’t with that unanticipated ending. I flipped the pages looking for more. I needed more assurance. I was not left with a confident happily ever after. It was there but not rock solid like the rest of the book.

In conclusion, I’d recommend this book but I’d tell my friends that they’ll have to add their own addendum to the ending. However, if you like a wham, bam, thank you mam swift kind of ending then there’s a strong chance you’ll absolutely LOVE this book. It definitely was an entertaining read.