Tell No Tales by JM Dalgliesh


Tell No Tales by JM Dalgliesh
Publisher: Hamilton Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

In a world of lies, one truth remains. Dead men tell no tales…
When the body of an unidentified man is found at the foot of Sheringham cliffs with injuries inconsistent with a fall, DI Tom Janssen must piece together his final days to determine how he fell to his death… or who pushed him…

The investigation quickly reveals a network of locals with ties to the victim, but as for the man himself… he remains something of a mystery. The dead man doesn’t fit in; not with his social circle, not with his business interests and when others come looking for him, the intrigue only deepens.

Joined in the investigation by his new Detective Sergeant, Cassie Knight, Janssen uncovers closely guarded secrets alongside long-held grudges. Any one of them could be a motivation for murder. This man had powerful enemies and even more dangerous friends…

As the inquiry develops it is clear that someone wanted him dead but, a formidable character in his own right, who would dare to take him on? One death threatens to unravel a wider conflict where neither the innocent… or the guilty… can feel truly safe. Janssen must bring down the wall of silence encircling his childhood town, coming up against old antagonists as well as facing new adversaries, or risk an escalation in the violence.

Secrets are kept… Deceit is commonplace… And dead men Tell No Tales…

DI Tom Janssen and his team investigate the questionable death of a man found at the foot of Sheringham cliffs. The more they look into the circumstances, and the man himself, the more questions they have and the deeper the complexities become. Can Tom and his team unravel the knot of powerful people involved in this murky situation?

I have been mostly enjoying this Hidden Norfolk series, but I truly feel this is the best book so far. I think the author is finally hitting his stride with the characters, setting and plot and this book in particular really shines for me. I was ecstatic that Tom’s personal life has finally taken a back seat and there was a lot more focus in this story on the murder mystery and the various subplots revolving around that. I also found it surprising (in a good way) that I didn’t miss the fact that DCI Tamara Greave has a far, far smaller part to play in this story. The strong secondary characters in Eric and Cassie (the other members of Tom’s team) really started to grow and shine and I feel they easily made up for the smaller and more managerial – rather than boots-on-the-ground colleague – part Tamara played in this book.

I also strongly feel readers should feel comfortable picking this book up by itself. While there is absolutely a team dynamic between the officers the plot is very well contained to just this book. I think particularly with such a strong focus on this plot and the police procedural aspect to the solving of the crime readers who haven’t caught the previous installments won’t find themselves lost or trying to work out any of the dynamics or “in” jokes.

With a strong and well-crafted plot and a number of interesting peripheral characters I enjoyed trying to work out which people were involved in the crime, and which just got caught up in it with people’s lives crossing over as they do in smaller communities. I also greatly enjoyed how – for the first time for me – after the police conducted an interview there was a short chapter of what each suspect did/thought directly after the police left. I loved how this gave me as the reader a bit more insight into each character’s motivation, reaction and a small part of the puzzle as to how they fit the growing picture. I really enjoyed this and would love it if this style continues in Dalgliesh’s further books.

With a delightfully layered plotline, some solid police procedural work and a bunch of interesting characters this was a really good mystery book and a highlight for me, personally, so far in this series. I’m very eager to read more.

Omniscience by Janine Frances


Omniscience by Janine Frances
Publisher: Green Gables Publishing
Genre: Dystopian, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 5 stars
Review by Poppy

A family seek refuge in the Australian outback as tyranny takes hold, but who can they trust?

The world is at war and an authoritarian government has taken control in Australia. A terrorist group known as Day One is attempting to destroy civilisation so humanity can start again.

Shareen Miller gets caught up in a bureaucratic nightmare when she’s detained by an Auto-Enforcer for not having the right travel permit on the way to a job interview. Shareen’s detention sets off a chain of events that lead to her five-year-old twins being taken by the government.

With her husband Daniel, grandmother Alma, and sister Layla, Shareen seizes her children and escapes from the city. On the road, she reveals a secret about her missing mother Veronica that she’s been hiding from her family for five years.

What follows is an intense journey into the harsh Australian outback where nothing is as it seems, and no one can be trusted.

As they fight for survival, Veronica’s family finally learn the truth about why she left them. The stakes couldn’t be higher as the future of humanity hangs in the balance.

I know it’s a bit cliched to say this, but honestly–this book grabbed me from the first page and just didn’t let go. And that was a big deal to me. I’ve been in a bit of a reading rut lately, where the books I’ve picked have been a little “meh”. Not bad, but just not that great or memorable. So, to finally find a book that I didn’t want to put down, one I thought about when I wasn’t reading it and couldn’t wait to get back to it? Yeah, that was huge.

The author writes her descriptions vividly, and from the first moment I could see the world I was reading about. The oppression and non-stop oversight by the government is a bit terrifying, and I rooted for Shareen and her family from the start. I also really enjoyed that this wasn’t a book about a teenager who saves the world. Because the plot revolved around adults and family, it felt a bit more real and possible, which also made it that much more terrifying.

The plot is filling with twists and turns I didn’t see coming, which isn’t typical for me. I love that I wasn’t several steps ahead of the characters in the book, and that I was basically living the story right along with them.

Truthfully, one of the better books I’ve read this year. The author has a vivid, unique and talented way of telling a story that I greatly appreciated and crafted a world and characters that felt real, and she made me care about them. I’m very glad I was able to read this book and I recommend it to any fans of the genre.

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The Night Bartender by Alexa Piper


The Night Bartender by Alexa Piper
Fairview Chronicles, book 9
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday, Paranormal, Erotic Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, LGBTQ
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Aaron has come to Fairview to find his ex’s teenage sister, who went missing in the city. As a witch both rich and powerful, Aaron follows a trail that leads him to a bar frequented by supernaturals and to a bartender who attracts Aaron’s attention — and not just because the bartender is keeping something from Aaron. When Aaron runs out of leads, he follows the mysterious and pretty bartender, and the next thing Aaron knows, he’s foiling an attempted abduction.

Ilya has built a quiet life in Fairview mixing drinks and flying under the radar. He is a banshee, and the psychic ability and mild telepathy that comes with that makes Ilya a sought-after commodity. That carefully constructed life Ilya built for himself breaks into a thousand pieces when a handsome witch starts asking questions and becomes Ilya’s rescuer mere hours after they meet.

The witch, Aaron, vows to protect Ilya and to keep his secret. Now Ilya has to decide whether he will give Aaron his trust and risk a lonely but safe life as a night bartender in a wintry city in which people disappear only to then turn up murdered.

Two men who probably shouldn’t mix are just what the doctor ordered.

I love a good Alexa Piper story and this one delivered. The characters are quirky, the story hot and the chemistry off the charts. I devoured this story in one sitting and couldn’t wait to get to the rest in this series. The pacing was great and though this is book 9, I didn’t feel lost by not reading the others.

I liked the way the tension and action carried the story. Yes, there is heat between Aaron and Ilya, but they have a job to do, too. It was fun to read about them getting together and their exploits.

If you want a good story for a lazy afternoon or one guaranteed to heat up the night, then this is the one you’re looking for. Recommended.

Think Twice by John Carson


Think Twice by John Carson
Publisher: Vellum
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

As the end of the year draws to a close, Detective Chief Inspector Sean Bracken is called to a murder scene near the Writer’s Museum. The body of a woman is sitting on a bench in the square, her frozen hand holding a paperback.

The book is by famous American professor of psychology and crime writer, Edwin Hawk. Who has just ended a book tour, culminating in Edinburgh.

Hawk doesn’t know her and thinks she may be just a fan of his.

Knowing he is the number one suspect, he sets out to convince Bracken of his innocence. But Bracken has dealt with people like Hawk before. Is the man telling the truth or using psychology to get away with murder?

Bracken discovers the real reason the professor is still in Edinburgh, and it’s not for Hogmanay. And when he discovers the secrets he’s been keeping, not only could his own life be in danger, but those around him.

Bracken will have to deal with not only a vicious killer but somebody who doesn’t like to lose. But Bracken has played these games before, and one of them has to lose.

And for the loser, life will never be the same again.

DCI Sean Bracken has been back in Edinburgh for only a few weeks and already he’s drawn into another murder investigation. A woman is murdered and left holding a book – the author of whom she was a strong fan of and had been to a small soiree for just hours before her death. The more DCI Bracken investigates the deeper and more complicated the mystery – and everyone’s motives – become.

This is the second book featuring Sean Bracken and I really enjoyed it. I’m a big fan of this author’s DCI Harry McNeil’s books but while the tone of the author’s voice is similar in a “more-ish” manner I was really pleased that the actual feel and structure of the story was quite different for this series. Sean Bracken is a fair bit harder and grittier than Harry McNeil and there’s a noticeable amount of more force and swearing in this series. The whole feel to the story rather than a fun romp through a police investigation is a lot harder and sharper. Readers who enjoy the darker edge many British based stories tend to lean towards should really enjoy this series and this book in particular.

I strongly feel readers can pick this book up as a standalone. The entire events of the first book were all crammed into a little over one week of story timeline – so quite a bit of explanation and background/character history was parceled out in this story. This should help keep fresh readers completely aware of what’s going on and the plot itself is very well written and completely contained in this book.

With a small cast of vibrant characters and a solid plot that kept me turning the pages and guessing well into the story this was a good book and an exceptional new series I plan to thoroughly enjoy.

Redemption by David Baldacci


Redemption by David Baldacci
Publisher: Pan Books (Pan McMillan)
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery /Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Fern

Decker is visiting his hometown of Burlington, Ohio, when he’s approached by a man named Meryl Hawkins. Hawkins is a convicted murderer. In fact, he’s the very first killer Decker ever put behind bars. But he’s innocent, he claims. Now suffering from terminal cancer, it’s his dying wish that Decker clear his name.

It’s unthinkable. The case was open and shut, with rock solid forensic evidence. But when Hawkins turns up dead with a bullet in his head, even Decker begins to have doubts. Is it possible that he really did get it wrong, all those years ago?

Decker’s determined to uncover the truth, no matter the personal cost. But solving a case this cold may be impossible, especially when it becomes clear that someone doesn’t want the old case reopened. Someone who is willing to kill to keep the truth buried, and hide a decades-old secret that may have devastating repercussions . . .

Amos Decker has returned to his hometown in Ohio to lay flowers on his daughter’s grave on what would have been her fourteenth birthday. When he is approached by a newly released prisoner who was his first arrest as a homicide detective Amos was not expecting the man to not only insist on his innocence, but for Amos to actually believe him. Drawn back into the old case, can Amos right the wrongs he unwittingly committed all those many years ago?

Even though this is the fifth book in the Amos Decker series I feel many readers should be able to pick this up and still thoroughly enjoy the complicated murder mystery. While this is absolutely the re-looking at a cold case, there is clearly still aspects of the original murder that continues into the present day as people who were peripherally involved continue to be involved and more murders are committed as Amos looks deeper into the issues.

Much of Amos’ past and his connection to the other primary characters – ie the FBI, Alex and Melvin etc – is well explained though it’s quite obvious there are previous books that delve far deeper into these friendships. Readers wanting a fast paced, movie-style action plotline might not find this suits their tastes. There is a wonderfully complicated plot with a number of twists and turns, but the pacing is a bit slower than an action-orientated storyline, and this means many of the items unfold at a slightly slower pace than some readers might prefer. Personally, I enjoyed this slower pace – it made me feel like I was understanding exactly what was happening and discovering things alongside Amos and not trailing behind or lost.

With an interesting plot and plenty of secondary characters in the cast who were part of the investigation this is a solid book and I feel it’s a well-woven plot. This isn’t a fast-paced ride, but I feel it’s more of a complex and inter-woven style of story where untangling everything is part of the pleasure and it’s always interesting to see how Amos’ brain works and all the myriad of smaller things his perfect memory can recall and turn for a new interpretation.

A strong book and a good series I really enjoy.

*Grace Under Fire by Julie Garwood


*Grace Under Fire by Julie Garwood
Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group
Genre: Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Larkspur

Grace Isabel MacKenna has a hundred things to do today. Killing someone isn’t one of them. It is supposed to be a quick visit to Boston for the Buchanan anniversary party, then on to Scotland to collect an inheritance. She checks into her hotel and then decides to go for a brisk walk. But after getting lost, she ends up with a wounded man stumbling into her arms—and his shooter coming after them both. When she fires back in self-defense, she doesn’t expect him to drop dead. After Isabel endures an interrogation by police, she is free to go, thanks to the Buchanans dispatching former Navy SEAL and now lawyer Michael Buchanan to assist her.

Isabel knows she should be grateful for Michael’s help, but since she’s harbored an extreme dislike for him for years, gratitude is difficult to muster. Michael has appointed himself her de facto guardian, and she’s stuck with him despite their constant bickering and sizzling attraction. Even when Isabel goes to Scotland to claim her inheritance, Michael follows her—but he isn’t the only thing she can’t shake. Mysterious threats against Isabel surface, and before they can deal with their growing feelings for each other, Michael and Isabel must first survive.

Grace Under Fire is an intriguing story filled with romance and suspense. Even though the two main characters, Michael and Isabel, are very different from each other, they find it impossible to ignore the chemistry flowing between.

This is another engaging story centering on the Buchanan family. I love reading about this big, boisterous family, because they add so much entertainment and I especially enjoy all of the banter between all of them.

Michael, a former Navy Seal, is now an attorney. He is a high achiever, who is meticulous, organized, goal oriented and always knows exactly what he wants, and he goes after it with a single-minded focus. Even though Michael is so rigid, I still found him endearing.

I enjoyed how Michael and Isabel played off of each other. They are so different from one another that they have a hard time understanding how the other one thinks. Michael intimidates Isabel because he has achieved so much in his life, whereas Isobel has taken a more relaxed approach to her life.

Isabel and Michael are meant for each other, but it takes them a while to figure it out. It is fun watching them try to fight their attraction to each other, while everyone around them is placing bets on how long it will take them to get together.

Even though Isabel has her head in the clouds, she is immediately liked by everyone. She is sweet and innocent, and she takes an interest in everyone she meets. Isabel doesn’t give a thought to her safety and takes some unnecessary risks, which drives Michael crazy, because he is protective by nature. When someone is after Isabel, Michael takes protecting her very seriously. In fact, his whole family gets involved in trying to keep Isabel safe. I enjoyed this engaging story. It has entertaining characters, suspense and also some light and funny moments.

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict


The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Genre: Historical, Fiction, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

In December 1926, Agatha Christie goes missing. Investigators find her empty car on the edge of a deep, gloomy pond, the only clues some tire tracks nearby and a fur coat left in the car—strange for a frigid night. Her World War I veteran husband and her daughter have no knowledge of her whereabouts, and England unleashes an unprecedented manhunt to find the up-and-coming mystery author. Eleven days later, she reappears, just as mysteriously as she disappeared, claiming amnesia and providing no explanations for her time away.

The puzzle of those missing eleven days has persisted. With her trademark historical fiction exploration into the shadows of the past, acclaimed author Marie Benedict brings us into the world of Agatha Christie, imagining why such a brilliant woman would find herself at the center of such murky historical mysteries.

What is real, and what is mystery? What role did her unfaithful husband play, and what was he not telling investigators?

Agatha Christie novels have withstood the test of time, due in no small part to Christie’s masterful storytelling and clever mind that may never be matched, but Agatha Christie’s untold history offers perhaps her greatest mystery of all.

Her heart has been devoted to him, but he’s ready to move on. What’s a girl to do when she can’t immediately write her perfect ending? Take a day trip!

I picked up this book upon recommendation from a friend and I do like the work of Agatha Christie, so I thought I’d try it. This is a fictionalized version of Agatha Christie’s disappearance, and one must keep that in mind. Some of the details are a bit…fudged. I don’t know how to get into the head of Agatha Christie, but I applaud the author for trying.

This book was a good read, but it was a bit jarring at times. I wanted to know more of how Archie might have felt, but he was portrayed more as a bumbling, guilty man who didn’t understand the mess he’d made. The book had a bit of a feminist slant in that Agatha Christie took control of her own narrative and had to make some changes to come into her own, but it also feels a little naïve in that she seems to defer to her husband more than appeared necessary.

Agatha Christie was a strong woman, stronger than the women of her time. She made her own money and wasn’t afraid to have a career as an author, even when it annoyed her husband. I don’t know if this is exactly how the incident of her disappearance played out, but it’s a good enough read for an afternoon.

It’s interesting to wonder what it would’ve been like to be Agatha Christie and to understand what made her feel a disappearance was best. I liked reading the fictionalized version of her life.

If you’re interested in Agatha Christie, the mystery of her disappearance or just want a different kind of mystery, then give this one a try.

Cold Case Killer Profile by Jessica R. Patch


Cold Case Killer Profile by Jessica R. Patch
Quantico Profilers, Book 2
Publisher: Love Inspired Suspense
Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

The desert can hide many secrets…including murder.

Searching for the perfect morning landscape to paint leads forensic artist Brigitte Linsey straight to a dead body—and a narrow escape from the Sunrise Serial Killer still on the scene. Now she’s become unfinished business and new prey. Working with FBI special agent Duke Jericho could mean putting the murderer away for good. However, it’s just a matter of time before this diabolically clever predator turns his hunters into the hunted…

From Love Inspired Suspense: Courage. Danger. Faith.

I didn’t realize it was book two of three in the Quantico Profilers series until I finished it. It’s safe to say that it can be read as a standalone.

I’m not new to reading suspense/murder/mystery romances but I can say this was my first inspirational one. Surprisingly, the author made it work. Cold Case Killer Profile really was filled with “Courage, Danger and Faith”.

This is my first Jessica R. Patch book and it’s safe to say that it won’t be my last. I was engaged from the first chapter to the last. I couldn’t wait to get to the end to find out who the “Sunrise Serial Killer” was. There were many suspects in my mind. This story was filled with plot twists and unpredictable outcomes.

The heroine, Brigitte was a strong, independent character with some vulnerable moments which were justified.

The hero, Duke, was dream worthy. I loved how he protected Brigitte and was there to save the day. The chemistry between them was sweet. They were attracted to each other, but they were a little bit busy trying to stay alive. Fortunately, they had faith to keep them strong.

This book was an entertaining read. Happy Reading!

Return To Evil by John Carson


Return To Evil by John Carson
Publisher: Vellum
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Fern

A woman is found in a local cemetery, crushed to death under a gravestone. A production company is there, filming the remake of a classic sci-fi TV show in the grounds, making the investigation more difficult for DCI Harry McNeil. It’s his first day in charge of the cold case unit in Edinburgh. After spending four years in Professional Standards, he has little choice but to take the promotion. The Crown Office decides which cold cases should be reviewed, and this time, they’ve decided the murder of a teenage girl from twenty years ago should be re-opened. A girl who was murdered by somebody pushing a gravestone on top of her… The case gets more complicated when they find out who the latest victim is. Suddenly there are no shortage of suspects. As the filming continues, so does the killing. And McNeil wonders, has a killer been murdering for twenty years? Or is this case completely unconnected? With Frank Miller’s help, he’s going to find out…the hard way…

DCI Harry has just transferred out of Professional Standards and into the Cold Case unit. With a short period under his mentor to ease the transition for both Harry and the other officers no one expected them to suddenly pick up such a large and active case. Someone has murdered a woman in the cemetery in an identical manner to the killing of a pregnant teenage girl twenty years ago. With a film crew also currently inhabiting the cemetery shooting for a TV show there are any number of complications as Harry and his new team try to piece everything together.

I found this to be a fun and well-paced story. While this book was written after Sticks and Stones (the first in the DCI Harry McNeil series) the setting in the fictional world is shortly before Sticks and Stones – being Harry’s first case after leaving Professional Standards. It is still quite modern though and I found it was quite easy to read it out of chronological order.

There are a number of other cast members, including DCI Frank Miller who is featured in another of Carson’s series. At times I wondered if maybe there were too many secondary characters, but I feel Carson handled this quite well and I thought the story was better for having the somewhat larger size to its cast.

The mystery plot was very interesting and captured my attention pretty much from the beginning. This is a very well written police procedural style of story and Carson has an excellent writing style – the “voice” of which I really enjoy and personally I feel it flows very well and is easy to get sucked into the characters and stories. I greatly enjoy this series and am always happy to read more when each book is completed. This book – despite it being chronologically moving backwards – is no different.

A strong and well written police procedural style murder mystery book that I really enjoyed; I’ll definitely be purchasing more of Mr. Carson’s works.

Death is a Many-Splendored Thing by David Neilsen


Death is a Many-Splendored Thing by David Neilsen
Publisher: Neilsen Books
Genre: Young Adult (14 – 18 y.o.), Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Action/Adventure, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

The world would be a lot better off if all the dead people would stop pretending they weren’t dead.

My name is Zachariah Thornwood, but everyone, even my parents, calls me Zack. A few months ago I was a normal fourteen year old kid obsessed with movies and baseball and girls. Not necessarily in that order. And now?

Now I live life with the knowledge that there are a ton of dead people running around thumbing their noses at the whole idea of the Circle of Life. They could be anyone: the postman, the Mayor, the kid bagging your groceries, or the weather woman on TV. They seem perfectly normal, act perfectly normal, live perfectly normal lives, but are, in fact, perfectly dead…

Not everything in this world is what it immediately appears to be.

Zach was an interesting and memorable main character who genuinely felt like a moody teenage boy. I’m saying that affectionally as I liked him quite a bit even when he was a little grumpy with the adults in his life who dared to ask him questions or wished to know where he was going late at night. These moments are a normal part of growing up for many teens, though, and I’m glad they were included so naturally here. He was a brave kid who enjoyed taking risks. Both of these traits served him well during his adventure.

There were some pacing issues in the beginning and the middle of the storyline. I found myself wishing for more conflict or plot twists during them. As much fun as it was to see Zach try to navigate normal activities like going to school after he learned how many dead people there were out there who were pretending to still be alive, this didn’t quite give me enough substance to work with. I think there was room for more development here, and I would have gone with a higher rating if it had been included.

Mr. Neilsen did a good job with the world building. He explained exactly what he needed to about this world in order for it to make sense for me as a reader, and the framework he set up made me yearn for more. For example, I’d love to know how the dead handle things like doctor’s appointments or going through airport security due to the many physiological differences between them and the living that can quickly become apparent with a body scan, x-ray, blood draw, or any other close attention paid to the topic. As this appears to be the beginning of a new series, I was glad to see how much space he left himself for the future as well. It will be exciting to see where he goes next.

I’d recommend Death is a Many-Splendored Thing to anyone who is in the mood for adventurous young adult fiction.