<i>Proving Ground</i>: New Excerpt Proving Ground: New Excerpt Peter Blauner A sweeping crime novel, an intricate story about the quest for redemption, and a vibrant portrait of contemporary NYC. Review: <i>Fogged Inn</i> by Barbara Ross Review: Fogged Inn by Barbara Ross Doreen Sheridan Doreen Sheridan cooks the books with this Agatha review! Review: <i>Before the Fall</i> by Noah Hawley Review: Before the Fall by Noah Hawley Deborah Lacy Read Deborah Lacy's review! Review: <i>Flamingo Road</i> by Sasscer Hill Review: Flamingo Road by Sasscer Hill Katherine Tomlinson Read Katherine Tomlinson's review!
From The Blog
April 21, 2017
People, Choices, and Moments
Lisa Preston
April 16, 2017
Why I Write Women
Douglas Schofield
April 15, 2017
Man Steals Sausage, Burgler Leaves Name Behind, and more: The Bullet List
Crime HQ
April 14, 2017
My Top 5 Historical Mysteries of Great Influence
Cindy Anstey
April 13, 2017
History's Characters: Alexis Soyer
M.J. Carter
Showing posts by: Dirk Robertson click to see Dirk Robertson's profile
Apr 19 2017 3:00pm

Review: Body on the Bayou by Ellen Byron

Body on the Bayou by Ellen Byron is the 2nd book in the Cajun Country Mystery series, nominated for an Agatha Award for Best Novel.

Ellen Byron takes us to Louisiana for this Cajun Country mystery. Maggie Crozat’s long and distant relatives used to own the Doucet Plantation. Now, it’s the Crozat Plantation Bed and Breakfast, where tourists come for a glimpse of the past and a taste of the present. Maggie is busy planning a wedding. Her co-worker Vanessa Fleer is getting married to Police Chief Rufus Durand. It seems the town of Pelican will be greeting a new resident soon, as Vanessa is pregnant, making the speedy arrangement of the nuptials something everyone seems to have a vested interest in. 

Vanessa, though in love with the Chief, is a little worried about his willingness to contribute child support should the marriage fail, so she makes him sign a legal document just in case. Practicality in a realistic world. 

[Read Dirk Robertson's review of Body on the Bayou...]

Apr 13 2017 12:00pm

Review: Convicting Avery by Michael D. Cicchini

Convicting Avery: The Bizarre Laws and Broken System behind “Making a Murderer” by Michael D. Cicchini is an unsettling book that gives facts and insights beyond those presented in the documentary and leaves you wondering whether the constitutional right to a fair trial is actually guaranteed where you live.

This gripping and riveting book covers the three court cases featured in the Netflix documentary Making a Murderer, but that is its only connection. 

In Convicting Avery, Michael B. Cicchini, J.D., brings all his experience and knowledge as a defense attorney to the page in his analysis and overview of the case of Steven Avery and his nephew Brendan Dassey. The two were convicted of the murder of young photographer Teresa Halbach just two years after Steven Avery was released from prison after serving a sentence for the rape and beating of Penny Beerntsen in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Avery had been charged in 1985 and spent 18 years in prison before DNA evidence proved he could not have been the perpetrator. He was in the process of seeking millions of dollars in compensation for wrongful imprisonment when Teresa Halbach was murdered.

[Read Dirk Robertson's review of Convicting Avery...]

Apr 12 2017 3:00pm

Review: The Semester of Our Discontent by Cynthia Kuhn

The Semester of Our Discontent by Cynthia Kuhn is the 1st book in the Lila Maclean Academic Mystery series, nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel. 

Stonedale University, southwest of Denver, offers a liberal arts education to high-quality students. Cynics would suggest it is actually a school where people who have not managed to scrape into the Ivy League can lick their wounds and obtain qualifications that reflect their exceptional abilities.  

Dr. Lila Maclean has been hired to teach American literature, planning an odd Gothic course along the way. She ruffles feathers in the academic hierarchy immediately, as it’s perceived she is going to be concentrating on mysteries. The debate takes a real and unexpected turn when an unfortunate individual discovers a body in the library that has been stabbed with a dagger. 

[Read Dirk Robertson's review of The Semester of Our Discontent...]

Apr 10 2017 1:00pm

Review: Dodgers by Bill Beverly

Dodgers by Bill Beverly is a dark, unforgettable coming-of-age journey that is written in stark and unforgettable prose and featuring an array of surprising and memorable characters rendered with empathy and wit. It is nominated for the Edgar Award for Best First Novel.

Los Angeles is the only place East knows. It is his home. It is where he leads his life as a young gang member. A life all about beatings, drugs, and money, the giving and taking of all three, and managing to stay alive from one day to the next. His uncle Fin—a man who does not entertain the word no—orders him to go on a journey to Wisconsin with three other young gang members to kill a man. A man who has legal evidence that could be very harmful to Fin if he were to remain alive. 

The four young men assigned the grisly task are: Michael Wilson, all shades and laughter; Walter, fat and shaped like a pumpkin; the aforementioned East; and his younger, extremely volatile brother, Ty. But journeys such as these can make you realize what you never had:

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

Apr 5 2017 3:00pm

Review: Delivering the Truth by Edith Maxwell

Delivering the Truth by Edith Maxwell is the 1st book in the Quaker Midwife Mystery series, nominated for an Agatha Award for Best Historical Novel.

Life is rewarding for Rose Carroll. A midwife in Amesbury, Massachusetts, she provides care and support for newly born babies and mothers. But life is also challenging, as Rose is struggling to deal with the grief of recently losing her sister.

The year is 1888, and Rose goes about her duties and life adhering to her Quaker beliefs. A fire, which has some unexplained aspects, raises suspicions that all is not well in the community. Any doubt of that is wiped out when it is followed by two murders.

Rose has a natural nose for what is wrong and what is right as well as a very strong desire for justice. Taking advice from her neighbors and friends—amongst whom is the famous Quaker poet John Greenleaf Whittier—Rose seeks answers to the questions relating to the untimely deaths. She puts her skills as a spiritual and practical adviser and her natural penchant for solving problems to great use in this well-written, period crime thriller from the pen of Edith Maxwell. The characters come to life with great realism and resonance, as they are woven into the fabric of what is a very well-crafted historical novel. Delivering the Truth also delivers all the right ingredients of a proper crime thriller, including a detective of great fortitude: Rose Carroll. 

[Read Dirk Robertson's review of Delivering the Truth...]

Apr 3 2017 1:00pm

Review: Rain Dogs by Adrian McKinty

Rain Dogs by Adrian McKinty is the 5th novel in the Detective Sean Duffy series, nominated for an Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original.

Carrickfergus Castle is witness to what seems to be the sad suicide of yet another lost soul. No one really knows why someone would take their own life. Death, when visited on others, seems to make everyone else an expert about the surroundings or the circumstances preceding the departed person’s demise—whether at their own hand or that of the cold fingers of fate reaching out for them to say their time has come. 

If the Castle knows the true facts surrounding the death, it is not giving them up to Detective Inspector Sean Duffy, who has left the warmth of his house on Coronation Road in Belfast’s Victoria Estate to tidy up the death scene. Something is not right—apart from the foul weather Northern Ireland serves up in copious amounts—in this top-class thriller. The death has too many strange aspects to it to be a straightforward suicide. 

[Read Dirk Robertson's review of Rain Dogs...]

Mar 10 2017 4:00pm

Review: The Wages of Sin by Kaite Welsh

The Wages of Sin by Kaite Welsh is a page-turning tale of murder, subversion, and vice in which a female medical student in Victorian Edinburgh is drawn into a murder investigation when she recognizes one of the corpses in her anatomy lecture.

A prostitute is murdered in late-nineteenth-century Edinburgh, and no one cares. The early demise of a woman of ill repute is of no concern to the Scottish capital’s society, high or low. No one, that is, apart from Miss Sarah Gilchrist, who is studying at the University of Edinburgh’s medical school. 

The year is 1882, and it’s the first time women have been allowed admission to the school. Sarah is studying to be a doctor despite stern opposition from her family, the establishment, and society in general. This is a time when women are deemed inferior to men, and the behavior of men—in public and private—reflects this in many different ways. Brothels, where fallen women ply their trade, are sneered at and whispered about, yet the veil of double standards—which knows no bounds—is thrown over these establishments so members of the higher echelons of society can avail themselves of the wares, safe from people they consider nosy liberals or those with prying eyes. 

[Read Dirk Robertson's review of The Wages of Sin...]

Feb 21 2017 2:00pm

Review: I See You by Clare Mackintosh

I See You by Clare Mackintosh is a dark and claustrophobic thriller in which a normal, everyday woman becomes trapped in the confines of her normal, everyday world.

If you happen upon the personal ads while reading the newspaper, there are plenty of things you might expect to see—a photo of yourself is probably not one of them. Zoe Walker is confronted with a photograph of herself in the classified ads under FindTheOne.com. She calls the number listed to see if she can shed some light on the matter, but it’s dead. She just wants to know how her photo got there, and—more importantly—why. Like all of us, Zoe wants some answers.

However, seeking them takes her on a very dangerous journey, as other women with photographs on the site are becoming victims of violent crimes. A new woman and a new victim each day.

[Read Dirk Robertson's review of I See You...]

Feb 9 2017 5:30pm

Review: Long Time Lost by Chris Ewan

Long Time Lost by Chris EwanChris Ewan's Long Time Lost is a fast-paced, standalone thriller.

Long Time Lost is a very sharp, finely-crafted thriller from page one. To kick off the story, Chris Ewan takes us to the Isle of Man where Nick Miller provides an unusual product to his customers. He and his colleagues specialize in relocating at-risk individuals, providing new identities and new lives for those who want to disappear and start over. 

The tension and rhythm of this thriller start from the very beginning and don’t let up. Nick is exceptionally good at what he does—and for good reason. He himself has been in hiding, living under an assumed name for years. Nothing like personal experience to make you a top-class provider who knows what the customer desires in order to satisfy the contract. 

[Read Dirk Robertson's review of Long Time Lost...]

Feb 8 2017 2:00pm

Review: Under the Knife by Kelly Parsons

Under the Knife by Kelly ParsonsUnder the Knife by Kelly Parsons is a heart-pounding medical thriller that will have readers on the edge of their seats up to the very last page.

Morgan Finney has made a lot of money from biotechnology. However, the brilliance he exhibits in his business is not reflected in his personal life. Inherent shyness and a debilitating inability to connect with people could have condemned him to a life of luxury bereft of human contact. But he managed to find a wife, Jenny, through whom he manages some sort of semblance of normalcy with his fellow human beings. She really is his everything.

But financial resources mean nothing when it comes to the cruel hand of fate, dealing death and misery without prejudice. Nothing Finney can do can stop the death of his beloved wife under the surgeon’s knife. The medical team does their best, but fate steps in and plucks Jenny away from the loving arms of the loner who relied on her completely for any sense of direction and connection to the human life.

[Read Dirk Robertson's review of Under the Knife...]

Jan 27 2017 2:00pm

Review: Thankless 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 #37, Thankless in Death.

Eve Dallas is back in the 37th In Death novel, Thankless in Death. J.D. Robb has created a most-believable heroine with this series of books, and despite its longevity, each book feels essentially individual. Robb achieves this by working in layers when it comes to Eve Dallas. The past she has endured and the life she has led because of it all come together to make her the person she is. And with each book, Robb peels the layers off, one by one, to take the reader on a journey that ends in the Lieutenant we love. The result is books that are immensely readable and extremely enjoyable, which portray a character that you can root for all the way—so long as she is not coming after you. 

Thankfully, this time Eve’s coming after Jerry Reinhold. Jerry has given his parents a proper evening’s attention, the likes of which only a proper psychopath can aspire to: a knife for his loving Mum, who has put up with so much from the ungrateful sponger, and a baseball bat for his poor old Dad. Jerry is the kind of character you develop a soft spot for straight away—a slurry pit just off the New Jersey turnpike. He really is a foul specimen. 

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

Jan 23 2017 5:30pm

Review: Clownfish Blues by Tim Dorsey

In Clownfish Blues by Tim Dorsey, A (Serge A.) Storm is brewing for a cabal of bad guys gaming the Florida state lottery in this insanely funny novel from the maestro of mayhem (available January 24, 2017).

The Florida State Lottery—like all lotteries—is a game of chance. Anyone can win; all you have to do is buy a ticket. But actually winning is an entirely different thing. Most people buy a ticket and hope for the best, keeping their fingers crossed and willing their numbers to appear. Others know the chances of winning are less than finding yourself handcuffed to a ghost or guessing a complete stranger’s phone number, yet they play nonetheless. However, for gangsters, robbers, cheats, and fly-by-nights, a more successful—if illegal—method might be employed.

In Clownfish Blues, a group of thieves arrange a system of tilting the odds using a huge wad of cash, and I mean huge. Main characters Storms and Coleman catch wind of the plan and take more than a passing interest—they want in on the action, too. Big time.

[Read Dirk Robertson's review of Clownfish Blues...]

Jan 17 2017 2:00pm

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...]

Jan 16 2017 5:30pm

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...]

Jan 9 2017 6:00pm

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...]

Dec 26 2016 2:00pm

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...]

Dec 23 2016 5:30pm

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...]

Dec 19 2016 4:00pm

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...]

Dec 15 2016 5:30pm

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...]

Dec 1 2016 5:30pm

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...]