Book Reviews

Boystown 7: Bloodlines by Marshall Thornton
This is the seventh in the Boystown Mystery series. It’s the 1980s and P.I. Nick Nowak finds himself simultaneously working two cases for his new client, law firm Cooke, Babcock and Lackerby. After a dentist is convicted of murdering her adulterous husband, Nick is asked to interview witnesses for the penalty phase of the trial. He’s also asked to find the dead man’s mistress. Simultaneously, he’s involved in protecting mob underboss Jimmy English from a task force out to prosecute him for a crime he may not have committed. While busy with these cases Nick must also begin to rebuild his personal life. Thornton takes readers on a trip through the streets of Chicago as they were 30 years ago. His detective carries quite a burden – his jobs and his grief. None easy to deal with. Readers of the series will be happy not only with the new cases but also with his personal issues. Thornton continues in his noir style to develop his characters well and please his fans.

Dying for the Past by TJ O’Connor
A man is murdered in cold blood on the dance floor at an A-list charity ball. Former detective, now ghost, Oliver “Tuck” Tucker, witnesses the shooting but doesn’t see the shooter. Which gets Tuck into the second case in this paranormal mystery series. An unusual ghost, Tuck can be seen and heard by a certain few like his wife. His former police friends and partners, sometimes see and hear him. They even occasionally follow his advice. The current case takes Tuck on a chase through the crime world and into the past. The crime is solve using the diary of a dead mob boss, which also reveals some secrets and reveals family mysteries.

Chaos in Kabul by Gerard de Villiers
U.S. troops about to withdraw from Afghanistan and the Taliban is ready to take over. But the CIA has other plans and calls in Austrian aristocrat Malko Linge to carry out a dangerous plan to restore stability to the region. Malko connects with an old flame and hires a South African mercenary to assist with his mission. But as is the case in the world of spooks, Malko doesn’t know who he can trust. The Afghans are watching his every move. Also on his tail are Taliban leaders, an American journalist, and a renegade CIA operative. One of these forces kidnaps and nearly kills Malko before he can complete his mission. When he manages to escape, he becomes a fugitive, running for his life in a hostile city. Malko confronts plenty of twists and turns, suffers the duplicity and falsehoods of fellow spies and contacts, and faces the pragmatic opportunism of the CIA and the machinations of the Karzai regime. Always needing more cash flow, Malko puts up with it all and dares to accomplish the impossible. This is the first in a long series previously not published in the US.

Revenge of the Kremlin by Gerard de Villiers
The second in the Malko series, this book finds Boris Berezovsky is living in London to avoid the wrath of Vladimir Putin. One morning, the oligarch is found dead in his bathroom, an apparent suicide. Suspicions aroused, MI5 investigates only to find the government shutting down the operation. Once again the CIA intervenes, alarmed by the coziness between Moscow and London, and calls in Malko Linge to investigate Berezovsky’s death and the British cover-up. Malko happily searches for evidence of the Kremlin’s involvement in the whole business and inadvertently puts himself in the crosshairs of the world’s best assassins. Malko Linge, who first appeared in 1965, has often been compared to Fleming’s James Bond. Malko however, unlike Bond, is a different sort of agent readers can easily see why.

Lincoln’s Bodyguard by TJ Turner
In this alternate version of American history, Abraham Lincoln is saved from assassination by Joseph Foster, half white, half Miami Indian. Foster makes plenty of enemies by killing John Wilkes Booth and preventing the assassination. His wife is murdered and his daughter kidnapped, sending him on a mission to recover his daughter. Failing to do so, he melts into the background of a nation boiling over with insurgency and not a real end to the conflict. Some years later, Foster receives a letter from Lincoln requesting his help with a secret endeavor. The President has a secret mission. Foster turns to a friend from his past to help him fulfill the President’s mission and find his daughter. For Lincoln and Civil War buffs this is a good read. There are plenty of facets the author explores which should satisfy any reader.

High Stakes by John McEvoy
Jack Doyle, irreverent former boxer, advertising rep, and publicity man, has lately been immersed in the world of thoroughbred racing. Two old bussies in the FBI agents badger Jack to get him to identify an animal activist carrying out mercy killings of retired race horses that have been given to university veterinary schools. In addition, his help is enlisted by two people threatened by millionaire who covets their horse. As if that wll weren’t enough, Jack gets a call from Ireland revealing that his old friend, Niall Hanratty, a bookmaker, is under attack from mysterious enemies. Jack himself has his own problems with a thug he put behind bars who has now put out a contract on his life. Whew! There’s enough complications and twists to keep anyone busy reading this page-turner. The author handles it all well and manages to throw in some entertaining material about horse racing.

Stalked: The Boy Who Said No by Patti Sheehy
Author Sheehy continues the true-life story of Frank Mederos. If you read the Boy Who Said No: An Escape to Freedom, you’ll find the suspense and intrigue carried into this next volume in the story. After defecting from Cuba’s Special Forces, Mederos faces challenges in his new home in America. Rejecting an offer to join the CIA, he decides to follow his heart.  He wants to settle down with his sweetheart, Magda, marry, have children, and build a life.  But something interferes forcing him to face challenges. Meanwhile, there are those in Cuba who want to punish him for his escape. An exciting tale and one readers won’t want to miss.

Lane Changes by S.L. Ellis
Cassie Cruise owner of the tattoo shop known as The Big Prick, finds her car has been torched. Things go from bad to worse when firefighters find a charred and unidentifiable body in the trunk of her now scorched car. That’s not the worst of it – there’s also a dead body in the car. Cassie was hiding out in the tattoo place and licking her wounds from a case she bungled when she was showcased on a nationwide realty show. Now the body in her car draws her back into her life as a P.I. and she’s back on the job. Bringing someone to justice is in her blood and despite past problems, she jumps into this case.

The Good Know Nothing by Ken Kuhlken
During the summer of 1936, a friend brings police detective Tom Hickey a manuscript which is a clue to the mystery of his father disappearance. Tom risks losing his job and family to track down the lead and maybe his father. No one supports him in this decision but Tom moves forward. He lures the author of the manuscript to a meeting and accuses him of theft and homicide. The author maintains that the Sundance Kid, didn’t die in Bolivia but returned and killed Tom’s father. Tom follows this new lead to Tucson and meets a Dust Bowl refugee intent on avenging the enslavement of his sister in Yuma. Tom manages to free the sister and avenge her but becomes a fugitive. However, in Tucson he does learn facts that pit him  against newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst. He hopes to enlist Leo, but instead Leo offers evidence that Tom’s father was a criminal. This is the final chapter in Kuhlken’s  Hickey. A well written page-turner, the author mixes real life characters and situation in with his fictional world.

The Cold Nowhere by Brian Freeman
Edgar Award finalist Brian Freeman offers the return of Lieutenant Jonathan Stride to frigid Duluth, Minnesota. Catalina Mateo, 16, shows up unannounced at Stride’s home, soaked from a plunge into icy Lake Superior, her clothes stained with blood. She tells Stride a harrowing tale of pursuit and escape from a shadowy kidnapper. Stride trusts the girl, driven by his memories of the girl’s mother. Ten years before, the girl, hiding under the porch of her family home, could hear her mother brutally murdered by her ex-con father. Stride blames himself for not preventing the slaughter. But Stride’s police partner, Maggie Bei, doubts the girl’s story. As events unfold, the girl becomes more suspicious, though Stride still feels he owes her something. Freeman is a master and his book will keep you entranced.

The Missing One by Lucy Atkins
Kal McKenzie was never close to her mother Elena but when she dies, Kal must clear out her mother’s studio. In doing so, she comes upon a hoard of postcards from a Canadian gallery owner. The same one line is inscribed on each. Kal feels that this woman may hold some keys to her mother’s life, values, and character and sets out to find her. The secretive gallery owner will not give her much information but Kal does learn that her mother was a researcher trying to save the orca wales. An adventure that spans distances and emotions.

Elective Procedures by Merry Jones
Elle Harrison and friends Jen, Becky, and Susan travel to Mexico where Jen is to have cosmetic surgery then recover in a posh hotel. But there are some sinister goings on at the pricey hotel. Elle watches, horrified, as a woman, staying in the suite next door, falls from her sixth floor balcony. The room’s next tenant, another patient, is brutally mutilated and on the same balcony. In a strange turn of events, the doctor of the two women takes an interest in Elle. In addition another woman at the hotel asks Elle to help fend off a creepy stalker and a veiled woman sneaks into Elle’s suite at night. To make matters worse Elle’s late husband, Charlie, makes an appearance when Elle nearly drowns. Elle is forced to face a lot of issues, some personal, before this adventure is in the books. But someone is stalking her and she must solve that problem before she can make sense of anything else.

Desert Rage by Betty Webb
Private investigator Lean Jones is visited by US Senate candidate Juliana Thorson who needs Jones to investigate a case involving the daughter of a brutally murdered family. The daughter, along with her boyfriend, has confessed to the murder but Thorson isn’t convinced she did it. Thorson reveals that the girl is her biological daughter. The candidate has more secrets, ones that could end her career and the daughter is the key to things. So Thorson wants Jones to solve the case before it puts and end to her political ambitions. Jones takes the case and finds herself in over her head. This is the eighth in the Lena Jones series.

Deeper than the Gra ve by Tina Whittle
Tai Randolph, owner of an Atlanta gun shop specializing in arms that Civil War re-enactors want. She’s settling into a quiet life with her boyfriend Trey Seaver and doesn’t want anything to disturb that. But she didn’t reckon on the tornado which scatters the skeletal remains of a Confederate hero all thorough her community. Helping out with the recovery of the remains, Tai stumbles on a more recent victim and her late uncle is a suspect. To clear his name and salvage her gun business, Tai gets herself involved in the case.

A Life Unbroken by K.M. Hewitt
Alex McKay’s life on assignment in South America is disrupted. Before her days in Latin America, McKay, a research scientist, was the only witness to an accident in a biological weapons lab. There are secrets she’s been keeping for a long time which is why she got as far away from those days and places as she could. But it catches up to her and she finds herself first in a South American prison then back in Washington, D.C.An exciting tale filled with intrigue and action.

Caught Dead by Andrew Lanh (Ed Ifkovic)
Hartford, Connecticut’s small Vietnamese community is stunned by the murder of one of the beautiful Le sisters, gunned down in a drive-by. Though police and others are willing to call the murder what it appears to be, ther are others who refuse to believe it was anything but a robbery gone wrong. It’s this faction that hires Rick Van Lam to get to the truth. Eurasian Rick―his father an unknown US soldier―is one of the Bui Doi, children of the dust, often rejected by the Vietnamese community. But Rick’s young partner, Hank Nguyen, helps Rick navigate the world of Little Saigon. He immerses himself in a world that may reject him but needs his help. And that help seems even more necessary when a second murder hits Little Saigon. Rick and Hank uncover a world of ethnic tension and criminal activity raging though Hartford’s suburbs to its inner city. This is the first in a promising new series.

Risky Undertaking by Mark de Castrique
Cherokee burial remains are unearthed on the site of expansion for a local cemetery. So Barry Clayton’s dual occupations, part-time deputy and full-time undertaker, are set to bump into one another. When Cherokee activist, Jimmy Panther, leads a protest, tempers cannot be contained and hostilities begin. Well after the conflict, Panther turns up executed in the cemetery. Barry is forced to confront a number of townspeople. But the case takes another direction when Kevin Malone arrives. Malone is an old army buddy of Sheriff Tommy Lee Wadkin’s and a Boston cop. He’s on the trail of a Boston hit man. Malone is convinced that the guy he’s after is the killer of Panther and the Le sister. The stakes are high and Barry must go undercover to root out the killer and his motive.

Neurotic  November by Barbara Levenson
Mary Magruder back in the arms of Carlos in an equally hot Miami is about to try rebuilding her law practice. Her first client; Jay Lincoln, UofM quarterback accused of raping an under aged girl. But her paralegal has some of her own problems and when her ex-husband shows up dead on her doorstep, her problems are added to Mary’s because one of Carlos’s relatives is accused of that murder. Not only that but Carlos’s father is facing a grand jury investigation and Mary’s  mother is in the midst of a persona crisis.
Spending her days in court are putting Maryon a very sharp edge. There’s plenty more on her plate which makes this a busy and fun read. This is the fourth book in the series and a fast-paced page turner it is.

Sons of Sparta by Jeffrey Siger
Siger is at it again. Producing another entry in his Inspector Kaldis series which gets better with each book. Not only does he provide a good mystery, he also gives historical and cultural information in pleasing dollops all throughout the books. This time ancient Spartan warriors are at the center of this mystery. Did they vanish or did they find refuge in a remote area where they played a role through the centuries. Inspector Kaldis has his hands full in this book and he assembles his gang to help solve the mystery which involves families of the Mani whose stock in trade is vendettas and crime. There are plenty of twists and turns and a fine plot to follow. The characters are as unpredictable and lovable as always and there’s a good deal of humor in this entry in the series.

Kittens Can Kill by Clea Simon
Animal behaviorist Pru Marlowe comes to the rescue of a kitten given as a pet to a man who promptly keels over dead. Pru takes the kitten to her home where Wallis, her own cat, is waiting for her. The thing about Marlowe is that she can talk to animals – telepathically. It isn’t a smooth conversation most of the time and cats are as difficult as you’d expect them to be if they could talk. For some reason, Pru decides that it’s her duty to determine whether the dead man was murdered or just mixed up his meds. Why she feels this way is anybody’s guess. Ostensibly it’s for the sake of the kitten but this is really not excuse enough. Pru has a naturally abrasive personality – except when it comes to animals to which she shows more compassion, understanding, and concern than for the humans in her world. She’s had a rough life and a distant mother, but none of that seems enough to explain her behavior and attitudes. She manages to help find solutions to the case and other problems. It would have been more enjoyable if Pru spent more time talking to the animals and having them help solve the case. If cozies are your thing, you may enjoy this one.  This is the fifth in the series which has many fans.


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