“A Song of Shadows” by John Connolly review and more.

A SONG OF SHADOWS

By John Connolly

In the previous novel featuring Charlie Parker, “The Wolf in Winter,” he was almost killed. In fact, he was pronounced dead. But lucky for him, he’s not, and currently lives in Boreas, Maine—a small, quiet town that’s perfect for rehabilitation. As per usual, it won’t remain peaceful for long.

The body of a Florida man has washed up on shore not far from Charlie’s rented house. His neighbor, Ruth Winter, seems to be very frightened and, Charlie being Charlie, just can’t seem to keep his nose out of the case.

As Charlie settles into his new place, a town that was named for the Greek God of the north wind, he tries hard to help Ruth out, yet she is pushing him away just as fast. Charlie is aware that Ruth is very troubled as he starts to look into the life of the corpse. He soon finds a link between the man’s death, a tragic family in Maine, and another death in Florida. Ruth, however, is hiding a secret that turns out to be connected to events concerning a Nazi death camp that took place seven decades ago.

This Parker novel is just a little different from the previous ones, as Charlie doesn’t seem to be the end-all and be-all of the story. Taking place in the ‘scary-King world’ of Maine means that a few very grisly characters and many plot twists are available at whim. Parker fans will still hang on every word. Charlie is physically broken but there’s nothing wrong with his mental abilities keeping him the still dangerous investigator. Readers will love this and be looking forward to seeing the next path that Charlie takes.

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

 

A DISH BEST SERVED COLD

By Rosie Genova

Mystery writer Victoria Rienzi has come back to her Jersey shore roots to research and write a new book loosely based on her Italian ancestors, and learn the ins and outs of Casa Lido, her family’s restaurant business. Vic’s been toiling away doing unglamorous prep work in the restaurant all summer under the watchful eye, and iron fist, of her nonna—Italian for grandmother.

The Rienzi family is looking forward to celebrating a milestone the last week of August, the 70th anniversary of their restaurant. But the party may have an uninvited guest. A hurricane is headed up the coast, and the seaside town of Oceanside—and Casa Lido—are directly in the storm’s projected path. Nonna Rienzi is determined that, despite the weather forecast, the party will be held outside exactly as planned.

The party has another uninvited guest, Pietro Petrocelli, a local character whose love of booze, and lack of acquaintance with a toothbrush or a bar of soap, have earned him the nickname “Stinky Pete.” Pete knows some secrets about several Oceanside residents, including the Rienzi family. When the hurricane hits, and Pete’s body is found in the carousel house on the pier, it appears to be an accidental drowning. But Vic suspects that something more sinister is going on, and the hurricane was just a convenient excuse for someone to silence Pete for good.

“A Dish Best Served Cold” is the third in Rosie Genova’s Italian Kitchen Mysteries. It’s a perfect storm of great atmosphere, likeable characters, excellent plotting, and nifty transitions between New Jersey’s past and present. Highly recommended!

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

 

BLOODY TRUTH

By John J. Davis

The Granger family returns in the second of the Granger Spy series, and I, for one, am thrilled to see them again. John J. Davis has written a series that is not only fresh and riveting, but in many ways it is also a throwback to the golden era of mysteries—the type many of us cut our teeth on when we were young—think James Bond and Nancy Drew blended and stirred.

In “Bloody Truth,” Ron and Valerie Granger along with their teenage daughter, Leecy, are all working with the CIA. Ron, ex-CIA, and Val, ex-Mossad, both working freelance, are teamed up with Leecy, a new agency recruit to help clear an old frenemy of Ron’s, named Jens, who is being framed for stealing the world’s greatest computer hacking equipment and possibly starting a world-wide economic and political catastrophe. In order to do so, they must find the world’s greatest computer hacker and recover the stolen equipment.

What starts as a rather routine mission turns into something much greater. At stake . . . world domination!

What makes John J. Davis’s Granger Spy series so good is that it is a suspense thriller that defies genre. It is espionage, political, and a touch of YA just to name a few. Although “Bloody Truth” can be read as a stand-alone, I suggest reading “Blood Line,” the first book in the series. It will add to your reading pleasure.

In “Bloody Truth,” Davis has done what few authors have accomplished in many years; he has written a suspense thriller that can be read and enjoyed by the entire family, and for that, he is to be applauded. I highly recommend “Bloody Truth” and eagerly await the next Granger Spy novel.

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

 

COVER SHOT

By LynDee Walker

Fans always wait (impatiently) for another Headlines in High Heels Mystery. And for those that do, you will be talking about this one for a long time. A new book by LynDee Walker is always a treat for the mystery reader, and all will be happy to catch-up with Nichelle Clarke, crime reporter.

To begin, Nichelle hears on her scanner that a death has happened in a swanky building in town. Odd part is, she begins to get threatening messages, and when the death happens, it seems to combine the two and shoots everything into high gear. Nichelle is on her way to get some information from the detectives on the case, as she has good relationships with the law and is sure to be told whether this was a murder or a tragic death. But when her detective pal tells her that there is a gag order on the case, Nichelle goes out on her own to find the real story she craves.

Nichelle may be a reporter, but she is one in the news business that actually has ethics and doesn’t want to hurt anyone. And after a brief respite of slow news, she suddenly has her hands full with this case and one that involves a man with a rifle who has taken a hospital full of people hostage. She finds herself in a predicament, knowing that she has way too much to lose if she doesn’t throw herself into these cases and help find the reasons behind each.

“Cover Shot” is a very well written mystery, yet again, because the author gives the reader clues embedded in a spider web of twists and turns that will keep you reading until the end. Main character, Nichelle, is always very likable, and gosh knows she loves those high heels. Bring on more!

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

 

MOVE YOUR BLOOMING CORPSE

By D.E. Ireland

A sheer delight will be had by mystery fans as they jump into the second book in the Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins Mystery series, because not only is the plot a wonderful mystery, but the main characters are certainly well known and still as captivating today as they were in their own heyday.

Centered on horse-racing, these two “literary” stars are about to attend a race, the Royal Ascot, since Eliza’s father is part of a group that owns a champion horse. Lately, they have been going to races while also witnessing demonstrations by suffragettes, and when one of the group is found murdered, it turns out that the killing may be the work of a suffragette follower. And when another member of the group is killed, the people begin to fear that the entire membership is being targeted.

Eliza is being very single-minded and is determined not to become involved in another murder investigation, but Higgins really can’t wait to get started. Eliza’s mind soon changes when her father becomes a suspect, and immediately starts to aid Henry.

“Dramatic” and “brilliant” are two words that can always be used for this duo as they start to investigate the killings. From a victim saying goodbye by being trampled during a race, to another being found murdered in the posh stables, the duo gets involved quickly. Especially since there is a big race looming called the Eclipse Stakes. And there is definitely a slew of suspects from jealous wives to suffragettes to horse owners that will do anything to win.

A fast moving historical mystery that is so full of fun readers should expect to laugh, while learning all about horse-racing in the distant past, and waiting for the climax which contains many twists before it’s all over. Eliza and the Professor continue to be one of the best “teams” ever written.

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

 

RED ICON

By Paul Watkins (Writing as Sam Eastland)

“Red Icon” is not only a standout historical that will tell readers about a completely different Stalin; it’s also a thrilling story that doesn’t stop for one single second when it comes to action.

The Red Icon called, “The Shepherd,” is priceless, and was last seen in the custody of that mad monk who was once confidant to the Tsar and Tsarina Romanov. AKA: Rasputin.

Now, in the year 1944, two Russian soldiers on the front lines are taking cover in the basement of a church. There, they discover the Red Icon which sets off a challenge between Stalin’s Inspector Pekkala and a crowd of people referred to as the Skoptsy; these people were once hunted by the secret police, sent off to Siberia, and now wish to take revenge against Russia. As the Inspector finds out about the survivors of this group who live in the forests of Siberia, he soon gains the knowledge that they’ve come back to find “The Shepherd” because it is their birthright to own.

Following one of the deadliest battles of the war between Russia and Germany, a German scientist has made a horrible gas which the two countries are still not aware of. When they come up with a new weapon of mass destruction to make their move, Inspector Pekkala has to stop them. Of course, the killing power of this gas is beyond anything previously used. In other words, Pekkala has his hands full to save the Red Icon while also defusing the deadly gas.

Author Sam Eastland/Paul Watkins is definitely at the top of the list when it comes to authors who can write creatively and, for lack of a better term, perfectly, when it comes to war. “Red Icon” will keep readers wide awake so they can see the story play out until the very end. Watkins is known as a gifted storyteller and readers will find that this novel is no exception.

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

 

DEATH ON THE HIGH LONESOME

By Frank Hayes

This book was an absolute gem. So often cowboy heroes in the Old West all begin to sound the same, but this is a book that will have you glued to your chair. This is the second for writer, Frank Hayes, the first being “Death at the Black Bull,” and he is truly becoming one of the best.

Sheriff Virgil Dalton is the head lawman in the small town of Hayward. Dalton and his group of policemen have to cover a very large area of land in this state (one that remains unknown), and one of his Deputy’s, Jimmy Tillman, finds himself injured when a woman’s body falls over an interstate overpass and lands on the windshield of his police car. When the coroner’s office finally gets to examine her, they find that she was extremely dehydrated and had been hit by a truck just moments before she fell—the hit-and-run being the cause of death.

Soon after this happens, an elderly lady named Velma Thompson calls the office to report that her husband has disappeared. Dalton’s Office Manager, Rosita Brand, goes to the Thompson ranch and finds Velma dead on the porch and the husband still nowhere to be found. Sheriff Dalton decides to look for the missing husband, Charlie, and he heads to the High Lonesome (AKA: the rugged mountain chain behind the Thompson’s ranch), taking along the Thompson’s daughter, Marian, who wants desperately to help find her father.

That mystery, as well as the other Thompson children returning to the homestead to see if they can sell the house and put their father in a home, makes for great reading. This is an impressive book. The character’s act like honest to goodness real-life people dealing with their real-life problems, as a mystery is cast that readers will definitely love. Sheriff Virgil Dalton and his minions will hopefully come again very soon.

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

 

A BLOSSOM OF BRIGHT LIGHT

By Suzanne Chazin

Jimmy Vega is a detective with the Lake Holly, NY, police department. Jimmy’s girlfriend, Adele Figueroa, is a lawyer educated at Harvard, and is also the founder of La Casa, which is the town’s Latino community center, in which a Latino without papers can take refuge.

In this tale Adele gets a call from Zambo, the town alcoholic. Zambo says that he has seen the baby Jesus in the arms of the Virgin Mary near La Casa. Jimmy asks Adele not to bother checking it out as it is probably something Zambo saw in a drunken dream state. But, as is par for the course, the dream was real and a baby is found dead in the woods near La Casa. Jimmy is on the case and works with the Lake Holly department searching for the child’s mother, who is soon also found dead, wearing a hoodie that belongs to Vega’s own daughter, Joy.

In the meantime, Adele has been offered a job in Washington, D.C. with a congressional candidate. She has not yet told Jimmy about it and he is not at all happy at the prospect when he finds out. As Adele is trying a case of a widower who is about to be deported because of his Hispanic descent, the ugliness of politics comes into play when the candidate who wants to hire her in D.C. refuses to help on her case because it might lose votes for him.

Jimmy and Adele are both wrapped in a story that involves murder, a Latino community’s secrets and the spiteful world of politics. The answers he comes up with might put Adele in danger, but it will definitely stun the small town of Lake Holly.

As always where this writer is concerned, the plot is deep, interesting and holds the reader from beginning to end. The subjects addressed are certainly ones that the modern day world are dealing with, which makes the plot even more interesting.

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

 

SHIFTING TIME

By Kelly Bennett Seiler

A book that will bring people to a standstill as they ponder the question: “What if?”  Everyone is sure to have had a ‘what if’ in their lives. Like it or not, all of us at one time or another have said this small phrase, and then tried to bury it in the back of our minds.

The course of this tale is the story of Meade and Daniel. When you read their backstory, you see them grow up together and fall in love. Then, Daniel gets sick and suffers the heartbreaking end to his life. However, what you also see is the future. Fifteen years later when Meade Peterson, now a book editor, has made it on her own. Unfortunately, the one thing that is still missing from her world is love. She promised she would love Daniel forever, but forever was supposed to last a great deal longer.

In all of these fifteen years, Meade still can’t rid herself of the sorrow of his passing. She still thinks about all the things that she’ll never have now that Daniel is gone. She certainly has a life now, living in New York City…but the pain of wondering is larger than she can deny.

One day, she meets a new gentleman named, Tanner. Soon this new love brings her much joy, but the belief that she cannot give her heart to someone other than Daniel has her at a standstill. So, Meade goes back to her hometown of Austin, TX, for a chance to figure things out…instead, becoming the victim of a violent crime.

The author has certainly put together a suspenseful story, however, not a quickly plotted one. Each scene, each moment in time, is an emotional one…dealing with the “what if?” and attempting to be grateful for the now, seeing as how the future may never arrive. For people who like the dramatic element, this is certainly the book.

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

 

DEATH AT THE ABBEY

By Christine Trent

This delightful historical mystery captured me on the first page and never let go. I know that description is used a lot, but it’s very true for this book.

Violet Harper, a series character, is a female undertaker in London in 1869. She and her husband Sam are in North Nottinghamshire and have been for four weeks while he tries to get a coal mine started. He’s having trouble finding enough workers because the 5th Duke of Portland routinely employs hundreds of locals for building projects on his property, Welbeck Abbey. When the Duke’s valet, Pearson, shows up and requests that she come to the estate on a mission that he can’t seem to state coherently, she raises a few objections, but ends up going. It turns out that she is being asked to prepare a raven for burial!

Her ministrations are interrupted, though. Things continue to get weirder and weirder, as first one worker, then another are found dead. Violet knows they’ve been murdered, but can’t convince anyone else of this. Sam gets invited to demonstrate the new technique of dynamite blasting for the underground tunnels, ballroom, chapel, unused guestrooms, and such that the Duke is having constructed, so he’s on the scene eventually. No one ever uses the ballroom, the chapel, or the many beautifully decorated guestrooms. I got a kick out of the continuously roasting chickens, too.

The Duke was presented as such an oddball, I had to look him up. A detailed Author’s Note in the back also gives information on him and other actual historical people and places that are used in the story. From the light research I did, that Duke was even stranger than portrayed here!

Seemingly disconnected deaths and other happenings keep occurring, but the author masterfully tied everything together in the end to create a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Reviewed by Kaye George, Author of “Eine Kleine Murder”  ■

 

LICENSE TO QUILL

By Jacopo della Quercia

A terrific book if looking for a good mystery with a slice of history. The past is just a bit odd, but real history buffs will love it. This book will turn the “Gunpowder Plot” (a group of lapsed Catholics that plotted to kill King James I by blowing up the House of Lords) into a stage for old Will Shakespeare to become the 17th century James Bond.

Working on this idea, Shakespeare, who needs no introduction, and Christopher Marlowe, a poet and playwright, are pulled into a revolutionary plan with some conspiracies to sabotage the growth of Protestantism by the Roman Catholics. Marlowe becomes the spy of Sir Thomas Walsingham, a real spymaster. In the city of London, Guy Fawkes threatens Will into writing a special play: “Macbeth and His Witches.” A very loyal Shakespeare informs Walsingham, who steps in and sends him to Sir Francis Bacon who once served as Chancellor of England.

A lot of heroes come to the forefront in this book, starting with the wily and loyal Shakespeare; the courageous, Christopher Marlowe; and, Bianca, the Dark Lady who was born a peasant, Jewish-turned nun, and then spy and assassin who went on to be Will’s significant other.

Using tons of research, the author writes a wonderful book. In fact, “Macbeth” has never been written better, and Shakespeare has never been portrayed like this. The normally surly and somewhat crazy writer is transformed into “007” and his partner, known as “W,” transforms into a spy turned well-known secretary known as, Penny.

The author has written many comedy articles for the website “Cracked.com” and has had works featured in the New York Times bestseller: “You Might be a Zombie and Other Bad News.” In conclusion…this writer is a real blast!

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

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