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August 18, 2017
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August 15, 2017
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Q&A with Kelley Armstrong, Author of Rituals
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Showing posts by: Doreen Sheridan click to see Doreen Sheridan's profile
Aug 22 2017 3:00pm

Review: Orphan Agent Prima Pawn by Elizabeth Kiem

Orphan Agent Prima Pawn by Elizabeth Kiem is the third and final book in The Bolshoi Saga.

I’m not sure which obsession was greater with me when I was in my early teens: to be a ballerina or to have paranormal powers. If someone had offered me the ability for both, I would likely have cried for joy. Reading Elizabeth Kiem’s Orphan Agent Prima Pawn reminded me so much of those days but added even more intrigue than my younger, drama-loving self could have imagined. Plus, it’s set in the Soviet Union in 1958, a milieu very far removed from anywhere I’d ever been or dreamed of being.

The dictator Joseph Stalin has died, and his successor Nikita Khruschev has ushered in an era of more relaxed cultural and social mores. Sixteen-year-old Svetlana “Sveta” Kravshina has spent the last eight years growing up in an orphanage for the children of Enemies of the People. Her mother, the wife of a disgraced then-executed general, has just been released from the gulag and wants to see her again. Sveta is unsure of her own feelings, especially given the distance that has grown between them. They wrote to each other regularly at the beginning of their separation:

[Read Doreen Sheridan's review of Orphan Agent Prima Pawn...]

Aug 16 2017 4:00pm

Cooking the Books: French Fried by Kylie Logan

Laurel Inwood has a lot on her plate with the 130th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty giving the tourist-starved town of Hubbard, Ohio, a reason to throw a week-long celebration to try to draw in more. As the chef of her adoptive Aunt Sophie's Terminal at the Tracks restaurant—and, more importantly, as the mastermind behind the semi-regular ethnic cuisine initiative meant to elevate the eatery from greasy spoon to healthy and innovative dining—Laurel is cooking up a French menu to dovetail neatly with the festivities. Aunt Sophie isn't the hugest help, but her friend Raquel Arnaud—long-time French expatriate and now herb farmer with her own estate just out of town—is more than happy to contribute both recipes and ingredients.

[Recipe and pictures included below!]

Aug 15 2017 11:00am

Review: Cat Shining Bright by Shirley Rousseau Murphy

Cat Shining Bright by Shirley Rousseau Murphy is the 20th book in the Joe Grey mystery series, where the stakes are higher and more personal than ever for feline investigator Joe Grey, as death comes to his beloved coastal California town (available August 15, 2017).

In the 20th book in the Joe Grey mystery series, Joe becomes a father! His beloved Dulcie has given birth to three darling kittens—soon named Striker, Buffin, and Courtney—bringing joy to both the cats and to their loving circle of humans. But a string of car break-ins and thefts soon has the residents of Molena Point in an uproar, as a sophisticated gang of car thieves descends upon the town with the onset of a hurricane-force storm.

Joe and his feline friends Kit and Pan are in the thick of it, assisting their humans in the investigation. Most of those humans are, after all, either part of or related to local law enforcement, and this isn’t the first time the cats have been involved. It is, however, a new experience for Dulcie to stay home with her first litter of kittens instead of out helping Joe; this passage is wistfully reminiscent of the feelings of human mothers of newborns:

[Read Doreen Sheridan's review of Cat Shining Bright...]

Aug 9 2017 4:30pm

Cooking the Books: Ghostal Living by Kathleen Bridge

The third installment of the Hamptons Home & Garden mystery series finds our heroine, interior designer Meg Barrett, finishing up the decoration of the Bibliophile Bed & Breakfast for the eccentric (and wealthy, naturally—this is the Hamptons, after all) book collector Franklin Hollingsworth. A hurricane has forced Meg to abandon the antique yacht she’s been staying in with her grumpy one-eyed cat, Jo; fortunately, the B&B’s manager, Brenna, has offered a suite for Meg and Jo to ride out the storm in. This affords Meg not only safe haven but extra time to arrange each book-themed suite to her liking before the inn’s grand opening.

But the B&B proves less safe for Randall McFee, the expert who’s just authenticated Franklin’s recent find of an unpublished F. Scott Fitzgerald manuscript. The aftermath of the hurricane finds him dead at the bottom of a cliff purportedly haunted by the ghost of a widow who had committed suicide there. At first, it looks as if Randall followed suit, but Meg starts to suspect that all is not as it seems when she discovers that rare books have begun to go missing from the B&B’s shelves. As she uncovers more criminal activity alongside secrets long thought buried, she begins to worry that a killer might be coming for her next.

[Recipe and pictures included below!]

Aug 8 2017 1:00pm

Review: Compulsion by Allison Brennan

Compulsion by Allison Brennan is the second book in the Max Revere series.

Max Revere is back, and I could not be happier! Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Allison Brennan’s Lucy Kincaid novels as well, but there’s something about Max that’s so bracing that coming back to her is like hanging out with that one friend who will tell it to you like it is because she genuinely cares. And that’s pretty much Max to a T: she believes in honesty because, in the long run, it’s the kindest way of life. Not a brutal honesty necessarily, and one needn’t share every little detail unless asked, but she firmly believes that lies cause more harm than good in the end.

It’s this drive to uncover the truth that pushes her into uncomfortable and sometimes downright dangerous situations. Compulsion not only chronicles a period of such situations but also digs deep into Max’s background to explore why this is so important to her:

[Read Doreen Sheridan's review of Compulsion...]

Aug 3 2017 1:00pm

Review: Love Is Murder by Allison Brennan

Love Is Murder by Allison Brennan is a prequel novella to the Lucy Kincaid series, where a murder at the snowed-in ski lodge she's vacationing at causes the aspiring FBI agent to have to figure out which of the lovebirds trapped in the lodge is capable of killing.

One of my favorite things about writing for Criminal Element is how often it introduces me to terrific authors whom I’ve never had time to read before snagging one of their books on assignment. Allison Brennan is definitely one of these authors, and I greatly regret that it's taken me this long to discover her for myself.

Love Is Murder is a novella set a year before the first novel in Ms. Brennan’s Lucy Kincaid series, Love Me to Death. Lucy is the survivor of a brutal abduction that took place the day of her high school graduation. She was subjected to horrific tortures but refused to be broken by the trauma. With the support of her family—many of whom work or have backgrounds in law enforcement—she’s pulled her life back together and is intent on applying to the FBI so that she can prevent what happened to her from happening to others. Towards this end, she’s earned her degree in criminal psychology, interned at both the Senate and the medical examiner’s office, and volunteered with a victims’ rights group.

[Read Doreen Sheridan's review of Love Is Murder...]

Aug 2 2017 4:00pm

Cooking the Books: Dead and Berried by Peg Cochran

The delightful Cranberry Cove Mystery series set on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan is back with its third installment! Monica Albertson is finally feeling like she’s integrating into the tightly-knit village community after moving here two books ago to help with her younger half-brother Jeff’s cranberry farm. Now, she bakes for Jeff’s farm store and is expanding the business outwards, as a local grocery chain wants to sell her cranberry salsa at all its locations. This is both exciting and a bit nerve-wracking, so Monica is grateful for her helpers, Arline in the kitchen and Nora in the store.

Jeff is also getting some help in the form of Nora’s husband, Rick, and his bees. Cranberries require more pollination than wild local bees can provide, so Jeff hires out several of Rick’s hives in hopes of promoting a good harvest. Everything looks promising until Lori Wenk, Rick’s assistant, is found at the farm covered in bee stings and quite dead.

[Recipe and pictures included below!]

Jul 29 2017 1:00pm

Review: The Dark Net by Benjamin Percy

Set in present-day Portland, The Dark Net by Benjamin Percy is a cracked-mirror version of the digital nightmare we already live in, a timely and wildly imaginative techno-thriller about the evil that lurks in real and virtual spaces, and the power of a united few to fight back (available August 1, 2017).

Benjamin Percy’s The Dark Net melds modern-day technology—specifically the murkiest parts of the internet and the pervasive interconnectedness of humanity and digital content—with good old-fashioned horror writing to create a gruesome vision of demons tearing through both physical and digital Portland, Oregon. An ancient evil is gathering its might in the bowels of the internet, ready to unleash havoc on Zero Day. If all goes to plan, Portland will become the staging ground for spreading a digital infection to the rest of the world, ushering in a hell on earth that will doom humankind.

Humanity is not without its champions, though. There is Hannah, whose blindness might be cured by a cutting-edge technology that could also transform her into something more than human. There is Mike, a former child evangelist who is trying to atone for the greed and duplicity of his former life by sheltering the homeless and building up an arsenal of weaponry. There is Sarin, a woman who’s cheated death for so long no one can remember how old she really is. There is Lump, a deformed street preacher with a seemingly mystical command of crows.

[Read Doreen Sheridan's review of The Dark Net...]

Jul 27 2017 3:00pm

Review: Little Boy Lost by J. D. Trafford

Little Boy Lost by J. D. Trafford deals with a broken city, a missing young man, and a lawyer searching for truth when nobody else cares (available August 1, 2017).

What a wonderfully timely examination of race relations in America! Justin Glass—the hero of J. D. Trafford’s smart, nuanced and highly entertaining new legal thriller—is a biracial street lawyer who is having a hard time making ends meet despite coming from a family of material means and political connections. His father is a renowned politician, long active in the Civil Rights movement, who’s represented St Louis, Missouri’s congressional district for decades. His mother is the daughter of a respected and now retired judge of decidedly more conservative leanings who is only now loosening up to his mixed-race family. Justin’s brother, Lincoln, has gone into politics as well and expects to succeed their father in Congress.

Justin, on the other hand, is struggling with the depression that crippled him after the death of his beloved wife. He knows he’s lucky to have his extended family help with taking care of his teenage daughter as he slowly pieces his life back together. For now, that consists of taking whichever cases come his way, including the defense against a public intoxication charge that Justin suspects might become more trouble than it’s worth:

[Read Doreen Sheridan's review of Little Boy Lost...]

Jul 27 2017 1:00pm

Review: Collared by David Rosenfelt

Collared by David RosenfeltCollared by David Rosenfelt is the 16th book in the Andy Carpenter series.

Read an excerpt from Collared!

Oh wow, I was just thinking the other day that I really miss reading Erle Stanley Gardner’s Perry Mason books, and then I stumbled across David Rosenfelt’s Andy Carpenter series. Andy Carpenter is the perfect successor to Perry Mason if Perry had a fondness for dogs and a more developed personal life (and if Mr. Gardner wrote with a broader sense of humor—not that his writing isn’t terrific as is).

An independently wealthy attorney based in Paterson, New Jersey, Andy is having a crisis of career. Happily married and parenting, he’s considering whether or not to renew his law license when a dog is left tied up in front of the Tara Foundation. Named for Andy’s favorite dog, the Tara Foundation is an animal rescue and welfare non-profit that Andy runs with his good friends the Millers. It isn’t so surprising that a dog is left for them: what is surprising is that a routine chip scan reveals that this is Cody, the “DNA dog” that went missing in a notorious abduction trial that resulted in the conviction of a local man primarily on dog hair and fiber evidence.

[Read Doreen Sheridan's review of Collared...]

Jul 26 2017 5:00pm

Cooking the Books: Masking for Trouble by Diane Vallere

So there’s this adorable Nevada town called Proper City that was founded by a prospector who wanted a clean, lawful city to live in out in the Wild West. His vision for the town suffered after his death and was further damaged when Prohibition introduced a, shall we say, criminal element to the populace. Time and good governance eventually erased that aspect of the city, though development followed in fits and starts, resulting in large parts of town being inspired in name and design by children’s stories.

This rich and complex history has resulted in a modern day Proper City that dresses up for everything. And we’re not talking about a black tie and tails—we’re talking about a city that loves a costume party for any and every occasion.

[Recipe and pictures included below!]

Jul 19 2017 4:30pm

Cooking the Books: The Hammett Hex by Victoria Abbott

Jordan Bingham is ready for a vacation! Her beau, Officer Travis “Smiley” Dekker, has bought them two tickets to San Francisco, the stomping grounds of Sam Spade and the Continental Op, to name just two of Dashiell Hammett’s famed fictional creations. To Jordan’s delight, Smiley is a huge Hammett fan, though she prefers cozies herself. Regardless, a romantic getaway to a mystery-related setting sounds like the perfect vacation for our lovebirds.

After getting the grudging permission of her cantankerous employer, Vera van Alst, Jordan relishes the prospect of her first week off in two years. Well, mostly off: as part of the bargain she struck with Vera, she's expected to track down a signed first edition of Hammett's Red Harvest for Vera’s extensive mystery novel collection. Jordan figures this will be a breeze, what with her experience and contacts as a book researcher as well as with her larcenous family's far-flung connections.

[Recipe and pictures included below!]

Jul 12 2017 4:30pm

Cooking the Books: Seeds of Deception by Sheila Connolly

We start the book the very day after Meg Corey (now Chapin) and Seth Chapin's wedding as our newlyweds discuss what to do about their honeymoon. A leisurely road trip south from their Massachusetts home to see the buildings and fruit orchards of Monticello—with several detours for historic buildings and horticultural sites along the way—sounds like the perfect vacation for our couple. Their interests in apple-growing and architecture aren't purely business related, after all; they both very much enjoy what they do for their livings, running an apple orchard and restoring houses, respectively.

Their outset is somewhat marred, however, when it looks as if someone has deliberately rammed Meg's father's car. Meg's parents, Phillip and Elizabeth, have come up for the wedding but refuse to allow the accident to delay the newlyweds’ honeymoon. They do get the younger couple to promise to come visit them in their New Jersey home on the return trip, which Meg and Seth happily do.

[Recipe and pictures included below!]

Jul 10 2017 11:00am

Review: Dark Water by Parker Bilal

Dark Water by Parker Bilal is the sixth Makana Mystery, where the private investigator's past is racing to catch up with him as he becomes both the hunter and the hunted (available July 11, 2017).

Longtime fans of Parker Bilal’s Makana Mystery series will know that one of the formative events of Egypt-based Private Investigator Makana’s adult life was the death of his wife and daughter. Once the head of Sudan’s Criminal Investigations Department, Makana’s integrity and abilities put a target on his back after the regime change of 1989. His wife Muna had been driving them towards a bridge as they were fleeing the country when a series of circumstances forced the car and its occupants into the water. Makana was thrown clear and has been living with the guilt ever since.

For fifteen years Muna and Nasra had lived inside him. The two most precious things in his life, his wife and daughter, had been taken from him. They were always with him. Not ghosts, but presences. Stored safely within, like love, like the inevitability of death. Until that vision in the market, when he’d caught sight of something that he knew he could not possibly explain. An instinct, a feeling. A conviction.

[Read Doreen Sheridan's review of Dark Water...]

Jul 6 2017 3:00pm

Review: The State Counsellor by Boris Akunin

The State Counsellor by Boris Akunin is the sixth Erast Fandorin historical mystery—the first new Fandorin novel available to an American audience in a decade—which tests the handsome diplomat/detective’s guile and integrity like no mystery before.

This riveting, deeply intelligent and empathetic mystery novel—though set in the Tsarist Russia of the late 1800s—offers significant insight into the current politics of terrorism. Dressed up as a period piece, and quite charmingly so, Boris Akunin’s The State Counsellor examines not only terrorism and the efficacy of police actions in response but also considers the quandary of the moral person caught between two extremes.

Our hero, Erast Fandorin, is one such person. Essentially a private investigator who, at this point in his career, has been appointed State Counsellor to and by Prince Dolgorukoi, the aging Governor General of Moscow, he is expecting to be named head police-master of the city once the bureaucrats in St. Petersburg finish with their political games. (So, no time soon.)

But then, a terrorist impersonating Fandorin assassinates General Kharpov, a disgraced politician traveling incognito on a train from St. Petersburg to Moscow. While Fandorin is quickly cleared by witnesses, he can’t help but take the affront personally and asks leave of Prince Dolgorukoi to investigate.

[Read Doreen Sheridan's review of The State Counsellor...]

Jul 5 2017 4:30pm

Cooking the Books: Behind Chocolate Bars by Kathy Aarons

I think I’ve found a new favorite cozy cooking mystery series to devour while I’m waiting for Barbara Ross to write more of her excellent Maine Clambake books! It isn’t just that Kathy Aarons’s delightful Chocolate Covered Mystery series is set in my home state (and a short drive from where I currently live), though that frisson of familiarity does have a little bit of influence. It’s mostly because she injects a freshness to genre tropes that makes this third installment, Behind Chocolate Bars, stand out in the crowd.

Our heroine, Michelle Serrano, runs her chocolate store on the same premises as her best friend Erica Russell’s bookstore. Erica hosts the small town of West Riverdale’s comic book club, populated primarily by teenagers. One of these teens, Dylan Fenton, is also their “intern,” a position they made up when his mom abandoned him and his father in order to move to Florida with the high school’s now-former gym coach. When Dylan is accused of a murder he swears he didn’t commit, Michelle and Erica immediately take a protective stance. They can’t help but investigate in order to clear his name and find out who really had it in for a woman whose life bore little resemblance to the various online profiles she hid behind.

[Recipe and pictures included below!]

Jun 28 2017 5:00pm

Cooking the Books: Grilling the Subject by Daryl Wood Gerber

Jenna Hart—owner of the darling Cookbook Nook, a cookbook and notions store in gorgeous Crystal Cove, California—is ready and revved up for the Wild West Extravaganza that’s set to take over town. She’s stocked up on western-themed books and tools, and she’s looking forward to enjoying the festivities with boyfriend Rhett as well as with friends and family.

So when her father is accused of the murder of a contentious neighbor early into the celebration, all Jenna’s plans come to a screeching halt as she ignores the pleas of his protégée, town sheriff Cinnamon Pritchett, and hurriedly investigates in order to clear his name. Along the way, she discovers more than she bargained for about a former co-worker who went from pudgy to player as well as a glamorous film star and several Cookbook Nook regulars. But perhaps the most astonishing thing of all is the complete opposite of a murder: a shocking return from the dead!

[Recipe and pictures below!]

Jun 23 2017 1:00pm

Review: Indigo by Charlaine Harris

Indigo by Charlaine HarrisIn Indigo, Charlaine Harris, Christopher Golden, Kelley Armstrong, Jonathan Maberry, Kat Richardson, Seanan McGuire, Tim Lebbon, Cherie Priest, James Moore, and Mark Morris join forces to bring you a crime-solving novel like you’ve never read before.

Read Doreen Sheridan's review while sipping a delicious “GINdigo” cocktail inspired by the book!

A mosaic novel—much like its namesake in the visual arts—is a novel in fragments, requiring several authors to contribute a chapter each in order to build a primarily linear narrative whole. More complex novels of this type (with my personal favorite so far being George R. R. Martin’s Fort Freak) also present each chapter from the viewpoint of different characters, so you get a pretty cool Rashomon-type story that builds to a thrilling ending. 

[Read Doreen Sheridan's review of Indigo...]

Jun 21 2017 4:30pm

Cooking the Books: A Just Clause by Lorna Barrett

We're back in Stoneham, New Hampshire, the fabled Booktown that gives this bestselling mystery series its name. It’s just a few days before the first Wine and Jazz Festival, which has several of our cast of characters in a tizzy of organization. Our heroine, Tricia Miles, is in a different sort of tizzy, however. Thriller author Steve Richardson—who she met and flirted with on the cruise detailed in the preceding book, Title Wave—is coming from out of state to the mystery bookstore she owns for a reading and signing.

Tricia isn't sure if she wants to pick up where they left off, as she knows long-distance relationships are more complicated than she has time or energy for. But any worries over her own romantic life are tossed out the window when her father shows up unexpectedly, announcing that he's left her mother and needs money and a place to stay.

John Miles’s previous visit some months earlier hadn't gone very well: he'd left abruptly with a list of outstanding debts as well as a good number of items that did not belong to him. Tricia's older sister, Angelica, is especially steamed, as she had to cover for him with the townsfolk. But then, a woman with a checkered past is found murdered right after Steve’s signing, and John becomes prime suspect.

[Recipe and pictures below!]

Jun 21 2017 11:00am

Review: Kangaroo Too by Curtis C. Chen

Kangaroo Too by Curtis C. ChenSet in the same world as Waypoint Kangaroo, Curtis C. Chen's Kangaroo Too is bursting with adrenaline and intrigue in this unique outer-space adventure.

Hurray! Finally, the sequel to Curtis C Chen’s hilarious and compelling sci-fi spy thriller Waypoint Kangaroo is out! The tie-in puzzle website (the first book had one too) doesn't seem to be ready yet, however, as I keep getting a “Wait for it…” notification as I tab back and forth between browser windows while I’m supposed to be writing this review. Or maybe I’m not as good at puzzle-solving as I think? Clearly, it must be the former.

Set in a future where mankind is busy colonizing the solar system, our narrator—codenamed Kangaroo—has a superpower and, so far as he and his bosses know, is the only person in the universe to have one. I’ll let him explain it in his own words, though:

[Read Doreen Sheridan's review of Kangaroo Too...]