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Murder, She Wrote: A Date with Murder by Jessica Fletcher, Donald Bain and Jon Land

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Broken Chord: A Music Row Mystery by Alice A. Jackson

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Shortcut (The Cut Series Book 2) by Arnold Eslava-Grunwaldt

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Category Archives: Thriller

Steep Price (The Tracy Crosswhite Series) by Robert Dugoni

Reviewed by Jud Hanson

Steep Price. Tracy Crosswhite, an accomplished homicide detective in the Seattle P.D., is facing a major life, change in less than a year: the birth of her first child. In the meantime, two major cases are one her plate. The first is the death of a promising young Indian woman, Kavita Mukherjee, whose roommate, Avita, has just broken the news that during her trip home to India, she had gotten married to a suitor arranged by her parents. Kavita disappeared shortly afterwards. The second case being handled by the “A” Team is the fatal shooting of a community activist in a part of Seattle known for its high crime rate. At the same time, Tracy is dealing with her pregnancy no longer being a secret and the sudden reassignment to the “C” team of a seasoned detective in favor of a novice Hispanic woman who seemingly appeared from nowhere. Tracy is determined to see both cases solved and it will take all the team’s skills to solve both cases.

Bad Luck and Trouble (Jack Reacher, No. 11) by Lee Child

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Bad Luck and TroubleA somewhat different concept for Jack Reacher (one of Lee Child’s favorite cop-type folks). Usually Reacher pretty much works alone as he travels the country with no changes of clothes, a travel toothbrush, and little cash but he normally does have his bank info so he can get cash if need be.

He really is in luck this time however as he now has an ATM card but he is completely startled when upon making a withdrawal request he finds he has much more cash than normal in his account. The deposit of $1030 means to Reacher and his MP associates that someone is in trouble. In military jargon 1030 means someone needs help. The deposit was in fact made by Frances Neagley, who had worked with him for over ten years in his army career. She was brilliant, resourceful, tough, and a true right hand to him in his position.

Reacher knows that something is wrong but as he tries tracking her down in Chicago where she used to work he finds that she is currently in LA doing some type of work-related activity. He immediately heads for LA knowing that he can track her down. When he does she tells him that one of their group is not only dead but was thrown from an airplane. The man, Calvin Franz, was one of Reacher’s closest friends in the service. And now Neagley planned to find out who killed him and she knew Reacher would also want that satisfaction.

Reacher had been in charge of a small group of ranger-type investigators of which Neagley was one. On hearing of how Franz died she felt the other eight members of the group should be brought together and do the same type of work they used to do and not only find the killers but the reasons for the murder.

The Fallen (Memory Man series) by David Baldacci

Reviewed by Allen Hott

The FallenAmos Decker, the Memory Man, is back in a new story but using many of his previous attributes as he goes about solving crimes. In this one, however, he does have some different kinds of problems with his fabulous memory. If you have read any of Amos’s previous stories you know he has a fantastic memory and though it gives him problems at times it is usually a great tool for an FBI agent to have.

This time he and Alex Jamison, his FBI partner, take a vacation to a small rust-belt town called Baronville to visit Alex’s sister’s family. While there they not only discover there are some major problems in the small town but invariably they get involved in working out some of the problems. It seems as though at one time a guy named Baron owned the town and was unliked by most residents. He supposedly left a fortune somewhere when he died but no one has ever been able to find it.

Now his last descendant lives in the old dilapidated mansion and he too is unliked by most everyone as they feel (a) he is a Baron which is reason enough to hate him and (b) he may know where the fortune is hidden.

The Rooster Bar by John Grisham

Reviewed by Allen Hott

The Rooster BarWriting about young law students or those just recently admitted to the bar has always been a good stomping ground for Grisham. And The Rooster Bar really fills the bill!

A group of law students attending Foggy Bottom Law School basically get together on several evening meetings and begin discussing the Foggy Bottom Law School. One of them especially has been looking into some strange things about the school as far as placement of graduates and also failure rates etc. He is determined that something is not right so he tells his two buddies and his girlfriend that he is putting together a study to either prove or disprove his theory.

Basically he finds in his studies that the bulk of the lower rated law schools, such as Foggy Bottom, not only produce fewer top graduates. But also strangely enough many of these lower rated schools appear to be owned by a group of industrialists who would not appear to have any interest particularly in further education and definitely not in law degrees. No one takes his findings too seriously but he continues with his theories.

Illegal Holdings (A Valentin Vemeulen Thriller) by Michael Niemann

Reviewed by Jud Hanson

Illegal HoldingsGlobal Alternatives is an NGO funding agricultural improvements in Mozambique by a small charity named Nossa Terra. Trouble brews when a nearly 5 million dollar outlay from Global is suddenly nowhere to be found. Nossa Terra insists they never the full amount, while Global claims the opposite. Since the original source of the funds is the United Nations, the Secretary General sends in veteran investigator Valentin Vermeulen to determine what happened to the money. It isn’t long before Vermeulen realizes that Nossa Terra is correct and that something very irregular is happening. As Vermeulen doggedly pursues the truth, he becomes the target of someone who doesn’t want Vermeulen to succeed and will try to stop him at any cost.

Illegal Holdings by Michael Niemann is the third book in the Valentin Vermeulen series and the first one that I have read. Niemann is a new author for me and one that I will be returning ­ to in order to read his other books. I believe that this new series has great potential because Niemann draws on his real life experiences, both as a child in Germany and in academia from his work on South Africa. This allows him to create characters and plots that are both engaging and realistic. I look forward to future books in this series and give this one 4/5 stars.

*A copy of this book was the only consideration given in exchange for this review.*

The Other Mother: A Novel by Carol Goodman

Reviewed by Caryn St. Clair

Daphne Marist, suffering from postpartum depression after the birth of her daughter Chloe is delighted when her husband signs her up for a mothers day out type group led by a free spirited woman named Esta. She’s even more pleased when Laurel, the “super-star” mother of the group befriends her after the first session. The two women clicked almost immediately finding that the had many more things in common than both having daughters about the same age maned Chloe. Before long though, Daphne begins to see that Laurel’s life isn’t as perfect as it seems and so she begins to urge Laurel to go back to work at least part time. Daphne goes so far to even research online for potential jobs for Laurel which as readers will see later backfires on Daphne.

The book opens with Daphne arriving with Chloe in tow at a new job as an archivist for a well known author’s papers. This is a job that Daphne found while searching for possible jobs for Laurel, but instead, Daphne applies and gets the job using Laurel’s identity and credentials. At the time readers are left to wonder how this came to be, and frankly it took way to long for us to find out the how and why this ocurred.

The rest of the book is mostly given to readers from various characters’ journals and leads to us getting the story in bits and pieces. While this approach certainly builds suspense and makes the book hard to put down it also makes it a little bit hard to follow. For instance, are readers sure the woman who took the job is Daphne or is this really Laurel? There are things in the various journals that point both ways.

Shortcut (The Cut Series Book 2) by Arnold Eslava-Grunwaldt

Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

ShortcutA road less taken leads to murder and a lot more in Short Cut, the newest addition to Arnold Eslava-Grunwaldt’s thrilling, Cut crime fiction series.

As the second book in this compelling crime drama series, the book does well with furthering the story of the Hamilcar Ham Hitchcock and his squad of dedicated detectives from the Yonkers police department, as they are once again called into action to investigate when death rears its head in Yonkers.

Continuing his tradition of remarkably written crime fiction populated with varied characters that are complex, consistent, well-developed, and still fascinating, author Grunwaldt brings readers another truly compelling read. The suspense begins to build immediately when detective sergeant Hitchcock and the Yonkers general assignment team start out investigating not one but two deaths each initially seemingly coincidentally consecutive but unrelated. Things begin with Detective Hamilcar Hitchcock being called to the scene of a newly discovered body; that of seventeen year old Jenny Franklin who took a shortcut on her way home which unfortunately proved fatal. Meanwhile, as Ham and the team are enmeshed in the throes of investigating the death of the Franklin girl another body is discovered; however, there are obvious evidentiary elements that give the appearance that this death could be an accident. However, the story grows in suspense-filled complexity as deliciously plotted twists and turns, and additional deaths, artfully present the possibility that something more sinister may be at work. With few viable leads, multiple potential suspects and bizarre pieces of evidence, Ham and his team have their work cut out for them as they struggle to get to the truth of both deaths.

Proof of Life: A J. P. Beaumont Novel by J.A. Jance

Reviewed by Suzanne Odom

Proof of LifeJ. P. Beaumont is recently retired and experiencing some boredom. He had been a homicide detective for so long that now he is not sure what to do to keep himself busy. His wife, Mel Soames, is busy with her job as the police chief in Bellingham, Washington. Spending his days watching TV and reading is not always enjoyable to Beau and he jumps at the chance to spend time with his son and drive him home from a dental procedure. In addition, he is always looking for ways to spend more time with his increasingly busy wife.

While dining with his wife, Maxwell Cole, a crime reporter for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and someone of whom Beau is not fond, approaches Beau. They make idle chit chat and then Max Cole goes on his way. Soon after this chance meeting, Cole is found dead in his home, in an apparent accidental fire. Was it really an accident or was it murder? Soon Erin Kelsey Howard, whose life Beau once saved, contacts him. She does not believe that the fire that killed her godfather Max was an accident. She asks Beau to investigate his death after she reads a letter from Max instructing her to seek him for help. Max had been writing a book on corruption at a high level, a possible reason for his death.

Deep Freeze (A Virgil Flowers Novel) by John Sandford

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Deep FreezeJohn Sandford takes one of his favorite characters, Virgil Flowers, back to Trippton, Minnesota where Flowers has worked in his capacity as an agent for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Investigation in previous books. His last visit was when Virgil busted up a crime ring that somehow was created and run by a crooked school board. Virgil hadn’t made a lot of friends at that time but he did have a few who believed he did the right thing.

This time however it involves a female president of the local bank who was found floating in the Mississippi which was actually pretty much frozen over. The woman was pretty much clothed except for having on only one shoe and it was actually twisted on the wrong foot!

Need to Know: A Novel by Karen Cleveland

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Need to KnowThis book was very highly rated by some of today’s top writers, such as Grisham, Child, and Cornwell. I would recommend that you read it and see if you can discover what they saw in it that I surely missed. If you enjoy spy stories it does fit that genre without a doubt. But overall I didn’t find the tenseness or excitement usually found in spy novels.

Vivian Miller works for the CIA and has been tabbed to be quite a worker with a brilliant future already being touted by some of the higher-ups in her section. Her forte is finding and tracking Russian secret agents who have come to the United States to get as deep into the U.S. intelligence network as possible. Vivian’s abilities allow her to ferret out and identify these agents primarily through intercepting messages from people who have been identified to have some Russian connection. Many of these folks are just normal every day type individuals who are in the U.S. for many varied reasons but the vast majority of them are not spies.

Being able to sort and then really investigate the potential spies is a tough job but Vivian does it while raising a family. She has been married for over 10 years and has four young children. She met her husband, Matt, quite by accident while they both happened to be shopping. He and she collided in an easy manner but then the circumstances provided the opportunity to become friends. This they did and then over the years along came the children.