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Showing posts by: John Valeri click to see John Valeri's profile
Jun 12 2017 1:00pm

Review: The Switch by Joseph Finder

The Switch by Joseph Finder is a timely, electrifying new thriller where a simple mix up throws one innocent man into the crosshairs of sinister government secrets and ruthless political ambitions (available June 13, 2017).

Joseph Finder is the New York Times-bestselling author of 14 novels. Killer Instinct won the International Thriller Writer’s Award for Best Novel of 2006, and two others, Paranoia and High Crimes, were adapted as feature films. His newest, The Switch, is a standalone thriller that has “ripped from the headlines” appeal.

As the story opens, readers meet frenzied businessman Michael Tanner—“Tanner” to his nearest and dearest—as he struggles through airport security at L.A.X. to make his departure flight home to Boston. Caught off guard by an unexpected delay, he hastily grabs a MacBook after being cleared only to later discover that the laptop isn’t his. When Tanner gains access to the device in hopes of identifying its rightful owner, he realizes that it belongs to US Senator Susan Robbins—and that the classified documents contained within pertain to a highly controversial and secretive governmental program. It’s an entirely innocent mistake, but one that has far-reaching consequences.

[Read John Valeri's review of The Switch...]

Jun 8 2017 1:00pm

Review: Cast the First Stone by James W. Ziskin

Cast the First Stone by James W. Ziskin is the 5th book in the Ellie Stone Mysteries series.

Edgar-, Anthony-, Barry-, and Lefty-nominated author James W. Ziskin infuses his fiction with the types of factual flourishes that breed an unmistakable sense of authenticity. A linguist by training, he had bicoastal career experiences in print and photo journalism and film production before settling in Seattle and making a name for himself in crime fiction. Ziskin’s newest, Cast the First Stone, is the fifth in his critically acclaimed Ellie Stone Mysteries series. 

February 1962: “Girl reporter” Ellie Stone lands a plum assignment when she’s asked to profile rising star Tony Eberle for the New Holland Republic. Eberle, who got his start in local theater, has just been cast in his first feature Hollywood film, and the newspaper’s publisher wants to showcase their hometown boy made good. Despite a premonition of disaster that’s sidelined her rival, Ellie departs New York for Tinseltown the next day and enjoys an uneventful flight. But when she arrives at the studio for her big interview, Ellie discovers that Eberle is nowhere to be found—and that his job, too, has vanished.

[Read John Valeri's review of Cast the First Stone...]

Jun 6 2017 11:00am

Review: DIS MEM BER by Joyce Carol Oates

DIS MEM BER: and Other Stories of Mystery and Suspense by Joyce Carol Oates is a meticulously crafted, deeply disquieting collection of seven short stories centered on girls and women confronting the danger around them and the danger hidden inside their turbulent selves.

To say that Joyce Carol Oates is prolific would be an understatement. In addition to novels, literary criticism, memoirs, and poetry, she has delved into the macabre for a myriad of short stories—many of which have been collected throughout the years. These compendiums include: The Doll-Master and Other Tales of Terror, Jack of Spades, and The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares, which won the 2011 Bram Stoker Award for Short Horror Fiction. Her newest, DIS MEM BER: and Other Stories of Mystery and Suspense gathers together seven works published between 2015 and 2017.

The collection opens with the titillating title story, which is narrated by Jill—an 11-year-old girl who develops a habit of sneaking off with Rowan Billiet in his sky-blue Chevy. Rowan is an ambiguous relation who has inclinations that Jill-y doesn’t quite understand but leave her feeling strangely exhilarated. Their joyriding comes to an unceremonious end on the night that Jill fails to coax two schoolgirls into the car and is dumped on the side of the road during a rainstorm. Though she’ll never see him again, Rowan’s name soon becomes synonymous with unspeakable crimes.

[Read John Valeri's review of DIS MEM BER...]

Jun 2 2017 1:00pm

Review: You’ll Never Know, Dear by Hallie Ephron

You'll Never Know, Dear by Hallie Ephron is an addictive novel of psychological suspense about three generations of women haunted by a little girl’s disappearance and the porcelain doll that may hold the key to the truth (available June 6, 2017).

New York Times-bestselling author Hallie Ephron comes from an impressive lineage of writers, but the mystery genre remains hers alone. A four-time finalist for the Mary Higgins Clark Award, she first co-authored a five-book series with Donald Davidoff under the pen name G. H. Ephron before going solo with 2009’s Never Tell a Lie. Three female-driven standalone novels followed. Her fifth, You’ll Never Know, Dear, sticks to that formula while showcasing yet another progression of her storytelling abilities. 

The book takes place in a present that has largely been shaped by the past. Forty years ago, four-year-old Janey Woodham went missing while under the watch of her older sister, Lissie. Gone, too, went a porcelain doll that was made in her likeness. Every year since that fateful day, the girls’ mother, Miss Sorrell, has placed an ad in the local paper with a picture of the doll and the offer of a $5000 cash prize for its return. After decades of silence, the doll resurfaces—and with it, the hope that Janey, too, may finally come home.

[Read John Valeri's review of You'll Never Know, Dear...]

Jun 1 2017 3:00pm

Q&A with Jordan Harper, Author of She Rides Shotgun

Jordan Harper has been a music journalist and film critic. Born and educated in Missouri, he now lives in Los Angeles and continues to work as a screenwriter. Harper’s debut novel, She Rides Shotgun (available June 6, 2017), is published by Ecco and marks the culmination of a childhood dream. The book has been optioned for film by Parkes+MacDonald Productions; Harper is writing the script. He previously released a short story collection, Love and Other Wounds.

Recently, the author kindly made time to indulge curiosities about crafting his opus, violence in art, creative inspiration, and what comes next, among other topics.

[Read the full Q&A below!]

May 30 2017 2:00pm

Q&A with Sarah Lotz, Author of The White Road

Sarah Lotz is a novelist and screenwriter who carries a self-professed affection for the dark side. Her books include The Three and Day Four—both of which Stephen King heartily endorsed. Lotz’s newest, The White Road (available May 30, 2017), is published by Mulholland Books and has earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly. The author, who drew upon her knowledge of extreme sports to amplify that work, lives in Cape Town, South Africa.

Recently, Ms. Lotz generously made time to reflect on the varied elements that enhance her “genre-bending” stories.

[Read the full Q&A below!]

May 8 2017 3:00pm

Review: Silent Rain by Karin Salvalaggio

Silent Rain by Karin SalvalaggioSilent Rain by Karin Salvalaggio is the 4th book in the Macy Greeley Mystery series (available May 9, 2017).

London-based, American-bred Karin Salvalaggio returns with her fourth crime novel, Silent Rain, which reunites series protagonist Macy Greeley, a Montana police detective, and survivor Grace Adams (now going by the surname Larson) for the first time since the author’s 2014 debut, Bone Dust White.  

Silent Rain opens on Halloween night. Grace, dressed up like Stephen King’s Carrie—post prom horror show (though nobody recognizes her)—is commemorating the occasion with friends at the K-Bar’s annual themed costume party. While she finds herself battling a throng of overzealous Elvis lookalikes with wandering hands, it’s the reappearance of her stalker—just the most recent in an endless string of mostly harmless gawkers who have discovered her identity—that impels her to make a hasty getaway under cover of darkness. Emboldened by booze and bravado, Grace stumbles through the suburban streets of Bolton, eventually blacking out on somebody’s lawn. An hour later, her stupor is shattered by the sound of sirens piercing the quiet.

[Read John Valeri's review of Silent Rain...]

May 2 2017 11:00am

Review: Walking on My Grave by Carolyn Hart

Walking on My Grave by Carolyn Hart is the 26th and final Death on Demand Mystery, where bookseller Annie Darling learns murder and money go hand in hand.

New York Times-bestselling and Pulitzer Prize-nominated author Carolyn Hart returns with Walking on My Grave—the 26th and final entry in her beloved, critically acclaimed Death on Demand series.

Annie Darling, owner of Broward’s Rock’s Death on Demand mystery bookshop, has a challenge on her hands for the quiet months of winter: preparing three chapbooks written by her trio of crime-solving cohorts—novelist Emma Clyde, do-gooder Henny Brawley, and mother-in-law Laurel Darling Roethke—for printing. The welcome solitude of that project is broken when fellow islander Ves Roundtree pays Annie an unexpected visit and confides that she’s the victim of an attempted murder made to appear as if an accident. Despite a moment of hesitancy, fiercely loyal and justice-minded Annie pledges allegiance to her aggrieved friend.   

[Read John Valeri's review of Walking on My Grave...]

Apr 25 2017 2:00pm

Q&A with John Rector, Author of The Ridge

John Rector is a Wall Street Journal and internationally bestselling author. His novels include Ruthless, Out of the Black, Already Gone, The Cold Kiss, and The Grove. Mr. Rector’s award-winning short fiction has appeared in numerous magazines and is collected in The Walls Around Us; his novella, Lost Things, earned him the International Thriller Award. Mr. Rector’s latest, The Ridge (available April 25, 2017), is published by Thomas & Mercer, Amazon’s Mystery/Thriller/Suspense imprint. 

Recently, the author generously made time to answer questions about creative inspiration, genre classification, setting serving story, and the inevitable influence of the outside world on fiction. 

[Read the full Q&A below!]

Apr 20 2017 3:00pm

Review: Say No More by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Say No More by Hank Phillippi Ryan is the 5th book in the Jane Ryland series, nominated for an Agatha Award for Best Novel.

The dynamic Hank Phillippi Ryan is no stranger to accolades. Her crime novels have earned 5 Agatha Awards as well as the Anthony, Daphne du Maurier, Macavity, and Mary Higgins Clark honors; her most recent, 2016’s Say No More, is a nominee for this year’s prize given in grandmaster Clark’s name. Further, the author—who is also the on-air investigative reporter for Boston’s NBC affiliate—has won 33 Emmys and 13 Edward R. Murrow Awards for her groundbreaking exposes. Not surprisingly, professional pedigree has largely informed her fiction.

Say No More is Ryan’s 5th novel to feature 30-something reporter Jane Ryland, who has largely redeemed herself in the eyes of the public following the humiliation of being fired for refusing to give up a source. This story opens as Jane and her producer, Fiola, witness a hit-and-run car accident on an early Monday morning in Boston—a seemingly insignificant event that later proves to be anything but. Meanwhile, Jane’s (somewhat undercover) boyfriend, homicide detective Jake Brogan, is called to the scene of a suspicious drowning in an uppity, tight-lipped community known as the Reserve. The victim, Avery Morgan, was a Hollywood screenwriter guest teaching at the equally secretive Adams Bay College.

[Read John Valeri's review of Say No More...]

Apr 11 2017 11:00am

Q&A with Harry Hunsicker, Author of The Devil’s Country

Harry Hunsicker is a 4th-generation native of Dallas and former executive vice-president of the Mystery Writers of America. A Shamus and Thriller Award nominee, he has also had a short story (“West of Nowhere”) selected for inclusion in the anthology The Best American Mystery Stories 2011 after initial publication in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. Mr. Hunsicker has written two series, one featuring Dallas PI Lee Henry Oswald and the other disgraced ex-cop Jon Cantrell. The Devil’s Country (available April 11, 2017) is his 7th novel.

Recently, Mr. Hunsicker took time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions about his inspiration for creating a new character and canvas, the importance of setting, and the ingenuity of his publisher, Thomas & Mercer.

[Read the full Q&A below...]

Apr 5 2017 12:00pm

Review: Of Books and Bagpipes by Paige Shelton

Of Books and Bagpipes by Paige Shelton is the 2nd book in the Scottish Bookshop Mystery series.

Last year, nationally bestselling author Paige Shelton debuted a new mystery series set in Scotland featuring Kansas-born Delaney Nichols. A recent transplant to the area, Delaney found employment at The Cracked Spine—a modest-yet-magical bookstore specializing in rare manuscripts and housing an eclectic assortment of historical artifacts—and also discovered a surprising knack for solving whodunits. 

In Of Books and Bagpipes, Delaney embraces a new adventure of sorts when her boss, Edwin MacAlister, dispatches her to Castle Doune to retrieve an old comic book (Oor Wullie) from a man who pledges to be dressed as famed Scottish knight William Wallace. But when Delaney arrives, accompanied by her proudly protective landlord and frequent chauffeur, Elias, they stumble upon the reenactor’s dead body, cause unknown. Delaney quickly alerts the authorities but neglects to share with them the purpose of her visit, or the fact that she found Oor Wullie—which she instinctively secretes in her coat—hidden within a nook of the castle’s wall.

[Read John Valeri's review of Of Books and Bagpipes...]

Apr 1 2017 12:00pm

Q&A with Karen E. Olson, Author of Betrayed

Karen E. Olson is the author of Betrayed (available April 1, 2017)—the 3rd book in her critically acclaimed Black Hat Thriller series.

Recently, Ms. Olson generously agreed to answer some questions about creative inspiration and process.

[Read the full Q&A below!]

Mar 28 2017 2:00pm

Q&A with Laura Caldwell & Leslie S. Klinger, Co-Editors of Anatomy of Innocence: Testimonies of the Wrongfully Convicted

Laura Caldwell and Leslie S. Klinger are co-editors of Anatomy of Innocence: Testimonies of the Wrongfully Convicted (available March 28, 2017), which pairs genre luminaries such as Lee Child, Sara Paretsky, Laurie R. King, Jan Burke, and S. J. Rozan with exonerated inmates to illuminate the realities of wrongful conviction.

Recently, Ms. Caldwell and Mr. Klinger generously agreed to answer some questions about their collaborative process and the intent behind Anatomy of Innocence.

[Read the full Q&A below!]

Mar 27 2017 2:00pm

Review: Bone White by Wendy Corsi Staub

Bone White by Wendy Corsi Staub is the 3rd and final book in the Mundy's Landing Trilogy (available March 28, 2017).

“We shall never tell.” This cryptic phrase, discovered in a centuries-old letter, is the driving force that propels Emerson Mundy on a decisive search for truth in Bone White, the final book in New York Times bestselling author Wendy Corsi Staub’s Mundy’s Landing Trilogy. Consumed by grief over her father’s death and looking to escape the attention of an overzealous boyfriend, Emerson skips town to travel cross-country from California to Mundy’s Landing, New York. There, she hopes to reclaim her ancestral heritage—but soon finds that the family name is a burden to bear.

Mundy’s Landing—a seemingly idyllic Hudson River Valley town—has a dark past that continually haunts its present. Despite the recent resolution of the infamous Sleeping Beauty Murders (see 2016’s Mary Higgins Clark Award-nominated Blue Moon), there’s another skeleton in the village’s proverbial closet: a cannibalization scandal that sent founding colonists James and Elizabeth Mundy to the gallows, leaving their three children—and future generations—to protect the family’s carefully safeguarded secrets. But when aged town historian Aurora “Ora” Abrams proffers a long-hidden disembodied skull for forensic analysis—the results of which harken back to that fateful winter of 1666, when starvation plagued the settlement—she inadvertently sets in motion yet another series of sordid affairs.

[Read John Valeri's review of Bone White...]

Feb 24 2017 4:00pm

Review: Ripper: The Secret Life of Walter Sickert by Patricia Cornwell

Ripper: The Secret Life of Walter Sickert by Patricia Cornwell is a comprehensive and intriguing exposé of one of the world’s most chilling cases of serial murder—and the police force that failed to solve it (available February 28, 2017).

In 2001, acclaimed crime novelist Patricia Cornwell stepped away from fiction to investigate the facts and fallacies surrounding London’s infamous Jack the Ripper killings. The book that followed, Portrait of a Killer (2002), identified British painter Walter Sickert as the culprit—and earned Cornwell widespread derision among so-called Ripperologists. Fifteen years later, she returns with Ripper: The Secret Life of Walter Sickert—a revised and expanded edition of her earlier work, featuring eight new chapters, detailed maps, and hundreds of images that further illuminate her case.

Cornwell—internationally recognized for her novels featuring medical examiner Dr. Kay Scarpetta, who most recently appeared in Chaos (2016)—is credited with popularizing the forensic thriller, and she continues to research advanced scientific principles for use in her books. She applies these same techniques in pursuit of the Ripper; in addition to the countless hours required for investigation and travel, she also invested millions of dollars of her own money in her search for truth.

[Read John Valeri's review of Ripper: The Secret Life of Walter Sickert...]

Jan 24 2017 2:00pm

Review: Celebrity 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, John Valeri reviews #34, Celebrity in Death.

Lieutenant Eve Dallas isn’t much impressed by the thought of rubbing elbows with Hollywood’s elite at a fancy dinner for the cast and crew of The Icove Agenda—a film-in-progress based on one of her most celebrated cases. Nevertheless, she and her partner, the effervescent Det. Delia Peabody, find themselves making nice at director Mason Roundtree’s swanky New York pad; after all, public relations are of the utmost importance to the brass. But when an actresses is found dead in the pool, the A-list becomes the suspect list in J.D. Robb’s Celebrity in Death, the 34th book in this futuristic crime series.     

Though the plot is somewhat reminiscent of Wes Craven’s horror film Scream 3 (2000), it plays better on the page than it did on the big screen—and Robb’s characters are every bit as self-aware as celluloid ones. Maybe more so. The fact that the victim—twenty-seven-year-old K.T. Harris—was portraying Peabody adds a brilliantly emotional bent to the story (it’s easy for Dallas and Co. to visualize her when viewing the corpse). Circumstances are further complicated by the fact that Harris was universally disliked, meaning that the motives for her murder are plentiful. A second, related death proves that hers was not an isolated incident—and that Dallas and Peabody are up against a ticking clock.

[Read John Valeri's review of Celebrity in Death...]

Dec 30 2016 2:00pm

Review: Imitation 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, John Valeri reviews #17, Imitation in Death.

Criminal Element’s commitment to reviewing each of J.D. Robb’s forty-three Eve Dallas novels in anticipation of the forthcoming Echoes in Death (out February 7th) provided me with a rare experience: to read an established author for the very first time midway through a phenomenally popular and successful series. 

To say that Nora Roberts, and her much darker literary alter ego J.D. Robb, has been on my radar would be an understatement. That my introduction to her work would come via Imitation in Death—a seductive whodunit that focuses on a cunning copycat killer recreating some of history’s most notorious crimes—strikes me as appropriate, given my decades-long fascination with the macabre and an unabashed love of such genre books that meld fiction with fact.

[Read John Valeri's review of Imitation in Death...]

Nov 29 2016 2:00pm

Review: Glow of Death by Jane K. Cleland

Glow of Death by Jane K. Cleland is the 11th Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery (Available November 29, 2016).

It’s the Fourth of July in New Hampshire’s picturesque seacoast town of Rocky Point, but the patriotic celebration is outshadowed by real-life fireworks when murder trumps merriment in Jane K. Cleland’s 11th Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery, Glow of Death

What started as a promising business venture—the appraisal of a rare Tiffany lamp expected to fetch as much as $1.5 million at auction—ends in mystery when Josie is called to the scene of the crime and asked to identify the victim: Ava Towson, the lamp’s co-owner. But when Josie gets a look at the body, she realizes that she doesn’t recognize the face staring back at her. It soon becomes clear that persons unknown impersonated Ava and her wealthy business mogul husband, Edwin, in the hopes of perpetuating a fraud. Having been bamboozled, Josie—always an ambassador of justice—vows to discover the truth.

[Read John B. Valeri's review of Glow of Death...]

Nov 11 2016 1:00pm

Review: Chaos by Patricia Cornwell

Chaos by Patricia Cornwell is the 24th thriller in the #1 New York Times bestselling author's popular high-stakes series starring medical examiner Dr. Kay Scarpetta (Available November 15, 2016).

Fans of Patricia Cornwell know that it’s never good news when Dr. Kay Scarpetta’s cell phone rings after hours. Even worse when her husband’s, FBI profiler Benton Wesley, chirps simultaneously.

So when both are interrupted at an intimate dinner at Harvard’s exclusive Faculty Club in the opening pages of Chaos, readers are right to suspect that some version of hell has broken loose. Indeed, these calls bring chilling news on an otherwise unusually humid fall evening: the body of a bicyclist has been found dead alongside the Charles River.

[Read John B. Valeri's review of Chaos...]