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January 25, 2015
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Showing posts by: Leigh Neely click to see Leigh Neely's profile
Oct 11 2014 11:00am

Fresh Meat: Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver

Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver is a debut traditional murder mystery set in a 1932 British seaside resort featuring amateur sleuth Amory Ames (available October 14, 2014).

You won’t be able to read this book without thinking of Agatha Christie. Set at a seaside resort in 1932, Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver features a cast of entertaining characters and is a wonderfully rich traditional mystery.

Amory Ames was engaged to Gil Trent, a responsible young man who adored her. However, she met the charming and charismatic Milo Ames and married him. Five years later, Amory is home alone while Milo still lives the carefree life of a wealthy playboy.

When Gil shows up and urges her to join him at the Brightwell for a holiday, Amory’s restlessness and unhappiness spur her to accept his invitation. Gil’s sister, Emmeline is engaged to Rupert Howe, but Gil fears it’s his sister’s wealth Rupert loves more than the young woman herself. Seeing Milo’s personality traits in the younger man, Amory hopes she might be able to help her young friend avoid the same kind of marriage and agrees to join Gil and Emmeline.

[By the Sea, By the Beautiful Sea.]

Sep 24 2014 10:30am

Fresh Meat: Strong Darkness by Jon Land

Strong Darkness by Jon Land is the sixth mystery featuring the gunslinging Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong (available September 30, 2014).

I used to read Robert Ludlum novels and marvel when I reached the end of them that every word of fiction I’d just read could have happened. That’s exactly the way I felt when I finished Strong Darkness by Jon Land. Describing it brings to mind all kinds of book-review clichés, but it’s a really good book so I won’t bore you with that.

This is the sixth book in a series that features a character who’s resilient enough to carry it through many more books. A fifth-generation Texas Ranger, Caitlin Strong is beautiful, mean, a great shot, and hates bad guys enough to pursue them to their finish. She embodies her last name. To her boss’s deep regret, she like gun battles and frequently finds herself dodging bullets and emptying clips.

[Once upon a time in Texas...]

Sep 18 2014 11:00am

Fresh Meat: Crossing the Line by Frederique Molay

Crossing the Line by Frederique Molay is the second mystery in the Paris Homicide Series about a message discovered in the tooth of a murder victim (available September 23, 2014).

I fell in love with Chief Nico Sirsky when I met him the first time in The 7th Woman. I’m happy to delve more into his life with Crossing the Line, the sequel and the second book in the Paris Homicide Mystery. He is an intriguing character, and I found myself not only enjoying getting to know him better but really liking his family, friends, and coworkers.

It’s just before Christmas, and the weather is cold and bracing. Nico has returned to work at La Crim or the Criminal Investigation Division, after being off for three months after getting shot during his last big case.

I like Nico because he’s a tough, pit-bull of a detective, but he is very romantic in his thoughts of the lovely Caroline, the woman he loves. The beauty is that Molay conveys the detective’s romantic soul with little tidbits like this one, “Caroline closed the door behind her, and Nico breathed in her lingering scent, as if to capture it forever.”

[How far is too far?]

Jul 17 2014 2:00pm

Fresh Meat: The Oleander Sisters by Elaine Hussey

The Oleander Sisters by Elaine Hussey is an emotional story set in 1969 Mississippi that follows four sisters through the ups and down of the changing times (available July 29, 2014).

Let’s hear it for skeletons and Southern comfort.

I had a banner year in 1969. In January, I met my future husband on a blind date; in May, we became engaged; in June, I graduated from high school and began going to secretarial school; and in August, I had a wedding. Almost forty-five years later, we’re still celebrating anniversaries, and I just finished a book I absolutely loved that was set in 1969.

The Oleander Sisters by Elaine Hussey is like sitting down and devouring warm chocolate cake. It’s delicious to the last bite, and you hate when you have to put the empty plate in the sink.

[Make sure you rinse! (The plate, not the book!)]

Jun 23 2014 3:45pm

Fresh Meat: Strange Gods by Annamaria Alfieri

Strange Gods by Annamaria Alfieri is a historical mystery set in early 20th century British East Africa about a missionary's daughter who yearns for adventure, but struggles to escape her parents' strict rules (available June 24, 2014).

I’ve been in many distant locales with my reading these days, but this book presents the most exotic setting—the Protectorate of British East Africa. It’s 1911, and Vera McIntosh is chafing under the control of her Scottish missionary parents. Though her mother longs for Vera to be a proper English lady, the young woman is more at home with the Kikuyu her father strives to bring into Christianity.

The thoughts of this British miss, however, are often occupied with Assistant District Superintendent Justin Tolliver. Seeking to find his way in the world, Justin came to British East Africa for a brief visit and ended up falling in love with the lush country and finding his heart no longer longing for England. The added benefit of cheap living and plenty of opportunities for work added to lure of the place.

[From Africa, with love...]

Jun 17 2014 9:15am

Fresh Meat: Cradle to Grave by Eleanor Kuhns

Cradle to Grave by Eleanor Kuhns is the third historical mystery featuring Will Rees, a Revolutionary War veteran braving a winter trek to New York with his wife to save a Shaker friend accused of murder (available June 17, 2014).

I confess. I knew nothing about the Shaker community except that they made beautiful furniture until I read this book. What I found is their world is bound by different rules and objectives, but their problems are the same ones faced by other communities every day.

Cradle to Grave is the third book in Eleanor Kuhn's historical mystery series featuring Will Rees. The first book, A Simple Murder, won the MWA Best First Crime Novel in 2011. It was followed by Death of a Dyer the following year. Eleanor has picked a focused and fascinating setting for her books. Though Will Rees and his wife, Lydia, are not part of a Shaker community, Lydia was before their marriage. They are drawn back to Zion with a letter asking for help from a friend.

[A crime committed with good intentions is still a crime...]

May 19 2014 3:30pm

Fresh Meat: Lost by Laura K. Curtis

Lost by Laura K. Curtis is a novel of romantic suspense featuring a former police officer and an FBI agent who both end up undercover in a rural Texas cult (available May 20, 2014).

With Lost, Laura K. Curtis gives us the story of two of her secondary characters from her exciting first novel, Twisted. Like that one, this novel is a complicated, satisfying romantic suspense with enough mystery to keep me reading when I should have been doing other things.

Tara Jean Black is now known as Serena, because she has become a part of the religious cult, the Chosen. Members live a simple life, growing their own vegetables, getting electricity from solar power, making their own clothing, using scraps to make quilts, and other back-to-the-basics activities that separate them from “out there” in the real world. They seek to follow the dictates of the Leader and learn the will of the Powers.

[Cult has such a negative connotation these days...]

Apr 28 2014 2:00pm

Fresh Meat: Murder on the Hoof by Kathryn O’Sullivan

Murder on the Hoof by Kathryn O'Sullivan is second cozy murder mystery in the Colleen McCabe series about the Fire Chief from North Carolina's Outer Banks (available May 6, 2014).

With Murder on the Hoof, Kathryn O’Sullivan did something that always excites me about a book. She sent me looking for information about the book’s setting. When I find a story interesting and entertaining, I enjoy getting to know the setting a little better.

Corolla, North Carolina, is in the beautiful Outer Banks, and along with the majestic ocean and the sand dunes, are the wild horses that are watched over and protected by a special group of caring people. The wild Banker Colonial Spanish Mustangs play a key role in both of the books O’Sullivan has done for this series. The first book was Foal Play, which I plan to read now.

Fire Chief Colleen McCabe is overseeing a disaster drill with her crew of firefighters and performers from the local theater group. Everything goes smoothly until Doris, one of the older ladies in the group, turns out to be a real corpse.

[The twists and turns are coming...]

Apr 18 2014 12:00pm

Fresh Meat: The Furies by Mark Alpert

The Furies, a thriller by Mark Alpert, introduces us to a family like any other, with the exception of a genetic mutation that they've been forced to hide from the world for hundreds of years (available April 22, 2014).

They Walk Among Us!

Nothing is more chilling than hearing those words. Whether they are supernatural, extraterrestrial, or just plain spooky, thinking about a being that’s different from our human selves always feels creepy when everything around you looks normal.

The prologue of Mark Alpert’s The Furies gives us a glimpse of Elizabeth Fury and her family, a family so different that the other people in town are determined to kill them for fear that they’re the ones who’ve brought the recent troubles people were dealing with. It’s 1645, and Elizabeth has escaped with her children, but she can still hear the cries of her husband being tortured.

We move from there to modern-day New York City, where John Rogers sits in a bar nursing a single beer as he thinks about how many ways his life is a mess. A former gang member and military loser, only the faith and grace of a local priest helped him turn his life around. However, turning from the street life to life of service didn’t exactly fill his pockets with gold.

[A girl is about to change his life...]

Feb 28 2014 1:30pm

Fresh Meat: Wrecked by Tricia Fields

Wrecked by Tricia Fields is the third book in the series about West Texas Chief of Police Josie Gray, who is tasked with finding her lover, a man who is missing and suspected of murder (available March 4, 2014).

Josie Gray, Chief of Police of a small West Texas town, is a tough, capable woman, but her strength is put to the test when her lover, Dillon Reese, goes missing. Dillon’s secretary is dead, his office ransacked, and his car is gone. Did he flee for his life? Or did he flee from the crime?

Distraught as she is, Josie has to maintain her professional composure and proceed with the investigation in her normal, methodical way. However, to do this, she has to turn the investigation over to her lead detective, Otto, allowing him to take charge. Though it’s for the best, it still grates against her need for control and leadership.

Adding to her troubles, the mayor, who dislikes women in leadership roles, is dragging her into his dirty little affairs, providing another distraction.

[Maybe the mayor did it...]

Jan 26 2014 10:00pm

Fresh Meat: Beyond Belief by Helen Smith

Beyond Belief by Helen SmithBeyond Belief by Helen Smith is the fourth book in the contemporary mystery series featuring amateur sleuth Emily Castles (available January 28, 2014).

I love a mystery with a spunky amateur sleuth, and Helen Smith has created a great little cozy series with the charming Emily Castles. Emily can’t seem to find a job where she’s truly happy so she works for a temporary agency doing various office jobs around London—until an opportunity comes along to add to the mix and her job becomes more interesting.

In Beyond Belief, Emily is hired by the Royal Society for the Exploration of Science and Culture to be a “future crimes investigator” at their “Belief and Beyond” conference. The purpose of the conference is to discuss and present a basis for belief in paranormal abilities. They’re calling Emily’s investigation a future crime because Perspicacious Peg, well-known psychic and horoscope writer, has seen a vision of a man dying by drowning. Peg is convinced the victim will be the famous magician, Edmund Zenon, who’s planning to “walk on water” to awe and impress his followers and doubters. Edmund, a known skeptic of psychic and paranormal abilities, has also offered fifty thousand pounds to any paranormal specialist who can prove his or her ability is real.

[We love a good debunking...]

Nov 25 2013 6:00pm

Fresh Meat: Hostage by Kay Hooper

Hostage by Kay HooperHostage by Kay Hooper is the sequel to 2012's Haven, featuring Bishop and the Special Crimes Unit, using psychic gifts to hunt a dangerously unstable felon through the Appalachian wilderness (available November 26, 2013).

I am fascinated by Kay Hooper’s FBI agents that have special abilities and the way she uses these abilities to help them catch criminals. Bishop’s Special Crimes Unit is back in this book and better than ever. I give it extra stars because it’s set in the mountains of Tennessee, a place very close to my heart with a town aptly named Devil’s Gap.

Two sets of agents are the focus of this book, and it’s a story that might keep you up at night if you scare easily. Get ready for demons, ghosts, and, of course, bad guys!

Luther Brinkman is a Haven agent sent to find escaped bank robber, Cole Jacoby. Luther is hampered by the steep slopes of the Appalachian Mountains. He finds the felon, but is badly wounded and left to die. He’s rescued by Callie Davis, an agent for the SCU, who was put in place by Noah Bishop. The wily director of the SCU/Haven uses his agents with the finesse of a champion chess player.

The problem the agents have with Jacoby is more than his weapons and his dogs, there’s something evil that bars their movements and keeps them trapped in Callie’s cabin, cut off from the help they need. Then they become the hunter’s prey.

[Something wicked lurks in these woods...]

Sep 27 2013 11:30am

Fresh Meat: Silencing Eve by Iris Johansen

Silencing Eve by Iris JohansenSilencing Eve by Iris Johansen is the final book in the Eve Duncan trilogy, where James Doane and Eve's saga comes to a close (available October 1, 2013).

At long last, we’ve received the final book in the Eve Duncan trilogy.

***SPOILERS AHEAD, regarding earlier events in the trilogy, but if you're caught up, let's discuss the exciting conclusion!!!





[Can Eve finally beat Doane...?]

Aug 5 2013 10:45pm

Fresh Meat: Artifact by Gigi Pandian

Artifact by Gigi Pandian is a traditional mystery debut and the first in the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt series, in which a historian's led by a jewel-encrusted Indian artifact to a Scottish legend of lost treasure. (available August 6, 2013).

With Artifact we meet the lively Miss Jaya Jones, a study in contrasts. She’s a distinguished professor who loves to wear stilettos to heighten her five-foot frame, studies trade routes and military skirmishes of the British East India Company, plays the tabla drum in a local restaurant two nights a week, lives in a small apartment above her eccentric landlady, and eats like a stevedore.

I think she must look somewhat like an ant when carrying the tabla case over her shoulder. Like most mystery heroines, however, there’s more to Jaya than meets the eye. I really liked her. She’s ambitious and doesn’t allow something as tedious as danger keep her from finding what she’s seeking.

Pandian brings us into the story at midnight. Not only does this add to the sinister atmosphere, it makes for a great exchange between Jaya and Nadia, her landlady.

Convinced Jaya has blood on her shoe, Nadia doesn’t hesitate to speculate how it got there:

[In this mystery, everyone's a detective...]

Jul 11 2013 9:00am

Fresh Meat: Hunting Eve by Iris Johansen

Hunting Eve by Iris JohansenHunting Eve is the second book in the Eve Duncan trilogy by Iris Johansen (available July 16, 2013).

Eve Duncan is literally in the middle of a big mess in Hunting Eve, the second book of Iris Johansen’s trilogy. Kidnapped by Jim Doane and forced to reconstruct his son Kevin’s head in Taking Eve, our intrepid heroine is in big trouble. She had angered her captor by tossing the clay head over an embankment and taking off in the woods.

While the good news is that Eve has escaped, the bad news is she’s out in the cold, deep in woods in the Rocky Mountains, with nothing but her will and wits to survive. She’s fighting hunger, the elements, and the demonic voice of Kevin in her head. Doane is stalking her and is close enough she can hear his vapid taunts. All in all, it’s a very unpleasant situation.

Johansen keeps the tension up as the book moves along at a fairly rapid pace. Everyone Eve loves is searching for her in their own way. Kendra Michaels is joined by the somewhat quirky Margaret Douglas; Jane MacGuire, who’s recovering from being shot, is being watched over by Mark Trevor and Seth Caleb; Joe is looking for Zander, who he knows is hunting Doane, so Jane has her own posse out searching for her.

[But we're still left hanging!]

Jun 24 2013 8:30am

Fresh Meat: The Eye of God by James Rollins

The Eye of God by James RollinsThe Eye of God by James Rollins is the ninth military thriller of apocalyptic proportions in the Sigma Force series featuring a doomsday sentence and the one team that stands in the way (available June 25, 2013).

I never thought much about physics until I became a fan of the TV show, The Big Bang. Now I actually watch programs that explain elements of physics to someone as dumb as me and I find it fascinating.

Physics is the heart of James Rollins’ ninth Sigma Force novel. It begins with a big bang—the explosion of a secret military satellite sent out to further the study of dark matter. While this is happening, a secret package arrives at the Vatican containing a skull and a book bound with human skin. DNA tests prove both belonged to Genghis Khan. While the crash of the satellite and the relics of the old ruler seem unrelated, they both carry a message of doom the world.

Members of Sigma Force are working with both teams on these two projects, and a cast of thousands is involved in all of it.

[I'm thinking team work might become a struggle...]

Jun 19 2013 8:30am

Fresh Meat: Lethal Treasure by Jane Cleland

Lethal Treasure by Jane ClelandLethal Treasure by Jane Cleland is the eighth Josie Prescott antique-themed traditional mystery (available June 25, 2013).

Jane Cleland’s latest Prescott Antiques mystery is another winner. Lethal Treasure packs a double punch with its fascinating antiques mystery and a baffling murder mystery.

Josie Prescott has come a long way since she was forced out of a prestigious job in New York City after revealing a price-fixing scheme. She settled herself in Rocky Point, New Hampshire, where her antiques business is thriving, and she’s receiving the recognition she deserves in those circles.

After a relatively calm auction for abandoned storage units, Josie and her friend Henri Dubois discover they’ve fared well with the day’s bidding. Henry finds beautiful silent movie posters that he immediately turns over to Josie for authentication and appraisal. Thrilled for the opportunity to explore such rare materials, Josie and her crew begin work immediately. Though she has tentative good news for Henri, Josie is surprised to learn he didn’t come home last night and is still missing. When his body is found in the unit he bought, Josie wonders if the rare posters were worth enough money to be a motive for murder.

[Who knew antiquing was so dangerous?...]

May 9 2013 11:00am

Fresh Meat: Lucky Bastard by Deborah Coonts

Lucky Bastard by Deborah CoontsLucky Bastard by Deborah Coonts is the fourth in the Lucky O’Toole humorous traditional mystery series (available May 14, 2013).

If you’re looking for humor, glitz, and big money, you’ll truly enjoy the Lucky O’Toole Las Vegas series from Deborah Coonts. Lucky Bastard is the fourth book in a series that is funny, sexy, and features a damn good amateur sleuth. It’s been called Sex and the City meets Elmore Leonard. Not a bad description.

There’s no waiting for the action with Lucky Bastard, it opens with a grisly murder scene. A young woman has been left sprawled across the hood of a red Ferrari in the dealership inside Babylon, a top casino-resort in Las Vegas. Perhaps the saddest part of the display is that she was murdered with a stiletto attached to a beautiful red Jimmy Choo.

[What a fashion disaster!]

May 7 2013 8:30am

Fresh Meat: Silken Prey by John Sandford

Silken Prey by John Sandford places Lucas Davenport in the midst of a political scandal with deadly consequences (available May 7, 2013).

I have to tell you up front—I love John Sandford. I’ve read everything he’s written and even looked up some of his newspaper stories. He’s a gifted, eloquent writer who grabs me every time with his books.

I’ve had a longtime love for Lucas Davenport. He’s just about the coolest character I know, and I’ve come to know him so well I feel I’d recognize him if I passed him on the street. He’s a dedicated, hard-nosed cop to the core, and he’s like a pit bull that can’t let go of a bone when he gets the bad guy in his sights.

Silken Prey continues the story of Lucas and the wonderful friends and coworkers who make up his world. I’m always thrilled when Lucas and Virgil Flowers, one of his BCA agents featured in another Sandford series, work together, but in this book he also reconnects with Kidd, the famous artist and computer whiz. Then there are the usual suspects—Del, Jenkins, and Shrake who are joined by two female BCA agents we meet for the first time. So many good characters I put off reading the last page because I didn’t want the story to end.

[Hanging on to every word...]

Apr 21 2013 9:00am

Fresh Meat: The Bleiberg Project by David Khara

The Bleiberg Project by David Khara, translated from the French by Simon John, is a best-selling international thriller in its first English-language edition (available April 30, 2013.)

A Mossad agent, a CIA agent, and a Wall Street Trader walk into a bank. What happens next is no joke.

I loved this thriller. Written by former journalist David Khara, The Bleiberg Project, keeps you involved, whether you’re in the midst of a flashback to Nazi activities or following modern-day bad guys with links to some truly evil men from World War II.

Jay Novacek has more money than he’ll ever spend and he’s one of the unhappiest people on earth. One night of debauchery brought him a pain so deep it never leaves his conscious thoughts. Then, when two representatives from the United States Army show up to inform Jay of his father’s death, he finally has something to celebrate.

[So, not a happy childhood then...]