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From The Blog
January 16, 2018
Q&A with Christopher Reich, Author of The Take
Christopher Reich and John Valeri
January 12, 2018
Man Steals Tank, Crashes through Store Window, Steals Bottle of Wine
Adam Wagner
January 9, 2018
Q&A with C. J. Tudor, Author of The Chalk Man
C. J. Tudor and John Valeri
January 8, 2018
Q&A with Aimee Hix, Author of What Doesn’t Kill You
Aimee Hix and John Valeri
January 5, 2018
Man Drinks 20 Pints of Stella & Bites Security Guard's Leg
Adam Wagner
Showing posts by: Janet Webb click to see Janet Webb's profile
Jan 11 2018 12:00pm

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 3:00pm

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 1:00pm

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 3:00pm

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 1:00pm

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 3:00pm

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 3:00pm

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 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...]