More Book reviews as seen in Suspense Magazine


By Raymond Benson

In this final segment of The Black Stiletto series, we learn, along with her son and granddaughter, of the exploits of Judy Cooper, alias The Black Stiletto, thought of as the ultimate crime fighter.

Judy, now bed-ridden in a nursing home with dementia, had kept very thorough diaries describing her dealings with organized crime. She detailed how she worked hand-in-hand with law enforcement until a party, impersonating her, committed several high-priority crimes, stealing diamonds and killing a mobster’s daughter, which caused her to run not just from the mob but from the very same police officers she had been assisting.

Pregnant, and with the law hot on her heels, Judy finally confesses her real identity to a friend, only to have him and his brother killed as she runs from Los Angeles, CA to her hometown of Odessa, TX where she still has family, only to endanger their lives too.

We learn all the sordid details from the pages of her 1962 diary, as does her granddaughter, Gina, who also heads off to Odessa seeking answers that old age and disease can no longer provide. The relatives of her grandmother’s former nemesis discover who Gina is and kidnap her in order to secure their own answers to the one question they all want to know. Where is the missing diamond that Judy allegedly stole thirty years ago?

Along with pulsating drama, high intrigue and suspense, I was taken with how well Benson captures the female voice and the historical period in which this was written. Definitely worth putting the five book series on your bookcase.

Reviewed by Mark P. Sadler, author of “Blood on His Hands,” published by Suspense Publishing, an imprint of Suspense Magazine 



By Jamie Mason

Dee Aldrich’s mom was a former covert operations asset working for the government. But when Mom goes to her reward, Dee decides to be more like the woman, using some of her mother’s old memory tricks to run her own life—even the trick of when it’s okay to lie. A few years after Mom’s death, Dee is still trying to understand things about her, as well as Dee’s brother, Simon, who is younger than she is, yet seems to remember a whole lot more about the deceased.

Showing a bit of rebellion way back when, Dee actually married the first man she knew when starting college. Patrick Aldrich was a nice fellow though a little dull, which was just fine with Dee since her quirky mother had brought enough drama to her upbringing. But now she sees signs of something amiss. She thinks that her marriage is coming apart and her husband wants her gone from his life.

As she begins to reflect on her marriage, she finds out that her mother has left her and her brother a great deal of money, and now a husband that wanted to leave is suddenly showing signs of hanging in there in order to claim some of the loot. As Dee investigates her suspicions, her urge to want a ‘normal’ life and be the opposite of her mother, fades away.

A puzzle at times, a laugh-fest at others, readers will have to pay attention to this quick-moving story. Dee and her husband each have their own agenda, and her brother is even more interesting as the chapters go on. When the truth is necessary, it should be given; but learning the art of lies in order to bring out the truth that has been hidden so well by others, makes this a very attention-grabbing story.

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



By Yolonda Tonette Sanders

Yolonda Tonette Sanders has a talent for writing in the everyday language of her characters as they go about their daily lives; cooking dinner, putting their kids to bed, and eventually dealing with the disappearance of a young girl thirty years in the past.

Troy Evans, now a police detective in Ohio, wants to create a normal family life with his wife Natalie, son Nate, known as “l’il man,” and the twins who will be born in a few months. Troy grew up with an abusive father, who is now back in his life, or at least in his mother’s life. When Troy returns to Houston to visit his family, and to help his friend Elvyn solve his sister’s murder, he finds that dealing with his own past is as crucial to his life as finding Elana’s murderer.

Author Sanders brings her characters alive with Natalie’s very twenty-first century use of technology, playing Candy Crush while she hides out in the bedroom at Troy’s parents’ house while waiting for him to return from investigating, and FaceTiming with her friends on her iPad. The family tension rises higher when Troy’s mother’s superstitions make her family want to either laugh or scream.

In “Day of Atonement,” the very real search for a kidnapper and killer is juxtaposed against Troy Evans’ searching for healing of his past, and his ability to forgive himself and others who have hurt him. As different scenarios of what might have happened to Elana all those years ago emerge, it is clear that the guilt lies close to home. The conclusion of the novel brings not only an answer to the disappearance of an eight-year-old girl, but a chance for Troy to find peace with his family and friends, and also within himself.

Reviewed by Kathleen Heady, author of “Hotel Saint Clare”  ■



By J.J. Cook

A new exciting cozy, this is the second in a series that not only offers up a tantalizing tale, but also provides a full list of scrumptious foods.

Main character, Zoe Chase, is the gal who calls herself a Southern Food Truck Chef. Although the creator of some serious southern sweetness, Zoe also finds herself doing a little sleuthing on the side. This time around, Zoe is headed to Charlotte, North Carolina, where she will enter a nationally televised food truck race. As usual, all of Zoe’s friends are in attendance; including, her very handsome boyfriend, Miguel, and her feline friend, Crème Brulee. Zoe is up for this, as the contest will feature challenges across the Southeast, with the grand prize being $50,000. And with a purse that large, this is one competition that’s bound to be intense.

As Zoe and company zero in on the first challenge, another food trucker from Zoe’s hometown is discovered dead as a doornail. The actual mode of death looks like something akin to a horrible, tragic accident; Reggie Johnson, the victim, is found underneath a very large refrigerator. But, as time passes, the police begin to wonder if his death was really an accident at all; especially considering how high this grand prize is set.

Even with the issue, the race is allowed to move on. Unfortunately, the body count begins to escalate right along with the miles driven. Miguel goes to number one on the suspect list, and Zoe soon realizes that—contest be darned—her number one job is to catch the killer before her lawyer boyfriend needs his own lawyer to keep him off Death Row.

This is a really fun read, unveiling a marvelous new cooking style. And, lo and behold, on a back page there awaits a secret for all happy readers who want to know exactly how to make a deep-fried biscuit bowl!

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



By Harri Nykänen

With the second in a mystery series featuring Ariel Kafka, a police inspector from Finland, this author has made sure to put a great amount of suspense and intrigue into a very small package.

Kafka is a Jewish man and a lieutenant in the Helsinki Violent Crimes Unit who is now investigating the murder of a Jewish businessman, Samuel Jacobson. The victim’s widow has told the police that her husband had recently had some dealings on a major loan that went through Kafka & Oxbaum, a law firm owned by Kafka’s brother, Eli. Kafka already knows that his brother had negotiated client loans with an Estonian Company, Baltic Invest, owned by a front man for Amos Jakov—a man who has dealings with the Russian Mafia.

Being Jewish and being from a close family, Ariel finds the investigation a bit difficult to handle as he tries to keep his private life balanced while following the case. Ariel is dealing with international intrigue and a great amount of corruption which is hard for a man who is very dedicated to the badge of a policeman. He is so dedicated to his job, in fact, that he is willing to put his life on the line for it.

As the investigation heats up, he finds some very interesting things in the mix. For instance: Neo-Nazi violence, and some pretty shady loans that lead him to some extremely odd culprits. Just when he feels as if he has a grasp on things, another killing occurs and the Security Police come in on the case. Soon it is unveiled that the Mossad from Israel also have their fingers in the proverbial pie, and Ariel has to deal with yet another, even bigger intelligence organization.

Difficult to read, as most translations are, but this plot is one that the diehard mystery fan will find to be a good story worth reading.

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



By Andrew Mayne

This new book is the first in a series that will feature FBI Agent Jessica Blackwood. A former magician, as was her father and grandfather before her, as well as an uncle, Jessica has a bit of an odd background for an agent. As Jessica became famous as a magician, she was the one who decided to change her life and begin another by joining law enforcement.

Jessica is called into a meeting with Dr. Jeffrey Ailes, a consultant for the FBI, to have a talk regarding her former occupation. There is a new case, and Dr. Ailes thinks that Jessica is just the right person to help due to her expertise in the field of magic. You see, a very talented ‘hacker’ named Warlock, has broken into the FBI database and left a message for agents to go to a cemetery in Michigan. There, they come upon a dead body that appears to be the very same corpse of a girl who was murdered two years earlier. In fact, the way the stage is set, the new body actually looks as if she is rising from the grave. A hacker has created his own magic trick for the FBI to find. And to top it off, all the forensic evidence seems to prove that the new girl rising…is the same dead girl.

As the FBI and the police ponder this crime, Jessica utilizes her past as a magician to look into the case and find out if the grave was merely a ‘trick’ cooked up by Warlock, which is just what a master magician should be able to do. This is surely not going to be an easy crime to figure out, considering the cemetery body is not the only surprise that Warlock will present to the public. Soon, all Jessica can do is work fast to figure out exactly what his trick is before she becomes his next victim.

Mayne has created an unbelievably unforgettable book! 5 Stars!

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



By Dean Koontz

“Young man, you have made many friends in your short life…” This line could not be more apropos for Odd Thomas. And with this incredible series wrap-up, one of the greatest authors of our time has allowed readers one more frightening/illuminating journey alongside this tremendous character.

We go back to where it all began: Pico Mundo. Being followed by a cult, Odd races across the desert in order to get back home before their evil group takes more lives. Heading to the Green Moon Mall, Odd looks back on the day when his beloved Stormy was taken away from him; lost in gunfire that opened up a can of both proverbial and psychic worms. To a safe house he goes, where a married couple that are beyond sweet, have the ability to shoot and shoot well. Wolves are teeming the streets; a load of C4 is stolen; and, the cops are keeping watch over the dam that sits above town—the perfect spot for an explosion that could destroy everyone.

As with all great tales, a carnival is in Pico Mundo, and the oddities include; a midget dressed like a bear, an old Gypsy who once made a promise, a Fun House graced with an ogre, and a face painting booth that can hide truth from suspecting eyes. Everything comes to life as Odd Thomas goes to battle, building to an exciting conclusion no reader will have guessed. Odd has lived with one purpose in mind, but to earn his reward, he proves that the scariest part of the world is when the mask of evil and the mask of good look exactly the same.

Odd Thomas’s creator has given him a brilliant ending to a stunning ride. It will be thrilling to watch what Koontz thinks up next. But, for now, I bid good-bye to an odd and very cool friend. You will be extremely missed.

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

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