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Book Review: SAFE HOUSE by Chris Ewan

I’d never read any of Ewan’s work before Safe House but that issue is to be remedied … and soon.

Safe House is a complex whodunit that begins when Rob Hale finds himself recovering in the hospital after a motorcycle accident. Problem is, his doctors and the authorities don’t believe him when he insists his passenger was taken away by ambulance before he was rescued.  In fact, only one ambulance was called to the scene–and it transported him to the hospital.

Other complications involve the woman’s resemblance to his sister, who recently committed suicide, and the private detective his mother hired to look into his sister’s death.

Safe House is set on the Isle of Man, where Ewan lives and works as a celebrated crime writer.  The setting is unique but did not overtake the story, which centers around the the motives and hidden agendas of all the characters.  Although the cast is extensive, every single character is clear and sharp, and you can’t help wondering what’s really going on in the minds of each.  The plot is intricate and keeps you guessing until the very end, something I don’t find as often as I used to.

This is a terrific read.

Safe HouseChris Ewan

To be released 10/29/2013 by Minotaur Books

ISBN 978-1-250-03815-9

 

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Book Review: LOST by S.J. Bolton

Lost may just be the most suspenseful book I’ve ever read.

Set in London, where a serial killer’s  abducting and killing ten- and eleven-year-old boys, Lost weaves together the emotional stories of a number of people living in same neighborhood. Enter Barney, an 11-year-old who’s searching for his mother … and whose father just happens to have been out on the nights the murdered boys disappeared.  Enter Lacey, Barney’s next door neighbor, a Detective Constable on the London police force who’s  on leave from her job and having a difficult time recovering from a recent job-related trauma.  Enter Lacey’s coworker DI Mark Joesbury–and his 10-year-old son…

As the number of murdered boys mounts, Bolton  delves into the lives of Barney and his friends, who are trying to find the murderer on their own.  And as Lacey struggles to remain autonomous and sane, she can’t help but be drawn back to her job and DI Joesbury.

The rapid pacing, exquisitely depicted characters, and unremitting suspense make this a must-read.

Lost by S.J. Bolton

ISBN 9781250028563

Minotaur Books – released June 6, 2013

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Book Review: A TASTE FOR MALICE by Michael J. Malone

A Taste for Malice is the second book in the DI Ray McBain series by Michael J. Malone.  (Blood Tears is the first and the third is scheduled for release in November 2014.)

I came up with a one word description of this book after reading the first chapter and am sticking by it now that I’ve finished the book:  brilliant.

Malone’s characters are real–with all their kindnesses, cruelties, and quirks.  And although this crime novel doesn’t have a single dead body in it, the tension continues ratcheting upward, causing you to hold your breath as you’re sure you know what’s going to happen next … only it doesn’t.

That’s it for me.  I’m going back to my original assessment:  brilliant.  You should be adding this to your summer reading list.  NOW!

Book Blurb:

DI Ray McBain is back at work and on filing duty. Desperate for something to do, a pair of old files intrigue him. In the first a woman pushes her way into a vulnerable family. The children adore her. At first. Then she has some ‘fun’, which soon becomes torture and mental cruelty. Then she disappears. Meanwhile, in Ayrshire, another young family is relieved when a stranger comes into their lives to help them out. McBain makes the link, but nobody is interested in what he has to say. Is it even the same woman?

A Taste for Malice by Michael J. Malone

ISBN:  978-1907869754

Published by Five Leaves Publications

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Book Review: SCRATCHGRAVEL ROAD by Tricia Fields

Scratchgravel Road by Tricia Fields is a gripping mystery with enough plot twists and quirky characters to keep you reading from start to finish without coming up for air.

Why did a local woman abandon her car by the side of the road in the Texas desert … and why was her unconscious body found beside that of a dead Mexican immigrant?  Why won’t the young woman answer the questions posed by Josie Grey, the police chief of the small Texas town?  And more importantly, what caused the man’s death–and the alarming wounds found on his body that just may signal something sinister going on at the dead man’s place of employment?

As the story unfolds, the small town of Artemis, Texas is embroiled in something much bigger than whatever it is Josie Grey discovered out in the desert.  And it’s her job to figure it all out before anyone else winds up dead.

Scratchgravel Road by Tricia Fields

by Minotaur Books

ISBN 978-1-250-02136-6 (hardcover)

ISBN 978-1-250-02278-3 (eBook)

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Book Review: BLACK SHEEP by CJ Lyons

Here’s another book to be added to your list of must-reads.  In Black SheepCJ Lyons‘ characterization of FBI Supervisory Special Agent Caitlyn Tierney is excellent–especially if you’ve ever asked yourself why people behave the way they do–especially your parents…

It’s the only mystery Supervisory Supervisory Special Agent Caitlyn Tierney has never solved:  her father’s unexplained suicide after arresting his best friend for murder.  It drove Caitlyn to become one of the FBI’s best agents–and often the most unorthodox.  Her latest case is no exception:  when the man she holds responsible for her father’s death asks for help in finding his missing daughter, Caitlyn’s search brings her back to her North Carolina hometown.  The town is now vibrant with new money, old lies, and an unknown enemy who will do anything to keep Caitlyn from learning the truth–and who will kill to keep it buried.

The characters in this book come alive and the suspense kept me turning the pages.  And all the while I thought I knew whodunit, and why, I kept changing my mind.  Yep, this was one of those books I read straight through … ’til 2:00 a.m.

Black Sheep by CJ Lyons

Published by St. Martin’s Press February 26, 2013

ISBN 978-1-250-01534-1

Contact Sarah Melnyk

 

 

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Book Review: COME HOME by Lisa Scottoline

I enjoy all of Lisa Scottline’s books but Come Home is by far one of the most emotionally wringing novels I’ve read in years.

After divorcing, pediatrician Jill Farrow has finally gotten her life back on track.  Her 13-year-old daughter Megan is happy and Jill is engaged to marry a wonderful man.  But when her former stepdaughter suddenly appears one night with the news that Jill’s ex-husband was murdered, Jill’s world is turned upside down.  Abby insists her father was murdered and enlists Jill’s help to find the killer.

Come Home combines the nail-biting tension of an expert thriller with the unbreakable ties of family.  As Jill’s obligations to her fiance, the daughter she loves, and the daughter of her heart pull her in different directions, she battles to do what is right and bring her family home.  If you’ve ever struggled with family ties and loyalty, this novel taps into all those turbulent emotions … and love.

Come Home by Lisa Scottoline

Released 04/10/2013 by St. Martin’s Press

ISBN (hardcover) 978-0312380823

ISBN (ebook) 978-1429942324

P.S.  If you click the link above to Come Home, you’ll be taken to Lisa’s website where you can read the first chapter.

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Book Review: DON’T GO by Lisa Scottoline

I love emotionally-charged stories and characters who grow and evolve throughout them.  Don’t Go is a powerful story and as emotionally charged as any story I’ve read in a long time.

While Dr. Mike Scanlon is serving in Afghanistan, his wife Chloe falls victim to a fatal household accident.  Devastated, he returns home only to discover he’s a stranger to his baby girl, and the circumstances surrounding his wife’s death are not as simple as they seem.  Now, he must fight to discover the truth and to reclaim his life–and his daughter.

This novel touches on all a parents’ fears, and all the things that go through your mind when you’re dealing with a tragedy you’re woefully under-equipped to handle.  Scottoline taps into all our fears and the guilty thoughts and recriminations that keep us up at night–not to mention our tendency to avoid when life is simply too awful to bear.

Don’t Go is a must-read.

Don’t Go by Lisa Scottoline

ISBN (hardcover) 978-1-250-010070

ISBN (ebook) 978-1-250-025999

Release date April 9, 2013

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Press

 

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Book Review: THE PERFECT GHOST by Linda Barnes

I’ve loved everything I’ve read by Linda Barnes, including the books in the Carlotta Carlyle series, but she’s outdone herself with The Perfect Ghost.   I was truly awed by Barnes’  ability to build the character of Em Moore layer by exquisite layer in this tale of an agoraphobic biographer who is compelled to push her personal boundaries after the death of her writing partner.

The shy and insecure Em is forced to leave her structured world to visit Cape Cod to tackle alone the project she and her partner had begun before his death:  interviewing the dashing filmmaker and director Garrett Malcolm.  Normally the silent half of the writing partnership, Em becomes privy to family secrets and longstanding feuds, as well as the odd comings and goings of a washed-up movie star.

Everything about this novel is spectacular:  the characters, the storyline, and and the unique narrative of Em Moore.  You definitely need to add this book to your reading list.

The Perfect Ghost by Linda Barnes

Published by Minotaur Books

hardcover ISBN 978-1-250-023636

e-book ISBN 978-1-250-02364-3

 

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BOOK REVIEW: The Good Cop by Brad Parks

One of the things I like best about Brad Parks is that he’s funny. Downright hilarious, in fact. He’s also a terrific writer.

In The Good Cop, Carter Ross–a newspaper reporter in Newark, New Jersey, finds himself wondering why a cop committed suicide when he had everything to live for.  He had a terrific wife, two children he planned to take to Disney World, and the respect of all who knew him. When the local cops accept the suicide theory, despite the protests of the widow and others in the know, Ross does what all good reporters do:  he digs and keeps digging, despite a number of challenges, including attempts on his life.

Parks nails the setting, transforming Newark and all its many flavors into a top-notch character. The plot moves along at a good clip, tossing surprises and action with enjoyable regularity. And I love Carter Ross:  smart, witty, and human–the perfect blend between Alpha and Beta.

Brad Parks’ Bio (excerpted from his website):  Brad Parks is the only author to have won the Shamus Award and Nero Award for the same novel.  That book, FACES OF THE GONE, introduced Carter Ross, the sometimes-dashing investigative reporter, who has gone on to star in EYES OF THE INNOCENT and THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, which was named to the Kirkus Reviews’ Best Fiction of 2012 list and nominated for a Lefty Award for best humorous mystery. The series, which Shelf Awareness has called “perfect for the reader who loves an LOL moment but wants a mystery that’s more than empty calories,” has earned starred reviews from Library Journal and Booklist. It continues with THE GOOD COP and a fifth, as-yet-unnamed installment. Parks is a graduate of Dartmouth College and spent a dozen years as a reporter for The Washington Post and The (Newark, N.J.) Star-Ledger. He is now a full-time novelist who lives in Virginia with his wife and two small children.

The Good Cop

Minotaur Books, ISBN 978-1-250-00552-6

Release date:  March 5, 2013

 

Click here to read my 2009 interview with Brad Parks after he published Faces of the Gone, his first Carter Ross novel.

 

 

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Book Review: When the Past Haunts You by L.C. Hayden

This is the second book I’ve read from the Harry Bronson series and it’s just as good as the first one.  Hayden sucks you into the story on the first page with her talent for devising unique and unexpected plot twists.

In a nutshell, retired police detective Harry Bronson is reluctant to even talk to his estranged sister when she calls, begging him for help.  Decades after the tragedy that destroyed his family, Bronson finds himself not only flying cross-country to his sister’s aid but also committed to solving a murder.  He winds up digging through years-old family secrets and dealing with a multitude of corruption among his sister’s wealthy and powerful friends and business associates.

The action is non-stop and, as Harry struggles to learn the identity of the murder, he must face his past.  I highly recommend When the Past Haunts You, which is available from Amazon in both trade paperback and for Kindle.

L. C. Hayden is an award winning author. Her Harry Bronson series have been the finalist for the Agatha Award for Best Novel (Why Casey Had to Die) as well as finalist for Left Coast Crime’s Best Mystery (What Others Know).

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How to Protect Yourself from Violence

Gavin de Becker’s book, The Gift of Fear, may just be the single most important book I’ve ever read.  The sub-title of the book is “and other survival signals that protect us from violence.”

My biggest takeaway from reading the book is confirmation and validation of something I’ve always believed … but didn’t always know how spot on the belief was and didn’t always practice.  Here’s the takeaway:  our instincts are always right.  Doesn’t matter if you’re a woman or a man, if your instincts, guts, inner voice–whatever it is you want to call it–tell you something’s wrong, something’s wrong!

Contrary to what many will try to tell you, what de Becker calls instinct isn’t a 6th sense.  It’s not something woo-woo, it’s not clairvoyance, it’s not ESP.  Actually, it’s way more logical than that.  In fact, it’s precisely like the processing of a computer.  For example, I’m 56 years old.  I’ve lived on this earth for 56 years and have experienced 56 years’ worth of interactions with other people.  Every single moment of my life was recorded by the computer inside my head.  And, like a computer, my brain processed those sights, sounds, smells, and stored them away for future use.  My instincts are the embodied in the future.  When my instincts tell me something’s wrong, something’s wrong.   I may not know exactly what’s wrong, or why, but I can take the warning to the bank because the processor in my brain has evaluated all the facts and has spotted something out of kilter.

de Becker talks about pre-incident indicators, what he calls PINs.  No one is ever violent without first giving clues to the impending violence.  And, the majority of violence can be avoided if we pay attention to our surroundings and the people in the circumstances in which we find ourselves.  The PINs are always there.  He also proves that fear, when respected, is not only a survival instinct, it’s your friend.

I read The Gift of Fear on the heels of reading Fight Like a Girl … and Win by Lori Hartman Gervasi.  Although Fight Like a Girl is  touted as a self-defense book (the sub-title is Defense Decisions for Women), it’s more a how-to about how to prevent putting ourselves in situations that are threatening or violent than it is about how to physically defend ourselves.  It’s practical and after reading it, I picked up dozens of tips about how to keep myself safe.  I especially liked Gervasi’s advice about how all sorts of everyday household contents have the potential to be serious weapons in the event an unwanted person (read:  man) enters your home, threatens you, and you need to defend yourself.

You can’t go wrong reading this books.  In fact, you’ll be doing yourself a favor if you do so.  Especially if you read them in the order I did:  Gervasi’s book first, from a woman’s perspective, which views all the potential violence that’s out there and then de Becker’s book, from a man’s perspective, which is also that of a person who lived with violence as a child and grew up to be the premier security expert in the world.

P.S.  Many thanks to Alain Burrese, for recommending Gervasi’s book when he helped me with some research I was doing, and to both Alain and Gervasi for recommending The Gift of Fear.

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Book Review: UNSAFE ACTS by Bill Kirton

Here’s another excellent Jack Carson crime novel.  Set in Scotland, this story centers around an offshore platform in the North Sea and the people who work there.  Despite the fact that Ally Baxter has a girlfriend, his co-workers decide he’s gay and murder is the consequence of their extreme views on the subject.

When another murder victim is discovered, DCI Jack Carston finds himself embroiled in a much more complicated crime than a gay-bashing.  Issues arise with a subordinate officer and disciplinary charges  result from their interactions, making the crime that much harder to resolve.

Kirton tackles a number of issues in this novel, and they’re layered craftily.  His ability to combine ugliness with compassion, and then to top it off with a sense of humor, is only one of the reasons to read this book.

Unsafe Acts  was released in February 2012 by Pfoxmoor Publishing and is available in hardcover and for Kindle (free to Prime members)

ISBN 978-1936827213

Bill Kirton was born in England but has lived most of his life in Scotland.  He’s the author of stage and radio plays, flash fiction and short stories, novels, children’s books, and how-to books for college students.   He’s been a university lecturer, actor, director, TV presenter, visiting professor and artist at the University of Rhode Island and spent a few years as a Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow in universities in Aberdeen, Dundee and St Andrews.  (Since I live about 10 miles from URI, I’m hoping he returns!)