Book Reviews as seen in Suspense Magazine (September issue part 5)

STRONG DARKNESS

By Jon Land

Every lover of the thriller will agree there are books and then there are BOOKS—adrenaline-pumping tales that grip and hold the attention from first to last page. This creation is one of those!

Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong is back, with her stiff spine, high spirit, and smart mouth completely intact. As the keeper of the peace at a funeral, Caitlin tries to halt a Reverend, and his bigoted group of followers from the Beacon of Light Church, from protesting. A young boy is dead—a hero in Afghanistan—who has come home in a box, and all Reverend Tripp and his moronic minions can do is chant against gays in the military. Caitlin tries to reason with the group, treating them like people with hearts. When that doesn’t work, she commandeers a John Deere and literally pushes the protesters into a trench.

After being chastised by her boss, Caitlin receives horrific news from her love, Cort Wesley Masters. Apparently Cort’s son is in the hospital in a coma, put there by an unknown assailant. And a girl is missing who a vicious man is desperate to find—a man who may turn into the worst enemy Caitlin has ever come up against.

At the hospital in Rhode Island, Cort and Caitlin meet up with the detective in charge; a man who has already dealt with Caitlin once before, when her actions in his community left four dead from a situation, Caitlin claimed, was self-defense. The detective threatens that history will be dug up if Caitlin doesn’t leave his city, but the power this Ranger has won’t be stopped…and the investigation is one long thrill ride.

Land offers a thrilling package that includes the worst sort of enemies, the best allies, and links to a period when the frontier was run by a drunken judge and protected by a Ranger who attempted to save lives. This is a BOOK, so read it ASAP!

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

 

MIDNIGHT CROSSING

By Charlaine Harris

 

Midnight, Texas is just a dot on the map. Charlaine Harris has made it a place I would love to see, maybe even move to. She has again created a town where the people are friendly, the food is good, and not everything is as it seems.

The small town waits anxiously for the arrival of Manfred Bernardo. Having only one stoplight at the crossroads of Witch Light Road and the Davy highway, the traffic it sees, usually about three cars, stays long enough for a gas fill up or food. Manfred is greeted by a helping hand, Bobo, the owner of Midnight Pawn, and his landlord. Others soon introduce themselves. As he meets the locals, Manfred realizes he somehow belongs here. Being psychic, he should have seen that coming, it’s his job after all.

The lazy happy pace of the town is fractured. At their first annual Picnic Day up at Cold Rock, they discover the decomposing body of Bobo’s missing girlfriend Audrey. Everyone thought she just left Bobo. Now it seems she was murdered and Bobo is the prime suspect. The town is determined to prove Bobo’s innocence.

Manfred finds out his neighbors and friends are more than your average townies. Fiji is really a witch. Bobo has a dark family past that comes right up to his front door. He learns why Lemuel only works nights. The Reverend (the Rev) seldom speaks, but when he does, everyone listens. As Manfred and friends try to protect Bobo from his past, they find themselves confronted by a surprising terror right in their own beloved town. The climactic end rattles even the town psychic.

If you ever find yourself at the “Midnight Crossroad,” you might want to stop. Look around, grab a bite to eat, or check out the unique shops. Then again, you might just run the only stop light in town. Either way, Midnight, Texas is no longer just an obscure place on the map.

Reviewed by Leslie A. Borghini, author of “Angel Heat” published by Suspense Publishing, an imprint of Suspense Magazine

 

TELL ME YOU’RE SORRY

By Kevin O’Brien

When it comes to a nail-biter, this is it. O’Brien literally presents the definition of ‘crazy’ and readers will be thrilled.

To begin, a fire envelops a home, and tragically a whole family is wiped out. Then, a man accused of being an embezzler also goes to his grave, but not before killing his entire family. Although these seem to be random acts of malice, clues soon appear that show a definitive link: the first wife has died and the husband in each scenario gets married again quickly, almost before the insurance policy pays out. In addition, each holds a secret from the past that will follow them to their graves.

Main character, Stephanie, is a pilot whose family members have expired due to one problem or another, yet she questions the fact that her sister has, as far as the law is concerned, committed suicide. In her heart, she finds this conclusion impossible, and when she hears about another similar murder/suicide that occurred in another part of the country, she immediately contacts the surviving son, Ryan, and partners up with him to find the truth.

The victims pile up. A couple of young men are arrested for these crimes, but Stephanie does not believe that they committed the murders. Found guilty of only robbery and not murder, Stephanie hires a private investigator to unearth any information he can about her brother-in-law’s new wife who no one in the family has met. As the tale unfolds, Stephanie and Ryan make a pact to not stop until they figure out who the real killer is. The past becomes the present, as family secrets come to life and answer the question of who, exactly, wants their victims to ‘say they’re sorry’ before heading straight to hell.

If you want darkness, if you crave chills, this is the tale for you!

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

 

VISIONS

By Kelley Armstrong

For many readers, a new Armstrong novel is like a Christmas gift arriving early. This is no exception.

The Cainsville series began with a book titled “Omens,” and brought together a slightly crooked lawyer, Gabriel Walsh, with the daughter of serial killers. Eden was this girl’s name, yet she’s Olivia Taylor-Jones now because of her adopted family, leaving the stigma of being the child of nasty murderers behind. Oddly enough, with Gabriel, she did end up clearing her real parents’ names of two killings. Not the rest, just yet, but she’s determined to figure out this ever-growing mystery.

In this second tale, Olivia seems happy in Cainsville. The older folk of the town take care of her and watch out for her best interests, so she always feels loved. She works at the local diner, but Gabriel wants her to become his assistant fulltime. Secrets are slowly uncovered by the duo. The kind folk of the town turn into elders; although not the squeaky clean elders that deserve a ton of respect. In fact, these particular people have a mission of their own, and are trying to keep her away from the lawyer…but why?

A handsome man named Ricky comes along and steals Olivia’s interest. The town seems truly happy about this new relationship, but Olivia is up in arms. She needs Gabriel, especially since the day she found a dead woman, dressed just like her, in the front seat of her car. She and Gabriel are soon facing real crimes that are mixing with preternatural visions that may just send Olivia to an asylum.

As it has been with all Armstrong’s series, readers have been given a location that’s dark and mysterious, with two extremely strong characters to hold onto as they walk through a frightening maze to get to the truth. This second step along the Cainsville route is so amazing that it will drive people crazy just waiting for ‘Christmas’ to come around again.

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

 

DEEP SHELTER

By Oliver Harris

Detective Nick Belsey is back in his second mystery that is extremely entertaining. This time around, the wise guy detective is leading the reader below the streets of London, down into the depths where shelters were once planned to be built so that people could travel back and forth. Of course, the shelters were never built…or were they?

As the suspenseful plot begins, Belsey is on the tail of a stolen car going down Hampstead High Street at top speed; yet in the blink of an eye, the speeder seems to disappear into thin air. This is where the awesome riddle begins.

Walking through the slightly eerie tunnels, Belsey does his best to find the criminal he seeks. When nothing comes up, however, Belsey books, remembering that he has a date for the evening that cannot be missed. Combining the two, as any good detective would do, Belsey takes his lady friend into the tunnels, which she finds a lot of fun. However…when she disappears in the blink of an eye, Belsey is beyond angry, and a whole lot confused. He knows if he reports the incident, he will be the number one suspect. So, making the difficult choice, Belsey heads deeper into the tunnels to find out what the heck is going on. Determined to discover more about this maze that time forgot, Belsey is surprised when humans hoarding Cold War secrets are in residence there, and he has to play a cat-and-mouse game that Belsey must win in order to make sure he and his girl survive.

This is a real nail-biter and a great ride for readers, as they spend time with a very cool main character. Although Belsey is not exactly the type of guy you would bring home to ‘Mom,’ his bad habits, wit, and charm, make him a fabulous detective and a whole lot of fun!

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

 

AN UNWILLING ACCOMPLICE

By Charles Todd

Bess Crawford, the courageous and kind World War I nurse on the battlefield, returns in this sixth incredible mystery.

On leave, Bess is enjoying her time at home when she is asked to accompany a wounded soldier confined to a wheelchair to Buckingham Palace. This proud man is being awarded a medal for his incredible gallantry and courage by the King. The visit and ceremony go off without a hitch, and Bess is ready to pick the soldier up in the morning so he can be sent back to his quarters. However, when she arrives to get him, he has vanished. The Army as well as the Nursing Services holds Bess accountable for losing the war hero, and she’s ordered to stay home until their inquiry into the matter is finished.

The following day, word comes from the police that the soldier has been spotted…and he has been accused of killing a man in cold blood. Determined to get answers, Bess travels to the town where he was last seen only to discover that the sneaky ‘hero’ has gone AWOL yet again, and the police have no leads.

Paid a visit by Scotland Yard, Bess is accused of irresponsibility, seeing as how none of this would have happened had she not left her patient on his own. Of course, being that the soldier disappeared in the middle of the night, and because she’s a female and could not stay in his room, Bess actually did nothing wrong. But the eyes of the law see women as basically second-class citizens, so Bess must enlist the aid of her good friend Simon to help her solve the mystery of the vanishing soldier and restore her reputation.

Any reader who loves the wartime era, with the vivid atmosphere and the true events of history that changed the course of the world, will love this story. Three novels in one—mystery, historical, and psychological—this author has provided suspense readers with everything they could possibly want.

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

 

THE NIGHT SEARCHERS

By Marcia Muller

How time does fly! This is book number thirty-one in the Sharon McCone Mystery series, with a plot so imaginative that readers will have no choice but to sit down and settle in for an exciting read they will not forget.

A young couple asks Sharon for help. The wife in this scenario, Camilla, seems to be suffering from either delusions or illusions. She tells the private detective that she has seen some really eerie things lately, including a group of people she calls devil worshippers who are sacrificing humans. Her husband, Jay, listens to this tale as he rolls his eyes. He basically looks like a man who wants to be anywhere else; he is worried that Sharon sees his wife as a woman in desperate need of a mental hospital, not a PI.

When all is said and done, however, Sharon agrees to investigate the story even if it does seem more than a bit odd. In addition, Sharon smells something ‘fishy’ when it turns out that a few of the people tied to the woman’s story are also embedded in a case being investigated by her own husband’s company. Hy is a hostage negotiator and when they team up, Sharon and Hy uncover a group of folks calling themselves ‘The Night Searchers’—people who have been prowling around the streets playing a weird kind of ‘game.’ Add in the fact that Hy’s company has also been called in on a supposed kidnapping of the director of a political group, and the plot just keeps getting juicier.

The wife no longer looks crazy, as the kidnapping erupts into something so much more and Sharon ends up being blamed, forcing her to go undercover to direct the investigation.

The action never slows down, as the two investigators and their employees find themselves dead center in the middle of a truly bizarre group of folks that the reader will never forget. This is a definite keeper!

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

 

DESIGNATED DAUGHTERS

By Margaret Maron

It’s great to be back in Colleton County, North Carolina, with the Knott family.

Miss Rachel, in no pain and expected to pass over soon, is visited by flocks of family members, eager to see her one last time. She’s resting quietly, until she perks up and starts talking a blue streak. Some of what she says is unintelligible, unless you know what she’s referring to. Finally, exhausted, she stops talking and the family goes to get some supper while the aide freshens up the sheets.

Very soon after that, Aunt Rachel is dead, but not of natural causes. Someone smothered her with a pillow.

It’s up to The Honorable Deborah Knott to sort through her tangled family and the other assorted people who were at Rachel’s bedside when she was rattling on about old scandals, to see which one of them felt compelling to stop Rachel from talking. She talks with all of them, dredging up more than one old secret. She and her husband, Sheriff’s Deputy Dwight Bryant, look into Rachel’s minister, her neighboring doctor, and others. She eventually finds out about the Designated Daughters, women who care for the elderly, sometimes even when they aren’t family members. Rachel’s daughter was one of these. Deborah knows it’s one of Rachel’s final words that brought about her death, but which one?

Great puzzler with the usual crowded cast of family members. Don’t worry, a family tree is provided.

Reviewed by Kaye George, Author of “Death in the Time of Ice” ■

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