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Showing posts by: Corrina Lawson click to see Corrina Lawson's profile
Oct 3 2017 12:00pm

Review: Hello Again by Brenda Novak

Hello Again by Brenda NovakHello Again by Brenda Novak is the second book in the Dr. Evelyn Talbot series.

Read Brenda Novak's guest post about the common traits of psychopaths to find out if you fit the description! 

Evelyn Talbot is obsessed with stopping serial killers. So obsessed that she’s created an entire facility—Hanover House in Alaska—where serial killers can be studied physically and psychologically in the hope that the insights gained can save lives down the line. 

It’s a noble goal, but there’s a personal tragedy underneath Evelyn’s work that drives her. When she was 16, her high school boyfriend, Jasper Moore, kidnapped, tortured, and killed her friends. Evelyn managed to escape, but the experience affected her greatly. Unfortunately, Jasper also escaped and has been free to kill again, re-appearing in the second of the Hanover House books, Her Darkest Nightmare. She gets away a second time, but so does Jasper, and he’s on the loose in this book. 

As Hello Again opens, Evelyn is beset from all sides: by her fear of Jasper—who she knows will eventually come for her—by harassing phone calls from a former colleague who she had to fire for sexual harassment, and by the serial killer who’s just arrived at Hanover House claiming to be innocent, Lyman Bishop. If she can get Lyman to talk, Evelyn can provide some peace to the families of his victims whose bodies have never been found. But that means walking through her worst fears every day. 

[Read Corrina Lawson's review of Hello Again...]

Sep 8 2017 2:00pm

Review: Dead Woman Walking by Sharon Bolton

Dead Woman Walking by Sharon BoltonIn Dead Woman Walking, from master of suspense Sharon Bolton, the sole survivor of a hot-air balloon crash witnesses a murder as the balloon is falling.

Dead Woman Walking by Sharon Bolton, like many fine mystery novels, has a title with a double—perhaps even triple—meaning, and two of those meanings aren't apparent until at least halfway through the book. This is one of those British mysteries where evil hides in the present and the past.

It begins with a spectacular balloon ride over Northumberland National Park. The ride takes passengers over some of the most scenic and historic areas of Scotland, including the ruins of Harcourt Estate. But modern crime soon intrudes as Jessica and Isabelle—two sisters aboard the balloon—spot a man chasing a woman to an outer area of the ruin and apparently murdering her. (Note: I was so fascinated by Bolton’s descriptions of the park, I explored the park’s official website and added it to my bucket list UK trip. However, I couldn’t find anything about Harcourt Estates, alas.)

[Read Corrina Lawson's review of Dead Woman Walking...]

Aug 31 2017 12:00pm

Review: Dark River Rising by Roger Johns

Dark River Rising by Roger JohnsDark River Rising by Roger Johns is a tense and expertly plotted debut mystery set against the bayous of Louisiana.

Read an exclusive Q&A with author Roger Johns & learn how to win a copy of Dark River Rising!

“Begin as you mean to go on” is the frequent advice given to many writers, advice that Roger Johns seems to have taken to heart with the opening of his debut mystery novel, Dark River Rising. Johns makes it clear right away that this book is not going to look away from horrible things, beginning with an especially gory crime scene that almost causes our seasoned detective, Wallace Hartman, to lose the contents of her stomach. 

There was a cruelly sutured incision just below his rib cage and his abdomen heaved with a sinuous reptilian rhythm. Wallace’s mind recoiled from what her eyes insisted was true—that a snake was slithering among his innards searching for a way out. The corpse looked like it was belly dancing its way into the hereafter. 

[Read Corrina Lawson's review of Dark River Rising...]

Jul 27 2017 3:30pm

Review: The Blinds by Adam Sternbergh

The Blinds by Adam Sternbergh is a unique thriller that mixes elements of science fiction, Westerns, and mystery to create a truly wild ride (available August 1, 2017).

Despite being set in a community that is baking out in the open in the hot Texas sun, The Blinds by Adam Sternbergh is one of the more claustrophobic mysteries that I’ve ever read. That’s because the weight of secrets hangs over everything, pressing down on the town, the inhabitants, and those that seek to destroy it.

On the surface, the Blinds (formal name Caesura) is a quiet, out-of-the way place in Texas where residents want to be left alone. The truth is they can never leave, as evidenced by the fence that surrounds it. They’re either violent criminals who became state’s witnesses or relocated innocents in the Witness Protection Program—but no one knows which. A new scientific procedure has allowed a private corporation (with a government contract) to erase the memories of their previous lives, particularly anything surrounding why they are there. After the memory wipe, they arrive at the Blinds for orientation, usually given by Deputy Robinson.

[Read Corrina Lawson's review of The Blinds...]

Jul 11 2017 12:00pm

Review: Perish from the Earth by Jonathan F. Putnam

Perish from the Earth by Jonathan F. Putnam—the second Lincoln & Speed mystery—is meticulously researched and deftly plotted, revolving around a true historical murder that, while nearly forgotten today, was one of the most infamous crimes of the nineteenth century and played a key role in driving the nation toward civil war (available July 11, 2017).

Read an excerpt from Perish from the Earth!

In an odd bit of coincidence, the fate of Elijah Lovejoy in Alton, Illinois, in 1837 has come up three times for me this week. The first, during a visit to a museum in Springfield, Massachusetts, which was a center of abolitionist activity in the 1830s. The second, in an article written about modern violence against journalists. The third was in this book, Perish From the Earth by Jonathan F. Putman, where Lovejoy is a supporting character. 

Perish is set in and around Alton in 1837. The practice of slavery is an ever-present Sword of Damocles poised to strike down its citizens, slave owners and abolitionists in equal measure. It’s not yet come to a boiling point at the beginning of the story, but the cracks in America are visible, a chasm as wide as the Mississippi itself.

[Read Corrina Lawson's review of Perish from the Earth...]

Jun 12 2017 3:00pm

Review: A Merciful Truth by Kendra Elliot

A Merciful Truth by Kendra Elliot is the second book in the Mercy Kilpatrick series, where the survivalist FBI agent must investigate a local antigovernment militia before more people get hurt.

Read Corrina Lawson's review of A Merciful Truth by Kendra Elliot, and then make sure to sign in and comment for a chance to win a copy of the second Mercy Kilpatrick mystery!

A good mystery series has two main ingredients: a compelling sleuth and a distinct sense of place. My favorites are Spenser’s Boston, Longmire’s Wyoming, and Kinsey Millhone’s Santa Theresa. A Merciful Truth by Kendra Elliot—the second Mercy Kilpatrick mystery—has both these elements.

FBI Agent Mercy Kilpatrick is—like many leads in a mystery series—a person of two worlds. The first, of course, is law enforcement. But Mercy has recently moved back to her hometown, the rural Oregon community of Eagle’s Nest, after the tragic events of the first book, A Merciful Death—and that brings in her other world as well.

[Read Corrina Lawson's review of A Merciful Truth...]

May 30 2017 10:00am

Review: A Fine Retribution by Dewey Lambdin

A Fine Retribution by Dewey Lambdin—the reigning master of maritime fiction—continues the adventures of Alan Lewrie, Royal Navy, from his days as a midshipman to captain of his own ship and, though on somewhat dubious grounds, a baronetcy in the 23rd book in the Alan Lewrie series.

When an author is at the 23rd book in a long-running series, sometimes the weight of the full cast of characters can pull down the plotting. There are so many people to spend time with and so many careers to check in with that grafting all that onto the next step in the long career of Naval Captain Alan Lewrie makes the first half of this book almost sink under the load. Happily, the second half of the book sweeps in like a cleansing wave and keeps the reader afloat with the kind of naval action that fans of the series enjoy. 

The opening pages of the book provide a clue to the vast amount of detail in the story. Included are diagrams of a full-rigged ship, the points of sail of a compass, and a map of the seas surrounding the peninsula of Italy and Sicily. 

[Read Corrina Lawson's review of A Fine Retribution...]

Feb 7 2017 1:00pm

Review: Echoes in Death by J.D. Robb

Echoes in Death by J.D. Robb is the 44th book in the In Death series featuring Eve Dallas.

As I read the first three chapters of Echoes in Death, I wondered if the book was written intentionally as a jumping-on point for new readers. It certainly reads that way, catching readers up to speed on the characters, their relationships, and the futuristic setting all in the first two chapters. 

Intentional or not, if you’re curious about the In Death series, yes, you can start with this 44th book.

The story opens from the point of view of a victim: Daphne Strazza, a young doctor’s wife. Injured, terrified, and convinced she’s been attacked by the literal devil, she stumbles into the street into the path of the limousine carrying Lieutenant Eve Dallas and her billionaire husband Roarke as they head home from a charity event. 

[Read Corrina Lawson's review of Echoes in Death...]

Feb 3 2017 3:00pm

Before Jessica Jones, There Was Eve Dallas

When Jessica Jones premiered on Netflix in 2015, it was met with critical acclaim for its portrayal of a rape victim seizing control of her life, all tossed with an extra slice of “fight the partriarchy.” “Groundbreaking,” critics said.

For all the praise, one would think the show contained the first character in pop culture to have this kind of character arc or feature this kind of heroine.

See also: Jessica Jones Review: Season 1, Episodes 1-4

But before there was Jessica Jones, there was Eve Dallas, who came to life twenty years before. Dallas is the lead character of J.D. Robb’s (aka Nora Roberts) In Death series. The first book in that series, Naked in Death, was published in 1995. And even if you’re counting the comics—which I don’t because the versions of Jessica Jones were different—Eve Dallas is six years older than Alias (which introduced Jones).

[Read more from Corrina Lawson!]

Feb 2 2017 4:30pm

Nora Roberts: One of Literature’s Most Underrated Authors

I initially conceived of this article as a way to convince readers who dismiss Nora Roberts with a wave and an eye roll of her considerable writing skills. But I put that article away because my words, no matter how eloquent they might be, wouldn’t cut it. The best supporting evidence for Nora Roberts is Nora Roberts’s own words.

Instead, I pulled short excerpts from Roberts’s stories and juxtaposed them with bestselling or acclaimed works by authors who don’t receive the same unearned, unwarranted, and unnecessary look of disdain.

[See why you should be reading Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb...]

Jan 23 2017 1:00pm

Review: New York to Dallas 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, Corrina Lawson reviews #33, New York to Dallas.

New York to Dallas may be the most important book in the entire In Death series. In a nod to the story’s unique place, it’s the only book not to have “In Death” in the title.

The title has a two-layered meaning. The first is the obvious physical journey that Lt. Eve Dallas must take from New York City to Dallas, Texas to chase an escaped serial killer who has already taken a hostage. The second journey is symbolic, as Eve returns to the city where she was found wandering in an alley, injured, bloody, and amnesiac—the place where she initially became Eve Dallas. Now, she’s become Lt. Eve Dallas of New York. But the events of this book strip her emotions back down to that lost and broken child, and it’s only with supreme effort that she defeats her internal and external demons.

[Read Corrina Lawson's review of New York to Dallas...]

Dec 21 2016 1:00pm

Review: Witness 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, Corrina Lawson reviews #10, Witness in Death.

This book begins with a murder, as so many of the In Death books do, but this is the only one that begins with Eve Dallas, Roarke, and a packed audience witnessing a murder in a theater. 

Witness in Death is a classic whodunit. Opening night for a revival of the classic play Witness for the Prosecution ends with the actual, on-stage murder of the leading man, cleverly cloaked under the guise of the play’s final death scene. The investigation leads Eve into the world of the theater, still recognizable despite any possible changes the future might have ushered in. 

The fun of this entry in the In Death series is watching Eve interrogate actors whose job it is to present a false face, and there’s no more memorable character than the play’s leading lady—an actress at the end of her prime yet still captivating. Did she know the prop knife had been switched out for the real thing? Could she truly be faking her surprise? Or is she just another victim?

[Read Corrina Lawson's review of Witness in Death...]

Dec 19 2016 1:00pm

Review: Conspiracy 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, Corrina Lawson reviews #8, Conspiracy in Death.

When we first signed up to review books from the In Death series, Conspiracy in Death was at the top of my list. Why? Because it’s the first book where Eve Dallas completely falls apart. 

No, I’m not a sadistic reader who wants to see her favorite characters suffer. But seeing Lt. Eve Dallas lose all faith in herself allowed me (and other readers) a window into what being a cop means to Eve and why she does what she does. 

Eve has been depressed and upset before in this series—such as when she and Roarke temporarily broke up in Glory in Death, or when she finally recovered the memories of killing her father in self-defense—but never has Eve’s sense of self been so under attack as in Conspiracy in Death.

“They took my badge,” Eve says, at her lowest moment. 

[Read Corrina Lawson's review of Conspiracy in Death...]

Sep 7 2016 12:00pm

Review: Winter’s Child by Margaret Coel

Winter's Child by Margaret Coel is the 20th Wind River Mystery as Arapaho attorney Vicky Holden and Father John O’Malley discover that a centuries-old mystery is tied to a modern-day crime on the Wind River Reservation.

There are three elements I consider essential for a great detective story: fascinating lead characters, a compelling mystery, and a setting that feels as if the reader can step into that world.

Winter’s Child by Margaret Coel—the 20th book in her Wind River series—contains two of those three elements. Well, two and a half. While I felt only half of the detective team was compelling as a lead, I suspect the failing is more on my part than the author’s—as I’m coming in as a new reader to a series that already has 19 books to establish characterization and relationships.

The title Winter’s Child has a double meaning—as do most of the greatest mysteries. Literally, it concerns a child abandoned in the middle of winter on the doorstep of an Arapaho couple. Now five years old, the couple wants to formally adopt the child they were forced to care for. The legal case pulls in Vicky Holden, an Arapaho attorney, as part of the legal team, but the murder of her co-counsel in front of her indicates that the mystery surrounding the child is deadly.

[Read Corrina Lawson's review of Winter's Child...]

May 24 2016 11:00am

The Top 10 Castle Episodes of All-Time

Castle ended this month, after eight seasons on the air, amid a swirl of controversy. The show chose not to renew Stania Katic’s contract, and plans for Season 9 included Rick Castle (Nathan Fillion) as the lead, with no Kate Beckett, despite the fact the show was based on the relationship between the characters. 

Despite all this, however it got there, the series finale contained a happily ever after.

The controversy of its ending distracted from the fact that Castle had an excellent run. The quality remained high, up until it’s last two seasons, despite the fact Castle and Beckett first got together at the end of Season 4—putting a lie to the adage that once characters get together, the show falls apart. More of my choices for top ten episodes are in Season 5 than any other season.

What really seemed to spell doom for the show, instead, was a switch in showrunners after Season 6, when creators Andrew Marlowe and Terri Miller stopped helming the show. That quality drop was clear when I began making my list, and no episodes past Season 6 made the cut—though one from Season 7 is an honorable mention.

So, here, in sequential order, are my picks for the best ten episodes of the series, with a few honorable mentions at the end. 

[See which episodes made the list!]

Apr 18 2016 9:30am

The Strangler Vine by M.J. Carter

The Strangler Vine by M.J. CarterThe Strangler Vine by M.J. Carter is the 1st Blake and Avery Mystery, set in the untamed wilds of nineteenth-century colonial India. It is nominated for an Edgar Award for “Best Novel.”

“You’re a better man than, I, Gunga Din.”

That’s one of the most famous lines in cinematic history, from the movie Gunga Din, in which three movie stars—er, British soldiers—take on the Thuggee cult. The first time I watched Gunga Din, I was inspired to look up the Thuggee cult, and was surprised to learn it was a real thing and not a Hollywood invention.  

And, of course, “Gunga Din” is also a poem by Rudyard Kipling, which concludes that the title character is superior to the British officers to whom he’s given his life.

It was good to be reminded of that as I read The Strangler Vine.

[Read Corrina Lawson's full review of The Strangler Vine here!]

Jan 22 2016 12:30pm

Heroes Reborn 1.13: “Project Reborn”

Heroes traveling through time to save the world from destruction! Go!           

No, not the premiere of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.

I’m talking about the finale of the Heroes Reborn miniseries, which aired in the same time slot as DC’s newest superhero show. There has been a lot of hype about Legends and little about Heroes Reborn, which may explain why there are no plans for another season of the Heroes reboot. In the real world, Project Reborn has been a failure.

And yet, despite the show’s flaws—the uneven pacing, the shallow villain, the numerous plot holes—the show brought home the ending in style. That was one enjoyable hour of television.

[Like a phoenix from the ashes, it was Reborn...]

Jan 15 2016 3:30pm

Heroes Reborn 1.12: “Company Woman”

All season, Erica Kravid (Rya Kihlstedt) has been a mustache-twirling, one-dimensional villain convinced that her plan to rescue a chosen few from the End of the World™ is morally justifiable.

I’ve gotten used to that.

But instead of using the show’s penultimate episode to show how our heroes gather to save the world, Erica’s backstory takes center stage.  In a callback to one of the original series’ best episodes, “Company Man,” this one is called “Company Woman.”


All the callback to “Company Man” did was remind me how good the first season of Heroes was and how meandering this miniseries has been.

[From Heroes to zeros...]

Jan 8 2016 2:00pm

Heroes Reborn 1.11: “Send in the Clones”

Two episodes left in this mini-series, and we still don’t have the twins united. That’s a good indication of everything wrong with this show.

It had an intriguing start that centered around Noah Bennett (Jack Coleman) and his twin grandchildren, with several characters meandering in and out, but the two-part time travel episode where Hiro (Masi Oka) finally appeared actually got me excited for the show.

Of course, that’s just when the show went off the air, blowing away any momentum it had. I have to wonder if NBC thought they could just sneak in the last three episodes, because I’ve seen so little marketing for the show’s return. Do they already consider it a failed experiment?

Either way, tonight featured a few advances in the story. Too few, but we’ll take what we can get. We have three basic plots that intersect:

[I can be your Heroes, baby...]

Nov 20 2015 3:30pm

Heroes Reborn 1.10: “11:53 to Odessa"

With 3 episodes left in this “event” miniseries, we break for the holiday season being no closer to saving the world than when we began. Tommy is still without his memory or real allies, and Malina is stuck with our mass-murdering psycho, Luke. Okay, he’s reformed now, but I’m with Noah—no reason to trust this dude (though Zachary Levi is at least making me feel his pain).

“11:53 to Odessa” is more about moving pieces into place than pushing the story forward. That’s more than a bit frustrating after all the momentum of the flashback Odessa episodes.

So, where do we stand?

[Let's find out...]