Tag Archives: murder

Ana Rocha: Shadows of Justice by Ammar Habib and Detective Glenda Mendoza

Ana believes the only way to move past her sister’s murder is to find her real killer, the powerful figure behind the cartel’s low-level felons who went to prison for it. Feeling invincible, she joins the police force to clean up the streets, with the secret agenda of tracking down the mysterious murderer. In this endeavor, she misleads her family and oversteps her rookie authority with her new partner. Everyone has their own way of working through grief—Ana’s is exceptionally brutal and insular.

Again, the author partners with a field professional to ensure accuracy, so that the larger-than-life Ana stays within the boundaries of a law enforcement role, called on her maverick behavior by her partner and superior. Tension created by Ana’s personality elicits sympathy for her, even as her actions make the reader cringe. It is a bit of a stretch that she takes out three drug cartel criminals on her first day, but when it comes time to take down the leader, her superhero persona takes the reader beyond the realm of pragmatism. The story flows well, with writing sufficient to evoke imagery, but it could have gone another round with a more diligent proofreader. It’s a good read for fans of kickass heroines, and I was fortunate to receive a copy from the author for an honest review.

Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney

Amber comes to from a coma, but realizes that she is not awake, only aware. While in her hospital bed, she hears her husband and sister discuss mysterious happenings related to her car accident. Flashbacks to a week before bring the reader up to date slowly through an unreliable narrator. Journal entries from childhood fill in blanks and spew a haze of ambiguity regarding the sisters, until the reader is delightfully confused and enlightened repeatedly, like the proverbial roller coaster ride. Feeney plops out a big, ole’ shocker at the end—twice!—that makes the reader go, “Hmm…” It’s a fun read and worth the time to try to figure out what’s going on between the sisters, and if anyone is trustworthy, or if all of them are constantly scheming. The journal is brilliantly done, without revealing anything. Much murder and mayhem ensue, beyond the family, a deliciously wicked family. I was fortunate to receive an advanced copy from the publisher of this fantastic novel.

Our Little Secret by Roz Nay—pub date April 17, 2018

This story opens in an interrogation room, with Angela prepared to tell her story to police, if they will only listen. Finally, Detective Novak allows her to share everything that she feels is relevant, beginning with her meeting H.P. in high school, where he changed her life. They became best friends who fell in love, or as Angela tells the story, soul mates. She leads Detective Novak through their complicated relationship, hampered by her lack of a healthy role model and his small town contentment, and further strained by Angela attending Oxford, where she’s befriended by Freddy, who dotes on her against her will. Detective Novak perks up at the entrance of Saskia, the missing wife, the reason for Angela’s interrogation, during H.P.’s visit to England. Misunderstandings ensue, emotions tangle, and new pathways are formed. Angela blames losing her first love on everyone else, spending her life from that point on waiting for him to do the right thing. When her mother moves in uninvited after leaving her father, she pursues an unhealthy friendship with H.P. as their houseguest and babysitter, which culminates in Saskia’s disappearance. Detective Novak pieces together the evidence through the long night of storytelling by Angela, who is either also an innocent victim or a truly unreliable narrator.

Nay leads the reader through a maze of Angela’s fears, internal struggles, unrealistic desires, and inevitable disappointments. Angela is brilliantly depicted as a minor character in her own life, for which she can then lay guilt at whoever she allowed to make the decisions for her, as she waits in vain for things to go her way without taking action herself. Failure to communicate is a key element in the derailment of Angela’s life, and Nay relays every misstep taken by those underestimating her. The ending is not as well captured as the entire novel leading up to it, subtlety left behind in the previous chapter.

I was fortunate to receive an early copy from the publisher through a giveaway.

After Anna by Lisa Scottoline—pub date April 10, 2018

Dr. Noah Alderman is on trial for his life, accused of murdering his stepdaughter. Her father fought ruthlessly for custody of baby Anna as a power play after Maggie suffered the relatively unknown, but common, postpartum psychosis. With his recent death, Anna reaches out to the mother she wants to know. She enters the family, which includes Noah’s 10-year-old son Caleb, with a fortune from her father and an attitude of entitlement. Her accusations of molestation against Noah rend Maggie’s heart. Though circumstantial evidence points to Noah as Anna’s killer, Maggie retains a sliver of hope, not quite able to believe he is capable of such an atrocity. A phone call with shocking news sets Maggie on an investigation that may possibly free Noah and return him to her.

Told in alternating timelines, moving back in time through Noah’s trial, while Maggie’s story moves forward from the initial contact with Anna, the stories come together after the trial, with the reader learning information along with the characters. In true Scottoline fashion, the reader is kept guessing who did what until the perspective-shifting bombshell, and the action fast forwards. Un-put-down-able!

I received a digital ARC through NetGalley of this fantastic novel from one of my favorite authors.

Coffin Scarcely Used by Colin Watson

Councillor Harold Carobleat has died, having succumbed to a lingering illness. Soon after, his neighbor and solicitor are found dead under mysterious circumstances. As both are colleagues of Carobleat, and one suspected to be intimate with Carobleat’s wife, Inspector Purbright investigates Harold’s passing as a possible murder as well, eventually connecting it all to a shady business deal.

Often throughout the story, complicated sentences obstruct meaning just as characters obstruct justice in their attempts to thwart Inspector Purbright. It’s worth it in the end, though. The last line is killer!

I received this delightful cozy mystery through NetGalley.

Take Out by Margaret Maron

Sigrid is moving on from Nauman’s’s death, investigating a double homicide in a neighborhood with two suspects. A homeless man and a minor star of the opera industry grown old wind up dead together on a park bench in front of one’s family and the other’s friend, both of whom are suspected of killing one man purposely and the other accidentally through sharing their takeout from the nearby restaurant. Sigrid simultaneously searches for the answer to the mysterious reason for Nauman’s’s journey on which he died.

The latest in the Sigrid Harald series, this is a nice and neat continuation after a couple decades—kudos to Maron! However, I feel that the resolution to the murders didn’t clarify every point, but I’ll leave that up to the reader, since it’s a wonderfully twisty, turny story.

Ripper by Isabel Allende

Teenage Amanda ups the ante in her online mystery game with diverse, global players by introducing a real murder for investigation, using her grandpa as her game “henchman.” Amanda convinces her father, San Francisco’s Chief of Homicide, that the following murders add up to a serial killer. When her mother disappears, the gamers link her to the murders and assist in finding her. As riveting as this story is, a police detective sharing vital information with civilians, especially a teenager, doesn’t make sense. Amanda’s parents, who are divorced, alternate between frustration with her inappropriate efforts at police work and aiding in her investigation without realistic transitions, often changing their attitude from one sentence to the next. That being said, if one can suspend judgment, the characters of Amanda and her grandfather are compelling and humorous, with a unique, quirky relationship, and worth the read. (less)

Foretold (Ghost Gifts #2) by Laura Spinella

Aubrey is alone, with only her position as psychic consultant to law enforcement to distract her from the fact that her husband Levi has taken their son away in the hope that he can somehow circumvent the inherited psychic ability unfolding in frightening ways in their only child. As Levi reports on a mysterious murder connected to a crime family, Aubrey reconnects with Zeke, her first love, who visits her unexpectedly, and has always understood her psychic power better than anyone, perhaps even her spouse. Levi suspects her friend is involved in the homicide, but Aubrey knows better, as their jobs lead them to the same crime. Spinella keeps the reader guessing about Zeke’s motives and actions. When their son is kidnapped, Levi questions Aubrey about Zeke, but she maintains focus, and they reunite to save him.

The Ghost Gifts series presents ghosts as an actuality, invisible to all but a few. Complex characters play out complicated dynamics with psychic ability at the core of the conflict. Spinella carefully weaves it into the story as one more thing to deal with in the life of Aubrey and her family. She is considered a paranormal romance writer; however, her stories are fantastic mystery thrillers, as well as unique ghost stories.

Laura Spinella gifted me an autographed copy in a giveaway and I love it!

A Change of Heart by Sonali Dev

Dr. Nikhil Johsi has spent the last two years drowning his grief in gin and bourbon, barely maintaining his position as cruise ship doctor, graciously offered him by an old friend, and a lifetime away from Doctors Without Borders. Then he spies his dead wife on the ship. The mystery deepens when he learns who it really is and why she’s taunting him. Dr. Nic comes back to life to resolve this further mystery and finally aid in finding his wife’s true killer. The language in this novel is surprisingly a bit rough—a well-educated doctor using the term “crapper.” The love interest is a complicated, emotionally repressed, chorus dancer who is a single mom, a vulnerable woman caught up in an impossible situation, and she steals the story. Dr. Nic’s wife Jen inserts her own voice at the beginning of each chapter, which brilliantly sets her apart, yet maintains her space in the crux of the tale.

Though the novel is essentially a romance, the storyline exposes an ugly underground network of murder for organ theft. Dev conveniently leaves the case open enough for the reader to desire the next book, A Distant Heart, where she continues the investigation and shares another romance, with characters from this book, familiar to the reader, who is already invested in them. Kudos, Sonali!

Thank you, Sonali Dev, for this book gift as a giveaway in a Facebook group.

Ghost Gifts (Ghost Gifts #1) (2016 Montlake Romance) by Laura Spinella

Aubrey Ellis grew up learning to control the physically ravaging and emotionally draining interactions with ghosts who insist upon her assistance, ghosts who always leave tangible evidence of the encounter. As an adult, she’s settled into a position as a real estate columnist that gives her the opportunity to connect with and aid those who have passed on to continue their journey without too much damage to herself. Then she’s sucked into a decades old unsolved murder after new evidence emerges. Her reluctant partnership with fellow journalist Levi St. John takes her in new and unexpected directions, personally and professionally, and she comes fully into herself.

Although Spinella is designated a romance writer, I found the romance to be an integral part of a paranormal story and not the focus. She spins a ghost story so enchanting that I looked forward to meeting the ghosts and cheered Aubrey on when she succeeded in convincing Levi of her gift / curse. I love when writers understand human emotions, building character integrity and deepening genre novels. Spinelli is brilliant at laying down the elements that came together later in the story, doing so without distracting from the current scene. The tension builds as the story veers from the apparent guilt of one character to another, and I did not guess the true culprit, even with the hints sprinkled about everywhere.

Readers who are intrigued by the possibility of the existence of ghosts and the ability to converse with them will like this story. If you liked the television series Ghost Whisperer, you will love Aubrey’s story.

Thank you, Laura Spinella, for gifting me the digital copy of the first Ghost Gifts. I love it!