<i>Shark Island</i>: Excerpt Shark Island: Excerpt Chris Jameson A shark attack survivor believes she has already lived through her worst nightmare—she's dead wrong. <i>The Breaking of Liam Glass</i>: Excerpt The Breaking of Liam Glass: Excerpt Charles Harris A darkly satirical look at the deep splits in modern communities. <i>Twelve Days</i>: Excerpt Twelve Days: Excerpt Steven Barnes A paranormal thriller about a family who struggles against a plot to unleash global genocide. Review: <i>Lowcountry Bonfire</i> by Susan M. Boyer Review: Lowcountry Bonfire by Susan M. Boyer John Valeri Read John Valeri's review!
From The Blog
June 26, 2017
Liz Talbot: The Benefits of Writing Your Avatar
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June 23, 2017
Thieves Steal GPS Devices that Lead to Their Arrest
Teddy Pierson
June 22, 2017
Q&A with J. Leon Pridgen II, Author of Unit 416
Crime HQ and J. Leon Pridgen II
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Waiting for Nuggets Leads to 911 Call
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June 15, 2017
Adventures in Research, Part II: Storm Rising
Douglas Schofield
Showing posts by: Janet Webb click to see Janet Webb's profile
May 4 2017 3:00pm

Review: The Darkest Night by Rick Reed

The Darkest Night by Rick Reed is the 5th book in the Detective Jack Murphy series, which finds the detective investigating a murdered cop, his partner's missing niece, and a shadowy voodoo cult. 

If a mystery is set in the swamplands of Louisiana, then even during the day the title The Darkest Night applies. Unscrupulous, corrupt, and possibly murdering cops; voodoo cults; Murphy’s partner, Detective Liddell Blanchard, framed for a murder; and Blanchard’s teenage niece missing—with all this on his plate, Detective Jack Murphy is up to his ass in alligators when he arrives to bail out Blanchard. Murphy knows a setup when he sees one, particularly after he hears that the local police chief didn’t mince words with Detective Blanchard.

The Chief kept her eyes on his and said, “I know my people, Detective Blanchard. And I know your background. And that of your partner, Jack Murphy. And I know who your brother is. And if I may speak plainly, your brother and your partner are big pains in the ass. They are not going to be a pain in my ass. I’m going against my better judgment letting you leave here.”

Liddell closed his mouth, turned, and left the office. He wondered why she wasn’t locking him up.

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

Apr 25 2017 1:00pm

Review: Brew or Die by Caroline Fardig

Brew or Die by Caroline Fardig is the 4th Java Jive mystery, where Nashville’s perkiest private eye—coffeehouse manager Juliet Langley—goes undercover in the party-planning industry to solve a suspicious death.

In Brew or Die, Caroline Fardig’s 4th Java Jive mystery, Nashvillian Juliet Langley crosses the line from being an enthusiastic, capable amateur sleuth to join the ranks of licensed private investigators. Juliet is the new part-time investigator at her friend Maya Huxley’s agency. Maya is a gal who likes to “do things her own way,” but she and Juliet have history.

But, after teaming up to get to the bottom of a bogus murder charge for a friend of mine, she saw something in me that she thought she could work with. So, she made me her apprentice, trained me, made sure I got my education requirements, and helped me study for the licensure test.

Pete Bennett—Juliet’s boss at her full-time gig, the Java Jive Coffeehouse—is less than enthused. Pete would like his manager, in her spare time, to explore her singer-songwriter talents. What better spot than Music City to make a splash in the local music scene? Pete’s not shy about expressing his doubts about how things will go with Maya.

[Read Janet Webb's review of Brew or Die...]

Apr 8 2017 3:00pm

Review: Dying on the Vine by Marla Cooper

Dying on the Vine by Marla Cooper is the 2nd book in the Kelsey McKenna Destination Wedding Mysteries series.

Take a visual tour of Dying on the Vine with GIFnotes!

Murder and matrimony are the order of the day for Northern California wedding planner Kelsey McKenna. After Terror in Taffeta, Kelsey might be excused for hoping for a return to semi-calmness, but that’s not in the cards. Her friend Brody—aka a fabulous wedding photographer—pulls the friend card when he teases her in front of would-be clients.

“She’s just mad because I hog the blankets,” Brody said, a twinkle in his eye.

I blushed a little, despite myself. I was always surprised when people thought Brody and I were dating. I mean, sure, he was good-looking, but it was so obvious that I wasn’t his type. In fact, I was off by a whole Y chromosome. No reason to let that stand in the way of a beautiful friendship, though.

[Read Janet Webb's review of Dying on the Vine...]

Apr 6 2017 11:00am

Review: Where the Dead Lie by C. S. Harris

Where the Dead Lie by C. S. Harris is the 12th Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery, where the gruesome murder of a young boy takes Sebastian St. Cyr from the gritty streets of London to the glittering pleasure haunts of the aristocracy.

In the early morning of Tuesday, September 14, 1813, Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, is awake at dawn. What is amiss? Or is it that a detective, even an aristocratic one, is somewhat psychic?

His dreams were often disturbed by visions of the past, as if he were condemned to relive certain moments over and over in a never-ending spiral of repentance and atonement. But for the second morning in a row he’d awakened abruptly with no tortured memories, only a vague sense of disquiet as inexplicable as it was disturbing.

[Read Janet Webb's review of Where the Dead Lie...]

Mar 28 2017 1:00pm

Review: My Darling Detective by Howard Norman

My Darling Detective by Howard Norman is a witty, engrossing homage to noir (available March 28, 2017).

Jacob Rigolet, “a soon-to-be former assistant to a wealthy art collector,” is attending an auction and preparing to make a bid. Out of nowhere, his mother—resident of the Nova Scotia Rest Hospital and former Head Librarian at the Halifax Free Library—appears. Why is she on the lam from her lock-down medical facility? Shockingly, Nora Rigolet, née Ives, tosses a jar of black ink at the Robert Capa photograph Death on a Leipzig BalconyHoward Norman weaves the work of famed war photographer Robert Capa into the story. The auction attendees on March 19th, 1977, would certainly have been acquainted with the work of Capa’s photographs.

Nora Rigolet dubs her detective interrogator, Martha Crauchet, an “interlocutrix.” Stretching credulity but completely necessary to this compelling noir-ish tale, Martha is also Jacob’s fiancée. The mystery behind Nora’s action lies in events that took place years earlier. Unbelievably, Martha tells Jacob that his father, deceased war hero Bernard Rigolet, is not his real father. Who was his father then? Is he still alive?

[Read Janet Webb's review of My Darling Detective...]

Mar 20 2017 3:00pm

Review: Single Malt Murder by Melinda Mullet

Single Malt Murder by Melinda Mullet is the 1st novel in an engaging new series blending fine spirits with chilling mystery (available March 21, 2017).

“There's many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip” is both an ancient Scottish proverb and an apropos commentary on Melinda Mullet’s inaugural Whisky Business Mystery, Single Malt Murder.

Award-winning photojournalist Abigail Logan unexpectedly inherits the Abbey Glen Distillery from her uncle Ben. The details spill out in a lachrymose and boozy evening with her oldest friend, the dapper and debonair Patrick Cooke, who tells Abi she looks like something “the cat dragged in on an off night.”

Tonight he looked even more out of place than usual next to the scruffy journalists and media types that call this corner of London’s Fleet Street home, but the Scrivener’s Arms had been our regular post-work watering hole for more than ten years, and I refused to migrate to the trendier West End bars just because Patrick had recently been promoted to associate editor of Wine and Spirits Monthly.

[Read Janet Webb's review of Single Malt Murder...]

Mar 14 2017 1:00pm

Review: The Devil’s Triangle by Catherine Coulter and J. T. Ellison

The Devil's Triangle by Catherine Coulter and J. T. Ellison is a highly anticipated thriller in their Brit in the FBI series, featuring special agents Nicholas Drummond and Michaela Caine in their new roles as heads of the Covert Eyes team.

Catherine Coulter’s A Brit in the FBI series would make a perfect Tom Hanks-style Da Vinci Code vehicle. The Devil's Triangle is the 4th in the series, and—as in Dan Brown’s stories—the ancient world extends its tentacles into modern day, and Biblical knowledge is as important as crack surveillance skills to win against the enemy.  

An idiom that never loses its sting: “It takes a thief to catch a chief.” So when master-thief Kitsune feels a frisson of worry on her way to make a delivery in Venice, it’s an instinct to be taken seriously. For the princely sum of five million Euros, Kitsune—aka The Fox—agreed to steal the staff of Moses from the Topkapi Museum in Istanbul. Of course, Kitsune was successful, so why, on her way to Venice to make the delivery, does she feel worried?

[Read Janet Webb's review of The Devil's Triangle...]

Mar 9 2017 1:00pm

Review: In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowen

In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowen is inspired by the events and people of World War II, crafting a sweeping and riveting saga of class, family, love, and betrayal.

No war holds readers—and writers—more in thrall than the Second World War. Consider Philip K. Dick’s 1962 “alternative history novel” The Man in the High Castle. It imagines a world fifteen years after the victory of the Axis powers and forms the basis of a successful series on Amazon. Decades later, Philip K. Dick’s “what if” scenario is still intriguing.

Rhys Bowen’s In Farleigh Field invites readers to go back in time to just before and immediately after Great Britain went to war against Germany. Students of history know that England was not “one voice” in the years before Great Britain finally declared war against Germany. Who can forget Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s attempts to “achieve peace in our time.” But that approach was not successful, even though many English people pinned their hopes on Chamberlain’s attempts at diplomacy (characterized by some as appeasement).  

[Read Janet Webb's review of In Farleigh Field...]

Mar 1 2017 4:30pm

Review: The Housekeeper by Suellen Dainty

The Housekeeper by Suellen Dainty is a nuanced and nail-biting psychological thriller about the dark recesses of the human mind and the dangerous consequences of long-buried secrets.

In the introduction to The Housekeeper, Suellen Dainty challenges her readers by questioning the canard that a neat house leads to a productive life:

What is it about cooking and cleaning that seems to iron away (at least temporarily) even the most overwhelming of anxieties? Time and again, in those moments when my life starts feeling out of hand, I have found myself drafting to-do lists, scrubbing dirty dishes, and wiping down every surface I can reach. But does trying to impose order on external surroundings really quell our inner demons?

Sous-chef Anne Morgan, the heroine of The Housekeeper, has a life that has gone seriously awry. Dumped by her chef boyfriend of two years, she’s jobless, demoralized, and increasingly dependent on the cheerful, life-changing daily platitudes of house-management seer Emma Helmsley. The unconscious mind can sometimes foretell that life is about to spin out of control—Anne’s nights are disturbing.

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

Feb 16 2017 2:00pm

Review: Snowed In with Murder by Auralee Wallace

Snowed In with Murder by Auralee WallaceSnowed In with Murder by Auralee Wallace is the 3rd book in the Otter Lake Mystery series.

Take a classic mystery opening (a group of connected people with a murderer in their midst), add an isolated setting (an island in New Hampshire), swirl in a frightening nor’easter, and top it off with an estranged romantic couple, and you have Snowed in with Murder.

I haven’t read Auralee Wallace’s two earlier Otter Island mysteries, but it’s not difficult to catch up. Off-and-on islander Erica Bloom has come home to see if she can fan the embers of her cooled-off romance with Sheriff Grady Forrester. Erica is sure that grilled steaks and glowing flames in an intimate island setting will pave the way for reconciliation with Sheriff Grady. What could go wrong?

To start with, Erica’s mother is nowhere to be found on the island. Instead, the island lodge is teeming with strangers—strangers who seem to have their own camera crew. Ordinarily, the lodge is shut down for the season in the fall, so this is highly unusual. Something else that is highly unusual (or perhaps not in New Hampshire): the weather. Erica is surprised—but not too surprised—by the darkening forecast.

[Read Janet Webb's review of Snowed In with Murder...]

Feb 6 2017 2:00pm

Review: Apprentice 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, Janet Webb reviews #43, Apprentice in Death.

Apprentice in Death gives us J.D. Robb at the top of her game. Each In Death book juxtaposes a methodical, futuristic police procedural with the ever-evolving relationship of New York City’s Lieutenant Eve Dallas and Roarke, her gazillionaire husband.

The setting of Apprentice in Death is decades into the future, but the vagaries of murder are, unfortunately, timeless. There’s a shooting at an outdoor skating rink: “Three shots in roughly twelve seconds, three dead—center back, gut, forehead. That’s not luck.” No, those are skilled shots.

Eve knows immediately that she has a LDSK on her hands. According to the Urban Dictionary, the initials represent “Long Distance Serial Killer; a serial killer that kills at great distances via a sniper rifle or other weapons.”

[Read Janet Webb's review of Apprentice In Death...]

Feb 2 2017 4:00pm

Review: Garden of Lamentations by Deborah Crombie

Garden of Lamentations by Deborah Crombie is the 17th book in the Duncan Kincaid & Gemma James series (available February 7, 2017).

Before reading Janet's review, head over to Heroes and Heartbreakers for her omnibus review of the first 16 books!

There’s trouble in paradise at the Kincaid/James household: a dead nanny in their communal Notting Hill walled garden and a growing rift between the married detectives. Garden of Lamentations doesn’t miss a beat as it continues the narrative that began in Deborah Crombie’s 16th book, To Dwell in Darkness. Gemma James is very worried about the barrier between her and her husband Duncan Kincaid.

They’d never criticized each other for the long hours they spent on the job. Both detectives, it was one of the things that had made their relationship work. But this—this wasn’t the job. It was something else, and it worried her. He hadn’t been the same since the day in March when they’d heard Ryan Marsh had died.

[Read Janet Webb's review of Garden of Lamentations...]

Dec 29 2016 3:30pm

Review: The Phantom Tree by Nicola Cornick

The Phantom Tree by Nicola Cornick is a historical mystery where the secrets of 16th-century England might unlock the answers to modern-day London mysteries. 

The crucial question in a time-slip story is who stays and who leaves the time period in which they were born. The Phantom Tree is a tale of two women: Mary Seymour, the “daughter of one queen and the niece of another,” and the enigmatic, modern-day Alison Bannister. Mary Seymour’s mother was Henry VIII’s last wife, Katherine Parr. Nicola Cornick deftly switches between the worlds of the Tudor-era Wolf Hall and Wiltshire and the London of today.

Alison is wandering through the “rain sodden streets of Marlborough,” eight weeks before Christmas. She’s hungry, wet, and not at all pleased to have landed in a “faux historical event”—a Victorian market in the town square manned by cheerful stallholders in appropriate costume. 

[Read Janet Webb's review...]

Dec 23 2016 2:00pm

Review: Betrayal 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, Janet Webb reviews #12, Betrayal in Death.

“Don’t get above your raisin,’” is a phrase common in the American South. How does it apply to the life and times of New York City billionaire Roarke and his wife Lieutenant Eve Dallas in the spring of 2059? A clue can be found in the title Betrayal in Death.

The feral, hungry youths—Roarke’s one time compatriots—of his mysterious Dublin past: do they feel abandoned by him, jealous of him? Eve is haunted by dreams of horrific abuse at the hands of her father: will she ever break free? 

A dead maid, raped and brutalized as she goes about her tasks in the luxurious Roarke Palace Hotel, is Eve’s newest victim. Roarke wishes anyone but Eve had the case.

[Read Janet Webb's review of Betrayal in Death...]

Dec 16 2016 2:00pm

Review: Holiday 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, Janet Webb reviews #7, Holiday in Death.

Lieutenant Eve Dallas is the last person to write out her Christmas list and check it twice. But now she’s married to a gazillionaire and feeling the pain because Eve is not—and never has been—a fan of Christmas. After leaving the tranquility of the inner-city oasis she shares with Roarke, she’s confronted with garish billboards of Santa, complete with manic ho ho hos and reminders about the number of shopping days left before Christmas.

“Yeah, yeah, I hear you. You fat son of a bitch.” She scowled over as she braked for a light. She’d never had to worry about the holiday before. It had just been a matter of finding something ridiculous for Mavis, maybe something edible for Feeney.

There’d been no one else in her life to wrap gifts for.

And what the hell did she buy for a man who not only had everything, but owned most of the plants and factories that made it? For a woman who’d prefer a blow with a blunt instrument to shopping for an afternoon, it was a serious dilemma.

[Read Janet Webb's review of Holiday in Death...]

Nov 9 2016 12:00pm

Review: Her Nightly Embrace by Adi Tantimedh

Her Nightly Embrace by Adi Tantimedh is the 1st book in the new Ravi PI trilogy about a destructive private investigator and his eccentric coworkers, who handle cases so high-profile that they never make the headlines.

Her Nightly Embrace is the first book in the new Ravi PI trilogy. It's also scheduled to become a television series starring popular actor Sendhil Ramamurthy of NBC’s Heroes fame as newly minted PI Ravi Chandra Singh.

The pace is addictive. After the first, somewhat typical, case—a cheating husband caught in flagrante delicto while the salacious photos are shared in real time with his estranged wife—the mysteries ratchet up episodically and in intensity. Not that an angry wife who finally has proof is anything but intense. She lets her husband have it after she sees the photos.

Two years’ worth of pent-up rage after he smooth-talked and manipulated her into thinking his having a bit on the side was all in her imagination. Now she had hard proof and wanted him to know that he was well and truly fucked. We didn’t need speakerphone mode to hear her.

[Read Janet Webb's review of Her Nightly Embrace...]

Nov 2 2016 11:00am

Review: The Heavens May Fall by Allen Eskens

The Heaven's May Fall by Allen Eskens is a riveting murder case told from two different perspectives.

Read Janet Webb's review of The Heavens May Fall by Allen Eskens, and then make sure you're signed in and comment below for a chance to win a copy of all 3 of Allen Eskens's thrillers!

The Heavens May Fall is an intriguing title—what do those four words have to do with the murder of a lawyer’s wife? It can be traced back to a Latin quotation, Fiat justitia, ruat coelum: translated, “Let Justice Be Done, Though the Heavens May Fall.” Thought to have been said by Julius Caesar’s father-in-law, it crystallizes a view of justice that transcends the outcome of any specific inquiry or investigation. A colloquial version of this quotation is to “let the chips fall where they may.”

[Read Janet Webb's review of The Heavens May Fall...]

Oct 13 2016 4:30pm

Review: The Moth Catcher by Ann Cleeves

The Moth Catcher by Ann Cleeves is the 7th Vera Stanhope Mystery.

Which is more compelling to readers of criminal investigation stories? Is it the modus operandi of the investigators (particularly their leader) or the unraveling of a crime? 

The Moth Catcher constantly shifts between personalities and procedures. When Patrick Randle—a young ecologist moonlighting as a house-sitter for the Carswell family at their Northumberland estate—is found dead by the side of a lonely lane, Detective Inspector Vera is tapped to solve the crime.

Vera is brilliant, flawed, the smartest person in the room, an unglamorous woman wedded to her career, and a boss to be proud of. That said, her co-workers know her foibles, as when crime-scene manager Billy Cartwright says to her after taping off the murder scene:

[Read Janet Webb's review of The Moth Catcher...]

Oct 7 2016 1:00pm

Review: Teetotaled by Maia Chance

Teetotaled by Maia ChanceTeetotaled by Maia Chance is a sparkling new mystery that will delight readers with its clever plotting, larger-than-life characters, and rich 1920s atmosphere.

Ah, the Roaring Twenties! Forget the crime, the mystery, even the alluring setting—come for the flippant and fabulous vocabulary. Maia Chance is back, hard on the heels of her first Discreet Retrieval Agency book, Come Hell or Highball

Teetotaled, which is set in the Prohibition era, begins with an ever so appropriate epigraph:

Everything in life that’s any fun, as somebody wisely observed, is either immoral, illegal, or fattening
—P.G. Wodehouse

The ladies of the Discreet Retrieval Agency, widow Lola Woodby and Berta, her former cook and now partner, are down to their last dollar. They’re pining for their beaus who got away and wondering where they’re going to get their next meal. Tempers fray, and a whirring electric fan has little effect on the muggy temperature in their tiny shared flat. In her “stern Swedish accent,” Berta suggests that Lola stop reading Thrilling Romance and start finding clients.

[Read Janet Webb's review of Teetotaled...]

Aug 29 2016 4:00pm

Review: Her Darkest Nightmare by Brenda Novak

Her Darkest Nightmare by Brenda Novak is the 1st in an electric new series, featuring psychiatrist Dr. Evelyn Talbot and her controversial Alaskan mental institution, Hanover House (Available August 30, 2016).

Dr. Evelyn Talbot, a 36-year-old psychiatrist, calls upon her inner resources of courage, defiance, and indomitable willpower, refusing to allow her life to be defined by a sexual and physical attack twenty years earlier by a serial killer—aka her ex-boyfriend Jasper.

Talbot trains at Harvard, becoming a world-renowned expert on the criminally insane, specializing in serial killers. To further her research, especially in order to prevent horrific attacks from occurring, she becomes “the force behind Hanover House, a maximum-security facility located in a small Alaskan town.” The inmates are anyone’s worst nightmare, making the first book in Brenda Novak’s new series, Her Darkest Nightmare (The Evelyn Talbot Chronicles), very aptly titled.

[Read Janet Webb's review of Her Darkest Nightmare...]