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by Margaret Mizushima
Striking Range is one of those books that can not be tidily put in a box with a label. It is a police procedural as the reader gets to see law enforcement, federal, state, and local, at work. It is a K-9 mystery, a who-dun-it where Deputy Mattie Cobb shares the limelight with K-9 officer Robo. He is her buddy and she is his handler; they look out for each other. Watching Robo’s skills is fascinating. This book has enough suspenseful action and danger that it is also a thriller.
The plot is quite involved as Mattie is reviving a thirty year old cold case of the murder of her biological father. Was he a dirty cop? There seems to be only one person alive who knows the truth. He is the same evil man who tried to kill Mattie, but in her determination to find justice for her father, she visits him in a Colorado state prison.
Another thread in the plot is the discovery of the body of a young girl. Only the day before, she was pregnant. What happened to the baby? Why would someone kill the baby? How does fentanyl keep tying into this mystery?
Cole, Mattie’s boyfriend, is a veterinarian and is active in the sheriff’s posse. He plays a prominent role in this story, and there are also a number of kids who figure strongly into the plot.
There are many suspects to sort through. Although I had guessed the motive from a number of reasonable possibilities, the identity of the murderer was a surprise. Complications to solving this crime keep adding up and weather conditions in the rural setting don’t help. Author Margaret Mizushima is a talented writer with descriptions that put you at the scene and let you experience the emotions of the characters. This series is my favorite K-9 series. I have happily read all of the published books in the series and am looking forward to the next one.
I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Notes: 1. #6 in the Timber Creek K-9 Mystery Series. Although the characters continue from one book to the next, it would be excellent as a standalone as the author includes background information as needed.
2. It has a few instances of swearing, but no sex.
Publication: September 7, 2021—Crooked Lane Books
Getting the kids ready for school each morning before he hurried off to work was like lining up horses at the gate before a race—everyone wanted to run off in a different direction, and sometimes someone balked at going anywhere.
Narcan reversed the effects of opiates such as fentanyl, one of the street drugs most dangerous to narcotics detection dogs. It saved the lives of dogs, their handlers, and even addicts after accidental exposure or overdose. Nowadays K-9 officers carried two doses, one for their dog and one for themselves.
Always a sporty dresser, he straightened his bow tie, which was lime green with yellow polka dots, a cheerful addition that conflicted with the lines of fatigue on his face.
by Danielle Steel
If you want an entertaining romance mixed with some mystery and spies, Suspects is a good choice. It reads quickly and has sympathetic main characters. Theo is a successful business woman in the fashion industry. She is married to an older, extremely wealthy man. They have a relatively happy marriage with one child. Everything changes instantly as Theo’s husband and son are kidnapped, probably by an angry Russian over a business deal that went sour.
Mike is a career CIA agent, promoted up the ladder but still very hands-on. He is married to his job. His path crosses with Theo’’s as he follows up on Pierre de Vaumont, a slimy character who makes his money by matching rich and shady individuals with corrupt individuals who can fulfill their needs. Mike knows about the kidnapping and is immediately drawn to Theo and wants to keep her safe.
Most of the book deals with efforts to find the kidnappers and keep Theo safe. In the process a mostly long distance romance, New York to Paris, develops between Theo and Mike.
I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Category: Women’s Fiction
Notes: There is steam in this romance as the couple enjoys a “lovefest of tenderness and passion” whenever they are together. Their sexual encounters are closed door, but that part of the story becomes repetitive and does not move the plot forwards.
Publication: June 28, 2022—Delacorte Press (Penguin Random House)
He could feel his good resolutions sliding away, like Jello-O down the drain.
The windows were all tightly closed so tear gas wouldn’t enter the apartment, and they heard the first cannons go off, shooting tear gas into the crowd. Mike was shocked at what was happening, it looked like a war zone in the most civilized city in the world.
“You’re not a normal person. You’re an exceptional, remarkable one that people are jealous of, which makes you a target. And there are dangerous people in the world.”
City of the Dead
by Jonathan Kellerman
City of the Dead is the first Jonathan Kellerman mystery for me, but it is certainly not his first suspenseful book. In fact, it is the thirty-seventh book that features Alex Delaware, a psychologist who is frequently called on by the police to make sense out of crimes and uncover the perpetrator. Although I might have enjoyed the book more if I had read others in the series, I had no problem following this tough as nails plot. It begins with a double homicide when a truck collides with a nude young man and a barely noticeable trail of blood leads to a nearby house where another body is found. Alex is called in to consult. He does not interact much in interviews, but the police rely heavily on his instincts and perceptions based on his observations of those interviews.
While aiding in this case, he is working on a separate case in his professional practice. He interviews the members of divorcing couples to advise the family court judge of his custody recommendations. This time the child is a three year old girl. The mother hails from a wealthy background, and the father is a professor with Ivy League credentials who jumps from job to job. His specialty, besides the study of symbolism, seems to be disparaging his wife because she is not an academic.
Alex Delaware is an interesting character—highly intelligent, a keen observer, and compassionate in a professional way. He interacts well with the police officers he works with; they sometimes need his help and counsel personally and professionally. His own support system is his partner Robin who restores and repairs musical instruments. They both have offices and work spaces at home which involves them in each other’s work at least minimally.
Pieces of this puzzle gradually come together, especially as more DNA evidence emerges. The tricky part is knowing whom to get that evidence from and where to look for it. The joint, noncompetitive efforts of the police and Alex pull out some interesting clues. In the end, the killer is a surprise as the last pieces of the puzzle are put together. If you like a mystery that is a little tougher and more suspenseful than a cozy mystery, you’ll probably like this one.
I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to Ballantine Books (Random House) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Mystery and Thriller, General Fiction (Adult)
Notes: 1. #37 in the Alex Delaware Mystery Series, but could be read as a standalone.
2. Contains descriptions of the results of violent acts and some objectionable language.
Publication: February 8, 2022—Ballantine Books (Random House)
But when I embark on a custody consult, optimism falls by the wayside and I assume everyone’s going to lie to me.
The practice of family law—of law, in general—has nothing to do with truth and everything to do with brinkmanship and illusion.
Humans are programmed to detest uncertainty, and nothing ruins a detective’s life more than too many question marks.
A Stranger’s Game
by Colleen Coble
Torie Berg introduces herself at Jekyll Island Club Resort as their new IT specialist. In reality, as the daughter of the owner of a huge resort chain, she spent her early childhood there. After eighteen years she has returned to find out what happened to her best friend Lisbeth who recently died while tracking down leads on Torie’s mother’s death.
Someone recognizes Torie and wants her to abandon her investigation. Who knows how far this creepy person will go in intimidating her and what their motive might be. Is it personal or does it have anything to do with the war games the Navy is conducting? Is Torie getting too close to the truth or does this involve the many important visitors the hotel is expecting for a major financial meeting?
Joe Abbott trains dolphins to intercept saboteurs and lives at the resort with his eight year old daughter Hailey in exchange for providing security. He is caught up in issues with the Navy when Simon, a dolphin he is training, catches a diver planting a bomb. As Torie’s neighbor on Jekyll Island, Joe becomes involved in protecting her from a mysterious stalker. He has not been interested in dating in the three years since his wife died, but he is attracted to Torie and she is drawn to his daughter Hailey as they share a sense of loss that both experienced in losing their mothers as children.
A Stranger’s Game is a fast-paced mystery that includes some psychological creepiness and suspense, but not enough for me to classify it as a thriller. It has a touch of clean romance, but the emphasis is on the plot. The Jekyll Island Club Resort setting is critical to the story. The characters are allowed to develop as the story progresses. The novel contains adventure and three major plot lines along with cross threads that give the book both color and cohesion. I did not guess the identity of the criminals behind the detailed plotting of various crimes or those who executed the plans. Well done! Colleen Coble has created a standalone that will send you looking for more of her books.
I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Category: Mystery, Christian Fiction, Romantic Suspense
Publication: January 4, 2022—Thomas Nelson Fiction
“It’s hard to understand even for adults. But evil things happen to all of us, honey. Hard things, bad things. We don’t understand and a lot of the time, we can’t understand because we aren’t God. When those times come—and they come to everyone—all we can do is trust that God loves us.”
“By its very nature, life involves loss. If we stop taking chances, stop living our lives, we might as well crawl in the grave and let someone kick the dirt over us. Real life is worth the risk.”
The reserve she’d donned all her life had made ruts through her soul, tracks she followed like a mule plodding a well-worn trail.
by Margaret Mizushima
The action starts in Burning Ridge in the first chapter where readers also get filled in on the series background and meet some of the characters. From a rough and tumble bar fight, this novel moves on to a bright and sunny horseback ride for Cole, the local veterinarian, and his daughters in the Colorado mountains. The family ride turns dark and the mystery begins.
Margaret Mizushima has written a K-9 police procedural. No cozy mystery, this work of fiction looks at an evil-plotting mind plagued by excesses of greed. Main characters Deputy Mattie Cobb and her K-9 partner Robo find themselves in danger as she tries to solve a horrific crime that turns personal. Many are involved in finding the murderer, and there are a variety of suspects. Get ready for a surprise ending. In the process of the investigation, Mattie discovers parts of her past that she never knew as well as secrets buried deep in her psyche. She learns to accept help and to expand her ideas of what constitutes a family.
Burning Ridge is a page turner as are the other books in this fast moving series. It contains lots of information about K-9 officers shared in a non-didactic fashion.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Crooked Lane Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Mystery, Thriller
Notes: 1. This is #4 in the Timber Creek K-9 Mystery Series. It is good as a standalone, but be aware that each book reveals a little more about Mattie’s past as she comes to grips with it.
2. This contains more upsetting violence than I usually read, but it is within the acceptable boundary for me. Everyone is different so be aware that it contains some torture.
Publication: September 11, 2018—Crooked Lane Books
An occasional clump of young aspen shot up toward the cloudless blue sky. Spring leaves, bright green and as yet unblemished by summer dryness, quivered at the ends of branches, their spade-like shape seeming to catch even the slightest of breezes. “Look at the aspen leaves, girls. They’re dancing.”
Robo lay on his cushion, his eyes pinned on her every move. She’d learned from experience that her emotions went straight to her dog.
“Life can be full of regrets if you focus on them. We make decisions for whatever reasons we have in the moment, not because we have some superhuman vision of what will happen in the future.”
Field of Bones: A Brady Novel of Suspense
by J.A. Jance
It was all I could do to get through the first half of the book. Don’t get me wrong. Field of Bones, set in Arizona, fulfills its promise of being a suspenseful novel, and it is very well written. The characters are appropriately developed, and I certainly understand the appeal of Sheriff Joanna Brady, mother of three, as the main character of the series. She is a strong woman, but portrayed realistically, not as a superwoman. Part mystery, part thriller, part police procedural, and all suspense fiction, Field of Bones runs the full gamut.
The “but” you can hear coming is because of the topic: violent, horrible, sex slavery. It makes for a combo of “I can’t stop reading, leaving characters in this torturous situation” and “I can’t read anymore; it is just too painful.” Kudos to the author J.A. Dance for the skills to put me in this situation. At the same time, I have to say Jance does not include details of the violence, but offers enough information that anyone with an imagination will get the picture. Given the number of books she has published, I think a lot of people admire her storytelling talent. This book is just too terrifying for me, and I doubt I will read any more of her books.
Although some of the tension is relieved in the last half of the book, the story is far from over. At that point, I did enjoy watching how the professionals from various fields perform their duties and work to put the pieces of the puzzle together.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to HarperCollins Publishers for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Fiction, Thriller, Suspense, Mystery
Notes: #18 in the Joanna Brady Mystery Series, but despite the number of books that preceded this one, I had no trouble following the personal interactions because they were limited compared to the suspenseful storyline.
Publication: September 4, 2018—HarperCollins Publishers
At the end of this long, difficult day, he was in over his head. She needed a kind way to encourage him without undermining his confidence.
The pressure Latisha applied during the required three-minute wait hurt like crazy, but Garth was grateful for that. You had to be alive to know that it hurt.
“…did you ever get around to having that baby? The last time I saw you, you were big as a barn.” Randy Trotter was a lot of things, but politically correct wasn’t one of them. He was known for putting his lizard-skin Tony Lamas in his mouth, sometimes both of them at once.