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Showing posts by: Cindy Kerschner click to see Cindy Kerschner's profile
Sep 26 2016 3:00pm

Review: The Reckoning on Cane Hill by Steve Mosby

The Reckoning on Cane Hill is a terrifying and heartbreaking new novel of guilt and innocence, from CWA Dagger-­winner Steve Mosby.

In a world where guilt and innocence are in the eye of the beholder, what if you could see someone's sins? What would their sin look like?

Charlie Matheson wore her sins like a badge of repentance. An elaborate spider's web of scars covered her face. Each line carefully crafted. A message intended for the world to see. She claims these marks were put there by the Devil in Hell.

But that wasn't the message Charlie was there to deliver. 

Two years prior, Charlotte (Charlie) Matheson died in a car crash. Now, she's back from the dead to deliver a message for retired Detective John Mercer's ears only. A detective haunted by his own demons.

[Read Cindy Kerschner's review of The Reckoning on Cane Hill...]

Feb 19 2014 11:00am

Fresh Meat: Destination Unknown by Liz Strange

Destination Unknown, a David Lloyd Investigation by Liz StrangeDestination Unknown by Liz Strange, the third in the David Lloyd Investigations series, tackles a young woman’s disappearance from a cruise ship (available February 21, 2014).

Perfection is a flaw. This is how Liz Strange views her characters. David Lloyd is no different. This ex-cop turned private investigator can take a punch, feel compassion for a former hooker and never miss Sunday dinner at Grandma’s.

So how does Ms. Strange balance this man of every woman’s dreams? Well first I should say every man’s dreams. David is gay.

David Lloyd’s homosexuality isn’t as much of a challenge in this installment of the series. Previous books addressed the trials of David being gay and also an officer of the law. I think part of her challenge in writing from a gay man’s perspective is to keep David’s emotions in check. Strange avoids making him a stereotype.

David assesses the situation of his latest case, the disappearance of Piper Falco, a college student working on a cruise ship.

[At least the locale is pretty, if the case isn’t...]

Oct 26 2013 10:00am

Fresh Meat: Accused by Lisa Scottoline

Accused by Lisa ScottolineAccused by Lisa Scottoline is part of the Rosato & Associates legal thriller series featuring Mary DeNunzio (available October 29, 2013). 

Everyone has an opinion of lawyers. That opinion usually depends on which side of the courtroom you are on. They're godsends if you win, if you lose, well that's another story.

If you are a lawyer like Mary Denuzio you try to find good in everyone.  Sometimes that reasoning can cloud your judgment temporarily. When a sweet 13-year-old girl seeks help from her firm, Mary can't resist being drawn into her plight.

Mary’s heart went out to Allegra, but then again, her heart went out to everybody. She was more surprised when it stayed in her chest.

With logic thrown out the window, Mary follows her instinct into another murder case. All the evidence points to the guilt of a young black man; the police have blood evidence and a confession. Banking on a six-year-old memory of a then 7-year-old Allegra, Mary plunges deep into finding justice for the brutal murder of this aching little girl's sister.

[Justice knows no age...]

Aug 28 2013 9:30am

Fresh Meat: Bitter River by Julia Keller

Bitter River by Julia KennerBitter River by Julia Keller is the second procedural featuring West Virginia's Prosecutor Bell Elkins, in which she'll investigate a teen girl's death (available September 3, 2013).

Some people possess an uncanny ability to read people. They interpret someone's body language, tone of voice or mannerisms in a blink. People like Bell Elkins can read you like a book between swallows of coffee; especially if it's good and strong:

Bell watched the way Trudy responded to the boss. She lifted her eyes from her cell. A frown of annoyance spoiled her red- rimmed mouth. She seemed to be considering whether or not she had to do what he said— and if she did, whether or not she had to do it right away, or if she could wait for a more convenient moment. Her eyes met Alton Doggett’s for a single, revelatory second.

It was Alton, not Trudy Baird, who looked away first.

They’re sleeping together, Bell realized. Interesting.

Julia Keller proves once again through Bitter River why her writing skills earned her a Pulitzer Prize for feature writing in 2005.

Set in the small mountain town of Acker's Gap, West Virginia, Sheriff Nick Fogelsong and Prosecutor Belfa (Bell) Elkins try their best to keep peace in a town that's approaching economic ruin. It's a place where average citizens, desperate and desolate, turn to narcotics for escape and sell drugs to make ends meet.

[Familiarity has brought contempt... and desperation]

Jul 8 2013 10:00am

Fresh Meat: Nemesis by Bill Pronzini

Nemesis by Bill Pronzini is the 38th novel featuring the Nameless DetectiveNemesis by Bill Pronzini returns Nameless to assist the other detectives at his agency when a young, wealthy, and not entirely trustworthy woman is threatened (available July 9, 2013).

What's in a name? That which we call a detective would solve as well? You get the idea, and so does Bill Pronzini.

Pronzini didn't set out to start a Nameless Detective series in 1971 when he wrote The Snatch, but I'm glad he did. This character has evolved from a hard-boiled loner to a family-oriented man. That's not to say he's lost his edge when needed. Like when someone pokes a gun in his face.

You never get used to being on the wrong end of a firearm...Adrenaline rush of fear that you immediately fight down and control, because you know the worst thing you can do is let it take hold and escalate into panic. All of that happens inside. Outwardly you show none of it, do the same thing you would if you were being menaced by a vicious animal: stand dead still, maintain a blank expression without challenge or bravado, keep a clear head to give yourself time to assess the situation and figure a way out of it.

In Nemesis, the MWA Grand Master's 38th Nameless novel, we get to see his detective—referred to only as Bill by those around him—also as a boss, mentor, friend and lover. This is where Pronzini's additional mastery of the short story comes in handy.

He weaves his character's flaws and relationships together by giving each major player a speaking part in a section of their own. Pronzini not only has them deal with the case but also their personal nemesis.

[Even small crimes can run deep, like blood poisoning.]

Mar 12 2013 9:30am

Fresh Meat: The Guilty One by Lisa Ballantyne

The Guilty One by Lisa Ballantyne is a debut psychological thriller (available March 19, 2013).

Everybody is guilty of something. It could be a mild offense like a misunderstanding, a lie to spare someone grief, or even murder.

To author Lisa Ballantyne, the guilty one is a perception as well as fact.

Ballantyne blurs the line between right and wrong like a double-edged sword in this methodical psychological thriller. The age-old struggle between good and evil takes on new meaning through characters so jaded by life; she makes you question it yourself.

The story follows Daniel Hunter, a young lawyer faced with defending Sebastian Croll, an eleven-year-old boy accused of the brutal murder of eight-year-old Ben Stokes.

As the case develops, Ballantyne reels you in with just enough tidbits of evidence to keep you guessing about Sebastian’s guilt or innocence.

[The innocence of youth...]

Jan 5 2013 11:00am

Fresh Meat: Footprints in the Sand by Mary Jane Clark

Footprints in the Sand is the third book in the Piper Donovan, wedding cake decorator mystery series by Mary Jane Clark (available January 8, 2013).

Wouldn’t you love taking a leisurely stroll along a Sarasota, Florida, beach in the dead of winter? Warm sand squishing between your toes as a gentle breeze tousles your hair. Maybe you could collect some sand dollars, driftwood, or even a body or two.

Mary Jane Clark’s, Piper Donovan takes it all in stride. She’s in town to attend her cousin Kathy’s wedding. Piper made it her mission to bake Kathy the ultimate wedding cake. When Kathy’s friend, Shelley turns up dead, Piper has this reaction:

The dead woman’s eyes were closed. Her skin was gray, and her matted, dark hair hung long and loose. She was dressed in a short skirt and a yellow cotton sweater that stretched tightly across her chest. Her feet were bare and her arms were stiff.

Piper took out her phone and snapped a picture. Distasteful as it was, a photo of a crime scene would get lots of comments from her Facebook friends.

This seems like a cold response from the story’s protagonist, but Clark has a reason for every word and action her characters use. In that small passage alone there are several clues.

[In that case we’ll click Like...]

Oct 29 2012 10:30am

Fresh Meat: City of Saints by Andrew Hunt

City of Saints by Andrew HuntCity of Saints by Andrew Hunt is a historical police procedural set in the 1930s in Salt Lake City (available October 30, 2012).

Andrew Hunt may be as green to writing mysteries as his lead character, Deputy Sheriff Art Oveson, is to solving them, but you’d never know it by his debut mystery novel, City of Saints.

Hunt combines history and mystery with a touch of humor and comes out with a surefire hit. He gives you the feeling of going back in time to an era when Salt Lake City (aka the City of Saints) was just sprouting wings. There are a lot of references to the times like double-breasted suits, Buster Brown shoes, Black Jack chewing gum, elevator boys, Model T automobiles, the polio epidemic, pulp rags, and my own favorite: party lines.

[Pennsylvania 6-5000!]

Oct 8 2012 12:00pm

Fresh Meat: The Snow White Christmas Cookie by David Handler

The Snow White Christmas Cookie by David Handler is the ninth traditional mystery in the film critic Mitch Berger and Connecticut State Resident Trooper Desiree Mitry series (available October 16, 2012).

It’s Christmastime in the cozy picturesque town of Dorset, Connecticut. Most townsfolk are in the Holiday spirit and leave a little extra something in the mailbox for Hank Merrill, their letter carrier. Problem is, there’s a Grinch loose and it doesn’t want Hank to get his tips; or his patrons to get their mail.

Pilfering postal deliveries is a serious crime. But when mysterious deaths start happening it makes one wonder. Would the Grinch resort to murder? In order to solve this case, someone needs to think outside the mailbox.

[The murderer always rings twice?]

Aug 24 2012 1:00pm

Dear Godfather, You’ve Got Mail

Back in its heyday, the Mob had its own lingo. Talking in code kept the Feds guessing and the rest of the Family in line. Take something as simple as putting out a hit on somebody. You had to square it through the chain of command, from goomba to goomba, then up the line until you got a sit-down with the Boss. What a hassle! No wonder so many wiseguys took care of their own “problems.”

Today’s technology would have sped up the process. In text speak, the “I RFD 411 U 2MORONITE” translated: “I request for discussion information with you tomorrow night” might have got the sender whacked, if all the Boss saw was U 2 MORON!

Tweeting might have had a little more effect on a positive outcome for the client. Only problem? @Imagunforhire might draw some attention.

Facebook? What would be the consequences of unfriending someone? Not pretty.  

So let’s imagine what would happen if the Mob had access to email. It might have gone something like this:  


Aug 17 2012 10:30am

Fresh Meat: Simple by Kathleen George

Simple by Kathleen GeorgeSimple is the sixth book in the Commander Richard Christie police procedural series by Kathleen George (available August 21, 2012).

Kathleen George takes us back to the streets of Pittsburgh for a ride-along with the detectives of the Homicide Division in this sixth adventure featuring Commander Christie.

At the Connolly law offices it was politics as usual until Cassie Price, a young paralegal intern is found dead under suspicious circumstances. For golden boy and ex-senator, Michael Connolly, there’s now more to worry about than his upcoming gubernatorial race. Cassie was his mistress.

George weaves a tale of political aspirations, deceit, and cover-ups at the highest level. Her villains will stop at nothing to keep their partisan wheel spinning.

[Dirty politics? Shocker!]

Jul 12 2012 10:30am

Fresh Meat: The Trust by Norb Vonnegut

The Trust by Norb VonnegutThe Trust, a financial thriller, is the second novel in the Grove O’Rourke series by Norb Vonnegut (available July 17, 2012).

When Wall Street whiz Grove O’Rourke gets a surprise phone call for help from his friend and mentor, Palmer Kincaid, it sets off more chaos than the opening bell. Money laundering, murder, drug cartels, and kidnapping are woven into this tightly written thriller.

The Trust is a money motivated novel, and maybe there’s no one better to write one than Norb Vonnegut. Vonnegut spent years as a financial advisor on Wall Street; it shows in his depiction of the not-so-glamorous world of high finance.    

[Who thought it was all five-martini lunches?]