Audiobook Review: <i>Murder on the Orient Express</i>, Read by Kenneth Branagh Audiobook Review: Murder on the Orient Express, Read by Kenneth Branagh Danielle Prielipp Read Danielle Prielipp's review! Review: <i>Stealing Ghosts</i> by Lance Charnes Review: Stealing Ghosts by Lance Charnes David Cranmer Read David Cranmer's review! <i>Killin Pace</i>: Excerpt Killin Pace: Excerpt Douglas Schofield A high-octane, heart-pounding tale set in Everglades City, Florida, and Sicily, Italy. Review: <i>A Season to Lie</i> by Emily Littlejohn Review: A Season to Lie by Emily Littlejohn Amber Keller Read Amber Keller's review!
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Showing posts by: Amy Dalton click to see Amy Dalton's profile
Oct 4 2014 1:00pm

Fresh Meat: The Delta by Tony Park

The Delta is a thriller by Tony Park set in Africa about Sonja Kurtz, an ex-assassin turned mercenary who's hired to blow up a dam in Botswana (available October 7, 2014).

Modern Africa is a nation torn by tribal divisions, poverty, great riches and a fragile ecosystem. Sonja Kurtz is a woman in love with her nation as well as a trained mercenary and hired killer. Called back to her African childhood home for a job and secretly hoping to regain her first love, Stirling, she ends up in the middle of a botched assassination attempt. On the run after realizing that her target has been tipped off, she is filled with memories of her early life:

“Stirling, I love you, too, but I want to see the world. I want to do something with my life.” He’d tried to be cool, busying himself by putting another worm on the end of his hook, then casting it out into the Khwai River with a practiced flick of his wrist. “Stay,” he’d quietly pleaded as he reeled in the slack, watching the river’s surface, unable to look her in the eye. He’d suggested that she become a safari guide, but although she knew the bush almost as well as he, except for trees, which she found boring, she hated pandering to the needs of the tourists. Her dad, Hans, had been the manager of Xakanaxa Camp, until his drinking had become too much for the owners. Her mother had less patience and had gone back to England while Hans still muddled on, but Sonja had lingered, unwilling to abandon the old man, or Africa. In time, she’d become keen to do both. After losing his job at the camp her father had stayed in Maun, lost to his wife and daughter as surely as if he’d died. Perhaps he had. “You know I can’t handle the foreigners.” When she went into the bush she liked to go alone, or with Stirling. It was hard to describe. For her, going to the bush was like going to church was for her mother. She went into a kind of trance sometimes and felt as close as she ever would to believing, not in the existence of a supreme being, but in a sense of order and completeness in this otherwise fragmented world.

[Not all of Sonja is calloused...]

Aug 17 2012 12:00pm

Fresh Meat: A Killing in the Hills by Julia Keller

A Killing in the Hills by Julia KellerA Killing in the Hills by Julia Keller is a debut legal thriller featuring a mother and daughter who attempt to find a shooter in a small town in West Virginia while mending their fragile relationship (available August 21, 2012).

When I look back on my reading of this book, my perspective changed completely after the tragic events that unfolded in Aurora, Colorado, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Being reminded that wherever you are, whatever everyday, mundane place you happen to be, you are never truly safe and that you cannot protect anyone from violence, made me interpret the events in the book very differently.

The book begins with teenage Carla, waiting at a fast food joint for her mom to pick her up. She’s mean-girl bitchy and thinking snarky thoughts about the other customers. The door opens and gunfire strafes the room. Carla looks at the door and gets a clear view of the gunman before he turns and takes off.

A few weeks ago, I thought this was just a great set up for a mystery. Was it a random act? Part of a larger plot? I’d better keep reading! Now, I feel differently. The scene is a lot scarier and seems more real.

[Art imitates life . . .]

Apr 5 2012 9:30am

Fresh Meat: Twisted by Laura Griffin

Twisted by Laura GriffinTwisted by Laura Griffin is a novel of romantic suspense and part of the “Tracers” series (available April 17).

Laura Griffin’s “Tracers” series is more a set of interconnected novels that a traditional series. She has a cast of characters that sometimes relate to each other as they solve cases, but each novel can stand alone. Twisted is the first is this set of books that I have read, and I didn’t feel lost or as if I had missed something as I often do when I pick up a series out of order.

I suppose you could call Twisted a romance, but I didn’t feel that way about it. Yes, yes, attractive cop and handsome FBI agent let fly some sparks, but this read as more of a procedural. A jogger is killed and the case rings some bells at the FBI. Profiler Mark Wolfe comes to investigate links between this victim and other cases. He starts working with Detective Allison Doyle—who already has a suspect, and they flirt with each other in between their usual police work.

[Ah, flirtation, the lifeblood of an investigation. Oh, wait, that’s gossip.]

Jan 20 2012 9:30am

Fresh Meat: Third Grave Dead Ahead by Darynda Jones

Third Grave Dead Ahead by Darynda JonesI hadn’t read this series, but I jumped in with book three. Charley Davidson is a pretty young woman who is an investigator. She was trained by her cop father and her cop uncle but works freelance. Oh, and she’s the Grim Reaper.  She helps souls who are stuck on earth cross over, if they want to. 

Some don’t. 

Some help her with her detective work. This is why she was so useful to her relatives on the force—and why she’s such a successful investigator now.  Because, quite frankly, without this help she couldn’t find her ass with both hands.  Charley is very funny, and goofy and tough when she needs to be, but she’s also a hot mess. 

Oh, and she hasn’t slept in two, solid weeks.

[Bring out your dead...]

Dec 1 2011 9:30am

Alive and Kicking: Series That Hold Up

Michael Connelly, The ReversalA few weeks ago my To Be Read pile had a Michael Connelly, a Jonathan Kellerman, and a Dick Francis (well, Felix Francis, at least) on the stack. As I looked at those spines I realized that despite breaking up with my fair share of authors, I seem to have more than a few that I have stuck with for decades. Have I really read over forty books about steeple chasing? And over fifty written by the same family? (I might enjoy the Kellerman’s son’s writing the best of all!) How have these, and others like Marcia Muller, Elizabeth Peters, Sue Grafton and Elizabeth George not jumped that damn shark? And why do I forgive them a bad book or two when I can so easily cast aside my affections for, say, Patricia Cornwell, and never go back? (Susan Amper wrote not long ago about the multitude of series she felt the need to drop.)

[So what keeps you coming back for more?]

Aug 23 2011 12:00pm

Fresh Meat: Eoin Colfer’s Plugged

Plugged by Eoin ColferEoin Colfer is best known in the States for the Artemis Fowl books—his series for children about a boy genius—and fairies. He was also chosen to continue Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker trilogy. Plugged, therefore, is a complete departure from his usual speculative fiction. It’s a non-magical, hard-boiled but humorous crime story set in New Jersey, the direct opposite of fairy land for sure. It’s full of just plain odd characters and situations. It reads like Janet Evanovich with a bit of the old ultraviolence stirred in.  And it’s weird.  Really weird.  But in a good way.  That’s what I liked about it.  I think the strange characters and offbeat situations were just what I needed to read while hiding inside during the Midwestern heat wave.

[Just how weird is it?]

Jul 25 2011 11:00am

Cars 2 is This Summer’s Bond Movie

The Dashing Finn McMissile from Cars 2/ Disney PixarWe may not have gotten a new James Bond film this year because of MGM’s money issues, but Bond’s Astin Martin got to star in a spy movie of his own, Disney Pixar’s Cars 2. The dashing Finn McMissile, voiced by the even more dashing Michael Caine, is a silver-blue custom automobile. His body is based on the 1964 Austin Martin DB5, but with a BMW-type grill as a mustache and his namesake fins on the back. His license plate is 314 FMCM, also a Bond homage as his cars’ plates often used the initials JB. (The 314 is a reference Caine’s birthday.)

[And we’ve only circled the first lap of comparisons!]

Jun 30 2011 1:00pm

Deon Meyer’s South Africa and the Bliss of Gritty Procedurals

Julie Andews as Maria in The Sound of MusicOh, the bliss of finding a new author you like! Who has multiple books!

I feel like Maria at the beginning of Sound of Music—running and spinning around. I got a copy of Deon Meyer’s Thirteen Hours a year ago. I never even cracked the cover. I don’t know why. The cover copy makes it sound great. Set in South Africa, recovering-alcoholic homicide detective, plus Michael Connelly’s blessing and blurb—what’s not for me to like? The setting has a great appeal for me, and this author has had accolades both in his home country and internationally. Well, I finally picked it up and wow, it was glued to my hand until I finished it. It’s a wonderful book and I was just delighted to find out he had written five more novels. I was bound and determined to space them out. I was not going to read them all at once, in a row. Well, maybe just one more…

And then one more—just to test reading ebooks on my new phone.

[Spinning out of control?]

Jun 16 2011 10:00am

Fresh Meat: Beth McMullen’s Original Sin

Original Sin, the first Sally Sin adventure by Beth McMullenIn Beth McMullen’s debut, Original Sin, Lucy is a bored housewife, living in the suburbs and raising her adored 3 year old son…wait, I thought I read books to escape my life!?! But “Lucy” isn’t her real name. She’s a former spy who was recruited in college after acing a government exam. After jokingly signing the test “Sally Sin”, she starts traveling the world chasing arms dealers. She catches the eye of a rogue agent-turned-baddie, who regularly kidnaps her. When danger becomes less exciting, Sally quits, takes on her Lucy persona, and becomes a SAHM (stay at home mom).

[And that’s when the real action starts!]

May 27 2011 2:24pm

Fresh Meat: Andrea Kane’s The Girl Who Disappeared Twice

The Girl Who Disappeared Twice by Andrea KaneDoes abduction run in the family? Andrea Kane crafts her new book, The Girl Who Disappeared Twice, around this premise. Hope and Felicity Ackerman were six year-old twins when Felicity was taken right out of their shared bed. 32 years later, Hope’s daughter is abducted. Hope calls in Casey Woods and Forensic Instincts, a team of ex-law enforcement, ex-military, and a tech nerd, who are independent crime consultants.

This is the start of a new series for Kane, and it could become a successful one as the cast of Forensic Instincts characters has a nice dynamic. 

[Playing nice with each other?. . .]

May 26 2011 9:00am

Crushing on Characters: Thank Grimes for Melrose Plant

Theakston Old PeculierI’m in love.  My heart speeds up when I spend time with him.  He makes me smile for no reason.  We’ve been together for over twenty years, and it always seems new—but also familiar. Of course, I could say this about my husband, but I’m talking about a character in a series.  Melrose Plant, I adore you.  I love that you don’t use your title, even though you are an Earl.  I love that you tease your Aunt Agatha with goats and hermits.  I love that you’ll do almost anything for your friends, even if that is because you're bored and have nothing better to do.  I love your green eyes, your mussed hair, and your glasses.  I love how much you make me laugh.  I thank author Martha Grimes for creating you, giving you life, and letting you assist Chief Superintendent Richard Jury in her novels.  And I thank you for accepting my friend request on Facebook. 

For those of you unfamiliar with Melrose, we first meet him in Grimes’ Man with a Load of Mischief. Melrose lives in the village of Long Piddleton, and Richard Jury of Scotland Yard travels there to investigate a murder. Melrose is there when the body is discovered, and becomes part of the investigation as well as a friend to Jury.  In the first few pages, you learn that he reads Rimbaud, drinks Old Peculiar, has a dry sense of humor and is a peer of the realm.  Dreamy…

[At least the love isn't one-sided. . .]

May 24 2011 1:22pm

Fresh Meat: Rosamund Lupton’s Sister

Sister by Rosamund LuptonWhen done well, extra description is extra delicious—like sprinkles on your cupcake.

The sibling relationship is explored in Rosamund Lupton’s debut novel Sister, featuring Bee (Beatrice) telling her statement to a lawyer regarding the disappearance of her pregnant sister, but often addressing her sister directly. 

She begins with their mother's call to her in New York, prompting her to fly back to London to try and find Tess. The police ask Bee to recreate Tess’s last known whereabouts on film, so they can show it on the news and see if they can find any witnesses.  

[Give me more delicious details...]

May 19 2011 9:00am

A Discovery of Witches: Bite and Switch?

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah HarknessSo, have you noticed that Deborah Harkness' A Discovery of Witches has been marketed as a supernatural thriller for smarty pants? The author is a history of science professor and writes a wine blog. The book involves a mysterious manuscript, which, when read by scholar Diana Bishop, unleashes her magical powers and attracts demons and vampires. The heroine is beautiful, but doesn't know it and doesn't wear makeup and jogs around in sweatpants (and I do mean jogs around—she works out all the time). Her beau is an incredibly handsome French vampire/genetic scientist who is the head of a group of supernatural knights. They fall in love and get married instantly.

[Mon dieu!]

May 2 2011 9:00am

Amateur Hour (The Ferret Provides Commentary!)

ferretRemember back when cozies were—cozier? You know, featuring an amateur detective, a bloodless murder and a bunch of eccentric secondary characters—one of whom will (surprise!) be the killer. I don’t have the stomach for anything too grisly, and now that I'm a mom I can't read anything with kids in peril, so all that's left for me are the kinder, gentler cozies. Unfortunately, as these become more and more popular, they just get weirder. And not in a good way; the eccentricities are moving from the secondaries to the protagonist. The murders get more, shall we say, creative. And hobbies and pets have taken over everything, even overshadowing the main plot of the murder.

[There is such a thing as too cute. . .]

Apr 30 2011 9:00am

The Only Honest Cop in Thailand?

I am especially fond of John Burdett’s Bangkok mysteries. The setting is just so interesting and the characters are written with such unique voices that they are a true armchair trip.

Sonchai Jitpleecheep might be the only honest cop in Thailand. But you have to measure that by local standards. He is a half-caste. His mother was a prostitute who is now a madam. His father is unknown, but thought to be an American army officer. His mother has had long term “relationships” with men, as their paid wife, and Sonchai has lived in Europe and the U.S. This all gives him a very unique perspective. He understands the Western point of view perhaps more than some of his colleagues, and he gets assigned cases that involve Westerners. Yet, he is a Buddhist, and provides us as readers a lot of insight into Thai culture, both sacred and profane.

[Saints and sinners, gurus and gunmen. . .]