Review: <i>The Broken Girls</i> by Simone St. James Review: The Broken Girls by Simone St. James Angie Barry Read Angie Barry's review! Review: <i>Death by Dumpling</i> by Vivien Chien Review: Death by Dumpling by Vivien Chien Doreen Sheridan Read Doreen Sheridan's review! Review: <i>Second Story Man</i> by Charles Salzberg Review: Second Story Man by Charles Salzberg Thomas Pluck Read Thomas Pluck's review! <i>Not That I Could Tell</i>: Excerpt Not That I Could Tell: Excerpt Jessica Strawser An innocent night of fun takes a shocking turn...
From The Blog
March 19, 2018
Q&A with Christi Daugherty, Author of The Echo Killing
Christi Daugherty and Crime HQ
March 16, 2018
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Adam Wagner
March 13, 2018
Q&A with Sebastian Rotella, Author of Rip Crew
Sebastian Rotella and John Valeri
March 9, 2018
Murder and Mayhem in Chicago
Lori Rader-Day and Dana Kaye
March 9, 2018
Robbery with a Chance of Meatballs: Man Steals Meatballs & Gets Caught Red-Handed
Adam Wagner
Showing posts by: Janet Webb click to see Janet Webb's profile
Mar 12 2018 3:00pm

Review: A Dangerous Game by Heather Graham

A Dangerous Game by Heather Graham is the third book in the New York Confidential series (available March 13, 2018).

New York City: “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.” Give that old chestnut a tug—there’s not a crime imaginable that hasn’t played out in the Big Apple. It’s an ideal setting for the third book in Heather Graham’s New York Confidential romantic-suspense series.

Working late at her office, Psychologist Kieran Finnegan is confronted by a distraught woman who thrusts an infant into her arms. Kieran tears after her, shoving through the crowds on the sidewalk.

“Listen, I’ll help you, I’ll help the baby! It’s all right…”

It wasn’t in any way all right. The woman lurched forward, as if she would fall into Kieran’s arms, if Kieran had just been close enough.

She wasn’t.

The woman fell face-first down onto the sidewalk.

That’s when Kieran saw the knife protruding from the woman’s back and the rivulets of blood suddenly forming all around her and joining together to create a crimson pool.

[Read Janet Webb's review of A Dangerous Game...]

Mar 5 2018 5:00pm

Review: The Innocent Wife by Amy Lloyd

The winner of the Daily Mail First Novel Competition, Amy Lloyd’s The Innocent Wife is gripping psychological suspense from a brilliant new voice in crime fiction (available March 6, 2018).

Why do women fall in love with men behind bars—especially lifers and convicted serial killers? News reports after the death of Charles Manson reminded us how many women were involved with him during his incarceration. Same with Ted Bundy. Did these women suffer from hybristophilia, which Forensic Psychologist Katherine Ramsland defines as “a sexual disorder in which arousal is contingent on being with a partner who has committed an outrage, such as rape, torture or murder?” In a HuffPost interview, Ramsland also added that “some women also seek fame by proxy, or believe they can tame the ‘wild beast’ in a violent man”—a more garden-variety obsession. Of course, there are false imprisonments, and interested citizens can devote years to seeking the release of a prisoner they perceive as innocent. Think of Bob Dylan’s song “Hurricane,” written to protest the imprisonment of middle-weight boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter. It took almost 20 years, but Carter was eventually released, free at last.

Amy Lloyd’s man-behind-bars, Floridian Dennis Danson, is a complicated character. See how many boxes she ticks in her portrayal of a possibly innocent prisoner.

[Read Janet Webb's review of The Innocent Wife...]

Mar 2 2018 2:00pm

Review: A Brush with Shadows by Anna Lee Huber

A Brush with Shadows by Anna Lee Huber is the sixth Lady Darby Mystery, where Sebastian Gage returns home to battle the ghosts of his past and prevent them from destroying his future with Kiera (available March 6, 2018).

The Scottish proverb “The devil’s boots don’t creak” is a spot-on entrée into A Brush with Shadows and, indeed, most mysteries. Why? Because its underlying meaning is that “bad things can creep up on you if you’re not wary.”

Sebastian Gage, Lady Kiera Darby’s husband, has avoided his childhood home, Langstone Manor, for all his adulthood. Lady Darby, his wife of just a few months, knows his childhood memories are miserable, but when his grandfather urgently begs him to visit, she encourages Gage to go.

It’s July 1831, William IV is on the throne, and the newlyweds are a source of gossip, particularly Lady Darby. Needs must, however, and Viscount Tavistock needs Gage’s help. Gage is “a gentleman inquiry agent of some renown.” His new wife has a facility in solving crimes as well.

[Read Janet Webb's review of A Brush with Shadows...]

Feb 27 2018 4:00pm

Review: Darkest Night by Tara Thomas

Darkest Night by Tara Thomas is the first book in the Sons of Broad Trilogy set in the sultry streets of Charleston, where one family—ruled by its powerful, take-no-prisoners sons—has risen to the top, but a merciless enemy is out to destroy them and everyone they hold close (available February 27, 2018).

Darkest Night is a sultry and suspenseful thriller set in Charleston, South Carolina. The wealthy Benedict brothers bring the sultry—especially Keaton, the youngest. A shadowy figure who goes by the moniker “The Gentleman” is at the crux of the inexplicable attacks and murders that suddenly populate the brothers’ world; he’ll go to any lengths to take them down. Why? Tara Thomas alludes to the sins of the Benedicts’ late father—there are secrets hidden from his sons that are threatening to spill out into the open.

Kipling, the oldest, runs “the family shipping business, Benedict Industries.” Keaton wants to set up a charitable division that ensures that everyone in Charleston—and eventually South Carolina—has safe water to drink. Keaton decides to sound out his older brother over drinks, but the mood is destroyed when a waiter delivers a “slender white box” to Kipling. What’s with the “long-stem rose set nestled in white tissue paper?” Does Kipling have an admirer? Not so fast, read the note inside:

[Read Janet Webb's review of Darkest Night...]

Feb 14 2018 2:00pm

Review: The Plea by Steve Cavanagh

An innocent client. A wife in jeopardy. A locked-room mystery. The Plea by Steve Cavanagh is the second book in the Eddie Flynn series.

Former con-artist Eddie Flynn is not your typical New York lawyer. His modus operandi owes everything to his years running cons. He’s broke, so his office moonlights as his residence. Eddie can’t afford a state-of-the-art security system—he goes old school.

The paneled front door to my building had been painted blue about a month ago. The reverse side of the door boasted a hand-cut, steel-back plate—a little surprise for anyone who thought they could kick through one of the panels and open the door from the inside.

It was that kind of neighborhood.

And it’s that kind of old-fashioned expertise that makes up Eddie’s toolkit. He’s always observing, comparing, and contrasting, never taking anything at face value. His dad was an artist at the art of the con.

I learned from him, and over time I’d developed a deft touch: a profound sense of weight, feel, and movement. My father called it “smart hands.” It was this finely honed sense that told me something was wrong.

[Read Janet Webb's review of The Plea...]

Feb 8 2018 1:00pm

Review: A Cold Day in Hell by Lissa Marie Redmond

A Cold Day in Hell by Lissa Marie Redmond is a debut novel and the first book in the Cold Case Investigation series (available February 8, 2018).

Buffalo Detective Lauren Riley marches to her own drummer. She’s divorced (twice), a devoted mom to her two almost-grown daughters, a loyal partner, and her case-closed ratio is darn impressive. As busy as she is closing cold cases, she finds time to hire out as a private investigator—for the right price.

Riley spends her days surrounded by the detritus of decades. Linda, the office secretary, calls up to say there’s a man who wants to see her—he won’t give his name because if Riley heard it, she wouldn’t meet with him. That gets her curiosity up.

She walked past the old Homicide files that lined the room, some in boxes pushed against the wall, others in crumbling manila folders written out in fading ink. Stuffed into three rooms on the second floor of Buffalo police headquarters was thirty years’ worth of unsolved murders in disintegrating files. Ridiculous, she thought as she maneuvered through the clutter, these should all be digitized.

[Read Janet Webb's review of A Cold Day in Hell...]

Jan 30 2018 1:00pm

Review: Breaking Point by Allison Brennan

Breaking Point by Allison Brennan is the 13th book in the Lucy Kincaid series.

Check out our entire reread of Allison Brennan's Lucy Kincaid series and Max Revere series!

Why has San Antonio-based FBI Special Agent Lucy Kincaid been put on ice? For months she’s been running cold cases, never assigned to go out in the field. Rachel Vaughn, her new boss, seems threatened by Kincaid’s stellar reputation. But Kincaid’s professional limbo ends abruptly due to an all-hands-on-deck situation involving underage girls and human traffickers.  

JT Caruso—a friend and colleague to Lucy and her husband Sean Rogan—is frantic about his younger sister Bella’s safety. Once an officer of the law, Bella Caruso has been working undercover for months; her deep cover is that her physician’s license was revoked so she’s gone rogue to finance her gambling addiction. The perfect shadowy figure to keep a stable of frightened, demoralized young prostitutes physically healthy. Bella, because of her horrific backstory, is obsessed with bringing down the despicable men who have ruined the lives of hundreds of young girls. But JT fears she’s gone too deep.

[Read Janet Webb's review of Breaking Point...]

Jan 23 2018 1:30pm

Review: Need to Know by Karen Cleveland

Need to Know by Karen Cleveland follows CIA Analyst Vivian Miller, who uncovers a dangerous secret in pursuit of a Russian sleeper cell on American soil that will threaten her job, her family—and her life (available January 23, 2018).

Late at night, surrounded by the soft sounds of their four sleeping children, a husband asks his wife what she’s going to do. The woman is gripping a flash drive with great intensity and wishing to herself that “the past two days” could “be erased.”

What happened two days earlier to CIA counterintelligence analyst Vivian Miller? Her job is “to uncover the leaders of Russian sleeper cells in the United States.” It’s a frustrating task, both for her and her colleagues.

Omar’s been doing this longer than I have. A decade, at least. He’s looking for the actual sleepers in the U.S., and I’m trying to uncover those running the cell. Neither of us has had any success. How he’s still so enthusiastic never fails to amaze me.

The reason it’s so difficult to identify Russian sleepers is that “the SVR—Russia’s powerful external intelligence service—fears moles within its own organization,” and they don’t even keep the names of sleepers on Russian computers. A “multilayer encryption protocol” and airtight programs have kept CIA analysts at bay for years.

[Read Janet Webb's review of Need to Know...]

Jan 11 2018 1:00pm

Review: Two Girls Down by Louisa Luna

As addictive, cinematic, and binge-worthy a narrative as The Wire and The Killing, Two Girls Down introduces Louisa Luna as a thriller writer of immense talent and verve.

Fair warning: set aside enough time to finish Two Girls Down in one sitting because you won’t be able to stop until it's over. It’s every parent’s worst nightmare: two young girls disappear during a quick shopping trip to Target. Their single mother, Jamie Brandt, is heartsick and distraught. Jamie’s aunt, Maggie Shambley, contacts Alice Vega, a famous California bounty hunter, to ask her to locate her missing nieces. In less than 24 hours, Vega arrives in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. She needs a partner, someone who knows the local scene. Max Caplan, “Cap,” is her choice—once a local cop, now a private detective.

Cap is a bit of a philosopher. A private detective has a lot of time to ponder human foibles while surreptitiously monitoring illicit activities. He’s divorced, so he understands the futility of anyone getting “to have it all.” Although, he’d be out of business if folks didn’t try—or so he muses during a nooner stakeout.

[Read Janet Webb's review of Two Girls Down...]

Jan 9 2018 4:00pm

Review: Darkness, Sing Me a Song by David Housewright

David Housewright’s Edgar Award-winning Holland Taylor series returns with a case of murder resulting from tragic, twisted drama in an extremely wealthy family in Darkness, Sing Me a Song.

How often do fictional private detectives’ personal lives mirror their on-hand cases? More than you’d think. David Housewright’s Holland Taylor is “a PI who does simple background checks and other mostly unchallenging cases,” but he’s finally ready to put the misery of his wife and child’s death behind him and embrace life once more. Coincidentally, the former cop’s new case challenges him to his core.

Holland’s mother presses him to move on, although she’s sympathetic to how much he’s still consumed by memories of his wife Laura and their child. It’s a classic, excruciating phone call between a parent and a grown-up child. If Holland could get a word in edgewise, he might point out that he has a preponderance of women in his personal life.

[Read Janet Webb's review of Darkness, Sing Me a Song...]

Jan 5 2018 2:00pm

Review: Death Below Stairs by Jennifer Ashley

In Death Below Stairs by Jennifer Ashley, Victorian class lines are crossed as cook Kat Holloway is drawn into a murder that reaches all the way to the throne.

Death Below Stairs is the first full entry in Jennifer Ashley’s Kat Halloway series, following A Soupçon of Poison (Kat Holloway Mysteries, #0.5). Mrs. Halloway is a talented cook, highly sought-after for her culinary expertise. Cooks held a special status in the hierarchy of Victorian households. They operated independently, working in concert with the butler and housekeeper but answering only to their mistress. As a mark of respect, all cooks went by the courtesy title of Missus, be they married or not. Their undisputed queen, particularly below-stairs, was Mrs. Isabella Mary Beeton (1836-1865). Her famous cookery book was “a household guide all about cookery, household work, marketing, prices, provisions, trussing, serving, carving, menus,” to name just a few subjects.

Kat’s independence and intelligence combine to make her a keen observer of life above and below stairs in the Lord Rankin’s Mayfair mansion. It’s an “odd household”; Lord Rankin is an earl heavily immersed in financial matters, his titled wife affects die-away airs, and his sister-in-law chooses to dress as a man and indulge in a bohemian lifestyle.

[Read Janet Webb's review of Death Below Stairs...]

Jan 4 2018 4:00pm

Review: Scones and Scoundrels by Molly MacRae

Scones and Scoundrels by Molly MacRae is the second book in the Highland Bookshop Mystery series, which brings together a body outside a pub, a visiting author determined to find the killer, and a murderously good batch of scones.

Molly MacRae juggles several interconnected storylines in her second Highland Bookshop Mystery. Scones and Scoundrels opens with Janet Marsh and her business partners at Yon Bonnie Books discussing the demands of author Daphne Wood, who is scheduled to do a gala signing at their bookstore. Janet runs the bookstore with her daughter; the other partners manage the adjoining teashop and the second-floor bed and breakfast. What a coup for the Inversgail schools to secure a bestselling, modern-day Thoreau as their artist-in-residence for three months. Daphne Wood, formerly of Inversgail, Scotland, has been Canada’s environmental superstar for decades.

Rock stars with their demands for specifically colored M&Ms have nothing on Daphne Wood! Sharon Davis, the director of the Inversgail Library and Archives, shares Wood’s “lengthy and ludicrous list” with the owners of Yon Bonnie Books.

[Read Janet Webb's review of Scones and Scoundrels...]

Jan 2 2018 2:00pm

Review: Promise Not to Tell by Jayne Ann Krentz

A broken promise reveals a terrifying legacy in Promise Not to Tell, the second book in the Cutler, Sutter & Salinas series by Jayne Ann Krentz.

Promise Not to Tell opens in a troubling fashion: a reclusive artist is convinced that the villain who ruined her life is still alive. No longer can Hannah Brewster believe the claims that the monster Quinton Zane is dead, because she senses she’s being watched—and then she spots Zane on the remote island where she lives.

She had known then that she could no longer deceive herself into thinking that she was hallucinating. The truth was always shatteringly clear at night.

At midnight she had picked up a brush, her hand firm and steady, and begun to paint her final picture. She had continued painting every night until her creation was finished.

And then she had waited for the demon to return.

When Zane returns, Hannah makes the decision to die rather than risk coming under Zane’s spell again:

[Read Janet Webb's review of Promise Not to Tell...]

Dec 5 2017 4:00pm

Review: The Defense by Steve Cavanagh

The Defense by Steve Cavanagh is the first book in the Eddie Flynn series, following a former con artist-turned-lawyer who finds out that the two aren't all that different—now available in mass market paperback!

The Defense opens with a gripping scene that encapsulates the new life of Eddie Flynn, former con artist-turned-lawyer. Eddie is at Ted’s Diner, his “favorite place to think” and go-to spot for pre-trial strategizing. The table in his booth is usually covered with “coffee-stained legal briefs.” But this time, a stranger threatens him with a handgun pressed into the small of Eddie’s back:

I’d grown sloppy. That’s what happens when you go straight.

“Do exactly as I tell you or I’ll put a bullet in your spine.”

The accent was male and Eastern European. I detected no tremors or hints of anxiety in his voice. The tone sounded even and measured. This wasn’t a threat; it was a statement of fact. If I didn’t cooperate, I would be shot.

The man with an accent knows Flynn’s name. He ushers him into a limo. Three men are inside: “Olek Volchek, the infamous head of the Russian mafia in New York” and two thuggish bodyguards. The timing couldn’t be worse. Flynn assumes they want money, and that’s a problem. If only it was just money! Flynn asks why they aren’t working with Jack Halloran, his former law partner and a much better match for what the Russian mobsters need. That’s when they put a white gym bag in his face and open it, revealing Jack’s head inside.

[Read Janet Webb's review of The Defense...]

Dec 1 2017 4:00pm

Review: The Hapsburg Variation by Bill Rapp

The Hapsburg Variation by Bill Rapp is the second book in the Cold War Thriller series (available December 1, 2017).

Those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it. Readers of The Hapsburg Variation will undoubtedly reference this truism since it’s a guiding principle for protagonist Karl Baier.

It seemed to Karl Baier as though he could never escape history, certainly not while working for the CIA. Not that he minded. He enjoyed slicing through the bureaucratic maze that came with any large organization, especially government ones. He had joined the Agency eight years ago at its inception in 1947 and found that studying the past helped. Especially working as the deputy chief of staff in Austria.

In the spring of 1955, Baier is summoned in the wee hours to bear witness to a dead body. Alongside the Austrian authorities are three other men: a French military intelligence officer, a British civilian like Baier, and a “lower ranking officer from the regular Soviet military.” The four men represent the Allied Powers.

[Read Janet Webb's review of The Hapsburg Variation...]

Nov 16 2017 6:00pm

Back to J. D. Robb’s Future: How the Futuristic Technology of the In Death Series Has Fared in the Present

The dichotomy between the head (futuristic technology) and heart (the prime directive since the world began) informs J. D. Robb’s In Death series: “It is the year 2058, and technology now completely rules the world. But New York City Detective Eve Dallas knows that the irresistible impulses of the human heart are still ruled by just one thing-passion.”

J. D. Robb published Naked in Death in July 1995. Secrets in Death, the 45th book in the In Death series, came out in September 2017—22 years later. The pertinent number, however, is 63—because in 1995, Robb imagined a New York City 63 years into the future. What did she foresee? Was she prescient? What did she envision that hasn’t happened?

[Read more about the technology from the In Death series!]

Oct 24 2017 12:00pm

Review: Mind Game by Iris Johansen

Mind Game by Iris Johansen is the 22nd book in the Eve Duncan series and a propulsive thriller that’s impossible to put down (available October 24, 2017).

Take a visual tour of Mind Game with GIFnotes!

Mind Game is the 22nd book in Iris Johansen’s Eve Duncan series, but the immersion into a complex, daunting plot is instantaneous. Eve Duncan knows, intuitively, that Jane MacGuire is troubled, and she insists that they talk about it. One definition of mind game is “a series of deliberate actions or responses planned for psychological effect on another, typically for amusement or competitive advantage,” but Eve’s mind game is rooted in compassion and problem-solving. 

It wouldn’t do any good to try to lie to her, Jane knew. From the time Eve Duncan and Joe Quinn had adopted her off the streets when she was ten years old, she and Eve had been so close that anything but total honesty was out of the question. Eve was one of the foremost forensic sculptors in the world, but she was also Jane’s best friend. They had been through tragedy and joy together, and now that Eve had given birth to a son, Michael, Jane had been privileged to share that with Eve and Joe, too. “Nothing that I can’t handle.” She made a face. “Maybe I’m a little sad to be going back to Scotland and leaving you and Joe and the baby.”

[Read Janet Webb's review of Mind Game...]

Oct 12 2017 1:00pm

Review: The Four Horsemen by Gregory Dowling

The Four Horsemen by Gregory DowlingThe Four Horsemen by Gregory Dowling is the second book in the Alvise Marangon Mysteries series.

No matter the historic period, some elements of a detective story are eternal. Someone doesn’t want the truth to come out. Often the detective is a free spirit, willing to push past the “don’t bother” advice given. A mysterious, sultry lady is frequently in the cast of characters. Lastly, the detective can take a punch, although it’s not unusual for them to avoid a beating through clever diversionary tactics. The Four Horsemen—18th-century Venetian setting notwithstanding—ticks all these boxes.

Licensed Venetian tour guide Alvise Marangon, who Gregory Dowling introduced in Ascension, is relaxing in his usual watering-hole, the Malvasia del Remedio:

[Read Janet Webb's review of The Four Horsemen...]

Oct 9 2017 12:00pm

Review: Cold Harbor by Matthew FitzSimmons

Cold Harbor by Matthew FitzSimmons is the third book in the Gibson Vaughn series, where Vaughn has finally been released from his hellish 18-month imprisonment and seeks revenge against his captor. 

The immortal words of Edmund Dantès (The Count of Monte Cristo) come to mind while reading Cold Harbor: “What’s my crime? What’s my crime?” Why was former Marine and gifted hacker Gibson Vaughn locked up in a CIA black-site prison anyway? Dantès managed to keep track of the days, weeks, months, and years he was imprisoned, but Gibson Vaughan truly had no idea how much time had elapsed when he was finally released from the hellhole he’d been placed in. Adding insult to injury was the indignity of having to deal with a parole officer. Detective Bachmann interrogating him hit his personal wall, especially when Bachmann asked about Vaughn’s daughter Ellie.

The eighteen months he’d spent wondering if he’d ever be released had been hell, but it was nothing compared to the last twelve hours not knowing if Ellie were alive or dead. He didn’t know that he wanted the answer, but not knowing was the most dreadful purgatory he could imagine. Bachmann’s sneer was the proverbial last straw. Gibson snapped.

[Read Janet Webb's review of Cold Harbor...]

Oct 3 2017 3:00pm

Review: Friends and Traitors by John Lawton

Friends and Traitors by John Lawton is the eighth book in the Inspector Troy series―a story of betrayal, espionage, and the dangers of love.

Friends and Traitors by John Lawton will have readers riffing through their mental Rolodex of the infamous Cambridge Five. Who were they? When were they outed? Which of them ended up in Russia? In 1958, Chief Superintendent Frederick Troy of Scotland Yard is in Vienna with his extended family for part of his older brother Rod’s belated 50th birthday Grand Tour of Europe. Who should reach out to him but his old acquaintance Guy Burgess, wishing to be brought home out of the cold?

Troy’s memories of his first meeting with Guy Burgess coincide with his first days as a copper; it’s somewhat reminiscent of Lynda La Plante's Good Friday, another book revisiting the early professional days of a would-be Scotland Yard detective. Troy throws the cat among the pigeons when he’s introduced to Burgess at a family dinner party in Hertfordshire, July 1935.

[Read Janet Webb's review of Friends and Traitors...]