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Book review crime fiction mystery suspense thriller

Read and Review (R&R) – “Playing Nice” by JP Delaney

This month my book club selected “Playing Nice,” by J.P. Delaney

This well-written story is told in dual points of view – Pete and his partner, Maddie.

I found this book to be a very gripping, emotional page-turner and the short chapters made this 400 page book an easy read.

What if you found out that your family isn’t yours at all?

Pete Riley answers the door one morning and lets in a parent’s worst nightmare. On his doorstep is Miles Lambert, a stranger who breaks the devastating news that Pete and his partner, Maddie’s son, Theo, isn’t actually their son – he is the Miles and Lucy Lamberts’ – switched at birth by an understaffed hospital while their real son was sent home with Miles and Lucy. When the four adults decide to try an amicable agreement to share the children, things quickly unravel. What secrets lie beneath the surface of these two families?

Buckle up for a suspenseful domestic/psychological thriller which stirs up ethical questions – What is in the best interest of the child? Nature verses Nurture? How far would you go to protect your family?

My only wish concerning this story is while the characters were well-developed, relatable and flawed, I would have liked to read more than a sprinkling on Pete and Maddie’s biological son, David. Everything centered on Theo, the rambunctious two-year-old biological son of Miles and Lucy, who doesn’t display any signs of learning setbacks from his premature birth.

If you read “Playing Nice,” be prepared for a roller-coaster ride of suspense!

Categories
Book review crime fiction mystery reading

Read and Review (R&R) – Fatal Reunion by Annette Dashofy

Zoe and Pete are back! The latest Zoe Chambers Mystery, Fatal Reunion, is packed with action and plot twists that will keep you turning pages and wanting more Zoe and Pete when the book is done!

It’s Zoe’s 20th high school reunion and a lot of former classmates are back in town. When a young girl is found brutally murdered, the resemblances to the Monongahela Serial Killer case that was assumed closed years ago when Zoe and her best friend, Rose were seniors in high school is brought to the forefront of Zoe’s mind. In the capacity of the County Coroner, Zoe is in the middle of the investigation and the closer she and Pete get to solving the murder, the more personal the case becomes.

Dashofy’s characters are so well developed.  Her experience as a paramedic and her research into law enforcement, and the coroner’s office shine through in her writing.

Another complex, suspenseful mystery by Annette Dashofy.

Categories
Book review crime fiction mystery psychological thriller reading suspense thriller Uncategorized

Read and Review (R&R) “Survive the Night” by Riley Sager

Riley Sager weaves a masterful tale of psychological suspense.

When Charlie’s parents are killed in a car accident, she turns to movies as a way of escaping real life. At college, Charlie becomes best friends with Maddy. But, one horrific night changes everything. Maddy has been killed by the “Campus Killer.” A serial killer who has killed three times before. Charlie can’t get over Maddy’s death and decides to leave campus before Thanksgiving accepting a ride from a male stranger who she meets at the ride-share board. As their ride ensues, Charlie begins to doubt the sincerity of the man. Could he be the campus killer or is her mistrust a figment of her movie-fueled imagination?

This book takes place in the 1990’s, when pay phones were the only way to check in with someone or call for help. No cell phones, no texting. The premise of a girl getting into a car with a stranger and things going wrong is nothing new and Sager presents it with a road trip story that is filled with twisted, unbelievable characters. To Riley Sager’s credit, I couldn’t put it down. It kept me on the edge of my seat with tension, intense emotion, and danger around every turn. I had to find out – would the campus killer be revealed? What would happen to Charlie?

Categories
Book review crime fiction history mystery reading suspense

Read and Review (R&R) – “The Lessons We Learn”

“The Lessons We Learn” by Liz Milliron

Betty Ahern – the bold, risk-taking PI with moxie, wit, and heart!

It’s March 1943, and Betty Ahern is back and taking on a case that is very personal. When Betty’s best friend, Lee is jailed for the murder of his father, Betty must prove his innocence and get justice for her friend.

Betty and Homicide Detective Sam McKinnon team up and together they investigate Blackie Thomas, a numbers and illegal gambling boss, and the men and women who do his bidding. Tracking down Buffalo’s seedy and corrupt characters is a challenge, but Betty is determined and will stop at nothing to question them in brave Betty style so she can solve the case before Lee’s court plea date.

“The Lessons We Learn” is story three in Liz Milliron’s Homefront Mystery Series. Milliron immerses you into the time period and holds you there. Her characters jump off the page – some into your heart, and some into the river.

A page-turner filled with mystery and history.

Categories
Book review crime fiction mystery reading suspense thriller Uncategorized

Read and Review (R&R) – “Not a Happy Family,” by Shari Lapena

“Not a Happy Family”
By Shari Lapena

Normally, I write my own brief synopsis on the books I’ve read, but this synopsis on Goodreads of “Not a Happy Family,” by Shari Lapena, says it all!

In this family, everyone is keeping secrets–especially the dead. Brecken Hill in upstate New York is an expensive place to live. You have to be rich to have a house there. And they don’t come much richer than Fred and Sheila Merton. But even all their money can’t protect them when a killer comes to call. The Mertons are brutally murdered the night after an Easter Dinner with their three adult kids. Who, of course, are devastated.

Or are they? They each stand to inherit millions. They were never a happy family, thanks to their capricious father and neglectful mother, but perhaps one of them is more disturbed than anyone knew. Did one of them snap after that dreadful evening? Or was it someone else that night who crept in with the worst of intentions? It must be. After all, if one of your siblings could do something this gruesome, you’d know.

Wouldn’t you?

From a reader/writer’s standpoint, I loved the quick, easy read chapters which switch from one POV to another. Shari Lapena does a great job of creating a rivetingly good book where everyone is a suspect and could have a motive. “Not a Happy Family” is full of deceit, troubled siblings, rivalry, and greed.

A binge-worthy book!

Categories
Book review crime fiction mystery reading suspense thriller Uncategorized

Read and Review (R&R) – “The Redemption,” by C.L. Tolbert

The Redemption
By C.L. Tolbert

A suspenseful legal thriller!

Emma Thornton, a law professor in New Orleans is one tough woman. When two men are murdered on the grounds of the Redemption housing projects, she and her law students mount a defense case.

Louis Bishop is a 16-year-old boy, who grew up hard and fast in the housing development. He is charged with the crimes as an adult and incarcerated with violent adult offenders. Emma takes on a gang, guns, and corruption in the police force to defend him against the potential of a death penalty verdict.

The story is set in a seedy area of New Orleans where the cousin of the accused runs the show and everyone is afraid to talk. As the murders of witnesses who have spoken to Emma began to pile up, she knows she and her family are in the crosshairs, but she won’t stop until there is justice.

I wasn’t surprised to find out the author was a retired attorney. She wove the law, the court system and police procedure throughout the book seamlessly.

Kudos to CL Tolbert for creating such unique characters and plot line. The story is rich with vivid descriptions of New Orleans, secrets, twists, turns, and a developing romance.

I enjoyed reading this well-written, action-packed story.

I only have one question for the author – There was a lot of foreshadowing about a man referred to as “Ninja,” and I kept waiting for him to appear. Will he appear in a future Emma Thornton mystery?

I purchased this book after hearing the author speak on a Zoom event conducted by my local independent bookstore, Mystery Lovers in Oakmont, Pennsylvania. This is the second book in the Thornton Mystery Series, but can be read as a stand-alone. I hadn’t read the first book entitled “Out of Silence,” but I will be sure to pick it up now.

Categories
Book review crime fiction mystery reading suspense YA mystery

Read and Review (R&R) – “A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder”

Five years ago, pretty and popular Andie Bell was murdered, and Fairview’s whole town is convinced her boyfriend, Sal Singh, killed her. Aspiring journalist, Pippa Fitz-Amobi cannot shake the notion that they are all wrong. Is Sal innocent and the killer still out there? For her senior project, Pippa starts an investigation into the murder that reveals a growing list of suspects and people who want to keep the case closed.

I read this 387-page mystery in five days. I couldn’t put it down. Suspense, suspense, suspense! Great storytelling and characterization on this roller coaster of a ride, cleverly written, YA mystery.

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder is Holly Jackson’s first novel. The sequel is “Good Girl, Bad Blood,” which I have ordered from my favorite local bookstore, Mystery Lover’s Bookstore and I cannot wait to read.

Categories
Book review crime fiction mystery reading suspense Uncategorized writing

Read and Review (R&R)


I was so fortunate to receive an ARC copy of “Harm Not the Earth.” This is Liz Milliron fourth book in her Laurel Highland Mystery series set in beautiful Western Pennsylvania involving Sally Castle, a public defender, and Jim Duncan, a state trooper.

In “Harm Not the Earth,” two experienced outdoorsmen from an environmental group are found dead in the Casselman River. Jim and Sally both feel this was no accident, but Jim’s resources to investigate are limited as this is out of his jurisdiction. Never one to back down and both displaying resolve and ingenuity, Jim sets out to find the killer while Sally takes on the case of protecting an abused woman intertwined with the murders. Their personal lives become a bit more tangled however, when presented with new job opportunities. During the course of their investigations, they must be careful not to ruin their solid and growing relationship. But, can a public defender and a state trooper stay committed to their careers and each other?

Liz Milliron expertly introduces the characters, and the scenic landscape of Southwestern, PA. Then, ride along shotgun, as one by one she systematically examines each lead and ticks down the suspects. In her typical style, the reader feels the action and the characters come alive on the page.

Another great read in the Laurel Highland Mystery series!

Categories
Book review crime noir pulp thriller

Read and Review (R&R)

Recently “Close to the Bone,” a publisher of pulp, noir, crime, dirty realism & horror contacted me to see if I was interested in reading and reviewing Weston-Super-Nightmare by John Bowie. Bowie’s articles, poetry, short stories, and novels have appeared in Red Dog Press, Close to the Bone, and Bristol Noir, to name a few. I had never read this author and very little in the pulp-noir genre. The prospect of reading this story intrigued me. Below is my review.

John Bowie is an excellent storyteller. As a spider’s web draws your eyes to the center, Bowie pulls you into the dirty underworld filled with violence, gangster wars, and a seedy bar called Hell’s Belles. He introduces a cast of characters you can’t escape. You immediately find a soft spot for his protagonist, Jimi, and a dislike for the hard-edged Max Ballard and the men who do his bidding. Told in a deep and dirty way, some of the story makes you squirm, but Bowie’s writing is poetic and lyrical. Set in the seaside town of Weston, England, his vivid descriptions of the coast make me want to travel there. I loved the references to rock music and artists woven throughout the story. If you are a reader of pulp-noir, I am sure you will enjoy Bowie’s latest. Weston-Super Nightmare is a crash toward destiny thriller.