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.

Three Strikes You’re Dead by Elena Hartwell


Three Strikes You’re Dead by Elena Hartwell
Publisher: Camel Press
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full length (290 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Snowdrop

Private investigator Eddie Shoes heads to a resort outside Leavenworth, Washington, for a mother-daughter getaway weekend. Eddie’s mother Chava wants to celebrate her new job at a casino by footing the bill for the two of them, and who is Eddie to say no?

On the first morning, Eddie goes on an easy solo hike, and a few hours later, stumbles upon a makeshift campsite and a gravely injured man. A forest fire breaks out and she struggles to save him before the flames overcome them both. Before succumbing to his injuries, the man hands her a valuable rosary. He tells her his daughter is missing and begs for her help. Is Eddie now working for a dead man?

Barely escaping the fire, Eddie wakes in the hospital to find both her parents have arrived on the scene. Will Eddie’s card-counting mother and mob-connected father help or hinder the investigation? The police search in vain for a body. How will Eddie find the missing girl with only Eddie’s memory of the man’s face and a photo of his daughter to go on?

“Being a grown-up wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.”

That’s what Eddie Shoes, P.I., was thinking waking up in the hospital bed looking up at her two newly discovered parents. It’s sort of like everyone is getting to know one another in this book and it makes for a very entertaining story. Eddie and her parents create a rather odd trio of investigators. Having been on her own for a long, long time, she’s used to working on her own and making her own decisions. For that matter, the same seems to be true of each of her parents. This is a good plot with an ending I am sure you can’t predict.

Hartwell did a really good job of making her characters come alive in this book. You begin to know them and to enjoy them due to the well-written and humorous dialog she creates between them. Eddie (Edwina) Shoes is an interesting female private investigator and one tough cookie. She’s kind of stuck between learning to know newly met or finally found parents, wanting to please them and yet wanting to be herself. Utilizing a triangle of characters to help with an impromptu investigation, the author creates a lot of funny moments.

This one was hard for me to put down. I really enjoyed it. This is the third “Eddie Shoes Mystery” that Hartwell has written. Hope there are more to come.

Six Dogs til Sunday by Lia Farrell


Six Dogs til Sunday by Lia Farrell
Publisher: Camel Press
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full length (258 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Snowdrop

It’s January in Rosedale, Tennessee, and Mae December is preparing for her March wedding to Sheriff Ben Bradley. Mae, who boards dogs for a living, is also busy tending to her pregnant dog and scouting locations for the movie featuring the music of her former fiancé Noah West, who died in a car accident four years earlier. Fortunately the picturesque old house at the end of Little Chapel Road is for rent.

Just as filming is about to begin, a man is shot on the set, but manages to drive himself to the hospital, where he dies before he can ID his killer. He was a member of the film crew, but also a local, and circumstances point to his being a confidential informant for Ben’s predecessor, Sheriff Trey Cantrell, also the owner of the house turned movie set. At the time of the shooting, the victim had been stealing a large sum of money from a safe on the premises. Whose money is it, and where does it come from?

The Rosedale Sheriff’s Office not only has another murder case on its hands, but one that will dredge up a past long buried. How far will the guilty parties go to protect their secrets?

This family sort of reminds me of the “Real McCoys” except with class.

This was a fun, light read. I would identify it as a cozy but it had plenty of substance to keep a reader’s interest the whole time. It has some extra advantages because I like dogs but actually I think the word “dogs” is used more in the titles of the series than dogs having any meaning in the story. However dogs do exist in this story as well as cops and bad guys and weddings. Not a bad mixture at all.

This is a really good example of character development. I think I could name all of the essential characters who made up this story but more importantly…I think I know what they look like. That may sound crazy but good authors write well enough that you have a picture of the characters and their surroundings. I also think that once that has been achieved, you won’t stop reading. There might have been a scene or two that I thought could have been cut but the book didn’t seem long. On the other hand maybe those scenes are why I know the characters so well.

This is Book 6 in the series which is called “A Mae December Mystery”. There was not one time in this book the author left me unable to figure something out because of a previous book in the series. The story of the previous books was never given away but they seemed to fit in enough to not leave you hanging in this one. There is no question this book can be read out of order in the series. That being said, if you don’t have a reason you have to read them out of order, don’t. Start with Book 1 and read through Book 6. Maybe there will be a Book 7 by that time. I hope so.

Identity Thief by R. Franklin James


Identity Thief by R. Franklin James
Publisher: Camel Press
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full length (258 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Snowdrop

Probate attorney Hollis Morgan is branching out into criminal law. Pardoned after serving time for her then-husband’s white-collar crime, she knows something about the workings of the criminal mind. Hollis’ first criminal case quickly gets complicated. Her client is a young man initially accused of identity theft, but his charge soon includes murder. Hollis has a knack for detecting lies, and although Justin Eastland lies with every breath, she doesn’t believe he is a killer. Eastland is let out on bail as bait, and Hollis struggles to keep her client alive. She enlists the services of her young friend Vince, a former addict she helped get back on track, telling him to not let Eastland out of his sight. At the same time Hollis is handling a sensitive probate matter for a whistle-blower hiding from a revengeful cartel. It has not been easy for Hollis to learn to trust again, and in both these cases, a surprising number of people are not telling her the whole story. She thinks she can sort the truths from the half-truths and the outright lies, but how reliable are her instincts? Hollis’ sense of justice does not always consider the law. If she’s wrong, her clients aren’t the only ones who could lose their lives.

Absolutely wonderful characters…

This has a good storyline. One that flows well and keeps your interest. Plenty of twists and turns but not one hiccup. Nothing here that throws off your rhythm of reading; makes you have to turn back a page or two to see what you missed. Clean, clearly written, crime fiction.

However, the main reason I liked this book was the characters. The author did a good job of overall character development but she made me love some of the characters. Hollis is the main character. She’s feisty and strong and knows her own mind. Although she’s had some knocks in life, she has picked herself up and become a member of a law firm. Hollis has helped some people that were down on their luck in life too. One of those people is Vince and I came to love him too in this story. My point here is that this author made me care about these characters. I don’t have to like all of the characters, the result of that would make for a very boring book. However, I sure have to know all of the characters and be able to draw my own picture of them. Sort of like a movie in writing. That’s important to me as a reader. This writer accomplished that.

As you can tell, I really enjoyed this sixth book in a series that R. Franklin James has titled the Hollis Morgan Mysteries. While this is the first I have read, I am positive that all of the other five must be an interesting read. I hope there’s another to follow.

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!

Murder of a Good Man by Teresa Trent


Murder of a Good Man by Teresa Trent
Publisher: Camel Press
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (258 pgs)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Snowdrop

When Nora Alexander arrives in Piney Woods, Texas, to fulfill her dying mother’s last wish, she has no idea what awaits her. First she is run off the road, then the sealed letter she delivers turns out to be a scathing rebuke to the town’s most beloved citizen and favored candidate for Piney Woods Pioneer: Adam Brockwell. Next thing you know, Adam has been murdered in a nasty knife attack. Suspicion instantly falls on Nora, one of the last people to see him alive. After all, everyone in Piney Woods loved him. Or did they? Nora learns that her mother had a complicated past she never shared with her daughter.

Told not to leave town by Tuck the flirty sheriff, Nora finds a job with Tuck’s Aunt Marty trying to get the rundown Tunie Hotel back in the black. The old hotel was Piney Woods’ heart and soul in its heyday as an oil boomtown. Now the secrets it harbors may be the key to getting Nora off the hook. She’s going to need to solve the mystery quickly to avoid arrest, or worse: becoming the killer’s next victim.

Good books have a rhythm and this one never lost a beat.

Books really do have a rhythm. There are those which seem to stop and start and those which flow as smoothly as a waltz. There is nothing more enjoyable than to read a book with no “hiccups” in the rhythm. Well, this first book in the Piney Woods Mystery Series was a waltz. I enjoyed every moment of it and the author truly never missed a step.

This small town setting with a nice mix of warm people has a lot in common with many other small towns trying to stay alive in today’s world. The story has a few characters that are immediately likeable and each has their own distinct personality. A lawman of course, gossipy old ladies, a sweet old couple nagging at each other lovingly and a smart lady trying to rebuild a life and a business. Well, you know, all the characters that make a good book. Don’t fret though, the story has its own set of dastardly characters too.

I guess this could be defined as a cozy. It did make me curl up and read. It was one of those books you can’t wait to finish but are sad when you actually do because it’s over. I hope there is a follow-up.

Two Heads Are Deader Than One by Elena Hartwell


Two Heads Are Deader Than One by Elena Hartwell
Publisher: Camel Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (288 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Private Investigator Eddie Shoes is enjoying a rare period of calm. She’s less lonely now that Chava, her card-counting mom from Vegas, is sharing her home. She also has a new companion, Franklin, a giant dog of curious ancestry.
Hoping for a lucrative new case, Eddie instead finds herself taking on a less promising client: her best friend from her childhood in Spokane. Dakota has turned up in Bellingham in jail, where she is being held on a weapons charge. Eddie reluctantly agrees not only to lend her friend money for bail but to also investigate who is stalking her. Soon after Dakota is freed, she disappears again, leaving Eddie to answer to the local cops, including her ex-boyfriend Chance Parker. Has Dakota been kidnapped? If not, why did she jump bail? What are Eddie’s business cards doing on the bodies of two murder victims?

The key to these mysteries lies in Dakota and Eddie’s shared history, which ended when Eddie left home after high school. As a person of interest in both murder cases, Eddie is forced to go in search of the truth, digging into the past and facing her own demons.

She wasn’t going to answer the phone but then she heard a voice from her past…

This is the second book in the Eddie Shoe mystery series. Book one was a good read and this one is also. The stories move quickly, there’s always danger, moments that make you laugh, and you worry about Eddie. She’s a good PI but she’s not real careful about her own safety. The author has her sticking her nose out a little further than necessary but it sure makes for a fun read.

The woman calling her was her best friend in high school. She’s in jail in her town and wants some help with bail money. Dakota manages to make her feel guilty so she goes down and gets her out. But then Dakota goes to ground and she can’t find her. She’s also not answering her cellphone. When she starts to check out her story, nothing she’s told her is true. Even worse, when she opens the door across the hall where it said they had tarot card readings but ran a prostitution ring, she finds a dead man.

The cops have a dead body and lots of blood in another part of the room. But the dead man didn’t bleed. Whose blood was it?

Eddie keeps digging. She even goes back to Spokane to search out old haunts where she and Dakota hung out. There are still secrets in Spokane and when she finds out the truth, she’ll be free from the guilt of an accident at the end of high school that took someone’s life.

It takes the whole story until the clues start going together. It’s a well thought out mystery, you meet more characters from Eddie’s life and her boyfriend is still around. Maybe in the next book they’ll get back together again. Watch for the third book. Eddie isn’t done snooping yet.

Old Bones Never Die by Leslie A Diehl


Old Bones Never Die by Leslie A Diehl
Publisher: Camel Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (274 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Just before Walter Egret is killed in a hit-and-run, he phoned his half-brother Sammy to report that he’d unearthed their missing father’s pocket watch, along with a pile of human bones. The project is put on hold until it can be determined if the site is an Indian burial ground. Then the bones disappear. Now Sammy and his brother’s three orphaned children want Eve Appel to go pro, applying her innate snoopiness to the trade of private investigator. Eve already has her hands full with her two consignment stores. What is she going to do? Sammy and Walter are Miccosukee Indians, and Walter was employed as a backhoe operator on a construction site for a sportsmen’s resort. Was Walter’s death murder or an accident? If the bones belong to Sammy’s father, how did they get there? Delving into these mysteries, Eve is aided by her usual crew of friends and family. This adventure will not only up the stakes for Eve as an investigator, but it will also open her eyes to life possibilities she never imagined. Book 5 in the Eve Appel Mystery series, which began with A Secondhand Murder.

Eve is thinking seriously of becoming a private investigator. She knows of one close to her office who would train her. She knows she’s busy with her consignment shop and the RV they use as a second shop, but she still has spare time and intense curiosity. Would it be too much?

This story is a mix about past and present, death long ago and death currently. With two Indian tribes in the area, future development is beginning in their little town but one is excited about it. It gets even worse when some bones show up at the construction site. The work is shut down until the bones are analyzed. Then the bones go missing, the construction man who found them is dead, and a watch that has been missing for years is missing again. Were the bones part of an Indian burial site? If not, who was it?

The pace moves well, there’s more than one mystery, and it all comes out by end of the story. I enjoyed Eve’s family, her lover and his family, and the mob man she’s friends with. Those close to her know she’ll do what she decides to do but they try to talk her out of it.

The romance in this story is soothing and poor Eve needs that in her life. Especially since someone is trying to kill her now because of her snooping.

This writer’s style is easy to read, she closes up any gaps in the story line and she’s made me want to read another in this series. Eve and Sammy are a joy to read about.

An Act of Murder by Mary Angela


An Act of Murder by Mary Angela
Publisher: Camel Press
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (228 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Stargazer

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

In the sleepy college town of Copper Bluff, South Dakota, English professor Emmeline Prather is enjoying the start of a new semester. But when one of her students dies working on the fall musical, it disrupts life on the small, quiet campus. Although the police rule the death accidental, Prof. Prather has good reason to suspect foul play.

Unmasking the murderer proves much more challenging than finding dangling participles, so Em recruits fellow English professor Lenny Jenkins for assistance. Together, they comb the campus and vicinity for clues, risking their reputations and possibly their jobs. After an intruder breaks into Em’s house, Lenny advises caution—and perhaps a change of address. Em, on the other hand, is all the more determined to forge ahead, convinced they’re on the brink of an important breakthrough.

The new semester brings more than just new classrooms full of students for Professor Emmeline Prather.

Professor Prather is an English professor at a small university who is still adjusting to the dynamics of the world of higher education. Although Professor Prather finds herself in some unique social conundrums, she often looks to her friend and colleague, Lenny Jenkins, to bail her out. When the unthinkable happens and one of her students is found dead, Professor Prather and Lenny both consider there may be foul play.

Mary Angela does a great job bringing Emmeline Prather to life. When readers often think of English professors, they often reflect back to their childhood or college years. Professor Prather is definitely one English professor that I may have had in the past. Interwoven into the main character’s personality is subtle traits and quirks that I have seen in many English professors that I have had in the past. Yet, as a reader, we get to see a unique glimpse into the world of Emmeline Prather and see how the English professor’s world works from the inside out.

The plot is believable and the supporting characters are fun and have quirky traits all their own. The mystery itself, which provides the core of the plot, constantly keeps the reader guessing. The fun relationship the Professor Prather and Lenny have keeps the reader coming back. The social dynamics between faculty and student are very much at work in the book just as they are at every university.

This was a fantastic read and a lot of fun! Since this is the first book of the Cozy Mystery Series, I look forward to reading many more and cannot wait to see what Professor Emmeline Prather gets herself into next time!

The Assassin’s Kiss by J.A. Kazimer

KISS
The Assassin’s Kiss by J.A. Kazimer
Publisher: Camel Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (260 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Julia abandoned Nate Taylor on their wedding night after finding him in the arms of her stepsister, Sara. Now she is set to marry again, this time to a man who shares her upper-crust background. But Nate won’t sign the annulment papers.

Ready to resort to murder if necessary, Julia storms Nate’s houseboat in the Florida Everglades, just in time to survive an attack by a group of assassins Nate believes are targeting her. He should know; he’s an assassin himself–a little detail he never shared with his ex. Nate works for a secret government agency known as OPS. With the help of his fellow assassins, Nate tries to identify the attackers and the reason for their deadly quest.

Meanwhile, the reluctant travel companions flee north to Nate’s eccentric hometown of Gibsonton, and later to a comfy cabin in the woods. Julia becomes better acquainted with her mysterious ex, the true man behind the gun.

Seeing this new side of Nate, will Julia continue to resist the powerful chemistry between them? Will they solve the mystery before one of them is killed trying?

Nate Taylor and Julia have some seriously complicated history together. Both of them have been hurt by the other – Julia by Nate’s lies and Nate with the way Julia could just up and leave their marriage in the middle of the night without a backward glance. But now Julia is moving on. She has a proper, decent new fiancé and a wedding – a real wedding – just around the corner. Only she’s discovered Nate never signed their annulment papers, and now she is forced to deal with him and their broken vows.

This is a really interesting book. I liked how for a refreshing change both Nate and Julia have been seriously hurt by each other – there’s not just one wounded party here. They each need not only to forgive each other, but also admit to their own faults. I found in regards to the romance side of the plot, this made for quite a complicated story. There’s no real “bad” person in their relationship – they’re both equally to blame for different reasons. There’s a mountain of secrets, unresolved feelings and conversations that should have been done long ago. All of this is like a huge weight between the two of them. And this, along with a complicated, interesting assassination plot is what is explored through most of the story. I don’t feel readers looking for a solid, already-together couple, strong in their romance and facing their issues together will enjoy this. For the majority of the story – even though Julia and Nate have sex a number of times – there’s so many secrets, omissions and unspoken feelings looming between them they can’t trust each other and continually expect to be let down by one another.

While really interesting and deeply emotional, I found personally it was all tinged with sadness. I can fully appreciate how far both Julia and Nate need to come to reconcile, but I didn’t find it romantic or sexy how Julia just always expected Nate to lie or let her down. How when Nate wasn’t walking away “to keep Julia safe” he was expecting her to leave him. It lessened the impact of their growing relationship and any romance the story held for me. There were good reasons for everything that occurred, the author did an amazing job of explaining all the misunderstandings, and a few of the plot twists revolving around Julia and Nate’s job were really fantastic. But personally, when I read a romance story I want the emotional connections to be steeped in romance. In any good romance one would always expect conflict and problems – and had Julia and Nate started to trust each other when they escaped the first assassination attempt, had they made significant progress toward mending their relationship bridges and had there been more hope than distrust I’d have loved this book a hundred times more.

Having said all this – readers who prefer an edgier style of romance story, readers who like proper conflict, deep-seated issues of distrust and a long, hard road to relationship recovery should find this an amazing story. Both the hero and heroine really have to work HARD for their Happily Ever After – and readers who crave these stories should find this a wonderful read, good and long with plenty of plot twists to sink your teeth into. I personally found no fault at all with the plot/action side of this story. Complicated, twisted and with plenty of surprises I loved the clear thought, planning and depth the author put to this story. There is much to really enjoy and commend to this story and one I can happily recommend to certain readers.