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Deception–things are not as they seem
by Patricia Bradley
Action and tension are abundant in Patricia Bradley’s Deception, the fourth book in the Natchez Trace Park Rangers Series. Madison, the protagonist, is a special agent with the Investigative Services Branch. After the bust of a human trafficking ring in Big Bend in which Madison’s partner is killed, she decides to switch gears and work in a white collar crimes division. She is good at both jobs.
In Mississippi she goes to visit her beloved grandfather, a retired judge, and things turn ugly and violent. A woman who could be Madison’s doppelgänger is attacked. Who is she and which one of the two was actually targeted? There is also a missing girl who was being rescued from her pimp. Could she have been the target? Madison is convinced that a suicide being investigated is in fact a homicide. This novel borders on being a police procedural as there are so many agencies involved.
The book has some romance as Madison is helped by Clayton, a former childhood friend, who is now a ranger in charge of a district in the Natchez Trace. Another interesting character is Nadine, the judge’s longtime housekeeper. She is in her eighties. She doesn’t say a lot, but she is a very careful observer and has great hearing.
Deception has lots of twists to the plot, and the characters not only have secrets, but many really do actively deceive. Madison turns to Clayton to try to understand forgiveness. He explains how he has forgiven others who have hurt him: “Because God forgave me for all the ways I’ve hurt others.” “I didn’t [do the forgiving]. God did it in me. But I had to give up my right to be angry and resentful.”
A huge part of the plot involves adoptions and family history, but all of these seemingly disparate threads tie together quite dramatically when the mysteries are resolved. Deception is my first exposure to this author. I definitely plan on reading more by her. It was an exciting book, and I like the way she gently wove Christian beliefs into a suspenseful tale.
I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Category: Suspense, Christian, Romance
Notes: #4 in the Natchez Trace Park Rangers Series. It is enjoyable as a standalone, but I wish I had read the first ones. The first chapter dives into a previous time frame that sets up Madison’s reason for turning to white collar crime investigation and is easily understood. Then as the plot turns to current events, a lot of characters are introduced (or maybe reintroduced?). I pushed through that and because the plot is the focus, it all sorted itself out. I’m glad I persevered for a few chapters.
Publication: August 2, 2022—Revell
“He was this important businessman, and Mom always told me not to bother him. When he was at home it was like tiptoeing on eggshells, but at least he wasn’t home much.”
Sister. She loved the way the word wrapped around her heart. It sounded as though neither of their lives had been rosy, but perhaps this could be a new start for both of them.
He got the impression Madison didn’t trust many men. And after meeting her father, he could understand why. And then there was a the FBI agent who tried to ill her.
Fatal Family Ties–genealogy mystery
Fatal Family Ties
by S.C. Perkins
Lucy is a genealogist with her own business in Austin. She is tracked down at lunch by Camilla Braithwaite, one of her “three least-favorite former coworkers” at a job she held four years prior at Howland University Library in Houston. She wants Lucy to disprove an article written in Chronology magazine about her ancestor Charles Edward Braithwaite who is accused of being “a coward, a deserter, and a charlatan.”
This project turns out to be a complicated task because records from the Civil War, especially from the Confederate army, are scarce, incomplete, and often inaccurate. Lucy’s expertise is just what this job requires. It is complicated further by a mysterious triptych and the sudden death of Camilla’s Uncle Charlie who was like a grandfather to her. He and Camilla each own a panel from the art set and no one seems to know who inherited the third panel.
Fortunately, as things get dangerous, Lucy’s boyfriend, Special Agent Ben Turner of the FBI, has most of a week off. His concealed carry license, law enforcement connections, and special training help keep Lucy safe. Her associations with the art restoration world through her college friend Helen help Lucy solve the murder and the triptych mystery.
I liked all the positive characters and enjoyed watching Lucy solve this puzzling case. The “mean girls” were clearly not going to give anyone warm fuzzies, but the author did not portray them in black and white terms. There was room for growth and self-realization for two of them. Suspicion landed on various characters and the ending was a surprise. My favorite minor character was Lucy’s mom. I particularly enjoyed the way she interacted with an elderly neighbor known for her grumpiness.
Genealogy is a field that has always confused me with phrases like “second cousin twice removed on your mother’s side.” Fatal Family Ties is dependent on those relationships, but I could follow the reasoning. Lucy even explains that the term “great aunt” instead of “grandaunt” is, in fact, confusing as it does not follow the established language pattern. That made me feel better! You can learn about genealogy and its importance through this book, but it is never pedantic.
I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Notes: #3 in the Ancestry Detective Series, but can be read as a standalone. There is not a lot of personal character backstory to catch up on. The current mystery is the focus.
Publication: July 20, 2021—St. Martin’s Press (Minotaur)
I certainly understood Camilla’s stress, and I had immense sympathy, but I didn’t need the attitude. If I was going to be snapped at, I deserved carbs.
“Wonders will never cease,” Mom said, and I smiled at her. I always loved how she said it as a statement she was stubbornly sure of rather than posing it as the traditional sarcastically surprised question.
“Though one thing you don’t need to change, Lucy, is your willingness to give people second chances. Too few people are open like that these days. Don’t give it up, okay?”
Murder in Waiting–hit and run?
Murder in Waiting
by Lynn Cahoon
If you’re looking for a good cozy mystery, you can’t go wrong with one written by Lynn Cahoon. Her Murder in Waiting fulfilled my expectations. Jill Gardner, former attorney, owns South Cove’s combination coffee house and bookshop. She has several employees and loves taking the first shift as it gives her time to read. She lives with Greg King, the lead detective for the local police. With each having a prior marriage, neither is anxious to make the big commitment again.
Jill’s friend Amy, however, is ready to tie the knot and manipulates Jill into planning her bachelorette party. The book devotes some time to the upcoming nuptials, but the author might have a surprise tie-in to the mystery itself. Jill witnesses a hit and run fatality, and it is up to the local police to determine if it was an accident or murder.
Meanwhile, Jill is being bombarded with two personal issues. A developer wants the land her cottage is built on, and various individuals keep approaching her to try to convince her to sell. Some are rather threatening. Jill provides space and refreshments for a local business group’s monthly meetings. In the absence of the leader of the group, a member starts an unfounded smear campaign on Jill claiming their membership dues are rising because of Jill.
Besides the nitty gritty of the suspicious and murderous happenings, there are fun things going on in South Cove too. Deek, a “super dude” barista, not only has great marketing ideas, but is also trying to write his first book. Jill and Greg’s comfortable relationship takes them further along without high pressure expectations. Jill’s Aunt Jackie and her boyfriend Harrold are important characters in the story. Emma is Jill’s dog who loves nothing better than a run along the beach or handouts and pats from her human friends. There is a lot of food talk, but it is not over the top.
With its sunny California setting and the small tourist town vibes, South Cove opens its heart and Diamond Lille’s diner to welcome you to stay and visit. As Greg and Jill work through the many plot threads, you’ll be glad you dropped in.
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. #11 in the Tourist Trap Mystery Series, but works well as a standalone.
2. Recipe included for Easy Low-Carb Egg Muffins
Publication: June 30, 2020—Kensington Books
Relationships. They were as bumpy as a road filled with land mines.
If my employees weren’t emotional eaters before they joined the staff, I tended to train them to become one by modeling the behavior.
Family. You had to accept them as they were because you weren’t going to change them.
Of Literature and Lattes–reconciliation
Of Literature and Lattes
by Katherine Reay
I enjoyed Katherine Reay’s The Printed Letter Bookshop and was excited at the opportunity to read another book by this author—Of Literature and Lattes. This book is also a clean read dealing with real problems and is, in fact, a follow-up to the first book. I liked both novels, but I didn’t feel the second was as well organized or flowed as well as the first. In The Printed Letter Bookshop, the bookstore is almost another character as is Maddie, its former owner whose funeral initiates the action in the book. We depart from a focus on Maddie and her bookstore in Of Literature and Lattes where some characters continue with the focus on Janet who works at the bookshop and is rediscovering her artistic talent as well as trying to reconnect with her ex-husband, her daughter Alyssa, and her mother. That is a lot of reconciliation to accomplish!
Alyssa struggles when she discovers the success of her employer and his company are based on fraud, and she finds her only alternative is to return home. There she meets Jeremy, a new character who is also trying to start over both with a coffee shop he purchased and in his relationship with his seven-year-old daughter.
There are a lot of twists and turns as Alyssa tries to find employment. To her credit, she will take any job offered when she discovers no one in her field will hire her because she is under investigation by the FBI. Alyssa and Janet want to repair the long-term fracture in their mother-daughter relationship, but it is not simple. Meanwhile, Jeremy has difficulties with his ex-wife and his employees.
The storyline jumps around among the various characters and themes. The characters have to deal with ethical, moral, and legal issues and rely on the help of kind neighbors, family, and friends.
Although I found the first of the book to be a little disjointed, it came together as the story progressed. My favorite character is Becca, Jeremy’s young daughter. I enjoyed the novel, but did not make an emotional attachment to any of the characters. I assume there will be more books making it a series. Reay has written a number of fiction books based on her love of literature and especially the works of Jane Austin.
I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Category: Romance, Women’s Fiction, Christian Fiction
Notes: 1. This book could be read as a standalone, but some of the characters’ relationships would be clearer if you read The Printed Letter Bookshop first.
2. I included this in the Christian Fiction category because the characters’ relationship to Christ is a background theme providing moral and relationship structure.
Publication: May 12, 2020—Thomas Nelson
What before she had regarded as instances of Alyssa’s ingratitude, obstinance, and petulance were recast in light of her own issues of control, manipulation, and anger.
Father Luke had been telling her for months that her problem was no longer asking others for forgiveness, but accepting it herself. “It’s an odd form of pride, you know,” he had said over coffee one day. “You decide you know better than God and make your own ruling.”
Yes, the “bad” in life bumped down the generations with discord and pain, causing breaks and tumult as well, but it could be healed. It could be made new and, perhaps, made stronger.
Penned–animals play important roles in this mystery
by Eileen Brady
A clever murderer is on the loose and his endless killing seems to extend over the years. How do you stop a murderer who is a master of disguise? What do you do if you feel like someone is watching you—only to have him disappear? Dr. Kate in Eileen Brady’s Penned, after briefly befriending a senior with a memory for faces who is in the beginning stages of dementia, has to confront these questions.
Dr. Kate gets along well with the residents of Oak Falls where she serves as veterinarian, taking over an established practice for a year. The book has interesting characters and some romance, but the true focus is the mystery. I thought I had solved the crime only to be surprised at the end. I highly recommend this page turner.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Poisoned Pen Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: #4 in the Kate Turner, DVM Mystery Series, but works well as a standalone.
Publication: October 9, 2018—Poisoned Pen Press
“I don’t make any money. I’m a writer. The only people who are poorer than writers are actors. One night I calculated all the hours I put into my last book and how much I made, minus the cash off the top that my agent and publisher took. I would have been better off working at McDonalds.”
“What idiot uses a match to kill a tick? You could have set our dog on fire and burned down the house.” “I blew out the flame before I squished it,” Amos countered. This time I swear the dog rolled his eyes.
I remember arrogantly thinking I knew the answers to everything when I was a in my teens, and now…now I realize I hadn’t even understood the questions.