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August 18, 2017
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Showing posts by: Janet Webb click to see Janet Webb's profile
Aug 20 2017 1:00pm

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 3:00pm

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 5:00pm

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 2:00pm

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 12:00pm

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 11:00am

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 2:00pm

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...]

Jul 7 2017 3:00pm

Review: City of Masks by S. D. Sykes

City of Masks by S. D. Sykes is the third Somershill Manor mystery, where young Lord Somershill flees England for the wonders of Venice and becomes involved in a bizarre murder investigation that plunges him into the depths of this secretive medieval city.

There’s a quote by Neil Gaiman that stuck with me while reading Oswald de Lacy’s adventures in medieval Venice: “Wherever you go, you take yourself with you.” This is true of Venice in 1358: Oswald, Lord Somershill, has been greatly affected by the events described in Plague Land and The Butcher Bird (Somershill Manor Mysteries #1 and #2), and thoughts of England simmer just below his consciousness. And why not, as Marilyn Stasio of The New York Times Book Review perceptively describes:

“It’s no fun reading a medieval mystery if it isn’t steeped in filth, squalor and pestilence. S. D. Sykes gets right to the point in Plague Land, which serves it all up in vivid detail, from the noxious smells to an actual burial pit, heaped with the putrefying bodies of plague victims.”

[Read Janet Webb's review of City of Masks...]

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...]