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Showing posts by: Janet Webb click to see Janet Webb's profile
Feb 16 2017 1:00pm

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 1:00pm

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 3:00pm

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 2:30pm

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 1:00pm

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 1:00pm

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 11:00am

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 10:00am

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 3:30pm

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 12:00pm

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 3:00pm

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 12:00pm

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 12:00pm

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 2:00pm

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 2:00pm

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...]

Jun 23 2015 9:15am

Fresh Meat: Devil’s Harbor by Alex Gilly

Devil's Harbor by Alex Gilly follows Nick Finn, a California Customs and Border agent wrongly accused of murdering his partner forced to evade capture while attempting to prove his innocence (available June 23, 2015).

Brutal, real, sweaty, and scary, with the power of the sea roiling just below the surface, Devil’s Harbor is a frightening place to visit. Finn is no imaginary alcoholic. His marriage is in need of more than a quick tune-up. His brother-in-law won’t be strolling into a family dinner with his two boisterous dogs at his side any time soon. Throughout the story, Finn examines and explores long buried childhood memories. Finn is no over-the-top, overboard drunk though: with all his demons perched on this shoulder, he still has the persistence and drive to unravel a puzzling, vicious criminal operation and restore a daughter to a mother’s side. But it’s not for the faint-of-heart.

The tension ratchets up right away. Finn senses something is out of the ordinary in the smuggling vessel he and his partner are attempting to board.

Still no one appeared from the cabin. That disturbed him. Almost all the traffickers he intercepted, when they realized there was no way out, turned meek—especially if their boats were about to sink or catch fire. Usually what they did was show themselves, put their hands in the air, make it clear that they were unarmed and surrendering. Most of them knew they were just going to get shipped home anyway.

Finn sensed that this guy was different. There was something all-or-nothing about this guy.

[Not everything is as it seems...]

Jun 9 2015 10:00am

Fresh Meat: No Place to Die by Clare Donoghue

No Place to Die by Clare Donoghue is a procedural thriller where a retired policeman and a young girl both go missing at the same time (available June 9, 2015).

Certain openings cause readers to keep reading. No Place to Die combines three hooks in the first few pages. First, a quote from Edgar Allen Poe that tells us that someone is inexorably coming closer to death, through circumstances that are filled with dread . . . and they’re running out of time. The second, a glimpse into the work life of a senior detective sergeant – who happens to be a woman. Shades of Helen Mirren’s Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison and Gillian Anderson’s police detective Stella Gibson come to the fore as Senior Detective Sergeant Jane Bennett is tasked to lead a widening investigation. Women officers have an awkward time of it within police precincts, which makes their stories all the more interesting. Lastly, the domestic disappearance that makes no sense... or had there been clues all along that all was not well?

[Are you hooked yet?]

Feb 9 2015 2:00pm

Fresh Meat: Phantom Angel by David Handler

Phantom Angel by David Handler is the second mystery in the Benji Golden series set in the seedy underbelly of NYC's Broadway theater scene (available February 10, 2015).

David Handler's Phantom Angel conjures up perhaps the most famous play about Broadway—Mel Brooks’s tour-de-force, The Producers. Aging showman and legendary Broadway producer, Max Bialystock, shares with his nebbish accountant, Leo Bloom, the inviolate rules of the game:

Max Bialystock: The two cardinal rules of producing. One: Never put your own money in the show.

Leo Bloom: And two?

Max Bialystock: [yelling] Never put your own money in the show!

David Handler’s Phantom Angel takes a similarly jaded view of today’s theatrical world, even though the main character retains a charming innocence. Native New Yorker Benji Golden has a youthful appearance that helps him track down runaways, so it is not too much of a stretch when he is hired by Morrie Frankel, a famous Broadway producer, to track down a missing $12 million. Angel investor R.J. Farnell and his blonde bombshell sidepiece, the flamboyantly named Jonquil Beausoleil, have also gone missing, and Frankel needs the money for his upcoming musical version of Wuthering Heights.

[Sounds like a trainwreck in the making...]

Sep 19 2014 10:00am

Fresh Meat: To Dwell in Darkness by Deborah Crombie

To Dwell in Darkness by Deborah Crombie is the 16th mystery in the Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James series (available September 23, 2014).

To Dwell in Darkness is a powerful story that forcefully lands the reader in a confused, smoke-filled, public arena of terror. No back story is needed to comprehend the insanity of a bomb going off at a public concert at St. Pancras International, a renovated railroad station. But like the best stories of J.D. Robb, P.D. James, and Louise Penny, knowing the cast of characters adds to the reader’s enjoyment.

Deborah Crombie conducts the interwoven strands of her 16th novel like a maestro wielding a baton. Kincaid and Gemma’s family, work colleagues, and friends, including their oldest son Kit, play a pivotal role in unraveling the twisted strands that envelop the bombing. Their contributions are integral to understanding the motivations behind the mystery of how a would-be smoke-bomb turned into a lethal weapon. There’s also time for St. Pancras Station, the place, the neighborhood that surrounds it, and its long history, to take a bow. Longtime readers will pore over the detailed, hand-crafted map of the St. Pancras world, complete with hand-drawn sketches of pubs and hospitals. As Crombie so aptly puts it, “Laura Maestro has once again brought the story to life with an enchanting endpaper map.”

[A bomb that wasn't supposed to be a bomb?]