More March 2015 edition book reviews by Suspense Magazine

THE WINTER FOUNDLINGS

By Kate Rhodes

This eerie psychological thriller has shades of “The Silence of the Lambs” as an institutionalized child killer has apparently inspired another killer and a new string of murders has begun; all girls, and all found wearing old fashioned white dresses, just like the ones foundlings wore years ago and which are on display at a local museum.

Alice has been assigned to study and interview Louis Kinsella in hopes of determining who the current killer is. But, at every stage she is stymied by bureaucracy, a manipulative true crime author, and her own demons.

The story flips back and forth between the perspectives of a young victim and Alice. Alice’s personality is hard to figure sometimes. She internalizes a lot, has trouble with deeper emotions, and at times left me feeling cold. On the other hand, she is capable of real sadness, fear, anger, and is also suffering from unrequited love.

Creepy asylums, serial killers, and odd characters abound in the cold winter backdrop. The killer is a mystery all the way to the bitter end and the atmosphere is thick with tension and an ever-increasing feeling of foreboding. I do enjoy these types of stories, the good old-fashioned bump in the dark thriller! 3.5 stars

Reviewed by Julie Whiteley ■

 

KNOT GUILTY

By Betty Hechtman

Believe it or not, there is a huge competition between the people who are into knitting and the folks who like to crochet. And in this new cozy by Betty Hechtman, the knitters versus the crocheters are preparing to attend the annual Southern California Knit Style Show, and Molly Pink, who is employed at Shedd & Royal Books as its community relation’s person, is in the middle of the knit/crochet controversy as to deciding which hobby is the most popular.

The event is under the direction of K.D. Kirby, a knitting magazine publisher and owner of a popular yarn store. K.D. is a knitting maven who is a real snob when it comes to having anything to do with those ‘low-down’ crocheting people. She runs her business with an iron fist even though she has many capable people working for her. Now, it seems that the ‘Tarzana Hookers’ (gotta love that name), who are a crocheting group, are bound and determined to introduce knitters to the crocheting arts, and that’s where the problems begin.

First of all, on the day of the show there are some mix-ups with the assigned placements. A knitter who has always been seated up front is now sent to the rear, with her place being taken by Shedd & Royal. There is also a little fuss between K.D.’s partner and her daughter who clash about publicity.

Now…the mystery ensues. Soon the high-falootin maven, K.D., is found dead in the hotel and Molly’s ex, Homicide Detective Barry Greenburg, is investigating. He has let the show’s organizers keep the event open to the public while he works. However, not only must the culprit be caught, but the final smackdown between the worlds of ‘crochet’ and ‘knit’ must be waged once and for all.

An excellent, fun story with interesting characters, the author also offers up recipes to the readers along with some sly crocheting hints.

Reviewed by Mary Lignor, Professional Librarian and Co-Owner of The Write Companion

 

MURDER, SHE WROTE: CLOSE-UP ON MURDER

By Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain

“Close-Up on Murder” is the latest book in the Murder, She Wrote series by authors Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain. The series is based off the very successful TV show that ran for twelve seasons and won numerous awards. Jessica Fletcher is a very successful author of mystery books, and she is put in situations where she must use her wit and investigative skills to solve a murder.

In “Close-Up on Murder,” one of Jessica’s older books is being adapted into a major motion picture, which is based on a murder that took place in Cabot Cove. When Hollywood invades the small town in Maine to start filming, Sheriff Metzger begins losing his patience with all the chaos. Then the leading actress is found shot, with a piece of film wrapped around her neck. In typical who-dun-it fashion, Jessica has several suspects, all with a motive to kill and all with the opportunity to commit the crime. However this time Jessica is being stalked by someone. Could this be the killer keeping tabs on her, or someone else with an entirely different agenda? Jessica is put in the crosshairs and better solve the crime soon or she could become a victim herself.

Fans of Murder, She Wrote will feel right at home with the favorites from the show being involved in the story. Dr. Seth Hazlitt, of course, uses his medical expertise to help Jessica. Eve Simpson, the local real-estate mogul and Lorraine, the beauty shop owner, have some very funny scenes. You will find yourself hearing the voices of the actors from the show as you are reading.

Reviewed by John Raab ■

 

NIGHT IS THE HUNTER

By Steven Gore

This is the third tale starring former SFPD detective Harlan Donnally—a man who’s no longer carrying a badge but still holds that belief of what’s right and what’s wrong, strength he will definitely need in order to see this one through.

Waiting on Death Row is Israel Dominguez, a man who has spent the last twenty years waiting for his turn to die after being convicted of murdering a gang rival. The judge who presided over the trial and handed down his death sentence is Judge Ray McMullin, who just happens to be a friend of Harlan Donnally. Time is running out for Israel, and McMullin finds himself admitting to Harlan that after all these years he’s having serious doubts that Israel was guilty of the crime he’s about to die for.

It seems that the passing of time and the old “gang wars” that went on back then, have not uncovered any new data regarding the killing, nor cleared up any of what happened in the past. Judge McMullin is so torn over the sentence he issued that he can’t seem to let sleeping dogs lie, so he asks Harlan to go on a fishing expedition of sorts and see what he can find.

A side story of pure emotion comes along with this suspense, as both Donnally’s father, a Hollywood producer, as well as the judge, begin to show signs of dementia. And as the older men deal with that fate, Donnally finds himself sinking in his own emotional turmoil.

A tale that is many tales in one, there are times that the action will yank you into the story, but will also keep you there with heart-wrenching character emotion. A long ago crime must be solved; a dead man must die only if guilty, and Harlan must watch the ones he cares for fight a disease that he can’t stop. This is an incredible story.

Reviewed by Mary Lignor, Professional Librarian and Co-Owner of The Write Companion  ■

 

PROJECT 731

By Jeremy Robinson

I should know by now that if I pick up a Robinson book at night, I won’t be getting much sleep. Between turning the pages and thinking about the possible what ifs, sleep will be lost.

Robinson amps up the adrenaline. The Kaiju thriller is a sequel of the amalgam of “Island 731,” “Project Nemesis,” and “Project Maigo,” three of Robinson’s earlier books. In “Project 731,” we are reintroduced to the Department of Homeland Security’s Fusion Center—Paranormal (FC-P), the agency that did battle with the creature Nemesis—think Godzilla with a conscience and on steroids. We are also reintroduced to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and its black-ops team: Genetic Offense Directive (GOD). DARPA is the agency that ran and funded Island 731, and who was ultimately responsible for the creation of Nemesis.

FC-P gets word of a chimera, known as Tsuchi—which is sort of a giant tarantula with a protective shell, much like a turtle—which is ravaging the west coast of the U.S. What they don’t know when they go on the hunt for Tsuchi is that GOD is the agency responsible for its existence.

What begins as a story about man-made monsters that were created as weapons and the hunt to destroy them, ends up as a reflection of Man himself. We find in Nemesis many of Man’s faults and some of his greatest assets. We see a reflection of family, vengeance against those who would try to hurt our family, and finally we see that even in Man’s creations, the good tends to come from within whereas the evil tends to be induced by Man himself.

If you are a fan of traditional suspense-thrillers, step out of your comfort zone and read “Project 731.” You will be glad you did. If you are a reader of graphic comics and Kaiju-type thrillers (think Godzilla), “Project 731” is a must.

Robinson just keeps getting better with every new adventure and monster he creates!

Reviewed by J.M. LeDuc, author of “Sin,” published by Suspense Publishing, an imprint of Suspense Magazine

 

CANE AND ABE

By James Grippando

Author James Grippando has earned a new fan—me. When I care more about finding out what happens next than I do about getting a good night’s sleep, I know I’m in for a long night of suspense-filled reading. “Cane and Abe,” which held my attention from beginning to end, was my first Grippando novel, but it won’t be my last.

The author pulled me into the South Florida world of slavery, Big Sugar, a serial killer, and the senior trial counsel at the Office of the State Attorney for Miami-Dade County, Abe Beckham, who handles the capital murder cases. Abe’s late wife’s father is a painful reminder of Big Sugar’s shameful past and the slavery that ended in 1941.

Abe is assigned to a joint task force hunting a violent serial killer targeting beautiful white females who sleep with black men. He hacks them with a cane-cutting machete and leaves their mutilated bodies in the fields owned by Big Sugar. The case takes a surprising turn when a black female attorney for a sugar company is found murdered the same way as the white victims.

A past romantic fling with the murder victim plus a jealous wife complicate Abe’s life and cause him to be pulled from the task force. When Abe’s wife goes missing, FBI Agent Victoria Santos focuses her attention on Abe like a pit bull on the scent of raw meat. Abe worries that while law enforcement personnel are wasting time investigating him, the serial killer might make his wife the next victim. Circumstantial evidence against Abe builds as he rushes to catch the real killer before it’s too late.

Grippando weaves an intricate tapestry of truth mixed with lies, adultery, jealousy, betrayals, and murders. Just when I thought the story had come to an end and everything was resolved, the final two sentences left me reeling. “Cane and Abe” is a novel that must be read.

Reviewed by S.L. Menear, author of “Deadstick Dawn” published by Suspense Publishing, an imprint of Suspense Magazine

 

COLD BETRAYAL

By J.A. Jance

Get ready for another incredible Ali Reynolds book. This is a gem by a winning author who deals with two separate but alike subjects affecting the world in this day and age: the abuse of the elderly and domestic abuse.

To begin, Ali’s friend, Sister Anselm, a nun who carries a taser gun, is on her way to the hospital to be at the side of a pregnant young woman who has sustained severe injuries after being hit by a car on a deserted road in Arizona. She’d been on the run from a group called ‘The Family;’ a cult who does not appreciate their people trying to leave. Sister Anselm likens this so-called accident to a long ago case involving a Jane Doe that the nun still can’t get out of her mind.

Ali is trying to help this new Jane Doe, while also being called out to assist with a more personal situation. The grandmother of Ali’s new daughter-in-law is on the brink of being judged incompetent and sent to a home. Along with help from Ali’s husband who runs a technical team of law and government agencies, the two cases are simultaneously being checked into.

The compound of ‘The Family’ is knee-deep in child abuse, and the case of the older woman who someone no longer wants around is difficult to say the least, seeing as how Betsy, the grandmother in question, is in danger. She’s received threats in the mail and a break-in at her home; not to mention, someone has hacked into her bank account.

As Ali and Sister Anselm join forces to prove that the hit and run accident is connected to a former case from years back, while helping the grandmother with her dire problems, the two battle a plot with many branches, trying their best to help people—which is what they are certainly best at. Yet another terrific book by Jance that fans and readers will absolutely cheer about.

Reviewed by Mary Lignor, Professional Librarian and Co-Owner of The Write Companion

 

INSPECTOR OF THE DEAD

By David Morrell

Master thriller writer, David Morrell, is back with his latest book “Inspector of the Dead.” In this amazing sequel to “Murder as a Fine Art,” Morrell takes the reader back to 1850’s London where a killer has plans in place to assassinate Queen Victoria. Main character Thomas De Quincey finds himself stuck in the middle with his daughter, Emily, and two Scotland Yard companions, Ryan and Becker.

Morrell weaves a true web of lies, secrets, and cunning schemes that gives readers the sense that they are actually living and breathing the air of historical England, as they walk through the streets viewing the mystery that’s taking place. Morrell yet again shows that his character creation is second to none, and the pace will have readers losing sleep by telling themselves, “Just one more chapter.”

With over two dozen novels from Morrell, “Inspector of the Dead” and “Murder as a Fine Art” are two titles that could be considered his finest work.

Reviewed by John Raab ■

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