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What She Found–cold case with coverups
What She Found
by Robert Dugoni
Tracy Crosswhite, with three awards for valor, has moved from working with a team in the Violent Crimes Section to being the only detective in the Cold Case Unit in Seattle. The perks are a private office and more regular hours so she can spend more time with her husband and baby girl. She has just completed a successful investigation into a serial killer bringing closure for a lot of families and good press to the Seattle Police Department at a time when some groups are calling for defunding the force.
Twenty-five years earlier Lisa Childress, an investigative reporter for a Seattle newspaper, had a 2:00 A.M. meeting with an informer in a warehouse district. She also had a husband and young daughter, but she never returned to them. The daughter appeals to Crosswhite for help.
Author Robert Dugoni has created a plot that will set your head spinning with its complications. Themes include police and community politics, ethics, family relationships, the role of the press, drugs, amnesia, and statutes of limitations. Crimes range from blackmail to murder. Crosswhite finds it difficult to get people to talk about old crimes whether from aging memories or shame. Many of the witnesses are dead. Crosswhite, for personal and professional reasons, will not be deterred in her efforts to bring the truth to light. Honor, justice, and truth are important virtues in the way she lives her life. By the conclusion, everyone has a renewed sense of the importance of family. Crosswhite is a skilled investigator—intelligent and clever in her ability to uncover secrets, follow up on clues, and connect disparate threads.
What She Found is suspenseful without indulging in graphic violence or stepping over the line into the psychological thriller category. This mystery has more action than an Agatha Christie novel; but, as found in a Christie mystery, it requires a protagonist up to the mental challenge. This is not a “happily ever after” book, but the reader will find satisfaction in the conclusion.
I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Category: General Fiction, Mystery
Notes: 1. #9 in the Tracy Crosswhite Series. I read 2 books in Dugoni’s Charles Jenkins Series and liked them enough to try a book relatively late in this series. To my surprise, It worked quite well as a standalone. Although he does characters well, Dugoni’s books are more about the plot than the characters.
2. Another puzzlement for me is that I finished the book and noted that there had been “some mild swearing.” Normally that would mean about 4 or 5 instances. In doing a search, however, I found there were many more examples of inappropriate language (about 30) than had registered with me. So, am I becoming used to that in my reading, was it appropriate to the characters, or was the story so well told that I kept reading without noticing them? I truly don’t know.
Publication: August 23, 2022—Thomas & Mercer
Tracy knew regret was much harder to live with than failure. Regret caused you to second-guess what you hadn’t done.
Honoring her word was more important than pleasing her chief, though it certainly would not be without consequences. It might not be the smartest decision Tracy ever made, but it was the honorable one.
“What I’ve learned is that life isn’t about memories. It isn’t about the past. It’s about living in the present and looking to the future, and what that future holds for each of us.”
Christmas Wishes–love crosses the Channel
by Sue Moorcroft
Good personal character is something that is often taken for granted, but in moments of crisis it can rise to the forefront to shine. That is what happens to Nico Pettersson when he takes his eight-year old daughter Josie to her mother Lauren’s home for a planned visit only to discover an alcohol and drug mess. Lauren is in no condition for a visit or to take care of her two-year old Maria. This precious little one is not Nico’s child. In fact, her conception had resulted in divorce. As a single parent, Nico has his own set of problems, but can he leave his daughter’s sister in a filthy, hungry, and thirsty state?
Throughout Sue Moorcroft’s Christmas Wishes, Nico has many decisive moments of conscience. Meanwhile, he reconnects with Hannah, a childhood friend who is his former hockey teammate’s little sister. She is confronted with a break in her relationship with Albin, a cold, wealthy, supercilious boyfriend who controls her shop and her residence in Sweden. The setting bounces back and forth between Stockholm, Sweden, and Middledip, England, with Hannah and Nico having ties in both countries.
The setting is beautiful and Moorcroft has a talent for descriptions. Christmas is not just a backdrop, but an integral part of the story. The plot and relationships are complex. The ups and downs of romance weave through the story and provide a few surprises. A well-behaved Josie and cute-as-a-button Maria are a wonderful pair of children, and my heart went out to them in their respective situations. Hannah’s grandmother, Nan Heather, is a wise and delightful ninety year old who rounds out the cast beautifully. Christmas Wishes is a Christmas gift to readers who want a good storyline coupled with romance in a Christmas setting.
I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to HarperCollins (Avon Books) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: General Fiction (Adult), Romance, Women’s Fiction
Notes: 1. This book is part of the Middledip Series which seems to be loosely connected by a Middledip, England, setting and by an emphasis on seasons. My impression is that the books in this series do not need to be read in any particular order and that they make excellent standalones.
2. There is one place in the book where the description of a sexual encounter borders on too much detail for my taste, but it is not enough to make me wish I hadn’t read the book. Skim and move on!
Publication: October 29, 2020—HarperCollins (Avon)
The butterflies that journeyed home with her fluttered wings of ice…
Anders rocked a mixed retro look with a Seventies mustache but a Sixties short-back-and-sides. His wide-lapelled suits teamed with busy floral ties were a fashion mystery.
Autumn seemed to have decided not to bother this year and winter had swept in as if from Narnia. Iron-hard frosts stripped the color from the landscape, bleak but beautiful…
Mistletoe, Moussaka, and Murder–deadly Polar Bear Plunge
Mistletoe, Moussaka, and Murder
by Tina Kashian
As usual, even though this is the fifth book in the Kitchen Kebab Series, author Tina Kashian does a brilliant job of bringing the reader up to date on the characters in the series at the same time that they are taking the Polar Bear Plunge in the little New Jersey town of Ocean Crest. The title of the book, Mistletoe, Moussaka, and Murder, encapsulates the plot—but in reverse order. The frigid swim Lucy Barbarian and her sidekick Katie Watson undertake for charity results, unfortunately, in a drowning, but not one of accidental causes. This death (MURDER) and Lucy’s investigation to clear her friend Susan, a local baker, takes top billing in the story. Mediterranean cuisine (MOUSSAKA) comes in second as Lucy manages her parents’ restaurant; the book features enticing descriptions of food. Romance is also in the air (MISTLETOE) as Lucy plans her wedding to head chef Azad.
This cozy mystery will have you turning pages quickly as Lucy discovers that everyone who had opportunity to commit this crime also had motive. Secrets abound. Some of Lucy’s inquiries edge along dangerous lines, and the local detective discourages her “interference.” Gadoo, Lucy’s adopted cat, and Cupid, her landlady’s shih tzu, learn to tolerate each other, and Gadoo has an exciting major role in this book.
The setting is an ocean beach town that depends for its economic survival on three months of summer tourist trade. This book, however, has a cold Christmas backdrop with a nice mix of mystery and holiday fun.
I would like to extend my thanks to Netgalley and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: 1. #5 in the Kitchen Kebab Mystery Series, but works quite well as a standalone.
2. A recipe section is included with 4 recipes ranging from easy to more complicated.
3. There was a small scene where a character did a coffee reading similar to someone telling the future from tea leaves. I do not read books with a paranormal focus, but this coffee reading was an extremely minor part of the book and would not dissuade me from reading more in the series.
Publication: September 29, 2020—Kensington Books
It was isolated in the evening, and a cold breeze blew from the ocean. A full moon hung like a Roman coin in the velvet sky and illuminated the ocean in an iridescent glow. The sounds of the waves were constant and calming.
The streetlamp cast long shadows on the snow-covered street. Coming from a cheerful and noisy crowd in the park, it was eerily quiet.
The mesmerizing pull of the ocean was Mother Nature’s way of clearing her thoughts.
Penny for Your Secrets–post World War I England
Penny for Your Secrets
by Anna Lee Huber
I do so enjoy historical fiction with more than a touch of mystery. Penny for Your Secrets by Anna Lee Huber is that kind of book. Unfortunately, and perhaps it was just me, but this novel seemed to drag a bit. The premise is interesting and becomes increasingly complicated as more murders occur. The Kents, Verity and Sidney, can’t get away from their heroic pasts. Each played a critical undercover role in World War I, and their friends, the media, and their own souls will not let them forget it. In this book, issues from World War I resurface in various ways and involve current MI5 operatives as well.
Although I like the Kents, their relationship issues play a role that is too prominent at the expense of the plot. I understand their angst over past decisions, but sometimes I just wanted to tell them how lucky they are: they emerged from a horrific war with no major physical injuries, considerable financial wealth, and a marriage intact. So many could not claim any of those benefits after World War I.
Kudos to the author for an intricate plot, an appealing setting, and historical accuracy. It will be interesting to see what adventures await the fashionable Kents next.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Notes: #3 in the Verity Kent Mystery Series, but works as a standalone
Publication: October 29, 2019—Kensington Books
My skin prickled at being in such close proximity to so much anger, as if the daggers aimed at others had been deflected on to me.
“…my father always did have a different standard when it came to what he and his peers were allowed to do as opposed to the rest of the world.”
“In some situations, there is no winning. No right way. You can only make the best choices you can, and hope the people your decision might have harmed will forgive you in the end.”
Penne Dreadful–a delicious cozy mystery
by Catherine Bruns
A cozy mystery about a chef whose heritage and passion is Italian cuisine? Count me in! Penne Dreadful by Catherine Bruns is filled with food references from the beginning “Italians are passionate about almost everything in the world, and food is at the top of the list” to recipes for sauce, pizza, and stromboli at the end. In between, you will find a solid plot and interesting characters.
Five weeks prior to the story’s action, Tessa’s husband, Dylan, was killed in a car accident. Tess walks around in a trance until she learns that the crash may not have been an accident and neither her husband nor her marriage was what she thought they were. Secrets and evil minded souls abound, and it seems her husband was one of them. The discovery jolts Tess out of her grieving stupor and into action putting herself and her friends in danger as she tries to uncover the truth.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Sourcebooks Landmark for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: #1 in the Italian Chef Mystery Series
Publication: July 30, 2019—Sourcebooks Landmark
Luigi’s V-8 engine noises continued while I filled his food dish with star-shaped kitty crunches, and then he couldn’t scramble out of my arms fast enough.
“…you don’t ever want to get on Izzy’s bad side. That broad has enough venom in her to make a snake jealous.”
That was one of the beauties about New York weather. It might be ninety degrees one day, and forty the next. Unpredictable, the same as life.
Cliff Hanger–plans that go awry
by Mary Feliz
As Maggie McDonald and her family look forward to a working vacation at Monterey Bay, California, they could not imagine that it would turn into a nightmare. Sons David and Brian help rescue a crashed ultralight pilot, but their quick thinking and heroic actions could backfire in a legal maelstrom.
In Mary Feliz’s Cliff Hanger, Maggie tries to protect her sons and accomplish her organizing job at the resort that hired her, but there are complications at every turn with farmers in conflict, possible drug running, and alien deportation. It’s hard to know who to trust so the family enlists the help of crime fighting friends from their hometown, Orchard View. Their pet golden retriever, Belle, and their friend Stephen’s service dog, Munchkin, a drooling mastiff, have large supporting roles and are a welcome addition to the character list.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books (Lyrical Underground) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: 1. #5 in the Maggie McDonald Mystery Series, but works as a standalone.
2. Each chapter begins with a tip for vacationing families from Maggie’s organizing notebook. Many of the ideas are helpful for daily car use or for those who live on the beach.
3. In addition to formal tips for making life easier, the author weaves handy ideas into the body of the story as well as showing how a family can respond to stresses in a healthy way.
Publication: July 16, 2019—Lyrical Underground (Kensington Books)
“The tricky part will be managing the news outlets and social media. Their attacks can be swifter, harsher, and more reactionary than the law. Lucky for you, we’ve just hired two people who are experts in that arena. We all need to become adept at fending off slings and arrows in cyberspace.”
I shuddered, both in fear of the tales I’d heard of exploding methamphetamine labs and in sympathy for the people for whom near-slavery in the United States meant a better life than staying in the countries in which they’d been born. My skin prickled as my thoughts traveled from the desperate to those who preyed upon them.
Max placed a plate of warm cookies on the table. The fragrance lured David from his room, and we had a moment of silent appreciation of the stress-busting properties of chocolate and refined carbohydrates.
Thunder of Heaven–the power of love
Thunder of Heaven
by Ted Dekker
In reading Ted Dekker’s Thunder of Heaven, I deviated somewhat from the types of books I usually read. My thirteen year old granddaughter recommended this Christian thriller, and I wanted to gain insight into her reading preferences. Having said that, I should clarify that Thunder of Heaven is not written for the younger reader; it is an adult novel without the inclusion of sex or vulgar language. I do not normally read thrillers; but, although suspenseful, this is not the kind of psychological thriller which will keep me up for nights to come.
Shannon and Tanya have grown up in the jungles of Venezuela where Shannon’s parents are coffee farmers and Tanya’s parents are missionaries. Their blooming romance and happy lives are interrupted by horrific events in this action packed story that focuses on good versus evil, the sacrifices of love, and God’s bigger plan.
I had some confusion with the identity of the characters, but it eventually surfaces that the confusion is intentional and is resolved in the end. The plot is strong and intricate. The Venezuela jungle setting is interesting, well depicted, and perfect for the tale Dekker weaves.
Thunder of Heaven deals with some of the bigger spiritual questions. Can God use evil for good? Can a person become possessed by satanic powers? Can a Christian have a vision from God? What is the ultimate sacrifice? The exploration of these topics is not simplistic and is woven throughout the book coming to a head in the resolution of the conflict.
I am new to Dekker’s work, but Dekker is not new to suspense aficionados. A best-selling author, he has written over thirty books which have been translated into multiple languages. Two of his works have been made into films. His chosen genres for his storytelling are thriller and suspense, fantasy and speculative, and historical fiction. I’m looking forward to reading more novels by this author.
Category: Thriller, Christian Fiction
Notes: Thunder of Heaven is book 3 of the Heaven Trilogy, but as the publisher says, “Each is a stand alone story that in no way depends on the other.”
Publication: August 28, 2005—Thomas Nelson
“If your life made too much sense to you, you might forget about God altogether. It is man’s most prolific sin—to be full of himself. But your tormenting has left you soft, like a sponge for his words. It’s your greatest blessing.”
“We see only the terrible tragedy; he sees more. He sees the ultimate glory.”
Abdullah was no one to play with. His heart was the color of his eyes, Yuri thought. Black.
Father…dear God, I’m lost down here. Forgive me. I’m lost and lonely and confused. I hate this man and I hate that I hate him. And I don’t even know if that’s possible! What are you doing? What is your purpose here?
It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way: Finding Unexpected Strength When Disappointments Leave You Shattered
It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way: Finding Unexpected Strength When Disappointments Leave You Shattered
by Lysa Terkeurst
We all have had or will have painful, disconcerting times in our lives—times when we feel that life is not supposed to be the way it is. Lysa Terkeurst, in It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way, shares three major struggles she has been through over the course of a three year period. This book was written in the midst of these extremely hard times when the pain, both physical and emotional were still raw. She talks of her profound agony and grief in hopes that others will benefit from what she has learned and from having a friend walk alongside them through dark times. The despair we feel comes from disappointment which Lysa defines as the difference between our expectations of what life should be like and our reality.
Lisa had to face life-shattering, life-altering and potentially life-ending events with all of the usual questions. Why me? Why now? Regardless of the reader’s circumstances, they will be able to identify with the depth of Lysa’s pain even if the source is different.
This book is not a Hollywood style “tell all.” Lisa only shares enough of the details of her trials for the reader to understand that any one of these events could be more than a person could bear, and Lysa experiences three of them in a short timespan. She tells how she struggled against attacks from within and without and how leaning into God’s word and truth and love sustained her.
Lysa’s writing style is honest and accessible. She is a Bible teacher who has applied the truths of the Bible to her unique circumstances but is also able to show how they apply to anyone who feels that life is not supposed to be the way they are experiencing it. With chapter titles like “But How Do I Get Through the Next 86,400 Seconds,” you know that Lysa “gets it.” She understands just how making it through the tiny portions of one day can constitute a huge struggle.
Each chapter concludes with a “Going to the Well” section that summarizes the major points, provides related Scripture references, and offers questions to reflect on. She ends it with a heartfelt, from-the-soul prayer as she continues reaching out to and trusting in God, the source of her strength for the ache in her soul.
Category: Christian, Nonfiction
Notes: Also available, a video teaching series for this book
Publication: November 13, 2018—Thomas Nelson
Humans are very attached to outcomes. We say we trust God but behind the scenes we work our fingers to the bone and our emotions into a tangled fray trying to control our outcomes.
No, I believe it took every bit of holy restraint within Him to not step in and remove my pain. He loved me too much to do the very thing I was begging Him to do. He knew things I didn’t know. He saw a bigger picture I couldn’t see. His mercy was too great. His love too deep.
The thrashing winds of the storm are gone, but the consequences make it impossible to return to something that feels normal. We make brief visits to normal, but there’s a lot of emotional debris to which we must tend. Little by little, we make progress in the two-steps-forward-one-step-back kind of way.
Dead of Winter–being there for others
Dead of Winter
by Annelise Ryan
As snowstorm after snowstorm blows through the U.S., I am reading about similar circumstances in Wisconsin where Mattie Winston, a medico-legal death investigator and former OR and ER nurse, is involved in several cases. The primary focus of Dead of Winter by Annelise Ryan is the brutal death of a teenage girl whose little sister is also missing. In addition, Mattie has to investigate the death of the director of a local theater group which includes Dom who is her friend, the partner of her boss, and also the caregiver for her son.
The investigation of all three crimes moves along at a pace that is frustrating to those involved, especially locating the missing child who is obviously in danger. Interwoven with the professional issues is Mattie’s personal life with her husband, his teenage daughter, and their two-year old son. The little one is a challenge if left alone even briefly. Mattie juggles motherhood with a part-time job that holds full-time intensity.
I originally thought, when I read my first book (#8) in this series that the descriptions at the morgue would be too graphic for me. Because the setting is one of compassion from the coroner, the EMT’s, and the law enforcement officers, that was not the case. I appreciate the author’s ability to show how those who are tasked with solving crimes and helping victims are able to work their cases, maintain their personal relationships, and perform daily necessary tasks. Balancing all of those roles must be very difficult. Clues don’t always pan out. Sometimes even strong people get sick. Kids can misbehave at the most inopportune of times. Lovers quarrel. But the author shows how those we depend on show up and do their best regardless of the chaos in their own lives.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: #10 in the Mattie Winston Mystery Series, but the author encapsulates the series background handily for the new reader.
Publication: February 26, 2019—Kensington Press
“It seems easy at first because you’re so in love with a person, and you feel like you’d be willing to sacrifice anything, do anything, be anything, just so you can be with them. But eventually the shiny finish on that new relationship wears off, revealing the rust and dull metal beneath. And after a while, you start to question how much of yourself you’re willing to give up to make someone else happy.”
…he’s as nervous as a blind man navigating a floor covered with thumbtacks…”
Amazing that so much beauty can come out of all that meteorological fury.
Broken Heart Attack–good series
Broken Heart Attack
by James J. Cudney
The best way for me to describe the beginning of Broken Heart Attack is “hyperactive,” a label which is meant to be descriptive, not positive or negative. Author James J. Cudney packs a lot into the first several chapters as he brings readers up to speed on the events in the first book of the series and introduces a complex plot with a lot of characters.
The main mystery of Broken Heart Attack centers around the Paddington family, murder, and a missing will. Unfortunately, the Paddington family is quite dysfunctional, and there is not one member of the family that I could relate to or invest myself in. In other words, by the end of the book, I really didn’t care who the murderer was.
A side issue to the murder is a paternity case. Other stories that affect the main character, Kellan, continue from the first book but make little progress: the reappearance of a presumed dead wife, conflict with co-worker Myriam, a potential love triangle involving friends Connor and Maggie, and a possible softening in his relationship with Sheriff Montague.
I purchased this book; it was not an advance copy. Therefore, I was surprised to see a number of errors. Some were obviously a case of autocorrect gone wrong, some were spelling, and some were, more egregiously, pronoun usage. This is particularly startling because the author rarely has errors in his posted book reviews.
On the positive side, Nana D continues to provide humor and Kellan is a likeable character. Would I read another book in this cozy mystery series? Absolutely! I would particularly like to see what happens as Kellan is pressured by his wife’s mob family, the Castiglianos. I would urge the author to write the next book at a less frenetic pace with more character development. He has the beginnings of a good series with interesting plots and a college setting that provides a background with multiple possibilities. The Braxton Campus Mystery Series definitely has a lot of potential.
Notes: #2 in the Braxton Campus Mystery Series. It could be read as a standalone, but would be more fun in sequence.
Publication: November 25, 2018—Creativia
I loved my nana, but her friends were harder to handle than standing upside down catching a greasy pig in a mud slide.
Eustacia and Nana D had some sort of symbiotic relationship where they often couldn’t stand to be around one another but if ever two days went by without time for tea or gossip, the world might’ve come to an end.
I woke up Thursday morning with a hangover so painful my head had put out a foreclosure sign.