Review: <i>Clownfish Blues</i> by Tim Dorsey Review: Clownfish Blues by Tim Dorsey Dirk Robertson Read Dirk Robertson's review! Review: <i>New York to Dallas</i> by J.D. Robb Review: New York to Dallas by J.D. Robb Corrina Lawson Read Corrina Lawson's review! <i>Snowblind</i>: New Excerpt Snowblind: New Excerpt Ragnar Jonasson A startling Icelandic debut thriller. Review: <i>Treachery in Death</i> by J.D. Robb Review: Treachery in Death by J.D. Robb Guy Bergstrom Read Guy Bergstrom's review!
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Showing posts by: John Jacobson click to see John Jacobson's profile
Tue
Dec 13 2016 1:00pm

Review: Rapture 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, John Jacobson reviews #4, Rapture in Death.

As the 4th book in J.D. Robb’s In Death series, Rapture in Death is an encapsulated look at the series in its earliest moments. It’s one of the early moments in the Eve/Roarke romance, and it’s also a great example of how J.D. Robb used her near-future world to experiment with emerging technologies and the mystery/suspense elements of her novels. As a J.D. Robb fan—and a fan of her Nora Roberts counterpart—Rapture in Death is a time capsule for some of the In Death series’ hallmarks.

Rapture in Death begins with Roarke and Eve Dallas’s honeymoon. The couple is vacationing on an interstellar resort that Roarke’s company is constructing. They’re in relative isolation—the only people around being Roarke’s hired staff and construction crew. It’s a vulnerable time for Eve, who is still getting used to trusting someone enough to be in love. However, she also can’t turn away from her police work, even at a time meant exclusively for herself and her new marriage.

[Read John Jacobson's review of Rapture in Death...]

Tue
Jul 12 2016 12:00pm

Review: Among the Wicked by Linda Castillo

Among the Wicked by Linda Castillo is the 8th Kate Burkholder novel that finds the Chief of Police undercover in an Amish community in Upstate New York.

Representations of the Amish in fiction bring to mind the inspirational romances of authors like Beverly Lewis. We tend to view the Amish as a group of people that are either pious, fantastical examples of a Christian ideal, or as simply another group of outsiders with a strange way of life. Castillo’s latest Kate Burkholder novel, Among the Wicked, appealed to me because it seemed to be neither of these things. As someone who’s grown up close to Amish communities, I was excited to read a mystery that dedicated itself to a complex portrait of a people steeped in contradiction. 

Kate Burkholder, Chief of Police in her Ohio town, is living a comfortable life with the man she is dating, enjoying the steadiness of her job and community. Her life is shaken up when the sheriff’s department of a county in Upstate New York comes knocking at her police station. The county, a relatively rural one, houses a sizable Amish population. Said population recently saw the death of a fifteen-year-old girl, her body found frozen and full of Oxycodone. Said department suspects foul play, but the Amish community is not one to communicate much with outsiders.

[Read John Jacobson's review of Among the Wicked...]

Mon
Jun 1 2015 4:00pm

Fresh Meat: Flame Out by M.P. Cooley

Flame Out by M.P. Cooley is the 2nd small-town mystery featuring FBI-agent-turned-local-cop June Lyons set in Hopewell Falls, NY (available June 2, 2015).

Where and when are more than just integral parts to a news story – they’re also integral parts to an investigation. In this case, the ‘what’ is M.P. Cooley’s sophomore novel Flame Out, which picks up where Cooley’s first novel, Ice Shear, left off, and uses time and environment to create a mystery as crackling and buried as the factory fire that opens the book. The intelligent weaving of upstate New York life, small town secrets, generations of families, and unsolved disappearances makes this story one worth reading for anyone looking for a mystery that goes above and beyond the expected.

Hopewell Falls, New York is a town from the ages of factories, where rust and mechanics were enough to employ a thriving town of first-, second-, and third-generation European immigrants. June Lyons has grown up in Hopewell Falls under the wing of her father, now a retired cop with a long history of outstanding service. June, like her father, now serves on the Hopewall Falls police force. Her life has had enough ups and downs with the death of her husband and with her leave from the FBI; Hopewell Falls was supposed to be a place for June to recuperate.

[It's never that easy...]

Tue
May 12 2015 11:00am

Fresh Meat: The Body in the Birches by Katherine Hall Page

The Body in the Birches by Katherine Hall Page is the 22nd cozy mystery in the Faith Fairchild series set in Maine (available May 12, 2015).

Some books make you hungry as well as intrigued. Katherine Hall Page is clearly a master at making her readers crave food while solving a murder, because The Body in the Birches is the perfect cozy mystery for the food lover. The integration of the food in the way the exposition unfolds is excellent. The mystery itself, a slow building suspense that leaves you guessing until the last possible moment, fits perfectly with the relaxed Maine setting of the book. The Body in the Birches is just the mystery you want with a hot summer day – and a plate of great food. 

Caterer and amateur sleuth Faith Fairchild is spending the Maine summer on Sanpere Island enjoying her family and friends. With her son getting his first job at a local restaurant and her daughter clearly becoming a teenager, Faith is starting to come to terms with just how much has happened in her life. She has also come to appreciate the relative joys of her family and how they stay the same even if they change. As Faith and her husband wait for their house to be redone, they stay with friends in a house known as The Pines close to a grand family summer home: The Birches.

[All that's missing is a body...]

Tue
Nov 18 2014 3:00pm

Fresh Meat: Wink of an Eye by Lynn Chandler Willis

Wink of an Eye is the debut mystery by Lynn Chandler Willis about a Los Angeles private eye who returns home to a small town in Texas (available November 18, 2014).

Wink of an Eye is a modern mystery set in the small town of Wink, Texas. That small town life and the integration of a man returning to the town after years of being away is what makes it so special. Lynn Chandler Willis writes an accessible story that involves a private investigator, the relationships he comes home to, and a reintegration to the town he grew up in long ago. Willis’s writing is small town friendly in the best of ways, and that feeling of overall community gives the mystery a feeling of clear familiarity that will have readers engrossed in the world created.

Gypsy Moran, private investigator in Los Angeles, is on the run.  He returns to his hometown of Wink to spend a few weeks with his sister until he can figure out what to do next. His sister, Rhonda, is also concerned about one of her former students, a 12-year-old boy whose father recently passed away from what appeared to be suicide, though the boy and his grandfather seem to have other ideas. Gypsy is used to people entertaining ludicrous thoughts and conspiracies surrounding deaths. But as he hears the case, Gypsy realizes that something is going on in Wink. 

[Small town, big problems...]

Wed
Nov 5 2014 1:15pm

Fresh Meat: Bad Country by C.B. McKenzie

Bad Country by CB McKenzie is a debut mystery set in Arizona featuring a former rodeo cowboy turned private investigator told in an original, colloquial style (available November 4, 2014).

Within the essence of a mystery, there is a definitive effect of setting and local culture on the internal vibrations of the unraveling of the plot. Bad Country is a novel rooted in Arizona that shows the lives of three very different groups of people based on their heritages. Whites, Latinos, and Native Americans all create a cultural environment that allows the mystery in Bad Country to complicate itself. In much the same way, the physical environment of Arizona also finds itself becoming a part of the larger mystery. Together, the culture and the climate make Bad Country a debut novel steeped in questions with tough answers.

Rodeo has taken the oddest of jobs to meet his needs. Whether working as a bounty hunter or as someone serving divorce papers, Rodeo’s unconventional life has led to his involvement in a case that goes far beyond that of equally distributing household assets.

Rodeo returns to his home, El Hoyo, aka The Hole, to find that an unknown man has been killed near his home. Rodeo suspects that the man is one of many undocumented immigrants that often come into Arizona, but he is actually found to be a member of a Southwestern Native American tribe. This is far from the homecoming Rodeo wanted; dealing with the traditional forces of the law has never been his style.

[He'd much prefer to do things his own way...]

Tue
Sep 30 2014 12:45pm

Fresh Meat: The Perfect Witness by Iris Johansen

The Perfect Witness by Iris Johansen is a romatic thriller about the daughter of a mob boss whose visions into people's darkest mark her for death, until a dangerous man helps her bury her identity and her gifts to survive (available September 30, 2014).

The latest romantic thriller from Iris Johansen delves into the supernatural with a main character that can psychically recall the memories of those around her. The novel functions as a thriller because of the fast-paced writing style that keeps the story moving. The author may have a background in writing romance that gets shown in the relationships her heroines develop, but her style and execution are all about expressing the feelings of being chased and unsafe. 

From the first page, the prose creates a tightened and minimalistic sense of tense intrigue:

She was bleeding…

The pain in her side was almost overwhelming.

Teresa could hear the three men behind her in the forest, crashing through the underbrush.

Run. 

No time to try and stop the bleeding.  If she didn’t get away from them, there would be another bullet, another wound.

Or death. 

She had been lucky to have seen them coming up the road toward the cabin and guessed that they had been sent to kill her.  She had slipped out of the cabin, but they had caught sight of her running into the woods.  She had heard Mick Judaro shout to Tantona when he saw her.  He’s been surprised, they’d thought she’d be easy game.  But she’d been waiting for them for the last three days.

Waiting for death.

[Can you wait to read more? Nope...]