Review: <i>Conviction</i> by Julia Dahl Review: Conviction by Julia Dahl Thomas Pluck Read Thomas Pluck's review! <i>Dying on the Vine</i>: New Excerpt Dying on the Vine: New Excerpt Marla Cooper The 2nd book in the Kelsey McKenna Destination Wedding Mysteries series. Review: <i>My Darling Detective</i> by Howard Norman Review: My Darling Detective by Howard Norman Janet Webb A witty, engrossing homage to noir. The Dark Tower: <i>The Wind Through the Keyhole</i> Part III The Dark Tower: The Wind Through the Keyhole Part III David Cranmer Join the discussion!
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Showing posts by: Janet Webb click to see Janet Webb's profile
Mar 28 2017 1:00pm

Review: My Darling Detective by Howard Norman

My Darling Detective by Howard Norman is a witty, engrossing homage to noir (available March 28, 2017).

Jacob Rigolet, “a soon-to-be former assistant to a wealthy art collector,” is attending an auction and preparing to make a bid. Out of nowhere, his mother—resident of the Nova Scotia Rest Hospital and former Head Librarian at the Halifax Free Library—appears. Why is she on the lam from her lock-down medical facility? Shockingly, Nora Rigolet, née Ives, tosses a jar of black ink at the Robert Capa photograph Death on a Leipzig BalconyHoward Norman weaves the work of famed war photographer Robert Capa into the story. The auction attendees on March 19th, 1977, would certainly have been acquainted with the work of Capa’s photographs.

Nora Rigolet dubs her detective interrogator, Martha Crauchet, an “interlocutrix.” Stretching credulity but completely necessary to this compelling noir-ish tale, Martha is also Jacob’s fiancée. The mystery behind Nora’s action lies in events that took place years earlier. Unbelievably, Martha tells Jacob that his father, deceased war hero Bernard Rigolet, is not his real father. Who was his father then? Is he still alive?

[Read Janet Webb's review of My Darling Detective...]

Mar 20 2017 3:00pm

Review: Single Malt Murder by Melinda Mullet

Single Malt Murder by Melinda Mullet is the 1st novel in an engaging new series blending fine spirits with chilling mystery (available March 21, 2017).

“There's many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip” is both an ancient Scottish proverb and an apropos commentary on Melinda Mullet’s inaugural Whisky Business Mystery, Single Malt Murder.

Award-winning photojournalist Abigail Logan unexpectedly inherits the Abbey Glen Distillery from her uncle Ben. The details spill out in a lachrymose and boozy evening with her oldest friend, the dapper and debonair Patrick Cooke, who tells Abi she looks like something “the cat dragged in on an off night.”

Tonight he looked even more out of place than usual next to the scruffy journalists and media types that call this corner of London’s Fleet Street home, but the Scrivener’s Arms had been our regular post-work watering hole for more than ten years, and I refused to migrate to the trendier West End bars just because Patrick had recently been promoted to associate editor of Wine and Spirits Monthly.

[Read Janet Webb's review of Single Malt Murder...]

Mar 14 2017 1:00pm

Review: The Devil’s Triangle by Catherine Coulter and J. T. Ellison

The Devil's Triangle by Catherine Coulter and J. T. Ellison is a highly anticipated thriller in their Brit in the FBI series, featuring special agents Nicholas Drummond and Michaela Caine in their new roles as heads of the Covert Eyes team.

Catherine Coulter’s A Brit in the FBI series would make a perfect Tom Hanks-style Da Vinci Code vehicle. The Devil's Triangle is the 4th in the series, and—as in Dan Brown’s stories—the ancient world extends its tentacles into modern day, and Biblical knowledge is as important as crack surveillance skills to win against the enemy.  

An idiom that never loses its sting: “It takes a thief to catch a chief.” So when master-thief Kitsune feels a frisson of worry on her way to make a delivery in Venice, it’s an instinct to be taken seriously. For the princely sum of five million Euros, Kitsune—aka The Fox—agreed to steal the staff of Moses from the Topkapi Museum in Istanbul. Of course, Kitsune was successful, so why, on her way to Venice to make the delivery, does she feel worried?

[Read Janet Webb's review of The Devil's Triangle...]

Mar 9 2017 1:00pm

Review: In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowen

In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowen is inspired by the events and people of World War II, crafting a sweeping and riveting saga of class, family, love, and betrayal.

No war holds readers—and writers—more in thrall than the Second World War. Consider Philip K. Dick’s 1962 “alternative history novel” The Man in the High Castle. It imagines a world fifteen years after the victory of the Axis powers and forms the basis of a successful series on Amazon. Decades later, Philip K. Dick’s “what if” scenario is still intriguing.

Rhys Bowen’s In Farleigh Field invites readers to go back in time to just before and immediately after Great Britain went to war against Germany. Students of history know that England was not “one voice” in the years before Great Britain finally declared war against Germany. Who can forget Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s attempts to “achieve peace in our time.” But that approach was not successful, even though many English people pinned their hopes on Chamberlain’s attempts at diplomacy (characterized by some as appeasement).  

[Read Janet Webb's review of In Farleigh Field...]

Mar 1 2017 4:30pm

Review: The Housekeeper by Suellen Dainty

The Housekeeper by Suellen Dainty is a nuanced and nail-biting psychological thriller about the dark recesses of the human mind and the dangerous consequences of long-buried secrets.

In the introduction to The Housekeeper, Suellen Dainty challenges her readers by questioning the canard that a neat house leads to a productive life:

What is it about cooking and cleaning that seems to iron away (at least temporarily) even the most overwhelming of anxieties? Time and again, in those moments when my life starts feeling out of hand, I have found myself drafting to-do lists, scrubbing dirty dishes, and wiping down every surface I can reach. But does trying to impose order on external surroundings really quell our inner demons?

Sous-chef Anne Morgan, the heroine of The Housekeeper, has a life that has gone seriously awry. Dumped by her chef boyfriend of two years, she’s jobless, demoralized, and increasingly dependent on the cheerful, life-changing daily platitudes of house-management seer Emma Helmsley. The unconscious mind can sometimes foretell that life is about to spin out of control—Anne’s nights are disturbing.

[Read Janet Webb's review of The Housekeeper...]

Feb 16 2017 2:00pm

Review: Snowed In with Murder by Auralee Wallace

Snowed In with Murder by Auralee WallaceSnowed In with Murder by Auralee Wallace is the 3rd book in the Otter Lake Mystery series.

Take a classic mystery opening (a group of connected people with a murderer in their midst), add an isolated setting (an island in New Hampshire), swirl in a frightening nor’easter, and top it off with an estranged romantic couple, and you have Snowed in with Murder.

I haven’t read Auralee Wallace’s two earlier Otter Island mysteries, but it’s not difficult to catch up. Off-and-on islander Erica Bloom has come home to see if she can fan the embers of her cooled-off romance with Sheriff Grady Forrester. Erica is sure that grilled steaks and glowing flames in an intimate island setting will pave the way for reconciliation with Sheriff Grady. What could go wrong?

To start with, Erica’s mother is nowhere to be found on the island. Instead, the island lodge is teeming with strangers—strangers who seem to have their own camera crew. Ordinarily, the lodge is shut down for the season in the fall, so this is highly unusual. Something else that is highly unusual (or perhaps not in New Hampshire): the weather. Erica is surprised—but not too surprised—by the darkening forecast.

[Read Janet Webb's review of Snowed In with Murder...]

Feb 6 2017 2:00pm

Review: Apprentice 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, Janet Webb reviews #43, Apprentice in Death.

Apprentice in Death gives us J.D. Robb at the top of her game. Each In Death book juxtaposes a methodical, futuristic police procedural with the ever-evolving relationship of New York City’s Lieutenant Eve Dallas and Roarke, her gazillionaire husband.

The setting of Apprentice in Death is decades into the future, but the vagaries of murder are, unfortunately, timeless. There’s a shooting at an outdoor skating rink: “Three shots in roughly twelve seconds, three dead—center back, gut, forehead. That’s not luck.” No, those are skilled shots.

Eve knows immediately that she has a LDSK on her hands. According to the Urban Dictionary, the initials represent “Long Distance Serial Killer; a serial killer that kills at great distances via a sniper rifle or other weapons.”

[Read Janet Webb's review of Apprentice In Death...]

Feb 2 2017 4:00pm

Review: Garden of Lamentations by Deborah Crombie

Garden of Lamentations by Deborah Crombie is the 17th book in the Duncan Kincaid & Gemma James series (available February 7, 2017).

Before reading Janet's review, head over to Heroes and Heartbreakers for her omnibus review of the first 16 books!

There’s trouble in paradise at the Kincaid/James household: a dead nanny in their communal Notting Hill walled garden and a growing rift between the married detectives. Garden of Lamentations doesn’t miss a beat as it continues the narrative that began in Deborah Crombie’s 16th book, To Dwell in Darkness. Gemma James is very worried about the barrier between her and her husband Duncan Kincaid.

They’d never criticized each other for the long hours they spent on the job. Both detectives, it was one of the things that had made their relationship work. But this—this wasn’t the job. It was something else, and it worried her. He hadn’t been the same since the day in March when they’d heard Ryan Marsh had died.

[Read Janet Webb's review of Garden of Lamentations...]

Dec 29 2016 3:30pm

Review: The Phantom Tree by Nicola Cornick

The Phantom Tree by Nicola Cornick is a historical mystery where the secrets of 16th-century England might unlock the answers to modern-day London mysteries. 

The crucial question in a time-slip story is who stays and who leaves the time period in which they were born. The Phantom Tree is a tale of two women: Mary Seymour, the “daughter of one queen and the niece of another,” and the enigmatic, modern-day Alison Bannister. Mary Seymour’s mother was Henry VIII’s last wife, Katherine Parr. Nicola Cornick deftly switches between the worlds of the Tudor-era Wolf Hall and Wiltshire and the London of today.

Alison is wandering through the “rain sodden streets of Marlborough,” eight weeks before Christmas. She’s hungry, wet, and not at all pleased to have landed in a “faux historical event”—a Victorian market in the town square manned by cheerful stallholders in appropriate costume. 

[Read Janet Webb's review...]

Dec 23 2016 2:00pm

Review: Betrayal 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, Janet Webb reviews #12, Betrayal in Death.

“Don’t get above your raisin,’” is a phrase common in the American South. How does it apply to the life and times of New York City billionaire Roarke and his wife Lieutenant Eve Dallas in the spring of 2059? A clue can be found in the title Betrayal in Death.

The feral, hungry youths—Roarke’s one time compatriots—of his mysterious Dublin past: do they feel abandoned by him, jealous of him? Eve is haunted by dreams of horrific abuse at the hands of her father: will she ever break free? 

A dead maid, raped and brutalized as she goes about her tasks in the luxurious Roarke Palace Hotel, is Eve’s newest victim. Roarke wishes anyone but Eve had the case.

[Read Janet Webb's review of Betrayal in Death...]

Dec 16 2016 2:00pm

Review: Holiday 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, Janet Webb reviews #7, Holiday in Death.

Lieutenant Eve Dallas is the last person to write out her Christmas list and check it twice. But now she’s married to a gazillionaire and feeling the pain because Eve is not—and never has been—a fan of Christmas. After leaving the tranquility of the inner-city oasis she shares with Roarke, she’s confronted with garish billboards of Santa, complete with manic ho ho hos and reminders about the number of shopping days left before Christmas.

“Yeah, yeah, I hear you. You fat son of a bitch.” She scowled over as she braked for a light. She’d never had to worry about the holiday before. It had just been a matter of finding something ridiculous for Mavis, maybe something edible for Feeney.

There’d been no one else in her life to wrap gifts for.

And what the hell did she buy for a man who not only had everything, but owned most of the plants and factories that made it? For a woman who’d prefer a blow with a blunt instrument to shopping for an afternoon, it was a serious dilemma.

[Read Janet Webb's review of Holiday in Death...]

Nov 9 2016 12:00pm

Review: Her Nightly Embrace by Adi Tantimedh

Her Nightly Embrace by Adi Tantimedh is the 1st book in the new Ravi PI trilogy about a destructive private investigator and his eccentric coworkers, who handle cases so high-profile that they never make the headlines.

Her Nightly Embrace is the first book in the new Ravi PI trilogy. It's also scheduled to become a television series starring popular actor Sendhil Ramamurthy of NBC’s Heroes fame as newly minted PI Ravi Chandra Singh.

The pace is addictive. After the first, somewhat typical, case—a cheating husband caught in flagrante delicto while the salacious photos are shared in real time with his estranged wife—the mysteries ratchet up episodically and in intensity. Not that an angry wife who finally has proof is anything but intense. She lets her husband have it after she sees the photos.

Two years’ worth of pent-up rage after he smooth-talked and manipulated her into thinking his having a bit on the side was all in her imagination. Now she had hard proof and wanted him to know that he was well and truly fucked. We didn’t need speakerphone mode to hear her.

[Read Janet Webb's review of Her Nightly Embrace...]

Nov 2 2016 11:00am

Review: The Heavens May Fall by Allen Eskens

The Heaven's May Fall by Allen Eskens is a riveting murder case told from two different perspectives.

Read Janet Webb's review of The Heavens May Fall by Allen Eskens, and then make sure you're signed in and comment below for a chance to win a copy of all 3 of Allen Eskens's thrillers!

The Heavens May Fall is an intriguing title—what do those four words have to do with the murder of a lawyer’s wife? It can be traced back to a Latin quotation, Fiat justitia, ruat coelum: translated, “Let Justice Be Done, Though the Heavens May Fall.” Thought to have been said by Julius Caesar’s father-in-law, it crystallizes a view of justice that transcends the outcome of any specific inquiry or investigation. A colloquial version of this quotation is to “let the chips fall where they may.”

[Read Janet Webb's review of The Heavens May Fall...]

Oct 13 2016 4:30pm

Review: The Moth Catcher by Ann Cleeves

The Moth Catcher by Ann Cleeves is the 7th Vera Stanhope Mystery.

Which is more compelling to readers of criminal investigation stories? Is it the modus operandi of the investigators (particularly their leader) or the unraveling of a crime? 

The Moth Catcher constantly shifts between personalities and procedures. When Patrick Randle—a young ecologist moonlighting as a house-sitter for the Carswell family at their Northumberland estate—is found dead by the side of a lonely lane, Detective Inspector Vera is tapped to solve the crime.

Vera is brilliant, flawed, the smartest person in the room, an unglamorous woman wedded to her career, and a boss to be proud of. That said, her co-workers know her foibles, as when crime-scene manager Billy Cartwright says to her after taping off the murder scene:

[Read Janet Webb's review of The Moth Catcher...]

Oct 7 2016 1:00pm

Review: Teetotaled by Maia Chance

Teetotaled by Maia ChanceTeetotaled by Maia Chance is a sparkling new mystery that will delight readers with its clever plotting, larger-than-life characters, and rich 1920s atmosphere.

Ah, the Roaring Twenties! Forget the crime, the mystery, even the alluring setting—come for the flippant and fabulous vocabulary. Maia Chance is back, hard on the heels of her first Discreet Retrieval Agency book, Come Hell or Highball

Teetotaled, which is set in the Prohibition era, begins with an ever so appropriate epigraph:

Everything in life that’s any fun, as somebody wisely observed, is either immoral, illegal, or fattening
—P.G. Wodehouse

The ladies of the Discreet Retrieval Agency, widow Lola Woodby and Berta, her former cook and now partner, are down to their last dollar. They’re pining for their beaus who got away and wondering where they’re going to get their next meal. Tempers fray, and a whirring electric fan has little effect on the muggy temperature in their tiny shared flat. In her “stern Swedish accent,” Berta suggests that Lola stop reading Thrilling Romance and start finding clients.

[Read Janet Webb's review of Teetotaled...]

Aug 29 2016 4:00pm

Review: Her Darkest Nightmare by Brenda Novak

Her Darkest Nightmare by Brenda Novak is the 1st in an electric new series, featuring psychiatrist Dr. Evelyn Talbot and her controversial Alaskan mental institution, Hanover House (Available August 30, 2016).

Dr. Evelyn Talbot, a 36-year-old psychiatrist, calls upon her inner resources of courage, defiance, and indomitable willpower, refusing to allow her life to be defined by a sexual and physical attack twenty years earlier by a serial killer—aka her ex-boyfriend Jasper.

Talbot trains at Harvard, becoming a world-renowned expert on the criminally insane, specializing in serial killers. To further her research, especially in order to prevent horrific attacks from occurring, she becomes “the force behind Hanover House, a maximum-security facility located in a small Alaskan town.” The inmates are anyone’s worst nightmare, making the first book in Brenda Novak’s new series, Her Darkest Nightmare (The Evelyn Talbot Chronicles), very aptly titled.

[Read Janet Webb's review of Her Darkest Nightmare...]

Jul 29 2016 1:00pm

Review: In the Land of Milk and Honey by Jane Jensen

In the Land of Milk and Honey by Jane Jensen is the 2nd Elizabeth Harris Mystery (Available August 2, 2016).

What a horrific opening, an Amish family in the dead of night, surrounded by “the smell of vomit and bile.” But Jane Jensen hurtles us into the ultimate terror. Mother Leah decides to check in on all her children, starting with her fourteen-year-old Will, who has been very ill.

She stepped closer to the top bunk, went up on her tiptoes, and reached a hand out to touch William’s forehead. He was a barely distinguishable shape in the dark. Her fingers touched wetness, partially dried and sticky. It was around his mouth, which was slack, open, and felt oddly firm. The smell of something foul came from where her fingers had been. Alarmed, she drew back her hand and paused for only a moment before reaching for the Coleman lamp on the bedside table. She turned it on. Keeping the other boys asleep was no longer the foremost concern on her mind.

“Will?” She blinked as her adjusted to the light. She stepped on the lower bunk and pulled herself up to look at her son.

A moment later her scream echoed through the silent house like a gunshot.

[Read Janet Webb's review of In the Land of Milk and Honey...]

Jun 23 2016 1:00pm

Review: First Strike by Ben Coes

First Strike by Ben Coes is the 6th thriller featuring CIA operative Dewey Andreas (Available June 28, 2016).

Ben Coes’s First Strike—the 6th in his series featuring Dewey Andreas, a former member of U.S. Delta Force—is unrelentingly brutal in its portrayal of a struggle between a brilliant ISIS leader, Tristan Nazir, and Andreas and his colleagues.

Oxford educated Nazir is icily realistic in his aims—not for him noble clarion calls of creating a country ruled by Islam, rather:

“A noble idea to be sure, but what good is an idea if it is only that?” said Nazir. “Ruling is about power. It is about the acquisition of power, the maintenance of power, and the custody of power. It is about having the strength to demand that your own people sacrifice their lives in a larger struggle. It’s about the willingness to kill.”

[Read Janet Webb's review of First Strike...]

Dec 21 2015 3:00pm

Top 5 Christmas Mysteries

As traditional as counting down the shopping days to Christmas or making plans to visit out of town family is the appearance of Christmas and holiday mysteries. When did the tradition start? Why are these books so popular? Are they primarily English and/or historical? Who deserves the top of the tree, gold star accolade for this seasonal happening?

The answer to the last question is the easiest:

Take a bow Charles Dickens for A Christmas Carol: In Prose, Being a Ghost Story for Christmas.

Just below this gold star story sit the other 4 ornaments of my affection, rounding out my top 5 Christmas Mysteries:

[See if your favorite Christmas mysteries make the list...]

Jul 14 2015 3:00pm

Fresh Meat: Cold Frame by P.T. Deutermann

Cold Frame by P.T. Deutermann is a political thriller set in Washington D.C. where a secret NSA-sanctioned assassination squad goes rogue (available July 14, 2015).

A cold frame protects plants from adverse weather. Three years before a government official mysteriously dies at lunch, two men meet at Whitestone Hall, an estate in Great Falls, Virginia: Mister Strang, a government bureaucrat, and Hiram Walker, an immensely wealthy recluse who lives for his experiments that explore the extraordinary capabilities of weeds. Hiram Walker’s life’s work is to provide a “cold frame” of protection to the botanical work that absorbs him and his far-flung collaborators. Walker, “a full seven feet, three inches tall” suffers from Marfan syndrome: “… he moved in a hesitant, jerky fashion, which inevitably reminded people of Dr. Frankenstein’s outsized monster.” Strang leaves Walker’s estate with a poison called Sister Dark Surprise — a toxin that is emitted when a specific weed is attacked. Strang assures Walker that the government is only interested in researching the toxin’s scientific properties.

[Uh huh, sure...]