Category Archives: Book Reviews

What We’ve Been Reading Lately ~ #BookReviews

Time for another round of book reviews from some of our misterio press authors. Most writers don’t get to read nearly as much as they’d like to, because so much time is taken up with their writing. So when we discover a really good book, it’s an extra special treat!

book coverKirsten Weiss ~ The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling)

Supermodel Lulu Landry takes a swan dive off her balcony. Is it suicide or murder? Down-on-his-luck PI Cormoran Strike has been hired to find out.

The Cuckoo’s Calling, this first-in-the-series mystery novel by Robert Galbraith, aka JK Rowlings, is one of the best mysteries I’ve read in a long while. The characters are engaging and beautifully drawn – especially Cormoran and his new, temporary secretary, Robin, who has (quite realistic) fantasies of becoming a PI herself.

Cormoran’s lost part of one leg to Afghanistan and has just broken up with his larger-than-life girlfriend of over a decade. Plus, he’s got another albatross around his neck – the PI is the illegitimate son of a famous rock star. In the hands of a lesser writer, these could all have just been intriguing details, but Galbraith/Rowlings weaves them into a compelling picture of a three-dimensional tough guy.

The twists and turns in the mystery itself are worthy of Agatha Christie. Readers will need to draw a flowchart to figure this one out. I didn’t bother though; I was having too much fun enjoying the ride. Fortunately, the next two books in the series – The Silkworm and Career of Evil – are already available to fulfill my need for more of these can’t-put-down characters.

I did find the book depressing on one score. JK Rowlings initially pubished The Cuckoo’s Calling under the pseudonym “Robert Galbraith” to see if she coukd “make it” under another name.

She couldn’t.

It wasn’t until it was leaked that JK Rowlings was Robert Galbraith that sales for The Cuckoo’s Calling took off. And the fact that such a well written, fun, and engaging mystery languished says something about the state of today’s publishing industry.

On the other hand, as a mystery writer, I love, love, love to see such a wonderful book out in the world. So if you love a good, twisty mystery, you might want to check out The Cuckoo’s Calling.

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Shannon Esposito ~ Four Seasons of Reno Hart by Stephen Campbell

book coverIt’s been awhile since I’ve been excited about a new character in the mystery genre, but this book of short stories has done it. Reno Hart is one strong heroine! I love that she doesn’t need to use violence to crack cases, but instead uses her brains and creativity.

I do worry about how she’s dealing with her grief over losing her husband & if she’s shut off her emotions (See! I’m actually worried about this character! lol!)

Anyway, if you’re a fan of the mystery genre, you won’t be disappointed in these well-plotted, well-executed bite-sized stories that capture Florida in all her glory and corruption. Highly recommend & can’t wait for a full length Reno Hart novel! Five fingerprints!

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Kassandra Lamb ~ Wake-Robin Ridge and A Boy Named Rabbit by Marcia Meara

book coverI try to read indie as much as possible these days, to support my fellow authors. Sadly, some of these books aren’t very good, but now and again, I discover a real gem.

Such is the case with Marcia Meara’s Wake-Robin Ridge series. Book 1 is one of the most unusual novels I have read in a long time. It was a little hard to categorize. Is it a redemption story, or a mystery, or a romance? All of the above. There’s a healthy serving of each of these, plus some interesting and believable paranormal seasoning.

It probably fits best into the romantic suspense genre, because there is definitely a budding romance between Sarah Gray, who has relocated to North Carolina to try her hand at writing, and her handsome but haunted neighbor, MacKenzie Cole.

The book tells the stories of two women who both lived in the same cabin on Wake-Robin Ridge, 50 years apart–Ruthie in the 1960’s and Sarah in 2011. There are so many intriguing elements in this book. Just when you think you have it pegged, some new twist comes along.

The two women’s stories come crashing together in a mind-boggling way, and Mac and Sarah work together to solve the mysteries of Ruthie’s life and death, and to put to rest more than one ghost from the past.

book coverI purchased this book as part of a boxed set of two books. Book 2, A Boy Named Rabbit, also defies genre boundaries. It is one part mystery and one part family saga.

A young boy, who’s only human contact has been his grandparents, finds himself alone in the North Carolina hills after his grampa goes for supplies and doesn’t return and his sick grandmother dies. His gran’s last instructions to him are to go and find the Good People. Scared and lonely, ten-year-old Rabbit sets out to keep his promise to her, living off the land as his grampa taught him.

Mac and Sarah have settled into a comfortable routine on Wake-Robin Ridge as they await the birth of their child, but their well-ordered world is turned upside down when Rabbit stumbles into their lives. And their quest to find his kin resurrects a decade old mystery and attracts the attention of the one person his grandparents never wanted Rabbit to meet.

Both of these stories are great and well worth the investment of time and money. I’m knocking off a half fingerprint each because the story arc in Book 2 is a little off kilter in places, and the author sometimes is a bit heavy-handed with the descriptions of characters’ emotions–more so in Book 1, which is forgivable since this was the first book she wrote.

I am really looking forward to Book 3, Harbinger, which is already loaded on my Kindle.

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Vinnie Hansen ~ The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens

book coverI often discover new authors via writing and mystery conferences. When I attended Left Coast Crime in Portland last year, I met Allen Eskens, whose book The Life We Bury was nominated as a best first mystery novel. It became my favorite book of 2015, the book I recommended to everyone, the way William Kent Krueger’s Ordinary Grace had been the year before.

These two favorite books share Minnesota settings and young male protagonists with handicapped younger brothers. In both books, the need to shelter the younger brother provides motivation and pivotal tension. The two books are told in first person and center around a crime committed decades ago. However, the narrator of Ordinary Grace places us back in that time when he was young and death unfolded around him.

Most of the action in The Life We Bury unravels in modern times, with the main character unearthing the past. Joe Talbert, a college student, is given an assignment for an English class, and. . . .

I have two nits to pick with The Life We Bury. I don’t like the title, and I saw the last major plot twist coming from a mile away. The latter allowed me to feel like a smarty pants, so I’m still giving it 5 fingerprints. I’d give it a little plus if I could.

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How about you? What good mysteries have you read recently.

Posted by Kassandra Lamb on behalf of the whole gang.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

Mysteries We Love #BookReviews

by Kassandra Lamb (on behalf of the whole gang)

It’s been awhile since we’ve done a group post, and since I’m still traveling for the next couple of days, we decided to do a book review post. Here are some stories we’ve parti- cularly enjoyed over the last few months.

Vinnie’s review of Woman With a Blue Pencil:

As I read Woman with a Blue Pencil, I wondered how author Gordon McAlpine pitched it to his publisher. This complicated story involves a Japanese-American crime writer starting a new book. Then Pearl Harbor is bombed.

On the advice of his editor, whose letters are embodied in Woman with a Blue Pencil, the writer adopts the pen name William Thorne. He changes his Japanese-American protagonist to a Korean-American superhero, and the plot of the book he’s writing evolves into jingoistic detective fiction.

However, the author’s excised Japanese-American protagonist continues his life in an alternate story. So, you have the story of the author, the new book he’s writing, the manipulative letters from his editor, and the tragic fallout for his deleted main character. All the stories brilliantly intertwine, exploring the idea of erased identities.

This original book lives at my favorite intersection, where literary fiction meets crime fiction. Five big perfect fingerprints!

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Shannon’s Review of The Vanished Priestess: Book 2 of the Annie Szabo Mystery Series

I was pleasantly surprised by this book. Though it dealt with some serious topics–spousal abuse and the necessity of women’s shelters—the story never got bogged down by the heaviness of these issues. In fact, Meredith Blevins writes her characters with such wit and humor, I found myself smiling much of the time.

The main character, Annie Szabo, is a flawed but likeable character who gets caught up in trying to solve her neighbor’s murder while protecting her daughter from an abusive son-in-law. Margo, the murder victim, ran a circus which also doubled as a shelter for abused women. There are a lot of eccentric characters here, including Annie’s Gypsy fortune teller mother-in-law, who has moved in on Annie and brought her own version of a three-ring circus.

Overall this was a satisfying mystery. I’m giving it four fingerprints. I had to take one away for distracting errors and typos. (Apparently the errors come from the book being scanned from a hardback; the author has said they will be fixed.)

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Kirsten’s review of Some Buried Caesar:

I remember reading Rex Stout when I was young. But all I remembered about his hero, Nero Wolfe, were his orchids and obesity. What a delightful surprise when I found a Kindle version of Some Buried Caesar.

The writing is pithy, funny, and told from the point of view of Wolfe’s put-upon detective, Archie Goodwin. Wolfe can’t be bothered to actually walk around and look for clues, so Archie’s his man.

The novel starts with the aftermath of a car crash in-media-res style. Out in the countryside for an orchid show, the stranded Archie and Nero soon find themselves face to horns with a prize bull. And not just any price bull. Hickory Caesar Grindon is probably the most expensive bull in history.

To the horror of the local Guernsey association, his new, nouveau riche owner plans to barbeque Hickory as a promotional stunt for his string of fast-food restaurants. Enemies abound in this classic whodunit. The only foregone conclusion is who will win the orchid contest (Nero Wolfe, natch).

Originally published in 1938, you can forget about political correctness. The dames are conniving and hard talking, and Archie isn’t having any of it. But there’s something about the narrator’s whimsical attitude toward his adventures in crime-solving that make the outdated attitudes tolerable. For me at least. Five fingerprints!

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Kass’s review of Abandon by Blake Crouch

This book was selected as the February read in a book club I belong to. I was skeptical at first, not real sure what genre it was. Horror? Paranormal mystery? Historical fiction?

Well it’s definitely a mystery, and it has its gruesome and sometimes horrifying moments, but it’s not paranormal nor horror. It is a “hold onto your hat, don’t forget your heart medicine” roller coaster ride from hell.

It flips back and forth between the late 1800’s — when the town of Abandon is slowly sliding toward ghost town status — and the present time — when a group of explorers goes to the site to try to figure out why the entire town’s remaining population disappeared suddenly one snowy night in 1893, with absolutely no trace nor hint of what happened to them.

As the events of the few days leading up to the town’s disappearance unfold in the 1893 story, the reader is also discovering that some of the modern-day exploration party have hidden agendas. And the twists and turns just keep on coming.

I vacillated between 4 and 5 fingerprints for this book. On the one hand it was one of the best mysteries I’ve ever read. On the other, it was a bit more gory and gruesome than was really necessary, and that level of gruesome didn’t quite mesh, for me at least, with the historical fiction quality of the story. In other words, I found it distracting. And I do wish the book description made it clearer that the book is a mystery.

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So four and a half fingerprints!

 

 

 

Have you read any great mysteries lately?

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

Three Mystery Book Reviews

Kass’s review of The Ruth Valley Missing by Amber West

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This is a wonderful debut novel. The characters are well-developed and engaging and the story is well-paced. Amber West starts with a common premise–a young woman frustrated with both the big city and her self-centered boyfriend seeks a more peaceful life in a small town–but where the author takes the story is anything but commonplace.

Ruth Valley seems to be just the place for Jameson Quinn to start a new life, and she finds a delightful house to rent, with the hunky town sheriff as her landlord.

But there’s something off about this town, and after an injured young man mysteriously disappears, Jameson is determined to find out what is going on. As she digs beneath the surface, she discovers that nothing, and no one, is quite what they seem in Ruth Valley.

The twist at the end of this novel will blow your mind. I give The Ruth Valley Missing 4 out of 5 fingerprints.

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Catie’s Review of The Restorer (The Graveyard Queen) by Amanda Stevens

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I loved this book. Part murder mystery and part ghost story, it was full of my favorite things.

The heroine, Amelia, is a cemetery restorer who can see ghosts. She lives by a strict set of rules set by her father who also saw the spirit world. She ends up breaking some of these rules when she gets pulled into the murder investigation of a fresh corpse found in the cemetery she is restoring.

This book has it all — a sexy, tortured cop with a mysterious past, ghosts who want Amelia’s attention, secret societies, and, well, secrets.

The Restorer is the first in the Graveyard Queen series. The author did a good job of setting up ongoing storylines about Amelia’s heritage, her parents, and her love interest (the sexy tortured cop). According to the author’s website, the series is being developed for television.

I give The Restorer 5 out of 5 fingerprints

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JoAnn’s Review of How Far Is Heaven? (Louise Golden Mysteries) by Laurie Hanan

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This sometimes dark but more often light story of  mail-carrier Louise Golden’s crazy Christmas is a keeper. The characters are  believable and well-fleshed-out and the story has twists and turns that feel  more fact than fiction. I loved the pivotal scene where Louise is in mortal  danger. It reads so true-to-reality that it’s impossible to put the book down  until you see how things unfold.

Hawaii, like everywhere else, has its share of  bad guys and heartbreak and this book cleverly poses these facts of life against  a backdrop of aloha culture and spectacular natural beauty. If you’re looking  for a quick-paced story with great characters, thrills, and a satifying ending  then this book is for you. And, the Hawaiian setting is a definite bonus.

I give How Far is Heaven? 5 out of 5 fingerprints

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So, there you have it! Three new great mysteries. Happy Reading!

(We will be doing book reviews every few months. If you have a mystery/thriller you’d like to recommend to us for a review, you can e-mail Kassandra Lamb at lambkassandra3@gmail.com )

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week,  usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not harvest, lend, sell or otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses.)