Audiobook Review: <i>Murder on the Orient Express</i>, Read by Kenneth Branagh Audiobook Review: Murder on the Orient Express, Read by Kenneth Branagh Danielle Prielipp Read Danielle Prielipp's review! Review: <i>Stealing Ghosts</i> by Lance Charnes Review: Stealing Ghosts by Lance Charnes David Cranmer Read David Cranmer's review! <i>Killin Pace</i>: Excerpt Killin Pace: Excerpt Douglas Schofield A high-octane, heart-pounding tale set in Everglades City, Florida, and Sicily, Italy. Review: <i>A Season to Lie</i> by Emily Littlejohn Review: A Season to Lie by Emily Littlejohn Amber Keller Read Amber Keller's review!
From The Blog
November 17, 2017
Man Flees Police, Hides Under the Covers, Claims He's "Just Sleeping"
Adam Wagner
November 16, 2017
Back to J. D. Robb's Future
Janet Webb
November 16, 2017
Writing the Private Detective vs. the Police Detective
T.R. Ragan
November 16, 2017
Why the Time Is Ripe for the Farming Cozy
Wendy Tyson
November 15, 2017
Q&A with Jessica Keener, Author of Strangers in Budapest
Jessica Keener and John Valeri
Showing posts by: Janet Webb click to see Janet Webb's profile
Nov 16 2017 5:00pm

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 11:00am

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 12:00pm

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 11:00am

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 2:00pm

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...]

Oct 2 2017 10:00am

Review: Winter Warning by Jerome Charyn

Winter Warning by Jerome Charyn is the climactic conclusion to the iconic Isaac Sidel mystery series, which finds Charyn’s acclaimed hero facing his toughest showdown yet—this time as commander-in-chief.

An accidental president who’s the target of determined assassins—is this stranger than fiction, or does it reflect “our own world like a volatile funhouse mirror?” Throw in some very disreputable characters like “a mysterious billionaire who belongs to a brotherhood of killers and counterfeiters” (a Russian!) and you’ll realize that the 1980s setting of Winter Warning reflects the axiom that those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

In the spring of 2017, Chris Whipple’s illuminating book The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency was published to wide acclaim. Whipple interviewed every living chief of staff, all males. President Isaac Sidel would surely have an ironic respect for Whipple’s observations, particularly given that Sidel is at war with his Chief of Staff, Ramona Dazzle—a manipulative, aggressive woman.

[Read Janet Webb's review of Winter Warning...]

Sep 27 2017 12:00pm

Review: Whispers of Warning by Jessica Estevao

Whispers of Warning by Jessica Estevao is the second book in the Change of Fortune Mystery series, where Ruby Proulx’s new life in Orchard Beach, Maine, faces some sinister complications.

According to the Maine Visitors Bureau, Old Orchard Beach “has been welcoming tourists and families to its beautiful 7-mile stretch of perfect sand beach for over 170 years.” Historical mystery Whispers of Warning (A Change of Fortune Mystery #2) capitalizes on the seaside setting as well as the currents of change in social and political life at the time.

It is also the setting for a murder most watery. “Renowned Spiritualist and outspoken suffragist Sophronia Foster Eldridge” checks into Miss Honoria Belden’s Belden Hotel for a month. Honoria Belden is a shrewd businesswoman—although her hotel is by no means the largest in Old Orchard Beach, Maine, she provides both accommodation and a variety of spiritual experiences.

[Read Janet Webb's review of Whispers of Warning...]

Sep 26 2017 11:00am

Review: A Strange Scottish Shore by Juliana Gray

A Strange Scottish Shore by Juliana Gray is the second book in the Emmeline Truelove historical mystery series.

A Strange Scottish Shore is a multi-layered story that rewards a perceptive, patient reader. The first of the Emmeline Truelove series, A Most Extraordinary Pursuit, introduced readers to the three main characters: Maximilian Haywood, the heir to the Duke of Olympia; Miss Emmeline Rose Truelove, the recently departed Duke of Olympia’s personal secretary; and the Marquess of Silverton, a “watchful and jovial” aristocrat with an eye for Miss Truelove. 

What makes A Strange Scottish Shore a mystery that embraces the fluidity of time? One element is the excerpt at the beginning of each chapter from A. M. Haywood’s re-telling of the selkie legend The Book of Time, published in 1921. A. M. Haywood, aka the Duke of Olympia. And yet the story opens with Miss Truelove at King’s Cross Station, London, in August of 1906. She is on her way to join the Duke at Thurso Castle in the wilds of Scotland. 

[Read Janet Webb's review of A Strange Scottish Shore...]

Sep 18 2017 2:00pm

Review: Robert B. Parker’s The Hangman’s Sonnet by Reed Farrel Coleman

Robert B. Parker's The Hangman's Sonnet by Reed Farrel Coleman is the 16th Jesse Stone novel.

Paradise’s Chief of Police Jesse Stone is in a really bad place. None of his usual crutches—booze, throwing a ball into his beloved baseball mitt, babes (consensual relationships with intelligent women), losing himself in police work—are working. His life has been in a downward spiral since his fiancée Diana was murdered.

Jesse doesn’t really have the option to stay in a state of drunken stasis, however. His loyal deputy, Suitcase Simpson, has asked him to be his best man. On the morning of the wedding, an elderly woman, one of Paradise’s old guard, is brutally murdered. They say trouble comes in threes—the mayor, not one of Jesse’s fans, has told him to do everything in his power to ensure that a birthday celebration for Massachusetts’s answer to Bob Dylan goes swimmingly.

The morning of the wedding, Jesse learns that a gala 75th birthday party is to be held for folk singer Terry Jester. Jester, once the equal of Bob Dylan, has spent the last forty years in seclusion after the mysterious disappearance of the master recording tape of his magnum opus, The Hangman's Sonnet.

[Read Janet Webb's review of Robert B. Parker's The Hangman's Sonnet...]

Sep 11 2017 10:00am

Review: Monster in the Closet by Karen Rose

Monster in the Closet by Karen Rose is the fifth book in the Baltimore series, where a father-daughter reunion puts innocent victims in the sights of a stone-cold killer.

Monster in the Closet is not for the faint of heart. It embraces the deep psychological wounds of three brave females—two young sisters and an equine therapist-in-training—and their intense journey to happiness is cathartic and believable.

There’s a Russian proverb, “Trouble never comes alone,” that sums up Monster in the Closet. It’s the 19th in Karen Rose’s romantic suspense series and the 5th of the Baltimore subset, although Monster in the Closet seamlessly incorporates past plots as needed. 

The “monster in the closet” is revealed in the prologue. No one picked up 11-year-old Jazzie from school, so she made her way home on her own.

[Read Janet Webb's review of Monster in the Closet...]

Sep 8 2017 12:00pm

Review: Good Friday by Lynda La Plante

Good Friday by Lynda La Plante is a prequel story that tells the early days of the career of Jane Tennison before the events of Prime Suspect.

Welcome back, Jane Tennison! Good Friday explores the early days of Tennison’s career. In an author’s note, Lynda La Plante takes us back to the early ’70s when Londoners coped in their carry-on fashion to the constant threat of IRA bombings. “Both police and public lived in fear: where and when would the IRA strike, and could they be stopped in time?”

The ambitious Tennison is now a fully-fledged detective and is having a difficult time landing a spot in a good operation. She turns down one transfer and privately asks her boss, DCI Shepherd, if she can remain where she is.

Jane was in a catch-22 situation. Although Shepherd had agreed for her to remain with the CID at Bow Street, he gave her very little opportunity to prove herself and she was becoming increasingly frustrated.

[Read Janet Webb's review of Good Friday...]

Sep 7 2017 2:00pm

Review: A Tale of Two Kitties by Sofie Kelly

A Tale of Two Kitties by Sofie Kelly follows two magical cats with  powers of detection that prove indispensable to librarian Kathleen Paulson.

A librarian and her two cats solve mysteries—is that a cozy cliché? A Tale of Two Kitties, the ninth in Sofie Kelly’s Magical Cats Mystery series, is anything but facile. It stars the vibrant, occasionally mettlesome, intelligent Kathleen Paulson.

You’d think by now it wouldn’t bother me to step on a body in the middle of the kitchen floor, but I was in my sock feet and the body—missing its head, no surprise—was damp.

Horrors! A dead body in the opening paragraph? But it’s only a “headless yellow catnip chicken, aka Fred the Funky Chicken,” which belongs to Owen, one of Kathleen’s two cats. Owen and Hercules have individual superpowers as well as possess a “seemingly uncanny ability to understand” conversations. Owen has “the ability to vanish” at will, and Hercules can walk through walls.

[Read Janet Webb's review of A Tale of Two Kitties...]

Aug 29 2017 2:00pm

Review: Thief’s Mark by Carla Neggers

Thiefs Mark by Carla Neggers is the seventh Sharpe & Donovan novel, where a murder in a quiet English village, long-buried secrets, and a man's search for answers about his traumatic past entangle FBI agents Emma Sharpe and Colin Donovan.

Is it a rule that a couple who have met while solving murders and uncovering mysteries will undoubtedly have a “busman’s honeymoon”? It would seem so, especially in long-running series. The phrase is a twist on “busman’s holiday,” a “vacation or form of recreation that involves doing the same thing that one does at work.” The 13th Lord Peter Wimsey book, Busman's Honeymoon, which celebrates the union of detective Lord Peter and mystery writer Harriet Vane, has the couple discovering a dead body in the cellar. Moreover, the corpse is the former owner of their home Tallboys. More recently, J. D. Robb’s fourth In Death book, Rapture in Death, has NYPSD Lieutenant Eve Dallas and Roarke, her billionaire groom, interrupted on their off-planet honeymoon by an inexplicable suicide.

Nothing so exotic for the Irish honeymoon of FBI agents Colin Donovan and Emma Sharpe. But on their last day, they get a disturbing call from Emma’s grandfather, private art detective Wendell Sharpe—someone has broken into his Dublin home.

Carla Negger’s seventh Sharpe & Donovan mystery revisits strands from earlier books, although it stands alone nicely. Emma and Colin, after patiently interrogating the wily Wendell, decide to fly to England the following day instead of returning to their work in the United States. 

[Read Janet Webb's review of Thief's Mark...]

Aug 20 2017 12:00pm

Review: Make Them Pay by Allison Brennan

Make Them Pay by Allison Brennan is the 12th book in the Lucy Kincaid series, where Lucy and Sean Rogan are finally tying the knot, but the Rogan family has other plans.

Make Them Pay is the 12th of Allison Brennan’s Lucy Kincaid series. It opens 17 years ago with an invitation to a quest, a search for an elusive treasure. Liam and Eden Rogan are 19-year-old twins. Their siblings are talented and successful; Liam, in particular, feels at odds with his family. His father, Paul Rogan, sets him straight.

“Liam—you have the best of Sheila and me.”

Liam shrugged. He didn’t want to be placated.

“Kane is all military, strategy, tactician. Duke is the organizer, a leader. Sean is just fucking brilliant, sometimes he scares me. There’s nothing he can’t fix, and he’s what? Fifteen?”

“Fourteen,” Liam corrected.

Paul looked confused for a minute, then nodded. “Right. But you and Eden are the visionaries. Your mom and I see what can be, and we invent gadgets, as you say, to fill a need. We love it. But if we had a solid lead on the Alamo Treasure, we’d drop everything to find it. The history alone ... No one believes it exists, thinking that it’s just a myth. But we know it’s there.”

Liam had of course heard about the treasure from his dad and Uncle Carlo. What would now be tens of millions of dollars of gold and silver, lost in Mexico en route to Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett at the Alamo while the fort was under siege by General Santa Anna. 

[Read Janet Webb's review of Make Them Pay...]

Aug 12 2017 2:00pm

Review: Seeing Red by Sandra Brown

Seeing Red by Sandra Brown is a thriller with supercharged sexual tension about tainted heroism and vengeance without mercy (available August 15, 2017).

What do you think of when you think of a Sandra Brown bestseller? Consider some key phrases: “trademark nonstop suspense,” “supercharged sexual tension,” and “thriller,” of course. Another tell is her complicated, intricate plots, which often go back years in the past. It’s a fool’s game to try to guess the outcome—let alone the villain(s)—so sit back and enjoy the ride; Seeing Red will have you compulsively turning the pages. 

Some fictional private detectives have a reputation for being sleazy slobs, albeit smart and determined. John Trapper doesn’t disappoint. He spars with a client without an appointment. She tells him her name is Kerra Bailey, but he doesn’t recognize her and says that it’s not a good time for him. That doesn’t fly, she’s very persistent. Trapper thinks to himself that she looks like she can pay the bill—her handbag “was the size of a small suitcase and covered in designer initials.” Trapper opens the door for her, not wanting to “say no to a lady in distress.”

[Read Janet Webb's review of Seeing Red...]

Aug 9 2017 4:00pm

Review: On Her Majesty’s Frightfully Secret Service by Rhys Bowen

On Her Majesty's Frightfully Secret Service by Rhy Bowen is the 11th Royal Spyness novel, where Lady Georgiana Rannoch must juggle secret missions from the Queen, Darcy, and her mother—but it’s all in a day’s work when you’re 35th in line to the British Crown.

The title of Rhys Bowen’s 11th Royal Spyness mystery, On Her Majesty’s Frightfully Secret Service, accurately conveys a certain madcap insouciance. And, of course, Lady Georgiana—informally known as “royal sleuth Georgie Rannoch”—is the perfect choice to undertake a delicate assignment for Her Majesty Queen Mary since she is a member of the British Royal family, albeit frightfully remotely.

When royal sleuth Georgie Rannoch receives a letter from her dearest friend Belinda, who’s in an Italian villa awaiting the birth of her illegitimate baby, she yearns to run to her side. If only she could find a way to get there! But then opportunity presents itself in a most unexpected way—her cousin the queen asks her to attend a house party in the Italian Lake Country. The Prince of Wales AND the dreadful Mrs. Simpson have been invited, and Her Majesty is anxious to thwart a possible secret wedding.

[Read Janet Webb's review of On Her Majesty's Frightfully Secret Service...]

Aug 4 2017 1:00pm

Review: Murder Take Three by Eric Brown

Murder Take Three by Eric Brown is the fourth Langham and Dupré Mystery, where 1950s Private Investigator Donald Langham discovers that truth is stranger than fiction when he investigates a murder on an American movie set.

Murder Take Three, the 4th Langham and Dupré Mystery, is a classic country-house murder mystery. All the elements are there: an idyllic and isolated setting, a group of ill-suited people enjoined by circumstances to work together, a plethora of secrets from the past that burden the living, and lastly, intelligent outsiders—in this case, a private investigator and his fiancée—to sort it all out. 

1956. Having just started work as a professional private investigator, Donald Langham's first client is American movie star Suzie Reynard, currently shooting a murder mystery film at Marling Hall, an Elizabethan manor house in the depths of the Norfolk countryside. The film's director—Suzie's lover—has been receiving threats and Suzie is convinced his life is in danger. 

[Read Janet Webb's review of Murder Take Three...]

Aug 3 2017 11:00am

Review: The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond

The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond is a relentlessly paced novel of psychological suspense that asks: How far would you go to protect your marriage?

There was something about the description of The Marriage Pact that was so intriguing. The idea that a young couple, still newlyweds, are tempted and intrigued by a very appealing, all-encompassing opportunity, one that combines the personal and the professional … but with a darker side. It actually reminded me of the movie The Firm, based on John Grisham’s 1991 legal thriller. It’s quite a cinematic premise.

The goal of The Pact seems simple: to keep marriages happy and intact. And most of its rules make sense. Always answer the phone when your spouse calls. Exchange thoughtful gifts monthly. Plan a trip together once per quarter.  . . .  Never mention The Pact to anyone.

Alice and Jake are initially seduced by the glamorous parties, the sense of community, their widening social circle of like-minded couples. And then one of them breaks the rules. The young lovers are about to discover that for adherents to The Pact, membership, like marriage, is for life. And The Pact will go to any lengths to enforce that rule. For Jake and Alice, the marriage of their dreams is about to become their worst nightmare.

And it seems that I was not the only one intrigued—on July 24th, 2017, Variety broke the story that The Marriage Pact has been acquired by Fox Chernin. Coming to a theater near you!

[Read Janet Webb's review of The Marriage Pact...]

Aug 1 2017 10:00am

Review: Beauty Like the Night by Joanna Bourne

Beauty Like the Night by Joanna Bourne is the sixth and final book in the Spymaster series—a stirring tale of intrigue, espionage, and attraction (available August 1, 2017).

There’s an old chestnut about spies that boils down to, “It takes a spy to know a spy,” or alternatively, “It takes a spy to catch a spy.” Joanna Bourne’s Beauty Like the Night, the sixth and final entry of her Spymasters series, certainly fits this rubric. Two former intelligence agents who once fought for opposing armies explore the possibility of working side by side to solve a disturbing mystery, the disappearance of a young girl.

Séverine de Cabrillac, orphan of the French revolution and sometime British intelligence agent, has tried to leave spying behind her. Now she devotes herself to investigating crimes in London and finding justice for the wrongly accused.

Raoul Deverney, an enigmatic half-Spaniard with enough secrets to earn even a spy's respect, is at her door demanding help. She's the only one who can find the killer of his long-estranged wife and rescue her missing fourteen-year-old daughter.

[Read Janet Webb's review of Beauty Like the Night...]

Jul 26 2017 1:00pm

Review: Let the Dead Speak by Jane Casey

Let the Dead Speak by Jane CaseyWith Let the Dead Speak, Jane Casey returns with another taut, richly drawn novel that will grip readers from the opening pages to the stunning conclusion.

Let the Dead Speak is Jane Casey’s seventh detective novel featuring London detective Maeve Kerrigan and her co-workers. If the task of detectives is to uncover the perpetrators of a crime—and bring them to justice—it is a reader’s job to piece together the characters that inhabit the author’s world. How have their roles evolved over time? How do their interpersonal relationships impact the solving of the crime at hand? This is particularly interesting when a detective is promoted, as is the case with Maeve Kerrigan. Career changes inevitably cause the modus operandi to shift. When the kaleidoscope is shaken, new patterns of investigation emerge.

Eighteen-year-old Chloe Emery returns home abruptly, fleeing an uncomfortable weekend at her father’s house. As she plods through the rain, she broods over how mean her stepmother, Belinda, is to her.

[Read Janet Webb's review of Let the Dead Speak...]