“Beyond A Doubt” by Nancy Cole Silverman review and more.

BEYOND A DOUBT

Beyond A Doubt

By Nancy Cole Silverman

Main character—a reporter for an AM radio station located in Hollywood—Carol Childs, has been called to the scene of a young girl’s murder. It seems that certain attractive young women are being pulled into the glamour of Hollywood via the internet, and have been promised that they will become stars. When Carol takes a second look, she sees that the victim was dressed for nightclubbing, but had “fallen” a long time before crashing to the actual ground. Carol is bound to investigate but has been put on the backburner in this case and can’t get her regular sources to speak up.

The following day, Carol is called to another crime scene at Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.  Marilyn Monroe’s star has been stolen. A mob around the scene are extremely unhappy and a Marilyn impersonator shoves a business card into Carol’s hand that might help her solve the previous murder. Carol is between a rock and a hard place when her friend, Gabi—who works in television—disappears, and the life of Carol’s own daughter Cate is threatened.

This is a novel of many secrets; missing women, human trafficking and more, as the author gives us a terrific story building up to a climax that will please the reader. The old saying regarding ‘people are not always what they seem’ fits perfectly in this case.

To give any more clues will spoil the plot for the reader as each character is tied into something else that would bring a good mystery mind to unveil the ending before reaching it. Therefore, just know that the pages are full of ‘whys,’ but only one solution will apply. Readers will be waiting impatiently for the next installment.

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

 

BENEATH THE TOR

By Nina Milton

For many, the historical location of the Tor in Glastonbury (a dedicated monument located in the English county of Somerset), and the many legends behind it, are fascinating. This tale extends that fascination even more.

One midsummer’s night on the Glastonbury Tor a woman by the name of Alys Hollingberry all of a sudden up and dies. Shock certainly sets in regarding this event, and even more shock comes when Alys’s teacher—a shaman—says that the woman may have taken drugs during the ritual they were holding. Alys is not the type, to say the least, but the belief that drugs may have been involved turn this suspicious death a bit more suspicious.

Brice, Alys’s husband, comes to Sabbie, a young Shaman, for help. Brice has been receiving threatening emails about Alys, and Sabbie agrees to help him by turning to the spirits for direction. Unfortunately, no clear answers are given to Sabbie, only more mysteries that cannot be fully understood.

Sabbie goes one step further and tries asking her boyfriend, Detective Inspector Rey Buckley, for help, but he is involved in problems of his own. Sabbie is determined to get to the truth of what happened, so she continues on her quest. But there’s one thing she definitely does not know and that is the fact that an off-the-rocker killer is heading for a victim, and both of them are closer to Sabbie than she imagines.

This is a great mystery as there are some really interesting characters. Sabbie’s study and research of the mystical, as well as the construction of the Glastonbury Tor and the power it supposedly holds depending on what legend you read—from St. Michael to King Arthur to it being the actual home to King of the Fairies—holds the interest from beginning to end.

Milton offers readers a new type of mystery series with these, Shaman Mysteries, and the future promises to be bright where these tales are concerned.

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

 

GRAVE DISTURBANCE

By Martha Crites

Rain, wind, and water suffuse Martha Crites’ new novel, “Grave Disturbance,” a story where Seattle and its rural hinterlands provide soggy scenic background—and more than a touch of danger. Psych evaluator, Grace Vaccaro, finds herself mired in more than mud when both her neighbor and a paranoid homeless man are murdered.

Grace and her husband, Frank, live in the rural town of Duvall, near Cathedral Falls, a waterfall that is a point of contention between a local developer who owns the land, leaders of the Snoqualmie Tribe to whom the falls are sacred, and increasingly angry environmentalists.

Martin, the murdered neighbor, was editing a documentary about Cathedral Falls. Is there a clue hidden within his footage? What happened to the outtakes? Grace had recently evaluated the vagrant who was killed at the same location as Martin. Is it coincidence, or are the two murders connected?

The town is divided by plans to develop the falls. Lydia Taylor, a powerful member of the Duvall city council, is in favor. Also in favor is her husband, Will, a highly successful mining engineer. Recent city council meetings saw heated words between Lydia and Will, on one side, and Martin, leading the anti-development faction. Lydia and Will argued their opposing causes with passion—but was there passion of another sort as well?

The heart of any novel is its cast of characters. Ms. Crites has developed a rich and varied ensemble. Of particular note is the character of Bob—an aging slacker, surfer dude, who may have finally found his footing.

Another killing occurs, and Grace fears she may be the next target. Frank and Grace love living in their remote and secluded community, but remote does not guarantee quiet, and seclusion is not always safe.

Reviewed by Andrew MacRae, editor of “And All Our Yesterdays”   ■

 

EVERYTHING SHE FORGOT

By Lisa Ballantyne

Margaret Holloway is a deputy head teacher at Byron Academy in London. On her way home, driving in wintery weather on icy roads, she’s involved in an accident that takes out many cars on the freeway. Margaret has had a very bad day, to say the least, and an ending like this is not what she needs. But this doesn’t turn out to be an ordinary wreck. When she tries to get out of her car, the car catches fire and she suddenly believes that this accident is going to turn into her own tragic death.

Instead, a very mysterious man breaks her window and pulls her out of her car, putting his life at risk. After the man helps Margaret to safety the car does explode, and her knight in shining armor disappears. Margaret looks for him, finding him in a coma at a hospital where he was taken after the fire.

The story then shoots back almost thirty years, where a little girl named Molly is kidnapped on her way to school. When the whole country is looking for Molly, fearing the worst, the child is getting to know the man who kidnapped her: Big George McLaughlin. George is a very large man who was born into a very mean and nasty group of gangsters, but there is something about him that is very different that readers will have to figure out on their own.

Moving back and forth between 2013, when Margaret’s savior shows up at the accident, to the year 1985, when George abducted Molly, this absolutely die-hard, spell-binding story has readers locked, as they try to solve the mystery of a man who has far more secrets than you will possibly imagine. This is a 5-star read if there ever was one.

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

 

STONES IN THE ROAD

By E.B. Moore

In this Amish-themed novel, the second by E.B. Moore, we find ourselves in the year 1882, and twenty-one-year-old Joshua is revisiting his Amish homeland for the first time in the last ten years. He has gone to the graveyard to find his father’s headstone, and instead, he finds his own grave with the inscription: Beloved Boy, 1872. The date carved being the day he ran away from his father and the farm he grew up on. Needless to say, this was not the welcome home he imagined.

Joshua remembers the day that he fought with his alcoholic father causing a candle to fall over and the barn to burn down. When Joshua ran he left his mother, Miriam, and four sisters to assume he was dead. Joshua moved on to California, seeing the state as a Garden of Eden where the sun always shines. But Joshua comes upon some interesting times looking for a “substitute” mother figure, and spends time working on a pig farm, soon thinking that the cities he visited along the way were a definite “Dante’s Inferno.”

The novel goes back and forth between Joshua and his family in the past, and the future he is making for himself. As time whizzes by, his father ends up suffering a great deal from the fire, with severe burns; and Miriam’s life is taking care of him, although she never gives up the hope that her son has not passed away.

Much like the prodigal son returning (or, perhaps, Lazarus rising from the dead), Joshua and his mother have to draw on former strengths and learn to forgive. And when the day comes for Joshua to come face to face with his father, the reader will be craving that reunion.

This is a very good read for the history buff, drama lover, and for all those who wish to delve into Amish life.

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

 

RECIPES FOR LOVE AND MURDER

By Sally Andrew

 

Set in South Africa by debut author, Sally Andrew, this story is a fantastic read filled with fun, romance and recipes.

To begin, main character Tannie Maria, is a middle-aged widow who likes to cook. Tannie lives with her five chickens in the Klein Karoo and writes a column for the Klein Karoo Gazette regarding recipes. Her editor tells her that the head office is looking for an advice column and there will be no room for the new feature and her recipes. So, Tannie Maria is going to write the new column, and because she mostly knows only about cooking, she decides to combine the two into one and call it: Tannie Maria’s Love Advice and Recipes. And her column is a huge success.

Among the first letters sent to her is one from Martine, who has a very abusive husband that has recently killed the ducks that she received as a gift from a female friend. Tannie Maria sends advice and a recipe, but neither one prevents Martine’s death. Tannie Maria and Jessie Mostert, the investigative reporter for the Gazette, decide to investigate the crime much to the dismay of the lead detective Lt. Henk Kannemeyer. Henk is a widower who is beginning to take a good look at Tannie Maria, but he truly wishes that she would just stick to cooking and stay out of the realm of murder investigations.

Even though Tannie Maria, Jessie, and Anna Pretorius, a brokenhearted friend of Martine, all think that her husband killed her, the police arrest Anna instead; her fingerprints are found all over the murder weapon. Anna and Dirk, her husband, are each sure that the other is the culprit, but Tannie Maria and Jessie go on the hunt to find the real person who deserves to be behind bars.

This is a delightful read for anyone, and the recipes in the back of the book are reasons to start cooking immediately!

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

 

CRIMSON SHORE

By Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

It’s always like Christmas for lovers of suspense when the words “Preston & Child” once again appear on a book cover. It’s a truly great Christmas when the main character of that novel is Aloysius X.L. Pendergast. For those who have read these books voraciously, it’s not a surprise to learn that this latest tale is one that will keep you riveted until the very end.

Special Agent Pendergast gets a query asking him to come to a small town in Exmouth, Massachusetts. It’s a tiny village where the waves can be seen from every angle and fresh seafood is prepared and served in the restaurants at all times. (Although, Pendergast will prove that this is yet another thing he can do better than most.)

A collection of highly expensive wine has been stolen from a man, and Pendergast takes on the “easy” case, not only for the chance to earn a rare case of wine, but also to get away. He takes Constance Greene, his ward, with him as he travels. Almost immediately, he runs into a sheriff who’s not a nice man, and definitely does not love Pendergast’s attitude. As far as the crime is concerned, however, nothing for Pendergast could ever be simple. He finds this out yet again when he discovers a body has been bricked up in the wine cellar; it has been entombed for over 150 years…after it was tortured. Add to that a fresh victim that pops up in the salt marshes, a body that is covered with some seriously strange symbols, and the once “easy” crime turns horrifying.

From solving this murder, to a mystery that involves the 1692 Salem witches, to a particular creature that may just force Constance and Pendergast apart, the team of “Preston & Child” continue to make these books the absolute best there is in the suspense realm.

Reviewed by Amy Lignor, author of “The Charlatan’s Crown,” published by Suspense Publishing, an imprint of Suspense Magazine  ■

 

NINE LIVES

By Wendy Corsi Staub

“Nine Lives” is the first in a brand new series by Staub that focuses on a wonderful family and…murder.

Bella Jordan and her son, five-year-old Max, are on their way from the East Coast to make a new home in Chicago. They’ll stay with her mother-in-law until Bella can get her feet back under her and start over. Bella lost her dearly beloved husband, her job, her home…and even though she and her mother-in-law don’t get along well, she doesn’t have a choice.

Mother and son get as far as Western New York State where they look for a campground to set up for the night. It is there they see a very pregnant cat in the middle of the road. Bella takes the cat to a vet who reads a chip in its ear and finds that she comes from a little town called Lily Dale located only a few miles away. Bella, being the kind heart she is, suspends her travel plans and heads to the small town to find the owner.

But there is far more to this town that she finds…psychics, mediums, and the cat’s owner who runs a guest house. An owner who died the previous week. The lady next door, another medium, asks Bella if she could stay and run the guesthouse for a couple of days. Bella agrees, since they need a bed and the car is making funny noises. Max immediately finds a friend, and Bella soon figures out that the former owner’s death was most definitely murder.

This is a good cozy by a good writer telling of a town that is its own character, just as much as the people that reside there. There is also a personal beauty to the story, focusing on a family looking for a home and finding a lovely circle of neighbors who just happen to talk to dead people. This series should definitely continue for a long while to come.

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

 

PARCHMENT AND OLD LACE

By Laura Childs with Terrie Farley Moran

This book is the latest Scrapbooking Mystery by Laura Childs in which Carmela, the owner of Memory Mine Scrapbooking Store, and her significant other, Edgar Babcock, star.

The couple is strolling to his car one day when a scream fills the air, coming from the direction of the cemetery. With both taking off at a dead run toward the fearsome noise, soon Carmela can no longer see any signs of Babcock. Not only that, but as Carmela runs past tombstones and mausoleums, she soon finds herself trapped between a heavy cemetery gate and the wall of a crypt.

It’s discovered that the scream came from a woman who had been strangled with a piece of old lace. The victim was Isabelle Black, an Assistant District Attorney; a career like this makes authorities believe that her job plus revenge had something to do with her murder. However, there is more about the victim that they didn’t count on. Isabelle was not a favorite of her about to be mother-in-law, Vesper Beaudette, and the lace used to strangle her has its own very special involvement in the case.

Carmela has said that she will butt out but readers know she can’t. Isabelle’s sister, Ellie, is the tarot card reader at the local Juju Voodoo shop who just happens to work for Carmela’s friend, and she asks for her help in unraveling what happened to her sister. When Edgar asks her to identify the lace, this team is off to the races, and you will not know what is happening until the chase stops.

Readers are returning to New Orleans and the Scrapbooking Shop, a great setting for any murder mystery. Written by Laura Childs, bestselling author of many series, Childs had a partner in this one; Terrie Farley Moran. Set in a cool city and written by two masters of mystery, this is most definitely a must read.

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

 

BLOODLINE

By Warren Murphy

This book begins with Private Tommy Falcone of the U.S. Marines. The date is June 6, 1918, and Tommy and his company are moving away from the Germans who are on their tails. Unfortunately, they walk directly into the bad guys and Tommy is wounded—sent back through the lines to a medical unit.

Tommy remembers when he told his father that he was joining the Marines. He had not been drafted and his father couldn’t see why he would want to join the service, but Tommy enlisted and now he’s stuck with it. His brother, Mario, also enlisted, but Father said that since Mario is a priest, God will look out for him, but no one will look after Tommy. Turns out, Dad was right.

It is 1920, New York, and the Falcones are living in the City. Father, Tony, is a policeman, and a very good one at that. Tommy and Mario, who both served in WWI, are honest citizens. Tommy works as a cop and Mario as a priest, but there is a termite in their lives that comes in the form of their cousin, Nilo, who has a very iffy past in the “old country.” He has run to America after causing more than a few deaths in Italy.

When Nilo arrives in New York, he hooks up with a Mafia boss who comes from the same Italian town. The Don gives Nilo a job as a real estate broker, but after a time, Nilo is on to heavier work as a hitman. The newspapers call him “Kid Trouble,” and even though Tommy and Mario try to ignore what their cousin is up to, it’s difficult.

From a gang war to a family’s heartfelt struggle, this is a fantastic narrative of the Mafia in this era, and after each chapter, there is a timeline showing readers some very interesting bits of history. This author has produced a knockdown, drag-out, full-on great read!

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

 

Butter off dead

By Leslie Budewitz

Winter weather has taken over Jewel Bay, Montana, and businesses in this idyllic town, known far and wide as the Food Lovers’ Village, are definitely suffering. In an effort to woo tourists to the area, as well as cheer up the townies and hopefully add to the business coffers, local artist Christine Vandeberg comes up with the ingenious idea of a mid-winter film festival of classic foodie flicks.

Erin Murphy, current proprietor of the town’s specialty food market affectionately nicknamed The Merc, eagerly agrees to help Christine organize the event, as do members of the local high school film society, who’ll have a chance to showcase some of their work during the festival. But when Christine is found dead in what appears to be a random act of violence just a few days before the festival is to open, Erin suspects that someone may be trying to sabotage the event. And one of the films ordered for the festival is mysteriously replaced by a pornographic movie.

Losing a good friend is tragic for Erin, still grieving over the hit-and-run death of her father a few years before. Things get even worse when her brother, Nick—Christine’s current beau—jumps to the top of the suspect list, and lies to the police about where he was when the murder was committed. Erin is determined to clear her brother and restore harmony to her town. And perhaps also find some peace for herself.

“Butter Off Dead” is the third in the Food Lovers’ Village mystery series by Leslie Budewitz. It’s delightful, delicious, and non-fattening! A calorie–counter’s trifecta of yummy fun.

Reviewed by Susan Santangelo, author of “Funerals Can Be Murder,” published by Suspense Publishing, an imprint of Suspense Magazine  ■

 

SHANGHAI REDEMPTION

By Qiu Xiaolong

In this latest Inspector Chen novel, Chen Cao has finally been promoted. Things are looking up for Chen within the Shanghai Police Department, not to mention the Communist Party. But it seems that his promotion has no power and very few responsibilities. You see, Chen has moved from his position as Deputy Party Secretary to Chief Inspector in the Shanghai Legal Reform Committee, but is beginning to suspect that he’s being set up to fail. Chen is put in charge of a corruption case against a Party member and no one is giving him any support, making him feel like he will shortly suffer the loss of his good reputation.

In Chen’s investigating tactics, he wanted to make his enemies believe that he was doing nothing, which allowed him to do whatever he had to while they were not watching. Living under a one-party system is no laughing matter. Surveillance is everywhere, and Chen is a man who shines at being ethical, moral and loyal to his friends and family.

Chen’s first assignment in his new job is a doubtful pornography raid at the Heavenly World nightclub where, oddly, there is a book launch party for Chen’s translation of T.S. Eliot. Chen wonders whether he was the target of the raid all along. Old Hunter, a retired policeman, urges Chen to quit the force and look into work as a private investigator, but Chen will not stop until he figures out the reasons behind his new job. He looks into a few cases, including a government official who has casual affairs and whose wife fears for her future. When the official’s wife is killed in her home, his duty to the people is clear, and takes Chen on the most perilous case of his life.

This is an excellent story with a great deal of suspense. Chen is one character that grabs the heart because of his “good” beliefs in a truly “evil” world.

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

 

THE GOLDEN AGE OF MURDER

By Martin Edwards

This fantastic non-fiction book is the perfect gift that tells all mystery/thriller lovers how to go about looking at the old favorites and remembering how good they were. It tells the mysteries of the writers who actually invented the modern detective story, and every page has must-read information.

This is a history of the Detection Club; a wonderful network of crime writers operating during the ‘Golden Age’ (1930-1949.) The book begins in 1937, as author Ngaio Marsh attends a dinner being held to elect the new President of the Club. Some of the attendees will bring back memories, good memories; Dorothy L. Sayers, Anthony Berkeley and the brilliant Agatha Christie, to be precise.

As well as being a history of the Detection Club during this era for crime writing, the author, Martin Edwards, gives us biographies of those involved in the Club, their relationship with each other, and discussions of true crime stories which sometimes inspired the writer. Criticisms about Golden Age fiction were many, involving the fact that most were advertised as ‘cosy.’ Of course, most people at this time were not willing to read a lot about violence after WWI, wanting to be entertained instead. Also, many people at that time were being slammed by the Great Depression and coping with many problems, all they wanted from their stories was to lose themselves in beautiful locations that brought absolute escape to the reader.

If you enjoy that true detective fiction, and the era that first presented it to the public, you will love this. Martin Edwards talks about plots, specific novels, and true crime of the era, as well as how the authors used their writing to glorify their fellow authors. It was so nice to see how writers helped one another instead of having to constantly hear about the Internet being the sole selling device on the planet. Good writing was once based on good writing…not how many emails one received.

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

 

SIGNWAVE

By Andrew Vachss

 

“Signwave” takes the reader through the lives of Adelbert (Dell) Johnson, and his wife, Dolly. To begin, Dell met Dolly while she was a nurse serving with “Doctors without Borders” in Africa, where she helped save the life of a very badly wounded mercenary soldier who had never before known the love and caring that she owned. That mercenary, one among many who wound up at the only medical facility in the heart of the jungle, was the man Dolly would marry.

Dell was that man. He learned about being loyal in the French Foreign Legion while serving for five years. He also learned during his stint with the Legion about weaponry and ways to kill without being seen and with no regrets.

Now Dell and Dolly are retired and live on the Oregon coast where they own some land near a forest. Dell had invested most of the money he’d earned as a soldier so they can live comfortably without working regular day jobs. It seems that Dell is quite wealthy, but no one knows that, not even his wife. What they do know is that they are both loyal to each other, their few friends and to the land and animals. Dolly wants to establish a dog park on some vacant state-owned land; her idea conflicted with other plans in motion to use the land for logging.

Dolly discovers that a company is buying up the adjacent land and sends a tip to a blog that causes her to receive feedback in the form of a threat; and if Dolly is threatened, her husband will definitely take care of the problem.

Written entirely from Dell’s point of view, there are three books in total where readers will see exactly what Dell is made of—especially when calling on his military skills to care for his beloved wife. The entire series is a must read.

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

 

DEPRAVED HEART

By Patricia Cornwell

It is always a supreme pleasure when Dr. Kay Scarpetta is back! All readers who have been waiting for a new Scarpetta (and not patiently, mind you), get ready! Because this is the tale that picks up where “Flesh and Blood” left off. Readers were kind of left up in the air and wondering what happened…and this little treasure is above and beyond what they were expecting.

Dr. Scarpetta is on assignment, working on a possible accidental death in Cambridge, MA, when she gets an urgent message from her niece, Lucy. It is a video that was taken about twenty years ago that seems to relate to someone following and/or stalking someone else. The picture worries Scarpetta enough for her to leave her crime scene and make her way to Lucy’s home. She loves her niece like a daughter and is desperate to talk to her about the small clip, and others that are sent soon after.

This book turns into an interesting story full of paths that go in every direction, offering up bad guys and good that change right before the reader’s eyes. It is a spellbinding story as virtually all the cast of characters and tales in the novel become unforgettable, including; the very strange death of the daughter of a movie magnate, a wreck on the bottom of the sea in the Bermuda Triangle, a gruesome gift someone left in the back of a crime scene truck, and videos from the past that are threatening to send Lucy to prison.

Awesome. For a long time fan the plot of this book will fall into place, but for a new reader to appreciate the entirety of this book’s storyline and the outstanding writing, it might be useful to go back and read some of the older Scarpetta books to learn the backstories of the characters. Won’t be a problem to do so. They were all equally incredible.

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

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