Book Reviews as seen in Suspense Magazine (September Issue part 3)

THE LOW ROAD

By A.D. Scott

This is yet another engaging tale in this author’s mystery series featuring John McAllister, an experienced journalist working at a daily newspaper in Glasgow, Scotland.

Mr. McAllister has a tough choice to make in his life: choosing the type of life he wishes to lead. When he’s located in the Highlands of Scotland, he lives a calm, stable life. However, while there, the passionate, thrilling life of a journalist goes out the window. It’s hard to accept that he may have to settle in to one life and one locale, but then…that’s life.

Oddly enough for John, things seem to turn on a dime, his own problems taking a back seat immediately. John is faced with a missing person’s emergency; that of his good friend, Jimmy McPhee. Jimmy has quite a lot of secrets. In fact, he is supposedly in a horrific blood feud with a razor gang located in Glasgow. John is not exactly excited to be placed in the middle of this hunt, because Glasgow razor gangs are some of the most feared gangs in the world; extremely violent groups that exist in the south side of Glasgow and are so ‘named’ for their weapon of choice.

With the help of another reporter, John has success in finding Jimmy. Unfortunately, the gang finds them. Lucky to escape, John soon comes to understand that he is in danger of losing everything he has in his life: mom, fiancée Joanne, and basically everything he loves and has worked hard to achieve.

Taking the reader through the stunning scenery of the Highlands, down through the miserable slums of Glasgow, this story truly offers a uniqueness all its own. There are many references to the ‘city vs. the glen’; not to mention the ‘law vs. the laws of the streets,’ that hold the reader’s attention. This is a masterfully written book that makes the audience feel as if they are right by the side of McAllister, just waiting for the fireworks to erupt!

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

 

CRADLE TO GRAVE

By Eleanor Kuhns

The setting of this extremely good mystery is the bitter, vicious cold of New England, where private, dark characters of the eighteenth century reside.

Will Rees is a traveling weaver, and he and his new wife, Lydia, are leaving their farm in Maine and heading for Dover Springs, New York—a locale that is even colder and more isolated than Maine, if that’s at all possible. The Reeses’s journey is a determined one, as they set out to go help their close friend, Sister Hannah, who is usually referred to as ‘Mouse.’ Mouse is living in a Shaker community, and stands accused of kidnapping five children from their mother, Maggie Whitney—a crime she swears she did not commit.

As the couple are on their way to New York, they receive news that the accuser, Maggie, has been killed, and the prime suspect is Mouse. Traveling faster, when they arrive in Dover Springs, Will tries to get more information out of the folks in residence, yet the more he inquires, the more it seems that all the residents have secrets of their very own. Mouse defends herself, insisting that she did take the children for her own. She simply saw that they were being neglected by a drunk mom who did not care one iota about her own kids. But when Maggie is found dead in an open grave, doors open onto many secrets regarding the woman, and revelations about all her neighbors arise.

The depth and color the author gives to this small, freezing town in the middle of nowhere offers a chill to the bone. And the eighteenth century criminal acts are far more frightening in such a locale where everyone knows everyone’s business…and you never know if your neighbor happens to be carrying a grudge (or a weapon), when they knock on your door. Thought provoking and unforgettable, the author creates an interesting plot filled with historical details and characters that readers won’t soon forget. Great job!

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

 

THE DISTANCE

By Helen Giltrow

A fast-paced debut featuring an interesting duo: a London lady who has tried to put her past behind her, and a hit man who has other ideas where her wishes are concerned.

Karla is no longer Karla when it comes to her new life. Leaving behind the business of retrieving and trading secrets, Karla has now dropped that world and become Charlotte Alton. Although secrets are no longer the biz, choosing to be an elegant socialite in London is not exactly ‘hiding out in a cave.’

Charlotte no longer wants anyone to know that she once bought and sold information that was buried far too deep for anyone else to find. She also wants to forget about the new identities she once sold, allowing folks who wanted to disappear forever to be completely erased from existence. Trouble is, ‘Karla’ is hard to shed. She made enemies, to say the least, and when the London socialite reveals her face and name, a specific man, Simon Johanssen, comes (back) into her life.

Simon is a hit man for hire. And although Charlotte has been out of the sinister world, she finds herself being offered just one more job: a newly built experimental prison must be invaded, and someone needs to be taken out. A someone who, according to prison records, isn’t even there.

With this strange scenario, Charlotte has a right to believe she’s being set up. Especially since the person she has to break out of jail is the same person that the hit man is after.

A bit confusing, this book is still a top-pick because it is so well written. Figuring out who is who is a complete challenge for the reader; not to mention, uncovering who is actually on the up-and-up makes for a fun mystery to see who is in more danger: Karla or Simon. For a debut novel, this book is a fabulous read!

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

 

SHARK FIN SOUP

By Susan Klaus

“Shark Fin Soup,” the second book in the Christian Roberts series, is a superb thriller with more twists and turns than a rollercoaster ride. Page one begins with Christian docking his forty-seven-foot sloop in Nassau. The boat is a bloody mess, and his wife Allie’s murdered body is in the cabin. He claims he was scuba diving when the murder took place. Did Christian murder Allie, or was she killed by someone else?

Christian becomes a person of interest with the Bahamian Police and the FBI. With only circumstantial evidence, the authorities are unable to detain Christian. He leaves Nassau filled with grief and remorse, but is determined to finish the quest his wife began, stop the fin traders, and save sharks from extinction.

He soon discovers the shark-fin trade is fraught with violence and greed. A blond, blue-eyed Caucasian, Christian is unable to penetrate the Asian wall of secrecy surrounding the controversial delicacy known as shark fin soup. Can one desperate man find a way to defeat a worldwide network bent on the extinction of an entire species? Will Christian evade the FBI’s ever tightening net in time to honor his wife’s memory and redeem himself?

Susan Klaus captured my attention on the first page and held it throughout this masterful tale of murder, revenge, greed, honor, and redemption. Woven into her story is a real-world disaster of global proportions. It is my sincere hope that readers will heed the dire warning this story conveys and stand together to save our oceans.

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

 

CLOSE TO HOME

By Lisa Jackson

This acclaimed author is back to captivate her fans. And as always, the fans are gifted with a real page-turner.

Beginning at Blue Peacock Manor in October of 1924, a poor woman runs through the dilapidated house and ends up falling to her death, setting up for the fact that, yes, the Manor will certainly be haunted by a presence for a long time to come.

It is October of 2014, at Blue Peacock Manor, and Sarah McAdams and her two daughters have come home to Oregon to make a fresh start. Sarah is bound and determined to renovate the old Victorian mansion she grew up in, but her daughters, Jade and Gracie, are not so inclined. All they see is a run-down house they have no desire to live in.

As they pull into the drive, Sarah’s memories begin their assault. Images come forth with regard to her mother who was never a joy to live with; not to mention, Sarah’s half-sister who disappeared, and Sarah’s own frightening experience when she found herself on the widow’s walk alone and completely delirious. When Sarah was younger, she’d always thought the Manor was haunted, and it doesn’t take long for her own, Gracie, to witness a lady in white running up the stairs.

Sarah is trying to settle the haunted figures and begin reconstruction immediately. But there is also a problem in the small town. Teenage girls are vanishing, and Sarah is scared for her daughters’ safety. She knows that somewhere in the past, perhaps locked up in her childhood memories of the Manor, is a very real and terrifying danger only she can stop. And if she succeeds, no girl will ever have to worry again.

A ‘class-A’ writer who can combine everything from romance to suspense to a real creep fest as easily as Martha Stewart can create a killer cupcake, Jackson has made sure to invent a story where everyone will go home to the ‘place’ they love and…think twice about going inside. Excellent read!

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

 

HAUNTED

By Randy Wayne White

Hannah Smith, the inventive fishing guide and part-time private investigator living in Florida is back, and this third tale is a whole lot of fun.

Hannah is hired by a wealthy Palm Beach socialite by the name of Bunny. Bunny wishes the P.I. to look into a real estate deal she invested in because there are more than a few things that may stand in her way of making a profit. The real estate in question is a very large bit of acreage that Bunny and her friends want to develop. But the property definitely has its quirks. The historical home of deceased cattle baron, Charles Langford Cadence sits on the land, which was once the subject of a TV ‘ghosthunter’ program. This program brought about the discovery of human bones and several artifacts that proved a Civil War battle may have taken place there; a historical event that would definitely end all development plans.

Hannah and her friend decide to camp out in the old house, but the event is not only spoiled by a horde of scorpions that rain down from the ceiling but also by the presence of a ghost. A dark-haired crying woman, who, rumor has it, is Irene Cadence, the wife of the former owner, is seen in the home causing further disturbance. Add in a blockade runner who apparently left a journal behind that shows where some gold and silver coins from the Confederate payroll are located, and you have many people who become very interested in this ghostly property.

Along with all this suspense comes a fake archeologist, and a business that sells snake venom called ‘Slew Vaccine and Herpetile’—a storefront that plays home to all kinds of snakes (and a couple of free chimpanzees, as well).

With all this action, it’s safe to say that by the end of this mystery, Hannah comes in contact with many odd species from all kingdoms, which makes this a superbly written book that readers will never forget.

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

 

MOON IN A DEAD EYE

By Pascal Garnier

In this story, Martial and Odette have moved into a retirement complex; a gated village that provides all sorts of security, as well as companionship for the elderly. Their main reason for moving is that back at their family home in Paris, they had been truly frightened by the increasing amount of crime. Not to mention, their close neighbors from the past have moved away or passed on.

When they try to settle into the complex, however, they are upset to learn that they’re actually the only residents, and the one bit of companionship they have is Monsieur Flesh, a grumpy caretaker/gardener. But that’s not where the negatives end; much to their dismay, the swimming pool, club house, and social secretary, are not even available onsite yet.

Martial becomes bored with his wife’s continuous shopping, and has become listless because of the daily rain showers. But things begin to look up when some new residents move in; first, Maxime and Marlene, and then Lea, a single woman, comes to join them. There are now five residents and Nadine, a social secretary, is finally appointed, and the swimming pool is filled up and ready to go. But nothing is as good as it seems.

Life changes at the complex when some gypsy families set up camp outside the gates. Maxime is a bit under the weather and Marlene is told not to go out alone, as the gypsies cannot be trusted. Marlene is scared, and she and Maxime end up fortifying their apartment, choosing to become hermits for the sake of safety. But when Martial and Odette, concerned for their neighbors, attempt to see them, the visit ends in disaster.

This is a very good read, where the characters are extremely believable. The combination of dry humor and sudden fear weave together perfectly, as each new person arrives on the scene. From harmonious to horror, this one offers the entire spectrum of emotions that suspense lovers crave.

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

 

THE GOLEM OF HOLLYWOOD

By Jonathan Kellerman and Jesse Kellerman

Considering the authors of this new tale, it will be no surprise when readers run to bookstores or hop online to read it as fast as possible. As always, the Kellermans entertain and surprise, but with a somewhat slower story than usual as they spell out a puzzle of monumental proportions.

A creature called a ‘golem’ dates back to early Judaism. Adam was initially intended to be a Golem because apparently these creatures look after a certain place and its people, protecting them from harm.

With that fact known, the Kellermans introduce readers to Jacob Lev, a hard drinking detective working with the Los Angeles Police Department who’s asked to investigate a crime scene—a scene that turns out to be a head without a body found in a vacant home in the Hollywood Hills. As Jacob begins to unearth clues to solve this vicious murder, he finds that there are related crimes being committed all around the country that have the same MO. Conclusion? There is a serial killer on the loose.

Jacob finds strange information in Prague, locating an ancestor of his who just happened to have been a rabbi said to have ‘built’ a golem long ago to protect him. The story becomes muddled for the burnt-out detective, as a beautiful lady comes into the mix named Mai; a woman who Jacob is trying to locate because he is sure that she has something to do with the death he’s investigating. Not to mention, she may just have information on a really ugly ancient monster that is on a mission of revenge.

Going back and forth between this story and chapters on the first family. (No, not the President, the FIRST family), this crime thriller presents supernatural issues that may confuse at times. However, it is a Kellerman tale through-and-through, which means readers are given the chills that they’ve come to rely upon from this awesome ‘family’ of writers.

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

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