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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Review - Home for the Haunting

Today I review the next in the Haunted Home Renovations Mystery series.  I have reviewed each in this series from the debut issue.  The third, Murder on the House (click here), the second book, Deadbolt (click here),  and the debut book, If Walls Could Talk (click here).  I have had the great honor of two interviews with the author, the recent interview (click here), and the older author interview (click here).

Author: Juliet Blackwell

Copyright: December 2013 (Signet) 337 pgs

Series: 4th in Haunted Home Renovations Mysteries

Sensuality: Some kissing

Mystery Sub-genre: Paranormal Cozy

Main Characters: Mel Turner, woman construction renovation Owner/Operator

Setting: Modern day, San Francisco

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Mel Turner volunteers to lead a home renovation project for the underprivileged, and has a side bet going with her father who can finish their project the quickest.  It is the first day of the weekend project when one of college student volunteers finds a dead body in a shed.  The shed is part of the property next door, known at the murder house because of the family who was murdered there twenty-five years ago.  Mel has seen the ghosts in the windows and now she wonders if they are trying to communicate or seek revenge. She tries to restrain herself from getting involved, but homicide Detective Annette Crawford asks for her assistance since the body in the shed was one of two children who survived the killing spree in the house.  

Even Detective Crawford wonders if something other-worldly is happening.  As if this isn't stressful enough, Mel's incredibly popular, does-no-wrong sister "Cookie" has decided to stay for an indefinite time during apparent marital strife.  Mel's anemic self-esteem takes several hits with Cookie in the picture while she is juggling running Turner Construction and helping the police. Graham is present, worrying about her safety and providing fodder for Cookie to try and match-make them. 

Mel, the funky dressing female construction guru who has a few extra pounds makes a feisty lead character. In this edition she is trying to embrace her dubious talent by taking classes on it in addition to dealing with her trust issues after her divorce.  Cookie, her blond, thin, graceful, guy-magnet sister is annoying for how she manipulates with feminine charms.  She was okay for one book, but I am glad she doesn't look like becoming a regular.  Graham, high school flame and current love interest, is pretty realistic.  We see some progress between them.  Detective Annette Crawford is definitely the breakout character as she opens to paranormal explanations as part of her due diligence.  She has always been a capable cop, but now there is the potential for Crawford to include Mel in cases as a consultant.  I love this idea without the cliche of the cop boyfriend.  Mel's friend Luz is present, as well as Olivier and Zack   Kobe, a neighborhood juvenile is an added nice touch.

The plot was good and kept my interest.  The clues are sprinkled throughout to keep the pace going, and the mix between mystery and home life makes this a good cozy story.  There is plenty to draw you in and keep you reading.  The climax had my favorite, a blood-pumping killer reveal that topped the story off with a great adrenal rush and some good ghostly chills.  

This edition in the series features plenty of interesting characters and suspects, ghostly nuances culminating in a seance and Mel's developing medium talents. This is a great addition to the series and advances the characters, particularly Mel and Graham.

Rating: Excellent - Loved it! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list 

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Monday, April 14, 2014



 The Hammett Prize is given annually by the North American Branch of the International Association of Crime Writers to honor literary excellence in the field of crime-writing published in the English language in the US and/or Canada. The 2013 award, given in 2014 for books published in 2013, will be presented at the Bloody Words Conference in Toronto, June 6-8, 2014.
The prize is named after Dashiell Hammett, author of The Maltese Falcom featuring Sam Spade and The Thin Man with the beloved characters of Nick and Nora Charles.  He died in 1961 a highly regarded author of classic hard-boiled detective novels.

The award is always for books released in the prior year. Thus the nominees are for 2013 books as follows.

2013 Hammett Prize Nominees
  °      Cataract City by Craig Davidson
  °      Green Light for Murder by Heywood Gould
  °      Angel Baby by Richard Lange
  °      Caught by Lisa Moore
  °      The Double by George P. Pelecanos


2012 Hammett Prize
  *      Oregon Hill by Howard Owen  (Winner)
  °      Defending Jacob by William Landay
  °      Truth Like the Sun by Jim Lynch
  °      Patient Number 7 by Kurt Palka
  °      Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson

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Friday, April 11, 2014

Review - India Black and the Gentleman Thief

I have reviewed the second book in the series, India Black and the Widow of Windsor (click here) , and the third book, India Black and the Shadows and Anarchy (click here.) I also interviewed Carol Carr (click here).

Author: Carol Carr

Copyright: February 2014 (Berkley) 321 pgs

Series: 4th in Madam of Espionage series

Sensuality: Some adult conversation and innuendo (period euphemisms)

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Espionage

Main Characters: India Black, madam of the London brothel, Lotus House, catering to gentlemen and part-time British Spy

Setting: 1876, London and Scottland

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

This book picks up the immediately after the last book. India and French are barely catching their breath at India's Lotus House after stopping an anarchist group from an act of terrorism. But Colonel Francis Mayhew forwards what appears to be shipping bill to Lotus House. Before French and India can even begin guessing why one of her customers sent work to her place, three brutes bust down her door, steal the envelope, and rough up both her and fellow agent French too. They decided to confront Colonel Mayhew as to why he sent something volitile to India, but they find him dead after what French says was apparent torture. It looks as though they are sucked into more international intrigue without even trying. 

To complicate matters even more, Marchioness of Tullibardine is tired of India's badgering letters to get information about her she shows up on India's doorstep for a visit...along with her dogs - one of which is about to have puppies. The Marchioness takes India's bedroom, accommodates the dogs, begins looking at the finances of Lotus House, and overall sticks her nose into everything. But, she does give India the truth about her mother.

India Black is as strong willed and snarky as ever. She does not get to do as much on her own as she did in the prior book, but it was still a good read. French seems to be even more of a puzzle in this book, which I said in the last book too. Their kinda-sorta-maybe-not quite romance is half comical and half frustrating. The street urchin Vincent is back in this book, and his "women are inferior" comments got to me this time. The Marchioness of Tullibardine is a comical steam-roller. Mrs. Drinkwater, the drunken cook, is a surprise in this one.

We get a good feel for the London Docks and their seamy, dangerous side. We even get a little bit of a rural setting. Each setting seemed brooding in this edition, even the rural, as if the danger was hanging over the land. Quite effective.

The plot was rather simple when looking back, but while in the middle of it, it presented a great ride. Pacing was spot on and kept me reading. India gets some good fighting going in her own right during the climax, which had its delicious thrilling parts. The wrap-up drops a bomb-shell for their next assignment and leaves plenty of questions about what should India do with the information she gained about her mother.

Another entertaining book in the series, with developments for India and her heart ever more at risk with French - whether she admits it or not. Well rounded writing that balances all the elements.

Rating: Near Perfect - Buy two copies: one for you and one for a friend. 

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Monday, April 7, 2014

Guest Author - Naomi Hirahara and Giveaway

I am excited to have Naomi Hirahara with us today.  She is the Edgar Award-winning author of the Mas Arai mysteries. The first book in her Officer Ellie Rush Mysteries is being released by Berkley Prime Crime and is available in both mass market and ebook format. For more information, go to

I reviewed Ms. Hirahara's first book in the new Ellie Rush mystery series (click here), so finding out a little more about the author and her new heroine will be fun.  Please welcome Naomi Hirahara and show your appreciation in the comments!

Winner of Murder at Westminster Abbey is Michelle Willms.  I will be emailing you shortly for your mailing email.

Finding Ellie Rush

For the past five mystery novels, I’ve been in the head of a man significantly older than me (although as the years pass, that gap is closing in!). His name is Mas Arai, a gardener in Southern California, Hiroshima survivor, and, of course, a reluctant detective. Mas was modeled after my father and men like him – working class and seemingly ordinary on the outside, but with intricate secrets and strength within.

In April of this year, I’m embarking on a very different mystery protagonist, Ellie Rush. She’s, well, first female and considerably younger, 23 years of age. And the biggest challenge for me – she’s a bicycle cop with the LAPD assigned to downtown Los Angeles’s central core.

Don’t ask me the last time I’ve ridden a bicycle, but take my word for it, I can. And in terms of shooting a gun, I have. In 2011, the same year my beloved father was battling terminal stomach cancer, I participated in a Southern California-based ATF Citizens Academy once a week for two months. There we learned about the hidden perils of cigarette smuggling (usually this crime is linked to more dangerous international gang syndicates), the adventures of going undercover, and how to follow an arson trail.

Providing a brief break from sharing caregiving duties with my mother, these sessions let me escape into the shoes of someone completely different from me. We even donned earpieces and stuffed wireless radios in our jackets to do surveillance at a local mall, wore bulletproof jackets and aimed pellet guns inside an abandoned office which, for our pretend purposes, was supposed to be harboring suspects, and finally went to an outdoor gun range, where we shot firearms of various sizes.

The biggest eye-opener for me is how essential it is for law enforcement officers to work together as a team. But what about the lone rogue detective that we see so much on TV, the movies, and novels? In crashing a drug pad, often the Number Two ATF man or woman has to pull the collar of the person in front. “Hey, not so fast!”

As a lover of basketball, I could totally relate to team coordination. Everyone has a certain role and purpose. I had always viewed law enforcement as powered by adrenalin and emotion, but for it to work properly, quite the opposite is true.

During that same year, I also agreed to step in as an instructor of a UCLA undergraduate writing workshop. As I gazed at the beautiful, fresh faces of these 15 young people, I was transported to my college days, when despite a sluggish economy, we also remained optimistic about our futures.

Somehow these two experiences – the ATF Citizens Academy and the UCLA writing class – intertwined in my brain. The following year, my father passed away in a hospital bed in the room where he had watched his favorite samurai and Japanese soap opera programs on TV for decades. As I struggled with this great loss, I grappled with focusing on something new and young. Slowly this young woman, Ellie Rush, emerged – vibrant and enthusiastic, yet still wondering how she would make her mark on this world.

While the tone of the Office Ellie Rush mysteries are much lighter and breezier than my Mas Arai mysteries, there are still some common elements. I still want to take my readers on a tour of lesser known areas in my “homeland” of Los Angeles. And family and friends are important to both – although cranky Mas will not admit it publicly.

Ellie has her first mystery adventure in Chinatown, so the first book is titled MURDER ON BAMBOO LANE. Hope you might want to take a ride with her, and it won’t matter when you were last on a bicycle.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 


Entry for giveaway lasts until Sunday April 6th, 6:00 p.m. (MST).  U.S.  entries only please.  The publisher will ship one copy of Murder on Bamboo Lane to the winner.

How to enter:

*** First, you must be a member (follower or email subscriber) of this blog.***

All entries are to be in the comments for this post.  Please leave your contact email address.

I will accept entries for this giveaway until
Sunday April 13th, 2014.  I shall notify the winner via the email address you provide to get your physical mailing address and have the prize sent directly to you.

IF you are a member of this blog, you only need to leave a comment with your correct email.  BECOME a member of this blog if you aren't already and enjoy the celebration of all things mystery and suspense.

If you mention this and provide a link on your Facebook or Twitter to share with friends, please note that in the comments and you will get an addition entry!


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Friday, April 4, 2014

Review - Murder on Bamboo Lane

 This is the first book in a new series with a unique mix of ethnic diversity, a big city, and a young bicycle cop.  Find out how this mix rated from the author of the Edgar Award-winning Mas Arai Mystery Series.

Author: Naomi Hirahara

Copyright: April 2014 (Berkley) 304 pgs

Series: 1st in Officer Ellie Rush Mysteries

Sensuality: some scattered swearing

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy--Police Procedural hybrid

Main Character:  23 year-old Officer Ellie Rush, bicycle cop

Setting: Modern day, Los Angeles

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Bike cop Ellie Rush finds her first dead body on the job, and realizes it is a former college classmate, Jenny Nguyen.  Ellie ends up in the middle of police department politics when her Aunt Cheryl, the Assistant chief, maneuvers her into investigating Jenny's murder with Detective Cortez Williams.  Making everything  interesting is Ellie's nosy best friend, her over-involved ex-boyfriend Benjamin, an attraction to detective Williams.  The killer is dangerously close and the motive reaches back to Vietnam. 

Ellie Rush is half Japanese, half Caucasian who speaks Spanish and gets a large amount of derision from her peers and most of her family for becoming a police officer.  She has to deal with issues of broken trust close to her in this novel.  Nay Pram is her best friend who is loyal and blunt at times.  Detective Cortez Williams is an interesting character, perhaps even the breakout in this story, and I look forward to seeing him more.  Aunt Cheryl is so ambitious she is dangerous.  Making for a layered story beyond just the murder.

Los Angeles many areas and events that Ellie patrols provide a neighborhood perspective to the sprawling city.  The mix of cultures is a defining feature of the novel which made it more alive.  The plot was interesting and took turns I wasn't expecting.  It maintained a good and balanced pace.  The climax wasn't my favorite high octane, but was handled well none-the-less.  The wrap up left me with that feeling of wanting more so it won't be the end.  Always a sign of a good book.  It did take a few chapters to get used to the youthful lingo in the narrative.

A good, solid debut novel that promises good things in a unique mystery niche.

Ratings: Excellent - Loved it! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list

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