Category Archives: Mystery

Murder, She Wrote: A Time for Murder by Jessica Fletcher & Jon Land

Reviewed by Russell Ilg

“It’s just that the research I did turned up a murder where you used to live, where you were an English teacher.”
“There was a murder, and someone was arrested, yes, Kristi.”
“Were you the one who caught him, Mrs. Fletcher?”

That exchange, between Jessica Fletcher and a young woman she thinks is a reporter from the local high school newspaper, forms the heart of A Time for Murder, the 50th entry in the iconic Murder, She Wrote series. Jon Land, current series shepherd, has chosen to celebrate that milestone by taking us where no reader (or viewer, for that matter) has ever gone before: into Jessica’s past, specifically twenty-five years back in time, and the result is nothing short of a smashing, slam-dunk success unrivalled in the annuls of literary pop culture.

Jessica’s still married to a much alive husband Frank. And they’re raising their eight-year-old nephew Grady at the time, as she tries to carve out a career as a high school English teacher while struggling to get published.

“Is this a mystery?” one of her students asks, as the class dissects one of Jessica’s own short stories that she distributed anonymously.

It’s not supposed to be, but that gets her thinking, as does the murder of the beloved high school principal who was just about to hire her full-time. An office mishap is suspected at first, until Jessica displays her keen powers of observation for the first time while working with Appleton Maine’s only detective, none other than future Cabot Cove sheriff Amos Tupper.

But that flashback to the past is only part of Land’s fourth, and best, effort in the series so far. In the present, the high school reporter for whom Jessica granted an interview turns out not to be a reporter at all; in fact, she’s not even in high school. And when she turns up murdered herself after badgering Jessica about that murder in neighboring Appleton, we’re off to the races on a dead sprint that swiftly reveals a clear connection between these two killings separated by twenty-five years.

Choice Cut (The Cut Series Book 3) by Arnold Eslava-Grünwaldt

Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

Book three in his penetrating “Cut” series, Choice Cut by author Arnold Eslava-Grünwaldt dispenses to readers yet another fast-paced, and intensely exciting addition to his well-received crime thriller series, within which, he capably continues to delve into the activities of the criminally debauched in Yonkers, New York, and the skilled team of detectives that pursue them and bring them to justice.

Maintaining the pace of excitement, drama, and thrills author Grünwaldt artfully continues the general storyline from book two, populated with most of the same characters, particularly the resilient and tough, Detective Sergeant Hamilcar Hitchcock and members of his general assignment squad. With a challenging mystery brewing, the story moves quickly and flawlessly into new and twisted scenarios calling for Sergeant Hitchcock and his team to move into action.

This time, the story starts out with members of the general assignment squad finding themselves coming to terms with the end result of their previous investigation which led to the nearly fatal shooting of a revered fellow officer and the unfortunate and temporary loss of another valued officer. However, the thrills and twists are just beginning with the discovery of a recently deceased male who may possibly be the casualty of a serial killer known as “The Butcher” whose victims are referred to as “one of the butcher’s cuts.”

A Dangerous Duet: A Novel by Karen Odden

Reviewed by Jim Eaton

This novel is a romantic thriller of sorts, set in London in 1875.

It concerns the comings and goings of one Nell Hallam, a young pianist whose chief desire is to study piano at the Royal Academy. At story’s open, she is employed three evenings a week at the Octavian, providing accompaniment for the various acts (magicians, jugglers, singers, trapeze artists, etc.), disguised as a man named Ed. As a woman, she’d be paid for less to play, if she were allowed to play at all.

Her position permits her access to a host of shady characters, some of which might not the scrutiny of her family physician, who fears for her mental health (her mother was manic-depressive), or her older brother, who is employed as a detective by Scotland Yard. Her daytime world bears little resemblance to her gig at the Octavian, and Nell does her dear best to keep these worlds apart, with, as one might expect, dwindling levels of success as we get deeper into story. Organized crime, corrupt coppers, sniveling schemers, sympathetic rogues, and several Dickensian tropes hop about, all bent on ruining Nell’s days and Ed’s nights.

The yarn pulls one along, no doubt. Odden deftly navigates London of the time with the confidence of a tour guide, reminding me at times of a certain Irish author whose creations stumbled and bloomed about Dublin, those they were notably burdened by a relentless ineluctable cavalcade of proto-post modern modalities and odysseys the likes of which Odden chooses to eschew. Instead, she strides forward and through in the manner of perhaps Ann Radcliffe and the Inimitable Boz himself. Her sense of place, of putting in a scene, made me wish to act (as I sometimes badly do) in a production with her as the director or at least set designer. The specificity of imagery is at times remarkable. The actions are equally excellent.

Run Away by Harlan Coben

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Simon Green has been searching for one of his children, Paige, who not only has become a runaway but also a severe drug user. On one of his searches in Central Park, Simon sees Paige and chases after her. However the young man with her steps in the way and she gets away. Simon knocks the man to the ground and then a group of young folk surround Simon. They hold him until the police come and arrest him.

After getting released he explains to his wife, Ingrid, what has happened and she pretty much tells him it is time to accept what is going on. She feels Simon is getting too involved in Paige’s disappearance. He doesn’t agree and just gets further and further into the search.

When he finds through a friend of his several of the drug sellers he does get Ingrid to go along and try to find if any of them know where Paige lives. This maneuver doesn’t turn out well as there is gun fire and Ingrid is very badly wounded by a gun shot.

Simon pretty much leaves Ingrid, who is hospitalized, under the watchful eye of her sister. He then is free to continue his search and find not only Paige but the one responsible for shooting Ingrid.

Now as the story goes along Coben brings in a group of Truth Seekers who are supposedly working to help and serve the needy and others like them. These folk are basically women who appear to be banded together for a reason other than working as saviors. That reason develops later on.

It turns out some of them have been involved over the years in helping unwed mothers give birth to children (strangely enough it turns out that for the most part children are boys and even more strangely related!).

Simon continues to work hard on his end and ends up getting help from some friends and those who work with him. But it just keeps getting more and more involved as there doesn’t seem to be an end to the chase.

In the meantime one of the women from the Truth Seeker group has bonded with a gentleman who is especially good with a gun. They begin working on a list of young men that they not only find but in most cases annihilate for what seems to be no real reason. Needless to say these two end up with Simon in their gunsights as he works to continue looking for Paige.

An interesting story with normal twists and turns in Coben’s way. Profanity and sexual items, as usual with Coben, are pretty much omitted. The ending does kind of baffle the readers. Just good writing with good dialogue and normal twisting and turning!!!

Gretchen: A Thriller by Shannon Kirk

Reviewed by Jim Eaton

At first, I had no idea what to make of this book. It seems in some sub-textual way to be a sort of treatise on coincidence (dare I say, a puzzle within a puzzle). I wasn’t sure to what degree the supernatural was going to play a role; I myself had never heard of any human being (outside of fantasy and sci-fi) having violet eyes. So I suppose you could say this book kept me very much off balance from the start. And it probably isn’t the sort of story I would typically read. Was it a thriller? A mystery? A puzzle in puzzle wrapped in coincidences? It took me more than a few chapters to try to hone in.

How to describe the book without betraying its plot? Hm. You’ve got a woman and a daughter on the run, moving from state to state, hiding from…we don’t know what. The mother won’t tell the daughter. But we do know this has been going on for about thirteen years, since the girl (Lucy) was two years old. I found it ever so slightly confusing that the mother would be worried about them being recognized if in fact the girl was two when they’d fled…but I surmised that the uniquely of the eyes was the root of the paranoia. Maybe. Maybe they were aliens or witches. You decide.

Skin Game (A Teddy Fay Novel Book 3) by Stuart Woods and Parnell Hall

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Teddy Fay was now working as a film producer when he gets a phone call from his old CIA boss. Fay had to leave the CIA at one time because of a mix-up but now they want him back. They believe there is a mole (spy) that is infiltrated into the Paris office of the CIA. So Fay, with very little hesitation heads to Paris as a re- hired CIA agent.

From there it gets very confusing as Fay is constantly finding out strange things that appear to be building up in Paris involving many different countries. They all have not only their normal embassies but these folks are additional countrymen of many countries. They seem to be trying to get to something but neither Fay nor his fellow CIA agents seem to know what.

Fay, working in disguises of all sorts with names of all types, seems to be doing well blending in and learning some things. He quickly meets up with Stone Barrington, perhaps the richest investigator ever, and the New York City police commissioner who is also rich and an investigator. They put together a plan to all work together hunting for the Parisian mole.

Hour Game by David Baldacci (Review #3)

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Not quite what I expect from a David Baldacci story but I am sure that it will appeal to many readers. Theoretically there is one killer out there.He is leaving signature items to show that he did the dirty deed and that more will come. However as the story rolls along it appears to be more of a tale (long winded at that) of one family that not only is incredibly rich but also very twisted up in behavior.

Sean King and Michelle Maxwell, who are now working as private investigators, are hired to do some investigating into a somewhat bizarre burglary. However even before they can get into that several murders occur and bodies are left in somewhat mysterious states. Not only are they wearing watches but altered faces. Each watch has just one dial still on the face of the watch. The first body appears to be wearing a watch with a dial pointed at 1 and then as they find more bodies the dial begins climbing to 2, 3, and so on. However also on several of the first found bodies they dial is not directly on the one but about a minute past it.

Capitol White: A Donnie Brasco Novel (Audiobook – Original Recording) by Joe Pistone and Jon Land

Reviewed by Russell Ilg

As a crime film connoisseur, I place Donnie Brasco among the very best the genre has to offer. Watching Johnny Depp, as the title character, spend five years undercover inside the New York Mob, before ultimately bringing down the infamous families at the top of the food chain, remains great fun every time I watch it.

So it was with great interest that I plunged into Capitol White, more or less a direct sequel to that movie, penned by former FBI agent Joe Pistone working in tandem with bestselling thriller writer Jon Land. The twist is Donnie himself has been re-imagined wondrously here as a fictional hero, as opposed to a fictitious one, to spectacular success.
Pistone famously chronicled his years living undercover in Donnie Brasco: My Undercover Life in the Mafia – A True Story. Capitol White may be all fiction but you wouldn’t know it from the writing and I had to remind myself numerous times that what I was reading was made up instead of a literary rendition of Donnie’s next major case.

Neon Prey (A Prey Novel) by John Sandford

Reviewed by Allen Hott
Lucas Davenport, who used to be the governor of Minnesota’s number one crime solver, still works at solving crimes. But now the former governor has moved on to Washington and from afar he uses Lucas as his number one U.S. Marshall. So whenever there is a strange crime going on anywhere in the West Lucas gets the call and off he goes.

This time he starts off meeting a different FBI agent in New Orleans along with a couple of other agents, Bob and Rae, whom he has worked with on other occasions. It turns out that they not only are hunting a killer but this particular guy is also a cannibal. Although not a perfect one in that he does kill the person first and then usually cuts them open and eats the liver or other intestinal organs.

The killer, named Deese, was on bail for doing other criminal activities in his job as a muscle for hire by loan sharks and others. He skipped out on his bail procedure and was on the loose but still actively doing various crimes as he worked at earning more money.

The Eye That Never Sleeps by Clifford Browder

Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

Traversing back in time to New York City circa the late nineteenth century, Clifford Browder’s The Eye That Never Sleeps poses a decidedly brilliant take on the historical crime thriller with an enticingly twisted narrative that brings together history, mystery, and masterfully fleshed out characters.

A growing mystery is afoot in the expanding metropolis of 1869 New York City when three banks are robbed within a nine-month period. Of particular concern is the robbery of the Bank of Trade which is considered the heist of the century. Moreover, the thief has the gall to brag about the robberies by way of sending to the president of each bank gloating rhyming verses and a key to the bank within days of the wake of each masterminded robbery.

Meanwhile, unfortunately for the bankers, the police department has been overwhelmed by the heavy caseloads of other criminal investigations which leaves the city’s bankers in growing desperation. Looking for answers, they turn to private operative/ detective Sheldon Minick who agrees to take on the case for a substantial retainer which enables the financially strapped detective to pay bills and bring meat to his table.