Tag Archives: genre: mystery

Fair Chance by Josh Lanyon

Fair Chance

Fair Chance by Josh Lanyon

Series: All’s Fair, Book 3
Published by: Carina Press on March 13, 2017
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Former FBI agent, Elliot Mills, thought he’d left his crime-fighting life behind. But when he fell right into the middle of the path of a serial killer, he found out it wasn’t that simple. And even though the culprit was apprehended, it turns out it’s still not over. The Sculptor may not have been acting alone. And he is all to happy to draw Elliot back into the path of the storm–much to the dismay of his partner, Special Agent Tucker Lance. Danger threatens them both, and it might be the thing that pulls them apart forever. But if they can make it through alive, could it also be the thing that pushes them together once and for all?

I found myself wrestling with this one a little. It was an interesting read, but it felt a bit like trying to hang on to the story of the previous book. At times it felt like a new chapter, and at times it felt like a continuation. And it was a bit more predictable than I’m used to seeing from one of Lanyon’s books. I think part of it is that I was wanting to see the Sculptor behind them with the chance for them to focus on moving forward. Maybe if there’s another book?

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.]

All She Wrote by Josh Lanyon

All She Wrote

All She Wrote by Josh Lanyon

Series: Holmes & Moriarty, Book 2
Published by: Samhain Publishing on December 28, 2010
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Christopher “Kit” Holmes cannot turn down a request to help out his former mentor, Anna Hitchcock. And he certainly wishes he could. But she’s called to ask him to step in and host a writing retreat at her home and he must heed the call. And to do so he must cancel yet another weekend with J.X. Moriarty, his new boyfriend, putting strain on an already tenuous relationship.

But Kit finds his problems are worse than he imagined after he arrives at Anna’s home. The fall that led to her injury and inability to host the event herself–well, it may not have been an accident. Anna suspects someone purposely injured her. And as Kit learns more about the various attendees at the writing retreat, he quickly learns that pretty much everyone around him has some level of motive for being the culprit. And Kit once again becomes an amateur sleuth, trying to find answers and unwittingly putting himself in danger. But will he be able to find out the truth before anyone else is hurt? And will he be able to make up with J.X. when all is said and done?

If you’ve read the first book in this series, you can expect a similar feel and approach in this second installment. Kit wanders unknowingly into a case and falls deep into his quest to solve it. Unexpected twists and turns fall onto his path along the way. And the danger becomes very real to him on more than one occasion. What’s different here is that the ending doesn’t wrap up quite as nicely as the first book. And probably not quite as nicely as most readers would like to see. But just as life is complex and doesn’t always go the way we’d expect or like, I appreciate this approach on some level myself.

Murder on the Mountain by Jamie Fessenden

Murder on the Mountain

Murder on the Mountain by Jamie Fessenden

Published by: Dreamspinner Press on August 22, 2014
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Jesse Morales expected his time volunteering for a week on the summer of Mt. Washington to be somewhat uneventful. But when he discovers a corpse out in the wilderness in the middle of the night, the aspiring mystery novelist finds himself right in the center of a real-life murder mystery. And when he meets one of the investigating police officers, Kyle Dubois, he wonders if there might be even more in store for him before he goes back home.

When Kyle heads out to the crime scene, he’s not entirely sure what to expect. And he certainly doesn’t expect to find himself drawn to the young man who found the body. But despite his annoying penchant for wanting to get involved in the investigation, Kyle cannot deny that Jesse is attractive. So much that he thinks he may need to do something about it–something he’ll have to explain to his partner, as Jesse would be Kyle’s first relationship since his wife died.

Despite Kyle’s better judgment, he decided to give Jesse a chance. And despite what should probably be Jesse’s better judgment, he inserts himself among the suspects, hoping he might be able to find out who committed the murder to solve the mystery and help Kyle–even if it means putting himself in grave danger.

This is probably one of the lighter murder mysteries that I’ve read in a while. It doesn’t have that dark feeling overshadowing it from the beginning like so many books of the genre tend to have as a feature. That’s not to say there aren’t some dark themes; they do crop up pretty strongly as one approaches the end of the book. But there’s space here for Kyle and Jesse to develop a relationship without it seeming completely morbid. And I have to say that I didn’t see some of the twists coming, which is something I appreciate in a good mystery novel.

Foxe Tail by Haley Walsh

Foxe Tail

Foxe Tail by Haley Walsh

Series: Skyler Foxe Mysteries, Book 1
Published by: MLR Press on September 30, 2010
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Skyler Foxe is glad to have scored a job teaching English at his old high school. He enjoys teaching, loves literature, and cares for his students. But he feels he needs to keep the fact that he’s gay under wraps. There could be backlash in his conservative community, and it’s really not the school’s business at all, is it? But Skyler’s world turns upside down when he discovers a dead body in an alley behind a night club when he’s out on what should be a typical Friday night. And the victim has an unexpected connection to Skyler’s school. What follows is a series of events that leave him questioning what exactly is going on at James Polk High. Could a student be involved? Or is it the domineering football coach? Or what about the mysterious new biology teacher and assistant football coach who makes Skyler melt just by walking into the room? Despite warnings from his detective friend, Sidney, Skyler is determined to do what he can to solve the case and find out who’s responsible–even if he puts himself in danger in the process.

This is definitely an entertaining read. There are some interesting twists and turns for sure. And it’s not something that’s going to take you deep into any sort of philosophical or emotional issue. If you like a mystery with some light humor and a cast of interesting side characters, this will be a book for you.

My only real complaint is the ending. This is part of a series, so I know the story continues, but it was building up–in my opinion–to a reveal on another important incident that happened but then ends before giving it to readers. I’m guessing it’s the subject of the next book, and I’ll be picking that up to read it. I just felt a bit let down because it wasn’t addressed though it felt like it should be…

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Published by: Riverhead Books on January 13, 2015
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Synopsis

“I have never understood how people can blithely disregard the damage they do by following their hearts. Who was it said that following your heart is a good thing? It is pure egotism, a selfishness to conquer all.”

Rachel’s life is not in a place where she’d like it to be. She’s divorced from her husband, who found a new woman while they were still married. She was terminated from her job. Living with a friend, she’s trying to get things back on track. But until then, she goes through the motions, taking the train into London each day, staying there for the work day, and returning home.

But the train goes right past her old neighborhood, making it hard to leave the memories behind. Interestingly, though, it’s not Rachel’s husband and his new wife that catches her attention. It’s a new couple who has moved in down the street. Rachel sees them almost every day, and the love they share for each other is clear to her. They are, as she describes them, a perfect couple.

One one of her trips, however, Rachel sees something that shatters her image of this couple. It hits home in a way that she never expected, and she finds herself returning to her old neighborhood, despite her husband’s pleas that she stay away. But drunken courage and impaired judgment prevail. When Rachel wakes the next morning, everything changes. The woman from Rachel’s perfect couple has gone missing. The husband is a suspect. And while Rachel can’t exactly remember what she saw, she knows he wouldn’t hurt his wife. She’s certain of it. But should she rely on what is nothing more than an incomplete memory? Should she trust her instinct, even if she’s not sure why her belief is so strong? And if the police don’t believe her, why should she believe herself?

Review

I enjoy a good mystery. I adore a well-written thriller. And I love stories where we, as readers, get the chance to really understand the protagonist. And The Girl on the Train is all those things and more. It’s a well-paced, thought-provoking read that is deceptive in that it tackles a number of issues that one may not expect when looking at the synopsis or the story from a very high-level perspective.

There’s a part of me that wants to list through the various issues, but I also want to be mindful of spoiling what I consider is one of the best aspects of this story. But I think I can summarize by at least saying that one key theme is that relationships aren’t always what they seem from the outside. And they also aren’t always what they seem to the people in them. To know someone and to trust them is to have faith in both our own judgment and perceptions. It’s a matter of giving ourselves over to something and someone else and hoping we made the right decision.

My only qualm with this book is that I started to suspect the resolution a little earlier than I think the author intended. As I watched the final clues roll out, I had already placed a very high suspicion on who I thought was responsible. It’s not necessarily a bad thing; I just really like when an author can keep me guessing until right near the end. But there was still some new information that came out as the last few scenes played out.

There’s no question for my why this became such a hit so quickly. And I am absolutely looking forward to seeing the film adaptation.

The Mystery of Nevermore by C.S. Poe

Mystery of Nevermore

The Mystery of Nevermore by C.S. Poe

Series: Snow & Winter, Book 1
Published by: DSP Publications on August 30, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Antiques dealer Sebastian Snow never expected his world to turn upside down so quickly. After a heart is found beneath the floorboards of his shop, he finds himself a victim of a string of crimes straight out of Edgar Allan Poe stories. And Sebastian was lucky to not be the victim of one of the more violent crimes in the string of attacks.

The investigation puts a further strain on Sebastian’s relationship with closeted detective, Neil Millett. Sebastian has never liked being Neil’s secret, but when he needs to use Neil as his alibi, he realizes that Neil may never be willing to be open about what they mean to each other. And to compound things further, the lead investigator on Sebastian’s case, Calvin Winter, has caught more than Sebastian’s eye. But Sebastian’s not even sure he’s gay. And even if he is, could he be interested in someone as unassuming as Sebastian?

As the crime spree continues, Sebastian can’t help inserting himself into the investigation. And by doing so, he may not only be risking Calvin’s ire–he may be risking his life.

This story represents a rather fun way to integrate and reference other popular literary works without being a straight up adaptation. The references to Poe’s work are interesting, advance the plot, and hooked me as a reader. With each new twist in the case, I found myself reminiscing about the first time I’d read the referenced story or poem.

What’s also nice about the way this story is developed is that the story stands on its own. The characters and the plot aren’t dependent on understanding all of the references to Poe. They’re fully explained, keeping it accessible to those who may not be as familiar with his body of work. And the romantic subplots and overarching mystery are well worth reading in their own right.

This appears to be the first installment in a series, and I’m very much looking forward to reading more about Sebastian and Calvin in the future.

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

Shattered Glass by Dani Alexander

Shattered Glass

Shattered Glass by Dani Alexander

Series: Shattered Glass, Book 1
Published by: Dani Alexander on January 31, 2012
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Detective Austin Glass doesn’t really take life seriously. He’s never really had to. He has a rather large trust fund for financial security. He’s a successful detective with his sights set on the FBI. And he has a beautiful fiancée. Things are sailing smoothly down Austin’s chosen track.

But when Austin is waiting in a diner for an informant who never shows up, things change. That change comes in the form of a busboy in bunny slippers who steals and holds Austin’s attention. He takes over Austin’s thoughts, intriguing and confusing him in ways he never thought possible. But the innocent looking busboy comes with a whole lot of baggage–probably just about as much as Austin carries around on his own.

In no short time at all, Austin finds his whole world changing. The challenge Peter provides for him is more than just a physical one. It’s mental, it’s emotional, and it might be exactly what he needs. Even if there are moments when his “better judgment” might want to tell him otherwise…

Not all relationships start out like fairy tales tell us they do. Sometimes they build from a whim we don’t understand. Sometimes we want to simultaneously chase after and run from the person who stands before us. And sometimes it’s the challenge of breaking down walls that draws us to someone in the first place.

Austin and Peter are a great example of all those things. Fighting for the person you’re attracted to while fighting against that attraction sounds like it shouldn’t be possible. Those things should be mutually exclusive, right? Not at all. And the tension and banter that results is entertaining and heartening to read. Sometimes you just have to be willing to get over yourself long enough to realize someone might want you for exactly who you are…

This is my first book from this author, and I’m so glad I discovered it. And the ending–well, I know I can’t wait to pick up book two!

Relief Valve by J.L. Merrow

Relief Valve

Relief Valve by J.L. Merrow

Series: The Plumber’s Mate, Book 2
Published by: Samhain Publishing on March 25, 2014
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

It wouldn’t be accurate to say that things have been smooth sailing for Tom Paretski and Phil Morrison since they reconnected and became romantically involved. They both agreed to put the past behind them, recognizing they’ve both changed. But there’s still something tentative about the relationship. And that’s even without family opinions being considered.

Tom’s older sister, Cherry, gets back in touch with him to let him know two things. One, their former neighbor, a woman he knew affectionately as “Auntie Lol” has died and he’s named in the will. Two, she’s met a man that she would like him to meet. Of course neither of these are as simple as they seem.

First, Auntie Lol’s will is incomplete. The second piece of it is hidden in her old home, and she asked that Tom use his “gift” for finding hidden things to fetch it. And this is something her ex-husband and current resident of the home isn’t very keen on.

Second, Cherry’s new man, Gregory, has asked her to marry him. It seems a bit sudden considering they haven’t been together long. And it gets even more complicated when Cherry is poisoned at her own engagement party.

Suspects quickly emerge, from Gregory himself to members of a writing circle of which Cherry had previously been a member. With Tom’s gift and his boyfriends private investigation skills, they are hot on the trail. But can they find who wants Cherry dead before they strike again?

I absolutely love how fun and cheeky this books are without losing any of their seriousness or legitimacy. I enjoy a good whodunnit, and the added humor that the author provides here is honestly icing on the cake for me. The twists and the reveals are always dramatic (while not being over-the-top) and Tom is just one of those characters you have to love.

The Never-Open Desert Diner by James Anderson

The Never-Open Desert Diner

The Never-Open Desert Diner by James Anderson

Published by: Crown on March 22, 2016 (2nd edition)
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Ben Jones lives a quiet life, content as the delivery driver on Route 117, a remote highway in the middle of the Utah desert. There’s not much to see or do on the route. Though there is an old diner, a place that used to be bustling with activity but now sits empty. Owned by Walt, a resident recluse, it provides the main landmark and only real character on Ben’s route.

But everything changes when Ben stumbles across Claire, a beautiful woman who is squatting in a nearby home. She’s different and she’s intriguing. And it doesn’t take long for Ben to start falling for the mysterious Claire, even when he knows he shouldn’t.

A number of other strange things start happening not long after Claire’s arrival. Ben is followed by a woman he’s never seen before. He’s asked to take part in a reality television show. And he’s warned that the police might be looking into him. So much for Ben’s uneventful life…

As Ben learns more about Claire and her history, things slowly start to fall into place. But there just might be more to the story than he could ever piece together on his own.

Every once in a while, I feel the need to change up what I read. And that’s where this literary mystery comes in. It’s not quite crime fiction–which is where the mysteries I read tend to live–but there is a crime involved. There’s a strong narrative here, and a good arc for Ben and some of the other characters. It’s not one where you’ll feel compelled to keep guessing, but there are some twists and surprises that creep up along the way.

If you’re a fan of literary fiction with a dash of mystery, then this one is probably right up your alley.

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.]

Murder at the Windsor Club by Stephen E. Stanley

Murder at the Windsor Club

Murder at the Windsor Club by Stephen E. Stanley

Series: Jeremy Dance Mystery, Book 1
Published by: Stonefield Publishing on February 19, 2012
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Jeremy Dance is a successful private investigator in 1930’s Boston. Not only does he always get the job done, but he is also discreet. And that’s exactly what the wealthy families of Beacon Hill are looking for. But Jeremy has a few secrets of his own, so it’s his own understanding that makes him willing to let people’s business be their business.

When a nice dinner among Jeremy, his assistant (Roscoe), and his best friend (Judy) is interrupted by a call to investigate a murder, he gets one of his most interesting cases yet. And he soon finds he’ll need to tread carefully. Many have something to lose if the circumstances of the case are leaked. And just as many might have something to lose if the case isn’t solved quickly.

But as Jeremy knows quite well, some people will do anything to protect their secrets.

This was a fun mystery, reminiscent of a classic detective novel. There were several smaller side cases during the course of the book that provide added context and opportunity to observe the characters in action. It definitely provided for a much richer world, drawing me in as a reader.

While Jeremy and his assistant are gay (not with each other) and Judy is a lesbian, this isn’t really a romance. Those are just facts that are a part of their character. And even though it’s not really acceptable at their time in history, they make it all work quite well.

Definitely an enjoyable read. Highly recommended to fans of mystery and/or historical fiction.