The Kill Club by Wendy Heard

A product of her decisions within a harsh justice system, Jazz does her best to protect her little brother Joaquin from his adopted (her foster) mother’s irresponsible religious response to his diabetes. Approached by a vigilante via phone, she resists at first, but gives in to the exchange of murders, though her first two attempts are thwarted, and she is then targeted. That the killings are obvious murders belie the idea that there’s an elaborate secret killing machination in place, especially since it does not seem to include an effective contingency plan. I received a digital copy from the publisher Mira Books through NetGalley, my request based on my appreciation for her previous book Hunting Annabelle, which I found brilliant.

Flash Fiction Friday: Werewolf Museum

Photograph by Max Braday
Dungeon and Torture Museum
Burghausen Castle, Burghausen, Germany

The dozen or so individuals gathered around the display while one read the placard out loud.

During the seven centuries long Bloodluster-Lycanthropy War, torturous atrocities were committed on both sides. Here you see “harmless” non-silver metal spikes that were driven into a small coven of vampires onto a silver slab, thus preventing their escape. Placed in an isolated cave deep within the Eurasian forest, they were found 157 years later by chance, after the war ended.

Of all the names, why do they insist on that one—a voice lamented from the rear. Dude, you’re not even a vampire; you’re a simple wraith—scorned a tall, dark, handsome vampire. The wraith whined—But I want to be. Laughter spread through the group as the reader rejoined them and said—the winner gets to name the war, bloodsucker.

Flash Fiction Friday: The Enemy Comes

“No one is my enemy.”

“Sure, Hank, no one is your enemy. We know. But let’s keep our tazers at the ready just in case, okay, my friend?” Waltraud snagged the book from Hank and stuffed it in the front of her shirt, bumping his tazer up with her own. “Why does your book smell like puke? It’s overwhelming my own fetid swamp in there.”

“It’s regurgitating the hate that surrounds–“

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever. Sorry I asked.” Shoulder to shoulder, they strode stealthily through the starship’s upper deck, three starkiller robots on their heels like big dumb dogs with 4317s holding ammo that detonated on contact. When one hit a human head, it was a fireworks of organic material. Hitting a robot endangered them all. Sometimes the difference wasn’t obvious. The starkillers were programmed to follow the instructions of Waltraud alone.

When she turned the corner and her head disappeared from a blaster ray, the starkillers turned to Hank, who said, “No one is my enemy.” They fired.

What She Never Said by Catharine Riggs

There are secrets galore amongst the employees of Serenity Acres. Ruth’s anticipated promotion disappears when the owner sells the company due to, unbeknownst to Ruth, incredible debt. When she discovers a secret society planning deaths of seniors in her care, she hires her former detective neighbor Zach to investigate undercover as security. Even Ruth must give up her secrets eventually. Riggs brilliantly builds tension within several aspects of the multi-thread storyline, intriguing Dear Reader, serving up the satisfying secrets in a timely manner. I received this excellent story from the publisher Thomas & Mercer through NetGalley.

American Sherlock: Murder, Forensics, and the Birth of American CSI by Kate Winkler Dawson

In the early 20th century, criminologist Edward Oscar Heinrich used forensic science to expose criminals from trace evidence using techniques established by himself and progressive law enforcement colleagues. He also documented everything in his professional life no matter how small, a collection his son donated to the library of Heinrich’s employer, the University of California at Berkeley. Dawson’s determination persuaded archivist Lara Michels, who took on the monumental task of cataloging it all. I was fortunate to receive this well-researched and well-written biography of a brilliant founder of forensic strategies and forensic science itself from the publisher G P Putnam’s Sons through NetGalley.

The Chestnut Man by Soren Sveistrup

A serial killer leaves a little chestnut man at the site of each murder. Also left are fingerprints of a government minister’s child, kidnapped a year previous. Sveistrup portrays well a family on the edge of grief clinging to a tiny ray of hope. The police investigation gets a bit detailed, leaving Dear Reader hanging desperately to any investment in the story. The climax and denouement are sufficiently twisty and well-written. It’s worth the effort to slog through the slow parts to get to the revelation. I received a digital copy from the publisher Harper through NetGalley.

Off the Well-Lit Path by M S Holm

Bob Riggs invokes the Wild West on the sex traffickers who kidnapped his daughter in Sinaloa, Mexico. He seemingly returns from the dead seeking revenge disguised as justice. Dear Reader follows his frustrated efforts through multiple warnings that only spur him on to greater depths of determination. Nothing will dissuade him from rescuing his daughter and making the kidnappers pay. Holm paints a graphic picture of human trafficking in Sinaloa and a gritty portrait of a father’s love. I received a digital copy of this well-written, tension-filled story from the publisher Great West Pub through NetGalley.

In the Valleys of the Noble Beyond: In Search of the Sasquatch by John Zada

John Zada travels to the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia to investigate the extensive sightings of Sasquatch. As he meets with the people of the First Nations, Dear Reader learns much about their culture, history, and spiritual connection with such legendary creatures. This book is more than a collection of personal experiences; it’s a compendium of human nature and the desire to believe in something larger than oneself and how the inexplicable mysteries of life feed that desire. I was fortunate to received this well-researched and well-written book from the publisher Atlantic Monthly Press through NetGalley.

Secrets of the Chocolate House (Found Things #2) by Paula Brackston

In this second book of the series, Xanthe reluctantly succumbs again to time travel, this time to save her friend Samuel. A copper chocolate pot takes her to a 17th century chocolate house, run by a mysterious woman who seems to know all about her and desires to protect her. In this book, Xanthe learns more about her place in the time traveling world, receiving tools to learn how better to control her journeys. I received this wonderful story from the publisher St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley. This publisher informed NetGalley readers upfront that the first book was the beginning of a series, which I don’t normally read, but the premise sounded too fun to pass up, and this second book is also labeled part of a series. Kudos to St. Martin’s Press for their forthrightness. A big thank you to Paula Brackston for introducing Dear Readers to chocolate houses, where you got a steaming cup of creamy, homemade on the spot hot chocolate, so much better than beer.

The Red Labyrinth by Meredith Tate

Zadie crushes on her best friend, the hero of the village, who has saved more than one person from the labyrinth that borders her village, a labyrinth full of booby traps and deadly creatures, including a boogeyman named Dex. When her friend disappears into the labyrinth and becomes history to the village, Zadie is the only one willing to risk the labyrinth to rescue him. Tate spins Dear Reader’s head with unlikely allies, exploding expectations, and astonishing revelations. YA fantasy fans will add this author to their list of favorites. I received this wonderful story from Flux through NetGalley.