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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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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 Gate Keeper: An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery (Inspector Ian Rutledge Mysteries) by Charles Todd

Reviewed by Caryn St. Clair

The Gate KeeperThe Gate Keeper opens with Inspector Rutledge’s controlled life about to be upset as his sister has married and is off on her honeymoon. Following the ceremony, Rutledge starts home but decides to go for a short drive to sort out his feelings on his life with his sister now married. The drive turns out to take him quite a distance from London and ends with him coming across a woman standing over a body lying in the middle of the road. Rutledge stops to help and doesn’t quite know what to make of her story that a man stepped out in front of their car. Her companion got out to ask what the fellow needed and was shot. The man in the road then vanished. Although the woman is visibly upset, he sends her in his car into town to get the constable while he stays with the body and their car. The constable comes and takes over the crime scene and sends Rutledge and the woman on their way. Rutledge books a room at the inn in town. The next morning he goes to see how the woman is and after hearing from her and speaking with the constable, urges him to request Scotland Yard be called in. He then calls his boss and arranges to be assigned to the case.

There are so many layers to this story that putting the book down was really hard. The victim was Stephen Wentworth, a wealthy man who ran the local bookstore. Simple enough except that his wealth came not from his own family as such, but from an aunt who provided for him when it became clear his parents would not. Digging into the victim’s past, he finds that people who knew Wentworth found him to be quiet, serious and as good of man as there is. Everyone felt that way except it seems his family. It became clear that Stephen’s own mother despised him and had gone out if her way to not only cut him out of their family, but to make his life as unpleasant as possible. On top of this, there is a second murder in the community of another quiet, well liked gentleman who had only the occasional contact with the bookseller. Yet it seems clear the tow murders are related. There are mysteries in Wentworth’s past that add some additional intrigue as well as the elaborately carved pieces of wood in the shape of animals that were left near each victim.

Quicksand (Eve Duncan) by Iris Johansen

Reviewed by Allen Hott

QuicksandEve Duncan is still trying to find the person who killed her young daughter, Bonnie, years ago. And because it is still causing her some mental problems it is also bothering her forever lover, Joe Quinn. Joe and Eve had gotten the names of three potentials that seem to fit in as possible killers of Bonnie from a gentleman named Montalvo that had used Eve to do a forensic sculpting. Montalvo works in Columbia as a detective type in the military.

Joe, who is a former Navy seal and nationally known Atlantic detective, receives word from the sheriff of Bloomburg, Illinois that Henry Kistle, a fugitive and one of Joe’s three potentials is in Bloomburg. Joe takes off immediately for Kistle’s location but before he gets there Kistle somehow is able to capture and kill the sheriff.

And then Eve receives a phone call that begins with, “Do you still miss your little Bonnie?” The call comes from the sheriff’s phone. She knows right away that someone is aware of what happened to Bonnie and Eve immediately assumes it is the killer. While talking with Eve he admits to killing the sheriff and also admits his name is Henry Kistle.

Kistle does take off and is quickly being hunted in the woods outside of Bloomburg when both Joe and Montalvo with his aide get word from the local sheriff that they have tracked him that far. However even with all their accumulated forces they are unable to get him and he also kills the sheriff’s chief deputy.

When it appears he is still in the woods, Eve flies also to Bloomburg to be of any help that she can. However as part of the story it turns out that Montalvo has developed some sort of a crush on Eve and although she is fighting it she also has developed feelings for him. Her feelings however do not replace her feelings for Joe. What she feels for Montalvo (at least she believes) are because of his extreme care for her loss of Bonnie which Joe has never been able to develop.

From here Johansen has built an interesting story as the entire group of Eve, Joe, Montalvo, and his top aide join forces with legal forces chasing Kistle. Kistle makes many of the moves you would expect in a story of this type as he continues to not only run and hide but also he kidnaps a young girl. He knows that this will really get to Eve so he constantly phones her to tell her where he and the kidnapped youngster are.

If you read Johannsen’s stories about Eve Duncan you know that she is mentally upset and has been for years not only over the loss of Bonnie but also the fact that she has never been able to catch the killer. She never gets much help from Joe in this problem because he never knew Bonnie and isn’t overly sympathetic to past occurrences.

Will Montalvo’s caring cause a split with Eve and Joe? Will they finally catch Kistle? The only way to find out these answers is to read Quicksand. You will not regret doing just that!

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.

Cave of Bones (A Leaphorn, Chee & Manuelito Novel) by Anne Hillerman

Reviewed by Caryn St. Clair

Cave of BonesManuelito is asked to fill in as a speaker for a group of troubled kids on an outdoor adventure. She didn’t want to do it but reluctantly agreed . However, when she arrives at the group’s campsite, she discovers one of the campers failed to return from the solo overnight portion of the trip and a counselor went to find her. He too has failed to return. Eventually the missing girl does show up but the counselor does not and Manuelito calls out a search and rescue team. The girl who was missing is the daughter of a tribal council woman and so almost immediately politics enter into the mix with the mother trying to prevent the police from questioning the girl who may hold the key to locating the counselor. Eventually Annie, the girl, does speak with Manuelito and among other things describes the cave where she spent the night as filled with bones. This causes Manuelito in to notify authorities so the cave can be found and secured before the bones are disturbed anymore as the cave might be a sacred Navajo burial site and at the very least it contains human remains which the Navajo do not touch.

From there Manuelito gets involved with the foundation that runs the camp, stumbles onto a pot stealing ring and gets caught up in a lot of bad weather.

Meanwhile, Chee is in Santa Fe for a training course and also takes some time to check in with Darlene, Manuelito’s troubles sister who is there for a short art course.

The Eagle Has Flown by Jack Higgins

Reviewed by Allen Hott

The Eagle Has FlownQuite a story about an event that supposedly happened during World War II. It is fiction but all the happenings could have taken place unbeknownst to the world at the time.

An attempt was made to kidnap Winston Churchill by a segment of the German Army. There seems to have been a difference of opinion among the higher-ups as to whether it would be a good idea or not. However not only did it not work but in the end a very well- known and highly respected colonel in the German Army was captured. He was then supposedly put into the Tower of London but this too was not a publicized event. In fact both the Germans and English kept that part of the operation a secret. The Germans especially wanted it kept quiet because it was a plot by Himmler and not by Hitler.

Sometime thereafter a group of Germans decide to retrieve Colonel Kurt Steiner from captivity. Himmler pretty much had his own group that was somewhat loyal to Hitler and the Fascists. However another group including a General Schellenberg, was more loyal to Germany and not so much to Hitler.

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!

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

Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

Broken ChordAlice A. Jackson’s Broken Chord: A Music Row Mystery, offers a compelling collaboration of love betrayal, passion, intrigue, and murder set in Nashville’s famous Music Row.

Captivating from the outset, we meet relatable protagonist, the beautiful but middle aged-beleaguered, Sarah Ann Boswell. She finds herself beset by the throes of a middle of her life crisis, when not only does she turn fifty years old, loses her husband to unfaithfulness and divorce, and feels largely ignored by her children, as well as finding herself unceremoniously fired from her job. At a loss for direction or self-esteem, Sarah Ann does the unthinkable and tries to take her own life; nevertheless she survives with the staunch love and support of her long time friends, her prayer group.

While hospitalized Sarah Ann meets godsend, the savvy, smart and talented, Jill Edgerton, who offers her the promise of a renewed life with an offer to join Edgerton Group, her Nashville based talent management firm. Accepting the offer, Sarah Ann embarks on a new and happier journey through life and into the alluringly lucrative world of the country music business. They strike country music gold with the advent of newly discovered artist Jared Parson. Although he’s handsome, talented, and virile he also seems to harbor a secretive side. Besides turning out to be a cash cow for Edgerton group, Jared also starts to cause a divide between partners Sarah Ann and Jill, as an illicit relationship forms between him and Jill. Moreover, events take a turn for the twisted and mysterious when Jill Edgerton is found murdered, leading to an investigation focusing on multiple, possible suspects including Sarah Ann.