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From The Blog
August 18, 2017
From HR to PI
Adam Walker Phillips
August 18, 2017
Boat’s Distress Call Leads to Huge Marijuana Bust
Teddy Pierson
August 15, 2017
Page to Screen: Hopscotch
Brian Greene
August 15, 2017
Q&A with Kelley Armstrong, Author of Rituals
Kelley Armstrong and John Valeri
August 14, 2017
A Different Kind of Crime Family
Allison Brennan
Showing posts by: Angie Barry click to see Angie Barry's profile
Aug 11 2017 2:00pm

Review: The Amber Shadows by Lucy Ribchester

The Amber Shadows by Lucy Ribchester is set during the dangerous days of World War II, where Honey Deschamps—who spends her days transcribing decrypted messages at Bletchley Park—starts to receive bizarrely coded packages. When everyone is keeping secrets, who can you trust?

There were two things that separated the Park estate, that sat along the lane from Bletchley station, from others like it. The first was the eight-foot chain-link fence that surrounded the perimeter, topped by curls of barbed wire. The second was the people.

The Park buzzed like a university campus at most times of day, but it was something else to watch at changeover time, which came every eight hours. Quarter to eight in the morning and a patch of land no bigger than the Buckingham Palace grounds would be transformed into the like of London’s Piccadilly Circus. In each direction, to and fro, close to a thousand people poured past the gates, on foot and bicycle, waving papers at the red-capped staff of the Military Police, spilling out of khaki rusting buses and grey jeeps and the glossy black Rollers requisitioned for the purpose. 

You could tell the ones coming off night shift even before they got onto the buses by their faces: brains leeched of energy but still doing the jitterbug overtime. Their clothes would smell of the coke stoves kept inside the Park’s huts. The Wrens—the Women’s Royal Navy Service—could be picked out by their blue uniform, skewed after a night doing whatever furtive and noisy things they did inside the wood walls of Hut 11.

On paper, Honey Deschamps is a typist for the Foreign Office. Her own mother thinks she works in a normal office and does light secretarial work for the war effort. But in truth, Honey works at Bletchley Park: a highly covert place of strict regulations where the brightest minds in England frantically break German and Italian codes in the hope of stopping another bombing, another raid, or another torpedoing. 

[Read Angie Barry's review of The Amber Shadows...]

Jul 28 2017 1:00pm

Review: Penance of the Damned by Peter Tremayne

Penance of the Damned by Peter TremaynePenance of the Damned by Peter Tremayne is the 27th book in the Sister Fidelma series, set in Ancient Ireland, AD 671 (available July 25, 2017).

“Here we are, bereft of a good friend and counselor, and find his death could plunge the kingdom into unrest and conflict,” Colgú sighed. “Now do you see why it is so important for you to go to the fortress of the Prince of the Uí Fídgente?”

“In other words, you want me to report on the details of the events connected with poor Ségdae’s death. You want a report on who the culprit is, assess if he has been tried fairly, discover a way that we can avoid conflict among the religious, stop any talk of execution and bring the Uí Fídgente religious back to the law of the Brehons.” A wry smile formed around Fidelma’s mouth. “Anything else you wish to ask of me, brother?”

“Sister, I am relying on you and Eadulf. I can sense some mystery here. Something does not quite add up in the facts that have been related to me…”

Seventh-century Ireland is a dangerous place. Peace between kingdoms remains fragile, in danger of breaking into bloody war over the smallest of offenses.

And the murder of a renowned abbot is hardly a small offense.

[Read Angie Barry's review of Penance of the Damned...]

Jul 19 2017 2:00pm

Review: Soul Cage by Tetsuya Honda

Soul Cage by Tetsuya HondaSoul Cage by Tetsuya Honda is the second book in the Lieutenant Himekawa series, where a severed hand, a missing body, and a victim who was living under a false identity all add up to the most complex and challenging case yet for the homicide detective.

Mishima was standing on the scaffolding three windows down. He looked up at a length of scaffolding above his head, stretched out his arm, and applied his wrench to a joint clamp.

He stayed in that position for a while, quite motionless. 

Eventually, Mishima's right foot began to edge silently forward. One centimeter. Two centimeters. Now, just a millimeter or two.

I knew that if I kept watching, chances were I'd yell out before he'd done what he had to do. Which was the last thing I should do—for his sake, more than anyone's.

[Read Angie Barry's review of Soul Cage...]

Jul 13 2017 1:00pm

Review: The Third Nero by Lindsey Davis

The Third Nero by Lindsey Davis The Third Nero by Lindsey Davis is the fifth book in the Flavia Albia series.

My name is Albia, Flavia Albia. I carry out work for troubled people who need answers. I am efficient and discreet. I came to Rome from Britain, which makes me mysterious and exotic. But the bureaucrats knew that, as the adopted daughter of Marcus Didius Falco and Helena Justina, I could be passed off as a decent, intelligent woman whose mother was a senator's daughter and her father a man of standing in Rome. Wonderfully for the palace, I had just married a well-regarded magistrate—and, as the Daily Gazette said, I would soon be seen nibbling nuts with him among people of the best quality at the Roman Games.

For tricky interviews with highly placed widows, I was ideal.

It's been 20 years since the fall of Nero, and Rome has mostly bounced back from his mad rule. Of course, this being Rome, there's a new tyrant on the throne: Domitian, who can be quite as ruthless and bloody.

Enter our heroine, Flavia Albia. An “informer”—just another way of saying private investigator—following in her adoptive father's footsteps, Albia has plenty on her plate. She's just been married and is settling into a new house, for starters. 

[Read Angie Barry's review of The Third Nero...]

Jul 5 2017 2:00pm

Review: The Breaking of Liam Glass by Charles Harris

The Breaking of Liam Glass by Charles Harris is a darkly satirical look at the deep splits in modern communities, which is not so much a whodunnit as a blackly comic what-they-did-after-it satire that resonates in a timely way.

Jason turned to walk away. As he did, a doctor came out of the next cubicle. He shot a wary look towards them and departed at speed, but not before informing Andy he was ordering fresh tests for the unknown male.

Jason stopped. “Unknown male?”

“We're sorting it out.”

A quiet bleeping came from the second cubicle and Jason squinted in. A young man lay unconscious, hooked up to a web of oxygen tubes, drips and monitors. He didn't look in a happy state. “Who got it this time?”

“We don't know. That's why we call him an unknown male, Jason. The clue is in the name.”

There was something poignant about the motionless shape. Something Jason couldn't quite pull into focus. “How old?”

“Try cutting him in half and counting the rings.”

[Read Angie Barry's review of The Breaking of Liam Glass...]

Jun 30 2017 1:00pm

Review: Shark Island by Chris Jameson

Shark Island by Chris JamesonIn Shark Island by Chris Jameson, a shark attack survivor believes she has already lived through her worst nightmare—she's dead wrong.

Take a visual tour of Shark Island with GIFnotes!

Hands grab hold of her arms, start to pull, and she turns to see a mop-headed surfer straddling his board. It bumps her again as he drags at her and that's the moment when the worst thing of all happens. Worse than the blood and the tugging and the screams.

It's hope.

Nothing so far has terrified her more than this moment of hope.

She grabs at him, pulls at the wet board, and he's yelling at her to be still, to let him help. Naomi's screams rip from her throat, heart racing so hard that she starts to black out again, and the surfer can see he's got no choice. He drops off the board and into the water, puts a hand under her butt, and tries to hoist her onto the board.

They both see the shark coming back.

[Read Angie Barry's review of Shark Island...]

Jun 7 2017 2:00pm

Review: The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes by Leonard Goldberg

The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes by Leonard Goldberg is a new thrilling tale of the great detective’s daughter and her companion Dr. John Watson, Jr. as they investigate a murder at the highest levels of British society.

Take a visual tour of The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes with GIFnotes!

Years have passed since the world's greatest detective, Sherlock Holmes, passed away peacefully in his sleep. His lifelong friend and crime-solving partner, Dr. Watson, is much grayer and a little stooped, but he still calls 221b Baker Street home—and he's still doing his best to continue Sherlock's work.

“There is a young woman downstairs who wishes to see you, Dr. Watson. Shall I show her up?”

“By all means.”

[Read Angie Barry's review of The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes...]

May 22 2017 12:00pm

Review: Sidney Chambers and the Persistence of Love by James Runcie

Sidney Chambers and the Persistence of Love by James Runcie is the 6th and final installment in the Grantchester Mystery series (available May 23, 2017).

Part-time sleuth and full-time priest, Sidney Chambers, is enjoying a beautiful May in 1971. Unfortunately, a peaceful walk gathering flowers with his young daughter, Anna, is ruined when the family discovers a dead body.

Although it was possible the man had died from natural causes, and there was probably a good enough reason for the plants he had been gathering, Sidney could not help but brood on the nature of fate, the chance of discovery and the possible sequence of events that had led up to that moment. He went to his study where he began to pray, seeking some kind of guidance, the beginning of understanding. Was it a sin to be so suspicious so frequently, or was he using the natural intuition that God had given him? Was his role as an accidental detective making him less loving and less effective as a priest?

[Read Angie Barry's review of Sidney Chambers and the Persistence of Love...]

May 11 2017 3:00pm

Review: The Last Iota by Robert Kroese

The Last Iota by Robert KroeseSet in the world of The Big Sheep, The Last Iota by Robert Kroese delivers another dystopian adventure novel full of wit and intrigue.

When last we saw Blake Fowler and Erasmus Keane—private detectives in a near-future L.A.—they had narrowly escaped a brush with femme fatale Selah Fiore, Hollywood actress-turned-cutthroat-businesswoman, with their lives.

Which makes the opening of their second adventure, The Last Iota, so unexpected. Our heroes have been summoned to a movie set by their erstwhile nemesis—it seems Selah is willing to let bygones be bygones due to a vital job she has for the pair. 

Before she details the exact nature of the job, they get a sneak peak at some movie-making magic:

We weren't watching the real Selah Fiore, of course. Selah Fiore was nearly sixty years old, and the woman on the screen appeared to be closer to thirty. This was Selah from her glory days, circa 2010. The voice was the real Selah's, but the image was a computer-generated facsimile combining Selah's appearance from thirty years ago, the real Selah's facial expressions, and the body of an android stand-in. 

[Read Angie Barry's review of The Last Iota...]

May 4 2017 1:00pm

Review: A Purely Private Matter by Darcie Wilde

A Purely Private Matter by Darcie Wilde is the 2nd Rosalind Thorne Mystery—inspired by the novels of Jane Austen—which sees the audacious Rosalind strive to aid those in need while navigating the halls of high society.

Regency London has been much romanticized thanks to the BBC and Masterpiece Theater; for most, the setting immediately brings to minds the witty romances of Jane Austen. But life there was not always rosy and romantic for the women of the haute ton. Society was a stifling, constrictive cage for many, and ladies could be ruined at the slightest provocation. 

Such is the case for the glamorous poet Mrs. Margaretta Seymore. Her belligerent husband is threatening to file a suit of “criminal conversation” against her oldest friend, infamous actor Fletcher Cavendish. As women are legally owned by their husbands, any man who interacts with them without the express permission of the husband can be sued for property damage under criminal conversation laws.

[Read Angie Barry's review of A Purely Private Matter...]

May 1 2017 2:00pm

Under the Radar: Stranger than Fiction (2006)

Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) is hearing voices.

Well, a voice. A middle-aged British woman's voice, to be exact. She's narrating everything he thinks, everything he feels, everything he does.

He's beginning to wonder if he isn't going crazy. That would be the logical assumption; given how bland and boring Harold's lonely life is as an IRS agent, he finds it hard to believe that something magical could actually be happening to him.

However, fact can be—as they say—stranger than fiction.

[Hey! That's the title of the movie...]

Apr 13 2017 3:00pm

Review: Decanting a Murder by Nadine Nettmann

Decanting a Murder by Nadine Nettmann is the 1st book in the Sommelier Mystery series, nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel.

Mark's body had been covered with a white sheet but the fingers of his right hand stuck out from underneath in a deathly curl.

“Flip him over again,” said Dean.

Deputy Peters pulled off the sheet and turned over the body.

“Recognize it?”

I stepped forward, swallowing hard. “Recognize what?”

“Look closer,” he pressed.

Firmly placed in Mark's back was a small knife attached to a wine opener.

“It's a wine opener.”

Detective Dean kept his focus on the body. “Yes, but you can identify its owner.”

“Me?” I tried to meet Dean's eyes but he wouldn't make eye contact. “Why?”

“Take a closer look.”

I crouched down. My eyes traced the polished wood of the opener until I reached the engraved name: Tessa B.

Katie Stillwell is not having the best day ever. A sommelier at an upscale restaurant in San Francisco, she's just flunked her master certification, something for which she's been studying for months. Then, an invitation to an exclusive vineyard—something that should have been exciting fun—ends in murder and a missing friend: a friend now suspected of said murder.

[Read Angie Barry's review of Decanting a Murder...]

Apr 7 2017 1:00pm

Review: Heart of Stone by James W. Ziskin

Heart of Stone by James W. Ziskin is the 4th book in the Ellie Stone Mystery series, nominated for an Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original.

My interest was piqued. Why no swimming trunks? Why not remove the watch? Who were these two men, and why had they fallen to their deaths together?

“When did you find them?” I asked Terwilliger, rewinding my third roll of film.

“It wasn't me. A vacationer and his son were in a boat, fishing out there,” he said, pointing to the water beyond the cove. “They heard a yell and looked over here just in time to see one of them dive off the cliff. That was about two hours ago now.”

“Who put the tarps over the bodies?”

“You sure ask a lot of questions,” he said. “I did. The guy and his son showed up at the station to report what they saw, and I came out here right away to have a look.”

“So they saw him hit the ground?”

Terwilliger shook his head. “The rocks block the view.”

“Then how did they know he missed the water?” I asked.

He curled his lip. “No splash. And they heard the splat on the rocks.” He paused, seemingly picturing something in his head. “Probably took a second or two for the sound to reach them out on the water.”

I felt green.

The last week of August, 1961, proves to be an eventful one for reporter Ellie Stone. No sooner has she arrived in the Adirondacks to reconnect with her Aunt Lena and elderly Cousin Max—some of the only family she has left—before she hears that a convicted murderer has escaped and may be hiding in the local woods.

[Read Angie Barry's review of Heart of Stone...]

Apr 4 2017 3:00pm

Review: Get Me to the Grave on Time by D. E. Ireland

Get Me to the Grave on Time by D. E. Ireland is the 3rd book in the Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins Mystery series, nominated for an Agatha Award for Best Historical Novel.

“When a handsome young man marries an older and much wealthier woman, it does give me pause.”

“Why?” Eliza asked. “Beautiful young women marry rich older men all the time.”

“...Do you really imagine he's marrying her for love?”

Eliza gave him a disapproving look. “You act as if he's marrying some toothless laundress from Spitalfields. Her Grace is still an attractive woman.”

“So is her money and title,” Higgins shot back. “No good will come of this. Of course no good results from any marriage. Infernal institution. My advice to anyone fool enough to enter into it is that offered by Montaigne, 'A good marriage would be between a blind wife and a deaf husband.' I don't think much of the French, but I'll make an exception for Montaigne.”

“Oh, you're always quoting other people when you don't have anything clever to say,” Eliza said. “I'd be right embarrassed to do that. It makes you look simple.”

[Read Angie Barry's review of Get Me to the Grave on Time...]

Mar 30 2017 12:00pm

Review: The Devil’s Feast by M. J. Carter

The Devil's Feast by M. J. Carter is the 3rd book in the Blake and Avery series in which the investigative team find themselves entangled in a case involving political conflicts, personal vendettas, and England’s first celebrity chef.

“...Sins, Captain Avery, sins express real truths about men. And every profession, it seems to me, has its typical sin. A version of what we in France call its déformation professionelle. For you soldiers, Captain, the sin is anger. For a soldier, anger is so tempting, is it not? Because it is not always a sin. Sometimes, a man must be angry in order to fight, non? And we know in our hearts that it is easier to feel anger than to feel fear. Somebody watching a kitchen in full service might think that there is much anger in a kitchen. The heat and the urgency produce this. But anger is not the chef's besetting sin. You might then conclude that it must be gluttony, since all of our days we are surrounded by enticements to eat and drink. But this too is not so. The chief sin of the chef and the kitchen, Captain Avery, is envy.”

London, 1842. Captain Avery, a soldier who made his name fighting tigers and wars in India, hasn't been in England long before getting mixed up in another mystery. His partner in crime, Jeremiah Blake, has been thrown into the debtors prison on a trumped-up charge—all because Blake refuses to accept the latest commission from his tyrannical patron, Collinson. 

This alone should be enough to worry Avery, who has tried to convince his stubborn friend to submit to no avail.

[Read Angie Barry's review of The Devil's Feast...]

Mar 17 2017 3:00pm

Passionate About Pulp: A Conan Double-Feature (Is What Is Best in Life)

THE SUBGENRE: Sword and sorcery adventure.
THE HERO: Conan the Barbarian, aka Conan the Cimmerian
THE VILLAIN: Thulsa Doom, leader of a snake cult (Conan the Barbarian); Queen Taramis, who plans to sacrifice her niece to raise a death god.
THE SETTING: The mystical “Hyborian Age,” after the fall of Atlantis but before known ancient civilizations appeared.

Conan the Barbarian hardly needs an introduction—the Robert E. Howard character has set the bar for almost every sword and sorcery adventure since his first pulp magazine appearance in 1932. We can thank Conan for the preponderance of giant, beefy strongmen that are such a staple of the genre. He's a rescuer of damsels in distress, an adventurer always ready for the next battle, and a king by his own hand.

In short: he's the ultimate testosterone-fueled male fantasy.

[Conan, what is best in life?]

Mar 15 2017 11:00am

Review: Murder at the Fortune Teller’s Table by Janet Finsilver

A Murder at the Fortune Teller's Table by Janet Finsilver is the 3rd book in the Kelly Jackson Mystery series.

“First you drink the coffee,” Auntie said. “ ... You must drink from the same side of the cup for the entire process and leave a little in the bottom. With your last sip, make a wish.”

I drank some more, then put the cup down with thoughts for a positive future. “Okay. There's just a little left.”

“Now put the saucer on it upside-down, swirl it three times, and flip it over.”

I did as instructed and managed to keep everything together when I upended it.

“Now it must rest for a short while.” Her voice was a broken whisper, and I leaned forward to catch her words. “The grounds need to flow into their shapes.”

She folded her hands and stared at the cup. After what seemed an eternity, Auntie carefully separated the cup and saucer. “The patterns—they tell of your past, present, and future...”

In the 3rd Kelly Jackson mystery from Janet Finsilver, the curious B&B manager finds herself embroiled in a double murder-by-poison, a convoluted family drama fifty years in the making—and a frightening encounter with some dangerous topiary.

Yes, really.

[Read Angie Barry's review of Murder at the Fortune Teller's Table...]

Mar 13 2017 1:00pm

Review: Skeleton God by Eliot Pattison

Skeleton God by Eliot Pattison is the 9th book in the Inspector Shan Tao Yun series (available March 14, 2017).

If you would know the age of the human soul, an old lama had once told Shan Tao Yun, look to Tibet. Here at the roof of the world, where humans were so battered, where wind and hail and tyranny had pounded so many for so long, it was a miracle the human spark remained at all. As Shan gazed at the old Tibetan herder beside him, knee deep in mud, grime covering his grizzled, weathered face, and saw the eyes shining with the joy of life, he knew that he was looking at something ancient and pure. In Tibet, souls were tried, and souls were tormented, but always souls endured.

With the very first paragraph, author Eliot Pattison sets the tone for the entire mystery to follow. Skeleton God is a heavy piece of fiction—frequently bleak, often vibrating with rage and terrible sadness, but ultimately laced with shreds of hope to buoy the spirit amidst all of the heartache and atrocities.

Inspector Shan has fallen greatly over the previous eight books in the series. After surviving years of hard labor in a brutal prison, after investigating corruption and incurring all manner of official punishments, the honor-bound and duty-driven investigator has been made constable of a remote village high in the mountains of Tibet: Yangkar. Here, the locals distrust him because he is Chinese, though he is far kinder and more sympathetic to their awful plights than many of his communist comrades would be.

[Read Angie Barry's review of Skeleton God...]

Mar 10 2017 3:00pm

Review: When Falcons Fall by C. S. Harris

When Falcons Fall by C. S. Harris is the 11th book in the Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery series.

It was the fly that got to him.

In the misty light of early morning, the dead woman looked as if she might be sleeping, her dusky lashes resting against cheeks of pale eggshell, her lips faintly parted. She lay at the edge of a clover-strewn meadow near the river, the back of her head nestled against a mossy log, her slim hands folded at the high waist of her fashionable dove gray mourning gown.

Then that fly came crawling out of her mouth.

Sebastian St. Cyr, Lord Devlin, has hardly arrived in the quiet village of Ayleswick-on-Teme in August of 1813 before he finds himself caught up in yet another series of mysterious deaths. 

Emma Chance, a young widow on a sketching excursion, had been in the area for less than a week before someone snuffed the life from her—and then posed her in a manner that suggested suicide. This careful cover leads Devlin to wonder: perhaps some of the other untimely deaths in the area were no mere accidents or suicides. Perhaps there's a murderer lurking in Ayleswick ... one who has been operating for nearly two decades.

[Read Angie Barry's review of When Falcons Fall...]

Feb 23 2017 5:30pm

Review: Grim Death and Bill the Electrocuted Criminal by Mike Mignola & Tom Sniegoski

Grim Death and Bill the Electrocuted Criminal by Mike Mignola and Tom SniegoskiGrim Death and Bill the Electrocuted Criminal by Mike Mignola and Tom Sniegoski is a beautifully illustrated, 1930s pulp-style novel featuring two unusual heroes who seek justice (available February 28, 2017).

I must look a sight, Bentley Hawthorne thought as he stood in the doorway of his family home, adorned in a ragged black suit and slouch hat, face hidden by a grinning skull mask.

He could just imagine the thoughts racing through his manservant's mind at the moment.

“Dear God, sir!” Pym exclaimed, clutching the heavy bathrobe about his throat. “You gave me a fright. I had no idea...”

The servant closed the door on the frigid morning rain, and turned his full attention on Bentley. “Here, let me look at you,” he said. “You're bleeding.”

“Yes, but not all of the blood is mine. Some of it's monkey.”


Bentley nodded. “Trained to commit the act of murder. Wouldn't have believed it myself if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes; furry devils wielding straight razors and...”

“Monkeys—with straight razors?” Pym asked incredulously.

Yes indeed, folks: this is a story with murder monkeys armed with straight razors. In a single page, Tom Sniegoski (and artistic collaborator Mike Mignola, who contributed several drawings to accompany the text) sets the entire tone for the following horror adventure.

[Read Angie Barry's review of Grim Death and Bill the Electrocuted Criminal...]