<i>Secrecy World</i>: Excerpt Secrecy World: Excerpt Jake Bernstein An inside look at the world revealed by the Panama Papers. <i>Hunter Killer</i>: Excerpt Hunter Killer: Excerpt David Poyer World War with China explodes in this new military thriller. Review: <i>The Best American Mystery Stories 2017</i> Review: The Best American Mystery Stories 2017 David Cranmer Read David Cranmer's review! <i>Blood Business</i>: Excerpt Blood Business: Excerpt Joshua Viola and Mario Acevedo An anthology of noir tales and crime stories from this world and beyond.
From The Blog
November 23, 2017
The X-Files Fanfic: The Stories Are Out There
Joanna Schaffhausen
November 23, 2017
Thanksgiving—America’s Deadliest Holiday
Philip Jett
November 17, 2017
Man Flees Police, Hides Under the Covers, Claims He's "Just Sleeping"
Adam Wagner
November 16, 2017
Back to J. D. Robb's Future
Janet Webb
November 16, 2017
Writing the Private Detective vs. the Police Detective
T.R. Ragan
Showing posts by: Kristin Centorcelli click to see Kristin Centorcelli's profile
Mon
Nov 20 2017 2:00pm

Review: After the End of the World by Jonathan L. Howard

After the End of the World by Jonathan L. Howard is the second book in the Carter & Lovecraft series, which brings the H. P. Lovecraft mythos into the 21st century.

A few months after the explosive events of Carter & Lovecraft, our heroes—former cop Dan Carter and H. P. Lovecraft descendent Emily Lovecraft—find themselves in the Unfolded World. It’s like ours. Kinda. Except, the Cold War never happened because the Germans obliterated Moscow with an atomic bomb in 1941.

The bookstore that Lovecraft and Carter co-own—called Carter & Lovecraft, of course—is thriving, especially with Miskatonic University right around the corner. But Carter and Lovecraft were understandably shell-shocked in the beginning.

“How can everyone be so cool with the Nazis?” Carter had asked. “What about the Holocaust? They can’t have been given a free pass for that, can they?”

For her answer, Lovecraft passed him an atlas and told him to look up Israel in the index. He did, and found it listed, which was a relief. But then he went to the page indicated, and found himself looking at a map of the southern half of the continent of Africa. In the corner was an inset of Madagascar; the north of the island down to the nineteenth parallel was labeled “Israel.”

[Read Kristin Centorcelli's review of After the End of the World...]

Mon
Nov 13 2017 2:00pm

Review: Turn on the Heat by Erle Stanley Gardner

Turn on the Heat by Erle Stanley Gardner is considered one of the best Cool and Lam novels in the acclaimed series, now made available from Hard Case Crime.

Love old-school suspense yarns? Yes? Then you’ll love Erle Stanley Gardner’s (writing as A. A. Fair) California-set Turn on the Heat. This was originally supposed to be the second book in the Bertha Cool and Donald Lam series, but the publisher passed on the first, The Knife Slipped, which Hard Case Crime published last year. Gardner is the creator of Perry Mason, and he brings a talent for quick-fire dialogue and no-nonsense characters to this fun read.

Bertha Cool, head of the Cool Detective Agency—“profane, massive, belligerent, and bulldog”—is the amply built counterpart to her diminutive investigator Donald Lam. But what he lacks in stature, he more than makes up for in talent—when he’s not getting batted about by big toughs, that is. Bertha’s got a new job for Lam, and she wastes no time talking him up to her new client, Mr. Smith.

[Read Kristin Centorcelli's review of Turn on the Heat...]

Wed
Nov 8 2017 1:00pm

Review: Trespass by Anthony Quinn

Trespass by Anthony Quinn is the fourth book in the Inspector Celsius Daly series, catapulting Daly into the search for a missing boy that leads to an unsolved mystery from the era of The Troubles.

Inspector Celsius Daly’s neighbor is worried about him. He’s right off an explosive investigation that stretched all the way back to the '70s and encompassed his mother’s death. It’s taken a toll. He spends a lot of time walking the grounds of his remote farm, alone.

His hands were clenched by his sides, his tendons contracting, his eyes squinting as leaves and broken twigs blew around him. He seemed to be listening intently to the trees, which shifted in the wind with a rising chorus of injured, squeaking noises. What had so fixated his attention that he seemed oblivious to the weather and human company? She watched as his fists tightened and untightened, and his eyes swiveled back and forth, as if searching for some stimulus to release the tension in his body. For a few moments, she shared his lonely refuge, this space of cold air between churning trees. Part of her wanted to reach out and console him, even though it violated the rules of respect for a neighbor’s grief. It seemed to her that the man beside her wasn’t a detective, but a troubled only child who had yet to lead the life that had been promised him.

[Read Kristin Centorcelli's review of Trespass...]

Fri
Nov 3 2017 2:00pm

Review: Joe Ledger: Unstoppable, Edited by Jonathan Maberry & Bryan Thomas Schmidt

Joe Ledger: Unstoppable, edited by Jonathan Maberry and Bryan Thomas Schmidt, is an original collection of stories in the Joe Ledger universe.

I’m an unabashed fangirl when it comes to Jonathan Maberry, and Joe Ledger is one of my absolute favorite characters. The Joe Ledger books (Patient Zero, The Dragon Factory, The King of Plagues, etc.) take everything that’s good about spec-fic and thrillers, throw ‘em in a blender, and spit out a concoction that is like being hit by a bolt of lightning. Joe is part of the Department of Military Sciences (DMS), a shadow agency which tackles big threats—the weirder, the better. It’s heady, exciting stuff, so when I found out there was going to be an anthology of everything Joe, with contributions by some of the best names in the biz (with a story by Maberry himself, to boot), I was there. There are 22 stories in this anthology, so I’m going to touch on a few of my favorites.

“Strange Harvest” by Jon McGoran pairs his Philly detective Doyle Carrick (another fave of mine) with Joe when two of their friends go missing. Their search leads them to a company called Xenexgen that’s headed up by a very strange guy.

[Read Kristin Centorcelli's review of Joe Ledger: Unstoppable...]

Wed
Nov 1 2017 12:00pm

Review: The Extraditionist by Todd Merer

The Extraditionist by Todd Merer is the first book in the Benn Bluestone Thriller series. 

Drug lawyer Benn Bluestone is kind of a jerk. He likes the ladies a little too much, he loves money, and the criminals he defends are the worst of the worst: powerful cartel members that don’t think twice about killing anyone that gets in their way. Benn justifies this a bit by explaining that the people he defends help put the bigger cartel fish away, which while sometimes true, still isn’t much of a defense. 

He explains thusly:

We settled on a day, and I clicked off. I’d juggle and manage. You learn to in a business that’s totally unpredictable—months without a peep of new work, then two cases in two minutes. The work itself, however, was totally predictable: same old, same old, researching and developing deep-throat information Uncle Sam deemed significant—drugs by the ton and seizures in the multimillion of dollars—then horse trading it for minimal jail time my clients could do standing on their heads.

Being the keeper of such secrets entailed great responsibility—and, if one were careless, a fair amount of risk. I reduced that hazard by maintaining constant vigilance and trusting no one.

[Read Kristin Centorcelli's review of The Extraditionist...]

Tue
Oct 24 2017 12:00pm

Review: Her Last Day by T.R. Ragan

Her Last Day by T.R. Ragan is the first book in a new series about PI Jessie Cole (available October 24, 2017).

PI Jessie Cole is having a bad day. She’s following a guy that’s been accused of stalking, but he turns on her and starts shooting! Jessie shoots back, but he has blanks in his gun, and she’s got real bullets in hers. He’s taken to the hospital in critical condition, and she’s taken into custody. 

She glanced at the clock. “I need to go, Detective. I was supposed to pick up my niece ten minutes ago.”

“Oh,” he said, angling his head just so. “You have to go? Well, that’s too bad.” He jabbed a finger in the air. “You’re a piece of work. You shot someone. And not for the first time. You’re not going anywhere.”

A shiver of anxiety crawled up her spine. “I did nothing wrong,” she said, stiffening. “I understand the laws regarding the use of deadly force. I was defending myself and others against a forcible and atrocious crime.”

“And yet after everything you went through a few years ago, you shot the man anyhow.”

[Read Kristin Centorcelli's review of Her Last Day...]

Mon
Oct 16 2017 4:00pm

Review: The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine

The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine is a mesmerizing debut about a coolly manipulative woman and a wealthy “golden couple” from a stunning new voice in psychological suspense (available October 17, 2017).

Daphne Parrish is everything Amber Patterson isn’t: beautiful and rich with a perfect home and a perfect husband. Amber will do anything to get what Daphne has—to be Daphne—even if she must lie and scheme to do it. After all, it’s what she does best.

Amber weasels her way into Daphne’s life via the death of Daphne’s sister, Julie, as a teen from cystic fibrosis. Amber claims to have a sister who suffered and died of the same disease. Of course, she doesn’t, but it’s the perfect way to get into Daphne’s good graces.

Daphne begins to see a kindred spirit in Amber, someone that understands her loss, someone she can really talk to. Of course, all Amber sees is a meal ticket. She thinks Jackson—with his good looks and endless wealth—should be hers, but it won’t be easy. Daphne eventually invites Amber to help out with her charity, Julie’s Smile, which benefits those with CF. After humiliating one of the other ladies and sending her running, Amber eventually becomes co-chair.

[Read Kristin Centorcelli's review of The Last Mrs. Parrish...]

Fri
Oct 13 2017 12:00pm

Review: The Templar Brotherhood by James Becker

The Templar Brotherhood by James Becker is the third book in the Lost Treasure of the Templars series—a breakneck thriller that whisks readers into the shadowy secret chambers of the Knights Templar.

Check out James Becker's guest post about the Knights of Templar's influence through history and their presence today!

In the third book of the Lost Treasure of the Templars series, Robin Jessup and David Mallory are fresh off an adventure that nearly cost them their lives in a series of Swiss caves. But it wasn’t for naught. They came back with a set of archives that could lead to the lost treasure of the Templars. 

They had managed to locate the Archive among several chests of documents hidden away for over half a millennium in a complex cave system they’d found at the end of a valley in Switzerland, caves that extended in a network below the nearby hills. In some ways that had been the easy bit, but they had also managed to convince both the Swiss authorities and a group of armed Italian thugs that the Archive had been destroyed. These men were enforcers employed by a militant arm of the Ordo Praedicatorum, the Dominican order whose members had emerged to become the pope’s personal torturers and assassins in the medieval period.

[Read Kristin Centorcelli's review of The Templar Brotherhood...]

Wed
Oct 4 2017 10:00am

Review: The Naturalist by Andrew Mayne

The Naturalist by Andrew Mayne is the first book in The Naturalist series.

Andrew Mayne is best known as a magician, but his series featuring FBI Agent Jessica Blackwood—who comes from a family of magicians and illusionists—is one of the most inventive I’ve ever read. In The Naturalist, we’re introduced to a new protagonist that’s no less unusual or compelling. Dr. Theo Cray is a scientist, one that hesitates to fit himself into one particular mold. When he’s detained by Homicide Detective Glenn while doing field research, he’s understandably concerned—and concern quickly turns to alarm when he’s shown a series of gruesome crime scene photographs. 

There are two dozen photographs of bodies, bloody handprints, and random items. The photos are at least three different people; an elderly woman who looks like she was beaten to death, a man with cuts and stab wounds, and a bloodied young woman whose face isn’t visible in any of the images.

There are also photographs of bloodstained clothes, cell phones, money, and tree trunks, along with some other, pristine items.

[Read Kristin Centorcelli's review of The Naturalist...]

Mon
Oct 2 2017 11:00am

Review: The Good Thief’s Guide to Murder by Chris Ewan

The Good Thief's Guide to Murder by Chris Ewan is a short story in the Good Thief's Guide series featuring master thief Charlie Howard. Read Kristin Centorcelli's review and learn how you can read the entire story for free! 

Have you ever read any of the Good Thief’s Guides by Chris Ewan? If not, this story is a perfect jumping-on point. You don’t need any background, and it gives you a good idea of who “gentleman thief” Charlie Howard is. In The Good Thief’s Guide to Murder, we find our favorite thief in Antibes, but he’s not there for vacation. His idol, American novelist William Brandt, will be making an appearance in Cannes, and of course, Charlie is always excited to catch a glimpse of him. But this time, Charlie is more interested in a certain set of jewels in Brandt’s safe. 

Did I also mention that Charlie writes mysteries when he’s not thieving? Well, he does, and the thought of discovering unpublished manuscripts in Brandt’s villa sends a chill up his spine.

[Read Kristin Centorcelli's review of The Good Thief's Guide to Murder...]

Mon
Sep 25 2017 2:00pm

Review: Trace by Archer Mayor

Trace by Archer MayorTrace by Archer Mayor is the 28th book in the Joe Gunther series (available September 26, 2017).

I confess that this is my first Joe Gunther novel, and the series is 28 books in, so there’s a lot of rich history that I’ve missed in the series. That said, Archer Mayor makes it shockingly easy to get comfortable in Joe’s world without a ton of exposition loading down the narrative. At 28 books in, that’s no easy feat. You know these characters have a ton of history, but it’s like settling in with family—rife with conflict but infused with an unmistakable undercurrent of warmth.

Joe is the head of the Vermont Bureau of Investigation—they’re specialists called in by other departments when they need help. “They were to assist and fade away, leaving the limelight to others.” He’s got a crack team reporting to him too. He’ll need them to be on the ball because his mother is ill and he must accompany her to a care facility until she gets better. It could be weeks, or it could be months. Samantha Martens is in charge while he’s gone, and she’s a little unsure of herself—especially since her fellow cop and difficult significant other, Willy Kunkle, is surely going to chafe having to answer to her.

[Read Kristin Centorcelli's review of Trace...]

Wed
Sep 20 2017 12:00pm

Review: The Cuban Affair by Nelson DeMille

The Cuban Affair by Nelson DeMille is a blistering new novel featuring an exciting new character—U.S. Army combat veteran Daniel “Mac” MacCormick, now a charter boat captain, who is about to set sail on his most dangerous cruise.

All 35-year-old Army vet Daniel “Mac” MacCormick wants to do is take out fishing groups on his charter boat, The Maine, make a little money, and enjoy the Key West sunsets. When he’s approached with a job by a lawyer named Carlos Macia, known for being heavily involved with anti-Castro groups, he’s admittedly a little suspicious.

“I’m interested in chartering your boat for a cruise to Cuba.”

I didn’t respond.

“There is a fishing tournament, sailing from here to Havana in a few weeks.”

“Does the Cuban Navy know about this?”

He smiled. “This is an authorized event, of course—the Pescando Por la Paz.” He reminded me, “We are normalizing relations. The Cuban Thaw.”

[Read Kristin Centorcelli's review of The Cuban Affair...]

Tue
Sep 19 2017 12:00pm

Review: The Scarred Woman by Jussi Adler-Olsen

The Scarred Woman by Jussi Adler-Olsen is the seventh book in the Department Q series.

Carl Mørck, the crotchety-but-very-skilled homicide detective whose Copenhagen-based Department Q is relegated to the basement, is back in the seventh installment of Adler-Olsen’s unusual series. I’ll admit, when I read the first book, The Keeper of Lost Causes, I wasn’t sure if Carl was for me. He ticks a lot of my boxes, though. I like my detectives cranky with a genuinely good heart buried underneath all that rough and tumble, but he’s missing some of the existential angst that I love so much. But … that’s ok. I fell in love with Carl and his Middle Eastern “assistant” Assad, who serves up a coffee concoction that will knock your socks off and is so much more than he seems. His background still isn’t clear seven books in, although he seems well-versed in the more darker arts of policing, much to Carl’s frequent chagrin. 

For those new to the series, Department Q is basically the department’s cold-case crew, formed as a way for Carl’s (former) boss to relegate him to the basement while showing the brass they could get things done. It was formed after a shooting that killed a member of Carl’s team and paralyzed another—he’s now living with Carl—and Carl was a right mess after that. But it’s been nine years, and a LOT has happened. 

[Read Kristin Centorcelli's review of The Scarred Woman...]

Mon
Sep 11 2017 11:00am

Review: The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld

The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld is a haunting, richly atmospheric, and deeply suspenseful novel about an investigator who must use her unique insights to find a missing little girl.

When I read Rene Denfeld's first novel, The Enchanted, I was blown away. She has a talent for portraying damaged people in a way that inspires empathy—even in people that are guilty of terrible things—and this is a theme that also runs through the exquisite The Child Finder. Naomi finds missing children, and she’s good at it. After all, she’s a lost child herself.

In Naomi’s earliest memory she had been running naked across a strawberry field at night towards a fire crackling at the edge of the woods. A group of migrants were in a clearing, a wet baby against a lap. A voice like a ghost came from the smoky campfire:

Dear God, look at that. Come here, honey.

Someone was wrapping her in a soft blanket, wiping her face with a warm, soothing cloth.

[Read Kristin Centorcelli's review of The Child Finder...]

Tue
Sep 5 2017 12:00pm

Review: House. Tree. Person. by Catriona McPherson

House. Tree. Person. by Catriona McPherson is an unnerving novel of domestic suspense (available September 8, 2017).

Many have fudged a bit on their resume to get a good job, but Ali McGovern takes it to a higher level when she applies for a position as a beautician and art therapist at Howell Hall, a psychiatric institution. She is a beautician. In fact, she once owned her own thriving salon. But after her husband Marco’s restaurant crashed and burned (metaphorically), taking Ali’s salon down with it, the couple and their sullen teen son, Angelo, have moved to a—shall we say—less ostentatious home in a decidedly downscale neighborhood compared to where they were. It’s an adjustment, and it was a rather public fall. It seems like the neighbors are just waiting for them to mess up, and Ali figures that probably won’t be too hard. In her eyes, she doesn’t have a whole lot to lose.

Working my way round the back of Auchencairn, old ladies frowning through their nets to see who it was, I decided to do something only poor people do.

[Read Kristin Centorcelli's review of House. Tree. Person....]

Tue
Aug 22 2017 1:00pm

Review: The Room of White Fire by T. Jefferson Parker

The Room of White Fire by T. Jefferson Parker follows a P.I. who must hunt down a soldier who is damaged by war, dangerous, and on the run.

Full disclosure: I’m a huge, huge fan of T. Jefferson Parker’s work. I remember reading Where Serpents Lie and thinking “This is what suspense can be?” The Blue Hour is also a favorite—one of the best cop stories (with a heartbreaking romance to boot) that I’ve ever read. Then, on to the distinct border noir of his Charlie Hood series, which combines complex themes of crime and family (or what makes a family) laced with a literary mysticism that seems as natural a part of the landscape as does the hoods and cops that make up the cast. The Room of White Fire is no exception to Parker’s history of excellence, and it introduces a new character to fall in love with. 

In it, we meet Roland Ford—ex-cop, ex-Marine, pilot, current PI, and widower of nearly three years. When he’s offered a job to find 28-year-old Clay Hickman, it seems straightforward at first. Clay has “escaped” from Arcadia, a mental health facility that looks more like a spa than a hospital, and Ford is told that he is erratic and possibly dangerous. His doctor, Paige Hulet, is desperate to get him back before he hurts himself or others. As for getting off the grounds, Clay talked a 19-year-old woman named Sequoia into helping him dig out under the perimeter fence. Ford tries to get an idea of Clay’s mindset:

[Read Kristin Centorcelli's review of The Room of White Fire...]

Mon
Aug 14 2017 10:00am

Review: Without Fear or Favor by Robert K. Tanenbaum

Without Fear or Favor by Robert K. Tanenbaum is the 29th Butch Karp-Marlene Ciampi thriller, where Butch Karp and his wife Marlene Ciampi must stop a radical organization of armed militants bent on the cold-blooded murder of uniformed on-duty police officers (available August 15, 2017).

This is the 29th book in Robert K. Tanenbaum’s series featuring New York County DA “Butch” Karp, but it’s my first, and he pretty much throws you into the thick of things right off the bat. Readers will recognize the timeliness of the plot right away: New York is in the grip of racial tensions between police and citizens, and the shooting of a black teen by an Asian officer has citizens on the verge of rioting.

The city is waiting to hear if Butch will bring charges, and he announces at a public press conference that they haven’t made a decision yet. It goes terribly wrong. A gunman who gained a foothold as an unpaid intern to a has-been journalist uses his easy in to make good on a terrible plan. 

[Read Kristin Centorcelli's review of Without Fear or Favor...]

Fri
Aug 11 2017 2:00pm

Review: Bibliomysteries, Edited by Otto Penzler

Bibliomysteries, edited by Otto Penzler, is a specially commissioned anthology featuring original stories by the mystery genre’s most distinguished authors: John Connolly, Ken Bruen, Loren D. Estleman, Nelson DeMille, Anne Perry, Jeffery Deaver, C. J. Box, Thomas H. Cook, Laura Lippman, and more!

I always know that when I’ve got a book with Otto Penzler’s name on it, I’m in for a treat, and Bibliomysteries is no exception. Besides, mysteries? With books at their center? I’m in!

This volume contains 15 stories by some of my favorite authors, including John Connolly and Nelson DeMille. It also included a few that I’ve never read before, which served as fantastic introductions to their work. These are meaty tales with a literary bent, and there’s something for everyone, bibliophiles and casual readers alike. I’ll highlight a few of my favorites here, but you’ll want to thoroughly explore the entire collection.

I admit I started in the back of the book with Connolly’s Edgar Award-winning “The Caxton Library & Book Depository.” Shame on me for not having read this one yet, although it was on my radar because of the Edgar win, an award it certainly deserves.

[Read Kristin Centorcelli's review of Bibliomysteries...]

Thu
Aug 10 2017 11:00am

Review: Ordeal by Jorn Lier Horst

Ordeal by Jorn Lier HorsTense and suspenseful, the only reason to stop racing through the pages of Jorn Lier Horst's Ordeal will be to pause for a quick glance over your shoulder.

When Frank Mandt’s granddaughter, Sofie Lund, inherits his house after his death, she’s hesitant to claim anything that belonged to him. But, she’s the only one supporting her one-year-old daughter, Maja, so she decides to take the house, hoping they can make a go of it. Mandt died after falling down the steps of his basement and was evidently there for three days or so before the body was found. Mandt was known as the Smuggler King and was thought to have turned from booze to drugs in recent years.

Meanwhile, Larvik, Norway-based Chief Inspector William Wisting is afraid the case of missing taxi driver Jens Hummel has grown cold. But when his taxi turns up in a barn on land owned by the late Frank Mandt with blood in the trunk and no signs of Jens, it looks like Wisting’s team might have a murder case on their hands.

[Read Kristin Centorcelli's review of Ordeal...]

Sat
Aug 5 2017 2:00pm

Review: Crime Scene by Jonathan and Jesse Kellerman

A former star athlete turned deputy coroner is drawn into a brutal, complicated murder in Crime Scene, a psychological thriller by father/son writing duo Jonathan and Jesse Kellerman.

When Deputy Coroner (and former basketball star) Clay Edison heads out to a Berkeley death scene, he figures it's a routine call. Seventy-five-year-old Walter Rennert has fallen down the stairs of his beautiful home. 

The foyer was a double-high oval, open at the long ends to a dining room and a den. Expansive but spare: the furniture consisted of a single high-backed chair and a console table with a tray, over which an oxidized mirror hung askew. At the back, a staircase curved up toward a spidery iron chandelier.

No rug to cushion the impact of flesh on tile.

No sign of disturbance, just the body, facedown.

I could imagine Tatiana’s shock.

I smelled coffee.

Walter Renner was dressed in a navy-blue bathrobe, fraying at the hem. His feet were bare. Medium height. High side of average, weight-wise. His left arm was curled beneath his torso. His right elbow crooked skyward, as though he’d tried to slow his descent. I’d seen plenty of other bodies similarly positioned, which made it hard not to jump to an immediate conclusion.

[Read Kristin Centorcelli's review of Crime Scene...]