Book Reviews as seen in Suspense Magazine (September issue part 6)

HOW TO FALL

By Jane Casey

A thriller should start off fast and ‘cool,’ and that is exactly what this author has managed to provide.

On page one, Freya, a young local girl, is running through the woods and heading for a cliff that hovers over the sea in the small town of Port Sentinel. This is not exactly an area to run through under the cover of darkness, and sure enough, poor Freya falls off the cliff onto the rocks below.

Sometime later, Freya’s aunt Molly, and Molly’s daughter, Jess, come to visit their relatives for the first time in many years. Jess is a bit freaked out at first, wondering why everyone she meets stares at her as if she were a ghost. Turns out, Jess is a carbon copy of the young Freya who people believed committed suicide.

Trying to find out how her cousin spent her last days on earth, Jess is working in a secondhand store when she comes upon a locket in one of the donations that’s traced back to Freya. Taking the locket to the law, Jess is amazed when she’s immediately dismissed. Now, the tale of suicide doesn’t quite add up to Jess, and she finds herself on the hunt to discover what actually happened to her cousin that night, and makes enemies in the town both young and old because of her investigation. As Jess keeps up her constant questions, she not only stirs up reactions in the town but also within the confines of her family, and soon figures out that she may be getting herself in a dire situation where she could end up following in the brutal footsteps of Freya.

Highly suspenseful, this is definitely a one-day read. The start is so intriguing that all readers will have to know the truth about why Freya raced to death that night. For any age reader, this tale is a true mystery ‘gem’!

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

 

NO STONE UNTURNED

By James W. Ziskin

Elle Stone is fighting her way through life. That’s how it is for an independent young woman in 1960. You fight with your dead, uber-professorial father, still. You fight off, most of the time, clumsy advances from men. And in Elle’s case, above all you fight to keep the job you love, working as an investigative reporter-photographer.

Written in the same cozy-noir style as his debut novel, “Styx and Stone,” Ziskin’s writing displays a remarkable command of words, building them into a complex and convincing set and cast of characters.

The body of a local high school queen is found in a shallow grave. Elle picks up the report on her police scanner and off she goes on another case, notebook and camera in hand, and a screw-you attitude toward any man who underestimates her.

Elle lives and works in New Holland, a large town in upstate New York, a town whose roots date back to the days of manufacturing mill-towns, of which it was one. As with any such town, there are gentry, including those whose ancestors founded the town, and everyone else, some so new to this country they do not speak English yet. And, as in any town, regardless of rank or pedigree, there are those who will do evil.

Facing the perpetual presumption by others that crime reporting is no occupation for a woman, Elle works all the harder. She beats her rival reporters to crime scenes and she uncovers evidence more skillfully than do the police.

Brick by brick, Elle Stone is constructing her career by demonstrating her skill and her determination, and occasionally, she earns the grudging respect of the men with whom she tangles. For they learn that she is willing to take risks, even dangerous ones, to add another brick to her wall.

Reviewed by Andrew MacRae, author of “Murder Miscalculated” for Suspense Magazine

Mr. MERCEDES

By Stephen King

The title may bring about a flashback of a car that once took the reading world by storm—and even though this novel comes from the same amazing mind who created that ‘killing machine’ decades ago—this deadly auto has nothing to do with the supernatural.

On a drizzly, cold morning, people gather in front of an auditorium waiting for a Job Fair, when out of the fog comes a Mercedes, plowing through the crowd. People die tragically, and the beast in the mask seen behind the steering wheel is never caught.

Brady Hartfield is the ‘token’ retired detective who doesn’t know what to do now that his ‘cop life’ is over. His only action seems to be sitting and watching TV while he contemplates committing suicide. However, Brady gets another chance to feel alive when a letter arrives from ‘Mr. Mercedes’—one of three killers that Brady was never able to catch.

Pulled into the world of a young, computer-savvy man who knows how to hide in plain sight, Brady gets a much needed shot of adrenaline from his ‘written’ bait. In an attempt to end the retired detective for good, the killer makes huge mistakes—angering Brady and allowing him to come back with a vengeance. Unearthing the past, Brady throws himself into the unsolved case. Hired by the sister of Mr. Mercedes’s most disturbed victim, Brady and his small crew go after the killer, hoping to bring him down before he gets the chance to make a bigger name for himself.

Although most fans expect (and wish) for that supernatural/horrific nugget in all of King’s works, this mystery involves very real people. No ghosts, firestarters, or ‘domes’ are offered up, but the references to 24 certainly fit as time ticks away for a desperate cop to stop a screwed-up killer. Perhaps longtime readers will miss that shiny, self-healing Christine, but even if you do, this is most definitely a roller-coaster you’ll want to ride.

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

 

INSIDE MAN

By Jeff Abbott

Sam Capra is a former CIA operative who is now the proud owner of a bar in Coconut Grove, Florida. One evening when Sam is enjoying life, he’s visited by another former operative, Steve Robles. Steve is someone Sam used to know, but it doesn’t take long before this old acquaintance upsets his calm way of life. Steve is murdered outside of Sam’s business, and Sam soon learns about a client his friend was working for named Cordelia.

Sam decides to avenge Steve’s murder, and in order to begin, he needs to locate the mysterious client and learn why she was in need of Steve’s protection. Turns out, it’s not that easy; Cordelia just happens to be a member of the crime family she wants to be protected from. The situation forces Sam to go back into CIA mode. Getting a new identification, he becomes Sam Chevalier and heads to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Seems that Steve was working for the woman there, and Sam must now pose as Cordelia’s boyfriend to become the ‘inside man’ at the Varela family compound.

Upon arrival, Sam is met by one of Cordelia’s brothers—the basic hit man—and Rey Varela, Cordelia’s father and head of the family. Sam is invited to attend dinner. There, he begins a path to dealing with a frightening dad whose more than a tiny bit on the crazy side, as well as brothers who fight over what they will get once senility takes their father completely, and an extremely miserable half-sister. To solve this case, avenge his friend’s name, and get out of there alive, Sam must use everything he’s ever learned in his past.

Chases, fights, family dilemmas, and characters that are so engaging and unusual that the reader will not soon forget them, this author has laid it all out on the table for a truly wild ride.

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

 

HARBOR ISLAND

By Carla Neggers

This is the latest book featuring Sharpe and Donovan that will thrill readers, as the author brings them on a fast and furious journey from Boston to Ireland to the rocky coast of Maine.

Emma Sharpe is the granddaughter of world famous art detective, Wendell Sharpe. She is also a key member of a small Boston-based FBI team that works on putting art thieves behind bars. Emma and her grandfather have been on the trail of one such criminal who has literally become a ‘serial’ art thief. The first known robbery took place in Ireland, when an ancient Celtic cross vanished. And in a move that adds insult to injury, the Sharpe team receives replicas of the cross that are sent out after each new theft is done. These crosses are a constant reminder to them of their failure to catch a thief.

Emma receives a message that takes her to a small island in Boston Harbor where she finds the dead body of a woman. The victim is holding a small stone inscribed with a cross that is an exact copy of the ones she has gotten from the mystery thief, who has just added murder to his list of accomplishments. Emma’s fiancé, Colin Donovan, is also an FBI Agent, and is more than upset when she heads off to the island all alone. His plan is to wait for the thief to make a mistake, but Emma has a mind of her own.

Together, they have their hands full with this ruthless killer who, by far, is the cleverest and most dangerous they’ve been up against in a good, long time. As they begin work and the danger to their survival grows, they have to deal with not only a crazy person but also the problems that come about when their personal lives cross lines with their professional ones.

The relationships of these characters are extremely well drawn out, yet the author never lets the action wane. A definite keeper!

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

 

THE STONE WIFE

By Peter Lovesey

Chief Superintendent Peter Diamond is back, embroiled in a mystery that offers a wealth of wit, and a true puzzle linked to a historical literary genius.

Diamond is more than a bit confused by his latest crime scene. An auction house in Bath was holding a sale of a few bits and pieces of basic junk. But on this particular day, a very strange slab of rock that just happens to have a picture etched/carved into its surface, takes the stage. The carving is apparently Chaucer’s Wife of Bath.

The auctioneer doesn’t assume this will be a big moneymaker, so it startles him and the crowd when a professor starts bidding voraciously, as if the stone is a true prize. In competition with an American museum bidding over the phone, the professor works hard to win. Unfortunately, just when the stone is his, three masked men appear in the auction house with guns and attempt to wheel it out the door. The professor stands up to stop the robbery, but gets a bullet for his efforts instead.

Diamond and team are assigned the odd case, and the clues are sketchy at best. No one in the auction house seems to have even noticed the one man who was inside just waiting to don his mask and call in his other two associates. And there seems to be no plausible reason why anyone in their right mind would kill over a chunk of stone. Even Diamond begins to hate the so-called treasure, because when it’s placed in his office, things begin to go wrong for the detective, causing him to believe that Chaucer has somehow jinxed him from the grave.

Interesting facts send Diamond to Chaucer’s historical house in Somerset, and his colleague deep undercover into a world of people who just may take her out before Diamond can solve the case.

As always, this character and his team are sharp, funny, and grab the reader’s attention from beginning to end!

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

 

MEAN STREAK

By Sandra Brown

This amazing author is again delivering a tale of intrigue, adultery, and murder.

Dr. Emory Charbonneau is a well-known pediatrician who is also a marathon runner of note; she loves it so much she spends time planning marathon events. Emory is in the process of training for an upcoming marathon in a mountainous region of North Carolina. Her husband, Jeff, usually accompanies her to the races, but when they end up having a major argument, he chooses to make other plans and spends time with his mistress while Emory heads to the hills. However, as she is practicing for the run, Emory is brutally attacked and left for dead. Avoiding the Grim Reaper, she wakes up to find herself in a cabin in the North Carolina woods being tended to by a very handsome man who refuses to tell her his name. He does inform her, however, that he found her unconscious on a trail and brought her back to his cabin to recover.

Back in civilization, Jeff is starting to wonder where Emory is because he never received a call and she hasn’t come home. When he finally gets around to reporting her missing, the police are more than a little skeptical regarding his actions, believing Jeff may have done away with Emory to move on to greener pastures.

In the mountains, there is a storm brewing; the land is covered with snow and ice blocking the trail, leaving Emory up on the mountain for an indeterminable number of days. The man with her just happens to have the FBI on his trail, and while Emory slowly discovers what is going on and finds herself falling for the stranger, her husband is literally in his own hell under the watchful eye of detectives who are working overtime to prove his story is bogus.

As readers go back and forth from Emory to Jeff, the plotlines get better and better. So well-written and so entertaining, this is one thriller that can’t be missed!

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

 

SHOOT THE WOMAN FIRST

By Wallace Stroby

Crissa Stone is a professional thief. A recent job has brought good tidings to Crissa and her team; in fact, they have done very well, recently getting away with a million dollars. The owner of that wealth is more than a little unhappy, of course. The money taken made up the proceeds that came from selling drugs owned by Detroit drug lord, Marquis Jackson. The job, Crissa thinks, is a triumph…but she and her team soon find out that the triumph has ended in a mess of trouble.

Drug lord Jackson is a little too confident; he takes hardly any precautions to keep his drug money safe, or even secret, from his fellow crooks. For example, Cordell King, an underling of Jackson, shares information about the cash with Crissa, as well as with Larry Black, a colleague of hers, and Cordell’s cousin, Charlie Glass. Crissa and her buddies don’t have a whole lot of time to plan the robbery, yet it goes off without a hitch. But the celebration time is short, as Crissa must go on the run with a lot more money than she thought she would have in hand.

Heading for Florida to deliver half of the cash to someone else, more trouble ensues as trust becomes an issue. The women in this scenario don’t get along well, and Crissa is more than wary of a man named Roy Mapes, a meth addict who is deep in debt.

Back in Detroit, Jackson is definitely not taking the theft of his money lying down. Hiring Frank Burke, an ex-cop, he makes it Burke’s job to track down the cash before some of the other mobsters can get hold of it. The only thing is, this ex-cop has a plan all his own and will do anything to make his wishes come true.

Crissa is an extremely powerful and intelligent heroine and in this, the third book starring the avid thief. Readers receive a masterful plot they won’t soon forget!

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

 

THE SHIELD

By Lynn Sholes & Joe Moore

Sholes and Moore have followed up “The Blade” with an even greater, nail-biting thriller with “The Shield.”

Retired OSI agent Maxine Decker’s tranquility is abruptly interrupted by the loud thumping of a helicopter’s propeller. Ushered to Beowulf, the “blackest” of facilities deep inside the wall of the Grand Canyon, Maxine discovers the truth behind the Roswell Incident. She is told that the most secret of alien artifacts have been stolen and that she is needed to recover them. They hold the knowledge of science that is thousands of years more advanced than our world is capable of…the science of displacement…the ability to move an object from one place to another in the blink of an eye. During her Beowulf orientation, the facility is attacked. She is led through a secret tunnel by the head of the facility who is mortally wounded during their escape. His final passing words…“Don’t trust anyone!”

With no one to trust and with a group of Russians trying to kill her, she calls the only person she can trust for help, her ex-husband, OSI agent Kenny Gates.

“The Shield” will take Decker and Gates from the Grand Canyon to Russia, and finally to the Sudan as they try to unravel the truth and stop world destruction. Marked as U.S. traitors, they have no one to turn to except “Tennyson,” the code name for the president, and even his trust is suspect.

Sholes and Moore have written a gripping, adrenaline rush that combines science, conspiracy, and the realities of nuclear war. “The Shield” will grab you and have you screaming at the characters as you become engulfed in this terrifying ride. Sholes and Moore will leave you rethinking what you know about Roswell and Area 51 and leave you longing for the next Decker and Gates adventure.

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

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