Review: <i>Fantasy in Death</i> by J.D. Robb Review: Fantasy in Death by J.D. Robb Meghan Harker Read Meghan Harker's review! <i>A Death at the Yoga Cafe</i>: New Excerpt A Death at the Yoga Cafe: New Excerpt Michelle Kelly The 2nd book in the Keeley Carpenter series. Review: <i>Kindred in Death</i> by J.D. Robb Review: Kindred in Death by J.D. Robb Dirk Robertson Read Dirk Robertson's review! The Dark Tower: <i>Wizard and Glass</i>, Part II The Dark Tower: Wizard and Glass, Part II David Cranmer Join the discussion!
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Showing posts by: Dirk Robertson click to see Dirk Robertson's profile
Tue
Jan 17 2017 1:00pm

Review: Kindred in Death by J.D. Robb

To celebrate the upcoming release of J.D. Robb's 44th Eve Dallas mystery, Echoes in Death, we're taking a look back at every single book in the In Death series. Today, Dirk Robertson reviews #29, Kindred in Death.

Eve and Roarke have just made love and are having a bit of breakfast in bed when they’re joined by the cat, who waited a respectful length of time before joining them. What is there not like about that? Peaceful, relaxed, and fulfilled—gentle things going on as they think about getting ready for a quick jaunt to the Cayman Islands to check out the possible purchase of a villa. 

But reality has another agenda as a communicator summons her to pick up and read the display. It’s from Whitney. Now she is no longer Roarke’s lover, pet afficiando, and person who was about to jet off to the Caymans—she is Lieutenant Eve Dallas, and it is time for another case. 

Instead of boarding a plane for the sun, she has to go to 541 Central Park South. A victim awaits her: Deena Macmasters, sixteen, found dead by her parents when they came back from a weekend trip. It doesn’t get any worse. Parents should never have to bury their children under any circumstances. 

[Read Dirk Robertson's review of Kindred in Death...]

Mon
Jan 16 2017 4:30pm

Review: A Puzzle to Be Named Later by Parnell Hall

A Puzzle to Be Named Later by Parnell HallA Puzzle to Be Named Later by Parnell Hall is the 18th book in the Puzzle Lady Mystery series (available January 17, 2017).

Cora Felton—the self-ascribed “Puzzle Lady”—anonymously writes a column on puzzles for a member of her family and makes a habit of solving mysteries using crossword puzzles to throw up crime clues that help her along the way. If crosswords are your thing, then there is plenty in this mystery to keep you occupied and keenly interested in the clues as they unfold. If Sudoku is your puzzle of choice, then you will not be disappointed as this logic-based number puzzle is cleverly worked into the plot and development of events as one murder follows another. 

The first murder follows the arrival of a pitching marvel—currently in the distinguished employ of the New York Yankees—in Bakerhaven, Cora’s hometown. The victim meets their demise in the sauna at the end of a rock. Sharp, to the point, and messy.

[Read Dirk Robertson's review of A Puzzle to Be Named Later...]

Mon
Jan 9 2017 5:00pm

Review: Dead Gone by Luca Veste

Dead Gone by Luca Veste is a terrifying trip into the darkest corners of psychology, where Detectives Murphy and Rossi rush to catch a serial killer who is stalking a university in Liverpool, ingeniously murdering his victims in a series of deadly experiments (available January 10, 2017).

The debut novel from Luca Veste is a screamer—and not the kind of scream that is instantly audible, but one that starts very quietly and builds to a crescendo that eventually takes over every fiber of your being. Dead Gone grabs you from page one and compels you to stay until the very end, and it is that element of not being able to get away that draws you in and makes you at one with the victims—and there are many of them—in this very dark and skillful thriller.

David Murphy and Laura Rossi are two detectives who set out to find the killer, or killers, of a student who is enrolled at the City of Liverpool University. A letter outlining a notorious experiment from the past is pinned to her body. The experiment has been repeated on the young woman, her death being the inevitable outcome of the grisly attentions of what rapidly appears to be a case of serial killing.

[Read Dirk Robertson's review of Dead Gone...]

Mon
Dec 26 2016 1:00pm

Review: Seduction in Death by J.D. Robb

To celebrate the upcoming release of J.D. Robb's 44th Eve Dallas mystery, Echoes in Death, we're taking a look back at every single book in the In Death series. Today, Dirk Robertson reviews #13, Seduction in Death.

There are certain firsts in life that you never forget: your first kiss, your first love, your first cream bun. For me, you can also add your first J.D. Robb book to that list. 

Seduction in Death moves along at a smooth and slick pace, as though it were gliding on a magnetic propulsion system, set as it is in a near future that still awaits us all. This is a fine offering in the In Death sagas, and it sees Detective Eve Dallas up against a particularly nasty killer or set of killers who target their vulnerable and lonely victims and murder them in what appears to be a kind of sport or competition. A sick crime, whether set in the future, present, or murky past. 

Eve Dallas has a dark past—one that never seems far behind her, like a hellhound on her trail. Abuse and a dark family history that even Dickens would have been hard-pressed to create combine to form a character who takes no nonsense. We are all products of our childhood, and Detective Dallas is no different. She has a nose for the truly awful.

[Read Dirk Robertson's review of Seduction in Death...]

Fri
Dec 23 2016 4:30pm

Review: The Twelve Dogs of Christmas by David Rosenfelt

The Twelve Dogs of Christmas by David RosenfeltThe Twelve Dogs of Christmas by David Rosenfelt is the 15th book in the Andy Carpenter series.

With a title like The Twelve Dogs of Christmas, it would seem David Rosenfelt has written a fuzzy, warm Christmas cozy, perfect for curling up next to a fire and losing a few hours with. Wrong. Not only are twelve puppies are in danger of losing their shelter—which some hard-hearted people want closed for a variety of reasons—but a murder has occurred. 

Enter Martha Boyer, the “Puppy Lady.” Puppies—particularly newborns—are notoriously difficult to look after in a shelter. So Martha (whose nickname is “Pups”) takes them in and looks after them until they are ready to be adopted, which can often take a long time. This doesn’t bother her; it just means she ends up with a house packed full of adorable little dogs. Plus, Martha has a huge pile of money, which means feeding and providing for the little cuties is hardly an issue. What’s there not to like?

Apparently a lot if puppies aren’t your thing and you’re a neighbor who feels she shouldn’t keep dogs because she doesn’t have the necessary permits. But if you decide to complain, you don’t expect to end up dead—that seems especially extreme by an animal lover’s code of conduct. But that’s what happens. 

[Read Dirk Robertson's review of The Twelve Dogs of Christmas...]

Mon
Dec 19 2016 3:00pm

Review: The Cat Sitter and the Canary by Blaize & John Clement

The Cat Sitter and the Canary: A Dixie Hemingway Mystery by John Clement, Blaize ClementThe Cat Sitter and the Canary is the 11th book in the Dixie Hemingway series (Available December 20, 2016).

Depending on the number of feline clients you can accrue, being a cat sitter can be a lucrative activity. It’s a worthwhile and harmless profession, but you will inevitably need an actual human being to invoice—cats are notoriously unreliable when it comes to paying the bills. It would appear, however, that some cat sitters—like Dixie Hemingway—are nearer to harm’s way than one would presume.

Dixie lives and plies her trade on Siesta Key—an island off the west coast of Florida, near the shore of Sarasota. She used to be a deputy with the Sarasota Sheriff’s Department until she hung up her badge and entered the world of cat sitting.

[Read Dirk Robertson's review of The Cat Sitter and the Canary...]

Thu
Dec 15 2016 4:30pm

Review: Not Just Evil by David Wilson

Not Just Evil: Murder, Hollywood, and California's First Insanity Plea by David WilsonFor readers of true crime sagas like Tinseltown and Little Demon in the City of Light comes a chilling account of a murder that captivated the United States in the 1920s.

The subtitle for David Wilson’s true crime novel Not Just Evil is Murder, Hollywood, and California’s First Insanity Plea—a fitting title, and I’m sure it wasn’t the last. David Wilson has delivered a skin-crawler of a book. The subject matter is revolting, but the narrative Mr. Wilson succeeds in crafting is a cause for celebration.

Many true crime books travel into the minds and actions of horrible human beings, causing you to pause a moment as you cannot believe the depths to which people can sink. Often, the stories themselves are bad enough, but then the whole thing is made worse by clumsy writing and overly detailed gore with weak attempts at pseudo-intellectualizing that come across as contrived.

There’s nothing fictional about this fascinating book; I just wish there was. The start, middle, and end are all disgusting. You’ll want to wait to have your dinner before reading this … if you want to hang on to it. This is simply not an easy read. But if true crime is your thing, it’s an extremely captivating story.

[Read Dirk Robertson's review of Not Just Evil...]

Thu
Dec 1 2016 4:30pm

Review: Don’t Turn Out the Lights by Bernard Minier

Don't Turn Out the Lights by Bernard Minier is the 3rd Commandant Martin Servaz novel (Available December 6, 2016).

Great writing is like great baking. The ingredients have to be spot on, properly prepared, and well thought out. They have to be mixed together just right so that the interplay between them becomes a perfect juxtaposition rather than a jumbled mess. When done well, the final product is a heavenly treat that leaves you craving more—and Bernard Minier pens an excellent recipe for a terrific thriller in Don’t Turn Out the Lights.

This book is seriously good. I’ve never been much of a fan of dream sequences in books or surreal layers overlapping the narrative, but this has changed my mind. Big time. Like a cake that’s to die for, Don’t Turn Out The Lights is a delight of many layers, each with its own distinct flavor. The dream sequences keep you guessing about what is real and what is not in the most delicious fashion, and the violence is served up just as it should be—sparse, cold, and dry, leaving a nasty taste in your mouth.

[Read Dirk Robertson's review of Don't Turn Out the Lights...]

Fri
Nov 4 2016 1:00pm

Review: The Hanging Club by Tony Parsons

Hanging Club by Tony ParsonsThe Hanging Club by Tony Parsons is the 3rd book in the Max Wolfe series, where Wolfe must track down a vigilante group responsible for the retributive killings of freed criminals.

I am staggered by the amount of top-class thrillers I am reading at the moment, and The Hanging Club by Tony Parsons is no exception. Finely tuned, impeccable writing and very powerful characters took me to the edge of my seat and kept me there, until the ending dumped me on the floor unceremoniously, in a hot, sweaty mess. 

Detective Constable Wolfe is in a dilemma. Men are being murdered—hanged by the neck until dead—and it’s being filmed and put up on the internet for all to see. These men all have one thing in common, other than the nature of their deaths: they had been found guilty of sickening crimes but with a sentence deemed inappropriate by the self-appointed purveyors of justice, who then handed out their form of retribution and broadcast it online. 

[Read Dirk Robertson's review of The Hanging Club...]

Thu
Oct 27 2016 2:30pm

Review: Ash Island by Barry Maitland

Ash Island by Barry Maitland is the 2nd book in the Belltree Trilogy (Available November 1, 2016).

Harry Belltree is having a torrid time of it all. He used to be a homicide detective in Sydney, but has now been transferred to Newcastle. Things have gotten too hot in Sydney, and his bosses would rather see the back of him—that or early retirement. Harry is not ready to hang up his police badge just yet. Too many things to be done, too many secrets to be uncovered, and too many wrongs to be righted. He feels his work has only just begun.

His troubles began with a series of events in Sydney that presented more questions than answers. Answers that Harry is not going to get by sticking to the rule book. An unwillingness to stick to the letter of the law is what got him into trouble in Sydney in the first place, but he knows that he is not going to get the answers he needs by being the police officer his badge and profession truly demands.

[Read Dirk Robertson's review of Ash Island...]

Mon
Oct 3 2016 2:00pm

Review: The Devil’s Trail by Robert J. Conley

The Devil's Trail by Robert J. Conley is the 3rd Texas Outlaws novel, continuing the tall tale of little Kid Parmlee, a young man without a home, without fear, and with just enough sense to become a true legend of the frontier.

Horses, guns, money, posses, and whiskey—this book has it all. Authenticity is the key to this type of story, and Robert J. Conley serves it up by the bucketful in The Devil’s Trail.

Outlaws have robbed a bank and a bounty has been posted. This offers an opportunity for Kid Parmlee and other local bandits to go after them, retrieve the cash, right the wrong, and serve up justice Western style—whatever that may entail. The Kid is your typical Western gunslinger: he gets the job done with hot lead, simple philosophies covered in trail dust, and women who most definitely are not there to work on the ranch or milk the cows. The action moves along nicely, taking in all the obligatory settings—Main Street, the saloon, the house of ill repute. And, of course, there’s the man in black, without which no story of this style would be complete.

[Read Dirk Robertson's review of The Devil's Trail...]

Mon
Sep 26 2016 3:30pm

Review: Combustion by Martin J. Smith

Combustion by Martin J. Smith is a page-turning thriller with a sh0cking twist (Available September 27, 2016).

Detective Ron Starke is having a torrid time of it all. A body shows up at the bottom of the local pond—a midnight swim gone wrong, possibly. It’s true that alcohol mixed with unexpected cold temperatures can have a shocking effect on a person in the water, particularly if it is in a place they are not used to swimming. However, the heavy piece of computer machinery with a steel cable looped through the handle, around the victim’s neck, then back through the handle again and secured with a combination lock suggests an accident this, most certainly, is not. 

The victim is a man who has done very well for himself: a big house, a big wife with big hair and a big history, a big bank account, and—due to his abrasive and unforgiving personality—a big long list of people who may have provided the anchor to take him down his one way journey to the bottom of a cold, dark, slimy pond. 

[Read Dirk Robertson's review of Combustion...]

Thu
Sep 22 2016 1:00pm

Review: Reckless Creed by Alex Kava

Reckless Creed by Alex Kava Reckless Creed by Alex Kava is the 3rd book in the Ryder Creed series (Available September 27, 2016).

Dogs have a nose for just about everything. If it is there, they will sniff it out. Their sense of smell is forty times more powerful than ours and, for me, what’s even more impressive is the fact that they can wiggle their nostrils independently. So it’s no surprise to find that Ryder Creed uses dogs for search and rescue in Reckless Creed.

In this finely crafted tale by Alex Kava, Ryder employs the skills of just one of his dogs, Grace, who, like Creed’s other dogs, is an animal Creed actually rescued himself. One dog is enough; anymore and they compete for scents, which can lead to confusion in the search. Creed’s decision pays off, as Grace finds the body of a young woman who has met a strange and untimely end thanks to a pocket full of rocks in a river in Southern Alabama. Turns out she's not the only one—a young man in Chicago has exited his hotel room via the 19th floor window.

[Read Dirk Robertson's review of Reckless Creed...]

Mon
Sep 19 2016 2:30pm

Review: Daisy in Chains by Sharon Bolton

Daisy in Chains by Sharon BoltonDaisy in Chains by Sharon Bolton features a convicted serial killer that insists he's innocent and a notorious defense attorney that eventually takes the case (Available September 20, 2016).

Daisy in Chains is as sharp, tight, and uncompromising a read as you will find anywhere. With this thriller, Sharon Bolton has demonstrated that she is well on her way to the very top of the crime writing genre. The plot, characters, twists, and turns are of premier quality—every section of the book is like a master class in gripping story-telling.

Maggie Rose is a top-class defense attorney and writer. She is well-known for getting convictions overturned. Tough, thoughtful, and highly intelligent, she sees things other people miss or pass off as trivial.

Hamish Wolfe is very good looking, fit, and smart. However, he is also as endearing as that dirty ring of scum you find inside your bath when the water leaves. A convicted serial killer, Wolfe is languishing in a maximum-security prison when he reaches out to Maggie to visit, support his case, and write his story.

[Read Dirk Robertson's review of Daisy in Chains...]

Thu
Sep 8 2016 11:00am

Review: Police State: How America’s Cops Get Away with Murder by Gerry Spence

Police State: How America's Cops Get Away with Murder by Gerry Spence reveals the unnerving truth of our criminal justice system in this true crime account from the legendary “country lawyer.” (Available today!)

Very few books make the hair on the back of my neck stand up, but Gerry Spence’s Police State: How America’s Cops Get Away with Murder is one of them. The title alone serves warning that there is no fence sitting to be done by this hard-hitting, no-nonsense lawyer. 

Spence, a graduate of the University of Wyoming Law School, is a member of the American Trial Lawyers Hall of Fame. He has never lost a criminal case as a prosecutor or defender. This remarkable man’s last loss in court came during a civil case in 1969. 

[Read Dirk Robertson's review of Police State...]

Tue
Aug 2 2016 3:00pm

Review: Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Scorched Earth by George Galdorisi

Tom Clancy's Op-Center: Scorched Earth by George Galdorisi is a gripping thriller about an Islamic extremist who is on a quest for vengeance after his only son is killed, and it’s up to Op-Center to stop his lethal plot. (Available today!)

This thriller is set mainly in the greater Levant. Levant was the term originally used to refer to the region we now recognize as Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey. Recent events have seen many try to re-establish the term when considering this geographical area in relation to ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIL, the L standing for Levant.

I wasn’t really sure about the origin of the different terminology, but thankfully, George Galdorisi’s Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Scorched Earth enlightened me without feeling too informational or dense. I am also thankful to Galdorisi for introducing me to a scorching thriller, from page one.

[Read Dirk Robertson's review of Scorched Earth...]

Mon
Aug 1 2016 3:30pm

Review: Die Like an Eagle by Donna Andrews

Die Like an Eagle by Donna Andrews is another zany Meg Langslow mystery, filled with the spirit of America's pastime and Donna's eagle eye (Available August 2, 2016).

Agatha Award-winning writer Donna Andrews sets the scene for a myriad of characters, all connected by summer ball. You don’t have to be a lover of baseball, at any level, to be drawn into this Meg Langslow mystery. Meg seems to know everyone, or everyone who knows everyone, but this serves her little when a body is discovered in an unlikely place.

I stuck the screwdriver blade into the crack of the door. Just under the level of the OCCUPIED sign, and moved it up until it hit something. It took a couple of tries, and if my blacksmithing hadn’t given me good hand and arm strength, I couldn’t have managed, but eventually the latch gave way and I succeeded in flipping it up.

“Ready or not, here I come,” I said to give anyone inside a last warning-though by this time I was pretty sure the porta-potty was empty. If there had been anyone inside, they’d definitely have spoken up since my efforts had not only made considerable noise but had also rocked the porta-potty. I fully expected to find that this was just someone’s idea of a joke-figuring out how to flip the lock closed from outside, and then doing it on Opening Day. When I found the culprit, I was going to give him or her a piece of my mind-and I’d already thought of several likely suspects. In fact, one of them, my brother Rob, was lurking nearby, no doubt pretending to be waiting his turn to use the porta-potty while in reality chuckling to himself.

But I was wrong. When I jerked the door open. I found someone slumped facedown on the floor in a crumpled heap. Male, pudgy, wearing khaki pants and a mud-colored Brown Construction t-shirt. A Yankees baseball hat had fallen off his head.

[Read Dirk Robertson's review of Die Like an Eagle...]

Mon
Jul 25 2016 11:30am

Review: Murder on Brittany Shores by Jean-Luc Bannalec

Murder on Brittany Shores is a superbly plotted mystery that marks the return of Jean-Luc Bannalec's international bestselling series starring the cantankerous, coffee-swigging Commissaire Dupin (Available July 26, 2016).

Commissaire Georges Dupin is having a very bad day. It is a Monday—which is bad enough—but three corpses have also been found, with nothing more known about them other than that they are dead. Very dead.

If he was just an ordinary member of the public, starting his third coffee that morning, he might have mourned the loss of human life, but he could have just got on with his cold, dreary day. However, he is not. He works for the Commissariat de Police Concarneau, which means he must abandon his coffee at his regular café, the Amiral, and step aboard a police speedboat that is waiting for him in the harbor.

[Read Dirk Robertson's review of Murder on Brittany Shores...]

Tue
Jul 19 2016 1:30pm

Review: The Hemingway Thief by Shaun Harris

The Hemingway Thief by Shaun Harris is a thrilling debut, featuring a stolen Hemingway manuscript that may contain clues to the location of a bigger prize.

The Hemingway Thief is a tight, well crafted thriller, which, like all good books, has characters who are neither entirely good nor completely bad. A bit, I understand, like Hemingway himself. 

The year is 1922. The place: Paris. Hadley is instructed by her husband to gather up all his work, place it in a case, and come join him in Switzerland. Hadley does just as her spouse, Ernest Hemingway, directs and packs up a year’s collection of his work—which disappears. 

That is, until it’s discovered in the hands of Ebbie Milch—a name that sounds like something you scrunch up and sprinkle around your front yard. Ever fond of his drink, Milch turns up in Mexico with the rare material, desperate to make himself scarce, as he has misappropriated the first draft of Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast

[Read Dirk Robertson's review of The Hemingway Thief...]

Wed
Jun 29 2016 12:00pm

Review: The Janson Directive by Robert Ludlum

The Janson Directive by Robert Ludlum is the 1st book in the thrilling Janson series, recently re-released in paperback and available now!

This book is a beast—it’s terrific, powerful, superbly written, and has a lot of pages. Robert Ludlum is a master storyteller. He is at the very top of his game with this breathless, seamless rollercoaster of a tale.

More demons exist for Paul Janson than any one person has a right to claim. So many, he could lend some out to the inhabitants of a small island and still have some to spare, to beat himself with, whenever he so wished.

But, demons don’t work in numbers, they work in strength. One demon can drive you into an emotional wasteland faster than fifty different ones amassed over a lifetime. We all have them, just not in the same numbers or strength. I am actually surprised we have any, as Janson seems to have grabbed the lot—doubts about his past actions, doubts about his power, doubts about his strength, and how all three have affected other people he has come into contact in his life.

[Read Dirk Robertson's review of The Janson Directive...]