“A June of Ordinary Murders” by Conor Brady review and more


By Conor Brady

Taking place in Dublin, Ireland, readers meet up with an interesting police force entangled in a mystery.

It is the year 1887, marking Queen Victoria’s Jubilee, but Ireland is up in arms. The usually beautiful Irish countryside is literally on fire as the Royal Irish Constabulary and British Military fight with poor folks whose lives are threatened by very high rents. The British are responding with new crime legislation; more power for the police and more jail cells for the reformers.

When two dead bodies are found in a wooded area of Phoenix Park (one man and one boy), Detective Sergeant Joe Swallow of G Division, Dublin Metropolitan Police, sees no evidence to suggest that politics was involved. The bodies have been through horror, though, considering their faces are mutilated and they have no identification left on them. But when the Dublin Medical Examiner finds that the male victim is actually a female, a murder that was called ordinary, turns into what may be a crime of revenge. Swallow is pulled off the case of the murder of a house maid in Dublin to concentrate on this new mystery, yet he continues to look into the killing anyway.

Unfortunately, Swallow has another thing to keep him on his toes. Harriet, a student teacher and Swallow’s younger sister, is keeping company with a member of a violent Nationalist group. Adding to the worries is the fact that Ces Downes, who is the cream of the crop in the underworld of Dublin, is dying. Pretty soon her two lieutenants, Vanucchi and Cussen, will be fighting for control of the criminal empire—a battle that will come right before a visit by Prince Albert Victor, Queen Victoria’s grandson.

This is a debut novel by Conor Brady, and a true picture of 19th century political unrest in Dublin. Detective Sergeant Joe Swallow is a character so good and so intelligent, readers will scream for a sequel.

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



By Susan May

Three mass murders in one city within weeks. What are the odds? There appears to be no connection between them except the people responsible for the crimes all led perfectly normal lives right up until they “snapped.”

Kendall Jennings, a freelance journalist, writes fluff pieces for women’s magazines, but when her work hits a low point and the rent is due, she’ll accept any assignment. The day after the first mass murder takes place, she’s asked to write a piece from a survivor’s point of view: “What’s it like to survive such a horrific ordeal?”

In the midst of riding the publicity, two more mass murders take place just days apart. These events cause her to remember another such case from twenty odd years ago. While interviewing the father of a teenager killed back then, he asks for help. He’s amassed hundreds of pages of research that link antidepressants as the linchpin to that and possibly the recent killings, but nobody will listen.

Kendall tries to interview the detectives assigned to the cases, but the lead investigator sees her as nothing but a blood-sucking leech who would hurt innocent people and mow down anyone in her path in order to write half-truths. After reading the report on the drugs, Kendall is convinced there is some validity to it. What if a drug’s side effects could alter the mind to a point where people would kill? She refuses to give up and hounds the detectives trying to convince them to listen, only alienating herself even more with the lead detective.

What if someone wanted the murders to happen? What if he or she was convinced it was the right thing to do?

Susan May has written a riveting thriller that will have you rethink everything you thought you knew about Big Pharma. Sometimes the truth is hidden in the small print . . . and sometimes, you need to dig even further. I highly recommend “Deadly Messengers” to every mystery/thriller fan.

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



By Carolyn Hart

The ghost in the Carolyn Hart series is called Bailey Ruth, and she is one of the best characters going. Bailey Ruth and her husband, Bobby Mac, drowned a few years ago when their boat overturned in the Gulf, and now Bailey is called upon when needed by Wiggins, the Chief of the Department of Good Intentions. This is one of those times…

Deirdre Davenport’s daughter has just looked up at the sky and recited the words to the poem: “Star light, star bright,” ending with a request for someone to come help her mom. It seems that Wiggins is on the job when Deirdre’s daughter gets through to him with her wish, and he calls on Bailey Ruth to go to her former hometown of Adelaide, Oklahoma, to help this single mom, who is also a struggling writer, find a way to either get a job or succeed in writing a new book.

Bailey finds that Deirdre is broke and trying to support her children, while hoping to get a job on the faculty in Goddard College’s English Department. Professor Jay Knox is in charge of the conference that she is taking part in but is more interested in dating her than giving her an actual job. When Jay turns up dead as a doornail, and Deirdre’s fingerprints are found on the murder weapon, she, of course, becomes suspect number one.

Bailey Ruth knows that she’s innocent and starts her investigation of Jay’s death by finding others that he has compromised over time to prove Deirdre’s innocence.

Hart has done it again by bringing her character, Bailey Ruth, to the forefront in a really great cozy. She is a bestselling author of the Death on Demand series, as well as Bailey Ruth Ghost Novels, and readers will continue to look forward to every book she creates.

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



By Wendy Corsi Staub

Elation will be felt knowing Staub is at it again, offering up a new and terrifying series that will have readers wanting more.

Rowan has come back to her hometown of Mundy’s Landing in upstate New York to settle down with her family. Rowan lives a good life now, but at one time she was a bit of a troublemaker. Completely changed, she now has a job as a teacher at the elementary school that she used to go to. She lives with her husband, Jake, and her youngest son, Mick, who will soon be on his way to college, following the path of his older brother and sister.

The little town of Mundy’s Landing seems a bit old-fashioned and charming to the naked eye. Of course, even the most charming hamlet holds its secrets. Mundy’s just happens to have a history of blood-soaked crime. The locals, and the town, have never come back from a killing spree called the ‘Sleeping Beauty’ murders; the brutal killing of three still unidentified girls that happened over a century ago.

As Rowan settles into small town life, a new killer who is prone to straight razors is taking out redheaded women up and down the east coast, working his way slowly to his next target. When a package arrives at Rowan’s home that makes her think of the mistakes she would like to forget from her younger days—a secret that she’s kept from Jake for fourteen years—her life starts to come undone…just as the killer arrives on the charming streets of Mundy’s Landing.

This book has a terrific plotline that keeps readers guessing up until the last page…and beyond. It takes some time to figure out who the killer is, with the tale being more than a bit frightening throughout. The biggest upside to this excellent story is that it’s the first that will be written about this odd town that holds a whopper of a secret.

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



By Amy Stewart

In her debut novel, Stewart has taken headlines from the New York Times of 1915 and created a plausible storyline, filling in the missing portions of a true-life crime story to create a period thriller that rivals any other historical suspense novel.

When three spinster sisters, Constance, Fleurette, and Norma Kopp, have their horse and buggy totaled by a drunk driver, in an accident with one of those new-fangled driving machines, their pursuit of recovering the cost to replace their wagon is hampered by the position of the car’s driver, Henry Kaufman, a silk mill owner with ties to the Black Hand Gang. Constance, the elder of the trio, a robust woman of over six-feet ends up in a physical confrontation with the slighter Kaufman, causing more embarrassment than injury, but causing enough damage for him to wage a personal war on the girls.

The sisters live out of town, in a farmhouse, and soon find themselves under barrage from Kaufman and his men, from threats thrown through a window, attached to a brick, to home invasions and an attempt to burn them out of their homestead. With the aid of Sheriff Robert Heath, the sisters, mainly Constance, engage in an investigation of their own, even being used to help draw out the attackers until the sheriff teaches them how to shoot a handgun to protect themselves when one of his deputies could not be at their home.

With a successful outcome under their belt Constance is offered a position as the first female sheriff in New York, thrusting her into the limelight at the head of the suffragette movement when women were entering the job market. Stewart weaves an amazingly delightful tale, one I was hard pressed to put down. This novel should be listed for debut novel awards.

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



By Lisa Brackmann

Unfortunately, this is the final novel featuring Ellie McEnroe, the extremely aggressive Iraqi war vet, and readers will be missing her as soon as they read the last page.

For those who are unaware, Ellie suffers from PTSD and became addicted to Percocet when she used the drug to treat a leg wound. Ellie makes her home in Beijing and becomes caught up with a group of young adults living a corrupt and excessive lifestyle (just because they can) using their parents’ filthy rich bank accounts.

A waitress, who served at one of the group’s social gatherings, soon turns up dead. Ellie’s business card, oddly enough, is on the corpse, and Ellie finds herself becoming suspect number one. In the meantime, Sidney Cao, a Shanghai billionaire and father of three of the group’s raucous members, asks Ellie to help him uncover the real culprit. In Ellie’s search for answers as to who did it and why the waitress met her untimely death, Ellie ends up working in the midst of corrupt politicians and businessmen, a few political activists, of course, the Beijing police force, and the Domestic Service Department that has the sole responsibility of ‘controlling’ anyone who disagrees with the system in place.

By sticking her nose into affairs that the very powerful want forgotten about, she lands in big trouble, and her journey places Ellie in a thrilling world that makes for one of the best ever suspense plots. Advice: Don’t hurry with the read, but savor it all. As readers and fans we don’t want to say goodbye to Ellie, but this is a fantastic swan song that will leave this character in imaginations long after she says goodbye.

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



By Neil Gaiman

Some may remember this particular title; it made a splash back in 1997, in the urban fantasy genre. Different versions of the story were published after that in the U.S. as well as the U.K., but this particular copy takes various scenes that were cut from original versions and puts them back in, so that all readers can feel and experience everything that author Neil Gaiman strived to create.

The story is this: Richard Mayhew is the main character, and is a man who loves his very normal life in London. He is a businessman who appreciates his days, yet his world changes completely when one act of aid turns him on a different path.

Mayhew goes from “regular” London to “Neverwhere.” Still located in London, this is a place that lies on a subterranean level; a maze, if you will, that includes the darkest and scariest of mankind, mixed together with the kindest of beings who fight frantically for “good” to overtake “bad.” The person Mayhew helps is named Door. Door is a girl who lost her entire family at the hands of an agent. She will not rest until she finds and stops this particular murderer, and Mayhew will have to stay by her side and help her if he ever wants to see his “normal” life again.

There is the fantastical, the mysterious, suspend-your-disbelief moments; there is blood, death, and downright frightening things that this book brings to light. All of this is done in such a vibrant fashion that it makes Dr. Who look substandard. For those who have never been to Neverwhere, it’s time to go. For those who may have traveled once before, this new edition is calling out to you. There is more to see, hear and learn. Just remember, the greatest of dreams come hand-in-hand with the most terrifying nightmares where this book is concerned. So…be wary.

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



By John Sandford and Ctein

This book is a little off-the-beaten-track for John Sandford but, as he is a terrific writer, it is certainly a must-read. There is a co-writer on this project, as well; a photographer and lover of science fiction prose, Ctein. And there is no sign of Lucas Davenport on the pages, as the plot takes the reader on a trip to leave the Earth behind and head to the rings of Saturn.

Sanders Darlington is an intern who takes a position at Caltech to keep himself busy until he can collect his inheritance. However, when he is assigned to the Sky Survey Observatory and accidently sees evidence that there is something definitely ‘out there,’ his world changes dramatically. Not only can he see this object coming very close to Saturn, but even more strange, is that whatever the object is just happens to be slowing down.

As always, heavenly bodies do not slow down but spaceships do, and soon the President decides that an investigative mission to Saturn is called for. The goal of the US is to try to keep the Chinese from sending out their own mission. Following the course of history, that doesn’t happen; some slip-ups occur and the space race is on.

Unlike their Chinese foes who seem to get all the good and none of the bad as they sail through the solar system with ease, the Americans experience problem after problem. There is an accident in space that takes the life of a crewmember, and one of their power reactors keeps shutting down. But there is a great deal to learn in the heavens, and both countries will try their absolute best to solve a riddle and claim any riches that can be found.

Scenes of beauty collide with catastrophes, as technology takes over in this incredible tale. There are also a few inside jokes for science fiction lovers, and a fabulous ending for all Sandford fans to thoroughly enjoy.

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



By Linda O. Johnston

This is the second Superstition mystery, and Johnston continues to offer fans awesome tales that provide complete entertainment.

Rory Chasen moved into the town of Destiny, CA, when she was first introduced to readers. Destiny is known to be obsessed with superstitions. Rory thought that she would begin to lead a charmed life once she arrived but, while still a new resident, she found herself involved in a murder. Now, however, that’s all in the past. She loves her job, working as manager of the Lucky Dog Boutique and selling pet food and incidentals to dog people. She’s also the mistress of a great black and white dog named, Pluckie.

Rory’s very good friend, Gemma, is trying to get over a break-up with her boyfriend, Frank. Rory isn’t sure that she can help in the romance department but is hoping to lift Gemma’s spirits anyway. Soon Gemma seems not to need help, as she has found multiple suitors in town. But just as her happiness grows, Frank turns up uninvited and unwanted, much to Gemma’s dismay.

Misfortune abounds as Rory and Pluckie come upon the body of one of Gemma’s beaus, and Gemma and Rory find themselves both in trouble as they become suspects in the murder. Rory is already trying to redeem herself in the eyes of Police Chief Justin Halbertson, telling him she is just an innocent bystander and trying to get him to look at her as a romantic interest. But this is now the second death Rory finds herself in the middle of and the so-called ‘luck’ in Destiny continues to run bad.

Although everyone should know by now that any book with a dog in it is always good, this tale is a definite standout. So while the citizens of Destiny continue to throw pennies heads-up on the sidewalks for people to find, fans like me will fade into the sunset and wait impatiently for the next Linda O. Johnston tale: 5-Stars.

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



By Lois Winston

Jersey girl Anastasia Pollack is still deep in debt, thanks to the untimely death of her louse of a spouse. To add much-needed cash to the family coffers, she’s rented out the space over her garage to the hunky and mysterious Zack Barnes, who’s really handy to have around when the chips are down. Soon she’ll have one less mouth to feed, because her much-married and much-widowed mother, Flora, is marrying for the sixth time and finally moving out of the house. But the wedding festivities are interrupted by the arrival of two detectives, who inform the groom that the body of his daughter has been fished out of the Delaware and Raritan Canal.

As if that isn’t bad enough, even when Flora moves out, she and her new groom live close enough to Anastasia that they’re able to pop in for dinner every night, whether they’re invited or not. And poor Anastasia is still stuck providing room and board for her Communist mother-in-law, Lucille, and her pooch, the aptly named Manifesto.

Anastasia has one more problem: she keeps finding dead bodies. This time, she discovers the body of the most unpopular woman in the neighborhood, Betty Bentworth. This grisly find is immediately followed by her discovery of still another murdered neighbor. Is there a killer targeting elderly women on Anastasia’s street? Or is the killer actually targeting Anastasia and her family, and the other deaths are merely warnings?

“A Stitch to Die For” is the fifth in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries by Lois Winston. If you’re a reader who enjoys a well-plotted mystery and loves to laugh, don’t miss this one!

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



By Sofie Kelly

This is the newest installment in A Magical Cats mystery series; a new cozy about old friends, Kathleen Paulson and her adorable, mystery-loving, magical cats, Owen and Hercules.

This time out, it is winter in Mayville Heights and Kathleen is planning a fundraiser to get money together for the ‘Reading Buddies Program,’ which is where older children help the younger ones learn to read; a program that is working very well. It’s been smooth sailing in Kathleen’s life until Dayna Chapman, ex-wife of Burtis Chapman, shows up after a long absence and mysteriously dies during the fundraiser.

It’s not so mysterious after all when Burtis informs Kathleen that Dayna is allergic to pistachio nuts that were in a chocolate she ate, which is why she died before reaching the hospital. Marcus, Kathleen’s detective boyfriend, is suspicious that this may be a murder and not so accidental. Kathleen agrees, and during the investigation following the death, the police also declare that foul play was involved.

It seems no one in town really knows much about Dayna, other than she has been gone quite a while since leaving Mayville Heights and her husband and two children behind. Before she collapsed she was seen having an argument with her ex and, of course, because of this incident and her sudden re-appearance, Burtis becomes suspect number one.

But something doesn’t feel right: Kathleen doesn’t believe that he’s the killer. So she and her cats go on the hunt for the real culprit, helping her policeman boyfriend as Marcus comes along with the odd trio in order to find the killer in a group of people that both he and Kathleen once thought they knew very well.

For readers who already know about Kathleen and her fun, magical cats, this series just gets better and better with each book.

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



By Julie Mulhern

There’s no way a lover of suspense could turn this book down because it’s that much fun.

Ellison Russell is a widow with a teenage daughter. Her daughter is coming into the Age of Reason and is being a tad bit rebellious, leaving her mother unamused. Not to mention, Ellison and daughter, Grace, are finding themselves in situations where moral issues arise that cause Ellison to try her best to calm down her daughter as well as her own mother, who isn’t too happy either.

One day, when Ellison is watching a high-school football game, she drops her lipstick down through the cracks in the bleachers. She really doesn’t want to bother with it but being that it was expensive and a gift, she decides to go under the bleachers to retrieve it. When she finds the lipstick, unfortunately, she also finds a student, Bobby Lowell, who was once a boyfriend of her daughter, slipping away. Ellison tries to help him but is too late. Pulling her close to him, Bobby whispers the words: “Tell her I love her.”

Ellison, as her personality dictates, is off to locate the girl he was talking about so she can deliver his last message. But as the story moves along, some very funny scenes are included in this odd investigation. Not only is Ellison pulled into a strange situation, but Grace is actually on the prowl to find a new boyfriend for her mother so she can marry her off.

Ellison also finds herself in another dilemma, trying to decide whether she likes Detective Anarchy Jones who she admires a great deal, or an attorney that her mother is pushing on her. A killer is amiss, teenagers are missing, and a message needs to be delivered…Ellison is having one difficult time to say the least.

As this is the second in a series, readers should know that maybe, hopefully, there will be more to come.

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



By Daniel Silva

In the newest entry in Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon series, the master Israeli spy is about at the end of his run in the field. He’s been selected to take over the Office, which suits Gabriel’s wife, Chiara, now that she’s pregnant with twins. He’d planned to spend his last few months before taking up his new position restoring a painting he recently recovered in Italy, but then the head of MI6, Graham Seymour, asks Gabriel to take on one final assignment.

The former wife of a British royal, a woman admired as much for her charitable work as for her beauty, was cruising the Caribbean with friends when her yacht disappeared in a massive explosion. An intelligence source whispers that the bombing was the work of Eamon Quinn, a master bomb-maker who got his start with the IRA during the Troubles but now has become a mercenary, working for the highest bidder. MI6 wants Quinn taken out, and to find out who paid for the Caribbean attack.

Gabriel recruits his former adversary and now close friend, Christopher Keller, to help with tracking down Quinn. Before he walked away from the British commandos and became an assassin, Keller had operated in Northern Ireland, and had almost been killed by Quinn. Keller agrees to help, to finally settle the score.

They follow a crumb trail left by Quinn through multiple countries in Europe until, once again back in England, the tables are turned and the hunters become the hunted. There’s much more at stake than what’s visible on the surface, but Gabriel learns that when it comes to vengeance, death has its advantages.

Silva’s writing always crackles with energy. He takes the reader on a ride along the serpentine intricacies of the plot, outdoing Ludlum at his best, while balancing the story with the realism of LeCarre. This has been one of the best thriller series for years now, and “The English Spy” maintains that level of quality along with its level of intensity.

Reviewed by David Ingram

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