“Her Final Breath” by Robert Dugoni review and more.


By Robert Dugoni

Before you begin “Her Final Breath” by Robert Dugoni prepare for a long night. This second book in the Tracy Crosswhite series starts off running and it doesn’t slow down until you’ve turned the last page. Dugoni has written a phenomenal “Police Procedural.” Wait, let me change that; he has written a phenomenal thriller regardless of the sub-genre you want to stick it in.

Tracy Crosswhite, a police detective with the Seattle Police Department, has once again found herself in the middle of an investigation with enough twists and turns to spin her head around. Someone is targeting and killing strippers in Seattle and his MO is hauntingly familiar. Nicknamed, The Cowboy, the killer is hog-tying his victims and killing them by asphyxiation. Tracy can’t help but remember a similar murder nine years prior. A case solved by her captain, Jonny Nolasco—someone she has never seen eye-to-eye with.

As the case progresses, Tracy realizes there is a leak in the department and Captain Nolasco is looking for her to fail. But why? Well . . . I’m not giving the entire book away. For that information and for a reading experience you won’t soon forget, you’ll have to read “Her Final Breath.”

Robert Dugoni breathes life into the police procedural like never before. Put the Tracy Crosswhite series and “Her Final Breath” on your “must read” list!

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



By Julia Keller

If you’re looking for a gripping tale, this is it.

Located in Acker’s Gap, West Virginia, a development company has put up an offer to purchase properties in the small town, and the property owners in Acker’s Gap are thrilled by the prospect. The company wants to build a fancy resort and the business brought into the community by said resort will be a huge plus for the local economy.

However, as with all great deals, there is one holdout. Royce Dillard will not sell his property, where he lives the quiet life with just his dogs for companionship. Dillard’s parents died on this land, along with 120+ others, when a sludge damn rupture sent thousands of gallons of water through the coal mine wiping out people as well as small communities. Royce survived, but the ordeal he went through caused him to withdraw from life and leave society far behind.

When a murder takes place in Acker’s Gap, Royce ends up on the top of the suspect list. County Prosecutor Bell Elkins has to be extremely sure that Royce is guilty, and to find out all the facts, she will have to look into what really happened when the dam broke in Acker’s Gap a very long time ago.

This book is the latest in a series by Julia Keller, as Bell Elkins tries to get into the life of Royce Dillard who is now on trial for murder. Readers will see what happens to this small town, that at one time owed their lives to the coal industry, as a new industry strives to come in and take over, letting the career of mining die a natural death. This is a very cool book, as are the others in the series.

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



By Jon Land

Jon Land, the master of nuance, has outdone himself with his latest Caitlin Strong thriller. The seventh in the series, “Strong Light of Day” reads as a stand-alone, although I bet once you read it, you will rush to grab them all.

Jon weaves a story involving Jim Strong and Boone Masters, Caitlin and Cort Wesley’s perspective fathers, as a backdrop to an epic novel of geopolitical warfare. Once again, Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong finds herself in the middle of a storm. This one so big, you could say it’s a hurricane. What begins as a cut and dry case of cattle rustling soon develops into the potential beginning of WWIII.

The story and characters of “Strong Light of Day” are more than enough for any reader to be enthralled with this book, but where the story takes you and the social injustices it alludes to are what makes this and all of Jon Land’s books stand out. Paz, the gentle yet violent giant and the ranger’s protector, reminds us that the past is never far from our sight, and our future is what we make it and is not left to fate. Without being preachy, Land shows us the cruelty of sexism, heterosexism, bullying and greed, and he also shows us how to fight such brutality and ignorance . . . One injustice at a time.

Caitlin Strong proves that justice is not about being politically correct; it’s about caring for the underdog and doing what’s right, no matter the cost.

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



By Leslie Budewitz

Erin Murphy, the creative force behind her family gourmet food market, Murphy’s Mercantile (a.k.a. The Merc), is always coming up with new ways to promote her store as well as her hometown of Jewel Bay, Montana. Not only is Jewel Bay’s location idyllic, it’s a town known for promoting homegrown and homemade Montana fare in every way possible.

Determined to get her town national attention, Erin is thrilled when Food Preneurs, one of the hottest (no pun intended) cooking shows on television, decides to showcase Jewel Bay in an upcoming episode. In addition to filming interviews with local food entrepreneurs, Erin suggests that a steak-cooking competition among three of the area’s most creative chefs be included on the program.

The contest is troubled before it even happens, as two of the three chefs present identical recipes for the Grill-off just two and a half days before the filming. And the so-called “star” of Food Preneurs, the pompous Gib Knox, threatens to cancel the contest (and maybe the show) if Erin doesn’t solve the problem immediately. As if that’s not bad enough, the producer of the show, Stacia Duval, is killed in a freak hit and run accident late at night, and one of the three competing chefs is found dead. Jewel Bay is getting national attention, all right. But definitely not the kind Erin was hoping for.

“Crime Rib” is the second in Leslie Budewitz’s Food Lovers Village mystery series, and it’s yummy fun. Five forks!

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



By Carolyn Baugh

Get ready for a terrific new series by Carolyn Baugh featuring Philadelphia Police Officer Nora Khalil. Officer Khalil has been assigned to the FBI’s Safe Streets Violent Gang Task Force. (Is that not a handful to say?) There is currently a battle going on between two rival gangs on Philadelphia’s streets that are perhaps linked to two murders.

Nora, who comes from Egyptian parents, visits local religious mosques and uses her Arabic background and knowledge of Islam traditions to find the truth and, hopefully, bring the criminals to justice. Nora is also the only female member of the team and has to put up with sexism and racism on a daily basis. But as she holds her own with her colleagues, the danger rises. And when a dead body turns up in a bad section of town, she has to use her police training and her background in order to decide if this is yet another gang killing or something far worse.

This author offers up a highly interesting main character who will captivate readers. Fortunately, the author knows her subject and takes us through the streets of Philadelphia and focuses on the Muslim culture. New supporting characters are also introduced, including Nora’s protective father, and Ben Calder, a colleague that has a flirtation with Nora that may turn into something more.

It is truthful that the first book in a series is sometimes a little draggy, because of having to introduce the scene and the characters to the reader…but not this one. Knowing there will be more books with Nora to come is exciting, and soon readers are sure to become accustomed to the female Philly cop who, as the story says, has never eaten a cheesesteak. Something in Philadelphia that just isn’t done.

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



By Kathleen Ernst

This is the sixth installment of this incredible series focusing on Chloe Ellefson, a curator at a history museum set in the state of Wisconsin. This museum tells of the cultures of immigrants (Norwegian/German) that settled in this area from Northern Europe. Chloe has a boyfriend, Roelke, a small town cop who was formerly a big city policeman. They are both a little high maintenance, with Chloe being the emotional one and Roelke liking things extremely neat and, of course, law abiding.

The main theme of the tale is based on the famous Laura Ingalls Wilder and the series of books called, “Little House on the Prairie.” In this new tale, Chloe and her sister are off to explore the various museum sites associated with Wilder history, and there are many. Chloe is taking along a quilt supposedly made by Laura Ingalls Wilder, herself, looking for evidence that will prove whether or not Laura’s hands were the ones that created this lovely and historical item. They run into some real characters along their journey, even one lady who doesn’t think that Laura even wrote the “Little House” books at all.

Unfortunately, there is also a killer amidst the travelers they run up against, and there are a slew of suspects that run from art collectors drooling to make as much money as they can to fans that are truly obsessed with the Wilder background.

Not only is the story exciting and interesting, the author has also included cool photos of Wilder homes and museums honoring Laura and her family, making the journey through the “Prairie” even more intriguing. This, as well as the rest in the series, is a super read that sparks the imagination and offers a genuine history of one of the most beloved women of all time; a woman who put Walnut Grove on the map.

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



By Kay Finch

First in a new series titled, Bad Luck Cat Mysteries, Finch delivers a tale that is definitely for cat fanciers. And here we have a very special cat. He has been called many things by many people, but the name most used is: Devil Cat.

Sabrina Tate is a would-be mystery writer who has come to Lavender, Texas, to write her first bestseller while helping her Aunt Rowena manage her summer/vacation rental business. Sabrina has been told about a local black cat who is a jinx. This cat is said, by locals, to have been around the town for at least thirty years. The cat has the reputation of being a bad luck feline, yet Sabrina knows that there is no way possible a cat can live for thirty years.

Sabrina learns that her Aunt’s brother, Bobby Joe, is on his way to Lavender for a visit, and no one is happy about this. Seems Bobby is always looking for a handout and usually borrows or steals money when he appears. So Sabrina is off to pick up some new locks that will stop Bobby from helping himself to her aunt’s cash. As she goes to her car to pick up said security, she sees a huge black cat sitting on the hood. Sure that this is the ‘Devil Cat’ everyone is yapping about, she approaches it carefully but the cat takes off running. When she gets back, she spots the feline once again and follows it…as he leads her to a dead body who turns out to be Bobby.

Since Rowena and Bobby were heard quarreling right before Bobby died, her aunt becomes suspect number one. Luckily, Sabrina makes a new friend in the bad luck cat who is willing to help her solve the crime.

This is a memorable cozy set in a small town, and the characters, especially Hitchcock (the cat), will keep you engaged. Readers will definitely look forward to more Sabrina/Hitchcock stories in the future.

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



By Peter May

Canada seems much more like a foreign country than usual in this polyglot setting. Amid the French-speaking Magdalen Islands (Madeleine in French), lies English-speaking Entry Island, settled in part by Scots who came during the potato famine years in the 1800s.

The story starts slowly, but builds gradually—two stories actually. The modern day narrative sends English speaker, Sime Mackenzie, whose Scottish/Gaelic family refused to leave Quebec when it went all French, to investigate a murder on Entry Island. The rest of the team are French speakers. He is ill at ease with them, but Thomas Blanc, with whom he works most closely, is friendly. One member of the team is his ex, Marie-Ange, a vitriolic, bitter woman who makes everything harder.

As soon as Sime sees the woman who is accused of murdering her husband, he feels he knows her. In spite of overwhelming opinion against her, he fights to find a shred of evidence that she didn’t kill her husband. Sime is suffering from chronic insomnia, but has waking dreams that put him into the tales from his ancestor’s diaries that were read to him by his grandmother when he was a child. The insomnia gets so bad that it threatens to impair his judgement and to get him ousted from his job as he retreats deeper and deeper into the past, imagining that he actually is his ancestor, and that the accused woman is his ancestor’s long-lost love as this story runs alternating with the other.

This is a tale of two islands, two mysteries, and two places and times. A tale of misfits isolated within their own cultures, and a tale of cultures battling each other, both in the 1800s and today.

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



By Suzanne Adair

It is January, 1781. Young English Lieutenant Michael Stoddard has arrived in Wilmington, South Carolina, under the command of Major James Craig. The rebels have fled the city in haste. Major Craig, in hot pursuit, leaves young Lieutenant Michael Stoddard behind as his lead criminal investigator, is tasked with discovering the whereabouts of a local woman. Gabriel Garrity, a gunsmith with possible ties to the rebels, reported that his wife, Julia, disappeared three days prior and by assisting, Craig hopes to demonstrate good will by the occupying army toward the residents of Wilmington. Michael is also charged with investigating Vicar Elijah Spivey. This self-styled man of the cloth has set up a church outside town where he ministers mainly to the ladies of Wilmington, especially those young, attractive, and with money, or any combination thereof—a description that certainly fits Julia Garrity.

Stoddard selects army private, Nick Spry, to assist him after discovering Spry’s remarkable talent for observation, and together they begin the parallel investigations. But, are the two cases really separate? It seems that Julia Garrity had caught the attention of the perhaps, not-so-good Vicar. Her husband, too, is not above suspicion in her disappearance. That theirs was a stormy marriage is common knowledge, while local gossip has that both husband and wife had recently taken lovers.

And what of Esmé Delacroix, the comely Caribbean-born widow of a sea captain, who still practices the Old Ways of her island home. Is she a witch, as some would have it? Or perhaps they are reflecting their own prejudices against an independent woman.

This is Ms. Adair’s sixth historical crime novel set in and around Wilmington and the southern colonies during the American Revolution, or as Lt. Stoddard would refer to it, The War of Rebellion. Thanks to her deep knowledge of life in the south in the late eighteenth century, she has, over the course of these stories, brought the era to life and peopled it with a large cast of recurring characters.

Reviewed by Andrew MacRae



By Sallie Bissell


The murder of a young girl in Hartsville, a town with a rich Cherokee history, has haunted its residents for many years. A retired cop, who couldn’t close the case, still obsesses over it and it nearly cost him his sanity and marriage. Now, a key piece of evidence has been unearthed with possible DNA attached, which could close this case once and for all. That has made some folks just a little bit nervous.

Zack, an adult with autism, was once a primary suspect in the case, and over the years, he and his mother, Grace, have been subjected to malicious gossip and are treated with utter disdain by some residents, even the cops, who believe he got away with murder.

Enter Mary Crow, a woman running for D.A. She agrees to help Grace when it looks like Zack will be scrutinized by the authorities. But Mary may be putting her political career in jeopardy if she defends Zack.

This is a solid cold case mystery with the Cherokee lore and beliefs as a backdrop, creating a unique atmosphere and highlighting ever so lightly the prejudice and corruption which could easily send an innocent person to prison.

Grace and Mary are both aware they face opposition from outside forces, but one will do whatever it takes to keep her son safe, and the other will do whatever is necessary to see justice served, making both of them a real inspiration.

It is always satisfying when a cold case is finally put to rest, giving everyone closure and allowing people who were living life in a kind of limbo to move on and start really living again with some peace of mind. I enjoyed the unique quality of the story; the pace was just right, the characters well drawn, and the story was intriguing and interesting. I, for one, am looking forward to adding the other titles in the Mary Crow series to my library.

Reviewed by Julie Whiteley  ■

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