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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.”
Murder, She Edited–problematic inheritance
Murder, She Edited
by Kaitlyn Dunnett
Mikki Lincoln is a character I can immediately identify with. She has retired from teaching but is earning extra money as a freelance editor. She is good at identifying punctuation and grammar errors and feels a compulsion to correct them. When running out on an errand she trades her “lightweight sweatpants and somewhat ratty T-shirt for jeans and a clean T-shirt with no holes.” Sounds good to me!
The cozy mystery opens with Mikki receiving a letter from a law firm informing her that she has inherited land from an almost forgotten friend of her deceased mother. There is an odd stipulation that to receive the inheritance she must locate some diaries in the farmhouse, edit them, post them on the Internet, and produce an e-book with them—all in a short amount of time. Finding the diaries is a difficult and eventually dangerous task.
I like Mikki. In spite of beginning her marriage in a time when a woman could not get a mortgage or other credit in her own name, she is a strong, independent woman. She is very intelligent, and she approaches this challenge with the same tenacity as a dog with a bone. The puzzle of where the diaries are and who wrote them leads to a potential cold case of murder and the uncovering of secrets from the past and present. Someone was willing to kill to prevent their discovery. Mikki has several concerned friends who help and protect her, and she achieves the grudging respect of the law authorities.
There is also a subplot about a steamy romance author who was a teaching colleague of Mikki’s. She wrote under an assumed name. A fan of this author wants to meet her and wants Mikki to make it happen. This addition to the story provides a little comic relief and distraction from the intensity of the main plot.
I liked Murder, She Edited from start to finish. A cozy with the main character in her early 70’s appeals to me, and I am looking forward to the next book in the series.
I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Notes: #4 in the Deadly Edits Series, but can easily be read as a standalone. I missed one of the books in the series, but it did not hamper my enjoyment of the others.
Publication: July 27, 2021—Kensington
I bestowed what I call my “sweet but dithery little old lady smile” on him, the one I usually save for security officers at the airport and policemen who think I’m meddling where I shouldn’t.
I wondered what would happen if I didn’t correct all those silly errors. Would the Friends of the Library vote to replace me as editor? I doubted it. No one else wanted the job. Besides, I didn’t think I had it in me to spot a grammar, punctuation, or usage error and not fix it.
Ordinarily, I don’t like to badger people, but I was fed up with the runaround I’d been getting. I leveled my best former teacher’s glare at the young woman and waited for her to cave. She burst into tears.
Murder on the Menu–21st century Nosey Parker
Murder on the Menu
by Fiona Leitch
A delightful British cozy mystery, Murder on the Menu takes us to the fictional town of Penstowan in Cornwall where Jodie Parker and her daughter Daisy have returned to Jodie’s hometown after years on the police force in London. Wanting to remain safe for her daughter’s sake, Jodie retrained in culinary school and plans on starting a catering business. She gets her first job (from an old friend getting married) with little notice, but is anxious to prove herself.
The case of a murdered ex-wife and a bride who may have done a runner returns Jodie to her investigative roots. As she tries to discover the who and why, Nosey (as her childhood nickname used to be) Parker meets the handsome DCI Withers who really wishes she would stay out of his investigations and crime scenes.
I enjoyed all the Britishisms. I know biscuits in England are cookies in the U.S., but terms like “Jammie Dodgers,” butty with brown sauce,” and “ponce” sent me scurrying to the Internet. I love sleuthing words!
The characters are interesting and humor in dialogue and plot is sprinkled throughout. I enjoyed the Cornish accent and word choice like “guv” and “copper;” They are stronger in some of the characters than others depending on their backgrounds. Her mum and Daisy are appropriately supportive of Jodie’s passion for police work that she has trouble leaving behind. Jodie, to the delight of Daisy, adopts a Pomeranian when its human mom is murdered. An expert at “escapology,” the white fluff ball becomes a constant companion and essential to the plot.
The plot is complicated and Jodie is good at both finding clues and deducting their meanings. Our perception of DCI Withers develops from that of an “annoying git,” to a fair and honest investigator.
The setting includes the many varied locales from the town of Penstowan to tourist campsites and from the hotel for the wedding reception to the church hall for the weekly women’s coffee group.
The next three books in the series have already been published as there was lots of time for writing in New Zealand during the lockdown of 2020. This poses a task that I look forward to handling.
I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to Harper 360 (One More Chapter) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: General Fiction (Adult), Mystery
Notes: 1. #1 in the Nosey Parker Cozy Mystery Series
2. Some questionable language
Publication: February 15, 2022—Harper 360 (One More Chapter)
“This is your first major case here—definitely your first murder case; we don’t get a lot of those down this way—and you want to make a good impression by solving it quickly. But this is Cornwall. We don’t do things quickly here, and we don’t expect you to, either. We just want you to do it properly.”
“Are you all right, love?” she said, offering me a wine gum before adding with typical Cornish understatement, “That were a bit intense, weren’t it?”
I was excited about my new catering business,…but this got my adrenaline pumping in a way that making a velouté never could. I’d never been a detective, as such, but I’d always been nosey.
City of the Dead–homicides in L.A.
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.
Knit of the Living Dead–murder at the bonfire
Knit of the Living Dead
by Peggy Ehrhart
If you enjoy a cozy mystery with a lot of well-composed descriptions, likable characters, and clean language, you might enjoy the Knit & Nibble Mystery Series. In Knit of the Living Dead, Pamela, an editor for a fiber arts magazine, follows screams at a Halloween bonfire. She discovers a young woman who has found a dead body. With almost everyone in costume, it is difficult to tell who is in attendance, much less who the murderer is. It is possible that the deceased is not even the intended victim.
Pamela and her best friend and neighbor Bettina are joined in their sleuthing activities by Nell, an elderly member of their knitting club. They interview possible suspects under various guises, narrowing down the pool and often hoping the perpetrator is not someone nice that they have difficulty imagining as a killer. Both the murderer and the motivation are a surprise when revealed.
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. #6 in the Knit & Nibble Mystery Series, but would work as a standalone.
2. Includes directions for making a Trick-or-Treat tote for children and recipes for Pumpkin-Spice Crumb Cake and Candy Corn Halloween Cookies (which have a chocolate base).
Publication: August 25, 2020—Kensington Books
Despite the festive atmosphere and good cheer, the bonfire awoke feelings more appropriate to a pagan celebration marking nature’s mysterious powers. The flames illuminated rapt faces, dramatizing features and rendering the familiar unfamiliar.
The air was chilly but still, and the day was bright and cloudless. Lawns on Angler Road were still green, with fallen leaves like bright paint spatters here and there.
Wilfred had outdone himself. The beef was meltingly tender, savory, and meaty, infused with the flavors of carrots, mushrooms, and the subtly sweet onions—all melded together during the stew’s long, slow cooking.
A Fatal Fiction–editing can be dangerous
A Fatal Fiction
by Kaitlyn Dunnett
Mikki Lincoln is a retired middle school English teacher in Kaitlyn Dunnett’s A Fatal Fiction. In order to remodel her childhood home that has been neglected for many years, she supplements her retirement income using her skills as a copy editor. She lived in Maine for about fifty years, but has returned to her hometown, Lenape Hollow, NY. While stopped at a gas station, seventy year old Mikki is verbally attacked by a very angry businessman who has cheated a lot of people over the years by luring them into failing investments. Video of the encounter goes viral, even though Mikki never understood the cause of his anger. Mikki is the prime suspect when her attacker, CEO Greg Onslow, is found dead on one of the properties his company is developing.
Mikki is determined to discover who killed Onslow, but he was not a very nice man, so there are multiple suspects. Friends and family discourage her investigations as they seem dangerous at times.
The editing aspect of the story revolves around Sunny Feldman, last of the owners of a famous resort in the Catskills. She has hired Mikki to edit her semi tell-all memoirs of the celebrities who frequented the resort when she was a teenager. Onslow has bought the property for a development venture. Could their interests be colliding to cause these problems? Could Onslow’s ex-wife or even his second wife have killed him? There are some interesting locals who may have been involved as well. Most importantly, will the murderer set his or her sights on Mikki to cover up the crime and stop the investigation?
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. #3 in the Deadly Edits Mystery Series, but will work as a standalone.
2. At the end of the book, there is a section that will especially appeal to those who love language. It is composed of several pages of language and grammar tips including warnings on split infinitives, dangling modifiers, and usage of the terms swearing and foul language. The tips are interesting and often humorous.
Publication: June 30, 2020—Kensington Books
Warmth crept up my neck and into my face. I was torn between feeling a sense of pride for standing up for myself and enduring acute embarrassment because I’d lost control.
Since I used the “teacher” voice I’d perfected over decades of dealing with junior high students, he caved, but he wasn’t happy about it. I’d have said he was sulking, except that there was a definite look of panic in his eyes.
Unfortunately, to properly put on the airs of a grand dame one really needs to be sipping tea from a delicate china cup. I was drinking my coffee out of a Star Wars mug, a Christmas present from my great-niece.
Til Death–another fantastic Zoe Chambers mystery
by Annette Dashofy
If all mysteries were as good as Til Death, readers would be glued to their easy chairs and no work would get done. Annette Dashofy continues her series with main character Zoe Chambers being promoted to Chief Deputy Coroner and giving up her job as an EMT. This is a huge change with lots of responsibilities, a big learning curve, and people and events that challenge her.
The story opens with County Coroner Franklin Marshall collapsing in the autopsy suite—and not out of a squeamish response to the procedure. The action takes off from there and doesn’t stop until the last period. There are several deaths, a cold case, attacks on law enforcement, and berserk ex-wives. Among all the cases could there be more than one criminal? There are three modes of murder, so maybe? Or do they all somehow tie together?
Philandering Dustin Landis is released from prison when a judge overturns his conviction. The D.A. is going to try him again. Dustin has always insisted on his innocence. Now pieces are coming to light that indicate a serial killer was operating in the area at the time. When Franklin’s most recent ex-wife explodes on the scene, chaos follows her. She tears Franklin’s office apart, apparently in search of a document, and summarily kicks out Zoe and the Coroner’s Office with her.
Zoe’s attention is divided as she and Police Chief Pete Adams are getting married in two weeks, an event that brings seemingly inevitable family drama to the forefront. A staff romance in the Vance Township Police force causes a crisis of a different sort. Meanwhile Zoe and Pete have to work together and independently to fit all of the puzzle pieces together with the goal of solving all those mysteries simultaneously.
I would like to extend my thanks to Edelweiss and Henery Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: #10 in the Zoe Chambers Mystery Series, but holds up well as a standalone.
Publication: June 16, 2020—Henery Press
If Loretta Marshall’s dark hair had been half white, Zoe would’ve warned her friends who owned Dalmatians.
“Good old Dr. Davis. Politician first. Forensic expert second. Human being? Somewhere way lower on the list.”
Zoe collapsed onto her stacked boxes, staring out the dirt-streaked window, thoughts and emotions racing inside her skull like deranged bumper cars.
A Deathly Silence–horrific crime
A Deathly Silence
by Jane Isaac
Detective Chief Inspector Helen Lavery has been recuperating from work related injuries when she gets called back by the horrific death of a young woman. Helen, a widow and the mother of two boys, was fast-tracked into her current position and leads a team of investigators in Jane Isaac’s A Deathly Silence which is a police procedural on steroids.
This mystery details the dangerous investigation that leads Helen and her team to examine evidence, interview suspects and witnesses multiple times, attend autopsies, engage in stake-outs, create timelines, and gather to brainstorm theories. The clues become even more muddled as a leak appears and Helen and her team wonder who they can trust. One death seems to lead to more, and even the gang that previously sidelined Helen comes under suspicion. A Deathly Silence is a top-notch mystery and police procedural. Helen is a likable main character, but the plot is the show stopper in this book that will set you up to want to read more in this series. The murder is a surprise as is the motive.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Legend Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Mystery, General Fiction (Adult)
Notes: As #3 in the the DCI Helen Lavery Novel Series, this book can most definitely work as a standalone; I was not aware it was part of a series until I prepared to write this review.
Publication: October 15, 2019—Legend Press
He was in a tailspin, a swirling vortex of emotions, his heart fighting to burst out of his chest.
Teamwork existed on trust and the very idea that one of her people had betrayed that trust was like a fishbone lodged in the back of her throat.
There were always more casualties than the dead in a murder investigation.
A Plain Vanilla Murder–not so plain after all
A Plain Vanilla Murder
by Susan Wittig Albert
It is not like me to jump into a cozy mystery series on the twenty-seventh book. Who engages in that kind of craziness anyway? Amazingly, I didn’t find the lapse in character background knowledge to be a problem. While A Plain Vanilla Murder is not the best cozy I’ve ever read, it was very good. I particularly liked all the information provided on vanilla. I had no idea vanilla is part of an orchid plant or that there is such an active trade in exotic orchid plants.
This mystery has lots of threads. A professor is killed, and lots of enemies emerge as possible suspects. Could the motive be professional rivalry, dalliances or orchid laundering? All are sufficient to motivate an attacker, but what really happened? The main character, China Bayles, is a former criminal lawyer. This is one of the few crimes that land on her doorstep that leads her to become involved professionally.
Always interested in learning new things about a subject, I enjoyed the many quotes about vanilla that are included in the chapters as well as in the addendum. Susan Wittig Albert is a prolific writer as evidenced by this series that focuses on herbs and spices as well as the three other series she writes in addition to a number of independent books. I look forward to reading more by this author.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Persevero Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Mystery, Women’s Fiction
Notes: #27 in the China Bayles Mystery Series, but works well as a standalone.
Publication: June 4, 2019— Persevero Press
Campus politics are labyrinthine. A dispute involving faculty can be vicious, even if it looks like nothing more than a petty turf war over a few inconsequential footnotes in an insignificant publication. It can also be something bigger, dirtier, and deeper.
My first thought was that he was the last person on earth to do such a thing. But of course you can never tell what devils live in somebody’s private hell.
Any time you have to sit down with a cop, you immediately remember the times you’ve jaywalked or parked where you shouldn’t or failed to return a library book and now have a humongous unpaid fine. It’s stupid, of course, but it’s a universal paranoia, and completely understandable.